Saturday, July 22, 2017

Transfer Rumors: Quintana to Sky? Aru to UAE? Sure, Why Not

Nairo Quintana's future at Movistar is unclear. Photo: Tim De Waele |

The silly season has begun in earnest.

With many of the peloton’s top stars signing contract extensions and no major team closures or arrivals for 2018, it seemed that it would be a fairly quiet transfer market this year.

Things have quickly heated up in cycling’s annual game of musical chairs.

In a Tour de France that’s seen more rumors than attacks, the biggest thing making waves Wednesday morning in the paddock was a blockbuster report out of Colombia.

Colombian radio reported that Nairo Quintana is unhappy at Movistar and wants to break his contract with one year remaining. Citing “unnamed sources,” Astana and Sky are reportedly courting the Colombian superstar.

As far as rumors go, this is a big one. First off, Movistar has Quintana under contract through 2019, and would not be keen to see its franchise rider leave easily. Most big-name rider contracts have a big buy-out clause written into the deals, so that means it would be expensive. And finally Movistar, the Spain-based telecommunications giant, uses Quintana to promote its brand in the growing South American mobile phone market.

Is Quintana leaving Movistar? Maybe, but not until he finishes out his contract through 2018.

On Wednesday, Movistar boss Eusebio Unzué told ITV’s Daniel Friebe that Quintana “is with us 100 percent for 2018.”

When VeloNews editor-in-chief Fred Dreier asked Sky principal Dave Brailsford about the Quintana transfer rumor, he laughed it off and said, “Brilliant, along with the rest of the peloton.”

“We’re a friendly team and open to all comers. I’m sure Nairo and his agent will be in touch,” Brailsford said. “Everything is for speculation at this point.”

One Sky rider at the center of all kinds of transfer speculation is Mikel Landa. The Spanish all-rounder said this week, “wherever I go, I don’t want to be the second man anymore.”

Several teams have offered deals to Landa, reportedly Trek-Segafredo, Astana, Movistar, and UAE-Emirates. Many see Landa moving to Movistar, where he would take over as the franchise rider from Alejandro Valverde and the possibly-exiting Quintana. In an interview with El País, Unzué did his best to walk the tightrope on Landa, only saying, “any team would be interested in a rider of his qualities.”

The big player this year on the rider market is UAE-Emirates, which has pulled out the checkbook for 2018. Flush with petro-dollars, the new-look team that morphed out of the separation of Lampre-Merida last season is looking to step up. Sources say the team is expanding its budget to $30 million, which would put it alongside Team Sky with the biggest budget in the peloton.

That kind of money attracts attention. La Gazzetta dello Sport reported that Fabio Aru, Daniel Martin, and Elia Viviani are all linked to the expanded UAE-Emirates program for 2018. That sounds more like a wish list at this point.

Aru is said to be deep into negotiations to stay with Astana. The Kazakh-backed team will want to keep the budding Italian star in its stable, and is said to be offering a healthy contract to keep him in-house. Jakob Fuglsang will also reportedly stay with Astana.

Viviani is said to be unhappy at Sky after being left off the Giro d’Italia squad, and is shopping for a team that will give him more support in the sprints.

Martin, meanwhile, will be fetching a higher price following a breakthrough Tour de France that is confirming his grand tour capability despite being impacted by a back injury.

The key to Martin’s future is Quick-Step Floors. The entire squad at the Belgian outfit is off-contract at the end of 2018, but team boss Patrick Lefevere is quietly telling riders he has sponsors lined up to continue the team despite not publicly revealing it at this point.

Quick-Step has a bounty of quality riders, but it might not have the money to be able to keep all of them happy. Marcel Kittel, Julian Alaphilippe, and Fernando Gaviria are all demanding more money, and one of them could fly the coop if a nice offer comes along.

Katusha has penned a deal to keep promising Russian GC star Ilnur Zakarin, but the future of classics and sprint star Alexander Kristoff remains unresolved. There are rumors of Kittel moving into a Katusha jersey, but those remain unconfirmed at this point.

Another big talking point during this Tour has been the future of Alberto Contador. Trek-Segafredo sport director Stephen De Jongh told Dutch TV NOS this week that the 2017 Tour is Contador’s last one, something Contador quickly shot down.

“Right now, nothing is settled,” Contador said of his future. “People are talking just to talk.”

Trek-Segafredo wants to exercise its option to keep Contador for a second year, with talk of sending him to the Giro and perhaps a swansong Vuelta a España in 2018. Bauke Mollema, who stepped aside this year to give Contador a clean run at the Tour, wants his top GC position back for next season. The team is said to still be shopping for another GC rider for 2018.

BMC Racing has already extended its contract with Richie Porte, so it remains to be seen what happens with Tejay van Garderen. The team does not reveal the length of its rider contracts, but van Garderen is said to be shopping for a team that will assure him grand tour options. With BMC Racing firmly backing Porte for the Tour, the American might be changing jerseys for 2018.

Orica-Scott already has its trio of emerging talent firmly under contract — Esteban Chaves and Simon and Adam Yates — so what’s not known yet is the future of veteran Simon Gerrans. He was overlooked for the Tour this year and wants to race one more season. It’s hard to imagine the Australians not working something out to make everyone happy.

Cannondale-Drapac boss Jonathan Vaughters confirmed to Business Insider he’s looking for a new title sponsor to take over by the end of 2018. Cannondale wants to reel back its commitment and stay on as supplier but not be the title sponsor. Davide Formolo, the budding Italian star, is said to be leaving. Rigoberto Urán’s asking price, already near $1 million, will surely increase following his impressive Tour ride.

Another rider sure to change jerseys next year is French sprinter Bryan Coquard. Direct Energie left him at home during the Tour, and he’s already indicated he will join a WorldTour team in 2018. The other top French riders are under contract, with Arnaud Démare and Thibaut Pinot staying at FDJ and Romain Bardet staying at Ag2r-La Mondiale. Cofidis continues with its bet on Nacer Bouhanni.

So where do these rumors come from? Many of them are directly from rider agents, who enthusiastically stoke the rumor mill with the hopes of upping their client’s asking price. Team managers will also whisper some news or even riders themselves, especially the ones off a contract for the coming season.

Any rider without a firmed-up contract by the end of the Tour de France will start getting nervous. Teams fill up their rosters early. Every season is a game of musical chairs. There are only so many seats at the WorldTour table.


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

It’s Been a Tour de France for the Underdogs

Lilian Calmejane claimed his first Tour victory in stage 8. Photo: Iri Greco / BrakeThrough Media |
How can someone root for the heavy favorite? I just don’t understand. No matter if I’m watching cycling, football, or even some obscure Olympic sport (modern pentathlon, anyone?), I cheer for the underdog. I enjoy surprises and fresh faces on the podium. Perhaps that’s why I’ve enjoyed the 2017 Tour de France so much.

Before going any further, my one caveat: During this Tour a number of favorites crashed out. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) didn’t even make it through the first stage. Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) departed due to a crash (and an activist UCI jury) after stage 4. Richie Porte (BMC) crashed out in stage 9. And just today, Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step) crashed out while wearing the green jersey.

This string of unfortunate crashes is a true bummer — but hey, crashes are part of racing. The departure of these stars has created a vacuum, and the underdogs have risen to the occasion.

As an American, I’m obligated to cheer for Cannondale-Drapac, the only U.S. team to actually bring American riders to the Tour. The green team’s Tour de France win drought was long and bitter. Rigoberto Urán is the monsoon storm it needed, winning stage 9, the team’s first since 2013 when Dan Martin won stage 9. Plus, Urán is poised to finish on the overall podium, should he keep his bike upright. The Slipstream organization has only reached the Tour podium once prior, with Bradley Wiggins in 2009. Unfortunately, that honor was won years afterward when Armstrong, who was originally third that Tour, had his result stripped.

