Monday, June 30, 2008
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Saturday, June 28, 2008
We are now seven days from the Tour de France. Most of the top contenders are at elevation, finishing their preparation for the grande boucle, and anxiously awaiting the start line in Brest on July 5th. Below are four random pre-race observations with only one week to go.
1. The main favorites will have no excuses for their form
Evans, Valverde, Menchov, Cunego, Zubeldia, and Sastre all have managed to stay upright and out of harm for their preparations, and so each should come to the line in Breast in their best possible form. Look for very nervous racing over the first few stages, as each team leader attempts to assert their team's dominance on the race.
2. The second tier of contenders are still extremely talented
From the two Schlecks at CSC to Stijn Devolder of Quick Step, Vladamir Efimkin of the French AG2R team, and Kim Kirchin of team Columbia, the second level GC contenders are still serious threats if they come into the Tour on top form. Look for Devolder and Efimkin to surprise in the high mountains, and for Schleck as a key player amongst the big players as he looks to launch team leader Sastre. Kirchin is always steady in the Tour, and his recent victory at the Fleche Wallonne in April and the time trial championhip in Luxembourge this past week will have him arriving at the Tour with supreme confidence. EuroPeloton predicts a gritty ride from Kirchin, and a top ten placing overall.
3. The young rider competition should be exciting
Andy Schleck. Mauricio Soler of Barloworld. Roman Kreuzinger, recent winner of the Tour de Swiss. Thomas Lovkwist. Gerolsteiner's Markus Fothen. Liquigas's Vincenco Nibali. All will be on hand to contend for the mallot blanc, but some in the group will be contending for other jerseys as well. Andy Schleck and Soler likely will be involved in the KOM title as well, along with one other young rider, Riccardo Ricco. "The Cobra" came up just short of his goal of the overall title at the Giro, but he rode well (despite an enormous ego) and showed that he is a legit stage race threat for the future. It's looking like Ricco is primed for a run at the KOM title, and probably won't look to ride high on the GC or young rider competition.
4. The green jersey conpetition is wide open too
With Petacchi out of this year's Tour, the veteran Erik Zabel will enjoy team leadership duties once again. Ands why can't the old German win the green jersey again? Other veterans will be there to contest the green jersey, amongst them Thor Hushovd, Robbie McEwen and Oscar Freire, but none of them seem that much better than Zabel when considering their chances for the points title. Each would love a green jersey in Tom Boonen's absence, and only Freire seems questionable to finish the grand tour, as he prepares for another run at the world championship. It should be an exciting competition, with a surprise winner. Stuey O'Grady has been quiet thus far, but is a capable, sturdy rider who has won a green jersey in the past. Watch out for the understimated Aussie to take the title.
All Tour d eFrance, all the time over the next week as we inch ever closer to the biggest bicycle race in the world.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Last but not least, look out for the Toyota United squad, as the bring Justin England, Chris Baldwin, and Domique Rollin to Oregon to contest the Cascade. The Toyoat team has yet to announce a sponsor agreement for 2009 and beyond, so every win that owner Sean Tucker's team can earn will help their cause for finding a replacement sponsor for Toyota.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
As an announcer and reporter of cycling, I find many opportunities to observe the sport of cycling through the eyes of the fans. In these moments, whether it is a small child seeing the fleeting peloton pass by for the first time or the die hard fan rooting on their favorite team or rider, I remember the true beauty and simplicity of the sport.
I have always believed that you either love cycling or you don't care about it either way. Some people look at a bike race and see only a big group of people riding close to each other. But to the cycling aficianado, the true fan, therein lies much more. Instead, the cycling fan sees a game within a game, an ebbing and flowing, a fluid organism capable of various appearances at any given time. In short, a cycling fan sees life.
It is this 'life' that attracts one to the sport. It is in watching a sprinter like Tom Boonen battle over the huge climbs of the Tour de France in order to get to Paris. It is in seeing Tyler Hamilton, waaaay past his prime, soldier on for the love of the sport. It is in George Hincapie and Chris Horner, a desire to ride until no one wants them, until they can no longer derive a living from the activity. Few sports exhibit such passion, such perserverance, such grit.
And surrounding all this 'life' are the fans, the followers of the sport that support their favorite rider year in and year out. At the prologue in San Francisco at the 2007 Tour of California, while setting up for the race early in the morning, I saw a man sitting by himself on a news paper vending machine. He had a bag draped over his shoulder, and was wearing a Colnago world champion cycling hat. It was chilly outside, and he patiently sipped a hot coffee as I approached him.
I nodded hello and we started talking. Salvatore was his name, he was from Italy, and had been living in America for over 15 years. After telling me to call him "Sal," he explained that he was here for one reason and one reason only: Paolo Bettini. He had a "Squadra Azzura" jersey in his bag, along with a matching Italia cycling cap and a magazine with Bettini on the cover. As he showed me each treasure, he smiled a little bigger and became more animated as he described his hero. He was there four hours before the prologue to secure a spot at the front of the crowd for when Bettini arrived. Observing him, I could see the underlying concentration on his face not to miss his moment. I wished him luck and walked away.
