The Tour of the Med; a nice way to ease into the season; a big bunch floating along under early sunshine with a bunch sprint at the end?
How about 95 K in 1:45 with the peloton ripped apart from the gun and conditions so cold that the contents of your bottle are frozen solid in five minutes?
Endura Racing’s Evan Oliphant is no stranger to hard races; he rode with DFL in Belgium – when he says it’s ‘tough,’ you best believe it!
We caught up with him after a frozen second stage…
The Tour of the Med is just a training race, is it not? (said me, with tongue in cheek)
“Once upon a time, not now – this is one of the hardest races I’ve ever ridden.”
How’s the weather?
“Today, it was minus two; but at the top of the climbs it must be down to six or seven below -: if you pick up a bottle from the car, it’s frozen solid within five minutes.
“After the finish today we had to put big black plastic bags around Gary Hand and James Moss, they were so cold.”
A couple of crashes for the team, I believe?
“James Moss had a bit of a tumble in the convoy, yesterday but James McCallum had a spectacular one, today – that’s how he missed the time cut.
“He double punctured, went down an embankment and hit a tree at high speed – but he was still clipped in and the bike wheels took the impact, there’s hardly a scratch on him but the wheels are totalled!
“The leaders did 95 kilometres in 1:45, we were still well under two hours for 95 K in my group; there was a screaming cross/tail wind and it was full on out of the blocks, the guys at the front just went for it.
“There were riders cracking all over the place, gaps were opening, guys would just explode trying to close them – at one stage my computer read 80 kph!
“Yauheni Hutarovich (Belorus & F des J) won it.”
“It was very hard for the first hour, fast, narrow roads, crashes; we stopped for a pee, the break went and it eased, but after the feed at 95 K they just nailed it again.
“It was tail/cross wind again and it was all over the place, I tried to start an echelon but guys were cracking; in the end about 40 of us rode in together.
“It was F des J again – Jussi Veikkanen (Finland).”
Is it what you expected?
“Harder! I knew it would be cold, but not Arctic; and it’s much faster than Majorca, last year – there, a lot of guys were just riding round to get the miles in, but here, everyone is fighting.
“Nicolas Roche was blue with cold, today.”
How does it compare to the DFL days?
“This is harder than anything I’ve ever ridden; I checked last year’s results for the Med and it was virtually all bunch sprints.
“It’s the weather that’s making it so hard, the cold and the wind – it was gusting to 110 kph during stage one.”
Are you happy you did enough prep coming in to the race?
“When I came back from Australia, I had a bit of a chest infection and then we had all that snow, in Scotland.
“That’s why I went to Gran Canaria – I did 40 hours out there in ten days.
“I don’t want to be flying right now, our objectives aren’t until later in the season, I could have done more but I’m happy with my form, I just want to get round here, and not go too deep – I’ve been going deeper than I’d like, though.”
How are the younger guys?
“James Moss is suffering a bit after his fall and Ross Creber was caught out on the first day by how fast it started – lesson learned for the next stage! He’s going to watch how our French guy – Alexander Blain (ex-Cofidis) – rides; at dinner, last night, Alexander said that he was going to have a crack today – he knows the finish.
“He was right there in the Vacansoleil train at the end – fourth wheel – but they were directed off course with 600 to go.”
“It’s hard to tell, one minute you’re at the front, next thing you’re at the back!
“Not Vino, he’s toiling; Garmin got blasted on stage one but rode better on stage two – they must have had a talking too!
“The AG2R guys all look good, though.”
Rasmussen had visitors in the team car?
“Yeah – the cops pulled them over and had everything out of the car.
“He’s pulled out now, his team -Miche – isn’t impressing.”
How’s that Look 595?
“It’s the most comfortable bike I’ve ever ridden; we’re on SRAM – I like it, very good changes.
“We’re on Zipp wheels, 404 front and 808 rear, a bit tricky in the cross winds but they roll so well when you’re in a group and with the tail wind they’re really fast – you seem just to be cruising.”
