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Friday, 31 July 2009
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Wednesday, 29 July 2009
So how did Wiggins go from being an Olympic Champion in the pursuit and a time trial specialist to becoming a grand tour contender? If we take a look back at the professional teams Wiggins has been with since becoming a pro back in 2001 we'll see the list is long; Linda McCartney Racing Team (2001), Française des Jeux (2002-2003), Crédit Agricole (2004-2005), Cofidis (2006-2007), Team Columbia-HTC (2008) and Garmin-Slipstream (2009-). 6 teams in 8 years seems like alot of teams in a relatively short time. Although Wiggins may not have been entirely happy at some of the teams he has been on in the past he had always maintained track cycling as his primary focus with his road career coming second. This may go some way to explaining why Wiggins tenure at each of his previous teams was fairly short lived and unsuccessful.
Things are different at Garmin-Slipstream. Wiggins and Jonathan Vaughters found each other at the right time. At the end of the 2008 season Wiggins parted company with Team Columbia-Highroad. Wiggins had made a decision that after the Beijing Olympics he would switch his focus away from the track to the road. He didn't want to limit himself to being one of Mark Cavendish's lead out men with limited opportunity for personal success so made the switch to Garmin-Slipstream where he would be given more freedom albeit working for team captain Christian Vande Velde in the grand tours.
Wiggins dedication as a professional has never been in doubt. As a multiple Olympic and world champion on the track Wiggins knows all about hard work and sacrifice. His switch in focus away from the track meant he no longer needed to carry so much weight (not that he carried much excess any) so between the 2008 Tour de France and the 2009 edition Wiggins reportedly lost in the region of 6 to 8 kilos. His body fat pre Tour was 4 percent. His doctors at Garmin-Slipstream advised him not to let his body fat go any lower or his body would start eating into his muscles. Wiggins has payed alot of attention over the past year to his diet which at times he admits borders on the unhealthy. This is one aspect of his life that has changed compared with previous seasons. It certainly paid off in the mountains during the Tour.
The other big change is being part of a team that Wiggins feels really comfortable with.
"There’s a reason I’m doing so well here and that’s because of the people around me," said Wiggins. "A lot of teams say that they’re a bit like a family but this one really is. A lot us live in Girona and there’s something quite special about it that I’ve not had in other teams."
Certainly, Wiggins relationship with Vande Velde seems as strong as it ever was. Even when the captaincy switched to Wiggins midway through the Tour all the right noises were coming out of the harmonious Garmin-Slipstream camp and imparticular Vande Velde himself who seemed relieved to have a teammate riding so strongly in the mountains.
There is talk of Wiggins switching to Dave Brailsford's Sky HD team for the 2010 season but having seen his results improve so dramatically at a team where he really feels at home I doubt Wiggins will make the switch instead opting to see out his contract at Garmin-Slipstream at the very least. That is as long as Mr Contador doesn't sign for them. If this did happen, and it's a long shot, then expect to see Wiggins abandon ship.
Now this years Tour is over Wiggins can take a well deserved rest. He can then embark on his next racing challenge with a new found confidence in his ability on the road.
"Next year I’m going to concentrate more on the Tour but I don’t see why I couldn't win something like the Vuelta a España and smaller races like Tirreno-Adriatico. This has opened up a whole new set of doors for me now." said Wiggins.
We can be sure of one thing. As Wiggins put it recently;
"keep the faith people, I ain't no Bernhard Kohl"
BBOX Bouygues Telecom's leader Thomas Vockler of France celebrates on the finish line before winning the 196.5 km 5th stage of the 2009 Tour de France on July 8, 2009. Photo: PATRICK HERTZOG/AFP/Getty Images
The peloton approaches during the 6th stage of the 96th Tour de France between Gerona and Barcelona July 9, 2009. Photo: REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel
The peloton makes its way past fields of sunflowers during stage 11 of the 2009 Tour de France from Vatan to Saint-Fargeau-Ponthierry on July 15, 2009 in Vatan, France. Photo: Jasper Juinen/Getty Images
Angelo Furlan (Lampre NGC) of Italy grimaces as Dr. Gerard Porte treats his wounds after he crashed during the 11th stage of the Tour de France in central France on July 15, 2009. Photo:AP Photo/Bas Czerwinski
Decorations on the bicycle of Team Columbia-High Road leader Mark Cavendish, on July 17, 2009 during the 13th stage of the 2009 Tour de France. Photo: JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images
Team Saxo Bank rider Jens Voigt of Germany lies on the ground after a hard fall during the 16th stage of the 96th Tour de France on July 21, 2009. Voigt suffered a fractured right cheekbone and a severe concussion. Photo: REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel
Monday, 27 July 2009
So the Tour de France is over. I'm a little bit lost this evening without the Tour highlights to look forward to on Eurosport. However, it isn't the end of Tour talk on this blog. Over the next few days I'll be posting a piece that takes a look a Britain's Bradley Wiggins who for me was the biggest revelation of this years Tour (and you can bet your house he's clean).
