Friday, December 19, 2008

Wear and tear - Elite travel

Elite travel_0652a
Originally uploaded by gtveloce
Not a bad indoor trainer, this is my 2nd (or is it 3rd?) Elite. The roller always wears like that - amazing what hot rubber will do if you try hard enough. This is probably 8 years old, but it has shared the load with an even older - 13 years or so - Elite. The tyres of course wear even faster.

It's a magnetic resisitance unit. Not the best feel but useful, especially when you run an iBike or similar power meter.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fat and slow. First race in 8 mths

first race in 8 mths
Originally uploaded by gtveloce
Yes, well... I had gradually become fat and slow in the intervening 8 months. I hadn't been doing many miles, probably only 50-100km per week for the last year, so missing the entire "road season" in Australia was both a good thing - I'd have been left for dead on Blood Hill - and a bad thing - there was another 50kms of conditioning that I had left off my training diary.

So I hit this first criterium with little condition at all, bar some flat road ambling and some intervals on the indoor trainer. Ouch. My heart wasn't into it - or up to it - and I let the bunch go after 3 laps. You can see that I was consistent between numbered power peaks 1 to 5, and then it dropped off before i got going again whenever someone caught me, or I them. Power peak 8 shows me that (a) the ibike is exaggerating again - no way that was over 1600W - and (b) I had plenty in reserve. So I'm confident that by staying 'up front' throughout the race I can stay with them. Mind you, they were averaging over 34kmh, which is a bit of a stretch for me at the moment. I had anticipated averaging 33kmh at worst... or best, if you prefer. So I was hitting and exceeding my maximum by lap 3.

The yellow arrows are pointing out that the power peaks don't always align with maximum speed. Indeed it's on a slower part of the circuit - the uphill from the 90degree left turn that max Watts are generated. Whereas the top speed is downhill to the finish line.

The yellow lines show you where something was going wrong with the barometric readings - as these are laps of a circuit the altitude was fixed and should repeat, over and over. Not jump 10m or more! I'm guessing the battery was dying...

Slope is also a puzzle - 10% is possible but 20% is just not right. Battery? ibike head unit flexing? Me pulling the front wheel off the deck?

These small-medium errors add up to big - and inaccurate - power readings. You could safely halve these outrageous peaks!

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Training a 37 yo L. Armstrong

Not so different from a 34 year old one really:
With Armstrong being 37 years-old, will Carmichael be monitoring any new or different parameters this time around? "It is basically the same thing as with any athlete, the most objective marker is power," said Carmichael. "Right now, it is just trying to see if we can get power to keep going up which we anticipate to happen. We also want to see that he is getting more efficient so his kilojoules will keep going down for similar types of workouts. "Now he is starting to get more specific with his training moving out of the foundation phase and doing a little more specific work for the bike; a little more threshold work; a little more speed work. He goes to the Astana camp in December then we are planning a camp right after that where he will get behind the motor a little bit and up the volume from basically doing 24-25 hours a week up to 28-30 hours a week of training. That's a big jump on just energy expenditure so everything just has to start simplifying," said Carmichael, who once served as the US National Coaching Director.

So that's:
  1. Measure power (ie engine output)
  2. Watch it go up (and do something if it doesn't)
  3. Move from foundation to specifics (ie start long and slow and build workouts on top)
  4. Become more efficient (ie run as far and as fast but on less)
Simple, really.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Armstrong wants more power, less speed?

That's what I think I read: Armstrong is not necessarily looking for the position that will make the bike the fastest. "It has to be a perfect mix between position and power. If I am five percent slower due to the position, but have 25 percent more power, than that will be better."

Now he may be misquoted. He may be confused, or quoted out of context. Or he's being silly. Perhaps he meant that the 'fastest' position wasn't necessarily the most comfortable and sustainable, which is fine. Perhaps he meant that the most aerodynamic position wasn't necessarily the best overall, for whatever reason. But why the heck say that he'd compromise speed for 'more power'? Wouldn't less power and more speed be even better than the reverse? What use is the extra power if it doesn't increase his speed?

Please explain!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Cadence and speed sensors

To get the ibike's trainer mode going I needed to add these rear-wheel and crank sensors. Makes sense. I chose a power output map that looked close to my Elite trainer and let it rip. Guess what - it works!

The ibike needs a 'trainer mode key' download, too, but that's pretty simple. The ibike software accepts the key on your PC and the ibike head unit is unlocked via USB connection. Bingo, new feature set.

Note the crank-mounted cadence magnet, too.

Finally - my ibike goes wireless

ibike wireless mount_0534
Originally uploaded by gtveloce
OK, so I ride a bike. Big deal - so do you, eh?

I have ridden bikes since about 1972 or so and have always used some method of calculating distance ridden, be it via a mechanical or electrical add-on or by simply estimating distance from a map. Electronic methods improved markedly from around 1980 and quickly became a fairly universal way to accurately measure distance, speed and some environmental variables like temperature. When heart rate monitors took off in the 1990s that became another useful data source for the bike racer or exercise enthusiast. More recently the ibike has put power measurement closer to a price point where serious club racers find it hard to say 'no'.

And now - finally! - here is my new wireless ibike mount. So I have ditched wires - another 'big deal', you say? But I have also gained a few other tricks in the process, like an inbuilt HRM, a cadence sensor and the ability to estimate Watts expended whilst riding on the indoor trainer. It makes my indoor training more quantifiable, more scientific (hopefully) and probably more fun.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Kohl was perhaps too good to be true

Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Perhaps we should have queried a revitalised Kohl, riding better than ever before, grabbing mountain points and securing a fine 3rd overall. Perhaps riding 2 or 3, or even 5 places better than he should have been. OTOH he had previously shown promise. Maybe, just maybe, it's a mistake.

Bernhard Kohl of Gerolsteiner tested non-negative for CERA, French sports paper L'Equipe reported Monday. The French anti-doping agency AFLD had tested Kohl's blood samples. Kohl finished third in the Tour de France this summer and won the climber's jersey.

Well who gets 3rd now? Who takes the spotted jersey for 2008, after all?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Live on the web: Armstrong's blood profile

Just what we all wanted to see, Web2.0 at its very best: Lance Armstrong's blood tests on the web. Catlin said that the actual program is still taking shape. "[Lance] has agreed to a couple of a few very fundamental points. One is his data, like T/E ratio and all that kind of stuff that a doping control is allowed to do will be on the web, so you can see it. 'Ah, your T/E ration changed today, what happened?' Like to see if he is taking EPO – all the actors to make it a very public campaign."

What about this enhancement to the website itself - some sliding controls that change the blood values, with respectively new maximum values for Wattage and VO2 max as you dial up the changes. And how about a new estimated time up L'Alpe d'Huez at those values... just so we can assess for ourselves what difference it makes to have higher haematocrit, for example.

Monday, September 22, 2008

King Contador cruising. Why am I uneasy?

I have that queasy, uneasy feeling again. The Lance A. comeback. His protege Contador winning 2 Grand Tours in a year, 3 in under 2 years; one with little preparation, straight off the beach. And Astana, back in the thick of things, loaded with talent.

25-year-old Alberto Contador carved his name into the annals of cycling history by becoming the first Spaniard to win all three Grand Tours on Sunday in his home town of Madrid. The Astana star who had been denied his opportunity to defend his 2007 Tour de France title when the race organiser refused to invite his team had vowed to get revenge at his home Tour, and he succeeded.

If I trusted these guys - and I must admit it's a leap of faith to do so - would it be good or bad for the sport? Lots of publicity, sure, but have we really finished with the laundry here? Hopefully the blood passports are doing the job, because we need some indication of where fair is fair.

OTOH, was it ever thus? When has life been fair?

Friday, September 19, 2008

QandA beats Footy anytime

Laughing at puerile, self-indulgent Ch9 "Footy Show", outrated by laudable, watchable "QandA" on ABC. Maybe we are growing up?

Next step - a bike racing show? (Yes, I know, it's been done.)

