Archive | July, 2005

Doping (maybe), Cysts, OLN and Norweigans – News

27 Jul

So maybe someone (other than Dario Frigo) was doping at this year’s TdF? Samples taken from a Stage 5 rider (both leader Armstrong and stage winner McEwen were non-randomly tested that day) reveal traces of norpseudoephedrine, which, though nearly identical to the psuedophedrine in Sudafed is for some reason illegal. WADA commented that is was unlikely the result will be considered a real doping offense, and given the generally foul attitude of the aptly-named WADA chief Dick Pound, this probably means it was found in concentrations less than the 5µg/ml allowed.

Oscar Friere looks to be in trouble for this year’s World Championships. Friere, who could break the record of 3 world titles held by (among others) Eddy Merckx in his home capitol of Madrid, has been slow to recover from a cyst removal earlier this season. Friere will miss this season’s Vuelta a Espana as a result. Not that anyone in America will notice, though. Despite having some of its best coverage in recent memory, and drawing over 1.7 million people to the final stage of this year’s Tour, it remains unclear whether the “Only Lance Network” will be showing any of the ’05 Vuelta. After being able to catch every stage of Roberto Heras’ amazing comeback win in ’03, ’04 offered viewers only hour-long weekly recaps. The full listing of OLN’s cycling coverage for the rest of the season can be found here

One last item of note: there seems to be some debate (see comments) on whether or not extra salty licorice fish taste good. Well, they don’t. And, trust me, this is not an opinion only held by sissy men. In fact, it appears only sissy men enjoy those noisome candy abominations. Those in the know will be well aware of candy’s popularity in Norway; the same Norway from which this year’s maillot vert Thor Hushovd hails. Now get this: Mr. Most Consistent Sprinter was too weak to make it through 3 weeks of the Tour without having his mommy around to cook him up potatoes. “I get fed up with all that pasta,” whined a limp-wristed Hushovd. What a wuss. I bet he’d prefer a nice warm bag of salted licorice gummies.

Sharkies – Review

27 Jul

Interesting. A fully organic gummy candy. Seems counterintuitive. Also, it’s marketed as an energy food for workouts. Let’s see how they stand up against other products on the market.

Cost: 2. Retail is 3 dollars a pouch. A 12-pouch box of non-organic gummy candy is 6 bucks. That does not compare favorably.

Portability: 4. Pouch is larger than most energy foods, but is very easy to compact and doesn’t seem bulky in a jersey pocket. Plus, if opened correctly, it’s essentially resealable (compared to an energy bar or goo container).

Ease of Use: 3 If you drop an energy bar while riding, all of it is going to hit the road and get dirty. With Sharkies, you’ll drop one or two little fish, but the rest of the bag is safe. If you’re prone to dropping things this is an advantage; if you aren’t, the smaller fish may prove harder to hold. Pick your poison, I guess.

Taste: 2 (compared to other gummi candies; it’s good for an energy food). After extra salty licorice fish, probably the worst tasting gummy candy I’ve eaten. It doesn’t taste bad per se, just unusual. Like someone left the rinds on the organically-grown oranges when they threw them into the Sharkies-making machine. The aftertaste is especially weird. Still, miles beyond a Cola Buzz Clif Shot.

Punch: 2. There’s 170 calories in a bag, but I just don’t know where they all go. Eating a bag over a minute or two felt like eating half a Gu. Sharkies do offer two distinct advantages over most energy foods, though. If you’ve got an odd or unpredictable metabolism that doesn’t respond well to being swamped by sugers, they hit (and eat) more like a regular food than anything else I’ve tried. Also, they let you add in calories a little bit at time, if you’re one of those atheletes who’s super bent out of shape about steady caloric input during exercise.

Final Thoughts: A good attempt, but not that great. It is nice to see a wholly organic energy food (other than regular old fruit, I suppose), especially considering the warning label on the back of Enervit Cheerpacks that warn they may contain “crustaceans.” Maybe if you’re big into natural foods and adding energy to your system a little bit at a time, this could be for you. Otherwise, stick to the classics and supplement with gummy candy from your local 7-11.

