La Vuelta ’22 – Roglic throws it away

One thing I would have been confident in writing last week was that a duel between stage-hunter Fred Wright and Primoz Roglic would not end up deciding the Vuelta’s general classification.

But we saw a bizarre stage 16 end the suspense as to whether or not Remco Evenepoel would win the Tour of Spain 2022.

We left the race in our last review at the final rest day with Remco starting to ship time every time the race went up hill.

Enric Mas but more importantly Roglic were taking time back. 10 seconds here, 25 seconds there and as we headed into the tough final week it looked a matter of time before the Jumbo/Visma man would take back the leaders red jersey.

However. Stage 16 bit back and caused drama in the way that only a Roglic capitulation could see.

The short uphill to the finish wasn’t too much of a gradient. This was shown by Mads Pedersen going on to win the stage.

But Roglic shot out of the pack like a rocket at the exact moment the red jersey was dropping back with a puncture.

It was inside 3km from the finish meaning the race jury would allocate the same time as the main peloton to Remco. But that would still mean a time loss as Rog powered up the finishing straight.

No-one truly knows if Rog had an inkling of the leaders woes when he attacked. But it soon became academic as he crashed into Wright in the final metres. Roglic bolted from one side of the road to the other and the two clashed handle bars before the Slovenian hit the deck.

His Vuelta was over and he has since pointed the finger of blame at Wright. Unfairly for me.

This left Mas the main challenger but over the next mountain stage, won heroically by Rigoberto Uran, he couldn’t get away.

The final true mountain stage ended up being won by Remco who put 2 more seconds into Mas and that was that.

Pedersen, Richard Carapaz and Juan Sebastian Molano won the remaining stages but it was the Belgian who ended his homelands long drought in three week grand tours.

Despite the anticlimactic last few stages it was a really decent race this and sets up next summer’s big races perfectly.

RnkPrev▼▲RiderTeamUCIPntTime
11 EVENEPOEL RemcoQuick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team85040016″80:26:59
22 MAS EnricMovistar Team68029023″2:02
33 AYUSO JuanUAE Team Emirates5752404″4:57
44 LÓPEZ Miguel ÁngelAstana Qazaqstan Team46022010″5:56
55 ALMEIDA JoãoUAE Team Emirates3802007:24
66 ARENSMAN ThymenTeam DSM32019016″7:45
77 RODRÍGUEZ CarlosINEOS Grenadiers2601807:57
88 O’CONNOR BenAG2R Citroën Team22017010:30
99 URÁN RigobertoEF Education-EasyPost18016022″11:04
1010 HINDLEY JaiBORA – hansgrohe14015012:01
from procyclingstats.com

La Vuelta ’22 – Evenepoel starting to show weakness

After a week of dominance in the climbs and time trials, the most recent stages of the Vuelta will have left Belgian fans chewing their finger nails as Remco Evenepoel starts to shed time to the chasing pack.

I say pack. I really mean multiple defending champ Primoz Roglic and Spaniard Enric Mas.

The rest are too far back.

However, in the weekends mountain stages (ahead of the rest day today) both have taken time back from the race leader, something that looked unlikely a few days ago.

We left the race in the last post with a time trial in Alicante. It was dominated by Remco.

The following day was won by Kaden Groves in a sprint before we started to climb again.

Way down on time after a tough first few stages, Richard Caparaz was given free reign to leave the peloton in a breakaway and he took that chance winning in Estepona. The favourites came home together over seven minutes back.

Mads Pedersen had been in a number of breaks trying to build his lead in the points competition and won stage 13 in an uphill reduced bunch sprint.

It was the sort of finish we know the Dane has, but don’t see it often enough in the classics and stage races. This will have done wonders for him though although it was a shame to hear post stage that he wouldn’t be taking this form down to Australian for the upcoming world championships. I would have made him favourite.

Carapaz won again at La Pandera on Saturday with Evenepoel finally showing weakness and being dropped by Roglic and Mas.

The feat was repeated yesterday on a stage won by Thymen Arensman at Sierra Nevada.

The time gap between the leader and Roglic now down to 1m34s.

