Cycle Sport January is in UK shops now, and it features the very best, most in-depth cycling journalism and photography. This month we have an exclusive interview and photo shoot with the Tour de France champion Cadel Evans, along with a major feature on the success and ultimate demise of HTC-Highroad with honest and gripping testimony from the team’s architect Bob Stapleton. We have an exclusive extract from Robbie McEwen’s new autobiography, One Way Road, interviews with prodigious new sprinter Marcel Kittel and British cycling’s rising star Lizzie Armitstead. We’ve also got an Italian flavour to the magazine, with a look at the 2012 Giro d’Italia route, and the first major interview with the race’s new boss Michele Acquarone. There is a stunning photo feature from this summer’s spectacular French national championships, while our regular Iconic Places feature looks at the Oude Kwaremont. Are you missing racing already? Let us help you take your mind off it.
Words by Cycle Sport staff
Wednesday November 23, 2011
Cadel Evans’ Tour de France win this summer was a masterpiece of patience, consistency and confidence. He spent two weeks doing absolutely everything right – staying close to the lead, but never exposing his hand, while his team protected him at almost every step. Then, in the Alps, he attacked when it suited him, and put up a dogged defence in the face of Andy Schleck’s superb attack on the Col du Galibier stage. The battle between the two riders showed that in cycling, despite our romantic notions, ice usually beats fire. Evans’ assumption of the yellow jersey in the Grenoble time trial was perfectly timed, and won him yet more admiration from the cycling world.
Evans is a thoughtful, quiet character, whose awkwardness when he is the centre of attention sometimes used to manifest itself as prickliness. But the years, and the major wins (he has now won cycling’s two most iconic jerseys: the yellow and the rainbow) have softened the edges. Gregor Brown went to visit Evans near his home in Switzerland, to find the Australian more relaxed than ever, and this is reflected in Richard Baybutt’s portraits. With next year’s Tour featuring more time trialling, we find ourselves writing words we never thought imaginable three years ago: Cadel Evans is looking relaxed and confident in himself.
HTC-Highroad was the most successful team in the history of modern cycling, arguably the most successful ever. No other team has won as many races in the last few seasons, and it’s fair to say they raised the standard of organisation in cycling teams to a new level. Before HTC came on the scene, the most successful teams would win 30 or 40 races a year. In their best year, HTC won 76 major races. In a frank and in-depth interview, team owner Bob Stapleton talks to Lionel Birnie, taking us from the moment he took over the remnants of the T-Mobile team, which was self-destructing in doping scandal after doping scandal, through the challenging teething troubles, to the halcyon days of Cavendish and his team-mates sweeping all before them. “People think I should be in mourning over Highroad but I’m not at all,” Stapleton told Birnie. “I don’t feel like we failed at all. Our goal was to create a whole new group of athletes to get excited about and we did that. We had big success.”
Find out how Stapleton regretted not getting rid of more riders from the T-Mobile days, how his relationship with Mark Cavendish changed over time, about his meetings with Alejandro Valverde to discuss signing the Spanish star in 2006 and how Stapleton feels the signing policy of the richest teams now is creating two tiers – the haves and the have-nots, and warping competitiveness.
Have you ever wondered what really goes on in the final kilometres leading to a bunch sprint? The viewpoint from inside the peloton is very different from the two-dimensional impression we get from the television pictures. We’ve got an exclusive extract from Robbie McEwen’s new autobiography, One Way Road, which takes the reader right inside the peloton, and explains the dynamics of the bunch and the mental and physical processes of preparing for and executing a sprint. McEwen writes, “I can sometimes see a gap before it opens. A fast-moving peloton is like a case study in cause and effect, and I think I understand the dynamics of the ebb and flow of riders in a group as well as anybody.” Read this extract, and you will, too.
McEwen used to hold the modern record for victories as a new professional. He won nine races in 1996. This record was beaten by Mark Cavendish in his debut 2007 season, when the Brit took 11 victories. And this year, the bar has been raised again, by Marcel Kittel. The German took 14 major European wins in 2011, along with three more wins spread between the Tour of Langkawi and Herald Sun Tour. Alasdair Fotheringham sat down for an interview with the German prodigy, who has a refreshingly chaotic approach to his career when compared with the control-freakery of many of his rivals. Kittel doesn’t bother looking at stage finishes in the route book, and, unlike Cavendish and McEwen, for example, doesn’t recall every sprint in minute detail. In fact, he had to look his Vuelta stage win up on youtube to remember how it went. Imagine how good he’s going to be when he gets organised.
