Saturday, June 8, 2013

Stage 8 Preview 2013 Critérium du Dauphiné

Six riders did not take the start of today’s seventh stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné, and a further 16 abandoned during the race. After Thomas Voeckler’s impressive demonstration of a breakaway win yesterday on stage six, today saw more than twenty riders escape up the road to try their own breakaway success. This time the peloton reeled them all in, and Sylvain Chavanel (OPQ) and Alessandro De Marchi (CAN) were the last to be caught before the final climbs to the finish.

On the category 1 penultimate climb Sammy Sanchez (EUS) and Jakob Fuglsang (AST) broke free to try their luck. By that time the chasing group had been greatly reduced to just a few GC contenders. They chased the two escapees hard, but could not catch them on the final climb. Sammy Sanchez rode away with an emotional first win of the season, after several previous disappointments.

Sammy Sanchez (Euskatel) gets his first win of 2013
A late but powerful attack from Richie Porte helped preserve his second place podium position, as Garmin’s young Rohan Dennis lost his third place, but managed to keep the white young rider’s jersey. Michael Rogers of Saxo-Tinkoff took over the third podium spot, with Katusha’s Daniel Moreno a mere ten seconds behind. Expect Moreno to try and eat away at that lead on tomorrow’s final stage to Risoul.145 riders finished the stage today.

Gianni Meersman and Thomas Damuseau still hold the points and mountain jerseys, respectively. Damuseau padded his lead by crossing the KOM lines in second place over each of the day’s first three climbs—including the early climb over Alpe d’Huez, which occurred before broadcasters were on the air.

Stage 8 Profile
Tomorrow’s final 156km stage 8 features another mountaintop finish, and the last chance for glory in the 2013 Critérium du Dauphiné.  The first 100 kms feature one category-3 climb before the riders reach the first of two cat. 1 climbs. The first is the Col de Vars (10.4k at 6.9%), which tops out about 36kms before the finish. After a 20km descent the peloton will start the final cat. 1 climb to the finish. The Montée de Risoul is about 14kms long with an average gradient of 6.7%, and is a relatively steady climb all the way up.

At this point it does not look good for anyone who hopes to steal the lead away from Sky’s Chris Froome. Another solid finish tomorrow could even net Froome the points jersey, too, as he now trails Meersman in that competition by nine points.

My pick for stage 8: Daniel Moreno (Katusha)

Friday, June 7, 2013



June 8 to 16, 2013

The 2013 Tour de Suisse race route
The 77th edition of the Tour de Suisse begins this Saturday, June 8, and runs until June 16th. It is for many riders the last stage race for pre Tour De France tune-ups. While many TDF favorites have been using the Critérium du Dauphiné to test their racing legs against the competition before the Tour, several others will do their fine-tuning in Switzerland (The Tour De France starts on Saturday June 29).

Twenty-one teams of eight riders each will take the start for the Prologue time trial in Quinto, instead of the town of Lugano, where it has started for the last three years. The entire race will cover 1309 kilometers over nine stages, across the beautiful Swiss countryside. It will feature one prologue time trial, one half-flat, half-climbing time trial, one mountaintop finish, two stages with big climbs close to the finish and a few stages for the sprinters and breakaway specialists. 

Of the 2012 podium, only the winner, Rui Costa is able to return
Last year’s winner, Rui Costa of team Movistar, will be back to try and defend his title against a strong field of contenders. None of the others from last year’s top five finishers are returning, but several strong GC contenders will certainly vie for this year’s title.

Several of the sport’s top sprinters will also be trying to prevent Team Cannondale’s Slovakian wunderkind, Peter Sagan from dominating the sprints like he did lat year. In 2012 Sagan won the opening time trial and then went on to win three more stages and the points jersey.

