Giro Stage 7 (video) - Meersman abandons - Chongming World Cup start list - Tour of California - Bruyneel subpoena - Ruiter Dakkapellen closes women's team - New team for Davide Rebellin - Scott-Contessa struck by thieves - British riders recreate 1955 Peace Race - The news you might have missed - BBC Radio to broadcast Beryl Burton play
Giro d'Italia Stage 7
Saturday's parcours (are we really a week into the Giro already?) extended over 205km between Recanati and Rocca di Cambio (the highest village in the Apennines, where evidence of an earthquake in 2009 can still be seen despite the wealth the Campo Felice ski resort has brought). Like Stage 6, it was rated as a medium mountain stage, but the Cat 3 and Cat 2 along the way are far more like proper mountains than Friday's hills - the Cat 3 rises to 1,190m and the Cat 2 to 1,392m (British fans should remember that this "medium mountain" is 48m higher than Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles) and as we've seen over the last couple of stages, Giro organisers use a system all of their own when hinting at how difficult a stage might be.
Recanati was established as a city in 1150CE, growing up from villages that formed around three castles and became an independent republic 140 years later, but two necropolises dating from Neolithic times are evidence that the region was inhabited long before that. After a short downhill section over the first 5km, most of the first half of the race headed upwards with five hills leading to Cat 2 Col Galluccio some 96.1km into the race. A fast descent led into a long climb up an uncategorised 1,152km mountain (142km), then the riders enjoyed a chance to recover on a 46km descent to a little hill that came just before the 800m climb to the final few kilometres. The final 3km of this stage looked difficult on paper and seemed guaranteed to make a sprint finish improbable: the first 1.38km descended around 70m, then the remainder swung steeply upward and climbed 92m in a little over 1.6km; hitting a gradient of 10% over one 100m section 0.5km from the finish line. (Profile, final 3km)
Reto Hollenstein (NetApp), Matteo Rabbotini (Farnese Vini-Selle Italia), Fumiyuki Beppu (Orica-GreenEDGE) and Mirko Selvaggi (Vacansoleil-DCM) took off early in the stage and had grabbed a lead of 7'05" after just 27km. As the stage drew towards its end, it was obvious that Mark Cavendish (Sky) fully realised how close he came to disaster yesterday when he finished within a minute of the time limit - keeping himself securely in the most populous part of the peloton, he let the momentum of the pack carry him up the hills.
As the finish line came within sight, José Herrada (Movistar) had a 100m lead but was rapidly caught and dropped, then Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) powered away and must have believed he had it in the bag - but Paolo Tiralongo (Astana) was on him, following in his slipstream. The two Italians battled all the way over the last 300m, then Tiralongo fired up the afterburners with 100m to go, muscled his way past and was first over the line for the second Giro stage win of his career before collapsing on the cobbles completely exhausted. Frank Schleck was a slightly unexpected third, suggesting that RadioShack-Nissan manager Johan Bruyneel's emergency training camps after the Schlecks' dismal Classics campaign worked, while Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) was fifth and becomes the new race leader with a 15" advantage over Tiralongo. He is the first Canadian to wear the maglia rosa leader's jersey.
1. Paolo Tiralongo Astana 5h51'03"
2. Michele Scarponi Lampre-ISD ST
3. Frank Schleck RadioShack-Nissan +3"
4. Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver Katusha ST
5. Ryder Hesjedal Garmin-Barracuda +5"
6. Domenico Pozzo Vivo Colnago CSF Bardiani +9"
7. Daniel Moreno Fernandez Katusha ST
8. Ivan Basso Liquigas-Cannondale ST
9. Mikel Nieve Ituralde Euskaltel-Euskadi +11"
10. Gianluca Brambilla Colnago CSF Bardiani ST
Stage 8 is another medium mountain parcours (profile) over 229km between Sulmona and Lago Laceno. Sulmona - once home to the poet Ovid - lies on the flat and fertile Valle Peligna, formed when a prehistoric lake was filled in a a result of a series of earthquakes; but the riders head skywards almost immediately as they climb the uncategorised 1,284m Piano delle Cinque Miglia. The descent is gentle at first, then becomes steep before a short flat section followed by a smaller climb preceding a fast 10km descent to the foot of the day's first opportunity for King of the Mountains points, Cat 4 Valico di Macerone (684m, 61.9km). The middle section, from 65.5km to 197.3km, is hilly rather than mountainous with nothing too challenging; the highest point (Montemerano, 836m, 193.5km) coming at the end of a long, rather than steep, climb. The last climb, Colle Molella, is far more difficult - from 212.2km it ascends 589m to the 1087m summit in 12.2km, giving an average gradient of only around 7%, but more like 12% at the steepest point according to Climbbybike. Depending on the combined effect of all those little hills along the way, this is a stage that could conceivably go to a sprinter: the final 3km are flat with a left-hand turn leading into the last 500m.
