Wednesday, May 25, 2011

With the Conclusion Forgone, I'm Gone

With the lovely weather we've been having here in the Midwest over the last few days, my in-laws have decided it would be a good time to head down to the lake and spend a few days together. Besides the facts that the lake is flooded, the boat lift has no power, and the weather isn't supposed to be particularly nice this weekend;

Break out the hibachi and the flip flops.I will also have no access to the thread that keeps society from collapsing into all out anarchy - the internet. Due to this, I will be unable to watch the last three stages of the Giro as well as report on them. I will be back to posting next Wednesday, the 1st day of June, though without any mention of how the Giro ended because by then no one will care anymore about the second best grand tour. What I can do for you now is recap the past two stages and give my most educated guess at who will be wearing the maglia rosa on a shopping spree in downtown Milan on Sunday.

Tuesday's stage 16, a 'mountain time trial', provided the opportunity for climbers to chip away at AC's seemingly insurmountable lead. French mountain goat and AG2R rider John Gadret, already a stage winner in this year's Giro, seen here communicating telepathically with his bike and praying that his knees don't fall apart on the course:

Don't fail me now old bones!Was only able to muster a 16th place finish 1:27 back of the eventual stage winner and alien impersonator AC:

I won again!AC's other competitors, including Italians Vincenzo Nibali and Stefano Garzelli didn't fare much better:

Better luck next year.
At least the green looks good.Nibali stopped the clock 34 seconds adrift (technically he stopped the clock 5:26 before AC, as the last 15 riders were separated by three minute intervals and Nibali was two riders ahead of AC, but that is neither here nor somewhere other than Italy) and Garzelli was 12 seconds slower than that. As the race continues to unfold, it becomes more and more evident that the Giro erupted on Etna as AC stormed to the stage victory and put his mark on this, the 150th anniversary of Italy's unification. In celebration of that fact, Aqua & Sapone rider and current Italian National Champion, Giovanni Visconti, is wearing bib number 150, instead of wearing bib number 151 which the team leader would normally wear (team leaders wear bibs ending in 1, the first one or two digits differentiate between teams). Despite his climbing ability, he posed no threat in stage 16 and finished over 2 minutes off the pace:

Classic Italian.Of course, he could have been saving his energy for today's stage in hopes of joining the day's break and pulling off the stage victory. Actually, after watching the stage I have a feeling that is exactly what he did. Unfortunately, while he did cross the line first today, he didn't win the stage. It is true that rubbing is racing, but shoving the guy in front of you out of the way isn't considered rubbing by the UCI:

This is my spotlight!After race officials reviewed the tape, Visconti was relegated to third and the stage victory was awarded to Lampre's Diego Ulissi.

As promised, here is my pick to win this year's Giro d'Italia (drum roll please):

Michele Scarponi.

Call me crazy, but I just don't see CAS upholding the RFEC's decision on AC. I personally don't think he cheated (yes he broke the rules by having clenbuterol in his system, but with cheating there is an implied sense of deliberately performing/not performing an action in order to gain an upper hand. If his story of the tainted meat is true, than his ingestion of the drug was not intentional), but I find it hard to see how CAS can overlook the rules in the case of the sport's biggest star when there is so much talk about how cycling needs to clean itself up. We'll see, hopefully AC is cleared and goes on the win the TdF and pull off the double. As much as a little parody in cycling would be good, it would also be 'epic' to see a rider pull off the double in this day and age.

Of course if he does go on to win both races this year, I actually wouldn't have watched it because I'll be in Backwoods, USA this weekend with no connection to the world.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Doubling Up over the Weekend

Today's rest day at the Giro d'Italia was a welcome respite for everyone not named Alberto Contador or wearing an orange jersey. With the last week of the Giro presenting the riders with only more mountains to climb (save for the final time trial in Milan), it is unlikely that we'll see many other names or colored jerseys on the stage podiums from here on out.

On Saturday, Igor Anton of Euskatel-Euskadi was able to power away from Alberto (the first rider able to do that all race) and take the stage on top of the Zoncolan:

Igor was visibly excited about his win. I'm not sure what gearing he was using heading up this most ridiculous of mountains that maxes out at 22 or 23% on all three routes, but word on the street is that AC had a 34x32. It would seem that with a gear that low, professional riders would be able to ride up the side of a building.

