Sunday, June 30, 2013

Tour de France: Stage 3 Preview & Favorites

The pure sprinters couldn’t keep up on Stage 2 and their chances are not getting better on Stage 3. Mark Cavendish didn’t get to wear the Yellow Jersey this year and now Omega Pharma Quickstep have to change their focus. It could be a stage for a breakaway to make but most likely it will all come down to the final climb.

The Route
The starts with a category 4 climb right from the beginning. Col de San Bastiano is only 3.4 km long but its average gradient of 4.6 % will make a perfect place for a breakaway to be established. 15 km later, it’s time for the intermediate sprint and with the pure sprinters gone for the stage win, Cavendish and Greipel need to get points here.

There are only 117 km to go from the intermediate sprint and this short stage will be another fast one. Starting on the second climb of the day, there riders face 80 hilly km before the final climb. The hills are not very steep but in high speed and without time to relax they will make a big impact on the peloton.

The Finish
With about 17 km to go it’s time for the final struggle of the day; Col de Marsolino. This category 2 climb is only 3.3 km long but it has an average gradient of 8.3 %. It’s steep near the top and the narrow road will see the favorites fight hard to be in front starting on the descent. Crossing the top, there are 13.5 km to the finishing line and it’s crucial to be in front. The view from the top of Col de Marsolino is absolutely spectacular but it will only be for the fans and maybe the grupetto to admire. The first couple of kilometers of the descent are not easy at all and it will be difficult keeping the front group together.

The view from the top of Col de Marsolino
from the side the riders climb.
Coming down from the climb, the riders turn left with 9 km to go. The following 8.5 km take place in head wind with only one roundabout to overcome. It won’t be easy for a lonely rider to keep the peloton at bay. Still, as we saw on Stage 2; a small group of riders can make it if the peloton hesitates again. There is another roundabout with 500 meters to go and from hereon it’s straight out towards the line - tail wind all the way.

The Favorites
Looking at the profile of the stage, the big favorite has to be Peter Sagan. Cannondale missed out on Stage 2 as they didn’t have a strong enough team to close the gap. Sagan had to start his sprint early and even though he didn’t catch Jan Bakelants, he had no problems keeping the rest behind him. The Slovakian Champion managed to get important points to for the Green Jersey but he didn’t get much closer to the Yellow Jersey. In fact, it will be more than difficult for Sagan to rip the jersey of Bakelants’ shoulder tomorrow. Sagan’s plan was to wear yellow on the team time trial and for that to happen, he needs to drop Bakelants and the rest of the riders in front of him in Calvi. I wouldn’t be surprised if he managed to do it after all but Radioshack have a very strong team to defend the lead. I think Sagan will win the stage and take the Green Jersey but Bakelants will most likely stay in yellow.

The biggest threat to Peter Sagan is probably Michal Kwiatkowski. The Polish Champion is very fast on the line and he will be eager to hold on to his White Jersey. Omega Pharma Quickstep also have Sylvain Chavanel to play and I will be surprised not to see Chavanel attack in the final. He gambled – and lost – on Stage 2 when he didn’t want to close the gap to Bakelants. It would have been a great birthday gift for the French animateur but at least he has another chance on Stage 3. Chavanel shouldn’t have problems getting over the final climb and as a great descender, he may have a chance making it this time.

Another rider who has a very good chance on this stage is Simon Gerrans. The former Australian Champion was leadout man for Daryl Impey on Stage 2. Unfortunately Impey faded towards the line and is now “only” 4th overall. Gerrans himself moved up to 6th overall and in my opinion Stage 3 is a lot more suited for Gerrans than Impey. GreenEdge also have Michael Albasini but I think it would make more sense setting up Simon Gerrans in the final sprint. He’s fast and motivated and Gerrans’ success rate has been pretty good this season. He won in Catalunya and Pais Vasco the two days the team went for him and he has started out this Tour in a very strong way.

The Joker:
The final 5 km of the stage.
Radioshack will work hard to defend the Yellow Jersey and with that in mind, I doubt a morning breakaway will make it to the line. The teams with GC contenders also need to save some energy for the team time trial on Tuesday and that could hold back many domestique riders who usually would try on a stage like this. I think Peter Sagan will be very focused on not missing out a third day in a row. Cannondale (Sagan), Omega Pharma Quickstep (Kwiatkowski/Chavanel) and GreenEdge (Gerrans, Albasini & Impey) should be able to work together during the stage and control the race. Surely, some riders will try to get away on the final climb and I expect Pierre Rolland to attack in order to keep his Polka Dot Jersey. His teammate Thomas Voeckler is another good candidate but he can hardly be considered a joker.

As you can probably see, I don’t think the jokers have much chance on this stage. Still, I wouldn’t be fun not to mention one. Therefore, look to Julien El Fares. Sojasun didn’t start out Stage 2 in a very a good way but they still ended up with Julien Simon 3rd overall anyway. The French wildcard team now need to show their team colors and looking at the stage profile, this could be a good day for Julien El Fares. He can cope with these climbs and he’s semi-fast on the line. El Fares finished 7th overall in Tour de Luxembourg two weeks ago and he’s clearly in good shape. The Tour will soon reach his home roads - more on that when it happens - but I think this stage is good for him too.