Here is a list of who I believe are this year’s favorites for the General Classification:

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Stage 5 Preview and Picks 2013 Critérium du Dauphiné

Alberto Contador (center) got squeezed out today by good rides from Chris Froome and Tony Martin

The General Classification got a thorough restructuring today in the 2013 Critérium du Dauphiné. Reigning world time trial champion Tony Martin gathered his strength after a couple days of stomach ailments, and duly treated the fans to an all too familiar dominating win over the rest of the field. The flat 32.5-Kilometer course took the wind out of many contenders’ sails, altering the leader board considerably. Garmin’s young Tasmanian talent, Rohan Dennis performed very well to finish second on the stage and take the leader’s jersey off of Europcar’s David Veilleux. Chris Froome is well poised in second place overall, just five seconds off of Dennis’ lead.

The four current jersey holders, clockwise from top left:
Dennis, Damusea, Dennis and Meersman
Just about all of Froome’s main competitors for the General Classification conceded two or more minutes to the Kenyan native today. Sammy Sanchez trails him by 2:30 now, and Rolland, Valverde, Van Den Broeck, Contador and Rodriguez are further behind, but still within 3:00 of Froome. Three minutes is not small change. We will see if anyone can take any of that time back in the mountains.

Speaking of mountains, they arrive tomorrow for stage 5 to Valmorel. A rolling first half of Thursday’s 139-km route gives way to about 50 kilometers of mostly flat terrain, before the first real mountaintop finish of the race. The final climb to Valmorel begins after about 126 kilometers of racing. The climb is 12.7 kms long, averages about a 7 % gradient overall, and remains relatively constant throughout. That means a steady, measured effort with ambitious attacks probably coming just in the last two or three kms. It’s a chance for yesterday’s sub-par performers to regain some lost time, but that will not be an easy task against a very fit Chis Froome.

Profile of Stage 5 to Valmorel

Stage 5, 139 kms, Grésy-sur-Aix to Valmorel [MTF]:

Mountain Passes & Hills:

·       Km 25.5 - Côte de Trévignin - 4.4 km climb at 6.6 % - Category 3
·       Km 67.0 - Col du Frêne - 1.9 km climb at 6 % - Category 4
·       Km 111.0 - Côte de la Croix - 2.3 km climb at 4.1 % - Category 4
·       Km 139.0 - Montée de Valmorel - 12.7 km climb at 7 % - Category HC

I don’t think the GC contenders will want to let a break stay away to the finish; I believe several riders will hope to attack Froome on the top of the mountain and try to isolate him.

Stage 5 final climb profile

Popular picks: Chris Froome (Sky), Joaquin Rodriguez (KAT), Alejandro Valverde (MOV): so far it’s Froome who has seemed strongest.

Dark-horse pick: Leopold König (TNE): he won the climbing stage to Mount Diablo in the Tour of California a couple weeks ago, and is riding in the top-10 after a good time trial.

My pick: I would not be surprised to see Richie Porte (Sky-currently 5th on GC) or Mick Rogers (TST-currently 11th) continue their good form and take this stage. Rogers is coming off a second place overall finish at the Tour of California, and Porte is currently 5th in the world rankings this year, and has been riding strong all season, with stage wins in the Tour of the Basque Country, Criterium International, and Paris Nice (where he also won the overall).

Stage 4 - 32.5 km ITT Report and Results; 2013 Critérium du Dauphiné


Today’s stage 4 individual time trial is a flat 32.5-kilometer long course.

Stage 4 Time Trial profile

Team Net App-Endura’s Jan Barta set an early best time, but was then bested by Jonathan Castroviejo of Movistar. World TT Champion Tony Marrtin (OPQ) finished with a time of 36:54. He rode the flat 32.5 k course at an average speed of 52.84 kph to take the lead away from Castroviejo--a time that set the standard until the end.

Katusha team leader Joaquin Rodriguez finishes 3:47 behind Martin. Not a good sign for the Tour De France hopeful.
Tony Martin’s teammate Michael Kwiatkowski posts the currently third-best time, 1:13 slower than Martin.

Team Sky leader, Chris Froome goes through the first checkpoint (at km 11.5) 26 seconds slower than Martin, third-best so far.

Alberto Contador goes through the first checkpoint 40 seconds slower than...

