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The chief executive of the Rugby Football UnioIf the Brumbies marched into the Super Rugby final, that would solve much of the Wallabies’ match-fitness Wily Peralta Jersey problem, right? Well, not necessarily. In the Wallabies’ final Test of the June series against Italy only three Brumbies started – Scott Sio, Allan Alaalatoa and Rory Arnold – while another two – Sam Carter and Joe Powell – sat on the bench. That said, Henry Speight would have been in the squad had he been fit. It won’t happen any time soon but why shouldn’t the Lions tour Argentina? Read more Notwithstanding the NSW Waratahs’ horror season, it is hard to imagine Cheika omitting the likes of Michael Hooper, Bernard Foley, Israel Folau, Sekope Kepu and Nick Phipps from the Test squad, while Ned Hanigan and Jack Dempsey may get another look in. And you can expect players such as Wallabies captain Stephen Moore, Quade Cooper, Reece Hodge, Dane Haylett-Petty and Lopeti Timani, from Australia’s other under-performing Super Rugby teams, to be in the Test squad too. So even if the Brumbies reach the final, only a few of them will make the Test team if past selections are any guide. But if the Brumbies do advance all the way, Cheika must strongly consider building the Test team around the men from Canberra because they will be in form and match hardened. It is counter-intuitive that Australia’s best Super Rugby team should not have the most players in the Test squad. The Wallabies’ success in the 1991 World Cup was built on the foundation of an undefeated Waratahs team, while victory in the 1999 World Cup was due largely to the contribution of the Queensland Reds, who won the Super Rugby minor premiership. The Wallabies need at least one high-performing Super Rugby team, and preferably two, to ensure the Test team is internationally competitive. At present, the ARU and the Wallabies coach are not permitted to influence a player in his choice of Super Rugby team, but perhaps they need to do the opposite to maintain two, or maybe three, strong franchises to underpin the Wallabiesn, Ian Ritchie, has written to the shadow sports minister, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, to defend the decision not to renew the contracts of the England Women’s 15-a-side team. Dr Allin-Khan wrote to Ritchie last week to urge him to reconsider the move as it suggested the RFU was “far less than fully committed” to the women’s game. This letter, signed by 124 MPsfrom across the political spectrum, was sparked by news that the contracts of the England players aiming to defend their World Cup crown in Ireland next month will expire after the tournament, with the RFU’s focus shifting to sevens. England women’s rugby union squad contracts will end after World Cup Read more Dr Allin-Khan wrote that the RFU policy of “cycling” between contracts for sevens and 15-a-side rugby, depending on the next target, was “placing the risk of playing international rugby on the players themselves” and it was unfair to expect them to “pause and resume” their careers every two years. “For an organisation with a total annual revenue in the hundreds of millions to make this decision is deeply disappointing,” she added. “Surely Fozzy Whittaker Authentic Jersey the RFU should be focused on investing in both aspects of the women’s game and should be prepared to back this up with secure contracts for both teams – sevens and 15s. After all, this is the commitment the RFU has made to the men’s game.” But on Friday Ritchie wrote back to Dr Allin-Khan to say the RFU was “extremely proud” of its record in women’s rugby and that it takes “player welfare extremely seriously”. “There are 17 players on full-time contracts this season and there will be 17 players on full-time contracts next season,” Ritchie wrote. “Because there is significant crossover between sevens and 15s players in international women’s rugby, many of the players on 15s contracts will transition to sevens contracts. “It would harm the performance of both the sevens and 15s teams if we were to treat them as separate elite squads and therefore we work on a cycle to match the international rugby calendar and select the strongest available squad for each major tournament.” Noting that central contracts were first given to female players in 2014 before the Rio 2016 sevens tournament, in which England finished fourth, Ritchie wrote that after August’s World Cup the next targets are the 2018 Sevens World Cup, the sevens at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and Tokyo 2020. England take professional approach to retaining Women’s World Cup Read more He also wrote that the RFU, the world’s richest rugby governing body, would be supporting any 15s player who does not get a sevens contract so their move from international to club rugby “is as smooth as possible” and claimed all concerned had been “heavily consulted”. Ritchie also defended the RFU’s wider commitment to the women’s game, pointing out it was investing £2.4m over the next three years in a new domestic competition and will be launching a campaign after the World Cup to double grassroots participation to 50,000 players by 2021. He did, however, offer Dr Allin-Khan some reassurance that her cross-bench lobbying efforts were not completely in vain. “We will, of course, consider the concerns you have raised regarding the cyclical nature of the focus of the England Women’s team and we do aspire to increase the support that we give to the elite pool of players,” wrote Ritchie
