Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Interview - Gianni Savio (Team Manager Androni Giocattoli - C.I.P.I)

After being the national coach for first Columbia (2001-2005) and then Venezuela (until last year) Gianni Savio has now decided to concentrate fully on managing his Androni Giocattoli - C.I.P.I team. A team who had a very good season starting out winning 3 stages in San Luis, 1 stage in Langkawi plus the overall win, Giro del Friuli, 2 stages plus the overall in Settimana Coppi e Bartali and then two stages in the Giro with Rujano finishing 7th in the overall classification.

The biggest signing of this year was the re-signing of José Rujano, 5 years after he quit the team during the 2006 season. Rujano never managed to get back to his former level, but with Gianni Savio he once again raised and won the big mountain stage to Grossglockner in the Giro.

Gianni, how will you describe the season for your team this year?
I think we had a very good season. We started very well. My philosophy is that it’s always very important to start out well. So we had a good preparation during the winter and we got some very good results in the first part of the season. It’s how we do, we always start out strong and then we defend our position in the second part of the season. It’s important to remember that there is an agreement between the Italian federation and the organizers of the Giro, saying that the best Italian team from the year before will get an invitation to the Giro, so that is what we are trying to obtain.

In the second part of the season there were a lot of rumors about Rujano changing team again in order to do the Vuelta. What was all that about?
No no, that was just rumors. Somebody starts talking about Rujano might want to change team to do the Vuelta, but that was never going to happen. Naturally we had no interest in letting him go, and Rujano never talk with me about it either.

Well it seems like it was the smart move for Rujano as well, since he has never managed to function in any other teams than yours…
Yes that’s true. I was the one discovering him when he was very young in a little village in the Venezuelan hills on the border to Columbia. Then he came to Italy and he had a lot of progress. We actually waited for him for 3 years to progress, without putting any pressure on him. Then he came to the Giro and he finished third. After that I think that he made some mistakes. It’s important to know that Rujano has very particular personality. I think it’s necessary to know him well, follow him and also be able to tell him “No” if it’s needed. I think that in some of the teams he went to the people around him always told him “yes, yes, yes” and made him believe he was the new God of cycling. And also, in the big teams he wasn’t being followed as well as he should have been by the team management. Somebody told him he was a champion, but the problem is that he was not a champion. He had the possibility to be one, but at that time he wasn’t a champion. Then when he came back to us and you saw what happened.

And how did you get him back?
Well, back in November last year, just when we had finished our team budget for our 16 riders, I received a phone call from Hernán Alemán [Politician, in the Venezuelan parliament] a friend of mine who is also the owner of the team Gobernación del Zulia [where Rujano was riding in the second part of the 2010 season]. He told me that he thought it was a shame that Rujano was wasting his talent only riding in Venezuela and that we should take him back to Italy to ride with the bests. I told him that I had to talk with Rujano first myself, because even though we always had a good relationship, the way we parted ways with the team wasn’t good at all. So I talked with Rujano three times and to me his mentality seemed to be changed. After that I talked with Alemán again and told him “okay” and we made a contract with Rujano for 2 years, with a significant payment increase if his results this year were good – which they turned out to be.

And next year, I suppose Rujano once again has the Giro as his big target?
Sure. He is the leader of the team and the plan for him is to prepare well for the Giro and if possible to return to podium.

About the team next year. You re-signed all of the great riders for 2011, but you still need four more riders…
Right now we have 12 riders and I think we will sign two other riders next week [this week]. One Italian rider and the other one right now is a South American. The plan is to end up with 16 riders, but our main goal was to re-sign all of our important riders first. To me it would have been crazy to lose our own riders and bring in new ones from other teams.

There was some talk about Davide Rebellin would return to your team as well…
Well, Davide was one of my riders 3 years ago and I am very sorry for how it turned out for him. It is true I have been talking with him. I tried to present him with the realism of his situation, telling him that no matter what he says then this [the positive test] is the result. So I told him to explain his situation to everybody, make a press release to let the Media know what happened. It’s not good the way he did. You can’t just disappear…

Is there any chance of seeing Davide back at Androni?
I talked with Davide and I told him that if he, right now, came forward and explained his situation and what exactly had happened, there was a possibility [to sign a contract with Androni]. But as the things are right now, it’s not possible.