2013 Critérium du Dauphiné Stage 4 TT Preview


Stage 4 ITT Profile: 32.5 flat kms

Wednesday’s stage 4 Individual Time Trial should rearrange the standings a good deal. Tony Martin would be the favorite, but we will have to see if he can recover enough from his stomach illness to dominate the field. Andrew Talansky and Lieuwe Westra are other talented time trial specialists whose form has been affected by illness.

Regardless, David Veilleux will not have an easy time trying to defend the leader's jersey.


Some of the other favorites over this mostly flat 32.5-kilometer course include: 

Chris Froome, Richie Porte, Alberto Contador (who says he is not in form enough yet to be competitive here), Jonathan Castroviejo, Stef Clement, Jerome Coppel, Dennis Rohan, Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Michael Rogers, Marco Pinotti, Sylvain Chavanel and Michael Kwiatkowski—just to name a few.

Stage 4 ITT Race Route


You can see from the route map on the right that the course carves a bow-tie shape with not too many turns. Any one of at least twenty guys could win this one. Froome is probably the number-two favorite--though his Sky team have other options--but I would watch out for all three Omega Pharma specialists: Chavanel, Kwiatkowski, and the World Champion... pick: Tony Martin

Other news:

*As Ag2R pulled themselves out of the Critérium du Dauphiné (respecting the Movement for Credible Cycling’s code of ethics) when their man Sylvain Georges tested positive for Heptaminol in the Giro d’Italia, so did Vini Fantini withdraw from Il Lombardia after Danilo Di Luca and Mauro Santambrogio’s recent adverse EPO tests.
For more insight on the MPCC check out: 

*Brian Cookson announcement (British Cycling's candidate against Pat McQuaid for UCI President), manifesto coming:

Monday, June 3, 2013

2013 Critérium du Dauphiné Stage 3 Preview

Elia Viviani won Monday's stage 2

Several of the sprinters did well to stay with the front group in stage 2 of the Critérium du Dauphiné today, over six categorized climbs, to force a bunch sprint finish. Cannondale's Elia Viviani proved the fastest and took the stage ahead of Omega Pharma's Gianni Meersman and Radioshack's Tony Gallopin. That's two straight second places for Meersman, good enough to earn him the green points jeresey lead. Gallopin took the young rider's jersey from Tom Slagter, Thomas Damuseau of Argos Shimano took the monutains jersey lead, and Europcar's David Veilleux was well protected by his team and held onto the Yellow leader's jersey.

Tomorrow's stage 3 to Tarare is less hilly, so even more fast men should be there to contest a sprint finish. Meersman will be hungry for a win, but his nine point lead over Viviani in the points jersey competition means that with a decent finish--even without a win--he's got a good shot at keeping the jersey.

Stage 3 profile

Today's third place finisher, Gallopin was my pick for stage 1, but I did not expect the sprinters to be there at the end of stage 2 today, so chapeau to them for showing me up.

My pick for stage 3: Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ)

Santambrogio EPO Positive adds to Vini Fantini's woes

Many of us fans were disappointed to hear the announcement during the Giro d’Italia that “The Killer”, Danilo Di Luca returned a positive test for EPO. Today the UCI announced that Di Luca’s Vini Fantini-Selle Italia teammate Mauro Santambrogio has also returned an “adverse analytical finding” for EPO, and has been suspended. Two of the Pro Continental team’s most competitive riders have now tainted the image of the entire team and the sport of professional cycling. In an already cloudy atmosphere where the sport is trying to rebuild its image—and providing these tests are verified--this news should come as an affront to everyone involved in cycling.

Vini Fantini Directeur Sportif Luca Scinto was quick to criticize and distance himself from the offenders:
"You're right. Massacre me. I trusted them. They're mad and I'm an idiot to believe them. They're crazy and sick," he tweeted Monday.

Santambrogio (left) is third rider from 2013 Giro, and second of his team to return a positive doping result

Santambrogio had never been a Grand Tour contender before, but often excelled at one-day races. His climbing and stamina seemed to improve, and at age 28, he was having the season of his career before...