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Active Expert: Bruce Hildenbrand

113 Posts tagged with the lance_armstrong tag

More powerful rain storms dogged the riders on stage 3 from San Jose to Modesto. The riders are pros and they don't complain, but they are clearly hoping for sunny skies and the pleasantries are wearing a bit thin.  At the line it was Norwegian Thor Hushovd who won the stage for Gerard Vroomen's and Phil White's Cervelo Test Team. I spent a lot of time at the starting line talking with the riders and trying to find out how they are holding up.


With Jonathan Vaughters in Europe attending to his new duties as president of the professional rider's union, directorship of the Garmin-Slipstream team is being shared by former Discovery Channel pros Matt White and Chann McRae.  I talked with Chann about the outstanding win by team member Thomas Peterson on yesterday's stage to Santa Cruz.


"The game plan was to get him (Tom Peterson) and Steven Cozza or Trent Lowe into the breakaway and they did that.  Once they established the break the plan was to have Steven Cozza do most of the work with the other guys in the breakaway and have Peterson ride the last climb fairly fresh.  We know that he (Peterson) is climbing well, he tested really well in the testing we did before we came out here and he backed it up.  I told him there were two races, one was to be the first to the top of the climb, the second was for the finish line and he did both of those."


Stage winner Thomas Peterson gave his account of the win. "It (the plan) was perfect. I had already pre-ridden the course so I knew what to expect. I also knew that I could probably hold his wheel. It was a perfect situation."  When asked about  not sharing the pacemaking with Levi, Peterson explained, " He tried to wave me through a couple of times, but he knew I couldn't pull because Zabriskie and Danielson were back there."


Lance Armstrong is in fourth place overall, but he is riding this race in support of his teammate Levi.  I asked him if he felt the team could defend the jersey. "We've got a good team. You are never totally sure, there are other strong guys in the race.  The boys are strong. He's(Levi) motivated and he's obviously riding really well."  When I asked him about how his comeback was progressing, he replied, "Not bad for an old man."


Floyd Landis has had his comeback derailed a bit by some bad luck, flatting out of the lead chase group on stage 1 into Santa Rosa, but he has been soldering on.  I asked him how the weather was affecting his comeback and how he was holding up with all the rain. "The weather could be better, but the bike race is the same for everybody. Bike races are determined by training, strategy and sometimes luck.  I think everyone would be much more pleasant if it was sunny but, we'll get through it."


Tyler Hamilton's mother was diagnosed with breast cancer a few months ago. His pre-season training has suffered as he returned to Boston to help her through her cancer treatments.  Tyler reflected on his role with the team at the AToC. "I have no problem being in the support role. For me it is all about the team whether it is me up in front or Oscar Sevilla or Paco Mancebo it is all the same. Yesterday, I rode in the front all the way to the base of the last climb. For me that was a lot of fun.  It is something different, but to be honest, I stayed warm, probably a lot warmer than the rest of the guys."


With all the highly publicized troubles the team has endured in the pre-season, a lot of people have written off Michael Ball's squad.  Tyler summarized how the AToC has been going for Rock Racing. "We won a stage. We did a lot of work yesterday in defense of Paco's jersey. Unfortunately, he was still pretty beat up from the day before.  But, we did our best and obviously Paco did his best so we will take it day by day now.  Sevilla is looking very strong.  He is our GC guy."


After an off day yesterday, Rock Racing's Francisco Mancebo looked in better spirits sporting the AToC Sprint Leader's jersey and several other accessories.  I asked him how he was feeling.  "Last night I tried to get as much rest as possible.  We will see today if my strength has returned."


Tom Boonen, who won a stage in the AToC last year, has been absent from the front, even on the flatter stages. I asked him why he was hanging back and it was clear that the best Classics rider over the past four years has the legendary spring races on his mind and is holding back on contesting the sprints.  "Yeah, but I don't like to do it(sprinting) in the rain.  I was hoping that today was going to be a little bit better.  I am trying to avoid the risks of crashing."


When reminded that the California weather was much like that found in Belgium, he jokingly replied "In Belgium it is 50F and good weather right now.  The next time somebody says 'I hate to come to Belgium' They're going to mean California"




Race Notes:


The weather report looks good for at least the next four days with rain nowhere in sight.  It is also warming up.


