by crankpunk. this article originally appeared on The Roar
“I would have liked to raced the Tour again this year, but the team wants me to go to the Giro. The one who pays has the final say.”
Thus spoke Nairo Quintana just a couple of days ago after it was revealed the 24-year-old Colombian would not be racing the Tour de France.
Because Alejandro Valverde has been chosen to lead them in July.
Well, because, as the Movistar team from which the pair hail had no leader for the Giro, for perfectly (I stress perfectly) obvious reasons, the team management has decided to send the guy who came second in last year’s Tour to Italy in May.
All clear? No? Not to me either.
“Personally,” opined Movistar general manager Eusebio Unzue, “I don’t think taking Nairo to the Tour with his age, plus the pressure of improving last year’s result, is interesting for his future.
“I prefer to keep him growing into the formation period he’s still in and let him know the Giro, because we think it’s an extremely interesting race for him to progress on so many aspects, and where he will enjoy full leadership in a Grand Tour for the first time.”
But after Alejandro busted a tire on Stage 13 in last year’s race and lost a whopping ten minutes-plus on the stage and on the GC, it was the Tour debutant Nairo Quintana upon whom the Movistar leadership duties fell. And the youngster did not buckle.
In fact, he grabbed that bag of responsibility with a steely grip and set about putting in the only real challenge that the eventual winner Chris Froome faced all Tour.
Let me remind you what happened once Alejandro’s assault on the podium went flat and Nairo took to the hills.
On Stage 15 to Ventoux Quintana attacked Froome and dropped the pack, taking the Briton with him, though he was eventually dropped before the line as Froome won.
That took the Colombian to sixth on the GC. Not bad, not bad at all. A debutant of lesser caliber would have been thrilled at that and might look to cement his place, maybe go for a top five.
Not Quintana though.
Stage 18 took the peloton over l’Alpe d’Huez twice and took Quntana from sixth on the GC to third, after he finished fourth on the stage. And then on Stage 20, sensing he was flying and getting better and better in the hills, he attacked and beat Joaquim Rodriguez and Froome for the stage win – his first ever in the Tour, on his debut (this is worth repeating) and into second on the overall, where he ended up in Paris.
Oh yeah, and he won the King of the Mountains competition, and the Best Young Rider competition. It was the best debut since Jan Ulrich in 1996.
He finished 4.20 down on Froome. Valverde finished over 15 minutes behind.
Now, let’s grant Alejandro 10 minutes for that flat tire, and Quintana still emerges as a more natural Tour rider. And let us not forget to take another minute or three off of Valverde in lieu if his wealth of Tour experience.
Conclusion? Quintana is not only the most dangerous threat to Froome’s dominance from within the Movistar team, he is the most dangerous threat within the entire peloton.
Unzue says Quntana has a better chance to win the Giro than to beat Froome, but the Colombian himself said something that makes me, for one, think it is the elder, Spanish rider who has the ear of the team hierarchy and bears more than a sliver of responsibility in the decision.
“It’s a decision that also takes into consideration the interests of the sponsors and Valverde,” said Quintana.
Jealousy on Valverde’s part? At 33 he knows, as a rider who is not 100% suited to Grand Tours (he’s never ridden the Giro, by the way), he has little realistic chance of any higher than fifth place – and that is if everything goes swimmingly.
Quintana, on the other hand – one badly timed mechanical or an off-day for Froome – could win it.
It is a travesty that Quintana is out. He supplied us with the most exciting Tour debut in years and it harked back to the days of young, hungry riders coming along and upsetting the status quo with their verve and raw ability.
Certainly, most young riders do need protecting, but when a guy like Quintana comes along, give him his fill. Let the boy ride!
The 2014 Tour de France will be a less thrilling spectacle without him.
by Kate Smart
Once a year Radelaide comes alive to the sights and sounds of wheel spokes, lycra and the grinding of cranks thanks to the Tour Down Under.
The UCI World Tour kicks off in what is arguably one of Australia’s prettiest cities and no one can complain about the quality of the racing or the huge crowd numbers that turned out to watch their cycling heroes.
If anyone needed evidence that cycling is quickly growing as a spectator sport in Australia, you need look no further than at images from last week.
They were ten deep in places, lining the road with as much passion and enthusiasm as you would see in any European race.
Even the Tour de France’s race director, Christian Prudhomme called it “the TdF of January”.
So, what brought the crowds out?
