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Race organizers of the Tour of Gila have certainly had an up and down ride this winter and spring. The popular New Mexico stage race was in danger of folding up shop when sponsorship woes raised their ugly head. At the last minute component manufacturer SRAM stepped in and saved the day. Then only a few weeks before yesterday's first stage, rumours started circulating that Lance Armstrong and his Team Astana might be on the start list.

 

There are a lot of interesting tidbits surrounding Team Astana's participation at Gila. First off, the team rides SRAM components on their Trek bikes. Having your marquis riders show up at an event you are sponsoring is always a good thing. Secondly, both Armstrong and Horner are recovering from broken collarbones, Lance at the Vuelta Castilla y Leon and Horner from the Vuelta Pays Basque a few weeks later. These two guys definitely need some racing miles if they want to be competitive at the upcoming Giro d'Italia which starts on May 9th.

 

Teammate Levi Leipheimer on the other hand has been racing and winning for the past several months starting with the Tour of California then the Vuelta Castilla y Leon and most recently at the Sea Otter Classic. As Levi will most likely be the Astana team leader at the Giro he needs to do what is necessary to arrive at the start in Venice ready for major action.

 

One interesting point about Gila is that the race takes place out of Silver City, New Mexico which is 6000'. As anyone knows who has tried to perform at altitude, you need to acclimate if you want to be competitive. Lance has been training in Aspen at 8000' and Levi has been in Park City at 7000' so both should be ready to roll at Gila.

 

On Wednesday, Levi proved that he was ready to race winning the first stage, which included a 5-mile climb to the finish, by almost one minute over his nearest rival.  Lance and Chris Horner, who were there to support Levi's bid for overall victory, were active during the critical parts of the race.

 

There was a bit of drama before the start with the UCI almost preventing both Astana and Team BMC from starting citing a almost-never-enforced rule that restricts the top professional teams, those with Pro Tour and Professional Continental status, from participating from non-UCI events as either a team or individuals.  A last minute truce allowed the three Astana riders to compete as Team Mellow Johnny, Lance's bike shop in Austin.  Team BMC, which is competing as Team B, had to send five of its eight riders home to comply with the three rider limit.

 

While Levi looks on form to take another victory, most eyes will be on Lance to see how his fitness is progressing after his broken collarbone. But, keep an eye on Leipheimer as he will most likely be leading Team Astana at the Giro.

 

Bruce

713 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: tour_de_france, bruce_hildenbrand, levi_leipheimer, lance_armstrong, team_astana, tour_of_gila, chris_horner, team_bmc, mellow_johnny, tour_italy, giro_d_italia

There is a YouTube video floating around taken at the final stage or the Tour of Turkey(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8K_7bJQaaI&feature=related) in which Theo Bos and race leader Daryl Impey (he's the one in the yellow jersey) tangle and go down. What is interesting about this video is that, depending on your perspective, this is either an intentional, very aggressive move or it is just a racing incident with a unfortunate ending.

 

If you think that Theo Bos is the devil incarnate than the site of him apparently grabbing Impey's jersey and pulling him down is about the worst act of sportsmanship since Mike Tyson decided to snack on Evander Hollyfield's ear. If this is the case, should Bos be suspended for a year or even longer? Can he ever be allowed back into the pro peloton?

 

If you think Theo Bos was caught in an unfortunate racing incident then you interpret his grabbing of Impey's jersey as a desperate move to try to stay upright. Sprint finishes can get pretty darn crazy and if you watch the width of the barriers change you can see why Bos might have gotten caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

 

There is a rule that riders are not allowed to take their hands off the bars in the middle of the sprint. Alex Stieda, the first North American to wear the Tour's yellow jersey, once lost the overall title at Britain's prestigious Milk Race because he took his hands off the bars to celebrate a not-so-close sprint victory. The partisan British officials relegated him to the back of the breakaway group with the win going to one of their countryman. But, as we all know, officials almost never penalize a rider for celebrating a sprint win.

 

However, in the 1970's Franz Verbeeck was disqualified from winning Ghent Wevelgem when he punched out a rider in the sprint. Clearly stuff happens in sprints.

