Featured News

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.



ITV4 to Screen Vuelta a Espana Highlights

Our new favourite channel ITV4 is to broadcast the 2012 Vuelta a Espana for the first time. Following successful coverage of Bradley Wiggins’ historic victory in this year’s Tour de France ??ITV will broadcast daily highlights shows throughout the Vuelta as part of a new agreement with the ASO.


Beginning on Saturday August 18 and ending on Sunday September 9, the 67th Vuelta will be made up of 21 stages and will cover a total distance of 3,300 kilometres.?? British interest in the race should include Chris Froome, fresh from winning the Bronze medal at the Olympics Time Trial and finishing second in the TdF, along with Ian Stannard, Adam Blythe, Ben Swift and Jeremy Hunt. ??Froome also finished second in last year’s Vuelta, with his Team Sky colleague Wiggins third.


Juan Jose Cobo won the 2011 race and will be back to defend his title in 2012. ??ITV4 will broadcast a 60-minute highlights programme from each race day, presented by Gary Imlach. will also simulcast a highlights programme. ??ITV Director of Sport Niall Sloane said: ‘This has been an unprecedented year of success for British cycling, with Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France live on ITV. I’m delighted that we are able to offer free to air coverage of this year’s Vuelta a Espana.’


Froome to lead Team Sky in Vuelta. What next for Wiggins?

Even with the Olympic cycling still underway things are getting back to normal elsewhere with the announcement of teams for the last Grand Tour of the year. The 67th edition of the Vuelta a Espana starts in Pamplona on Saturday 18 August with Team Sky led by Chris Froome. This is in contrast to last year when he played support to Bradley Wiggins.


Apart from this being a big thank you from the team for his selfless efforts in the Tour de France it should also be seen as an indicator of Sky Team strategy for next season. Wiggins and Froome rode the Vuelta last year and made a hash of a winning position to finish second and third. There were also moments in the Tour when Froome and Wiggins didn’t seem in tactical sync. Sky will not want a repeat but maybe this tells us more about Wiggins plans for the future than that of his team.


Wiggins has repeatedly remarked on the adverse impact of cycling on family life when asked about how many Tours he might win and how many Olympics he might attend. Our guess is that he’ll focus exclusively on the Tour de France for at least 2 more seasons and have a crack at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.


Whatever the future holds he definitely won’t feature in this years Spanish Grand Tour where Froome will be looking to improve upon last year’s second place. He’ll be joined in an incredibly strong nine-man squad by Juan Antonio Flecha, Sergio Henao, Danny Pate, Richie Porte, Ian Stannard, Ben Swift, Rigoberto Urán and Xabier Zandio.


Urán won the young rider’s classification on his way to a career-best seventh overall in May’s Giro d’Italia and was the Olympic road race silver medallist. Colombian compatriot Sergio Henao achieved podium finishes in his last two races (the Vuelta a Burgos and Tour de Pologne) and also donned the Giro’s white jersey in his first season in the pro ranks. They’ll be joined by more experienced riders in Australia’s Porte, Spaniards Zandio and Flecha (riding his 17th Grand Tour), British national champion Stannard and America’s Pate. Brit Ben Swift is the team’s designated sprinter.


So Sky will go into the race as favourites with the strongest squad. According to Sports Director Nicolas Portal “We’ve got every base covered with this line up. We have Olympic medallists, amazing climbers, some really strong guys on the flat, and a very fast sprinter”.


And, maybe in light of the last years debacle, Froome stated that “I’m going to do the best job I can and do whatever’s required of me from the team. Initially I’ll be riding for the GC, but if one of my team-mates shows that they’re in a better place to win the race then I’ll happily work for them. We’re sending a first-rate squad and it should be a really exciting race.”


Books Reviews

Merckx: Half Man, Half Bike

Published in hardback in March this year, and due in paperback soon, Merckx: Half Man, Half Bike by William Fotheringham looks deep into the psyche of the cyclist who, for many, is the best there has ever been.


One of the key factors that support the publisher’s guff about Merckx being ‘to cycling what Ali is to boxing’…is the numbers. Quoted as a total of 445 victories in the publicity material but as ‘over 500’ and 525 by sources as diverse as the Guardian and Wikipedia. We’d suggest that if you are pinning your story on statistics at least get them right…


What isn’t in dispute is that Merckx won more races than any cyclist in history; five Tour de France, five Giros d’Italia, one Vualta a Espana and three world championships. Possibly the greatest achievement was to win, uniquely, the yellow (Overall Winner), green (Best Sprinter) and polka-dot (King of the Mountains] jerseys in a single Tour (1969).


Fotheringham, one of the most entertaining of cycling writers, provides interesting historical and political background to the two sides of Belgium and the rich traditions of Flanders cycling. His biographies of Tom Simpson (Put me back on my Bike) and Fausto Coppi (Fallen Angel) may be much more thrilling but, in part, that’s because both characters were flawed and met with personal tragedy. Because Merckx was relentlessly successful and focused the catalogue of rides and wins impresses rather than fascinates.


