Saturday, December 29, 2007

the race data, of course

A win is nothing without data, eh?

OK, D-grade crits at the CCCC are short - 30mins plus a lap (another 2km, so about 16-17km). We start with the "D1" kids and drop 'em off after 2 or 3 laps, so we start slow, slow but then speed up. It was 32 degrees Celsius off the tar at 6pm - hot. And the wind was 30kmh from the NE. I was on the Felt F-50.

I dump my ibike data into a spreadsheet, so it comes out like this:
MAX power
AV (all)
Max power is peak power. With the ibike it's susceptible to lifting wheels, and the combination of pulling up on the bars on an 8% hill during a max effort bridge to the attacker probably distorted the real power... so let's say it was 1,000W anyway, if not 1,400.

The all-up average treats coasting as part of the race, hence Av (all) is just 104W but (Average (>0W) removes all zeroes... which is more 'real'. 151W still sounds low - but we did start slow!!

That's my own normalisation formula, by the way, and definitely a WIP. As a relative measure it gives me a way to judge between efforts. It emphasises the middle over the high-end of the power output range and tries to indicate real effort - all soft-pedalling or coasting is removed and we are looking at just the real "training" load, but I haven't yet perfected a way to recognise effort over time... so short rides are favoured over long ones. I'm working on it.
600-700W 0.15%
500-600W 0.46%
400-500W 2.49%
300-400W 7.02%
200-300W 12.57%
100-200W 32.88%
0-100W 43.51%
This breaks-down the power into steps. I can see that 43% of my race was coasting or drafting (0-100W). When training I seek to minimise this figure, to actively eliminate those slack periods, In a race I take full advantage of these "rests".

You can also see that there were only a few 600W+ efforts, and the 300 and 400W steps represent the once-per-lap climbs. Knowing all of this allows me to finetune my training to meet my race needs, although C-grade may well be more "attacking" and both the averages and the peaks will be higher (and more frequent in terms of peaks).
695 VAM (max)/hr
10.5 Slope % (max)
-0.44 Slope % (average)
32 ALTITUDE (max)

50.53 VELOCITY (max)

25.0 VELOCITY (average)

The VAM is useless - not enough hills! But the 50.53kmh peak velocity in the sprint in useful. The 25kmh average is misleading as it covers 20km - warm-up, race and cool-down. The race itself averaged 32kmh (slow, I know, don't rub it in).

A win is a win is a win...

Yes folks, after 250,000km over about 35 years of riding, at 50 years of age and after suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune I actually chalked up another win. Trust me, a win in a D-grade crit is as good as A-grade when you are 50 and only manage 100km road kilometres in a good week!

It's also nice to explain how and why. Firstly, I haven't been well or consistent in my recent training so...
  1. I took it easy
  2. I warmed up
  3. I made sure I gritted my teeth only when absolutely necessary
  4. When ready I had a few digs to see how my body would react (and see how the others were going)
  5. I found I could manage 350-400W up the short climb once every 2km lap and recover in time for the 36-40kmh slight 1km climb, even when leading the bunch
  6. However I was hitting 175-180bpm and feeling stretched (192pbm is my upper limit)
  7. So I took every breather I could
  8. But I let no-one get away
  9. I stayed up front (easy after the first third of the race as we were down to just 4 in the lead bunch)
  10. I was vigilant
  11. I anticipated attacks up the long straight and the final, crucial attack up the steepest part of the last hill
  12. I used 1400W (probably lifted the front wheel - let's say 1,000W) in one burst on the 8% hill to get on the right wheel
  13. I stayed on that wheel and they (thanks Arron) towed me over the top and down to the finish straight
  14. I waited and waited and then crept over my lead out just before the line (500W into a headwind but down a 4% hill)
  15. And threw the bike to pass him for the win - just.
If I could sum it up, applicable in all grades - don't get dropped, save your energy for when it matters, get on the right wheel and come off the wheel at the right time. Easy, eh?

Monday, December 17, 2007

Whitewashed at Cronulla

I must keep a tally of these fortunate riders who win their final pro races to end their careers on a fairytale high. It's very un-Australian to do it, though. Real Aussies make a duck in their last innings, like Bradman. Anyway, Whitey's done it and I missed it 'cause I had a commitment to my almost-9 year old daughter and her latest ballet performance. Such is life (another Aussie tradition, look it up.)

But my non-attendance won't stop me saying 'well done'. I've never knowingly raced or ridden with Matt White (maybe I was at the back of a training bunch once or twice) but he's been part of the local scenery for yonks. Whilst I'm impressed with Matt's career and his final win I do have to say it amuses me to see riders take out these heart-stopping finales. I always think of the tour-Tour crits and the shenanigans that go on to please the crowd (what, you mean they aren't for real?). And interestingly this was not just Matt's last win as a pro, he's also very much a local to the district. So it's a win all round. A good news story when cycling's got some much-needed but rare local commercial TV coverage. But whatever really went on during that final breakaway, the trick here is to look real. And to me, from what I did see, it was convincing.

From Australian Matt White (Discovery Channel) has ended his professional career on the highest of notes, taking victory at the Cronulla International Grand Prix an event staged in Sydney's Sutherland Shire, home to White and many other professional cyclists. The victory on his home's shores served to bookend White's career. The 33 year-old claimed his first major win at the Under 17 Road Team Time Trial component of the 1990 Australian Titles in Western Australia.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Peter Milostic snatches Peter McDonald's ATTA NSW record

Worth posting in full, this is a significant local TT record for Sydney and Central Coast riders... from the Impact Cycling forum: Peter Milostic snatches Peter McDonald’s ATTA NSW record On the first Sunday of every month, ATTA NSW conducts Time Trials at the famous Calga circuit. On the 4th of November Peter Milostic turned up to attack Peter McDonald’s impressive sub 1 hour record for the undulating 43km course. Unfortunately the gods of time trialing did not smile on the Penrith rider as he punctured in the last 5km and limped in with a notably impressive time of 1hour 1min and 33 seconds. One month later on the first Sunday of December Milostic returned, determined to crack the seemingly unbreakable record. This time he left nothing to chance bringing his wife with spare wheels, spare bike and his coach Mick Chapman, with laptop and lactate testing kits. Peter signed on as number 58 giving him over an hour of warm up which he did on the rollers. Many of the ATTA regulars heads were turning as the high pitched whirr of yet another of Peter’s intensive intervals echoed over the otherwise relaxed start area. For many years (2003- 2007) the ATTA 43km record has been the domain of three Sydney riders Adam Conquest (Randwick Botany CC), David Rae (Marconi CC) and Tom Brooks (Parramatta CC). The trio regularly upped each other, collecting the ATTA $100 prize for any new record. That was until May 2007 when Peter McDonald (FRF NSWIS) turned up to Calga fresh off an impressive ride in the Canberra tour where he came 2nd in the TT and wore the leader’s jersey for one day. Peter smashed Adam Conquest’s record time of 1hr 02 min 11 sec by 2 minutes 17 seconds setting the seemingly unbreakable time of 59:54. Milostic started his mission at 8:58am under a patchy sky with a slight North /Easterly and an ambient temperature of 20 degrees. He was almost poetic on his outward journey powering over every climb in his aerodynamic time trial position. He hit the Somersby turnaround in an amazing sub 29 minute time, which was significantly faster than McDonald’s record time. The plan started to go pear shaped towards the end of his return trip and he was spotted struggling over the notorious Blood Hill however, once over the killer climb, Milostic recomposed himself quickly and powered home to stop the clock at 59 minutes and 34 seconds. The presentation of the ATTA record trophy and $100 cash was conducted by Chris Greeves in front of gob smacked ATTA riders who applauded loudly for the new champion. Within moments of Peter crossing the line an ATTA official was SMS’ing Peter McDonald to inform him of his broken record. In a post presentation interview Milostic expressed his pleasure of beating the record and his intentions of using the event for the coming months to gauge his performance. He was excited at the prospect of a duel between him and McDonald in lowering this prestigious record. December was also the first week of the new “Personal Best (PB) ride Scheme” whereby after a rider establishes 2 rides on the same course, any rider who betters their PB will be rewarded with a free entry for the next calendar event. Results have been kept on a data base for every event since mid 2005. You can find out your PB at the ATTA NSW start line. ATTA NSW conducts Time Trials on the first Sunday of each month rain,hail or shine.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

ibike update worth it

OK, so I use an ibike and have whinged a bit about some niggles. Well Velocomp has seemingly fixed all of those issues - and brought the ibike up another level.