 

Personally, it looks to me like Bos was just trying to keep himself upright and unfortunately ended up bringing down Impey as well. The fact that Bos crashed as well seems to rule out that he was trying to get past Impey by pulling on his jersey (this was a common practice a generation ago). The fact that Impey was the race leader puts a bigger spotlight on the incident.

 

The good news is that even though Impey crashed he was given the same time as the stage winner and ended up winning the Tour of Turkey.  What do you think happened?

 

Bruce

1,030 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: alex_stieda, bruce, hildenbrand, theo_bos, daryl_impey, mike_tyson, evander_hollyfield, tour_of_turkey, franz_verbeeck, ghent, wevelgem

The tenure of the Rock Racing cycling team may be close to coming to an end. The team which was formed about two years ago and burst onto the international spotlight at the 2008 Tour of California has been hit hard by the financial crisis and is running very low on funds. In the past week, the team has had to lay off the three highest paid riders on its amateur team, Chris Baldwin, Michael Creed and Caesar Grajales and its participation in the upcoming Tour of Gila is in serious doubt.

 

The Rock Racing team was initially funded by the Rock and Republic clothing company which has annual sales well into the eight-figure range. However, its line of $300+ dollar jeans and similarily priced apparel have been selling poorly as everyone tightens their belts in this uncertain economic times. Rock Racing looked to be shutting down before the 2009 season even started but, Michael Ball, the team owner and co-founder of Rock and Republic told me at the Tour of California that he stepped in to help save the team.

 

The Rock and Republic Board of Directors wanted to pull the plug, but Ball had all the riders return their contracts so that new contracts, with significant pay cuts, could be put in place. Also, Ball agreed to pay a percentage of the team budget out of his own pocket. However, it looks like those measures were not enough to save the team.

 

Personally, I would hate to see Rock Racing fold. A lot of my fellow journalists will probably be glad to say good bye to Ball and his crew, but I think Rock Racing was a breath of fresh air. Also, as I have stated before, I was very disappointed that many of my fellow journalists never seemed to take the time to understand Michael Ball and his vision. Many of the early reports in the media were extremely negative. It just seemed like my writing brethren didn't feel the need to gather any background before shooting from the hip.

 

Some journalists will mock Rock Racing's motto of "here to stay".  I honestly believe that if it weren't for this unprecedented economic downturn Rock Racing would be healthy and racing a full calendar. I hear my fellow journalist bemoaning their slumping ad sales. Do you think that might also be the case for Rock and Republic?

 

Before people start piling on me as a tool for Rock and Republic, I realize that the the way Michael Ball and his crew rolled up to bike races was pretty unique and not to everyone's liking. However, we should all practice some measure of tolerance. Ball and Co. brought a significant number of new eyeballs to the sport of cycling. Isn't that worthy of some understanding?

 

Bruce

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In my last blog I reported on Tyler Hamilton's retirement. In this blog I would like to give a few of my thoughts. First off, it has been my experience in these doping cases that you either believe the athlete or you think he/she is guilty.There is no middle ground here, people are either on one side of the fence or the other.

 

In the case of Tyler Hamilton, regardless of whether you believe him or not, one thing everyone should be able to agree on is that this is a tragic situation.  Depending on your perspective, this is either an athlete who got caught up in the web of performance enhancing drugs, or an athlete who had difficulty handling the pressure of life and made a career-ending mistake. I am not going to debate what really happened as it will not change anyone's opinion.

 

What I would like to see happen is that people put their opinions of Tyler Hamilton as a bike racer aside and give him the support to deal with his depression.After all, Tyler is a human being first and a bike racer second(or third or fourth). It is quite clear that Tyler will never again ride in the pro peloton so let's put that aside for the moment. Let's try and understand why this all happened so other athletes won't be similarly affected.

 

You might be thinking that I am completely naive and that this is just another in a long list of lies by Hamilton, but I think at this time, we give him the benefit of the doubt and give him the space to deal with it. As I said earlier, he isn't going to be having an affect on the outcome of any bike races ever again so cut him some slack and let him try to move forward.

