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.
There is a battle raging in New York. Cyclists have become the enemy of all law-abiding citizens, and their “out-of-control behavior” (as quoted in the New York Post) needs to be stamped out! We are the scorn of the neighborhoods. What is it with this city and their hate of cyclists? Is it like this anywhere else? If you cut through the ridiculous over-the-top headlines, there is a level of discrimination going on that really doesn’t make sense, or seem fair. This is best illustrated by the following.
During the week there are basically two places to train, Central Park and Prospect Park. Due to the insanity of the traffic (yes, in the Park, when they are surrounded by two lane roads) means most riders train in their respective park “after hours” when they are closed to traffic. Please focus on the CLOSED TO TRAFFIC part. That means riding at 6am or after 7pm when the park is mostly riders, runners and roller bladers all basically going in the same direction, clockwise (ok, some roller bladers get carried away and do counter clockwise twirls, but they look pretty). Pretty much everyone is just getting on with it and getting some exercise in. In these “closed” times no one is stopping at the lights. Now what is happening is, the NYPD are standing by those lights and giving tickets to cyclists that don’t stop when the light is red (If memory serves me right, maybe eight sets of lights in Central Park? Try getting 5 laps in and some intervals before breakfast with that amount of stops). The current count is up to over 1000 tickets issued and that is in the winter when most of us are on indoor trainers!
The letter of the law says tickets should be given when a red light is broken. When the park is open to traffic and I am riding in there, I would expect to have to stop at a red light, same as on the streets, just the same as any car. But when the park is closed to cars? Does that really make sense? In the 10 years I have been riding in those parks during closed hours I have never endangered a life by riding through those lights. In fact, the only time harm was caused was me going through the back window of a car and getting 202 stitches in my face for my trouble….let’s move on. Would it not be a better strategy to show some understanding and encourage riders to use the parks during these closed hours? and keep us off the streets and out of the way where you really don’t want us anyway? And for those riders that insist on flaunting the law everywhere else, you ticket them? In the 10 years that I have lived here riding in the Park like this has never been a problem, so why now? This type of riding is just not the same as the idiot that rides up a one way street the wrong way.
Again from the New York Post, a high-ranking police official said “Bicyclists should travel like vehicles and must obey the same laws. I think the moral of the story is it’s not just obey the rules of the road, but to utilize the bike lanes and safety first.” But come on. How many cars do we see parked in bike lanes? I could walk this neighborhood (Borem Hill, Cobble Hill) on any given morning or night and give out 20 tickets to cars parked in bike lanes. Is that happening? Of course not. Cars in bike lanes don’t matter. In fact, check out the picture below, how do you deal with that? When the people telling me to get in the bike lane and off the road (after telling me I should behave like a vehicle) is full of vehicles with flashing lights on top. It is absurd. And as for the idiots that drive vehicles in the park after hours with their hazard lights on (because that somehow makes it ok), when are we going to crack down on their “out-of-control behavior”? Yes I know I am a hazard, but my lights make it ok.
Not really sure where this one is going to go. Racing starts in those parks in a few months, and I wouldn’t want to be the cop that has to stand out in front of a charging Cat2/3 field on a Saturday morning, and try to get them to stop. I absolutely support stopping at red lights out on the open traffic-infested roads. I may even shout at cyclists who break them, and hope they get a ticket. It pisses me off when I see riders riding down the street the wrong way, when there is a right way street and a bike lane one block over. Get your lazy ass over there, you need the exercise. But these instances are not the same as riding on a closed park loop in a controlled manner. Enforce where it is needed and let the rest of us get on with it. It also means ALL laws should be enforced equally, and they aren’t (see bike lane above). If you close a park to traffic, then you don’t need traffic controlling-devices, traffic lights. If you say the closed park is for recreation, I love to recreation on my bike. Sometimes a little faster than others, but more often not.
CATEGORIES: Riders,The Other Stuff
There are riders that you just love to watch. That on their day can light up a race and help us remember that all the politics and nonsense that goes on between the UCI and the teams is….well, just bullshit. These are the guys that make us scream at the TV. Two of those riders are Denis Menchov and Carlos Sastre. The sight of Menchov running screaming back down the home straight after remounting in the final TT of the GIRO and then going on to win the overall is still one of my favorite moments in the sport. That, alongside “Carlito” attacking on Alpe D’Huez, probably one of my more emotional moments in the sport. Perfect tactics matched with sublime climbing, man did I scream at the TV that day.
So any team built around these two great riders you would think would be a shoe-in for the top league of our sport (The Pro-Tour), but alas no. They will be made to fight to justify their place in the biggest races in the 2011 season. I am sure they and their teammates will find motivation in this, and prove they deserve the chance to compete. There is too much class there not to. So as the Tour Down Under kicks off with new teams, kits and sponsors, the Geox-TMC team went quietly about their business and kicked off their season in Tarragona, Spain. Perhaps appropriately dressed all in black (they are still waiting for their new kit design to arrive) and in danger of looking like a Rapha Ad, two Grand Tour winners and a winner of San Sebastian rolled out on a training ride. I am looking forward to seeing this group of riders proving their status wrong. We all love an underdog, although with a line-up of this quality they may not qualify for that status.