Dutch team LottoNL-Jumbo also snapped a losing streak that stretched back to 2014 with Primoz Roglic’s emphatic stage 17 win on Wednesday. The Dutch team occupies a similar station to Cannondale-Drapac in the WorldTour — it is aggressive but lacks the big budget and firepower to win everywhere. So it was a treat to see the yellow-and-black kit atop the Tour podium for the first time. And no matter the team, Roglic’s personal story is terrific. He used to be an elite ski jumper. This is his debut Tour. Plus, it was the first Tour win by a Slovenian — ever! “I really feel nice, it’s crazy that I’m the man who can also make cycling history in Slovenia,” Roglic said.

Even a French Pro Continental team had a taste of glory. Direct Energie rider Lilian Calmejane won stage 8, the team’s first since 2012 when Thomas Voeckler won stages 10 and 16 and Pierre Rolland won 11, then under the Europcar marque. Allez les Bleus!

And lest we forget team Sunweb, which has enjoyed more success than most teams at this race. I realize Sunweb is not a true underdog. Tom Dumoulin (yeah, that guy who won the Giro) took two stages last year. Yet the team has never won a classification jersey at the Tour. Now, with poor Marcel Kittel having crashed, Sunweb is poised to win two jerseys. Warren Barguil has the king of the mountains prize all but locked up, and Michael Matthews has a healthy lead in the points classification. This success comes after the team endured a tough 2016 season following a terrible training crash in January. It’s great to see Sunweb animating nearly every stage.

Of course underdogs cannot win every time. Chris Froome looks extremely strong in yellow, and his Sky teammates are imperious at the front of the peloton. No matter how the race for yellow plays out in these final days, the “anti-Froomes” have animated this race. Chapeau to Fabio Aru and Romain Bardet and the other rivals. Plus, after 17 days, this Tour has produced eight first-time stage winners, including Aru.

Froome may indeed win his fourth Tour de France as the heavy favorite. But when I look back on 2017, I’ll remember the underdogs.


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Top 5 Sprinting Mistakes To Avoid | GCN's Pro Tips

To help you get to the finish line, or town sign, first. Here are 5 sprinting mistakes to avoid!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Curious George Bennett a Surprise Tour Contender

Climbing with the world's best on Sunday, George Bennett says stage 9 was the best race he's ever had. Photo: Eloise Mavian / / BrakeThrough Media |

PAU, France (VN) — The Tour de France looks different through the eyes of an overall contender. Stages and climbs that were opportunities become potential threats. A chance for a moment of glory morphs into a chance to lose it all. The Tour de France looks different through George Bennett’s eyes, now.

It looks a bit scary, if he’s honest.

“It’s weird,” Bennett said, standing outside his team bus Wednesday morning. “When I first looked at the Tour, as a stage hunter, I was like ‘Ah, this Tour sucks, there are no opportunities.’ But now I look at it for the overall, and it’s like ‘oh, God, there are so many days I have to hang on.’ It’s a matter of perspective.”

The new perspective is that of 10th overall, 3:53 down on Chris Froome’s yellow jersey. Suddenly, the Tour is not what Bennett expected it to be.

Bennett’s Tour began upside down, sliding across wet pavement on his back. If you’d like a way to set expectations low, crashing on the first day works quite well. Yet a week and a half later the young Kiwi finds himself in the rarefied air of the Tour’s top GC men, benefitting from climbing form he’s never experienced before. That form only seems to be getting better. Few are more surprised by this than Bennett himself. He’s almost, but not quite, an accidental GC contender.

“Did I expect this? Not at all,” he said. “I expected to have been in a couple of breakaways by now. Probably be half an hour down. On a day like this, I probably expected to be at the Village getting a haircut, something like that. Drinking coffee and chillin’ out.”

Instead, he’s in full GC mode, riding near the front of the bunch and watching for gaps in the finale and grabbing bottles from teammates, not for them. It’s not a totally new experience: Bennett won the Tour of California this year, wearing the leader’s jersey for most of the race. But riding for GC at the Tour is something else entirely.

The new perspective and new pressure are the results of a good ride on La Planche des Belles Filles and a fantastic one on the road to Chambéry on Sunday. The latter, a massive route with three hors-categorie climbs, has Bennett wondering just how far he can go.

“We’ll see how important Sunday is in my career, but I feel like it was the best ride I’ve ever done,” he said. “I’ve never dropped some of the guys I dropped before or lasted that long with those guys. I don’t know. Maybe it was just one good day, or hopefully, it’s the new level.”

Bennett finished seventh on the day, crossing the line with Nairo Quintana, Simon Yates, Dan Martin, and Mikel Landa. He rode six watts per kilogram for over half an hour on Mont du Chat, according to his coach. Those are the sort of figures Bennett expects to see when he’s fresh. They are not the figures he expects after two hors-categorie climbs and nine days of racing. They’re the sort of numbers that land you in the top 10 of the Tour.

Still, Bennett tries not to read too much into them. He’s not a numbers guy. He doesn’t watch his power meter, doesn’t let it slow him down or force him to speed up. “At this stage in a race, after a couple stages like that, numbers are almost irrelevant,” he said. “As long as you’re healthy, you haven’t crashed, and you’re motivated … You just have to follow the guys. You can’t look down and be like, ‘oh no, this is my lactate threshold’ or some shit. You just go.”

The next two days, stages 12 and 13, are his next test. He doesn’t know how he’ll fare, and maybe that’s for the best.

“I’m as curious as you guys,” he said. “I’m excited to find out. Let’s see.”

Listen to George Bennett’s audio diary in the VeloNews podcast:


Monday, July 10, 2017

Rest Day Wrap Up - 5 Talking Points - Tour de France 2017

Dan & Matt provide 5 talking points from the first week of the 2017 Tour de France

Topics include
1. Nobody is too big to be disqualified, even World Champion Peter Sagan.
2. Pro racing is brutal. We've seen spills & thrills. But this year there seems to have been more than normal, doesn't there?
3. Marcel Kittel can do no wrong, or can he?
4. A new Thomas Voeckler?
5. The unwritten rules of cycling.... - Yep, this again!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Kittel Bristles at Questions in First Tour Sprint without Sagan

TROYES, France — Marcel Kittel’s high-wattage smile turned ice cold as soon as the TV reporter asked him the question everyone wanted to ask: did Peter Sagan’s absence somehow undervalue of your victory?

Thursday’s long, hot 216km stage 6 was the first bunch kick without Sagan and Mark Cavendish. Kittel was in no mood to talk about what everyone is still talking about in the Tour de France.

“No,” he said before pausing. “No, there is no difference. There are now two sprinters less.”

The big German star had just dashed to his 11th career victory — one short of compatriot Erik Zabel’s record German haul of 12 stage wins — yet Sagan’s controversial expulsion Tuesday, coupled with Cavendish’s subsequent exit with a fractured shoulder blade, was still the buzz around the race paddock.

Dubbed “SaganGate” among the Tour’s press corps (what else?!) the departure of two of the peloton’s biggest stars following the horrific finish-line crash in stage 4 left a gaping void in the Tour de France. It overshadowed Wednesday’s first showdown between the yellow jersey favorites, and it continued to churn into Thursday’s flat stage.

“It’s a shame for everybody,” Scott Thwaites, one of Cavendish’s teammates, told CyclingTips. “No one is really a winner, and you’ve got two of the best guys fighting for sprint victories going home.”

Forty-eight hours after the controversial DSQ, no one was happy. Sagan’s Bora-Hansgrohe team had his bike lined up outside the team bus Thursday morning in Vittel, a sign of protest. An unconventional petition to overturn Sagan’s expulsion to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, a sort of Supreme Court for sporting disputes, was shot down Thursday afternoon in Europe. The verdict stood: Sagan was out, and Cavendish was home.

‘A no-win situation’

This year’s Tour — with only three summit finales and at least eight flat stages — was supposed to be a year for the sprinters. And Thursday, when the Tour returned to the sprints following Wednesday’s mountaintop punch in the Vosges, the two biggest sprinters weren’t even at the start line.