A few hours later, I returned to the area where the team busses were to be parked. Some of the teams had already arrived, including the Discovery and CSC teams. They had run some yellow police tape around their campers, so as to keep the fans at a safe distance from the riders. I looked around for the man I had seen that morning, but he was nowhere to be found. I began walking back toward where I had seen him earlier that day.
As I approached the spot, I realized that I was arriving at the perfect moment to see the man's plan fulfilled. He was looking purposefully up the road, scanning the roadway ahead for any sign of his hero. Just then, a car approached carrying the world champion in the front seat. Springing into action, the man positioned himself in front of the passenger side door as the car came to a stop.
It was a beautiful thing to watch. Bettini non-chalantly stepped out of the team car, resplendant in his world champion's rainbow jersey. Meanwhile, in one fluid motion, Sal had the Italia jersey and hat in one hand, and a black sharpie in the other. He quickly presented both to Bettini, who signed first the hat and then the jersey. As Bettini signed the hat, the man carefully reached into his bag for the magazine. By the time Bettini finished signing the jersey, the magazine appeared just beneath as the final article to sign. After scribbling his name a third time, this time on a magazine, Bettini nodded at Sal and strode toward the team camper.
Sal meanwhile tucked the magazine and jersey back into the bag along with the cap, and scurried out of the way of the crowd toward a nearby bench. He was spent. Taking in a deep breath, he exhaled and looked up at the sky before carefully unfurling the jersey, cap and magazine from his bag. I walked over to him just as he was purveying his newly signed merchandise. Looking up at me, he smiled a mile-wide and held out his hand. With the conviction of someone that has accomplished exactly what they set out to do, he said to me, "I really got him to sign all three!" He was completely in his element, and completely satisfied.
I think back on Sal often as an example of what it means to be a true cycling fan. We're a strange lot, capable of patience and precision when searching out a given rider. Some people only want a handshake, others to ask a question, and others an autograph. Sal waited for about five hours just to interact briefly with Bettini for just under a minute. Yet to him it was completely worth it. I know how he feels. A year later, I would wait six hours in the pouring rain to see Toyota United's Dominique Rollin take the cold, rainy queen stage of the 2008 Tour of California. I gladly would have waited seven.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Christophe Moreau, Leonardo Piepoli, and Erik Zabel approach the 2008 Tour de France at the very end of their cycling careers. Each may well continue riding into 2009, but it is unlikely that each will be able to make the cut for the Grande Boucle again.
Few people associate or remember Moreau as part of the tainted Festina team of 1998
Piepoli is a pure climber and a huge asset to a GC hope
Piepoli probably has one or two more Giro's in him, but it is unlikely that we'll see him at the Tour de France after this year. He's an aging mountain goat who can still be an asset once a year in a grand tour, and he'll end up finishing his career in the Giro d'Italia in one or two more seasons. The only reason he's even riding this year's Tour is due to his crashing out of the Giro. He is still relatively fresh, and the 36year old should be able to go top three or better in at least one of the mountian stages.
Even if each rider fails in his quest for one more big time win in a Tour de France, it won't matter. Their legacies have been cemented into cycling's history books regardless of whether they succeed in this year's Tour or not. Hopefully though one of them will catch lightning, and wow their tifosi one more time.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Over the next few weeks, the majority of national championships will take place, and wearing one's own distinctive national kit tends to bring out the best in many different types of riders each summer. With the exception of Australia and the USA, almost every other cycling nation will run it's national championship just ahead of the Tour de France. Many current national champs are scheduled to take place in the Grande Boucle, and they'll likely look different once the Tour arrives.
Stijn Devolder will defend his chamionship for Belgium, but will be up against some stiff competition in Tom Boonen and Leif Hoste. Philippe Gilbert too will be a threat. Finally, Greg Van Avermet could impress with a touch of luck. For the Dutch, Thomas Dekker will be a heavy favorite, with Robert Gesink and Bauke Molleme dark horses.
Joaquím Rodríguez will have to contend both with Oscar Freire and Alejandro Valverde. In all liklihood, he won't make it to the tour in his country's colors. And in France, Christophe Moreau will have a chance to defend his national jersey, and show it off on homke soil providing he can thwart the efforts of Sylvain and Sebastian Chavanel, Thomas Voekler and Remy Di Gregario. Finally, Giovanni Visconti will try to keep the tricolor Italian kit, having to watch out for Enrico Gasparotto, Filippo Pozzato, Daniele Bennati, and Danilo Napolitano.
For America, Levi Leipheimer gets to keep the jersey until the end of August, when the US Pro Championships occur. He'll face tough competition again no doubt, with Christian Vande Velde, Chris Horner, Dave Zabriskie, Fred Rodriguex, Andy Bajadali, Steven Cozza, and George Hincapie on hand to battle it out for the stars and stripes.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Roman Kreuziger held off challenges from some of the best stage racers in cycling yesterday, completing the 2008 Tour de Swiss as the overall winner. After an epic first place in the individual mountain time trail a few days earlier, Kreuzinger showed himself as a young rider to watch for thr future.
