THE FULL KEIRIN PHOTO ESSAY IS HERE
One day I am going to get to Japan, and one of the first things I hope to do is go to a Keirin race. The track racing scene is alive and well in Japan, with annual bets getting up to ¥1,5 trillion ($15 billion). Seats are hard to come by for the bigger events, with more than 20 million Japanese attended Keirin races last year. The riders trained specifically for the 2km event have all earned the privilege of competing professionally by passing through the Japan Bicycle Racing School in Shuzenji. With school days that start at 6.30am, that include 100km road rides before lunch, schooling, cleaning chores and track training in the afternoon, it takes a dedicated rider to stick it out and survive.
Unfortunately graduating does not always guarantee you a ride, with only a percentage of the 150 graduates making it on to the track. Those that do get the “honor” of wearing the green striped shorts with seven white stars denoting “Rookie“. Top professionals can race up to 100 days per year at the 4 day events. Riders are locked down at the tracks during the events and isolated from all contact with the outside world to prevent race fixing. Top riders earn up to ¥100 million a year, a very good living, with some riders sustaining that level well into their 40s. Unfortunately for the pros at the bottom of the league life is a constant test, with each rider being accessed every 6 months. Failure to compete at a consistent level means getting demoted out of the pro ranks, a place where it is very hard to return from.
One of the enduring stars of the Keirin scene is “Tomity“. Toshihiko Tomita is a 52 year old, 29 year Keirin veteran. Yeah, read that line again and think about it for a while. For 29 years Tomity maintained the power to stay at the top of the pro ranks, despite a constant challenge and influx of new young talent. On a trip to Japan photographer Fredrik Clement was able to spend a day with Tomity training at the Seibuen velodrome before he retired. His photo essay presents the opposite atmosphere to that felt on race night. The empty stadiums where the riders train appear cold, empty and emotionless, and behind the scenes the rider facilities present a picture of a harsh and simple life. We were lucky enough for Fredrik to allow us to feature this series. Cheers mate.
THE FULL KEIRIN PHOTO ESSAY IS HERE
THE FULL PHOTO ESSAY CAN BE SEEN HERE
Emily Maye sent us these beautiful shots that she took at his years Tour Of California. She has managed to create a unique mood that we don’t usually see in cycling photography. Focusing less on the tip of the action, and more on the candid moments when riders maybe feel mostly off camera. Check out her full portfolio here.
There were so many things that made the 2011 Tour a great one, especially after such a chaotic and sickening first week. Sitting today on my first day of no pre or post work Tour to watch… damn I miss it! These were a few of the standouts for me:
Anyone Not Know The Name Hoogerland Now? He has redefined the meaning of gutting it out. After peeling himself off a barbed wire fence he still finishes the stage covered in lacerations and bleeding, into the arms of his visibly upset father. Could there be a better person to have by your side on the rest day after the crash to encourage you to continue? Everywhere he races now will know the name Hoogerland, and the term HTFU. (Going for a spin with his dad on the rest day).
A Tragic End For Vino: He came to this tour knowing it would be his last, with the hopes of a swan song and maybe a day in yellow before he retired into the DS seat. Carrying some of the best form he has had in years it just seems wrong that his career should end on a nondescript shitty descent in the Massif Central.
Ten Dam’s Face Plant: After a spectacular somersault coming into a bend too hot on the Col d’Agnes he did a face plant at speed going over bars. What greeted the medics on the roadside was a disorientated bloody and dirty mess. Ten Dam’s response? He got back on and was monitored all the way to the finish by the race doctor. That evenings tweet “No Fractures” and back in the bunch the next morning.
Let Pierre Roland Off The Leash More Often: Nobody expected anything from Europcar other than maybe a stage win from Voeckler. Not only did Tommy surprise us all with one of the best displays of courage in the saddle and scare the crap out of the GC contenders, the whole team (all French) supported him beyond all expectations. Some names stood out like Charteau and Gautier, but maybe best of all was Pierre Roland and his ride on the Alp. He rode some of the biggest names in cycling off his wheel and applied perfect tactics to take Frances first stage of the Tour, and on Alp D’Huez no less. Hinault eat your words, yes he is the real deal. Welcome to the sport Europcar!!! Sucks B-Box right?