Its been tough for Remco, losing Julian Alaphillippe to another crash and shoulder injury. The reigning world champ would have been crucial to keeping the red jersey holder in touch on the last mountain stages.

It’s going to be an interesting last few days. I see Roglic as the likely winner though now I have to say. There are three uphill or summit finishes left for him to make the real breakthrough.

Remco looks tired and on the back foot without his team to defend him. It’s painful to watch.

Either way its going to be an exciting last few days of the final big stage race of the 2022 season.

Enjoy it!

RnkPrev▼▲RiderTeamUCITime
11 EVENEPOEL RemcoQuick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team206″56:40:49
22 ROGLIČ PrimožJumbo-Visma17″1:34
33 MAS EnricMovistar Team14″2:01
45▲1 AYUSO JuanUAE Team Emirates4:49
54▼1 RODRÍGUEZ CarlosINEOS Grenadiers5:16
66 LÓPEZ Miguel ÁngelAstana Qazaqstan Team10″5:24
77 ALMEIDA JoãoUAE Team Emirates7:00
811▲3 ARENSMAN ThymenTeam DSM10″7:05
910▲1 O’CONNOR BenAG2R Citroën Team8:57
1013▲3 HINDLEY JaiBORA – hansgrohe11:36
from procyclingstats.com

La Vuelta ’22 – Remco hits the turbo button

“Vuelta mate? completed it!”

Not quite yet Remco. But week two of this years race sees the Belgian boy wonder on the edge of greatness having built a commanding lead during stages 4-10.

We left the race travelling from Breda in the Netherlands to Northern Spain on an early rest day with Jumbo passing the race leaders jersey around their riders, seemingly for fun.

Stage 4 with its medium mountains and reduced bunch sprint saw Primoz Roglic take both stage and jersey and that, we all assumed, was that.

The next day Jumbo let a break take a fair chunk of time and gifted the leaders role to Groupama-FDJ rider Rudy Mollard. He benefited from some selfless team work from Brit Jake Stewart on the road into Bilbao.

The stage was won by fiery Catalan Marc Soler. When he is on it he is unbeatable. When he isn’t he is slower than me*

*maybe

Stage 6 was the first proper mountain summit finish and Jay Vine, as Aussie, was too strong for his breakaway companions emerging from the fog to take a memorable win.

Behind Remco Evenepoel accelerated away from the favourites group and gained enough time to depose Roglic.

Only Enric Mas of Spain was able to stay in contact and they became the riders to watch in this Vuelta.

In a race of breakaways there was an emotion home win for Cofidis rouleur Jesus Herrada into Cistierna the following day. A tearful interview for the home tv channels showing how much this one meant.

Vine then won again on the second mountain top finish keeping up a 100% win rate on summits in this years race! He was benefitting from being far enough behind in the overall classification that none of the big teams were too bothered to chase him. But he was clearly on their radar now and would not be gifted the chance to ride in a breakaway again by the looks of things.

Sunday’s showpiece stage to Nava was one for the ages. Up front big Belgian Jimmy Janssens was toiling up the final climb which was Flemish in its steepness, yet almost alpine in its length.

Louis Meintjes, a much more suitable tiny climber, was reeling him in, and did with just enough space to then drop him on the 24% gradients into the finish.

Behind them the GC battle detonated. Remco sensed weakness in Roglic and dropped him compressively on a corner so steep that the tv motorbikes were stalling.

Mas was next to suffer, dropping off the back wheel of the race leader centimetre by centimetre.

Remco was 3/4 of a minute clear of his rivals by the line despite a late charge by Primoz.

We went into the second rest day on Monday which would have usually been the natural break point in my race review.

However I couldn’t post until today so I am including the time trial of yesterday.

Not much to add on that other than Remco dominated again and added to his lead going into this hilly second phase of the race.

What happens next? I think we will see the likes of Roglic and Mas have to try longer range attacks to get time back. Mas doesn’t have a great reputation as an attacker, more a follower so it will be Jumbo that have to instigate.

Evenepoel looks really strong. But we keep hearing he is unproven over three weeks so it will be interesting to see how his team try and manage the race in the coming days to give him an easier ride.

