Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Olympics & Short Track; Don't Confuse The Two

Well Saturday was the Men's Olympic Road Race and Alexander Vinokourov won. It didn't surprise me that Vino won. I figured if it didn't come down to a sprint finish that a cagey veteran would most likely get the victory. For a few reasons.

First, it's a 150 mile race. That's long... And a wet behind the ears racer wouldn't have the stamina for a race of that distance and intensity. Second, and most importantly. There were no race radios allowed. With today's peloton keeping vigilant on what is happening at all times during race is something that I don't think they get much practice at. So that definitely a bigger advantage to someone who's been around the block a bunch. Third, depending on the country you could be a solo racer (Like Ryder for Canada.) up to 5 racer team (Like GB, USA, France, etc...). Even at it's largest that's not a particularly large number of riders. So you knew there was going to be a lot of wheel surfing...

There are quite a few people out there that aren't particularly happy that (The entire GB team comes to mind.)Vino won. Mostly because Vino has the reputation as an unrepentant doper. Which is probably a fair assumption. Although I think a lot of other racers could take a cue from him by just taking their suspension like a man (Or a woman. Depending on which ever the case may be.). I'm mean sure he made a bit of a fuss initially. But after a bit he went back to his cave in Kazakhstan and came back all the stronger. Which I guess is another reason people get grumpy about him. He didn't know that he was suppose to suck when he came back.

As I watched the race I must say I really questioned some of the tactics that played out. I can understand the GB team taking the reigns initially. It is their country and they were heavy favorites. But when you have a 25 man breakaway up the road!? That should set off a bunch of alarm bells not only for them. But any of the other sprinter teams. Germany started to come to the front with only 25 miles left. After the Brits had pretty much burned all their matches and it was obvious the break wasn't coming back. But shouldn't that have been pretty obvious to them that a break of that size should never be given that much leash? I guess it's just one of the differences between having or not radios.

I know a lot of racers and teams cry about not being able to use radios for certain races. But I for one still think it's a great idea. And all the races that I've seen were they don't have them just keeps bolstering that opinion. It just makes for more interesting racing...

Anyway, I guess this a very long winded way of me telling you that I think Vinokourov totally deserved that win. Not only did he time that last move to get away from the bunch with the Colombian rider (I can't remember his name.). But his final push with 200 meters to go while the Colombian was looking the other way was brilliant racing. So kudos to him....

 Even if he is an unrepentant doper.

Pro/Cat1 start
Stolen from the Buy Local Team website.

The Salem Mountain Bike Short Track Series started last night and with it my feeble attempts to get ready for cross season (That an a truly pathetic 3 mile run with my SSHW on Sunday.). It is a lot of fun. If you are within driving distance of Salem I highly recommend coming out to race or spectate or both.

I raced the Men's C race because I'm hardcore like that.

I had a terrible hole shot. I was in the completely wrong gear (Even when I thought I was in the right one.). So I was playing catch up on four guys right out of the gate.  However I was pretty happy with how I handled the BMX track portion of the race (I told you it was a cool race.). Whoops have traditionally scared the crap out of me. But with some great tutelage from Brison I managed to not land on my face. Which is always good...

I got passed twice. First by a sandbagging SOB (Coby) who is in the real world a really good guy. But for the purposes of this blog he's a bastard and I shall find a way to grind him into some sort of soft paste that can be use by the elderly to polish there wingtips...

The second guy who past me was David. David is a teammate. It was a legitimate pass, in an area of the course that I struggled with all night long. But I shall also find a way by the end of the series to have ground him into some sort of paste like product. Just cuz that's how I roll.

After my race I watched the B's and the A's race. Brison rode in the B's race. He came out of  the gate really fast and took the hole shot. But progressively struggles the rest of the race. This is his first race back since shoulder surgery and I don't think he expected that kind of pain. But he finished and I'm super proud. I have no doubt that he will be back whooping every one's ass in no time flat.

