Worlds Road Race
As it so often is the “Worlds” was a struggle to overcome the distance and the determined few that survived to the finish. This year there were 30 or more in with a chance on the final lap. Quite a few made their bid for glory but were reeled in. Now everyone will know that Thor Hushovd took the prized jersey for Norway - but look at the nations that fought out the final chapter - 3 riders from Denmark & Belgium, 2 from Australia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Slovenia, Netherlands and Germany plus 1 each from Norway, Italy, Span, Japan, France, Luxembourg and Portugal. True there were the Italians and Belgians that had attacked on the final lap and then “sat up” to come home a few minutes later. But still it’s not the “traditional” make-up of a Worlds result sheet. However a team DNF for GB is something that has become a tradition in the pro-elite road race. An event with its British high-point all those years ago in 1965. Of course there have been exceptions - Les West for one - but the top prize still seems that step too far no matter who is in the team. Cavendish to change things in 2011? Let’s hope so! [ps one year later Mark did make that date with destiny .. sweet!]
Another road season draws to a close with most riders thinking of a short break and who will be paying their wages in 2011. For spectators like me it’s time to sit back and watch the big finale - the World Road Race Championships - and then the final classics as the leaves start to fall.
You have seen how the season played out. In the Grand Tours the 1-2-3’s were Basso, Arroyo and Nibali in Italy; Contador, Schleck and Menchov in France and then Nibali again, Mosquera and Velits in Spain.
For the Brits it was that man Cavendish again taking sprint after sprint - but just one of the major jerseys. Don’t complain - that was good enough to equal Malcolm Elliott’s last great achievement in Spain over 20 years ago.
Amongst the pro tour teams; HTC Columbia seemed to be winning everywhere, with Greipel filling the space not occupied by Cavendish.
In contrast Team Sky seemed to be trying hard but not quite making it. In the UK they dominated the national championships but fell a bit short when racing against international opposition. Even in the Tour of Britain they were eclipsed by HTC and Vacansoleil. Clearly having the biggest team bus does not mean that you also get the best results.
The team’s dreams of a grand tour podium place were just that - dreams. And there is precious little left now in 2010 to boost the team’s tally for the year.
Bradley Wiggins is down to ride the Tours of Piedmont and Lombardy along with Paris-Tours; but there is little prospect of a victory even if he does actually ride. With no participation in the World Road Championships nor on the road or track at the troubled Commonwealth Games his season is effectively over. Perhaps another team member will produce the final big hit? But if not then IMHO two of the best-value riders for Team Sky were the experienced Russell Downing and the young Ben Swift. With overall victories in the Tour de Wallonie and the Tour de Picardie respectively they were able to deliver the goods as well as ride in support.
For the Australians the road season was good. With Cadel Evans riding in the rainbow jersey, Matt Lloyd winning the climber’s jersey in the Giro and plenty of names at the front throughout the season. And there must be a real prospect of more in the coming weeks.
For the USA the road season was less rewarding - especially for those fans that were raised on 7 years of Tour victories. I feel that the persistent bad-smell generated by Floyd Landis has soured the atmosphere and put off sponsors and supporters alike. In fact the booming domestic cyclo-cross scene might well be a reaction to this and a chance to get into fresh fields (pun - sorry!).
Not only did Russell Downing go and win a stage in the Criterium International at the weekend but today the team get a wild-card place in the big one... the Tour de France. No wonder there are cloned Team Sky jerseys for sale on the Internet - stocks of the real ones will be snapped up once they hit the shops. For Russell this win must rank has one of the best results of his career even ahead of winning the Tour of Ireland. And it must be possible that he will be in the team when the Tour starts in Rotterdam come July.
The massive investment in the new team is starting to show good results - with the highlight so far being the win last Saturday by Juan Antonio Flecha in the semi-classic Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Certainly things are looking good for the Spring Classics. Before then there is Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico with possibly the best chances being in Italy despite the strength of the local teams.
Franco Ballerini dies in rally crash
Team Radio-Shack Opens Website
“The official Team RadioShack website has arrived. Explore the site and be the first to meet the team as they bring the heat to the Tour Down Under” So arriving a little behind Team Sky - but there’s a long season ahead and it’s June & July for the big events.
Team Sky - Part 5
The team launch went to plan and the team web site fired-up in all its glory - a top class professional show right down to the Jaguar team cars in team colours - black with mid-blue contrasts. A great start and here’s wishing them every success in 2010
Future World Championships Venues
As you will all know by now the next Elite Worlds are to be held in Melbourne / Geelong, Victoria, Australia. But the proposals for future years are less well reported. For 2011 the venue planned is Copenhagen, Denmark and then in 2012 Limberg, Netherlands. In 2012 the Worlds will feature a combined and expanded Junior and Elite programme. The selection of the venue in 2013 is yet to be made - but Ponferrada, Spain seems to be a strong possibility.
Where ...? I had to search Google Earth to find the place. Apparently it is a town in northern Spain 100kms or more south-west from Gijon (on the north coast). Plenty of hills and a nice Templar Castle - but hardly well-known. Someone will, no doubt, tell me that it is a regular stage town in the Vuelta - but the Worlds might put a bit of a strain on its visitor capacity I guess. And being in a relatively isolated, inland position with just one major road (A6) for access then travelling in daily - when the local hotels are full - may not work. Camper vans all round!
Hum ... an interesting choice. Now how about Peebles or Skipton putting in a bid as well?
Team Sky - Part 4
L’Equipe’s story that Bradley Wiggins would join Team Sky is true! Despite all the denials over the 3 weeks since the story today’s press conference in London makes it official. Announcing the signing, Dave Brailsford, Team Principal of Team Sky, said; "Brad will be at home in Team Sky. It is the perfect fit and he will be a marquee rider for us.” (British Cycling).
For Sky this is a big boost to their chances of a ride in the TdF - at the expense of Garmin - but it will have cost them a substantial chunk of their budget not just for 2010 but the next four years. Bradley deserves every success for what he as already achieved - but now the stakes have been raised even higher for next year.
But the irony of the timing of this announcement might be missed by one Sky rider. “Thomas Lövkvist expects to see himself confirmed as Team Sky's captain for next year's Tour de France. When we come to the Tour de France, I will be riding for the general classification, he told eurosport.se” (Cyclingnews.com 8-Dec-2009)
There is still no web site for the team - but Cycling Weekly are providing “As it happens” info about the team to meet the demand (Update - team web site now online). This gives the next team events as -
4-Jan Team Launch, London
5-Jan Training Camp, Valencia
19-Jan Tour Down Under
3-Feb Etoile de Bessèges
7-Feb Tour of Qatar
And Bradley Wiggins is quoted as saying that his season will include the Tours of Murcia (3-Mar) and Catalunya (22-Mar), the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France