Ah the time of year when I dust down the coffee machine, plump the cushions and try to avoid doing absolutely anything between the hours of 13.00 and 16.30. Yes, its Grand Tour silly season in the world of professional road cycling. Whilst the general classification contenders have been preparing on some hors categorie climbs, I have been gorging myself on the Hors d’oeuvre’s of cycling’s seasonal menu. One day classics and short stage races have been a relative amuse bouche ahead of the full 21 course tasting menu of a grand tour.
There is nothing in the world of sport that is longer or warrants such investment than the Giro, Tour or Vuelta. As a result I, like you, I hope, have numerous ‘jours sans’. This usually involves a perfectly concocted TV montage set on repeat. The breakaway going hell for leather, the delightful landscape, an ambling peloton, the faint noise of the helicopter or motorbike engine… riders’ legs going up, and down, up, and down, up, and down….. Suddenly it’s the end of the stage and the top 10 for the day flashes up on the TV – I’ve missed the whole stage!!! Like a Bardiani-CSF rider aiming to get in the breakaway, I shall try again tomorrow!
So we come to the first of grand tour of the year the Giro d’Italia, perhaps confusingly for the uninitiated, starting in Ireland! The spaces and landscapes of the Giro never disappoint and the dash through the Emerald Isle will certainly match the vistas of Italy. It may even be capable of halting my usual mid stage slumber mentioned above! Judging by the stages planned the racing shouldn’t fail to satisfy either. The route starts with a team time trial around Belfast and finishes with a stage to Dublin, after which comes the 1st rest day for travel to Italy.
Giro d’Italia Route 2014
Ultimately the route this year is one primed for climbers – yet unlike recent years the profiles tend to build gradually rather than shoot for the hills right away. Stage 8 in the Apennines mountain range should bring the first shake up for the general classification. The Carpegna climb is back loaded towards the end of the stage and final climb at 13% should be a treat. A nasty trio, the Passo Gavio, Stelvio and the Monte Zoncolan are all attempted in the final week and the final mountain time trial will ultimately destroy some riders hopes.
Four previous Giro winners line up this year and the smart money suggests none of them will be in contention come Trieste. Ivan Basso and Michele Scarponi are the wrong side of 35, whilst Ryder Hesjedal and Damiano Cunego have not shown anything to date to suggest they can repeat their victories of 2004 and 2012 respectively. Of the old guard perhaps only Cadel Evans has a right to warrant a contender badge after a productive spring cumulating in GC victory at the recent Giro del Trentino.
So, roll up roll up how about a brand new grand tour winner? The bookies favourite, Nairo Quintana, looks a good bet to at least match his podium finish from last year’s tour. He has had a solid preparation in the run up, landing the win at the Tour de San Luis, second at Tirenno and 5th in Catalunya. This combined with his eminent climbing ability, solid time trialling and a world class Movistar line up ensures he certainly warrants favouritism.
Rigoberto Uran, 2nd last year has a good chance too. He has kept his powder dry this season with only a 3rd in GC at the Tour of Oman the only result of note. The Omega-Pharma quickstep team is built around him with no Mark Cavendish. If Thomas De Gent and Wout Poels and can provide suitable domestique support in the mountains he may have a shot. Joaquim Rodriguez, the Raymond Poulidor of our times, could at last win the general classification at a grand tour. This may be his last chance as he enters the last few golden years of his career and he probably missed his best chance in 2012. The time trial on stage 12 does him no favours. Daniel Martin, Domenico Pozzovivo, Rafal Majka, Nicholas Roche and Wilco Kelderman could all make a step up this year after showing glimpses of what might be. All must ride their luck and have the best of legs to usurp Quintana et al.
My Giro d’Italia Top 5:-
- Nairo Quintana
- Cadel Evans
- Rafal Majka
- Nicholas Roche
- Daniel Martin
Stage Win – Tim Wellens (Lotto Belisol)
Hopefully this will add something to the great article written by Tony here.
