Tour of California Wrap-Up

Let’s talk Tour of California. 

First, I was SO excited for this race. It was so cool too see all these big riders and teams talking about coming to the US and California. I was reeeally sad that I wasn’t able to go to Cali to have a chance to see some of the riders I love so much. 

It was crazy weird to see the peloton racing on American streets- I’m so used to watching them navigate small European roads, with roundabouts and weird road furniture. But I LOVED seeing the domestic teams and riders racing! Jeremy Powers, Jamey Driscoll, Ben Jacques-Maynes, Mike Creed, Mike Friedman, Bissel, UnitedHealthcare, Kelly Benefits Strategies- guys and teams I followed on twitter and read about in news were racing ON MY TV! So cool. And man, did they work their butts off. They were in all the breaks and worked hard in the bunch. I would’ve loved to see one of the domestic teams take a stage win or see a domestic rider in the top 5, but no luck. 

The race did not get a lot of love at the beginning. What with the first stage being cancelled for weather and the second stage being shortened, the start of the race missed a lot of the fabulous scenery that is standard for bike races. The majority of the shortened second stage was raced through suburbs, so there wasn’t too much to see. Many watchers were not impressed. There were lots of complaints about strip malls, parking lots, etc. I don’t know if I was especially sensitive because it was a race in my home country, or if people were being extra mean, but all the hate was pretty upsetting! I mean, yeah, it’s not super exciting and scenery isn’t awesome, but don’t a lot of bike races have this? Strip malls, parking lots, malls- the US isn’t the only country to have those! And the race has only just started! Give it time! But as the race went on, and as it moved into the more mountainous and more scenery-laden stage, it definitely improved. 

However, once Chris Horner soloed to the win on stage 4, I kinda lost interest. His lead was so big that it was clear no one was going to be able to catch him. All the riders I supporting were really far down on the GC, with no chance of even breaking into the top 3. Andy Schleck, my top favorite, barely seemed to be riding! And, I don’t really care for Horner. Or Levi. They both seem like a nice guys, but they just doesn’t do it for me. In addition, while it was cool to see RadioShack lead the race so decisively, I also don’t really like RadioShack. Of all the American teams, it’s the one I care for the least. So, after stage 4, I watched, but wasn’t invested. BUT, it was still fun to watch, I loved seeing my American cyclists ride their hearts out, and seeing the top 5 spots occupied by Americans was pretty awesome! I’ll watch again next year, hopefully from the sidelines.

OH, let’s talk about the Shack Tour Tracker! Now, I don’t like RadioShack much, but they had an awesome set up that allowed people to stream on the web AND on their smartphones/tablets. It was a great way to share the race and allow those without access to Versus a way to watch. I hope more races follow their lead!

Photo:  Doug Pensinger/Getty Images North America

Beyond the Peloton

Cyclists love lots of things, but mostly they love beer, coffee, cycling t-shirts, cycling photography, and… cycling films. We love films that showcase the sweeping vistas, the suffering, the speeds, the crashes. The recon videos done by Rapha of four Tour of California stages were unbelievable (most of their videos usually are!). There are also lots of awesome videos done by average Joes/Josephines. In addition to straight up riding videos, there are behind the racing scenes videos. When Cervelo formed two years ago, they started doing a behind the scenes series called Beyond the Peloton. When they merged with Garmin, happily this tradition continued. The first three episodes of the season are now up and I share them with you!

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3


Tour of California Stage 8: Goss sprints to win, Horner takes overall

The writers over at US Pro Cycling News (myself included) will be doing daily recaps of both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour of California.

On the last day of the Tour of California, during a stage that was destined to end in a bunch sprint, Chris Horner’s top podium spot was in no danger, but his team did not just sit back- they worked on the front for much of race. Their work contributed to the break being pulled back and the inevitable bunch sprint. While Sky started out the perfect lead out for their sprinter, Greg Henderson, Leigh Howard of HTC-Highroad was able to start his lead out for Matt Goss in front of them, and slow them down enough to allow Goss an uncontested sprint to the line. Check out Fitzalan’s recap!

