Thursday, December 31, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Brad Wiggins made the much anticipated move over to the British super Team Sky several weeks ago, after a lengthy courting period between himself and the newly formed team. Wiggins spent the better part of the last half of 2009 denying that he was moving to Sky, only to do just that at the conclusion of the season. Garmin representatives were classy in the way they expressed their disappointment, but it was clear that they, and others in the cycling world, thought Wiggins could have handled the situation better.
Just recently, Saxo Bank's Andy Schleck blogged that he didn't think the way that Wigins handled his transfer was done is a professional manner. Likewise, Wiggins' former teammate and countryman David Millar was clearly displeased that Wiggins abandoned the Garmin team. Also, as evidenced by a recent EP poll, it seems as though fans too are turned off by Wiggins, as few showed any interest in seeing the Brit win the Tour de France in 2010.
Now that Wiggins is with the Sky team, it will be interesting to see how he handles the pressure of being a sole team leader for the Tour de France. In 2009 he was able to ride without pressure, and he rode valiantly to finish in the top 5 overall. But now as the leader of team Sky, Wiggins will find his 2010 experience far different from 2009. Coming in under the radar at the Tour is far less stressful than as a high-profile favorite.
As good as the move to Team Sky must feel for Wiggins, he must be aware of the intense pressure that has now been placed on his shoulders. Should he falter in 2010, it will suggest that the Garmin team were as responsible for his success as he himself was. Team Sky management have already spent a sizable sum of money and time to bring Wiggins into the fold, and they will be satisfied with nothing less than a podium appearance at the Tour in 2010. Like it or not, 2010 is shaping up to be a do or die year for Wiggins and his newly formed reputation as a grand tour contender.
Monday, December 28, 2009
It is never a good thing when a rider tests positive for performance enhancing drugs, but it is particularly bad when it happens to be a high-profile rider that is on a roll. So when Tom Zirbel announced recently that his A sample was positive for DHEA, cycling fans across America must have cringed in sadness and frustration.
Zirbel was on the up after a scintillating 2009. He rode strong as part of the Bissell cycling team all last year, and won the overall NRC title with consistent riding at America's biggest races. Then in September he blaze the individual time trial course in Greenville at the US Pro time trial championships, paving the way for a trip to Europe for the world time trial championship and a ne contract with the Pro Tour Garmin-Transitions cycling team.
Now though, all that is gone and it likely won't come back. Zirbel was on the precipice of competing day in and day out against the best rides in the world, but with the news of his A sample positive, Garmin dropped him from their roster with urgency. Even if he is somehow cleared of doping with his B sample, it is unlikely that Garmin would offer him a contract.
At 31, Zirbel knows that his time as an elite cyclist is short. Should be end up with a two year ban, his career is probably over. And once again, a rider who is seemingly above doping tests positive, reminding us all once again that the only thing that matters today is the test result. A rider may seem like the nicest guy in the world, he may even express that he is ignorant of products like DHEA, but a positive test is a positive test. Should his B sample come back positive, Zirbel will have little credibility in his claims that he didn't willingly dope. Sad news for a great rider and man, and news that will not only hurt cycling, but also the domestic racing scene in America.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Mark Cavendish has made it clear that next year's world road championship race in Australia is one of his top targets for 2010. The Englishman established himself as the fastest man on two wheels last season, and he is now setting the bar extremely high for himself for the upcoming year. In addition to world's, Cavendish has also stated that he wants to win his first green jersey at the 2010 Tour, a prize he narrowly missed out on last season to Thor Hushovd.
As of now there is a bit of uncertainty surrounding Cavendish's chances at winning the rainbow jersey next year. The British team has yet to be announced, and Cavendish will need a solid support team around him if he is to seriously threaten for the gold in Geelong next year. He'll also have to remain healthy and injury free leading up to the race, of sound mind and body when he comes to the start line next fall.
