Archive | March, 2009

Looking Forward to Flanders/Roubaix

31 Mar

George Hincapie by Flickr user kwc Yes, I know I promised you another How the Race was Won last night. But instead, I got tied up in another project I’ve been working on. And I know I make fun of Cyclingnews for the their party-like-it’s-1999 web design, but man, laying out a page from scratch in CSS is no fun at all. I would highly recommend letting other people do the hard stuff, and then modifying their template to your needs. Anyway, I’ll have a new video up tonight. Blogger’s honor.

On to the news: you know who says he can’t win Tour of Flanders (sorry about the Dutch)? Phillipe Gilbert. It’s ok, though—I’m sure his Silence-Lotto teammates loved to hear that, since they’re already having such an awesome season on the pavé. Maybe they should import their mountain squad to take on the Northern Classics instead. Cadel Evans—glass collarbone and all—used to be a mountain biker, so he might do alright at the Ronde. I wouldn’t hold out much hope for Charly Wegelius in such a race, but it sure would be awesome to watch him Tweet it.

Today also marks the start of the Three Days of Who Cares?, in which a bevy of second tier classics riders attempt to get a win against all the big names simply there to fine tune their legs and not crash the heck out of themselves. Not participating in this circus of mass destruction is George Hincapie, who is feeling better than ever. After his final punch at MSR, I don’t doubt it. Here’s to a spring with halfway-decent team support and glitch-free steerer tubes.

Weekend Wrap-up, Renaming Races, Below the BikeRadar

30 Mar

photo by Flickr user GasMunky, cc-by-sa-nc-3.0Ah, a fine weekend of spring racing in Belgium at E3 Prijs and Brabantse Pijl. Impressive wins by Pipo Pozzatto, who was no doubt stinging from my jibe in last week’s How the Race was Won, and Anthony Geslin, who’s probably still in shock that he’s won anything outside the Coupe de France series. Should have another How the Race was Won up on E3 by tonight sometime.

Off the cobbles, Jens Voight (pictured) won his fifth Criterium International, equalling the record of eternal Tour second Raymond Poulidor. One more win and I think there’d be no question about renaming the race GP Jens Voight in the German’s honor. I’m also a fairly fervent proselytizer for renaming the Tour of California as the “Tour of Levi Leipheimer”, since the race jury seems determined to put him on the top step, regardless of the actual racing.

Seriously, though, Levi has continued to put on an impressive campaign, gobbling up each little stage race he puts on his plate like so many bacon-wrapped cocktail weenies. Last person I saw knock back tune-up events with such aplomb ended up winning the Tour de France—even if he only got to keep the title for a couple weeks. I should make it abundantly clear that I don’t think Levi has/will have this problem; his issue at the Grandest of Tours may be far less serious but far more irritating (if you need “il grande freddo” translated, I would humbly suggest following a different sport).

Speaking of irritating, who saw me absolutely pwn BikeRadar on Twitter last Friday? Here are my replies to their poorly-conceived attempt to “debate” global warming, instead of covering, say, bike racing. Realizing defeat, the cowards deleted their mealy-mouthed miasma of an argument in an attempt to preserve what little pride and journalistic integrity their battered organization has left. Where are the Jeff Jones of yesteryear?

More Signs of Internal Strife at Astana

27 Mar

sorry it looks like crap, made it on a PC

Twitter Dropping Knowledge on Cycling

27 Mar

Oak Grove St. by Flickr user Andrew CiscelAh, I love twitter. Practically does my job for me. Yesterday, I posited to the Internets that Rock Racing was little more than a drain-sieve for washed up dopers. And some dude said I was crazy. Oh yeah, Rayh62? Then what about this? Heck, I wouldn’t be surprised if Michael Ball went so far as to exhume the body of Marco Pantani for cloning to shore up his roster and supporting cast. And has anyone seen Richard Virenque recently?

Speaking of some fishy deals, did anyone see Juan Jose Cobo at Castilla y Leon yesterday? I know at least one Twitterer did, though they didn’t go the extra mile to say exactly what this might mean. More interesting, perhaps, was the race behind, in which Alberto Contador politely escorted Levi Leipheimer to the line with the American’s race lead intact. All you people flapping your gums about the supposed Astana Drama this season, please—have you ever seen Johan Bruyneel DS a stage race before? He can screw up a Classic like nobody’s business, but for multi-day events, no one keeps it locked down tighter.

