Thursday, December 28, 2006

Adcock Park records updated

Folks, I have updated the CCCC Adcock park track records. Via Paul Craft. So blame him for any errors!

An old fashioned story of drug cheating

Interesting story at of a rider (Rachel Dard, by name) caught out in several ways - back in the old days- 1976 in fact. He was apparently cheating by doping, then cheating the test by swapping urine, then cheating by pressuring the doctor to let him off by destroying his report. Upon realising he hadn't completed the job thoroughly enough he chased said doctor and pressured him again to destroy the empty vials, only to come undone when the doctor finally spilled the beans anyway. Now one must wonder exactly how many got away with it. Plenty, one suspects. But these were days before EPO, so we are talking (presumably) of steroids, cortisone and amphetamines.

Not good, certainly, and even in the amateur ranks it was common enough to know of this sort of thing. Drinks that were "special" and only for a given rider - laced with brandy or whatever alcohol they preferred, to be used prior to the sprint... although what effect that may have had is difficult to judge - maybe the effect was in their head? Or bananas with amphetamines for that lift you need, or think you need, just before a sprint or major climb. And the ever-present No-doze tabs. It can't have been just me hearing these stories, or watching riders throwing tantrums when they got the "wrong" banana... can it?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Cronulla capers - racing in the Shire

I've always liked Cronulla - wide streets, endless beaches... and the ferry to Bundeena. The fact that it's almost on a peninsula - surrounded on 3 sides by water - Botany Bay, Port Hacking and the Pacific Ocean - has arguably preserved its charm, high rise blemishes not withstanding. Strangely it has a heavy rail line (which replaced the old steam tram, but I guess that's another story) a bit of a luxury for such a small pocket of Sydney. It's a great place to hold a bike race. And so they did.

Now it was great to get live TV coverage - but as usual we had ill-timed ad breaks when riders went away, and when we came back to the action we got a long interview with a rugby league coach. Oh well.

Great, dominating ride by Kate Nicols to win the women's crit. As for the elite male racing, it was great to see Rabo's Brown win and Disco's White making impressive attacks... but it had a feel to it, somewhat akin to "off season" or "staged". Now it may have been absolutely legit, but firstly we saw McEwen go away in a break and then get caught (so the public got to see the road sprinter in action); followed by a successful break and a home-town win (just!) by the pro sprinter. Hmmm. Local boy Whitey was 3rd. Hmmm. Now I'm convinced the locals were indeed trying - no question about it (great rides by local crit specialists Jose Rodriguez and Peter McDonald, btw) - but the pros were taking it a bit easy, surely? I have seen similar local crit fields blown apart (and lapped) by just one pro on his "off season" break... but who would profit from seeing that under the gaze of the crowds and TV cameras? No-one one, really. The pros want to put on a show - that's their job - and don't want to crush the locals just for the sake of it. And that's exactly what we got. It was great to watch, anyway.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

That crash in Surfers

When Astana rider Davis went down 5 metres shy of getting on the back of the breakaway, 2 things happened. 1, an opportunity was lost and hard work was wasted. And 2, they were relegated to the chase bunch (ie the peleton). Now from Davis and company's viewpoint it was unfair. 5m is hardly a gap at all and for riders of this caliber they would have made it across, for sure. So morally they expected to join the break after the lap out (which they duly did, but got pulled out by race officals). Now I can see their point - a crash is a race incident deserving of lap-out consideration; but equally they should have taken due care to negotiate the corner without incident, just like the breakaway did. After all, if that breakaway was able to make the corner safely at similar pace then maybe they should also expect not to be penalised for their skill in doing so.

Now it may have been a mechanical incident that brought Davis down, but it didn't look mechanical. And why didn't the chasers simply pass Davis and continue the chase? I can understand Davis taking a lap out and (in theory) rejoining the chase bunch, but what about Brown and co? I'm not sure what held them up (did they all fall, or have 'mechanicals'?) but by taking a lap out and they rejoining the breakaway that they had nearly caught seems a bit rich. 5m is still 5m guys. Now if it had been a club race we'd just get up and chase again. Or did I miss something?

Neil Stephens on an Aussie Pro team

Cyclingnews has another good interview with Neil Stephens, Aussie bike legend. I don't know Neil personally although I've ridden with him a couple of times - in a large bunch! I do know a man who claims to have helped the Stephens brothers off to their start in bike racing back in Canberra (and yes I believe him); and I also know about the Rookwood cemetery training loop, so there's scope for scandal there surely?

Maybe not. Point is that someone got Neil on a bike, riding, then racing, then winning. You and I know that winning - or at least having a sniff - is enough motivation to train and train some more. Neil's never shirked training. For me it was gentle persistence by the then Randwick Botany club president (thanks Col) that finally got me racing. Sometimes it takes some nudging. Neil surely had a host of other, different factors that got him going and kept him going. And now he's 'putting back' into the sport. I'm not a great fan of nationalism, indeed it's high on my list of the cheap tricks and bread and circuses used by politicians and power brokers to distract us from thinking straight, but I can see the excitement that will surround any 'national' team entering the pro peleton, be it Kazahk or Aussie. Anything that gets what amounts to an alternative sport (an alternative to footy and cricket!)'out there' in public view is good. If not great.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Osteopenia and cycling

You read about this quite often. Most recently Pam Hinton wrote this is

We recently completed a study comparing bone density of adult male cyclists to that of runners and triathletes. Our subjects were competitive at the regional level, ranging in age from 18-60 years. The cyclists, as a group, had lower bone density of the whole body, leg, and spine compared to the runners and triathletes. Additionally, a greater percentage had osteopenia, i.e., bone mineral density less than one standard deviation below the mean for young adult males. The two groups of athletes did not differ in age, body composition, training load or diet. My point is that low bone mineral density among cyclists is probably much more prevalent than we know.

This is not the only such study to report that cyclists as a group have a lower average bone density. Now the question is why? Firstly you'd imagine that higher-impact sports would naturally require and acquire higher bone densities - indeed you could probably guess that cyclists as a group would be one step above swimmers and well below runners on this 'impact' scale. Now I'm not sure this has been verified, but you'd certainly imagine specialist swimmers to be 'worse-off' in that respect. So why do we not read of swimmers and osteopenia? Perhaps we don't read the right reports? Or is there another factor at play here, perhaps something to do with which body types are attracted to each sport? Remember that a swimmer's mass is supported by water, so hydrodynamics and technique is probably a bigger factor than outright mass.

OK, so here's my theory: cycling actually selects for low-density bone mass. If you looked at cyclists as sub-groups I'm imagine you'd see some pretty low figures for climbers and much higher numbers for TTers and sprinters (but still less than runners). Of course any gym work would assist the sprinters keep the bone mass up, but that aside you'd expect power-to-weight ratios to select for skinny, low-bone-mass riders against the heavier guys. Why? Simply because mass that doesn't propel you forward drags you backward. So the bigger, heavier guy must lose weight in order to be competitive with the lightly framed guy or girl, or they will simply change sports. Look at cyclists in general. They aren't built like football players, are they?

So when it comes to testing cyclists as a group of course bike riders will have lower average bone mass - it's an advantage to them! Now it's also an advantage for runners, but moreso for road endurance runners. (Although the impact alone will keep that density level up rather than down.) When you mix it up with triathletes you get a range of specialities (swimmers, runners and cyclists, or combinations thereof) and thus body shapes that even out the ratios a bit. Whereas with cyclists, especially road cyclists, it comes down to low mass almost all the time. Or you just get dropped. It's not as though you can make up time on your swim or run leg, eh?

