Giro Tweets of the Week: Snowy Stelvio, zany Zoncolan and pink go-go boots

The final week of the Giro certainly made up for the more meh previous weeks. And for every great stage, the Twitterstream delivered as well. Snow on the Stelvio, crazed fans on the Zoncolan (and not just Oleg Tinkov!) and a pink-booted Nairo Quintana. We also have Sky’s TdF reconnaissance, That Boy Phinney back on Twitter and out of the hospital and a whole lotta gruppetto!

‘Do I have to pee on my hands again?’

Hold on a second, didn’t we have these pictures last year for Milan-San Remo? It looks pretty familiar: snow, lone riders and Jered Gruber. Memories light the corners of my mind …

Giro Stelvio 10 Giro Stelvio 4 Giro Stelvio 1 Giro Stelvio 9 Giro Stelvio 7 Giro Stelvio 11 Giro Stelvio 6

Get on your boots …

One of the big talking points last week was Nairo Quintana in pink. Not because he was leader of the race and was in the maglia rosa, but because he had on the most extraordinary outfit for his time trial.

Giro Quintana pinkboots 8 Giro Quintana pinkboots 5 Giro Quintana pinkboots 7 Giro Quintana pinkboots 10 Giro Quintana pinkboots 9 Giro Quintana pinkboots 1a Giro Quintana pinkboots 3 Giro Quintana pink boots 1 Giro Quintana pink suit Giro Quintana pink boots 2Of course, Quintana is actually the only person who could wear those hot pink boots with a straight face. In fact, that’s almost all we saw him with – a straight face.

Giro Quintana raceface 2 Giro Quintana raceface 1The Zoncolan!!!

Drunk fans in tutus, wedding dresses, mankinis … and a world champion’s jersey. The Zoncolan was one of those stages where the crazed atmosphere started at the base of the mountain and just got more and more intense.

Giro Zoncolan fans 9 Giro Zoncolan Rogers finish 2 Giro Zoncolan Quintana uran Giro Zoncolan fans 10Giro Zoncolan final kmGiro Zoncolan Rogers 3Giro Zoncolan GasparottoGiro Zoncolan fans 1Giro Zoncolan fans 2Giro Zoncolan wheelie 2Giro Zoncolan CadelGiro Zoncolan fans 6Giro Zoncolan fans 4Giro Zoncolan steep 1Giro Zoncolan fans 5

Giro Zoncolan Rogers kissGiro Zoncolan wheelieGiro Zoncolan fans 3

Mick Rogers took his second solo stage win and was crowned King of the Zoncolan. Oleg Tinkov was at the finish to catch him and then basically stuck to him like glue.

Giro Zoncolan Rogers finish

Giro Tinkov champagne 3

Giro Zoncolan Tinkov 1

Giro Tinkov Zoncolan 2

And the party went on and on and on with the Tinkov bubbles.

Giro Tinkov champagne 1 Giro Tinkov champagne 4

If this is what the team gets for a stage win, can you imagine what is going to happen when Baby Blackbird Contador wins the Tour de France this year? (Oh, did I say ‘when’? Of course, I meant ‘if’.) There will be enough champagne to fill Niagara Falls. (By the way, three ‘litters’ of Dom Perignon, I believe, is actually called a Jeroboam.)

Giro Tinkov champagne 2

High fives and smiles all round

Quintana looks so much younger when he smiles, don’t you think?

Giro Quintana presentation 3 Giro Quintana presentation 2

I really love this picture. Mick Jagger is one class act, congratulating his compatriot as he becomes the first Colombian to win the Giro.

Giro presentation 5

This picture is really rather surprising, don’t you think?

Giro Quintana presentation 1

And he gets his own personal pyramid when he goes back home.

Giro Quintana pyramid

Let’s tie everything else up, shall we?

Oh, it’s another “I win!” Um, no, the guy above you won … (That would be Stefano Pirazzi.)

Giro Pirazzi win

Did I mention how much I love it when riders cry when they win?

Giro Pirazzi crying

It’s also great to see how much this victory means to Colombian fans.