The riders on the Ouch Medical Team are a true class act. Yesterday, as the racers came across the line I first asked Tim Johnson, then Rory Sutherland, for a quick interview.  Both begged off citing the cold weather and the need to get to the team bus to warm up after five hours in the rain.  This morning at the stage start both came up to me and apologized for not being able to give me an interview.  True class.


The race organizers are concerned that, at 5200', the top of the Palomar Mountain climb might be in snow if the rain returns.  They have an alternate route which eliminates the final seven miles of the Palomar climb by heading straight (south) on Highway 76 and doing a loop around Mesa Grande before returning to the original race route at the bottom of East Grade Road on Palomar Mountain.  Mesa Grande is still a bit high at 3200', but should be snow-free.


Non-Race Notes


Rob Jensen, owner of the Testarossa Winery in Los Gatos, hosted the Versus team, Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen, Craig Hummer, producers John Carter and Mike Long and me for a special wine tasting and dinner after the stage into Santa Cruz. It was a great time for everyone to sample some tasty wines and relax after some hard days in the saddle(so to speak).  Thanks Rob (and his wife Diana).

1,549 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: bruce_hildenbrand, levi_leipheimer, tom_boonen, lance_armstrong, amgen_tour_california, floyd_landis, tyler_hamilton, garmin_slipstream, ouch_medical, chan_mccrae, thomas_peterson, francisco_mancebo

The rain continued to fall on the second road stage of the Amgen Tour of California(AToC), but that didn't deter the 135 riders from taking to some of the prettiest roads in Northern California. Bicycles crossed the main road of the Golden Gate Bridge for only the second time in history (the first time was in the first Tour of California in 1971) then headed south along Highway 1 toward Santa Cruz.  By the first of the day's two major climbs a group of ten riders had broken away from the pack and established a three-minute lead. At the head of affairs was Bissell Pro Cycling rider Ben Jacques-Maynes who went to college near the finish at UC Santa Cruz and knows the roads of the race route like the back of his hand.


Yesterday, I asked Ben if he thought the big boys would be firing on the last climb of the day, Bonny Doon Road.  "I am not going to wait around to try to get to the line with them . So we will see what happens." True to his word, he seemed to be the leader of the breakaway, bringing his group to the base of Bonny Doon Road with their three-minute lead intact. But, Team Astana, who is clearly the strongest squad in the race took charge launching Levi Leipheimer in pursuit of the escapees. The two-time overall race winner rocketed passed all the early leaders like he was on a motorbike and only Garmin-Slipstream rider Thomas Peterson could gain his wheel.


Leipheimer and Peterson kept their advantage all the way to the finish line where Peterson took the win and Levi gained 31 seconds over his rivals throwing a Tiger Woods fist pump in the air as he crossed the finish line.  I asked Levi if his attack was motivated by the time he lost on yesterday's stage into Santa Rosa. "It was payback for what Mancebo did to us yesterday," replied Leipheimer


Michael Rogers of Team Columbia-High Road finished third on the day. The three-time World Time Trial champion led the chase to catch Levi.  "We had to.  We were just trying to limit our losses to Levi." The team's hard work paid off as Rogers moved into second place overall, only 21 seconds behind Leipheimer.


The day's big loser was overnight race leader Fancisco Mancebo who finished 1'52" behind Leipheimer and dropped to 16th overall. I asked him what happened to him on the stage.  "I am dead, dead, dead.  I went very hard yesterday. Today I was tired and not able to go hard."


Even though Ben Jacques-Maynes didn't win the stage, he was awarded the Amgen Breakaway from Cancer Most Courageous Rider's Jersey for his day's efforts.  He recounted how it all unfolded. "We wanted to animate the race and my move was the one that went.  Andy was in a move and Frank was in a move before that.  I had the luck of the draw. I was cramping a bit by that point.  It was just so cold and wet.  The cold just takes it out of your legs so when it is time to push hard it is very difficult."


Race Notes


Lance Armstrong got knocked down on Highway 1 by a photo motorcycle driven by his personal photographer. He was unhurt and got back into the peloton without incident.


Ben Jacques-Maynes brother Andy crashed and was taken to hospital.  Ben knew his brother had crashed and was in the ambulance when it passed his breakaway heading to the hospital, but there was nothing he could do about it at that time.