Graham from he shop won the A's race. It was really a three man race for the lead. But he continually punched it every time the got into an open are and eventually wore hie competition down. It was a terribly fun race to watch. I heckled and supported where I saw fit. Sometimes changing it up mid lap just for the fun of it.

Good times.

Tomorrow is the Men's Olympic Time Trial. I kind of see it as a 4 horse race. Wiggins, Phinney, Cancellara (If his shoulder injury doesn't get in the way.) and Martin. I'm sure someone else will come in and dominate since I put up some picks. But oh well...

Thanks for reading!

Rubber side down,

Big E

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Tour = Boring

Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky) winner of the 2012 Tour de France

I've been mulling over the Tour de France in my brain ever since it finished up on Sunday and considering the Olympics start tomorrow I figured I better get my licks in while they still were kind of relevant.

First, lets just get this out of the way.  The race was boring to watch. I know everyone was thinking it.  I just wanted to say it. There wasn't much pageantry or drama. Well except for maybe in the eye's of Great Britain. Which of course how could you blame them... To have your countries first tour victory is a very big deal. I'm fairly surprised on how little of an uproar the UK has given the victory. I guess having the Olympics starting so close to the end of the tour, as well as being located in their country doesn't help matters.

In my mind Wiggins and team Sky took the old US Postal team's play book.  Couple that with Wiggins ability to do a Miguel Indurain impersonation and viola! You get a truly dominating performance. So dominating in fact that he and his team took all of the bite out of their competition and the race.

They deserve their kudos. To be able to put the 200 greatest cyclists in the world in their place takes major horsepower and tactical savvy. Not to mention the fact that they only started the team three years ago and they had the lofty five year goal of putting a Brit on the top podium step. By my calculus, that's (multiply the ten, carry the three...) 2 years ahead of their deadline. Super impressive. I just wish they would have done it with more panache and less cold hard execution (Maybe that's why I like the Giro better. Hmmm...).

Chris Froome leads Bradley Wiggins (Sky)

With his dominant performance and his faithful (?) (I say that because while Froome came in second overall. He certainly didn't tow his leader in on several occasions like a truly faithful super domestique would/should have. Instead it was almost like he taunted him with his power on the climbs. And it certainly isn't hard for a teammate to look back and gauge a distance. Instead of sprinting forward. Gapping Wiggo. Waiting. And doing it again. It was kind of bullshit. If Sky had truly clipped Froome's wings then he wouldn't have done that... Wow! This is probably the longest inner monologue I've ever had in my blog before. Kind of makes me want to keep going. JK...)  lieutenant Wiggo trounced the competition fair and square*.

22 career Tour stages for Mark Cavendish

There was some panache in the race however. Thanks to a small group of individual players. Not least of which was Wiggo's very own teammate Mark Cavendish. I'll tell you what. After the first few stages I was getting a sinking feeling for Mark. I thought he would get lost in the mix with the end all be all goal of winning the tour. But he certainly proved me and any other doubters wrong with some really solid wins. Not least of which was winning the final stage in Paris. As a side note. That was probably one of the only times in the whole tour where I got chills watching Bradley Wiggins. Helping to lead out his sprinter was a super classy thing to do. And I must say that there aren't to many GC leaders that would have the stones to do that for one of their teammates. So I guess Wiggo did have a garnish of panache. Just not a full serving....

Much was expected of Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) and he duly delivered.

Peter Sagan.

That's all I'm going to say. Between him and Nibali they were the only predictions I got right before the tour started (Meh. What do you do?). But holy crap did Sagan deliver! Three stage victories and the green jersey. I still say we will be seeing this kid bring home a ton of wins for a long time to come. Just awesome! Some people are touting him as a potential GC contender but I don't see him improving his TT and climbing skill enough to make that happen. However, I can see him win the green jersey and pretty much every hilly to semi-hilly classic for the next ten years.

Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) attacked on the Col de Peyresourde, the day's final climb.

