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Who to back in the Tour de France 2: Antipodes

Moving on from the USA

AustraliaandNewZealand

Just typing that made the blood run cold at my fingertips. As a kiwi I loathe people conflating New Zealand and Australia. That little country to our north-west is as far away from NZ as Turkey is to Britain. So not that far in fact, actually. But I conflate them here for two reasons: (1) I’m allowed; and (2) it’s just easier, isn’t it; and all the good riders are Australian. But it turns out if you are an Australander of Newstralia, there are plenty of top-of-the-pops riders to wave your very similar flags at. (I also include South Africa, because there’s only one rider and it’s fun to throw them in desultorily within an aside.) So who can the … eastern southern hemisphere be overzealously proud of?

Orica-GreenEDGE (Australia)

While the best Australian is Cadel Evans, and, bear-with, we’ll get to him, there is a whole gaggle of Aussies in one corker of a team.

Matt Goss (Aus, aged 26), Orica’s number one, is one of the best at the Tour, rated by all sources in at least the top 20 riders, even though he hasn’t quite been scooping up the palmares with both arms of late. A one-day road race specialist, he is more green jersey than yellow, i.e. a sprinter looking for stage and sprint wins to get points, as opposed to consistently loitering at the front of the peloton come slope, flat, switchback or sawtooth like those lazy GC types. He’s been the bridesmaid to Mark Cavendish, coming second to him for instance in the 2011 World Championship road race (the same year he won the Milan–San Remo), but he’s still young and much is still expected. Contrary to the rumours I have started, he is not the singer from Bros.

Simon Gerrans (Aus, aged 32) is currently sitting third in the general classification of the Tour after yesterday’s stage win. Of the six Aussies still hovering in contention he is clearly doing the best, and hopefully ruffling Evans’s feathers in the process. This should be no surprise as the man is in some form. He’s won other stages this year and last year won the Milan–San Remo, the Tour Down Under and the Australian National Road Race Championship. Will he stay high in the mix? That was supposed to be a rhetorical question. I don’t know.

Cameron Meyer (Aus, aged 24) has twice won the Australian National Time Trial Championships (2010 and 2011) and has won some minor races this year, and a stage at the Tour de Suisse. He’ll help the team in today’s time trial, but he’s languishing well out of GC contention already.

Daryl Impey (RSA, aged 28) is the lone South African, but clearly worth elbowing out some other Australian for his place as he’s currently well in the mix in 6th place on GC. He’s had a few stage wins recently (two years running in the Tour of the Basque Country) and was the time trial champion in his home country last year. How high can Orica climb in today’s team time trial one wonders. This will already be revealed by the time I upload.

Simon Clarke (Aus, aged 26) stole all of the king of the mountains points yesterday, that being his wont, pushing him into second for the polka dot jersey. Pierre Roland might have thought he had it stitched to his back, but clearly Clarke will give him a good run. Not surprising as he won the dotty mountain shirt in the other of the three grand tours 2012’s Vuelta a España. If your looking for an Aussie to actually win something, Simon Clarke may be the basket to stick all of your eggs into.

The two remaining Aussies in the team are out of big honour contention and will shoulder some serious domestiquage (I’m still hunting for the perfect ‘pertaining to domestiques’ noun). Brett Lancaster (aged 33), like Goss, is more of a green jersey, winning such a thing in the Tour of Slovenia this year. Clearly no slouch. Stuart O’Grady (aged 39) like most Australians has an Olympic gold medal, and as recently as 2011 was part of the Orica team who had a stage win in the team time trial at the Vuelta. Orica have to fancy a high finish in today’s race.

for BMC Racing (USA)

Cadel Evans (Aus, aged 36), currently in 9th place in the Tour is nicely poised. He is the number one of his team (providing he continues to better Tejay van Garderen) and will be lead to the front to do what he does best by a strong team. It is two years since he won the Tour de France, and has to be considered one of the favourites, if slightly darker of horse than some. He placed third in the Giro this year, and is consistently in the top bunch of any race he takes on. If you prefer to back the obvious, this is your Australian.

for Team Sky (UK)

Richie Porte (Aus, aged 27) is well in the mix in 24th place and only a second off the yellow vest. He’s in one of the best time trialling teams and is a bonza time-triallist, so expect him to scoot up the grid later today. His 2013 has been glittering in (mostly second) prizes: winning Paris-Nice; the green jersey in Critérium International, in which he came second overall; second in the Critérium du Dauphiné too; and second in the Tour of the Basque Country. I predict he will be second at least once in something or other in the Tour. You unfortunately heard it here first.

for Lotto-Belisol (Belgium)

Adam Hansen (Aus, aged 32) is the second-last of our Aussie contenders. He’s sitting in 23rd and after an impressive Giro this year, winning a stage rather gloriously and always revving for a breakaway, he’s one to keep an eye or two on. Also a mean time triallist, Hansen will be hoping to drag Lotto up the leaderboard today.

