Saturday, 29 January 2011

Hardcourt Bike Polo - carry the big stick

A couple of days ago I was sitting in a doctor's waiting area, glancing through the magazines which were laying on what once upon a time was a decent coffee table. As I quite restlessly scrolled the pages I suddenly saw a picture that made me sit up in the chair. A couple of guys were riding their singlespeed bikes on a court with special mallets in their hand, chasing a small ball. This sport or whatever you will call it, looks fun and it involves bikes. A friend of mine said it was sport for those fat people who didn't cope with indoor hockey.

Instead of nicking the magazine, that's so 2005 by the way, I took pictures with my iPhone to store the key names for my own research later.

A crew chasing the ball - from Wikipedia

What's the story
According to wikipedia the sport origins to the Seattle area in the early 2000s. Some states that the founders was sick and tired of polo and the poshiness, therefor starting their own sport as a symbol of working class sport. Cycling has for ever been seen as a working class sport, so maybe there is truth in that. But further research indicates that the sport actually is very old. The information regarding Seattle could be true. The problem is that the sport has many names, and there are actually several different sports. 

Cycle polo was invented in Ireland 1891 by an Irish named Richard Mecredy, 6 players on a team but only 4 are allowed on the grass at the same time. Yup, you read it correctly, grass. Cycle polo has more rules than ie hardcourt bike polo which, as I understand it, is played on a smaller space, less rules and typically seen in backyards, basketball courts and parking lots in cities. In hardcourt bike polo, there are 3 players on each team and no substitutions allowed.

A competing story says that bikes were sent to a powerful ruler in India, where the stable boys picked up what the rulers did on the polo court, transferring it to the bikes. British soldiers stationed in India brought the game back. The New York Times did an great article on hardcourt bike polo in 2007, with some pics here
I've also seen references to Urban bike polo, so there are different names out there, urban bike polo is similar to hardcourt bike polo if I have got it correctly.

Rules of the game is actually not specified and they varies, but appareantly rules vary from city to city and the players work this out prior to the game. If you're playing cycle polo, there's one set of rules, when you're plying hardcourt bike polo another set.
One of the rules is always present no matter where you are; it is forbidden to touch the ground at any time.
If that happens, the rider should notify his/her team and move to a designated area, perform a tap-out, before allowed into the game again.

Bike culture has changed bike polo from being cycle polo to hardcourt bike polo. Much of this can be traced to the bike-messenger culture which expanded heavily in the early 2000s. From bikes to clothing, the informal style and relaxed atmosphere, at least until the game is on, have it's roots to this culture. According to the magazine I read, bike polo is being played in 265 cities in 35 countries and counting. They have a league as well, the League of Bike Polo, and the Worlds is being hosted every year. Of course bike polo enthusiasts are on twitter as well, @bikepolo has currently 1020 followers.

Location of clubs world wide - from League of Bike Polo website- note the club in Tromsø, Norway - way up north!.

R&D - what to wear
Basicly what you need is a bike and a mallet. Some use helmet and leg protection as well. As mentioned, many bike messengers, bike-shop employees and other enthusiasts are involved in this sport. They usually use fixed-gear bikes or singlespeed while working, so this is what they use on the court as well. Fixed-gear bikes is mostly used, because you can pedal both ways, something that makes you a more versatile player. In order to protect their spokes, or for PR-reasons, some tend to place wheel covers on the wheels.

Decorative with a purpose - from Wikipedia

You'll need a mallet, sometimes of tree, but on the urban playground they tend to break. Go for an old metal pipe you can shape into a mallet. The enthusiasts make their own mallets based on the DIY ethic, but nowadays you can easily buy one too.

Often the bikes need to be customized, when performing a proper swing, the handlebars could be in the way so often people make them shorter. I don't think you'll need to be a mechanic iot play, I'm sure help will be provided if needed.
Here is a nice video where you can see for yourself if this is something for you and your friends:

My friend who ment this is a sport for those too lazty to play indoor hockey will have to eat his words. The people who are into this sport have some impressingly good  handling skills on the bike and some serious coordination ability. I'm going to show him this video and maybe trick him into trying. Better take it slow in the beginning, I can picture myself in the tarmac a couple of times.

What are you waiting for? Get out in the backyard and practise.

Friday, 28 January 2011

The Tour 2011 will be great without AC

Those happy days - 2009

So le Pistolero won't be joining the Tour 2011, at least that's what the word on the street says. Many have been saying that "alright, the game is over, just give Andy Schleck the prize and the jersey now and we can focus on other races". I reckon most of these are remarks for just for fun, although some I'm not that sure about.
Many will see this as their one-time chance to win or podium in the Tour. The Tour's best rider, with or without clenbuterol, is out at least for a year. Maybe more if Pat McQuaid and the rest of the UCI and/or WADA get their will.