Undoubtedly, Australia’s only winner of the TdF, Cadel Evans was a huge draw card for the event.
The appearance of the Australian at the road nationals in Ballarat earlier in the month and at the TDU has been a huge hit for the organisers of these events.
Everyone wants to see Cadel.
He may not be the most media friendly guy, but he is one of Australia’s most highly respected sportspeople.
Cadel Evans has that rarest of rare qualities.
Pat Rafter had it too.
Cadel Evans has that special honour of making you proud to be an Australian.
Think about it, and it doesn’t matter where you hail from, but how many people make you truly proud of your nationality?
He may never be about to jump up on the table and give us a ripping rendition of Advance Australia Fair, but Evans entertains and enthralls us all the same.
He is humble in victory and in defeat.
Another factor in the success of the TDU was also the thrilling battle for the ochre jersey between Evans and Orica GreenEdge’s Simon Gerrans.
Evans’ bold move on the Corkscrew and Gerrans’ hustle on Willunga Hill made for spectacular viewing, too.
But the race is not entirely Aussie-centric.
Andre Greipel has won so many stages and fans in the land down under that he is practically an honorary Australian.
To add to our admiration of him, we saw do so much more than be his team’s sprinter.
He was the consummate teammate, helping Adam Hansen in his attempt to stay in the top ten on GC.
The Queenslander began the last stage in eighth, but sadly lost some time in the final chaos of the crit stage.
He did, however, hang onto the white and green polka dot KOM jersey.
And if that wasn’t enough to get the crowds in, Jens Voigt’s final peddle around Adelaide and her surrounds was.
The veteran German remains immensely popular as he entertained crowds with his aggressive riding and naturally, his humorous tweets.
Clearly, this is a hugely popular race and the UCI must see this event as the perfect opener to the cycling season.
Compare the crowd numbers to the TDU with the upcoming Tours of Oman and Qatar.
TDU officials tout crowds over 750 000. The Tours of Oman and Qatar will be lucky to attract anything but a handful of spectators and yet as the UCI reviews its cycling calendar, it is the position of the TDU that draws question marks.
It is completely reasonable for the UCI to review its racing calendar and to ensure that they put up the best cycling season possible.
But what are the factors that the UCI is looking at when conducting this review?
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that new UCI President, Brian Cookson will be considering more than just crowd numbers when reviewing the racing calendar.
The UCI will take into account the technical operations of the race, including how well the race is received by riders and teams.
They will also look at media coverage and the economic impact of the event.
Once again, the SMH reported figures such as in 2013 the event added $43.6 million dollars to the local economy and attendance is up from 10 500 in 2007 to 40 000 last year.
I suspect this year’s numbers will be up again.
This criteria is also fair and reasonable for assessing the positioning of races, but it’s pretty clear the TDU ticks all of these boxes.
It is true there are some issues with the scheduling of the TDU for Australian audiences, namely that it clashes with the Australian Open tennis.
Whilst this is a personal tragedy for me, as I’m unlikely to ever get to the TDU for this reason and whilst I do thank the UCI for being concerned with my personal clash in favourite sporting events, I don’t feel they should be questioning the timing of the TDU on my behalf
The TDU also runs over the Australia Day long weekend and falls at the end of the school holidays, ensuring good crowd numbers.
Moving the TDU away from January to February only impacts negatively on other cycling events, such as the Herald Sun Tour.
The TDU is not just a boom for South Australia, but it is a boom for cycling fans all over Australia.
Let’s hope it continues it continues to be raced in January.
Kate Smart is an Australian journalist who specialises in sports, and can be contacted via Twitter here
the cheeky chaps at nsmb.com are taking the piss out of us and doing it perfectly.
chapeau! (they forgot that one… say ‘chapeau!’ even though you don’t really now what it means…)
a begrudging thanks to Jonathan Howard for sending this in. he’s a MTBer. and he has a beard. and he thinks he’s a friend of mine…
by crankpunk. this article originally appeared on The Roar.
Sometimes as a journalist you have to admit that you got it wrong and take off the hat (it’s an English flat cap, grey tweed) and shove it in your mouth. I think that’s part of the reason for the expression “…I’ll eat my hat”, as the process means there’s far less chance of more ill-advised thoughts escaping the perpetrator’s lips.
