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There is an overused word to describe the feelings riders and fans have towards the Vuelta.
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.
|1||1||–||ROGLIČ Primož||Team Jumbo-Visma||20||34:18:53|
|2||3||▲1||MAS Enric||Movistar Team||0:28|
|3||4||▲1||LÓPEZ Miguel Ángel||Movistar Team||1:21|
|4||7||▲3||HAIG Jack||Bahrain – Victorious||1:42|
|5||6||▲1||BERNAL Egan||INEOS Grenadiers||1:52|
|6||10||▲4||YATES Adam||INEOS Grenadiers||2:07|
|7||11||▲4||CICCONE Giulio||Trek – Segafredo||2:39|
|8||8||–||KUSS Sepp||Team Jumbo-Visma||2:40|
|9||2||▼7||GROßSCHARTNER Felix||BORA – hansgrohe||3:25|
|10||14||▲4||DE LA CRUZ David||UAE-Team Emirates||3:55|
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 !
|1||1||–||POGAČAR Tadej||UAE-Team Emirates||1000||500||82:56:36|
|2||2||–||VINGEGAARD Jonas||Team Jumbo-Visma||800||380||5:20|
|3||3||–||CARAPAZ Richard||INEOS Grenadiers||675||340||7:03|
|4||4||–||O’CONNOR Ben||AG2R Citroën Team||575||300||10:02|
|5||5||–||KELDERMAN Wilco||BORA – hansgrohe||475||280||10:13|
|6||6||–||MAS Enric||Movistar Team||400||260||11:43|
|7||7||–||LUTSENKO Alexey||Astana – Premier Tech||325||240||12:23|
|8||8||–||MARTIN Guillaume||Cofidis, Solutions Crédits||275||220||15:33|
|9||9||–||BILBAO Pello||Bahrain – Victorious||225||210||16:04|
|10||10||–||URÁN Rigoberto||EF Education – Nippo||175||200||18:34|
The second week of the Tour de France offered only glipmses of a batte for the yellow jersey but was made famous for the wins of Mark Cavendish.
His two stage wins in Valence and Carcassonne book ended the week and gave us something to remember this race for.
His first stage win in 2008 was a “remember where you were moment“. I was in the car going to Skegness listening to Simon Brotherton on 5 live.
Friday I had it on in the background whilst working and from 2km to go to the finish was a nervous wreck.
He is level with the record now and its thoroughly deserved after his efforts in this race over the years.
At the other end of his Tour career is Wout Van Aert who was the other star of the week after winning the stage with a double ascent of the fearsome Mont Ventoux.
He was part of the breakaway for much of the stage before going clear with Kenny Elissonde and leaving him behind as Julian Alaphillippe tried to get across to them.
Behind Wout there was the merest hint of a battle for the GC with Jonas Vingegaard becoming the first person to drop Tadej Pogacar only to be pulled back on the descent thanks to some negative riding from Richard Carapaz and Rigo Uran.
Why those two didnt want to put the yellow jersey under pressure and leave him to chase Vingegaard on his own was beyond me.
It was a clear indication that they were only interested in riding for 2nd place. Which is poor.
In fact the whole Ineos tactical masterplan this week has been poor.
Short of giving Pogacar an armchair and slippers they have done very little other than keep Carapaz in with a shout of the podium.
What happened to last years pledge to go from long? be disruptive and shake up the race?
They have ridden the perfect mountain train for the race leader who isn’t in their team. Bonkers.
The second third weekend of the race took us into Andorra and saw some spectacular climbing and a deserved stage win for Sepp Kuss who continued the Jumbo/Visma comeback after the loss of leader Roglic.
Whilst I don’t see much changing in the top 10 this week, save Carapaz moving up to second or third, I will be keeping focus on Cav getting through the mountains within the time limit.
