Archive | September, 2009

Mendrisio Worlds Tag Cloud

29 Sep

The Elite Men’s World Championship Road Race in the words of the people who watched it live:
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(click image for full size)

Source text from Cyclingnews’ live report, the final thread of Podium Cafe’s live discussion, and the first 50 results of a Twitter search for “Mendrisio” on 9/27/09. Cloud generated by Wordle with manual filtering by the author.

Tried to make it arc en ciel colors, but it just didn’t look as good as Team Embrocation (actually, it’s a default palette called “Blue Chill”). Probably could stand to slap together a real text scraper sometime to save time filtering out forum usernames, sigs and the like.

Worlds Wrap-Up And A T-Shirt Winner

29 Sep

cadel tunnel

“I’m sure I’ve been beaten by cheats before, I know I have, and I’m sure I’ll be beaten by cheats in the future.”
Cadel Evans

As true as that quote may be to the the realities of cycling and the workmanlike attitude of its author, it is now—at long last and at least until Cadel Evans starts another bike race—false.

You can make a knock on the Aussie for occasionally head-butting photographers or getting difficult during poor neutral service changes. But in a race dominated recently by national superteams stacked with one-day specialists, to see a luckless Grand Tour rider—the first multi-day specialist champ since Abraham Olano in 1995—from savvy-but-outgunned Australia stick the audacious solo move in the closing kilometers was quite satisfying.

Far less satisfying was the poor, almost atypically poor, performance of my countrymen in the very same event. Those of you who entered the Cannondale t-shirt contest anticipated an average placement of 17th; the best American this past Sunday (Craig Lewis) finished a dismal 59th, roughly three-and-a-half standard deviations outside the average guess.

The winning entry was from Brayton Osgood, whose guess of 48th place narrowly avoided a tie-breaker (which he would have lost) with the second-place pick of Christophe Black (47th). While Lewis could have narrowly met these poor expectations by winning his group, and was a good distance out of DNF, it’s clear that USA Cycling’s cannon-foddering of the Men’s Elite RR has still not become the point of shame that it should be among American fans.

And there’s more at stake here than national pride. The US risks the good graces of the UCI by stealing starting places from nations that might actually add something to the quality of the World Road Race. The consequences could be anything from revamped Worlds selection criteria, to a devaluation of points from American UCI events.

Given the Cold War between the UCI and the Grand Tours at the moment, and the recent repositioning of the Tour of California against the Giro, I think USA Cycling should not be going out of its way not to make enemies where it doesn’t have to.

The US Team And A Wiggins Drama Timeline

25 Sep

wigginspushNow we have confrimation that it’s not just me being a wise-ass: Cyclingnews’ Peter Hymas made an extensive investigation into the United States’ lackluster Men’s Elite Road Race performances. While his explanations (long seasons, pressure to be fit for California, opportunities for young/domestic riders) and mine (low intestinal fortitude, Interbike, lack of focus) differ, I think it’s safe to say we both agree that the US needs more top tier pros “willing to respect the race and start for [their] country” like Tyler Farrar.

You can help in motivating this effort by attempting to pick the place of the best US finisher. You might even win a t-shirt! Here’s an excellent course preview for those of you who still can’t make up your minds.

Elsewhere—no, actually, beginning on those very same Mendrisio roads—Brad Wiggins has been stirring up all sorts of trouble. We all sympathized with the Briton’s unfortunate technological misfortune, but were also a little startled when he referred to the silver medallist not by his proper name, but as simply “numb nuts” in a post-race interview.

The fun continued when Wiggins later made an analogy that appeared to cast his current Garmin-Slipstream team as a plucky but outclassed Premier League squad, while he needed Manchester United-level support to win the Tour de France.

Wiggins then called the story “Bollocks“—British slang for “testicles”, but meaning “nonsense”, last time I checked—apparently forgetting that he had said this in front of a camera, in a jacket zipped up to not-so-subtly display the UK team’s sponsor Sky, with whom it’s rumored Wiggins has already signed for next season.

There was then backtracking and a claim that it was “out of context” (despite the nearly seven minutes of interview surrounding the quote). It will be exciting indeed to see how this whole rigmarole plays out—though I, and I think some other commentators, would like to exploit the drama for lulz just a little bit longer.

