Odd Man Out 06/07/2014
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.
“It Was Like I Just Fell Out Of A Tree” 04/27/2014
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!
Fire Flies West 2014 10/01/2014
The FireFlies ride is as close as I am going to get to living the life of a Pro. My job for the day was to get up and ride, finish in one piece and prepare myself for the next day. Our rider support was excellent, although all massage was self applied using “Pain” sticks. The camaraderie is the sort you only find when you pass through moments of suffering together, followed by moments of euphoria brought on by the consumption of Chocolate Milk or the “Double Andrea” (A dinner in which Andrea orders two main courses for everybody as starters). The group brings its own set of road rules, someone is always with the slowest rider, and weaker riders make experienced riders realize there is more to this all than just mashing on the front. We trash talk constantly, and anyone who appears to be riding well, showing moments of “Power”, attacking, or apparently having a birthday swiftly get punished the following day by having a shopping basket attached to their stealth black carbon masterpiece. Then there are the groups within the group. The “Lady Train” where men were ushered of wheels, or off the back. “The Sprinters” and I use that description liberally, this group was less about going fast at the end and more about climbing at one speed, not slow but not fast. Their rallying cry “We will descend like gods!” For the route, we may not have 10,000 ft Tour days but pulling the equivalent of 14 intervals that are each between a 2 and 3 mile climb each in sequence gets you close to the feeling of riding an ARDENNES day. We were still putting in 5000+ ft days, we seemed to do that a lot. The route is spectacular with most of it having the Pacific on your right shoulder and vineyards over your left. The wind is pretty much always in your back and the sun was out. A few times we looked across the road in wonder as to why Tourers were riding the other way in to the wind with bike five times heavier than us. As always the FireFlies never disappoints, and always exceeds expectations. The other expectation exceeded this year was raising $312K for the City Of Hope in LA. That is money that can make a difference, so thank you so much to everyone that contributed. There is already talk of whats next and potential recon rides on the east coast – but damn this one is hard to beat.
Large images and a full photo gallery here.
Anatomy Of A Jersey – Bardiani-CSF 05/25/2014
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.
Off And Running 02/15/2014
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.