Wednesday, 25 January 2012

BMC training camp video compilation

It's the season for pro teams training camps. For some riders it is the second training camp with their new team, for others the very first. The nervous first chatter is (hopefully) over by now and the first 6 hours training rides are accounted for. The team is divided into groups depending on goals, social reasons, leadership reasons, season plans or simply due to transfer of experience.

Team BMC has been in Calpe, Spain for several days now, building the team by merging the different riders and staff together. The team to the very dynamic Sean Weide has made many videos from the camp, i have gathered some of them below. Like last year, Team BMC use social media well, in addition to releasing videos on their YouTube channel, they also have an audio line.

Here you can watch some of their latest videos for some insight in the training camp:

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Wild cards to the people

Last year's course

downloaded here.

The RCS Sport announced the wild card invitations to the giro and other major races earlier today. They opened up the process for these invitations by naming the 14 teams still in the competition just as the new year settled in. That meant that eight teams did not try to apply as there are 22 pro conti teams. The wild cards comes of course in addition to the 18 pro tour teams who automatically are granted a ticket to start the race.

The RCS Sport also emphasised the requirements the teams were to be measured by, The general director of the RCS, Michele Acquarone even informed more about the process on a blog on cyclingnews.

The people who made the choices, forming the RCS wildcard cycling commision, consisted of Giacoma Catano (CEO of RCS Sport), Michele Acquarone (RCS general director and at the giro helm), Mauro Vegni (RCS cycling technical manager), Marco Gobbi Pasana (marketing and communication manager) and Pier Bergonzi (Gazzetto dello Sport). These lucky or unlucky, if you prefer, were the ones responsible for choosing the lucky four wild cards winners.

As you all know by now, Androni Giocattoli, Colnago-CSF, Farnese Vini-Selle and NetApp got the upper hand.

What does this mean?
First of all, I appreciate the initiative from the RCS to be as open as they have been regarding the process. To me, I was surprised the presence of Italian teams was so high (3 out of 4), at least since Acquarone earlier talked about the globalisation in cycling. That said, I don't know how the voting was inside the commision, and since the giro is an Italian race, no one should really be very surprised.

What I truly liked is that the RCS had the courage to shut out Acqua Sapone, where Garzelli and Di Luca is a major force. Not that I have anything against that particular team or the named riders, but it shows that the RCS values other things very heavily too, not only former palmares. Every team that wants to race the giro need to step up their game according to the requirements given and not rely 100% on previous results.

Personally I would have loved to watch Marcel Kittel go head to head with Andrea Guardini, but I can be more than satisfied by watching Sacha Modolo of team Colnago-CSF do the same. These two Italian youngsters are a pair to follow closely for the future.
The boldest choice today was no doubt NettApp, the German team. Cycling in Germany has struggled earlier with the TV broadcasters pulling their plug on the tour, allegedly for  for the role doping has had in cycling.

Another thing to remember is the one Marco Gobbi Pasana tweeted me earlier this evening, that there are more races to consider. This is an important fact. The RCS gave out wild cards to several races like the Milan-Sanremo, Tirreno-Adriatico and Il Lombardia. If you consider the cards given with a broader scope, they are balanced, in my opinion.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

A change in strategy and tactics

It is impossible to predict the future with certainty, that is a fact. We can say what we think will happen, based on previous sightings or by falsification an hypothesis. In modern science, predictions are much used and quite reliable too, they say. Whether they are or should be considered as truth or just beliefs, is hard to say. But as everything these days, testing might be handy in situations where one does not know the future. According to Platon, Socrates, the old philosopher, said that "knowledge can be true belief - if it has been given an account of.", explained in a way, or defined if you will.

My coming prediction will have to wait to be falsified but I sure do think so and I do hope it will be true because people, we may have witnessed a change in cycling sneaking up on us.

Contador attacked and won on Mount Etna

photo downloaded here.

Leadership, orchestrating and sheer will
I wrote a post in 2011 about strategy and tactics just before the tour, you'll find it here. This post proved to be one the most popular ones, and I believe I'm not the only one finding this subject interesting.

My prediction for 2012 is that we will see more aggressive riding, more surprises, more spectacular attacks and more battling mano-o-mano in the GTs. Is this new, is it even worth mentioning, I hear you say. I think so. Even if the emperor hasn't got new clothes on, this is something I think we will see more to in the year to come. Why?

Of many reasons. Firstly I will like to point you to the excellent post by @Irishpeloton earlier this week, about Froome losing the Vuelta with 13 seconds.  That is amazing, or devastating, depending on your state of mind, but 13 seconds! That bring back memories of the battle between Le Professeur and Lemond. Now, the post by Irish peloton brings another factor to the table, time bonuses, but I will focus on the little things for a second. Just think about it. Three weeks of racing and 13 seconds in total between losing second place and winning first. When people, and probably Froome himself too, finally understood that he was a genuine contender for the victory, every second counted. People on twitter kept blaming Froome for not climbing 2 seconds faster than Cobo the last four stages, something that would put him in first place. Others blamed team management for not putting all forces behind Froome when he was clearly in better shape than Wiggo those weeks.

The same mistake we make in football, or soccer to you Americans out there. Every time a team is about to drop a league, people remember the poor wing missing the penalty shot in the last game, not the ten opportunities the attacker had to score during the first ten games of the season, which also resulted in losses. You might call this example borderline nonsensical but I think we will see an increased focus on the seconds from day one.

Fireworks in the making...

Photo by Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images, downloaded here.

Secondly, the parcourse invites to daring, spectacular attacks. Both Acquarone and Prudhomme have promised easier race this year than the last, something that could bring fireworks to the Alps and the Dolomites. Easier, shorter stages combined short transfers and a cleaner peloton will really make a change in team strategy and tactics. Remember Andy Schleck's and Contador's attack during the tour? One could argue that that was their only chance to gain time on the opponents, but I think this was only the beginning. The GTs of 2012 are set up so that one cannot sit and wait for the last TT (unless your name is Cadel or Wiggo) to determine the winner, every GT contender has to take advantage of his/her strength as well as surprise the opponents. 

I truly believe riders, team managers and DSs have learned that every second counts, bonus seconds or not. Some may say that this is nothing new, that is a "normal" change in tactics. I do not think so, I see this as a summary of several factors; parcourse, "wake-up calls" throughout the season, less doping in the peloton, the utilisation of ones speciality/strength on another level and the element of surprise. Leadership will be key this year, both on and off the bike, from the team car and at HQ. To orchestrate the team to perform at its best, to actually dominate the attacks the opponents miss or didn't foresee. I believe we're in for a treat this year, just wait.