Conclusion? It's not one thing. Yes, it's a low-impact sport, so by all means do your cross-training and jumps and take calcium plus vitamin D. But don't imagine that cyclists will become heavily built, with denser bones. In fact lightly built people gravitate towards cycling because they have an advantage. We are stacking the sport with osteopenics - because they go faster! Or at least that's my (untested) theory. And I - a long-term cyclist - am osteopenic, too!

Friday, December 01, 2006

John Sunde holds back

Well not much. I haven't been to Heffron Park for 9 years or so - and haven't raced the Tuesday night group handicap for even longer - but John Sunde in today's Cyclingnews paints a melodramatic picture of cycling at its timid worst in his latest Tuesday race report. If you raced, don't read it. You may have been busting a gut, doing your best.. but not in John's eyes. You were hiding at the back. You may have been the organising club... geeeze, why bother, eh? Now John's right, of course - some riders do hide in bunches. And handicaps are not usually won by hiding. But these group handicaps lend themselves to this sort of thing, don't they? When have they been different? Some riders bide their time, hoping that the bunch gets up and that they can launch their blistering sprint to win overall. Maybe more riders are doing that now, as John attests, but I wasn't there to see. Maybe John raced on Tuesday and didn't get a place. Maybe because he has swapped clubs (a while ago now, sure) and joined St George - also the winner's club, btw - he now has an axe to grind about his old club. Maybe he just wants more people to come and have ago. What do you reckon? For myself group handicaps are either a complete joke - you may as well have scratch races - or are flat-out dangerous when faster bunches swallow up slower bunches to form massive packs (on a tight circuit!). Yes, you do improve your skills - if you survive. Anyway, it's certainly entertaining to read!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

LeMond on doping

Greg LeMond's on-bike career was famously shortened by accidental gunshot wounds sustained whilst hunting. However it wasn't just the shotgun pellets that he still carries in his body that foreshortened his racing career. He has also spoken openly about that period in the peleton when guys who he previously had more than the measure of suddenly flew past, as if they no longer felt their pedals. By which he means to say he rode through that transition period, when EPO was just coming into vogue. He saw - or assumed he saw - how it boosted a rider's abilities far beyond 'normal' and how easily influenced some riders were to indulge in the practice. He's a strong supporter of WADA and a critic of what he has seen to be lax action by the UCI. Cyclingnews has a report on his recent speech to a WADA board meeting. Whilst LeMond has not made many friends from some of his comments, as time goes on and the doping scandals continue there's more than a hint that Greg may not be as embittered or extreme in his views as some may suppose. Although he has (reportedly) said some pretty extreme things in the recent past!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

World Cup results

Good result for NSW and Central Coast rider Phil Thuaux in the IP at the World Cup track meet in Sydney:
Men's Individual pursuit final

3-4 final
1 Phil Thuaux (Australia) 4.28.234 (53.684 km/h)
Jens Mouris (Netherlands) 4.30.655 (53.204 km/h)

Can't beat Anna Meares and her new 500m WR though, can you?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Catchup on some news

Where do I start? CN has reported that Tyler Hamilton has signed (maybe at Tinkoff?) and expects to race in 2007. CN also reports that Riis has laid down the law on doing at CSC. And it's been widely reported that Aussie rider and stair-climber Paul Crake has broken some vertebrae in NZ. And the FRF boys are racing in Hainan with Josh Marden taking a stage. Did I mention Basso went to Discovery?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Ullrich back in training, Armstrong case dropped

Cyclingnews has reported that Jan Ullrich is back in training. He has no licence to race - having given his Swiss licence back. The Swiss don't want to proceed with his case and have suggested that the Spanish cycling body, if anyone, should take it up. After all, they started it. It remains that Ullrich has no positive result against his name, just the allegation of involvement backed up by alleged documentation about transactions and third-party conversations implicating him in the practice of doping. Jan has stated firmly that he is innocent.

Basso of course has been cleared and has no current charge to answer, but is out of CSC anyway, by mutual agreement. Again, no positive result but a seeming taint on his name. I think the Spanish case rested on the name of Basso's dog, didn't it? He may race with a non-ProTour team to avoid ... well to avoid complications. He again is emphatic about his innocence.

CN also reports that the Armstrong case has been dropped. That was the French case built on allegations made in the book LA Confidentiel, les secrets de Lance Armstrong, co-written by sportswriter David Walsh and former L'Equipe cycling writer Pierre Ballester. Insufficient evidence, apparently. The book sold well, though.

Pez reports that David Millar and his old Cofidis teammates are attending a French court with regard to the Cofidis doping scandal of a few years back. The judge has telegraphed that he considers the riders to be the victims as much as perpetrators. It's EPO related and hinges on a physio's evidence.

I could go on... and on. What to make of it? Well overall we have the seemingly 'factual' positives of Landis and Hamilton et al balanced against the implications of suggestions by various witnesses, in some cases backed up by documentation and other evidence of varying degrees of verifiability. Whilst we can (perhaps!) more easily accept the positive findings of labs - even when we can't understand why Landis (for example) would have used such an inappropriate substance - it's even harder to stomach these seemingly vague as yet untested allegations that have put riders and their careers on hold.

Let's not forget that Basso, Ullrich and all of the riders that remain tainted by the as yet unproven pre-Tour allegations have had their careers either put on hold or their earning power seriously diminished. I wouldn't like that to happen to me in my working life - it's unfair and inequitable for starters. The quicker it's resolved the better - but don't hold your breath.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

DNA testing for cyclists - and other athletes

OK, we know (or it's been reported) that Bettini doesn't like the idea and that Valverde is against it. Cunego says wait and close Operacion Puerto first, whilst saying it's a delicate issue. But the UCI is likely to press on anyway. It's DNA testing folks.

Why do it, anyway? Why attempt (they can say no and face the consequences, apparently) to get DNA samples from every pro rider? From where I sit the DNA samples constitute - firstly - a better way to label samples, so we get one step away from allegations of tampered-with samples, altered labels, switched samples and simple mistakes. Of course it's not foolproof but it's better than what we have (so goes the argument).

Secondly - assuming we get appropriate samples, ie including mitochondrial DNA - it gives us the opportunity to monitor the genetic performance enhancement that is bound to come - sooner rather than later.

This has got to be a step forward for fairness and correctness in process, surely? So why would an athlete say no?
  • Firstly, privacy. It's their DNA after all and it remains a very personal 'invasion' in many minds. It's the map of your genetic heritage for starters. It's like handing over your passport, your tax files and the password to your email accounts plus your entire family tree. To a body you may not entirely trust. You don't do it at the drop of a hat, do you?
  • Secondly, fear of another sort of 'labelling'. Criminals are asked for DNA samples, not the general public. So in some people's minds it is tantamount to saying that the althlete is already guilty - or very likely to be.
  • Thirdly, mistrust of 'the system'. Arguably neither the UCI nor WADA have shown themselves to be on the side of professional cyclists. If your livelihood was at stake, would you blithely agree to whatever was asked? Given the doubts raised about false positive testing, unless and until such doubts are erased - and trust rebuilt - we are only adding another potential flaw to a flawed system. Worse, DNA 'confirmation' of a positive test, when in fact the DNA test may at best only 'prove' the existence of a certain DNA signature, may lend weight to what could in fact be a false positive. It looks and sounds very scientific, so it may persuade some to believe more readily of the "guilt" of those tested.
  • Lastly - although I'm sure we'll think of more reasons with the passage of time - they (the athletes) may actually have something to hide.

So what could we do to assuage some fears and remove the doubts?

