Farewell to Joost Posthuma

Recently retired Joost Posthuma (image courtesy of Joost Posthuma)

Another rider calling it a day is Dutch cyclist Joost Posthuma who announced his retirement after failing to find a place on a team for next year. Joost, a renowned time-trialist with wins in the Tour of Luxembourg, Sachsen Tour, Driedaagse De Panne, Ruta del Sol and a stage in Paris-Nice among others on his palmares, has spent the last two years as part of the Leopard-Trek/RadioShack-Nissan set-up. He recently reported on his own website:

I have been unable to find a team for next year and I am not sure what I will be doing. I took my decision a few weeks ago. I am stopping and it’s time to move on to new challenges. My decision has nothing to do with the Armstrong [doping] affair. It is a total coincidence.

An experienced domestique, Joost was part of the 2011 Leopard-Trek squad which put both Andy and Frank Schleck on the Tour de France podium behind Cadel Evans. However, it appears his important role was of little value in a system where UCI points are one of the most critical factors in any team’s bid for a WorldTour licence. Joost believed he was unable to find a place on another World Tour team due to his lack of UCI points. His best result this season was an eighth place finish in Bayern-Rundfahrt.

Joost hanging up his bike, but probably not for the last time (image courtesy of Joost Posthuma)

His plight has gathered support from none other than the leader of the UCI World Tour, Joaquim Rodriguez, who has said:

Posthuma didn’t get a team because he didn’t have any points, it’s a total disgrace. They should triple or quadruple the points value and increase the number of riders that get points up to the guy who finishes thirtieth. Or if somebody wins, then his teammates should automatically get some points as well.

Well said Joaquim, but given that it’s only the points from teams’ top 12 riders which count, I suspect that team management are using this as a convenient excuse not to hire or re-hire someone.

So what next for Joost? Well, as a youngster, Joost set his heart on becoming a policeman and athletics was his main sport. However, inspired by his uncle, a keen amateur cyclist, he too took to two wheels: initially a mountain bike and finally a road one. He joined his local club, the Oldenzaalse cycling club, and tasted success straight away, attracting the interest of a bigger team from Twente, before finally joining the Rabobank feeder squad. In his first year with them he gained a few podiums and decided to forsake his studies to give it a go as a professional cyclist.

He continued to add to his palmares and in his final year as an under-23 rider had done enough to make the move up to the Pro Tour team and rode the Vuelta in his first year and the Tour thereafter. Although at Rabobank he rode largely in support of the team’s leaders he garnered victories every year mostly in smaller stage races. Thanks to a collision with a car while out training, Joost missed the controversial 2007 Tour de France where teammate Michael Rasmussen was ejected from the race while wearing the maillot jaune.

A fine exponent of the art of time-trialling Joost Posthuma (image courtesy of Joost Posthuma)

His move to Leopard-Trek in 2011 began well with a number of top ten placings and a key role in their Tour de France team – his fifth participation. But this year, as for a lot of RadioShack-Nissan riders, has been nowhere near as successful for Joost. A farewell race was  held last week in his honour and, as he ponders his future at home with his wife and two young sons, VeloVoices wishes him every success and happiness in whatever he decides to do next.

Happy birthday Luis Leon Sanchez

LuisLe dedicates his Tour win to his late brother (image courtesy of Rabobank)

Feliz 29 cumpleaños! LuisLe, as he’s called by friends and team mates, is the second in a family of four boys who started cycling – aged 14 – with his eldest brother when his father took it up to aid rehabilitation from a work-related injury. A talented footballer and good swimmer, LuisLe continued with all three sports well into his late teens before choosing to concentrate on a career in cycling. His two younger brothers persisted with football. Antonio Leon plays indoor football professionally while Pedro Leon [Sanchez] plays right-wing for Getafe FC, on loan from Real Madrid following a falling out with Jose Mourinho.

All the boys took the second name Leon in memory of firstly their grandfather and secondly their oldest brother Leon who was killed in a motor-cycle accident in late 2006. Both LuisLe and Pedro point to the sky to dedicate respectively their victories and goals to their elder brother.

