Seven kilometres from the Ponferrada finish, Michal Kwiatkowski, dared to dream.
Breaking clear on the back-end of the descent before the Mirador, the Pole closed the gap to the remaining escapees, then pressed on alone for the win. This was where the race was won, but its foundations were built far earlier.
The course, 14 laps of an 18.2km loop around Ponferrada, was an enigmatic one. In the weeks leading into the world championships, in the recon done by the teams in the days leading to roll-out, opinions differed in the scenarios likely to unfold, and the riders who would be vying for the win.
It's the end of the line for the Tour of Beijing, and none too soon, writes Al Hinds.
In contrast to its contentious introduction to the WorldTour calendar back in 2011, the Tour of Beijing, has disappeared quietly, with the tiniest of whimpers.
A footnote on a UCI Press Release overnight, in the second from last par, delivered the race's epitaph. A mark of gratitude to the organisers of the event, and the efforts of those to develop it in the years since its inception from Brian Cookson as part of the 2015 calendar announcement. No other explanation, but gone all the same.
Earlier this week we published a review of the film, Slaying the Badger, a documentary that follows Greg LeMond’s journey to become the first non-European to win the Tour de France, in 1986. But the story itself is nothing without Bernard Hinault, the elder French champion, who continually rattles LeMond’s nerve throughout, keeping the American on his toes until the finish.
If you’ve not seen the film, read Richard Moore’s book first, which gives a far more detailed and insightful account of the context of the LeMond-Hinault relationship, and the intriguing rivalry the played out between both riders in 1985 and 1986.
As the Vuelta rages on, it’s a timely reminder of what makes sport great. The protagonists. The characters. The rivalries. Merckx-Ocaña. Lewis-Johnson. Armstrong-Ullrich. Contador-Schleck. Federer-Nadal. And the ongoing, and unfinished Contador-Froome.
In June, just as he was finishing his final preparations for the Tour de France, Daryl Impey was given news no athlete wants to hear. Positive. To what? It didn’t really matter. A sinking feeling. Disbelief. And then, as the news sunk in, contact with his team. No Tour. A fight to clear his name. To save his career.
It’s taken two months, but the South African Anti-Doping Organisation (SAIDS) appears to have now backflipped, siding with Impey that the test carried out back in February at the National Championships, had been somehow "cross-contaminated".
It was a long-shot, it always is in cases such as this where the burden of proof falls on the defense, but Impey was successful in making a case to clear his name.
You’re fully aware that you haven’t ridden a bike for more than five minutes in over six weeks, you’ve been eating like a slob, and your recent physical activity level could at best be described as ‘slothful’. And yet somehow, you’re totally and utterly convinced that when you jump back on the bike, for that first, ice-breaking ride, it’ll all be fine. That you’ll be conquering Cols like the pros.
I’ve been riding bikes my whole life. I’ve been a ‘cyclist’ for the last decade. But every time I step away, be it for a holiday, a period of work overseas, or I simply lose motivation, I tend to believe that my idleness will have absolutely no bearing on my fitness. I’ll just kit up, roll out, and bang, it’ll be like, err, riding a bike.
Because, you know, the croissant only diet in France wasn’t just tasty, but healthy too! My belly hasn’t bulged, my pants have shrunk… All of them. I’m puffing more than usual because of the pollens, not that my cardio system hasn’t been out of first gear in more than a month. I’m not unfit. I’m not!