Specialized Securitor bounce back from the brink of disaster

Cycling is a sport of nuances and contradictions. It is also a sport where the highs of a stage win one day can come crashing down in a pile of twisted bodies and machinery the next.

The last women’s National Road Series (NRS) event in Ballarat over the weekend highlighted this predicament for Specialized Securitor.

The team celebrated victory on stage one of the Tour of the Goldfields with Canberra rider Kimberley Wells winning the bunch sprint at the end of a 20 lap criterium.

Less than 24 hours later, the elation of stage one’s victory came literally crashing down when the entire team crashed less than 500 metres into the Team Time Trial.

Luckily, they managed to get three riders over the line but by Saturday afternoon’s third stage, they were down to just two riders for Sunday’s final stage with Wells and Sophie Mackay.

Fortunes in any sport can quickly change, but it is how those involved respond that is the true test of character and integrity.

Watching the Specialized Securitor team prepare for Sunday’s final stage you may have been mistaken for thinking this was a team with the full compliment of five riders, not two.

“The crash showed how close of a team we are and how strong of a friendship we have. We moved on from it pretty quickly and learnt from it and no one was upset with anyone. I think it’s a credit to all of the girls that we are happy and can move forward quickly,” said Claire Trembath, who managed to finish the TTT but withdrew on stage 3 later Saturday afternoon.

The aftermath of Saturday morning’s crash also caused the team’s race plans to be altered as well.

With just two riders for the final stage, Sunday’s plan was to try to get into a breakaway and although Wells tried unsuccessfully, Mackay was able to seize an opportunity to find herself in the significant breakaway of the day.

The seven rider breakaway did get out to a 1 minute 23 second lead at one point, before Holden Women’s Cycling, Ruth Corset managed to over power them to take the stage victory.

The positive attitude of the Specialized Securitor riders was reflected in DS Bec Domange’s assessment of the Tour.

“We won a stage of the Tour and today we were in the main break of the day, so all in all I think we can take some really positive things out of the tour. We only finished with two riders and there’s only so much you can do with two riders when you’re racing teams with five.

“I think the girls will be really happy with how they went. They showed courage and determination with their riding. There are lots of positives to come out of it minus the TTT but other than that the girls have done well.”

Wells was equally positive about the team’s performance over the weekend. In reflecting on how Tour racing can consist of the highs and the lows, she points out,

“I think the Tour’s been really good for Specialized Securitor. I’m really happy with everyone in the team, the riders, the staff.

“When things aren’t panning out is probably when you learn the most about yourself and we even managed a few laughs.”

If there is one thing cyclists know, it is that luck can change in the blink of an eye and for Specialized Securitor, that is exactly what happened over the weekend.

The disaster of crashing forced the team to come up with a new race plan and although the weekend may not have finished quite how they would of liked, the team left Ballarat with high spirits and a strong sense of camaraderie.

 

 

This article originally appeared on The Roar

Tinkoff-Saxo – an impressive Tour de France team

Vincenzo Nibali has proven a worthy winner of the 2014 Tour de France. He was clearly the best rider over the three weeks. No one was able to stick with him, either on the cobbles or over the mountains. The departure of Froome and Contador may have robbed us of some exciting attacks over the course of this three week sojourn through France but there is little doubt Nibali is a deserving winner.

For me, the team I enjoyed the most this Tour de France was Tinkoff-Saxo.

Now, this is not to say that Astana, did not ride an excellent, intelligent race. Of course they did.

Nor is to say that AG2R, the winners of the teams classification weren’t also exciting.

It was almost impossible to not excited for the performances of Romain Bardet and Thibaut Pinot, especially in light of Pinot’s efforts to overcome his fear of descending.

But the team I was most impressed with was Tinkoff-Saxo, for nothing other than, unlike Sky they did not crumble when they found themselves without their Plan A and they hadn’t bothered preparing a Plan B.

