Looking back at 2008
My first comment has to be to recognise the victory of Alberto Contador in the Vuelta - so completing the Grand Tour hat trick in just two seasons. I know you can never accurately compare different decades but this does stand on a par with the cycling greats - Merckx, Anquetil, Gimondi and Hinault
And from a purely partizan view, the success of Mark Cavendish in the major and minor tours in 2008 set something of a record for British road riders. The number of wins exceeding even the glory days of Simpson, Hoban, Denson, Robinson and Wright. Looking forwards can Mark overcome the higher challenges on route to winning a classic? Few would bet against it.
At the Olympics Spain took the prestige event - the men’s road race - through Samuel Sanchez. The final came down to just six riders from six nations - Sanchez, Rebellin, Cancellara, Kolobnev, Schleck (Andy) and Rogers - but it was outsider Sanchez that got there first. Rebellin’s silver medal must have been a major disappointment after such a long career.
At the World Championships there was no repeat win for Paolo Bettini but the home crowd still celebrated as Alessandro Ballan took the rainbow jersey - ahead of Damiano Cunego, Matti Breschel and that man Rebellin. Bettini’s failure to keep his contract for 2009 signaled the end of a fine career.
Even the UCI had a break with the past with the resignation of Pro Tour creator, Hein Verbruggen, followed just one day later by a “peace agreement” with the organisers. This would “.... put an end to the disputes that have existed over the past four years..” and “ ...provide a framework within which the parties will work together for the sport of cycling ....” Amen to that.
Active in Europe despite Olympics Next Week
The world’s media are building up for 08/08/08 but the Elite racing is going ahead as normal. From the rush of post-Tour criteriums to the Spanish classics.
And the criteriums are the big crowd pleasers. Yesterday at the Herentals Criterium (the home of Rik Van Looy) Mark Cavendish continued his winning ways - ahead of Belgian’s Tom Boonen and Philippe Gilbert. Something that would have been unthinkable in the days of the “Emperor”.
On Tuesday it was Andy Schleck ahead of Carlos Sastre and Mark Cavendish at the Profronde van Stiphout in Holland.
And on Monday at the Aalst Na Tour in Belgium it was Carlos Sastre beating Mark Cavendish and Oscar Freire - not something you see everyday. So despite Olympic plans for Cavendish and Freire - the show must go on.
Meanwhile amongst the top ranking events we have San Sebastian tomorrow followed by the Giro del Lazio next week with the Vuelta a Burgos (5th to 9th) in between. However it’s also the Olympic road race that weekend so attention will be elsewhere.
End of Pro Tour?
All this year I have been reporting on the problems with the UCI’s Pro Tour ambitions and the disputes with the major organisers. Now Cyclingnews.com reports that the top teams will not be renewing their Pro Tour licences for 2009. Hardly surprising considering how pro cycling is suffering the effects of a double downturn - through global economics and drugs scandals. Justifying the 50,000 euros per year to the UCI for a licence to ride events they would get to ride anyway would be hard even in good times.
So now the question is being asked what replaces the Pro Tour? But in reality there is no need for a Pro Tour replacement as far as teams and organisers are concerned. The only gap is a “league table” or scoring system to rank teams and riders. However this is something that the Pro Tour failed to achieve by being too restrictive in its calendar of counting events (as covered In these pages before).
The old “Prestige Pernod” was a season long competition that provided a perfectly workable solution based upon points for performances in the top events. The same would work today based on any agreed calendar - eg Grand Tours, HC, 1.1, 2.1 ranked events, Worlds, etc. The league table would need to be updated and published - and that could either be by the UCI or an independent body / commercial sponsor. If the UCI has any sense it will get in first and line up a sponsor to fund the costs. If not then it could be taken up by L’Equipe, Gazzetta dello Sport or even, ASO - but if it was ASO then the disputes would spiral further out of control. [PS - given my computer experience and database development / management background I reckon I could run a Pro Cycling League service; no problems. Perhaps I should put my bid in now?]
July - Tour Time
It’s that time again - and pro-cycling gets to those TV sets and sports pages that rarely see bike racing otherwise. More....
