Archive for category Races

Spring is here?

As far as the pro peloton goes, it’s on!  I watched the Tour of Flanders today, and it was one of the best races I’ve ever seen.

“Looking back, you get a bit nostalgic, but from a competitive point of view, Flanders was one of the most horrible races to ride but one of the greatest races to win.” – Sean Kelly

I thought for sure Cancellara was going to win. Then I thought for sure Gilbert was going to win. Then I thought Chavanel would win the game of tactics. Then I again thought Cancellara was going to win. Then Nuyens won.

What an amazing race.  Paris-Roubaix has a lot to live up to next week.

The weather here is improving, but at an agonizing pace.  It’s going to be raining a lot this week, but I have a shot at riding outside at least one day.  At least my trainer rides have been getting better as I adapt to more interval workouts.  I’m still working in some tempo rides; I need to do longer average rides this season – I want to have the average be right around 2½ hours.

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Doing Good, Giving Back

Rahsaan BahatiI had always thought there was something intriguing about Rahsaan Bahati.  Well this guy is something else.  Not only is he a top-level crit rider (he was national champ in 2008), he also now heads up an eponymous team and foundation.

He’s always been a winner on the road, now he is rapidly achieving Mensch status.  I recently listened to a great interview with him on Competitor Radio.  I get the feeling that the sky is the limit for him, whether it be as a team DS, a rider or as a volunteer.

Unfortunately the foundation team will not be racing the Tour of California, but in many ways they will always be a winning team.

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A New Season Underway

The Tour Down Under started today, sort of.  An unusual format to a stage race, a criterium that doesn’t count toward the overall standings, yet is still somehow part of the TDU.  Good thing they have the day off tomorrow to recover; you don’t want to push them that hard this early in the season.  I guess it’s also good that there’s no serious climbing stage.  Or time trial.  If there’s such a thing as an emphatic “meh”, then this race earns it.

I’m not here to hate on the race, not at all.  It’s good to have something to follow this time of year besides transfers, legal mumbo jumbo and other detritus.  Up until this year, the TDU was a prelude to the first race on the calendar I had genuine interest in, the Tour of California.  Sadly, I have to wait until mid-May for Cali.  All I have in February now is the GP Tom Boonen Tour of Qatar.  I’ll really be jonesing for Paris-Nice.

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Feeling ‘Cross

stairsSo yesterday Mrs. Stallion and I were spectators at our first cyclocross race.  It was the Saratoga Spa ‘Cross held at the Spa State Park.  Up until Sunday, my only impressions of cyclocross were from online reports, podcasts and pictures.

It was an awesome event.  It’s a real intimate setting for a race, and there were no bad vantage points along the course.  Adding to the parcours was the fact that the day before the area was treated to about 3 inches of rain.  Race day conditions were great for racing with sun & clouds and about 55°F.

mud
Rain makes mud

The DJ had some rockin’ music blaring from the pavillion, although the choice of Norah Jones playing during the Men’s Singlespeed/Women’s Elite race was questionable.

We showed up just in time to check out the course before the mens 3/4 race.  As you can see from the pictures, the course was very muddy in parts.  What you can’t see is that there are a lot of pine needles mixed in with the mud – a lot of riders were picking gunk out of their brakes that got caked up with the stuff.

The terrain added something I wasn’t expecting – quiet.  I never thought about it, but when you ride a ‘cross bike with what looked like tires at around 40psi on mud and pine needles, it really deadens the sounds of the bike.  Braking was the complete opposite – those rims screamed for mercy when the pads forced the mud on them!

As for the spectator experience, Joe’s Burrito back at the pavillion was hard to beat.  An “epic” burrito was well worth the 5 bucks.  One of the sponsors turned out to be my LBS!  It was cool to see them there.  One of their mechanics that raced the Men’s Singlespeed worked on my bike this season – easy for me to root him on (I got a big thumbs up from him when I told him he was racing for a burrito at the finish line).
Dude worked on my bike!

It was a great time.  It was the first year having the races there and I really hope they come back.  I felt inspired by all the action – the riders gave it their all; even guys 5 minutes back were drilling it over the course.  I don’t think I’ll be racing anytime soon, but who knows?  It might make its way on to my bucket list.

The best moment that I saw was during the little kids race.  About 7 little kids on their striders and training-wheeled bikes did a mini “race” near the pavillion.  When they were about halfway done, one of the Singlespeed guys was previewing the course before his race.  He caught up to the kids and slowed to a stop.  The next thing I hear from the pavillion is a heckler yelling “Sandbagger!”.  Awesome.

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Congratulations Julian Dean

Julian DeanToday marks the conclusion of the Vuelta a EspañaGarmin-Slipstream rider Julian Dean crossed the finish line to become the only rider to complete all three Grand Tours this season.

I can’t imagine the fatigue this guy is feeling.  Not just from all the miles he’s ridden, and not just from the fact that he rode three weeks in a row three times in five months.  Also from the mental energy expended during that grueling time.