Who will take the throne? Actually there are many:
- Vande Velde, the unlucky American. Hope he stays on his bike longer this year.
- Wiggins, Team Sky's guitar hero
- Evans, Oz great hope I
- Porte, Oz great hope II, if not Menchov moves to Saxo
- The Schlecks, the brothers in arms as always
- Van Den Broeck, who really impressed me last year
- Basso, if he's done his TT homework this season, he will be the man to beat
- Vino does not have a great team around him but is known to do crazy stuff on his own
- Sanchez will be furious this year and I hope he'll go after the Tour like it is the Vuelta
- Gesink is finally out of Menchov's shadow and can probably do better that 10th last year.
- Rodriguez if he decides to give it a go, will be great to watch on those shorter steep ascents, probably he'll have Gilbert on his tale on those.

So I don't think AC's absence will be crucial. I said before on a blog post that cycling is bigger than Lance Armstrong, and the same goes for Alberto.

Things can be exciting without the promised match between AC and Andy Schleck. I believe the Tour of 2011 will be one to remember, many riders will give their best this year, and the competitors' seen together are more alike than I can remember. That's just for the GC, new rules for point competition will take it to the next level as well.

What a great show it will be. Be quick to order hotels if you haven't done it already, it's getting difficult to get a good spot. Or bring a tent, that always work.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Old school - Those were the days

There is nothing like taking a dive into the history of cycling. The riders are famous, they became so in cycling's era. They were the stars. If you believe the pecking order of today is harsh, try being a watercarrier, the slightly patronizing word for domestique, back in those days. Merckx, Hinault, Moser, De Vlaeminck, Maertens. Before them it was Anquetil, Bartali, Coppi and Bobet.

Of course, you need to close your eyes to whatever pharmaceutical ingredient riders used from the early days and till now.

Here are some movies - the classic kind. Of course, it won't be any good if cobbles not involved and that is why Paris-Roubaix ended up here as well. I've picked some small clips, hopefully you will be inspired to check more of the films - They are considered the absolute best cycling have.

Feel free to search the interwebs yourself for the movies if the size is too small. Enjoy.

Notice 60 seconds or so into the movie, when riders go for a refill...

Or this one, also from the Giro:

For those fans of the cobbles, here is a small cut from the movie "A Sunday in hell" where the favourites make sure it is a unexpected win at the 1976 Paris-Roubaix:

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Matt White sacked from Garmin-Cervelo

Hmm, where to go next?

Jonathan Vaughters and Slipstream Sports sacked Matt White after allegedly discovering that he referred rider Trent Lowe to a controversial Dr. by the fantastic name Luis Garcia del Moral back in April 2009. Story at here.

I think it is great news that Vaughters and the team take their responsibility serious and follow their internal policy "that all medical referrals are to be approved by our medical staff". This will add more strength to the brand G-C is building, and will be seen as a sign that they take any irregularities when it comes to medical issues and doping seriously.

The timing could indicate that Vaughters found out that White is moving to GreenEDGE cycling after this season. Rumours have been circulating ever since Inner Ring came up with the alleged GreenEDGE recruitment methods, although Vaughters dismiss this as the cause.
White joined Cycling Australian (CA) National Team earlier this month according to this site. And you all know the strong ties between CA and GreenEDGE. That doesn't necessarily mean anything but I find it interesting. It is also a possibility White was asked to join CA just to strengthen the team after Bannan quit.

Do not be surprised if you see Matt White in a Jayco car next year.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Why Geox didn't get their ticket to the Tour

Surprisingly many found the decision to boot Geox as something unexpected. Rumours circled for days that the team had been told by Prudhomme that they would not get a slot.

People from Gerard Vroomen to "John Smith" wrote on twitter that this was unexpected. Vroomen's word here: "In the past Gianetti came in with a crap team. With a good he doesn't". Now that might be possible, but that's where the main problem is: Geox hasn't got the team. Well, they have Sastre and Menchov but that is not enough. And the problem might just as well be Gianetti.

New beginning
I believe Sastre's and Menchov's arrows point downwards. Sastre peaked with a superb win in 2008, but hasn't really furfilled his or anyone else's expectations since. Menchov did the same in the Giro but has not been seen in front of the peloton after that.
ASO and Prudhomme are known to letting new teams, especially French teams, get their chance, and we also have to consider that ASO still is a "French" organisation. That said, Saur-Sojasun is an exciting team with Jérôme Coppel, French cycling's hope as the star. I, for what is worth, welcome ASO's decision. Not many these days are paying attention to the new riders and give cycling a new beginning.

Anyone remember the dark Tour of 2008 with Saunier-Duval riders Ricco and Piepoli? And who was the Team Manager for Saunier-Duval you say? Correct, that was Mauro Gianetti. After a couple of name changes from Saunier-Duval to Fuji-Servetto and Fotoon-Servetto, where Gianetti got his Tour-ticket because of his Pro Tour-status and old rules. With Geox - that was not the case.