Perhaps their fluoro yellow wasn’t a highlight and obviously the abandonment of their leader, Alberto Contador was another low point, but this team did what their closest rival, Team Sky could not. They successfully reinvented themselves.

Tinkoff-Saxo went to the Tour de France with one plan and that plan was to put Alberto Contador into a nicer yellow jersey than any other Tinkoff rider. Who honestly would have thought that this was not a done deal after Contador’s closest rival, Chris Froome crashed out on Stage 5, before he even found the cobbles.

Sure, Bertie had lost a fair bit of time over the dreaded cobbles, but it would only have been a matter of time before the Spaniard electrified the peloton over the mountains with one of his classic attacks.

The wonderful thing about Grand Tours is that they are so unpredictable and in a strange turn of events, Contador found himself hitting the deck, battling on with his team trying to pull him back to the peloton, all the while in the rain with a broken shin bone.

The sight of Bertie putting his arm around Mick Rogers and telling him that his Tour was over will not be forgotten by many Australian fans anytime soon.

Tinkoff-Saxo would turn this calamity into success.

Writing in the Irish Times, Nicolas Roche spoke about the team’s lack of a Plan B. Their leader was out. Long live the leader.

What Tinkoff-Saxo did for the remainder of the Tour was nothing short of a brilliant display of teamwork and camaraderie.

They showed their class and experience through Australian Michael Rogers and Irishman, Nicolas Roche and they showed fight, grit and determination through Rafal Majka.

They did everything that Sky couldn’t.

The masterstroke by Tinkoff-Saxo was of course their response to Contador’s abandonment on Stage 10. Wisely, the remaining team members ensured that they rolled in to La Planche des Belles Filles within the time limit but so far behind that they would be of no bother to any teams with eyes on the GC.

This is not to say, that Sky were necessarily wrong in looking to Ritchie Porte as Plan B leader. But what it says, is that Tinkoff-Saxo developed a Plan B based on their realistic chances for success.

Porte was supposed to be Sky’s man for the Giro but illness forced him out. We’ll never know sitting in our lounge rooms on the other side of the earth, just how healthy Porte was going into the Tour de France, but we do know that to win the Tour you need to be very well prepared. You need to have built your whole year around this race. After all, this is the formula that has brought the British team success over the last two editions.

Seeing Porte win a Tour de France is definitely top of most Aussie cycling fan’s bucket lists, including mine. But that win will come from the same level of preparation that Nibali put into wining this year’s and the same level of preparation the previous winners have put into their victories.

The Tour is not a race that you can just roll up to and hope to win. Sky should know that.

Tinkoff-Saxo did.

That’s why they played a better game of poker and once their hand went from a Royal Flush to not even holding a pair of twos they came out on top.

Tinkoff-Saxo finished the Tour with three stage wins, two to Rafal Majka and one to Michael Rogers. Majka would also go on to the win the King of the Mountains.

Stage 11, their first full stage without Alberto also saw Nicolas Roche awarded the most combative rider for his breakaway exploits.

Tinkoff-Saxo also made a statement about leadership within the team. Contador is their leader. He is their leader whether he is on the bike travelling the roads of France with his team or whether he is sitting in a hospital bed in Madrid. That was never questioned.

Leadership at Sky seems to be something that is raffled, divvied up. Most of Froome’s teammates were nowhere to be seen when he came a cropper on Stage 5. Once he was gone, they found a quick replacement that worked for a bit but once it fell apart, they too fell apart.

In watching Tinkoff-Saxo at this year’s Tour de France it is clear that the wise words of Douglas Adams’s Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, “Don’t Panic” must have been engraved somewhere in the team’s mind.

One of the most positive things to come out of this year’s Tour de France is that there are any number of teams we may strongly argue performed the best and they all performed differently.

For my mind, it was Tinkoff-Saxo.

Long live the tour and long live tour controversies!

 

A version of this article first appeared on The Roar 

 

 

 

 

 

Adam Hansen is a legend

Seven Grand Tours in a row.