Anyone who doesn't rate Cavendish as one of the top favorites for the world title next year are either misled or ignorant of Cavendish's talent. He is a front-line explosive sprinter capable of taking victory in any race that doesn't feature steep climbs leading to the finish line. In some cases in fact, he can even deal with a climb close to the finish line, as he did in taking Milan-San Remo last year. Each season he has improved his ability to hang tough during climbs, and 2010 should see him improve once again.
The road course in Australia next year is already being touted as a sprinter-friendly course. There are rolling hills throughout the race, but the finish is flat. Cavendish will need to use his teammates wisely during the bulk of the race so that he conserves energy in the arid Australian heat, and he'll also need to be sure to keep several of his teammates fresh enough to provide him a solid lead out when the sprint begins.
If Cavendish has good health and a strong team with a good lead out train supporting him, he will be almost unbeatable next year in Geelong. He is a proven sprinter capable of besting any other rider providing he is set up properly in the final 500 meters. He face stiff competition next year for the world title, but he remains without a doubt the number one favorite for the win next year.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
One of EP's favorite cycling fan sites without a doubt is Podium Cafe. Led by in-the-know writers and passionate fans, Podium Cafe is a great destination for anyone looking to increase their cycling knowledge while keeping abreast of the daily goings on in the pro cycling world.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
The Santos Tour Down Under is less than a month away, the true beginning of the 2010 cycling season. Over the past few seasons the race has enjoyed some very high profile participants, and 2010 will see the strongest field yet. World Road champion Cadel Evans will be on had to race, as will other big names such as Alejandro Valverde, Lance Armstrong, George Hincapie and Michael Rogers. However, being that the race is so early in the cycling season, is the Tour Down Under merely a "parade lap" for the above mentioned pros?
A rider like Cadel Evans has absolutely no chance of winning a stage race that does not feature at least one up hill mountain top finish. The Santos Tour Down Under is relatively flat throughout, so Evans and other true GC-style riders will know going into the race that they don't have a realistic chance to win it. Will the crowd be treated to seeing Evans, Armstrong and the rest racing at the front of the fields, or will they instead choose to be pack fill, rolling around Australia looking only to gain base miles ahead of bigger season objectives?
The answer undoubtedly must be the latter. For a top stage racer like Armstrong, Valverde, or Evans, the Tour Down Under just doesn't present them with a realistic chance at victory. Sure, they could get extremely lucky and find themselves in a break without any other top favorites early on, but the likelihood of that happening is almost nill. Instead, the big name stage racers will view the TDU as a chance to show themselves in front of the Australian fan base while building their form for later in the year.
To some fans it may seem disappointing to know that many of the best known riders taking the start line aren't riding the TDU to win. But unfortunately, with the cycling season as long as it is and the relatively easy parcours of the TDU, it is impossible for Evans and the rest to arrive in top form for the season starting stage race. Fans will have to be satisfied with seeing their idols race on Australian soil, sign autographs before each stage, and mug for the cameras before and after each stage.
While Armstrong, Evans and the rest won't be looking to win stages or the overall, it still wouldn't be surprising to see many of them riding at the front of the race as they support teammates with ambitions. For Evans too there is the added motivation of holding the coveted rainbow jersey of world champion. As the first Australian world champion, Evans will be keen to show off his new kit to his home crowd. Armstrong too will likely be allowed to "attack" during one or two stages, to give the fans a thrill.
Another encouraging point to remember for the fans is the fact that some of the world's top sprinters will be at the Tour Down Under looking for stage wins and overall victory. Robbie McEwen of Katuysha will be coming into the TDU in top form, as will Andre "Gorilla" Greipel. Radioshack's Gert Steegmans will be looking for redemption after a down 2009, as will Milram's Robert Forster.
Unfortunately for the Tour Down Under, its early date on the schedule and easy course profiles will probably never allow it to position itself as a race for all-arounders. Instead, as a Pro Tour event and a great race for base miles, TDU organizers will have to invite high profile riders with the promise that the event is well-run and a good race for which to lay the groundwork for a successful season. If they can continue to do that , the Tour Down Under will see some of the world's most famous cyclists lining up to race each year, regardless of their individual chances for victory.
