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...

Jon Tiernan-Locke Withdraws

The British talent that is Jon Tiernan-Locke abandoned the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon before that start of stage 2 along with Andreas Kloden due to the vile weather that has hit the race. Temperatures fell to -3c and the race was struck by rain, hail, snow and gales, indeed several riders tried to get the race cancelled before the start of today's stage as the bad weather continues and the temperatures dropped even further on some of the higher climbs. Its understandable but also deflating. Tiernan-Locke had been training at altitude for this race, it was clearly a target - one of the biggest of his entire season - so it was a shame to see him withdraw. I could understand it better from some of the bigger riders who didn't want anything to disrupt their prep for the Giro and Tour, such as Kloden, but obviously Locke doesn't share these goals, Castilla y Leon was his goal and indeed the remainder of the Endura team carried on with the race, which made the withdrawal even more unusual - however its been pointed out to me that two months ago Tiernan-Locke was shredding the opposition at the Tour of the Med, form is temporary and class is permanent, I can't expect him to be riding at his best all year round and hopefully with this one out of the way he will have a better showing in the Route de Sud later in the year, another big target for him. 

Gilbert Hits Form at Amstel Gold

Pip Gilbert has had a torrid start to this season, or so we think - in fact it's only torrid because we compare it to his last in which he stormed through the Ardennes Classics, winning every single one on his way. His form until now has just been average, not dismal, but it was a relief to see him attack on the final climb of the Cauberg in today's Amstel Gold Race, coaxed in by an early attack from Oscar Freire, Philippe Gilbert panicked and put his foot on the gas, unfortunately he was caught before the line by Peter Sagan and of course today's winner, Astana rider Enrico Gasparotto. Things are looking up for the Belgian though in the remaining two Ardennes Classics.

Samuel Sanchez Stays Warm for Euskaltel

I have been documenting the problems facing the Euskaltel Euskadi team on this blog since its beginnings and so far they have fought hard to get some wins, some UCI points and some airtime in a bid to keep the Basque Country ship afloat. So it was nice to see Samuel Sanchez arrive at the finish of today's Amstel Gold Race in seventh place, a pretty good result for a man who originally wasn't even supposed to have ridden - but a change of plan meant that he started the race and although he has been in great form so far this year, Sanchez himself was surprised to see his name pulled out of the hat as a possible favourite for today's race. Look also wasn't on his side today, Sanchez appeared to suffer some form of mechanical issue about 20km from the finish and was dropped from the bunch but with a little help from his team he managed to drag himself back up to the front of the race. If he hadn't have expended that extra energy he could well have been today's winner - not only that but Sanchez was also caught behind Cunego's crash on the final climb which must have took a bit of a bite out of his rhythm.

Other Winners and Losers

2011 Tour de Frace winner Cadel Evans pulled out of today's race mid-way through suffering from illness, not the most welcome start to his block of warm up racing in preparation for this years Tour - something Andy Schleck must be looking forward to after finally managing to finish an actual race today...

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