Kreuzinger was able to defeat the likes of Kim Kirchen, Andreas Kloden and Damiano Cunego. At only 22 years old, Kreuzinger's best years are still ahead of him. He leads a new generation of young professionals that are able to win even at the beginning of their careers. Expect Kreuzinger to be around for a long time, and to be a darkhorse favorite for the Tour de France overall in about two years.
Two other young riders that also contested the Tour de Swiss were Thomas Lovkwist of the Columbia team and Andy Schleck of CSC-Saxo. Both riders put in excellent performances in the race, finishing 5th and 6th overall respectively. Expect both Lovkwist and Schleck to have good Tour de France rides, as they become more and more comfortable in the pro peloton.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Stage five of the 2008 Tour de Nez, a 45 mile up and down affair in and around the Village at Northstar resort, gave onlookers one last chance to see the main protagonists of the stage race fight it out on the tough, technical course. The 1.75 mile loop took riders over stretches of the cobbles stones that run through the village, lending an old school feel to the race.
As usual, the action came fast and furious, as the overall race leader through four stages, Andy Bajadali of the Kelly Benefit Strategies/Medifast team, held a tenuous four second lead over BMC’s Scott Nydam, five seconds on Symmetric’s Eric Wohlberg and a further 18 seconds on Bissell’s Burke Swindlehurst. All signs pointed to a showdown among the leading trio, but as happens so often in cycling, a different scenario played out.
The strongest team in the race, Bissell, initiated the action right away as Graham Howard, the brother of stage one winner Steven, went clear early with four others, including SRAM’s Ben Raby, Zteam’s Paul Mach, stage three winner Roman Kilun and Vitamin Cottage’s Jonathan Baker, second in stage three behind Kilun.
With only eight laps remaining, Bissell racheted up the pace, as Aaron Olson went off in search of the breakaway, and behind them, Garmin-Chipotle’s Steven Cozza, Team 5 Star Waste Vegetable Oil’s Karl Bordine and Tom Zirbel worked hard to bridge to the leading group of five.
Two laps later, the breakaway was nine strong, with Zirbel and Howard pinning it at the front. Bajadali’s Kelly Benefit Strategies squad suffered a bit of bad luck, as “The Bahj” explained. “The race was really tight, and we needed all our guys to battle Bissell. They brought a full GC team, so we had out work cut out for us. Candelario flatted and really had to dig to get back. By the time he reconnected, he was really tired. Dan Bowman too was really fatigued, so I got isolated and was unable to match Bissell’s power.”
As the race went inside the final five laps, both Howard and Zirbel put in huge pulls at the front, increasing the gap to Bajadali and the chasing field. Olson took over with three to go, and dragged the remaining four riders the rest of the way home. In what seemed like an impossibility, the affable 30 year old from Bend, Oregon was able to create enough of a time gap to take the overall title for the 2008 Tour de Nez.
Olson was obviously happy with the result, and described it as his biggest win to date. “I was able to win because of my teammates. They sacrificed themselves for my benefit. Graham Howard probably could have won today, but he sacrificed himself so that I could try for the overall. I’ve been feeling my form coming along over the last few weeks, and I was able to go with some of the better climbers, so I knew I had a good chance today for the overall win. For me, winning the overall is pretty special, especially considering the guys I beat this week.”
In the battle for the stage win, it was all Health Net’s Roman Kilun, as the Oakland, California native took his second stage win ahead of SRAM’s Ben Raby and John Baker of the Vitamin Cottage team. This time, Kilun won on a hilly, tough course, showing his versatility as a rider. “It’s been a really great week. When you’re relaxed and having fun, I think it makes it easier. With this race, it feels like family with Tim Helion and his crew. I come here every year, and it just seems to get better and better.”
In the final jersey competitions, Kelly Benefit’s Dan Bowman wrapped up the climber’s purple jersey, while team Rubicon-Orbea’s Carson Miller netted the best U-23 white jersey. For the green sprinter’s title, it was Roman Kilun, riding his two big wins in the five stage race. Olson meanwhile can bask in the glow of victory, as he scores the red overall winner’s jersey, which will match his predominantly red Bissell kit perfectly.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
As expected, the fourth stage of the 2008 Tour de Nez stage race provided a big shake up in the general classification, as Kelly Benefit’s Andy Bajadali took the leader’s jersey away from BMC’s Ian McKissick. Eric Wohlberg of the Symmetrics team was able to come away with a hard earned victory on the 6.5 mile mountain circuit, while at the same time vaulting himself back into contention for the overall crown.
The day’s action began early, as it has in most of the other stages, with the BMC team attacking. Scott Nydam, the 2008 Tour of California climbing champion, attacked the field on the very first lap, taking four other riders with him. After being caught on the descent, the field came back together ahead of the second lap, and the three mile ascent that featured a total of 869 vertical feet of climbing.
As the field hit the climb, Kelly Benefit Strategies’ Dan Bowman attacked, bringing Bissell’s Tom Zirbel and three others with him. He was counter-attacked by Successful Living’s Bradley White and Symmetrics Eric Wohlberg, who were able to forge a twenty second gap. Behind in the main field, the sudden attacks immediately put many riders in trouble, as multiple riders went off the back of the group, never to make contact with the leading field again.
