Archive | April, 2009

Defying the Cycling Gods

30 Apr

Mellow Johnny's sign by flickr user Bruce Turner under cc-by-2.0Say what you will about Lance Armstrong, but you must admit, the man has cajones. Er, un cajone. Or something.

Anyway, going over the UCI to race at Gila, donning the mysterious black kits a day after Der Speigel put a doping story on his teammate back in the headlines, and, just for kicks, smashing everyone to help his teammate win the first stage. Armstrong is nothing short of Odyssean in his defiance of the cycling gods.

Speaking of, Velonews’ Charles Pelkey wrote a great Explainer the other day sorting out the acronymic goat rodeo that hands down decisions from on high in this sport. Long story short, the UCI gets its power from the approval of the IOC. WADA was endowed with authority by the IOC to curb doping, but a certain blustery Canadian must be credited for making it an utterly independent testing agency.

They weren’t mentioned in the article, but the ASO and other race organizers have formed their own cabal, leveraging the marketing power they have from owning the biggest and oldest races in the world. They took the UCI ProTour as a threat to undermine the importance of these races, and thus their authority, and this has been the source of all sorts of Euro drama since 2004 or so.

And yeah, I guess there was more racing yesterday, but a weather shortening—which I’m guessing probably meant it was flurrying or something—let a break get clear, and foiled the Farrar / Cavendish showdown, at least ’til tomorrow. So I’ll pick it back up then.

Also, I just realized the Giro starts in less than 10 days. Who’s excited?

A Man with an Unhealthy Love of Chamois Cream

29 Apr

Dave Zabriskie, applying his favorite chamois-related product at the ToC. Words fail. (@dzabriskie, via @muddylegs.)

How is Doping Like a Pregnancy?

29 Apr

glum looking Rebellin from Flickr user tetedelacourse, under cc-by-sa-2.0 How is doping like a pregnancy? Because—according to the IOC, anyway—you’ve gotta wait nine months to find out whose responsible.

I don’t know if they’re still sleeping in Boulder, but Velonews has yet to report that Rebellin’s positive has indeed been confirmed by IOC. Not that this means his guilty, of course, but just that “due process” against him is underway. Still, I’ve gotta commend VN for not leaping into the fray of condemnation after Gazzetta dello Sport named him as the Italian positive. Rebellin himself protests innocence, the B sample is still out, but Twitter has already handed down its verdict.

And because that just wouldn’t be enough doping news for the day, more word on Andreas Klöden’s recently revived doping story has come out. Kloden’s performances throughout his career certainly don’t meet the Cosmo test (rides away one day, can’t hold a wheel the next), but I’m more than willing to give people the benefit of the doubt. After all, that’s what we have testing procedures and arbitrative committees for, even if they do take 9 months to return a single positive.

Beyond all that, though, I’m looking forward to the Tour of Romandie. Great results all around from yesterday’s prologue—a relative unknown taking the lead, Alejandro Valverde showing maybe his lackluster performances this spring were just a case of Lance Armstrong syndrome, and Tyler Farrar showing no ill effects from his crash last month. I wonder if Mark Cavendish (+0:09, 29th place) will be feeling a little bit nervous tomorrow.

How The Race Was Won – Liege-Bastogne-Liege 2009

27 Apr

Video from this year’s decent LBL. Great teamwork by SaxoBank, but the performance was almost too dominant. Philippe Gilbert and Lotto took a shot at it, but I really would have liked to have seen more organization out of the other teams. That having been said, I can understand why their legs all would have been toasted.

[right-click for iTunes compatible download]

Vimeo and YouTube are also up.

This weekend I also finished setting up the video podcast, which is currently in the approval process at the iTunes store. For the impatient, here is the RSS feed that will supply the podcast. I also wanted to put some text/HTML directly into my fancy new dynamic sidebar, so I built a WordPress plugin that does that.

Bottle Handoff Technique

25 Apr

There was a great example in Fleche Wallonne this Wednesday of proper bottle handoff technique. As most of you probably know, it’s far more complicated than simply passing a bottle through a window. Why waste all that gasoline keeping the car moving forward when you could just as easily use it to accelerate your riders?

[right-click for iTunes-compatible download—Flash embed after the break]

  1. Observe DS extending bottle out the window
  2. Extend arm out, with thumb facing down
  3. Wait for DS to shove bottle into hand
  4. Upon contact, brace for acceleration
  5. Grasp bottle and push off against DS’s hand
  6. Place bottle in pocket/down shirt
  7. Return to step one

And of course, the DS moshes the gas and goes for broke on the last bottle.

How The Race Was Won – Fleche Wallo(n)ne 2009

24 Apr

Fleche-Wallone Video at last! Sorry about the jerkiness of some of the video playback—that’s from the live feed, not from me. YouTube and Vimeo at some point are now up, though not right now because I am way tired yes right now because I am crazy.
[right-click for iTunes compatible download]

Also made a few changes to the site as a whole—added a Twitter plug-in and changed the feed to ping FeedBurner, which is groundwork for a video podcast at some point. I’ll probably also spend some time this weekend normalizing the categories a bit.

Why George Hincapie Will Never Win Paris-Roubaix

22 Apr

hincapie lirio jean

This is why George Hincapie will never win Paris-Roubaix.

