Archive | August, 2005

Pro Cycling News – Non-Racing News

31 Aug

“If Armstrong was a Frenchman and we had seen the same data, we would do the same thing,” Claude Droussent of l’Equipe told French TV station LCI. I guess we can assume that means not a single of those urine samples from the 1999 Tour has been linked to a Frenchman. Certainly FdJ directeur sportif Marc Maidot thinks so. At least, I think he does. It’s kind of hard to tell. Here, you be the judge:

“Armstrong crushed the Tour de France for seven years without the smallest failure, even momentarily. His method, immutable, was infallible: to strike his adversaries at the prologue and to close the race on the first mountain stage. If one believes the revelations of L’Equipe, it corresponds with the timing of catching [those who used] EPO. Armstrong was very strong: he transformed cycling into a mathematical equation.”

Yeah. So: is he circumspect or simply a moron? Maybe the translation is just bad. I’ll let you make the call.

Meanwhile, the UCI has stopped calling the Grand Tour organizers childish names long enough to make a response to l’Equipe’s (somewhat innacurate) claim that the cycling governing body had not responded to Armstrongate. The UCI’s press release can be found here, and it is not inspiring. For those of you to lazy to read the all 77 of the words, the main verb phrase is “the UCI confirms that it is pursuing its global assessment of the situation.”

Finally, Cycling.TV continues its efforts to fill the gaping hole left in the English-speaking cycling world by, well, everybody. It’s currently replaying high profile races from this spring, such as the Tour of Romandie and the Rund Um Dun Henniger Turn. I didn’t link to results, because, if you’ve forgotten who the winners are, the action is still pretty exciting.

Pro Cycling News – Vuelta Was Da Bomb, Britan is Blowin' Up

31 Aug

Well, no. Not literally. Or figuratively. But there was a bomb threat at the finish of Stage 4 that delayed the start. Then Petacchi won. He makes it look easy. And I guess if you’re the fastest guy in the world, and you have 8 other guys determined to cart you to 150m before the line with the greatest possible speed, it is probably pretty easy to win bike races. But maybe not. I guess I’ll never really know.

The profile of today’s Stage 5 asked for a bit more panache from the fast men, and the call was answered emphatically by Credit Agricole’s Thor Hushovd, who had not a single teammate (but at least one Tom Boonen) in the group of 36 riders that contested the finale. VeloNews claimed the Norweigan “surprised them all with an explosive surge” (which I guess means other sprinters announce when they’re going to move…?), while Cyclingnews claims “an over-eager Quick.Step leadout” was the primary cause. I really have no idea because, according to OLN, bass fishing makes for more gripping television than the Vuelta.

Anglophones of the Britannic persuasion can drown their no-Vuelta sorrows in their very own bicycle race, the Tour of Britan. The first stage was a bit of a dissapointment for the homeboys, as Belgian Nick Nuyens (winner of Het Volk and apparently a proud member of the Happy Hands Club) tore the race open toward the end, leaving the closest Brit a distant third. But Disco’s Roger Hammond struck back by winning out of Stage 2’s early break, flashing a set of surprisingly good teeth and taking the top spot of an all British podium.

Pro Cycling News – Vuelta St. 3: Guess Who?

29 Aug

After being temporarily sucked into the same post-Giro vortex that claimed Mario Cipollini in 2003, Alessandro Petacchi has retrurned to our dimension to take the thrid stage of the Vuelta a Espana. The flat, stinking hot rumble through the Spanish interior went pretty much exactly to plan for the Fassa boys, as they reeled in a breakaway with 4k to, and launched Ale-Jet 150m from the line. Zabel, Boonen and Hushovd came in behind him in that order, but the victor was never in doubt.

Sensing that perhaps Armstrongate is loosing a bit of momentum (or maybe that people just don’t care), l’Equipe has refocused its journalistic ire at the UCI, saying:

“The sport in its entirety cannot, after such a revelation, stay like it is…Since Tuesday, the supreme institution of cycling, the UCI has fenced itself in a deafening silence. This one, like other silences, has to cease”

While being also apparenlty unfamiliar with the AP Style Guide, l’Equipe seems not to have noticed the numerous statements given by UCI officials on the topic. The UCI’s response? Why, the break off negotiations with the Grand Tours, of course. The organizers of the Giro, Tour and Vuelta have been wary of the ProTour ever since its inception, and things have only been getting worse. Despite constant sweeping threats from both sides earilier this season, the ProTour and the Grand Tours have all gone off sans hitch thus far; like many long-winded European debates (scroll to “Astarloa hopes”), this appears to be more about honor than anything else, and will most likely blow over without incedent.

