How Cycling Works: The Jerseys

Jersey wearers from the 2010 Tour- Young rider, Overall, Points, KOM

Now that we’ve covered how teams work, let’s look at how exactly one wins in a stage race. In most stage races, it’s not just the guy who comes in first at the end who gets honors. The fastest guy, the best climber, the best young rider, the best team, etc, all get prizes as well.

The highest honor of the race, of course, goes to the one who finishes first. But what does it mean to finish “first?” In the end, the guy on the top step of the podium is the one with the lowest cumulative race time- the one who rides the course the fastest. It’s not the guy who wins the most stages. In fact, often the race winner wins no stages! The rider with the lowest cumulative time wears the leader’s jersey. In the Tour, this jersey is yellow, and the color most often associated with a leader’s jersey, but it can be any color. For the Giro d’Italia (Tour of Italy), it is pink, and for the Vuelta a Espana (Tour of Spain), it is red. It is a lot of work to keep and defend the yellow jersey. There are many tactics employed to make sure the yellow jersey stays in the team, but the bottom line is that the rider in yellow must keep a close eye on those finishing the the stage ahead of him. If there is a someone who is only 30 seconds behind him, the leader must not let that rider finish 31 seconds in front of him or else he will lose the leader’s jersey. This is why it is hard to be in the leader’s jersey- that team must constantly be monitoring who’s attacking, who’s in the break, who’s at the head of the peloton, etc, and often the pressure is on them to chase back any escapees.

In the stage races, there are more jerseys to be won than just the leader’s jersey. Most stage races will have a points jersey, a climbing jersey, and a best young rider jersey. The points jersey is worn by the rider with the most points. To accumulate points, a rider must one of the first, usually, 15-20 riders through certain lines on the course, with one of those lines being the finish line. Points are awarded in descending value, based on when the rider crosses the line- so the first rider gets the most points and the 20th rider gets the least. This jersey is most commonly known as the sprinter’s jersey, as traditionally the majority of the points are given out at the finish line and the flatter stages (which favors sprinters) have more points available to win at the finish. So, the rider who can win the most flat stages often has the best chance at wearing the sprinter’s jersey. This isn’t always the case, as points awarded at the intermediate sprints in the middle of the route can play an important role in deciding who wears the jersey. But in the end, the sprinter’s jersey (the green jersey at the Tour) is meant to go to the fastest rider.

The climbing jersey is commonly called the King of the Mountains jersey, or KOM. It’s awarded the same way the sprinter’s jersey is, with points awarded to those crossing the summit of different climbs. Climbs are ranked from 4 (easiest) to 1 (hardest), but some are SO HARD that they receive a Hors Categorie (HC, or outside category) distinction. Obviously, the highest ranked climbs will have more points available for the taking.

The young rider’s jersey is pretty self-explanatory- it goes to the rider under 26 with the lowest cumulative race time, signified by a white jersey.

There are also a couple of prizes awarded that don’t have a special jersey. Each stage a rider is awarded the most aggressive rider prize- this could be someone who worked hard in the break, made a last ditch attack, powered through the worst crash, etc. They get a special, red, race number for the day. At the end of the race, one rider is awarded the overall  most aggressive rider.

Juan Antonia Flecha and his most aggressive rider special number. Photo: Team Sky

The other prize awarded is the team classification. This award goes to the team with the overall lowest cumulative time. There is no special jersey, but they get yellow race numbers.

Team RadioShack received the team classification award at the 2010 Tour

So there you have it- the collection of jerseys and prizes up for grabs at the Tour!

The Race Convoy

I just wanted to draw your attention to a cool diagram the Cycling Tips blog did, which explains how a race caravan works- what sort of vehicles are in the race caravan, what order they go in, rules the caravan has to follow, etc.

Image from CyclingTipsBlog.com

Go here  or click on the image to get more details!

How cycling works: the teams

A team is more than just its riders

The Tour de France is an exciting time in the cycling world, but for someone who is just discovering cycling, it can be a bit overwhelming. While cycling seems simple enough (they’re just riding their bikes down the road, for crying out loud!), it’s actually quite a complex sport. While the Tour can be enjoyed at any level, it helps to understand the basics of cycling and how racing works. For the next few days, I’ll be posting some “primers” to help those new to the Tour understand what’s going on!

