European national road race championship round-up

New French champion Nacer Bouhanni (image courtesy of

“Today is the happiest day of my life!” beamed Nacer Bouhanni on winning his first national championship, with new Belgian champ Tom Boonen describing the win as “something special”. For cycling geeks worldwide this single weekend of racing is almost as exciting and intriguing as the rather better publicised three-weeker which it precedes.

Not only does the race determine national champions and give riders a nice addition to their palmares, but also the right to wear their national colours for the year. The likes of Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain have all won their respective championships and have had the honour to be the sole rider in the peloton flying their national flag.

The excitement is heightened by the fact that the races are purely one-day affairs, and therefore every rider in the peloton can dream of donning their nation’s colours, particularly in sprint finishes and unpredictable weather conditions. While riders tend to participate in their usual teams, it often boils down to ‘every man for himself’ nearer the finish.

Below is a quick round-up of the most noteworthy of this weekend’s national champions.

France – Nacer Bouhanni

21-year old Nacer Bouhanni‘s remarkable start to the season has excited French cycling fans greatly, reinforcing his potential by taking the tricolore. But one Frenchman who may not be so delighted is his FDJ-BigMat teammate Arnaud Demare, who he narrowly pipped to the line in an exciting sprint finish after 256.2km in miserable conditions.

Bouhanni gave an infectiously enthusiastic interview after the race, where he described it as “the happiest day of my life!” He didn’t however express great sympathy for his teammate who so narrowly missed out:

We like each other, but in a finish like this, things are clear. The strongest wins.

Belgium – Tom Boonen

Like Bouhanni, Tom Boonen continued the best start to a season of his career (albeit a rather longer career) with another win, as he rode away to take his second national title. Boonen – who has won the two great Classics Ronde Van Vlaanderen and Paris-Roubaix this season – sprinted out of a five-man breakaway to take the victory, with AG2R’s Kristof Goddaert narrowly behind.

Boonen, who targeted this championship along with the Olympic road race, said he was “overjoyed”:

This was a real goal, I am overjoyed. The Belgian champion’s jersey is still a highly respected one in the peloton. Each life has its ups and downs. Now, I have my share of bad luck behind me. This year, it’s going good. I have to try and harvest the fruit of my hard work and aim at the last targets of this year.

Netherlands – Niki Terpstra

Omega Pharma-Quick Step’s Niki Terpstra took his second Dutch title, this time in emphatic fashion after going solo with 40km remaining. He finished over two minutes ahead of Rabobank’s Lars Boom, in another of the many races run in grim conditions.

Terpstra said that he “surprised” himself with his performance:

I’m happy about my performance. I have to say that I surprised myself. We were in a little group and I tried to accelerate to split the group and make it smaller but I remained alone. At that point I took the risk and I did a time trial. I like these kinds of races with bad weather conditions. It’s my second title, and the first win was great, but this one, with a solo ride, is even better!

Italy – Franco Pellizotti

Franco Pellizotti got his return from a two-year ban off to an excellent start, as he claimed the Italian title in Borgo Valsugana. The Androni Giocattoli rider attacked as the final 13km loop began, and won by a mammoth 27 seconds. Danilo Di Luca (Acqua & Sapone) and Moreno Moser (Liquigas-Cannondale) finished second and third respectively.

Pellizotti emphasised the significance of the national championships after the race, describing it as his “number one goal” adding:

At 400 metres to go, I knew I’d won and was able to enjoy it. I wish that it could have never ended. I must thank Androni for the great trust they have shown in me. After they confirmed my appointment I was able to train in the best possible way for this race.

Great Britain – Ian Stannard

As we have come to expect, Sky dominated the British national championships, with Ian Stannard and Alex Dowsett taking a one-two. Former winners Bradley Wiggins and Geraint Thomas chose to concentrate on Tour de France/Olympics preparation along with Mark Cavendish, missing the event in North Yorkshire.

Stannard rode to the finish alone, attacking out of a breakaway which included teammate Dowsett. After the win, he reflected on the honour of wearing the red, white and blue:

It’s really nice to keep [the jersey] in the team. There’s been so many great riders wear it over the years. It will be really cool to ride the Classics and just race in it. That will be really special.

Luxembourg – Laurent Didier

There was a shock at the Luxembourg national championships as Frank Schleck – seemingly constantly donning his national colours – was beaten by RadioShack-Nissan teammate Laurent Didier in rainy conditions.

