When Henri Desgrange and Geo Lefevre created the first Tour de France back in 1903, they surely can’t have thought that it would evolve into what it has become today. Historian, Jim McGurn noted that the Tour back then was “a magnificently imaginative invention, a form of odyssey in which the lonely heroism of unpaced riders was pitted against relentless competition and elemantal nature.” Whilst the heroism and extent of the competition has waned slightly, as any rider, journalist or fan will tell you, the Tour is still the Tour. Faster, harder, higher, hotter than many other races the 100th edition of the Tour de France lives up to this expectation on paper.
After an undeniably drab 2012 edition in which Team Sky stifled the race to the benefit of Sir Wiggo the 2013 Tour de France must be one of the most eagerly awaited in years. Now, certainly this is in no small part due to the participants this year but the inventive, historic parcours designed by Mr Christian Prudhomme and his colleagues at ASO definitely add to the anticipation.
After a partly successful Giro d’Italia forecast (doping aside) what follows is a quick sprint through the key stages and some more wildly ill informed predictions.
The 2013 Tour de France
The headline of the 100th edition of the Tour de France was the ascension of both Mount Ventoux and Alpe d’Huez (twice) and a twilight finish on the Champs in Paris. Yet, look beyond those undoubtedly key days and you’ll see that this is an aggressively tricky circuit of France full of more saw-toothed stage profiles than you could throw a bidon at.
Aligned more to a rider who can climb and TT rather than the reverse they key stages begin as early as stage 2 as the race climbs from sea level in Bastia, Corsica over the mountains to the West coast and Ajaccio. OK, the last third of the stage is downhill but GC contenders must be on their guard throughout and this stress and toil will accumulate until the race reaches Paris.
The team time trial on the 2nd July will only modify the General Classification but will see a good old fashioned battle between the well drilled teams, Sky, Omega-Pharma Quickstep and Orica-Greenedge. As we edge into the second weekend, the climbing begins with a mouth-watering double header in the Pyrenees. The climb to Ax 3 Domaines will shake out the GC and certainly Stage 9 will hopefully see the combination of a GC battle and a breakaway sojourn over five monstrous climbs. With 30km from the last climb to the finish whoever is over the top first will be difficult to catch. Expect Jens Voigt, Simon Gerrans, Jeremy Roy or Johnny Hoogerland to be involved somewhere along the line.
If the weather isn’t dramatic the time trial on stage 11 shouldn’t change much and as the peloton girds its loins for Mount Ventoux on Sunday 14th July the second week will probably past without interest; save a Mark Cavendish win and honouree French heroes going all out for stage victories. After a teasing day in the Alps and technical time trial the hallowed ascension of Alpe D’Huez looms into view. The shear length of the two main mountain days (172.5 and 204.5km) will take its toll on the peloton and you would expect a GC contender to emerge victorious on one if not both stages. The last smash into Annecy-Semnoz on Saturday 20th July could see one final battle for general classification places.
For all you can mutter about Alberto Contador (Beef jokes included) his presence at this year’s tour adds value to the event. OK his form hasn’t been fantastic this year and Chris Froome has beaten him on every occasion they have raced together this year, but Contador’s GT experience, coupled with a strong team in support should see a ding dong battle with Froome and Team Sky. Despite Cadel Evans’ recent Giro heroics this has to be Tejay Van Garderen’s year. Proving himself at the Tour of California suggests that he will be riding into a leader’s role finally and with Cadel peaking at the Giro the time is nigh.
Daniel Martin has ultimately had is breakthrough year with Garmin Sharp. In a recent interview with Paul Kimmage in the Irish Independent he declared himself a Top 5 or Top 10 favourite. I can certainly see him achieving the later. However, with Andrew Talansky and Ryder Hesjedal riding perhaps it’s a case of the strongest rider will emerge for Jonathan Vaughters’ outfit. If Dan Martin is weakened by his Time trialing then J C Peraud is the opposite. 4th in the recent mountain TT at the Tour de Suisse his form looks solid if not unremarkable. 9th in the 2011 Tour and without Nicholas Roche to work for, perhaps this will be the last opportunity for the 36 year old to reach the higher echelons of his home race. If his Ag2r team doesn’t mutiny around him with John Gadret and Hubert Dupont in the mix then maybe a top ten is possible.
