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

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Freire "hard to catch" at T-A

As usual, Oscar Freire takes a win he wasn't confident of, and wasn't expected to take. We know he'll be there, we know he'll be a contender, but the likes of Petacchi and McEwen will have either (a) more power for longer or (b) more acceleration. Well it looked like McEwen would nail it through the last corner but it was just too far to the line; and yet too short for Petacchi to wind it up. So Oscar launched, gapped and won. That's stage 1, Tirreno-Adriatico.

The top 20 on the stage and on GC:
1 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa) Rabobank 4.09.51
2 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita) Team Milram 0.04
3 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 0.06
4 Mikhail Ignatiev (Rus) Tinkoff Credit Systems 0.07
5 Yuriy Krivtsov (Ukr) AG2r - La Mondiale 0.08
6 Markus Fothen (Ger) Gerolsteiner 0.09
7 Erik Zabel (Ger) Team Milram 0.10
8 Baden Cooke (Aus) Barloworld
9 Sébastien Chavanel (Fra) Française des Jeux
10 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Team High Road
11 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Silence - Lotto
12 Matti Breschel (Den) Team CSC
13 Tiziano dall'Antonia (Ita) CSF Group Navigare
14 Ruben Perez Moreno (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
15 Murilo Fischer (Bra) Liquigas
16 Francesco Chicchi (Ita) Liquigas
17 Christopher Sutton (Aus) Slipstream Chipotle Presented By H30
18 Pedro Horrillo Munoz (Spa) Rabobank
19 Heinrich Haussler (Ger) Gerolsteiner
20 Danilo Hondo (Ita) Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli

That's 4 Aussies in the sprint, if you count Haussler.

A shake up on Paris-Nice GC

Climbs! A bit of a change after Gert Steegmans' 2 sprint wins in a row. An early break got away and went all of the way. McGee dropped off on the last climb but played his part in the successful break, leaving Carlstrom to take the win. An extract from the CyclingNews report:Something must have changed in cycling: long lasting breakaways can now succeed. Kjell Carlstrom (Liquigas) and Clement Lhotellerie (Skil-Shimano) were well inspired to go clear after only eight kilometres with Bradley McGee (Team CSC). The duo lost the Australian on the day's final climb, and battled for the stage win in Saint-Etienne at the end of another hard day of racing. Lhotellerie was stuck on the front in the finale and managed to keep 43 seconds lead over the chasing group in which Sylvain Chavanel took the lead over from Thor Hushovd, but could not prevent Carlstrom from coming past at the line.

Big gains today for Chavenal, Sanchez, Moreau, Cunego and Popovych. Evans (supporting Popovych, the latter now moving into the Top 10 on GC) and Millar are now at over 7 minutes back from the new overal leader, Chavenal. Lowe (who fell) is over 4minutes back on GC. Slightly better, Gerrans is at 3:10. McGee himself is now 24mins off the lead but taking mountains points, which has to be a good sign of a return to past form - and hopefully no back pain. Keep away from hefting those potted plants, Brad.

The Top 10 on GC (via CN):
1 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra) Cofidis 12.37.01
2 Luis León Sánchez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 0.03
3 Gorka Verdugo (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0.08
4 Davide Rebellin (Ita) Gerolsteiner 0.14
5 Juan Manuel Gárate (Spa) Quick Step 0.18
6 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr) Silence-Lotto 0.19
7 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) Ag2r-La Mondiale 0.21
8 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank
9 Karsten Kroon (Ned) Team CSC 0.22
10 Alexander Efimkin (Rus) Quick Step 0.34

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

iBike and Garmin GPS wireless now integrated

I'm still testing the iBike, but it's almost 1 year on and I'm still happy. I'm prompted to write this by an ibike announcement - they now have some new firmware that allows the iBike wireless model (the one I don't have) to integrate wirelessly with the Garmin GPS-enabled devices. So you end up with location and power on the one sweet load of data. Beautiful. I can imagine it - and it looks fantastic - but I'll pretend I don't really need it for now. But if you are buying a new one, go wireless!

Just to update you, the v1.16 firmware has extended battery life enormously, by around 2x at least. Winter will be a truer test (it's just gone autumn here), but I suspect that battery life is no longer an issue.

And of course don't believe the latest issue of Ride magazine, which still believes that ibike is for moving bikes only, not for stationary trainers. In fact there are a number of pre-calculated and approved indoor trainers for which the ibike is individually mapped and (apparently, as I haven't tested it yet - another reason to go wireless I guess) works. Check it out at ibike: We’re taking it off the streets with the new iBike Pro Indoor Trainer. This purchasable iBike Pro firmware upgrade, used in conjunction with the iBike Wireless Heart Rate mount, makes it possible to use the iBike Pro to measure power on commonly available indoor trainers. Please include your iBike Pro serial number in the Special Instructions section of your ordering screen when you place your order as the firmware is secured for your individual iBike. Available 11/15/07.

