Thursday, 28 February 2013

Strade Bianche 2013: Preview

It is difficult to believe that this race has only been in existence since 2007 because it already holds a place of prestige in the modern cycling calendar. The dusty dirt roads surrounded by beautiful Tuscan countryside help this race fit into it's character as a 'spring classic' - this coupled with it's lengthy route and usually a strong field of competitors make this race a must see for cycling fans...

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Roma Maxima 2013: Promo And Preview

It's a busy weekend of racing coming up with Strade Bianche on Saturday and the start of Paris-Nice on Sunday (There will be an in depth look at both here soon) but there is also a new kid in town and those likely to race the Strade Bianche may also take to the road on Sunday in the new Roma Maxima single day race.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Preview: Le Samyn

OK, so it wasn't the best possible start to the 2013 classics season with a slightly dull Omloop Het Nieuwsblad marred further by slow Internet feeds and poor coverage outside of Belgium, followed by the cancellation of Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne on the morning of the race thanks to a covering of overnight snow. All might not be lost this week though as Wednesday should welcome Le Samyn...

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Picture This: First Blood - Luca Paolini

So the first day of the cobbles belongs to surprise winner Luca Paolini (Katusha) as the favourites missed out in today's Omloop Het Nieuwsblad. Paolini and Stijn Vandenbergh (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) jumped from the leading group of 10 with around 25km's to go and managed to make it stick right to the finish where Paolini outsprinted the Belgian to take the honours. It's worth noting Geraint Thomas finished 4th, just missing out on a podium position - a great start to his transition from the track back to the road and looking good for Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. Luca Paolini's win comes at the right time for Katusha, who only recently found themselves back in the WorldTour thanks to their upheld appeal to CAS. Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne tomorrow as the classics continue...

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Return Of The Cobbles

STOP PRESS. Forget Australia, forget the Middle East, forget the sunshine and tan lines. It's old news and Classics season is finally here. This weekend will see the return of the cobbles in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussel-Kuurne as riders swap short sleeves for overshoes and raincoats and head out on training rides up the Berendries, Valkenberg, Eikenberg, Molenberg and What-Ever-Else-Berg. If you have enjoyed the season so far, then buckle up because the pace and drama is about to step up a notch...

Monday, 18 February 2013

One To Watch: Kenny Elissonde

In the last 'One To Watch' I spoke about Romain Bardet and the ongoing French Revolution with riders like Warren Barguill and Thibaut Pinot rising quickly through the ranks and making a name for themselves in the pro-tour as up-and-coming talents. Well this week a new name emerged that should be added to that list, and scarily, he's making his mark at the tender age of 21. He really is one to watch: Kenny Elissonde...

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Picture This: The God Of Thunder Is Back

There is reason for Thor Hushovd to be looking so pleased with himself - after what can only be described as a horrific 2012 the God of Thunder has finally found himself on the top step of the podium once again, taking victory on stage 1 of the Tour du Haut Var. It's the Norwegians first win since 2011 and indeed his first with BMC which should provide some relief not only to himself but also team management, after struggling with illness for virtually the whole of the 2012 season. He's no spring chicken at 35 years old, but it's great to see him in form once again - 2012 missed his presence especially in the classics and the Tour de France. He's a strongman and a race-changer. He is certain to provide some entertainment in 2013 and the classics might not be so clear cut for Boonen this year with both Thor and Cancellara back on the war path...

Friday, 15 February 2013

Friday Shorts: CAS Upholds Katusha Appeal, Froome Oman Victor, Schleck Sidelined Again, The Alto do Malhão

Its been a busy week this week both on the road and off as the Puerto trial continues to dominate the cycling press away from the tarmac whilst some fantastic racing in Oman has finally diverted some focus away from the backroom drama - though not for long as CAS made their decision in the Katusha licence case today...

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Picture This: The Dominance Of Peter Sagan

Terminator, Rambo, Cannibal - these are all nicknames of Peter Sagan and I would say they are all a fair assessment of the man. Frankly, Peter Sagan scares me, well, his talent does anyway. At 23 years old, Sagan has a palmares longer than both of my arms sewn together. As a neo-pro Sagan won the points classification along with stages 3 and 5 at Paris-Nice. I repeat: AS A NEO-PRO. The picture above is from his victory today in Oman and it says it all. His pose says 'meh, what's the problem?', he's barely breaking a sweat. See those riders behind him coughing up their lungs? Alberto Contador, Chris Froome, Cadel Evans, Greg Van Avermaet, Phil Glbert. 2013 - Be afraid. Be very afraid...

