Monday, May 31, 2010

I'm willing to bet this is one saddle design that doesn't make it into the pro peleton: the 'Manta'

The Manta bicycle seat - umm... wow
First of all, let’s just say it: this is the most bizarre-looking bicycle saddle of all time. Feel free to disagree, but c’mon, just look at the thing - it’s like the bike is sporting a leaf rake, or perhaps even a rib cage. Like most funny-looking bike seats, however, the Manta promises to rectify one of the most common of cyclists’ complaints... the all-too-familiar “numb bum.”

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Being liked doesn't win you the bike race, but it must boost morale. Nice report by Pez on behind the scenes

PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling
Cadel is loved by the fans here, and regularly gets a huge ovation at sign on. It struck me how much quieter the fans were when Vinokourov signed on. I suppose he’s payed his dues according to the rules of cycling, but perhaps public opinion doesn’t follow those same rules.

How powerful is the "team effect" in cycling now? Porte claims it kept him going, anyway. Basso/Liquigas proves it

Some of the sadder forum-based armchair critics like to dismiss every winner - and even some 2nd placed riders - as "cheats" based on a vague feeling about what is "possible", or their look or style on the bike. They dismiss them as 'ugly' riders with dysfunctional personalities, or as a rider who should simply give up. But unless you are the athletes themselves - or perhaps incredibly close to them - it's just not possible to know "the truth" about them. But this Giro has certainly underlined for us  that no matter how prepared you are, how fit, skilled and motivated you may be, it's often the team that makes the difference between winner and non-finisher. Plus a little 'right place, right time' luck, of course.   

Richie Porte makes a comment along just those lines, and we can all see how Basso has been protected and aided by his strong team. It doesn't win you the race but it surely helps keep you in the hunt. 

Porte Secures White Jersey And Likely Top-eight Finish |
When he showed up to Città Sant'Angelo at the start of stage 12, he hadn't slept at all that night. "I had diarrhea and a bit of everything," said the man who was up sick all night. "My health was pretty bad, and I didn't really enjoy being in pink because I was suffering badly during those days, but my team decided to keep it quiet so as not to let our adversaries know about my sickness and weakness."

Porte had a hard time again as the race went up to Livigno during stage 20 on Saturday. "I was dead," he said. "I was finished. It was hard to fight up that hill, but my whole team dragged me back, and I was ok later."

He'll be criticised by the anti-everyone mob but Evans weighed the options and missed the win by seconds

There are commentators and armchair critics - I'm one of them, but only 'cause it's hard to type and ride - who will critique the late attack on Passo Tonale by Cadel Evans and suggest he should have gone earlier (probably true, but we'll never know will we?), or even suggest he shouldn't have gone at all (given that the GC was pretty well locked up what was the point, apart from ensuring lesser prizes?). Others may suggest he should have made the break with Vino and Sastre (if only he had that luxury of choosing - 'I'll take that break, thanks'). But none of it really stacks up. We face similar choices every day in our own lives and base our decisions on our own value systems, feelings, skills, talents and experiences. Only Cadel can know exactly what was possible for him personally - and no-one can know what may have happened if he had chosen differently. A stage is an experiment we can run only once, isn't it?     

Evans Fights Back With Late Attack |
Evans jumped away five kilometres from the finish and just failed to catch Johann Tschopp (Bbox Bouygues Telecom). In the final kilometre, he could see the Swiss rider ahead of him but crossed the line 15 second behind him. "I perhaps left it a little bit late. I was there and almost caught him because I could see him with just 300 metres to go," Evans said after pulling on the red points jersey over his rainbow jersey yet again. "It was a complicated situation because there were Vinokourov and Sastre in the break, then there were people going for the stage victory, and I also had to think about the points jersey because Vinokourov could have got it, and there was the overall classification too."

"I had to wait for the end because the longer you wait, the more you've got left in your legs for one last effort. Of course if you wait too long, you don’t have enough to time to pull it off. I tried to calculate things perfectly and it almost came off."