Favorites: Peter Sagan / Simon Gerrans
Joker: Julien El Fares

For live race coverage go to

Just like during the Giro d’Italia this year, I once again have the chance to bring you daily “Fly Through” previews from Global Cycling Network. Here is Stage 3:

Giro Rosa 2013 - Stage 1 Results & Comments

Kirsten Wild beats Marianne Vos on the line to win the first stage of Giro Rosa 2013. Photo: GiroRosa Press Office
The first stage of Giro Rosa has been a Dutch Festival. Kirsten Wild won the bunch sprint, beating Marianne Vos in a photo finish. "I can’t explain how happy I am. I’m back in the peloton after one month break due to an injury on my shoulder. I really couldn’t ask for more", Wild said after crossing the line.

Despite only taking second place on the stage, Marianne Vos will start Stage 2 in the Pink Jersey. The World Champion said; "I missed out on the stage win with only a few centimeters. Still, it's always a blast wearing the pink jersey".

Julie Leth is wearing the White Jersey after Stage 1 and that came as a huge surprise for Danish youngster. “This is only my first month among the Elite and I didn’t expected such a good result. In fact, I didn’t even expect to keep up with the front group in the important races this year”, Leth explained after the stage.

Another girl who is fighting for the White Jersey is Ilaria Sanguineti from BePink. She is one of 50 riders with a chance of wearing white during Giro Rosa. “Being in the bunch during this race is amazing. It’s a dream come true. I will try to do something in the coming stages and why not take the White Jersey for a couple of days”, Sanguineti tells us.

Monday’s Stage 2 is 99.6 km long and takes place around Pontecagnano Faiano. It is a flat stage but will be much more nervous than Stage 1. We expect it to end with another bunch sprint but most likely in a reduced group. Ilaria Sanguineti tells: “Marianne Vos will take the start wearing the Pink Jersey and she won’t leave anything for the others”.

Stage 1 results:
1. Wild Kirsten (Nazionale Olanda) km 117,800 in 2h53'55" alla media di 40,640 km/h
2. Vos Marianne (Rabo Woman Cycling Team) s.t.
3. Tagliaferro Marta (MCipollini Giordana) s.t.
4. Janeliuaite Edita (Pasta Zara Cogeas) s.t.
5. Kozonchuk Oxana (Rusvelo) s.t.
6. Van Vleuten Annemiek (Rabo Woman Cycling Team) s.t.
7. Shelly Olds (Team Tibco To the top) s.t.
8. Hall Lauren (Nazionale Usa) s.t.
9. Kitchen Lauren (Wiggle Honda) s.t.
10. Trevisi Anna (Vaiano Fondriest) s.t.

Overall GC: 
1. Vos Marianne (Rabo Woman Cycling Team) 2h53'43"
2. Wild Kirsten (Nazionale Olanda) a 2"
3. Tagliaferro Marta (MCipollini Giordana) a 8"
4. Visser Adrie (Boels Dolmans Cycling Team) a 10"
5. Leth Julie (Hitec Products) a 10"

The 5 Jerseys: 
Leader: Marianne Vos (Rabo Woman Cycling Team)
Points: Kirsten Wild (Nazionale Olanda)
KOM: Valentina Scandolara (MCipollini Giordana)
Youth: Julie Leth (Hitec Products)
Best Italian: Marta Tagliaferro (MCipollini Giordana)

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Tour de France: Stage 2 Preview & Favorites

We expected chaos, we expected crashes and we expected a bunch sprint. Yet, Stage 1 managed to surprise us. Marcel Kittel took the first Yellow Jersey but it won't be easy for him to keep on Stage 2. It’s a short stage of only 156 km and that means a fast day in the saddle.

The Route
The intermediate sprint is located in Castello Di-Rostino after just 33 km. That means a break most likely won’t get away as early as on Stage 1. The climbs and the finish - more on that later - will make it hard for Mark Cavendish to fight for the win. Therefore, the Manxman needs to win the intermediate sprint in order not to lose terrain in the fight for the Green Jersey.

The first categorized climb starts after 63 km but actually, the road already kicks up 15 km earlier. This is a great place for a breakaway to be established and with three KOM sprints within the next 50 km, many riders will be eager to get away. Euskaltel’s sprinter Juanjo Lobato could try to hang on to the Polka Dot Jersey but I doubt it. The first climb isn’t very steep but the next two both have an average gradient of 6‑7 % and are better suited Lobato’s strong teammates.

There are about 60 km to go from the top of the penultimate climb and after a descent of more than 30 km, there’s only one obstacle left for the riders to overcome before the final.

The Finish
With 13 km to go, the peloton faces Côte du Salario. This little category 3 climb is only 1 km long but it has an average gradient of 8.9 %. The long descent from Col de Vizzavona isn’t very technical and the teams of the pure sprinters will have to push hard in order to come back. I expect most of the sprinters to be in the peloton when Côte du Salario starts. Cannondale and Peter Sagan knows they need to drop Cavendish and Kittel on the climb and they will probably set a high speed early on the stage to make sure Cavendish is already tired reaching the final climb.
The last 10 km of Stage 2 - click for larger view.
The final 10 km takes place alongside the Mediterranean Sea without any difficult corners to tackle. The sprinters dropped on Côte du Salario will have to work hard to come back and even if they manage to, they will have problems again with 2 km to go. Here the road kicks up with about 5 % for 500 meters and if Cannondale and other teams can keep a high speed, I doubt the pure sprinters will make it back.