This situation was brought about by a certain Cadel Evans, a gentleman that you may have heard of before, just possibly. Just seven days after I wrote ‘he can’t win the Tour Down Under’ he goes and destroys a field full of extremely good bicycle riders, making grown men with hair on their legs (well, they could if they wanted) look like juniors. I’d like to claim that Cadel reads The Roar and was irked by my dismissal of his chances, but there’s little chance of that (not him reading The Roar, just that there’s no chance of him giving a toss what a journo says), but it was all about him just being never less than real, proper class.
Seeing him gasping and gaping for air in the last kilometers as the chasing group tried to reel him in showed just how much he wants this 2014 Tour Down Under General Classification.
He said at the end whilst talking to the taller half of the Liggett and Sherwin comedy duo that “we’re only really here for the GC, that’s what I’m all about”, and his muted celebration proved just that. You’ve got very good and very experienced riders in there in the form of Gerrans, Porte and a raft of other guys, but no one’s got what Cadel Evans has: the experience of challenging for and then winning one of the three Grande Tours, and,indeed, the biggest one of all, the Tour de France.
Orica-GreenEdge were going for it, wanting to keep Gerrans in the leader’s jersey , but there was no holding Evans on the climb and once he opened up on the descent – another sign of his huge wealth of experience and of his MTB background – he was gone.
He hasn’t given up though, despite now being 12 seconds behind, and was bullish (and a little brusque, truth be told) after the race when he said “I don’t think we’ve ever seen the leader, in the last couple of years, who has the leader’s jersey early manages to win it. It’s not going to be easy for Cadel. We’re going to throw everything at him, that’s for sure.”
Richie Porte of Sky, who’s now 33 seconds down in 11th, sounded, to just about anyone who watched Evans rip the race open and with it take the lead, much more realistic, happy now it seems to just be targeting the podium. “Cadel was absolutely flying, I tried to go with him. In those hairpins, I couldn’t stay with him, and he got away. It’s a little disappointing, but Saturday is another hilltop finish, I am quite hopeful we have the team to at least get up there on the podium,” said Porte.
Robert Gesink too has accepted the superiority of the Aussies and in particular Evans.
“In the end, Cadel remained just a bit too far for us” said the Belkin GC rider. “It was a difficult day. We are still up in the front. That’s how cycling works, you keep trying to win something, so you look forward to the next opportunity. Cadel was impressive, he’s in the best shape now, and so are the other Aussie guys.”
Evans didn’t win here because of a bit of luck. It was a stone cold killer move, executed with the wise old poker player’s hand, and played to perfection. It showed that he is the strongest here, and, barring calamity, I’ll bet you a hat he’s gonna take the GC home…
But then, what do I know?
brilliant article here from Suze Clemitson in The Guardian, thoroughly investigating the links between the pressure the sport brings, doping and depression.
“Perhaps Obree put it best: “It’s not that sport makes people depressed. A lot of people who suffer from depression have a tendency to have obsessive behaviour – that’s why more of them exist in the top end of sport. The sport is actually a self-medicating process of survival.”
is it just the pros though? i don’t think so.
this may seem a bit patronising to many but judging by how many riders i see wobbling through corners, braking on the apex, changing their lines on the way in and not pedaling when at the front with others behind when on the straights thus forcing others to brake unnecessarily, it might be worth going on a little about this crucial aspect of riding a bike.
why is it crucial? simple: going downhill at speed is where you are most likely, if you do crash, to be seriously injured or even killed.
if you do find yourself at the front with riders behind you on a descent, always pedal on the straighter sections, unless you are in a tucked position and going so fast that pedaling is redundant. there is a case to be made even here though that you should still be pedaling even if you’re not actually putting any force into the pedals, as it lets others behind know that you are not braking unnecessarily.
if you find yourself at the front and the road is too narrow for others to pass but you feel unsafe at going at that speed, pull to one side, then brake to slow, and let others pass you safely.
brake on the way into the corner, before you reach it, then release the brake and coast through the apex, pedaling once the road allows. braking on the apex is sometimes necessary but only if you have misjudged the approach to the corner. how to stop doing that? practise, practise, and then practise some more. or get to the back.
this will also stop you wobbling and changing line on the corner itself.
finally – and this is one of the best bits of advice i was ever given by that salty old bike dog Roger, who took me under his slightly stinky wing when i was 15 – put your weight on the outside pedal with a straight leg, and do the same with the hand on the inside drop, keeping the upper body straight as you can. this means that with the hand you can make micro adjustments and have greater control, as it is the bike that changes angle to the road and not the rider’s upper body – where most of your weight is.
