Wednesday, 28 December 2011

All about the details

Healthy or not?

Downloaded here (so it must be healthy...)

Being an athlete is not for everyone. A nomadic lifestyle with several hundred days of travel each year, staying in cheap motels along busy highways in southern Europe. All that while your family is living on  another continent. So next time you're watching a cyclist on tv, and openly expressing your envy in him/her sporting SRAM red and a $10000 bike, have that in mind. And this is before I have begun with the countless hours on the bike over several years in every weather possible. Most of us have the advantage to choose most of the times we're going for a ride, a pro hasn't.

From time to time I think this is an issue most tend to leave out, persistence and attention to details, every single detail. Let's go through some of the basics:

Several years ago I got to know the nutrition plan belonging to a WC in biathlon. Speaking of details, I had never seen anything like that, completely broken down every meal possible with calories, vitamins and minerals to every vegetable and dish. If I remember correctly, the MS word document was around 35 pages. 
Double Olympic gold medallist Olaf Tufte says he don't sacrifice anything, he "just prioritize differently for some years", apparently aware that most athletes, at least those who succeed, have only a few years on top of their game.  

I admire people who know stuff I don't, that is something I've been doing my entire life. Not just limited to sports, I might add. People who invest so much time in themselves and their body over so many years, while others study and gets MBAs, really need to know their machinery; their own body to perform at their best. How does the body reacts to 8 hour sleep versus 10 hours? Is there a difference between the amount of sleep before a race and training? What kind of food do I eat before a race, two days before to be at my very best? This level of detail makes you wonder how some athletes continue to fight the ADAM, while having such focus on detail on every other aspect of their life.

Imagine the level of detail needed in a GT like the giro or the tour. Remember Nibali was flown down from some mountain top finishes in helicopter to maximize the recoverytime. One thing is the strictly physical part, another is tactics, press, sponsors, waiting time for massage and dinner. Not to mention the work I know pretty well, the mental training needed to stay focused when needed. 

What does it take? Talent or training? A mix of both probably. Famous writer Daniel Coyle writes in "The Talent Code", that a mix of talent, motivation and coaching is the way to go. If I remember correctly, he says that anyone with a certain basis of skills can be a champion, given the amount of one or more of the prevois mentioned factors. 

Speaking of details, Hushovd finished his Christmas vacation in Grimstad earlier this week and flew to the Caribbean with his family. Did he bring his bike? No, but rumours says he brought his Bont cycling shoes and his own pedals to use on a spinning bike. Guess what, I'm pretty sure he partly chose the hotel with just that in mind.    

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Moments in cycling 2011

In the bag...

Downloaded here.

Off season is finally over, teams and cyclists are gathering on different team building sites, some to "boot camp", while others, like Saxo, turns to exotic Israel for their first team building. Is it time to review the year now?

I have been thinking of making a "best of 2011"-post for a couple of weeks, I really enjoy reading others posts about that, searching videos on YouTube and so forth. This year has been fantastic, we have seen great racing taking place. Luckily, there was a certain spread in winners, perhaps with the one exception being Gilbert. He didn't win the most obvious race, Il Lombardia, hope the other riders see this as a sign everybody can be beaten. 2011 also proved to be a very sad year with the tragic death of Wouter Weylandt.

It is not easy to evaluate top performers in sports, too many feelings, nationalities and other interests involved. I have decided to call them moments, to avoid the best performers debate, in my world, top performer does not automatically equal winning, although I do of course, recognize the obvious achievement.

The list
10. The aggressiveness of Francais des jeux, putting riders in almost every breakaway this season, making it very entertaining to follow races. Chapeau Jérémy Roy and the others!

9. Team Britain during the Worlds in Copenhagen. It been long since I have seen a team riding at the front all day, all riding so selflessly. Ok, so it went to pieces the last oh-so important kilometer but still, delivering a sprinter like Cav in that position with one click to go should ensure business, which it obviously did.

8. French cycling's riders Thomas Voeckler and Pierre Rolland. Voeckler actually got recognized by many as a genuine contender for the GC, he put up a terrific fight. His TT skills is something he need to work very hard to be a podium contender next year. Rolland partly for his win on Alpe d'Huez and partly for his part in defending Voeckler's yellow. I think he will be a force to follow closely in the years to come.

7. Edvald Boasson Hagen's stage win in Pinerolo Tour de France. First of all because of a will to win and a stamnina few riders have. The day before he was outsprinted by fellow Norwegian Hushovd, EBH then decided to win the next day. Trying relentlessly to get in the breakaway all day, he succeeded, rode Chavanel off his wheel and solo'ed to the finish line. Perhaps it's time to stop calling him a giftet talent by now?

6. "New" riders stepping up to the challenge. We had many this year, too many to mention all, but Sagan, Kittel, Degelkolb and Offredo to mention a few, is just great. I really see this as a new start if you like, for cycling, after many dark years.

5. Mark Cavendish winning the green jersey. I could say the worlds too, but it is his achievement during the tour that I feel deserves a mention. With new point rules he stepped up to the challenge and really fought for his points, everyone of them. His wins were amazing, not every win as dominating as last year but still mighty impressive. The green jersey is dear to me, it is not a pure sprinter's jersey, more of an allrounder, at least historically speaking.

4. Alberto Contador and his giro was just phenomenal. No one was even close. He came to the race with a big uncertainty hanging over him, as I write this it still is. He proved to be very strong psychologically, one can say much about him, but that really impressed me. His way of climbing on the stage to Etna really gave the race a serious blow, being so much better than the rest. He rode well during the tour too, proved to be strong mentally again, and he contributed to an excited race with his attack.

3.  Thor Hushovd's solo win during the tour wearing the rainbow jersey. A sprinter turned classics rider, Hushovd attacked early on the stage and fought his way over Col d'Aubisque, to pass the brave Roy with 3 clicks to go. Fantastic to see a stage win like that in that jersey, brought back memories of times almost forgotton in cycling. Powerhouse Hushovd.
2. Cadel Evans winning the tour. Evans have tried many times, this time he got it, leaving the two Schleck brothers as runners up. L'Equipe showed a drawing in the newspaper the day after, where Cadel holds two spotted fur up while standing on the podium. The team rode steady the whole tour keeping Cadel out of harm's way and he finished it off with a powerful TT securing the yellow jersey. Classic scenes.

1. Phillipe Gilbert winning almost all he wanted. Unbelievable palmares, winning the Ardenner triple in a convincing matter. Crowning the year by wearing yellow and green during the tour, winning a stage too. No wonder he tops almost every ranking.

Honourable mentions
Hoogerlands bravery after being clipped by that French TV car, the way the giro handles social media. It is smaller than then tour, and the tour is the pinnacle of the cycling season, no doubt. Still, being able to explore new media and interact with fans is branding at its best. It is all about hearts and minds, I guess.
Tony Martin putting an end to Fabians dominance in the TTs with his win at the Worlds. Another achievement worth mentioning, as was Froome in the Vuelta. Getting Cavendish, Jens Voigt and Cancellara on twitter has made me many laughs this year.

There were of course other incindents we won't miss. The crashes at the tour bringing down the number of GC contenders was terrible to watch. Yes, a natural part of pro cycling, but still. The ongoing Contador case is very embarrasing for cycling, for the UCI, for the Spanish cycling federation and not least for the riders left to compete with riders under investigation.

