Sunday, July 13, 2014

2 big days for the French so far on La Fête Nationale weekend...

Bastille day is the name given in English speaking countries to La Fête Nationale...or French national day. Celebrated on July 14th it is a country wide celebration of the unity of the French nation which resulted from the bloody French revolution. The storming of the Bastille is traditionally and romantically considered the turning point of the revolution and shortly after it's conclusion feudalism was abolished in the country and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen was proclaimed. 

With the history of cycling so closely tied to France, and it's national tour widely recognized as the pinnacle of cycling performance; few things are coveted by athletes on a national level more than a French rider winning on the the day or the weekend of the French national celebration. This years edition of Le Tour offers additional opportunity for French revelry due to the 14th falling on a Monday as the first rest day of the race gets moved to Tuesday from it's traditional Monday spot so a holiday stage can be run and an additional opportunity for a French rider to ride away to a victory given. 

Young Blel Kadri got the French National weekend off to a great start on Saturday's 161 km ninth stage from Tomblaine to Gérardmer La Mauselaine. It was the first true mountain stage and he and his veteran compatriot Sylvan Chavanel broke away from a group of six on the first categorized climb of the day and then worked together for the next 30km to distance themselves from their pursuers. Kadri finally shed himself of Chavanel on the Col de la Croix des Moinats and rode a masterful final 7 km to the finish and the throngs of adoring fans on the mountain top finish. 

Behind him the first real skirmishes between the remaining GC contendors post Froome's departure started. Contador's Saxo/Tinkoff soldiers kept a brutal pace up the Croix des Moinats and caused the first real shake up in the standings. Try as he might El Pistolero could not shake Nibali and though he popped off for a 3 second gain at the finish, Nibali's position as race leader was never in doubt. Only moments behind them Richie Porte the newly crowned team leader for Sky began to put any doubts about his ability to captain the British squad to rest by crossing over only seconds behind the Maillot Jaune and soaring all the way up to third in the GC standings. 

Todays stage continued through the Vosges Mountains of Northern France and though not as decisive a route as Saturdays, it still provided an excellent opportunity for riders to make themselves, their teams and their countries feel like celebrating. 

It was a day to be named Tony as Germany's Tony Martin worked Omega Pharma Quickstep's strategy to perfection as he and Cannondale's Alessandro De Marchi pushed clear of the peloton on the first climb of the day up the Col de la Schlucht. They stretched that lead down the backside with some masterful descending and then Martin struck out on his own on the days biggest climb - the Cat 1 Markstein. 

Were it anyone else it would have been considered stage race suicide to make that kind of break with nearly 60km remaining in the race, but Tony Martin is no ordinary rider and has done this very thing many times in the past with great success. He took calculated risks on the final major descent and continued to grow the deficit to the chase group even after the road flattened. At the finish the lead was an astonishing two minutes and forty five seconds and Martin stood on the top step of the podium and pulled on the Polka Dot jersey of the mountains classification leader. 

The other big story of the day - and the other Tony to make news - was that after breaking away from the Nibali/Contador group Lotto Belisol's French all arounder Tony Gallopin played it smart and ended the day forcing Nibali out of yellow and into second place in the GC. He benefitted from work in the breakaway from temporary partners such as Tiago Machado and Fabian Cancellara who were working futilely to pull back Martin's brutal break. The end result for Gallopin was a nearly 8 minute gain on the GC leaders group and 1:34 lead on Vincenzo Nibali in the overall standings. 

Though you'd be hard pressed to find any experts betting on him to stay in yellow until Paris, Gallopin is no slouch when the road turns upward. With seven categorized climbs (including a whopping four Cat 1's) in tomorrow's stage on La Fête Nationale anything is possible. Either way we doubt Gallopin is too concerned about tomorrow just yet. 

After all he is a Frenchman wearing yellow in France's biggest race in France's biggest sport on France's biggest weekend with a beautiful French girlfriend who also happens to be a former French national road cycling champion. Vive la France!!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Simply the Best?

Peter Sagan came up short again today in the seventh stage of Le Tour de France. It was the closest he's come so far this year, but it still wasn't enough as OPQS's Matteo Trentin pipped him at the line in a photo finish for his second career victory. Sagan is making a habit of not finishing what he starts so far in this edition of Le Grand Boucle. Let's take a look at his finishing position stage by stage through the first 7 days of racing:

  • Stage 0ne - Second place
  • Stage Two - Fourth place
  • Stage Three - Second place
  • Stage Four - Fourth place 
  • Stage Five - Fourth place 
  • Stage Six - Fifth place
  • Stage Seven - Second place
It is obviously terribly frustrating to him and it showed after todays finish, but let's think about this for just a moment... In the first seven stages of the worlds biggest race in some of the hardest conditions ever seen in Le Tour he has finished no worse than fifth place. 

