Photos From The Tour Of Colorado 08/27/2014
Some photos from the recent Tour Of Colorado are up in the Journal section.
Cycling has always been a sport that pushes forward a dominant leader, often on the back of sacrifices made by their team mates, and to the frustration to the new and up and coming. It is also a sport that has a history littered with internal team rivalries gone wrong. Roche and Visentini, Hinault and Lemond, Armstrong and Contador – as old as the mountains they climb dual leadership has just caused problems (but also a lot of podium spots). Riders inevitably reach the top of their game sometimes in the same window and on the same team, and look for “Their Time”. So knowing all of this, why do I feel like the Team Sky decision to not have Wiggins at the Tour alongside Froome is just wrong? When did Sky ever look at this sport and not try to change how things are done? Is this just Sky abdicating some good old people management? Or does Brailsford just have a gun to his head?
Cards on the table, I am a Wiggins fan. I love the sports personalities I follow to have personality. It is why I also love Cadel Evans so much. They say what they think, not what they are told to think, and don’t belch out clichés and scripts. They have another dimension that makes their given sports better for their presence. I loved watching McEnroe play even though he sounded like an ass and I didn’t really follow tennis. I loved Roy Keane even though he walked out on Ireland during a World Cup. The sports they graced were definitely better for them. I think Wiggins is one of those stars, a weird and wonderful personality that strives on support and confidence, and is a supreme athlete. The ultimate product of the British cycling system that the people behind Sky invented. When he is focused I can forgive the rest and want him on the biggest stage our sport has to offer. Sometimes managing that personality is part of the job and is just as important as managing his numbers. But Brailsford knows all this he helped make him who he is.
Today just illustrated how much of a crap shoot cycling can be. Form, positioning and equipment mean nothing without luck. In 2013 coming out of the last bend of Liege-Bastogne-Liege Dan Martin was out of the saddle and dropping the power in a kick that would eventually be the final punch to Joaquim Rodríquez. This year in the 2014 edition at almost exactly the same spot, Dan Martin was out of the saddle and dropping the power and chasing one of Rodríquez’s teammates, but this time ended up on the deck his race blown after a near perfect seven hours of racing. All from what looks like sliding on a spot of oil. Would he have won against a surging Gerrans, who knows, the Irish amongst us would have said absolutely. What we do know is he would have been damn hard to catch. As he rolled over the line in 39th place and back to the sanctuary of his team bus he was greeted by cheers from the crowd and his teammates. A dethroned champion who was 250m from cycling immortality with back-to-back wins of “The Old Lady“. He would have been up there with the greats like Merckx, Argentin and fellow country man Kelly. Alas the gods of cycling decided it was not to be, reserving that for another day. Not that Dan will feel like this right now as he has his post race dinner, but he is one hell of a rider. A rider on the up. With every race his belief grows and with it his ability to deliver killer moves. Maybe that will come in the ITT climb up to Cima Grappa, or a late attack on the Zoncolan for some retribution. After all the GIRO does start in Ireland this year and who would deny him a little rub of luck after today. Maybe it will even see him on to the podium. Chin up mate. Be strong and know there is going to be a hell of a lot of people in Belfast and Dublin waiting to catch you if you fall. Go n-éirí an t-ádh leat!
Every year when the Grand Tour wildcard teams get announced there is the customary rumbles of national “favoritism“. How some of those wildcards don’t deserve their spot – “its just because they are Italian“. How they don’t have the riders that warrant them getting a ride ahead of the bigger names. Bardiani-CSF is one of those teams. Italian through and through, a team built of up and coming young talent. A team that in Belfast were preparing in camper vans dwarfed by the bigger buses and trucks of the big budgets. Yet here we are more than half way through this years GIRO and they have two stage wins, and have been in the action practically every day since Belfast. Not just interested in getting “TV time” for their sponsors they have been chasing stage wins from the start. That is two stage wins more than a lot of the super teams like Sky, with what seems like an endless budget and an abundance of GC contenders. So who actually benefited from the money shot? As their stage winners crossed the line, arms aloft in victory, who were the sponsors that have gotten behind this young team and brought us two exciting victories, and maybe some of the next generation of Italian racing talent. A kit that can’t afford to be cool and minimal, every inch is covered with fractions of what it takes to scrape together the budget to compete at this level. Names we have barely heard of, sponsors making products that mostly sell things that we will never buy. So why are they sponsoring this team – probably because they love the sport and get more for their media money off these two wins that buying straight up advertising.