Let’s go back to what happened: At the sharp end of a frenetic sprint Tuesday in stage 4, budding star Arnaud Démare swept right across the road en route to France’s first Tour bunch sprint win since 2006. Behind him, Sagan and Cavendish fought for his wheel. So far, so good. But in a flash, Cavendish tried to squeeze into a gap between Sagan and the barriers. Then Sagan’s elbow shot out, and then Cavendish was on the ground. Or so it seemed. At first, it appeared that Sagan had elbowed Cavendish violently into the fences in an unsportsmanlike gesture atypical of the affable and popular Slovakian star. The British former world champion crashed horribly into the barriers, and Sagan dashed to second behind Démare.

What happened next kicked off the biggest furor at the Tour in years. Sagan was ejected, and Cavendish was out with injuries. The Tour de France was making headlines again for all the wrong reasons.

“That was a tough one, wasn’t it?” said Quick-Step sport director Brian Holm. “If he wouldn’t have been [expelled], people would have complained. Now they complain when he’s out. For the jury, it was a no-win situation. I know if I had been the sports director of Bora, I would have been mad, blowing smoke out of my ears from anger.”

So what happened? The decision by the UCI race jury seemed extreme, but so was the crash. Riders are occasionally kicked out of the Tour for breaking the rules, for throwing water bottles in a sprint or catching a lift up the side of a mountain, so that’s nothing new. But kicking out cycling’s biggest star?

What got everyone so fired up was that Sagan was ejected for an offense that typically sees an offending rider relegated to last place. Sprints are always a rough-and-tumble dogfight as riders jostle for a clean shot to the line, so relegations are par for the course.

In fact, the Tour’s race jury initially relegated Sagan after Tuesday’s stage. Sagan was bumped from second place to last in the bunch, a ruling that might have cost Sagan a shot at winning a sixth-straight points jersey.

‘A wake-up call’

Coming into this year’s Tour, however, race officials warned teams that the race jury would take a heavy hand in admonishing what was considered dangerous sprinting. So the dramatic images of Sagan’s elbow and Cavendish’s crash urged something more decisive. When chief UCI commissaire Philippe Mariën sternly marched into the pressroom Tuesday evening, everyone knew something was cooking. Citing a rule that allowed the jury to kick out riders for dangerous sprinting, Sagan was out.

If race officials wanted to send a message, it seems to have gotten across.

“They want to show that they are willing to take riders out of the race, no matter who you are,” said Sunweb’s Michael Matthews. “If you have 1,000 wins, or you have one win, they’re not favoring anyone. They’re willing to take out guys if they think it is necessary.”

An uproar kicked off on social media. Incriminations flew on all sides. One Dimension Data sport director accused Sagan on Twitter of “violence,” while some piled on Cavendish, even making veiled threats to his family for forcing the popular Sagan out of the race.

Fans, racers and pundits scrutinized finish-line race video in real time as if it were a crime investigation. By the time the jury revealed its decision to kick out Sagan a few hours later, many had already come to the conclusion that Sagan’s elbow never even touched Cavendish. Instead, it appeared that Cavendish had collided with Sagan, who then shot out his elbow in a defensive move to try to retain his balance at 60kph. Some even laid the blame on Cavendish for trying to squeeze into a small gap between Sagan and the barriers. Others pointed a finger at Démare, who drove the action across the road and toward the barriers. The Twitterati verdict was unanimous: Sagan shouldn’t be kicked out.

“It’s left its mark on the race,” Kittel said. “It’s also a wake-up call for everyone that they jury can take a harsh and tough decision to make sure that the safety is there for everyone else.”

Coming into the Tour, the stakes couldn’t have been higher for both riders. Cavendish was just four stage victories short of Eddy Merckx’s all-time record of 34. Sagan was all but assured of tying Erik Zabel’s mark of six green points jerseys. Those records are safe for another year at least.

And with a sport short on superstars, losing two of its marquee names in one shot doesn’t bode well for the next two weeks. With Sky’s Chris Froome looking firmly in control in yellow, it could be a long way to Paris.

On Wednesday, the Tour rolled on without them, and by Thursday, Cavendish and Sagan were both back home. Cooler heads seemed to have prevailed, and the cycling bromance between the current and world champions was rekindled thanks to messages to one another on social media.

Unfortunately for fans, the Peter Sagan Show was cancelled after just a few episodes in 2017. Cavendish won’t be chasing Merckx’s record, and Sagan won’t be popping wheelies or dancing the hula after winning stages.

The Tour comes out the loser, and it’s poor Marcel Kittel who has to face those awkward questions.


Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy 4th of July!

I like to see a man proud of the place in which he lives. I like to see a man live so that his place will be proud of him. 
- Abraham Lincoln

Have a Safe and Happy 4th of July!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Who Will Take the Tour’s First Yellow Jersey?

Tony Martin is the top favorite to win the Tour de France's first yellow jersey in Dusseldorf. Photo: Iri Greco / BrakeThrough Media |

DUSSELDORF, Germany (VN) — In a Tour de France where time trials are almost an afterthought, the 2017 edition opens with a chance for the “chrono men” to snag the yellow jersey.

The flat, straight, 14km course through the streets of Düsseldorf is perfect for pure horsepower. The lone wrinkle: Forecasters are calling for rain.

The sentimental favorite is four-time world time trial champion and German star Tony Martin (Katusha). The 32-year-old has won five Tour stages, three of those against the clock, but he’s never won an opening-day prologue or time trial. Saturday will be his best, and perhaps last chance.

“It’s a very fast course and the differences will be very small,” Martin said. “It’s a course that suits me very well. My biggest worry is to do something wrong.”

In 2015, on a similar course in Utrecht, Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) relegated Martin to second. The Aussie claimed the yellow jersey by five seconds. Dennis isn’t racing in Düsseldorf. Prologue specialist Fabian Cancellara, a winner of five opening-day prologues and time trials, has retired. So Martin is the five-star favorite to don yellow again following his 2015 crash in stage 6, which forced him to abandon.

“The pressure will be immense, racing at home,” said Martin. He grew up in Cottbus, in the former East Germany. “I am very much looking forward to the Tour. The ambiance should be incredible. There will be very large crowds, and that makes you want to go faster.”

Other TT powerhouses will be going all-in for their chance at yellow. Favorites include former world TT champion Vasil Kiryienka (Sky), Jonathan Castroviejo (Movistar), as well as the LottoNL-Jumbo duo of Primoz Roglic and Jos Van Emden. Stefan Küng (BMC Racing), British TT champ Steve Cummings (Dimension Data), and French TT champion Pierre Latour (Ag2r La Mondiale) could also be challengers.

Rain will be a factor. Forecasters are calling for overnight showers, with the heaviest expected in the morning and slowly tapering into the afternoon. The first riders are off at 3:15 p.m. local time. Curiously, many teams have slotted their GC men earlier in the start list, perhaps in a bid to avoid showers. Some forecasts say the rain should be diminishing as the afternoon unfolds. The later starters could have better conditions.

Martin heads down the ramp at 6:20 p.m. local time, with the field starting at one-minute intervals. Defending champion Chris Froome (Sky) is last at 6:32 p.m.

Among the GC contenders, BMC’s Richie Porte looks strongest against the clock. He could be in the running to upset the TT specialists at their own game. At the Critérium du Dauphiné on a rolling, 23.5km course, Porte took 12 seconds out of Martin to win.

At 14km, the distance will eliminate many of the sprinters who can challenge in a shorter prologue course. Riders like Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Michael Matthews (Sunweb), however, are surely to give it a strong push, with hopes of keeping Martin on a short leash. They would start nipping away at the jersey via time bonuses in the stages to follow. With an uphill finale already on tap in stage 5 at La Planche des Belles Filles, whoever wins the jersey Saturday likely won’t be carrying out of the Vosges.

