- Article published:
- June 27, 2012, 10:08
- Cycling News
British yellow jersey wearer analyses each crucial stage
With just three days to go until the biggest cycling event in the world, Cyclingnews previews each of the 20 stages that will shape the race and make or break reputations. For all the plaudits and respect earned by victories in other WorldTour events, only the Tour de France provides a shot at cycling immortality - and you can follow the race every step of the way with us.
Here, in our series of exclusive videos, former rider Chris Boardman offers his expert analysis on each stage - discussing the routes and who he expects to shine. Boardman is well qualified to pass judgement, having worn the yellow jersey at the Tour in 1994, 1997 and 1998 - one of only four British riders to achieve that honour. Boardman also won gold on the track at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and was the 1994 world time trial champion.
Video: Tour de France prologue preview with Chris Boardman
Video: Tour de France stage 1 preview with Chris Boardman
Video: Tour de France stage 2 preview with Chris Boardman
Video: Tour de France stage 3 preview with Chris Boardman
Video: Tour de France stage 4 preview with Chris Boardman
Video: Tour de France stage 5 preview with Chris Boardman
Video: Tour de France stage 6 preview with Chris Boardman
Video: Tour de France stage 7 preview with Chris Boardman
Video: Tour de France stage 8 preview with Chris Boardman
Video: Tour de France stage 9 preview with Chris Boardman
Video: Tour de France stage 10 preview with Chris Boardman
Video: Tour de France stage 11 preview with Chris Boardman
Video: Tour de France stage 12 preview with Chris Boardman
Video: Tour de France stage 13 preview with Chris Boardman
Video: Tour de France stage 14 preview with Chris Boardman
Video: Tour de France stage 15 preview with Chris Boardman
Video: Tour de France stage 16 preview with Chris Boardman
Video: Tour de France stage 17 preview with Chris Boardman
Video: Tour de France stage 18 preview with Chris Boardman
Video: Tour de France stage 19 preview with Chris Boardman
Video: Tour de France stage 20 preview with Chris Boardman
- Article published:
- June 27, 2012, 11:28
- Barry Ryan
Frenchman the youngest rider in the field
At 22 years of age, Thibaut Pinot will be the youngest rider at the Tour de France but while such precocious debutants are normally simply happy to be part of the spectacle, the FDJ-BigMat talent is determined to test himself against the best over the course of the three weeks.
“I think I’ll be the youngest rider at the Tour de France, so above all I’m going there to gain some experience and enjoy myself by trying to get a result on a mountain stage,” Pinot told Cyclingnews on Tuesday evening, in between packing his suitcase for Liège.
After a brief but brilliant amateur career at CC Etupes, capped by his stylish win at the prestigious Giro della Valle d’Aosta, Pinot was fast-tracked into the professional ranks in 2010 and his reputation has grown exponentially ever since. A strong final weekend at the Critérium du Dauphiné last season set him up for a fine summer of racing on Italian roads, and that progress has continued in 2012.
Such was the assuredness of Pinot’s showing against some of the heads of state of the peloton at the recent Tour de Suisse that FDJ-BigMat manager Marc Madiot was moved to row back on his own instincts and thrust the youngster into the Tour line-up.
“I did a very nice Tour de Suisse,” Pinot said, matter-of-factly. “I was in the top 10 of the GC until the final Saturday, so I saw that I was able to follow the best climbers there and that I was capable of going to the Tour de France.”
Pinot’s place in the Tour team was only confirmed at the weekend, once it became apparent that Arnold Jeannesson would not be fit enough to compete. Indeed, Pinot was initially slated to ride the Vuelta a España, partly because the race’s ten summit finishes are well-suited to his gifts as an explosive climber, but perhaps primarily to shield him a little longer from the expectant glare of the French public.
In the event, Pinot’s late selection and the home media’s concern over Thomas Voeckler’s knee injury have helped to keep him out of the spotlight, and he has been spared the kind of giddy anticipation that saw Rémi Di Grégorio grace the cover of Vélo Magazine’s race preview ahead of his ill-fated Tour debut in 2007.
“The team was thinking of sending me to the Vuelta so that I wouldn’t have too much pressure on my shoulders at the Tour because there’s a lot of expectation surrounding me,” Pinot said. “Maybe the route of the Vuelta would have been better suited to me, but it’s the Tour de France that makes me dream. Besides, at the Tour de Suisse I saw that I was in the form to follow the best in the mountains, so I thought why not take advantage of that.”
