We invited club member Joe Bishop, who is a keen follower of pro bike racing, to write us some race reports. Here is his first, and if you missed the Vuelta Espana, or you can’t remember after 3 weeks who won which stage then read on for a fluent and memorable summary of the race. Thanks to Joe, who we hope will fill us in on the World Road Race Champs and the Tour of Lombardy, after which it is winter!
Continental Race Report
By Joe Bishop
After a long, gruelling, exciting year’s racing, the pro cycling season is coming to an end. Despite this though, the racing is still as hard and nerve-racking as ever, with grand tour racing in Spain as well as the pro peloton riding on home roads.
La Vuelta a Espana is always an exciting race, and this season’s edition looked set to be no different. The line-up included Tour De France winner Chris Froome, second place Nairo Quintana, fourth place Vincenzo Nibali, his teammate Fabio Aru, and Katusha’s Joaquim Rodriguez. In addition to this, star rider Peter Sagan featured alongside Paris-Roubaix winner John Degenkolb. It all got underway with a team time trial, which had to be neutralised due to rider concerns with the course, which included some comments about parts of the course taking place on a sandy beach!
The racing got properly underway a day later, with a short, sharp climb to finish the stage. An attack by young Esteban Chavez won him the day, as well as the red jersey. The big Dutch time trialist Tom Dumoulin took a surprising second place. This however, was all over-shadowed by the disqualification of pre-race favourite Vincenzo Nibali. A helicopter shot seemed to show him being dragged along by his team car in order to get back onto the bunch after a crash. Although his team Astana seemed disappointed at first, the disqualification meant that there was now no question of the team leader being the young Italian Fabio Aru.
Stage 3 was a day for the sprinters, with Peter Sagan taking the victory comfortably, as expected. La Vuelta is usually dubbed a ‘climber’s tour’, and so it is rare that a well-known sprinter takes part. Consequently, it is a great opportunity for young sprinters, as well as those who aren’t as successful. Other sprinters who won a stage at this year’s Vuelta were Caleb Ewan (stage 5), Jasper Stuyven (stage 8), Kristian Sbaragli (stage 10) and Danny Van Poppel (stage12).
Stage 6 was reminiscent of stage 2; it had a similar profile, as well as the same winner, Esteban Chavez. The win allowed him to retain the leader’s jersey and also to put him on the map as a possible contender. Tom Dumoulin finished well yet again with a 3rd place result. All the main favourites finished together only 11 seconds behind.
The first high mountain stage got underway a day later, along with the first breakaway winner of the Vuelta: Bert Jan Lindeman (Lotto NL). The favourites yet again finished together, except for Chris Froome, who strangely dropped back, losing valuable seconds to his rivals. Meanwhile, Chavez kept the red jersey.
On stage 8 many riders crashed, including one Peter Sagan, not because of his own error, but because he was hit by a race motorbike. An understandably angry Peter Sagan kicked out at the race cars and motorbikes before riding slowly to the finish. He had suffered first and second degree burns and therefore had to abandon. The UCI rubbed salt into the wound by fining him 300 Swiss francs for ‘damaging the image of cycling’. Sagan’s team – Tinkoff Saxo – were outraged, and issued statements about the dreadful behaviour of some race motorbikes. On the following stages, the length between the riders and cameras was elongated to ten metres.
Chris Froome showed resurgent form on stage 9 to come second at the finish. The winner was Tom Dumoulin, surpassing all expectations to take the race lead. The following stage took in the mountains of Andorra and had been called by some ‘the hardest stage in Grand Tour history’. Fabio Aru catapulted himself into the red jersey with a stunning performance in which he beat his nearest rival (Rodriguez) by more than half a minute. Stage 11 also saw the end of the road for Chris Froome, who crashed early on and never looked comfortable again. A post stage x-ray revealed that he had broken his foot, effectively ending his season.
Aru retained the race lead on another hard day of racing on stage 14, but showed his first signs of weakness when losing a few seconds to Quintana and Rodriguez. Rodriguez, who moved closer to the overall lead, won stage 15. In the meantime, Dumoulin kept a high tempo and remained close behind the pair. By stage 16, Rodriguez was finally able to take the red jersey with a searing attack, however, he had only a seconds advantage over Aru. Dumoulin lurked close behind once more.
Stage 17 played host to a 34km time trial, and an opportunity for Dumoulin to take the race lead, which he duly did, albeit by three seconds from Fabio Aru. Despite repeated attacks on stage 18 and 19, Aru was unable to shake the red jersey off Dumoulin’s shoulders. Dumoulin looked set to win his first grand tour until he cracked on stage 20 as a result of a brutal pace set by team Team Astana. On the day, Dumoulin dropped from 1st to 6th, with Fabio Aru taking one of the most dramatic Vueltas in history, ahead of Joaquim Rodriguez and Rafael Maijka.
Meanwhile, the Tour of Britain took place on our streets and made for some brilliant racing – although not as exciting as the Vuelta! Edvald Boasson-Hagen of MTN Quebeka won the overall lead, 13 seconds ahead of Wouter Poels. Elia Viviani won three stages, whilst Greipel had to settle for one. The mountains and sprints jersey both went to the same rider, and the points competition was won by Owain Doull of Team Wiggins.
The next big race is the world Championships, which take place on the week beginning on the 19th of September. It is a tight and technical course, with Cav and Geraint Thomas spearheading the British team. Peter Sagan is the race favourite, but let’s be honest, is there ever a race where Peter Sagan isn’t a favourite?