Monday, 30 April 2012

Weekend Round-up: Turkey, Romandie and Frank Schleck

I didn't get a chance to spend much time of the blog over the weekend due to the Rutland-Melton Cicle Classic so here is a quick round up of all the racing and the best bits from the news, including drama from Omega Pharma, a win for Wiggins, a surprise for Frank Schleck and a nod for Ivan Basso ahead of the Giro d'Italia...

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Rutland - Melton International Cicle Classic: Move Over Paris-Roubaix.

When race organiser Colin Clews said eight years ago that he wanted to create a British Race to rival Paris-Roubaix there were plenty who sniggered at the thought. Today's Rutland-Melton Cicle Classic, however, did exactly that in spectacular style. 162 riders started, 22 finished. As a local boy I couldn't miss the opportunity to witness this race first hand...

Friday, 27 April 2012

Film Friday: The Lure Of Language And Cycling

Today's 'Film Friday' features two recent vid's, both in foreign languages. Language is part of the lure of professional cycling. The nonchalant way nearly all of the riders, no matter what nationality, can speak French and in many cases Dutch. Its the culture, the history of racing in France, Le Tour, the remarkable stories and triumphs of the Belgian spring classics - all the cycling related language, the different accents, different nations and the familiar foreign words that have become internationally recognised merge to form what is almost a score of music, beautifully written. These two video's represent two sides of that. The first is a new advert for FLEX featuring Alberto Contador, a beautiful advert in its own right but its completely in Spanish, I can't understand a word but it doesn't matter - that simply adds to the ambiance. The second is a press conference at the Tour de Romandie featuring Brit Bradley Wiggins answering the questions in fluent French, even with my little understanding his personality still comes across and the video is actually very funny. He reverts to English for the last 20 seconds and a quality punchline...Enjoy.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Is Bradley Wiggins THE Tour de France Favourite?

Who needs Mark Cavendish sprinting to victory for the green jersey in this years Tour de France when you could just take Bradley Wiggins and win Yellow and Green? All jokes aside, Wiggins win in yesterdays bunch sprint at the end of stage 1 in Romandie really has made a statement ahead of this years Tour de France...

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Geraint Thomas Hits The Road Running

After putting in a big shift in the World Track Championships here is Geraint Thomas giving a masterclass in aerodynamics in his first race back on the road - yesterdays 3.34km prologue which the Welshman duly won to take the Tour de Romandie yellow leaders jersey. Me thinks his win has something to do with his 4 minute efforts on the track of late. Packing so much power into such a short distance has become something of a speciality for Thomas so far this year as he looks to prepare for the 2012 Olympic Games where he will again take to the track. Up next for Thomas though will be the Giro d'Italia - a far cry from 4 minute threshold efforts Geraint will be looking to find his climbing legs again...

Ivan Basso: "Giro Hopes Rest On Romandie Performance"

Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) looked to still be carrying the remnants of one too many off-season cake stops when he took to the climbs of the Giro Del Trentino last week. He was obviously flagging and didn't show well in the mountains at all, well, not for somebody hoping to win the Giro d'Italia anyway...

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Romandie: Outsiders And Pretenders

With the classics season out of the way for another year, its now Grand Tour territory and the big guns are coming out to play. The Tour de Romandie is traditionally a prep race for those planning on riding the Giro or indeed the Tour de France and along with Paris-Nice it's one of the earliest occasions where we see the contenders really eye up each others form...

Monday, 23 April 2012

Major Blow For Euskaltel-Euskadi

Another untimely twist in the Euskaltel-Euskadi saga (see HERE and HERE for the full story) has come in the form of Igor Anton taking a tumble before the start of yesterdays Liege-Bastogne-Liege resulting in a fractured left clavical. Anton joins a long list of riders who have broken their collarbone (common cycling injury as The Inner Ring explains HERE) this season, including Fabian Cancellara, but Anton's will have far reaching consequences beyond his own health and performance...

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Cinema Saturday: BMC Recon Liege-Bastogne-Liege

Unfortunately the news that David Millar may ride this years Olympic games got in the way of yesterdays Film Friday - not to worry as today I have christened 'Cinema Saturday' to make amens. This weeks vid comes straight from the Team BMC camp as they get in some final reconnaissance ahead of tomorrows Liege-Bastogne-Liege - the last of this years Spring Classics (sad face) and indeed the oldest. Although BMC rider Phillipe Gilbert has not been on the outstanding form of last year this race will be his final chance to win a classic and it is his 'home' race, he's shown in Amstel and Fleche that he's getting better so I'm tipping him to take the honours this time around...Enjoy...

Friday, 20 April 2012

Will David Millar Ride The Olympics?

The Sun is this morning reporting that the British Olympic Association has lost the court battle to uphold their Lifetime Olympic ban rule imposed for any British athlete caught and punished for taking banned substances. The official ruling is not expected to be released until next week so for now I'm taking this at face value...

