“Fabio Aru can win this race” murmur the Italian’s hardcore following. “He’s climbed another place” note the believers as the former Vuelta winner creeps towards the top ten just 1:08 behind new leader Simon Yates. Unfortunately, the number of fans who still believe in the Italian is dwindling. You could even argue that nobody truly believes that Aru can have a say on this year’s Vuelta. When did things become so hopeless for Italy’s bright young climber?
It’s back! Here’s a selection of cycling snippets which absolutely won’t happen at this year’s Giro d’Italia. If any of this nonsense actually happens, it might be time to stop watching pro cycling. Enjoy some Giro fiction…
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.
The Abu Dhabi Tour swaggered into the cycling season in the autumn of 2015. It was a strange race but it felt right in the awkward mid-October slot. The race format consisted of three obvious sprint stages and a ‘Queen Stage’ featuring a dance up to Jebel Hafeet. The format has stayed exactly the same but for some reason the race has been catapulted into the new look World Tour. Nobody is particularly excited about it but suddenly we have a February stage race featuring Quintana, Contador, Aru, Nibali, Bardet, Kruijswijk and Majka, plus Kittel, Cavendish, Greipel, Ewan and Viviani. Here’s my quick picks for the race.
Last year I picked ten riders who I thought would have big seasons; a mixture of breakthrough talent and top level performers. It didn’t all go to plan but I’m back again with ten more. I’m not picking who I think will be the top ten riders at the end of the year but rather a bunch who I expect to have some fun in 2017. This year’s crop are pretty young and there’s a fair chance some won’t hit the headlines anytime soon. Nevertheless, I’ve got faith…
It’s time for the wonderfully nicknamed ‘Race of the falling leaves’. The Italian classic brings the curtain down on the World Tour and gives star riders one last opportunity to make an impression on the UCI rankings. A resolute Vincenzo Nibali used the Monument to save his season last time out but won’t return this year to defend his title.
With climbing at the forefront of both races, the Volta Catalunya and Vuelta Pais Vasco always attract a crop of Grand Tour GC contenders. This year didn’t disappoint with everybody who’s anybody – and not named Nibali – stretching their legs in Spain. Whilst the likes of Paris-Nice may always be bigger races, Spain’s duo are located closer to the Grand Tour season and packed full of spiky climbs, often laughably under-categorized by the organizers. Those heading to the Giro may find Pais-Vasco the last major stage race they choose to ride with the turnaround from April’s Tour of Romandie a little on the short side.
Most would agree this year’s Vuelta a Espana, won by Astana’s Fabio Aru, was a cracker. Some could point out previous great Spanish races- such as Juan Cobo’s defeat of a two pronged Sky attack in 2011- but this year’s race was stacked with surprises and great racing. Whichever way you choose to judge a Grand Tour- attacks, drama, leadership changes- this Vuelta would score high.