I may have been off being lazy in Mexico, but the racing didn’t let up through June. The Tour de Suisse, the Critérium du Dauphiné and a whole host of national champions’ jerseys changing shoulders around the world have given us a whole lot to get excited about. Then, of course, there was the start of that little race in France.
So when it came to picking our Rider of the Month, we had plenty to think about, and when we got talking about who to nominate, we had some interesting suggestions. Read on and you’ll see some surprises – make sure you’re sitting down for Kathi’s and my nominations! I’ll let Sheree kick proceedings off.
Sheree: My choice is a rider who has become national champion for the eighth time in his career at the age of 40! Kind of gives all of us hope, doesn’t it? He rides for a Continental team (Konya Turku Sekerspor) and beat younger, more fancied WorldTour competition over a 50km course on June 20th. It’s my mate, Andrey Mizurov – national time trial champion in 2013, 2010, 2009, 2002 and 1999, and national road race champion in 2011, 2004 and 2001. He’s been a professional since 1999 but has spent his career riding largely in support of others such as Jan Ullrich, Alexander Vinokourov, Marco Pantani and Alberto Contador. But how long before he gets beaten by his middle son Alex, aged 14, who’s building a solid reputation after riding for less than a year?
Kathi: I can’t believe I’m saying this but my rider of the month is Mark Cavendish. Why? Because he attacked on a Glasgow climb and came away with the British national jersey. Chapeau.
Ant: I’m going to throw Chris Froome into the ring – not literally, of course! What a response to the growing pressure of expectation, and the PR omnishambles that was Wiggo in May. This year has been a steady, smooth progression towards his main goal of the Tour de France, with a GC win in the Critérium du Dauphiné to cap off his preparation. Froome ended the month in the form of his life and set about the biggest race of his career with some swashbuckling magic on the slopes of Corsica. I’m not a Sky fanboy but I have to admit Froome hasn’t put a foot wrong, and to see him go off the front on stage two of the Tour de France … oooff!
Tim: I think we have to give Argonaut Marcel Kittel serious consideration. He kept his cool while all around him were crashing on the opening stage of the Tour to power through and take the first yellow jersey of the race (and both the green and white jerseys for good measure). Yes, he benefited from the fact that Greipel and Cavendish were out of the picture, but he did also beat them both into second and third in a straight head-to-head at the Ster ZLM Toer – essentially the Tour de Sprinters – earlier in the month. He also held off Cav to win his second Scheldeprijs earlier in the season, one of his 11 wins so far this year. How many riders can say they’ve beaten Mark Cavendish twice in one year? Not many.
Chris: I vote for Rui Costa! I love it when a rider comes back to a race ready to defend his title. That is exactly what the Portuguese rider did this year at the Tour de Suisse, repeating his GC title by storming the final time trial. Also, he switched from his TT bike to a road bike for the ascent and still won the TT by just over 20 seconds.
Jack: I’m going for another national champion. Europcar’s Japanese rider Yukiya Arashiro completely trashed the rest of the field on his way to his second national title, finishing over six minutes ahead of anyone else! His solo win came in wet and misty conditions on a hilly course, so achieving such a margin was pretty impressive. He’s riding his fourth Tour de France as we speak, and hopefully we’ll see the Rising Sun in a breakaway sometime in the next three weeks. [Good call, Jack – he was prominent in the breakaway on yesterday’s stage five – Ed.]
There you go, I told you that there would be some surprises! And now with the votes gathered in from the VeloVoices Ballot Box, I can announce that this month’s victor is:
Yukiya Arashiro!!! This victory, however, didn’t have the margin of his national championships win – he only just pipped Marcel Kittel by a bike throw. If you want to check out his form, you can see him riding in support of Pierre Rolland over the next 2½ weeks. All that remains is to give the lad a nickname, and as the peloton already has a Velvet Samurai, and given that he rides for world-famous face-pullers, Europcar, I hereby dub him the Gurning Ninja. A worthy winner, I’m sure you’ll agree!