Tuesday, July 29, 2008

1,000 visitors

Yesterday, I reached a little high point as AMRcycling was accessed by the 1,000th unique visitor (no prizes as I can't find out who it was, sorry).

It has taken almost five months and in this time the Blog was visited more than 2,800 times which shows that a few of you are coming back for more....

This is really cool and I would like to thank everyone for coming along and being part of this project. Please feel free to leave your comments as I am always looking for ways to make it a little more informative, bit by bit.

Cheers and keep cycling!


Monday, July 28, 2008

2008 Tour de France / 2008 Grafton to Inverell

Paris, cycling capital of the world

The Tour de France ended this morning (Australian time) with the usual show down in the streets of the Champs Elysees. It was the end of the biggest sporting event in the world.

Isn't what the Tour de France is? Some do believe that and I am starting to believe it is, at least, the most dramatic, tough, exciting and vibrant sporting event on Earth. Not just for the riders and their phenomenal performances, their entourage and the caravan of cheerful sponsors, but for the million of spectators as well. They follow the event all over the place, often on bikes themselves, bringing a colourful attitude and fervour to the stunning landscapes of France.

As a youngster, and for years, I competed in surfing events and I dreamed of entering some of the major events in the international circuit. Those events took place on mind-blowing locations around the globe and often, but not always, in perfect and challenging surf conditions. I never fully reached that level and only surfed local comps and a couple of international qualifying events. At the time, my desires were based on the information I acquired from films, documentaries, magazines and stories told by friends who made it to the next level.

Like then, my opinion on cycling events like the Tour is mostly based on what I see on TV, documentaries, magazines and friends tales again. It is also definite that I won't be racing any event of that level in this life time but I will, with a little luck, witness one first hand in the near future. Yet again, comparing both environments for what they are now, it is clear to me that cycling events of that magnitude are the most dramatic, vivid and most celebrated annual affair on the planet.

I can't wait for next year!

2008 Grafton to Inverell

"The toughest one day race in Australia"

A bit late it might seem but my preparations to this event is underway. I have put together what others call a "crash training" program to bring me to the level needed, not just to finish the race but to get a top 10 result, comes September.

It is a 225 km race, in what many describe as very open to the elements region where conditions can vary from windless hot days to hours of cold and gusty cross wind on the open roads. What ever the conditions will be, to me the hardest part will be the 225 km ride itself. Not because I am yet to race that distance but because I haven't yet ridden that amount of kilometres before in a single ride...

So, in the next few weeks I will be building up slowly to a level in which I can do that amount of kms in racing mode.

The first training ride was on Sunday. It was basically a test to see how my body would cope with a long ride, after the time off the bike and sickness. I like to do these rides to test the food and liquid intake as well. I met Mark, a friend of ours and keen cyclist, around midday and started the ride by going over Samford Range and heading towards Dayboro. From the small village we climbed to Mt Mee, took the Campbells Pocket's turn off and descended to Wamuran, taking the Daguillar Hwy for our return home(Brisbane's north side) via Caboolture and Narangba.

Start of the climb to Mt Mee

It was a fantastic ride topped with beautiful weather and great views all the way. Mark, as always, was an ideal buddy for the ride as we were able to match our efforts and have a steady solid ride.

View from Campbells Pocket

We rode the 138 km loop in 4 h 50 min, climbing around 1,000 m. I felt good for most of the ride, did a bit of tempo work on the descent to Caboolture, but did start to run out of legs at the 110 km mark. Possibly caused by a low food intake during the ride and something to start payng more atention as it can ruin a ride, or race.


The numbers:

Dist: 138 km;
Time: 4'50"
AvSp: 28.5 km/h
MxSp: 72.6 km/k
AvHR: 147 bpm
MxHR: 170 bpm

Fluid intake: 2 x 750 ml EFS sport drink; 1 coke; 750 ml of water
Food intake: 1 x EFS bar; 1 x energy gel; 1 small veg. pizza

I didn't ride today as I was too tired after watching the last day of the tour and going to work at 5 am. I had a sleep in the afternoon and got on the trainer for one hour (watching CSC movie "Overcoming") for an easy spin of the legs.