I’ll leave it to y’all to do the math on the calorie expenditure.  I’m impressed that he can still have the will to get out of bed and toe the line for another stage after all that.  The number of abandons during the Vuelta this year points to his cycling character.  Charlie Wegelius couldn’t make it past stage four before his fatigue caught up to him.

So Julian – get some rest.  You’ve more than earned it.  Chapeau.

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2009 Tour in Review

Another Tour comes to an end.  There will be the myriad posts and articles about “Tour Withdrawal”, and to some degree I can understand it.  But for me, there is a certain sense of relief.

You see, since the race takes place a good 6 time zones away from here, I have to keep myself oblivious during the workday – not the easiest of tasks when you’re in front of a computer 8 hours a day.

That being said, the conclusion of the race also allows for some perspective.  Like every Tour, there was much more than the chase for Yellow.  In line with the Tour giving us multiple competitions to follow (Yellow, Green, Polka-dot and White jerseys), I have organized my thoughts along the following categories.

Huzzah!

There were two performances in this year’s race that really stuck out in my mind as showing great competitive spirit.

    – Serguei Ivanov on stage 14.  Attacking out of a soon-to-be-caught breakaway and going full-gas for the solo win ahead of a charging peloton was a thing of beauty.  The sight of him sitting on a curb next to his bike in a heap panting for air to recover was just awesome.  Talk about leaving it all out on the road.  Chapeau.  That was Big Ring.

    – Thor Hushovd on Stage 17.  Tuning in to see this stage in progress was my first genuine WTF? moment of the Tour.  A sprinter leading over two tough mountains in the Alps?  We’re more likely to see Stuart O’Grady cry.  I couldn’t believe it, but there it was.  A lone maillot vert leading the stage.

      Not content to listen to the Cavendish honks gripe about the Manxman’s relegation, Thor was determined to show that he was indeed the stronger rider.  I stand corrected: the only thing less likely than Hushovd leading in the mountains is Cavendish leading in the mountains.  Dude wouldn’t even go to the front of the Grupetto.

    –  I’m not a Cavendish hater (I generally hate haters), so I will give the mandatory and well-deserved props to Mark for winning six stages.  That takes some serious talent and a great team to put it into action.

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Buzzkill

Jens Voigt’s crash.  You really hate to see it happen to a guy like that.  He was the victim of such bad luck.  First that crappy wheel change from the neutral service car, costing him a place in a breakaway, then that awful crash.

Honorable mention goes to Tyler Farrar.  So close and yet so far.  One of these days he will have a breakthrough and win his share of sprint stages.

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Dude!

Contador’s attacks.  His ability to spring out of a lead group on a steep grade looks almost effortless.  I hate to even utter it, but I sincerely hope it is a result of natural talent and hard training.  I’ll stop there.

Also worth noting is his time trialing.  What was once a weak spot has become a strength.  It seems that it is the one discipline that can be most affected by training and dedication.  His TT metamorphosis reminds me of what Levi Leipheimer did after the 2006 Tour.  He rededicated himself to the time trial and said that he spent every third day of training on it.  It paid off for him and it paid off for Bert.

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Meh

Thanks to my DVR, I did not have to subject myself to either Craig Hummer or the same collection of tired ads every stage.  I was blissfully treated to the commentary (pronounced “Common-TREE”) of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen.

I did check in on the “expanded coverage” a few times, and to his credit, Hummer was better than last year.  However, that’s like saying an F is better than a zero on your exams.  He has to step up his game again next year.  His pronunciations were better and he understood more about cycling, but I just don’t get that vibe that he is a real fan of the sport outside of the Tour.

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So that’s it.  Another Tour done.  There were some fine performances and even the French got to savor some stage wins.

Am I sad to see it go?  No way, it’s only one race on the calendar; even if it is the biggest one.  There’s still San Sebastian, Worlds, the Vuelta, Lombardia, Missouri, and the list goes on.  If you really love the sport you want to see good racing and there is a lot to be had.

Now maybe I can get some work done.

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Stage 13 to be raced in 21st Century

So the UCI has ‘decided’ to lift the ban on race radios during stage 13.  I’m sure that the race organizer ASO didn’t want another blazé stage that the riders passively-aggressively rode on stage 10.

It’s refreshing to see a return to rational thought.  Even baseball doesn’t screw up this bad.  When MLB decided to experiment with instant replay, they did it during spring training games, not the World Series.

When the NFL tries out new rules, it’s done during preseason, not the playoffs.

So of course the UCI in it’s never-ending quest to mangle the sport into something incomprehensible to the average sports fan, decides to change up the rules and tactics of the sport during it’s biggest event.  Oh yeah, did I mention that they dropped the announcement of this change just weeks before the Tour?

Gadzooks, man.  You couldn’t try this during the Dauphine or Pays Basque?  Even a semi-classic or two would have been a nice “experiment”.  As Jens Voigt said, why not have the riders go without helmets or brake cables either?  It makes just as much sense.

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