Archive for the 'bike racing' Category

Joining Team MTN-Qhubeka

July 22, 2014

Hi all, I thought this announcement may be of interest to some of you. I’m very excited to become involved in a cycling team with a higher purpose, and that Cervelo is as well. Can’t wait for 2015 to roll around.

Cervélo Partners With MTN-Qhubeka For 2015

Johannesburg, South Africa and Toronto, Canada– July 18th, 2014 –Thanks to a new partnership with Cervélo bicycles and Rotor components, Team MTN-Qhubeka continues its ambitious upgrade for 2015 and beyond.

The new Team MTN-Qhubeka partnership is built around a fresh team concept designed to take fan experience and interaction to a whole new level, with Cervélo co-founder Gerard Vroomen heading up the effort. Building on ideas developed with the highly successful Cervélo Test Team of 2009-10, the concept is designed to bring fans closer to the team and its riders than ever before.
Racing ambitions for the team are high. The new partnership allows Team MTN-Qhubeka to support a contingent of talented young African riders, and to match them with seasoned professionals from Europe and North America. The goal is clear: showcase the team and the Qhubeka Foundation within the top echelons of the sport. The rider roster is currently being set and will be announced soon.
“Cervélo has always been synonymous with the highest levels of racing performance, “said team Principal Douglas Ryder. “The new team will be competitive on the world stage, and Cervélo has already won everything from the world championships to cobbled classics like Paris-Roubaix and Grand Tours including the Tour de France. Who better to give Team MTN-Qhubeka’s riders the best opportunity to succeed?”
As Africa’s first Pro Continental team, Team MTN-Qhubeka—and now Cervélo, together with its equipment partner Rotor—races with extra purpose, raising money for the Qhubeka Foundation to bring bicycle mobility to isolated areas of Africa.

“Cervélo is excited at the opportunity to support both the team and the Qhubeka Foundation,” said Cervélo managing director Robert Reijers. “Not just in terms of high-performance racing, but also because we truly believe that by providing cycling mobility, we can directly benefit people’s lives by increasing the distance they can travel, what they can carry, where they can go, and how fast they can get there.”

To support those efforts, Cervélo will initiate programs to actively support the Qhubeka Foundation. The company will introduce team-replica bike models in 2015, with Cervélo donating a Qhubeka Foundation bicycle for every team-replica Cervélo sold.
“We’re delighted that Cervélo has proposed matching its team bike sales with the donation of a Qhubeka bike. It brings the ability to support Qhubeka directly to hundreds of Cervélo retailers and thousands of individual riders worldwide,” said Vroomen. “Like no other bike company, Cervélo understands that cycling needs new and better ways to connect with its fans. It’s a great feeling to align Cervélo’s DNA with the MTN-Qhubeka project.”
About Team MTN-Qhubeka

Team MTN-Qhubeka was founded in 2007, steadily working its way up from a regional team to now being a Continental Pro team with bases in South Africa and Italy. It will participate in its first Grand Tour this fall at the Vuelta a España. MTN-Qhubeka’s goal is to give talented African riders a path into the pro peloton while raising funds for the Qhubeka charity.

Qhubeka is an Nguni (Zulu, Xhosa) word that means “to carry on”, “to progress”, “to move forward”. Qhubeka (qhubeka.org) helps people move forward and progress by giving bicycles in return for work done to improve communities, the environment or academic results. Having a bicycle changes people’s lives by increasing the distance they can travel, what they can carry, where they can go and how fast they can get there.

MTN (mtn.com) is a longtime supporter of Qhubeka and the team. Launched in 1994, the MTN Group is a leading emerging market operator, connecting 210 million subscribers in 22 countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Learn more about the team at teammtnqhubeka.com

About Cervélo

Cervélo riders have won Olympic medals, world championships in both road and triathlon disciplines, and a large spectrum of professional major road races from the Paris-Roubaix classic to the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France. It remains a company with more engineers than bike models.

Cervélo was founded in in 1995 when two engineering students, Phil White and Gerard Vroomen, decided to market their work developing faster time trial bikes for an Italian professional team. Since that time the company’s unwavering mission has been to create the world’s highest-performing road and triathlon bikes.

Complete information about Cervélo is available at cervelo.com.

About Rotor

ROTOR Bike is a world-class Spanish bicycle component company. Every product they make is designed by cyclists for cyclists. All ROTOR products are engineered to lend maximum speed, efficiency and comfort to your cycling experience. ROTOR achieves this goal by combining leading-edge design principles with precision manufacturing techniques for each its products.