Probably the same for tomorrow!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Tour de France - Stage 20, Cérilly - Saint Amand to Montrond (ITT), 53km

What a night that was... I didn't think staying awake until the early hours of the morning, watching an ITT was somehow possible. I also didn't know I could get so excited, and somehow so nervous, prior to the start of a bike race. And one that I wasn't even part of.

I must have sent 30 or 40 text messages in the hour preceding the live telecast, including to JF who was sitting in the media room at the finish line in Montrond (what a job! And by the way John, I found the camera bag I borrowed for the World Championship last year, sorry!).
Surprisingly, I got a heap of replies. Even had a couple of modern-time conversations (SMS texting). As most of the texts were within the Australian borders, they all came with a hopeful tone for a Cadel Evans showdown on the ITT and a virtual Aussie win on the Tour de France.

Well, we all know the end of the story by now so I am not going to elaborate on the hours that followed for now and we will go to bed for another hour or so, instead. I am planning to go for a long ride today. The only thing I will jot down is a message from Australia to the amazing Carlos Sastre:

Bloody Well Done, Mate!
(And that's what Cadel would say)

Carlos Sastre salutes as he (virtually) wins the 2008 Tour de France

Saturday, July 26, 2008

TdF Stages 18 & 19 / Back at Nundah

Let me start with the Tour de France this time. We watched two stages highlighted by breakaways and two riders sprinting for the finish in both. That was predictable, by all the Tour experts anyway, but I had hopes that Team CSC-Saxon Bank would come out and do the unpredictable, at least in one of the stages.

That would be getting out there and hammering with all their guns (once again) to try to get a few more seconds for Carlos Sastre and Frank Schleck. Small chances of succeeding, I realise that, but wouldn't tactics of this kind hurt the legs of the "TT specialists" a little?

Perhaps not, but letting Menchov and Cadel have a couple of easy rides before the 53 km ITT on Saturday won't help. Or, have they given up on a Tour win? I hope not because I got addicted to the excitement and hope to see good racing all the way to the finish line in Paris.

Cadel still looks stressed after the easy 165 km ride to Montluçon

Well looked after by his team, Menchov saved his legs for the ITT
Stage 18 - Bourg d'Oisans to Saint Étienne, 196.5km

A great 5 km cat and mouse spectacle by Marcus Burghardt (Team Columbia) and Carlos (another one) Barredo, who was looking for a first 2008 Tour win for QuickStep, highlighted the stage. At some point, I thought those guys were going to do a track-stand. That's how exciting it was!!! Another thing worth mentioning, it was the 5th win for Team Columbia -High Road in this Tour, what a success story that is!!!!

Marcus gets the win, Barredo the trophy for the biggest tantrum of the Tour

Stage Result:

1. Marcus Burghardt (Ger)

2. Carlos Barredo (Spa)

3. Who cares...

Stage 19 - Roanne - Montluçon, 165.5km

This one was a little more exciting for the first 70 km or so... There were a handful of attacks and breakaway attempts. I even spotted Jens Voigt coming to the front trying to organise some kind of move but it seemed like nobody could understand him. It looked so messy that the two riders 200 m ahead decided to make it their day. They were Frenchmen Sylvain Chavanel and Jeremy Roy (never heard of him).

I am glad they made it! A great win for Chavanel, his first Tour victory in 5 or 6 attempts.

The faces of pain as they fight for the last meters of a 120 km breakaway

Great sprint for third

Stage Result:

1. Sylvain Chavanel (Fra)

2. Jeremy Roy (Fra)

3. Gerald Ciolek (Ger)

4. Erik Zabel (Ger) - I had to mention this man, his a legend!!!

Racing at Nundah again - Nundah Criterium

Luckily, stage 19 of the Tour got a little boring last night. Around 11 pm I headed to bed hoping to get a 7 1/2 h sleep before getting up to do my race at Nundah, first race in three weeks. I think I got about 6 hours...

