31 July, 2009

Wiggins to release his last 10 years of drug tests?

In an effort to prove he's a clean cyclist, TdF fourth-place finisher Bradley Wiggins might release to the public the last 10 years of his drug test results. Seems a bit nutty, and if I were a pro cyclist I might not like the implication that anyone who doesn't do the same is a doper, but then I know the reputation of cyclists despite all the problems in the rest of sport.

release them wiggo! show us.

Four days racing on a broken collarbone

That would be George Hincapie. He skipped having it x-rayed after his stage 17 crash, lest the doctors tell him he couldn't go on. Seems like myth, but the guy not only finished the Tour, but drilled it for his teammate Mark Cavendish with 1k to go on the Champs-Elysees. He brought Columbia to the front and Cavendish did his patented winning jump to win the stage.

I don't know if that's professionalism. It is dedication and does seem a bit deranged. Must have hurt like crazy, but then again, after 17 days at the Tour, maybe hurting like crazy doesn't seem so hard.

29 July, 2009

Was Hematide the key to the Tour in 2009

SF Weekly wonders. In Tour de France Brought to You By ... A Palo Alto Biotech Startup? the have AFLD (France Anti-Doping Lab) head Pierre Bondry wondering if this not-yet-available dialysis drug has already jumped into competition.

We're letting you down easy

After three weeks of Tour Fever, going a day without can be hard. That's why we're taking you down easy, posting fresh stories, keeping the Tour buzz going, albeit at a more relaxed pitch.

We like what ESPN Writer Jim Cagle wrote in his Tour de France Redux piece: "Like the NCAA tournament, the Tour de France is a three-week virtually nonstop extravaganza that fans of the sport wish would never end. The cyclists, on the other hand, probably have a somewhat different take after, say, 15 stages, 1,500 miles and seven tubes of chamois cream...

"So there will be no more watching the peloton ride past fields of lavender, or the leaders climbing ridiculous roads through the Alps and Pyrenees, or the aerial views of ancient chateaus that make you reach for the Rick Steves travel guide so you can dream about a vacation to the Tour that you absolutely, without doubt, "I mean it this time" will take next July. Of course, you won't take that trip next year and will wind up watching the Tour on TV again, feeling sad when it ends and reflecting on the highlights. As I do now …"

Paranoia part of Tour Pressure

Cadel Evans thinks something was amiss in that two of his countrymen didn't get to ride the Tour...on other teams. Allan Davis of Quick Step was a replacement for Tom Boonen, who got the nod at the last minute, and Simon Gerrans.

Wine Merchant gives Tour Trip to Employees

Seems nice, but I don't understand how the guy "can't afford to boost salaries, but a Tribeca wine merchant is giving his workers a chance to tackle something bigger than the economy: The Tour de France."

It's going to cost him $75,000. I'm sure that couldn' t go to salaries.

"The workers have trained for weeks on the George Washington Bridge and at Bear Mountain State Park. They've logged 125 miles a week and have lost a collective 300 pounds."

Yes, the GWB is a brutal training ground for cyclists.

Here's the story.

two firsts for Japan

Two Japanese riders finished the Tour. In the past, Japanese riders have started, but none have finished. Somehow, this is supposed to lend support to Tokyo 2016, a bid for the city to host teh 2016 summer Olympic games.

At least, according to Around the Rings, an Olympic-movement-centric site.

want an honest assessment of next year's tour?

Would you ask the Versus announcers? They might be knowledgeable and nice guys and all, but can they give a clear assessement? Would you be surprised that Versus announcers are calling Armstrong a favorite for the 2010 tour already?

The Los Angeles Times appears to be sourcing their quotes from television broadcasts.

"It's already being said, on Versus television by announcers such as Bob Roll and Paul Sherwen, and in the peloton by 2009 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador. A favorite for the 2010 Tour de France title?

"Lance Armstrong."

Yes, he was third in 2009, so not exactly calling a surprise on us, but with all the up-and-comers at this year's Tour, this is their fave'?

Later, they track down Jim Ochowicz, the man who brought hte first american team to the Tour, 7-Eleven, about lance. "'With his broken collarbone this year,' Ochowicz said, 'it was remarkable that he finished on the podium. If he stays healthy and trains all year and has a strong team, yes, he can win.'" Would you believe he's friends with Lance?

28 July, 2009

Finishing the Tour like getting out of prison

I guess that's good to know for all those who aspire to ride the big loop.

The quote comes from Bradley Wiggins talking to The Telegraph, the British Garmin-Slipstream rider who finished in fourth place, a huge deal for British cycling.

"'It's a huge relief it is finally over,' he said.

'It's a bit like getting out of prison. I won't know what to do with myself next week.

'I won't have to eat rice and omelette every morning, and get on a bus. It's been mind-blowing these three weeks.

'I never thought when starting in Monaco that I'd see the end of the Tour.'"

Was the 2008 Tour dope-free

That what Jamey Keaten of the Canadian Press asks in a syndicated story. Certainly a fair question, but one that will take time to answer.

He does point out a few things we should all be aware of.

"France's anti-doping agency said Sunday it will retest blood samples from last year's Tour, mainly for CERA - an advanced form of banned endurance-boosting drug EPO"

"This year's tests didn't always go smoothly. During the second week of racing, Bordry accused the UCI on French radio of "laxity" in the testing. He later said the UCI had resolved his concerns."

"Bordry has expressed concerns that a secret wonder drug could simply be under the radar, in what has become a perennial cat-and-mouse game between cheaters and anti-doping testers."

"Before the race, 50 riders faced enhanced testing - including team leaders, race favourites and an unspecified small number of riders with suspicious profiles."

I think it's fair to wonder. With all the new attention and scrutiny on the Tour, it could be seen that nobody getting busted at the Tour would be good for the sport. And, as such, the UCI might want to back off. After Armstrong's kerfuffle with taking a shower while the tester cooled his heels--and not getting punished, critics are right to wonder if UCI testers are going easy on him, and then everyone at the Tour.

Tour de Teamwork

Love the post of this editorial in the Christian Science Monitor.

While I'm disappointed that they think that drugs made teamwork irrelevant, or as they write, "With chemicals no longer the deciding factor, team strategy and tactics took center stage." Should have been "with chemicals no longer front page news, team strategy and tactics took center stage."

We have the good quote from Armstrong, "'Self-interest is isolating,' Mr. Armstrong has written. 'Teamwork is not only performance-enhancing, it's comforting.... The fact is, no one ascends alone.'" So many ways to read this.

THey close with, "Success is often seen as a product of talent. But as Malcolm Gladwell argues in his latest book, 'Outliers,' it's the result of hard labor – and favorable conditions. Authentic teamwork can seem like a lost art in professional sports today. So when you see the yellow jersey, think of the teammates who made the victory possible."

Riding on real butterflies. Armstrong has, and you can, too.

In yet another mega-marketing move, Lance Armstrong has been riding custom-painted bikes at the Tour. They are supposed to go on display and then auctioned for charity.

What I didn't realize is that the frame Damien Hirst worked on for Armstrongs Champs-Elysees jaunt has real butterflies under the paint. apparently the butterflies were specially-bred for Hirst and are supposed to shimmer in the sunlight. I wonder if we're being punk'd, but stranger things have been ridden. I guess.

Here's the story from UK Eurosport.

Here's Trek's press release.

