What’s happening in January?

Welcome to a new year, which means that a new cycling season is just around the corner. 2013 is, of course, the year of the 100th Tour de France, but there is a whole lot more to grab our attention over the coming ten months. As ever, January is more of a limbering-up than a full-blooded racing month, but there’s still plenty of action to look forward to around the world, both on the road and here on VeloVoices. Here’s a summary of what to expect this month.

Tour Down Under (22nd-27th)

Tour Down Under logoThe 2013 UCI WorldTour kicks off, as has become customary, with this congenial, sprinter-friendly leg-stretcher of a race. It provides the peloton with the chance to shake off the ring-rust in the temperate climate of an Adelaide summer.

We’re unlikely to see any of the serious Grand Tour contenders here – and certainly not in anywhere near hors catégorie shape – but we can expect to see a combination of sprinters and Aussie riders looking to claim early season glory. Last year Lotto-Belisol’s Andre Greipel (the overall winner in 2008 and 2011) won three stages but it was Simon Gerrans who claimed overall victory for GreenEDGE on their WorldTour debut to make it three ‘home’ winners in five years.

This year’s parcours again features a penultimate day summit finish on Old Willunga Hill which will almost certainly decide the overall, but in among the obvious sprint stages there are lumpy finishes on stages two and three which could promote a successful breakaway or a Classics-style selection to weed out those sprinters who resolutely prefer it flat.

As ever, we’ll have a comprehensive preview closer to the race, but if you can’t wait you can find out more on the official website here.

Other races this month

Looking beyond the WorldTour, notable races this month include:

Tour de San Luis (21st-27th, Argentina): A week-long race taking in some spectacular scenery across central Argentina. Last year’s race was dominated by Omega Pharma-Quick Step, with Francesco Chicchi (two) and Tom Boonen winning three of the four flat stages and Levi Leipheimer winning the individual time trial to lay the foundations for overall victory, despite a certain Alberto Contador triumphing on the two summit finishes.

GP Cycliste La Marseillaise (27th, France): A relatively short (around 150km) one-day race finishing in Marseille. Cofidis’ Samuel Dumoulin (now with AG2R) won last year’s race, emerging triumphant from a small group sprint.

Etoile de Bessèges (30th-3rd February, France): Typically a mix of sprint, climbing and time-trialling, this five-day stage race is the first real European test for riders with ambitions in the major one and three-week races to come. Saur-Sojasun’s Jerome Coppel claimed overall victory last year by virtue of dominating the concluding individual time trial.

This month’s birthdays

A selection of some of the more notable birthdays in the peloton this month:

Image courtesy of Lampre-ISD

Image courtesy of Lampre-ISD

3rd: Alessandro Petacchi, Lampre-ISD (39 years old). The veteran sprinter is very much in the twilight of his career now, with just four victories – three at Bayern Rundfahrt and none in WorldTour events – to his name in 2012. During his long career he has won 48 Grand Tour sprint stages and also the points classification at all three Grand Tours.

7th: John Degenkolb, Argos-Shimano (24). A double-stage winner at the 2011 Critérium du Dauphiné, 2012 was a breakthrough season for the young German sprinter, culminating with five stage wins at the Vuelta and fourth in the World Championships road race. He also had a good spring Classics season, finishing fourth at Paris-Tours, fifth at Milan-San Remo and sixth at E3 Harelbeke, and overall victory at the Tour de Picardie helped propel him to become the top rider in the UCI Europe Tour standings.

11th: Cameron Meyer, Orica-GreenEDGE (25). The 2011 Tour Down Under winner added his sixth senior gold at the World Track Championships in the points race in 2012, as well as finishing tenth overall at Tirreno-Adriatico and 11th at the Tour of California.

12th: David Zabriskie, Garmin-Sharp (34). The time trial specialist has had many of his best results stripped away as a result of his role in the US Postal doping programme, for which he is also suspended until 1st March. He had previously ‘won’ six Grand Tour stages and held the yellow jersey at the 2005 Tour for three days. In 2012 he won individual time trials at the Tour de Langkawi and the Tour of California, finishing second overall at the latter.