It’s either going to be really exciting or a dull procession to the finish now! I know which I want to see.

RnkPrev▼▲RiderTeamUCITime
11 EVENEPOEL RemcoQuick-Step Alpha Vinyl Team206″34:35:50
23▲1 ROGLIČ PrimožJumbo-Visma13″2:41
32▼1 MAS EnricMovistar Team8″3:03
44 RODRÍGUEZ CarlosINEOS Grenadiers3:55
56▲1 YATES SimonTeam BikeExchange – Jayco4:50
65▼1 AYUSO JuanUAE Team Emirates4:53
77 ALMEIDA JoãoUAE Team Emirates6:45
88 LÓPEZ Miguel ÁngelAstana Qazaqstan Team6:50
910▲1 SIVAKOV PavelINEOS Grenadiers7:06
from http://www.procyclingstats.com

La Vuelta ’22 – Bennett is back

The first three stages of the Vuelta have taken place in the Netherlands before a rest day yesterday enabling travel back to Spain.

It has seen the return to the winners circle for one rider and three different holders of the leaders red jersey. Its been a strong start.

Friday evening saw the opening team time trial, a Vuelta staple, with Jumbo avoiding any paddling pool run off (sorry Primoz!) to get the win.

In the final straight they were even lucid and clear thinking enough to push home rider Robert Gesink, in the twilight of the evening as well as his career, into the front.

First rider home from the winning team gets the overall lead and there was barely a dry eye in the house as he took to the podium.

Gesink has years of experience in riding for others and sacrificing his own chances to ensure his team wins. This was a fitting tribute.

Stage 2 was another run off in front of enormous crowds despite being an obvious sprint.

It wasn’t an obvious winner. Irishman Sam Bennett has had a torrid couple of years. My last memory of him is from the 2021 Gent-Wevelgem classic where in the space of 400 metres he went from most likely winner to out of the back being sick at the roadside.

He has had it tough.

A return to Bora-Hansgrohe has taken time to yield results but you could see the relief spread over his face as he realised he had won. Another fitting moment!

The red jersey moved to another Jumbo rider in Mike Teunissen.

The third stage saw the jersey change again. Jumbo continued to dominate with Edoardo Affini getting his day in red.

Bennett showed the previous day was no fluke by flying into Breda to win two in a row.

With todays stage having over 2300 metres of climbing I wouldn’t be better on him making it a hat-trick!

Let the first full week begin !

RnkPrev▼▲RiderTeamUCITime
12▲1 AFFINI EdoardoJumbo-Visma208:20:07
23▲1 OOMEN SamJumbo-Visma,,
34▲1 ROGLIČ PrimožJumbo-Visma,,
45▲1 KUSS SeppJumbo-Visma,,
51▼4 TEUNISSEN MikeJumbo-Visma,,
66 GESINK RobertJumbo-Visma,,
78▲1 HAYTER EthanINEOS Grenadiers0:13
87▼1 CARAPAZ RichardINEOS Grenadiers,,
910▲1 RODRÍGUEZ CarlosINEOS Grenadiers,,
109▼1 SIVAKOV PavelINEOS Grenadiers,,
from procyclingstats

Le Tour 22 – Stages 10-15 Week 2 sees a change in yellow

We left our week 1 round up in Chatel in the shadows of the high Alps.

It had been a fast and furious first week with Tadej Pogacar and Wout Van Aert carving the race and the stages up between themselves.

After a rest day in Morzine we got going again with the hero of the opening weekend Magnus Cort getting a well deserved stage win in Megeve. A narrow sprint win from a breakaway was such a Cort way of getting EF off the mark for this race after a number of close calls.

The next day we got our first look at the GC contenders at over 2000m of altitude although most pundits (including myself) had already called Pogacar the winner of this tour.

Jonas Vingegaard and his Jumbo team had other ideas repeatedly attacking the Slovenian in the valley roads around the colossal Col du Galibier. Pogacar was able to react to all attacks at this point but when the Dane attacked on the Col du Granon almost in site of the finish, the leader was dropped.

And how.