After a third lap of more aggressive attacking, two riders were able to take a fifty-five second advantage over the chasing peloton. Bissell’s Zirbel was once again in a break, this time to stay, with his lap two partner Dan Bowman. The two worked together to extend the lead, and were able to hold a one minute gap over the field until the sixth lap, when they were joined by Wohlberg and another Bissell rider, Aaron Olson.
Behind the break, the main field was indecisive, as no one team seemed to want to take the responsibility of reeling in the break. By the beginning eighth lap, the foursome had shrunk to three, as Zirbel was dropped. The leading trio of Olson, Wohlberg, and Bowman had now grown their lead to over two minutes, as the stagnant field behind continued to give slack. Sensing that the race was getting away up the road, the remaining riders in the field began to pick up the pace. Health Net’s Corey Collier and Matthew Cooke pulled the remaining eleven riders up the climb, and by the time they hit the line for the ninth lap, the lead was down to only a minute and ten seconds.
On the ninth lap, multiple attacks split the remaining chasers, and Kelly Benefit’s Bajadali went away on his own in search of the break. Only four of the original eleven chasers were able to follow, as Nydam, Cooke, Successful Living’s Brad White, and Bissell’s Burke Swindlehurst followed about thirty seconds behind Bajadali. On the descent, the long day’s effort could be seen in the chasers, as Swindlehurst rubbed his cramping right leg and Aaron Olsen was unhitched by Wohlberg up the road, who sensed that the time was right for the decisive solo attack.
The tenth lap was one of survival, as all six of the remaining chasers did what they could to hang on. Cooke put in another acceleration on the final ascent of the climb, and Scott Nydam followed along with Brad White, dragging the four up to Olson and Bajadali. On the descent, the re-formed group of six rocketed toward the finish in a last gasp effort to reel in Wohlberg.
On the final climb to the finish, the chasing six could see Wohlberg up the road, but the Canadian was able to stay away, taking a heroic victory in the toughest stage of the Tour de Nez. Bajadali was able to unhitch his closest rival Olson on the final run in to the finish, and in doing so took the overall red leader’s jersey on the second to last stage. Scott Nydam rounded out the podium in third, keeping himself in the GC picture heading into the final stage tomorrow, another hilly forty-four mile jaunt in an around the Village at Northstar.
Many of the jersey’s changed hands, as Bajadali became both the overall and points leader. Adam Switters, after a tough Truckee criterium, conceded his best U-23 white jersey to Carson Miller of the Rubicon-Orbea team. A 19 year old from Bend, Oregon, Miller explained his expeience during the race. “This was an amazing day. I was unable to stay with the main group, but having the jersey means that I still did a good ride. I really hope I can defend the jersey tomorrow. I came here with a strong team, and we’ll definitely be looking to defend the jersey tomorrow for sure.”
Bajadali, the new race leader, realizes that nothing is assured tomorrow, as there are five riders within twenty seconds of the Kelly Benefit Strategies rider. “I have to hand it to Eric, he was the old Eric today. You know, tomorrow is another tough day, so I’m going to have to ride defensively and do the best I can to limit any gaps. My team was great today. Alex Candelario calmed me down early on, and now it’s anyone’s game. The GC is so tight, it’s gonna be kind of chaotic tomorrow.”
In what will be an electric final stage tomorrow at the Northstar resort, Bajadali will need his entire team’s help to ensure that he keeps the leader’s jersey. He’ll face constant attacks from Scott Nydam, Matthew Cooke, Burke Swindlehurst, Aaron Olson and Eric Wohlberg. In what should make for a memorable finale, the Tour de Nez is establishing itself as not only the “Coolest Bike Race in America,” but also one of the most difficult and exciting.
Friday, June 20, 2008
In what was an amazing day for bicycle racing in America, the third stage of the “Coolest Bike Race in America,” the Tour de Nez, unfolded in downtown Truckee. Conditions for the event were nearly perfect, with temperatures in the high 70’s and sunny skies. A stiff headwind made things interesting for the field, as the action was fast and furious from the opening gun in the seventy minute timed criterium.
Multiple attacks marked the first thirty minutes of the race, as pre-race favorite Alex Candelario took an early flyer, as did Eric Wohlberg, the former Canadian national champion riding for the Symmetrics squad. Behind in the main field, the BMC team struggled to pin down the early breaks, while the other teams with big sprinters refused to do much work to help bring back the break.
By the time the race had reached the one hour mark, a group of three had managed to escape from the field. Health Net’s Roman Kilun, Vitamin Cottage’s Jon Baker, and Justin England of the Toyota United team worked together to create a tentative gap, while behind BMC, weary from their race long effort to control the field, were unable to do much to bring the trio back. As the minutes ticked down, the gap held at twenty seconds, and the threesome was assured of being able to contest the sprint amongst themselves.
On the bell lap, the tactics began to play out, as each of the three riders began taking long looks at each other in an attempt to gauge the strength of each other. Coming down the home stretch, it was all Roman Kilun as the 26 year old from Oakland, California took the win easily ahead of Baker and England.