Let the Transfers Begin – News

26 Jul

Vino to Liberty Seguros! So my 2006 speculative Top 5 is wrong already (but not nearly as wrong as Knut thinks). Meanwhile, World TT champion Mick Rogers and 2004 Tour of Germany winner Patrik “Stinky” Sinkewitz have chosen to throw away the next two years of their careers in the T-Mobile vacuum. I have two words for you boys: Santiago Botero.

Though yesterday’s post gave the impression that everyone is taking their shots on Lance now that he’s retired, quite the opposite is true, Armstrong, apparently quite unable to comprehend why anyone would rather ride for themselves than tie his bootsraps, has had a rocky relationship with former teammates, Floyd Landis and Tom Boonen in particular. Armstrong and Landis had been trading beef in everything from Sports Illustrated to L’Equipe since Landis’ transfer last winter, and Boonen had exchanged some “heated emails” with Lance after his defection to Quickstep. (The image of Boonen, hunched over his PC, fretfully trying to explain to Lance in broken English that he’s leaving because he’s sick of helping American riders lose Belgian races that he could easily be winning is almost too funny for words). But each backtracked slightly this past Sunday; Boonen said Big Tex was a “complicated man,” but acknowledged that their bitterness was now in the past, and Landis thanked Lance and Johan for all their help. Aww, aren’t happy endings sweet?

Eggs and Coffee for the TdF Hangover – News

25 Jul

What’s the word in cycling these days? Nada mucho. Everyone’s tired after three Red Bull-fueled weeks of mayhem and no one outside the Walloon region of Belgium wants to race or even think about racing.

Just to remind everyone that the ProTour is waaaaaaay more important than the Tour de France, the UCI released updated ProTour rankings today. Danilo D of Liquigas retains his lead, with Lance Armstrong a long distant second. Vino rounds out the Top 3, though, and could give chase, if his teammates don’t chase him down.

1) Danilo Di Luca, Liquigas, 184 pts
2) Lance Armstrong, Discovery Channel, 139 pts
3) Alexandre Vinokourov, T-Mobile, 136 pts
4) Tom Boonen, Quick Step, 120 pts
5) Alessandro Petacchi, Fassa Bortolo, 111 pts

Now, Lance Armstrong is pretty much the only cyclist recognized by the world of American secular sports, and as is the custom of those professionally employed by the media, he is thus prone to scrutiny. Most rants against are very similar to this piece (only the Google cache is available), which identifies clearly its author as the proud owner of a GED. If you can’t find a problem with it, this here rant by Pat O’Grady (in my opinion, with Dede Demet-Barry, the only thing seperating Velonews from Bicycling) rips it up pretty nicely. My favorite line:

“Put it this way: Williams could peddle a bicycle for a couple hours in the Tour de France but Armstrong couldn’t survive a single hit in the NFL.”

Ok, let’s say you’re playing football and you’re about to get hit by a linebacker. Now take off your pads, unform, jockstrap and cup and replace them with lycra. Now take off your facemask and make your helmet weigh only 14 ounces. Now take that linebacker and make him going 35 mph, and, oh yeah, turn him into concrete. Now have him hit you. THAT is what it’s like to crash in a bike race.

Anyway, you can expect that sort of thing from some semi-literate ex-JV football star throwing together soundbites in The Palukaville Post. But from ESPN’s Page 2? Come on, guys, I expect better. Hunter Thompson is once again spinning in his grave. Some objections:

1) Deion Sanders is football’s Theirry Marie: really good at only one thing (cover corner/racing prologues) that’s only rarely relevant to the overall outcome of a contest.

2) Lance is still not the greatest cyclist of all time. Eddy Merckx is, then maybe Hinault. Lance might not even be the best TdF rider ever (more to come on this in a rant…)

3)Being in oxygen debt does not make pressure any easier to handle.

A more full rebuttal of Skip Bayliss’s article can be found here.

Wildly Unfounded Conclusions I've Drawn from This Year's Tour – Rant

25 Jul

1) American Cycling is on the rise (but not necessarily on the up-and-up – see #2). Three Americans in the top 10, two in yellow, three with stage wins, a few near misses from Chris Horner, Discovery Channel with three stage wins and it’s second grand tour win of the year. And just imagine if Tyler hadn’t been busted…

2) There’s some new dope out there. After the Festina Affair in ’98, Le Societe du Tour de France decided to begin shortening the race, in an attempt to keep riders from being pressured to dope for the sometimes 300k+ stages of the early to mid 90s. After the shortening, average speeds did not increase. But then this year – whoof. 41.654 kph! People don’t seem to be climbing that much better (a massive increase in watts produced by mountain stage winners in the 90’s is considered one of the first notable effects of EPO), but anytime the race was flat for the first two weeks, people were flying. Maybe “The Clear” has worked it’s way from the diamond to the peloton? Of course, there’s still no test for HGH, either.

