Historic. Vibrant. Medieval. Food. Cycling. This is Girona, Spain and a place I call home. Girona is an ancient city more than two thousand years old in Catalonia, Spain. It is just an hour long train ride north of Barcelona. In Girona you won’t see in any Spanish flags, only the red and yellow striped Catalan flags… Read more →
Sean Fowler and Olga Belenko are a husband and wife team that single-handedly feed the Cannondale-Garmin riders during the world’s toughest bike races, from the Tour De France to the classics they make sure the team is fueled for those brutal days on the bike. No easy task considering the average World Tour rider eats anywhere 6,0000-9,000 calories per race… Read more →
Today Was the start of the 2015 Giro d’Italia. It was anything but normal as the racers faced a short and intense Team Time Trial held on a narrow bike path along the ocean. This was my first grand tour stage, as well as my first Team Time Trial so there was a lot for me to take in. First… Read more →
Stage 5 of the Vuelta Pais Vasco was a nasty one. It went from Eibar to Aia and was 155km long. With nine categorized climbs, including three leg breaking ascents up Aia with gradients reaching as steep as 28%. The race got off to an exciting start with a massive breakaway getting away. The attacks kept coming and the… Read more →
Stage 3 Vitoria-Gasteiz to Zumarraga was 107km long and was considered the first “mountain stage.” It included climbs over the Azazeta (cat 2), Iturrieta (cat 1), Urbasa (cat 1), Urkilaga (cat 2), Gabiria (cat 3), Antigua (cat 3, twice), Atagoiti (cat 3) and the Antiguako (cat 2). A breakaway of four riders set off with Hugh Carthy and Omar… Read more →
Stage 2 was the longest stage in the 2015 Pais Vasco at 175.4km in length. It went from Bilbao to Vitoria-Gasteiz, and was dubbed the “sprint stage” even though it had 10,000 ft of climbing. Never trust the profiles.
This flat stage went over five climbs, the Orduña (cat 1), Salinas de Añana (cat 3), San Martín de Zar (cat 3), Zaldiarán (cat 3), Vitoria (cat 3) and one last trip up the Alto de Zaldiarán (cat 3).
The day started off with a five minute protest against the race organizers organized by the CPA(the riders “union”). The riders were protesting the race organizers for once again, looking over the riders safety by leaving a series of metal poles sticking out in the road within the last 500 meters of a high-speed finish. In yesterday’s horrific crash, four riders were seriously injured including Peter Stetina (BMC), who was taken to the hospital with a fractured kneecap and ribs.
Just like stage 1, the break went in the first five kilometers which today was five riders made up of Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural-Seguros RGA), Sebastien Reichenbach IAM Cycling), Louis Vervaeke (Lotto Soudal), Thierry Hupond (Giant Alpecin), Kevin de Weert (LottoNL-Jumbo). Txurruka was the highest ranked rider on general classifcation(GC) with the same time as the race leader Matthews so it seemed the break was doomed for success from the get go.
Despite a rider high on GC in the break, Orica-GreenEdge showed no interest in defending the race lead and the stage. The break’s lead eventually ballooned out to 10 minutes. Just as it hit ten minutes Movistar hit the front and for the rest of the race showed their strength to the peloton. Starting from the Cat 1 climb they gave a clinic in climbing and descending. For the next 100km the peloton would be in a long line with groups of 50 and 60 being dropped off the back and having the fight back constantly.
With 30km to go Orica-GreenEdge finally hit the front and did the rest of the pacemaking. In the last 25km Reichenbach and Txurruka left the others behind but were eventually caught on the last climb. Many teams tried to set a fast pace to keep the race under control and that prevented any attacks. It was on the downhill that someone was able to break free. Tom Slagter (Cannondale-Garmin) got a gap and went for it with 8km to go. He stayed clear all the way to 2.5km to go where she was swallowed up by the hard charging peloton.
In a stage dominated the last few years by Orica-GreenEdge it looked to be a repeat with Matthews. In the last kilometer Etixx-Quickstep led the peloton, but in the finish it was a surprise with Fabio Felline (Trek Factory Racing) crossing the line first with Matthews in second. Matthews kept the leaders jersey with his second place finish. It was Felline’s first World Tour victory and came on the heals of a time trial victory in last weeks Criterium International.
Today I road in the team car thanks to Cannondale-Garmin soigneurs Paul and Stefano. I was able to see just how much goes into a day of racing that many people don’t even consider. The soigneurs are like the heart of the operation. They make sure blood gets pumped to all the different parts of the team. They handle everything before the race, during the race and after the race. But I’m saving that blog post for another day, maybe tomorrow. Mostly because I am really tired from all the hard bike racing I’ve been watching.
But on a serious note wishing a speedy recovery to all of the riders involved in yesterday’s senseless crash. It’s just so sad that this is what had to happen for people to wakeup and bring rider safety to the forefront. Whether it be barricading poles in the road, neutralizing stages or not riding in dangerous weather conditions. I think some people forget that these riders are humans and have limits just like everyone else. Hopefully we can learn from this and move in the right direction going forward.
Stage 1 of Pais Vasco was a 162 km stage that started and finished in the beautiful city of Bilbao. The stage was made up of three categorized climbs on the Alto de Morga, and twice up the Alto del Vivero from 2 different directions. Right from the start three riders broke free and formed the day’s breakaway.… Read more →
We are taking our journey west to Pays Basque, a region located in the western Pyrenees that spans the border between France and Spain on the Atlantic coast. Our first stop, San Sebastian, a little town situated on the North Central Coast of Spain. Known for it’s tapas and wine. A destination frequented by foreigners but it doesn’t feel touristy at all. I stayed at the Astoria7 hotel about a mile from the beach, when traveling I try and always pick hotels with restaurants and activities that I can walk to. My only regret is that I didn’t stay longer. Here’s a peek into my mini-trip.