Did you also fear that bringing Davide back to the team would jeopardize the chances of an invitation for the Giro?
No, that has never been in my consideration. Also the anti doping policy is very strict. UCI works very, very well against doping with the biologic passport which makes it possible for me to follow my riders. In the past that wasn’t possible. I live in Turin and I have riders all over the world, one in Florence Italy, one in Bogota Columbia, one in Caracas in Venezuela and what can I do? How I am supposed to follow every one of them? It was impossible.

What about a rider like Emmanuelle Sella. Do you think he can return to his former level?
Well, to be honest. For him to return to the same level as in 2008, I think it is very, very difficult [read between the lines…]. But he is good rider and I think he will return to a very good position again. Not to win three mountain stages, the jersey and end 5 in the GC, but sure he can return and do great things.

And does Sella know this? Because I read an interview with him before the Giro, when he was talking about aiming for the podium already…
He knows. This season was important for Sella in his way back and to prepare himself for next year as well. I think that he will make a lot better results next season, even though his year wasn’t bad for him at all. The problem with Sella is his mentality. He is very fragile. In the Giro he was too nervous all the time and for that reason he couldn’t make any better results than he did, but I hope it will be better next year.

Roberto Ferrari made a name for himself this season, what can we expect of him next year?
Roberto is a very good rider, but he was stopped by mononucleosis. He managed to finish the Giro, probably the only sprinter who did so, and then afterwards he found out he had mononucleosis. Something he had had since the third week of the race. So after the Giro he stopped and now he is preparing for the next season. He is a good sprinter and even though I hope he can beat Cavendish, I must also be realistic. We have to keep our feet on the ground. We will see…

Monday, September 26, 2011

THE CAVENDISH

Boooooom! That's how it's done kiddos! Text book win by Great Britain and Mark Cavendish. Put the best team possible together, control the pack at all time and finish it off with a gold medal.

No idea in wasting guys in breakaways without a chance to win. Bradley Winnins said, during the Vuelta, that he had preferred only to do the time trial but since he already had promised Cav to help him win the World Champs, he would do the road race as well and damn he did that race!

On the press conference afterwards, Cav said that he knew right away that he would win when he kicked in the final. That guy is simply amazing...

I know I picked Sagan to win, but it seems like he got out in the wind way too early. Still I would like to point out that I had 2 out of 4 names in the top4 and my top10 ended up looking pretty good as well ;)

So, that's all for this time...Interview with Gianni Savio will be online Monday or Tuesday - stay tuned!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Cavendish, Cavendish, Cavendish…Sagan!

It can be a long day in front of the tv - or alongside the road - tomorrow, so to spare you a lot of time, here is how the World Champions 2011 is going down…

Starting out with a classic ‘few men breakaway’, peloton chasing quietly with the help of a some small nation riders who need a new contract. Around half way through the race the big nations send out a 3rd and 4th card player to test the bunch, nothing serious, you all know how it is. Within the last 4-5 laps the real guns start blazing. Spain sends out Lastras or Barredo, Italy tries with Visconti, while Gerrans represents Australia. Belgium misses the move and chase hard with UK and Germany. On the last lap Gilbert gives a go on the small hill with 10 km to go but never gets off and decides to stop and go back to prepare the sprint...

In the last corner UK has the front. Wiggins, who has been leading the peloton for a couple of kilometers putting everybody on their limit, leaves the front to Gerraint Thomas with Cavendish on his wheel. Thomas does this thing with 50+ km/h while everybody fighting to be on Cavendish’ wheel. On the final 350 meters Greipel tries to get a jump on Cavendish who reacts quickly and get back and pass the German. Cavendish seems to take the win but on the last 50-100 meters Peter Sagan shows up. The Slovakian has been hiding all day long but now he is there, right where he needs to be. He passes Cavendish and win with a couple of meters while Italian joker Viviani takes the bronze medal thanks to a powerful finish.

That leaves us with a top10 looking a little bit like this:
1. Peter Sagan
2. Mark Cavendish
3. Elia Viviani
4. Andre Greipel
5. Oscar Freire
6. Roman Feillu
7. Philippe Gilbert
8. Heinrich Haussler
9. Tyler Farrar
10. Grega Bole

I know there are a million of different scenarios, but to be honest I wouldn’t be surprised if it all turned out something like the above.