Speaking of my predictions... You can take this one to heart. Vincenzo Nibali will win the Tour de France before his career is done (Put your name on it!). He can climb very well and he didn't lose as much time in the TT's as I thought he would. With the exception of two times that Cadel to a dig. He was the only other real GC contender to truly try to attack Wiggins. Plus he did a lot of smack talking (At least during the first half.) which I like. Makes for entertaining stories.

Tejay van Garderen (BMC) continues to lead the young riders classification.

Then there is of course the next big American hope (Although he's small. So maybe he's our next small hope...) Tejay Van Garderen. After Cadel Evens popped he was the only thing that BMC could wrap their hopes around. And he did a very admirable job. He's maybe not as consistent as some of the seasoned veterans in the mountains. He had good days and bad days.  But all the basic building blocks are there. I wouldn't be surprised to see him either be the leader for the Vuelta or the Giro next year or maybe even the Tour depending on what happens with Cadel.

Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) emerged from an early 38-man break to win alone at the end of stage 16.
And last, but certainly not least is Thomas Voekler. The heart throb of French housewives everywhere. The two stage winner and the KOM jersey winner was one of the real animator's in the race. He is probably one of the best riders I've ever seen at picking the right break to go with and ultimately making the breakaway stick. A truly well deserving champion.
*So I guess that's about it.  I could go into the doping busts. Plus the big old rumor mill about Wiggins and his team. But the fact is that we really don't have all the info yet. Some of it may go away. Some of it may stick. And even more of it will show up ten years after the fact. Like it always seems to do... *sigh*

Tomorrow I want to talk about the Olympics and the fact that I know almost nothing of what's going on.

Thanks for reading.

Rubber side down,

Big E

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Places, Places!

Sorry its been a little while since I posted. My family and I were on a little vacation in an effort to relax and grow our mustaches.  But rest assured that posts will be on a slightly more regular basis (Probably...).

Frank Schleck (RadioShack-Nissan) in Liege for the start of stage 1 at the Tour de France.
 I was going to get into the whole Frank Schleck producing a positive for a diuretic. You know because if theres one thing you don't want in the Tour de France is excess fluids. Along with his stellar excuse of being poisoned. Right... I'll get into all that in a bit more detail at a later date. But today I want to talk about some more uplifting news.

I put out the bat signal to the usual suspects for an evening of romping stomping death and destruction at the Twilight Crit series down in Eugene. With all the texting my thumbs were worn down to stubs. But despite all that effort and begging I only got one taker. Thomas "The Train"  and I were it. So we hopped into the not-the-team car and headed south. With nothing but dreams and legal stimulants as our guide.

We made it down there in great time. The last few times drives down have kind of sucked because of traffic but this one was as smooth as glass.

Once we got there signed in and started to warm up two things were apparent. The head wind in the finishing straight sucks and I needed to pee.  Neither of which were really alleviated before the race. Meh... What do you do?

As we were doing our last couple warm up laps I was sprinting out of the corners to get my legs warmed up. When I felt the back end kind of wiggle on the apex of a corner. Hmmm... I started to stare at my tire worrying that my recent glue job wasn't sufficient. Everything seemed fine so I rolled up to the start line ready to go. Once the race started it became very apparent what the problem was.

My tire was slowly going flat.


Luckily I had spare wheels in the pit so I did my best to keep with the group while inching my way to the outside to facilitate the change. As I coasted up to the start/finish line I put my right hand up and told them that I had a flat.  The OBRA official asked if I had spares in the pit and I told him I did and went straight to work changing it.

I had already shifted into my 12 tooth cog before I stopped. So I unclipped, opened up my brake caliper and loosened the quick release. I popped the wheel out and stuck my spare in. Closed the levers on the quick release and the brake caliper and was ready to go.

The official told me that he would notify me when the group was coming around the corner and that is when I could start rolling out. I should mention (If you didn't know.) that in the case of a mechanical like that you get a "free" lap until 8 laps to go. So I didn't need to try and chase back on  (Ha! Like I would be able to do that.). Anyway, so I waited, and waited, and waited. It felt like an eternity before they finally came around and I was given the go ahead to get back into the race ( I guess I'm faster at wheel changes than I thought...).

