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 articles...at 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: Cyclephotos.co.uk
'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 cyclingtips.com

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.

video
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