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Active Expert: Bruce Hildenbrand

19 Posts tagged with the george_hincapie tag


Posted by Bruce Hildenbrand Jul 26, 2008

What can you say about the ride of Carlos Sastre? When he needed to put it all together and defend the yellow jersey he did just that. Teammate Jens Voigt described Carlos as a 'peaceful warrior' and that is exactly what we saw. Unlike his pursuer Evans, who was all over his bike, mouth agape, searching for speed, Sastre seemed to be at ease and pedaled smoothly to keep the maillot jaune. It was a graceful show of strength and class and Carlos will ride into Paris a very deserved winner of the 2008 Tour de France.


Clearly, Cadel Evans did not have his best time trial. As all my fellow journalists spent the past several days reminding their readers, on paper, Evans had the cred to not only take the yellow jersey, but to also win the final time trial. Maybe it was fatigue, maybe it was nerves, but the Australian finds himself on the same step of the podium as last year. For many, this will be viewed as a failure, however, this was an extremely open Tour with a lot of attacks from a number of contenders. Maybe if Evans had attacked sometime during the Tour he would have found that extra minute, but he seemed to be content to follow and not lead banking on his prowess in the time trial which failed him in the end.


It is fitting that the rider who launched the biggest attack on the biggest climb should win the Tour. And it is also fitting that the team who schooled everyone in both the Pyrenees and the Alps should have the yellow jersey. Carlos and his team CSC Saxo Bank put on a racing clinic in the final two weeks.  Look for Bjarne Riis coming to you soon in a late night infomercial.  Buy the book and the DVD.  Unlike all the other get rich quick schemes on TV, it will be worth it.


I just have to remind you all that I predicted that Sastre could hang on to the yellow jersey in the time trial citing the power of the yellow jersey and giving the Floyd Landis/Oscar Pereiro dual in 2006 when Floyd took over 4 minutes out of Pereiro in the first time trial, but when the yellow jersey was on the line could only manage a little over a minute in the finial time trial. I am by no means taking credit for Sastre's ride, but it just goes to show that sometimes statistics and calculators don't count for much, especially when the yellow jersey is on the line. As Obe Won once said "the power of the yellow is strong."





race notes


Chrsitian Vandevelde rode exceptionally well, finishing fourth in the TT and moving up to 5th overall. Save for the day to Jausiers in the Alps where he lost 2'30" he would be on the podium in Paris. It just goes to show that you can't have a bad day at the Tour on a critical stage and expect to be on the podium.  Having said that, this is an incredible result for Christian and his Garmin-Chipotle team. As I said in an earlier blog (titled Christian Vandevelde) he has toiled as a domestique for many, many years and it is great to see him step from the shadows and become a bonafide grand tour contender. The boys at Garmin-Chipotle have more than enough reason to pop the champagne.  Chapeau Christian!


How about the rest of the Garmin-Chipotle team in the final time trial.  With Millar (3rd), Vandevelde(4th) and Ryder Hesjedal(13th) and Danny Pate(14th) in the top 15 these guys rocked!  To be able to perform at that level in the third week of the Tour shows these guys are the real deal and totally deserved to be here. And those guys have also finished the Giro as well! Double chapeau!


During the time trial there was a camera and microphone in the Silence Lotto car following Cadel.  Evans was getting a lot of information from his team director as to which side of the road was the most advantageous for the wind, reminders of upcoming tricky corners, etc. I am guessing that the riders on the other teams get the same information which helps them go as fast and safely as possible.


Can the Schleck brothers improve their time trialing or will this be their achilles heal?  The two Luxembourgers rode so well in the mountains it is a shame that their time trialing abilities are so disparate with their climbing.  If they were diminutive Spanish climbers I could understand why they come up short. On the other hand, Carlos Sastre is one of those smallish Spaniards.  Hopefully, somebody can figure it out and make them faster.


Bernhard Kohl rode the time trial of his life to get the third step on the podium. It was an inspired ride and one that just might signal the arrival of another bonafide contender for the Tour. BTW, his Gerlosteiner team is disbanding at the end of the year. I hope Bernhard has an agent!