What do you all think? Who is your favorite?

And hey, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter (www.twitter.com/mrconde) for live updates, comments and pictures!

Enjoy the race!

Interview - Jesus Hernandez (Team Saxo Bank)

Sitting in the grass in one of the spectators’ tents, watching the Women’s Road Race, not an eye on him. Alberto Contador’s best friend, team mate and right hand in the mountains; Jesus Hernandez seems to be able to walk around completely unnoticed. Somehow I guess it would be very different had Contador been here too. With a flat course like the one in Copenhagen, naturally Jesus has not been picked for the Spanish team, which is why the reason for his presence has to be found in the Women’s Road Race, where his girlfriend Anna Sanchis is participating.

About the World Championships

Jesus, how do you see the course? Is it a good one for the Spanish team?
Yes, I think so. I have just talked with the Spanish coach and he told me that Freire is very, very motivated and really wants to win this.

Sounds good. Who is your favorite for tomorrow? A lot of good riders…
Yes, indeed. There are many riders to choose between and I don’t see one super favorite. The thing is that the course is not flat, but not very hard either. Freire could win it on a good day, but also Hushovd, Cavendish and of course Gilbert who is looking very strong. The question is; who is going to control the race? It’s going to be a very nervous race with so many riders in the peloton, especially in the corners and you have to be careful not to crash.

Yesterday [Friday] both of the road races ended in a bunch sprint. If we say that won’t happen tomorrow, who is your favorite then?
Well Gilbert, no doubt about that. He has had an incredible year so far and with an uphill finish like this, he is the best man in the world.

And what about Rojas?
Rojas could be a rider for the podium, but he has nothing on Gilbert. The only riders who can beat Gilbert areFreire, Hushovd and maybe Cavendish. It’s hard to say anything about Cavendish because he has never been in the final in the World Champions, but if he is there at the end, of course he is good bet. Still, I will say it’s a better course for riders like Hushovd and Gilbert.

About Giro-Tour double, Team Saxo Bank & the future:

Okay. Let’s talk about next year. What is going on right now. The whole situation with Alberto must be very frustrating?
Well, right now Alberto is still a rider with Team Saxo Bank for the next season. I think the first hearing is in November but right now, we just think about the Tour next year. We can’t really do anything else. What happens, happens. If it’s good, great. If not, then we take it from there. Right now we take it easy and only think about winning the Tour.

Winning the Tour. Something that many thought Alberto would do this year as well. Was the Giro-Tour double too much for him?
Well, it’s important to know that when we planned this season, we didn’t even think about going to the Tour and therefore we only focused on preparing for the Giro in the best way possible. The Tour was not on the menu since we didn’t know what would happen with Alberto in July. So, because of that we just did everything for the Giro and then in May we got the word that Alberto could do the Tour and then, well…we were a little bit too tired after such a hard Giro.

And next year? Only the Tour?
Yes, next year the plan is only to do the Tour and then after that we will see about the Vuelta. If Alberto wins the Tour and still feels good, well of course we will go the Vuelta as well, but if Alberto wins the Tour and feels tired afterwards, or there are any problems, then we won’t go.

Looking at the team as it is right now. Is it strong enough?
I think that we have a very strong team. Still, I think that we need one very, very strong rider who can stay with Alberto in the mountains. We have a lot strong guys, who all work very hard, but I really think we need that one more rider who can be with Alberto at the end.

If you could pick, who would it be?
Puff… [laughing] I don’t know. They all seem to have contracts now. We just got Paulinho who is very good rider in all aspects; time trialing, on the flat, in the mountains and he moves around in the peloton very well. He is very clever and definitely a good rider for our team, especially since Richie Porte leaves us for Team Sky. We have good riders to work, but as I said, we really need a rider who can be with Alberto at the end.