Well Contador survived the last stages of the Giro - and has now gone back to his “holiday” that the Giro call-up interrupted. Will he be back in the Vuelta and have the form to complete a Grand Tour Triple? Certainly to win the Giro with so much stacked against him was a great achievement. And means that he must have an excellent chance.
Elsewhere it’s the build-up to the Tour de France for the top riders. In the Dauphine, Alejandro Valverde looked in control as he won ahead of Cadel Evans and Levi Leipheimer. In the Tour de Suisse, Kim Kirchen is leading after 6 stages from Klöden, Kreuziger, Ivanov, Devolder, Andy Schleck, Lövkvist, Antón, Cunego and Fothen. Saturday’s time trial that looks like a 25km hill climb could be the decider.
The decline in pro-team sponsors has been reversed with the announcement that Garmin will sponsor Slipstream (but the argyle style jerseys stay) and that Team High Road will be backed by Columbia sportswear becoming Team Columbia within the next few weeks (so that’s another jersey change then - first black, then white, now ......).
Update: Here is Mark Cavendish at the National Championships (29-Jun-08) in a farewell appearance for the old jersey - the new one is due before the TdF.
And the power struggle between the key race organisers and the UCI continues with ASO (Tour de France, Paris-Roubaix, etc) taking a 49% stake in Unipublic, the organisers of the Tour of Spain. Plus the UCI suspended the French Federation for allowing the Tour to run under their control rather than the UCIs. They also ruled out the French bids for the 2012 World Championships. According to cyclingnews.com, ASO general manager Patrice Clerc said "The international calendar is a complete chaos". He also said that the fight with the UCI should have ended long ago and "If these energies had been designed to promote cycling, it would be the top sport on this planet". Amen to that.
Giro Week 3 Finale
Sella missed out on the hat-trick by just 6 seconds but could still upset all the odds in the final mountain stage tomorrow. This is an epic - 224km over the Gavia and the Mortirolo; two of the most challenging Italian climbs with the added incentive of the Cima Coppi on the 2,610m high Gavia.
But Sella is still over 4 minutes behind Contador who is struggling to fight of the challengers who are closing in - Ricco at 4 sec, Di Luca at 21s, Bruseghin at 2 min, Pellizotti at 2:05 and Menchov at 2:47. Over that distance and those climbs after nearly 3 weeks of racing almost anything could happen. So the pink jersey may change tomorrow - and again in Sunday’s time trial finale.
Selle did win the final mountain stage but only took 1:30 out of Contador. This did move him up to 5th on GC but he could slip back again in the TT. The challenge for leadership from Ricco did not materialise. His sprint with Contador for 4th place on the stage was more for show than effect. Di Luca lost touch with the leaders during the big climbs and now has no chance of taking the pink jersey. Just the time trial to go.
Giro Week 3
Two mountain stages - two wins by Italy’s Emanuele Sella. Few would have expected Sella to attack again on Sunday after his heroic effort winning on Saturday. But he did and he won alone again - this time by 2 minutes from his team mate Pozzovivo.
In the battle for the overall victory the favorites have made it into a test of stamina using the pace and the distance to force the weakest to crack. Today Kloden could not hang on and lost 5 minutes on Contador - who took over the pink jersey. The riders within 2 minutes of leader Contador are now - Riccardo Riccò, Danilo Di Luca, Marzio Bruseghin, Denis Menchov and Gilberto Simoni. Of the other pre-race favorites Piepoli went out after a fall, Leipheimer is 12 minutes down, Soler has retired suffering from the effects of an earlier fall but Nibali is still in with a chance back in 11th place.
Can Sella make it a hat-trick in tomorrow’s mountain time trial? If he can then he could add the pink jersey to the green mountains jersey - a competition where he has a commanding lead.
Giro Week 2 - Update
Bennati wins again but only just - as Mark Cavendish just failed to catch him on the line by millimetres. However today the tables were turned and Cavendish took his second stage two lengths ahead of Bennati - so moving to second in the overall points table. The continuing poor weather contributed to constant falls - even though some riders seem to be going down on straight roads. On the GC Matthias Russ has disappeared backwards but that man Visconti remains in pink ahead of Bosisio still having 7 minutes over Contador and Kloden. Tomorrow will be a tough day.
