Froome on Strava and then …..not


CYCLING WEEKLY REBLOG:

Does Tour de France champion Chris Froome have a Strava account? Someone uploading rides under the name of ‘Luke Skywalker’ accompanied Team Sky’s Ian Boswell during training rides in South Africa, and they are seriously quick up mountains.

Boswell said yesterday that only he and Froome and been training together in South Africa – which leads us to the not very clever conclusion that the mysterious Luke Skywalker (Sky-walker, get it?) is indeed Froome.

However, the account was deleted on Wednesday, March 2, shortly after this article was published.

The Skywalker account was created on February 18, kicking off with a ride with Boswell. The two riders covered 172km (107 miles) at a seriously impressive average speed of 31km/h (19.2mph), particularly given they climbed just under 3000 metres in total. Maximum speed was a scary 83kmh (51.7mph).

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A series of identical rides were then logged on both Boswell’s and Skywalker’s accounts, the longest being 214km (133 miles) on Monday, February 29. The two riders covered that distance at an average speed of 34.7kmh (21.6mph). No wonder Boswell said in a blog this week that Froome pushed him to the limit.

As you may expect, both Skywalker and Boswell had secured pretty much all of the KOMs on the mountain roads in the region where they were riding, including the 9km (5.6 miles) Steenbrasberg Pass at an average of five per cent gradient. Now that the Skywalker account has been deleted, the KOMs are all Boswell’s.

Boswell has now returned to Europe, and will start Paris-Nice on Sunday. Froome will continue training in South Africa and commences his European campaign at the Volta a Catalunya on March 21.

Froome – if it is him – may need to brush up on his Star Wars knowledge though, as they used a photo of Anakin Skywalker on the account rather than Luke. Schoolboy error.

 

Richie Porte interview from the Rapha blog


playing virtual giro on velogames and he is my main hope – this article is quite cool.

RAPHA.CC

Team Sky go into battle in Italy this month with Richie Porte a contender for the pink jersey. Chris Froome’s most trusted lieutenant has turned general this year, leading Team Sky from the front to take several stage race wins since the start of the season. Rapha sat down with the Australian to talk leadership, the sweet taste of victory and war stories from the road.

Hi Richie. You’ve had a brilliant start to the season, how does it feel?

It’s been more than I’d hoped for, especially after last season – the disaster that that was. To be honest, it’s quite surreal how well this season has gone so far. It’s always nice to win races like Paris-Nice, Catalunya and the Willunga stage of the Tour Down Under, but to be honest that all counts for nothing. The Giro is my big goal and that’s where I want to be at my best.

You have been in superb form since January. Is there ever a worry that you may have peaked early? 

It’s not really difficult for me and that’s because we’ve got guys like Tim Kerrison and the [Team Sky] Performance Team behind us. I think Tim’s been fantastic with Brad [Wiggins] and Chris [Froome] over the years regarding when they’ve peaked and so I take confidence from that. I’m much more motivated this season than I have been in the past, and the Giro is my big opportunity to lead a team. I’m going to take that opportunity with both hands.

Why are you more motivated this year?

After you have a bad season, you look back on that and then think about how good it feels to win a race. It’s just an unbelievable feeling – for me that’s my motivation. To win any race is hard, but to have eight or nine victories like I have so far… it’s contagious.

After winning the Volta a Catalunya in March, you spoke about it giving you greater belief in yourself. Has confidence ever been a problem for you? 

Confidence is a massive part of professional cycling. I’m confident in my ability, but to go to a race like Catalunya, which on paper wasn’t that great for me, up against someone in form like [Alejandro] Valverde, isn’t easy. And to win there, where I’ve only really got bad memories, it is a massive bonus for the morale.

How do you find being the team leader at races?

I wouldn’t say it is something that comes naturally to me but I’d say that over the years I’ve worked with some fantastic leaders, from Alberto [Contador] and the Schleck brothers when I was with Saxo, to Bradley in 2012 and Chris in 2013. I’m more used to riding for somebody, but with the steps I’ve taken this year I’ve embraced having those seven or eight guys commit to me.

How would you describe yourself as a leader?

