With the final racing of the season taking place last weekend, the VeloVoices team is taking a look back at the performances of our selected riders to watch in 2012. I’m following a god of cycling, a future god of cycling and a god of the track: Fabian Cancellara, Taylor Phinney and Geraint Thomas.
Fabian Cancellara (image by Panache)
WorldTour ranking: 37th, 134 points.
Well, Cancellara had a shit season of #unluck and he called it a day after the Olympics, choosing not to go to the World Championships and has been laying low in Switzerland ever since. Rumour had it that he had his lawyers trying to break his contract with RadioShack-Nissan but to no avail, either because he couldn’t or wouldn’t buy himself out (said to be about €2m). I started a #FreeFabs campaign and have been buying lottery tickets for the express purpose of buying him out of his contract myself. (I’d put him in a KittyFondue sponsored jersey …)
He’s been mighty quiet on the tweeting front as well, although it was telling that he started to tweet again as soon as Johan Bruyneel was pushed/jumped/fired from RadioShack. Since then, he’s tweeted about snow-capped mountains and his day at the zoo with his daughter – in Fabianese, of course, so I was totally charmed.
Let’s hope Spartacus is back on form next year for the spring Classics to take on Tom Boonen.
Results: Won one stage at USA Pro Cycling Challenge. Silver medal in both the World Championships team and individual time trials. 3rd in Chrono des Nations.
Image by Panache
WorldTour ranking: 118th, 22 points.
That boy Phinney has had a sterling year and he finished it off in style with a third place in the Chrono des Nations. But the highlight of the last part of the season for him (and for us) was his performance in the World Championships. His BMC team took silver in the newly resurrected team time trial (for trade teams, not national teams).
Then he gave a thrilling performance in the individual time trial, trading the virtual lead with Tony Martin as they were both on the course in one of the closest ITT races we’ve seen in a long time. Both men were mere husks by the time they crossed the line and collapsed – both left absolutely everything out on the road. And Phinney finished just five seconds behind Martin. Heartbreaking – and riveting – stuff. He’ll be a force to be reckoned with next year. Can’t wait!
I’ve had a lot of close calls this year and think that changes your mindset as you go forward. You start to think of the little things you can change in your everyday routine in order to get that one second or that five seconds or that three seconds you might have missed the year before.
We should really get Panache to do a portrait of Geraint… (image courtesy of Wikipedia)
Results: 2nd in individual time trial at Post Danmark Rundt.
WorldTour ranking:120th, 22 points.
Thomas came back from his Olympic success to do a few races before he ended his season in October. Although he did not ride the World Championships as part of Team GB, he did participate in the trade team time trial for Sky, where they finished ninth.
He ended his season with a strong showing at Post Danmark Rundt, a few races in Canada and, his final race, Paris-Tours.
Next year Thomas will be concentrating on road racing again instead of track as he did this year, so we can expect to see a lot more of him!
In advance of this Saturday’s start of the 2012 Vuelta a España, here’s the second part of VeloVoices’ overview of the 22 teams, their main protagonists and their eclectic mix of title sponsors! Only in cycling …
The final list of participants is subject to change in the last few days before the race, but these are accurate to the best of our knowledge at the time of writing.
Sponsors: An Italian sheet steel manufacturer and a Ukrainian steel producer.
Overview: Il piccolo principe, Damiano Cunego, who finished sixth in the recent Giro d’Italia, will lead the team with a mixture of Eastern European and Italian support in the hopes that he will be able to improve on his best finish in this race – 16th in 2004. Cunego has typically used the race to find his form ahead of the World Championships but the Vuelta has recently been brought forward a week to encourage greater participation and completion. He’ll have the wonderfully named Colombian Winner Ancona for help on the steepest of climbs, but if Cunego falters, Lampre have enough Eastern European firepower to go for stage wins plus Morris Possoni can play his part in the sprints.
Sponsors: An Italian distributor of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and an American bicycle manufacturer.
Overview: The team will be riding in support of Eros Capecchi – 21st in 2011 – who’s moving next season to Movistar with mountain-climbing goat Sylvester Szmyd. He too will have Colombian assistance in the mountains [must-have high mountain accessory – Ed] from Jose Sarmiento. Piste performer Elia Viviani will be looking to score points in the sprints and, with no news on a replacement sponsor, the rest of the lime-sherbet clad boys will be looking to animate the race, pad out their palmares and land a contract for next season.
Sponsors: The Belgian lottery and a Belgian window and door manufacturer.
Overview: Lotto-Belisol will be hoping Jurgen Van den Broeck, fourth-placed in the Tour, will be able to step onto the podium at the Vuelta. For the sprints – and breakaways – they’ve got Gianni Meersman who’ll be led out by Adam Hansen, sadly been shorn of his twitter best-buddy Greg Henderson. You just know that the Vuelta’s not going to be as amusing as the Tour. [Is that a challenge?– Ed].