J.C.Peraud Arrives. Better Late Than Never. After spending most of his career as a successful mountain biker, Peraud in the twilight of his career and in only his second year as a pro on the road (and in his first ever tour) managed to finish top ten on GC. Something most pros spend a lifetime dreaming of. It was a stunning ride for someone still learning the ropes of road riding, let alone riding a Grand Tour. This should silence a lot of the doubters. Two ex-mountain bikers in the top 10, anybody know of any road riders taking a mountain bike world cup?
The Lantern Rouge: Fabio Sabatini. Who knows what sort of result Fabio could have gotten if he had been riding for himself. Top 50? maybe even a top 25 with a little bit of luck and strategy? But he wasn’t, he spent most of his days going back and forwards between the cars and the peleton for his team. You ever try carrying eight 2lb bottles up a Cat 1 climb? That is another bike in weight. Sent to the front as disposable power when Evan deemed it was ok to participate in a chase, definitely not the most glamorous of lifestyles, but a priceless role. Chapeau Fabio, you finished the Tour. The Lantern Rouge is something to be proud of.
Lets All Stand For Cadel: The sight of Cadel Evans out of the saddle and dropping serious power up some of the toughest climbs in the Alps. Maybe the most impressive of all was his chase wrestling his bike up the Galibier on Stage 18. When he started at the bottom a select group of 23 riders, some of the best climbers in the world were strung out on his wheel. By the top 4 were left. He got no help and never looked over his shoulder once. He just rode. If you want to win the tour, sometimes you just have to get on with it.
O.T.S.S Or Over the Shoulder Syndrome: The first acute symptoms were spotted at the Tour of Switzerland, and obviously got worse from there. Both the Schleck brothers have a severe case of it, and need a cure quick. Ironically the first day Andy didn’t look over his shoulder going up the Izoard, was the day that he made his biggest impression on the race. Sometimes tactically naive, and more concerned with where each other was the Schleck brothers gave everyone the opportunity to recompose and follow everything they did (just my humble opinion). When you have the legs the finish line is straight ahead (see Cadel reference above). It maybe says more about a lack of confidence in their own ability than anything else.
“Jeremy Roy Is Up The Road Again!” How many times did we say that over the last three weeks? Who is this guy!?! His ride on stage 12 to bridge to Geraint Thomas was a great piece of solo riding, to only get caught on the last climb in the last 8km. The day after at the start of stage 13 he said he didn’t think he was going to be able to finish the stage. Two hours later he was up the road again and dropping Thor going up the Aubisque. Unfortunately Thor had a few things to get off his chest, like riding like a World Champion, and smothered Roy in the sprint. Roy was in the break 6 times over the three weeks, for a total of 700 Km off the front. He attacked on the first day, and finished it off with an attack on the Champs Elysees on the last. An exciting rider to watch.
Somehow I managed to win the Gage+DeSoto Fantasy Giro league, even without having Berty Contador on my team. There is justice in that somewhere. Mike and Brett were kind enough to offer me a choice of one of their new Team t-shirts as a prize. Given the selection I chose the HTC team as my band of brothers for the summer. Yellow for the Tour, HTC because Specialized are a client (and Sean would ban me from Morgan Hill if I showed up wearing Leopard), and Cav because I was lucky enough to have dinner with him and compare Bell and Ross watches (his was cooler, limited and way more expensive). He is a funny guy. Go get your team on for the summer. Although I wouldn’t mind a British one for Sky with Wiggo, Geraint, Jez & Stevo.
Ricco makes my stomach turn. His self administered name “The Cobra” couldn’t be closer to the truth, as the guy is indeed a snake (or snake charmer). How on earth has he managed to convince another team manager to sign him? I have heard the expression “no publicity is bad publicity,” but never really believed in it. This might be the case to prove it. Take a quick glance at the guys “Palmeres“.