First up, the essence of cycling: the teams. Cycling is a strange mix of team and individual sport. Only one racer wins the stage/race, but that one racer cannot win without the support of a team. Teams are usually built around a few “stars,” who usually gets the most attention/stage wins/press. But those “stars” wouldn’t be able to win any races if they didn’t have a team around them. A team usually has 20-30 some riders (at least the ones with a nice budget do!), so a team will have various riders at various races at any time. The B teams often to the “lesser” races, while the A teams are usually sent to the higher profile races. This was something I definitely did not understand when I started watching. When I watched the Eneco Tour after the Tour, I couldn’t understand why Andy et al, weren’t riding for Saxo Bank! At each race, within a squad of 6-9 riders (depending on the size of the race), a team leader is usually designated who the other riders support. These domestiques (French for servants) do things like shepherd things back and forth to the team car (including water, cold/warm weather gear, instructions, etc.), take pulls on the front of the peloton to chase down breaks, draft the leaders back to the peloton if they get dropped for some reason, or even give up a bike or wheel if the situation calls for it. The domestiques rarely win, often riding hard until they pop, then limping to the finish line. All of this is done to help preserve the strength and legs of team leaders- keeping them out of the wind, towards the front of the peloton to try and avoid the crashes that often happen in the bunch. There are exceptions, such as when Garmin-Cervelo super domestique Johan Van Summeren won Paris-Roubaix this year, but they are the exception and not the rule. However, just because you’re domestique doesn’t mean you’re not famous- Jens Voigt being a perfect example. He’s one of the hardest working and best liked domestiques of the peloton. He got a love letter from me.

Of course the teams aren’t just the riders. Other important members include soigneurs, the mechanics, the cooks, the directeur sportifs (DS), etc. Soigneurs (French for “care givers”) do a variety of jobs, from doing laundry, clean up, driving team cars, organizing team cars, restocking supplies, etc- anything and everything that might be required to run a team. Sometimes soigneurs will also be masseurs, an important job in helping riders recover. I’ve heard it compared to being a roadie for a rock band- lots of work, little pay, late nights, etc. Only the passionate need apply!

Mechanics, of course self explanatory- they’re the guys that keep the bikes running! Often a mechanic will ride in the team cars, to help with wheel and bike changes, and help with any bike repairs that need to happen on the go. Again, late nights, as after each race, they must get the bikes ready for the next day- washing and cleaning the bike, making sure all the parts are working like they should, etc. And that’s not just the bikes the 9 riders use, but all the spare bikes as well.

Most teams have cooks there to make sure the riders are getting the right food in the right amounts. Some of the bigger teams have their own “kitchen” bus, but the smaller teams often cook out of the hotel kitchens.

The DS is probably the most important member of the team, when it comes to racing and tactics. They’re usually sitting in the cars, “coaching” the riders. If the race has radios, they’ll give breakaway updates, crash updates, road updates through the radio, as well as give guidance on when to attack or chase. If the race has no radios, they’ll wait for riders to come back to the car for instructions or updates. Most DSs are former riders.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten some vital member of the team, and I’m sure I’ve not gotten every thing right, so be sure to leave me a comment! Next post: jerseys!

Tour de France: A Feelings Index

This a modified version of an article I wrote for US Pro Cycling News.

Disclaimer: If you use this list to predict who will do well at the Tour, you will probably lose.

It’s so weird to think that the Tour de France is going to be starting TOMORROW! It seems like only yesterday that I turned on the TV, one bored summer afternoon and, without knowing how it would change my life, started watching the Tour de France. Little did I know that watching this race was the start of a long, sordid affair with the cycling world. If I known that watching this race would result in my eating, drinking, and breathing cycling, would I have turned on that TV? Who knows. The only thing I do know is watching that race marked a changing point in my life.