Mobile post sent by gtveloce using Utterli. reply-count Replies.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Checking out Utterli, an utterly post-post modern version of Utterz. Not sure where this all endz, but it's nice to watch these crazy widgetized developers fight it out for web2.0 supremacy

Mobile post sent by gtveloce using Utterlireply-count Replies.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Just because, here's a track hub

Track hub_0145
Originally uploaded by gtveloce
No reason, just thought I'd brighten my day with a look at my front wheel. It's just a track hub. It's attached to a wheel (also 'just a wheel') which fits into the front forks of my Colnago Saronni track bike. OK, they are Velocity Aerohead rims, I think, but you can't see 'em here.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

McQuaid on Armstrong's 'cleanliness'

Pat McQuaid may wish to revise his words, or not, if they are correctly reported: "He'll probably never shut up the no-gooders but it might give him the opportunity to prove he can do it clean."

To me that suggests that Lance hasn't yet proved "he can do it clean". I'll say no more!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Lance returns: do we care?

Well it will kick up some dust, sure. Lance Armstrong's comeback is in the grand US tradition of retiring at the top yet seeking another "final" blaze of glory. Indeed it can't be easy to step out of the limelight and start a "normal" life, if cancer-survivor LA's life could ever be called normal. So a comeback - a well-planned, targeted one at that - could give LA another shot at proving whatever it is he's trying to prove. His innocence, perhaps?

He says he's clean and I take him at his word. He says it's for cancer-fighting publicity, but there must be something in it for him as well. Assuming he does come back, whatever the reasons, does he link with the cleaned-up residue that is Astana, banned from Le Tour 2008? Or does he seek a pure, clean break with the past? I hope the latter - but suspect he'll fall in with the "trusted" old Bruyneel team, irrespective. I'd like to be proven wrong on that.

Lastly, if he does join Astana and they get a berth at Le Tour (no guarantees there but probable), will he be top dog? One assumes so, but will it be the case if Contador has an edge in week 3? Contador's still young, so I suspect he'll roll over easily, but it won't necessarily be easy for him, either.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

One day I'll fold all of my bike sites into one location

Yes, one day. Maybe tomorrow.

Anyway, for those new to here's a summary guide.....

Where you are now is my main focus - bikes, bike racing and physiological stuff. However you could click away madly and find....
Cheers for now, Rob.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Topeak JoeBlow 2

Topeak JoeBlow 2_0433
Originally uploaded by gtveloce
Well it was a great pump whilst it lasted. It seems to have some spring arrangement in the head that has failed... otherwise good, strong pump that could handle over 140psi... watch the snap-action clamping lever, though, it bites! (And the pin around which it rotates periodically works its way out, too.)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Mountain scenes to calm the nervous rider

Nothing quite like a mountain stage in a Grand Tour to calm a rider's nerves... if they are sitting at home watching it all on TV of course... these images are from some Le Tour 2006 pics taken by Brett Lyons. It's Col de la Croix de Fer.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Great work, CSC - maybe

And nice work Simon Gerrans: Schleck had trailed Evans by just one second going into the 15th stage, and ended the day with a seven-second lead over Bernhard Kohl, who headed home the chasing pack behind the breakaway group. The rest day has come at the right time for Evans, so don't write him off yet. Kohl was fifth over the line, and now has a one-second advantage over Evans, who has dropped to third in the overall standings. Gerrans produced a perfectly timed late surge to secure his stage win..

A great stage? Maybe. Actually I don't particularly like to see days like this. It smells like bad sportsmanship, a bit like the old US Postal 'launch' move, but not as obvious. Here we see 3 CSC guys basically gang up (it's called 'teamwork', ha ha) on one isolated guy in yellow - a typical bully-boy gang thing to do. It's great that CSC has a strong team, and that they play to win. I'm sure they are all great guys, too. There's also no law against being good, or great, or working as a team. Indeed at this level of the sport collusion like this is accepted and indeed encouraged. I just don't like to see it.

Thankfully CSC individually are weaker in ITTs - which will even things out. And sure, it's all part of the game and gripping to watch - but I personally like to see a select group of individuals fight it out, man to man (or woman to woman or whatever you prefer). It's just a bit pathetic - akin to bullying - to see 3 guys - in this case Sastre and the Schleck brothers - take turns in attacking Evans (or whoever it may be tomorrow).

OTOH it was a joy to watch Menchov attack - and what a move it was! What a shame he took that slippery bend too quick - and too tightly - and ended on the deck. To my mind it's Menchov vs Evans in this race and only the unexpected or CSC can break it up. Rest day, then back to it.

Just my opinion.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Le Tour: efforts unrewarded - yet?

I had mixed feelings about a stiff and sore Evans hanging tough in what proved a punishing but not decisive stage 10. What were Riis and CSC on about? Yes, it was impressive teamwork. Yes, they have some amazing riders and at least 2 GC contenders, but what were they expecting? To drop everyone on the flat? Or was the plan simply to dislodge Cunego and Valverde on the first climb and then keep them behind? Was that the plan? To thin the field?

Or were they hoping to hurt an injured Evans? Or all of the above? It seemed that CSC were scheming and hammering to little effect, other than exhausting Voigt and Cancellara. Sure, they got close to launching someone, but it didn't really happen. We all knew that Sastre wasn't going to get away, surely? So was the real plan to boost Schleck up the leaderboard? At least they achieved that, if little else. A puzzled Menchov saw both sides: On the climb to Hautacam CSC went on the attack with Carlos Sastre and eventually got Fränk Schleck away. "It's a little bit strange [what CSC did]," Menchov said. "Well, it's not really strange since CSC had to try. In the end it worked out well for them."

Although the rest day will help them - and everyone - recover, in essence it was a big tactical and power display for small reward - with most of the racing still ahead. They have indeed removed some threats, but will the Sastre-Schleck 1-2 punch be enough when Ricco is sitting on, waiting to pounce?

Ahhhh, crystal ball time. One Pyrennean stage to go. Ricco grabs another win. Ricco edges closer on GC. Evans lets the golden fleece go, hoping to get it back in week 3. Schleck and Menchov battle it out in the Alps. Sastre tries to get away, but is marked. Ricco gets away, grabs more time. Indeed, bring on the Alps. And that delicious, long time trial..

Monday, July 14, 2008

Le Tour turns on a crash?

I've had some "memory" pain in my right shoulder this Aussie Winter from a fall I had last year - which was on top of a much worse fall I had on the same shoulder in 1988... when I clipped the wheel of another rider who decided in an instant that the right side of the bunch was somehow better than the left. Of course I shouldn't have overlapped his wheel, but when you have momentum after coming off the slight rise and swooping right turn into Heffron Park's main straight you sometimes close up a bit as the lead riders hit the wind. So I was in the wrong place when that sudden move happened. I gather Cadel Evans faced a similar situation in yesterday's stage, unless the plastic bag in the front wheel story is actually true. Whatever caused it, Cadel will be stiff and sore in the next stage. It doesn't matter how tough you are, you still feel pain and lose some agility for a few days.

Valverde had his bad luck last week and has had time to recover. Evans may not be so lucky as he faces the Pyrennees and almost certain attacks. I won't blame him for cracking just a bit and losing time. It may be better than pushing too far and losing far more. He can afford to lose a minute or 2, but no more.

Meanwhile Ricco has lived up to expectations: Italy's Riccardo Riccò opened up the throttle to distance his rivals on the Tour de France's Col d'Aspin in a move similar to the late Marco Pantani to gain a solo win in Bagnères de Bigorre. The chase including classification favourites finished over a minute behind Riccò and included race leader Kim Kirchen (Team Columbia) and a bruised Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto), who crashed on the decent of the Col de Peyresourde.

Oh how I wish he - or a clean Pantani - had been around when Lance was racing.

Friday, July 04, 2008

It's that time again

Everyone knows it's July, and July means Le Tour. And everyone who cares knows that Cadel Evans came 2nd last year, and as the winner isn't in the game this year that leaves Evans as the 'favourite'. However anyone who has ridden a bike for 3 consecutive weeks, no matter how far or how fast, knows that you can have one or 2 bad days at just the wrong time. You can catch a cold, or fall, or just get dropped and not get back. Although Armstrong made it look ridiculously easy to get 7 in a row, he did have bad days. He also had a great team and a great deal of luck, especially considering almost everyone he beat was doping. But it's not so simple any more. There are no dopes, hopefully, and no stand-outs either.