The shadow sports minister has criticised the Rugby Football Union’s decision not to renew the contracts of England women’s 15-a-side players Harrison Smith Womens Jerseyand urged the governing body to reconsider. In a letter to the RFU chief executive, Ian Ritchie, Dr Rosena Allin-Khan said the organisation was showing it was “far less than fully committed” to the women’s game. The contracts of the England players looking to defend their World Cup crown in Ireland next month will expire after the tournament, with the focus then shifting to sevens. Despite the undoubted success of England’s women – having gloriously won the World Cup in 2014 – the RFU continues to argue that this shift in emphasis was always the long-term intention. Emily Scarratt’s boot hands England World Cup final win over Canada Read more However, Dr Allin-Khan suggested that system was unfair on the players, whom she described as a “source of inspiration to countless girls and women the length and breadth of the country”. She wrote: “Although the RFU’s statements have made clear that the RFU is ‘cycling’ between contracts for the 7s and 15s according to the schedule and focus of the major international competitions, it should be noted that the RFU is placing the risk of playing international rugby on the players themselves. Asking players to pause and resume their professions every two years puts their futures at considerable risk. England women’s rugby union squad contracts will end after World Cup Read more “For an organisation with a total annual revenue in the hundreds of millions, to make this decision is deeply disappointing. Surely the RFU should be focused on investing in both aspects of the women’s game and should be prepared to back this up with secure contracts for both teams – 7s and 15s. After all, this is the commitment that the RFU has made to the men’s game in England. “The most concerning aspect of this news is what it says about the RFU’s ongoing commitment to the women’s game. As you yourself have clearly stated: ‘48 professional player contracts are being awarded for the England Women’s game as part of England Rugby’s ongoing commitment to the professionalisation of women’s rugby.’ This discontinuation of these contracts sends the opposite message: that the RFU is far less than fully committed to the women’s game.” She added: “We have come such a long way and the England Women’s team have rewarded us with no less than world titles. We cannot fail them with a poverty of ambition or investment. We therefore strongly urge you to reconsider this decision.” The first central contracts issued by the RFU were for sevens in the buildup to the 2016 Olympics in Rio. After that 15s contracts were issued as preparations began for the 2017 World Cup. The next batch of contracts will be focused on the 2018 World Cup Sevens and the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia. The 15 full-time players currently on 15s contracts have been aware since April the current cycle would end after the World Cup. An additional 17 players have been issued short-term contracts for the tournament. Ten of the current 15s squad are set to be retained as sevens Junior Seau Womens Jersey players post-World Cup. England begin their World Cup defence against Spain on 9 August
poured and lungs heaved during an intensive training session on a Sydney hillside last weekend, Michael Cheika’s intentions for his Wallabies could not have been more clear: improved fitness is a priority ahead of the Bledisloe Cup opener against the All Blacks on 19 August. Players were even made to run up a hillside with their mouths taped shut (to ensure they only breathed through their noses) as Cheika and his conditioning staff seek to find any advantage over their trans-Tasman rivals. Further gruelling drills were seen in Newcastle early this week, and more await the squad in their camps in Cessnock and Penrith. Quade Cooper Festus Ezeli Authentic Jersey omitted from Wallabies squad – but Cheika leaves door open for return Read more But the Wallabies not only need to improve their strength and fitness, they must also develop mental toughness if they are to learn how to deal with the pressure that goes hand-in-hand with playing top-flight rugby. After Australia’s abysmal performance in Super Rugby – just one team, the Brumbies, made it into the post-season – it would not surprise if the players’ state of mind was fragile. A commando style boot camp is required to get the players ready both physically and mentally. According to the Australian Defence Force, “a commando is mentally tough, quick-thinking, innovative and can keep a cool head in difficult and complex situations” and those attributes will be needed if the Wallabies are to upset the All Blacks and hold aloft the Bledisloe Cup for the first time since 2002. In Super Rugby, Australian teams have not coped at all well with pressure, something that was never more evident than in the Brumbies’ 35-16 loss to the Hurricanes in last week’s quarter-final in Canberra. With Australian teams losing all 25 games against New Zealand opposition in the regular season, it was always unlikely the Brumbies would beat the defending champions, but they had a few things going for them. Courtesy of Super Rugby’s conference system, the Brumbies had home vground advantage against a team that had earned more competition points than them. The men from Canberra were also uplifted by the inspirational comeback of Christian Lealiifano, who had recovered from cancer. Advertisement And at the start of the game the Brumbies dominated possession to an extraordinary extent. Unlike rugby league, the scoreline in rugby does not always follow the flow of possession, but you have to have some ball. After 15 minutes the Brumbies had enjoyed 82% of possession. They achieved this incredible disparity largely by winning the re-starts, which demonstrated that if you compete hard for every piece of possession, you give yourself a chance. To their credit, the Brumbies scored a couple of nice tries by James Dargaville and Josh Mann-Rea and led 16-15 at half-time, raising hopes of an improbable victory. After the game the Hurricanes captain, TJ Perenara, revealed they focused on building pressure in the second half and you could almost hear the Brumbies cracking under the strain. The pressure applied by the Hurricanes adversely affected the Brumbies’ attack as well as their defence. Guardian Australia sport newsletter: