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
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?
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.
While the Northern Hemisphere shivered through ice, snow, mud, and darkness, Australian cycling had its first major event of the 2014 season this weekend. Simon Gerrans of Orica-GreenEdge claimed his second national champion’s jersey after winning a promoter’s dream three-man sprint from Cadel Evans and Richie Porte.
European and North American shivering through icy winters and polar vortices may struggle to picture the cream of Australian road cycling sweating it out under blazing sun, in January, for a national champion’s jersey. This early in the season? Really? In the sun?
The Australian road championships have become increasingly prominent over recent years, as the fields have grown in depth significantly. Despite being ridiculously early in the season for most Europe-based pros, it comes just a week before the UCI season kicks off with the Tour Down Under, which is obviously a big target for local riders, and the prestige of wearing the green and gold stripes for the entire 2014 season is a strong attraction.
With Evans and Porte both aiming for the Giro, and race schedules brought forward compared to 2013, the stage was set for an intriguing wrestle between the powerful Orica-GreenEdge and the best of the rest.
The result was one of the best races seen here in recent memory.
The Australian nationals course hasn’t changed for a number of years, a fact which has attracted some controversy. The issue is that the 10.2km circuit around Buninyong, on the outskirts of the former goldfields town of Ballarat, about 90 minutes drive north-west of Melbourne, is too hard for the sprinters.
Each of the 18 laps includes two short climbs one after the other: the Midland Highway is 1.4km at 6.4%; and Mt Buninyong Rd is 1.1km at 6.4%. This effectively means there’s a 2.5km climb every 15 minutes.
After about 15 of these climbs, in the withering dry heat of an Australian January, most pure sprinters in the world would be completely cooked, and the Australian ones are no exception. The course suits a punchy rider like Gerrans, or a powerful rider like 2013 winner Luke Durbridge, who is capable of simply riding opponents off his wheel.
Nevertheless, it’s a picturesque location and the long climb gives roadside spectators plenty of chances to get close to their heroes.
How the race panned out
The day’s major break came early, only a couple of laps into the 182km race. It was a big one, comprising 17 riders, including reigning champion Luke Durbridge.
Durbridge was joined by his team-mates Simon Clarke and Mitch Docker, but the big move came from Drapac, which put Adam Phelan, Lachlan Norris, Wes Sulzberger, Bernard Sulzberger, Malcolm Rudolph AND Will Clarke into the break.
It was a serious display of strength from the red and white squad, but it may have cost them later in the race, as the heat took its toll.
Other big hitters in the break included Adam Hansen and Steele Von Hoff.
In fact there were three former national champions in the group: Durbridge (2013), Travis Meyer (2010), and the big story of the day, Allan Iacuone, celebrating the 20th anniversary of his 1994 victory in fine style.
The group was only ever allowed a gap of around 3 minutes, as the Avanti Racing squad controlled the chase, but the gap started to fade in the final four laps.
With a couple of laps remaining, Orica-GreenEdge made the decision to wind up the break, probably spooked by its inability to drop sprinter Steele Von Hoff, despite an attack from Simon Clarke.
Five Orica-GreenEdge riders moved to the front of the peloton and swiftly brought everything back together with a lap remaining.
On the final ascent of Mt Buninyong, a flurry of attacks from Drapac’s former champion Darren Lapthorne, then Mark O’Brien of Avanti, provided a launch pad for Orica-GreenEdge to send Cameron Meyer up the road.
Cadel Evans followed, with Richie Porte and Gerrans counter-attacking and eventually bridging to Meyer. This was the decisive move of the race.
With his team-mate Meyer hammering away off the front, Gerrans was free to hold the wheels of Porte and Evans, conserving energy in the knowledge that he could easily outsprint the pair of them.
As Porte’s last-ditch attack was wound back, Gerrans slung around him and powered to his second national title, a couple of bike lengths ahead of Evans.
The estimated crowd of 23,000 spectators were captivated by the sight of three of Australia’s top cyclists going head to head in the final lap, and there was a real buzz around the normally sleepy town.
