Skip navigation

Active Expert: Bruce Hildenbrand

3 Posts tagged with the kim_kirchen tag

It has been a pretty uneventful rest day at the Tour and after two and a half weeks, that is a good thing. Lance Armstrong has come out publicly and stated that his aspirations for the Tour's yellow jersey are over and that Contador is the best rider on the team. I am sure that was not what the Texan wanted to be saying, but it was a classy thing to do. He still sits in second place, but unless he can find a bit more climbing fitness, the podium might be a stretch. There is a 25-mile(40km) time trial in Annecy on Thursday, but that might not be enough to erase any deficits if he continues to struggle on the climbs.

 

I spent the rest day visiting several teams, Columbia-HTC and Saxo Bank and sittting down with some riders for interviews. Here are a few. Look for more to dribble in over the next few days.

 

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

George Hincapie is the most popular rider in the US save that guy from Texas. He hold the American record for most Tour starts (14) and finishes (13).

 

Bruce: fourteen Tours de France. That is an incredible legacy. Did you finish every one?

 

George: I finished every one except my first one(1996). I was just a young kid and I was trying to get ready for the Olympics. I rode two weeks of it then had a bad crash and pulled out.

 

Bruce: what's in your future on the bike?

 

George: I am definitely going to keep racing. I don't know if I will do a couple more Tours.  I will probably do another couple of years. I don't know if I will be able to come back to the Tour or not. It is still undecided there.

 

Bruce: How are you feeling?

 

George: I feel good. I definitely had a very big disappointment the other day. I had a big chance to be in yellow. That seems to be standing out more than anything right now. But as far as my riding, I am going quite well. Hopefully, I can pull something out in the last week.

 

Bruce: Let's talk about that moment. It appeared to be a bit of a misunderstanding between you and the Astana guys. It didn't look like they were the ones who were really doing the work. It looks like you got some bad information at the finish line.

 

George: I don't know about that. I have my opinion and I know the facts. I don't really care to comment on what happened and who did what wrong. I have a strong opinion on that and I will keep that to myself.

 

Bruce: You had the yellow jersey for a day in 2006?

 

George: I know it would have been hard to keep it(yellow jersey) yesterday, but it would have been very special to get it.

 

Bruce: What is your role on the team?

 

George: I can pretty much do everything for the guys. I can help them in the mountains. I can represent them in the breakaways. And I can help Cavendish in the sprints. So, I think I have done a great job for the team. This team is amazing. It is the best team I have ever been on by far as far as the depth of the riders and the comaraderie. For sure.

 

Bruce: It almost looks automatic for you guys to win a bunch sprint. Take us through the final 2kms of a field sprint

 

George: That's the thing. That is why I say this team is so good. People watching just think it is automatic.  They see us all lined up, all together, but they don't see how hard it is to stay together and how much fighting that is going on and all the bumping. There are people trying to cut inside you on the corners. It is just real chaos.  But, this team is so good at staying together. We never get complacent. We are always 100% focused and 100% motivated to get Cav to the final 200 meters.

 

Bruce: what's the lineup for the leadout train and how does it function?

 

George: Bernie (Eisel) and (Bert) Grabsch are doing most of the work the whole day. With 5-10km to go Kim (Kirchen) and Maxime (Monfort) take over. Michael Rogers has been taking over with 2km to go. Tony Martin takes over with 1500m to go then I take over with about 1km to go and then Renshaw takes over with 500m to go.

 

Bruce: Obviously, your stage win in 2005 at Pla d'Adet was a huge moment in your career. But, are there any other Tour moments which stand out in your career?

 

George: Winning team time trials. Anytime you get to the Champs Elysees no matter what you have done is a huge accomplishment just to get there. Those are definitely moments which stand out.

 

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

Mark Cavendish is the best field sprinter in the business, bar none. Even with all his successes he has been criticized for not getting over the mountains and finishing the Tour.

 

Bruce: You are finally going to try and make it to Paris.  How do you feel about your climbing?