I hear word that a German-based super team is in the works.  Both Kohl and his teammate double time trial winner, Stefan Schumacher, are good candidates for that squad, though Kohl is actually Austrian.


Team Columbia rider George Hincapie also deserves special mention. George crashed badly on the Galibier a few days ago and was sporting some really awful looking road rash on both his left arm and leg. He has been soldiering on toward Paris on a day-by-day basis.  He finished 10th in the time trial to go with his other top 10 in the first time trial. He is one tough (and fast) dude.

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Hanging with the Pros

Posted by Bruce Hildenbrand Jul 24, 2008

One thing I have learned from my many years as a journalist is that, especially at the start and finish of race stages, I should only ask a few questions and the total interview should be around a minute. This is for several reasons. First off, there are other journalists who also want to talk to the riders. If I tie up a rider for five minutes, when time is really critical, not only do I keep other journalists from getting their story, but I risk having competing journalists evesdrop on my interview and then I loose a bit of exclusivity. So to be fair and to keep my interview as exclusive as possible I get and get out and let others do their work as well.


The second reason is that these riders have a job to do. Yes, they need to make themselves available to the press, but before or after race stages when chaos and anxiety are at critical levels is not the place to start asking about career goals and how they feel about the war in Iraq. So, out of courtesy, I try to keep it short and simple.


Today at the sign in for the stage from Bourg d'Oisans to St. Etienne I talked to a bunch of the riders who have been lighting it up in the Alps.


Carlos Sastre rolled up in his first day in yellow. BTW, Sastre's time for the ascent of the l'Alpe d'Huez was 39'29" for an average speed of 13 miles per hour.


Jens Voigt has done just about everything in this Tour from pacesetting at the front to climbing to initiating breakaways to super-domestique in the mountains. I asked him if is there is anything he cannot do. "I am really shite on a rainy descent. That's the only thing where I am absolutely hopeless. Apart from that I think I am doing well."




Jens was asked to describe his teammate Carlos Sastre. "He is just a peaceful warrior. He's hard when it comes to it(racing), but he is friendly and loyal. He gives a lot to the team so that is why everyone wants to help him."


Austrian Bernard Kohl of the Gerlosteiner squad will wear the polka-dot jersey into Paris. I asked him about what it was like on the Alpe, where he finished in the lead chasing group and sits third overall 1'34 seconds behind Sastre and one second behind Cadel Evans. "Yeah, it was really hard. It was the hardest stage in the Alps and after two and a half weeks of racing and after 200 kilometers (on that day) the race was really hard."




Who was he keying off of on the Alpe? "I had to look for Cadel Evans. He needed to keep the gap from getting too big for the time trial." Can Kohl defend his podium position or even move up a place or two in the final time trial? "No, I am not really the time trialer like Cadel Evans or Denis Menchov. I am a climber. I will try my best in the time trial and we will see."


Kohl's Gerlosteiner teammate, winner of the first time trial and former wearer of the yellow jersey, Stefan Schumacher, was especially active in the Alps with long breakaways on the stage to Jausiers and also to the Alpe. I asked him if he was trying to make up for his sub-par performance in the Pyrenees. "Yeah, in the Pyrenees I was not so good, but now I have a lot of time(he was way down on GC) so I tried. Also, it was important for the team to ride an offensive race and work for the mountains jersey. Bernard had the jersey and I controlled it at the front."




Danny Pate was in the lead breakway on the stage to Prato Nevoso and in a position to snag Team Garmin-Chipotle's first Tour stage win. I asked him who he was watching on the climb to the finish. "I was just watching the Euskatel guy(Egoi Martinez) because he seemed like the best guy." Both Pate's and teammate Will Frischkorn's breakway moves were big pluses for the squad and proved their worth in the Tour even if they did not win a stage. Also, having a rider contending for the Tour podium isn't half bad, either!


Save for one bad day, the stage to Huatacam in the Pyrenees, Alejandro Valverde would be a heavy favorite for a podium finish come Paris in four days time. I asked him what happened down south and why he climbed much better in the Alps. "In the Pyrenees I had bad luck and my legs were not there. In the Alps I felt better and could climb better as well. I am happy with how things have worked out."