First things first, a bike ride. We checked out the second to last stage and time trial of Pais Vasco. Which started in Orio and includes the steepest climb I’ve ever seen (28% grade) which can only be described as a death march. Get your compacts on!
Lucky for us the weather cleared up and we were able to walk to our dinner reservations on the beach. As I walked back to the hotel I thought to myself, San Sebastian, just like the rest of Spain has taught me it’s okay to slow down and not always be “doing.” To eat my meals slowly, to get off my phone, to live life and just breathe it all in.
Stage 7, The final Stage of Volt Catalunya, was anything but a ride into Barcelona. With 9 categorized climbs, including 8 trips up the infamous Montjuic, it was yet another brutal stage on the weary peloton.
The first hour of racing covered 51 kilometers as every rider wanted to try for the breakaway. Movistar showed their intent of the stage win and overall win for Valverde and kept the race together until the first sprint. Valverde finished second in the sprint and inched another 2 seconds closer to the Volta title.
Finally a break formed of David Arroyo (Caja Rural), Walter Pedraza (Columbia), and Mark Rutkiewicz (CCC Sprandi Polkowice). Behind Movistar kept a short lease on them and never left them gain more than 1:30. When the peloton arrived on the Mpntjuic circuit Movistar upped the pace, reducing the peloton as well as softening the riders up for the final.
The break was then absorbed and with two laps to go Dan Martin (Cannondale- Garmin) showed his cards and threw a vicious attack. He was reeled in and then was countered by Valverde on the final accent of Montjuic.Sky brought him back, but on the steep kicker with 3 k to go Dan Martin hit them once again. Go under the 1 k to go banner Martin held a slight advantage and looked like the victor, but the green bullet Valverde came screaming past in the last 200 meters for the stage victory. It was his third victory of the week and showed that he was the strongest rider of the Volta. Losing 22 seconds on stage 3, Valverde got back to within 4 seconds of the overall winner Richie Porte of Sky making for yet again another nail biter in the 2015 edition.
Final General Classification
AUS 1 PORTE, Richie (SKY) 30:30:30
ESP 2 VALVERDE BELMONTE, Alejandro (MOVISTAR) + 4
ITA 3 POZZOVIVO, Domenico (AG2R LA MONDIALE) + 5
ESP 4 CONTADOR VELASCO, Alberto (TINKOFF – SAXO) + 7
COL 5 URAN URAN, Rigoberto (ETIXX – QUICK STEP) + 18
ITA 6 ARU, Fabio (ASTANA) + 27
COL 7 ATAPUMA HURTADO, Darwin (BMC RACING) + 33
ESP 8 VALLS FERRI, Rafael (LAMPRE – MERIDA) + 1:35
IRL 9 MARTIN, Daniel (CANNONDALE – GARMIN)
COL 10 PANTANO, Jarlinson (IAM CYCLING) + 2:16
What I learned:
1. Do not let a breakaway get 2:40 on the first day.
2. Good guys get dropped too.
3. Toll roads are expensive.
5. You can survive on Cappuccino’s and chips.
6. You can go over the guardrail one day and win the stage the next
7. I REALLY need to learn how to drive a stick shift.
8. I REALLY need to learn how to speak catalan.
9. Google translate is a beautiful thing.
10. Tommy looks good in red.
Well that was a pretty insane week. This was the first time I’ve ever attempted to write or report on cycling. I really had to involve myself in the entire race, every stage, from start to finish. I was racing up climbs to get the perfect shot, acting like I didn’t know better when they would kick me out of the press area, calling my “inside source” to ask him what REALLY happened when so-and-so crashed and of course attempting to translate Volta Catalunya’s tweets. But seeing all the awesome feedback I received from you guys really made it worth while. I know I still have a lot to learn about cycling and blogging in general, but I feel myself improving each time I open the computer.
thank you for the love,
Stage 6 the break away succeeded in todays stage of Volta Catalunya. The attacks started from the very beginning with every rider sensing opportunity. The combination of the climb at the start and a strong crosswind enabled a group of 22 to break clear.
Steven Kruijswijk was the closest on GC at 4 minutes down so the breakaway was given a short leash. Sky did most of the pace making in the peloton and did not allow the gap to be over 2 minutes for most of the day. On the last climb, with 30 kilometers to go, Tom Danielson and Teejay Van Garderen attacked reducing the group to 12. The attacks continued throughout the final but no rider was able to get clear. The race ended with a sprint of the twelve riders and Russian rider Sergei Chernetski (Katusha) came out on top.
Richie Porte maintained the overall race lead with 5 seconds over Pozzovivo (Ag2r) and 7 seconds over Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo) who crashed in a roundabout with 3k to go but did not lose time.
Stage 7 Starting and finishing in Barcelona the riders will tackle a short 126km. They riders will go over the famous Montjuic climb and with an 8 lap 6.4km finishing circuit in the Montjuic park.
I have been looking forward to tomorrow’s stage in Barcelona all week long. So be on the look out for lots of photos and videos. I mean a circuit race around a castle. Not a whole lot better spectating then that. Really hoping it lives up to all the expectations in my head. Do you ever do that? Build something up so big that there’s no possible way it can be as awesome as you imagine. Yeah, me too. But any who, as always, I am open for suggestions. Tell me what YOU want to see.