Rider profiles: Philippe Gilbert, Rui Costa and Nairo Quintana

In 2013 I’ll be following the progress of three climbers. The first is a puncheur and current World Champion Philippe Gilbert, the second – Rui Costa – is something of a hybrid who will be looking to continue the growth he’s demonstrated over the last couple of seasons, while the third is Nairo Quintana, a young, diminutive Colombian who could have a breakthrough season in 2013.

Philippe Gilbert (BMC)

 

Image courtesy of BMC

Image courtesy of BMC

Age: 30.

Nationality: Belgian.

Role: Puncheur.

2012 WorldTour ranking: 46th, 112 pts.

2012 highlights:

  • Won the Road World Championships road race, 2nd in the trade team time trial.
  • Two stage wins at the Vuelta a España.
  • 3rd at Flèche Wallonne.

Why I’m following him:

Philippe Gilbert underwhelmed in the spring Classics in 2012 after completing an extraordinary Ardennes triple the previous year. He managed to turn things around at the last with a couple of stage victories at the Vuelta before taking a richly deserved rainbow jersey. Whilst undoubtedly a remarkable achievement, he peaked too late in the season and seemed to struggle to adapt to life at BMC. He was hampered by tooth problems early on, though will hopefully have no such excuses in 2013.

I am following him quite simply because he is one of the greatest – and most exciting riders – of the current generation. This season he has a great chance to prove that his 2011 season was no fluke – and the rainbow curse is no more than a myth. “My goals are always the same,” the 30-year old has said. “Firstly, the spring Classics, especially the Ardennes Classics.” Gilbert started training for the new season way back at the start of November and if his hard work transforms itself into results he will go down as one of the all-time greats.

Rui Costa (Movistar)

Image courtesy of Movistar

Age: 26.

Nationality: Portuguese.

Role: Puncheur/climber.

2012 WorldTour ranking: 10th, 320 pts.

2012 highlights:

  • 1st overall at Tour de Suisse, one stage win.
  • 2nd at GP Ouest-France and Trofeo Deià.
  • 3rd overall at Tour de Romandie.
  • 3rd at Grand Prix de Québec.

Why I’m following him:

Tenth place in the WorldTour rankings is an extraordinary achievement from a rider who has emerged out of nothing in the last couple of seasons. Riding himself into fans’ consciousness with a stage win at the Tour de France and a win in the GP de Montréal in 2011, Rui Costa continued to show his talent during a successful 2012 – the highlight of which was an excellent win at the difficult stage race Tour de Suisse, before finishing inside the top 20 at the Tour de France. His previous best finish was 73rd in 2010.

The only other Portuguese rider ranked in the 2012 WorldTour was RadioShack-Nissan’s Thiago Machado in 57th place, so for Rui Costa to perform so highly is no mean feat. This season could be a crucially important one for him, and it will be interesting to see whether his exponential development continues or he stagnates. He is an exciting rider, capable on high mountains and small, punchy climbs. Hopefully more victories are on the way.

Nairo Quintana (Movistar)

Nairo Quintana Movistar 2013

Image courtesy of Movistar

Age: 22.

Nationality: Colombian.

Role: Climber.

2012 WorldTour ranking: 176th, 6 pts.

2012 highlights:

  • 1st overall at Vuelta a Murcia, one stage win.
  • 1st overall at Route du Sud, one stage win.
  • Won Giro dell’Emilia.
  • Won one stage at Critérium du Dauphiné.

Why I’m following him:

Nairo Quintana’s chiselled face belies his actual age. The Colombian is only 23 this year, and won the Tour de l’Avenir (effectively the young riders’ Tour de France) in 2010. The son of a poor peasant family from Boyacá in Colombia, Quintana’s is an incredible tale, and he is part of the great Colombian cycling revival currently in progress. He enjoyed an enormously successful 2012, including doing an invaluable job in marshalling teammate Alejandro Valverde to second place at the Vuelta a España.