Looks Like I Missed A Pretty Impressive Ride

24 Sep

Might give a little insight into why David Millar elected to skip out on the TT World Championships this year, despite taking a TT win the Vuelta just a few days ago. This, combined with the homefield advantage, has got to make Cancellara the favorite for this weekend as well.

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(blurry pic of salute here)

Speaking of, Team USA’s Tom Zirbel put in a great ride for 4th—not bad for a guy who’s never been to Europe. Don’t forget you can still win a free T-shirt by picking the place of the top US Men’s Elite finisher on Sunday! Contest entry period closes Saturday at 6pm EDT (That’s US East Coast time).

CrossVegas: International Race of Mystery

24 Sep

As many of you know, I’m not at Interbike this week. Thus, I didn’t get to see CrossVegas last night, and am forced to piece the racecourse together from Velonews’ race report. Keep in mind, all these passages are from the same article:

“…under the lights at a soccer complex on the outskirts of the city…”

So flat, fast, non-technical?

“Nash crashed in a tight left-hander on the second lap…”

So flat, fast, but with technical sections?

“…Compton made the slow-riding, sometimes lumpy grass surface look positively fast…”

Uh, so slow, and lumpy, with some technical sections?

“From there it was road tactics on the course famous with riders for its heavy slow grass. Riders say the course is punishing to anyone taking a hard pull at the front, but favors the drafters.”

OK—slow, lumpy, non-technical, but headwind slow, not mud slow, so there’s tactics? I mean, I guess that kinda makes sense. I think I can work with this.

“But rather than risk an attack through any of the difficult turns or technical sections, he waited until the pair got through a tight double hairpin with about 450 meters to go, then pulled away.”

Wait, what? I thought it wasn’t technical. I mean, double hairpin at 450 meters sounds kinda technical. And I thought it was supposed to be hard to get away—that sounded easy.

“…said before the race that he doesn’t like the non-technical Vegas course because it doesn’t suit his abilities”

…and we’re back at flat, fast, non-technical.

JV Ponders Some New Garmin Graphics

23 Sep

Also, is it just me, or do all Jon Vaughters’ shirts look the same?

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(via Matthew Koschara’s Facebook feed)

A Must-Read Interview With Michael Creed

21 Sep

creedDomestic riders don’t come much better than Mike Creed. He’s been a pro for ten years, ridden for the biggest teams, scored some of the best wins, and man—does he ever know how to deliver an interview.

At Podium Insight this past Friday he unleashed an epic, covering topics as broad-ranging as the ever-unfolding disaster that is Rock Racing, the fickle and patronizing nature of cycling fans (especially on the Internet), and the future of public relations in sports. An excerpt:

Creed: I’m early break kryptonite.

Podium Insight: Everybody should just sit up, Creed’s here…

Creed: Yeah, they should just ‘Creed’s here, lets go back’. Or pay me off to go back to the pack by myself, they just carry twenty dollar bills in their pocket.

Podium Insight: Is that all it takes?

Creed: Yeah, I’m cheap man. You sign mid-year, you can’t get a big contract, you have to be willing to wheel and deal, you have to be willing to cut down a little on your price.

It’s time-consuming and a little tricky to read at points, but well worth the effort, both in terms of entertainment value, and insight into the business side of making things work as professional cyclist.

Help Restore America's Greatness And Win A T-Shirt!

17 Sep

2299843359_9bdc48c4a2Help restore America’s greatness: pick the place of the best American finisher at Worlds and win a t-shirt.

And yes, DNF is an option.

Before Jock Boyer was (allegedly) the first American to compete in the Tour de France, he was 5th at a little race called the World Championships. He also featured prominently in the 1982 edition that marked Greg Lemond’s arrival at the sport’s highest level.

In 1983, Lemond came back and won the Rainbow Jersey, and in 1989, put the icing on the cake of his comeback (and wrote another hapless chapter in the book of Laurent Fignon’s life) by wrapping up a second World title. Four years later, some fat kid named Lance Armstrong capped his best season to date with a World Championships win on the rain-slicked streets of Oslo.

But what great performances have the the American men turned in at Worlds lately? Armstrong’s 4th place in 1998 is noteworthy, but he’ll always be an also-ran at that event. Horner’s ST 8th in 2004? Heck, the best I can think of are Guido Trenti’s leadouts that put not one, but two non-Americans in the rainbow jersey.

