Spectacular Basque scenery

Friday Feature: Basque Country races photo-journal

The Clasica San Sebastian is Spain’s only one-day WorldTour race and it’s thoughtfully book-ended by two further races: the Prueba Villafranca Ordiziako Klasika, one of Europe’s longest running races (now in its 90th edition) and the Circuito de Getxo/Memorial Ricardo Otxoa. Here is a series of images from the three events. Continue reading

Vuelta a España: Team presentation (a VeloVoices gallery)

In addition to our army of VeloEyes bringing us images of the races and riders we love, we’re not averse to getting in the mix ourselves and getting our own personal shots of our favourite races. Here Sheree has collated her pictures from last night’s Vuelta team presentations. Enjoy!

Yesterday’s evening’s Vuelta a España team presentation kicked off in sweltering temperatures in the very heart of Pamplona, the Plaza del Castillo, used as a bull-fighting ring until a permanent venue was built in 1844. The only stampede yesterday was for the seats in front of the stage. Not everyone looked hot and bothered, Navarra and Spain’s favourite sporting icon, Miguel Indurain, gave us his thoughts on this year’s Vuelta, looking as cool as a cucumber, in a jacket!

The team presentation was a bit parochial. Not Spanish, no Spanish riders, no contenders then you just entered left, waved briefly and exited right. To be fair the commentators had to respond to the dicatates of an hour-long programme on Spanish television, plus squeeze in highlights from last year’s Vuelta, a quick run-down of this year’s stages and a travel promo for Navarra.

First up local boys Caja Rural

First up: local boys Caja Rural

It's the Argonauts

It’s the Argonauts

More blinding while kits with the boys from FDJ

More blinding white kits with the boys from FDJ

Now it's the hot pink of Lampre

Now it’s the hot pink of Lampre

RadioShack read our Team Review and have wisely made Maxime Monfort their lead rider

RadioShack read our team review and have wisely made Maxime Monfort (left) their lead rider

OPQS’ Tony Martin (left) hoping for better luck in the Vuelta

Orica-GreenEDGE’s Daniel Teklehaimanot didn’t seem to mind the heat either!

Euskaltel’s Igor Anton, a firm favourite with the fans

Cheers too for cheeky Catalan chappie Joaquim ‘Purito’ Rodriguez

It’s the boys from BMC who have PhilGil (far left) as their lead rider!

Newly shorn Christophe Le Mevel looking Garmin-Sharp and ready to do battle

Cofidis’ man for the mountains David Moncoutie

Will Sky’s Chris Froome (far left) really challenge?

Saxo Bank’s Alberto Contador (left) happy to be back in the saddle

The biggest cheers of the evening were reserved for Alberto Contador who reiterated his pitch-perfect PR press conference from earlier in the day where he downplayed his chances and talked up everyone else’s. He said he’d been scarred by the events of the past two years but had emerged mentally stronger. He also paid tribute to the support of fans, family and friends and said how much he was looking forward to the start in Navarro.

Last up was defending champion Juan Jose Cobo, now riding for Navarran-based Movistar. He’ll be well-supported by Alejandro Valverde, two Basques and, this year’s must-have accessory, a Colombian in the form of Nairo Quintano.

Local boys Movistar with defending champion Cobo (far left)

We’ll be back in the Plaza del Castillo this evening for the team time trial.

VeloVoices Vuelta a Espana previews

Teams and sponsors (part 1)

Teams and sponsors (part 2)

Key stages

Key contenders

Link: Vuelta a Espana official website

Tour de Pologne review

The Tour de Pologne concluded with overall victory for promising youngster Moreno Moser (Liquigas-Cannondale) and his team’s successful defence of the title won last year by Peter Sagan. Moser had won the opening stage and taken the leader’s jersey only to temporarily concede it a couple of stages later. He retook the jersey in spectacular fashion on stage six and never looked like relinquishing it again.

Traditionally, this race has both highlighted and confirmed up and coming talent, and this year was no exception. Ben Swift (Sky) won the points classification, Adrian Kurek (Utensilnord-Named) again won the intermediate sprints jersey, Tomasz Marczynski (Vacansoleil-DCM) took home the King of the Mountains title, while runner-up Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) was the best placed Polish rider. Young Colombian Sergio Henao (Sky) rounded out the podium. A quick scan of the stage podiums also reveals young burgeoning talent, as does the overall classification. For example, Giro stage winner Jon Izagirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi) in sixth place overall has picked up more valuable points for his team while want-away riders Alexandre Geniez (Argos-Shimano) and Linus Gerdemann (RadioShack-Nissan) will have added to their marketability.

When you consider what the riders who lit up 2011’s Tour de Pologne – notably Sagan, Dan Martin and Marcl Kittel – have gone on to achieve in the intervening period, just take note of the names who’ve illuminated this year’s race and rendered oblivious a field of talented and experienced sprinters, climbers and stage racers.

Moreno Moser winner of Tour de Pologne 2012 (image courtesy of official race website)

Moreno Moser winner of Tour de Pologne 2012 (image courtesy of official race website)

VeloVoices was keeping an eye on the wonderfully named neo-pro, Colombian on Lampre’s squad, Winner Ancona, who comes from a track background and finished 10th overall in the recent Tour of Slovenia, rode in support of his team leader and, as a consequence, finished just outside the top 100.