Sunday brought a repeat of Saturday in that the team from the Basque Country was again victorious, this time with Mikel Nieve:

7 hours; what took you so long?Slumped over his handlebars at the stages finish, Nieve was clearly worn out after the 229 kilometer, seven and a half hour "epic." It would have taken him over eight hours, but anyone would ride fast if they were being chased by this guy:

The rapture will begin May 21st!  What, it didn't happen?  Shit. The big loser on the day was Italian rider Vincenzo Nibali who took a flyer and paid for it in the end. His compatriot, Michele Scarponi leap-frogged him in the GC. Heading into the final week AC has a solid lead of 4:20, and if he continues to ride anywhere near as well as he has been, this race was over after he first donned the maglia rosa.

Of course, the big news from the weekend was Tyler Hamilton's interview on 60 Minutes. Naturally Armstrong's camp categorically denied all of the accusations leveled at him in the interview by stating that Hamilton has no credibility. It even created a horrible website that is the equivalent of a school-aged child responding to his classmates poking fun at him by saying, "na ah!" What I noticed was how whenever Hamilton accused LA of doping, he always turned the gun on himself and expressed how it wasn't simply an interview to inform the world of what LA did, but also what Hamilton and a bunch of other riders in the peloton did.

This interview is huge news, as it is another of Lance's former teammates, and this time one of his former top domestiques, coming out and telling the world what they saw. How will this all unfold? I'm not sure. Will the truth ever be revealed? I hope so, if not for the sport of cycling, at least for the fans. Will Livestrong feel any negative repercussions? Perhaps, but only because the LA supporters who also support Livestrong can't seem to differentiate between fighting cancer and cheating. Will I ever stop asking questions of myself and answering them poorly? Yes, you can't count on that happening - now.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Grossglockner is Etna; Etna is the Grossglockner; LA used PEDs?!

What do you do as a sprinter knowing the stage you are racing will be your last in this year's Giro (because the road tips up and it isn't worth the effort if there aren't any sprint stages left)? You tell your teammates to go to the front and destroy the field for you:

All aboard the pain train.If all goes your way you win, like Cavendish did for the second time this Giro:

Who said the English can't count?In his excitement, Cav decided to use his fingers to create a visual representation of the number of stages he has won. Either that or he has jumped on the hippie bandwagon and is asking for peace. I only say that because his visual sign this year is a bit different from last year's.

In what seemed to be a replay of stage 9's climb of Etna (except today's stage was in Austria, was rainy, and was an entirely different stage), AC and the little Venezuelan (no not Hugo Chávez) José Rujano broke from the pack on the last climb. Unlike stage 9, Rujano won the stage - though it would probably be fairer to say that he was gifted it by AC:

Why do I say that it was a gift? For one, Rujano looked back at AC three times in the last 50 meters to see if he was going to pass him. For another, look at how short this guy is, there's no way he could have held off AC if he had wanted to accelerate and take the stage:

I'm not entirely sure, but I think that step is about three feet tall.Fun fact - Rujano has won more races as a jockey than a bike rider.

The next question one would ask is why would AC let him win? Rujano has been the only person who can stay with AC on the climbs and is almost six minutes back in the GC so he posses no threat. The other riders who everyone thought could pose a threat? Look at these gaps (and add that to the 50+ seconds he took on Etna) and you'll see that as of right now they pose about as much threat as Donald Trump does to President Obama's chances of being reelected in 2014:

After watching it's hard to believe the gaps were that little.With today's effort AC is now leading in the GC, mountains classification, and points competition. You'd think the way AC has been riding despite his case being decided by CAS would be the big news in the world of cycling, but it's not.

In a 60 Minutes interview, disgraced Olympic Champion and former teammate of Lance Armstrong, Tyler Hamilton admitted he took performance enhancing drugs as well as saying the he saw LA use EPO. The response from LA's camp is the same one we heard when Landis made his claims of LA's drug use; "he has no credibility." So how did team LA respond to the news that his most trusted lieutenant and friend, George Hincapie, testified that he used EPO and testosterone with LA while with the Postal Service Team? They insinuated that since the reports are anonymous they are false - I guess that means that Hincapie still has some credibility. Another former USPS rider, though he left the team before LA arrived, has come forward and stated that he was offered PEDs while a team rider. The next, and probably last, big piece of the puzzle is Levi Leipheimer, another of LA's "inner circle" crew.