Fifth place. 

He has done this regardless of stage profile. He has taken second place behind the best pure sprinters in the world including Marcel Kittel and Andre Greipel on some of the flattest and fastest stages. He has been in sustained breaks over rolling terrain that left those same pure sprinters shot out of the back of the pack. He managed his time almost perfectly in the longest stage of the entire tour nearly winning it, and lastly he rode to a solid fifth place on one of the hardest stages in years over the cobbles of the Arenberg just ahead of the king of the pavé Fabian Cancellara (and he did it without complaining which is more than the Swiss champ can say...). 

All of this would seem to uphold the argument I've been making for a couple of years now, that pound for pound, stage for stage and race for race Peter Sagan is the best overall rider on the pro tour today

Them are fightin' words in some circles but I'll stand by 'em. 

He's well on his way to his second green jersey and who knows how many of those he'll win. He's matured beyond the childishness and recklessness that caused so much concern both on and off the bike in past years. He's shown a patience on the bike that has allowed him to use his mind in addition to his prodigious physical talents to get the great results we've seen recently. If he keeps this up he'll easily work his way into one of the top positions in the history of modern cycling...

...And I for one can't wait to watch it happen. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Beauty and the Beast.

Todays fifth stage of Le Grand Boucle lived up to all the hype bestowed upon it since the route was announce last October. It was an epic day of the highest highs for some (Former CX hero Lars Boom gets his first big pro tour win after a number of near misses) and the absolute lowest of lows for others (Chris Froome gets a ride to the hotel in the back of the Team Sky car). 

Seeing Froomey sitting in that back seat with the window fogging up and a frenzied photographer shuttering away on the other side of the open door was heartbreaking, but it was also arguably the best possible example of the fragile beauty that this fine race projects. For no matter how hard you work, how efficiently you train, how meticulously you prepare or how financially supported you are this race and these roads will do with you as they please. 

Hats off to Lars Boom for playing his cards perfectly and having the strength to pull his move off, but perhaps the ride of the day goes to The Shark (A.K.A. Vincenzo Nibali) for riding a masterful race in his own right and putting big time into the remaining competition for Maillot Jaune. 

The Italian rode like a champion, honored the yellow on his back and showed that no matter what happens in the remaining 16 stages he has proven that he is at the very least worthy of climbing up on that top step on Le Champs Elyseé later this month. 

Lot's of racing still to go though... and we should all be thankful for that. 

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

When an itialian wins a Giro stage, we all win a little.

Diego Ulissi picks up Giro stage victory number two of his career. Photo Crecit:
Italian victories in Il Giro never get old. Diego Ulissi provres that by adding his name to a long, long list of home country stage victors of the venerable Italian tour. To say he did it in style is a bit of an understatement. He pulled victory from a group of top level competition such as Cadel Evans, Rigo Uran Uran, Current Maglia Rosa owner Michael Mathews, Nairo Quintana and more on a ride that included pretty much every type of weather other than snow. Check out the last 10k from our friends at Steephill.TV here.

Martyn Ashton has always been an inspiration for his ability to do things on a road bike that are normally done on BMX or Mountain Bikes, but the way he is dealing with the incredible adversity of the injuries he suffered on the bike is truly inspiring. Such positivity is this and you'll know he is going to be just fine.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Paris Roubaix

“It's a bollocks, this race!” said de Rooij. “You're working like an animal, you don't have time to piss, you wet your pants. You're riding in mud like this, you're slipping ... it’s a pile of shit.” 

"Will you ride it again?"

“Sure, it's the most beautiful race in the world!”

The most beautiful race in the world gets underway at 4:15 am PST Sunday morning. There seems to be an issue with Steephill.TV, so you may want to keep handy as a second option. 

See you in Hell. 

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Fabian and Tom on the Mur de Gramont. It won't feature in this race but there will be plenty to take it's place. Photo credit: Steephill.TV
We are less than 5 hours to the start of one of the greatest bicycle races in the world. The 98th running of De Ronde Van Vlaanderen (The Tour of Flanders) will see 200 riders start the 259.1km long course from Brugge to Oudenaarde and battle each other and the cobbled roads of West Flanders. This is a rare contest where the climbs are nearly as famous as the riders who have won on them.
See all those spikes? Those are some of the nastiest climbs you can ever ride. The are not long, but with pitches that range from 9% to 22% they put the hurt on the field and many times decide the race. 
Names like the Oude Kwaremont, Koppenberg and Paterberg are as well known as former winners such as Merckx, Musseuw, De Vlaeminck, Planckaert, Van Hooydonk et al. One win in this monument can make a career for most riders (just ask Nick Nuyens). Tomorrow Belgian hero Tom Boonen goes for his fourth win on De Ronde, which would beat all of the aforementioned legends - hallowed ground to say the least. Fabian Cancellara and young Peter Sagan will have something to say about it of course, as may the weather which is always a wildcard. Tune in to at 1:30 tomorrow morning to watch the whole thing, or maybe sleep until around 6 am to watch the last 40 k or so and see how true hardmen ride. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

One to get ready.