And who can forget the tragic death of Wouter Weylandts during the giro. WW108

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Interview with Karl Lima - Manager Team Hitec Products

This interview originally appeared on Cyclismas

Cyclismas has the past week put the spotlight on women's cycling. Last week on the hotstove, the Overlord got Shane Stokes, Mike Tomalaris and Neil Brown over to talk about what women's cycling can do to develop further. Next week we'll talk to Nicola Cranmer and Bridie O'Donnell on the upcoming hotstove. As a part of our focus on women's cycling, @Pedalingtheroad got together with Karl Lima, team manager of the Hitec Products-uck, one of the best women teams in the peloton. A mere week ago, the team was voted "team of the year" over at the podium cafe. The team hasn't been around for many years, but has already made it clear that they mean business by taking thirteen wins this year.

Team Hitec Products-uck 2010 edition

photo by anMartin/Martin Vestby, here.

What we wanted to find out were two things: 
1. What sort of difficulties does women's cycling have, how can they be solved?
2. How to build and set up a pro team for success? 

Karl Lima

photo by anMartin/Martin Vestby

Pedalingtheroad: 2011 has been a fantastic year for womens cycling in general and for Team Hitec products-uck. What can you tell us about your season impressions ?

 Karl Lima:
We have had a splendid year, we got a head start by signing Emma Johanson, the reigning Swedish champion, but I really feel that the other girls have come forward one by one as the season went on, to everyone’s joy.

Some might wonder how a Norwegian guy ended up running one of the most successful teams out there, can tell us about yourself and how you got into cycling in the first place?

Sure, I from a working class family on my father’s side and a more academic family on my mother’s side. As most I grew up with football (soccer) and different teamsports, I first started to ride a bike when I became a mediocre footballer. You could say I became a mediocre cyclist instead! I have kept sports close ever since really, working as sporting director in Bryne Cycling Club since 2006 and I have also trained different age groups in football (soccer). For the time being I am technical director and part owner at Hitec Products AS in Stavanger, Norway. We are the world’s leading in electro-hydraulic control systems for the energy industry.

How was Team Hitec Products born?

Ullensaker Cycling Club wanted to start the very first scandinavian pro team for women back in 2008. They wanted Tone Hatteland from Bryne Cycling Club as their sprinter and contacted us because of this. When the financial turbulence hit globally in 2008, the two main sponsors pulled out of the project. Suddenly I found myself organising other things too. I arranged so that my company, Hitec Products, could sponsor the team as main sponsor. Hitec Products was already known locally for being into sports, supporting local football (soccer) and icehockey, in addition to giving all employees a bike to encourage to better health and environment at work.

I used Hatteland’s network from Holland and Sweden to sign talented and experienced riders to the team. Riders like Isabelle Søderberg and Sara Mustonen from Sweden along with Danish  Margriet Kloppenburg. Our vision was focused on the Olympics in London 2012.

Creating a team from scratch is always exciting and something of a  crossroads. I’m sure you did your share of thinking. What ideas did you have, what positions did you hire first?

The first positions i got in place were management. Then other staff/support positions. We ”inherited” some of the old club riders (Norwegians, -ed.) the first year so I focused on signing a few experienced foreigners as well as completed the roster with young, talented Norwegian riders. This combination was a success. The rest is history, as they say.

If you could single out a couple of the most important criterias for success, what would they be?

Clear and consise goals, the ability to make quick decisions, team before individuals and a solid base of riders. And the move to attract experienced riders from outside Norway to help coach the younger ones. After all, there was a reason womens cycling in Norway was having problems back then. 

Speaking of goal setting, what are the team’s main goals for 2012?

We are going to participate in the Olympics with at least six girls from the team and of course weare going to win the gold medal. We will defend our three championship jerseys (Emma Johanson, Frøydis Wærsted and Ferrier Bruneau). We will also try to win the world Cup. In addition to this, we expect to match this year’s UCI-victories (13) and participate in the new TTT at the Worlds.

Lets move on to women cycling in general. Several teams have had to close down this year, among them HTC and Colavita-Forno d’Asolo (the sponsors of the last team have split and sponsor one new team each). How do you think the future of women cycling look like, golden or grey?

I see several positive developments in women’s cycling, like more races and a general increase in the number of UCI-teams registered. What is truly great about this is the fact that “new” nations arrive. I believe it is important not to get stuck and whine, repeatedly pointing out that we get to little attention here, too low salaries here and no broadcasting there. It is counterproductive. We have to stay positive and keep working undeterred towards better recognition and create more attention to our sport by continue to focus on the development of quality in every step and the general offer we possess to sponsors and fans. Like what the Norwegian national handball team or the women’s Nordic ski team has done. Women’s cycling is qualitative speaking quite similar to the men’s that I truly believe this is possible. The fact that we ride 2 km/h slower is hardly visible, unlike the differences in for instance football (soccer). Girls also look better on the bike than men. If we are patient, the money and the attention will come naturally. 

The debate about how to improve the public interest (and economical aspects) in women’s cycling has been ongoing this autumn. What do you think can be done to improve this aspect?

I believe we have to become so attractive that people wish to spend money on women’s cycling. We can achieve this by doing what I mentioned earlier, by selling ourselves in a positive way without whining too much. That said, TV ad broadcasting is very important. By the way, I was worked up over the road Worlds this year. The peloton was almost not recognizable. Sad to see such a strong team like the Dutch didn’t want to race, betting on a mass sprint. Maybe it was good they didn’t succeed with such negative tactic. Had Hitec Products come home to Norway racing like that in a national race, we’d be bullied, that’s for sure.

Some female cyclists, like Bridie O’Donnell, have said that the UCI are neglecting women’s cycling by not supporting races, salaries issues to mention a few. They feel frustrated over the situation today. Do you feel the same way?

I am not frustrated. But I note that the UCI are a bit old fashioned in how they view women’s cycling. They can definitely do more for the sport. But I think that they believe that if they introduce minimum salary on the present time, many UCI-teams will close.

You have four new signings in front of next years season. What are your expectations for Hitec Products-uck in 2012?

We will have more cards to play in the toughest races, the girls we have signed are world class. Watch out for Elisa Longo Borghini, she is just 20 years old!

Next year we’ll see nine races on the women world cup calendar. Any races in particular we should be on guards for an Hitec move?

All of them! But if I have to pick I would say Plouay and Vårgårda, these races we want to improve from 2011…

Thanks again for your time and your thoughts on these matters. 

Friday, 25 November 2011

Some catch my interest - an #ff

We surround ourselves with different media and technologies. Sites, people, different media outlets and others scream for attention 24/7, much to the appreciation of some, a pain in the butt to others. Twitter, facebook, blogger, wordpress, Google + (which I honestly don't get) competes in stealing attention from housekeeping, training, hanging with friends or spending time with your spouse or kids. It really is a jungle out there and it is easy to get lost. I wonder what small kids makes of this, seeing parents "constantly" online.
Don't worry - there are cycling blogs for everyone!

The Badger had enough, Paris-Nice 1984

Downloaded here.

I know I spend my share of time online, but as long as one keeps an healthy attitude and is aware of the the use and consequences, I guess things are under control, right?