It is that time again of year again – thank god because I am so over the winter and Olympic Ice Skating. While us mere mortals spin away the hours on indoor trainers watching re-runs of The Tour, the gods of cycling are coming off their winter “break” (do they actually even stop these days) and showing their early season form. Those riders hoping for a good classics showing and a GIRO start in Belfast are already starting to show. The old and new generations of cycling are getting themselves ready for their Classics assault. Read on for the six that have impressed us so far.
It somehow only seems appropriate that the rules of The Hour record be benchmarked against the ride done by a rider who pretty much benchmarked the sport, Eddy Merckx. A blistering 30.175 miles in sixty minutes. A record that stood for 12 years until Francesco Moser beat it by 1.6 miles, the difference being Moser used disc wheels, bull-horn bars and an oval tubed frame, and ushered in the era of technology and aerodynamics. It was at this point the UCI decided to recognize the massive achievement that Merckx had accomplished on a “traditional” track bike and created two records, the UCI Hour, and The Best Human Effort record.
To what sounded like a very rare atmosphere Merckx made one of the sports great records to sound of polite clapping and the chants of “Eddy…Eddy…Eddy”. The shear effort that The Hour takes has humbled all those who have tried. On finishing his record breaking ride Merckx rolled into the center of the velodrome and into the arms of Ernesto Colnago and uttered “Basta (meaning enough, and remarkably close to bastard)… that’s the last time I’ll ever do the hour record. The pain was incredible… ‘. Coming from The Cannibal that is saying something. Although not really a surprise that it hurt as his preparation leading into it was a season where he won no less than fifty races, among them a fifth Milan-San Remo, a fourth Tour de France, a third Tour of Italy, a third Liège-Bastogne-Liège, a third Fleche Wallone, a second Tour of Lombardy. Not really the preparation you would expect.
It seemed the only way to beat Merckx’s record was with technology. Boardman and Obree both breaking it with both unusual and advanced bikes and positions. Merckx’s effort was later beaten by Chris Boardman on a traditional set-up by a painful 32.8ft, riding a 54 x 14 with a 160mm stem (above). The difference between the two rides comes down really to the first KM. Merckx started fast, Boardman was a little more conservative. For the next 45km they basically stayed the same. Boardman had a slight edge having Merckx’s time to beat in the final KM and was able to pull out a little extra to take the record. That record stood for another 5 years until Czech Ondrej Sosenka beat it by nearly a mile, literally, (0.707 of a mile, or 44795.5 inches) pushing a 54 X 13 gear. Unfortunately his incredible ride is somewhat tainted as he later twice tested positive for doping, although not on his record breaking ride.
So since Merckx set the benchmark in Mexico on the 25th of October in 1972 at 30.175 (if we give Sosenka the benefit of the doubt) in 42 years we have moved the record on by 0.7 of a mile. This coming season we may see two of the best chances yet to put a new benchmark on the board. Two of the best cyclists in history against the clock will make attempts to push the distance out further, Fabian Cancellara and hopefully Bradley Wiggins. Wiggins a veteran of the track, and Cancellara one of the best engines in the sport. The Hour is maybe one of the last pure “blue ribbon” records left standing in the sport. Controlled conditions and controlled technology. I can see the attraction for both riders as they enter the twilight of their careers. To have your name talked about in the same sentence as Merckx, Boardman, Moser, Indurain, Rominger, especially as a record holder will stake your place in cycling history. Now all we need is Tony Martin to create the trilogy of the modern “Clock men” to try and break it.