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Active Expert: Bruce Hildenbrand

34 Posts tagged with the mark_cavendish tag

Rest Day Antics

Posted by Bruce Hildenbrand Jul 15, 2008

Today is the first rest day of the Tour so I caught up with one budding cycling legend, Mark Cavendish, and one bonafide cycling legend, Bernard Hinault, and sat down with each for a one-on-one interview to see what was shaking. Mark has been a huge hit in only his second Tour winning two stages and doing it in grand fashion. He struggled on yesterday's mountain stage coming in dead last, but in his defense he crashed early on in the stage and the race doctor, Gerard Porte, gave him something for the pain which upset his stomach. Bernard Hinault is not only a five-time winner of the Tour, but he is the last Frenchman, way back in 1985, to do so. He is now one of the organizers of the Tour, you can see him each day as he greats the riders after they leave the podium.

 

I asked Mark what it takes to win a stage of the Tour in the always chaotic field sprints. "First and foremost it takes a good team to get you to the finish. I've got an amazingly strong team that gets me there to the finish. You need the speed in the end, but you need to save all your power and punch so you can use it in the last few hundred meters of the finish. That's where you need a great team behind you."

 

 

Do you have to be slightly crazy to deal with all the dangers and be a great field sprinter. "I think the reason it looks so dangerous is that there is not that much going through your mind apart from being first across the finish line. You haven't got time to think about anything else. You haven't got time to think about the consequences or anything like that. You just have to be first. That's what matters."

 

 

"Sure it is dangerous, but if you start thinking about it you are not going to win. If you are driving a car and you come fast into a corner if there is something in your mind that says maybe I should slow down because my brakes don't work or my tires don't work. In cycling I don't have that. You can't really have that. You can't really think of consequences. You can't think of anything except being first across the line."

 

 

Bernard Hinault still looks as fit as he did when he climbed off his bike in 1986. The five-time tour winner commented on how the race has gone through the first rest day. "It has been a great Tour. After yesterday, you have only one second between Evans and Schleck for the yellow jersey. Even without a prologue there has been excitement from the beginning. It was a short first time trial but it produced some interesting results none the less. The stage finish to Super-Besse was very exciting and now we have had two spectacular days in the Pyrenees. I think it has been a great race so far for the riders and the fans."

 

 

 

 

When asked about who he fancies for the yellow jersey in Paris, he replied,"I don't know. The stages in the Alps are yet to come. The Agnello is long and hard and nobody knows about the finish in Italy. Then you have the Col de la Bonnette which is very long and hard. Then you finish on Alpe d'Huez. It could be Evans. It could be Menchov, Schleck or even Vandevelde the American."

 

 

Hinault is most remembered by Americans for his battle with teammate Greg Lemond for the yellow jersey in 1986, a race where in the end, Lemond finished first and Hinault second. Lemond has been at the Tour this year; how have the two former teammates and competitors been getting along? "We had our differences as competitors, but we are now friends. We have talked a lot at the Tour and have shared stories of our familes."

 

 

Bruce

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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!

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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.

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Who is your favorite rider in the pro peloton? I have not been bashful about naming Team Columbia's Mark Cavendish as one of my faves.  I love to climb and find the climbing stages of the Tour to be super exciting. The attacks Contador launched against Rasmussen at last year's Tour were exceptionally gripping.  It was mano y mano, no holds barred riding.  But, there is just something about Cavendish that transcends the mountains and puts a flatlander on my list.

 

I guess it was at the 2008 Tour of California when Mark came back from a horrendous crash on the stage into Santa Clarita to win the stage.  And, yes, he is still the winner in my book.  If you have been watching the Tour, there have been numerous instances of pacing back with a car; George Hincapie got paced back in the final 10km of the stage today. For some reason, the officials in the US have ignored the spirit of the rule and continue to penalize riders for behavoir that is accepted and commonplace in the European pro peloton.

 

Regardless of whether you think Cavendish won that stage, the performance he gave in those closing kilometers was nothing short of spectacular and it opened my eyes to a huge talent. To be a top-notch field sprinter you have to be lightening fast, but you also have to be a bit crazy as well. If you have 42cm handlebars you are always looking for 43cm openings to squeeze through and when you are going 40+mph everything looks like you are in hyperspace. Clearly, effective field sprinting is part physical, part mental and Cavendish has them both.

 

Then you have today's finish when the Frenchies were finally foiled and Cavendish brought home the bacon! In a post race interview with Gerard Porte on French TV, Mark thanked his team for all the hard work and called it a team victory.  OK so maybe that is the standard line, but how about in Giro when he looked back and when he realized there was no one behind them, he gave the stage win to his leadout man, Andre Greipel. That's class!

 

Cavendish was also asked if he would be leaving the Tour early to prepare for the Olympics where he is the odds on favorite to take home the gold in the Madison race on the track. Mark replied that it wouldn't be fair to his team or the race organizers if he left early and his goal is to make it to Paris.  To be fair he did mention that the mountains looked pretty daunting, but the climbs in the Giro were much harder and he survived them. Should we start rehearsing God Save the Queen for the Champs Elysees?

 

OK. So I have been spouting off about one of my favorite riders in the pro peloton, I am certain you all out there have a favorite or two as well.  Let's here who you all like and why.

 

Bruce

 

ps - somebody should tell Nicholas Vogondy that you are way more aero in the drops than on top of the hoods. Maybe he was totally cooked but when you are trying to win a stage, you gotta do just about everything right and trying to power to the finish sitting up with your hands on the hoods is not optimal.

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We Was Robbed

Posted by Bruce Hildenbrand Mar 2, 2008

Mark Cavendish was robbed of his win on stage 6 of the Tour of California, plain and simple. Yes, he received some help from his team car when he crashed in the final 10km's, but anyone who has ridden in the pro peloton knows how hard it is to move up, not only through the peloton, but also through all the team cars in the final few km's of a race, especially when everybody is going 35+mph.

This isn't a case of a rider hanging onto a car door and getting towed right back up to the front of the field. Far from that. Look at the photo. Cavendish is lying on the ground after crashing, lucky that the whole field didn't run him over and put him in a hospital bed.

 

After the crash, Cavendish was probably 15-30 seconds behind the field and yes, he probably got significant help getting back to the tail end of the race caravan from his team car. But, that sort of practice is totally OK in Europe in pro racing because just regaining the back of the caravan after a crash is viewed as"righting a wrong". A crash is viewed as an unfortunate circumstance and pacing back on is just the way to reverse the circumstance.

 

Once Cavendish regained the caravan, he had to work his way back to the peloton past 30 or so team cars. When he got to the back of the peloton after risking his life amongst the cars, he just had to work his way past 100+ racers all going wheel to wheel at 35+mph to end up at the front. Simply done, you say. Not!

 

So, this wasn't a case of Cavendish getting a free ride to the line from his team car.  Far from it. He had to pick himself up, sort himself out, work his way through 30+ cars and 100+ riders going flat out. That's what sprinters do and that's what Cavendish did. Taking the win away from the plucky Brit is like taking Muhamed Ali's heavyweight crown away from him for fighting.  It was a great win under the most difficult of circumstances. The sprinters are the showmen of our sport. Let them demonstrate why it takes a bit of madness, a bit of luck and a bit of savvy to win the bunch kick. We love it!

 

Bruce

1,033 Views 2 Comments Permalink Tags: bruce-hildenbrand, bruce_hildenbrand, high-road-sports, amgen-tour-of-california, mark_cavendish
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