After untangling myself from the mass of riders on the start line and making it back to the car, a display of fine Italian driving followed. We edged out of our parking spot and in behind the team cars and in front of the team buses and trucks. We followed the caravan through the neutral area behind a Liquigas team car and decided that they probably knew the best way out of the city, so we sat an uncomfortable (at least it was for me) 2ft from their bumper. The rest of the day followed a pattern. Race along the freeway, cut across country to the race route, wait with the locals for 10 or 15 minutes for the race to pass through, run back to the car, race along the freeway, repeat. Each time we stopped the local clubs in all their shapes, sizes and colors had taken a ride out watch the race go by. It was like watch a parade on the history of cycling clothing.
We did this all the way through to the climb of LeMánie where we eventually stopped long enough for my stomach to settle with the help of one of the best coffees I have ever had. The landscape had transformed from the flat farmlands outside Milan to the lush Caps that take you over to the Med. At this point the race had ignited. The crash had happened. The peleton had split, and favorites were missing from the lead group. The race was on. When they came past us on the climb they were strung out into a series of small groups, there was a lot of pain on show and gaps between wheels. At this point they had about 90km to go, and anyone that wouldn’t get back on before Capo Berta or The Cipressa was not going to figure in the final result. That was some big names, Thor, Cav, Oscar. Thor came past on Van Summeren’s wheel with a mixture of pain and anger all over his face. Van Summeren didn’t look much better.
Back to the car, and we raced down to the base of the Poggio. At this point we were on coarse ahead of the race, and had clear roads all the way over the Poggio into San Remo. This wouldn’t have been the way I would have chosen to go over the Poggio for the first time (in a Mercedes at 80kph) but it was good enough to get us to the finish area and onto the Farnese Vini Neri team bus to watch the finish live on TV.
CATEGORIES: From The Saddle,Races
The full Start Village photo essay is here »
There is a pace and pattern in a start village before a race that is pretty special to be a part of. I was lucky enough to get an all areas press pass for Milan San Remo (Thank you Specialized!) that gave me access to areas that, as a fan, I spent most of my time questioning what I was doing there. It is a little uncanny standing next to the current world champion and the previous one, and hearing them talk about the upcoming classics over the next few weeks. We arrived in Milan at 8.30am long before the first team bus and cars had arrived at the start area. It was already starting to buzz with Tifosi and press. Phase One of the pre-race begins with the lumbering arrival of the buses and team cars into the start area. Curtains drawn, they pull up one by one, with fans rushing to peer through the curtain cracks, hoping to get a glimpse of a rider – I actually heard one guy claim “that is Ballan’s leg!” Mechanics remove bikes from racks and the parade of bikes begins. Perfectly built and pristine, bikes are lined up for public viewing by the team buses (but no touching – the unsaid rule). This moment, maybe more than any, is the biggest sales pitch for any brand in the bike business. I wanted to buy 4 bikes after that first hour.
Then, just as the fans are distracted by the bikes, Phase two begins, and there is a mad dash to sign-on. Riders emerge from the buses and in one movement are on bikes and off. In these instances I saw some of the best bike handling skills I have ever seen. Riders track-stop and hop their way through gaps in the crowds that they have no business getting through. Some go slow, soaking up the adoration (Ballan). Others move slow, looking for people they know (all the Italians). Some are “escorted” and have their race face on (Posatto and Cancellara). Others are magnets for everything and everyone (Boonen and Thor), and some riders go sit in a car and contemplate the pain that is about to ensue.
Phase three is a general milling around, as riders wait for the call-to-line. Some use it as a time to talk with ex teammates, and some use it as a time to apologize to riders they took down in a crash the previous week (actually heard that). The more popular riders get mobbed by press or fans, or both. Some riders you want to go up and hug and tell them it will all be ok (Henrich Hausler made me cry once after losing this race by the width of a tub and then collapsing on the road in tears). Others like Greipel look like they might punch you in the face (although I told him after the race “nice ride” and he didn’t, so he is ok). Then before you know it, the general milling turns into a start line and the team cars are lined up and ready to roll. It was at this point that I found myself stuck in the middle of a very large group of riders behind 6-foot barriers. The best way out might have been to get a “backy” with George Hincapie to the end of the neutral zone, but instead I found a gap and ran for our follow car. Next thing you know I am getting nauseous in the back of car for the next 6 hours.
