Archive | February, 2012

Why I Love the Spring

24 Feb

The pack at Het Nieuwsblad 2011

Mud, bergs, and cobbles / by Cindy Trossaert cc-by-nc

I don’t hide that fact that I think the spring classics are the best bike racing the season has to offer. Sure, in terms of complexity, drama and sheer scale they can’t match the sweeping scope of the Grand Tours, but then again, how many people do you find who hold up Moby Dick as a model of excellence in prose styling? While the Tour may mark the season’s traditional high point, the best racing you’ll see all year comes over the next few months.

Outside the all-or-nothing attacks of fresh legs on storied, unpredictable courses that (usually) encourage and reward aggression, the classics are also critical because they set the backstory over which the remainder of the season plays out. McEwen’s headbutt as Boonen sprinted to a win at the ’05 Tour (not to mention the ensuing ad) was built on the angst of Quick.Step’s dominant spring campaign.


Saxo Bank Stress Test is a Self-Defeating Effort

14 Feb

Saxo Bank director Bjarne Riis and Alberto Contador

Don't worry, Bertie. We're still friends /, cc-by-nd

It’s a welcome change each February to watch the lead stories in cycling move from the minutia of law and bio-pharmacology to the nuance and verve of actual bicycle racing. The wild line-changing leading into a bunch sprint, fading desperation of the second echelon, and poker-playing as a break pulls itself appart before the finish are the sort of nuanced, dynamic things that make bike racing an interesting sport.

You’d think that an organization entrusted with the management of such a sport would strive to cultivate an appreciation of these things. But the UCI seems to see the situation differently. In even holding court over whether or not Saxo Bank should retain its World Tour license, the UCI is essentially saying that only the winner of a WorldTour bike race should receive credit for the victory.

Upset About the Contador Decision? Grow up.

8 Feb

Pat McQuaid explaining himself

"So this is why I refuse to take my own side here…" / Tony Rocha, cc-by

It is nice, on occasion, to be right about something. The CAS decision against Contador went pretty much exactly as I said it would: an athlete had a banned product in their system. The CAS enforced the rules as written. The rest was just window dressing.

Of course, there are also times when it would be nice to be wrong. Like when hours later, the head of the UCI says “There are no winners when it comes to the issue of doping”; as I’ve noted before, the UCI always seems inclined to respond with the worst possible answer.

In this case, the statement isn’t just factually untrue (Cyclingnews has a list of winners newly-minted by the case), but in spirit, it spits in the eye of everyone trying to race the sport cleanly. Because of this case, everyone who didn’t take a supplement, or a cold medicine, or a saddle-sore cream because it might make them turn out a fasle positive, is a winner. Guys like Johan VanSummeren—who’s currently gutting it out at Tour of Qatar when a single, illegal cortisone shot could simplify his life tremendously—are the winners.


Introducing Strava Club Leaderboards

3 Feb

strava club leaderboard

My club's current standings

As you might have gleaned from my review, I’m a pretty big fan of Strava. But I’ve always been a little disappointed in the Clubs pages.

After all, since I’m already following most of the people in my clubs, a listing of the club rides seems awfully redundant. And while a comments section for smack talk and general announcements is a cool feature, it’s still going to take a back seat to the club listerv as a means of information exchange. While the Strava ride pages have been the continual recipients of cool new features, the club pages have remained rather barren.

What I think would give me a lot more reason to use or visit the club pages is a little friendly competition, and with that in mind, I’ve cooked up a web app that generates and updates standings for Strava clubs. It totals up the ride data for each rider in a given club, and then ranks everyone based on elevation gained, miles traveled, or time spent.

The site also creates RSS feeds for each competition (to keep you abreast of changes or deliver you data to play with) along with some embeddable widgets so you can put the competition up on your site (see sidebar). They’re only available at a width of 252px right now, but that might change soon.

Currently, there are only a handful of the hundreds of Strava clubs on the site, but if you submit yours, the site will give you a permalink for your club standings, and the page should be live in about an hour. I’m still working out a bug or two, but it should be more or less ready for public consumption.