Sheree’s sporting snippets

It’s official Autumn has arrived, I’m now wearing my 3/4 bib shorts and long sleeved jersey. This year I’ve not even transitioned leg and arm warmers. No, I’ve gone straight for the comfort and warmth of roubaix fleece.

Internet service was magically restored late yesterday evening after Orange strenuously denied that there had been any problems. They stated quite emphatically that there was a service and the problem lay with our laptops. If that was the case I argued, why do we have no TV service (also delivered via the internet)? They had no answer for that riposte.

Cycling

At yesterday’s Tour of Lombardy most of my fancied riders featured but there was a fairy tale ending to the race. Switzerland’s 30-year old Oliver Zaugg, who has never, ever won a professional race, slipped free of the Leopard Trek noose 10km from the finish, on the Villa Vegnano climb, and held on to win by 15 seconds. Second-placed, fellow Brummie, Garvelo’s Dan Martin now moves into the Top 10 of the World rankings.

In the 30th Chrono des Nations, a 48.5km route held in the Vendee, HTC’s Tony Martin consolidated his standing in world time-trialling by beating 2nd placed Saxobank rider Gustav Larsson by 2′ 3″. Sky’s Alex Dowsett was third.

MotoGP

Casey Stoner celebrated his 26th birthday with a 5th consecutive home win and this year’s MotoGP Championship, by an unassailable 65 point lead, when he won the Australian GP at Phillip Island. Challenger and former reigning champion, Jorge Lorenzo withdrew with a badly injured finger on his left hand. Yamaha team mate, Ben Spies was also ruled unfit to race after a blow to the head during a high speed crash.

Alex de Angelis took his first Moto2 victory of the season ahead of Stefan Bradl who resumes the championship lead by 3 points over Marc Marquez who, despite starting last on the 38-bike grid as a penalty for taking out a rider in practice, still managed to finish third.

A rain-shortened 125cc race was won by Sandro Cortese from championship leader Nico Terol and challenger Johann Zarco.

Rugby

Much to the astonishment of the great French public, France beat Wales 9-8 and will play home nation New Zealand next week end in the World Cup Final. In truth, having lost already in the competition to the All Blacks, no one is expecting them to win. But stranger things have happened.

Football

Manchester City go top of the Premiership having thrashed my beloved boys in claret and blue 4-1. Of course, one of those goals came from Villa Old Boy, James Milner.

In Nice, OGCN scored 3 goals to beat Bordeaux who it has to be said are not the team they once were and now languish in 17th spot, while my boys are up to 13th.

My particular chouchou, the impossibly good looking Yoann Gourcuff is back playing for Olympique Lyon after a 5-month injury lay off and was their man of the match as they downed Nancy 3-1.

After the successful loan of Liverpool’s Joe Cole to Lille, where he likes nothing better than sitting at one of Lille’s many cafes and reading L’Equipe as he sips his espresso, there’s great excitement that David Beckham may be moving to Paris St Germain.

Fencing

France join the G8, the list of countries which have won 8 consecutive team titles in fencing. Fencing is yet another of those sports at which I have had a go. It’s incredibly tiring and, like lots of sports, way more difficult than it looks. Still, it’s great fun pretending to be one of the Three Musketeers.

Falling temperatures and leaves

Although this week’s weather has remained warm and sunny, with temperatures rising to the early 20s by midday, next week’s forecast shows the midday temperatures falling, for the first time in ages, below 20C. Despite struggling with the after effects of my post-Copenhagen cold, I have continued to pursue my training plan. Largely because next week will be a rest while I’m back in the UK, visiting my parents. While out training I have been thinking about this week end’s races and specifically the Tour of Lombardy. For an excellent summary of the route, please check out www.thearmchairsportsfan.com.

This is a race which tends to be slightly tinkered with each year. Tomorrow’s race finishes in Lecco which has rather mitigated against me going to watch it live. Of course, I was even more disappointed when I learned on Tuesday that one of my friends would be riding it. Sadly, the organisers don’t seem to know he’s riding, as his name doesn’t appear on any of the various start lists. He only found out he would be riding on his return from the Tour of Beijing on Monday, so his wife has had to re-submit his whereabouts report. If only we’d known sooner, we’d have hired a larger car and taken his entire family along to watch. It would have been a fun day out.