How about Alexandre Geniez for a stage win – he was climbing well in the Dauphine and came second in the young rider classification. He could certainly emulate Thibaut Pinot’s exploits last year if given the freedom.
1. Alberto Contador
2. Chris Froome
3. Tejay Van Garderen
4. Richie Porte
5. Jurgen Van den Broeck
Top 10 – J C Peraud / Daniel Martin
Stage Win – Alexandre Geniez
Here’s to a showpiece 100th Tour de France! Let’ hope we see 100 more!
Slaying The Badger
LeMond, Hinault and the Greatest Ever Tour de France
by Richard Moore
I love sport – I love the grand tournament, the big match, the great race. What makes sport great for me is how it exposes personality – not just the obvious, like the braggadocio of a Muhammad Ali, the tortured genius of a Paul Gascoigne, the flamboyant elegance of a Valentino Rossi, but also those less touched by that kind of otherworldly ability and charisma, the Joe Fraziers, the Colin Hendrys, the Sete Gibernaus. And when the competition is at its peak, when everything is on the line, when the body, spirit and mind are stretched to the absolute limit, striving to overcome their peers, that’s when the personality is laid bare, that’s when sport is at its very best. There’s no hiding place on the pinnacle of the mountain.
Slaying The Badger tells such a story, of the 1986 Tour de France, a titanic battle between the two best riders in the race, team mates Bernard Hinault, the spiritual leader of the peloton in all his five-times victor pomp, and the young pretender, Greg Lemond, the blond-haired blue-eyed Californian golden boy. I’m sure a lot of readers are aware of how the race went down but if, like me, you go into the book knowing very little of the story of the ‘86 tour, I won’t spoil it for you by telling you what happens – what I WILL say is it was a great, classic race with a twist, and the triumph of Moore’s book is that it doesn’t get hung up on the step by step minutiae of the race, which frankly can be pretty dull (try rereading the text coverage of a stage – it’s not easy to make it a lively read). Instead, a sizeable percentage of the book is given over to Moore’s comprehensive modern-day interviews, not only with Hinault and Lemond, but also with some of their managers, coaching staff and team mates.
It’s Moore’s ability to portrait these characters in words – the pugnacious Hinault, the frankly scatty but puppyish Lemond – and weave them in around the other characters and events before, during and after the race that made this book stand out for me. The result is a gripping snapshot of this great race, a superbly detailed snapshot without getting bogged down in the nitty details – it’s not a pacy thriller that will leave you gasping at every turn, but it spins along at a thoughtful clip and informs as well as entertains. As a book for the cycling fanatic, whether you know the story of the race or not, it’s essential reading, but Moore’s elegant prose is so accessible that I’d have no problem thoroughly recommending this even to the non-cycling sports fan. This is a class piece of work.
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Closing date: 24/10/2012.
Slaying The Badger – LeMond, Hinault and the Greatest Ever Tour de France
Yellow Jersey Press (Random House)
Available in Paperback, iBook & Kindle
RRP £8.99 (Paperback), RRP £8.99 (iBook) RRP £8.99 (Kindle)
Good Company by Frank Patterson
What makes 2000 plus cyclists of all levels venture out on to the roads and head out on the ambitious ride between London Fields in Hackney and Dunwich on the Suffolk coast? I’m sure a lot of cyclists asked themselves that same question at one point between Saturday night and Sunday morning which was when the ride took place.
I think to ask that question we need to evaluate the question, why do we cycle? What aspect of it makes us happy? I think one thing we can all agree on is that our agenda for cycling is totally different?
It was my second Dunwich Dynamo, did the first one last year and my experience of that was truly a roller-coaster… This year I decided to do it again, but this time around raising money for the charity Trees for Cities
TOGETHER WE’RE STRONGER
As a London cyclist where we’re used to constantly being pushed around, where the majority of motorists complain about cyclists and believe they don’t belong in the city, it was for sure a different picture on Saturday evening as we left the city, a large field of cyclists who adhered to traffic rules and stopped at red lights and kept to the left wherever possible just as it should be. When you are as large as we were motorists know that they can’t bully you, some had even engaged and showed an interest in what we were doing.