if you need to practise this, i recommend over-exaggerating the movement til you gain confidence.
where to see a brilliant example of this?
whenever Spartacus goes downhill, as here in his TT bike, you’ll see just that. see how he shifts his weight and the angle of the bike with his outer leg and inner hand, only puts his weight into the corner once the apex has passed and he knows he won’t come off, and chooses a line and commits to it.
then go watch Wiggins, the Schlecks or Pinot to see how not to go downhill.
here’s a decent ‘how to’ on descending.
by crankpunk. this article was originally slated to appear in one of the leading MTB magazines but due to issues with images, it never saw the light of day. bit gutted about that. anyway, here it is.
all images by Erik Peterson.
He was the last to arrive, bedraggled and leathered, haggard and weathered, skin red where it had been exposed and almost ghost-white everywhere else, lips cracked and eyes shot with fine, wayward lines of blood. Had it not been for the lycra you’d have guessed he’d spent the past 5 days at sea, battered at night from raging waves and scorched in the daytime by the fiercest sun.
Last he may have been but he rode into camp that penultimate day not as a pauper but as a king, like a man who had crossed a desert, forded rivers and ascended to the heavens. Which, of course, he had. The camp, most already showered and fed long before, watched the blurred silhouette on the horizon grow until it became a man on a bike, then whooped and hollered as he crossed the line with an exhausted one-armed salute to his tribe.
Eleven hours it took him to complete the sixth stage of the 2013 Genco Mongolia Bike Challenge. Eleven long, tumultuous hours over rocky track, grassy climbs and hairy descents, through some of the wildest and most stunning bare landscape on the planet, past yaks, camels and wild horses, watched over by giant buzzards and eagles soaring like watchful keepers of the steppes up above.
George Patterson was one of over a hundred competitors taking part in the Genco MBC, and at 60 was one of the oldest.
“What brought you here, George?” I asked him one night as we chewed over our recently-slaughtered mutton, accompanied by mounds of boiled potatoes, shoving it in on spoons piled high, ravenous dogs that we’d become.
“My 60th was coming up and I didn’t fancy two weeks in Bali, so I thought ‘Screw it – let’s go ride Mongolia.’”
The idea for the original Mongolia Bike Challenge emerged from the intelligent, slightly disturbing (in that good disturbing way) mind of Italian Willy Mulonia, who runs the adventure travel company Progetto Avventura.
Whilst in Mongolia running a biking expedition, Willy, who was on the hunt for a venue for a multi-stage MTB race, fell in love with the wild, open expanses of the legendary Ghengis Kahn’s homeland.
“It was love at first sight,” he said. “I knew this was the perfect place to hold a mountain bike stage race. It also met my most important criteria – it was going to be a huge personal challenge to organize a race like the Mongolia Bike Challenge.”
That challenge amounted to a 5-year odyssey of several trips to Mongolia and what Willy estimates was over 10,000 kilometers of riding to select the ideal route for the first MBC, which was held in 2010. It eventually grew to become the collective vision of his excellent support team too, all of whom recognized the gift that Willy had bestowed upon them by including them in his dream.
Willy, an effervescent and charismatic character with a gleam of mischief ever-present in his twinkling green eyes, told me that the real challenge in deciding each year’s route lay not in the scarcity of potential MTB trails in the country but in the abundance of them.
“There are no fences, no barriers, no boundaries,” he explained. “You can literally ride in any direction, wherever you want. It is incredible. So the hardest thing is choosing the best route, and deciding what to leave out.”
And what a route it was, leaving none of us who took part in this epic encounter – I still can’t think of it as a ‘race’, as that title just doesn’t seem to do it justice – in any doubt as to why it’s titled a ‘challenge’. Nine hundred and fifteen kilometers with a muscle-searing, tendon-wrenching and lung-busting 12,990 meters of climbing.
At the top of mountains too impossibly steep to ride all the way up, waist-high in icy fast-flowing rivers, or when met by the eerie, bleached out bones of dead beasts that littered our trailside, Willy’s name was muttered, hollered and sometimes screamed out loud accompanied by swear words that would make even the toughest sailor blush.
Every day we each scaled our own personal Everests, crossed the scorched Sahara, rounded The Horn in a leaky sailboat and hacked our way up the Amazon with blunt machetes – venturing to places within our own selves exactly as Willy intended.