A deficit of around 30 seconds became over 2 and a quarter minutes of a lead for Vingegaard. It was now on.

The expected attacks the following day on Alp D’Huez didn’t really materialise with the crowds and the breakway situation maybe playing a part.

Tom Pidcock kept up the UKs recent claim on the Dutch mountain with a brilliant stage win forged in his downhill skills and backed up by his speed up hill.

Highlight of the Tour so far for me.

As we headed towards a weekend of 40 degree heat a breakaway was finally allowed its day with Mads Pedersen a deserving stage win after managing his compatriots on the final climb into St Etienne.

Yesterday as the race trundled into Carcassonne we had time to reflect on a brilliant second week packed with mountain views and twists and turns in the race.

Jumbo’s minds were bought back into sharp focus however. Primoz Roglic had left the Tour at the start of the day as a result of his Roubaix tumble. However they hadn’t budgeted on Steven Kruijswijk hitting the deck and breaking a collar bone. Advantage Tadej?

Its all to play for as we head into the key final week of this Tour de France… I am not going to pick it now!

RnkPrev▼▲RiderTeamUCITime
11 VINGEGAARD JonasJumbo-Visma2516″59:58:28
22 POGAČAR TadejUAE Team Emirates24″2:22
33 THOMAS GeraintINEOS Grenadiers2:43
44 BARDET RomainTeam DSM4″3:01
55 YATES AdamINEOS Grenadiers4:06
66 QUINTANA NairoTeam Arkéa Samsic6″4:15
77 MEINTJES LouisIntermarché – Wanty – Gobert Matériaux6″4:24
88 GAUDU DavidGroupama – FDJ4″,,
99 PIDCOCK ThomasINEOS Grenadiers10″8:49
1010 MAS EnricMovistar Team9:58

Le Tour 22 – Stages 4-9 Week 1 in the sun

If the opening weekend of the 2022 Tour de France belonged to the Danish crowds and Magnus Cort, then the return to the events homeland belonged to two men.

Wout Van Aert and Tadej Pogacar ensured that two of the races main competitions were over by the end of stage 9 in Chatel.

Van Aert was in the yellow jersey but it was the Maillot Vert that he was at the race for. It didn’t stop him attacking the race on that familiar bit of headland to holiday makers who make for Calais on the ferry.

He rode the whole race off his wheel and soloed to a memorable victory. Amazingly despite its position on the map in the north west of France, this was Calais’ first stage finish. The town put its challenges aside for the day and put on a lovely face. Maybe next time I head off a ferry I won’t just zoom past on my way to other more exotic French locations.

The stage to Arenberg saw the end of a couple of GC challengers hopes. Ben O’Connor and Primoz Roglic lost time. Pogacar was superb (as he is on every stage nowadays) and the expected Ineos onslaught from the cobbled specialists like Dylan Van Baarle and Luke Rowe didn’t provide any advantage.

A Wallonian stage followed to Longwy and despite some Van Aert magic as he went away on his own again, the jersey changed hands when a Pogacar sprint won the stage and yellow.

The Slovenian wonder kid wasn’t done there winning the next stage on the Planches des Belles Filles overtaking long time leader Leonard Kamna in the final 100 metres on the steep gravel extension to the usual finish.

Van Aert hit back on Saturday winning a reduced bunch sprint over the border in Switzerland. But Pog was right up there at the finish.

The stage to Chatel yesterday finally saw a breakaway succeed and it was a pair of comeback kids who made this a stage for the ages and broke up the WoutPogopoloy.

Comeback kid – The Midnight

Alone with 60km to go, Bob Jungels rolled back the years with a brilliant display of paced climbing and aggressive descending.

He held on from Thiabut Pinot who was closing fast but couldn’t get across the last 20 seconds before getting caught on the line by a pair of chasers.

Well done Bob.

So whilst there will be plenty of commentary stating how dull this Tour could end up being as a result of Pogacar pretty much having won it already, there is still plenty going on and enough to make this a really strong edition so far.

Can’t wait for week 2!

2021 Vuelta week 2 and 3 review

We left the Vuelta at the week 1 rest day with Primoz Roglic in the leaders red jersey and a situation that felt pretty similar to the Tour de France.

