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The fallout from yesterday team time trial is still being felt among the teams with contenders for the yellow jersey. Clearly, Team Astana is in the drivers seat while hopefulls such as Cadel Evans (Silence Lotto), Carlos Sastre(Cervelo Test Team) and the Schleck brothers(Saxo Bank) have some catching up to do.

 

This morning at the stage start in Le Cap d'Agde I talked with a number of riders about the team trial and what the results mean for the days ahead.

 

Yaraslov Popovych was a key player in Team Astana's victory. He described the course and the resulting team strategy. "It was hard because it was a very difficult course. The road was really small. We had only one object, to not crash. We wanted to win, but we wanted to save the team for the next two weeks."

Lance Armstrong signaled out Popovych and Andreas Kloden as the two strong men during the ride. What was Popovych's reaction to the praise. "Everybody pulled very well. Alberto was good, everybody was good. This is a really strong team."

 

Cadel Evans and his Silence Lotto squad had a disastrous race. They waited for several of their stronger riders when one got dropped and the other flatted, but both came off, for good, soon after. In the end they ceded over two minutes to Lance and Alberto which does not bode well. I have a lot of time to make up on the guys from Astana. As far as a podium place goes I am really going to have to work at it."

 

When asked if he found the course difficult, Cadel replied "it wasn't hard for me. Just for my teammates."

 

Cadel's teammate, Charly Wegelius had a bit of a different take on yesterday's events. "First I have to say that considering everything that happened to us in the race yesterday the team performed quite well despite a lot of misfortune. The course was highly technical with corners that you didn't see very well how they were going to finish up. If you add into that the stress and the pressure of riding a team time trial at the Tour it was quite an explosive combination."

"If you look at the general classification we are not alone. We will be looking for opportunities to make up some time. Maybe there will be other teams who want to make movements with us, too," added Wegelius.

 

Cervelo Test Team rider Hayden Roulston, teammate of Carlos Sastre, echoed Wegelius' comments on what lies ahead. "I think it is going to be a very interesting race now. A lot of guys who are two minutes down are contenders so who knows what is going to happen. It might have just opened a whole new can of worms."

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Race Notes

 

Frenchman Thomas Voeckler pulled a bit of an upset by winning solo into Perpignan on a stage that most thought would end in another sprint finish. Voeckler was part of a small breakaway group that had been off the front for most of the race. Columbia-HCT and Garmin contributed to the chase and things looked good for another bunch finish when Voeckler attacked his companions and while the peloton caught his breakaway mates, they didn't catch him. Sometimes persistence pays off and things don't go according to form.

 

I got to play technical service rep at the start. I am shooting small video clips for Saris Cycling (www.saris.com), the people who bring you Power Tap power meters.  I was shooting a video with Cadel Evans when, afterwards, he remarked that his Power Tap wasn't working at the moment.  He asked me, since I was working for Saris, to fix it and that I did.

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If you watch the Tour de France everyday hoping for drama then the last few stages have been extraordinary. On a very difficult 25-mile time trial course around Montpellier, Lance Armstrong came within an eyelash of putting on the yellow jersey for the first time in almost four years. It would have been an incredible step in his comeback, but the Fabian Cancellara-led Team Saxo Bank did just what it needed to retain the maillot jaune.

 

By just, I mean literally less than one second. It was oh-so-close for a storybook ending to a day which saw the American Garmin-Slipstream team put in a valiant effort which almost won the day. They finished only 18 seconds back of stage victors Team Astana after 47 minutes on course. It is not a coveted stage win, but the boys in argyle should be proud of almost toppling arguably the best team in the sport. Garmin-Slipstream have clearly proven that they deserve to be a Pro Tour team in only their first year at that elitest of levels.

 

The TT course was far from the usual flat and fast affair. Small roads, sharp climbs and a punishing wind made this one of the sternest tests for a team the Tour has seen in years. I was fortunate to ride with Garmin-Slipstream team during their warm-up lap this morning (hint: it wasn't a warm-up for me) and I was impressed by how difficult and technical the course was. Look for a report including on-the-bike photos, in an upcoming blog.  I am still recovering. It may take years.

 

Garmin's power guru Dr. Allen Lim described the team's game plan. "Stay careful.  I think it is a dangerous, dangerous course.  I think the guys have to be conscious of one another and not take any risks.  Normally it is full throttle.  Now it is full throttle plus a high sense of awareness of one and other and careful through the corners. Some places we are going to have to be conservative and then try to make it up elsewhere.  Through the very fast techinical sections there will be very few changes at the front."

