15 April 2013

Thoughts of those caught up in explosions at Boston Marathon

The 26 mile post of the Boston Marathon today was decorated to celebrate the lives of the victims of the Newton Elementary School shooting in Connecticut last year. Not from from that spot about three hours after the elite racers finished two explosions near the finish turned the 117th running of Boston Marathon turned into a blood bath.

Two explosions went off near the finish in Copley Square, blowing runners off their feet as they approached the finish but more frighteningly shattering the spectators who had gathered there to watch friends, loved ones of just the spectacle of one of the World's Great Marathons.

There are confirmations of deaths and injuries that have occurred numbers are still in the early days.

As a runner I know how much support the spectators on the side of the road are a lift when are you are feeling you cannot go on. So my thoughts and prayers are with those who had gathered to give that support today and have been caught up in this tragedy today.

7 April 2013

Cancellara secures his third win of season with thrid Paris-Roubaix

If you have never watched a cycling road race I recommend that next year to find the time to watch the Paris-Roubaix even though this year the race was dry it was full of drama. It is also whether wet or dry one race where only the strongest are going to win as there isn't room to hide in the peleton if you want to stand on top of the podium. The Hell of the North as it is called is truly a strong man's race.

This year going in as I said myself yesterday the big question was is any other cyclist, as opposed to a mechanical incident or a crash going to deny the Swiss Radioshack-Leopard Trek rider from claiming his third classic of the season and third Paris-Roubaix.

There was some doubts at times in the race if Cancellera was going to be able to do it again. He was at once point in the fourth group on the road and heading back to his team car. With a little over 40 km to go it did not look like he would follow up his win the the Tour of Flanders last weekend.  He did make a surge but brought about 30 people with him in his wheel as he was preparing to make the final selection. But there were attacks being launched off the front and it didn't look like Cancellara was able to cover everything.

Then with two groups and one individual up the road he put in and push just before the Le Carrefour de l'Arbre (section 4) bring Bernie Eisel (SKY), Niki Tersptra (OPQ), Lars Boom (BLA) were the only ones able to mark him as he applied the pressure going after two groups up the road.

But then he closed down on the next group with included Zdeněk Štybar (OPQ), when he kicked again with about 28km to go on Gruson stretch of pavé (section 3) after Stijn Vandenbergh (OPQ) and Sep Vanmarke (BLA) who were up the road only Štybar was able to keep his wheel.

But then on the penultimate section of pavé while Cancellera was applying some pressure a slightly detached Vandenbergh collided first with a spectator and  then hard on the cobbles. But slightly further on his team mate Štybar collided with another one. The immediate aftermath is captured here with former cyclo cross rider Štybar showing all those skills to stay on two wheels. But the damage was done and the gap just kept going up.

Cancellara did try at one point to apply the pressure with about 4km to go when he was being called through by Vanmarke but the Belgian was quickly able to limit that chance and so it was that the 111th Paris Roubaix came down to the famous velodrome track that now ends this famous race. Cancellara managed to force Vanmarke to the front as they entered the track. But Vanmarke went up on the banking trying to make Cancellara come back past him. But the Swiss rider showed he had some sprinter's skills as he kept station and then when Vanmarke opened up the sprint of the last bend Cancellara timed his surge perfectly to take the race on the line by about a bike length as they were gaining on the second group who ended up just one circuit of the velodrome behind. Brave Štybar had been dropped by the chasing group but led out the third group to take 6th place in only his second full season concentrating on the roads.

So Cancellara has been the man of March and April so far. he didn't quite have the sprint in Milan-San Remo, but this time he was ready for a track sprint to go with his two wins that were both time trial lone breaks.

6 April 2013

Preview of Paris-Roubaix

I haven't been posting on here for a bit, but I hope to correct that in the coming months. As those of you who read my main blog know I've been busy over the last few months with starting a new job and moving. But as I am more or less settled in it is a good time to get back to watching and writing about sport.

Tomorrow is the Hell of the North otherwise known as Paris-Roubaix and if like me you have been following the Spring Classics you will know that there are two men on form who are likely to feature yet again tomorrow on the cobbles and roads of northern France. But who will take the line in the famous velodrome in Roubaix that marks the finish of what many consider the toughest one day classic.

On St. Patrick's Day while Germany's Gerald Ciolek may have taken the honours in a shortened Milan-San Remo it was the men who shared that podium that have gone on to dominate the spring classics. Second was Slovakian Peter Sagan who maybe had gone too early for full power and third a fast closing Fabian Cancellera as a sextet of riders led out in a sprint for the honours.

Five days later at the E3 Harelbeke Cancellera went on the attack 35km out and despite early efforts Peter Sagan was unable to keep up with him but sprinted it out with his group about a kilometre behind for the second place spot.

Two days later at Gent–Wevelgem Sagan finally stood on the top step of the podium. This time starting his own attack 4km out which left Bernie Eisel (SKY), Yaroslav Popvych (RSL) and Greg Van Avermaet (BMC) unable to catch when it exploded.

However, last weekend the Tour of Flanders saw Cancellera and Sagan head to head one again and once again the former World Time Trial champion showed the young upstart who was the man for these races. On the final cobbled climb up the Paterberg the Swiss rider attacked and it looked initially that Sagan would keep up with him, however he applied more power further up the climb and broke the Slovak who reached the summit a distant second and sat up a bit waiting for the last survivor of the earlier break Jürgen Roelandts (LOT) to ride together to the finish.

So what about tomorrow over the 27 sections of pavé that make Paris-Roubaix so tough. Providing he can avoid a mechanical at the wrong point I would say place your money on Cancellera adding this title for a third time to his second Tour of Flanders and third Harelbeke already this season. The Swiss rider has certainly looked in form and Sagan will ride him close but Fabian will decide just when to take him down and apply the power tomorrow I suspect, having done it from 35km and 15km already he will pick his spot.