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La Vuelta 2011 Review

Differenty colored cycling jerseys as used in ...
Image via Wikipedia

This year’s Vuelta was a really exciting race and definitely a great introduction to the event for me. Unfortunately I didn’t really get back into cycling in time to catch the Giro D’Italia this year but I was treated to a great Tour de France and a great Vuelta.

The race was one of surprise contenders. Juan Jose Cobo was in the end the deserving winner. He took the red leader’s jersey on the hardest stage of the tour and did an incredible job of shadowing his nearest challengers, especially Chris Froome for the remainder of the event. Bradley Wiggins was thought to be one of the top contenders and in the beginning had Froome working for him, but like other big names like Vincenzo Nibali and Igor Anton he just didn’t have it in him to challenge for the win. He did however put in a fine performance over the three weeks to end with a podium finish in third place. Considering that this was his first race back after breaking his collarbone in the Tour in July, this was a fantastic result for him.

Chris Froome’s ride will undoubtedly go down as the biggest surprise story of the race. No one really expected him to emerge as a grant tour contender in only his first 3 week race. At first, people were impressed with how well he was looking after Wiggins in the early stages, but it was the time trial where he really set out his stall. Everyone expected Bradley to ride into the lead of the race but he ended up tiring and losing a chunk of time in the final part of the stage, and it was Froome who shocked everyone and took the lead.

He only held the lead for one stage but he was the more consistent of the two Sky riders and when Cobo took the red jersey from Wiggins, Froome also passed Brad in the standings for second place.

The best stage of the race had to be the mountain top finish which ended in a duel between Froome and Cobo. Froome put in an almighty attack to try and gain precious time on Cobo but he was pegged back and it looked as if the Spaniard was going to take the stage. On the approach to the final corner though, Froome gave one final push and overtook Cobo once again and held on to win by a second and take the time bonus. It was incredibly exciting and a real advertisement for cycling.

Cobo definitely deserved the win overall, but very few riders can say they held the leader’s jersey, won an epic stage and finished second on the podium in their first grand tour. Chris Froome can and he has a great future. I’m hoping he does stick with team Sky. He’s certainly in a great position for contract negotiations. If he does stay though, it may end up being too packed with GC riders and a sprint train for Mark Cavendish. If that happens, it will be tough to juggle both and may cause the team problems, but I think right now that it’s a risk worth taking if it elevates them to being one of the very best teams in the world. He may be tempted by one of any number of strong offers from rival teams in which he may get positioned as a GC leader which he probably won’t be at team Sky for the next couple of seasons at least.

The tour was so packed of Action that it’s tough to mention everything I enjoyed, but I really liked seeing Dan Martin win his mountain stage in his first grand tour, Tony Martin winning the time trial and Michael Albasini winning a sprint stage for HTC Highroad in their last grand tour as a team. It was also a great sight watching Igor Anton win in spectacular fashion in his and his team’s home Basque region. It helped to make up for an otherwise disappointing tour for him and the team.

I can’t wait for next year’s Vuelta and of course before that, my first Giro as a huge cycling fan.

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Miscellaneous

Leopard Trek, RadioShack Merger Confirmed

Radioshack mars 2010
Image via Wikipedia

I don’t know why companies keep doing this recently, but just yesterday or the day before it was reported on cyclingnews.com that Leopard Trek had denied the reports of them merging with RadioShack, but then today they confirm it. Why they didn’t just keep quiet rather than denying things I don’t understand, but regardless, we now know that it will happen after all.

I’m quite disappointed by this, but I know why it’s going to happen. Leopard Trek need sponsors, and RadioShack and Nissan want to win and they’ve just had a terrible Tour de France this year. They know that with the two other podium finishers from this year’s race they instantly catapult themselves into winning contention in 2012. The reason it disappoints me is mainly because it means another team is lost from the ranks and that’s never a good thing. It also means that around 11 riders will be let go from Leopard Trek and some from RadioShack in order to meet the maximum team size limit. I just hope those riders all find teams ready for the new season.

It’s also disappointing for the simple reason that Leopard have probably the nicest looking attire of any team and now they’ll end up with one of the least attractive in my opinion with a big red R on their jerseys. It’s also probably not good for Trek because they’ll have one less team riding their bikes, as well as the fact that everyone is used to saying Trek in the name of the team this year. This gives them excellent promotion that only a handful of other manufacturers enjoy, namely BMC, Cervelo and Cannondale. They’ll lose this next year despite the fact that Trek is technically in the new team name. It’s just so long that people will most likely ignore it.

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Miscellaneous

The Cycling Signing Season

BMC Racing Team mars 2010
Image via Wikipedia

This is the time of year in many sports where rumours of signings and team changing goes into overdrive, and cycling is no exception. It’s pretty exciting to speculate and see all of these moves being made, new teams coming and and existing teams merging.

Of course, things are made more interesting because of the very sad demise of the best team in the sport, HTC Highroad. All of their talented roster has to find a new home and that’s no easy task when there may end up being less spots available due to their not being as many pro-tour teams next season.

The biggest moves so far have undoubtedly been made by BMC. They’ve re-signed Cadel evans and George Hincapie, which also lead to the signings of reigning world champion Thor Hushovd and friend and former team-mate of Evans and the rider of the year in most people’s eyes, Philippe Gilbert. You would have been forgiven for thinking that they were finished signing riders at that point, but instead they flashed the cash further and signed two current HTC Highroad riders Marco Pinotti and one of my favourite riders, Tejay Van Garderen.

It’s a strange feeling, because as much as I’m a huge HTC Highroad fan (I also own and proudly wear a jersey when I’m out riding), you can’t help but be excited by what it’s demise will do to shake up the sport for next year. Will Cavendish finally be announced at Sky along with his right hand man Bernie Eisel as well as current team-mate Matt Goss. How will Mark Renshaw fare on his own as the designated sprinter at Rabobank and will talented riders like Tony Martin, who just signed for QuickStep and Tejay Van Garderen now get a chance to shine in new teams where they’re not working for the world’s best sprinter most of the time and sacrificing their own potential for a team strategy? I’m excited to find out about all of these and before we get to 2012 we’ve got plenty more rider moves to look forward to in the coming weeks.

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Miscellaneous

What is my Passion? Do I even have one?

Does everyone have a passion? One particular interest that provokes intense feelings and takes over your mind like no other subject can.

I’m sure they can and do, but I feel kind of fickle in that regard. Until recently, I had convinced myself that photography was my passion. It’s certainly an activity that I take a great deal of enjoyment from, but on the other hand, I don’t live for it. I don’t miss it that much when I don’t pick up my camera for a few days or even a week.

Now that I’ve got my new road bike, cycling is becoming a massive part of my life. When I see cycling on TV, the desire to jump on my bike and ride is tough to ignore.

The fact that when I’m not riding my bike, I’m often thinking about doing so, just makes me feel that perhaps I was just convincing myself that photography was my passion because I knew that it was a job I would rather do over many others.

Of course, I would be happy doing it for a job whether it’s my passion or not as I still enjoy it very much, but it makes me question myself more and more.

I don’t know if even cycling is my passion, whether it’s motor racing, something I’ve yet to discover or maybe even nothing at all.

I wonder what percentage of people really have a passion and what the most common ones are.