“I want people to go outside of themselves and to see what they find when they get back,” he said at the beginning of the event. And that is what we did, despite the varying levels of ability and fitness that was scattered amongst the 108 competitors that hailed from 32 nations. We all suffered, and through that suffering we returned aglow, if frayed at the edges and creased like an oft-thumbed book.
This was deep. It was beautiful, harrowing at times, incredible, awesome in the true sense of that much-maligned word, and just plain old humbling….
My own personal adventure began a week earlier, the day I arrived in Mongolia and headed to a hostel with luggage and bike bag in tow the Monday before the start of the event.
Though I live now in Taiwan, I’d departed for the land of the steppes some 12 hours earlier from Singapore, where I’d been racing in their National Championships. Having won the Individual Time Trial the day before and riding hard to help my teammate Tjarco Cuppens win the road race the next day, I knew my form was probably at its best of the whole season, but I had reason to be cautiously fearful of the MBC, as it had been 22 years since I’d last raced MTB.
At the ripe old age of 41 I’ve been racing professionally on the UCI Asia Tour on the road for four years, though I’d only returned to cycling at 37, having left the sport completely at 19. As a junior in the UK I raced road mainly and a few MTB events, but nothing of any real note, the off-road side of things then having been in its infancy and with only a smattering of events in England being held at that time.
I love road racing but I’d somewhat fallen out of love with the UCI circuit. I needed a new challenge, and then I heard of the MBC. Immediately I knew I had to go, as a trip to Mongolia had been on my to-do list since I’d seen a documentary on Genghis Kahn when I was 14. The wide-open spaces, the canopy of stars unaffected by city lights and the wild horses just stole my imagination completely.
I contacted my sponsor Lapierre and asked them if they could supply me with an MTB, and three weeks later – just two months before the MBC began – it arrived. A beautiful, huge 29er that felt like I was atop a Hummer. Hitting some of the local trails (and the local dirt, novice as I was), I was hooked. This was fun.
But my first day in Mongolia brought influenza, with my body unable to adapt from the 40 degree heat of the tropics to the 12 degree cold and wet I flew into. Two days in bed followed, which was bad enough, but to make matters worse, in the early morning before the race a serious bout of food poisoning hit me.
Eight trips to the chilly toilet followed before the race had even begun, and a lot more out on the trail for the next two days, to the point where my fellow competitors barely recognized me without my bib shorts around my ankles. Trust me, in Mongolia, bushes and trees are damn scarce. I had no choice but to drop and go right by the trail!
I lost time by the bucketload those first days but I have to say, Mongolia provided the most magnificent toilet views I’ve ever encountered…
From Stage 4 though I began to get into a groove, with some of my form finally showing. A tenth place on Stage 6 was followed by a 5th on Stage 7. I was hugely impressed by the engines on these MTBers though. Eschewing the idea of riding in a peloton, they simply got their heads down and ploughed. I couldn’t believe the way they held the same threshold pace hour after hour.
The men’s race was dominated on an almost daily basis by a group of six riders from whom the eventual winner emerged, Canada’s Cory Wallace, defending his 2012 title. On the women’s side of things, Catherine Williamson of England put in a performance of masterful domination that left the others in her wake.
Each day’s pre-race preparation included the usual stuff. Bike check, filling water bottles, stuffing pockets with enough gels and energy bars to fuel four astronauts on a space station for 3 months, and packing the mirror.
That’s right, a mirror. The rule book stated quite clearly that unless you lined up with a pack that included a mirror, a foil blanket and a whistle, you would not be racing. I soon learned that the mirror wasn’t actually for checking the make-up before the podium as my vain self had originally imagined, but that in fact it was to signal any rescue vehicles that might be searching for you in case you went off trail.
But then, the whole thing was kind of off trail! As Willy said, there are just so many trails that had it not been for the excellent sign posting that the MBC team got out there every morning before we rolled through, there would have been riders scattered all over the steppe, littering the landscape wrapped up in their foil like human candy bars.
For the most part we rode on double-track, along hard packed earth trodden down by the 4x4s that provide most of the transportation out there. Some of the hard-core MTBers like Sonya Looney often lamented the lack of single-track and said it was more like riding a road race than anything – which suited the roadie in me just fine.