Giro Week 2
Again the Giro is not quite going as expected - Bruseghin won today’s time trial ahead of Contador and Kloden, Bettini was beaten on his “home” stage by Bennati and the breakaway from last week still hold the top three places. Visconti is still in the pink jersey ahead of Russ and Bosisio and more importantly with almost 7 minutes on Contador even after the time trial.
There are climbs tomorrow - around San Marino - but it is not until Saturday that the big shake-up takes place. That is if the Giro starts going to plan!
Giro Week 1
Plenty of crashes in the early days - some having a serious impact on the outcomes. Most crashes were minor - Ricco, Cavendish, Contador, Dean, Soler, Sørensen, Millar were just some of the many riders noted. But for David Zabriske, Nick Nuyens, Bradley McGee and Stuart O'Grady the crashes were serious enough to mean that their Giro is over.
Some good news was that Mark Cavendish took his first Giro stage - Stage 4 to Catanzaro. Luckily he was near the front at 750 metres to go as yet another crash took out the rest. However David Millar may have added a second British victory if his chain had not broken at the critical point on Stage 5.
The main upset to the “script” was the success of yesterday’s (Thursday) breakaway that finished 11 minutes ahead of the main bunch. A victory for Matteo Priamo, Visconti in Rosa and the favourites over 7 minutes in arrears on GC. Tomorrow the race heads to the outskirts of Rome with a long incline finish but Sunday is another sprinting chance for Cavendish - even though Bettini will be looking for a home win. Monday is a rest day and Tuesday is a “25 mile” time trial.
Three weeks in Italy
Today sees the start of the 91st Giro d’Italia with a team time trial in Palermo, Sicily (satellite TV coverage - Eurosport and RAI). And this year two top contenders are from the same team - Astana. A team that only made it into the race at the last minute. So the favourites are not Italian, have not had firm targets and will have potential team leadership problems. Will these factors create the opportunities for a second win by Danilo Di Luca? Hard to say - but even if Di Luca is on top form he may also need to exploit any problems elsewhere to win this time around.
Today’s betting is - 1. Andreas Kloden (Astana) 3.25, 2. Alberto Contador (Astana) 4.75, 3. Danilo Di Luca (LPR) 6.00, 4. Denis Menchov (Rabobank) 8.50, 5. Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval) 10, 6. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) 10, 7. Juan Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) 13, 8. Gilberto Simoni (Serramenti) 15, 9. Levi Leipheimer (Astana) 15 and 10. Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval) 17.
With the Giro finishing with a time trial, rather the road stage of recent years, it is possible that we will see a close struggle right up the last rider finishing in Milan on 1st June.
Certainly the hope is that the Giro sets the standard for the 2008 grand tours to be free from any doping scandals and avoids any new setbacks for a sport whose future is still at risk. The removal of Marco Pantani while Maglia Rosa so near the end of the race was a low point that pro cycling is still climbing back from. The fact that Argentina's Max Richeze will not start with his CSF Group team mates this year does not help.
[Update: 17:00 - Slipstream took full advantage of their 3 national champions to win the TTT in 26m32 - six seconds ahead of Team CSC and High Road. The teams of Di Luca and Kloden arrived with 1 second of each other so no advantage for the overall. The big losers were Silence-Lotto and FdJ with 1m28 and 1m36 deficit respectively on the flying Slipstream team]
Start of the Tour Season
With the Spring Classics out of the way it is now the tours, small and large, that take centre stage. The Tour de Romandie starts tomorrow, the Vuelta Ciclista Asturias runs from 3 to 7 May and the Giro d’Italia starts 10-May but for British fans the easiest euro trip must be the 4 Days of Dunkirk.
The race runs from 6 to 11 May and there is no time trial this time. The race publicity features Mark Cavendish from last year wearing the race’s green jersey but it seems that he will be absent this time. There are 20 teams of 8 on the start list and the British riders shown are Ian Stannard, Roger Hammond and Jeremy Hunt.