Greg Henderon (NZ, aged 36) at what in other sports might seem a cumbersome age is still a fine sprinter, as seen by his 7th place finish in flat old Stage 1. If there’s one New Zealander you want to paint your face up and yell at the TV over, it’s cuzzie Henderson. Go you good thinglet!

Team Saxo-Tinkoff (Denmark)

Michael Rogers (Aus, aged 33) our last Aussie contender is a time-trial legend, having won the worlds three times. Granted, the last time was 2005, but he hasn’t been dawdling in the meantime, eating up palmares like gluten-free hot dinners. This year he was second in the Tour de California and last year was second in the pre-Tour Dauphiné to Bradley Wiggins, notably beating Cadel Evans. He’s currently in 48th but still part of the one-second-behind group.

for Garmin Sharp (USA)

They’re good riders with much to crow about, but it must be said that Jack Bauer (NZ, aged 28) and Rohan Dennis (Aus, aged 23) are mostly in Garmin to be solid and domestiquy. Both are mean machines in the time trial, however, and should help Garmin to get a decent pozzy in today’s team time trial. Both are so whoa-nelly out of contention in the GC.

Next up Canadarrrr!

Can you beat Bloomsbury Sport at Fantasy Cycling?

Tour de France 2013

Vive le Tour!

For 3 weeks of the year, every year, I become obsessed. The blinkers are on and all I can think about is the Tour de France. It truly is one of the greatest of tests of sporting endurance – of true grit and determination. This year, the 100th running of the Tour, the riders will cover a staggering 3,404 kilometres with 7 flat stages, 5 hilly, and 6 mountain stages, including an unprecedented double ascent of the merciless Alpe D’Huez.

Stage profile

Those pointy bits look mighty steep.

But I’m not alone in my admiration of this great race, Team Sport at Bloomsbury are all keen cycling fans. And for this reason, we’ve set up a Fantasy Cycling league, that we’d like to invite you to join. (It’s like Fantasy Football – but better!)

All you need to do is pick your dream team at fantasy.road.cc, join our league Bloomsbury Sport – Cycling, and see whether you can take on the fantasy cycling genius of Bloomsbury Sport’s: Maglia Charlo, L’Equipe Kirsty, Nick la Bomba and Allez Coley.

Do you think you can beat Bloomsbury Sport at Fantasy Cycling?

Who will be in your dream team?

No Wiggo this year, so who will be in your dream team?

Need some help with your team choices? Look no further than Bloomsbury Sport’s Top Tips for the Tour

Ones to watch:

  • Chris ‘the Froominator’ Froome has been in stellar form this season, taking victories at the Tour of Oman, Criterium International, Tour de Romandie and Criterium du Dauphine. He’ll be looking to emulate his teammate Sir Brad’s yellow jersey victory last year to become the second Briton to win Le Tour.
  • Alberto Contador, Froome’s ‘biggest threat’, is a two-time winner of the Tour de France.
  • Vicenzo Nibali won the Maglia Rosa in the Giro d’Italia – could he make this a double? A feat no one has achieved since 1998.
  • Andy Schleck is making his return to la Grande Boucle following a pelvis fracture in 2012,which prevented him from racing. Good form at the Tour de Suisse means we shouldn’t underestimate him.
  • Mark Cavendish, the Manx Missile, will be targeting his first yellow jersey in the Corsican stages, bt his main aim will beto win back the green jersey from…
  • Peter Sagan, the 23-year-old sprinting star, claimed three stage wins and the green jersey in 2012. Can he do it again?
Fans-Tour-de-France

Fans will be please to know that El Diablo will be returning for Le Tour 100.

The Tour de France gets underway in Corsica on Saturday 29 June. We’ll be ramping up our coverage in the days before then and during Le Tour so be sure to check back regularly for all the latest news and competitions from Bloomsbury Sport.

Or follow us on Twitter: @BloomsburySport

Giro d’Italia, keeping Italy British

Italy’s great cycling stage-race is well under way. Where have you been? Well, if you want to be a flag-draped rose-nosed idiot-patriot, like me,* during the running of this year’s Giro d’Italia, allez-ing Wiggo and his confrères, drunkenly singing barmy-vindaloo-army songs at your television (or minute-by-minute commentary), who exactly should you be cheering? That I will tell you.

