30 September 2012

Giro d'Italia route announced for 2013

Today the Giro d'Italia route for 2013 has been announced.

It starts in Naples on 4 May with a ten lap circuit making up a 156km opening stage. Before catching a ferry into the bay for a Time Time Trial at Ischia.

It is not really a Giro for sprinters in the mold of Mark Cavendish with only the finishes into Margherita de Savoia and Treviso as two out and out sprinters stages. Most of the rest involve uphill finishes or a big climb in the final stages.

In total there are 7 Mountain Top finishes the first being as early as stage 3. But there are three distinct sets of these in the Fruili region in the North West, before heading west to take on the Col du Galibier more famous for Le Tour, before the final stages in the Dolomites.

The penultimate stage comes the day after the highest peak is climbed the 2758m of Passo dello Stelvio coming on stage 19. But that penultimate stage which will determine the podium includes many mountains and three big peaks the Costalunga, San Pellegrino, Giau and Tre Croci before the climb to the finish at Tre Cime di Lavaredo after 202 tough kilometres through the Dolomites.

There is also a tough individual time trial of 55.5 km on stage 8 and stage 18 is 19.4km mountain individual time trial. The longer time trial from Gabicce Mare to Saltara isn't really a specialist time trial with the twists and turns through the Monte San Bartolo park before it climbs to the finish at Saltara.

All in all it is possibly the sort of Giro that might interest Bradley Wiggins depending on how tough the Tour de France parcours is when it is announced. There is no rule that says that the defending champion has to come back to defend his Grand Tour and an attempt at the Giro Vuelta double may be something that Wiggo would like to attempt at some point.

28 September 2012

British Bronze in World Wrestling Championships

The one woman team that ended up representing Team GB on the Olympic wrestling mat has put the disappointment of her first round defeat at home behind her in the World Championships in Edmonton, Canada.

Olga Butkevych, who gained her British Citizenship earlier this year, defeated Kyoko Shimada of Japan 5-2 in the bronze medal bout to become the first British woman to secure a medal in the World Championships. The Ukrainian born wrestler had been brought in as a sparring partner to the GB programme in 2007 but ended up becoming the contender in the 59kg category lifting European bronze last year.

To manage to get the same gold at the Worlds is some achievement especially as she was in the tougher half of the draw. She is the only shining light of a programme that failed in its Olympic target (even though she was the only hope of acquiring the top eight finish required).

The Head Coach Nikolai Kornieiev who saw a couple of his athletes fail drug tests in the run up to the Games is leaving the programme. But hopefully this bronze from Butkevych may produce some legacy going forward and see some home grown talent aim to reach her level ahead of Rio 2016.

Reshuffling the pack F1 style

So the reshuffling of the Formula 1 pack has begun ahead of next season.

The first move was no surprise as Lewis Hamilton has followed to money that was on offer at Mercedes, taking the seat of Michael Schumacher.

Mercedes Team Principle Ross Brawn said:

"I believe that the combination of Lewis and Nico [Rosberg] will be the most dynamic and exciting pairing on the grid next year and I am looking forward to what we can achieve together.

"Over the past three years, we have been putting in place the foundations and building blocks that are needed to compete regularly for the world championship. The potential is now there to match any other team on the grid."
Perez and Hamilton on the Italian podium

Lewis's seat at McLaren alongside Jenson Button has gone to Sergio Perez who this season at Sauber has shown great potential finishing second in both the Malaysian and Italian Grand Prixs.

While Hamilton is a product of the McLaren academy the Mexican is a product of the Ferrari one. But the President of Ferrari Luca di Montezemolo said he lacked the experience to replace Felipe Massa, despite having more points this season. 

Saurez said:

"For more than 40 years, McLaren have been a team every racing driver has aspired to drive for. 
"I was brought up on the great stories of Ayrton Senna's many world championship triumphs for McLaren.

"I've spent the 2012 season working very hard to demonstrate my potential, but I've always remained humble and focused. 

"I'm under no illusion that it is indeed a very big step - as it would be for any driver - but I'm ready for it." 

All this moving does leave an empty seat at Sauber. Only last week Peter Sauber the boss at the team Perez is now set to leave said he would take the seven times World Champion Schumacher "immediately" if he became available. There has yet to be a decision from Sauber about who will partner Kamui Kobayashi for them next year.

27 September 2012

Let's get it started #RyderCup

Well the announcement of the Foursomes for the first season Foursomes and there are some interesting pairings not just among the teams but who they are playing against.

First up is the Northern Irish pair of World Number 1 Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell, but the opposition throws up an interesting name. Along with Jim Furyk who is making his 8th start, Rory will face the man who beat him to 2012 FedEx Cup for winning the Tour Championship last weekend, Brandt Snedeker.

Second up for the Europeans is their established and successful pairing for Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia against Phil Mickelson and Keegan Bradley one of the four American rookies. Mickelson is playing in his 9th Ryder Cup but only twice in those previous eight have the USA won.