On a blazing hot day where shade was precious and cold beer tasted like salvation itself, spectators lined the climbs and yelled encouragement all day, retreating to the trees after each lap had passed.
While riders were dropping out of the race and heading for the nearest ice bucket en masse, the crowd on Mt Buninyong maintained its energy levels for the dash down the hill to the finish line.
It’s a great sign for Australian cycling and I’m sure it will continue at the Tour Down Under.
The Cadel Factor
The big drawcard was the appearance of Cadel Evans, a man who hasn’t raced the national titles since 2005, and indeed rarely races in his home country. Since his 2011 Tour de France win and the tremendous publicity that followed, even the most casual of Australian cycling fans will come out to see him race.
The fans weren’t disappointed, as he arrived looking fit and raced like a man who really wanted to win.
Cadel’s aim for 2014 is to win the Giro d’Italia, so there’s still a few months of hard work ahead, but to my eyes he looked leaner than in previous years.
He’s been spotted out training in the hills of Warrandyte, in Melbourne’s north-east, crushing the hopes and dreams of amateur cyclists as he whistles past effortlessly, and to me he looks like a man who’s had a really solid pre-season.
He’s racing the Tour Down Under next week, so we’ll get another look, but you heard it here first: Cadel is looking fit.
The Orica-GreenEdge Show?
Australia’s World Tour team is extremely popular here, and for good reason. But people are starting to ask if their dominance of the national title is ever going to end. Since the team’s inception in 2012, OGE has won every men’s road race, and it’s not hard to see why.
Australians love to back the underdog, and there’s a risk that constantly thumping its rivals in national championships (GreenEdge also won the women’s elite race with Gracie Elvin; the men’s U23 race with Caleb Ewan, who joins the team later this year; and the men’s time trial) turns a few fans off.
But what’s the alternative? Stop trying to win?
The team is stacked with powerful riders to suit every possible outcome on this nationals course, and with most of the other best riders spread across multiple teams, it’s extremely difficult to apply pressure to them.
Simply, no other team has such strength in depth. While Gerrans had a team of nine accomplices, Evans had no team-mates, and Porte had only Nathan Earle, who has just signed for his first season with Team Sky.
It was a similar story for the likes of Steele Von Hoff (Garmin-Sharp), Adam Hansen (Lotto-Belisol), Jack Bobridge and David Tanner (Belkin).
OGE played its Plan B first, putting multiple riders in the break.
When that tactic came up short, it could revert to Plan A – which Gerrans executed perfectly.
With plenty of firepower up its sleeve, it probably could’ve gone to Plans C, D, and E if it needed to. It’s going to take something really special to break the team’s stranglehold on this race.
That, or a move to a new course.
Drapac was the wildcard
Drapac Cycling is a name that is probably only familiar to readers in Australia and Asia. The team has re-acquired Pro Continental status for 2014, a step up for the Australian Continental team of previous years.
With the step up the team has expanded, and recruited heavily, notably including 2013 World Tour riders Travis Meyer and Wes Sulzberger from Orica-GreenEdge; Jonathan Cantwell from Saxo-Tinkoff; and Will Clarke from Argos-Shimano.
Throw in some of Australia’s best National Road Series riders, like Adam Phelan, Darren Lapthorne, Lachlan Norris, Robbie Hucker and Malcolm Rudolph, and it’s easy to see why the team was so aggressive in the race.
Indeed, with five riders in the break, and six finishing in the top 20, it’s more than fair to say that Drapac made its presence felt. However, I tend to wonder if it spent too much energy too early, and was left chasing the race in the latter stages as riders dropped off the pace.
Certainly the team was hoping for a podium, albeit there’s no shame in being beaten by Gerrans, Evans, and Porte. The fact is though, that this is probably the only team that can really mess with Orica-GreenEdge, in a systematic way at least, in future national championships.
Watch out for Drapac in the Tour Down Under, they’ve been upfront about their desire to animate the race in the style of Europcar at the Tour de France, win some stages, and hopefully earn themselves some invitations to major races.
contact Tim on Twitter here
by Kate Smart
It’s that time of year when we reflect on the year that was.
