Yorkshire’s Grand Depart – Interview with Head of Media – Andy Denton

With the Tour de France less than a month away, all cycling eyes are turning to Yorkshire as final preparations are made before some of England’s most green and pleasant land is turned yellow for the couple of crazy days that will be Le Grand Depart.

Leading the team charged with communicating the story of Yorkshire’s time in the spotlight is Head of Media, Andy Denton. The Jersey Pocket caught up with this Kentish Lad who found his home in the Yorkshire Dales and then helped win the bid to bring Froome, Nibali, Contador and everyone else to England’s largest county.

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Giro d’Italia Preview – Whatever happened to all the heroes?

“Whatever happened to all the heroes? All the Shakespeareos?” –  The Stranglers: No More Heroes

With the Giro d’Italia starting in Belfast on Friday, and the inaugural Women’s Tour of Britain breaking new ground in England this week, there are probably more top-level cyclists currently on UK soil than for many, many a year. But whilst the Women’s Tour has attracted the crème de la crème of female riders, this edition of the Giro has been dogged by some big name stay-aways who are preferring to focus on the Tour de France later in the Summer.

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If this is your first time watching the Giro check out the Beginner’s Guide at the bottom of the page.

Defending champion Vincenzo Nibali’s decision to fight for Yellow rather than Pink has perhaps caused the biggest concern for the organisers and certainly for the homegrown fans. Italian cycling is suffering from a cyclical downturn and true contenders appear very thin on the ground despite their country-men making up more than a third of the 198 entrants. Previous winners Damiano Cunego, Michele Scarponi and Ivan Basso are riding (as is 2012 winner Ryder Hesjedal) but none have shown the form that would put them into consideration for the top prize. Elsewhere, Joaquin ‘Purito’ Rodriguez, a seemingly resurgent Cadel Evans and 2013 Tour de France runner up Nairo (Nero for this race, surely??) Quintana do bring undoubted quality but there remains a feeling that this is very much a sideshow filled with men who are either deemed too old for a Tour win, or still too young. Quintana, with an occasionally 50-year-old looking face on his 24 year old body, sits in both camps.

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Quintana: the favourite is an old head & young shoulders above the rest.

Injury and accident have also robbed the start list of a couple of key battles. Richie Porte’s early season illness has pushed his goals backwards, meaning we miss out on a potential repeat of a high-level Sky vs Movistar battle that illuminated last years Tour and which had been widely expected. After Wiggins’ disastrous appearance in Italy last year (and Sky’s courting of the American market in the overlapping Tour of California this year) it’s been left to local boy Dario Cataldo to carry the hopes of Sky for this Grand Tour instead. Chris Horner’s incident with a car during recent training has also removed his name from the start list and with it the intriguing prospect of him going head-to-head on the mountains with Quintana whose age is his own digits swapped around.

Visa issues have also blighted the build-up to Belfast’s Grande Partenza. A number of riders have apparently either been denied visas by the UK authorities or simply not received them (and their all important passports) back in time. Cue further last-minute roster re-shuffling. That aside, preparations for the big roll-out in Ireland seems to have captured the enthusiastic spirit that the country is famous for. The Emerald Isle has been turned totally pink – literally in some cases – with fuchsia sheep, rose horses, coral cranes and even the odd mauve mayor popping up the celebrate the coming of the Giro. 1987 winner Stephen Roche has been roped in as the de facto ambassador for the first three days and, with his son Nicholas leading the Tinkoff-Saxobank team and his nephew, Dan Martin of Garmin-Sharp in the hunt for stage wins, he will be hoping to continue celebrating long after the Giro caravan has moved on.

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There will be lots of pink wool to be had in Ireland’s Autumn/Winter fashions.

And move on they must; for after starting from the Titanic museum near Belfast’s famous shipyards and winding their way through North and South en-route to Dublin, the whole entourage faces a long transfer to Southern Italy before beginning the stages ‘up the boot’ towards the Alps and the Dolomites. This year’s finish will be in Trieste on June 1st but there is a whole heap of climbing to be done before the riders reach the final port. And that brings us back to Quintana.

With a favourable course than includes monstrous ascents of the Gavia & Stelvio on Stage 16, a mountain time-trial up the Monte Grappa on Stage 19 and then a penultimate day which ends with the eye-watering ramps of the Zoncolan, the tiny Colombian climber looks set to thrive. Quintana has been given the lead role of a strong team under the pretext of Movistar preferring to develop him in the less pressured environment of the Giro. With the relatively depleted start list though, this plan could backfire as Quintana is now such a hot favourite (10-11 ON at the time of writing) that anything less than the win will be seen as a sure thing thrown away. With such high expectations, and without another potential leader within the team to deflect attention, all the pressure will actually be fully on him from the outset. One hopes that his attacking style is not overly curtailed by the burden of favouritism.