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Jebal al Akhdar: Green Mountain

If you have managed to catch any of the action so far this week in Oman or at least had a look at some pictures, then you will have noticed it's hills in contrast to the pan-flat desert of Qatar last week. The Tour of Oman is a good little early season race for the route, the variation, the scenery and this year particularly the riders: Wiggins, Froome, Contador, Evans, Nibali, Rodriguez are all there in what could be the first and only display of the leading Tour contenders before the race in July. On Thursday the race heads into the Al Hajar Mountain range as riders prepare to take on the summit finish on the 'Jabal Akhdar'. The 'Green Mountain'. Here is what they can expect...

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Tour of Oman: All Eyes On Sky

The Tour of Oman kicks off tomorrow and unlike it's Qatari counterpart the race takes a very different format. There will be sprinters here looking for some stage victories - but it's not all pan-flat dessert. There are some very steep and testing climbs and the likes of Cavendish will not be making inroads into the general classification here, thankfully. His former Sky team-mates might though, as both Wiggins and Froome line up at the start under a cloud of media speculation as to who will be riding for who come July...

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Picture This: Tour Mediterraneen Stage 4 - Mont Faron

Today saw the first summit finish of the year in Europe as riders took to the roads of Mont Faron. The 5km 10% average climb was enough to split the peloton and see Maxime Monfort take the race leaders jersey into the final day. French Favourite 35 year old Jean-Christophe Péraud AG2R took the stage victory at the summit of Mont Faron in style.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Picture This: Col d'Eze, Paris-Nice

So the Paris-Nice route is out and once again the infamous Col d'Eze is featured - this year it will most likely decide the winner of the race, as it did in 2012 when Bradley Wiggins took victory on this very slope. At 9.6km's the climb averages a mild 6.1% though peaks at around 9% in places - it doesn't sound all that tough, but there will be no jostling for position here because as Frederik Veuchelen displays above, the riders will face this climb alone in one of the toughest 'races of truth' in the modern sport. No slipstreaming, no pace-setting, no wheel-sucking. Just one man, his bike and a 10 kilometre hill. 

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

One To Watch: Romain Bardet

In the second instalment of the new series we focus on 22 year old French rider Romain Bardet as one to watch in 2013. In fact the young AG2R rider has already had a top 10 overall to add to his Palmares this year and could be the next revelation in the current French revolution...

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Sunday Film: Qatar Stage 1 - Highlights And Lowlights

If you didn't get a chance to catch the race earlier, here are highlights of the final 5km of today's Tour of Qatar Stage 1 won by surprise candidate Brent Bookwalter (BMC) as he made his jump with two others close to the finish in a block headwind managing to keep the sprinters and their trains at bay. This footage serves two purposes though. If you read my post last week about Qatar then you will remember I made a comment about a distinct lack of fans and atmosphere at the roadside. Today's stage was a perfect example, you can practically count those watching the race on one hand...

Friday, 1 February 2013

Picture This: Michael Rasmussen

It's not been the best week in cycling - yet another tarred by doping. The week started with the media focus on Dr Fuentes and the Puerto trial, then Frank Schleck got dealt a (rather dubious) 1 year ban for his positive test at last years Tour for a banned diuretic before Michael Rasmussen (photographed) finished the week admitting to an 11 year doping binge in his own words: "I used EPO, growth hormone, testosterone, DHEA, insulin, IGF-1, and cortisone and did blood transfusions." (worryingly beating many anti-doping tests and maintaining a relatively unsuspicious haematocrit level). Fuentes and Rasmussen have both promised to 'name names' which can only be a good thing, but after a long off-season of Armstrong related doping revelations this week only serves to highlight the continued struggle of doping within the sport, just as the season really gets underway. I predict the revelations will roll on throughout the year and cast a shadow across the season darker than Rasmussens tan lines. Same old same old...(PS. Sorry if this picture puts you off your dinner!)