 

What an awesome feat!

 

Even more awesome is that it is an Australian who is lining up for his 8th GT on the trot.

 

Adam Hansen - One of the most interesting athletes on Twitter.
Adam Hansen – One of the most interesting athletes on Twitter.

He’s also one of the most entertaining sportspeople to follow on twitter.

 

Follow him @HansenAdam and enjoy his highly entertaining memes on life as a pro cyclist.

 

Some hops to give him going?
Some hops to give him going?

Congratulations, Adam Hansen and best of luck for the Giro!

Don't let anyone tell you Adam Hansen doesn't have a sense of humour. www.inrng.com
Don’t let anyone tell you Adam Hansen doesn’t have a sense of humour. http://www.inrng.com

The beginners guide to the Giro d’Italia

The first of the Grand Tours is upon us and to be brutally honest with you, the Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy) is my favourite of the three.

For those of you new to Grand Tours, and I’m assuming you are if you’re reading a beginners guide, the other two Grand Tours are the Tour de France (Tour of France) held each July and the Vuelta a España, (Tour of Spain) raced every September.

Competing in a Grand Tour must be like some form of masochism on a bicycle and if you’re an Australian fan, like me, it’s also some form of torture in three weeks of sleep depravation.

Once again I’ll be road testing those sleep bank theories!

So, sit back, relax, make yourself a cuppa and let me talk you through the magical world of three week bike races, specifically, the Giro d’Italia.

The Giro d’Italia.

The Giro is without doubt, my favourite of the Grand Tours.

It often presents surprise victors or at the very least, it is a hard race to predict a winner as it is the first of this style of racing.

It’s quite common for these races to begin on foreign lands and this year’s Giro will begin with stages one and two in Belfast and Dublin, before heading back to Italy for the remainder of the race.

Like the TdF and the Vuelta, the Giro will consist of 21 stages. There will be one rest day each week.

The stages offer a variety of terrains and racing styles.

There will be two Individual Time Trials (ITT) and one Team Time Trial (TTT). These are the stages where riders race the clock either individually or as a team.

Team Time Trials can be fascinating. The recorded time is the time of the fifth rider to cross the line, so you essentially want to ensure you have at least five guys who won’t get dropped.

Orica GreenEdge won the TTT at last year’s TdF and narrowly missed out at the Worlds to Omega Pharma Quick Step.

The Aussie outfit has clearly earmarked this stage for victory, selecting a team made for winning a Team Time Trial.

Many Aussie fans use the time trials as an excuse for an early night. I use to be one of those but after live blogging a couple I found a new found respect for them.

Then there will be eight sprint finishes, most of them coming early on in the race. The sprint field may not be the strongest but there should be some great sprint stages.

Team Giant-Shimano’s Marcel Kittel will be one of the favourites, but Cannondale’s Elia Viviani is in some good form. FDJ’s, Nacer Bouhanni will be seeking his maiden Grand Tour stage victory and don’t discount Orica GreenEdge’s Michael “Bling” Matthews. He may not be able to match Kittel in a flat out sprint but if get’s away he will be a dangerous man.

 

The magnificent hair of Marcel Kittel. www.velorooms.com
The magnificent hair of Marcel Kittel. http://www.velorooms.com

There will be one medium mountain stage and nine mountain stages with summit finishes.

This is where the mountain goats will really shine.

As with all Grand Tours, there are a variety of jerseys up for grabs. These races basically have a little something for every type of rider.

The main classification is the General Classification or the GC.

The leader of the race will wear the Maglia Rosa, or pink jersey, with the aim of being the man who takes it home at the end.

The leader’s jersey at the Giro is pink as the newspaper which began the race, La Gazzetta dello Sport in 1909, was printed on pink paper.

The next category is the Points of commonly called the Sprint Classification.

This is the Maglia Rossa or red jersey.

Various stages award sprint points, sometimes at the conclusion of the stage and also at specific points during the stage.