Once back into the group I was feeling pretty comfortable. The speed changes weren't to challenging and even the head wind section wasn't putting me completely in the red. Although the entire night I kept trying to find a happy spot in the group where I could hide completely and still couldn't manage to find one.

As the laps clicked down both Thomas and I kept trying to get into breaks or push the pace to close them down. The speed stayed pretty high when you coupled them with the two prime laps. Next thing I knew we only had 6 laps to go.

I looked back and I guess with the gnarly head wind and the constant changes in speed the later half of the group had shattered. I would say there were maybe 12-15 riders left in the front group from 25 starters.  So I did my level best to stay out of the wind and save myself for the finish.

With one lap to go I was towards the back of our smaller group trying to see who was going to make a move a little early so I could use that as a jumping off point.

Thomas and I had talked about how the last few winners have been taking wider lines through that final corner to carry more speed. As well as jumping earlier than everyone else. I think it mostly has to do with that head wind in the finish. Once you get blasted in the face moving up a bunch of spots is pretty difficult.

As I was saying, I was watching for my train to leave the station and it happened only about two guys in front of me. I swung out and clipped right in with out to much trouble. Just as I got on I noticed Thomas looking over. I eased up to give him a space in front of me and he slotted in nicely as well.

This guy timed it perfect and as we rounded the last corner we already had a bit of a gap on everyone except two other guys.  When we were in the straight away Thomas was just in front of me. I could see the line and a guy just starting to move up on my left side. I poured on what little gas I had left. He was inching up on me and as Thomas and another guy were duking it out for the win I did my best to lunge for the line for third. But I didn't get it...

By like half a wheel.

Oh well. I was still pretty pumped. And Thomas had a very similar experience with his guy for the win. Except I think it was more like he missed it by a tire width.

But we were both happy. We raced strong and felt good. Ultimately, that's what counts.

Afterward Thomas went to go check the results but the OBRA official was having all kinds of problems with placement because of lapped riders. So hopefully all that will get straightened out. Not that points for the overall series is on either of our radars. But still, kind of the principal...

Tomorrow I'll talk about all things Tour related.

Thanks for reading!

Rubber side down,

Big E

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

First Rest Day at The Tour

A lot has happened at the tour over the first ten days of racing. Somethings that were pretty predictable. Over things not so much. And as per usual my tour picks have been blown apart.

First, lets get the obvious out of the way. Wiggo is impressive. Astoundingly so. He crushed the time trial and never really looked to be in trouble in the mountains. Having already taken 1:40 out Evans in the first ITT I have a nasty feeling the race for the overall could become very boring very quickly.

Bradley Wiggins poses with his work day shirt
I'm impressed with Wiggins and his team's attention to detail. Their obvious hard work and commitment to a singular goal. That is how you win something like the Tour de France in a decisive manner. So kudos to them in that respect.

On the other hand his abrasive and cocky attitude leaves me kind of cold. I want my racers to be human. I want them to say what they think and be truthful but Wiggins reaction to a doping question seemed colossally over the top. Maybe it's the tour pressure and being bombarded all the time. But I certainly don't think a doping question asked to the leader of the Tour de France while it's going on is out of line. I do however, think it's a shitty way for a leader to act. Even Lance never reacted to the general media doping questions that way (Barring Kimmage...). I think he should take some ques from some of the classier riders and either say what he means without calling people cunts or wankers (His words.) or just not say anything at all.


Cadel Evans (BMC) in action during the stage 9 time trial.
He's a fighter. He's plucky and I'm sure he will go down swinging.  But barring Wiggo fucking up (My words.) I don't think he's going to repeat his performance of last year. We have a lot of racing left and I certainly won't dismiss him until the very end. But unless he can isolate Wiggins on some really steep gnarly stuff and drop his ass I just don't see him getting any of that time back. 
I was having a conversation with J last night about it and I think the only way they are going to get Wiggins out of  yellow is if BMC, Liquigas and maybe Katusha start gaining up on Sky with everything they have. Just start throwing guys up the road forcing Sky to chase. Burning all their matches and then the GC contenders doing the same thing once Wiggo is isolated on the climbs.