Now Damiano Cunego—there’s a guy who’s stirred up some drama. Every time I see him win a mountaintop finish, I reflexively search for the obligatory whine quote from Gilberto Simoni. I never thought I’d say this, but I miss Simoni. I can’t wait for the Giro to start, just to get him back in the headlines. He’s probably the cleanest rider—along with Alessandro Petacchi—to ever serve a dope suspension. Though with WADA’s ever-growing vigilance, I think we can expect a few more riders to be unwittingly added to their club.

As I look forward to the weekend, things seem a bit “>soft on the racing front, at least in light of the fireworks awaiting us in the weeks upcoming. The only thing killing my enthusiasm for the spring classics is, as always, race organizers shutting the key players out of their biggest races. I realize organizers have reasons, everything from past indiscretions to being too awesome, but it’s a backward attempt.

And I’ll leave off expanding on that until later…

Result Lists, Power Polls, and Short Beds

26 Mar

lanky vansummeren, public domainWith so many results flying around, chances are most of them are unimportant. Dwars door Vlaanderen is kind of a big deal, but you wouldn’t have gotten that impression from CN’s coverage, which had no live report. It’s a bummer, too, because it’s not every day Kevin Van Impe wins a two-up sprint, especially against a slab of beef like Nico Eeckhout. Not featured in the results: Robbie McEwen. Haven’t been seeing much of him lately.

Cyclingnews’ CyL coverage was so bad they didn’t even bother giving it a byline. I’ll link to VN (and you know how much I love doing that…) because at least they have pictures. According to the Internet, though, I should be wicked ticked off about CyL, mostly because of these dudes. Of course, if I took up the “hate-all-riders-that-ever-doped-ever” mantle I’d have to be aghast at pretty much every bike race between 1922 and 1998. At least I have dudes like Cunego, whose hematocrit is an honest 52%, that I can still ethically cheer for, right?

Anyway, as a result of these results, Podium Cafe has a new Power Poll out to tell us that Quickstep is better than anyone else at riding the cobbles, and an interesting Power Poll logo to insist the visual aesthetic of Ren and Stimpy is far from dead. I’d put Silence-Lotto even lower than 5th and you’re going to feel silly if Daniele Bennati wins Gent-Wevelgem in a few weeks, but hey—your poll, not mine. And as a parting note, if you’re organizing a race and planning to invite Johan Vansummeren (pictured above) consider procuring a longer-than-average bed. The boy is a bit lanky, you know.

Starting to Feel Like Home Again

25 Mar

Levi my Flickr user richardmasoner. CC-BY-SA-2.0 I’ll admit it: I’ve been feeling a bit rusty lately. I was clinging to my MSR start list this weekend like a confused chemistry student to a periodic table. Cycling.TV’s cataract-inducing picture quality and a whole slew of anonymous-looking white kits—Katosha, Serramenti PVC Diquiblahblahblah, Katusha, SaxoBank, I’m looking at you—sure didn’t help things. And that Austrian doping case? Some dude I’ve never heard of.

But now, names I recognize are winning races. In fact, they’re coming in first, second, and third. And the “real” media still seems pretty much clueless: still has no RSS feed (and, if you really want to nerd out, a table-based layout), and the Lance getting surgery story is still worthy of three different headlines, ranging from “no big deal” to “oh sh–!” Even with the big recession, there’s still pixels being chewed up by overpriced weight-weenie fap and how best spend your piles of excess cash in Milan.

So as it was back when, if you want to find interesting stories, you’ll have to go to the blogs (and I guess Twitter, now, but you need to be on your toes). Podium Cafe has a nice rundown of the rumbly bits of today’s Dwars door Vlaanderen, the venerable Bobke Strut proves that even retro grouches had retro grouches, and Robbie McEwan loves crappy weather fancies his chances of a win. All in all, it’s a lot like coming back to visit your parents’ house; sure, the decor might have changed a bit, but you know its home when you find 20 containers of sour cream going bad in the fridge because your mom just couldn’t resist the price.

