Archives for posts with tag: Road Cycling

So life and work (and not necessarily in that order) have put a damper on my blog over the last 6-12 months. The bike has also become a secondary priority. My road steed, my 2009 Trek Madone 4.7, has been getting fat grazing in its stable (or was that its engine). The bike really did open my eyes to a different world of fitness, exploration, and adventure. And with it I had made a whole heap of new friends with a common interest – cycling. But it, like its owner, has become old and creaky. I have taken good care of the Trek and prolonged it use with regular replacement of the consumables. I gradually introduced upgrades to the point where the only original thing left on it was the frame and forks. Now, even with all the TLC, it creaks with every pedal stroke. The mechanics at my local bike shop through the last couple of services have arrived at only one conclusion – the carbon frame is getting long in the tooth.

I have been eyeing up dream bikes and replacements for a few years now, but my fussiness and budget have limited my selection. The criteria: aero but comfortable, aesthetically striking but not garish, fast and stiff, bang for the buck, and clearly better deserving than its future engine.

My dream bike? A Cervelo S3. You know, the one Thor Hushovd won the World Championship with in Geelong. The one that Jack Bauer used in the ultimately futile attempt to hold off the peloton at the TDF. The one a young Dutchman named Dylan van Baarle used to stick it to Kwiatowski and Wiggins at the 2014 Tour of Britain to take top spot. Now with the 2015 models being disposed of to make way for the 2016 models (with the main difference being… a paint job), I am able to pick up an older year model for a bargain. I saw my new steed online a couple of weeks back, got fitted up on it on Saturday, and with the adjustments to the contact points will pick it up later this week. I am giddy like a kid at Christmas – can’t wait!

Cervelo_S3_rsz

With Summer gone and the long slow approach to Winter now set in, I love getting out on the bike. It is dark early in the morning, and the air is fresh and crisp. Call me a sadist, but I love it even more when it is wet. So when my riding buddy AC looked at the weather report for Sunday, wet and windy, my response was simple – “Let’s Roll!”

So as the spray was flying up from my wheels I got to thinking “why do I love riding in the wet so much?” Here are my 5 top reasons to roll in the wet.

1. It brings out your inner Belgian

Admit it – when you are watching the Belgian Spring Classics, and it is wet and muddy, don’t tell me that you are not a tiny bit jealous of how much fun those guys are having? And the crazy Belgian cycling fans enjoy watching the races with a beer in one hand and fried potatoes in the other. Extra kudos if your wet ride route will include some pavé. Extra extra kudos if you can ride like Boonen.

wip0407_102. It hones your riding skills

Wet road, the detritus of trees all about, puddles, potholes, and your rear wheel sliding out… all makes for a better rider. It is a pretty intense riding experience too because you are riding in a heightened sense of alert.

gty-4519078943. Keeps your core body temperature down

So long as you have a good gilet or waterproof shell, your body will remain cool. Except for that squelching sensation between your socks and boots – LOL. Compared to riding in the stinking hot Australian Summer and draining my bidons every 2 hours, I know what I prefer.

WRJ02-Loc-AW14-01BTW – look how happy she is to be riding 🙂

4. The routes are empty

All the fair weather cyclists are nowhere to be seen. Mostly they are hiding under their [pick all that are applicable] doonahs, duvets, quilts, blankets. The fair weather car drivers are noticeably absent too.

nature_trees_forest_wet_roadsHeaven huh?

5. There is no excuse not to clean your bike afterwards

Every wet ride must be followed by some TLC for your steed. This is quality bonding time that you should cherish.

How-to-Wash-Your-Bicycle

When all is said and done, at the end of a wet ride you feel a massive sense of achievement and joy, no matter how slowly you rolled to stay upright. You feel Iike you are ALIVE! Just ask Heinrich Haussler…

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So next time rain is forecast for your ride, rug up, hi-viz up, and ride 🙂

For the record, my wet Sunday ride was 50km of damp goodness.

We were fortunate to have spent the weekend just past up in the New South Wales Hunter Valley – wine country! Of course with a drive of just over two hours it provided me the opportunity to pack my road bike steed on the roof and plan for a ride. I had never ridden up in the wine country before, but have driven through the valley on many occasions. What I recall is the poor quality of the roads up there in certain sections, and many of the smaller vineyards being access via unsealed roads. So to be honest, I was a bit nervous riding up there – particularly with the speed differential between me as a cyclist and the cars travelling at 80kph (50mph). And being wine country, I had noticed that many car drivers are a bit tipsy wobbly behind the wheel. I planned two morning rides on the Saturday and the Sunday, but this trip is the only one where I prioritise the vine before the bike and I only managed to squeeze in a Saturday morning ride (I know that this breaks Rule #11 – I will pay penance at Velofix later this week).

I set off at 6:30 on Saturday morning, and what a glorious start to the day it was. The sun rising over the hills gradually illuminating the vineyards from long shadows. The air was fresh, wine country is farming country. We stayed at the Crowne Plaza, which provided me good access to high quality tarmac to roll on from the get go. The first part of my ride was up North through Lovedale.

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The vineyards on some of the properties are quite close to the roads, and you get a real sense of what you are riding through. It kind of makes you thirsty…

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The other non-wine farms are just as picturesque. This view of the rising sun through the eucalyptus trees created stunning shadows for many metres along the northern stretch of my route.