With all the rain at both this year's and last year's race, there is some serious discussion about moving the race to the April dates vacated by the recently defunct Tour de Georgia.  Clearly, certain top-name pro riders would not be able to attend as it is the height of the one-day-classic season, but the weather should be better, in theory.


Lance Armstrong continues to impress.  He finished in the chase group behind Levi and is now in fourth place, only 30 seconds behind Leipheimer.


The weather for Tuesday still show rain, but Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday look dry.  Sunday might be a little wet, but the accuracy of the forecast models that far out is pretty poor.



1,531 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: bruce_hildenbrand, levi_leipheimer, lance_armstrong, team_astana, thomass_peterson, garmin-slipstream, michael_rogers, team_columbia_highroad, ben_jacques-maynes, bissell_pro_cycling_team

The 2009 Amgen Tour of California sloshed into Santa Rosa and it was Rock Racing's Francisco Mancebo, of Spain, who was off the front for 102 of the 107 miles in this stage, taking the victory. On a day when the elevation profile looked to allow the field to re-group after each of the three moderate climbs, mother nature, some dodging radio communications, and some last minute modifications to the race rules conspired to give Mancebo the opportunity to take the stage and potentially the overall Tour of California title.


Because of the cold, rainy conditions the peloton allowed Mancebo, Tim Johnson (Ouch Medical) and David Kemp(Flying V Australia Successful Living Foundation) to breakaway only five miles into the stage.  Poor communication from race radio, which keeps the teams up to date on the time gaps for breakaways, allowed the gap to grow to epic proportions. When Mancebo attacked his two companions and went free over Howell Mountain, that information was slow in reaching all the other teams. When word did get back to the pack, Team Astana went ballistic and shattered the field over Howell Mountain putting five of its riders in the 20-man chase group.  Armstrong, Leipheimer, Horner, Rubiera and Jani Brajkovic spent the better part of an hour and a half trying to bring back Mancebo.


When the race entered the streets of Santa Rosa, a territory quickly becoming known as the Bermuda Triangle of UCI race regulations, the officials decided to take the finishing times at the start of the first of the three finishing circuits. This decision, which was made sometime during the course of the stage basically robbed the chasing teams of about 7 miles of extra distance in which to try bring back Mancebo.


OK. We can all debate the advantages and disadvantages of race radios(personally, I don't like them), but the current rules allow them, maybe this time around it was a case of those who live by the radio, die by the radio. In any event, the overall standings of the AToC have been turned completely upside down. Mancebo is a good time trialist, but Levi Leipheimer has owned the Solvang TT the past two years and if Levi doesn't lose anymore time to Mancebo between now and then, the 1'02" he is down to Mancebo could easily be won back with a standard Leipheimer TT effort. For that matter, any of the 19 riders in the chase group who are now within about 1'30" of Mancebo are still in the hunt and could win the overall with a superb TT effort.


Here are some photos of the race.  I was playing around with soft focus a bit, please bear with. Graham Watson and I are good friends because 1) he can drink me under the table with one hand tied behind his back, 2) I am not going to be taking any food out his mouth with the cycling publications.


Here is a shot of Mancebo on the finishing circuits out in front solo.


Lance, with Horner on his wheel, are chasing hard.


After he crossed the finish line, Mancebo headed down my way.  Ben Delaney, Editor of VeloNews, and I were the first to approach him, but he wanted to do the interview in Spanish so we decided to leave it to the interpreters this time.



Race Notes:


On Saturday night, thieves broke into the Team Astana's bike trailer at the Residence Inn Sacramento and stole the first four bikes in the line-up.  Taken were Popovych's, Brajkovic's and Morabito's road bikes as well a Lance's one-of-a-kind TT bike on which he had just finished 10th that day in the prologue. Luckily, all the riders had spare bikes, but the team had to borrow three road bikes from Trek Travel for additional spares for Popo, Jani and Steve to have on top of the car for the day's stage.


I talked with Ben Coates who is the liaison with Trek for the team and who was upset that the incident occurred.  He was upbeat that this situation would demonstrate the advantages of US-made Trek bicycles in that replacement frames were in the process of being painted and sent out in the next few days to the team.