 

After the race, Lance spoke with Gerard Holtz on Antenne 2. When asked to describe the TTT course his only response was 'tricky'. He admitted that he was a bit disappointed not to get the yellow jersey.  Hollywood actor Ben Stiller appeared on stage and took full responsibility for losing the jersey by less than one second.  He was certain that Lance had looked back just before the finish to see if he was watching.  Ben went on to present the yellow jersey to Fabian Cancellara.

 

Bruce

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Just before Astana took the start ramp, Lance shook Conador's hand. Alberto responded as we see in this photo as the two teammates realized that they would need to work together to beat the other squads.

 

Team Garmin-Slipstream heads down the start ramp.

 

Just before Team Columbia-HCT started down the ramp, Mark Cavendish and George Hincapie shared a fist bump.

 

He almost took the yellow jersey.

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Even though stage 3 of the Tour de France turned into another sprint win for Mark Cavendish it was anything but another long, boring trek through southern France. When the race turned south with 30km to go, the peloton encountered a heavy westerly crosswind. Team Columbia used the winds to drop the hammer causing a split at the front of the peloton as 30 riders went clear.

 

Leading up to the split, the race had been marked by a general lack of cooperation among the teams as to who would work to chase down an early breakaway that contained four riders and reached a maximum time gap of 13 minutes.  For the first hour the peloton managed a meager 17-18mph.

 

Team Columbia-HTC owner Bob Stapleton commented on the situation. "It was frustrating.  I thought Garmin would come up and do some work for Farrar, but they were basically saying 'We are not going to do any work. We are betting all our chances on the team time trial.'" "I think their chances of beating Astana are small.  I am disappointed they didn't ride today. Tyler showed a lot of quality yesterday.  They should have supported him today. He maybe could have done something."  

 

"I think Saxo Bank got no support either and they basically said screw it.  We basically said screw it.  Let's get super agressive and see if we can make something happen," added Stapleton.

 

Second place on the stage, Thor Hushovd echoed Bob's sentiments. "It was a big game during the whole stage. Saxo didn't want to control the race the whole day.  They wanted to save their legs for tomorrow. And Columbia didn't want to do the work alone.  It was just a big game the whole day."

 

Team Columbia was aided in their efforts by some intel from a former team member.  "Erik Zabel came through this morning and had a look at the last 30kms for us.  He gave us all the technical info.  It was very good," explained Columbia Team Director Alan Peiper.

 

At the finish, six Columbia riders powered the lead group to a forty-one second advantage. Lance Armstrong proved that he hasn't lost any of tactical abilities. He was the only overall contender to make the split and has moved up to third place.  If Astana wins the team time trial tomorrow, as expected, and can take more than 40 seconds out of Cancellara's Saxo Bank squad and 7 seconds out of Tony Martin's Team Columbia the Lance could be in yellow at the end of the day.

 

Bruce

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This guy could be in yellow tomorrow!

 

Thor Hushovd looks pretty thin probably so he can climb in the mountains and fight for the green jersey all the way to Paris.

 

Cadel was on the wrong end of the split and lost 40 seconds

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If Lance doesn't win his eighth Tour de France this July, the cycling pundits will certainly be dissecting his race and his pre-race preparations ad infinitum. But, regardless of what happens over the next three weeks it is interesting to note that Lance had clearly deviated from the formula which brought him seven consecutive Tour victories.

 

During his record setting string of wins, one of the critical components of his preparation was to ride, sometimes two or three times, the key stages of that year's race. That usually meant long days in the mountains and previewing all the time trials. Obviously, the strategy and tactics of a given stage dictated how a stage played out on race day, but for Lance and his teammates, there were no surprises when it came to what a particular course might dish out.

 

This year, mostly due to his broken collarbone, his committment to ride the Giro and the birth of his son, Max, Lance has not had the opportunity to preview all the key stages. Lance did ride the opening time trial course in Monaco several times in the days preceding the race. He reckoned, correctly, that the tricky descents were just as important as having maximum power on the climb to the summit of the Col du Beausoleil.

 

But, instead of being in Europe in June doing recon rides, Lance and his Astana teammates Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner trained out of Aspen, Colorado.The three amigos rode four and a half to six and a half hours a day in training. One of their most popular rides was to go from Aspen up over Independence Pass at 12,000' then down to Twin Lakes at 9000' then back up and over Independence Pass to Aspen.  This 80-mile ride with about 8000' of climbing took the boys about 4 and a half hours at moderate training pace.