Perhaps we need to distance the DNA testing -if not all testing - from the UCI itself and place the responsibility of taking and securely keeping all DNA sampling with a new trusted 3rd party. Whatever form that body may take it can't be allied with the UCI, WADA or any of the labs that do the testing. It needs to be a neutral body and clearly seen to be be so.

We also need to do some effective communication, not just with the riders or athletes in other sports but with the community in general. And get the heat out of the situation. And build trust between all parties. Which may mean no more grandstanding by politicians or frenzied over-reaction by the press. It may also mean that protocols are religiously followed by all parties - with no "leaks", no shortcuts in the system that muddy the waters with unnecessary side issues of unfair treatment.

Hmmmm. Sounds like a tall order to me. Do we have the resolve to do it?

Friday, November 03, 2006

Drugs in cycling - Landis et al

It just seems to go on an on, this business of drugs in sport. As I've said before, I feel for Floyd Landis as he had reached his goal only to have it snatched away moments later. I felt similar - but angrier - about Marco Pantani when he was cruelly robbed of the Giro on the last stage (let alone how I felt when 'the accusers' finally did him in; whatever the truth of the matter, he clearly felt persecuted). And I feel sympathy for all who stand accused of drug cheating. Yet my sympathy is balanced by a recognition that the law is the law and that we must play by all of the rules, not just some of them.

So when I exceed the speed limit in my car - something I rarely do by the way as it raises the accident risk exponentially (and if you think otherwise you are not thinking it through) - I recognise that I am breaking a law and may be punished for my actions. Rule of law aside, it's also unfair to the community; to risk those around me by my self-motivated actions alone. And it's unfair to simply pass the drivers who are not speeding as it is the vehicular equivalent of 'queue-jumping'. Why would you think it's OK to queue-jump in a car? No matter how you look at it, it's cheating the system and putting everyone else down. You could take an economist's view and say that you are prepared to wear the marginal economic cost of the speeding ticket in order to achieve some competitive advantage, but only a small percentage of speeders are caught, so the marginal cost is inequitably applied. Which is to say it's an imperfect market and - alas - simply cheating again.

Similarly if we do take our chances and take performance enhancing drugs we are not just breaking the law but putting others in jeopardy (by modelling poor behaviour to young riders) and taking an unfair advantage over those who respect 'the law'. It becomes an ethical question. Do I behave ethically and fairly to all, or do I act alone to take an advantage over others?

None of which helps us decide any of the outstanding cases. If we are to have a controlled situation then we need to control every participant equally and fairly. It means taking blood and perhaps tissue samples from everyone and keeping them throughout our careers - amateur as well as pro. It may mean taking a DNA sample as a signature by which we can verify exactly whose sample we are testing. Indeed, given the possibilities of genetic performance manipulation a DNA sample will become essential in the near future. If we don't do that then we risk the current farce continuing - or escalating - despite what others may argue. Not just in cycling but in every sport. The alternative? Let the whole issue drop and change the rules to embrace the cheats.

More of my drug-related ramblings here. (Drug-related but not drug-induced, though.)

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Felt F1C carbon bike review

Ok, I have a Felt in my stable. It's a 2003 model - all aluminium, bar the forks. It's light (around 7.8kg equipped with Mavic clinchers) and fast - well it feels fast to slow old me! In comparison with my 1990 Look KG76 it's a shade lighter and far, far stiffer. Around my test loop the Felt is quick but bouncy - it fairly leaps off the potholes. Whereas the Look tends to absorb the impacts better (feeling more like my old 1985 Colnago Mexico). If I am riding 100-200km I'd choose the Look. For a crit, the Felt.

So that's the background. Now here's a CN review of a bike I've seen and enjoyed looking at... the Felt F1C. It's carbon, all over. It's tempting, but in a more utilitarian way than the latest Looks or Orbeas. It's just a neat, fast, fairly traditional machine at a good price. I'd have one!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Trackie Chris Hoy rides L'Alpe D'Huez

And says that once is enough. Excellent interview by RCUK for both track newbies and regulars.. Chris Hoy covers his training and race preparation as well as the Etape up L'Alpe.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Drugs in sport - again

And again. Can't seem to escape this one. Now the authors of LA Confidentiel are at it again. Like a dog with a bone. LA replies (via CN):Armstrong, who, despite having retired from the sport, continues to find himself defending his reputation, said "I raced clean. I won clean. I am the most tested athlete in the history of sports. I have defended myself and won every court case to prove I was clean. Yet another French book with baseless, sensational and rejected allegations will not overcome the truth."

Meanwhile, I remember ex-Pro Jonathan Vaughters writing in (I think) ProCycling mag about 5 years ago, calculating LA's assault on L'Alpe D'Huez and expressing great surprise at the phenomenal power output required. More recently we have this exchange (reported again in between Jonathan and Frankie Andreu about rumoured drug abuse in Armstrong's team. It's all hearsay, all gossip, as Jonathan says several times to emphasise the point.

Fascinating, if a bit bleak and cheerless when you think about it.

Monday, October 16, 2006

I want one

Power readings without fitting hassles? Without high cost as well? Hmmmm. Check out iBike Pro. I'm thinking about it. Looks really easy to install. Just screw it on like a bike computer, with a wheel sensor as well. Then weigh yourself and your bike. Add that data plus altitude if known, and do some flat road tests to calibrate the thing and... bingo!

From most expensive to cheapest, your power measurement options (as I understand them) are now:
  1. Power measured off the cranks (most expensive, and you are stuck with it on that bike unless you want to do some major component-swapping - but surely the most accurate way to do it)
  2. Or from the rear wheel with a hub-embedded accelerometer (slightly easier to swap from bike to bike)
  3. Or by measuring chain tension (using optical sensors), a bit fiddly but cheaper
  4. Or by calculating power from base data (speed, resistance, altitude, temperature and angle of climb)
Take your pick! The calculating (vs measuring) options are certainly cheaper but rely upon the accuracy of the inputs - and some of that relies upon you. The ibike Pro works like that, as does the HAC4, although the iBike seems to do it continuously whereas I understand the HAC4 only calculates power on climbs. Feel free to comment!

Crono des Nations

Some late season results... McGee 3 minutes off the pace in a 48km TT - not unexpected. And Kathy Watt just ahead of Jeannie Longo...amazing. None of them winners this time around but fascinating anyway. CN report here.

And the winner was Gerrans, again

I watched it live on Aussie TV and it was good, very good. It went all the way to the last sprint which McEwen won, of course, with Gerrans 3rd to clinch victory. (CN report here.) It was 90minutes worth watching. If only I was that fit!

Floyd Landis releases his case files

You want to read some interesting case notes? Well Floyd has put 'em out there on the web! It's nice to see such transparency. I certainly feel for the guy if he's innocent, and it's certainly been badly handled all round... but if he is just making a PR splash in the hope of twisting public opinion... well, anyway, let's presume he thinks openness is best. I suspect we'd like to see many riders, both past and present, open up on the truth, too.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The SunTour hots up

It's all coming to a close - and it's sooo close. There are probably 4 riders with a red-hot chance of winning overall and just 6 seconds to play with the bonus sprints will be hard-fought. Cyclingnews reviews yesterday's TT here.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

The Who record Pictures of Lily - not exactly bike racing is it?