The weather on Sunday isn't going to impress - there's a 90% chance of rain and temperature highs of 14C will feel much cooler at altitude. Winds should be no stronger than 19kph.
Gianni Meersman (Lotto-Belisol), who was reported by Sportwereld to be suffering from a "tilted pelvis" this morning, has become the fifth rider to abandon this year's Giro after experiencing problems climbing some 70km into Saturday's Stage 7. The 26-year-old Belgian explained that while he could have finished the stage and possibly even remained competitive on future flat stages, he felt it unwise to risk compounding the problem that stems from a crash in Stage 2.
Tour of Chongming Island World Cup start list
|Click to enlarge|
Tour of California
Among many (European) fans, there is still a feeling that US races are insignificant frivolities, at best gaudy sideshow entertainment to keep us entertained between the grand European tours and at worst amateur attempts by the the upstart American racing scene to emulate the splendour across the Atlantic.
It's complete rubbish, of course. The Americans gave the world several of the best riders both male and female of the last three decades, they make some of the finest bikes in the world, several of their races are spectacular - how could they not be in a nation that has such a varied, beautiful landscape and so much of it - and the Tour of California, which feels far more venerable than an event in only its sixth year, is the best of them all.
The Tour returns this year in its usual eight stage format covering 1,180.5km, starting in Santa Rosa on the 13th of May and ending in Los Angeles on the 13th. Along the way, it visits San Franciso, San Jose, Big Bear Lake and Beverley Hills, as well as climbing mountains as high as 2,210m. Stage 1 starts in Santa Rosa (home to three-time winner Levi Leipheimer, who is racing this year but will not contest the title due to ongoing problems with injuries caused when he was hit by a car earlier this year), taking a 186.5km route first north, then west to the coast before heading south and east back to Santa Rosa. There are several climbs: an uncategorised 230m hill at 70km, three categorised hills rising to 457m (Cazadero and two climbs on Fort Ross Road) in a 20km section starting at 100km and a fifth to around 270m at 149km (Coleman Valley). At 175km, the parcours flattens out and rises only slightly on the approach to the finish line, meaning this stage is likely to end in a sprint. There are two intermediate sprints, the first coming after 52.2km, the second after 142.8km
Bruyneel served US subpoena?
According to widespread rumours, RadioShack-Nissan boss Johan Bruyneel was served with a subpoena as he stepped off his plane and onto US soil this week on his way to the Tour of California. Though the rumours remain unconfirmed, it doesn't take a huge leap of the imagination to connect the story to Floyd Landis, who rode for Bruyneel's US Postal team between 2002-2004 and is currently subject to federal investigation related to the "Floyd Fairness Fund" he set up to pay for his legal team when he was accused of doping. (More)
Ruiter Dakkapellen closes women's teamIt's always a sad occasion when a cycling team is forced to come to an end. A team is not an easy thing to put together, and keeping it together is even more difficult - managers, helpers and, away from the big salary glitz of the men's ProTour, riders put in a great deal of effort, more frequently inspired by their love of the sport than by the salaries they might receive. Even more sad is when a team facing financial hardship takes the all too common decision to save money by closing down its women's team, as has been the case with Ruiter Dakkapellen now that their main sponsor has gone bankrupt.
It's not the team management's fault, really. After all, in times when even high-profile squads such as the legendary HTC-Highroad can fall by the wayside when new backing can't be found, securing sponsorship for a relatively little-known men's team such as Ruiter is a task that would challenge Hercules. Doing the same for a women's team, when women's cycling is entirely ignored by the majority of the media and has suffered for years from what sometimes seems almost willful neglect at the hands of the UCI, would be enough to make Hercules throw his hands in the air and give up. Perhaps the managers will be fortunate and find a new company to sponsor the men. The chances of doing the same for the women is unlikely, so they're forced to release the riders so that they can seek contracts elsewhere.