So as the 2011 edition of the TdF draws near, it is custom for everyone and their mom, their dog and their grandparents to make predictions on what they think different riders’ chances are at the podium, the different jersey’s, a top 10 finish, etc. I find prediction, and making them, to be rather useless, as form and fitness are only one tiny (albeit important) part of the overall equation in winning any race. You can’t predict bad luck, bad weather, or what others might do on the road. Oh yeah, and I suck at them. However, this will not stop me from throwing my hat into the predictions ring. However, this will be no ordinary predictions list. Mainly because I suck at prediction and am still not familiar enough with the riders to really know their chances. In fact, it won’t be a predictions list at all. This will be a feelings list, as I talk about my feelings towards those riding the TdF this year.

Anna’s 2011 Tour de France Feelings Index Ratings

Andy Schleck

If you’ve ever read any of my blog, you know exactly how I feel about Andy. He’s the rider that got me into cycling in the first place, as my schoolgirl crush on him kept me watching the Tour until the very end and motivated me to continue after it had ended. So he will always rate high on the Feelings Index. I’m very nervous about his form coming into the Tour- he has not had a very impressive season so far. I don’t think his lack of results means too much, but I wasn’t very impressed with his climbing during the Tour of California or the Tour de Suisse. I’m also concerned with the growing pains his team seems to be experiencing. I don’t know if I can point to a specific incident, but overall I wonder the stress and expectations of starting a new team built around him is a bit much. Now, I wasn’t around last year when Sky was starting its inaugural year, but based on reports, expectations were sky high (see what I did there?) and there wasn’t much delivery. This year, they’ve mellowed out, reevaluated their goals and had a much better year. I’m seeing a bit of repeat with Leopard-Trek- expectations are high but there hasn’t been much delivery. My fingers are crossed that this whole season has been a big bluff and Andy’s gonna shred it up those mountains and make Bertie wish he’d never ridden the Giro.

Feelings Index rating: 10/10

Alberto Contador

If you had asked me last year where Bertie fell on my feelings index, I would’ve said right at the bottom. He was Andy’s sworn enemy! But after watching him climb in the Giro this year, he’s also climbed up my Feelings Index as well. I’m trying not to think too much about the whole doping issue. While it drives me crazy to think that his wins might get stripped, denying another deserving rider a chance at the podium, I can’t really blame him for this, as it is the UCI/CSA that seems to be dragging their feet in deciding the final verdict. So, I’m going to put that out of my head and enjoy watching him ride. He’s clearly a man who loves to race and ride his bike and dang has he got some skill! I don’t care what others said; I loved watching him dominate this year’s Giro. Normally I’d never say this, but you never knew when he was just going up and leave the peloton in his dust, and that was so exciting to watch. Now, do I want him to do that at the Tour? Not really. I’d like the competition to be a little closer!  However, if he can hold over his form from the Giro, I feel he’ll be hard to beat. But, riding the Giro like it was his last race on Earth might have sapped precious strength and prevent him from being at his best. Not to mention that pretty much his entire support squad rode the Giro as well, and I can’t imagine they’re all ready to ride the Tour at top form.

Feelings Index rating: 7/10

Chris Horner

I will admit. Horner does not rank high on my Feelings Index, despite the fact that he is an American rider that everyone seems to love. In fact, I really don’t love him. I do not know why this is. Maybe because everyone else does? Maybe because I don’t love RadioShack? I’m not sure. While I know he is a nice guy that everyone loves, and he doesn’t seem to have a mean bone in his body (even his pain face is surprisingly pleasant), I cannot get excited about him. In fact, once he got the leaders jersey in California, I stopped caring about the race and how it would end. However, I cannot deny he’s been having a great season and seems to have the legs and the form for a great Tour.

Feelings Index rating: 3/10

Cadel Evans

I would say I’m indifferent towards Cadel. He seems to have a lot of intense fans, but I’m still not sure what the fuss is all about. I do follow a lot of Australians on twitter and they are loyal to Cadel to the death, which might be why it seems to me that everyone loves him. When I ask people why they love Cadel, most cite his defense of the rainbow jersey last year and his performance at the 2010 Giro. As I was not watching cycling last year, I did not get to witness his panache-filled performances of last year and even though there have flashes panache this year, it hasn’t been much to make an impression on me. Plus, he’s a very strange looking man. I get so distracted about how strange looking he is when I see him, that I often can’t concentrate on anything else.