 

At the recent Nevada City Classic, both Levi and Lance remarked that it was good to come down from altitude to race as training at such a high height really does not give a good indication of overall fitness. However, it has been proven that altitude training does work so these guys were not wasting their time. They just weren't in Europe as was the case from 1999-2005.

 

We will have to wait and see if the deviation from the formula was a good idea or not. Sometimes circumstances force you to change your game plan. The jury might still be out, but judging from how Lance and Levi rode in the Monaco TT, things are looking good.

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Race Notes

 

Some guy named Mark won stage two from an intact peloton. It was great to see Tyler Farrar in second and the fact that Hushovd slipped in there for fourth meant that nobody is giving away any victories just yet. Yes, Cavendish may seem unbeatable, but Farrar did just that this past March in the Tour of Mediterranean. Don't count Garmin-Slipstream out. They can definitely give Cavendish a run for his money and if the Manxman gets a bit cocky and leaves it late, like he did at the Giro when he lost a couple of stages to Allesandro Petacchi, Farrar could pounce.

 

Bruce

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The Tour de France has officially begun and while the winner on the day, Fabian Cancellara, was not a huge surprise, the race for Astana team leadership got very interesting. All four of Astana's Tour podium finishers, Alberto Contador, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Kloden finished inside the top 10 with only 22 seconds separating those riders after the 9-mile(15 km) time trial. While Alberto, 3rd overall, did best Lance, 10th overall, by 22 seconds the question of team leadership is still unanswered.

 

On a warm, muggy day in the principality of Monaco the relatively short course resulted in interesting, but not necessarily significant, time gaps. None of the favorites faltered; Cadel Evans was right in the mix, five seconds behind Contador and 17 seconds ahead of Armstrong while Andy Schleck and Carlos Sastre were within a minute of their rivals.

 

The Garmin-Slipstream team also demonstrated their time trialing prowess, putting four riders in the top 17, led by Bradley Wiggins' third place finish, 19 seconds behind Cancellara. David Zabriskie, 13th, David Millar, 14th and Christian Vande Velde, 17th, had solid rides. Vande Velde's comeback after a race-ending crash in the Giro seems to be on track to finding his top form as the race progresses.

 

This year, because there are no time bonuses at the finish, it is likely that Cancellara will keep his yellow jersey at least until Stage 4 on Tuesday and the 25-mile team time trial. Based on the results of the opening time trial, it should be a battle between Astana and Garmin-Slipstream for the stage win.

 

It has been an up and down season for Cancellara who won the opening prologue of the Tour of California, but was forced to withdraw the next day due to sickness.  A training crash at home in Switzerland severely hampered his preparation for the Classics, but he recently won his home tour, the Tour de Suisse, and appears to be finally finding his form.

 

The next few days should be the domain of the sprinters.  Look for Team Columbia-HTC with Mark Cavendish to be challenged by Cervelo Test team and Thor Hushovd, but Garmin-Slipstream and their up-and-coming sprinter, Tyler Farrar, might surprise.

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This might start sounding like a broken record, but come Saturday in Monaco, the great battle of wills between Astana teammates Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador will begin. Certainly, there will be other challengers, but these two are the main favorites for good reason and deserve all the hype. Lance and Alberto are very well matched physically so I think it will come down to the mental game to determine the winner of the 2009 Tour.

 

Right after the Giro, I wouldn't have given Lance much of a chance, but after being with him at the Nevada City Bicycle Classic, two weeks ago, and seeing how fit and motivated he was, Armstrong is a man on a mission. He is starting the race five pounds lighter than he ever did during his seven victories and his eyes show a keen focus and determination. Lance is not coming to France to ride in support of Alberto Contador.

 

Alberto Contador is probably feeling a bit lonely on Team Astana with only his old teammate from Liberty Seguros, Sergio Paulinho, as a trusted ally. Rumour has it that Contador might be getting some help from the riders on Caisse d'Epargne if he needs it. I am hoping that things remain civil on Astana. There is no need for a replay of the 1986 race where American Greg LeMond and Frenchman Bernard Hinault while they teammates, rode as rivals.