So what do you do when you are the greatest TdF rider in the history of the sport and it looks like this just may be your last race? You send your team to the front and hope you can pull out a victory.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Bikes of Babel

In my travels throughout Europe, it never surprised me when a Frenchman spoke fluent Spanish. Or when a Danish woman was able to converse in perfect German. Heck, it was no big deal at all when a Scottish guy spoke with an accent I could understand. It was a big deal when a German could understand a Swiss guy. Just kidding, that never happened - no one understands Swiss except the Swiss. With all those experiences of multilingual Europeans, I don't know why I was so shocked when after his sprint victory in stage 10, Mark Cavendish gave an interview in Italian. Needless to say, I wasn't at all surprised that he won the stage:

Were you expecting someone else?I guess perhaps I have some preconceived notions about native English speakers and their knowledge of foreign languages. Yup, that's it.

Anyway, besides the surprise of a Manxman speaking Italian, stage 10 treated us to a rare sight, AC eating:

Have the team's nutritionists looked at that?Rumor has it that AC has had horrible nightmares since his positive test at last year's TdF and has refused to eat anything at all. But as the old saying goes (something like this) - champions always get back up and fight through the difficulties. Of course champions don't wear pink, that's for girls. This is what men do:

Consider me Miles Davis!In case you're having trouble understanding what is taking place in this here picture, a rider from Quickstep has crashed. The four riders on the left of the road have quickly pulled over to point and laugh, as well as mark the tree as their territory.

Stage 11 was a nondescript stage with many (relatively) smaller climbs for the riders to face. In the end, former mountain biker and Frenchman (I have no idea how good his Spanish is) John Gadret timed a perfect attack on the uphill finish to take the stage victory:

Nice tat.He dedicated his victory to Wouter Weylandt, whose funeral was held today in Ghent, Belgium. The race organizers were apparently so moved by Gadret's dedication, they wanted to give him something memorable:

So they gave him a yellow jersey. In a race that awards no fewer than eleven awards, not a single one is a yellow jersey. I wonder if the race organizers perhaps got the Giro confused with another European race that takes place in July.

For those of you that only speak English (and live in America, where it is acceptable to only speak English), there is another race underway this week - the Amgen Tour of California. I have been watching it (and if you haven't than you missed senior citizen Chris Horner destroy the field today up Sierra Road), but I decided not to write about it this year. This is mainly due to time constraints and my desire to just enjoy the race as it unfolds on my TV screen. I did find out a friend has VIP passes to the finish of tomorrow's stage in Paso Robles, though I'm not sure exactly what that gets him. If he gets a chance to meet any of the riders that would be pretty cool. Hopefully he meets one from the US, Canada, UK, or Australia so he doesn't have to worry about speaking a foreign language with any of them.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Struggling to Catch Up

Due to what seemed to be a technical issue with Blogger, I was unable to post last Friday; with that in mind today's post will cover the last four Giro stages save for Saturday's stage 8. I was unable to watch that stage on account of the fact that I was flying a cross-country trip. For those of you wondering, cross country only means that the flight has three legs and the legs are longer than 25 miles. So that took up my Saturday morning. In other news of flying, I soloed last weekend so now I am able to fly by myself to train for my private pilot flying test I plan to take this summer. It was a little unnerving at first, realizing that there is no one else in the plane with you, but I've almost gotten used to it.

Back to cycling. In stages 6 and 7, Rabobank's maglia rosa wearer Pieter Weening (yes, once more!) somehow worked it out to have two Italian teams put in the work to catch each days' break:

Why are we doing this again?
Did we learn nothing from Farnese Vini?
As I stated earlier, I was unable to watch stage 8, but I'm sure Weening (it never fails to humor me) had Androni Giocattoli do all the work to close down any gap that may or may not have developed. Weening's (it's not as funny in the possessive) strategy obviously worked well as he kept the leader's jersey until the race headed to Sicily and Mount Etna during stage 9. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Stage 6 saw a second stage victory this year for Movistar's Francisco Ventoso as well as Campagnolo's electronic group.

Ale-Jet had some engine trouble.After the stage the media didn't seem to care about talking with the stage winner, but instead Italian sprinter Alessandro Petacchi. I understand that there are a lot of media outlets, but who would hire the guy on the right:

Excuse me, is my scarf straight?Seriously, did that guy just get off the douche tourist bus? Actually, after more thought he looks more like he could be a rider on LEOPARD-TREK.