Giro Colombian fans

Of course, a grand tour Tweets column can’t be without a few pictures from the wonderfully talented Emily Maye. I love these pictures.

Giro Emily Maye 3 Giro Emily Maye 2 Giro Emily Maye 1This might not be what you think a rock star would be eating in the limo (or Skoda) on the way to the line, but it is. Rice. Tuna. Corn.

Giro Jagger ride 1

See how happy he is after he had his carbs and protein? Just laughing and singing a song … “She comes in colours everywhere, she combs her hair – she’s like a raaaaaainboooooow”

Giro Jagger ride 2 Giro Jagger ride 3

Ulrika GreenEggs were left with just two riders by the end of the Giro – so Dan Jones, the man who makes all the Backstage Pass vids for the team, paid tribute to them on the last sign-in of the GT.

Giro Orica last 2

Ah, King Kelly – there’s no one quite like him in the commentary box.

Giro Seanism 2 Giro Seanism 1I think that this year’s Giro sorely missed the magic of Michele Acquarone. Here’s how he felt about it all.

Michele Giro 1 Michele Giro 2Sweaty or not, this is really rather wonderful. And he still made the time cut!

Giro proposal 1

I think we’re going to see young Julian Arredondo for quite some time to come.

Giro Arredondo 1 Giro Arredondo 2

Skygazine in Yorkshire

While everyone else was celebrating in Italy, Sky were riding some of the roads that are going to be so crucial in July. To the delight of many, including one of my favourite Twitter pals, Alex Jones.

TdF reconnaissance Sky 7 TdF reconnaissance Sky 8 TdF reconnaissance Sky 2 TdF reconnaissance Sky 1 TdF reconnaissance Sky 3 TdF reconnaissance Sky 4 TdF reconnaissance Sky 6

He doesn’t look happy on those cobbles.

TdF reconnaissance Sky 5

Taylor update

That Boy Phinney has started tweeting again, after two surgeries on his leg, and is concentrating on recovery. As long as he tweets, he’s in this column.

Phinney 6 Phinney 7 Phinney 8a Phinney 5 Phinney 4 Phinney 3 Phinney 2

Phinney 1

The Gruppetto

Remember this guy? Robbie McEwen? Don’t you think Arredondo looks a bit like him (only way smaller)? Not sure about the Oakleys though.

G Robbie McEwen Oakleys

Artcrank has been teasing us with some of the most beautiful and intriguing cycling prints.

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G Artcrank 1

Marcel is ready for his close-up.

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What is it with the Lotto boys and motorbikes?

G Henderson motorcycle

This is actually from last year but Geraint Thomas won Bayern Rundfahrt this year and got another flagon of ale. Except those aren’t flagons. And they probably didn’t open the beer bottles with a deft smack on a table edge like Fabs did after Flanders.

G Sky Bayern Rundfahrt

Meanwhile, Tom Boonen was collecting jerseys in the Belgium Tour. And a keg of beer. (I do know that that’s a keg – hey, I went to an American university, I know all about keg parties…)

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Our weekly Instagram of the delectable Manuel Quinziato.

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The Velvet Samurai seems to have found a friend.

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Even Freud couldn’t unravel this dream.

G dream Vaughters

Speaking of sex, here’s Cipo! In camouflage! I can’t ever imagine this man blending in to his surroundings.

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I just thought this was a cool poster.

G Raleigh

I love this caption: ‘All Team around the Ham’. Sounds like a touching tradition. Lovely to see my #CostaCrush – I hope the summer racing is good to the World Champ.

G Costa Ham

And who knew Brian Cookson had a sense of humour? (For those of you who don’t know, Mark Cavendish was a teen champion ballroom dancer.)

G Kazakh Cav

And what is Michele Acquarone going to? We have to wait and see. Whatever he does, we wish him the very best of everything. We really missed him this Giro.

G Michele new job

The Last Word

Last word


Friday Feature: Five days in the sun at the Vuelta a España

Sheree has just returned from five days in the roasting sun at the Vuelta. Here she brings us her impressions and reflections from behind both the scenes and the barricades at the race.

