- Posted by Emma Silversides
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The season kicked off in Belgium for the women with Het Nieuwsblad at the end of February.
The event is run alongside that of the men with the finish timed to be about an hour before. The courses are naturally different for organisational purposes but this does not mean that the women do not get their fair share of ‘kasseien' and ‘heuvels'. In fact this year we took in Patersberg for the first time ever while the men did not have the pleasure of tackling this little bump! The Molenberg and the Kluisberg were among the other climbs while the Padderstraat was one of several longer cobbled stretches.
It was my first time to ride Het Nieuwsblad as a member of a foreign outfit (I never had this opportunity while riding with Lotto) but I knew the course well following two team training sessions on the ‘parcours'. Every member of the team knew exactly what they had to do and when. Never had I gone into a race with such a meticulous plan. However, this was necessary since it would be the first UCI women's event to be run without radios. Yes, what affects the men also affects the women! Despite complaints and protests from differing parties prior to the race the ban remained in tact. With such a regulation the onus truly fell on the riders to communicate within the race and have a steadfast strategy. Our plan was executed perfectly and Emma Johansson was able to deliver the goods. A great start the 2010 season for Redsun.
So what of the radio ban? Like many things relating to cycling it could be debated until the cows come home. However, from this experience it would suggest that it is not all so bad; our whole team was positive over the subsequently necessary pre-planning and ‘role-assigning'. Of course we were positive; we had just won the race! However, it should not be forgotten that we had luck on our side during the race; not one mechanical or puncture, no riders caught up crashes and no health related issues. It is scenarios such as these where radio communications can really make the difference between winning and losing the race.
It will be interesting to follow the radio ban debate this season and see exactly where it finishes for both men and women.
- Posted by Cycling Weekly
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Paris-Nice is over, and with it ends the early-season audition period for the 2010 Tour de France wildcard hopefuls.
With six spots expected to be announced at the end of March, it's now a nervous wait for the teams hoping for a place on the start-line in Rotterdam.
Who's definitely riding?
Under the existing agreement between the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) and Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) from September 2008, 16 ProTour teams are guaranteed a spot at the race - including Cofidis and Bbox Bouygues Telecom, who have since lost their top-tier status.
The only deal-breaker would be an 'ethical violation' - a doping-related problem, in other words.
However, it might not be quite as simple as that. ASO and UCI have never been the happiest of bedfellows. In fact, more like the couple next door who break things and have loud arguments at four in the morning.
Tour director Christian Prudhomme is the man with the final say
So, in the event of the Tour organisers audaciously going in their own direction, CW can see ProTour lightweights Footon-Servetto-Fuji being first to be booted from the Tour party.
In cleaning up their act in an attempt to erase memories of Piepoli, Ricco and Mayo's past positives as former incarnation Saunier Duval, their roster now consists solely of inexperienced, young riders.
More tellingly, they haven't been invited to ASO-organised races Paris-Nice or Paris-Roubaix this spring.
Euskaltel-Euskadi are also on thin ice. Not only is their line-up weak, but the Mikel Astarloza positive doping test from last year's Tour could have a serious bearing on their participation.
The likes of Team Sky, Garmin-Transitions, Cervelo Test Team and RadioShack may be outside the UCI-ASO agreement, but with their big names and good results, their places on the start line in Rotterdam are all but a formality.
With Prudhomme expected to announce six wildcard picks - a 22-team start list would be the most since 2003 - as opposed to three last year, they have avoided a scrap for the last few tickets.
In effect, that leaves two spots for five teams to fight over.
Katusha and BMC Racing Team are slight favourites, but they could be surprised after a fighting early-season display from Vacansoleil, who are desperate for a Tour start in their home country.
Skil-Shimano and Saur Sojasun can't be discounted either, but their chances will be greatly increased by one of the "guaranteed" ProTour sixteen being omitted.
ON THE PLANE (16)
Ag2r La Mondiale
Bbox Bouygues Telecom
Francaise des Jeux
DEAD CERTS (4)
Stars: Lance Armstrong, Andreas Kloden, Levi Leipheimer
Tour pedigree: Having a seven-time winner on board is pedigree enough, let alone two other past podium finishers.
Early season: Haven't set the world alight, but RadioShack has been a steady presence at the forefront of races. The Armstrong effect has helped.
Chances: 10/10. The strongest provisional Tour de France team cannot be overlooked.
