Chris Froome wins Criterium International in Impressive SKY One-Two

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Chris Froome, last year’s runner-up in Tour de France behind team-captain Bradley Wiggins, kept his impressive form in Criterium International winning the queen stage of this mini-tour, the mountain-top finish in Col De l’Ospedale.

SKY took the charge as the riders started climbing the Col De l’Ospedale, Vasil Kiryienka putting a great effort and shaking the peloton down to 20 riders. And with 6 kilometers to go, IAM Cycling’s Johann Tschopp escaped and eventually dropped Kiryienka. But it was Chris Froome destroying the field with his solo attack, later followed by Paris-Nice champion Richie Porte, who finished the stage in second place. Despite huge expectations, BMC’s Tejay van Garderen only managed to grab the last podium spot thanks to his time-trial performance in stage 2.

SKY once again dominated the climb and spread fear amongst their rivals as the grand tours are approaching.

“It wasn’t my intention to attack so early on in the climb but Richie sat off a little bit and gave me a gap and no one chased,” Froome said about his attack. “So I pushed on a bit knowing that he could stay protected behind other wheels, which allowed him to attack in the final couple of kilometres himself. So we couldn’t have asked for better”

Final Kilometers

Final General Classification

1. Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 6:55:23
2. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling 32″
3. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 54″
4. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Blanco Pro Cycling Team 1′ 00″
5. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
6. Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp 1′ 08″
7. Maxime Bouet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 1′ 33″
8. Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra) FDJ 1′ 37″
9. Johann Tschopp (Swi) IAM Cycling 1′ 43″
10. John Gadret (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 2′ 05″

Stage 3 Results

1. Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 4:43:38
2. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling 30″
3. Bauke Mollema (Ned) Blanco Pro Cycling Team 45″
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Volta a Catalunya 2013 Preview – Stage 4

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Bradley Wiggins‘ attack just under the final kilometer banner  in Stage 3 was not a real shakeout for the overall classification, but before the second and final mountain-top finish, made things quite interesting.

Two back-to-back Hors-Category climbs just before the stage finish means there will be lots of opportunities for all the GC contenders to make a move. Movistar will set the pace for Alejandro Valverde on the climbs today but expect SKY to take charge again in the mid stages of Port-Anne climb. It will be very hard to bounce back considering none of the remaining stages of Volta 2013 will allow much time differences, so all riders will be utterly cautious till the very end.

GC Before Stage 4

1. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 12:45:28
2. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 4″
3. Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha
4. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 7″
5. Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida
6. Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team 26″
7. Robert Gesink (Ned) Blanco Pro Cycling Team 30″
8. David Lopez Garcia (Spa) Sky Procycling
9. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Sharp
10. Peter Stetina (USA) Garmin-Sharp 35″

Quintana Attacks to Stage Victory as Valverde Becomes the new Race Leader

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Movistar’s Colombian climber Nairo Quintana attacked within the final kilometers of the first mountaintop finish of this year’s Volta a Catalunya. His team-mate and GC contender Alejandro Valverde finished the stage in 2nd place and became the new race leader whereas Katusha’s Joaquim Rodriguez finished third.

After the remaining members of the day’s breakaway was caught by SKY with 4 kilometers to go, Tom Danielson and Jurgen van den Broeck escaped one after the other and managed to make gaps around 10 seconds, but none of these attempts were successful. SKY’s “Sir” Bradley Wiggins made his move with 1km to go, but Quintana never slipped from his backwheel, and as the remaining riders approached the duo, attacked within the last 500 meters for his first stage win of the season.

“There was a strong headwind at the top of the climb and our strategy was waiting for that very last moment to attack,” told Quintana. “The attack by Wiggins took the speed up and it was really good for us to know the climb, since we knew that the hardest point came at the end of it.”

GC after Stage 3

1. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 12:45:28
2. Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 4″
3. Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha
4. Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 7″
5. Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida
6. Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team 26″
7. Robert Gesink (Ned) Blanco Pro Cycling Team 30″
8. David Lopez Garcia (Spa) Sky Procycling
9. Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin-Sharp
10. Peter Stetina (USA) Garmin-Sharp 35″

Stage 3 Results

1. Nairo Alexander Quintana Rojas (Col) Movistar Team 5′ 01′ 20″
2. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) Movistar Team 6″
3. Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha
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Volta a Catalunya 2013 – Riders’ List

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In addition to the 19 pro tour teams, the three wildcard entries; Caja Rural from Spain, Cofidis and Sojasun from France make up this year’s Volta a Catalunya.

Last year’s winner Michael Albasini will be absent but some big GC names including Bradley Wiggins, Joaquim Rodriguez, Alejandro Valverde, Robert Gesink, Ryder Hesjedal, Michele Scarponi, Chris Horner and Thomas de Gendt are attending this year. We have seen both Rodriguez and Horner were in very good shape during Tirreno-Adriatico, whereas Scarponi was still building up his form. Elsewhere in Paris-Nice we saw Gesink struggling and abandoning in stage 6, same also true for de Gent.

