Giro d’Italia, Stage 4: Tribute Stage

The writer’s over at US Pro Cycling News (myself included) will be doing daily recaps of both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour of California.

Peter Alvelais recaps the stage rode in tribute to to  fallen comrade, Wouter Weylandt.

Photo: AFP

Giro d’Italia, Stage 3: Somber day

The writer’s over at US Pro Cycling News (myself included) will be doing daily recaps of both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour of California.

Fitzalan Gorman’s recap of Stage 2, which saw the death of Leopard-Trek rider Wouter Weylandt, gracefully balances the sad news with the stage results.

Top 5 Stage results

  1. Angel Vicioso SPA (Androni Giocattoli)
  2. David Millar GBR (Garmin-Cervelo)
  3. Pablo Lastras SPA (Movistar)
  4. Daniel Moreno SPA (Katusha)
  5. Christophe Le Mevel SPA (Garmin-Cervelo)
Top 5 GC
  1. David Millar
  2. Angel Vicioso at 7sec
  3. Kanstantsin Sivtsov BLR (HTC-Highroad) at 9sec
  4. Marco Pinotti ITA (HTC-Highroad) at 9sec
  5. Craig Lewis USA (HTC-Highroad) at 9sec

Giro d’Italia Stage 2: Petacchi takes the win by a tire spoke

Petacchi wins, Cav poutsThis is a reprint of an article I wrote for US Pro Cycling News. I am sharing recap writing duties with the other writers of both the Giro and the Tour of California.

Today’s Giro stage was the longest of the race, at 244km. Sebestian Lang (Omega Pharma Lotto) escaped after 6km and thus started a solo breakaway which lasted almost the entire race. Lang probably expected someone to go with in the break, but it didn’t happen, and he was on his own. Even though he had 20 minutes at one point, it was a doomed escape, as the peloton would work hard to bring him back and ensure a bunch sprint.

Everyone worked for their sprinter today, even Marco Pinotti (HTC-Highroad), the pink jersey wearer, was working for his sprinter, Mark Cavendish. As a flat stage it was a relatively calm one, but at about 35km to go, the field started jockeying for position and working to bring Lang back. Lang was rewarded for his time out front along by taking the Mountain Classification jersey.

The second Lang was swallowed up, with 24km left, Leonardo Giordiani (Farnese Vini-Neri Sottoli) launched a counter attack, followed quickly by Jan Bakelants (Omega Pharma-Lotto) and Michal Golas (Vaconsoleil-DCM). Soon, a group of eight had amassed at the front: Ivan Rovny (Radioshack), Ruggero Marzoli (Astana), Eduard Vorganov (Katusha), Jérôme Pineau (QuickStep), and Daniele Righi (Lampre-ISD). However threatening this group was, it was not to be, as it was caught within the last 10km.

With 1.5km left, Garmin-Cévelo, Lampre, and HTC were all leading the peloton, working to get their sprinters (Tyler Farrar, Alessandro Petacchi, and Mark Cavendish, respectively). Coming into the final 100m, Farrar’s Garmin-Cérvelo had the perfect position, but Farrar was nowhere to be seen. Instead, Petacchi and Cavendish duked it out, with Petacchi edging out Cavendish by a few scant millimeters. Cavendish was clearly unhappy with how Petacchi ran his sprint, as his prolific hand gestures indicated. Afterwards, Cavendish charged Petacchi with with changing his line 3 times, causing Cavendish to have to slow down to avoid running into him. However, despite Cavendish’s displeasure, Petacchi gets the stage win.

In the end, Cav may have lost the stage win, but he gets the pink jersey, as his finish ahead of Pinotti put him in the lead.

I hate to say it, but Garmin-Cérvelo were the real losers of the day- despite having a mess of riders up front in the closing meters of the stage today, they were unable to get Farrar to the line.

Tomorrow will be a tricky day for sprinters team. A Cat 3 climb 40km from the finish could allow a well timed breakaway to succeed. However, the sprinters teams will be watching attacks very closely, as they will want the stage to end in a bunch sprint- especially Cavendish and HTC, as he was denied today. Check out the profiles here.

