Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Scott Sunderland makes Hushovd's mind up for him over Stage 2. And still we go on about "fairness"

I wasn't there so I don't know - but I have an opinion on the question of "fairness". And it's a saga that goes on and on, regrettably, without a solution. And isn't that the way everything works these days? The tiniest detail gets pounced upon and sides are taken, black or white. If it sticks and goes viral it snowballs out of all proportion but no agreement is reached or solution offered.

Andy Schleck's so-called "mechanical" when he somehow "lost his chain" (when in fact it appeared to jam on his cogs, as if he'd stuffed up a gearchange) is one example, and Stage 2 into Spa is another one. And now in post-race analysis Scott Sunderland appears to be putting his (possibly biased, being an ex member of what was the CSC team) views into Thor Hushovd's mouth. As well as putting Contador in his place for not waiting for Andy when his chain jammed. But what exactly is "fair"? Is it so black and white?

Now on the day into Spa it appeared (on TV and in post-race interviews, anyway) that Thor Hushovd wasn't very pleased about the bullying tactics used by Cancellara and the Saxo Bank team to annul the slippery stage. So to say that Thor wouldn't have wanted to win like that is certainly going a bit far. If Thor has changed his mind, great - let him say that himself

Now in principle we probably agree that gaining time by leveraging other riders' misfortune is not how we would like to win a race. But it assumes several things:
  • Firstly that only the lucky got through unscathed, which is debatable. Wet, narrow descent with or without a crashed motorbike says "keep clear of other riders, slow down, pick your line" to me
  • Secondly, a corollary to the first, that skill was not involved. Again, bike handling and the ability to pick your line is paramount
  • Thirdly, that all teams played the conditions the same and were equally affected, which is not true. There was a breakaway and a chase group plus a larger group, all playing out different tactics. There are safer ways to play dangerous situations and some teams did better than others by design
  • Fourthly, that an independent referee is available to assess the conditions and make an informed but unpressured and one-step-removed decision on conditions and actions to address. Which is debatable. The race referee was certainly there but his decision was visibly informed by Cancellara, who had an obvious (and conflicted) role in firstly waiting for the Schlecks and secondly in coercing other riders from other teams into a go-slow agreement.  
Now the other side to the argument is that an unusually large proportion of riders were affected and that several riders reported conditions where "everyone" went down and that even cars couldn't stay on the road. In which case you'd think that the stage should be annulled there and then, rather than let one rider win and take yellow whilst effectively penalising anyone else who'd recovered or avoided the drama.

It's not as if it hasn't happened before. There was for example Le Tour in 1999 when an unusually large proportion of the field went down and lost 6 minutes or more - effectively ending the race for the overall there and then. But Armstrong isn't likely to hand back that Tour win because he didn't wait for Zulle, is he? Indeed his team and others actively exploited the situation. Riders are down, big fall - let's stomp on the gas!

There's always another side, another way to view things. In 1999 you had to get to the front. It wasn't just luck. The same applies in 2010, or perhaps should have applied.

You could say that we must learn for these things, and so we should. But one thing to learn from 2010 is that it isn't appropriate for race officials to appear to do a deal with the yellow jersey where obvious conflicts of interest exist. There must be a better, fairer way to deal with such situations. It isn't necessarily easy but leaving it 'as it is' is inappropriate.

Oh, and jamming your chain is just one of those things that can happen when you make ham-fisted changes on the highly-tuned engineering kludges we call bicycle drivetrains.

Where The Tour Was Won |
Sunderland: "I think the same logic should be applied to the green jersey competition. Thor Hushovd missed out on a lot of points that day but I don’t think he would have wanted to win that way."
1999 Tour de France - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The 1999 edition of Tour de France had two bizarre moments. The first was on stage 2 when a 25 rider pile-up occurred at Passage du Gois. Passage du Gois is a two mile causeway which depending on the tide can be under water. The second bizarre incident was on stage 10, one kilometre from the summit of L'Alpe d'Huez. Leading Italian rider Giuseppe Guerini was confronted by a spectator holding a camera in the middle of the road. Guerini hit the spectator but recovered and went on to win the stage.
The Tour de France At A Glance - 1999
Frankie Andreu: The main difficulty in this completely flat stage was a four-kilometer causeway that crossed a huge river. It's passable during the day with low tide and flooded during high tide. You can imagine that the causeway would be a little slick and wet by the time we arrived.

The race was calm till the first bonus sprint of the day at kilometer 30. After that the attacks started and the battle for good position for the causeway was already starting. It was still 50 kilometers till we arrived there. To make matters worse it was windy and I'm sure every team told their riders to be first into the causeway.

The battle was furious trying to keep Lance in good position to get across this causeway safely. Looking back it was a good thing we did. After the entrance to this four-kilometer causeway there was a huge crash. Guys went down everywhere. You could see riders trying to brake, but they hit the ground instantaneously. Going across the causeway was very, very scary. It was wet, slippery and windy. It felt like a risk to even turn your wheel to change directions. I was scared to ride on the edge of the road because it was too slick.

Coming out of the causeway the group had split - partially because we went fast and partly because of the huge crash. There was a front group of about 40 and immediately ONCE started riding. It took us a few kilometers to figure out why. We didn't know there was a crash at the time and in the rear group there were a few favorites.

Right away Johan told us to go to the front and help ONCE. The reason was that in the second group were Gotti, Belli, Zülle, Boogerd, Robin, and some other favorites in the overall.

In the second group Banesto started to chase immediately. They came within 30 seconds of catching us, but we were in time-trial mode in the first group with about ten guys. It became an 80-kilometer team time trial, trying to increase the gap between the second group and us. We had five ONCE riders, two Casino, two Cofidis, and Christian and I riding full tilt all the way to the finish. We put over six minutes on the guys behind. Lance lost the jersey today to Kirsipu, who won every bonus sprint, but Lance did manage to eliminate some very strong riders for the classement.

In the race today the Spanish guys had a new nickname for Jonathon Vaughters. They called him "El Gato", the cat. He got the name after he flew into a crash yesterday and went flying. Somehow he landed on his feet; he didn't get a scratch on his body. The bad news is that today Jonathon lost his nickname. He was one of the unlucky ones to get caught in the crash on the causeway.
1999- The Clean Tour - RideStrong
So the Tour had an undeniably "clean" winner, though his (Armstrong's) domination was not the unnatural performance that certain sections of the French press tried to accuse him of. Take away the stage over the Passage de Gois, and his lead over Zülle is a rather more mundane-looking 1½ minutes. And the Tour threw up several other imponderables. There were no French stage winners for the first time since 1926. The transition stages saw breaks of minor riders gain huge leads each day, with the big stars seemingly content to have four days off. Yet for all the drug-free culture, the average speed was over 40kmh for the first time ever. Even allowing for the easier route this year (and arguably it was in fact a harder route than some of those in the seventies and eighties), one is left with questions. If a drug-free peloton could ride so fast, what was the point of taking EPO in the past? And if EPO does have an effect, was 1999 really a drug-free peloton?
SBS: Tour de France 2010: Dangerous course or dangerous force?
It’s been a long time since I’ve witnessed this much carnage at the Tour de France.

The last occasion I can recall such circumstances was 11 years ago, at the 1999 Tour.

What was thought to be a relatively innocuous second stage quickly turned into a massacre, when on the Passage du Gois, a two-mile long causeway that depending on tidal conditions can be submerged in water, a 25 rider pile-up eventuated that split the field to itty bitty pieces and left Lance Armstrong’s most noted adversary, Swiss rider Alex Zülle, behind in a frantic chase that never regained contact.

Zülle along with Jan Ullrich were arguably the only two riders to really challenge the Texan during his Tour reign, and Armstrong’s 7’37” winning advantage did not really tell the full story.

I’m not saying Zülle would have beaten Armstrong in the first of his seven straight wins, but had he not crashed, the race would without doubt have played out very differently.
SBS: Tour de France 2010: Dangerous course or dangerous force?
But read this from cycling legend Eddy Merckx, who told Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf after Stage 1: “It’s part of the job. Especially in the beginning of a Grand Tour, you can not blame the organisation. It is the riders themselves who [must] bear the blame. If you do not want to brake and if you are not afraid to go for an opponent who is faster, then do not be afraid of crashing.”

In the end Monday, the Schleck brothers were saved by an entente cordiale initiated by the erstwhile maillot jaune of Fabian Cancellara, who relinquished his golden fleece to perhaps the most popular guy in France right now, Sylvain Chavanel.
Where The Tour Was Won |
Scott Sunderland: "Contador pulled on the yellow jersey in Luchon but when he heard the crowd whistle and boo him, I'm sure he realised he'd unfairly taken advantage of Andy's mechanical problem."