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Basso improves, Evans declines - we can all see that. And Liquigas is an evenly strong team. Together, a winning combination

It's a proven Grand Tour formula, come in just slightly underdone and improve as the weeks pass. Even if it doesn't always work - you can surely be too underdone and just weaken as the race progresses - Basso is clearly operating along these lines and peaking when it matters. It doesn't hurt his chances that his team is way out in front, either. Liquigas has put together an even team who have all progressed along a similar path to Basso, graduallly getting it all together and meshing in the 3rd week. Ideal, really, apart from the risky first week or so when everything seemed in upheaval. Point is that Sastre, Evans and Vinokourov each have what it takes to win this race but they have all suffered to varying degrees from crashes, loss of teammates and a gradual loss of form after some horrifically arduous stages. With a stronger team protecting him Basso has had an easier run and has saved more gas in the tank for when it matters. Just a couple of percent difference means a lot. If he doesn't have a horrible day tomorrow he'll take this race, deservedly.     

Evans Admits Giro Podium May Be Out Of Reach |
"Like they've done all week, Liquigas was really strong and can ride a really high rhythm on the climb. There's five of them and there's one of me and the rest of us are all left as the best of each of our team. They've got the strength in the numbers and also the strength of their leader."

Evans admitted that Basso has improved in the second half of the Giro, while he has faded.

"Ivan has been consistent and a little bit better than me in the second half of the Giro," he said.

"I had a few problems, which I'll speak about in Verona. It seems I'm not at the same level as I was at the start. But there's still another day tomorrow. We'll see."

Titantic battle on Mortirolo shows Liquigas team clearly strongest - again - I blame the ToC

It's been a great Giro, full of drama - and it's not over yet. But I can't help feeling that it could have been better if the teams had been on a more equal footing. To me Liquigas looks strongest and has acted tactically and strategically as though they want to win. Whilst Evans, Vino and Sastre have had to rely on individual brilliance to stay in - or out of - contention. Now I can't blame Liquigas for bringing the strongest team, working with other Italians or choosing a strong combo like Basso and Nibali, but it does weaken the competition overall. To me the simultaneous running of the Tour of California overly distracted the other teams and caused a split of resources - not just riders but of all resources - that has dented the Giro and made it both wonderfully diverse and pathetically predictable at the same time. Diverse in the individuals who have made it happen, predictable in that the "super team" will win. I hope I'm wrong (much as I'd like to see Basso win) but I just feel it's become  a race for the minor places. Still better than Le Tour but way less exciting than it could have been. Oh well, who knows - tomorrow's horror stage may indeed be the bloodbath when the weaker teams get away.

Giro D'Italia: Stage 19, Route Maps & Results |
Ivan Basso blasted open the 19th stage and the Giro d'Italia itself, shedding his rivals on the Motirolo with the help of his Liquigas-Doimo teammate Vincenzo Nibali, and donning the maglia rosa for the first time since 2006. The third man in the group, Michele Scarponi (Androni Giocattoli – Diquigiovanni), took the stage win..

The attack from the Liquigas pair took place on the day's biggest climb, the Mortirolo, with over 40km and another unclassified hill-top finish still to go. One by one, the morning's leader David Arroyo (Caisse d'Epargne), Cadel Evans (BMC), Carlos Sastre (Cervelo) and Alexander Vinokourov (Astana) were ridden off the train, while only Scarponi could hold the pace of Basso and Nibali.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

From Tasmanian pool attendant to high-GC contender. What next for Porte after this Grand Tour?

There's a lot of luck involved in all sports, as well as dedication, professionalism, hard work and the backing of a good team. Now we can all apply ourselves to a sport like cycling and do the big miles, watch our diet, learn tactics and skills as we go and still get little back other than some great memories, lasting friendships and a feeling of "what if". As in 'what if I'd given up my day job?' or 'what if I'd started racing when I was 16, or even 12?'. Maybe even 'what if I'd gone to Europe?'. Now if you are young enough you can still attend to some of these choices - as that's what they are. Life choices. Not guarantees, mind, but an opportunity that probably only comes along at that exact moment in your life. Choose it or loose it. Of course you may choose to pursue something else and make a success of it, but that "other" option is gone.

On a personal note I can still remember (it rings in my ears) a coach suggesting to me that I needed to decide what was more important - to be as race-fit as I could be or to maintain a full-time job. Well at the time everything else in my life had confirmed to me that a stable, full-time job was essential, so the choice was automatic. For me cycling remained a hobby, a great big one that has almost consumed my life at times, but a hobby nonetheless. 25 years later my perspective is different and I can assess these life-choices more clearly, but I can't go back.

