Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The mental edge - crucial to perform maximum

"We have raced every race on it its own merit" - Brailsford

The difference in Team Sky this year compared to last year is quite big. A couple of days ago we had Millar pointing out in the media that "Sky didn't give us the proper respect", he rants on giving Wiggo an elbow while he's at it, saying that Wiggo should be happy with top ten in le Tour. This could be described as a turf war, some guys saying "bad" things about their opponents, much like football, really. Millar is said to be a gentleman on the bike, not as much as Sky's Barry, but still.
Gilbert making the Schlecks work for their salary

Downloaded here.

Funny thing is, Wiggo lashed out like every other athlete on his way out would do, or perhaps the more correct word is could instead of would. This is partly what irritated many cycling fans last year, including many Brits. Some might say it was unprofessional saying so. Like I've written before, I'm so happy cycling is not like football, but some temperature is fine by me. However, I see that Team Sky did made some choices last year which they failed to live up to, this year the tone is more relaxed and humble, something  that suit them way better.

Many factors can influence a result. Andy Schleck has been criticised for not having enough mental strength. Brailsford's comment on the top says a lot. Brailsford made that comment when he was interviewed by cyclingnews, and he referred to last year as "... looking at the tour de France and everthing in reference to the tour".
This, of course, sets the direction of focus, of attention, of every factor that should have been given the appropriate attention needed during every race before the tour. Not that every rider didn't gave their everything, Flecha had a great classics victory, EBH won a stage at Dauphiné, but I believe generally that when the focus is not 100% there, it's easy to avoid pushing every muscle to the limit. After all, Team Sky success was measured in July, not April. 

Another side effect was pushing a lot weight on Wiggo's shoulders, which proved not to be the best way of doing things. So far Team Sky has 16 victories, about the same as last year. So one could argue that the shift hasn't had any impact on the number of wins. However, people have said their wins are more valuable this year compared to last year, Wiggo showed that with his great win in the Dauphiné. 
Take the pain...

From Chasing Wheels blog.

Cyclists monitor their physical training from day to day, at least most of the pros do so, downloading their SRM data. Many don't train their mental strength the same way. When physical training is much the same, most riders have access to the latest technology, the psychological aspect becomes more important.

We will see if we are able to spot who have done their homework in July. 

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Cervelo's new superbike

Cervelo S5 FM70

Photo by Kristoffer Øverlie Andersen, downloaded here

The cycling industry is working overtime these days, prior to the tour. They produce new kit and kit with the special colour, in case a rider find himself in green or yellow. Some even produce a new bike. The Cervelo S5 has been rumoured to be in stores for some time, and eager fans have hoped to see it in bikestores tout de suite.

During the Norwegian National RR Championship, reigning WC Hushovd was using a somewhat special bike. It didn't look like a S3. @euanlinsay tweeted first about the bike being approved by the UCI, and I followed the race closely to find out more. And a nice bike it is.

Hushovd is familiar with S-series from Cervelo, after all, he won the WC on a S3 some nine months ago.
This S5 FM70 appears to be even more aero, and according to Hushovd himself, interviewed by, saying the bike is "very stiff and responsive." The bike is so fresh that it arrived in Norway from Toronto via London a couple of days ago. A special engineer was sent from Italy to set up the bike properly. The UCI approved the bike on Friday.
Aero you said?

Photo by Kristoffer Øverlie Andersen, downloaded here

The interview Hushovd did and some more pictures can be found here, at The text is in Norwegian but that is manageable.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Who dares wins?

By taking a quick look at the tour de France rosters, it could seem like Cavendish will get an easy way to stage wins. It might be so, but there are several others who can be successful, if they have the guts and the DS have the courage to meet the current challenges with some genius tactics.
No guts no glory

Downloaded from bikeradar.

As you all know, the point system has been upgraded before this years tour. The Inner Ring has a good post describing the details. It is rather strange that a successful sprinter like Cavendish, winning "every" sprint stage there is, ending up not winning the green jersey. People tend to forget that the Maillot vert is a point classification jersey, not necessarily a sprint jersey. Anyway, the ASO has decided to amp up the point competition this year, along with new points rule in the KOM-competition. The question remains; will the new system be to Cav's advantage? If the correlation between green jersey and stage winner is to be better, why increase the points in the intermediate sprint?