The Favorites
As you can see, my big favorite is Peter Sagan. He’s not as fast as Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel but on a route like this one, he’s the best. Sagan has no problems overcoming the climbs and if Cavendish isn’t in the bunch, this is a day Sagan can’t afford to miss out. Sagan not only aims to win the Green Jersey again this year, he also wants to wear the Yellow Jersey. The Cannondale team is built up around him with a special focus on the team time trial to keep Peter Sagan in yellow should Stage 2 and 3 go as planned. Therefore, they won’t let a break get too far away. King Sagan wants the Yellow Jersey and Cannondale will do whatever they can to make it happen. The only question is how Sagan's body will respond after his crash on Stage 1. Sagan went down hard and you know it's serious when he doesn't do any stunts crossing the finishing in a small group. The Slovakian Wonderboy will be eager to take revenge and he really needs a good place on this stage if he wants to wear the Yellow Jersey after Stage 3.

One of the few riders who can come close to Peter Sagan is John Degenkolb. Argos-Shimano is not all about Marcel Kittel, they also have Degenkolb who won five (!) stages in last year’s Vuelta España. I doubt Kittel can get over the climbs - despite yellow wings - near the front but Degenkolb shouldn't have problems. The strong German went head-to-head with Peter Sagan in Tour de Suisse recently but didn’t really have the speed to pass him in the final. Still, the Tour de France is a different thing and with a long straight out sprint, Degenkolb may have a chance.

It wouldn’t be fair not to mention Matt Goss on a stage like this one. The Australian sprinter won a stage in Tirreno-Adriatico earlier this year against Sagan, Greipel and Cavendish. Again, it’s important to note the difference between the Italian one-week stage race and Tour de France. The route on Stage 2 favors Matt Goss compared to the pure sprinters and I’m sure GreenEdge will try to set him up again. Personally, I doubt he can beat Peter Sagan but with a perfect leadout from Daryl Impey, it’s definitely not impossible. Another thing is that Daryl Impey finished 11th on Stage 1. That means that if GreenEdge can set him up for a top place - in front of the 10 other riders form Stage 1 - Impey could end up in yellow! That should give the Australian team something to think about...

The Jokers
I could use the joker section to name a few good riders for a breakaway but I honestly can’t see a break making it on this stage. This is a golden opportunity for riders like Sagan and Goss (both with two dedicated teams) to get rid of Cavendish and the others before the final sprint and they need to control the race. Instead, I’d like to point out Tony Gallopin. The young Frenchman is in great shape right now and he was very close in the French Nationals last week when he took the bronze medal. Gallopin is very fast on the line in a reduced group and he shouldn’t have any problems overcoming the climbs. Unfortunately Tony Gallopin also went down in the big crash on Stage 1. He didn't break anything but reports pain in his right arm, back and right hip. If he can cope with the pain this is a good opportunity for him but if not let's look to other jokers.

First one is the new French Champion, Arthur Vichot. He was outstanding in the French Nationals keeping Gallopin and Chavanel behind him and he's also very fast in a reduced group. Nacer Bouhanni is FDJ’s designated sprinter but if he can’t keep up on the hills, I would expect FDJ to try setting up Vichot for the sprint.

Another one who should find this stage appealing is Francesco Gavazzi. While teammates Brajkovic, Lutsenko and Murayev all crashed, Gavazzi somehow managed to stay upright. The Italian rider is fast on the line and he has no problems with these kind of climbs. Gavazzi has been very consistent in Top5 this year and if everything works out for him, he could take his first win of the season in Ajaccio.

Also, look out for Samuel Dumoulin. The little French sprinter took 6th place on Stage 1 and with another top performance; he could very well end up in the yellow jersey after the stage.

Favorite: Peter Sagan
Jokers: Tony Gallopin / Arhur Vichot / Francesco Gavazzi

For live race coverage go to

Just like during the Giro d’Italia this year, I once again have the chance to bring you daily “Fly Through” previews from Global Cycling Network. Here is Stage 2:

Friday, June 28, 2013

Preview of Giro Rosa 2013

Giro d’Italia Internazionale Femminile 2013 is called Giro Rosa. It is the Italian Cycling Federation’s attempt to make the most important stage race of the women’s cycling calendar more appealing to the sponsors and cycling fans.

Sustainability and support from National Federation (FCI) are the two key words for Mr. Rivolta’s “4Erre A.S.D.”. They were the only association able to win the bid issued by FCI in winter to organize the race after the lack of commitment from other organizers. The race has been facing many difficulties and with the risk of being cancelled FCI have now acquired the rights for the race for the next 4 years.

This year’s Giro Rosa includes 8 stages taking place from 30 June to 7 July. On paper it seems to be a race full of surprises. Mostly because of the absence of strong riders like Pooley, Longo Borghini, Cantele & Ina-Yoko Teutemberg. Still, we have two riders in the race a level or two above the rest; Evelyn Stevens and Marianne Vos. 