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I was disappointed that there were no grapes on the vines, but it was the wrong time of the harvest season. Still, the weather has been pretty good, the vines looked healthy, so hopefully it will be a bumper year.

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It was not flat on this ride, and as soon as you get off the main roads it becomes quite bumpy and gravelly. There was also a fair amount of roadwork going on that is not due to be completed until next year some time. For the stretches that were complete, the road was smooth as glass – the sort of road that cyclists dream about on a perfect ride. But it was far too bumpy for my liking through Pokolbin on 23mm tyres. It was so bumpy that as I headed back through the Eastern section of Pokolbin, the rattling shook my light completely out of its socket at 45kph. I had to slam on the brakes and backtrack to see if I could find where it had bounced off to. Fortunately it was still working and easily found, albeit with a few battle scars inflicted by some harsh gravel. While there I decided to ride up to Hope Estate winery, where I got married. It was surreal being in the saddle riding up the long driveway, knowing that my wife and two children were sleeping back at the hotel. Since we were married back in 2008 the property has changed significantly, not to mention the paving of the driveway.

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As I was heading back, the wind was beginning to pick up quite strongly. Later that afternoon as we were driving from cellar door to door I noticed the wind was properly buffeting everything. By the time I headed back the morning had well and truly arrived, with the South Eastern part of the valley in full morning glow. Quite a sight.

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I will definitely ride up here again, but now better prepared. Here are my tips for riding up in the Hunter Valley:

  1. Recon your route in the car properly (via a few cellar door tastings if you can). The conditions of many stretches of road were not what I remembered them to be. And for whatever reason, many of the roads are not very well maintained.
  2. Go early – the valley is practically asleep before 8am and the roads are only being traveled by sober drivers who are trying to go about their business. For this ride I only passed one other cyclists and perhaps was passed by 30 cars in total.
  3. Swap out your rubber to some wider and harder wearing tyres (28mm if you can). It was like riding pave or cyclocross in some sections. Which leads me to my next point…
  4. Consider riding a cyclocross or flat bar hybrid / mountain bike. While the road bike was good for riding on the good roads, there are many unsealed roads that are more akin to riding the Strade Bianche.
  5. If drinking copious amounts of wine the day/night before then hydrate up. I was parched before I had even started riding.
  6. Be prepared for the elements. It is windy and exposed through the valley, and the sun is quite strong.
  7. Enjoy the view! There is no point racing through this area, it is picturesque and beautiful. I made sure to take it in while in the saddle and I definitely noticed many different things riding than I have ever done behind the wheel of a car.
  8. Be self sufficient for the ride, nothing is open in the early morning. It would appear that the valley does not kick in until 10am, so sourcing any refills would have been a no go.
  9. Watch the speed difference between you and the cars. While most of the roads I rode on were marked at 80kph, I would not have been surprised many were travelling faster.
  10. Make sure you ride up there! I was contemplating leaving the bike behind, but it was a beautiful ride up there in the wine country.

 

It’s a public holiday long weekend in Sydney, so my riding buddy AC made the call – time to go for a ride 120km of epicness. Sounded good to me. The proposed route would be to head south of Sydney, through ‘The Shire’ and into the Royal National Park (RNP). With the return leg via some out of the way roads following one of the train lines. Here is the route, and the profile (yes a bit of uphill ouch in this ride):

RNP_Route

Now Sydney is not known for being friendly for cyclists, us riders wish it was, but it is not. If you want that, then go relocate to Melbourne or Adelaide. So for this ride we set off at 4am, not to get a clean run down to the park, but to avoid the dreaded Sydney traffic on a Saturday on the return. Yes, 4am is when sparrows are farting before they wake up, but hey. This was a tough ride, but also one of the strangest that I have done in a long time.

Firstly I made the mistake of dressing for the cool pre-dawn conditions, and not the warm morning temperature. I got cooked, and received multiple visits late in the ride from the dudes who live in cramp city. Those dudes are buggers, and I am sure they are mates with the ‘Man with the Hammer’.

Secondly after about 30 clicks into our journey, just past 5am, we came up to this rather large guy in khaki shorts riding a flat bar hybrid bike with pannier racks. Our pace was much quicker than his, but as we were coming to overtake him, he looked at us and then buried himself just so we couldn’t overtake him. It was hilarious. He even ran a couple of red lights to get ahead. We were toying with him like a lion does with a mouse, after all we had nothing to prove and had another 90 clicks to go. But as we neared the road that would take us to the RNP we dropped the hammer and dropped him.

Thirdly we had fun(?) on some stupid gradients as we climbed out of the first of several valleys we would be hitting for the day. Only to be buzzed and yelled at by a couple of kids on their learner plates who probably don’t even shave. That would have been around 6:45am – seriously boys, don’t be idiots and get a life.