Still so young, Quintana will surely continue to improve. 2013 should be his best year yet, and he is undoubtedly one to watch.

Websites: Philippe Gilbert, Rui Costa

Twitter: @Phil_Gilbert1@RuiCostaCyclist

10 Wishes: Jack Sargeant

I am Jack, and I am a founding member of VeloVoices. I will watch pretty much any racing I can find, though I have a particular love for the spring Classics and a penchant for all things cycling in South America. When not watching cycling, I can usually be found writing about Italian football, much to the disdain of Kitty. Here are my wishes for 2013.

1. An exciting Tour de France

Every cycling fan knows there’s something special about the Tour de France, a buzz that no other race – however good the parcours – has. When it’s a complete snoozefest, it’s a bit of a letdown. So I hope for a supremely aggressive, exciting Tour, hotly contested until the final day in the mountains.

2. Philippe Gilbert: rainbow rocket

Let's hope the rest of the peloton has to chase the rainbow (image courtesy of Davide Calabresi)

Wish 2: Let the rest of the peloton chase the rainbow (image courtesy of Davide Calabresi)

PhilGil was dealt a rough hand in 2012, managing to salvage it at the last with his rainbow jersey success. Hopefully he will reverse the rainbow curse and be back to his attacking best for the Ardennes Classics. It’s just not the same seeing him huffing and puffing his way up climbs.

3. The carrots keep on attacking

Euskaltel-Euskadi may have lost their all-Basque (or at least nearly all-Basque) recruitment policy over the silly season, but hopefully they won’t lose their Basque heart, as it’s when they’re suicidally attacking up a mountain that the carrots are at their entertaining best.

4. Jonathan Tiernan-Locke delivers

Jonathan Tiernan-Locke is very much a British rider I could take a liking to. I love a good puncheur, and with JTL’s unusual career path it is excellent to see him given a chance by Sky. I hope he takes it.

5. Rui Costa’s upward curve continues

Wish X: Rui Costa does something (image courtesy of Danielle Haex)

Wish 5: Rui Costa goes from strength to strength (image courtesy of Danielle Haex)

Prior to 2012, Rui Costa was best known for being on the receiving end of a wheel lobbed his way by Carlos Barredo in some sort of Iberian feud. Last season, he changed that, with the biggest win of his career in the overall classification at the Tour de Suisse. He is a funny rider, good on both mountainous climbs and hilly classics. At 26, it seems the time is right for a big season.

6. Colombian climbers excel

With the help of Rigoberto Uran and Nairo Quintana amongst others, Colombian cycling is currently enjoying a resurgence. With their incredible climbing stock and through the great work of the Colombia-Coldeportes team – who are hoping for a Tour de France wildcard – it would be fantastic to see that continue.

7. Rolls Roy-ce returns

Wish 8:  (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

Wish 7: Jeremy Roy attacks everything going in this year’s Tour and finally wins a stage! (image courtesy of Wikipedia)

The Tour de France wasn’t the same last year without the attacking exploits of Jeremy Roy, who was so aggressive the year before. Unfortunately for all his efforts he never managed to win a stage, and I hope that changes this year.

8. Pat McQuaid leaves cycling forever

Self-explanatory.

9. A great year for VeloVoices

With a sixth member on board, VeloVoices will hopefully be more entertaining than ever in 2013!

10. No more scandals

Wouldn’t it be nice for the focus to be purely on a great season of racing, for once?

Vuelta a España: Stage 16 review

Stage 16: Gijón to Valgrande-Pajares. Cuitu Negru, 183.5km

Another brutal day, another breakaway and another worthy winner: Dario Cataldo (Omega Pharma-Quick Step). He edged away from breakaway companion Thomas De Gendt (Vacansoleil-DCM) on the final searing climb where they were both gasping like fish out of water and weaving in slow motion up the torturous narrow ramps of the Cuitu Negru.