It’s highly unlikely that my friend will win, although it’s a parcours that suits him. He’ll be riding in support of one of the team’s other riders. So, who is going to win? I have been pondering the front runners and looking back at the results of the most recent races, including yesterday’s Tour du Piemont.

Omega Pharma Lotto’s Fast Phil

Lacking in support at last week end’s Paris-Tours and MIA yesterday, Fast Phil will be looking for his 3rd consecutive win while the rest of the peloton, barring maybe BMC, will be out to stop him. According to the start lists, he’s currently missing 2 team mates and the other 5 riders listed could hardly be described as stellar. Yes, as Omega Pharma Lotto morphs into Quick Omega or whatever next year, everyone’s rather lost interest. It’s going to be tough Phil, but you can do it.

Euskaltel’s Samu Sanchez

The man with more 2nds to his name than Pou Pou comes with a team choc ful of experience but, in yesterday’s race, he was obviously saving himself for Saturday. Either that or he’s not yet fully recovered from his bout of Beijing Belly. Aupa Samu!

Europcar’s Tommy Voeckler

Never one to pass up the opportunity for a TV cameo, expect him to launch at least one of his trademark attacks. Finished 4th yesterday, so obviously on song.

BMC’s Greg Van Avermaet

Winner of Paris-Tours and 2nd yesterday, he’s likely to find tomorrow’s parcours a little too hilly for his liking. However, he might earn some brownie points for himself, his team and next year’s team mate Fast Phil by giving the latter some discreet support.

Lampre’s Michele Scarponi and Damiano Cunego

Expect both of these riders to be in the mix but keep an eye out for their more in-form team mate Przemyslaw Niemiec.

Liquigas’s Ivan Basso and Vicenzo Nibali

Could they cook up something together tomorrow a la Sidi? Who knows. Basso lives in Varese so should know this route like the back of his hand but Nibali seems the man on form with solid performances yesterday and in Giro dell’Emilia. Could Nibali make a decisive break on one of the descents?

Rabobank’s Bauke Mollema

Probably sharing team leader’s duties with Carlos Barredo, performed well in GP Berghelli and Giro dell’Emilia, but sadly rides for a tactically inept team.

Sky’s Rigoberto Uran

Could be their main man on a parcours that suits his abilities.

Katusha

A team full of recent race winners: Daniel Moreno, Joaquim Rodriguez , Luca Paolini and Pippo Pozzato.

HTC

The team most likely to go out with a whimper rather than a bang. Cavendish, having flashed us the rainbow jersey, may  climb off (as he did yesterday) when the race passes close to his place.

Other contenders who may or may not feature in the mix

In no particular order: Movistar’s Pablo Lastras, Garvelo’s Dan Martin, AG2R’s Nico Roche, Radioshack’s Jani Brajkovic, Leopard Trek’s Jakob Fuglsang and Farnese’s Giovanni Visconti.

Next year’s race will be moved to the week end after the World Championships, so it’ll be the race of “soon to be Falling Leaves”.

Sheree’s sporting snippets

Here’s a few things, in no particular order, that have caught my eye in recent days:-

Martial Arts

Aged 98, Keiko Fukuda is the first Japanese woman to receive a coveted red belt in Judo. The other seven holders of said belt are male. You wouldn’t want to mug this old lady, now would you? Judo obviously helps you stay youthful, in the accompanying photo she looks no more than mid-60s. So, level with us Keikisan what’s your secret?

At the other end of the age spectrum, France’s 22-year old Teddy Riner  has just won his 5th world title. One of my favourite moments from this year’s Tour de France was when Teddy dropped in for a visit and everyone had to crane their necks to look up at all 2.03m of him. Teddy, weighing in at 131kgs, about the same as Joaquim Rodriguez and Tom Boonen combined, fights in the 100kg+ category and took just 11mins 16secs to dispose of the competition, roughly less than 2 mins per man. Again, someone else you really wouldn’t want to mess with.

The Beautiful Game

OGCN drew 0-0 at home to Brest, a match they should surely have won. In any event, they’re now out of the drop zone. Meanwhile, my beloved boys in claret and blue drew 0-0 at home to neighbours Wolves. Villa recorded their lowest gate since December 2006, just 30,776. One of whom was England manager Fabio Capello, no doubt checking on the form of Darren Bent. He would have left disappointed. I’m finding it more and more difficult to get enthused about football. Attendance at a live match is long overdue.