I hope the battle for green will be as fierce as ever, and from my point of view, at least during the first couple of weeks, it will be. The first stages are more hilly than those in the end, creating opportunities for riders like Hushovd, Gilbert and Boasson Hagen (if he starts).

What I think is great about the new point system, is that the teams really need to watch each other closely. Letting a break away get away will probably happen, but when 20 points are at risk, the excitement will be there. The aggressive riders can get a high ROI, while the ones only going for stage wins can struggle in the end.

I'm getting ready, let's hope this tour will be a memorable one, for the right reasons.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Brailsford's tough call

The Sky is the limit?

Photo by Laurent Cipriani , downloaded here.

This afternoon, the media got informed of Edvald Boasson Hagen's rash. Seems a bit strange that a rash would get so much attention but I found myself gutted, as well as thousands of other cycling fans.

Herpes-zoster or shingles, is something everyone who has had chickenpox, can get. The virus remains dormant in the nerve roots, awaken when it decides to. So now, it was EBH's turn, again so to speak.

Injuries are a normal part of any athlete's life. Edvald has had his share the recent years. Two years ago he got an achilles problem, keeping him out on the entire classics season. This season, it was his attempt to floor a tree, using his own body, which led to broken ribs. Having returned, in great shape, one can start to wonder, why him? This incredible talent, stepping up when cycling is in desperate need for new, fresh blood and again he's stopped.

As mentioned, I'm gutted. Not only because he's Norwegian, but also because he could do so well this year. He is in great shape, won the Norwegian TT again, destroyed the likes of Ivan Basso in the Dauphine uphill(!) and sprinting very good lately.

Luckily, EBH is a pro cyclist. This means he's trying to stay positive and keeping his edge. After all, no reason to think and rethink why this happened.
Let's hope that the medication work. I've heard people get well in six days, the normal period is from what I've heard six-twelve.

Like Twisted Spoke wrote today, Bradley Wiggins, apparently in super form, is probably not interested in having an infectious rider living closely with him. I don't think Brailsford can or will take that chance. Shingles is very contagious and precaution has to be made.

This will be a race against the clock, and time is not on EBH's side.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Strategy or tactic - a glimpse into the tour

Boardroom strategy

downloaded here.

Cycling and the corporate world is tied together. Money rules and nothing unravels this more than a GT. The pinnacle of the year is looming in front of us, just 12 short days away. The team's liaison has been pushed to the limits recently, trying to serve sponsors as well as a demanding press. Sponsors planning both the show-offs in Paris after the finish and trying to squeeze another person at the never ending dinners at the rest days, making team leaders pull what's left of their hair off in despair.

It is said that the challenge of being a leader is not understanding the practise of leadership, but practising the understanding of leadership. 

Jonathan Vaughters, the boss of Garmin-Cervelo, wrote on twitter that "some [riders] will be disappointed". Not that JV in some way is a bad leader, what he says shows he's got empathy, something a good leader should have. But he's right, someone will get disappointed and some has already been. Teams now show their cards to the opponents, and indeed, the alea jacta est.

Are there really any surprise in this, I hear you ask. Oh yes, is my reply. This reveal the different teams' strategy. 

From day to day basis, teams rely on tactics. In a 3-week GT, it's all about strategy. Some say strategy bridge the gap between ends and means. Some corporate people out there will read this now nod in a familiar way. According to Free Dictionary, a definition of strategy is:

  • The science and art of using all the forces of a nation to execute approved plans as effectively as possible during peace or war.
  • The science and art of military command as applied to the overall planning and conduct of large-scale combat operations.

And a war it is. Note that strategy is more than just about the riders, as you all know, there is no "I" in team... Where to place a soigneur with a wind jacket, food, water or a coke, when to get a massage, what hotel to stay in, is also an important part of strategy.
Thinking man

downloaded here.