Kilun explained the situation on the road, and what his thoughts were during the race. “I was feeling really good when I went away with Justin and Jon, and I was surprised that we were able to get such a big gap. My next thought was for my teammates Corey Collier and Matt Cooke, who are high up on the GC. I didn’t want our break to get too much time, but I also wanted to go for the stage win. Since our gap didn’t get too big, I decided to go for it.” Speaking of winning against Baker and England, Kilun explained, “I felt pretty good. You know, they’re both good riders, so I didn’t take them for granted, but I was definitely confident that I could win.”
In what was a great day for the Health Net squad, Cooke and Collier finished second and third respectively in the morning time trial, while Kilun managed the win in the evening criterium. In looking to tomorrow’s road race, Kilun was humble. “I’ll work for my teammates, and try to give them the best chance possible to stay towards the top of the GC. They are both huge talents, and are really good climbers. They’ll show it for sure tomorrow.”
In the GC picture, BMC’s Ian McKissick was able to retain the leader’s red jersey, which he’ll try to defend or pass on to a teammate tomorrow on stage four. Roman Kilun claimed the latest green points jersey, while Adam Switters of the Rock Racing team was able to retain the white jersey of best U-23 rider despite significan mechanical problems with his back wheel throughout the race. “I had a problem with my back wheel, my gear kept slipping out on the sharp turns. I ended up being gapped very lap and had to work really hard just to stay in contact.”
Racing continues today with a 65 mile circuit race that is sure to shake up the general classification, as the riders will tackle 10 laps of a demanding 6.5 mile circuit, with a total of over 800 vertical feet of climbing on each circuit. Look for BMC to be out in force, along with Kelly Benefit’s Andrew Bajadali and Bissel’s Burke Swindlehurst. Finally, today’s breakaway rider Justin England should be in the mix, as he tries to take the overall win without any team support.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
The criterium course was contested over a 1.04 mile loop around the parking lot of the Grand Sierra resort, with a slightly uphill finish to complete the first leg of the “Coolest Race in America.” And from the opening gun, the action was fast and furious as the BMC team attacked, first with Jackson Stewart and then with Mike Sayers, looking to push the pace and stretch the field. They were never able to gain a significant gap, as the Bissell team made sure to contain any breakaways. Riding at the front, sometimes as many as five strong, Bissell put both the peloton and the audience on notice that they would be a force to be reckoned with throughout the five stage race.
The field remained largely together for the first sixty minutes of the race, but as the time continued to tick down, multiple attacks went off the front. Steven Cozza of the Slipstream-Chipotle team went away with Aaron Olson of Bissell, but was pulled back by BMC, who were trying to set up the sprint for their designated rider Taylor Tolleson. Finally, in a surprise move with five laps to go in the race, local favorite Alex Candelario went off on his own in an attempt at a solo victory.
Candelario explained his attack to the media after the race. “I probably went a little bit too early, but we were just trying to mix it up and make it a fun race. Next thing I knew, I had a pretty big gap and decided to keep it going. Bissell had twice as many guys as everyone else though so they brought it back pretty easily.” Candelario still has a lot of fight left in him, and will target the downtown Truckee criterium, a race he won last year, tomorrow. With confidence typical of a top-flight sprinter, Candelario stated about tomorrow’s race, “I’m gonna win tomorrow. Yeah, I got it.”
As Candelario powered away from the field, the Bissell team once again came to the front and began the chase. The Reno resident was able to hold the field at bay for four laps, but he was caught on the back stretch of the final lap, setting up the bunch sprint.
Bissell continued to keep the pace high, discouraging any attacks, as a large crowd gathered around the finish line area to see the finish.
As they approached the finish line, the field was spread out ten wide on the finishing straight. Bissell began their lead out at about three hundred meters for young Steven Howard. Rocketing away from the field, the American completed the perfect day for his Bissell team, taking the win by more than a bike length ahead of Riccardo Escuela of the Successful Living squad and Eric Wohlberg of the Canadian Symmetrics team.
In the fight for the overall, Howard takes the race’s first overall leader’s jersey, as well as the best sprinter title. The best young rider jersey went to Roman Van Uden of Team Rubicon-Orbea. Racing for Lance Armstrong’s cancer foundation, the jersey will make a good prize for the small team as they look to raise awareness and money for cancer research.
Racing continues tomorrow with a 2.75 mile mountain time trial to the Village at Northstar resort in north Lake Tahoe, and then a timed seventy five minute evening criterium in downtown Truckee. The morning time trial should provide for a major shift in the GC standings, while the evening criterium will provide another chance for the fast finishers to shine.
Following on the heels of both the CSC and High Road teams, Slipstream-Chipotle announced today the forming of a partnership with Garmin International, makers of GPS navigation tools. In what is great news for cycling, three of the cleanest teams in cycling have now secured powerful new sponsors that will carry them through the next few years. The new official name of the team will be Garmin-Chipotle p/b H30.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Soler has done very little thus far in 2008. He was at the front for some of the hilly spring classics, and took the start line at the Giro with the intention of testing his form, but had to abandon the race after the 11th stage citing a respiratory problem. He did not garner any significant results during his time at the Giro.