Had a nice warm up on the way there, met the usual familiar faces, pinned the number and went for a couple of laps on the track to relax a bit. HPRH club races are always pleasant, not just because of the regulars, who are a friendly bunch but because everyone that comes along gets also into that mood creating a friendly race atmosphere. It was great been there!

The line-up for A Grade was "friendly" but it looked very competitive this morning. There were 5 or 6 Elite A team riders, a few Elite B, 3 0r 4 Masters A riders, a total of 15, I think. Attacks in the 60 min + 2 x 1.2 km laps, started from the gun. "Great (!?!), I haven't been training, I have been sick and I came here to have fun."

And fun I had. I did race differently this morning, I conserved, I pulled a few turns, I conserved, I chased a couple of riders, I chose wheels, I bridged across a break of six and stayed there for the rest of the race.

It wasn't easy but I kept myself out of the red. I positioned myself well on the bell lap, moved up to a good wheel. One guy got away early and stayed away. A group of six winded up on the straight for second. I had a gear too big for the head wind and couldn't stay on the wheel of the runner up = 5th! But s#%t I had fun!!!

Time: 1:03;

Dist: 43 km;

AvSp: 42 km/h;

MxSp: 55.5 km/h;

AvHr: 155 bpm;

MxHr: 170 bpm.

After that, it was coffee time with friends, home for an afternoon with Sandra and preparation for the TdF Time Trial on TV.

Can't say who I am going for!

Le Tour Toujours!!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cycling in Rio de Janeiro / Tour de France - Embrun to L'Alpe d'Huez

It rains non stop out there and it is very cold. One will need to be really, really determined or get paid a few hundred Euros to get out in this weather to train. As a young surfer in the 70-80s, I would check the surf in any weather and if there was a slight sign of a swell and the wind came from any direction but direct from the sea (onshore wind), I would be out there, for hours... And often, I would do the surf-check on a bicycle. I also remember riding the bike, with a surfboard under my arm, battling the wind to get to the best surf spot of the day, normally a couple of kms north or south along a coastal road.

I guess everything has changed now. To start, this is a colder winter than the one I experienced in my years as a youngster. Then, if it was raining, it didn't really matter as I was going to get wet in the surf anyway and in winter the water was usually warmer than the air, so being in the ocean was actually nice. Riding a bicycle in the rain isn't the same anymore. I guess, as one gets older, environmental factors play a greater factor when deciding to leave the warmth of the house for any reason.

Before those days still, and that has nothing to do with the weather now or then, I remember riding my bike to school. I was 14 or 15 and living in the centre of one of the busiest suburbs in Rio, Copacabana. It was a 10 or 12 km ride to the suburb of Botafogo which I did on my race converted, steel frame, single-speed Caloi bicycle. It was the best part of my school experience at the time. I had to ride on the road as there were too many pedestrians, ice cream and hotdog vendors, newspaper and magazine stalls and cars, on the footpath.

Yes, cars. As the parking areas were completely full, drivers often parked their cars in any space they could fit their cars. Many times with the assistance of a "street valet", who would ask for a small amount of cash for their services of directing drivers to a parking spot. These guys would always insist that the drivers didn't apply the hand-break so he could move the car back and forth and fit another one if needed.

Riding on the road was very exciting as the streets were always packed with private cars, taxis and buses. And for some reason, everyone seemed to be in some kind of hurry and drove as if they were getting points for getting to the next red light. A bit like some drivers in Brisbane nowadays , except that Brazilian drivers always found small gaps that enticed them to move across two or three lanes to gain two or three meters on their fellow "racers". Interesting when those maneuvers were performed by bus drivers...