The Jungle
I mentioned that it is a jungle out there. Some might find it difficult to keep track of development and to discover new quality people, blogs and sites to follow. Personally, discoveries like this are some of my favourite things I enjoy online. As the very skilled commentator Thomas Friedman says, the world is flat. By saying this, he emphasis on the ability we have to collaborate and share thoughts, ideas and merge technologies at the speed of light.

I thought I could share the blogs I follow the closest. I try to take the time to stop by those blogs, some daily, others on a more weekly or monthly basis. The point is, these have managed to catch my interest. Could be because of the pictures, the lyrical texts or the amount of detailed, behind the scene description of what is going on in the cycling world. Some inspires me to go for a ride, some to write and others to learn more. A nice variety there you could say.

I'm not that good on #FFs, so here are my present top eight (there are way to many people that could possibly be on a top ten list, that's why I cut it down to eight) list:

8. Bianchista
Stylish and reporting from the daily life as a cyclist.

7. Tenspeed Hero
The freshest take on my list, hope they keep up the quality.

6. Twisted Spoke
Humour combined with news and stories.

5. Sprinting for signs
Passionate for Flanders and pavé.

4. Big Ring Riding
The site who celebrates the toughest machines (riders) out there. Great pics. A bit loud but he's really nice. Born on the hills near Grasse if I remember correctly.

3. Cycling Tips
Nice pictures and interesting stories from Wade down under. Tips & tricks for cyclists too.

2. Red Kite Prayer
Fuel for both body and mind.

1. The Inner Ring
Currently the best cycling blog in the world. A step ahead others on news, interesting stories and an amazingly wide focus on his blog (from food to a pro's daily life).

These were on the top of my list for blogs i regularly check in to for the time being. All quite different, something for all tastes I guess. Some I know I'll be keeping on that list for long, as I wrote earlier, I really enjoy to discover new people and sites so the list might be different next time. Perhaps I'll make it longer.

And for those who wonders who I follow, check out my conversations. Not everyone got their own blog, there are many interesting people who posess great knowledge out there whose company I enjoy.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Italy's new Tourism and Sports Minister

A couple of days ago Italy got a new Tourism and Sports Minister.

His name is Piero Gnudi and is a Minister in the new Italian goverment formed by Mario Monti. The cabinet will try to establish reforms to save the country from a financial disaster.

Piero Gnudi - will the Giro d'Italia benefit on his watch?

Downloaded here.

Gnudi is 73 years old, with a degree in Economics and Commerce from Bologna. He has been very active in different industrial companies, being Chairman in different boards up until now. Here is brief resumé of his career from Alma:

His political experience began in 1955 when he was appointed economic adviser to the Minster of Trade and Industry. Since 1994 he has served on the Board of Directors of IRI, he served as supervisor of privatizations in 1997, President and CEO in 1999 and Chairman of the liquidation committee in 2002. He is a Board Member of Confindustria, on the Steering Committee of Assonime, the Executive Committee of the Aspen Institute and Board of Directors of Unicredit. He is also the Chairman of Profingest and Vice President of Alma Graduate School.

He was the Board Chairman of Enel from May 2002 to April 2011. He has also been the President of Rai Holding, President of Locat, President of Astaldi and Board Member of Eni, Enichem, Stet, Merloni, Ferrè, Beghelli and Irce.

This is very important for the Giro. As a sports minister, Gnudi have access to the money (what's left that is), as the Tour in France, the Giro is of most cultural importance in Italy, both for inhabitants and for the tourists.  As well connected as Gnudi is, he is a major force to consider. As you can read form his CV, his past work also took him well into the RAI network, which could prove valuable for the RCS, the organisers of the Giro.

The Italian journalist Pier Bergonzi of the Gazzetta dello Sport tweeted yesterday that Gnudi has a passion for cycling and that he used to go for rides with Romano Prodi, the former prime minister. So, can a cycling enthusiast of a minister give the Giro the support it needs and help the RCS fulfil their plans? Not that the giro need any specific help in that matter, but in Italy relationships matter and is vital to drive a business forward. The giro is just that - a giant business. It is easy for us to forget that, but there are several million € at stake just for organising, and in order to be an annual event, the giro need to make money too.

It remains to see how this will be but I think it is a big advantage that the new Tourism and Sports Minister in Italy is a cycling enthusiast. After all, who else than the Minister for Tourism and Sports is best suited to keep the Giro under his wings?

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Can you feel a color?

As the season is over the regular 'best of the year'-posts show up. These are actually one of my favourite posts, they represent all the good memories throughout the year. The chance to review the best happenings of a whole season fills me with joy and brings my level of anticipation for next year even higher.
And it has been quite a year. This sport of ours takes leaps in several ways, the technological and social. At the same time tiny baby steps on other frontiers, like governance, rules and point system to mention a few. There's been some interesting discussions regarding this matter but that is a post on its own.

The word which start with 'pan' and ends with 'ache'
I salute the riders, not only the winners but the performance or achievement of the others too. Endurance, both the strictly physical element as well as mere psychological barriers, have fascinated me over the years, and I believe that's partly the reason I find cycling so fascinating in the first place.

This years tour and giro was all about suffering. The giro was much harder than the tour, but a rider can suffer like a dog and perform higher than expected, no matter how steep the mountains. Sprinters don't have easy days during a GT, as Mark Cavendish says in Michael Barry's Le Métier. Riders who give their all create history and ensure their place in fans' hearts. I have heard of fans and others who actually claims an heroic effort gave them a brand new impression of a rider. Call it shallow and superficial if you must, but I consider this a very human thing to do.

So, in this post I want to focus on those who outperform the expectations. Especially those with a jersey. What does it mean to wear a pink or a yellow jersey? Why do some rise to the occasion while other don't? There is an expression that goes something like this: You don't rise to the occasion in combat, you'll sink down to the level of training.
"Am I still in yellow?"
Hushovd on Super-Besse

Photo downloaded here.

As earlier mentioned, Hushovd had seven days in the yellow jersey during the tour. Earlier tours, when they started with an easy seven kilometres prologue, sprinters could compete for yellow the first four-five days, but this was different.

This is what Hushovd said after the Tour de France stage to Super-Besse Sancy:
"I know I'm in shape, perhaps the best shape of my life. Knowing that makes one dig very deep inside myself and get everything out. The jersey is a motivation in itself." 
"I cannot be disappointed when I loose the yellow jersey because I have given my all each day to defend it." 

The great Eddy Merckx was driven by his own goals, at least according to this article. "The biggest pressure to perform came from within me". "Quiet, internal motivation", are some of the words used to describe the great champion.

At this year's Tour de France, almost everyone expected Thomas Voeckler to loose the yellow jersey afer a day or two. Europcar's Jean-René Bernaudeau said this to velonews after the third day in the Pyrenees: "The team has really surprised me with how well it's defending the yellow jersey. It gives us wings."
Even though Voeckler is known for his attacking style of cycling, at least when the tv-cameras are on, he did something incredible this summer. Arguably, some said this was solely because the big favourites focused on each other.
Voeckler giving it all - repeatedly
Downloaded here.

And who can forget Johnny Hoogerland standing on the podium in his KOM-jersey, after being thrown into a barbed wire fence following a collision with the TV-car? Truly one admirable action, that speaks for itself. 