To help us take a closer look at the favorites, we have asked former Italian champion and World Champion medalist Noemi Cantele to give us her view on the four jersey’s this year.

Noemi Cantele.
Pink Jersey (Overall)
Cantele: “I think for the fight for pink will be a tough battle between Vos and Stevens. There aren’t many difficult descents in this year’s race where Vos can take time and the uphill stages favor Stevens. It will be a close call”.

Green Jersey (KOM)
Cantele: “Pooley won the green jersey last year but she’s not in race this time. I think Stevens has a better chance than Vos. Still, we must consider the important bonus seconds on the line, which can turn out to be a factor in this competition”.

Blue Jersey (Points)
Cantele: ”This is a jersey for Guderzo to win”.

White Jersey (Youth)
Cantele:I think Ratto could end up winning this jersey but there are other young riders with a good chance. We will have to wait and see what happens during the first days”.

Focussing on the 8 stages of this year’s Giro Rosa, we have BePink’s DS and former pro rider himself, Walter Zini to guide you through.

Stage 1 (flat) ★★ 123.80 km.
30/06/2013 Giovinazzo - Margherita di Savoia
Zini:It is a typical stage for the sprinters. Many girls will be eager to take first Pink Jersey of the race. Ina Yoko Teutenberg is the best sprinter right now but unfortunately she’s not taking part in this Giro. Therefore I see Bronzini as the best candidate for the stage win”.

Stage 2 (medium mountains) ★★ 99.60 km.
01/07/2013 Pontecagnano Faiano - Pontecagnano Faiano
Zini: ”It’s more or less flat. The rider were under a lot of pressure on the first stage with the Pink Jersey up for grab. This will be less stressful.  I see Chloe Hosking as a very good candidate for the stage win”.

Stage 3 (medium mountains) ★★★ 111 km.
02/07/2013 Cerro al Volturno - Cerro al Volturno
Zini: ”This is a stage for the GC contenders Vos and Stevens. I also think Johansson will be in the mix. This stage is the first fight between the overall favorites for Giro Rosa”.

Stage 4 (flat) ★★ 137.20 km.
03/07/2013 Monte San Vito – Castelfidardo
Zini: ”Today is a good day for a breakaway to make it. Still, we must remember the time bonuses can change the GC in case of a bunch sprint”.

Stage 5 (high mountains) ★★★★★ 73.30 km.
04/07/2013 Varazze - Monte Beigua
Zini: ”Stevens is the best climber and she is also my favorite for this stage. The climb is steep and that favors Stevens more than Vos. Also, the descent is not difficult enough for Vos to attack”.

Stage 6 (medium mountains) ★★★★ 121 km.
05/07/2013 Terme Di Premia - San Domenico
Zini: ”The standings in the general classification will decide today’s winner. If the podium positions can’t be changed much, I think it’s stage for Johansson, Guderzo or Luperini. These girls will be out of the GC and therefore get a green light to attack from a far”.

Walter Zini. DS of the BePink team.
Stage 7 (flat) 120 km.
06/07/2013 Corbetta - Corbetta
Zini: ”It looks like a bunch sprint but it’s not certain it will happen. The girls will be tired after six hard stages so today could be good for a breakaway”.

Stage 8 (time trial) ★★★★ 16 km.
07/07/2013 Cremona - Cremona
Zini: ”My favorite for the time trial is Van Dijk, no doubt. It will also be interesting to see Guderzo and Luperini fighting to be the best Italian rider”.

Looking at the eight stages, Walter Zini makes it clear that his team, BePink, is starting this Giro Rosa without any pressure. However they are still ambitious. It would be great to win a stage and to be in the Top5 overall with one of my riders but first of all we are here to grow and to learn. It’s a young team and “zero pressure” is the key word for BePink”, he explains.

We will provide daily updates after each stage with special insights and comments from all the protagonists. Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Tour de France: Stage 1 Preview & Favorites

This is only the third time since 1967 that the Tour starts with a regular stage. On the two former occasions the stage was made for a puncheur (Valverde & Gilbert won) but this time it’s made for the sprinters.

Looking at the start list, it’s clear that we have [almost] all the best sprinters in the world in the race this year. Only Démare, Bos and Guardini are missing. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for many of the riders to take the Yellow Jersey in the Tour de France and we can expect a very nervous sprint. Still, I only see three riders with a solid chance of winning in Bastia.

The Route
Some say there aren’t many flat kilometers on Corsic - which is true - but there is no doubt that these 213 km will end in a sprint. There is a category 4 climb placed after just 45.5 km and that being the only climb of the day, many teams will be eager to win the first KOM jersey of the Tour. I would imagine a breakaway of 4-5 riders getting away before the climb and they should be able to get a good lead too. There are many strong sprinter teams in the race and bringing back the break in time shouldn’t be a problem. The intermediate sprint is located in San-Giulliano after 150 km. Despite a breakaway up front, the sprinters targeting the green jersey will have to show their hand and go head to head for the final points. There are still 63 km to go after the sprint so they have time to recover before the final battle.