Well, I for one, am sick of it. Dave Z’s been a solid TT competitor, American women have plenty of titles, and even Team USA’s U23s have been in the mix. But it’s a travesty to roll up to the road race with the largest elite men’s squad allowed and have no one in the final selection.

So my plan is to shame American men and USA Cycling into putting some effort back into Worlds. With help from Cannondale, one of the first American bike companies to make inroads into the European peloton, I’m offering a limited run SuperSix KOM t-shirt to the reader who correctly guesses (or comes closest to guessing) the position of the highest-placed American at the upcoming Men’s Elite World Championship Road Race:

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[more photos]

To enter, simply email me () with your guess at the place of the best American finisher, along with an estimated time back as a tie-breaker. You don’t even have to guess who it will be, but you can if you want to.

Should you be the lucky winner, I will contact you for a mailing address and a T-shirt size. Here’s a full list of the American competitors.

As mentioned earlier, DNF will be considered a legitimate entry, but if that’s your pick, you’ll need to include a guess at time back of the last-placed non-DNF in the race, again for the purpose of tie-breaking.

Is Velocity Nation The Future Of News?

16 Sep

totoboyIn terms of covering hard news in the cycling world, “real” media outlets are the undisputed kings. They have reporters on the ground at major races, are fluent in all sorts of languages, have an armada of contacts, receive invites to events, and get bucketloads of free crap in the mail from manufacturers.

Don’t get me wrong: bloggers and smaller sites can do fantastic things in terms of commentary, discussion, and generally awesome content, but for the most part, they, like everyone else interested in competitive cycling, are dependent on places like Velonews and Cycle Sport to churn out news.

But in the “Lance is doping” tiff that erupted following the publication of the Texans TdF blood tests, I think Velocity has done a bang-up job actually tracking down and publishing real information on the topic. Their Twitter feed was the first place I saw the Google Translated article from Denmark (later pointed out to me by reader emails), and they actually got out and interviewed the guy making the allegations.

It’s not that news wasn’t covered by real sources, but Velonews’ take understandably strove for journalistic balance—which basically made it the same allegation/canned response teeter-totter we’ve all been riding since about 1999 or so. By going to the source, Velocity spared us the misery of autotranslator ambiguity, and supplied in some great new information on Moerkeberg’s background and methods besides.

Taken with their interview of Michael Ashenden, which delved in great detail into the retrodoping scandal of 2005, the site has simply had some of the most impressive material on Armstrong’s alleged doping since the comeback began.

armstrong_bWhat’s makes Velocity’s effort even more noteworthy is that now all data since April 30th has been hidden (poorly) from the Livestrong page where it had been posted [direct link|cached]. Both in light of the Danish allegations, and the fact that that Brad Wiggins’ also-criticized numbers remain proudly displayed at the Slipstream site, this is especially poor PR for the Livestrong brand.

It’s only been down for a few hours as of now, but something like that ought to elicit a response from the mainstream media—after all, “tense” moments at an Armstrong press conference, and the eventual scrapping of Astana’s in-house antidoping program easily made the cut. But once again, we heard it first—and with greater speculative depth—from Velocity.

While I wouldn’t cite them as an objective source quite yet (footnote), in a mythical future populated by rational adults who can think for themselves, Velocity and mid-sized sites like it may be a valuable source of information that doesn’t meet the publication standards of the established media.

Or, even more usefully, they may draw enough attention to otherwise unpublishable stories (remember Rasmussen’s artificial hemoglobin?) that publications with real investigatory resources take notice.

(In the interests of complete disclosure, I briefly worked with NY Velocity back in 2006. They didn’t pay me so I stopped.)

(Also, I don’t like New York City very much. Sorry.)

Cheesiest Bike Video Ever

15 Sep

It hasn’t been the greatest evening/morning for me. Last night, I spent about 4 hours standing upright on very slow, very crowded trains, got home late, found that @UniversalSports is unfamiliar with the concept of fair use, and on top of all that, had to get up early and find a new spot for Third Tuesday.

Fortunately I found this video on Velogogo to put all that awful in perspective:

The soundtrack, and the money shot of Bob Roll Leonard Nitz removing his hairnet helmet around 1:20, really take it to another level for me.