So after this 3-week-long lottery on wheels it could be Evans, or Valverde, or Menchov. Or we may get another Pereiro from out of the blue. Let's just hope we don't get a Landis, a Vinokourov or a Rasmussen.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Heart-rate monitors and servicing

Polar TX date_0682b
Originally uploaded by gtveloce
On a more light-hearted note, kinda, my Polar M22 is getting on a bit. It's been great - just 3 batteries in 8 years, and one new strap. Thinking of which, pictured here is the transmitter strap in question.

It's younger than the M22 itself by about 5 years, nevertheless Polar want me to read the tiny date markings anyway. I'm pretty sure the M22 battery has carked it - it "rebooted" itself once and then simply went blank a week or so later. I have no problem with Polar's agent in Australia wanting this detail, it's more the pain I am going through in getting the info to them that annoys me.

They want me to print out a form that doesn't format in Firefox. Oh joy. I have to use Internet Explorer instead, but they didn't say that until I'd filled out the form already! How about a warning at the top of the form, rather than the bottom? What about online submission of the form? Anyone at Polar Australia (called Pursuit Performance, btw) heard of the 21st Century?

Worse still, the M22 is a "best effort" repair as it is no longer supported with new parts (as against batteries and parts still in stock). Great. I'm thinking there may be some alternative options in the cycling-specific heart rate monitor business after this little annoyance. Only problem is that the Polar agent does do a good job overall. Do I stick with the devil I know?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Interesting way of putting it...

I've got an existing, legally binding contract, yes. But I have received a better offer. What should I do?

(a) announce to all the world that I'm switching mid-season
(b) talk to my legal advisors first and stay quiet
(c) politely say thanks but no thanks, I have an existing contract.

I guess I would have a good think about it, since it is a great opportunity. In any case we have the answer right here: Gilmore learned that her contract with Menikini-Selle Italia would not allow the transfer, and she decided to remain with the Italian squad for the remainder of the season.

Contract is valid, team doesn't want to let me go. End of story, unless I want to break the contract...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Don't we all know that feeling?

From CN, quoting Cancellara after his breakaway stage win in the Tour of Switzerland: "Kim Anderson was shouting to me that I had to keep going strong, to go for it, go for it, but in my head I was thinking, 'where is this finish line?' I knew that the sprinters behind me would accelerate to 70 kilometres per hour whereas me, on my bike computer, I wasn't even doing 60. So I was a bit scared and was wondering where the hell the finish was."

Don't we all know that feeling of impending capture? You've gone first a long way out and are just hoping the bunch doesn't catch you before the line. Except if it was me I'd be going well under 50kmh, it would be a crit and the bunch sprinters would be lucky to crack 60, if that. It still matters!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

2 wins in a row for McEwen

Well he knows how to win, and how to prepare to the level he needs. And he also has a bit of experience at 'doing it on his own'. But he has also had a few guys helping him these last few years - with spectacular launches like Steegman's 2 years ago and more recently a couple of Lotto guys who would expertly move him into the final corners first. But come July there will be no such help as protecting Evans will be task numero uno. McEwen will have to jump on someone's wheel and fight it out with the big trains, assuming the trains actually run this year (it will be a bit grim without Boonen and Petacchi). It may be the right year to be on your own in the sprint, actually.

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Boonen takes a break - yeah, right

Boy, was that short. OK, he claims his drink was spiked and it wasn't his fault - God knows I believe him, too - but at the 'I'm sorry' press conference last week, Boonen said that he would take 'a short break' from racing. Damned short, since he is starting in the Ster Elektrotoer today.I'm guessing won't try to bring any attention to himself by winning any stages...

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Valverde hard to crack

He alawys looked the goods, although suspicions have clouded his recent career. Now he has shown his 2008 form, who will be able to beat him to Paris? Evans will clearly try, and may have the edge in longer, flatter TTs, but he may not have the advantage elsewhere. Whilst Cadel has Popovych to help him in the mountains, Valverde also has Tour-winner Pereiro up his sleeve. It's looking like a real dogfight, once again. Throw in some rejuvenated Frenchmen like Dessel, plus almost anyone on teams CSC and High Road and it's looking good for a boilover in July. From CN: Overall winner Valverde reckons the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré is one of the best on the cycling calendar. "This is the most important victory of my career so far," said the Spaniard. "Because of the prestige of this race but also because of the time of the year when it's held. This week allowed me to judge the condition of my adversaries. I came with a good condition myself after the training camp we had in the Alps."

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Alan Peiper: interesting thoughts on form and fitness

Alan Peiper is a rough, tough Aussie battler from the old days. No easy path to the pro peleton for him. And he recently assessed Michael Rogers' form in the mountains..He noted that the glandular fever had passed and that he 'looks good', which is apparently what really matters. Well, we know what he meant - I think. From CN: "Michael has had a good progression," his Team High Road directeur sportif Allan Peiper said. "His first race back after so many different problems was the Tour of Catalunya last month. His weight is down. He looks good, that's the main thing. He came to a training camp in the Pyrénées for three days and he was riding his time trial bike in between the mountain sessions. Now we have to see his resistance and his recovery."

Weight down, looks good. Yep, that's what it takes.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

No way can I beat this guy, so I did anyway

Well so it seems. 'The Murcian appreciated the uphill terrain in Privas. "I'm a complete rider," he admitted. "But as a sprinter, on a flat road, there's no way I can beat riders like Hushovd. Today's sprint was a special one. I accelerated with power 300 meters before the line."'

Yeah, OK, Valverde's a bit of a sprinter, but to beat Hushovd? In a sprint? What's wrong with the world? Apparently the uphill finish did him in. So Hushovd is strictly a biggest-cog high-end speed on the flats kind of guy. Or - my personal preference - he just chose the wrong gear...

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

3TTT seatpost failure

3TTT seatpost failure_0432
Originally uploaded by gtveloce
Doe sit look like a strange angle? It's a lightweight 3TTT seatpost that fitted into the slightly smaller than 'usual' diameter seat tube of my cabon-framed Look KG76. You can see that it has had fluting milled out and painted black. It and the Look frame (with Mavic ensemble) were sold new to me by Steve Hogg in 1990, so it was about 17 years old when it finally snapped, although it wasn't used for maybe 5 or those years and was never my only bike.

Did it look like it was about to fail? Nope, not at all. I looked and looked again several times at this very component and saw nothing untoward. Did it make any sounds or strange sensations? Well that's harder to answer... maybe. For perhaps 3 or 4 years the bike made a strange creak that seemed to come from the saddle, and the "fix" was to lower the saddle slightly. However I swapped saddles somewhat later and raised the seat height without inducing the creak. So I thought it was indeed saddle-related. Nevertheless it made me nervous and I feared that the carbon frame (with bonded aluminium lugs) was getting "flexy". So I examined it very carefully and could find no cracks or even a creak.

However 50 metres before it broke I felt that the saddle had swung very slightly to one side. Not an especially unusal event as the post can't be over-tightened without cracking the carbon tube. So I slowed to stop but had to get around a corner first... and it was in that corner (at about 25kmh) that 2 things happened. I leaned the bike at a small angle and I put weight on the saddle. (Bear in mind that 1km earlier I had descended at 50kmh and took a hard left hander - seated - at speed without drama.) Anyway, I think now that the crack was invisibly growing from the fluting and gradually circumnavigating the seat post. Only the merest connection remained when I entered that final corner, and I probably rose out of the saddle slightly and knocked the post out of alignment. When I sat down again the crack no longer aligned and simply collapsed under my weight. It took me by surprise and I ended up on the deck.

So the lesson is to expect the unexpected, look at everything for fatigue and don't push aluminium to destruction.. replace it early. And yes, I still use the KG76 today and the frame itself is fine. Touch wood (or carbon).

