Is Mark Cavendish Unbeatable?

Is Mark Cavendish UnbeatableWhen Britain’s Mark Cavendish took victory on Stage 21 of the 2013 Giro d’Italia (May 26) he became the first sprinter in five years to win the race’s coveted red points leader’s jersey. But, perhaps more significantly, having been awarded the equivalent at both the Vuelta a Espana (in 2010) and Tour de France (2011), he became only the fifth rider ever to win it across all three Grand Tours – joining Eddy Merckx, Alessandro Petacchi, Djamolidine Abdoujaparov, Laurent Jalabert.


Speaking to BBC Radio 5 live Brian Cookson, President of British Cycling, has described the 28-year-old Isle of Man sprint star – who joined Omega Pharma-Quick Step this season from Team Sky – as ‘almost unbeatable’. With Cav currently having an impressive 23 stage wins of the Tour de France under his wheels, Cookson commented ‘He has certainly got a good chance of overtaking the great Eddy Merckx during his career.’


Merckx, widely regarded as the greatest every cyclist, currently holds the TdF stage win record (34), holds three world titles, won the TdF five times between 1969 and ’74, claimed victory the same number of times at the Giro and also claimed a win of the Vuelta a Espana in 1973. Cavendish undeniably has potential to continue his climb (sprint?) to great heights, but just look at some of Merckx claims to fame:


In 1972 he enjoyed a 39% ‘win rate’ (in 1970 and ’73 it was 37%).

He enjoyed a record 525 career victories.

He jointly shares – with Charles Pélissier (1930) and Freddy Maertens (1976) – the record of eight stage wins in a single TdF.

He is the only cyclist to have won the GC, Points and Mountains Classification in the same TdF (1969).


Can Cav beat that?



Vincenzo Nibali wins the Giro 2013

Vincenzo Nibali wins the Giro 2013Italy’s Vincenzo Nibali has won the 2013 Giro d’Italia in an overall time of 84hours 53’28″, four minutes, 43seconds ahead of Team Sky’s Rigoberto Uran in second and five minutes, 52seconds ahead of third-placed Cadel Evans (BMC). The Astana rider was all-but assured victory after yesterday’s epic stage victory, amidst freezing, blizzard conditions for a summit finish in which he retained his race leader’s pink jersey meaning that today’s easy pack position proved more than enough for him to claim victory.


Britain’s Mark Cavendish took today’s Stage 21 win; the flat 197km run into Brescia was always going to fit the sprinter and with plenty of points still available he grabbed the opportunity and did what he does best. His effort made him the first sprinter in five years to win the Giro’s coveted red points leader’s jersey and only the fifth ever to win its equivalent across all three Grand Tours (he joins legend Eddy Merckx, Alessandro Petacchi, Djamolidine Abdoujaparov, Laurent Jalabert.)



Danilo Di Luca is ‘an idiot’

Danilo Di LucaDanilo Di Luca is facing a lifetime ban from cycling after testing positive for EPO. The 37-year-old Italian, who has already served a ban for blood-boosting at the 2009 Giro d’Italia, failed an out-of-competition test (which was taken on April 29) and has subsequently been sacked by his Vini Fantini-Selle team. Luca Scinto, the understandably less-than-sympathetic Team Director, said, ‘Di Luca is an idiot. I never wanted him. He is sick and needs help.’


Di Luca, winner of the Giro in 2007, only signed for Vini Fantini-Selle and was sitting comfortably at 26th in this year’s Giro at the time of the test results. In an official statement Team Manager Angelo Citracca said, ‘Danilo Di Luca (is) repeatedly involved in problems related to doping and already disqualified for similar violations, repaid the trust of a friend and great entrepreneur with another mistake, whose consequences damages Vini Fantini Selle Italia team even if it is innocent… Following the news, learned with regret in the morning, the team has dismissed the athlete, intimating him to get away. At this point, Vini Fantini Selle Italia will ask for a compensation for damages, in accordance with the internal Rules signed by all the members of the team.’


Di Luca’s disgrace marks the second doping scandal at this year’s Giro. Following Stage 7, AG2R La Mondiale’s Sylvain Georges tested positive for the banned stimulant Heptaminol and was withdrawn from the race.



Bradley Wiggins out of Giro d’Italia

Bradley Wiggins Out of Giro d’ItaliaBradley Wiggins dream of adding a Giro d’Italia win to his epic 2012 Tour de France victory are over as he retires ahead of today’s Stage 13 (Busseto to Cherasco) on the advice of Team Sky medical staff. A worsen chest infection saw the 33-year-old drop to 13th overall place after yesterday’s tough Stage 12 and with his prospects looking unlikely to improve the decision has been made to return to the UK for further tests and rest. With a strong group of eight riders remaining at the Giro, Team Sky will ride in support of Rigoberto Urán, who currently sits in third place overall, two minutes and four seconds off the race lead.


Outlining the situation, Team Sky Team Principal Sir Dave Brailsford said: ‘We monitored Bradley overnight and this morning we’ve withdrawn him from the Giro after consulting the team doctor. His chest infection has been getting worse and our primary concern is always the health of our riders… Bradley will return to the UK today for treatment and to rest and we hope to have him back on the road as soon as possible. As a passionate racer he wanted to continue but he is simply unable to do so on medical grounds.’



