Archives for the month of: July, 2013

When I first started writing this blog one of my earliest posts was about a cycling app / website called Strava. Strava is an app / website that enables you to log all your rides and runs up to the cloud and then tracks your performance along “segments” (sub sections of your route) and ranks your ride on a leaderboard not only against yourself but against every other rider who has done that “segment” including your mates. I posed the question “Is Strava evil?” given the way it gamifies every ride – but the conclusion I reached was no. I use Strava to push myself, and encourage my mates to go smash it as well – all while maintaining an upright position on the bike. The top of a segment leaderboard is appointed the Segment KOM – King Of the Mountain, and in all my riding I have yet to achieve this feat. I have managed to squeeze into the top 10 several times and even jumped on the podium on one of my local routes, but never the KOM.

So visiting my folks on the weekend gave me an opportunity to bring my bike, go out for a ride on my old stomping grounds and see if I could not nab a KOM.

The first aim of my ride was not to get any Strava KOMs but get in a short and intense ride for an hour. I wanted to see what average speed I could hold on my new Shimano DuraAce 9000 C24 wheels. I have ridden a couple of hundred kilometers on them now and they really are a factor. Everyone writes in the forums about the performance advantage of lighter and stiffer wheels. What they also mention is the cost of lighter and stiffer wheels. This cost has to date been prohibitive for me to upgrade, until recently when I was forced to get new wheels as a result of 5 year old rear wheel failing with multiple stress factors around the spokes. But with 450 grams of weight shaved off the bike in all the right places and a stiffer construct, I find myself performing marginally better on the bike with the new setup. I will write up a detailed review later, but the new wheels rock.

To do this high(er – the pros would eat me up) speed ride, I mapped out a route I used to ride when I was younger and would use riding as part of my cross-training for other sports. The route doesn’t include any traffic lights, but it does include a number of short and sharp hills that in some cases get up to 8-9% gradient. It would be 3 laps of a 10km circuit. Best part is that there are no traffic lights on this route and it is mostly local roads so little traffic. On the first few warmup kms I was feeling good, and stretched the legs out a bit. I was consistently hitting 35-37kph (21.7-23mph) on the flats, so feeling quite good. Then I got to the hilly stuff and my speed dropped. I was targeting for a 30kph average for the ride, but that dropped when I hit the hills. I was going to have to lift it.

On the final section of the lap there is a long straight which, while undulating, has a total drop of around 30m in elevation. The best bit about this section of tarmac is that it has been freshly sealed and is quite smooth. As I approach the road, I saw that there was no traffic and I remembered that there was a Strava KOM on this segment that was worth a chase. I punched it! The segment is 1.1km long, so tough going to maintain full power. I put my head down and burned my legs up. I was a bit naughty when I realised that I had actually exceed the road speed limit and was maintaining that speed for over 600m. I got over the first bump followed by the second, and then put my head down for the final 300m. I was gone by that stage, but my momentum carried me past the segment finish. It wasn’t until I got back to my parent’s house and connected the Garmin into the computer to upload the ride that I realised I had just earned my first Strava KOM.

49.1kph (30mph) for 1.1km

I was chuffed! And the next nearest rider was a couple of kph slower. I fell just short of my 30kph average speed for the ride (at 29.9kph), but it was a good hitout. I got a second place on one of the segments too up a bugger of a climb that runs for 600m and gets up over 10% gradient. But my climbing still has to improve greatly. Now the gauntlet has been set on my KOM and others will chase, while I chase the KOM on that second placed climb.

I am feeling good in the saddle with the Amy Gillett Gran Fondo now only 46 days away. But I still have to get some solid riding in before then.

Strava isn’t evil anymore  🙂

 

 

This week’s travel theme from Ailsa’s blog “Where’s my backpack?” is Sweet. Our household has a pretty strong sweet tooth, and I think it runs through both sides of our families. If I was to be honest our son, AKA The Pok, just has a food tooth where sweet is just part of it. But when we travel we also often find ourselves savouring the local sweets, though we are too busy eating them than taking photos of them – Japanese mochi anyone? As usual, the images link to my larger photos on Flickr.

We love going to the Hunter Valley (NSW, Australia) to visit the vineyards and discover new wines. I especially like the “stickies” and ports in addition to many of the white wines that are specialities of the region. One of the first photos I took using my first digital camera, a Canon PowerShot G2, was this closeup of the grapes. They were not far off from being picked and I love the deep colour.

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Still in Australia, quite often when we travel to Melbourne, Australia to visit my brother and his wife we end up at the Prahran Markets. I took this photo of one of my favourite types of sweets – macarons. Apparently these ones are gluten free (does that make them any less sweet?).

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On our honeymoon, our first stop was Shanghai, China where we spent time in the old French Quarter. On our first day after checking in we decided to go out for a walk and get “lost”. It is a thing we often do where we forget about the map and walk the local area to discover it. It started raining and to find shelter we found a market that the locals were busily shopping at. It was the first time that we had been in a market in China (not Hong Kong – different). This fruit vendor had all her wares on display and we didn’t recognise many of the fruits, though my wife was making her best attempts.

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We have been to Singapore several times, and we often indulge for a few nights by staying in many of Singapore’s top hotels (two or three nights is often all we can afford for a splash of holiday luxury). One of the best hotels we have stayed at on the island nation was the Pan Pacific near Marina Bay. In the lead up to Christmas they adorned the foyer with many decorations including a HUGE gingerbread house. We we tempted to sample its walls, but didn’t for fear of bringing on a collapse.

