Just added to the VCSE TV playlist – Dan Lloyd’s Top 10 scars (not all sustained as a pro)

Wince.. and enjoy!


The shape of things to come?


TDF Top 3? – Froome leads Contador and Rodriguez 

Picture from Cycling Weekly http://www.cyclingweekly.co.uk/

The 27 second margin that Chris Froome maintained over Alberto Contatdor to win the Tour of Oman seems somewhat insignificant in isolation. Froome’s performances as the race entered the final 3 days showed some real swagger in contrast to his typically understated post race interviews.

Peter Sagan had dominated the first half of the race claiming the leaders jersey after a stage 2 win and stage 3 was deja vu with some commentators wondering if Sagan could hold on as the peleton headed into the mountains on day 4.

The climb to the Green Mountain with its summit finish on Thursday felt like the first time this season when grand tour riders featured with Froome, Contador, Joaquim Rodriguez and Vincenzo Nibali in contention as the stage neared the finish.

At times it looked like Froome had blown. Froome’s preferred seated climbing style can often make it appear that he is struggling in comparison to the way Contador dances on the pedals. It was a true game of cat and mouse towards the end with the big guns zig zagging towards the summit almost at right angles to the climb.

It was significant that Froome had the legs to ride away from Contador at the end of the stage to finish 2nd to Rodriguez and claim the red leaders jersey from Sagan. Sagan looked more laboured on the ascent than expected and abandoned overnight.

Stage 5 was equally dramatic with Froome, Contador and Rodriguez fighting it out over the climbs followed by a chasing group led by Cadel Evans. As an appetiser for the season ahead the body language of Froome and Contador in particular was striking with a definite suggestion of some ‘afters’. As Carlton Kirby said on the Eurosport feed; it was a shame the effects mike couldn’t pick up what was said.

Froome went for the line 2k out. Too soon! Contador and Rodriguez caught him with 1k to go and it was as you were. At the line it was Froome by inches, centimetres even.

Saxo Bank have been gracious in defeat praising Froome’s victory. Sky looked like the better team over the race. It could be significant that Michael Rogers wasn’t racing for Saxo as Contador seemed to lack support over the entire length of a stage. Richie Porte was tireless supporting Froome up the climbs on stages 4 and 5.

It probably is too early to see the result as an indicator for how the Tour de France will go in July but it does look like there’s some real friction between Froome and Contador which should make for a more interesting race than last year.

Contador’s victory in the Vuelta owed as much to Froome’s fatigue and psychologically winning his first stage race is the perfect start to 2013.

As for Sagan he’s clearly a strong rider over classics style stages and possibly a contender for this seasons stage races. I predict some interesting head to heads with Mark Cavendish for the points jersey at the Tour this year.

A final observation on Oman. The landscape. It was just like seeing the roads on something like Gran Turismo. Years ago when processors were about a quarter as powerful as the one that currently sits in your phone driving games on a PC or console were typical in sharing roads that cut through between cliffs, city blocks and / or lines of trees. They could never render detail quick enough for anything else.

The strands of perfect blacktop that climb through and around the mountains in Oman had me back in front of my Playstation trying to beat my record for Ridge Racer. Anyone else remember that?

Why are we waiting?

I’m in the process of ‘road testing’ the VCSE store at the moment to check that your orders will be processed without a hitch.

There aren’t any issues with order generation or taking payments but getting those two elements to combine appear to be causing Streetshirts some issues. They are embedding some new customer care processes at the moment so I hope I will be able to report some good news next week.

In the meantime, thanks for your support.

All smiles on planet Cav


Happy again – Mark Cavendish

picture from http://www.omegapharma-quickstep.com/en/

With four stage wins in last weeks Tour of Qatar Mark Cavendish looked like he was right at home with his new team Omega Pharma Quick Step. Cav a last minute team leader following the enforced through injury withdrawl of Tom Boonen didn’t let a tumble at the start of the final stage prevent him from claiming the overall victory either.