I said earlier this week that the element of the team manager was to consider and perhaps this was a political message, but probably the elements added together made Prudhomme and co make their decision. Two great riders, possibly with their career peak behind them and not to popular in France, a Team Manager with a past (not that he was involved in doping - I didn't say that or intended to) versus a new exciting French team with French cycling's hope? Go figure.

Well, we all know the outcome. The riders on Geox will focus on the Giro and the Vuelta, so things are not all black.

I believe cycling need some new faces who can put their mark on the races and for the time being, Prudhomme makes sure that's a possibility.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Cycling as a social interaction with others

Earlier this week there were two tragic accidents involving cyclists and cars that had fatal consequences. There's a probability there were many more but at least these two got attention on the news. I will be careful taking any advantage of these terrible accidents and I emphasize that I don't know any cause of these accidents.

The cause of accidents involving bikes and cars varies and I think it's natural under these circumstances to focus on solutions. Being out on the road mean we are part of a large social system. One thing is the different parts of this system, objects like cyclists, big cars and small cars, truckers, tractors, motorcycles, those who make their living on the road and those who use it for other purposes.

What all these elements have in common and why am I naming it a social system?

It doesn't come as a surprise that all of these objects are controlled by humans therefore social. It becomes a system when we follow rules and/or anticipates that a certain behaviour is expected.

Cyclists have to be aware what mindset we have when we are out riding on the roads. No matter how relaxed we feel or how joyful the ride, we have to be alert and pay attention the others (or ourselves for that matter) on the road, simply because we cannot expect someone one else to do it. We cannot free ourselves from some individuals who might would be jerks any day, but we can do what we can to take care of ourselves. In practise this will mean that whenever we have to do something different from a pattern, from a person driving a car's perspective that is, caution have to be made.

Many may feel that this post blame the cyclists for accidents, I don't. The matters mentioned in the post works well for those driving as well. Being aware and present while on the road is something everybody learned back when we took a driving licence. The social system actually demand that we take certain considerations to one another.

To me it is a matter of minimising the possibilities for accidents to happen.

Ride safely, take care out there and we can ride another day.      

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Training with very high cadence

The internet is flooded with people giving training advice, what to eat when and what to wear while you work out. Much have been said and written on how you should keep your cadence. There are differences of course, depending on what you are training towards. Beside keeping a very strong and solid base of endurance capability, you should vary your work out. Especially important when those oh-so-important-base-miles are in the box.

And variety in training on a bike means not only changing environment like rolling hills, or climbs, but also a change in cadence. One could argue that changing area will naturally mean change of cadence but that is a subject I'm not going to dive in to.

Steady-State, intervals and time trial are examples of exercises that need different sets of cadence.

The guy on this video has a workout all right, I'm mighty impressed by his cadence although I'm not sure I recommend that frequency to others...

You might want to keep the sound a bit low, it has a funny metallish sound...

Monday, 17 January 2011

Tour Down Under - bigger than Armstrong

In case somebody doesn't know, Lance Armstrong is in Adelaide. As last year, he's entering the Santos Tour Down Under, last year it was to mark his comeback 2.0, this year it is to end his international career as a professional cyclist.

I wrote about my expectations for the TDU earlier, with the sprinters duel as my favourite. And I'm glad to say that my view is shared by many. However, I see that Lance Armstrong again is at the top the headlines. The fact he's there, the fact that he's paid an appearance fee rumoured to be 2 million $, and the secret article is stealing the headlines. Some people react to the fact that Armstrong has only committed 50 000 $ to the flood victims.

Tomorrow, the much anticipated article from Sports Illustrated will be distributed to the world, and already cycling journalists all over the world are trembling with excitement and speculations go through the roof. Rumours says they got the right to. The rumours is that this article, written by Selena Roberts, will bring Lance Armstrong down. It will be about doping and Roberts has been written some articles about doping in sport before as well, including baseball where she became famous for her direct tone. Nothing indicates she's somehow intimidated by the Texan's "look" which Armstrong has been famous of using on journalists and others he doesn't agree with. This article was supposed to hit the headlines before Christmas but well-paid layers kept it away the headlines at the time.

Nothing new under the sun
Some might ask what the big commotion is. I don't disagree with them, but as everybody knows, rumours have a tendency to grow and grow and grow. So Armstrong is in trouble again for alleged doping rumours, something he's faced year in and year out since the Tour in 1999 starting with Bassons incident. Sometimes, the rumours have taken a new direction, like when L'equipe made allegations against Armstrong in 2005, or Floyd Landis' "telling the truth". Maybe will this be it, but again, my personal view is that rumours is just that and shall be treated as so until they turn out otherwise.

Is anything bigger than Armstrong?
I was standing on Champs-Élysées in 2009 waiting for the riders to enter Paris, watching the caravan. I remember seeing the Livestrong cars came by and everybody cheered and yelled for Armstrong. Even the French did so, not only American. And the Nike store had a whole floor devoted to Armstrong and his foundation. So yes, Armstrong is big in cycling.