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This is not technically a travel photo, but it is sweet in many ways. My grandmother (on my Dad’s side) turned 100 before she passed away. We, along with my large family, got to celebrate the century with our Grandmare in a huge party. She lived a tough life through her youth and in a tumultuous century that saw two world wars. Her country of birth went from being a British Colony to achieving independence, but not before a civil war that went along religious lines. She also raised six kids, and had the unfortunate life experience of having two other children die as infants soon after birth. Relocating to Australia when she was in her sixties must have been quite unnerving, particularly as French was her first and primary language – but she managed it all in her stride. She was a mean and competitive card player and loved her soap operas. All through her life she was very active, breaking her hip not once but twice – and that still didn’t stop her. And if you ever got in her way to a bottle of cherry you would come off second best. The party was grand, and it is the first and only birthday cake that I have seen with three numbers on it.

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Finally, back to our son – The Pok. He is a champion eater of anything but he has very much discovered the delights of chocolate, ice cream, and cake. The challenge for us as parents is to moderate his delight in food, which is becoming even more challenging now that he knows how to open the fridge door and grab the stool to reach for things. At least for us he loves eating his vegetables as well. We very much enjoy watching him make a mess and grin while eating, and he now assists my wife in baking too.

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Check out some of the other bloggers posts at Ailsa’s site in the comments with their postings, as always there are some really good photographs couple with some interesting stories.

I am writing this post with the same feeling I get on Boxing Day (26 December), my next Christmas is another year away. But what a Christmas in July this was. The 100th edition of the Grand Boucle was freaking awesome! We saw the emergence of some great new talent. The tour organisers tried their best to kill the peloton. There was some heroics. There were tears. And I was cheering some real underdogs to wins. I also got my fix of Aussie riders doing well. But not only did Aussie riders do well, it was a truly global representation of athletes who were competing – now all we need to see are more Asian and African riders.

The stage itself as tradition has gone was half parade, half competition. Having lived in Paris previously, I get twangs of longing to return – and it has been a while for me. It is so very familiar seeing the streets and boulevards with the peloton riding through closed off streets. To top it off, how good was the light show on the L’Arc de Triomphe. I wish I had been there, and I can’t wait to catch up with my old workmate who went over there for the trip of a lifetime to hear his stories.

While I have been a bit (huh? – a lot) tongue in cheek describing Team Sky and their Lead Rider Christopher Froome’s attempt to win the Maillot Jaune, the reality is that he rode absolutely awesome over the three weeks and is a deserving champion. For me the highlight of his victory was when he absolutely blew every other rider away on the first day in the Pyrenees. His mindblowingly high cadence acceleration up the mountain was something else. It was ballsy of the highest order – with Froome saying to all his competitors “I am going to smash you, and then hang onto this jersey for the next two weeks. Catch me if you dare!” So to the Froome-dog from the Empire – congratulations. And to pay this rider the respect he deserves, he is humble and a gentleman. His speech on the podium on Sunday was deserving of a champion.

tdf2013-GC-winner

The Final Stage – Showdown on the Champs Elysees

Stage 21 of the Tour is now always a high speed shootout. But unlike previous years where the result was pretty much certain, this year’s Tour has featured four sprinters of class. And they are all characters to boot. First in the light blue corner we had the previous four time winner Mark “The Manx Missile” Cavendish (racing for Omega Pharma-Quickstep, an unfortunate sponsor name given professional cycling’s recent history). Second in the green corner we had the winner of this year’s Maillot Vert, “The Tourminator” Peter Sagan (from Cannondale). Third in the white corner we had Marcel “Ice Ice” Kittel (leader of the Argonauts – Argos Shimano) – if you don’t know what his nickname is about look at his hairstyle after he takes off his helmet. And last but definitely not least we had Andre “The Gorilla” Greipel (Lotto Belisol). With a motley bunch like this, no wonder my son finds it so amusing.

The shootout didn’t begin in earnest until after the first lap of the Champs Elysees. Then it was on for young and old with the peloton motoring. The Manx Missile copped a puncture while it all kicked on, and I think that this may have had an impact on his sprint in the end. David Millar (from the Rebellion – Garmin Sharp) tried to go out solo and broke away to nearly 25 seconds ahead of the raging peloton. But he must have known for sure that he was going to get reined in, and he was. The Missile eventually caught up and in the final lap the four sprint trains along with a couple of other pretenders started to form their lines. But with four sprint trains along the Rue de Rivoli and the tight left – right turns around the Place de La Concorde no clear train developed. From a pretty long distance out it was left to the four big guns to shoot it out. But it was Ice Ice Kittel who managed to keep both The Gorilla and The Missile at bay to take his fourth win for himself and his band of Argonauts. A lot of cycling fans don’t like the sprints, but I love the game of high speed chess and the sheer focus of these guys at speed. It was a fitting end to this year’s Tour.

tdf2013-etape_21-winner

For a more serious assessment of the stage, check out:

CyclingNews – http://www.cyclingnews.com/tour-de-france/stage-21/results

VeloVoices – http://velovoices.com/2013/07/21/tdf-stage-21-cest-fini/

SBS Cycling Central – http://www.sbs.com.au/cyclingcentral/road/news/50382/froome-crowned-tour-champion-as-kittel-wins-in-paris