So, to me, the only way to claim a little piece of the road for my commute to school or any other destination, was to travel at the same speed, or faster, and as offensive as possible to stay out of trouble. Hence, a tactical way of zig-zagging from lane to lane and in between cars was cultivated many years ago. Sure, there were a couple of close calls (it happens when one is racing a VW taxi and a bus comes out of the bus lane and cuts you off...) but I don't remember been abused or sworn at even once while on the bike. I guess drivers were a little more tolerant those days as there weren't many cyclist on the busy streets. In fact, I rarely met anyone riding a bicycle on the streets of Copacabana.

Perhaps, that's where my competitive character comes about when on a bicycle, being in a race or even more, being in the traffic.

Tour de France: Stage 17, Embrum to L'Alpe d'Huez, 210.5 km

What else can I write but how magnificent the work of Team CSC-Saxon Bank was? It was a show of selfless performances by all riders with only one goal in mind: a win for the Team.

I loved Sastre's attack and win and was hoping for Andy in the sprint for second. I don't think Andy Schleck had any other task but to work for his brother, Frank, and for Carlos Sastre. That was his job. So were the jobs of O'Grady, Cancellara, Arvensen, Voigt, Gustov and Sorensen. And everyone in that team deserved their pay for the day... They not just delivered a Stage win on L'Alpe d'Huez, which in itself is something not less than historical but they put Carlos Sastre in yellow and 1'34" ahead of Cadel Evans, the 2008 Tour favourite and possibly strongest GC rider.

If that is enough for a win in Paris, and everyone is saying "No", I don't know but I think Scott Sutherland (team manager)knows better than most about such mathematical circumstances and would have a few more cards to play.

That will make Stage 18 a very exciting one as "The Team" will be again firing all guns to gain a few more seconds on the Australian, and lets not forget the Russian Menchov, a strong man in any discipline.

For now:

Viva Sastre!!!

Stage Result:

1. Carlos Sastre (Spa)

2. Samuel Sanches (Spa)

3. Andy Schleck (Lux)

Ride of the day: Peter Velits

Rider having most fun on the day: Andy Schleck

Rider of the day: Carlos Sastre (by more than 2 min)

Domestique of the day: Stuart O'Grady

Best Team: Carlo's Team

Not so pleasant, I reckon.

Before I publish this post, I need to mention two points that came to my attention and keep bothering me as I follow commentaries and read articles on the Tour. The first one came about as I read a couple of interviews with Lance Armstrong who gave his opinion on the favourite riders and best teams for this year. Not once he mention the CSC-Saxon Bank Team and failed to highlight any of its riders. What is about this guy, is he still that focused that he can't acknowledge that a team better than his old one exists?

The second one comes from some of the Australian media which keeps using the term "bullying" when describing Team CSC-Saxon Bank's race tactics in the 2008 TdF. The follow is an extract from Wikipedia:

"Bullying is the act of intentionally causing harm to others, through verbal harassment, physical assault, or other more subtle methods of coercion such as manipulation. Bullying can be defined in many different ways. Although the UK currently has no legal definition of bullying, [2] some US states have laws against it. Bullying is usually done to coerce others by fear or threat. [3]"

Surely a lighter and/or less detrimental term can be applied to describe the attacking and marking tactics used by Suart O'Grady's strong team. Certain journalist has even used the term thuggery to describe how they dealt with Tour favourite, Cadel Evans.

I have lost races when riders got together to cover my attacks, chased me down, etc. Yes, it really pissed me off as I thought they were ganging up on me, but it never came to my mind they were acts of thuggery.

Having said that, that was never in the Tour de France...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

TdF Stage 16 - Cuneo to Jausiers, 157km

That was an incredible race. All aspects of it! I must say that what impressed me the most was the moon like landscape of the Cime de la Bonnett-Restefond. It was amazing but I, an excitable weekend warrior, can only imagine riding in the oxygen depleted atmosphere surrounding the mountain which reached 2,800 m in altitude.

The amazing La Bonnett

The rides, from the lone 110 km effort of Schummaker to the final sprint by Frenchman Cyril Dessel, were all unimaginable to any of us who haven't experienced something as hard as those climbs, the speed of those bunches as they start going upwards and the environmental conditions that come with it. I believe they are "cape less" superman type of guys.

