Am I on track?

Am I on track?

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Tour de France 2013 - Preview & Predictions

Only a couple of sleeps left until the "Greatest Show on Earth" kicks off on the island of Corsica.  I've been slammed at work over the last few weeks with a new job role, plus juggling some responsibilities from my previous role - but what has kept me sane has been some great mileage on the bike, and studying the form of the contenders heading into the Tour de France.

So without further ado - here are my jumbled, not-very-structured thoughts on how things will happen at the Tour de France for 2013...

Who will win - Chris Froome (Team Sky)

Yes, he is the favourite, so I'm hardly sticking my neck out here. But he's the favourite for very good reason.  Showing fantastic form all year, his lead-up has been almost flawless (in fact, it closely mirrors the lead-up form of Bradley Wiggins last year).

Froome is not invincible, and you can't bet your house on someone who has never won a Grand Tour before. However, this really is Froome's race to lose.  He has the 2nd best team in the race to support him, and he is free from injury and illness. It is he who will need to have a bad day to lose this race.

Who can make the podium

Alberto Contador (Saxobank-Tinkoff)

Contador is no longer the invincible, Grand-Tour-winning machine of previous years. He does remain as an outstanding performer over 3 weeks, and he arrives at this year's Tour de France with the strongest team of all.

I'm looking forward to seeing how Froome and Contador battle in the high mountains. What will also be interesting is how the two teams handle each other. Last year Team Sky was the superior juggernaut by far, however they have an equal this year in Saxobank-Tinkoff.

Jurgen Van den Broeck (Lotto-Belisol)

Fourth overall last year, and expected to do well again this year. Not as consistent as some of the other contenders, but a podium position is not out of the question. One of the riders who benefits from the reduced flat individual timetrial kilometres in this year's race.

Cadel Evans (BMC)

What can Cadel do? I was writing him off at the start of the year, and then he showed immense class in finishing on the Giro d'Italia podium after only a short training block.

Can he do the Giro-Tour double? If anyone can, it's him.  Last time he attempted it (in 2010), all was going well he was in the yellow jersey!) until he broke his elbow in a fall.

The underdog status suits Cadel's style much more than favouritism, and I expect him to do well this year.

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)

'Purito' is desperate to do well this year, and has dramatically altered his traditional lead-up races in an effort to reach the Tour de France in peak form.  Is likely to do better than previous efforts. His flamboyant, punchy, attacking style is likely to be blunted by the sheer overwhelming strength of the Sky and Saxobank teams - but he won't die wondering. I'm looking forward to seeing him try to animate the race in the mountains.

The Future Stars - White Jersey contenders

This is a part of the race I'm fascinated with.  There is a huge crop of young riders in this year's race that seem destined for future greatness.  Most are riding for more experienced team leaders, but will also be looking to finish high on GC as well.

The best credentialed is Tejay Van Garderen (BMC) who won the white jersey last year and came 5th overall.  But also keep an eye on Thibault Pinot (FDJ), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), and Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp). 

This "race within the race" will be very close and hard fought, and will give us a clue as to who may be the new Grand Tour champions in the years to come...

Who Will Disappoint

A bit of a negative paragraph or two, but I think we'll see a few supposed 'contenders' fair relatively poorly this year.

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) is probably past his best, and has two great riders on his team (in Quintana and Rui Costa) that may eclipse him in the mountains.  Damiano Cunego (Lampre-Merida) will also fall by the wayside.  He has said he's targeting the overall, but he'd be better served going after some stage wins.

Andy Schleck (Radioshack) is a tricky one. While he won't 'disappoint' per se, he won't trouble the GC contenders. I'm quite interested to see how he'll go this year, and if he goes for stage wins or the Polka-Dot mountains jersey.

The Green Sprinter's Jersey

Mark Cavendish (OmegaPharma-Quickstep) will win the most stages, but Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) will win the overall green jersey competition.  This will be due to Sagan's ability to gain points on some of the small/medium hilly stages where Cavendish will fall away and score nothing.  It'll be close, but I think Sagan will prevail.

Expect strong performances also by Andre Greipel (Lotto-Belisol), Marcel Kittel (Argos-Shimano), and Matthew Goss (Orica-Greenedge) on the flat pure-sprint stages, and John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) and Darryl Impey (Orica-Greenedge) on the bumpier sprint stages.

Sticking my neck out...

I can't wait for the Tour to start, and am already planning out the key stages to watch, as well as the all important 'snack and beverage strategy'...!!  To finish off - here is my predicted finishing order for this year's big race, I hope you enjoy it all as much as I know I will!!

1. Chris Froome
2. Alberto Contador
3. Cadel Evans
4. Joaquim Rodriguez
5. Tejay Van Garderen
6. Nairo Quintana
7. Jurgen Van den Broek
8. Ryder Hesjedal
9. Thibault Pinot
10. Thomas De Gendt

Friday, 7 June 2013

May 2013 Review

Just a quickie blog post here to keep my monthly stats up-to-date.

January - 300km / 13hrs
February - 452km / 20hrs
March - 341km / 20hrs
April - 269km / 12hrs
May - 201km / 10hrs

Year to date - 1563km / 75hrs

I've already talked in a previous blog post about the challenges with rain & work meaning I missed the first half of the month (again).  I missed most of the last week as well due to the same, so in isolation the 200km in 10 days was actually pretty good!