1,275 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: bruce_hildenbrand, levi_leipheimer, amgen_tour_of_california, rock_racing, lance_armstrong, team_astana, tim_johnson, ouch_medical, francesco_mancebo, chris_horner, fying_v_australia_successful_living_foundation, david_kemp

The fourth annual Amgen Tour of California (AToC) began on Saturday with best field of riders for a US race in the past 20 years. Yes, Lance was here, but so was Olympic and World Champion Fabian Cancellara, sprint phenom Mark Cavendish, double Paris-Roubaix winner Tom Boonen, Giro d'Italia champion Ivan Basso, Levi Leipheimer, Floyd Landis, three-time World champion Michael Rogers, US National Champions Tyler Hamilton and Dave Zabriskie, etc, etc, etc.


Not surprisingly, Fabian Cancellara duplicated his win from last year in the prologue with Levi Leipheimer and Dave Zabriskie rounding out the top three. Lance Armstrong met his pre-prologue goal of finishing in the top ten, but with time gaps in the tenths of second, this 2.4 mile test just wetted everyone's appetite and did little to determine who will be the overall victor come next Sunday.


Threat of poor weather may dampen the next few days racing, but a crowd estimated at 50-100,000 was all cheers as the race wove its course around the Sacramento state capitol building.  Below is a photo essay, of sorts, of the happenings during the prologue.


Phil Zajicek of the Flying V Australia presented by Successful Living Foundation team was the second of 136 riders to start.  Here he concentrates on his pre-ride preparation.


Team Saxobank rider Fabian Cancellara gets ready to fire out of the start house on his  race-winning ride.


After a three year absence from racing, Lance Armstrong turns his first pedal in anger on US soil.


Floyd Landis had lots of support from fans in Sacramento.


Yes, there were a few celebrity sightings as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Dr. McDreamy helped hand out the awards.


In case you needed proof that Lance Armstrong is one of the most tested cyclists, here is the list of riders, by race number, for anti-doping control.  This is Lance's 19th test since he announced his comeback. He wears bib #2.



1,975 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: bruce_hildenbrand, fabian_cancellara, amgen_tour_of_california, lance_armstrong, phil_zajicek, floyd_landis

The 2009 Amgen Tour of California(AToC) starts on Saturday (it's my valentine this year) and looks to be an E-ticket ride for a whole host of reasons. First off, Lance is back in the saddle and unlike the recently concluded Tour Down Under in Australia, he will be riding to help his teammate Levi Leipheimer's quest for a three-peat. That means you won't be seeing Lance hanging out in the back of the pack working on his tan. He will have to be on the front or off the front to be an effective domestique.


But it is not all about Lance as a number of very accomplished professionals are in attendance. The aforementioned Leipheimer, of Team Astana, looks very good for a three-peat, but Garmin-Slipstream's Christian Vande Velde, who finished fourth overall in last year's Tour de France and was on the podium a the AToC last year is a definite contender. Floyd Landis and Italian Ivan Basso are making comebacks after serving doping suspensions.  Basso won't be on top form, but Landis, who won the inaugural AToC in 2006, could surprise.


The race route is extremely challenging with lots of climbing. Unfortunately, from a strategy and tactics standpoint, most of the really difficult ascents come too far from the stage finish to have an affect on the overall standings.  The lone exception is Stage 2 on Monday from Sausalito to Santa Cruz where the final climb, Bonny Doon Road is long enough, six miles, and steep enough, the first two miles are 10% after that is is 4-7% to cause a selection. At the top of the climb a technical 10-mile descent drops the racers right into the finish. Look for a group of 3-10 riders to come to the line.


While the Bonny Doon climb will select the semi-finalists for the overall win, the time trial will choose the leader.  As in the past three years, this 15-mile race against the clock will decide who will wear the golden fleece into the finish Sunday after next in Escondido.


While the race for the overall title usually takes center stage, look for former World Champion Tom Boonen and Britain's wunderkind, Mark Cavendish, to duke it out for wins on the flatter stages. I like Tom and one of his sponsors is the American bike company Specialized, but Cavendish seems even more motivated as his team's title sponsor, Columbia is headquartered on the west coast. Look for Boonen to take a stage and Cav to win on at least two days.


The weather will also make the race exciting, unfortunately for the wrong reasons. A series of major winter storms are lined up to come into Northern California starting on Sunday with daytime highs around 50F and snow levels of around 1500-2000 feet.  There are several climbs in the race which eclipse that altitude so things may be white for the racers. Hopefully, the weather will not play a deciding factor.  The racers are as tough as they come, but there is no need to turn it into a daily sufferfest.