This Slovenian looked home and dry as the chinks in the armour of Richard Carapaz and Egan Bernal were starting to show.

But our Primoz had been burned a number of times in stage races, especially when it came to conceding the lead in the latter stages of big races (2021 Tour, 2022 Paris Nice etc.) so he reduced the level of pressure on his Jumbo Visma team and allowed a break to go clear containing Odd Christian Eiking who was still far enough away at the finish to take the race lead.

He didn’t win the stage, in-form DSM rider Michael Storer did, but this ensured that there would be a number of riders and teams now interested in keeping order and calm at the head of the race.

And as with the other grand tours of the year, once the peloton had settled, breakaways started to get bigger time gaps and stay away.

There were memorable stage wins for Magnus Cort (multiple), Romain Bardet and Rafal Majka.

Eiking retained the lead thanks to the composition of those breakaways not having a rival for his jersey, but it always felt on loan to Roglic. And so it was.

It took the fearsome climb to Lagos de Covadonga to shake the Norwegian off, but it was definitive.

The best day of the race saw Bernal give it an all or nothing attack which Roglic was equal to. When the time came the Columbian was dispatched and no other riders could get within a minute and a half of the defending champion who took the jersey back, and for good.

Movistar showed their incredible ability to mess something up with two riders in the top three going into the penultimate day of the race.

But as Bernal faded, Miguel Angel Lopez, a stage winner two days before, got stuck in a group with him losing his podium place in the process (on the road).

As the time gap drifted over seven minutes Lopez abandoned with less than 100km of the race to go. A sad end to a Vuelta that had started to look like it would end on a high for him, but ended in a team car.

The stage was won by an opportunist in the breakaway (which is so 2021!!!) Clement Champoussin who bagged a third stage win for France. In contrast Spain won zero.

Roglic secured the final days time trial, although the incredible Cort tried to take that off him, ending up with close to a five minute gap on Enric Mas who was the best of the rest and the best of Spain.

An honourable mention to Jack Haig who came third after coming under intense pressure from Adam Yates on the final mountain of the race. He suffered terribly and was dropped many times but came back each and every one.

I wouldn’t say this Vuelta was that interesting in terms of a GC battle. But that was the case in the Tour and to a lesser extent Giro.

What has made this year so special has been the baroudeur spirit of breakaways and their ability to time their run to the line just right and hang on for valuable stage wins.

It started in Italy with Taco Van der Hoorn and carried on here with Corts stage wins being evolutions of that tactic. It’s made a number of key stages in grand tours like one day classics and that is 100% no bad thing.

For now we move on to the Worlds and the end of season classic campaigns, so there is still plenty to get excited about and enjoy.

See you on the road!

2021 Vuelta Week 1 Review

There is an overused word to describe the feelings riders and fans have towards the Vuelta.

Its ambience.

People often write or speak of the specific relaxed, end of term vibes of the Vuelta. It’s a unique ambience they say.

It certainly works for me.

I spend many a happy hour watching the Vuelta imagining life as a hardened pro cyclist getting to the end of their season and riding round the humid, windy interior of Spain to get a nice tan to take into the winter.

The first week of this year’s race has certainly done nothing to diffuse that stereotype.

There were a couple of flat stages where the organisers prayed for high winds to get the echelons forming. But there was barely a breeze and the riders enjoyed the sun and several sprint finishes.

Where there have been climbs there has been excitement. But Primoz Roglic is in control with rivals such as Egan Bernal clearly going backwards.

Hugh Carthy is sadly at home in Preston by now after abandoning.

Alessandro Valverde suffered a terrible crash before being forced to quit the race. It will be interesting to see how the race develops with his bickering team mates Enric Mas and “Superman” Lopez battling to lead Movistar in his absence.

Sadly, it appears there is no series 3 on their fly on the wall documentary on Netflix. The episode featuring this week’s racing would be a must see.

If this was the Tour de France and if it was Tadej Pogacar in the lead of the race, I would be declaring this one over in terms of a GC battle.

But Roglic has previous (see 2020 Tour, 2021 Paris-Nice) of grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory.

