Word coming from the Giro d'Italia is that it is all but a done deal that Lance Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel will have their own professional cycling team. Details are still a bit in the speculative stage, but it appears that an official announcement will be made on or about June 1st, the day after the conclusion of the Giro and also the day after the UCI's deadline for Team Astana to get it's financial situation in order has come and gone.
More than likely, the bulk of the team will come from the current roster of the Astana squad. Speculating on the exact roster, the new team should include Lance, Levi Leipheimer, Chris Horner, Yaraslov Popovych, Chechu Runiera, Daniel Noval, Jani Brajkovic, and a most of the remaining supporting characters (Gregory Rast, Steve Morabito, etc.)
One rider who is rumoured to not be part of the new team is Alberto Contador. He has been linked to Caisse d'Epargne, the team of Alejandro Valverde whose own participation in the Tour de France has been put in doubt by a recent two-year ban in Italy for his participation in Opercion Puerto. It is not clear if Contador's good friend and training partner, Jesus Jernandez, will follow him to Caisse. Obviously, if Contador does not come to the squad, all questions about who will lead the team at the Tour de France become moot!
Another rider whose future is uncertain is Andreas Kloden who has recently been linked to blood doping during the 2006 Tour and will almost certainly face some sort of disciplinary action. Also, it is unclear if any of the Kazhak riders currently on the team will be retained.
Rumour has it that Bruyneel and Armstrong have already produced the team kit with their new sponsors and will be unveiling it at the public announcement in the days after the finish of the Giro. Look for Armstrong to be wearing his new team colors as he trains with Leipheimer and Horner at his home in Aspen between the Giro and the Tour.
We will have to wait and see how this all shakes out, but suffice it to say, the excitement in pro cycling won't go into hiatus between the Giro and the Tour.
The Giro hit the mountains today and all eyes were on one rider. I don't think it matters if you were French, Italian or a good ol' American. Everybody wanted to know if Lance 3.0 could climb? If you remember, Lance 3.0 is the comeback Lance. The guy who gave up retired life to ride in rain, wind and snow and fight for position in the pack all while trying not to get knocked down by overzealous racers. Let's face it. Lance has enough money so I am pretty certain he isn't trying to get free travel and hotels by being part of a professional cycling team.
But, I digress, though Lance 3.0's motivation to return to the top level of pro racing is always a great topic for discussion. The fourth stage of the Giro was a warm-up of sorts in the Dolomites. The first major climb, the Croce d'Aune, came too far from the finish to be decisive and the final climb to the enchanting town of San Martino di Castrozza was not really long or steep enough to really answer any questions. To be sure, by the stage finish the contenders had been separated from the pretenders, but there were definitely a lot of contenders when the lead group went under the red kite with a kilometer to go.
Lance was in that group, but a sharp acceleration by riders looking for the stage win gapped him and put the Texan about 15 seconds back at the line. It might be worrying that Armstrong wasn't able to respond to the late surge by eventual stage winner Danilo Di Luca, but again, this wasn't a really decisive climb and anything can happen when 40+ riders contest a supposed mountain-top finish.
Wednesday's stage, which ends in a massive 5000' climb to the ski station at Alpe di Siusi, will provide a more valid answer to Lance's climbing form. Well, sort of. You must remember that Armstrong is still recovering from his broken collarbone. If Lance gets dropped then it can be speculated that he is still gaining the form he needs to be a factor at the Tour. If Lance is with the lead group in the final kilometer, then we will know that he can be counted on to help his teammate, Levi Leipheimer, in Levi's quest to win the Giro.
That sounds a bit slushy. Will we really learn anything from how Lance climbs towards Alpe di Siusi? Lance will certainly learn something and that is confidence. You need confidence to be able to climb well. Lance had it in spades during his reign at the Tour. Does he have it now or is he just bluffing.
Personally, I would like to have seen Lance up closer to the front of the group, where Levi was riding, during the final climb. That makes me think that he will not be in the lead group at the finish on Wednesday. But, what I saw a few days earlier is even more important, IMHO. What I saw before, during and after the team time trial is how much Lance seems to be enjoying being back in a grand tour. He looks reasonably fit, but more importantly really motivated to ride at his limit and be a factor at the Giro.