Probably a little bit more stressed than Chris! Obviously he is very laid back, and so was Brad. I’m not sure what the other guys would say but I don’t think I’m that hard to work for! I like to hit the front and race from there. At the end of the day, in any team it’s easier to work for a guy who is finishing it off and winning. My big goal going into the Giro is obviously to go for as high a GC as I can get.

The 2010 edition of the race, when you wore the pink jersey for three days, must hold fond memories for you? 

To grow up watching the Giro and then to be in that massive break where for 200km I realised that I was going to be in the pink jersey as long as I kept it upright and not get dropped – it still gives me goose bumps to think about it. Other than the yellow jersey I think the pink jersey is probably the most beautiful one to wear in professional cycling.

Do you enjoy riding in Italy?

Italy is where I did my amateur days – I moved there from Australia in 2007. I like the way the Italians do it. When we stay in Italy for races, at the hotels they take such pride in their food and their coffee and that mixes so well with cycling. Even though I live in Monaco I find I often ride into Italy for the coffee, the piadini and the focaccias. I just love it – it’s so simple, but it works.

Are there any Italian riders, past or present, that you particularly enjoy watching?

You’d probably look back to Basso in the CSC days, with the class he used to ride with. Either that or Paolo Savoldelli – I used to love watching him, the way he used to go down the descents like a lead balloon. Someone who I also loved watching, although he’s not Italian, is Michael Wilson. He was the first Aussie winner of a stage of the Giro – a real trailblazer – and he had a massive influence on me. I saw Rapha did a film about him in my hometown of Launceston and it was almost emotional to watch because from where I’m from, almost nobody knows who Michael is and what he’s done. He’s such a humble champ.

Who do you think will be your main rivals this year?

I think it’s Contador’s race to lose. He’s the guy that has won the race before and I think he’s motivated. There are other guys like [Fabio] Aru or Rigoberto [Uran], my old team mate. He’s been second two years in a row so he knows what he’s doing. He’s such a cool champion too – I respect him and look forward to racing against him.

How will you unwind post-stage to take your mind off the racing? 

I love it on the bus afterwards. That’s your mental break: you get on the bus, have your shower, eat and talk to your teammates. Somebody has always got a story, a near miss, or an argument they had with another rider – I love it. Then obviously at the dinner table it’s good to hear some of the war stories. I love listening to Bernie (Eisel), Brad (Wiggins) and Mick Rogers when he was on our team, talking about the days of suffering they’ve had at the grand tours.

If you win, how much celebrating will you do before thoughts turn to July? 

I’ve got a good mate and his wife coming to stay with me and my fiancée for a few days so I’m sure there would be some pretty big celebrations. After the Giro I’m off to Manchester for ten days because that’s where my fiancée is from and I’m really looking forward to using that as my recovery period. Then it’s all eyes on the Tour!

porte-holding

Stannard dishes out a masterclass


from peleton magazine…..

The defending race champion somehow managed to beat three super-strong riders from the same team — Etixx-Quick-Step’s Tom Boonen, Niki Terpstra, and Stijn Vandenbergh — and take the classics season opener in Ghent, Belgium.

It was a huge disaster for Etixx-Quick-Step and an unforgettable performance by Stannard.

First, here are the top 10 results (via Sporza):

#OHN

Here’s how things played out in the finale:

In the closing kilometers of the race, after the group of four had been out in front for 40 kilometers, the three Etixx riders started attacking repeatedly in hopes of forcing Stannard to chase and tire himself out.

Almost everyone seemed to be saying that Etixx had the win in the bag and that it would be too difficult for Stannard to win. It looked possible for Etixx to dominate the whole podium in a clean sweep.

And with the likes of Boonen and Terpstra attacking, all that made perfect sense. It was a really classic set-up in terms of tactics: three riders versus one. So, attack the lone guy until he’s blown and win the race.

Boonen put in the first big attack. Stannard was isolated but kept on the gas, with Terpstra and Vandenbergh sitting on his wheel. Then Boonen imploded, and Stannard closed the gap to him.

Next to attack was Terpstra, and Vandenbergh jumped on his wheel, which was puzzling (why not let Stannard chase Terpstra, then attack Stannard again with another hit?). They gapped Stannard right away. But Stannard clawed his way back to them. Suddenly, it was all four back together.