Future of Top Level Cycling - 2
It seems that the format and content of Pro Tour could now become, in-effect, the second division of cycling events. Since the top events - the three grand tours and the “monuments” of cycling - would command the top fields, biggest sponsors and most media attention; forming the de-facto top division. The main element missing from this outcome would be a ranking system that covers all - or at least all level 1 - events.
Future of Top Level Cycling
CyclingNews.com today reports on the outcome of the "International forum for the future of cycling" held this week in Paris. Reading the report it seems like some key players (organisers, riders and the French federation) have tried to set out the direction that they would like cycling to go - and have sent the results to the UCI, IOC, WADA, etc.
And since the UCI declined to attend it looks to me that we are heading towards a showdown. If the UCI agrees to change then some unity will return but the present Pro Tour format will be history. If the UCI simply tries to patch-up the Pro Tour problems then there could indeed to be a permanent split. With the ghosts of previous cycling splits reappearing it might be time to ask those that still remember what it was like during the BLRC versus NCU acrimony of 60 years ago. Wikipedia...
Cycling on TV
While making a scan through the satellite TV channels looking for more coverage of Paris-Roubiax - came upon the Basque Country’s ETB (Euskal TeleBista). When zapped it was showing the final kms of the Klasika Primavera (I think!) resulting in Cunego beating Valverde in a four-up sprint. The Cunego-Valverde tandem had been alone in the lead but were joined by two more riders within the last 500 metres. No other cycling found - but will try again when the Arenberg approaches. Update: Italian channel RAI Tre (on the Hotbird satellite) provided longer coverage than Eurosport - plus it was free-to-air and without ads.
Pro Tour Leader - No Longer Meaningful?
Even though the biggest one-day classic is tomorrow - Paris-Roubaix - it will have no impact on the Pro Tour rider standings. So André Greipel will keep his leadership - held since January - without having figured in any classics so far. And he is currently followed in the ranking by Alberto Contador which raises other issues [Update: Contador has won today’s stage of the Vuelta al País Vasco - enough to overtake Greipel?]. Stijn Devolder is third through his Flanders win with Gil, Evans, Freire, Nuyens, Dekker, Flecha and Cunego making up the top 10. If the Amstel Gold winner is one of the leading 25 riders in the standings (and Greipel fails to score) then the lead will at last change. But clearly it is an unsatisfactory system - much worse than the old points system covering almost all events.
Tour of Britain Launch
Today saw the announcement of the outline route for the 2008 edition of the Tour of Britain. Stage 1 will be a circuit race around central London (7-Sep) and the final stage (Stage 8 - 14-Sep) will be from Blackpool to Liverpool with a 1 hour circuit in the city centre. Other stages are - Milton Keynes to Newbury, Chard to Burnham-on-Sea, Worcester to Stoke-on-Trent, Hull to Dalby Forest, Darlington to Gateshead and Glasgow to Dumfries. More ...
Meanwhile Mark Cavendish won another stage in 3 Days of De Panne and Paris-Roubaix is back on the UCI calendar (in what was called by the UCI the “Historic Calendar” - see 18-Mar-08 entry below). But this was through the insistence of the French Cycling Federation (FFC) rather than any agreement between ASO and the UCI.
Same Result - Different Bike
Mark Cavendish went straight from winning the World Madison title on the track last week to winning the mass sprint finish in today’s stage of the 2.HC category 3 Days of De Panne.
And, yes, the UCI v ASO battle has got worse - read more at CyclingNews... But it’s all just getting too much to keep repeating.
Tour of America - Take 2
The idea of a ToA in 2008 has been replaced by a new plan for next year. The latest Tour announcements have a start in Central Park, New York on Saturday 5-Sep-2009 and a finish 23 days later in Palo Alto, California. Some of the features planned are a 56km time trial around Las Vegas and a mountain stage finishing in Yosemite. [I’m not making this up! Honest]
Busy Euro Weekend
While British eyes were on the track at Manchester the pace of the road season picked up in mainland Europe. At the weekend Kurt-Asle Arvesen (Team CSC) took the “E3” in Belgium and Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) confirmed his great form by winning the Brabantse Pijl. In the Criterium International it was Jens Voigt who took his forth overall victory ahead of CSC team mate Gustav Erik Larsson. However Team High Road took the team prize partly through a win by Edvald Boasson Hagen in the short final time trial. A great result considering that Slipstream’s David Zabriskie was back in 5th place - and David Millar in 13th. Australia’s Simon Gerrans (Credit Agricole) took the Mountains prize but Britain’s Ian Stannard (Landbouwkrediet-Tonissteiner) finished back in 113th overall.