With two months to go before the Tour, I think Armstrong's motivation is more important than fitness. In the days before his collarbone accident, I thought I detected a loss of enthusiasm at the task ahead, that being riding both the Giro and the Tour. His collarbone injury could easily have put the nail in the coffin of his comeback. To see him energized and ready to suffer says to me that his comeback is back on track.
Today was the first road stage of the Giro and true to form, a crash on the finishing circuits has already had an affect on the overall standings. The Giro is not the Tour de France and there are many reasons why one of them being the in-town finishing circuits. The Tour has never been fond of them, but the Giro seems to sprout them and on the worst roads in the smallest of towns.
I guess I should explain what finishing circuits are in case you might be wondering. In the Tour de France, stages start in town A and finish in town B. While the route might be circuitous getting from A to B, when the peloton gets to town B the race heads for the finish line and we have a winner. For some reason, the Giro has used a slightly different formula for stage finishes. Often when the race reaches town B, the peloton then embarks on, usually, three to five laps of a small (3-10km) finishing circuit.
You might be thinking what's the big deal; a kilometer is a kilometer. But, you have to remember that a lot of towns in Italy are pretty darn old and most were built before anything but horses were means of transportation. That means two things. First off, the roads can be pretty narrow and can also vary in width from block to block. Secondly, those same roads might not be paved with smooth asphalt. If you add in the fact that every Italian rider in the peloton that makes it to the finishing circuits will do anything short of murder to win a stage of the Giro you have a recipe for major disaster.
On these finishing circuits crashes are not the exception. They are the rule. Because of this it is crucial that any rider who wants to contend for the overall title has to be at the very front of the peloton. Getting caught behind a crash is almost as bad as being involved in the crash. Neither option is good. What this means is that guy riding next to Mark Cavendish might just be Levi Leipheimer or Ivan Basso. Well, that would be the case except that on Sunday's stage both Leipheimer and Basso were caught at the back of the group on the finishing circuits and lost 13 seconds.
One rider who was noticeably at the front of the peloton on the finishing circuits was Lance Armstrong. That wasn't by chance. You don't win seven grand tours by winging it and just letting stuff happen. Note to both Levi and Ivan. Keep a close eye on the guy in the black and gold helmet. He's up at the front where all the GC contenders should be.
The 100th anniversary of the Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy or just plan Giro) will start on Saturday in Venice and end three weeks later with a time trial around the streets of Rome. Only one American, Andy Hampsten, has won the event, but this year, another US rider comes into this grand tour with the form to contend for the overall. No, it's not Lance Armstrong who recently admitted that his broken collarbone suffered in March has delayed his fitness.
Three-time winner of the Amgen Tour of California Levi Leipheimer arrives at the Giro with the form and the motivation to attempt to repeat Hampsten's 1988 performance. Levi has been on a tear since winning the AToC, taking Spain's Vuelta Castilla y Leon and dominating several races in the US. While Leipheimer has the chops to shine in the mountains and the time trials, he is going to have to stay close to the front in the flat bunch finishes to avoid the crashes which seem to plague the Giro.
Look for Lance Armstrong to work for Leipheimer in the mountains and on the flats, but he should be given free reign to go full gas in the time trials. I am hoping that Lance will ride the entire three weeks, he deperately needs the racing miles if he is going to be a factor in the Tour, but I suspect that he might pack it in after the 60km time trial south of Genoa in the middle of the 2nd week.
The Garmin-Slipstream team made huge waves last year when they won the first stage team time trial. This year, the first stage will again be a TTT. The argyle boys have the talent to repeat and take the race's first maglia rosa, or pink leader's jersey. Again, like last year, the team will most likely be using this race as training for the Tour. Christian Vande Velde might test his form for a stage or two in the mountains, but don't look for him to be high up in the general classification. Tyler Farrar will need to outfox and outpower Mark Cavendish to win a bunch finish. Look for Tom Danielson to go stage hunting in the mountains.
The other contenders for the overall include Ivan Basso, Denis Menchov and Carlos Sastre. All three riders have won a grand tour so they are going to be part of the mix. Usually a rogue Italian climbs into the fray as well. What this makes for is a very open Giro with no clear favorite. I am putting my money on Levi and hoping that his team will be focused on supporting him all the way to Rome.