'I know the race was 'on', that everything was decided in split seconds and the other riders attacked too, but Contador was the first to go clear and kept going all the way to the finish thanks to a special 'friendship' with Samuel Sanchez, who guided him down the descent."

I think he should have at least of asked the other riders to wait. I know these guys are competing against each other but there must always be room for some sportsmanship in cycling. The riders share the same road and face the same difficulties. Alberto is a special champion but missed an opportunity to show he has a special sense of fair play."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Whatever it takes, Part 2. More on Jens Voigt, the gendarme and that "junior" bike that saved his Tour

To me it's probably the story of Le Tour - how Jens Voigt was able to ride his way to a stage finish when all hope appeared lost.... if you persist with the video Jens describes in detail (and in his cracked Germanic-Aussie English) exactly what happened, including Bjarne Riis commanding a gendarme to wait by the side of the road with a new bike for Jens.

Jens Voigt: I borrowed a children's bike...

Pez CyclingNews: "Why on earth was Jens on a kid's bike? Well he crashed very heavily on the descent of the Col de Peyresourde and all the team cars passed and left him behind leaving him with only the ambulance and broom wagon left to help him. He could either go to hospital in the ambulance or to the finish with the broomwagon. They were his two choices as he lay bleeding, injured next to his broken bike on the side of the road. Jens didn't like either of these choices though and instead demanded for a bike to finish the race, but nobody had one! It was at that stage that chance shined upon Jens as a promotional car carrying kids bikes happened to pass by.

Jens commandeered one of those bikes and was able to remount the too small bike with toe clips and continue the descent. Check out the youtube video here for a great photo of Jens decending the Peyresourde on this bike and an interview of Jens in English as he explains his story. Chapeau Jens!"

addicted2wheels: What would Jens do? Whatever it takes. Follow this to video, pic, words on Jens on the "junior" bike

TdF Friday |

“The worst thing of all was that I almost got forced out of the Tour for a second year in a row. The problem was that the first team car was behind Andy Schleck, and the second had decided to go up ahead to hand out water bottles at the foot of the next climb. As a result I had no bike, because mine was shattered.

So then the broom wagon pulled up and was like, “Do you want to just get in?” And I said, “Oh no, I don’t need YOU!” But there I am with blood spurting out my left elbow and no bike. Finally, the race organizers got me a bike, but it was this little yellow junior bike. It was way too small for me and even had old-fashioned toe-clip pedals. But that is the only way I could get down the mountain, so I had to ride it for like 15-20 kilometers until I finally got to a team car with my bike.” – Jens Voigt

And a special note:
Just as an aside Jens is unofficially part of the 'Aussie' contingent, having been contracted by then Aussie road coach Heiko Salzwedel to race with the ZVVZ-Giant-AIS Cycling Team in the mid '90s. Although that squad lasted only 2 years it dates back earlier, starting in 1991 with GIANT bicycle company sponsorship and was involved in the later success not just of Jens but also Matt White, Pat Jonker, Henk Vogels, Dave McKenzie and Robbie McEwen in the road sphere and Cadel Evans in the mountain bike field. There were many other great riders to come out of that program - Nick Gates springs to mind - and it's interesting to reflect on where some of those have ended up post-career. Voigt and McEwen of course are still racing, but their long days sitting on pro bikes are surely numbered... and DS roles will just as surely beckon.  

Monday, July 26, 2010

Let Tour 2010 - Stage 20 - The (sadly so predictable) End. It's the journey, not the destination they say

After all of the crashes, the cobbles and the boring yadda-yadda-yadda over a s0-called "mechanical" we finally get to Paris and see Armstrong and his team playing silly games with the rules. Yawn. In a nutshell - whilst it was compelling viewing simply because it's so damn hard to string so many stages and individual performances into one long race and keep everything hanging together - it was also probably the best example yet of how much better the Giro is as a Grand Tour.

Now whilst this year's Giro was possibly flawed by a lack of some key players - like Contador and Armstrong to name but 2 - the organisers still pulled off a magnificent race as well as a spectacle. It's the racing that has deteriorated in France whilst it has prospered in Italy. Yeah, OK, I didn't ride Le Tour this year - or any year for that matter - but I know what I like. And the racing was effectively a fizzer, outside of the points and climbers classifications at least.

Of course even a fizzer of a Grand Tour beats just about anything else in sport. But it was still a dud in comparison with past glories. (I'm sure those who raced it and suffered have a different opinion but there you go. I'm one of the customers and we - all of us - are always right, eh?

Petacchi Emotional About Green Jersey Success |
Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese Vini) finished second behind Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) but had plenty to celebrate as he looked up to the Arc du Triomphe after crossing the finish line on the Champs-Élysées. With Thor Hushovd (Cervélo TestTeam) only finishing seventh, Petacchi was confirmed as the winner of the points competition.
Tour De France: Stage 20, Route Maps & Results |
"This victory cost me a lot," he said, "and I'm very moved. I suffered a lot, but that's what you have to do to win the Tour."

And when the fat lady was warming up her vocal chords, readying her wide-berthed-self to sing to the tune of the Spanish national anthem, with all his might and power, down came HTC-Columbia's Mark Cavendish on the Champs-Élysées, proving for a fifth time this race, he still is the world's best sprinter.
Reactions From The Tour's 20th Stage |
Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank) - 89th on stage, 126th overall @ 3:23:31: It's the 13th time I enter Paris after a long and tiring Tour de France and I have the exact same feeling every single time: goose bumps. It's a goose bump situation.

Last year I wasn't able to go all the way with the guys but this year, I would have done the final stage on a three-wheeled bike to cross the finish line with my friends.
PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling
Alberto Contador has now won the Tour de France three times. In two of those victories, he’s won by fewer than 40 seconds (23 seconds in 2007 and 39 seconds in 2010), and in 2009 he beat Andy Schleck by 4:11. Winning is what matters most, but especially this year, Contador never had a secure lead in the yellow jersey until the final 10 kilometers of the Stage 19 time trial. That’s a stressful way to win the Tour, and a risky one.

Worth a look. Always funny - in a sometimes disturbing way - and always cryptic. Matt Lloyd's blog

Matthew Lloyd : home of the professional cyclist
I think my antioxidants levels might be high after I get to Paris and enjoy a glass or two of wine and to say I am hankering for a beer is an understatement. I am also at a deep point emotionally ….. I am suffering a deep and highly involved craving ….. its a craving that is going to be dealt with and dealt with, with Authority. I don’t care what they put on their Fries in Paris I am going to be devouring some McDonlds in the very near future.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Le Tour 2010 - Stage 19 - Hesjedal and Menchov impress, but the expected happened. Except for Van Summeren's spectacular tumble

Forget the private race between friends Alberto and Andy, it was Menchov and Hesjedal that made the running. The usual Phil and Paul TV commentary was appalling and made it all sound more exciting than the fizzer it really was. But that's showbiz and the game we are playing these days. If you want to make money, make it dramatic - be it politics or sport, it all comes down to the artificial: the soap-operatic drama of it all. Thus we get the endless inquisition on the so-called "mechanical" and now how the race - a 3 week race, mind - was "really" lost on day 1 (the prologue, I mean) because of a wet road for Andy.

Perhaps we should hold Le Tour inside on single-speed bikes under controlled conditions to save ourselves from sloppy gearchangers and the vagaries of weather?   

OTOH just imagine the race we may have had if Cancellara hadn't annulled stage 2. Imagine if Andy Schleck was left holding his arm on the side of the road, waiting for a new bike - and was significantly gapped by a host of riders. Imagine if Hushovd and McEwen had got a significant swag of points instead of nothing. Just imagine. And unlike the hamfisted "mechanical" or the state of the weather it was Andy's teammate Fabian who changed the direction of the whole race. We shouldn't worry about the little details, it's the bigger fish we have to fry instead.   

Contador Elated But Admits He Struggled |
"The truth is there's a lot of emotion. I think it's the first Tour to give me this much emotion. You can't imagine how much I've given. Yes, there were few days when I wasn't in my best form, and that might be why I'm so emotional."

"The last year has been difficult for all kinds of reasons," the Spaniard said. "This year I've not been at my best all the time and that was the case today. But of course in the end I'm very happy with how the year has now turned out. All the victories this year have been the result of a lot of hard work. It's been said that I've not competed in a lot of races but I've spent a lot of time away from home preparing for this objective."
Contador Elated But Admits He Struggled |
"But this year I've not been in my best shape. Today I didn't feel too well. I didn't sleep well and woke up with stomach ache, but ultimately the day turned out pretty well for me, although I suffered more today than at any other time this year."