What drives people
What make athletes live the life they do, and choose as they do? Motivation is perhaps the most researched field in psychology. The general curiosity concerning the elements that can make us shape our future, is it possible to influence our ability to make choices? To explain behaviour is always easy in retrospect, but it is priceless to be able to see history in the making. Some prefer dividing motivation in two main characteristics; intrinsic and extrinsic. 
Science and research often point to several different types or theories of motivations, based on instinct, incentivedrive-reduction, psychoanalytic theory, broad theories as well as different cognitive theories. The common denominator, however, seem to be emotions, which is very interesting. To simplify the matter, we might say we all tend to maximise pleasure while we at the same time try to minimise pain. Sadly, the different theories are too many to investigate further here, but feel free to reflect on what drives the different riders when they perform, I'm sure there are differences.   

The tour was splendid, especially for us Norwegians. Riders and journos have for many years described the vikinghelmets during the tour. This year was exceptional, with EBH and Hushovd taking four stages and Hushovd made seven days in the yellow jersey. I noticed that many tweeted their surprise to how determined EBH seemed during stage 17 to Pinerolo, it truly was a beastly performance. Those who know EBH knew he would come up with something after being outsprinted by Hushovd the day before. He called his father the same evening, sounding very determined claiming that "tomorrow, I'll win." After trying to get into every break that day, and being hunted down every time, finally the break established itself and the rest is history.

Some people just have this ability. Debate it, research it,and call it whatever you like. I just love to watch it take place.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Girona cycling enclave - off season


Downloaded here.
The 2011 cycling season is over. Right now riders are scattered all over the globe, relaxing in their hometowns or on vacation, evidence that that cycling too has been exposed to globalization. Some are enjoying the time off, resting with a sense of fulfillment, knowing that their season was literally off the charts. Others are feeling the pressure already, even before 2012 has begun. So how long time off does a professional rider take? Of course as many answers as riders. Some take two weeks, others a month. This depends a bit on next years goals too, being in top shape at tour down under or Milan-San Remo means some riders probably have started 2012 already.

Why enclave
Ever seen pictures of riders from different teams training together? Cycling teams consists of some 25+ riders, depending on their UCI-status. Teammates can go months without seeing each other, as rosters at races usually have a limitation of the number of riders allowed to compete. This does not mean riders are all alone, they tend to gather in enclaves around Europe. Some in the south of France, some around lake Como and others in Girona, Spain. Girona has many American riders, ever since Johnny Weltz, former USPS team director set up in Girona in 1996, Hincapie, Hamilton and Vande Velde followed soon after, many have followed in their footsteps. Brent Bookwalter and Peter Stetina to mention a few.

In his book Le Métier, Canadian Michael Barry, who also resides in Girona, says that 'foreign professional cyclists who were attracted to the town for its proximity to the mountains, the Mediterranean climate, and the swelling pool of training partners.' Many riders emphasize two of these points, climate and training partners. Jonathan Vaughters and his Slipstream organization is also based in Girona. Take a second to imagine what it was like back in the beginning of the millennium, where Hincapie met up with Armstrong, Landis (Phonak), Hamilton (CSC) and Vande Velde (Liberty Seguros) for a ride. All good mates back then.

A couple of good friends at a Girona café - socializing.

Photo by @robhayles1, found here

Being pro is hard work and securing a contract is demanding, both physically and mentally. Some may find it hard to move to a foreign country in early age, some don't even speak the local language. Moving to a place where other riders are makes the transition a lot easier. Back in the day, there were not many enclaves. Team Sky DS Kurt Asle Arvesen left for Italy without speaking Italian in an Italian team as the only non-Italian rider. He described the first years as very tough and emphasized the difficulties in adapting to a new culture without speaking the language properly. But humans are adaptive, as Darwin described us and Arvesen managed alright in the end.

Climate and riding
Girona is located on the northeast tip of the Iberian island, close to the French border and naturally the Pyrenees. As a small Catalan city of 100 000 or so inhabitants, cyclists do stand out in a crowd. However, the Catalans are private people and do seldom approach riders for autographs. To call the city Spanish is almost an insult to the locals. Its identity is as Catalan as it gets, which is reflected in culture, art and food.
The temperature in Girona is very nice, at least from my perspective living where I do. In winter time it drops to -5 degrees centigrades (23 F), not frightening at all. Many rides north and east of the city towards the sea as that area is relatively flat. Straight north and west of Girona the landscape is more demanding, recently Peter Stetina said in an interveiw with Peloton magazine that the climb Rocacorba is one of the highlights in the area, it is located just north of Girona.

One handy aspect with small towns is that it doesn't take long to escape urbanity and enter the quiet countryside. Passing through the outskirts of Girona and to the farmland surrounding the city will take you back in time. Small castles, churches and even a few aqueducts will be spotted. If you decide to take a trip down there, be careful. You can ride for hours without seeing cars but the roads are very narrow and the quality of the roads varies as well as the presence of pattern.

Girona is the home to many pros, especially those from the US. The climate is tempting along with the possibility to find training partners who they also socialise with on their spare time. If in doubt regarding where to go for a ride, ask a pro. I'm sure you'll find some of them in a decent café around lunchtime.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Gilbert focusing on the details - video

The famous date is closing up on us, the "final" Giro di Lombardia is soon here. There are several riders who can make it this weekend, albeit many seem to have settled down with Gilbert as the winner already, or at least the man to beat. I don't disagree with that he's the man to beat, but I'm brought up with a nice ability to take nothing for granted. In this, I will never settle for one man to win, this is racing and anything can happen. Above all, the Lombardia is a classic, where mental toughness, intense preparation succeed over fear and the fact that Gilbert is the only man who can nail it.

Top athletes need a certain ability to focus on the important details. Professionalism in every possible way, every step is examined, tested and developed further. Some of course, get scraped on the way, but that is all about prioritising. Winners don't feel they miss out on something by living like they do, they just prioritise differently, in that specific time of their life. In this video, which of course is a promo, Gilbert says that success "is 50% training, the rest is all the other small things."

This attitude is transferable to our daily life or business too. Imagine how many who exaggerate their ability to achieve massive goals in a relative short period of time? I'm sure you recognize this, either from your life or someone you know. At the same time, people tend to misinterpret their ability to achieve goals over longer periods.

Winners, top performers or whatever you call them are not interested in reaching their goals, they are committed.  When you feel it, you'll know the difference. They will never loose sight of their goal, their level of persistence is unbelievable.

Let's have a moment to see the great rider Gilbert talking about the little details. Sadly, I will be in the US as the Lombardia takes place, but I hope the race will be exciting. And for picking the winner? I don't know, but I'll you this; nobody is unbeatable, even Gilbert.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Giro di Lombardia and Franciacorta - the Lombardian version of champagne

The classic Giro di Lombardia, also known as la classica delle foglie morte (the classic of the fallen leaves), takes place on the 15th of October. This is one of the five "monuments" in cycling, well deserved if I may add. I wrote on twitter some time ago that I have mixed emotions regarding this race. For one, it is the most beautiful one-day race in the entire calendar. Secondly, it marks the end of the cycling season. That duality gives me mixed emotions.
The 2011 Giro di Lombardia course

Photo by RCS - downloaded on their site.
Short history
The race origins back to 1905, then by the name Milan-Milan, but got it's original name already in 1907. The route has been known to change several times, strangely enough without the big commotion like they had in Belgium this year when the Flanders route changed. One very famous climb to most cyclists is the Madonna del Ghisallo. Being named the patronnes of cyclists by priest Vigano, later approved by Pope Pius the XII, the Madonna de Ghisallo today contains a museum (an old chapel from 1632) of different cycling artefacts. The museum is well worth a visit, and you can also pay your respect to the cyclists that have died by the eternal flame that burns there.

