It's May already, that can only mean one thing

The Giro is upon us

by TERatcliffe26   May 1, 2013  

So May has arrived and that can only mean one thing, the Giro is just a couple of days away. Since the last blog it has been a busy period of racing, with classics specialists looking for glory in the Flemish and Ardennes races, whilst many others have used the stage races of Spain and just last week Switzerland to fine tune their form going into the Giro. My current World Tour and Fantasy point’s totals can be seen below.

World Tour Points: 806 (719 from top 5 riders)

Fantasy Total: 2348
TDU: 355
ToQ: 60
ToO: 341
Paris-Nice: 245
Tirreno-Adriatico: 365
Milan-Sanremo: 44
E3 Prijs Vlaanderen-Harelbeke: 49
Gent-Wevelgem: 69
Tour de Flanders: 58
Paris-Roubaix: 5
Amstel Gold: 56
La Fleche Wallonne: 53
Liege-Bastogne-Liege: 59
Volta Ciclista a Catalunya: 109
Volta Ciclista al Pais Vasco: 389
Tour de Romandie: 91

During this hectic period of racing Drheaton managed to wrestle back the initiative and take a commanding lead in both WT points and fantasy points. Despite this my team still amassed a decent total of points. My total of 806 World Tour points so far would see me at the top of the standings ahead of Team Sky; however from my top 5 scorers I only have a total of 719 points, leaving me 2nd in the rankings, 32 points adrift of Team Sky.

 


 

Peter Sagan amased a healthy amount of World Tour points in the classics and sits 2nd in the standings

So the classics threw up some interesting racing, beginning with the Flemish classics. In general these races were good for my team; all due to Peter Sagan picking up 2nd place finishes in E3 Prijs and Flanders, either side of his victory at Gent-Wevelgem. However his performances were the only ones of note, meaning no WT points and only 5 fantasy points were picked up in Paris-Roubaix. Despite a healthy amount of points, it was eclipsed by that of Drheaton, who with Cancellara in his team, managed victory in E3 Prijs, Flanders and Paris-Roubaix, and aptly backed up by Sep Vanmarcke’s 2nd place in Roubaix. As for the second half of the classics, at the Ardennes races, neither of our teams had any of the three victors, however both our teams did have Carlos Betancur, who weighed in with a 3rd place finish in Fleche Wallonne and 4th place in Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Both teams also amassed points from Phillipe Gilbert, who had if no a spectacular spring, and steady and consistent one, with 5th, 15th and 7th placed finishes over the three races. Over the Ardennes races, my team came out slightly on top thanks due to Simon Gerrans 3rd place finish at Amstel gold, and a 10th place in Liege, with none of Drheaton’s other riders managing a top 10 finish in any of the races. My classics showing was also hindered by the unfortunate fractured collarbone of Thomas Voeckler, suffered in the Amstel gold race, who would have likely taken a top 10 finish in at least one of the races.

Sandwiched in between, and around the classics, three stage races took place, two in Spain (Volta Ciclista a Catalunya and Volta al Pais Vasco) and one in Switzerland (Tour de Romandie). It was in these races Drheaton managed to extend his WT points lead with some strong GC showings. A solid showing the Volta al Pais Vasco was the only decent performance from my team with Contador taking 5th place and Betancur in 7th. As for Drheaton had top 10 finishers in the GC in all three races, Quintana and Wiggins taking 4th and 5th in Catalunya, followed by Quintana winning in the Basque country, with Betancur 7th and Kelderman taking 5th in Romandie. As for the rest of my team, Simon Gerrans did his part with a stage victory in both Catalunya and Pais Vasco. Beyond this Nizzolo took a second place in Romandie and Sanchez in Pais Vasco, but no other notable performances.

 

Bentacur, the young Columbian on the AG2R Giro roster after making a big impression in the Classics and recent stage races

So the Giro has arrived, and things don’t look all that promising for my team, especially in terms of GC riders. I have Sanchez and Betancur who will be looking towards the GC, however both these riders are in Drheaton’s team, as well as him having Wiggins and Keldrman. So I will be hoping of for something special from Pellizotti and Aru, however neither will realistically top 10. As for the flatter finishes Drheaton again has the edge with Cavendish and Bouhanni compared to Degenkolb and Nizzolo. So it seems I am firmly on the back foot, and will need my riders to step up, just to limit the damage.

