Archive for the 'bike racing' Category

I goofed (regarding stage 1 crash)

July 9, 2011

I goofed. Thanks to Steven who pointed out an error in yesterday’s post. I said there that since it was a uphill finish, the 3km crash rule shouldn’t apply. Steven wrote in the comments that stage 1 was not classified as an uphill finish in the Tour book. I don’t have the Tour book 2011 handy, so I will take his word for it.

Also, if the finish is uphill and classified as such, it is still possible to fall under the 3km rule if the crash occurs on the flat run up to that climb. This is obviously a grey area, and the commissaires are the ones who make that call. Here are the exact rules:

[the standard 3km rule]
2.6.027 In the case of a duly noted fall, puncture or mechanical incident in the last three kilometers of a road race stage, the rider or riders involved shall be credited with the time of the rider or riders in whose company they were riding at the moment of the accident. His or their placing shall be deter- mined by the order in which he or they actually cross the finishing line.

If, as the result of a duly noted fall in the last three kilometers, a rider cannot cross the finishing line, he shall be placed last in the stage and credited with the time of the rider or riders in whose company he was riding at the time of the accident.

(text modified on 1.01.05).

[the uphill exception]
Articles 2.6.027 and 2.6.028 [which deals with a TTT rule] shall not apply where the finish is at the top of a hill-climb, except if the incident occurs before the climb. Every discussion regarding the qualifications «at the top of a hill-climb» and «before the climb» will be decided by the commissaires panel.

(text modified on 1.01.05).

Top-5 videos from the Tour (so far)

July 8, 2011

Five moments from the first week worth watching again on video (for as long as the Youtube powers will let us). You’ll notice that a few are about jury decisions, which I talked about in my post yesterday.

Stage 1: no, not that crash

OK, we’ve all been talking about the crash with 8km to go that took Contador down (It’s actually right at the start of this clip. But to me the more significant one happens at exactly 8mins of this video.

There is a crash with 2km to go, there are many favorites in it but in the end they are all given the same time as the group they crashed out of. The 3km rule you say? That rule explicitly does not apply to uphill finishes, and stage 1 was exactly that since there was a point for the polka dot jersey at the top. While it’s true that the climb hadn’t started yet when the crash occurred, there’s nothing about that in the rules and hence not relevant. [turns out I was wrong about this, see the correction here]

The Video starts with Contador crash, the 2km crash is at 7min57.

Stage 3: Thor rounds the final corner

David Millar (@millarmind) tweeted about this: “Thor-inspiring = Blind corner at 600m to go. We’re at limit on inside, Thor barrels round outside and takes over.”

Watch what David means here.

Stage 3: Thor and Cav dance

Much ado about nothing, but 10 points in the green jersey competition gone thanks to the intermediate sprint that saw Thor and Cav getting disqualified for questionable reasons.

  1. Thor “deviates” from his line? The road bends to the left and EVERY rider in the video deviates from his line. Thor moves over about half as much as the two riders in front of him, so they should have been doubly DQ’d? It’s true that the two in front of him don’t have another rider next to them while Thor has Cav there, but I do not believe that makes any difference for the “keep your line” rule.
  2. Cav’s “headbutt”. You may know that I have little patience for headbutts and thought Renshaw’s DQ was justified last year. But this is a lean, not a headbutt. If Cav leans with his shoulder (as he is supposed to do), he leans into air. To lean against Thor’s shoulder (as he clearly had to do to stay upright and out of the barriers), he can only use his head. Next time he’ll have to wear some ginormous shoulder pads.
You can view the Cav-Thor video here.

Stage 4: Feillu drafting off the car

Everybody knows that when a rider comes back through the caravan, he hops from car to car to catch a draft. But having your own team car drop back to pull you all the way back, while you’re giving the driver hand signals to dial in the exact speed, that takes it to another level.

Watch Feillu here.

Stage 5: Motorbike takes bicycle with him

What is there to say, just watch the various crashes of that stage here.

Bonus: Cavendish interview before stage 4

I already wrote about it, but it’s much funnier when you see his expression (plus my transcript was not very good as I did it from memory hours later and missed half the words to begin with due to my bad internet connection.

Watch Cav on Sporza here.