Sponsor: A Spanish mobile telecoms operator.
Overview: Alejandro Valverde will be playing best supporting rider to leading man and defending champ, Juan Jose Cobo, who looked to be finding some vestige of form towards the end of the Tour. They too have Colombian assistance in the form of Route du Sud winner Nairo Quintano. Basque Jonathan Castroviejo will add extra firepower in the team time-trial, and in the run into the foothills, while Jose Joaquin Rojas will be looking to try on the sprints jersey for size. We’re not convinced that Cobo will be firing on all cylinders, and neither are team management, hence former Vuelta winner Valverde as plan B.
Omega Pharma-Quick Step
Sponsors: A Belgian pharmaceutical company and a Belgian laminate flooring manufacturer.
Overview: OPQS don’t appear to have a GC contender in their squad, so therefore we assume that they’re looking for stage wins with time-trial world champion Tony Martin and sprinter Gert Steegmans. It’ll be interesting to see how cyclo-cross god Zdenek Stybar fares in a three-week Tour with tons of high mountains. It looks as thought the team selection has been made on the basis of anyone who hasn’t yet ridden or completed a Grand Tour: not exactly a recipe for success, but maybe they feel they’ve already won enough this season.
Sponsors: A conglomerate that provide chemicals and explosives for the mining industry and a wealthy Australian businessman.
Overview: The Aussie team will continue to hunt stage wins and maybe even the points jersey with its sprint-heavy squad: Simon Clarke, Allan Davis, Julian Dean. Also expect the team to perform well in the opening time-trial with their three former-piste boys Wesley Sulzberger and brothers Cameron and Travis Meyer. Eritrean Daniel Teklehaymanot may look to get into the mountains jersey in the early days but we suspect their shirts will be seen prominently at the front of a charging peloton in the final kilometres on those six flat stages.
Sponsor: A Dutch bank.
Overview:Robert Gesink will lead a team loaded with talent hoping to redress the disasters that befell him and his teammates at the Tour. He’ll be supported by Laurens Ten Dam, Bauke Mollema, third-placed in Vuelta a Pais Vasco, and Juan Manuel Garate. Lars Boom, fresh from his Eneco tour win, and Matti Breschel will have an eye on those flat stages but will also be responsible for driving the peloton to the foothills. You sense that team management is losing patience with Gesink and there’s plenty of talent awaiting in the wings.
Sponsors: A US electronics retailer and a Japanese automotive company.
Overview: Potentially, another team looking for new contracts so expect riders like Tiago Machado, Markel Irizar and Maxime Monfort to toe the party line, whatever that is, while Linus Gerdemann goes on the attack. They’re unlikely to win the team competition, like they did in the Tours of France and Utah, but they should shine in the team time-trial. Their sprinter Daniele Bennati will be hoping for some victories and to figure in the race for the points jersey. We could be wrong but frankly the team selection doesn’t appear to have much rhyme or reason.
Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank
Sponsors: A Danish and a Russian bank.
Overview: The team will all be riding in support of their recently returned leader, Alberto Contador, who is surrounded by his faithful cohorts Benjamin Noval, Jesus Hernandez, Sergio Paulinho and Dani Navarro. It’s not the strongest of sides but the recent influx of Russian rubles will facilitate bolstering their effectiveness and, more importantly, their points for next season. It’s hard to know how Contador will perform after six months on the sidelines and we gained no clues from the recent Eneco Tour where he was content to remain safely in the bunch. However, at VeloVoices Towers, we wouldn’t bet against him taking his second Vuelta victory.
Sponsor: A satellite television broadcaster.
Overview: Sky will be fielding a stellar team in support of the runner-up from last year’s Vuelta and this year’s Tour, Chris Froome, a rider with a point to prove. Ever wanting to outdo other teams, Sky has not one, but two Colombians: Sergio Henao and Olympic silver medallistRigoberto Uran to support Froome. Also in the squad are hardmen Ian Stannard and Juan Antonio Flecha and they come loaded with additional firepower in the mountains with Tasmanian Richie Porte. It’s going to be a fascinating contest.
Sponsors: A European organiser of luxury camping holidays and a Belgian farm supply company.
Overview: Vacansoleil’s Tour didn’t go according to plan in any way, shape or form. They’ll be looking to put matters right at the Vuelta, where once again they’ll be seeking exposure for their sponsors in the form of stage wins and breakaways. Invisible at the Tour, we’ll all be hoping that Johnny Hoogerland is back on form, while Thomas De Gendt will be looking for opportunities to repeat his Paris-Nice type escape to victory. Frankly, after their bad luck at the Tour, this Grand Tour can only get better.
