Already the ‘Forum Sitters’ are telling us that it was ‘unsporting’ of Evans and Matthews to take advantage of the mayhem which again reigned on the slopes of Cassino as two simultaneous crashes brought down droves of riders when they braked into a roundabout and left a group of eight clear at the front at the very foot of the ascent to the Abbey. Evans and Matthews both had two team mates with them who rode themselves into the ground to build an advantage.
It took six days but we got there in the end – the Giro has finally started; no gimmick locations, horrible transfers or rider protests. Simply hard racing in the beautiful Italian countryside and sunshine at the finish – that’s more like it. But before we look at Stage Five we have last words on the Stage Four debacle from our resident sage and prophet, Vik. He couldn’t be contacted after the stage, retreating to his cave high in the Pentland Hills to ponder the ‘semi-neutralisation’ of the Stage Four due to rain.
A few years ago in that much missed part of Scottish cycling history which was the Girvan Three Day - old timers like me still want to say; ‘Grants of Girvan,’ the race originally sponsored by that purveyor of the water of life – a stage was curtailed because of snow. The journos did the rounds of riders such as Nacer Bouhanni, management and officials who all said broadly the same thing, that given the conditions it was a wise decision.
On a typical four seasons in one day Scottish spring morning on the fast dual carriageways of the Irvine by-pass, Dooleys' Iain Grant reminded us all why he's Scotland's short distance king with a stunning 19 minutes and 40 seconds ride to relegate his team mate and former '10' champion, Arthur Doyle into the silver medal position, 15 seconds back and reigning champion Ben Peacock (Paisley Velo) into bronze with 19:59.
Today’s stage Stage Three was a re-run of Saturday’s with Marcel Kittel proving again that he’s not just quick but very, very strong. Again he was out of position but with the strength of a bull he came over everyone from well back to win. The press always want to attach labels; ‘fastest man in the world’ to sprinters – and whilst it’s never as simple as that, the big German is certainly impressive. His manner is good too with a smile never far away.
Cannondale, F des J, Giant, Greenedge, Sky, Trek - they all tried to take control in the finale in Belfast in Stage Two on Saturday. But none could. It's not until you see a situation like we did in Belfast that you realise just how good Mario Cipollini's Acqua Sapone and Cav's HTC trains really were. In the event, it was irrelevant; Kittel was in a different league. He was way back and would usually have been out of it but turned left, found clear road, turned on the boosters and left the others scrabbling for the placings.
The Giro in Belfast. ‘Joy and Pain, Sunshine and Rain,’ went the song by Frankie Beverley and Maze back in 1980. Joy and sunshine – well, at least no rain - for big Svein Tuft and the GreenEdge loco; but for Dan Martin and Garmin it was all rain and pain. Tuft is one of the nicest men you’ll ever meet, the original Gentle Giant – a beast of a man on a bike, off it he’s polite, friendly, gentle and laid back. In my book, one of the ‘Good Guys’ - happy birthday, sir!
Raleigh professional Evan Oliphant handled the age old dilemma of the pro racing against amateurs – if they don’t win they’re criticised, but if they do then it’s ‘expected’ – by taking the best option and winning the Gala CC’s Gordon Arms Hilly Time Trial over 20.5 cold and cloudy Borders miles in 50:06; some ways short of Mark Atkinson’s (Velo Ecosse) 1999 course record of 48:47 but enough to give him the result by 41 seconds over Carl Donaldson (GS Metro).
This year the winner of the Gifford Road Race 'A' event this year was also clearly the strongest rider on the day; Tom Bustard (Velosure - Giordana RT) was the first to make a serious attack on the first lap, pulling a break of several riders clear which cemented itself as more riders made it across over the next couple of laps.
Bremen used to be the 'Party Six’ and whilst it’s still a fun gig with beer halls, restaurants, discos and live music, the crowds ain’t quite like they used to be. Our man in the middle of those steep 167 metres of boards at the Bremen Six Day 2014 was the perennial Kris; here’s what he had to say to VeloVeritas on his return from the Fatherland...
As the storm clouds grew over the Wallace Monument the anticipation increased ahead of "Up the Kirk 2013" which had the honour of incorporating the Scottish Hill Climb Championships. The volunteers of the host club, Stirling Bike Club, got the course set up as a few nervous riders did some last minute reccies and stressed about gear ratios and tyre pressures.