Posted by Briggs at 11:43 AM
Monday, December 21, 2009
Besides Chris Horner, Stuey O'Grady may be the most unlucky man in professional cycling (examples here and here). Whether crashing out of a grand tour, dramatically fainting while taking part in "hot laps" on the Moto GP circuit or catching pneumonia at the onset of a new season, the Aussie doesn't seem to be able to keep himself and his body out of trouble from one season to the next.
O'Grady is known as a tough-as-nails rider capable of winning in a variety of situations, but it seems as though every year he faces some terrible physical calamity that he must overcome. This year he is already under the weather, and fighting to try to regain his health in time to fight for the overall classification at his home Santos Tour Down Under.
O'Grady is still a part of the now trimmed down Saxo Bank team, and the Aussie will be counted on to lend a hand in the early spring classics, and as usual, the grand tours. He has transitioned away from being a rider that wins races to one that is better suited to to play the domestique role as a top helper in high-profile races. His strength as a rouler will be valuable in races like the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix for Fabian Cancellara and the Tour de France for the two Schleck brothers.
Now 36 years old, Stuart O'Grady is coming to the end of his career. He can probably continue on for a few more seasons if he chooses, but not if he continues to suffer from big injuries. Now more than ever O'Grady must stay upright on the bike and avoid trouble. If he can manage to stay injury free until the Tour de France, he may even be able to dream of winning one more Tour de France stage (he has three stage wins thus far) before his career comes to a close.
Friday, December 18, 2009
American cycling is enjoying a renaissance period. Behind unprecedented interest from both fans and sponsors, cycling is exploding in America, behind stalwart races like the Amgen Tour of California, Tour of Missouri, Tour of Utah, and many more. National television coverage has brought the sport of pro cycling front and center throughout the nation, and the popularity of the sport continues to grow.
It is on the local scene however that the foundation of the sport's popularity must be nurtured. Every week throughout the US in the spring, summer and fall, there are local races in every state that need both the support of established pro cyclists and cycling fans. Without these events, the American cycling scene will not continue to develop, leaving fewer Americans contesting big races like the Tour de France.
The 2009 cycling season saw many top pros participating in smaller races in the interest of drumming up interest in the local cycling scene. The highest profile of these riders was undoubtedly Lance Armstrong, who chose to ride several smaller races last season, including the Tour of the Gila and the Nevada City Cycling Classic. For those races he also brought along his teammates Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner, adding to the mystique of the event and pushing crowds above 30,000.
Other top domestic pros could be found "toiling" at other local races throughout the year. In California this was particularly true, with several well-known local pros lining up at smaller races in the interest of fitting in some racing between bigger races. Andy Jacques Maynes raced Santa Cruz in early spring, as well as Nevada City in June. Rahsaan Bahati, as reigning US Criterium Champion, took the line at the 4th of July Davis Crit . . . and won in a photo finish. The same was the case across the rest of America at select races throughout the year.
In 2010, the domestic cycling scene needs to see these high-profile, recognizable pros lining up at their local races in the interest of growing interest in the sport. The casual American cycling fan meanwhile must try to attend a handful of these local races. Not only are regional contests a great place to see young and developing talent, but you never know who will show up. The chance to snap a photo and talk for a few moments with the likes of Bahati, Jacques Maynes or Alex Candelario won't happen at a race like the Tour of California where the crowds are huge and the pressure high.
Hopefully names like David Zabriski, George Hincapie, Christian Vande Velde, Lance Armstrong, Chris Horner and more are planning their 2010 seasons while keeping the little guys in mind. It was not too long ago that each of the aforementioned riders were cutting their professional teeth at smaller local races, and each should take at least one opportunity in 2010 to give back to the local scene. The fans will be surprised, the sponsors pleased, and US cycling will continue to gain momentum as an increasingly popular sport in America.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
The sport of cycling had thrived throughout Europe since the early 1900s. From one day classics to three week grand tours, Europeans have supported cycling throughout the decades, and a storied tradition has developed. Races like Paris-Roubaix and Liege-Bastogne-Liege have been contested for more than 100 years, and all of the three grand tours are over 30 years old.