Outside of the World Tour races there was one bright spot, and that was through one of my neo-pros, and the topic of my young rider piece, Fabio Aru. At the Giro del Trentino the youngster seemingly came of age whilst helping Vincenzo Nibali to victory, Aru came 4th overall, taking the Young riders jersey in the process. The young 22 year old Italian was taken on by the Astana team, and has seemingly come from nowhere, having raced as an amateur for the Italian domestic team Palazzago. However this was where his climbing talent was spotted in which time he took the title of the Giro Ciclista della Valle d’Aosta in both 2011 and 2012, where in 2011 he came home 1st on stage 6, placing ahead of two other neo-pros in this years peloton, Kenny Elissonde and Joseph Dombrowski. 2012 also saw him finish 2nd in the Girobio, the baby Giro for Amateurs, where he was narrowly beaten by Dombrowski. On the back of his Trentino performance he heads to the Giro to again help Nibali in the mountains, and may have designs on the Young riders jersey, however it may be a year too soon as he will go up against the likes of Betancur and Majka for that title, but don’t rule out some strong stage finishes in the high mountains.

 

Fabio Aru, the talaented Italian climber in his first season hoping to guide Nibali to the Giro Title, after impressing in Trentino

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And trailing along in 3rd place with 573 WT points.... Excluding Fabien, my team has contributed 5 WT points since the last round up, and my position for the Giro looks bleak with Cav my main points chance, and Pichon having crashed on the first stage already.

I did say I was going to come last didn't I?

Now is the time that some historical factors are coming home to roost, and exposing my team choices for what they are. Good TdF contenders. Why is probably not an unusual story, but here goes...

I shall begin by saying Indurain and then Armstrong turned me off watching racing, and my physique turned me off having a go myself at any level.

Why Indurain? I remember hearing an explanation on the radio of his success as being due to very high oxygen transport capacity courtesy of being born at altitude. Nowadays that kind of comment would make the labs recheck the EPO figures. I'm not saying Indurain doped, but I remember that explanation left me feeling that pro cyclists were 'super human'. Armstrong turned me away because he came across as such an arrogant bully combined with the Festina case leaving it clear cycling was a 'dirty' sport. David Millar also did damage to my belief in British riders in pro cycling being so far down the field because they were clean. Nope, they were just not that good. And dirty. Nowadays Millar is a quandary to me though, because he has done some serious good for cycling since then, though I can't quite forgive him his mistake.

So circa 2000 there I am, a cyclist who does not follow pro racing at all.

So what turned me back on to pro racing? BBC coverage of the Olympics and World Cup track races, ITV4 coverage of the Tour Series, ToB and TdF have made it more accessible. The resurrection of the ToB with stages passing near me at the time also encouraged an interest.

I guess I knew a little by Sydney, more by Athens, but very little still. By Beijing I knew the BC track cyclists and their chances well, but I could not have told you who had a chance in the road races or TTs. Then we wiped the floor with the competition on the track and the women showed that we were a force outside the velodrome too. BBC ran World Champs highlights that year, and I remember screaming Nicole Cooke home from the sofa. Some hours after she'd won.

So you'll see actually my interest in road racing, having been turned off by the men has been rekindled by the women. And in fact since then I have been keen for more parity so we can see more of the women's scene.

Since Beijing, the coverage on terrestrial TV has blossomed, albeit slowly. I'm using TV as a benchmark because whilst quality cycling magazines have been round for a long while I seldom visit newsagents, so only bought them infrequently. Radio has only recently worked out bikes exist, so the square god has for a long time been the reference for me here.

Has it got anything to do with Wiggins, Cavendish et al? Well a bit. But like I say Nicole Cooke and Emma Pooley got me first.

Why the fantasy league? I've done fantasy 6 Nations for a few years, and learnt more by doing it. I've done ok, and enjoyed it, so when a colleague said he was doing a Fantasy TdF a couple of years ago, I took note and last summer went to find it. I ended up on road.cc, and ran a purist team for the Tour, ending up on the first page of results, which felt rather good. That got me interested, and I did the rest of the season, all as purist. This year the FDS idea came up, and it added a different challenge, one of picking a team and sticking with it all year, for better or worse, across all types of race. That intrigued me, and I saw a chance to learn more about why for example Cancellara is never team leader at a Grand Tour, and more interestingly why he is happy with that.

How does this influence my team? Well picking it was based on names I knew from radio, TV and occasional articles, and from online. Since the TdF is a big part of the image of pro racing outside the sport, I know more names from there than anywhere else. And now, picking a team based on names I knew, plus some cheap riders, and not knowing the Giro and who would ride it in preference to the Tour has left me a rather short team, with stage wins a possibility, but no GC contenders.

On the other hand I should have stage wins and WT points galore through July. Well the odd one here and there anyway.

And next year... I might even know who might ride the Giro before the season starts instead of the week before the race.

posted by robdaykin [153 posts]
4th May 2013 - 15:18

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