Top 5 Stage results

  1. Matt Goss AUS (HTC-Highroad)
  2. Peter Sagan SVK (Liquigas-Cannondale)
  3. Greg Henderson NZL (Sky)
  4. Oscar Freire SPA (Rabobank)
  5. Kevin Lacombe CAN (Team Spidertech)
Top 5 Final GC
  1. Chris Horner USA (RadioShack)
  2. Levi Leipheimer USA (RadioShack) at 38 sec
  3. Tom Danielson USA (Garmin-Cervelo) at 2:45
  4. Christian Vande Velde USA (Garmin-Cervelo) at 3:18
  5. Tejay Van Garderen USA (HTC-Highroad) at 3:23
Top 5 Final Points Classification (Sprint jersey)
  1. Peter Sagan
  2. Greg Henderson NZL (Sky)
  3. Ben Swift GBR (Sky)
  4. Matt Goss AUS (HTC-Highroad)
  5. Juan Jose Haedo ARG (Saxo Bank Sungard)
Top 5 Mountains Classification (King of the Mountain jersey)
  1. Pat McCarty USA (Spidertech)
  2. Levi Leipheimer USA (RadioShack)
  3. Chris Horner USA (RadioShack)
  4. Tom Danielson USA (Garmin-Cervelo)
  5. Andy Schleck LUX (Leopard Trek)
Top 5 Final Best Young Rider
  1. Tejay Van Garderen USA (HTC-Highroad)
  2. Andrew Talansky USA (Garmin-Cervelo)
  3. Rafal Majka POL (Saxo Bank Sungard)
  4. Peter Sagan
  5. Timothy Roe AUS (BMC)
Top 5 Final Best Teams
  1. Garmin-Cervelo
  2. RadioShack
  3. BMC
  4. Rabobank
  5. UnitedHealthcare

Photo: Cyclingweekly.co.uk/Will Swetnam

Riders I love: Vincenzo Nibali

I would like to take this time tell you why I love Vincenzo Nibali (or Nibbles, as I like to call him). There are two reasons I like him. First, he’s slightly nerdy and quiet. I like that.

But the main reason I like him is because of his tenacity and commitment while climbing. He’s not an explosive climber, he’s more of slow and steady climber. He knows exactly how far he can push himself and hold himself there, without blowing up.  I watched the Veulta last year because it felt like something I needed to do as a cycling fan, and the Schleckettes were riding. It was the first stage race I watched where there were real racing tactics to follow- during the Tour, I was just interested in Andy Schleck. The Scleckettes were disappointing, but I found someone new to be interested in.

Watching Nibali climb the Bola del Monda during stage 20 of the Veulta sealed his place in my heart. Ezequiel Mosquera was 41” down on Nibali and had to attack on this stage if he wanted any chance at taking the red jersey. When Mosquera went, Nibali was right on his wheel. Mosquera was eventually able to pull away and got about 20” on Nibali. But every time it looked like Nibali was cooked, every time it looked like he could go no further, he would get out of his saddle and power back up.  He pulled back the gap little by little, then, in the last 100 meters, who do we see come up beside Mosquera? Nibali! Not only did he make up the 20” deficit, but he almost beat Mosquera! It was an amazing climb and the first time I had really seen a rider in complete misery pull through and come out on top.

Today Nibali did the same thing. When Contador attacked, he didn’t follow right away, but attacked with his slow and steady pace and bridged up to Contador. When Contador attacked him and drew away, he didn’t panic, but kept going. Even though he couldn’t catch him, he still only finished a few seconds behind. Nibali won’t be able to make the 3’09″ time difference between him and Contador, but I was so happy to see him try today. He has now been defeated with dignity.

Tour of California Stage 7: Mt. Baldy delivers pain

The writers over at US Pro Cycling News (myself included) will be doing daily recaps of both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour of California.

The queen stage of the Tour of California happened today, and boy, did it deliver. Once the race reached Mt. Baldy, a high pace and attacks from the field shattered the peloton and attacks in the front shattered the breakaway. Ultimately, Chris Horner and Levi Leipheimer were the only breakaway riders able to maintain a pace up the mountain and crossed the line together. With this stage, Horner solidified and secured his lead, with Danielson now over 2 minutes behind him. Check out Fitzalan’s recap!

Top 5 Stage results

  1. Levi Leipheimer USA (RadioShack)
  2. Chris Horner USA (RadioShack)
  3. Laurens Ten Dam NED (Rabobank) at 43 sec
  4. Tom Danielson USA (Garmin-Cervelo) at 1:01
  5. Steve Morabito SWI (BMC) at 1:21
Top 5 GC
  1. Chris Horner
  2. Levi Leipheimer at 38 sec
  3. Tom Danielson at 2:45
  4. Christian Vande Velde USA (Garmin-Cervelo) at 3:18
  5. Tejay Van Garderen USA (HTC-Highroad) at 3:23

Photo: CyclingFans.com/Pensinger

Tour of California Stage 6: Dave Z, Americans with strong TT showing

The writers over at US Pro Cycling News (myself included) will be doing daily recaps of both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour of California.