 

Mark: I am not suffering in the grupetto. I am just sitting in there. I don't ned to try and climb with the front riders. What I need to do is save as much energy when I am not climbing with the front riders. I was never going to get dropped from the grupetto, anyway. At least now I can recover and save energy rather than having to go full gas to try and stay in the grupetto.

 

Bruce: are there any opportunities to try and get back the green jersey?

 

Mark: It's not happening. The green jersey is gone now. Eighteen points on Thor is too much.

 

Bruce: let's talk about the rest of your Tour. You won four stages.

 

Mark: I said "if I don't win a stage I have failed." So, you have to be content with one stage at the Tour. It is the Tour de France. I set two goals, one to win a stage, the other goal was to reach Paris. I won a stage. I am close to reaching Paris. That is successful. Getting to wear green for the first time in my career. Tony to wear white. We still have all nine guys in the race. It has gone perfect for us, actually.

 

Bruce: let's talk about your new book 'Boy Racer'. What is the part of your personality that you haven't shown publicly that is in the book.

 

Mark: If you buy the book it explains why I am emotional after a stage. If I wina race I am elated. If I lose a race I am destroyed, angry, aggressive. It is easy to sum up a person fifteen seconds straight after a race when all that emotion that is pent up has spilled out. That's fifteen seconds where you can make the right or wrong decision about a person. If you read the book it shows that there is much more to me than just this Jekyl and Hyde a$$hole, really.

 

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

Jens Voigt is on the powerful Saxo Bank team which has two riders in contention for high placings in the overall classification.

 

Bruce: What will the plan be for Saxo Bank be for the Alps with Andy Schleck riding so well.

 

Jens: Andy sits in fifth place overall so there is room to improve on that. He got the white jersey which was his first objective achieved, but of course we aim high and we would like to have one of the Schleck brothers on the podiium. It looks like things are pretty simple from the way I see it. We gotta move. We got to try and make the race hard and give Frank and Andy a chance to shine in the mountains. We gotta get past Wiggins. We have to drop and gain more time on people like Tony Martin, on Kloden, on Armstrong, the good time trialists.

 

In the ideal scenario we would, two days from now, start the time trial with Andy being comfortably ahead of the good time trialists, especially Wiggins who is an awesome time trialer. We have to look into getting him(Wiggins) into trouble

.  Our strength is that we have two really good, strong climbers and we have to work with that.

 

Bruce: what will your role be in the Alps?

 

Jens: to just make life hard for the others. It is probably the best for me to create chaos. That's good. That's what I am best at. Just make people suffer and have tactics such that they never know if you go now or go later. To put constant pressure on the others (rivals).

 

Bruce: pleast fill us in on what happened when you flatted out of that breakaway on stage 14 to Besancon. That was a Jens Voigt-type breakaway.

 

Jens: I am sure that the poor fellow tried (to change his wheel) as quick as he could. It is just complicated to change the back wheel. Then there were the whole circumstances. They had to come running to me to see, first of all, do we have a front wheel or back wheel. By the time we got the bike changed it was too late.

 

Then you have this rule that you are actually allowed to go behind the group with the yellow car to get back to the group where you had the puncture because you didn't puncture because it was funny. You have been punished enough by that (getting a wheel change).  I tried to talk to them, but the commissaire quickly said "No, no. This isn't going to happen here. There is no helping."

 

So, I was out there all by myself and quickly calculated my chances. Twelve strong riders swapping off in the front and me alone and I figured out that is next to zero that I am going to see them again.

 

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

Italian Vincenzo Nibali finished third behind Alberto Contador in Verbier. His is a young rider with a lot of potential. Italian is my fourth language after English, Spanish and French, but I managed to get several questions out to the Liquigas rider at the team bus yesterday at the finish.

 

Bruce: It was a good day for you?

 

Vincenzo: Yes, it was a good day, but Contador was much better. He was so much faster than the rest of us. But, yes, it was a good day for me and my team.

 

Bruce: is it possible to finish top 5 in the Tour?