Last year one of the more unique and memorable paint jobs in the peleton was the “Golden” Fuji that the team used. For anyone that saw that frame in the flesh, you will understand the show-stopping look that paint had. The paint was actually ground-down aluminum combined with paint to get the finish. This year the Philly based-ASI company will again be supplying the team, with the new Fuji Altamira, which debuted at the Vuelta last year. Looking at the pictures below, the paint design and the gloves look like we are going to get something a little more colorful than the black kits at the training camp.
The shots in the post were captured by Michael Crook, who spent time with the team at their training camp in Spain. When I asked her how it was all going, and what was up with the black kits she explained the reason and said, “Menchov knocked me dead when I first saw him in it”. She is going to be spending the first part of the year over in Europe living the dream and following teams and races.
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Nélson Oliveira was recruited by Team RadioShack from Xacobeo Galicia for the 2011 season, off the back of two years of impressive results. In July he took the silver medal at the U23 European Road Championships in Ankara, as well as the bronze medal at the European TT Championships. He also finished 4th in the U23 TT World Championship in Melbourne this year. We were lucky enough to get some time with him as he headed to his first Team RadioShack training camp (Thanks to Dan Silva). We will be following him with interest this season as he steps up with RadioShack and rides alongside our fellow country man Philip Deignan (Ed: Go Phil!).
Thanks for taking the time Nelson, we really appreciate it
It is a pleasure.
Nelson tell us about your first ever race back in Portugal, and how you got introduced to cycling?
I got introduced to cycling through my father, who was also a professional cyclist and raced in several of the Volta a Portugal. I did my first race in 2003 in the youth category at the age of 14 and I won my first race in 2004, and it was then that I started to dream of becoming a Pro. It is hard to achieve this in Portugal, as the Pro scene is pretty small. It consists of only four professional teams.I stuck with it and for the 2009 season I got a spot on the Cidade de Lugo/Artesania Galicia team. I stayed with them for one season and then moved on to Xacobeo Galicia for the 2010 season.
Growing up in Portugal which riders did you admire?
My two favorite riders to watch were José Azevedo and Lance Armstrong. It is funny how these things work out, but ironically next year José will be my coach, and Lance will be my teammate. If you had told me that back then growing up, I would have said that would be unthinkable.
The 2010 season was a great year for you, with great results in the European Championships and at the Worlds. Is this what we should expect from Nelson going forward? Do you see the TT as your specialty?
I wouldn’t call it my specialty, but for now it is without doubt the discipline where I feel more at ease, and feel the strongest. My goal for the future is to improve my performance in the mountains, and try to not loose continued improvements against the clock. I want to be a better all round rider.
Like father like son, Nelson’s father back in the day, and Nelson on the podium at the European Championships
In that World U23 TT can you remember what your numbers were? We watch these races on TV and often wonder what it takes. It gives us something to think about racing around the park.
I didn’t ride with a power meter during the TT, but my average speed for the coarse (9.81miles/15.8Km) was 27.9mph (45km/h).
What was the atmosphere like down there? We have a lot of Aussies that follow the blog, and they can be a pretty passionate group about their cycling?
The atmosphere was amazing. The sport has had a great expansion in Australia and the fans have grown with it. So despite the distance of getting down there, it was still a great place to hold the worlds and one of the main reasons why it was chosen.
Watching the grand Tours on TV I can’t imagine what it is like to ride through a wall of fans going up an Alpine or Pyrenean climb, How does it feel?
It is a pretty great feeling at any time, but especially while climbing. It is always good to have support from the side of the road when you travel, but it especially helps when your legs start to give on the bigger climbs. You definitely get an extra burst of energy that helps push you on.
What is your favorite race you have done so far as a pro?
Without doubt it was the Road Race at the World Championships at Mendrisio, where I also won the silver medal in the Time Trial. It’s where the best of the best are, and everyone wants to win a medal.
If I could give you a win right here and now, of any of the one day races, what would you choose?
Paris-Roubaix without question.
Do you have a favorite climb?
It has to be the Serra da Estrela, the highest climb in Portugal at 6,539 ft. I have a couple of favorite training rides close to where I live, but nothing in particular. I like to train on a terrain of good medium hills.
You are part of the next generation of young and clean talent in the peleton, what do you think could be done better to keep our sport clean and competitive?
I think if we continue to work the same way we are now in Portugal, we will be ok. The training set-up for young riders is fundamental, it allows you to create the right values from the start, along with the right attitude. From this we will have new riders that will turn into the right sort of idols. We need this for the fans and to bring new sponsors in to the sport.
Tell us about getting the ride with Radioshack? How did it happen? What is your program going to look like next year?
Signing for Radioshack’s is a dream come true. There has been a lot of hard work over the previous years on my part, and that has given Johan a lot of confidence in my abilities. It is still too early to define my program for next year, but I will know more as we go through the training camps and we define the team goals.
Where do you base yourself for the European calendar?
I’ll continue to live where I’ve always been, in Portugal living with my parent’s
What is it like sitting on Cancellara’s wheel at full gas?
I have not had that opportunity yet
Johan continues to have an eye for great young talent, out of all the the new riders at RadioShack who impresses you the most?
Ben King. He has achieved great results already last season and is the current US Champion.
I know you will feel you have to answer Trek for this question, but when you sit on the start line and you look at all the team bikes, which one do you want to steel most (after Trek)?
After Trek, I would have to say the Pinarello. With the Pinarello FM1 I achieved the best result of my career, and was able to become the “Vice Champion” of the world for the Time Trial.
(Thanks to Dan Silva for the Portuguese translation)
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