When the lady in the Vuelta accreditation office asked me how long I wanted the accreditation for, I can’t tell you how tempted I was to say for the entire race. Sanity prevailed and I admitted it was only for five days – but what a five days! My husband and I had a most enjoyable and privileged stay, thanks once again to the kind hospitality of Eurosport.

Most of the major contenders held press conferences on Friday, either in the press centre or at their team hotels. Many downplayed their own chances while talking up the opposition, including Alberto Contador, whose return to the Vuelta was eagerly anticipated after his win in 2008 and who promised the assembled press corps that Saxo Bank would not be controlling the race a la Sky.

Alberto Contador’s Vuelta press conference (image courtesy of Susi Goetze)

The team presentations may have been more perfunctory than the Tour’s but actually no one really wanted to hang around in the stifling evening heat in historic Pamplona. The VIP stampede for seats in the shade to watch the proceedings in the Plaza del Castillo rivalled that of the town’s historic Fiesta de los Sanfermines, the famous running of the bulls.

We were back the following evening to watch the team time trial, which produced more than a few twists and turns than the route through the cobbled old town of Pamplona. The teams started in the Plaza del Castillo and finished in the Plaza de Toros, site of the town’s bull-fighting ring. Everyone was squashed into the seats in the shade as, once again, the mercury soared. Fortunately there were plenty of cold refreshments on hand. No one opted to sit in the sunshine.

Fans packed into the bullring like proverbial sardines for the Vuelta team time trial (image courtesy of RDW)

Caja Rural in local dress confront the red carpet first (image courtesy of RDW)

The teams were bookended by the two Navarran squads Caja Rural and Movistar. The former wore a special all-white time trial suit with red accents to mimic the outfits worn in the Fiesta. Thankfully no blood was spilled and they sat briefly in the hot seat before being swiftly dethroned. Mishaps to team time trial specialists Garmin-Sharp and world champion Tony Martin’s Omega Pharma-Quick Step left Rabobank cooling down in ice vests in the hot seat until the final denouement by local boys Movistar, whose Basque time trial specialist Jonathan Castroviejo crossed the line first to take the leader’s jersey. Everyone was happy!

Basque Jonathan Castroviejo is the Vuelta’s first leader, next to Miguel Indurain (image courtesy of Monike Prell)

Sunday’s second stage finished in another historic Navarran town, Viana, the last stop before the Camino de Santiago (pilgrim’s route) descends into the oven of La Rioja. There’s a surprising grave marker in front of Viana’s beautiful Inglesia de Santa Maria – that of the Machiavellian Cesare Borgia, who was placed under the protection of the King of Navarra. The race passed through town twice but it was clearly going to be one for the sprinters and Argonaut John Degenkolb didn’t disappoint. He looks rather fetching in that red scarf, doesn’t he?

John Degenkolb, lapping up the applause, lobs his bouquet into the crowd (image courtesy of Monika Prell)

For the first time this year, the Vuelta has introduced VIP villages du départ and arrivée aping those of the Tour de France, where there’s shelter from the sun, seating, toilets, refreshments, television screens and a sprinkling of former riders and very attractive leggy hostesses in short shorts. [Why didn’t you tell me this before?!? – Ed] I noted Abraham Olano, Pedro Delgado, Miguel Indurain and Oscar Pereiro but no doubt there were others. These villages are set up alongside the sign-on and adjacent to the finish line, providing welcome havens of hospitality for not only us but also the guests of the many sponsors and the press corps.

Everything at the Vuelta is slightly lower-key than the Tour, a point which is probably appreciated by the largely local fans who have greater access to the riders and by the riders themselves who have much less pressure and hassle. There’s also a caravan but it only numbers a dozen or so floats and is much more modest than that of the Tour, but it does feature a number of common sponsors which prompted the thought of whether ASO sold the two – the Tour and the Vuelta – as a package. However, the logistics and organisation of the Vuelta are no less impressive than the Tour, just on a smaller scale. Sadly one of the common sponsors isn’t Haribo, so no Gummy Bears, although my husband did collect an impressive assortment of caps, keyrings, books and scarves.