What’s been your most remarkable moment in the Tour so far? Let me know in the comments or via twitter @gerardvroomen.

Top-5 comments on Fake Magnanimity

July 7, 2011

Just today, two posts. The first post today was on what cycling unfortunately seems to be borrowing from soccer. Below is the second post.

Great comments and tweets from you regarding Fake Magnanimity (I used that title because according to the blogging experts you’re not allowed to use “difficult words”. Blog traffic would indicate you are no ordinary blog readers!) Here are the 5 comments that kept coming back:

Comment 1: There is no reason to wait for Contador

My perspective: I fully agree, there isn’t. This is racing.

Comment 2: The stage 1 crash is not comparable to the dropped chain from last year’s Tour.

My perspective: Of course it isn’t, but if we have to wait until Contador drops his chain before we can judge how others respond, we can wait a long time since he is a professional bike rider. My point was not that the situations were similar, but rather that in both situations, team leaders had a choice. And the choices they made were pretty darn similar.

Comment 3: What else can Andy do?

My perspective: This is not about Andy, every team leader in the front group was given an opportunity to make a decision. And they took a legitimate one, just not the one some of them last year claimed they would take.

Comment 4: What are the team leaders supposed to do, drop out of the front group?

My perspective: This underestimates the power some team leaders have. If Andy or Cadel rides at the front and says “We slow down”, the peloton slows down. They weren’t actually going that fast at the time. And if not, at least he can say he tried (that’s the best actually, appear magnanimous and still take the advantage, see Vino in the 2010 Giro Strade Bianche stage). I’ll say it for the third time to avoid confusion, nobody HAS TO do this, they can.

Comment 5: The team leaders were merely riding in the pack after the crash.

My perspective: This sounds a bit hollow if you send your team mates to the front to speed up said pack.

Anyway, just my opinion, I realize you can look at this in many different ways that are totally legit as well. Thanks for all your comments on the blog page and on twitter, I appreciate it. As always, contact me about anything via the comments below or via @gerardvroomen.

Cycling copies Football/Soccer

July 7, 2011

Cycling often looks at soccer with envy. The teams are rich, the federation is rich, doping scandals disappear before they get any traction and 7-figure donations are made from the federation to WADA instead of 5-figure donations from the athlete to the federation. So it’s disappointing that what cycling seems to be copying from football right now is the one thing we all detest: incomprehensible refereeing.

First we saw stage 1 time losses still being adjusted 3 days later. Then there was the Cavendish-Hushovd intermediate sprint, now there is the Rojas-Boonen sprint. Not only the calls themselves raise questions, the timing makes it all even worse. If you have an intermediate sprint at 2pm, can you really not review the tape and make a decision before you have the jersey ceremony at 6pm? How long does a video review take during an (ice) hockey or (American) football game? 30 seconds?

Any fan with a Twitter account and a Youtube connection can make these calls more efficiently (if they were calls to be made to begin with) than is currently happening. That said, if it takes five hours to review a video, we shouldn’t be surprised it takes 12 months to review a doping case.

Another Cav interview masterpiece

July 6, 2011

Watching Sporza last night just to catch the next Cav interview. @Wielerman did not disappoint. I missed some parts due to my very slow internet connection, but it went something like this:

Wielerman: Quite a controversy about the intermediate sprint yesterday

Cav: [Silence]…

Wielerman: Eh, Thor Hushovd said that if anything was wrong he will accept the penalty but it should not be you.

Cav: [Silence] …

Wielerman: No comment?

Cav: Well, you’re not asking a question, are you? You’re making a statement, so there is nothing for me to answer.

Wielerman: [Silence] … OK, so if I ask you a question, would you answer?

That was the comedy part of the exchange. Just on the off-chance you’re also interested in the actual question that got an actual answer, it finally went something like this:

Wielerman: You and Thor were disqualified, describe what happened?

Cav: I don’t know what happened, I really don’t. I would like the commissaires to make a video for me to show what I did wrong and what I should have done instead. I just don’t know, what should I do to keep my line and avoid crashing? I honestly don’t know, I don’t know what I did wrong and I don’t know what I should do differently. I really don’t. Can they please explain it?