Apologies for the radio silence

Sorry I haven't been in touch. The weekend was a bit bigger and longer than anticipated. six hours of driving and the Tour of Hilltowns road race Saturday and two hours of driving and the Freedom Tour crit Sunday. Didn't watch either stage live. Still trying to figure out how to watch Stage 20s video on demand. With Stage 21, the finale on the Champs-Elysees, wow. Garmin's train looked anemic compared to Columbia's and it almost seemed as if Julian Dean dropping anchor gave Columbia a huge gap that gave Cavendish the win and Renshaw, his leadout man, second.

24 July, 2009

Barefoot Clemson Fan gives school worldwide exposure

Brooks Keys was the guy running with the orange and white Clemson flag on the final ascent of stage 17. I didn't know what was up, but certainly noticed the flag. Not as memorable as Antlers Guy, but striking all the same.

The Palmetto Scoop adds to his 15 seconds of fame.

Could Chris Horner be on Radio Shack next year?

Maybe. But seems likely when reading his "blog" on oregon live.

Tour de France=Woodstock Every Day

How's that for a comparison? You think Woodstock was big? What if they had Woodstock for 21 days? The Tour is actually a bit bigger, but it gives you a sense of size.

That's the point of The Tour de France- Woodstock redux in The Examiner. Those people sure try hard.

Coming to Your Local Cinema, or Netflix, in Spring 2010

Chasing Legends. It's a documentary look at Team Columbia at the 2009 Tour de France.

So far, they only have a trailer to critique. I think if they're going to take the historic angle, they need both rainy weather and crashes to make the preview any good.

Armstrong Accepts Doping Suspicion?

That's what he tells the Telegraph in the UK.

"His remarkable achievements in cycling's premier event, however, has led to persistent accusations of doping. 'With spectacular performance, you just get that,' he said. 'Cycling has got itself to this place, where it has to be like that.'"

You do. And maybe should, in all walks of sport and life. But he might have had a hand in the suspicion following him around?

Still, here's the most revealing quote from the piece, :

“Definitely in the past [I was pretty hard on people around me]. Before, I would tell the guys in the team, ‘You’re not talking to anybody. We’re here to race, three weeks; you can talk to your friends afterwards.’ Now the rest of the peloton see me and think, ‘He actually talks to us!’”

The Next Front in the War on Doping: High School Football

The NY Times is on the doping beat. The culprit this time appears to be over-the-counter supplements that contain designer steroids. The problem is that the stuff may cause serious liver damage.

article is here.

Stage 19, the last shot for the breakaway artists?

I might prefer the term "headbanger." Nothing like riding off the front of the hardest race in the world for 160km. Today's stage, a "transition" stage that will take the race to the foothills near the brutal Mont Ventoux, could be one for those opportunists who need to get their team some airtime.

Looking at which teams have neither a stage win nor a day in a jersey, that means that Silence-Lotto, Rabobank, Quick Step, Cofidis, Garmin, Francaise Des Jeux, Lampre, Milram, and Skil-Shimano are bound to be throwing down the attacks the moment they pass kilometer zero. Of those teams, Garmin is the only one that might hold back a few riders, as they still have a chance at a podium placing. The others need to get in their attacks right away and they can pretty much put everyone they've got left to the job.

in other doping news...

Disgraced 1997 Tour champ Jan Ullrich calls drug testing "inhumane." Maybe that's a mistranslation of Ullrich's colloquial German.

The story comes from Eurosport.

Ullrich, "The boys are thrown out of their beds at 6:30 in the morning. A controller comes into the room and stays with them all the time. From where I'm sitting that's inhumane"

Armstrong is quoted, too: "You can't go and pull guys out of bed at 6am. If I came to your room at six in the morning, you'd throw the furniture at me."

Except that pro cyclists gave their permission when they signed on for this gig.

But in fairness, there is drug abuse in many job environments. Does it constitute an unfair edge? I'd hate to think I'd need to take amphetamines or Adderall for my job, though I suppose if it could help me doing something really dangerous, I might think otherwise. But then, why am I doing the dangerous thing to begin with?

23 July, 2009

The Livestrong-Radio Shack Team Debuts in 2010

While I can't believe, like many, Radio Shack is still in business, they are and are using their ad budget to sponsor a team led by Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel.

Here's the LA Times Story. Lance, ever ahead of the press, made an announcement via his vlog on his Livestrong site.

Not exactly a forward-thinking brand that has an "it" factor. But maybe that's why they're making the deal.

It's a given that the team will also have supplying sponsors Trek, Nike, SRAM, Oakley, Giro, Carmichael Training Systems. Lance will probably also have some deep-pocketed friends chipping in here and there.

The question for cycling fans, is what kind of team will it be? Are they going to build a complete team that competes at the classics, one-week stage races, and grand tours?

Or, since it's an american sponsor, they can do whatever at all Euro races, save the Tour. They're almost certainly going to drop Alberto Contador, Andreas Kloden, and all the Kazakh riders. Will Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner come along knowing that they can have personal ambitions at most races, just not the Tour? Gotta wonder if that will be the carrot for whomever else they sign--you can do whatever for the rest of the year, but you have to be at 100% and be ready to give 110% of that for Lance at Tour time. No more of Lance having to compete with an equal.

There will probably also be a small American development component, led by phenom Taylor Phinney. Not sure what will become of that.

Some are already speculating if the team will be known as Liveshack? I'm wondering if it will be Lanceshack.

LeMond, Doping Scourge, Questions Contador's performance

Read the column in French. (if you can read french, translate it for us)

Here's the Sydney Morning Herald reporting on the dust-up the column caused.

A nugget from the story:

"LeMond, referring to the 8.5km climb at an average gradient of 7.5 per cent, wrote: 'Never has a rider in the Tour climbed so fast. How do you explain such a performance? According to the last information published by former Festina trainer and specialist in performance Antoine Vayer in [the French newspaper] Liberation, the Spanish rider would have needed a VO2 max (consummation of oxygen) of 99.5 ml/mn/kg to produce such an effort.

''To my knowledge this figure has never been achieved by any athlete in any sport. It is a bit like if you took a nice Mercedes out of the car showroom, lined it up on a Formula 1 circuit and won the race. There is something that is wrong. It would be interesting to know what is under the bonnet.'"

LeMond is fixated on VO2 max, possibly for good reason. He was alleged to ahve a VO2 max in the 90s, I think 94, when he was at the peak of his powers. And yet at the end of his career, he was getting dropped on climbs by much heavier riders. He has long postulated that for them to climb that fast, they would have needed a VO2 max in the 100s. (VO2 is based on weight, so if you lose weight, your lung capacity relative to weight goes up and thus a higher VO2)

I don't think VO2 max is everything, nor is hematocrit. It is an interesting question, though.

I think it's possible that Contador has a higher VO2 than Lemond, could it be 99? Even if it isn't, maybe Antoine Vayer figured things out wrong, maybe there was a tailwind, maybe the wheels roll better than the model predicts. I wonder if the biggest problem is rider weight. When teams publish weight data, I think it's often wishful thinking. The only way weight data can be reliable is if a neutral party is weighing all the riders. At the Tour, it might be possible, as there at least used to be a show physical before the race.