Today’s stage was an Individual Time Trial in Solvange. While Taylor Phinney put up an impressive 2nd place, the riders after him were consistently good, pushing Taylor down to 21st by the end of the stage. In the end, Garmin-Cervelo’s TT specialist, Dave Zabriskie killed the competition and won the stage.  Check out Fitzalan’s recap!

Top 5 Stage results

  1. Dave Zabriskie USA (Garmin-Cervelo)
  2. Levi Leipheimer USA (RadioShack) at 14sec
  3. Tejay Van Garderen USA (HTC-Highroad) at 40sec
  4. Peter Velits SVK (HTC-Highroad) at 48sec
  5. Maarten Tjallingii NED (Rabobank) at 49sec
Top 5 GC
  1. Chris Horner
  2. Levi Leipheimer at 38sec
  3. Rory Sutherland at 1:38
  4. Christian Vande Velde at 1:39
  5. Tom Danielson at 1:44

Photo: Casey B. Gibson/VeloNews.com

Giro d’Italia Stage 13: Contador, the king of climbers

This is a reprint of an article I wrote for US Pro Cycling News. I am sharing recap writing duties with the other writers of both the Giro and the Tour of California.

Stage 13 of the Giro was the first real mountain stage, with plenty of climbing. The climbing, however, was situated more as a long climbing slogs as opposed to any steep ramps. This stage perfectly suited Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank-Sungard), and his defense of the pink jersey. And defend it he did, with a repeat of how stage 9 played out, as Contador rode away from the competition with Jose Rujano (Androni Giocattoli) to seal his lead. Rujano and Contador worked well together the last 9km, with Rujano ultimately taking the stage.

Sprinters abandon

As expected many of the sprinters abandoned after yesterday’s stage, as the mountains loomed. Mark Cavendish and Mark Renshaw (HTC-Columbia), Danilo Hondo and Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-ISD), Manuel Belletti (Colnago) and FransicoVentoso (Movistar) all abandoned before the stage started.

Big Breakaway

A big break of 16 got away relatively soon in the stage. The break included: Pablo Lastras and Branislau Samoilau (Movistar), Pieter Weening (Rabobank), Robert Kiserlovski and Cayetano Sarmiento (Astana), Rafael Valls (Geox), Alberto Losada (Katusha), Angel Vicioso (Androni Giocattoli), Craig Lewis (HTC-Columbia), Lars Petter (Sky),  Andrea Noe (Farnese-Vini), Johnny Hoogerland (Vaconsoliel), Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R-La Mondial), Kristof Vandewalle (Quickstep), Cameron Meyer (Garmin-Cervelo), Alessandro Spezialetti (Lampre-ISD). Their biggest gap was 4:50, but the peloton was never content to sit up and let the break go. Euskatel-Euskadi was the most prominent on the front, working to keep the break in check to give their man Igor Anton a chance.

With the penultimate climb looming, the break was working well together, but the peloton was chasing hard behind. As the break started on the Iselsbergpass climb, Kiserlovski attacked. While there was no immediate reaction from the break, soon others tried to follow. This put the hurt on the break, and riders started to drop. Kiserlovski was able to get a lead of almost 1 minute on the chase group, but as soon as Sarmiento, Losada, Lastras, Weening, and Nordhaug caught up to him, Sarmiento and Weening attacked and the rest were dropped, soon to be swallowed up.

Fireworks

With the group back together, at 10km the fireworks really started to fly. Rujano got away, joined by Michele Scarponi (Lampre-ISD) and Anton and soon passed Saarmiento and Weening, but Contador brought them back, and soon set off on his own. Only Rujano was able to hold Contador’s wheel, the two were off, and it was a repeat of stage 9.

Behind the two leaders, the remaining chase group of about 12 attacked each other back and forth. John Gadret (AG2R-La Mondiale) attacked, soon overtaking his teammate Hubert Dupont, who had attacked earlier. With 2.5km to go, Anton launched his attack and joined up with Dupont. While Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) tried to bridge across from the small chase group, Nibali and Scarponi seemed unable to make any big efforts.

