The last big stage race before the Tour de France, the Tour de Suisse is popular with riders who didn’t participate in the Critérium du Dauphiné. Unlike last year, this race is one for the climbers not the sprinters, with one of the toughest parcours in years. Continue reading
The seventh edition of the Tour de San Luis runs from Monday 21st until Sunday 27th January and it’s gaining in popularity as it provides high altitude, warm weather racing in a convivial atmosphere. Ten ProTeams are present: Omega Pharma-Quick Step along with Movistar, Lampre-Merida, Astana, BMC, AG2R La Mondiale, Orice-GreenEDGE, Lotto-Belisol, Saxo-Tinkoff and Cannondale. There are also the top-ranked European and US ProConti teams along with a sprinkling of local ones.
What kind of race is it?
Riders will cover 1,017.5km over seven stages, one of which is an individual time trial. The race is ranked 2.1 on the UCI America Circuit. The two indicates that it’s a stage race while the one shows it’s a second tier race – top-tier races are HC – to which half the invited teams must be from the WorldTour. In addition, the organisers are obliged to invite the top-ranked Professional Continental and Continental teams on the American circuit. National teams may also take part.
The most recent winners of the event are:
2008: Martin Garrido (Palmeiras Resort-Tavira)
2009: Alfredo Lucero (Argentina national team)
2010: Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Doimo)
2011: Marco Arragiada (Chile national team)
2012: Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step)
What happened last year?
Frankly, it was a bit of a goal-fest for Omega Pharma-Quick Step. Levi Leipheimer won the overall, largely as a result of his victory in the time trial and his ability to cling to runner-up Alberto Contador’s (Saxo Bank) coat-tails on the two summit finishes. With two stage wins for Francesco Chicchi and one for Tom Boonen, OPQS scored an impressive four wins from seven. The remaining stage was won by the young Italian sprinter and track star Elia Viviani (Liquigas-Cannondale). Contador was subsequently stripped of those two victories when he was sanctioned in relation to his 2010 Tour de France clenbuterol positive.
1. Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) 26:32:55
2. Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) +0:46
3. Daniel Diaz (San Luis Somos Todos) +1:29
4. Stefan Schumacher (Christina Watches-Ofone) +1:34
5. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) +1:50
6. Jose Serpa (Androni Giocattoli) +2:13
7. Magno Nazaret (Funvic-Pidamonhangab) +2:39
8. Luis Mansilla (Chile) +3:24
9. Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) +3:44
10. Andrey Amador (Movistar) +4:46
Our full 2012 race review is here.
This year’s race
The stages follow a not dissimilar format to prior years. Proceedings kick off with a sprint-friendly stage finishing after a long stretch of downhill – just to warm up the legs and get everyone acclimatised to the altitude. The organisers dial it up a notch on day two with another sprint stage, but one which is rather more undulating. Stage three features two category one climbs: the Alto de Nogoli followed by a long descent before the 4.8km climb at an average of 6.7% to the summit finish at Mirador Potrero.
The flattish 19.5km time trial is an out-and-back loop with a number of tricky turns and may well again prove decisive in determining the race winner. Here’s a quick run through of the stage:
Stage five features a finish on yet another category one climb, the 10.2km Cerro d’Amago, which has a few 10%+ ramps and finishes on the plateau above the climb.
Stage six, the queen stage shown above, finishes atop the well-known category one climb the Mirador del Sol. The 7km climb averages 8.75%, though there are a few stretches above 14%. This penultimate stage should pretty much confirm the general classification as the final day is another one for the sprinters, although there is a bit of a ramp up to the finish, making it possibly more suited to Peter Sagan (Cannondale) than Mark Cavendish (OPQS).
Who to watch
Last year’s winning team are bringing French national time trial champion Sylvain Chavanel, who last year rode in support of Leipheimer, and sprinter Mark Cavendish who’ll be keen to record a win in his new jersey and joust with Sagan. Astana are fielding 2010 winner Vincenzo Nibali, also sporting new colours and looking to impress.
It would be nice to see one or more of the Colombians who are taking part shine in the high mountains but I suspect they’ll all be tasked with taking care of their respective team leaders.
This early in the season, riders are looking more for stage wins to test their legs than perhaps the overall. So look for riders who typically will be riding in a support role later in the year, and who can also time trial, to waltz off with that magnificent small rider-sized trophy.
Of course the man everyone will be watching is last year’s Vuelta winner Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff), who’ll want to continue his winning form into 2013.
January 21st: Stage 1 – San Luis to Villa Mercedes, 165km
January 22nd: Stage 2 – Tilisarao to Terraza del Portezuelo, 187km
January 23rd: Stage 3 – La Punta to Mirador Potrero/La Punta, 180km
January 24th: Stage 4 – San Luis to San Luis, 19.5km individual time trial
January 25th: Stage 5 – Juana Koslay to La Carolina, 185km
January 26th: Stage 6 – Quines to Merlo, 131km
January 27th: Stage 7 – San Luis to San Luis, 160km
The Tour de San Luis starts on Monday 21st January and concludes on Sunday 27th. For live video and audio coverage check cyclingfans.com.