The three jersey winners were well deserving, having shown a great degree of dominance in their respective competitions. Both the Maillot Jaune (Froome-dog) and the Maillot Vert (The Tourminator) were decisively earned early in the Tour by sheer bloody mindedness of their teams to attack with hugely dominant moves on decisive stages. It was the race for the Polka dots that was the most interesting, and it deservedly went to the new upcoming superstar Nairo Quintana (who trained by outrunning FARC Rebels and Colombian druglords in his home country). Being only 23, Quintana also took out the Maillot Blanc. Much respect to these three!

tdf2013-jersey_winners

The Cement Ladder – The Grey Jersey

Watching the toughest sportsmen in the world, I decided to start a “cement” ranking that reflects truly great feats of endurance and the overcoming of pain (basically a bit of HTFU). Next time Prudhomme comes to talk to us here in Australia, I will tell him what he needs to do to create the Grey Jersey. The podium for the Grey Jersey is…

1. Jens Voigt – oldest man in the peloton, king of pain, and a rider who entered in numerous breakaways. If this was your last Tour Jensie then you will be sorely missed. His attack on Stage 20 was epic! We love the Jensie!

2. Sylvain Chavanel – who missed out on a stage win on his birthday in Corsica and then proceeded to ride ANGRY for the rest of the Tour. I mean this guy hammered and set up The Missile for a win. Never mind his attempt at glory on Bastille Day.

3. Richie Porte – who on any other team would have been a team leader, but he basically blew everybody else away to set the Froome-dog up for a win. He was epic to watch, and if it wasn’t for his explosion on the second stage in the Pyrenees he would have been on the podium.

Special mention goes to Gerraint Thomas, who busted his hip early in the Tour and did not abandon. In the Team Time Trial, his individual time after being dropped from the Empire’s train was faster than 6 other teams at full strength! Giddy-up.

I lift my cement filled bidons in salute to these three riders and all the others who earned points in this competition.

The Turbo Training Challenge

I had the objective of kickstarting my winter training by turbo riding during as many of the stages as possible. While my plans were scampered by a busted and very costly rear wheel, I still managed to ride just under 6ookm (both on the turbo and on the road) during the Tour. Now time to rachet it up a gear for the Amy Gillet Gran Fondo in September.

 

Now I can also go back to blogging about something other than Cycling for a bit too.

 

No, we have not been blessed with a second child.

But we now have a fish! This last week I celebrated my birthday and my son, The Pok, decided that I needed a pet as my present. He tried to convince my wife that his Daddy needed a dog. Fortunately my wife does not think impractically like a 2 year old, and proceeded to convince him that it may be easier to take care of a fish.

Please welcome “Marlin” the Siamese Fighting Fish!

Marlin_the_Fish

He is only small at no more than 5cm in length (including his tail fins), but he is a beautiful shimmering orange with deep vibrant red fins. They are quite elegant when he spreads them to look like multiple fans of red spikes. The little guy has quite a personality too, and he kicks up a bit when we go to say hello to him. The Pok now has another daily task to add to his morning routine of feeding our fish. When I asked The Pok what his name was, he thought carefully and after a brief few seconds he shouted “Marlin!”

But Daddy, Marlin doesn’t Talk

The day after we got him, I picked up The Pok from day care and the first thing we both wanted to do when we returned home was to say hello to Marlin. As we gazed at his fish tank and spoke to him, Marlin stared back and opened his mouth. But it was confusing for The Pok that he didn’t talk back to us. He was moving his mouth, but no words were coming out.

Then it dawned on me that in my son’s world, everyone talks back. The trains talk in Thomas the Tank Engine and Chuggington, the cars talk in Disney’s Cars, the tools talk in Handy Manny, and the animals talk in Tinga Tinga Tales and Babar. Of course you have Mickey Mouse and his Clubhouse friends who are all chatterboxes too. Even when he plays with his toys, he emulates the conversations that he watches on the television shows and now makes up his own. When we go to a store and he sees a train or car without eyes The Pok says “Daddy, that car doesn’t have a face.”

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So you can imagine his disappointment when he turned around and said to me “Daddy, Marlin isn’t talking.” I provided some Daddy logic that only works on young minds and told him “That’s because Marlin lives underwater, and when you go swimming you can’t talk underwater.” The Pok was happy with that, for now, but no doubt he won’t be fooled for long.

Regardless, both The Pok and his Daddy love very much the new addition to our house. And it is never a dull moment figuring out the machinations of my son’s mind.

 

With only 2 stages left after this race from Bourg-d’Oisans to Le Grand-Bornand, I am getting that feeling in my stomach that I get on the 23rd of December – only two more days to Christmas (i.e. Stage 21 on the Champs Elysees in Paris). The peloton looks exhausted, and the race organisers have finally matched the challenge that the Giro d’Italia provides to the UCI Pro Tour.

When I switched on the coverage (and it started early on a Friday night), Pierre Rolland (from Showboating Europcar – who as a result of their showboating have successfully secured continued sponsorship from the car hire company) was belting out a brilliant breakaway paired with Ryder Hesjedal (from the Rebellion – Garmin-Sharp). Initially the breakaway had formed by Hesjedal and Jon Izagirre (Euskatel-Euskadi), but when Rolland had caught them he turned the screws and Izagirre (who has been having a good Tour so far) got dropped.

