There was a lot in the 2015 Tour de France route unveil to take in. Al Hinds takes a look over some of its critical points.
Apparently sick of Peter Sagan winning the maillot vert at a canter, ASO has rebalanced the points system in a move that tries to reposition the classification. A massive 50 points is now on offer for the first over the line in any “flat” stage, with a quick drop-off to second (30) and third (20), putting a premium on winning stages over high finishes. The last two years has seen one solitary stage victory and a lot of seconds, thirds etc. deliver Peter Sagan the maillot vert, meanwhile Marcel Kittel, who notched up eight in the same period, finished fourth. The sentiment of the new system is good, the green jersey should be a sprinters classification to retain its relevance, but while the revisions will likely shake things up, there’s every chance Sagan could still win.
Time bonuses return to the Tour for the first time since 2007. The 10, 6, 4 bonuses on offer at the finish and 3, 2, 1, at the intermediates aren’t dramatic amounts but they do allow yellow to move around in the first week. A good move, and less chance of Fabian wearing yellow for the entirety of the first nine stages.
The third positive this year for an Astana rider is the just the latest chapter in the team’s shadowy history.
Said without judgement.
2006. The team spawns out of the remnants of the Liberty Seguros-Wurth team. That squad, and its manager Manolo Saiz are deeply implicated in Operacion Puerto, an investigation conducted by the Guardia Civil which uncovers systematic doping within the team. Alexandre Vinokourov becomes de facto captain, and is an arm’s length from management. Despite the team’s history, the UCI awards it a new four year WorldTour license.
If the MPCC wants to retain any relevance to the anti-doping movement going forward, it needs to eject Astana from its membership immediately, writes Al Hinds.
Last Thursday, my Cycling Central colleague Philip Gomes opined in an article, ‘Time for Vino to man up’ that "Astana needs to be punted from racing for the rest of the season and Vino probably needs to be suspended from being anywhere near a bicycle race for at least a year."
He was responding to a bind Astana had found itself in after the second EPO positive this year recorded within the team, this time, a high-profile scalp in the way of former Liege-Bastogne-Liege champion, Maxim Iglinskiy.
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.