Monday, June 16, 2008
Stijn Devolder began his ascent to cycling's top level last season while riding for Johan Bruyneel's Discovery Channel cycling team. He took his home country's national road race championship, and with it the coveted Belgian national jersey, which he wears to this day. Since that historic win though, Devolder has also taken his first classic win, at the Tour of Flanders. Devolder attacked the field early at De Ronde, and soloed home for the win, his biggest result to date.
Devolder is a rare cycling talent. He can time trial and climb, and has the individual strength required for the one day classics. He is one of only a few riders that is capable of contending in all types of races. His Quick Step team has high hopes for the 28 year old, and have made him their designated team leader for the upcoming Tour de France.
Devolder is an underground pick as a contender by many cyclin fans in the know. He has had an excellent season so far, and Patrick Lefevre, Quick Step's manager, sees Devolder more as a stage race rider than a classics specialist. If Lefevere has his way, Tom Boonen will lead the team each spring, and will pass on leadership responsibility to Devolder in the Tour and Vuelta.
Currently racing the Tour of Switzerland, Devolder has shown that his form is good. He remained with the elite climbers in the first high mountain stage (Cunego, Schleck, Kloden) and is in position to contend for the overall win. He'll continue to build his form as the Tour gets closer, and could end up being one of the biggest surprises in this year's TdF. One thing is for sure: by the time this year's Tour de France is over, all cycling fans will know the name Stijn Devolder.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
The Dauphine Libere stage race concluded today, as Alejandro Valverde defended his overall lead and took top honors in the Tour de France tune up race. The Spaniard looks to be headed for a great performance in July at the Tour, as he showed off his much improved time trialing skills in winning the 31 kilometer time trial. In addition to Valverde though, other info can be extracted from the Dauphine as an indicator of what will happen in a few weeks time when the Tour kicks off in Brest.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Zubeldia is riding very well ahead of this year's Tour, and is sitting in 8th place overall at the Dauphine Libere. He has ridden a controlled race, and showed that his form is on track ahead of the French grand tour. The wild card for Zubeldia in determining his success in the Tour will be, as always, his undermanned Basque team. Although goo in the mountains, Euskaltel will have trouble controlling the peloton should Zubeldia find himself in the leader's jersey early on in the Tour.
Zubeldia knows how to suffer in the long climbs, and will be a rider to watch in the high mountains of this years Tour
Friday, June 13, 2008
The most dominant team at the 2008 Tour de Nez however must be the Swiss BMC squad. They bring a trio of climbers and a top flight sprinter to the race, with 2008 Tour of California Mountains classification winner Scott Nydam, 2006 Commerce Bank Lancaster Invitational winner Jackson Stewart, and 2007 stage winner and 2nd overall at the Tour de Nez Mike Sayers. Add sprinter Taylor Tolleson to the mix, and you have a BMC team that should be able to make it's presence felt in every Tour de Nez stage.
Finally, there is one more rider who will light up the crowd and the race on each and every stage. The "Mustached Maurader," Steven Cozza, will be on hand to give it a go, as the "Argyle Gang" Slipstream Chipotle will be represented at the Nez for the first time. Expect to see Cozza off the front, attacking with abandon, as he continues to rebuild his form after an early season collar bone injury. He rode well at the Triple Crown in support of teammate Tyler Farrar, and should be primed to race in his home state.
The old Deux Gros Nez coffee shop, before it closed in 2007The Tour de Nez, as it does every year, promises non-stop cycling action with a local flair. From the race launch at the Grand Sierra casino in Reno to it's finish in the Village at Northstar at Tahoe to post race block parties after each stage, the Nez really is the "coolest race in cycling!"
Thursday, June 12, 2008
If this was your life, wouldn't you probably find yourself doing things against your better judgement too??
He has already paid a huge price for his transgression. He won't ride the Tour de Swiss, and the Tour de France also has banned him from participating. He will probably be able to take the start line at the Vuelta Espana, and the preperation he gains at the three week tour may help him to contend at the world championships in Varese in September. This time next year, this instance will be an afterthought, no one will remember it. Boonen will handle this situation as he has all others during his athletic career: with a quiet confidence and unswerving determination.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Word out of the Tuscany region in Italy says that deposed Italian star Ivan Basso is putting in huge hours on the bike, six days a week. He has a familiar climb that he has used to guage his fitness throughout his career, and he has supposedly shattered his records while out training. Recently annointed "Anti-Doping Ambassador" by the UCI, Basso signed with the Italian Liquigas team a few weeks ago, effectively returning him to approximately the same point he was at before his exclusion from the Tour de France in 2006.