With that preamble in mind, what if you lived in Tasmania, far from the Euro-pro cycling world but were lucky enough to be influenced by a small group of current and ex-pro bike racers who lived nearby? You got into the sport, did well, and had the connections to get you to Europe on a good squad. You did well - very well - but came back injured and a little disillusioned. What if you got a pep talk at just the right time and went back to Europe and got yourself into one of the top pro teams? What if you found that your "engine" was as good as anyone's and on your day could spring a big surprise? What if you found yourself in the right break that propelled you into the lead of a Grand Tour and led to you holding onto a top-3 position on GC into the 3rd week? Well there's a mix of fortune, circumstance, opportunity and ability to marvel at.

And you'd be Richie Porte, wouldn't you? 

Porte's Dream Continues At The Giro |
At his first attempt in a Grand Tour, Richie Porte remains near the top of the Giro d'Italia standings during the third week after producing a solid ride up the Plan de Corones.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Arrrgh. I wish Basso hadn't dropped everyone. I blame the ToC.

There's more than one odd thing about this year's Giro. The ups and downs seem more severe, possibly hinting at a tireder, more human and ultimately cleaner bunch - not that you can really tell. They all seem to be superhuman on these consecutive 200km stages into the clouds. And the tactics have been unusual, too. Like take the lead then look the other way as the biggest move of the race flies up the road. Please, you chase. Oh no, after you. No, I insist... you first. Oh look, they've gone!

Which leads naturally to the U23 young rider leading overall and hanging onto 2nd for yonks. And to Basso and Nibali playing 1-2 as one strong team corrects its earlier mistakes and finally gets its act together. Indeed I'm tempted to blame the simultaneous running of the Tour of California for the whole mess, with teams split up between 2 continents. It's addled their minds as well as their legs. In this theory - the 'tour of chaos' theory - as the ToC ends today (thankfully) we'll finally see the Giro settle down into a real race with sharp minds concentrated on hard physical efforts and good tactical decisions. We may even get consistent, repeatable results. Alas, that may mean that just one team will be the strongest and will mop up the rewards. If they can catch what remains of the guys they let fly, I mean.

At least it's been memorable. Go Ivan! (And Cadel, of course.)

Giro D'Italia: Stage 15, Route Maps & Results |
The first round went to Ivan Basso of Liquigas-Doimo, who dropped all his rivals on the steep and painful slopes of the Zoncolan. World champion Cadel Evans (BMC) was the last to crack and they finished one-two on the stage after distancing all the other contenders.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunderland leaving Sky means something - or nothing

There's plenty happening in Pro Cycling right now, especially with a crazy up and down Giro on at the same time as the Tour of California (and why is that, pray tell?). We have Giro leaders not chasing major breaks and consequently losing large chunks of time; Giro leaders crashing and GC contenders attacking (they wouldn't have done that to Lance, would they?); and an outbreak of pre-Tour de France anti-Armstrong dopage accusations from the ever interesting Mr Landis.

And then there's Scott Sunderland quitting Team Sky for personal, family reasons. The best reasons of all, really, and I wish him well. I do however wonder if there's more to it that just that, though. When Scott left CSC a few years back there was a puzzling lack of detail about what he may or may not do next; and whilst we have slightly more detail this time around it's only clear that it doesn't involve Team Sky but will involve cycling. It will also be better for his family. Could it be another role with another team or cycling-related organisation, something that is in process now but won't be born for a year or so?

Or should we not read more into it than what he has stated? Time will, of course, tell.  (On a personal note the one race I can remember 'sharing' with Scott as a rider - in the late '80s - we were at opposite ends of the peleton, me going backwards faster than Cadel's self-described disgraceful "bus going downhill".  Ahh, memories.)

Scott Sunderland Leaves Team Sky |
Team Sky and senior directeur sportif Scott Sunderland have issued a joint statement confirming that they will immediately end their working relationship. Sunderland says he has decided to spend more time with his wife Sabine, and two young sons Tristan and Saën.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Armstrong donated $100K to UCI in 2005

Paul Kimmage may have an axe to grind - and a fairly extreme perspective on Armstrong - but the Landis accusations are certainly major. Interestingly Armstrong apparently donated $100K to the UCI in 2005 for the development of the sport. Nothing wrong with that, unless clearly linked favourable treatment followed. And there's no evidence of that - is there?

In aid of transparency and the resolution of any apparent or perceived conflicts of interest it'd be interesting to see details of all such donations to the UCI over the past few years. Have other riders given similar sums?

Kimmage: Landis Allegations Will Decide The Sport’s Future |
He did acknowledge that the UCI had received money from Armstrong. “The UCI received $100,000 from Lance Armstrong in 2005, four years after this incident was supposed to have taken place.” McQuaid then explained: “The UCI would accept donations from anyone who’s prepared to give. We’re a non-profit-making organisation so we’re prepared to accept money from anyone who’s prepared to assist us in developing the sport.”

