Watching Stage 7 of the GIRO this week and Emanuele Sella get beaten into submission by Adam Hanson, there was lots of talk of how great it was that these guys were “up the road getting TV time for their sponsors“. In Hanson’s case the sponsors are obvious, and pretty well known. The team is also lucky to have principle sponsors who invest large amounts in the team, which in the end makes for a simple message and a nicely designed kit. In the case of Sella, not so much. A team that relies on a wildcard and the generosity of their national grand Tour finds it harder to attract the big name deal, and has to work hard to make the numbers work by bringing in as many backers as possible. It was just in this case apart from Venezuela (I took geography) I had no idea who any of the names where on the jersey (apart from the bike). So here it is, the anatomy of the Androni jersey.
CATEGORIES: Classic Jerseys,Design,Riders
The thought of making your team to ride Paris-Roubaix must bring an incredible sense of excitement, and probably at the same time also a complete feeling of dread. A few years back I talked to some of the triathletes in the New York City Marathon, who described the symptoms of what they called the “Hudson River Flu” – a sickness you get from swimming in a river that quite frankly is not appropriate for swimming in (I won’t go into the details). Paris – Roubaix brings its own special type of “flu“. One that is described as hitting the rider two days after the race has finished, a result of the punishment the body receives riding over a surface that most of us would consider only appropriate for an all wheel drive. A “flu” that pains right into the bones. This all just comes from the surface, the storied cobbles, throw in the distance, 50KM of that over cobbles, some weather and a lot of riders making this their early season goal, it is no wonder the race holds the position it does at the top of the things we love about this sport. This year it is predicted to be rain free, and with some late-week rain probably dust free as well. None of this will reduce the spectacle. Thank the lord for the internet, I will have my Sporza and Eurosport streams flowing on Sunday looking down the line for Russ Downing and Alex Wetterhall, both who have won races back in my home country of Ireland and are now riding one of the biggest races in the world. I wish them luck, safe riding and good legs.
It has been in the making for a while (almost a year in fact), but we have in our hands the first book proof of our Ardennes project. It has surpassed all of our expectations formed over drinking hot chocolate in Maastricht last year and dreaming about creating a limited edition publishing label. Hopefully this (and our poster series) will be the start of something new for us. The book presents a fans-eye view of attending the Ardennes week, a very special time for riders and fans on the annual racing calendar. We just have some final color correction to do and then it is off for the final print run. We are not sure of the number in the edition yet – it all depends on budget and interest, the more interest we get, the cheaper it will be. If you like what you see here drop me an email at email@example.com and I will make sure you get added to a hold list when the books come in. I will be putting it up in the store soon for anyone that wants to pre-order to secure a copy. Hope you like it – share it around with your fellow bike porn lovers!
Placed this early in the season finishing Milan San Remo is an achievement in itself. Being there at the finale makes you a special type of rider, with a little bit of luck on your side. Riding one of the longest races on the calendar at 298km drains the riders, physically and mentally. 276 km of leg softening followed by 22 km of explosive attacking over two of the most famous climbs in the world. But as those in with a chance of a podium take the right turn up the Cipressa, the “workers” drop down a few gears and roll into the finish. A few years back I was lucky enough to be there with Specialized, and while the team celebrated there first race and a win on the launch of the Venge I noticed out of the corner of my eye riders rolling down the back of the promenade, picking their way through the crowd. Some bloodied, jerseys patterned with salt, and not even the energy to tell people to get out of the way. These guys were the leg-softeners, the ones who made the race hard. All of them carried the same thousand-yard stare that comes with pure exhaustion. Being completely empty. It was these guys that got my admiration that day, and they will tomorrow as well.
This shot of the wife of Wim van Est listening hopefully to the radio coverage of the her husband in the 1960 Tour, instantly takes you back to a time when more was left unsaid than was broadcast. In those days it was easy to keep the inner workings of the teams cloaked in secrecy, and their stars put on a pedestal. I just finished reading the Eddy Merckx biography “The Cannibal” by Daniel Friebe , which does an excellent job of looking into the mind of the legend, and also the suspicions of how dope ridden the peleton was back then. Granted, nowhere near as sophisticated as Doprahgate, but in their own way sophisticated enough, that today they are still thought of mostly as just that, suspicions. It was that secrecy and the riders and managers that perpetuated it, that maintained an acceptable face to the public and more importantly the sponsors, giving them the assurances they needed before their name was stuck on the back of a jersey. And here we are today, post Doprahgate, post the managed message, post naivety, post a few fallen heroes and post quite a few sponsors. But some still remain and I am thankful for them. Sponsors like Sky and Garmin that are giving us some of the best racing we have ever seen. We enter a new season with most of our dirty laundry hanging out to dry ( I can only hope ) and a wave of new riders taking victories from Argentina to Australia. Lets hope for a good one, and no more media frenzy around those that have left the sport close to implosion. In this era of media manipulation – lets face it choosing Oprah was a cop-out, she is not really know for her journalistic rigor – lets hope some of that same media can help get the sport back on its feet by reporting some of the good out there.