They should ask Allen Lim, the garmin-slipstream physiologist, about Contador's climbing skills. After Riccardo Ricco was busted at the 2008 Tour, Lim said that Ricco's w/kg was something nlike 6.5 for 20 minutes at the top of the last climb on the stage he soloed to victory, and that to do that, he either needed drugs or was a greyhound-human hybrid. (though the notorious Dr. Michele Ferrari seemed to think 6.7 w/kg was the magic number for climbing to victory in the tour)

It is also interesting to note that when Carlos Sastre rode to victory at L'Alpe d'Huez last year, he put in a time that was significantly lower than Pantani and Armstrong at their best. Lim speculated a much lower w/kg for Carlos than Pantani in 1998, and Contador's climb was faster, according to the various models, than Pantani in 1998.

If the expert Cyclingnews quoted, Dr. Andrew Coggan, is right about his speculation on Contador's power (450w) and weight (62kg) for that climb, then he managed 7.26 w/kg. He seems to estimate a far more earth-bound 80 VO2 max. I have a power profiling chart from Coggan. he puts the best 5m effort in the world at 7.6w/kg-- 471w for Contador. He puts the best hour effort in the world at 6.4 w/kg or 396.8w for Contador. From what I've read, it seems that for 20m, 7.26 w/kg is pretty much off the charts, in that a 60m effort should be minimally higher than a 20m effort.

Here's a story on Allen Lim discussing what kind of power Christian Vande Velde would need in order to win the Tour. "He has been riding with the GC contenders and that is great, about 5.5 to 5.9 w/kg on climbs longer than 10 minutes. That's right where he needs to be. If he can sustain that, I think he has a good chance (at winning the the tour)."

The le grimpeur blog has Sastre climbing the Alpe last year at 5.3 w/kg.

Of course, these numbers could be off. And they're really just elegant speculations turned into calculations. If we get the rider weight wrong by a kilogram or two, misjudged the length or pitch of the climb by a little, that could have a major impact. And maybe a tailwind on a climb could change things enough as well.

Don't think I'm ready to call someone a doper with so many unknowns or finicky numbers.

Behind the Scenes with the Cervelo Test Team

It's a photo essay from the Washington Post. My favorite is the Carlos Sastre Fan Club of Aalter, Belgium.

Lance Twitters into the Sunset?

So says Filip Bondy in the NY Daily News.

The reason for the title is this: "'St 17 (Stage 17) done. Tough day!' Armstrong tweeted on Twitter. 'Got caught out on some attacks on the Col de Romme but managed ok from behind. Had some cramps @ the end. No fun!!'"

But Bondy has much more on his mind.

"This has been a single-minded crusade for Armstrong, even as he has waged two battles at once. He has his race, Le Tour, the one he's owned for nearly a decade. And he has his ongoing public-relations crusade, trying to convince the world he has competed clean his entire career.

"In this second venture, he will forever find two very different audiences. There are the casual cycling fans in America who see only the hero, the cancer fighter and the impossibly vigorous athlete. This group probably doesn't know or care much about the past charges against Armstrong.

"Then there are the more cynical insiders, who have seen more than enough smoke to be certain there is a raging fire. They firmly believe Armstrong was a cheat, and may still be one in this race."

I'm sure there are plenty of fence sitters. Those who have been around long enough to be cynical, but are waiting for the smoking gun. These people don't make for good headlines, but there seem to be plenty.

brilliant bike handler but can't open a can of coke

Yesterday's stage 17 saw an amazing breakaway by the Green Jersey, Thor Hushovd. The big guy can go uphill pretty fast.

Two things stood out from his breakaway. One was his great save after he misjudged a blind left turn. Downhill and slick, not a great situation in most conditions, but crazy hard in a race. He turned, realized he couldn't turn harder, so he unclipped his left foot, locked up his rear wheel, and changed his line so he wasn't going directly at the crash barrier. He ended up sliding sideways off the road onto a narrow patch of grass, from where he was able to clip in and resume the descent. In what seemed to be a totally understated gesture, he took his left hand off the bars and waved it, as if to indicate it was no big deal.

The Tour produces their own highlight reel of each stage. The slide is about 1:35 in. Still looking for a video of just the slide.

On the other hand, he couldn't open a can of coke given to him from the team car. Seems like an inconsequential skill, but it should be old hat for a pro. They're used to getting these on the road. He first tried to open the tab with his teeth, when that didn't work, his fingers, and then he just tossed the can on the ground.

22 July, 2009

WaPo explains cycling teamwork

Nice to see a newspaper make the effort.

A Rough Ride in the Break

Nicholas Roche, Irish National Champ and riding his first Tour, got himself into a break on Stage 14, the one where the Hincapie controversy took place. As a teammate of the yellow jersey, he didn't have to contribute to the escape, so he didn't. And just like other riders who have been in that position, he attacked late in the stage for the win.

What we couldn't hear on the broadcast is the abuse that was heaped his way by some members of the break. While what Roche did wasn't exactly nice, it was more-or-less expected, as that's what typically happens when a teammate of the race leader sits on a breakaway all day.

Jens! Ouch!

Jens Voigt is a popular rider amongst fans, myself included. Chatty, upbeat, and spends hundreds of kilometers off the front in breakaways every year. We enjoy his feats possibly because they seem to be something that mere mortals could achieve.

He's out of the Tour this year. He crashed heavily descending near the end of Stage 16, and the world got to see it live.

Here's The Guardian's story on it. A concussion, lost consciousness for a few minutes, cracked his cheekbone, and lots of road rash. He told his team, and htey released a statement, "I think I was very lucky not getting severely hurt."

What's striking is that he's been vocal about safety in the peloton. He complained about the descent to Prato Nevoso in the 2008 Tour as being too dangerous. He complained about not having race radios on the day they went radio free in 2009. Then he crashes on a road compression that the rest of the race passed over without incident, and he'd probably not even notice if he made another 100 runs down the same road. Terrible luck.

A disoriented Levi Leipheimer Turns up at Bike Shop in Santa Rosa

And the Santa Rosa Press Democrat was there to see it.

"Of course, Leipheimer didn’t become a world-class cyclist by loving the soft touch of a sofa. Cyclists, at least the great ones, find movement compelling, necessary even, and if faced with the absence of action, will spoof on it if only for comic relief."

Page Views up 109% on Versus.com

Wonder if it has to do with their Tour de France content? Free live coverage? Couldn't be.

Sure is. "It has delivered more than 10 million videos through July 19, nearly doubling the 6.5 million videos it delivered last year, and more than tripling its total video delivery count in 2007, Bradshaw said."

here's a quote for cyclists to note, "'Our challenge is for Versus to make a transition from a site that complements the network to a full-service site for cyclists,' said Versus vice president of digital media Neal Scarbrough."

The Human Interest Story Few Have Bothered With

So much ink has been spilled about Lance and cancer, it's crowded out other feel-good, taking lemons and making lemonade pieces related to the Tour.

One such story is that of Garmin-Slipstream's sprinter Tyler Farrar's dad. Dr. Ed Farrar was a cyclist, got his son into cycling, and, was paralyzed when a car hit him riding to work last fall. Paralyzed from the waist down, he can no longer work as a surgeon. But he's working at the hospital and riding his hand-crank bike nearly every day.

Here's the story on ESPN.com.

21 July, 2009

NASCAR Seems to Have a Drug Problem

Never thought, good, old-fashioned, red-blooded Americans from the Red States needed drugs to drive a car fast. Apparently, I thought wrong.