The profile

Downloaded on the Lombardia homepage.

It's hard to point out exactly why I feel this is the most beautiful one-day race. It could be the fantastic scenery with the hills surrounding lake Como, the magnificent three-four climbs always in the race, or the all-or-nothing mentality we find in the classics. Despite the expectation one could have that the riders are worn out after a long and tiresome season, the Lombardia always seem to deliver the goods, always plenty of fine racing. After all, true champions never let an opportunity to win go away easy.

Wine to the masses
Regardless of taste, you can find anything in Northern Italy. Shopping in Milano, hiking in the Dolomites or if you're interested in politics, you probably know about Lega Nord, the separatist party. If not, try to remember the finish line, haven't you noticed the 'cannabis flags'? Anyway, this post is not about that, it is about Lombardia and wine.

If prosecco is the Italian cousin of champagne, how will you describe franciacorta? I will definitely name it as the Italian brother to champagne. It is much older, wiser drink than prosecco, more refined if you like. The reason for this is that the producers of franciacorta use the very same technique as the producers of champagne; a second fermentation while bottled. The wine taste of peach, honey and orange flower. The grapes, normally chardonnay and pinot nero, will be handpicked by the end of August.
Franciacorta wineyard

Downloaded here.

The Italians claim that the reason their product is so good is due to the unique soil, warm climate and the cool, moist breeze from the Alps that caress the grapes, giving them perfect content of sugar while holding the level of sourness down. Despite the fact that franciacorta, unlike its French brother, is just some 50 years old, the future is looking bright.    

The most beautiful one-day race of the season is almost here, giving you plenty of time to walk to the nearest wine shop and buy a nice bottle of franciacorta, to enjoy while the 25 teams and riders of the peloton determines the hero of the day.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Assos Zegho - eye candy or simply dandy?

I don't know the exact number but I'd say the majority of the pros use Oakleys. Some, like Aberto Contador, use Giro, others swear to Rudy. I remember seeing Ulrich in Rudy glasses, of course he had to choose an Italian brand, after all he was riding Bianchi. Briko was very popular when Mario Cipollini was around, not only to cyclists but skiers too.

Riders argue they need glasses against the merciless sun in southern Europe, or its magnificent ability to block wind and road dirt. It also helps to  avoid bee and wasp stings, something Jonathan Vaughters experienced back in the day, read that here. Nowadays, glasses are a normal part of the outfit. When riders like Cavendish lead the points classification during the tour, Oakley is faster draw than most when it comes to equip the rider with a matching green pair of Jawbone, Fast Jacket or Radars.

R&D by Assos
In search for a new pair of bibs I logged on to Assos and suddenly found myself staring at a pair of glasses I haven't seen before.

I'm talking about the Assos Zegho.

Eye candy or simply dandy?

This is a joint venture between Carl Zeiss Vision and Assos, produced exclusively for cyclists, with the apparently ground-breaking ability to ensure no optical distortion. Which is quite good since the lens is curved to fit the face. With a 180 degree field of vision, it is easy to check surroundings. According to Bicycle Haus, where you read more about them, the weight is 27,5 grams and the nose piece is adjustable to each individual nose, something many will appreciate. Prices varies between €299-349.

You will not find the glasses in shops just yet, the release date is the 13th of November.

If you want to check out the Asso promo video, click the link beneath and you will be able to see it. Sorry for that, my technical expertise came to a halt, if anyone have a solution, I'll be happy to learn how to get that into blogger.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Cold as ice

In 1977, the British-American band Foreigner had a great tune called "Cold as ice". Now, even though I wasn't old enough to even listen to the song back then, I have of course heard the hit during my youth, as everyone brought up in the eighties would have.

Stage 20 of the 2012 Giro

Too hard or too soon
RCS gave us a taste of the giro yesterday, with what is supposed to be stage 20. It is a monstrous stage, 218 km long, total elevation of 5900 meters (!), over Mortirolo and up the mighty Stelvio from Bormio. A monster, no doubt about that. On top of this, the stage was chosen by fans, as the organisers of the Giro, the RCS, conducted a poll where fans could vote for their favourite climb. Earlier, I wrote a post of the way RCS keeps evolving and keep challenging traditional organisation structures, using social media, more about that here.

Yesterday, David Millar and Jakob Fuglsang, let out some steam regarding the penultimate stage of next year's giro. Fuglsang criticised the fact that the stage is too extreme coming too late in the giro and Millar that the organisers hadn't learnt nothing of last year, making the race too hard. The debate continued on twitter throughout the day.

I don't disagree with the fact that this stage is hard, and that it is extreme. But, how can anyone say the Giro as a whole race is too hard, the complete Giro will be released in two weeks from now, maybe we'll all be surprised? The organisers of the Giro, the RCS in general and former Giro general Zomegnan in particular, got criticised last year for too long transfers and too hard stages, making the race too hard. How do we know this hasn't been accounted for and dealt with? When an organisation like the RCS receives criticism, like last year, I expect them to make a change. After all, the noise surrounding the 2011 Giro lead to one man loosing his job, as you all know, race director Zomegnan got fired officially in August, allthough rumoured some time earlier. I'm sure the RCS took this matter seriously.  

The current Race Director, Michele Aquarone, wrote this on twitter:

This gives an indication that things will be better than last year, and that we should be careful to judge before we have the entire scope in front of us. And yes, we can face riders saving themselves for the final stage all three weeks, something I don't believe, or we can see a blistering giro full of racing. I don't know yet, neither do you. 

One aspect I'm worried about is the tendency too increasingly making races harder. With the fight against doping going the right direction (average speed decreases on climbs, riders more tired etc), races don't need to be that extreme any longer. It is possible to get entertaining racing with stages shorter than the "normal" 200 km. This is an aspect race organisers should pay attention to, in my opinion. 
That said, I do like the idea of making one monster stage, with classical climbs, it's has the possibility for entertainment and safeguards the history of the race, its heart and soul. 

It is too early to conclude whether the 2012 Giro is too extreme. Lets wait and keep our cool until the 16th of October to find out. You can even sit ringside to check yourself, the event will be streamed live over the internet. 

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

New World Champion - a change in direction

Project completed - job done

Photo by Jens Gresling, downloaded here.

What a feeling Cavendish must have felt as he crossed the finish line in Copenhagen first on Sunday, after all that hard work by his teammates and after three years of systematic work towards this historical goal. Moments like these are what I truly love about sports in general; all the hard work pays off, drama and emotions all over. 46 years has gone by since Simpson wore the rainbow jersey. Did I hear a "Cycling's coming home"?