Top 5 stage results

  1. Alessandro Petacchi ITA (Lampre-ISD)
  2. Mark Cavendish GBR (HTC-Highroad)
  3. Manuel Belletti ITA (Colnago)
  4. Roberto Ferrari ITA (Androni Giocattoli)
  5. Borut Bozic SLO (Vancansoleil-DCM)
Top 5 GC
  1. Cavendish
  2. Kanstantsin Sivtsov BLR (HTC-Highroad) at 12sec
  3. Craig Lewis USA (HTC-Highroad) at 12sec
  4. Marco Pinotti ITA (HTC-Highroad) at 12sec
  5. Lars Bak DEN (HTC-Highroad) at 12sec

Giro d’Italia, Stage 1

The writer’s over at US Pro Cycling News (myself included) will be doing daily recaps of both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour of California.

Check out Peter Alvelais’ recap of Stage 1, where HTC-Highroad took the Team Time Trial and Marco Pinotti put on the pink leader’s jersey.

Top 5 Stage results

  1. HTC-Highroad
  2. RadioShack at 10sec
  3. Liquigas-Cannondale at 22sec
  4. Omega Pharma-Lotto s.t.
  5. Garmin-Cervelo at 24sec
Top 5 GC
  1. Marco Pinotti ITA (HTC-Highroad)
  2. Lars Bak DEN (HTC-Highroad)
  3. Kanstantsin Sivtsov BLR (HTC-Highroad)
  4. Mark Cavendish GBR (HTC-Highroad)
  5. Craig Lewis USA (HTC-Highroad)
Photo: Graham Watson/VeloNews.com

Liège-Bastogne-Liège: Gilbert is King!

What’s there to say? Philippe Gilbert was the king of this year’s late season Ardenne Classics. With great form, good tactics, a supportive team, and, of course, a little bit of luck, Gilbert was able to take 4 wins in a row. Having won Brabantse Pijl, Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallone and now Liège-Bastogne-Liège, Gilbert has done what no other racer has done and won all four in a single season.

Calm start, calm finish

Compared the previous Classics of the season, LBL was relatively calm. There was no bunch sprint, no last minute attacks, no successful breakaways. But even the calmer races still make for an exciting time. A ten man breakaway got away within the first 12km – Sébastien Delfosse (Landbouwkrediet), Jesus Herrada Lopez (Movistar), David Le Lay ( AG2R), Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana), Eduard Vorganov (Katusha), Thomas De Gendt (Vancansoleil), Tony Gallopin (Cofidis), Mickaël Delage (Française des Jeux), Yannick Talabadon (Saur-Sojasun), Mathias Frank (BMC). The break was never allowed much leeway, unlike Flèche Wallonne, where the break had 17 minutes at one point. OmegaPharma-Lotto and Leopard Trek worked to keep the break close, which never got more than four minutes.

On the Côte de la Haute-Levée, a counter move by nine riders, including Enrico Gasparotto (Astana),  Jérôme Pineau (Quick Step), Damiano Caruso (Liquigas-Cannondale), Laurens Ten Dam, Juan Manuel Garate (both Rabobank), Blel Kadri (AG2R), Kanstantsin Siutsou (HTC-Highroad), and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) went up the road and with 63km to go, they caught up with the original break. In spite of the large group up the road, the group was allowed a gap of 1:43.

Not until la Redoute climb was the gap reduced through Leopard Trek’s hard work. By the top of the climb, only seven riders remained in the break and they had only 45 seconds. Gasparotto, Pineau, Van Avermaet, Garate, Ten Dam, Kadri and Siutsou were alone in the front now, and were allowed to grow the gap while OmegaPharma-Lotto and Leopard Trek argued a bit over who should lead the chase.

The decisive move

With 21km to go, on the Côte de la Roche aux Faucons, Gasparotto and Van Avermaet took off from the lead group just as the Schleck brothers took off from the peloton, with Gilbert in tow. The Schlecks and Gilbert quickly reached the leaders, who had been joined by Pineau. Gasparotto and Pineau were not able to hang on, but Van Avermaet stuck with the three favorites as they came by.

