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This week’s headlines in pro cycling and what’s coming up…
Bradley Wiggins Record Run / Best British sports star ever? / How Will Vino Be Remembered? / Urán – A Colombian legend in the making / Evans… What’s next? / Nibali signs with Astana / RadioShack’s future in doubt / Voigt just keeps going… / Cavendish hits the Crits… / Scotland pushes for Tour 2016 / The wall of Sormano
A record run
Bradley Wiggins continued his record run yesterday with a win in the Olympic time trial. It was his fourth gold medal in his Olympic career and a record seventh medal for a British athlete.
No current Tour de France winner ever won gold at the Olympics before Wiggins. Spain’s Miguel Indurain won gold in the 1996 Atlanta Games, but that was one year after his fifth Tour win.
Wiggins established another first in cycling this spring, winning the Paris-Nice, Tour de Romandie and Critérium du Dauphiné stage races in one year. Add to that the Tour and Olympics, and it has been a golden run for Londoner from Kilburn.
Wiggins gold medals:
2004 4km individual pursuit
2008 4km individual pursuit
2008 team pursuit
2012 time trial
He won a bronze medal in the 2000 team pursuit in Sydney, a silver medal in the same event four years later and a bronze medal in the Madison, also in 2004.
Wiggins best British sports star ever?
Wiggins left his mark in British cycling history by winning the Tour de France last month. He became the first Brit to do so and perhaps realised his country’s greatest sporting achievement.
“I think it’s the greatest achievement of any British sportsman ever,” Olympic track medallists, Chris Hoy told reporters when the Tour ended. “It’s phenomenal. When you break down the Tour and realise what you’ve got to do to win the Tour, It’s not just one day, it’s not just having a purple patch of form, it’s dealing with all these things to get yourself in a physical state to win it, and then deal with all the other things that are out of your control.
“I’m a bit biased because he’s an old team mate, but if he gets to that finish line it will be as good as anything any British sportsperson has ever done.”
Charles Holland and Bill Burl became the first Brits to race the Tour in 1937. Tom Simpson became the first to wear the yellow jersey in 1962. Sean Yates, Chris Boardman and David Millar joined the yellow club as well. Mark Cavendish won 23 stages. However, before Wiggins, no Brit had ever won the Tour.
It sits alongside Roger Bannister’s four-minute mile in 1954, Tony Jacklin’s US Open win in 1970 and England’s 1966 World Cup win. The win looked easy, but seemed to crack Wiggins off the road. In post-race press conferences, he would sometimes lash out.
“You know, after everything I’ve done this year, you [still] have to justify,” Wiggins said. “‘Oh, yeah, he might have won the Tour, but is he going to be remembered for these people not being here.’ [Referring to Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck – ed.] No one actually praised me yet, saying, ‘You been there since the Tour of Algarve in February, winning races. You went to Paris-Nice, you’ve respected, you raced, you trained, you’ve answered all the questions to the press all year.’ … No one’s actually said, ‘You know what Brad, good on you mate. You answered all the doping questions, and answered as articulate as you can.’ No one’s actually pat me on the back, it’s all in the negative sense.”
How Will Vino Be Remembered?
Cycling fans shook their heads on Saturday when Alexander Vinokourov won the Olympic Road Race in London. Most know the Kazakh is an aggressive rider and races with panache, and has a coloured story.
“It’s not the time to talk about these issues but I think cycling has changed and a lot is being done to fight doping,” Vinokourov told the AFP. “I’m totally aware of the problem and I do what I can for the sport.”
He attacked on the last climb up Box Hill, bridged to the escape and won from there. A pat on the back from Spain’s Alejandro Valverde and a gold medal would’ve helped him forget about the doping issues.
Vinokourov, like Valverde, never clarified his past or apologised for doping. A test at the 2007 Tour revealed he transfused someone else’s blood, but the result only came to light after he won two stages. Officials kicked him out of the race and the organisers requested his Astana team leave as well.
He could’ve explained what he knew about blood transfusions, what he knew about cheating results or about the training advice Michele Ferrari gave. He simply did the crime and served the time. On his return, he showed the same aggression and desire, winning Liège-Bastogne-Liège and now, the Olympics. The 38-year-old retires after the time trial on Wednesday. To many people he’ll be remembered for his prestigious results, and to others he’ll be remembered as someone who failed to help cycling move ahead.
Urán – A Colombian legend in the making
Colombia’s Rigoberto Urán missed out on an Olympic gold medal after for looking left in the final 150 metres when Vinokourov attacked from his right. However, he is a fighter, from delivering lottery tickets to support his family to riding into the Giro d’Italia’s white jersey this year.
Urán began looking after his mum and sister when he was 14 years old as his dad was killed at a guerrilla/paramilitary checkpoint for carrying too much food back home. The guerrilla soldiers accused him of supplying the paramilitary and shot him on the spot.
He used his BMX bike to deliver and collect lottery tickets in the hills around Urrao, Colombia. Those early rides attracted the attention of a local who put him in contact with a sports school. He made his way through the ranks, to Europe and in 2011, to team Sky.
“He can already climb with the best in the world,” Sky’s team principal, David Brailsford said in May. He added that Urán may be able to win a Grand Tour one day, but will need to make improvements. “Consistently, reliability, experience, positioning, moving around, saving energy here and there… That’s the little bit that you get with experience.”
The 25-year-old’s contract, reported at €800,000 annually, ends this year. The silver medal and white jersey will give him leverage in negotiations and attract other teams. Vinokourov’s Astana team reportedly eyeing Urán.
