Wiggins and Froome: 2013 Schedule

Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome announce 2013 schedule - team skyIt has been announced that Sir Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, who finished first and second for Team Sky at the 2012 Tour de France, will begin the 2013 seasons at the Mallorca Challenge and Tour of Oman respectively. Wiggins will surely be hoping for better weather than last year when the final day of Mallorca was cancelled due to snow, whilst Froome, who begins his campaign a week later in Oman, is expecting his teammate to join him, although this has yet to be confirmed. The likely race programmes, announced by Team Sky’s Head of Performance Support Tim Kerrison yesterday, are subject to change but should see Froome head off to tackle Tirreno-Adriatico (March 6-12), while Wiggins returns to the Volta a Catalunya, which runs March 18-24. With the details of each rider’s schedule still being refined, Froome will take advantage of further training camps before competing at the Criterium du Dauphine (June 2-9) – a race the team has won for the last two years. Both riders will line-up at the Tour de France, which begins on June 29.



Froome to Lead Team Sky on Tour?

Chris Froome to lead Team Sky at Tour de France 2013After much speculation as to how Team Sky will play the big races of 2013 we seem to be a step closer to knowing with Sky boss Dave Brailsford commenting, ‘It does look as though the plan going into next year… is that the Tour of Italy would be a very good target for Bradley and leave Froomey then to focus on the Tour de France.’ Brailsford, speaking to reporters at UK Sport’s World Class Performance conference in Leeds, said: ‘We are just getting back into training now and need to do quite a lot of planning.’


Chirs Froome of course looked strong (arguably in contention for an overall win despite team instructions) at this year’s TdF and the idea of unleashing him unfettered on the 2013 Tour as every bit as exciting as the prospect of Wiggins adding a Giro title to his impressive roster. The Giro takes place May 4 – 26, whilst the TdF (the 100th edition, with a course likely to favour climbers like Froome) runs June 29 – July 21.


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Tour de France 2013

The route for the 100th Tour de France was unveiled yesterday at the Paris Convention Centre, in front of an audience of 4,000 people; as had already been widely rumored the historic centenary edition will me a monster of a climb with the kind of hills likely to rule out a second consecutive overall win for Bradley Wiggins. Indeed Wiggins has already declared it ‘more than likely’ he will play a supporting role to team mate Chris Froome and concentrate instead on winning at the more fitting Giro d’Italia (set in include more than 90km of time trial), saying simply, ‘I just want to be in a successful team.’


The 2013 Tour de France will begin, as was already known, on Corsica (June 29) with three days of racing over 511km before moving to mainland France for the first time trial – the team effort in Nice of 25km. The two subsequent (individual) time trials are set for Stage 11 (Avranches – Mont St Michel, 33km) and Stage 17 (Embrun – Chorges, 32km), a total of 65km down from the 100km of this year. The finish, as has been traditional for many years, will take place on the Champs-Elysees in Paris (July 21) after 3,360km of racing; with the twist for this celebratory edition being that not only will riders go all the way to the top of the famous boulevard and circle the Arc de Triomphe, but their arrival is to be timed for twilight too.


But it is without doubt the climbs that will define the 2013 edition; although the rumors that the TdF would finish atop l’Alpe d’Huez rather than in Paris proved – naturally enough – unfounded, the beast will still have to be tackled twice during the 168km Stage 18, and the legendary Mont Ventoux makes a welcome (!) appearance once more for 2013. Adding to the tough mix next year will be four summit finishes, not least of which is likely to be the penultimate stage’s ascent to Semnoz where the entire TdF could be won or lost.


The full TdF 2013 route is:


Stage 1 (June 29) Porto Vecchio – Bastia, 212km

Stage 2 (June 30) Basta – Ajaccio, 154km

Stage 3 (July 1) Ajaccio – Calvi, 145km

Stage 4 (July 2) Nice – Nice (TTT) 25km

Stage 5 (July 3) Cagnes sur Mer – Marseille, 219km

Stage 6 (July 4) Aix en Provence – Montpellier, 176km

Stage 7 (July 5) Montpellier – Albi, 205km

Stage 8 (July 6) Castres – Ax 3 Domaines, 194km

Stage 9 (July 7) St Girons – Bagneres de Bigorre, 165km

Rest Day

Stage 10 (July 9) St Gildas des Bois – St Malo, 193km

Stage 11 (July 10) Avranches – Mont St Michel (ITT) 33km

Stage 12 (July 11) Fougeres – Tours, 218km

Stage 13 (July 12) Tours – St Amand Montrond, 173km

Stage 14 (July 13) St Pourain sur Sioule – Lyon, 191km

Stage 15 (July 14) Givors – Mont Ventoux, 242km

Rest Day

Stage 16 (July 16) Vaison la Romaine – Gap, 168km

Stage 17 (July 17) Embrun – Chorges (ITT) 32km

Stage 18 (July 18) Gap – Alpe d’Huez, 168km

Stage 19 (July 19) Bourg d’Oisans – Le Grand Bornand, 204km

Stage 20 (July 20) Annecy – Annecy Semnoz, 125km

Stage 21(July 21) Versailles – Paris



Froome to Head the Tour de France?

