Spanish mini-tours are the cyborgs of cycling disciplines. They will not stop... ever... until you are dead -- tired of watching. And so, this week's menu features the rolling terrain of Castilla and Leon, knitted together into the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon. That's the headliner in our Spanish comings and goings this week... but more on that in a moment.
When Big Mig Speaks...
People listen. But if anyone can de-gnome this one for me, I would be grateful. In Espanol:
Which gnomes out to
So there's that. Anyway, he was expounding on the state of cycling, so it might actually be interesting to know what the hell he meant.
Beetles 1, EPO 0
More gnoming, but following on this week's accidental theme, doping (or not) by Colombian riders, comes this AS.com story about how the rise of the Andean Army of Escarabajos (beetles) has more to do with the eradication of EPO. The premise is, EPO can do for flatlanders what living at 10,000 feet did naturally for Colombians. Since living at 10,000 feet is not a banned practice, the Colombian beetles have their edge back.
Interestingly, the story quotes Carlos Betancur or AG2R, as well as Movistar's Nairo Quintana, the man who was notoriously accused of doping by two idiots on TV last weekend. One wonders, did AS call the Colombians or did the Colombians (now ex-teammates from rival teams) decide to hit back against the absurd suggestions from Universal Sports? I know they know about the commentary, because one of their managers twittered me about it, saying riders are "defenseless" in the face of accusations. But stories like this are in fact part of a defense, and in general that's a good thing.
All Things Nairo
The Diario Vasco has a lovely feature on Quintana, talking about his home village. It's a pretty interesting (if also heavily gnomed) story. He came from a poor family, and his dad was crippled by a car accident when he was seven years old, but his dad's determination to deal with his limitations and improve his mobility (apparently crutching to high places on race courses to pass a bidon to his young son) motivated Nairo to work. Also, he biked to and from school on a 16km route with an 8% slope. Pretty good daily workout for a kid!
Basquing in Cobbled Glory
Scoff if you will at the adventures of Euskaltel-Euskadi in races like Paris-Roubaix, but simply being Basque is not a recipe for Belgian/Nord disaster. Take Markel Irizar, who speaks to Diario Vasco of the five months' training he put in with winner Fabian Cancellara, Jesse Sergent, Bob Jungels, Yaroslav Popovych and others. This was a big team goal, contrary to public perception of the team's abilities and commitment. And they nailed it.
We're a Bit Late on the VaCyL preview...
Today's opening stage of the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, Euskaltel got its first win of the season when Pablo Urtasun outkicked the bunch on a slightly uphill false flat finish in Valladolid. Pretty odd season when Euskaltel goes through Catalunya and the PV winless, then breaks the duck in a bunch sprint. The day apparently saw some windy conditions on a rolling course, but the expected sprint came together in the end, with a Basque lead-out man taking the honors. Whatever works...
OK, on to Castilla y Leon
This is something of a make-good mini-Tour for all those guys who've been slogging it out in the two World Tour events of the last three weeks, where the road never flattens out for long. Not that this course is flat, but already we've had one bunch finish, and we're likely due for a second one before Sunday's slightly uphill final stage. Here's the key data:
The last 4km see a gain of 150 meters, a 4% average, roughly speaking. In other words, it's a sprint-climb, or as they say in Spain, a sprint. In all likelihood there won't be much in the way of GC time gaps heading into the stage, so this should settle the hash. The top 49 finished on the same time today, including prerace favorites Javier Moreno (Movistar -- winner in '12), Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel), Amets Txurruka (Caja Rural) and other recognizables. Making the cut so far are virtually all of Movistar, Euskaltel, and the two Colombian squads Colombia and 472-Colombia. So tune in Sunday, if possible, and if not sooner.