That’s when Stannard jumped. It was quite a sight. He got a gap right away, surprising the Etixx riders, who seemed to be tiring themselves out.

Terpstra rode up to Stannard, while a totally blown Boonen tried to get back to them (Vandenbergh had imploded and was gone). It came down to Terpstra and Stannard going to the line mano a mano, with Terpstra leading out the sprint and Stannard just coming around him to cross the line first.

Watch the final 10 or so kilometers of the race below. (Skip to 6:00 for the real fireworks.)

We already knew Stannard was super strong and a real hardman. Saturday he showed he’s not only one of the toughest riders in the peloton but also one of its most astute tacticians. The guy doesn’t know how to give up. His combination of brute strength and clever riding won him the race.

What looked like a predictable outcome after classic tactics of three-on-one backfired. Conventional wisdom failed because Stannard was too strong. He’s only 27, so expect to see him winning more races.

“I couldn’t be happier,” Stannard told TeamSky.com after the race. “It’s nice to do the double sweep at the race, but after the difficulties I had last year breaking my back it’s nice to have got myself back to where I was.

“Being with those three guys I knew they were all committed to trying to win. As a team they haven’t won it for 10 years and it’s a big one missing off Boonen’s palmares. I knew they were going to race hard. With Sep Vanmarcke and Greg van Avermaet chasing behind it put the pressure on them. I could just sit back, play a bit of poker and enjoy the ride.

“I just wanted to get a free ride for as long as I could. That was my idea. When they all started attacking me it wasn’t a great feeling. When Boonen went I was thinking ‘right, what do I do here?’ I knew if I rode him back I’d get attacked. I paced myself back a little bit. I could feel the wheel behind was trying hard to stay with me. So I felt like it was going pretty good and then I just took my chance.”

Here’s what Terpstra and Boonen had to say (via Etixx-Quick-Step.com):

Terpstra: “Looking back, maybe it would have been better to wait for the sprint with Tom and not attacking, but it’s a question of moment and circumstances. Stannard was really strong in the end against our attacks, and deserved the win.”

Boonen: “Today we made a mistake in the final,” Boonen said. He added: “There is a thin line between a great race and a costly mistake and unfortunately we took the risk of not waiting for the sprint, and it didn’t work out. It would have been great to win the race, but that’s cycling. Congrats to Stannard. He rode a smart tactical race and his reactions to our attacks were impressive. His sprint was also strong. As a team we rode super strong today and while we unfortunately fell short of victory, we know what we are capable of for future races.”

Wiggins and Froome to be a winning pair to contest Le Tour for SKY


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Road.cc
When the Tour de France rolls out of Leeds on July 5, Sir Bradley Wiggins says he will fill whatever role Team Sky asks in order to be on that start line.

After making history as the first Briton to win the Tour de France in 2012, Sir Bradley missed the 2013 edition because of injury. Team-mate Chris Froome took the win, and Wiggins is determined to line up next to the defending champion this year.

Sir Bradley and Team Sky are currently on a training camp in Majorca. He will start his season at the four-day Challenge Majorca race series on February 9.

Wiggins told Sky Sports News: “I’d love to be back at the Tour de France. That’s the long-term goal – to be part of that successful team.

“I missed it last year and had to watch it on the TV. When you see it from the outside then you see just how great the Tour de France is.”

“Obviously there’s a huge opportunity with it starting in the UK this year. Coming back as a former winner and it being there is fantastic.”

If Sky fields both Sir Bradley and Chris Froome, it will be the first time a team has rolled out two Tour de France winners from the same country since Pedro Delgado and Miguel Indurain rode for Banesto in 1993.

Sir Bradley said: “To be back at the Tour de France, back in the team in whatever capacity alongside the defending champion Chris Froome, two British winners in the Tour starting in the UK – it’s going to be quite an experience.”

“At this stage, all my winter training has been about hitting the ground running in the early races. I want to get off to a flying start as I did in 2012.

“I want to perform well in the early season. I’ve got some good goals early season, building up to the Tour of California in May. I want to start performing well out there in America.”