The final bit of weirdness though was in the final stretches of the ride, with our end in sight. I was cooked and AC rode ahead through a roundabout turning right. I was a good 200m behind him at least, struggling with those cramp city dudes. As I came to the roundabout I signaled with my arm that I would be turning right. I had right of way and the oncoming traffic by law would have to yield, particularly as I was already in the roundabout turning. Rapidly advancing towards me was an Mercedes AMG C63, a car I wish I could afford to drive. But instead of giving way, the Merc sped up and flew into the roundabout cutting me off and forcing me to slam on the brakes and hold the back end of my bike from flying out. The driver didn’t even indicate his change of direction. This is not the first time this has happened and probably won’t be the last, but…

This NEVER happens on a bike ride

The Merc driver took off with me waving my hand at him for the danger he had put me in. Then another large sedan, a Holden (GM) Commodore, came flying past me from behind with its engine revving. This was strange indeed. The Holden flew up behind the Mercedes, almost bumping him. Then a set of red and blue lights in the Holden’s rear window started flashing. The siren came on, indicating to the Merc driver to pull over. Sure enough an unmarked police car witnessed the whole incident and the Merc driver was about to cop a fine or two. The real rub for the miscreant driver is that given it is a long weekend in Sydney it is also double demerit points off your license for any traffic infringement. Ouch! This never ever happens, never! I rode past the cop and the miscreant driver, shaking my head at him. AC was waiting for me and he asked what happened. I gave him the low down, and his jaw dropped – “No way!” The miscreant driver ended up catching up with us, and as he drove past he tapped his finger against his head. Lesson learnt perhaps, I hope so because as riders we are very vulnerable to any metal engined machine on four wheels and we always come out second best.

I am not sure whether I should buy a lottery ticket or not, but thanks to the cop for taking my safety into consideration. And thanks to AC for pulling me along on an epic and weird bike ride.

 

 

So my Brother was up from Melbourne for the weekend for a mate’s birthday party, and with that was some good news – we were going for a ride!

My bro has not been in too good a shape with a nasty hip injury that has kept him out of the saddle for quite a while now. But he is edging close to fitness, but he has a lot of work to do to get his base back. For me, it was good to see him keen for a ride.

But the best news was when he said that he was dragging out one of his mates along as a newbie rider. The newbie was looking to cycling as an opportunity to get fit in a sport that doesn’t put stress on his knees. He and I both share a common injury history in that we have both had ACL knee reconstructions.

Now newbie was lucky in that he was starting with a pretty good setup. My brother’s wife tried riding and… didn’t take to it (she now keeps fit with other things such as pilates). So her bike went to the newbie, lucky guy. I have posted before about my own adventures on this bike, when I was working down in Melbourne. Here is the steed, a pretty much brand new Giant Defy:

Riding Melbourne - #2

So for a newbie, a pretty good starting point. For sure it is not a carbon beast with a top end gruppo, but having ridden this one myself I like how solid it is. The plan was to drive out to his place and kick off from there.

The Induction Begins

I never realised how much a newbie has to pick up when starting from scratch, particular when he is going to jump on a road bike. My fellow blogger Jim over at Fit Recovery has written a lot about his own personal journey of going from a newbie to a speed demon. But I forgot my own personal experiences of learning to ride a road steed.

Our mate fortunately had acquired some padded bike pants, but not realising the effect of wind at speed he only had a short sleeve shirt general fitness shirt. The weather was grim, and we were lucky that it was holding off for our ride. I thought this might have been the case for him, so I had my first wind proof long sleeve jacket on hand (which is now too loose on me). Clothing sorted. My bro had brought up my sis-in-law’s helmet, so that was the lid sorted. I was thinking of posting a picture of him but this was his journey as a newbie, not mine.

Then we had to fit him to the bike. The last person that rode it was me, and it was one size too small. The seat post was quite high for our mate, and we spent a good 20 minutes lowering it gradually until he had good position of his legs and feet over the pedals (at the bottom of the stroke, leg slightly cocked, knee vertical to his toes). Once adjusted properly, I told him to go for a quick spin down the road.

He grab the cross bars, then the drops, but not the hoods – new to the game. But for a newbie he had two things; i) balance, particularly with his head and upper body, and ii) poise in the saddle when he pedalled – i.e. his back and butt were shaking around all over the place when he turned the pedals. Fortunately for him the bike fit perfectly.

Now when I say newbie, he is not new to sports. He has played football ever since he was a kid. So our mate had a base level of sporting prowess which would put him in good stead for the ride.

30 Clicks for a New Guy

My bro and I didn’t really have a plan, other than to see how far he would last on his first ride. Our mate lives close to one of the best cycling routes in Sydney, the M7 Motorway cycle path. Along its full journey, it is 80km of uninterrupted riding with over 650m of climbing and plenty of deviation to keep you on your toes. It is a great bit of tarmac and I wish there was more of it in Sydney.

From where we started, the first 7-8km of the route are flat. This was good for us all to get our legs. Our mate was holding his own, feeling out the gears, and like I said before he held his line because of his balance.

We both took turns to ride alongside of him and give him a few pointers, but not school him. And we told him the golden rule, we stay together on the flat and hold our own place on the climbs – always regrouping.

On the flat, the newbie was tapping out 20-25km/hr. Pretty impressive really!

I warned him of the climbs ahead, and my bro dropped back to keep pace with him. I was given the go ahead to ride hard up the main climb of the day which is a long one peaking at 6.5%. I am not fond of the climb because of its constantly changing gradient, so I knew that this was going to be a challenge for our mate. But we all rode it and checked in on how he was going when we reached the summit. He was enjoying it, but respected the journey he had just begun. We decided to push on to the 15km mark to see if we could make it a 30km round trip.