Meanwhile in Italy Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto) took the 5 stage Settimana Internazionale Coppi e Bartali. Across in Spain Astana’s Alberto Contador won the other 5 stager - the Vuelta a Castilla y León - by leading from beginning to end.
However cycling politics took another step down the slippery slope as WADA pulled out of the UCI’s biological passport scheme - in a move not unrelated to the UCI action against Dick Pound (see below). [Please stop me if this is all getting too much! Or better still get all the national cycling bodies to act while there is still some credibility left.]
Back at the racing - tomorrow sees the start of the 3 Days of De Panne and the final build-up to the top classics of spring - the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix
La Classicissima - La Primavera - Milano SanRemo
Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) added another classic to his formidable career record with a solo break in the final 3 kms that was the conclusion of a great race. The final capi saw many of the big names attacking in attempts to avoid a mass sprint. Bettini, Rebellin, Savoldelli, Bertolini, Gasparatto and Ballan were prominent amongst the attackers - covered in close-up on RAI3. But Fabian’s prologue strength meant that he was able to ride away from the leading group and had time to celebrate victory over the final metres.
So now Cancellara, the leader of Team CSC - a fully paid up Pro Tour team, has taken two of the biggest races in the 2008 calendar but has zero points in the Pro Tour rankings - try explaining that to Joe Public.
At least the next headliner - the Tour of Flanders - is still in the Pro Tour list and so should shake up the standings. In the meantime Andre Greipel can keep his Pro Tour leaders jersey - even though wearing it must be much less attractive by now.
Finally - a few days ago The Guardian’s Mark Ledsom reported - “The UCI said on Thursday it was taking former WADA president Richard Pound to court for what it called "continual injurious and biased comments" against world cycling's ruling body and its president Hein Verbruggen.” (I think that means former president!) So far no press release has appeared on the UCI web site but if correct could prove to be just one more reason for a fresh team at the top. Proposals should be addressed to UCI, Aigle, Switzerland. [Update - a UCI press release did then confirm the action against Pound]
Corsa dei Due Mari - Tirreno Adriatico
Rain made the finishing circuit tricky but all the leaders came through OK and fought out a final sprint. Francesco Chicchi (Liquigas) took the stage honours but Mark Cavendish (Team High Road) almost caught him on the line. Fabian Cancellara (Team CSC) retained the leader’s jersey by seconds from Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld). Oscar Freire took the points jersey and Juan Jose Oroz Ugalde took the mountains prize. The Milano-San Remo is scheduled for this coming Saturday and the favourites now look to be Friere, Petacchi and Pozatto; but the start list is not yet confirmed.
Meanwhile at the UCI the main highlight reported was that Pat McQuaid had been made a “Commander in the Order of the Ivory Coast Sporting Merit”- not an award I have come across before! But no mention on the UCI web site of the threatened bans for the teams that competed in Paris-Nice. But I did notice that a new category of UCI event is now listed. “Historic Calendar” being the name given to major events, such as the Giro d’Italia, that fall outside the UCI event categories. [Update - the UCI have since issued a press release reporting disciplinary procedure against the FFC and that a meeting with pro teams is planned for next week]
Not only did Davide Rebellin win his first Paris-Nice after coming so close in earlier years but the event itself went well despite the weather and the lack of support from the UCI.
So Rebellin became only the second Italiian to win in over 50 years (the other was Dario Frigo in 2001) in a battle of closely fought racing right to the very end. For the home nation Clément Lhôtellerie was the worthy winner of the mountains jersey and Sylvain Chavanel put in much more than his final 9th place suggests. For the Brits David Millar had been tipped as a possible winner but he pulled out after finishing stage 4 in the “autobus” 21mins down.