The Times has a piece on NASCAR's drug policy, and the suspension of driver Jeremy Mayfield. He tested positive for crystal meth. but he also has a prescription for Adderall. I'm not a drug expert, but anything that can increase alertness without adding jitters or calm someone down without slowing them down seem to be the kind of drugs a guy driving 200+ mph might be interested in. "Mayfield and his lawyers contend that the two positive tests may have been caused not by meth but by his use of Adderall for attention deficit disorder and Claritin-D for allergies."

The difference between you and the pros is swishing Gatorade

Maybe not just. Seems that the mental component of fatigue is huge. so much thathttp://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/07/15/going-all-out/?ref=magazine"> swishing some Gatorade in test cyclists mouths, not swallowing, was enough to make a difference in terms of riding hard.

Astana Truck Searched at Border

It appears that Team Astana is hell-bent on proving they are a clean team. A team truck was searched for three hours at the Swiss-French border. That will show those doubters.

I'm tired of people complaining about the scrutiny. It's a great thing. It shows that the sport doesn't have dope in the Astana Truck. Or in the tested riders.

Pope Piggybacks on The Tour

Always looking for a way to get himself in the news, Pope Bendict XVI sent greetings to the Tour. They passed a residence of his today, one that looked like his mitre. "Benedict said in his message that sports can contribute to a person's growth and should always respect moral and educational values."

Wonder what he said.

Did You Know Lance is "Choosing" Not to Win?

That's what the Daily News says. "Armstrong, barring unforeseen circumstances, says he will follow in the grand, albeit odd traditions of the Tour de France and yield to the current owner of the yellow jersey, his Astana teammate, Alberto Contador."

A Stain on the 2009 Green Jersey

Mark Cavendish is miffed at his relegation in Stage 14. He doesn't seem to want the sprint jersey now and is seemingly conceding it to Hushovd.

From the article in the Guardian:

"This guy [Hushovd] thinks so highly of himself that he thinks I'm trying to cheat to beat him. He thinks so highly of me and my team that the only way he can beat us is to have us disqualified.

"He even admitted yesterday it was a fair sprint: what happened was [there was] a right-hand corner and there's a kink in the barriers and he thinks I've blocked him in but I've held a straight line. Usually you're disqualified if you deviate from the straight line. I held it but the barriers kicked in and he's blocked in and he's kicking and screaming and it causes you problems. But that's bike riding for you. Worse things happen.

"I spoke to him yesterday and said to him: 'You've won the green jersey now but that's always going to have a stain on it.'"

The "good" old days of Tour sponsorship

Back in the day, local sponsors would do something for the riders, or the lead rider, or a local rider in order to get a little press. The Tour has largely moved on from that era.

I'll concede that such a tradition can seem a little low-budget and possibly bush-league, but I like the intimacy it confers. You can still see the tradition in some places, like the winner of Clasica San Sebastian wearing a Basque beret, or when I was at Driedagse De Panne when the winner of the stage got a huge chocolate cake/brownie/treat.

So I was happy to see Alberto Contador posing on the podium with a St. Bernard dog at Verbiers, and then again at the start of Stage 16. I wonder if they gave him the dog. In years gone by, riders have been awarded horses, watches, wheels of cheese.

20 July, 2009

May be no gifts in cycling, but did Lance get grief from his mom?

Since no Lance connection can go un-mentioned during the media juggernaut's Tour, here's a snippet from an interview with his mother.

"George Hincapie is my all time favorite! I have known him since he was a young up and coming rider. He has such a kind way about him and is to this day, a good friend to Lance. As Lance’s teammate, he was one heck of a good domestique (support rider to Lance). And might I add, he has one of the prettiest smiles I have ever seen. Great kid…."

The Elliott Wave Principle and the Tour de France

In Crude Oil: Tour de Forecast :

"According to mainstream economic thought -- fundamentals are to financial markets what tire pressure is to a Tour de France bicycle racer. To wit: Inflated (i.e. positive) news makes it easier for a market to soar up those steep mountain hills (i.e. price charts). AND, deflated (i.e. negative) news makes prices fall behind and struggle to climb.
In reality, however, this is NOT true. Take the Crude Oil market, for example. Over the past week, the amount of air in certain "fundamental tires" hasn't changed a bit. YET, the performance of oil prices has been all over the map."
Too bad the writer didn't fully explain the metaphor. Over inflated tires give a rough, bumpy ride, offer poor traction, and are slower than tires at the proper inflation. Under-inflated tires give a smoother ride, but are slower and risk flats.
I'm sure there's no tie to markets here.

Tour Sponsorship a Bargain

Says BusinessWeek. "The absence of marquee brands is an opportunity for midsize companies to gain international exposure for a relatively low price." I don't know how much attention the writers are paying. Credit Lyonnais, sponsor of the yellow jersey, is a pretty huge banking conglomerate. Columbia sportswear, sponsor of Columbia-HTC, doesn't seem like a midsize company to me. Rabobank is neither small, nor did it flee the sport after the doping scandals.

They also have a slide show so you can find out who all the team sponsors are.

VDV worker to star to super-domestique

For years, Christian Vande Velde toiled in relative anonymity for team leaders Lance Armstrong, Roberto Heras, Ivan Basso, and Carlos Sastre. In 2008, he put it all together and rode to fourth at the Tour. This year, after a nasty crash at the Giro nearly ruined his Tour prep, he was looking good, until the climb to Verbiers.

Now that his teammate Brad Wiggins is in third, Vande Velde seems ready to switch gears back to a worker. He gave the perfect sound byte to his hometown paper, the Chicago Tribune.

"Knowing Brad is doing so well makes it easier for me to deal with this," Vande Velde said via telephone. "It would have been harder to take if the whole team was relying on me, and I couldn't pull through. Now we shift gears, and I have a supportive role."

PVRs will lose sight of the Yellow Jersey

Sad but true: "As Cadel Evans pushes up into the mountains, many Personal Video Records will lose sight of the yellow jersey."

That's because most Personal Video Records are not up to the task, says a blogger on Australia's The Age. They can't create a true "Season Pass," because they don't have the technology.

"almost every mainstream digital recorder that you'd find on the shelf in your in local electrical bulk discount store doesn't let you create a proper Season Pass. Most devices from the likes of Sony, Panasonic and LG rely on the Electronic Program Guide embedded in the broadcast signal and can't search the guide for your favourite shows. Instead of creating a true Season Pass they create recurring recordings, which just blindly record the same timeslot each day or week rather than checking the EPG for schedule changes. Sport presents the greatest challenge because it is unpredictable and often goes into overtime."

While PVRs are not on my needs pyramid, I can see where recording fiends could get upset over this. I guess.

Christians Find Lessons in the Tour

Brad Wiggins bored the world by refusing to look past his stage 15 performance to Verbiers. "It's a day-by-day thing." No red meat to the journos, no brags, seemingly little self-congratulatory statements. It's as if he took lessons from Crash Davis personally, or watched Bull Durham on the team bus.

A Christian blogger picked up on it and used Wiggins statment to tie to "Give us each day our daily bread" in A Strategy for the Tour de France and Life - Day by Day

The Tour teaches Christians.

The Hincapie Near Miss Two Days Later

I was wrong in expecting Hincapie to concede at least five minutes on the road to Verbier. He conceded four and change.