Well deserved French victory

And on the subject of bikes, as much as I feel sorry for the 21 years old South African champion, John-Lee Augustyn provided a great amount of entertainment as he lost control of his machine, hit the man-made embankment and flicked himself over and down the rock covered terrain. He was lucky. Still, he would not have made his way back up if it wasn't by the assistance of some guy watching the race. I can't say the same for his bike which kept sliding down and out of sight. Spectacular!!!

Augustyn on his way up to a 5,000 Euros bonus

OK, this is what I witnessed (reduced to point form due to my limited amount of time to write while at work today) from my semi-comfortable position in front of the TV, while sipping a hot lemon & honey drink (not a glass of red as some that know me would expect but I am trying to shake off this week long cold and sore throat)-: XXXX

Stage 16 - Cuneo to Jausiers, 157km

Ride of the day: John-Lee Augustyn

Crash of the day: John-Lee Augustyn

Rider of the day: Andy Schleck

Domestique of the day: Andy Schleck

Best Team: Frank's Team

Stage result:

1. Cyril Dessel(Fra)

2. Sandy Casar (Fra)

3. David Arroyo Duran (Spa)

How would you like those two fetching you water bottles as you climb?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Tour de France - Stage 15 / Simon and my Cat

It has been a pretty ordinary weekend after a pretty ordinary week. I am, again, talking about my Training and Racing which I don't know at the moment where is going... Sickness strikes again, this time keeping me in the house for days. That meant watching one more stage of the Tour de France. Terrible!!!!
Stage 15 - Embrun - Prato Nervoso, 183km
That was the most eventful race I can remember watching, for a long time. People that unlike me, have been in the sport for a long time always talk about the old days when bike racing was about attacking, dramas, tears, crashes, adverse weather and strong men on bikes. Well, that is exactly what I witnessed last night on the race to the Prato Nervoso summit. And more...
The action, as in most of the previous stages, started with a break away group that included Australian Simon Gerrans, a rider that has been quoted a few times as a stage winner in the Tour. And guess what...
But before that took place, a series of events made Stage 15 one of the most exciting so far for the 2008 French event ( surprisingly, there wasn't a Frenchman on the break away). There was rain, there was sunshine, there was insane riding through feed stations, there were capes getting caught around hubs and derailleurs, there were amazing views of mountains and cliffs, there was Italy, there was a kaleidoscopic crash as the riders negotiated one huge roundabout, there was the 2744 m Col Agnel to be conquered, there was Pereiro's attempt to get a short cut which ended his Tour aspirations (if he had any...) and there was the final 11.4 km climb.
That's when Team CSC-Saxon came into the action, in fact a bit before that again when the lead out guys (Fabian, Stuart, Jens, Kurt-Asle, Andy and Nicki) were told to go to the front and hurt everybody else left in the race. So, they did and when Voigt followed by Andy Schleck started their bit on the first kms of the limb there was an explosion which spat big name riders all over the place!
Then, there were Sastre's attacks, Menchov's chase and crash, Valverde's attack, Kreuziger's attack, Kohl's chase, Gonzale's attack and Frank's chase and attack. I could keep going here but I think I need to watch that pyrotechnical display of men on bikes going up this climb again, before writing anything else.
No, I didn't forget Cadel Evans or Vande Velde. They were fantastic. The first one was covering attacks from right, left and center, not just by the CSC trio as most cry, but by everyone in the bunch of 8 or 9 super cyclists. Vande Velde? Just for been part of that elite group. Awesome display of talent and determination.
It just kept happening. At the end, pure team tactics by CSC or not, Frank Schleck proved to be stronger than most on the climb again by dropping Cadel at the right time to snatch the Yellow Jersey by more than 1 sec, seven in fact. And I must mention Carlo's efforts also. He attacked, chased, sat and then launched a stylish and opportunistic ride-away to the finish.
The one who impressed the most was Andy Schleck. He did an enormous amount of work before and on the climb where he blew up, he came back to help Sastre and Frank, he sat, he attacked, he drove again, he blew up and sat and finally finished on Cadel's wheel. What does that tell about this youngster from Luxembourg?

