cycling weekly rates the Brutal climbs now in the Giro

After two weeks of tired legs ….

Colle Dell’Agnello – stage 19

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The Colle Dell’Agnello marks the Giro’s passage into France for a couple of days and they’ll have to work hard to get up to the border.

While the Strava segment shows it as a nine kilometre climb, the riders go uphill for around 70km from Saluzzo to the border at the top of the climb.

The toughest gradients come near the top of the Agnello, maxing out at 15 per cent and holding at over nine per cent for much of the nine kilometres, with riders reaching the highest point of the whole race.

And that’s just the first climb of the day…

Risoul – stage 19

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When the riders get into France it’s downhill all the way to the foot of the climb to Risoul, where stage 19 finishes.

It’s not the hardest climb in the world but the legs and bodies of the climbers will be cold from the very long descent from the Agnelle.

It maxes out at 10 per cent in the first third of the climb and from then is a steady 8.5 per cent to the top. With the GC still up for grabs it’ll likely to be a battle ground all the way up, with attacks likely to come on the preceding descent.

Col de Vars – stage 20

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At just six per cent in average gradient, the Col de Vars shouldn’t cause any problems, but it’s the fact that it comes immediately at the start of stage 20 which makes it hard.

The riders will have to get their warm-ups done before the stage if they’re to be in any state to be up at the front of the peloton in the first 20km.

There’s not a metre of flat on the entire stage, making it one of the toughest in the whole race, so if there’s still anything to play for in the general classification, expect to see some action in these opening exchanges.

Col de la Bonette – stage 20

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Once they’ve descended from the Col de Vars the peloton hits the even longer and even tougher Col de la Bonette, taking the riders up to over 2,700m.

It’ll be a long, cold descent down to Isola at the foot of the third big climb of the day, with almost 40km of downhill, interupted only by a little flat bit after 25km.

With the stage only 134km in length we could see attacks on the pink jersey wearer on the early climbs, just like we did on stage 16 on Tuesday.

Colle della Lombardia – stage 20

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As if two 20km ascents weren’t enough, the organisers have chucked in a third one near the end to really test the climbers’ resolve.

The Col de la Lombarde brings the riders back into Italy for the final assault up to Sant’Anna di Vinado, where the finish line is located.

Like the first two climbs on the stage, the Lombarde isn’t particularly steep, it’s just relentlessly long, especially after the climbs that have come before.

It’s last chance saloon for GC contenders to launch their attacks, with the climb to the finish not really long enough to make up minutes of time.

Friday bike poster: pantani

Read yesterday that the mafia have been implicated in pantani being thrown out of giro. Doctored a medical as they needed hi. Out as they had put large bets on him not completing the race …. So this Friday I celebrate him as the magical, lonely, manic and magical man he was.

Giro AlpineDuro boot SPD

This looks very nice – good for touring and fat bike adventuring



A better connection to the pedals, regardless of the weather

At heart, the Alpineduro is a rugged mountain shoe with a grippy Vibram rubber outsole, insulated construction and a clip-in pedal-ready nylon shank that doesn’t sacrifice walking comfort or grip. On the outside, its an urban adventurer with superb fit and style, plus a waterproof microfiber upper engineered to repel winter’s wet and icy chill. When riding is your style all year-round, this is your go-to shoe.


Breathable microfiber and waterproof liner, PrimaLoft Insulation, Lace closure with lace holder, Rubber tow and heel reinforcement, Reflective details 
Molded SPD-compatible shank with optimized stout cleat zone, Vibram® wet weather high traction lugged outsole, Optional cleat cover for flat pedal use, Flexible forefoot zone for walking 
Brushed EVA Footbed with X-Static anti-microbial treatment 
440 grams (size 42.5)

New Route for Giro 2015 unveiled (and it looks good)

I think I actually prefer this race to the TdF …..

The route of the 2015 Giro d’Italia has been presented this afternoon in Milan in front of a star-studded audience including Alberto Contador, the soon-to-retire Cadel Evans and new world champion, Michal Kwiatkowski – but not this year’s winner, Nairo Quintana, who is targetting the Tour de France next year.