For completeness here's a long post that covers just about everything I've ever written about the ibike and briefly describes ibike 2.0. I'll say more about ibike 2.0 soon.

The ibike and me.

OK, I'm a bike rider and a data collector. I have documented every ride I've ever ridden, and the data keeps getting better as the gadgets improve. Hey, it works for obsessive old me. Simple bike computers are great and tell you a lot. But maybe you want to measure your power output as well? This post focuses on the ibike power meter - what it does, how to set it up and the problems you may encounter - but covers a bit of bike computer history as well.

But first, the latest update!

Just a quick note about the latest ibike upgrade. It's a significant change. Firstly ibike release 1.15 upgrades the ibike unit itself to accept new features, including wireless sensors and - a big one - the use of indoor trainers. Going wireless is not only neater and easier to install but the battery lasts longer as well. Currently I get a couple of weeks out of the CR2032 battery - up to 3 - riding 7-10 hours a week. You can stretch it to 4 but the readings get dodgy. Wireless looks like a good option if you have battery problems (colder climates especially seem to reduce battery life).

Secondly the ibike 2.0 software is a massive improvement. Now you can process multiple coast downs and calibrate against a 6km ride. You can adjust - tweak, if you like - the aero and friction values to your heart's content and apply these new settings - or a bunch of different profiles if you want - after the ride. So you can forget to change profiles when you change bikes and it doesn't matter. You simply apply another profile in the software and save it.

The calibration tools are much, much better. You can also adjust barometric pressure and temperature. All in all a great upgrade for the technically minded, although the casual user may be put off at first by the greater range of options.

Power overview

OK, so you want POWER? You want to train harder, or better? Or you just want to see how many Watts it takes to ride up that hill? The ibike may be just what you want - it was what I wanted, and here I will tell you all about the tips, trips and fun I've had measuring my Wattage as I ride!!

OK, so now I'm getting into it. It's addictive. I'm a data junkie and it's making me get out on the bike and ride, just to see what it looks like when I sprint, chase a car or climb a hill. Then I want to compare sprints, compare hills... drats, I wish I had one 20 years ago! (But they didn't exist at this price, of course.)

That's the good side of the ibike - real data that makes sense. You've got to set it up right and do the coast-down test properly, as per spec, and make sure the battery is delivering the goods. But once done it's great. Of course today I punctured and swapped front wheels, but because it's just a magnetic pickup there was no sweat. I could even swap bikes as I've got a spare mount and pickup already on bike number 2. So I think ibike is still looking like a pretty good thing.

Bad news? It goes a bit screwy if you watch the Wattage display too much (it seems to jump around constantly, especially on the flat, only settling down when efforts are made, in a sprint or in a climb) - but when you download to the PC the odd figures seem to have disappeared and clarity returns. And the peak figures on the LCD don't always match the data logged. The battery seems to play a part in this, as does road surface - bumps and corners definitely throw it off.

So on to the fun.. the screenshot on the left shows power in blue and bike speed in green. You can see steady state on the left, then I accelerate to catch a slow-moving Toyota 'Landbruiser' that pulled out in front of me. You see both power and speed rise as I chase, peaking at around 865W and 45kmh or so; then as I get into the draft speed stays up (for a while, I didn't stay on as there's a nasty climb around the corner and I'm not that fit!) whilst power falls off sharply. The ibike seems to handle 'sucking wheels' pretty well. You can see that power falls away rapidly to zero until I hit the climb and have to get pedalling again. Speed falls away too and you can see me approach 300W on the lower part of the 10% climb (the bump on the right).

The next sreenshot shows a zoom-in on that power peak. You can see the effort to accelerate, the speed rising and then the power clearly falls off as I get into the draft, despite speed continuing to rise. In fact the car eventually accelerated, having suddenly realised that the rider they pulled out in front off at that T-junction was still there... and I let him go, as you see the speed dropping again. Wow.

Even better, the power breakdown (the colored box centre-screen) shows what was happening at the point where the cursor sits... all of that green in the pie chart is acceleration. The cursor itself is the black vertical line right on the power peak. So it all makes sense. When I move the cursor into the 'draft zone' the proportions all change... as you'd hope.

Bottom line? It works! What about the software?

First up, read the update above - things have improved. For teh record, here's how I found ibike 1.0 - and ibike 2.0 has installed over the top faultlessly.

Well the v1.0 software looked good enough sitting on the CD-ROM, and it seemed to install on my PC OK - and I followed the instructions - but it failed to find the USB driver first up. I followed the instructions again, went through the whole install and once again it failed to find the driver. So I went manual in control panel and found the driver had indeed installed correctly on my hard drive, it's just that the "automatic, preferred" search doesn't look there... of course. Wonder if this happens to everyone? Anyway, it really does extract and copy it to your ibike program folder, so a bit of searching will find it. It's just a manual approach is needed when 'auto' fails. Once loaded it all worked.

The software is simple. Connect, download all or some files... ooops, it crashed. And the ibike itself froze. OK, this has only happened once, but again I followed instructions, restarted the software and took the battery out of the ibike. I popped the battery back in and it fired up again and has worked flawlessly since. In fact it works better now than before. The battery started life reading 2.80V and fell to 2.70V during the 2nd ride, before recovering to 2.78V. However after refitting (and perhaps putting the cover back on a bit tighter?) it reads 2.82V pre-ride and hasn't fallen below 2.77V. The instructions say to get a new battery if it falls below 2.75V before a ride. Perhaps my first-day glitches were battery related?

Anyway, back to the software. It's good enough. It loads up the whole ride as a .CSV file and you can 'play' with power, wind speed, elevation, slope and bike speed for starters. You basically can graph it as you like it, including looking at neat breakdowns of acceleration, hill and friction readings at any point in the ride. And you can probably read and modify it in any spreadsheet, too, given that it's saved as a .CSV (but I haven't tried - yet). It's simple, but does the job for a data junkie like me. It's strange though that the ibike itself displays slightly different maximum values than that logged in the data file. That aside, overall it's what I expected. Check this out...

The setup...

Right, so it's mounted and ready to go. We have total weight, it's leveled (so it can tell if it's climbing or descending) and it seems to be sensing wind speed OK. Now we need to calculate the aerodynamic drag and the friction between road and tyre. Now we can estimate this pretty well, but the "coast" test will actually time your deceleration run - ie measure the drag induced by you and your bike on the road. So out we went, ibike and I, on our Look KG76 for test number 1.

It's harder to find a flat, smooth quarter-mile of road than you'd think. Slightly uphill is good, downhill is bad, bad, bad as it distorts the results. So naturally I chose a road that looked flat-to-uphill but actually wasn't, so I got some fantastic results. Fantastic as in no way could it be real.

Look at this: 1459W, man! Beat that!

Oh well, back to the "coast" test. In fact I kept finding roads with dips, declines, potholes, corners and really smooth fast bits. Which raised a question or 2 in my mind. Like how accurate is it when road conditions vary? And how is it calculating wind speed, let alone direction? I guess it's a straight subtraction of total airflow "in" minus forward velocity, and angle isn't relevant, but the final figures look odd... anyway, wind aside, if I calibrate on a smooth fast road presumably I'll get errors unless I only ride on that exact same smooth fast road... so are the errors small enough that it won't matter? Or when I get to new territory should I re-calibrate?