Team Saxo Bank has always had a very strong team spirit, letting every rider has his chance to shine. Now, with Alberto in the team, it seems like the whole team is focused aroudn him. Like Mercatone Uno with Pantani.
Well yes, that’s true. Still, in the team we don’t have any other riders at Alberto's level. Nobody has that. So, I think it’s only normal. I mean look at how it was with Lance and Indurain, who had the whole team build up around them. Right now, the team supports Alberto and with all his wins I think it’s only to be expected. If he someday stops winning, well, then we will work for somebody else [laughing].

How about your own ambitions for the next year?
My primary goal is to arrive at the Tour with Alberto in the best shape possible. Then, in the Vuelta, if Alberto is ready, I will help him again. If he is not there, I will have the chance to fight for a stage win the mountains.

And you will ‘only’ be in races where Alberto participates?
Right now, I don’t know, but normally yes. For example in the Tour, it’s very important for us that we know each other very well. So, it will probably be like that all year. And hey, that suits me perfectly. To be riding with my best friend, well… great!

Last question. You have one more year left on your contract with Bjarne Riis and the team. What are your plans?

Well as you know, I’m staying with Alberto so if he goes so do I, but I can say that right now Alberto is very, very happy with Riis, and I’m happy with the team. If nothing happens we will stay here many, many years.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Another Aussie attack?

Australia showed off big time in the first two days of the World Champions with four medals in the time trials. Especially in the Men’s U23 when Luke Durbridge won in front of (Danish) Rasmus Quaade and fellow-countryman Michael Hepburn, who despite a crash managed to take the bronze.

Afterwards Hepburn told me that had only been focusing 50% on the time trial in order to be ready for the road race as well and like he said; “It’s always been more about the road race. I think the chances of a medal is good as long as it doesn’t come down to a bunch sprint since we really don’t have a pure sprinter on the team. Still we have one of the strongest teams and I will of course be extra motivated now after my crash here”.

So there it is folks…I know many of you probably will pick Arnaud Demare as the big favorite for today, but I go with Michael Hepburn! As jokers for the race look out for Spanish Jordi Simon and Italian Filippo Fortin. Should it end in bunch sprint Fortin is a very good card together with Dutch Jetse Bol and some of the fast Germans. Anyway I feel safe enough picking out Michael Hepburn to take another medal at these World Champions.

Follow me on Twitter (www.twitter.com/mrconde) for live updates and pictures during the race!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"3rd place is also nice"

Remember what I said about Luke Durbridge earlier this week? About that look he had in his eyes on his way to the start. Well, Tony Martin had that exact look as well today. From the very point he stepped out of the car a couple of hours before he should start all the way to the countdown session on the ramp.

He absolutely killed it from the first split time to aprox. 3-4 km from the finish when the German “now was sure that I would become World Champion”, as he stated on the press conference afterwards before adding, while looking at Fabian Cancellara, “but 3rd place is also nice”. One moment of silence occurred and then the whole room cracked up laughing, including Cancellara, while Tony Martin desperately tried to explain his way out of that comment.

Fabian Cancellara was obviously very disappointed and said that even though he was feeling good in the beginning of the course, he never managed to find his rhythm and therefore lost some mental points which caused he couldn’t give what was needed to take fifth gold medal.

For more comments and pictures of the Elite Men Time Trial please check my Twitter account at www.twitter.com/mrconde- thanks.

More updates later, stay tuned!

Ciao.

UPDATED - Last chance for Italian success against the clock

While Denmark and especially Australia have been having a blast at the World Champions so far, one of the great nations, Italy, has had absolutely nothing to celebrate during the week. Best place so far has been for young Rossella Ratto who ended 5th in the Women Junior’s time trial, 31 seconds behind Jessica Allen. Everyone else has been way off!

Noemi Cantele 18th (1,58 min down) in the Elite Women, Matteo Mammini 21st (2,42 min down) in the Men U-23 and son of Guiseppe Martinelli, Davide Martinelli came crossing the line shaking his head as 25th (1,50 min down) in the Men Junior’s. It’s true that the Italians haven’t really been lucky either, having Junior pre-favorite Alberto Bettiol calling in sick on the day of race, but all together it’s been a rather fiasco so far.

Last chance for some time trailing success is therefore today, when Adrian Malori and Marco Pinotti represents the Azzurri colors. I must say that I personally will be very surprised if we get any of the two in the top5 today, but for the Italians’ sake I hope one of them at least can make it in the top10.