Easy to understand - but still wrong

And certainly not as bad as Cavendish's behaviour in the Tour de Romandie. It's a weak defence but true enough: the pressure can get to us all.

Evans And Right Apologise After Exchanging Blows |
On Thursday Cadel Evans (BMC) and Daniele Righi (Lampre-Farnese Vini) swapped blows as the Italian domestique tried to slow the chase and the world champion lost his cool after missing the break that included many of his overall rivals.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Armstrong refutes claims, asserts he was expecting them

Armstrong Rejects Landis Allegations |
He pin-pointed a lot of people and I mean, let’s be honest. Obviously my name will be at the top of the story and my name will be in the headline. But, it goes from myself to Johan, to Levi, to Zabriskie, to Andy Rihs, to Jim Ochowicz to Michael Barry, to Matthew White, to Steve Johnson, to Pat McQuaid. At the end of the day, he pointed his finger at everyone still involved in cycling, everyone that is still enjoying the sport, everyone that still believes in the sport and everyone that still working in the sport was in the cross hairs.

I’m standing here with you guys because I won the Tour de France seven times. But, you have to keep in mind that the yellow jersey of this race [Dave Zabriskie] is also in the cross hairs and that is not by accident. Maybe that is a good strategy to get more attention but if I look at, I can use Allen Lim as an example, someone that I view has the highest standards and the highest ethics of anyone in this sport, the fact that he is thrown in there speaks volumes to the credibility of this and I think that’s, if I walk away with one word to sum this all up - credibility. Floyd lost his credibility a long time ago.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Landis dobs on ex-teammates. If true - and proven to be true - what happens next?

Why confess after so much effort was expended on denials? Why implicate just about everyone he has ever ridden with? Armstrong, Hincapie, Leipheimer... and Bruyneel of course. Is it revenge, or a need to clear his conscience? It's an amazing co-incidence, to have Dave Z leading the ToC right now and to be named by Landis along with the all-star cast of past colleagues.... mind you, at least one of these emails reportedly date back to April 30.

Apart from the riders implicated in various forms of abuse, there is a report of money paid to silence a positive finding against Armstrong. Of course this is really nothing new, similar allegations have been made by many people - except that it's a former team-mate saying it. Whilst these are untested allegations it does signal a major drama for the sport in the coming months.  

Report: Landis admits doping and fingers Armstrong - Yahoo! News
Landis, who was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France title for doping but had always denied cheating, sent a series of e-mails to cycling officials and sponsors acknowledging and detailing his long-term use of banned drugs, the newspaper said.

The report said Landis wrote in the e-mails that he started doping in 2002, his first year racing with the U.S. Postal Service team led by Armstrong.

Landis also admitted to doping in an interview with

Landis also accused American riders Levi Leipheimer and Dave Zabriskie and Armstrong's longtime coach, Johan Bruyneel, of involvement in doping, the Journal reported.

Rob's guide to bike racing

I originally wrote this back in about 1995... with scant updates since. In a nutshell, don't focus on peak fitness or the ultimate bike, just join a club and get racing!

bike racing: the penultimate guide
Bike racing is like running, swimming, golf or any other sport. In fact it's just like anything in life. Put the time and effort in and you'll get better at it. It's a simple equation, really, limited more by your own motivation or commitment than by any theoretical potential you may or may not possess. If you are looking for easy fitness and a sport that won't take up much of your time, stop now - it doesn't exist. Multiple Australian and World 50km Point Score medalist Gary Sutton was once reported to have replied to the question, 'What's the secret to success in bike racing?', with the statement: "Ride lots". Eddy Merckx is reported to have said the same, and it's self-evident really. Let's face it, if you want to be good at something you practise it, over and over... and over again.

