Fenland Clarion Velogames league

Not sure if there is much interest in fantasy cycling games but I just joined the Velogames classics one. Really easy to join but hard to pick a pick within budget.

I am hoping this line up will get me from Strade to Liege without having to make transfers.

I have started a FCCC league so feel free to join in..

https://www.velogames.com/ < to register

League code to join is 140233727

Riders of the year 2021

Here are my top 3 mens riders of the 2021 season.

3. Julian Alaphillippe

I am trying to avoid using the standard cliches to describe this guy. Swashbuckling for example.

However, its really hard when the two stand out wins of his season were gathered in that typical… umm… swashbuckling style of riding the race off his wheel.

Stage 1 of the Tour de France had been marred by crashes but was set up for Mathieu Van der Poel to win with an uphill finish and the weight of history driving him on. But that moment in the spotlight would have to wait as our Julian rode away from the whole of the race having surfed through the carnage on the road behind him. Carnage that ended the challenge of Primoz Roglic, Chris Froome and others.

He never seemed to get so far away that the peloton didn’t believe he was catchable, but he was never close enough for anyone to bridge. It was timed perfectly.

After waiting what felt like a lifetime for the Tour to be back and to have fans on the road side, this was the start that both France and the race needed. It also took the spotlight off a certain placard waving fan a little…

He then backed this up at the end of the season by retaining the world champions rainbow jersey by using his team 160km out to make the race uncomfortable for the home town Belgian team.

As the race entered a crucial period he was simply too fast for the riders remaining in the peloton and was justifiably a back to back world road race champion.

2. Mathieu Van der Poel

It feels like this guy had his best moments early in the season. He was thoroughly dominant at Strade Bianche with an uphill power packed attack sending him clear of the peloton. It was a truly wonderful display and the best individual piece of riding of 2021. Bar none.

He backed that up with a brilliant performance in Tirreno Adriatico in the filthy weather. He proved that his cyclo cross background didn’t make him solely a 60 minute racer.

VdP left the peloton behind “to keep warm” with over 50 km to go and would have won by miles if Tadej Pogacar hadn’t thought about the overall win and chased him hard.

But that ride did seem to do more damage than good, with him short and Milan-San Remo and then outsprinted at Flanders by Kasper Asgreen.

He did show his champion credentials in his Tour de France debut. Stage 1 was a disappointment for him missing out in a kit designed to mirror that his grandfather wore in the race. The Mur de Bretagne was different. He attacked first time up for the time bonuses before riding clear to win the stage and take the yellow jersey on the second ascent. It was great to see him get the jersey and then honour it to the Alps.

You have to love VdP for the way he rides and the way he makes cycling like it was in the good old days. Long may this level of performance continue.

1. Tadej Pogacar

The first rider in living memory to win the Tour and 2 of the classic monuments in a season. This lad has it all.

Whilst the Tour de France was in his pocket by the end of week 1 making the overall battle redundant, you can’t help but be impressed by his style and power on the bike.

Before we even got there he’d outsprinted the generations best classic riders to take Liege Bastogne Liege.

That was followed up with a dominant performance in Il Lombardia which is rapidly becoming my second favourite single day race of the year, where he took Fausto Masnada of Quickstep to the finish before smashing him out of sight in the race to the flag.

Aside from the results there is a quiet confidence and dominance about this guy where his presence at the head of a race seems to break the others before he even attacks.

The Ventoux stage was the only one where he looked like shipping any time but I still look back at that day and think he was focused on making Richard Carapaz put his nose into the wind rather than his being in genuine trouble.

Is his dominance good for the sport? For now I would say yes. It means the other teams will need to show greater innovation and creativity to isolate and then beat him, although his team has stocked up on domestiques so far this winter.

But what a talent. A poster boy for cycling for the 2020s.

pro launches anti-litter campaign

I am very lucky that where I live, in the main, road side littering by cyclists and the general public isn’t too bad.

(Fly tipping aside)

You do see the odd gel wrapper and banana peel along with MacDonalds drinks holder, but its not massive.

There are also regular picks both along the road side and the river bank near to my home. This is much appreciated and my kids and I plan to join in the a pick from the water in our kayak next summer.

Groupama/FDJ pro Anthony Roux has been a part of the pro peloton for years and has noticed more litter by the road sides of his training rides.

Some may say his attempts to get action on littering are attempts at launching a political career when cycling is over for him.

I prefer to see it as environmentally conscious and would like to share and back his initiative.

Read more about it here.

We all have a part to play in being the solution, not the problem.

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

Week 2 belongs to Cav and Van Aert

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.

NK.RIDERTEAMTIME
1 POGAČAR TadejUAE-Team Emirates62:07:18
2 URÁN RigobertoEF Education – Nippo5:18
3 VINGEGAARD JonasTeam Jumbo-Visma5:32
4 CARAPAZ RichardINEOS Grenadiers5:33
5 O’CONNOR BenAG2R Citroën Team5:58
6 KELDERMAN WilcoBORA – hansgrohe6:16
7 LUTSENKO AlexeyAstana – Premier Tech7:01
8 MAS EnricMovistar Team7:11
9 MARTIN GuillaumeCofidis, Solutions Crédits7:58
10 BILBAO PelloBahrain – Victorious10:59

The Tour is over…

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!

RnkPrev▼▲RiderTeamUCITime
11 POGAČAR TadejUAE-Team Emirates2534:11:10
214▲12 O’CONNOR BenAG2R Citroën Team2:01
34▲1 URÁN RigobertoEF Education – Nippo5:18
45▲1 VINGEGAARD JonasTeam Jumbo-Visma5:32
56▲1 CARAPAZ RichardINEOS Grenadiers5:33
68▲2 MAS EnricMovistar Team5:47
77 KELDERMAN WilcoBORA – hansgrohe5:58
83▼5 LUTSENKO AlexeyAstana – Premier Tech6:12
912▲3 MARTIN GuillaumeCofidis, Solutions Crédits7:02
109▼1 GAUDU DavidGroupama – FDJ7:22