Pizza Time

Column

12 September 2016

Every year after the end of the Vuelta there is this feeling of sadness. Not because the Vuelta was boring. Not at all. The many attacks in the mountains, the strong comebacks of Froome and Chaves and the exciting sprints made this Vuelta one of the best grand Tours of the year. No, the feeling of sadness sets in, because there will be no grand Tour anymore this year. Also, the end of the Vuelta means that the season is almost over. Only a few more weeks to go. But most of the riders are looking forward to the end of the season. Some of them were even riding their final ride yesterday. For instance, Chris Froome is not coming in action anymore this season. So now I understand why he was already eating a pizza with Esteban Chaves from Orica-BikeExchange. It is because he can.

vuelta-pizza-time

The final grand Tour is over. That means that also the final big ceremony is done. The organisation of the Vuelta a España sure did everything to make it a perfect one. They even made the riders ride one extra lap in the last stage, so that the ceremony would be in the dark. Now that is insane. Not that the thousands of Colombians along the roads minded. They were happy to see their heroes pass by one extra round. Two Colombians on the podium, they can be very proud.

vuelta-podium-watson
© Graham Watson

Well, who would have thought? The BMC Racing team beats the Movistar Team and goes home with the award for best team of the Vuelta. What an achievement. If I were them, I would go party and have a couple of drinks. Or a pizza. Or both. Ask Christopher Froome for more details, he knows where to get one!

vuelta-bmc-team

Dear UCI (2)

25 August 2016

Dear UCI,

Woops! There it was, a metal pole. Unsecured. No straw block or a man with a whistle nearby. And so it went wrong. Steven Kruijswijk and Jan Bakelants crashed into this metal pole. Of course, we can blame the organisation of the Vuelta for this. It is their fault. And I know that you will blame them too. Just to get this ‘problem’ of your plate again. At least the Vuelta apologized to the rider and the team. Not that it helped much. The damage is already done. Steven Kruijswijk is out of the Vuelta. Luckily, Jan Bakelants is okay after his crash. Even luckier that only these two riders have crashed into this pole.

Last year in the Basque Tour some riders also crashed into a metal pole. One of them was Peter Stetina and he said yesterday that it was upsetting that this happened again. He thought that his crash last year initiated change. Because you stated that you would investigate the incident. Also, the riders’ association (CPA Cycling) tried to convince you to adopt new standards for races. Those new standards included more explicit regulations for the final kilometres and multiple inspections of the course before the riders arrive. CPA Cycling made a statement on Twitter again yesterday: “We ask for New Rules in the final 3 km of race courses, We ask @UCI_cycling to put in place our Security Plan asap!”

Investigate is one thing, but sometimes it is not enough. How much more ‘accidents’ need to happen before you will get up, get out of your office and actually do something? It is ‘only’ a collarbone fracture this time. All the riders don’t even want to think about what else could have happened. Some of them are angry with you, and I cannot blame them: “Hey @UCI_cycling how about you stop banning oversocks and do something??”, is what Geraint Thomas said on Twitter yesterday.

Dear UCI, it is time for some changes. The investigations are over, it is time to act. Do you realize that the riders are out there on the roads, risking their life every race, every day? But they take that risk. They know it is a part of their job. It is your job to do anything that is in your power to lower the risks of accidents to the most minimal level that is possible. Do not wait any longer, make it happen. Do it for ‘your’ riders.

SDC12203

The Vuelta is here!

Column
18 August 2016

Doesn’t it seem like yesterday that Christopher Froome won the Tour de France? In reality, it is already four weeks ago. Don’t we all agree that it was a boring Tour – again. The first week was still exciting, but after that bizarre descent from Froome and all the running on that mountain, it was all done and dusted. Froome showed for the third time that he was the strongest rider of the field. Almost all the other classification riders could not or did not attack. Scared of their own position. The ‘all or nothing’ attitude seems to be missing in the last editions of the Tour de France. Boohoo!

Well, it is time to sit up straight again, because the Vuelta a España is about to start. The Olympics were also very entertaining, but cycling fans want to watch cycling again after a while. And this race is the most relaxed grand Tour of the three grand Tours. Slow days are allowed, there are spectacular sprints, mountains are covered in clouds, there are sheep and many cows everywhere. And there are attacks! Over and over again. It is the most romantic race of all and… Blow out the candles and get rid of the romantic stuff now. It is time for the facts. Because who do we need to follow in these three weeks in Spain? Do not miss out on these ten guys right here:

1. Tejay van Garderen. He messed up the Tour de France again. So he wants revenge. Winning the Vuelta might be hard, but he wants to go for a top-five or stage win.