subscribe by email Read more The Australian side had attempted to incorporate the Kiwi tactic of attacking from turnover ball this season, but in the second half on Friday when they had a couple of opportunities they looked for the refuge of the touchline instead. Under pressure, the Brumbies reverted to type. This is the challenge for Cheika as he prepares the Wallabies for the All Blacks. It will not matter what clever tactics or strategies he comes up with if the players cannot deal with pressure because they will return to bad habits. One of the reasons former Wallabies coach Robbie Deans made Rocky Elsom Test captain was because he was a player who was prepared to “stand up against the tide,” particularly against the All Blacks. The game of rugby ebbs and flows. The tide will inevitably turn against you and when it does you must have players who are capable of absorbing pressure and then turn it back onto the opposition. No matter how well the Wallabies play against the All Blacks in patches there will come a time when the tide will turn. This is the moment in the game when players need to be both physically and mentally strong, commando style. Who among the Wallabies will stand up against the king tide that is surely coming
New Zealand is rolling out drug testing of its leading high school rugby teams in a move to address concerns about doping infiltrating the sport at Riley Nash Womens Jerseyjunior level. Drugfree Sport NZ said it had information which indicated “a significant potential for doping to occur” within the school rugby environment. The top four first XVs would have their urine tested at a tournament in September, with their samples sent to the World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited laboratory in Sydney – the same facility that drug-tests the All Blacks. Because of the young age of the boys they could choose to have a “representative” with them when they supply the sample. Russian doping mastermind benefited from London 2012 drugs ‘preview’ Read more Scott Tibbutt, chief operating officer of Drugfree Sport New Zealand, said his organisation had been concerned about doping and “uncontrolled” supplement use at high-school rugby for years, after reports emerged from South Africa, Canada and England of drug use trickling down from the professional leagues to the top school teams. Competition at high school level has become intense in rugby playing nations around the world, with the best players able to move to professional careers straight after their studies - where lucrative contracts and sponsorship deals are on offer. It was hoped drug testing alongside education would act as a deterrent to resist doping, Tibbutt said, and help young players move through the ranks without sucumbing to drugs or unnessary use of supplements. “It is disappointing for us that supplement use and performance enhancing drugs seem to have become normalised in society and people seem to understand if you want to get big or ripped or faster you take supplements and that quite simply isn’t the case; the only thing supplements do is create expensive urine,” said Tibbutt. “This age group is of concern because they do have such pressures on them at this level to win and progress.” A study conducted by the University of Otago in 2013 surveyed 142 boys in the first XV rugby teams around the country, and found more than 70% had used four or more supplements in the past six weeks, and five individuals had taken illegal performance-enhancing drugs. If those figures were extrapolated to top-level rugby around the country that meant one boy in every match could be on drugs, said Dr Hamish Osbourne, who worked on the study. Students used to take drugs to get high. Now they take them to get higher grades Read more Reasons the boys gave for using drugs or supplements were to recover faster from injury, give them an edge over the competition in important matches, or to enhance their looks or muscle tone. Of the 70% who admitted to using four or more supplements the most popular types were protein powders and energy drinks such as Gatorade. Dr Osbourne said heavy reliance on protein powders was risky as numerous studies had shown 15- 30% of powders bought off the internet were laced with anabolic steroids and other stimulants, and the “feel-good” buzz they gave users could be a slippery slope to harder substances. The new testing regime could be rolled out to elite schoolboy rugby across New Zealand, said Tibbutt, if further research proved the problem warranted a national approach. Reaction to the testing from coaches and schools was mixed, with some applauding the measure to crack down on drug use among young players to stop it progressing or becoming a habit. Others said it was “unbelievably sad”. “We’re incredibly disappointed,” New Zealand Rugby Players’ Association chief executive Rob Nichol told the New Zealand Herald. “This is school; an educational environment for kids to learn. Now we’re talking about policing them under an anti-doping regime which is extremely staunch.” Prime Amos Youth Jersey minister Bill English said he supported the move as the pressure in the top leagues was immense