Monday, June 02, 2008

Giro 2008: A certain strangeness about it all

It's was a strange Giro. Beautiful, with punishing mountains and stirring breakaways. Simoni trying, endlessly, to recapture his youth. Ricco attempting again and again to stamp his name on the record books. Sella brilliant, suprising himself as well as us with multiple stages; and  Di Luca's power slowly leaching away like a stain And then there's the overall winner: Contador. His 2nd Grand Tour win and possibly the most remarkable. Let's not forget that he had not trained for the distances involved in a 3-week Grand Tour, nor had he done the mountain repeats that would be "normal" training for the toughest stages. Instead he entered the race with an open mind and his body fresh. It wouldn't work for me, or for anyone I know, but it worked a treat for him. Of course he would have fancied his chances on some of the stages, just because he is at a decent professional level anyway; but to pull off the overall - against competition whose only goal in training has been this race is - indeed - remarkable. His physiology must be "perfect" for this style of race, and for the mountains themselves. Or the other riders are rubbish. I'll leave you to ponder how Contador has been able to achieve what seems to have been impossible for his teammates, Kloden (sick) and Leipheimer (still somewhere out there).  

As Contador said himself: "I never could have imagined it – I was at home when the team called me...," Contador recalled of his entry into the race following Saturday's mountainous stage through the Alps. "The team wanted me to come here and I wasn't convinced that it was the right thing to do. ... Playing in the final to win it all – it's something that was unimaginable a month ago"  

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Friday, May 30, 2008

Giro 2008: Voigt takes a stage (you just knew he would)

Eventually Jens Voigt gets into a break that goes all the way.. and not being a sprinter of great reknown he chances his arm on a lone break just far enough out to look line-ball. It's a typical Voigt move. It forces the others to work together in order to catch him - which they did for a while... but not long enough. "Voigt said that he was not riding well in the group, but it was a tactic," said Italian Champion Visconti, who led the race's overall for eight days. "We all know Voigt well; when he gets going you can't stop him. He deserves it."

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Giro 2008: the 24% ITT on a gravel road

Ouch. That hurt. Well it touched 24%, and 20%, and all points in between. And it ended with 5 km of wheel-spinning gravel. I have ridden a flat section of gravel a few times in races and training, puncturing only once (touch wood). It's a likely event though, to split a sidewall on sharp stone. That alone would be on your mind, except that with a few 20% + ramps to get over the mind is more focused on rear wheel traction than puncturing. Think of your favourite (if 'favourite' is the right word) steep climb, one where you have to get out of the saddle to keep going. You know the type, a climb that tests your resolve, where turning around is simply impossible and putting your foot down will likely result in toppling over... that's what the Giro just went up.

Around these parts I can think of a few smooth but shady climbs of around 24% where the dew or recent rain turns the surface slick enough to wheelspin. You have traction for a while - then no drive, just a sudden loss of resistance as your pedal sinks too swiftly. You sit down again to put weight on the rear wheel, or lean back just enough to regain traction. Big, sudden efforts are wasted, everything is smooth and gentle. You have trouble now keeping the front wheel on the deck... and look to weave across the camber of the road, searching for the 'flatter' bits. Now try racing on that.

Ricco cracked a little bit, but not enough to lose all hope. Di Luca suffered and lost. Simoni proved the wisdom and strength of a long career with a great ride. Selle nearly pulled off a stunning hat-trick. It was quite a race. But it was Pellizotti who took the climb on and won. Alas Contador was not far behind and retains the lead. He looks strong enough and it will take a mighty attack to dislodge him.

My favourite part remains the gravel: Rujano's finishing time was 41'15, which eventually netted him sixth place. Vasili Kiryienka (Tinkoff Credit Systems) had a technical problem that forced him to walk the last half kilometre, but with gradients of up to 24 percent, this wasn't much slower. No following cars were allowed today and the only technical assistance came from motorbike support.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Giro 2008: a grand stage indeed

You can't complain about a stage like this one - it had a bright beginning, a wonderful middle and an emphatic - and glorious - ending. Who doesn't want to win a stage like this, especially when it's 2 wins from 2?

From CN: "the maglia rosa was now isolated completely and already eight minutes back. Soon, Sella could see the familiar mountain sight of RVs and knew he was doing well. The road became narrower and narrower, as more and more people lined the road and Sella pushed on, increasing his lead to 2'40" over the main chasers, with seven kilometres to go."

Apart from Sella, Ricco was the standout, grabbing lots of time. Simoni showed plenty of mettle and Contador did enough - just - to secure the overall lead. Tomorrow's mountain ITT should surely see Ricco take the lead (if he wants it)... surely he does!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Giro 2008; Sella wins, marries

Not sure I'd stake my future marriage plans on success in the Giro, but then I can barely ride out of sight on a dark night.

From CN: He is serious about his maturity and will get married this June, a promise he made to his girlfriend if he was to win a stage in the Giro d'Italia. "She was very happy, she knows that it was something very important for me," he said of his girlfriend, Laura. "I said, 'If I win in this Giro, I will marry you at the end of this Giro.'" The couple will marry June 8.

Luckily enough, yesterday he won. Simoni was strong in the mountains and got things going, which is all that matters to me really.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Giro 2008: the fastest doesn't always win

Don't you hate that? Even when you are clearly the fastest in the sprint, gaining ground with every pedal stroke and making everyone else look slow, the line comes up too early... and you come anywhere from 2nd backwards. Ouch. How do you fix this, it just isn't fair!

Now it's happened to Cavendish: Coming into the final turn, Bennati had already taken the lead with McEwen right behind, and Cavendish was left chasing for the win. He made a strong comeback and thrust his bike at the line, but was just millimetres shy of the win. "The team worked really well, but Bennati had 10 metres on me out of the corner," stated Cavendish. "A few metres after the line, I had it but that is no use."

And yes, it's no use complaining. Bennati must have gone at exactly the right time, and McEwen must have faded just a tad. And Cavo is left 2nd.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Mick's back

Well Michael Rogers (Team High Road) is racing again so the Epstein-Barr virus must not have been too severe... and he's understandably off the pace and taking it a bit easy so far.

Aussies rule in Japan

Well, that's true in a sense.

Exhibit A: South's Zakkari Dempster took his first international victory after taking the first stage of the 12th Tour of Japan. The 20 year old Australian took the bunch sprint ahead of Japan's Taiji Nishitani (Aisan Racing Team) and German Benjamin Stauder (Stegcomputer-CKT-Cogeas). "This is fantastic and I'm very happy!" Dempster said at the press conference following the stage. He also got the green leader jersey and the blue point jersey.

Exhibit B: South's Wesley Sulzberger took stage 2 of the Tour of Japan, ahead of team-mate Cameron Meyer in Nara. The 21 year old Australian jumped away from the breakaway with Meyer and Kazuo Inoue (Nippo-Endeka) in the final lap before leaving the local rider behind to take both first and second in the stage and the overall. Sulzberger took over the overall lead from team-mate Zakkari Dempster, who won stage one in a sprint.

Exhibit C: Simon Clarke ( takes his team's third victory at the Tour of Japan.

There's an ITT to come, which whilst short at 11km will shake things up on GC. And then 2 stages, the first a short road stage, the 2nd a circuit race. The ITT may be decisive.

2 wins in a row thanks to fewer beers

We Australians like to think we are a nation of beer drinkers but in fact almost every nation is a nation of beer drinkers. Some imbibe more wine, some are too busy dealing with flood and famine to care. Yes, it is a popular social lubricant. But does it help you recover post-ride? (Drinking seemed to do wonders for Floyd Landis in between stages.)

But laying off the grog seems to work for Aussie Rory Sutherland: Beer drinking is a major pastime in his homeland, so it is no surprise he would crack open a few after these two weeks. But Sutherland said he thinks his approach to the beer this year might be the secret to his success. "It's funny, I made a rule with myself at the beginning of the week that I don't drink any beers during a stage race, and it's worked every since," said the Australian. "It normally is [a pastime,] but it seems to be working pretty well! So I'm not going to jinx it. Once I leave my home I don't drink until I get home again."

Beer: High caloric value, good for energy recovery: tick. A relaxant, good to get you in a recovery frame of mind: tick. Full of vitamin B, which can't hurt: tick. A dehydrator, to lessen your rate of recovery: tick. Includes a toxic substance damaging to your health: tick. Hmmm.

Rory also supports the 'less is more' theory of recovery: Sutherland also said he is going to spend his week at home more off the bike than on to get ready for the upcoming CSC and Philly week races. "I'm a big advocate of recovery off the bike, it seems to work well for me," he said. "Just clear your head and walk the dog or go for a swim - something different than riding your bike."