The only problem with that strategy is that I don't know if any of those teams have enough high caliber climbers to get the job done...

In a lot of ways Wiggins and Sky have already gotten through the hard part. Their team is full of climbers. So by getting through the flat stages and still being in control completely plays into there hands.

Speaking of control... Poor Garmin. They have had a string of really bad luck the first week. With the loss of Tom Danielson and Ryder Hesjedal (My dark horse out the window.) to crashes. Along with the rest of the team getting the crap kicked out of them. This has been a tough tour for all of them. It just goes to show how much luck and being in the right place can mean in a race.

Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Sharp), battered and bloodied from a crash in the stage 5 finale, crosses the finish line in Saint-Quentin.
Farrar about to go whoop some ass!
 As a side note I loved seeing Tyler try and go throw down with the racer that he perceived as knocking him down in the sprint. That's the sort of fiery sprinter antics that I like to see. Now he just needs to win a stage and all shall be complete.

Two seriously honorable mentions have to go to Peter Sagan and Vincenzo Nibali.

 First Sagan: That guy is every bit of awesome that I thought he would be. He showed he can sprint in just about any type of finish AND climb. I'd say he will be the new Eric Zabel (Green jersey winner 6 times.) of the 21 century. Really impressive.

Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) had a relatively good day, losing only a handful of seconds
Second Nibali: If this guy doesn't eventually win the tour I will be completely shocked. He can climb like a goat, descend like a stone and time trial shockingly well. He will be giving Contador a run for his money for years to come. I also see him coming in third unless Sky is full of crap saying they're not interested in two podium spots (Froome being the second. That's a guy to look to in the very near future as well.).

Rubber side down,

Big E

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Yellow Helmets

Mark Cavendish (Team Sky) wins his first stage in the 2012 Tour de France
Watching stage 2 at the tour yesterday being impressed not only with how much information Paul and Phil can put out for a three and half hour plus telecast (Which would have to be a super difficult job.) that didn't really have much going on until the last 20k or so.  But also seeing how well Cavendish can work on his own without a lead out train. Those last 800 meters were a study on what to do. Who's wheel to follow and seeing gaps that weren't there. Great stuff.

But there was something that took away from this classic sprinters stage. It wasn't the riders. But something they were wearing.

What the hell is that on team Sky's heads!?

In ASO's infinite wisdom they have decided to make the leader of the team competition wear yellow helmets. Call me old fashioned, but I don't think anyone but the GC leader should be wearing yellow (Unless that's already your team color.).

Cap that thought of with the fact that those things look hideous. Seriously.

Bradley Wiggins (Sky) and Philippe Gilbert (BMC)
Philippe is doing his best not to look at it. But you can tell be the look on his face that he doesn't approve either.

There is just no way to look cool with one of these traffic cones on their heads.

Bradley Wiggins (Sky) at the start
Nope. Sorry guys. It's just not working....

Rubber side down,

Big E

Monday, July 2, 2012

Tour Talk

I just wanted to give a quick shout out to Frankie Andreu and James Startt of Bicycling Magazine's Tour Talk. They give a really nice refreshing commentary on that days tour stage along with predictions for the following stage. I embeded yesterday's Tour Talk just in case some of you haven't watched today's stage yet... I wouldn't want to get yelled at.

Quick couple of notes about the prologue and stage 1.

Huh, who would have thought that Fabian would beat everyone and get the yellow right out of the gate. It's almost like he's done that before...

Stage 1:
Big kudos to Fabian for doing the yellow jersey proud and attacking on the finish hill. Major huevos on that guy. 

Sagan is an animal. This guy is 2012's version of Philippe Gilbert and 22 years old I think this guy is going to be whooping people's asses for at least a decade to come.

Here is Tour Talk from yesterday. Even though it's a bit of a cheat. I may just add it to the bottom of the posts during the Tour since I like it so much.

Let me know what you guys think.


Rubber side down,

Big E