It's 1967 folks and The Who are recording Pictures of Lily... well I like it anyway!!!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Cervelo's video site

I don't usually do plugs but I am impressed by Cervelo's video web sites. The bikes are nice, too, but I don't have one - I own an aluminium Felt, a 16-year old Look carbon and a Saronni/Colnago track bike instead. So I'm not biased towards Cervelo in any way, other than they seem to be nice people ;-)

From their newsletter - check that out too:

The Tour may be over, but the new videos keep on pouring in at There are three new videos from the Deutschland Tour in the Team CSC section (and we really recommend Stage 6 if you want to see some tenacious climbing efforts by Jens Voigt, who will bend but won’t break). There are also some more videos in the Cycling 101 section, including clips about where Team CSC’s mechanics, soigneurs and team directors spend their time.

Aside from the regular clips on, there are loads of new videos in the section as well. Dave Zabriskie, Levi Leipheimer, Carlos Sastre and Fränk Schleck attempt to draw their first bikes, the final DZ music video is up, and there is a new Testing music clip. And last (and probably also least), there is a clip of Team CSC’s team building coach B.S. Christiansen getting in trouble.

Monday, September 25, 2006

World Champs, Goulburn etc etc

Better mention a few things.. like Olympic champ Bettini now World champ as well. And Jongewaard wins the Goulburn in awful conditions. It was 34degrees with winds gusting around 100kmh - from in front and to the side. It wasn't pretty. Reports from Cyclingnews.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Aussies in top 6, Tour of Hokkaido

Check out the CN report here. McConnell (3rd) and Sulzberger (6th) do well overall for in a tough stage race.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Luke Roberts

Must mention this win by Luke Roberts for CSC at the 3-Lander tour in Germany. Link to CN.

Vinokourov takes it!

The Vuelta has been run and won with Vinokourov taking his first Grand Tour. Thankfully it was a race, not a drug fiasco...
Most links to Cyclingnews unless stated (usually Pez).

Stage 1. The TTT. CSC win, Sastre takes the jersey.
Stage 2. First road stage and McEwen launches too early. Bettini takes it, Hushovd leads overall.
Stage 3. Ventoso suprises in the sprint. No change to the lead.
Stage 4. More amazement as Zabel takes his first big win in 3 years.
Stage 5. We hit the mountains and Di Luca takes it and leads on GC! Pez report here. McEwen, tired after a long season, went outside the time limit on stage 5.
Stage 6. A win for Hushovd.
Stage 7. Valverde wins the stage but Discovery take the lead. Valverde and Sastre within 10 secs of the lead. For how long will Brajkovic last?
Stage 8. Vinokourov (Astana) gets it right this time. Brajkovic leads - tough stage in the mountains to come.
Stage 9. Vino again! Valverde close and nabs the maillot oro. Pez report here.
Stage 10. Paulinho for Astana, again! Valverde leads.
Stage 11. Valverde leads, Martinez gets a win for Disco.
Stage 12. Valverde has it under control. Paolini gets a win for Liquigas.
Stage 13. Sanchez for Euskaltel wins, Valverde on top.
Stage 14. Millar wins a comeback TT, Valverde defends the lead.
Stage 15. Forster wins, O'Grady 2nd. Valverde leads.
Stage 16. Igor Anton wins, Valverde strengthens lead.
Stage 17. Boilover. Danielson discovers some climbing form and Vinokourov takes the GC lead.
Stage 18. Astana Day. Kashechkin wins, Vino consolidates.
Stage 19. Arietta from Ag2r takes the win. Vino in control.
Stage 20. Vino takes the TT and takes control. Valverde close but no cigar.
Stage 21. Zabel takes his 2nd win, Vino wins his first Grand Tour. Valverde 2nd overall. Sastre impressive having ridden all 3 grand tours this year. He must be tired...

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Bizarre but true - Miss Ciclismo

Well I find it bizarre anyway. I don't think there's an equivalent male cyclist's site, although there are several where you can post your favourite bike photos... anyway, I stumbled over Miss Ciclismo and thought I'd share.

The Vuelta again

Most links to Cyclingnews unless stated (usually Pez).

Stage 1. The TTT. CSC win, Sastre takes the jersey.
Stage 2. First road stage and McEwen launches too early. Bettini takes it, Hushovd leads overall.
Stage 3. Ventoso suprises in the sprint. No change to the lead.
Stage 4. More amazement as Zabel takes his first big win in 3 years.
Stage 5. We hit the mountains and Di Luca takes it and leads on GC! Pez report here. McEwen, tired after a long season, went outside the time limit on stage 5.
Stage 6. A win for Hushovd.
Stage 7. Valverde wins the stage but Discovery take the lead. Valverde and Sastre within 10 secs of the lead. For how long will Brajkovic last?
Stage 8. Vinokourov (Astana) gets it right this time. Brajkovic leads - tough stage in the mountains to come.
Stage 9. Vino again! Valverde close and nabs the maillot oro. Pez report here.
Stage 10. Paulinho for Astana, again! Valverde leads.
Stage 11. Valverde leads, Martinez gets a win for Disco.
Stage 12. Valverde has it under control. Paolini gets a win for Liquigas.
Stage 13. Sanchez for Euskaltel wins, Valverde on top.
Stage 14. Millar wins a comeback TT, Valverde defends the lead.
Stage 15. Forster wins, O'Grady 2nd. Valverde leads.
Stage 16. Igor Anton wins, Valverde strengthens lead.
Stage 17. Boilover. Danielson discovers some climbing form and Vinokourov takes the GC lead.
Stage 18. Astana Day. Kashechkin wins, Vino consolidates.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Friday, September 08, 2006

Plenty of Aussies in action

Don't miss the Tour of Poland this year... currently up to the 4th stage, there are plenty of top-ranked Aussies in action, including McGee, Vogels, White, Lowe, Gates, Gerrans and Evans. Evans is just 26 secs of the lead... with about 60 others. Stage 5 has a couple of climbs, which should get rid of the sprinters and open up the GC; and stage 6 has about 7 climbs, which will shake up the order again, probably significantly. Expect Evans to have a go on the last climb, if he's still in contact. Stage 8 is slightly easier but nevertheless tough with a series of uphills to sort everyone out again, including the climb to the finish. Overall it could suit (maybe, if the back is OK) McGee, Garzelli, Evans and even Mayo.

Wheels with an engine

OK, can't resist mentioning this video of an Alfa GTV6 on the track at Spa...

The Vuelta so far

Most links to Cyclingnews unless stated (usually Pez).

Stage 1. The TTT. CSC win, Sastre takes the jersey.
Stage 2. First road stage and McEwen launches too early. Bettini takes it, Hushovd leads overall.
Stage 3. Ventoso suprises in the sprint. No change to the lead.
Stage 4. More amazement as Zabel takes his first big win in 3 years.
Stage 5. We hit the mountains and Di Luca takes it and leads on GC! Pez report here. McEwen, tired after a long season, went outside the time limit on stage 5.
Stage 6. A win for Hushovd.
Stage 7. Valverde wins the stage but Discovery take the lead. Valverde and Sastre within 10 secs of the lead. For how long will Brajkovic last?
Stage 8. Vinokourov (Astana) gets it right this time. Brajkovic leads - tough stage in the mountains to come.
Stage 9. Vino again! Valverde close and nabs the maillot oro. Pez report here.
Stage 10. Paulinho for Astana, again! Valverde leads.
Stage 11. Valverde leads, Martinez gets a win for Disco.
Stage 12. Valverde has it under control. Paolini gets a win for Liquigas.
Stage 13. Sanchez for Euskaltel wins, Valverde on top.
Stage 14. Millar wins a comeback TT, Valverde defends the lead.
Stage 15. Forster wins, O'Grady 2nd. Valverde leads.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Nice opinionated piece on US Pro Champ RR

No so much a report (from Pez) as a rave on one bike fan's feelings about 'collusion' in a major bike race... still a fascinating read on how to ride a race. It shows you the tactics that can - and do - go on... and yes, even in a club race. Puts F1 motor racing in the shade ;-)

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Catching up with the Vuelta

So let's catch up. Most links to CN unless stated.