George Hincapie crashed hard on the stage to the Alpe and on the day after he was wearing extensive bandages on his left side which were already showing stains from his wounds. He looked like he was in a lot of pain and confrimed it when he succintly answered my question on how he feels. "Bad." I asked him if he would soldier on to Paris and he replied that he would give it a shot. George is a true warrior and I hope he makes to to Paris for his 13th Tour.




The last of the 150 remaining riders to sign in was one of the true revelations of the race, Garmin-Chipotle cyclist Christian Vandevelde. He was oh, so close to the podium, and has still has a shot, but the emerging star recounted what happened in the Alps. "I had one bad day two days ago but I made up for it yesterday."


Most likely referring to the clinic Team CSC Saxo Bank put on during the past three days, when asked how it felt to leave the Alps, Christian was not convinced that the race had truly left the Alps therefore allowing the riders to rest up for the showdown on Saturday. "It feels good, but we are still in the Alps. We have to go to St. Etienne first."


Well, there you have it.





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Every year I try to get out on course for at least one, hopefully two, mountain stages to see what's up. Obviously, tomorrow on l'Alpe d'Huez will be nothing short of crazy; it's kind of like the unofficial shrine to all that is the Tour de France. Today, I rode up the Col de la Bonnette to see if there was similar antics on the highest continuously paved climb in all of western Europe.


But, first a bit of history about the Bonnette. For many years, the Col d'Iseran which rises above the ski station of Val d'Isere was the highest continuously paved pass in Europe at 2770m(about 9200'). Then some enterprising Frenchman understanding the tourist aspects of having the highest pass in Europe in his backyard decided to create a loop road starting from the top of the Col de Restefond. Now, the Restefond is a pretty formidable climb in its own right at 2650M(8800'), but by adding 150m(500') to the the height of the Restefond, the Bonnette was born at 2800m(9300').


OK. It is not the first time tourism has had an effect on some sort of 'natural' formation, but for cyclists, it is definitely a drag. Both sides of the Col du Restefond are 5000' climbs but they are very well-graded in the 5-9% range with the majority of the climbing in the 7% range. When the locals added the Col de la Bonnette, they put the 150m of additional climbing in just over 1 kilometer resulting in the final pitch to the summit offering sections of 13-14%. After riding up 5000' of moderate climbing, the last thing any cyclist needs is 14% climbing and at 9000' above sea level none the less.


Oh well, we all just do it and curse a bit under our breath. It is still one of the great monuments to cycling even if the 'sting in the tail', so to speak, is a bit contrived. On Tour day, for some reason the gendarmes make the cyclists walk the final kilometer which given its steep nature is probably not met with much protest.


Here are a few photos of the craziness on the Bonnette. The Alpe is still king, but there were enough crazys out there to make the ascent worthwhile.








Race Notes


So there I was just standing at the finish line and when stage winner Cyril Dessel came across the line, he rode right up to me(I don't know why) and the next thing that happens is the total media scrum descends around me like a rugby match with me right in the middle of the whole mess. Here are a couple of pics of the moment.







Here's a shot of Frank Schleck in the yellow jersey.




For us Americans, it was tough to see Christian Vandevelde get dropped from the lead group on the Bonnette. He finished about 2"30" behind the overall leaders which is a courageous effort and shows that as a team leader he knows how to limit his losses. We must not forget that Christian is an excellent time trialist and was fifth in the final TT in the Giro. At 50km, it is not inconceivable that he could pull back two minutes plus on everyone save Cadel Evans and possibly Menchov. Barring a total collapse by Evans (and he is looking a bit vulnerable) Vandevelde probably lost his chance at the win, but the podium is still on the table.




George HIncapie of Team Columbia was looking good for the stage win, but the sting in the tail, the final kilometer of the Bonnette shattered the lead group and he was unable to bridge across to the leaders on the descent which he described as 'crazy". Still, it was a great ride by the 35-year old who showed that he has not given up the fight.




Yet again, Team CSC Saxo Bank held a clinic on the final climb. These guys should write a book.


Ryder Hesjedal of the Garmin-Chipotle team finished a very credible 30th on the stage only 4'27" back of the stage winner. We always knew he could climb, it is great to see him up there in the high mountains.