Recent prologue/TT winners

2015: 13.8km, Utrecht 1. Rohan Dennis, 2. Tony Martin +0:05
2012: 6.4km, Liege 1. Fabian Cancellara, 2. Bradley Wiggins +0:07
2010: 8.9km, Rotterdam 1. Cancellara, 2. Martin +0:10
2009: 15km, Monaco 1. Cancellara, 2. Alberto Contador +0:18
2007: 8km, London 1. Cancellara, 2. Andreas Klöden +0:13


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Five Big Stories to Watch During the Tour

Can Chris Froome claim his fourth Tour de France yellow jersey? Photo: BrakeThrough Media
There’s never a shortage of drama on the Tour de France. Something “big” happens every day. Whether it’s a crash, a race-altering attack, or post-stage polemics, the Tour is always packed with more storylines than any race on the calendar.

That’s no surprise. The stakes are incredibly elevated for riders and teams. Everyone brings their A-game to France. The Tour is the one race of the season when every rider is at their absolute peak fitness. That compounding pressure makes the Tour de France such compelling viewing. Coming into the 104th edition of the Tour, there are enough plot lines to fill a novel. Here are five big stories we’ll be watching this month:

1. Froome’s quest

There’s no bigger story this year than Chris Froome’s run for a fourth overall Tour crown. The GC battle is always the central focus of any Tour. This year’s fight for the yellow jersey should be compelling on several levels.

Team Sky has dominated the Tour de France like no other squad in a generation. The UK team has won four of the past five yellow jerseys on the trot, and Froome enters this year’s Tour hoping to claim his fourth within five years. No rider’s won four Tours without winning a record-tying fifth. Can he do it?

Despite telltale signs at last month’s Critérium du Dauphiné that Froome might be off his best form, the Kenya-born star will line up as the man to beat. What’s in Froome’s favor? A few key points: Alberto Contador is the only other former Tour winner in the race. Froome’s experience gives him an incalculable advantage over his rivals. Second, “Fortress Froome” looks as strong as ever. For rivals to even get close enough to take a shot at Froome, they have to battle through a wall that includes Sergio Henao, Michal Kwiatkowski, Mikel Landa, and Geraint Thomas. And finally, Sky and Froome have consistently demonstrated they are able to tweak their approach to fit the demands of each year’s Tour route. Last year, Froome’s ambush attacks on the flats and on the descents knocked his rivals off-balance. They’ll surely have a few surprises up their sleeves again this year.

What could derail Froome? A few things. Like in 2014, perhaps a crash, or an illness will see him exit early. Some suggest that a growing media storm surrounding Team Sky and links to triamcinolone could knock Froome off-balance, but that’s unlikely. Froome has deftly handled the pressure and innuendo that comes with the yellow jersey. Since he’s not been caught up in the Fancy Bears leaks controversy, it’s unlikely to faze him much. Winless so far in 2017, Froome doesn’t bring that same aura of invincibility into the Tour. Froome will also face his deepest field of rivals yet. So to pull off another Tour win, Froome will have to be at his most nimble and aggressive.

Few can take on Froome one-on-one, but with an unconventional Tour course on tap, rivals must be ready to lay a trap to try to surprise Froome (similar to last year’s ambush that cost him the Vuelta a España). To beat Froome, a rival might have to be willing to lose to win. That’s a big ask, but this year’s GC battle has the potential to be the most fascinating in the past few editions.

2. The Sagan show

Peter Sagan’s stage 5 victory was his 14 stage win at the Tour de Suisse. Photo: Tim De Waele |
Whether he’s popping wheelies, stomping the competition, or producing Sagan-rich moments (when is the next video, Peter?), the Saganator is the best thing to happen to cycling in a generation.

This year’s Tour provides a wide-open canvas for Sagan to continue his emergence as cycling’s transcendent star. The two-time world champion packs the on-the-road chops and the post-race charisma to draw in mainstream sport fans. With plenty of opportunities for sprints, at least eight if not more, this year should be even better for Sagan’s growing legions of fans.

Last year, Sagan won three stages, and finished in the top-six in seven others. That’s Merckxian by any measure. And with Sagan poised to tie Erik Zabel’s record of six green jerseys, the Slovakian superstar (and soon-to-be father) will be a delight to watch before, during and after each day in the Tour.

Get the popcorn ready, kids, the Sagan Show is about to begin.

3. Nairo’s double

Photo: Tim De Waele |
Another big talking point will be the most audacious bet in 2017. Nairo Quintana came within 31 seconds of pulling off the first half of the Giro-Tour double. There’s sure to be a lot of chatter about whether the Colombian’s gamble on cycling’s double was boom or bust. No one’s managed to pull off one of cycling’s most elusive achievements since Marco Pantani in 1998. Alberto Contador last tried it in 2015. He ran out of gas after going deep to win the pink jersey, racing to fifth in the Tour.

There will be huge pressure on Quintana to follow through in July. Just imagine if Froome crashes out — like he did in 2014, the same year Movistar sent Quintana to the Giro — and Quintana doesn’t have the legs to take advantage of the opening. Or the recriminations if Froome falters, but a “fresh” rider who didn’t race the Giro, like Richie Porte or Romain Bardet blasts into the yellow jersey instead.

However, another strong showing by Quintana would go a long way toward proving that a modern-era Giro-Tour double could be a realistic goal. There are already rumors flying around that Froome will attempt the Giro-Tour double, or even try to race all three grand tours in the same season. Quintana and Movistar deserve plaudits for daring. The idea that second place in the Giro is viewed as a disappointment reveals much about Quintana’s stature in the peloton.

4. Merckx’s record

Mark Cavendish collected his fourth stage win of the 2016 Tour de France on Saturday. Photo: Jim Fryer / BrakeThrough Media |
Stricken by Epstein-Barr all season, Mark Cavendish confirmed Monday he would race. Why is the proud Cavendish starting when he knows he’s far from his best? The allure of Eddy Merckx’s all-time stage-win record.

Though he regularly talks down the Merckx record, Cavendish wants it bad. Already with 30 stage wins on his palmares, cycling’s most prolific sprinter will roll into the Tour far from ideal conditions. With only four days of racing since mid-March, Cavendish is struggling to overcome glandular fever that derailed much of his 2017 season. Cavendish confirmed his professionalism and love for the Tour by committing to race. He’s proven time and again he can win even when he’s not at his best. This year could be even more challenging for Cavendish to claw closer to Merckx’s mark.

This year’s sprint field looks as deep as at any time since Cavendish has emerged as the peloton’s preeminent sprinter in 2009. Along with familiar foes, such as André Greipel, Sagan, Alexander Kristoff, and Marcel Kittel, there’s a band of young, ambitious sprinters coming up. Those include Arnaud Démare, Nacer Bouhanni, and Michael Matthews.

At 32, is time running out for Cavendish’s quest for the record? Fernando Gaviria, who won four stages in his grand tour debut at the Giro d’Italia last month, set to race the Tour next year, will only make things more complicated in the future. If Cavendish could squeeze a stage win or two out of this year’s Tour, the Merckx mark could be within his grasp.

5. Safety worries

Contested on the open road, pro cycling is subject to increasing worries about the threat of terrorism. Photo: Matthew Beaudin

Security questions both on and off the bike will be a hot talking point throughout this Tour. The UCI and ASO are under pressure to develop safer race conditions. No one wants to see another debacle like last year’s Mont Ventoux amateur hour.

It’s the safety concerns away from the race that have many more worried in France this summer. No one likes to speak about the vulnerability of an event as sprawling and wide open as bike race. Behind the scenes, French authorities are taking steps to try to make the area around a bike race as safe as possible. Expect to see more police and more controls along the route and at the start and finish areas.

Several high-profile attacks over the past months in France and across Europe have heightened worries coming into the Tour. Let’s hope this is one story that no one will be talking about.


