Friday, 31 May 2013

Wiggins And The Tour: Injury Or Conspiracy?

The long running saga concerning Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome and the Tour de France finally drew to a close today as it was announced Wiggins wouldn't be selected for the Sky team in July due to an ongoing knee problem but as the conspiracy theorists start their rounds is there really more than meets the eye with this decision?...

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

How Important Is The Dauphine?

Yesterday I spoke about how the Dauphine has a very different feel compared with the early season stage races that Chris Froome has hoovered up so far this year because it's the first real test for riders looking to compete in the General Classification at the Tour de France in July, but just how important is the Dauphine both as a race in it's own right and as build up towards the Tour?...

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Movie Tuesday: Criterium du Dauphine 2013

A lull in the cycling season this week could lead to an early bout of post-cycling depression but fear not, if this week is a quiet one then next week is likely to be explosive as the Criterium du Dauphine 2013 kicks off this weekend and it's going to be some race. The usual Dauphine mix of a few mountains, a time trial and a bunch of sprint stages has been replaced by a very undulating 8 day course that provides little for the sprinters but plenty of climbing for the GC contenders including of course l'Alpe d'Huez and if the Giro fell short of real GC competition then this should be a race at the opposite end of the scale - Contador, Froome, Valverde, Rodriguez, Quintana, Rolland are amongst the frankly huge names on the start-list and it's going to make for an evenly fought battle of the fittest. Unlike many of the early season stage races the Dauphine is the first real indicator of Tour de France form - if riders are flagging here then they will likely be flagging at the tour and there are a few names with plenty to prove. Here's a little video of all the stages - not really a movie and there's no official trailer yet. A full race preview will follow later in the week, oh and you might want to turn your speakers down...

Sunday, 26 May 2013

The 2013 Giro d'Italia Concludes...

So the first Grand Tour of the year is over and it's been a bumpy ride. Success For Vincenzo Nibali breathes new life into Italian racing and it was an incredible victory - not least for his actions on yesterdays snowy mountain top finish. The race has also been good for Rigoberto Uran (second), Cadel Evans (Third), Mark Cavendish (Red Jersey), Stefano Pirazzi (Blue Jersey) and Carlos Betancur (White Jersey). The race was of course spoilt by ugly weather, the removal of mountain's and mountain stages, illness and the dwindling of GC contenders along the way (Wiggins, Hesjedal, Gesink et al) but it's been a war of attrition and the best man won. Memories of Stage 20 and other key moments will last forever but has this been a 'great' race? Perhaps not and I'm sure it won't be the best Grand Tour of the year - Up next a brutal Tour de France and a startlist worth dying for...

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Picture This: A Mountainous Conclusion?

The Giro d'Italia heads back in to the Mountains tomorrow on Stage 19 with three massive climbs of the Passo Del Tonale, The Passo Castrin Hofmahdjoch and the summit finish of Val Martello Martelltal (pictured) and we were all expecting a close fought battle to the end over the next two days but will the race still be decided in the Mountains? Race leader Vincenzo Nibali blew his competitors away today in the mountain time trial, not only winning but extending his lead dramatically over second placed Cadel Evans who after a poor performance (losing 2 minutes 36) now finds himself over 4 minutes back. Unless Vincenzo Nibali completely cracks in the next two days it looks as though the Giro is already won...

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Rafal Majka - New Kid On The Block

In yesterdays Giro d'Italia rest day round-up I made a point of talking about this years Young Rider Classification and in particular Rafal Majka - Saxobank's new kid on the block. He again finished with the big favourites in today's tough stage from Valloire to Ivrea and finds himself just five seconds off the White Jersey and 8th overall in the General Classification. So who is Rafal Majka? And where has he come from?...

Monday, 20 May 2013

Giro d'Italia: Rest Day Round-Up Pt.2

So the second week of the Giro has drawn to a close and riders are currently nipping out for an hours gentle ride to keep the legs ticking over, having an extra massage, a decent meal and some TV downtime - a contrast to the carnage that the last week of racing produced. As far as I can make out 70+ riders have called time on their Giro including of course two major favourites in the shape of Ryder Hesjedal and Bradley Wiggins. Here's a look back at how the week panned out and a look ahead to the final week and conclusion of the 2013 Giro d'Italia...

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Picture This: Visconti Tames The Galibier

After torrid weather conditions and the removal of mountains from yesterdays Giro d'Italia route things were not looking good for today's stage 15 and the ascent of the Galibier but in the end the route remained largely unchanged apart from shortening the famous mountain pass by 4.5 kilometres. If the route remained in tact it still didn't make for inspiring racing as the GC guys all rolled in together thinking about massages, warm beds and tomorrows rest-day. No, instead they left all the inspiring riding to Giovanni Visconti (Movistar) who jumped away near the top of Mont Cenis with a few others in the search for mountains points with 86 kilometres, the Telegraphe and the Col du Galibier left to ride. He dropped his fellow breakaway companions and soloed to victory on a very wet, cold and snowy mountain top finish producing the victory of his career. Chapeau that man. 

Friday, 17 May 2013

Giro d'Italia Stage 14: Monte Jafferau

Tomorrows stage of the Giro d'Italia is only 156 kilometres in length but much of it is uphill and the race finishes here (pictured) in the Hautes Alpes on the summit of Monte Jafferau. The long winding road is something synonymous with all alpine type climbs though the Jafferau has fewer switchbacks than many. But there is something else that makes this climb quite unique - look closely and you will notice those unsurfaced gravel roads...

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Wiggins Out, Uran In, Froome?