He would not be drawn on how far he was below his best or what his worst days had been. "I can't really say what percentage I was below my best, but there were some moments that I had the same good sensations as last year. I wasn't at the same level as last year, but I still managed to win. I won't say which my bad days were. I'll keep that to myself for obvious reasons.
PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling
The wind makes Denis Menchov’s ride all the more impressive. He was the fourth from final rider to leave the start house and he managed to finish 11th in the time trial and take two minutes out of Sammy Sanchez. He was the top-placed rider of anyone in the top 10 overall, and his performance moved him ahead of Sanchez and into third place overall. For years, Menchov has been talked about as a potential Tour de France winner, but in each of his previous attempts at the race he’s cracked and fallen out of contention. This year he quietly rode a nearly-perfect race. He wasn’t able to stay with Andy Schleck or Alberto Contador in the mountains, but with the 2009 Giro d’Italia victory in his back pocket and a really strong performance in this year’s Tour de France, he could very well return to the Tour in 2011 as a very serious contender for the overall victory. This would be especially true if the 2011 edition of the race has two long individual time trials and/or a team time trial.
PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling
There’s also no doubt that the chance to take the yellow jersey off Contador’s back today provided immense motivation, perhaps more so than last year when the two riders entered the final time trial separated by 2:26 (a gap Schleck knew to be unassailable).

But I have a hunch that Schleck’s result today was not an anomaly. I don’t think he pulled a once-in-a-lifetime effort out of his body today, but that he’s significantly narrowed the gap between himself and Alberto Contador in terms of time trials. And if Andy Schleck continues to improve in the mountains (he and Contador were equals in the mountains this year, where Contador could accelerate away from him last year) and in the time trials, he could very well beat Contador in the 2011 Tour de France.

Tour De France: Stage 19, Route Maps & Results |
"I did the first 40km really, really fast," said Schleck. "I lost more in the final 10 kilometres than in the rest but I fought to the end."

The Luxembourger accepted his defeat, even more so because it did not come down to the mechanical. When asked about the 42 seconds he conceded to the Spaniard on the Tour's very first day, three weeks ago, Schleck said, "The prologue was terrible for me but it's part of the Tour de France. I haven't got any regrets. Anything can happen in the Tour. I know that. I'm satisfied and I'll be back next year to try and win," he said.
Tour De France: Stage 19, Route Maps & Results |
Menchov will thus be the third man to feature on the famed podium on the Champs-Elysées Sunday evening, with the rest of the top ten classification unchanged except for Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Transitions), who moved up from eighth to seventh: an excellent performance for the 29-year-old Canadian.
Tour de France Stage 19
Garmin team rider Johan Van Summeren of Belgium falls at the start of the individual time-trial. Photo: Reuters
Hesjedal into 7th overall, DZ takes 5th on day – Tour de France, stage 19 – Team Garmin-Transitions
Hesjedal’s amazing run up the overall began after the crash-marred stage 2 that saw Christian Vande Velde abandon.

“On the morning of stage 3, Matt White said, ‘It’s open, give it the best you can.’ I didn’t wait around,” he told Velonews’ Neal Rogers.

“I went for it, and I wanted to keep that going the whole race. I didn’t want to be high in the standings and fade away through the Tour de France. I wanted to stay up there.”

“I’ve always believed I was capable, and here I am now.”
I guess yesterday's - or last night's - debacle at Le Tour can be blamed on too many riders on too-narrow roads. Add some rain and maybe a sprinkle of oil and bingo, they all fall down. Well, some had better luck than others. Chavanal made his own luck and kept well clear, making his win a deserved one - but the points and time gap were not a "real" result and I'm sure even he feels a bit cheated that the remaining riders - and not just Cancellara, although he spontaneously took up the 'lead coordinator' role - turned off the chase. Yes, it was the right thing to do when big names were splattered all over the road - it's meant to be an athletic contest, not a smash-em-up derby after all. But many of us have been in bike races where conditions were bad - rain, hail, dirt roads, crashes - and still the race went on. So why last night was different I'm not sure. It was bad and riders were confused, but did it need to be neutralised all the way to the end...? What if Cancellara and others were not just seeking to be "fair" to the fallen but also hoping that their teammates made it back, too?

Phil (Anderson) was also asked about Cancellara's 'control' of the "risk" on the stage won by Chavenal, at the expense of those who had suffered and clawed their way back to the front in search of points (like McEwen and Hushovd). Rightly, Phil pointed out the obvious conflict of interest in a rider seemingly annulling a stage (his teammate Andy Shleck had been gapped for example) and pointedly called Cancellara a "bully". Well Fabian may actually be a very nice guy (Scott Sunderland said so earlier this week so it's probably true) but he certainly displayed a degree of self-assured "Tour Patron" aura not seen since Lance was the Boss. Or maybe not since Hinault last pulled on the yellow jersey and gave the peleton a piece of his mind.

OTOH there's money on the line here and decisions were made on the road by individuals with a vested interest in the final result. Now if the riders were not connected by radio to team directors I'd be less inclined to question their motivations, but in any event it was obvious that neutralising the stage was in the best interests of several teams - and perhaps the majority. And the minority who were coerced into following what the Saxo Bank team wanted could do nothing. Oh sure, they could've attacked when the main field regrouped but they would also have been chased down by the man with the yellow jersey on his back and given at least some sort of tongue-lashing, or worse.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Le Tour 2010 - Stage 18 - An otherwise dull day. TT aside, we turn to Thor and Alejet for escape from the predictable

Another fizzer, unless you like a rest day on wheels. Yeah, I know, (a) easy to say, harder to do and (b) gotta admire someone who can repeatedly win at this level, even if it means admiring Cavendish. A bit.

I think I need a ride myself. TT aside, we turn to Thor and Alejet for escape from the predictable. Anyone? Vino again with a late attack? Or will McEwen repeat his first win in Paris, when he said farewell to Rabobank in the best possible way?

Tour De France: Stage 18, Route Maps & Results |
The closing sprint was the only excitement on an otherwise dull day, and even it was pretty much of a foregone conclusion. Sky led the way into the final kilometre, hoping to set up Edvald Boasson Hagen, but the young Norwegian couldn't hold his own against the top sprinters.
Petacchi Retakes Green Jersey |
Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese Vini) was unable to match Mark Cavendish's late burst of speed on the banks of the Garonne in Bordeaux but the Italian veteran made sure he finished third and so took back the green jersey from Thor Hushovd (Cervelo TestTeam), who was only a distant fourteenth.
PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling
Under the final kilometer banner and Sky was still on the front. Oscar Friere loomed in the back, the front end fattened up some and Thor got through with some of his teammates. Cav was right where he needed to be, so was Petacchi. Cervelo led out Hushovd perfectly and then the big names got launched and Thor faded quickly. Petacchi cut left and Cav chased his wheel, enjoying the Italian slipstream.

A second later Cav launched to the right and was gone, having time to almost taunt the rest of the field by looking over his shoulder not once, not twice, but three times before sitting up and sticking his fists in the air. Petacchi slipped in for 3rd, and that was enough to take the green jersey off of Hushovd’s shoulders. Thor’s job just got pretty tough with only the stage to Paris remaining to get points back.

What would Jens do? Whatever it takes. Follow this to video, pic, words on Jens on the "junior" bike

If you want to read, see and be inspired by a guy who just keeps on trying, click the link!

TdF Friday |
“The worst thing of all was that I almost got forced out of the Tour for a second year in a row. The problem was that the first team car was behind Andy Schleck, and the second had decided to go up ahead to hand out water bottles at the foot of the next climb. As a result I had no bike, because mine was shattered.

So then the broom wagon pulled up and was like, “Do you want to just get in?” And I said, “Oh no, I don’t need YOU!” But there I am with blood spurting out my left elbow and no bike. Finally, the race organizers got me a bike, but it was this little yellow junior bike. It was way too small for me and even had old-fashioned toe-clip pedals. But that is the only way I could get down the mountain, so I had to ride it for like 15-20 kilometers until I finally got to a team car with my bike.” – Jens Voigt

Friday, July 23, 2010

Le Tour 2010 - Stage 17 - Armstrong wishes he was younger, faster: don't we all? Well some of us anyway

Le Tour - any Grand Tour, in fact - is a beautiful thing to watch, and this one is no exception. It has had the scenery, the colour and spectacle; the bare, stripped humanity of pain, suffering and glory; as well as the day to day grind and the tactical toing-and-froing that makes long stage racing so engrossing. You can keep your World Cup football, thanks: as wonderful as that round ball game may be it still boils down to short games of skill played by 2 opposing teams on flat pitches; whereas a 3-week bike race is a far longer journey made by individuals and teams over almost insurmountable obstacles, both literally and figuratively, where they all end together, covered in glory. 