Wallabies skipper Stephen Moore will retire from international rugby at the end of the year and is handing over the captaincy to Michael Hooper effective immediately. Moore Amos Youth Jersey told his team-mates late on Wednesday of his decision to step aside despite only last month declaring his intention to play on until the 2019 World Cup. Wallabies go commando with mental fortitude just as important as fitness Read more The 34-year-old hooker will play one more season of Super Rugby with the Queensland Reds next year before hanging up his boots for good. “I’ve had a long career and my time in the game is something I’ll look back on very fondly,” Moore said. “That being said, there’s still a lot of rugby ahead of me over the next 12 months and I hope to be able to contribute to the success of the Wallabies and the Reds with the time I have left.” The writing was on for the wall for 120-Test veteran during the June window when he was dropped to the bench for the clashes against Fiji and Scotland. Coach Michael Cheika said at the time Moore was still the team’s captain, with Hooper only taking on the responsibility on match day, and insisted he had a role to play at the World Cup. However, Moore appears to have changed his mind at some point since. State of the union: can Australian rugby reclaim the glory days? Read more The impact of a gruelling pre-rugby championship training camp in Newcastle, formulated because of complaints Australian Super Rugby players were not being prepared well enough for Test rugby, may have played a role. “Stephen still has a big role to play within the team. This isn’t a farewell right now - he’s fully committed to getting the gold jersey back to the top this year,” Cheika said. Exactly who will succeed Moore at hooker in the long term is unclear. Tatafu Polota-Nau replaced him at No2 when he was benched in June but the Western Force veteran is 32, while the only other hooker in the squad is Under-20s star Jordan Uelese. NSW’s Tolu Latu is injured while Andrew Ready, Moore’s highly rated Reds teammate, has stalled in his development this yearIn Japan, the Top League – a professional competition – includes many Australian coaches and players and is of a reasonably high standard. Teams such as Panasonic Wild Knights and Suntory Sungoliath are owned by major Japanese corporations, and this is where the real money lies in Japanese rugby. If the Force or the Rebels could form a commercial partnership with a Japanese company which did not already own a Top League team, it would be a financially viable operation at little or no cost to the ARU. You could ask the question why an Australian team would be invited to play in the Top League? Well, the Japanese Sunwolves compete in Super Rugby Amos Youth Jersey and if an Australian Super Rugby team is culled, they will most likely be placed in the Australian conference. On this basis alone it would be impolite for the Japanese to reject any Australian overtures, but there are potential mutual benefits. For a start, it would be far better for the ARU if the Rebels or the Force played in Japan than to lose a franchise altogether. Australian Super franchises are already exploring commercial opportunities in Japan. The NSW Waratahs, for example, are sponsored by Japanese air conditioner manufacturer Daikin. An Australian team playing in the Top League would strengthen the commercial relationship with Japanese rugby and create new sponsorship and broadcast opportunities for both countries, particularly heading into the 2019 World Cup in Japan. If an Australian team is culled, their Wallabies will be absorbed by the other four Super Rugby teams, but what about the rest of the players? They will be unemployed. To be sure, the best of those leftover players will probably pick up contracts in Europe or even Japan. Others could seek opportunities in Sydney, Brisbane or Canberra club rugby to remain noticed or even the ITM Cup in New Zealand. But what about junior players in Melbourne and Perth? If the Rebels or the Force no longer existed, what would the kids aspire to? Who would be their local heroes and role models? If the threatened pair played in the Top League, there would still be a professional pathway for elite juniors in Western Australia and Victoria
Norway could stage the Tour de France’s grand départ in 2022, which would make Amos Youth Jersey it the first Nordic nation to host the launch of the cycling race. Following the success of recent starts outside France, of which there have been an increasing number, Stavanger in the south-west of Norway is being lined up as a possible host for the event in five years’ time. The town is the home of the Norwegian state-owned oil company Statoil, which will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2022. The company is said to be offering sponsorship to cover the considerable costs of hosting the grand départ. Tour de France: why I am bidding au revoir to the greatest race of all Read more A spokesman for Statoil, B?rd Glad Pedersen, told the Guardian: “We do not want to comment on speculation on any role for Statoil in this. But, of course, also in Statoil we think it is very exciting if it is possible to have a Tour de France grand départ in Norway.” There has reportedly been behind-the-scenes lobbying for a Norwegian grand départ for a number of years, with the intensity increasing in recent months. Harald Tiedemann Hansen, the president of the Norwegian cycling association, told the Norwegian cycling magazine Pro-cycling: “We are looking at this as a great opportunity for us and will be an active part in getting a grand départ to Norway.” Under one plan, Norway would hold a number of stages to allow the race to pass through Oslo. The next step in the process will be a formal written bid to the Tour de France organiser, ASO, which also owns the rights to a major cycling race in Norway, the Arctic Race of Norway. Next year’s Tour de France is due to start in the Vendée region of France, and Brussels will play host to the grand départ in 2019 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Eddy Merckx’s first Tour win. The race has previously started in Spain, Luxembourg, Monaco, what was west Germany, and Ireland. The first start outside of France was in the Netherlands in 1954. When the Tour started in Yorkshire in 2014, nearly 5 million people lined the streets to cheer the racers on. The race was estimated to have generated £128m for Yorkshire and a further £30m for Cambridgeshire, Essex and London, through which the racers passed. The race has always finished in Paris, where on Sunday Britain’s Chris Froome sealed his fourth Tour victory.Chris Froome has announced his participation in the Vuelta a Espana and hopes to become the first rider to win the Spanish race and the Tour de France in the same year since 1995. Why I don’t think Chris