So I chose to retest a few times (OK, about 5 times) and compare. Firstly the ibike captured the whole thing, despite my many, many retests - which is good - and secondly I never again got the sort of fantastic result I got with the first coast test. Instead of 1459W I was now in the region of 600-1000W tops (I was getting tired, too, after countless sprints!!). So which 'coastdown' is correct? Hmmm.

Now if you look at the screenshot on the left (of the ibike software) you will see a few strange things. Firstly it shows maximum Watts on this same ride as 1495, yet the LCD display showed a maximum of 1459! Oddly similar but dyslexically different. On the right of the pic you will see the figures for a precise moment in my ride. Using those figures (28kmh wind speed, 8.9% slope etc) you could indeed calculate that a 72 kg rider at 47.5kmh on that slope is indeed putting out about 2100W, not the 'fantastic' figure of 1459/95. But to me, fallible old me, I could have sworn the road was (a) almost flat and (b) that there was little if any wind.

If you take me at my word, that it was a flat road with nil wind then Kreuzotter calculates it as 715W. I'm happy with that. So - assuming a multiply-by-2 glitch occurred - there's an error of more than a percent or 2, isn't there? Hence my scepticism and need to rerun this "coastdown" test until it checks out against 'expectations'. Or am I too harsh? Did the mostly flat road dip and climb suddenly for an instant, or did I pull up on the bars, lifting the front wheel a tad (I was sprinting, after all)... and maybe the wind suddenly gusted? No, I reckon it was a glitch.

So, I think I've got the "coast" test figured out and I'll keep it "as is" for now until I see questionable figures. Certainly my max power figures have come back to earth. Some doubt remains over what happens if you ride very different terrain, but it's easy enough to re-do the coast setup if on super-smooth or super-rough road. Perhaps do the coast test just before a race on a new circuit? Certainly do it if you swap bikes, but that's a test I'm going to do later, just to see what the diffence may be... I suspect it'll be neglible, though, unless my race wheels really are that much better! Did you check this out...?

Mounting ibike on the bike

No real problems here. The ibike is just like many other bike computers and comes with a bayonet-style mount that sits on your handlebars. I chose the standard size but there is also the larger vesrion if needed. Follow the instructions though, as you need to keep the ibike absolutely 'rock-solid' on the bars. I tried using old tyre as padding at first, just to make removal easier, but settled on the double sided tape provided instead. It's easy to fit, just plan where the wire goes first. It has to get down to the forks, where the magnetic pickup gets strapped on. I kept my old speedo in place and mounted the new gear on the opposite side of the bars and forks.

Mounted it looks like this...

And the mounting itself looks like this....

All in all - dead easy. Lots of twist ties to play with but no harder than a regular 'wired' bike computer. The screws that affix the ibike mount to the bars are a bit fiddly, but it's easier on a stand, or turn the bike upside down.

Once connected I powered it up and went into setup mode. All the expected stuff: time, date, total bike and rider weight, plus the 'turn 180' exercise which levels the unit. Again, good clear instructions and I used them (for once in my life). I also zeroed out the wind (I was in a garage) and took a guess as to altitude (later riding down to sea level to make that accurate - hey I was only out by 10m!).

All up - simple and quick. Hmmm, this again...

The purchase experience

OK, so I chose to buy the ibike.

The first hassle was the ibike shop on the web. They revamped it a bit since but you can't login to the shop without first clicking on a product and pretending to buy it (then the 'log-in' option finally appears). And when you try to log-in the login ID box is unclickable without 14 'tabs' to get you there. I tried 3 different browsers and 2 PCs... they all had the same trouble. Not everytime, just 9 times out of 10. Anyway, the tab-tab-tab until you get to the correct input box works. (Must admit I just logged in fine, so who knows?)

Enough whinging. I bought it online and found that the 'tracking' option didn't work for International US Post. Not to worry, I guess. 10 working days later it turned up fine, but opened by Australian Quarantine Services. Must have looked suss with 'Velocomp' written on the box... hmmm. Go figure.

The box looks like this:

Which is fine, although for around $Aussie 600/ $US450 it's a trifle underwhelming. Still, it's the technology we are buying, isn't it?

And opening it up we find the device itself, which is tiny and very light (which is good, right?):

It's showing average Watts here in this pic but it will also show maximum values.

And then I mounted it on the bike... well 2 bikes, actually. I had bought an extra mount, so I could swap from bike to bike with ease, something I saw as a killer feature of the ibike over almost all its competition.

More soon!Don't forget to check this out...

Power to the people - power meters for serious cycling

When I started this riding gig I was 16 and it was 1973. The bike was an Aussie-made Alcon, circa late 1930s and well looked after, if hand-painted. 28inch tyres, 40spoke wheels, diamond outrigger with sliding adjustment for handlebar reach and just 2 cogs on the back. On one side of the wheel was a freewheel and the other a fixie. Cool way to get started, eh? Even cooler was the mechanical odometer that clicked over incrementally with every turn of the front wheel. Ahhh, data! I started writing it down. Curiously it made me ride a bit more, just to get a scrap more data.

In the 1980s I found myself with electronic assistance in my data habit: a cycle 'computer', although all it really did was count wheel revs using a magnet and show elapsed time. It did allow me to see my current and average velocity, rather than doing the usual sums at home after the ride. And it was more accurate than some of the guesstimates I had to make. Now that sort of technology got a bit better over the last 25 years or so, but essentially remains as it was: a bunch of data based on wheel rotation over time, displayed on an LCD. (Although some of these new options are very sophisticated: check out BikeBrain for example)

Now this did make me ride for longer distances, and do more miles each week, as I could actually and accurately see when I had slacked off. And being data-obsessed I just wanted to push teh totals ever higher. Funnily enough I still had to chase down attacks, stick with the peleton over varying terrain and avoid being dropped, irrespective of what the displayed velocity was. But now I could also go 'ah, look at that average' after a hard crit.

The next leap forward in this history lesson was to the heart rate monitor. In my case it was the mid 90s and a Polar HRM. So now I could match perceived exertion against both time and distance, as well as estimate my caloric budget. It again made me ride, just to get data. Bizarre, I know. I wanted to exceed 200bpm on my local tough climb and set ever higher averages, so again I could go 'wow, that was a tough ride'.

Which brings me to my newest desire: power measurement. Up to now I've calculated it after the ride, inexactly, and longed to know how many Watts it really took to ride that hard crit. SRMs, offering measurement at the crank seemed a great option. But SRMs were (and remain) waaay too expensive, especially now I had kids to feed. The hub-based CycleOps option was still a bit rich (and what if I swapped wheels?) and Ergomo Pro was again a tad exxy and suffered (like the SRM) from being integrated into the bike. The Polar option was both expensive and tricky to set up. So I looked at the next-best options - the German HAC4 and other options from Germany and Italy, which calculated power from time, speed and altitude gain using accelerometers or barometric changes. Of course this only works on hills, but it was an option. Some of these options don't offer download, so it would be a 'write down later' sort of thing - like back to the 80s.

The HAC4 looks great options-wise but is a bit expensive compared with low-end 'real' power meters. I also looked at GPS units like Garmin's and wondered why no-one had integrated the coolest features into one unit. Maybe one day, I guess.

Anyway, I flipped a coin and went with the simplest, cheapest real-time data logging power meter I could find. The ibike. It back-calculates power by measuring the opposing forces - wind, friction and inclination - and comparing it to real speed (using a magnetic pickup). Easy to fit, easy to use. It looks the goods but does rely upon (a) your calibration accuracy and (b) unimpeded airflow. Which is to say that it misreads power if you aren't good at entering data (weight, aerodynamic and friction data, basically, although the latter is derived by the "coasting" test) or have impeded airflow (in a bunch, maybe, and certainly in a sharp corner).

