The 2013 Professional Racing season is underway, and I enjoyed watching some great racing this last week in the Paris–Nice in France, and the Tirreno–Adriatico held in Italy. Both were stage races and they gave a taste of what is to come in the Grand Tours this year.
One thing I thought stood out was that Team Sky dominated in both races. Pretty impressive to be able to send two separate teams to two events and were strong enough to control both races.
Sky Team’s Australian rider Richie Porte won the Paris–Nice and proved he was the best man by blowing everyone away in the final time trial to win by 23 seconds in the final TT; 55 seconds in the General Classification.
If you didn’t follow the Paris–Nice below is a video of Stage 5, the moment Richie Porte took over the race.
It was during Stage 4 of the Tirreno–Adriatico race that Team Sky’s Chris Froome placed his stamp of authority on the race and looked like a sure winner when on the final climb of Prati di Tivo he took 11 seconds out of Nibali and 15 out of Contador. See the video below. The commentary is in Italian, but watch Nibali in light blue, and Contador in dark blue and yellow.
Everything changed on the penultimate stage when Froome lost the race leadership to Nibali. Stage 6 was held on a circuit with 18 steep climbs, including Sant’Elpido a Mare, with a 27% grade hill climbed three times. No climb was more than 2 km. in length but there was a total of 10,000 feet of climbing. Add to this a cold rain.
Vincenzo Nibali is a rider who excels in cold wet weather, broke away with another great climber Spain’s Juaquin Rodriguez, they were joined by Slovakia’s Peter Sagan. Sagan won the sprint (Picture below.) which was not surprising, but what is surprising is that the 23 year old Sagan managed to stay with two of the world’s best climbers over such a tough course.
I am thinking that Peter Sagan will develop into a rider in the ilk of Eddy Merckx; with the ability to win both stage races and single day classics. It is rare to find riders who excel at both.
Froome suffered from the cold and admitted he was tired after the effort he had made in previous stages; he finished 34 seconds down on Nibali. The final stage was a 9.2 km. Time Trial. Less than 6 miles there was no way Froome could take back 34 seconds.
So Nabali won the Tirreno - Adriatico with Froome 2nd. 23 seconds down, and Contador 3rd. at 52 seconds. Froome had the satisfaction of beating both Contador, and Rodriguez, who will surely be his biggest rivals in the Tour de France this year. Now on to the One Day Classics; the Milan – San Remo and the Paris – Roubaix and others. I am excited.
In this Cycling News article, Richie Porte was bemoaning the fact that with any great performance there follows accusations of doping. This is unfortunate, but is to be expected.
If you are a fan of professional cycle racing as I have been my whole life, then you just can’t give up on the sport.
Team Sky have made such a strong (And very public.) stand against doping, even to the extent of firing some very capable people, I cannot accept that they are anything but clean.
For there to be doping there has to be a conspiracy between, riders, management, all the way down to the soigneurs and mechanics. During racing riders and helpers live in such close proximity that it would be impossible for an individual to dope without the knowledge of others somewhere along the line.
I believe that Team Sky is strong with such a wealth of talent, simply because they have the money to buy the best riders. It is the same way in other team sports, the team with deep pockets wins. So does this make me naïve to believe Sky is clean?
I don’t think so. If I believe in something, I have to remain positive. What do you think?
Footnote: Go to Steep Hill TV for full results and more great pictures and videos.