And looks like another rider forgot to tip properly…

Pro Cycling News – McGee Comes Through, HIncapie Best of the Ouest

29 Aug

Who says cycling is boring? Well, I mean, not me, or probably any of you, but I think it’s an opinion held by most Americans. Certainly, though, yesterday’s ProTour racing action proved those Chevy-drivin’, war-hawkin’, couch potatoes wrong. First off was Stage 2 of the Vuelta a Espana, which was one of those “maybe so, maybe no” stages for the sprinters. A late Cat 2 climb (25k to go) looked like it would split the field, but with some of the strongest sqauds in memory at this year’s Vuelta, fresh legs in the fast men, and a decidedly downhill profile, a group sprint certainly wasn’t out of the question.

Or at least it wasn’t out of the question until a group of 12 roleurs representing most of the major teams dropped the hammer over the top of the climb. Attacks and tactical riding thinned the herd to 7, and with the Golden Jersey safely in his back pocket (after a strong performance in the prologue), Brad McGee led out the sprint, trying open up as big a time gap as possible over the main field, some 30 seconds back. The tactical move of the day went to Leonardo Bertagnolli of Cofidis, who had realized this some moments earlier and was parked securily on the Aussie’s wheel in the final meters, and sprinted past him to win by a bike length at the line. Exciting racing all around.

Exciting in a different way (kind of like Days of Our Lives to the Vuelta’s Die Hard) was the GP- Ouest Plouy, won by George Hincapie in a 65-man group sprint on what everyone knew from the get go was going to be a sprinter’s race. Or, rather, what everyone thought was going to be a sprinters race, as numrous high profile riders (Ullrich, Vino, DiLuca, others) made aggresive moves in to closing stages. Sadly, no one seemed willing to commit to a move, including FdJ’s Freddy Bichot, who was ordered not to help(!) in a last lap two-man move(!!) with Sylvain Chavanel(!!! – Chavanel almost won a Tour stage in a similar move with Chris Horner) so that teammate Philipe Gilbert could take 13th (!!!!) in the final sprint. This dramatic but ultimately dissapointing riding, combined with the revelations of Armstrongate made for a pretty frosty reception for Hincapie on the podium, despite his attempts to curry local favor with this chapeux tres belle. Now if you think that’s boring, I don’t really know what to tell you.

FWD: New Armstrong Allegations – Rant

27 Aug

Now, before you get all cross with me for being anti-French, I’m not. I just think many of the things French authorities do (such as ban cyclists from using certain asthma drugs not because they improve performance, but because they look kind of like other chemcials that do…) and many of the things the French media does (see any news story from l’Equipe, Le Monde, Le Parisien Libere containing the words “Lance,” “Armstrong” and “dopage“) are a tad bit ridiculous. That having been said, I like France, and acknowlege that the folks over there are by means excessively dirty (and certainly not so compared to other Europeans).

Subject: Lance and France
Friday, August 26 th, 2005; 11:00 PM PARIS, France —

Lance Armstrong’s record setting seventh Tour de France victory, along with his entire Tour de France legacy, may be tarnished by what could turn out to be one of the greatest sports scandals of all time. Armstrong is being quizzed by French police after three banned substances were found in his South France hotel room while on vacation after winning the 2005 Tour de France.

The three substances found were toothpaste, deodorant, and soap which have been banned by French authorities for over 75 years. Armstrong’s girlfriend and American rocker Sheryl Crowe is quoted as saying “we use them every day in America, so we naturally thought they’d be ok throughout Europe.”

Along with these three banned substances, French authorities also physically searched Armstrong himself and found several other interesting items that they have never seen before, most notably a backbone.

Pro Cycling News – '05 Vuelta is Underway

27 Aug

Faster than Illes Balears could say “we should have offered him a contract extension,” Rabobank’s Denis (apparently pronounced “Denny”, due to the missing “n”) rolled to victory on a tricky, 7km prologue. Just a second back was BeNeLux prologue winner Rik (I believe still prounounced “Rick,” even with the missing consonant) Verbrugghe, who was no doubt hampered by this Lemond-era TT helmet. Let that be a lesson to you all to tip your eqiupment managers. (And if that’s not motivation enough, this should really loosen your purse strings).