 

The cycling world seems to have it's share of riders suffering from depression. In the past few years we have lost two exceptional cyclists, Marco Pantani and Jose Maria Jimenez, to the effects of depression. Let's not to add Tyler's name to that list. Compassion and understanding go a long way here in dealing with this situation.

 

Bruce

852 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: bruce_hildenbrand, tyler_hamilton, marco_pantani, jose_maria_jimenez

Tyler Hamilton Retires

Posted by Bruce Hildenbrand Apr 20, 2009

American professional bike racer Tyler Hamilton announced his retirement on Friday and also revealing that he has tested positive for a banned substance for the second time in his career. Hamilton was found to have the steroid precursor DHEA in his system after a random drug test a few days before the start of the Tour of California. Unlike his first positive test in 2004 at the Vuelta a Espana, Hamilton did not challenge the result.

 

The most interesting part of this revelation is that Hamilton acknowledged that he knowingly took the banned substance as part of an over-the-counter anti-depressant medication and that he has been suffering from depression since 2003. As this is his second doping offense it was likely that either a long-term or even a lifetime ban would be imposed. But, Hamilton denied that a lengthy suspension was the reason for his retirement. Instead he insisted that the need to deal with his depression was the reason he has hung up his cleats.

 

Hamilton told those attending a Friday morning teleconference that he had been on prescription anti-depressants for almost four years, but that a number of factors including his mother's recent diagnosis of breast cancer had taken its toll and even doubling the prescribed about of his medication had no appreciable affect. So, in early February he took the over-the-counter anti-depressant supplement 'Mitamin' knowing that it contained the banned substance DHEA, but feeling like he had few options given his mental condition.

 

It should be noted that there appears to be no performance enhancing effect to using DHEA, but it is a banned substance. There is so much more to write here. But, in my first blog posting on this subject I wanted to get the facts out there, as I understand them, first then discuss the implications later.

 

Suffice it to say, anyway you look at this it is a tragic end to Hamilton's career. Before we all start trying Tyler in the court of public opinion, we first need to make sure he can get the help he needs to deal with his depression.

 

Bruce

797 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: bruce_hildenbrand, tyler_hamilton, mitamin, dhea

The Sea Otter Classic began today in the Monterey Penninsula south of San Francisco. About 9000 individual athletes are expected to compete over fours days in both road and mountain bike events. The Sea Otter Classic(SOC) is the unofficial kick-off for the biking season with most of the major (and a whole host of minor) industry players being present at the event's exposition and also at a number of hospitality events around the Monterey Penninsula area.

 

The SOC is a lot of fun to race, spectate or in my case announce.  Throughout the four days I will be calling both road and MTB events from criteriums and circuit races to dual slalom and cross country. We have an expert, veteran crew who are as passionate about the sport as the racers.  It is a big task keeping crowds as informed as possible.  Our announcing calls are also broadcast on KSOC 90.1 FM Sea Otter Classic radio.

 

The big news at the SOC on the road racing front is that Team Astana's Levi Leipheimer will be riding the road race and circuit race on Friday and Saturday. With Lance Armstrong's broken collarbone, Levi has been bumped to team leader for Astana at the Giro and his stop at the SOC is an important tune-up before he returns to Europe to make final preparations for the Tour of Italy.

 

Also present on the road side is the Bissell Professional Cycling team.  These guys have some major firepower and proved that in Thursday's criterium where they took the top four places on the podium. The Bissell boys look unbeatable, but that's never the case at Sea Otter.

 

In the MTB events, top American female racer Georgia Gould, and Canadian ace Geoff Kabush headline star-studded fields. Short track and cross country events are on tap for the endurance athletes while downhill, super-downhill and dual slalom make for a lot of excitement in the gravity events.

 

The weather forecast is for warm, dry conditions making it an ideal conditions for racing, spectating and announcing.

 

Bruce

742 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: bruce_hildenbrand, levi_leipheimer, lance_armstrong, georgia_gould, team_astana, sea_otter_classic, bissell_pro_cycling_team, geoff_kabush

Power to the People

Posted by Bruce Hildenbrand Apr 14, 2009

I have been using my Saris Power Tap on my bike for the past several months and have learned a few things about training with a power meter which seemed good to share with my fellow cyclists.