4) T-Mobile needs to fold already. Seriously. It took a legendarily high hematocrit for Bjarne “Mr. 60%” Riis win the team’s first tour in 1996. The tailor-made 6% slog up to Arcalis, no pressure from team management, and the inconsistent, one-dimensional riding of Pantani and Virenque put Ullrich in yellow in ’97. And since then, T-Mobile has been one crazy circle of self-destruction. Vino had escaped it until this year, when his teammates gobbled up his attacks time after time. The worst part is that team management continues to insist all is well, despite the obvious infighting. Erik Zabel isn’t getting old, he’s just getting worn down by the sick Teutonic soap opera that is his training environment.

5) Alexandre Vinokourov can win the Tour de France. Remember what happened when Basso joined CSC? Fassa’s reason for letting him go was that “he could never win the tour.” As much as I respect Johan Bruyneel, I think he’s underestimating just how much of a dent being on T-Mobile for a few years can put in your riding ability. Put Vino on a no-ego squad like Ag2r, get the UCI to award them Fassa’s Pro Tour spot, throw in a few climbing domestiques and get the heck out of the way.

6) There aren’t enough time trials. How is Jan Ullrich supposed to have a shot at winning the Tour when there’s only one TT that can really impact the GC? Tour organizers have diddled with courses to try and avoid giving riders like Eddy Merckx Miguel Indurain an undue edge; so why did the organizers play to Armstrong’s favor by basically eliminating his rival ‘s favorite discipline? Tours of old used to have 3 or 4 TTs, not including a TTT and prologue. I know it’s less exciting to watch, but the lack of a real selection in the first week of the ’04 Tour eliminated several contenders before the real GC race even began. The Tour needs TTs, or you’ll end up with 200 riders taking crazy risks on every sprint, descent and corner in hopes of snaring just a day in the Maillot Jaune.

7) Next year’s Top 5:
Alejandro Valverde, Illes Balears, avg. speed 42.1 kph
Ivan Basso, at 31 seconds
Alexandre Vinokourov, Credit Agricole at 58sec
Yaroslav Popovich, Discovery Channel, 1:01
Jan Ullrich, T-Mobile, 2:59.

That's a Wrap – News

24 Jul

Vino, the sports most eligible free-agent next season, gets every team manager from here to Giancarlo Ferretti even hornier to have him on the roster for next season with an astounding last lap break ‘n fake, chasing Bradley McGee, feigning exhaustion, and then blasting past the Aussie for the win. Every team manager that is, except Johan Bruyneel, who respects Vino’s abilities, but doesn’t think he can win the Tour de France. Might the revered strategist be eating his words next July? I can hardly wait to see.

All this just days after Lance finally clocked in a stage win, taking the final TT easily, but not overpoweringly. Bobby Julich put in a good ride to take 4th on the stage after three weeks of racing – could a stab at Vuelta from the Coloradan be the next trick up Bjarne Riis’ sleeve? Speaking of Denmark, anyone know how to spell “meltdown” in Danish? R-a-s-m-u-s-s-e-n. The Dansk just seem to have awful luck in final Tour TTs. Who could forget Riis’ temper tantrum/discus throw that sent $6,000 of Pinarello sailing into a French cornfield in 1997?

The Green Jersey battle was kind of a disappointment. Hushovd’s cause was advanced dramatically by the number of people who rumbled home ahead of the field. At any rate, he only needed to place in the top 8 or so to hold his lead, with the intermediate sprints having been either gobbled up by Vino or cancelled by the Tour management. Ah well. I’ll tabulate the final points of the Tour game sometime tomorrow.