Stage 1: Golebiewski Karpacz to Jelenia Gora, 179.5km

Another of Liquigas’s talented youngsters, 21-year-old Moreno Moser, stole the show with a sprint victory –  and the first leader’s jersey – ahead of local Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Lars Boom (Rabobank). A five-man breakaway spent most of the stage with their noses in front only to be hauled back by the sprinters’ teams with just over 20km remaining and before the final climb of the day. Two of Kwiatkowski’s team mates Niki Terpstra and Tom Boonen fell on a slippery descent, the former abandoned while the latter was able to continue in his recently acquired Belgian national champion’s kit.

Stage 2: Walbrzych to Opole, 239.4km

Not content with hogging the limelight in France, Sky’s Ben Swift timed his sprint to perfection to beat fellow track star Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Boonen by half a bike length. Sky took control of the peloton on the two final circuits, although they appeared to have ceded it to Rabobank in the last kilometre but the Dutch team was unable to hold the pace to set up their sprinter Theo Bos. Instead Sky executed the perfect lead out for Swift, dropping him off with 150m to go, from where he managed to hold off the Italian’s late surge.  Overnight leader Moser came home in the main bunch to retain the leader’s jersey.

Stage 3: Kedzierzyn-Kozle to Cieszyn, 201.7km

Zdenek Stybar winner of stage 3 (image courtesy of official race website)

Zdenek Stybar, winner of stage 3 (image courtesy of official race website)

Czech cyclo-cross star Zdenek Stybar (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) sprinted to his first WorldTour win – his biggest victory on the road  – beating Francesco Gavazzi (Astana) and Sacha Modolo (Colnago-CSF Inox), after getting into a late move in the final three circuits around Cieszyn. That, and subsequent moves, were brought back by the bunch before Stybar’s team mates set up the winning move for him on the last corner, 500 metres before the finish. The Czech rider was delighted to take a win on the stage which had a brief incursion into his home country.

Stage 4: Bedzin to Katowice, 127.8km

Lithuanian Aidis Kruopis (Orica-GreenEDGE) recorded his maiden WorldTour win in his rookie season coming off the wheel of stage two’s victor Swift on the fast and flat run in to the finish on another largely circuit stage. Rabobank’s Bos was third.

The Polish national road race champion, Michal Golas (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) had attacked with 10km to go but was swiftly brought back into the fold by Sky, who controlled the latter portion of the race intent on setting Swift up for another win.

Local Kwiatkowski took over the race leadership from  Moser after his teammate Boonen worked as his poisson pilote to ensure he took precious bonus seconds on the intermediate sprint.

Stage 5: Rabka-Zdroj to Zakopane, 163.1km

Stage 5 winner Ben Swift (image courtesy of official race website)

Stage 5 winner Ben Swift (image courtesy of official race website)

Swift took his second stage on the long, uphill drag to the finish, just besting Viviani, who finished second – again – with Pim Ligthart (Vacansoleil-DCM) third. Swift strengthened his grip on the points jersey while race leader Kwiatkowski finished sixth to retain the jersey.

The day’s lumpy stage began with the obligatory breakaway, but they were kept largely within easy reach by the race leader’s team.  Orica-GreenEDGE’s Eritrean rider Daniel Teklehaimanot used the break to his advantage setting himself up as kingpin in the mountains. The peloton was all back together with just over 3km remaining but the finish proved to be more testing than many anticipated and it was Swift who timed his surge to perfection much to the chagrin of the runner-up who indulged in a spot of handle-bar thumping.

Stage 6: Bukovina Terma Hotel Spa to Bukowina Tatrzanska, 191.8km

Moser perfectly timed his late attack to cruelly deny Sky’s Sergio Henao on the line, with time bonuses enabling him to retake the leader’s yellow jersey with a five-second advance on Kwiatkowski who fought hard to finish third, but it wasn’t enough for him to hold onto the jersey.

The day’s stage contained 15 climbs, ten of them classified. While mountains leader Teklehaimanot took the first points, he surrendered his jersey to Tomasz Marczynski (Vacansoleil-DCM), who was in the day’s breakaway which was overhauled by Henao’s initial attack at the foot of the final categorised climb. Henao attacked again as he crested the climb and soloed almost to the line where he was overtaken by Moser’s late and well-timed surge. This was where the overall was won by Moser who, as Francesco Moser’s nephew continued his family’s long and successful cycling heritage.

Stage 7: Krakow to Krakow, 131.4km

Stage 7 winner John  Degenkolb (image courtesy of official race website)

Stage 7 winner John Degenkolb (image courtesy of official race website)

The final circuit race around the historic town of Krakow saw John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) return to winning ways. In the pouring rain, his mud-splattered Argonaut team mates provided the perfect lead-out train to best Sky’s double stage winner Swift and Mathew Hayman in the sprint. A 12-man breakaway had escaped early and split into two on the last of the circuit’s seven laps before being taken back, at which point it started to rain heavily rendering the circuit treacherous. But that didn’t prevent Argos-Shimano taking charge and delivering Degenkolb to his fifth win of the season.

Moser and the other GC contenders finished safely in the peloton, thereby missing out on bonus seconds, and confirming Liquigas’s second consecutive victory in the seven-day WorldTour stage race.

General classification:

1. Moreno Moser (Liquigas-Cannondale) 30:15:49

2. Michal Kwiatkowski (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +0:05

3. Sergio Henao (Sky) +0:06

4. Alexandr Kolobnev (Katusha) +0:26

5. Linus Gerdemann (RadioShack-Nissan) +0:28

6. Jon Izagirre (Euskaltel-Euskadi) +0:29

7. Tiago Machado (RadioShack-Nissan) same time

8. Alexandre Geniez (Argos-Shimano) s/t

9. Rigoberto Uran (Sky) s/t

10. Javier Moreno (Movistar) s/t

Links: PreviewOfficial website