198 kilometers of cobbled goodness was on the menu today. 
198 windy, rainy, cobbled kilometers. This is what the 2014 edition of the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad Elite had in store for the pro peloton today. As the first minor offering of the venerable spring races held in Europe and collectively known as "The Cobbled Classics" it holds a very dear place in the hearts of road racing fans across the globe.

It speaks to the depth of history of these classics when a 69 year old race in the heart of Flanders is only afforded "minor" status.  It was first run in 1945; then known as the "Omloop Het Vok" it was named after the Flemish newspaper of the same name. It was their response to the other classic race of the region known as the Tour of Flanders and sponsored by their main competition in print: The Het Nieuwsblad. With the Tour of Flanders having started over 40 years earlier and already considered a Monumental edition of the spring classics, the Het Vok has traditionally been used primarily as a prep race for the other bigger classic races of the region. In 2008 the competition between the papers ended forever as the presses of the Het Vok stopped running and in what I can only assume was a final indignation, the race sponsorship was taken over by their rival Het Nieuwsblad and the name was changed to read as it does today. 

A "Minor" position in any other form of road racing would most likely mean that it would be a challenge to get the top teams and top riders to participate. Not so when it comes to the spring classics, as a race like the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is only considered minor compared to a handful of races. As the kick off to arguably the best set of racing contests of the year it is truly a classic, and treated as such by the pro teams chosen to participate. This was more than evident today as the start list included many of the top classics riders in the field today. Names like Boonen, Boom, Terpstra, Phinney, Van Avermaet, VanMarcke, Boassen Hagen, Chavanel, Van Summeren dotted the 208 rider deep field and every major pro team was represented well.
The IAM Cycling team takes to the front to honor fallen teammate Kristoff Goddaert Photo credit: AP
The day got off to a solemn start as the IAM Cycling team took to the front of the field in honor of their fallen teammate Kristoff Goddaert who was tragically killed in a training accident in Antwerp 10 days earlier. After a moment of silence for him and also for Belgium's legendary art promoter Jan Hoet who also recently passed they led the peloton out in slow procession that belied the frenzied racing that was about to transpire. 

Almost immediately 8 riders pierced through the Belgian fog and broke clear of the field. They animated the first three quarters of the race and it wasn't until 150k in that the remaining four riders were finally caught by the peloton. The fierce racing on the cobbles and bergs compounded by the beautifully typical Belgian weather wreaked havoc throughout the field with such big names as Hushovd and Pichot forced to call it a day after crashes. Less than half of the original start list made it to the finish, and much of that damage can be attributed to the duo of Niki Terpstra and Edvald Boasson Hagen who took to the front and forced the issue for most of the remaining 42k. They were joined off and on by Lars Boom, Sep Vanmarcke, Arnaud DéMare and others but the Sky and Omega riders were doing the lions share of the work and stayed off the front until just under 20k to go.   
Edvald Boasson Hagen and Niki Terpstra were arguably the strongest riders of the day, but as is often the case the strongest don't always win. Photo credit: Tim de Waele/TDW Sport
By that time a break had formed between a 20 deep lead pack and the rest of the peloton that would not  close, thus ending any hopes the great Tom Boonen might have had of adding his first Omloop trophy to an already legendary classics palmares. Up front the racing remained frenetic, with Terpstra and Boom hammering on the bergs and Boasson Hagen, Vanmarcke, Stannard and Van Avermaet closing it back up over the cobbles. It went on like this until just under 10k when everything came back together and the pace settled for just a moment. That was all British strongman Ian Stannard needed to make his escape. He set a blistering pace that was matched only by the Belgian rouleur Greg Van Avermaet and they quickly broke free of the rest. 

