Peter Kennaugh has just 600 metres more to go to complete the climb of Grossglockner - but is 14 mins behind Rujano for the stage. However there were another 100 riders behind Peter!
As a rather lack-lustre Giro finishes for Team Sky - who look like finishing 19th of the 22 teams - another race should lift the clouds. At the Bayern-Rundfahrt Bradley Wiggins took 33 seconds out of Cancellara to win the time trial yesterday - with Edvald Boasson Hagen just another 13 seconds back in third. Since Geraint Thomas took fifth place in the TT that gave him the overall lead on GC plus Sky the lead in the team classification. Boasson Hagen had also taken stage 1. The race finishes today and Team Sky can feel satisfied with their German performances. Now it’s up to the team management to select best rider combination to tackle the “big one” in July. At least Downing and Kennaugh got through their first grand tour in what must have been one of the toughest Giros ever.
I know that I suggested, ages ago, that Skipton should host the World Championships if Ponferrada can (see below) - but now they, or at least Yorkshire, has gone one better with a bid for the start of the Tour de France. It’s not until 2016 and so falls before the 2017 bid by Scotland that was announced in January. And just to recap the future TdF starts, confirmed and possibles, are - 2012 Liege, 2013 Corsica?, 2014 ??, 2015 Zolder?, 2016 Yorkshire?, 2017 Scotland?, 2018 Antwerp? But since the Tour likes to start in mainland France as well then some of these possibles are going to be disappointed. For Britain which will succeed? In my view Scotland’s “Auld Alliance” plus the £5 million funding will make it the favourite - of the two.
Contador’s Giro Goes to Plan
The mountains arrived and Alberto Contador used his climbing ability to take time out of his rivals on each one of them. After the mountain time trial Alberto had won two stages plus two second places and one third - to draw almost 5 minutes ahead of second placed Scarponi. Bookies must have stopped taking bets on a win next Sunday.
For British interest, Mark Cavendish did not disappoint with two stage victories before a DNS at Stage 13. Adam Blythe abandoned his “lanterne rouge” position on Stage 10. David Millar made attacks that deserved better rewards. While his role supporting Christophe Le Mevel on GC seems the wrong way round - Le Mevel should be riding for Millar!
Meanwhile Russell Downing and Peter Kennaugh were still pressing on to at least finish their first grand tour. Their team, Sky, have made little impact so far - with Davide Appollonio’s second place (before abandoning) being only a limited reward. Even the last, ill-fated British team to make the Giro - the Linda McCartney squad - did manage a stage win.
I know that Sky’s Thomas Lövkvist believes that he is a grand tour contender - but there are grave doubts in my mind. So will someone from Sky do well - with a podium place or a jersey - in the Tour de France this year? Let’s hope so.
It’s That Man Again!
UCI president Pat McQuaid is going to need plenty of “blarney” to get himself and his organisation out of the latest faux-pas. Anger about the leak of a document claimed to be a UCI “index of suspicion” - ranking riders from 0 to 10 - is rumbling around the pro pelton.
David Millar was outspoken about not only the contents of the list but also the fact that it was leaked. "This list should never have been released, never. The UCI, some of their people should be fired for this," he told the Reuters news agency. Others expressed their anger via Twitter.
Robbie McEwen, given a three, tweeted - "Please explain UCI. Begs the question, intentional, incompetence or corruption? I'm all for catching cheats but draw the line at this sort of thing which could be based on one single wayward statistic. And who leaked it?"
Mark Cavendish, who was given a two, was as subtle as ever when he tweeted “So there’s a leaked 1-10 'suspicion' scale for all 2010 TourDeFrance riders. So now EVERYONE'S suspicious, but just HOW suspicious?! BULLSHIT”
But then the UCI is not answerable to anyone - so will be quite happy to ignore the damage created and to go its own sweet way. McQuaid for re-election? Why not?
Meanwhile back at the actual racing it was a real surprise to see sprint legend Alessandro Petacchi just stop pedalling within metres of the finish line on Stage 6 of the Giro when it looked as if he could take the only man ahead of him - Francisco Ventoso. It seemed like something from a Duracell advert with Petacchi being the “other brand”. This year’s Giro is going to be tough for the pure sprinters.....
Grand Tours Approach
It’s almost May and the interest is building-up to the start of the first Grand Tour of the year. Last week’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege signalled the end of the Spring Classics - and a deserved triple victory run by Phillipe Gilbert [quadruple if you include the Brabantse Pijl]. The Giro d’Italia starts 7-May with Stefano Garzelli getting the honour of race number 1. But the betting favours another win by Alberto Contador - which is pretty amazing considering how much pressure he must have been under with the “on then off” 1 year ban. Denis Menchov does still rank highly in the betting but time is not on his side - one last tilt at the top step of the podium?. The home country’s favourites are Nibali and Scarponi. But perhaps Roman Kreuziger could lead Contador’s former team, Astana, to victory? One rider is reported to have said that this year’s route is not a race but a circus - so I guess that making predictions is pretty pointless.