 

With all this talk of teammates and allies, it is probably fitting that the first stage of the Tour is a 9-mile(15km) individual time trial in the hills surrounding Monaco. That means a head-to-head battle between Lance and Alberto with the best man on the day assuming an edge in the fight for team leadership.  With all the "Lance versus Alberto" hype in the past nine months, look for Contador to come out blazing, trying to prove that he is the true team leader of Astana.

 

However, Lance is a master tactician and will do everything in his power to try to match Contador. Unless we are talking Brett Favre, I am a fan of comebacks so I hope that Lance can match Alberto and if he does, the battle of wills will really be on.

 

You are probably thinking that the mental toughness of a rider is always part of the equation, but given that the two riders in question here are on the same team makes the mental aspect way more critical. Alberto and Lance will be spending way more time in close proximity than just during the race. Any gamesmanship can be played out long after each day's podium ceremony has concluded.

 

So, while it is clear that you have to be physically strong to win the Tour de France, this year's victor will also need to be as tough if not tougher mentally to prevail, especially if your name is Lance or Alberto.

 

Bruce

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Early this past Sunday morning, a father and his 14-year old son were completing the 200-mile event in the Los Angeles Wheelmen's 51st annual Grand Tour. At 1:30am along the Pacific Coast Highway a drunk driver struck the two cyclists. The father died at the scene and his son is in critical condition with numerous broken bones. The driver fled the scene following the accident, but was arrested after he drove about a mile from the site, ditched his truck, and proceeded to get away on foot.

 

This is a horrible news and frankly, I don't know what the father and son could have done to avoid the situation other than not to be at that place at that time. We as cyclists have to look out for our own safety. Some accidents I hear about seem avoidable to me. In this particular case, I don't know what you do about a drunk driver hitting you from behind.

 

Should we all just stop riding our bikes on the road? Clearly, that is not the case. Certainly, drunk driving laws need to be made tougher and the local district attorneys need to prosecute offenders to the fullest extent of the law. In the State of California, the laws were recently changed to make the penalties for a crime committed while drunk a lot more serious.

 

As I understand the situation before the laws were changed, a drunk driving incident was treated as an accident which means that the most a driver could be charged with was manslaughter, a crime which carries a relatively minor sentence. The new interpretation of the law is that a driver who knowingly drives drunk qualifies for "intent" rather than "negligence" which raises the maximum penalty to second degree murder, a crime that carries a very stiff sentence.

 

Now that the laws have been changed so that the punishment fits the crime, the local district attorneys need to send a strong message by charging drivers, like the one who caused this needless death, with the maximum crime and ask for the maximum sentence possible.

 

From my perspective, that is the only way we can begin to prevent such crimes(I hesitate to use the word accident, because it really is a crime) like this from occurring.

 

Bruce

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The American Velodrome Challenge came to San Jose's Hellyer Park track this past weekend and its $14,000 cash prize list attracted some of the biggest stars from around the world. American and Australian riders dominated the results with many events offering $1000 to the winner. There's nothing like a huge stack of Benjamins to bring out some exceptionally competitive racing.

 

Northern California and most recently, the Hellyer Park Velodrome has been a hotbed of track racing.  In the 80's and 90's a Friday night racing series spanned 20 weeks in the spring, summer and fall. However, the resources necessary to keep such a series running and attracting top riders started dwindling in the new millenium. American Velodrome Challenge promoter, Rick Adams, decided to focus his efforts of bringing one, big race to the Hellyer Velodrome rather than spread himself thin over an extended period.

 

Judging from the turnout of top-quality riders and spectators and the bulging prize list Rick made the right call. To give the racing a bit of local flavor Adams mixed in a few master's and junior events which also allowed the top men and women a bit of a breather between their races.

 

One of the most exciting and popular events is the Japanese-born kierin race in which a group of six to eight cyclists pace behind a motorcycle for about a mile then with about a quarter of a mile(400 meters) remaining the motorbike pulls off the track and the race is on. The kierin is a national sport in Japan with the top racers there earning up to $2,000,000 per year.

 

Here are several photos of the kierin action.

 

 

 

Plans are already underway for the 2010 American Velodrome Challenge. No doubt it will be another highly successful event.

 

Bruce

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The power of Lance is pretty awesome. It is felt not only in the cycling world where media and fans simply can't get enough of him. But, it transcends the sport of cycling and the cycling community to America and most of the rest of the developed world. One only needs to know that Armstrong has over one million followers on Twitter to see the power of Lance.

