Just as one year ago, I’ve teamed up with InsideThePeloton to preview a selection of World Championship contenders. And – just as one year ago – I’ve made Italy my first pick. Stick to tradition, right?
The perfect storm! Chris Froome completes historic Tour/Vuelta double – the first of its kind – on the same day that multiple Grand Tour winner Alberto Contador – the last of his kind – bows out in home race following fairytale stage win. Forget BBC Sports Personality of the Year, Chris Froome wasn’t even the highest trending pro cyclist on Twitter. Well, not at first anyway. By the time he sprinted to 11th to deny four-time stage winner Matteo Trentin the green jersey Contador was almost a distant memory.
Move over Vincenzo Nibali there’s a new threat to Chris Froome. Miguel Angel ‘Superman’ Lopez is also challenging ‘The Shark’ to the most popular nickname in pro cycling. His performances this past week have certainly showcased his superstar potential and you’ll see plenty of superman references floating around Twitter. The origin of his nickname is a little less fun. Swarmed by knife-wielding thieves on a training ride in Colombia, Lopez fended offer any threat and, presumably, saved his much-loved bike. It’s no wonder he’s so cool in the face of the Vuelta’s most daunting summit finishes.
Nine stages completed – all pretty entertaining – and we’re faced with the possibility of another three week period of Chris Froome in a Grand Tour leader’s jersey. At the 2013 Vuelta the jersey exchanged shoulders eight times with five swaps the following year and eight in Fabio Aru’s 2015 success. Not one of those races featured a rampaging Chris Froome and an ultra-organised Team Sky. Froome’s been hungry for Vuelta success as far back as 2011 but he’s never been able to arrive with legs this fresh. This year – putting Tour dominance at risk – Froome looks to have almost targeted the Vuelta. His rivals have been no match for him over a very taxing opening week.
If the Grand Tours were a series of films, the Vuelta Espana would be the third instalment with plenty of action, plenty of plot twists and plenty of your favourite characters. There wouldn’t be time for a long build or slowly unravelling story and we might even see a major shock in the opening scene. It would only be mediocre commercial success but the critical reception would likely be brilliant. The Vuelta calls up leading GC riders with varying form, fitness and motivation for an end of summer showdown packed full with summit finishes. Get your popcorn, it starts this Saturday.
This post is a little late. I had intended to post about the frustrations surrounding this year’s La Course immediately after the second ‘part’ had concluded. It’s also late in another sense. This is the first time I’ve posted about women’s cycling – not counting short race predictions – since I started writing back in 2014. An embarrassing admittance when you consider I have watched and tweeted about many excellent one day events over the last few years.
The Clásica Sab Sebastian takes place tomorrow. The Basque race is a spikey affair that doesn’t really fit in with any other race on the cycling calendar. It takes place in Gipuzkoa at the very top of Spain and can be quite beautiful if the weather holds. It’s a quirky but popular one day race – a young Lance Armstrong’s favourite post-Tour jaunt – and this year will host a farewell to Haimar Zubeldia.
It’s finely balanced between an Ardennes revival and a chance for the serious climbers to have some fun following the Tour de France. There’s so many big names to consider but here’s a few that have caught my eye.
The Tour of Poland is one of the oldest races on the calendar but has changed a fair amount over the years and attracted a crop of major stars since 2005. You might recall the 2011 race which saw Marcel Kittel rise to prominence and a 21-year old Peter Sagan confirm his star potential.
In recent years the organizers have endeavoured to include more climbing than ever – though perhaps not as much as their lively profiles suggest – and the inclusion of a time trial has further skewed the race towards genuine GC riders.
The time trial has been taken away for 2017 but a selection of sharp hilly finishes has attracted a number of leading riders. Here are my quick picks for the overall GC.