What’s happening in June?

With just five weeks between the end of the Giro d’Italia and the beginning of the 100th Tour de France, June is a busy month which sees both key warm-up races and the start of the Tour itself. Here’s a quick preview of the races and some of the more notable rider birthdays which occur over the course of June. Continue reading

Jakob Fuglsang takes over the lead (Image courtesy of official race website)

Tour of Austria review

The Tour of Austria finished with overall victory for Jakob Fuglsang  the first by a Dane in the Tour – providing a much-needed boost for RadioShack-Nissan, albeit from one of their (many) want-away riders. Fuglsang had seized the lead and the yellow jersey from Danilo di Luca (Acque & Sapone) on the key Grossglockner mountain stage, and never let it escape from his clutches. At the race conclusion in Vienna, he said:

It’s particularly nice that I didn’t win by merely following, but also by taking a stage win. That’s always nicer. Since I took the jersey, the team worked really hard and made it easy for me. I did what I had to do in the time trial and the team helped me with everything else.

RadioShack also claimed the team classification while Fuglsang’s Austrian teammate Thomas Rohregger was the best-placed young rider to cap a successful week of racing. Team Type 1’s Georg Priedler won the mountains classification while teammate Alessandro Bazzana claimed the points jersey. VeloVoices was keeping an eye on young Colombian Carlos Betancur (Acqua & Sapone) who, having ridden in support of team leader di Luca, finished 19th overall and second in the young rider’s competition.

Jakob Fuglsang winner Tour of Austria 2012 (Image courtesy of RadioShack-Nissan)

Jakob Fuglsang, winner of Tour of Austria 2012 (image courtesy of RadioShack-Nissan)

Stage 1: Innsbruck Circuit, 153km

Team Type 1’s 28 year-old Alessandro Bazzana took his first professional victory in the bunch sprint at the end of the circuit race around Innsbruck. Francesco Gavazzi (Astana) was runner-up and Marco Canola (Colnago-CSF Inox) finished third, while fourth-placed Georg Preideler was the best-placed Austrian.

Stage 2: Innsbruck to Kitzbuheler Horn, 157.4km

Danilo ‘the Killer’ di Luca (Aqua & Sapone) took the rain-soaked stage two, which included the climb of the Kitzbuheler Horn, ahead of Steve Morabito (BMC) and Thomas Rohregger (RadioShack). The stage started with the inevitable breakaway which was reeled in before the final climb thanks to work done by the WorldTour teams, notably RadioShack hoping to set up Jakob Fuglsang. He was part of a ten-man group which attacked on the climb but was ultimately distanced by the leading trio.

Having taken the  leader’s jersey, the 36-year old Di Luca said after the race:

This was one of the hardest mountains I have ever ridden. The start of the stage was hectic and here up to the Kitzbuheler Horn I felt very comfortable. Right from the start I drove my tempo and slightly increased it on the last 2km and that was enough for stage victory.

Stage 3: Kitzbuhel to Lienz, 141.8km

Stage three finished in another bunch sprint, won this time by 25-year old Sacha Modolo (Colnago-CSF) ahead of Austrian Daniel Schorn (NetApp) and Francesco Gavazzi (Astana). Di Luca still held the overall from Morabito by 11 seconds.

Stage 4: Lienz to Skt. Johann/Alpendorf, 141.3km

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again and that’s what RadioShack-Nissan did on stage four. They animated the race from the start and Jakob Fuglsang delivered the team a fine victory to take the race leader’s yellow jersey.

The team sent four riders up the road forcing Acqua & Sapone on the defensive. The junction was made on the major difficulty of the day, the Grossglockner, 95km from the finish, at which point Fuglsang made his escape along with NetApp’s Leopold Konig. The duo managed to push the gap up above three minutes and with Fuglsang unsure whether his breakaway companion was sandbagging, he soloed off with 20km remaining to finish with more than a minute’s advantage over Konig. Afterwards he said:

I’m super happy with this win and the overall. It is certainly defendable and we’re going to do everything we can to bring the yellow home. It’s cool that the team has the yellow jersey in two different stage races [here and the Tour de France, where Fabian Cancellara was overall leader at the time – Ed].