Look for daily updates from behind-the-scenes at the race. It's going to be another week of unforgettable racing in California.



1,564 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: bruce_hildenbrand, amgen_tour_of_california, tom_boonen, mark_cavendish, lance_armstrong, team_astana, floyd_landis, christian_vande_velde, garmin_slipstream, 2009_amgen_tour_of_california, ivan_basso

Young Guns

Posted by Bruce Hildenbrand Feb 9, 2009

There was another team training in Santa Rosa besides Astana. Team Trek-Livestrong, Lance's Under-23(U-23) development squad was also in Northern California putting in some quality early season miles. The team is captained by 'Mini-Phinney', Taylor Phinney, the 18-year-old son of cycling greats Connie Carpenter and Davis Phinney.


I hung out with the boys and tagged along for a short part of their ride, here are a few photos of the squad preparing for their 107-mile training spin and on the road northwest of Santa Rosa.


Axel Merckx, son of the greatest cyclist ever, Eddy Merckx is the Director Sportif. Axel was a fine professional in his own right and rode with Lance on Team Motorola in 1995 and 1996. When not directing the young bucks, he lives with his wife Jody in Canada.


Long-time Armstrong friend and  head honcho at Capital Sports and Entertainment,Bart Knaggs, is helping to oversee the team. A former top amateur racer, Knaggs also rode with the team and looked pretty fit.


Axel and the team during their pre-ride chat.


Mini-Phinney with Bjorn Selander who recently represented the USA at the World Cyclocross championships.



1,519 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: bruce_hildenbrand, lance_armstrong, team_astana, trek_livestrong, taylor_phinney, axel_merckx, bart_knaggs, bjorn_selander

Lance, Levi and Alberto all in the same place at the same time! No, it's not the Tour de France in February, its the Team Astana training camp. I traveled up to Santa Rosa, CA this past Wednesday for the media day and had quite a bit of fun re-uniting with the riders, mechanics and support staff as another year of professional cycling begins for, arguably, the best team in sport.


The camp is being held in Levi's backyard. I asked him if he was using his local knowledge to school his teammates on the training rides.  He replied, "no, not really though my teammates think I am." However, after the days' 100+ mile ride through the incredible Sonoma countryside and along Highway 1 he did admit that he rode up the final climb, Coleman Valley Road, faster than he ever has before and only Alberto Contador was able to match his effort.


Lance was looking fit and relaxed and was clearly enjoying the area where he used to train when he rode for Team Motorola back in the mid 1990's. Armstrong has indicated that his first big race will be the Giro, but his fitness is ahead of schedule and it appears that he may be gunning for two spring classics, Amstel Gold race and Liege-Bastogne-Liege. He has finished second in both races.


Levi lit it up on the final climb, Spring Mountain Road, the day before and only Alberto Contador responded as well. The Spaniard seemed pleased with his efforts, but acknowledged that he is a bit jet-lagged after just flying in from Spain.


Newcomer and climbing phenomenon Jesus Hernandez was grateful to have a team to ride on for 2009 after his team folded up shop in 2008. Hernandez has made the news recently after dropping his teammates on the big climbs on the Canary Island of Tenerife at the December training camp and on Old Willunga Hill during the team's preparation for the recently-concluded Tour Down Under in Australia.



2,016 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: tour_de_france, bruce_hildenbrand, alberto_contador, levi_leipheimer, lance_armstrong, team_astana, jesus_hernandez

I just got a Power Tap power meter and things will never be the same when I ride my bike. In case you were worried, I am talking a positive change in my cycling. After only three rides, the Power Tap has opened my eyes to a lot of things and has answered a lot of questions as well. As I said, things will never be the same.


Back in my heavy racing days I did intervals, religiously, and based on my results, they paid off. Clearly a power meter can tell you a lot and help your training in a major way. I don't do structured workouts anymore, but the power meter has definitely helped my riding nonetheless.


For example, it gives me a good indication of my overall fitness. While my performance numbers match Lance Armstrong's on the right side of the decimal point, I am not looking to go toe-to-toe with the Texas Tornado on the left side. What I am looking for is my average sustained power output when I am climbing or riding hard on the flats. I have a pretty reasonable idea what a good number should be for me. Anything over 300 watts is good; Anything over 350 watts indicates that I am riding well.


