What’s happening in June?

With just five weeks between the end of the Giro d’Italia and the beginning of the 100th Tour de France, June is a busy month which sees both key warm-up races and the start of the Tour itself. Here’s a quick preview of the races and some of the more notable rider birthdays which occur over the course of June. Continue reading

VeloEye view of the men’s Olympic road race

VeloVoices’ good friend, photographer Roz Jones, was among the crowd’s at yesterday’s Olympic men’s road race and was on hand to capture the drama leading up to Alexandre Vinokourov‘s triumph on the Mall. With her kind permission, we have reproduced here are a few of her shots from the day as she took up residence close to the 15km to go mark.

Gilbert can’t catch a break

It said much about the form of Philippe Gilbert – officially the top-ranked rider of 2011 – that (a) he felt it necessary to get into a risky break a long way out and (b) no one really believed it was going to work. Ultimately it was an instrumental move in scuppering Mark Cavendish‘s chances of victory, but that will have been of little consolation to Gilbert, who eventually finished 19th in the remnants of the break, eight seconds behind the leading two.

Philippe Gilbert (left) leads the break (image courtesy of Roz Jones)

Vino’s retirement gift to himself

Instead it was left to Vinokourov – a silver medallist in the road race in Sydney in 2000 – to launch the decisive attack along with Colombia’s Rigoberto Uran. A much-loved racer with a controversial past – he served a ban after being found guilty of blood doping at the 2007 Tour de France and has never repented – he announced he would retire after next week’s individual time trial.

Gold medallist Alexandre Vinokourov (centre) in the breakaway before launching the race-winning attack (image courtesy of Roz Jones)

Cancellara crashes out of contention

Also in the break and a strong candidate for victory was Switzerland’s Fabian Cancellara. One of the best bike handlers in the peloton, it was a shock to see him crash into the barriers on a corner about 16km from home. Although he did eventually climb back on to his bike to finish the race, his hopes of victory were long gone. He had sustained a bad shoulder bruise with internal bleeding which left him in obvious discomfort, as the post-crash image below clearly illustrates.

Cancellara alone and in pain after his crash (image courtesy of Roz Jones)

His status for Wednesday’s time trial – a discipline in which he is the defending Olympic champion – remains uncertain. Even if he does start, it will certainly boost the chances of the British duo of Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, the historic winner and runner-up of this year’s Tour de France.

Britain stands alone (almost)

With almost everyone else leaving the British team to do the chasing on behalf of Cavendish, the peloton struggled to peg back the break’s lead much below one minute until it was too late. Even with the massive power of Wiggins, Froome, David Millar and Ian Stannard available, it was a bridge too far for a team which had had to sit on the front for virtually the entire day. Germany lent former world time trial champion Bert Grabsch to the chase, but the negative tactics of others meant the chase was an unequal one, leaving Cavendish and the other sprinters to compete for a lowly 27th position, 40 seconds behind Vinokourov.

The peloton chases, with Germany’s Grabsch leading the British team – but too little, too late (image courtesy of Roz Jones)

Cadel has nowhere to go

Another sprinter who will have been disappointed that the race did not end in a bunch gallop is Cavendish’s former teammate Matt Goss. Despite boasting 2011 Tour de France winner Cadel Evans in their squad, Australia steadfastly refused to do any work whatsoever in the chase.

Cavendish was critical of them afterwards, but once they had managed to sneak the veteran Stuart O’Grady into the break late on, they had no real reason to chase. It left Evans as a fairly anonymous figure hidden in the middle of the pack, unable to put his prodigious engine to use to help support Goss. O’Grady finished out of the medals in sixth.

Former Tour de France champion Cadel Evans cut an anonymous figure (image courtesy of Roz Jones)

In the end, an expectant partisan home crowd were left feeling disappointed, but that didn’t stop the race from producing both dramatic stories and dramatic images. Thanks to Roz for sharing hers with us!

You can follow Roz Jones on Twitter and find more of her photographic work at Roz Jones Photography. She also operates On The Road Cycling Tours for anyone interested in viewing the sport up close and personal – you can find out more on the website here.

Tour of Austria preview

The 64th edition of the Tour of Austria [you mean not everybody’s at the Tour de France?!? – Ed] – or the Osterreich Rundfahrt to give its correct name – kicks off on Sunday 1st July and finishes eight stages later the following Sunday. It attracts a mix of World Tour (six), Pro Continental (eight) and local Continental (four) teams and provides an attractive alternative for those riders more at home in week-long stage races, those teams that didn’t get Tour invites, racers that have already ridden the Giro and young up-and-coming talent.

What kind of race is it?

An eight-stage race covering 1,153.9km, the Tour provides a number of challenging, mountainous stages but also gives the sprinters and time-triallists an opportunity to shine. The Tour is classified as a 2HC race, just below a ProTour race, on the UCI Europe circuit.

The past five winners are:

2007: Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel)

2008: Thomas Rohregger (Elk-Haus Simplon)

2009: Michael Albasini (HTC-Columbia)

2010: Riccardo Ricco (Ceramica Flaminia)

2011: Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana)

What happened last year?