And how’s the Endura clothing coping with the weather?
“They’ve been working on it all winter, in conjunction with Rob Hayles – the range is called ‘Equipe.’
“The jerseys are very aero and the chamois is perfect – we were all individually fitted.
“I think if we hadn’t had the new under vests on, we’d all have died of the cold!”
What do you want from the race?
“I want to get fast kilometres in, build form – we’ve been given a great opportunity, getting to ride this, Haut Var and Murcia.
“I just want to come through it all, healthy – our big goals are back in the UK, this is just to bring us up.”
Stage three, tomorrow?
“It’s ‘only’ 115 K with a couple of categorised climbs – Alexander says it’s not too hard.
“But if that wind blows – it’ll be carnage!”
Watch this space – we’ll be talking to Evan again after final stage – ‘bon chance, mon ami!’
Tour of the Med Results
1 Yauheni Hutarovich (Blr) FranÃ§aise Des Jeux 1:45:05
2 William Bonnet (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom
3 Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz) Astana
4 Maxime Bouet (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
5 Anthony Ravard (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
6 Mathieu Drujon (Fra) Caisse d’Epargne
7 Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
8 Jean-Luc Delpech (Fra) Bretagne – Schuller
9 Johnny Hoogerland (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team
10 Jean-Marc Marino (Fra) Saur – Sojasun
11 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
12 Yannick Talabardon (Fra) Saur – Sojasun
13 Arnaud Coyot (Fra) Caisse d’Epargne
14 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) Astana
15 Jussi Veikkanen (Fin) FranÃ§aise Des Jeux
16 Floris Goesinnen (Ned) Skil – Shimano
17 Sébastien Turgot (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom 0:00:06
18 Jose Garcia Acosta (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne 0:00:39
19 Rick Flens (Ned) Rabobank 0:01:00
20 Alexander Efimkin (Rus) AG2R La Mondiale
21 Anthony Roux (Fra) FranÃ§aise Des Jeux 0:01:58
22 Michel Kreder (Ned) Garmin – Transitions
23 Sergey Lagutin (Uzb) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team
24 Steven Tronet (Fra) Roubaix Lille Metropole
25 Alexandre Pichot (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom
26 Jérémie Galland (Fra) Saur – Sojasun
27 Mikael Cherel (Fra) FranÃ§aise Des Jeux
28 Nadir Haddou (Fra) Big Mat – Auber 93
29 Koen De Kort (Ned) Skil – Shimano
30 Alexandre Geniez (Fra) Skil – Shimano
31 Cédric Pineau (Fra) Roubaix Lille Metropole
32 Jonathan Thire (Fra) Big Mat – Auber 93
33 Steve Chainel (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom
34 Roberto Cesaro (Ita) Miche
35 Rémi Pauriol (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
36 Dennis Van Winden (Ned) Rabobank
37 Julien Simon (Fra) Saur – Sojasun
38 Julien El Fares (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
39 Przemyslaw Niemiec (Pol) Miche
40 Sébastien Joly (Fra) Saur – Sojasun
41 Dominique Cornu (Bel) Skil – Shimano
42 Juan-Jose Cobo Acebo (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
43 Matthieu Boulo (Fra) Roubaix Lille Metropole
44 Matthieu Sprick (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom
45 Gael Malacarne (Fra) Bretagne – Schuller
46 Laurent Pichon (Fra) Bretagne – Schuller
47 Rémy Di Gregoria (Fra) FranÃ§aise Des Jeux
48 Matteo Carrara (Ita) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team
49 Stéphane Bonsergent (Fra) Bretagne – Schuller
50 Francesco Failli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone
51 Wesley Sulzberger (Aus) FranÃ§aise Des Jeux
52 Mathieu Perget (Fra) Caisse d’Epargne
53 Florian Guillou (Fra) Bretagne – Schuller
54 Christophe Le Mevel (Fra) FranÃ§aise Des Jeux