 

Vincenzo: yes, I hope it is possible for me to finish high in the general classification. I feel good and I feel very strong.

 

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

This was a work of art just on the retaining wall just as the riders entered the town of Verbier. Pretty cool!

 

I don't know if you can tell by this photo, but former yellow jersey rider Rinaldo Nocentini (87) has his saddle pointed slightly downward.

 

Ah, the joys of getting something from the publicity caravan.

6,089 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: tour_de_france, bruce_hildenbrand, alberto_contador, george_hincapie, mark_cavendish, lance_armstrong, andy_schleck, kim_kirchen, jens_voigt, bradley_wiggins, michael_rogers, mark_renshaw, saxo_bank, columbia_htc, tony_martin, bert_grabsch, bert_grabsch, bernard_eisel, maxime_monfort, verbier

Rain, Rain Go Away

Posted by Bruce Hildenbrand Jul 12, 2008

Rain was the main course as the Tour snaked south towards its rendezvous in the Pyrenees tomorrow.  Unlike sports like baseball, rain very rarely cancels a bike race, let alone a stage of the world's greatest race. These guys are all about suffering and a day in the rain only adds to the evidence that professional riders are the hard men of the road. That doesn't mean they have to like it, but they totally accept the fact that they are going to get wet (and cold!).

 

Riding safely in the rain does require some additional attention and skills and while there does appear to be more crashes on a wet day, without the abilities of the top pros, it could easily be total carnage. There are some basic rules they like to obey. First off, they avoid rolling over any painted surfaces, the bigger the painted surface the more they avoid it. The reason is simple, paint does not absorb water and hence a film of water will build up. Since the contact patch of a road tire is about the size of a postage stamp, hydroplaning is a real concern.

 

It is bad enough that there are lots of traffic regulating paint on the road, but when the rabid Tour fans go completely nuts and paint a huge section of roadway with their country's flag, this creates a mini-skating rink that is exceptionally dangerous. In 2002, American Freddie Rodriguez crashed out on just such a flag on the second day of the Tour. So, avoid paint at all costs.

 

Metal grates and manhole covers are another land mine. These things become so slick when wet that one minute you are up, the next you are eating asphalt.  Unfortunately, metal surfaces seem to abound in the towns along the Tour route. Not a great welcome for the peloton.

 

As we have all seen in the classic of classics Paris-Roubaix, stone surfaces are also very slick and dangerous. For some reason, every town in France seems to want to reclaim their roots and have at least one section of stones right in the middle of town to remind us all of times past. Luckily, most of these sections are usually found on straight portions of the road and not in turns.

 

So, when it gets wet, take a tip from the pros at the Tour. Stay away from painted surfaces, metal covers and grates and brick and stones. Asphalt baby!

-


Race Notes

 

It was a text book win for Mark Cavendish today. His team did an incredible job all day long riding at the front for Kim Kirchen in yellow and then swtiched to leadout mode for the win. In fact, with Ciolek (2nd) and Kirchen (4th) there were three Team Columbia riders in the top four. In his post race interview, Cavendish re-iterated that he is feeling strong and has no plans to drop out in the mountains.  He thinks his next chance for a stage win many come on stage 12, but also acknowledged that the traditional breakaway during such a transitional stage between the Pyrenees and the Alps may foil his chances.

 

Yesterday, news of the first doping positive of the Tour was announced. Liquigas rider, Manuel Beltran, tested positive for EPO. Beltran was one of ten riders who had abnormal blood values during the Tour's medical checks the week before the start and because of this was targeted for additional testing during the race.

The identities of the other nine riders have not been released nor have they, as yet, tested positive for any banned substances.

1,652 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: bruce_hildenbrand, mark_cavendish, 2008_tour_de_france, team_columbia, kim_kirchen, manuel_beltran

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

California.

 

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.

1,817 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: bruce_hildenbrand, george_hincapie, bob_stapleton, 2008_tour_de_france, team_columbia, team_garmin_chipotle, kim_kirchen