Here’s how the stage was won:

Stage 5: Skt. Johann/Alpendorf to Sonntagberg, 228.3km

The race’s longest stage saw a successful breakaway go all the way to the line with victory for 27-year old Fabio Taborre (Acqua & Sapone) – the biggest of his career – ahead of compatriot Marco Bandiera (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Austrian Matthias Brandle (NetApp). The stage start was hectic with numerous attacks in the first 90km until a break formed that contained a dozen riders, none of whom threatened RadioShack’s GC lead. RadioShack patrolled the front of the peloton keeping the gap at a constant 12 minutes and covering moves by second-placed Di Luca and third-placed Morabito. The pair managed to gain back a few precious seconds on the leader, who finished in the pack some nine minutes down on the winner to remain in the leader’s jersey.

Stage 6: Waidhofen/Ybbs to Melk, 185.2km

Friday’s stage was harder than it looked, with riders battling for position and trying to get into a breakaway from the off. It was full gas on the undulating course with breaks getting away and then being pulled back by teams looking for a stage win, which rather suited RadioShack. In the end it came down to another bunch sprint and once more Modolo prevailed this time ahead of Daniele Colli (Team Type 1) and Danilo Napolitano (Acqua & Sapone). 21-year old neo-pro Marco Haller (Katusha) was the best-placed Austrian in fourth.

Stage 7: Podersdorf am Neusiedler See, 24.1km individual time trial

Four days after his place in the Italian team for London 2012 was confirmed, Marco Pinotti (BMC) beat Kristof Vandewalle (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) by some 32 seconds to take victory in the individual time trial. Frantisek Rabon (OPQS) was third, a further 20 seconds back. Race leader Fuglsang finished over a minute off the pace but had a sufficiently large enough cushion to retain the yellow jersey by 1:24 over Morabito. Robert Vrecer (Vorarlberg) was 28 seconds further back in third while di Luca – 46th on the day – dropped to fourth.

Stage 8: Podersdorf am Neusiedler See to Wien, Burgtheater, 122.8 km

The final stage was another circuit race, this time around Vienna, where the Italians recorded their seventh stage win with victory for Daniele Colli ahead of Alexey Tsatevich (Katusha) and Blaz Jarc (NetApp). The day’s breakaway, which never gained more than three minutes, was hauled back before the final two circuits setting up another bunch sprint finish. The podium was unchanged.

As anticipated, Fuglsang became the first Danish winner of the Tour, retaining the leader’s jersey which he’d won on the Grossglockner stage. It was his second overall win of the season after earlier prevailing in the Tour of Luxembourg.

General classification:

1. Jakob Fuglsang (RadioShack-Nissan) 28:13:09

2. Steve Morabito (BMC) +1:24

3. Robert Vrecer (Vorarlberg) +1:52

4. Danilo di Luca (Acqua & Sapone) +2:15

5. Alexandr Dyachenko (Astana) +2:16

6. Marco Pinotti (BMC) +2:41

7. Thomas Rohregger (RadioShack-Nissan) +2:42

8. Marcel Wyss (NetApp) +2:53

9. Petr Ignatenko (Katusha) +2:55

10. Sergio Pardilla (Movistar) +3:04

Links: PreviewOfficial website

What’s happening in July?

July is unquestionably the biggest month in the 2012 cycling calendar, featuring as it does the Tour de France and the London Olympic Games. But those are not the only races this month, with two distinctly different but equally interesting races in Austria and Poland to look forward to for those unable to take the start-line in Liège yesterday. Aside from Le Tour, here are the key dates for your diary for July – as well as a preview of what’s coming up in the world of VeloVoices this month.

Tour of Austria (1st-8th)

This eight-day stage race kicks off the day after the Tour de France and offers a varied all-round challenge for those unfortunate enough not to have received a personal or team invite to the Tour. Flat stages and a penultimate individual team trial sandwich two major climbing stages – a summit finish on top of the 1,670m hors catégorie Kitzbuheler Horn on stage two, and the HC Grossglockner, a stage finish in the hellish 2011 Giro, on stage four.