Last time we saw Wiggins was in Tour of Oman in early February, where he was barely keeping up with the peloton. He was in Tenerife training till then, so his recent form is a big unknown at the moment, which is also true for last year’s surprise Giro winner Ryder Hesjedal who will be riding for the first time in a stage race this year.

The startlist of the 93th edition:
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Tirreno-Adriatico 2013 Preview – Stage 7

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It is the last day of Tirreno-Adriatico and in the penultimate stage will be an individual time-trial, in one of the most important touristic centers of Adriatic Coast, San Benedetto del Tronto on 12 March, Tuesday. The stage is flat and relatively short, 9.2 km in length. And it won’t be enough for Chris Froome or Alberto Contador to close the gap.

Both Froome and Contador are excellent time-trialists but Vincenzo Nibali in maglia azzurra will not lose his 34 seconds margin unless he slips in a corner. We may have rain showers in the afternoon but they’ll all start back to back and suffer equally and to be honest, I don’t think Nibali will risk it much.

There are no time bonuses, and most recently Nibali finished the Tour de San Luis 19 km time-trial stage in fourth place, Michal Kwiatkowski was third, 3 seconds faster than Nibali and Contador was 43 seconds behind.

It’ll be Froome’s first time-trial this season. Last year in TdF, he came second after Bradley Wiggins where Nibali was in the Top 20 of both time-trial stages. And within the 90 km combined, Froome managed to make a difference of 3:52. If you do the math, with last year’s performance repeating itself, Froome will still only ride 23.5 seconds faster than Nibali; that won’t be enough…

The stage suits Tony Martin very well and he should be written down as the strongest candidate to win the time-trial, Fabian Cancellara and Lars Boom are also close to winning.

And finally, podium prediction:
1. Vincenzo Nibali
2. Chris Froome
3. Michal Kwiatkowski

GC before Stage 7

1. Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Astan a Pro Team 27:57:26
2. Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 34″
3. Joaquim Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha 37″
4. Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Team Saxo-Tinkoff 48″
5. Michal Kwiatkowski (Pol) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 58″
6. Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack Leopard 1′ 05″
7. Mauro Santambrogio (Ita) Vini Fantini-Selle Italia 1′ 20″
8. Pryzemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Lampre-Merida 2′ 54″
9. Andrey Amador Bakkazakova (CRc) Movistar Team 2′ 58″
10. Wout Poels (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM 3′ 08″

Paris-Nice 2013 Preview – Stage 7

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With Richie Porte just 32 seconds clear of Andrew Talansky and a bunch of other riders, Sunday’s conclusive stage on 10th March will be simply breathtaking. Last year, it was Bradley Wiggins defending his 2 seconds lead over Lieuwe Westra, extending it to 6 at the end of the day and starting a sensational season which brought TdF and Olympic gold and eventually made him the athlete of the year in Britain.

Now, an another rider from SKY, Tasmanian Richie Porte will be riding on the uphill Col d’Eze time-trial where many riders will again opt in to use regular road bikes with clip-on bars installed instead of TT bikes. Richie Porte was also riding in 2012′s Paris-Nice, as a domestic to Bradley Wiggins, and finished the last stage in 20′ 56″. Which was 1′ 42″ slower than last year’s runner-up Liuewe Westra, who now stands in 4th place, 42 seconds behind Porte in GC. Jean-Christophe Peraud, who is now fifth in GC standing 49 seconds behind, finished 3rd last year, which was 1′ 11″ faster than Porte. Sylvain Chavanel finished last year’s stage in 17th place, still 18 seconds ahead of Porte, and he is in top form.

GC before Stage 8

1. Richie Porte (Aus) Sky Procycling 29:40:31
2. Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp 32″
3. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 42″
4. Lieuwe Westra (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team
5. Jean-Christophe Peraud (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale 49″
6. Tejay van Garderen (USA) BMC Racing Team 52″
7. Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-Quick Step 53″
8. Simon Spilak (Slo) Katusha
9. Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 54″
10. Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Astana Pro Team 1′ 08″

Paris-Nice – A Brief History

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Despite failing to draw enough attention this year from the TdF contenders (most of them will be in Tirreno-Adriatico instead), Paris-Nice, a 2.HC race in UCI Wold Tour is always considered as a stepping stone before the TdF. “‘If I can win Paris-Nice, I can win the Tour de France’”, said Bradley Wiggins to the media in 2012, after defending his yellow jersey in the uphill time-trial event in Col d’Èze. The same stage will as well be the final stage of this year’s race.

Paris-Nice past winners include Sean Kelly (7), Jacques Anquetil (5), Eddy Merckx (3) and Laurent Jalabert (3). Most recently Alexandre Vinokourov (2), Alberto Contador (2) and Tony Martin claimed the yellow jersey in this season-opener dating back to 1933.