Saturday, February 19, 2011

Lies and the liars who tell them

I got out and rode yesterday right after work, I mean right after work, speed home, jump on the bike and hook up with James and JK.  After being couped up indoors and suffering through snow, being outside with the sun is so nice.  It is foreign to be on the bike feeling moisture on the skin, sweat in the eyes and having to carry more than one bottle.  It's hot outside.  Oh, the good times are here.  Everyone talking about future races, lack of fitness, and training, training, training.

If there is one thing you can count on in this world, it is cyclists lying about their fitness.  No one ever trains enough, or have not been training at all.  Lies.  Oh, or they rode really hard yesterday and today is going to be a recovery/easy ride.  More lies.  Yeah, I'm just not feeling it today -no one ever comes out and says "hey look at me I'm killing it and I am going to bury everyone today."  There are no PSAs in cycling.  You have to look at legs, arms, bikes, tires, and faces for any subtle cue that work has been done.  Good luck with that, cyclists are poker players and never show their hand, until the deal is done and the attack is on.

There is a little bit of the unknown when you toe the line for the first time of the season.  You have questions and racing will answer all of them.  You feel good, but is your fitness where it needs to be?  Your fitness is good, but is your head on straight?  It is easy to find out, renew your license enter a race and learn the truth.  After all you are only as good as your last race, Right? 

I'm headed to my first race next weekend, and the jitters are already starting to come out.  I'll be racing with three teammates and looking for some answers.  We are staring down our first crit, TT and RR all in one weekend of racing.  Answers should be plenty, just hope they are the ones I want to hear.  Have I been training -not enough.  How's my fitness -it's alright, could be better.  (fitness can always be better).  I'll show you my hand next Sunday at the end of the RR and they have the overall (answers) posted. Then we will all know.  If it is good news -great, if it is bad news -great!-now I have more work to do.

Volta ao Algarve stage 3

I'm still a little sickened that Contador is racing.  I must be the only one that is upset by the under rug swept this whole fiasco has become.  I've got nothing, all I can say is...Really?  I don't even want to follow the races that he is competing in, I find it disgusting, and it makes me ill to see his name in the results without a DNF or DNS next to it.  I'm a little whiny right now, so forgive me for my snide remarks.

Steve Cummings Team Sky super-domestique stepped out of the water-carrier role today on Alto do Malhao and took a win from some respected climbers.  Normally one who is riding in support of the team leader, Steve was green-lighted by DS Sean Yeates to go for the win.  Cummings will once again be called upon this year to shepard team leaders Wiggins, Rogers, and Flecha.

The Queen stage had plenty of drama and a breakaway that was only given a 4:00 leash that was eventually caught with 46k to go.  They endured several categorized climbs and an uphill finish that Cummings took from Van Garderen (HTC) and Contador (Saxo).  Gilbert was dropped and passed the leader's jersey to Cummings.  Tejay Van Garderen of HTC is an upstart American who was given a spot on the squad for the Vuelta last year and finished a respectable 35th.  Not bad for a 22 year old American who cut his teeth in the trenches with Rabobank's Continental squad.  He finished 9th GC in this race last year for HTC, I think he will do better this year sitting in 4th just 12sec down.

1 Stephen Cummings (GBr) Sky Procycling 4:56:19
2 Tejay Van Garderen (USA) HTC-Highroad
3 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Saxo Bank Sungard
4 Rein Taaramae (Est) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
5 Tony Martin (Ger) HTC-Highroad
6 Tiago Machado (Por) Team RadioShack 0:00:06
7 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Sky Procycling 0:00:16
8 Roman Kreuziger (Cze) Pro Team Astana
9 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Team RadioShack
10 Ryder Hesjedal (Can) Team Garmin-Cervelo

Tour of Oman stage 4

The Green Mountain, Jabal al Akhdhar is where the Tour will change from a sprinter's race to a climber's race.  -To paraphrase the Great Eddy Merckx.  Anything to do with cycling and Eddy knows what he is talking about.  As if on cue from the Merckx, Gesink took the regins from the sprinters and the rest of the field as he ascended the Green Mountain and took 47sec out of his closest competitor Boasson Hagen (Sky).  Devenyns (QuickStep) came in third with a 51second gap, and Giovanni Visconti (Farnese Vini) in fourth down 53sec to Gesink.

Gesink enjoyed the victory and Rabobank now has three wins in Oman thanks to Theo Bos' two stage wins.  Gesink is only riding for form in Oman, and with the way things are going he seems to be finding just what he is looking for.  He dedicated this win to his father who passed away last October, and said that it was difficult to train over the winter, but wanted to win one for his family.  "I did it for my dad," said Robert.

