Written by Grant Taylor
Pro’s Corner – March 2017
Hello Bike Lovers, Pro’s corner this month starts with the remainder of the season preview, started in the February edition. We carry on from where we left off in June, and the madness of the Giro will be fading into the not so distant memory, and things will be taking an altogether more French feel.
The Criterium du Dauphine is now the traditional warm up for the Tour de France, and now that the ASO have taken over the race, it has mirrored at least one stage of it’s more famous Brother’s race as a dry run. That said, the Dauphine has retained most of it’s unique qualities due to the stunning scenery and challenging routes. Being a one week long tour, it should be very easy to predict a Richie Porte win, but Chris Froome has turned up the last couple of years with his race face on. That usually means that Froome wins, as he still seems to have a massive inferiority complex when it comes to racing his bezzie.
The Tour de Suisse takes place around this time, but nobody outside Switzerland will actually bother to watch. The big names have gradually gravitated towards the Dauphine, leaving the Swiss race with the likes of Rui Costa as it’s winner.
July only means Le Tour, and not Le Tour of Austria. Cue utter carnage on the roadside, gangly stork like riders running up mountains, and that most annoying of all things, the casual fan trying to engage the real cycling fan in Tour related banter. Please try to avoid these kinds of situations if you can. Maybe drop in a reference to Jan Jansen’s win in 1968 and simply watch them wander off, as they didn’t know that cycling existed prior to the formation of Team Sky. Chris Froome will win of course.
Post Tour fatigue will have set in by this point, and I mean for the spectator as much as the rider. Sores from hours sat glued to the couch will start to heal, and by the middle of the month, sights will be set for the final Grand Tour of the year, La Vuelta. It has become the most enjoyable race of the season in recent years, with top stars taking part, super steep climbs, and challenging routes that make for great races. Nairo Quintana is said to be going for a Giro-Vuelta double, and missing the Tour. Chris Froome also makes no secret of his desire to win this race.
Expect the winner to prevail by seconds rather than minutes. Expect Contador to go on some mad attack right from the gun. Expect summit finishes on top of Goat Tracks with an average gradient of 25%
September is more about the end of the Vuelta, than the start of the build up to the World Championships. Those who remember last season, will remember a race that took us around the sand dunes of Abu Dhabi, from one partially completed building to another, before a rather more interesting final lap. This year sees the race come back to Europe for the first time in 3 years, and takes place in Bergen, Norway. Welcome back Hills, sensible weather, and fans by the roadside. I’m quite looking forward to that. Peter Sagan is bound to win of course.
The season will end at Lombardia, with a host of failed GC riders trying to salvage something from their horrible season, trying their hardest to snare a contract for 2018.
That’s about it really, I can’t wait.
In other news, real Professional Cycling returned Saturday 25th February at Het Nieuwsblad in Belgium. Despite what you may have heard, any “race” taking place before this point was simply a training ride, taken at a slightly quicker pace.
We were treated to a special race, one of those races where the strongest 3 riders in the field got away, and powered on to decide the finish in Ghent. We got our first site of cobbled streets and Bergs, Belgian wind, and the site of Peter Sagan being made to work on the front of a group unwilling to share turns with him. Get used to that. Greg Van Avermaet has clearly worked out that sometimes, clever beats strong.
Sep Vanmarcke was the third man bless him. Stuck in a group with the two best one day riders in the world, possessing absolutely no sprint whatsoever, what could poor Sep do? Attack? Have a really good dig to see if the other two marked each other? He simply chose to role in third. Not that they had enough of a gap to mess around of course. GvA managed to get himself onto Sagan’s wheel, and comfortably passed him to win on a slightly uphill drag to the finish. Get used to this battle, you’ll see that 1-2 combination many times this season. You’ll probably also see lots of Sep Vanmarcke trailing in third too.
Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne took place on Sunday, and we were treated to a very similar race. Only some of the faces changed. One face didn’t, Peter Sagan of course made the selection, and won one of the more comfortable sprints of his career. Easy.
This weekend sees the start of the Italian season. Strade Bianche is fast becoming the new classic that everybody wants to win, and this writer’s favourite classic in the Calendar. It’s combination of tough White Roads, short hard climbs, stunning Tuscan scenery, and an absolute top class field, make it a not to be missed race. The final climb after entering the City walls of Siena is breathtaking, and always makes for great racing. This particular race seems to attract a mix of Flemish loving hardmen like Stybar, Cancellara etc, plus the more wiery Ardennes type riders such as Gilbert and Kwiatkowski. This makes it utterly compelling, and almost impossible to predict.
I’ll try though, in my capacity of Club professional bike racing correspondent. I’m going for Alejandro Valverde, who I’m developing a worrying amount of man love for in the tail end of his career. The poodle haired one has a very real understanding of the value of races, and this is one he wants. Greg Van Avermaet has also placed well here, and looks extremely sharp.
Milan San Remo will roll out the following weekend, and expect 299km of jostling for position, and 1km of elbow to elbow sprinting. I’m going for the young Colombian Fernando Gaviria to win.
Paris Nice and Tirreno Adriatico follow, and the likes of Richie Porte, Geraint Thomas and Nairo Quintana will begin trying to shape their form for the Summer.
Anyway, enough of my wittering, assuming you’re all still with me. Reports from these races next month, and previews of the Tour of Flanders, and Paris Roubaix amongst others.