Learn more at rotorbike.com

8 Random thoughts on doping

July 31, 2013
  1. Why does everybody “drive across the border” to buy drugs? Is it the thrill of potentially getting caught by border guards (yes, those still existed in Europe back then).
  2. What a lonely life where everybody dopes all on their own, without any help.
  3. With some exceptions (and more so in later years), pro riders have often struck me of being very dependent people who couldn’t survive on their own in the real world. I find it hard to believe some of them could cook a meal for themselves, let alone drive across the border and buy drugs.
  4. If you are a famous cyclist, would you walk into a pharmacy to buy doping products? Even if it was “across the border”?
  5. Combining 3 & 4, would it not be more logical to assume that in virtually all cases, somebody else bought the drugs for them and therefore, others were involved? At the very least as a mule, if not much more intricate than that?
  6. O’Grady, Zabel and others have stated that they resorted to doping because they couldn’t compete but quickly stopped. We now know the sport didn’t get cleaner after their “short bout with doping”, so how did they effortlessly compete afterwards? For Zabel we now know the answer – he couldn’t and doped throughout his career.
  7. Between USADA, various books and the French Senate report, we can conclude that many riders doped and some did not. Therefore, this is now officially no longer an interesting topic. Topic should now be, how do you fix it.
  8. People point to the number of cycling viewers and spectators this year to show the doping fallout is not so bad. Pro wrestling, Paris Hilton and the US Senate are also popular (together, all senators collected almost 100% of the US vote!) It doesn’t mean you have credibility, the ability to affect change or even a bright future.

Mind the gap!

July 17, 2013

With Froome so far ahead, what can keep him from winning? Mind games and rain. And in that sense, Contador may have scored a first point, albeit unintentionally.

Contador’s crash clearly shook Froome a bit, the five, six turns after that were very wobbly for the Brit. And it seems he wasn’t able to forget about it at the finish either, given that last night at 11pm he still tweeted:

Almost went over your head @albertocontador.. Little more care next time?

It looks like Contador has gotten into Froome’s head, like a pesky Spanish bilharzia bug. Add to that the possible rain on the descents today and the next days and strange things could happen.

We saw it in the Giro with Wiggins, confidence in descending is a funny thing. As much as Froome tries to be different from Wiggo, in this sense he may be similar. I don’t like the train of thought that Wiggins and Froome are mere human robots following orders from their coaches, but it cannot be denied that they do rely greatly on being told what to do. While Cavendish dove into the gap during the echelon stage and was the last guy to make it into the front group, Froome who was 10m behind decided instead to get on the radio.

With a strong team and good preparation, this is a golden set-up. But on the descent, team mates and radios are of no use. It’s just you and your thoughts, and if those thoughts are thoughts of fear, you’re in trouble.

In the time trial, this may pose a small problem for Froome, especially if it stays wet. In the coming days, the problem may grow. I have little doubt that Contador will descend like a maniac off the back of Alpe d’Huez. That road is terrible at the best of times, in the rain it will be the ultimate test of nerves. Especially if Contador decides to take some bad lines to freak people out, we may end up with more than a few riders hanging off the trees there. Or worse.

I can’t say I am looking forward to it, as I just hope that everybody stays safe. But descending is as much a part of cycling as climbing, and it is a legitimate spot to attack. If Froome doesn’t want to be caught behind a crashing Contador again, he’d better make sure he is ahead of him. And Sky fans should pray their sports psychologist has learned from the Wiggins case.

Kiss-of-death Milan-San Remo predictions

March 17, 2013

It’s that time of year again, the kiss-of-death predictions.

Of course the top favorite is Sagan, but me mentioning him here pretty much ruins his chances, as history has shown. So it should be a very open race!

Of course, if you exclude Sagan, it becomes almost impossible to predict the winner. Some mention Hushovd because of the predicted foul weather, but very long races aren’t always his strength and coming back from a year of inactivity, 300k looks even longer.

I really like Cancellara, and he can climb the Poggio better than most and descend it better than anybody, but will it be enough to shake off all the riders who can expertly sit on his wheel and outsprint him?

Gilbert with or without cortisones? Or Rodriguez, who can attack the Poggio in similar fashion? But what to do on the other end? Nibali, another one who can really fly up the Poggio (and also down it, although I don’t rate him as that good a descender since he regularly seems to kiss the pavement). Regardless, the only rider Nibali could outsprint would be Andy Schleck, and I’m not sure he’s spotted in any Milan hotel lately.

This shouldn’t be the race for Cavendish anymore, the way the last three climbs are ridden nowadays. But I actually think he has been targeting this race, and that we’ll see a better climbing Cav than ever. Enough to stay connected to the front? Possibly, though maybe not in this weather. He will be a very interesting guy to watch though, and there is no doubt he has his team’s support.

His old team may have a real ace in its hand. Boasson Hagen can climb much better than you would think (remember the Tour) and on a good day, he can outsprint anybody (remember his field sprint wins?) And when the weather turns bad, Boasson Hagen’s legs seem to turn well.