Sky did everything they could to keep Boasson Hagen protected at the front, but Gesink was clearly riding with extra emotion.  Have to mention Christian Vande Velde (Garmin) who is looking good, especially on the climb of the day.  His Garmelo team is super strong and did a great job keeping him in the mix so that he was able to do work in the end.  Something to note:  Cancellara (Leopard) came in 1:34 down in 11th place.  This is noteworthy because Spartacus is not know for his climbing prowess, he actually beat his teammate Fuglsang by 30sec.  Nice job.

The final stage and ITT is tomorrow and the top 5 on GC is separated by 1:03.  This will make for an interesting finale on the 18.5k hilly out and back time trial.

Stage 4
1 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 4:03:58
2 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling 0:00:47
3 Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team 0:00:51
4 Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Farnese Vini - Neri Sottoli 0:00:53
5 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo
6 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team 0:01:02
7 Maxime Monfort (Bel) Leopard Trek 0:01:05
8 Michael Albasini (Swi) HTC-Highroad
9 Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa) Sky Procycling 0:01:12
10 Patrik Sinkewitz (Ger) Farnese Vini - Neri Sottoli 0:01:29

1 Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 16:15:18
2 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling 0:00:44
3 Dries Devenyns (Bel) Quickstep Cycling Team 0:00:57
4 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo 0:01:03
5 Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Farnese Vini - Neri Sottoli

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Volta ao Algarve stage 2

Willkomen, to the WorldTour John Degenkolb.  OK, being that I live in an area where cycling is considered a pest I have not heard of Degenkolb.  I do have a lovely picture of him finishing just behind Michael Matthews in the U-23 World Champ Road Race representing Germany.  Last year he was the U-23 German national champ, and he signed with HTC this year.  HTC still has deep roots in the German cycling world where it was once the powerhouse T-Mobile (it is still a powerhouse). 

What is it about the sprinters coming out of Germany?  They are freaking huge...Zabel, Greipel, and now Degenkolb.  Get used to this name, I have a feeling that we will see more things out of him .  He is the ripe old age of 22.  (if someone could help me with the pronunciation, please & thank you)

Take a look at the company that Degenkolb bested at the line and you will see that this guy is no joke.  Farrar is one of the best in the business and the youngster Matthews already has a TDU win under his belt.  I know it is early season, but these guys are not playing.  It is good to see the new pros doing well, they are the future of this sport and they are already making an impact.  Bravo!

You really have to read the race report on, it was an amazing race.  Degenkolb opened up at 200m, and the rest is as they say history.

1 John Degenkolb (Ger) HTC-Highroad 4:57:56
2 Tyler Farrar (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo
3 Michael Matthews (Aus) Rabobank Cycling Team
4 Baden Cooke (Aus) Saxo Bank Sungard 0:00:01
5 Sébastien Hinault (Fra) AG2R La Mondiale
6 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto
7 Filipe Duarte Sousa Cardoso (Por) Barbot - Efapel
8 Fabian Wegmann (Ger) Leopard Trek
9 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Quickstep Cycling Team
10 Dmitriy Fofonov (Kaz) Pro Team Astana

Tour of Oman stage 3

Theo Bos.  If you follow track cycling (former World Champ) you might have heard the name, he did pretty much nothing last season.  Well nothing that most people know about.  Cervelo relegated him to the second tier squad and he did not see much of the ProTour light of day.  He did put up some stage wins in the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon and won the points classification.  Garmelo did not pick him up, due to the sprinter laden team they now have, so he went back to his former team in Rabobank.  Rabo is giving him a chance in the early season to see what he has, either that or they must know something that Garmelo did not. 

Theo must prefer the orange and blue of Rabo, because he is hot.  He took an opener that looked like a shot of luck, but now after taking stage 3, luck does not look to be his driving force.  He did run into some bad luck when he didn't make the split on stage two and lost a truck load of time.  Bennati is getting used to the bride's maid dress, when is this guy going to cross the line first?  Haussler, Haussler, Haussler seems to be right on track.  Talk about Mr. Consistent chalk up another top five, and give him a high-five while you are at it.

1 Theo Bos (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
2 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Leopard Trek
3 Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) HTC-Highroad
4 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling
5 Heinrich Haussler (Aus) Team Garmin-Cervelo
6 Oscar Gatto (Ita) Farnese Vini - Neri Sottoli
7 Denis Galimzyanov (Rus) Katusha Team
8 Niko Eeckhout (Bel) An Post - Sean Kelly
9 Mark Cavendish (GBr) HTC-Highroad
10 Francesco Chicchi (Ita) Quickstep Cycling Team

Volta ao Algarve stage 1

Philippe Gilbert played the spoiler to perfection taking a trademark final k attack to the line 5sec ahead of a surging peloton.  It was a perfect situation for Gilbert, slightly uphill at 800m to go, perfect to unleash his style of attack, and teammate Roelandts set up just at the right moment to allow for a gap.

