Monday, September 1, 2008

So much happening in cycling this week...

Tour of Ireland

Even though it is not a very publicised bike race, I needed to start with the Tour of Ireland. Or should I say with Mark Cavendish. The Manx sprinter took the first three stages in what looked like fairly easy gallops. Then his team, Team Columbia finishes off with a win in the final stage and the overall classification.

Unstoppable with 100 m to go

Vuelta de Espana

That is one of the races I would love to watch one day. That's because I always think of it as a climber's race. The 2008 edition is just that, not just a climber's race but an event for the feather-light and skillful Spanish climbers.

There are a few flat stages where I am hoping to see JJ Haedo get a win, or two, and a 17 km hill climb ITT (Stage 20).That will tell who is still strong up hill after more than 3,000 km of racing... Madness, really.

Then, we have the massive 209 km Stage 13. The queen of all stages, Alto de l'Angliru. Our friend Aaron would describe it as "Awesome!". The graph below tells more.

So far, we've seen Liquigas taking the TTT, Valverde showing how he's going to win the World Championship and Boonen beating Bennatti and Erik "Nearly there" Zabel to the line, in Stage 3. Lots more to come!!!

US National Championship

And the winner is... Tyler Hamilton!

Tyler wins by 0.002 seconds

Good on him, some might say but I can't stop thinking that he is a guy who cheated for who knows how long, got caught, did his time and is now a National Champion. I wonder what sort of message gets sent across to all the kids out there.

What I know is that people will keep taking drugs if all they might get is a 2 year ban... if they get caught!

HPRW 100 Years Celebration Handicap Race

Rostered to do my sign on duties for the club, I made my way to Laydley with Adam and Stephen. Just in case I had time for a few km, and to help with the celebrations, I took my bike and race wheels with me. Ha!

Around 60 people showed up for the 100 (+8) km Handicap Race and at about 11:15 am the groups started to roll off. I had plenty of time before our start so I had a quick chat to the First Aid Officer and had my shoulder strapped and taped to avoid any pain or any more damage. He did a great job, except for covering large areas of my chest, which I don't shave...

There were eight riders of slightly different abilities in our group, the chopping block group. No need to say, the pace was on from the gun. As we reached the 2 km mark my HR was already hitting 85% of a 193 max. Not a very good thing and a sign that it was going to be a hard, hard race.

It didn't take to long and at km 10 or 12 the road started to point slightly upwards. Yes, slightly but enough to get me to the back and off the back in no time... Scary time, I was blowing up!!!!

I tried to calm down and paced myself up the hill (2+km) trying to keep the group in sight, hoping to put a big effort on the downhill and catch them before the first turn around. With the help from a bit of traffic on the road, I did just that and got to the group with enough energy left to pull a turn or two leading to the turn around point.

All good until then but as we got to the bottom of the climb, on the way back now, I realised that I just didn't have the legs. It wasn't going to be my day. With another 65-70 km to go, I decided to sit up, have a rest and wait for the "scratch" group.

Good idea, once I got picked up by the group of 4, things got a little easier but also much faster. Those guys were flying... We picked a few more and soon there were seven of us.

Of the four of us taking turns, I was doing no more than 15% of the work. Although, I was feeling good, I didn't want to blow up again, specially with the climb getting closer. At this stage, we could see lots of small groups ahead and as we hammered up the hill (and I mean: Hammered!) we dropped 3 from our group and passed everyone else in the race but one rider.

I felt good and surprised myself by getting over the hill with that selected group of riders.

On the downhill again, someone else joined us as we watched the last rider in front come pass on the other side of the road... He was wearing a yellow kit but looked like a carrot to us. Came the climb again and I found myself at the front, good as everyone says it is the best place to be.

HR at 169 bpm, I needed to back off. Someone slowed down in front of me and asked me something. "What?", trying to go around him. Real bad time, the 3 riders at the front pushed up to the top dropping us in the process. Two or three seconds, that's all it took to loose those wheels... Believe me!

I went over the hill by myself. S..t, ITT once again. That's when my mind started to play games. I wasn't sure if I had to do another 15 or 25 km. It just didn't add up and I started to get frustrated. Luckily I saw someone ahead and got focused again.

The rider had cramps and had literally stopped to do some stretching on the side of the road. Together we set off in survival mode, until we sited another rider... All right, three to go!!!

I didn't think so, the riders ahead were the strongest without a doubt and deserved their place on the podium for the work they had put in. I was totally happy with that. Now, for the minor places, it was suggested we just roll pass the finish line and share the cash. Civilised decision after 100+ km of shared pain, I thought!

We crossed the line together but the club officials decided to give me the 6th place, maybe by 0.002 sec.

The shoulder? It didn't trouble me much... Now, to peel off all that tape...

Check the course out here.

Check the results here.

Riis says goodbye to Cervelo

I wouldn't be telling the truth if I said the CSC-Cervelo five year partnership didn't have some kind of influence on my choice of bike 2 years ago. Hey, that's what advertising is all about. Now, they are breaking up. CSC finished its contract with Riis Cycling and Cervelo has set up a continental team in Europe.

To me, it is going to be strange to see Carlos Sastre or Andy Schleck riding anything else than the R3 (SL now). In fact, we don't even know if Sastre is staying with Riis or not but we now know the best team in the world will be riding Specialised bikes. Interesting!

I wouldn't mind one...

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