The Tour Down Under is bigger than Armstrong. No matter what is written, said or divulged, the Santos Tour Down Under is a week of celebration for Australian cycling as well as the kick-off for professional cycling year. I have no intentions of letting any revelations concerning Armstrong and his past put an end to that. Never ever shall cycling turn it's deaf ear to doping and there will be cast a shadow over TDU if it happens, no doubt, but cycling is bigger than Armstrong.

So let's hope that TDU will be in focus tomorrow. By all means, the article will be debated and Armstrong will probably have to answer some questions, and I think that is a fair thing. If Armstrong is found guilty of doping sometime, this must be revealed and his legendary history as a cyclist will be damaged forever, there is no doubt in my mind. I still hope for Oz cycling and cycling in general, that this will be a week to celebrate.

UPDATE 1700:
It appears Sports Illustrated decided not to publish their story after all. Well, to be correct, a story will be published probably tomorrow, but many alleged controversy fragments have been left aside.

Friday, 14 January 2011

How the UCI can meet tomorrow - part I

Much has been said about the UCI the last years and the debate continues on Twitter. People say when it comes to greediness, unclear doping-rules and one-sided judgement of riders, the UCI is at the very top. Some people treat issues involving UCI like conspiracy theorists do, I am not in that league.
Mind you, I will not speak in the favour of UCI either, because I believe many things need to be clarified, and I believe UCI could benefit by doing so to some matters.

I will focus on some aspects I think the UCI could benefit from. I've sent a mail to the UCI and UEC in order for them to clarify some questions I had but I have not received an answer by time this is "in the print".

Short story 
The UCI was founded in 1900 and is the world governing body for cycling. The headquarters is located in Aigle, Switzerland. They provide the debated team points ranking system, issue licences to teams and is supposed to enforce disciplinary rules, like they did towards Bruyneel after the last stage in this year's Tour, where Radioshack used other jerseys than they started the race with. Disciplinary rules also involves doping i.e. how they handle Contador's case now. They are involved with the three Grand Tours, many of the classics and they are trying to expand cycling to the world by their concept UCI Continental Circuits.

Obviously dealing with enormous amount of money and having the power they have, the UCI is vulnerable to criticism and need to be professional in every way.

To complicate or add further depth to the organisational structure (your choice), national federations form different continental confederations under UCI. An example is L'Union Européene de Cyclisme (UEC) which have their own statutes.
For example states article 3 point 1. d) that "The UEC supports the UCi in all aspects of cycling". Article 4, point 3 states that "The members of UEC agree to recognise and safeguard the statutes and regulations of the UCI. They will not establish nor recognise statutes or regulations which are contrary to the statuses or regulations of the UCI or UEC".
Looks like that someone has a tight grip there, doesn't it?

Back in the day the UCI was founded over some political disagreement involving Great Britain and the ruling organisation back then, the International Cycling Association, was "overthrown". So it is possible to do what the UCI did in 1900 if people for some reason do not agree with the UCI, this violates article 4 point 3 I guess. But of course, times were different back then.

In 1965 the UCI created two subsidiary bodies; the Fédération Internationale Amateur de Cyclisme (FIAC) and Fédération Internationale de Cyclisme Professionale (FICP).

History repeats itself?
There is no doubt that cycling need a governing body. Every sport and association will need to be govern, there has to be certain rules and disciplinary action taken if the rules are broken. Fine, so far so good.
Who possess the real power in cycling? The UCI and Pat McQuaid? ASO and other race organisers? The pro teams and the Team Managers? For the time being, I find that hard to answer. But I see that there are many chefs, and that can lead to blurry borderlines, frustration and "turf wars" leading the sport in the wrong direction. From my perspective I somehow feel the UCI to want more power, to control more of cycling than they do today. I remember seeing the "turf war" between Hein Verbruggen and Clerc as well as Verbruggen vs. Leblanc some years ago and some of that is still ongoing today.

@propulse said on twitter a couple of days ago that UCI should recreate FIAC because many cyclists have trouble finding a pro team to work for. If you see this in comparison to what 39teeth wrote about the future in road cycling, this can actually be a good idea. The Gran Fondos are getting bigger, cycling is on the rise in many countries. FIAC made sure amateurs raced against amateurs while FICP took care of the pros.

Is the UCI we see today too big? An organisation which is big moves slowly and might neglect the very base of it's followers namely teams and riders. An organisation which is too big see progress at something disturbing and see other organisations as threats. An organisation which is too big wants more power and holds on to it's power for as long as it can.

What kind of leader will member states approve and elect in the future? Maybe an important organisation like the UCI can move forward instead of backward and really step up to the challenges coming. Prudhomme said this some years ago to L'equipe, it is not linked to the UCI but the lesson is the same: "For me, the fundamental problem is one of image. We must get rid of suspicion, that's the most important thing." 

UCI headquarters in Aigle

Next blog post in this series: Funding and election.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

The easy way to get a pro cycling team united

How do the Team Managers and the Sport Directors make a professional cycling team truly united?

