OK, let’s take the last part first. I’m a little angry that you even asked. In fact, step right back and get out. Overlooked, barely on TV, only vaguely on the internet, this is the grand tour that’s always third in the pecking order to the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia. The English-speaking world is slow to tune in, and for no good reason. But this year it is set up to be the GREATEST cycling stage race of all time. And so should it be. In the modern cycling calendar all the pro tour teams want a piece of it. It has the same set of illustrious winners – Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault, etc. – and there’s no gap where Lance Armstrong won it, because the best he could do was fourth (subsequently voided). And for those who watched the Giro outperform the Tour this year in terms of competition at the top and a changing leaderboard right at the death, you can expect even more from the ‘Tour of Spain’.
Arguably the best three riders in the world at the moment are all racing: Britain’s-slash-Kenya’s-slash-South Africa’s Chris Froome, Colombian Nairo Quintana and two-times previous winner Alberto Contador of Spain. Of recent grand tour winners only this year’s Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali will not be racing. See the other favourites at the bottom …
So because it is likely to be the stage race of the year we have a competition going with a massive prize: the four Bloomsbury cycling books shown in the thumbnails below.
How to enter
All you have to do is enter a fantasy team at the road.cc Fantasy Cycling competition online and then enter our mini league called ‘A Bloomsbury Cycling Whitewash’. It’s not as hard as it sounds. You have to sign up to road.cc first and come up with a password, but you don’t have to pay any money.
Having signed up and named your team, you go to the ‘Pick team’ tab and choose nine riders for the first stage with a fixed budget of 160 points and riders of various point-costs. Every day before the next stage begins you can change two riders. However if you leave your team as is, you carry over these two unused transfers to the next day, so you would have four to transfer after one day, or six after three days unused, etc.
To enter our league click on the ‘Leagues’ tab and you’ll see ‘A Bloomsbury Cycling Whitewash’ near the top. Enter a bunch of other leagues too, why not. Ours will be the simplest to win though, as you are probably the only person reading this.
How to choose your riders
You can score a lot of points in a lot of ways: placings in general classification, points classification, young rider, king of the mountains, the top 20 home in any stage, the intermediate sprints, the mountain points, etcetera. But you’ll not win anything with kids, or, that is, the majority of the domestiques who will be riding purely to get their team leaders into the top places, then dropping back into obscurity, scoring you nothing.
In light of which it makes sense to put two of the very cheapest riders in your team, so that you can afford seven winning riders.
Which riders are best for which stages?
It’s important to distinguish between the various types of race. The flat stages will be won by the sprinters (designated by green ‘PC’ symbols next to them), the mountain stages by the best all-rounders or climbers, the medium mountain stages can be won by anyone, especially towards the end of the competition, and the time trials will be won by Tony Martin. The first stage is a short team time trial. I have no idea who will win this, but Astana, Orica-GreenEDGE and Team Sky look … as good as any.
There are a few good websites to go to work out who those in the know think will win each day. The website oddschecker compiles all the betting odds and the website c-cycling.com has brilliant previews every morning before the race (which seem to then massively influence the oddschecker odds).
How to follow the Vuelta online
Because of the British riders, there will be good articles in the usual online newspapers: Telegraph, Guardian, etc. The Guardian had no minute-by-minute last year for the Vuelta, but might this year.
Steephill.tv is the best for complete coverage of all kinds, and it links to the c-cycling preview every morning when this is up.
Road Cycling UK‘s site I have to plug too as they’ve just finished making the brilliant Infographic Guide to Cycling with us. But yes, very good Vuelta content up already with an article on who will win king of the mountains.
The official Vuelta a España website was a bit crap last year if I’m honest, but part of that is because the Tour de France coverage is so good on the internet that anything else seems a come down.
Chris Froome Sky’s big hope. He was disappointed to drop out early of this year’s Tour de France having won it last year. And he’ll be keen to show he is no grand tour one-shot. Having won the Critérium du Dauphiné (points competition) before the Tour, and having had time to recover from the falls that knocked him out of the Tour, he should be in good form. Notably he was second in the 2011 Vuelta.