The final 6 km towards the finishing line.
The Final
After turning right with about 5.3 km to go, it’s straight out for 3.3 km until the riders reach a roundabout with 2 km to go. This 180° turn will really stretch out the peloton significantly and it’s important to be near the front at this point already. The last 2 km are straight out with only a few soft bends and the final 500 meters are slightly downhill. This means it will be a very fast sprint and therefore good for the big power sprinters like Andre Greipel and Marcel Kittel. It will also be a very nervous sprint and it won’t be easy for the two Germans to keep their leadout trains in order.

The Favorites
Andre Greipel started out last year’s Tour de France in a terrific way with two wins and two second places in the first four mass sprints. Greipel has shown same strength so far this year and his leadout train is only getting better. With Marcel Sieberg to set the pace and Jurgen Roelandts and Greg Henderson to lead him out, Greipel only has to follow one wheel the last 10 km of the stage. While many of the others sprinters are fighting for the right wheel, Greipel knows Henderson will deliver him in a perfect way. He has done so all year long and there is nothing that suggest it will change now. Andre Greipel comes to the Tour fresh of an impressive win in the German National Championship and he will be eager to expand the yellow color on his new shirt.

One of Greipel’s biggest rivals in the sprint this Tour de France is his fellow countryman Marcel Kittel. Greipel may have a strong leadout train, but I think Kittel has the best one. Argos-Shimano have been trying to perfect what they call “the best leadout train in the world” for three years now. It has been a long way and it has gone wrong many times but I think they will show their power in this Tour. With Tom Dumoulin, Simon Geschke, Tom Veelers, Koen de Kort and John Degenkolb (5x stage winner in the Vuelta last year), Marcel Kittel can’t ask for more. Kittel has been very strong in the mass sprints the last two months and he recently beat Greipel and Cavendish on Stage 3 of Ster ZLM. Last year a stomach virus ruined his Tour de France and now he’s out for revenge. He missed out in the German Nationals last weekend but back with his normal leadout train, I think he will be very difficult to beat.

The only rider I see with a chance of beating Greipel and Kittel is Mark Cavendish; another rider who just won his national road race championship. In the past, Cavendish seemed to have a “Stage 1”-complex but ever since he won the first sprint stage of Giro d’Italia last year, he has been “cured”. Cavendish has already been wearing many different leader’s jerseys in his career but he is yet to wear the Tour’s yellow colors. In the Giro this year he won Stage 1 despite a sprint that went anything but smooth for him. The bunch sprint competition in the Tour is way stronger than in the Giro but I still think Cavendish will win this first stage. When he put his mind to something, he very - very - rarely misses out. “This is the first chance for a sprinter [to win the opening stage] since the 60’s and I need to grab this opportunity with both hands”, he recently said. Both Andre Greipel and Marcel Kittel have a better leadout train than Cavendish but none of them can match he Manxman’s kick in the final. For many sprinters it’s impossible to pass Greipel and Kittel in a high speed leadout but Cavendish has done before and I think he will do it again.

The joker
It’s difficult to pick a joker with so many strong sprinters but I would like to point out Juanjo Lobato from Euskaltel. The Spanish sprinter may not be well known on the international scene - yet - but make no mistakes; he’s very fast. This is the first season for Lobato on the World Tour and after a difficult start, he’s now showing great shape and matching results. He came close to the stage win a couple of times in Bayern Rundfahrt last month and he also made Top3 on the first stage of Tour de Luxembourg two weeks ago. Like the rest of the Euskaltel team, Juanjo Lobato had a horrible start to the Tour de France preparation with the death of Rufino Murguíal - the team’s masseur. Euskaltel haven’t had a good season so far and they desperately need positive experiences in this year’s Tour. I doubt Lobato can win against the other top sprinters but I expect him to show Euskaltel's name in the Top10.

Greipel, Kittel and Cavendish are all on the same level as I see it right now but having to pick only one, I’ll say Cavendish takes his first Yellow Jersey in the Tour de France.

Favorite: Mark Cavendish
Joker: Juanjo Lobato

For live race coverage go to

Just like during the Giro d’Italia this year, I once again have the chance to bring you daily “Fly Through” previews from Global Cycling Network. Here is Stage 1:

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Tour de France 2013: Preview & Favorites

The Tour de France route 2013 - click for larger view.
Many people criticized last year’s Tour de France of being ’too boring’. Looking at start list, I doubt that will be the case this year.

It’s true that Team Sky once again have the big favorite but the compared to last year, there are a lot more riders able to fight for the final podium.

This year’s race includes 21 stages. I have divided them into the following categories:

6 x “100 % sprint”.
2-3 x “sprint in a reduced peloton”.
3 x time trials; 2 ITT and 1 TTT.
4 x mountain top finish
2 x mountain downhill finish
3-4 x hilly/breakaway

Both of the individual time trials are short this year (33 km & 32 km) and with an extremely hard last week (one hilly ITT and three mountain stages in the Alps), it’s safe to say that the pure climbers have a good chance of succeeding this year. I have a good feeling about the first five riders in the general classification. Still, I only see two riders with a solid chance of winning Tour de France overall. My view on the riders’ chances can be categorized like this (the order is irrelevant):

