Chris Froome

GB cycling receives vital boost with 2019 World Championships

Great Britain and it’s cycling set up desperately needed a boost after recent negative press. Now they seem to have it. Yorkshire won the bid to host the 2019 UCI cycling world championships. This will give them the perfect chance to put behind them allegations surrounding their poster boy Bradley Wiggins.

In recent weeks many experts have questioned Team Sky’s use of TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption) with star riders such as Wiggins and fellow Tour de France winner Chris Froome. The Sky team are closely linked with GB cycling, itself facing allegations coach Shane Sutton of sexism and bullying. Sutton subsequently resigned, emphasising the turbulent year it has been for British cycling in general, despite huge success in the Olympics and Froome’s victory in the Tour.

Whilst Yorkshire’s dream victory will not be realised for another four long years, the fact the road race world championships will be returning to Britain for the first time since 1982 is a huge step for cycling in this country. The governing body, the UCI, could have easily avoided awarding Britain the championships in the current climate, but they didn’t.

tour-pic

This picture perfectly encapsulates why the 2014 Grand Depart for the Tour de France in Yorkshire was so popular. Imagine the scenes from the 2019  UCI World Championships. Photo copyright Liverpool Echo/James Maloney.

The Tour de France began in Yorkshire in 2014, drawing rave reviews from all involved and huge crowds engaged with the sport for the first time in the case of many. An annual Tour de Yorkshire was subsequently set up by the ASO, organisers of the Tour, again cementing itself as a hugely popular event on the cycling calendar.

For these reasons it seems entirely logical therefore to award it to Yorkshire, despite British cycling taking a battering recently after years of tremendous growth. Outside of allegations made thanks to Russian hackers, this growth is still increasing and the pledge to spend £15 million on hosting the championships is a huge step forward.

Ten years ago spending this amount of money on cycling would never have happened. A lot has changed in the past decade, and who knows how much further the sport will have grown by the time the event takes place in October 2019. I will be one of the no doubt many fans stood amongst the Yorkshire hillside cheering on the riders as the go past.

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2016 Tour de France preview: Team Sky

The 2016 edition of the legendary Tour de France is less than a week away, and all of the 2016 contenders and riders are busy finalising their preparations for the big race. The three week stage race is arguably the most gruelling sporting event on the planet, and will test the resolve of even the most talented and dedicated rider.

This year there are plenty of contenders looking to topple Team Sky and their leader, defending race winner Chris Froome. But will they be able to stop him from claiming a third tour title come Sunday 24th July, and standing on the podium under the Champs-Elysees in Paris. Let’s take a look at the nine man Team Sky line up tasked with helping Froome win his second successive Tour.

Chris Froome – Great Britain – Age 31

For Froome, anything less than a third Tour victory will be a disappointment. The talented British rider has proved himself as the benchmark in professional cycling over the past three years, and is coming off a strong Criterium du Dauphine victory, one of the key warm up races before the Tour.

With a very strong team supporting him he will enter the race as the favourite, although the magic with the tour is that anything can happen. If Froome can avoid a crash or illness expect him to be showing his immense time trialling and climbing ability, the two key skills which make him such a formidable grand tour contender.

Sergio Henao – Colombia – Age 28

Colombian Henao makes his TDF debut this year, after a difficult beginning to the season marred by questionable biological passport readings. Now cleared and back to competing, Henao will be key ally of Froome in the mountains.

He is a very good climber who will be capable of stage wins for himself, but will likely be fully focused on supporting Froome. Along with Mikel Landa and Mikel Nieve he will be the key if Froome is to neutralise any potential advantage from rival Nairo Quintana, who has shown in the past he can take time out of Froome in the key mountain stages.

Mikel Landa – Spain – Age 26

Spaniard Landa is the new signing at Team Sky, and will be a key domestique for Froome throughout the three week race. Landa proved his credentials in the Giro D’Italia last year, but his season so far has been hampered by illness.

Now back to full health he will be crucial for Froome to claim victory. Left to his own devices and Landa could likely contend to the top ten in general classification, but supporting Froome he will take on the super domestique role that got him noticed at his previous Astana team.

Mikel Nieve – Spain – Age 32

Another key member of Team Sky in the mountains will be fellow Spaniard Mikel Nieve, who has already shown his talents with a brilliant solo stage win to somewhat save a difficult Giro for Team Sky.

With top ten’s in previous grand tours, Nieve will help shepherd Froome up the difficult mountains, whilst also helping claw back any rivals should they make an escape. In a three week tour, the help of his team mates will be crucial for Froome to win, and in the mountains is where the likes of Nieve will shine for his team leader.

Geraint Thomas – Great Britain – Age 30

Welshman Thomas is a rider who seems to improve with every passing season. He has already won the Paris-Nice stage race earlier this year. If he can recapture the form that very nearly propelled him to the overall top ten last year, Thomas will provide a key supporter for Froome.