Impressive as Pinot was on the mountain stages to Verbier and Arosa during the Tour de Suisse, his race ultimately finished in disappointment. Lying in the top 10 on the morning of the final stage, he was forced to pull out of the race after being hit by sunstroke.
“I did a really good stage on the Saturday on the climb to Arosa but that evening I fell ill,” he said. “I was running a temperature and I had a headache. The following morning I had no strength and I still had a temperature. It’s the first time that I suffered from the heat like that in a race and given how well I was going, that was a big disappointment.”
Even so, Pinot could take solace from the way in which he kept pace with the likes of Robert Gesink and Tom Danielson in Switzerland, and his aim is to see if he can repeat the feat in the white heat of July. “I really didn’t think I would be up with them at their level just before the Tour de France,” he said. “If I was still up there with guys like Danielson, Gesink and Valverde in the mountains at the Tour, then I’d be very happy.”
While Pinot will be afforded the freedom to express himself on the roads of France this July, he stressed that he would not be the outright leader of an FDJ-BigMat team whose primary currency at the Tour is stage victories. “We’ll take stock after the opening week because that could be dangerous with crashes and echelons,” he said. “We’ll see where I am after the Planche des Belles Filles stage but really I’ll be taking it one stage at a time.”
Stage 7 to La Planche des Belles Filles, of course, is of particular resonance for Pinot. The race passes through his home town of Mélisey – where his father is the mayor – and he trains regularly on the slopes of the final climb itself. “They’re roads that I know by heart so I hope I’m able to ride well there,” he said.
“It’s quite a steep climb but also pretty regular. Above all, the final 500 metres are really very difficult. It’s quite a short climb so the gaps won’t be very big, but it suits a puncheur-grimpeur. It’s the stage that makes me dream the most, of course.”
Those dreams began when he watched the Tour from the roadside when it passed through his home region during its sodden opening week in 1996. Along with his brother Julien, now a coach at FDJ-BigMat after a heart problem cut short his racing career, the six-year-old Pinot anxiously scanned the passing peloton in search of his first idol, Miguel Indurain.
It was no real surprise, then, that Pinot opted for the Tour over the Vuelta. “It’s true that this year's Vuelta has 10 summit finishes but it’s not every year that the Tour year passes by your home."
- Article published:
- June 27, 2012, 12:14
- Cycling News
Team and Nation rankings also analysed this week
National Championships Review
Eight out of the ten national road race championships in the IG Pro Cycling Index took place over a busy weekend of cycling. With all the results from Europe now in, there have been some interesting movements in the Index.
The most prominent mover was a rider who did not even race at the weekend. Australian Cadel Evans climbed two spots to 4th spot despite not adding any points to his total. His rise was due to Bradley Wiggins deciding not to defend his British title and Philippe Gilbert failing in his attempt to defend his Belgian title.
Gilbert lost his title to Tom Boonen, who is the Belgium champion for the second time in his career. Boonen’s win closed the gap at the top of Index between him and Joaquin Rodriguez. The gap is now at just 64 points. However, a change at the top may not come around until the Tour of Poland as both riders are not on the start line for the Tour de France.
Three national road race winners from the weekend moved into the top 100. Francisco Ventoso edged out Koldo Fernandez in a sprint finish to win the Spanish title. He rose from 147th to 67th. One place below now is Fabian Wegmann, who won the German national road race for the third time in his career. Wegmann narrowly beat Linus Gerdemann to win the race. Gerdemann is this week’s highest new entry in 116th place due to his 2nd place.
In Britain, Ian Stannard led home a Team Sky 1-2 with Alex Dowsett in second place. Stannard is up to a career-high 83rd place, as is Dowsett, who is in 165th. The new French champion is Nacer Bouhanni. He enters the top 200 for the first time in 189th place. Sadly for Bouhanni he was not included in FDJ-BigMat’s Tour de France team so the French national champion’s jersey will be missing from the biggest race in France.
In Italy the controversial Franco Pellizotti returned from his two-year ban for irregular biological passport values with a bang by winning the road race with a solo attack. Pellizotti re-enters the top 200 at 198th place. Last year’s winner Giovanni Visconti failed to finish the tough race that saw only 15 finishers. Sadly for him a large chunk of his points total is now gone and he drops outside the top 200.
Team and Nation rankings
Every couple of months we release the Pro Cycling Index’s national and team rankings. The latest rankings make interesting reading ahead of the Tour de France.
