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