Ride for the Cure – Report

22 Jul

People in Aspen look at me funny. A lot. Like when I don’t know where Highlands is. No matter how many times I tell them: I don’t live here in the winter, and I have no desire to live here in the winter. 30 bucks is too much for a lift ticket. You think I am going to pay 80?. “Oh, well it’s way higher in Vail” they say, not realizing that I don’t care. Anyway…lots of weird looks at registration (upon finally reaching Highlands) when I say I’ve never ridden to Maroon Bells before. I figure it can’t be that extreme if the freaking transit bus goes there.

The race starts with a bit of downhill, and my teammates, or at least the few who climb worse than I do, started it by gunning off the line. Mad field splittage resulting in a group of 12 with 3 ute city guys. Awesome. Except I can barely keep pace, sitting at the back. Still, dudes in front of me keep dribbling off, and I keep chasing back around them. I’m keeping a good spin up, shouting up ahead every time someone attacks etc. And after a while, I don’t feel so awful.

I probably feelt ok because the course is pathetically easy. It’s like 7 miles at 5% grade. Maybe once or twice it kicks up to 7%. It should have been the sort of climb I love, and I should have been mashing, not spinning, but there’s that altitude thing (not as bad today as it was at Woody Creek, 4 days earlier), and every once in a while, I try to spin uphill because the guys in CTS jerseys worship climbing 120 rpms like some sort of weird cycling Jesus.

Eventually, by a humorous “Marmot crossing sign” the road kicks up, and some guy attacked. The field splits up a bunch, and Elliot who used to ride for University of Colorado takes the win. Mike won a sprint for third, and I think Dylan, Ute City man #3 was right ahead of me, wherever we ended up. (I couldn’t stay for results). It was a pretty silly race, I thought, but when I got back to Highlands and the people saw I’d climbed the thing in 34 minutes, out came the funny looks again.

Woody Creek Criterium – Report

22 Jul

Ah, it’s so good to be back racing in The Valley. The unbelievably slow starts, the sketchy riding, the incredibly thin air…truly, la dolche vita. This week’s race went down not on roads, but on the Woody Creek Race track, which was purchased a few years back by the private and exclusive Aspen Auto Racing Club or something like that. Thus, as the track was intended for motorcars, I was expecting not to need to use my brakes. As it turns out, the very last corner before the finish line (see map here – finish line is directly opposite “existing finish line” on map; proposed sections do not exist.) was over 180 degrees, and, with the massive tailwind on the straightaway before it, most definitely needed brakes.

As usual, I arrived late, around 5:59pm, but the Men’s A start wasn’t until 7, so I had plenty of time. Got to chill, meet some teammates, show off the new team kit, and warm up. The course was dead flat, and most of the corners easy, but a massive headwind at the finish managed to keep everything together. ON the line, the organizers switched things up to make the event a 15 lap points race, points on 10 to go, 5 to go and double at the finish. I’d never done a points race, but I was betting on it being my kind of thing.

The start was pathetic slow, even with the headwind, so I up and r-u-n-n-o-f-t right around the 3rd corner and down the back stretch, getting up to 37mph, before putting on the brakes to cruise through the hairpin at around 25. It was tough going down the home stretch, but my little flier did several important things: 1)let me gauge how fast I could swing the hairpin; 2) let me gauge how hard sprinting into the headwind would be; 3) made the field think I was looking to breakaway – and by corollary, not a good sprinter; 4) revealed which teams/riders were looking to keep the field together by showing me who was first to chase; and 5) raised the pace. All this from 30-40 seconds of moderate effort. God, I love tactics!

Anyway, I kept cool after being caught again just before the first corner, and sat in around 5, 6th wheel. The jastling for position wasn’t so bad, but Charlie from The Hub has a bad habit of halfwheeling people. Turns out, I learned, after offering him a teammate’s wheel so he’d stop hovering between us just off to port, that part of Charlie’s crash damage is he don’t see too good, and prefers to ride between lines like that. Scary.

The bell rang, and I took a little pull and slid into second wheel. Not a whole lot of fighting involved, and I found myself lead out nicely by an older chap in an Excel Sports jersey. Though it was a little far out, I said “Aw, why not?” and cranked it up, popping around perfectly into the wind. I had so much time staring at that line unmolested that I took a little peek behind me, just to make sure other dudes were sprinting. Well, they most certainly were, so I got back to my work at took the first sprint by a wheel. Sweet! 5 points pretty much guarantees a Top 10 finish. (The distrib was 5, 3, 2, 1.)