Checking in with him again, the call was now his for when to turn around. He called it, but not before both him and my bro gave me a gift.

They told me I could ride on and put down another 10+km while they turn back. I was off the leash, and  hammered! All the power training at Velofix had been paying off, and I put in my fastest times along most of the segments as I rode to put down a very quick 45km in total.

The ride out from the Southern end of the M7 is mostly climbing, but that means Chesire Cat grin inducing descending on the return leg. We all regrouped and I was greeted with a big smile on the newbie’s face. He was hiding the fact that it was challenging on the main climbs, but was hooked when he was rewarded with some awesome downhill bombing.

We returned to his place to give his wife the lowdown on the ride and have a cuppa before returning home. Good times! And for the record, I beat my bro in the sprint.

The Verdict?

I think he is hooked, and with such an awesome route on his doorstep it will be easy for him to go for a spin and build a base. While it wasn’t the fastest of runs, it was an awesome ride with a mate who discovered the joy of two wheels.

Looking forward to the next ride with him 🙂

 

My cheeky review of the 2014 Tour de France is finally catching up. And what should have been a boring transitional sprint stage turned into the stage that I was cheering the most, at some stupid time in the witching hour. Oh, and there was emotion and tears, and biblical references to boot.

Wind and Rain Came Out to Play – then Disappeared 😦

I like riding in the rain (not the wind – that sucks big ones). So when a deluge hit the peloton on this stage I was licking my lips at the racing action ahead. From the very start a small breakaway of two riders formed – Martin Elmiger (IAM) and Jack Bauer (Garmin-Sharp – my favourite team).

jack-bauer-plane-gun-24-season-5

Not that Jack Bauer!

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They rode strong. Then the wind kicked in and the two of them worked together to keep the breakaway going (Balaverde – this is a lesson for you). Back in the peloton, Team BMC lead by Tejay van Garderen tried to blow the race wide open taking advantage of the wind.

tdf_2014-etape_15-01

The Shark in Yellow (Vincenzo Nibali – Astana) would have nothing of it. See how he forced his way into the pack. The chocolate soldiers of AG2R-La Mondiale were onto this attack too. So the break in the peloton never happened and the break continued to storm out in front.

Then the rain kicked in, as an absolute deluge. It was bucketing down onto the race route and pretty much rained the whole time in Nîmes.

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The inclement weather caused The Jensie to remembered times of his early childhood where he recalled that it rained less when the flood came for Noah.

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Then in the final 10km the bad weather all disappeared. The tricky entry into Nîmes with the slippery road surfaces aided the breakaway to keep ahead, that and the fact that they rode hard too.

So Close, Yet So Far

With 5km to go, the Panzerwagen (Tony Martin – Omega-Pharma-Quickstep) decided enough was enough and went out to show the peloton how to chase down a breakaway. He nearly did it too, but the breakaway still held out as they went under the flamme rouge (1km to go). The sprinters were revving up the motors in earnest, and it was line ball whether the two breakaway riders would hold out.

At less than 500m to go, first Elmiger cracked. Then within sight of the finish line Bauer got swallowed up by the rockets, Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) securing his second win. Bauer finished 7th.

Bauer laid down in grief at the missed opportunity of a lifetime. I usually post a photo of the stage winner, but for me this stage will be remembered for Bauer being so near and yet so far.

tdf_2014-etape_15-04

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 and a demonstration of adherence to Rule #5). Former winners include Jens Voigt (multiple times) and Johnny Hoogerland. Maybe ASO could make a special jersey, grey, for this category.

Who gets the points are clear for this stage, with a few other smatterings

5pts – Bauer and Elmiger, who rode in a breakaway for 221.5km of a 222km stage.

1pt – Van Garderen for trying to create an echelon with his BMC team, which would have really lit up the race.

1pt – The Jensie for being old enough to have lived through the old testament flooding that swamped Noah.

1pt – The Panzerwagen for showing the peloton how to chase down a breakaway.

 

The current table is:

15pts – Panzerwagen (Martin)

13pts – Chameleon (Di Marchi)

9pts – Majka

8pts – Fuglsang and The Jensie (Voigt)

7pts – Elmiger, The Shark (Nibali)

6pts – Purito (Rodríguez), Bardet, and Voeckler

5pts – Bauer, Pit Bull (DNF), Kadri, Cheng, Lemoine, Boom, Kadri, and Barta

4pts – Van Garderen, Peraud, Clarke, Gallopin, Chava (Chavanel), Bideau, and König

3pts – Pinot, Bakelants, Gautier, Langeveld, Dumoulin,  Spartacus (Cancellara – DNF), and Clentador (DNF)

2pts – Serpa, Flowerman (Kwiatkowski), and Huzarski

1pt – de la Cruz (DNF), Edet, Mate, The Hornet (Horner), Froome-dog (DNF)

-2pts – Balaverde

 

For a more serious look at the first stage of racing check out.

Cycling News – Stage 15 Report

SBS Cycling Central – Stage 15 wrapup

VeloVoices – Tour Stage 15

N.B. the photos of the racing have been sourced from LeTour.fr, SBS Cycling Central, and Cyclingnews.com and the copyright obviously remains with the copyright holder.

