WorldTour Wrap: enter Jakob Fuglsang, the Jeremy Corbyn of cycling
Tom looks back on an action-packed week of racing at the Criterium du Dauphine, Women's Tour and Tour de Suisse
It’s been a fun week in cycling, with the Criterium du Dauphine throwing up scintillating racing and an unpredictable final result. The OVO Women’s Tour also completed its circuit of the UK, while in Switzerland things got underway in the Tour de Suisse.
It's been a week of first-class racing and more than an upset or two, both on and off the road...
A week of upsets
Ah, pro cycling and the British public – are there any two things so wildly unpredictable?
For years now things have gone the same way at this part of the season. Chris Froome turns up to the Criterium du Dauphiné, hoons it, then wins the Tour de France. Every year that he’s won le Tour, he’s also won the Dauphiné. The year Sir Bradley Wiggins won the Tour, Wiggins also won the Dauphiné.
It would be fair to say things have been following a certain script. And it would have been reasonable to assume a few weeks back that, fresh from a block of altitude training, Froome and Team Sky were ready to gear up for yet another victory-filled June and July.
Just as it would have been reasonable to assume a few weeks ago that the general election would end in a crushing victory for incumbent PM, Theresa May.
The British public delivered a momentous upset last Thursday, then Jakob Fuglsang did the same this weekend, flipping the Dauphiné on its head by claiming a massive overall victory, swiping it from under the noses of Richie Porte and Chris Froome.
Froome, admittedly, had never looked like being on his best form, so it was not he that would have the greatest reason to be put out by Fuglsang’s surprise win, but Porte will have felt this race was his for the losing. And lose it he did.
If Froome is May, then that probably makes Fuglsang Jeremy Corbyn. And if we are drawing shoddy comparisons, then perhaps we can go a step further and cast Alberto Contador in the role of UKIP-leader, Paul Nuttall. Sorry Bertie.
Both men, after all, suffered a wildly disappointing campaign, with Contador finishing outside of the top ten on GC at the Dauphine and Nuttall’s UKIP winning not a single seat and subsequently resigning. It must be said that the lack of a strong Contador to mix things up in Le Tour is probably a greater loss to cycling than Nuttall will be to British politics.
We’re already licking our lips at the prospect of a Tour de France that might be much closer than we originally thought with a strong Richie Porte and a weakened Froome – just please God don’t let there be another election in the UK anytime soon. Let us enjoy July in peace!
Hannah & Alice Barnes’ granny is cooler than your granny
What’s cooler than watching your two granddaughters fight it out in the Women’s Tour? How about doing it in custom family stash and a fierce Rapha casquette, like the grandmother of Alice and Hannah Barnes.
— Emily Barnes (@EmilyBarnes_95) June 11, 2017
This photo was tweeted by the sisters’ cousin, Emily Barnes, at the start of the final day’s racing. In the end, Alice Barnes (Canyon // SRAM) took third spot on the podium, while Hannah settled for sixth place overall and second in the best British rider comp. Emily is no slouch on the bike herself, so we could be seeing three Barnes women in the top ten of the British race before too long.
Katarzyna Niewiadoma won the overall race, after a commanding performance saw her take the leader’s jersey on stage one and not let it out of her grip for the subsequent four stages.
Running like clockwork
What better way to start a race in Switzerland than with a race against the clock?
The Tour de Suisse began on Saturday with an individual time trial won by Rohan Dennis, but the Aussie’s time in yellow was short-lived, after a crash on stage two saw him clatter off the top spot. His team, BMC, will not be too upset though, with their man Stefan Kung making the hop from second to first overall.
Elsewhere in the race, Philippe Gilbert continued his spectacular year in the Belgian champ’s jersey by winning stage two from a reduced bunch. Patrick Lefevere will be wondering whether he can sack off the rest of his squad altogether and just enter Big Phil into every UCI WorldTour race next season.
Both the Dauphiné and the Tour de Suisse play valuable roles as final tune-up races before the fireworks of the Grand Boucle – so expect plenty of heavyweight action in the coming days.
WorldTour teams aren’t allowed to officially sign new contracts with riders for next season until 1 August, but that hasn’t stopped the first few rumours emerging of new signings and big-name moves.
The big transfer story in the headlines was the vaunted move of Chris Froome to BMC Racing (home of his erstwhile best bud and former climbing super-domestique, Richie Porte). This rumour lasted only long enough for BMC general manager, Jim Ochowicz, to spit his morning cornflakes all over his copy of L’Equipe, the French sports paper in which the rumour first appeared, before issuing a hasty, clear and unequivocal denial of the story. Team Sky later announced that Froome was signed up to a new contract anyway. So much for that one.
That’s not to say there aren’t loads more potential switcheroos for us to get excited about. Mikel Landa is said to be unhappy at Sky and could go to any one of the big teams (with former team, Astana, the most likely). Geraint Thomas, meanwhile, is also thought to be tempted by the chance to be the main man in a team’s GC plans.
Anyone who watched the Giro d’Italia will be quietly praying Team Sunweb will sign someone, anyone, to help Tom Dumoulin out in the mountains come the next campaign. Yes, the Dutchman can win a whole Grand Tour on his own, but he really oughtn’t to have to.