Froome will win a fifth Tour de France William Fotheringham Read more Froome, who won the Tour title on Sunday in Paris, has previously finished second in Vuelta on three occasions. He finished 13 seconds behind Juan Jose Cobo before coming second to Contador in 2014 and Nairo Quintana in 2016. “I’ve got the opportunity and I’m certainly going to go for it,” Froome said in a statement on Team Sky’s website. “The Vuelta is a race I love – it’s vicious but it’s three weeks that I enjoy,” said Froome. I’ve come second three times now and I’d love to win. To win both the Tour and the Vuelta in one year would be absolutely incredible.” The general classification battle may be similar to that of the Tour with Romain Bardet, Fabio Aru, and Alberto Contador all expected to ride. Vincenzo Nibali, who missed the Tour, may also be a strong contender. Norway considers bid for 2022 Tour de France grand départ Read more Froome could become the first British rider to win Spain’s national race although no rider has won the Tour and Vuelta in the same year since Jack Crawford Womens Jersey the latter was moved to August and September from April in 1995. The 2017 Vuelta begins on 19 August in Nimes, France and finishes on 10 September in Madrid
no disrespect to Chris Froome immediately after his fourth Tour de France win I do not believe the Team Sky leader will make it five and thus join Amos Youth Jersey the ranks of the immortals: Indurain, Merckx, Hinault and Anquetil – not next year and probably not the year after. I appreciate that accusations that I am indulging in anti-Team Sky, anti-Froome wishful thinking will flood in but I would like to think the judgment is based on logical analysis as well as emotion. That is not emotion in the tear?your?hair?out sense but on the feeling you get in your bones. This was not actually the closest of the Froome Tours: that was 2015, when Nairo Quintana had the form to win and might well have done so if Movistar had been more dynamic before unleashing him at L’Alpe d’Huez. However, the 2017 race was a Tour in which Froome never looked dominant. Not winning a stage is not a sign of a lack of charisma – winning bike races is hardly simple, as everyone knows – but it is usually an indication that a champion is not quite what he was. Chris Froome: ‘I’d like to be here for the next five years, trying to win’ Read more Partly this may be down to Froome’s preparation, which targeted the final week, but  Froome at his best would have had the ability to go with Warren Barguil when he attacked on the Col d’Izoard at the Tour’s final summit finish. Froome is now 32, a difficult age for a Tour champion, and while he has defied the years thus far, maturing relatively late, it cannot go on for ever. That is the law of nature. This year he had the look of a rider who is not quite what he was, who won by canny riding and with the help of a supremely strong team. One would like to imagine that Tom Dumoulin and Vincenzo Nibali watched this year’s Tour with an eyebrow raised. One would like to hope that both will come to the Tour next year at their best, sensing that there might be more than half a chance to topple the man who has dominated the race since 2013. Each rider offers a different skill set – Dumoulin in time trials, Nibali in his race knowledge and his riding up and down mountains – and the combination of the two of them would add to the challenge for Froome, who lacked seasoned opposition this July. Next year the opposition will proliferate and most of those involved will have less to lose than this year. Romain Bardet will know that the podium will no longer satisfy France and it would be better to risk all and go down in flames. France has only so much patience with followers. Rigoberto Urán, Daniel Martin and Richie Porte will be older likewise, of course – the same argument of anno domini applies to them as much as to Froome – but they will still threaten. Potentially, he could turn up in the Vendée in 2018 to face a dozen serious threats, many of them younger than him. The only way to beat Team Sky is to disrupt their game plan and prevent them from racing how they want to. This never happened in 2017, partly because Astana’s challenge faltered, partly because there were not enough mature contenders in the race. Teams need to present the multiple challenge, one to attack from distance, one to sit tight and watch. A combination of Dumoulin and Barguil – backed by the same strong Sunweb team that rode so well this year – could be very threatening, simply because of their contrasting racing styles. So, too, the Yates twins for Orica, who do similar things on the bike but have unique knowledge of each other and unique loyalty. They will be a year older and stronger, with two Grand Tour top-10 finishes behind each of them. The transfer market – Fabio Aru, Mikel Landa, perhaps even Quintana – will be closely watched but teams of ambition will look to present multiple options on the start line next year in Noirmoutier. Unlike Froome the bulk of the opposition is made up of relatively young riders with headroom for improvement. Potentially he could Authentic Colton Parayko Womens Jerseyturn up in the Vendée in 2018 to face a dozen serious threats, many of them younger than himThe final factor is the route. It will not be an anti-Froome route because no such thing exists. The Kenya-born Briton has proved he can win on any kind of Tour route with any ratio of time trialling to climbing, any proportion of mountain top finishes to valley finishes. But the race is bound to go deep into Brittany next year and no one would bet against Christian Prudhomme taking the riders down the ribinou, the rough Breton tracks that feature in the Tro Bro Léon. Chris Froome wins fourth Tour de France after Champs élysées procession Read more That will bring in a massive element of the unexpected – not necessarily to Froome’s detriment, as he mastered the cobbles in 2015. Additionally, the race will not include an opening time trial, which will make it more open than this year. This year’s relative abundance of sprint stages was an aberration and there should be more of the hilly days which make the race more interesting and, for Sky, harder to keep a grip on. I have the utmost respect for the way Froome races. I feel I barely know him even after watching him in the yellow jersey for four years out of the last five; from what I can tell from our few one?on?one conversations he is a decent, driven, hard-working bike rider. From what I have seen on the road his Tour management is second to none. Everyone knows he has the best team behind him and, whether Landa stays or goes, that will not change. He will not need any extra incentive. So go on, Chris. I will be happy if you prove me wrong