The organisers, ASO, took the opportunity to sign up teams for their future events - the next key one being Paris-Roubaix - and so protect their investment from any new threats by the UCI.
The very public support by the French government and calls for the removal of the UCI top brass - McQuaid included - put both the organisers and riders in a stronger position. According to “CyclingNews” - Jean Pitallier (French Cycling Federation President) said that UCI Vice-President and Pro-Tour creator, Hein Verbruggen, was trying to be " .. the Bernie Ecclestone of cycling" and ".. make cycling a private company". So no signs of reconciliation there then.
More Money for the Lawyers?
UCI ProTour Fees 2008 (Euros)
Teams - 1 year - 50,000
Teams - 4 years - 100,000
1 Day Races - 1 year - 16,000
1 Day Races - 4 years - 32,000
Stage Races - 1 year - 2,300 per day
Stage Races - 4 years - 4,600 per day
Today the UCI decided to start disciplinary proceedings against the French Cycling Federation (FFC) and the International Association of Professional Cycling Groups (AIGCP). They also “asked” Eric Boyer (AIGCP President) to resign from the UCI ProTour Council.
I get the feeling that there is more to this than just pride or a breach of rules. Maybe it’s the loss of money for the UCI - from issuing ProTour “licences” to teams and ProTour event status to organisers - that is the real issue.
Despite all the arguments there is little doubt that Paris-Nice will go ahead on Sunday and all the top teams will be riding. Forget the politics and watch the racing on Eurosport... instead
More Fuel on the fire?
Back at the start of the year I wrote - “ASO-organised events seem to be victims in the fight for control over who decides the teams that can ride the major races. Hopefully it will be resolved for the benefit of the sport before the splits become permanent”.
But today the UCI President, Pat McQuaid issued the following about Paris-Nice - “The stability of cycling is now being threatened by ASO’s manoeuvrings. It is essential that the world of cycling reacts. While ASO could have registered the Paris-Nice on the international calendar, as had been agreed .... it preferred to register the event on the French calendar with special status. This status means that the participation of professional teams is prohibited and places the event outside international regulations, effectively making it a "rogue" event”
This followed an earlier development at the start of the week where the French Cycling Federation’s (FFC) agreed to ASO’s request to organise Paris-Nice as an national event - and the UCI countered by telling all the pro teams to effectively stay away. So the split widens just as the season starts its buildup to the spring highlights.
Stijn Devolder of Quickstep took the final GC from Sylvain Chavanel (Cofidis) and Tomas Vaitkus (Astana). At the opposite end of the results Frank Vandenbroucke was back racing - finishing 1 hour behind on overall. But he did at least complete all 5 stages unlike some 40 other starters.
Attention now switches to northern Europe and the Spring Classics. But many will opt to race in the warmer regions of Spain and Italy at this stage in the season. And so even though Alessandro Petacchi (Milram) has just taken three stages in the Ruta del Sol he is not on the start lists for Belgium.
Sunshine in California?
Mark Cavendish, Bradley Wiggins and David Millar are all expected to start the 3.4km Tour of California prologue at Palo Alto on Sunday. The eight days of racing promise to be more challenging than previous years so some new names may emerge. See the news and reports here... However there is just a week from the finish in Pasadena to Belgium for the Omloop Het Volk and Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne. Even with “global warming” the potential climate difference could be a shock to the system. Some riders may opt for a later start to their northern European racing season if the weather looks bad.
PS Steve Cummings took his first pro win - the 2nd stage of the Giro della Provincia di Reggio Calabria from a group of nine.
European Road Season Starts
The opening shots of the 2008 season have been fired - with the first elite events in France, Spain and Italy. The GP d'Ouverture La Marseillaise saw Canada’s Ryder Hesjedal on the podium with Daniel Lloyd of the Irish An Post team the sole UK rep. but Slipstream-Chipotle had 5 finishers for US interest. The Slipstream squad were also in the 5 stage Etoile de Bessèges won by Russian Iouri Trofimov (Bouygues Telecom). A huge field signed-up for the Mallorca Challenge and despite being the start of the season 161 riders reached the finish line on the first day (but 196 made it in 2007!). Barloworld had a team in the GP Costa degli Etruschi and the Giro della Provincia di Reggio Calabria, the first Italian races for 2008, with Steve Cummings as the sole UK rep in this nominally British team.