I ummed and ahhed about this for weeks (whilst watching the Aussie to $US exchange rate fluctuate, too) and wondered if I really needed to spend $A580 on a gadget. I decided it was now or never and pressed the "buy" button in the ibike website. I'll tell you more later...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Cyclists make good runners? Maybe

Personally I have always enjoyed a little cross-training and liked the fact that all you needed was a pair of shoes... and some light running gear. And a safe pathway with good lighting. And even ground to avoid tripping. And somewhere to put your keys whilst you go for that long run. And plenty of accessible water stops. OK, I tend to complicate things, but Lance Armstrong probably had someone hold his keys for him as he ran the NY marathon, eh? He finished 698th among 39,085 runners taking part. His time topped that of former cyclist Laurent Jalabert; the Frenchman ran the 2005 event in a time of 2:55'39". However, other former cyclists have gone faster in other marathon events; German Rolf Aldag ran 2:42'57" in Hamburg this April and Spaniard Abraham Olano went 2:39' in the San Sebastián marathon last November.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Me ride 299km? What, in a week?

Even that's doubtful these days. In my heyday I rode Sydney (ie Surry Hills) to the Blue Mountains (ie Katoomba) and back (that's 200km) for fun and 200km races for the jolly experience of it all, but 299 in a day? No, not ever. So to finish - let alone win - the Melbourne to Warrnambool (the 'Warnie') is simply miraculous, and these guys pulled off exactly that miracle.

I do wonder about the physiology of it all. I found that doing 500-700km a week gave me great endurance but knocked my pace down a notch. Which is to say I suffered in crits something fierce. But 200-300km a week was just perfect for club A-grade crits and my sprint came back. Occasionally I'd do 500, but anything above 200km was a bonus.

And come the track season the big winter road miles (Aussies do their road racing in winter) had built my strength up, so it was a case of simply dropping the miles back and sharpening up.OTOH if I'd had a slack road season I needed 400km a week and maybe some weights to get up to speed.

Even when doing those almost-slack 200km weeks I could still jump on the bike and ride Sydney to the Central Coast and back in a day (200km) with my time each way almost exactly the same. I had 'endurance memory' locked into my legs, I guess. But I seem to have lost it in the last 7 years or so. Back then I was knocking over 100km in 3 hours or less on my own, now I'm cramping after 50 and crawling home. Could it be my age? Nahhh. I've just slacked off the miles, haven't I?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Evans leads the CQ rankings

The what? The CQ rankings, for Cycling Quotient, a la IQ. Hmmm. Well it's designed to plug a gap that the UCI left when they opted for the ProTour, anyway. And now Aussie Cadel Evans leads both the ProTour and the CQ standings.

The CQ is comprehensive and gives us loads of stats on every pro race, all year long. Can't be bad, eh?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

ProTour winner Evans on his season

Cadel Evans seems the least-rated contender no matter where or when he is racing. He's generally acknowledged as one of several contenders but always with a qualification of some sort. Either someone else is stronger or has won more recently, or Evans is tired, or perhaps injured. It never seems as though the guy is really likely to win, like Armstrong, Ullrich or Basso were and Bettini, Contador and Di Luca are now. Yet he's so consistent, when he gets the chance. Perhaps it's his quiet demeanor. After such a great 2007 maybe 2008 will be different for Cadel.

Interesting overview of his season, here at Cadel Evans won the ProTour classification on Saturday after a consistent stream of steady results over the past four months. Before the Giro di Lombardia, he talked about his performances in the Vuelta a España and world road race championships, the Tour Down Under's graduation to the ProTour calendar, his plans for the months ahead and his Olympic aspirations.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Yes, that's quick

The 2007 Masters World Track champs are being held in Sydney right now, and I have to say (as a master myself) that's damned quick...1 David Le Grys (GBr) 0.34.14 (52.73 km/h)

I've done just one timed 500m run on Sydney's Tempe velodrome, a 40.09sec effort. I reckon I could get below 40 with some practice... but under 35secs?? Yikes!

Monday, October 08, 2007

Friday, September 28, 2007

Protour: Tour de France out, Tour Down Under in

Bizarre. But true! The Tour de France (and the other grand tours of Italy and Spain, for that matter) has excused itself from the ProTour, and the Aussies are in instead. Of course it's meaningless outside of recognising the very real break in relations between the grand tour organizers and the UCI, but it's fun to play with the idea that the Tour Down Under has replaced the TdF... from CN: The first non-European ProTour event status has been awarded to the the Tour Down Under in Adelaide, Australia the UCI announced on Thursday. The South Australian race will kick off the 2008 ProTour calendar on January 22. With the exclusion of the Grand Tours from the ProTour calendar, the UCI will now focus more efforts globally, and the Australian race is the first beneficiary of the new direction for the series.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Luke Cridland - great result but...

Why do kids have to grow up so fast? Luke was just a little tacker hanging with his mum and dad at the Heffron Park crits and now he's doing this sort of stuff: Cridland 3rd in 8th stage of the Tour de Nouvelle Calédonie Young FRF NSWIS rider Luke Cridland has ridden an amazing race to finish 3rd on the 8th of the Tour de Nouvelle Calédonie. The 8th stage, which traveled from Bourail to the Mission de Nakety, saw large time gaps across the field. Results 1 Samuel Rouyer (Fra) AS Police SLN - Kleenex 2.44.24 (39.8 km/h) 2 Tom Hanover (NZl) Hot Cycle New Zealand 2 1.09 3 Luke Cridland (Aus) F.R.F. Australia 4 Mike Michel Villaz (Fra) Champion / New Caledonia 3.33 5 John Ebeling (Aus) F.R.F. Australia 6 Vincent Garin (Fra) Lyon Sprint Evolution 3.37 7 Ralph Justin (NZl) New Zealand 1 8 Jérome Maillot (Fra) Savexpress 9 Brodie Talbot (Aus) AS Police SLN - Kleenex 3.40 10 Jérome Bonnace (Fra) Champion / New Caledonia 5.24 11 Tony Hurel (Fra) SFAC. Via cyclingresults.

Goulburn to wherever it goes now

It was the Goulburn to Sydney, reversing to be the Sydney to Goulburn; then it was shortened due to traffic hassles, to end at Liverpool, 30km or so west of Sydney. It was still 200km, it was still tough. I did it 3 times to no good effect, either puncturing on Governor's Hill a mere 5km out of town or getting dropped with about 50km to go. I could never get it right. So even now, shortened to finish at Camden, some 50km out of Sydney, it's a race that commands my respect. To finish it is fabulous, but a top20 is magnificent:
1 Robert Williams (Drapac Porsche) 4.13.20 2 Shaun Higgerson (South 0.18 3 Mitchell Pearson 4 Joshua Wilson (Praties Cycling Team) 0.19 5 Stuart Shaw (Drapac Porsche) 2.11 6 Nash Kent (Equity IT) 7 Cameron Hughes (Ord Minnett Racing Team) 2.12 8 Ben Mather (Praties Cycling Team) 9 Brendan Brooks (FRF - NSWIS) 2.14 10 Steven Robb 2.15 11 William Ford (South 2.17 12 Peter Mcdonald (FRF - NSWIS) 13 Blair Martin 2.18 14 Robert Hodgson * 2.19 15 Angus Morton (Drapac Porsche) 2.26 16 Gilbert Gutowski (Ord Minnett Racing Team) 2.54 17 Grant Irwin (Ord Minnett Racing Team) 3.12 18 Nicholas Sanderson (South 3.13 19 Dean Windsor (Drapac Porsche) 20 Dale Scarfe (Team FSA) (via Cyclingresults).

Vuelta 2007 Stage 21: Menchov grabs the glory

Menchov takes the overall, Petacchi nosed out of the stage win by Bennati, yet again. Cadel finishes 4th. Not bad all round.