See the full photo essay here »
In a drug induced sleep last night, brought on by a bad head cold (too much travel already this year spending time inside tin cans like planes and subways, which are really just very large Petri dishes) I had a great dream about Liege-Bastogne-Liege. I was on a team with Tom Boonen, probably brought on by seeing his Roubaix winning bike in the lobby of Specialized last week. We were in a break with Gilbert, Cancellara, and Thor (sorry Champ, I would rather have been on your team) and we had them all deep in our pockets. I kept yelling at “Tornado Tom” that if he didn’t keep pulling hard (as I sucked the life out of his rear wheel) he was going to loose the name Tornado and be renamed “Breezy Boonen“. He started crying because I was shouting so much, and we had to stop at the side of the road to calm him down (watching Fabian wave and ride off into the distance), and promise I wouldn’t call him “Breezy” in the press room after. I then had explain to my DS (Van Petegem, gulp) why I had made big Tom cry….
Man I LOVE Tylenol PM. If anyone is having similar drug induced cycling dreams, PLEASE SHARE. Tonight we dream of the Tour, me and “Big Mig” taking on Delgado and Pantani. I then woke this morning to find an email from Jenny at Freebirdvelo about this new t-shirt, spooky.
I just got the second issue of 9W magazine in the post from editor Harry Zernike. Very nice to see this issue, as Harry was nice enough to ask us to contribute a piece for it on my ride up the Stelvio this summer. As with the last issue the magazine is beautifully produced. In fact so much so, I think calling it a magazine is doing it a dis-service. It is a product any cycling household should be proud to have on their coffee table. The quality of the content matches the quality of the product, and there is a great piece on the Floyd Bennett races here in Brooklyn. If you are interested in buying a copy you can order it direct here. Get them while they last, these are becoming very collectible.
CATEGORIES: Design,Races,The Other Stuff
Look at the picture above, then look again. The rider on the right is Sir Chris Hoy of Scotland, undoubtedly one of the best track riders ever to grace the boards, and a four times Olympic Sprint Champion. On the right is Felix English of Ireland (the irony of that name), not even a sprinter by trade who usually wins KOM prizes. The picture above is Felix English eliminating Chris Hoy from the European championships in Poland. How can that be (look at the thigh size alone)? It is truly a lesson in racing to the line. Hoy eased up to save energy and not humiliate his younger rival. Felix had nothing to loose, and gave it full gas to the line. The result? Probably the biggest scalp of his career. You have to love a surprise like this. Come on Sir Chris get your ass out on the road and shock a few spindly little climbers. You don’t have to get over the climbs, you will scare them just standing next to them on the start line.
See the full Tour Of Utah photo essay here:
Photographer Michael Crook has spent most of the year traveling with the best US domestic teams, to the biggest races this side of the Atlantic. What she captures isn’t the usual photographer on the road shots, that chase the action at the front of the pack. She captures a side of the race that you or I wouldn’t normally get to see. There is an honesty to the shots that show a slice of life at the less glamorous end of our sport.
We are again lucky enough to be able to publish the great work of the photographer Michael Crook. This is an essay she shot from inside the Fly V team at the recent Tour Of California. The full essay has a great range of on the road, behind the scenes, pre and post race. The team continues to be impressive wherever and whenever they race, even if some of them are taking a little battering. Get the full set of images here.
It would be tempting to say that tomorrows 12.8km of the Passo del Mortirolo will decide the fate of what has been one of the best ever Grand Tours. But with the following day going over the Gavia, weather permitting, and a time trial into Verona there are still plenty of places to gain and loose time. If you think it is between Basso and Evans, then 42 seconds is nothing. There are time bonuses on the finishes and if Evans hangs with Basso until the last KM of the climbs I expect to see him attacking. In the time trail he should pull between 20 and 30 seconds out of Basso. But if Basso has the Pink jersey on his back, and Evans crumbles at the end of what has been a brutal three weeks and the pressure of his first GT win, he might want be a little closer than the power meter numbers from their coach Sassi says. So that puts it back on the Mortirolo and maybe more importantly the descent of the Trivigno.