Then things kinda went downhill. Teammate Mike (who’s 15 and darn strong, if tactically questionable) busted OTF with some guy in a Carlton College kit. This allowed me to sit on, which was plenty fine with me; after 5 days back at altitude, I was having a mother of a time clearing any lactate. Ajax decided they wanted to chase, and the field started splitting. I really wanted to be near the front, but man, was I cooked, gasping and whooping like an asthmatic bullfrog. I dropped to second group, and was clinging to the last wheel (like a child). Fortunately (for me, not the team) Mike got reeled in as the bell rang, and things cooled off while people at the front played “not me.” Someone one the next sprint, but I have no idea who.

After much fighting and gasping over the next few laps, I got up to the front group (let’s say 12 guys). At two laps to go, Ajax had a rider up the road, which was fine by me, as I was pretty confident in my ability to take the second place points if he got away. Then Ajax, who had apparently stolen T-Mobile’s play book just before the start, began chasing themselves down. Attacks flew, and I kept the chase on until just after the bell, at which point I hit a lactic wall, beyond which I would not be able to sprint. So I swung off and let someone behind me chase. Mike flew by me and hooked up with the group, but was too far back to factor in the sprint. I was gapped, for sure, but lost no positions (I hit the line 9th or so?), and my winning the first sprint was good enough for 4th overall. Awesome! I love points races!

The Gods Must be Crazy -News

22 Jul

Hincapie winning on a mountaintop? Now Guerrini taking it on the flat? This has been an odd tour to say the least. I’m changing my picks for the next two days to Robbie McEwen in the TT and Lance Armstrong on the Champs Elysees. Yesterday’s stage was equally wierd, with CSC cranking up the heat on what should have been a routine, slow, late-Tour, breakaway-won stage with no GC impact. The most pain inflicted should have been on the American viewer as they watched (at 8 in the morning) a pair of jiggling French buttcheeks belonging to a steaker on the final climb. Instead, Rassmussen and others lost a fair amount of time. Cadel Evens, on the other hand, looked pretty nasty sitting in with the big boys. Maybe he’s one to watch next year?

Speaking of next year, the battle is already for this season’s table scraps. Vino, a definate to leave T-Mobile at the end of the season, is the hot property among French sqauds at the moment, much to the chagrin of Christophe Moreau, who apparently took great pride in being the height of mediocrity. Sam Damon, on the other hand, will be pleased to learn that Fassa Bortolo is folding in 2006, sending riders like Juan Antonio Flecha and Alessandro Petacchi (complete w/leadout train) scurrying like rats from a sinking ship.

How About that Paolo? – News

20 Jul

Paolo Savodelli can come and drink on my yacht anytime. The guy is about as cool and savvy as they come. If he had a little more raw power, he’d be unstoppable in the non-cobbled, hilly classics. (Amstel, Lombardi, Fleche, Liege etc). He did totally muff a corner on that final descent, though, letting and embarassingly outclassed Sebastien Hinault gap him. It was great, too, to have Hinault’s HR over the last few K, so that he looked like less of a whimp when he just sat up with 500m to go. And props to Kurt-Asle Arvesen for the “screw you guys” attack at 1.2k. If he’d gone at 1.1, he would have won it.

As for this best team ever business? Please. I’m baffled how Phil and Paul can be like “This is amazing! Lance’s best team every” in one breath, and then “But why hasn’t Lance won a stage yet?” the next. A good supporting team makes the leader win stages. If Lance rode this squad in 2003, Jan Ullrich would have won the Tour. It’s just lucky for Discovery that Basso lost time early and CSC has been hemorraging riders all Tour, and that T-Mobile is, well, T-Mobile. The Matt Stevenson of the professional peloton. I love how they keep attacking in big fits with 2+ riders, right as they crest hills. It’s like the team leadership has no comprehention of how easy it is to eat a gap on a descent. At least Vino’s realized what’s good for him and is jumping ship.

The battle for green remains tight. You could argue whether or not Stuart O’Grady scored an important psychological victory by taking the group sprint for 28th ahead of Hushoved. I really see no reason to bother here. All I gotta say is that once again, it should be fun all the way to the Champs Elysees.