In America meanwhile, cycling has only just started to gain momentum. Behind Greg Lemond's breakthrough wins at the Tour de France to Lance Armstrong's dominance at the Tour from 1999 through 2005, mainstream American has finally started to take notice of the beautiful sport of professional cycling. Now, riding the wave of success, races like the Tour of California, Tour of Missouri and others have emerged as go-to events for some of the best cycling teams in the world.
The only thing missing from the US cycling scene is a major one day classic-style race. The International Championship in Philadelphia comes close, but spotty race promotion and uncertain sponsor situations from year to year keeps the best pros from showing up from one season to the next. Add the fact that the Philly race commences in June, and it is just not an attractive option to most International pros, who are busy prepping for the Tour de France by riding either the Dauphine Libere or Tour de Swiss.
The fact remains however that America needs . . . and deserves, a major one day race that will attract the biggest one day stars in the sport of cycling. And with the current climate of professional cycling in America, now is the perfect time for such a race to be established. Hopefully, one of the top race promoters in American cycling (Medalist, Breakaway Promotions) will step forward in the coming months to deliver the one day race that American fans and domestic-based cyclists so richly deserve.
Of the two promoters listed above, Medalist seems best suited to move forward with hosting a classic-style race in the coming years. Using either the Tour of California in May or the Tour of Missouri in September, Medalist could plan a one day event the weekend after either of their week long tours end. The Tour of California would seem to be best suited of the two, as many of the world's top riders would already be stateside, and therefore more likely to stay in the US for one more week in hopes of adding a prestigious title (and large cash prize) to their palmares.
May is a good month weather-wise throughout western America. Therefore, a one day race could take place not only in California, but Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, or Utah. Each of the aforementioned states feature large cities that could accommodate a big time race as well as some of the most dynamic and picturesque riding in the entire country. Colorado in particular seems an attractive locale, due to its established cycling community.
America has emerged over the past few years as a force in the International cycling scene. The best riders in the world want to race in America, and the general public wants to see them race. The crowds are there, the athlete interest in there, the only things that isn't there is the race. Hopefully, over the next few years, that will change and America will see big time racing featuring the best one day cycling specialists int he world.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Alejandro Valverde Under Pressure: Impending CAS Dates Create Anxiety for Planned Tour Down Under Start
Alejandro Valverde's plan to race the Santos Tour Down Under to begin his 2010 season is being met with a level of anxiety among some Australian press. Still dogged by doping allegations stretching back to the 2006 Operacion Puerto investigation, Valverde has soldiered on, ignoring the looming CAS dates.
Alejandro Valverde is a well-known rider and newly crowned grand tour winner after his victory at last year's Vuelta a Espana. But as has been the case since about 2008, Valverde continues to be hounded by doping allegations from the Spanish investigation. To his credit, Valverde has managed to ride well despite the pressure of possibly being banned worldwide. He is currently banned from riding in Italy after the CONI judged that he was guilty of being involved in Operacion Puerto, but despite that has still managed to find success in other countries, including his home country of Spain.
Unfortunately for cycling, the Operacion Puerto debacle has continued to drag on with little or no resolution. The true facts of the case become hazier and hazier with each passing year, and the cycling public is not sure what to think. Italy says Valverde is guilty, WADA has yet to significantly respond and Spain stands stolidly behind Valverde. Instead of closure, Operacion Puerto drags on and on and on, threatening to affect racing in 2010 despite the fact that the investigation completed nearly four years ago.
Hopefully Valverde will win his CAS cases and all will be set right. But if not, if he is found guilty of doping way back in 2006, the Tour Down Under may have to manage a media frenzy leading up to their event. Instead of focusing on today's clean riders intent on perpetuating a positive image for cycling, the 2010 Tour Down Under could devolve into a public condemnation against one rider for his involvement in a scandal that is now ancient history. For the Tour Down Under, the cycling public and the riders and teams, this could end up setting a terrible tone for the new year, which is exactly what cycling doesn't need in these uncertain economic times.