Stage 1. The TTT. CSC win, Sastre takes the jersey.
Stage 2. First road stage and McEwen launches too early. Bettini takes it, Hushovd leads overall.
Stage 3. Ventoso suprises in the sprint. No change to the lead.
Stage 4. More amazement as Zabel takes his first big win in 3 years.
Stage 5. We hit the mountains and Di Luca takes it and leads on GC! Pez report here. McEwen, tired after a long season, went outside the time limit on stage 5.
Stage 6. A win for Hushovd.
Stage 7. Valverde wins the stage but Discovery take the lead. Valverde and Sastre within 10 secs of the lead. For how long will Brajkovic last?
Stage 8. Vinokourov (Astana) gets it right this time. Brajkovic leads - tough stage in the mountains to come.
Stage 9. Vino again! Valverde close and nabs the maillot oro. Pez report here.
Stage 10. Paulinho for Astana, again! Valverde leads.
Stage 11. Valverde leads, Martinez gets a win for Disco.


First photos from Eurobike reveal some cool toys indeed... worth a look via RoadCyclingUK.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

I've been neglecting the Vuelta.

So let's catch up. Most links to CN unless stated.

Stage 1. The TTT. CSC win, Sastre takes the jersey.
Stage 2. First road stage and McEwen launches too early. Bettini takes it, Hushovd leads overall.
Stage 3. Ventoso suprises in the sprint. No change to the lead.
Stage 4. More amazement as Zabel takes his first big win in 3 years.
Stage 5. We hit the mountains and Di Luca takes it and leads on GC! Pez report here.
Stage 6. A win for Hushovd.

McEwen, tired after a long season, is outside the timelimit.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

TdF 2006 images

Some images of the 2006 Tour de France... not just of the racing but the colour and action of the event... images copyright Brett Lyons.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Rogers and T-Mobile on the charge

Good to see Mick Rogers attacking in style, taking his team leader to the
top of the GC of the Regio Tour (result via Cyclingnews):

Next up is a 23km TT. Should be interesting...

Another alternative to SRM

Fo power data freaks we have SRM (perhaps the ultimate bike accessory,
using force transducer-equipped cranks), PowerTap (using a
transducer-equipped re hub), Polar (least invasive, using optical sensing
of chain deflection) and now... Ergomo. It's optical, but it's inside the
BB! Check it out at

OK, you can also use 'manual' calculations based on effort over time, like
the HAC4 does. That's the cheapest, lightest and probably least accurate
way to do it.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Lance vs Jan - high spin or low spin?

In considering the causes of cramping, one possibility is fatigue brought about by too-high (ie harder to push) gearing. The authors of this article examined "patterns of leg muscle recruitment and co-activation, and the relationship between muscle recruitment and cadence, in highly trained cyclists". They tested at "individual preferred cadence, 57.5, 77.5 and 92.5 revs min" using (one hopes) carefully placed electrodes. Sounds cool as well. And the findings? Well the authors say that "muscle recruitment patterns varied from those previously reported, but there was little variation in muscle recruitment between these highly trained cyclists". Specifically the "tibialis posterior, peroneus longus and soleus were recruited in a single, short burst of activity during the downstroke" and that "the tibialis anterior and gastrocnemius lateralis were recruited in a biphasic and alternating manner". They found that "contrary to existing hypotheses, our results indicate little co-activation between the tibialis posterior and peroneus longus".

So far so good. Muscle recruitment is important from many angles, not simply as an academic pursuit but as an aid to understanding how it is we can generate the power that we do and applying that understanding in coaching athletes in optimal patterns of training. Such understanding would also help avoid injury as well as assist in faster healing after injury.

Anyway, the authors found that "peak EMG amplitude increased linearly with cadence and did not decrease at individual preferred cadence. There was little variation in patterns of muscle recruitment or co-activation with changes in cadence". I take this to mean that most elite cyclists use the same muscles and that varying cadence does not significantly change the pattern of recruitment. In other words you are still using the same muscles, irrespective of the tested cadences.

Reference: Leg muscle recruitment in highly trained cyclists.
Authors: Chapman, Vicenzino, Blanch, Knox and Hodges from the Division of Physiotherapy, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, QLD, Australia and the Department of Physical Therapies, Australian Institute of Sport, Bruce, ACT, Australia.
Source: Journal of Sports Sciences; Feb2006, Vol. 24 Issue 2, p115-124

My view: For me this means that Lance Armstrong spinning at 110 revs/minute is probably using the same muscles as Jan Ullrich at 90 revs/minute. It's important to pin that down. Higher cadences do not necessarily mean a different arrangement of muscles doing the work.
Beyond that important point, there are neuromuscular factors involved as well as the lower per-rev power output at higher revs, so a comparison and conclusion Lance vs Jan isn't going to happen here. However I think it's interesting to note that seating position could affect the outcome. To me Jan looks cramped on the bike. Highly effective but a little less comfy than Lance. Perhaps (this is me postulating, not the authors above!) position will be a defining factor and possibly cadence is less important to the ultimate outcome than we have imagined. Any professional opinions on this out there?

Creatine Supplementation Reduces Muscle Inosine Monophosphate during Endurance Exercise in Humans

Thinking about cramping and supplements, Creatine is sometimes implicated in some cramping events. If it's possibly going to cause cramps we should ask, does Creatine supplementation actually work?

Firstly it has been shown in past studies that Creatine supplementation will attenuate increases in plasma ammonia and hypoxanthine during intense endurance exercise lasting 1 hour. So it seems reasonable to suggest that Creatine supplementation may indeed improve muscle energy balance during such exercise - it's worth testing.

The authors report that Creatine supplementation significantly increased muscle total Creatine, however no difference was seen between treatments after the first 45 min of exercise. They conclude that "raising muscle
total Creatine content before exercise appears to improve the ability of the muscle to maintain energy balance during intense aerobic exercise, but not during more moderate exercise intensities".

Title:Creatine Supplementation Reduces Muscle Inosine Monophosphate during Endurance Exercise in Humans.
Authors: McConell, Shinewell, Stephens, Stathis, Canny and Snow
From: Department of Physiology, Monash University; Department of Physiology, University of Melbourne;
Exercise Metabolism Unit, Centre for Rehabilitation, Exercise and Sport Science, Victoria University of Technology; School of Health Sciences, Deakin University.
Source: Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise; Dec2005, Vol. 37
Issue 12, p2054-2061

My take on this is that Creatine supplementation appears to work in maintaining a balance in the ATP cycle during the intense 1 hour efforts that have been tested. This sounds like an A or B grader may benefit in a 1 hour criterium, for example. They may have more energy freely available at the end of the race and secondly (my guess!) may recharge quicker afterwards. However there's no benefit below one hour or at moderate rather than intense efforts. As always, tread carefully if you try any supplementation - and seek a wide range of advice beforehand.

posted by gtveloce at 1/25/2006 04:23:00 AM | links to this post

Cycling and cramping

Within 20km of the finish of the 200km Goulburn to Liverpool, NSW race (some 20 years ago now) my thighs were seized by crippling pain. I'd had a few warning cramps but these were completely show-stopping. Well maybe not completely. By shifting the load onto other muscles I eventually got to the finish. Other than that one memorable time I have had cramps in my calves when standing on a big gear in a sprint, and post-race sitting in a chair. Why?