Nairo Quintana This year’s winner of the Giro d’Italia and in a very strong Movistar team along with past Vuelta winner Alejandro Valverde of Spain. He is only 24 but looks impossible to beat in the mountains when on form.
Alejandro Valverde As mentioned above he’s won this thing before (2009) and been on the final podium on four other occasions, last year coming third, only 1 minute and 36 seconds from the red jersey. He was fourth in the Tour this year too, so at 34 years old, and on home soil, Valverde is still very much a contender.
Alberto Contador The other big-name Spaniard is considered by many to still be the best cyclist out there. Despite having two grand tours stripped from him, he has legitimately won all three big grand tours, and five in total not counting the two that were nixed. The doping conviction (an ‘accidental ingestion of the banned doping product Clenbuterol’ in very small amounts) may not make him a popular figure with everyone, but his combative style and constant mountain attacks make him, at worst, an exciting villain.
Chris Horner Let’s not forget the American who won the Vuelta last year. Can he do it again? No way, he’s 42. Send him out to pasture. (Still, let’s hope he does.)
Cadel Evans The Aussie battler – sorry, love that cliché – is also on the northern side of 35, but the former Tour and Giro winner has maintained some decent form. He hasn’t won anything too major recently but was third in the Giro d’Italia last year and beat a decent field to win the Giro del Trentino in April.
Joaquim Rodríguez The Spaniard they call ‘Purito’ – for the dubious honour of being one of few riders not to dope – is in the prime of his career, but risks never achieving any major honours. This has to be his Vuelta if he’s to push himself above Contador and Valverde in Spanish hearts. Highly rated, he’s been on the final podium in all three grand tours without ever being more than a bridesmaid. Coming second in last year’s World Championship is the icing that didn’t quite make it onto the cake.
Fabio Aru Perhaps more an outside bet, the Astana rider is second fiddle to his team-mate Nibali and didn’t ride in the Tour de France this year, but he did finish third in this year’s Giro when free from the shackles. The Italian climber seems indefatigable in every stage. His team-mate Tanel Kangert will help Astana have a good shot at Stage 1, the team time trial (which they won at this year’s Giro).
Rigoberto Uran My personal favourite, the Colombian who left Sky last year for Omega Pharma-Quick Step, has come second in the Giro for two years running, and was unlucky not to win it this year. Another young gun like Aru and Quintana who will likely be a big name for some years to come.
Tony Martin OK, he won’t win the Vuelta, but he is so dominate in time trials he deserves a mention. The German is a shoo-in for Stage 10.
Peter Sagan He cruised to the green jersey of points victory in the Tour this year, without winning a single stage, and is likely to do the same here. He can sprint, he can handle a mountain or two, and he’s a smart cookie, always managing to get himself in the right place for the finish. The sprinters: Bouhanni, Ferrari, Degenkolb, Boonen, etc. may run Sagan close, or a top GC rider may win the points competition with so many to compete against, but my idiotic money is on Sagan.
Exciting news: we’re recruiting!!
If you think you’ve got what it takes, why wait. Get applying now and you could soon be working with the staggeringly brilliant Team Sport at Bloomsbury.
We are looking for a highly motivated and organised editor to work in our busy Sports and Fitness department. Bloomsbury Sport publishes the best in sport, health and fitness books, covering a wide range of subjects, from the history of cycling through to the practicalities of foam rolling. This is a challenging and exciting role for someone able to manage their own projects with plenty of drive and enthusiasm.
• Managing a number of full colour, mono and e-books through the editorial process from cover design and manuscript delivery through to publication
• Working closely with in-house Design, Marketing, Publicity and Rights departments
• Working closely with Commissioning Editors within the department
• Working closely with authors, and briefing freelancers, suppliers, photographers, photo agencies and illustrators
• Schedule and budget management
• Writing back cover and catalogue copy
Skills, knowledge, experience
• Editorial experience in book publishing
• Proficient with illustrated books
• Eye for design and layouts
• Excellent oral and written communication skills
• Ability to prioritise and use own initiative, juggling several projects at a time
• Solid time-management skills in order to cope with competing deadlines
• Ideally experience of working on ebooks, and XML
• Ideally experience of working on photo shoots
• Meticulous attention to detail
• Wide-ranging interest in sports and fitness is desirable
• Proficient with all Microsoft Office packages and Adobe. Mac experience desirable.