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Now that the Amgen Tour of California has moved to May, there are few stage races that offer professionals a chance to hone their early season form in hopes of being "race-ready" for the spring classics and early season stage races. Luckily though, the Santos Tour Down Under continues to be scheduled in January, at the very beginning of the cycling season.
Once an obscure stage race on the other side of the world, the Tour Down Under is fast developing into a power player on the early season cycling scene. Now designated as a Pro Tour event, the TDU hosts the top teams in the world, and increasingly, some of the best riders in the International peloton. The winner of the TDU is also designated the first wearer of the Pro Tour points jersey, which adds an extra level of intrigue to the budding stage race.
In 2009, Lance Armstrong chose to make the TDU his comeback race, to the delight of Aussies everwhere. His attending the event pushed crowd size and world recognition to another level, and "Big Tex" is planning on being at the Tour again in 2010. Other huge cycling stars have confirmed in the past few weeks, including world champion Cadel Evans, 2009 Vuelta a Espana winner Alejandro Valverde, defending US Pro champion George Hincapie, and a host of the top Australian cyclists in the world.
Assuming they can hold onto their Pro Tour status, the organizers of the Tour Down Under should feel great about the long term prospects of their race. Unrivaled and without a doubt the biggest stage race of the first two months of the year, the TDU should continue to gather momentum as bigger and bigger cycling stars choose to use the race for early season preparation. Add to that a thriving Australian cycling movement and great reviews from past participants, and the Tour Down Under may see some of cyclings biggest stars coming not only for training miles, but to win the event, in the near future.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Tom Boonen had a rough 2009 season, but he got one thing right . . . he won Paris-Roubaix. The Belgian superstar, known for his fierce style on the cobbles, once again lambasted a quality field at the "Hell of the North," taking to the top step of the podium for the third time. Now on the precipice of greatness, Boonen will hope to win the event for the fourth time this coming season, matching the record for most wins at the legendary monument, with Roger De Vlaeminck.
De Vlaeminck won his four Paris-Roubaix titles against some of the best riders in the history of the sport, including the great Eddy Merckx. A iron-jawed strongman with a diesel engine and will to match, De Vlaeminck took four titles, all in the 1970's, establishing himself as the greatest rider in the history of Paris-Roubaix. Were Boonen to match De Vlaeminck's record, he too would be mentioned alongside De Vlaeminck as the best rider in the history of Paris-Roubaix.
That Boonen is only 29 is to his advantage, as he is just now entering his prime. Adding two or even three more Paris-Roubaix titles before his career ends seems possible, providing that he continues to have good luck and good sensations in the world's toughest one day bicycle race. Also, his experience at Roubaix will be key in determining how many more times he wins the race, as Boonen seems to refine his approach to the "Queen of the Classics" each year.
The only factor that will keep Tom Boonen from tying De Vlaeminck in the next few years is himself. He has had a tough time managing his personality off the bike, which has led to in season suspensions and constant media scrutiny throughout the last two seasons. If Boonen is to win four, or five Roubaix titles, he must find a way to resist the temptations of drugs and alcohol.
