If like me you love the sport of cycling, perhaps you don’t think it needs reinvigorating, but I am for anything that makes the sport more popular. Jonathan Vaughters, one of the best thinkers in the world of cycling has come up with a 10 point plan to make the sport more popular:
1. More races of the highest level outside of Europe.
2. Consistent, understandable formats for cycling fans.
3. Long-term guaranteed entry to the Tour de France for professional teams.
4. More focus on prevention of doping, in the first place, as opposed to catching cheats.
5. More team-time trials more often.
6. Technical innovation, such as cameras on bikes, inside cars, helmets, inside team buses to make the “craziness and danger of the peloton more real to the viewer”.
7. Equipment innovation to see if the the smartest team wins sometimes, rather than the strongest.
8. Open radios to the public and listen to your favourite team and what they are doing.
9. GPS tracking of individual riders to make races fun to watch.
10. Have an understandable and consistent way of determining the best rider in the world and the best team in the world. That might mean riders have to ride Paris-Roubaix, and if they do not finish they would be docked points.
Sounds good to me – its about time cycling started moving with the times….
While half the world still holds its breath for the World Cup, sports fans in England, Portugal, Italy and France, as well as cycling fanatics anywhere else, are ready for the biggest race of the year: the Tour de France. And what a Tour this will be. Not only have the organisers picked out a terrific stage plan, but on top of that a lot of riders seem very keen on making a splash this year in the Tour.
First, of course, there is the most successful Tour de France rider of all times, Lance Armstrong, who has left Team Astana and together with his excellent domestiques Klöden and Leipheimer joined Team Radioshack. Lance has promised that this is his last Tour de France ever, and he had a much better preparation than last year (he still came in third), a second place in the Tour de Suisse confirming his top shape.
Then there is 2007 and 2009 winner Alberto Contador, the talented Spaniard who has focused on nothing but the Tour this year. Contador has one new vulnerability, though: Alexandre Vinokourov. The Kazak is having a pretty good season and it is not sure whether he is willing to step aside and help Alberto wherever he can. As sponsor Astana is a Kazak city, a new schism within the team might just prevent Contador from winning this year. A similar conflict with Armstrong did not stop him last year, so he is still top favourite by a pretty wide margin.
Another major contender will be the younger of the Schleck brothers, Andy. The young Luxembourger who finished second last year, is not only a top climber, but has also improved his time trial abilities a lot. With a strong team by his side, including his own brother Fränk, Andy seems more than ever ready to go for gold. Or yellow, actually.
Those three being the top favourites, a lot of others will want to disturb their supremacy. Among them are Giro d’Italia winner Ivan Basso, world champion Cadel Evans, England’s Bradley Wiggins, Russian crack Denis Mecnhov, 2008 winner Carlos Sastre and Dutch prodigy Robert Gesink. Enough to provide for a very interesting Tour for 2010.
The first week will traditionally be for the sprinters. Last year the mass sprints were completely dominated by Manx Marc Cavendish. He won six stages, but this year he has not demonstrated such an outstanding form as he did then. This gives Tyler Farrar, the American who has already won stages in both the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España, a possibility to complete the treble. German Gerald Ciolek and Norway’s Edvald Boasson Hagen are outsiders, while household names Alessandro Petacchi, Thor Hushovd and Oscar Freire will want to prove that they are not over the hill yet. They are not of course, as some sprinters always leave the race as soon as any hills come in sight, as all sprinters are essentially lazy show ponies
That will be in stage 7, when the Alps are reached. The riders will have taken the first truly difficult hurdle already then, which is stage 3. This stage will lead the peloton over some bits of the Paris-Roubaix course. More than 13 kilometres of cobbled sections will challenge even the most hardened classics expert.
This year the decisive moments will probably arise in the last week of the Tour. Apart from today’s prologue, there is only one time trial, which is scheduled on July the 24th (stage 19). Two days before that, the last Pyrenean stage will finish on top of the famous Col du Tourmalet, giving climb specialists their last chance of many to gain enough buffer time to survive the time trial.
If you are going to make some custom cycling kit made and you like the look of one of the team strips riding, you can always ask us to adapt it to your team/club. We often work from photos of existing team kits and then just change colours, text and logos where necessary.
First things first though, today our eyes are on Rotterdam, where the 97th Tour de France will have its Grand Depart. Bonne chance à tous!
Carvalho Custom Favourites
Armstrong (USA), Andy Schleck (Luxembourg)
Basso (Italy), Wiggins (Great Britain), Sastre (Spain)
Evans (Australia), Menchov (Russia), Vandevelde (USA), Vinokourov (Kazachstan)
Gesink (Holland), Fränk Schleck (Luxembourg), Leipheimer (USA), Klöden (Germany), Kreuziger (Czech Republic)
Written by leading cycling pundit, Frank Tieskens
On Saturday, the 93rd Tour of Italy (Giro d’Italia) will start in, of all places, Amsterdam. Luckily, your reporter is based in the Dutch capital, where he has an ideal position to monitor the preparations of the riders closely. This year’s Giro is planned in such a way, that the race will probably be decided in the last three stages, as the 19th and the 20th stage are the most mountainous of the complete race and the final stage is a short time trial in Verona. Be sure to cancel all your appointments on May 28th, 29th and 30th, because if you have half a cycling fan’s heart, you will be watching Eurosport on the edge of your seat. Among other difficult climbs, the infamous Gavia is on the menu on saturday the 29th.
Other highlights include an uphill finish on Mount Terminillo (May 16th), a mountain individual time trial (May 25th) and three stages on Dutch territory (this weekend, but no mountains here!). On top of that, two great champions of the past are honoured by special finishing locations. Stage 13 ends in Cesenatico (home of Marco Pantani) while stage 5 takes the riders to Novi Ligure, where the Fausto Coppi memorial museum is located.