American team BMC got their team roster out quite early, revealing that Hincapie will make his 16th appearance in the tour, building their team around Evans and Hincapie. BMC claim they have a "well-balanced team" but it is clear to me that they are leaving their top sprinters out.

Surprisingly Liquigas is rumoured to do the same. Not surprising that they focus on Basso, as he, if he get in shape, is amongst one-two who can match a tired Contador, but surprising because they are rumoured to leave Peter Sagan out. Yesterday, the young rider said to Cyclingnews that "a team built around Ivan Basso will go to the tour". This is such a disappointment to me, I would love to see Sagan wrestle it out with Boasson Hagen, Hushovd and Boom. Instead, The Gazetta reports Sagan for the line-up in the Vuelta.

Rabobank is doing the same, setting up Gesink for the podium. Breschel is still injured and Freire still struggles with his breathing problems in his nose. If not, perhaps the roster would look different. Still, both Lars Boom and ten Dam could make a difference in rolling hills and a Boom could very well nail a bunch sprint too.

Quickstep is relying on Boonen and Chavanel, their "normal" outfit for any race really. Boonen need to shine this tour to add to his palmares. So look for the blue and white in break aways and Boonen in the sprints.

The strategy is made, now it is up to the tactics. The Generals have made their masterplan, now it's up to the lieutenants to set the strategy into action. In some weeks, we will see if it is the team with the best strategy who will be dressed in yellow when the tour enters Paris.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Cavendish to Team Sky - what to expect?

This morning I woke up to the news that Cav's going to Team Sky, receiving impressingly £1,5 million a year.

Not a new rumour, according to different media outlets and Brailsford himself, Cav has been on the wish list a long time. Cav also enjoys a close relationship with his personal coach, Rod Ellingworth, who also happens to be a performance coach at Team Sky.
I'm coming home

What will this mean to the riders? 
Team Sky has from the beginning said that the team is all about getting a Brit to the top position on the tour de France podium. Does this indicate a shift in their focus? Many would said so, history shows that it is very difficult to win the tour while nailing the green jersey, at least with two different riders, which has been the case the last 20 years or so. The last years we have all seen the domination of HTC. Cav sets some premises and demands much of his team, that's why he has dominated GT sprints the last three years.

On the other hand, HTC has, at least the last year, had many different riders wining. Goss, Greipel, Degenkolb. Is this an indication that Cav is willing to let other team members win?  
The real question is; will the focus be stage wins or GC in GTs as well, and if it does, will the other riders in Team Sky be happy winning other races?

I don't think a Brit will win the tour as long as Contador's around, so perhaps has Brailsford accepted this and shifted the focus towards stage wins? After all, Team Sky is a team for Brits and Cav will have a natural place there, I'm just wondering if he will take too much room.

Team Sky has many great talents amongst the riders, EBH, Geraint Thomas, Appollonio, Kennaugh and Dowsett to mention a few. How will they react to Cav's return to Britain? After Renshaw's head-but, Cav showed he's not that dependant on a train as people have said.

I'm left with many questions, but if the rumour's true, the fastest man on the planet is coming home, and there is not a team around who'd not want to sign him, if they had the money. What the other riders will think, that's another important question. Will Team Sky now be a Skytrain or will they have several opportunities to go for victory. And, will Team Sky have focus on building talent?
Did you see that?
Photo 1 downloaded here.
Photo 2 downloaded here.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Camping the tour de France

Many people choose to spend their summer vacation in France, following the Tour de France as it moves around the beautiful landscape. People tend to choose the camping life, and I don't blame them. In my opinion, there are four ways of really enjoying the tour, for us "regular" folks. a) in a departure city b) in an arrival city c) camping in a mountain side or d) in Paris at the last stage.

These are my picks from a fan perspective. Factors I've considered are fans' possibility to interact with riders and teams, fans' possibility to see the riders, the caravan and the show over time.
If you want to make it a memorable moment, choose a mountain instead of in the middle of a flat stage. Seeing riders zip past you in 50 km/h isn't a good return on investment (ROI), in a blink of an eye, the peloton is gone. That said, I hope you don't run along the riders up the Galibier either, risking to cause a disaster.