In the studio they speculated that it may have been a case of the commissaires “warning” everybody that they would be strict this year. Maybe that was necessary given some of the antics last year, but you’d better pick a REAL issue to use as a warning, not a fake one like this sprint. Because now everybody is talking about how incomprehensible the call was, not about how to sprint in relative safety (if there is such a thing).

Scoreboard journalism (Revenge Mark Cavendish-style)

July 5, 2011
  • Fact: In 2008, Mark Cavendish did not win until stage 5
  • Fact: In 2010, Mark Cavendish did not win until stage 5

Scoreboard journalism means basing your judgement solely on the outcome of a race or game rather than the processes within.

Cavendish doesn’t win the sprint of stage 3, so he’s considered “not in form”. But if you’re going to engage in scoreboard journalism, at least look at the right scoreboard. I would suggest it’s the one I wrote above. Better still, forget the scoreboard, look at the process, and you’ll see that yesterday he came from nowhere to finish 5th. He probably had the fastest final 100m of any rider. So opponents beware.

More bad news for the competition, it seems that Cavendish is already getting fed up with all the arm chair experts. His “interview” with Belgian TV yesterday was rather telling:

Q: “Mark, can you take us through the roles for all your teammates in the lead-out train”

A: “They all ride in one line to the finish full gas”

Q: “But the individual roles, for example what will Eisel do”

A: “Yeah, he is one of them”

Q: “Who are your biggest opponents”

A: “We only look at ourselves” (for comedic effect, it would be perfect had he said “Hushovd is 1 meter 90 I think”)

It was actually really funny, though the commentators couldn’t make much of it. But a fed up Cav also means he needs an outlet for an X-rated victory salute or just to show the critics who’s right. So look out (except if you’re a commissaire, then you may want to look the other way).

How many stages do you think the various sprinters will win, and who will take home the green jersey? LEt me know in the comments section or via twitter @gerardvroomen.

From the legal department: I had no actual journalist in mind while writing any of the above, I love you all. And no sprinters were hurt in the making of this blog.

Fake magnanimity

July 4, 2011

Now, first off, there was no reason not to take advantage of the crash on Saturday. That’s part of racing, everybody knows crashes happen. Staying in the front is part of the job in the first week of the Tour if you want to win the overall.

Yet it is a little surprising that some of the riders who after “Chaingate” claimed they would slow down if their arch rival encountered a calamity couldn’t wait to get their teammates to the front to distance Contador. It’s a lot easier to be generous in theory than in practice.

It fits right into my concept from last year that anybody is willing to be magnanimous when they know it won’t affect the outcome. Win the Tour AND look like a gentleman, that’s the ultimate.But if one of the two has to be sacrificed, it’s exit Gentleman. And why not, it’s not a butlering contest. Just don’t bore us with the “I wouldn’t have done that” crap.

Ultimately this is good news for Contador. First off, it shows he is no worse than other riders for not waiting last year (I should specify “during Chaingate”, as he did wait for Schleck during “Slipperyroadgate” on stage 2, which was also explained through last year’s concept). And secondly, if his opponents were convinced they could beat him in a straight-up fight, they wouldn’t have needed their helpers to put time into him on Saturday. So the team leaders have voted, and they think it will take a calamity to keep Contador from winning this year.

[Thanks to spanielsson for the comment that gave the inspiration for this post]

One day in, predictions out

July 3, 2011

For weeks volumes are written and Gigabytes are filled with analysis on what will happen in the Tour. Now thanks to one douchebag spectator, all that can go in the trash. I love it. So I will repeat what I have said earlier on twitter and in the comments section of this blog: Talk about Contador and Schleck finishing 1-2 (in whatever order) and the rest fighting for 3rd are premature. Those two will NOT finish 1-2.

My prediction last week was not borne out of some incredible insight into relative fitness or ability, but just the odds that something unexpected will happen. Cycling is dangerous, especially in a peloton with 200 fresh riders crashes will happen and they will affect the outcome. For the Amstel Gold Race this year I predicted one of two riders would crash, and I caught a lot of flak for wishing ill on them. But I wish none of the riders any ill, it’s just an inevitable part of the sport. And coincidentally, I was right.