That sounds healthy, as long as he lays off the beer.

Giro 2008: Festival of crashes

Wet roads, short steep ascents, fast descents and enough road for everyone to come back together. Some took their chances and lost, others kept their powder dry for tomorrow. Not a day I'd be happy about but good on Bertolini for coming up trumps, and Visconti for hanging tough...

After 16 years as a professional, Alessandro Bertolini has won his first ever stage in the Giro d'Italia. The 36 year-old Italian, whose main job is to defend Serramenti PVC team leader Gilberto Simoni, was part of a five-man escape that dominated a wet and demanding stage to Cesena in Italy's Emilia Romagna region.

Must say I made a point of racing and training in the wet, but was even more careful than usual (if that be possible). Indeed as the years went by and the crashes built up I grew ever more wary about greasy roads, although my most memorable slip was on oil dropped by a truck over a railway bridge in Lewisham, NSW. I survived the slide with grazes but the motorbike rider who went down next was far more infuriated about the whole thing - and rightly so. Beware the unexpected.

To come: 2 flat sprinters' stages. Watch for McEwen, see if he can actually take a win this year. After that the Giro becomes truly brutal. Expect a few non-Italian-team sprinters to fold their tents and pack it in. The mountain men will dominate from that point, although a couple of climbing-sprinters (like Bettini and Zabel) will hang their hopes on a stage or 2 in-between the mountain passes. Soler would have shone on some of these 20% climbs, but he's now sadly out of the race. Look at Simoni and Contador to have a go instead. Di Luca will surely fade but may dig deep. Kloden may surprise.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Giro 2008: Lots of Italians in this race

Not surprisingly it has been a race for the Italians, mostly. A few days pass, the GC is largely unaffected and more Italians fight it out: Daniele Bennati of Liquigas has taken his second stage win in this year's Giro after a close sprint against compatriot Paolo Bettini, who finished second for the second day in a row. Australian Robbie McEwen of Silence-Lotto is on his way back and finished an impressive third. Milram's Erik Zabel got fourth, while High Road, which has led the final kilometres, was not rewarded and its sprinter Cavendish could only get into the top ten.

Thank goodness McEwen is getting closer. But can he beat these darned Italian sprinters? I predict an Italian rider will win the ITT tomorrow (thus ensuring a victory by someone else - lord knows who - someone from Astana perhaps?).

Friday, May 16, 2008

Giro 2008: The break took ELEVEN minutes?

Sure did. 11 minutes. The parcours was tough but you'd have to imagine that the GC teams just don't want to lead right now... and that they figure the final 9 minutes gap can be recovered easily in the tough stages to come. Which looks true enough. It gives Visconti some hope of retaining the pink jersey for a few days. Oh, and Priamo did well to win the stage: Italian national champion Giovanni Visconti (Quick Step) came home 40 seconds behind Priamo but, with the main bunch crossing the line 11 minutes and 34 seconds down, he became the new race leader. The day's heartbreak went to Gerolsteiner's Matthias Russ, who spent the better part of the day in the 'virtual' magila rosa, but just missed out on taking over the general classification when Visconti put in enough time to sneak into pink in the final 350 metres.

No broken chains reported this time.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Giro 2008: breaking free and breaking a chain

Cycle racing is a game of looking for opportunities, taking them, and hoping things work out. OK, maybe it's not just hope, since we prepare and do absolutely everything to ensure that nothing goes wrong; but we don't do that to the extent where things can't go wrong. We can't cover everything, but we can do our level best to give ourselves the best chance possible.

And then Millar breaks his chain: Brutt hit the line ahead of four chasers: Johannes Fröhlinger (Gerolsteiner), Luis Felipe Laverde (CSF Group Navigare) and Francisco Pérez (Caisse d'Epargne) were next home, while David Millar (Slipstream Chipotle H30) suffered a broken chain at the precise moment the Russian kicked clear. He was disgusted at the ill luck and threw his bike over a barrier, eventually going on to finish 119th.

Now that's embarrassing. I have never broken a chain - touch wood - but I have broken lots of other things (like seat bolts, stem bolts, saddle rails, wheels, rear derailleurs, a hub ratchet and even a seat post). A friend and training partner broke his chain during a race and I have seen other people do it as well. It can be a gentle or catastrophic loss of power, depending upon what you are doing at the time. Pulling your foot in a sprint is somewhat similar - and I've certainly done that, twice on a track bike. You'd think at a professional level things like this - a broken chain! - would never happen. Surely these are the best chains, microscopically analysed and x-rayed for flaws, meticulously fitted and double-checked. Perhaps triple-checked.

But maybe not.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Giro 2008: nice one for Cavendish

A good team result for High Road: Timing his final move perfectly and easily over-taking Daniele Bennati, Mark Cavendish thundered to his first ever Grand Tour stage victory today in Catanzaro Lungomare.

Not so good for Rabo: Graeme Brown, the Aussie Rabobank sprinter was feeling the effects of yeterday's fall. He finished 149th, 6 minutes and 39 seconds back, but said he hopes to recover. "My knee is pretty sore but I struggled though it," he stated. "I hope it will be okay in a few days. Today was pretty sore, it is pretty sore now."

No luck for the Aussies this year, not so far anyway, although McEwen is edging closer with a 7th today. And Matt Lloyd is still in touch on GC, just 1:19 back from Pellizotti. Unless a big escape takes place things look like staying as-is for now. Di Luca is also looking good, but there are plenty of hopefuls and we haven't seen what Soler can do yet.

Giro 2008: ouch and ouch again

As a cyclist I know that falling is part of the game, but not a good part. I never want to fall and I never want to cause anyone else to fall (yeah, sometimes I have wished the worst on some idiot but not often). I especially hate it when riders are weaving around for no reason other than their own desire to shake people off. OK, fine, that happens, we all want to get a gap and ride alone to glorious victory. But how often does it work? Versus how often it causes a fall? Sometimes - possibly every time - positioning with stealth and cunning beats those stupid pre-sprint desperation weaves.

And then there are just plain accidents. Potholes, punctures, car doors, crossed wheels, too fast into a corner, a nudge here or there and... boom! And in a tight bunch the slightest wrong move in the middle or side can send someone off the road. It happens.

Which brings me to a stage of this year's Giro I'd rather forget. Stage 3: It was a day characterised by breakaways, crashes and high speeds but, as expected, the third stage of the Giro d'Italia came down to a bunch sprint. Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) did precisely what his team-mate and race leader Franco Pellizotti yesterday suggested he would do, winning in Milazzo and thus making it a double success for the acid green squad. That's the good bit. Good on Bennati. Good on Pellizotti.

But this is the worst of it:At the start in Catania, there was concern about the stage's technical finish, but the worst wrecks occurred mid-stage. One massive pile-up took down riders such as stage two winner Riccardo Riccó (Saunier Duval – Scott) and David Millar (Slipstream Chipotle H30) while another put Bradley McGee (CSC) out of the race with a broken collarbone. McGee's team-mate Stuart O'Grady, who was doing his first Grand Tour since he was seriously injured in last year's Tour de France also crashed, and while he finished the stage it was later found that he also broke his collarbone.

Both McGee and O'Grady are coming back, either from obvious or more hidden maladies, and it's a shame to see them go out of the race. There were others hurt, too: Other riders caught up in Stage 3's mass crash included Saunier Duval-Scott's Riccardo Riccò and Eros Capecchi. Both riders have undergone X-rays and been cleared to ride, with Riccò dislocating a finger on his left hand while Capecchi's suspected broken collarbone turned out to be muscle injury.

I'd like to say we can fix this sort of thing, but how? Bike racers draft in packs. It's the sport. Proximity is both a danger and a blessing - the convivial bunch rolling along is a great thing that no other sport shares. Perhaps we need full-body armour (ventilated of course) and/or crash detection and prevention radar.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Giro 2008: Ricco wins, Pellizotti leads

Ouch, that was hard. Nice to see the leader of the Pantani appreciation society, Ricardo Ricco take the win, and Pellizotti is a deserved leader on GC. Bad news for Zabriskie with a nasty fall - will his luck turn back soon? Surely it must! Riccò and Pellizotti were equally satisfied with their day. "This morning I wanted to win the stage," said the former. "Benitez helped me in the last kilometres and then Piepoli. I was feeling well so my team-mates helped me. We made a great sprint and it was good to beat Di Luca because it shows I have great condition.