Since there's still lots of buzz about George's near miss, here are a few extra thoughts. While Astana certainly kept the race close enough so that AG2R could pull Nocentini back into yellow, and Armstrong has basically admitted as much, it appears that Astana thought they gave George enough time, and even AG2R thought Nocentini was going to lose the jersey. With Astana, they talk about how they couldn't give someone 12 minutes at the Tour and Armstrong talked about the year they mistakenly gave 35 minutes to a breakaway in 2002. And then look at the actions of Nicholas Roche from AG2R. That team could have told Roche to drop out of the break and return to the field, but they didn't. And Roche was attacking in the final kilometers of the race, which helped speed up the breakaway. If the team thought Roche was pulling George into yellow, they would have told him to sit on.

Yesterday's radio silence

Sunday, I wanted to get in my own big ride. So I hit the hills with a friend for four hours. Since the ride coincided with the live Tour coverage, I snagged an invite to a friend's place with HD TV and a DVR. I enforced a Tour blackout on myself all day until 6pm, where I took in magnificient views of the Hudson River as well as pizza and Tour.

I think my friend called the moment when Armstrong mostly-likely conceded the Tour. It was moments after Andy Schleck attacked from the lead group to chase Contador. You can see from the helicopter that Armstrong started to wind up for two or three seconds and then didn't go.

Nothing wrong with Lance not having it after three years away from racing. It's amazing he's gotten himself back to the lead group. And kudos to Lance for quickly owning up, in front of the world, that he didn't have what it took to ride away from everyone else.

Verbier Welcomes the Tour on the web

Don't know if this is a first or not, but it's impressive all the same.

Verbier has created a website that is just about the intersection of Verbier and the Tour. Lots of details on both the town and the race. Possibly most important for Tour fans, they've posted time tables of when the tour arrives and leaves and when it passes various points.

A few things were lost in translation. Take a look at the following:

"Tour de France Competitors’ Schedule

12 :55 Fictitious start of competitors from Martigny

13:00 Start of competitors from Martigny"

The ficticious start is probably when the riders roll from the start line. the start is when they arrive at kilometer zero.

18 July, 2009

The Hincapie Near Miss Blame Game

After Stage 14, the world is embroiled over who is to blame for George Hincapie not riding into the Yellow Jersey. Much of the discussion, I can't believe. From what I saw, I think there's plenty of blame all around.

First, George should take some blame here. Five seconds is nothing. There were so many places to get it. To me, it didn't look like Hincapie was riding smart enough to take yellow, but maybe he had bad legs.

Second, his team should take some blame. There was a director in George's ear. What was the guy saying? It sure didn't look like Hincapie was digging deep. Next, Columbia shouldn't have led out the bunch sprint. Like most people/entities, they wanted it all ways. They probably figured they had the jersey and could get Cavendish some points in the green jersey competition. Now, not only do they not have yellow, but they might be out of the green for good, thanks to Cavendish's relegation.

Third, I do think Astana played a part, despite what Armstrong and Bruyneel say. I think Astana has some kind of deal with AG2R. Don't know why they need it, but they certainly could have refused to help at all until Nocentini himself was doing some of the chasing. It's not like the AG2R guys were totally flogged; most made it to the line with the pack. They could have called back team rider Nicholas Roche from the break to help with the chase (side-matter; what was Roche doing attacking near the end? Did his team think they had already lost the jersey). Astana could have waited several more minutes before riding tempo. Considering that Astana probably wants to keep the leaders together until the final climb tomorrow, I don't think Columbia would have hurt Astana tactically. I think they could have given George another five minutes and he'd still lose the jersey tomorrow--the finishing climb is 8.8k at 7.1%, with a climbing lead-in. I don't see him climbing with the leaders in most situations, and especially after being in a break all day.

Third, Garmin-Slipstream. I'm pretty sure that Hincapie, or a partner of his, is a sponsor of the team. Howalesko Partners is a sponsor this year, and was H3O on last year's jersey. Hincapie is one of the H's. I don't think Garmin was riding to deny George. I do think they were either hoping to get Farrar some points or keep their GC riders safe or both.

Fourth, we're discussing a conspiracy at the most important bike race in the world. No one should expect gifts. Would the pack have sat up for Stephane Goubert or Inigo Cuesta, two riders older than Hincapie and with far fewer palmares?

Finally, credit should be given to Johan Bruyneel who takes issue with Garmin coming to the front for a few seconds, when his team spent all day at or near the front. A great, if disingenuous commentary from the Astana DS.

Swiss tourism industry bullish on Tour Visit

the Tour visits Switzerland Sunday, stays Monday for the rest day, then rolls off to Italy Tuesday. This means BIG PROFIT for the Swiss--they collected all the underpants.

At least that's what Swiss Info has found out.

"'The impact will be substantial, because there will be some 4,000 people who are directly linked to the Tour de France staying in our region for two nights,' said Patrick Messeiller, director of the Verbier-Bagnes tourism office.

"But officials expect the see effects in the longer term as well. The Tour de France will offer a tremendous showcase for the region. As a sporting event, only the Olympics and the World Cup attract more media coverage than the Tour de France.

"More than 1,900 journalists from 630 media outlets will be there to cover the race, which will be broadcast in 186 countries - figures which Barben has not failed to notice."

An American First at the 2009 Tour

An American working as chef to a pro team in the Tour?

"Sean Fowler, an American chef who runs a restaurant, El Racó d’Urús, in the Pyrenees. The team had eaten there during training sessions and hired him on the spot.

"Fowler, 43, and a native of Wondervu, Colo., has a lofty résumé. A graduate of theCulinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., he is thought to be the first American chef at the Tour de France.

"'To have Sean cooking and all the fresh stuff makes a big difference,' the rider David Zabriskie said. He’s even making me beets, which I like a lot. Helps move things along.'”

The Times might be right. One of the first chefs hired by an American team, Seven-11 in this case, was, I believe, Willy Balmat, a Swiss

What do do when the Tour Visits Your Town

Act like sophisticates?

"So what did we do? We lost it. Joyfully. We acted as yokels and loved it. We got Tour fever just as everyone else has done in every other quarter of the country the past 100 years or so.

"Even the visiting Parisians entered into the spirit, in their aloof way, which meant shouting things in English to Mark Cavendish, the 24-year-old sprint phenom from the Isle of Man, as he passed.

"We crowded the roadside for hours, picnicked with strangers, wore dumb hats, danced to disco from car stereos and looked with desperation for places to "pipi." I still wonder at the reactions around the Joël Richard sawmill company when all those soaked logs were found the next day."

Hinault picks Contador for the win

Never one to mince words, The Badger sees Alberto as the man of the tour.

"I don't think so. He's of a certain age, and Contador is able to build a big lead in the mountains...In the time trial in Monaco, Armstrong lost 20 seconds in the first five kilometers, the uphill part. Believe me, it's a sign."

I've learned lots of stuff on my summer vacation

Jerry Davich has learned alot about the Tour de France. A Lot.

"I've learned that the annual race is broken down into day-long "stages," and the rider with the fastest time is allowed to then sport a famed yellow jersey and stuffed lion mascot. Similarly, the rider who places second in points wears a green jersey, and the daily "King of the Mountains" rider wears a white jersey with red dots.

"I've learned that since 1903, more than 10,000 riders have attempted the race - with only 6,000 completing it - collectively pedaling the distance between the Earth and the moon. And every district in France has hosted the race, as well as each bordering country.