There are many ways to do so, some do teambuilding like they experienced it as riders, some not the way they experienced it as an active rider. Some use common sense whilst some Team Managers trust science and Harvard Business Review. Some, like Bjarne Riis, trust people like B.S. Christiansen, the famous Danish coach with Special Forces background. B.S. is currently not working with Riis any longer. I know riders who will be pleased hearing this, because some didn't enjoy his famous training camps - at least not a the time while it lasted.

I like to believe cyclists have a high team spirit. After all, they experience some serious pain together in every condition possible and we all know what that makes to people together, right?
Why is it then, that on the first training camp of the year, it looks like a gruppetto coming down the road instead of a team?

This picture shows what I believe some teams can do different and it doesn't cost much either.

Team Astana - oh wait a second - Saxo? No, actually it is Radioshack
Pic by Casey B. Gibson - Cyclingnews.
Yes, I am aware that some teams change their team kit late autumn or during Christmas time due to changes in sponsors and other matters. The main reason we see cyclists dressed differently while training in a team is probably that new cyclists legally belong to their new team from 1st of January. However, many training camps have been held after this date and the riders still look like a group of people from your local cycle club doing their Sunday ride. Except the speed but I'm sure you get my point.

39teeth presented a picture of Team Geox on twitter today from their training camp, no one having team kit, but all dressed in the same outfit - all black. I actually think this is good. Not that they don't have their team kit by now, that's obviously much to late, but glad they all dress the same. 
I am not a kind of guy who needs everything in order, who strives to keep my house shine, but I truly believe same outfit will make the guys feel like a team faster. And, for whatever it's worth, I don't think any football team would do things this way. Imagine the chaos.

If you gather 22 or so riders from every part of the globe, from all kinds of teams and some have even trouble make themselves understood due to language barrier - what to do? The first thing every other group of people do in teambuilding is to get everyone out of the known environment - that would be the office- and remove all forms of hierarchy in the group. Every group will get an object or a colour that identifies the team. Next thing you'll know you are building towers out of toothpicks but that is another story. The single most important thing is unity. If you create unity - you'll have identity to build from and the riders will co-operate on a whole new level. After all, cycling is a team sport, that we know for sure.

Perhaps will there be a change to all this. Perhaps the UCI will put a tax on team kit as they have on bikes causing teams to have team kit ready in October along with the financial backing needed. Perhaps do Team Managers see that this is a very cheap way of creating a robust team from the very start. Then everybody will not be in doubt what team they spot along the roads.

Pic by Richard Moore (Team Sky website)

Radioshack picture by: Casey B. Gibson - Cyclingnews, downloaded here

Monday, 10 January 2011

Team Sky at the chessboard

Geraint Thomas playing chess with Michael Rogers
Picture by Michael Rogers - from Twitter.

What do riders do when they have time off? I guess that is difficult to answer, considering there are possibly as many differences as riders. As I wrote in The unsung heroes II, riders tend to relax as much as possible when they have time off. That is pretty much what every athlete is doing, at least endurance athletes.

From time to time young football players open their homes to TV-features and give us a glimpse of how they live their lives. Mind you, beside the fancy clothing and the mandatory bling-watch, they also relax. I will not criticize or jugde them, all though some have argued that footballers are getting way too much money for very little actual training. But if you think they are just taking naps and eating, you're wrong. They hit the couch and play PS 3 online with other players. All day.

I have noticed how this trend has moved over to cycling. Not the PS3 trend, but chess. There have been many stories of cyclists playing chess lately, especially within the ranks of Team Sky. I'll give you a couple of examples:
Michael Rogers sent out a picture of Geraint Thomas and him playing chess in December. Kurt Asle Arvesen updated his Twitter profile yesterday with a picture of EBH and Lars Petter Nordhaug playing chess, picture here. As if that wasn't enough, probably just for the heck of it, Arvesen sent the picture to Magnus Carlsen, the 21-year old chess Grandmaster from Norway, to get a comment on who-should-do-what. As you might expect judging from the picture, the Grandmaster didn't give EBH much credit. In other words; there are no reasons why Edvald should leave his day-time job for the time being.

Who is the lead figure in playing chess on Team Sky is uncertain for the time being, even who's responsible for this trend's somewhat unclear.

Riders playing chess is not something unique to Team Sky. Take a look at Nibali and Basso playing a game of chess at the training camp in the Dolomites in December.

Picture by Roberto Bettini

Dan Hunt, a race coach with Team Sky, says this about cycling:

"Cycling's similar to chess on wheels. In a road race you can be the strongest guy in the race and finish nowhere. Or you might not be the strongest, but make the right decisions and win. It's never clear-cut. There are tactics and there is the mental game plan, and that, hopefully, is where we can help make a difference."

I will not claim this is the reason some cyclists play chess. Perhaps does it feel good to use the head after some long monotone hours on the bike?

Whether Team Sky will benefit tactical from playing some games of chess is unclear but at least the riders relax and time fly by. Many will probably be happy they're not wearing the latest bling on the market while playing.  