Feelings Index rating: 5/10

Thor Hushovd

Poor Thor has been getting some flack this season. Many people feel he isn’t defending the world champs jersey as he should, but I’m not really sure what that means. I mean, sure, it seems that Cadel really became a different racer when he was wearing the jersey, but I’m not sure that means everyone needs to. He was doing what he was doing before- riding and winning when he could. It seems to me that Hushovd is very good on a very specific type of course and then is just middling on anything else. He’s got speed and he’s got power, but not enough speed to beat the fastest on the flattest courses, and not enough power to beat the best climbers. So, he wins on the courses he’s suited for- like last year’s worlds course! Anyway, I think he’s a classy rider and a classy guy (even though his teeth drive me crazy). I think maybe he could win a stage, but that’s about it. (Oh and I also love him because of this.)

Feelings Index rating: 7/10

Tyler Farrar

Speaking of Garmin-Cervelo and their awesome Tour argyle, there’s also Tyler Farrar. I’ve always felt a little bad for Tyler. It’s “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” with him. Or more accurately, “always the slightly late wedding guest who misses the important bits, never a bride.” He just can’t quite seem to keep up with the fastest guys and their lead out trains. Or his lead out train keeps getting jostled out of position by the other sprinter’s lead out trains. Either way. While he’s usually a top 5 finisher of the sprint stages, even if he’s got a good position going into the sprint, something always happens and he’s boxed out. But I still like him. He seems like a super chill guy, he’s American, he’s a ginger- all wins! I’d love for him to get a stage win, although I’m not holding my breath.

Feelings Index rating: 8/10

Mark Cavendish

And now speaking of sprinters! I. love. Cav. Love him. Yes, he’s brash. Yes, he’s obnoxious. Yes, he thinks very highly of himself as a sprinter. But he looooves his job and he loooves his teammates. And he’s very emotional- he wears his heart on his sleeve and I like that. He’s not afraid to speak his mind, even if it makes him sound a bit stupid sometimes. My first memory of him is him crying after he won his first stage at the TdF last year. I didn’t understand it, but I loved it even then. And let’s not forgot about the fact that he’s a fabulous tweeter

Feelings Index rating: 9/10

Ivan Basso

I mainly like Basso because he tweets awesome pictures of himself getting massages and such. I really have no opinion of him as a rider, as I’ve yet to see him race. Although, I was watching highlights of last year’s Giro on Versus awhile ago and the little I saw of him was impressive. So, between his awesome tweets and the fact that he’s pretty cute, he gets a higher ranking on my Feelings Index.

Feelings Index rating: 7/10

Philippe Gilbert

When the season started, I didn’t have an opinion on Gilbert. And even as the season progressed and he started winning a lot, I was still pretty indifferent towards him. I saw that everyone loved him, but didn’t really understand why. I also found him to be pretty unattractive (yes, I’m shallow). But then he was winning, winning, winning. And he started bringing his little baby on the podium with him. And he had awesome helmet hair. And he seemed genuinely excited about winning. And he was FUN to watch! After he won the Belgian championships and you could feel his excitement, I was sold. He’s such a strong, silent rider that is capable of animating a race to the fullest extent. There’s a lot of talk about “panache” in the peloton, and I think he’s got it. He attacks, he’s not afraid of racing hard, he knows where his strengths are and he’s not afraid to use them. It would be fun to see him win a TdF stage!

Feelings Index rating: 8/10

Alexandre Vinokourov

I don’t like him. He creeps me out with his eyebrow-less face and his seemingly emotionless face. I hope he doesn’t win anything.

Feelings Index rating: 1/10

Photo: Fitzalan Gorman

The Group Rides

As RAGBRAI creeps closer, I’ve been trying to do more group riding. This is because I can only push myself so far. I’m not so much a fan of suffering that I can push myself to my suffering limits and hold myself there. I need someone else there to hold my feet to the fire. However, while I would say I’m “training” for RAGBRAI, it’s training in the sense that I don’t want to die on the Iowa hills or from spending “all day” in the saddle. So I’m not interested in doing intervals or going faster or doing massive climbing training. But I would like to challenge myself! So I’ve been trying out different group rides.