JUST LIKE THE TOUR DE FRANCE
As we were rolling out of the city waiting to get past congestion and traffic lights so we could spread and really start pedalling, I couldn’t help making comparisons with the Tour de France which I’m a great fan of and really is the base and were the beginning of my passion for cycling started. I used to get up in the morning with my brother, sit glued to the TV screen and watch the beginning of the gruelling mountain stages, as the riders were rolling up the first mountain they were laughing and chatting – they all knew what a hard day of torture it would be. That was how it was like on Saturday as we were rolling out of London we were joking and catching up but deep inside we knew at one point we would be close to being broken both mentally and physically. When darkness had fallen and you really were in the middle of nowhere and there’s only one way… and that’s forward. When you start fearing, when will I hit the wall and what happens when I do? One unnerving sign is when your cycling partner stops talking to you and all you get back in reply when asking if they are OK is ”Yes”.
Going back to my point about the Tour de France, you really feel like a professional athlete when the local people stand on the streets or peer from their balconies and windows cheering and spurring you on. That gives you the extra 10% that could be crucial at that point even though the comment I heard ”Come on you guys you’re nearly there” can be slightly misleading and optimistic when there is still 40km to go. This year along the route several candles had been put in place along the route, I would like to believe that they had been put there just for us but what a tremendous amount of work that most have been.
THE CONNECTION WITH NATURE
As a kid I remember the majority of things we did as a family were on bikes, and that was only back in the eighties. I recognise that today’s modernised society is beneficial in many ways but I am seriously worried that we’re losing our connections with nature. I still believe as I always have that our beautiful now very fragile planet is best experienced on 2 wheels rather than 4 wheels, of course I know that there are certain trips that it’s necessary to make in a car.
As darkness slowly changed to dawn you cannot even begin to describe the sensations that you experience, but you just don’t have the energy to fully appreciate and absorb the moment. From when you hear the first chirps of the beautiful bird songs, to cycling past elderflower bushes from which there is still flowers to pick, and the blackberry bushes which I’m impatiently waiting to fruit, it all took me back to my childhood to when I used to go out picking with my parents. I can’t help but think that today’s generations of children are seriously missing out if their parents are not doing that with them. I also thought about the charity I’m supporting Trees for Cities, how happy it made me to see the lush greenery and the biodiversity it must be supporting and while my reasons were purely because of environmental concerns I realised it also brings a great deal of happiness, there’s no reason cities should be any different. When we live in a big city like London we can often forget how important tress are to us. In fact they’re vital to our livelihoods they give us Oxygen, they suck out pollution and they also help us deal with floods and heat.
It was the 20th Dunwich Dynamo, a big thanks should go out to the organisers Southwark Cyclists I find it astonishing that they can keep this completely cost-free. Thanks to all the pit stops along the way, to all the brilliant people out supporting the riders. And let us not forget to keep protecting our beautiful countryside so we can continue to cycle in these breathtaking surroundings. At the beginning of the blog I asked why someone would do the Dunwich Dynamo, I hope I have given you an answer, it’s why I did it!
I hope I have encouraged you to donate to my cause, if wish to do so you can here and it would be massively appreciated: www.justgiving.com/DynamicDunwichDynamoDuoTrees
Check out these gorgeous minimal artworks by the Netherlands based designer Vincent Vermeij aka Chungkong. Away from his day job designing brilliant brand identities and advertising for his clients Vincent spends time creating his own artwork, his posters are really eye catching Chungkong strips the subjects down to their bare bones and brings them to life in vibrant and playful designs, covering a variety of subjects from cult movies, books and sports. Prices vary from $17 to $85 depending on the size, format and whether you want your print framed, he also does a great range of accessories and T-shirts.
To View more of Vincent’s range click here to visit his website.
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Mark Langlands - Image ©Copyright Pure Black Racing
Conversation with Mark Langlands of Pure Black Racing
National pride is a powerful motivator and now, as ‘Le Tour de France’ takes center stage, there are many-fans and athletes alike, who wonder what the future of cycling will look like. But there are also those who continue to believe in the beauty of cycling and the tremendous potential it can provide corporations and nations alike.