BTW, NBC Universal Sports will be carrying daily updates from the Giro both online and on their TV station. If you have Comcast Cable you are in. Also, some metropolitan areas (Bay Area and Denver, Yeah!) get the channel over the air with the digital NBC network.
The Amgen Tour of California(AToC) is moving its races dates for the 2010 edition to May 16-23. After two soggy years of racing the event organizers were looking for a change and after discussing the possibility of April, May or June dates with the UCI, the organizing body of the sport, it was decided that a mid-May date worked best with the existing professional calendar of events.
Also included in the news was the fact that in 2011 the AToC will most likely become a Pro Tour(PT) event meaning it will rank up there with the top professional races on the globe. If you are a Pro Tour team that's a good thing as now that it is a PT event, more PT teams can compete. Currently, as a non-PT event only half the field can be PT teams. If you are a US domestic pro team the change is not a good thing as with the inclusion of more PT teams, less US domestic teams will be invited.
This might seem like a bad thing, but if you look at the results from the AToC from 2009 there was a significant performance difference between the PT and non-PT teams. Clearly, this is not an ideal situation. Hopefully, this will motivate the US domestic professional teams to raise their game.
The May date still has the ability to attract top European riders. The only competition on the schedule is the Tour of Italy and while many top riders would potentially be competing there, the AToC offers good preparation for riders looking to ride the Tour de France and not desiring to ride a three-week race like the Giro as part of their program.
Also a possibility if the race moves to May is an incursion or two into the high Sierra Nevada mountains. Unfortunately, tackling the Sierras does not guarantee the AToC's first ever mountain-top finish as there are few towns in the mountains that can come up with the cash necessary to pay for a stage finish. If the race goes up and then back down into the Central Valley look for the same sprint finishes we experienced this year. Something is going to have to change with the race's business model before we will ever see a real mountain-top finish.
Overall, this change is a good thing for the race. The weather will almost surely be better and the best professional teams will still participate (though they may need some financial incentives to fly so far west in May). In it's short, 4-year history the race has shown that it can change and adapt to make itself a better event. Keep it coming!
On Monday, Lance Armstrong went public with his announcement that he hopes to run his own top-flite European professional team in 2010. This year, Armstrong launched an Under 23(U-23) team, Trek-Livestrong, captained by current World 4000m Pursuit Champion Taylor Phinney, but the plan for next year is to put together a squad that will compete at the highest level of the sport.
Also mentioned in the announcement is that long-time friend and team director Johan Bruyneel will also be part of the program. Bruyneel, who currently runs Team Astana will need to figure out how to sever his ties with the Khazak squad. Given the current rumours surrounding the health of Team Astana that might not prove to be too difficult. It appears that the Astana, which is funded by a conglomerate of Khazak companies, has been hit hard by the economic downturn and has not been able to meet its payroll commitments.
There is some speculation that Astana may not be able to stay afloat long enough to participate in the Tour de France. Also rumoured is that the UCI may step in an revoke the squad's Pro Tour license. Obviously, this is all rumour and speculation, but something appears to be happening. Before we jump to any conclusions let's hope that the team can iron out the difficulties and continue with its dominating season.
Also in the announcement, Armstrong indicated that he would like to be a team director and rider for the new outfit meaning that he would still be on the bike in 2010. It is too far off to get a feeling if he would ride the Tour or other big stage races with his new squad. Let's let him get his 2009 season under his belt before we all start guessing on his racing program for next year.
Just who the title sponsor will be for Armstrong's new squad is a mystery. Some have speculated that Nike will step up. Another possibility might be SRAM, the component manufacturer who has a big enough budget to step up in a major way. Whoever decides to write the checks, the Armstrong/Bruyneel combination combined to form a very potent force. We will have to wait and see if Alberto Contador is recruited for the team, but whoever joins the ranks will be part of an exciting new team.
Basically, I dislike group rides. Well, to be honest, I dislike group riders. Maybe that's the same as disliking group rides, but I think there is a difference. Just so you don't think I dislike everybody, because I am an outgoing person I try to like everybody. But, for reasons outlined below I dislike most group rides. Well, riders.
Again, I have to qualify my statement. I really like doing groups rides with the pros, especially when I am in shape enough to be able to keep up the entire ride. You see, the pros are, well, pros. They don't have anything to prove to me or any other riders except other pros and their sponsors(and potential sponsors).