My cheeky review of the 2014 Tour de France is still playing catchup – thank the maker (and ASO) for the second rest day. The second stage in the French Alpes was just as riveting as the first stage and there was much redemption dished out.

A Breakaway with Stones

A huge group of riders jumped into the breakaway from the peloton, and even more wanted to crack it. There were 17 in total and they included the Big ‘G’ (Geraint Thomas – The Empire), The Terminator (Peter Sagan – Cannondale) and his teammate lizard friend AGAIN(!) The Chameleon (Alessandro Di Marchi), Nico (Roche – Tinkoff Saxo) and his teammate Rafal Majka AGAIN(!), Jose Serpa (Lampre-Merida), and a certain Purito (Joaquim Rodríguez – Katusha).

The Terminator chased Green.

Purito chased Spots.

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Both were rewarded, firstly for Sagan at the intermediate sprint before the 1st category climb up the Col du Lautaret. Purito got the points up that climb as the breakaway started to break apart.

Behind the breakaway group the peloton was wilting down to a few small groups, for the non-climbers it was hang on and haul butt to the finish.  The hard men in contention for the GC hammered on in the chase.

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The breakaway, down to 10, then assaulted Col d’Izoard – the highest point of the race. Purito was gifted the points by the rider who finished second yesterday, Majka.

Let’s Try and Crack It!

The move of the day was definitely from the young French gun Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) and his partner in chocolate Jean-Christoph Peraud. They bombed it down the 30km descent off the back of the Col d’Izoard. I was watching on my couch at whatever ungodly hour it was and I was salivating at the fun that those guys were having. Can you imagine a 30km descent? I have to get to France to ride the Alpes, preferably in July. Not only did the chocolate soldiers bomb it down, they put the fear of god in the rest of the peloton. But the Shark in Yellow (Vincenzo Nibali – Astana) along with his teammates would not be fooled…

No doubt Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) was crapping it given his dislike of descending at speed. But Pinot with the assistance of his teammates was able to catch back up.

As they hit the final climb into Rissoul it was on for young and old, a small breakaway only a little distance ahead with the GC hunters in a rampaging pack behind them.

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Try and Try Again!

Two of the riders from the breakaway, The Chameleon and Serpa, decided it was time to distance the group and go for it. Bravo to the Chameleon, but more importantly how cool are the sideburns that Jose Serpa was sporting? Awesome facial hair. The Polish man who missed out on yesterday’s stage, Majka, jumped out in pursuit. Serpa’s facial hair started weighing him down, and he cracked. Majka caught him while gunning for The Chameleon. Purito tried for the last spotty points, but cracked as well.

Majka finally took the lead and a despondent Chameleon just couldn’t keep up. Majka went off for glory!

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The chasing group of the GC hunters had all the contenders foxing each other until the Shark decided that it was time for Majka to be reeled in again. Peraud, chocolate soldier #2, was the only one who could match his efforts (not bad for a 37 year old).

This time Majka would not be denied. He crossed the line to take his first ever win in the pro-peloton. What a way to do it! Awesome stuff.

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The Shark would put some more time into his rivals, but at least the Gen Y bunch had a crack. As for the Green Bullet (Valverde – Movistar) he cracked and would proceed to blame a mechanical incident. Tut, tut, tut…

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 and a demonstration of adherence to Rule #5). Former winners include Jens Voigt (multiple times) and Johnny Hoogerland. Maybe ASO could make a special jersey, grey, for this category.

Big points again for the final day in the Alpes, and tough riding for all. But there were some clear points winners.

5pts – The Chameleon, at it again but falling agonisingly short.

5pts – Majka, who cracked his maiden win in emphatic style – so tired that he couldn’t even zip up his jersey for a bit of showtime for his sponsors.

4pts – Bardet, for trying to explode the race open on the descent

4pts – Peraurd, for keeping up with the Shark when nobody else could

3pts – Purito, for going after the spots even though it is clear that he is not back to full health

2pts – Serpa, for challenging for the best sideburns in the peloton.

-1pt – Balaverde (AGAIN), for blaming everything else other than himself for his struggles. As the TanMan quite aptly said, “this is what riding clean looks like!”

 

The current table is:

14pts – Panzerwagen (Martin)

13pts – Chameleon (Di Marchi)

9pts – Majka

8pts – Fuglsang

7pts – The Shark (Nibali), and The Jensie (Voigt)

6pts – Purito (Rodríguez), Bardet, and Voeckler

5pts – Pit Bull (DNF)Kadri, Cheng, Lemoine, Boom, Kadri, and Barta

4pts – Peraud, Clarke, Gallopin, Chava (Chavanel), Bideau, and König

3pts – Van Garderen, Pinot, Bakelants, Gautier, Langeveld, Dumoulin,  Spartacus (Cancellara – DNF), and Clentador (DNF)

2pts – Serpa, Flowerman (Kwiatkowski), Huzarski, and Elmiger

1pt – de la Cruz (DNF), Edet, Mate, The Hornet (Horner), Froome-dog (DNF)

-2pts – Balaverde

 

For a more serious look at the first stage of racing check out.