The duo had gotten away after about 50km. Like yesterday, they managed to build a sufficiently large gap to ensure they would contest the stage victory. It was only in the last 2km that Italian national time trial champion Cataldo was able to drop and hold off De Gendt to take the biggest – and slowest, and probably most painful – win of his career.

An exultant Dario Cataldo (image courtesy of Omega Pharma QuickStep)

When he finally recovered his breath and composure, the stage winner said:

I am really super happy. I won the queen stage. It was a long break with a great rider as De Gendt. I am improving day by day, and really looking forward to the next stages and — why not — to really try and do something good at the Tour of Lombardy.

I would also like to be a part of the Italian National Team in Valkenburg [for the World Championships – Ed]. It’s a dream, but I will work for it and hope my effort will be repaid.

Further down the slope, the real race of the day was unfolding. It was another tale of derring-do featuring the three musketeers: Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank), race leader Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar).

Contador put his Saxo Bank teammates to work before the final climb with Euskaltel-Euskadi lending a helping hand. But the real damage was inflicted on the final hors catégorie climb with the leaders’ group down to around 30 riders and fourth-placed Chris Froome (Sky) drifting off the back. With 7km to go, Saxo’s Sergio Paulinho swung off – job done – and Jesus Hernandez took over. Contador stuck to Hernandez’s wheel and, in turn, Rodriguez, Valverde and Quintana lined up behind.

Then Contador took control and shed the Movistarlets, but not Rodriguez. Quintana paced Valverde back to the two leaders. With 5km to go, Valverde attacked only to be pulled back. Quintana went again – he was overhauled by Contador, with Purito glued to his wheel. And so it continued, with Valverde pulling himself back up each time to the leading two who would dance away as soon as he was within spitting distance. It was a magnificent joust, with attacks being parried time and time again. Finally, with 500 metres to go Contador attacked again, Rodriguez caught him and sashayed away to collect third place and the final time bonus to extend his advantage to 28 seconds.

Link to stage highlights

VeloVoices rider of the day

It’s just got to be Alberto Contador. For the last three days he’s taken the race by the scruff of the neck and tried every which way he can to dislodge Joaquim Rodriguez. He promised he wasn’t going to give up trying, and he hasn’t. Goodness knows how many times he’s attacked on those final climbs only to see Purito slip past in the final few metres. But he’s not lost heart and, in the process, we’ve been treated to a visual feast, a marvellous spectacle which we’ll be talking about long after the final podium in Madrid.

VeloVoices rider of the day Alberto Contador (image courtesy of RDW)

This year’s race is going to go down in the Vuelta annals as a Classic. In years to come, we’ll be saying “remember when …” Of course, it’s not over until the fat lady sings and there’s still Saturday’s stage which finishes at Bola del Mundo to navigate where, rest assured, Alberto will have yet another, and another, and indeed another go or two.

This is what he had to say after today’s stage:

Independently from the result and the fact that Joaquim is very strong, I’m happy with my attitude. Today I’ve had better legs. As a team we’ve made the race hard. We’ve heated up the race and made it exciting.

Indeed you have, Alberto!

Observation

If you don’t ride, you might not appreciate how difficult it is to ride up a slope of 25% after three long, hard days in the saddle. Scratch the three hard, long days and it’s still damn difficult. This has been a brutal Vuelta.

Tactical analysis

There are still five stages to navigate but you sense that the podium is crystallising and it’s an all-Spanish affair. Joaquim Rodriguez has a grip on all the jerseys bar the King of the Mountains, and that slipped from his grasp when Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEDGE) nipped off with teammate Peter Weening for company today to collect a couple of valuable points.

There may still be some further movement in the top ten. Today Igor Anton (Euskaltel-Euskadi) swapped tenth for ninth spot with Nico Roche (AG2R La Mondiale) and Movistar took over as top team. The boys now have a well-earned rest day followed by two sprint stages and one for the baroudeurs before Saturday’s final summit finish.

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