The last of the three pro cycling grand tours, the Vuelta a España is on television on Universal Sports, and the first several stages have been held outside the Iberian peninsula, in the northern part of the Netherlands (the other two grand tours are the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia). As the race’s website put it, the 203km stage 2, “contain[ed] a curiosity: the day will begin in Assen at 10 metres above sea level and at no point during the 200 + kilometre stage will the riders climb to more than 20 metres above sea level. It wouldn’t be possible to find a flatter stage.” I guess the locals don’t fiddle with triple cranks or compact cranks. That’s how flat the Netherlands topography is, which makes for great ice skating on its network of canals. (The Vuelta’s stage 2 was won in 4 hours 43 minutes, by contrast, the similar length 1997 Elfstedentocht was won in 6 hours 49 minutes).
On another cycling note, the Tour of Missouri pro cycling race is fast approaching, and this year it has quite a good field, among the racers are Astana’s Levi Leipheimer, Garmin’s Christian Vande Velde (IL canals mention--he’s originally from Lemont, IL on the I&M), Tour de France green jersey winner Thor Hushvold, Tour de France mountain king Franco Pellezotti (and 3rd in this year’s Giro), big Jens Voigt of Saxo Bank, and lastly Columbia HTC brings long-time favorite George Hincapie along with sprinter extraordinaire, Mark Cavendish, who won 6 Tour de France stages this year. The quality of the field and the event definitely make it worth a trip. The tour starts in St. Louis on Labor Day, September 7, and ends on the 13th in Kansas City. Preceding the tour, there are a variety of local cycling events.
My own pick for a place to watch stage 1, held in St. Louis, would be to hang out in the Soulard area, possibly at McGurks, as there is a King of Mountain points awarded there, so you’ll get a better look at the peleton as they’ll be going a little slower uphill. But the hill isn’t that steep, so don’t blink!
Editor - Jim
This blog weighs in on topics such as long-distance skating, the Illinois canals, cycling, and a variety of related (and occasionally not-so-related) topics. I'd like to correspond with others interested in skating the Hennepin and I&M canals.