Saturday, March 25, 2006

More on Vino

For the record, Vinokourov won the 21st Vuelta a Castilla y Leon overall, reports

Interesting to see young Aussie Trent Lowe (Discovery) just 26 secs back from Vino at the end of a very mountainous stage. Between Lowe and Vinokourov were riders of the caliber of Haimar Zubeldia, Luis Leon Sanchez, Egoi Martinez, José Azevedo, José Luis Rubiera and Yaroslav Popovych (the last 4 seemingly comprising most of the available Discovery Channel climbers!). Excellent result for Lowe.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Latest Euro race musings

Cyclingnews reported an interesting result from stage 3 of the 6th Settimana Ciclistica Internazionale Coppi-Bartali in Italy. Cunego grabbed the 165km stage and leads overall. What I found interesting was Mario Aerts (Bel) Davitamon-Lotto in 6th place on that stage, with Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile Team not far back in 9th, all with Cunego. Cunego has a bit of a sprint for such a good stage race climber. Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto was 23rd and Gene Bates (Aus) Team L.P.R. 25th. The top 11 places are within a minute of Cunego, including Aerts, Rogers and Evans.

So we have some good form on display to match what we have seen with Boonen, Bettini and Pettachi. Let's not ignore Vino either. Hmmmm. April, May, June and then Le Tour.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Commonwealth Games - part 2

So how does it feel to be beaten? I guess we all know that feeling as competitors - at least I hope all of my readers race, have raced, or hope to! The Commonwealth Games in Melbourne has given some hope and a little success to some competitors; and ground them down in others. Years of goal-setting, training and racing come down to your event and - unlike club racing where you get another crack at it maybe next week - then it's over. How does that feel, to miss a medal in a really big event? Is it OK to set a PB? Is it OK to simply do your best? The reporting on RoadCycling UK has been very personal and very British in orientation. It's worth a read.

All results are here, by the way, searchable by sport.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The poor poor car

I have to respond to this Sydney Morning Herald editorial titled "Something in the air", Friday March 17 2006. Whilst it's not specifically about bikes or bike-bashing (something the Herald is recently familiar with!) it reflects a pro-car media bias that not only reinforces the naive view that cars (and their drivers) are somehow "innocent" of environmental harm but does nothing to address the pollution and general bike-unfriendliness that comes with increasing traffic. The article begins with the sub-heading "Cars are demonised as the primary cause of pollution but are such claims true? JOHN CADOGAN dispels some myths". It's a good article in that it brings many interesting and useful pieces of information together, but it's thrust is biased - possibly by ignorance or simple laziness rather than intent - and consequently weak in its analysis. It's to be expected that journalists with an interest of any sort will find it easy to succumb to subjectivity but sad nonetheless that the "Drive" section of a popular Australian newspaper can only reinforce the current state of mind and cannot think beyond the short term.

OK, I like (and drive) cars. But we should also consider the crisis in species extinctions (including our own if we don't do something!), much but not all of it due to global warming; and the enormous damage that cars do to our local environment and our social structures (as in no-one walks any more, making our streets 'unsafe' and so on). To just blankly write off criticism is silly and impedes reasoned thought and action. To rebut the claim (whether it be true or not) that "Cars are demonised as the primary cause of pollution" with shallow analysis of just one aspect of a car's environmental footprint is overwhelmingly weak.

OK, I'll get to my point. This editorial makes a case for comparing the gross output volume of pollutants by cars with such things as energy generation and distribution. It (rightly)paints a bleak picture of Australia's greenhouse-unfriendly coal-fired power stations and draws the conclusion that the blame lies more fairly there, rather than with cars. Well, yes, we must do something about reducing all forms of greenhouse gas emission, but to compare power station gross output with the gases pumped out of cars is misleading. Cars do not just appear as if by magic. They are elaborately transformed by the application of energy to raw materials. They are shipped around as material, as parts and as final product. They are serviced and repaired, recycled and discarded. They also demand roads (with signage and policing), parking lots, fuel distribution and garaging. These are not inconsequential matters, in fact the fuel burn is likely to be just (grant me some license here) 30-60% of the total energy budget for each car (dependent on size and use). So the greenhouse emissions are likely be be up to 70% higher than what is quoted in the Herald editorial. It may be less, but not by much.

You could argue that we don't need to garage cars, but we do. When we had no cars we had stables and we had trams and trains - houses did not need 1, 2 or 3 car garages and we didn't build them. We also built narrower streets. Houses could be closer together, footpaths wider. Shops were closer to us and obesity rates were lower. We exercised more and shared more community resources, like transport. It's true that we'd still need roads for buses and trucks, and bike paths for cycles, but higher-standard roads and freeways would be much reduced in number and 'urban sprawl' much reduced. Don't think it'd work? How does New York City work? I'm not saying NYC is an ideal of any sort but they do manage quite nicely with low rates of car ownership.

Bottom line? You must factor in the whole footprint. We haven't even looked at death and injury and the resources needed to address these car-related 'aftershocks'. Cars "own" that footprint - something not reflected in this Herald editorial or in new car prices for that matter. Don't look at just one statistic and tell me that it proves anything. Proper analysis means doing some hard work. Do that analysis and write that article, it'd be very interesting to read.

Meanwhile, get on your bike!

The Commonwealth Games - part 1

My opinion only, but the track events were great to watch. Shame our local free-to-air TV broadcaster is so swimming-focussed, but that's my fault for not paying the extra for cable, isn't it? Finning taking an extraordinary 5 laps in the points race is a highlight, as were the sprint competitions. Cyclingnews covers the points race nicely.

