I’m currently enjoying a heat wave. Probably not ideal climatic conditions for cycling, just ask Mark Cavendish if you don’t believe me. To be fair, Spain is even hotter than here. When I say here, I don’t actually mean just here, I mean the whole of Southern France. Typically, temperatures reach low 30sC during August and start to tail off toward the end of the month. Instead, it’s gotten hotter. I’ve spent the past few days in Aix-en-Provence but as it’s inland it was even hotter than here. Now I do mean just here. Very pleasant it was too.
The combination of the trip and the heat does not account for my recent lack of blogging, no that was occasioned by my beloved demanding my translation services. I had to translate his most recent presentation into French. It was somewhat technical and not even my large Petit Robert could cope. I dropped him off at Marseille airport late this afternoon on my way home, he’s not due back until Friday evening. This will give me enough time to cook the club’s books, I mean prepare the latest accounts.
I like cycling when it’s warm but, when the temperature soars, I have problems with my feet overheating and managing my hydration. I’m sitting here now thinking about a cold shower before bed while admiring the firework display in Cannes from the office window. It’s also giving me an opportunity to reflect on the first few days of the Vuelta. Oh yes, I may have been away but I would never book a hotel that didn’t give me access to televised cycling. At home I watch it on the Spanish channel but ,while I’ve been away, I’ve had to make do with German Eurosport where the commentary is rather more prosaic and far less excitable.
It’s been a rather curious start. The team time trial in Benidorm threw up some unexpected results largely due to mechanicals, falls and the technical nature of the course. Teams which one might have expected to feature in the top 5, such as Garmin-Cervelo, Team Sky and Radioshack didn’t and Euskaltel-Euskadi fared way better than anyone could have hoped for: 12th. All those team practice sessions paid dividends for the boys in orange. The red leader’s jersey passed from defending champion, Liquigas’s Vicenzo Nibali to Leopard Trek’s Jakob Fuglsang.
Sunday’s stage from La Nucia to Playas de Orihuela, with it’s uphill sprint for the line, was a face saver for Team Sky: 20th Saturday, on the podium Sunday with Chris Sutton. Great performance in front of the only audience that counts: his Mum. Fuglsang passed the red leader’s jersey to team mate, Daniele Bennati. Yesterday, the veteran Pablo Lastras (Movistar), one of the day’s breakaways, gave the most extravagent finishing line salutes in Totana I’ve ever seen to dedicate his win to the late Messrs Tondo and Weylandt and, still recovering, team mate Soler. He topped the podium and took over the leader’s red jersey.
Another day, another stage this time atop the Sierra Nevada today after a 23km slog uphill. Nothing too taxing but in this heat a number were starting to wilt. Cavendish abandonned. Lastras and Euskaltel’s Igor Anton found it hard to keep pace with the leading pack. Today’s chancer was Katusha’s Daniel Moreno, who was let off the leash by team leader, Joaquim Rodriguez, while most of the leading contenders were watching and waiting. The red jersey ended up on the shoulders of Quickstep’s Sylvain Chavanel who finished 2nd yesterday and heroically almost kept pace with the leading contenders today. Will anyone manage to hang onto the jersey for more than a day? Given that the action is largely in the first two weeks, maybe “not yet” is the answer to that question.
We’ve only just started and already a number of fancied (but not by me) riders are out of the running: Tony Martin +32:55, Andreas Kloden +31:28, Peter Sagan +24:54 and Rein Taaramae +17:56. Here’s the current top 30, the winner’s in here:-
|General classification after stage 4|
|1 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Quickstep Cycling Team||13:19:09|
|2 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa) Katusha Team||0:00:43|
|3 Jakob Fuglsang (Den) Leopard Trek||0:00:49|
|4 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Leopard Trek|
|5 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale||0:00:53|
|6 Kanstantsin Sivtsov (Blr) HTC-Highroad||0:00:58|
|7 Fredrik Kessiakoff (Swe) Pro Team Astana||0:00:59|
|8 Sergio Pardilla Belllón (Spa) Movistar Team||0:01:03|
|9 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Movistar Team|
|10 Kevin Seeldraeyers (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team||0:01:04|
|11 Daniel Martin (Irl) Team Garmin-Cervelo||0:01:06|
|12 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto||0:01:07|
|13 Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (Spa) Katusha Team||0:01:14|
|14 Mikel Nieve Ituralde (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi||0:01:17|
|15 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Team RadioShack||0:01:18|
|16 Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spa) Team RadioShack|
|17 Bauke Mollema (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team||0:01:19|
|18 Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team|
|19 Michele Scarponi (Ita) Lampre – ISD||0:01:21|
|20 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling||0:01:31|
|21 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling|
|22 Juan Jose Cobo Acebo (Spa) Geox-TMC||0:01:32|
|23 Eros Capecchi (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale||0:01:39|
|24 Tiago Machado (Por) Team RadioShack|
|25 Carlos Sastre Candil (Spa) Geox-TMC||0:01:52|
|26 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale||0:02:11|
|27 Chris Anker Sörensen (Den) Saxo Bank Sungard||0:02:20|
|28 David Moncoutie (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne||0:02:22|
|29 Ruslan Pydgornyy (Ukr) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team|
|30 Davide Malacarne (Ita) Quickstep Cycling Team||0:02:24|