Link: Official website
And now the end is near, and so we face the final curtain. The 2012 road cycling season comes to an end in October, with the last of the major one-day races and the final WorldTour event of the year all occurring before the end of the month.
Here’s our regular preview of what to look out for in the final knockings of the competitive year.
Paris-Tours hosts its 106th edition this year and is effectively to autumn what Milan-San Remo is to spring, although this race is considerably less hilly than its Italian counterpart. A largely flat 235.5km contains two small speed bumps in the final 10km which present some possibilities for a determined attack before a wide, flat finish on the Avenue de Grammont which is perfect for a bunch sprint.
The quick men will be keen to reassert their pre-eminence this year after their hopes were dashed by a successful 21-man breakaway last year. BMC’s Greg van Avermaet escaped with Marco Marcato with 10km to go and easily won the resultant two-up sprint. Expect many of the big sprinting names to be watching this one from a sun lounger somewhere, setting up opportunities for the likes of Lars Boom (Rabobank) and Vuelta hero John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) to shine. And if you fancy an outside bet, keep an eye on Lotto-Belisol’s Gianni Meersman and (if he is selected) Orica-GreenEDGE’s Aidis Kruopis.
Link: Official website
Tour of Beijing (9th-13th)
Beijing hosts the final WorldTour event of the year, a remodelled five-day race which takes in several of the city’s iconic sites. Tony Martin won the inaugural event last year, taking the lead in the opening individual time trial and safely defending it to the finish of a race which lacked drama, crowds and enough of a challenge to really shake up the GC. This year’s parcours certainly has more teeth, however, with tough climbs to negotiate in the middle of stage two, including a 954m mountain which is climbed again the following day en route to a short, punchy summit finish at the Great Wall. The final stage also features a tricky climb less than 30km from the finish followed by a steep descent which may also provide one final opportunity for a winning attack.
There is likely to be something of an end-of-term feel to the race, with most of the big stage racers already starting their off-seasons. However, for the teams propping up the WorldTour rankings – Vacansoleil-DCM (16th), AG2R La Mondiale (17th) and FDJ-MigMat (18th and last) – this represents one final chance to gather all-important points to bolster their chances of having their ProTeam status renewed for 2013.
Other key races this month include the Giro dell’Emilia (6th), the Tour de Vendée (14th) and the Chrono des Nations (21st). The last of these is the final race on this year’s UCI Europe Tour calendar – indeed it is the last official UCI-sanctioned race of 2012.
Link: Official website
This month’s birthdays
A selection of some of the more notable birthdays in the peloton this month:
10th: Pierre Rolland, Europcar (26 years old). The young French climber has finished in the top ten at the Tour de France in each of the past two years, supporting Thomas Voeckler’s spell in yellow in 2011 and riding to eighth overall in 2012. In this year’s edition he added a prestigious victory in the summit finish at La Toussuire to go with his career-defining win on Alpe d’Huez last year.
15th: Tom Boonen, Omega Pharma-Quick Step (32). Boonen was nigh on unstoppable in this year’s spring Classics, notching up wins in the E3 Harelbeke and Gent-Wevelgem before claiming his third Ronde van Vlaanderen and fourth Paris-Roubaix. He won a stage at Paris-Nice, reclaimed the Belgian national championship and took overall victories at the Tour of Qatar and the World Ports Classic, before rounding off an incredible 2012 as a member of the Omega Pharma-Quick Step team which won the Road World Championships trade team time trial.
22nd: Mark Renshaw, Rabobank (30). It has been a disappointingly quiet season for the Aussie after stepping out of the shadow of Mark Cavendish to try his hand as a lead sprinter himself. A single win at the Tour of Turkey and a smattering of top three finishes elsewhere, including one third place at the Giro and an invisible stint at the Tour, was scant return for a season he would have approached with high hopes. Indeed 2012 has been far less successful than 2011, when he claimed a stage and the overall at the Tour of Qatar, the team trial at the Giro and a win at the Tour of Britain.
23rd: Chris Horner, RadioShack-Nissan (41). Now firmly into his fifth decade, the veteran American was runner-up to Vincenzo Nibali at Tirreno-Adriatico and was a respectable if anonymous 13th at the Tour. One suspects his best days are now behind him after two age-defying years where he won last year’s Tour of California and the Vuelta al Pais Vasco in 2010.
24th: Levi Leipheimer, Omega Pharma-Quick Step (39). Another American in the twilight of his career – and a former teammate at RadioShack – Leipheimer won the early-season Tour de San Luis and was a promising third at the Tour de Suisse before finishing a lowly 31st at the Tour de France. He has previously won stages at both the Tour and Vuelta, as well as general classification wins at the Tour de Suisse (2011), the Dauphiné and, three years in a row, the Tour of California (2007-9)
And don’t forget …
The racing may be drawing to a close, but we’ll still be busy here at VeloVoices Towers as we close down the season and start to take a look back at 2012. Look out for our final rider and team updates and an end-of-season round-table towards the end of the month. In addition we’ll bringing you the latest transfer gossip, book reviews and other assorted goodies. And then, of course, we’ll still be rounding up our Tweets of the Week every Tuesday, as well as our regular Friday Features providing in-depth analysis, interviews and stunning photography from all around the world of cycling.
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.