Chris Froome
Richie Porte
Alberto Contador
Alejandro Valverde
Joaquim ‘Purito’ Rodriguez
Cadel Evans
Thibaut Pinot
Tejay van Garderen
Jakob Fuglsang
Jurgen Van den Broeck
Bauke Mollema
Ryder Hesjedal
Daniel Navarro
Nairo Quintana
Jean-Christophe Peraud
Haimar Zubeldia
Rein Taaramae
Rui Costa
Pierre Rolland
Damiano Cunego
Dan Martin
Andy Schleck
Wout Poels
Andrey Amador
Roman Kreuziger
Janez Brajkovic
Robert Gesink
Daniel Moreno
Arnold Jeannesson
Laurens Ten Dam
Igor Antón
Thomas De Gendt
Michal Kwiatkowski
Mikel Nieve
Andrew Talansky

Chris Froome has been the best stage race rider this year and anything but a top performance from him in the Tour will be a big surprise. He is one of the best time trialists in the race and despite the short distances; he will be able to take a lot of times on this rivals against the clock. Had it been Wiggins, I would expect the climbers to take back the time in the mountains but Chris Froome will be very difficult to drop uphill. He was the strongest rider in the mountains in the last year’s Tour de France and he only seems to be stronger this year. Furthermore, he has Richie Porte to help him. 

Porte has taken a big step up the ladder this season with his overall win in Paris-Nice and his second place (behind Froome) in Dauphiné. Porte’s next big individual target is the Giro d’Italia 2014 but that doesn’t stop him from talking about a podium spot in this year’s Tour. The time trials are definitely in Porte’s favor but I don’t think Team Sky can make a double (1st & 2nd) like last year. Still, third place overall doesn’t seem unlikely. It all depends on how strong Froome is in the last week. If he gets isolated early, naturally he’ll have to use Porte early as well. If not, Team Sky probably end with two riders on the podium again this year.

Many are questioning Alberto Contador’s chances. This year he hasn’t been as strong as earlier but what people tend to forget is that this has all been part of a bigger plan. Read more about that here and see what his teammate Jesus Hernandez says about Contador's chances. It's also important to remember that Contador's results haven't been bad at all. He was 4th overall in San Luis, 2nd overall in Oman, 3rd overall in Tirreno, 5th overall Pais Vasco and 10th overall in Dauphiné. Contador said he was only on 75 % in Dauphiné and I think he would have won the final stage had he not waited for Michael Rogers. Many would probably have a different view on Contador’s chances had he won that last stage and I guess that’s why so many don’t think he stands a chance against Chris Froome. Personally, I think it will be a close fight between Froome and Contador but it all depends on how much time Contador loses to Froome in the time trials.

As my list reveals I expect Valverde & Purito to be fighting for a spot on the final podium. This year’s route is as perfect as it gets for Purito. The time trials are short and the final one is very hilly. He will probably lose about four minutes to Froome against the clock but he has a chance of taking some of it back in the mountains and in the stages ending downhill. Few - if any - in the professional peloton can match Purito’s kick uphill and I won’t be surprised if he takes 10-15 seconds on Froome (thanks to late attacks close to the line) in a couple of the uphill finishes. Purito is also very good on the descents and knowing he needs to take back time, he should embrace every opportunity he gets. The most important thing for Purito this year is to get the overall place “he deserves”. Most likely he feels that he should have won both the Giro and the Vuelta last year and therefore he now hopes to end where he deserves. 2nd or 8th is not ‘that’ important it seems - as long as it matches his performance.

Alejandro Valverde has one of the strongest teams in the race to support him this year but that doesn’t help him much in the time trials. I think Movistar will be very close to Team Sky in the team time trial but in the two individual ones, Valverde will lose time. Therefore, he too needs to attack. His big goal is a spot on the podium in Paris and with super domestiques like Quintana and Rui Costa (and Amador) he can’t complain about the support. I doubt Valverde can drop Contador, Froome and Purito uphill but he will be able to drop many of the other contenders with help from his team and especially Nairo Quintana.

Stage 15, 18, 19 & 20.
Click for larger view.
The Colombian super climber could very well aim at Top5 himself this year but he knows the time is not right. He is still young and this year everything is build up around Valverde. Quintana has been preparing himself for the Tour home in Colombia for the last two months. Contrary to many of the Tour riders, he will arrive to Corsica without any recent race competition in his legs and I won’t be surprised if he loses time in the first week. That being said, don’t be surprised either if Quintana is fighting with Thibaut Pinot and Tejay van Garderen for the white jersey in the last week. The final week is so extremely hard this year and anything can happen. A couple of lost minutes from the first week is nothing compared to final days in the Alps.

Before the Giro d’Italia started this year, I doubted Cadel Evans chances of success, what a mistake! The Australian veteran had been talking about peaking in the Tour the whole season and therefore I couldn’t see him dig deep in the Giro. Still, he managed to finish third overall. 

The Giro was very hard this year though, despite the cancelled climbs, and once again I now doubt Evans’ chances. Maybe it’s a mistake but is it really possible - in modern cycling - to do Top3 in the Giro and Top3 in the Tour the same year? Especially with two such hard routes? Time will tell. 