In the last kilometer, the two leaders were still together and as the two approached the line, Contador made no attempt to sprint and Rujano took the stage.

Contador has well and truly put his mark on this Giro. With this stage, Nibali moved into second, but he is 3 minutes down, and with the way Contador has been climbing so far, that 3 minutes could be insurmountable. After the stage, Nibali seemed defeated, saying “We’ve got to try and come up with something but what?” It seems it has become a race for 2nd place.

Top 5 Stage results

  1. Jose Rujano VEN (Androni Giocattoli)
  2. Alberto Contador SPA (Saxo Bank Sungard)
  3. John Gadret FRA (AG2R La Mondiale)
  4. Hubert Dupont FRA (AG2R La Mondiale)
  5. Igor Anton SPA (Euskaltel-Euskadi)
Top 5 GC
  1. Alberto Contador
  2. Vincenzo Nibali ITA (Liquigas-Cannondale) at 3:09
  3. Michele Scarponi ITA (Lampre-ISD) at 3:16
  4. David Arroyo SPA (Moviestar) at 3:25
  5. Roman Kreuziger CZE (Astana) at 3:29
  6. Photo: Graham Watson/CyclingWeekly.co.uk

Tour of California Stage 5: Sagan and the sprint

This is a reprint of an article I wrote for US Pro Cycling News. The writers over there (myself included) will be doing daily recaps of both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour of California.

Stage 5 of the Tour of California offered up some more climbing. While it was nothing like yesterday’s climb, which allowed Chris Horner to attack and win the stage and the yellow jersey, there were still 4 categorized climbs. Oscar Freire (Rabobank) got into the break early and hung until the very end. Hoping to score a stage win for Rabobank, which was sponsoring the stage, he was denied 100 meters from the line, and the stage ended in a bunch sprint, with Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) handily taking the stage.

The Break

About 25km into the stage, a four man break got away, consisting of Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Chris Froome (Sky), Daniel Martin (Garmin-Cervelo) and Chris Baldwin (Bissell Cycling). However, soon after the first KOM, an attack from the bunch allowed Martin Velits (HTC-Highroad), Maarten Tjallingi (Rabobank), Pat McCarty (Team Spidertech Powered By C10), and Jesse Anthony (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth) to join the leaders. McCarty was the leader in the KOM jersey, and clearly was looking to stay there. However, he’d have to battle Anthony for maximum points , as he was only a few points behind. As they reached the 2nd KOM, the aggressive racing continued, with Jeffry Louder (BMC Racing Team), Stefan Denifl (Leopard Trek), and Brad White (UnitedHealthcare) attacking from the peloton and making across the gap to the leaders. This group of 11 was the break of the day, and their largest gap was 3’30″.

Again, RadioShack worked at the front of the peloton to keep the break in check. Tjallingi tried an attack on the break but only managed 20sec before he was brought back. By the time the break had reached the last KOM, riders had started to fall off of the break. When McCarty took maximum points over the top of the climb, Denifl and Freire took off and left the rest of the breakaway riders in their dust. The two worked together for awhile, but when Denifl got a flat, Freire took off. At 7km to go, he had 1 minute, but try as he might, a solo break win was not to be and he was swept up with 2.5km to go.

All together now

Once everyone was back together, a couple of attacks happened, notably George Hincapie (BMC). Jeremy Vannell (Bissell) also tried, but neither were successful. The pace in the run to the line was so high, the peloton was strung out and fractured.

As the finish line loomed, Leigh Howard (HTC-Highroad) started the sprint, followed closely by Ben Swift (Sky), but Sagan took them both coming around the outside to get to the line just before Howard, who had left a little too early.

It must be said that Bissell has been the star American team here in Cali. They’ve had men in the break every day and are racing to win (even though they haven’t yet!). For myself, I would love to see a domestic team get at least one stage win, but with only three days left, chances are running out. Today’s stage had no impact on the GC, or the time gaps, and Horner keeps his yellow jersey. Tomorrow is the individual time trial, which will hopefully see Taylor Phinney kicking some heiny!

