July 1, 2011
Why Basso? Well, I started with the favorites and started eliminating riders who would not win the tour. That left Basso as the only man standing. I know that is not really a ringing endorsement but that’s all I have this year. Here is my thought process.
Contador. Now that Contador is in, everyone is jumping on the Spaniard’s bandwagon. I’m not so sure. I think those bandwagon jumpers will be saying “Where’s the beef?” three weeks from now. I just don’t think you can win the double (Giro and Tour) in this day and age. The last rider wo did so was Marco Pantani in 1998 and he had a little help. Even with pharmacology, he needed a faltering Jan Ulrich to take the jersey. I’d rather look at more recent examples where riders who fared well at the Giro were spectacularly absent from the Tour. The most recent example is Ivan Basso who, for the first time in his career, is skipping the Giro to focus on the Tour. Why should I argue with him. Bottom line, you can’t have both.
Andy Schleck. Those who are not falling in behind Contador are going with Andy Schleck. I fully understand that and I will put Andy on the top of my list of picks from the heart. My problem is I look at the TTT and the Individual Time Trials and I can’t help but hear the quote from the famous Ty Webb. “You’re not good Andy, you stink.” So Andy will play the role of PouPou again this year.
Levi is losing the race against father time. If he had a couple of years back he could sneak a peek at the podium and maybe even the top step. I’ll say it flat out, I have never been a believer in Cadel. The temperamental Aussie is good at most disciplines but not great at any. I don’t see him even on the podium. Bradley Wiggins is more of a top five finisher, not a real contender.
An unexpected podium visit may come from Rabobank’s Robert Gesink.
So that leaves Basso. He knows how to win and he is finally focused on this race. While not a great time trialist, he is good enough not to lose the Tour in the race of truth which should be enough to win the Tour.
June 24, 2011
Early in my career, I worked at a start-up software business that went public. The process was very interesting. First was the road show. Senior executives travelled all over to potential investors strutting their stuff. They tried to generate interest and get them interested in participating in the public offering. “Bet on me and you’ll win!” was the message. Much like the most recent road races. The Tour de Suisse and the Dauphine were the road shows for riders looking to make a squad like Tom Danielson and for riders with designs on winning like Andy Schleck.
Tom Danielson may have done enough to get Jonathan Vaughters to bet on tommy with one of his 9 Tour de France slots. I’m not sure if Andy’s road show was successful.
After the road show came the quiet period. This was time for the potential investors and investment media to go away and deliberate on what they saw. Companies can’t issue and financial data that could have an effect on analyst’s’ recommendations. We are now in the pre Tour quiet period. Time for the professional and amateur analysts to take what they saw and issue their recommendation.
June 22, 2011
This year’s Tour de Suisse surpassed the Dauphine for competitiveness and stood out as the supreme tune-up for the Tour de France. Here we found out that the Little Prince, Damiano was more of an accidental winner of the Giro back in 2004. Damiano showed he can climb and sprint but can not time trail. This style makes him more of a Classics rider suited for the tough courses like Liege-Bastogne-Liege in the Spring and the Tour of Lombardy in the fall. His downfall in stage races? Time trialing.
In a medium length course, Levi Leipheimer put more than two minutes into Cuenego allowing him to take first place but four seconds.
The only question I have now is who should I pull for in the Tour de France. Dauphine winner Bradley Wiggins and Levi are solid top ten to top five picks but ate not podium worthy. Andy Schleck did not impress me. Does Contador even have hotel reservations? It should be exciting.
June 17, 2011
The Criterium Du Dauphine is a popular tune up for the Tour de France. However, while the roads are the same as in July, the racers are different. The top riders tend to hold back lest they expend valuable energy in June that might be needed in July. Thus is the new science of cycling.
So it was refreshing to see Bradley Wiggins defend his lead in the race. He dug deep into his famed “Suitcase of Courage” to defend his lead over the past few days. The question is was that at the expense of the Tour de France? Did he really have a shot at a podium in Paris? This should be a good backstory starting July 2nd.
July 27, 2010
I remember talking to someone who does Marketing for Major League Baseball. He mentioned that one challenge was to keep people talking baseball during the off season. That is why you see MVP and Cy Young awards as well as other activities in the dead of winter. Get people talking about your sport all year round. Well, I’ll give you 39 reasons we will be talking about cycling long after Mother Nature has our bikes up on rollers or trainers. That is the 39 seconds between Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck.
How can you not believe in a higher authority after this year’s tour. That 39 seconds can’t be a random coincidence. It has to be part of someone’s grand plan. That someone has one heck of a sense of humor. Attack, drop chain, replace chain, lose 39 seconds. Have the time trial of your career and lose by….39seconds. If the margin was 38 seconds in Paris then you may have some people griping. Have it be 40 seconds and the other side can say that the Stage 15 decision didn’t matter. But spot on 39 seconds? Both sides have the fuel for a long debate.
July 19, 2010
Character is doing the right thing when nobody’s looking. There are too many people who think that the only thing that’s right is to get by, and the only thing that’s wrong is to get caught. ~J.C. Watts
Well Alberto, you got caught. I have always been a fan of your ability. I rooted for you when it seemed that your whole team worked against you last year. Unfortunately, today your career may have been defined by one classless move.
Ironic isn’t it. Lance Armstrong who is known for breaking an opponent physically and mentally could not get into your head. Then some kid from Luxemburg who by most accounts is a happy-go-lucky kid forced you to make a completely classless move. You, Menchov and Sanchez took advantage of a situation that you were honor bound to uphold. Odds are you could have taken Andy in the Time Trial. I guess you could not wait.