It looked like the race had come down to those two but the power duo from earlier in the day of Niki Terpstra and Edvald Boasson Hagen gave one last push to catch the leaders. Joined this time by the Belgian Belkin (say that 5 times fast) rider Sep Vanmarcke they made a valiant effort to bring it back together and for a moment it looked like it just might happen, but Stannard and Van Avermaet played it smart and continued to work together taking turns pulling until the final turn when the sprint began. Though the final sprint was close it never really felt in doubt as Team Sky's Stannard maintained a slight lead and confirmed his strength over the last 8k, sprinting exhaustedly over the line barely a bike length ahead of the Belgian Omega Pharma Quickstep hope.  24 seconds later Sky's day got even better as Norwegian Boasson Hagen won the sprint for the podium. 
Stannard was the strongest at the end. Photo credit: EPA
It was a marvelous effort by Stannard and confirmed his place as one of the current hardmen of the peloton after some early signs of promise in his career. Along with Boassen Hagen, he must now be considered Team Sky's top prospect in the remaining classics on the upcoming spring calendar - which would in turn make him a favorite in the peloton overall considering his teams place at the top of the pro tour rankings. 
Greg Van Avermaet takes a moment post race - Photo credit: Tim de Waele/TDW Sport
For Van Avermaet it was another valiant effort, but yet another close call. While most riders would be over the moon with a second place in a race such as the Omloop, for him it must be considered a slight disappointment as he has a growing list of top placings with only the top step of the podium being out of his grasp thus far. His exhaustion and frustration seemed to overwhelm him at the end of the race and he sat with face in hands in the finishing tent contemplating how close he was yet again. 

He'll have another opportunity to get that monkey off his back tomorrow as the second race of the opening classics weekend kicks off in Kuurne. With the KBK (or Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne) being a bit more open to open to the sprinters, it would seem even slightly better suited to his talents as his sprinting ability is only slightly behind that of the pure sprinters in the field. 

Racing gets going early here in the states, so get over to, find a feed that works and then settle in for more great Flanders style racing. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Real men roll pink.

I believe he can fly, I believe he can touch the sky. Photo credit: TDW Sport 
The last time Zdenek Stybar won a rainbow jersey in cyclocross Specialized came out with a pink Crux for him to ride the following season. His version was customized with rainbow stripes but you could still get basically the same all over pink bike and it was awesome. Here's hoping the big S has something up their sleeve for '15 to commemorate his latest championship. Baby blue? Laker Purple? Flo yellow? The possibilities are endless...

Gettin' some Z's.

Kona has never been one to follow the crowd. I've always had a soft spot for their bikes and their ethos.  For over 25 years they'be been making bikes their way. Already a know MTB brand, they were also one of the only brands I remember making true cross bikes in the early 2000's when it was just barely getting popular here. The Jake the Snake model was a solid bike and won more than its fair share of domestic races on a number of levels. They've carried that thought process through ever since and are still making some great bikes, with cross still being a lead category. Their love of dirt carries over to the road and this video is a cool edit of some dirt/all road friendly bikes taking advantage of some amazing looking scenery (what else would I expect in Hawaii...) and some fun riding in a decidedly relaxed style. Even the baggy kit works when you see it in this light. Take a look for yourself. 

Perfect timing.

Steebs had enough time to make out with his Crux and still give the classic victory salute as Sven rues his last lap slip ups from behind.
Zdenek Stybar had the cyclocross world wondering all season what his plans for the world championships were. He played coy throughout the season as to whether or not he'd be racing in today's big race in Hoogerheide. He had ridden well in a number of world cup races many times playing the aggressor, but seemed to be having more fun doing supercross style jumps than racing for wins. When he finally announced the week before last that he would indeed make an appearance in the big race it set the cx world abuzz. You see, since he turned his focus on road racing and a pursuit of spring classics glory and cut back on his CX ambitions things just haven't been the same. His classic battles with Belgians Sven Nys and Neils Albert are the stuff of legend were sorely missed...until today.

That's all she wrote for Sven - Stybar stayed on and Nyes had to dismount, he never got close after that.
The racing was vicious and just over half way through the race it became apparent that our prayers were going to be answered and we were going to be treated to another battle royale between Nys and Stybar. They traded places at the front a number of times - sometimes on purpose and sometimes on accident. Heading into the last lap the crowd was at a fever pitch and Sven led them through the start/finish line with Stybar hot on his tail.  About a third of the way though Stybar powered through on Nys' left and put the current champ in discomfort to say the least. Sven was having trouble getting back on his wheel but was still within reach until the turn shown above. It was a muddy, sweeping, slightly off camber left that Stybar was able to ride through and Sven - very uncharacteristically - took a bad line in his haste to close the gap. He had to dismount and by the time he righted the ship Stybar was gone and had time to prepare his victory salute. 

SC WC Podium - Stybar, Nyes, Pauwels.
It was a great race with Pauwels coming in a solid third and filling out the Belgian contingent on the podium. Nys as always was gracious in defeat and Stybar was a deserving winner and looked great in his 3rd rainbow jersey in the last 5 years. 