Tacks are one thing – a stab in the back from a teammate would be the Caesar moment


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From the guardian

Chris Froome made it very clear on Sunday that, despite the brief but much discussed incident on the climb to La Toussuire last Thursday, when he seemed about to prove himself a stronger climber than Bradley Wiggins until he heeded his sporting director’s instruction to slow down, he will be riding to orders to help ensure that his team leader becomes the first British rider to win the Tour de France.

“Everyone’s been asking me about that,” the 27-year-old Kenyan-bornTeam Sky rider told L’Equipe. “I understand it and I know that I’d be capable of winning this Tour, but not with Sky. We’ve got a definite strategy and everybody respects it.”

Although that sounds like the last word on the matter, it is entirely dependent on this week’s events. Elsewhere in the interview Froome indicated the extent of his ambition and his desire to be treated as a potential Tour winner sooner rather than later.

His other-worldly air may be misleading. He spoke of a self-sufficiency honed as a boy when his family moved from Kenya to South Africa and he was thrust into unfamiliar surroundings. “I like to fight alone,” he said, referring to his fondness for the solitary effort of time trialling and for the pleasure of riding in the mountains – the two disciplines in which he excels.

Even more significant may have been his description of the decision to live in Italy when he was racing for the Barloworld team, to make it easier for his girlfriend to travel to her job in Milan. After they broke up, he told himself: “Now the only thing I’m going to think about is my career as a rider.”

Team Sky’s strategy this month, which has roots going back four years, is to maximise Wiggins’s talents and minimise his weaknesses in order to put him on the top step of the podium in Paris next Sunday. It did not work in 2010, Sky’s debut season, when his form and the team’s naivety combined to destroy the hopes that had been raised by his fourth-place finish for the Garmin team the previous year, and 12 months later an early crash removed him from contention.

This year the 32-year-old triple Olympic champion has a handpicked squad, only slightly compromised by the need to give Mark Cavendish, the team’s big winter signing, the chance to mount a token defence of the green jersey while wearing the world champion’s rainbow stripes and to attempt a fifth consecutive win on the Champs-Elysées next Sunday. But the wild card, as it turns out, is Froome, who signed for the team in 2010 but is only now making his first appearance in the Tour for the team, having made his debut with Barloworld in 2008.

Although planned down to the minutest detail, what the team’s strategy for this year’s race cannot account for is the sort of unexpected change that so often happens in the Tour. In a three-week stage race a rider’s form, no matter how carefully monitored in the months before the Tour, can suddenly hit a wall.

There is also the possibility that the kind of incident that took Wiggins out of the race 12 months ago could repeat itself. Or stages requiring different gifts can expose inherent failings.

Wiggins is currently 2min 5sec ahead of Froome, who sits just behind him in the general classification, and the Sky leader can expect to take a further two minutes out of his principal rivals – Cadel Evans and Vincenzo Nibali – in next Saturday’s penultimate stage, a 53.5km time trial in which the final order will be determined before the ceremonial procession into Paris.

But anything can happen in the last week of the race and from Wiggins’s point of view the most threatening of the remaining stages are likely to be on Wednesday and Thursday, when the riders enter the High Pyrenees to tackle a series of huge climbs.

The Aubisque, the Tourmalet, the Aspin and the Peyresourde come in succession on the first of those days, followed on the second by the Col de Menté and the Port de Balès, with the stage finishing at the 1,600m summit of Peyragudes, where a challenger will probably have a last chance to snatch the yellow jersey.

What, Froome was asked, would he do if Wiggins showed frailty in the mountains? “If I thought we were going to lose the Tour, I’d follow the best, who could be Nibali or Evans, in order to preserve our chances, to make sure of a Sky presence.”

After finishing second in last year’s Vuelta a Espana, a race he might have won but for Sky’s tactical confusion, and attracting interest from other top teams, Froome signed a new – and very lucrative – four-year contract with the British outfit.

However he was willing to say that he expects preferential treatment if next year’s Tour route suits his strengths. “In that case I would expect Sky to be honest and put my team-mates at my disposal, with the same loyalty that I’m showing now,” he said.

For the moment Sky are perfectly placed with their leader and his first lieutenant at the top of the standings heading into the final week. And orders are orders. But on Thursday night in Peyragudes, when Froome may need to chase down a last attack, the reality of those detailed plans and honourable intentions could emerge in a very different light.