Camping it is
Many of the climbs have good accommodations located close by, due to being ski-locations in winter time. However, you can count on teams, press and officials occupying most of these, so if you're not extremely fast when placing an order online as the tour "breaks"; bring your tent. When in France remember plenty of water, a hat, sunscreen and some cycling apparel of some sort. And if you don't wear a big smile on your face, you will.
Controlled chaos..

First rule: Remember that the French police normally close the mountains for non-official cars at around 6 PM on the evening before the stage. Many people have found themselves stuck at the bottom of the mountain on the morning of the stage, presented with a choice to walk up towards the top or cheer at the bottom. On flat stages the police normally stop all traffic 40 minutes before the caravan arrives.

People stay in campers, pitch their tents or stay in nearby hotels, and they really create life to the race. If you choose to camp on Alpe d'Huez and live near "the Dutch corner"on bend seven, expect a sleepless night. They party like it's 1999. They are not all Dutch by the way, but mostly.
Be there or be square

The spectators are a crucial part of the tour. They create the happy mood and there's nothing like the peaceful teasing of other nations, right?

Tourmalet 2009 - Velonews

Photo downloaded here.



Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Craft overshoes - a review

Finding the perfect overshoe is a continuing task. In my opinion, it is actually a very important item, at least when you live in conditions I face. If you don't know what I'm talking about, you probably live in California, south of France or Texas - somewhere warm and sunny.
Let's say the day you thought should be sunny turned ugly halfway. Pouring, ice cold rain vs road shoe. I know which will win, I was surprised once - and I hope it will be long until next time. Being cold, wet and miserable is a cyclist mantra, but I prefer staying dry for as long as possible. I would go so far to say overshoes are a necessity. A nice pair of overshoes look PRO as well, remember Cancellara winning Paris-Roubaix 2010?

So I bought myself a new pair of overshoes. Yes, I bought them, no discount either in case you wondered.
Let's begin the fun - will it fit?
Size 43 in shoes=XL in overshoes

The Craft rain bootie is actually very good. Firstly, it is slim fit. I don't know about you, but bulky neopren overshoes are not my style. The Craft overshoe is thin, seams have been taped both inside and outside, which always is a good sign.

The basics
The inside of the overshoe consists of very thin fleece, adding comfort to you while riding in wet conditions. As mentioned, the seams are taped on the inside as well, meaning that the chance to stay dry is far greater. Riders, be aware I wrote "far greater", not guaranteed.
Fleece equals comfy, at least mentally.
On the outside, the fabric is water and wind resistant. The material is very elastic, giving the tight fit I like. It has reflective prints on the side as well as a thin reflective line along the zipper on the back, which is great for safety.

The only thing I was worried about concerning this overshoe, was the zipper. Being one of two critical aspects of an overshoe, the zipper is the first thing to break or cut holes in the overshoe. The zipper is a so-called 3/4 zipper, so applying the cycling in the overshoes might be tricky the first times. The overshoes are to a certain degree quite open underneath the shoes, it's just a broad velcro holding the two pieces together.

The zipper on the Craft shoe look very thin to me, but so far it has been working quite well. Of course there is a flap on the inside of the zipper, preventing water to come inside. This flap annoys me, since it has got the initiative to get stuck in my zipper while I zip it. This could be a source to everlasting pain, but I prefer to register it under the fact that the shoes are quite new.
Reflective line and the zipper

The overshoe also has the mandatory Kevlar reinforcements on its nose and on the shoe cover heel. They are positioned to areas vulnerable to wear and make sure you are able to walk without destroying your overshoes. They give the overshoes a good grip on the cycling shoes as well, so that they stay in place.

The shoes have a Velcro adjuster on the very top, making it easy to get a tight fit around the ankles. No good in having water resistant overshoes if all water known to man can get into the shoes by following your ankles.
Ready to ride

I mentioned it is slim, right? It is to put on too, but that is how things are. The overshoes' size is so small you can easily bring them in a jersey pocket if you want to, but I think it is necessary to stop to put them on. I've seen pros putting them on while on the bike, but either I'm not pro, or my overshoes are too new, I can't imagine doing that. For safety reasons, use your head.