Another benefit is to keep me honest during my rides. If I really want to ride a climb hard, if the ascent starts to flatten out near the top, I need to either shift up or pick up the cadence to keep the same power output. I was surprised at how just a 1-2% change in the grade of a hill can affect the power readings

so dramatically.


One thing I really like is the data that indicates how many total calories you have burned during your ride. Actually, the Power Tap displays the amount of energy produced in Joules, but by multiplying that number by 1.1 (thanks, Allen Lim)you can determine how many Big Macs you can eat post-ride.


For those of you into numbers, you can store the data from all your rides for future reference. After my first ride, when I hooked up the power meter to my PC, the first thing that flashed on the screen was "Seek a Pro Contract Immediately". And you think I am kidding.


I am still playing around with the Power Tap and learning more new and interesting things. Stay tuned for the details.



1,739 Views 4 Comments Permalink Tags: allen_lim, bruce_hildenbrand, lance_armstrong, power_tap, power_meter

The remaining nine teams for the 2009 Tour of California were announced today and there weren't too many surprises. One fun factoid worth reporting is that there were sixteen(16) teams participating in the first Amgen Tour of California comprised of eight Pro Tour and eight non-Pro Tour squads. In 2007 and 2008, eighteen teams toed the line composed of nine Pro Tour and nine non-Pro Tour squads.


In 2009, there will be seventeen total teams, eight Pro Tour and nine non-Pro Tour which is a bit of a departure from previous years. Rumour has it that two Pro Tour teams Fuji-Servetto and Milram tried to obtain a slot in the race, but obviously they did not make the cut. So, it is a bit of a mystery why the race organizers didn't even out the Pro Tour and non-Pro Tour squads by inviting either Fuji-Servetto or Milram.


The original eight teams (all part of the Pro Tour) announced last month are:

AG2R- La Mondiale, Astana, Garmin-Chipotle, Liquigas, Quick Step, Rabobank, Saxo Bank, Team Columbia.


The final nine teams (all non-Pro Tour) announced today are:


Bissell Pro Cycling Team, BMC Racing Team, Cervelo Test Team, Colavita/Sutter Home Presented by Cooking Light, Fly V Australia presented by Successful Living Foundation Team, Jelly Belly Cycling Team, Ouch Presented by Maxxis, Rock Racing,  Team Type 1.


It looks like the predictions I made last month when the Pro Tour teams were announced were pretty spot on with Colavita and Cervelo Test Team replacing Kelly Benefits on my potential list.


Probably the most interesting tidbit from today's announcement is that with the inclusion of Ouch Medical, it means that the first ever winner of the Amgen Tour of California, Floyd Landis, will make is return to racing at the California event. In a year of comebacks, will Floyd be as welcomed as that guy named Lance?



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The Kids Are Alright

Posted by Bruce Hildenbrand Jan 20, 2009

Any doubts that Lance wasn't serious about his comeback were dispelled on Tuesday(well, Wednesday Australian time) when the 130+ riders contested the Tour Down Under's second hardest stage. On paper, the race as a whole looks pretty tame, but the speeds have been high and the temperatures even higher creating a real baptism by fire for Lance 3.0.


Lance didn't win the stage. Lance didn't even contest the sprint.  However, with about 15 miles to go, Lance, being Lance, took a dig and broke away. It was a moment when the race was on the verge of completely disintegrating demonstrating that the Texan can still read a race (and probably listen to Bruyneel on the radio) and time an attack to have maximum benefit.


If the stage had been a tad bit harder, my guess is that Lance would have had a better chance of staying away. As it was, the sprinter's teams were just able to smell the finish line so it all came together and a bunch gallop to the line ensued. Yeah, yeah, yeah, but we got to see Armstrong once again off the front in a pro race. That was definitely worth it, even if a former Discovery Channel rider not named Lance ended up winning the stage. Kudos to Allan Davis.


Also worth mentioning is that the back half of the field did lose contact before the finish. Lance made the split to the front group, once again showing that he is pretty darn fit as well as being motivated.


OK, the Tour Down Under is not all about Lance. Besides Team Astana there are 17 other ProTour teams and the like of Team Columbia, Rabobank, Quick Step, Garmin-Slipstream, Lotto, Saxo Bank, Euskatel/Euskadi and Katusha have all shown themselves at the front. Good on ya, all!