Sunday, June 25, 2017

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Demare Tunes Up for Tour de France with Halle Ingooigem Win

FDJ sprinter claims seventh victory of the season

Arnaud Demare (FDJ) takes the spring (Getty Images Sport)

A confidence boosting win at Halle Ingooigem just over a week out from the Tour de France has Arnaud Démare confident of breaking through for a debut stage win. The FDJ fastman Démare took the win ahead of Belgians Edward Theuns and Iljo Keisse. Démare's seventh win of the season ensures he is the form French sprinter of the moment and a favourite to add to his 2013 French road title this Sunday in Saint-Omer.

Having ridden the Giro d'Italia in support of Thibaut Pinot, who finished fourth overall, FDJ's Tour de France ambitions are built around Démare's sprint train and quest for stage wins with the 25-year-old looking likely to repay the faith placed in him this July.

In 2017, Démare has taken wins at Etoile de Bessèges, Paris-Nice, 4 Jours de Dunkerque, Critérium du Dauphiné and the GP Denain. While Démare is in form, he explained the win was nevertheless important psychologically ahead of the French nationals and next week's Tour having only finished with two teammates.

"The day was very hot, we knew we would be attacked a lot and on the circuit I had only two riders. We got a little bit lost and then Olivier [le Gac] and Mika [Mickaël Delage] did a good job," Démare said. "I'm happy to win. I feel that the legs are turning well since the Critérium du Dauphiné. Halle-Ingooigem is a race that I like to prepare for the French championships. In Saint-Omer it will be a race for the sprinters and I know it will be difficult. And then the Tour de France is very important for us."

FDJ's directeur sportif sportif Frédéric Guesdon echoed Démare's comments, explaining the win bodes well for the next two major goals.

"We were one of only two sprint teams, Lotto-Soudal and us. Quickly we controlled the race and so it was on us," Guesdon said. "It was a demanding race with the heat. The Belgian team upped the tempo 80 kilometres from the finish so we responded, but we also used a lot of energy. Marc Sarreau was not very good but he rode a lot. Jacopo Guarnieri had a rather complicated week due to his wife's birth and he suffered from cramps but he did his job as well."

Démare's best season to date came in 2014 when he won 15 races. He struggled the following year when he won just two races but improved last year to claim six wins. His seven wins by June suggest he is on track for at least his second best season. From four previous Grand Tours starts, second place on stage five of last year's Giro is Démare's best result in a three-week race. However, with wins from February through to June, Démare will start the Tour as one of the top sprinters to watch in the battle for stage wins.

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Monday, June 19, 2017

Chaves Rides into Tour Debut Free of Expectations

Esteban Chaves finished the Dauphine but didn't factor into the battle for the overall. Photo: Tim De Waele |

No one knows what to expect from Esteban Chaves in his upcoming Tour de France debut. Orica-Scott sport director Matt White knows one thing: Chaves will fight any way he can.

The 27-year-old Colombian is coming off a knee injury that sidelined him for four months. After a discreet, but trouble-free return to racing at the Critérium du Dauphiné, White expects Chaves to be a factor. He just doesn’t know how much.

“The big question is how that break is going to affect his performance in July,” White said. “He’s where he needs to be in terms of his recovery. So we’ll see how far he can go. They’ll be no more pressure than what any driven athlete puts on his himself. [Chaves] wants to do something, don’t worry about that. Our guys are really ambitious.”

After riding to podiums in two straight grand tours (second at the 2016 Giro d’Italia and third at the 2016 Vuelta a España), all eyes will be on Chaves. He’s emerged as a consistent player over three weeks in grand tours, a rider capable of winning stages and limiting his losses. If Nairo Quintana doesn’t become Colombia’s first Tour de France winner, Chaves is next in line.

Expectations were high for 2017, with a Tour debut finally in the cards. Yet after making his season debut in Australia, Chaves felt some discomfort in his knee. Doctors said it was a minor tendonitis flare-up.

Not wanting to take chances, the team put Chaves on a slow, steady recovery. After training in Colombia, he returned to racing at the Critérium du Dauphiné, and made it through the demanding, eight-stage race, finishing 26th overall.

Normally, that would not be an ideal sign with the Tour just weeks away. For Orica-Scott, having Chaves complete the Dauphiné without any complications is victory enough.

“There are absolutely no complications with his knee,” White said in a telephone interview. “We were conservative in his comeback. With knees and backs, you cannot muck around.”

White said the team is confident Chaves will be able to get through his highly anticipated Tour debut. They just don’t know what to expect.

“For sure he’ll be doing stuff in July, we just don’t when and where. This year’s Tour course offers plenty of opportunities for Esteban,” White said. “We’ll see how he can do. If anything, it will set him up for the Vuelta.”

Chaves is central to Orica-Scott’s immediate and long-term future. With the emergence of Chaves alongside Adam and Simon Yates, both 24, White suddenly has three of the hottest GC prospects in his hands.

The Australian team has gradually evolved from sprints and breakaway victories into more of a grand tour-focused squad. While it also boasts one of the most promising sprinters with Caleb Ewan, the team brought on experienced veterans like Ruben Plaza and Roman Kreuziger to provide ballast to their relatively inexperienced GC protégés.

For Chaves, this year’s Tour is just his first taste of the race that likely will be his central focus for the next several years. The team believes he can win grand tours, perhaps even the Tour de France. It all starts in July.

“Look, Esteban hasn’t had the ideal preparation, but that was out of our control, and we cannot go back in time to change it,” White said. “It’s his first Tour de France, so maybe it’s not a bad thing to have less-than-perfect preparation. The expectations aren’t going to be as high. So there’s a bit less pressure there. We honestly don’t know what he’s going to do.”


Friday, June 16, 2017

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Is Froome Vulnerable or on a Slow Simmer?

Chris Froome seemed to lack his trademark knockout punch on the Dauphiné's climbs. Photo: Tim De Waele |

The peloton saw a different Chris Froome during the Critérium du Dauphiné, but will there be a different ending in July?

Richie Porte (BMC Racing) might not have won the Dauphiné, but he and the other GC favorites roll into next month’s Tour de France sensing that the three-time Tour de France champion might be vulnerable for the first time in years.

Every year that Froome’s won the Tour (2013, 2015, and 2016), he won the weeklong Dauphiné as part of his lead-up. On Sunday, Froome fell short in Sky’s all-in gamble to upend Porte in the thrilling finale and simply ran out of gas on the final climb.

The larger question was whether or not Froome will be at his absolute best in July to make a run for a fourth yellow jersey. Perhaps looking to pile the pressure onto his former teammate, Froome signaled Porte as the man to beat.

“Richie was strongest man in this race,” Froome admitted to reporters Sunday. “I still say that he is the favorite for July, and the strongest in the peloton at this point.”

Froome didn’t look as sharp as he normally does in June. Until this season, Froome and Team Sky were all but untouchable in any stage race that they seriously targeted. Froome was outgunned last year on the road to Formigal, costing him what likely would have been a victory in the Vuelta a España. In nearly every other race Froome was angling to win, he pummeled his rivals into submission.

Froome ceded time to Porte and others in every key stage of the Dauphiné last week.

So what’s the takeaway? There were more questions than answers as the dust settled after the race, but Froome preferred to look at the cup as half-full as he turns his attention toward winning a fourth yellow tunic.

“If I look at where I was a few weeks ago at the Romandie, I seemed to be a long way off the pace,” Froome said. “Here I feel as if I’ve got better and better over the week, and at least I am heading in the right direction. I feel as if I’m on track for July.”

The Dauphiné was supposed to be the Sky captain’s coming out party. Quiet all season and entering the Dauphiné with only 19 days of racing in his legs, Froome was ready to race and needing to win. Yet in all the key moments of the race, Froome could not produce that fear-inducing power that typically demoralizes his rivals. Instead, it was often Froome getting rolled over by Porte and others, including surprise winner Jakob Fuglsang (Astana).