 

As I said in my first posting when I had completed just a few rides with the Power Tap, I am not a rider who does a lot of structured workouts.  Yes, I do average over 300 miles a week, but all of my riding is what most would call long tempo rides.  I don't do intervals, but I will kick it a bit on the climbs.

 

So, I wasn't looking for a power meter to help me with my intervals. What I was looking for was something which could help me gage how to read what my body was telling me. By that, I mean it is reassuring to see that when my body is screaming pain, I am pushing 350+ watts up a climb. That says to me that my pain meter is pretty accurate.  If my body was screaming pain while I was generating 200 watts then something would be wrong.

 

Another thing that was really interesting to discover is how my body can mask a drop in effort after a hard effort.  By that I mean that when I am cranking up a hill at 350 watts, when the hill drops from say 8% to 4%, the number of watts I am generating in the same gear can drop as much as 100 watts.  However, there is a definite lag in how my body feels.  It takes me 30 seconds to a minute to re-adjust to the lower effort.  For those first 30 seconds to a minute, it feels like I am going just as hard at 4% as I was at 8%.

 

Sometimes my bulb doesn't shine too brightly. It took me a bit of cognitive activity to realize that, environmental conditions aside, it takes the same amount of energy to climb a hill whether you go fast or slow. It is just the law of physics. It takes a known amount of energy to raise a known weight a known height.Thank you Mr. Gravity. So, if you go harder, it just means that you will get to the top faster.

 

One thing that I really like about the Power Tap is that it has a setting for total energy expended during a ride. This is given in units of kilojoules, but in talking with noted power expert Dr. Allen Lim, you can convert kilojoules directly to calories because the human body is such an inefficient engine.

 

I live in a somewhat hilly area, Silicon Valley, so most of my rides have between 75 and 100 feet of climbing for every mile ridden. What I am finding is that I burn about 500-550 calories per hour of riding so in a typical seven hour ride in the Santa Cruz Mountains I burn about 4000 calories.

 

Granted, power meters are a bit on the expensive side and some of them require a new crank or bottom bracket, but I think there are some definite, tangible benefits.  I get a bit depressed when I am going hard at the end of a long ride and I can't seem to keep the power over 300 watts on that last long climb. But a couple of weeks ago, I had a big tailwind on one of my hillier rides.  I was going well up the climbs and would have attributed it to the tailwind, but my Power Tap told me that I was still generating good wattage meaning that I was still working hard and not just getting a push from behind.

 

Bruce

668 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: bruce_hildenbrand, power_tap, power_meter, dr_allen_lim, mr_gravity

The 107th edition of Paris-Roubaix was held on Sunday and it totally lived up to all the pre-race hype. The weather was both warm and dry which should have made those darn cobblestones a bit more friendly, but they seemed to dish out bad luck just at the wrong time. While there was strong riding at the front, the stones, or pave as they are called in France, played a huge role in the outcome.

 

At the finish heavy pre-race favorite Tom Boonen entered the velodrome by himself, calling his third victory the hardest yet. For the second weekend in a row, Tom was heavily marked, especially by former teammate, Filippo Pozzato, but the two-time World Champion showed his class by being in front when it counted and initiating the most decisive move of the race.

 

It could be argued that Boonen benefited from two untimely crashes which caused his five breakaway companions to lose contact, but Tom was active at the front throughout the last half of the cobbled sections. It was more a situation of creating opportunities than benefiting from bad luck. Boonen shed his final breakaway companion, Thor Hushovd, then the Norwegian was unable to follow him through a sharp, cobbled turn and went down.

 

Once again, American favorite George Hincapie had bad luck at just the wrong time. You have to hand it to George for trying to play a decisive role. He and his Columbia-High Road team worked very hard to be a factor in the race. When Hincapie missed the Boonen-led winning breakaway, George took it upon himself to drive the chasing peloton in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to bring the move back. One of these days an American is going to win this race and I hope George hangs around long enough to be that guy.