The overshoes work very well. I'm pleased with having bought them, they are water and wind resistant, not water proof, even though I didn't get wet while using them during rain. On the downside, the shoes are vulnerable to water underneath and the zipper look very thin. That said, the zipper hasn't let me down yet. The fit is superb and they do their job.

Remember to bring your road shoes when buying, so you can try them on.
Tight fit - a definitive bonus.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Cycling's makeover - the new guys in town

Towards the end of 1990, some Norwegian artists, thought highly of themselves and their "bohemian" style. The claimed to be the new wine, they would somehow be "the next big thing" in their respective arts. Whether they were the  Beaujolais Nouveau is to be left unsaid, just one of them has made an impression on me, the photographer Per Heimly.
One of them, a writer called Ari Behn, is now married to HRH Princess Märtha.

You will probably ask, what on earth has this anything to do with cycling?

This spring has been phenomenal for racing, many new riders have won many races and they are truly cycling's new wine. I wrote a post early describing my picks for this season, some them have blossomed, others will hopefully do so and others again I missed.

To me, these guys represent a change. They are from a different breed than the others, they are not a part of the omertà which has haunted cycling for years, some argue it still does. They are some of my hope for the seasons to come. Imagine, where, if taken proper care of, will these be in ten years?

Jérôme Coppel
He really set his mark on his territory last year by doing 9th in Paris-Nice. He has got the time trial capacity all right, two French national jersey back home and two bronze medal from U-23 time trial as well. Last year, he was up there with Contador up Alpe d'Huez. This year he finished second again in the Vuelta a Murcia, behind Contador. Yesterday he added 13th place in this year's Daupiné to his palmares too.

This guy has been promising for some years and I think (hope) he will continue, he may be just what French cycling needs, a future GC contender in a GT.

Peter Sagan
Last year Sagan came to my attention, destroying the field in Tour Down Under and in Paris-Nice. Sadly for him, the end season got him bad, struggling with stomach illness effectively blocked him from racing. Today, he was there again, winning stage 3 of Tour de Swiss. Really hope he is fully recovered, he is such a talent. What will he focus on? He can climb well, he sprints well, and can put down a decent time trial too.

John Degenkolb
At 21, this German has no respect. Really introducing himself to the pro peloton this year and what better way to do so by winning. Silver and bronze in U-23 road race, this guy would indeed be dangerous. Stage wins in Algarve, Bayern and with two wins last week in Dauphiné has really put him on the map this year. One can wonder what is next.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Interview with the Overlord himself - Not Pat McQuaid

Pedaling the road has for a very long time enjoyed the satirical comments from @UCI_Overlord, who tweets about the cycling community and "information" from Pat McQuaid and UCI in particular. We were so lucky to be able to interview him the other day. The interview had to be made by mail due to his tight schedule and travels all over the world... In addition to this, the true identity of the Overlord needs to be kept a secret, so mail was the solution we landed on.

As mentioned, I have long been a fan. In my opinion, the Overlord combines humour with deep insight of both cycling in general and the UCI. I'm not all that enthustiastic of every satirical account which seems to be all over twitter these days, but the Overlord manages to balance humour with knowlegde, a powerful combination.

So here it is, your chance to get to know a bit more abour the person behind the account, what made him do this and what does he say about the response.

The Overlord himself - no wait, it's Pat McQuaid.

PDR: Good morning Mr. UCI_Overlord, how has your day started so far? 

UCI_O: It's been a busy day. I begin the day catching up on what I missed in other time zones, respond to emails, see what is upcoming for the day, before I settle into a typical doppio espresso and breakfast. This is followed by orienting my staff for the "real person" job for the day's activities. 

PDR: You started your account some months ago, coming from nowhere. What made you open the account and why did you choose Pat McQuaid?

