Like it or not, the sport of professional cycle racing is largely defined by one race – the Tour de France. To aficionados the Primavera, Ronde, Hell of the North and Classic of the Falling Leaves are eagerly awaited then devoured and endlessly analysed. But mention any of these races to the ‘man in the street’ and you’ll be met with a blank stare. The Giro and Vuelta will elicit a similar response - Paris-Nice? Forget it. But tell a ‘lay person’ you’re going to the Tour de France and in response you’ll get; ‘Lance, Cav, yellow jersey’ – and ‘drugs,’ naturally.
With the bells of beautiful Ampleforth Abbey peeling in celebration, Sky made it a hat trick of British elite road race titles; strong man Ian Stannard following on from Geraint Thomas in 2010 and Bradley Wiggins in 2011. Team mate Alex Dowsett made it a Sky one-two, with Raleigh's Russell Hampton taking a well deserved bronze after matching the two Sky riders blow for blow until the last lap of the technical finishing circuit in beautiful North Yorkshire.
On a typical wet and miserable Fife Sunday morning, Dooleys' 41 year-old former duathlete Iain Grant made up for his one second defeat in the Scottish 10 Mile Championship with a sparkling 1:49:00 over the longer distance at the Scottish 50 Mile TT Championships, putting him 2:24 clear of Sean Childs (RNRMCA) and 2:55 up on defending champion Alan Thomson (Sandy Wallace).
Fast and furious street racing for a summer evening in Peebles. It’s really three events in one – first the families (and anyone with a bike who wants to join in riding round the course for a ‘victory’ lap), then a full-on women’s race, before the headline men’s racing kicks off. The circuit is short and spectacular, with high speeds and tricky corners for the top riders, and big crowds and a party atmosphere to shout them on. It’s run as a Belgian-style Kermesse event, with lots of the community involved.
It’s over, a great race from start to finish. Even the ‘flat boring sprinter stages’ all had terrific finales – and the time trial was a cracker. Rodriguez rode more strongly than anyone expected; this was no lame effort. When he rolled in to the last few bends the time gap was much less on Hesjedal than anyone – including Messrs Harmon and Kelly – thought it would be.
"What’s he playing at, riding like that in the valley? He’ll get eaten up on the climb!" So said our friend Vik. Even Sean Kelly didn’t think it was a good idea. Dave and I weren’t so sure – De Gendt is a hardy pup. Long lone breaks are his thing – he’s won two Paris-Nice stages in epic escapes.
It was an epic stage. A courageous but ultimately doomed breakaway (just don’t tell Vik I said that, Sandy Casar is number three on his hate list behind Moncoutie and Dumoulin); Kreuziger restoring his honour; Hesjedal continuing to amaze – and Basso having to come to terms with the fact that it’s looking very much like he can’t win the Giro.
‘Sprinter stage’ - sometimes Vik’s assessments can be correct – ‘watching paint dry,’ let’s hope not. But you can’t have a stage like yesterday then expect fireworks the next day. Sky dug deep to negate the early breakaway artists and Cav duly grabbed max points at the intermediated sprint to open the gap a little on Rodriguez
I wish I could get tomorrow’s Gazzetta, tomorrow – but it’ll be Saturday, at best. It was the first major shoot out, today. It’s over for Kreuziger and difficult for Tiralongo – a bad day for Astana. Uran continues to impress – perhaps he’ll get let off ‘train’ duties for Cav, tomorrow?
'Mission accomplished' with Ryder: Dave rattled us through dire weather up to the Garmin Hotel, just over 100 miles away. The Liquigas guys were on their turbos when we arrived - lean, cut looking men. Before the start, I wasn't sure Basso could win, but his policy of loss limiting has taken him to third on GC @ 1:22 on Rodriguez and 52 seconds behind Hesjedal.
After years of trying, James McCallum (Rapha Condor Sharp) finally took his win in the Scottish Road Championships in Balfron today, edging out good friend Evan Oliphant (Raleigh) in the uphill sprint after a hard-fought ?? mile race, with Vanilla Bikes' Alistair Rutherford a lone third a handful of seconds behind.
