Thursday, 31 May 2012

The Criterium du Dauphine - A Preview

So with the Giro d'Italia now but a distant memory its time to look ahead once again as riders prepare for the Tour de France. Next on the radar for those riders looking for some final preparation is the Criterium du Dauphine, an 8 day sage race set in the mountainous French region of Dauphine. The Dauphine has been used as preparation for Tour riders since its humble begginings in 1947, don't let that that fool you into thinking this is just another dull training exercise though, because it isn't...

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Wordless Tuesday: The Art Of Burying One's Self.

Yes, Wordless Tuesday (I'm away this week, so have pre-written a few posts spread across the week from Friday 25th May until Saturday 2nd June so that there's at least something for you to read!) and this photograph epitomises just what it takes to be one of the top professional cyclists in the world. This is Michele Scarponi at the end of the super challenging Giro d'Italia stage 20, having attacked three times on the way up the final climb, Scarponi still couldn't shed his rivals and eventually finished third on the stage. All of the race favourites looked cooked on the way up that climb, but that still isn't a true reflection of what these riders really go through. Other than Rowing (I remember watching footage of Sir Steve Redgrave training until physically passing out!) I can't think of many other sports where the participants are willing to bury themselves day after day, time and time again in a way that pro-cyclists do, it has to be simply the toughest endurance sport on the planet. Cyclists truly are hard b*astards.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Giro d'Italia: Stage 20 On A High

Here is stage 20 of the Giro d'Italia. Beyond this point lies only one more stage of this Italian Grand Tour, a 30km pan flat Time Trial which in itself could lead to a final shake up of the General Classification, especially if Ryder Hesjedal has anything to do with it. First though is this beast of a mountain stage, touted as the possible deciding stage of this race it finishes with the fearsome Passo Dello Stelvio...

Friday, 25 May 2012

Film Friday: The Stelvio In Motion

So, tomorrow. The Giro. The Stelvio. Could the highest point of this years season finally decide a close fought Giro d'Italia? Unfortunately I will not know until after the stage has finished as I will be sunning myself (hopefully) at the coast for a week. When I realised I'd be missing the final weekend of the Giro I must admit i was pretty gutted, even more so after watching the race to this point and it being so close. In fact this post is pre-written and the Giro may have already been decided by the time you see this post on today's gruelling climbs, if it has then I apologise. Also I'm sorry there will be no coverage on InTheGC regarding the winner of the Giro, or the final two stages but I have pre-written some features that will appear here in the week while I'm away so please check back regularly. Anyway, back to it - the Stelvio, tomorrows final climb, the possible decider has always had strong links to this beautiful Italian race - here's a brief history in footage...

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Job Done For Euskaltel Euskadi

This is Euskaltel Euskadi rider Jon Izagirre sailing to victory on the final climb of yesterdays Giro d'Italia stage 16. His second ever professional victory and undoubtedly his best, Izagirre's victory is far more than that - it's a 'job done' for Euskaltel Esukadi, another valuable boost in the teams much publicised fight for WorldTour Survival. At just 23 years of age, it's clear that the teams mission to develop Basque Country riders is working, with young talented riders like Jon Izagirre filling the teams roster. It would be a very sad day when Euskaltel can no longer compete at the highest level. If you are unfamiliar with the teams current situation, you can find all of the background here, here and here.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Paolo Tiralongo: A Domestique Life.

From Wikipedia: A domestique is a road bicycle racer who works for the benefit of his team and leader. The French 'domestique' translates as "servant".  Two sentences which perfectly sum up Paolo Tiralongo who finds himself currently ahead of his team leader in the Giro d'Italia, sitting pretty at fourth overall. Paolo won't be looking to rise any further up the standing though because no matter the form or ability, it's always been a domestique life for him...