The Spanish Federation cleared Contador and he toed the line in Algarve.  As much as this sickens me, I will just have to accept it as is the way of the world.  At the same time a few time zones away Lance Armstrong stepped out of cycling for a second time and into retirement.  Kind of poetic isn't it, like something you will find on the back of the door to a truck stop bathroom stall.  Time to go brush my teeth -I just threw-up in my mouth.

1 Philippe Gilbert (Bel) Omega Pharma-Lotto 4:36:36
2 Gerald Ciolek (Ger) Quickstep Cycling Team 0:00:05
3 André Greipel (Ger) Omega Pharma-Lotto
4 Tyler Farrar (USA) Team Garmin-Cervelo
5 Michael Matthews (Aus) Rabobank Cycling Team
6 Baden Cooke (Aus) Saxo Bank Sungard
7 John Degenkolb (Ger) HTC-Highroad
8 Andreas Klöden (Ger) Team RadioShack
9 Tony Gallopin (Fra) Cofidis, Le Credit En Ligne
10 Wout Poels (Ned) Vacansoleil-DCM Pro Cycling Team

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tour of Oman stage 2

Photo credit © Lloyd Images/ Muscat Municipality

Talk about a shake down of the sprinters.  There was a 3k bump in the road today with about 60k to go that separated the group and allowed about 70 some odd riders the chance to escape.  The short but sweet steep climb caused an eventual 10:34 gap at the line, that left most of the sprinters on the wrong side of the time split.  Cav, Boonen, Hushovd, Chicchi, and Phinney all suffered the same fate.  Goss, Bennati, Boasson Hagen, Boom, and Haussler all came out on the plus side, with Goss getting the best of Bennati and Boasson Hagen.  Haussler's form is looking Classic, like what I did there?  Bennati is killing, but just can't seem to find the line first.  Boom is targeting Classics and with his early season exploits looks to be in the favorite category. 

Photo credit © Stephen Farrand

An outside dark-horse team to keep an eye on is the Farnese Vini team (formerly ISD).  Giovanni Visconti, the Italian national champ headlines a neo-pro lineup that could steal some stages in future races to come.  Read: Giro Italia.  Visconti finished 17th and Oscar Gatto 6th.  Don't say I didn't tell you.

How about HTC?  It's a little strange reading headlines from Renshaw and Goss and it not being about them leading-out Cav.  I'm glad these guys are getting some W's of their own, they deserve the spotlight.  Until recently probably some of the fastest riders in the peloton with no wins to their credit, other than dragging Cav to the line with indisputable authority.  Anyone keeping tack of HTC vs Garmelo in the Win department?  Anyone care to place any wagers?

1 Matthew Harley Goss (Aus) HTC-Highroad 3:18:17
2 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Leopard Trek
3 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling
4 Greg Van Avermaet (Bel) BMC Racing Team
5 Danilo Hondo (Ger) Lampre - ISD
6 Oscar Gatto (Ita) Farnese Vini - Neri Sottoli
7 Luca Paolini (Ita) Katusha Team
8 Lars Boom (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team
9 Simon Clarke (Aus) Pro Team Astana 0:00:03
10 Grega Bole (Slo) Lampre - ISD


What do you have to have to quantify a good ride?  Do you have a tic list?  I personally can't tell you what makes a good ride.  I do know that you can be by yourself or you can share.  When you are with other riders the dynamic has to be spot on, but when it is, you just know.  There is no agenda, let's just ride bikes and see what happens.  Unfettered freedom shared amongst friends, teammates, brothers in the fraternity of the cycle.  It is a rare occasion when everyone involved has the same shared experience, but when it happens you just sit back order another post-ride beer and enjoy.

The stars were aligned yesterday.  Winter is releasing it's clutch and getting outdoors into a sunny afternoon was paramount.  James was in and we met at Marty's.  Two of my favorite riding partners, James who is an engine that only has an ON and OFF, and Marty 'el capitan' who elevates anyone who he shares a paceline.  The sun was out, the bike was freed from the trainer and the company was exquisite.  You can have the same elements for every ride, but they will not always have the same outcome.

I'm thinking about the ride yesterday and there is nothing I can put my finger on and say "that is it" the holy grail of good rides.  It just happened, good people on bikes on a beautiful day.  It turned into a hard ride where we tested our legs and fitness, but it felt so good to go to the edge and have company.  Redline was pushed, but the workload was shared and the common goal was -no goal at all.  We were racing the sun, the wind, each other, and ourselves.