Because they have nothing to prove when they go group riding they actually ride like they are in a group. With the pros we usually ride two-by-two and while we go pretty fast these guys are so smooth we are actually not working that hard and can carry on interesting conversations. Yes, talking to each other. It is a group ride after all.
The pros save their toughest workouts for when they ride solo. These guys spend so much time on the bike that when they are lucky enough to have someone to ride with they keep the pace manageable and have some social interaction with the other cyclists.
The non-pros are a different story. The riders I have the most trouble with are those that treat any ride with more than one person as a de-facto race. If there are more than two riders then a paceline is almost mandatory. These guys are on the edge the entire ride trying to keep the pace as high as possible. There is very little opportunity to chat let alone sit up and enjoy the scenery.
To be sure, there are group rides in every city or town that are known to be de-facto races. Obviously, given what I have been saying here, you would never catch me on one of those rides. However, when a group of cyclists decide to get together and go out for a ride that doesn't necessarily make it game on.
Which brings me to the reason I am writing this blog. Last week a friend of mine and I were up in NorCal riding with a group. What started out as a nice, moderate group ride deteriorated into a single file paceline, every man for himself training ride. Now, I should mention that my friend has won a grand tour as well as four or five other major professional stage races. His street cred on a bike is not in question.
When I expressed to my friend my dislike of how this ride had deteriorated he told me that he had the perfect solution to the problem. When we reached a town he informed the other riders that he was stopping for lunch. The others responded in disbelief so we bade them farewell and sat down for a delicious Mexican feast. The ride home was fun and enjoyable and we still got in our 90 miles. Now that's what I call a group ride.
Race organizers of the Tour of Gila have certainly had an up and down ride this winter and spring. The popular New Mexico stage race was in danger of folding up shop when sponsorship woes raised their ugly head. At the last minute component manufacturer SRAM stepped in and saved the day. Then only a few weeks before yesterday's first stage, rumours started circulating that Lance Armstrong and his Team Astana might be on the start list.
There are a lot of interesting tidbits surrounding Team Astana's participation at Gila. First off, the team rides SRAM components on their Trek bikes. Having your marquis riders show up at an event you are sponsoring is always a good thing. Secondly, both Armstrong and Horner are recovering from broken collarbones, Lance at the Vuelta Castilla y Leon and Horner from the Vuelta Pays Basque a few weeks later. These two guys definitely need some racing miles if they want to be competitive at the upcoming Giro d'Italia which starts on May 9th.
Teammate Levi Leipheimer on the other hand has been racing and winning for the past several months starting with the Tour of California then the Vuelta Castilla y Leon and most recently at the Sea Otter Classic. As Levi will most likely be the Astana team leader at the Giro he needs to do what is necessary to arrive at the start in Venice ready for major action.
One interesting point about Gila is that the race takes place out of Silver City, New Mexico which is 6000'. As anyone knows who has tried to perform at altitude, you need to acclimate if you want to be competitive. Lance has been training in Aspen at 8000' and Levi has been in Park City at 7000' so both should be ready to roll at Gila.
On Wednesday, Levi proved that he was ready to race winning the first stage, which included a 5-mile climb to the finish, by almost one minute over his nearest rival. Lance and Chris Horner, who were there to support Levi's bid for overall victory, were active during the critical parts of the race.
There was a bit of drama before the start with the UCI almost preventing both Astana and Team BMC from starting citing a almost-never-enforced rule that restricts the top professional teams, those with Pro Tour and Professional Continental status, from participating from non-UCI events as either a team or individuals. A last minute truce allowed the three Astana riders to compete as Team Mellow Johnny, Lance's bike shop in Austin. Team BMC, which is competing as Team B, had to send five of its eight riders home to comply with the three rider limit.
While Levi looks on form to take another victory, most eyes will be on Lance to see how his fitness is progressing after his broken collarbone. But, keep an eye on Leipheimer as he will most likely be leading Team Astana at the Giro.
There is a YouTube video floating around taken at the final stage or the Tour of Turkey(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8K_7bJQaaI&feature=related) in which Theo Bos and race leader Daryl Impey (he's the one in the yellow jersey) tangle and go down. What is interesting about this video is that, depending on your perspective, this is either an intentional, very aggressive move or it is just a racing incident with a unfortunate ending.