Next year
Had a discussion with a close friend on Sunday, who was sad to see "panache out of the door" as the person said. "A world Champion should not need to be carried to the finish line, but honour it the way the best rider in the world should", the person continued.
Personally, I know I'll miss seeing the rainbow jersey attack furiously up the Alps or the Dolomites, the strong solo win Hushovd did during the tour was nothing short of spectacular, as was Cadel Evans' year as WC.

However, my view is more divided. As I mentioned earlier, sports is all about improving, and I mean every way possible. Generally speaking, every person on a team bring something to the table, something slightly different than me or you. That is why teamwork is a recognised way of performing a task (even though other people can be annoying at times...). Change is almost never easy to withstand and in sport, it comes and goes in waves almost continuously.
Who wins is of course depending on the WC course. Despite that I really enjoyed watching the rainbow jersey set colour to the last two seasons, I believe Cav will do the same, his way. I brought this up with Rich Land (@Sprinting4signs) on twitter, and he most graciously wrote that "each World Champ brings something new". I totally agree with this, and cant wait to see Cav sprint next year.

The last years cycling has been blessed to have giants as World Champs, so Cav is in good company and has some shoes to fill. As it should be, I must add. His first words after securing the win, that he'll honour the jersey, is a sentence that probably spoke directly to the hearts of many cycling fans.

If (when) Cav goes to Team Sky, what will this mean to the set-up and the team's goals? That is another question worthy a post of its own. Let's first see if Pinarello is thrown out the back door for Specialized.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Long time since last post

As you can see it's been a while since my last post. Have had some very interesting, yet long days lately, so I haven't found the time to squeeze in some words on the blog. However, when times like this occur, one can rely on twitter, the micro-blogging sphere.

I will post more here soon, need to get my head above the water first.

It's getting close to Copenhagen. Can Hushovd regain the throne, will Gilbert again jump for the line first? Or perhaps will we see a certain Slovak hit the finish line. I wouldn't rule out G, EBH or Matt Goss either. No one has mentioned the old cat Oscar Freire. If he's in shape, he can very well make it.

I can feel the anticipation building. Bring on the Worlds.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

The Maglia Rosa project - the RCS keeps innovating

Photo courtesy RCS

One of the biggest happenings of the year took place this week, the Eurobike. This annual event is arranged in Friedrichshafen, Germany and is where you can get a view of the coming season's newest gear, bikes and clothing.

On the 1st of September, the organiser of the Giro, RCS and La Gazzetta dello Sport, presented a brand new project; "Tweet your Maglia Rosa". The event was presented at Eurobike and was hosted by the famous Italian brand Santini, a long time partner of the Giro d'Italia, and the very designer and producer of the famous Maglia Rosa.

The Project
The project is all about interaction with fans on social media platforms, twitter and facebook. The project, as I see it, is two parted. Firstly, fans can decide how the design of next year's pink jersey will be like. Go to this facebook page to vote. Secondly, the RCS has decided that a total of twenty tweets will be printed inside the Maglia Rosa, ten from fans and ten from professional riders who have worn the jersey before. One selective tweet from a fan will also be placed on the collar. Like the RCS writes in the press announcement:

A selection of 100 tweets, divided by geographical origin, will be posted on the Giro d'Italia's facebook page. The fans will then vote and choose the ten best tweets, worthy of being printed on the 2012 Maglia Rosa.  

To show your support and participate, simply tweet what the Giro means to you by using this hashtag: #Magliarosa, and do so before the 15th of September.

Imagine the current leader of the Giro relaxing at the hotel, admiring one the best known jerseys in the history of cycling, reading your tweet.

RCS vs ASO and social media
The Giro organisers have an understanding of social media that is one of the highest of the industry. The way they interacted with fans during the 2011 Giro was nothing short of impressive. The way involved fans and riders during the race with live updates, pictures from behind the scenes, asked questions and made people feel welcome to join the conversations. A text book way of using twitter as a social media platform.
The RCS - La Gazzetta dello Sport the press release says that they "aim at showing that is possible to combine the past and the history of a symbol as the Maglia Rosa, with the present and the future of communications represented by the web and the social networks, to create closer links between the Giro d'Italia and its many fans , through innovative and interactive global media".

Well, it is a press release and one could expect a press release's content to be full of promises and gold plated words, but so far, the Giro d'Italia has delivered the goods.

I was very happy when I discovered the ASO was going to use a specific twitter account during the tour, and I sort of expected the ASO to rise, if not over the bar so to it. After all, with regards to the amount of feedback the RCS got after and during the Giro, I certainly had anticipated the tour to be full of nice updates and innovative solutions when it comes to social media. That is how the corporate world operates, to borrow solutions, modify and develop, no? But that didn't happen. So here is to ASO, being conservative is one thing, being far back in the pack is another.

You can read the press release from RCS here, uploaded by @wielerman

Monday, 22 August 2011

Thomas Voeckler vs a horse

Sport is entertaining. Athletes, like every other celebrity, need to exchange their cultural capital into social capital, that's how people remain in the public eye. This is also one of the reasons celebrities often hang out together. Anyway, I'll stop there, but you catch where I'm going. Athletes need to promote themselves, sponsors and the team as a part of their job. In the period after the tour, we see this clearly with the crits taking place all over Europe.

Here you'll find a video of the ever so popular French rider Thomas Voeckler trying to outsprint a horse a couple of days ago at an exhibition in Les Sables-d'Olonne, located in the Vendée area, close to where Voeckler resides. Who will get to the finish line first?


Thursday, 18 August 2011

Transfer season - not everybody continues as cyclists

From front of the peloton to the back - transfers just as important

Photo downloaded here.

It is transfer season indeed. Every single day we read about riders changing team, staying with present team or just rumours, more or less accurate depending on the source.  The newest “rumour” on the notebook is that of Tony Martin, going to Omega Pharma – Quickstep. Apparently, this is just a rumour, because others, like Daniel Benson of CN, say that Martin has yet to sign the contract. Confused yet?

Not all riders are going to continue on the bike. Some will not seek the roads again, having studied while riding or due other reasons. Some continue behind the wheel of a team car, taking up on the important role as DS or rider developer. Why is this worth mentioning, I hear you ask. Well, firstly it is a topic many have neglected so far, which in itself makes it interesting. Secondly, a move like this is crucial for the future of the sport, something that should interest all of us.

For the rider making that leap might find it difficult in the beginning. Some might find it hard not being in the spotlight themselves for a change, knowing that the world does not rotate around them anymore, some will experience a feeling of not knowing if he has what it takes. The team owner might fear the Peters Principle, since great palmares as a rider, not automatically guarantees any success as a DS.

If we look at cycling the recent years it has evolved and it has done so in many ways. Like @sofaboy wrote in his post recently, “it’s time to start believing again”. We can all irritate our heart out on behalf of some decisions made by the UCI and we can debate this over and over again – so we should. But in addition to this perspective, culture can arguably being built from the bottom and up. This means that we should follow closely what happens inside teams, not only who the riders are, but also who is doing what, who’s coming from where stating what earlier. We should demand some answers from teams who hire people with dodgy backgrounds. Yes, as Brailsford said earlier: “it is difficult to find skilled people nowadays who hasn’t got a past”. Well, that may be true some years ago, but I don’t believe it is wise to hide behind that conclusion any longer. There are many talented people out there with a burning desire to help riders and teams develop further. 

