Schleck needs time to settle

Andy Schleck, Alberto Contador, and Denis Menchov will all be riding for new teams next year.

Although this season is far from over with big races such as the Vuelta a Espana, the Tour of Lombardy and the World Championships still to be won, one of the main talking points of next season has already presented itself. Will Andy Schleck be able to win the Tour de France as part of a new team, and in so doing, defeat his ex-directeur sportif Bjarne Riis and the reigning Tour champion Alberto Contador?

Both riders will be riding for new teams, Contador will be in the unusual position of riding for the team Andy Schleck has just left, while Schleck, along with brother Frank, has moved away from Riis to start a Luxembourg based team. Incidentally, as well as Contador and Schleck, the third rider who finished on the Tour podium will also be riding for a different team next year. Denis Menchov will be making the move from Rabobank to Mauro Gianetti’s Team Geox. This will be the first time ever that all of the podium finishers in the Tour de France have changed teams for the following season.

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Podium Finishers and the Vuelta a Espana

The 2001 Giro d'Italia podium. The only Giro or Tour podium full of riders who competed in that year's Vuelta.

The Vuelta a Espana is now just over a week away, it starts on August 28th with a team time trial around Seville which is due to take place at night. There have been races staged before which took place under street lights, a stage earlier this year in the Tour of Oman comes to mind, and there are many criteriums which are raced after the sun goes down. However, a Grand Tour stage is a very different proposition. There has been plenty of peloton power exercised by the riders in recent Grand Tour stages.  In this year’s Tour after a huge amount of riders crashed on the decent of the Stockeu on Stage two, a go slow was organised followed by a neutralised bunch sprint. Similarly, in last year’s Giro, due to rider’s concerns about hazards along the Milan circuit on Stage nine, the peloton decided not to race until the last of ten laps. This year, it’s the turn of the Spanish Grand Tour to host what could prove to be a controversial stage. Although the riders will not be racing as a bunch, and therefore won’t be able to act as one, if the organisation of the opening team time trial is not perfect, there is definitely potential for grievances and complaints.

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Utrecht, Dublin, Poland and La Vuelta

Cycling around Utrecht, here was a photo op in front of the Dutchest scene I could find.

Two things I learned in the past week:

  1. In Utrecht, cycling is an absolute pleasure.
  2. In Dublin, cycling is an absolute battle.

Prior to this week, Dublin has been the only city in which I have had the experience of cycling and having now had the pleasure of cycling in Utrecht, it is clear that Dublin is a complete disaster in comparison. While Utrecht has an infrastructure of proper two-way, unbroken cycle lanes with their own traffic light system, Dublin city council deem it sufficient to paint a red stripe on the side of roads, the refurbishment of which, apparently cost the government €800,000 last year. This is embarrassing. The cycle lanes in Dublin are just plain dangerous in plenty of places and are a result of irresponsible and uninformed planning. There is a Flickr account dedicated to documenting the appalling Irish cycle lanes, some of the photos up there are really quite disturbing.

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Grand Tour Grand Slam? No chance.

The form of a rider aiming to peak solely for the Tour de France (blue), versus the form of a rider aiming to peak for all three Grand Tours (red).

This week Bjarne Riis announced that in the coming years Alberto Contador will attempt to win all three of cycling’s three week Grand Tours in the one season, the ‘Grand Tour Grand Slam’. Also this week, Alberto Contador announced that this is not a goal of his and Riis’s words must have been lost in translation. In addition, Contador’s agent has also played down these reports, claiming that the Tour de France champion will continue to focus solely on the Tour de France. Perhaps the language excuse is valid, or perhaps Riis is getting a bit over enthusiastic with his new signing. Either way, the idea of one cyclist attempting to win the Giro d’Italia, the Tour de France and the Vuelta a Espana in the same year is most certainly a far fetched one.

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San Sebastián Stat Attack

Luis León Sánchez - Winner of this year's Clásica de San Sebastián

In the Clásica de San Sebastián last Saturday, Luis León Sánchez won a three man sprint to take top spot ahead of Alexander Vinokourov and Carlos Sastre. Sánchez’s victory means Spanish riders have now claimed six of the last seven editions of their biggest one day race of the year. It was an attack from Vinokourov, who was capitalising on good Tour de France form, about 30km from the finish which proved decisive as only ten riders managed to make the selection. These ten riders would end up populating the first ten places at the finish but it wasn’t only Vinokourov who was coming off the Tour on good form. Of the ten, eight had ridden the Tour (the exceptions were Haimar Zubeldia and Richie Porte), and all eight of them had finished the Tour in the top 20 places overall.

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