<Shuffles through printouts like truffle pig> Hmm. It turns out there are only six British riders, and of course a British team in Sky Procycling. You know these guys, and if you don’t (1) for shame; and (2) me too! So here’s a little recap on the who and how many palmares they are draped in like little caesars on push bikes.

  • Bradley Wiggins of Sky Procycling. Yawn. We all know this 33-year-old superb (Belgian-born) Briton. He won the Tour of France last year, and didn’t he win the entire Olympics as well? That he did. As I type he is sitting 6th in the GC of the Giro. Moving swiftly on.
  • Mark Cavendish of Omega Pharma-Quick Step. Yeah yeah, the Manx Merckx. Cav hasn’t had quite the recent glory of Wig, but the 27-year-old’s achievements are impressive. No one has won as many mass-start stages in the history of the Tour de France. He won the Milan–San Remo in 2009. And in 2010 he took the green jersey (points classification) in the other of the three Grand Tours (along with the Giro and the TdF), the Vuelta a España – a feat he repeated at the Tour de France in 2011. Having won the Tour of Qatar earlier in the year, he barnstormed the first race in the current Giro, winning it, but has been flagging since [doubtless this will be incorrect at the point I hit UPLOAD … aarrgh he just won stage 6, blogfail]. He’ll be looking to prove his place as his sprint-specialising team’s number one. Andiamo Cavo!
  • Alex Dowsett of Movistar Team. Like Cav, Dowsett has recently defected from Sky to be a bigger fish in a … differently shaped? … pond. The 24-year-old haemophiliac is currently the British time-trial champion (and has been for two years). He missed the classics last year with a spifflicated elbow, but is now back and burning serious rubber. Like Cav he’s had one good run so far in the Giro, the stage 2 team time trial, when, with still-high-flying team-mates Benat Intxuasti and Giovanni Visconti, Movistar rolled in 9 seconds behind stage winners Sky. His role is more as a team player for Movistar, and is not in contention for honours.
  • Adam Blythe of BMC Racing. At 23 years old, Blythe is looking to really move beyond promising youngster, and seems to be managing it. In 2010 he won the 2.1 event (i.e. the equivalent in UCI’s ranking as the Tour of Britain) the Circuit Franco-Belge, and was fourth this year in the Tour of Qatar (which Cav won). So far in the Giro, he’s had the one great race, coming 7th in stage 1, the one Cav won. Significantly he beat BMC’s big gun Cadel Evans. Now however he is near the very back of the pack, almost 50 minutes behind off leader Luca Paolini. Presumably because his role is, like Dowsett, as a domestique for his team. But what do I know.
  • Steve Cummings of BMC Racing. Team-mates with Blythe and the mighty Cadel Evans, Cummings is an older hand at 33 years old. Like Dowsett he is reappearing in 2013 after much skeletal mangling: his pelvis and wrist from the Tours of the Algarve and the Basque Country respectively. He has come 2nd in the Tour of Britain twice (2008 and 2011) and his greatest achievements are probably his tricolor of non-road race medals: the bronze in the individual pursuit at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, the gold in the team pursuit at the same games, and the silver at the 2004 Olympics for team pursuit. Again, he’s at the rear of the field and presumably working as a slipstream-sweeper for Evans.
  • David Millar of Garmin Sharp. The even older hand at 36 years old, Millar has done it all, been banned for it, and come back again. He’s the only British rider to have worn the leader jersey in all three Grand Tours, including of course the fabled pink number of the Giro. He is the most interesting of the six as evidenced by his (non-Bloomsbury!) autobiography Racing through the Dark, and by the fact I missed him out on the first version of this blog (pointed out on the Guardian minute-by-minute commentary to my colossal shame). Millar also broke a bone last year (collarbone) and is also currently malingering at the very back end of the GC.

Interestingly there is (and perhaps can be?) only one Brit in the Sky team, namely Wiggins. And in fact if you really want to be a daft patriot, there are few very fine Johnny Foreigners in the Sky team you can squeak under your nationalistic-fervour blanket. The two I would suggest you jump toot sweet on the bandwagon of are the Colombians: Sergio Henao (age 25) and Rigoberto Urán (26). After stage 5, Urán was sitting in 2nd place and Henao in 8th. They are both hot dogs on the climbs and the mountains await us in today’s stage 7.