UCI_O: That is a very interesting question. I began on twitter upon a recommendation from a friend for another venture late last year, after have success with that venture on facebook. I'm an avid cyclist, and a staunch bicycling advocate in my local community, so I began with a personal account with that aim for raising awareness for our area when it comes to cycling advocacy. I linked up with a few fellow avid cyclists/humourists (Particularily @dwuori, @TDFLanterne, @velocentric, & @cycleboredom) with whom I shared a similar voice. After a background in journalism in my younger years, which I turned my back on for greater monetary gain, twitter gave me the confidence to begin blogging. The blogs found an audience and soon it became apparent that my focus was on the fractious approach to organized cycling -- almost hackneyed, if you will.
I've always had an ethos that supports the David versus the Goliath. I cheer for the underdog, and I think reading about Graeme Obree's experiences with the UCI, and watching the film based upon his life struck a nerve. This, along with the current political climate and the exposure of corporate/governmental corruption by Wikileaks, spoke to me.
I had this conversation, longer form, one night, with the individuals previously mentioned. In fact, one in particular, who will remain nameless, basically goaded me into using the satirical personification of Pat McQuaid as the appropriate vehicle. Frankly, I'm not one to back down from a dare, so it was born. Based upon my research for numerous other cycling related written projects, I had a fairly good grasp on cycling politics and the personality that McQuaid has. McQuaid's tendency for colourful quotations, rooted in his firm belief that his opinion is the "correct" stance for all, in relation to cycling, was, in a word, breathtaking. I couldn't pass it up.

PDR: The response you've got has been tremendous. I remember in the very beginning, people were, at least I was, very curious and somewhat sceptical to this satire account. You quickly won everybody over. What does this tell you? In addition to this, what is it you enjoy the most and least about being the Overlord?
UCI_O: I've been somewhat overwhelmed and humbled by the response. I think my secret has been the fact that I spend the time to gain the knowledge about the intricacies of the UCI and many of the national federations, plus the Pro Peloton component. I've also spent many years studying the sport via the internet and also in print. So, I think what separates this account from others is that I have some meat behind the potatoes, so to speak. This also means that there is never repetition from day-to-day; I try to be unique in the approach, just like a "real person" would have. So, you're not hearing the same thing over and over again. There is some repetition, for continuity sake.
What this all tells me is that if an account like this has some small popularity, then we have issues in the sport overall. If the sport was healthy, thriving, inclusive and collaborative, I'd be out of this job. And happily so.

What do I like the most? Interacting with people who have a passion for this sport, but not necessarily from the same bag of experiences and historics that I bring. It gives me an opportunity to grow my knowledge by this interaction. I've made some wonderful friends through this, and I hope to meet many of them in person soon -- that has been the best by-product.

Least? Those with thin skins, who take themselves too seriously to have time to stop and laugh at the ridiculous nature of where we are at overall. Those are the ones that I end up going after with vigour, so I guess in some respects, it's given me the continued discipline of trying to turn things I like the least into a positive. That's a tough question, because I really don't find anything that I like the least, so-to-speak.

PDR: Hmm, can't please everyone I guess. Have you heard anything from the UCI or any other governing body in regards to you setting up the account? Perhaps any responses from anyone you will share with the readers?
UCI_O: It's been very entertaining. I received a direct message from the UCI on day 2 of the account telling me to stop. I responded in a very methodical way, based on the fact that McQuaid is a public figure. I've received emails of support for the account from those actually working for the UCI. There was a journalist who asked McQuaid on the start line of Paris-Roubaix directly about the account, and he responded that he'd looked at it a few times, that's the world we live in, and something about it being rubbish. I directly then added the rubbish part to the profile description. I've interacted with a few of his family members; in fact, one of his brothers has warmed up some, based on the a few recent tweets.
Many governing body representatives follow this account, and many folks have found empathy in following this account. Some have actually tweeted his whereabouts ahead of time, which has allowed me some fun in sharing my spin on real life situations. For example, I remember having fun during his appearance at a SportAccord function in London.
PDR: So Pat himself is well aware of this account's excistence? How fun this must be to you. You are obviously very into cycling and you have much knowledge about the PRO peloton and the UCI. What is it about cycling you enjoy and what is cycling's biggest threat in your opinion?
UCI_O: I've been involved in cycling in a variety of capacities, roles, and participation for the better part of 20+ years. Plus, I'm continually reading and absorbing information from a variety of sources. It's important to be knowledgeable and effective over a long term when it comes to satirical parodies, otherwise your shelf life is very short. I enjoy cycling because it is the one sport you can do on your own, do in a group, and feel connected to your surroundings directly. I thrive on the pain associated with riding, and I have a last man standing attitude in most things, which is a beneficial trait for this sport.