Basso has always been a huge talent, and has won at every level of cycling. Whether he doped or not is less of an issue than in the past, as it seems that the European peloton is making strides in the fight against doping. Basso will compete on a more level playing field against a cleaner peloton when he returns. He'll have good team support from his new Liquigas team, and he is looking as though he'll at least be a threat in the 2009 Giro. His dedication to training has never been questioned, only his judgement. Hopefully, the second time around in pro cycling will go better for Basso. Best case scenario over the final few years of his career (he'll be 31 when he returns): One Tour de France win, two more Giro titles, and one classic. Worst case scenario: Makes a bunch of money over the next few years, fades away like Iban Mayo did.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
The Dauphine Libere Parcours
Sastre has been all but invisable thus far in 2008, but seems to have decent form as we approach the most important bike race of the year, the Tour de France. Gesink has been quiet since his epic meltdown at Paris Nice a few months ago, and looks to be rebuilding his form for a run at the polka dots in the Tour. Evans is on track as well, and will be a formidable adversary for Valverde and a few others in the hunt for the Malliot Juane in less than a month.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Matti Breschel, the 24 year old Dane of the CSC squad, has long been hailed as a future star of cycling. An affable, likable youngster, Breschel has ridden in support of his CSC teammates since he joined the team in 2005, and most expected that he would assist fellow teammate Matt Goss, second in the 2007 Philly race, to victory in Sunday's 24th edition of the American cycling tradition.
To everyone's surprise though, Breschel was the protected rider on the CSC squad, and he made good on the confidence placed in him by director sportif Lars Michaelson and the rest of the CSC squad. Coming seemingly out of nowhere, Breschel was able to hold off American Kirk O'Bee of the Health Net team as well as former Philly winner Fred Rodriguez of the Rock Racing outfit for a hige victory for his CSC squad.
In what was by far his biggest victory to date, Breschel put the cycling world on notice that he is fast becoming a world class all-arounder capable of taking victory even under the most difficult of circumstances. Temperatures for the race were in the high 90's, and the humidty was measured at 99%. Breschel however kept his cool, sitting in the main bunch throughout the race, waiting for his time to pounce.
CSC, once again, has taken a huge win when no one thought they had a shot at victory. They are such a tactically sound team that they always seem to place their riders in position to win. And more times than not, CSC riders get the job done. Last year, JJ Haedo was not thought to be a serious threat for the Philly title, but he bested Bernhard Eisel in the bunch sprint, after a masterful lead out from his fellow teammate Matt Goss.
Breschel is at the end of a two year contract with CSC, and will be looking for more significant money. If things don't work out at CSC, where would he most like to ride in 2009 and beyond? "Probably a Belgian team. They do things right and I like Belgium, the fans are great!" More likely though is that CSC boss Bjarne Riis will hold onto his fellow countryman, who is on the verge of more great things in the sport of cycling.
Saturday, June 7, 2008
The most anticipated leg of the Commerce Bank Triple Crown of Cycling is finally upon us: the big one, Philly. A world class field is assembled, ready to do battle in lava-like conditions as temperatures for the 156 mile race are expected to be in the mid 90's with high humidity levels. Under such tough conditions, many riders will wilt, unable to maintain in such adverse conditions. Others love extremely hot conditons, and so will be favored to take the biggest of the three leg Triple Crown of Cycling. Below follow the favorites for the International Cycling Classic.
Oscar Sevilla, Rock Racing
The Spaniard took a huge win for his Rock Racing team on Thursday at the Reading Classic, and loves racing in hot conditions. He believes he is in with a very realistic chance for another win, and with it the overall title in the Triple Crown competition. Expect "El Nino" to attack on the Manayunk Wall, hoping he can eliminate the sprinters and time trialists for the win. At worst, he should wrap up the KOM title.
Ivan Stevic, Toyota United
Stevic, the B World Champion (world champ for smaller countries), also is a fan of hot conditions and thinks a select group will remain toward the end of the race as the ultra-hot conditions will seperate the contenders from the pretenders early. "It will be so hot, alot of guys won't finish. You'll probably have about 50 guys left at the end who will try to win. I like the heat, so I should be there at the end."
Daniele Bennati, Liquigas
The Italian is coming off a hugely successful Giro d'Italia, where he took three stages and the points jersey. He has been slowed recently by a calf injury, but the world-class sprinter can't be counted out as a contender. He'll be battling jet lag and the hot conditions, but if he's there at the end, he'll be hard to come around.
Bernhard Eisel, High Road
Eisel is a dengerous sprinter an a durable all arounder capable of winning in a multitude of conditions. He showed well at Reading on Thursday in third place, and will be around at the end as he looks to improve on his third place in Philly from last year. He'll lead his High Road squad inn Philly, with an eye on a big win for the American team.
Rory Sutherland, Health Net presented by Maxxis
Sutherland is from New Zealand, and has raced in the baking heat of Australia many times. He is an accompished all-arounder, and has had a great season thus far in 2008. He should have good support from his team, and will be active in any breaks that go up the road. If not him though, perhaps his teammate Kirk O'Bee could carry the torch for Health Net.
While the above riders will be favored to win, there are a number of riders not mentioned above who could take the win. The incredibly high eat and humidity make the race tough to predict, and a lesser known rider probably won't be the one to win. Expect an accomplished, savvy pro to take top honors in what should be one of the toughest races thus far in 2008, in America or otherwise.
Friday, June 6, 2008
Wohlleben is responsible for all the High Road bikes for the Commerce Bank Triple Crown of CyclingLike the riders, the mechanics and other employees of a team are provided bonuses when the team wins. The prize money is split up into a pool, and then doled out to the mechanics, soigneurs, and other logistical employees at the end of the year. As Jorg describes it, "cycling is a big family, we are all very close to each other. When one wins, we all win. It is nice."