Team Score (top 15 riders)
SKY PROCYCLING: 20472
BMC RACING TEAM: 15986
OMEGA PHARMA-QUICKSTEP: 15610
KATUSHA TEAM: 13824
MOVISTAR TEAM: 12222
RABOBANK CYCLING TEAM: 10996
VACANSOLEIL-DCM PRO CYCLING: 10479
ORICA GREENEDGE: 9545
PRO TEAM ASTANA: 9340
AG2R-LA MONDIALE: 7764
FDJ-BIG MAT: 7215
TEAM EUROPCAR: 6925
TEAM ARGOS-SHIMANO: 6602
TEAM SAXO-BANK-TINKOFF BANK: 6082
COFIDIS-LE CREDIT EN LIGNE: 5009
FARNESE VINI-SELLE ITALIA: 4134
COLNAGO-CSF INOX: 3415
TEAM NETAPP: 3221
The team rankings are calculated by adding the top 15 points scorers from each team together. Coming out on top by a huge margin is Team Sky. This is hardly surprising as they currently have 16 riders in the top 200 and three in the top 10. The only other team who is close to this total is Radioshack-Nissan, who have 14 riders in the top 200.
Team Saxo Bank–Tinkoff Bank are currently bottom of the UCI WorldTour rankings and are in danger of losing their place in the WorldTour. Their position in the Pro Cycling Index rankings also spells trouble. They are currently below two UCI ProContinental teams in the rankings - Team Europcar and Team Argos-Shimano. Both these teams are at a disadvantage to Saxo Bank as they race in less top end races. The fact that they are both above them at this point in the season shows how Saxo Bank are under pressure to put in some points winning performances in before the end of the season.
The national rankings in the Pro Cycling Index are calculated by adding together a nation's top nine riders' scores in the Pro Cycling Index.
Country Score (top 9 riders)
GREAT BRITAIN: 12299
CZECH REPUBLIC: 2584
NEW ZEALAND: 1941
Leading the way at the top are Spain, who, as well as having the Index leader, have two other riders in the top 20 - Samuel Sanchez and Daniel Moreno. Belgium and Italy complete the top three as you would expect from those traditionally dominant cycling nations. It is Great Britain in fourth, Australia in fifth and USA in ninth that highlight the increasing numbers and quality of English speaking riders in the professional peloton.
As well as these nations having their own teams (Team Sky, Orica-GreenEdge and Garmin-Sharp etc), on the WorldTour they also have plenty of riders competing at the top level outside of these teams. Cadel Evans at BMC, Levi Leipheimer at Omega Pharma-Quickstep and David Millar at Garmin being the most high profile. How long will it be before we see an English speaking nation top the rankings? The Tour de France could see this happen.
About the IG Markets Index
The IG Pro Cycling Index is a 12 month rolling ranking system designed to answer the question “Who is the best cyclist in the world?” We teamed up with sports data experts Opta to create a comprehensive cycling ranking system that was based on an entirely new formula. We source results from the 120 top international road races throughout the season. Races are ranked by our expert panel, based on their prestige and their importance to cycling fans and put into four tiers in three different categories.
The IG Pro Cycling Index has a number of features that make it unique: Races are tiered depending on history, importance and calibre of field rather than UCI Class. So winning the Tour of Beijing will not give you the same points as winning Paris-Nice or the Dauphiné. Wins carry much greater weight and are rewarded more than placings. Bonus points are awarded for multiple victories in the top races, winning the most prestigious stages at the Grand Tours or winning multiple classics.
- Article published:
- June 27, 2012, 13:07
- Cycling News
RadioShack-Nissan rider regrets absence of brother Andy
Fränk Schleck has warned not to expect too much of him in the Tour de France, saying he is no longer at his peak and will not be amongst the top riders. The absence of his brother Andy is a loss not only to him but to their team RadioShack-Nissan as well, he said.
“My peak form is over, I cannot ride with the topmost and do not want to be the leader of the team,” he told Het Nieuwsblad. “If the results are looked at, there will be criticism of me and I do not want that. I am not a machine and can not always be first rate.”
He has raced so much already this season that he will not be able to hold his form, he said. “After the Ardennes classics, my unexpected participation in the Giro, the Tour of Luxembourg and the Tour de Suisse, I have too many race days in my legs.”