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Wordless Wednesday: The Beauty Of Giro Del Trentino

This Wordless Wednesday speaks for itself. This is what awaits the riders of this weeks Giro Del Trentino on the final stage and final climb of Passo Pordoi (this Friday). The setting of the Dolomite Mountain Range in the north east of Italy is simply breathtaking. Part of the draw of cycling for me is simply being out and seeing sights. Being on the bike puts you in tune with the landscape, wherever you are, and its a great way to explore and see new things - the most mundane of rides can suddenly show flashes of beauty on a frosty morning, or be set alight by a beautiful sunset. The Giro Del Trentino is a brutal 4 day stage race in the mountains and after watching the flat(ish) classics for so long at this time of year but being a fan of the climbs and climbers rather than the sprints and sprinters, this race cures my craving for a spot of alpine climbing and this year its on Eurosport in all its glory. The climbs here must kill the riders, it must be agony on the tough stuff, but when they get to see sights like this, well, I don't think they have much to complain about...

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Mur de Huy: More Than Just A Hill

This is what the riders of tomorrows Fleche Wallonne will face, for the third time, at the end of the 194 gruelling kilometres. Whoever reaches the summit of the Mur de Huy first will take the honours and be crowned winner of La Fleche Wallonne 2012. This small, 1300 metre long stretch of tarmac in the tiny, sleepy town of Huy in southern Belgium is not to be underestimated. Its short, but its also the steepest finishing climb in cycling. Period.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Jonathan Tiernan-Locke Trained With Team SKY In Tenerife

I can confirm that prior to riding in the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, Jonathan Tiernan-Locke was training at altitude in Tenerife with Team Sky. However Ex-Pro and Endura Team Manager Brian Smith is quick to dispel any rumours that arise from this concerning Jon Tiernan-Locke's Future in cycling...

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Weekend Roundup - Tiernan-Locke, Philippe Gilbert and Samuel Sanchez

This weekend has been a mix of ups and downs. We saw Jon Tiernan-Locke abandon the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon after such promise, but also a return to some kind of form for Philippe Gilbert of BMC at the Amstel Gold Race today. Here's a round-up of this weekends racing...

Friday, 13 April 2012

Film Friday: The Ardennes Classics

For those suffering with the loss of the cobbled classics for another twelve months, here's a small reminder that we are still well and truly in the Classics season - the Ardennes Classics. The next of which is this Sundays Amstel Gold Race in the Netherlands featuring the final climb of the Cauberg (see HERE). The Ardennes classics are hillier than the cobbled Belgian Classics that came before them, marking a transition in which we see the Grand Tour contenders come out to play and fight it out with the Classics specialists. This cool, classy little video shows Philippe Gilbert winning all four of the Ardennes classics back to back in 2011. It really is worth a watch. Enjoy.  

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Vuelta a Castilla y Leon: Stage By Stage

Jon Tiernan-Locke and his Endura team will line up for stage 1 of the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon tomorrow, and this is what they will face. A rolling first day featuring just the one categorised climb coming just after the mid-way point at 98km. Its rolling terrain all the way, but the finish is pretty flat and the sprinters will be keen to pick up a win here...

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Wordless Wednesday: The Cauberg

This is what awaits the riders at the end of Sundays Amstel Gold Race, the first of the hilly Ardennes Classics. It is of course the final climb into the finish - The Cauberg. A short sharp climb typical of the Ardennes Classics the race has finished here since 2003 and the riders will tackle the Cauberg twice before the final climb up to the finish. The hill has been used in several Grand Tours and in 4 previous World Championships where it will again feature in the route of the 2012 edition, this Amstel will act as a kind of sneak preview for those contemplating the Worlds this year. The climb ramps up for around 1200 metres and in places reaches a gradient of 12% - more of a Puncheurs climb than an alpine specialist's which often results in a small bunch sprint featuring a who's who of the punchier classics riders. The previous two additions have been won by Philippe Gilbert, this year however his form is questionable and the new kid on the block Peter Sagan will be looking to take victory here on a course that suits his more in-form capabilities.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Vuelta a Castilla y Leon: The Contenders

Following on from yesterdays article, the final startlist for this years Vuelta a Castilla y Leon has been released and at a glance the field does not look as strong as in previous years. This is probably down to the clash with the Amstel Gold Race on Sunday - one of the big hilly spring classics - and some top pros who were not so suited to the cobbles of Flanders or Roubaix will be looking to bag a victory there, fortunately though, there is still some very big names lining up at the start of the Castilla on Friday that will want to cast a shadow over Jon Tiernan-Lockes chances...