 

This past Sunday, I got to see the power of Lance. The Texan was scheduled to ride the Nevada City Bicycle Classic. His appearance caused quite a stir in the tiny Northern California town and a local TV station stepped in to broadcast the race live. Team BMC professional rider Scott Nydam was supposed to be the color commentator for the broadcast, but he got the call to fly to Aspen to train with Levi, Lance and Chris and was unable to provide his insights.

 

I was at the event covering it for cyclingnews.com and was asked to step in and take Scott's place.  I have done enough live radio and TV to know the drill so I agreed to get behind the camera. What was supposed to be just a local TV broadcast grew to epic proportions when Lance tweeted the web address for the broadcast. In an instant, our TV production was now a worldwide affair.  It was a lot of fun and I continue to get comments from people across America who listened and viewed the broadcast.

 

Switching gears a bit, I love putting photos in my blog, when interesting and appropriate, so in keeping with the Lance and Nevada City Bicycle Classic, here are several photos of Lance and Levi warming up before the race. Those with a keen eye will notice that they are riding all-black Madones and not their usual steeds painted in Team Astana colors. These are clearly prototype bikes.

 

 

 

It seems that Trek is about to announce an updated version of the Madone; the new models will be unveiled to the press and public just before the start of the Tour de France in Monaco. Of course, it is a bit of speculation, but it appears that Trek is going to address one of the concerns of the current design of the Madone by modifying the integral seat mast and clamping mechanism to allow some side-to-side play.

 

This new design will make it easier to insure that you can dial in the direction of the nose of the saddle to meet your desires. The Madone re-design may include other changes. Keep your eyes peeled at the end of next week for more details.

 

Bruce

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The Garmin-Slipstream team announced its 9-man roster for the Tour de France.  Not surprisingly, Christian Vande Velde will lead the squad.  He finished fourth last year and looked very good doing it.  The only question will be can he regain the fitness necessary to be competitive after a serious crash in the opening stages of the Giro? Recently, at the Tour de Suisse (Tour of Switzerland) he looked like he is on the way back, but there is some more fitness needed to contend for the overall. Luckily, Christian knows how to make it happen.

 

The team will also include Bradley Wiggins who came within one second of winning the final TT at the Giro. Besides being counted on to place highly in the time trials he has lost a reported 9 pounds(4 kilos) and will be a key support role for Vande Velde in the mountains.  The multi-Olympic gold medalist will also be part of the leadout train for Tyler Farrar.  Bradley will be earning his money at the Tour.

 

David Millar and Dave Zabriskie are included on the team for their time trialing abilities. The team time trial on stage 4 is a goal for the squad and they have the horsepower to win it. Also, look for Millar to go for stage wins in a small breakaway on the flatter stages.

 

Ryder Hesjedal and Dan Martin are included for their climbing abilities and to support Christian in the mountains. Ryder played a key role in the Alps at the 2008 Tour and Dan Martin is one of the up and coming stars in the pro peloton with some outstanding performances in hilly stage races last year and this spring.

 

Tyler Farrar was one of the revelations of the Giro.  He sprinted to several second place finishes behind Mark Cavendish. While he didn't get a stage win, he showed that he was ready to mix it up in the finale and had no fear in doing it. He could definitely win a stage of the Tour.

 

Julian Dean is the final cog, after Bradley Wiggins, of the Farrar leadout train. Look for Wiggins to go from 1km to about 600m with Julian taking it from there to about 200m. This train, which was new for the Giro, had lots of practice in Italy and is ready to launch.

 

Danny Pate also has immense time trialing skills, but as he proved on the stage to Prato Nevoso in last year's Tour he can sense an opportunity for a stage win and go for it. He was oh so close last year.

 

The Garmin-Slipstream team is a well-balanced squad that includes riders for all the tasks necessary to be competitive in the mountains, flats and time trials. Good luck boys!

 

Bruce

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Lance Armstrong won his first pro race since his comeback with a solo win at Sunday's Nevada City Bicycle Classic. Lance, Levi and Chris came to Northern California from their training camp in Aspen, looking to test their fitness and also ramp up the intensity a bit after multiple five to six hour rides in the Colorado high country. Long rides build and preserve endurance; the 90-minute effort at Nevada City was designed to add some snap.

 

The 1.3 mile criterium course is considered one of the most difficult in America with over 100 feet of climbing per lap. There is no place to hide and the pretenders are quickly separated from the contenders.  Lance and Levi attacked early on in the 90 minute/35 lap event and went clear with only Ben Jacques-Maynes(Bissell Pro Cycling) able to catch the train.