 

Besides Team Columbia-Highroad's disappointing race, the Saxo Bank squad also came up goose eggs in the finale. Bjarne's boys looked poised for another win with so many of their top riders at the front alongside Tom Boonen with about 40 miles remaining. Somehow, Boonen gave them slip and the team which won in 2006(Cancellara) and 2007(O'Grady) came up unexpectedly empty-handed.

 

Hats off to Garmin-Slipstream's Steven Cozza who made it into the early ten-man breakaway which lasted far longer than anyone expected. Making it through the cobbles of the Arenberg Forest upright and in the lead group was quite an accomplishment for the 24-year old Californian in his first attempt at the Queen of the Classics. Chapeau.

 

Bruce

830 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: bruce_hildenbrand, george_hincapie, paris-roubaix, tom_boonen, garmin_slipstream, columbia_highroad, saxo_bank, steven_cozza, fiippo_pozzato, thor_hushovd

Lance and the French authorities are sparring and the conflict, once again, centers around doping. Rather than try to summarize what happened, I am going to present (as I understand it) both sides of the story and then dissect the battle.

 

Lance claims that upon returning to his newly rented home near Nice, France after a long training ride, a man, claiming to be a sample collection person from the French National Drug Laboratory (AFLD) approached Armstrong outside his house and requested to take blood, urine and hair samples. Lance, who was with his team director Johan Bruyneel at the time, was not convinced that the person was legitimate so before he obliged the request, he wanted to check with the UCI.

 

Lance claims that while Johan called the UCI to check, he asked the collector if he could take a shower since he had just returned from a long, hard ride. The collector obliged.  When Lance returned from his shower 20 minutes later, the collector's credentials had been verified and Lance willingly allowed the person to take blood, urine and hair samples.

 

The AFLD sample collector tells a different story. The collector claims that while his credentials were being verified, he told Lance several times that World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) dope collection protocol requires that once a collector has identified himself and has announced that he/she his there to collect samples, the athlete cannot leave the side of the collector.

 

The AFLD is concerned that since Lance left the side of the collector for 20 minutes he violated a part of the WADA doping code and because of this, he may be prohibited from racing in France which, of course, could put Armstrong's participation in the 2009 Tour in jeopardy.

 

Is this just a case of mis-communication or is one side in this dispute lying? I may be a bit naive, but I am not sure exactly what Lance could do to his blood, urine and hair in twenty minutes to taint his samples. Yes, he could use a catheter to insert clean urine, but you have to have that stuff lying around and also have a pretty sophisticated method for fooling all the doping controls at a moment's notice to make it work. That just seems too much for me.

 

Was the AFLD collector star-struck and allowed Lance to shower then changed his tune after either he/she or a colleague mentioned that this was a breach of WADA protocol?

 

Also, there is a third party involved here, Johan Bruyneel, so this isn't just a case of he said, she said. Bruyneel supports Lance Armstrong's side of the story. Also, Lance's Twitter account on the day of the collections doesn't indicate any dispute between Armstrong and the collector.

 

One could argue that Lance should have known that the WADA protocol requires that he not leave the side of a collector when sample collection is supposed to take place. On the flip side, if the credibility of the person was in doubt, maybe Lance did not feel his obligation to leave the collector's side only began if and when the person's credentials were verified.

 

Another point worth considering is that if there was any question as to the credentials of the collector, shouldn't Lance, knowing WADA protocol, just hunkered down and waited for verification.  On the other hand, while it ended up taking only 20 minutes to verify the collector's credentials, what if it had taken two hours?

 

This is an interesting situation and because of that, I have been giving it a lot of thought.  Clearly, none of us has all the information and most of what I am writing about is total speculation.

 

Is this just another case of the French hounding Lance or should Armstrong have behaved differently? Anyone?

 

Bruce

809 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: tour_de_france, bruce_hildenbrand, lance_armstrong, johan_bruyneel, afld

There was a major, 6.3 on the Richter scale, earthquake in central Italy close to the town of L'Aquila (the Eagle) on Monday. The devastation is huge and the death toll is 250 and climbing. The photos and videos of the tembler and the aftermath are striking. It clearly is a major tragedy.