Cycling's biggest threat is a never-ending bureaucratic growth that threatens to choke the life and creativity out of cycling. The UCI is one such example, as absolute power corrupts absolutely. The continued sophistication of the masses due to informational technologies, I believe the need for this style of organization is dated and outmoded. In fact, I might say that the bureaucracy could be partially responsible for the proliferation of doping opportunities, but that is for another time.

PDR: I see, wonder if the florishness of bureaucracy in sport, reach it's peak soon.
What future plan(s) do you have with the account, what is the next step?

UCI_O: That is under lock and key. Ha! sorry. Keep reading to find out what's next.

PDR: Thank you for the interview Overlord, back to never ending meetings and other important business I guess? Anything you would like to share with the cycling community?

UCI_O: Absolutely. The life of a faux character never ends and is never dull. Onward to the next snarkfest....
Never be afraid to make that first big step, and the small steps forward afterwards, you never know where that path may lead, and despite its potential scariness, the journey is exhilarating! 

Something tells me we have not heard the last from the Overlord....

You can find the Overlord not only on twitter, but also every Friday for his weekly column for stella gents at And be sure to check out the interaction between @Flammecast and the @UCI_Overlord on twitter.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Dirty tricks in the peloton

What happened
Yesterday, the Norwegian edition of Procycling,, published a story from Glava Tour of Norway. The Glava Tour of Norway, a 2.2 race where many Pro Conti teams participated, took place this weekend in Norway.

The bearer of the polka-dot jersey, Swede and member of Team Sparebanken Vest-Ridley Christofer Stevenson, was allegedly obstructed by a competing team several times. This made him lose the battle for the KOM jersey. At the time, Stevenson fought with Joker Merida rider Stian Remme for the jersey, and the intermediate mountain points were key.

Before the final stage, Christofer (left) poses with his brother  Michael

Photo by Jarle Fredagsvik, downloaded here.

According to Stevenson himself, happening just before the final mountain sprint, he was first "surrounded" by two Joker Merida riders just before a turn, where one them forced himself in front of Stevenson, apparently leaving Stevenson with two choices; out in the ditch or hit the brakes. Stevenson hit the brakes, lost Remme's wheel and had to start all over again. Just as Stevenson began to sprint, he felt an elbow or a hand restraining him by holding his hip, making it impossible to sprint properly. The result was that Remme won the final intermediate KOM sprint while Stevenson finished 4th or 5th. Remme won the overall KOM competition.

A furious Stevenson drifted back the UCI commissaries, who didn't notice the episode from their car. After finishing the stage, a video analysis of the incident didn't reveal any irregularities. Stevenson's brother, riding for a different team, confirms the episode as he allegedly saw it take place. The episode resulted in Stevenson writing an angry post on his blog, saying that "what Joker Merida did was as bad as doping".

The Joker Merida DS, Gino van Oudhove, said to that he didn't realised any irregularities during the episodes and feels the riders and staff representing Sparebanken Vest have handled the incident "in a ridicules way". Riders on Joker Merida denies having done anything wrong.

All or nothing?
What can we learn from this episode, is it possible to reach a conclusion? Probably not. At some point, all that is left is word against word, and I don't know whose words you like best.

I got to thinking, does this happen in the PRO peloton in the World Tour? We are accustomed to see riders from different teams shake hands as the brake away gets swallowed by the peloton, but what happens in the bunch? In my opinion, it is a very different thing to use team tactics to neutralise intermediate sprints, as we have seen in the tour, to hold a rider back physically.