Sitting on the deck at the Blue Rose sharing a post-ride beer with the sun warming the embro was the only way to cap off a good ride.  We talked about our ride, racing, cycling, and how good it was to be outside.  Yesterday I learned what it means to ride together.  You can make a list of everything that we did and try and follow it like a playlist, but it will never be replicated.  Will there be other good rides?  Yes, but they are not manufactured -they just happen. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tour of Oman stage 1

Photo: AFP
Oh-man Oman got off to a bumpy start.  First of all the rider's bikes were not at the start when the teams arrived.  Riders transferred from the host hotel and the bikes were supposed to be delivered to the start by truck BEFORE the riders.  Racing got underway about and hour later than anticipated.  Then at the end of the 158k stage race a spectator ended up in the road and caused mass chaos for the riders going at it for the sprint.  Theo Bos seemed to find the right seam, but had Cav on his wheel.  Cav made a move to come around but Bos had the edge in the bike throw at the line.

Some notable first starts of the season included Taylor Phinney's(BMC) 19th place.  Taylor probably would have had a better finish if it had not been for the unfortunate maneuvering around a confused spectator.  Thor Hushovd finished in 57th for his first one of the new season.

Photo: © Stephen Farrand
Should be interesting to see how this race unfolds, there are an impressive amount of Classics riders here getting their form in the nice sun and warmth.  Cav looks like he might be healing nicely after the TDU and Qatar.  Hushovd will improve daily, and I would suspect once he gets his legs Garmelo will try to set him up for a stage or two.  With guys like Haussler, Hammond, Klier, and Van Summeren setting him up it will be fun to watch.  How many times do I have to say it?  Classics.  In the words of Austin "yeah! baby! yeah!".

Missing from the top ten were Haussler(14th), Bennati(17th), and Boonen(23rd).

1 Theo Bos (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team 3:38:29
2 Mark Cavendish (GBr) HTC-Highroad
3 Roger Kluge (Ger) Skil - Shimano
4 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor) Sky Procycling
5 Denis Galimzyanov (Rus) Katusha Team
6 Nacer Bouhanni (Fra) FDJ
7 Danilo Hondo (Ger) Lampre - ISD
8 Russell Downing (GBr) Sky Procycling
9 Francesco Chicchi (Ita) Quickstep Cycling Team
10 Mathew Hayman (Aus) Sky Procycling

-the Bad and the Ugly

Which is the greater evil committed against cycling:  Ricco's unabashed doping or Contador getting cleared of all wrongdoing?  What Ricco did is downright stupid, the choice he made -he is now having to deal with the physical consequences.  There is finally word coming out that he is in serious condition and has infections in his heart and lungs.  I wish him best of luck and a speedy recovery, don't forget that he is human and for the most part we are just big dumb animals.  Some more than others. -But, he is a person who has family and people who care about him.  Wishing him harm is stooping to a level well below the one he currently resides.

Col du Tourmalet
Photo Credit: ???
Cycling is a sport I love, and unfortunately Doping is a part of cycling.  Yes, when you have someone like Ricco, Landis and tons of other blemishes on the face of cycling that is all the general public will see.  We as a society will always focus on the negative.  This is the most beautiful sport in the world, and every sport has it's good-bad-and-ugly.  News is made by scandal, the non-cycling public will never know of the momentous battles fought on Ventoux, Huez, or the Tourmalet.  This lifestyle/sport will always have Riccos, it is a fact that we cannot change.  Make rules and someone will try and break them.  There is no solution.  You can control doping, but it will never be stopped.  It is a Speed Limit -65mph is posted, and everyone drives 70mph.

I don't even know where to start with Contador?  Dude pops positive for doping -says it is tainted beef, gets slapped by the Spanish Cycling Federation for one year.  Contador presents his case and now it looks like the SCF is going to overturn their original suspension.  Everyone Wins?  Contador gets to race, the Spanish save face, and some people that we will never know make a great deal of money.  Contador is a cash cow (no pun intended) to his team, country, and sponsors; so by clearing him of doping charges he is vindicated and everyone can continue to cash the checks.  Now if he gets to race the TDF he will have the eyes of the whole world watching to see el pistolero carry the flag of redemption up the Alps.  That will sell some papers.

Not so fast -this makes cycling look worse than a two time looser like Ricco.  We expect Ricco to be bad.  Now the crown prince of cycling has a ? an * and a lot of speculation following him.  Is he?  Did he?  This is what will be in the non-cycling news from now until the truth is never known.  That's right, we will never know the truth, that is how "the ugly" of this sport works.  Crucify the sinners and forgive the saints and sweep everything else under the rug, because like everything in life the almighty dollar/euro has the last say.

-Ricco, I don't like what you did to our sport, and I don't think you knew what you were doing to yourself.  I hope you fully recover.  Get well soon.

-Contador, I am not a fan.  Now when I see you flying up 16% grades with super-human ability...I will wonder is that you or is it the drugs?  One question: Who won le Tour in 2010?