UPDATE - I had a quick chat with Paolo Bettini before the time trial started, and he was very optimistic for Adriano Malori, hoping he could take a top10 spot, "everything is possible with him", he said. 

Last thing. I talked with Guiseppe Martinelli yesterday about the race today and not surprisingly he picks Tony Martin as winner. Didn’t even say a word about Pinotti and Malori…

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Elite Men Time Trial - Preview

Okay, so now it's time for the final time trial at this year's World Champions; the Elite Men, and that is with two major favorites in Tony Martin & Fabian Cancellara. It seems almost unthinkable that any other rider will win, but we still have the fight for the 3rd place to look forward to with a lot on excitement! 

Among those riders I would like to point out my own personal favorite Taylor Phinney and another youngster Jesse Sergent. I don't think that Bradley Wiggins or David Millar have what it takes to get that 3rd place this time, but look out for Richie Porte, who very well could take another medal for Australia!

Unfortunately Denmark doesn't have any podium candidates this time, since Alex Rasmussen got suspended. Michael Mørkøv and Jakob Fuglsang will be motivated as ever, no doubt about that, but against the riders I just mentioned I don't give them many chances. Top10 would be great, so let's hope for that!

True champions warm up under an umbrella

As I wrote earlier today the weather had been great ever since Monday morning, but when the second group of the Elite Women started, the first rain drops started to fall. It never went too hard, but still enough to make the roads wet. That meant that all the late starters had to warm up in wet condition, well make that everyone except one. Because while her teammate Ina Teutenberg warmed up in the rain, future World Champion Judith Arndt found a way to warm up in a dry way - see my tweets for the picture!

That turned out to be a good idea when Judith Arndt later on set the best time and that even without knowing how the other riders had been doing. “I didn’t even know my own time. I had no radio, I don’t really like riding with that. I want to concentrate fully on my own race without any outside contact”, she said on the press conference afterwards. Indeed a great tactic on the day!

It also turned out to be another great race for Denmark as we got the second medal on the day, or to be fair we didn’t really officially get it, but everybody knows Linda Villumsen is Danish despite her representing New Zealand nowadays. Linda did a great race and took silver, a medal she describe to be 50% Danish and 50% New Zealand on the press conference.

On third place Emma Pooley switched out her rainbow jersey from last year with a bronze medal and she was actually very content with the day. “I hoped to make the top10 so I am very satisfied even though it’s a shame no longer to be the World Champion. Denmark is just too flat for me”, Pooley pointed out afterwards.
Now we only one thing left to do in the city centre of Copenhagen and that is the Elite Men Time Trial tomorrow. Germany showed the way today with Judith Arndt and according to the bookmakers, Tony Martin is now the favorite for the gold medal.

Check back soon for more World Champions updates and remember to follow me on Twitter (www.twitter.com/mrconde) for live-updates, pictures and comments.

Ciao!

Danish gold!

It’s kind of amazing I must say… Last Thursday both Danish hopes for the Elite Road Race (Matti Breschel & Alex Rasmussen) were out and the weather forecast said “rain, rain rain”. Now it’s Thuesday and we two Danish medals and absolutely no sign of the rain!

The Danish gold went to young Mads Wurtz Schmidt who won the Men Junior’s time trial and really seemed surprised at the press conference. “Well, to be honest this is a huge surprise for me”, he said. “My goal this morning was top10 so ending up with the rainbow jersey is just simply amazing”.

In a little less than an hour the Elite Women start their time trial and this could very well be the first time during this World Champions that we don’t get an Australian rider on the podium. The big favorites are Judith Arndt, Emma Pooley, Amber Neben, Marianne Vos and Danish Linda Villumsen (who know rides for New Zealand) so it really requires some extra from Taryn Heather if she wants to continue to Aussie dominance…

Come back later for more info!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Kangaroo attack!

While everybody was fearing - and expecting - it to be a rainy first day of the World Champions in Copenhagen it turned out to be surprisingly sunny and we even got a Danish silver medal in the Men U-23 time trial with Rasmus Quaade! Awesome!