Motorised Wheels

Michael Schumacher crashed in the wet, in Spa, home of the Belgian GP, and on his favourite circuit. Not, I fancy, how he wanted to celebrate his 20th anniversary in F1. He started today from the back of the field sucking everyone else’s exhaust fumes. His German compatriot took the laurels today.

Another man facing a back of the field start today, was the Doctor. Yes, Valentino Rossi, after falling in qualifying, looked to be heading for the back row but he managed to pull out a couple of reasonable laps and move up 3 places to 14th. His miserable season continues. Can anyone fix Ducati’s bikes?

Under your own steam

The World Athletics are being beamed to us from Daegu in S Korea. Either the tickets were too expensive, the Koreans don’t care for athletics or the man in charge of their distribution gave them all to sponsors. Whatever, Usain Bolt was playing to an empty stadium the other evening. He’ll have found that a bit disconcerting, but it didn’t seem to put him off his stride. I spoke too soon, the news from Daegu is of his disqualification for a false start in the 100m final, in front of a packed stadium. His countryman Yohan Blake took gold.

Hurricane Irene, currently lashing New York, has forced the postponement of the start of the UK Open where Novak Djokovic is hoping to add to his Grand Slam tally and Rafa Nadal is hoping to retain his title. In 2008, Hurricane Ike, caused the Red Bull Indiannapolis Moto2 race to be cancelled, halted the 125cc round in its tracks, while the MotoGP took place on wet tracks.

Hurricanes are given names to eliminate confusion when there are multiple systems in an area at the same time. In most cases, it retains its name throughout its life. The names are taken from alphabetical lists decided upon either by committees of the  World Meteorological Organisation or by national weather offices involved in the forecasting of the storms. Each year, the names of particularly destructive storms (if there are any) are “retired” and new names are chosen to take their place. Different countries have different local conventions; for example, in Japan, storms are referred to by number (each year), such as 台風第9号 (Typhoon #9).

The Velo

While my attention has been focused fair and square on the Vuelta, it’s not the only event taking place on two non-motorised wheels. Yesterday, I caught sight of the procession of the riders who had taken part in the inaugural Haute Route from Geneva to Nice, enjoying the final few

That’s a lot of climbing!

kilometers of their endeavours, as they headed towards the Promenade des Anglais. They looked in remarkably good spirits given that  in just 7 sweltering days they’d ridden 730kms and climbed 17,000m up 15 legendary mountains. I’d love to have taken part but my coach felt that it might just be a wee bit too ambitious: maybe next year. Congratulations and well done to all the 234 finishers.

Staying with the amateurs, this week’s Paris-Brest-Paris premier participants took just 44h 13 mins to complete the 1,231 kms, an average speed of just under the permitted maximum average of 28km/hr. Around 57% of the entrants were non French. Following verification, the official results will be published in early September.

The neo-pros have been lighting up the Tour du Poitou Charentes which was won by Radioshack’s Kiwi, Jesse Sergent who took Stage 4’s ITT. Stages were won by, among others, Sky’s neo-pros Davide Appollonio and Alex Dowsett. Movistar bound Giovanni Visconti of the impeccably, aerodynamically, plucked eyebrows won the GP Industria e Commercio Artigianato Carnaghese. Is this the race with the longest name? Over the pond, Radioshack’s Levi Leipheimer seems to have sewn up the USA Pro Cycling Challenge, being held at altitude, in Colarado.

Spectators were out in force for today’s 248.3km, circuit race,  GP de Plouay, held under a heavily overcast sky, in the heartland of French cycling. French riders were hoping to catch to the eye of team selector Laurent Jalabert and book a berth for the World Championhips in Copenhagen. We had a trade mark attack from Europcar’s Thomas Voeckler in the dying kilometers but it was all too little, too late, as Lampre’s Grega Bole had pinged off the front just before Tommy and held on to win. The first Slovenian to do so.

Meanwhile back in Spain, on the long and difficult slog up to La Covatilla, the first real summit finish of this year’s Vuelta, the Brits took charge. Sky’s Bradley Wiggins forced the pace and Garvelo’s Brummie, Dan Martin, nipped out of the leading bunch to take a well-deserved stage win. Second placed youngster, Rabobank’s Bauke Mollema lifted the red leader’s jersey from a struggling JRod, who conceded pretty much all the time he’d gained the previous day. My contact was right, Brad is in the form of his life. I await tomorrow’s time trial with interest.