Anyway, it's also boiled down to a battle between 2 riders for top dog status, and that's what we expected anyway. So no real surprises there. And if Contador wins overall in Paris we still won't be surprised. Sure there have been other surprises along the way, and lots of colourful detail to savour. So it remains compelling, whilst perhaps not being the best example of a Tour de France to date. But it is the one we have.

Armstrong: I Wish I Was Younger, Faster |
Did the RadioShack team leader have any regrets this year? “I wish that I was younger, faster. I’ve had my time and I’ve got a long history with the Tour de France. I’ve had lots of good moments, got lots of good memories, I’ve also had some good luck, so I can’t complain and I won’t complain.”
PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling
By the time Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador reached the final three kilometers of Stage 17 – and this goes for all the riders behind them as well – there wasn’t much else for them to do but maintain as high a steady pace as they could. At the intensity they were holding, and at that altitude, you only have the potential for one or two big accelerations, and pulling the trigger on those efforts could just as easy backfire on you and push you over your limit. So don’t mistake what you saw in the closing kilometers of the Tourmalet today for a passive ride to the summit; it becomes increasingly difficult for racers who spend very little time competing at elevations above 5,000 feet to launch searing attacks on the upper slopes of the high mountains.
PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling
As the gradient kicked in, Boasson Hagen was the first to be jettisoned from the leaders, Burghardt and Kolobnev pushed on leaving the others floundering in their wake. Meanwhile Saxo were setting up the play for Andy Schleck. Cancellara, followed by Chris Sorensen and then Fuglsang layed down a blistering pace sending many riders out the back; Basso and Evans the most notable, later to be followed backwards by Vinokourov!
PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling
All the pressure was on the young Luxembourger, he had to lead Contador, Schleck needs time in hand for the time trial, but with only 5 kilometres to the line he was running out of road to make his move. The gap between the Schleck/Contador tandem and the hopefuls was creeping over 1 minute.

Nico Roche was yo-yoing just behind the chasers, showing how just how fast the climb was being ridden (and how good he is!). Schleck wanted Contador to come to the front, but that was not going to happen and then at 3.8 K’s Contador shoots past, but Schleck counters and rides up to his shoulder.

Looks were exchanged between the two that would have killed lesser mortals.

Through the mist and the mad crowd the two battle on, as they come to the 1 kilometre flag and the barriers to give them a clear road to the line. 500 metres and Schleck is still on the front as both struggle towards the finish. Out of the darkness Contador comes next to Schleck, but he crosses the line half a wheel behind the young rider.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Interesting site with epic bike riding vids... the @skinsiders facebook and twitter sites

Some good first-hand accounts of real people riding their bikes the way they were intended to be ridden. Unlike my bikes, which are collecting dust whilst I get over another cold. Keeerchew! Sniff.

Yes, these are commercial sites and I am testing their product. Still a good read.

SKINS (skinsiders) on Twitter

Facebook | Skinsider
SKINS Compression Sports Wear

Follow us at:

And my previous mention...
addicted2wheels: Cycling Clothing Review - SKINS baselayer and Compression Knicks
...the nice people at SKINS (thanks Matt!) have given me a set of their compression gear to test and I'm keen to wear these out rather prosaically by actually keeping upright and not testing their road adhesion. Whilst I haven't paid for 'em they (ie SKINS) and I have agreed that I should be fair and honest and pull no punches in my assessment. So that's what I will do.

What I am testing right now (well not right this minute as I'm at the keyboard) is a C400 men's mesh tank baselayer undershirt (well I call it an undershirt, anyway) and a pair of C400 men's compression BIB shorts. I am hoping to get a sample jersey to test as well. The size is medium and it's a fine - if snug - fit on my 1.69m and overweight 73kg body. I like snug. I can't fault the undershirt at all (only the body underneath, frankly) and the BIB shorts (I really only wear the BIB style, it's the only way to fly) are well made and a good fit.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Le Tour 2010 - Stage 16 - Armstrong definitely human this year. Nice one Fedrigo, Moreau, Hushovd. Shame about crazy, antsy Barredo

OK, good to see Armstrong have a go - but all it really did was show us even more clearly that whatever advantage he had in the past he doesn't have right now. He looks and rides just like old, attacking and almost unbeatable Armstrong but everyone just follows him now - before attacking him.

Somehow a more sluggish Lance (it's all relative - he's a rocket compared to most of us) looks wrong, just as it looked like Barredo had drunk too much red cordial during the stage. He kept attacking and getting caught, like it was some sort of sure-fire plan to soften them all up. And yes, it definitely softened a few legs, including his own. It may have softened his brain, too, when he finally got away with a long, long way to go. "Oh sure, I can hold all of 'em off." Armstrong, Horner, Cunego, Casar, Fedrigo, Moreau - bunch of no-names really. He managed to fool the "expert" TV commentators, too, who proclaimed "they won't catch him now" just when his pursuers got serious and started, umm, catching him. Which they duly did. Gosh, caught at 1km to go, who would've thought?

Oh well, at least it was interesting viewing, unlike the laughing bunch of happy campers in the peleton behind. You know that when Hushovd is still there despite some big, big climbs - nothing much was happening in the GC bunch. Oh sure it was tough enough to hurt. But Hushovd was probably the most interesting to happen outside of the frantic first hour and the quality breakaway. Moreau clearly profited, too. Scenery's nice too.

And as for Schleck's "fury" at Alberto's "mistake", well that's all in the past. Gosh, can't remember the Badger being so forgiving in his day.

SBS: Tour de France 2010: Fedrigo makes it six for France
The Luxemburger, who rides for Saxo Bank, is still eight seconds behind Spain's two-time champion ahead of the race's second and final rest day and two days before the final day of climbing to the summit of the Tourmalet on stage 17.

A day after they fell out because Contador attacked as Schleck tried to fix his mechanical setback, the pair had shaken hands and made up.

But Schleck warned: "It's the last week of the Tour and I'm sure that we'll be battling a lot on the (Col du) Tourmalet," he said. "The Tour is not over."
SBS: Tour de France 2010: Fedrigo makes it six for France
FDJ rider Casar, who had shown his finishing skills on a similar profile to win Stage 9, had lost ground with the frontrunners on the race's fourth categorised climb, the Col de l'Aubisque.

But after he made up his gap of 1min 35sec on the descent, Barredo, perhaps sensing the danger, went off on his own only to be caught, agonisingly, with one kilometre to race.

Armstrong, who had been resting his legs for most of the last few kilometres, made a brief bid for the stage win in the final 500 metres.

However, Fedrigo dropped down a cog or two and maintained his power to surge up the inside of the barriers to beat Casar into second place at the finish line.

Casar said: "I spent a lot of energy just trying to catch the breakaway, but in the sprint I knew Pierrick would be very fast."

Armstrong's team manager at RadioShack, Johan Bruyneel, said Armstrong had told him he was tired with around 15km to race.
Contador And Schleck Make Up On French TV |
GH (referring to the video that Contador posted on Youtube in the evening after stage 15): Alberto, is it true that you apologised to Andy?

AC: Yes. I didn’t need to. But we’ve got a very strong friendship and it was for that reason that I wanted to apologise yesterday evening.

AS: I realise that after what happened at Spa the race could already have been over for me. That day the peloton waited for me. Yesterday the situation wasn’t the same, and I realised that I shouldn’t fret about it too much.
PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling
It was flashes of the Lance of old, but one thing had changed, this time his attacks were answered – first by a very strong Carlos Barredo (QS) – this time using his legs and not his fists to do the talking, and then by Bbox’s Pierrick Fedrigo who also looked very strong. It was an exciting stage – but not because of the gc – this one played out much like a transition day with the breakaway providing all the action.
PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling
Days like Stage 16 are included because of how they fit into the big picture of a three-week Grand Tour. If you wanted to make every stage of the race decisive, you could easily create a course so brutal that it would be inhumane. As it is, in this third week of the 2010 Tour de France we have four mountain stages in the Pyrenees, two of which have summit finishes (14 and 17), one which had a descent straight to the finish (15), and today’s. Stage 16 included two Category 1 climbs and two Beyond Category climbs, so even though the race ended with 60 kilometers of gradual descending roads to the finish, it was bound to be a very hard day in the saddle. And that was its biggest contribution to the race.

Just love following real race reports from local Aussie clubbies having a crack at Euro racing

Whilst I like and enjoy Le Tour - and are compelled by strange forces to watch it - I rarely get a big buzz out of it. Most of the time I'm enjoying the scenery more than the racing, which can be too controlled and predictable these days. Sure you get the odd crazed breakaway but I miss Hinault taking everyone on in the mountains when it looks hopeless and then having a crack at a bunch sprint to boot. Or Anderson taking on Hinault to Bernard's obvious displeasure. Or Roche's wonderful set of wins, the Giro, Tour and World Champs all in a row. Or Virenque off on a wild, mad sortie for polkadot points. OK, I should let go of the past - but maybe it really was better when we saw and read less but what we got was higher quality? (And when riders actually had to learn how to change gear properly instead of going click-click-click and expecting it to "just work"!)