If you think that Theo Bos is the devil incarnate than the site of him apparently grabbing Impey's jersey and pulling him down is about the worst act of sportsmanship since Mike Tyson decided to snack on Evander Hollyfield's ear. If this is the case, should Bos be suspended for a year or even longer? Can he ever be allowed back into the pro peloton?
If you think Theo Bos was caught in an unfortunate racing incident then you interpret his grabbing of Impey's jersey as a desperate move to try to stay upright. Sprint finishes can get pretty darn crazy and if you watch the width of the barriers change you can see why Bos might have gotten caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.
There is a rule that riders are not allowed to take their hands off the bars in the middle of the sprint. Alex Stieda, the first North American to wear the Tour's yellow jersey, once lost the overall title at Britain's prestigious Milk Race because he took his hands off the bars to celebrate a not-so-close sprint victory. The partisan British officials relegated him to the back of the breakaway group with the win going to one of their countryman. But, as we all know, officials almost never penalize a rider for celebrating a sprint win.
However, in the 1970's Franz Verbeeck was disqualified from winning Ghent Wevelgem when he punched out a rider in the sprint. Clearly stuff happens in sprints.
Personally, it looks to me like Bos was just trying to keep himself upright and unfortunately ended up bringing down Impey as well. The fact that Bos crashed as well seems to rule out that he was trying to get past Impey by pulling on his jersey (this was a common practice a generation ago). The fact that Impey was the race leader puts a bigger spotlight on the incident.
The good news is that even though Impey crashed he was given the same time as the stage winner and ended up winning the Tour of Turkey. What do you think happened?
The tenure of the Rock Racing cycling team may be close to coming to an end. The team which was formed about two years ago and burst onto the international spotlight at the 2008 Tour of California has been hit hard by the financial crisis and is running very low on funds. In the past week, the team has had to lay off the three highest paid riders on its amateur team, Chris Baldwin, Michael Creed and Caesar Grajales and its participation in the upcoming Tour of Gila is in serious doubt.
The Rock Racing team was initially funded by the Rock and Republic clothing company which has annual sales well into the eight-figure range. However, its line of $300+ dollar jeans and similarily priced apparel have been selling poorly as everyone tightens their belts in this uncertain economic times. Rock Racing looked to be shutting down before the 2009 season even started but, Michael Ball, the team owner and co-founder of Rock and Republic told me at the Tour of California that he stepped in to help save the team.
The Rock and Republic Board of Directors wanted to pull the plug, but Ball had all the riders return their contracts so that new contracts, with significant pay cuts, could be put in place. Also, Ball agreed to pay a percentage of the team budget out of his own pocket. However, it looks like those measures were not enough to save the team.
Personally, I would hate to see Rock Racing fold. A lot of my fellow journalists will probably be glad to say good bye to Ball and his crew, but I think Rock Racing was a breath of fresh air. Also, as I have stated before, I was very disappointed that many of my fellow journalists never seemed to take the time to understand Michael Ball and his vision. Many of the early reports in the media were extremely negative. It just seemed like my writing brethren didn't feel the need to gather any background before shooting from the hip.
Some journalists will mock Rock Racing's motto of "here to stay". I honestly believe that if it weren't for this unprecedented economic downturn Rock Racing would be healthy and racing a full calendar. I hear my fellow journalist bemoaning their slumping ad sales. Do you think that might also be the case for Rock and Republic?
Before people start piling on me as a tool for Rock and Republic, I realize that the the way Michael Ball and his crew rolled up to bike races was pretty unique and not to everyone's liking. However, we should all practice some measure of tolerance. Ball and Co. brought a significant number of new eyeballs to the sport of cycling. Isn't that worthy of some understanding?
In my last blog I reported on Tyler Hamilton's retirement. In this blog I would like to give a few of my thoughts. First off, it has been my experience in these doping cases that you either believe the athlete or you think he/she is guilty.There is no middle ground here, people are either on one side of the fence or the other.
In the case of Tyler Hamilton, regardless of whether you believe him or not, one thing everyone should be able to agree on is that this is a tragic situation. Depending on your perspective, this is either an athlete who got caught up in the web of performance enhancing drugs, or an athlete who had difficulty handling the pressure of life and made a career-ending mistake. I am not going to debate what really happened as it will not change anyone's opinion.