This role is based at Bloomsbury’s London office, 50 Bedford Square, London, WC1B 3DP.
To apply, please send a CV, covering letter, including current salary details, to Julia.Thomson@bloomsbury.com. Julia Thomson, HR Administrator.
The closing date for this role is Sunday 31 August 2014.
Guest post by Ben Oakley, author of Podium: What Shapes Sporting Champions
First person autobiographical insights interest me since they provide examples of what shapes their path to the top. My fascination with these accounts, and my own experience as an Olympic coach (1988, 1992) and Open University academic, led me to research 25 autobiographies from serial champions. Amongst these were a number of teenage champions.
The youngest medallist at the Commonwealth Games was 13 year old para-swimmer Erraid Davies and the whole event narrative was dominated by young, up-and-coming athletes, many in their teenage years. Likewise the new Premiership season will no doubt see new 18-year-old, or younger, talents emerge.
Child champions’ breakthroughs are fascinating as they have no medal success at the top level to help build supreme optimism to succeed. They often defy the form books to breakthrough to senior success while still at school. Take Cathy Freeman who, aged 16, won a relay 100m gold medal at the 1990 Commonwealth Games. ‘[She] spent the first few days [in the athlete’s village] with [her] mouth open, staring at everyone and everything.’ Problems with dropped batons in practice meant self-doubt began to gnaw away.
But confidence to succeed has a social element. What others say and their behaviour around us matters. If others believe in you and make this abundantly clear, it is a real fillip. In this case it came in the form of the team’s top sprinter, Kerry Johnson, who had been Freeman’s number one supporter and looked out for the ‘baby of the team’. Johnson threatened the management that she would boycott the team unless Freeman ran. Her pre-race advice to Freeman, ‘I think we’ll win this today,’ arguably helped convince the schoolgirl that she deserved to be there. They surged to gold and Freeman’s life changed in that moment.
Coaches and hormones
Likewise, the other person that helped instil self-belief in 15-year-old Michael Phelps was his coach, who ignited his desire to become the youngest ever swimming world record holder. But natural hormonal support was also at play. In the preceding year Phelps experienced his most accelerated growth spurt – a two-inch height gain on the marks on his doorway at home. His coach lit the fuse by writing ‘WR Austin’ (World Record, Austin, Texas) on all the notes he left for Phelps over six months preparing to break the 200m butterfly world record. At the Austin meet he was the first ever to swim under 1 minute 55 seconds.
Ian Thorpe has also described growth spurts, which caused a huge five-second improvement in his 400m freestyle time between the ages of 15 and 16. Imagine the exuberance and confidence of seeing almost monthly gains in performance. Mix this with youthful naïvety and there is a recipe for great things. Describing winning his five-medals at the Sydney Games aged 17, Thorpe said, ‘I had been devoid of nerves – dazzled by the lights and attention, unaware of the true pressure of an Olympic meet and oh-so calm.’
At the 2012 Olympics a shocked 15-year-old Lithuanian swimmer, Ruta Meilutyte, emerged from the pool astonished and in tears at winning gold. Appropriately, it was Ian Thorpe who defended and rationalised her teenage success to a suspicious media.
When former England footballer Michael Owen spoke about as an 18 year old scoring a wonder goal against Argentina in the World Cup he captured the clutter free thoughts of youth:
‘When I did it I wasn’t surprised at all, now as you get older and look back you think what an attitude I had, I wasn’t scared of anyone, I didn’t even know who I was playing against. We’d have team meetings and they’d say you’re playing against this man and this man: I didn’t even listen, I didn’t care. I just knew that I was playing, that I was going to score … You get older and you start worrying about things, you know, you just worry too much … You only have that not being scared as a kid.’