With this move, the fate of the race was written. The peloton was only able to get within 24 seconds of the leading four and although Gilbert attacked on St Nicolas climb, dropping Van Avermaet and Andy Schleck, A. Schleck made it back to the two in front with 5 km to go. As they came up the false flat to the finish line, Gilbert put on a final burst of speed the brothers could not match and crossed the finish line to take his 4th victory in 12 days.

Alone in the picture, Gilbert solos to another win

Gilbert winning fleche wallonneThis is a reprint of an article I wrote for US Pro Cycling News.

Philippe Gilbert has done it again. For his third race in seven days, he’s crushed the competition to take a solo win, crossing the finish line alone in the picture. I imagine this race win was even more special for him, as a Wallonian winning in front of a home crowd, in a race traversing his home region. He is the first Walloon since 1989 to win this race.

Despite a flurry of breakaway attempts through the closing kilometers, no one was able to escape the group for long and it ended a bunch sprint up the Mur de Huy, with Gilbert leaving everyone in the dust.

The race started off slow, with four riders- Maciej Paterski (Liquigas-Cannondale), Maxime Vantomme (Katusha), Matti Helminen (Landbouwkrediet) and Preben Van Hecke (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator)- breaking away right away and, with the peloton in no hurry to chase, were allowed a 17 minute lead at one point. Their lead only started to drop after 70km, as they started up the Mur de Huy for the first time. This was when Leopard Trek and Saxo Bank-Sungard took control of the peloton to bring the gap down, working for their respective leaders, the Schleck brothers and Alberto Contador.

At 90km in, Dan Martin (Garmin-Cervelo) and Nicholas Roche (AG2R La Mondiale) crashed, forcing them to abandon the race.

An attack lead by two BMC racers, Martin Kohler and Jeff Louder, who were joined by Simon Geschke (Skil-Shimano) and Sébastien Delfosse (Landbouwkrediet) was shut down as they crested the Côte de Haut-Bois climb.

By the time there were just 54km to go, the peloton had started to chase in earnest, shaving minutes off the break’s lead. The peloton was starting to string out, with riders coming out of the back. By the second climb of the Mur, the leader’s gap was just 2:30. When the peloton crested the Mur, Enrico Gasparotto (Astana) made his move, taking Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad) with him. Thomas Löfkvist (Team Sky), Alexander Kolobnev (Katusha), Gorka Verdugo (Euskaltel-Euskadi), Vasil Kiryienka (Movistar), and Michal Golas (Vacansoleil-DCM) joined them, and caught the leaders up front with 20km to go. However, once they did make contact, they were only 20 seconds ahead, with OmegaPharma-Lotto riding hard on the front.

Soon after the lead group was caught by the chase group, Löfkvist and Kiryienka attacked from the front group and were the only ones off the front when the rest of the lead group was caught by the peloton a few kilometers later. But, despite their most valiant efforts, they were taken back with less than 8km to go.

Once the group was together again, attacks started anew. Jérôme Pineau (Quick Step) and Marco Marcato (Vacansoleil-DCM) struck out and were able to get a gap of 18 seconds with 5km to go. Even though Leopard Trek, OmegaPharma-Loto and Rabobank working hard behind them, the two still managed to keep a 20 seconds with 3km to go. The peloton worked hard to bring them back, but Pineau’s teammates at the front of the peloton kept them from working faster. The duo still had 13 seconds at the red flag, but the final climb up the Mur was starting and the favorites were amassing behind them. The peloton swept them up…

…And Gilbert Attacks

With 400m to go, Gilbert made his move. Despite the best efforts of all the favorites behind him, no one was able to match the Belgian, and he opened a huge gap, rolling up to the finish line by himself, taking in the cheers of his hometown crowd. These past two weeks he’s shown incredible form and one can only speculate what this means for this Sunday’s race.

Cobbled Classics Come to a Close

Paris-Roubaix Van SummerenThis is a reprint of an article I wrote for US Pro Cycling News.