Alejandro Valverde wins stage three by a whisker (image courtesy of Susi Goetze)

Having departed from a well-known wine producer in Rioja [other alcoholic beverages are available – Ed], Monday’s stage three finished atop a hill with which my husband and I are quite familiar and where Samu Sanchez triumphed in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco.  We were grateful that our passes enabled us to scale Arrate by car but were impressed by the sheer number of fans who’d ridden or walked up to cheer on their Euskaltel team and who were enjoying leisurely roadside picnics in the shade. The stage had the required fireworks among the leading contenders, a Spanish victor (Alejandro Valverde) but sadly not a Basque one.

Tuesday’s stage four started just south of Bilbao in a suburb housing Bilbao’s Exhibition Centre before heading south once more to La Rioja via Burgos and Alava. As always at the start and finish there are plenty of kids, many clad in kit from local teams. Here’s Juan Mari chatting to a group of young cycling fans and, maybe, future Vuelta winners.

The future of Spanish cycling (image courtesy of RDW)

Colombian climbing star and 2012 revelation Nairo Quintano (image courtesy of RDW)

The immaculately coiffed Maxime Bouet (image courtesy of RDW)

Everyone wants Valverde’s autograph (image courtesy of RDW)

Bertie at the start in Barakaldo (image courtesy of RDW)

The stage was won from a breakaway and handed Simon Clarke (Orica-GreenEDGE) his first professional win.

A very happy Simon Clarke gets ready to shower everyone with Cava (image courtesy of Susi Goetze)

More excitement in the form of echelons, falls, accusations, counter-accusations, confrontations at team buses, plenty of comment on social media and even more discussion. Should Sky have waited for the leader Alejandro Valverde when he fell? Opinion was divided. One of the leading Spanish newspapers canvassed eight ex-riders for their opinion. Only Pereiro, a former teammate of Valverde’s, felt that the peloton should have slowed to allow Valverde to get back on. Valverde’s loss was Joaquim Rodriguez‘s gain. He took the red leader’s shirt by a second over Sky’s Chris Froome.

Purito launches his bouquet into the crowd (image courtesy of Susi Goetze)

One of my VeloVoices’ colleagues Panache commented early on that the Vuelta looked unbalanced as it was being held almost wholly in the north. On reflection, I suspect that this merely reflects which areas can or cannot afford to stage the race in the current economic climate. The north is the industrial and agricultural heartland of Spain, plus they’re making a concerted effort to increase tourism in this area. I can attest to the sandiness of their beaches, the diversity of the landscape and the cultural heritage which will unfold on our screens as the race progresses. Oh, why didn’t I say I wanted accreditation for the whole race?

Link: Vuelta a Espana official website

Route du Sud preview

The Route du Sud is the last chance saloon for any of the French riders still hoping to secure their Tour de France berth. Now in its 36th edition, it takes place from Thursday 14th to Sunday 17th June in the spectacular French Pyrenees. Some will use this race as a warm-up for the Tour de France, although many top riders consider it to be too hard and too close to the Tour for preparation. The field is mostly made up of domestic and pro continental riders who come July, like you and me, will be watching the Tour de France on TV.

A number of well-known riders have won this race early in their careers, including David Moncoutie, Thomas Voeckler, Sandy Casar, Michael Rogers, Levi Leipheimer, Jonathan Vaughters and Laurent Jalabert.

What kind of race is it?

The Route du Sud is a short, four-day 2.1 Europe Tour stage race, a kind-of condensed Criterium du Dauphine. Winners from the last five years were:

2007: Oscar Sevilla (Relax-GAM)

2008: Daniel Martin (Slipstream-Chipotle)

2009: Przemyslaw Niemiec (Miche-Silver Cross)

2010: David Moncoutie (Cofidis)

2011: Vasiliy Kiryienka (Movistar) Continue reading