CAS have announced that Contador’s hearing will take place 21-24 November. I’m assuming, rightly or wrongly, they mean November 2011.

Panacea for post-Tour blues

While the Tour is over and many of it’s protagonists take part in a seemingly endless round of criteriums, the racing rolls on. This week I’ve been watching the Tour of Poland generally an opportunity for the young guns to shine, and shine they have. While fellow Brummie and defending champ Garvelo’s Dan Martin put up a spirited defence of his title and won the queen stage, it’s been pretty much one way traffic at the Pete and Marcel show.  After putting in a highly determined performance to win two stages and, more importantly, the overall, I’m looking forward to see what Liquigas’s Peter Sagan can do in his first Grand Tour, the Vuelta. I appreciate he’ll be riding in support of Vicenzo Nibali, but should the Shark falter…….. The other four stages were won in imperious fashion by Skil Shimano’s Marcel Kittel whom I last saw on the podium of the U23 ITT in Melbourne. He has a turn of speed to match Cavendish, but doesn’t seem to require a train, and he left names such as Tom Boonen, Romain Feillu and John Degenkolb trailing in his wake.

I’ve also been dipping into the Vuelta a Burgos where riders were fine tuning their performances ahead of the Vuelta which starts on 20 August in Benidorm. The first stage stage was won by defending champ, Euskaltel’s Samu, who won’t be riding the Vuelta, ahead of Katusha’s JRod, who will. JRod also took out the 2nd stage and the overall. Samu was undone (again) by the team time trial and tired legs on the final stage where the boys in orange were attempting to rip the field apart and put time into JRod. Sadly, Samu was unable to keep pace and the stage was won by his rookie team mate Mikel Landa, recording his maiden win. Purito is looking in great shape for the upcoming race which, with plenty of mountain top finishes and few time-trialling kms, clearly favours the climbers but Igor Anton and the orange-clad boys are looking equally strong.

Over in the Tour of Denmark, Sky’s Simon Gerrans took his first stage win since the Herald Sun Tour in 2006 and his first win this year thanks to some clever mopping up of intermediate sprint points (and seconds) to remain ahead of Leopard Trek’s Daniele Bennati.  Elsewhere, the diminutive Samuel Dumoulin won Paris-Correze.

The football season commenced this week end in France and Nice were served up a tough opener, home to Lyon, against whom we’ve enjoyed some great results in recent seasons largely thanks to OL’s Champion’s League commitments. No such worries this time for OL, we lost 3-1 and languish one from the bottom of the league. With such a high turnover of players, it’ll take the team a while to gel but there were some promising signs, though we’re still lacking firepower up front. Finally, work has commenced on OGCN’s new stadium which should be finished in time for the 2013/14 season and where we’ll be hosting some matches in Euro 2016. I’m hoping my beloved boys in claret and blue have a better start to their Premiership campaign this week end.

After a few days off the bike last week, I was keen to get back into my training plan. My coach has introduced some new home-trainer based exercises where I have to pedal while holding my breath. Not sure what that’s all about but I’ll get a chance to quiz him when we ride together on Wednesday. It’s only for a short period, but it’s more difficult than you might think. He’s also making me do a series of push ups. Probably trying to firm up the non-areodynamic batwings. He’s also persisting with the swimming to assist my legs to recuperate. But my legs rarely get tired and I never ever, suffer from a build up of lactic acid. My feet, on the other hand, are not faring so well. I spent much time on them while walking around San Sebastián and have been on my feet most of this week preparing for yesterday’s La Ronde and pointage where we usually cater for over 500 cyclists. It was a wash out. The race was cancelled as the course was too dangerous with water lying on the circuit’s corners. Still around 60 people turned up and enjoyed my home baked goodies. Of course, most of the provisions can go back into the club store cupboard to be brought out for the re-scheduled event while I can put my remaining cakes into the freezer, disaster averted.

Triple honours

This morning’s ride allowed my beloved and I to check out the route for today’s 4th stage of 38th Tour Mediterraneen, 155km from La Londe les Maures to Biot by way of St Tropez. The same stage last year was neutralised thanks to adverse climatic conditions. Today the sun shone and Spring was very definitely in the air.