Still I’m sure that the Australian team is celebrating even more than us Danes tonight. Three medals in two disciplines! Jessica Allen started out taking the gold in the Women Junior time trial and after that Luke Durbridge and Michael Hepburn sandwiched up Rasmus Quaade by taking 1st and 3rd.

I’ve have all day long – especially on Twitter – pointed out that I saw Luke Durbridge as the favorite for today and on his way to the start I got it confirmed. Durbridge almost crashed into me and it was easy to see that he hadn’t eye for anything else than that gold medal. I won’t forget that look in his eye anytime soon. So focused and so motivated!

Rasmus Quaade said, on the press conference after the race, that he didn’t ‘lose the rainbow jersey’, but instead ‘won a silver medal’ and that seems like a fair assumption. Nobody stood a chance against Luke Durbridge today. In fact it seems like the only one who wasn’t sure of him winning the gold medal was Durbridge’s girlfriend, waiting with the Australian team near the finishing line. First when Durbridge crossed the line she started to jump and shout and ran to congratulate her boyfriend in a tornado of cameras. I’m sure you all saw the pictures…

So that’s it for today folks. It’s been a great first day of the World Champions and I just hope and pray that the weather will stay the same all week.

Don’t forget to check my Twitter account for photos and live updates every day during this week! Find it at http://www.twitter.com/mrconde

Pancake atmosphere

The UCI World Champions in Copenhagen has finally started. Weather forecast threatened with rainy days, but this Monday has been all sunshine so far. Perfect!

First gold medal of the day went to young Australian Jessica Allen in the Women Junior time trial and as I have been saying a couple of times already today I am pretty sure the Kangaroo country will take another gold medal later today. First of all because Australia probably have THE biggest favorite in Luke Durbridge and second because they even have the second or third favorite as well in Michael Hepburn. Being Danish and everything of course I hope our own podium favorite Rasmus Quaade can do well, but against Luke Durbridge, Michael Hepburn, Yoann Paillot, Matteo Mammini and Anton Vorobyev I think he should be happy if he makes the podium!

The press center for the time trial is hosted in the Town Hall of Copenhagen on the second floor in the ballroom where the Mayor is known for serving pancakes to his visitors. Impressive surroundings that I fear the sports hall near the road race will have big problems matching in the weekend…

Anyway the the World Champions is now in-play and I will report back later. Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Interview - Sacha Modolo (Colnago - CSF Inox)

For quite some time Sacha Modolo has been on my list of potential future supersprinters. Last year he surprised many with his 4th place in Milano-San Remo, and even though this season didn't start out as great as last year, Modolo really took revenge in especially August and September. Winning Coppa Agostoni and 2 stage wins in both Post Danmark Rundt, Settimana Lombarda & Giro di Padania earned him a spot on the Italian national team for the World Champions in Copenhagen.




Sacha, great final part of the season for you! How do you feel right now about a week away from the World Champs?
I feel fine. Very relaxed. I am still young and have a lot to learn.

Italy is bringing a very strong team to Denmark, how do you see the team’s strength?
Our squad is young and hungry and we really want to do well. That it something we use. We will be escorted and protected by two outstanding riders like Paolini and Tosatto who will take care of us in the best possible way. Bennati has a lot of experience and we youngsters will have the opportunity to learn from them.

Bettini says that Italy needs to be represented in the all the breakaways and not just sit and wait for bunch sprint. What do you think will be the perfect scenario in order to bring the rainbow jersey to Italy?
Well, we are all very good for a sprint in a small group and I think that will be the ideal scenario for us. At the World Champions only the first place counts, but of course for me, with only 24 years, the podium would be a good result.

Talking about the other nations, which teams do you see as the strongest ones for the race?
First of all Spain and Australia. I’m also sure that the Belgian team will try to make the race as hard as possible while Great Britain needs to keep it all together for Mark Cavendish for a mass sprint.

And to put some names on riders who will fight for the title?
Hushovd, Freire, Gilbert, Goss and hopefully some of ours as well! Also look out for Cancellara. They don’t talk much about him, but I think he will be hiding and then be there in the end.

If you had to pick a “dark horse” for the win, who would that be?
Peter Sagan. He is young but he is monster! Good uphill and very fast in a sprint. He is a complete rider and actually much more a favorite than an outsider I would say.