It's the Scottish road race championship, today - damn this Giro and it's climbs in beautiful Lombardy! But Martin was telling me that the sun was out in Balfron and the jackets were off, so Scotland certainly had the last laugh - the weather here in Italy was grim.
We thought it was the end for Cav, yesterday. The gruppetto was way down on the first of the two big climbs of the day - but Cav was even further back. And behind him, in a dreadful state, was Graeme Brown.
Cav, like him or loathe him, what a sprinter. His train is by no means HTC - the GreenEdge boys were much better organised, yesterday - but all that does is to underline his quality. He was isolated and boxed - he was free-wheeling at one stage - the gap opened and he was through it in a blink. His spatial awareness, reactions and acceleration make him a remarkable athlete. The Gazzetta compares him to Cipo - in terms of total wins and at the same age.
'Sad news, Donna Summer has passed away' said the text from Martyn Frank. That news cast a shadow over a day of bright sunshine and hills. The start was down on the coast - it's not quite beach season, so it's not heaving yet. In a month's time you won't be able to move on those beaches. We had a chat with Jack Bauer before the stage - he looks in great condition.
A man who's been working hard in defence of Garmin's pink jerseys - first on the shoulders of Lithuanian Ramunas Navardauskas and then Canada's Ryder Hesjedal - is Danish fast man, Alex Rasmussen. Alex took time to chat to his six day runner before the roll out at Assisi on Wednesday. If he'd had been one of the counting riders in the team time trial, it would have been him pulling on the pink jersey, not his Lithuanian team mate.
Giorgio Moroder's 'The Chase' from Midnight Express pumps out across the Civitavecchia sea front. A huge fibre glass sculpture of a nurse succumbing to the charms of a sailor - 'Unconditional Surrender' it's titled - towers over us. The whole scene is surreal, topped off by Pippo ambling past in shorts and T-shirt. He broke his hand yesterday and is out - but he still looks cool.
It looked to us like Cav and Goss were out of it anyway. There were a lot of riders round that wild bend before we saw Matt on the deck and Pippo looking a tad sheepish as he stood in the road checking to see how that nice MCipollini had stood up to being dropped.
The Jason MacInyre Memorial Trophy stays on Dooleys Cycles' Arthur Doyle's mantlepiece for another year, after he edged the win this morning in the "10 Champs" by a single second from teammate Iain Grant, with Gavin Shirley in 13th place backing them up for the Team prize in a time which we think is a new Scottish Competition Team Record by four seconds. Paisley Velo's Ben Peacock was third a meagre four seconds back.
Canada’s Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Barracuda) retained the overall race lead. Spain’s Joaquin Rodriguez is second at just nine seconds.' So said the official Giro press release - you'll read that again, on various websites. Press releases are where much of the daily content on web sites come from. The difference with us, is that we tell you we're quoting them.
In a sunny but very windy Lincolnshire Endura Racing's Russell Downing rode a strong race of attrition today to take his fourth Lincoln GP in a sprint ahead of breakaway companion Marcin Bialoblocki (NODE4 Giordana Racing) and over a minute an a quarter ahead of previous winner Kristian House (Rapha Condor Sharp).
I didn't manage to see stage seven - it fell on 'D minus one' for the VeloVeritas annual excursion to Italia. The loose ends were many and instead of having plenty of time to pack my bag and watch the Giro, I was 'running aboot daft' in the van. And Saturday evening rituals still had to be observed - a wee bite to eat and a movie. It's not as if you can say; 'I'm off to Italy the morn love, so we're no' going out tonight - I have a bag to pack and a Giro stage to skek !'
It was a tough one - Farrar, Feillu and Hushovd all go home. The dream is over for Navardauskas - he lost 15 minutes. But his Garmin team mates Ryder Hesjedal and Christian Vande Velde move up to third and fifth on GC. Garmin will burn up the watts in search of more pink - they know it'll be harder to come by when the Gazzetta stage ranking is a 5* and not a 3*, as yesterday's was.