And what of the British this year? Well, as far I can see, there are only 4 - Cavendish, Millar, Blythe and Downing - which is a bit surprising given that Sky is considered a British squad. Last year there were 7 and in 2009 there were 9 - so not a good trend if it continues into 2012! Team Sky’s leader is Thomas Lofkvist - who wore the maglia rosa for a day in 2009. But the step up to this year’s podium - from 25th in the Giro and 17th in the Tour de France - may be just too much. Supporting Lofkvist will be 32 year old Russell Downing and this will be, I think, his first grand tour so - Buona Fortuna!
Update 3-May-2011: Peter Kennaugh has been drafted into the final Sky squad and will so up the British total in the Giro to five. But what a route for grand tour first appearance! [Correction - Kennaugh did start in the 2010 Vuelta but was ill and then the team withdrew after the death of Txema González]
It’s That Man Again!
“UCI president Pat McQuaid has warned 'certain team bosses' that their plans to set up a breakaway league are doomed unless they gain favour from Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), RCS and other race major organisers. McQuaid, who has two-and-a-half years left on his second term as president has also suggested that he may stand for re-election in 2013” more...
“Managers from many of the leading teams in the peloton walked out of a UCI meeting in Brussels on Monday afternoon in protest at the UCI's refusal to discuss the use of radio earpieces” more...
“UCI president Pat McQuaid is acting unilaterally in forcing through the race radio ban in spite of opposition not only from within the peloton but also his own organisation, HTC-Highroad Sport Director Rolf Aldag said”.... “We have had radios for 15 years, and suddenly the UCI gets the idea of banning them. Did they need 14 years for analysis?” more...
Having had enough of “remote access” to the classics I used the weekend to take in the 2011 version of the Paris-Roubaix “experience”. more...
Future World Championships Venues - again
As I warned back in December 2009 the UCI have gone for a modest town in northern Spain - Ponferrada - as the host for the World Road Championships. True when I flagged it up it was for the 2013 Worlds. But these have since gone to Florence - a place that most cyclists have heard of - unlike Ponferrada. However all the same issues with Ponferrada will apply equally in 2014 as in 2013. Perhaps the local government will splash-out out on new infrastructure by then - in the unlikely event that they have any money spare - and so improve access / facilities. But it’s a pity that Peebles, Skipton or somewhere else in the UK similar in size and location to Ponferrada did not respond to my suggestion and make a bid. They could not have been ruled out on population size or ease of access! However before getting upset with the UCI again I will make some new efforts to understand why this town keeps getting considered as a World Championship venue. I could be surprised. [Note - Spain’s previous World venues have been Madrid, Barcelona, San Sebastian and Benidorm]
And looking further ahead Richmond, Virginia is bidding against Oman to be the 2015 venue. Richmond have had their bid online for awhile - and it lists Shadetree Sports as a partner. A name you may have heard before - being the organisation behind the Tour of Ireland [lacking sponsors at present?] and the plans for a future American Tour [NOT the Tour of America thankfully]. Shadetree Sports was founded by David Kalman and Darach McQuaid. So the organisation must have a good chance of being on the winning side - especially following the political unrest in the Middle East.
Ronde van Vlaanderen 2011
Nick Nuyens wins the 2005 Tour of Britain
Another classic .. another afternoon watching TV. This time Eurosport provide good coverage [from the Belgian sports channel] with no obvious glitches or commercial breaks at a vital stage.
The experts predicted a win for Cancellara - with the Het Nieuwsblad having a cartoon of his bike climbing the Muur at Geraardsbergen on its own >>
And near the end it did seem that Cancellara had set-up everything just right. Away with just Chavanel for company and having a 1 minute lead with 28km to go - things looked ideal. But this year the Muur took its revenge - slowing the leaders and giving new impetus to the chasers. Regroupment. Then Gilbert tries to go alone but is slowly brought back. In the final kilometers Cancellara and Chavanel get away again - but this time with Nuyens. They fight out the sprint - and Nuyens takes the prize. Cancellara looks totally shattered.
Not the predicted result - but an exciting race for the spectators. And another step in the career of Nuyens. A career that was first noticed, I suspect, by British fans with his 2005 Tour of Britain performances >>
Next it’s Paris-Roubaix. Will Cancellara pick himself up in time? Will Boonen continue his return to top form? Do today’s performances by Hammond (breakaway), Thomas (10th), Stannard and Hunt (breakaway) mean that GB has a chance at the velodrome next Sunday? By this time next week all will be revealed.
UCI Wants More Cash
“The UCI, cycle sport’s world governing body, has revealed that manufacturers must pay over £8,000 to get the ‘Approved Frame’ sticker that’s needed for new-generation frames and forks to be eligible for use in competition in what looks to be an attempt to tax bicycle research and development and effectively add a small UCI sales levy to the sales of bikes the world over. Or you could just call it a blatant money-making scam.” This a direct quote from Road.cc. And I have opted to use a direct quote because I’m getting a reputation as someone who is critical of the UCI.