Greenedge has two irons in the fire with Gerrans and Goss, and if both make it over the Poggio (which they have numerous times), their combo may be a credible threat to Sagan. Even if Sagan has support from Moser, it may spell trouble for Sagan as he may have to control the race after a Moser + ?? attack rather than win himself.

Not mentioned as often but somebody who is ready for his biggest win so far is Degenkolb. He rides for a team I really like, and they deserve the boost. Plus Degenkolb’s performances last year in San Remo and Worlds show this type of course – and the race distance – suit him well. And Last year’s Vuelta showed his speed and nose for the victory is now at full strength.

So here we go, the kiss-of-death Milan-San Remo predictions:

(Sagan)
Degenkolb
Boasson Hagen
Cancellara

And my sentimental favorite? Haussler of course.

 

Trait 11 of champions

September 3, 2012

And here we go, the last of the Traits of Champions. Seems as appropriate a moment as any to discuss these. I hope you liked them.

An eleventh attribute that is harder to define in a single word is probably as important as any. Ultimately, a bicycle race is just a bicycle race, lives are not saved, the homeless are not housed. Champions seem to realize this as well, and realized that the lessons of racing and training are really only valid when applied to our life as a whole.

And that concludes the 11 traits of being a champion as used by Toby Stanton (@hottubes). If you want to see what a team based on instilling these traits in young athletes looks like, follow the amazing Hottubes Junior team.

It’s a small team always struggling to continue year after year. Nobody is getting rich off of it, quite the contrary. But it’s done for all the right reasons. Check out the team here, although you will quickly see that Toby is too busy running the team to do a great job of marketing – the site is slightly out-of-date.

There are some really nice people who support behind the scenes. If you would like to join them, contact Toby. Or why not offer a small token of your appreciation and have your frame repainted by Toby, as he does an amazing job with that.

Grow some balls

August 22, 2012

Cyclists are amazing creatures. They risk life and limb for their sport, flying down mountains at speeds in exces of 100kmh protected only by 0.3mm of lycra on their bodies and 200g of foam on their heads.

Some even risk their lives with blood transfusions, experimental drugs and amateur voodoo.

So why don’t they have the balls to be honest about their tactics when they step off their bikes?

  • We all remember Contador claiming he never saw Schleck had a mechanical in the 2010 Tour (Sure, it’s normal that your opponent is 50m ahead of you and suddenly slows down to a “Gerard Vroomen-pace”)
  • Yesterday we had Sky claiming they never knew Valverde had crashed (Is it really that tough to pick out the only guy to wear the race leader’s jersey)?

These are only two examples but there are dozens. I love the unwritten rules about when to wait and when not, and I love it when they are broken or don’t apply and I love how they are then discussed endlessly.

I would say there was no reason to wait for Valverde, the pace had already picked up, the race was on and echelon riding is a skill that some haven’t mastered and which regularly involves crashes. It’s as fair to lose time there as it is in the mountains or in time trials.

But whatever you decide to do, just freakin own up to it afterwards. Don’t insult the fans by coming up with some idiotic story that you didn’t know what was happening*. Insult your rider-colleagues all you want, but take the fans seriously.

Just get off your bike and say:

We saw Valverde crash and yes, he’s the race leader, but he’s also an whiner** and a doper***. And remember how Movistar didn’t wait for Levi at Paris-Nice? Not that we minded, because that was good for us and we don’t like Levi either. But anyway, when we saw him crash we thought “payback time” and so we hit it.

But I have to say, those Movistars were bloody strong, I mean they had been on the front already for hours but they still managed to pull back from 1min15 to 30 seconds. So we made a quick call to BMC, they agreed on the price and helped us get the gap back to close to a minute. Good thing too, because after all that effort Valverde didn’t lose anything on that last climb, so he’s super-strong and a real threat and we need some cushioning.

Wouldn’t that be amazing to hear? It won’t matter on the road, whether they say it or not, the people in the peloton know the real story anyway. But it would surely be nicer for the fans.

* The irony here is that by Sky saying they didn’t know Valverde had crashed, they suggest they would have acted differently had they known. Presumably that means they would have waited for Valverde had they known he’d crashed. That’s even MORE unbelievable, as in effect that would mean there IS an unwritten rule to stop when the race leader crashes.

** By all accounts, Valverde is a pretty nice guy, as are Froome and Contador.

*** OK, we don’t know he was a customer of Fuentes. But we do know his dog was a customer.

Special Kiss-of-death Olympic predictions

July 28, 2012

How can Cav not win? That seems to be the question, very similar to last year’s worlds. So naturally, a lot of the same logic applies, see in particular the piece “Cyclists are losers“, it’s worth another read in my humble opinion.