"And I've learned that this year, competitors in the 96th Tour will use high-tech equipment and old-fashioned determination to earn the same bragging rights of a century ago.

"Simply put, the only way I'll probably ever tour France is through the Tour de France."

Jerry is a metro columnist for the Post-Tribune newspaper.

So tough, when shot, they remove the bullets themselves

Two cyclists were shot during the 13th stage of the Tour. the shooting appears to have been from an air gun (people don't kill people, guns do). One of the two victims, Rabobank's Oscar Freire, removed the bullet himself during the stage.

They Shoot Cyclists, don't they?

Not too many places in the US would it be news if someone decided to ride 21 days in a row, even if htose 21 days share calendar dates with the Tour de France.

But Corpus Christi, TX is not just any place. And Wes Cheslak has his Tour de Corpus. It's news to the Corpus Christi Caller-Times.

"Cheslak said the idea came to him at the start of last year’s tour.

'It was the first ride, the first stage of the Tour and I was like, ‘You know what?’, I’m going to ride 21 days this month,' he said. 'So I did it.'

Editorial Board of Concord Monitor Endorses Lance

You don't see too many editorials rooting for an athlete, especially one who isn't a local. The Concord Monitor of New Hampshire leaves no question of their feelings with the editorial, "Rooting for Lance to make it eight."

The board has bought the company line.

"Armstrong, who nearly died in 1996 from testicular cancer that metastasized to his brain and lungs, has long been the subject of speculation about illegal drug use. He vehemently denies allegations that he ever used performance enhancing drugs. His medical history and his seven consecutive tour wins have made him perhaps the most heavily tested athlete in history.

'I tell you, Armstrong will be particularly, particularly, particularly monitored,' France's sports minister, Roselyne Bachelot, told reporters.

Armstrong's performance this year gives lie to the accusations. Despite breaking his collarbone in a fall in March, he went on to place 12th in the 2,147-mile Giro d'Italia in May. Today, after 11 stages of the Tour de France, Armstrong remains in third place."

The Talking Laptop Gives Armstrong Sound Bytes

This should be news. Lance Armstrong doesn't talk to the press these days. He talks to somebody, presumably the Team Astana Press Secretary, who records comments onto a laptop and then said press secretary takes the laptop to the newsroom. He plays the laptop to the assembled press and they write down the comments.

Follow the link. The Times Online's Owen Slot has some worthwhile reading. "Armstrong is trying his damndest to a) start a fight and b) clamber his way up to the moral high ground. But the only suggestion that Contador has taken in any of Armstrong’s mindgames was his electric breakaway on the Arcalís climb on Friday. That was a considerable riposte, fulfilling to the letter the old cliché about letting his legs do the talking."

Yes, taking out 21 seconds in two uphill headwind kilometers was possibly the most impressive feat of any rider all Tour. He had the best riders in the world alongside him. he had a headwind, which effectively flattens a climb, and he still killed everybody.

Here's another thing to know, "Armstrong will not give an interview to The Times, and that is despite swearing that he no longer has a black list of the newspapers and journalists to whom he will and won’t speak. There are many to whom Armstrong will not speak. And so we make do with the soundbites and bombs from Philippe Maertens’ laptop."

17 July, 2009

Athlete Deathmatch: Eddy Merckx vs. Tiger Woods

Despite the author referring to The Cannibal as Eddie, rather than Eddy, we give props for him laying out the palmares of both Merckx and Woods. Merckx's are much deeper.

No Surprise. Merckx takes it.

Chris Horner Watches the Tour, but only after training

Otherwise, he'd be too depressed to ride.

The ever-candid Horner not only told the San Diego Union-Tribune that politics are the only reason he's not at the tour, and that he expects Armstrong to win, even though Contador has the better form.

Armstrong looking seeking $20m for new team

So says Bloomberg News. What is most interesting is that, according to Bloomberg, he already almost had it and the potential sponsors backed out.

Since Bruyneel, Astana's director, almost certainly won't put up with the return of Kazhak Alexandre Vinokourov, he's out anyways. And Contador might be forming his own team as well.

Stay tuned.

Eight-Year Suspension not enough for WADA

File this in the double-standard cycling lives in the fight against doping. Pro athletes in the Big Three US sports get a slap on the wrist and a little shame when they test positive. Bike racers lose everything. They're typically fired by their teams and lose any sponsorship deal they might have had. Tyler Hamilton, who already got busted for doping in 2004 and served a two-year suspension, got caught again. The US Anti-Doping Association, USADA, recommended an eight-year suspension. That would make Tyler 44 before he could race again. Now the World Anti-Doping Association, WADA, wants to make it a lifetime suspension. Some think it's about setting a precedent. Might be. Tyler blames his suspension on mental illness, specifically depression, that caused him to take a medication that he knew contained banned substances. But WADA probably wants to scare people straight. Eight years seems pretty long to me, but banning would keep people from participating in sport in any way for the rest of their lives--unless they want to go into unsanctioned sports like power lifting and pro wrestling.

Desert Stahlight Ridazz dig the Tour

Called one of the few regular group rides in Palm Springs, the ride leader is amped on the Tour. True, not much of a surprise that a cyclist is paying attention to the Tour, but the hippety-hop name and the thought that no one else is riding in the desert caught my attention.

Trek helps you get your Wow on

They've got a TdF lottery. You can do it by getting a card at a trek dealer or visiting their site. They say you can win Lance, Levi, or Alberto's actual TdF bike.

Seems like a good payout for easy work.

Astana Riders Slow to get (drug) tested

It will be interesting to see if this story has legs.

The Associated Press reports that: "French Sports minister Roselyne Bachelot confirmed Thursday that Astana team riders at the Tour de France stayed too long out of sight of an UCI inspector during a random doping test last week." The officials "didn't test the riders for nearly an hour." (after a random test visit)

Apparently, the UCI official had coffee with the Astana officials while they were waiting for the riders.

16 July, 2009

Making News out of nothing: The Daily News and Lance's Flat Tire

folks, it wasn't a big deal. Tires occasionally get cut and lose air. And when you're a leader or even co-leader of a team, at least one teammate is guaranteed to wait for you to help you back. That's what happened to Lance today. It happened with 37 miles remaining in the stage and teammates waited. Somehow, for the New York Daily News, he "avoided disaster."

I guess he did. And I avoided disaster by not getting hit by a car. A little ignorance makes for great copy.

Keeping with their sensationalism, they have a photo essay called Gore de France. I wouldn't write that these are the "tour's most gruesome crashes," save one, but these are the ones they must have had easy access to.

Evans Must have earned Hinault's respect today

While Stage 12 looked like a simple affair, the journos largely overlooked Cadel Evans insurrection. The Pre-race favorite lit up the race with an escape that contained a few other fellow left-behind stars. He started drilling it and after 70km, his little split had 15 seconds. Not much, but it showed that Astana had some work to do. Evans isn't going to roll over just yet.


Will there be a Red Kite Prayer tomorrow?

The Red Kite aka Flamme Rouge aka one kilometer to go banner has been known to tease those at the head of the race. The Red Kite Prayer is what you've got when you're in the mix and aren't sure which way the race is going to play.