From CN: "This is the biggest success of my career," said the quiet Russian, who has ridden for Rabobank since 2005. Menchov, who lives in Pamplona, Spain, was also awarded the victory in the 2005 Vuelta after Roberto Heras' doping disqualification. "But you can't compare that with the win today," he said.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Steegmans: the Boonen you have when you don't have Boonen

Gert delivered, Graeme missed it - just. Tour de Rijke. From CN: 1 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Quickstep-Innergetic 4.24.30 (44.915 km/h) 2 Graeme Brown (Aus) Rabobank 3 Stefan Van Dijk (Ned) Team Wiesenhof Felt 4 Borut Bozichz (Slo) Team LPR 5 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Rabobank 6 Kenny Dehaes (Bel) Chocolade Jacques-Topsport Vlaanderen 7 Aart Vierhouten (Ned) Skil-Shimano 8 Frederic Amorison (Bel) Landbouwkrediet-Tönissteiner 9 Steven De Jongh (Ned) Quickstep-Innergetic 10 Aaron Kemps (Aus) Astana

Vuelta 2007 Stage 20: Sanchez takes another

Nice to see Samuel Sanchez and his Euskaltel-Euskadi team do so well in this race, but still a shame to see Evans knocked back another peg, and off the podium. It was on the cards after yesterday's faltering stage but given his still-recent efforts in Le Tour probably not surprising to see him now off his peak. Good to see Menchov claim the title without relying upon a doping-disqual this time. He was probably motivated to prove he was worthy without relying upon the failings of others. Or he just like to win.

From CN: Samu' has taken a step onto the final Vuelta a España podium in style. 29 year-old Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) won the 20-kilometre time trial in Villalba by 12 seconds over Denis Menchov (Rabobank) and 14 over Stef Clement (Bouygues Telecom) in third. By winning his third stage of the 2007 Vuelta and gaining 19 seconds over Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) he was able to move up onto the podium - a position he should keep when the three-week race concludes tomorrow in Madrid.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Vuelta a Espana 2007 Stage 19: Sanchez snatches it

2 stage wins now for Sanchez and he moves to within seconds of 3rd place overall. Tomorrow is a 20km TT and it hard to imagine Evans giving up any time to anyone at this stage, especially so since he lost time on this stage to a glued-on Menchov and an aggressive Sastre, dropping one place in the process. Still, Cadel obviously suffered today and may be at the edge...

General classification after stage 19 1 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 77.59.17 2 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC 3.02 3 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor - Lotto 3.49 4 Samuel Sánchez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 3.58

Friday, September 21, 2007

Vuelta a Espana 2007 Stage 18: Rodriguez snatches stage

It was a more tactical, difficult stage and a big break got going, with Luis Perez Rodriguez first over the line. Evans and Menchov proved strongest, but Sastre the most aggressive and dangerous to the leaders. Efimkin weakened, dropping to 4th overall. Evans now 2nd, with Menchov looking solid on top of the GC.

From CN: Luis Pérez Rodriguez has signed off on 13 years as a professional cyclist in style. The 33 year-old Spaniard of Andalucia-Cayasur, who will retire on Sunday, won the 18th stage of the Vuelta a España to Ávila. Pérez Rodriguez powered clear of an escape group of race overall favourites at 10 kilometres to go.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Vuelta a Espana 2007 Stage 16: Put up your Duques

A Columbian shows off both his attacking and climbing prowess to take the stage, but nothing moves at the head of GC. Who will take the initiative in the remaining tough, mountainous stages? Will Menchov look to cement his lead, or will Efimkin and Evans take turns in doing him over?

Monday, September 17, 2007

7 hours on a bike... do you have to ask why?

Turning those pedal for 7 hours. From Grafton on NSW's north coast to Inverell, inland and high up over the escarpment... 230-odd kilometres of fun, fun, fun in the wind and sun. I say this from personal experience. Well, I almost made it - once - anyway. You'll see all of the winners - and any finisher is a winner - and the 2007 DNF's on this list at CyclingResults.

In 1987 I was on that DNF list, disgusted that Dave, the only guy left in my "bunch" wanted to quit just short of Glen Innes (about 180km or so from the start). So disgusted that I stopped too, threw my bike down (gently) and tossed my $100 Oakley glasses into a ditch. Now it seems harsh that I even slightly blame Dave (sorry Dave), and it was my fault that I was riding with Dave and not with the winning bunch, but there's more to this than meets the expensive US-made eyeglasses. 50km to go doesn't seem much unless you have already ridden 180km. And when you have what bike riders call a "sag" wagon following you, waiting to pick you up when your physical and/or mental day is over, and that wagon is now following just you, or just me as it now was, the pressure mounts really fast. Do I keep everyone enthralled, watching me creep along, or do I swallow my pride and say, 'oh well, that bike racing!'. Now 50 kilometres in that terrain when already exhausted can easily mean another hour and a half, or even 2 hours if the wheels really fall off. That could be a nine hour day on the pushie. So I quit.

Years later I went back to the same spot (believe me, it's etched into my memory forever) to look for my Oakleys. A forlorn gesture I know, but I had to stand there again and relive the pain... at least in some measure. They weren't there, or not visibly anyway. Now is that closure, or do I have to go back and ride the darn thing again?

McEwen makes it 3 in a row

I guess if you are going to have to sit out the Vuelta you may as well make the best of it. Is 3 in a row a good consolation prize?

Queensland’s Robbie McEwen has won his 3rd straight and 4th in total Paris-Bruxelles, edging out Brit Jeremy Hunt and Colombian Honorio Machado. Victorian Baden Cooke just missed out on a podium position for 4th.

Vuelta a Espana 2007 Stage 15: Sammy sparrow flies the coop

Samuel Sanchez took the prize today, out-sprinting Beltran and taking time from the leaders. Mind you, the leaders have plenty of time up their collective sleeves and are clearly just hanging in, keeping a close eye on each other and locking it down. So when does someone actually upset this apple cart?

Via Cyclingnews, the top 10:
1 Denis Menchov (Rus) Rabobank 62.32.27 2 Vladimir Efimkin (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne 2.01 3 Cadel Evans (Aus) Predictor - Lotto 2.27 4 Carlos Sastre (Spa) Team CSC 3.02 5 Samuel Sánchez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 4.01 6 Ezequiel Mosquera Miguez (Spa) Karpin Galicia 4.35 7 Manuel Beltrán (Spa) Liquigas 5.15 8 Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne 6.17 9 Carlos Barredo (Spa) Quickstep - Innergetic 6.22 10 Igor Antón (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi 7.41

Seriously, it's hard to imagine the winner overall not coming from the top 4. Barring total disaster of course.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Vuelta a Espana 2007 Stage 12: McCartney top of the pops

Disco rider Jason McCartney attacked his breakaway and soloed to a great win. That's how to do it. Be strong (train heaps), be motivated (need a new contract) and be low on GC (otherwise you are followed at every move). Then attack your breakaway companions and keep them behind you (easier said than...).

CN reports...Discovery Channel's Jason McCartney put on an impressive show by launching a solo attack to win the Vuelta a España stage 14.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Brown gets a win in Poland

Graeme Brown has taken a stage and the lead on GC at the Tour of Poland: Australian Graeme Brown (Rabobank) won the second stage of the Tour de Pologne by winning a traditional sprint on the streets of Olsztyn. He defeated Belgian Wouter Weylandt from Quick Step and Frenchman Said Haddou from Bouygues Telecom. (

Valverde: not guilty, but not welcome, either

Ah, the saga of the UCI vs Valverde continues. He's innocent, cleared of all matters related to Operacion Puerto one moment and then under the microscope again the next. Mind you he's not guilty - not yet, anyway. But we'll exclude him from the World Champs just in case. Of course. It's the cycling way.

CN reports here: The public tug-of-war over Spaniard Alejandro Valverde's participation in the World Championships reached a new level of intensity on Saturday after the UCI upheld its decision to exclude the rider from the race in Stuttgart at the month's end. The UCI reiterated that Valverde is officially under investigation for alleged doping, and according to the organisation's rules, he cannot compete. This comes one day after Spain defied the UCI and registered Valverde to ride despite the UCI's insistence that he was not allowed.

Bad taste for Bruyneel, what about us?