What goes on inside a local crit race?

bike racing: the penultimate guide: Bike racing 101 - part 5 - The race itself
# OK, they call your grade. Nervously you line up with a bunch of older experienced riders, some young enthusiastic guys, some kids and a few women who look like they've raced before. They may call your name off the startlist now. They may check you bike and helmet for compliance and safety. You check your tyres again and try to keep your heart from racing. Before you know it...
# Get ready, go! This is when getting your foot into the cleats fast, first time matters. Something to practice. Just don't panic if someone makes a jackrabbit start - get your foot in and get going as soon as you can
# OK, you are underway. Get on a wheel, any wheel, and try to pick who looks safe to sit on (or 'draft'). The regular racers will have good bike skills. Don't get in their way but do watch and learn from them. The older guys are probably crafty, sit really close but safely, dodge potholes, rarely do a turn and never attack until the finish line beckons...
# You settle in, probably mid-field or towards the back. They are doing turns up front. The first 6 riders are swapping off, seamlessly, so as one peels off (to the left, taking shelter from the wind coming from the right) another cruises up with little effort. This seems to go on for a while and you sit happily up the back just getting used to the corners and cornering with 20 other riders around you
# Try not to brake for corners. The guy on your wheel sounded annoyed when you hit the anchors 'for no *?*$*&*? reason!'. Momentum is important, so let's not lose it by braking when it's not strictly necessary. It just takes some practice to corner so faaast!
# OK, another lesson, don't cross wheels. That guy in front just moved across like that and almost took my front wheel out. Leave a gap, and sit to one side or the other of the rider in front
# I feel guilty sitting here at the back, so I move forward. I ease into the group of 6 doing the turns and someone leaves a gap, allowing me in... I take the hint and get on a wheel
# I now follow the riders as they move forward until only one rider is ahead of me and another is on my left. As the rider in front finishes his turn (it was short, they barely got to the front and they were done!) I feel an urge to surge forward but the guy behind me calls out "steady!" so I ease off. It's harder work out here in the wind and before I know it the guy behind calls again, irritably, "go left!". So I do
# As I go left (remembering the wind is coming from the right, btw) the rider on my wheel accelerates gently to take my place and I take the hint to ease off a bit. Before I know it he's coming off the front too and I'm heading backwards!
# I try to keep track of where I am and as I get back level with the guy I followed last time I look to see if there's a gap. Magically, there is! I just move across into the gap and get onto that wheel again. The last rider may even call "last" so it's obvious. Phew, so I've done a turn. Apart from a brief period in the wind I was actually on a wheel (or in the draft) pretty much all the time. I do a few more turns for practice and then drop back a bit to recover. That brief period up front is harder than it seemed to be at first, when you've done it a few times in a row
# Another lesson. As I go back to the rear of the bunch someone - probably the guy 7th from the front in the Discovery jersey - has attacked hard on the right. He surprised the 6 riders doing turns - I think he attacked just as a small hill started, too, so they were slowing as he was going. He took a flyer up the side. It's shaken the lead riders up and they have reacted individually to the challenge. Gaps are forming between riders.
# We were going at an easy 33kmh (still faster than I ride on my own, mind) before this happened, and now we are chasing this guy at 40kmh. I'm not sure I'm fit enough for this! I feel as though my heart may burst, my lungs are burning, I'm panting heavily and my legs are on fire!
# Apparently some people feel like me. Some hesitated before chasing ('no, you first. Please, after you...' kind of thing) whilst a couple of others jumped straight up to the breakaway. So now there are 3 of them working together just off the front. 5 riders are chasing them and I'm stuck waaay down the back with the rest. OK, I should have stayed up front.
# I'm stuck behind a wall of hesitaters and it takes a while to get to the front. I feel strong so I do a long turn and it takes a while before someone else helps out. Gradually we catch the 5 in front of us but the 3 others are now out of sight. We seem to ease off, which is good as I'm waaay over my regular riding speed and heart rate.
# Our speed settles and we grind away, taking turns again and whittling back the lead. We almost have them when the bell rings... last lap!
# We don't quite get to them on that last lap. They sprint and take the podium spots and I sprint with the main bunch and end up 7th. Good enough for a first race, anyway. And I have learned a few things about anticipation, teamwork, bike skills and what it takes to race.

Beginner's checklist for criteriums

bike racing: the penultimate guide: Bike racing 101 - part 4 - Your first criterium
If you break your beginning races up into components you will find a few common elements or features. Let's start by analysing short, fast criteriums (in a low grade to begin with) and work from there.