We're not the praying type, but we find ourselves tense when we see a race get down to the final kilometer. That goes for whether we're in the middle of the action or if we're watching a race. So close to the finish and yet so much can happen. Anyone solo at the sharp end of the race is both elated and worried at the flamme rouge. Breaks can get caught, sprinters can

If you want another take on cycling, and like an indy vibe, check out the site of the same name. I'll probably be there some myself

Flat Stages Are Not Easy

It's hard to read or listen to people discuss flat stages being easy. Here's one guy's take on yesterday's stage 11, "Another flat stage, another easy ride with a bunch sprint at the end."

These aren't easy. It's more than just a four-plus hour spin. The roads are narrow, the turns tight, the wind shifts, there are countless hills even on what seems like a flat day, and just one mistake by one rider can have the effect of blowing the race apart at any moment.

The finish, despite what many think, isn't all that certain. Look at today's stage 12. The field held the gap to the break at three minutes much of the day and then when Columbia realized they were going to have to do all the work to see the breakaway brought back, they threw in the towel and the breakaway's gap quickly shot up to six minutes, where it stayed.

Columbia was playing "chicken" with the field. Only the field had little interest in seeing another Cavendish stage win. Just as the field should have little interest in Astana winning the Tour. When you're the best sprinter with the strongest leadout, don't expect the field to help. Likewise, Astana shouldn't expect any help starting tomorrow.

Want to sound like a choad, I mean tifosi?

Yes, folks, it's that easy. Just like Walter Kirn fakin' it at Princeton, you can learn how to fake it with people like me* by using a few key phrases from the Examiner.

A warning, don't ever use "velodrome track." And get the distinct feeling Kirn's faking us out now.

*not really.

Vlogger Lance Armstrong gets praise

Some just love Lance. Others love the color he brings. This person loves that he brought in Robin Williams. Much more interesting than any cyclist, and yet, Williams is a cyclist.

Official XBox TdF Game Available Now

Why watch the race when you can race the actual racers yourself?

"Players will be able to take control of individual racers during the time trial stages and think of various strategies during the other legs. All of the riding goes towards trying to get a team member the yellow jersey, of course.

Up to two players can play on the same system, or four players can compete over Xbox Live. The
game will set you back 800 Microsoft Points to get."

Versus TdF coverage up 83%

And even 18% above when Lance last won the tour.

Reuters covered the story. Apparently, Versus wants to grow their network. "The strong numbers for the Comcast Corp-owned network's early Tour coverage are a sign of the sports broadcaster's momentum as it looks to add content, broaden its reach and boost advertising revenue, network president Jamie Davis said."

Confusingly, the 2008 Tour apparently had record viewership. "Versus has aired the Tour in the United States for nine years and is in the first year of a five-year extension that runs through 2013. Davis is positive Tour viewership on the network will eclipse last year's record of nearly 33 million."

will HTC give us a special TdF Phone

That's what the mobile phone world is asking. Or at least a guy on Mobile Phone News.

15 July, 2009

Cav is so good, his lead out man is now a star

As every bike race fan knows, it's the team that makes the difference. Mark Cavendish has an amazing sprint, but he has the best lead out train in cycling. The Team Columbia roleurs go to the front and bring back the break, then George Hincapie takes over a little more than a kilometer to go. When he's through, Mark Renshaw takes over. Renshaw burns out just as Cav needs to get his sprint on.

Renshaw's skill is nearly as important as Cav's. And, with the press tiring of Cavendish stories, there's now a rash of Mark Renshaw stories. The one linked to is from Agence France Presse

USA Today Knows Cycling

Every year, I try to give a shout-out to the best coverage of cycling found in daily newspapers. When Sal Ruibal is on the job at USA Today, his paper takes the title easily.

Here he is writing about the radio-free stage 10. He's the rare journo to point out that the upcoming, currently scheduled to be radio-free stage 13, is the stage that nearly derailed Lance's bid for a seventh victory in 2005.

His blog is a decent read, too, though filing daily stories and blogging should result in overtime pay. How's he going to ride and enjoy the eats with that kind of workload? (you can read the fatigue in his writing "velodrome track sprints"?)

18 Pedal Strokes

Team Columbia gives an incredible leadout. They ride fast enough to keep the other sprinter teams on the ropes in the final few kilometers and then drop Mark Cavendish off at the perfect spot every time. on the flat stages that moment was at 200 meters to go. on stage 11's uphill finish, it was at 150 to go.

Cavendish still hasn't taken more than 20 pedal strokes in a sprint. Today, it was only 18 before he stopped pedaling short of the line, victory assured.

No one is going early to disrupt the Columbia train. Some one ought to try it because no one has the jump Cav has. If they wait for Cav to jump before jumping, they're going to lose every time.

Brute Force!

It's a great noir. Skip the next CGI-infused thriller and check out this old flick instead.

Despite what writers at Sports Illustrated think, Bernard Hinault, not Lance Armstrong, is the multi-time Tour de France champ who is not afraid to speak his mind. He may be from "old europe," but the 55-year old, who won the last of his five Tours in 1985, is still The Badger.

in an interview with Velo News' Andrew Hood, said, "There is nothing but brute force that can win a race. The only thing the head is good for is to help endure the elements, because there are some riders who are not so strong in the head and not so good at that."

While Hinault had a rep for grinding his opponents into submission, he also was a pretty savvy racer. Still, he supports Cadel Evans for trying to make the race hard on the Astana juggernaut and suggests that making the race hard is the only way anyone will have a chance to beat Contador, Armstrong, and company.

14 July, 2009

Cadel Throw in Towel. Is it a bluff?

"I can't win the Tour de France this year, says Cadel Evans" So leads a story in The Australian.

Since Lance is known for bluffing off the bike, is Cadel taking a page from his playbook? The Aussie challenger isn't as far back as Sastre and is a better time trialist and has finished second in the two previous tours, despite a weak team both times.

Sastre likes it Tranquilo, benefits from Astana Feud

No doubt the 2008 Tour champ likes things low-key. He was a forgotten man at the Giro and surged at the end to finish fourth. While in the race as the defending champ,he has been largely ignored by the press. And he seems to like it that way.

20 Pedal Strokes to Victory

That is Mark Cavendish's game. His team drops him off at 200 meters to go and he takes 20 pedal strokes and it's game over. David Jordan of DJ Coaching pointed this out to me and he seems to be right. Watch this video.

The only way another sprinter is going to win a gallop against Cav is to get him off his game. Hushovd, Farrar, Freire, even Boonen need to get their team up there and open up the sprint early because once Cav gets started, none can match him. It also helps Cav that he's smaller than the other guys and sprints in such a compact style. A big rider like Hushovd or Boonen has a hard time getting a good draft from such a small rider.

For an old-fashioned day, an old fashioned game

In honor of the radio-free stage today, I give you Leader 1, a cycling-themed board game. No screen, no keyboard, no mouse. A board and icons and luck. Seems like a nice respite.

'I want my guys eating real food' in a Clif Bar Ad

While it lacks the humor and panache of the latest Dos Equis ad campaign ("I don't always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis"), Clif deserves kudos (maybe even a Kudos bar) for running an internet ad where the main spokesperson, Garmin-Slipstream physiologist Allen Lim, advocates eating "real food" as much as possible.

13 July, 2009

SWF Desperately Seeking Hook

Sort of. Leave it to those Examiner correspondents/contributors/whatever to stretch the bounds of tie-ins. This story, by a single examiner, relates to food and love, and unfortunately, cites He's Just Not That In To You. Fortunately, crepes come into the picture as well.