Monday, 21 May 2012

Giro d'Italia: Rest Day Round-up

Rodriguez had it, then Hesjedal took it, now Rodriguez has it again. The pink jersey is changing hands almost daily and as predicted the first two days in the mountains have produced two fantastic days of racing and drama. Gaps are starting to appear in the General Classification, but there is far more to this weekends racing than that and with today's rest day what better chance to stop and take stock of the situation...

Friday, 18 May 2012

Film Friday: Welcome To The Mountains

The wait is over. Tomorrows Giro d'Italia stage 14 (finally!) announces its arrival in the alps with the torturous final climb to the foot of the 'Matterhorn' mountain in the Ski Resort of Cervinia. This time last year stage 14 of the 2011 addition also hit the steep stuff with riders taking on the fearsome 'Zoncolan'. To welcome in the mountains, here is some footage from that day, a little reminder of why us cycling fans love the steep stuff so much...Enjoy.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Frank Schleck V Alex Rasmussen: Handbags At Dawn

Stage 11 of the Giro d'Italia saw Frank Schleck lose 46 seconds on his main rivals, leaving him trailing 2 minutes 11 seconds on the Pink Jersey. Frank says he got caught up behind two crashes, the first being the fault of Alex Rasmussen (Garmin Barracuda). Rasmussen was quick to brand Schleck a 'liar' and the dispute has spilled over into today's stage and a very open twitter war...

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Giro d'Italia - More Than Just A Grand Tour

The Tour de France has always been THE grand tour, though often as a cycling fan it can be the least exciting. Often it is built up so much that the end product cannot match the hype and we are left feeling a little let down by the whole affair. The Giro often has a weaker field than the Tour, but like we have seen this year, it can lead to a closer, more exciting race. Something else the Giro has in bucket loads that the Tour sometimes lacks is scenery. Scenery is a big thing in cycling, a vast number of viewers tune in purely for the scenery, from the beautiful dolomite mountains to hilltop towns like the magnificent Assisi, the town of yesterdays stage finish, the Giro has it all. The above picture is more than just a poster advertising the Giro, this photograph is a powerful, stunning and immediate attention grabber, after all, who can fail to be wowed by a view like this, cycling fan or not? Photographed fantastically well by the wonderful Jered Gruber this picture sums up cycling and all that cycling means in far better detail than a thousand words: the ride, the views, the passion, the places, the people, the culture, the endurance, the suffering, the heart. Its all here in the flash of his camera.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Giro d'Italia: Pink Swaps Hands, Race Still Wide Open

On what has been described as the most beautiful finish in the most beautiful part of Italy, the man we all had down as stage favourite, Joaquim Rodriguez, rocketed to victory and in the process stole the pink jersey from the shoulders of Ryder Hesjedal. Almost half way in, how is that general classification shaping up...

Monday, 14 May 2012

Giro Round-Up: 9 Down, 12 To Go...

A weekend can change a lot in a stage race and although I've been craving the final week to hurry the hell up, I have to admit that this weekend saw some great racing in the Giro with plenty of surprises keeping things entertaining. Aside from the Giro there's been more goings on in the RadioShack Nissan camp, and you may have noticed that I haven't mentioned much about the Amgen Tour of California which started on Sunday, well, erm...yeah.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Stage 7: The Giro Finally Begins...

With the first Mountain Top Finish producing fireworks already, it's looking good for the next couple of weeks. Although the Giro has so far been a slow burner, stage 6 was much tougher than many thought which led to the first of the retirements, Thor Hushovd included. Today's stage 7 though really was difficult, up and down all day climaxing atop the Category 2 Rocca di Cambio - a 19km 5% climb, a slight descent with 4km's to go, and then a steep, sharp final 1.5km at 10% into the finish line. Michele Scarponi looked cooked in the recent Giro del Trentino, barely able to turn the peddles. Not so today though as the 2012 favourite made a surprise attack in the final kilometre, beaten to the line by Paolo Tiralongo, but still sending a clear message to the other favourites. Scarponi has arrived...