2. Nairo Quintana. With a place in the top-five last year (fourth) and the disappointment of this year’s Tour de France, Quintana’s goal is to make it to the podium. Maybe he is thinking of winning his first Vuelta, but then he has to be in a better shape than a few weeks ago.

3. Louis Meintjes. He was there, in the Tour de France. A top-ten classification. But he is not going to the Vuelta for a top-ten, he is here to claim some stage victories. Better watch him in the mountains.

4. Esteban Chaves. Watch this little fellow. With two stage wins last year he is back to claim more than that. Podium? Why not? Claim his first win of a grand Tour? It is possible, especially after his second place in the Giro this year.

5. Steven Kruijswijk. He was so close in this year’s Giro d’Italia. But he took too much risk in one of the descents. And gone was the pink jersey. He has learned his lesson. And now he is back. Pink is his favorite colour, but red might suit him just as well.

6. Christopher Froome. The winner of the Tour de France starts in the Vuelta. And he is there with only one goal and that is the red jersey. After two second places, in 2011 and 2014, Froome thinks it is about time to show the world that he is not only a ‘Tour de France guy’.

7. Alberto Contador. What a shame that he did not finish the Tour de France due to two crashes. But he is pain-free, he races again and he is ready for the Vuelta. We can expect some early attacks from him in the mountains.

8. Philippe Gilbert. He is always strong in the Vuelta, so I bet he will go for a stage win this year. There aren’t many sprinters in this edition of the Vuelta, so that means that the chances to win a sprint stage increase for Gilbert.

9. Simon Gerrans. We all remember his crash in the Tour de France. That was a nasty one. But he has recovered and the Vuelta starts with a team time trial. His team is good in that kind of stuff. He wore pink and yellow already, so why not red for a change?

10. Omar Fraile. Does this name ring a bell? He is the winner of the mountain classification of last year. I don’t know if he is able to do it again this year, with so many good climbers participating, but you never know what he is capable of, so keep a close eye on him too.

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Copacabana

Column

4 August 2016

rio-2016-banner

The Olympic Games will be hosted in Brasil this year. Most events will take place in and around Rio de Janeiro. After years of preparation Brasil is ready to host the Olympic Games for the first time. Actually, it is the first time that the Summer Games take place on the continent of South America.

There will be 206 nations in Brasil competing in 28 different sports. Road cycling is one of those sports. The Games will begin tomorrow with an official opening ceremony. On Saturday the road race for men is on the programme. On Sunday the women will compete in the road race. Next week, on the 10th of August, the individual time trials will be held. All the races are in and around the Flamengo Park. It is the largest recreation area known in Rio de Janeiro and it is open for all public. Many sports events have been held in this park.

The road races consist of laps of 30 km and each lap consists of three uphill sections. The biggest climb is after about 7 kilometres near the Corcovado with an elevation of 400 m, another one is after about 15 km with an elevation of 200 metres and the last one is after 18 kilometers with an elevation of about 75 metres. After the hilly sections the lap will go alongside the beautiful Copacabana beach back to the finish line. The time trials consist of laps of 20 km. The course is flat with two elevations of 3 metres and has two U-turns. The profile and map of the road races are available here.

There are voices claiming that the road race is one of the hardest one-day races in cycling today. It is a mix of everything. There are sectors of cobbles, but also some serious uphill sectors. It is Paris-Roubaix and Liège-Bastogne-Liège combined in one race. Except there is no French old mine in the background or the nice smell of some Belgian waffles. Instead the riders have an incredible view all over the Copacabana coastline.

flamengo park Flamengo Park with in the background the Copacobana coastline

Tour Life (4)


The Tour de France is done and dusted. Chris Froome is the winner of the Tour de France. That is just one story. There were 197 other stories in the Tour de France. We can’t hear them all, but through social media we see a little bit of the life of the riders in the Tour de France. So here is one more update.

4 Swimming pool

John Degenkolb and Roy Curvers from Team Giant-Alpecin had plenty of time on the day of the second time trial.  They had an early start and spent the rest of the afternoon in the swimming pool. That is one way to recover.