Fingers crossed he can make it to Paris.
|1||POGAČAR Tadej||UAE-Team Emirates||62:07:18|
|2||URÁN Rigoberto||EF Education – Nippo||5:18|
|3||VINGEGAARD Jonas||Team Jumbo-Visma||5:32|
|4||CARAPAZ Richard||INEOS Grenadiers||5:33|
|5||O’CONNOR Ben||AG2R Citroën Team||5:58|
|6||KELDERMAN Wilco||BORA – hansgrohe||6:16|
|7||LUTSENKO Alexey||Astana – Premier Tech||7:01|
|8||MAS Enric||Movistar Team||7:11|
|9||MARTIN Guillaume||Cofidis, Solutions Crédits||7:58|
|10||BILBAO Pello||Bahrain – Victorious||10:59|
Click here to enjoy the pictures.
The first rest day of the 2021 Tour de France has arrived with the race for the yellow jersey well and truly over.
History does warn us that we might see a change of winner of this race in the courts in 2025 but that is me being cynical and as of yet, other than being the best rider, there is no reason to accuse Tadej Pogacar of anything.
We are all just burned by the past.
The race has had so many great memories that even if the overall might be done and dusted (barring accident), we are not able to complain.
The first days steep finish saw Julian Alaphillippe soar from the front of a disintegrating peloton to win with ease.
A new father he took the time to add a baby sucking its thumb into his celebration, such was the dominance.
We were all waiting for Mathieu van der Poel to win that stage but a mistimed incident (not that crash the other one that took out Chris Froome) saw him with too much ground to make up.
He put it right on day 2 with the Mur de Bretagne being climbed twice.
It looked like madness on the first time up when MVDP shot clear only to be caught over the summit. But he had it under control having snatched a hand full of bonus seconds which meant that when he went up the climb the second time attacking in virtually the same spot he knew he could pull out enough of a gap to get the jersey from Julian.
As he flew over the line his arm shot skywards in homage to his grandfather, Raymond Poulidor. Multi times runner up in the Tour without ever getting the jersey.
Having sadly died before getting the chance to see Mathieu compete in the Tour, his grandson shed tears of joy and of grief at the end of the stage.
The other big story to come out of week one has been the resurgence of Mark Cavendish.
He had been long since written off and even threatened retirement in a tough to hear interview with Flemish TV at the end of 2020.
Quickstep rescued him from the Bahrain team and in the early season Belgian classics he was working hard and getting his nose into the wind as training.
He came close on a number of occasions before winning four stages of the Tour of Turkey.
He returned to that road captain, domestique role again for a few weeks before winning the final stage of the Tour of Belgium.
The injury to Sam Bennett opened the door for Cav to make another visit to the worlds biggest race and with 2 stage wins (including the symmetary of a win in Chateauroux where he took his maiden victory), he might not be done yet!
The second weekend of the race took us into the Alps and in protest at most of the famous big climbs being missing it produced some weather that even us Brits who are used to damp summers might complain about.
Dylan Theuns showed his Flandrien heritage by battling through the rain to win in Grand Bornand but the action was behind him with Pogacar romping away from everyone else.
After recent grand tours being settled by seconds, he is now minutes ahead of anyone else who could rival him.
And just to prove it wasn’t a fluke, he did it again yesterday on the road into Tignes.
So the yellow jersey race might be done, but let’s look forward to some exciting stages in the coming days and hopefully some better weather!
|1||1||–||POGAČAR Tadej||UAE-Team Emirates||25||34:11:10|
|2||14||▲12||O’CONNOR Ben||AG2R Citroën Team||2:01|
|3||4||▲1||URÁN Rigoberto||EF Education – Nippo||5:18|
|4||5||▲1||VINGEGAARD Jonas||Team Jumbo-Visma||5:32|
|5||6||▲1||CARAPAZ Richard||INEOS Grenadiers||5:33|
|6||8||▲2||MAS Enric||Movistar Team||5:47|
|7||7||–||KELDERMAN Wilco||BORA – hansgrohe||5:58|
|8||3||▼5||LUTSENKO Alexey||Astana – Premier Tech||6:12|
|9||12||▲3||MARTIN Guillaume||Cofidis, Solutions Crédits||7:02|
|10||9||▼1||GAUDU David||Groupama – FDJ||7:22|
…what do you mean “its coming home”?