who watched Annemiek van Vleuten’s sickening, bone-crunching crash as she was heading for gold in the women’s road race at the Olympics last summer will have been roaring her over the line in the concluding stage of La Course on Saturday. Van Vleuten was a worthy winner, having battled back to fitness after suffering three spinal fractures and a severe concussion in Rio. Her victory means a Dutch rider has won the race in three of the last four years. The previous three editions of La Course took place on the final Sunday of the Tour de France, with a sprint on the Champs-élysées, but the organisers introduced a new format this year. On Thursday, riders raced a 67km mountain stage from Brian?on to the top of the fearsome Col d’Izoard. The top finishers from Thursday qualified for a 22.5km pursuit-style individual time trial in Marseille on Saturday. Annemiek van Vleuten wins La Course stage one with Lizzie Deignan second Read more The first Derek Stepan Youth Jersey attack on Thursday came from world time-trial champion Linda Villumsen as the race neared the foot of the Izoard, rearing up out of the Alps and climbing to 2,360m through the eerie parched landscape of the Casse Déserte, the backdrop for so many grand exploits on the Tour de France. Boels-Dolmans, the team of British champion Lizzie Deignan swept to the front of the race, controlling things perfectly for Deignan to launch her own brutal attack on the lower slopes, shedding all but four of the elite group of 20 riders still left in contention: Megan Guarnier, Shara Gillow, Elisa Longo-Borghini and Van Vleuten. However, despite having a team-mate as experienced and capable as Guarnier – who won the Giro Rosa and the Tour of California last season – Deignan could not keep up with Van Vleuten with just over 4km left to climb. Van Vleuten has been focusing on her climbing since Rio and her recent training at altitude paid off handsomely. She knew she had to build a lead before Saturday’s pursuit stage and her tactics paid off. “You also have to think about the legs,” she said after the race. “In the end it turned out great and proved to be the right time to goThe second stage of the race was largely academic given van Vleuten’s healthy time advantage – 43 seconds – and Deignan’s decision to drop back and wait for team-mate Guarnier and Longo Borghini who had started some 40 seconds behind her. The gamble did not pay off for the British rider, who eventually beat the Italian in a two-up sprint inside the Stade Vélodrome to finish in second place. Lizzie Deignan critical of La Course format after Van Vleuten's easy win Read more Deignan was critical of the new two-day format, saying she had considered Thursday as a race but the pursuit as a “bit of fun”. “The format needs some work – it was good but there is definitely work to be done. I’m open-minded to the concept, but it needs tidying up. We took it as seriously as probably we felt the organisers took us today.” Judith_Arndt, the world champion, was more scathing: “I’m not sure I understand what’s good about presenting people with a poor product if you actually have a really good one.” Kathryn Bertine, one of the original movers and shakers behind La Course, said the organisers had substituted “progress for shapeshifting” but Marianne Vos was more diplomatic, saying: “I am optimistic. It’s a fun, renewed format for both the riders and the public.” Naturally, Van Vleuten was more impressed. “It was super,” she said. “There were so many people on the course. It made us go really fast. Hopefully we entertained the people.” Van Vleuten’s Strava file from the Izoard shows she was the second faster rider on the climb that day – only Warren Barguil went quicker. “I think people really like to see that; girls are also pretty fast on the bike,” she said. “It was a great moment to ride up the Izoard with lots of people to watch.” Advertisement Although women riders have tackled the epic climbs of the Grand Tours in the past, this was the first time in over 30 years they had raced on a mountain parcours on the roads of France. When Laurent Fignon stood on the top step of the podium in the 1984 Tour, he shared the honours with American rider Marianne Martin, who had romped to victory on the relentless slopes of the Joux Plane. That women are reduced to riding a shortened mountain stage and a novelty pursuit 30 years later seems a huge step backwards. Meanwhile, Donnons des elle au Velo J-1 were busy winning the hearts of the Mario Hezonja Youth Jersey French public by riding the entirety of the Tour de France route one day before the professional peloton. It’s a timely reminder, if one were needed, that women are more than capable of handling a three-week Tour. Helen Russell, the Current British quadrathlon champion, is someone who knows how much suffering and triumph is involved in riding the route of the Tour de France. She rode the route in 2015 alongside former footballer Geoff Thomas as part of the One Day Ahead team in a bid to raise money for Leukemia Research. “The idea that the Tour de France route would be too hard for women has been proven to be wrong by the amateur women who have ridden the route over the years,” she says. Condoms, chicks and La Course: the Tour de France still has a sexism problem Read more “They’ve shown that the mileage and terrain is not beyond the capabilities of women riders. In years gone by women weren’t allowed to run marathons due to concerns over their health. These days that seems laughable and hopefully one day the idea that there can’t be a women’s Tour de France will be just as laughable.” With the Izoard stage of La Course pulling in 1 million viewers in France alone, the demand is clearly there. As cyclist Leah Kirschman put it: “Fun Terry Steinbach Womens Jersey to race in front of the crowds in Marseille, but time gaps much too big. Who votes for a stage race next year?!” The reply is clear: the viewing public. It’ll be interesting to see if the organisers step up to the challenge in
