Well done to Gustav Larsson of Vacansoleil-DCM for his win in Paris-Nice. The windtunnel work paid off as he won by just one second over Bradley Wiggins. It rained for the later contenders and some said Larsson would not ordinarily have won. But I suspect the likes of Bradley Wiggins and Levi Leipheimer will have their chance for glory later in the week. Above all Larsson was given his departure time, rode his best… and won.
For the rest of the week Alejandro Valverde had a bit of a stinker, losing 30 seconds. Given he can lose more time in the final time trial the likes of Wiggins and Leipheimer and their teams will be marking him and others closer. The Schlecks lost over a minute. This is good news for neutrals as it means these riders will have to attack in order to challenge the time trial specialists in order to win the race.
For a while if you wanted to follow Colombian cycling it meant the excellent Cycling Inquisition blog. Briefly an exciting new force in cycling in the mid 1980s now the country’s riders are making a return.
Nairo Quintana looks 42 but in fact he’s only 22 and has just won the Tour of Murcia. And in the Strade Bianche you might have spotted the Colombia-Coldeportes jersey on the shoulders of the well-named Jarlinson Pantano.
Russian team Rusvelo notched their first win thanks to Alexander Serov taking the time trial stage of the Tour of Murcia in Spain. Part of Russia’s push into cycling, the team is partly a road-going unit for the Russian endurance track squad, allowing them to compete at the international level needed in order to be competitive for world class track racing. “I am extremely delighted witnessing this victory first hand” said Viatcheslav Ekimov, personal advisor of the president of the Russian Cycling Federation Igor Makarov in a press release.
Presumably some clever paperwork has allowed the squad to sidestep the rules saying two teams cannot have the same owner. Igor Makarov is also the Katusha team boss and candidate for cycling’s busiest man. He is an oil and gas oligarch, a Kremlin protégé and an official with Russian cycling, the European Cycling Union and the UCI too.
Both Rusvelo and Katusha are under the same roof of Russian cycling and when they race together – for example in the GP Samyn – it is legitimate to ask of they are one and the same. Would one chase the other down?
Talking of Igor Makarov he UCI recently awarded the 2013 track worlds to Belarus. Subject to numerous sanctions, it’s Europe’s last dictatorship. The prior award of an ice hockey tournament has seen that sport’s authorities come under criticism from politicians in Europe and the US alike. Sport and politics are supposed to be separate but incumbent strongman Alexander Lukashenko will enjoy the limelight.
The capital city of Minsk has a great velodrome and the bid was solid and ahead of the rival offer from Mexico. But as well as being an energy baron, Igor Makarov has extensive construction interests in Belarus including a project to build Europe’s tallest building but this has run into trouble. Stay tuned for more on this.
It’s that time of year when the results are coming in from everywhere. We’ve had racing in Malaysia and in Europe this weekend there’s been the Strade Bianche, the 3-Days of West Flanders, the Tour of Murcia and the GP de Lilliers too. After a winter of famine, we have a feast.
A reminder that there will be daily previews on Paris-Nice. Today’s edition mentioned the possibility of rain hampering the later starters and cited Larsson amongst the specialists who could win. Tomorrow is flat and on paper reserved for the sprinters. But the weather promises to make it a very nervous and tactical stage, look out for The Spin on Stage 2 tomorrow morning.