So, in no particular order, and, at times, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, here’s my two cents worth of the moments in the 2013 cycling season that I enjoyed the most.
Cyclists with magnificent hair
As I’m talking about my highs for the year, no pun intended, Marcel Kittel and his magnificent quiff takes first prize.
Dear reader, I must confess to being an absolute sucker for a quiff and Mr Kittel has provided one of the best I’ve drooled over in a mighty long time.
In fact, I’m almost tempted to change my position on bike helmets. Surely, it must be some kind of travesty to hide a mane that superb under such a bulky and unflattering piece of kit.
Let that beautifully sculpted hair run free, I say.
In all seriousness, though, Kittel had a successful 2013, capped off with four stage wins in the Tour de France and ending Mark Cavendish’s grip on the final sprint along the Champs Elysée.
I do look forward seeing more of the German sprinter in 2014.
This year’s Giro was one of the best three week races I’ve stayed up very late for.
At times, I thought I’d wondered into The Lord of Rings, as Gandalf bravely attempted to take the fellowship over Caradhras, with Saruman sending a violent and punishing snowstorm crashing down them to stop them.
But alas, it was not a movie. The snow was all very real and the action was fascinating.
Vincenzo Nibali won his first Giro and he did it with style. The Italian showed us how you can lead a three week race, for almost three weeks, and not bore us to death.
Were you watching Team Sky?
Spring didn’t get the memo
This year’s spring classics never eventuated, instead we were treated to what I call the ‘prolonged winter classics’ and what a chocolate coated treat it was.
First mention, here, goes to Milan-San Remo.It was bloody cold and in this instance, I’m sure you’ll agree that pictures speak louder than words.
If a Norwegian is feeling the cold, what hope is there for anyone else? Thor Hushovd.
The team bus had better have good heating. Left to right: Robbie Hunter, David Millar, Fabian Wegman.
Why I love Spartacus
He may not have finished on the top step at Milan San Remo, but the big Swiss, Fabian Cancellara out foxed and out rode Peter Sagan, attacking for the final time on the Paterberg Hill and winning his second Tour of Flanders. It was fitting for the Easter Sunday Easter Egg race, I mean bike race to be won by the Swiss maestro.
Then came Paris-Roubaix.
We may once again have been robbed of a Cancellara v Boonen showdown, but we were not robbed of an exciting race.
Spartacus took this as an opportunity to give young Belgium, Sep Vanmarcke of (what is now Team Belkin) a lesson in how to play cat and mouse and come out the victor in the Roubaix velodrome.
I suspect, that even the most ardent road cycling fan, for just a second, discovered a new love for the tricks of track cycling.
Surely everybody enjoyed watching the young Columbian attack and attack again during the Tour de France.
He didn’t win on Mont Ventoux, and it wasn’t through lack of trying either, but he wasn’t put off from trying again and again to win a mountain stage. He then went on to give a mountain stage victory another crack on Alpe d’Huez, although it wasn’t until stage 20, that he finally took a stage victory.
Quintana finished the TdF 2nd overall as well winning the white and polka-dot jerseys.
I just want to put this little munchkin-like South American on my mantle piece.
Quintana has put the goat into mountain goat and I can’t wait to watch him climb next year.
Yes, yes, I’m a biased Australian and I’m gloating over our Ashes victory and now you’re all subjected to my patriotism.
Cadel Evans has once again proved his detractors wrong.
The gutsy Australian rode a fantastic Giro to claim a place on the podium. Evans is the first Australian to podium on all three Grand Tours and just when everyone is sticking the knives in, writing him off, out he comes and shows his tenacity on a little roll around Italy.
There are some who just can’t help themselves, though and insist on taking continued pot shots at Cuddles.
You know how it goes, “Oh, he only did so well because they had to reroute some of the stages”.
Or how about, “Yeah, but one more day and he would have been off the podium”.
Seriously, the last time I watched the Giro, and yes it is rather late at night for me here in the Southern Hemisphere, but I’m pretty sure all of the riders ride the same days in the same conditions.