He certainly seems like a happier rider in a team that will be geared to riding for him and him alone in the races he enters this year. It would be unfair to suggest that Cavendish was anything less than a team player at Sky last year. The image of last years rainbow jersey stuffed with bidon’s for Wiggins and co demonstrated that he knew the role he had to play in Team Sky’s famous victory. With the exception of the final stage win on the Champs Elysee Cavendish underlined his superiority over the rest of sprinters by fashioning winning positions in the absence of any real train gang.

Taking to Twitter over the last week he was unstinting in his praise of the work his OPQS colleagues had done on his behalf and the teams dominance over two thirds of the race has placed an early but significant marker on the team being a major contender for the forthcoming classics and later grand tour sprint stages.

For Cavendish it seems fair to say that he is happiest, purely based on his social media content, when he had a team focused on delivering him at the right place and time to do what he does best. There was a noticable difference between his remarks after his unexpected stage 2 win and the later stage 18 victory where his Sky teammates had chased down a breakaway.

OPQS looked like the most obvious choice for Cav as soon as he began to drop heavy hints that he didn’t see a future for him in Sky’s GC focused team. It will be interesting to see if is able to replicate or even exceed the highs of his 2009 season at HTC where he dominated the sprints at the Tour de France winning six stages. There remains a slight question mark over how OPQS will be able to accomodate two proven winners and arguably joint team leaders in Boonen and Cavendish. Boonen will obviously favour the classics but in an event where both are selected team tactics should be interesting to study.

Walking on the Moon – classic climbs of the grand tours #1 Col d’Izoard


Not so bella luna – Col d’Izoard

Visitors to Wast Water in the Lake District can see evidence of the same geological features that give the Col d’Izoard its spectacular if desolate aspect.

The scree formed as rocks are broken up of hundreds of years by ice and weather has left the Col with the kind of other wordly appearance that makes it an icon of the Tour.

The town of Briancon lies to the south of the Izoard and the combination of this climb and the Col du Galibier virtually guarantees that the highest town in Europe will feature on the stage. Raphael Geminiani once said that ‘…the Tour is won at Briancon’ such is its position between the two cols.

The Izoard has featured in more than thirty tours since 1922 and as recently as 2011. Some of the most inconic images date from the 1950’s, the black & white photos increasing the impression that the cyclists where toiling over a lunar landscape.

Reaching a steepest gradient of 11%, it is a twenty mile ride to the summit nearly 8,000 ft. above sea level. The remaining rock formations and the occaisional pine tree surrounded by the scree is known as the ‘Casse Deserte’, the Broken Desert.

The first time the Izoard featured on the tour it was part of a 170 mile stage that started in Nice and finished not surprisingly in Briancon. Philippe Thys won the stage after reaching the top of the col first, one of five wins from that years tour. Thys was undoubtably a legend of the tour already by 1922 having won two years running in 1913 – 14 and again, following World War One, in 1920. He actually won more stages in 1922 than he acheived in 1920.

The rider most associated with the Col d’Izoard is Louison Bobet. Bobet’s legend was fuelled by his rides over the col and he is immortalised with a plaque on one of the rock formations in the Casse Deserte.

Bobet was the first to the top of the col three times, first in 1950. In 1953 Bobet broke away on the Izoard finishing five minutes ahead of the next rider and taking the lead in the race by gaining eleven minutes on his nearest rival. Some people have described this as the ride of Bobet’s life although he was to reach the top of the col first again in 1954.


Riding on the Moon – Louison Bobet

A close rival to Bobet as the king of the Izoard and a contempory was Fausto Coppi. Coppi book ended Bobet’s first summit victory reaching the top of the Col first in 1949 and 1951. Coppi’s cameo portrait sits on the plaque next to Bobet’s in the Casse Deserte.


New Campag gear

Just seen this latest offer from our friends at Wiggle.