Chris FroomeSky’s Chris Froome has given an early indication as to what the team’s approach to next year’s big tour events could be, suggesting that he is awaiting confirmation that he will lead out on the Tour de France, whilst Bradley Wiggins (the reigning TdF champ) may concentrate instead on adding a Giro d’Italia title to his collection. Speaking to L’Equipe Froome said, ‘I will only be able to seek one win and I have the Tour in mind. I think Bradley could be (the leader) on the Giro d’Italia and me on the Tour… but we still have to wait for next year’s programs and talk about this with the managers.’ The hint at strategy is perhaps borne out by two other facts: it comes on the back of Shane Sutton, Team Sky’s Head Coach, saying that he thought Wiggins should focus on either (or both) the Giro and Vuelta a Espana and also that what little is already known about the 2013 TdF route suggests it is likely to favour Froome over the current champion.


With just a hint of bitterness Froome also told L’Equipe, ‘I am still convinced that I could have won (the Tour de France)… But everything was clear within the team and I tried my best to do my job. I was not the chosen leader.’



Contador Wins Vuelta

In taking top spot at the Vuelta a España today in a total time of 84:59:49 Alberto Contador has won his first Grand Tour since serving his largely back-dated ban for doping offences, which saw him stripped of both his 2010 Tour de France and 2011 Giro d’Italia titles. In actual fact the Saxo Bank star had more or less won the Vuelta by the end of yesterday’s penultimate stage (170.7km to Bola del Mundo) and only injury or catastrophic mech failure could have prevented victory in his home city of Madrid today. Never afraid of displaying a little arrogance Contador was happy to trumpet the win a day ahead of schedule, saying, ‘Maybe I’ve won the race through bravery, refusing to conform and because of the way I approach racing, too.’ Fellow Spaniards Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) took second on + 1:16 and Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha Team) third on + 1:37; GB’s Chris Froome finished the 21-stage race off the podium in fourth place despite a hard fought battle throughout.



Is The Vuelta Over for Froome?

The brutal Stage 16 of the Vuelta a España looks to have all but ended Chris Froome’s podium ambitions. The punishing 183.5km leg, which contained two Cat. 1 climbs and an unforgiving 19km uphill finish with a 7% average gradient was really the last opportunity for those with high ambitions to set out their stalls and in Froome’s case ending five minutes and 11 seconds behind stage winner Dario Cataldo of Omega Pharma-Quickstep did nothing to help. He now sits in a respectable (but almost certainly unimprovable) fourth behind an all-Spanish top three: Alejandro Valverde (Movistar, third), Alberto Contador (Saxo Banks, second) and leader Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha).


Speaking after the stage, Contador said, ‘I’m thrilled with the way we’re doing this race. Today, we tried hard once again but regardless of the result and the fact that Joaquin showed immense power, I’m very happy with the race we’re doing. I think we are really adding the colors and excitement to this race so far but sure, to be dropping Joaquin would have been the icing on the cake. Today, I was feeling better than yesterday and I put in all my power in every attempt to get away. Thanks to all the people who have come here today to support me. They truly move me when we are parting the sea of people going uphill. It was a real spectacle.’


The Vuelta continues after today’s rest day with Stage 17, 187.3km Santander to Fuente Dé and concludes in Madrid on September 9.



(Almost) Too Close to Call

Stage 3 of the Vuelta a España yesterday saw the most thrilling of conclusions with a sprint finish atop the category 1 Alto de Arrate climb that virtually redefined the term ‘photo finish’. Ultimately though it was Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde who claimed victory over fellow Spaniard Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha), with race favourites Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) crossing the line (in the same time) for third and fourth at the end of the 155km hilly stage through the Basque region of northern Spain.


Rodriguez was clearly infuriated by his failure, saying afterwards, ‘I lost a stage I was virtually holding in my hands. I knew the profile of the stage, especially I knew in the end I had to stay ahead because of two difficult downhill corners. In fact I was perfect: but in the last 5 meters I stopped to pedal and Valverde passed me for a bunch of millimetres. I expected today the favourite riders to be at the same standard and I have very good feelings about my shape, but in this moment I’m so pissed against myself that I don’t really care. I can only think I lost a stage not because I was weaker, but because I was stupid.’


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Mixed Results for Team Sky at Vuelta

Day two of the Vuelta a España has seen mixed results for Team Sky; Chris Froome, runner-up last year, only managed a 29th placing, saying: ‘Coming so soon after the start, this climb won’t decide who’s going to win the race but we’ll start to see who could lose it.’


Better news though for team-mate Ben Swift who finished third in the second stage in a sprint finish won by John Degenkolb of Argos-Shimano. Clearly delighted with what he regards as a breakthrough win in his first major tour the the young German commented, ‘A finish like that called for pure power, which is what suits my kind of racing, not just speed, and after team-mate Koen De Kort had dropped me off with 200 metres to go there was just me, Davis and Swift up there for the sprint… It’s great to get a win so soon for the team. We came here looking for just one victory and now we’ve got that in the bag the pressure is off. Maybe more will come after these next two mountainous stages.’


On the hilly second stage from Pamplona to Viana, which was run in temperatures soaring into the high 30s Celsius, the Spaniards Javier Aramendi and Javier Chacon and the Russian Mikhail Ignatyev went clear in the first hour. After Chacon dropped back with 30km to go, the overall contender Alberto Contador of Spain made a surprise dash at an intermediate sprint to snatch a two-second time bonus. ‘I thought I might as well try for it. It wasn’t too much effort and I was in a good position anyway,’ the leading Vuelta favourite said.


Spain’s Jonathan Castroviejo of the Movistar team remained the overall leader. Monday’s third stage will be the first summit finish of the race, on Mount Arrate in the Basque Country.