Do you know any episodes from the PRO peloton, please do comment.


Sunday, 5 June 2011

The 2011 edition of the Giro - a brief review

Stage 20 - from Giro d'Italia website

Been thinking a lot about what my thoughts are regarding this years giro. Actually, my thoughts are divided; the tragic death of Wouter Weylandt was a reminder of the dangers in this sport and how small the margins are and I thought it cast a shadow on this race and the sport as well.

On the other hand, the giro provided us with spectacular racing and a scenery which really opened my eyes to Italy and cycling. Before you start ranting, allow me to clarify. The race for the pink jersey was over at Etna, but cycling, to me, is more than the race for the top spot on the podium. So I really enjoyed the race. I have highlighted some of the things I think is worth remember from this years giro:

  • The never ending climbs which scared 3/4 of the peloton
  • The scenery along the course
  • Contador total dominance
  • Rujano being under Contador's wings
  • Contador's maturing, giving three victories away 
  • Cavendish, Kristoff and all the others hanging on team cars up mount Etna
  • Nibali helicoptered to his hotel in order to get as much rest as possible (didn't work out according to plan btw)
  • The stage passing the colle delle Finestre was nothing short of spectacular, thanks to the terrain, snow and the insane amount of tifosi standing there.
  • Giro d'Italia setting the standard on social media - just fantastic to those of us who have to go to work
  • How the cycling world remembering WW on the stage after his tragic accident and the way his team crossed the finish line with Farrar
  • #108 WW

Anything I have missed?

Friday, 3 June 2011

The rainbow jersey - a season spoiler?

Cursed, bad luck or part of the game?

Photo by Thomas Rasmus Skaug.

It has been quiet from the reigning World Champion Hushovd after Paris-Roubaix. A vacation to Dubai with his family and the endless training rides around Monte Carlo, are some of the things he has been up to. No doubt he was disappointed, having dreamed about a victory in that particular race for years, an opportunity to do so wearing the rainbow jersey, is even more seldom. Witty tongues have said it is a rare as eating a steak contaminated with Clenbuterol... Hushovd did an interview three weeks after P-R, stating that everything was not tip-top in the Garmin team, read my post concerning that here.

Let's be honest, Hushovd's season hasn't been good. He is a man of few words, but it is easy to tell by the look on his face that he's not to happy himself.

Before the season kicked off, Hushovd's personal coach, Atle Kvålsvoll, wrote to me on twitter that Hushovd had planned three peaks to be "en forme"; Paris-Roubaix, the Tour and the Worlds.

Still, the God of thunder, Smash and what else he's being called, hasn't delivered up to his own goals or others for that matter. But judging from his three goals, he has some time to re-amp the expectations world wide.

There are other perspectives that need to be addressed. For instance, from a team/sponsor perspective, all seem to be pretty good. Could have been better with a win or two, of course, but I have never seen so much media and pictures of a WC before, so it got to be worth something. His season results have been missing in action and that is of more concern. Fans, commentators and journos have already started to whisper "the Curse of the rainbow jersey". To Hushovd's defence, of the big races he's attended so far, only one, the Paris-Roubaix, was the one he could win. Well, his placing in Milan-San Remo could have been better, but that is about it.
As a cycling enthusiast, I have many times criticized Hushovd for his lack of ability to position himself in the bunch. This applies for this season too. Always at wrong side of that crucial break away, a crash happened and Hushovd caught behind it and so forth. Then again, perhaps this is just a part of the game?

Many have mentioned that the rainbow jersey comes with an obligation to ride in a specific way. I do agree that honouring the jersey, or the fans, is important. Cadel Evans was a great WC in my eyes, he really rode with honour and panache. Perhaps it is unnatural for a sprinter (turned classics rider) like Hushovd to be out there in the front, to be more visible during races and not just in the final 300 meters?

Going for green again?

I don't have that much faith in Hushovd winning the Worlds in Copenhagen in September, that will be a race for the pure sprinters.

One thing is for sure, if Hushovd doesn't pick up a win or two during the Tour, his season will be miserable, and I think I know what race which will haunt him...until he nails it.