BMC also have Tejay van Garderen to play but according to the American, he’s only here to help his captain. This is most likely Cadel Evans' last chance to lead a team in the Tour - aiming at the GC - and I think the team really want to back him up. Van Garderen still has about 10 years ahead of him on top level and sacrificing one year - and still doing well in the GC - shouldn't really be a big issue for him. 

There are many [equally] strong riders fighting for the Top10 places this year and instead of going through all of them (see my list above for that matter), I’ll leave you with a couple of jokers. First one is Daniel Navarro. After being one of Contador’s faithful helpers for many years, Navarro now has a chance to show his own potential. Saxo-Tinkoff didn’t want to keep Navarro at his current salary and when Cofidis were ready to make him captain, the choice wasn’t really that tough for the Spanish climber. So far it’s been a great match. Daniel Navarro finished 12th overall in Paris-Nice, 16th overall in Catalunya and latest 5th overall in Dauphiné where he were among the strongest uphill.  Originally the plan for the Tour was to aim at a stage win but with the impressive performances in Dauphiné, Cofidis & Navarro now aim at the overall classification instead. The French team also have Rein Taaramae for the GC and together with Jerome Coppel and Christophe Le Mevel they have a very strong team to support Navarro. In fact, Cofidis are my outsider for the Team Classification this year.

I also expect a strong performance from Andrey Amador. He’s probably only ranked fourth in the Movistar team for this Tour de France but I think we will see a lot of him, especially in the third week. Amador is an excellent climber and like [teammate] Quintana, he’s been preparing himself at home in the mountains. The Irazú volcano [3500 meters above sea level] in Costa Rica is where Amador has been training and he showed in Tour de Suisse that he’s ready with a strong performance in the final time trial. In the Tour de France Andrey Amador hopes to hit a morning breakaway and take a stage win like he did in the Giro d’Italia last year. Naturally, helping Valverde is the number one priority but it can also be a tactical advantage for Movistar to have Amador in a breakaway. Contrary to many other climbers Amador is also very good against the clock which will help Movistar in the team time trial. I expect them to make Top3 that day.

Before I end this Preview, let's take a look at the Green Jersey. Peter Sagan was my big favorite last year and he turned out to be even stronger than expected. This year, he’s once again the favorite but if Mark Cavendish is back on his top level, it will be a close fight. I see at least six “sure” sprint stages and even though Sagan is fast, he’s not as fast as Cavendish, Greipel & Kittel. There are more points up for grab in the flat stages. That means if Cavendish wins four of five stages without Sagan making Top3, he will get a good advantage. Sagan will be in the mix some days where Cavendish can’t keep up though. Still, I think it will be very close this year. Also, both Sagan and Cavendish have high hopes of wearing the Yellow Jersey early in the race this year. Therefore, what will end as a fight for green most likely will start out as a fight for yellow!

Many people ask me about my picks for the four jerseys. I think both the Polka Dot Jersey and the White Jersey are very tough to call this year but if I had to, these would be my picks:

Yellow: Chris Froome
Green: Peter Sagan
Polka Dot: Damiano Cunego / or an Euskaltel rider
White: Nairo Quintana
Team GC: Movistar

Again this year, there will be daily Stage Previews during the Tour. I know many of you would like them online early but I simply don't have time to publish them before 21:00 - 22:00 CET. 

The stages of this year's Tour de France are set to finish around 17:00 / 17:30 CET. If you find yourself without a TV, go to for live streams.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Tour Exclusive - Jesus Hernandez: “We are ready”’

Contador & Hernandez.
Picture from Twitter with the text:
"Our 3 secrets; work, work & work".
Many have doubted if Alberto Contador will reach his former level of greatness in this year’s Tour de France. The Spaniard hasn’t won any of the stage races he has been riding and so far he’s only got one stage win this season. However, what many tend to forget is that this year the plan has been different. Alberto Contador was mentally drained after his turbulent 2012-season and he needed a longer winter break than usually. Therefore, he started out 2013 three kilos heavier than the preview years, and naturally this has affected his results.

Instead of being close to his best level during the first part of the season - as he usually is - Contador has planned everything around the Tour de France. At Dauphiné he said he was on 75 % and according to his best friend and teammate, Jesus Hernandez, Alberto Contador is now ready to fight for the overall win.

In general I think the balance is good. We haven’t won [much] but we have been close in all the races and therefore, the balance can’t be bad. Each year is different and the beginnings of the seasons are never the same. We have been working hard in order to arrive in a good condition for the Tour and I think we have achieved that”, Jesus Hernandez tells me.

Looking at the Saxo-Tinkoff team for the Tour, I doubt Alberto Contador has ever had a stronger team to support him. A view shared by Hernandez.

We come [to the Tour] with a very solid block [of riders] in all areas, very attuned around Alberto. It is indeed a very strong team”, Hernandez says and ads: “The last rider in the mountains will be Kreuziger, who’s very strong. Before that, it’s up to Rogers, Roche and me depending on the stages”.

The two individual time trials in this year’s Tour de France is, without a doubt, in the favor of Chris Froome. Therefore, many have been wondering if Alberto Contador will be strong enough in the mountains to take back the time he will lose against the clock. According to Jesus Hernandez, that’s not an issue.

“[Taking back lost time in the mountains] won’t be a question with Alberto on this best level. In fact, it will be other way around”, Hernandez assures.