Stage 4

We parked Tom II and strolled to the finish past all the team buses which ranged from the deluxe Pro-Tour team ones to the man and a van Continental team transport.  We rolled up about an hour before the riders which gave me an opportunity to distribute copies of the brochure for the Kivilev to the assembled throng which, unsurprisingly, included a number of my clubmates. The Tour isn’t televised so we had just the dulcet tones of Mr Cycling (Daniel Mangeas) to spark our imagination, made easier by our own intimate knowledge of the route.

Finishing straight in Biot
Appolonio leading out Feillu

I had ridden up the finishing straight a few hours beforehand which features a shortish hill rising in places by 13%. You could tell by the grimaces on their faces that the leading trio were giving it their all as they shot up the hill at a similar speed to that which I might descend. David Appolonio (Sky Procycling) led the charge with the yellow jersey, Romain Feillu (Vacansoleil-DCM ProCycling Team) on his wheel, closely tracked by Team Garmin-Cervelo’s Dan Martin.

Feillu took his third consecutive stage, in front of his young family but, with the next 9 riders within 34 seconds, doesn’t expect to conserve the yellow jersey after tomorrow’s stage which finishes atop Mont Faron. Thomas Voekler (Europcar) is only 21secs back while by Dan Martin (nephew of Stephen Roche who’s on the organising committee) lies at 26 seconds. In any event, the management of Vacansoleil will have welcomed the positive news after Riccardo Ricco’s DIY fiasco.

The organising committee had amassed so many former luminaries of French cycling that the podium was in danger of collpasing under their (not inconsidserable) combined weights. 

A handful of heavyweights

While all this was taking place my beloved boys in claret and blue, reduced to 10 men, managed to salvage a point away at Blackpool. OGCN are playing away at Rennes tomorrow afternoon who are managed by a former OGCN manager and feature a number of former players. This has banana skin writ large all over it.

I’m now settling down to watch a local derby on the new big screen: St Etienne v Olympique Lyonnais, the latter featuring (ex-OGCN saviour) Hugo Lloris and my chouchou, Yoan Gourcuff.

(photographs courtesy of my beloved)

Positively sizzling

Yesterday, I was even busier (is that possible?) than the day before. We were having a BBQ at the club for all the volunteers without whom the club wouldn’t be able to stage any events. Of course, it’s always the same crowd who volunteers and this is one small way of saying “thank you”. My beloved kindly offered to cook the sausages and chicken on the BBQ and his efforts were much appreciated by the assembled throng. Here’s a picture of him looking dashing in my plastic frog apron. 

He wields a mean pair of tongs

Spending the club’s money is not the same as spending one’s own. I confess I never, ever look at the price of goods in the supermarket but the last two days I have done the rounds of the super and hypermarkets snapping up every deal going. Two for the price of one, 3rd item free, 2nd at 50% – that’ll do nicely, thank you. This means I have ventured into places I never normally frequent, such as Lidl. 

Everything is now ready for transporting at the crack of dawn tomorrow morning. My checklist has been ticked off and, as ever, nothing, but nothing has been left to the vagaries of chance. There remains just one thing left to do. I have to break the bad news to my beloved that he’s got to order a taxi for tomorrow morning. He’s now relaxing down by the pool, which I have yet to visit this year, so he should be in a good mood when he returns. 

We rode together this morning, while it was still a little fresh, on one of my favourite Saturday circuits. My beloved remarked that he’d never seen me ride so well up the hills. See, all that training is paying off. 

I managed to catch the highlights of yesterday’s 228.5km Queen stage  from Oswiecim to Terma Bukowina in the Tour of Poland. As I switched on the TV none other than Johnny Hoogerland and Gorka Izaguirre (last seen winning the Ordiziako Klasika) hove into view, remnants of the early breakaway. They were absorbed by the peloton which, led by Garmin, withstood a number of subsequent, well-timed attacks. Finally, Bauke Mollema launched a solo attack on the final ascent of the day to record his first ever Pro-Tour win. He’s now 3rd on GC behind Grega Bole (2nd) and Dan Martin (who grabbed yellow on Thursday). Johnny Hoogerland looks to have sewn up the KOM jersey and the sprint jersey.

Postscript: On today’s final stage, despite the downpour,  the podium remained unchanged. Well done to fellow Brummie, Dan Martin, on his first of, no doubt, many Pro-Tour wins.

Postpostscript: My beloved took the news well. Did he want to leave for the airport with me at 05:30 or with a taxi at 06:30? No brainer really.