55 Pasquale Muto (Ita) Miche
56 Simon Geschke (Ger) Skil – Shimano
57 Yohann Gene (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom
58 Alexandre Blain (Fra) Endura Racing
59 Johan Mombaerts (Fra) Big Mat – Auber 93
60 Gorazd Stangelj (Slo) Astana
61 Assan Bazayev (Kaz) Astana
62 Renaud Dion (Fra) Roubaix Lille Metropole
63 Ludovic Turpin (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
64 Mirko Selvaggi (Ita) Astana
65 Enrico Gasparotto (Ita) Astana
66 Alessandro Donati (Ita) Acqua & Sapone
67 Pieter Weening (Ned) Rabobank
68 Thomas Peterson (USA) Garmin – Transitions
69 Romain Lemarchand (Fra) Big Mat – Auber 93
70 Julien Mazet (Fra) Big Mat – Auber 93
71 Francisco Perez Sanchez (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
72 David Lopez Garcia (Spa) Caisse d’Epargne
73 Massimo Codol (Ita) Acqua & Sapone
74 Clément Lhotellerie (Fra) Roubaix Lille Metropole
75 Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin – Transitions
76 Dario Andriotto (Ita) Acqua & Sapone
77 Cyril Dessel (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
78 Nicolas Roche (Irl) AG2R La Mondiale
79 Michal Golas (Pol) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team
80 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank
81 Olivier Bonnaire (Fra) FranÃ§aise Des Jeux
82 Dmitriy Fofonov (Kaz) Astana
83 Damien Monier (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
84 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone
85 Edwin Carvajal Jaramillo (Col) Miche 0:03:34
86 Jos Van Emden (Ned) Rabobank
87 Ian Wilkinson (GBr) Endura Racing
88 Lilian Jegou (Fra) Bretagne – Schuller 0:04:26
89 Francesco Masciarelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone 0:06:17
90 Thierry Hupond (Fra) Skil – Shimano
91 Vladimir Miholjevic (Cro) Acqua & Sapone
92 Robert Partridge (GBr) Endura Racing
93 Paolo Ciavatta (Ita) Acqua & Sapone
94 Leonardo-Fabio Duque (Col) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
95 Yukihiro Doi (Jpn) Skil – Shimano
96 Mickael Buffaz (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
97 Fabien Bacquet (Fra) Big Mat – Auber 93
98 Mickael Larpe (Fra) Roubaix Lille Metropole
99 Jonathan Hivert (Fra) Saur – Sojasun
100 Brice Feillu (Fra) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team
101 Peter Stetina (USA) Garmin – Transitions
102 Fortunato Baliani (Ita) Miche
103 Damien Gaudin (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom
104 Dimitri Champion (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
105 Allan Davis (Aus) Astana
106 Trent Lowe (Aus) Garmin – Transitions
107 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Miche
108 Amael Moinard (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
109 Dmitry Kozontchuk (Rus) Rabobank
110 Stéphane Auge (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
111 James Maccallum (GBr) Endura Racing 0:09:56
112 Paul Martens (Ger) Rabobank
113 Daniel Martin (Irl) Garmin – Transitions
114 Evan Oliphant (GBr) Endura Racing
115 Stef Clement (Ned) Rabobank
116 Han Feng (Chn) Skil – Shimano
117 Timothy Duggan (USA) Garmin – Transitions
118 Simone Campagnaro (Ita) Miche
119 Wouter Poels (Ned) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team
120 Martin Mortensen (Den) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team
121 Luigi Gitto (Ita) Miche
122 Christian Meier (Can) Garmin – Transitions
123 Eduardo Gonzalo (Spa) Bretagne – Schuller
124 Anthony Charteau (Fra) BBox Bouygues Telecom
125 Noan Lelarge (Fra) Bretagne – Schuller
126 Stephane Rossetto (Fra) Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team 0:13:13
127 Gary Hand (GBr) Endura Racing
128 Ross Creber (GBr) Endura Racing
129 Niels Brouzes (Fra) Big Mat – Auber 93
130 Cyril Bess