Orica GreenEdge at the Tour de France
Ok, jokes about the bus stuck under the gantry aside, finally, the stage victory we Aussies had been sitting up all night for arrived.
Admittedly, I think many of us were hoping for a Gossy victory after coming so tantalizing close last year, but we were undoubtedly super excited for our first World Tour team, claiming their first TdF stage victory.
Simon Gerrans surprised everyone, including Peter Sagan, when he rolled across the line first on stage 3. The two riders were separated by what my mother would describe as ‘a bee’s dick’.
The team then won stage 4 by what was a similarly narrow margin, over OPQS.
What a wonderful tour for the Aussie team and with a couple of days in yellow to boot, we were all gloriously delirious with TdF love.
I have left my favourite rider and favourite Australian til last.
7 Grand Tours in a row is an awesome feat.
Winning his first stage in a Grand Tour at this year’s Giro in the pouring rain was priceless and well worth sitting up to the wee hours of the morning.
The man is also a twitter champ. His posts are hilarious, especially his posts chronicling Lotto training camps. Take a look if you haven’t already done so.
He’s also named his whippet, Lotto, which I think is fantastic. I love dogs and I desperately want a puppy, a term I attribute to all canines and seeing Lotto curled up on his owner’s lap, just makes want a dog more.
And as with Crankpooch, I am, in my spare time, plotting an abduction of Lotto.
These are some of my top moments from 2013. There were a few others that didn’t quite make the cut and I’m sure your list may be a little less Aussie centred, but I hope you enjoyed it anyway.
For those of you reading this who celebrate Christmas, I hope you have a very merry and safe one.
For those of you who don’t, you’re super lucky as I suspect you won’t be on the verge of a diabetic coma in the coming days…
As an Englishman, I’ve become something of an expert in hope – and no, I’m not talking about cricket.
Every four years the football World Cup rolls around and every four years, once the utter despair and dejection of yet another woeful set of otherwise ‘plucky’ performances fades just ever so slightly, the players, manager and press start to say ridiculous things like:
‘Well obviously it will be hard, but yeah, I think we could win the World Cup next time around…’
There seems to be a collective amnesia, similar to those lapses in memory shown by people who’ve been through a traumatic experience. In this case though, it’s nationwide.
Now, I’m not about to compare Cadel Evans to the national English football team. First of all, Cadel’s a proven winner so on that level he’s far ahead of the English first XI.
Secondly, Cadel seems to understand what he is capable of, to know his limits, and that is not only admirable in a top level sportsman but rather unique.
He’s won at the highest level of his sport, and against men who were later proven to be substantially juiced up. Praised by Anne Gripper, the former head of the UCI anti-doping department, as the rider with the most level set of test results she’d ever come across – indicative of cleaner riding – he seems to have been doing it the right way too.
Alan Peiper, Aussie cycling legend now Performance Director at BMC Racing, might just have a case of ‘Ever So Hopeful’ where Cadel’s concerned.
Witness the interview he gave to CyclingNews just recently, in which he said that Cadel can win the 2014 Giro d’Italia.
He spoke of Cadel having ‘energy in the tank’ and said that “the way he rides a bike race, the way he can prepare and live for it, I think the Giro is definitely an obtainable goal for Cadel Evans in 2014.”
There is a precedent for this hope shown here by Peiper. In April of this year he was saying that Cadel had a chance to win the Tour de France.
However, his unusual race schedule in the build-up to the Tour – most modern riders aiming to win the Tour do not attempt to ride the Giro d’Italia also – saw him going into the third week exhausted.
Had he aimed for the Giro instead, and geared his season towards the Italian tour, might he have won it?
The answer to that is a no, in my opinion. He finished the Giro in third place, 5.52 down on Vincenzo Nibali, which was a great result in itself, but even had he specifically aimed for the race there is no way he’d be 6 minutes up on the Italian after three weeks.
Great as Evans was and indeed still can be on his day, this is a three week tour, not a one day race or a shorter, regional stage race.
If Nibali doesn’t race the Giro, something he still hasn’t definitively decided upon, and if none of the other top hitters attend, can Cadel win then?