Friday, September 16, 2011

World Champions 2011 - Very interesting route!

As promised I went to check out the route for the up-coming World Champions Road Race in Denmark. But let’s make something clear, it’s not really IN Copenhagen. It’s about half and hour outside of the city…Anyway here is how it went down.
Starting on top of the finishing line it’s downhill from the beginning before you turn right and continue straight out (not really uphill as the route profile says…) after around 2 km you take a left turn and this is where the steepest part of the route is. I wanted to take a quick photo with my iPhone while riding, but by mistake it started out as a video so I decided to continue all the way to the top (meaning riding with one hand not able to change gear, not optimal!..). See the video below:

video
On top of this little hill you go right and later on left where the next little hill is placed.  Not very hard at all, but perfect placed in the middle of the fields and I’m sure it will be of the places with the best atmosphere on the route!
One of the most beautiful parts of the route. I expect it to be
packed like crazy with fans!

From this point on it’s straight out all the way to the last turn where you go right. Now you can see the finishing line on the top of the hill and even though it might look a little steep it’s really not…You hit in high speed and I can’t imagine it crossing Cavendish’s chances of a rainbow jersey.

Finishing line on top of the "hill"...
That being said Mark Cavendish is no longer my number one favorite for the title. Seeing the actually route my grand favorite is now young-gun Peter Sagan! If the race doesn’t turn out to be too long for Sagan and he still is in the pack in the end, I can’t see any other (maaaybe Oscar Freie on a super day) than Sagan taking the jersey. There...I said it!

I will be present at the World Champions all week, so stay tuned for more info from the inside track ;) 

Monday, September 12, 2011

Congratulation Juanjo Cobo!

For many years I have waited for the day when Juanjo Cobo would take his first big win and yesterday it finally happened. Being one of the very underdogs before the Vuelta started, Cobo turned out to be the strongest in the mountains and his stage win on Angliru pretty much speaks for itself.

Denis Menchov lost valuable time in the first couple of days – without that he would probably have won the Vuelta – but still showed his class by helping Cobo in the last week. Even one-captain-only Carlos Sastre was up pulling the peloton for Cobo. It really was an outstanding performance by the whole GEOX team who rightfully could be celebrated as the best team during the race.

So once again; Congratulation Juanjo Cobo and congratulation Team Geox for this spectacular Vuelta!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Vuelta Expert Preview: Stage 21

David Etxebarria:
I think Peter Sagan will win this last stage. He has been saving energies the last couple of days and should be the fastest in a sprint. Do doubt that Juanjo Cobo will win the Vuelta.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Vuelta Expert Preview: Stage 20

David Etxebarria:
It’s the penultimate stage and not much will change in the GC. Team Sky still has to block the race and fight for the bonus seconds. My big favorite for today is Peter Sagan. It could be a break away like yesterday but there is still so many kilometers after the last climb that it easily could end up in a sprint between 25-35 riders.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Vuelta Expert Preview: Stage 19

David Etxebarria:
I still think that this is the only day left where the GC can be changed in the top. Froome needs the bonus seconds and therefore Team Sky has to keep the peloton together at the last climb. My Favorit is Vincenzo Nibali and I really don’t think the red jersey will change shoulders.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Vuelta Expert Preview: Stage 18

David Etxebarria:
Today it has to be a rider from Euskaltel. They are motivated and they need it! Igor Antón is the logical choice, but Mikel Nieve has also shown his is very strong now. It will be interesting to see if Team Sky wants to block the race and race for the bonus seconds. It could be the last day for take the jersey – or not! This is cycling gentlemen!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Vuelta Expert Preview: Stage 17

David Etxebarria:
My favorite for today is Igor Antón, for more or less sentimental reasons. Last year he lost the Vuelta on this stage and today he can take revenge. He was already a lot better on Angliru and maybe even stronger today. The bonus seconds are important today for the GC so I wouldn’t be surprised if Cobo took more time on his rivals, not much but maybe 10-15 seconds.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Vuelta Expert Preview: Stage 16

David Etxebarria:
Today’s stage in Haro in very complicated to predict. Usually it will end with in a bunch sprint, but it’s not easy for the teams to control the race in the third week. I don’t think the whole peloton will arrive together and if so my pick today is John Degenkolb. If a breakaway makes it, I think it will be a rider from Radioshack. Sergio Paulinho is one who could do it, but it’s never easy to pick a winner on a day like today.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Vuelta Rest Day Interview - Mauro Gianetti (Team Manager, GEOX-TMC)

Team Geox finally showed their real potential on the stage to Angliru last Sunday, when Juanjo Cobo won the stage and ripped the red jersey off Bradley Wiggins. I guess I don’t have to point out it was a very happy team manager I talked with on Monday’s rest day.