I went on a few rides with the Sassy Sisters. Their name is silly, but I do have fun. It’s nice riding with all women and their pace always makes me feel really fast. I also went on one ride with the Bicycle Space shop.

That one was a lot of fun. There were only five of us, but by a funny coincidence, one was a girl who I had ridden with on the first Sassy Sisters ride- the ultra slow group ride. The leader was pretty cute, too- bonus! I’m actually usually quite intimidated by cute cyclists, but am starting to feel a bit more confident about my abilities, so I’m not as much anymore. ANYWAY. While that ride took us to the same neighborhoods and trails I’ve been riding on since I got my bike, it was fun to experience them with new people. I think I impressed the guy leading the ride. While this makes me feel good about myself, I’m never sure if I’m actually good, or if I’m better than they think I would be and their expectations were so low that that doesn’t really mean much. So I’ve wanted to go on a proper group ride to assess my fitness level. Because I have no idea where I am. I know how I feel, but feeling can only get you so far.

Both of the groups I had already ridden with were like, “We’re nice! No one gets left behind! You don’t have to an expert to ride with us!” But when I was looking at the Potomac Pedalers website for this one particular ride, they were like “we’re nice, but we’re not waiting for you. If you get dropped, you better have a cue sheet so you can find your way back!” So, you know, tough love. And I felt I was in need of some tough love to challenge myself! So I committed myself to going, to the point where I couldn’t back out. Because unless I’m held accountable I won’t do it! Once I did commit myself, I was soooo nervous. I felt a bit ill even. It’s the same sick feeling I get when I’m going on a date for the first time.

I had no idea what type of people would be there or if I would even be able to keep up with the pace. My only consilation was that if I was dropped, I knew the area well enough to be able to find my way home!

When I got there, there were about 20 and 30 people there. It was a bit intimidating, as most groups of cyclists look pretty intense when you first see them. But then as you look closer, past the lycra and the shoes and the fancy looking bikes, it’s clear there is a wide range of riders- they aren’t all racers ready to crush you with their intense pace. When we started, it was really cool to be riding in the huge group of cyclists, taking over an entire lane. I’m sure the people in the cars hated us, but we had them outnumbered! Before we left, the leader had pointed out a girl who would probably be going close to my pace. So when we started going, I stuck with her. And when the guy in front of me turned off, but the girl kept going straight, I followed her. She was with 2 other women, and after about a half a mile of us not catching the group ahead of us, one of the girls said, “I think we’re on the long route!” As opposed to the shorter route the slower riders do. And now we were too far away from the slow group to get back with them, and too far away from the fast group to catch them. So, the four of us decided to do our own ride! It was tough but fun. I definitely went further than I thought I would, but it was okay. Somehow, doing a longer, tougher ride is a little easier to do when you’re with others…

I’m definitely starting to feel more confident in my abilities and more comfortable on group rides. It’s a lot easier to get motivated when I’m riding with other people! Also, the group rides are good for another reason- since I graduated from grad school, my social life has constricted dramatically. While I was in school, I was interacting with a bunch of different people and going to a lot of different events. Since I’ve graduated, my life consists of work, home, and a few nights out with friends. And lots of movies by myself. I’ve started to realize that while I’m actually fine with this, it’s not a great way to live your life. So I’m trying to find a new group of acquaintances like I had in grad school and group rides are a great way to do this. I feel like I’ve gotten a good start and I hope I can continue to find new rides to do!

Came home with a pretty impressive Cat 5 tattoo

Air Force Cycling Classic takes my virginity

Before I start, I’d like to apologize for the lag between posts that happened. The Giro and the Tour of California really wore me out and I needed a break from writing. So, hopefully now I’m back! If there’s anything YOU’D like me to write about, let me know in the comments!