I am reminded of a Shakespearean quote.
Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.
Also, own up to your actions to say “When I launched my attack, I was not aware of the incident. When I was told about it, we had a solid lead and we were going full gas.” Passing a guy dressed in yellow bent over his chain is kind of hard to miss.
May 20, 2010
I can’t remember a time when I was not into sports. Either I was playing sports, reading the newspaper , or watching on TV. One of the advantages of going to a Catholic high school was the blazer we had to wear. I also always drew the last seat in the first row due to my last name beginning with a “D.” When the Phillies would play an afternoon game -quite often back in the day- I would put a transistor radio into my breast pocket and run the earphone through the sleeve and into the palm of my hand. I looked like just another student resting his head on his hand.
Funny thing is, I never fell in love with the stars. I always went for the grinders. The guys who worked twice as hard to be half as good. I identified with them since that mirrored my own paltry athletic career. While most boys worshiped Dr. J, I saved a piece of hero worship for Bobby Jones. Who, in the words of former Sixer GM Pat Williams “Bobby gives two hours of blood, showers, and goes home.” Sometimes grinders break through and become stars of a sort. The ultimate grinder-made-good is Jens Voigt.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that I have grown to love two sports that are the grinders of the sporting world. First and foremost, Cycling and more recently, I have developed an affection for Lacrosse. The later sport is through my son who is currently following his father as a grinder in a grinder sport.
One of the downsides to following these second tier sports is that they only time they make the front pages is when there is bad news. We all know by now about the horrible tragedy in Virginia and of course, cycling is front page again with Floyd Landis’ admission. Even more unfortunate, the sport gets defined by these stories.
I am hearing that Lacrosse is full of thugs, that the sport is too violent. I’ve engaged in countless debates as to whether cycling is a dirty sport and full of cheaters. Bad people play sports. All sports. NBA players are frequently making the police blotters for rape, weapons, and drug charges. How many non-cyclists showed up on BALCO’s ledgers. Is professional football a bad sport because Ben Roethlisberger is a scum bag?
It is a tough line to walk when I try to defend the sport without defending the abhorrent acts of any of its individuals. I think all such arguments are just white noise or better yet, akin to the “Wa wa wa wa wa” of any adult in a Peanuts cartoon.
I’ll keep tilting at those windmills. Twice as hard to be half as good.
May 20, 2010
This morning, my inbox was flooded with emails along the lines of “Did you hear?” Unfortunately, I did. Again. Another cyclist coming clean after years of protesting his innocence. Increasingly, I am getting disenchanted with my sport.
I started this blog in July of 2006 and found it fun and cathartic to express my views on professional cycling. I would scan the news and provide a brief interpretation from my point of view. Shortly after starting my blog, the Floyd Landis story broke. I weighed in occasionally, tried to lighten the mood often, and really tried to keep the other news alive. I did not want my blog to become a doping column. The problem is that quite often, the only stories were of doping. Basso, Hamilton, Vinokourov, Heras, Rico, and on and on and on. Dick Pound got more cycling press than anyone. His “Q score” in cycling was probably higher than Alberto Contador.
Then cycling acquired an autoimmune disease and started to attack itself. Pound vs. McQuaid became a bigger draw than MMA. Over the last year, my writing became sporadic since it was no longer cathartic but maddening. I’ll still write from time to time but I’m in a cycling low right now.
I still read the news, follow the races, and cheer for riders. And pray they are clean.
February 15, 2010
Floyd Landis is back in the news. If you remember, back when Floyd was fighting for his professional life, he had copies of multiple files from the Chatenay-Malabry lab. Those files showed how poorly samples were handled and multiple mistakes made by the lab. It seems that those files were also stolen.
Four years later, the French want to talk to Floyd about his part in the hacking. An arrest warrant was issued after Landis ignored a summons sent last November. An international warrant was also issued for Dr. Arnold Baker. I have no idea what this means for the rider who just recently left his US based team OUCH (now United Healthcare). Just as he was looking good on the bike again.
Maybe this is in retaliation for Roman Polanski?
October 5, 2009
Next July will mark 100 years since Octave Lapize spat those words at Tour founder Henri Desgrange. Those venom-laced words came after the inclusion of the Tourmalet. Ever since that day, the Col du Tourmalet has towered both literally and figuratively over the Tour de France.
A few facts about the Tourmalet. The Tourmalet is 19.4 km long with an average gradient of 7.4% . It bites the hardest with a 10.2% max gradient at the very end. The Tourmalet has been featured more times than any other mountain pass in Tour history including the past two editions. Even the Vuelta has crossed the Tourmalet on a few occasions. However, there has not been a mountain top finish at the Tourmalet since 1974. I’m not counting the ’02 and ’04 finishes at La Mongie. The Tour just got too big for the Grande Dame.
So, what do you do for the 100th anniversary of the Col du Tourmalet? Well, word leaking out of Belgium via Cyclingnews is the Tour may have a stage finish at the summit of the Tourmalet. The stage finish will be on the second ascent of the mountain. That’s right, riders may have to ride up the mountain twice in one stage.
I think riders may spit out a few expletives of their own to mark the occasion. Remember David Millar’s finish line abandonment during the 2002 Vuelta? Leaving his bike at the finish line atop the Angliru. Didn’t Einstein talk about insanity as doing things over and over again? Maybe that will be the word sent the way of the latest Tour boss.