Schleck attacked out of a break of nine first, but AG2R’s Ben Gastauer stayed locked onto his wheel. Didier and Schleck then proceeded to trade attacks in a bid to break Gastauer, with Didier eventually wriggling free. Gastauer came across in second place, with Schleck third.

Didier spoke about his first victory as a professional:

I’m incredibly happy with this result. It’s my first pro victory and pro title, so I’m really happy. It’s an honour to wear the colours of your country.

Germany – Fabian Wegmann

Garmin-Sharp’s Fabian Wegmann won his third German national title and his first race in two years in a sprint finish, with RadioShack’s Linus Gerdemann and Leopard-Trek CT’s Julian Kern second and third respectively. A relieved Wegmann described his feelings:

I didn’t win a race last year, so this is huge. I have already seen that I am on track, but as an individual competitor, of course it’s difficult. I played a game of poker and then put everything on the sprint.  I knew, because I was the fastest.

In brief

Below is a simple list of most – but not all – of the current national champions:

Australia: Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEDGE)

Belgium: Tom Boonen (Omega Pharma-Quick Step)

Canada: Ryan Roth (SpiderTech-C10)

Croatia: Vladimir Miholjevic (Acqua & Sapone)

Czech Republic: Milan Kadlec (ASC Dukla Prague)

Denmark: Sebastian Lander (Glud & Marstrand)

Estonia: Tanel Kangert (Astana)

France: Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ-BigMat)

Germany: Fabian Wegmann (Garmin-Sharp)

Great Britain: Ian Stannard (Sky)

Ireland: Matthew Brammeier (Omega Pharma-Quick Step)

Italy: Franco Pellizotti (Androni Giocattoli)

Kazakhstan: Assan Bazayev (Astana)

Latvia: Aleksejs Saramotins (Cofidis)

Luxembourg: Laurent Didier (RadioShack-Nissan)

Moldova: Alexandr Pliuschin (Leopard)

Netherlands: Niki Terpstra (Omega Pharma-Quick Step)

Norway: Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky)

Poland: Michal Golas (Omega Pharma-Quick Step)

Russia: Eduard Vorganov (Katusha)

Slovakia: Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale)

South Africa: Robert Hunter (Garmin-Sharp)

Spain: Francisco Ventoso (Movistar)

Switzerland: Martin Kohler (BMC)

Ukraine: Andriy Grivko (Astana)

USA: Timothy Duggan (Liquigas-Cannondale)

Tweets of the Week: Hansen, Wiggo, Cav, Vaughters, Cance, Phinney, hurrah!

Funny, cruel, odd, personal … you get it all on Twitter. Each week, we’ll have a rundown of some of our favourite tweets. Here are the tweets for the week ending 24th June 2012.

It’s a fan’s world

Hansen’s Giro secret

This is the way to deal with the pain when you’re going over mountains. Have a beer.

Looking to the Sky

I tend not to feature Bradley Wiggins in this column, for many reasons, two of them being he rarely tweets and they’re rarely funny, but I thought, okay, I’m going to find something. This is his tweet after he lost the British national jersey this weekend (he lost it because he didn’t race) and then a little repartee between him and Robbie McEwen.

While over in the green corner, Mark Cavendish goes all bike nerd (for a shoot for Gage+DeSoto) before visiting his Grandma!

Vaughters in the pink

So, this is what happens with the final day’s maglia rosa … lovely display!

But Jonathan Vaughters was on fire last week – fan engagement is the key to a good social media strategy! JV has the touch! Speaking of touch …

Needless to say, once he broadcast this little titbit, it all got rather dicey in the Twitterstream so I’ll leave it to you to find those for yourself! So let’s move on … He wasn’t giving any secrets away about his Tour de France team plan, although Jane Hargraft did give it a good try.

But when asked to predict a certain result …

Honestly, you can’t buy that kind of eloquence!

I tried, but I can’t help myself …

I have to put in some Cancellara.

Words of wisdom from Hollywood Phinney

God, I love this boy …

And that’s the super-quick trawl through the Twitterstream this week – next week we should have a bumper crop of fabulousness because, um, hey! the Tour de France will be on!!!! And we’ll be here, live-stage tweeting every day, race results, VeloVoices rider of the stage, pictures … all kinds of excitement! And Kitty and Sheree will be in Paris for the last weekend of the Tour so if you’re going, let us know! Till next week, when we’ll all be in yellow … [Speak for yourself – Ed.]

