Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Road from Le Critérium du Dauphiné

With the Critérium du Dauphiné (CdD) approaching, we look ahead to what is popularly the biggest cycling race of the year, namely the Tour de France. As a weeklong stage race featuring similar climbs to the TdF, the CdD is often considered to be a preparation race for those with TdF aspirations, along with Tour de Suisse as an alternative option.

Route of the 2012 Critérium du Dauphiné.

We quickly examined where the top-ten CdD GC finishers have performed in the last two editions: 2010 and 2011. What have we discovered?

Where Should Nibali Go To?

With news (and non-news) breaking that Vincenzo Nibali is leaving Liquigas-Cannondale at the end of the season, we ponder the choice that he might make. We think that Nibali is a very exciting all-rounder, one of a very select cadre of riders that give truly positive meaning to the term "all-rounder." He's one of the best descenders in the business, a former winner of the Vuelta a Espana with true legitimacy to the Giro d'Italia crown, winner of several week-long stage races, and finally an exciting contender in the classics. His attacks in Milano-Sanremo and Liège-Bastogne-Liège were daring even if he didn't end up winner. Certainly Italian national coach Paolo Bettini agrees.

Liquigas-Cannondale has been his home for all his pro career. As we pondered some time ago, the squad is becoming too full, bursting with talent across generations.  Nibali's most inconvenient teammate is perhaps Ivan Basso, twice winner of the Giro d'Italia who is revered as god in Italy. This makes it hard for the team to not let him choose his races, especially for the Giro. As a result, Nibali is sitting out this year's Giro d'Italia, even if it is a more suitable corsa for him than last year's.

Where should Nibali go to? Should he go to Astana Version 3 to follow Giuseppe Martinelli the legendary team manager? Martinelli was behind the successes of Marco Pantani, Stefano Garzelli, Gilberto Simoni, Damiano Cunego, and now of Alexandre Vinokourov, Maxim Iglinsky and Enrico Gasparotto? If he does, he might have to dampen his classics ambitions a bit, but he may gain leadership in the grand tours, at worst shared with Roman Kreuziger.

Clearly, Nibali is a hot commodity, and as The Inner Ring rues, the transfer season is effectively all-year long for those high-potential cyclists.

What other teams do you think he should consider?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Giro d'Italia 2012: the Races within a Race

With Ryder Hesjedal's heroic ride up the Pompeago, the dynamic of the Giro d'Italia GC race is turned upside down. Despite not having the strongest team in Garmin-Barracuda, he and his squad has exceed expectation. Many had bet that climbing specialists would take time away from him, instead he has taken time from them. And somewhere in there, Ivan Basso of Liquigas-Cannondale is sandwiched between the pocket rockets and the time trial specialist.

Just like in other Grand Tours (GTs), there are multiple races within the GC competition of this year's Giro d'Italia. Simply put, this is because unlike in classics races, finishing in the top-ten of a GT is of great value to an aspiring rider, not to mention the multiple jerseys on offer.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Liquigas-Cannondale: a House Too Full

Liquigas-Cannondale (LIQ) seems to have done everything right in terms of commitment: they are well-funded, they have sponsors who have stayed for a long time and will continue to stay awhile. They have invested in many exciting new riders, and they seem to have a genuine esprit de corps when they race. But could it be that Liquigas-Cannondale is a house too full?

Photo by Luca Volpi. Lincense CC BY-SA 2.0

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Is an Italian Renaissance Near?

As we approach the Giro d'Italia, our minds wander to the heights of the Dolomites, the strade bianche of Toscana, and the hills of Trento. We count many great Italian classics specialists among our favorite, including Paolo Bettini's with his attacking style and Damiano Cunego's with his constant (attempts at) re-definition of himself. Indeed, the 2002-2008 period could be seen as the Golden Era of Italian cycling, during which they won many classics and world championships.

In the Rise of Nations article we pondered the fate of Italian cycling, and we ask, is there a crisis just beneath the surface? Who shall take the mantle of Paolo Bettini as King of the Classics?
Rise of Nations: Italy's monuments and worlds wins over the years.
Who are the young guns who we think will show their potential this year?