Last week was tough for cycling, hitting the national headlines for all the wrong reasons. Yet help was at hand with the start of the pro tour season in Australia and Argentina and perhaps even more exciting; 4 days of the London Bike Show to cheer even the most cynical of fans.
Bradleys Wiggins’ Pinarello Dogma in Malliot Jaune Livery
Having never been to an event like this before, the first thing that struck me was the sheer number of people in attendance. OK, tickets included entry to three additional shows within the Excel but the exhibition centre was positively throbbing. As the glitz and glamour of Wiggo mania wanes it was heartening to see continued excitement surrounding cycle sport in general.
Kudos goes to the new Madison Genesis team, managed by ex Garmin-Cervelo rider Roger Hammond, who held their team presentation on the Saturday of the show. Hosted by the delightful Ant McCrossan it was a chance to see some of the team’s extremely youthful looking riders like Alex Peters and Brendan Townshend which have combined with elder more experienced riders like Dean Downing, Ian Bibby and Andy Tennant.
The Madison-Genesis Continental Team being presented on stage
Arguably the most interesting aspect of this team is their promotion of the Steel framed Genesis Volare bike. Equipped with a Shimano Dura Ace and Pro finishing kit, the team bike is a delight aesthetically. Extremely classical, yet with modern touches. The downtube is wider than traditional steel bikes pandering to the modern trend for oversized tubing.Indeed the team is making a big deal out of the specially developed Reynolds tubing made in Birmingham.
The prevelance of Carbon Fibre as the go to material for high end road bikes may yet be challenged and as Genesis themselves argue; they have looked to banish those 80’s misconceptions that Steel frames are heavy flexible steeds. Instead, suggesting that they have combined the durability and comfort that is usually associated with a steel frame, with the race weight and stiffness of modern bikes.
Bibby, Downing, Jack Pullar, Chris Snook and Sebastian Baylis proved the bike was no slouch when they took part in the Elite Men’s Criterium after the presentation. The speed of the peloton around the tight, twisting 500 metre indoor circuit was astonishing to watch. With Bibby coming out on top beating UK circuit regular teams likes IG-Sigma Sport and Hope Factory Racing Team it was the perfect start for the new team. The folding bicycle race was also great to watch as a prelude to the main criterium. The ‘Le Mans’ style start meant that riders had to unfold their bicycles before setting off. Keith Henderson’s huge, race winning attack on the penultimate lap was very impressive. The Animal Bike Tour with Martyn Ashton, Blake Samson, Luke Madigan and Billy Atkins was also a joy to watch. Whilst Ashton was undoubtedly superb, Billy Atkins at the age of 17 pulled off some outrageous tricks on a scooter.
Elsewhere at the show you could not move for visual delights. Cervelo, Pinarello, Willier and Specialized all in attendance. Yet what struck me in
Stealthy looking Wilier
particular was the range of bike brands on offer. Canyon, Team and Time amongst others. Canyon in particular were exhibiting a range of road and MTB frames all at varying price brackets. The Ultimate CF was a particular delight with perfect geometry and presence at a great price, along with Joaquim Rodigruez’s Giro d’Italia customised Aeroad CF lavishly decorated with pink decals to match the Maglia Rosa he spectacularly lost to Ryder Hesjedal in 2012. This spectrum of bikes although dizzyingly confusing can only be a good thing for the continuation of top end cycle sport. And with the news that Pinarello is looking to stock frames at selected Halfords stores, we are now more than ever, spoilt for choice.
Amongst other products on show, Nanoprotech was perhaps the most innovative, like nothing I’ve seen before. Whilst Sportful where exhibiting an extremely lightweight waterproof jacket. Hope continue to produce beautifully engineered bike products, contact points and accessories whilst Schwalbe’s extensive range of tyres was mind boggling. Last word goes to Clif Bar whose Builders Bar was very tasty in a variety of flavours along with their electrolyte shot in Citrus and double espresso was easy on the palette.