Lucky folks in the crowd. 
All in all it was a great race as expected. All the best were there and the two (arguably) best CX racers in the last decade gave the crowd, and the rest of us, a true treat. Stybar is looking strong and it bodes well for his chances in the spring classics in the coming months. Here's hoping he can improve on his 6th place in last years Paris-Roubaix and the rest of the monuments this spring.

Friday, January 31, 2014

There will be mud.

Zdenek Stybar will make an appearance at the UCI CX Worlds - Photo credit: Dan Seaton/VeloNews.jpg
It's time. It's world champs time in the UCI Cyclocross series this weekend. Going to be some great racing with all of the big boys in attendance. Even Styby has confirmed that he'll be present and with the recent rains it should be nice and muddy for the weekend as the course in Hoogerheide just loves to hold water for days after a heavy deluge. The UCI youtube channel will hopefully be showing the racing live here in the states, but it's not a sure thing due to the Universal sports deal. If not you can always try Sports-livezz, Procyclinglive or Cyclingfans

Whatever you do make sure you find some way to watch one of the greatest sporting events of the year, and then you can watch that other big sporting event happening this weekend... whatever that may be. 

The beauty and innocence of childhood - through a go pro?


Helmet cams are everywhere these days. They catch the best and the worst of bicycling, skateboarding, action sports and pretty much any other type of activity you can think of. I have seen some amazing footage of all different types of cycling on the net, especially mountain biking, but I can honestly say I've never watched a P.O.V. video that put a bigger smile on my face than this one did. This youngster of only four years of age is named Malcom. His father Dan set him up with a helmet cam and then took him down Hellion at Highland MTB Park in Maine. Apparently it was the first time Malcom had tackled the first ramp, and his joy and pride at doing it comes through loud and clear for us all to enjoy. This kid is going to be a ripper for sure, already shreding some serious trail on a 16" rigid hardtail BMX bike. Wouldn't be surprised to see this kid on a World Cup podium someday. Thanks to Mainehaole on youtube for sharing his experience with the rest of us. 

If you ain't cheatin'....

Why Vince McMahon? - read the cracked article and you'll understand. Photo credit: WWE
You ain't tryin'. I came across this article on Cracked about 5 of the dumbest ways people/teams have won (big!) in sports. While well worth the read, it is a hilariously sad tribute to how - for some folks - winning is all that matters and the ends justify the means no matter how gross a reinterpretation or stretching of the rules it might take. How does this apply to us? Well take a look at number four on the list. It re-tells the sad tale of the UK's Philip Hindes and his brazen flopping to get a restart in the 2012 Olympic team sprint.
Hindes in the middle of his floparoo - Photo credit: PA
Hindes was the lead rider in the 3 man team sprint crew followed by Jason Kenny and anchored by Sir Chris Hoy. As he came out of the block he started to wobble, flailed for a second and then fell down the track. The Olympics use UCI rules for the event and as such, any rider/team falling during a team sprint by mechanical or accidental means is awarded a restart.

This is where things get sticky... when asked about the fall immediately after the race Hindes professed the following “We were saying if we have a bad start we need to crash to get a restart. I just crashed, I did it on purpose to get a restart, just to have the fastest ride. I did it. So it was all planned, really.” - Insert loud record scratching sound here. 

Even though the Olympic committee heard these words and knew about the shenanigans the team was allowed to take the restart and went on to win the gold. Immediately after the race Hindes was asked about it again in another BBC interview stating “I just did it to get the restart. My first wasn’t the greatest so I thought to get the restart.”

Once word started to get around the British Olympic team issued a laughable response to the whole issue saying that due to English being Hindes second launguage (He was born in Germany) he misunderstood the question and that the fall was completely accidental after all. For his part, Hindes changed his story to "No, I just went out of the gate and just lost control, just fell down...My back wheel slipped and totally lost control and I couldn't handle the bike any more and just crashed." 

He went on to give another interview proclaiming in clearly understandable English how it was his inability to understand English clearly which caused him to say that he had crashed on purpose and that it was all planned in advance by his team if he started poorly. Click the photo of Phil below to watch for yourself.
Hindes keeping a straight face. - Screen grab via: The Telegraph
After watching that video it is clear that his near complete mastery of the English language would have been thrown off by the question "what happened?". 

But I digress, most will probably say no harm no foul because the Brits were obviously the better team as evidenced by their prodigious haul of medals that summer. For me however it's always a question of integrity, of winning with panache. Not winning by getting away with stretching a rules. It reminds me of the Piti principle that the Velominati keepers subscribe to:

"The Piti Principle - Punishment for violating the spirit of the law: A model of punishment wherein a competitor is sanctioned for abusing the system while still technically staying within the guidelines."

If this is not an example of that I don't know what is. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Third times a charm.