Firstly, what is a cramp? OK, obviously they are strong, involuntary muscle contractions that commonly occur during or shortly after hard exercise, or when cold. Most cyclists - but not all - get them in the quads, hamstrings and calves (or like me, in the feet!). They can really hurt, really suddenly.

One theory of "cause" is that as a muscle fatigues, the brain sends more and more signals telling that muscle to contract to get the same strength of contraction, ie to get the desired result. The theory goes that when the muscle becomes utterly fatigued the brain sends a continuous contraction signal, which initiates a cramp. It could also be a protective mechanism. "I've reached my limit or I'm damaged", says the muscle, or the nervous system; and so it locks up so it can't be used. Great news if you are bike racing, eh, and the quads are calling it quits?

So, it's not good, but maybe we need to get 'em sometimes. But how do we avoid them?

Firstly, avoid muscle fatigue in the first place. Ask yourself, which muscles are prone to cramping? Can I shift the load more evenly?

Secondly, ask yourself when is it that you cramp? Is it toward the end of a long or hard ride, or only when racing? It may be that you have simply not trained adequately for the distance or the intensity of your riding. Some people cramp just before or during the sprint, for example. A 30km race is a lot more intense than a 30km training ride, so gradually up your training intensity. Upping the training distance may help push your limits as well. But make changes gradually, by increments, not in one huge leap!

You may cramp when pushing a big gear. Perhaps your cadence is too low? Try using lower gears to help get some spin back. Try not to drop below 85rpm. Whilst your endurance is measurably better at lower cadences the effort per rotation is greater. So strike a balance that offers easier pressure on the pedals by going for more spin.

Ask also if you are dehydrated, have depleted your electrolytes or have run out of energy. This is basic. Don't get dehydrated - you lose power and it may bring on cramps. And don't "bonk" (the cycling version of 'hitting the wall') or run out of energy. Keep eating carbohydrate rich foods during your rides. Your needs will vary with intensity and training, but 1-2 energy bars or satchels every 25km seems to be enough for my purposes. Certainly eat at the start of the ride, but not so much that you want to vomit when the racing starts! You are just topping up, not pigging out. Eat a main meal 2 hours before riding. This pattern of eating should also fix your electrolytes, but on a really hot day consider electrolyte-balanced sports drinks instead of water.

A lack of calcium is also implicated in cramping. As calcium is needed for strong bones and teeth you may as well consider a supplement. Cycling is non-weight bearing so you need to consider some calcium supplementation as well as some running, skipping or weights to help keep your calcium balance.

Other reputed causes of cramping include various medications and inappropriate supplementation. Regular stretching of muscles may reduce cramping (but for me that causes them!).

And of course avoid the cold or any position thats cuts off your circulation. Stretching cold muscles almost always brings on a cramp for me; as does sitting in chairs with high support under the knee. I think it cuts off or limits blood flow around the hamstring... add in a fatigued muscle and whammo! Good luck!

2nd place for Henderson in NY

A 2nd place for Health Net's Greg Henderson... from Cyclingnews: Haedo continues sprinting to wins at Manhattan Beach By Mark Zalewski, North American Editor JJ Heado (Toyota-United Pro) Photo ©: Steve Cohen (Click for larger image) The forty-fifth edition of the Manhattan Beach Grand Prix, with its infamous hot dog-style course came down to another field sprint, which really means the race to the last 180 degree turn just 300 meters from the finish. And coming into that turn with the best position was Toyota-United's sprinting machine Juan Jose Haedo, who out-sprinted Greg Henderson (Health Net-Maxxis) for the NRC win.

Good result for Ben Day in Portugal

Worth noting a good result for Ben Day in Portugal... from Cyclingnews Stage 10 - August 15: Idanha-A-Nova -Castelo Branco ITT, 39.6 km Results 1 David Blanco (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana 53.54 2 Martin Garrido (Arg) Duja-Tavira 0.04 3 Ben Day (Aus) Carvalhelhos-Boavista 0.11 4 Juan Gomis (Spa) Comunidad Valenciana 1.00

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Aussie track sprint heroes

It's all go for the Aussie sprinters at the Los Angeles Cycling Classic in Carson, CA (August 13, 2006). Cyclingnews reports on Bayley, French, Perkins, Meares and McPherson here. Good 3rd place result for Josiah Ng from Malaysia, too.

Honchar vs Gonchar explained

So that's why the press alternately referred to T-Mobile TT supremo Gonchar as "Honchar"...
from Cyclingnews:

"One of the side-benefits of Gonchar's two stage wins and stint in the yellow jersey was that he got his name back. A typing error on his passport condemned him to being referred to as 'Honchar' for years. The fame that Tour success brings finally allowed him to set the record straight, "Yeah! In the last few years, people got used to calling me Honchar, especially in Italy, but that is not my name," he said."

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Brown wins again, Voigt wins overall

Good news all round, really. Graeme Brown has struggled as a pro in Europe, searching for form , some luck and a win that would lift his confidence and his profile. Rabobank has given him a platform this year - taking a bit of a gamble on a sprinter with the speed but not the greatest luck so far. Well Robbie McEwen was similarly unlucky - or unsupported - during his time at Rabo. Look at him now. Maybe Rabo management won't want to lose another sprint star and will re-sign Brownie for 2007?

And who wouldn't appreciate Jens Voigt winning the D-Tour? Read the report at

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

It's simple but it's fascinating

It may just be me but I keep stumbling over the Canberra Bicycle Museum site and finding myself reading all of the winners and places in various NSW cycling events going back to about 1904. Like I'm drawn to rediscover these names that haunt me... famous ones like Gary Sutton but also the clubbies that I have met or raced with, some semi-famous and others less noticed. Like Col Goldie, multiple state champ in the late 60s, who is "famous" to me (or infamous) as the Spiderman in the local Alfa Romeo owners club. People I race with now in C grade were state champs yonks ago. I find it fascinating... see what you think. Probably helps to have raced in NSW during the past 102 years, anyway!

Jens Voigt poised to win D-Tour

Go Jens!

Remarkable win likely here with Voigt hanging tough in the mountains and blitzing 'em in the TT. He's on fire, post Le Tour. Cyclingnews reports: Stage 7 - August 8: Bad Säckingen ITT, 40 km 'Jensi' takes it all The winner of this year's Deutschland Tour is Jens Voigt, and if there was anyone doubting his capabilities, he proved today that he was untouchable.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Brown wins Stage 4 in Germany

Graeme Brown finally delivers for Rabo (Cyclingnews quote and link): However, with 500 metres remaining, the field came back together, just in time for one last suicidal attempt from Jens Voigt (CSC). With that over before it even started, Australian Graeme Brown threw his bike across the line and took his first victory of the year, beating Schumacher and Zabel to the post.

What a relief! He's had his ups and downs, but he looks pretty happy about winning a stage of the Deutschland Tour. Renshaw was in the Top 5 and Zabel has taken the lead. Can he hold on over the mountains? You'd like to hope so, but with Vino one of many contenders just 48secs back, highly unlikely.