Here they are both being interviewed on Spanish television:

A young LuisLe in Liberty Seguros colours ( image courtest of Luis Leon Sanchez)

Voted the best neo-professional in 2004 with stage victories in the Tour of Asturias and Clasica Alcobendas, he attracted notice with victory, a stage win and the best young rider’s jersey in the Tour Down Under in 2005 riding for Liberty Seguros. After a largely forgettable 2006, he moved to Caisse d’Epargne (now Movistar) in 2007 to be united with fellow Murcians, training partners and dimple chins Alejandro Valverde and Jose Joaquin Rojas.

LuisLe’s results started to flow again with early season victories in the Vuelta a Mallorca and third overall in Paris-Nice, after winning stage six. He won a further stage in Paris-Nice in 2008, the Spanish national time trial championship and a stage in his maiden Tour de France from a counter-attack after having been in a breakaway that was caught by the peloton.

In 2009 he won the Tour Mediterraneen and Paris-Nice, winning stage seven in a dominant fashion after race leader Alberto Contador (Astana) had spectacularly bonked. He also won stages in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, Tour du Haut Var and stage eight of the Tour de France on his way to finishing 26th overall.

In Rabobank colours (image courtesy of Rabobank)

The 2010 season was probably his most successful to date and established his reputation as an aggressive rider, unafraid to attack relentlessly. He was runner-up in the Tour Down Under and Volta ao Algarve, having won stages in both. He was also runner-up in Paris-Nice. He won the overall and a stage at the Circuit de la Sarthe and another national time trial championship before finishing tenth overall in the Tour de France, a feat he was later to repeat in the Vuelta a Espana. In between he added the prestigious Clasica de San Sebastian to his palmares.

Those stellar results saw him sign for the team formerly known as Rabobank in 2011. It took him time to settle into the new team but he once more won the national time trial championships and another stage in the Tour de France. In 2012, he bounced back in style winning stage six of Paris-Nice – after a long-breakaway with Jens Voigt (RadioShack-Nissan) – two stages in the Tour de Romandie, his fourth national time trial championship and stage 14 of the Tour de France after another solo attack from a breakaway, having spent the first week nursing an injured wrist.

Afterwards, he explained his Grand Tour strategy:

I tend to study the road book carefully and look for stages that fit my characteristics. Every year is different, sometimes there are more, sometimes less. The idea is get into the right breakaway, with the right riders, on the correct day. It’s not so easy.

I don’t have the legs to climb with the best in the high mountains. I know since [Miguel] Indurain, the Spanish only think about the overall, but I am not built for that. I focus on winning stages and I hope I can keep adding to my tally.

Disappointment was to follow in the Olympics: his chain broke as he exited the start ramp in the time trial and hesitation saw him lose ground on the run in to the Mall in the road race. He went on to time trial to his second Clasica san Sebastian title just weeks later with another trademark solo attack from a breakaway.

That victory cemented a further three-year contract at the team formerly known as Rabobank. He closed out the long season with the Canadian GPs and the World Championships in Valkenburg, where he confirmed it had been a long tiring season:

I’m a bit tired at the end of the year and I don’t have the same force that I do when I’m going well. But, it’s okay, I feel like it’s more of a psychological tiredness than anything, and it’s been a long year!

Friday Feature: We’ll always have Paris

It may be dark, cold and rainy outside these days but remember the end of July? The sun was shining, the boys were on their bikes and the maillot jaune was riding the cobbles in Paris. Both Sheree and I were there at the end of the 2012 Tour – it was Sheree’s first Paris finale, while it was the fifth time I’ve made the pilgrimage. We decided to stroll down memory lane and look forward to the spectacular finish in 2013!

There’s no greater sporting arena than the Champs-Elysees at the end of July (image courtesy of letour.com)

Sheree: I watched my first stage of the Tour de France in 2004 but it wasn’t until 2006 that I saw my first live Tour stage in the Alps. Thereafter, each year I’ve seen live stages in the Alps, Pyrenees or at the Tour start in Monaco but I’d never been to the finish in Paris. When the route for 2012 was announced, I decided this was the year I’d go to watch the finish and soak up the atmosphere in Paris.

