The Grand Tours keep coming. I can’t remember a season where the gap between the Giro and the Vuelta felt so quick. The Vuelta holds no surprises. The route is spiky and comes to a head in the final week. The field is packed with a mixture of big name GC riders seeking redemption and we’ve even got a top tier sprinter! Here are eight predictions…
The Tour de France is over for another year and we can revert to our ‘normal’ lives without dedicating a chunk of the afternoon to the world’s most famous bike race. Chris Froome silenced (most) of his doubters, Rigoberto Uran rocketed back to prominence and Romain Bardet took his second podium in as many years. However, none of the top three make my Team of the Tour. Here’s who does…
Tour Talk returns! Stage 9 of this year’s Tour de France may have had more action than the previous eight combined but the resulting situation is a nicely packed top ten, albeit with a few notable absentees. There’s still plenty of racing left but here’s what we’ve had so far.
Next weekend sees the return of cycling’s most famous race. The Tour de France is the race even your non-cycling friends will have a passing interest in. It’s the one that might make it on to the evening news or the back page of the paper. Nobody wants to hear that your favourite stage of Paris-Nice was actually more exciting because – in reality – nothing can compete with Le Tour.
Chris Froome returns to France this year seeking a place amongst the greats with a fourth win in five years. Nairo Quintana – half way through a tepid and doomed Giro/Tour double – was pencilled in as Froome’s biggest challenger but a raging Richie Porte has finally got his act together and will now start as the main danger.
Why do I still love the Ardennes? I know Paris-Roubaix is the best classic, I know Flanders is the second best and I’m quickly beginning to think Strade Bianche is the third. Nevertheless, I always look forward to the Ardennes week. Perhaps it’s due to the Sunday-Wednesday-Sunday structure we’ve seen organisers adopt in recent years. Maybe it’s because the trio of races have been won by some of my favourite riders (Dekker, Cunego, Schleck, Martin…). It’s most likely got something to do with the day I spent watching my first live Monument in the cold Liege rain. I’m smart enough to realise they haven’t been great in recent years, but not quite smart enough to adjust my expectations ahead of this year’s races. Here’s all my quick picks, rolled into one big post.
The Volta a Catalunya dates back to 1911, making it over 20 years older than the Vuelta Espana. It’s therefore no surprise the race has been part of the top tier calendar since the inaugural ‘Pro Tour’ in 2005 and has an honours list stacked with big names. Despite its rich history, Catalunya has never gone stale. Whilst the likes of Paris-Nice have maintained a balanced week of racing, the Catalunya organizers design routes full of rolling hills and sharp climbs. Here are my quick picks for this year’s race.
On February 6th Marcel Kittel was crowned the winner of the Dubai Tour, pulling things back his way on the final day when sprinting home to victory. His race had mirrored Mark Cavendish’s 2015 win, owing a lot to a show of strength on the Hatta Dam plus stage wins on the first and last days. The Dubai Tour is an hors d’oeuvre for the sprinters and the intensity was turned up at last week’s Tour of Qatar.
In September 2014 Elia Viviani took the Coppa Bernocchi in what would be Cannondale Pro Cycling’s last victory. Three weeks earlier Alessandro De Marchi had climbed to Vuelta success for the team’s final Grand Tour win and the only one of the season. The campaign had few real highs with sporadic Peter Sagan and Viviani vitories failing to live up to a successful 2013. The team had in fact been winding up since July where a strong rumour surfaced regarding the loss of their title sponsor.