But don’t think just about crashes; mechanicals, fitness, illness, hunger knocks, a lousy hotel the night before the key stage, any of this can affect the outcome.

That’s also the reason why my prediction didn’t include WHO would swoop into the top-2, as that is far too difficult to predict. Evans may seem a likely candidate, especially after yesterday, but there are still 20 days left and his track record when it comes to luck in the Tour isn’t great. So let’s hope for the best.

P.S. My usual Tim Krabbé Zoetemelk clause applies to the above prediction.

Zomegnan for president

June 30, 2011

Yesterday I talked about my lack of enthusiasm for the 2011 Giro. An hour later I read that Zomegnan has been forced out as director of the Giro. It’s not my blog’s fault, really!! In fact, I am very sad to see him go.

Rumor has it that Italian TV broadcaster RAI thought the 2011 race was boring. You may think I agree with that based on yesterday’s blog, but I think RAI has gotten spoiled. The fact is that the Giro has always been hard, both the stages and the transfers in-between. To get an exciting race, you need an imaginative course and a bit of luck.

Zomegnan consistently creates such imaginative courses, and even comes up with great themes (100 years of the Giro, 150 years of Italian unity). I have written about why the Giro rules in the past. It’s actually one of my better pieces, if I may say so myself, so maybe worth a read (see here). Aside from the points mentioned there, just consider these four highlights:

2005: Colle di Finestre. The whole race has been epic, but somehow Savoldelli has managed to create a comfortable lead in the overall. Then Rujano and Simoni take advantage of the gravel of the Finestre, while Savoldelli struggles. Simoni is within 4 seconds of the pink jersey at the top.

On the descent and the final climb Savoldelli manages to hold on and wins the Giro with a 28 second gap. Rujano 3rd at 45 seconds. The footage is absolutely amazing.

2008: Going in to the final Sunday time trial, Contador has just a 4 second advantage in the fight for pink. This Giro was so hard that Contador actually didn’t win a single stage!

2009: Start in Venice, Climb up Vesuvius, climb up Blockhaus, the time trial to Riomaggiore that took the winner more than an hour and a half to finish!! This Giro was epic. And as a bonus, it featured the most spectacular time trial course ever, through the cobbled streets of Rome past the Forum, the Vatican, the Colosseum, and it all ended with that infamous Menchov crash:

Of course, Zomegnan was “lucky” with that crash, but love it or hate it, he did manage to convince Armstrong to come race the Giro which resulted in a massive increase in interest. Has RAI forgotten that?

2010: Start in Amsterdam, Strade Bianche mudfest, 50 riders take 13min on the pink jersey in stage 11, Monte Zoncolan, Plan de Corones, Passo del Mortirolo, Passo di Gavia, finish inside the amphitheatre of Verona. This photo says it all:

It’s easy to look at the 2011 Giro and conclude it wasn’t the most exciting, but nobody scores 100%. As course designers go, Zomegnan and his team have done exceptionally. Maybe the Giro doesn’t need one director who is responsible for everything but please, please, please, keep a journalist like Zomegnan in the role of course designer and race philosopher.

Tour excitement?

June 29, 2011

Is it just me, or is it difficult to get excited about this year’s Tour? I am not totally sure why I feel that way, but maybe it’s just tough to mentally commit to a race for three weeks and possibly not know in the end who has won. I had a similar feeling at the Giro, and although some stages were definitely spectacular and I enjoyed watching them, the fight for pink was just a non-event for me. Partially that may have been caused by Contador’s dominance, but mostly it’s the uncertainty over what decision the CAS will take in the end.

In fact, a half-doping case like we have now in cycling may be much more damaging than a full-blown case. At least when a rider is awaiting a first decision or serving his sentence, he is out of the spotlight. Even if he gets some attention, the sport can point at him and say “look, he cheated, we caught him, have dealt with him and we’re serious about it”. It’s a chance to highlight the fight against doping. In the current case, the embarrassment is multiplied and the response has to be very meek, all about respecting the process and nothing about anti-doping measures. They can’t even say the “process is working”.

Maybe once the race gets underway, I’ll get sucked in anyway. Are you excited about this Tour? Let me know in the comments section or on twitter @gerardvroomen