His main challengers will most likely come from Sky, with Richie Porte lining up for them, and OPQS, where Uran now punks his crank. Evans finished just over a minute behind Uran this year, but it’s worth remembering that Uran was originally designated to ride for Bradley Wiggins, who eventually dropped out of the race.
Uran will be OPQS’s top GC guy at the race it looks like, and will have a full team supporting him all the way.
Porte is hungry, too. Very much so. Porte has received the nod from Sky for the Giro, and he is raring to go. A full strength Porte, with a powerful Sky team behind him – and the Sky boys, even their second string employees – are still a better and more cohesive unit than BMC’s top team.
“It’s the next step for me,” Porte said last month. “They want to develop me into a grand tour racer and that’s hopefully going to be my first big opportunity to lead a team.”
Then we also have Dan Martin of Garmin-Sharp, a rider who really found form early this year with a win at Liege-Bastogne-Liege. The Irishman is going for Pink too, and is entering his prime years.
“I’m going to win,” Martin has said. “I know I’m capable of it and that’s why I’m heading to Italy.”
Finally we have Joaqim Rodriguez of Katusha, who was third at this year’s Tour, surprising many who had felt he was more of a pure one day specialist than a three week GC candidate.
Can Cadel beat these guys? I have to say, again, no. He simply hasn’t got that same grinding ability in the mountains that allowed him in years gone by to cling on to the pure climbers.
And if Porte goes like he did at the Tour this year (apart from that very odd stinker of a day he had), and if Martin steps up and Rodriguez brings his Tour form, and, if Uran is going well, I think it’s 5th place at best for the Aussie legend.
*this article originally appeared on http://www.theroar.com.au
DOPED UP LIKE DI LUCA
might well be crankpunk’s first t-shirt. if that appeals let me know…
anyway, i’ve finished my Giro reporting on PEZ, it has been one heck of a ride as well, what a cracking race. hats off to Nibali, and, for that matter, to Uran ‘Wild Boy’ Uran and to Cuddles too.
yup, read all about it my analysis of the quite thrilling TT here…
yes, he really did look like that… read all about it on PEZ
or read the whole thing here…
The big news from Stage 4 of the Giro weren’t the boos that arose in the coffee shop where I watch the race when Danilo DiLuca took off up the road, but the look on Wiggo’s face as he crossed the line in Serra San Bruno, where he did a very good impression of a constipated turtle.
(Also love the image of the Lampre rider behind, he’s probably gasping for air in reality, but it looks for all the world that he’s having a good old laugh at the 2012 Tour de France winner – and while I’m on the subject, I will again nominate that Lampre kit for inclusion in the top ten ‘Worst Kits of All Time’ list…).
Well, the big news wasn’t so much the bunged-up reptile look, remarkable though it was, but the reason for that look: yes, Wiggo is misfiring.
Surely he and his DeathStar team have him honed to perfection, as tight as you like and ready to go off on another British Blitzkrieg once again, no?
Well maybe not, but why not? Isn’t it obvious? He really does have a dark and sinister master plan: namely – Le Tour!
Look out gloomy Froomey, your tilt at the stars is about to be given a very definitive jolt. It’ll be Hinault vs. Lemond all over again, but in that peculiarly English way, all handbags at dawn, grand gestures reduced to the rolling of eyes and heavy tut-tuts, breaks for tea and all the painful stoicism.
But yes, no doubt about it: whereas Nibali, that Ryder fella and even – gasp – the aging, Cadel I-thought-he-was-dead? Evans are all chalking their cues and casting Paul Newman-style glances through the fug of the pool hall, Wiggo’s powder looks to be decidedly damp.
And I do think, seriously, that it’s because he is waiting for July. Maybe even he didn’t know it til yesterday. I think that his body may have become a little ‘locked in’, due to the fact that he’s been preparing for the Tour so hard for the past few years.
Whatever it is, he didn’t lose time just because of the crash, but because he got gapped on a pretty tiny hill.
Of course, he’ll probably smash the TT and get Pink and leave me all red-faced.