Side note – Ryder’s sunglasses have caused much controversy in the Tour this year. Yes, us cyclists and cycling fans are very partial to fashion faux-pas (can you hear us Pierre Rolland) while riding on two wheels. Ryder is a champion, but what is going on with those glasses?

RyderHesjedal-Sunglasses

Is he really Johnny Depp’s version of Willy Wonka in disguise? Anyways, back to the stage…

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Hesjedal and Rolland were keeping away another group of breakaway riders lead by Daniel Navarro (of Cofidis – another team who has been unusually missing in action and hiding in the peloton for this year’s Tour). Navarro’s group also contained Rui Costa (Movistar) who showed his form a couple of stages earlier to win a spectacular solo mountain ascent. Navarro was also in the hunt for the Polka dots, so this was a looming battle with Rolland.

Rolland decided to turn the screws again, and he had eyes on Polka dots. Hesjedal hit the wall, and I think this reflected his 2013 season in a nutshell – not quite there.

Second side note – if you missed last night’s stage then you missed probably the best roadside display in the town of Marlens, where a couple of genius handymen created a suspended wooden riding cyclists who pedalled on a cable alongside of the road – and it moved at speed. It was brilliant!

Then for the first time this year the Tour was hit by adverse weather. This was the prompt for one rider, Costa, to go on the attack and chase down Rolland. This was a ballsy chase, and he eventually caught up with Rolland. The two rode together for a short time until Costa did to Rolland what he had done earlier to his fellow breakaway riders. Costa turned the screws and belted it out to what would be an eventual solo win for the last 15 or so kilometers. Brilliant riding!

tdf2013-etape_19-winner

I feel a bit robbed watching this. Costa was one of the riders who joined his teammate Valverde when he got the mechanical, and if they hadn’t made the huge tactical stuff up and waited for the team car we could have had three Movistar riders to attack the Empire alongside the Saxo-Tinkhoff boys of the deli merchant El Pistolero (Contador).

The top GC riders did not really attack each other and would finish 8 min 40 sec down on Costa. They really looked spent, with El Pistolero and Quintana (Yay!) resting easy and matching the Froome-dog. I reckon that only Quintana has the get up to try and attack for second place tomorrow. I have resigned myself to the fact that the Froome-dog is likely to win the Maillot Jaune, and to be honest he deserves it (even though he rides for the evil Empire – Team Sky – owned by Murdoch). If he does win, he has one Richie Porte to thank greatly (supplier of a wind break and M&M’s).

The Cement Ladder – The Grey Jersey

Watching the toughest sportsmen in the world, I have decided to start a “cement” ranking that reflects truly great feats of endurance and the overcoming of pain (basically a bit of HTFU). Maybe ASO could make a special jersey, grey, for this category. My points are as follows:
1. Pierre Rolland – went on the attack in a big way, chasing polka dots. Unlucky not to win the stage.
2. Rui Costa – awesome riding and showed his class.
3. Jack Bauer – even though I didn’t write about him, apparently he face planted into a barb-wire fence in a nasty tangle with banana peels on one of the descents. He was forced to retire.
4. Jens Voigt – because the Jensie is awesome and riding tough in the Tour at the age of 41. Big respect!
For a more serious assessment of the race check out:
CyclingNews – http://www.cyclingnews.com/tour-de-france/stage-19/results

VeloVoices – http://velovoices.com/2013/07/19/tdf-stage-19-costa-doubles-up-froomes-rivals-give-up/

SBS Cycling Central – http://www.sbs.com.au/cyclingcentral/news/50302/Opportunistic-Costa-wins-second-Tour-stage

It would seem like the Tour organisers had the foresight to work out that the best way to impede the Death Star (the Team Sky bus) or any other vehicle from the teams was to make the peloton climb up Alpe d’Huez not once, but twice! Twice! Not 21 hairpins to ascend, but 42! Twice! As the French would say – “c’est fou!

It was unclear to me how this stage would unfold. The only thing for certain was that the guys with the big thighs would suffer, a lot. When I switched on to the coverage, it was a pleasant surprise to see a breakaway of high quality for the second time in 3 stages.

The breakaway contained Tejay van Garderen (from BMC with the continued aim to erase the donuts), Moreno Moser (who is probably Cannondale’s only climber from the Tourminator’s squad), Christophe Riblon (from AG2R alphabet soup La Mondiale and teammate to hardman Peraud who had left the Tour with a Grey Jersey on his back), Tom Danielson (from the Rebellion – Garmin-Sharp), Jensie (Radioshack Leopard-Tank), Chava(nel) who along with Quintana is my rider of the Tour, and 3 others.

The First Ascent of the Alpe

These guys got to as much as over 8 minutes on the Maillot Jaune group, and given the calibre it looked quite possibly like the source of the day’s success. El Pistolero sent two of his teammates up ahead to see if there was any cold meat on offer, but they couldn’t catch up. Then by the time they hit the base of Alpe d’Huez for the FIRST climb it was on, van Garderen and Riblon attacked! Moser chased to catch up, with the rest of the breakaway smashing it but dropping back.