Cycling News – Stage 14 Report

SBS Cycling Central – Stage 14 wrapup

VeloVoices – Tour Stage 14

N.B. the photos of the racing have been sourced from LeTour.fr and Cyclingnews.com and the copyright obviously remains with the copyright holder.

My cheeky review of the 2014 Tour de France is running a bit overdue – well it is tough watching a race for 3 weeks between 10pm and 2am in the morning. But I did not miss a beat on this very decisive first stage in the high mountains of the French Alpes. And I am writing this in anticipation of the coming Stage 15 after two absolutely gruelling days in the high mountains. So this is a catchup, to ensure that no points are missed in the hunt for the Grey Jersey.

The Chameleon Strikes Again

The first of the two mountain stages saw the riders head into the Alpes from Saint-Étienne where they first climbed a little Category 1 mountain (only 1,154m in altitude – only), drop into Grenoble for a coffee, and then climb up the not so famous ‘Beyond Category’ mountain of Chamrousse (only 1,730m in altitude – only). While a reasonably large group of riders tried to breakaway, it was none other than the Chameleon – Alessandro De Marchi (Cannondale) who decided to crack it and leave the rest behind. Oh, I forgot to mention that Purito (Joaquim Rodríguez – Katusha) chased more spotty points and got them – he wants to be in spots by the time the race finishes. He was doing a bang up job of trying to stick it to all the contenders for Yellow, and for an age he only had one other chaser – Jan Bakelants (who shot to fame last year winning gloriously on Stage 2 and holding onto the Yellow for the two stages after). This time the Chameleon did not have an armoured car breathing down his neck (that would be Tony Martin), and he would keep Bakelants at bay as the gap would just not be closed.

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During the Chameleon’s sojourn, a nasty misplaced water bottle (it was dropped and was full) took out the Shark’s (Vincenzo Nibali – Astana) key lieutenant Jakob Fuglsang. Fuglsang hit the ground hard, and I am sure the peloton could feel the ground shake. It was nasty and unfortunate, and also meant that the Shark would be climbing alone. In the end the brutal final climb into Chamrousse brought demise to the unlikely break made by the Chameleon.

http://www.cyclingnews.com/tour-de-france/stage-13/photos/314714

BTW – the Chameleon did not use this camouflage pattern on this stage.

A Shark, Two French Youths, a Cagey Spaniard and a wiry American

The top 9 riders in the race all reached the Chameleon as a bunch. The race was on fire – literally! It was so hot on the climb up that riders (good riders) were tumbling out like bowling pins. An unlikely Eastern European pair in King Leo (Leopold König – NetApp-Endura) and Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo) decided enough was enough and went for glory. They both took off like mountain goats bounding up the Alpes.

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Meanwhile back in the lead group, the game was being whittled down. The next great Aussie hope of pro-cycling, Tassie Devil – Richie Porte (the Empire??? Huh???), blew a head gasket and had to drop. This was a shame to see as he went from second to somewhere in the forgettable teens. While Porte tumbled down the ladder, the Shark in Yellow devoured his rivals… again! He took off after König and Majka with a ferocious attack in the final kilometres. Young French gun Thibaut Pinot went out to reel the Shark in, and he was joined by Balaverde – Green Bullet in English (Alejandro Valverde – Movistar). Pinot was the only one doing the work, and I am not sure about the gamesmanship of the Green Bullet where he was asked by Pinot to do a turn at the front. Balaverde was cagey, saying he was tired – then attacked… Pinot caught him and when it came to the end Balaverde attacked again…

Behind them the other young French Gun Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) partnered up with the wiry American Tejay Van Garderen to keep themselves in contention. This race though was all about a Sicilian Shark in Yellow. He dispatched the unlucky Majka and König who would be both wondering what might have been. In the hunt for Yellow the Shark increased his lead. The cagey Green Bullet moved into second, and French hopes are bubbling with their two young guns in prime position to displace Balaverde.

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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 and a demonstration of adherence to Rule #5). Former winners include Jens Voigt (multiple times) and Johnny Hoogerland. Maybe ASO could make a special jersey, grey, for this category.

Big points earned in the sweltering heat of the French Summer.

5pts – The Chameleon – he has been working hard for the Terminator and this was the second big break of his Tour. He has a certain Panzerwagen in his sights.

4pts – König and Majka, for having the stones to try and put one over the big guns.

4pts – Fuglsang, for getting back on his steed and dressing himself up like a mummy to finish the stage and fight another day.

3pts – Bakelants for trying to close the gap.

3pts – Pinot for not throwing in the towel to The Shark, and earning respect.

2pts – Bardet and Van Garderen, for teaming up and limiting the losses.

-1pt – Unheard of but true to Balaverde for the dodgy gamesmanship with Pinot.

N.B. I can’t give points to The Shark, even though he kicked everyone’s butt in style. He has Yellow, and we all know that Yellow should not be mixed with Grey.