Now, is it just me or is anyone else tired of seeing this Old Guard still popping up? Yes, Di Luca served out his ban and yes by the laws in place he is allowed back, but I don’t know, seeing him and, if I’m honest, some of the Garmin-Sharp team rolling back in like nothing ever happened, it all leaves me a little nonplussed.
I’ll probably cop it for saying that, but there it is. Perhaps if the UCI were addressing all that has happened in a responsible and thorough manner, one that let the fans feel ‘Heck, they’re really doing something about it this time,’ it would seem a little less like ‘business as usual.’
As it stands it kind of feels like yesterday’s fish still out on the market stalls.
Onto Cadel! Not literally of course, not sure the old man could take it. Now as a journalist it is my job, as we journos are all sworn to do, to react to everything with a massive knee-jerk and to cut people down just as quickly as we build them up.
So yes, I did write recently elsewhere in the Ethernet that I thought the grizzly wee Aussie was done in. Washed up. Ready for the glue factory.
And then faster than an Aussie can down 24 beers whilst sat astride an emu (the record stands at 3.8 seconds), back up he pops and takes second on stage 3 and takes 6th on stage 4.
Evans should have that great Mark Twain quote stitched into his jersey:
‘Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.’
Suits him perfectly. Never write off a good man. Still a long way to go in the Giro, thankfully, because it’s been very good so far, and the wheels may come off for the former World Champ in those high hills, but it is great to see him doing well.
He may not be the most liked character in the peloton but he is one of the most respected. Would be nice to see him in Pink for a bit.
A final note on Battaglin’s win. Great to see an Italian winning, that should keep the tifosi happy for, ooh, 4 minutes?
Could Nibali keep them quiet for a bit longer and grab the win? It would certainly be something to have another, serious rival to the Sky domination in the mix.
We shall see.
in a nutshell, yes.
clean? what do i look like, a McQuaid?
no not clean, but cleaner.
let’s look at the evidence.
that dude from Blanco wins the Tour Down Under. either he’s doped to his lids and snuck in to win when most of the others are shying away from the juice – as might have happened in the past, there have been some curious flashes in the pan the past couple of years – or (and this is more likely given the current climate – he’s just a very good and naturally talented rider.
what else? Gaudin’s win yesterday in the prologue in Paris-Nice. sure it was short but EPO doesn’t care if a race is 300km or 2.5, it still works. so does the rest of it. perhaps Gaudin, whom most of us wouldn’t know if we passed him in the street, is a very decent short course rider with superb bike handling skills. maybe he got lucky. but thing is, you don’t get lucky over any TT course, not at a race like Paris-Nice. you have to be good enough to win it.
Biel Kadri of Ag2r-La Mondiale (who? exakly! drink yer milk!) won the Roma Maxima on Sunday after a 127km solo effort. a huge miscalculation by the peloton? possibly. a stellar ride by a guy we barely noticed because hey, when riders are cleaner things get weird and don’t follow the traditional scheme of things? also – possibly.
going a bit further back, young riders like Peter Sagan (who may, a decade from now, be competing for a position in the top 5 of all time) have burst forth, and older, boring (or so we thought) riders like Cadel Evans suddenly became interesting and, dare i even whisper it, exciting. he suddenly found World Championships and Classic-winning form? no chance. it is far more likely that he rode clean whilst others juiced, then they had to limit their intake, and his class finally shone.
then you have the past couple of Tours, where guys have been crashing all over the place. why? cos their bikes are crap and they can’t handle them? well they’re not all on Pinarellos! [insert cabaret stand up comedy routine high hat noise here]. or cos the roads are bad? more likely that they can’t abuse the dope as they used to, the speeds have come down as a result and no single or two teams can control the peloton (remember Discovery?), so there’s more bunching, more guys chancing their arm near the front, and thus less space and hey bingo! you got it – more crashes.
i’ve been in love with this sport long enough to know that you’d have to be a fool to think that things have changed on any deep and fundamental level, or that riders are cleaner now because they realise doping is bad, but it does seem on the face of it as though less guys are taking less stuff just because they can’t, and that may be why we are seeing more unpredictable racing and, in turn, results.
i could be very wrong. i hope i’m not.