I want those riders who continue as DS, or in other positions in teams, to be the best. They must have integrity, respect in the peloton, they must have something to contribute in order to make a difference. It could be that my expectations are high, perhaps too high, and it may be that I will be disappointed. Still, this is my view and hope. Luckily, I can think of many riders who can fill such positions when the time is right. Arvesen at Team Sky, Pinotti at HTC to mention a few.

So let’s not forget that transfer season brings hope to the evolvement of cycling from inside teams’ staff too.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Hushovd's move to BMC - punishment in place?

Yesterday Team BMC and reigning World Champion Hushovd confirmed the rumours that have been debated in the cycling community - he leaves Garmin-Cervelo for BMC. Hushovd signed a three year deal and will be closely followed during training in Monaco, something he says was important to him. At the same time, this indicates that he wasn't given the same follow-up while in Garmin. Team BMC will have people supporting Hushovd at several key training periods in Monaco, with a designated team car pacing him in the hilly mountains surrounding Monaco.

Hushovd's arrival at Garmin was debated back in the day, and many questioned tha fact that there were too many leaders in competing positions, something that could ignite some confusion within the team. I wrote a post about this in April, you can read that here.

Solo wins from Hushovd - a sight we'll be familiar with?.

The Vuelta
Last year, Hushovd did what many sprinters do, used the Vuelta as spesific training towards the Worlds. We all know how that went. Hushovd's personal coach told me before the season that Hushovd and he had three peaks as target for the 2011 season: the first week of April (RVV & P-R), the Tour and the Worlds. The two of them have identified that the Vuelta is a key factor for building and peaking the race form for the Worlds. Earlier this week, Hushovd's personal coach, Atle Kvålsvoll, said to that he fears Hushovd will be punished for not continuing riding for Garmin. Kvålsvoll says that if Hushovd's not allowed to race the Vuelta, the US Pro Cycling Challenge is a possible alternative.

However, as of yet, nothing is decided. Jonathan Vaughters has not commented on the matter. The fact that Hushovd did a superb tdf and is the WC could mean that his position in the Vuelta is secure, but history says that riders who won't contribute next year isn't always getting their number one priorities. Vaughters has been clear that in Garmin-Cervelo, the word "team" is the most important one, not individuality. Will Vaughters prioritize to have sprinters leaving the Vuelta half-way, or focus on a possible top five GC? On the other hand, the organisers and team sponsors will probably want the reigning WC in the Vuelta for publicity.

I guess time will tell.

Photocredit: Sirotti, downloaded here.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Dopers redemption - what does it take?

It's August and silly season is "officially" all over us. Everybody knows the talking has taken place during the season and especially during the tour, nowadays it's all about the formalisation itself, aka the signature. Some riders have been assigned as stagiares and are new to the pro peloton, while others are not to be found in the pro ranks next season due to lack of performance, old age or other reasons. Among those who are returning to the pro or conti peloton are riders having spend a year or two outside for doping conviction. What to say about this? The ones who have failed to live up to the expectations of fans, teams and public, who fooled not only themselves but others who trusted them? What makes their return ok?

The idea of this post has been on my mind for a long time, or perhaps the right way of putting it is; many times have this subject crossed my mind. As you all know, doping has been a part of cycling as in every other professional endurance sport for many years. I have mixed feelings bringing it up too, sometimes I'm quite tired of hearing about it, feeling that too much emphasis is being put on those who cheats instead of those who don't. But, with this post I hope to learn more about why some rider are forgiven, while others not.

There are examples of riders who doped who are being welcomed back into the sport and now are ambassadors/spokesmen against dopers, David Millar is one. Why are some riders, convicted or currently under investigation, treated differently than others?
Contador's racing in the Giro and the Tour seemed to make more people forgive/forget the Damocles sword of doping hanging over his head.
How important is the scale of offence? If a rider's caught being 32, is it plausible to suspect him of doping his/her entire career? Are all dopers the same, if not, how do we measure that?

Everybody won't get a second chance
I read an article in where Thomas Dekker's return was covered. I found that very interesting and I got new earned respect for Vaughters, not that I didn't have it before, but the article made me think. Dekker's tests from 2007 was retested, proving postive for EPO, and the following years were hard on him. After many conversations and discussions with Vaughters, Dekker went through intensive testing prior to be selected to ride for Chipotle, Garmin's farmer team. Dekker had to prove for Vaughters that he was capable of being a rider on a certain level without doping and according to, Dekker had to cooperate with WADA. Dekker himself said he "feels a responsibility to inform young riders about the dangers of doping."

People deserve a second chance, right? Nobody's perfect and mistakes are being made by everyone. I know from earlier debates on twitter that some do not agree with me on this, but that is how I feel. I feel there is a huge difference between now and before. Ok, money's on the table and riders need a job, but times are changing. It is not the same like back in the 90's, even though judging by today's races and stages, it sometimes seems difficult to understand that. It is possible to get an exciting race climbing over only one HC mountain instead of riding over three HC in a stage.

I still get just as upset when a new positive test are being revealed. I find this whole debate difficult since feelings are involved too. As a result, a person's attitude or opinions towards a sport is not entirely rational, making argumentation often agitated.
I must say I don't view riders I've admired the same way after they have been caught, I think no one does. A large chunk of respect of that individual will always be gone, and I will always wonder if they still dope. Like it or not, that is my view.

Done their time
Some riders and fans say that since riders have done their time, it is ok to welcome them back, just as any other criminal are/should be in our society. But is it that simple?
I read on twitter today that what we as fans feel about riders prior to the offence is more important than people will admit. One matter many have mentioned is the doper's willingness to admit their sins in public. This will over time improve the rider's image. I guess it something about stepping up and take responsibility that makes us more able to forgive. Like in ethics and moral, honesty is important for how we judge people. The riders have people surrounding them, family and friends, having disappointed someone close to you, who trusted you, must be awful.

The super human performances is not as visible as before. I take this as a good sign. When somebody is performing well, I will from now on say that "well, someone has to be best". I choose to keep my faith, because there are some signs that we are witnessing an increasingly clearer peloton. I will put my scepticism and cynicism behind me, after all, with riders like Sagan, Kittel, Pinot, Degenkolb, EBH and G, the future has never looked so bright.

Friday, 5 August 2011

#FF on the blog for a change

As most of you already know, my last posts from the tour and up until now is found on, a new site dedicated to cycling. Humour and some good analysis/comments to be found there, from @UCI_Overlord to @sofaboy and @autofact.

I will try to post some of my post here as well, to have this site "up-to-speed" when I return full time to this blog.

I tend to give #FFs a bit random on twitter, a bit uncertain of every use of the microbloggingsphere I guess. Those of you who follow my tweets will probably know who I enjoy to interact with. However, there are others as well...

I love to discover new things and to learn, that also applies on twitter and in the cycling world in general. That's what I enjoy the most on twitter; to get inspired, educated, meaningful discussions (both to watch and be a part of), by people from all over the world. Stories, news, comments, analysis. 

