Scrapbook: Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne 2017(Comments Off on Scrapbook: Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne 2017)
Ghent, or rather ‘Gent’ we love it; the bars, the people and the fact you can walk into a filling station and there are six quality cycling magazines on the shelf to chose from, and you have to love a city where they have taps to discharge the rainwater. Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, the first real races of the year – Down Under, the Desert races, Langkawi? Come on!Full Story»
Inside the Berlin Six Day 2017 – the Final Three Nights(Comments Off)
The wee small hours of Wednesday morning, heading north out of Berlin, en route Rostock, the ferry across the Baltic and Denmark for the Copenhagen Six Day. I wish I could say that Berlin had an epic finale – but I can’t, it was dire. Processional, flat, uninspired with no tension, no theatre, no drama.
Kris reckons it’s the worst Six Day he’s ever seen – he’s seen many, many more than me and I wouldn’t argue with his judgement. The root of the problem is that in the Madison Group Six Days the riders are on reduced contract fees with the rest of their earnings in prize money. ‘Fair enough’ I hear you say. Trouble is that it’s not – because the riders are all busy trying to hold their place in the standings it breeds very negative racing.
Inside the Berlin Six Day 2017 – the First Three Nights(Comments Off)
You’ve got to get here first, right? Even by Ryanair punishment flight standards, it was a sore one. The lady in front of me, I’m sure was taking her kids to audition for; ‘Devil Spawn of Berlin, The Revenge’ – they’ll get the parts, no problem.
I felt like a native buying my S Bahn train ticket from the machine and riding into town with the rush hour commuters – damn cold though. It’s ‘all change’ at the velodrome, the pits have been moved into the centre of the track, divorcing us from the action and meaning we can’t push riders ‘in’ or offer them a hand to save them from kicking back on sore legs when they come in. The programme is different too with the big motors not coming out to play until after the last chase in the Six Day – happy days, so nice to walk out of the hall and leave the noise and exhaust fumes behind.
Le Tour de France 2016 – Stage 21; Chantilly – Paris Champs-Élysées. Greipel Wins, We Reflect(Comments Off)
I braved the tourists and human statues up on Edinburgh’s High Street to see if I could get Monday’s L’Equipe in the International Newsagents – it’s the one for all the good Tour stats. But alas, no dice – I had to settle for Sunday’s Observer and Monday’s Guardian where it’s wall to wall Christopher and Sky.
Chris Froome rode well, no doubt, and showed panache when he won that stage off the descent and when he joined up with World Champion Peter Sagan – surely the ‘Man Of The Tour’? – and ‘Bison’ Bodnar to ambush the sprinters, his time trialling was top drawer and no one could out climb him. So we can’t criticise the man – but style, soul, personality, colour are all missing.
I thought I’d go back to my pre-Tour predictions and see how I fared as my final words on The Big Loop.
Le Tour de France 2016 – Stage 20; Megève – Morzine-Avoriaz. Izagirre Descends To Victory(Comments Off)
We’d hoped for a big GC dog fight on the Joux Plane but what we got was a dour struggle to the line whilst those crazy baroudeurs battled for the stage win.
It was a nice morning to start with but as we parked up on the Joux Plane the clouds scudded in, thunder roared down the valley and the lightning flashed brighter than a million photog’s flash guns.
Callum and I stared glumly through the windscreen, we HAD to go out in it shortly.
Le Tour de France 2016 – Stage 19; Albertville – Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc. Bardet Saves the Tour for France(Comments Off)
We chose the wrong mountain – but little did we know there’d be a big rain storm on the last climb to give the race the jolt it’s been requiring for three weeks. A great day for Bardet and AG2R.
A good day for Quintana, Mentjies and Martin. A bad day for Mollema, Yates, Dumoulin, Rolland and Navarro – the latter three all crash victims.
And Froome and Porte have had better days. . .
If anyone harboured any doubts about the fact that Froome was going to win this Tour it took him just 30 minutes to straighten things out. He destroyed everyone in including the man who’s probably the world’s number one ‘chronoman’ – Tom Dumoulin. Whilst the mountains may be beautiful, a time trial up one is a daunting prospect.
But riders like Keisse and Hayman just have to ‘get on with it’ riding stages way outside their comfort zones. We got ourselves set up to follow big Lithuanian Ramunas Navardauskas in the time test and duly lined up behind the Cannondale car. The course was beautiful – but savage with varying gradients, fast bits, some real killer ramps and a descent to close.
