Wednesday, August 29, 2012

2012 Fall Classics Preview

With the end of the Tour de France and Olympic cycling competitions, we turn our attention to the Fall Classics, perhaps the lesser cousins of the Spring Classics. What races do we look forward to? We preview the World Championship, Il Lombardia, Paris-Tours, and discuss the issues plaguing GP Ouest France-Plouay, and fall classics in general.

World Championship in Limburg

World Championship in the Limburg, the Netherlands, has parcours similar to Amstel Gold.  As usually the case, it is an attrition-style long course. While it is true that the course contains the dreaded Cauberg climb as it nears the finish - it can be a death knell for the ambition of many pure sprinters - it is hard to predict how the race will go. For one thing, the distance from the final climb to the finish line is changed enough that we think it will have a significant impact that rouleurs might make it to the finish.

Or even rouleur-like sprinters.

Unlike in the Olympics, the top teams are allowed to field 9 riders for the Worlds elite men road race. Clearly the home Netherlands team would love to win this one, and they might just have the numbers for it if not a clear contender. Cavendish might like to be the designated leader for team GB again, but his team is not likely to have Bradley Wiggins on the roster. Team Italy has been unusually quiet, even though Damiano Cunego former winner of Amstel Gold might be quietly preparing for this race. Whether coach Paolo Bettini will select him as team leader is not clear.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

La Vuelta a España, La Vuelta Desamado

La Vuelta a España, le Tour d'Espagne, the Tour of Spain, may be the least loved of the Grand Tours. After decades of directly competing with the Giro d'Italia - both races used to run at approximately the same time in spring - it moved to its current schedule in September in 1995. The new schedule made it an important race for many classics warriors who use it as a warm-up for the World Championship in October. But it also all but pushed it off the calendar of many General Classification (GC) contenders who already met their goals for the year. In a way, it became a race for GC contenders who were either left off the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France for various reasons and wanted a last chance to prove themselves.

History has made the case for us: many winners of the Vuelta don't even come back the following year to defend their title, if they showed up at all. We note the loyalty of Tony Rominger and Alex Zülle who are repeat winners, and recently Vicenzo Nibali who returned to try and defend his victory. To be fair, one can argue that Nibali had to target the Vuelta defense because he was crowded out of his own team who chose Ivan Basso to lead the Giro and the Tour that year.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

If Cavendish Were Joining OmegaPharma-QuickStep

Not even one full year into his tenure at Team Sky, Mark Cavendish is already rumored to be moving elsewhere;  super-team and classics powerhouse OmegaPharma-QuickStep (OPQS) is rumored to be the most likely destination. We've written quite a few pieces on this veritable team, but only focused on their spring classics goals.

Certainly there is much discussion as to why the sudden souring of relationship between Cavendish and Team Sky (Is it the failure to win the Olympic gold medal? Is it acrimony between Cavendish and Team Sky's GC leadership? Why did Dave Brailsford hint at it at all?), but let's look ahead at the prospect of Cavendish joining OPQS.

Cavendish is the world's top sprinter today, it is hard to argue against that unless there is a convenient obstacle near the finish that can be exploited by the likes of Peter Sagan of Liquigas-Cannondale. Here's what we make of the possibility of Cav joining OPQS.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Fall Classics: What We Look Forward to in 2012

With the end of the Tour de France and Olympic cycling competitions, we turn our attention to the Fall Classics, perhaps the lesser cousins of the Spring Classics.  What do we look forward to this Fall? There are a few factors that brings us more excitement than usual. In this post we first discuss these factors and we will follow up with short race previews.

Loire Valley in Fall.