1. For a criterium you need a road bike. One with curvy 'dropped' handlebars and a pair of brakes will do - yes, you need to use the back brake too!
2. You need a bike with 2 lightish but stiff wheels, as flexy wheels in tight corners are not good as they feel soft and squishy (yuck)
3. The bike itself could be around 8 or 9 kg in weight but extra kilos on the bike are not that much of a problem as crits are usually pretty flat. Light wheels will assist your acceleration more than a light bike. In any case you shouldn't stress about the bike. Your fitness will matter more
4. Having said that, the bike should be well maintained and unlikely to break under load!
5. Remove extraneous objects before the race - like streamers, plastic gear guards, bells, toolkits, books, magazines - and keep 'em for later
6. Pump up the tyres. 100psi sounds good but whatever you see written on the tyre will be a good guide. A harder tyre is a faster tyre, within limits (don't over-inflate!)
7. Join a bike club and get a racing licence. In Australia it's around $200 a year but varies with each club and your age. You get 3rd party insurance with that and a cool licence to prove you are a racer. Consider health insurance as falling off at speed may be costly
8. Crits go round and round so you'll pass the pits several times.
If you puncture (or have a 'mechanical') you will be allowed 'a lap out' but unless you are fabulously prepared and have a buddy following you with spare wheels it's unlikely you'll be able to take advantage of that in your early races. You can often leave spares at the start line anyway, just let someone know to watch 'em, in case they 'walk'
9. Assuming you have followed my earlier advice and have trained at least enough to have sufficient endurance for the event in question, arrive at the racing venue with plenty of time in hand (30mins minimum, preferably an hour)
10. If you haven't already done so, get your licence from the club secretary. If you haven't paid, pay now
11. If you have your licence, look for the entry desk. It could be under a marquee. It could be in a club house. There may be a queue of fit looking lycra-wearers to guide you. Queue up and pay your entry fee (could be $5-$10, more for open races). You will be graded, probably in a low grade at first. They will give you a race number (cool!) and may hold your licence untill you return said number after the race. Race numbers are often colour coded to show grade. Transponders may be used in open races, but you won't make your debut in an open, eh?
12. Put your number on (usually pinned low on your jersey and slightly to the side where the judges sit (it pays to check out local custom here).
13. Pay attention to what's happening as races are often organised in unusual orders. Like A grade (fast guys) first, then B grade, then C and D combined, or totally in reverse. Local customs apply - don't miss your start!
14. If it's OK to do so, roll around and warm up on the course. Don't start cold in any case!
15. Don't miss the start!

Don't get hung up on the "best bike"

bike racing: the penultimate guide: Bike racing 101 - part 3 - it's not about the bike, is it?
Bike racing 101 - part 3 - it's not about the bike, is it?
Well it could be about the bike, if it matters that much to you. Let's face it, it's hard work racing - sometimes it can be just as important (or easier) to you to just cruise, get fit(ter) and not worry about racing. Maybe just dabble but don't commit.

I have some problems with this myself, which I'll share now. Dabbling is great. I dabble in Art. But I'm always wondering 'whatif'. What if I had committed to art? Or music? Or writing? Or cycling, for that matter? Life is about decisions and compromises and living with the results. By total immersion you may well achieve your potential, but it's unlikely that you will achieve anywhere near your potential by dabbling. Of course you can always rationalise these decisions and worry about it all later, but I wanted to make the point - dabbling is not going to help you to achieve at the highest level.

It's a sliding scale, though. Maybe your life allows you to dabble 20% of the time in cycling, and maybe that's enough time to reach 80% of your fitness potential? Just be aware that this trade off is your choice, so don't come to me in 20 years time saying that you could've been a pro if only you'd committed yourself... phew, glad that's out of the way. I never really wanted to be a pro, I just wanted to win club races - really!

So - given that we are dabbling here, not immersing - we are going to maximise our efforts and results and minimise our time. That's the thrust of my argument. Let's get the best result for our buck. Which brings me to bikes. You don't need the flashest gear to win a race. (It may be motivating to have flash gear, but it won't be a bigger lever than your fitness and skill level.)

My winningest bike was an $800 Shogun in 1984.

Goal setting and cycling

bike racing: the penultimate guide: Bike racing 101 - part 2 - goal setting
Bike racing 101 - part 2 - goal setting
Last time I set the scene. (Usual disclaimer applies about starting any exercise program slowly, checking with a doctor first and so on.) In brief, I outlined my personal approach. Go riding, enjoy it and find some buddies to encourage you. Then leverage that fitness and skill to start racing. Of course there's lots more to it than that.

For instance, what are your goals? Ask yourself why am I doing this? Is it that you want to stay fit and healthy in the long term, and to get out there riding regularly you need extra motivation? Or is it to simply try out racing, just because you'd like to? Try to understand why you want to do it and feed off that motivation. Remind yourself why on those hard days when you question the whole idea. And review your goals regularly. You may want to find out how good you could be, given whatever constraints you may have. (I always had to work (or thought I did), for example, so doing more miles was always a balancing act.)

