Der Rudi

On the 28th of August in 1966 the World Championship road race was held on the circuit of Nurburgring in West Germany. For once there were no motorbikes on the circuit, but just bikes. Without engines or helmets. Riders were just wearing a cap on their head to protect them against the sun. Nowadays it is hard to imagine a rider without a helmet. But it was quite normal back then.

It was dry that day, so a lot of spectators came out to see the riders. There was a lot of wind, which played a huge part and the circuit was not flat at all. At the start there were 74 professional riders, only 22 of them would finish. It shows that it was one tough race on the circuit of Nurburgring.

Of course, Jacques Anquetil was one of the favorites. He was riding for France along with Raymond Poulidor and Jean Stablinksi. Shay Elliot, an Irish rider, was also competing. He was a strong sprinter. And Gianni Motta participated for Italy. But during the race, some odd things happened. Gianni Motta was riding for Altig, instead for his own teammates of Italy. Also, it was said that Anquetil rather saw Altig take the win than his French teammate Poulidor. The Irish rider Elliot went for his own chance, but during the race he felt that he wasn’t good enough. He decided to help his old teammate Rudi Altig. When Anquetil and Poulidor went off together, it was with the help of Elliot that Altig could make the jump to the two Frenchmen.

In the sprint Rudi Altig beat Anquetil (second) and Poulidor (third), claiming his first and only World Championship victory ever. After already some great victories on his palmares (winning the Vuelta in 1962, green jersey in the Tour de France of 1962, Tour of Flanders in 1964), this victory was one of the best of his whole career. It was extra special, because the event took place in his own country and he made all the West Germans very proud. He became one of the cycling heroes in Germany and still remained a hero after he ended his career and became a television commentator. The cycling world in Germany was in shock after he passed away this summer at the age of 79. It would be quite something if, after exactly 50 years, another German rider would cross the finish line as the first one. Preferably a sprint. Rudi Altig would have been so proud.

simpson-anquetil-altig-merckx-stevetilford
Rudi Altig wearing his rainbow jersey. Sitting on the left is Tom Simpson, World Champion in 1965 and next to Altig is Jacques Anquetil. On the right of Altig is Eddy Merckx, World Champion in the year after Altig, in 1967. (copyright: http://www.stevetilford.com)

Into The Open Desert

Column

6 October 2016

“IN DOHA 2016, THE ROAD WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS ARE DIFFERENT!”

Today I entered the official site of the World Championships in Doha, Qatar. On the site it was said that Doha 2016 will be different from all other World Championships. Doha is proud to announce that their city is the first city in the Middle East to host them. Hello Doha, good for you to have a week full of team trials, individual time trials and not to forget the road races. But why does a song from ABBA pops into my head right now?

On the fourth of October some news about Doha was published. It is extremely hot there these days. Although the UCI and the organisation in Qatar decided earlier to held the races as late as possible in the season, the heat still seems to cause some problems. Still, the UCI has a protocol for extreme heat in Doha. They will send four experts to check on the weather every day. If the heat continues and it will be above 35 Celsius on the day of the road race, this will maybe happen: “The following measures may be decided in the event of high temperatures: for the men’s elite road race, to reduce the 150km initial distance, for all other road races, to reduce the number of laps of the circuit.”

doha-yuzuru-sunada
© Yuzuru Sunada

The consequence of this measure is that the race will consist of seven laps, each of 15,2 kilometres. The total distance would be 106,2 kilometres instead of the 257,6 kilometres. It reminds me of a Sunday in Paris. A lazy Sunday in Paris. But this Sunday will be stressful, hot and sweaty. Even more so when the organisation decides to cut off 150 kilometres. Because you cannot let cyclists ride 150 kilometres in an open desert. It is too hot. My alarm bells would have gone off ages ago. In fact, before deciding to let the World Championships take place in Qatar. What’s next? Racing on the North Pole?

malkanat-the-pearl-qatar-home
The artificial island ‘The Pearl’

The team time trials, individual time trials and the last seven laps of the road races will take place on an artificial island, named ‘The Pearl’. The island is constructed, it wasn’t even there before 2004. It should be completely finished around 2018, costing about 15 billion in total. In less than a few days there will be riding hundreds of cyclists on this island. Although the organisation stated that there will be a lot of spectators, I am still holding my breath for that. My guess is that the organisation does not care, nor the UCI. The race is held in a new part of the world, the cameras are pointed at an island of 15 billion and Doha is on the map again. And again, that song from ABBA pops up in my head:

“Money, money, money. Must be funny. In the rich man’s world.”

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.

e405acea4cf20eb5d1269121a607838b

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