Crashing Le Fête Dopage

23 Mar

Crashelbacher has but one nickname, and it ain't Der Hasi. Well I suppose I should by psyched about this. Austrian doping authorities did their best to fire up a witch hunt by investigating a mysterious 32-year-old cyclist known only as “K”, and it’s safe to say that very few pixels have gone to waste in speculation of his identity. Perhaps even more amazing is that crashes are gobbling up the headlines and the fellow on the left here isn’t in a one of them. Did I mention he’s Austrian? No?

Anyway, crashes are the story of the day, probably because of the quarter million or so Twitter users taking daily inspiration from Lance Armstrong. Sure, there were other tumbles, but Stuart O’Grady smashing himself into a million pieces is practically a seasonal occurrence, and when Farrar goes down, it’s with such flare that the world can’t help but take notice.

But Lance Armstrong has always been pretty steady on a bike. The only other rash of crashes I can recall from his career was during his first comeback, back in 1998. Is it rust? A lost step? I give the Texan a lot of crap, but he looked better than any man ought to after three years off the bike, sitting in comfortably for an intense 310k training ride.

Word is the fracture is no biggie, and I can’t imagine Armstrong putting to much stock in his Castilla y Leon performance. Still, what the man formerly known as the Iguana needs most now is racing miles and that’s the one thing he can’t get with his collarbone all ganked up. Word on the street seems to be that the Giro’s a no-go now, but I get this feeling that come May he’ll be raring to tear it all the way to Milan, or, in the classic tradition of the Alamo, (metaphorically) die trying.

How The Race Was Won – Milan-Sanremo 2009

22 Mar

My incisive video analysis of yesterday’s race. Apologies for the poor audio, USB mic is in the mail. Ask about any muddled parts in the comments and I will clarify.
[right click – iTunes compatible download]

Also available in a heinous Flash version on popular video-sharing site YouTube, and a marginally better version on Vimeo.

Milan Sanremo 2009 – Another Good Finish, but…

21 Mar

Another good finish, but man—what a stinker for the first 295k! Well, no. I suppose that’s a bit harsh, but you’ve got to admit, there was a definite lack of late-race fireworks. I counted no attacks on the Cipressa and a mere two on the Poggio: a seemingly half-hearted tug from Davide Rebellin that barely strung out the field, and a second, more convincing effort from Pippo Pozzatto that did manage to break things up a bit, but came so close to the end of the climb as to be irrelevant.

[right click – iTunes compatible download]

Vincenzo Nibali tried to open things up on the descent, and Luis Leon Sanchez took a go just outside a kilometer, but no one gets far when they’re spending that much time looking over their shoulders. George Hincapie came to the front just inside a K to go and cranked for a solid 30 seconds, before Hushovd’s lead-out man Heinrich Haussler jumped at 250 meters to go. Had Haussler been trying to win the race at any point in the preceding 300k, he might have just held out to the line, but the burst that won Cavendish TdF stages four times over last July just manage to eclipse the German’s early gap.

But ugh, before that finish… Michele Scarponi burying himself to no apparent purpose on the Cipressa. Liquigas and Caisse D’Epargne hammering between the two final climbs in support of what? Some breakneck descending and a late stage attack so brief Sanchez didn’t even have to to shout “Hola, Mama!” at the camera moto. I realize that the ethic of leader an supporters is deeply ingrained in this sport, but it’s entirely possible to support someone by making an attack. Jens Voigt made a career out of blowing races to pieces in the name of teamwork, and has a couple of yellow jerseys to show for it.

It seemed to me that in leaping across the gap so late to snatch Haussler’s slipstream, Cav showed a gutty from the belly panache that I’d like to have seen more riders today emulate. Even over the creaking of the 37-year-olds knees, you could hear the peloton lying in wait for Rebellin’s attack. It’s seizing tiny windows of opportunity like the Poggio that lets unknown talents—and the occasional fluke—come away with big races, and let the big names take their most legendary victories.

San Remo 1992: Quality Finish

20 Mar

Milan SanRemo has gotten a bad rap as a sprinters’ race. This misconception comes from people reading results and seeing 30 people finish at or near the same time. The race invariably goes to ribbons over the final climbs, and occasionally pulls itself together for a bunch kick. It’s a race anyone can win–sprinter, rouleur, climber, or even, as this video shows, descender.