It might be OK if George were banking on his toughness to hock Carhartts or Dickies or a similar hard-wearing, blue collar brand. But multiple lines of fashionable, designer jeans—sold at the Dura-Ace price point of $145 a pair?! For shame.

Look at Johan Museeuw. More specifically, look at his hair. This is a man who’s won Paris-Roubaix three times, and clearly, fashion is not his native tongue. Roger deVlaeminck, who’s won PR more times than anyone, ever, was known as The Gypsy—not exactly a ringing endorsement of his choice in clothing.

Tom Boonen certainly has the winning smile and popularity to sell jeans. Who is he a spokesman for? Fresty Fresh Pork Products. Not Fresty Fresh Fine Berkshire Ham, not Fresty Fresh Authentic Genoa Salami. Fresty Fresh Pork Products. Think about that for a moment.

Of course, indicting Hincapie for pandering to the moneyed classes is all overlooking the fact that jeans are historically toxic for cycling. Anyone who’s ever come across a pair of those faux-denim Carrera team shorts from the 90s knows this. And as an aside, Carrera’s most famous rider, Claudio Chiappucci, never managed to win the Tour de France. I blame the shorts.

Then there’s the lovely Michael Ball, who’s bankrolled his millionaire’s dalliance with cycling by selling thousands of yards of similarly-overpriced denim. Things have been going just swimmingly with his team as of late, and I think we can only expect this trend to continue indefinitely.

All of this isn’t to say that there aren’t more egregious examples of companies using bikes to sell jeans. And certainly, Mario Cipollini moved a few pairs of high-end pants in his day, while managing, like Hincapie, to take a northern classic or two. . But Cipo’ never won Paris-Roubix, and with products like this, I can’t see how George ever will, either.

How The Race Was Won – Amstel Gold 2009

20 Apr

Amstel Gold! Ivanov wins a classic heads-up hill sprint, with daring attacks and savvy teamwork throughout. Also on YouTube and Vimeo.
[right-click for iTunes-compatible download]

Note well that all Americans do not hold such stereotypical views of the Netherlands as expressed in the opening of this movie. My implication that most do is purely for the sake of humor.

The Bos-Impey Crash

20 Apr

Since I’m stuck at work on Marathon-freakin’ Monday, instead of at home making an Amstel video, I’m gonna burn my lunch break weighing in on the crash (around 3:40 in the above video) from the final day of the Presidential Tour of Turkey.

Public opinion seems arrayed pretty heavily against Theo Bos, all the more so because no sanction was leveled against him. But there’s been a pretty massive rush to judgment in this whole thing, which wasn’t really helped by the fuming voiceover of commentators before they’d so much as seen a replay.

The first description I saw made me think it was a post-finish scuffle, a la Julich and Blijlevens (no sound) after the 2000 Tour de France, so when I finally got around to seeing the tape, I was a little confused. I think what enrages people most is the sudden violence with which Impey goes down, but that should be a clue that all is not as it appears.

The fact is, it’s really hard to knock another cyclist over by yanking on a shoulder. Try it with your friends sometime while riding on the grass. You can make a decent handsling out of it, but taking someone out in dramatic fashion is nearly impossible. It’s easy make another cyclist crash hard while riding a bike, but you generally need to hit their bars (3:35) to pull it off.

Now if you introduce the shoulder of a moving cyclist to something stationary, they’ll go down in a hurry, and I’m pretty sure that’s what happened in Turkey. While it’s almost impossible to see what’s happening behind Bos’s shoulder (another reason not to make assumptions about his intentions) it’s pretty clear that Bos has crashed and is getting darn close to stopped before Impey starts to get pulled.

Putting a hand out on a rider closing you out is a legitimate, though risky, move. It lets your fellow rider know you’re there, and might cajole them into finding a bit more space. Baden Cooke’s last ditch effort to not be taken out by Paolo Bettini in Stage 4 of the ’05 Giro was to place a hand out on Bettini, but the barriers took Cooke down before he could make contact.

While you could argue that Bos’ grabbing Impey’s jersey was malevolent, I defy you to be knocked off balance without latching onto anything in arms’ reach. If you’ve really got to blame someone, you could take issue with the race organizers, who appear to have hired an overcaffeinated spider to manage barrier setup. But I’m really inclined to hold Barloworld accountable for this entire fiasco of a finish.

I start racing in the collegiate C field, so I know what carnage looks like—and this stage rivaled the worst of anything I’ve seen. There were people unclipping, surging forward then freewheeling, and crashes all over the road. At the professional level, holding the leaders jersey means your team controls the race, and is responsible for keeping the pace high. This cuts back on carnage and protects your leader—and it ought to go doubly if your man is contesting the sprint as well.

Barloword looked like they had some interest in organizing with 3k to go, but failed to mount any concerted effort for the line. More importantly, they didn’t protect their rider in yellow. While Impey might have had enough time avoid the crash by moving off the barriers after he felt Bos’ hand on his shoulder, the real mistake occurred when Bos, or anyone else not wearing the Barloworld kit, was able to get right up against Impey in the finale.

Velonews Freakin' Loves Me

18 Apr

Coincidence that Velonews used the same idiom to describe the same action by the same rider in the same race as I did, just several days later?

Not that I care—I mean, we all know which video report you’d rather be watching, right?