I have to be careful with this one. Cav: I think I might be turning in to a fan! There ! - I've said it. To take his first stage, he had to display coolness, decisiveness and pure speed.
A sore one for Phinney - he's conducted himself well, but once those cycling Gods single you out, they don't let go, easily. He struggled on the climb and then overcooked it on a left-hand bend, there'll be pics everywhere tomorrow of that grass sprouting from his rear mech. Garmin were no surprise - just a pity that Alex Rasmussen got the mallet, it would be nice to say I had a friend who'd worn the pink jersey.
Now there's a misnomer; 'rest day.' But 'day to facilitate huge transfer which we have to carry out after our money spinning exercise in Denmark' doesn't quite roll off the tongue as easily. Let's go back to the reason the UCI introduced two rest days into Grant Tours, along with regulations to govern stage and total race lengths. There's a clue in the name, 'rest' - it was part of a raft of measures designed to lessen the stresses and strains on the riders. Read; 'stop them having to kit up.' But rest days have now become a vehicle for crazy transfers.
My club mate Davie Gardiner, in the Kirkcaldy and District CC, back in 1971 used to say that when he meant things were going swimmingly well; 'it was aw ice cream an' fairies !' Cav had one of those days, yesterday. Not so, today. Rainbow jerseys, Sunday Times 'richest sportsmen' lists, bouquets and praise for team mates all fell by the wayside as his little body slapped hard onto that Danish tarmac.
Cav is King. If these were Medieval times I'd have to throw myself on his mercy. Prostrate myself at the foot of the steps to the Sky bus, next Monday in Frosinone. Trust that in the joy of his re-confirmation as king of Denmark he'd be merciful. How could I doubt him ?
'My heart says Alex, but my head says Phinney,' my statement as I walked out the door of our rented cottage in search of a stable wi-fi connection. I would have loved Alex Rasmussen to win, but something told me that he wasn't 'sparkling.' And the same voice told me it was too far for Geraint Thomas.
If we take Tom Boonen’s epics out of the equation there’s no doubt about the best finale of the year. The end game of stage seven of the Presidential Tour of Turkey saw a break of seven riders clear with six kilometres to go. Despite their lead plummeting as an angry peloton closed them down, there were riders skiving and scheming. One man was having none of it and with just over five kilometres to go he bolted – Iljo Keisse.
Californian Daniel Holloway, aka ‘Hollywood’ was a surprise addition to the ranks of Raleigh, this season. Known as a man who likes to have fun, his jokes and vast array of "Oakleys for every occasion" disguise the fact that the 24-year old is a quality athlete.
Dreams, we all have them, but most of us don’t realise them. When Kenny De Ketele was a boy, he’d go to the Kuipke velodrome in Gent to watch the Six Days and dream of riding and winning on the hallowed boards. And he’d look at the world champions in their sparkling white rainbow jerseys and dream of the day when he could pull one over his head. But unlike most of us, Kenny has realised his dreams.
Francesco Chicchi (Omega Pharma-QuickStep) started his season well with two stage victories at the Tour de San Luis in Argentina in February and the opening road Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen last week, and he continued his great form with a superb sprint victory in Nokere-Koerse today, using his knowledge of the finale to distance Kris Boeckmans (Vacansoleil-DCM) and Boy Van Poppel (UnitedHealthcare) in the uphill gallop to the line.
With the World Track Championships only a few weeks away, we thought we'd talk to some top riders who you may know not much about, guys with interesting stories to tell, our "left-field' stars. Cleveland, Ohio, 1949: and when Charles Bergna and Cecil Yates hoisted their bouquets over their heads little did they know that it would be more than 50 years before another US pairing would do the same thing. It was Bergna's third win in Cleveland, his final career total was five wins; Yates was more prolific with 16 wins-but it was te end of the Golden Age for US Six Day riders. It was Moscow in 2002 before the Stars and Stripes would fly for both riders at the end of a Six Day race-for 2000 Olympic sprint champion Marty Nothstein and our left-fielder, Ryan Oelkers.