Side note – I love downhill bombing on two wheels! It is awesome and fun getting up to these sort of speeds. But the descent on the back end of Alpe d’Huez scared the crap out of me just watching it. One off and you are rolling down a mountain side for a couple of hundred metres – and probably dead. Still this is bike racing, back to the stage…

Tejay hit the group of three hard and lead the downhill bombing. But typical of BMC’s year (remember donuts) he had a mechanical while at speed rolling downhill. This gave Riblon and Moser the chance to leapfrog him. These guys were really pushing it, with Riblon trying to imitate Pharmstrong with a bit of MTB action on a road steed. Problem for him was that he went into the mountain and not down it and got his shoes dirty with bog in the process. He was alright and so was van Garderen in the end as he eventually caught up to the other two to reconvene the group of three.

The rest of the GC riders were sorting themselves out and the the riders on the periphery were dropping off. The Empire were leading from the front, and stymied El Pistolero’s plans. The true dark horse, Quintana (Movistar), was biding his time to pounce. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha – gee they have been quiet at this year’s race) was also plotting.

The Second Ascent of the Alpe

On the second climb van Garderen attacked again, this time only Riblon could give chase with Moser hitting the wall. Tejay was chasing glory, but ultimately it would be too much for him as he hit the last two kilometers. Riblon sensing the opportunity was told by his team car to push it and he did. The mountain erupted spontaneously to support his attack and French viewers everywhere waited with baited breath to watch a rider from the home country finally win a stage in the centenary edition of the Grand Boucle.

Vive la France!

Further behind – El Pistolero and Kreuziger (his teammate) cracked, The Froome-dog cracked (but not the Empire’s Super-Super-Super-Domestique Richie Porte), Mollema and TenDam (from the Team formerly known as Rabobank formerly known as Blanco now known as Belkin) cracked – but Quintana and Rodriguez didn’t and attacked! They put a minute into the Maillot Jaune who further got docked 20 seconds for eating M&M’s on French soil.

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I can’t say enough times how good this year’s Tour has been and we still have three days left.

The Cement Ladder – The Grey Jersey

Watching the toughest sportsmen in the world, I have decided to start a “cement” ranking that reflects truly great feats of endurance and the overcoming of pain (basically a bit of HTFU). Maybe ASO could make a special jersey, grey, for this category. Epic amount of cement laid out on the Queen stage of this race, here are my picks.

1. Tejay van Garderen – did all the work and hit incredibly bad luck to still get donuts.

2. Christophe Riblon – came off, gathered his composure and then attacked. He rolled the dice and salvaged glory for la France.

3. Nairo Quintana – showed smarts and hardness to go out and attack, and duly rewarded with a current position in the top 3.

4. Joauquim Rodriguez – matched Quintana and now threatening a podium place.

5. Richie Porte – for continuing to feed the Froome-dog M&M’s on the way to possibly winning the Maillot Jaune.

and

6. The Jensie – Jens Voigt jumped into the breakaway to attack up Alpe d’Huez (we love the Jensie)

 

For a more serious assessment of the stage, check out:

CyclingNews – http://www.cyclingnews.com/tour-de-france/stage-18/results

VeloVoices – http://velovoices.com/2013/07/18/tdf-stage-18-christophe-riblon-france-is-proud-of-you/

SBS Cycling Central – http://www.sbs.com.au/cyclingcentral/news/50264/Riblon-wins-on-Alpe-d’Huez-as-Froome-survives

 

The Turbo Training Challenge

The new wheels on my ride bike have been installed and are ready to roll for the next stage. I was transferring shoes over as the stage commenced. For the first time I also installed a gear cassette on the rear wheel of a bike. A little bit tricky, but with the correct tools (chainwhip, cog lockring tool, wrench, a bit of grease, and a spacer) it turned out to be relatively straightforward. The new wheels are Shimano Dura-Ace C24 clinchers and they are light (500g lighter than the stock standard Bontrager wheels that I had with my Trek Madone 4.7)! I will be going for a couple of road spins on the weekend so I will see how they perform up the climbs and how stiff they are in comparison. The wallet is lighter by the same amount.

 

I am playing catch up writing up my review posts about the Tour. Work and Southern Hemisphere Tour induced insomnia is working against me. Stage 17 was always going to post a challenge of a different kind of time-trial. The Tour planners decided that they would throw a bit of torture at the riders with a short 32km stage that had two categorie 2 climbs in it, combined with a wickedly fast downhill run into the finish. The regular TT riders like Tony Martin (drinker of much cement and who did his best to impersonate a riding mummy early in the race) would not be the favourites, but it would be a route for the climbers.

Tejay van Garderen (from BMC) has tried to erase the team’s donuts at this year’s Tour (that’s right, they have earned nothing but zeroes, nada, nothing, zip – donuts). And early in the piece he set a cracking pace that would hold up until the last 10 (and highest place) riders would come in at the end of the stage. And then the weather came in…

I can’t believe that of all the stages when the weather decided to play up it chose this day. The little micro-tempest that rolled through turned a gruelling time-trial stage into a spot of ice skating for the unlucky riders. Understandably a lot of those caught in this greasy road mess backed it off. But thank God it cleared up and dried out for the big guns in the GC to come out and play.