We already knew that the race would start in the Liguria region, and today it has been confirmed that it will finish in Milan after a two-year absence, in a stage that starts in Turin. The penultimate day witnesses a key stage for the overall contenders, with a summit finish at Sestriere preceded by a climb of the Colle delle Finestre.


The race commences with a team time trial of 17.6km on San Remo’s cycling track, built on the site of the former coastal railway line, and also has an unusually long individual time trial of 59.2km on Stage 14 from Treviso to Valdobbiadene.

There are seven stages for the sprinters – one of them, from Grosseto to Fiuggi a monster 263km – as well as seven medium mountain stages and five high mountain stages. There are seven uphill finishes over the three weeks of the 3,481.8km race.

“The Giro d’Italia is a true legend in our sport and an important race for the future of road cycling. I believe that this 2015 edition will be extremely challenging, combining some testing early stages together with the highest mountains in the last week. I really cannot wait for May 2015.”

UCI president Brian Cookson, who was at the presentation today, said: “I am delighted to see that the 2015 Giro d’Italia will go through some of Italy’s most iconic regions and cities. It reminds me of some of the great battles of past editions.

This year’s race featured six days in the high mountains, and while there are some undoubtedly tough stages next May particularly in the final third, it’s perhaps not as tough as some closing week’s we have seen in recent years.

That reflects race director Mauro Vegni’s commitment to provide a more “human” race – something his predecessor, Michele Acquarone, also promised prior to the 2012 edition – and is reflected not only in the route, but also the length of transfers from one stage to the next.

In part, that’s also because the Giro wants to attract the very top riders – men such as Alberto Contador, who was at today’s presentation, and Vincenzo Nibali, the only man besides the Spaniard to have won all three of cycling’s Grand Tours.

Both are now said to have their sights on another rare achievement – winning the Giro and the Tour in the same season, a feat only ever previously achieved by seven men, the first being Fausto Coppi in 1949, the last Marco Pantani almost half a century later, in 1998.

Those two legends of Italian cycling are honoured by Giro organisers RCS Sport by having two of the climbs that will help decide the race named after them. This year’s Montagna Pantani will be the Passo del Mortirolo, which comes on Stage 16 from Pinzolo to Aprica.

That stage is preceded by a rest day following a last-but-one weekend that will see that long stage against the clock in which a lot of time could be won or lost, then what looks like one of the more decisive days of the race, with Stage 15’s summit finish at Madonna di Compiglio.

The Cima Coppi, the highest point of a race which includes 44,000 vertical metres of climbing, comes on the penultimate day with the Colle delle Finestre, with that stage finishing at the ski station of Setsriere.

The previous day will have also seen a summit finish, at Cervinia, 2,001 metres above sea level, with that ascent preceded by two other tough climbs in the final third.

Contador himself believes the race will suit an attacking rider, and with that long time trial on the penultimate Saturday has speculated that the course could be perfect for the rider he beat at last month’s Vuelta – Chris Froome.

As with any Grand Tour, while the General Classification provides the overarching narrative and carries the most prestige, there will be plenty of sub-plots bubbling away in the background – not least through those seven sprint stages, while the medium mountain days should as ever encourage plenty of attacking riding.

But if the organisers have pitched the race just right to attract riders of the calibre of Froome, Contador and Nibali, we may just have one of the most exciting tussles for the maglia rosa we’ve seen for a while next May.

Doping still – Vini Fantani taints pro cycling again

I saw some tweets from David Millar – he of the ‘done the bad but now better’ school of pro cyclists

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and that got me reading the latest about Vini Fantani …. in this article on they credit David Millar and even the boss of the team comes out well after the doping is revealed to have been done in private …


Mauro Santambrogio has been provosionally suspended after testing positive for EPO during the Giro d’Italia. The Vini Fantini – Selle Italia rider is the second rider from the squad to test positive in recent weeks; Danilo Di Luca was thrown off the tour – and off the team – after an out-of-competition test from before the Giro came back positive when the race was in full swing.