If Le Tour was a win for Disco and Contador it still left some bad tastes in many mouths... and for Disco's win to be followed by the sponsorship pullout and total disbandment of the team verges on... well, it's unusual, to say the least. And Bruyneel himself moving to the trouble-plagued Astana outfit? Possibly with Contador? Does anyone feel uneasy at all, whether justified or not?

Johan Bruyneel had some interesting things to say to CN here: Johan Bruyneel accompanies his star rider Alberto Contador to the USA for the Discovery Channel team's final race this weekend, the Tour of Missouri, bringing the Tour de France champion and a tinge of bitterness along for the end of an era. After eight years directing the organisation which was more successful than any team in modern memory, Bruyneel has eight Tour de France victories to remember but leaves with a bad taste in his mouth. Bruyneel became familiar with the whispers of doping which follow every modern Tour winner, having stood by Lance Armstrong as he fended off one doping accusation after another through press releases and lawsuits, but this year's Tour was too much."They have not let me enjoy Contador's victory in the Tour," the Belgian told Marca, complaining of the accusations of involvement with Operación Puerto which followed the Spaniard's victory. "With that atmosphere, it has been the worse Tour of my life," Bruyneel lamented. Not one month after the end of the Tour, the team's owner, Tailwind Sports, announced it would end its bid for a new title sponsor, effectively disbanding the organisation. Bruyneel hastily announced his retirement along with the news. He blamed the atmosphere surrounding Contador's win for his decision. "All of that was the main reasons why I did not desire to continue.

Vuelta a Espana 2007 Stage 10: Menchov of the mountains

Denis Menchov affirmed his leader's status with a fighting win in the mountainous 10th stage. We saw Sastre repeatedly attack, thinning the field, and Piepoli returned yesterday's favour by "possibly" pacing Menchov at times. Who knows, it look like some inter-team teamwork but then again... there's no sure way of knowing unless they admit to it. Evans tried to take the stage but Menchov countered. Efimkim hung in there too, so it's Menchov, Efimkin and Evans, 1-2-3.

From CN: Denis Menchov put a golden stamp on the Vuelta a España leading into its first rest day. Clad in the maillot oro of race leader, the 29 year-old Russian of Team Rabobank won the stage to the top of Arcalís ahead of Australian Cadel Evans (Predictor-Lotto) and Spaniard Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi). "No, I think it's not that way," said Menchov answering a question about whether he was aided by Piepoli in the finale. "Truly, we didn't talk about anything for today. Leo always rides this way; he tried to change the tempo many times. I followed him just in case, to see if someone stays behind. Leo tried to put a strong rhythm."

Vuelta a Espana 2007 Stage 9: Piepoli in the Pyrenees

Piepoli, then Menchov. Evans again loses some time but stays calm, moving into 3rd place on GC. Horner is still with him. What a double act, 2nd Grand Tour in a row. It was tough mountain stage and the climbers were out in force, moving up the GC. Menchov is not a pure climber but a strong all-rounder with something to prove. He moves into the leader's jersey, but can he hold onto it?

Sadly both McGee and Pereiro are out.

CN reports: Leonardo Piepoli (Saunier Duval-Prodir) earned a well-deserved victory atop the ski station in Cerler with relentless attacks that shattered the group of favourites, leaving only Rabobank's Denis Menchov able to stay in contact. Menchov did not put up a fight for the finish, and was instead content to relinquish the stage to the Italian with the knowledge he would don the jersey oro. Previous leader Stijn Devolder (Discovery Channel) did not have a good day and lost contact at the lower slopes of the climb, losing nearly five minutes and his leader's jersey.

Vuelta a Espana 2007 Stage 8: Grabsch grabs the TT

Grabsch takes the TT win, Devolder the overall. Menchov gained time to close to within 30secs of the lead, and although he lost time today Evans cemented a top 5 placing. He's 1m 54 off the lead. Evans is either struggling a little, which would not be surprising given his strong TdF result, or is playing his usual waiting game and only doing enough to keep in the game. Or a combination of both, perhaps. Menchov looks the strongman, but can he keep it up?

From CN:German time trial champion Bert Grabsch confirmed his strength against the clock by setting a blistering 55 km/h pace to take the win in the stage eight time trial on the long, flat, draining course in Zaragoza. On a day which clearly favoured the time trial specialists, Grabsch edged out the Hungarian time trial champion László Bodrogi (Credit Agricole) by 34 seconds to take his first Vuelta stage win. "I knew that after the Tour I had good form, but the win does come a bit surprising," Grabsch told "I had been fourth and fifth at a Vuelta time trial before. It's nice that it was enough this time to win."

Vuelta a Espana 2007 Stage 7: Zabel, Davis, Bettini

In that order. Petacchi down. Efimkin leads on GC. From CN: The Grand Old Man of German cycling can still do it--Erik Zabel (Team Milram) won the sprint in the seventh stage of the Vuelta a España ahead of Allan Davis (Discovery Channel) and Paolo Bettini (Quick.Step-Innergetic). It wasn't a mass sprint though, as a crash about two kilometres before the finish blocked the way for all but about 12 riders. There were no changes in the overall classification.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Vuelta a Espana 2007 Stage 6: Oscar is never boring

Although taking 3 stages is the sort of repetitive activity that may lead to some strain, especially if you are Boonen or Petacchi. Where are they? Davis has slipped away, too. Cadel remains high on GC.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Stuart Shaw leading Aussie at Tour of Korea

Drapac Porsche rider Stuart Shaw is just 35secs back from the lead on GC in the Tour of Korea... that's gotta be a good sign, surely, with APEC hosted in Australia right now? Maybe, maybe not.

Vuelta a Espana 2007 Stage 5: Oscar takes advantage

With no McEwen around to spoil the party, Oscar Freire is clearly taking advantage. Petacchi was well out of it, as was Davis, minutes behind. Strangely, Brad McGee was last in... wassup, Brad? Bennati and Bettini picked up 2nd and 3rd.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Vuelta a Espana 2007 Stage 4: Efimkin takes a minute or 2

Look what happens when the road goes up: Efimkin puts a minute into Menchov and 2 minutes into Evans. Wow. Of course there was a small trick to it - he escaped with the right bunch and the others had to play catchup. Still, he had the power to get away and stay away...

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Vuelta a Espana 2007 Stage 3: Bettini swerves to victory

Nothing like pinning a faster rider against the fence, is there? Not as badly as he once did to Baden Cooke, however there was a deviation in line... but that's sprinting, isn't it? Bettini first, Freire 2nd and still in gold. Davis remains consistent. Evans remains close on GC.

Vuelta a Espana 2007 Stage 2: Oscar the cat pounces

Chalk a grand tour stage win up for Oscar Freire, and a golden fleece as well. It's his first. It's nice to see Freire take both the win and the lead overall. He is a rider who seems to struggle at times then suddenly crop up and take the unexpected, like his surprising first world road championship - let alone his 2nd! More here at CN.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Vuelta a Espana 2007 stage 1: Bennati takes sprinter's stage

Italian ace Bennati takes the first prize of this last Grand Tour of 2007, besting Spaniard Freire, Italian Petacchi, Aussie Davis and Belgian Boonen... nice to see so many sprinters from so many countries in the mix. Bennati of course won teh last stage of Le Tour, so he's very much picking up where he left off. CN report here.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Monday, August 20, 2007

Aussie 1-2 in Olympic test TT

What does it mean? Not a lot. Evans was 2nd in the test RR and now Evans and Rogers are 1 and 2 in the test TT. Against good but not the best competition. As a result it shows little but as a test of how Beijing will cope with the road cycling events it's a step forward. The Aussies weer there to test the facilities and scope the course, so it's job done. It at least means they know the course more intimately than the likely top-flight competition.

CN reports here on the 23km TT.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Speculation and all that: Leaping Levi to Lotto?

Well there are plenty of good riders up for grabs, and they may be prepared to bargain... but why would Predictor-Lotto suddenly have the wherewithal to grab a rider of Levi's quality? Is it for real? If so, it makes some sense, in that old 1-2 fashion. Can they afford 3 stars? Will they let someone go? Hmmm.