On Landis: It's hard to know who's clean, what with masking agents and autologous transfusions, and we have to trust the integrity of the sampling and testing procedure. So is it as robust as we'd like? Cyclingnews gives a rundown on the B sample result here:Christian Prudhomme, Director general of the Tour de France, said Landis is no longer considered champion of the 2006 event, but added: "Until he is found guilty or admits guilt, he will keep the yellow jersey. This is normal. You are not sanctioned before you are found guilty.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Other sports and doping

Because I can, I will comment on drugs, doping and what have you. It's just my opinion but I personally realised something was truly happening - as against being told by press or dodgy friends what "was" happening - when I spent time in an eastern suburbs gym in Sydney, building up for bike racing (more of a psychological boost than a physical one). This was the mid 1980's. These big, shiny, oily pimply guys were always there lifting massive weights (and gazing into mirrors) and they could sell you "stuff". It reminded me of 'under the stairs' deal at high school, actually, but different stuff. That other stuff you got at the pub and was detrimental to sports performance, or general sanity for that matter. (Not that I did, but some people did do that other stuff, anyway!)

So you could buy any sort of body-building drug at that particular gym, in my experience. Presumably other gyms as well. I also "knew" about the occasional cyclist's drink bottle ("bidon") that (it was suggested) contained alcohol, to give some sort of kick up hills or before a sprint. Don't know how effective it was, but a few people seemed to like it and claimed to "know". Bikes of course are build to carry bidons as well as riders and musette bags, but what about other sports?

'No-Doze' was also big in the '80s for that caffeine kick, and coffee itself gained notoriety in sports where being "aware" and awake was important. Again in cycling there were "special" bananas to be eaten just before a race finish. Now these were reputedly spiked with amphetamines, but who knows the truth? No-one did a laboratory analysis on this sort of stuff at the time and it may have been riders just bragging. But very, very few people were drug tested pre or post race, even at elite State level back then, so anything could have happened. (And I have yet to see a club-level drug test, even now. Tell me if you've seen one!)

So I can imagine, and it is just imagination fueled by innuendo and availability (particularly via the Internet), that some bike racers are using performance enhancing agents to "get noticed"; firstly at club level (basically weekly racing thoughout the year) and probably at State level. They would effectively get away with it. Testing remains something done at higher levels of the sport, not below. Not often, anyway, in my experience, would they get caught. On the other hand I have never myself seen a culture of drug use in cycling at first hand, beyond caffeine and stories of what other riders did. I heard about but didn't see the evidence.

Nevertheless we quite possibly get riders started on this stuff early and then they either chicken out, or get smarter. Or dumber? If there's money involved there's temptation. Of course cycling is not as "wealthy" as some other sports.

So what happens in other sports?

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Web resources - Roadcycling UK

An interesting take on the UK road and TT scene is to be found at RoadcyclingUK. Worth checking out. Here's a snippet on starting road racing in the UK:
Road Racing from scratch By RCUK "I could do that!" Almost invariably it's around the time of the three great tours that many occasional cyclists get so carried away by the unfolding drama, passion and competitive spirit of the Giro d'Italia,Tour de France and Spanish Vuelta that they picture themselves flying along in the midst of an illustrious bunch or riding with relative ease up steep mountain climbs with cheering crowds lining the road. At least that's what appears to be the case, even though you know that the apparent ease at which the riders are "flying" along at an average speed of 45k per hour is deceptive and the whole idea, in fact, may seem totally mad and completely and utterly out of my league - even more so as the prerequisite is incredibly hard training, unbelievable talent and a super-human physique. But cycling is all about sticking at it.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Landis stands accused of doping

Landis stands accused of doping - steroid abuse - following a failed test after the lone, brave attacking stage - and win - into Morzine. I hasten to add that it's all based on an A-sample at this stage and nothing is proven. Now, given that he has a serious hip condition I don't blame the guy for taking cortisol - an approved substance under the situation - or any reasonable dose of anything that gets him through the day; but at this level of performance and success you can't take any chances. Whether or not he did it deliberately we may never know - and the B-sample may yet prove negative - but even as an accidental side effect of medication, or drinking beer, or whatever - it's unacceptable. To try and clear it up post hoc and 'prove' that the steroid levels are 'natural' seems dubious at best. We will all be left asking 'why didn't this 'natural' level show up in other stages or at other times?'

There's an account (or 2 or 3) here: news and analysis

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Back to normal

It's all over and I can sleep again, but I am craving racing. When's the Vuelta?

This is an interesting quote: Lemond has certainly not hidden his feelings on Armstrong, and when asked who would win today between Landis, him and Armstrong, Lemond at first chuckled, "I am biased! I can't answer that, [laughs.]" But then Lemond got a little more serious. "Every race is different. The race changed dramatically this year. For me I am a strong anti-doping advocate. I think we are seeing a true Tour de France winner, someone who might have otherwise been cheated out of a win." From ESPN reported via Cyclingnews.

I've collected a few other Cyclingnews race reports that may interest you:
That gives you a bit of reading, eh?

Monday, July 24, 2006

Stage 20 - Le Tour 2006 - the dust settles

The dust has settled and it's a little bit of new and a little bit of old. An American has - again! - won overall and - again, again! - it's an Aussie in Green. The Polka dot has again gone to last year's top climber. And the final stage was won by last year's Green jersey winner. It all seems strangely familiar after 3 weeks of tumult!

Meanwhile the white was taken by Cunego - a newcomer with a bright future. And Pereiro kept his 2nd place intact whilst Kloden took 3rd. Floyd Landis may not return next year and question marks will surround Ullrich and Basso for sometime. It's been a strange tour without the dominant players - and losing Vinokourov as well meant even more instability. When Valverde was injured we all wondered if anyone would survive this tour. But they did and the excitement along the way was palpable.

Roll on the 2006 Vuelta!

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Stage 19 - Le Tour 2006 - the TT decides

Gonchar wins the TT from Kloden but Landis lands the big prize.

Floyd Landis (Phonak) is poised to take his first ever Tour de France win overall, after finishing third in the time trial between Le Creusot and Montceau-les-Mines. Serguei Gonchar (T-Mobile) was first and it was 41 seconds back to Andreas Kloden (T-Mobile). Maillot jaune Oscar Pereiro (Caisse d'Epargne) fought on but couldn't hold back the charging Landis, ultimately finishing a disappointing but otherwise unexpectedly great fourth on the day, 2m40s behind Gonchar and 1m29s behind Landis.

Barring the utterly amazing (who could deny the possibility though!) Landis is unbeatable at 59 seconds up on Pereiro and 1m29s on Kloden. CSC's Carlos Sastre is now in fourth, 3m13s behind Landis. If the cruise to Paris is as cruisy as usual Floyd will win. It is unlikely that the usual last day true will be broken, and intermediate and stage-winning points are insufficient to change the order. We've swapped one US winner for another!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Stage 18 - Le Tour 2006 - Status Quo

Matteo Tosatto won, but behind only Levi Leipheimer profited significantly to lift himself up to 13th overall. Otherwise status quo.

Looking at what could happen tomorrow in the TT is more interesting.

Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears leads Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC by 12secs and Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak by 30s. Only if Floyd has a truly bad day, falls once and and punctures twice could he not expect to beat Pereiro and Sastre. Pereiro and Sastre instead will do their best - probably better than they have ever done, and limit losses. Since Landis was about 1m 40s quicker than Pereiro in the shorter TT in stage 7, let's assume at least that sort of result again, even though the longer distance probably favours Landis. Which would put Floyd in yellow, Pereiro 2nd.

Sastre, however, was 30seconds faster than Pereiro. So now we have Landis first, Sastre 2nd and Pereiro 3rd. However we must factor in Andreas Kloden (Ger) T-Mobile at 2m29s and Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto at 3m08s on GC. Using our previous 'same time gap as for stage 7' assumption, Kloden would make up just 25 secs on Sastre and 54 secs on Pereiro. As the gap to Kloden is minutes, 2nd and 3rd is safe. Cadel was just 5secs behind Kloden in that TT so pretty much nothing changes their either. We thus have Landis 1st, Sastre 2nd, Pereiro 3rd, Kloden 4th and Evans 5th after tomorrow's (or today's now!) TT, if our assumption is correct.