Enter Carl Williams and his new Pure Black Racing Team. With a personal background at the highest levels of professional sailing and embracing the legendary New Zealand competitive spirit of a country hungry to branch out and challenge the world, Williams is invoking the aura of the hugely popular ‘All Blacks’ rugby team to create a new road racing presence in cycling.
New Zealand is certainly not new to cycling with standout riders the likes of Greg Henderson, Julian Dean and Hayden Roulston who year after year garnering worldwide attention in the pro peloton. Up until recently though, the emphasis for most up and coming Kiwi cyclists has been on the track. Pure Black Racing is out to change that, with the support of the national cycling federation and a growing list of enthusiastic sponsors and young riders, hungry to compete with the best.
The team has created a lot of early season buzz with the successes of Roman Van Uden and Mike Nothey at San Dimas, and Tim Gudsell taking the overall at Sommerville. With the additional experience of NRC pro Glen Chadwick providing a strong backbone for the team, the young New Zealand Pure Black riders, racing abroad in the US many for the first time, have plenty of motivation from their mates and their management.
I was on hand at the recent Air Force Crystal Classic, where the young Pure Black Racing Team was putting up impressive performances in a very competitive field. We caught up with rider Mark Langlands and got a look inside this exciting new team, its reliance on culture and the hopes for the future…
How did you get started in cycling?
Mark Langlands: I started doing BMX when I was 5 years old, continued with that until I was 13. There was really no opportunities to represent NZ until I was 18, so started Road Cycling when I was 12, and stopped doing BMX a year later.
Do you remember your first bike and any adventures that made you love to jump on your bike and ride?
Mark: I can’t remember my first BMX bike, but I do remember building some jumps on the driveway and throwing myself over them. Living on a farm, my Dad built us a track in one of the paddocks and we’d spend hours just riding up and down, normally coming back inside when some skin was missing or something was broken. My first road bike was an Apollo, I’d just get on and ride, go exploring and finding new roads and places.
What led to you getting your first pro contract?
Mark: I was approached by fellow Pure Black rider Mike Northey at Tour of Wellington in 2010 and asked if I wanted to join the Bici Vida Team that he was a part of at the time. Carl Williams, who was the director, got in contact with me and it sort of snowballed from there. I rode the 2010 season in New Zealand for Bici Vida, which just before Tour of Southland in November became Pure Black Racing and gained a UCI Continental Licence.
Do you think the concept of “team” on and off the course helps keep the team together. Would it be the same professional group without it?
Mark: Of course. When Carl put the team together he wanted to bring a group of guys together that got along well with each other. I think if the team was made up of riders who believed that they were constantly better than the others, then we would not have the same atmosphere within the team.
How often during the season do you race? When does your season begin & end? Do you race here [USA] and then back in NZ or is Boulder your home away from home for now?
Mark: Its kind of hard to determine when the season begins and ends for us. With our National Champs in January, its pretty important to be going well for that. So prior to that we’ve got a block of domestic racing from October through to the end of January, which incorporates the Tours of Southland and Wellington. Then with Pure Black, we race here in the United States from March until August, doing the NRC races and a few UCI tours, which is the most important part of the year for us. So our year is split between living in Boulder, and back home in NZ.
Cycling is a team sport with riders dependent on a tight knit group for support, but there seems to be something special about teams from New Zealand and Australia. Do you feel this is the case? What do you think accounts for it?
Mark: I guess being from a bottom end of the world and geographically isolated from the main cycling nations, when we do come away as a team overseas we are willing to sacrifice ourselves for each other to show that we are genuine contenders against those nations. And the satisfaction of proving that we can achieve results as a small cycling nation, makes the determination to get those results all the more greater. Even off the bike, especially here in Boulder, the Kiwis and the Aussies get on well together. I mean NZ is pretty much part of Australia according to most people over here so we should get along.
Do you have certain races right now where you are designated to score a victory or be the lead rider? Or is your job right now to ride mainly in support of others? Does that role change during a race (stage or one-day) or is it generally planned out ahead of time?
Mark: Not at this stage. At the moment, I’m content with being a support rider for the leaders of the team. If the opportunity arises to get a result however, then I won’t turn it down. I guess it can change slightly depending on whether people have good or bad days during a stage race or one-day race, and how the race unfolds on the road. We’re always able to adjust to what happens to ensure the best result possible for the team.