Andy and Frank Schleck did a lot of damage

Hey, I can't forget the group of 4 riders fighting their own battle for the stage win less than 5 min up the same climb. By the way, it seems that the Yellow Jersey group gained more than 5 min on that front group as they fought each other up the mountain. But the winner came from the 4 riders who took the plunge and raced the whole afternoon ahead of the peloton. Brilliant!!! And the winner was the young and 4 times tour rider, Australian champion Simon Gerrans. What a fantastic result for someone that works really hard and has the reputation of being one of the nicest guys in the Pro bunch. Congratulations, Mr Gerrans!!!

Simon Gerrans smiles big time

Simon's future smile


I always had an enormous respect for Cadel Evans as a cyclist, I know his story and watched him race in the 2007 World Championship (even said "Good Day!" to him). I don't have to say more as we can just look at the jersey his wearing in this photograph. I have also watched a few interviews and thought of him as a nice guy. Now, I see what shirt he is wearing under the jersey and my respect for the man grows bigger.


Well done and Good Luck, Cadel!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Charles Coin Race / Tour de France

It is funny, and a little frustrating, how things can turn around and all the plans and wants have to be thrown away. I am not talking about the Tour de France and/or any of my heroes racing the biggest cycling event in the world. I am talking about myself racing "my race", in this case the very anticipated Charles Coin Memorial.
Charles Coin Memorial
I first raced this event as a Masters B, in 2006. I have good memories of that year's race as I was finally getting comfortable in the large fields and was starting to reach a really good form. Also in that race was the late Jon Brooks, a good man above all but a great guy to race with. I certainly learned a fair bit just racing with Jon.
In that particular race, we attacked the bunch a few times together. We helped each other not getting spat at the back a couple of times as well and we flew around the last corner together. I remember been on his wheel with a few hundred meters to the line and following him through these little gaps. A great lead out. With about 300 m, I went around Jon and tried to drag him with me but he started to slow down and with 100 m I went. I managed to put my head in front but just for a couple of seconds as I then felt this sudden drop of speed as someone had held my seat. Freaky!
I got fourth and later found out that it was a light touch of wheels that cost me the race and caused that freak feeling you have when you about to crash. That's history and today was a little different.
As I mentioned before, this is an event I have been looking forward to race and even though I have been sick, I still "sort of" had hopes that I was going to wake up on Sunday feeling better. And got all prepared for it.
I started the preparation with the bike. I had finished gluing the new Conti tubular to my rear wheel (and what a process that was!!) during the week and had a new D-A bottom bracket fitted as for a while now, I had the feeling that there was something very wrong with drivetrain. Glad Mark did that for me, the bearings were totally shot, perhaps in need of replacement months ago.

The old BB might have been like that for a while...

I had an early dinner with Sandra and friends at an Italian place not far from home. I had a good plate of pasta (plus Sandra's for some extra carbo) and didn't even have a glass wine... Being a BYO restaurant, I took a bidon with E.F.S drink in it. Strange, I know but I was thinking of the next day.
We got home early and I started to pack for next morning. I also ask Sandra to kick me out of the tv room as the Tour telecast was about to start.

Racing wheels and new BB fitted

Race fuel & drink, chamois cream, etc

Bidons and gear bag (my cat and Trouble)

Ok, time to write down what is in that bag (my good luck racing bag. Just kidding!). Now, be aware, I always travel heavy!

1. racing shoes

2. racing helmet

3. 2XU bib shorts

4. club jersey

5. knee warmers

6. arm warmers x2 pairs

7. gloves x2 pairs

8. socks x2 pairs

9. small towel

10. sunny case

11. under shirt

12. gillet

I said I travel heavy. Well, I still put the spare wheels, track pump, sometimes the wind trainer in the car and often I take my training shoes and another jersey in case the weather person is forecasting a bit of rain in the area...