Its happened again; the 2011 season brought us another amazing race. This year’s edition of Paris-Roubaix saw Garmin-Cervélo take a win it dearly needed, as this newly formed team had yet to take any big wins. However, the win came from an unexpected rider- instead of a big name rider, it was Johan Van Summeren, a 30 year old super domestique with only 4 wins to his name, who took a solo win in the Roubaix velodrome. Crashes, bickering, and a well timed attack allowed Van Summeren to get away with 15km to go.

A break wasn’t able to establish itself until after 100km. The initial group of eight included David Boucher (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Martin Elmiger (AG2R), Jimmy Engoulvent (Saur-Sojasun), Maarten Tjalingii (Rabobank), Mitchell Docker (Skil-Shimano), Nelson Oliveira (Radioshack), David Veilleux (Europcar), and Timon Seubert (Netapp) were eventually joined by Andre Greipel (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Koen de Kort (Skil-Shimano), and Gorazd Stangelj (Astana). After Oliverira dropped back to the peloton, the group of 10 were only allowed 2:40 with 100km to go.

The Arenberg Trench

As the Arenberg forest section of cobbles approached, the peloton increased the speed as it jostled for a good position going into the Trench. This caused the gap to go down and crashes to happen. Henrich Haussler and Roger Hammond, both of Garmin-Cervelo, were the main casualties, with Haussler abandoning and Hammond going to the hospital.

It was in the Arenberg forest where Tom Boonen’s troubles started. Of all the favorites, Tom Boonen surely had the worst time at Paris-Roubaix. First he had a mechanical that left him stranded in the Arenberg without a team car in sight. After he chased back to the group, he was caught in crash which reduced his chances of a good finish to zero. He eventually quit the race, despite urgings from his team DS. Tom Boonen wasn’t the only Quick Step member who had a rough time. His teammate Sylvian Chavenal earned the respect of many when, after a crash and a flat, he not only got back to the group, but finished the race.

As the peloton left the Trench, a chase group of seven followed the leaders. This group included Lars Boom (Rabobank), Johan Van Summeren (Garmin-Cervelo), Jurgen Roelandts (Omega Pharma-Loto), Baden Cooke (Saxo Bank-Sungard), Lars Bak (HTC-Highroad), Matthew Haymen (Sky), Manuel Quinziato (BMC) and Frederic Guesdon (FDJ). This group was able to bridge over the 10 leaders, bringing the lead group up to 17. But the lead group wasn’t done growing. Soon after the Arenberg cobbles, an attack by John Degenkolb (HTC-Highroad), Gregory Rast (Radioshack), Tom Leezer (Rabobank) and Gabriel Rasch (Garmin-Cervelo) allowed them to bridge to the lead group as well.

By this point, there were 21 leaders in the front, the favorites (Fabian Cancellara, Alessandro Ballan, Thor Hushovd, and Juan Antonia Flecha) were at the front of the peloton, and 10 cobbled sections to go.

Right before the cobbles at Mons-en-Pévèle, 50km from the finish, all hell broke loose.

The Action Heats Up

It was at this time when Cancellara attacked, hoping for a repeat performance of last year’s race where he time trialed alone into the velodrome. This was not to be, as Hushovd, Flecha, and Ballan were all able to mark his wheel. Despite another attack two cobbled sections later, Cancellara was only able to drop Flecha- Hushovd and Ballan held tight. At the same time, a flurry of attacks were happening in the lead group, causing riders to drop, reducing it to 16 riders. In the chase group behind, there was no cooperation to be had, as both Hushovd and Ballan had teammates in the lead group and Cancellara was not interested in a repeat of the Tour of Flanders, were he towed Chavenal to the line. This squabbling in the chase group allowed the lead group to gain another minute.

Up in the lead group, Bak attacked at the Camphin-en-Pévèle cobbles. Only Rast, Tjallingii and Van Summeren were able to go with him.

With 15km to go, Cancellara decided to try his luck again with another attack. Hushovd was not to be denied and stuck on his wheel again. The two made it up to what was left of the lead group, with Cancellara still not able to shake Hushovd.