The rider who has the most points in this category will take home the red jersey.

As with all of the jerseys, the leader of this classification will wear the jersey during the race.

The Maglia Azzurra is the King of the Mountains (KOM) classification. Like the sprint category, particular stages will award points for crossing the mountain first at the conclusion of the stage or for within the stage.

The final category is the Maglia Bianca or white jersey. This is the youth category. This classification, like the GC is decided on time.

So, who’s going to win?

Well, who knows? This is the best thing about he Giro and particularly, this year’s edition.

This is a seriously open race.

Last year’s winner, Vicenzo Niballi (Astana) is not racing, preferring to try and add the yellow jersey of the TdF to his Maglia Rosa.

Nor are the last two winners of the TdF, Chris Froome or Bradley Wiggins, both of Team Sky.

Speaking of Team Sky, they are without their original leader, Australian rider, Ritchie Porte. It’s been long known that Sky were rewarding Porte’s hard work and commitment with the position of leader at this year’s race.

Porte has been battling illness and not only is he missing his leadership duties but Australian fans are missing the promised showdown between him and Cadel Evans.

Thankfully unlike the last two editions of the TdF, the skybots from Britain’s Team Sky did not have a strangle hold on events.

This does make for good viewing.

Speaking of Cadel, do I think the BMC rider will win? I’m really not sure. I would like to say “Yes” but I can’t help but think Movistar’s, Nairo Quintana will walk away in pink. Those mountains were made for this little munchkin from Colombia.

I would also suggest keeping an eye out for OPQS rider Rigoberto Uran, another Colombian. His form so far hasn’t been good but early season form is hard to track and harder to apply to a race like this.

Cycling’s permanent GT bridesmaid, Joaquim Rodriguez of Katusha will be a sentimental favourite.

If countryman, Nico Almagro could finally beat Rafael Nadal on his 11th attempt, then maybe Rodriquez will break his drought too.

There is little more to say, other than, “Bring on the Giro!”

The trophy. www.cyclingnews.com
The trophy. http://www.cyclingnews.com

What’s in a name?

Shakespeare told us that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, so we shouldn’t dwell on a name, especially when the love of our life is from the family one has been taught to despise.

For my sins, I was once a teacher and the best classes were the ones where the kids all had the same names.

I’m appalling at learning people’s names. After looking at the Orica GreenEdge website, it would appear I’m not the only one.

The powers that be at Orica GreenEdge must also have similar problems learning names because a quick look at the men’s team on their website, demonstrates that of the 25 riders 10 names are repeated, but another 3 have very similar sounding names.

Better still, the lovely folk at Orica GreenEdge have listed their riders in alpha order of their first names. Clearly they too see the humour in a team made up of essentially the same names.

Let’s take a quick squizz.

We have Cameron Mayer and Christian Meier. Very similar names indeed.

Cameron Meyer Orica GreenEdge website
Cameron Meyer
Orica GreenEdge website
Christian Meier Orica GreenEdge website
Christian Meier
Orica GreenEdge website

Let’s not forget the two Jens’s, Keukeleire and Mouris.

Jens Keukeleire Orica GreenEdge website
Jens Keukeleire
Orica GreenEdge website
Jens Mouris Orica GreenEdge website
Jens Mouris
Orica GreenEdge website

Then the Matthews begin:

Matthew Goss Orica GreenEdge website
Matthew Goss
Orica GreenEdge website
Mathew Hayman Orica GreenEdge website
Mathew Hayman
Orica GreenEdge website

Matthew Goss and Hayman but Michael Matthews makes a double appearance. He is also one of the three Michaels and he adds to a trio of Matthews.

The three Michaels are Albasini, Hepburn and Matthews.

Michael Albasini Orica GreenEdge website
Michael Albasini
Orica GreenEdge website
Michael Hepburn Orica GreenEdge website
Michael Hepburn
Orica GreenEdge website
Michael Matthews Orica GreenEdge website
Michael Matthews
Orica GreenEdge website

Finally we have the Simons, Clarke, Gerrans and Yates.