If he’s given free reign on a stage he could very well claim his first TDF stage win, or if he’s in a high placing he could prove to be a very important strategic help to Team Sky. He could prove a key ally as he could be used by the team to burn out their rivals, as they would have to mark him if he’s in the top five or ten.

Ian Stannard – Great Britain- Age 29

Ian Stannard will be used to help keep Froome safe during the first week of flat stages, where it’s very easy to be caught up in an accident and your tour could be over after a few days. He is also an underrated climber who could help protect his team leader once the medium level mountains hit. Whilst the climbers usually get the headlines, Stannard is a very important member of Froome’s support team.

Luke Rowe  – Great Britain – Age 26

Along with Stannard Luke Rowe will be key help to Froome on the flat stages that are prevalent in the first week. A noted classics rider with considerable skill, he can help keep Froome safe and ensure he doesn’t lose any time to his rivals early on. Rowe will prove himself to be an integral part of any potential Team Sky and Chris Froome victory, as he did last year.

Wout Poels – Holland – Age 28

Poels achieved a first for Team Sky this year, securing their first ever classics monument victory after winning the prestigious Liege-Bastogne-Liege race. Along with his ability on the flat road stages he could also help Froome in the mountains, something he did to crucial effect in the latter stages of last year’s tour.Poels can provide assistance to Froome in almost every type of stage in the tour, and this is what makes him so important to Team Sky.

Vasil Kiryienka – Belarus – Age 34

Experienced rider Vasil Kiryenka will be another key road marshal for Froome in the early stages of this year’s race, ensuring he goes into the key stages at the very least level with his rivals. Aside from his support role, expect the reigning world time trial champion to seriously challenge for victory in the two time trial stages. Expect to see Kiryienka throughout the race, at the front protecting his team leader.

That concludes my preview of Team Sky and their line up for this year’s Tour de France. They will be squad every other team is targeting this year, but will this be enough to stop this very strong outfit from claiming consecutive Tour victories?

Any comments would be greatly appreciated and thank you for reading. Find me on Twitter @JWjournalism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dominant Chris Froome Win Sign Of Things To Come?

On Sunday evening Britain’s Chris Froome came across the finishing line on the Champs-Elysee’s to confirm his dominant Tour de France victory, his second overall. He held the leaders yellow jersey for the majority of the three week tour, and with the best team supporting him could this victory be repeated in the next few years?

Whilst of course Froome and his fellow Team Sky colleagues will insist that winning the biggest bike race in the world was anything but easy. Of course it was anything but easy, with a team that looked to be in control of the race throughout the majority of it’s three week running. Whilst the Spanish Movistar team and it’s two pronged attack of the peloton’s best climber Nairo Quintana and the experienced Spaniard Alejandro Valverde troubled Froome in the final few days, he always had just enough to retain his race lead.

Chris Froome celebrates his second overall victory in the Tour de France on the podium last Sunday. Picture credit goes to Sirotti.

The penultimate stage’s heroics from Quintana as he surged up the famous Alpe D’Huez mountain climb and took 1 minute 26 seconds out of Chris Froome’s lead, he was able to ride into Paris with a winning margin of 1 minute 12 seconds in hand. Plenty of experts and fans have spent this week stating where Froome won this year’s Tour. The popular consensus is that he won the race on Stage 2 into Zeeland, where Froome used crosswinds to his advantage to take 1 minute 28 seconds out of Quintana. The other popular answer for where he claimed his victory is his dominant stage victory on Stage 10 going into La Pierre-Saint-Martin, the first climbing stage of the tour. He attacked late on and claimed a further 1 minute 4 seconds over Quintana in just over 6km of climbing.

Froome’s Team Sky have constantly spoke since the team’s inception in 2010 about the importance of marginal gains, which has meant the team is now widely known in professional cycling for being the major innovators of the WorldTour peloton. This intense focus on every detail of professional bike racing, no matter how small, has helped the team now win three Tour de France titles in four years.

Famous examples of their innovation this year alone are new suspension designed to help firstly Bradley Wiggins in the Spring classic Paris-Roubaix, and Froome with the infamous cobbled stages that were the danger point in the first week of this years tour. Another example is the teams decision to bring a large motorhome for team leader Richie Porte in this years Giro D’Italia. It gained a lot of press attention, although the UCI have now insisted riders stick to the tradition of staying with their team in designated hotels throughout long stage races.

Of his current rivals it appears the young Colombian Nairo Quintana is his strongest rival in the coming years. Quintana is only 25 years old and has already amassed an impressive palmares in Grand Tour races, with two 2nd places in his two Tour de France races, and an overall victory in the Giro D’Italia last year. His climbing ability in unmatched in the current peloton, therefore this years Tour de France presented a perfect opportunity for him. The layout favoured specialist climbers, with a lack of time trials or flat stages that he struggles with in comparison with his rivals.

Quintana after the race remarked that he felt he possibly lost the Tour de France in the opening week of flat stages, and the strategic errors his Movistar team made in the opening week will need to be rectified if Quintana is to seriously challenge for the Tour de France in the future. On the other hand, his innate climbing ability and the strength of his team mean he will never be discounted in future Tours.