Last year’s winner Denis Menchov is focusing on the Tour de France this time, and will not appear at the start in Amsterdam. Therefore, world champion Cadel Evans is top favourite for finishing in Verona wearing the pink jersey of the general classification (and of the leading Italian sports paper La Gazetta dello Sport). Evans has demonstrated in the Spring classics that he is in top shape, and is determined on adding the second most important cycling race of the year to his record. He doesn’t really have a change of gear, which doesn’t make him one of the most exciting riders and is politely referred to as having a diesel engine.
There are some tough competitors out there, however. Britain’s Bradley Wiggins is definetely among them, as he made clear that he does not consider this Giro to be merely a preparation for the Tour de France. Liège-Bastogne-Liège winner Alexander Vinokourov is also among the contenders for a high classification, as is 2008 Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre.
How about the Italians, then? From 1997 to 2007, the Giro had an Italian winner, but the last two editions were won by foreigners. 2006 winner Ivan Basso has returned to defend the red, white and green, after he was suspended for two years, Former enemies Gilberto Simoni (winner 2001 and 2003) and Damiano Cunego (winner in 2004) are reunited in team Lampre. Will they work together as a team? Good old Stefano Garzelli (winner in 2000) will also represent Italy, as will Vincenzo Nibali, Marzio Bruseghin, (3rd in 2008) Domenico Pozzovivo and Michele Scarponi.
Carvalho Custom Favourites:
Wiggins (Great Britain), Sastre (Spain)
Basso (Italy), Cunego (Italy), Nibali (Italy)
Simoni (Italy), Pozzovivo (Italy), Vinokourov (Kazachstan), Vandevelde (USA)
Garzelli (Italy), Bruseghin (Italy), Scarponi (Italy), Karpets (Russia), Mollema (Holland)
Written by Carvalho Custom’s Dutch correspondent, Frank Tieskens
This Sunday, probably the most important classic of the year, the Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders) takes place in the Western part of Belgium. What makes this race special is its unique combination of cobbled sections, hills and cobbled hills. The riders will have to ride 262 kilometres from Bruges to Ninove, including famous hills like the Oude Kwaremont, Steenbeekdries and Eikenberg. The final two hills, Muur van Geraardsbergen (‘the Wall’) and Bosberg are likely to be decisive.
Although the last two editions were won by Stijn Devolder, his teammate Tom Boonen (winner in 2005 and 2006) is top favourite to win. Boonen has demonstrated that he is in a good shape and for him, as well as for a lot of Belgian riders, the Ronde van Vlaanderen is the most important race of the year. Swiss Fabian Cancellara, renown cobble specialist, has developed his climbing skills over the years, and is also considered a favourite, as well as Italian Alessandro Ballan (winner in 2007).
The beauty of the Ronde van Vlaanderen is that the shape of the race is difficult to predict, since each year something else happens. One day a rider wins after a long 40k solo, on another day a sprint of five decides the winner. The only guarantuee is of a spectacular race.
Can you beat the power of the Carvalho Custom predictions? Let us know!
Carvalho Custom Favourites:
Ballan (Italy), Cancellara (Switzerland)
Devolder (Belgium), Pozzato (Italy), Flecha (Spain)
Hoste (Belgium), Gasparotto (Italy), Nuyens (Belgium), Gilbert (Belgium)
Langeveld (Holland), Hincapie (USA), Armstrong (USA), Breschel (Denmark), Eisel (Austria)
By Frank Tieskens
With Gent-Wevelgem, another month packed with Belgian classics, comes to an end. After the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne earlier this year, the peloton will ride from Deinze (and not Gent) to Wevelgem on Sunday after the finish of the E3 Trophy in Harelbeke on Saturday.
This new weekend is due to the changed status of Gent-Wevelgem, a race that used to be a midweek snack, but is now one of the major Pro Tour spring classics. With the change in status came a change in route as well. The organisation has added an extra loop in the ride, which means that a couple of hills will have to be climbed twice, including the famous cobbled Kemmelberg. In total, the riders will have to swallow 219 kilometres.
After beating Tom Boonen (winner of Gent-Wevelgem in 2004) by a comfortable margin in Milan-San Remo, Oscar Freire (winner in 2008) is hot favourite for the first position. He is not riding in Harelbelke on Saturday, in order to arrive at the start in Deinze in the best shape possible. Edvald Boasson Hagen, who won in Wevelgem last year, finished Milan-San Remo in the same group as Mark Cavendish, but in a race 80 k shorter than La Primavera, he is not to be completely ignored. Cavendish himself was heavily criticised by his teammate Andre Greipel after his poor performance in the first great classic of the year and is not likely to be first past the line this weekend either. If one man is able to avoid the race from ending in a mass sprint, it’s Belgian Phillipe Gilbert. Yet, if the sprinters play their cards right and the race ends with a sprint, our dark horse is Dutch former track world champion Theo Bos.
In Milan-San Remo, both 1st and 2nd place finishers were in the top of our Carvalho Custom Favourites list. Will our three names Freire, Boasson Hagen and Gilbert prove to be just as good this time?
Carvalho Custom Favourites:
Boasson Hagen (Norway), Gilbert (Belgium)
Flecha (Spain), Bos (Holland), Benatti (Italy)
Cancellara (Switzerland), Breschel (Denmark), Farrar (USA), Haussler (Germany)
Ballan (Italy), Hincapie (USA), Van Avermaet (Belgium), Davis (Australia), McEwen (Australia)
Written by Frank Tieskens, Breda’s leading cycling pundit