Santambrogio rode consistently well throughout the Giro, winning stage 14 to Bardonecchia; eventual overall winner Vincenzo Nibali came home in second place that day and should Santambrogio’s suspension move from being merely provisional the Scicilian will have another Giro stage win to add to his palmares. Santambrogio finished 9th overall. His positive test was from a urine sample taken on 4 May, the first day of the race. The full UCI press release is below.

Whereas the team were quick to distance themselves from the Di Luca result, calling him an ‘idiot’ and suggesting that his place on the team was secured mainly due to his friendship with the sponsor, the positive from Santambrogio will be much harder to spin. “The peloton knew Vini Fantini weren’t trustworthy”, David Millar has said of the test on twitter. “[it] was the talking point for the first week of the Giro (until misery & survival took over)”. Team director Luca Scinto hasn’t held back on twitter either. “You’re right. Rip me to shreds. I trusted them. They are crazy and I’m a moron to believe them. They’re sick”, he said of the news.


Mauro Santambrogio provisionally suspended

The UCI advised Italian rider Mauro Santambrogio that he is provisionally suspended. The decision to provisionally suspend this rider was made in response to a report from the WADA accredited laboratory in Rome indicating an Adverse Analytical Finding of EPO in his urine sample collected at the Giro d’ Italia on 4 May 2013.

The provisional suspension of Mr. Santambrogio remains in force until a hearing panel convened by the Italian Cycling Federation determines whether he has committed an anti-doping rule violation under Article 21 of the UCI Anti-Doping Rules.

Mr. Santambrogio has the right to request and attend the analysis of his B sample.

Under the World Anti-Doping Code and the UCI Anti-Doping Rules, the UCI is unable to provide any additional information at this time.


Froome and wiggo divide the spoils of 2013

If they win – never mind 2012 look what 2013 looks to focus on

Dave Brailsford has publicly confirmed that Chris Froome will spearhead Team Sky’s challenge in the Tour de France next summer, while this year’s winner Bradley Wiggins will focus on adding the overall win in the Giro d’Italia to his growing palmarès.

The Team Sky principal was speaking last night at Action Medical Research’s Champions of Cycle Sport dinner at London’s Hurlingham Club and also confirmed that the British ProTeam would be looking to get new signing Jonathan Tiernan-Locke into some big races.

Next year’s Tour has a total of 65 kilometres of individual time trials compared to more than 100 kilometres in this year’s edition, one of those two stages against the clock coming during a tough final week in the Alps that arguably suits Froome’ climbing abilities more than it does those of Wiggins.

At the presentation of the 2013 Tour in Paris last month, Brailsford hinted that Froome was likely to be its main hope in the race, and that has now been confirmed by his comments yesterday evening in a question and answer session with Sky TV presenter Dermot Murnaghan.

A supposed intra-team rivalry between Froome and Wiggins, who had finished second and third respectively in last season’s Vuelta, was one of the more compelling sub-plots of this summer’s Tour de France.

The Tour finished in Paris with not only the first British winner of the 109-year-old race in Wiggins, but also a British one-two as Froome secured the runners-up spot.

A couple of incidents during the race – Froome apparently attacking Wiggins on Stage 11 and a discussion between the pair towards the end of Stage 17 once they were left alone in pursuit of stage winner Alejandro Valverde – gave rise to a wave of speculation that all was not well between Team Sky’s two stars.

Froome has insisted that he was simply looking to make up time on GC rivals, having lost more than a minute to a puncture in the first road stage of the race, and Sky’s official line has always been that Wiggins was the designated rider this year and that if a future Tour had a course better suited to Froome’s talents, he would get its full support.

Next year’s Giro, meanwhile – a race in which Wiggins has previously worn the maglia rosa, winning the Prologue in Amsterdam with Sky in 2010 – has a long, 55.5 kilometre individual time trial midway through which should suit Olympic champion Wiggins to a T, as well as a mountain time trial of nearly 20 kilometres in the final week.

According to rumours when the route was launched last month, the course is believed to have been designed in part to help entice Wiggins to focus on winning the Giro rather than concentrating on a defence of his Tour title.