But I am starting to think that the UCI has some sort of “death wish”. Taking turns at upsetting race organisers, pro-elite team managers, Olympic competitors and, now, equipment manufacturers. This has been through in a series of blunders over a number of years. I did hear once that the best way to ruin an organisation was not to make trouble but simply to leave the incompetents in charge. How true here!
The big brands backing the pro-elite teams won’t worry about a few thousand “cut” to the UCI - but the specialist builders making frames for, say, a national squad may find it a bridge-too-far and drop out. And how far down the competition tree will this rule eventually extend? Some day soon will the machine checkers at your local road race decline anyone who has a frame that is not “UCI Approved”? Will small scale bike builders be unable to supply “competition bikes” due to the high costs of approval for every design variation?. [Do the UCI come from another planet?]
A degree of common sense did emerge a few weeks later when “..the UCI met cycling industry representatives to discuss its controversial "Approved by the UCI" frame stickering programme .... such was the level of industry discontent the UCI has been forced to think again and to temporarily suspend the programme.” And it was also reported that “.. the price of homologation for a TT frame has dropped from 12,000 Swiss Francs to just 5,000 (£3,300). A traditional road frame will now cost just 500 Swiss Francs (£334) to approve, down from 800. .... All prices apply to eight sizes per model, with extra sizes costing more.” So the UCI has found that it cannot simply impose its rules on non-members in the way that it does on members. Well I hope it has - otherwise the equivalent of the Premier League could breakaway one day.
Spring Classics 2011
With the top riders taking the chance for a race with a promise of sunshine (in Paris-Nice) it’s a good time for spectators and “sportive-ists” to get their plans finalised for the upcoming Spring Classics. more...
Attention Moves North
After the heat of Australia, the sands of the desert and the tours around southern Spain / Portugal it’s time for the tougher races to start. And as usual it’s the Belgium double-header - Omloop Het Nieuwsblad (previously Omloop Het Volk) / Kuurne– Brussels– Kuurne - where many fans look for the start of the “real” racing!
Often the weather has been terrible - but this year the conditions are good (for Belgium in February - just cold and wet). As I write this the Saturday race is still in progress. The fans have been hoping for Tom Boonen to get back to top form again and make it another home win. And with 35km to go the good news is that he is in a second, small chase group about 2mins behind Sebastian Langeveld of Rabobank. The bad news is other favourites - Gilbert, Hushovd and Boassen-Hagen - are with him and they seem to be loosing ground. Will today’s lack of radios be used as the excuse for not bringing him back? Almost certainly!
With 17km to go Langeveld is just holding off Flecha (winner last year riding with no. 1) but the chasing group of 8 or 9 is still within striking distance. With 5km to go Flecha and Langeveld hold 1m56 over the chasers and then Flecha attacks .. without success. At the line it’s a win by 2cms for .... Langeveld! Thanks to CyclingFans for the live TVcoverage links
Tom Boonen tried to make up for yesterday by getting across to the sole surviving breakaway member - Jimmy Engoulvent - within the last 6 km of the race. But the bunch closed the narrow gap - led by Team Sky. In the final rush Chris Sutton took it for Sky ahead of the sprinters - Hutarovich, Greipel and Farrar. So Team Sky go one better than Saturday and the Kuurne–Brussels–Kuurne gets its first Australian winner.
2011 UCI World Tour Road Races
Here is the first of the race lists for 2011 - this one being what the UCI now call the “World Tour”. It is in fact some key Euro classics plus the latest attempts at “globalisation”. For those of you with short memories there has been a long history of failed attempts - chiefly by the UCI - to go global. For example a big Pro Tour race was announced a year or two back for Russia but it is not yet a reality. These globalisation attempts go back for years - and include the UK’s defunct Wincanton Classic one-day - but at least some events such as Langkawi have become established. However they are not included in this “World Tour” list.
18.01.2011 23.01.2011 Tour Down Under
06.03.2011 13.03.2011 Paris - Nice
09.03.2011 15.03.2011 Tirreno-Adriatico
21.03.2011 27.03.2011 Volta Ciclista a Catalunya
27.03.2011 Gent - Wevelgem
03.04.2011 Ronde van Vlaanderen / Tour des Flandres
04.04.2011 09.04.2011 Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco
10.04.2011 Paris - Roubaix
17.04.2011 Amstel Gold Race
20.04.2011 La Flèche Wallonne
24.04.2011 Liège - Bastogne - Liège
26.04.2011 01.05.2011 Tour de Romandie
07.05.2011 29.05.2011 Giro d'Italia
05.06.2011 12.06.2011 Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré
11.06.2011 19.06.2011 Tour de Suisse
02.07.2011 24.07.2011 Tour de France
30.07.2011 Clasica Ciclista San Sebastian
31.07.2011 06.08.2011 Tour de Pologne
08.08.2011 14.08.2011 Eneco Tour
20.08.2011 11.09.2011 Vuelta a España
21.08.2011 Vattenfall Cyclassics
28.08.2011 GP Ouest France - Plouay
09.09.2011 Grand Prix Cycliste de Québec
11.09.2011 Grand Prix Cycliste de Montréal
05.10.2011 09.10.2011 Tour of Beijing
15.10.2011 Giro di Lombardia