OK, I'm a bitter old codger. But hear me out.

These days we see too much dross and get a sanitised and false "bipolar" view. Usually it's a faked you take one side and I'll take the other style of commentary; or - even worse - the real issues are completely ignored. Yes, twitter has opened up an avenue into the rider's real thoughts, perhaps - but the "expert" analysis elsewhere is both ubiquitous and too-often trivial. As in Phil will say "I think he was wrong to do that" and Paul will say "Well you know Phil I think he did the right thing". And then they agree to disagree on that point but agree later on some inane "safe" point like "I can't remember when the French have had a better Tour". And then the blogs and social media sites are full of regurgitated, unenlightened comment, often without regard for the fact that everyone who's interested has already heard Phil and Paul's "analysis". So repeating it without attribution or addition is adding lameness upon lamenosity. Even when Paul and Phil say something insightful I nod off and watch the scenery again.

But folks, ignore the Tour for a moment and instead Google up some real race reports - from the racers themselves - battling to make a mark, a career or just have a go in Europe. They may not be professionals but they are experiencing something that is a level or 2 - or more - above what the "average" club level racer may see back home. There's more genuineness here than you will see in 20 Le Tours. Below are some excerpts from Mick Curran's Dutch/Belgian race reports. Mick is otherwise an A-grader at the Central Coast Cycling Club, 100km north of Sydney, Australia. (oh yeah, and I'm a D or sometime C grader at that club so a tad biased.) You can find many similar reports from many riders in similar situations with a quick web search. You can also find some great helmet-cam reporting on YouTube from real bike riders just having a go. 

For those who care about my Holland/Belgium stint.
Team headed to Belgium on Sunday to compete in the 58th Edition of the Drie Zustersteden!

I was a kid in a candy store today. Sitting on the line ready to start the 160km classic in the north of Belgium i was rubbing shoulders with Davitamon Lotto squad, USA Nation squad, Fuji Test Team squad along with many other pro-conti teams......then, lil' ol' me! Wink

Team plan was to be present in Early Break and hope it stayed away Undecided failing that, get Arjan Dekker up for a top 10 finish.

Starters = 200. 24deg medium wind. Sunny.

First 800mts was neutral, 200riders behind a red car itching to go. My nerves could not handle this s@#t fight again so lined up early (top 30) and bullied my way to the referee car via the footpath Grin and gaps that were not there Lips sealed

Plan worked, flag dropped and I went. Before i knew it i was at the 159km to go mark and in a break of 10 with 190 guys chasing. The blackboard told me that the bunch was continuing to chase and gap never blew out over 1min.

0-40km = early break of 10. (plenty of tv time so it was all worth it Grin ) Break did not have USA National team or Lotto represented so it was a formality really that we were caught but fun while it lasted.

40km-80km = legs felt great, stayed in front 20 and chilled (if you can chill at 50km/h)

We covered 48km in the first hour. Shocked.

For those who care about my Holland/Belgium stint.
Crit 1: Thursday 15th July. 1hr30min+2laps. Wind, wind + more wind Shocked

- Felt the strongest i've felt whilst over here.
- Found myself in peloton with break of 6 up the road @1min. Did not panic because top 3 riders were still with me.
- Ended up chasing across gap with said 3 riders and 2 others to form 11. 11 was ripped apart by strong efforts in the gutter.
- Ended up being me and said 3 strong riders. 1 was my Team mate the other 2 were continental riders from separate teams.
- Team mate went with 2km to go. Plan A = If other 2 didn't react he would win. Plan B = if they did I would be on their wheel and roll them on the line.
- The other 2 played into our hands and chased therefore dragging me within striking distance. I jumped leaving the other 2 for the win, team mate hung on for 2nd Smiley
For those who care about my Holland/Belgium stint.
Last lap = I was feeling really good and got a bit excited about the whole atmosphere and dodgem cars etc so went for glory Cheesy 800mts from home, guess what? It didnt work. I was i caught by.....let me see.......20 guys in the last 300mts Ha Ha, what a move. Still gave me 25th overall pay to 30 Wink and was just stoked again to be one of the 35 finishers out of 80odd starters.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Le Tour 2010 - Stage 15 - Contador capitalises on Schleck's stuck gear. So?

Did Contador even know what happened? One moment Schleck attacked and put a gap into the others - and to my mind Alberto matched him easily and drew up to his rear wheel. But as Andy went for another gear I presume the chain got stuck between cogs, locking the back wheel solid. Schleck's momentum rotated the bike's rear-end upwards - the point where he could have fallen - but he stopped safely, all chain tension gone as the chain fell off the chainring. He fixed the chainring issue but then realised he had to fix the chain wrap too. It took time and his helpers - his teammates - were absent - they had burned themselves out on the climb. Alberto and the others just carried on - afterall they may not have known what had happened anyway. Being a bike race, they carried on with the momentum that Schleck's attack had generated.

I guess if Contador had known that it wasn't just bad bike handling - in other words a good 'ol hamfisted power-on gearchange - then he should have waited. If he had known it was a true "mechanical" - a breakage - or even a fall - then I suspect he would have waited. But it happened suddenly and the cause wasn't obvious, although someone in the bunch should have seen it clearly enough, even if Contador didn't. Even after numerous replays I still don't exactly know what happened, but assume that it was caused by pedalling during a gearchange, possibly made worse by a stuck chain link, a broken cog or something similar. In any event the problem didn't seem to recur - so he either worked around it from there or there never was a real problem - other than "rider error". It's not the first time a bike race has turned on a mechanical, but it's rarer in these "softer" days of STI-style click-click-click gear changing. (Bring back friction shifting and the fine art of getting the gear "just so" I say.)

Personally I wouldn't have waited if I thought he'd just stuffed up his gearchange. That's part of racing - we have to get it right, even gearchanging. If it was obviously a mechanical issue - and I was aware of it - then I would seriously have considered waiting. But if everyone else continued racing I'd join in - I may say something about it, but I'd go with the majority. After all, it's not as if Schleck had seemingly ridden off a cliff like Ullrich had done a few years ago!

Menchov Focused On Contador, Didn't Know About Schleck |
On Monday afternoon three men took profit from the mechanical of Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) on the Port de Balès: Alberto Contador (Astana), who took over the yellow jersey, was the primary beneficiary but the third and fourth-placed riders on general classification, Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi) and Denis Menchov (Rabobank) respectively, also reduced their time gap to Schleck.

Menchov responded to the attack from Contador and said that he was focusing on following the Spaniard, rather than checking out what was going on with Schleck. "I can't explain [what happened with Schleck] because I didn't see what happened. We know that Alberto and Andy play with each other. We have to follow one of them. I saw the reaction of Contador and I thought it was decisive, so I tried to follow him," Menchov said.
Menchov Focused On Contador, Didn't Know About Schleck |
When asked if he felt that what Contador did was fair play or not Menchov passed on the question to the Spaniard. "I don't know. You'll have to ask him. The question [what to do with Schleck] didn't come up in me [during the race]," Menchov said.
PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling
The precedent that is most relevant, in fact, is the 2003 crash of Lance Armstrong. Lance was in the yellow jersey, Jan Ullrich was 15 seconds behind Armstrong in the overall classification, and the crash happened in the heat of the racing on the final mountain of the stage. Today Contador was 31 seconds behind Schleck, who was in the yellow jersey, and although it wasn’t a summit finish, they were on the final mountain of the stage and in the heat of the race. In 2003, the lead group – including Ullrich – appeared to wait, at least for a little while. This year, Contador didn’t wait – but neither did Sammy Sanchez or Denis Menchov.
PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling
When do you decide to wait for a rider who has a mechanical or a flat tire, and when is it “acceptable” to press on? Does it matter if the flat tire or the mechanical problem was the result of the rider’s choice (poor time to shift, ran into a pothole, jumped a curb, etc.) or out of their control?