Tour de France: Teams and sponsors (part 1)

The 99th edition of the Tour de France, the second of the year’s three Grand Tours – and arguably the world’s biggest and most popular annual sporting event – kicks off on Saturday 30th June in Liege, Belgium with 198 riders representing the 18 WorldTour teams and four wild-card Pro Continental teams set to take to the start line.

Many fans will be familiar with the main riders in the peloton, but have you ever wondered about the mysterious sponsors whose names are plastered all over every available square inch of the riders and their equipment? If so, here’s the first of a two-part overview of the 22 teams, their title sponsors and main protagonists.

All team line-ups are, of course, subject to change in the final few days before the race starts, but are accurate to the best of our knowledge at the time of writing. Part two follows tomorrow.

AG2R La Mondiale

Sponsor: A French life insurance and pension provider.

Overview:  AG2R go into the tour with a multi-pronged attack comprising Nico Roche and Jean-Christophe Peraud, both hoping for a top ten finish, Hubert Dupont  – probably the team’s most consistent rider this season – eyeing a stage win and Tour debutatant Mikael Cherel hoping to break his duck and, along with a number of other riders, to land the polka dot jersey. Whatever happens, expect them to grab plenty of airtime for their sponsor in breakaways with riders such as Maxime Bouet, Christophe Riblon and Blel Kadri, while Lloyd Mondory will be in the mix in the sprints. As in 2011, they’ll also be aiming for a podium placing in the team classification, with a squad the manager claims has 8.5 Frenchmen riding, since Roche is half-French.


Sponsor: An independent Dutch oil company and a Japanese manufacturer of bike parts and accessories.

Overview: The Tour team is going to mount a formidable opposition for the green points jersey with young Marcel Kittel who demonstrated his winning form, and the beating of overall winner Mark Cavendish – in the recent Ster ZLM Toer. He’ll be supported by a mix of experienced riders and another young German Patrick Gretsch, also making his Tour debut. The team will be led by the experienced Koen de Kort but the emphasis on winning sprint stages has prompted one of their promising  – and non-selected – French riders Alexandre Geniez to bolt for the exit.


Sponsor: A Kazakh business consortium.

Overview: After a slowish start, Astana have had a creditable and successful past couple of months with honours being shared around the team. Their leader for the Tour, the waif-like Janez Braijkovic turned in a good performance at the Dauphiné before winning his home Tour of Slovenia. This will be team leader Alexandre Vinokourov‘s last Tour and we can expect him to launch one of his trademark attacks in search of a final stage win. Both are looking to make amends after they crashed out of last year’s race. Brajkovic – then riding for RadioShack – came down on stage six, injuring his knee and head. Vinokourov fractured his femur after falling on a slippery corner on the descent of the Col du Pas de Peyrol on stage nine. They’re bringing an experienced squad, a number of whom enjoyed success in their recent national chmapionships and only one of whom is a sprinter, Borut Bozic.


Sponsor: A Swiss bicycle manufacturer.

Overview: BMC will be mounting a stout defence of Cadel Evans‘ yellow jersey, fielding an even stronger team than last year, bolstered by the signings of Tejay Van Garderen, Philippe Gilbert and Steve Cummings. The defending champion has readily admitted that leading rival Bradley Wiggins (Sky) has had the better run of form this season but remains confident of retaining his top spot on the podium. It’s long been ackowledged that the 2012 parcours with its generous mileage in time trials should suit him down to the ground. George Hincapie – another one making a final Tour appearance – will be the team leader, hoping to complete a record-breaking 16th Tour. It’s likely Gilbert will be given the opportunity to win on the early stages suited to his capabilities but with Thor Hushovd riding in Poland, the team don’t have to support the ambitions of a sprinter though, as in last year’s Tour, Gilbert may well pursue the points jersey.

Cofidis – Le Credit en ligne

Sponsor: A French credit company.

Overview: The team’s main man, the baby-faced Estonian Rein Taaramae, has had a chequered start to the season with both injury and illness putting a spoke in his Tour preparation but, having defended his national champion’s jersey in the individual time trial, he would appear to have found his form at just the right time and, if so, could legitimately aim for a place in the top ten. He’ll be ably supported in the medium and high mountains by Remy di Gregorio and David Moncoutie. After the team’s sponsor has publicly expressed dismay at the team’s paucity of results in 2012, expect the team to be active in breakaways with Luis Angel Mate, and the diminutive Samuel Domoulin in the sprint finishes, hoping to secure that all important airtime and maybe even a stage win to placate the man holding the purse-strings.