What I would like to see happen is that people put their opinions of Tyler Hamilton as a bike racer aside and give him the support to deal with his depression.After all, Tyler is a human being first and a bike racer second(or third or fourth). It is quite clear that Tyler will never again ride in the pro peloton so let's put that aside for the moment. Let's try and understand why this all happened so other athletes won't be similarly affected.
You might be thinking that I am completely naive and that this is just another in a long list of lies by Hamilton, but I think at this time, we give him the benefit of the doubt and give him the space to deal with it. As I said earlier, he isn't going to be having an affect on the outcome of any bike races ever again so cut him some slack and let him try to move forward.
The cycling world seems to have it's share of riders suffering from depression. In the past few years we have lost two exceptional cyclists, Marco Pantani and Jose Maria Jimenez, to the effects of depression. Let's not to add Tyler's name to that list. Compassion and understanding go a long way here in dealing with this situation.
American professional bike racer Tyler Hamilton announced his retirement on Friday and also revealing that he has tested positive for a banned substance for the second time in his career. Hamilton was found to have the steroid precursor DHEA in his system after a random drug test a few days before the start of the Tour of California. Unlike his first positive test in 2004 at the Vuelta a Espana, Hamilton did not challenge the result.
The most interesting part of this revelation is that Hamilton acknowledged that he knowingly took the banned substance as part of an over-the-counter anti-depressant medication and that he has been suffering from depression since 2003. As this is his second doping offense it was likely that either a long-term or even a lifetime ban would be imposed. But, Hamilton denied that a lengthy suspension was the reason for his retirement. Instead he insisted that the need to deal with his depression was the reason he has hung up his cleats.
Hamilton told those attending a Friday morning teleconference that he had been on prescription anti-depressants for almost four years, but that a number of factors including his mother's recent diagnosis of breast cancer had taken its toll and even doubling the prescribed about of his medication had no appreciable affect. So, in early February he took the over-the-counter anti-depressant supplement 'Mitamin' knowing that it contained the banned substance DHEA, but feeling like he had few options given his mental condition.
It should be noted that there appears to be no performance enhancing effect to using DHEA, but it is a banned substance. There is so much more to write here. But, in my first blog posting on this subject I wanted to get the facts out there, as I understand them, first then discuss the implications later.
Suffice it to say, anyway you look at this it is a tragic end to Hamilton's career. Before we all start trying Tyler in the court of public opinion, we first need to make sure he can get the help he needs to deal with his depression.
The Sea Otter Classic began today in the Monterey Penninsula south of San Francisco. About 9000 individual athletes are expected to compete over fours days in both road and mountain bike events. The Sea Otter Classic(SOC) is the unofficial kick-off for the biking season with most of the major (and a whole host of minor) industry players being present at the event's exposition and also at a number of hospitality events around the Monterey Penninsula area.
The SOC is a lot of fun to race, spectate or in my case announce. Throughout the four days I will be calling both road and MTB events from criteriums and circuit races to dual slalom and cross country. We have an expert, veteran crew who are as passionate about the sport as the racers. It is a big task keeping crowds as informed as possible. Our announcing calls are also broadcast on KSOC 90.1 FM Sea Otter Classic radio.
The big news at the SOC on the road racing front is that Team Astana's Levi Leipheimer will be riding the road race and circuit race on Friday and Saturday. With Lance Armstrong's broken collarbone, Levi has been bumped to team leader for Astana at the Giro and his stop at the SOC is an important tune-up before he returns to Europe to make final preparations for the Tour of Italy.
Also present on the road side is the Bissell Professional Cycling team. These guys have some major firepower and proved that in Thursday's criterium where they took the top four places on the podium. The Bissell boys look unbeatable, but that's never the case at Sea Otter.
In the MTB events, top American female racer Georgia Gould, and Canadian ace Geoff Kabush headline star-studded fields. Short track and cross country events are on tap for the endurance athletes while downhill, super-downhill and dual slalom make for a lot of excitement in the gravity events.
The weather forecast is for warm, dry conditions making it an ideal conditions for racing, spectating and announcing.
I have been using my Saris Power Tap on my bike for the past several months and have learned a few things about training with a power meter which seemed good to share with my fellow cyclists.