Stage 7 was won by Omega Pharma-Lotto's Bart de Clercq after he broke away from the peloton up the final climb:

Don't ahve a cow, man!And while that is all well and good, the big news of the day was CSF-Colnago's Federico Canuti demonstrating some amazing descending skills ala Vincenzo Nibali:

Better luck next time Freddy.Unfortunately, unlike Nibali, Canuti attempted the "alternative" descending on a day that was dry.

Stage 8 happened, I think. I didn't watch it so I'm not so sure that it actually took place, but if it did, Weening (yes!) kept the maglia rosa for the race's visit to Sicily and Europe's most active volcano. Mount Etna was sure to shake things up, and that was easy to see on Weening's (ugh) face as he was clearly cracking:

Get a bigger bike.While the maglia rosa was suffering off the back, 2008 champion AC was destroying all but the smallest of riders up the mountain. After his initial break from the peloton, AC quickly caught and shed every rider up the road except Androni Giocattoli's José Rujano and some crazy Italian wearing a brightly colored kit and pink hat:

A very select group.The crazy Italian was soon dropped and it was only AC and Rujano up to the top. As expected, AC won and (warning: made up word ahead) imaginaringly shot the chef who gave him the tainted beef from last year's TdF. Here is the aftermath of the imaginary murder:

Feed me tainted beef, will ya.When the smoke had cleared, not from the volcanic eruption that was taking place but the absolute destruction AC caused in the peloton, AC had ridden into the maglia rosa and gained almost a minute on his closest rivals:

DamnToday saw the first rest day, which I know the riders need, but makes for a slow Monday for me. A day off also gives me time to reflect on the horrible commercials Sidi produces and are shown on Eurosport. Last year it was a shot of AC in all white tapping his shoes against his chest. This year's commercial involves Liquigas rider Ivan Basso chopping up and cooking his shoes, which he then serves to his teammate Vincenzo Nibali:

Eat up, bitch!That commercial is about as awesome as Blogger having technical difficulties or the sales has on its sunglasses:

What a great price, one for the price of one!I'm not one to pass up a sale this good.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

If you've been reading this blog, or any cycling related website for that matter, recently than you know that a pretty big bike race is currently underway in a far and mysterious land - Italy. Actually, Italy is so far away that as I write this post on Wednesday, the Italians are celebrating the end of the work week (or they just stopped working midweek, which I wouldn't put past them). If you are reading this post from the east coast of the US than you too are well ahead of us here in Kansas, but mostly in all the other markings of a modern society and not so much in time.

In a tribute to Wouter Weylandt, stage four of the Giro was neutralized and each team took a turn at the front as the peloton bid farewell to one of its own. In the final couple kilometers LEOPARD-TREK took the lead and crossed the line with American, and good friend of Weylandt, Tyler Farrar:

After the stage both Farrar and LEOPARD-TREK understandably departed the race.

I today's stage five there was a spectacular crash involving the Rabobank rider Tom Slagter. He will abandon the race but luckily he was not seriously injured.

Stage five presented the riders with a clear day and some dusty Strade Bianche:

Pick your poison, last year's addition featured a mud pit over the Strada Bianche.Throughout the entire stage the Eurosport commentators continued to drool over Liquigas' Vincenzo Nibali and his ability to descend. Photographic evidence from last year's Tour of Lombardy would prove otherwise though, unless by ability the commentators meant his ability to adapt to conditions and experiment with new lines. One man who was able to descend well enough to stay away until there were only 10 kilometers left to race was BMC's Martin Kohler, possible heir to the Kohler faucet fortune. He went on a solo attack and not only descended well enough, but climbed well enough that he earned himself the climber's jersey:

He's going to need one of those faucets to wash off all the dust he accumulated during today's stage.He was eventually reeled in by AG2R's John Gadret and the stage winner and current Maglia Rosa wearer, Peter Weening (not pronounced wienering, there is no "r" in his last name):

Is it too obvious to put a 'weening!' joke in here?Prior to Weening and Gadret's effort to bridge up to Kohler, another duo attempted the same thing, only with less impressive results:

You've got to get low in the ditch or else you'll be sucked away!Quickstep's Dario Cataldo took time out of his busy schedule to show his breakaway compatriot, Rabobank's Bram Tankink, how to properly take cover in a roadside ditch during a tornado. While this is an important lesson for someone from the American Midwest, I fear that his willingness to impart such knowledge did little to further his goal of doing well during the Giro.

Back to Weening (only because that is a fun name to say every time I type it), why does he (and all Rabobank riders for that matter) look so large on his bike?