Not being scared sums it up nicely – the benefit of being a child. As he reminds us, life gets more complicated as an adult – relationships, mortgages, media commitments, expectations, elevated pressure, the weight of history and other athletes gunning to beat you.
Child champions’ unique experience are all part of the complex mix that contribute to examining what shapes champions’ paths. My research and writing Podium has also been a real journey that often challenged my own beliefs.
Ben Oakley is the author of Podium: What Shapes a Sporting Champion, order your copy today
30% off selected sports books from Bloomsbury
Browse our books and discover a wealth of sporting information on the games and the athletes who take part. From sports journalist Brian Oliver’s new book The Commonwealth Games, which brings the games to life with stories of the athletes who have competed over the years; to Podium a fantastic book that reveals the attributes and influences that are needed to become a champion and bring home gold. We have every book for the sporting fan.
Offer valid until 3rd August 2014.
We don’t like to boast, but, well, some of our books are just so bloomin’ great that we can’t help but sing their praises. And for this beaut, we’ve borrowed some words from people who’ve beaten us to it…
‘MILLIONS upon millions of words have been written on Eddy Merckx over the decades and it will get to the point soon when there is nothing new to say, which is possibly why Bloomsbury came up with the interesting idea of revisiting a year in the life of cycling’s nonpareil with a series of documentary type photographs. As all my snapper friends constantly remind me a great image is always worth a thousand words. Damn them, but they are right.
Not any old year mind and not any old photos. 1969 was an incredible career defining 12-months for Merckx while the project collaborators Tonny Strouton and Jan Maes boldy opt for a montage of huge black and white snaps when presumably there are plenty of fine colour shots available if desired. A great black and white image is worth 10,000 words in my opinion because they instantly convey and historical importance and almost timelessness which makes it easier to relive that moment.
Merckx 69 will stretch the budget but I suspect will prove irresistible for any serious collector of cycling books. Just as the man himself had to win every race – or at least try – Merckx fans tend to be ‘completests’ and their ‘Merckx corner’ of the bookshelf will look bare without this mighty tome.’
Brendan Gallagher, The Tour
‘featuring some utterly fabulous, grainy, black and white photographs from eddy’s 1969 season, tentatively holding your breath and opening the first few pages brings to mind nothing more or less than a pristine copy of rouleur magazine. you can argue the case for e-books all you like, there’s simply nothing to match the heady aroma of printer’s ink on heavy art paper. the photos are not only glorious, fascinating, engaging and addictive, but undoubtedly the very reason you’d part with your £35 in the first place.
this is an absolute doozy, one that will continue to offer those rouleur moments for ever and ever and ever.’
Real Results – No Gimmicks – No Airbrushing
Read a few sample pages from these fantastic books, based on a real-life challenge, these are the only fitness & nutrition books to show real results with no airbrushing and no gimmicks.
Covering fitness, health and nutrition, each book contains over 60 different workouts with 80 different exercises to choose from, explaining their purpose and technique. With the basics of training, warm-ups, cool-downs and stretching explained, the books also contain information on what fitness tests are used and the training routines followed, and a training diary for the reader to keep track of their programme and progress.
Order your copy today
Are Tour de France champions born or made? Should cyclists strength train? How can pain become gain? What are the real benefits of contemporary sports nutrition? And – bottom line – can sports science help make race winners?
These are a few of the questions that a gathering of world leading sports scientists, coaches and medical practitioners aim to address at the UCI-endorsed 2nd World Congress of Cycling Science at the Rose Bowl in Leeds from Wednesday 2nd to Thursday 3rd of July, just days before the city hosts the Grand Depart of the Tour de France (Saturday 5th July).
The conference is organised by the University of Kent’s School of Sports and Exercise Science, which is headed by Professor Louis Passfield and Dr James Hopker, two of Great Britain’s leading names in the field. The conference has so far attracted representatives from the likes of UCI Pro Tour teams Garmin-Sharp, BMC, Francais des Jeux, Movistar and Omega Pharma Quickstep.