No one at Team Sky was hitting the panic button, insisting that Froome is building his form just in time for the most important date on the calendar.

“Froomey is on the way up, step by step to the Tour,” Sky sport director Nicolas Portal said. “For sure he’s going to progress. He finished the race really well here, making some hard attacks and some long pulls. We’re all looking forward to the Tour, and there’s more to come.”

Sky did everything right in Sunday’s short and explosive climbing stage and turned the screws early to isolate Porte. Froome then rode aggressively, attacking over the top of Col de la Colombiere to drop Porte. Things looked to be going to script, yet Froome couldn’t deliver his classic knockout punch on the final 11.3km climb to Plateau de Solaison.

That is just the kind of climb where Froome characteristically spins away in his high-cadence wobble to blow the wheels off everyone. This week, he didn’t have the legs to finish it off.

It’s important to see Froome’s performance in the context of 2017. First off, he is clearly taking a different road to July this year. After an intense and busy 2016, Sky didn’t put Froome under pressure to perform early. The team’s brain trust is planning to have him fresh and explosive for July, especially in the decisive final week of the Tour, before a likely run to win the Vuelta a España once and for all.

Everyone inside the Sky bus is confident their man will be ready for the Tour, especially with the hardest and most decisive stages still more than one month away.

“It’s a different Dauphiné from the last number of years,” Portal continued. “We came here to try to win and we saw Richie was super strong, and now we can see Fuglsang was clearly very strong, too. I think these two riders were slightly better than us, but the team rode fantastic every day.”

Come July, Froome will hold an important advantage on all of his other rivals: he knows how to win the Tour.

With the exception of Alberto Contador (Vincenzo Nibali isn’t expected to race), Froome is the only former Tour winner who will be lining up in Dusseldorf. And with Contador’s last Tour-winning performance nearly a decade ago, Froome is the only contemporary rider who has an intact Tour de France infrastructure around him. Nairo Quintana, three times on the podium behind Froome, is the only other rider to bring a similar mix of Tour experience and support to this year’s Tour. Porte has yet to finish on a Tour podium.

It’s that collective power in numbers, experience, and strength that Sky can bring to the Tour that gives Portal and others a sense of calm after Froome missed out on the final Dauphiné podium by one second to third-place Dan Martin (Quick-Step floors).

“Fortress Froome” also looks firmly intact coming into July. While Sky’s final Tour selection remains undecided, riders such as Michal Kwiatkowski, Geraint Thomas, Sergio Henao, and likely Mikel Landa and Wout Poels give Froome a depth of support that other teams cannot match. Regardless if Froome was still a touch short of his top form, the team looked to be firing as planned.

The fact that Sky could so easily isolate Porte on Sunday also gives Froome some consolation. Five of Porte’s BMC teammates were close to regaining contact, but none of them could bridge across in the climb-riddled stage to provide Porte with much-needed support. Just as Contador was out-gunned by Andrew Talansky in a similar Dauphiné ambush in 2014, Porte was tactically out-maneuvered Sunday. That reveals a potential soft spot for the Australian come July. It rarely happens, but just as Froome learned last year at Formigal, the cost can be very high when it does occur.

Yet when Froome and Porte went head-to-head, it was the Tasmanian who was a pedal stroke ahead of his Kenya-born former teammate. The three-time Tour winner lost time in three key matchups versus Porte: 37 seconds in the 23.5km time trial, 23 seconds at Alpe d’Huez, and 21 seconds in Sunday’s thriller.

That’s what will matter most in July. The big question now is if Porte can hold that form all the way into late July, and whether or not Froome can get even stronger over the next few weeks.

“I think it was clear that Richie was the strongest rider on the climbs at this race,” BMC Racing sport director Fabio Baldato said. “Sometimes you need to have it all come together, and today it didn’t.”

Porte saw it differently, singling out Froome and Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde.

“There were a few guys who preferred me to lose the race, and they lost their podium as well. That’s racing. Bring on July,” he said.

While it’s still very possible Froome might win another Tour de France, his rivals leave the Dauphiné with at least a sense of hope. For the first time since 2013, that’s something that most in the peloton have not had.


Saturday, June 10, 2017

Top 5 Race Across America (RAAM) Facts

The Race Across America (RAAM) is one of the longest running events in the world. It is over 3000miles, crosses 12 States & has over 170,000ft of vertical ascent!!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Porte Puts Froome on Notice at Dauphiné

Richie Porte proved fastest of the top Tour contenders in the Dauphine TT. Photo: Tim De Waele |

There is still a long way to go to the Tour de France, but Richie Porte put Chris Froome on notice Wednesday at the Critérium du Dauphiné.

The BMC rider blasted his way to victory in the 23.5km rolling time trial ahead of reigning world time trial champion Tony Martin (Katusha-Alpecin). He put himself in pole position to win the eight-day stage race just weeks ahead of the Tour.

The Dauphiné is always an important test of form and intent going into July’s Tour de France. Froome (Sky) has won the Dauphiné each year he’s gone on to win his three Tour titles. On Wednesday, the teacher ceded 37 seconds to his former pupil. Porte again confirmed that he is emerging as a dangerous rival.

“We have seen in the past that if Chris Froome is good here, he is good at the Tour de France,” Porte said. “I just hope that’s the same for me.”

In his second season with BMC Racing, Porte’s been on a tear. He won six races, including the Santos Tour Down Under and the Tour de Romandie. His former teammate Froome remains uncharacteristically winless so far in 2017.

With eighth in the time trial, Froome slots into sixth overall, 37 seconds behind second-place Porte. The Brit is 1:04 behind race leader Thomas de Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), who rode well to defend his leader’s jersey.

Froome put his performance into context, and said there’s no reason to panic.

“I’ve still got three weeks now after the Dauphiné in terms of time trial work, and it’s obviously something that I’m going to have to do a little bit of work on,” Froome said. “I’ve done everything right up to now, and I’ll just keep going up until the Tour.”

After a busy 2016 that included the Tour, Vuelta a España, and the Olympics, Froome has been easing into 2017. He is focused on winning a fourth yellow jersey next month. While Porte might want to set early season markers to gain confidence and momentum, Froome insists he’s already done that. He said what matters is how he’s racing next month.

While Porte’s gains against Tour rivals, such as Froome, Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), and Romain Bardet (Ag2r-La Mondiale) are important, his performance across the mountains will be even more decisive — both for the Dauphiné and the Tour.

Three mountain stages wait this weekend, including Alpe d’Huez and Mont du Chat.

Porte’s lead means that rivals will have to attack to try to win. That will also be an important test both for Froome, who typically can race defensively, and for Porte, who needs to demonstrate he can manage a team as well as fend off rivals in a major race. Valverde, Contador, Froome, and 2014 winner Andrew Talansky (Cannondale-Drapac) all loom within one minute of Porte.

Of course, everyone first has to get rid of de Gendt.

“It changes the dynamic,” Froome said. “I can be more offensive going into the next few days … [the time trial] was a good test, but we’ve got three big days of climbing on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. That will be another big test to see exactly where everyone is at.”

After another transition stage Thursday, the Dauphiné will play out in a trio of mountain stages.

“In the Tour de France, it’s going to be won more in the mountains than in the time trials,” Porte said. “I’m quite confident in how I am climbing at the moment. … I’d rather be climbing well than time trialing well. It’s not over yet. There are some hard stages to come so I’m just happy about how today went. Whatever happens, happens, but I am on a good path.”

The Dauphiné doesn’t always indicate who will win the Tour de France, but it has in four of the past five editions. Whoever wins Sunday will be hoping history repeats itself.


Sunday, June 4, 2017

Simon Yates, Chaves Join Forces at Criterium du Dauphine

Orica-Scott tunes up for Tour de France with packed line-up

An exhubuerent Simon Yates wins stage 6 of Vuelta (Getty Images Sport)

Simon Yates will be the leader of the Orica-Scott squad for the Critérium du Dauphiné, and the Briton will be supported by last year's Giro d'Italia runner-up Esteban Chaves, who is just returning to racing after four months out of competition due to a knee injury.