Were he to go on and win the Giro, Wiggins would join some exalted names in winning both the French and Italian Grand Tours, five of whom – Jacques Anquetil, Alberto Contador, Felice Gimondi, Bernard Hinault and Eddy Merckx – have also won the Vuelta. Just getting onto the podium would see Wiggins becoming only the 14th cyclist to have done so in all three Grand Tours.

Finishing the race in the maglia rosa when it ends in Brescia would therefore pretty much seal Wiggins’ place as a legend of the sport, something British Cycling and Team Sky coach Shane Sutton said earlier this week that the 32-year-old had set as a goal.

Others may have won more on the road, but Wiggins also has six rainbow jerseys and three Olympic golds on the track, plus that time trial gold in London. Admittedly, until 1996, pros couldn’t take part in the Olympics, but it’s a pretty impressive haul nonetheless.

As for Tiernan-Locke, the 27-year-old Tour of Britain champion, signed from Endura Racing on a two-year contract, told Torbay area newspaper the Herald Express this week that while his racing calendar for next year hadn’t been decided yet, “There’s a possibility I may ride the Vuelta.”

He added: “I want to get a Grand Tour in my legs, to see how I would respond to it. It changes you as a rider, and you learn a lot about yourself.”

Brailsford said last night that he would be looking to get his new rider into some big races – a solid performance in this year’s world championships has prompted thoughts that he might target the Ardennes Classics.

The word last night though is that Sky want Tiernan-Locke to shed around 9 kilos to get into ideal shape for next season – and we also learnt that his original nickname wasn’t JTL, down in Devon he was given the monicker J-Lo which he joked with Murnaghan was due to his big butt. That would be the first thing to go if he adopts the Twiggo diet, we reckon.

Eddy Merckx – new book reveals a heart problem

A new book is out that has just shot onto my buy list …..

Merckx, it is claimed, suffered from non-obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a condition closely related to that which appears to have caused Fabrice Muamba to collapse playing for Bolton Wanderers against Tottenham Hotspur in the FA Cup on Saturday.

Daniel Friebe in Eddy Merckx: the Cannibal recounts an incident during the 1968 Giro d’Italia when Enrico Peracino, team doctor at Merckx’s Faema squad, invited Italy’s leading cardiologist professor Giancarlo Lavezzaro to test the Belgian and another top rider Vittorio Adorni using a then state-of-the-art cardiogram at a sponsors dinner following stage three of the race.

Lavezzaro was shocked to notice that according to the results one of the riders – Merckx – was right in the middle of a heart attack although outwardly the rider appeared to be OK, though noticeably fatigued following a tough stage. Lavezzaro asked Merckx to repeat the test first thing the next morning. The result again appeared to confirm a clear case of non-obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.

Merckx’s team and Lavezzaro faced a dilemma. Did they tell Merckx – who to all intents and purposes appeared to be a superfit and healthy 24 year-old, about his condition, or even pull him from the race?

In the book Lavezzaro remembers Merckx “making vague noises about his cardiograms always being funny” but also recalls the Belgian insisting that he would race on whatever the diagnosis. Lavezzaro returned to his home in Turin and fully expected to hear news every day over the next fortnight of a Merckx collapse during race.

In fact the Belgian proceeded to his first grand tour triumph, the first of his five Giro titles, before going on to win five Tours de France. He was also three times the victor in the Vuelta a España, won three world championships and on 19 occasions claimed victory in one of cyclings’s five ‘monuments’ – the one-day classics Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the Tour of Lombardy.

“Now,” says Lavezzaro emphatically in the book, “Merckx wouldn’t be allowed to race. At the time we could see that he had a problem but couldn’t make a precise diagnosis without doing a cardiac catheterisation, which obviously wasn’t practical at the Giro. We just knew that he was at risk.

“Later I wrote to Merckx’s doctors in Belgium but they said it couldn’t be anything because he was still winning on the bike. The next year, the brother of the president of Torino football club had exactly the same thing and we went to Houston in the US to get it diagnosed properly, because we didn’t have the right apparatus in Turin.

