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.