Friday, 11 May 2012

Film Friday: 'BOY' - The Olympic Opening Ceremony Film

This weeks film is a little different from the usual Film Friday offering, mainly because its actually a film, rather than footage of cycling. The following film titled 'BOY' was written by doctor turned actor Prasanna Puwanarajah and picked as a winner by Richard E Grant in a competition as part of British Airways' Great Britons initiative and as a result will now be shown as part of the 2012 London Olympics Opening Ceremony, which should, it's hoped, tug at the heartstrings of the millions of viewers worldwide. The airline will also be showing the ten-minute film on flights in the months leading up to the event. Its 10 minutes long and stars Timothy Spall, confronting an issue which has hit headlines quite a lot this year. I won't spoil the story but what I will say is click the video for the full screen version, because the little one doesn't do it justice. BOY has divided opinion, some think its fantastic, other's not so. I think if you are either a parent, a cycling fan, or indeed both, you will find it very difficult not to appreciate this film. keep the tissues handy, enjoy... 

Lance Armstrong: Case Closed - Guilty Verdict?

In an interview with Men's Journal to be released this week, Lance Armstrong comes across as far more candid than we have ever seen him before on the subject of his doping allegations for which the seven time Tour de France winner has denied for many years. Increasing suspicion means that only the hardiest of his naive fanboys truly believe his plea's of innocence, they will be disappointed though as today's revelations appear - almost - as an admission of guilt...

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Mark Cavendish And Road Rash

This is Mark Cavendish at the end of stage 3 in the years Giro d'Italia, not long after he, Taylor Phinney and others were taken out by a reckless sprint from Roberto Ferrari who apologised to the riders publicly at the start of todays Team Time Trial. Note the road rash to the shoulder, thigh and leg of Cavendish who is currently very sore after losing a whole load of skin on the tarmac in Denmark. The rash itself will become rather sticky as it scabs over and will certainly not be very comfortable for the next couple of stages. Don't think for a moment though that this puts Cavendish out of contention in tomorrows pan flat stage 5. In fact as the last clear cut sprint stage ahead of three more difficult intermediate mountain stages Cavendish will be looking to make a statement here: A bit of road rash won't keep a World Champion down...

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Giro d'Italia Stage 4: Team Time Trial - Deceptively Dangerous For The General Classification

With a relatively slow, sprinter friendly start to this years Giro it would be easy to assume that the General Classification (overall leader) wouldn't come into play until we hit the mountains. Ironically though, a shake-up of the overall leaders could come in the form of stage fours 'Team' Time Trial, a dangerously deceptive stage for the GC riders...

Monday, 7 May 2012

Giro d'Italia Stage 3: Tributes, Crashes And Curses

Today's stage started with a minutes silence for Wouter Weylandt who tragically died in a crash during stage 3 of the Giro d'Italia last year leaving behind a pregnant wife and a peloton full of close friends. Last year saw stage 4 neutralised as Wouter's teammates and close friend Tylar Farrar crossed the finish arm in arm. A year on and life goes on, but today was a timely reminder just how dangerous this sport can be. Clearly Roberto Ferrari wasn't listening...

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Weekend Round-Up: Cavendish, The Pink Jersey Curse, Goodbye Nibali...

So we are two days into the Giro d'Italia and so far it hasn't really been a remarkable spectacle of television, but it was to be expected. A prologue followed by a couple of flat stages rarely wets the appetite, unless maybe you are the Eneco Tour race organiser. There are some strange going's on when it comes to the Pink Jersey though...