 

Lance and Levi did all the work on the front. Jacques-Maynes realizing that he was over matched by these two Tour de France veterans. With about 10 laps remaining Armstrong and Leipheimer started trading attacks, Ben finally had to let Lance go and suddenly, Armstrong was solo and looking very good for the win. The crowd erupted in applause for the seven-time Tour winner. Clearly, it was a very, very popular victory.

 

After the race I talked with Lance and Levi. Lance is looking extremely fit with nary an ounce of body fat on his frame.  He will be starting the Tour two kilos lighter than any of his seven victories in France crediting the hot weather and long, tough stages at the Giro, rather than Jenny Craig, for his trimmer self. A couple of weeks ago, I would have questioned his fitness to contend for the overall at the Tour. Now, I have to say that he looks ready to be very, very competitive.

 

Levi took some well-deserved time off after the Giro, but is now ramping up his training and feeling good though he did comment that it is hard to really gage ones fitness when you are training at 8000'.

 

If the Nevada City Bicycle Classic was any indication of what we will see in France, things are going to be looking very good for Team Astana and the three amigos.

 

Bruce

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The state of Colorado took a huge step in increasing the rights of cyclists last month when it passed a law which goes a long way in clarifying the laws and how they apply to cyclists. More importantly, the new law clarifies how the laws applies to cars and their interaction with cyclists.

 

OK. I am not a lawyer and I don't even play one on TV so I will try and give you the executive summary of the most important points of the new law.  In my humble opinion(IMHO) the most crucial part of the new law is that in Colorado it is now legal to cross over a double yellow line to pass a cyclist. It seems like one of the biggest problems car drivers have in overtaking cyclists is that they are unwilling to cross the double yellow line to make it happen.

 

It is understandable that car drivers are reluctant to cross a double yellow line to make a pass of another car since that is clearly illegal. But, I could never understand why car drivers felt they couldn't put their driver side wheels a bit over the line to safely pass a bicycle. Maybe it is something about the spirit of the law versus the letter of the law. Now, in the state of Colorado, they are one in the same.

 

The other portion of the law that I think is crucial deals with the distance car drivers must give cyclists when passing.  In France, cars must give cyclists 1.5 meters (about 4 feet) when they are overtaking a cyclist. In Colorado, the new law also states that the buffer be four feet.  Any car that buzzes close to a cyclist, for whatever reason, in Colorado is now breaking the law. It is not clear how enforceable this particular statute will be, but at least car drivers now have one standard which to abide.

 

Hopefully, other states will follow Colorado's lead and pass laws which legalize crossing a double yellow line to pass cyclists and also clarify the distance of the buffer they need to have when making the pass.

 

Bruce

1,112 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: bruce_hildenbrand, colorado, biker_friendly

Tyler Hamilton received an eight year ban from the United States Anti-Doping Agency today effectively ending the 38 year-old's professional cycling career. Hamilton admitted in April that he had taken an over-the-counter anti-depressant that contained the banned substance DHEA. DHEA is a precursor for testosterone. At that time, he also announced that he has been fighting depression for a number of years which was the reason for taking the over-the-counter medication.

 

Hamilton's career has been marked by some very high highs and some very low lows. In 2002 he became only the second American to stand on the podium of the Giro d'Italia and the first American to win a classic, the Liege-Bastogne-Liege in 2003. His Tour de France stage win in the same year, riding with a broken collarbone, was the stuff of legends.

 

Tyler's Olympic Gold Medal in the Time Trial at the 2004 Athens Games was, undoubtedly, the highlight of his career, but the low point occurred only a month later when he tested positive for non-homologous blood transfusion at the Vuelta a Espana. What followed was two years of trials and hearings which ultimately resulted in Hamilton receiving a two-year ban.

 

Tyler returned to racing in 2007 with the Italian Tinkov racing squad, but found a better place in 2008 with Michael Ball's Rock Racing team Last year he won the USPRO Road Championships meaning that in 2009, he would be sporting the coveted Stars and Stripes Captain America jersey when he competed. Unfortunately, he only got to wear that jersey in one race, the Amgen Tour of California, before being informed of his positive test at the end of February.

 

Tyler is one of the nicest persons you will ever meet. The best word to describe this premature end to his career is tragic. I hope that he will be able to rely on the support of his friends and family to fight his depression and move on to the next chapter in his life.

