Ahead of the long weekend of the GP Cycliste de Québec and the GP Cycliste de Montréal the event has held a sprint challenge where three riders are set off at a time and do a road version of a track sprint. It’s a novel format and a way to extend interest in the race given the riders are already on site in Québec. It is a stunt and only a step away from those cyclist vs horse shows we see.
But I keep writing Vuelta previews saying “tune in for the sprint finish” which sadly implies we should ignore the previous four hours of racing, I don’t mean to say this but know that viewers don’t have infinite time to watch the race cross landscapes. These sprints do focus the action and create a show.
Bryan Coquard’s a neo-pro and born in 1992. He’s a fast sprinter but a flyweight at 1.69m and 58 kilos (5″6 and 130lbs for imperialists). He beat two other promising sprinters, Giacomo Nizzolo and Moreno Hofland. You might know Nizzolo who has popped up in the results from time to time but he’s 24 whilst Hofland is 22 and won a stage of the Tour de l’Avenir last year. Despite his young age Hofland has the blood piped legs of a veteran.
Missing In Astana
Talking of the future of sprinting, has anyone seen Andrea Guardini? The 24 year-old Italian beat Mark Cavendish in the Giro last year, his acceleration proving too much for the Briton and arguably this cost Cav the points jersey in the 2012 race. He signed for Astana but has vanished this year, a stage win in the Tour de Langkawi but that’s it so far. He’s got time to develop but being on a team with heavy GC ambitions means his presence in grand tours is at best a compromise, at worst impossible.
Maybe none of these new sprinters can win Milan-Sanremo. The race is ditching the climb of Le Manie with its arched gateway but adds the climb to Pompeiana before the Poggio. It’s now much harder for the sprinters. Here’s why: the sprinters could just about cope with the Cipressa because there was time to get paced back by team mates as the race sped along the Via Aurelia coastal road on the way to the Poggio, a flat section of 9km. Now the race will barrel down the Cipressa and after just 3km it starts the climb to Pompeiana.
At 5km at 5% it’s no wall but it’s as hard as the Cipressa and crucially includes a series of hairpin bends just where it is at its steepest. The descent is regular and races down to almost the foot of the Poggio.
Many will lament these changes, after all why change one of the best races of the year, one of the few moments where grand tour contenders challenge sprinters for the win? The tension has made it one of the most intense moments of the year. Two things to consider:
- first the race is Italian and they want a home winner and not just for sentimental reasons but for commercial logic. Now things suit Vincenzo Nibali although the odds are tilted of course they now suit Philippe Gilbert and many other foreign riders
- second the route has changed over the years. The Poggio was added to split up the field and prevent yet another sprint finish and in time so was the Cipressa and Le Manie. Viewed in this light RCS are continuing the trend and trying to make the race about more than the last five minutes
There’s talk of the 2022 Qatar football world cup being moved because of the heat, either on the calendar or even to a new location. It’s just talk but like all soccer news, it takes up a lot of copy in the sports pages. But remember cycling is going there before with 2016 world championships and the heat will be an issue too as a cool day in late September still sees the thermometer sit at 30°C but a warm day sees this rise to 40°C or more and this is simply too hot for a 250km race.
Tour de France for Sale?
The worlds is a testimony to Qatar’s wealth as a small state on top of a large gas field. The Qataris have been spending big in sports and own the Paris St German football club in France. But could they buy the Tour de France? A tweet from Daniel Baal suggests the Tour de France could be for sale as the Amaury family might be selling its business empire which ranges from sports events like the Tour but publishing and newsprint too with L’Equipe and Le Parisien.
Voilà le papier pic.twitter.com/6xk0HmxJeh
— Baal Daniel (@baal_baal) September 12, 2013
Only I can’t find anything to back up Baal’s tweet. He’s no joker being a senior banker who has run the French cycling federation and recently sat on the UCI’s Management Committee. But I’ve checked La Tribune and scoured the web and can’t see another source to back up the claim that the Amaury family has appointed the Lazard bank to handle a possible sale.