On a bright but sometimes cold and blustery Saturday afternoon in beautiful East Lothian, the Scottish National Road Race Series got off to a surprising start as Velo Ecosse junior, Tom Arnstein beat all the favourites to win; outsprinting tester supreme, Arthur Doyle (www.Dooleys-Cycles). Arnstein stuck to the golden rule of Scottish road racing-'never ignore the early break'-a tactic which paid off handsomely.
From the point that his Sky Procycling teammates took up station on the front of the peloton with 60km to go, Mark Cavendish never looked like losing today, and so it proved as he swept to an easy bunch sprint win over FDJ-Big Mat's Yauheni Hutarovich with Vacansoleil-DCM's Kenny Van Hummel in third.
Sep Vanmarcke instigated the main splits of the day, survived the many crashes on the slippy roads, rode strongly in the breaks and the final winning move, foxed and feigned heavy legs beautifully in the last couple of kilometres and finished the day with a fine accelerating power-sprint win over Tom Boonen and Juan Antonio Flecha.
VeloVeritas spoke recently to Commonwealth Games Team Sprint Silver Medallist Charline Joiner after her ride at the Rotterdam Six Day.
Who makes sure the wheels turn smoothly during a six day race? The mechanics are the men who change the gears, stick on the tyres, endlessly polish the paintwork and pick up the pieces after crashes. They arrive first to build the bikes up and leave last after having stripped the bikes down for transit. What makes a man want to roam Europe, often driving a thousand kilometres through the night to get to the next race - or to get home? We spoke to circuit spanner man, Dirk Dekeyser at the Grenoble Six.
Fietsenphotography's John Young has supplied us with lots of great images from the Six Day season this winter, and it's been great to focus on some racing, rather than all the other stories which mire the sport's image. John's photos have illustrated our recent Diary pieces from Denmark, but we have lots left that we haven't used, we're sure you'll enjoy looking through them to get the flavour of the final Six of the season.
The camper, 10:23 Wednesday morning, and it's all over. The cabins are bare; Dirk is in his camper headed for Drongen; Jackie and his dad have been safely deposited at the airport and we're heading into Copenhagen for a little bit of R & R before we get the plane home.
It's another big madison tonight; 75 kilometres/300 laps, but with a 'twist'-it's a handicap. Bartko/Lampater, Stam/Stroetinga and Alex/Michael give away six laps to Jackie/Schröder-with the rest of the field somewhere in between. The final laps count for the overall so there's no messing; if a big team doesn't pull the laps back then they're lost. Really, all that goes before the handicap is just to whet the appetite-there are a lot of nervous cyclists in the cabins.
Sprints to start and Hazel Dean thumps out, quality high energy from the 80's 'Searchin'-quality. Followed by 'Livin in America' from the late, great James Brown-we're in luck, tonight. And then 'Cara Mia' to start the 75 lap chase-I never get tired of that tune. The two chases weren't bad at all-for a Sunday, that is.
Danny Clark; in a world where the word 'legend' is used too often, it's wholly appropriate in the case of the Australian. He holds the record for the number of six day starts at 236 and he's second in the all time winner ranks with 74-unsurprisingly he's 'double Recordman' here at Copenhagen with eight wins off 21 starts. He's here driving the Derny (and singing!) but clocks up an hour plus on the track every day-he looks better now than he did 20 years ago.
'Rivers of Babylon' by the Melodians, now there's a tune to fold jerseys by-until the guy in the cabin next door hops on his rollers, that is. And there was me looking for some peace on a Saturday morning-a split day today with afternoon and evening sessions. We don't like double sessions, neither do the riders, but like the song says; 'That's just the way it is.' Last night wasn't a bad one . . .