In bed just after 10 pm (had to force myself not to watch Stage 14) and asleep soon after.

6:40 am, I woke up and in no time realised that I was still sick, and feeling worst. How could that happen to me? It is the Charles Coin Memorial, lots of friends will be there, the course suits me, I even got a day off work just to race, I am packed... Well, it is the Charles Coin Memorial and Masters A will be racing 104 km and there is a chance they will put us together with Elite B, meaning it is going to be a very hard race. I might not be a healthy thing to do when feeling this sick...

A couple of phone calls later and I was back in bed for the rest of the morning.

My cat, no name

Tour de France - Stage 14, mes - Digne les Bains, 194.5km

Well, for some reason, I missed that one (above) and had to get on CyclingNews.com for a full report (even if I watch the stage live I still read CyclingNews reports).

Great to see the Green Jersey winning a stage.

Alps tonight. Can Cadel hold on to that jersey? I think not...

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Tour de France - Stage 13

Stage 13 : Narbonne - Nîmes, 182km

Cavendish strikes again - win number 4!!!!

1 Mark Cavendish (GBr) Team Columbia - 4.25.42 (41.10 km/h)

2 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Silence - Lotto

3 Romain Feillu (Fra) Agritubel


Friday, July 18, 2008

Tour de France, the bad and the good (we hope)

The bad of the Tour de France - act #3

As I sit at home feeling sick (I've got another cold) the TV presenter announces another dope scandal in the Tour. As if I needed to hear it again, I still pay attention and hope she is talking about Ricco's case and not another one.
We have just witnessed another dope scandal in this years Tour. The question is: how many more to come before Paris? I am now, afraid of supporting any rider or team in the competition. Although everyone keeps telling me that the Australians are the cleanest with Cadel leading the bunch as Mr Good Man, I can't stop imagining how many tears would roll if he gets his A sample mixed up with someone else's and is asked to answer a few questions by the French cops...
It isn't, really, something to brag about but when it does happen to one of my favourites, and a climber again, it makes me feel silly!!! Well, imagine how the Italian and international, media as a matter of fact, must be feeling right now. Worse!
So, Ricardo is gone and he looked very brave. With him, the whole Saunier Duval squad stops cycling until further notice. Just like that:

Scene One: Stage 12 sign-in area, Lavelanet

AFLD Official: - Who farted?
S.D. cyclist #171: - I did!

Scene Two: Streets of Lavelanet.

S.D. cyclist #179: - Did you fart too?
S.D. cyclist #173: - Yeah!
S.D. cyclist #174: - Bullshit!?!?
S.D. cyclist #173: - No, french cheese.
S.D. cyclist #172: - Lets get the f#%k out of here!

Bernard Hinault: - Merde! Cut!!!!

The good of the Tour de France (we hope)

Stage 11 - Lannemezan to Foix (167.5 km)

We witnessed another Norwegian warrior, and national champion Kurt A Arvesen, battle for the stage. Attacking the breakaway bunch of 13, after 131 kms was something that team mate Jens Voigt would recommend. So, he did it! Then, he kept attacking again and again, dragging Ballan and Elmiger to the line to take the money by 1 or 2 inches. Brilliant!