Other notables (likely GC contenders, that is – you can see how your own personal heros did here) turning a good performance today were Disco’s Tommy D (5th), Roberto Heras of Liberty Seguros (7th), Santi Botero (Phonak, 9th, and Lampre’s Gilberto Simoni, a surprising 10th. Those not faring so well: Botero’s teammate Floyd Landis, in 48th, and crash victim Joseba Beloki, who only managed to beat two riders, each of whom crashed harder than he did.

As Armstrongate meanders onward, USA Cycling has announced they will not sanction the Texan. “We will perform our function as stated in the guidelines,” said a USAC rep, Fair enough. Meanwhile, the head of the LNDD (the laboratoire responsable for most of the “science” behind Armstrongate) has revealed to the German press that a whopping 40 of the 70 samples from the 1998 TdF turned up positive for EPO. No shocker there, but the director did admonish readers to “be careful; that doesn’t mean that there were forty different riders who doped.” Yeah, it only shows that over 50% of the urine samples you took were hot. I don’t know how the French do math, but on this side of the Atlantic, those aren’t considered real good numbers.

Pro Cycling News – La Vuelta 2005

26 Aug

Roberto Heras. Alex Zulle. Laurent Jalabert. Tony Rominger. Sean Kelly. Freddy Maertens. Raymond Poulidor. Perhaps the greastest riders in cycling history to attempt, but never acheieve, victory in the Tour de France. What else do they all have in common? Victory in the Vuelta a Espana.

The youngest of the grand tours, la Vuelta has bounced around the calendar, from April to May to June, before finally settling in September in 1990. In it’s early days, it was an on-again, off-again competition, existing only when organizers could pull themselves away from civil and world wars long enough to get the funding together. It is, without question, a dreamer’s race, and it’s most definately fitting then, that this year’s edition commemorates the 400th anneversary of Don Quixote, the ultimate daydreamer.

This year’s startlist contains no shortage of dreamers. Floyd Landis, who gave up fame and fortune at Lance Armstrong’s side to nearly miss a ProTour berth on the Phonak sqaud; Aitor Gonzales, whose career vacillates wildly between incomprable brilliance and deadening mediocrity; and Izidro Nozal, who came out of nowhere to claim the jersey de oro in 2003, before being shattered just as shockingly by his now-teammate Heras in the final uphill TT.

The sprinters on hand, however, are no mean group of wannabes. Erik Zabel returns to competition, with, for perhaps the first time ever, an entire team behind him. TdF maillot vert winner Thor Hushovd will toe the line as well, set to go elbow-to-elbow against Paris-Roubaix winner Tom Boonen, and reigning sprint maestro Alessandro Petacchi. Though most of these names will drop out halfway through, the first week on the wandering plains of La Mancha should promise plenty of action in the final kilometers.

Yes, the 2005 Vuelta looks to be one for the ages. And it used to be, back in 2003, you could watch it on this pathetic, fly-by-night cable channel whose name escapes me. Now, if you don’t have a satellite network that lets you buy Unipublic and you’re fluent in Spanish, thanks to OLN (yes, that’s what that network was called), you are SOL.

Customer Service

26 Aug

So I’ve been running through the info at SiteMeter and more and more hits on this page are coming from search engines. That’s good, because it means a)I can put “Search Engine Optimization Skills” on my resume and b)random folks looking for a cycling blog could concievably find Cyclocosm.

However, lots of the search strings that land people here aren’t specifically satiated by the information on this page. In an effort to increase return viewership, I will now attempt to address some of the recent searches I have recieved:

“orbea orca bike reviews” (google)
The Orca is a sweet bike. Feathery ride, super-stiff, especially around the bottom bracket. Slice-and-dice handling without the “chuck-you-over-the-bars” sensation of similarly quick bikes. I’ve logged about 40 miles (30 of them racing) on one, and dang, it’s nice. I haven’t reviewed it because I cannot afford it.

“highest hematocrit riis pantani” (google)
If it’s a comparison, I gotta go with Riis on that one. I’ve heard now from several different sources that the famously bald Dane was known as “Mr. 60%” back before the UCI instated it’s hematocrit limits. Anyone who’s seen him simply abuse the peloton on the way up Sestriere in ’96 will agree with me.