So what will happen? I’m looking closely for four things:

  1. Even though many more teams speak of following the “chaos therapy” I described in “Cyclists are losers“, I am afraid that when push comes to shove, not many will follow through.
  2. The key to a successful break-away will be size (you need to be considerably bigger than the team of four GB time trialers trying to catch you). This however goes against the other key, which is a very fast decision to go for it once you have gapped Cav the tiniest bit, as you won’t get much more. So is it possible for a group of 20 riders of 15 different countries to look around quickly and determine to work together and go for it? Given that most riders haven’t taken independent racing decisions in years due to the ear pieces, I am skeptical.
  3. If there is a break, I think GB should send a rider along. Catching 20 riders back with a team of 4 won’t be easy, whereas Wiggins sitting in a group of 20 without doing any work (waiting for Cav) and then placing a jump in the last 10k, I’m not sure who would catch him. I somehow suspect that’s also GB’s plan, I can’t imagine that their plan is really as was spelled out by Brailsford (“Plan A is Cav, and the rest of the alphabet too”).
  4. Crashes could have a big influence on the outcome, I don’t hear that much about this possibility but how many teams have a plan for what to do in a crash?

So my picks would be Cancellara for the pure chaos strategy, Wiggins for chaos if GB does have a different plan Z, and Cav if all else fails.

Sprinters win GC

July 23, 2012

One of the most endearing oddities about cycling is how a few race results can turn into a truism in no time. When Indurain won Giro and Tour in the same year, the Giro was “the perfect preparation” for the Tour. When he stopped riding the Giro and still won, “cycling was too hard ‘in the modern era’ to do both”.

Then Lance proved that you can only win if you have the entire team focused on winning the GC, that you cannot combine GC and sprints in one team. This was further proven by HTC, whose GC riders never got very far. Never mind that their GC riders were always on the second tier to begin with. I’ve said many times I thought this was silly, but it’s been one of the most persistent truisms of the past decade.

Anyway, I would like to propose the following new truism:

To do well on GC, you need a top sprinter on your team.

You see, there are three sprinters who have won three stages each this Tour; Cavendish, Sagan and Greipel. They ride for Sky, Liquigas and Lotto, who occupied positions 1, 2, 3 and 4 on GC in Paris. Therefore, irrefutably, you need guys who win sprints to score on GC. Also note BMC, whose sprinter Hushovd could not participate this year, and we all know what happened to Evans.

un-suit-able

July 21, 2012

[Apparently I need to spell this out as it isn't clear: This blog post is not about Wiggins, who won both TTs in dominating fashion and would have done so in other apparel as well. I thought that was pretty clear but apparently it's not, so I hope we're clear now]

In the first TT, Wiggins used a yellow Adidas TT suit with seams and cuts that were designed for an aerodynamic advantage. At least that’s what several Sky people said. This was odd for two reasons:

  1. Classification leaders are normally required to use the TT suits provided by the race organizer. I know riders have wanted to use their own suits before but as far as I know, this has never been allowed. Now it was.
  2. Designing features solely for their aerodynamic benefit is not really allowed according to the UCI rules, although the rules are vague in this particular case.

Then some strange things happened:

  1. The UCI came out and said they had approved the Sky suit months ago, and that the seams were just seams and not aerodynamic improvements. Note that this is contrary to what Sky themselves claim, and one wonders how the UCI tested whether or not these seams work.
  2. Then the UCI said that they would review the suit Wiggins used in the TT to make sure it was still the same as the one they reviewed and approved months ago. But they didn’t rip the suit off of Wiggins at the finish of the TT. No, they simply asked if Sky could send them a suit whenever it suited them (no pun intended). This is very odd, how does the UCI know that Sky will send the suit Wiggins wore? If Wiggins indeed used a different suit from the one that was approved (which is the hypothesis that the UCI is presumably trying to test), they would be crazy to send the actual non-approved suit. Imagine if drug testing worked like this, where we would just ask the to send in their pee samples whenever convenient.
  3. Then in the last TT, Wiggins didn’t use the same suit as in the first TT. It was either a different Adidas suit or the standard Tour de France suit (with Adidas stripes). If the original Adidas suit was legal, why change? If it wasn’t, then what does that mean for the first TT?

I’m not sure what the full story is, but I am pretty sure it won’t go anywhere. Once again Sky’s special status will be confirmed.

Lots of blog posts coming up this week, to receive them automatically subscribe here.

[edited bullet 3 at 17:58]

Trait 10 of champions

July 20, 2012

Unfortunately I didn’t have a chance to finish my part 2 on the Schleck case, so that will come next week (subscribe here). In the meantime, here is Trait 10 of champions:

Willingness to suffer: Great champions do not wish to suffer any more than you or I, but seem to accept the pain of athletic suffering as part of thei endeavor. They seem to force more out of their bodies than other riders do, especially when the going gets tough. Much of this sport, at all levels, is decided by a mental commitment that allows the body to react accordingly.

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