So. This weekend I went to my first race! It was the Air Force Cycling Classic and it consisted of two races on two days. Each day had a different course and on each course there was a women’s pro race, a men’s pro race, and an amateur race. Both races were criterium (crit) style, which means it’s a circular course, usually about a mile/kilometer in length, with lots of tight corners and fast turns. The race consists of either a certain number of laps or a certain length of time. During the race, on certain laps they’ll offer primes, usually money, for the first person to cross the line. The two races were held in two different locations. The Clarendon race was a circuit of 1km, with the pro men riding 100 laps. The Crystal City race was a little longer and they raced for 90 minutes, which I think equated to about 25 laps. It totalled 100km in length as well. The women and the amateurs raced over the same courses but for shorter lengths of time.

I got there before the race started and while I was just wandering around, I was totally overwhelmed by the amount of cyclists/racers around! It was so cool to be in an environment where cyclists, walking around in their cycling gear, were the majority. Also, I have never been around so much bike technology before! I’m not a gear head at all, but I can recognize a fancy bike when I see it. And I saw a LOT today. It was really neat to walk by where the teams had set up their “camps.” I felt like I was walking past my version of celebrities when I walked by the teams I had seen racing in the Tour of California and the Philly race: United Healthcare, Kelly Benefits Strategies, Exergy, Pure Black, Team Type 1, etc.

Hot cycling dude. They're chill.

I was a bit worried I wouldn’t be able to follow the race developments, not being familiar with crit racing and not having a commentator narrating the race. It turns out that crit racing tactics are very similar to road racing tactics, just with developments and changes happening a lot faster. And it also turns out that crits also have commentators that hang out at the finish line, narrating the race. There are breaks and chase groups and attacks and lead out trains. So I was pleased to find out that it was pretty easy to follow what was happening. Even if the situation was changing every lap.

The stage with the commentators

I liked the Clarendon circuit a bit better, as it was more of a genuine circuit, which meant if you were in the center, you had easy access to all the different parts of the course. Not to mention it went right through areas with lots of restaurants and shops, so there were lots of people everywhere you went. The Crystal City circuit was less of a circuit and more of an out and back. It was harder to get to all the different parts of the course and there were larger sections of course that were devoid of people. And because the course was circular, the only way to hear what the commentators were saying was to standing right by the start/finish line.

Things I noticed:

  • Everyone talks about how fast the racing is- they’re not lying! Whipping around corners, it’s amazing they don’t tip right over or crash into the barriers. And when they’re ripping down a straight or accelerating out of a corner, the speed literally blows your hair back! At Crystal City, there was a motorcycle cop who’s radar gun clocked the peloton at 30mph!
  • To me, it seemed as though the women’s and amateur races were just as fast as the pro races. Okay, maybe not quite as fast, but seemed pretty close to me.

"Amateurs," very fast amateurs

And very fast women

  • I was impressed with the crowds! The Clarendon race was a bit more crowded, as it was in a better location, but both it was cool to see how many people showed up to support the racers! It was also cool to see know that I wasn’t the lone bike race supporter out here. I’ve felt a bit lonely out here sometimes, with my cycling addiction, so I loved see others enjoying racing like I do. I talked to a photographer the first day who said he’s just discovering cycling and was interested in going to more races, so we exchanged emails and I hooked him up with a bunch of cycling resources!
All in all it was a fabulous weekend (even though my sunscreen application was less than thorough and I ended the weekend with sunburn) and I can’t wait for next year! OH, I also need to point out that I finally met Fitzalan Gorman, who runs the website I write for! I’ve been writing for her since the fall but this was our first face to face encounter. So that was nice! More picture here and here!

And now for the best view...

US Pro Championship Road Race: Busche beats Hincapie

This is a reprint of the article I wrote for US Pro Cycling News.

It took Matthew Busche (Radioshack) about 5 minutes to find out that he was the new owner of the stars and stripes jersey. During that 5 minutes, Busche had plenty of time to think about whether his bike throw to the line was enough to beat George Hincapie (BMC). Both Busche and Hincapie were part of a four man break that got away after many, many attacks from the field. When Hincapie sprinted for the line, it was only Busche who was able to go with him, and he took the win through a photo finish.

Under oppressive heat, the 99 riders took the start in Greenville, SC. The route was the same as it had been the past few years, with three 4.2 mile laps around town, then four 22.5 mile laps around the Paris Mountain loop, finishing with three short laps around the town. After last year, when breakaway which allowed Ben King to solo to a win got a 17 minute gap, the peloton was not going to allow that to happen again this year. The pace was kept high, and breaks were chased down.