Simon Clarke Orica GreenEdge website
Simon Clarke
Orica GreenEdge website
Simon Gerrans Orica GreenEdge website
Simon Gerrans
Orica GreenEdge website
Simon Yates Orica GreenEdge website
Simon Yates
Orica GreenEdge website

As a predominantly Australian team we can clearly see that Australian names during the 1970s and 1980s didn’t veer too far away from Matthew and Simon.

Names come and go and they travel in packs. When I taught in the UK I taught lots of Charlottes and Lucys and I once taught a class of Matthews and Mitches.

I guess Orica GreenEdge is no different and the patterns of names we see in broader society we see in this professional racing team.

Clearly the way to get onto this team is to be a Matthew, Simon or any other name that sounds remotely similar to any of the existing team members.

And thank you OGE for pointing this out on your website.

Aussie tongues are firmly in cheeks here, me thinks.

Keeping the Vultures at Bay

So, the vultures are beginning to circle.

They’re not yet visible to the naked eye on the ground. The birds of prey are still a little too high in the sky to be clearly seen, but they are there.

They sniff out the beginnings of a sliding career almost from the other side of the galaxy.

They sense a feast will soon be upon them.

An inability to mention Orica-GreenEdge’s decision to include young Michael Matthews in the Aussie teams Giro lineup without mentioning the exclusion of fellow Aussie, Matthew Goss is such an example.

Obviously, it’s fantastic news that ‘Bling’ Matthews will get a guernsey at next months first Grand Tour of the year.

And there is no doubt that he deserves it.

Matthews broke GreenEdge’s European drought with a victory in the Vuelta a La Rioja and then followed up with a stage win in the Vuelta Pais Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country).

He took two stages in last year’s Vuelta, his first Grand Tour and now he will get another chance to race in a Grand Tour.

Matthews’s inclusion in the Orica GreenEdge Giro squad is also testament to the team’s earlier statements that they will select their sprinting options based on results.

The reality is, Goss just doesn’t have the results to warrant inclusion.

www.greenedgecycling.com
http://www.greenedgecycling.com

The Tasmanian had a so-so Aussie summer.

He didn’t finish the Aussie Road Race Championships, he went for a ride in the Tour Down Under and same again in the Herald-Sun Tour, although he did manage a second on the first stage.

Having said that though, the Aussie summer races were all about Gerrans and Orica GreenEdge had a successful summer down under.

Goss also managed a second on the third stage of Paris-Nice, although stage eight has turned out to be the beginning of a series of DNFs.

Dwars door Vlaandren and Gent Wevelgem round out the trilogy of DNFs.

But then again, the whole team had a pretty disastrous Gent Wevelgem.

In all fairness to Goss, the vultures shouldn’t be so hasty to line him up as their next meal.

But and there is a ‘but’ here. Goss does need to produce something and produce something this season.

His stellar 2011 is no longer the recent past.

In the last two years, the Tasmanian really hasn’t produced any results to really write home about.

www.perthnow.com.au
http://www.perthnow.com.au

It’s been too long since we’ve seen a winning Goss.

And as will happen to all of us, he isn’t getting any younger.

A new breed of sprinter is upon us, lead by German Marcel Kittel and co.

Goss needs to reassess his role as either a sprinter or a lead out man or something else….

This is an article I wrote in January last year about Goss.

http://www.theroar.com.au/2013/01/30/i-hope-thats-not-a-primate-on-your-back-matt-goss/

In revisiting it, I suppose you question whether I have a bit of blind loyalty because I’m essentially still arguing that now is not the time to get the knives out.

But I do wonder for how much longer we can keep this up.

I do sincerely hope that Goss reclaims some form or transitions his career into its next phase.

Most importantly, I do hope the vultures are kept at bay.