The Colombian equivalent of vindaloo? The ajiaco. Thank you Siri.

Maglia Rosa
*I am, like Wiggo, a plastic Briton, and will take my jingoism from country to country as I please, just you try and stop me.

Celebrating the 100th race of the Tour de France

Hot off the press: Tour de France 100: A Photographic History of Cycling’s Most Iconic Race publishes … today

All I can say is this is one sexy book! I could go on about the superb imagery, exquisite photography, and insightful commentary from sports journalist Richard Moore, but the book speaks for itself.

If you’d like a quick peruse of the inside of this gorgeous book, just click here.

9781408170960

If you’re a cycling enthusiast and don’t have a copy, well…

Triumph and Tragedy at the Giro d’Italia

Triumph and tragedy? Surely I’m not prophesising the results of the Giro d’Italia already? Nah, if I was, I wouldn’t be so worried about my Fantasy Cycling team*.

As much as I’d love to tell the future and know if Wiggo will beat Nabali to win the pink jersey or whether the Manx Missile, Mark Cavendish, will come home in the red, I think I’m just going to have to sit back and watch the drama unravel on TV like the rest of you other cyclist enthusiasts.

However, I just thought I’d give you tifosi out there the heads-up about the smashing new edition of Maglia Rosa, by Herbie Sykes and published in partnership with Rouleur. A stunning photographic book offering a definitive history of the Italy’s Grand Tour, it takes you all the way from its beginnings in 1909 right up to the present day. And if you fancy checking out some of the gorgeous images, just click on the cover below…

9781408190012

Essential reading for all ‘tifosi’

*L’Equipe Kirsty

The Fastest Mod on Two Wheels

Team Sport at Bloomsbury are delighted to say that on Thursday they will be publishing a stunning photographic book on ‘The Modfather’ himself, Bradley Wiggins.

The Modfather

The book covers his Yellow Jersey success in the Tour de France as well as his London 2012 Olympic glory. Brilliantly narrated by the cycling journalist, Daniel Friebe, this is the ideal Christmas gift for any cycling fan. (Yes, this is a shameless plug, but it’s worth it!)
Click here to get your hands on a copy

 

Fancy having a sneaky peak now, then check out these sample pages here.

Sport Is Bad for You

The legacy of the Olympics and Paralympics some have hoped aloud is that more of us, still all geed up and whooping, will take part in sport. When I say ‘us’ imagine instead the unspoken target: some pre-teen lazybones hunched over her smartphone. Suddenly she’s shot-putting her pillowcase of junk food out the window and joining squadrons of her kind in the streets, hurdling bins, moonwalking like dressage horses, going all Beth Tweddle on lamp-posts. Healthiness being the age’s religion, this is seen as a good thing. Sport is good for you. It makes you a fitter biomechanical machine, and a fitter body is happier, lives longer and, though I have gone too far already, contributes more to society. Here I am at a sports publisher, and such a groundswell of interest in sport should have me licking my chops – moo-ha-ha! Allow me instead to pooh-pooh.

But why? Why emit a sales-sapping grump of a blog? Am I so cynical, so sour of puss, so easily prepared to kill joy and rain on the parade of something community-spirited and optimistic, something right-headed and good. I would hope so, yes.

And now I hold up exhibit A, my left ring finger in a splint. This is what sport has done to me. A detached tendon suffered while keeping goal in five-a-side football. Do not, I suggest, try to block a cannonball using your ring finger like a pool cue, tip first. The digit has contracted the deformity known as mallet finger and is now permanently bent at the top joint. It may never fully heal, and in the meanwhile I am forced to wear my plastic finger hat of shame – for weeks.

My question is this: In the light of such a catastrophe, how can anyone of passing sanity suggest that sport is good for you?

Like most people involved in such things I have an atlas of injury remnants across my body: from bone bruises and dicky joints to multiply shucked toenails. We are not alone. Sport leads to a continuous barrage of impacts, crunches, wrenches and body damage. They don’t call them tennis elbows nor swimmer’s shoulders for nothing. One of the Olympic equestrian team was discussing how commonly they break fingers after being thrown. A recent crash in the Tour de France was called the Massacre at Metz for the mangled piles of bodies and bikes it left behind, all their skimpy little bike vests in tatters, with gravel-rash oozing horribly through the holes. None of this is strictly speaking good for you, is it. And I suspect it is only the very luckiest of sportspersons who will not wear the brunt of some injury or other to the grave.