Top 5 Stage results

  1. Peter sagan SVK (Liquigas-Cannondale)
  2. Leigh Howard AUS (HTC-Highroad)
  3. Ben Swift GBR (Sky)
  4. Paul Martens GER (Rabobank)
  5. Alexander Candelario USA (Kelly Benefit Stratgies)
Top 5 GC
  1. Chris Horner USA (RadioShack)
  2. Levi Leipheimer USA (RadioShack) at 1:15
  3. Tom Danielson USA (Garmin-Cervelo) at 1:22
  4. Christian Vande Velde USA (Garmin-Cervelo) at 1:29
  5. Rory Sutherland AUS (UnitedHealthCare) at 1:30

Photo: AP

Tour of California Stage 3: Team Sky, Take 2

The writers over at US Pro Cycling News (myself included) will be doing daily recaps of both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour of California.

Stage 5 of the Tour of California offered up some more climbing. While it was nothing like yesterday’s climb, which allowed Chris Horner to attack and win the stage and the yellow jersey, there were still 4 categorized climbs. Oscar Freire (Rabobank) got into the break early and hung until the very end. Hoping to score a stage win for Rabobank, which was sponsoring the stage, he was denied 100 meters from the line, and the stage ended in a bunch sprint, with Peter Sagan (Liquigas-Cannondale) handily taking the stage.

The Break

About 25km into the stage, a four man break got away, consisting of Oscar Freire (Rabobank), Chris Froome (Sky), Daniel Martin (Garmin-Cervelo) and Chris Baldwin (Bissell Cycling). However, soon after the first KOM, an attack from the bunch allowed Martin Velits (HTC-Highroad), Maarten Tjallingi (Rabobank), Pat McCarty (Team Spidertech Powered By C10), and Jesse Anthony (Kelly Benefit Strategies-OptumHealth) to join the leaders. McCarty was the leader in the KOM jersey, and clearly was looking to stay there. However, he’d have to battle Anthony for maximum points , as he was only a few points behind. As they reached the 2nd KOM, the aggressive racing continued, with Jeffry Louder (BMC Racing Team), Stefan Denifl (Leopard Trek), and Brad White (UnitedHealthcare) attacking from the peloton and making across the gap to the leaders. This group of 11 was the break of the day, and their largest gap was 3’30″.

Again, RadioShack worked at the front of the peloton to keep the break in check. Tjallingi tried an attack on the break but only managed 20sec before he was brought back. By the time the break had reached the last KOM, riders had started to fall off of the break. When McCarty took maximum points over the top of the climb, Denifl and Freire took off and left the rest of the breakaway riders in their dust. The two worked together for awhile, but when Denifl got a flat, Freire took off. At 7km to go, he had 1 minute, but try as he might, a solo break win was not to be and he was swept up with 2.5km to go.

All together now

Once everyone was back together, a couple of attacks happened, notably George Hincapie (BMC). Jeremy Vannell (Bissell) also tried, but neither were successful. The pace in the run to the line was so high, the peloton was strung out and fractured.

As the finish line loomed, Leigh Howard (HTC-Highroad) started the sprint, followed closely by Ben Swift (Sky), but Sagan took them both coming around the outside to get to the line just before Howard, who had left a little too early.

It must be said that Bissell has been the star American team here in Cali. They’ve had men in the break every day and are racing to win (even though they haven’t yet!). For myself, I would love to see a domestic team get at least one stage win, but with only three days left, chances are running out. Today’s stage had no impact on the GC, or the time gaps, and Horner keeps his yellow jersey. Tomorrow is the individual time trial, which will hopefully see Taylor Phinney kicking some heiny!

Photo: AP

Tour of California Stage 4: Horner crushes on the first climbs

The writers over at US Pro Cycling News (myself included) will be doing daily recaps of both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour of California.

Yesterday’s stage of the Tour of California featured the first of the real climbing. Chris Horner smashed the competition on Mt. Hamilton, and rode his way into the yellow jersey. Check out Fitzalan’s recap!

Top 5 Stage results

  1. Chris Horner USA (RadioShack)
  2. Andy Schleck LUX (Leopard Trek) at 1:15
  3. Rory Sutherland AUS (UnitedHealthCare) at 1:15
  4. Levi Leipheimer USA (RadioShack) at 1:15
  5. Tom Danielson USA (Garmin-Cervelo) at 1:22
Top 5 GC
  1. Chris Horner
  2. Levi Leipheimer at 1:15
  3. Tom Danielson at 1:22
  4. Christian Vande Velde USA (Garmin-Cervelo) at 1:29
  5. Rory Sutherland at 1:30

Photo: Casey B. Gibson/VeloNews.com

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