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

Route du Sud review

Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Movistar) won the event’s queen stage on day three and held onto the jersey on day four’s sprint stage to seal the overall. This was the 22-year old Colombian’s fourth win in his fledgling season with Movistar  – although he’s been a professional since 2009 – and follows close on the heels of his win on stage six of the Criterium du Dauphine and his overall in the Vuelta a Murcia.

It has to be said that he looks no more 22 than I do but, boy, can this boy climb and descend. He’s not in Movistar’s team for the Tour de France but instead he’ll be setting the Vuelta a Espana alight along with Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) and Alberto Contador (SaxoBank).

VeloVoices had predicted a Colombian win on the queen stage but had anticipated that French chouchou Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) might provide some light relief and cheer. Instead he retired on the final stage with a knee injury which will keep him out of next week end’s French Championships and, most probably, the Tour too.

We were also keeping a close eye on early season Brit sensation Jon Tiernan-Locke (Endura) who was returning to competition after a broken collar-bone – that most popular of cycling injuries – and acquitted himself well by finishing just outside the top 20.

AG2R La Mondiale won top team, the mountains jersey with Blel Kadri and the sprints jersey with stage four winner Manuel Belletti who recorded the team’s fourth win of the season.

Here’s how the race unfolded.

Stage 1: Laucune-Les-Bains to Albi, 183km

Stage one winner Stephane Poulhies (image courtesy of official race website)

Stage one winner Stephane Poulhies (image courtesy of official race website)

Albi native Stephane Poulhies (Saur-Sojasun) won the first stage and assumed first leader’s jersey of the four-day race. The 26-year old Frenchman sprinted to his second victory of the season from a bunch ahead of compatriot under-23 World Champion Arnaud Demare (FDJ-Big Mat) and Italy’s Manuel Belletti (AG2R).

Jerome Cousin (Europcar) initiated the three-man break of the day but spent 40km on his own before Staf Scheirlinckx (Accent.jobs-Willems Veranda’s) and Javier Chacon (Andalucia) decided to keep him company. Their lead never extended beyond three minutes and they were taken back by the peloton within 5km of the finish line.

Stage 2: Castres to Saint-Michel, 197.1km

Arnaud Demare takes stage two (image courtesy of FDJ-BigMat)

Arnaud Demare takes stage two (image courtesy of FDJ-BigMat)

Another day, another sprint finish, although this stage was equally suited to puncheurs. This time it was won by yesterday’s runner-up, Demare – also claiming the leader’s jersey –  ahead of Steven Caethoven (Accent.jobs) and Manuel Belletti (AG2R).

The stage was animated by a long breakaway of five riders including Jean-Marc Bideau (Bretagne-Schuller) and David Veilleux (Europcar) who almost took it to the wire.

Stage 3: Tries-Sur-Baise to Arras-En-Lavedan, 204.6km

Nairo Quintano wins queen stage (image courtesy of Movistar)

Nairo Quintano wins queen stage (image courtesy of Movistar)

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) continued his recent run of fine form by soloing off in the Pyrenees on a very long, hot and difficult stage which took in the triple challenge of the Cols du Tourmalet, Soulor and Spandelles. The youngster launched his attack on the third and final climb – although he’d been at the front of the action along with teammate Sergio Pardilla, Kenny Elissonde (FDJ-BigMat), Anthony Charteau, Thomas Voeckler (both Europcar) and Hubert Dupont (AG2R), just behind the day’s lone kamikaze escapee Mathieu Perget (AG2R) – since the much reduced peloton ascended the Tourmalet.

He went clear on the steepest section of the final climb and while initially Dupont and Charteau were able to follow they were all too soon burned off. Quintana continued his furious pace on the descent to finish  – after over six hours in the saddle – a minute ahead of the rest and over 40 minutes ahead of the gruppetto!

Here’s his post stage interview where he expresses his happiness at the win and thanks his teammates for their assistance.

Stage 4: Saint Gaudens, 133.4km

Manuel Belletti winner of stage four (image courtesy of official race website)

Manuel Belletti winner of stage four (image courtesy of official race website)

Sunday’s final short, albeit undulating, stage was won time by AG2R’s Manuel Belletti, well served by his team, ahead of Poulhies and Juan Jose Lobato (Andalucia) to cement his claim to the points jersey. Meanwhile GC leader Quintana finished safely in the bunch to retain the overall and succeed his teammate Vasili Kiryienka, last year’s winner, to conclude a successful weekend for Movistar (with Rui Costa emerging triumphant at the Tour de Suisse).

In summing up his race, Quintana said:

This win is for all those who have always supported me and who have made where I am today possible. The truth is that the stage was quieter than we expected. Undoubtedly, the enormous effort yesterday left its mark on the peloton. On the last climb I wasn’t going that fast but I was able to distance the others showing there was very little strength after yesterday. My teammates did a great job in the first part of the stage, which had been more difficult because of the numerous attacks, but as we let the break go it all calmed down and then the sprinters’ teams took over as we expected.

At no time have we compromised victory. The team’s work has been great, we formed a compact team and I was proud to be part of it. It was a spectacular day for the team also with the triumph of Rui [in the Tour de Suisse]. This gives us even more harmony and more desire to deliver our best.

Closing thoughts

Nairo Quintano overall winner (image courtesy of official race website)

Nairo Quintano overall winner (image courtesy of official race website)

As I said in my preview, most of the riders taking part in this stage race will be watching the Tour de France on the television. Some from the comfort of their lounges, others while taking part in other races. That’s not to take anything away from any of the riders, many of whom are riding for teams which haven’t been invited to the Tour, while the Tour may have been adjudged a week or two too far for some of the younger riders.

AG2R will, however, be delighted that their season is finally gathering pace just ahead of their most important race of the year, plus Dupont, who will be riding the Tour, was the only rider not too far off the winner’s pace.

However, there are a couple of things worth noting. Saturday’s queen stage was a bit of a monster – expect it to make an appearance in the Tour de France within the next year or so. And keep a look out for young Quintana at the Vuelta.

General classification

1 Nairo Quintana (Movistar) 18:18:28

2 Hubert Dupont (AG2R La Mondiale) +0:48

3 Anthony Charteau (Europcar) +3:55

4 Kenny Elissonde (FDJ-BigMat) +5:38

5 Mathieu Perget (AG2R La Mondiale) +6:38

6 Yannick Talabardon (Saur-Sojasun) +6:51

7 Sergio Pardilla (Movistar) +7:30

8 Riccardo Chiarini (Androni Giocattoli-Venezuela) +8:22

9 Adrian Palomares (Andalucia) +9:13

10 Mikhail Antonov (Lokosphinx) +12:12

Links: Preview, Official website