Friday, 4 May 2012

Film Friday: Giro d'Italia - Three Weeks Of Pain

This weeks Film Friday was only ever going to be about one thing. Yep, the Giro d'Italia. Grand Tour season is upon us (hurrah!) and it's only right that we embrace it wholeheartedly. I'm also a fan of official race promo vid's, usually because they are so naff it becomes mildly funny, a little like the Sidi cycling shoes advert (Google it! hmmmm tasty shoes...). The soundtrack usually consists of the standard Tubular Bells, or some 90's hardcore trance anthem, then there is the Hollywood style 'complete with gruff voice' voice-over, the slow build up, possibly in black and white, soon descends into a multitude of flashing, badly cut together scenes, the music gets louder and louder, more intense, oh the suspense, and then... POW! That final shot overlooking a mountain range, or a lake, or the sea or something similarly epic. Fade to black. Well, this Official Giro d'Italia 2012 promo has it all...also, note the fact that this 'Oficial' video spends rather a long time focusing on Alberto Contadors pink jersey, winning celebrations, victory salute and podium ceremony - either they didn't get the memo to say that Contador was slapped with a backdated ban and the revocation of his results, making Michele Scarponi the 2011 winner or they simply don't care...oh well, it makes for entertaining viewing. Roll on Saturday...

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Giro d'Italia 2012: The Contenders

The first of this years three week long Grand Tours kicks off this Saturday in Denmark. The Giro d'Italia is a formidable race, second only to the Tour de France in prestige though for its unpredictability and (usually) notoriously difficult route many seasoned cycling fans prefer to watch the Giro. This years addition features arguably the weakest field of competitors in recent years, though don't let this dampen your enthusiasm, as the lack of a major race favourite will only serve to make the spectacle more exciting and less predictable. Many a career has been forged and indeed invented here and this year seems perfect for any young riders looking to make a name for themselves. The route is very top heavy, with the first 2 weeks being predominantly flat and the final week frighteningly mountainous which should make for a spectacular finale and leave us guessing as to who will be crowned the winner right until the finish. For an in depth preview of the race featuring profiles of all of the stages, see The Inner Ring Instead I will focus on the Contenders...

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Waiting For The 'Matterhorn'

Though the Giro d'Italia starts this Saturday, we have to wait a lengthy fourteen days before we get a taste of the (real) steep stuff and a shake up of the general classification. That's OK if you happen to be a fan of the sprinters and to be fair I don't mind a good sprint, but 13 bunch finishes in a row may eventually induce sleep in even the hardiest of sprint lovers. That steep stuff finally comes in the form of this category one, infamous 'Matterhorn' alpine climb on stage 14 of the Italian Grand Tour. With almost two weeks of racing in their legs the main contenders will be chomping at the bit to tackle this tough finish and hopefully set the race alight for the final week of gruelling climbing - it is a rather back-end heavy race this year. The Matterhorn was one of the last great Alpine mountain peaks to be climbed but is now one of the most popular and its easy to see why. Situated on the Italy/Switzerland border, the Matterhorn has two distinct summits divided by a 100 metre long rocky ridge, the Swiss summit on the east and indeed the Italian summit to the west. At  4,478 metres it is one of the highest peaks in the Alps. Of course the riders will only really be climbing to the 'foot' of the mountain unless they fancy tackling glaciers and vertical descents...

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Iljo Keisse: More Than Just A Victory

For many a rider at the top level of the sport, a stage win in the Tour of Turkey wouldn't be too much to write home about in the grand scheme of things but when Iljo Keisse calmly recovered from his dropped chain to take a stunning victory on stage 7 of this years race it was a moment so special in his career that he will remember it for the rest of his life. When I was screaming at my television for Keisse to get back on his bike and win, I new nothing of the man, I was screaming purely at the joy of watching this dramatic race unfold. Had I been aware of Keisse and his past I would have savoured the moment the Belgian born rider had crossed the line even more. Why? Because until this point Iljo Keisse has led what can only be described as a tragic life marred by an unbelievable set of circumstances. The following article first appeared in the December issue of Pro-Cycling, I missed it at the time, but since Keisse took victory in Turkey the article has done the rounds again and I am so glad. It's probably the best, yet saddest article on cycling I have ever had the pleasure to read. The story of a career blown apart by Rumour, Doping Claims, The UCI and Death can be found here. Please take the time to read it.