After Simon Yates emulated his brother Adam’s feat by taking the white jersey of best young rider in the Tour de France, finishing seventh E.J. Gaines Womens Jersey overall to his twin’s fourth last year, the Orica-Scott directeur sportif, Matt White, has an intriguing conundrum on his hands: whether to unleash the brothers in tandem on the Tour de France and, if so, when. Chris Froome: ‘I’d like to be here for the next five years, trying to win’ Read more For twins to take the same classification jersey in the Tour in successive years is unprecedented while it is rare indeed for brothers to make the top 10 two years running. But Simon showed similar talent to Adam in the world’s biggest bike race, which means the brothers have now posted two top-10 finishes in two Grand Tours in the space of two years. “It’s been incredible,” White said. “We came in with the goals of winning the white jersey and finishing top, those are pretty lofty goals for a kid who’s never ridden the Tour de France for the general classification. “But Simon has ticked those boxes and he is going to take a lot out of these three weeks.” Yates’s verdict on the three weeks was that it was good to keep the jersey in the family but he had further reason to be satisfied. Not only did he attack at Foix and Le Puy-en-Velay, attempting to find openings, but the mountains he had shown patience and intelligence in the harder moments, refusing to make the classic mistake of trying to stay with the pace when the climbers were making it hard, instead time after time setting a rhythm that suited him and limiting his lossesThat comes with maturity,” White said. He recalled that Yates was riding his third Tour, having been brought to the start at short notice in 2014 when his race was cut short by the team to his initial displeasure. Advertisement “The most pleasing aspect is to show that maturity under pressure. This is the biggest race of the year and the most pressured environment and he’s handled that very, very well. It’s in his personality; he’s quite a calm character.” Asked to compare his two protégés, White believes that behind their near-identical looks are “two very different people”. He added: “Adam is naturally a little bit more aggressive, which is why he’s won the one-day races, Simon is a bit more conservative and I think that bodes well for his character as a GC racer. They both handle pressure very well. “Last year with Adam it wasn’t planned that he would ride GC, we just planned to support him and it evolved into general classification. He was second or third for the vast majority of the Tour and for those three weeks the pressure with the media, the fans, control, arriving to the hotel Dale Weise Womens Jersey last – that intensifies the environment we’re already on in the Tour. Both of them have handled that pressure very well. The great fascination with the twins is just how far they will improve given they are only 24 and have perhaps three or four seasons ahead of them in which their bodies will mature, White says. “Some things are numbers and you have to put out a certain number to time-trial and climb with the best. We’re not there yet. No reason to say there shouldn’t be [improvement] but, how much, is the million-dollar question? We don’t know what the cap is for those guys.” Five reasons why Chris Froome and Team Sky dominated the Tour de France Read more In 2015 the twins were brought to the Tour together to gain experience and in the next few years White is likely to put them both back in the race to provide a two-pronged attack on Froome. “I’ve got some ideas for next year. We will look at the profile of the Giro, Tour and Vuelta and make a call after that. “We’re not ready to beat Chris Froome, so maybe we have to try another avenue – the Giro or the Vuelta. We’ll come back to challenge next year and hopefully it will be closer,” White said
The French capital was in lockdown on Sunday, with extra rings of security around the Champs élysées, which had been turned into a vast sterile zone as a foretaste of what awaits the French capital when the Olympics arrive in either 2024 or 2028. In an understandable attempt to put Paris on display as never before, the race was routed through the Grand Palais with the riders racing under the famous glass roof, originally erected in 1897 for the universal exposition of the turn of the century. For Chris Froome it was but a novel diversion en route to confirmation of his fourth Tour de France victory. The Team Sky rider crossed the line in the bunch behind the stage winner, Dylan Groenewegen, to win the yellow jersey by 54 seconds from Rigoberto Urán. 