These Campagnolo long sleeve jerseys have 40% off and look ideal for when you want to channel that downhill skier look.


Ski Sunday – Campagnolo Bolt LS jersey £54

Click on the link below.


Put the kettle on!

Our latest product line has been added to the VCSE store. Get your laughing gear around the Velo Club mug. 

Features the classic VCSE logo. 

Transform your cup of tea by clicking on the Velo Club Sud Eglise store link at the right hand side of the page or via our links. 


The unluckiest man in cycling?


Unlucky? – Ben Swift

Picture from http://www.britishcycling.org.uk

Ben Swift tumbled out of the Trofeo Alcudia yesterday descending the Coll d’Honor. Swift had a decent showing with consecutive top 10 finishes in the Challenge Mallorca to date and to crash out on the last day seems typical of his luck in the last 12 months.

Swift was Sky’s go to sprinter at last years Vuelta a Espana and while the team were primarily focused on Chris Froome for the GC there was a lead out of sorts for Swift including Ian Stannard.

While Swift often appeared well placed in the run up to the red kite he often appeared to have go too early, particularly when teammates had ridden hard to get him into a decent position. This was probably as frustrating for him as there were other stages where he was simply outgunned by the other teams, notably Argos Shimano.

John Degenkolb who vies with Marcel Kittell as top sprinter for Argos was the sprint story of the Vuelta with five wins. Certainly Degenkolb made it look easy dominating the early flat stages and taking the final stage win around the streets of Madrid. Swift’s best result was 2nd on stage 18.

Arguably Sky’s front line sprinter now that Mark Cavendish has gone to Omerga Pharma it will be interesting to see what races Swift is entered into this year. It’s hard to imagine that Sky will have much interest in the sprints on any of the grand tours with the possible exception of the Vuelta. The teams emphasis is very much on the Giro and the Tour with a ramped up effort being made for the spring classics also.

Swift obtained the points jersey at last years Tour of Poland along with two stage wins. The result illustrated his strength against the world tour teams second string outfits but it remains to be seen if he has the firepower and Sky the motivation to win in the biggest events.

VCSE TV launches!

Velo Club Sud Eglise now has a YouTube channel!

First two video’s are at the link below.

No real surprises that the first two videos are Paris Roubaix related. ‘Paris Roubaix… Is Epic!’ seems to be going for the look and feel of a cinema trail but reminds me of a motivational presentation. Worth a watch a minute thirteen though.

The second ‘Museeuw – a throw of the dice’ is a joint Rapha / Ridley Scott production. When a section of the video has a Marty Feldman lookalike in Napoleonic era uniform clutching a cobblestone I remembered that the best bit of Ridley Scott’s first film ‘The Duellists’ was the way it looked rather than a great screenplay.

Johan Museeuw was one of the first riders I remember when the Tour de France was being shown on Channel 4 largely due to him being known as a sprinter in the early years of his career.

As far as the classics and Paris Roubaix in particular he won the race three times in 1996, 2000 and 2002.He also won the Tour of Flanders (Ronde van Vlaanderen) three times, Paris Tours and Amstel Gold once. His Palmares cover an eleven year period from the early 90’s to the 2002 in a sixteen year career.


Left a bit – Johan Museeuw 

Museeuw was on Greg Lemond’s coat tails if not his wheel as part of Lemond’s ADR team for his second TdF win in 1989. In 1998 having won the Tour of Flanders for third and final time Museeuw suffered a knee injury on Paris Roubaix so serious that there was talk of him losing a leg. He had of course already won the race once at this point.

After a dogged return to fitness, not helped by another accident involving a motorbike, Museeuw crossed the line first in the Roubaix Velodrome in 2000 pointing at his left knee.

There was a final twist in the tail for Museeuw at Paris Roubaix in 2004 when he punctured while part of the final break. He crossed the line in tears denied a 4th win in the classic which, at the time, would have tied him with Roger de Vlaeminck.

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