4 Bryan Coquard last mountain

Bryan Coquard and Adrien Petit (DEN) were happy, because there was only one mountain stage to go. And after that there was the last day to Paris. But, lucky for them, there are no mountains in Paris.

4 Davide Cimolai three weeks doing this

Davide Cimolai from Lampre-Merida putting his numbers on his shirt for the last mountain stage. One of the rituals in the team bus every morning.

4 Michael Schar Damiano Caruso warm up

There are two different ways to do a warming up before a mountain stage. You can either climb on your bike like Michael Schär did, or you can just sit down and relax. That is exactly what Damiano Caruso did and I don’t blame him.

4 Ramunas Navardauskas barber

Yes, you can get your hair done in the Tour de France. There is a real barbershop where the riders can go before every stage. Ramunas Navardauskas (CPT) thought that it was a great idea to go there. Because you have to look good in the mountains.

Nelson Oliviera Movistar barbershop stage 6

See, no joke! Even Nelson Oliveira from Movistar went there. And doesn’t he look nice? With all the beards and long hair in the peloton these days, it was not a bad idea to open up a barbershop for the riders.

4 chris froome little guy

Still, there is no place like home. After three weeks of cycling around France most of the riders want to go home to their families and friends (vacation is number three on the list). This little fellow can’t wait to see his dad again. His dad? That guy on the podium wearing the yellow jersey. Indeed, Chris Froome.

4 Armindo Fonseca

Finally, a real teamselfie! These guys started the Tour de France with nine riders and they end it with nine riders. That is quite impressive. Team Fortuneo – Vital Concept goes home with no victory, but they sure had a good time.

The Tour In Ten Songs


The Tour the France of 2016 in ten songs? It is a challenge, but these ten songs are in some kind of way related to the Tour of this year.

Remember the first stage? Three weeks before today, the race was on. Or in other words: “the boys were back in town”. [By: Thin Lizzy]

Cycling - The Tour de France cycling race - Stage 1 from Mont Saint-Michel to Utah Beach Sainte-Marie-du-Mont

Let the sprinting begin. “Hey ho, let’s go!”, Mark Cavendish must have thought. He took four sprint stages in this year’s Tour de France. [By: The Ramones]

07-07-2016 Tour De France; Tappa 06 Arpajon Sur Cere - Montauban; 2016, Dimension Data; 2016, Fortuneo - Vital Concept; 2016, Etixx - Quick Step; Cavendish, Mark; Mc Lay, Daniel; Kittel, Marcel; Montauban;

And then we went off to the mountains. Finally, some mountains! Really, we could not wait? It almost drove us crazy… [By: Britney Spears]

Pyrenees TDWsport

The first attack in the mountains came from Froome. Because he felt good. And if you are feeling good, well, you just have to attack. So good… [By: James Brown]

Froomey

Rain? There was quite some rain in this Tour de France. Are you kidding me? There was more rain than ever. Some riders did not seem to be bothered though. Riders like Tom Dumoulin, for example. Let the rain just fall down. [By: Kane]

10-07-2016 Tour De France; Tappa 09 Vielha - Andorra Arcalis; 2016, Giant-alpecin; Dumoulin, Tom;

And suddenly there was a crash. Froome without a bike! Running to the finish. There’s only one song that fits that scene. [By: Kate Bush]

Cycling - Tour de France cycling race - Stage 12 from Montpellier to Chalet-Reynard

There are no words for what happened in Nice. There was a minute of silence for all people involved. A minute of complete silence. [By: Simon & Garfunkel]

Tour de France together

And the boy became a man! Three stage wins and the green jersey for Tarzan, I mean, Peter Sagan. What a legend. [By: Phil Collins]

18-07-2016 Tour De France; Tappa 16 Moirans En Montagne - Bern; 2016, Tinkoff; Sagan, Peter; Bern;

The French people thought it would never happen, but it did! Romain Bardet won a stage and becomes second in this year’s Tour de France. Here comes the sun after all. [By: The Beatles]

bardet wins le tour

This man is the winner though. It is all yellow for Chris Froome. Again. For three years in a row now. [By: Coldplay]

Tour de France 2016 - 22/07/2016 - Etape 19 - Albertville / Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc (146 km) - FROOME Christopher (TEAM SKY) - Maillot Jaune

Copyright photos: steephill.tv / Sirotti / Reuters /
ASO / Flockton / Tim De Waele