Picture: Downloaded from Twitter.
Picture: Downloaded from, more specifically here

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Expectations Santos Tour Down Under

To me there are three things I look forward to. There is the clash of the sprinters, the "kick-off" of the season is of special importance to me and there is Lance Armstrong's farewell to international pro cycling a vital factor.

Sport in motion
What to expect of Tour Down under? The general results will probably be as last year; a strong sprinter from from one of the large pro teams will dominate, while local riders and teams make sure they're recognised by the audience and fans going for breakaways aggressively. But predictability is not the same as boredom, be aware.

To every rider with a Euro calendar, the TDU is merely a part of training as well as keeping the sponsors happy. At least for the riders who reside outside Oz and NZ. A bit harsh perhaps but that's how many believe. It's just related to the time the race is held and the riders' goals for spring and summer, not because of the geographical position or the organisation of the event - which is as good as it gets compared to others.

The Santos Tour Down Under has the longest list of partners I have ever seen. You'll find it here.
One of the partners is the SA Cancer Council, perhaps a collaboration with Livestrong is in order?

Sprinters delight
Cav vs. Greipel is a duel I have been looking forward to. Cav will not be in his greatest shape, he's got most of his attention focused on the Tour and Worlds. However, there is a maybe tucked in between the lines. Cav and Greipel have been squabbling for some time, and I bet Greipel will be giving what he has and then some, in order to "prove" Cav wrong. Of course, Cav is aware of this and being as proud as he is, it can be an interesting fight.

Those happy days

Lets not forget other sprinters like Garmin-Cervelo's Farrar, Saxo's Haedo, BMC's Kristoff, Astana's Davis, Sky's Henderson and of course McEwen wearing Radioshack's red. Quite a line-up.

Picture by Tim Francis
Farewell to Arms
This race is said to be the last race of Lance Armstrong. Last international professional road race is the correct term. My Twitterfeed indicates that there is a certain article being released within a few days that might hamper his participation, but at this time this is just rumours and should be treated as so.

According to sources, the seven-time tour de France winner will receive some 2 million USD as his appearance fee. Last year, an anonymous source told Cricket, an Oz newspaper, that Armstrong received  $1 million to attend and $500k up front as well as same amount after racing. Read more here. Earlier it has been stated that Armstrong gave all his money from appearance fee to charity, but in an interview with New York Times, it came clear that he "did not donate his fee to his foundation but treating this as income".  Read more here.

I sent a request to twitter-friend @FlashingPedals regarding the financial aspect of Armstrong's
participation. He was kind to inform me about the two links mentioned in the paragraph above.

The fact that Armstrong gets a fee in the first place has created some controversy in SA and many people do not see the point why their tax-money should go to bring the Texan over to "ride and show face". Some has even indicated that the amount is higher, due to the fact that other organisers, like the Tour of Qatar, has a unlimited budget and they also wanted Armstrong to attend their race.

Tourism Australia's managing director Andrew McEvoy, who headed the SA Tourism Commision when Armstrong rode the first time, says Armstrong's appearance "is vital for local economy".
Armstrong's appearance actually doubled the province income says Adelaide Now, a local news paper. In 2010, some 39000 people visit the TDU and in return injected 41,5 million $ in the local economy. The year before the estimates were 15000 people and 17 million dollars. As to whether all this money is related to Armstrong's presence only, I don't know, but it's clear the organisers of Santos Tour Down Under feel so.

Armstrong will as always have most of the attention of journalists before, during and after the tour. Maybe he'll receive a special prize handed out by an official like Pat McQuaid to mark his fantastic career and an in-depth interview by Phil Ligget and Paul Sherwen like after the tour in 2005 will probably take place. Armstrong will probably arrive some time prior to the race, doing charities and visit cancer-victims, to spread the word and raise some funding to his and TDU partner's cancer awareness campaign.

Let's hope that those journalists who showed up on the press conference last year wearing Discovery Team kit leave that to the fans this year.

Picture: By X,, or here
Picture: By Tim Francis,, downloaded from here

Friday, 7 January 2011

Team Luxembourg showdown 1.2

I'm going to summarize my impressions and thoughts over last evening's show in Luxembourg. To be honest, it didn't quite live up to it's hype. Then again, what does? Ken Sommer and Brian Nygaard had promised a "spectacular show", "American style" - that didn't happen. It was something new, that's for sure and well orchestrated indeed, but the roof was never on fire. The team managed to present themselves professionally and the roster is indeed impressive. That is the most important matter. An exciting mix of older, experienced riders like O'Grady, Bennati, Voigt and Cancellara, of course there is the Tour's runner up Andy Schleck and his brother Fränk, as well as younger riders with promising futures ahead. The fact that Brian Nygaard apparently had hired half the cirque de soleil to perform during the show, didn't quite do it for me but proves that the team is not afraid to do things their way. I like that in a team, to do their best to be different, establish a rhythm of their own. The flip side of that coin is that the higher the expectations, the higher the fall. Just ask Team Sky which many believe failed to live up to the expectations given prior to the season.