Tomorrow we’ll preview the five key stages of this year’s race.
Stage 10: Macon to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine, 194.5km
Thomas Voeckler showed that he still has his fighting spirit with a brilliant stage win and, along with Vincenzo Nibali‘s attack on the descent of the Col du Grand Colombier, his breakaway animated a race that, back in the peloton, Bradley Wiggins and Sky continued to control.
The stage started with a 25-man breakaway, including someone from just about every team except Sky, but once the intermediate sprint points were mopped up by Matt Goss (Orica-GreenEDGE), Yauheni Hutarovich (FDJ-BigMat), and Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) respectively, the fire went out of the large breakaway as they started the HC climb of the Grand Colombier. Soon, it was down to just four men – Voeckler, Luis Leon Sanchez (Rabobank), Dries Devenyns (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Michele Scarponi (Lampre) – to stay out front the rest of the day.
Sky, meanwhile, responded to a dig by BMC by putting all their men up front, with Edvald Boasson Hagen setting a blistering pace that shelled riders out the back, although none of the main GC contenders. Nibali attacked on the descent and worked himself a minute in front of the maillot jaune group before being reeled back on the final climb of the day, the Col de Richemond. Lotto-Belisol’s Jurgen van den Broeck and Europcar’s Pierre Rolland took a flier off the front of the yellow jersey group at the summit of the Col de Richmond, forcing RadioShack to chase to protect Maxime Monfort‘s standings in the GC.
Our boys in front, meanwhile, were joined by one Jens Voigt (RadioShack) on the descent and it looked for a moment that he might snatch the victory. However, in the end, it was Voeckler who stormed to the win – with a visible sigh of relief as he wobbled across the finish line – followed by Scarponi and Voigt in second and third.
VeloVoices rider of the day
You know, when you love something you have to give it all you can. For many years I’ve said that, for me, a good Tour de France is a Tour de France when you arrive in Paris and you can say to yourself that you have no regrets. Today I know that I can finish my Tour without regrets but that doesn’t mean that I’ll just stay in the peloton for the rest of the race.
Well, it has to be Thomas Voeckler. The Frenchman, always an attacking rider and one who hangs on with a lot of grit, showed that, he might be down in the GC, but he certainly isn’t out of the race. Fellow riders don’t necessarily like Voeckler, accusing him of sandbagging during breaks then breezing past them for the win – and, to be fair, he does seem to do that a lot – but he certainly has tenacity and he gives the fans a good show. He rides with panache, with heart and with guts.
As does our special mention, Jens Voigt. Twitter lit up twice for The Jensie – once when he offered Marcus Burghardt (BMC) a bidon and some of his musette as Burghardt had missed his own hand-off, and then when he reattached himself to the breakaway group with 3km to go. It’s a shame he’s on a team that is in such shambles, but he has certainly done his share to redeem RadioShack’s Tour by driving the peloton in the first week, getting into breaks and showing everyone that 40 means nothing when you’ve got such fierce joy. Chapeau to both!
I was all prepared to call RadioShack-Nissan lemonheads throughout this stage, as they were riding at the head of the team classification, but looking at the peloton, what do I see? One yellow helmet and that is on the head of the maillot jaune, Bradley Wiggins. So isn’t it a new rule that the lead team has to wear yellow helmets? Apparently, RadioShack were one of two teams who didn’t bring yellow helmets with them (except for the one Fabian Cancellara wore during his week in yellow). Shows they didn’t have high hopes for a team placement or they just had good taste. Either way, thank God.
I think if RadioShack had a whip-round on Twitter, they’d get more than enough to pay whatever fine might go with their non-participation in the lemon-headed humiliation tactics of the ASO. Leave the yellow helmet to the race leader. He deserves to stand out in the peloton.
Other than Vincenzo Nibali, who during his free-flowing descent of the Grand Colombier was in virtual second, none of the other GC contenders took the race to Sky, leaving it to perhaps tomorrow – or perhaps never? – to challenge the maillot jaune. They’re going to run out of chances if they look around too much.
As for the green jersey, Matt Goss picked up the full 20 points in the intermediate sprint, but as Peter Sagan was also there and finished third, he only gained five on the Velvet Samurai. The fact that Sagan is riding hard for the jersey warms the heart.
The King of the Mountains jersey is now on the bullish shoulders of Thomas Voeckler who, if he can’t wear yellow this Tour, will do whatever he can to make sure Europcar is getting a hefty return on investment by taking the other jersey available to him.
VeloVoices will bring you previews of each day’s stage every morning, live coverage of every stage on Twitter, reviews in the evening and in-depth analysis after selected stages.