The latest Mixed Terrain column by Brendan Gallagher has landed, with reaction to the announcement of teams for The Women’s Tour and an assessment of Sir Bradley Wiggins’ Paris Roubaix chances from a former podium finisher.

MAJOR cycling events don’t have to start in a blaze of publicity and glory although it helps. One week before the original Tour de France, scheduled to start on 1 June 1903, the organiser Henri Desgrange was forced to put it back a month because he had received just 19 entrants. Eventually, by placing daily stories in the paper he owned and reducing the entry fee from ten to five francs a day, Desgrange nudged that figure up to 79 although come the day only 60 riders went to the line.

Three months out and the inaugural Women’s Tour has done rather better than that. Today’s announcement sees 11 of the top 14 women’s teams in the world confirmed as starters with four of the top six individual riders from the 2012 Olympics confirmed as starters including champion Marieanne Vos and Silver medal winner Lizzie Armistead.

Italy’s Giorgia Bronzini finished fifth on that rain sodden but never to be forgotten July afternoon with Emma Johansson (pictured left, leading) from Sweden sixth and those four alone underline the quality of rider that will be on display during the five days racing. Spectators will be seeing the best women’s road racing has to offer and you needn’t stray far from that quartet when looking for the winner but it’s the ‘undercard’ that fascinates me with an eclectic mix of ages and experience.

Heading that category is Great Britain’s clutch of Olympic and World Championship Team Pursuit medallists – Laura Trott, Dani King, Joanna Rowsell, Elinor Barker. None of them except Barker who won the world junior Time-Trial Championship, would claim to be a road specialist but all of them have the potential to produce a great one-off ride. If Joanna Rowsell – who won two Golds at the Cali World Championships in splendid style last week, or Barker can get in the right break look out, while the predominantly flat nature of the five stages should result in a couple of sprints and it will be interesting to see if Laura Trott can be spared team duties on a couple of occasions get among the recognised sprinters

It doesn’t end there though, this race should also showcase other young riders whose names aren’t perhaps so well known to the general public who tend to switch onto road cycling when the Olympics and World’s hove into view. Lucy Garner is a two time World Junior Road champion of recent vintage and is an out and out Mark Cavendish style sprinter. She had been learning her trade on the Continent and this has the feel of real breakthrough season in senior ranks to me and this race in particular should suit her.

Hannah Barnes is another who could seize this race by the scruff of the neck. The versatile and fast finishing Barnes had been a growing force in the domestic scene and claimed no less than ten wins last season including her victory over at the Elite Women’s Critierium at the IG London Nocturne were she was infamously relegated to start with for celebrating and taking her hands off the handlebar to celebrate. Happily common sense prevailed and she was, albeit belatedly, restored to her rightful spot atop the podium.

“The times that I’ve raced in Great Britain – with of course the London Olympic Games fresh in my mind – I have been amazed by the huge crowds and the enthusiastic people,” says Vos. “I’m sure it will be a fantastic event and I’m looking forward to competing here with the best riders from all over the World.” Indeed.


COULD Ian ‘Yogi’ Stannard be set for promotion after his superb win at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in Saturday? The giant Stannard, pictured below on his way to victory at the weekend, derives his nickname from the famous Hanna-Barbera Yogi Bear character but only those of a certain age will remember that for years Yogi Bear was in fact just a humble support act in the Huckleberry Hound – a domestique if you like – until one day the suits, having reviewed the previous series, decided to give him a show and support cast of his own. With Stannard in such commanding form these days he could be Sky’s main act in the Classics this season. It’s about time he became the star of the show!


REIGNING Tour of Britain champion Bradley Wiggins should pretend he is on a mountain stage when he rides Paris-Roubaix next month according to Roger Hammond whose third and fourth places at Paris-Roubaix – in 2004 and 2010 respectively – and his second place at Gent Wevelgem in 2007 are still among the very gest rides by a British rider on the world scene, even though they have never received the publicity they deserved.

“The reality of Paris-Roubaix is that it is very similar to a tough day in the hills, it’s just that the climbs are actually the flat cobble sections,” says Hammond, pictured below at the Madison Genesis team launch last week. “You ride 2-3km of cobbles at your threshold – which is the equivalent of a sharp climb riding at threshold, then you recover on the tarmac and get your heart-rate down and lactic under control, before you go again. It’s your mind you have to work on, you have to make the cobbles into your climb because your engine and body won’t know the difference.

“Riders like Brad need not worry too much about bulking up and putting on a bit of muscle for Paris Roubaix, that’s a bit of a myth in my opinion. The priority is to ride at whatever weight results in your maximum power. Brad produced plenty of power in 2012 when he dominated all the Time Trials, that kind of fitness and strength can serve you very well at Paris-Roubaix.

“Experience counts for a lot riding Paris-Roubaix. It’s a pretty fraught race but riding with confidence can help a lot and that comes from riding the cobbles in different races and conditions – wet, muddy and frosty when you are tired or feeling strong, in group, on your own. You need to know how fast you can go around corners and you need to know what your limits are. Brad’s ridden the race six or seven times I believe it is but ideally he will ride on the cobbles again before race-day this year.

“It will be an interesting race this season because the stage with cobbles on the Tour de France this year means that quite a lot of the GC guys might be tempted to go to the start line to brush up on their skills.”


IT’s NOT often that a cyclist will place the Commonwealth Games ahead of the World’s in their list of priorities but that is what Madison Genesis’ Andy Tennant has done this year after falling victim to illness in January. The former World Junior Pursuit champion, a Gold medallist in the senior Team Pursuit with GB two years ago, spent ten days sick in bed in January and when he finally felt human again quickly had to prioritise.

“I hardly got on my bike in January and time was running out for the World’s so I took the decision to concentrate on the Commie Games,” says Tennant. “If there was a World’s to miss this was probably the one. As it happens I recovered really quickly and have been going well but you can’t guarantee that so it was the right decision. In Glasgow I’ve got my eyes on the Individual Pursuit, I want to give that a right go, and then hopefully get in the England team for the Team Pursuit. It would also be nice to race in the Scratch although I know Ed Clancy is targeting that and if I did get in it would probably be a case of riding support for Ed.

Before the Games it is full steam ahead for Tennant with Madison Genesis in The Pearl Izumi Tour Series, details of which were announced last week: “I couldn’t be happier with that, it’s a great Series, full on racing and we’ve got a very competitive squad so hopes are high. As preparation for the events I am aiming for in Glasgow it couldn’t be better either so after a dodgy start 2014 is really looking up.”