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Thursday, 15 September 2011

Cycling in Stockholm

Acres of spectacular glacially-polished rocks... and some quite remarkable bike-handling too.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Antón does the business!


He might not have had the best Vuelta overall, as a poor first week left him out of GC contention, but Igor Antón had the perfect day in the Vuelta a España today. On the day of the Vuelta's first entry into Basque territory for 33 years, Antón got in the break of 4 along with Euskaltel team-mate Gorka Verdugo, gradually dropped his three companions on the final lap from Bilbao, soloed over the top of the Alto el Vivero, and stayed out front on the descent back into Bilbao to clinch a fine solo victory. As he pointed out, this means Euskaltel have now won stages in all three Grand Tours this year, which I suspect few other teams have managed.

In the rapidly-dwindling main peloton, Chris Froome put in yet another savage attack towards the top of El Vivero. Sadly there are no points for style; Juan Jose Cobo looked pretty ragged, but he was the only rider to stick on Froome's wheel, and the Sky rider was obliged to sit up on the descent and roll in alongside Cobo and the rest of the main group. But Froome was happy with his effort, and promises he isn't done just yet... (and more excitingly, anticipates a bright future... once he's found a team for next year).

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Fantastic Froome!

Unbelievable racing between the top two in the Vuelta on an unbelievable Cantabrian climb. Chris Froome wins the stage, but Joan Jose Cobo retains the GC lead. (More to follow, including gap-filling...)

Look how steep the last kilometre is, and how long the duel takes!

Monday, 29 August 2011

Brit(ish) Vuelta success

An excellent couple of days for riders with a British connection in the Vuelta a España. In Sunday's Stage 9, Belgian-born Brit Bradley Wiggins proved the strongest GC contender on the long, steep and breezy ascent to La Covatilla, ably assisted by Kenyan-born Brit Chris Froome, as Birmingham-born Irishman Dan Martin followed up his earlier attack (which led to a brief moment of Irish/Roche-family domination as Martin and his cousin Nicolas Roche took off up the road) to break free for the win.

For Brits, though, this was merely a prelude to the Stage 10 time trial in Salamanca. Though Chris Froome failed to read the script (or Brad failed to drink enough), as the "Kenyan" domestique beat his team leader (and a certain Swiss time trial master, and in fact everyone bar Tony Martin) on the day to also snatch the leader's red jersey. By far the biggest day of his career, and great to see his obvious delight. How's he going to get on with tomorrow's rest day race leader's activities?



(Not such a great Vuelta for Euskaltel so far... including a predictably poor time trial)

Levi takes "Tour of Colorado"

Levi Leipheimer proved he's the king of the American one-week stage race, George Hincapie took a fantastic victory in Aspen after a daredevil descent (as Tejay van Garderen failed to show Levi his due deference), Andy Schleck showed his face in a long break, huge crowds turned out, the elevations were unbelievable, the Colombians were a little disappointing, the live pictures cut out rather too often... but the undoubted highlight of the inaugural "Tour of Colorado" was the scenery.. Long may it continue!




Monday, 22 August 2011

Racing in the Rockies

It might be called the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, but it's route lies within Colorado, and it's a clear successor to the short-lived, but hugely popular, Coors Classic (of movie fame). An amazing field has been assembled for the week-long race, which, in the absence of summit finishes (apart from an uphill time trial) will be defined by altitude, and spectacular scenery. Hopefully future editions will see finishes at 12,000ft+, rather than descents off these heights to the finish, but it should be great racing against a gorgeous backdrop all the same.

Look out for this jersey... Sergio Henao at the Tour of Utah

Most exciting to me will be how the "regular" European/North American peloton copes with the two Colombian teams in the race. Sergio Henao (who will join Team Sky next year) and his Gobernacion de Antioquia team-mates gave Levi Leipheimer a torrid time at the recent Tour of Utah, and this time there's a second team of Colombians, EPM-UNE. The Tour de France may be long, and at times steep, but it's certainly not as high as either Colorado or the terrain the Colombians are used to, as many of the Tour pros have recognised. Besides being better acclimated, they also don't necessarily follow conventional tactics... Should be fun!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Tricky TTT

The opening team time trial at the Vuelta a España proved rather trickier than anticipated, with a treacherously steep descent off the start ramp, then a serious climb to open the stage. While he claimed to be surprised, for the rest of us it was no surprise that the Leopard Trek team featuring Fabian Cancellara had a distinct advantage, with his long pulls on the front recognised by his receiving the Combativity prize. However, it was Jakob Fuglsang who rolled across the line first to be only the second Dane to lead the Vuelta. Euskaltel responded rather well, placing middle of the pack, and middle of the teams with GC contenders, in 12th place. A bit of a shocker for Team Sky, though; the pre-race favourites had a range of crashes and mis-communications to finish 20th, 42 seconds off the pace.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Vuelta time!

After a shorter than usual gap following the Tour de France, the Vuelta a España returns, with what looks like an even lumpier parcours than usual! Lots of prognostications about who the main contenders are, and each team's goals. Igor Antón was in the lead when he crashed out last year; hopefully his masterful victory on the Monte Zoncolan in the Giro is more indicative of his form than his subsequent slide down the Giro GC. Vincenzo Nibali is a popular choice to retain his title, Denis Menchov and Carlos Sastre are definitely unknown quantities after showing little all season amongst the modest selection of races Geox were actually invited to, and Joaquin Rodriguez still time-trials terribly. And how have Bradley Wiggins and Jurgen van den Broeck recovered after crashing out of the Tour? Irishman-from-Birmingham Dan Martin is an intriguing prospect; how will he fare after the disappointment of non-selection for the Tour? Another good performance in the Tour of Poland seems to suggest good form. And will the Vuelta live up to its usual ability to throw up some GC surprises?

Of course, a team time trial is about the worst possible start for Antón and the Euskaltel team; hopefully the short duration will mean only modest time gaps. Benidorm is also one of the least attractive spots to open the race, in my opinion; maybe Wiggo found a comforting pie-and-chips for lunch.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

New Basque star upstages Samu


Euskaltel-Euskadi dominated a challenging final stage of the Vuelta a Burgos this afternoon. The aim was for Samuel Sánchez to overcome his 21 second deficit to Joaquím Rodríguez to clinch the GC. However, after his team-mates had set a brutal pace for most of the stage, Samu sadly didn't have the legs when it mattered on the final ascent to Lagunas de Neila (Areniscas de los Pinares). Step forward a new Basque climber, Mikel Landa. Despite sitting on the front of the elite group for most of the final climb, he still had the legs to drop all of his companions as Samu faltered. As Juan Jose Cobo and Rodríguez finally clawed back their deficit in the closing kilometre, Landa again had the energy to kick for the line for a solo victory, the first of his professional career in his first year in the pro peloton! A definite improvement after some unfortunate injuries earlier in the year...

Landa also had the temerity to just knick the mountains jersey off Samu's shoulders; the latter had been gathering up the points all day, but didn't quite get enough at the finish. A double celebration of Landa's maiden win!

The team's dominance of the final stage was such that they also took home the team classification, with a resounding victory margin.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Samu likes Burgos!

Samuel Sánchez followed up last year's overall victory in the Vuelta a Burgos with victory in the opening stage of this year's event. Euskaltel-Euskadi are fielding an extraordinary line-up at the event, also featuring Giro stars Igor Antón and Mikel Nieve as they warm up for the Vuelta a España later this month, so hopefully more success is in store!