 

Bruce

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One of the iconic figures in the sport of professional bike racing, Frenchman Laurent Fignon, announced today that he is suffering from intestinal cancer. Those new to the sport might not know the name, but in the 1980's he was one of the best stage racers in the peloton winning the 1983 and 1984 Tours de France and the 1989 Giro d'Italia. The Professor, as he was known to his French fans, was best remembered for his eight second loss to Greg LeMond in the final stage TT of the 1989 Tour.

 

Once again, cancer has proven that it plays no favorites and while Fignon has acknowledged that the disease is at a very advance stage, he will fight with all his will to beat it. He has already undergone two rounds of chemotherapy, but admits that the road to recovery will be difficult.

 

Fignon was a virtual unknown when he won the 1983 Tour de France. When he faced four-time Tour champ, Bernard Hinault, and Tour first-timer, Greg LeMond, in the 1984 edition of the race, nobody believed that he could repeat his victory. But, that he did and in convincing fashion. His victory in the 1989 Giro d'Italia made him the overwhelming favorite for the Tour that year, but Greg LeMond hung tough with the Frenchman in the mountains and then uncorked that amazing final day TT in Paris to wrestle the jersey from Fignon.

 

In the 1990's Fignon bought the Paris-Nice bike race and ran that event until his divorce forced him to sell the race to ASO, who also owns the Tour. Recently, Fignon opened the Laurent Fignon Center outside Bagneres de Bigorre at the foot of the Col du Tourmalet.  The center is a state-of-the-art facility offering coaching, training, and just about everything associated with riding a bike.

 

Bon chance, Laurent.

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The Cervelo Test Team was launched in 2009 by the original founders of the Cervelo bike company Phil White and Gerard Vroomen. While they do not currently hold a Pro Tour license, they are the number one ranked professional team in the world based on their results in the biggest races including four stage win a the recent Giro d'Italia.  The team includes 2008 Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre and Tour green jersey wearer Thor Hushovd, but recruits such as Heinrich Haussler, Serge Pauwels and Simon Gerrans have also performed well.

 

I caught up with Phil White and rider Simon Gerrans at the team bus after the Blockhaus stage.

 

Bruce: tell me about Carlos Sastre's win on Monte Petrano

 

Phil White: It was not scripted, but that was something we wanted to do. We figured that was a stage he could really excel on. It was similar to what he did last year on l'Alpe d'Huez. When everyone else is worn down he's just got more energy and can go longer than anyone else.  He's like the Energizer Bunny of cycling.

 

Bruce: what about Simon Gerrans' win at Bologna?

 

Phil White: It was a long day. That break worked super well together.  There was no scrapping, everyone pulled their weight and it just came down to who the strongest rider was. Gerrans is a strong rider.  We saw him win the Tour stage win and that is one reason we got him.

 

Bruce: how hard was it to build a team from scratch and get some credibility?

 

Phil White: I think the reputation of the team was initially that Carlos put his name to it then Thor.  Those guys brought credibility to the effort, but pretty soon those guys in the classics put their stamp on it and now it is not a team that is relying on two name riders. It is a team that has built its own reputation. Those guys came right out of the blocks and stamped their name on it a the Tour of Qatar.  It got the monkey off our back early so we could focus on moving ahead rather than feeling the pressure to win.

 

Bruce: was it hard to get the respect of the other teams in the Pro Peloton?

 

Phil White: I don't think anyone gives you respect just by showing up.  You have to earn it.  Luckily our guys earned it pretty hard and pretty solidly right from the start.  In pro cycling there is no such thing as an easy ride.  You have to earn your stripes and there is no way around that. We have good guys and they proved early on that they deserved the respect.

 

Bruce: how are things looking for the Tour?

 

Phil White:  I think we will be right in there for the Tour. The Giro is our grand tour debut.  I have a book where I have been making notes, and the sport directors have as well and it is pretty much full of little things we have to fix and improve.  That's how we are going to get better by focusing on the things we

can do better.

 

Simon Gerrans

 

Bruce: Take us through the finale of your win at Bologna.

 

Simon Gerrans: I think it was just basically survival of the breakaway; whoever could get to the top first. There was nothing too tactical about it. It was just who could get up the hill the fastest.

 

Bruce: it looked like the false flat halfway up took you by surprise.

 

Simon Gerrans: I didn't know the climb so that second ramp up to the finish was a bit of a surprise. Luckily I had a bit of gas in the tank for that.

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