But here is when I have to make a major call out to a rider showing much cement to just start the day. Jean-Christophe Peraud, the highest placed French rider at the start of the day, fell while reconnoiter the route and cracked his collarbone. He cracked his collarbone! And yet he still took to the bike. He was a figure of riding pain every time he leaned right to take a turn. And unfortunately for him he went down again during the stage and on the same side. This would force Peraud to retire from the Tour – but to this rider goes much respect!

tdf_2013-stage_17-legend

The GC Shoots it Out

Realistically everyone had the Froome-dog, and currently the holder of the Maillot Jaune, shoed in as the favourite. Each of his challengers, bar 2nd place Mollema (from the Team formerly known as Rabobank formerly known as Blanco now known as Belkin) ended up nudging Tejay van Garderen from his blistering time. Finally it was El Pistolero (the deli merchant Contador) who would take the gun position waiting to see what the Froome-dog would do. And true to form the Froome-dog belted everybody. I am struggling to see how anyone can beat the Empire and Froome-dog.

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So bring on stage 18 and the double climb of Alpe-d’Huez, which is what everyone is waiting for. This is the best Tour that I can ever remember watching.

For a more serious assessment of the stage, check out:

CyclingNews – http://www.cyclingnews.com/tour-de-france/stage-17/results

VeloVoices – http://velovoices.com/2013/07/17/tdf-stage-17-froome-dispatches-spanish-armada/

SBS Cycling Central – http://www.sbs.com.au/cyclingcentral/road/news/50228/froome-builds-lead-as-alpe-d-huez-looms

The Cement Ladder – The Grey Jersey

Watching the toughest sportsmen in the world, I have decided to start a “cement” ranking that reflects truly great feats of endurance and the overcoming of pain (basically a bit of HTFU). Maybe ASO could make a special jersey, grey, for this category. I am only going to reward three riders today:

1. Jean-Christophe Peraud – He represented his team, and his country. Tough, tough, tough.

2. Christopher Froome – buried himself to set the final last sector time to take the stage. He may ride for the Empire, but he has done the Maillot Jaune due justice.

3. Tejay van Garderen – could have settled on his crap position in the GC, but went out to try and smash it.

The Turbo Training Challenge

My turbo training challenge ride has come off the skids, I need the new set of uncracked wheels to come in. They should have arrived in Australia and hopefully get delivered soon.

 

I am taking the rest day as the opportunity to write up my take on Stage 15. Looking forward to racing kicking off again, but now suffering heavily from Tour induced Southern Hemisphere insomnia.

The Death Star (Sky Team bus) must have entered into orbit over Mont Ventoux and switched on its tractor beam for the Froome-dog. I fear that this may have been the nail in the coffin for the rest of the riders in the chase for the Maillot Jeune. The Froome-dog had his stormtroopers ready to lead out in front, with his chief lieutenant Richie Porte primed to do his duty. To top that all off, the race organisers ASO decided it would be a good idea to make this stage the longest of this year’s Tour at over 240km through the beautiful Provence. Provence is beautiful and I want to go, but Ventoux is not. In fact Ventoux, as the French say, looks like a bald man with its lunar landscape and complete lack of trees. The tower at the top only reinforces the possibility that when no-one is looking this is a station for extra-terrestrial communication.

Mont_Ventoux

How the Race Unfolded

Of course there was going to be a breakaway. But of all the Tour’s breakaways, this one would have to be the most futile of all. Still, there was some meaning to the break because within this group was The Tourminator – Peter Sagan and he was chasing the intermediate points win to all but seal off the competition for the Maillot Vert. The Gorilla (Greipel) and the Manx Missile (Cavendish) were left to worry about the ascent of the looming giant that is Mont Ventoux. Sagan celebrated his points win in the best possible way, he popped a wheelie on his bike and rode it one handed while he waved to the crowd! Tourminator, you’re awesome.

Pierre Rolland (of fashion faux-pas polka dot fame) was not in this breakaway group but tried to catch up. He failed, and would later blow up on the climb up Ventoux. This would mean a loss of the spotty dots off his back (thank God, he can go back to wearing black lycra shorts – Pierre you should read Rule #14, and when you are finished reading it read again).

The group of 10 breakaway riders also included one of the strongest riders this year, Frenchman Sylvain Chava(nel). Chava has been p!ssed at not being able to win a stage on his birthday (stage 2) so he has been riding like a storm ever since. He eventually broke away solo from this breakaway group and gave the French public someone to cheer for on their National Holiday – Bastille Day. In true Chava fashion he hammered with much cement in his bidons and buried himself. It was awesome to watch, and in the twilight of his career he needs to get some of that stuff into other French riders.

The Ascent of the Giant

But for Chava it was not to be. The Empire (Sky), along with Movistar and Euskatel-Euskadi set chase to begin the real game. First it was the turn of some riders trying to break and light up the stage. Rui Costa (Movistar) and Jan Bakelants (Radioshack Leopard-Tank – and TdF2013 star) were first to go get him.  Mikel Nieve (Euskaltel-Euskadi) would be next and he was dangerous. His attack would prove quite a prompter, as next to jump was Nairo Quintana (yippee! Also from Movistar). Little Quintana, trained in climbing mountains by outrunning FARC rebels and Colombian druglords, has been electronic electrifying in this Tour – and he is only 23! Quintana soon caught up with Nieve, leaving the others in his wake,  and the two of them joined forces in a mini-rebellion against the Empire.