Sponsor: Paris-based hire car company.

Overview: The team are not expecting a repeat performance from Thomas Voeckler in this year’s Tour, largely on account of his recent knee injury which almost precluded him taking part. So pressure will shift to co-leader Pierre Rolland, winner of last year’s epic stage finishing atop Alpe d’Huez. These two will be ably supported like last year by Cyril Gautier, former French time-trial champion Christophe Kern, Yohann Gene and Vincent Jerome. Also selected are Japanese Yukiya Arashiro and the general manager’s neo-pro son, making his rookie appearance, Giovanni Bernaudeau. However, like the other French teams, expect to see their dark green shirts animating the race daily in breakaways.


Sponsors: A Basque telecoms provider and regional development agency.

Overview: Euskaltel-Euskadi’s leader will be Sammy Sanchez who won a stage in last year’s race at Luz Ardiden and the King of the Mountains jersey which he’ll be looking to defend. He’ll be surrounded by an experienced, strong, all Spanish-Basque team including riders such as Mikel Astarloza, Egoi Martinez and Amets Txurruka – a former Tour de France most aggressive rider. Typically we can expect to see those orange jerseys in the mix every time the road heads skywards and particularly in the Pyrenees where they’ll have their usual fanatical support.


Sponsors: The French national lottery and a chain of independent builders’ merchants.

Overview: The team have enjoyed their return to the premier division and a very successful start to the season with 11 wins, garnered largely in sprints. They’ll be looking for at least a stage win, probably from their vastly experienced Tour riders Sandy Casar and Pierrick Fedrigo, or maybe from last year’s most aggressive rider Jeremy ‘it’s not a break if I’m not in it’ Roy. Promising climber Thibaut Pinot will be making his debut but there’s no place for Arnold Jeannesson, 14th last year, who will miss the 2012 edition due to health issues. Essentially we can expect to see the team mixing it both in the sprints and the medium mountains stages. As is to be expected with all the French squads, they’ll be active in breakaways, looking to grab airtime for their sponsors.

Garmin-Sharp (formerly Garmin-Barracuda)

Sponsors: A US-based multinational manufacturer of GPS systems and a Japanese technology provider.

Overview: Heading back to the race where it shone last year with four stage victories plus a win in the team classification, the team will be led by Giro d’Italia winner Ryder Hesjedal, attempting the Giro-Tour double last achieved in 1998 by Marco Pantani. He’ll have strong support from the experienced duo of Christian Vande Velde and Tom Danielson, who will step up to the plate should he falter. Brummie Dan Martin will be making his Tour debut and he’s another one looking to secure the mountains jersey. Tyler Farrar and Robbie Hunter will be mixing it in the sprints while those time-trialling colossi, Dave Zabriskie and David Millar, will be chasing a result in the individual time trials. The team will be debuting its new jersey at the Tour.


Sponsor: A Russian business conglomerate.

Overview: Keen not to repeat last year’s disastrous experiment with an all-Russian squad, the team’s main man Denis Menchov – suspiciously quiet so far this year apart from winning his national time trial championship – will be supported by some Spanish and Italian firepower in the hope of at least gaining a stage win or two. While the team has had a successful start to the year their victories have largely been earned by two men who will be riding the Vuelta rather than the Tour, namely Joaquim Rodriguez and Daniel Moreno. Menchov generally performs well in the Grand Tours and we don’t expect this one to be an exception. Equally we should expect to see a number of their Russians heading up the road in breakaways and then, in the dying kilometres, time-trialling away from their companions only to be recaptured by the peloton before the finish line.


Sponsors: An Italian sheet steel manufacturer and a Ukrainian steel producer.

Overview: Michele Scarponi, who finished fourth in the recent Giro d’Italia, will lead the team with veteran and in-form Alessandro Petacchi – who recorded three Sagan-esque wins in the recent Bayern-Rundfahrt – hunting for stage wins in what is rumoured to be his last year riding in the professional peloton. Petacchi will have his loyal wing-man Danilo Hondo in attendance as well as Grega Bole. The team, which is aiming for stage wins, has committed to donating part of its Tour prize money – to be matched by an equal donation from the team’s owners –  to charities helping those afflicted in the recent Italian earthquakes. This will no doubt give the boys in red hot pink and blue further motivation to perform.

Tomorrow we’ll take a look at the remaining eleven teams, from Liquigas-Cannondale to Vacansoleil-DCM.

VeloVoices Tour de France previews

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Link: Tour de France official website