The talk before the race was of four major victory contenders battling it out for overall victory this year, although in reality it came down to a straight fight between Froome and Quintana. The other two contenders, Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali, looked out of sorts during the race. For Alberto Contador this will have been because of the supreme effort he had already put himself through earlier this year as he attempted to complete a double victory in the Giro D’Italia and Tour de France in the same year.

Whilst Contador dominated the Giro in May, the effort that he put into that hard fought victory meant he looked weakened throughout the tour, although put in remarkable efforts to remain in contention, he eventually finished 5th overall and 9 minutes 48 seconds down on victor Chris Froome. Contador finished his season with the Tour de France, and will now likely fully focus on preparation for the Tour de France next year, as he looks for one last tour victory in the last years of the remarkable Spaniard’s career at his current age of 32.

Alberto Contador celebrating his Giro D’Italia victory in May. Photo sourced from CNN.com

For Vincenzo Nibali, his lackluster tour form was more puzzling, as the defending champion competed in very few races prior to the tour, with his only success being in the Italian national road race championships in late June. Therefore he should have been fresh and raring to go over the tour, although from early on he looked out of sorts. His form raised the ire of his Astana team boss Alexandre Vinokourov. At one point in the opening week the team looked to have switched it’s focus to team mate Jakob Fulsang, before Nibali raised his game in the second and third weeks of the race.

He even showed a glimpse of the form that led him to dominate last years tour, with a brilliant solo breakaway towards the end of the stage 19 in the mountains, taking the stage victory and 1 minute 14 seconds out of Froome. His strong third week meant he eventually recovered to finish 4th overall, 8 minutes 36 seconds behind Froome. Nibali announced this week he will ride the Vuelta de Espana later month, as he looks for victory in the final Grand Tour of the year.

Next years Tour de France will now be crucial for Nibali, as it will be the litmus test that determines whether he deserves to be seen as one of the great Tour de France riders, or whether his dominant victory in 2014 was a perfect result for him thanks to the eliminations of Alberto Contador and Chris Froome and the no-show of Nairo Quintana. He has little left to prove in cycling having won all three Grand Tours, although his legacy may be slightly tainted if he fails to reach the heights of his tour win last year.

Some Chris Froome detractors may point to the fact that with the effective cycling transfer window opening today, that some of Froome’s loyal lieutenants may seek pastures new as they looks to establish their own Grand Tour credentials. Key domestique this year and good friend Richie Porte has today had his long awaited move to Team BMC confirmed. Whilst losing the talented Australian is a big blow for Froome and Team Sky, another key domestique for him this year in Dutchman Wout Poels looks to be a more than adequate replacement for Porte within Team Sky.

Another key domestique for Chris Froome this year was the Welshman Geraint Thomas, who for a long time was within the top five of the overall standings, before losing 10 minutes on the leaders on stage 19. His eventual 15th overall however is still a best for him at the Tour de France, and in an interview afterwards stated he has thought about becoming a Grand Tour contender in the future. Whether this will be with Team Sky for the Giro of Vuelta or whether he will be forced to leave the team to achieve this should he want to is currently unknown.

Although Team Sky will lose some riders this year, the transfer window also means they can re-stock or even improve their roster for next year. Two high profile names consistently linked with Team Sky are current world road race champion Michael Kwiatkowski and the Spaniard Mikel Landa. Both are out of contract with their current teams, Etixx-QuickStep and Astana respectively, and both are strongly rumored to have already signed deals with Team Sky. Both are hugely talented riders, with Kwiatkowski a key man for Etixx this year and Landa showing his class with a strong third overall in this years Giro D’Italia.

Both Landa and Kwiatkowski would be huge signings for Team Sky, and would mean the team would go into the 2016 season with an even stronger Grand Tour roster than this year, which is a formidable thought for their rivals. Other riders have been linked with Sky, including the likes of strong Movistar climbers Benat Intxausti and the Izagirre brothers Gorka and Ion will join the team next year. Intxausti would be a likely key mountain domestique for Froome should he join the team, whilst the Izagirre brother would be key domestiques on the flat stages for Team Sky.

In overall terms, Team Sky showed this year they had the strongest overall team in the race, as they looked the dominant team throughout all stages of the Tour de France, backed up by Froome’s dominance in the yellow jersey from stage 7 until the final 21 in Paris last Sunday. The teams potential was realised this year, and if any of the rumors of riders joining the team prove to be true, the team would be even stronger at next years Tour de France.

For Froome’s rivals Quintana, Contador and Nibali and their Movistar, Tinkoff-Saxo and Astana teams respectively, this should have them very worried about the strength of Froome and Team Sky. With the off bike distractions around doping allegations and a small minority of fans shameful actions towards Froome not likely to be repeated next year, his rivals will have to come to the tour in peak condition, or for a strategic error or other ailment to halt what will likely be a very tough to beat Chris Froome and Team Sky.

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