The Empire then decided to lead the chase and buried themselves at the front. First it was A Schleck (Radioshack Leopard-Tank) to blow up and nearly get pushed off his bike by an overzealous helper. The Cadel Evans (BMC – Champion!) who has demonstrated that in the modern age you cannot ride the Giro and the Tour and do well at both.

Side note – I felt sad watching this, as I don’t think many people have contemplated what his career might have been had he not ridden amongst such a group of drug addicts. Take a look at Cadel’s first Tour de France in 2005 where he finished 8th. Have a look at the rest of the names in the top 10 (1. Pharmstrong, 2. Basso ???, 3. Ulrich, 4. Mancebo, 5. Vinokourov, 6. Leipheimer, 7. Rasmussen, 8. Evans, 9. Landis???, 10. Pereiro) and spot the non-drug addict. This would be the case for much of Evans career. Back to the stage…

The Empire was killing off all the competition, and they had a target to catch in Quintana. It was finally down to Richie Porte driving up front followed by the Froome-dog in yellow, with El Pistolero (Contador the deli man), Mollema and Ten Dam (from the Team formerly known as Rabobank formerly known as Blanco now known as Belkin) and many of the other top 10 riders. They all started to crack leaving Porte, Froome, and El Pistolero in the final assault and chase of the mini-Rebellion. Until Porte pulled over and Froome-dog took off like he was scolded. El Pistolero had nothing, and no cold meats to fuel his cadence.

Quintana broke from Nieve and went solo, with the chasing Maillot Jaune about to catch up. Nieve was dispatched mercilessly by Froome-dog and then it was down to two. It brings me to a song I sing to my son, The Pok, “There were two in the bed and the little one said roll over, roll over, so they all rolled over and one fell out…” The one who fell out was the little one – Quintana. The Froome-dog locked onto the Death Star tractor beam and blasted away from Quintana with just over a kilometre to go. His cadence was so intense, I can’t even turn the pedals like that on the flat.

tdf_2013-stage_15-winner

The Maillot Jaune took his second mountain stage win of the Tour and destroyed the rest of the field. El Pistolero eventually blew up and lost much of his attack, unable to take 2nd place in the GC from Mollema. Nieve as his reward would take third on the stage.

The Froome-dog’s performance was so dominating that it has raised the spectre of the use of magic potions. I reiterate that I firmly believe that Emperor Brailsford has long ago banished the druids from the Empire. I very much think what we saw were the next generation of riders who will be the best in professional cycling for the coming years. They are currently 1. Froome-dog, 2. Mollema, and 6. Quintana in the Maillot Jaune competition and with a fourth leading the Maillot Vert competition – Sagan.

Serious look at the days racing check out:

CyclingNews – http://www.cyclingnews.com/tour-de-france/stage-15/results

VeloVoices – http://velovoices.com/2013/07/14/tdf-stage-15-froome-lowers-the-boom-on-the-way-up-ventoux/

SBS Cycling Central – http://www.sbs.com.au/cyclingcentral/road/news/50152/froome-extends-tour-lead-with-dominant-w…

The Cement Ladder – The Grey Jersey

Watching the toughest sportsmen in the world, I have decided to start a “cement” ranking that reflects truly great feats of endurance and the overcoming of pain (basically a bit of HTFU). Maybe ASO could make a special jersey, grey, for this category. There was so much cement on offer it was difficult to choose, but here are my points.

1. Sylvain Chavanel – Chava angry again and hammering it – big respect to a non-climber.

2. Mikel Nieve – the instigator of the most telling attack on the ascent of the giant.

3. Richie Porte – Destroyed everyone in the peloton to keep the Froome-dog in yellow.

4. Jan Bakelants – On the attack AGAIN! I hope he gets a contract rate increase next year – the find of the Tour.

5. Jens Voigt – he is 41 and raced up Mont Ventoux. “How good is that?”

The Turbo Training Challenge

I did another session on the turbo trainer, and with my busted wheel locked in. I don’t care if I destroy it indoors, I can just stop riding and move to my couch. New wheels are on the way (still Kaching-Ouch!) and I am waiting anxiously for them to arrive. I will now be able to compare pretty quickly what a lower weight set of wheels does to my performance.

Stage 13 was fireworks, Stage 14 was for those who wanted to break away.

It looks like the Jensie (Jens Voigt) took offence to me leaving him off the Grey Jersey points competition. The Jensie lead out the initial breakaway of four riders, but they were soon joined by quite a few other riders making the lead out group total 18 riders. Their destination was the beautiful city of Lyon and on the eve of Bastille Day (the French National Holiday) it was awesome to see the French public line the streets for the last 30km. This gave impetus to one French rider – Julien Simon to go out and attack for the win. 30km out from the finish he went out to hammer home Sojasun’s first Tour stage win.