Tomorrow is a sprint stage, although Mount Etna may erupt and change the face of Calabria. You never know.

2008 Giro - I hate TTTs

OK, they are interesting and all but to start a Grand Tour with a TTT really disadvantages so many GC riders - well, mostly the sprinters in the less-evenly-balanced teams. It's fine if you are a strong TT team with plenty of riders prepared to give it their all, but what if you are a sprinter who wants to conserve a bit for later in the week? Or a climber with similar ambitions? Yes, I know, it doesn't matter how you start, someone will be set-back by the nature of "the thing". It's just to me a TTT is "the thing" I like least! If it came later in the Giro it'd make for an interesting reshuffle (but I'd still hate it).

That gripe aside, it's nice to see Slipstream and Vandevelde win. From CN: Scooping its biggest ever win and simultaneously propelling Christian Vande Velde into the first American maglia rosa since Andy Hampsten 20 years ago, Slipstream Chipotle H30 thundered to team time trial success on day one of the Giro d'Italia.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Olympic cyclist Ben Kersten's fury at road-rage driver | The Daily Telegraph

More on the near-tragedy this morning... you'd think from some of the comments that we should be starting an education campaign for motorists on the road rules and the application of duty of care...
CHAMPION cyclist Ben Kersten says a random hit-and-run road rage attack could have killed several riders - including Olympic Games gold medallists Graeme Brown and Kevin Nichols - in Sydney today.
Olympic cyclist Ben Kersten's fury at road-rage driver | The Daily Telegraph

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Idiot driver takes out cycling pack - apparently with intent

If you've cycled in Sydney you'll know the feeling of being hassled by drivers with little apparent self-control and an inability to separate their emotions from their driving task. In this instance the "Crazy driver" involved has gone one step too far - maybe 2 or 3 steps too far. Doesn't matter that there were Olympians involved, this shouldn't happen to anyone.

read more | digg story

Where's Mick? Sick!

I asked where's Mick Rogers? Well apparently he has Epstein-Barr virus. Now that can take many forms, including 'glandular fever' or mononucleosis and has been linked to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I think Cunego had it just after his break through year and has been slowly regaining the form he used to have... OTOH just about everyone has it at some point in their lives and they get by...

Personally it recurred every time I got back on the bike... it took about a year to get over it and I never got back the form I had prior... but as I say, Cunego is coming back strong and it's a very common virus. But I would guess Mick is out for the season...

Friday, May 02, 2008

A slower than usual start...

But as usual McEwen takes a win: Australia's Robbie McEwen of Silence-Lotto took his first win of the season, capturing a sprint finish in Fribourg ahead of Italy's Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) and Denmark's Matti Breschel (CSC). Swiss Michael Albasini (Liquigas) kept the leader's jersey.. Plenty of changes for Robbie this year - no early wins is unusual, and a Belgian team even more clearly split between 2 Aussies has taken away some of the dedicated support he previously expected. He's blaming other factors, but one has to wonder what happens in July, when Cadel Evans will be numero uno and his GC aspirations the clear focus of the team. (Cadel's not racing in Romandie so there's no conflict - yet.)

Whilst many will say that McEwen can look after himself in a sprint, he has also relied on teammates to get him into position (witness the work Steegmans used to do, launching McEwen to spectacular wins) or to catch sprint-threatening breakaways. If a breakaway doesn't threaten Cadel on GC, would the team help to it close down, for Robbie's sake? Or will it be down to just Robbie and pal Nick Gates to make the best of it?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

And now a win for Hilton Clarke

Brought to you by yet another famous Aussie cycling family (funny how some things run in families, my local butcher is the same)... Clarke claims Beaufort win. Notice that it's a crit, and a big one. Anyone remember Shane Sutton winning the US Crit Champs about - umm - 20 years ago?

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Nice stage win for Sulzberger

In what can only be described as a tactical team victory - OK, you could also say it was a personal, individual win - Wesley Sulzberger (Aus) Australian National Team 3.54.54 (37.65 km/h) outsprinted GC leader Vitaly Buts after a monumental day of attacking in stage 3 of the Giro delle Regioni. The Aussies softened 'em up with a leg-breaking mountain attack by Travis Meyer, followed by the counter. Each move included an Aussie and effectively launched Wes to the win. Yes, yes, he still had to sprint.

Monday, April 28, 2008

And Valverde will be there

Well, we hope he'll be there come July. He can climb and sprint. He can mix it with anyone in a tour - and even in a Classic. Whilst he does have a small cloud still hanging about from his brush with that Spanish Affair, he's not in the frame at the moment. So tick Valverde come July. Note also that Cadel Evans missed the key break but wasn't too far off the pace.
One year ago in Ans, Alejandro Valverde found himself just short of his second victory in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, but this year the Caisse d'Epargne rider hit back with Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner) and Fränk Schleck (Team CSC) left wondering what could have been. The 28 year-old, winner of the 2006 Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, added a third Ardennes Classic to his already rich palmarès by waiting until the final 200 metres to swing by his two escape companions.

Georgia on my mind

Well it was an interesting result in the end, but not so surprising. NZ's Greg Henderson won the final sprint for High Road, and the team picked up the overall as well - just. What conclusions can we draw? Is this a serious indication of tour form for High Road? Will Slipstream's Trent Lowe come of age this year with a major win? Where's Mick Rogers?

Well it's only April. Let's look at the top 30 or so anyway.

Siutsou was a revelation and deserved winner, and Aussie Lowe came oh-so-close to end up 2nd on GC. Leiphemer could only hang with these guys for 3rd. (But it's April, and Astana won't be at Le Tour anyway.) There was a bunch of guys close, too, but they also won't figure in July. However it was nice to see Oscar Sevilla racing at a high level again (6th). Rory Sutherland was a good 9th and could have been higher with a bit of luck. Julich's 10th also under-rated his potential. Willo, Chadwick and McGee were all in the mix, too.

1 Kanstantin Siutsou (Blr) Team High Road 22.44.44

2 Trent Lowe (Aus) Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30 0.04

3 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Astana 0.14

4 Antonio Colom Mas (Spa) Astana 1.02

5 Iñigo Cuesta Lopez De Castro (Spa) Team CSC 1.11

6 Oscar Sevilla (Spa) Rock Racing 1.25

7 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Slipstream Chipotle p/b H30 1.32

8 Moises Aldape Chavez (Mex) Team Type 1 1.37

9 Rory Sutherland (Aus) Health Net p/b Maxxis 2.08

10 Bobby Julich (USA) Team CSC 2.31

11 José Luis Rubiera Vigil (Spa) Astana 2.39

12 Scott Nydam (USA) BMC Racing Team 2.49

13 George Hincapie (USA) Team High Road 3.19

14 Michael Blaudzun (Den) Team CSC 3.26

15 Valery Kobzarenko (Ukr) Team Type 1 3.29

16 Darren Lill (RSA) BMC Racing Team

17 Christopher Jones (USA) Team Type 1 3.37

18 Christian Meier (Can) Symmetrics Cycling Team 3.44

19 Francois Parisien (Can) Symmetrics Cycling Team 3.48

20 Glen Chadwick (Aus) Team Type 1 4.13

21 Trent Wilson (Aus) Jittery Joe's Pro Cycling Team 4.15

22 Bradley McGee (Aus) Team CSC 4.26

23 Christopher Baldwin (USA) Toyota - United Pro Cycling Team 4.28

24 Jacob Erker (Can) Symmetrics Cycling Team

25 Michael Lange (USA) Jelly Belly Cycling Team 4.34

26 Jai Crawford (Aus) GE Trek - Marco Polo Cycling Team 5.02

27 Matt Cooke (USA) Health Net p/b Maxxis 5.06

28 Chris Horner (USA) Astana 5.33

29 Jeremy Vennell (NZl) Bissell Pro Cycling 5.46

30 Matthias Russ (Ger) Gerolsteiner 6.02

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Evans attacks, 2nd time this year!