Monday, 9 April 2012

Jon Tiernan-Locke Takes To Vuelta a Castilla y Leon

This Friday will see the start of a 3 day stage race, the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon in Spain and lining up looking for victory will be Britain's climbing sensation Jon Tiernan-Locke. After falling fowl of a stomach bug in the Coppi e Bartali stage race last month it will be interesting to see if Locke can continue his astounding run of form and challenge for the overall in Spain Edit: Brian Smith - Endura Team Manager - Reliably informs me that JTL has been training at altitude in preparation...

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Boonen Crowned King Of The Classics

There is little to say here other than WOW. In an earlier post I referred to the dominant force of Tom Boonen and his Omega Pharma team (here) and today showed just what form Boonen was in. A man known for his sprinting rather than being in the break-away and TT'ing to victory destroyed a very strong field, alone, 52km away from the finish line - one the strongest performances in the history of Paris-Roubaix. This same man also won last weeks Tour of Flanders, the second time in a season that Boonen has 'done the double', before this he took victory in both E3 and Gent-Wevelgem and now equals Roger De Vlaeminck's all-time win record of four victories in the Hell of the North. Boonen has surpassed the form of his remarkable 2005 season and shown that right now nobody in the peloton can touch him. He is simply a man on fire. For a more in depth look at today's race, Inner Ring has done a much better write-up than I could manage, you can read it HERE 

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Euskaltel: Pressure Off As Sanchez Takes Overall In Basque Country

Not long ago I blogged on the troubles facing the Euskaltel Euskadi team and its Basque Country riders regarding finance and sponsorship, you can read the full article here but in essence I highlighted how Euskaltel needed some good results this year and today Samuel Sanchez destroyed the field in the final TT at Vuelta al Pais Vasco (Tour of The Basque Country) to take the stage and overall win of this years 6 day long stage race.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Film Friday: Roubaix Cobbles

In a couple of days time the peloton will line up at the start of one of the finest road racing spectacles of the season. Famed for its drama, its danger and of course it's crashes (Spectators will be praying for rain, the evil bunch that we are!). So just in case you were not already in the mood, here's a little Paris-Roubaix 2012 promo vid alongside a clip from the 'Sunday In Hell' docufilm. That should do the trick. Enjoy.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Mark Renshaw: Was Leaving Sky A Mistake?

Mark Renshaw earned himself the reputation of the peloton's top wing man and lead-out king whilst riding for Mark Cavendish at HTC. Instead of following Cav to Sky - I understand he was offered a contract - Renshaw decided it was time to spread his own wings and find his own lead-out at Rabobank. After such strong performances leading Cavendish out, 2012 was meant to become the season where Renshaw finally battled against Cavendish for stage victories, we were expectant, excited at the prospect of this former brotherhood becoming rivals. So I was concerned to find Mark Renshaw leading Theo Bos out for the sprint at Scheldeprijs on Wednesday...

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Dominance

Today's Wordless Wednesday photograph, I think, sums up the start of this season. Taken during today's Scheldeprijs it shows Tom Boonen putting down the hammer at the front of the peloton with his Omega Pharma team mates - this time not riding for himself but selflessly riding for Francesco Chicchi in between casually winning the Tour of Flanders and eyeing up Sundays Paris-Roubaix. Boonen set a relentless pace and strung out the Peloton, taking turns on the front right until the final 2km. Incredibly at one point Omega Pharma had all 8 riders at the front - A real show of Dominance, not just today by Boonen but by the whole team since the season began. Omega Pharma-Quick-Step are on fire...

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Paris-Roubaix: The Contenders

With rain currently predicted for Sundays 'Hell of the North' and Fabian Cancellara missing the action thanks to his fall in Flanders, is there anyone who can stop Tom Boonen taking the victory and 'doing the double'? Here is my list of possible contenders, and to be honest, it's looking a little thin on the ground:

Monday, 2 April 2012

Saxo Bank Keep Licence - Rightly.

The Licence Commission have rejected the UCI's request to withdraw Team Saxo Bank's WorldTour licence, preferring not to punish the team at the hands of Alberto Contador. Pat McQuaid and the UCI went for the jugular after banning Contador for 2 years (backdated) and stripping him of his results for taking a banned substance because Alberto Contador was responsible for more than two thirds of the teams points needed to secure a WorldTour licence for 2012, which was issued in November 2011 before Contadors case was dealt with. I believe this to be the right decision...

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Clash Of The Titans: Cancellara, Boonen And Broken Bones

As I predicted, Belgian favourite, ex-world champion and current world number one Tom Boonen took a fantastic victory in today's monumental Tour of Flanders. Boonen hung on to Ballans every attack and out sprinted Filippo Pozzato to take his third Ronde Van Vlaanderen - equalling the current record. At the opposite end of the scale, close rival and classic king Fabian Cancellara crashed out on the cobbles breaking his collarbone in three places, eliminating him from not only the Tour of Flanders, but also next weekends 'Hell of The North' Paris-Roubaix cobbled classic. A certain question does remain...