Due to Alberto Contador’s “poor” results this year, rumors of Contador not being as strong as usually in his training have surfaced. I asked Jesus Hernandez about these rumors and I think his answer speaks for itself. 

Come train a few days with him [Contador] and you will see the answer to those rumors”.

Don’t forget to follow Jesus Hernandez on Twitter during the Tour de France @jesushernandez3. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Get ready for the Tour de France

Today Pro Cycling Manager 2013 & Tour de France 2013 hit the shelves. There are still 1½ weeks to this year’s Tour de France starts and if you find yourself with time on your hands, why not try your luck as manager for a professional team?

These two games give you an excellent opportunity to get to know all the riders before the Tour starts. Reading this site, you are no stranger to the professional peloton but do you know about the small teams and their riders as well? Sojasun takes part in the Tour de France this year. Why not try managing the little French team and get to know their riders’ strengths? Or what about managing Team Sky and make your own pecking order in the race?

The games are available for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Click on the banner below for more details on where to buy or download the games.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Waiting for the Tour

After a couple of hectic months, it’s now time to take a few days off before the Tour de France starts. 

I want to thank you for your kind response to the recent previews. Right now I’m looking into how I can improve the previews for the Tour. If you have any suggestions please leave a comment here or send an email.

My Overall Preview of this year’s Tour de France will be online next week. If you can’t wait that long, check out my first look at the Tour course when it was released in October last year.

Thank you for reading. Stay tuned!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Tour de Suisse: Stage 9 Preview & Favorites

After eight tough stages, it’s now time to settle the overall classification. Tour de Suisse often ends with a time trial but never one like this.

Despite the distance of just 26.8 km, the riders are in for a day full of pain. The profile is extremely brutal with a final section of 10.3 km uphill with an average gradient of 9 %. The first 16.5 km are flat so we can expect the riders to start out on a time trial bike and then change to a road bike before the climb starts.

The first time check comes at the end of the flat part. This means that the fastest riders at this point not necessarily will be the fastest in the end.  Starting on the climb, the first 5.4 km have an average of 8.5 % before reaching the second time check. From here, there are 4.9 km to the finishing line and the average gradient of 9.5 % will make for a very hard finish.

Tour of California had a similar time trial this year ending with a steep climb. Many riders decided to change bike at the beginning of the climb but not Tejay van Garderen who won the stage. In California the climb was only 2.6 km though, so we should expect even van Garderen to make a bike change this time.

The young American is also the big favorite for this stage. He decided to take his own change on Stage 7 and not wait for Mathias Frank. Overall, Tejay van Garderen is now 1:17 min after his teammate in yellow and he still has a change of winning Tour de Suisse or at least make podium. It won’t be easy to take a minute on Rui Costa but if anyone in this race can do it, it’s Tejay Van Garderen.

The final 3 km of the stage. Very steep. 
Fabian Cancellara will be eager to take revenge from the opening time trial. The change of wind most likely cost him the stage win but I doubt he will be among the best this time. Cancellara will probably set best time at the first check point but 10.3 km with 9 % is not his terrain. Not even against the clock.

Instead, we should look to riders like Simon Spilak, Tanel Kangert, Janez Brajkovic and Jean-Christophe Peraud. Brajkovic has been getting better and better during the race and he seems to be ready for the Tour soon. The Slovenian rider has always been good against the clock and I think he will test himself and do very well in this time trial. Jean-Christophe Peraud is Ag2r’s designated Tour de France captain and I also see him getting stronger every day. In Paris-Nice earlier this year, Peraud distanced Tejay van Garderen with 20 seconds on the final uphill time trial. The American is clearly stronger right now but it shows that Peraud can be among the bests against the clock.

Another strong candidate for the win is Cameron Meyer. He won the opening time trial but many will say it was because the wind changed. Meyer is not a pure climber but he’s been very solid in the mountains and sits 8th overall before the stage. I think the Australian will be eager to show that he can also win without a change of weather and I expect him to make podium on the stage. Not in the overall classification though.

My joker is Bauke Mollema. Many don’t see Mollema as strong time trialist but he’s actually not bad at all. The course favors him with the long and steep climb and if he can minimize his time loss on the flat part, he should be able to fight for the overall win. It won’t be easy to beat Rui Costa with 34 seconds but don’t forget Mollema’s time trial in Vuelta Pais Vasco last year. On a hilly and very difficult course, Mollema took second place after Samuel Sanchez, beating World Champion Tony Martin in the process. I also expect Thibaut Pinot to do well. He will lose time ont the flat part but like Mollema, it shouldn't be much more than he can take back on the climb. 

Rui Costa is right now the big favorite to win Tour de Suisse for the second year in a row. It’s more or less his race to lose and it will be interesting to see how the Portuguese copes with that pressure. Few - except for the Swiss fans - expect Mathias Frank to keep Rui Costa behind him and I think that plays in Frank’s favor. Despite starting the stage in yellow, he’s still the underdog. It’s difficult to predict the outcome of a time trial like this one but I think it will end with Rui Costa winning overall. BMC should be able to put at least one rider on the final podium but who will it be?

Favorite: Tejay van Garderen
Jokers: Bauke Mollema & Jean-Christophe Peraud

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