The amazing thing (to me) about the Commonwealth Games is the all-inclusive nature. I like to see the times of the so-called 'also-rans'. Firstly it's great to see other nations encouraged to ride and secondly the times are realistically achievable by most of us in club-cycling. I find that reassuring!

For example the Fijian male sprinters recorded 200m times in the range 13.5-14.8 seconds. Now they had reportedly never seen the inside of a indoor velodrome before and probably have limited facilities back home, but it's still reassuring to see times that many of us could reasonably hope to achieve, too.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Milano-San Remo

OK, so Filippo Pozzato won. Cyclingnews says so.

Well we didn't pick that, but our earlier speculation about Boonen, Petacchi, Bettini and McEwen wasn't too far off. Sounds like McEwen got dropped on a climb, but it's a bit unclear yet. He does have a brokem rib, so that would make climbing a bit harder. Bettini had also suffered a fall in his previous race, so he may have been off form, too.

The upshot was that Alessandro Petacchi was 2nd, followed by Paolini and Boonen. Then Napolitano, Freire and Garzelli in that order. Thor Hushovd was 13th, Allan Davis 19th and Zabel 21st. Conclusions? Well Boonen wouldn't have been trying to pull back teammate Pozzato, so it's hard to draw an absolute conclusion about Boonen's vs Petacchi's form. Boonen had to protect Pozzato, not just win for himself. It gets complicated sometimes, doesn't it?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Peak capacity an indicator for longevity

Interesting article that suggests that a higher peak exercise capacity is an indicator for longevity. Good news for the active masters racers, eh?

The Stanford scientists involved followed up with each subject (all male, btw) up to 6 years later and found that after adjustment for age each man's individual exercise capacity was the best indication of longevity. The men with the lowest peak exercise capacities had almost 4 times the risk of death of men with the highest exercise capacities (and those men were rated with the equivalent of regular runners or fast cyclists with an aerobic capacity "better than jogging"). More here.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Stephen Roche interview at Pez

Folks, don't miss the Stephen Roche interview at Pez Cycling's website.

Meanwhile in other races

Let's wrap up with a few other results...

In Paris Nice we saw the continuing success of sprinter Tom Boonen. He looks unbeatable. So it'll be interesting to see how Tom goes against Petacchi, down the track. Robbie McEwen seems close to form, if his team can get him up front when it matters, too. Thor Hushovd and Oscar Freire are also on form. Milano-San Remo will be a real test. Just four days away!

In GC terms Floyd Landis went very well in Paris-Nice. Cyclingnews wrapped it up well. So Landis is hot. Too hot for March, perhaps? He clearly will have a peak, hold it, then rest prior to July. Note that PN was bitterly cold in parts and perhaps this race isn't as indicative as TA. Basso (raced the TA) has the greater problem of holding form for both the Giro and Le Tour, so it'll be interesting. Perhaps someone else (let's say Cadel Evans)will be cagier and stay out of harm's way for a few more months and peak later?

So what would Armstrong have been doing? Everyone's different in their goals and physiological adaptation, but a quiet Armstrong at this stage would not have surprised. Certainly Jan Ullrich isn't in a hurry to get back to the fray, despite the top GC riders already 'out there'.

Note also that until he crashed in stage 3 of TA, Bettini was also unstoppable in the uphill sprints.

It's worth looking at the top 10

It's interesting to see who was where at Tirreno Adriatico in the final General Classification.

Thomas Dekker (Ned) Rabobank was first, a great ride by the youngster. 2nd was Jorg Jaksche (Ger) Liberty Seguros-Wurth Team, just 14secs off the pace and yet more proof of Jorg's stage-race abilities. Alessandro Ballan (Ita) Lampre-Fondital was 3rd and Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel was 4th. Interesting to see Paolo doing well at this stage of the year. Then Michael Boogerd, Rabobank, Bertagnolli of Cofidis and Ivan Basso Team CSC. Basso is clearly aiming at the Giro for 2006, so we expect to see him.

Seventh place was George Hincapie for Discovery Channel, then Karsten Kroon (Ned) Team CSC and Tom Danielson also Discovery Channel. Whilst we expect to see Hincapie getting stuck into the early season classics, Tom's also looking the goods for the bigger stage races. The top 10 were all within one minute of the leader.

Tirreno Adriatico

Seems like a good time to take a look at recent race results. We are poised at the beginning of the Commonwealth Games, of course, but also now well into the European pro season.

Alessandro Petacchi has won the last stage of Tirreno Adriatico with 'Dekker the younger' (ie Thomas!) taking the overall GC. Petacchi has taken a swag of firsts in this race, with his teammate Erik Zabel picking up many of the 2nd places (but not this time). Zabel seems to be Petacchi's prime lead out man - and perfectly positioned to mop up one of the remaining podium places for Team Milram. So we can say that both Petacchi and Zabel have some good tactics, form and confidence early in the season. With Classicissima Milano-Sanremo coming up fast that's important.

We should mention that Robbie McEwen (Davitamon-Lotto) and Paride Grillo (Ceramica Panaria-Navigare) got second and third on the line in this stage - an indication in Robbie's case that his form is OK. Rabobank's Thomas Dekker won overall with Liberty Seguros's Jörg Jaksche missing out by only 14 seconds. So it's a good start for the young guys, too.

Factors to consider: it's been cold, not everyone rides well in the cold! It's early in the season: not everyone is at 100% and some teams are still discovering how new riders fit in. Shows how important the pre-season team building is, and how early-season prep can pay off. But will the hot guys last the season, or will they go off the boil in a month or 2?

Mustn't forget that until he crashed in stage 3 of TA, Bettini was also unstoppable in the uphill sprints. It would have been a different race if the Cricket had raced to the end.

Pez has a good rave about the TA here and Cyclingnews covers the race as well.