Then there is the weather, if it hits tomorrow then the odds and players change somewhat. We have already seen Basso back off on the wet, while riders like Evans and Vino pile it on. So the descent of the Trivigno may well be the ideal place to gain time and maybe by the the time we hit the Mortirolo it will all be about minimizing loses. Andy Hampsten must be laughing at them all as the potential for snow at the summit of the Gavia the next day may redirect the stage, but with that type of weather threatening you could even see abandonments! I say let them go up, providing it is ridable of coarse.
And what of David Arroyo Duran? Who thought he would have turned in the time he did on the slopes of Plan de Corones? This will be his first time up the Mortirolo, not really the circumstances you want to be tackling one of the most famous climbs in the world. But a Spaniard winning the Giro, now what more carrot do you need? Plus he will have seven teammates all determined to control the race at least until the Motirolo. If he rides to limit his loses and still looses 1.30 min, that still gives him nearly a minute going into the final two days.
This is going to be good. Very good.
This was epic. This Giro keeps giving us some of the most exciting riding I have ever seen, and the Zoncolan stage was a great set-up for a very exciting final week. No amount of team support was helping anyone here, this was down to your own personal ability to suffer. Once on the slopes of the last 10km it was you, your bike and a very steep hill. The Tifosi really did themselves proud. The noise as they saw Basso coming through the Zoncolan bends was incredible. And what a return for Basso. It has been a long way back for him and what a way to announce that you have found your legs again. He visibly looked more fluid than any of the other riders, keeping a metronome pace all the way up, riding everyone off his wheel. Then watching Evans fight back in the upper slopes as he realized his chance to take a Grand Tour was slipping away up the road in front of him. Epic.
Photo: Pentasport/RCS Sport
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The last ten days have been amazing to be a cycling fan, for both good good and bad reasons.
1. Stage 7 of the Giro from Carrara to Montalcino
Spectacular to watch, tough to ride. Some of the most iconic images of our sport in recent times have come out of that day. Some of the stars embraced it and made headway on the GC, whilst others completely imploded in the conditions. Watching Evans bridge the gap to the leaders, ride through and off the front in the finale, had the hairs on my neck standing in end.
2. Stage 5: the split.
Whilst two of the three teams left in contention for the GC played a game of chicken (Astana and Liquigas), and the third team who had mostly abandoned (BMC) were helpless, literally half of the race rode off the front including such luminaries as Wiggins and Sastre to gain over 10mins. Boom! The GC top 10 just got wiped out. Race reset.
3. First year pro Nick Porte leading the Giro
Great quote “I don’t now how it happened, but I’ll take it!“. At the end of Stage 5 he found himself in the pink jersey with over 1.45 min to second place, and over 1o mins to some of the GC favorites. This is going to make an interesting game of carrot over the mountains this weekend. The word from Saxo Bank is “The kid can climb”, so is going to take it on themselves and make the race hard.
4. Landis Gate
As it has become known around these parts. Who knows what to believe. It all seems so incredible. The governing body receiving bungs to keep quiet. Some of the biggest stars still racing implicated in doping. Lance exposed… but who do you trust. The Landis book I can forgive, most of them are nonsense anyway, so if you choose to buy it, that is on you. But taking money from fans to fund your “I am innocent appeal” is a hard one to take. One thing for sure, if there is an ounce of evidence to back any of this up, American cycling and the UCI will be in tatters. We are going to sit back and watch this one play out a bit.
5. Lance Down and Out
Maybe his head was still at the Landis press conference, but this is a guy who doesn’t fall off much, and the timing of this one could not have been worse. With 50 days to the Tour and a spotty early season in his legs, Lance really needed the race time a TOC to get ready.
Photos by Graham Watson
CATEGORIES: Races,Riders,The Other Stuff
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