While it was a bleak day in France where team leader Alexandre Vinokourov (Astana) crashed out of the race, the sun was shining in Austria as Fredrik Kessiakoff took the final general classification, having assumed the lead after a brilliant victory on stage two  – his maiden professional win – which the team, and he, staunchly defended. The GC podium was completed by runner-up Leopold Konig (NetApp) and former Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre (Geox).

RadioShack’s sprinter Robbie Hunter took the first stage before the GC was turned upside-down on the second day’s summit finish on the HC Kitzbuheler Horn, when Kessiakoff soloed off to victory and the leader’s jersey over a minute ahead of Mauro Santambrogio (BMC) and Konig. On day three, Astana preserved their man Kessiakoff’s lead as Jens Keukeleire (Cofidis) won the sprint from a group of over 20 riders on the uphill finish.

Stage four saw Alexandre Geniez (Skil-Shimano) leave his six breakaway companions behind on the monster climb of the Grossglockner. Sky’s hard-as-nails Ian Stannard won stage five by outsprinting his breakaway companions, while Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) took a welcome victory on stage six – his first since a stage in the 2008 Vuelta a Espana – narrowly beating new Irish champion Matthew Brammeier (HTC-HighRoad) and Daniele Bennati (Leopard-Trek).

Newly crowned German time trial champ Bert Grabsch (HTC-Highroad) took stage seven’s 30km individual time trial ahead of young New Zealander Jesse Sergent (RadioShack), while Kessiakoff rode the time trial of his life to finish fifth, putting more time into the competition. Sprinter Daniele Bennati (Leopard-Trek) claimed the final stage, while Kessiakoff finished safely in the pack to secure an unexpected victory. Astana were top team while Van Avermaet won the points jersey, Nicolas Edet (Cofidis) the mountains jersey and Konig was best young rider.

1. Fredrik Kessiakoff (Astana) 26:59:26

2. Leopold Konig (NetApp) +2:28

3. Carlos Sastre (Geox) +3:05

4. Thomas Rohregger (Leopard-Trek) +3:59

5. Denis Menchov (Geox) +4:02

6. Mauro Santambrogio (BMC) +4:34

7. Morris Possoni (Sky) +4:36

8. Jan Barta (NetApp) +4:46

9. Geoffroy Lequatre (RadioShack) +4:59

10. Andrey Mizurov (Astana) +5:09

This year’s race

The Tour of Austria debuts for the first time in Innsbruck before ending, eight days later, for the 55th time in the capital, Vienna. Riders will  cover 1,153.9km – including a 24km time trial –  and 12,900 metres of climbs including the famous Kitzbuheler Horn and the Grossglockner.

The first stage, with both the start and finish in Innsbruck, features five laps of a 30km long course. The climbing starts on the second stage, which finishes atop the Kitzbueheler Horn. Stage three is undulating but finishes on the flat, offering the sprinters a chance of victory.

Day four heralds the queen stage, with the HC Grossglockner midway. That marks the end of the major climbs, although the fifth stage, the longest at 228.3km, ends with a short but steep (up to 22%) climb up to Sonntagberg.

The sprinters will have a further opportunity on the sixth stage, and the time trial specialists the following day. The race finishes as usual in Vienna, where the overall winner will be crowned.

Who to watch

Defending champion Kessiakoff is taking part in the Tour de France, but nonetheless Astana are looking to mount a strong defence of the title with Tour of Turkey runner-up Alexandr Dyachenko supported by newly crowned road champion of Kazakhstan, Assan Bazayev and every commentator’s nightmare, Yevgeniy Nepomnyachshiy. [Every editor’s nightmare too! – Ed]

We'll be watching Carlos Betancur  (image courtesy of Acqua & Sapone)

We’ll be watching Carlos Betancur (image courtesy of Acqua & Sapone)

BMC are pinning their hopes on Brent Bookwalter, Steve Morabito and Ivan Santaromita. Following his third place in the Italian national time-trial championships, Marco Pinotti – winner of the final time trial at the Giro d’Italia – will be looking to take the 24.1km time trial on the penultimate day.

The race also features last year’s runner-up Czech Loepold Konig (NetApp) and a number of Austrians who will be out to impress in their home race including former race winner Thomas Rohregger (RadioShack-Nissan). Those high mountains are going to suit the diminutive climbers such as Giro del Trentino winner Domenico Pozzovivo (CSF-Colnago) and young Colombian and recent Trofeo Melinda winner Carlos Betancur (Acqua & Sapone). At VeloVoices we’re going to be keeping an eye on the latter, number 91. Let’s see what he can do.

Race details

July 1st: Stage 1 – Innsbruck Circuit, 153km

July 2nd: Stage 2 – Innsbruck to Kitzbuheler Horn, 157.4km

July 3rd: Stage 3 – Kitzbuhel  to Lienz, 141.8km

July 4th: Stage 4 – Lienz to Skt. Johann/Alpendorf, 141.3km

July 5th: Stage 5 – Skt. Johann/Alpendorf to Sonntagberg, 228,3km

July 6th: Stage 6 – Waidhofen/Ybbs to Melk, 185.2km

July 7th: Stage 7 – Podersdorf am Neusiedler See, 24.1km individual time trial

July 8th: Stage 8 – Podersdorf am Neusiedler See  to Wien, Burgtheater, 122.8 km

The Tour of Austria starts on Sunday 1st July and concludes on Sunday 8th. For live coverage check cyclingfans.com.

Link: Official website