Although Yates will lead the team, directeur sportif Laurenzo Lapage says he will not be under too much pressure to get a top result.

"It would be great if he can be up there overall and also look to the white jersey competition," Lapage said. "The most important thing for us in this race is that the guys come out with a good feeling ahead of the Tour de France. As it is the first race back for many of the guys, for example Impey, we have to be careful that they use the race well and come out of it feeling good."

Yates and Chaves will be joined by Daryl Impey, who is also returning after breaking his collarbone in Liège-Bastogne-Liège in April.

"For sure I think the guys will be in good shape after their different training blocks, they always arrive in good condition and we know that the Dauphiné is always a hard race."

Also in the team is recent Baloise Belgium Tour winner Jens Keukeleire, Tour of Norway runner-up Simon Gerrans, Roman Kreuziger, Jack Haig and Herald Sun Tour winner Damien Howson.

The race begins on June 4 with three undulating stages before the individual time trial and mountain stages will swing the race in favour of the overall contenders. Lapage sees the first few stages as a chance for the team to test themselves.

"The first few days could go either way, they could potentially be bunch sprints or finish with a breakaway," he said. "Therefore these first stages are chances for the sprinters and Keukeleire is obviously in good shape having won the Tour of Belgium, so one of those early days we will ride for him and for another day we have Gerrans."

Orica-Scott for the Critérium du Dauphiné: Esteban Chaves, Simon Gerrans, Jack Haig, Damien Howson, Daryl Impey, Jens Keukeleire, Roman Kreuziger, and Simon Yates.

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Monday, May 29, 2017

How Close Was the 100th Giro d’Italia?

Tom Dumoulin raised the 100th Giro d'Italia's trophy at the end of a suspenseful final time trial in Milan. Photo: Iri Greco / BrakeThrough Media |
MILAN (AFP) — The 100th Giro d’Italia finished in Milan on Sunday following a 29.3km time trial that handed Sunweb’s Tom Dumoulin the overall victory by just 31 seconds. After racing for 21 days, the 3,609.1-kilometer grand tour came down to the suspenseful final stage.

The Dutchman’s final time was 90 hours, 34 minutes, 54 seconds. He won the race by approximately .001 percent over Nairo Quintana (Movistar). Seems pretty close, right? It is, but actually, in the canon of Giro history, the 2017 edition only ranks as the 10th closest finish between first and second place. Here’s a list of the 10 editions of the Giro d’Italia with the narrowest margins of victory.


1. Fiorenzo Magni (I) 124:51:52
2. Ezio Cecchi (I) at 11 seconds


1. Eddy Merckx (B) 113:08:13
2. Gianbattista Baronchelli (I) at 12 seconds


1. Fiorenzo Magni (I) 108:56:12
2. Fausto Coppi (I) at 13 seconds


1. Ryder Hesjedal (Can) 91:39:02
2. Joaquim Rodriguez (Sp) at 16 seconds


1. Felice Gimondi (I) 119:58:15
2. Johan De Muynck (B) at 19 seconds


1. Gastone Nencini (I) 104:45:06
2. Louison Bobet (F) at 19 seconds


1. Jacques Anquetil (F) 94:03:54
2. Gastone Nencini (I) at 28 seconds


1. Paolo Savoldelli (I) 91:25:51
2. Gilberto Simoni (I) at 28 seconds


1. Tom Dumoulin (Nl) 90:34:54
2. Nairo Quintana (Col) at 31 seconds


Friday, May 26, 2017

How To Ride At Altitude

Matt & Si are riding in the Dolomites, Italy. The altitude can easily effect performance, luckily they're here to help with how to cope when the air is thin.

Ex-Professional Cyclists Simon Richardson and Matt Stephens are here to give you the stats on how cycling at altitude can effect you. All is not lost though. Si and Matt are here to provide advice and tips on how to help you cope with cycling in the mountains. As well as Do's and Dont's!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Commentary: Five Tour of California Takeaways

What will be the lasting storyline from the 2017 Amgen Tour of California? It’s still tough to say. The seven-day race from Sacramento to Pasadena delivered a plethora of compelling tales. Overall winner George Bennett taught us the vague definition for the term “twisting a nut” after his impressive time trial. Andrew Talansky finally ended Cannondale-Drapac’s two-year winless streak on the WorldTour when he won stage 5 at Mt. Baldy. Rally Pro Cycling turned lemons into lemonade by winning two stages after their GC hopes were destroyed by crashes and mechanicals. And yes, team Katusha had a really poopy time in Big Bear.

In lieu of these amazing tales, here are my five takeaways from the week:

1. ToCA becomes Tour prep for classics and sprint teams

With its lumpy (but not too mountainous) parcours and mid-May date, the Amgen Tour of California’s inaugural WorldTour edition attracted more stars from the Belgian classics than grand tour honchos. A quick glance at the rosters from the WorldTour squads not named Cannondale and Lotto-Jumbo revealed a long list of sprinters and cobbled specialists: John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo), Alexander Kristoff (Katusha), Soren Kragh Andersen (Sunweb), Zdenek Stybar and Marcel Kittel (Quick-Step), Ella Viviani (Sky), Matti Breschel (Astana), and of course every Bora rider other than Rafal Majka. For many of these riders, the race was the first leg shaker since Paris-Roubaix way back on April 9, and the official start of Tour prep. Fast guy Tour prep is potentially the new identity for California. GC guys like Chris Froome and Alberto Contador will likely bypass California for the traditional Romandie/Dauphine preparation model, due to timing and the mountainous routes of those races. For the fast men, California presents the perfect opportunity.

2. It’s time for Rally to step up

Rally Pro Cycling stole the show at this year’s Amgen Tour of California. Full stop. Evan Huffman won more stages than anyone else in the race (2), Rob Britton dusted his WorldTour breakaway companions on the climb up Glendora Mountain Road, and Sepp Kuss then climbed alongside the best in the race. It’s difficult to think that, just two months ago, there was a debate within U.S. cycling about whether Rally even deserved to have one of the race’s two Continental berths. Now there’s a new conversation to be had around Rally, and that is whether the team should step up to the Pro Continental level. The step from Continental to Pro Continental is not simple, and would require a few hundred thousand dollars in sponsorship and the addition of riders and staff. The success in California is validation that the team is ready. According to team sources, there is already talk of making the step up in 2018. If the team wants to hold onto Huffman and Kuss, it’s a necessary step.

3. LottoNL-Jumbo gets its reward

Overall winner Bennett was undoubtedly surprised after his fourth-place ride in Saturday’s individual time trial. Yet it was no surprise to see Bennett take the overall. His LottoNL-Jumbo team was strong, with a singular focus on the climbs. Other European WorldTour squads came to the race toting classics contenders and sprinters. LottoNL-Jumbo brought pint-sized climbers, several of whom are U23 riders. When asked how he believed the final stage would play out, Bennett said, “[Majka] will be heading up the inside for sprints, with my team of 15-year-old climbers on the front chasing them down.” The team put its climbing strength on display during stages 2 and 5; during the latter stage it thinned down the bunch before unleashing Bennett. So while it was Bennett’s unlikely time trial that eventually brought him the victory, LottoNL-Jumbo’s decision to bring along those “15-year-old climbers” is what put him in the position to win.

4. Talansky’s Tour prep on track

Cannondale-Drapac’s Andrew Talansky was perhaps the strongest GC rider at the race. He won the stage 5 summit finish and then finished third place in the individual time trial. Talansky is likely still kicking himself for his blunder on stage 2. He decided not to follow Majka, Ian Boswell (Sky), Lachlan Morton (Dimension Data), and eventual overall winner Bennett when they attacked over Mount Hamilton. Talansky later said he expected the group to come back. It didn’t, and the riders put 37 seconds into the American. Did the decision cost Talansky the overall? Perhaps. Still, his performance over the weeklong race points to strong form heading into his final preparation for the Tour de France, the race that he famously skipped last year after a spring wrought with sickness.