Goal setting helps you achieve something definite. Just ambling along seeing what happens may lead you somewhere interesting but it probably won't be exactly what you wanted to do, or be the best that you want to be. It may be great and exactly what you wanted. Or it may be so disappointing that you drift off and do something else. And we don't want that.

By aiming at achievable goals you do a few things. You are taking aim, and aiming at something improves your chances of hitting it. You are also building a set of stairs, small steps that will make it easier to climb to a higher place. If you aim at the top rung straightaway you may actually get there - we all have our 'top rung' dreams - but by setting out intermediate goals you will get there more reliably.

How I got started with this racing thing

bike racing: the penultimate guide: Bike racing 101
Bike racing 101
Think of this blog post as my personal attempt to inspire you to race. I am looking at the non-racer, the recreational rider who is quite fit and interested in the sport of cycling but for whom racing is 'something I can do later' or 'something that's just a bit out of my league'.

Firstly, never put off to tomorrow what you can do today. I first 'enquired' about bike racing when I was 16 and riding perhaps 100km a week, including 60-80km 'fun rides' on the weekend. Having not been involved in competitive sport in any organised way before - I was a total bookworm - I lacked the confidence to give it a go, so I put it off - for about 8 years, in fact!

Secondly, you never know until you give it a go. In my case I only gave it a go after much encouragement by other riders. Luckily I lived fairly close (10km away) from arguably Sydney's premier cycling resource - Centennial Park. So for about 8 years I frequently rode to and around the Park. Just by riding around with other riders I got fitter, faster and more skilled. I found that I could chase and catch other riders and that I had a previously undiscovered urge to improve and even to race. I still didn't think I could do it, but the thought entered my head that I had a chance. Eventually I found another rider at the same level and we (at the urging of another rider - as it turned out the president of one of Sydney's oldest bike clubs, Randwick-Botany) made a commitment to try a race together at Heffron Park. We were placed in D grade. He won and I came 2nd. Now for him that 'proved' enough and he didn't race again. But for me I was hooked. I came back and won D grade the following week - and went from there.

Pedalling explained

bike racing: the penultimate guide: Pedalling 101
Pedalling 101
It looks simple and it is - and it isn't.

Most of us learn to ride a bike as kids - without toe straps or clipless pedals. (I'm an exception - I didn't regularly ride until I was about 16 years old, with toe clips and straps very soon thereafter.) Years of riding without a mechanically-enforced connection with the drivetrain teaches your legs to push down (and probably to 'grip' the pedal a bit by wrapping your foot slightly around it) but not to pull up. There's no solid connection, so you naturally don't even try to pull up. But as soon as you do get clips and straps or clipless pedals suddenly a whole new world of pedalling efficiency opens up. The big problem is re-learning how to pedal. It's neurological as well as muscular.

Essentially - in my experience only, I'm no sports scientist - you should pedal by pushing down hard from as early in the 'power stroke' as you can, then by pulling across the bottom of the stroke (as if wiping mud off your shoe) before smoothly switching to a 'pulling up' phase which ends just before top dead centre (TDC). The emphasis will be on the downstroke but it's important to realise that the upstroke matters too. And repeat over and over. Smoothly, all the way around.

Training with power

bike racing: the penultimate guide: Training - the old way and the modern way?
Training - the old way and the modern way?
Power? Who cares? Oh yeah, I do. Well a bit, anyway. If I didn't have an ibike - and let's face it, I do - I would simply use my HR monitor and speedo in conjunction with "perceived effort" and a training diary. But before I had an HRM I just used the speedo. And before I had a speedo (or a "bike computer") I just had perceived effort (as in easy, hard or very hard) and a training diary with estimated distances. And before that I didn't actually ride - or race.

And guess what? Irrespective of the gadgets acquired I still got fitter, and I still won races. Ergo, you don't need this stuff. So save your pennies - you can get by.

But wait, if this is the case then why do so many bike racers use power meters? Are they all just nerdy, trendy data-analysers with too much money? Well, yeah, maybe in some cases. But what power measurement does give you is lots of lovely data to play with, all about narcissistic old you. And that additional data makes targeted improvement simply more likely. Progress can be swifter, especially if you've never seriously trained on a bike before. And you'll be convinced more easily of the relationship between certain specific training techniques and success in different events. Which is to say it takes a bit of guesswork out of things.