Tom Boonen is known worldwide as one of the most approachable and likable pro cyclists in the peloton. He is cheerful and engaging, and a rider that is easy to root for. Whether or not he ever wins Roubaix again, Boonen will be remembered as one of the best one day riders of his generation. But with one or two more Roubaix wins, he'll cross over into the all-time great category, and as the King of Paris-Roubaix.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Fabian Cancellara 43.5% 30 votes
Alejandro Valverde 4.3% 3 votes
Lance Armstrong 1.4% 1 votes
Andy Schleck 8.7% 6 votes
Alberto Contador 42.3% 30 votes
Mark Cavendish 11.3% 8 votes
Alejandro Valverde 0.0% 0 votes
Lance Armstrong 2.8% 2 votes
Andy Schleck 7.0% 5 votes
Denis Menchov 12.7% 9 votes
Thor Hushovd 5.6% 4 votes
Bradley Wiggins 16.9% 12 votes
Ronaldo Nocentini 1.4% 1 votes
Alberto Contador 69.6% 48 votes
Alejandro Valverde 0.0% 0 votes
Lance Armstrong 1.4% 1 vote
Andy Schleck 13.0% 9 votes
Frank Schleck 0.0% 0 votes
Franco Pellizotti 11.6% 8 votes
Carlos Sastre 2.9% 2 votes
Denis Menchov 1.4% 1 votes
Bradley Wiggins 0.0% 0 votes
Mark Cavendish 88.9% 64 votes
Tyler Farrar 4.2% 3 votes
Alessandro Petacchi 0.0% 0 votes
Thor Hushovd 6.9% 5 votes
Tom Boonen 0.0% 0 votes
Philippe Gilbert 65.6% 42 votes
Edvald Boasson Hagen 6.3% 4 votes
Thomas Lovkvist 0.0% 0 votes
Frank Schleck 0.0% 0 votes
Andy Schleck 3.1% 2 votes
Fabian Cancellara 14.1% 9 votes
Simon Gerrans 1.6% 1 vote
Damiano Cunego 3.1% 2 votes
Sammy Sanchez 1.6% 1 vote
Cadel Evans 4.7% 3 vote
Alejandro Valverde 0.0% 0 vote
Philippe Gilbert sweeps fall classics 14.1% 10 votes
Edvald Boasson Hagen wins Ghent-Wevelgem 9.9% 7 votes
Andy Schleck wins Leige-Bastogne-Leige 11.3% 8 votes
Cadel Evans wins world championship 39.4% 28 votes
Dennis Menchov wins centenary Giro d'Italia 8.5% 6 votes
Alejandro Valverde wins Vuelta a Espana 4.2% 3 votes
Tyler Farrar wins first grand tour stage 12.7% 9 votes
Jakob Fuglsang 8.8% 6 votes
Dan Martin 8.8% 6 votes
Vincenzo Nibali 13.2% 9 votes
Brice Feillu 5.9% 4 votes
Tony Martin 19.1% 13 votes
Andreas Kloden 10.3% 7 votes
Frank Schleck 8.8% 6 votes
Yaroslav Popovic 2.9% 2 votes
Luis Leon Sanchez 4.4% 3 votes
Michael Barry 2.9% 2 votes
Inigo Cuesta 0.0% 0 votes
Mark Renshaw 27.9% 19 votes
Danny Pate 1.5% 1 vote
Jens Voigt 41.2% 28 votes
Jens Voigt 18.1% 13 votes
Cadel Evans 16.7% 12 votes
Chris Horner 47.2% 34 votes
Levi Leipheimer 6.9% 5 votes
Juan Antonio Flecha 1.4% 1 vote
Christian Vande Velde 5.6% 4 vote
Alessandro Ballan 4.2% 3 votes
Cervelo TestTeam 43.7% 31 votes
Rabobank 4.2% 3 votes
Cofidis 0.0% 0 votes
Quick Step 1.4% 1 vote
Katuysha 5.6% 4 votes
Caisse d'Epargne 4.2% 3 votes
Aqua y Sapone 2.8% 2 votes
Garmin-Slipstream 12.7% 9 votes
Saxo Bank 7.0% 5 votes
Lampre 1.4% 1 votes
Liquigas 11.3% 8 votes
Friday, December 11, 2009
Sleeping Giant? Johan Van Summeren Joins Garmin-Transitions, Bolsters Cobbled Classics Clout for 2010
28 year old Johan Van Summeren has transferred over the Garmin-Transitions squad after a successful five year stint with the Belgian Lotto team. Van Summeren is a known cobbled-classic commodity, and he'll act as Garmin's number two option behind Martin Maaskant in some of the early season cobbled races, particularly at Paris-Roubaix. The 6 foot 5 inch tall Belgian was fifth in last year's edition of the race, and eighth in 2008.
