Awards and citations:

1997: Le Prix du Champagne Lanson Noble Cuvée Award for investigations into Champagne for the Millennium investment scams

2001: Le Prix Champagne Lanson Ivory Award for

2011: Vindic d'Or MMXI – 'Meilleur blog anti-1855'

2011: Robert M. Parker, Jnr: ‘This blogger...’:

2012: Born Digital Wine Awards: No Pay No Jay – best investigative wine story

2012: International Wine Challenge – Personality of the Year Award

Monday, 22 April 2013

Cycling: a look back at the first third of 2013

Jim's VTT on Les Monts Damnés: April 2013

Dan Martin's great win yesterday in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the last of the Spring classics, has brought the first third of the 2013 cycling season to a fitting close. With the Giro d'Italia starting at the beginning of May, it is time to look at the successes and failures so far.

Fabian Cancellara has done the big double again – the Tour of Flanders followed by the Paris-Roubaix a week later. Both were impressive victories, although Flanders was won in Cancellara's signature style by cracking the last of his oponents – Peter Sagan – on the final climb and then time-trialling to the finish powering away from the field. Six seconds on Sagan at the top of the climb turning into around a minute and half by the finish some 13 kilometres later.  In contrast Cancellara's victory at Roubiax was down to a last gasp sprint. 

I suspect Peter Sagan will have mixed feelings over his spring campaign. He won the Gent-Wevelgem and the Brabantse Piji and has had a string of second places including the Strade Bianche, Milan San Remo and the Tour of Flanders. His form tailed off at the end in the Amstel Gold and Flèche Wallone. Sagan will have been disappointed not to have yet won one of the major classics but his time will surely come. Hopefully he will not repeat the childish and unpleasant stupidity of pinching the hostess's bottom on the Tour of Flanders podium. 

The very cold weather and consequent prolonation of winter has, until very recently, made the early European season very tough, especially the Milan San Remo and the Gent-Wevelgem.        

Good to see Roman Kreuziger win the Amstel Gold, although there are at present unanswered questions over his relationship with the disgraced doctor Michele Ferrari. Also Daniel Moreno's win in the Flèche Wallonne and finally Dan Martin's great victory yesterday in Liège, which follows his victory in the stage race – Tour of Catalonia.

However, there have been no Belgian victories this year in their specialist field with World Champion Philippe Gilbert threatening at times but always falling back at the last moment.       

Team Sky has had it successes in stage races – Chris Froome in the Tour of Oman and Critérium International, and Richie Porte – Paris-Nice, but haven't managed a one day classic this year. 

Equally Mark Cavendish's move to Omega Pharma-Quick Step hasn't been a complete success yet. He has won some victories but on other occasions the Omega Pharma-Quick Step chain hasn't fully functioned – certainly not on the level of HTC Columbia or Team Sky. Interesting to see that there is speculation about Mark Renshaw, Mark's brilliant lead-out man while with Columbia, may team up with Mark next year at Omega Pharma-Quick Step.

We also see the Columbians coming back with Nairo Quintana winning the Tour of the Basque Country, Sergio Henao and Rigoberto Urán at Team Sky and the impressive Carlos Betancur, who came close to winning the Flèche Wallonne.  

Looking ahead to the Giro d'Italia Vincenzo Nibali looked in good shape in winning the Giro del Trentino, especially on the last stage when he climbed away from the rest of the field. It was unfortunate for Bradley Wiggins that he had a mechanical problem at the start of the final climb, so we don't know whether Bradley would have been able to match Nibali and he had done the day before. Certainly Bradley's start to the 2013 season has been more low-key than last year.     

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