 

Why am I writing about this quake? Because one of the classic climbs in all of Italy starts in L'Aquila. The 20-mile, 5000-foot ascent of the Gran Sasso has been a decisive hurdle in many a Giro, most recently, Marco Pantani soloed to a convincing win in 1999. It was a 150-mile stage that took over seven hours and was ridden in cold rain. Fog shrouded the top at 7000 feet above sea level.

 

What I remember most is that Pantani, who was sponsored by Bianchi bikes, was riding a mysterious all black machine. It had been a tradition since Fausto Coppi in the 1940's that Bianchi's racing machines were painted the legendary 'celeste' color, a sea green shade, but here was 'Il Pirata' on some sort of stealth black steed. It was a few month later that Sky Yager at Bianchi USA informed me that the black bike was indeed a Bianchi.  However, Pantani wanted the bike to weigh as little as possible and by eliminating the paint job and just anodizing the aluminum tubes black saved three ounces of weight.

 

For you history buffs, the top of the Gran Sasso climb is known as Campo Imperatore. It was here in 1943 that Italian partisans hid Benito Mussolini after kidnapping him.  The partisans were hoping that with Mussolini out of power, they could kick the Germans out of their country and sue for peace with the Americans and British. After several months in hiding, German commandos crash-landed gliders near Campo Imperatore and rescued 'Il Duce'.  The Germans placed Mussolini back in power and the war in Italy continued for another year and a half.

 

If you ever get to Campo Imperatore you can, for five euros, visit the room in the hotel there that held Mussolini during his captivity with the partisans. In this photo the hotel is the big red building on the left.

 

 

Best wishes to all the inhabitants of L'Aquila for the rebuilding and healing which will undoubtedly take years to accomplish. Buona Fortuna!

 

Bruce

725 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: bruce_hildenbrand, giro_d'italia, l'aquila, gran_sasso, campo_imperatore, marco_pantani, benito_mussolini

If you are a sports junkie like me then you have to check out NBC Universal Sports. These people used to be known as World Championship Sports Network (WCSN), but they were bought last year by NBC and became NBC Universal Sports. I mentioned them several months ago when they were showing the Tour de Ski, a cross country ski race run with a similar format as the Tour de France. I said it then and I will say it again now. NBC Universal Sports rocks.

 

Most of us are used to going to Versus to get our dose of fringe sports (or Obscure Sports Quarterly(OSQ) or ESPN 8 'the Ocho' for you 'Dodgeball' fans), but NBC Universal Sports is the new champion. In the winter they have alpine skiing, cross country skiing, ski jumping, ski flying(yes, there is a difference), luge, skeleton, bobsled, curling(hey, it is now an Olympic sport so give it a little

respect), etc.

 

Unfortunately, they don't carry my favorite winter sport, Women's Biathlon (that's cross country skiing and shooting for those of you are uniformed). They make up for it by showing a lot of triathlons and running races. It's all good.

 

The big news is that for us cycling fanatics, especially those who don't care to see professional bike racing pre-empted by Indy Car racing, NBC Universal Sports is now carrying live coverage of some select events. Starting tomorrow, you can watch the Tour of Basque Country at 11am and 9pm EDT(that's Eastern Daylight Time - 8am and 6pm PDT for those of us on the West Coast).

 

The catch is that right now, you can't get NBC Universal Sports on either cable or satellite. The good news is that you have two options. First, if you have a digital TV or a set-top converter box with an NTSC tuner, you can get it for free, over the air. Simply go to the channel of your local NBC affiliate and surf through a the several multiplexed sub-channels to find it. In the Bay Area, NBC is channel 11.  NBC Universal Sports is 11-3.

 

Unfortunately, NBC Universal Sports is not available in all areas, but they continue to expand their market. They just got added to the Denver area.

 

The other option is to watch the programs on the NBC Universal Sports website. You can watch the Tour of Basque Country live each morning at 9:30am EDT (6:30am PDT) and if you aren't mobile that early, you can watch cycling and a number of other sports 'on-demand'.

 

Check it out. The people at NBC Universal Sports are onto something big.