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Team Columbia Shines

Posted by Bruce Hildenbrand Jul 11, 2008

For the first time in Tour history there are two American teams participating and both are showing well.  While Jonathan Vaughters' Garmin-Chipotle squad has been sending riders up the road and getting a lot of TV time, Team Columbia has quietly been leaving it's mark, though as the days progress, that mark seems to be getting bigger and bigger.


Bob Stapleton's squad now holds the yellow (Kim Kirchen), green (Kirchen) and white (Thomas Lokvist) jerseys as well as a stage win by Mark Cavendish which all adds up to an exceptional showing in the first week of the Tour. And what makes the results even more impressive is that Team Columbia is doing it with a bunch of young riders.  Cavendish, Lokvist, Gerard Ciolek Marcus Burghardt and Kanstantin Siutsov are all 25 years old or younger and are in either their first or second year at the Tour.  Adam Hansen and Bernard Eisel are just 27 and it is the first Tour for Hansen.


This might seem like a coincidence, but it's not. You may remember that Team Columbia started the year as Team High Road Sports which before that was the old T-Mobile/Team Telekom squad. T-Mobile was rocked by doping allegations during the 2006 Tour which left Jan Ullrich out of the race and at the end of the season, the sponsors put Stapleton in charge, hoping that fresh blood at the top could turn things around. Unfortunately, the problems with the team were much deeper than just upper management and 2007 was another year of doping scandals for team.


At the team's training camp this past January, I talked with Bob about the 2007 season. He felt like he had let everyone down, having been brought in to make a difference only to see the same things happen. To be honest, it wasn't his fault.He inherited riders and team management which were still operating under the previous mindset. So, for 2008, Bob cleaned house with major personnel changes both on and off the bike. It was a total overhaul as only two riders from the team prior to 2006 were re-signed.


Also, Stapleton engaged the Agence for Ethics in Cycling(ACE) to do periodic drug testing and monitoring of biological parameters.  This is the same outfit which is working with the other American team Garmin-Chipotle. So, now it is Bob's team and the buck stops with the soft-spoken resident of San Luis Obispo in



The team had been enjoying a hugely successful season with Kirchen's win at Fleche Wallone, Siutsov's victory at Tour de Georgia and three stage wins in the Giro d'Italia just to name a few of the teams 70+ wins. To be sure, some of those victories have come from the women's team which has also been having a stellar season.  All in all, it really does appear that Stapleton has turned things around and with the recent signing of Columbia Sportswear as the title sponsor, these guys are truly on a roll.



Race Notes


-After a week of watching every French rider in the peloton go up the road (having not won their home race in 23 years must be creating some sort of inferiority complex), it was refreshing to see three Spaniards and an Italian in the the critical move today.  As we get closer to the Pyrenees, expect the Spaniards to be even more animated.


-Spartacus(Fabian Cancellara) is having some fun with the race officials.  He is wearing unlucky race number 13 which he wears upside down on his left side.


-It was great to see George Hincapie at the front today working for team leader Kim Kirchen. It brings back memories when Hincapie would sit on the front all day for Lance Armstrong.  If there was ever a better domestique, well, I can't think of one at the moment.


-Was anybody surprised to see Jens Voigt in the breakaway today going for a stage win? Like Mark Cavendish, that guy is excitement on wheels. He tried and tried in the Giro earlier this year before winning just a few dyas before the finish. I am hoping that he gets another stage win in France. If it happens it certainly won't be for lack of trying.


-Alejandro Valverde looks like an advertisement for the the Mummy Returns.  His entire right calf and right arm are wrapped in bandages from a crash on stage 5.The fact that he finished second to Ricardo Ricco on the next days mountain stage is incredible since he was only able to sleep for two hours because of the injury.  These guys truly are the hard men of the road.


-the Garmin-Chipotle team continued it's aggressive ways with David Millar jumping into the same breakway as Jens Voigt.  With Millar only a minute back from the yellow jersey he probably wasn't warmly welcomed into the move by his breakaway companions, but it was yet another indication that the team weren't just in France to eat some crepes and work on their tans.

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