I am talking about the Tour de France and the return of the 21st centuries most prolific stage winner at the race, Mark Cavendish.
As the sprinters chased down the ever hapless (he lost a race the other week by turning into a home owners drive way instead of crossing a junction) Brent van Moer in the final 300 metres of a close to 100 mile stage, Cav bided his time out of the wind.
All day the commentators had said that holding your sprint back on the uphill would be key.
Cav did it to perfection.
It was a dream return for the man who had been written off (even by me) as recent as last October.
One of the biggest sporting comebacks?
|1||CAVENDISH Mark||Deceuninck – Quick Step||120||100||3:20:17|
|2||BOUHANNI Nacer||Team Arkéa Samsic||50||70||,,|
|4||MATTHEWS Michael||Team BikeExchange||15||40||,,|
|5||SAGAN Peter||BORA – hansgrohe||5||32||,,|
|6||BOL Cees||Team DSM||26||,,|
|7||LAPORTE Christophe||Cofidis, Solutions Crédits||22||,,|
|8||PEDERSEN Mads||Trek – Segafredo||18||,,|
|9||VAN POPPEL Boy||Intermarché – Wanty – Gobert Matériaux||14||,,|
|10||GREIPEL André||Israel Start-Up Nation||10||,,|
I have followed his career since his first stage win at Chateauroux in 2008 (a town the race visits later this week) penning his name on the road in the mountains of 2009.
Is this the last hurrah?
I hope not, but what a way to go out if it is !
If you have been with Fendrien since the outset you will know that 1989 was the second Tour de Francce I followed and its conculsion was enough to ensure my love for the sport would remain undiminshed (to date) over the decades.
Greg LeMond came back from incredible adversity to win the race by a mere 8 seconds from the late Laurent Fignon.
That summer seemed to be warmer and sunnier than any other I can remember and it made me save up for some Oakley’s and a Dawes Impulse road bike.
It’s fair to say Greg has had an interesting and not altogether positive experience with the sport since he retired in the early 1990’s. He incurred the wrath of Lance Armstrong amongst others but is making a comeback.
He has been a Eurosport pundit and has relaunched his own label bike brand after it had been dumped by Trek.
Imagine my delight then when Cyclist magazine recently uploaded a two part podcast with the great man covering all manner of topics, not just ’89.
Click here to go through to their site and enjoy it.
Great to have you back Greg.
There remains lots of speculation surrounding the late closed season move between DSM and UAE for Swiss all-rounder Marc Hirschi.
As far back as January, Cyclingnews were reporting on the presence of a NDA between his old team and him.
There have been leaked stories to the effect that DSM felt there was a lack of transparency from their former star man and that his relationship with Fabian Cancellara was not the best thing.
Whilst I cannot say specifically what is being alluded to here (as I don’t want suing), its pretty clear that aspertions are being cast against Hirschi.
This is not only tough for the rider themselves (if there is nothing mirky in his alleged lack of transparency), but is also a blow for a sport that is currently hanging its hat on the new generation of riders being different to those that went before them, and in a number of ways.
This is a shame for lovers of the sport who unless the NDA is broken and more details are given will be left watching the guy who lit up last summer with a different and more negative perspective.
I hope there is a way out for both team and rider whereby any ambiguity is cleared up as this stinks and is hanging over his starting racing this season in the Drome next week.
Britains most winningest ever pro cyclist Mark Cavendish will be riding on in 2021.
Cav has rejoined his old Deceuninck / Quickstep team after 5 years away from them. It was with that team he suffered Tour de France heartbreak in Harrogate, smashing down on the deck outside Betty’s tea room. But aside from that he had so many good days on this squad.
You can read the teams press release by clicking here.
It’s great to hear that he is going to carry on next season, so let’s hope that our last memories of him as a pro cyclist are successful ones rather than the tears he shed in the Flemish Classics (which prompted us to write this piece about his impending retirement!).
Is it too much to hope for one last big win?