18th: Thor Hushovd, BMC (35). A winner of 14 individual Grand Tour stages and the 2010 World Champion in the road race, Hushovd endured an injury-shortened 2012 season in which he was winless for the first time in his career and achieved just one top-five finish. He will be hoping to bounce back in 2013, although his opportunities to compete for wins alongside reigning world champion Philippe Gilbert at BMC may be limited.

26th: Peter Sagan, Cannondale (23). 2011 was a stellar year for the ‘Fast-vak’ – most notably three stages at the Vuelta, two stages and the overall at the Tour of Poland, two stages and the points classification at the Tour de Suisse and the overall at the Giro di Sardegna – but 2012 was even more spectacular. Three stages and the green jersey at the Tour were probably the highlight, but he also won five stages at the Tour of California, four at the Tour de Suisse and managed a second (Gent-Wevelgem), third (Amstel Gold), fourth (Milan-San Remo) and fifth (Tour of Flanders) during the spring Classics season. A Classics victory will be a key objective this year – he has already said he is targeting Milan-San Remo – and autumn might just see him in rainbow colours too on a course in Florence which looks likely to suit him.

30th: Richie Porte, Sky (28). The Tasmanian thrived in the first half of the 2012 season, winning the overall at the Volta ao Algarve and finishing fourth and ninth respectively at the Tour de Romandie and the Critérium du Dauphiné before being a key lieutenant in the mountains as Bradley Wiggins rode into yellow at the Tour. He is still probably best known, however, for the three days he spent in the maglia rosa as overall leader of the 2012 Giro, where he won the young rider classification.

Also on the blog

We’ll be kicking the blog back into high gear ready for the start of the season, which means reader favourite Tweets of the Week will be back in its usual slot every Tuesday. Our weekly Friday Feature will also return to bring you interviews, photo features and expert analysis.

Each member of the VeloVoices staff is selecting three riders and one team to profile and follow throughout the year. Keep an eye open for our selections and initial overviews towards the middle of the month.

Finally, look out for our start-of-season round-table, where we will look forward to what we can expect from our favourite riders, teams and races in 2013. Plus much, much more on both our Facebook page and Twitter.

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.

Il Lombardia photo gallery

It has to be said that Saturday’s race didn’t enjoy stellar weather conditions [masterful British understatement – Ed] but that didn’t prevent one of the locals, friend of VeloVoices Nathalie Novembrini, from following the advice given by some of our professional VeloEyes about what, where, who and how to photograph the professional peloton.

Of course, no trip to any race would be complete without first scouting the team buses. After all, you don’t know who you might bump into, do you?

Cameron Meyer and Nathalie pose for Orica-GreenEDGE’s ‘Call Me’ campaign

No sign of those one-off duck egg blue Bianchi shirts. I suspect the boys are huddled inside trying to stay warm

Obligatory mighty fine bike bling, but where’s their designer? Oh Mario …

After a quick trip round the car park, Nathalie assumed her position behind the barricades to see who she could capture in her viewfinder. As you can see from the subsequent photos, she was standing opposite Alessandro Ballan‘s number one fan.

Here’s one of Kitty’s favourite kits – Farnese Vini – she loves those glowing colours. At least you could see them once the heavens opened and the mists descended

Discarded Carrot! Yes, after many years faithful service. nul points equals no contract for 2013. Please hire Amets, he keeps the TV presenters tongue-tied

Here’s a riders who checked the weather forecast – Astana’s Alexandr Dyachencko

Sorry Andriy [Grivko] but that lovely bright blue national champion’s kit is going to get very dirty, yes it is.

Nathalie has a penchant for young Italian riders with firm jaw lines, here’s Gabriele Bosisio

Here’s another one, Giairo Ermeti whose name – it has to be said – sounds like some unfortunate medical procedure.

One of the more mature riders in the peloton, Matteo Tosatto

Former rider Maurizio Fondriest and (one assumes) his missus

Nicki Sorensen, who played a part in one of the many breaks of the day

One of the Rabo boys wrapped up warmly, ready to face the onslaught

The Italians were hoping that Vincenzo Nibali might get onto the podium

Orica-GreenEGGs and Ham rider loaded and ready for bear

As you may have guessed by their size, some of the photos have been edited to exclude heads and hands which inevitably seem to get in the way when you’re taking photographs from a less than optimal position.