As I said in my first posting when I had completed just a few rides with the Power Tap, I am not a rider who does a lot of structured workouts. Yes, I do average over 300 miles a week, but all of my riding is what most would call long tempo rides. I don't do intervals, but I will kick it a bit on the climbs.
So, I wasn't looking for a power meter to help me with my intervals. What I was looking for was something which could help me gage how to read what my body was telling me. By that, I mean it is reassuring to see that when my body is screaming pain, I am pushing 350+ watts up a climb. That says to me that my pain meter is pretty accurate. If my body was screaming pain while I was generating 200 watts then something would be wrong.
Another thing that was really interesting to discover is how my body can mask a drop in effort after a hard effort. By that I mean that when I am cranking up a hill at 350 watts, when the hill drops from say 8% to 4%, the number of watts I am generating in the same gear can drop as much as 100 watts. However, there is a definite lag in how my body feels. It takes me 30 seconds to a minute to re-adjust to the lower effort. For those first 30 seconds to a minute, it feels like I am going just as hard at 4% as I was at 8%.
Sometimes my bulb doesn't shine too brightly. It took me a bit of cognitive activity to realize that, environmental conditions aside, it takes the same amount of energy to climb a hill whether you go fast or slow. It is just the law of physics. It takes a known amount of energy to raise a known weight a known height.Thank you Mr. Gravity. So, if you go harder, it just means that you will get to the top faster.
One thing that I really like about the Power Tap is that it has a setting for total energy expended during a ride. This is given in units of kilojoules, but in talking with noted power expert Dr. Allen Lim, you can convert kilojoules directly to calories because the human body is such an inefficient engine.
I live in a somewhat hilly area, Silicon Valley, so most of my rides have between 75 and 100 feet of climbing for every mile ridden. What I am finding is that I burn about 500-550 calories per hour of riding so in a typical seven hour ride in the Santa Cruz Mountains I burn about 4000 calories.
Granted, power meters are a bit on the expensive side and some of them require a new crank or bottom bracket, but I think there are some definite, tangible benefits. I get a bit depressed when I am going hard at the end of a long ride and I can't seem to keep the power over 300 watts on that last long climb. But a couple of weeks ago, I had a big tailwind on one of my hillier rides. I was going well up the climbs and would have attributed it to the tailwind, but my Power Tap told me that I was still generating good wattage meaning that I was still working hard and not just getting a push from behind.
The 107th edition of Paris-Roubaix was held on Sunday and it totally lived up to all the pre-race hype. The weather was both warm and dry which should have made those darn cobblestones a bit more friendly, but they seemed to dish out bad luck just at the wrong time. While there was strong riding at the front, the stones, or pave as they are called in France, played a huge role in the outcome.
At the finish heavy pre-race favorite Tom Boonen entered the velodrome by himself, calling his third victory the hardest yet. For the second weekend in a row, Tom was heavily marked, especially by former teammate, Filippo Pozzato, but the two-time World Champion showed his class by being in front when it counted and initiating the most decisive move of the race.
It could be argued that Boonen benefited from two untimely crashes which caused his five breakaway companions to lose contact, but Tom was active at the front throughout the last half of the cobbled sections. It was more a situation of creating opportunities than benefiting from bad luck. Boonen shed his final breakaway companion, Thor Hushovd, then the Norwegian was unable to follow him through a sharp, cobbled turn and went down.
Once again, American favorite George Hincapie had bad luck at just the wrong time. You have to hand it to George for trying to play a decisive role. He and his Columbia-High Road team worked very hard to be a factor in the race. When Hincapie missed the Boonen-led winning breakaway, George took it upon himself to drive the chasing peloton in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to bring the move back. One of these days an American is going to win this race and I hope George hangs around long enough to be that guy.
Besides Team Columbia-Highroad's disappointing race, the Saxo Bank squad also came up goose eggs in the finale. Bjarne's boys looked poised for another win with so many of their top riders at the front alongside Tom Boonen with about 40 miles remaining. Somehow, Boonen gave them slip and the team which won in 2006(Cancellara) and 2007(O'Grady) came up unexpectedly empty-handed.
Hats off to Garmin-Slipstream's Steven Cozza who made it into the early ten-man breakaway which lasted far longer than anyone expected. Making it through the cobbles of the Arenberg Forest upright and in the lead group was quite an accomplishment for the 24-year old Californian in his first attempt at the Queen of the Classics. Chapeau.