“It was a non-obstructive hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. Nowadays, you pick it up straight away in the electrocardiograms that, for instance, professional cyclists have to pass to get their licence. And someone with that diagnosis wouldn’t be allowed to race. There are no symptoms … but there is a risk of sudden death.

“In 1977, an Italian footballer called Renato Curi with this problem dropped dead in the middle of a match … But no, there were no aerobic advantages and nothing Merckx could feel. There was just this sword of Damocles above his head every time he raced.”

Only 7 month until the next Giro d’Italia


From Saturday May 5th to Sunday May 27th 2012, the 95th edition of Giro d’Italia will start from Herning (Denmark) and will arrive in Milan. – The route for the 2012 Giro d’Italia, which was unveiled on Sunday, will be easier than in recent years, when it has been labelled inhuman, and riders are expected to spend less time on transfers between stages.

The race will start with an 8.7km individual time trial in Herning, Denmark, on 5 May and after three days fly to Italy. It is the 10th time in its 95 editions that the Giro has started abroad and on this occasion the first three stages will all be held in Denmark.

The world champion, Mark Cavendish, who wore the leader’s pink jersey for one stage and won stage 10 of this year’s race, is likely to be pleased with the profile of the first week, which clearly favours sprinters, but the Giro should be decided in the final week, with the penultimate stage, a 218km mountain trek ending with the tough climb up the Stelvio, likely to create significant gaps.

The race ends on 27 May with a 31.5km individual time trial in Milan – this year’s version of which was won by David Millar – the third test against the clock after the first stage and a team time trial in Verona.

Unlike last year, when exhausting, high mountain stages were lined up in succession with long, energy-sapping transfers, the 2012 route features a flat stage between two mountain treks in the final week.

Riders have complained in the past about the Giro route, and the former director Angelo Zomegnan has accused of setting up a “freak show”. But Zomegnan has been replaced by Michele Acquarone, who promised to take riders’ demands into consideration.

Perhaps partly as a consequence of the demanding 2011 route, Britain’s Team Sky entered effectively a second-string team, with Russell Downing and Peter Kennaugh – who would finish as the highest placed Briton, in 87th – the only British riders on the squad. But the prospect of Cavendish possibly lifting the pink jersey for the team in the first week, and the profile being much more suited to Chris Froome or Bradley Wiggins, who finished second and third in this year’s Vuelta a España, respectively, are likely to persuade the team principal, Dave Brailsford, to enter a strong squad next year.

The 2011 champion, Alberto Contador of Spain, who has already announced he will not be taking part but focusing instead on the Tour de France, spoke positively of the 2012 route. “This Giro will be more human,” he said. “There are more ‘recovery stages’ and, although I don’t think I’ll take part, it seems to be a very interesting route.”

Contador, a three-time Tour de France champion, said of his decision not to defend his Giro title: “I don’t think I will ride in the Giro; it will be very difficult. It’s very difficult to do both the Giro and the Tour. Maybe in two years’ time. I still have to talk to the team managers and discuss it with them but at the moment it’s not in my plans.”

Of next year’s race he said: “It’s a nice course, a bit different to last year and maybe a bit more even. For me the Giro is the best race in the world. It has a particular fascination for me. And if it was only up to my heart, I would race it. But next year I will think of other objectives, such as the Tour de France.”

The Liquigas rider Ivan Basso, the 2010 winner, said it would be a pity not to compete against Contador again. “I think it’s too early to talk about who’ll be there and who won’t because we’re in a bit of a particular situation, in that they’ve only revealed the route about 15 minutes ago so the cyclists have still to look at it properly, talk to their teams,” the Italian said.

“We also have to finish this season. But I would definitely prefer him to be there. I want to race against him.”

Next year’s Giro will have a solemn tone, with the third stage to be dedicated to Wouter Weylandt, the Belgian cyclist who died after a fall during this year’s race. Weylandt crashed on the descent of the Passo del Bocco on the third stage of the race – the same stage he won the previous year. The jersey No108, which Weylandt wore during the Giro, has also been retired.