First break

Right before the first ascent of Paris Mountain, a break with Cameron Cogburn (Jelly Belly), David Williams (Bissell), Julian Kyer (Kelly Benefit Strategies) and Nick Frey (Jamis-Sutter Home) got away. However, by the top of the climb, they only had 10 seconds on the group, with Jeff Louder of BMC pulling the peloton up the climb.

This high pace destroyed the field and caught the break. Out of a group of about 40 who made it to the top of Paris Mountain, Brookwalter, Jason McCartney (RadioShack), Timmy Duggan (Liquigas-Cannondale), Jesse Anthony (Kelly Benefit Strategy), Quinn Keough (Exergy), and Robert Bush (Chipotle Development Team) attacked and caught Williams (the only original break member left) on the downhill.

High pace

The pace was kept high, even though they got over two and a half minutes on the group. By the last ascent up Paris Mountain, only Duggan, Bookwalter, Anthony, and McCartney were left. They had a minute, but that didn’t last long. From the field emerged a chasing group of Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad), Matthew Busche (RadioShack), George Hincapie (BMC), and they were soon joined by Louder, Jason McCartney (RadioShack), Ted King (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Pat McCarty (Spidertech).

This group was away and out of it, and as the group came into the last 3 town circuits, the formative four person break emerged.

The last break

Van Garderen’s atack attempt enabled him to pull away with King, Hincapie, and Busche. There were no real attacks out of this group, as they watched each other carefully. There was a fear of going to early and not having enough to stay away, then being dropped, or being caught by the chase group as well. So, the group stayed together until the last 300 meters. It was then that Busche attacked. Hincapie was soon able to jump on his wheel and at 250 meters to go, he pulled around Busche. But he couldn’t shake him. Busche hung on his wheel and surged again, but Hincapie still lead by about 20 meters. However, one last surge from Busche, and a desperate bike throw, let him take the win from Hincapie. The finish this close wasn’t able to be called right away, and the officials had to look at the photo finish before they called it officially for Busche. So, the Stars and Stripes jersey stays in the RadioShack team and another young pro takes it for the 2nd year running!

Top 5 results

  1. Matthew Busche (RadioShack)
  2. George Hincapie (BMC)
  3. Ted King (Liquigas-Cannondale)
  4. Tejay Van Garderen (HTC-Highroad)
  5. Kyle Wamsley (Bissell)

Behind the Barriers

Another video series you really must be watching is Behind the Barriers with Jeremy Powers. Ever since discovering cyclocross last season, Jeremy Powers has been  one of my favorite domestic riders, and his behind the scenes videos is one reason. He’s funny, emotional, and passionate about his cycling. The first season was focused on his cyclocross season, from beginning to end. He’s just put up a new video for the second season. While he rides for Jelly Belly during the road season, it’s unclear whether he’ll continue filming during road season, or if this was just a teaser and we’ll have to wait for the cyclocross season for new episodes! In any case, here’s the latest episode, and go check out season one to see how awesome Jeremy (and cyclocross!) is.

And here’s episode 1, of the first season, to get you hooked!

From Hate to Love (or, from intense dislike to grudging admiration)

I’m very conflicted at this moment. I want to hate Alberto Contador. I want him to be a bad person and do bad things so I can hate him. But he’s making it very hard and I’m finding myself wavering.