How are the mighty fallen? We had to double check the number – but ‘yes’ it was Tejay, way off the back and just ‘riding in’ on the Col de la Forclaz – well, we got that one right, we said he do nothing in this race.
But we did also say that Nairo Quintana would win it – but that was more out of hope than anything else but it would be tall, skinny Russian Ilnur Zakarin who would take the day, eventually.
‘Rest day’ – it’s a misnomer if you’re a fanatic; but you could do one interview then hang out, I guess?
But if you’re like us, confirmed saddos, then it’s a great opportunity to get a lot of talking and snapping done.
Albeit on rest days you can linger a bit longer over breakfast – which is nice in a week of always having to be somewhere/do something right now or in five minutes.
Our Suisse digs were good, if expensive, but the lassies who ran it were friendly and late night “pieces” [sandwiches, to our non-Scottish readers!] and beer were no bother to them and a godsend to us.
We’d arranged to meet the up and coming Trek sprinter, Edward Theuns on the rest day but unfortunately he crashed out.
Never letting an opportunity go past however, we asked our Trek contact if we could get an interview with Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne winner, Jasper Stuyven.
Peter Sagan, again! There’s little left to say about the man but as soon as we walked the last couple of kilometres we knew it was one for him – a sharp cobbled climb up from the river, across a cobbled bridge, past the bear pit then another nippy climb before the 1,000 metre, straight as a dye, pan flat finish straight.
We thought just maybe Cav could hang on but in the event they were going mad on to the climb up from the river and it was too much for the ‘pure’ fast men but ideal for those who come to the fore when it’s tough – Kristoff was well there and good to see Degenkolb riding back into form.
Le Tour de France 2016 – Stage 15; Bourg-en-Bresse – Culoz. Pantano Plays it Perfectly(Comments Off)
While Jarlinson Pantana was winning the stage today for IAM Cycling and Columbia (that’s his contract sorted for 2017 – IAM folds at the end of the season) Ed and Callum were race-bound, flying in to Geneva to get the car and get organised with race accreditation.
Giro d’Italia 2016 – Stages 19, 20 and 21; Kruijswijk’s Crash, and Nibali’s Resurgence(Comments Off)
Kruijswijk’s crash, would you have waited? Wee Esteban says: “I’m very sorry for the crash of Steven (Kruijswijk), unfortunately it’s a part of bike racing and he was unlucky today.”
Either way, it was a horrible crash – the Dutchman seemed paralysed with fear, it didn’t look like he even tried to steer round that bend. Ed rounds up the last three stages roadside.
It looked like Pippo was going to send Italia into raptures on Wednesday’s Stage 17 – but big, bad Six Day man and omnium specialist, Roger Kluge (IAM & Germany) spoiled the dream, jumping early from an uncontrolled peloton to take a beautiful stage win.
IAM are folding at the end of this year but Rodge will have no bother finding a contract.
With so many of the big sprinters gone – Kittel, Greipel, Demare, Ewan, Mezgec and Viviani – there was no one capable or willing to control the last kilometre except Lampre for Modolo and/or Trek for Nizzolo.
It wasn’t a good day for Chaves on Tuesday’s Stage 16, he lost time to Kruijswijk and Valverde. With three minutes in hand over the Colombian, the Dutchman is going to take a bit of shifting; and there’s a danger that Valverde might leapfrog Chaves, too – he’s now just 23 seconds in arrears. Nibali lost time, too. He just doesn’t seem like his old self in this race.
We were at the GreenEDGE hotel on the rest day – whilst the likes of Tuft and Plaza went out for a couple of hours on the road, Chaves sat on the turbo, smiled and chatted to journos. It’s not for us to say but we think that perhaps Chaves’ rest day programme wasn’t the best?
Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne 2016 Goes To Stuyven(Comments Off)
The Kuurne-Bruxelles-Kuurne adventure began when I met Craig Grieve, Spokes bike shop owner and U23 race team backer, early Friday morning, to get a picture of the newly-logoed team car.
For Craig, the journey to Kuurne is a long haul; catching a ferry from Hull, arriving Saturday in time for the riders to recce part of the course. We caught up with them on Saturday night in Kortrijk for a pizza and to hear how their preparation has gone and to plan for the race.