Photo: Collectie SPAARNESTAD PHOTO/W.L. Stuifbergen
A few years back I sat in a campsite near Bédoin as the sun set over Mont Ventoux and contemplated what was to be my first time over the legend of Provence the following day. It presents an intimidating presence with the radio tower on top serving as a marker for the pain to come. It turned out to be a great day, riding it with two Aussie’s, all of us “Ventoux Virgins”. Of all of the stages in next years Centennial Tour, the Ventoux finish is the one that holds the most potential for me. The idea of two times up Alp D’Huez on paper sounds amazing, but in the end will probably cancel itself out with tactics and strategy. The ASO have set up the Ventoux finish to be an explosive day, for both GC and the stage winner (although they may not be mutually exclusive). It is the perfect stage for a Bastille Day hero. A lumpy approach before the final 20.8km ascent ensures plenty of opportunities for a solo attack, and the French now have in their ranks plenty of riders capable pulling that off. The previous three days favor the sprinters giving any of the GC contenders a chance to sit in and save as much as possible for that final all out slog. And with a rest day to follow, why hold back. So we may well be treated to the spectacle of a lone French attacker being chased down by a group of favorites in the last 5km, with a whole nation screaming him up to the finale. Recognized as one of the hardest climbs in France, and that is when the wind doesn’t blow – if they get hot and windy conditions I expect this to be an epic stage worthy of a 100 year celebration. Then there will be the 3 hour camper van race across to Embrun to get your spot on what looks like being a great TT in the Écrins and the Alps to follow. Those final 8 days might be the time to book your holidays.
Nathan Young was good enough to send us this set of really nice shots from the recent Magnuson Park Cross race in Seattle. The course looks as dry as a bone which has to be an anomaly for Seattle. Look out for more shots from Nathan as the season gets a little more “sticky”
The world of Keirin continues to fascinate. “Big Dream” is a Keirin-specific term – basically an accumulator bet placed on the last four races of the day. If you pick two winners in those races you stand to land the “Big Dream” – the big win. We were recently contacted by UK photographer Tim Bowditch,who shared his Keirin project “Big Dream,” shot while traveling around Japan by bike last year. The images show us a side of Keirin we don’t often get to see, and present us with a different type of cycling fan. These fans are maybe more interested in a quick win than the quality of the riding, but maybe better than most understand what each rider is capable of. In a country where gambling is basically illegal, Keirin is one of four sports where government-run gambling is allowed. The quiet spaces captured here are outside the main betting and watching areas, and are where the gamblers come to study the form. The quietness in these images could not be in more contrast to the speed and energy being laid down on the track. We have taken a selection of the images here in our gallery; to see the full set of images, visit Tim’s site here.
Today I love cycling more than ever. The day after watching Jens Voigt, one of our sport’s true and most endearing icons, take a wonderful solo win, that even his DS had doubts he could carry off. The day after “Purito” and Froome turned on the afterburners in the last 2km of yesterday’s Vuelta stage and showed Contador and Valverde their wheels. But unfortunately today these stories of heroic and breathtaking riding have been pushed down the queue by Lance. Unfortunately, today all anyone who doesn’t follow this sport will want to talk about is not if Froome can take the Vuelta, or how long can Jens continue at the top. Or even about the year-by-year growth of Wiggins to take this year’s Tour. They will only have one question for us: “Did Lance do it?” And unfortunately, with how this story has unfolded, we still seem not to have full closure.
Not really knowing what the USADA had in their files will always still leave this story unfinished for me and many others. Although, to see one of the most determined and smartest athletes I have ever followed give up is a surprise. Choosing not to fight was his best form of attack? That sure feels like an admission of sorts, but in no way feels definitive, and still feels like it will let people read it how they want. Out of all of the reactions, the one that I keep repeating in my head comes from Jan Ullrich, “I know the order in which we crossed the finish line.” In a time when most of the podium were “on it” in some form, re-awarding the seven Tour titles seems kind of pointless. I don’t think we are going to see many of Lance’s other podium companions rush in to claim his titles – most of them are as tarnished as he is, proven or not.
So maybe it is time to take a leaf out of Uli’s book and move on. There is plenty to write and talk about with those that are riding today. I am so over reading and hearing about this story, and I don’t think it is over yet. So until those USADA files see the light of day, let’s write about something else, and remember why we love this sport. You know Jens is sitting in the RSNT Team bust today saying, “Shut Up Media…I won yesterday for the first time in ages.”