Stars: Christian Vande Velde, Tyler Farrar
Tour pedigree: Vande Velde and Wiggins have delivered revelatory performances in the past two years. Good relations with press and ASO, thanks to their super-clean ethos. Farrar was, to coin a term of measurement, a Cavendish away from Tour stage victory in last year.
Early season: Slow-burning; a few wins for Hunter in Murcia.
Chances: 10/10. With their clean reputation and team strength, they're shoe-ins.
After an impressive early season, Sky can be confident of a Tour start.
Stars: Bradley Wiggins, Edvald Boasson Hagen
Tour pedigree: None. Wiggins broke through to finish fourth last year with Garmin, and is now bidding to be Britain's first Tour de France winner.
Early season: Have showed that they mean business, competitive across the board with wins in Het Nieuwsblad, Paris-Nice and TDU. Clean ‘marginal gain' ethos must also win brownie points.
Chances: 9/10. They tick all the boxes.
Cervelo Test Team
Stars: Thor Hushovd, Carlos Sastre, Heinrich Haussler
Tour pedigree: Can boast last year's green jersey winner and the 2008 Tour winner. Beat that.
Early season: Not nearly as impressive as last year, but then they didn't need to wow ASO this time round. Haussler came close in Qatar and Het Nieuwsblad.
Chances: 8/10. Earned their spot last July when Hushovd took the green jersey.
SWEATING IT OUT
Stars: Filippo Pozzato, Robbie McEwen, Kim Kirchen
Tour pedigree: Ivanov saved their blushes with an opportunistic stage win in the Tour last year. Robbie McEwen has been one of the race's top sprinters for ten years. Outside of their sporting performance, Antonio Colom's EPO positive could yet count against them.
Early season: There or thereabouts with sprinters Napolitano and McEwen. Two wins.
Chances: 7/10. Have got the all-round quality to make it, but another doping positive will be their undoing.
BMC Racing Team
Stars: Cadel Evans, Alessandro Ballan, George Hincapie
Tour pedigree: Never ridden a Grand Tour. Evans has twice been second and worn the yellow jersey, while Hincapie is a race stalwart.
Early season: Unconvincing, unless your initial argument was "who do they have apart from Evans, Ballan and Hincapie?" A few attacks in Australia and Tirreno aside, lack of spring results and ominous absence from Paris-Nice could see the team omitted. Evans has even talked about targeting the Giro.
Chances: 6/10. Lacks strength in depth. Surely the Tour organisers can't exclude the world champion's team...
Stars: Feillu brothers
Tour pedigree: Never ridden the Tour. Took last year's Vuelta opportunity well, with a stage win from Borut Bozic and were prominent in ASO-backed Paris-Tours too.
Early season: The Dutch squad could hardly have hoped for a better start to the season, winning four times, including the Tour of Qatar and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne with unknowns Wouter Mol and Bobbie Traksel. In case you didn't notice the glaring Vacansoleil banners and signs, they even backed Paris-Nice.
Chances: 5/10. Dutch, in the results, on the attack and even endorsing an ASO race, they're in the ascendancy. They even boast the Feillu brothers, who are fast becoming the favourites of French housewives.
Star: Jimmy Casper
New team, though Casper nabbed a Tour stage win with Agritubel.
season: Decent. Wins at the GP Ouverture, a
stage in Oman and attacks galore have kept their name in the frame, as
has their gaudy jersey.
Chances: 4/10. Lack quality compared
to the rest, but being an all-French team counts for a lot.
Star: Kenny van Hummel
Tour pedigree: Got in escapes last year, but became just as notorious for misfortune. Half the team hit the deck in the TTT and heavy-set van Hummel became a star for soldiering on as lanterne rouge in the mountains.
Early season: Just one win to speak of, they haven't shown much where it matters.
Chances: 3/10. Not as visible or canny as Vacansoleil, but may benefit from Dutch links.
SORRY, NO CHANCE
Acqua & Sapone
- Posted by Robert Garbutt
- comments (25)
I know I've ranted about unfriendly bike riders before, but the situation seems to be getting decidedly worse and needs addressing before we simply ignore each other as a matter of course.
There's no need to go over the top, but just a nod or a slight lift of the hand is enough to let the other rider know you've seen them. It's called being polite.
There's too much anger directed at us by other road users, so when we see another bike rider it's good to acknowledge a kindred spirit.
On Sunday I encountered seven riders and got five complete blanks. It would be easier to take if it was personal - if it was a slight against me or the magazine I would accept it - but I reckon I'm far too anonymous in Lycra for this to be the case.