Van Summeren may end up being the 2010 version of Brad Wiggins for the Garmin team. Garmin director Jonathan Vaughters seems to have an astute eye for undiscovered talent, and under his eye Van Summeren could make the jump from outlier to top contender at the "Hell of the North" over the next couple of seasons.
If Van Summeren improves on his fifth place finish from 2009 at Paris-Roubaix, it will be Vaughters who will deserve much of the credit. The Slipstream mastermind took a then 28 year old Brad Wiggins to the precipice of the Tour de France podium last year, paving the way for the Brit to join the new British super team Sky. Previously to 2009, there were few in the cycling world that thought Wiggins was capable of such feats in a grand tour.
Best of all for Van Summeren in 2010 is that he will be able to ride with very little pressure at the biggest races. A top performance at one of the early season cobbled-classics would be great for Vaughters and Garmin, but the American team will put more emphasis on Van Summeren to help lead out Garmin's elite sprinter Tyler Farrar. Farrar was down a man or two during several key events in 2009, and in adding Van Summeren the 25 year old Farrar will have one more big engine to lean on in bunch sprint finishes.
Once again, Garmin team director Jonathan Vaughters has gone out into the cycling free agent market and mined a diamond in the rough. Van Summeren likely won't be the first rider that springs to mind for the Garmin cycling fan when considering their chances for 2010, but by the end of the season he may well be. Belgian strong and Pro Tour proven, expect Van Summeren to be one of the bigger contributors to Garmin's success next season.
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Any serious follower of cycling has already learned about Brad Wiggins signing with the newly created Team Sky. No doubt most fans also have already poured over his comments regarding his chances for 2010 at the Tour de France. Not only did he openly bad mouth the Garmin team, but he claimed to be a superior rider to Lance Armstrong and others. He stopped short of claiming he is on the same plain as Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck, but clearly the Brit thinks highly of his chances for improving on his fourth overall placing in last year's Tour. His recent comments and actions have rubbed many the wrong way.
Brad Wiggins has always been a bit of a blow hard. He has never been shy in stating his mind, and he seems to show little regard for how others view him. In addition to hitting out against his competitors and his now former team, Wiggins even took a shot at America, claiming that he never particularly enjoyed riding there.
Now at Sky, in the prime of his career and riding an unprecedented wave of personal success on the road, Wiggins is projecting an aura of invincibility. He seems to believe that he is in a class all his own, and he seems keen to prove that fact in 2010. Whether he'll be able to live up to his own lofty appraisal of his talent is another matter though.
2010 will see an influx of powerful teams (Sky, Radioshack) as well as big competition among non-Pro Tour teams to gain invites to the Tour de France. Team Sky is certainly strong enough to be invited, but they are not yet a part of the 2010 Tour. If (and likely when) they receive an invite, they will join a strong lineup of teams, but by no means will they be the strongest. Wiggins implied recently that riding with Garmin put him at a disadvantage and that he felt a move to Sky was necessary if he was to win the Tour someday.
To be fair though, it should be noted that the team that Garmin fielded for last year's Tour was a very strong one, more than capable of supporting a GC rider's overall hopes. In fact, with Wiggins now gone, it would not be overly surprising to see Christian Vande Velde go top five in this coming year's Tour. Further, Wiggins was unproven until this past year in grand tours. That the Garmin team were willing to help him develop was admirable. It would be thought that Wiggins would have had the integrity to fulfill the final year of his contract with the team.
Brad Wiggins clearly is a strong contender for the 2010 Tour. He has found his climbing legs in the high mountains while maintaining his prowess as a top time trialist. But arriving at the Tour as a favorite instead of an under dog is a much different experience. Finishing in the top five overall in 2010 will mean that Wiggins came into the Tour in top form, handled the pressure from the world media leading up to the world's biggest bike race, and adeptly led his team as the undisputed captain for the duration of the three week event. Clearly, Wiggin's 2010 Tour experience will be far different from his 2009 foray, where all he had to do was ride his bike.