Einer Rubio won Stage 3 of the UAE Tour, attacking at the foot of Jebel Jais with the help of a brief leadout from his Movistar team mate Albert Torres. He then went away solo and held on for the win. It’s a big victoryr on climb normally all about being able to sit on a wheel while team mate mates set the pace; it’s not the story of someone sneaking away for a plucky win.
Rubio will be Movistar’s leader for the Giro. We’ll see what he can do, you’d think they’d probably sign for a top-10 and a stage today? He’s got a couple of things in common with Jai Hindley, they both won the tough GP Carpdarco and they both rode for the same U23 team in Italy’s Abruzzo region, VC Aran Cucine Vejus before turning pro, an unusual route.
It’s openingsweekend in Belgium. There’s a jolt as the sport swaps sunny climes of the Mediterranean and Middle-East for the pale weak light of Belgium but the intensity of course goes up. One reader emailed the other day asking about things to do on a visit to the Flemish classics and one suggestion in reply was to buy a newspaper just to feel the weight of content dedicated to the classics and cycling, and all the tangential stories around it. Scan the papers and they’re packed and it’s far from Remco this, Remco that. Tom Boonen’s split up with his long term girlfriend, not normally something to cover here but it’s providing a lot of column inches in Flanders.
Arnaud De Lie took the train to Oudenaarde to join his team’s Omloop recon ride, not quite news you need to know but it shows how every angle is covered. Workers are filling in potholes. The first people to park a camping car on the course have arrived, and been interviewed. At best all this is tangential to the sport but you can have your fill.
But there’s more, take Patrick Lefevre saying the recently he could have signed Wout van Aert but he wanted to keep doing his cyclo-cross, so the deal was off. Lefevre added, with a salty flick worthy of Salt Bae, that he’s spent too long doing cyclo-cross and that he ought to have won the Ronde by now. Van Aert promptly labelled his next ride on Strava, a 6 hour session including a climb up the longest side of Mount Teide, “cyclocrosser’s training” as a prod back. It’s gentle stuff but shows the palimpsest of rivalries, stories and more in Belgium, someone says something on TV one night; someone else labels their Strava rider in response. It’s a level you don’t get elsewhere. Anyway, if you want to join in then Het Nieuwsblad, Het Laaste Nieuws and Sporza offer plenty and translation engines are very good at putting it into English or whatever your first language is.
One subject that hasn’t been a drama because it’s been well-managed is Tadej Pogačar’s race programme. Yes is riding Paris-Nice and won’t do the Strade Bianche. He’s changed his plans for the season. All this was decided a long time ago but has only come out lately. Not riding his team’s home tour was a big deal and if he’d announced he wasn’t doing Tirreno-Adriatico back in January it could have been a story for a day rather than a note. Plus it keeps his rivals guessing. The one day goals are Milan-Sanremo and the Tour of Flanders. Once he’s done with the Tour of Flanders that’ll be it for Pogačar for a good while. Perhaps we’ll see him in the Tour of Slovenia again, if not then it’ll be the Tour de France.
SPRINT VERDE (16.7km) Concello de Guntin
1 – 11 Jonas Vingegaard (TJV) – 20 pt (+ 3”)
2 – 35 Ion Izagirre (COF) – 17 pt (+ 2”)
3 – 15 Rohan Dennis (TJV) – 15 pt (+ 1”)
— O Gran Camiño (@ograncamino_igt) February 23, 2023
Meanwhile in Spain Jonas Vingegaard starts his season today and at pixel time he’s hardly easing himself back into the sport, instead he’s taken the first intermediate sprint of the day in the O Gran Camino race.
Now to slower starts, as Alpecin-Deceuninck are now the only team without a win after Groupama-FDJ and Ag2r Citroën both triumphed last weekend. What’s striking is just how much of a slow start Alpecin have had, the entire team has 117 UCI points, teams like Q36.5 are on double that, Bardiani is on four times that. Of course it’s still February and once Mathieu van der Poel is on the start line he’ll score. As L’Equipe pointed out (Sunday’s paper edition) his win rate is an astonishing 23%, as in he’s got 40 wins in his career for 170 race days. Jasper Philipsen will add more but still, the newly promoted team have yet to get going. Astana are on 157 points as well, a slow start as well and they seem to have long term challenges as well. It’s far too early for “relegation watch” but we can see which teams are under pressure, not for the licence but just to get going.
Finally, talking of measuring performance problems, Shimano’s Dura-Ace power meter has got a roasting from DC Rainmaker in a recent review. The blogger is known for his detailed analysis, not for him a “hot take” or a “first impression review”. It’s an problem for consumers and the manufacturer Shimano which seems to have released a premium product that has issues with accuracy and consistency when it ought to function like a Swiss watch; although an issue reduced because, while the rest of the 9200 Dura-Ace group was released late in 2021, getting hold of a 9200 power meter has been hard and good luck finding one for sale in 2023. But it’s also an issue for teams and riders who face the same problems, they might have units made available to them but word is even these can have issues.