How fantastic is that? Interact with people all over the globe in a blink of an eye.
Sometimes, twitter takes too much time. There are others around me who wants a part of me, and I have to choose my time spent on the internet in accordance with this. Get me right, it's not actually even a choice to make, as I have a clear understanding of what's important in life. This is just to inform you why I sometimes go underground.

This time I chose to do something new in terms of #FFs, posted here on the blog. Sorry for no hyperlinks, but that would ahve taken too much time. If you see someone you don't follow, search them up and add.

#FF news:

#FF people in no particular order:
@daveno7, @dimspace, @SSbike, @sitdowninfront, @cycletard, @flammecast, @sofaboy, @irishpeloton, @gekke82, @LeeBoyman, @FlashingPedals, @GiusiVirelli, @BikeTart, @podiuminsight, @Queenofthecols, @leguape, @euanlindsay, @Sprinting4signs, @jon_cannings, @_Gavia_, @_mattio, @gematkinson, @ShaunaSmash, @CleoPompom, @thomas_lequipe, @inrng, @micacquarone, @velocb @Cyclopathic, @jeremyrauch, @humphr, @jeffvolkmer @chestnut38, @festinagirl @MonaLS85, @pllb, @quinn_e, @arlo_m, @abandonedbike, @jennyvelo, @propulse, @jenscer, CycleGirl108, @peletonmagazine, @reitbakk.

#FF humour:

#FF photographers (they are incredible):

I am 100% percent sure I left someone who didn't deserve it out in the cold. So, for those of you who is not there - sorry! Fix that next time then.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Hushovd's descending skills - what to learn?


Photo by Lionel Bonaventure, Scanpix/AP 

Friday's stage from Pau to Lourdes was to me a gigantic one, bringing the very best of racing to the table. It brought back memories from the past, a glance of retro-racing, mano-o-mano, where the strongest wins. Of course, it helps that it was my fellow Norwegian Hushovd who pulled the longest straw in the end. Also the fact that he did it on a stage very few had anticipated while wearing the rainbow jersey, made it all almost romantic. What also is interesting is that this was one of the first times during this year's Tour, that the break went in. As Edward Pickering so brilliantly describes in his stage 13 analysis, today's break was always destined to succeed.

Descending is an art, just like climbing is. In 2009, the French newspaper L'Equipe, owned by the ASO, carried a poll where the riders in the peloton was asked who the best descender amongst them was. The winner turned out to be Thor Hushovd.

On the top of the majestic Col d'Aubisque, Hushovd had close to two minutes up to the the hard working Frenchman Roy, and a mere forty seconds to Moncoutie. Hushovd quickly rode in Moncoutie and when they got the bottom of the mountain, Roy had about fortifive seconds advantage, the rest is history.

Hushovd said to, a Norwegian newspaper, that he didn't take any chances. During the descend, his thoughts wandered to his daughter and he decided it wasn't worth it if he somehow gambled with his health. Instead he claimed he "didn't take any too large risks". Still, the numbers speak for themselves with Hushovd reaching 112 km/h (68 mph) as his top speed. Needless to say, when riding on a mere inch wide tires, that is special. The French cameraman who followed the descend on a moto filming the descend, said to French TV later that day that he'd never in his career witnessed a descend like that. Lionel Marie, DS in Garmin-Cervelo, said he was nervous in every bend, simply describing the performance as "fantastic".

Moncoutie hangs on to Hushovd's back wheel

Well, what is it we can learn from Hushovd's descending? Hushovd's childhood is full of stories that might shed some light to his performance. First of all, he did a lot of cross-country skiing. This helps kids learn coordination, balance and is a very playful sport in the first place. Going down hills and mountains, earning sense of achievement, is vital for future development. He also learned to use a bike early, trying to copy his older brother. He played a lot on his bike, something which helped giving him balance on his bike. Hushovd's personal coach, Atle Kvålsvoll, said to that Hushovd played with high speed already in his youth. He has always liked speed and he even did motocross as a teenager, Kvålsvoll said, adding that Hushovd's technique is absolutely amazing. Hushovd himself emphasize the fact that his eyes are focusing a long distance down the road, not only on the meters just in font of the bike. This is vital for maintaining a line down the road that can support the highest speed possible. Although he reached 112 km/h, it is not the top speed that decides how fast you'll reach the finish, the average speed however, is what matters. By holding a line close to perfection, Hushovd was able to maintain a high speed everywhere on the road, which in the end gives a high average speed.

He also sports a large frame. Being about 82 kilograms, Hushovd is heavy compared to the majority of riders in the peloton. It helps during descends, if you're able to have a aerodynamic position on the bike while descending, something Hushovd don't seem to have any problems doing. He has a very aggressive style on the bike while descending.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

The Tour - the nervous first week

This post can also be read on Cyclismas.

The first week of le Tour has given us some of the most exciting racing I've seen in ages, as well as the worst blows to several GC contenders and other riders. The number of accidents so far is high, but so are the numbers every first week of the Tour. The Tour is the biggest and most important race of the whole season, and everybody is nervous. There are many teams and many riders too, making it difficult closing in on narrow roads. Marco Pinotti, the Italian HTC-rider, tweeted about this last night, saying that there are too many riders present in the Tour.
What makes this Tour special is the of course the fact that many GC contenders are out of the race or far behind already, with Wiggin's crash yesterday fresh in mind.
Wiggo realises his tour is over for now

Photo by AP/Christophe Ena, downloaded here.

Safety - whose responsibility 
Also hard to watch was Radioshack's Chris Horner, obviously suffering from a concussion after a fall, being very disoriented coming across the finish line in Châteauroux. Horner fell in the same crash as Wiggins, which means he rode 38km in that state. The RS member who greated Horner when he crossed the finish line, said to Horner he crashed 25km from the finish, but other reports says otherwise. Of course, riders safety is the number one priority and riders in the state Horner was in yesterday is a danger both to himself and other riders. Many have argued on twitter that the UCI is more concerned with seat tilt angles than rider safety. 
Determining whether a rider has a concussion can be hard from a distance through a radio. Perhaps is it necessary to apply a rule that says that if riders hit the deck, a DS and a race doc should physically check up on the rider, making sure he is ok. What some believe is strange is that Horner receive treatment by the race doc after the crash, reports say the doctor wrote that Horner had a concussion and still left him on the bike. In addition to this, Johan Bruyneel had his team doctor driving next to Horner the last 38km. Bruyneel sais he won’t be criticized over his decision to let Horner finish the stage.
Horner finishing stage 7 with a concussion

Photo by Sirotti, downloaded here.
After all, the number of UCI commissaires is not that high to be everywhere, but this is a matter that should be number one priority. Geraint Thomas, one of Team Sky's young stars, wrote yesterday that riders safety must be the riders' responsibility. My position in this matter is that that the rider safety is divided between the rider and the team leader. When the rider is not able to take that call, then it is the rider’s leader who needs to step forward and take the responsibility.
Tactically manoeuvring
A rider and a team riding for GC that really have impressed me the first week is Cadel Evans and BMC. The team is always to be seen near the front when the terrain is difficult, or in the last important part of the race. Very tactically ridden and a nice way to keep him out of potentially dangerous episodes. Now, one could argue that this is one of the reasons crashes happens in the first place, the constant hunt for positions.

Next stage, be sure to watch out for Cadel Evans and BMC, I guarantee you, they are at the front at the right time.