 

The current table is:

14pts – Panzerwagen (Martin)

8pts – Chameleon (Di Marchi), Fuglsang

7pts – The Shark (Nibali), and The Jensie (Voigt)

6pts – Voeckler

5pts – Pit Bull (DNF)Kadri, Cheng, Lemoine, Boom, Kadri, and Barta

4pts – Clarke, Gallopin, Chava (Chavanel), Bideau, König, and Majka

3pts – Van Garderen, Pinot, Bakelants, Gautier, Langeveld, Purito (Rodríguez), Dumoulin,  Spartacus (Cancellara – DNF), and Clentador (DNF)

2pts –  Bardet, Flowerman (Kwiatkowski), Huzarski, and Elmiger

1pt – de la Cruz (DNF) Edet, Mate, The Hornet (Horner), Froome-dog (DNF)

-1pt – Balaverde

 

For a more serious look at the first stage of racing check out.

Cycling News – Stage 13 Report

SBS Cycling Central – Stage 13 wrapup

VeloVoices – Tour Stage 13

N.B. the photos of the racing have been sourced from Cyclingnews.com and the copyright obviously remains with the copyright holder.

My cheeky review of the 2014 Tour de France continues with the peloton only one day away from the fireworks that will explode in the Alpes. I have to ask the question, is this the toughest Tour that we have seen in recent history? Really? Stage 12 should have been a flat and gently rolling one, but it still had bite. And there was more news in the GC fight.

The Pit Bull Out!

After a humbling, and monumental, display of cement mixing the day before by The Pit Bull – Andrew Talansky (Garmin Sharp) he has had to pull out. He rode with some nasty injuries, and unfortunately we will have to wait till next year to see him light it up in the chase for Yellow.

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While I am loving this Tour, I am feeling a bit robbed by 3 of the guys who should have finished in the Top 10 are scratched. The likes of Purito (Rodiguez – Team Katusha) have also misfired. There is a lot of quality sitting on the couch watching SBS now.

So it opens the door in a big way for the young guns to shine and maybe slay a Shark.

A Breakaway with a Bit of Bad Luck

This was to be a perfect stage to stick a breakaway, and a group of five tried to do it. Within the group were two very strong riders – Simon Clarke (Orica GreenWedge) and Dutch National Champ Sebastian Langeveld (Garmin-Sharp). They were complimented by Gregory Rast (Trek) – no slouch himself, Florian Vachon (Bretagne-Seché), and David de la Cruz (Team Netapp-Endura). The hard luck descended on de la Cruz, who blew his front tyre at the apex of a right hand turn when he was third wheel in the group and went down HARD! He took out Langeveld as well, who was fortunate enough to rejoin the group. Very hard luck for de la Cruz who busted up his collarbone and was obviously in incredible pain – respect. The flat blowout could have happened anywhere, but it happened at a position where he couldn’t have saved it.

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They were looking good, but eventually Clarke and Langeveld pushed on by themselves. Two riders from Europcar tried to chase them down, including Cyril Gautier (who does not poke faces). Langeveld cracked eventually as well and Clarke got caught. For a brief glimmer it looked like the two of them might have been able to nab the win, but when Gautier turned to Clarke to rotate him around to the front, Clarke’s response:

“I got nothing left in the tank”.

The peloton swallowed them up with 5km to go.

Messy Bunch Sprint… Again

We were robbed of a rocket for this finish with a bingle between two of the hardest men in the peloton – Chava (Chavanel – IAM) and the Gorilla (Greipel – Lotto-Belisol).

The Gorilla was angry!

Chava told him to get over it.

The Gorilla got angrier.

Chava told him to check out his tattoo and he had a cooler looking bike.

Clearly a cold beer was needed…

Anyways, back at the front, the finish was not straightforward and the sprint trains were fumbling. Finally it was AK47 himself (Alexander Kristoff – Katusha) who blew them all away and crossed the line ahead of The Terminator (Sagan – Cannondale) who just can’t win a stage. I don’t know if he was rubbing salt into The Terminator, but his victory salute was “Wolverine-esque” robbing Sagan of the celebration (my blades look a bit rubbish – but you get the idea). Purito was happy and the Russian oligarchs of Katusha had two visits on the podium for the day.

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The rest of the GC riders kept their noses clean, and I can’t wait for things to blow up in the Alpes tomorrow. What I am hoping for is The Shark to be checked and two young French riders in Pinot and Bardet to run rampant as they blow the race wide open.

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 and a demonstration of adherence to Rule #5). Former winners include Jens Voigt (multiple times) and Johnny Hoogerland. Maybe ASO could make a special jersey, grey, for this category.

The whole peloton should be given a cement milkshake after this stage going into the rest day, but we have to be judicious.

4pts – Simon Clarke for trying to stick the breakaway.

3pts – Gautier for catching the breakaway and trying his own cheeky attack.

3pts – Langeveld for holding out with Clarke for so long.

1pt – de la Cruz for going hard and his bad luck

 

The current table is:

14pts – Panzerwagen (Martin)

7pts – The Shark (Nibali), and The Jensie (Voigt)

6pts – Voeckler

5pts – Pit Bull (Talansky – now DNF)Kadri, Cheng, Lemoine, Boom, Kadri, and Barta

4pts – Clarke, Gallopin, Chava (Chavanel) Bideau, and Fuglsang

3pts – Gautier, Langeveld, Purito (Rodríguez), Chameleon (Di Marchi), Dumoulin,  Spartacus (Cancellara – now DNF), and Clentador (DNF)

2pts –  Flowerman (Kwiatkowski), Huzarski, and Elmiger

1pt – de la Cruz (DNF) Edet, Van Garderen, , Mate, The Hornet (Horner), Froome-dog (DNF)

 

For a more serious look at the first stage of racing check out.