He might be going for a hat-trick of Vuelta wins but in both 2019 and 2020 he was close to losing the race in the closing days. Once through a needless crash when Movistar pushed on and once on the final summit finish when Richard Carapaz went after him.

For those of an English and Ineo bias, the race seems to be slipping away.

Carapaz is fading after his Olympic road race glory and with Bernal losing time on the last summit finish before yesterday’s rest day it might be that Adam Yates gets the responsibility of leading the team now.

However, he is over two minutes behind Roglic and that seems very unlikely a gap that he will cross. Even with two weeks of racing left.

So, let’s enjoy this weeks stages, some sleepy looking towns and wave lashed beaches with the riders swooping past. All mirrored Oakley’s and sun cream as they get through the final grand tour of the 2021 season.

RnkPrev▼▲RiderTeamUCITime
11 ROGLIČ PrimožTeam Jumbo-Visma2034:18:53
23▲1 MAS EnricMovistar Team0:28
34▲1 LÓPEZ Miguel ÁngelMovistar Team1:21
47▲3 HAIG JackBahrain – Victorious1:42
56▲1 BERNAL EganINEOS Grenadiers1:52
610▲4 YATES AdamINEOS Grenadiers2:07
711▲4 CICCONE GiulioTrek – Segafredo2:39
88 KUSS SeppTeam Jumbo-Visma2:40
92▼7 GROßSCHARTNER FelixBORA – hansgrohe3:25
1014▲4 DE LA CRUZ DavidUAE-Team Emirates3:55

Week 3 – Sleepy final week to the Tour

The final week of the Tour was a total non-event in terms of the general classification leaving many to wonder if the course wasn’t quite balanced enough to promote attacking riding.

Although to be fair when there was a summit finish it was generally either won by Tadej Pogacar or he gained time on his increasingly hapless looking rivals.

If it hadn’t been for Ben O’Connor and Jonas Vingegaard emerging from the shadows and taking the race on we would have been subjected to less action.

Pogacar was so far ahead after the final mountains that he and his team were able to let the latter stages play out with chaos on the road and breakaways ruling the roost.

Ineos Grenadiers had such a disaster with the fading of Geraint Thomas and Richie Porte that Richard Carapaz was their only hope.

Despite a couple of attacks he never once looked like dropping the other favourites.

His team also reverted to type after promising enterprising and attacking riding. They formed a train on the climbs and as mentioned in last weeks post, pretty much armchaired the yellow jersey to within a few kms of the finish on key stages.

I have no idea why they chose to ride in that way. Defensive and stifling they should have left more riders from lower down the top 10 to challenge in the way that Guillaume Martin did.

But they knew that if he hung on Carapaz was likely to get on to the podium and for Ineos that looked enough.

Contrast that with Jumbo/Visma who lost Primoz Roglic at the same time as Thomas faltered. They made sure that Vingegaard became a loose cannon, especially on the Mont Ventoux stage. The second prong to their fork was Wout Van Aert who became a stage hunter in the Sean Kelly, Peter Sagan mould.

Their tour will be a success, Ineos a failure.

I am not sure that the management of Jumbo is such that they showed great agility in adapating their planning. I put it down to the riders being strong on the road and mentality tough.

Despite getting boxed in by the Eddy Merckx mafia of Belgians in Paris (!), Mark Cavendish and Quickstep will be looking at this Tour as a real successs. He equalled the record and if thats as far as it goes then I am sure he will still be happy.

Julian Alaphillippe got his stage win and Cav the green jersey. Job done.

The main blot of the week 3 landscape was the police raid of Bahrain Victorious. This was the culmination of rumours since Rod Ellingworth left the team suddenly and they started winning.

Gino Mader and Mark Padun came from nowhere to win important races before the Tour and during this race Matej Mohoric and Dylan Theuns got wins (although neither was too surprising).

Foul seemed to be being cried over the sudden emergence of Sonny Colbrelli as a mountain climber, which was a little uncomfortable to watch at times.

But until there are charges from the investigation, and that goes for all stage and classification winners, not just Colbrelli, we will take the race and its outcomes at face value.