Kidding. As I've said before, he attacks when he thinks he has an advantage, not because it's his only tactic. Evans plays a strategic game in his races, mulling over the pros and cons whilst digging deep to counter important moves. Well, that's how most riders do it, too. But he has the engine to launch decisive attacks, which is not the case for every rider. So there are expectations.

Anyway, he launched but lost. It was close. It confirms his form and his motivation. It was worth a shot. Kim Kirchen won instead, Cadel 2nd, Cunego 3rd. Read CN's report of the Arrow of Wallonne here: With Efimkin exhausted, Wegmann pressed on solo and held a 20-second advantage to the final kilometre. But he quickly succumbed to the savage gradients of the Mur as Evans blasted past with 400 metres remaining. Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Cunego, Joaquím Rodríguez (Caisse d'Epargne) and Kirchen were all in tow as the 31 year-old Australian fought hard with Amstel Gold winner Cunego and last year's winner Rebellin.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

As runners, cyclists make good cyclists

But triathletes fare better. Well Armstrong was a triathlete many moons ago, and it shows. As a cyclist and not a runner I can quite honestly say that I was "fast enough", but only over about 400m max. After that it became a slog, a real slog.

Anyway, from CN: Seven times Tour de France champion and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong finished the 112th Boston Marathon in 2:50:58, placing 488th out of more than 25,000 Monday. Kenyan Robert Cheruiyot won the men's race in 2:07:46, missing the course record he set by just 32 seconds. He became the fourth man to win Boston four times, joining American great Bill Rogers.

Cuban missile wins, (Aus) dominates Tour de Georgia stage 1

Go Ivan! There's always something nice about a US and Japanese corporation-sponsored US-domestic pro bike team winning ahead of the ProTour teams. Better yet, being Cuban in origin allows everyone to use the "Cuban missile" cliche yet again. Life is good.

Interesting to see who was up there in the sprint... and it's a loooong way back to the first Yank, Taylor Tolleson (sorry, who?), let alone non-sprinter Chris Horner:

1 Ivan Dominguez (Cub) Toyota - United Pro Cycling Team 2.30.18 (45.43 km/h)

2 Nicholas Sanderson (Aus) Jelly Belly Cycling Team

3 Robert Förster (Ger) Gerolsteiner

4 Richard England (Aus) Bissell Pro Cycling

5 Serguei Koudentsov (Rus) GE Trek - Marco Polo Cycling Team

6 Danilo Wyss (Swi) BMC Racing Team

7 Bradley McGee (Aus) Team CSC

8 Gregory Henderson (NZl) Team High Road

9 Aaron Kemps (Aus) Astana

10 Karl Menzies (Aus) Health Net Presented By Maxxis

11 Cody Stevenson (Aus) Jittery Joe's Pro Cycling Team

12 Matt Rice (Aus) Jelly Belly Cycling Team

13 Taylor Tolleson (USA) BMC Racing Team

14 Oscar Sevilla (Spa) Rock Racing

15 Dominique Rollin (Can) Toyota - United Pro Cycling Team

16 Hilton Clarke (Aus) Toyota - United Pro Cycling Team

17 Jonathan Cantwell (Aus) Jittery Joe's Pro Cycling Team

18 Chris Horner (USA) Astana

Is that 9 Aussies ahead of Chris? Is that Bradley McGee I see before me? And Sanderson - great result in 2nd place. Tomorrow will sort the guys out, this was too short, more like a crit than a road race...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

BTW, Contador beat Evans in finale

Does it really matter? In the final 20km TT Contador - despite suffering "dental problems" was able to overcome Evans and the rest to secure his home race. I guess that's important - it was his home race after all. As well, Evans is building up to July so should still be off the pace, particularly in a short TT that doesn't play to his strengths. Looked at in that light Evans must be pretty pleased with his form.

From CN: Astana's Alberto Contador overcame a week of personal challenges and continued his dominating performance in the Vuelta al País Vasco to win the final stage and the overall classification. In the stage six 20 km time trial, the Spaniard won by 22 seconds over Australian Cadel Evans, from Silence-Lotto. Rabobank's Thomas Dekker was third, 27 seconds back . Evans and Dekker also finished second and third in the overall.

Monday, April 14, 2008

OK, so I watched it on replay - The Paris-Roubaix

I wasn't going to stay up that late, although it would've been good practice for Le Tour...

Anyway, did anyone actually get a surprise out of Boonen winning? Or Boonen out-sprinting Cancellara and Ballan? I thought not. Still, it's the whole drama of the thing that matters and once again the race was full of "ouch, that hurt", "can he bridge that gap?", "will the break succeed?" and "will they work together or play a tactical game?" before we got to the final selection. And gosh those cobbles look hard to ride on.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Kirchen wins, waves to teammate

Well he could have. Off in a break, caught at last gasp, your teammate snatches the win. Well yes, Kirchen had to take it, I know, it just seems wrong somehow. Meanwhile, as CN reports,
overall leader Alberto Contador maintained his slim three second lead over Ezequiel Mosquera (Karpin Galicia). The main breakaway of the day, with Possoni, Australian champion Matthew Lloyd (Silence Lotto) and Basque rider Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel – Euskadi) was caught with just 50 metres to the line, and mixed in with the bunch gallop with Possoni coming second, Lloyd fifth and Txurruka in seventh.

There's another chance at a glorious GC-splitting breakaway tomorrow, but with little change on GC since day 1 it's not looking good. It may end in the TT... Evans is just 8 secs back on Contador. Hmmm. Unless someone gets away in the next stage on paper it's an Evans win, but then again with 44 riders within a minute of the lead anything is possible.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Contador versus Evans?

What does it matter? Contador can't defend in July, so it's just a non-event. Or is it? It's a minor side-show at least. Can Contador demonstrate that he should be in a team at Le Tour? Can Evans maintain the roll he's on? Does he want to beat Contador (and the rest)? Or is it all about fine-tuning the Silence-Lotto team for July?

I'd go for a mix of all of the above. Alberto Contador (Astana), virtually lost his GC lead to compatriot Iñigo Landaluze (Euskaltel Euskadi) out on the road, but thanks to the work of his team, he remained in yellow at the end of the day with a five-second margin on Ezequiel Mosquera (Karpin Galicia). Evans is down 8 seconds, as are many others.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Some thoughts on World Champs, Olympics and McGee

It's been 4 years since Brad McGee finished 8th overall in the Giro, and - hmmm - 3 years since we last saw him absolutely flying. It's hard to remember some of the details, what with the constant drug-related Tour "lowlights" of the past few years, but Brad looked to have the goods back then and was, to some at least, looking to claim his stake on the Tour lead back then. I remember he was in a break, flying up and down mountains, taking a few risks. He was putting his hand up as a contender. But he crashed instead.

But he's fixed his physical problems - a cyst behind the knee, not the back problem he thought he had - and is ready to go. And he's only 32. The slightly revamped has a good interview today: McGee may have been some way off gold in the world championships but, with his injury problems now appearing to have been resolved, with a new team and a good race programme helping to build his form and with over four months to go until Beijing, he could have a very successful Olympic campaign. All going to plan, Bradley versus Bradley fighting it out for the gold medal is a real possibility.

Which brings me to what I feel could happen in Beijing. Britain is on a high, they have peaked for their home World Champs after all - and it is very hard to maintain that level, or even to peak again in 4 months. It's certainly do-able, but it won't be the same. Not every rider who medalled in Manchester will reach the same peak - and let's face it, the riders from other countries will be peaking as well. And they may well be aiming higher.

So I'd expect to see Britain drop slightly overall but still be picking up medals aplenty. Thy may just be silver or bronze rather than gold. Which leaves the door open to the French, Dutch and Australian riders to pull out some outstanding performances. They know the gap, and they have the time. Let's see who can bridge the gap and beat the Brits in Beijing.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Weak April 1 jokes I enjoyed

Well, kind of got a giggle out of, anyway.