Cycling News – Stage 12 Report

SBS Cycling Central – Stage 12 wrapup

VeloVoices – Tour Stage 12

N.B. the photos of the racing have been sourced from Cyclingnews.com and the copyright obviously remains with the copyright holder.

Can this year’s Tour de France get any more eventful? Well of course it can, but it will be hard to top the first 10 days. My cheeky review of Le Tour continues, and wow what a stage 10 it was in the Vosges mountains. I have worked in sports organisations before, and I am pretty sure that the Tour route planners are a devilish bunch. Is it possible that for Stage 10 they were drinking a little too much cognac and champagne? A stage with four category 1 climbs, two category 2 climbs and a category 3 – oh and finishing off with the last 400m at a 20% gradient. As the French say, “c’est fou!”

tdf2014_Etape_10-profil

 

Did I mention that the weather was atrocious as well?

El Pistolero Out!

The third major shock exit happened on this stage, El Pistolero – Clentador – Alberto Contador (Tinkhoff-Saxo) crashed spectacularly not once but twice. And contrary to Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen’s commentary during the race it was not due to failure of his Specialized bike frame. The riders around Alberto said he was taking risks on the downhill descents, dangerous risks. But I will call it what it is, bike racing at its toughest.

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As you have probably figured out I am not a big fan of Alberto due to part of his dubious past which no doubt was influenced by his team management at the time (Bruyneel et al). But he earned my mega respect by the huge demonstration of Rule #5. He broke his leg in the second crash, then got patched up, back on the bike and rode another 20km uphill to try and get back into the peloton. Alberto showed everybody how to HTFU! Maybe Arjen Robben and many other star players in the Football world can take a lesson or two from a tiny Spaniard.

Robben Falls

Alas Clentador had to pull out and join The Manx Missile and Froome-dog on the couch watching the SBS coverage of La Grande Boucle.

Races within a Race

This stage had action all around independent of Alberto’s troubles. The Panzerwagen (Tony Martin – Omega-Pharma-Quickstep), backed up his huge efforts from the day before to play domestique for his team’s Polish young gun, The Flowerman (Michal Kwiatkowski) – who went on the attack! The Flowerman tried to stick it to the Shark, but it was not to be his day. His breakaway group also contained The Terminator (Peter Sagan) who all but wrapped up the Maillot Vert sprint competition by scoring maximum points on the first intermediate sprint. This all but guarantees him taking a position on the podium on the Champs-Élysées. Then the action kicked off in the Polka Dot competition with Purito (Joaquim Rodríguez – Katusha) punching it out with the Gurning Champ (Thomas Voeckler – Europcar) on a number of the climbs. Purito came third last year but is out of contention this year after a poor start, so he is ferociously chasing another jersey. I have never seen uphill sprinting of this nature before – awesome!

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But ultimately the day belonged to the Shark (Vincenzo Nibali – Astana) who grabbed the stage by the horns and hammered past everyone. In a post race interview, Purito claimed that it was like he was overtaken by an aeroplane, such was the force of the overtaking manoeuvre.

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A warning to the Shark – your chasers are not far behind, this race is far from over. Porte, Van Garderen, Pinot, Bardet, Valverde were all less than 30 seconds behind him. The Pit Bull (Talansky – Garmin Sharp) crashed several times on the stage and is now out of overall contention. This year’s race has become a real battle of attrition. With the big Alpes and Pyrenees climbs looming there is more action to come – and I am loving it!

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 and a demonstration of adherence to Rule #5). Former winners include Jens Voigt (multiple times) and Johnny Hoogerland. Maybe ASO could make a special jersey, grey, for this category.

The whole peloton should be given a cement milkshake after this stage going into the rest day, but we have to be judicious.

5pts – The Shark, who grabbed the bit between the teeth and hammered.

4pts – Panzerwagen, backing up for the second day in a row with a phenomenal display of power and sacrifice.

3pts – Voeckler and Purito, for battling it out in appalling conditions chasing the polka dots.

3pts – Clentador, for racing, crashing, getting back on the bike, and riding another 20km with a busted leg – respect

1pt – Flowerman, going on the attack even though it was futile.

 

The current table is:

14pts – Panzerwagen (Martin)

7pts – The Shark (Nibali), and The Jensie (Voigt)

6pts – Voeckler

5pts – Kadri, Cheng, Lemoine, Boom, Kadri, and Barta

4pts – Gallopin, Chava (Chavanel) Bideau, and Fuglsang

3pts – Purito (Rodríguez), Chameleon (Di Marchi), Dumoulin,  Spartacus (Cancellara – now DNF), and Clentador (DNF)

2pts –  Flowerman (Kwiatkowski), Huzarski, and Elmiger

1pt – Edet, Van Garderen, , Mate, The Hornet (Horner), Froome-dog (DNF)

 

For a more serious look at the first stage of racing check out.

Cycling News – Stage 10 Report

SBS Cycling Central – Stage 10 wrapup

VeloVoices – Tour Stage 10

N.B. the photos of the racing have been sourced from Cyclingnews.com and the copyright obviously remains with the copyright holder.

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