However not much sign of any other British teams in action as yet - and even info is hard to find. The Rapha-Recycling team calendar is stuck in 2007 but the Eddie Soens Memorial (1-Mar-08) will probably start off their season. Plowman-Craven-Evans have also not yet released their 2008 plans but at least Pinarello RT have been getting some training miles in the Majorca sunshine.
Boonen Starts Well
As promised Quick Step took the headlines in the Tour of Qatar - with Tom Boonen winning 3 stages and the final overall standings ahead of Dutch team mate Steven De Jongh. Not surprisingly Quick Step took the team prize with Tom also winning the points competition ahead of Lampre’s Danilo Napolitano. Australian Chris Sutton (Slipstream Chipotle) rode well for 2nd in the Young Rider competition and 4th overall.
White is the New Black?
After commenting on the switch from magenta to black for the team formerly sponsored by T-Mobile (below), it is now suggested that there will a switch to a white outfit within weeks! If this indicates a new sponsor for Team High Road or just a fashion statement may become clear in time for the start of the Tour of California (17-Feb).
The sample says no new sponsor - but it may change!
Black is the New Magenta?
Podiums formerly graced by the magenta T-Mobile jerseys are becoming home to the black outfits of the Team High Road squad. Andre Greipel won the warm-up Down Under Classic and then went on to take the main event and, of course, the leadership in the Pro Tour ranking [Earlier Oenone Wood took the Australian Elite title for Team High Road’s first champions jersey]. So this means that the UCI’s premier “advertising space” goes to a team rather than a sponsor.
With no High Road entries in the Tour of Qatar it will be a chance for Quick Step get some victories themselves - especially with wins here for the past two seasons. Team CSC seem to be having a quiet start to 2008 - perhaps planning for the bigger prizes available later.
Looking for purely national interest there was just one British rep in the Tour Down Under (Jeremy Hunt) and the Tour of Qatar (David Miller) - so not a great start. For the US there were 5 starters in Qatar - alongside an Iranian team - but none have appeared in the Pro Tour as yet.
UCI Men’s Elite Road Calendar for January / February 2008
The highest ranked events for the first two months of 2008 are a repeat of last year with the Tour Down Under, Tour of Langkawi and Tour of California taking top billing. It’s just a pity they have a date overlap.
This year the Tour Down Under has Pro Tour status - and big step up you would think. But look further ahead and you find that the world’s highest-profile classic, Paris-Roubaix, does not appear in the Pro Tour calendar. In fact Roubaix was late appearing in the UCI calendar and then was listed as Category “*” rather than the expected 1.HC. It, and other ASO-organised events, seem to be victims in the fight for control over who decides the teams that can ride the major races.