The gun fires, the bongos rattle, 'Cara Mia' blasts, the rattle of chains and rumble of rubber on wood builds and the chase which kicks off the 50th Six Days of Copenhagen is up and running. But it's not any old chase, since I first walked up the steps from the tunnel when we arrived here on Wednesday afternoon the lap board has been displaying a short but grim message-400. That's 400 laps at 250 metres for each lap; I'll help with the arithmetic-100 kilometres.
Daniel Holloway and Colby Pearce are regulars on the Six Day scene; US riders win classics and Grand Tours, there are US Pro Tour teams. It was different in 1970; with not one US rider holding a professional licence-enter Jack Simes. We spoke to the man who was the first US rider to turn a pedal on the Six Day tracks for nearly 20 years and who hopes to bring the sport back to its spiritual home in the USA.
Berlin Six Day 2012. The line of taxi lights stretches back into the darkness like a string of pearls, it's beautiful in an a big city kind of a way - it could be a scene from a Woody Allen film; but it's not Manhattan, it's Berlin at 01:40 am. The beige Merc cabs get to drive down to the underground Velodrom entrance to pick up ViPs, meanwhile the support staff - that's us - have to hi-jack a supermarket trolley and use the lift to take our stuff up to the camper.
The Berlin Six Day finished with a win for the Aussie World Champions Cameron Meyer and Leigh Howard (wine gum thief), we hope you enjoyed our daily diaries from the inside. Also at the track to capture the racing was our pal John Young, of Fietsenphotography, and once again he's been very nice and supplied us with loads of great images.
It’s gone 1:00AM here and I thought we could have a look at the Berlin Six Day Bikes; the Dernys buzz their 'Ipcress' noise, Brad eases down off the fence, he takes the sling off Jackie, tucks in behind the little monster and Mr. Simes is done for the night.
In 2016 in Belgium Ethan Hayter won the tough junior races, Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, GP Serge Baguet, De Klijte-Heuvaelland, was in the winning team in junior European team pursuit champs and was British Madison champion with Joe Holt. Last year he won the u23 Berlin Six Day with Matt Walls, took a medal in every British track championship he rode and was part of the winning u23 Europeans team pursuit squad. This season he began training with the senior team in January and was world champion within weeks, at 19 years-of-age.
Sometimes on the big tours you have to change plans; road closures, janitors, barrier crews, motorway crashes can all influence your 'best laid plans.' At the end of the day you may not have missed deadline - we rarely do - but there'll be that feeling that you could have done better. Then there are days when you have to struggle then struggle some more but eventually it comes together, you get to where you want to be and get those special pictures. This day was such a day; lost, lost again, a massive detour through the mountains - against race route to the top of the Colle Delle Finestre - but we really enjoyed our pizza after this one...
That man John Archibald is back in action again – and with a 48 minutes and 13 seconds ‘BANG !’ down on the Westferry course in the CTT ‘25’ Champs on Sunday past. It gave us a good excuse to catch up with the Commonwealth Games individual pursuit silver medallist and see what he’s been up to since The Gold Coast and what’s next on the agenda for him?
‘I’m a Believer,’ a great song, the Monkees had the hit back in 1968. I used to be a ‘Believer’ and can remember the sense of relief when we discovered that Lance’s Tour ‘positive’ back in 1999 was all a big mistake; those tricky corticosteroids had been in a cream he used to treat a saddle sore and he had a TUE to cover it. What a relief.
Despite his flyweight 56 kilos Eddie Dunbar has already established himself as one of the worlds' best U23 riders with top ten finishes in the European and World U23 Time Trial Championships - and riding for the Irish team rather than his usual US Axeon Hagens Berman team he took Ronde victory in that bike riders’ Mecca, historic Oudenaarde.
‘The best Commonwealth Games performance ever by the Scottish cycling team’ – that’s for sure. VeloVeritas hopes to speak to all of the athletes concerned and we’re proud to start with individual pursuit silver medallist, John Archibald.