There are precendents on this side of the argument as well. In 1999 there was a crash on the Passage du Gois that split the peloton. Alex Zulle lost six minutes to Lance Armstrong, who was in the front group. Lance Armstrong was certainly a yellow jersey contender this year during Stage 3, but he got a flat tire at a crucial part of the race on the cobblestones, and no one waited. He crashed on Stage 8 in a roundabout, no one waited. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that there are more examples of the race pressing on after a mishap involving a race favorite – in stage races and one-day races – than there are examples of the race waiting for a favorite to rejoin the lead group. It’s a race, not a tea party, and not a popularity contest. It sucks when you’re the one who falls or has an ill-timed mechanical, but that’s the way it goes. There will be another time when someone’s ill-timed crash or mechanical plays a role in allowing you to win.
PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling
if I had to make a decision today I would say that it would have been nice to see Contador wait for Schleck, but I don’t think he was obligated to. The decision to press on, however, may well haunt Contador later in this race or in the future.
PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling
The twenty or so seconds it took Schleck to remount his chain set up a no holds barred chase and duel to the finish, as both Contador and Schleck drove the pace in their respective groups, and overshadowed what would have otherwise been a big story in itself – French Champ Thomas Voeckler’s solo win on this brutal day. The gritty former Yellow jersey emerged from the day’s escape as last man standing – attacking his break mates midway up the final climb, and soloing to an inspired victory.
Procycling's Daily Tour De France Dispatch - Stage 15 |
Astana directeur sportif Giuseppe Martinelli in Bagnères de Luchon: "The most important thing for me is to have a clear conscience and I have that tonight. I didn't tell him to wait, that's for sure..."

Good news, Alberto - you don't even have to tell us your radio wasn't working this time...
Riis Preaches Calm In Aftermath Of Schleck's Disappointment |
To the thorny question of whether Contador should have waited for Schleck as he attempted to fix his chain, Riis shrugged again. “I would have hoped he would have waited, and I think I would have waited... I think he did wait at the beginning but then it was a while before Andy was on the bike again.

“I don’t know. Was it possible for Contador to wait in that situation, with [Samuel] Sanchez [Euskaltel] and [Denis] Menchov [Rabobank] attacking? He has to follow those guys, for sure. He might not need to pull [with them] or attack, but he has to follow those guys.
SBS: Tour de France 2010: Contador waves off controversy
Schleck had taken a 30-metre lead on Contador but just as the Spaniard began his counter move Schleck came suddenly to a halt. By the time Contador had closed the gap and passed the Luxemburger, Schleck was off his bike and screaming in frustration.

With Schleck left on his own to fix his mechanical problem, Contador raced ahead with Russian Denis Menchov and Spaniard Samuel Sanchez to crest the summit just over 20sec in front of the stricken Luxemburger.
SBS: Tour de France 2010: Contador waves off controversy
However the Luxemburger has a short memory, according to Contador.

The Tour de France champion was among the riders and teams who went beyond gentlemenly fair-play and waited for Schleck and his brother Frank after both were among the multiple crash victims on the rain-hit stage two to Spa.

But the Spaniard went further. Playing down Schleck's setback - which to most experts is simply part and parcel of racing - he said that he has race to win.
SBS: Tour de France 2010: Schleck's complaints given short shrift
Bruyneel said the real issue was whether Contador knew Schleck had encountered a problem and deliberately tried to benefit, a suggestion the Spaniard refuted.

When Jan Ullrich crashed in 2001 Armstrong waited for his German rival, who returned the favour in 2003 when Armstrong crashed, along with Spaniard Iban Mayo, on the climb to Luz Ardiden in the Pyrenees.

But Bruyneel was quick to remind Schleck that when the race is really on, you don't wait around for stricken rivals.

"The question is whether Contador was counter-attacking or just took advantage of a mechanical (problem)," said Bruyneel.

"In the heat of the race and in the final... you can't say to Contador, 'Hey, wait for Andy'. Andy didn't wait for Contador on the cobblestones (stage three) either, I guess.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Le Tour 2010 - Stage 14 - Interesting to watch but basically fizzer. Looked like a fun training ride

Fun for some, anyway. Schleck and Contador look as happy to chat and play cat and mouse games as to actually race. When do they get serious? When Menchov gains minutes instead of seconds? What if Menchov blitzes them both in the long TT? Will this gamesmanship be enough to keep me watching? Probably.

Contador: Andy And I Marked Each Other |
“We went head-to-head and didn’t really watch the other riders too closely,” said Contador. “We controlled each other and I think that the fact that we came in together suits me more than him,” he added, alluding to the fact that the Spaniard will be heavily favoured if his deficit on Schleck remains at 31 seconds going into the Pauillac time trial on the penultimate day of the race.
Schleck Plays Mind Games At Ax-3-Domaines |
"To win the Tour, sometimes you have to risk something. I'm well aware that it's better to have Armstrong ahead these days than Menchov," said Schleck. "Don't forget that Menchov is far enough down on us in the general classification. For now, Menchov and Sanchez aren't a real threat to us. That means there's a bit of space to [play] poker around," Schleck said.
Procycling's Daily Tour De France Dispatch - Stage 14 |
None-too-impressed with Andy Schleck's descending in the Alps last week, Fignon was dumbfounded today when the current maillot jaune fetched his own food and drinks from the Saxo Bank team car high on the Port de Pailhères.

"I've never, ever seen a captain do that when they've had a teammate in the group. He's playing with fire!" the 1983 and 1984 Tour champion gasped.

No such fun for McEwen...
Procycling's Daily Tour De France Dispatch - Stage 14 |
Robbie McEwen, also a victim of the second stage crash-derby, has been struggling just to hang onto the laughing group. "Being in the gruppetto?" he asked rhetorically. "[On Stage 12 to Mende] I was with one other bloke – that's not a gruppetto. F***king alone every day, I've hardly been in the gruppetto. [Stage 12], it was me and Bert Grabsch for 120k, just two of us.

"I've had two bad crashes, lost a lot of blood in the first one because I severed a small artery – the UCI anti-doping people said they could see it in my blood profile that I'd lost a hell of a lot of blood. After that, I was given a tetanus vaccination at the hospital which I told them I didn't need; they slid it in there without me knowing, which gave me fever for four days, so I'm absolutely f***king terrible just as I started to feel better.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Le Tour 2010 - Stage 13 - Petacchi gets baulked and misses his 3rd win... oh, except it was for 2nd

Vinokourov took it, and a bold and exciting attack it was... by Ballan. Shame he couldn't keep it up. Vino caught him and won the stage but Petacchi would have won the sprint for 2nd - if he hadn't backed off as his gap disappeared. As he backed off (having jumped first) Cavendish accelerated down the middle. Petacchi re-opened full throttle but it was only good enough for 2nd, or 3rd, rather. Shame.

PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling
Before the base of the climb the three were recaptured and the speed increased as Cervelo and Milram joined the fray. First to attack was ex-world champ; Alessandro Ballan, then Nico Roche and Carlos Barredo tried to catch him as Vinokourov and Luis Leon Sanchez came past them to bring the lead together, but Vino was the strongest and was off trying to do it on his own.
Tour De France: Stage 13, Route Maps & Results |
"It wasn't the plan to try today," said Vinokourov, "But I'm going very well, and, after Ballan and Luis Leon Sanchez [Caisse d'Epargne] attacked, I counter-attacked and then decided to press on and try to win.

"I knew I'd be protected by my team behind, and it was important for us [to win] after the disappointment of yesterday."

Contador greeted his teammate with a smile and a high five at the finish, suggesting there were no hard feelings - at least from the Spaniard. "You'd have to ask him," shrugged an impassive Vinokourov when asked about Contador's reaction. "But you could see how happy he was."
Cadel's Diary | Cadel Evans 2009-2010 - The Official Site of Cadel Evans - World Champion 2009, Tour de France runner-up in 2007,2008.
This time Vino did a very strong move bridging up to our own 'Ale' Ballan and continuing solo. Behind, the fast 2k climb had eliminated most of the guys to chase, so the speed was a bit irregular, making it hard to judge the sprint, even just to stay safe for that matter. Cav was impressive coming back on the descent, glad he didn't take out the Caisse d'Epargne guy in front of me as he passed on the was close...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Le Tour 2010 - Stage 12 - Tyler finally concedes best not to race with a broken wrist

Sad to see Tyler Farrar go out of the Tour, taking a lot of interest out of the sprint battle. Interest will now centre on whether Cav can win without Renshaw, and can Petacchi make it over the mountains? How many more breaks can Hushovd get in? Or perhaps can McEwen get any more broken than he already is and still sprint? Of course there's also that side battle between friends and holiday buddies Andy and Alberto, but do we really care how much Alberto wins by?

Maybe it's just me but Le Tour ain't what it used to be. It's no worse and in some ways it's better - but is this rolling soap opera as compelling?

Farrar Out Of Tour De France |
White explained that, while Farrar could overcome the pain to sprint, he paid for the effort the following day. "Sprints are easier for Tyler to get through because the adrenaline in that situation helps mask the pain.

"Today was the hardest day of the race so far and the kind of climbing and descending these guys did is incredibly painful for an injury like Tyler's. Having to brake on the descents is probably the most painful thing to do with a broken wrist.