This was just a show, remember? The team's roster is very robust and will be a force to follow in the season.

A rare guest
What surprised me the most is the visit from Pat McQuaid, I can't recall seeing McQuaid at any other team presentation before. That said, it might have happened, I've been mistaken before. It doesn't matter if he got invited by Nygaard, Luxembourg Cyclist Federation or the Prime Minister himself; the signal effect is significant. There are great riders on the team, and I find it super that McQuaid has taken his time to be with riders, staff and others in the industry, but then he must do so to every team. Time will show.

He also said that something like: "...this team has everything cycling is proud of". At the same time Kim Andersen, the leading DS, was present among the team's staff. There has been some controversy regarding Kim Andersen amongst people connected to the industry lately, due to him being one of very few in cycling tested positive five! times in his career as a cyclist.

Back-up and marketing
Earlier yesterday, the Schlecks, Cancellara and Flavio Becca took the opportunity to meet and greet with the Prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker, even offering him a jersey. Mr. Juncker also showed some sportsmanship trying the jersey on.
There were rumours that the team was partial backed financially by the Luxembourg state, but I have not been able to confirm that.

The Schlecks, Luxembourg Prime minister Juncker, Fabian, Lucien Lux and Investor Flavio Becca.
Pic by Gerry Huberty

Sponsor Trek is rumoured to put in 3 million € in total which should give the team a good start along with Becca's cash. Mercedes, energy company Enovos, Luxair, Shimano, Speedplay and Schwalbe are the other sponsors. This should indicate that the money will come from Becca, Enovos and Trek, while the rest supports with gear only. That helps enormously though. For more about how the team started check this Velonation article here.

Still it is a bit strange that Becca being a businessman, apparently does not want to promote his own company in the team name. However, he's been given a fair amount of marketing time already with the team and it will probably just be more. 

Jersey side
The clothing is quite simple in a good way that is, at least to me. Nothing spectacular there. Reminds me a bit of Sky and Garmin, but it's definitely not as Sky-ish as Garmin's. Don't know if the names and flags on the collar is going to work for the fans watching on TV or by the road but a lot can happen during the season with regards to R&D. 

Picture of Schlecks & co:

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Team Luxembourg showdown

Tomorrow the world get to see the mythical and mysterious PRO team everybody has been talking about. What to expect? According to Brian Nygaard's twitterfeed, the riders will be equipped with brand new suits. Those who look forward to see the Schlecks hanging from the roof wearing leopard-underwear will probably be disappointed. The team kit will be presented along with bikes and cars. The sponsors will guaranteed be there with a show, carefully orchestrated.

Ken Sommer, the marketing manager of the Luxembourg pro cycling project, is an experienced man when it comes to marketing matters. Remember how much praise PRO team Cervelo got the last seasons for it's openness, and fan-access? Guess who was the guy staging that? Yep, Ken Sommer. Nygaard says on cyclingnews, that the team will "break with tradition" and do something spectacular, "American style". The presentation will take place in front of 4000 fans. That is something else all right. Don't know if there will be hallelujahs and standing ovation inside, but pretty close I reckon.

So what's in a name? Even though Jacob Fuglesang somehow "leaked" the name of the team to be "Team Leopard" along with the jersey some time ago, this can be altered tomorrow. After all, I guess Nygaard and Sommer want the show to be remembered.

For live stream, go to tomorrow at 20:00 (European time that is).

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Broken bones

Off season is finally over. Those long months after the Worlds lay behind us, actually I believe they went past rather fast. I believe Twitter helped the days go by with lots of discussions and news.

Breaking bad
Along with racing season comes the less fortunate episodes, more specifically where cyclists get injured due to falls and crashes. Now, this is something PRO cyclists don't like to think about, even talk about. They suppress these thoughts, avoiding them as best as they can. I understand them perfectly, it's hard to do a job descending down a mountainside doing 90 km/h on thin tyres having that in the back of their mind. Nervous chatter in the team bus before difficult races says it all, no need to discuss the matter more. Coaches and road captains do what they can prior to the race to get the riders maintain focus.

Pain is a part of a cyclist's diary, we all know that. Pain from climbing a mountain is one thing, from breaking a collarbone and withdraw from PRO racing for a period of time is something entirely else. What is the most common injury a cyclist is exposed to? Leg? Collarbone? Knee? No, it is actually the face, at least according to this site. About 20% of all cyclists' injuries occur to the face. Remember Jens Voigt's face after that horrible crash on stage 16 in the Tour 2009? Here you see the result some days later. That's why we wear helmets...