But what a place to ride. Through Mongolian grass land shepherded at times by packs of up to a hundred or so wild horses galloping by our side, sometimes on both, starting off in a pack that would eventually be shredded apart by the pace of the front men, with the wind often blowing the knee-high grass horizontally to cover the tracks.
The hills were vicious, Willy sending us up trails that even the vans struggled to get up, often over single-track goat and cattle paths, traversing the mountains in countless switchbacks that tested skill and nerve in equal measure.
I spent the first few days with my fingers cramping from braking so hard on the winding, super-fast descents, until on Day 4 I just let go of the brakes on a mad impulse and barreled down the trails like a near-suicidal yak on wheels. Flash floods of old meant that in some places the trail in front of you would become a gaping chasm of a meter or two or even more, forcing you to jump for your life. With the wind blowing and the grass obscuring the gaps until the last second, several riders came a cropper on these descents.
One had his shoulder pop out after a nasty spill. He got up, popped it back in himself and carried on, clearly in pain but refusing to let his challenge end prematurely.
One day we hit a ridge line whose trail was so swamped with a black, viscous mud that progress slowed to under 10 km per hour on the relatively flat edge of the plateau. I charged on regardless, hitting deep pockets and seeing my front wheel disappear more than once, sending me head over arse twice and covered in the primordial sludge by the day’s end.
And then there were the rivers. Startlingly clear, fast moving flows of water with rocks underfoot, if you took a tumble in one of those you were frozen all day.
‘Epic’ is one of those overused words but this truly was that. It was a route in a land so big that there was a gnawing fear at the back of your mind the whole time, because you know people die out there. It wouldn’t take much to go off trail, and there are so few stand-out geographical features that it all blends into one, massive, beautiful rolling expanse of space. It would be nigh-on impossible, without GPS, to know where you were and how to get back.
Riding through Mongolia was, I can honestly say, one of the most profound experiences of my life. I’m still decompressing from the experience. The land, the camaraderie, the warmth of the locals, the racing, the animals, it just swept me away and took me on a journey that will stay with me forever.
I bid you, if you have the time, the inclination and the determination, go take up the Mongolia Bike Challenge. It hurt like hell and it scared me sometimes, but I made many new friends and loved it, somehow! In the end, it was worth every second.
by crankpunk. this article first appeared on The Roar.
Here we go! The World Tour is about to kick off with a bang in Nuriootpa in less than a week.
It will deliver us cycling fans from the long, dreary winter and its dearth of international road races, booting us off in 2014 towards a spring that includes, as it ever does, those tantalising and always delicious Classics.
There may be a case to support the claim that non-Aussie cycling fans are even more excited about the Tour Down Under than the Australians themselves.
At least Aussies have been enjoying blue skies for the past few months, able to ride and race away to your heart’s content and to watch some high-calibre racing, such as the Bay Classic Series and the recent, hotly contested national road race.
For most of the rest of the world? Cold, miserable, and nothing on the telly involving human-powered two wheelers is what they get spoon fed for these long, dark winter months.
Oh yeah, and you got the added enjoyment of thrashing my countrymen at the cricket, a sport that I couldn’t give a toss about really… unless we’re winning, that is.
Anyway, back to cycling.
Though now firmly established on the World Tour calendar and a huge success in terms of its popularity with Australian cycling spectators, the Tour Down Under comes so early in the season that it encounters a peloton whose members are in varying arrays of race readiness.
The Australian pros are in very good condition as a result of the previously mentioned national championships having been held just recently, with Cadel Evans and Simon Gerrans in particular looking extra sharp.
Gerrans will be in his first outing in that Australian champion’s jersey, something some thought Cadel wasn’t too fussed about after he stated that the jersey “doesn’t count for much” in the Sydney Morning Herald last week.
Evan’s manager was angered enough by the fallout from the comment, with some questioning Cade’s patriotism, though any doubts that the fans themselves had turned on Australia’s only winner of the Tour de France were distinguished immediately when he appeared on the start line in Buninyong.
His ride itself also proved that he wasn’t there just to make up the numbers, and he fell just short of taking the title.
Can he win the 2014 TDU? I’m going to say no.
He ran out of gas at the nationals, and though it was just by a sliver, it seems indicative of a rider who is always very, very good but who is aiming to peak later in the year.
I can’t see him sustaining the top form needed to win here over the duration, can’t see him going for the time bonuses on offer and don’t think he’d have enough in the tank to defend a slender lead up the final climb on the last day.