While Cancellara was attacking, so was Van Summeren, from the lead group of 4. The only one who was able to follow was Tjallingii, but not for long. Soon, Van Summeren was on his own, riding his heart out to make it to the velodrome first.

A Final Attack

Back in the chasing group, Cancellara was not interested in giving up and attacked one last time. This time he was able to go at alone, as Hushovd was caught behind some other riders and not able to grab Cancellara’s wheel as he powered away.

Try as he might, he was only able to catch Tjallingii, Bak and Rast. Despite riding the last 5km on a flat, Van Summeren was able to solo to victory in the velodrome. Cancellara sprinted for second with Tjallingii and Rast, 19 seconds after Van Summeren crossed the line and came in just ahead of Tjallingii.

And thus, another edition of Paris-Roubaix came to a close.

A Victory Snatched: Tour of Flanders 2011

Photo: Fotoreporter SirottiThis is a reprint of an article I wrote for US Pro Cycling News.

In another spectacular race of the 2011 season, the Tour of Flanders delivered an edition which many said was the most exciting they’d watched in recent years.Despite having faced criticism for what some perceived as his lack of attacking style in the past years, Nick Nuyens (Saxo Bank-Sungard) outsprinted race favorites Fabian Cancellara and Sylvian Chavanel to take the win at Tour of Flanders.

The first break got away at 55km with Roger Hammond (Garmin-Cervelo), Jeremy Hunt (Sky), Stefan van Dijck (Veranda’s Willems), Mitchell Docker (Skil-Shimano) and Sebastien Turgot (Europcar). At 80km, they had 6 minutes which is when both Leopard Trek and Omega Pharma-Lotto worked to protect their leaders (Fabian Cancellara and Philippe Gilbert, respectively) and chase down the lead group. They drove the pace and fractured the peloton.

Kwaremont climb shapes the race

It was on the Kwaremont where the race really developed. Sylvan Chavanel (Quick Step) went off the front of the peloton, and, along with Simon Clark (Astana), made it to the lead group, which by then had reduced to three, with Hunt and van Dijck having been dropped. On the Koppenberg, Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma-Loto) was able to attack and bridge up the lead group, but by that time, Cavanel and Clark had dropped the original break and were off the front on their own. Over the next few climbs, there was attack after attack, with nothing sticking. It wasn’t until the Haaghoek climb at the 42km to go mark that an attack was able to get away. Tom Boonen (Quick Step) pulled away, marked immediately by Fabian Cancellara (Leopard Trek) and Filippo Pozzato (Katusha). As the three blew past a chasing group of five up the road, Boonen got caught behind as the road tightened and Cancellara was gone.

Cancellara’s Time Trial

Cancellara quickly caught Chavanel and Clark, but only Chavanel was able to keep the big Swiss’ wheel, where he stayed until the end. Chavanel’s presence up the road stopped Quick Step from trying to bring the break back. In addition, the presence of Chavanel’s team mate Boonen’s presence in the chasing group stopped Chavanel from helping Cancellara extend their lead. Trying to do a repeat of his win last year, where he time trialled to a solo win, Cancellara set off down the road without a glance behind him. However, Chavanel was not to be dropped and hung onto his wheel.

It was here where BMC put in a huge effort to bring the two breakaway riders back, with some help from Vacansoleil-DCM.

Time trial shut down

The gap stayed at around a minute until the two leaders hit the Muur. It was there that Cancellara’s dream of a repeat solo win was well and truly laid to rest. Gilbert, Boonen, Alessandro Ballan (BMC) and Bjorn Luekemans (Vanansoleil-DCM) made contact with the two in the lead, and with a group of seven nipping at their heels, Gilbert attacked on the Bosberg. He was only able to get a handle of seconds lead over the chasing five man group of Cancellara, Ballan, Leukemans, Chavanel, and Staf Scheirlinckx (Veranda’s Willems-Accent), and wasn’t able to stay away. This group of six was quickly joined by a second chase group which included Nuyens, Boonen, and George Hincapie (BMC). At 6km from the line, the attacks started.