Of course, my original dislike of Contador started during the Tour last year. I had eyes only for Andy and saw Contador as the evil enemy, denying Andy a win. His reaction during the chain-dropping incident really sealed my dislike for him. I was so angry when Contador attacked after Andy dropped his chain. It just seemed so sneaky and wrong! But, the more I thought about it and the more people talked about it, I realized that while I didn’t like that he had taken advantage of Andy’s misfortune, he wasn’t necessarily wrong to have done it. It’s a race, not a sleepover party and it’s certainly not about making friends. But, my dislike ran deep, and I couldn’t stomach hearing him say how he didn’t see Andy’s mechanical or that he didn’t realize it was so serious. Bull doody. Watching the video it is very clear that Contador saw the chain drop. When Andy’s chain dropped, Vinokourov, who was right behind him, immediately sat up. Even if Contador doesn’t see the chain drop (yeah right!), wouldn’t he have wondered why his teammate sat up all of a sudden? So when Contador tries to explain his attack by saying “I didn’t see anything!” it reeked of dishonesty. You attacked, fine. Own up to it. You did it to win the race. If he would’ve said “Sorry I hurt your feeling Andy, but I had to attack- I wanted to win. Hope we can still be friends,” my opinion of him might have eased. But he didn’t, so I didn’t. After the Tour was over, I vowed to hold him in contempt.

When I read Tour de Lance, my impression of him seemed to be founded. While it was clear Contador got the short end of that stick when it came to being on the same team as Armstrong, I wasn’t willing to let Contador off the hook. As I said in my review of the book,

[Contador seems like] a quiet guy with a wounded personality problem who’s a bit selfish. Not that it’s so bad to be a bit selfish, but when you climb over others to serve yourself, you can’t expect everyone to love you for it.

The divisions on the team came just as much from Armstrong as Contador – one seemed just as capable as the other when it came to underhanded, subtle criticism. They are too similar to co-exist peacefully on the same team.

Then there was the doping positive. And what I perceived as a whining reaction to it all – “whaa, be nice to me or I’m gonna quit cycling!” Another strike.

When the season started, his racing the Giro and potentially stealing the podium from more deserving cyclists fit right into my evil Contador storyline that I had created. But as this Giro has progressed, my intense dislike of him has been wavering. When he attacked for the first time on Stage 8, I was simultaneously impressed and angered. The way he blazed by everyone and bridged up to Gatto, no problem, impressed me. But it still angered me that he attacked at all angered me. If he was going to ride this race, he darn well better not make any attempt to win!

But then, on stage 9, he took the imposing Mt. Etna to showcase his climbing prowess, and powered to a win in a way that made climbing up a volcano look easy. Then during stage 11, he didn’t exactly attack, but he seemed unable to just sit in the peloton, watching the race play out in front of him. Same for stage 13. And stage 14. And 15. And today’s stage 19. Watching his mellow, but unrelenting, attacking style, the way he seems to pass riders as though they are standing still, and the way he can’t seem to not attack has confused my dislike of him. I want to dislike him, but I can’t help but admire his go big or go home attitude. I also can’t help but admire the way his attacking seems to come from a place of intense love of cycling. In all his interviews, he says he attacks because when your legs are good, you can’t say no to them. Even though he has the GC sewn up, he won’t stop attacking and I kinda love him for it. Haven’t we all been lamenting the “defensive” style of riding lately, where riders get their lead through one good attack, then sit and protect it for the rest of the race? Well, here’s someone who’s attacking left, right, and center and it’s awesome to watch.

The way he’s been treating his fellow riders has impressed me as well. While he took stage 9 for himself, he’s not show any interest in taking any more stages. He could’ve handily, at the very least, taken stage 13 and today’s stage, 19. But instead, he let Rujano take stage 13, the little guy who worked so hard to stay on his wheel both that day and on stage 9. Then he helped Tiralingo get the stage win today. Whether or not that was his intent when he attacked, when he did get up to Tiralingo, he pulled his former teammate to the line, then let him have it. Tiralingo might have gotten the stage on his own, but it would have been very, very close, as the chasers were closing fast. He seemed genuinely happy to help his former domestique get his first win of his career.

So now I’m confused! I want to dislike him for racing in the face of an impending ban and for what he did to Andy. But I can’t. He’s racing like it’s his last 3 weeks on Earth and it’s wonderful to watch. He might be a doper, but after watching him race this Giro, I think Contador would still be amazing whether he doped or not. He has a love for cycling that is evident every time he gets on his bike. He has a grace on the bike that is beautiful to watch. His attacking style is amazing to behold. As I come to the end of this post, it seems I am no longer conflicted. I have convinced myself that it is okay to support Contador, because I love cycling and when he’s on the bike, he makes it possible for me to love it even more.

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

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,535 other followers