广告 inRead invented by Teads 广告 inRead invented by Teads Five reasons why Chris Froome and Team Sky dominated the Tour de France Read more Bike races have been sent through buildings before – there is a legendary kermis in Belgium which went through a bar full of drinkers and cyclo-cross races are sometimes sent through beer tents – but this was about more than merely upping the returns in adjacent brasseries. Coming as it did the day after the start and finish in Marseille’s Stade Vélodrome – albeit far from full due to the fact that few ticket holders wanted to stay in the stands all day – the Grand Palais detour was further evidence that the Tour is constantly looking for new ways to reinvent itself, and a reminder that it increasingly sees itself as a way of showing this multifaceted country to the world. Lockdown could serve as a metaphor for the Tour as a whole, given the way the overall battle had panned out since the race left Düsseldorf 22 days ago. In four of the five previous Tours, Team Sky had brought their cycling Ryan Getzlaf Authentic Jersey version of catenaccio to bear on the race, but they had never done so to the extent they managed this year, with the yellow jersey only eluding them for two days once Geraint Thomas had won the opening time trial. For kilometre after kilometre the white train ground out the pace on the front, up hill and down dale, at times lining out the entire race when on paper it was not strictly necessary. As Froome’s fourth win loomed large, it was inevitable that at least one French newspaper – Le Figaro, as it turned out – would describe the Tour winner using Antoine Blondin’s sublime pun, “gérant de la route” – a wordplay on the verb gérer, meaning to manage or regulate, and the hoary French cliche for the Tour riders, les géants de la route. An English translation might be accountancy on wheels. Or to paraphrase Geoff Nicholson, hoarding seconds like supermarket discount coupons. Advertisement Froome himself said that this was his and Team Sky’s chosen approach. “We knew in Düsseldorf that it would be tight. It was always the tactic to ride this as a three-week race, not to go out on one day to blow it up, smash it for the stage win … just chipping away every stage to make sure there were no massive losses. That’s normal when on a bad day in the mountains you can lose minutes. It’s been about doing it in the most conservative and efficient manner. That’s what Grand Tour racing is.” Compare and contrast with Dan Martin, who treats the key days like individual one-day classics, but – before you veer too strongly towards espousing Martin’s philosophy – bear in mind who actually won. Fourth Tour wins are the penultimate step to cycling greatness, but often do little to warm the soul at the time. This could certainly be said of the three that I can personally recall: Lance Armstrong in 2002 (with the usual proviso that it has been struck off), Miguel Indurain in 1994 and Bernard Hinault in 1982. They seem to be ones for the record books rather than the heart, but they can be turned by an individual’s approach. Hinault, in 1982, faced the same issue that confronted Froome as he approached Paris on Sunday: a Tour without a stage win, and the consequent carps about a lack of panache. Sky’s the limiting factor for Chris Froome in Tour de France popularity stakes Read more The Badger’s response was to win the bunch sprint on the Champs élysées, but this is not one from the Froome copybook. Having said that, Froome’s great strength over his four victories is his ability to adapt to whatever the Tour organisers present to him, and whatever fate decrees. 2013 had a wealth of time trialling and an immensely tough finale in the Alps; in 2015 there were cobbles and a team time trial but barely any individual time trials, while in 2016 there was more time trialling and a downhill finale into Morzine, in teeming rain, not to mention the run up Mont Ventoux. He is a champion who has versatility and grit, if not charisma or popularity. His approach to the latter is summed up by his answer to the question Amos Youth Jersey of why he felt he did not need to give press conferences on the rest days. “Rest days are meant to be rest days and a big press conference is not good for recovery. I felt it helped me being able to switch off.” If Froome chooses to pursue a “marginal gain” by hiding from a 15-minute discussion with the people whose job it is to present his personality to the world, he can hardly complain if his personality is not understood or appreciated for what it is. This is the Team Sky approach of winning at all costs; in this case the cost has to be borne by him. For the neutral there was much unbridled bike racing by individuals of character and panache to be savoured through the 2017 Tour, with the unfortunate proviso that very little of it actually involved the battle for the overall title. Some days will live in the memory: the moyenne montagne stage to Les Rousses won by Lilian Calmejane, Steve Cummings’s attempt to take the stage to Peyragudes, Sunweb’s battle with Quick-Step on the road to Romans-sur-Isère on behalf of their sprinters Mike Matthews and Marcel Kittel, Alberto Contador’s raging against the dying of the light en route to Foix and Serre-Chevalier, and Edvald Boasson Hagen’s cunning on Friday at Salon-de-Provence. Two stages can be seen as key episodes in the picaresque three-week soap opera: the Düsseldorf time trial, because of the time gained by Froome, and the message it sent about the probable outcome in Marseille three weeks later, and Chambéry, with the crash that eliminated Richie Porte – whose BMC team looked second strongest to Sky – and which put Daniel Martin physically and temporally on the back foot for the rest of the race. Tour de France 2017 – in pictures View gallery What of the opposition? They fell upon a Froome who was probably not as strong as in the past, but who had the nous, the sangfroid and the team to get him cycling’s greatest prize. “At the moment we’re not ready to beat Chris Froome. Most teams aren’t,” said Orica-Scott’s director sportive Matt White, who placed a Yates brother in the top 10 and the white jersey of best under-25 for the second year running. “We’ll be coming back with a leader next year to try to beat Chris. Everyone is beatable. The model that Sky run and how they race makes it difficult. I’ve no idea what it’s a sign of but this year in general we haven’t seen him at the level of the past. That level was still good enough to win the Tour de France, and that shows the class of the man
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