So what should you consider in terms of "power training"?

Back to the beginning - cycle racing tips and tricks

Follow this link to my "Bike Racing 101" series...

bike racing: the penultimate guide: A compendium of bike racing tips from an old C-grade pedaller
A compendium of bike racing tips from an old C-grade pedaller
I've raced road, track and crits since about 1983 and learned by experience (and occasional abuse) what works and what doesn't. Whilst I only ever made it to NSW State A grade (just a scant few times) I hung around in B and C grade for a couple of seasons and was a regular club crit A grader for yonks. As I like to share my pain I thought I'd bring my compendium of bike racing tips and tricks into one document, or at least provide an index of sorts. So here goes...

* My original document - Rob's guide to bike racing, Chapter 1. It's a bit creaky as it's about 10 years old and full of experienced opinion rather than "fact" - so tread warily. But you may be able to get something out of it!
* And again, Chapter 2 of Rob's guide. Same deal. Lots of words.
* A bit basic, but here's Pedalling explained.
* More recent, only 5 years old, is Bike racing 101, part 1.
* Bike racing 101 - part 2 is about Goal setting and Back in training includes some training tips.
* Bike racing 101 - part 3 - like Lance said, it's not about the bike.
* Bike racing 101 - part 4 - an inside view of your first criterium, what to expect and other tips.
* Bike racing 101 - part 5 - the inside view of a race, what happens, how it feels, simple rules.
* Bike racing 101 - part 6 - the bike, a basic, no-nonsense view
* Training Tips -1
* Training Tips - 2.

Hope some of that proves useful.

Taswegian Richie Porte leads Giro, praises Cadel Evans

PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling
PEZ: Are there any other guys who you chat to regularly as you roll along?
RP: Yeah, different guys all the time, I guess, but there is one guy who has been making a point of seeking me out, and that is Cadel Evans. I really want to say what a great guy Cadel is. Even with all of the stress he is under, he still goes out of his way to find me and have a chat to me and offer me tips and advice. I really appreciate that coming from him and I really have to say that he is a credit to Australian cycling.

Giro boilover reminds everyone of Pereiro's Tour

Well, almost. Pereiro's break (and subsequent overall victory in Le Tour) was far less star-studded. Instead, this Giro breakaway contained just about everyone who was a GC contender but not close to the lead. Of course the leaders were marking Vino - and he simply didn't defend. Of course if they'd tried to bridge they'd just drag Vino with them. It's a risky play by Astana - will Sastre or Wiggins now re-invigorate and go for it? Time will tell.

Giro D'Italia: Stage 11, Route Maps & Results |
Cervélo's Carlos Sastre and Team Sky captain Bradley Wiggins, who were both part of the day's successful break, put themselves back into contention on the general classification. The pair now re-enter the fight for overall honours after a disastrous few days for Sastre and a forgettable week for the Briton.

Sastre began the day 9:59 in arrears of race leader Alexandre Vinokourov, while Wiggins sat 10:54 behind. The Spaniard was one of the big winners and jumped 13 positions by day's end, now sitting in eighth, 7:09 behind new overall leader Richie Porte.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Can't help but get a bit excited at today's ToC finish

It was as close as you'd hope between 3 great and highly pedigreed riders - Rogers, DaveZ and Leapin' Levi. The fact that the chase was on and gaining added to the excitement - and I have to say the heart rate went up just watching on TV. I think I need to go on a ride myself now.

If we were to analyse the sprint a bit, to me Rogers looked the better sprinter, but DaveZ was first to react, grabbing the advantage in the tight finale. I suspect all 3 knew the finish well and it came down to who was brave enough to take the initiative and hold on. Rogers was coming for him but lacked just that extra few metres. So kudos to DaveZ for first and best move. Levi looked off the pace - and let's face it he's not a sprinter, even in this elite-climber-and-TTer company. All 3 were an even match on the climb although Dave seemed to be holding back a bit - perhaps wary of keeping something for the finish. Levi looked best on the climb but Rogers wasn't far off. It's hard to know for sure but Levi initiated proceedings and was promptly matched by Mick and Dave, so it looks even at this stage. It's worth noting that a few good climbers missed the attack, so expect them to be fired up and prepared next time. Good result for Garmin, given that their rider won despite a strong team effort from RadioShack (with the modified and patented Lance Launch).  

And the Giro is going along quite nicely too. Pro Cycle Racing is surely on another upswing, you'd think. After years of bad publicity you'd hope so, anyway.