Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Good, short summary by Millar on why Evans won

Worth a read. Not mind-blowing but incisive and concise nonetheless. Robert Millar was the Scottish climber who really should have won Le Tour but fell short. Life's like that, try and try again as you will but sometimes there's nothing more you can do. Luck can be a factor, as can the presence of another in-form GC guy who just has a better team or better prep. Millar's grasp of the issues makes it plain that the early know-it-all commentary that Cadel's team was wasting energy has a flip-side. But you knew that already, of course. 

Why Evans Beat The Schleck Brothers |
In the end, confidence was probably the difference. The whole race, Cadel Evans looked like he was riding to win the Tour, while the Schleck brothers looked like they were trying not to lose.

FWIW I agree with Mia. And I reckon Cadel would, too

Not that I would presume to know Cadel Evans well enough - or at all - to imagine what he'd think. But I don't believe he'd be so self-opinionated as to back the vitriol that's been poured on Mia Freedman just because she's not prepared to label sportspeople as "heroes". Frankly, it's all about perspective. Athletes, sports personalities, whatever - they may be good, or even great at what they do, they may even inspire you in some way. And that's fantastic. In that way they can be seen as a personal hero - but as a national hero? Well, it's a stretch. Whilst I accept that sportspeople are prominent in Australia's recognised or 'popular' cultural pantheon, if you like, that may have a lot to do with our short history as colonisers here and our lack of knowledge - or recognition - of what came before the British invasion. In time we may well achieve more balance and recognition for others from a wider, more varied selection of fields.

Hopefully from here on we can embrace all achievements in any field and not over-emphasise sport - or Ned Kelly for that matter - over all else. Public holiday for winning Le Tour? I don't think so. However I think there's room here for celebrating Cadel's achievement and recognising that - as he himself has said - he's just a guy riding a bike. 

Cadel Evans - is he a hero? Mamamia
I think pursuing a life doing something you’re good at for the benefit of yourself is not heroic. It’s not a BAD thing, I’m not dissing Cadel (of course not!) but the idea that a sports person should be idolised because they can ride far or jump high or swim fast is, to me, a bit odd. I guess I’m just flagging the fact that if you do well in sport, the country and the media stop to worship you in a way that doesn’t happen to anyone else for doing anything else.

The abuse I received was instant and it continues, seemingly unabated. I have a pretty thick skin but by 8:15 I was in tears. I genuinely miscalculated the level of viciousness my comments (which I have made many times before) would provoke. My bad. Not for stating my opinion but perhaps for misreading the mood and the audience.

Many people have made the point that it’s great to have role models for kids to look up to, to encourage them to get on a bike or kick a ball. I agree absolutely. They’re certainly better role models than rappers or reality TV stars.

But I only wish other kinds of heroes would receive the same media and popular adulation, that kids could see that you could be wildly popular for helping others or doing something other than having a physical skill.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Unsurprisingly BMC team would like Evans to win again in 2012. Nice SMH story anyway

A lot is made of Cadel's age but - despite many falls and broken bones - he's in good health and - for a cyclist especially - he's not especially old at 34. It's not swimming or gymnastics, after all. And in some ways he has also been 'saved for later' by previous teams holding him back from even starting Le Tour; it's not as though he has ridden 16 of them after all. And older, more Grand-Tour-experienced riders like Hincapie and Voigt have shown that Grand Tours can be ridden at seemingly undiminished intensity until you are 38 or 39. Perhaps older. Ekimov comes to mind, too. I guess the Armstrong example also leaps to mind, in the sense that he didn't exactly make his body - and luck - work as well in his last year as he did during his seven straight wins. But how hungry was he, really, the second time around? And what physical effects did the 'retirement' have? Cadel OTOH has not retired and returned, and has just started winning at the Grand Tour level. So his motivation is strong. Personal experience tells me that racing after 40 - even at club level - gets more complicated. But there's little difference in performance between 34 and 35, or even 39, if you maintain a decent level.

BMC chief tipping Evans to go back-to-back in 2012
Evans told his guests at a BMC team celebration dinner on Sunday night that the seed for his desire to one day win the Tour was planted when he was 14 years old. That was in 1991, when he watched Spaniard Miguel Indurain beat American Greg LeMond to win the first of his five successive titles.

''I thought, 'Hey, one day that would be nice to ride that race, wouldn't it'?'' Evans told about 300 guests. ''Many years later, and many, many months, hours and years of hard work, here I am today. Having crossed the finish line on the Champs Elysees with this jersey is really something I can't quite believe.''

BMC chief tipping Evans to go back-to-back in 2012
John Lelangue says Australian is training 'like a junior'. Rupert Guinness reports from Paris.

John Lelangue, the chief sporting director of Cadel Evans's BMC team, says the Australian Tour de France champion could top his remarkable achievement by returning to win cycling's most prestigious race for a second time next year.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

On Ligget the Patroniser. Or Forget Le Tour, how about Nankervis winning the Brenco Crit?

If you were a newbie to cycle racing and took Phil Ligget's word as Gospel truth (God forbid) you could be forgiven for thinking that some - probably most - of the riders in Le Tour had "never won a race in their lives". Believe me I cringe every time he says something patronising like that, as I know that even the lowliest domestique has won umpteen races and could blow apart just about any field in any club race in the world (with the possible exception of Belgian kermesses of course). That they have turned pro and been selected to ride the Tour de France is just another waypoint - a big one, admittedly - in a sporting career that has run for most of their lives. Everyone racing at Le Tour is a winner, even if Phil only counts winning UCI Pro Team points as a worthwhile measure.