For cyclists it's never a good time to break the collarbone. Last year Team Sky's Kurt Asle Arvesen crashed within the neutralised zone at the Tour of Qatar, before the stage of that day had started, breaking his collarbone. What a tragic day to the team as well as to him personally. When a cyclist break the collarbone that early in the season, the rest of the season will be affected. For some it could be a good thing if you have the possibility to win the Worlds, but in Arvesen's case, he missed most of the Classics program. Good thing he's back this season with a vengeance.

The famous Italian rider Fausto Coppi broke some bones as well during his super strong career:
Collarbone x 2, pelvis, shoulder blade and a displaced vertebrae were the most serious injuries he experienced.

Fränk Schleck broke his collarbone on stage 3 in this years Tour de France, effectively putting him out of the game for some time. The Saxo-Bank riders and fans watched in horror as these scenes were all over the news that day. Many cycling news agencies said after the crash that under no circumstances would Andy Schleck be able to go for yellow now. Don't know about you but I found this year's Tour to be exciting right to the very end.

The Tour Down Under starts in a few days. Let's hope that the riders stay safe and avoid the worst episodes. The season is long, but the hard work they have done during the autumn will be lost, and new goals for the season will need to be set if they break their collarbone.

Monday, 3 January 2011

How fast is Farrar

We seen the sprinters thunder towards the finish line, all elbows and teeth. Great fun listening to commentators like the legendary Phil Ligett and Paul Sherwen, insisting that the riders move at a speed of 60-70 km/h. The peloton gain about one minute per km on the break away when the finish line is close. I love seeing those nervewrecking marvellous scenes when the peloton roars and swallow a small break away when it is only 400 metres to go. That's some calculation by the different Sport Directors. What a disappointment to the riders in the break away, being alone for 150 km only to be catched just before the line. They will not have a easy day next day, having given all they've got on the bike to stay clear from the peloton.

How do the sprinters train to accomplish that speed? It certainly takes it turn on the sprinters, being able to actually sprint after 185 kilometres and 5, 5 hrs on the bike. Sprinters are normally shorter and more bulky than other riders. As a result they struggle if there are some climbs in the race. Not many knows that sprinters does not get carried to the finish line; in order to sprint they need to give away their capacity to climb, which in return gives them no easy days on the bike.

Here's how Tyler Farrar trains his ability to reach his top-end speed, normally sprinters do these after some hours on the bike as well.

Via TGTProCycling

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Crystal ball

Everybody has written about their best cycling moments of 2010. Therefore, I see no point in repeating it. Not that I don't have an opinion about it, but all the great moments have been debated and on various blogs and cycling news sites already.

Instead I am going to do something I usually don't; predict the future (with a little twist):

- Gilbert quits spring season early to focus on the Tour - wins two stages
- Mark Cavendish wins five stages in the tour, green jersey to Sagan
- Tom Boonen great in the classics, glued on Cancellara's wheel for a change
- Then Breschel, EBH and Hushovd win G-W, RVV and R-B respectively
- The Giro becomes spectacular and Basso secures his win once more
- Riders participated in the Giro is knackered and do very bad in the Tour as a result
- Brailsford finally sees Arvesen's qualities as road captain and sends him to the Tour
- Hesjedal makes GC top five in the Tour - Vaughters celebrates in a blue argyle suit
- Richie Porte takes second in the Tour
- Andy Schleck took "101- how to change his gear while climbing" and wins the Tour
- Contador wins the Vuelta 2011, the only country he's allowed to compete in.
- Cancellara makes the World TT his as last year
- Cav wins the Worlds

By this time next year we'll see. Just don't run to your bookie yet...

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Your choice

Climbing. Rolling hills. Rise from the saddle and hammer your pedals as hard as you can. Higher, always higher. These words make some people sick and some shiver with excitement.
It is something every cyclist at some point have to deal with; whether to be a cyclist or give in to the pain and crawl back to the place we came from. Sounds like I'm the hardest of nails but in fact I'm not. As a matter of fact, I'm not especially good at climbing. However, I like what they do with me as a cyclist and as a man. What I do know is that ups and downs are what we all deal with in our daily lives, and since cycling to me is almost a metaphor for how you face your life, that's how it is. You can not control what lies ahead of you, but you can decide how you will encounter what you meet.

We all know it is impossible to win any of the Grand Tours without possessing the ability to climb well. The capricious mountains tower above you and present you with a choice. You can effectively endure the effort and cope with the pain or you can roll over and walk away while trying to tell yourself you'll be back another day.

The ability to get over a hill is not reserved the Grand Tours. How many times have Ronde van Vlaanderen been settled up the Muur? It's not like the Muur is somewhat similar to the famous mountains in the Tour or Giro with is length of only 475 meters but if you are present at Vlaanderens mooiste, the look on the riders' faces says it all. Like mentioned above, pain is invertible. It is not necessarily bad for you, and there is a huge difference in being in pain and being injured.

2011 has presented us with a clean set of drawing sheets. Whether your choice is based upon principles or on joy, you have a possibility to do exactly what you expect of others. To be a part of an extraordinary league of people - a complete rider. I know I will.

It is your journey. Grab it. With both your hands.