Link: PreviewOfficial website

Tour de Pologne (10th-16th)

This year’s week-long Tour of Poland has been pulled forward in the calendar to overlap with the middle of the Tour de France, which is a shame for a race which offers little variety – every stage either involves a bunch sprint or repeating loops of medium mountains – but close, exciting racing which gives us a glimpse of the next generation of up-and-coming stars. The three stand-outs of last year’s race have all graduated to this year’s Tour: Marcel Kittel won four sprint stages and Dan Martin impressed on the climbs here before going on to play a major role at the Vuelta, while Peter Sagan took two stages and the overall by a mere five seconds from Martin. This year’s race will be enlivened by the presence of BMC’s former world champion Thor Hushovd, for whom the lumpy parcours should be ideally suited.

Link: Official website

Olympic road races (28th & 29th)

The men’s and women’s road races take place over the same basic route starting and finishing on the Mall, heading out into Surrey to take on a number of loops – nine for the men, two for the women – each of which includes the ascent of Box Hill, where we can expect a succession of challenging attacks to occur. Mark Cavendish will carry the hopes of the host nation on his shoulders as he seeks to win what should be the first gold medal of the Games in the 250km men’s race. The 140km women’s race takes place the following day, with any one of Lizzie Armitstead, Nicole Cooke and Emma Pooley potential winners.

Both the men’s and women’s time trials both take place on August 1st.

Link: Official website

Look out for full previews in advance of each race here on VeloVoices.

This month’s birthdays

A selection of some of the more notable birthdays in the peloton this month:

Gilbert hits the big three-oh (image courtesy of Danielle Haex)

3rd: Nicolas Roche, AG2R La Mondiale (28 years old). The son of 1987 Giro and Tour winner Stephen and cousin of Garmin-Sharp’s Dan Martin is a solid all-round stage racer whose career highlights include finishing seventh at the 2010 Vuelta and a stage win at last year’s Tour of Beijing. He is currently racing at the Tour de France, where he is hoping to improve on his best finish of 14th in 2010.

5th: Philippe Gilbert, BMC (30). The King of Belgium swept all before him in 2011, winning the Ardennes Triple of Amstel Gold, Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, both his national road race and time trial championships, and the opening stage of the Tour de France – qualifying him for an elite group of riders who have won at all three Grand Tours – en route to finishing as the world’s number one-ranked rider. This year, however, he has been plagued by health and form problems, with a third place at Flèche Wallonne his best result. However, a solid ninth place at yesterday’s opening Tour prologue suggests he may finally be approaching the kind of form which could propel him to another first-week victory.

13th: Jack Bobridge, Orica-GreenEDGE (23). The Australian youngster is already a multiple world champion on the track and won his national road race title as a 21-year old in 2011. He has already participated in two Giros as he continues his development as a road racer. A star of the future.

16th: Andre Greipel, Lotto-Belisol (30). The powerful but softly-spoken German sprinter is a prolific winner, having reached double figures in victories every year since 2008. He has 14 already this year, in addition to a career total of seven wins across the three Grand Tours.

16th: Stefano Garzelli, Acqua & Sapone (39). The veteran climber has performed best in his home country, in particular at the Giro, which he won in 2000. In addition to eight stage victories, he has also twice won the King of the Mountains competition in the twilight of his career, in 2009 and 2011.

27th: Allan Davis, Orica-GreenEDGE (32). The experienced Aussie sprinter has finished second and fourth at the sprinters’ Classic Milan-San Remo. He is also a Commonwealth Games gold and World Championship bronze medallist (in the 2010 road race in both instances) and claimed overall victory at the 2009 Tour Down Under.

Also on the blog

Obviously July is (almost) all about the Tour de France, and we’ll be bringing you comprehensive daily coverage on our new-look blog with the usual VeloVoices twist: the latest results, rider-centric recaps, focus pieces on relevant times and places in the Tour’s history, and in-depth race analysis. But we’ll also be keeping you up to date with events from the races in both Austria and Poland during the month. And once the Tour has finished we will of course be casting our beady eye over the Olympic road events.

As always, Tweets of the Week will bring you all the news that’s fit to print (in 140 characters) every Tuesday, with a distinctively jaune – not jaundiced! – hue this month. And after a week off, our regular Friday Features will be back with more in-depth views from the wider world of cycling. We’re lining up an insider’s view of what it’s like to attend a press conference with some of the sport’s biggest stars, courtesy of photographer Roz Jones – watch out for that later in the month.

And, last but by no means least, watch out for some special pieces from our latest VeloVoice – quite literally, cycling with a bit of Panache!

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.