Which leads me to mention a US-based ex-Melbourne Aussie cyclist who has 'pursued the dream' on the US crit circuit since around 2006 or so with some success: Tommy Nankervis. Who? Well he has slipped under the radar a bit but here he is picking up a win in Canada's BC Superweek, something not to be ignored. It may not be Le Tour but it's a pro race on a North American racing circuit that pays decent money and employs a lot of Aussie pro cyclists. Well worth noting!

BC Superweek: Brenco Criterium, Route Maps & Results |
Nankervis tops sprint in Brenco

Cycling News
July 10, 18:13,
July 10, 18:14

Full Results
1 Tommy Nankervis (Aus) Pro Cycling Team 1:14:29
2 Andrew Pinfold (Can) United Health Care
3 Michael Smith Larsen (Den) Socalcycling team
4 Carlos Alzate (Col) Team Exergy
5 Jacob Schwingboth (Can) Isorex

Friday, July 08, 2011

Peleton skills 101: ride in the middle or the edge? The back or the front? Leipheimer surfs the guardrail

It's the little details that I like, post-race. What actually happened to Levi? Well he was back too far and on the edge, trying to take his opportunities to move forward. Now if you pick your moment this can be fine - but get it wrong and you pay.

If you are a TdF newbie or have simply never ridden in a large peleton then it's possibly not clear how difficult all of this can be. Deep inside the peleton is warmer, faster and easier - it sucks you along. But it's nervous spot, too. You can't move left or right and there's always someone in front and behind. Getting out of the middle to do anything, be it attack, counter or take 'a natural' involves a lot of work. And if one guy falls, you all go down. So you want teammates around you or 'safe hands' at least and you want to be up the front so you can avoid dramas. Now whilst you may want to be up the front all of the time so does everyone else, and a pecking order develops with special skills employed to enable you to out-compete the others. Sometimes you simply follow a known front-runner and hang on grimly. Other times your team mates take you forward. Or you just give in and make the best of it.

If you are a known rider it may be easier, or harder, depending upon who you need to pass. Risks are taken, and riding on the edge may be the only way to get ahead. And if you are making your way forward just when the peleton gets squeezed by a narrowing road then you have few choices. You ride the grass, accelerate into a gap or drop back - if you can. And if you simply get caught out then you cross your fingers and hope for the best. It may mean a bunny-hop over a gutter or some cross-country work, or a fall. Levi took the fall this time.   

Leipheimer Loses Time In Crash |
"You just try to shoot through some gaps and one time, it closed up on me, and I was pinned against the guardrail. I kind of surfed the guardrail for 20 metres. Thankfully that slowed me down.

"Eventually the guardrail ended, and then I fell onto the ground. It didn't do anything. I scraped my elbow a little bit. Compared to yesterday's crashes, that's nothing."

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Sunderland makes good sense in his analysis of the 2011 TdF GC riders

Stage 4 was clearly another short but fierce climb at the end of a punishing stage, one that would sort out the GC guys from the rest - at least by a few seconds. And as expected, Gilbert and Evans were there, their teams making it so by working together in the inevitable chase and final launch. No-one was surprised either to see Contador try to steal some time, although it was a little surprising to see him unable to accelerate into a gap like he usually does. Perhaps the Giro really did take it's toll? Or is he holding back? But in the end it was Evans who had to overcome mechanical adversity, get back to the front and take a gritty win. In so doing he stamped some further authority on himself and his BMC team.

Not forgeting Hushovd's amazing feat in hanging onto the skinny guy's wheels up a wall!

Whilst it's still early days, here's a nice, fair overall analysis by Scott Sunderland from today's SMH:   

This time Evans can win, says his spoiler
''Cadel is a very strong time triallist, and a very good climber - the third asset he's got is his positioning [in the bunch]. And in the stages before the mountains he can still do something. We've seen in the classics that he is a bit above Schleck and Contador there … the only thing he is missing is the accelerating speed and power that Schleck and Contador have in the mountains. If he can be calm and reserved and the team and management can protect him, then in the third week when it comes down to attrition, they won't be able to ride away from him.''

Sunday, July 03, 2011

Crash splits field, GC leaders wait for Contador... uh, maybe not this time

Of course it's different if you drop a chain or make a clumsy, newbie gear-change, then you are expected to wait, aren't you? But if a spectator brings half the field down then it's open slather, apparently. (Armstrong proved that in '99.) And of course Cancellara didn't call a "too dangerous" truce this time either. That nit-picking aside, it's sad to see the competition for stage honours reduced in such a way, let alone Contador losing over a minute. And no I'm not a fan of waiting for riders who have made their own mistakes, but it's a fine line that gets drawn sometimes and a difficult one to be certain about. That's bike racing.

I still don't think the pure sprinters had a chance but a few of the more experienced hands would have played things differently had they been able to get up the front, post-crash. Mind you, Hushovd had a dig, unlike Boonen, Cavendish, Renshaw and Goss who seemed to hit the wall somewhat. At least they were there. Can't blame Greipel, he did a ton of work for Gilbert. In the end it was Lotto's protected rider doing what he does on a hill like this, and Cadel Evans pretty well doing what he does best as well - grinding it out steadily up a hill at a pace few can match. If there had been another 100m to go then Evans may well have passed Gilbert, but it's all in the timing, ain't it?

Tour De France: Stage 1, Route Maps & Results |
when they realised that Contador wasn’t among them, they showed no mercy, driving the group and quickly carving out a forty-second advantage. Behind, Contador seemed isolated.