Can this season get any better? This week’s tweets has the surprise of Pais Vasco (not least the cannabis fug hanging in the air), the blistering and beautiful Paris-Roubaix and our gruppetto of tweets too good to miss. First to Spain …
Wow man, I see rainbows. They’re beeeeaaaauuuuuttttiiiiffffuuuulll.
With the spring classics campaign drawing to a close, it’s time for the VeloVoices to catch up with their respective riders to watch for 2013. I’m following the fortunes of three former HTC-Highroad sprinters: 2011 world champion Mark Cavendish, his former lead-out man Mark Renshaw and Vuelta sprint sensation John Degenkolb. Here’s a quick overview of how each has fared over the first three months of the season.
Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step)
Image: Omega Pharma-Quick Step
Won one stage at Tour de San Luis.
1st overall and won four stages at Tour of Qatar.
9th at Milan-San Remo.
Won one stage at Three Days of De Panne.
2nd at Scheldeprijs.
WorldTour ranking: 55th, 15 pts.
The 2011 world champion got off to a flying start with his new team with a victory on the opening stage of the Tour de San Luis in Argentina on January 21st – the earliest he has ever recorded his opening win of the season. A fortnight later he recorded his best-ever sequence, winning each of the last four stages of the Tour of Qatar, sweeping him to only his second overall stage race victory.
Things have stalled somewhat since then, though. Still building his understanding with his new sprint train, he walked away winless from the Volta ao Algarve, Three Days of West Flanders and Tirreno-Adriatico, including one public dressing-down of his team’s performance in the process. However, OPQS did win the opening team time trial at this final race, which allowed him to don the race leader’s blue jersey for three days.
Cav had talked down his chances of winning a second Milan-San Remo, but on a day when many others abandoned due to the freezing weather he continued without leg-warmers to finish ninth. A confidence-boosting win on the second stage of Three Days of De Panne followed, setting him up for Scheldeprijs, a race he has won three times previously but missed last year in anticipation of the birth of daughter Delilah. On her first birthday, Cavendish just missed out on victory after his sprint train dissolved in the closing kilometres and he was left with too much to do on the finishing straight. He’ll be desperate to get A-train riders such as Tony Martin and Niki Terpstra back in the fold for the Giro, but there’s clearly some work to be done.
Mark Renshaw (Blanco)
One 2nd and one 3rd place at Tour Down Under.
Won Clasica de Almeria.
59th at Milan-San Remo.
90th at Scheldeprijs.
WorldTour ranking: 75th, 6 pts.
2013 is Renshaw’s second, make-or-break season as an out-and-out sprinter, having built his reputation as Mark Cavendish’s trusted lead-out man at HTC-Highroad. The year got off to a promising start with second and third places in sprints at the Tour Down Under, but has rapidly fizzled out at the same time that his Blanco teammates – and in particular fellow sprinter Theo Bos (four wins) – have been racking up victories all over the place.
He has recorded one win, at February’s Clasica de Almeria, albeit in the absence of any other big-name rivals (second and third that day were Argos-Shimano’s Reinardt Janse Van Rensburg and Caja Rural’s Francesco Lasca). However, there have been few crumbs of comfort when he has rubbed shoulders with sprinting’s elite. He was sixth on the opening stage of Paris-Nice, a distant 59th (five minutes down) at the freezing Milan-San Remo and 90th at last week’s Scheldeprijs, where he was very much plan B behind Bos, who finished eighth. He also failed to finish both E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem.
This series of tweets from Milan-San Remo eloquently underlined the conditions facing the riders that day.
Why did we need to ride into the snow storm before jumping in the bus? That was the coldest iv ever been.
However, it’s hard to escape the feeling that time is running out for Renshaw at Blanco. With five teammates (Bos, Boom, Slagter, Leezer and Martens) already race winners this season and Bos firmly established as the main sprint threat, it’s going to take some eye-catching results from the undoubtedly talented Aussie to inject some life into a career which is threatening to stall.
John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano)
One 6th place at Tour of Qatar.
One 14th place at Tirreno-Adriatico.
18th at Milan-San Remo.
65th at E3 Harelbeke.
65th at Gent-Wevelgem.
9th at Ronde van Vlaanderen.
28th at Paris-Roubaix.
WorldTour ranking: 63rd, 10 pts.
It has been a low-key start to the season for the German powerhouse who hit top form in the final third of 2012, winning five stages at the Vuelta and finishing an impressive fourth in the road race at the Worlds. Considered a dark horse by many for the spring classics, things didn’t quite go his way in the end.
Degenkolb opened his campaign at the Tour of Qatar where he clearly lacked race sharpness, recording a solitary sixth place on the penultimate stage. He was even less visible at Tirreno-Adriatico, where he failed to register a top-ten and picked up a thigh injury which hampered his preparation for Milan-San Remo, where he was fifth last year. Consequently 18th place was a creditable finish in such awful conditions so soon after a muscular injury.
He then proceeded to enter E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem – coincidentally finishing a distant 65th in both – as preparation for his second target of the spring classics campaign, the Ronde van Vlaanderen. Although not considered a big contender for the podium, he has previously finished third in the under-23 version of the race, and a strong performance saw him roll in ninth overall among an elite selection of just 19 riders who finished ten seconds behind third-placed Jurgen Roelandts. He also harboured hopes of a good finish at Paris-Roubaix but was unable to get in the right moves at the right time and ended up several groups back in 28th, 3½ minutes down. Overall, it was a slightly disappointing finish to a slightly disappointing classics campaign.