The third match pits Lee Westwood the European veteran in his 8th Ryder Cup and Italian Franceso Molinari against Jason Dufner, another rookie, and Zach Johnson. Dufner had been leading at the half way stage of The Masters before dropping to a tie for 24th, before going on to win his first PGA tournament in his 164th event. But came 4th in the US Open this year.

The final match sees Tiger Woods and Steve Strickler take on the English pair of Justin Rose and Ian Poulter.

The Europeans can field world number 1 in match 1, 3 (Donald in match 2), 4 (Westwood in match 3) and 5 (Rose in match 4). Although the Americans play the world number 2 in the last match of the morning, there second ranked player the World number 7 Bubba Watson is rested for the first session as is Webb Simpson the World number 8. But as Rory himself said today for this weekend he is not world number one but just one of twelve men in a team, rankings count for nothing.

From 1 PM tomorrow on Radio 5 live I will be listening to my radio. In the meantime in the words of the Black Eye Peas, "Let's Get it Started"

Samuel Ryder and his cup

Chicago has its Bulls. Chicago has its Cubs and White Sox. Chicago has its Bears. And Chicago has its Blackhawks. But for this weekend all eyes, from around the world will not be on any of those sporting Colossi, but on the 640 acres of the Medinah Country Club just to the west of the city's O'Hare airport.

The reason of course is the biennial contest between the best golfers in the Europe and those of the USA in the Ryder Cup. But who was Ryder and what is his cup?

It all started in 1926 with an rather innocuous announcement in The Times:

"Mr. S. Ryder, of St. Albans, has presented a trophy for annual competition between teams of British and American professionals. The first match for the trophy is to take place at Wentworth on June 4 and 5."

Although the 19 inch high solid gold trophy bears a hallmark for 1927 and was only first presented the following year in Worcester, Massachusetts. He also agreed to pay each of the winning players £5.

Samuel Ryder
Mr S. Ryder was Samuel Ryder born in 1858 in Walton-le-Dale just to the South of Preston, Lancashire on the south bank of the River Ribble. The eldest son of Samuel Ryder Snr. who was a florist, nursery man and seed seller. Samuel however trained as a teacher at Owens College, which is now part of Manchester University, but due to ill health failed the graduate. But illness may well have led to golfs greatest team event.

He instead of teaching worked for a shipping company in Manchester, then for his father's business, before falling out with his father and moving south to St. Albans to join a rival seed merchant. But in the 1890s he combined the two jobs to make his fortune. He started to sell packets of seeds by post for a penny each, far cheaper than the competition. Posting them on Friday so they arrived in time for Saturday afternoon when working men had the afternoon off.

He was elected as a Liberal to St Albans Town Council in 1903 a role he filled for the next 13 years, including as mayor in 1905. But although he had played cricket in his youth he had not taken an active role in sport for much of his adult life, until in 1908 further illness led to a friend suggesting he take up golf. He took to it keenly earning a single figure handicap and making large donation to the Verulam Golf Club.

That first tournament announced in The Times was a rather informal affair, possibly because his cup wasn't ready to be presented. But in 1929 at Moortown for the first home match Ryder took delight in presenting the Cup to Britain's Captain George Duncan. He was only to see one more home tie in 1933 before passing away in 1936.

But what of his trophy?

It cost £250 to be made and is 17 inches (43 cm) high and nine inches (23 cm) from handle to handle. It is made of solid gold and bears a 1927 hallmark. It weighs 4 pounds (1.8kg). The player on top is the likeness of Abe Mitchell who Ryder paid £1,000 peer annum to be his personal coach as well as being one of the top British players of the 20s and 30s, however appendicitis prevented him taking part in the inaugural 1927 event, he did play in 1929, '31 and '33.

It left with the British team on the Aquitania  from Southampton for that first Ryder Cup match in 1927.

That year there were four foursome matches (where teams of two play alternate shots) on the first day followed by 8 singles matches on the following day, with all the matches being over 36 holes. That was the format of the Ryder Cup matches until 1961.

In 1961 the matches were cut to 18 holes and there where eight foursomes (four each in the morning and afternoon) on the first day and 16 singles matches (eight in the morning and afternoon).

In 1963 the introduction of fourballs (teams of two each with their own ball) was introduced, now there were two sets of 4 foursomes on day 1, two sets of 4 fourballs on day 2 and 2 sets of eight singles matches on day 3. From 1973 the foursomes and fourballs were intermingled rather than all on one day. In 1977 for one match only there was only one set of each of the pairs matches but 10 consecutive singles matches. But the second sets of both pairs formats returned in 1979, with 6 morning and 6 afternoon singles matches (though a player could only be used once).

From 1981 the format we recognise was settled on. With the four foursomes and fourballs on each of the first two days followed by 12 consecutive singles matches on the final day.