Transfers, allegiances and San Sebastián

Carlos Barredo beating Roman Kreuziger in last year's edition of the Clásica de San Sebastián

The cycling world is abuzz with transfer rumour and speculation on the future of the sport’s biggest stars. The three podium finishers at the recent Tour de France are all set to move teams in what will be the biggest transfer shakeup for a number of years. Frank and Andy Schleck are starting their own team based in Luxembourg, Alberto Contador has announced that he will definitely not be at Astana next year but has not agreed terms with a new team as yet and Denis Menchov is reportedly making a move to join Astana, or his compatriots at Katusha. Other riders such as Stijn Devolder, Jussi Veikkanen and Francesco Chicchi have also announced that they will be riding for new teams next year.

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Reflections on a wonderful Tour

Alberto Contador has won his third Tour de France joining Philippe Thys, Louison Bobet and Greg LeMond as a three time winner of the world’s biggest race. Alessandro Petacchi has won the Green Jersey in the Tour to add to his wins in the points competition in the Giro and the Vuelta. He becomes the fourth man to achieve the grand slam of points jerseys along with Eddy Merckx, Laurent Jalabert and Djamolidin Abdoujaparov. Andy Schleck has won the white young rider’s jersey for the third time emulating the only other rider who has achieved this feat, Jan Ullrich. Cadel Evans wore the Yellow Jersey as the current world champion becoming only the 2nd man to do so in the past 20 years after Tom Boonen in 2006. Mark Cavendish is now the third rider to have won four or more stages in three consecutive Tours after Eddy Merckx and René le Gréves. The Manxman also became the first man to win back to back road stages into Paris since Charles Pélissier in 1930 and 1931.

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Climbing in the Pyrenées

Setting out from the house in Sarrance with Uncle Barry in our Brim Brothers jerseys.

Today I climbed the Col de Marie Blanque. I’ll never whinge about going up the Sally Gap again. I’m staying with my uncle Barry and my auntie Bairbre in a small village at the foot of the Col called Sarrance, about 50km from Pau. We had a bit of a false start in the morning which involved a trip to the bike shop in nearby Oloron to purchase a new seat post clamp, but it meant we caught a glimpse of Denis Menchov, Jurgen van den Broeck, and Robert Gesink heading out towards the mountains, which felt slightly surreal.

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Ireland’s Tour de France History

Kelly

Luxembourg only have five riders currently racing on Pro Tour teams. Of these five, three of them are among the best in the world, Andy Schleck, Frank Schleck and Kim Kirchen. They have each won one of cycling’s classics, they have each won a stage of the Tour de France and they have each worn the yellow jersey. The fact that they have managed to produce such riders is made all the more remarkable due to the fact that the country has a population of  only half a million people with a land mass comparable to that of County Meath.

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And then there was one…

Frank Schleck celebrates winning a stage of last year's Tour de France with his brother celebrating behind him. But they didn't manage to shake Alberto Contador.

Andy Schleck has finally freed himself of the brotherly shackles with which he has been restrained for the past couple of years. Frank Schleck crashing out on the cobbles on Stage 3 is a blessing for his younger brother. While Frank’s presence alongside Andy in the mountains provides a psychological boost for the younger Schleck, the tactics that the brothers employ when racing together are not well suited to overall success in the Tour de France. Since Andy has been left to chase glory without Frank, he has bagged his first ever Grand Tour stage win and currently sits closer to the yellow jersey than he has ever been before.

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Where have you been Alessandro?

Fassa Bartolo

Alessandro Petacchi is finally back on the scene winning Tour stages at the ripe old age of 36. This week has seen his first Tour stage wins since 2003, and he has won them in dominant fashion. So the question begs, where have you been Alessandro? Well, his absences can be attributed to a combination of unfortunate injuries, illnesses and one day in 2007 when he got a bit over enthusiastic with his asthma inhaler. This is in fact the first Tour de France he’s even started since 2004.

Petacchi was a relative latecomer to the Grand Tour stage winners circle. By the time he was 26 he had ten top ten placings at the Giro d’Italia to his name. But he had yet to reach the top step of the winner’s podium at the Giro and he had yet to start the Tour de France. It wasn’t until the Vuelta a Espana in 2000 where the Italian finally hit the big time when he won Stage 8 into Salou. He went on to win another Vuelta stage that year and ended up 3rd in the points classification.

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