Podium girls go round the outside. Gerrans in pure bliss after winning a 3rd TDU - Photo Credit: No Idea.
Yesterday, today, tomorrow? I have to admit that I have no idea what day, or what time of said unknown day it is in Australia. What I do know is that local boy (on a global scale at least) Simon Gerrans knows what day it is... it's the day he won his record third overall Tour Down Under stage race and then got smooched up on by two lovely Australian sheila's in front of a few thousand of his biggest fans. After having stood on the top step of the podium in 2006 and 2012 he was arguably the big favorite to win this years edition, and though he faced stiff competition all week, his consistency put him at the top in the end with a first, second, third, fourth and fifth place (not in that order) in the first five races. Only his 11th place in todays final stage saw him finish outside of the top five, but he was merely playing it safe and insuring that the slim one second lead he held over Cadel Evans remained intact. 

It was another excellent performance in his home tour and a 9th Australian victory in 16 editions of the TDU, a race where the home grown riders take defending their turf seriously. Four of the top five spots this year were filled by Aussies (Evans in 2nd, Porte in 4th and young Nathan Haas in 5th joined Gerrans.) with only Italian Diego Ulissi crashing the party in third place. There was excellent racing all week long in the intense heat and one can only hope that the rest of the calendar can hold a candle to the way the 2014 Tour Down Under started things off. 

A Colombian affair.

Kingtana doin' work. Photo credit: James Startt
This photo shows the real story of todays final climbing stage in this years Tour de San Luis in Argentina. The pace up the Mirador Del Sol was set by race leader Nairo Quintana. He had to do the work because of an attack by the diminutive Italian Domenico Pozzovivo shown behind him to the right in the photo above. The AG2R rider was one of the only true dangers to Quintana's bid for the top step of the podium and when he attacked, the Colombian - who had no teammates left in the lead group - was forced to forgo any thoughts of a stage win to insure that he consolidated his overall chances. This left the door wide open for his young countryman Julian Arrendondo to play it smart and ride Nairo's wheel until the very end when he sprinted around to finish a slim 1 second ahead of Argentinian Sergio Godoy and 4 more ahead of Quintana who rolled across third on the stage, but improved his overall lead over Garmin's Phil Gaimon to 35 seconds. 

The next Nairo? Julian Arredondo is turning heads in Argentina - Photo credit: Tour de San Luis
Not to discount what Arredondo accomplished today. In his first stage race in his maiden season as a full time world tour rider for the Trek factory team he has won 2 of the 6 stages thus far. Adding to the impressiveness is the fact that he has done it on two of the hardest climbing stages against some of the best pure climbers in the business. He has also shown an intelligence and tactical thought process that belies his young age of only 25 years. He was patient on stage 2's final climb up the Mirador del Potrero de los Funes. Allowing Phil Gaimon to do the lions share of the work in hopes of picking up the GC lead (which he did) and then out-sprinting him at the line for the win. He took a similar position  today and the results were the same with the young Colombian solidifying a second victory and confirming Trek's belief that he was ready to play a role for them on the World Tour stage. 

Out front. Again and again.

Jens - right where you'd expect him to be. Photo credit: Yuzuru Sunada

Insanity. Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Some would say this description applies to every breakaway that Jens Voigt is ever a part of these days, but he just can't help it. It's not in his DNA to not attack, to not fight and to not cause pain to his opponents. Besides, we've been witness to him making some of the most ridiculous attacks stick during his career, so who are we to doubt him?

Few things in cycling make me happier than to watch Jens power away from the front of the peloton with 85 kilometers and two cat 1 climbs to go. I laugh at the incredulous thoughts that must be rolling through the pack's collective mind as they see him attack time and again like a boxer who is outclassed by his opponent but won't go down. It pains you to watch but you can't help but root for them...and hope for a miracle knock out in the last round. 

There would be no miracle knock out for Jensie today. He was caught by the peloton just as he crested Wilunga hill for the first time. They went around and up again and young Richie Porte returned the favor to Cadel Evans and took a solid win on the queen stage of this years Tour Down Under. Simon Gerrans was on form and crossed the line with Diego Ulissi 5 seconds ahead of Evans to take the Ochre jersey back by one second.

Gerrans may well win the overall for a record third time but for many of the fans the real star of the show finished 4 minutes and 35 seconds back in 53rd place, but with the peace of mind to know that he gave every thing he had today - just like he has for nearly two decades. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Black Dog.

The Guardian has an interesting and informative article on the connection between sport and depression, specifically regarding professional cyclists in the current issue. It's a sobering read and one that hopefully spurs further study and hopefully some preventative measures to protect riders once they have left the daily distraction that life in the pro peloton can bring. 