When he was with Ceramica Panaria-Navigare in 2005 several of his blood tests revealed his hematocrit levels exceeded the 50% rule – this was supposed to be a “natural” phenomenon.
Then in 2008, he had a non-negative test for EPO following stage 4 of the Tour at Cholet, eventually leading to the whole Saunier Duval team withdrawing – and surely a key reason why the sponsor left the sport. The prosecutor in this case later testified that medical supplies, including syringes and equipment for intravenous drips, were found in his hotel room (granted unused – but what the hell were they doing there?). It was also revealed that Ricco had also attempted to escape the doping control officials after that stage, but got caught in traffic.
And now on February 6 this year he was admitted to hospital and diagnosed with kidney failure, allegedly due to a blood transfusion he performed on himself with 25-day-old blood. Ricco admitted to the doctor treating him, in the presence of his girlfriend, that he had performed the transfusion. Ricco of course now denies this admission. Now the question I have is, what has this doctor got to gain by making that story up?
Skip forward to this week and I read that he was in talks with the Amore & Vita team (clueless) with contract conditions requiring him to live close enough to team headquarters to be regularly observed. This didn’t pan out, as I assume the thought of his DS calling around anytime felt like it left little opportunity to hide the blood in the fridge.
Hopefully this is his last chapter in cycling, as he now signs with the Meridiana-Kamen team based in Serbia. How they can ignore all of the above and put ink on paper with a guy like this is perplexing. What frustrates me more than anything is the speed at which the investigations in Italy move. Here we are nearly 4 months on and we are none the wiser about what he did in fact do on Feb 6th. Why would anyone agree to sign him without knowing the investigations outcome based on his previous? I have a feeling that this is not going to be the end of this story. His new team have some promising new young riders on it, I am sure they are all drawing straws to see who shares a room with Ricardo. I just hope none of them share the initials “R.R”.
Well I guess I did learn a few things from all of this news today, the name of a new cycling team, Meridiana-Kamen (lets hope he doesn’t drag them down with him) and the fact I really don’t like Ricardo Ricco. After this last debacle apparently he was quoted as saying “cycling makes me vomit…”. Well, right about now Ricardo is making most of cycling vomit.
CATEGORIES: Riders,The Other Stuff
Read it again, it isn’t a typo. If you were to start in Sydney and head south, and more or less hug the coast all the way around Australia, that gets you to 15,700km. Riding in support of the Smile Foundation six riders will head off on June 30th to complete a coarse 5 times the length of the Tour. They are doing this insane route to raise money for children suffering from rare diseases. If you want to show your support and donate you can do that here. The route is detailed here, with the towns they will be passing through and the dates. Check out if they come close to you and get out there and ride with them for a bit. I am sure they would appreciate the support and someone different to talk to. Can you imagine talking bikes and cycling for 80 days with the same six blokes….ok yes I can.
CATEGORIES: Riders,Routes,The Other Stuff
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 »
Love this picture, don’t you just want to be there? Sun is out, a good cup of coffee, a sticky bun and your Ray Bans, before you head out to race your ass off around a desert. I am in love with Vino again. Photo by Stephen Farrand
CATEGORIES: Riders,The Other Stuff
4 mins 10.534 seconds. Doesn’t sound like a long time to bury yourself for? Give it a go some time and try and sit at that cadence and power. Maybe the magnitude of the record could be better realized in the fact that it took 15 years to move it by 0.58 seconds, and for the first time take it under the mythical “4.11″ mark. Such an achievement that when Bobridge came of the final bend and saw the clock he thought it had stopped on the wrong lap. Talking about being in the zone. Jack Bobridge is an amazingly talented rider (Ed: State the obvious), one I can’t wait to watch on the roads of Europe this summer. That is a lot of speed to take into a prologue. What is disappointing is that we won’t have the spectacle of him going head-to-head with Wiggo in a Pursuit final at the London Olympics. Man that is like a world cup final, I would stay up to watch that one. What fan wouldn’t? Yet another example of the UCI being out of touch with the core of what makes this sport great. That being said this is an incredible achievement, and a sign that the next wave of great riders is looking like they are going to be draped in green and gold and come from down under.