Sport is bad for you. So should we wish it upon pubescent slobs and those less disposed towards physical movement? I don’t know. The only reason I can imagine, and probably the real impetus behind our participation anyway, is – no not self-esteem, goal-orientation, team-cooperative-learning-enhancement or some other policy-speak codswallop – fun. Sport is fun. Play it if you want. Unfortunately I will continue to.

I could break your leg, Nadal, just like THAT

For grisly close-ups of the Massacre at Metz see the brilliant and otherwise pretty Allez Wiggo!

The Real Olympics

Guest post by Jonathan Eyers

There are only so many guest posts you can write for a sports blog before you have to finally confess you’re just not that into the whole thing. It’s not that I’m apathetic about sport. In fact, since Euro 96, when my disinterest was punished with dead arms, I have actively loathed everything to do with it. The nadir of Gareth Southgate’s career was the zenith of my interest in sport. I imagine I enjoyed that penalty as much as the Germans did.

I could start ranting about how sport brings out the imperialistic tendencies of otherwise sensible people, but it’s not just the desire to avoid sounding like a tuft-bearded lentil-eating nineteen-year-old economics student from West London that stays my typing hand. Because the truth is, I’ve been just as enthusiastic about the Olympics as anyone. And all the naysayers and doom merchants just made me more so (except when they castigated the logo; they were right about that).

The only big national events we tend to do in this country are royal weddings, royal funerals and royal jubilees. Celebrating anything else is just a bit too American for us. Perhaps that’s why the Olympic opening ceremony has ensured Danny Boyle will be Sir Danny by January. We could all get behind this barnstorming vision of Britain and pretend the show was just for the rest of the world’s benefit. Because, of course, the rest of the world understands the shipping forecast…

Yes, the spirit of national unity and bonhomie didn’t last long, with partisan oiks from the Daily Mail to the Guardian claiming the next day that the ceremony represented only their worldview, and that it must have infuriated their political enemies, and that this was a good thing. But for the rest of us, the ceremony set the tone for not just a national event but an international one, and one which transcended sport.

I applied for about £1,000 worth of tickets, which was apparently pretty typical (though perhaps not for someone with my professed level of interest in sport). All I got was the fencing (men’s sabre final), which I ultimately enjoyed, but it was at ExCeL, out in the Docklands. I was disappointed not to get anything at the Olympic Stadium. It somehow didn’t feel like I was going to the real Olympics when I got off at Stratford and then went in the opposite direction to the Stadium.

So when I heard in early August that there were still tens of thousands of tickets for the Paralympics left, I made a beeline to get online, and looked only for events at the Stadium. I was in luck. Not only were there still tickets for athletics left, but some of them were in the £10 category too. (I do work in publishing, after all.)

One of the benefits of not being particularly interested in sport before the Olympics is that I was immune to any ideas of sporting celebrity. Most of the sportsmen I could name I had only heard of for their extracurricular activities (with or without their wives and girlfriends). The only Olympians I was really aware of before the end of July were Usain Bolt and Tom Daley. Even when I was seeing famous British competitors, I had no idea who they were. It didn’t really matter to me.

As soon as I started expressing enthusiasm for having got tickets to Stadium events at the Paralympics I picked up on this sense from some people that the Paralympics weren’t the real Olympics, and not in the same way that events at ExCeL hadn’t felt like the real Olympics to me. I definitely got the impression there was more to it, that the Paralympics are considered inferior because most Paralympians (Oscar Pistorius notwithstanding) are less famous (and for reasons few would openly admit, I’m sure).

Of course that wasn’t an impression borne out by the reaction of the crowd in the packed Stadium when 80,000 of us watched Mickey Bushell win his heat in the 100m. Decibels reached unsafe levels, I’m sure. (I can only imagine the sound level when he won the gold medal in the following day’s final.) It certainly all felt real at that moment, and any distinction between Olympic and Paralympic less so.

I could end with a slightly sourpuss suggestion that Mo Farah, Ellie Simmonds or Bradley Wiggins would be better role models than our much-idolised footballers, but instead I’ll finish in the same way my Paralympic experience ended, with tens of thousands of people singing our national anthem following David Weir’s gold medal ceremony. Listen carefully and you might even hear the American next to me swept up by the nation’s mood and joining in.

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#AllezWiggo

Dedicated sports lovers are we at Team Sport and huge supporters of British Cycling. Always close to the action, Charlotte Croft (Head of Sport and Fitness) cheered on Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome at the Men’s Road Race last Saturday whilst standing in a holly bush on Box Hill. Now that’s dedication. Here’s one of her snaps of the day…

Recognize those sideburns?

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