Not having his brother there will be a major factor as well. “A Tour with or without my brother Andy makes a big difference,"” he said. “We feel each other instinctively, much better than you do with teammates. Our second and third places in the Tour de France last year were no accident.”
“The loss of Andy is a bad thing for the team, because Andy was the leader. I do not feel like the leader for the Tour.”
He also denied that he had difficulties with team manager Johan Bruyneel, who said after Schleck dropped out of the Giro that he was not assured a place in the Tour de France.
"There is no problem with Johan. When I crashed, I spent three days fighting. I was in pain and he was very disappointed when I gave. Nobody can imagine how much pain you have. I am not the type to give up without a reason. I was not satisfied with his response in the press, but we have talked about it. He had the right to be disappointed, but not to be angry, but hey: it's a closed chapter.”
As to Bruyneel's involvement in the USADA doping case, “This affair does not concern our team, but dates from the past. I don't let it make me crazy. "
- Article published:
- June 27, 2012, 15:10
- Cycling News
Italian retires as news breaks
The UCI has opened disciplinary proceedings against Leonardo Bertagnolli (Lampre-ISD) for a violation of anti-doping rules based on apparent anomalies in the blood profile of his biological passport.
In a statement released on Wednesday afternoon, the UCI said that Bertagnolli “shall be accorded the right to the presumption of innocence until a final decision has been made on this matter.”
Bertagnolli had been due to appear before the Italian Olympic Committee in Rome on Wednesday to discuss allegations that he was a client of the controversial Dr. Michele Ferrari. On Tuesday, it was announced that the hearing had been postponed at the rider’s request.
On Wednesday afternoon, just prior to the UCI's publication of the news, Lampre-ISD released a statement announcing that Bertagnolli had decided to retire after the Italian Road Championships on Saturday. The team claimed that the 34-year-old, who was not picked to ride the Tour de France, had already intimated his decision to retire at the beginning of the season.
“In agreement with the staff of Lampre, I’ve decided that the Italian championships would be the last race of my career,” Bertagnolli said, according to the Lampre statement. “I thank [Giuseppe] Saronni and the Galbusera family for having welcomed me in my final years as a professional, and naturally all of my previous managers and sponsors, who have always supported me, and shared happy moments with me.”
In a further statement released later on Wednesday afternoon, Lampre-ISD distanced itself from Bertagnolli, claiming that the contested blood values on his biological passport date from 2008 and 2009, before he joined the team.
The squad underlined that it had noted “with surprise that […]the potential violations dated back to the period 2008 and 2009, when he was not in the blue-fuchsia team.” Furthermore, Lampre-ISD noted that “no anomalies were detected in all the blood exams performed within the internal monitoring program that the team performed in cooperation with Mapei Sport Center in 2011 and 2012 (when Bertagnolli was a member of Lampre-ISD) and in the biological passport exams that were performed in the same period.”
Bertagnolli joined Lampre-ISD from Androni Giocattoli ahead of the 2011 season. The Italian's greatest success came in 2009, when he won a stage of the Giro d'Italia into Faenza.
Bertagnolli is the first rider to be snared by the UCI’s biological passport since May 2010, when the governing body opened disciplinary proceedings against Franco Pellizotti, Jesus Rosendo Prado and Tadej Valjavec.
While Prado ultimately escaped a ban, both Pellizotti and Valjavec were ultimately handed two-year bans. Pellizotti recently returned to action for Androni-Venezuela and was crowned Italian champion at the weekend.
- Article published:
- June 27, 2012, 16:07
- Cycling News
Lotto-Belisol rider says team is united and balanced
Germany's Andre Greipel lines up for his second crack at the Tour de France in Liege on Saturday, and the Lotto-Belisol man will begin the race as one of the most in-form sprinters in the world. Greipel tasted success by winning stage 10 at his debut Tour last year and few would bet against him adding at least one more stage to his palmares this time round.
Of Greipel's 14 wins this year, one of the most informative was the most recent - a defeat of Mark Cavendish and Mark Renshaw in stage two of the Ster ZLM Toer in Holland. It offered evidence that Greipel will fear nobody on the flat sprinting stages at the Tour and though he claimed last week that he was not thinking about winning the coveted green jersey, Greipel is upbeat about the overall state of his Lotto-Belisol team and hopes to mix it with the best sprinters around over the next three weeks.
"With Marcel Sieberg, Jürgen Roelandts and Greg Henderson, I have the best and fastest pilots imaginable at my side," Greipel said on the team website. "This is the way that I could collect seven victories in the last four weeks. It is an important foundation for the Tour and I could prove that I belong among the best sprinters. So I am looking forward to my second Tour."