Check it out here:

Reach for the sky.

His wingspan may not be big, but his power to weight ration sure is. Photo Credit: Sky Sports
Nairo Quintana was arguably the biggest revalation of the UCI pro tour last year. His spring wins in the Vuelta a Pais Vasco and the Vuelta a Burgos were the first signs that he had something to offer come July, but it was his performance that month that really launched his entry into the collective cycling consciousness.  His consistently strong performances in the mountains of France garnered him the Polka Dot climbers jersey and he was also the best young rider of the tour. In his home country he returned to a welcome befitting a national hero and took his place among the legendary Colombian Escarabajos such as Lucho Herrera, Fabio Barra and Santiago Botero to name a few. 

Just as quickly as that performance had ended however, questions began to surface about whether or not he could continue such strong performances in 2014. Was it a fluke or just the beginning of a great career that may one day result in a place on the top step of the podium on the Champs Elysee? Well if his blistering performance in the mountains of Argentina today are any gauge, he is more than up to the task. 

It was an eye popping show of strength as he rode up the steep category 1 Alto El Amago and away from many of the best climbers in the world on route to a 50 second win over Argentinian native Sergio Godoy. The days podium was filled out by Nairo's Colombian countryman Darwin Atapuma. Quintana nearly made up all of the 4 minute 19 second deficit in the overall standings to Garmin's Phil Gaimon and with more climbing stages to come his chances of adding another mid level stage win to his growing palmares seem strong. All of this of course adds to the early excitement for this years grand tours and the possibility that if allowed take the start this July in France (Movistar team management has yet to make an announcement as to whether or not he'll ride the Giro, Tour, or Vuelta) he'll be more than ready to take the fight to Froome, Nibali and the other favorites in the peloton. 

Thursday, January 23, 2014

We have a pulse.

Cadel Evans has made a career of surpassing the cycling world's opinion of what he is capable of. 

He did it again today. 

Solo ride: Cadel Evans wins stage three of the Tour Down Under. Photo: Getty Images
After a dismal performance in the 2013 Tour, many had written off his chances of truly competing at the highest levels of the sport. At 36 the general consensus was that his best days on the bike were behind him and while nobody was calling for him to hang up his cleats, there were more than a few - myself included on this very blog - who opined that it was time for him to take a back seat to the younger talent on the powerhouse BMC team, such as Teejay van Garderen and Brent Brookwalter. 

He quickly showed signs of bouncing back with a stage win in last September's Tour of Alberta, but Brookwalter was the top GC man for BMC finishing second in that race. Later in the year he announced that he would target the 2014 Giro in an effort to finish 2 steps higher on the podium than his 3rd place in 2013. Eyebrows were raised and tongues wagged at that announcement and whether it meant that the BMC TDF captains seat would be filled by the young van Garderen. The later was confirmed just a week ago with the announcement that Teejay would in fact have the full support of the factory squad behind him at the start line in the Netherlands. 

So what happens next? Cadel does exactly what you would expect and wins the first tough stage of the year against top level talent in his home race - The Santos Tour Down Under. It was a vintage Evans attack - something he doesn't get enough credit for - up the legendary corkscrew climb that completely detached the young Aussie climber Richie Porte with a brutal attack with 1k to go from the summit and then set a blistering pace down the back side and over the flat remaining section to the finish. He powered his way and held off the charging pack and crossed the line with a muted fist pump that should signal to the pack that one of it's stars has no intention of fading off to the back of the pack. 

If his early season form is any indication, he should have plenty of fight left by the time May rolls around and he takes to the roads of Italy. It should also signal to Teejay that he'll have one beast of a lieutenant backing him in July... and he better be ready to take full advantage of that kind of support. 

Take a look at the Thomas Foods stage 3 highlights of todays racing:

Friday, January 17, 2014

Inspiration for the ride.

The Quiet Season - Brandon Neubert 

The Quiet Season is a short film made by a gentleman named Brandon Neubert. It is based on a letter that was written to him by his Mother. In the description of the film he writes that she had back issues and it wasn't until she found cycling that she was able to experience the freedom that sport can bring. Her letter to him is the source of the words in the film and she is both the narrator and cyclist. 

If this doesn't make you want to ride you better check your ticker, because you may have already kicked the bucket. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

What's that they say about old dogs and new tricks?

The Brooks Cambium C17
Brooks breaks the very mold that they made over a hundred years ago. The new Cambium saddle is equal parts natural rubber, organic cotton and pure beauty. Got a chance to see this new sitter in person at last years Interbike show. It was all I thought it would be and more. An incredible marriage of modern applications and classic style. The venerable company has quieted all of the naysayers who questioned the validity of the first ever non leather saddle from the premier name in the category. Take a closer look at the Brooks website

From black and blue to pink and blue?