How would you define the term cycling “domestique” and what do you think that cyclist’s role is?
Mark: Someone who is unselfish enough to sacrifice their result to ensure the team as a whole gets a result.
Tell me a little about the mental side of riding in support of someone in a race. How do you “suffer” for someone else?
Mark: For me, first of all, I believe its a matter of respect for the person you are riding for. If you don’t have respect for that person, then you can’t suffer and hurt yourself to support them. I think once you have respect, then the mental part comes easily. If you start to doubt the other riders ability then it makes it that much harder to ride for them, so you have to back yourself to do your job but being able to push yourself that much further as a support rider is having confidence in your team mates ability as well.
Do you have a mentor on the team or are most of you guys about the same age and time in cycling?
Mark: Most of the guys are around the same age within the team, but one person who I do admire as a rider is Tim Gudsell. We both belong to the same club back in New Zealand, and he’s helped me from when I was a young rider through to being a member of Pure Black, so I have the upmost respect for him as a rider and a person. And now riding together with him in the same team, makes it pretty incredible to be riding with a person you have so much respect for.
You’ve had some serious injuries in cycling and have come back to be a great cyclist. Do you think the time away in recovery changed you in any way?
Mark: I think more than anything, the time I had in recovery made me realise how much I loved the sport of Cycling. I was just more determined to make it back, prove to myself I could make it back, and I think that mentally strengthened me to push myself harder to achieve my goals, not only as a cyclist, but also in life as well.
At the Air Force Crystal Cup race, some of you guys had a fun day out and about on rental City Bikes and saw the sights of Washington DC. On Pure Black is there a good feeling of comaraderie between all the members of the team? Tell me a bit about the team dynamic on and off the race.
Mark: Definitely! We are all friends on and off the bike, which makes it easier to gel together when we are racing. Back here in Boulder, we’re always having a BBQ at team mates houses, which is good to have a bit of relaxing time away from the bike. When we’re away from the bike, we’re all relaxed, when its race time, we’re all there in support of one another. There’s no ego’s in the team which also produces a real good dynamic between the riders and staff, whether we’re at a race or back here in Boulder.
Team Pure Black Racing - Image ©Copyright Pure Black Racing
You’ve written some great race pieces for the Team website. Is that something you enjoy doing in the off time–writing? Do you have any off the bike hobbies?
Mark: Ha ha! I do quite enjoy writing, I’m pretty useless at having an artistic side so if I can paint a picture using words then that’s my art coming through. I was actually doing Journalism at University last year but I wasn’t able to bring through my own personal flair, I felt a bit too restricted, so now I just write for my own pleasure and let people enjoy the flair I try to get into my writing.
I also find that cooking is pretty therapeutic for me, I enjoy getting my creative streak on in the kitchen, trying new things and creating something from nothing.
I’ve also got a passion for wine, hopefully once I get back to New Zealand I’ll plant myself a couple of rows of vines out the back of my house, a combination of Malbec and Pinot Gris vines to create my own wine. I want to own my own vineyard at some point in the future.
I think its good to have interests outside of cycling, it gets one out of the monotony of just riding your bike each day.
Who is your favorite top Pro-Tour cyclist? Did you have any favorite riders as a kid, or did you have heros from other sports (or from life or history)?
Mark: I don’t so much have a favourite Pro Tour cyclist, though I do admire Edvald Boasson-Hagen. It’s kind of hard to have a favourite when you don’t know the person personally. I can only do what my own personal abilities and determination allow me to do.
Outside of road cycling, I admire my brother [Paul Langlands] as a freestyle BMX rider. To be honest, I used to think it was all a big joke, it wasn’t really a sport. But after watching the skill involved, and the risk he puts himself through, it is pretty impressive. My coach, Brendon Cameron is another person who I look up to as a person and mentor. He has been helping me since I was a skinny little baggy-shorted rider coming into the bike shop when I first started, and both him and his partner Sarah, have been there for me throughout my career.
Thanks to Avanti, Shimano, Pure Black Racing, Kenda and Peak Fuel.