Read more about Urán’s fascinating story here on Cycling Inquisition.
Evans… What’s next?
Cadel Evans is a fighter. Despite being unable to defend his Tour de France title and pulling out of the Olympic ITT, he will continue into the 2012 season. However, what’s next?
“Inadequate recovery and fatigue” ruled him out of the Olympic time trial. To be ready for the Worlds in Valkenburg on September 23, he’ll follow a recipe of rest and racing. As with 2010, one-day races in Belgium and France may prepare him for the Worlds. Lombardia will likely close his season.
After winning the Tour last year, he travelled to the USA and race the Tour of Colorado. In 2010, his first year with team BMC Racing, he rebounded from the Tour with a series of one-day races leading to the Worlds in Geelong and his favourite, the Giro di Lombardia.
Nibali Signs With Astana
Vincenzo Nibali has signed with Astana next year and will share the Grand Tour decision with them. He came third in this year’s Tour de France, will decide on which Grand Tours to race only after the parcours are announced. It will be his first season after leaving Liquigas-Cannondale.
“I’ll wait to see what the parcours are like and then I’ll decide with my team,” he told Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper. “The Giro d’Italia launched me and I’d return with pleasure. For sure, though, next year the podium won’t be enough for me. I’ve already been on the third and second step of the podium. I’ll have to aim for the highest step.”
In 2010, Nibali won the third Grand Tour, the Vuelta a España. Though third, he suffered this year in the time trial-heavy Tour parcours. Race organisers will announce their routes after the season ends.
RadioShack’s future in doubt
Team RadioShack-Nissan’s future remains uncertain. One of their sponsors, energy company Enovos, has pulled out mid-season, Fränk Schleck may be suspended for doping at the Tour de France, General Manager Johan Bruyneel will be heard on doping charges in the USA as part of the Lance Armstrong investigation and management will have to resolve payment issues. Several riders, including Fabian Cancellara, have complained of not being paid.
“All of these stories, viewed from the outside, seem insurmountable, but the reality is that we are calm,” team manager, Luca Guercilena said.
“Missed payments? I can only speak for myself. Nothing is late. In fact, everything is in check and in order. The team has sponsors with contracts [for 2013] and normally, the contracts are respected. So, I don’t think there will be problems going forward.”
Cancellara will reportedly transfer to Saxo Bank-Tinkoff Bank at the end of the season. Andy Schleck, who had to skip the Tour with a hip fracture, may try to start a new team or re-vamp The Shack.
Voigt just keeps going…
Jens Voigt, the oldest rider from this year’s Tour, may keep going into next season at 41 years old.
“I have three concrete offers from Sky, Saxo Bank and also from RadioShack,” he told Germany’s DPA agency. “Maybe I will stay there.”
After racing professional since 1997, including 15 Tours, he thought to end his season this year. He may leave RadioShack and join his former team, Saxo Bank. With the Danish team, he won two a stage and helped Carlos Sastre to the overall victory.
Cavendish hits the Crits…
The traditional post race criteriums are back on after an Olympic pause. World Champion Mark Cavendish (Sky) beat Robbie McEwen (Orica-GreenEDGE) in a sprint in Ninove on Sunday, one day after his Great Britain team was unsuccessful in London.
“It was really enjoyable,” Cavendish told Het Nieuwsblad newspaper. “The fans were out in huge numbers. It was truly a great experience in an incredibly great atmosphere.”
“It is no disgrace to be beaten by Cavendish,” McEwen said. “In the last few meters I saw him suddenly pass. I had a wonderful day. I got a lot of support from the fans. Actually, I rode the whole time with goose bumps.”
Criterium organisers pay riders appearance fees based on their season performances and tell them who should win. We can assume Cavendish was paid more than McEwen, who officially retired at the Tour of California in May.
Scotland pushes for Tour 2016
After Yorkshire, Barcelona, Venice and Berlin, last week, Scotland officially bid for the 2016 Tour de France start.
“We are currently in the midst of The Winning Years and we are all looking forward to three incredible sporting events in the London 2012 Olympics, the 2014 Commonwealth Games and The 2014 Ryder Cup,” Chairman of Visit Scotland Mike Cantlay said. “Hosting the Tour de France would be a wonderful way to continue our momentum.”
Scotland’s proposal is to have the Grand Depart in Edinburgh and three stages in the area. The Tour de France last started in Great Britain in 2007.
The Wall of Sormano
The Giro di Lombardia welcomes back one of Italy’s famous ramps, the Muro di Sormano. Organisers announced on Tuesday that it will be a part of this year’s edition on September 29.
Last year, organiser RCS Sport used the main road up to Sormano last year before the Madonna di Ghisallo and Villa Vergano climbs and the Lecco finish. This year, it climbs the ‘wall’ to Sormano.
The race originally used the Muro di Sormano from 1960 to 1962. It pulled it out the next year because too many cyclists were being pushed up the climb. In the last 1′ years, the Sormano community closed off the artery road to allow only passage for cyclists and pedestrians, and painted Lombardia’s story on the road.
The road covers 1920 metres, climbs 304 metres, averages 15.8% and is just wide enough to allow a Fiat Punto to pass. When Imerio Massignan crossed climbed first in 1960 and 1961, and Livio Trapè in 1962, the road featured gravel. Fifty years later, pros will encounter smooth asphalt and will be able to easily better the top time by Sormano king, Ercole Baldini: 9-24 minutes in 1962.
The Giro di Lombardia, nicknamed the Race of the Falling Leaves (la classica delle foglie morte), has traditionally marked the end of the road racing season.