“nashbar jersey uncool” (google)
Whoa. You are totally wrong on that one. Nashbar is by far my favorite mail-order retailer, and a great alternative for anyone who’s had a falling out with the local shop. Sure, their jerseys aren’t the most stylish, but if you rock one, people will be like “damn, that dude is secure.” Trust me.

“road bike review Versailles lemond” (yahoo)
Have I ever used the word “Versailles” on this page? Obviously, this was a not a Google referral. Oh, and the bike is gonna be way laid back (unlike Lemond himself, who seems to be way agro these days).

“raphael palmiero steroids (MSN)
Dude, you searched with MSN? You deserved to land on this page.

“ritchey crankset” (dogpile)
That crank is so god-awful, coming here may have saved your life.

“cycling hour record” (yahoo)
Yeah, you’d have to get a search engine to find any news on the new hour record that was set this summer. The links I supplied no doubt referred him to what he was looking for. Chalk up another victory for the blogosphere and search engine optimization.

Pro Cycling News – The Texan Strikes Back

25 Aug

No more stonewalling and say-nothing press releases from Lance Armstrong. No, he hasn’t admitted to doping (and, to save you the suspense, he never will, guilty or not), but he is going on Larry King tonight to protest his innocence to the country. In doing so, Armstrong becomes the latest person to apologize for not being guilty on that news program, following in the footsteps of such upstanding characters as Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bandar (post 9-11), Tanya Harding (post-Nancy Kerrigan) and Monica Lewinski (post-well, y’know…). Anyway, since it has to keep up with l’Equipe, Le Monde released a report today about a mystery man who visited Team Discovery with a “blue ice box” (apparently, we’re meant to conclude it was full of drugs) during this year’s TdF. After being tipped off by the Italians (yeah, there’s a reliable source), French police staked out Disco’s lodgings at Pau, but their cover was blown by a local TV news team.

Cyclingnews has even launched a titanic special report on the whole scandal. Included in it are your guide to doping and getting away scot-free, a close examination of the ethical issues involved, and an interview with TIAA-Cref director, fashion victim and former Postie, Jonathan Vaughters. Perhaps the best quote of the incedent comes from Jay-Veezee himself, as he comments on the relative ineffectiveness of HGH and steroids:

“The users can have their balls shrivel up and their foreheads grow larger and whatever and good luck to them, but it’s the oxygen vector drugs that are really powerful.”

Lost in all this nonsese are a few bits of actual news: Stuey O’Grady is out of the Vuelta (as reported yesterday) due to a knee injury, which will also keep him out of Worlds (these two second parts are new). This is good news for Cycling Australia, who might otherwise have had to deal with a wallaby fight between O’Grady and mate Robbie McEwen, because had each been selected to the World Championships Road Race team, and apparently they don’t get along. Also out of Vuelta is Relax-Fundabria rider Oscar Laguna, who was “unfit to race” due to a high hematocrit (which may actually have made him more fit, but that’s just how the UCI does things…) And finally, feast on these spy photos: some very ugly levers, and some very expensive wheels.

Pro Cycling News – Armstrongate Continues

24 Aug

*sigh* Why do I have to cover this tripe? Why must I reiterate this war of press releases between haughty Euros and stubborn Texans? Anyway, reaction to the Armstrong Affair falls into three distinct molds: the Boardman, who condemns Lance as clearly guilty while questioning the motivation behind the tests, the Verbruggen, who adopts a wait and see attitude, and the Lewis, who is convinced this is all garbage. I suppose you could toss in the Fignon, who simply doesn’t care. Already, internationally recognized labs (not in France) are questioning the science of L’Equipe’s investigation, while in Germany, a question of legality has arisen. My take: once again, this will come to nothing. Unlike the Mueseew post-mortem of last year, not enough solid evidence exists (unless some “C” samples turn up), and even with Dick Pound running WADA, the Texan will not be sanctioned.

In news with real impact on the cycling world, Kim Kirchen looks to be the latest rider circling the T-Mobile drain, while Erik Zabel and Gilberto Simoni are 99%, almost but not quite definately joining Domina Vacanze and Quick-Step, respectively, for next season. In the realm of 100% certainty is Stuart O’Grady’s absence from this year’s Vuelta a España, which begins in three day’s time. Oh, and Mario Cipollini got his license revoked for going 115kph in a 50kph zone just outside the Italian City of Lucca. I’m betting he’ll show that sanction as much as he used to show UCI regulations. Andiamo, Cipo!