When not tweaking the saddle position of George Hincapie's saddle or adjusting the stem angle for young John Devine, Jorg heads into the uncharted wilderness of the Yukon to hunt Moose and bear. He does so all alone, often for weeks at a time. He describes his off season passion. "Being in the wilderness is good for the mind, a healthy way to clear one's head before heading back to the bustle of every day life. I am never scared, because I am used to being alone in the wilderness. It is my home away from home."
Look for Jorg after races as he adjusts each rider's bicycle exactly to their specifications. And wish him and the High Road team luck in the Philadelphia International Championiship, because when Team High Road wins, so does Jorg Wohlleben. It's a good life!
Oscar Sevilla used his superior climbing skills and recent good form at the Tour of Columbia to ride away from a quality field and take a great win in the second leg of the Commerce Bank Triple Crown of Cycling. It was a surprise win for the Spaniard, but not to his teammates, who decided before the race to protect the sprightly Spaniard in hopes that he would be able to deliver a special result.
Wednesday, June 4, 2008
Bruce Donaghy is one of the best American bicycle riders you've never heard of. An Olympian and six time national champion, "The Torch" was known in his prime during the 70's and 80's as one of the best sprinters in America. He was an accomplished track rider as well, and was two-time Rider of the Year at his home track, the Lehigh Valley Velodrome.
Today, Bruce is nearly as active in the sport as he was as an elite pro. He leads daily group rides from the Lehigh Valley Velodrome, and is recognized by his peers as a generous, outgoing rider who genuinely cares about each and every rider he competes against or rides with. During the multiple group rides that he participates in each week, Bruce can often be seen pushing a slower rider up a hill or running interference at the front of the group, slowing it down so that everyone has a chance to remain in contact.
Although 49, Donaghy is still worthy of his nickname, "The Torch." He has a tireless riding style, and is always capable of closing a gap, even if it is a top pro who is up the road in front of him. His strong sprinting and pursuit background allow him to stay with today's best domestic pros, some of whom are more than half his age. Yet he still remains humble and gracious, even among riders far inferior to him. More on Donaghy later this week, and the legendary "Founder's Ride," an annual 60 mile semi-competitive ride from the Lehigh Valley Velodrome to the start/finish line of the Philadelphia International Championship.
The Italian continental team Amore & Vita cycling squad took a surprise victory in the first race of the Commerce Bank Triple Crown, as the Ukranian Yuri Metlushenko took the win with an explosive sprint, winning ahead of Health Net's Karl Menzies nd Jelly Belly's Brad Huff. The American Tyler Farrar was looking good for the win, but had to swerve across the entire road to avoid crashing, narowly missing slamming into the protective metal bariers.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
The three Pro Tour teams participating in the upcoming Commerce Bank Triple Crown of Cycling event in Pennsylvania this coming week still have not finalised their rosters, even though the first leg of the series is only a day away. Team High Road, CSC and Liquigas have most of their riders listed, but spots still remain on each roster, which in at least one case look like they will go unfilled.
Contacted this afternoon by EuroPeloton, High Road member Roger Hammond explained that the American-based team will bring only seven riders to the event. "We'll go just with seven," the Brit said while checking his email in the team hotel, "Toni (Martin) didn't get here in time." Added teammate Vincente Reynes from a few feet away, "Seven is enough . . . we can still win!" Martin, after having finished second in the last stage of the Giro, no doubt requested to be left off the Philly roster so that he could take some much deserved time off. Expect the High Road team to be active throughout the week anyway, with top threats Bernhard Eisel, Reynes and Kiwi Greg Henderson.
Monday, June 2, 2008
Eichler won the nera going away, finishing a solid 25 minutes behind second to last place Mikhail Ignitiev of the Tinkoff team. And although he finished last, Eichler should be commended for hanging in until the bitter end, and completing the first grand tour of the season. The 26 year old will be able to use his experience in the Giro to build on the rest of his season and career. Plus, he'll be remembered as the nera in future Giro editions.
Eichler shouldn't be confused as a less than accomoplished pro, as the 26 year old has five career victories, including the Ronde van Drenthe in 2006. He'll one day finish much higher in the overall classification of a grand tour, but will always have the memory of his battle in his first try at a grand tour. His effort stands as an example of the spirit of all cyclists: never say die, never give up, and fight to the very end.
Sunday, June 1, 2008
The revelation of the 2008 Giro, Sella took three stages, the mountain green jersey and a top ten overall
The talk must now shift to whether Astana will receive a belated invite to the Tour de France. They have shown themselves more than capable of competing on short notice, and would be a potent addition to the world's biggest bike race. Even more important, leaving the Astana team out of the Tour would decrease the legitimacy of the winner's ride. Sure the winner of the Tour would be deserving, but fans and pundits alike will mark the fact that the world's best stage racing team wasn't present.
Ricco whined and complained throughout the Giro about everything from faulty equipment to bad roads to lack of team support, earning himself a reputation as a sore loser and egotistical complainer