However, what Fotheringham does provide, as always, is a compelling opening chapter that takes you to the heart of the book – Merckx, near the end of his career, fighting for a futile third place finish on a brutal Alpine pass, with a jaw that was broken in two places just that morning. He also presents a rider who always attacked, the first rider to dominate the classics and the tour, day after day. Interviewed by Fotheringham in 1997 Merckx answered the key questions posed in the book: ‘Why the years of focus? Why the need to win so often and so much?’ Merckx replied with a simple soundbite: ‘Passion, only passion.’


Fotheringham suggests it all starts with a sensitive Flemish youngster, an outsider who spoke French, and one who was, in a community where cycle racing was key to the culture, ‘too small to win’. It was this fear of failure that led him at times to pursue the needless annihilation of his rivals.


If the background and the cycling action are well researched and detailed one aspect has been widely critised: to some, Fotheringham ‘takes a bucket of whitewash to Merckx’s use of performance enhancing drugs’. Merckx was said to be distraught early in his career when he realised that professional cycling was ‘rotten to the core’ yet still went on to be caught doping three times. Whatever your views on that issue this book is yet another quality title from Fotheringham; a fascinating story of, by any measure, the greatest competitive cyclist of them all.


Merckx: Half Man, Half Bike by William Fotheringham is published by Yellow Jersey – ISBN-10: 0224074482 – available from, amongst others,



Cobo Crowned at Vuelta

vuelta a espaniaAnd so the 2011 Vuelta a España ends; and whilst the Madrid final didn’t deliver an ultimate overall British winner it was the scene of a spectacular UK two, three podium finish for Sky’s Chris Froome and Bradley Wiggins respectively, one of the finest results for a grand tour in living memory and the first time a Brit has been on the podium since Robert Millar (second in 1986). It was, of course, Spain’s Juan Jose Cobo of Geox-TMC that rode for crowning glory with a total time of 84:59:31 – with Froome on +13seconds and Wiggins + 1minute, 39seconds.


With the final stage in the country’s capital a parade lap in all but name, the unofficial rule dictates no attack on the race leader meaning Cobo’s victory was all but guaranteed by the end of the penultimate Stage 20 (185km Bilbao to Vitoria) which was won by Leopard Trek’s Italian sprint specialist Daniele Bennati. Although in theory, with a time bonus 32 seconds up for grabs, Froome could still have snatched victory, it was not to be. The final standings marked the first major tour victory of Cobo’s career.


Full results and analysis from




Froome for Vuelta Champ?

Chris FroomeCould Britain be in line for its first ever Vuelta a Espana win? Certainly the prospect took a step in the right direction yesterday (Wednesday, September 7) when Team Sky’s Chris Froome unleashed a blistering attack to steal a win on Stage 17 – the 211km leg, Faustino V to Peña Cabarga – from Juan Jose Cobo of Geox. Although the Spanish rider retained the overall leader’s red jersey, Froome’s win across a thrilling head to head hill climb finish took 9 seconds off Cobo’s lead with a combination of the 1 second win and the stage’s awarded time bonus. The victory marked the first time in more than two decades that a Brit has won a mountain finish in a major race; the last to do so was Robert Millar in the 1989 Tour de France.


With fours stages still to run on the Vuelta before riders reach the final in the country’s capital Madrid on Sunday (September 11) things can, naturally, still change dramatically, but with Froome sitting pretty in second place on the overall standings and his Sky team mate Bradley Wiggins still in third Cyclo has their collective fingers crossed for a patriotic podium.



Martin Wins as Wiggins Climbs

vuelta a espaniaThe ninth stage of the Vuelta a España (which runs August 20 – September 11) was won yesterday, August 28, by Garmin-Cervelo’s Dan Martin who moved clear of Dutch rider Bauke Mollema (Rabobank) for a sprint finish in the closing straight at the ski resort of La Covatilla. But despite the Irishman’s win on the 183km leg from Villacastín to the high Sierra de Bejar – his first Grand Tour victory – it was Mollema who took the General Classification lead (and red jersey) from Team Katusha’s Joaquim Rodriguez and Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins who shone all day.


Wiggins, looking strong after his disastrous exit from the Tour de France with a broken collar bone, has looked every bit in control of his destiny at this year’s Vuelta, tackling yesterday’s tough assents as if they were an ITT stage (though that takes nothing away from his team-player credentials). He now moves up to 13th place, hopscotching his team-mate Christopher Froome in 14th, and leaving Sky in 11th overall position.



HTC Two Man Down

vuelta a espaniaHTC-Highroad’s Mark Cavendish withdrew yesterday (Tuesday, August 23) from the Vuelta a Espana on the race’s fourth stage, the 170.2km run from Baza to the Sierra Nevada. He had fallen behind the peloton on a category one climb in the early stages of the race and finally threw in the towel with approximately 40km still to go; it was clear from the previous day, when he had suffered in the heat, that his heart really didn’t appear to be in the race – possibly because the HTC outfit is being wound up after failing to secure a future sponsor and Cav’s future is rumoured to be with Team Sky. His departure from the Vuelta marks the second departure from the HTC team, following Australian Matt Goss who abandoned proceedings on day one (the Team Time Trial in Benidorm.)


The Vuelta’s fourth stage was won by Spain’s Daniel Moreno of Team Katusha, with Quick-Step’s Sylvain Chavanel currently holding the overall general classification first place with a time of 13h 19′ 09”.