Can the UCI help to prevent this happening? Almost certainly. They could provide more financial assistance to races - several have found themselves in difficulty recently, and races are what create exposure. They could also encourage more race organisers to run women's races alongside men's races, as has already been done at many of the Flanders Classics and at Britain's Halfords Tour Series - and in both cases has generated increased interest. They could create a dedicated women's cycling commission to look into what needs to be done if women's cycling is to be saved and listen more to the riders and managers, many of whom have some extremely interesting ideas. Will they? Past experiences suggest not.
Good luck Joan Boskamp, Ilona Hoeksma, Anne Heijkoop, Britt Jochems, Nathalie van Katwijk, Tessa van Nieuwpoort, Julia Soek, Lisanne Soemanta, Noortje Tabak, Annelies Visser, Hannah Welter and Melanie Woering. See you all on a parcours soon.
New team for Davide Rebellin
The 40-year-old, who returned to cycling with Christina Watches-Onfone last year from a two-year suspension after he tested positive for EPO-variant CERA at the 2008 Olympics, will now ride for Croatian Continental team Meridiana-Kamen.
British rider David McLean, who has been with Meridiana since 2011, is favourable. "What was clear when I was training with him was that firstly he is very, very good still and secondly this guy is extremely professional," he said in his blog. "He lives a dedicated lifestyle that is based solely around cycling, he has no distractions, no family, no worries, just the bike."
Scott-Contessa struck by thieves
|Beth Crumpton completed the Czech|
MTB World Cup round in a borrowed
bike - and still came ninth!
The Scott Contessa MTB team was targeted by thieves who stole all the junior riders' bikes last night, just a day and a half before the start of the Nove Mesto na Morave round of the World Cup in the Czech Republic...
Beth Crumpton @BethCrumptoncant believe all junior bikes were stolen last night at czech, thankyou so much to @tracy_moseley and Annie for letting me and Al borrow!
"Cyclist Willow Rockwell gives up her Olympic dream" (ESPNW)
"Moyse mulling her sporting future" (The Guardian, Canada)
"BMX: Olympian Shanaze inspires young Jamie’s world bid" (This Is Wiltshire)
"Stolen Hog Hill bike recovered by police" (Cycling Weekly)
British riders recreate 1955 Peace Race
It's been six years since the Peace Race was last held - once Eastern Europe's answer to the Tour de France, it gradually became superceded by other events and vanished: the end of a cycling era. This year, it lives again in the form of the Alf Buttler Peace Race Tribute Ride, in which cyclists will retrace the 2,414km and thirteen stages taken by the inaugural 1955 race between Prague (Czech Republic) and Warsaw (Poland).
Remarkably, the Ride came about as the result of one man's vision. Alan Buttler came up with the idea as a memorial to his father, a mechanic and manager with the British cycling team in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s and who died in 2008. Alan, accompanied by Geoff Wiles (whom some might remember as British Road Race Champion in 1976 and as the man who brought BMX to Britain), has been keeping a blog journal of their travels - it makes for fascinating reading.
The news you might have missed
"London cyclists invited to join Alex Dowsett and Sarah Storey on Nocturne Peloton ride this Thursday" (road.cc)
"Champion cyclist urges Leeds kids to saddle up" (Yorkshire Evening Post)
"Travel picks: top ten cycling destinations" (Reuters)
"Olver to be honored for cycling efforts" (Gazettenet, MA, USA)
"Cycling: At 76, mountain biking 'hoon' has no plans to slow down" (NZHerald)
"Help train cycling officials, Ale begs CFN, NSC" (Vanguard, Nigeria)
Wooden bikes - "Craftsman turns love of cycling into new business" (Idaho Statesman)
BBC Radio 4 to broadcast Burton play
|Burton was arguably the mot successful|
British athlete of all time
Those commemorating the anniversary of the birth of the legend that was Beryl Burton will be pleased to know that later this year a short play telling the story of her life and remarkable career is to be broadcast on BBC Radio 4. Titled La Yorkshire Dame a Bicyclette, the play will star Maxine Peake - who also wrote the script, her first - as the British cyclist who won numerous titles and set world records during the 1950s and 60s.
"Despite beating men and women in championships across the globe, Beryl received no support, training or sponsorship and in fact, very little acclaim in the UK and Maxine wanted to dramatise her story," says producer Justine Potter. No date has yet been set for the broadcast, but it is likely to go out in the station's 45-minute Afternoon Drama (formerly and popularly Afternoon Play) slot.
Radio 4 is available worldwide on the Internet.