The good news for those of us who are down in the dumps this week with the race over is that the Tour of Wallonia starts today !

RnkPrev▼▲RiderTeamUCIPntTime
11 POGAČAR TadejUAE-Team Emirates100050082:56:36
22 VINGEGAARD JonasTeam Jumbo-Visma8003805:20
33 CARAPAZ RichardINEOS Grenadiers6753407:03
44 O’CONNOR BenAG2R Citroën Team57530010:02
55 KELDERMAN WilcoBORA – hansgrohe47528010:13
66 MAS EnricMovistar Team40026011:43
77 LUTSENKO AlexeyAstana – Premier Tech32524012:23
88 MARTIN GuillaumeCofidis, Solutions Crédits27522015:33
99 BILBAO PelloBahrain – Victorious22521016:04
1010 URÁN RigobertoEF Education – Nippo17520018:34

The upcoming Giro marks a change in the season

Despite their being much disruption still across Europe and beyond, we have had a cycling season to enjoy and 2021 has delivered.

There have been a number of highlights in the classics and one week stage races to date and before we get into the Giro D’Italia let’s cover our top 3…

3. Mark Cavendish in the Tour of Turkey

“Cav” has come a long way from his tearful farewell to 2020.

After release from Bahrain/McLaren he was late in finding a team, but when he did it was a key move in returning to the Quickstep set up where (Harrogate aside) he had enjoyed constant success.

It took a while to click. There were a couple of Belgian semi-classic near misses and a fall when he was in the mix at Nokere Koerse.

He arrived in Turkey though and finally got the win. And then he won again. And then he kept winning.

The field of sprinters wasn’t deep the whingers cried.

But Jasper Philipsen is a top tier rider who had beaten Cav earlier in the campaign, and Andrei Griepel was still motivated to succeed.

Where the great mans season goes from here who knows.

But as he has said in interviews since getting back from Turkey, he has proved what he wanted to prove and now anything else he gets is a bonus.

2. Paris Nice Last Day

Fendrien covered this a lot at the time. Cycling is full of unwritten rules and rituals. One of which Primoz Roglic broke on the penultimate day of the race when refusing to gift a stage to Gino Mader who had been out in the days breakaway.

There was no need for Roglic to sprint and overtake Mader in the final metres of the stage as he had dropped his rivals and had no need for the win and time bonuses. He had the yellow jersey and the race was all but over.

The final day of the race seemed destined for formality before Roglic managed to crash twice, the second time the peloton decided to take its own retribution for how he’d treated the youngster on the previous day and rode on without waiting.

Two days of racing and two broken rules with race leaders gifting stages and the peloton waiting for race leaders after crashes up in smoke as the riders headed south through France.

Despite a spirited pursuit and a real desire not to give in, Roglic lost the race to Max Schachmann.

He learned his lesson though and later in the spring hauled in Tadej Pogacar and Brandy McNulty on the last day of the Tour of the Basque Country. However as a thanks to David Gaudu for helping his daring escape succeed and win him the race overall, Roglic didn’t sprint for the stage and the Frenchman won.

  1. Mathieu Van de Poel in Italy

You will be groaning to see that I have managed to shoehorn a couple of moments of MvdP magic into one bullet point.

You could also throw in his below par Milan San Remo performance as evidence you shouldn’t generalise.

But… two performances from the man of the season so far cannot be split by this correspondent.

First off was his 1600+ watt attack in Strade Bianche. It was a moment that regular cycling watchers will continue to rewind and replay for decades to come.

The fact he managed two of these accelerations, the second of which on the streest of Siena was enough to win the race should never be forgotten.

He proved that quick sharp attacks weren’t the only thing in his locker by attacking to keep warm on a icy wet day in Tirreno-Adriatico.

Castelfidardo is a town that will be forever immortalised in cycling history after he rode the race off his wheel and despite misjudging the efforts impact on his legs hung on for the win.

So now we moved on to a new phase of the season and the first three week stage race of the season in the Giro. It will be scenic and packed with great stories and stages. But it will need to be good to beat the opening part of 2021, that is for sure!