"We're obviously sad to see him go but, at the end of the day, his health comes first. Tyler won't be able to heal until he goes home and rests and that's what he'll do from here."
Hushovd Views Petacchi As Main Rival For Green |
"It was a good move today," said the Norwegian champion. "My legs felt good this morning but I was also feeling a bit angry after the stage yesterday because it wasn't a clean sprint."

The Cervélo rider admitted he may try the same tactic again on the stages still to come, and insisted breaks through the mountains are very much part of his make-up as a rider. "I don't think I'm a true sprinter like Cavendish. I think I more of an all-round rider, someone who rides well on all kinds of terrain, and I think that's why I won the green jersey last year. I think I can win it the same way this year but we're a long way from that yet."
Schleck Longing For Pyrenees After Pistolero Show |
“I'm not disappointed,” said Schleck. “It was really tough and I suffered a lot today. I didn't feel good all day long and knew that the finish would be tough for me. I don't like this climb. I told my team that I would try all I can but that the climb doesn't suit me too much. The climbs in the Pyrenees suit me much better."

"I wasn't surprised that I couldn't stay with Contador on this climb. Bjarne [Riis] warned me today that I shouldn't panic when I wasn't able to stay with Alberto when he attacked because the climb suited him much more. I think I did pretty good by losing only ten seconds.”

“This finish didn't suit me because it's short and steep,” Schleck continued. “You come down after that long downhill. You're riding on the big ring and suddenly it's so steep. You don't have time to adjust to the rhythm. You can't compare it with a mountain pass. Its steep and short character makes it really hard.”
PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling
Carmichael: Why did Saxo Bank feel compelled to chase a break containing Vinokourov when Alberto Contador is the team’s primary yellow jersey contender? Because you can’t hand a guy like Vino the yellow jersey in the second week of the Tour de France and assume you’ll ever get it off his back again. Plus, it wasn’t just Vino in the break. Andreas Kloden was there for Team Radioshack. He started the day nine minutes behind Andy Schleck, but he’s finished second in the Tour de France on two occasions. But perhaps the most dangerous man in the breakaway was Garmin-Transitions’ Ryder Hesjedal. He started the day in 12th place, 5:42 behind Andy Schleck and he’s the now the leader of the Garmin team. An 18-man breakaway has the horsepower to finish 10+ minutes ahead of the peloton if you don’t organize a solid chase, and you can’t let Vino, Kloden, and Hesjedal gain that much time at this point in the race.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A quick selection of sites relating to Carbon Fibre recycling. Bottom line - not a widespread practice but it can be done

It's used increasingly in aircraft, cars, laptops and of course my personal favourite - bicycles. But the question is often raised: how do we recycle this stuff?

Well first up, you may not have to - it lasts a long time, given proper care. My 20 year old Look carbon bike is still going strong, whereas my 21 year old custom steel crit bike has long ago been retired due to rust, despite much love and care - and resprays - to extend its life. But if carbon fibre does break or crack and can't be repaired, it can be recycled. It's just a bit more difficult and currently less organised than with "traditional" (and more common) materials such as metals or more straightforward plastics. But it can be done.

The next material to be recycled: carbon fiber? — Autoblog Green
Today, the majority of the material makes its way into airplanes. As these planes become obsolete, companies are currently looking into ways of recapturing that expensive material. The actual method requires that the carbon sheets be shredded so that the desirable fibers can be reclaimed. Auto manufacturers such as Volkswagen are intrigued in the possibility of integrating new lower-cost carbon fiber content into its less expensive products.
Recycled Carbon Fibre Ltd
Welcome to Recycled Carbon Fibre Limited, home of the world’s first commercial scale continuous recycled carbon fibre operation. The UK site is based in the West Midlands and our global expansion plans include the launch of new operations in the US, the EU and the Far East.

Our goal is to help businesses avoid the unnecessary cost of disposing of their scrap waste and end of life carbon fibre composites to land fill or incineration plants. Each alternative has both a cash and an environmental cost. Recycling is a positive action in avoiding long term damage to our environment.

We offer our range of high quality recycled carbon fibre products at competitive prices such that they are an attractive alternative for use in a wide range of industrial applications. We also provide help and advice to clients on how best to incorporate our products into their composite processes.
Carbon fiber-reinforced polymer - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Carbon fiber-reinforced polymers (CFRPs) have an almost infinite service lifetime when protected from the sun, but, unlike steel alloys, have no endurance limit when exposed to cyclic loading. When it is time to decommission CFRPs, they cannot be melted down in air like many metals. When free of vinyl (PVC or polyvinyl chloride) and other halogenated polymers, CFRPs can be thermally decomposed via thermal depolymerization in an oxygen-free environment. This can be accomplished in a refinery in a one-step process. Capture and reuse of the carbon and monomers is then possible. CFRPs can also be milled or shredded at low temperature to reclaim the carbon fiber, however this process shortens the fibers dramatically. Just as with downcycled paper, the shortened fibers cause the recycled material to be weaker than the original material. There are still many industrial applications that do not need the strength of full-length carbon fiber reinforcement. For example, chopped reclaimed carbon fiber can be used in consumer electronics, such as laptops. It provides excellent reinforcement of the polymers used even if it lacks the strength-to-weight ratio of an aerospace component.

A blizzard of words on Renshaw's expulsion from Le Tour

Bathurst won't be a happy place this morning, will it? But you can't get into a guy's head and read his thoughts: the judges have to go with what they see. And we all saw what they saw.

So 2 strikes against Renshaw, really - headbutting to possibly protect Cav's gap, and then impeding Farrar, intentionally or not. Still I didn't think "exclusion from tour", rather "fine and loss of points". Oh well, I can see both sides... but it does make things more interesting again, doesn't it? (I hope the race judges didn't have that thought, too.)
PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling
Carmichael: Instead of continuing forward side by side, the two leadout men made contact with each other. This in itself is not unusual or against the rules. Contact happens, and it’s usually shoulders and elbows pushing against each other. Renshaw escalated this normal situation to one that drew the attention of the race officials by repeatedly hammering his helmet into Dean’s shoulder. One tap with the helmet, OK. You won’t get in trouble for that. It will seem like you’re just keeping the other guy at a safe distance. But leaning on a rider and using your helmet as a hammer is viewed as being aggressive and unsportsmanlike.

Renshaw claims that Dean was moving over in his direction, forcing him closer to the barriers. I know things look and feel different in the heat of the moment, but from the replays I saw – and that the officials were viewing as well – it doesn’t appear that Dean was encroaching on Renshaw. What is more likely is that Renshaw knew that with Dean on his right and Garmin sprinter Tyler Farrar on Dean’s wheel, the only lane Cavendish could use to get to the finish line was to Renshaw’s left. That meant Cavendish was going to have to sprint between Renshaw and the barriers.
PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling
Carmichael: Some people are pointing to Renshaw’s move to the left after Cavendish passed him as a second instance of unsportsmanlike conduct, since it impeded Tyler Farrar’s progress toward the finish line. If anything, I’d say that was a more severe infraction than the head butting. As a sprinter or a leadout man, he was supposed to continue in a straight line – or at least if he moved off his line it shouldn’t have been in a manner that impeded another sprinter from challenging for the stage win. Renshaw opened up the lane to his left for Cavendish, and then slammed the door shut on Farrar by moving to the left. Normally I don’t like it when riders take their hands off the bars to push someone out the way, but I think Farrar prevented a potentially very serious crash by reaching out and stopping Renshaw from moving any farther to the left.
PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling
With a little head-butting from Renshaw to Dean, this opens the door for Cavendish to go early, Petacchi sees the move too late and can’t get on terms with the flying Manxman who has a bike length in hand.

Dean wanted to close the door on Cavendish to let Farrar come round on the other side, but Renshaw kept it cool and the gap was there with 350 meters before the line for Cav to go for a longer sprint than he would normally want, it worked and no one could get near him.
Robbie McEwen (mcewenrobbie) on Twitter
history will now show that combining the 2 aforementioned tactics will get u sent home...greater than the sum of it's parts
SBS: Tour de France 2010: Renshaw booted from Tour
in the final 500 metres of the 184.5km stage from Sisteron, the normally affable Australian lost his head when he tried to headbutt Garmin-Transitions' Kiwi lead-out man Julian Dean three times.

Cavendish eventually raced on towards his third stage win of the race, and 13th of his career, as Renshaw then produced another blatant blunder by trying to block Dean's sprinter, Tyler Farrar, as the American tried to come up the inside of the barriers.

Top race official Jean-Francois Pescheux said they only needed to look at the television pictures once to make their decision.

"Renshaw was declassified immediately but we have decided to also throw him off the race," said Pescheux.