Simon Gerrans though is another matter entirely. The Orica-GreenEDGE rider has already won the race twice, raced to a stage win last year and will have the added incentive of wearing the Aussie colours before a home crowd too.
The 33-year-old is an absolutely cracking rider, a real ‘pro’s pro’, and he’s shown in the past that he is a rider capable of several peaks over a season, being good in January, again in April and then again in July.
He’s my favourite this time around, with the strongest team in the race behind him, just shading Belkin and Sky on that score. There’s little mistaking OGE’s ambition here to take the win.
Richie Porte gets a chance to lead a tour team, perhaps in preparation this time for the Giro in May, and he rode to a very handy third of course last week behind Gerrans and Evans. Unlike those two, who are both excellent one day riders (with Cadel also obviously being a hell of a stage rider too), Porte gets better as the days go on, and he’ll be looking to do the same next week.
Sky have such depth in numbers these days that just about any team they send out looks capable of defending a lead, and with Bernie Eisel and Geraint Thomas on the TDU squad, backed up by Ian Stannard and Chris Sutton, Porte is a real danger.
Of the other obvious choices, Robert Gesink springs to mind, backed up on his Belkin team by Jack Bobridge who had a decent ride at the nationals.
Gesink is what could be described as a mercurial figure though – the odd time he is brilliant, yet more often than not he disappoints. Time for him to shake that tag, I think, and this would be a good place to start.
In truth though he needs bigger climbs than this year’s race has to offer, so a win is I feel beyond him.
Four more riders to watch out for, the first being Jens Voigt.
No chance for the win, I just wanted to mention him because a) this is his last year; and b) I, like all sensible cycling fans, think he’s just brilliant. No other words really, just brilliant!
‘Shut up legs’, et cetera.
Next is Caleb Ewan. Can I write WTF here?
Well I did anyway.
Seriously, how good is this kid? Cadel Evans has taken him under his wing and Matt White believes he has a shot here at the overall, and if ever a rider was short on confidence, it’s not Ewan: he’s already talking of taking on Andre Greipel next week.
“To be exposed to that level of racing will be good,” Ewan said recently. “If you could beat him [Greipel] it would be a pretty big confidence boost. Maybe that is a bit too far fetched for now, but I will have a go.”
And though Ewan won’t be racing for OGE at the TDU, if his chances for the win are waning we may see him adding his support to Gerrans if necessary. Such a move certainly wouldn’t harm his career.
Next up, just mentioned, Andre Greipel. A hat-trick for the big guy? It’s a definite possibility, without any really troubling hills or hill repeats this year.
However, a better chance for the win and a greater threat to Gerrans comes in the bequiffed form of another German, Marcel Kittel. This guy is good and getting better all the time, and he has less bulk to drag up that final day’s climb than Greipel.
He has the flat speed to take wins too and to be in the mix for the bonus seconds.
Kittel has something of Tom Boonen about him I feel, if that is not too much of a stretch.
He’s lightning fast now but has a lean muscularity rather than bulk, much like Boonen.
Of course, Boonen by Kittel’s age had won far more and he is one of the greatest one day riders of any generation, but there are similarities.
He would be my favourite were it not for Gerran’s ride at the nationals and for the fact that last year he was invisible. On paper he looks a real threat, but is he just here to build form? Or did he bring his firecrackers?
We shall see, very soon indeed.
all the possible titles i could have gone for on this post, they were just too lewd, but one thing is for sure, this kid has a hard on for cycling.
or, wait – because of cycling?
anyway, for this 22-year old cyclist, a mishap with his handlebar resulted in irregular blood flow to his old boy and a month of day-long morning glory.
that’s right, a 24 hour, 4 week erection that must have put his mother’s cushion collection to good use.
reading the article on the Irish Examiner website, i couldn’t help but wonder if he was still getting out on the bike. fortunately he’s a mountain biker, so i guess the baggy shorts are better than lycra in such a situation.
the Examiner, a paper i think i’ll have to check out more often, started out with this:
“What goes up must come down — unless you’re a mountain biker whose pecker stays erect for so long that medical intervention is necessary. After a month of gravity-defying behaviour, the offending organ was finally laid to rest at Tallaght Hospital in Dublin.”
seems all fine now though, so it was a happy ending in the end… boom boom!
thanks to Ryan Laughton for sending me this!