It's like he went to the Jens Voigt neutral support bike school of bike fitting.Seriously, is that a conscientious decision the manager of that team makes when selecting riders, or when fitting riders to bikes? Either way it worked out for them today, now we'll see if Weening (ha!) can do a better job of holding on to the lead than David Millar did. I understand bike racing is difficult and only a few riders are cut from the correct lycra to be competitive in the GC, but in all fairness yesterday's stage was not a difficult ride (physically, and I do understand the toll and drain of emotions on the human body) and today's stage only contained a few category three climbs. Suffering is as suffering does, right:

Great ride in stage 3 to earn it, but you've got to give it up now.Tomorrow brings stage six and 216 kilometers of road almost tailor made for a breakaway favoring a strong rider like Vino. With no real climbs, but a lot of ups and downs, it should provide an exciting day of racing. Now that I think about it, that stage is probably already over since Italy is so far ahead; depending on how things go I might just report on the final time trail in Milan come Friday.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Wouter Weylandt

Seeing the coverage of the third stage of the Giro today, including the aftermath of the crash that resulted in the death of Belgian Cyclist Wouter Weylandt, makes one realize how beautiful and dangerous the sport of professional cycling can be. We all understand the suffering involved in riding a bicycle, and unfortunately the suffering that is involved with losing another human life. Today those two forms of suffering tragically came together.

It is because of this that I will not be posting about the racing at the Giro. Results, as well as more in-depth coverage of Weylandt and his career, can be found at your go-to cycling website.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Cassettes, Clothing, and Questions

While out on a ride Tuesday, I came across a calf drinking from its mother's (I assume it was its mother and not some random cow's) udder. My response, which I said aloud, to this perfectly normal happening was, "That's my milk!" Why would I say that? No idea, but questioning such a ridiculous statement intrigued me and got me questioning just about everything I encountered over the last few days.

First, why did 80s era cycling movies show riders shifting into the small chain ring or large cog when they wanted to ride faster? I submit to the court Exhibit A from the opening scene of Quicksilver (this version was dubbed over for some reason, but pay attention around 54/55 seconds):

Exhibit B, Dave the Cutter from Breaking Away (ok, to be honest that movie came out in 1979, not technically the 80s), shifts into the small chain ring when drafting behind a semi-truck in order to increase his speed.

Another mystery I've wrestled with is why the need for the sprinter version of Di2?

I guess if you can do and it's not illegal than go for it. The article says, "it's aimed at sprinters, who need to keep a firm grip on the bar and don't want to move to the hoods to change gear." I think it's a good idea, but the article makes is seem like sprinters didn't have the option of shifting in the drops with mechanical groups.

Don't get me wrong, Di2 is a pretty sweet invention, but I don't think it compares with this:

It's pretty awesome, no question about it.

Despite the possibility that the above questions will never be answered, the most important question no one seems to be asking most certainly will be answered in a few short months. Of course that question is, will Garmin Cervelo wear summer white kit like the Cervelo Test Team did last year?

With all the questions arising from the death of Osama bin Laden, the UCI's defamation suit against Floyd, and the possible outcome of CAS' AC decision, Kitgate© is clearly the most pressing issue that needs to be addressed. Inquiring minds want to know.

I haven't copyrighted the use of Kitgate, but if I cared more I would - no questioning that.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Missed Races and Misplaced Modifiers

Catch up on the newest news at your local cycling website. I've missed "covering" too many races in the last few weeks (due to a mixture of flying and general laziness) to try and rehash them now. I guess if I had to sum it all up I'd say each race looked tiring.

While sitting around eating a taco made with somewhere between 36% beef and 88% beef, I read this article from our friendly neighbors to the north:

I understand the law requiring children to wear helmets, but what I don't understand is why a car would wear a helmet. Apparently, the car that struck the child was built prior to 1995.

Speaking of flying, which I did in an aside in the first paragraph, the lessons aren't going too badly. I'm at the point where I understand what I want the airplane to do and (mostly) how to make it do that; the trouble I'm having is actually translating that into smooth flying and landing. I guess if you like to be scared shitless while landing than I'm your pilot.

Disclaimer: this is not a video of me landing - this person is much better.

My flight instructor keeps telling me he has no reservations about my progress and says I'm right on track, but I think he is just being nice - nice enough to let me fly by myself so that he doesn't have to experience the terror anymore.

I'm off to bed. I actually rode today, bringing my weekly average over the last month to a whopping five miles per week. But no need to fear, I wear my helmet no matter how far I go.