Everyone wanted a piece of the newly-crowned world champion, Fast PhilGil before the start of the race

Fortunately Phil’s well on the road to recovery after his fall which saw him pick up a nasty case of road rash and ruined that spotless white jersey.

Giro del Piemonte winner Rigoberto Uran was equally courted before the start

I still think Rigoberto looks older than 25!

It’s at times like these those brown shorts come into their own, shame about the largely white shirt

Then it’s into the car and off to the finish to wait for the arrival of the winner who’ll be crowned here:

This was the podium in the case of Plan A – no rain

Or here:

This was Plan B

And here he comes through the gloaming … it’s …

You can just see the race winner Joaquim Rodriguez appearing through the curtain of rain

Nathalie, thank you so much for sharing your photos with us and proving that with a wee bit of ingenuity, everyone can get some great photos at the races!

Vuelta a España: Stage 13 review

Stage 13: Santiago de Compostela to Ferrol, 172.8km

Steve Cummings (BMC) time-trialled to victory after leaving behind his breakaway companions and managing to stay ahead of the pursuing Cameron Meyer (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Juan Antonio Flecha (Sky). It was Cummings’ first win since he joined BMC – and the team’s second of the Vuelta – and his first win since early 2011. As I’m always saying, persistence pays dividends. Cummings tried to get into yesterday’s breakaway, failed and came back today with more success. After the stage, he commented:

It was very hard, just full gas the whole way, and the entire day was very tough because of the wind. For me to win, I have to win alone because there were fast guys in the group, so I was looking for the best moment. When I was clear I had to just keep going as hard as possible. It is my best victory, for sure.

It took a while for the break to form – around 40km – and comprised Cummings, Meyer, Flecha, Linus Gerdemann (RadioShack-Nissan), stage four winner Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEDGE), Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM), and Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale). They gained around four minutes’ advantage with Argos-Shimano controlling the break. Bereft of much support from other teams, apart from Lotto-Belisol, they wore themselves out with 10km to go.

With the gap hovering around the minute mark, teams started attacking from the peloton which rather played into the hands of those in the break as the peloton focussed on snuffing out the most visible threats. By this time four-time winner John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) was on his lonesome. Finally, the trio of Andrey Kashechkin (Astana), Dani Moreno (Katusha), and Gert Steegmans (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) managed to slip away to form another escape group. With under 5km left, the trio were 30 seconds behind the seven-man initial break but just ten seconds ahead of the chasing peloton. They were eventually reabsorbed.

Flecha was the first to attack in the final kilometres, Cummings bridged and subsequently so did everyone else save the fastest sprinter, Viviani. Cummings then made the decisive move just inside 4km, the others hesitated and then Meyer took up the chase with Flecha on his wheel. To no avail – Cummings sailed over the finish line, arms aloft.

VeloVoices rider of the day

Cummings displays his cork popping skills (image courtesy of official race site)

Here at VeloVoices we love it when a breakaway succeeds. It warms the cockles of our hearts. So our rider has to be today’s winner Steve Cummings, who left what many might regard as a sinecure at Sky to try something different at BMC. Like many of his teammates, the first half of his season was ruined by injury but he’s bounced back to record his first win for his new team in his maiden Vuelta showing he’s lost none of his team-pursuiting skills. Here’s what he had to say in the post-stage press conference:

Observations

Today’s stage started in the Unesco World Heritage site and Galician capital of Santiago de Compostela, allegedly the resting place of St James, one of the twelve Apostles. I’m wondering whether any of the teams made a quick pilgrimage to the Cathedral and lit a few candles to aid their Vuelta campaign.

Tactical analysis

There were no changes in any of the jerseys or the general classification. This was a stage shaped as much by the three which follow it as by its own parcours – a day for the contenders to rest up in the peloton and gather their forces. Argos-Shimano and John Degenkolb will have been unhappy at losing a sprint opportunity but everyone loves a winner from a breakaway.

VeloVoices will bring you previews of each day’s stage every morning, live coverage of as many stages as possible on Twitterreviews in the evening and in-depth analysis after selected stages.

Link: Vuelta a España official website