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In only three days, Lance Armstrong (AKA Lance 3.0) will enter his first professional competition since he announced his comeback. Armstrong will take part in Australia's Tour Down Under(TDU) which starts Tuesday, January 20th.  As Oz is a day ahead of the USA, Lance's re-debut will actually be occurring here in the US on Monday.  There is a possibility that he will ride the 30-mile Cancer Classic race on Sunday (Saturday in the USA), but the real race begins on Tuesday.


How Lance 3.0 will perform is, of course, the hot question. Word from inside the Armstrong camp is that Lance's most recent performance test had the Texan measured at 440 peak watts at threshold. As a comparison, Lance's best number during his Tour de France winning streak was about 450 watts. Not surprisingly, being at 440 watts this early in the season and also this early into his comeback put him way ahead of his schedule and prompted coach Chris Carmichael to suggest that Lance 3.0 take a few days off the bike.


But, is Lance really taking this race seriously when he has basically only been talking about the Giro, in May, and the Tour, in July? He has clearly taken some serious steps in his preparation to insure that he will be as acclimated as possible for the TDU.  He spent the last several week on the big island of Hawaii acclimating not only to the Australian heat which can reach 100+F, but also the time zone change. Also, a photo of him taking a training break with his GF Anna Hansen revealed a totally ripped body; he looked even better than some of the years he triumphed in France.


So, it seems like Lance has brought his A game to the TDU. He is being paid a reported $1 million (probably US dollars) to start the race, but that money is not going into Lance's pocket rather it is earmarked for cancer research. Unfortunately, the six-day race offers little challenges in the way of climbs or time trials. The longest significant hill is only about 2.5 miles long.


Lance needs to find his racing legs meaning that he needs to feel comfortable on the bike going 30mph and riding in a pack of 100 riders doing the same. It seems like the safe bet for Lance 3.0 is to hang out in the pack and let the sprinters fight it out for the stages and overall glory. But, something inside me says that Lance won't be content to be just 'pack fodder' and that during at least one of the stages he will bust a move if only to be out in front, face in the wind, for a few miles before the sprinter's teams close it down for the finishes.


Stay tuned for updates as the race unfolds.



996 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: bruce_hildenbrand, lance_armstrong, tour_down_under, lance_3.0, tdu

As Lance Armstrong arrives in Australia for his first professional race of his comeback, you can own a piece of the Texan's cycling history. Lance's 448-acre ranch at Dripping Springs is for sale. Located outside of Austin, TX this sprawling estate features a Tuscan-style house, built in 2003. The 4241 sqft dwelling has five bedrooms and five bathrooms. Also included is a 1 bedroom/1 bath guest house.


All that acreage and square footage is pretty appealing, but the real gem of the Armstrong ranch is Deadman's Hole, an idyllic recreation spot where you can swim, dive or just lounge in the sun. And if all the water sports are still not enough, the ranch includes seven miles of hiking/biking trails each being marked with yellow Livestrong flags.


This is clearly a top-drawer retreat for the outdoor enthusiast, unfortunately, with a price tag of $12,000,000 the prospective client base is a bit limited. But, with Lance's acclaimed attention to detail, you have to believe that this is one very sweet crib.


So, if you can come up with the coin, you can be riding on Lance's personal bike trails, jumping into Deadman's Hole or just sitting on the porch of a Tuscan mansion enjoying a memorable sunset.



870 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: bruce_hildenbrand, lance_armstrong, dripping_springs, deadman's_hole

The Pros are Looming

Posted by Bruce Hildenbrand Jan 5, 2009

It's a new year and that means that the start to the pro cycling season is just around the corner. There is a greater buzz in 2009 than in the past few years because Lance Armstrong will be back in the saddle again. No, that's not a bad country western (is it country western or country and western) lyric? The Lanceman is hitting the road and we are all coming along for the ride. But, before you get all huffy about the apparent Lance overload in the press, this blog isn't about Lance.


Back in the day, the pros started the season in very early February. A number of races have held the honor of ushering in the new year. The Tour of the Etruscan Coast held just down the street from Paolo Bettini's place in Tuscany was a great way to kick off the season. The Etoille de Besseges in France and the Ruta del Sol (AKA Tour of Andalucia) were also in the mix.