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If Quintana can’t land the Giro in a suitably swashbucklingly way I suspect that most neutrals will be hoping that the ever-popular Purito finally lands a Grand Tour. Whatever happens, we don’t want a defensive phoney war through the mountains with one explosive attack on the last 100m of the Zoncolan any more than we did the dull time-trialled victories of Indurain. More than any other Grand Tour, the Giro sets itself up to be about spectacle. Let’s hope it delivers. Forza!

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Beginner’s Guide to the Giro

21 stages, 3 rest days (Mondays), 3,449.9 kilometres.

Key stages: 16 (Tuesday 27th), 19 (Friday 30th), 20 (Saturday 31st)

TdF/Giro Differences: Yellow is Pink, Green is Red, Polka Dots are solid blue, White is still white.

Grand Depart = Grande Partenza, Domestique = GregarioMaillot Jaune = Maglia Rosa

Froome is Porte, Kennaugh, Cataldo. Cav is Swift. Kittel is still Kittel.

Weekly Round Up – Tour Down Under & Tour De San Luis

It’s been a hard week to follow the start of the cycling season from the UK. Races in Australia and Argentina are not so easy to watch live; it either involves getting up at 4.30am and disturbing the rest of your non-cycling life with sleep deprivation to watch the Tour Down Under; or risking your eyesight squinting at a fuzzy web-cam whilst trying to follow fast-speaking Spanish commentary at the Tour de San Luis. But the very fact that there are these options speaks volumes about the proliferation of coverage. We’ve become so used to coverage of almost everything that this, in fact, makes for a pleasant (and nostalgic) change. Not so long ago watching short highlights programmes used to be the only option for even the biggest races and anything else would not even get that. Now live TV of entire stages of the bigger races plus legal (and illegal) streams and Youtube channels bring us even the most minor events in some form. Saturation levels are fast approaching

So it’s been refreshing this week to catch up the Tour Down Under in written and highlights form. I haven’t quite kicked the need for ‘live’ updates so have settled into a pattern of reading back my Twitter timeline after waking up to get the chronology of the race as it unfolds. By following a few teams and a few journalists you get the story of the whole race – early breaks and all – which highlight shows often skim over. Then, pre-armed with a bit of race knowledge, watching even a brief highlights package becomes more rewarding in the sense that you learn to watch the moves develop rather than witness the result and then try and work out how it came to be.

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Tour de France – Final Roundup – nothing artificial about this race (except the ‘fireworks’)

In the end the promised finale fireworks never came. Not from the top of the Arc de Triomphe after the evening stage on Sunday, where we given a projected feu artifice lightshow instead of some actual gunpowder explosions (the whole show was greeted with polite bemusement rather than rapture in our house), and not from the last few days of racing either where the assumption has been that the riders simply didn’t have enough left in the legs to seriously attack the yellow jersey and so saved what they did have for the scrap for podium and best team places. Another sign of a clean Tour? Maybe..

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Tour de France – Stage 15 Roundup – Bang, Froome, straight to the Moon.

The second rest day of the Tour de France marks, for us armchair followers at least, the beginning of the end. Sure, those guys on the bikes still have a mind-bending amount of cycling to do, but if the 3 weeks of the Tour was condensed into just one stage (like when TV scientists cram the whole of Earth’s existence into just one year and we learn that humans popped up at about 3 minutes to midnight on New Years Eve) then we are long past the feed zone and the intermediate sprint. We have already shed three-quarters of the Sky domestiques and we are either hungrily eyeing up the remnants of the breakaway, or wondering if this is the moment when Cadel will start going backwards quickly. Yes, my friends, we are now a ‘select group’ as Phil Liggett would say; we are at the ‘head of affairs’ and, just as someone pops off the front and is ‘free to fly’, the ITV4 cycling coverage will be going into its final, 7 minute long, ad break.

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Tour de France – Stage 9 roundup – “Cycling, Bloody Hell!”

As Alex Ferguson sort of once said: “Cycling, Bloody Hell!”

Or as Johnny Rotten didn’t quite say once either: “Ever get the feeling you’ve been treated?”

What an epic weekend! The Pyrenees were meant to play second fiddle to the Alps this year; only two stages and none of the hoo-ha of Mt Ventoux or Alpe d’Huez. I’ll tell you what though – if this is second fiddle then we are in for some virtuoso stuff come next weekend.

The late part of last week played out more to the expected plan. Cav gets his win on Stage 5. Greipel hits home first for Stage 6 and then Cannondale and Sagan beast Stage 7 and he looks to have green pretty much wrapped up within the first week.

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