Our new favourite cyclist is Lizzie Armitstead. The Garmin rider is refreshingly forthright and honest and thoroughly entertaining company, and in the course of an interview with Andy McGrath and photo shoot by Chris Auld, shared her thoughts on everything from harmony within the British women’s cycling team (or lack thereof), through why there is no women’s Sky team, to her disappointment that the women’s team was absent from Garmin’s Colorado team presentation last week. Her aim is to win the Olympic Games road race, but her biggest battle may turn out to be for team leadership with Nicole Cooke, as shown by the following exchange about the worlds road race in Copengagen, when Armitstead found herself without support in the very closing stages of the race after being baulked by a crash:
Cycle Sport: How did Nicole ride, in general, in your opinion?
Lizzie Armitstead: For herself.
CS: How often does Nicole work for other Great Britain teammates?
LA: I’ve never seen her work for a teammate.
Armitstead was honest about the tension between her doubts and her ambitions, and next year’s Olympics are going to be a huge moment in her career.
The Giro d’Italia has only had five race directors in 102 years of existence, and until Michele Acquarone took over this year, it’s fair to say they had a reputation for uncompromising and dictatorial authority. But Acquarone has been less a breath of fresh air than a gale-force wind sweeping through Italy’s biggest race, embracing Twitter, and designing a far more user-friendly route for 2012, with less emphasis on brutal mountain stages and more on rediscovering the humanity of the race. Gregor Brown visited Acquarone at his office, together with photographer Richard Baybutt, for the first major interview with the Italian since he took over the race. We discover what makes him tick, what he thinks of his predecessors (Armando Cougnet: “a true pioneer”, Vincenzo Torriani: “the patron”, Carmine Castellano “if I had to draw a picture, it would be of him with a shield, fighting evil in black and terrible years”, and Angelo Zomegnan “he was a general”), why he’s as excited about the food of the regions the Giro will visit as the racing itself, and how his career has reversed the route of one of his other major races: born in San Remo, now working in Milan.
We’ve also got a full preview of the 2012 Giro d’Italia, which was recently unveiled by Acquarone. Stage by stage, we follow the race from its start in Denmark, the furthest north any grand tour has ever begun, and on its journey through Italy. While it’s less tough than many of its predecessors, it’s still a route which favours climbers, especially the “fans’ stage” which finishes high on the Passo Stelvio.
The French national championships is one of the most unusual and keenly-contested races in the calendar. This year’s event took place in Boulogne, using some of the same roads as next year’s Tour de France stage finish, and we sent photographer Andy Waterman there to capture the spirit of the race. He came back with this stunning pictorial essay of the race, showing the tough racing, but also the behind-the-scenes action and the atmosphere of the crowds. The winner, after an attritional race in boiling temperatures, was Sylvain Chavanel.
The 2012 Tour of Flanders announced this year that they would break with the recent tradition of the run-in over the Muur van Geraardsbergen and Bosberg to Ninove, and that the race would instead culminate in three laps of a circuit and finish in Oudenaarde. The central feature of the final laps will be repeated ascents of the Oude Kwaremont, which is the subject of Iconic Places this month. We look at the history and character of this climb, which was already a key strategic point in the race, and now takes on even more importance.
It’s 25 years since the Coors Classic was the biggest race on the North American circuit, attracting stars like Bernard Hinault, Greg LeMond and Davis Phinney. James Raia, who covered the original events, was at the Tour of Colorado this year, where a celebratory dinner took place to remember the Coors Classic, and reported back for Cycle Sport.
Plus…All our regular features – Pro Performance looks at hypoxic training; Graham Watson takes a trip down memory lane; Shop Window, featuring gear so bling, you’ll have to wear sunglasses to read it; Any Questions with the entertaining Christian Vande Velde; Top 10 riders behaving badly; Broomwagon, featuring the latest episode of entirely fictional pub sitcom ‘McQuaid’s’ and Philippe Gilbert’s ideal Tour de France; fair and balanced opinion on the Lombardia name change and date switch; Geraint Thomas’s column and much much more. There’s also some righteous smugness about Team Cycle Sport’s overwhelming victory in the inaugural IG Markets cycling pub quiz, at which our rivals and various luminaries of the cycling world were given a demonstration of cycling knowledge at its most wide-ranging and profound.
Cycle Sport January, featuring the very best writing and photography of professional cycling, is available from Wednesday November 23 in the UK, priced £4.35, and later in the USA. It is also available electronically through Zinio.
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