Technically the World Championships finished a week ago, but it would be unjust to not cover all the stories from the week in Limburg.
The Championships kicked off with the re-instated team time-trial, in which Belgian team Omega-Pharma narrowly overcame BMC Racing. BMC will be left to rue their disorganization on the Cauberg climb where they lost valuable seconds as fourth rider Taylor Phinney struggled. Australian trade team Orica-GreenEdge pipped Liquigas-Cannondale for the final podium spot.
On Wednesday it was the Individual Time-Trial that took centre stage, with many expecting Alberto Contador to take the victory. These predictions were soon squashed when German Tony Martin overtook the Spaniard within the first 25km. From there on it was a back and forth race between Martin and American Taylor Phinney with both riders close to two minutes ahead of their nearest competitors. The difficult terrain was not expected to favour the two ITT specialists, but after seeing their closest rivals fall short it was down to the final kilometre from the Cauberg to decide who wore the rainbow jersey. Much to the devastation of Taylor Phinney, Martin put his poor year behind him to post the fastest time and claim his second world title in as many years.
The final race of the Championships was the highly anticipated Road Race. Typically the peloton was cautious, with only a select number of riders forming breakaways. The race sprung into life on the final laps around the Valkenburg circuit, as a big breakaway group formed, led by big name favourites Alberto Contador and Thomas Voeckler. There was no panic however as the Belgians, Germans and Australians shared a lot of the pace setting to bring back the 20-man break with one lap to go.
Leading into the final left-hander at the bottom of the Cauberg, it was the Italian Vicenzo Nibali who made the first move before the dominant Belgians unleashed Classics specialist Philippe Gilbert. From that point it was a battle for the minor placing as Gilbert flew clear and rode to the finish solo. With many favourites such as Peter Sagan, Simon Gerrans and Thomas Voeckler caught in poor positions, it was down to Edvald Boassan Hagen and Alejandro Valverde to make the chase to Gilbert. The two battled hard but had to settle for second and third respectively, with German sprinter John Degenkolb finishing fourth.
Many will agree that Gilbert is a deserving winner of the coveted rainbow jersey, and that his move up the Cauberg was simply too good for any of his rivals to respond. Congratulations Philippe, a deserved winner.
All in all, this year’s Championships were quite entertaining. All races were entertaining, including the ITT which was one of the closest finishes seen in recent times. Tony Martin and Gilbert both put their poor years behind them to show why they are deserving winners.
How About the Aussies?
The Australians were the most dominant country at the Championships, despite not winning a gold medal. First it was the Australian based trade teams Orica-GreenEdge and Orica-AIS who finished third and second respectively in the Team Time Trial, with both teams consisting of several Australian riders. In the Junior Men’s road race it was Caleb Ewan who finished with a silver medal, whilst in the Men’s under 23 ITT, Rohan Dennis and Damien Howard rounded out the podium spots.
In the women’s road race, Rachel Neylan fell ten seconds short of dominant Dutchwomen Marianne Vos. For the men’s ITT, Cam Meyer performed to expectation and finished 16th overall, whilst Luke Durbridge struggled to 21st in the final standings. In the road race, Allan Davis finished a respectable 6th, as Simon Gerrans, Simon Clarke and Heinrich Haussler all spent time at the front of the peloton throughout the race.
Congratulations to all the Australian competitors.
Wiggins Won’t Defend Title?
It appears that Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins will not be defending his title next year after comments from British Cycling head coach Shane Sutton this week. Sutton has stated that he wants Wiggins to leave the sport as a legend, and that the only way to achieve that is for him to win the Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a Espana. With the 100th edition of le Tour set to be more mountainous than this year’s tour, the route may be better suited to Sky teammate Chris Froome, meaning that it is very unlikely that Wiggins will contest all three Grand Tours, so next year’s Tour de France may not feature its defending champion. For many this may actually be a blessing as it means we won’t be seeing a constantly stagnant race. Start putting all your money on Alberto Contador now!
Tour of Lombardy
Joaqium Rodriguez has become the first Spaniard in over 100 years to win the prestigious Tour of Lombardia. The win see’s him overtake Bradley Wiggins on the overall UCI points ranking, a lead which he will hold until the end of the season.
With torrential rain persistent throughout the day, the race had whittled down to only a select group of riders leading into the final 50km of racing. Earlier crashes on the slippery roads saw numerous riders withdraw from the race, including newly crowned World Champion Philippe Gilbert.
As the riders hit the final climb 15km from the finish, Rodriguez launched his attack. Once over the top of the climb, the Katusha rider had a solid 20 second gap between himself and the chasing group which included the likes of Alberto Contador, Rigoberto Uran and Sergio Henao. Despite the chasers best attempt, the dangerous roads made it near impossible to chase down Rodriguez. The Spaniard rode solo to the finish as Samuel Sanchez and Rigoberto Uran out-sprinted the rest of the riders to finish in second and third respectively.
Great Form Vinno
Kazak Olympic Gold Medallist, Alexander Vinokourov has auctioned off his winning bike and jersey for $230,000 at a charity auction during the week. With all proceeds donated towards a charity that aids young children in need of serious operations.
After celebrating his birthday with a ride through Kazak city Almaty with thousands of fans, Vinokourov also auctioned his limited edition Astana Pro Team jersey bearing the Olympic rings and champions name, which sold for $2,500.
Well done Vino, class act.
Devastating news out of Spain this week, with young Euskatel-Euskadi rider Victor Cabedo passing away after colliding with a car during a training run. Our hearts go out to Cabedo’s family and all of the Euskatel riders.
It’s around this point in the cycling season where teams start to formally organize their rosters for next season. Aside from the transfers listed below, the big news is that it seems certain that Belgian team Omega Pharma will be strengthening their already talented roster by securing the signing of British sprinter Mark Cavendish. Reports have surfaced that Omega Pharma are willing to buy Cavendish out of his lucrative Sky ProCycling contract.
Other big transfers include Tour de France podium finisher Vicenzo Nibali moving to Astana and Jack Bobridge leaving Orica-GreenEdge for Dutch outfit, Rabobank.
Dario Cataldo from Omega Pharma to Sky ProCycling.
Heinrich Haussler from Garmin-Sharp to IAM Cycling
Jack Bobridge from Orica-GreenEdge to Rabobank
Danilo Hondo from Lampre to Radioshack-Nissan
David Tanner from Saxo-Bank to Rabobank
Robert Wagner from Radioshack-Nissan to Rabobank
Alexandr Kolobnev from Katusha to Saxo Bank
Juan Antonio Flecha from Sky ProCycling to Vacansoleil
Vasil Kiryienka from Movistar to Sky ProCycling
Jakob Fulsang from Radioshack-Nissan to Astana
Michael Mathews from Rabobank to Orica-GreenEdge
Daniel Oss from Liquigas to BMC Racing
Lars Petter Nordhaug from Sky ProCycling to Rabobank
Vicenzo Nibali from Liquigas to Astana
Nicholas Roche from AG2R to Saxo Bank