Silas Goldsworthy (Sandy Wallace Cycles) added his name to the list of Scottish cycling greats – Steel, Bilsland, Millar, Obree and MacIntyre - who have won the Classic chrono, with a 1:07:29 ride on a ‘four seasons in one day,’ Sunday over the glorious countryside around Aberfoyle and Callander to take the win at the Tour de Trossachs 2013.
Elite Road Race World Championship 2013; Just about everyone named Rodriguez, Valverde, Nibali, Sagan, Gilbert and Cancellara as favourites – but I didn’t see one mention of Portugal’s Rui Costa’s name before the race. But he was there with the best at the death and played his hand as coolly as Paul Newman in ‘The Sting.’
I forgot to turn off the message alert on my BlackBerry and it started beeping away just before 04:00 am – it didn’t matter, I was awake anyway. The aphids had breached my defences and the irritation of the bites had wakened me. The French, Danish and Netherlands teams all showed themselves in the Junior Road Race World Championships 2013 - as Androni manager Gianni Savio always says; ‘you must honour the race!’ - with Franck Bonnamour away with Colombian Martinez in the closing stages.
The much debated percorso has me in two minds – there’s a part of me which says that it’s not as tough as I’d thought it would be – but the other part says; ‘but what about after ten times!’ I walked down the Salviati today and it’s a stinker, no question, but not that long. I also walked down around 60% of the Fiesole, all of which is just a drag; albeit I think it kicks up steeper beyond where I descended from. The descent off the Fiesole leads straight into the Salviati but it’s fast all the way off there to the line with just one ‘bump.’ But maybe it’s too fast for an organised chase?
Marcel Kittel won today, but yesterday, Saturday night, was sore - 4.5 hours on the road after the race then straight into the best of two falls or a submission with the motel wi-fi. However a chance meet with the night porter and we were 'in' on the staff password - words and pics all safely on their way.
Whilst we did muse over the possibility as we supped our McDonald's coffee this morning, I was unprepared for it actually happening. What I'm talking about is the setting of Alberto Contador's sun - both Quintana and Rodriguez distanced him on the very last climb of the 2013 Tour de France to Semnoz to elbow him off the podium.
First we had Siberian snow at the Giro – and now, Rangoon rain at Le Tour. It’s never boring with VeloVeritas on the Grand Tours, and we saw Rui Costa take the win today.
I could never be a ski bum, 60 Euros per night for the room here at the top of Alpe-d’Huez - but you have to pay extra for sheets - and towels - there's no toilet paper - then you have to clean the place at the end of it. A bit like borstal really, with off-hand, condescending staff.
Chorges...this must be the place; Andrei Greipel’s pedalling back to his hotel, the road’s blocked with cars, buses and civilians. Yes, it’s the finish of the 32 kilometre mountain time trial – trouble is that we want to be at the start and the satnav is routing us through the finish area.
It’s not every year there’s a Grand Tour taking place at the same time as the European Cyclo-cross Championship but this is ano 2020 and the ‘new normal’ is upon us. The podium places contained more cheer for us ‘Anglos’ with bronze going to Scotsman, Cameron Mason and silver to Englishman, Thomas Mein.
Rolf Gölz might not be a name that readily comes to mind, but from 1983 to 1993 the man from West Germany filled his palmarès with Olympic and World medals, National championships, Tour stage wins, Classics and a list of other race wins. Ed Hood caught up with Rolf for a chat over old times.
How long a career do you need to have to win 10 [yes ten] World titles? US ‘chrono girl,’ Chloé Dygert Owen has won that many and she’s still only 23 years-old; and there are two Pan Am golds and an Olympic silver in the dresser drawer too. High times we ‘had a word’ with the young lady out of Indiana.
‘Easy like Sunday morning,’ said the Commodores – you got that one wrong guys. The racing here at the Bremen Six Day 2020 finished at 02:00 am with the guys back on those nice new boards at 12:35. In the meantime, the pee pails have to be emptied and disinfected; the washing done for four guys – each with shorts, three under vests, three jerseys, socks and mitts – then dried, folded and laid out...
VeloVeritas is back at a Grand Tour, La Vuelta 2019. This year it kicks off with a super-fast team test around the salt lagoons of Torrevieja before heading straight into the mountains on stage two - no 'easing in' to this race. Martin and Ed have taken advantage of the hospitality of VV amigo and local resident, Al Hamilton - formerly of the Dear Green Place that is Glasgow - to catch the primero quatro tappas.