Firstly, aligning stripes on a jersey with ancient 'lines of force' to get getter cycling performance is not just amusing, it's believable that someone somewhere will believe it, too. "Skeptics try to play this down because they cannot explain it with science," said longtime ley line expert Martyn Erlin to Cyclingnews on Monday. "They need to see to believe, they need to be able to measure and to quantify for something to exist. However there's a huge amount of examples from the recent and distant history of this country to show that something inexplicable, unquantifiable yet wonderful is going on." Manchester has long been regarded as a fast track but the number of world records, track standards and personal bests broken during the recent championships led experts such as Mr M. Erlin to ponder if something more significant was taking place.

Next up is wrapping old bike parts in new materials, and I have to say that it's an intriguing idea. I have a rusty old frame that's too far gone to restore, or to be bothered restoring. What if I could coat it instead with carbon - or some other substance - and get more life out of it? Would I trust it not to fail? No. Anyway, nice joke that we'd like to believe in: However, when Colorado retailer Chris Jacobsen first informed us of his intriguing Jacobsen Carbon Wrap-It system, we were rightfully skeptical. Jacobsen proposed that consumers could wrap their own frames and parts and achieve nearly the same results as far more expensive factory jobs. As such, his rather inexpensive do-it-yourself kit could transform relatively mundane aluminum frames, forks, stems, bars, or nearly any other bit into a stronger and stiffer equivalent, all at a surprisingly reasonable cost as well.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

McGee getting closer in 4km pursuit

It's World Track Cycling Champs time, not that you'd know it here in Australia, our media dominated by the vastly smaller sport of pool-based swimming. I've got nothing against the activity itself but surely we can do better than watch a small group of elite swimming nations go up and down their lanes in high-tech buoyancy suits? OK, cycling is elitist and expensive itself at the top end, but cycling is also the cheapest form of wheeled transport - almost anyone can do it, anywhere. You don't even need a formed road. And velodromes don't have to be enclosed, or banked - they can even be grassed. It's that availability at low entry cost that makes both road and track cycling potentially a world-wide sport (like athletics already is) - whereas with swimming you need water. Not everyone wants to swim in their drinking water after all.

Anyway, my attention was caught by that well-known pot-hauling back-injurer, Brad McGee. He's had a tough time of late at and has switched to the creatively named Team CSC this year... and sponsor CSC itself has of course announced it's pulling out of pro cyclesport at the end of the year. Ooops. Now Brad was on fire at the Giro, what, 3 years ago now? And then he had a succession of injuries, the most major being the aforementioned pot-moving incident. But he's back on track, surely (pun intended):
1 Jenning Huizenga (Netherlands) 4.16.34 (56.174 km/h)
2 Bradley Wiggins (Great Britain) 4.17.02
3 Alexei Markov (Russian Federation) 4.18.24
4 Hayden Roulston (New Zealand) 4.18.33
5 Bradley McGee (Australia) 4.20.43
6 David O'Loughlin (Ireland) 4.20.91
7 Luke Roberts (Australia) 4.21.89
8 Taylor Phinney (United States Of America) 4.22.36
9 Antonio Tauler Llull (Spain) 4.22.65
10 Volodymyr Dyudya (Ukraine) 4.22.73
11 Alexander Serov (Russian Federation) 4.22.74
12 Dominique Cornu (Belgium) 4.22.79
13 Sergi Escobar Roure (Spain) 4.24.13
14 Jens Mouris (Netherlands) 4.24.48
15 Marc Ryan (New Zealand) 4.24.78
16 Robert Bartko (Germany) 4.25.14
17 Phillip Thuaux (Australia) 4.26.43

I'd like to jump on a track bike after quite a break and do a 4.20 over 4km. I'd be happy with a sub-6min 4km to be honest. Good on you Brad, and keep it up. You may surprise us all in Beijing. Oh yeah, the other Brad, ie Wiggins, won the final in a canter. He's almost an Aussie so it's not too bad. (BTW Phil Thuaux was about 3 seconds off his PB, so something went wrong there.)

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Cancellara confirms

Both Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatico are done and dusted, with respectively Rebellin and Cancellara taking overall honours. From CN: Italian Francesco Chicchi won the final stage of the 43rd Tirreno-Adriatico, 176 kilometres starting and ending in San Benedetto del Tronto. The 27 year-old of Team Liquigas out-sprinted Italy's Danilo Napolitano (Lampre) and Great Britain's Mark Cavendish (High Road) to win on the seaside roads. Team CSC controlled the day to ensure Fabian Cancellara kept the overall leader's maglia azzurra, which he gained two days ago after winning the time trial. The Swiss, who today celebrated his 27th birthday, won the race with 16 seconds over Italian Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld).

Just to look at the sprinters for a moment, in this last stage of T-A Robbie McEwen looked to run out of puff in the sprint - perhaps just went a tad too early. Petacchi didn't seem to try at all, and Cavendish was lost without his team-mates (they crashed) but recovered. Zabel was there, just, and Cooke was close by. The top 12 results looked like this:
1 Francesco Chicchi (Ita) Liquigas 4.50.50 (36,309 km/h)
2 Danilo Napolitano (Ita) Lampre
3 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team High Road
4 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Silence - Lotto
5 Danilo Hondo (Ita) Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli
6 Ariel Maximiliano Richeze (Arg) CSF Group Navigare
7 Alexandre Usov (Blr) AG2r - La Mondiale
8 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
9 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram
10 Baden Cooke (Aus) Barloworld
11 Mickael Delage (Fra) Française des Jeux
12 Christopher Sutton (Aus) Slipstream Chipotle Presented By H30

It's a long way to go before July, but it'll rattle along soon enough. Well before then we'll see who is firing at San Remo, won't we... Freire or Petacchi? Bettini or Di Luca?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Paris Nice finale

Just for the record, it was Rebellin who rightly and finally won Paris-Nice overall, with Sanchez taking the final stage. CN reported:This was one of the most beautiful Paris-Nice ever held, with a lot of battles and suspense. "It was a very hard and very nice race," Rebellin explained. "After losing to Alberto Contador last year on the final day, I was a bit nervous today. Especially because I know [Rinaldo] Nocentini very well. We've done the world championships together and we're very good friends. I only had three seconds advantage. That's nothing. I was afraid of crashing in the finale and lose everything. Even 45 seconds over [Yaroslav] Popovych wasn't much. He attacked strongly in the last climb. It was a highly contested race till the end."

It confirms Popovych and Sanchez are in form and Rebellin certainly can't be discounted for the classics in what will probably be his last year as a pro. Milan-San Remo will be a real contest with these riders plus the like s of Oscar Freire in the mix.

Cancellara and Freire on form

Back to Tirreno-Adriatico and Freire has the form to win a hill-climb sprint, whilst Cancellara has the power and fitness to recover from yesterday's TT win and hang with the sprinters (a bit like last year's TdF) and defend his lead on GC.

From CN:Luis Felipe Laverde (CSF Group Navigare) chased behind the trio at 10 seconds. He was caught by the Liquigas and LPR led gruppo, where Daniele Pietropolli and Paolo Savoldelli pushed the rhythm for 'The Killer.' Gasparotto fired his missile at 1300 metres remaining. The Italian, clad in the maglia ciclamino of points leader, was solo before Cancellara closed the door to protect his GC lead. Di Luca led through the last curve and 'Pippo' Pozzato was able to come around, but on the back of the two Italians was Oscar the Cat. The Spaniard used the last 25 metres to take victory and put his name at the top of the list of Sanremo favourites.

Other sprinters like McEwen and Cavendish were over 11 minutes back - obviously not targeting this hill-top sprint.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Gesink leads - Evans, Gerrans in break

Winner of yesterday's Paris-Nice stage, Cadel Evans was able to bridge across to the lead break today. However Evans decided to pull out of the break - saying the constant attacks were unnecessarily taxing - leaving the constantly aggressive Barredo to take the win. Gerrans was 6th. Hayman pulled out of the race due to injuring suffered earlier in the week.

From CN: Following the two initial stage wins by Gert Steegmans, Carlos Barredo has added one more to Quick Step's tally in Sisteron. It's a well deserved win since the Spaniard was the most active rider in the 17-man breakaway that contested the stage. He did most of the work and attacked three times before coming to the line alone. He also moved into the top ten overall between his team-mates Juan Manuel Garate and Alexander Efimkin.

Friday, March 14, 2008