You know Bradley Wiggins is struggling when he even manages to lose time on a 'sprint stage'. Even if the weather was torrential if Cavendish can make it to the end to contest the sprint then Wiggins should be more than capable of finishing in the Maglia Rosa group but another wet descent and a chest infection has left the Pink Jersey well beyond his reach, in fact 5 minutes 22 seconds beyond his reach. So what now for Sky both at the Giro and of course the Tour?...

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Rigoberto Uran On Chris Froome

An interview with Rigoberto Uran at the Giro stage 10 press conference led to some choice words regarding team-mate Chris Froome. It's difficult to judge as sometimes with interviews such as this words and meaning get lost in translation but if there was talk of a 'Colombian Conspiracy' at the Giro early last week it appears it should be Chris Froome who's worried, not Bradley Wiggins...

Monday, 13 May 2013

Giro d'Italia: Rest Day Round-Up

So the first week of the Giro is over and if the riders have found it a difficult race so far then things are only set to get worse. It's unusual to see significant time gaps between the favourites in the first week of a Grand Tour but with a very long individual time trial and a week of 'classic' type stages some of the contenders now find themselves off the pace and in a predicament. Here's a look at how the first week of the Giro has panned out and how it is likely to effect the race going into the second week...

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Sunday Movie: Amgen Tour Of California 2013

OK, so the Giro is in full flow but it's not the only bike race happening right now - in fact the 2013 Amgen Tour of California starts today and here's a little film with insights from locals, fans, organisers and riders about the route stage by stage including a look at the gruelling Mount Diablo finish. Obviously the race is made difficult to watch thanks to the time difference but the summit finish stage is certainly worth staying up for - however much the Americans love this race though it does have it's downsides: Much of the race is flat, it's a bit of a sprint fest which often leaves the GC battle wanting and of course the Giro is on and those not in Italy are working hard to find form for the Tour de France so the start-list is often lacking in big names. It certainly won't rival the Giro, but bike racing is bike racing so never pass up the opportunity to watch more...Enjoy.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Can Wiggins Still Win The Giro?

It took minutes for a large proportion of twitterati and cycling media to write off Bradley Wiggins Giro after his crash on a rain sodden descent of today's stage left him 1 minute 32 seconds off the Maglia Rosa and 1.24 back on Nibali and the other major favourites but is it really all over for Wiggins?...

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Picture This: Wouter Weylandt - Two Years On

When Mark Cavendish held aloft the number '108' on the podium today nobody needed to ask what the number symbolised. It's two years to the day that the much loved Wouter Weylandt sadly passed away during a tricky descent on a stage in the 2011 Giro d'Italia - 108 was his race number that day. Time passes (very quickly I might add) but memories of that day and of Weylandt remain with both the riders and the fans - a reminder of just how dangerous this sport can be even for the most skilled and respected riders in the world. 

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Black And Blue - Team Sky

There is little going on in the way of news today and one team will be happier for that than most. If Team Sky look black and blue it might not just be down to the kit - the team have been through the mill in the last few weeks and it would be easy for a dedicated 'Team Sky News' website to keep churning out the stories as no longer are the cycling squad and their exploits confined to the small column inches at the back of the newspapers, no, they are too busy making headlines on news channels across Europe. So, whats going on at Team Sky?...

Monday, 6 May 2013

Giro d'Italia Stage 4: Croce Ferrata

If stage 3 was interesting because the GC contenders started to size each other up so early on with Ryder Hesjedal putting in attacks left, right and centre then stage 4 is likely to see all out war as riders tackle the Croce Ferrata (The "Iron Cross" - just visible in the foreground) before descending the final 6 kilometres into the finish. It might only be a 'mid-mountain' stage, but the Croce Ferrata isn't easy...

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Sunday Movie: Rutland-Melton CiCLE Classic - Behind The Scenes

Now, we are all well aware that there happens to be a little race happening right now in Italy (apparently) but here's something even littler. This beautifully shot video gives an insight into the domestic peloton following riders and director sportifs through this years Ruland-Melton Cicle Classic, which just happens to be my 'major' local race. I wrote a report on it last year (It was the worst day of weather that year, only 22 riders finished the race and there was me and about a dozen others braving it at the finish) but couldn't attend this year which meant of course that it was glorious sunshine! This one day race with it's 11 off-road sections is by far the toughest UCI 1.2 race going and this little video produced by Mat Pennell & Phil Sheehan is a real gem. Enjoy.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Picture This: Cavendish In Pink

He's worn this jersey before (though not with OPQS) and he's likely to wear it again but by putting the Maglia Rosa upon his shoulders once again Mark Cavendish stamps his authority on the Giro and looks set to be the sprinter to beat yet again. It's unlikely Cavendish will hold the jersey for long - tomorrows extremely technical Team Time Trial could put paid to that as it's certainly a course for the TTT Specialists - but it's another Grand Tour victory and another Leaders Jersey to add to an already lengthy list. He's back where he belongs - winnings sprints in Grand Tours as team numero uno and there is likely to be plenty more where that came from...

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Giro d'Italia 2013: The Contenders

We are now just two sleeps away from the first Grand Tour of the year and it's shaping up to be quite an exciting prospect even if real 'favourites' are a little thin on the ground - even thinner now that Ivan Basso has withdrawn due to a 'lemon sized' cyst in the most uncomfortable of places and Jose Rujana has been held back by his Vacansoleil team thanks to an ongoing doping investigation but there are still riders looking to make an impression on this race and that extends beyond Bradley Wiggins and Vincenzo Nibali. So, who are the favourites?...