Short takes on early season racing

Bad weather mars shortened Paris-Nice stage

It's hard enough just racing without the weather competing for attention as well. Bad weather. Wind and rain. Lots of wind and rain. Still, Gert Steegmans got through OK and took the win. Thor still leads and the top 15 looks like this (via CN):
1 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole 2.26.55
2 Gert Steegmans (Bel) Quick Step 0.06
3 Jérôme Pineau (Fra) Bouygues Telecom 0.12
4 Karsten Kroon (Ned) Team CSC
5 Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Team Milram 0.17
6 Trent Lowe (Aus) Slipstream Chipotle - H30 0.18
7 David Millar (GBr) Slipstream Chipotle - H30 0.20
8 Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Quick Step 0.21
9 Luis León Sánchez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne 0.22
10 Johan Van Summeren (Bel) Silence-Lotto 0.24
11 Niki Terpstra (Ned) Team Milram 0.25
12 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Française des Jeux
13 Enrico Franzoi (Ita) Liquigas 0.26
14 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Crédit Agricole
15 Juan Antonio Flecha (Spa) Rabobank

Full ASO results here.

The winner had this to say (from the ASO site):Yes. I thought 10 kms to take some of my clothes off, which was a good choice ; When a sprint is a little uphill, every gram can count. In Belgium we’re used to cold and rain but it was really hard today. I was a little lucky, but it’s mission accomplished. One or two other stages might finish in sprints but the rest is probably too hard. The Ventoux will just be a nice leisurely ride for me.

Nice to see Lowe and Millar still up there and equally good to see Sanchez and Gerrans coming through. Flecha and Van Summeren have crept up as well. It's worth noting that the field spilt in the bad weather and inevitable crashes, forcing riders like Evans and Voigt to lose time. No confirmation yet on who has fallen or dropped from the race, however Brad McGee is currently not figuring in the results. (Update: ASO reports he came in at 42nd place.) It will be interesting to see these riders climb back up the GC... if they can.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Paris to Nice - Thunder God Thor leads race to the sun

It's a cliche but it's true; Paris-Nice really is the early-season race to the spring sun. And in the prologue it duly rained, but only enough to send the leader-board skewiff. Big powerful sprinter Thor Hushovd took 1st, which wasn't so surprising, as he got a nearly-dry run. The biggest surprise was Markel Irizar taking 2nd with a great TT during an early dry run. Luck plus talent almost pulled off a big surprise. And it was good to see McGee take 4th.

The top 15 looks like this (and especially take note of the Slipstream riders!):
1 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole 5.28
2 Markel Irizar (Spa) Euskaltel-Euskadi 0.04
3 Stefan Schumacher (Ger) Gerolsteiner 0.05
4 Bradley McGee (Aus) Team CSC
5 William Bonnet (Fra) Crédit Agricole 0.06
6 Danny Pate (USA) Slipstream Chipotle - H30
7 Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita) Liquigas 0.07
8 Andriy Grivko (Ukr) Team Milram 0.08
9 Karsten Kroon (Ned) Team CSC
10 Trent Lowe (Aus) Slipstream Chipotle - H30 0.09
11 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC 0.11
12 David Millar (GBr) Slipstream Chipotle - H30
13 Matteo Tosatto (Ita) Quick Step 0.12
14 Alberto Losada (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne
15 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Liquigas

Slipstream have done a great job to load the top 15 with some talented TTers. Whilst some will fall back, watch Lowe and Millar hold position during the week. If they can keep with the early breaks then both will be in with a great chance at a top GC result.
There's more at CN:Already a winner of the prologue of the Tour de France – 2006 in Strasbourg – Thor Hushovd was the only rider able to beat the performance of Euskaltel-Euskadi' Markel Irizar, who was close to creating a huge surprise in the inaugural 4.6-kilometre time trial of Paris-Nice in Amilly. The 30 year-old Norwegian took the yellow leader's jersey with four seconds over the Spaniard and five over German Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner) .

And Pez will eventually have a story here.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Racing round up

It's early season, so what's it matter?
It's really too early to say what it all means. Although Petacchi and Boonen look good to battle out a few sprints, with Haedo, Brown and Freire up there as well, the usual cast and crew are ready to join in the fray, too, like Bettini. Especially in an Olympic year. Roll on Milan-San Remo...