Kitty: My first Paris finale was 2007 – as I’d seen the circus come to town in London three weeks earlier, I thought I’d top and tail it by going to see the finish in gay Paree. I’ve been going ever since, on the barricades from early in the morning until the last cyclist takes those final pictures with fans during the lap of honour. There’s nothing as fabulous as the peloton coming onto the Champs for the first lap.

Sheree: A girlfriend who was working for Eurosport suggested I accompany her for the last week of the Tour. In the end it was just the last four days of the Tour but it meant I got to see everything from a very privileged perspective.

Kitty: Sheree has much better connections than me – I was in the crowd, but I did get to meet Melissa German and hear about her encounters of the Jens kind. And certainly when you are on the barricades, you always find someone to talk to – I struck up quite a nice conversation with some Danish fans during the lap of honour.

It’s hard to believe how fast the guys are going until you see pictures like this (image courtesy of letour.com)

Sheree: I was more excited to watch the finish than I’d anticipated. After all, it’s not as if anything’s going to change. The winner’s been decided and I was assuming – and everyone else – that Mark Cavendish (Sky) would win on the Champs Elysees cobbles. Maybe it was because I was aware it would be a truly historic moment with the first ever British winner.

It would be a surprise if Cav didn’t win on the Champs! (image courtesy of letour.com_

I had a seat in one of the tribunes full of WAGs lining the finishing straight but, to be honest, the view wasn’t great. So I headed to a spot in the shade on the barrier just past the finish line to watch the peloton whizz past the requisite number of times. I rode along here a couple of years ago in London-Paris and was surprised at how emotional I felt heading towards the l’Arc de Triomphe. I wonder whether the professional peloton feels the same.

The soon-to-be-retired George Hincapie (BMC) was allowed to lead out the peloton to commemorate his record setting 17th participation. Cavendish won at a canter with none other than the maillot jaune Bradley Wiggins as part of his leadout train. I had to explain to everyone around me what Wiggins meant when he said that he was going to draw the winning raffle ticket. If only he’d said “tombola” everyone could have enjoyed the joke as no sportive in France is complete without one.

Kitty: Unfortunately, I hadn’t been feeling well so didn’t stay for the race itself – no, I wasn’t sick because of my feelings for the winner – I wanted to make sure that I was well enough to come back for lap of honour. That’s by far the best bit of Paris! The guys look so relaxed and thrilled to have completed the Tour and they always go over to the pockets of fans along the route for pictures and autographs. And I had to see Andre Greipel get his team picture taken in flip flops and surfer shorts, after losing a bet with Adam Hansen. 

Sheree: I agree that the best bit about Paris is the post-race parade where the riders lap up the applause, take in the atmosphere while holding one of their various offspring [I’m sure that’s contrary to health & safety regulations – Ed] or, in the case of Wiggins and Cavendish, ride with them on specially made small yellow Pinarello bikes. Eurosport’s David Harmon told me that when the presentation was made to Bradley’s son he was thrilled while Cavendish’s partner’s son was heard to mutter it wasn’t as good as his Specialized! Out of the mouths of babes.

Post-race lap of honour is enjoyed by the riders and spectators alike (image courtesy of AFP)

Kitty: I’m really looking forward to next year’s Paris finale! Not only will it be at night!! With fireworks!!! But I get to watch it in the company of my beloved Panache!!!! It’ll be an amazing end to what looks like an amazing parcours. Fingers crossed Cancellara will be there, although he’s hinting he might skip to Tour this year – he was sorely missed in Paris!

Sheree: After the Champs, it was party time as most of the teams conclude the Tour with a rip roaring celebration. But not this year – the celebrations were somewhat muted. Sky departed that evening for a week’s seclusion prior to the Olympics and they weren’t the only ones. This does of course mean that I’ll have to return again next year for the whole full on experience!