From CN: Belgium-based squad Predictor-Lotto is interested in having the signature of American Levi Leipheimer, third in the recent edition of the Tour de France. The 33 year-old is looking for a new team after it was announced that current team Discovery Channel will be folding its operations at the end of 2007.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Aussie ProTour pipedream?

There's been talk but little action. Now we see Yahoo and CN are reporting some pretty weak but hyped news, though: " has shed some light on its ProTour intensions, after announcing earlier this week it would throw $20 million dollars behind an Australian ProTour team. The Australian company, owned by former Australian Rules footballer turned businessmen Tony Smith, has revealed its eight figure pledge will be made over a period of five years, meaning another estimated $15 million in additional funding is required to make the plan viable."


Roamfree is an online accommodation service, so we can see the links here. An Aussie ProTour team would certainly need to roam around a bit. And the travel links nicely into tourism and government support. But do we need this? Why an Aussie team? What's wrong with just a Aussie corporate ProTour team of mixed nationality? Why not beef up one of the existing Aussie-based Continental pro teams? I'm all for giving Australians a chance to race as pro cyclists, and I like the idea of improving the image of cycling in Australia, but I really think that national teams are a side issue and a distraction.

National squads are a convenient label that we have become used to, especially at the Olympics, but they attract as much flag-waving-nutter hypocrisy as genuine support. It could become just another political lever for a government. A lever that is as easy to push to "off" as it is to "on". Instead let's distance ourselves from politics and nationalism and ground our professional cycling teams on rock, not shifting sands. If there is some bedrock under this suggestion, let's see that commitment.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Joe Lewis gets gastro, wins 100 Euros

From, an excellent read from Joe Lewis. It's a gripping tale of gastro followed by some smart attacking after the prime to win the race. This is not an Aussie crit.

Good result for Meadley in HKS Tour

I forgot to mention that Jelly Belly's James Meadley picked up a win in the Hong Kong-Shanghai Tour...

A win for Gilmore, McGee still up there

Speedy Gilmore had another win... and Brad's obviously flying at the moment. It was Zabel's 13th D-Tour win and Voigt retained yellow, btw.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Sprinting in straight lines - Tour of Denmark

Yes, I hate the 'fast switchers' too. One moment they are here, now they are there, searching for that elusive best wheel or open space. I understand it, I've probably done it. I've crossed wheels with one and came down hard. But gee Graeme Brown cops a few too many disquals over this, doesn't he? Is he targeted as a bad boy? He's had that reputation, sure, and he'd agree that sometimes it's a fair cop, but... so many others switch lines, too. I guess the test is 'was it dangerous'. Oh well, at least Matt Hayman got fifth.

2007 Criterium De Bethel

Ahhh, helmet cam... every crit should be neutralised in the middle 8 like this one was...

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The dopes who dope and why they do it

I do understand why they do it, I really do. It's simply human nature to cheat. We cheat ourselves, our families, our friends, usually to gain some advantage or to simply prove ourselves. Sometimes with real consequences, sometimes not. If you know as an athlete that you can achieve great things, know it in your heart, yet fail to deliver on the day(s) in question - be it because of poor judgement, tactics, illness or injury - you are left with a lot of 'what-ifs'. If you are open to temptation, if the EPO or other enhancing substance is available, you have a choice. And choice is what it is all about, and where we become much more black and white, good or evil about these things. Iban Mayo appears to have chosen EPO to gain, or perhaps regain, what he displayed in the Tour. He looked reborn as a rider, best he'd been in years. And now we may know why.

Vinokourov faced the same pressure, but worse; that of a favourite in possibly his last shot at the title. What if he couldn't deliver? What if he injured? What happens then?

And Rasmussen? Well he didn't test positive, he just don't look or sound honest. Or perhaps we don't know the full story? We do know he chose to train away from the spotlight and to appear to prevaricate over his location. This is not illegal, and is our perception only. He wasn't proven to have cheated, and he continues to deny it.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Le Tour de France 2007 - Stage 21 - Bennati wins in Paris

Daniele Bennati took his 2nd Tour win just days after his first, and in the best place, too: Paris. Lampre deserved the win today after attacking and chasing so hard for Ballan, so it was somehow fitting that Quickstep, having done little to motivate the stage should accidentally lead Bennati out to the win. Boonen didn't seem to have the legs today, or was playing safe with the green jersey, just doing enough to keep it on his shoulders. Either way he didn't get to grips with his lead-out man and slipped away to 5th. Unless of course it was a cunning plan to allow Bennati the win, robbing his closer rivals of the opportunity to take maximum points...

Overall no-one threatened Contador for the win, and he took that an the best young rider. Cadel Evans took 2nd, as expected, and Leipheimer was content to stand on the podium in 3rd. It could all have been so very different had there not been several key casualties, both via accident and doping scandal. Still, this is a long race at high speed in difficult circumstances, and it wouldn't be special if winning it was straightforward, would it?

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Le Tour de France 2007 - Stage 20 - Oh for 23 secs

It went pretty much as we all expected, although Levi got closer to Cadel than was comfy, and Alberto held on slightly better than expected - oh for those extra seconds! Still, after surviving a tour like this one it's fitting thatthe top 3 are so close, and that they have such a margin on Sastre in 4th.

Traditionally we just see a parade followed by an all-out sprint in the last stage, but we also recall Vinokourov's non-sprinter's move in 2005... so will Evans be tempted to go for a flyer? It looks like Levi has called a truce and accepted 3rd, so maybe not. If Discovery do move for a 1-2 finish then all bets are off, but surely they'll be happy with 1st and 3rd on GC? I guess that slight element of doubt will plague us all for another day...

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Oh no, not again - more rumours

I'm seeing spots. Rumours are flying about a Barloworld police raid and a rider testing positive after stage 14. Now usually this means the winner of a stage or a jersey holder, who all get tested. So is it Soler, Contador or Boonen? Or just a big beat up? If it's a jersey holder it'll come out real fast, you'd think, although hushing it up until due process is followed would not be impossible to imagine, too. Especially since we've been jumping to so many conclusions so fast lately. I can't imagine hushing up the potential winner, but another jersey could be hung out to dry later, I guess.

This story was discounted, denied, a day or so later : from CN - The speculation was further fuelled by reports of police cars at the Barloworld hotel on Friday night. "Some journalist saw an Ag2r Prévoyance team car and thought it was a police car," confirmed Prudhomme. "There was not any police at the hotel."

Le Tour de France 2007 - Stage 18 - Casar at last

Another stage passes and Sandy Casar finally manages to make the break, stay with the break, and win the sprint. Phew. I'm relieved, imagine how he feels.

It wasn't easy. Yes, the bunch wasn't too concerned about the break gaining time, but we also had another dog episode that took out Casar for a moment and cost Willems a spot in the break. We also had an entertaining roundabout where Casar did what I would call 'an Anderson' and went the wrong way, deliberately, and initiated the final, decisive move. Merkcx almost mowed him down but Casar's kick held him off until the line. Phew again.

Evans also showed that he could stay with the big bad sprinters when they rolled into town, something that Contador either couldn't or didn't want to do, costing both Alberto and Levi 3 seconds to Cadel. That's 3 secs in the pocket for tomorrow's (or today's, if you prefer) TT. Cadel looks fresher but both Contador and Leipheimer will be going for the 1-2 finish, so
freshest legs and best luck rule from here. No rain, and no falls please. No punctures either, thanks.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Gerrans changes sides

CyclingNews reports that Simon Gerrans is leaving one French ProTour team for another. The AG2r Prévoyance rider, who is currently contesting the Tour de France with the squad, has signed a one-year contract with Roger Legeay's Crédit Agricole... ... at least he's used to the language. CA was also Stuey O'Grady's old stomping ground.