Sky Win Giro d’Italia Team Time Trial

Sky Win Giro d’Italia Team Time TrialTeam Sky delivered an incredible Giro d’Italia Team Time Trial performance yesterday (Sunday, May 5) to move Salvatore Puccio into the lead of the Italian classic. Clocking 22’05” across the 17.4km course on the Italian island of Ischia, with Movistar second on +9” and Astana third on +14”, the result placed five Team Sky riders into the top five overall results, with Puccio heading up Bradley Wiggins, Sergio Henao, Dario Cataldo and Rigoberto Uran.


Puccio, who was also Sky’s best-placed finisher on Stage 1, commented after his Team Time Trial success, ‘Today was an incredible result and it is a huge surprise. I could never have thought this morning that I would be pulling on the Maglia Rosa. It is incredible… For an Italian rider to pull on the Maglia Rosa is one of the best things that can happen to you.’


Marcus Ljungqvist, Team Sky Sports Director, added, ‘It was a big day for everyone and to finish it off like we did today is incredible. It was a really good ride from the boys…. They measured their effort well and got everything out of themselves. Coming down to five guys right at the end there was a good timing and everything worked out great.’ Puccio concurred, saying, ‘Once again the team showed how strong we are. Everyone put in a huge effort and it is very satisfying to be part of a big team result like this.’


The Giro continues today with the 222km stage from Sorrento to Marina di Ascea.



Cavendish Wins Giro d’Italia Opening Stage

Cavendish Wins Giro d’Italia Opening StageOmega Pharma-Quickstep’s Mark Cavendish has won the opening stage of the Giro d’Italia – the 130km circuit loops of Naples – bagging his 11th career stage win of the Italian classic and his third time in the famed leader’s pink jersey (the Maglia Rosa). Cav launched in typical ‘Manx Missile’ form in the closing two-dozen metres with dramatic effect, completing the opener in a time of 2h58’38”, and keeping Cannondale’s Elia Viviani in second and the French National Champion, Nacer Bouhanni (FDJ), in third.


After inadvertently swearing live on air as he fiddled with his radio earpiece, Cavendish composed himself to thank his teammates and concede that the stage had been both tough and hot – the temperature having hovered around the 30degrees mark. He commented, ‘It was a difficult, difficult stage for me… We didn’t get it quite right at the end and Gert [Steegmans] had a mechanical in the final kilo, which we need to look at. They (mechanical failures) are costing us too many races.’


The opening stage was awash with crashes (and, at one point, a stray dog on the course), with David Millar tweeting, ‘I love crashing the first day of a Grand Tour: glut & shoulder bruised to hell, bike broken ( Congrats @MarkCavendish, delivers as usual.’ Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins – who is targeting both a Giro and Tour de France win for 2013, and who avoided the many spills – finished respectably in 64th on equal timings.


The Giro d’Italia continues tomorrow with the 17.4km Team Time Trial on the tiny island of Ischia.



Bradley Wiggins vs Chris Froome?

Bradley Wiggins and Chris FroomeCould a storm be brewing? Bradley Wiggins, very much man of the year in 2012, has again stated his intention of defending his historic Tour de France title, whilst team mate Chris Froome – hot off his win of the Tour de Romandie – insists he will be the man to lead out the squad come June 29, commenting, ‘I have been reassured by the management at Team Sky that I have their full backing.’ Wiggins had initially been expected to concentrate his efforts on the Giro d’Italia, which starts this Saturday (May 4), but has told reporters he will be looking for a double victory rather than playing any supporting role.


Kenya-born Froome, runner-up to Wiggins at last year’s TdF, insists that, ‘at no time has the leadership of the Tour (de France) team been in question’, yet Team Sky Principal, Sir David Brailsford, continues to maintain that a final decision is unlikely to be made until just days before the start.


In response to Brailsford’s pragmatic ‘I think whoever is in the best shape should be really’ pronouncement, Froome released a statement saying, ‘There has been much speculation regarding the leadership for Team Sky at the Tour de France this year. I have made it clear that winning the Tour would be my main objective for 2013… Attempting to win the Tour de France, is a massive undertaking and will take total commitment from each and every team member.’ Adding the rather pointed (barbed?) conclusion, ‘I have no doubt that the strongest and most willing riders will be there to support me.’


Inter-team rivalry rarely ends well; without resolution the situation could easily result in two losers, not one clear winner…



Giro d’Italia 2013: The Sky Squad

Giro d’Italia 2013: The Sky SquadTeam Sky have confirmed their nine-man line-up for the Giro d’Italia 2013, which runs Saturday May 4 to Sunday May 26. The Sky squad for the 96th edition of the race will be lead out by Bradley Wiggins (a real contender for overall victory?) with strong support from Dario Cataldo, Sergio Henao, Christian Knees, Danny Pate, Salvatore Puccio, Kanstantsin Siutsou, Rigoberto Urán and Xabier Zandio.


Sir Dave Brailsford, Team Principal of Sky, commented on the 2013 line-up: ‘We’ve had a good run into the Giro, have a strong squad and the preparation has gone well. The final touches have been put in place after the Giro del Trentino and we’re all set to go… It’s well-documented that the Giro has been a season goal for Bradley. With that in mind we want to get the best performance possible and try to win the race. If you work back from there you need support in the mountains and a strong nucleus of the team who can work hard.’


For his part Wiggins added, ‘Alongside the Tour de France and Paris-Roubaix the Giro d’Italia is one of the biggest bike races in the world and one I’d love to win.  I’ve watched the Giro since I was a kid and have seen my idols win it, which makes it even more special.  It has always been a race that I’ve wanted to ride well in and I just can’t wait to get started… I believe the Giro team this year is just as strong as the Tour de France team last year and the results prove that everyone is ready to go.’