Saturday, 7 April 2012

News Digest 07.04.12

Energiewacht Tour Stages 4a and 4b - Tour of the Basque Country Stage 6

Energiewacht Tour 2012 Stages 4a and 4b
Stage 4a - click to enlarge
(image credit: Energiwacht Tour)
Stage 4a (Saturday 7th) both starts and ends at Winsum, a town sometimes termed the treasure of the north according to the Tour website - with two traditional Dutch mills and what is reputed to be The Netherlands' oldest pub (Der Gouden Karper) set among quintessentially Dutch countryside.

The parcours leaves Winsom to the north, travelling up to Baflo and then taking a long, fast loop west and south-west to Mensingeweer. Next, it heads east along a road called the Wildeveldseweg (which must sound fantastic in a Dutch accent). Just visible to the south-west from this point is Ezinge, the oldest continually-inhabited village in the country.

The terp at Ezinge, the Netherland's oldest village
(image credit: Ruben Binnendijk CC BY-SA 3.0)
Long before the ancient tribes who would become the Dutch worked out how to drain the boggy landscape, they would create artificial islands upon which to live (now known as terps and, since drainage, resembling low hills) - the example at Ezinge is still evident and is now occupied by the village's 13th Century church. During the early 20th Century, worked who dug peat for fuel began finding strange objects that were obviously of great age in the area, soon attracting the attention of archaeologists who found many more - including Roman artifacts and part of a sword almost identical to another dicovered at the Sutton Hoo ship burial in Great Britain. By dating the objects, they determined that people have lived in Ezinge since at least 600BCE, making it among the oldest continually-inhabited villages anywhere in Europe. The riders will complete five laps of the route, which should allow Ezinge to be seen even if there is early morning mist, bringing them up to a total of 76.6km.

Stage 4b, the team time trial, takes place on Saturday afternoon and covers 26.5km, beginning at Veendam some way off to the south-east from 4a. After beginning in the centre of the town on JG Pinksterstraat (53° 6'19.91"N 6°52'27.74"E), the teams pass through the streets and cross the canal, then the N33 motorway as they head into the flat fields. A route made up of fast straights punctuated with 25 bends and corners will make for a fast stage, but one in which a slower rider could very easily be dropped off the back of the squad and never find her way back. When they arrive at Oude Pekela, they follow Feiko Clockstraat into town, then turn left to arrive at the finish on Raadhuislaan (53° 6'17.39"N 7° 0'24.65"E).

Stage 4b - click to enlarge
(image credit: Energiwacht Tour)
Marianne Vos has pointed out that Stage 4b is likely to prove the pivotal point in the campaign of any rider - including herself - who hopes to win this race, because a race leader's General Classification advantage can very rapidly be wiped out by a slow team. For fans and rivals, this is our first opportunity to see how well the Rabobank Women's team, which was formed with the express intention of supporting Vos, performs under team time trial race conditions; making this stage one of the most important races so far this season.

Cyclopunk's prediction: GreenEDGE take the stage, but with an insufficient advantage to knock Marianne off the top spot in the GC

Weather: The riders face a chilly start to the day - it's currently only 4C at Baflo, and with a northerly wind of 25kph it feels more like -2C, possibly -4C in exposed places. At present, it's raining lightly - it should dry up later, but further showers are likely. Veendam looks set to be similar, though afternoon temperatures of 7C will at least feel above freezing though not by much, perhaps 3C.

As ever, the best way to get information during the race is by following the official Twitter @ewacttour, hashtag #EWT12 and @richiesteege. Local TV RTL7 is broadcasting a short highlights show daily: Stage 4a will be shown at 14:45 BST (+1 hour for local time/CEST), Stage 4b will be shown along with Stage 5 tomorrow at the same time.

Stage 1 (video) / 2 / 3 / 4a / 4b / 5 / Guide / Video Vault

Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco
Stage 6 - click to enlarge
(image credit: Diario Vasco
Far away to the south, the Tour of the Basque Country enters its sixth and final stage (final stage? Seriously? How did that happened already?!). It's an 18.9km individual time trial and the only stage in this race without mountains, though there are two small hills to take the edge off top speeds.

By the looks of things, it's going to be a a very interesting stage, too: a look at the General Classification reveals numerous riders who could win overall simply by winning today - the top 17 riders are all within a minute of one another. Climbers Joaquin Rodriguez (currently 1st in GC, Katusha) and Samuel Sanchez (currently 2nd, Euskaltel-Euskadi) have got some serious work to do today, not just if either one of them would like to win this year but simply in order to finish in the top 10.

So you're racing Tony Martin in an
individual time trial? Good luck with
that one, chaps.
(image credit: Petit Brun CC BY-SA 2.0)
Will they do it? Hard to say. The riders currently in the top positions are, unsurprisingly, almost all climbers; but there are some good all-rounders seeded among them - Michele Scarponi (5th, Lampre-ISD), Ryder Hesjedal (8th, Garmin-Barracuda), Chris Horner (10th, RadioShack-Nissan). Most dangerous of all, however, is Tony Martin of Omega Pharma-QuickStep. 56" is a big gap to make up, but Martin is the man who took the World Time Trial Championship from Fabian Cancellara. If anyone can do it, Martin's your man.

Weather: More rain. Worse still, it'll come as scattered showers, so some riders may have enjoy a dry course while others have to tackle it wet - which can make all the difference and lose the race. Currently, the temperature in Onati is a chilly 6C, which probably feels more like 0C with the 17kph westerly wind. It should warm up to around 12C this afternoon and, since the wind will change to south-west (coming over land rather than sea) it'll feel like 12C too.

Euskal Irrati Telebista provide a free and legal stream of the race each day from 14:15 (BST - add 1h for CEST).

Tour of the Basque Country: 1 (video) / 2 (video) / 3 (video) / 4 (video) / 5 / 6

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