Eventual winner Chris Horner crossing the line on Stage 10 of the 2013 Vuelta à España - Photo credit: Jose Jordan/AFP/Getty Images
Chris Horner has been bruised up pretty bad this off season. Not physically of course, but for a reigning grand tour champion to be unsigned at this stage of the off season is quite a slap in the face (or kick in the pants or punch in the gut or whatever violent euphemism you'd like to use). Add in the fact that it's because everyone is saying he's too old to compete, as well as the not so quiet whispers that his Vuelta victory had to be chemically enhanced and you have a recipe that would make many younger riders call it quits - but Horner has never had an easy road in this cycling world. 

For those of us who have seen his circuitous route take him from hot shot domestic neo pro - to promising young American riding in the European peloton - to top level domestic racer who couldn't make it in the European peloton - to scrappy veteran who sold it all for another chance in European peloton - to feel good story of the European peloton finally winning some prestigious mid level races - to (almost?) too good to be true 1st time grand tour winner at the ripe old age of 42 - it's just par for the course. 

And if the (velo)news article posted today about a possible Horner signing to Team Lampre Merida is to be believed it probably couldn't have worked out any better for him. The Italian pro team has a spot at the top tier of the sport and as such will contest all three grand tours as well as every race on the UCI pro tour. The squad is a mix of veteran riders and youngsters, grand tour competitors and classics specialists, sprinters, rouleurs and climbers. It is arguably one of the most balanced rosters in the business with names like former Giro winner Damiano Cunego, proven classics strongman Fillipo Pozzato, sprinter extraordinaire Roberto Ferrari and young leadout man with classics potential Diego Ulissi among others. 

Add in newly acquired Tour GC contender and current world champ Rui Alberto Faria da Costa and you have a group that could set up Horner for a shot at either a Giro run or a Vuelta defense along with a big role in support of Costa at Le Tour in July. 

Here's hoping things end up working out. Horner seems like a nice enough fellow and has easily proven that he belongs at the top level of the sport over the last decade. With only the Vuelta and the USPRO having taxed his legs in the last 8 months he should be as rested and ready as he will ever be as the season starts. 

Lastly (and perhaps a little selfishly) those of us on the other side of age 40 can't help but live a little vicariously through this old man of the peloton as he rides the wheels off of riders nearly half his age. Assuming he's doing it clean, that's something I'll never ever get tired of.  

What's in a (Sur)name?

The mainstream media is not normally a place I go for cycling related info and least not anything interesting. However, the last couple of days I've had some eyecatching things come my way via some very unexpected sources. First it was the Katie Compton write up in the Wall Street Journal and today it was this nice little Fox business news piece on Surname Cycling

Surname is a small brand from New York City that is making some really cool goods out of repurposed materials from The Big Apple. They work with suppliers and scour the city to gain access to reclaimed wood from all around Manhattan Island and Upstate New York. Some beautiful, thoughtfully and ethically designed/produced products are the end result. Watch the video and check out the article, then head over to their site for a closer look. You won't be disappointed. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The WSJ on the CPT.

Katie Compton Photo credit:
'Bout time. There is a great article up over at the Wall Street Journal (Yep, you read that right) on reigning CX World Cup Champion Katie Comption. Hard to believe the sport and it's stars are starting to get some mainstream acknowledgements. After years of only seeing doping related stories on the WSJ and other big media sites, it's great to see a write up about someone who does right by the sport. Take a look at the article here.

Don't break my heart (or yours either).

Some interesting reading regarding long term high intensity exercise and it's possible negative effects on the heart. Not trying to ring the alarm bells but it's something to at least be conscious of...before you become unconscious because of it... take a look over at

Mud and guts.

The BPost Bank Trofee Azencross has long been one of my favorite events on the pro tour. It's a great course featuring flyovers, runups, drainage ditches, pump sections and for some (Zdenek Stybar?) big air bumps. The latest edition of Svenness (#2.14) from In The Crosshairs covers this modern classic and as usual hits the high points of he race and shows some key strategies for dealing with the legendary mud that foils bikes and breaks wills. Enjoy!

Church on time.

Really cool edit from the Church boys of North Carolina. Take a look and read about how the name "Church" came about. The images and words will not doubt make you understand where they were coming from with the concept. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Real talk: Mark Martin at TEDxLSU


Great Ted talk by bicycling advocate and sideburn farmer Mark Martin about the cultural advantages of a populace who choose bikes over cars.

Maybe his name should have been H.C. Wells?

Every time I seen an adult on a bicycle I no longer despair for the future of the human race.

                                                                                                      - H.G. Wells