Riis thinks Lance already missed his chance to win the race

From the Plain Dealer: "I'm not going to see him in the yellow jersey. I don't think so. I think it would have been something very special for him to have the yellow jersey, but I think he missed it. He missed the opportunity." Bjarne Riis, former TdF champ and director of Team Saxo Bank.

You don't need to go to the Tour to get your message on the road

Nike has a Chalkbot to do it for you. It's a robot that can write (? stencil? transfer?) messages in chalk on the roads of France. All you have to do is: "You can submit your very own message by texting "LIVESTRONG," followed by your message, to 36453, or by visiting the official site."

I want the thing to pick up swag for me from the caravane and send it home, or maybe there's a swagbot on the job for that.

We're hoping for No Earpieces Tuesday

Race radios have been a fixture in pro racing for the past decade or so. It's an innovation thanks to Motorola's sponsorship of cycling. They started providing radios to the team in 1990 or 1991 and as they got smaller, and the fruits of the change could be seen, more teams wanted it. As an observer, they seem to have changed racing. It's much harder for riders to benefit from confusion. Chase-downs of small breakaways seem to have become more successful. There was always an art to the chase, but now it is really well-defined. Maybe more importantly, stages in the mountains don't break up the same way, and when they do, they can be more decisive.

While the racing is different with the radios, I'm excited about seeing two stages radio-free at the Tour. It allows for riders with race-reading skills to shine.

The team directors are complaining because they claim the radios make racing safer. I'm not sure how true that claim is, but it's a macguffin. The real reason they want the radios is for better control of the racing, for greater assurance that the result is what they want. The Tour has actually met this objection by making a race channel available to all where they can get safety information. Though once they allow this, I would think the riders could secretly tune into their team's channel. Hope the Tour is threatening time penalties to the cheats.

American critics are playing the anti-French card, as the first of the two radio-free days is tomorrow, Bastille Day, and French riders are expected to go all-out to win on Bastille day. They figure attackers will benefit from the ban. I don't know if that many French riders really go for it. Yes, we do typically see long attacks that include French riders on Bastille Day, but then again, we see French riders in long breaks just about every day. I think there are 45 French racers in the Tour, more than any other nationality, so it shouldn't be surprising that we see French riders in just about every move.

No radios on stage 10 could be good because it will be interesting to see how the riders do without their directors yelling in their ears a day after a rest day, on a stage that while not hilly, isn't flat either. The other stage where there are supposed to be no radios, Stage 13, is mountainous, so you have both the hex of 13 and the hard stage to see how well racers think for themselves.

Tour Twitter Fiend Amits Addiction

Didn't think people really paid attention to tweets from the Tour. Thought wrong, as this woman from the Salt Lake Trib details her "problem."

Politics in the Peloton? At The Tour?

Cadel Evans tried to make the Tour interesting on Saturday's Stage Eight. He attacked the peloton and got away on the first climb of the day. It could have been a grand escape that took him to yellow or at least shook up the favorites a bit and made them race on a day they were set to take for granted. That's the kind of surprise that Tour fans love.

Instead, he got chewed out by his colleagues and scorned by team directors. The riders in the break he joined wanted an easy run to the finish without fear of being caught and thought they had the perfect move. Then Evans intruded on their party. What's surprising to me is that both Cancellara and Hincapie seemed opposed though his presence could have been a help to both of them. Cancellara had team leaders Andy and Frank Schleck behind, so he could have sat on, and Astana would have driven the chase and if the move was good, one of the Schlecks could have attacked up to the move on the last climb. Hincapie could have benefitted because Thor Hushovd was also in the move and he was there to take the green jersey from Hincapie's teammate Mark Cavendish. Hincapie would have had another reason to sit on.

Of course Bruyneel was critical. Astana would have had to work. All race favorites ahead of Evans want him to stay down where he is for as long as possible. The longer they wait to ride hard, the better it is for them. And, the less likely it is that Evans can move up far on GC.

While I've been critical of Evans for his seeming preference not to attack, he gets rough treatment from the press and fellow racers regularly. While five-time Tour champ Miguel Indurain pretty much won by amassing leads in time trials than hanging on to the best climbers in the mountains, the tactic isn't so popular when you're a second-place rider trying to win by hanging on in the mountains and then killing in the time trials.

12 July, 2009

The Dallas Cowboys of Pro cycling: Astana

I love the conclusion of Tour de France 2009: is team Astana the Dallas Cowboys of cycling? "This team, under Bruyneel's direction, could be an unstoppable force. Commend Astana for their commitment, courage, and competitiveness. Give these guys some pads and toss them a football and my money would be on them thrashing the Dallas Cowboys at their own game."


Not exactly a surprise to me, as I think most football players are pansies compared to the average pro cyclist, but it's great to see the sentiment from someone else.

Lance Knifed in the Back?

"As if set in a Shakespearing drama, he was knifed in the back by his own teammate - Alberto Contador." says Joe Oneill of the Bleacher Report.

My feeling is climbing is a game for the strong. If Lance could have gone with Alberto, he would have. That Contador gained any time on a climb that didn't favor him was impressive. The headwind facing the riders effectively flattened the climb, making drafting possible thus giving those who follow a big advantage over the rest. If Contador could take time into a headwind, then he should be able to get gobs of time on steeper climbs.

Oneill's conclusion: "I don't think Contador will go for that (letting Lance win). I think he wants to take down Armstrong because nobody else has. But what a story for Lance Armstrong. Even if he doesn't win, it has me wondering if, perhaps, he was clean all those years?"

11 July, 2009

2006 Tour Champ Pulls out, Inspires Silence

Oscar Pereiro, the 2006 Tour de France champion, pulled out of the Tour today, 100km into the eighth stage. Almost nobody noticed. Here's the Reuters story to give you a feel:

"ST GIRONS, France (Reuters) - Spaniard Oscar Pereiro, the 2006 champion, pulled out of the Tour de France during the eighth stage on Saturday, organizers said.

Pereiro got off his bike after some 100 kilometers in the 176.5-km stage from Andorra to St Girons.

"Oscar Pereiro, the 2006 champion, has pulled out," organizers said on their website (www.letour.fr)

Pereiro's Caisse d'Epargne team were not immediately available for comment."

The guy has had a hard year. At the 2008 tour, he had a dramatic crash where he flipped over a guard rail and fell some 30 feet onto the road below, breaking an arm in the process.

Want to Bet on the KoM Jersey? Here's a Guide

Betfair wants fair wagering. So they offer up a guide to who's who in the polka-dot jersey competition. Here's the big takeaway: "This market is probably best grappled with in-play, when the instructions and motivations of the various contenders become clearer."

There are moments I hate Phil and Paul

I'll see if I can find the final 5k video and commentary from Anglo commentators Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen. When today's stage winner Luis Leon Sanchez won, they called him a deserving winner. It's as if they forgot four of the final five kilometers. When Vladimir Efimkin attacked, Sanchez sat at the back and refused to chase with Mikail Astarloza and Sandy Casar. He spent four K shaking his head as the other two took hard pulls and looked back at him for help. Then, with less than 1K to go, he went to the front. Savvy racing, but he cheezed off his fellow chasers when it counted. To me, Astarloza and Casar were more deserving; they never skipped a pull. Casar got dropped on the last mountain and chased back and Astarloza put in some good attacks.