Main thing now is ensuring I have no stumbles heading towards the Cunningham Classic in early August.  I've started June well, building up some good consistency.  Without question, June has to be my biggest month of the year so far (in both hours and mileage) if I am hoping to have any chance of making it to the start line of the  Cuningham Classic in decent condition.  I'm not putting any pressure on myself - but the benchmarks I need to hit if I'm serious are clear in my mind.

What's ahead

I've started hitting the trails at Daisy Hill on my mountain bike.  It has been great fun, and has been a real positive for me both mentally and physically.  I reckon mountain bike time is worth almost double the equivalent road time, its really tough on the legs!  Without doubt, it has been an excellent addition to my cycling from all perspectives...

Also, I took advantage of a 'Scoopon' deal and bought a month's worth of access to my local gym.  My reasoning is to take advantage of their RPM and Spin classes, which will be my back-up plan if the recent runs of dodgy weather continue.  They also have Pilates classes, which will help me mix things up when it comes to core strength training. Hopefully, once my month-long membership starts up, I can get some decent benefit out of it.


The Cunningham Classic on the 3rd August remains my main upcoming goal.  I'll be aiming to start getting some race intensity in my legs this month via the Saturday club criteriums at Murarrie.  I also want to try the monthly club road race held at Pimpama (near Dreamworld Fun Park, run by the Gold Coast cycling clubs) to mix things up a bit.

My monthly stats at the top of this post look a bit dire, having been on a steady decline since February.  That said, I actually feel really good and am super-motivated for my August race goal.  I'm looking forward to continuing my good start to June and posting some big numbers for my June review in a few weeks time...!!

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Criterium du Dauphine 2013 - Preview

One of the traditional lead-up events for the Tour de France, the Criterium du Dauphine is a great opportunity for the cycling fan to see how many of the contenders are fairing with a month to go before the Grande Boucle.

Normally, I'd title blog posts on major events as 'preview & predictions' - but the Dauphine isn't so much about who will win, but more about watching intently to see who's form is coming together at the right time.  So today's preview post is focused on who to watch out for to see how they are tracking for July.

Many have describe the Dauphine as a 'mini Tour de France without the boring bits'. The 8 stages include a 33km ITT, and 3 big mountain stages. The other 4 stages aren't what you'd call traditional sprint stages though, with all of them having pretty bumpy looking profiles.

So without further ado - who should we be watching during this year's Dauphine:

The Big Two - Froome & Contador

Froome & Contador, discussing their favourite French pastries...

There are two key riders who will be the favourites come Tour de France time.  Chris Froome (Team Sky) has had a terrific lead up so far, very reminiscent of lead-up teammate Bradley Wiggins had last year.  He has won or podiumed at almost all his races, but has been hidden away at the Team Sky training camp in Tenerife, Spain, for the last month or so.

Alberto Contador (Saxobank-Tinkoff), on the other hand, has had a much less spectacular build-up this year.  He'll be looking to make a bit of a statement with a decent result at the Dauphine.

Both team's are bringing the core of their Tour de France squads, so they are clearly using this race as a dress rehearsal for July.  It'll be fascinating to see how they are progressing...

Other Contenders To Watch

There is a long list of sub-plots to watch during the Dauphine. Plenty of riders that will be in contention for a podium spot at the Tour de France, and who'll be looking to show their team's that they deserve their full support on the lap around France.

Jurgen Van den Broek (Lotto-Belisol) - VdB came fourth in last year's Tour de France, and showed a massive step up in ability. He'll be looking to step up a place or two this year, but hasn't really shown any major form yet.

Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) - after an unhappy year with Radioshack last season, Fuglsang has much to prove here. He has shown potential in the past, and has publicly backed himself as a genuine contender. Time for him to speak with action rather than words if he is indeed the real deal.

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) - 'Purito' is specifically targeting the Tour de France this year, a change from previous years. Hopefully he'll show his form is on target to trouble the Big Two...

Team Cofidis - Yep, a whole team to watch!  Stacked with potential, I want to see who shines in the Dauphine as it'll tell us who they'll be riding for in July. Keep an eye on Jerome Coppel, Christophe Le Mevel, and Rein Taaramae.

Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp) - one of the young American guns emerging in the peloton. Not sure if he or Ryder Hesjedal will lead the team in July, but he'll be looking to show he is up to the task.

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) - does he still have the legs to be an overall contender? We'll know soon.  Also watch out for his new teammate Sylvester Szmyd, who supported Nibali last year on Team Liquigas - he is an amazing climbing talent.

Thomas de Gendt (Vacansoleil) - an emerging grand tour talent, who promises much. Another who'll be looking to confirm his team's faith during the Dauphine.


Don't try and pick the winner of this race, instead watch it to see what it tells you for the Tour de France. It'll answer some questions, but will also likely raise a few new questions of its own.

My fellow Australian fans can watch the race on SBS2 - but sadly it'll be on delayed telecast this year. If you are techno-savvy though, it'll be livestreamed by SBS 'Cycling Central' as well. Enjoy the race!