Apparently there’s some race happening in Italy this month. But you didn’t need me to tell you that, did you? In addition to the Giro, though, there’s lots of other stuff happening: races, birthdays and of course on the blog itself. Here’s a sneak preview of what to look out for over the next 31 days.
Sitting astride the month of May like a colossus is, of course, the first of this year’s grand tours: the Giro d’Italia, which starts on Saturday 4th and concludes on Sunday 26th. Defending champion Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) will be seeking to hold off his Tour de France equivalent Bradley Wiggins, the in-form Vincenzo Nibali, Samuel Sanchez, Cadel Evans and a host of other star names over 21 stages covering a gnat’s whisker over 3,400km, starting in Naples and finishing (unusually) in Brescia rather than Milan.
For those not riding in the Giro, the calendar for May is packed with races. Eurosport viewers will be aware of the Tour of Azerbaijan (1st-5th) from its saturation advertising, but actually this is a relatively small race (category 2.2). Much more prestigious and with a list of previous winners which includes Thomas Voeckler, Sylvain Chavanel, Pierrick Fedrigo and Rui Costa is the Four Days of Dunkirk which, rather confusingly, is run nowadays over five days (also 1st-5th), with Sojasun’s Jimmy Engoulvent the defending champion.
Curiously, arguably the two most significant other European races this month also take place concurrently. Running from the 22nd to the 26th, Germany (more specifically Bavaria) plays host to the Bayern Rundfahrt, while we also have the Tour of Belgium which, counter-intuitively for those not well-versed in the sport, is far less important than races named after its regions such as the Tour of Flanders and Fleche Wallonne. (It’s a weird and wonderful world, cycling!)
Finally, we will see most of the top American riders at what is effectively their ‘national’ race, the Tour of California (12th-19th). Rabobank’s Robert Gesink won the overall last year to become only the second non-US winner in the race’s seven-year history, but it was Peter Sagan who stole the headlines as he won five of the eight stages, a key stepping stone en route to winning the green jersey in France in July.
There are birthdays galore this month, so here are just a few of the more notable ones.
Let’s start at the top – literally. This month sees cake and candles on consecutive days for 2012’s top rider in both the men’s and women’s peloton. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) turns 34 on the 12th, while the all-conquering Marianne Vos (Rabobank-Liv Giant) will be 26 the day after. How’s that for coincidence?
Two of the top men’s sprinters also mark birthdays this month. 2011 world champion Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) turns 28 on the 21st, ten days after Marcel Kittel, who most people would agree is the most promising of the next generation of sprint talent, celebrates his 25th.
May also brings us the birthdays of several riders who have enjoyed recent success in the major one-day races of spring or autumn. For starters, we have the winners of two of 2011’s five monuments: Nick Nuyens (Garmin-Sharp) and Oliver Zaugg (Saxo-Tinkoff), winners of the Tour of Flanders and Il Lombardia respectively. Nuyens is 33 on the 5th, Zaugg 32 on the 9th. To those two we can also add Orica-GreenEDGE’s Simon Gerrans, winner of Milan-San Remo last year – he will be 33 on the 16th.
Other classic or semi-classic winners all one year older this month include: Saxo-Tinkoff’s Roman Kreuziger (Amstel Gold 2013, 27 on the 6th), BMC’s super-consistent Greg van Avermaet (Paris-Tours 2011, 28 on the 17th), Blanco’s Lars Petter Nordhaug (GP de Montreal 2012, 29 on the 14th) and OPQS’ Niki Terpstra (Dwars door Vlaanderen, 29 on the 18th).
Similarly close in age, four prominent Sky riders will be hoping for a bulk discount on their baked goods, with their birthdays falling across an eight-day period. Tour de Romandie winner Chris Froome is the old man of the group, as he turns 28 on the 20th, while Edvald Boasson Hagen will be celebrating his 26th birthday three days earlier. Ian Stannard and Geraint Thomas could even share a cake as they are separated by exactly one year in age: Stannard turns 26 and Thomas 27 on the 25th.
Finally, here is a selection of other birthdays which I couldn’t fit together under common themes. Blanco’s Robert Gesink will have earned every calorie in his cake, as he will have completed the Giro before kicking back on the final day of May for his 27th birthday. Vacansoleil-DCM’s Johnny Hoogerland will probably check his 30th birthday cake for barbed wire before tucking in on the 13th. Euskaltel-Euskadi’s Mikel Nieve is 29 on the 26th, but should probably have exactly ten candles on his cake, given his unusual record of recording a tenth-place finish in all four grand tours he has completed (two Giros, two Vueltas). And finally, one for Panache and our friends Stateside: 2011 US national champion Matt Busche (RadioShack-Leopard) is 28 on the 9th.
Happy birthday one and all!
Also on the blog
The observant among you will have noticed that we recently rolled out a fresh new look for the blog, designed to showcase our regular feature content. Every day of the week except Sunday – when we put our feet up and watch races instead – we have a regular column, most weekly, some fortnightly.
Monday is the regular date for our fortnightly podcast, although our recording schedule will be a bit more frequent and fluid during the Giro. Watch out for our Giro preview, which should hopefully land tomorrow (Thursday).
Tuesday is, of course, Kitty’s Tweets of the Week, bringing you the best comments, images and banter from the Twittersphere. Wednesday is thinking-cap day as Tim’s Talking Tactics lifts the lid on the strategic machinations which determine the outcome of key races.
AntBanter arrives on Thursdays, with this month kicking off with the VeloVoices debating our rider of the month for April. Friday Features brings the best photography, interviews and other exclusive content. (You all read Sheree’s two-part interview last week with Eurosport’s David Harmon, didn’t you? If not, click here and here to rectify that situation!) And last but by no means least, check out Sheree’s scrumptious recipes in The Musette every Saturday.
Finally, we’ve already started our Giro d’Italia coverage with our week of in-depth previews, but look out for daily stage previews and short-and-sweet race reports every morning and evening to keep you bang up to date with what’s happening in the year’s first grand tour.
Whether serious or light-hearted, VeloVoices is the place to come for all the latest cycling news and views! Pro cycling for fans, by fans.