 

Bruce

906 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: bruce_hildenbrand, nbc_universal_sports, tour_of_basque_country, world_championship_sports_network, wcsn

This weekend is the annual Belgium World Championships (well, if you are Flemish) also known as De Ronde Van Vlaanderen or by it's English name, the Tour of Flanders. It's a professional race so you have to be a pro to get invited. In a couple of weeks, the Sea Otter Classic will take place in Northern California. Unlike De Ronde, anyone can enter the Sea Otter. That seems to be the major difference between the two.

 

Okay. You can enter the cyclo-tourist version of De Ronde which is held the day before. Lucky (or unlucky depending on how you look at it) individuals can ride exactly the same route as the professionals ride, all 165 miles of it. But, the tourists can't ride alongside the pros. Seeing how fast the pros ride, maybe that is a good thing.

 

At the Sea Otter Classic, the joes can ride with the pros. Well, sort of. While there are different categories for each racing class the classes go off at five minute intervals so all classes are on the course at the same time. The "sort of" part is because the pros go off after all the amateurs have finished, but for that one day, you can race on the same course at almost the same time and compare your finish time with the lap times of the pros. In my book, that comes pretty close.

 

Is it really necessary to compare De Ronde with Sea Otter, probably not, but I only have one blog and I thought it would be fun to double up. You mileage may vary.

 

You might be wondering why De Ronde is such a prestigious race to win. It has to do with the murs or walls or climbs which punctuate the final 50 miles of the route. They are short, steep and most are cobbled. Every once and a while someone like Jacky Durand sneaks off and wins the thing when he wasn't the strongest rider in the field, but to paraphrase the legendary Phil Liggett, "the race always produces a worthy winner."

 

That's a bit of a backhand way of saying if you aren't one of the strongest riders in the field you don't have a chance. The climbs would be very, very tough if they were just smooth pavement. Throw in bone wrenching cobbles and it becomes epic. This Sunday we will find out who is strong. Trust me.

 

You also have to be strong to win at Sea Otter. There are road, mountain and BMX events and there are so many categories that last year over 9000 riders participated. Some were strong and stood on the podium. Others were less strong, but still had a great time and some were just there to participate and still had a great time. The key phrase here is that everybody had a great time.

 

The Sea Otter Classic runs from April 16-19th. Visit their website at www.seaotterclassic.com to find an event that suits your riding. And don't forget to check out De Ronde. I am pulling for George Hincapie. He hasn't had a great spring, but he's been so close for so many years and he is strong.

 

Bruce

796 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: bruce_hildenbrand, george_hincapie, sea_otter_classic, tour_of_flanders, de_ronde_van_vlaanderen

In a somewhat stunning development, Team Astana, has laid to rest all speculation as to who would lead their squad at the 2009 Tour de France by announcing that they would hold a head-to-head time trial between Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador five days before the July event. "We were hoping that Lance's performance in the Giro d'Italia would answer the team leadership question.  But, now with Lance's broken collarbone limiting his preparation it was clear that we needed another way to end the season-long drama and allow the team to concentrate on its racing schedule," said Team Director Johan Bruyneel.

 

Reached at home in Austin where he is recuperating from surgery to repair his broken collarbone Lance Armstrong applauded the decision. "The ongoing question of Tour leadership was causing a major distraction for the team. This will also help me relax a bit and should aid my recovery and return to top form."

 

Also quite surprising is the format of the race against the clock. "Since we know that both Lance and Alberto are excellent climbers and fast on the flats, the only unknown is their descending ability. So, we will use the 3000' descent of the Col de la Madone for the time trial," added Bruyneel.

 

Alberto Contador commented on the interesting format. "Normally, I ride hard up the climbs around my home and take it easy on the descents. Now I will have to change my training to take is easy going uphill so I can concentrate on the descents."

 

While he will not take part in the time trial, Levi Leipheimer also weighed in on the news. "This is a great idea. It was really hard for me to win the Vuelta Castilla y Leon as all anyone on the team was worried about was who would lead the team at the Tour."

 

While it is too early to tell if the decision by Bruyneel will have the desired affect one thing is certain. We can all get back to discussing who will win the upcoming Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, etc. and not be waiting for the next instalment of "As the Wheel Turns."

 

Bruce

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