Integrating the various aspects of coaching, sports science, medicine, technology and performance, the Congress will provide a forum for the discussion of performance enhancement with a focus on the Tour itself. Speakers and participants include former riders turned coaches Charly Wegelius (Garmin-Sharp) and Marco Pinotti (BMC Pro Cycling Team), with other special guests to be announced.
As part of the Congress SRM are sponsoring a Keynote presentation where Uli Schoberer and a current Pro Tour rider (tbc), will discuss the use of power meters in professional cycling. SRM will also be exhibiting PowerMeters, PowerControls and cycle ergometers at the Congress.
Professor Passfield, previously a sports scientist with the Great Britain Cycling Team, said that the aim of the conference is “to further the use of science in cycling and to help share relevant information with coaches and sports scientists. The conference programme is designed to stimulate and inspire future collaboration and research-informed practice for the benefit of a new generation of cyclists”.
Further information about the Congress, speakers and how to book is available at www.wcss2014.co.uk. Alongside the Congress, there will also be a free evening event for up to 250 members of the public on the Thursday evening. Further information on the evening event and to book a place visit www.wcss2014.co.uk.
Dr James Hopker is the author of Performance Cycling.
How is it June already?! Fortunately, there’s plenty of sport to help keep you entertained while you get over the shock of it almost being midsummer’s day…
12th-16th First Test Match England v Sri Lanka
20th-24th Second Test Match England v Sri Lanka
9th-15th Aegeon Championship Queen’s Club, Baron’s Court, London
23rd-6th July Wimbledon Championships, Wimbledon
12th-15th US Open, Pinehurst, North Carolina
8th Canadian Grand Prix
22nd Austrian Grand Prix
14th-15th Le Mans 24hr
12-13th July 2014 FIFA World Cup, Brasil
15th Cartier Queens Cup, Windsor Great Park
Ever wondered a bit about the history of professional sport and the ingredients that magnetise millions around the globe? Well, if you fancy a spot of reading about the marvels of spectator sport, then look no further than Floodlights and Touchlines. It tells the stories that matter: from the gladiators of Rome to the runners of Rift Valley via the innovator-missionaries of Rugby School; from multi-faceted British exports to the Americanisation of professionalism and the Indianisation of cricket. Rob Steen traces the development of these sports which captivate the turnstile millions and the mouse-clicking masses, addressing their key themes and common links, from creation myths to match fixing via race, politics, sexuality and internationalism.
If you don’t believe me, why not read some of the great reviews it’s received already…
In his deftly-written and engrossing new book, Rob Steen reminds us again why, beneath the floodlights and along the touchlines, sport has consumed so many of us for so long. It’s as compelling as your favourite sporting memory – and more informative and amusing.
Donald McRae, The Guardian
Rob Steen is the wittiest and most astringent English-language sportswriter. And this book provides a brilliant narrative of spectator sport. Internationalist, progressive, cosmopolitan, yet earthy, it is an instant classic.
Toby Miller, author of SportSex
I believe that you will never fully understand the game behind the game without reading Floodlights and Touchlines. Rob Steen is the perfect guide to take you through this remarkable history.
Dr John Carlos, 1968 Olympian, medal stand protester
Rob Steen’s intoxication with sport’s dramatic qualities, his familiarity with the sporting scene on both sides of the Atlantic and his writing verve all shine through in this penetrating study.
Nick Pitt, The Sunday Times
Rob’s obstinate belief that sport and thought are not incompatible is an inspiration to us all.
Simon Barnes, Chief Sportswriter for The Times
Floodlights and Touchlines is a triumph. People who dismiss sports as mindless entertainment need to read this. People who love sports but find their ardor doesn’t extend beyond the numbers, need to read this as well. The sports world is better for its publication.
Dave Zirin, Sports Editor of The Nation and author of Brazil’s Dance with the Devil
For more info, or if you want to get your hands on a copy to read in between world cup matches and the tennis, click here.
Get a kick out of these fantastic football books
As all eyes are on Brazil at the moment, back here in the UK we are offering 30% off all our football books! Brush up on your refereeing skills with the fantastic You Are the Ref and discover the story behind the coolest international football team in history in Danish Dynamite.Offer ends 13th July 2014