Le Tour de France 2007 - Stage 17 - Bennati wins in a break

Daniele Bennati won easily, as you'd expect from a fast-twitch guy in a break laden with more your enduro-power guys. Voigt did his usual instigation and control act, forcing the pace when it needed forcing, leaving gaps that slackers had to fill and attacking when the odds needed improving. The only thing he couldn't do was get away from Benna, who knew what was on Voigt's seemingly transparent mind at every step. Voigt needed to gap Bennati enough that he couldn't close, but the sprinter of course knew this as well and fast-twitched his way back onto the wheel every time. It didn't help that the final selection included guys who were pretty similar in style and power to Voigt himself, making the match a bit too even. Even picking the weakest link and attacking up that hill at 4km didn't work... although it was close and a few cramps in the right legs would have sealed the escape. Alas, these guys don't cramp, or hide it well.

Which means one down, one to go. Before the all-resolving TT, I mean. Can Cadel make up 1m 53secs on Contador? I doubt it. The course is flat, which doesn't suit either of them, although Evans may have a little more gas left than Alberto. Leaping Levi could do better than both at this course and will be fired up to close the 53sec gap on Cadel. It's looking like a close thing all round. Perhaps Contador loses a minute to Cadel and Levi gains 30 secs, or more. Or variations on that theme, anyway. They'll end up soooo close together it'll come down to freshest legs and most luck on the day.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Good news - take 2

Now it's Karl Menzies taking the lead at the scandal-free Tour de Toona.

And Emma Rickards leads the Thuringen-Rundfahrt for women.

Did I mention that the Tour de France is still on? In a manner of speaking, anyway. A race of phantoms, it seems.

YES! Rasmussen is OUT!

I said I was uneasy.. but I feel a bit better now. Not 100% but at least 95% confident that the playing field is levelling... it's like pulling teeth, without anaesthetic.

I'm not saying Rasmussen is guilty, or Vinokourov, or even Landis for that matter. I'm not saying that at all.

What I am saying is that I'm pleased to see tough, consistent action taken - finally - when things are not as they should be. The waters are murky. It doesn't look right when riders perform 'out of their skin', especially so when past performances don't stack up against current heroics. Let alone when they are surrounded by the rumours and innuendo that attach to these people. Anyone can see it, feel it, smell it. It's one thing to be a champion, another to be deceitful or just unhelpful. When lack of cooperation or openness clouds an issue we naturally smell a rat, and in this case we finally have rat catchers who mean business. This sort of open, clear and decisive action - at any immediate cost to the team, the race or to the sport itself - should happen in all sports, or not at all. Either legalise and control the doping or cut it out. At this level of importance, where people are influenced to do things that may compromise their health or longevity, where people are deceitful and manipulative and their objectives unspoken, everyone suffers. The cheater and the cheated. And the manipulators and profiteers who lurk unseen behind the cheats should suffer the consequences, too.

Le Tour de France 2007 - Stage 16 - Chicken flies coop

I don't know how I feel about this. Uneasy? Disturbed? Queasy? I can accept that riders improve, their fitness and abilities change over time and their knowledge and execution of tactics increase. But Michael Rasmussen made it look just too easy. I'm sure it was tough. Evans looked cooked. Sastre obviously had a red hot go; and Contador was clearly motivated. Yet Rasmussen seemed effortless at times. He's obviously biologically superior on these long steep inclines. Even the lamented Pantani looked as they he was making an effort when he made his presumably EPO-fueled ascents. Yet I know that whatever grade of racing you do there is always someone who has saved a bit more at the end; someone who has trained a bit smarter, or harder; someone who just wants it more. Rasmussen is just one of those guys.

So good on him, great win. Yet somehow I feel better about Evans clinging to third place. He looked as if he was trying and he clearly was outnumbered. What could he do when Rabo had a great team behind the Chicken and Contador had super-domestique Leipheimer? Attack them both and somehow match their counter-attacks? I know that doesn't work, or work for long.

So there you have it. 2 road stages left to play with, one of which offers a chance of some breakaways but little hope of a big escape. It will be locked down tight as a drum by Rabo and Disco. And Lotto will hang tough. And then the TT, where some change will occur. Evans has a shot at winning the stage but so do several others. Will Evans gain or lose time to Leipheimer? Will someone do something extra-ordinary? Or maybe extra-terrestrial?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The good news

Now for some good news?
  • Allan Davis (as expected) won the final stage of the Qinghai tour. Plenty of Aussies finished this hard, high-altitude race, too, as this pic attests. Rhys Pollck was best placed Aussie overall
  • Aussie-laden HealthNet-Maxxis won the Tour de Toona TTT (helps to have Nathan O'Neill on the team, let alone Karl Menzies and Rory Sutherland...).

Le Tour de Disaster 2007

What can one say? Vinokourov has been painted black by an A-test and he and his team are sent home. So, like Landis et al it's not "proven" that he homologously transfused (is that real or did I make it up?) but it looks so much like he did that "we" really can't risk it. (One thought - did he have a transfusion in hospital after that fall? Surely if he did that'd be too obvious to overlook.) Plenty of people have expressed surprise that a rider of such class should bother to cheat but...
  1. We are dealing with an entrenched culture of drug-enhanced racing going back at least 30 years, probably 50 - I think we all understand that, don't we? I'm sure it's the same in other sports, if not in most people's everyday culture of alcohol and caffeine-driven lives!
  2. Like Landis and his worn-out hip last year (not that I'm saying Landis is guilty as charged, as it's still not proven) this is probably his last shot at winning Le Tour - so there's a lot at stake personally
  3. Vino was a contender apparently knocked out of contention by injury - and it's always tempting to use anything to overcome the unfairness of such luckless injury
  4. He's human and can succumb to temptation just like anyone else.
Yesterday when writing about Vinokourov's amazing comeback I said "go figure". Well I guess we just figured it out. I also expressed puzzlement over Rasmussen's amazing TT performance as well as Valverde's inability to reproduce his past form. Now I fully understand that riders can train and enhance aspects of their riding by sheer effort and practice, and Rasmussen is no exception to that rule - so it's unfair to suggest that he has done anything untoward, despite the latest allegations. It's still a puzzle to me that he did so well - and can't wait to see what he does in the next TT. As for Valverde I know equally as well how hard it is to maintain form and peak at the right time whilst avoiding illness and injury, but it is always notable when highly talented riders appear to lose form at the wrong time. I just hope my puzzlement over such reverses in fortune are based on natural causes alone.

iBike update (again)

You remember I bought an iBike? How could you forget?

You can search this blog and find the whole story but in short it's a one-wire, one-external-sensor black box (it's actually white) that uses variables like velocity, acceleration and altitude change coupled with your own choice of constants (weight, friction and aerodynamic co-efficients) to calculate power. It dumps all of that data into a reader and you can play with the .CSV file in any spreadsheet.
  • The pros are that it's the cheapest option for constant (ie not just hills) power measurement and it's as easy to mount as a speedo (making it easy to swap bikes, too).
  • The cons are that the constants aren't really constant. Your weight changes as you sweat and eat (but not by much, unless you are riding 200km/day and not refueling); your aerodynamics change as you sit up or crouch down (but you can adjust your aerodynamic constant to be a 'best fit' for your needs), or just sit in a draft (and yes, it does give some strange results when drafting big bunches or trucks). And your friction changes according to tyre pressure and road surface (but again, not by much).
So it simply can't compete for spot-on, every-day accuracy with SRM or PowerTap, but beats both on price. And if you are prepared to accept and work around the cons then it's still a remarkably useful device for training. After trying all of the 'tweaking' options I've settled on a 'best practices' guide that works for me. I'll share that soon, but here are some tips:
  • Batteries... buy a few CR2032's for spares... they can last a 2 months or 2 weeks, depending upon sample rate and time on each ride
  • Some batteries drop below the recommended 2.75V on ride 2 - but bounce back on ride 3! So don't chuck it away too smartly
  • But be careful, too, as you risk losing all ride data and probably getting spurious results with a low battery, but...
  • I've had no obvious problem starting a 1-2 hour ride with voltages as low as 2.66V.. and it even ended the ride back at 2.72V

More later!