But, recently a number of events in other continents have forced the pros to log some major miles before Christmas. The Tour Down Under in Australia and the Tour of Qatar, in Asia(well the Middle East), run by ASO, the company which owns the Tour de France are becoming very popular with the pro teams.


If you are a top flight professional team like the boys at Garmin-Slipstream, just when you want to have your whole squad together for a pre-season camp, everybody seems to be heading more than a handful of time zones east and west. This year the Garmin-Slipstream boys have obtained(how about 'earned') a ProTour license which means they will have to be at the Tour Down Under in Oz as that is the first event of the ProTour calendar.


Because the Tour of Qatar is owned by our friends at ASO, even though the Garmin-Slipstream team is guaranteed a start in the Tour de France because of an agreement signed by the UCI, which owns the ProTour, and the three grand tour organizers(Giro, Tour, Vuelta) there are a lot of other ASO-owned races like Paris-Nice, Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Criterium International that the Garmin squad would like to be present at the start line.


So, when the Garmin-Slipstream team heads to Silver City, New Mexico later this month, only 12-14 of the team's 25+ riders will be there for the pre-season camp.That's just the way things work these days. The world has gotten a lot smaller when it comes to professional cycling.



939 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: bruce_hildenbrand, aso, lance_armstrong, garmin_slipstream, tour_of_qatar, tour_down_under

It's Tour(de Ski) Time

Posted by Bruce Hildenbrand Dec 28, 2008

While we all wait for Lance's first pedal strokes in a ProTour race, there is another tour going on and it's providing the same sort of excitement that we all see in France in July.  The Tour de Ski is a 9-day, 7-race cross country ski series that is raced along a similar format of the Tour de France.


The Tour de Ski is the brainchild of Norwegian Vegard Ulvang the three-time Olympic gold medalist. You might remember, on the eve of the 1994 Olympics in his home country of Norway, Vegard's older brother, Ketil, disappeared on his way home during a blizzard (the family lives 250 miles north of the Arctic Circle). When news reached Vegard, he left the Norwegian Olympic Team's training camp and went home to conduct a search.  Unable to find his brother, he decided to compete in Lilihammer and won three Olympic gold medals. They found Ketil's body the following spring when the snow melted.


If you have never seen a pack of 50+ cross country skiers racing flat out, time to tune to NBC Universal Sports and check out the Tour de Ski. Frankly, it's awesome. If you are suffering from either PTD (pre-Tour depression) or PTD(post-Tour depression) the Tour de Ski offers the true sports junkie the fix necessary to carry you through thsoe long cold days and even colder nights until the boyz on two wheels take center stage.


The first race was a 3km prologue in Oberhof Germany, the 7-minute event very reminiscent of the opening day of the Tour. After a distance event, 10km for the women, 15km for the men, the race heads to Prague for a 1km sprint. Next stop is  Novo Mesto also in the Czech Republic for two races before finishing off with two final races in the Italian Dolomites at Val di Fiemme.  Cool stuff and well worth checking out!



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My Christmas Wish List

Posted by Bruce Hildenbrand Dec 24, 2008

Here's my bike-related Christmas wish list:


-the climbing ability of Alberto Contador.  I agree with Johan Bruyneel that Lance can hang with the best in the mountains, but Alberto is the man.


-the timetrialing ability of either Lance Armstrong or Fabian Cancellara. Hey, I am not picky, either one will do though if there is significant uphill, I would prefer Lance


-the sprinting ability of Mark Cavendish. Along with his fast legs, I probably also need his nerves of steel.


-the descending ability of Paolo "the Falcon" Savoldelli.  This guy literally flew down hills and mountains like he was on wings.


-the heart of Jens Voigt. This guy can go fast on the flats, the mountains, in time trials, etc, and doesn't seem to be built to go fast in any specific discipline.


-the tactical prowess of Johan Bruyneel. Nobody can read a race better than Johan.


-the overall demeanor of Christian Vande Velde. This guy was in the thick of things all the way to Paris, but seemed to be having too much fun.


-the pocketbook of the New York Yankees, because if I get all my wishes, they will be the only professional team who can afford me.


What's on your wish list?


Happy Holidays,



1,181 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: bruce_hildenbrand, alberto_contador, johan-bruyneel, fabian_cancellara, mark_cavendish, lance_armstrong, jens_voigt, christian_vande_velde
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