Arvesen wins, CSC style

Stage 12 - Lavelanet to Narbonne (168.5 km)
As I was feeling fairly sick all day I decided not to watch the stage and go to bed at 9 pm, hoping to get up at 4 am to go to work. Sandra followed me soon after and in minutes we were asleep. At 12:10 am, I woke up with a bad case of sore throat and blocked airway. No, it wasn't my internal TdF alarm clock if you are wondering... I got up anyway and run to the tv room looking for the box of tissues although I had one next to the bed. Ah well, might as well turn check what is happening in France:
38.7 kms to go of the flat stage. Three riders in front with the peloton, at 1'05", chasing at speeds of 45 miles an hour, according to the commentator. Don't believe everything they say, I thought. Anyway, they were flying and the guys in front didn't want to give up...
Again, and like in most of the stages this year, there was a Frenchman doing everything he could to get a stage win for France (Samuel Dumoulin succeeded on stage 3). But not this time as CSC took control of the front and turned up the gas, followed by Team Columbia/High Road with Hansen, Kirchen and Hincapie at the front.
It turned out to be a little too early and in the final 5 km other teams got to the front with their sprinters. At one point, Team Milram took control with Brett Lancaster smashing himself for the team and Zabel. Great to see!
With 1 km, or less, Cavendish loses his leadout man and starts to push his way in to grab a wheel. He finds Gert Steegmans's, I think. Another few seconds, I am talking seconds and metres here, they are at the 300 m mark and Cavendish sees Renshaw and Hushovd on the right. It looks so messy. He goes like a mad kid and crosses the line in front of the Tour de France peloton for the third time. Inspiring!

Yes, like McEwen but with Petacchi's top speed

Just by watching those finishes, I am start to wonder if I should change my training and start concentrate on sprint finishes for the next summer season (criterium season for us). That's how most of those races end anyway. A big messy sprint.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Tour de France - Stages 9 & 10 / Charles Coin Memorial

Tour de France

McEwen x Cavandish, Giro 2008

I am glad they have a rest day, not that I went to bed at 8 pm last night. Somehow, I stayed up late, eyes glued to the box and hoping they showed something tour. How disappointed I was...

Anyway, "they" need a rest after the Pyrenees. I just sit here, trying, unsuccessfully, to "borrow" a couple of pictures to illustrate Ricardo Ricco's great performance and superior ability to go up the mountains on Stage 9. Also, to descend like "The Falco" and time trial to the line at Bagnères de Bigorre for his second Tour Stage win. That was huge!!! Sure, there wasn't much of a chase as Team CSC (Ha!)wasn't interested on catching the youngster.

The stars: Ricco, Ricco, Ricco and The Cobra.

Then, comes Stage 10. Great race again, a break away and a solo attack on the Tourmalet by "even younger" and now 5,000 euros richer Remy Di Gregorio. Don't forget Cancellara, a 80 kg timetrialist going up the mountain like a 65 kg climber (I do think he was told to wait and help Jens "the animal" Voigt).

Voigt and Cancellara get together and smash it. Di Gregorio turns right and attacks in one of the toughest climbs in Europe getting caught shortly after by a very "light" groupetto. At this stage, Valverde and Cunego were miles back. Voigt keeps going like a wild boar launching Frank Schleck up the mountain with the Saunier Duval duo on his wheel. He is now against Piepoli and Cobo on a 8 km climb... He did well not to blow up completely, I reckon, choosing to go for the Yellow Jersey and not the stage.

Further back, Cadel is loosing time but plays cool and gets Menchov to work with him. Clever in the short term, he wears the yellow by 1 second and for the first time in his life. It brings tears to his eyes... In the long term, I am not sure. To defend that jersey now will take a huge effort, at least until the penultimate day on the 59 km ITT where he can shine.

The question: is he going to get a yellow Ridley too?

The stars on that stage: Vande Velde, Di Gregorio, Saunier Duval climbers and Frank Schleck.

I hope Cadel Evans can win a stage, it would be good for his morale and he would be seeing as a true winner by his peer, not just as a rider sitting in and counting the seconds.

And, lets not forget McEwen. The guy is about to throw a tantrum at any time. If he doesn't win in Paris we will see that Ridley flying over the barriers. That brings me to USA/UK hero and good boy now, David Millar. Is he still in the race?

Bring back the Time Bonus!
The Charles Coin Memorial
That's my next race. No, I am not prepared for it so I don't expect anything great in terms of results. I will use the 104 km event as a hard training ride and work my guts out to help a mate. Having said that, I might surprise myself with my fresh legs and do a crazy attack and stay away. The good thing, I have been looking forward to this race and now it is just days away.
Charles Coin Memorial

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