Hopefully it will be resolved for the benefit of the sport before the splits become permanent. By the time these races are underway we should all know (I hope)
16.01.2008 20.01.2008 La Tropicale Amissa Bongo (Tabo) (GAB 2.1)
02.02.2008 07.02.2008 Super Challenge Series 1-5 (RSA 1.1)
07.02.2008 13.02.2008 Tour d'Egypte (EGY 2.2)
15.02.2008 15.02.2008 Grand Prix of Sharm el-Sheikh (EGY 1.2)
06.01.2008 06.01.2008 Copa América de Ciclismo (BRA 1.2)
22.01.2008 27.01.2008 Tour de San Luis (ARG 2.2)
05.02.2008 17.02.2008 Vuelta a Cuba (CUB 2.2)
13.02.2008 17.02.2008 M&M Engineering Tour of Belize (BIZ 2.2)
17.02.2008 24.02.2008 Amgen Tour of California (USA 2.HC)
23.02.2008 02.03.2008 Vuelta Independencia Nacional (DOM 2.2)
28.02.2008 09.03.2008 Vuelta Ciclista Por Un Chile Lider (CHI 2.2)
07.01.2008 13.01.2008 Jelajah Malaysia (MAS 2.2)
26.01.2008 26.01.2008 H H Vice President Cup (UAE 1.2)
27.01.2008 01.02.2008 Tour of Qatar (QAT 2.1)
09.02.2008 17.02.2008 Tour de Langkawi (MAS 2.HC)
21.02.2008 24.02.2008 UAQ International Race (UAE 2.2)
03.02.2008 03.02.2008 Grand Prix Cycliste la Marseillaise (FRA 1.1)
06.02.2008 10.02.2008 Etoile de Bessèges (FRA 2.1)
09.02.2008 09.02.2008 G.P. Costa degli Etruschi - Ouverture Nobili Rubinetterie (ITA 1.1)
10.02.2008 10.02.2008 Trofeo Mallorca (ESP 1.1)
11.02.2008 11.02.2008 Trofeo Cala Millor-Cala Bona (ESP 1.1)
11.02.2008 13.02.2008 Challange Calabria (ITA 2.1)
12.02.2008 12.02.2008 Trofeo Pollença (ESP 1.1)
13.02.2008 13.02.2008 Trofeo Soller (ESP 1.1)
13.02.2008 17.02.2008 Tour Méditerranéen Cycliste Professionnel (FRA 2.1)
14.02.2008 14.02.2008 Trofeo Calvia (ESP 1.1)
15.02.2008 17.02.2008 Giro della Provincia di Grosseto (ITA 2.1)
17.02.2008 21.02.2008 Vuelta a Andalucia Ruta Ciclista Del Sol (ESP 2.1)
20.02.2008 24.02.2008 Volta ao Algarve (POR 2.1)
23.02.2008 23.02.2008 Trofeo Laigueglia (ITA 1.1)
23.02.2008 23.02.2008 Coppa San Geo (ITA 1.2)
23.02.2008 23.02.2008 Les Boucles du Sud Ardèche - Souvenir Francis Delpech (FRA 1.2)
23.02.2008 23.02.2008 Neretva Kup 1 (CRO 1.2)
24.02.2008 24.02.2008 Tour du Haut Var (FRA 1.1)
26.02.2008 01.03.2008 Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana (ESP 2.1)
26.02.2008 01.03.2008 Giro di Sardegna (ITA 2.1)
29.02.2008 02.03.2008 Les 3 Jours de Vaucluse (FRA 2.2)
22.01.2008 27.01.2008 Tour Down Under (AUS ProTour)
30.01.2008 03.02.2008 Tour of Wellington (NZL 2.2)
Further Ahead in 2008
The proposed Tour of America started off badly - with the organisers launching their plans apparently on the basis of little or no knowledge / research. The resulting outcry caused a rethink (was there any thought before?) with the 6,000 kms over 27 stages being reduced to 3,500 kms over 21 stages. But organisers still promise a coast to coast route, $10 million prize list and 25 of the “most elite cycling teams in the world”! The provisional dates of 6-28 September will overlap with the Tour of Poland - not an issue in previous years. But Poland is upgraded to a Pro-Tour event for 2008 and so required riding for the top 18 teams. More critically the dispute between the major tour organisers and the UCI has already lead to a clash between the Tour of Poland and the Vuelta (30-Aug to 21-Sep).
So there are three competing groups vying for attention with overlapping Tours in September. If left unresolved we could eventually see the sort of split in cycling that happened in boxing - with multiple cycling factions offering their own “rainbow jerseys” like the multiple boxing championships award their belts.
Will the UCI take the bait of a $10 million prize list and give the Tour of America its support? Will the Tour of Poland then be pushed back to being the European “alternative” tour? Will the UCI dispute with the Vuelta mean that only the Pro-Tour “second team reserves” get to ride? Or will the Vuelta switch back to its traditional calendar spot before the Giro? Certainly the Vuelta is already committed to September 2008 and there is too much infrastructure in place to change now. But, without a track record or the facilities in place, the organisers of the Tour of America might never get as far as the Central Park start line themselves.
How the Tour of Britain (7-14 Sep) can get an attractive field after these three events have had their choice is hard to imagine. Getting the world road race champion again will be a minor miracle.