The European season begins
The first two World Tour races in Europe throw up some intreging results
Following the earlier season racing, we have hit the month of March meaning the main World Tour races are now underway, with the completion of the first two week long stage races, Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico. My current World Tour and Fantasy point’s totals can be seen below.
World Tour Points: 244
Fantasy Total: 1366
This period of racing turned out to be a good one for my squad of riders. The last two races have allowed me to ovehaul Drheaton in the Fantasy scores, as well as opening up a sizable World Tour points lead thanks to the GC/Stage winning combination of Contador and Sagan at Tirreno-Adriatico. My 164 World Tour points from these two races would see me in 2nd position in the standings behind Sky.
Firstly Paris-Nice provided me with decent haul of WT points despite going into the race without a genuine GC contender. However a stunning performance from Diego Ulissi to take 7th spot netted 30 points, with Drheaton’s big GC contender Liewue Westra only ending up in 8th spot. This point’s haul was made even better with a Stage win from Kittel and 2nd place finishes for Gilbert and Iglinsky, meaning my whole team is chipping in with points, with all selected riders managing to weigh in with fantasy points.
Diego Ulissi, the young Italian finally showing is shorter stage race potential
As for Tirreno-Adriatico it was even better for my team with Alberto Contador finishing in 3rd place (70 World Tour points) and two stage wins from Peter Sagan (12 World Tour points). Drheaton’s team failed to have any GC contenders and with Cavendish only managing a 2nd and 5th place finishes he came away with just 7 points, with riders such as Vanendert not yet stepping up to the mark. Again my team all scored fantasy points, leaving it very tight between me and Drheaton from a fantasy perspective.
So now its time for the Classics season to get under way, with the Flemish and Ardennes races still to come, the racing got underway yesterday with a rain and snow hit Milan-Sanremo, which was again a decent day out for my team with Peter Sagan taking 2nd place and another 80 World Tour points, leaving my team comfortable in 2nd place but still a way behind team Sky. Drheaton also picked up the same number of points through 3rd and 9th place finishes for Cancellara and Cavendish respectively. So what is next to come for my team? Drheaton feels that this stage of racing is where his team can fight back and put in some big performances, but I wouldn’t be so sure. With Sagan as my main focus, he is backed up with the big names of Gilbert, Voeckler and Gerrans, and although that list is not the longest, the potential from the rest of my squad remains, with Degenkolb, Iglinksy, Ulissi and Gatto easily capable of putting in some big performances.
It seems my team is saving there form for the big races as their were no notable performances from any of my squad members at any other non-WT races. As well as the classics, we also head into some crucial Spanish stage races in Catalunya and the Basque country for the final Giro preparations, as my team will see the anticipated debut of neo-pro Fabio Aru in Catalunya, with the mountainous terrain aptly suited.
Fabio Aru, the Astanta neo-pro who could make a big impression in the mountains
Again none of my neo-pros made any waves at the big races, and neither did any other neo-pros, however one youngster in his second year at Omega Pharma – Quick Step showed his stage race potential in Tirreno-Adriatico. The rider in question is the Pole Michael Kwiatkowski, who seems similar to a younger Bradley Wiggins, with his forte being in the ITT discipline, but over the last year has worked strongly to remain with big guns in the mountains. As a former junior World ITT Champion, the evidence has been there that he could follow in the footsteps of the likes of his teammate Tony Martin, backed up early in 2012 after taking victory in the ITT at Driedaagse van West-Vlaanderen. But after his latest performance its seems he could go one step further, with the signs of his capability evident during the summer of 2012 where he managed a 2nd place finish behind another up and coming youngster, Moreno Moser, at the Tour de Polonge, and followed it up with an 8th place finish at the Eneco Tour. Earlier this year his form continued, finishing 2nd in the ITT at the Volta ao Algarve, which sealed him 2nd position overall behind teammate Tony Martin. Now his biggest result of his career so far has arrived, finishing 4th overall at Tirreno-Adriatico, which also left him as the best young rider. Unfortunately I’m unsure of his race program, but don’t be surprised if he is given free rein to compete for the young riders jersey at either the Giro or the Vuelta, however it may well be just a few years too soon yet, as he only managed 136th in last years Giro, but even so he is a big talent and big things will come in the near future.
Michael Kwiatkowski, the best younger rider at Tirreno-Adriatico