Mauro, first of all, congratulation! This must be the best rest day for you in a long time?
Thank you. Yes, I am very happy. Since the beginning of the season we have known we had a good team with a good level, but for many reasons we have never been able to really show it. Now it finally happened.

At what point during the Vuelta did you start to think that Cobo could be a player for the overall win?
Well, from the beginning actually. We knew he could do a good GC, since he did top10 two years ago. Normally he would work for the captains, but he managed to stay up front all the time and only lose some time in the time trial. One week ago we told him that he should stay close to Menchov and follow him and only work hard if we really needed it.

Menchov showed on Angliru that he is back at his former great level, what happened to him in the first week?
We really didn’t have a good start. First we lost time in the team time trial when Blanco crashed and then Denis had a mechanical problem and lost time. So after just a few stages he was more than 2½ minutes behind and that made it difficult for him, also for his morale. Also he is not so good at placing himself in the sprints so he has also lost some time there, for example when Sagan took his second stage win [stage 12, Menchov lost 19 seconds, edt.]. But now he is back and that is very important in order to keep the jersey.

What about now. We still have one week to go, what is the plan?
Now we have to defend the jersey as long as possible. Peña Cabarga [on stage 17] is not an easy climb and the stages in Pais Vasco are definitely not easy either. It will be great to ride in the Cantabria region with the jersey. The team has base there and we have the region as sponsor on our jersey, moreover Cobo is also from that region. We really have to stay focused now and keep the concentration all the time.

What can we expect on Peña Cabarga? Will Cobo try to take more time?
It depends on how he feels. It has some very steep parts and is more a climb for Purito-Moreno and Nieve-Antón. But of course if he can, he will try to get some more time and maybe some bonus seconds. We must be smart. It’s now Froom and Wiggins who have to attack.

And who do you see as the strongest of the two?
I think they are on the same level. Froome is very, very strong right now. Also in the time trial. He is closer, but Wiggins has more experience. One week is still a long time and it’s important for them that they are two riders who can attack. We will see what happens.

Last, but not least, Mauro Gianetti also confirmed that the team has reached an agreement with Juanjo Cobo for two more seasons!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Vuelta Expert Preview: Stage 15

David Etxebarria:
Today I will say the same two names as yesterday, but this time my favorite is Juanjo Cobo, because of his amazing performances the last days and then Joaquim Rodriguez because he wants to get revenge from yesterday. If it rains it can change a lot about how they will climb Angliru and that will really benefit Wiggins because he doesn’t stand in the pedals while climbing.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Vuelta Expert Preview: Stage 14

David Etxebarria:
For today’s stage there is one clear favorite, Joaquim Rodriguez. First of all because he needs to take back time and secondly because the course is great for him. Look out for Juanjo Cobo as well, he has been riding very well. It’s also a decisive day for Bauke Mollema and Bradley Wiggins. The first one to see if he can stay in top3 and for Wiggins if he still can win the race. I don’t think Nibali be attacking today.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Vuelta Expert Preview: Stage 13

David Etxebarria:
My favorite for today is Rein Taaramae, but it’s also a good day for Pablo Lastras. It’s a short and nervous stage and it’s going to be difficult for the leader’s team to control the pack. Attention to the time limit as well, a lot of riders will have a hard day!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Vuelta Expert Preview: Stage 12

David Etxebarria:
Even though the terrain looks flat, there is no such thing in Galicia! I don’t believe that any of the sprinter teams can control it this terrain and therefore I think a breakaway will make it again. Meaning we are back to the usual suspects in Luisle [Sanchez], Lastras, De la Fuente etc. My pick for the stage win will be Luis Angel Maté.