There was a time when everybody on skinny tyres would have belonged to a club. Now ordinary people are bike riders; there's virtually no distinction between the newbies and ‘proper' cyclists.
It was OK to acknowledge someone who was ‘one of us', but now our ranks have been infiltrated by outsiders, and rather than make the mistake of nodding to a newbie it seems it's better to put your head down and just keep riding.
Robert Garbutt is editor of Cycling Weekly
- Posted by Robert Garbutt
- comments (4)
If any further proof was needed that bike riders really are the world's hardest sportsmen, look no further than Sunday's Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne.
France declared a national disaster as violent storms blew across Western Europe and any sensible event should surely have been cancelled. Not this Belgian semi-classic of course, and the organisers only cut 20 kilometres from the route when a fallen tree blocked a climb.
With gusting winds and a slick covering of mud over many of the roads there were countless crashes but none more spectacular than Quick Step's Stijn Devolder, who managed to collide with a large plastic dustbin.
So who revel in these extreme conditions? Brits of course, with 22-year-old Sky rider Ian Stannard pulling off the best result of his career so far, finishing third. Fellow Brit Jeremy Hunt led the chasing group and closed to 45 seconds but with 35km to go he'd had enough and abandoned despite being fourth rider on the road. And he wasn't alone. Just 26 hardy souls made it back to Kuurne.
Elsewhere in the magazine you'll find Dr Hutch decrying the toughness of bike riders.
Don't believe a word of it, Ian Stannard certainly scores a 10 on our hardometer.
Robert Garbutt is editor of Cycling Weekly
- Posted by Emma Silversides
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I do not want to harp on about what I have done for the last four weeks; it's only the usual winter stuff of cyclists; long training, a stint of dreaded sickness followed by antibiotics, team training, new kit.... I thought that I would rather tell you a little about the different places that I have trained in since the start of the year.
As a cyclist half the pleasure of riding is the terrain and surrounding scenery that you take in along the way. Of course we all have our favourite routes but I think it is fair to say that a new route makes a ride much more interesting and enjoyable.
I spent the first three weeks of January with Citrus Cycling; they are based just in land from Calpe on the Costa Blanca. The land is rather baron but offers quiet roads and some fantastic climbs. Take in Guadalest, Confrides, Margarida and Val d'Ebo for some challenging climbs and stunning views. Calpe is a real favourite with the pro teams in January since the weather is fairly dependable in that region. If you are looking to avoid the snow and rain that northern Europe offers in January and February book you tickets now for next year!
From Spain I returned to Belgium for a training weekend with the team. In Spring and Summer the routes and terrain would offer just as much benefit as those that I had ridden in Spain. Unfortunately the 2 degrees and rain that we had did not please my body (hence the antibiotics!)
However, riding the parcours from Het Nieuwsblad (formerly Het Volk) and the Ronde Van Vlaanderen with the team was great fun despite the weather. We based ourselves in Zingem in a small guest house specifically catering for groups of riders undertaking such training; Sigginga Haim. It is one of many such hostels which offer perfect accommodation for club trips in Spring and Summer.
To bring you to present time I am now in Majorca. This is my first time on the island so I really did not know what to expect. As our plane came in to land the first thing that struck me was how lush and green the land was.
I immediately had to stop myself from dwelling on the conclusion that such vegetation could only be the result of a rainier climate! Our first ride was relatively flat but this did not mean an easy training; the wind made sure of that! After two hours of riding we had a train of more than 10 extras all benefiting from the Redsun wind break! Subsequent trainings have taken in a real variety of terrain and have all, thankfully, been ridden in dry conditions.
I was thoroughly impressed with the route taking us up to Valldemossa then in a south westerly direction skirting along the coast to return inland via Andratx. Despite being close to the water you remain at a good height and are therefore treated to some breathtaking views. From Andratx we came back via Calvia and Coll de Sa Creu.
If you ever take a trip to Mallorca do not leave without taking in this coast road; I promise you a treat! The island is a top favourite with all levels of cyclists from top pros to the keen enthusiast willing to hire for one day. I am aware that we have been very fortunate to have had nine days of dry training but for an early Spring training camp this has to be one of the best locations on offer.
- 24 February 10:
- Check your facts, Petronella
- 16 February 10:
- Helen Wyman: My top ten moments of the 'cross season
- 10 February 10:
- What not to wear for cyclists
- 3 February 10:
- The Pothole Diaries: Day 7
- Cape crusader