5. Morton, Boswell ready for leadership

Boswell and Morton came into the race leading WorldTour squads for the first time. Both men showed they were up to the task when they broke free from the peloton on stage 2 over Mount Hamilton alongside Bennett and Majka. While both men eventually fell out of podium contention, they showed grit and class along the race. Perhaps sensing he was bound to lose his podium position in Saturday’s time trial, Boswell gritted out the summit finish to Mount Baldy, repeatedly fighting his way back to the front group. Morton suffered a mechanical just seconds after starting his time trial. The ensuing slow time pushed him to ninth overall and second in the race’s best young rider’s jersey. The next day, Morton attacked into the breakaway. He helped drive it to the line, grabbing back the best young rider jersey and slotting into seventh overall. Whether the two will be given race leadership duties again this season is yet to be determined.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

George Bennett Wins Tour of California

Huffman wins stage 7 finale in Pasadena

George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) is pumped to be in the yellow jersey (Getty Images Sport)
George Bennett (LottoNL-Jumbo) wrapped up the overall victory at the Amgen Tour of California on Saturday, finishing safely in the peloton on the seventh and final stage to seal his first WorldTour general classification win.

Rally Cycling's Evan Huffman out-sprinted breakaway companions David López (Sky) and Nicolas Edet (Cofidis, Solutions Credit) at the finish line in Pasadena to claim his second stage victory of this year's race. 22 seconds later, Bora-Hansgrohe's Peter Sagan led the pack across the line for sixth place behind the escapees, securing the green points jersey.

His teammate Rafal Majka finished in the peloton as well to secure his second place overall, 35 seconds down on Bennett, with Cannondale-Drapac's Andrew Talansky rounding out the GC podium a further second back.

How it unfolded

A number of attackers went clear shortly after as the race rolled down from the start line at Mountain High, but the peloton set a high pace through the early kilometres, refusing to let anyone get away for long. The day's main breakaway move did not form until over 40 kilometres into a stage that stretched for just 125 kilometres in total – and only after a brief flurry of attacks from the GC contenders.

As the road tilted upward, Bennett and Majka tested each other on the early slopes of the Mt. Emma Rd. climb, but neither could force any separation. Then it was the stage hunters who went on the move.

Stage 4 winner Huffman, his Rally teammate Rob Britton, López, Edet and Lachlan Morton (Dimension Data) jumped away on the ascent. Five became six after Rally's Sepp Kuss made a long ride to bridge into the break. They worked their advantage up to around a minute before the peloton tightened the leash, and the gap hovered there or thereabouts as they traversed the remaining two categorised climbs.

Talansky and Sunweb's Sam Oomen made short-lived attempts to escape on the second-category final climb but neither managed to create much space, with Majka and Bennett live to the danger.

Still with only a minute in hand as they began the long descent toward Pasadena, the breakers had their work cut out for them to hold off a pack full of sprinters' teams eyeing the flat finish. But even with Katusha-Alpecin and Quick-Step Floors pushing a high pace, the riders out front stubbornly held their gap as the kilometres ticked down.

With Kuss and Britton pulling the six along, the break took around 40 seconds into the final 10 kilometres. Kuss came detached after a big effort with around seven kilometres to go, but the surviving five proved up to the task of holding off a charging peloton.

With Morton mostly focused on picking up a few seconds to claim the young rider's jersey and Britton emptying the tank to support his teammate, it was down to Huffman, López and Edet to contest to stage victory. Huffman and López rode neck and neck in the final sprint until the final 100 metres, when Huffman pulled away to nab his second win of the week.

Sagan pipped Quick-Step's Matteo Trentin in the ensuing sprint for minor placings, with Bennett, Majka and Talansky all coming home moments later to seal their GC podium placings.

Full Race Results Here

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Giro d’Italia GC Ambitions Hid Behind Poker Faces

Nairo Quintana kept his cards close to the chest in the Giro d'Italia's hilly stage 11. Photo: Tim De Waele |
BAGNO DI ROMAGNA, Italy (VN) — Cycling is just as much a game of poker as it is a test of strength. If this Giro d’Italia is a game of Texas Hold ‘Em, everyone’s got their cards very close to their chests.

And the poker faces were out in force in Wednesday’s potentially explosive, four-climb stage across Italy’s spine.

You might think there would be a sense of panic following Tom Dumoulin’s huge gains in Tuesday’s time trial. But you’d never know it walking around the team buses Wednesday morning.

“We are exactly where we expected to be right now,” said Movistar’s Rory Sutherland at the start. “We knew we’d be behind after the time trial — we knew we’ll have to attack to win this Giro. Nairo is confident he can win.”

No one was ready to give away a thing, not before, during or after the frenetic stage.

Dumoulin turned the Giro upside-down Tuesday with his dramatic time trial victory. He took a commanding lead of 2:23 to Nairo Quintana (Movistar) and a pack of climbers.

And Wednesday, Movistar gave him a taste of things to come. The Spanish team placed Andrey Amador, JJ Rojas, and José Herrera into a big group, putting the pressure on Dumoulin and his out-numbered Sunweb crew.

Dumoulin coolly answered the threat. American Chad Haga and Tour de France stage-winner Simon Geschke controlled the pace. Laurens Ten Dam snuck into the breakaway to be there in case things blew up. “Laurens is our old warrior, he’s getting better with age. Like a good wine,” Dumoulin told AFP.

“We didn’t see any weakness in the direct rivals, but nevertheless, the weariness is starting to add up. And one day they will feel it,” Quintana said at the line. “You have to keep looking ahead and remain optimistic. You have to wait for the right moment to take back time.”

The buzz around the peloton Wednesday morning was that this Giro is far from over.

“It’s still a long way to Milan,” said Trek-Segafredo sport director Kim Andersen. “To beat Dumoulin, first you have to isolate him, then attack. Things will change when we reach the stages with more than one climb.”

Dumoulin’s rivals know they must be patient. They sense that his team is weakened following the exit of Wilco Kelderman, who crashed out Sunday after colliding with a motorcycle. They also believe that Dumoulin will cede time once the Giro hits the steep, longer climbs stacked up in the Dolomites.

Across the peloton Wednesday, most teams emphasized patience. However, a few others showed a few of their cards. Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) and Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) both attacked on the final climb.

“I know they have to make up a lot of time on me up a lot of time on me in the mountains,” Dumoulin said. “I think the pressure is on them, not on me.”

The all-in bet will come in the final week. Everyone’s said that since before this Giro started. No one scripted Dumoulin’s race-changing time trial, which flipped the GC card table.

“The differences are important, but we believe that things will change dramatically in the final week,” said Nibali helper Giovanni Visconti. “The hard stages of two, three, and four climbs will count more. That’s when this Giro will be decided.”

The main protagonists now regroup for back-to-back transition stages ideal for sprinters (their last chances). The next big skirmish comes with the one-climb, uphill finale in the 131km, stage 14 to Oropa on Saturday. Dumoulin’s rivals will need to up their ante.

Quintana’s difference to Dumoulin might be manageable, considering the Giro’s hard third week. The final-day time trial could tilt things in Dumoulin’s favor. He knows his rivals will have to take riskier bets, not only to erase Tuesday’s TT gains, but also build up a buffer for the inevitable final-day TT losses.

“It’s nice to have a big gap on GC,” Dumoulin said. “It gives me more room to play with. I was never in stress, and always in control.”

Professional cyclists are loath to give away any hint of weakness. They know if they do, the sharks will pounce without pity.

The poker faces will remain in place, at least until the pain of the final climbs in the Dolomites strip them away.


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Happy Mother's Day!

"A Mother is she who can take the place of all others but whose place no one else can take"