"We've only seen the pictures once, but his actions are plain for all to see. They were blatant. This is a bike race, not a gladiator's arena."
SBS: Tour de France 2010: Renshaw booted from Tour
"The guy (Dean) came across from me. Either he keeps turning left, puts me in the barrier and I crash, or I try to lean against him," he said.

"I didn't have another option. It's all about sprinting straight."

Although saddened by the decision, Cavendish laid some of the blame on Dean, claiming the Kiwi "hooked his elbow over Mark's right elbow".

"Mark used his head to try and get away. There's a risk when the elbows are that close (that) the handlebars are going to tangle," said Cavendish.

"That puts everyone behind in danger. Mark (Renshaw) gave us a bit of space that kept us upright."

Le Tour - Stage 11 - Rest day on wheels ends in head banging and expulsion. Harsh but fair?

First time I saw the sprint I thought Renshaw had gone a bit overboard. It happens in a sprint, though. Things happen fast, you protect your line and hold your ground. I rewound the tape (OK, it was on a HDD but you know what I mean) and watched it a few times. Dean provoked it, possibly - he certainly had an elbow out, but whether that was to instigate and intimidate or to fend off Renshaw I can't be sure. Either way the two of them were veering towards the barriers, or the road narrowed - again I can't say; but Renshaw seemed justified in holding his line and ensuring that he didn't hit the barriers. Of course he was also ensuring that he left a gap for Cavendish. I'm not sure what was the more important to him, only he would know that. Whether that justifies repeated headbutts I'm not so sure. Whilst all of this is going on Lampre looks to go for it, and simultaneously Cav comes off Renshaw and dives through the gap.

Now it gets really interesting as Farrar wasn't on Dean's wheel like he probably should've been. Instead he was following Cav. At that point Renshaw realised that Cav had gone - I think it surprised him as he seemed to be preparing to sprint himself and launch Cav a bit further on - but now he needed to sprint to take points off Hushovd. So he naturally chased Cav's wheel to the left, as you would. You see a wheel and you grab it. But in so doing he impeded Farrar. Now in some sports that could be seen as a foul, but was it intentional? Did he know Tyler was coming? The more I looked at it the less convinced I was that the intention was to block Tyler Farrar. Whilst it's just a racing incident it was probably within the last 200m and thus an illegal change of line... in any case it looked bad to the judges. 

So 2 strikes against Renshaw, really - headbutting to possibly protect Cav's gap, and then impeding Farrar, intentionally or not. Still I didn't think "exclusion from tour", rather "fine and loss of points". Oh well, I can see both sides... but it does make things more interesting again, doesn't it? (I hope the race judges didn't have that thought, too.)

Renshaw Kicked Out Of Tour De France |
Renshaw was told that he had been disqualified by Cyclingnews reporter Jean Francois Quenet. His immediate reaction was: "I can't be out of the Tour de France if Barredo and Costa only got a fine a few days ago."

"I'm extremely disappointed," he continued. "I'm extremely harshly done by the decision of the jury. I've never had anything against me in the past. I've never done anything wrong. The process of this decision is abnormal. There's no possibility of appeal to this decision."
Cavendish Unhappy With Renshaw's Ejection |
From there Cavendish moved on to face the press, and it was immediately clear that his post-stage euphoria had gone. Asked straight off about the commissaire's decision to throw Renshaw out of the Tour, he responded: "I understand the commissaires have made their decision. It's against what we as a team believed happened. So we'll just have to see how the situation evolves. It's very sad."
Cavendish Unhappy With Renshaw's Ejection |
Cavendish then described his view of the final stages of the run into Bourg-lès-Valence. "We came around the last corner in a good position. Bernie [Eisel] went to lead out and Mark was on his wheel, and Julian Dean came around on the right and put his elbow from the left over Mark's right. Mark used his head to get away. There's a risk when your elbow's that close that you could end up in a tangle and that puts everybody behind in danger. And Mark gave us a bit of space, which kept everybody behind upright."
Vaughters Says Renshaw Disqualification Was Fair |
"I saw the video and I think it's a fair decision,' Vaughters told Cyclingnews.

"I would never want to see one of our riders doing that. I understand that sprints are very hotly contested and I understand it's a long hot, hard Tour but you can't do that."

Vaughters was angry how Renshaw first head-butted Dean and then also clashed with Farrar.

"It's the head-butting and then he put Tyler into the barriers after. I understand it's intense competition but we all have to respect the rules," he said.
Farrar And Dean Furious With Renshaw Over Tour Sprint |
Renshaw, leading Cavendish into the final few hundred metres of the stage was seen head-butting Garmin-Transitions lead-out man Julian Dean and then squeezing Dean's charge Tyler Farrar into the barriers, impeding his sprint.

The American rider was furious after crossing the line, even though he was able to recover and sprint on to third place. "That wasn't a good sprint from Renshaw; that wasn't normal. Renshaw shouldn't be riding like that. It's so dangerous. I almost crashed," Farrar said.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I use an Elite mag trainer but the Wattbike seems to be a well thought out indoor cycling tool

I've chewed up a few tyres on a range of trainers, the last couple being fairly standard Elite units. I think the first indoor trainer I tried was in the mid-'80s and was called a 'Racermate' or similar. It was a wind trainer with a finned 'fan' at the back. It wore out both rear tyres and itself, but I kept it going for maybe 10 years all up before moving to an Elite mag unit. I sweat copiously and am not afraid of a 1 hour session - my all-time record on one of these things is 100km - and every unit seems inevitably to rust. Not to mention the bike, too. I've tended to use either sacrificial "retired" steel bikes or newer aluminium ones and catch the sweat with a towel. I've tried a fan but prefer a "semi-outdoor" airy under-the-back-deck location. And I use an ibike power meter these days to capture some data from that spinning rear wheel. Whilst it all works OK, there are better indoor trainers with bigger flywheels out there these days. And really, nothing really beats riding on the road.

But maybe the latest crop of indoor trainers, including the interesting LeMond creation (which ditches the rear wheel entirely) will tempt me. The fancy Wattbike has also caught my eye...  not that I can justify the expense!

Wattbike Polar View - Wattbike
When cycling, you can play around with the graph – pushing on the left leg will create a large force shape on the left, pushing hard on the right leg will enlarge the graph on the right. You see a percentage beneath each side, telling you how much power each leg is generating. Standing up and altering your cycling technique will produce a change in the graph.

Le Tour 2010 - Stage 10 - Paulinho takes one for the 'Shack. Nice attack. Nice scenery

I found it somehow hard to watch. The scenery was great, as usual, but the race was a yawn. If I'd been racing myself (highly unlikely, I admit) then I may have felt differently. Of interest was that Pineau took back the dots and Cav took the belated sprint. And some people with broken bodies made it to the end unscathed. But it did drag along somewhat.

Tour De France: Stage 10, Route Maps & Results |
"I knew I had to attack to get away from the group, and I actually felt pretty good," Paulinho said after the stage. "I was just a little bit stronger than Kiryienka, and waited until the last moment to make my move."

The victory was an important boost in morale for the American team, whose leader Lance Armstrong had his dreams of an 8th Tour win all but dashed on the road to Morzine on Sunday.

"We did a lot of work for the team in the first week of the race. The last two stages were very important to the team, and we were quite strong. All we really wanted was to get a stage win," Paulinho said.

"In the team meeting this morning, we were told we needed to have someone in the breakaway. We also had to look out for the team classification, so when I saw a rider from Caisse d'Epargne go, that's when I decided I had to be there."
Tour De France: Stage 10, Route Maps & Results |
The only semblance of racing came from king of the mountains contenders Pineau and Charteau, the French duo tied on points in that classification with the Bbox Bouygues Telecom rider wearing the jersey courtesy of a countback. They scavenged the remaining points on offer, with the Quick Step rider doing enough to take back the polka dot jersey he has worn for much of the last week.
PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling
At this point, there was not a single Frenchman represented in the move of the day - unacceptable. Just to make things interesting, the French duo of Maxime Bouet (AG2R) and Pierre Rolland (BBox) spotted the break two minutes before setting off in pursuit. 30 kilometers later, and the two made the juncture, after that, it was just a matter of staying attached along the rest of the route, which included 3000 meters of climbing. Not bad for what turned out to be an easy-ish day.
PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling
Fast forward back to the present, and the turn that effectively ended the career of Beloki is decorated with yellow steps to commemorate the path that Lance Armstrong took in a move that saved his Tour de France. The race passes the turn with no incident, but the view is almost eerie.
PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling
Lampre put together another solid leadout with Danilo Hondo doing the business for Petacchi. Petacchi started the sprint early as he is want to do and had the measure of Green Jersey, Thor Hushovd. Unfortunately for Petacchi, Mark Cavendish was right there and beat all comers with ease. You'd be foolish not to put your money on Cavendish in tomorrow's stage.