Big ups! He absolutely put his head down to go for the win. The crowd was going crazy cheering him on trying to push him to the win.

tdf_2013-stage_14-grey_jersey

There were many chases from the breakaway group to pull him back and take the win. First was Michael Albisini (the only European rider with Orica GreenWedge), but he couldn’t make it stick. Then David Millar (also from Garmin-Sharp), but he couldn’t make it stick. There was quality in this breakaway group of riders. Big callout has to go to two of the other riders in this breakaway group; Cyril “Jean-Paul” Gautier (Showboating Europcar) and Jans Bakelants (Radioshack Leopard-Tank) who demonstrated earlier in the Tour the propensity to attack. These two along with Marcus Burghardt (BMC) and Albisini finally decided to make a real effort to chase down Simon. What they didn’t count on was the high strength cement that Simon had put in his bidons. But as Simon tossed his last cement filled bidon away he was caught unluckily with only 1 km to go. A few other riders caught up too as there was nervousness in the final sprint. But it was one of the Manx Missile’s (Mark Cavendish) teammates, Matteo Trentin, who rode hard in the breakaway but didn’t do much work up front who came from well back to pip them all for the win.

It was great to see the breakaway stick it and get away for the win. But I am sure it will be different tomorrow.

The peloton had given up on the chase knowing that jerseys would not change hands, but I fear for the Empire (Team Sky – boo-hiss) that this may have been another miscalculation on their part. Andrew Talansky from the Rebellion (Garmin-Sharp) was able to make up some 6 minutes on the GC leader, thus catapulting him alongside his teammate Dan Martin in striking distance of the GC. For the Froome-dog in the Maillot Jaune he has many chasers in groups of two who could really start blasting away at him; Mollema and Ten Dams (from the Team formerly known as Rabobank formerly known as Blanco now known as Belkin), El Pistolero and Kreuziger (from Saxo Tinkoff), and Martin and Talansky (from the Rebellion). More fireworks to come in the 100th edition of the race.

So it is onto Mont Ventoux, also known as the Beast of Provence, for Bastille Day – Celebration! It is even bringing out fond memories from some of my fellow bloggers of their assaults on the lunar landscape – for a fun read check out the Drunken Cyclist’s recalling of his climb http://thedrunkencyclist.com/2013/07/13/mount-ventoux-le-geant-de-provence-part-one/

The Cement Ladder – The Grey Jersey

Watching the toughest sportsmen in the world, I have decided to start a “cement” ranking that reflects truly great feats of endurance and the overcoming of pain (basically a bit of HTFU). Maybe ASO could make a special jersey, grey, for this category. After grueling stage yesterday, many riders went out to smash it in the breakaway group of 18.

1. Julien Simon – Should have won the stage.

2. Jens Voigt – the instigator of the breakaway.

3. Johnny Hoogerland – who should have won a Grey Jersey last year, tried to close the gap to the group of 18 but all by himself couldn’t do it.

4. Michael Albisini – Nearly pulled it off with many attacking moves shown, but was pipped.

5. Matteo Trentin – worked phenomenally hard in the stage the day before, and went out for the win today.

 

For a more serious assessment of the days racing check out:

CyclingNews – http://www.cyclingnews.com/tour-de-france/stage-14/results

VeloVoices – http://velovoices.com/2013/07/13/tdf-stage-14-french-dreams-dashed-by-trentins-last-minute-surge/

SBS Cycling Central – http://www.sbs.com.au/cyclingcentral/road/news/50120/trentin-sprints-to-tour-stage-win-in-lyon

 

 

This week’s travel theme from Ailsa’s blog “Where’s my backpack?” is Simplicity. This one was a tough one for me. Looking through travel photos, I did not realise how cluttered a lot of the photos were. It would seem that the quest for simplicity is harder than first imagined. As usual, all the images link through to my larger photos on my Flickr site.

My first photo is of the flagpole that is on top of our National Parliament House in Canberra, Australia. The architectural design of the building itself is one of simplicity, but I think that the beautiful, yet strikingly simple design of the flagpole with its four arms is fitting of the overall design. Too bad the politicians inside don’t reflect the purity of this design through their fork-tongued carrying mouths.

Canberra_2009_0210

Visiting my brother in Toronto, Canada, afforded us the opportunity to take a little detour to Montreal. Montreal is an awesome mashup of Europe and North America with its own crazy and cool vibe to it. We took a break from being tourists one afternoon and had a set of macarons. It was a simple afternoon tea.

Montreal_12_0225

On my second trip to Japan I went to Kanazawa, home to a vast array of artistic endeavours. It was raining a lot when I arrived as a monsoon storm had just hit the East Coast. Fortunately Kanazawa is on the West coast and avoided the brunt of the storm. Still I sought respite indoors as much as possible and its 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art provided that and a bit more. I am not a fan of a lot of modern art, but the building was uber-cool in its simplistic and clean design.

Kanazawa_2009_20091008_0106

Kanazawa_2009_20091008_0107

Shanghai in China is anything but simplistic, but upon flying out and returning home we had to use the new terminal. It was empty save for a few passengers on the two or three flights that were scheduled to depart from its gates. The terminal is straight and long, with gentle sloping roof. The simple curved motif on the roof ran for hundreds of metres inside the terminal.

Shanghai_HM2008_0517

The highlight of my trip to Washington DC, USA, was a visit to the Smithsonian Institute Air and Space Museum. When I was a kid I wanted to be an astronaut, closely followed by a pilot. My dream is to still get my pilot’s wings one day soon. When I walked into the front door I was mesmerised. In there hanging from the ceiling was the Bell X-1 – the first plane to break the sound barrier. It’s design is strikingly simple from everything that came before it. It was basically a rocket engine with wings – cool!

Smithsonian_2008_0077

Take the time to have a look at some of the other bloggers posts. There are some keen travellers with a good photo eye amongst the posts.

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