The remainder of the top 10 are not a threat to the podium, but possibly threaten 4th and 5th place. Menchov is best placed to do that, but at 4m 14s back our assumption would rule out his success. He'll take 6th.

Of course it's the last roll of the dice, so all of this theory will come to nought. We have tired legs and a longer distance. We have a tougher course that may suit Evans over Kloden, for example. And may suit Kloden, Evans and Menchov over Sastre and Pereiro. Whilst it's unlikely, it's conceivable that 2nd and 3rd may be up for grabs to the freshest, fastest, hungriest TTer. And we could have punctures and crashes to contend with as well.

We shall soon find out.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Stage 17 - Le Tour 2006 - Floyd flies!

Landis! One bad day, and now he's all fired up to correct his mistake. This is how it should be, big brave attacks by key players. Cadel tried too but couldn't stay there. Oh well. Sastre dug in. Pereiro too. All out war tomorrow, or a truce? A decisive TT? A real race to Paris?

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Stage 16 - le Tour 2006 - Floyd falters

Floyd faltered, then cracked. You could see him try to take the initiative and then fall back. You could see him drifting to the back on the climbs. You could sense weakness but how could you be sure? Sastre put him to the sword, although Rasmussen had already flown. T-Mobile had sensed it too and stretched the lead pack out on the final climb, but it was the committed attack from Sastre - first man to take a serious gamble - that forced Floyd Landis to drift off the back and lose an incredible 10 minutes. Menchov fumbled as well.

Cadel Evans and Oscar Pereiro hitched a ride with Kloden as he chased Sastre. Desssel kept his head and rode beyond expectations. It was another boilover on the GC. Pereiro takes yellow back and is looking strong. Kloden and Evans hauled themselves up the GC ladder. Spectacular. Wonderful. A stage of surprises, courage and sadly, a few casualties.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Stage 15 - Le Tour 2006 - Alpe d'Huez

What a stage. Magnificent scenery, an 145km attack, a long chase and as always a spectacular launch up Alpe d'Huez with reputations made and lost. Cunego almost fulfilled his destiny but Schleck emphatically did. Landis and Kloden proved their form is top shelf and the others close but not close enough. Riders like Jens Voight, Dave Zabriskie and Axel Merckx played their team roles to perfection and ensured that the cream would rise to the top. And it did. And tomorrow's at least as hard!

So let's look at the top 18 or so on GC. Axel Merckx is 18th at 10min 25secs. He's a support rider doing his job for Floyd and Phonak. Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak is of course the leader overall and with his TT ability only has to match attacks from here to win the race. Oscar Pereiro (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears has dropped one place to 10secs back and Cyril Dessel (Fra) AG2R-Prevoyance has hung on gamely to take 3rd on GC at 2.02 back. Pereiro is the better climber so he may put up a fight from here, hoping to stay on the podium or top 5 at worst. However Dessel whilst motivated and fighting hard will surely sink out of the top 10 over the next 2 or 3 days.

Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank is close behind Dessel and remains a true contender. He is close enough to attack but Landis probably has him covered. Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC at 2.17 has proven he is close to his best in the climbs and has a good chance of top 5. Andreas Klöden (Ger) T-Mobile is at 2.29 and has finally demonstrated that he is a real contender - if only Stage 11 hadn't cost him such time! At 7th Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto is 2m56s back and looking to reverse his fortunes over the next 2 stages and cement a Top 5 with a great TT. He is a real chance if he loses no more time and - hopefully - goes on the attack.

Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile is way back at 5.01 and will ride support for Kloden. Still good for top 10 and may live up to expectations in the TT. The unfortunate Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner remains too far back at 6.18 - again, earlier losses continue to haunt him. All the usual comments apply... he should be in 3rd or 4th place, but isn't.

Thereafter we have Haimar Zubeldia (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi , Christophe Moreau (Fra) AG2R-Prevoyance, today's winner Frank Schleck (Lux) Team CSC , Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Discovery Channel, Juan Miguel Mercado (Spa) Agritubel , Marcus Fothen (Ger) Gerolsteiner, Michael Boogerd (Ned) Rabobank and Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis at 9.56 to round out the 'sub-10-minute' riders. Many of these are support riders, others are hoping to rise further up the GC. Any of these riders have a show of making the action or getting a slice of it.

The next 2 mountain stages will tell the tale. And the 57km TT will be the final roll of the dice.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Rest Day 2 - Le Tour 2006

It's nice to take a rest occasionally, isn't it? I do miss the action, though.

A have been asked to reflect upon the T-Mobile tactical 'blunder', and why the Italians always seem to falter at Le Tour, so I will!

Firstly, with regard to T-Mobile, they were probably too confident. They had multiple options to play, with so many guys up high in GC, so they attacked earlier rather than later thinking they could launch at least twice. Whereas Phonak only had one shot at it - Floyd - and couldn't attack early without risking losing everything. Same for Cadel. He has to be conservative and keep his powder dry until the last moment as he risks everything with any attack. I don't think we've yet seen the best of Cadel, or Sastre either. They missed the key final Leipheimer attack and couldn't - or perhaps decided not to - bury themselves and bridge the gap. Cadel knew he had time up his sleeve over all of these guys bar Landis, after all, so why waste the effort when a win was unlikely?

In hindsight it'd have been better for T-Mobile to wait - maybe - but then Menchov would've just saved his guys the trouble and hitched a ride on T-Mobile instead. Maybe Rasmussen, Menchov and company would've then won the stage with an attack in the last 2 kilometres, dropping a depleted T-Mobile in any case. At least T-Mobile took action and shed a few riders, making it clearer who was really in with a show. If they had waited maybe Mick Rogers wouldn't have lost so much time. But If Kloden hadn't cramped maybe he would've been up there anyway and we wouldn't be criticising their tactics at all?

I would've said the Giro was usually a better race with more attacking riding, but this Tour is shaping up as an exception. I don't really know why the Italians falter so spectactularly at Le Tour but have some ideas. (It seems hotter in July, for starters!) Pantani was an exception but so many of the Italians seem to have a problem that it's almost a national disease come July. In defence one could say that the Italians have already raced the Giro in May - it is their national tour after all - so they are probably depleted and less motivated, certainly less so than the French riders and les Anglos. Only the truly great riders back up and win both races, like Roche and Hinault. Armstrong didn't even try, which gives you a hint of the difficulty. Basso almost pulled it off last year, but few Italians take the tour as seriously as the Giro, especially when they are in Italian teams (which of course CSC isn't). Some riders who do well in Le Tour say that the Giro isn't as hard, that the competition in July is fiercer, but you rarely see 'em actually winning in May, either!

As well, this year's Tour has started on some seriously flat roads and has favoured the TT specialists especially, so the Italian mountain goats have had a tough time just getting to the mountain stages intact. Look how much time non-Italian Rasmussen has lost. It's rare to find a climber who can survive the flat sprinters stages and do well at TTs. Hincapie has trained for the climbs and made the same fall from grace. This year's race is made for the TTer who can climb as well - a rare breed. And once you've lost that much time in these long hot stages your motivation to get it back in the Alps may depend on how your team is feeling as well as how likely it is that you'll get enough time back to make up for what you've already lost. The Giro is more of a climbers race in that respect, with even the flat stages having significant hills. We may see the Italians having a crack at the Alps but it'll be for pride and a stage win. Most of 'em are now so far back that that's about the best we can hope for!

That's it from me!