Aaron Gwin stormed to another win at Fort William, Scotland on Sunday. Only, this time it was by a much tighter margin. At 8 tenths of a second back, Danny Hart was nipping at Gwin’s time and likely would have bettered it by omitting one or two of his signature whips off the motorway jumps and adding an equal amount of pedal strokes anywhere along the nearly 5 minute long course.
Gwin’s run appeared labored and conservative for a rider known to have amazing fitness, but apparently no strength in his braking fingers, as he doesn’t seem to use them much. Even so, no other rider was able to best Gwin’s time. Hart’s run was uncharacteristically controlled, yet this squares with his performances so far this year. It would seem that the young World Champion’s riding style has matured and improved in consistency but perhaps at the expense of outright speed. 2012 Fort Bill winner, Gee Atherton, produced another solid run in front of his home crowd and finished just 2.5 seconds back for the third step on the box.
Sam Hill’s form has finally returned. His 4th place finish proves that the World Cup veteran is still hungry for the taste of victory. Josh “Miami Bryce” Bryceland managed to piece together a mistake free run to best Greg Minnaar (who dropped a chain mid-run) to round out the podium. British riders Joe Smith, Sam Dale, and Matt Simmonds each put in career best World Cup finishes with 7th, 8th, and 9th respectively.
Criterium du Dauhpine
The Criterium du Dauphine ended on Sunday with Bradley Wiggins making good on his excellent form and securing the overall. Wiggins said in a press conference that he is in the best shape of his life and his Dauphine performance gives no doubt about that. He handily won the stage 4 TT by 34 seconds to cement his lead. Cadel Evans and the rest of the Tour favorites were no match for his strength. Team Sky also proved that they are now the most powerful team in the Pro Peloton with 3 riders finishing in the top 5. Bradley Wiggins of Team Sky secured 1st place, Mick Rogers (Team Sky) rode himself into second with an outstanding TT. Cadel Evans barely missed getting his 5th 2nd place at the Dauphine and settled for 3rd. Cadel Evans won the Points Classification, Cayetano José Sarmiento Tunarrosa (Liquigas-Cannondale) won the Mountains Classification, and Wilco Kelderman (Rabobank Cycling Team) won the Young Rider’s Classification.
Watching the Dauphine illuminated a number of interesting points. The first is that Bradley Wiggins is probably the favorite for the win at the Tour De France despite questions that he may have peaked to soon. With that said however, only two other times in history has someone won both the Dauphine and Paris-Nice in the same year. Those two people were Merckx and Anquetil. Both went on to win the Tour de France. Cadel Evans suffered a bit in the TT and has some work to do for Le Tour. On his website he writes,
“I was ok in the narrow curving opening and closing kilometres, but I could not get my power down on the long open straights finishing almost two minutes down. Not exactly a position I’m used to being in at Dauphiné (second is my average here) but that’s the way it’s going this year so far here.”
With three weeks left before the Tour, we expect Cadel to be in a better position to defend his Yellow Jersey. Lastly, Nibali and Schleck have a bit of work to do if they want to stand on the podium. The one area, the climbs, where we expected to see Andy do well, he got dropped, both before and after his injury. Nibali was just off the pace all around. We’re starting to wonder if Fabian Cancellara might be RadioShack’s best placed rider at the end of July. Kloden certainly has a good chance of doing well with all the TT miles, but he and Horner are question marks. However, we know that Cancellara will go for the Yellow Jersey on the Prologue like he’s done in the past. The fact that a real mountain finish doesn’t factor till Stage 11 makes it feasible that he may just keep it until then, and possibly after, depending on how he time trails.
Tour de Suisse
The other pre-tour warm up stage race, the Tour De Suisse, started on Saturday. Peter Sagan has all but guaranteed he’ll win a Tour stage by winning 2 of the 3 Tour de Swiss stages so far. On the wet and windy run into the finish area of Aerberg, Sagan demonstrated his mountain bike handling skills, as well as a tremendous kick, to edge out Baden Cooke at the line for the win. The more mountainous Swiss Tour doesn’t have quite the caliber of GC potentials as the Dauphine, with Nibali, Van de Brooke, Wiggins, Andy Schleck, and Evans all choosing the TT kms available at the Dauphine. But, it has proven to be a great sign of form for the Tour in the past. With so many mountain finishes, it should make for exciting racing over the next week.