Aside from his lead-out train, which is proving more and more to be one of the best in cycling with each race that passes, Greipel also said that Lotto-Belisol has strength in depth and plenty of balance - which could lead to a sustained challenge on several fronts at the Tour.
"I am particularly pleased that the team management has considered my wishes for the sprint train," Greipel said. "We are a very good team and understand each other well away from the road. The atmosphere between us is very good.
"With Jurgen Van den Broeck [4th in the 2010 Tour de France - ed.] and Jelle Vanendert, we have two strong men for the mountains. Plus with Lars Bak, Adam Hansen and Francis De Greef we have three good all-rounders, who will also have an important role to play."
- Article published:
- June 27, 2012, 17:04
- Cycling News
Frenchman trains before leaving for Liège
The state of Thomas Voeckler’s injured knee has been a source of concern in recent weeks but his Europcar team has confirmed that the Frenchman is fit and ready to take part in the Tour de France.
Voeckler was listed among the nine riders in Europcar’s Tour selection on Monday even though he had spent a week off the bike after abandoning the Route du Sud on the slopes of the Col du Soulor, citing an inflammation of his right knee.
Although Voeckler trained for two hours on Monday, the final doubts over his fitness were only definitively excised on Tuesday, when he took in a four-hour ride that saw him test his knee more fully.
“Everything went perfectly well,” manager Jean-René Bernaudeau told L’Équipe. “Thomas doesn’t feel any pain in his knee any more and there are no worries.”
Voeckler had begun suffering from the injury at the Critérium du Dauphiné, where he also abandoned on the final stage. He was an aggressive presence at the Route du Sud as he looked to prove his fitness, but on his abandon, he was advised to rest completely by his team doctor.
“He knew he had to listen to the advice of the doctor,” Bernaudeau said. “I know that it wasn’t easy for him to go eight days without riding, but I’m happy that he kept his word and stuck to the break that was prescribed.”
It remains to be seen what effect Voeckler’s lay-off will have on his chances of matching his 4th place overall finish of twelve months ago, although Bernaudeau admitted that his leader would need to feel his way into the race.
“Since his abandon at the Route du Sud, he’s only done eight hours on the bike all told, and it’s clear that he’s not going to be on top form for the start of the Tour,” he said. “But he’s a warrior and a hard man. The important thing today is that he has the green light.”
Voeckler was set to train again on Wednesday morning before travelling to the Tour start in Liège in the afternoon.
- Article published:
- June 27, 2012, 21:05
- Cycling News
Vos, Arndt, Pooley and Stevens headline
While all eyes are on the 2012 Olympic Games in London, the women's peloton is getting ready to tackle the most prestigious stage race on its calendar: the women's Giro d'Italia, or Giro Donne.
This year's race marks the return of Marianne Vos (Rabobank), who last year dominated the event with five stage wins including stage 7 which crested the Mortirolo. Vos has been out of international competition since breaking her collarbone in the Valkenburg Classic in May. She finished second to teammate Annemiek Van Vleuten in the Dutch road championships last weekend in her first race back.
German Judith Arndt (Orica-AIS) will be tuning her already good form which earned her dual national titles in the past week. Arndt has never won the Giro Donne, but placed second in 2010 and third in 2011.
Last year's runner-up Emma Pooley (AA Drink-Leontien.nl) will return bolstered by her selection for the Olympic Games, and will be keen to test her climbing legs in the sole uphill finish to Montecatini Alto on stage four.
Exergy Tour winner Evelyn Stevens will look to test her new-found confidence on the bike and overcome the misfortune which has plagued her previous appearances in the Giro Donne. Stevens's best finish here was 15th in 2010, but her recent performances harken better placings this year.
Sweden's Emma Johansson (Hitec Products), five-time race winner Fabiana Luperini, 2009 winner Claudia Häusler (Orica-AIS), 2008 Olympic champion Nicole Cooke (Faren Honda) and new Italian champion Tatiana Guderzo will all be riders to watch for the general classification.
This mountain stage and the time trial aside, this year's route will feature ample opportunity for the top sprinters to work on their speed and positioning for London. That list includes Ina Teutenberg and Chloe Hosking (Specialized-lululemon), world champion Giorgia Bronzini (Diadora Pasta Zara) and Shelley Olds (AA Drink-Leontien.nl).