Finish line attacks

First, Ballan attacked and Gilbert shut him down. Juan Antonia Flecha and Geriant Thomas (Sky) went- no luck. Sebestian Langeveld (Rabobank) went, shut down by Ballan. Then, Cancellara went, followed quickly by Chavanel and Nuyens, and the three were able to get a small gap. The three were able to stay away until the end, but when Cancellara opened up the sprint with the chasing group breathing down their neck, it was a little too far out for him to hold off Nuyens, who was able edge out Cancellara and Chavanel for the win.

Tirreno-Adricatico 2011 recap

Wondering how the Tirreno-Adricatico turned out? Check out my recap over at US Pro Cycling News!

Tour Down Under 2011 Wrap Up

Image from PezCyclingNews.com

So the first race of the UCI ProWorld series has come and gone. Let us take a moment to reflect on the race that was.

It was a race of back and forths, multiple Ochre jersey holders, and strong Australians. It was a race won and lost on the last day. It was a race of young and old, new and familiar. All a recipe for a great race!

I don’t know why everyone hates on the TDU so much- I thought it was a great race! Six stages with 5 winners from 5 different teams and 3 Ochre jersey wearers. Time bonuses played a significant part in who ended up with the Ochre jersey and I wish the Tour de France would bring back time bonuses (I believe they had them in years past)- it makes the run for the line and the intermediate sprints so much more exciting!

It was also exciting to see lower profile, young sprinters (or sprinters in the making) making their presence known- Matt Goss, Michael Matthews, Ben Swift, Cameron Meyer, etc. This supports my belief in the importance of this race. Sure, it’s early in the season so many are not on top form. Sure, most teams send their sprinters with their B teams, while the A-listers stay in training camps. And maybe it’s not the hardest, or most prestigious race in the calendar. But all of these factors allow for younger, lesser known riders to make a name for themselves and maybe pick up some UCI points. Look at Peter Sagan last year. It was the Tour Down Under that put his name on many lips.

In addition, how many races in the UCI calendar cater to sprinters? Not many! Most races are measured by their climbs, the steeper and more numerous the better- one only needs to look at this years Giro and Tour routes to see this! So I see this as one race tailor made for sprinters and a chance for them to shine.

One last point- how awesome where the Australians in this race?! They killed it- stage wins, jerseys, attacks, breakaways- they were part of it all. And many of them quite young! And in the end, Australians ended up wearing 4 of the jerseys. Maybe this is normal for the TDU, but it was cool to see anyway.

All in all, it was an exciting race and I can’t wait for more of it!

To the Race

Two race features which played heavily into this race were the points and time bonuses awarded at various points of each stage. At the intermediate sprints and at the finish, points and time bonuses are awarded to the first 3 riders to cross the line. The points can help break a time tie and help determine who is awarded the sprinters and KOM jerseys. At the finish, 10 seconds are awarded for 1st, 6 seconds for 2nd, and 4 seconds for 3rd. In the intermediate sprints, 3 seconds go to the 1st person over the line, 2 seconds for 2nd, 1 second for 3rd. While that may not seem like a lot, it can make difference when the difference between 1st and 2nd is 8 seconds!

Stage 1
This race was characterized by lots of attacks and breakaway attempts, which started right from the gun. Those in the breakaway were in a position to contest the time bonuses and points afforded by the intermediate sprints and the KOM. Luke Roberts (Austalia) of the Australian national team UniSA-Australia joins the first breakaway to claim the first KOM points and hangs onto the lead until the end. At the finish line, Matthew Goss (Australia) of HTC-Highroad out-sprints defending champ Andre Greipel (Germany), of Omega Pharma-Lotto, to the line to take the first Ochre leaders jersey of the race.

Race Leaders:

  1. Matt Goss (Australia) HTC-Highroad
  2. Andre Greipel (Germany) Omega Pharma-Lotto
  3. Robbie McEwen (Australia) RadioShack

Video recap, text recap, full list of results

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