Sunday, 26 July 2009
Thursday, 23 July 2009
Tuesday, 21 July 2009
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I've been too busy over the past couple of weekends to get out on my bike for a long ride. I'm trying to keep the momentum going by fitting in at least one long ride of 100km or over at least every week and a half as I'm trying to maintain reasonable form for a couple of up coming sportives. The weather in and around London has been fairly changeable of late so I asked my boss if I could take a days holiday whenever I thought the weather would be good in order to get a ride in. I rode from London to the seaside town of Clacton-On-Sea with a couple of friends last year so decided to ride the same route again on my day off. At a distance of 130km, the route with it's mild rolling hills would be the perfect distance to help me keep in decent condition.
I chose today as my day off and the day to do the ride and got it a bit wrong in terms of the weather. It pee'ed it down for the first 2 hours soaking me to the bone. Whilst riding through the wet I convinced myself the rain too was part of the training and tried not to let it get me down. When it did clear up the sun made an appearance and although clouds remained in the sky it didn't rain again and the temperature warmed up nicely drying out my rain jacket which I was able to stow away in the back of my jersey.
I rode a leisurely pace and arrived in Clacton-On-Sea in 6 hours having taken a couple of wrong turns along the way. Unfortunately I didn't get the chance to treat myself to fish and chips on the sea front as I had to catch my train back to London as soon as I arrived.
All in all it was a good training day. If you live in East London and are looking for a long ride then try this one out. The route does pass along a few busy stretches of road but equally runs along many kilometres of deserted country roads. Click the google maps route above for more details.
Monday, 20 July 2009
Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) in yesterdays 15th stage. Photo: JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images
Sunday, 19 July 2009
Friday, 17 July 2009
An emotional Heinrich Haussler (Cervelo Test team) crosses the line as winner of today's wet 200km stage 13 between Vittel and Colmar. It was a fantastic ride by the 25 year old finishing over 4 minutes ahead of the second place rider Amets Txurruka (Euskaltel - Euskadi) and nearly 7 minutes ahead of the main peloton.
I've become more and more a fan of Haussler as this year has gone on. Since leaving Gerolsteiner at the end of last year Haussler started off the 2009 season in phenomenal form taking 2nd overall on the Tour of Qatar, stage 2 at Paris - Nice, 2nd at Milan - San Remo (a hairs breadth behind Mark Cavendish), 2nd at Ronde van Vlaanderen and a respectable 7th at Paris-Roubaix. Today Haussler took the biggest win of his career and in doing so proved his ability as one of the greatest young talents of his generation. He'll be one to watch out for again in next years Spring classics and judging by today's ride could well become a GC grand tour contender in the future.
Click here to see video of the super close finish between Mark Cavendish and Heinrich Haussler in this years Milan San-Remo.
Thursday, 16 July 2009
But what of Barry Hoban? Hoban was a sprinter and all round damn good rider from a different era. Born and raised in Yorkshire Hoban started his racing career in 1955 competing against another budding English rider Tom Simpson at the end of that year. Hoban moved to France in 1962 and turned professional with Mercier BP Hutchinson 2 years later. Hoban lived and worked abroad as a pro cyclist for another 16 years. His first year as a pro proved to be fruitful winning 2 stages of the Vuelta a España.
His next major victory wouldn't happen for another 3 years and was shrouded in tragedy. In 1967 Tom Simpson died close to the summit of Mont Ventoux. The following day many riders were reluctant to continue racing asking the organisers to postpone the next stage. Instead French rider Jean Stablinski proposed the race should continue and that a British rider should take the next stage win in memory of Simpson. This honor went to Hoban. 2 years after the death of Simpson Hoban married Simpson's widow, Helen.
Following the gifted victory in the 1967 Tour Hoban went on the win a further 7 Tour de France stages between 1968 and 1975. His other major triumph came in 1974 with victory in the Flanders classic, Gent-Wevelgem.
Apart from outright victories Hoban's near wins Palmarès was also impressive. He placed second in seven Tours de France stages, and third in another seven. He also placed third in both Liège-Bastogne-Liège (1969) and Paris - Roubaix (1972). I'd imagine Hoban would have been close to being a Tom Boonenesque type rider judging by the races he won and nearly won.
In total Hoban competed in 12 Tours de France, finishing 11 of them. In doing so he bridged a significant link between 3 Tour legends. His first tour was Jacques Anquetil's last. He rode in the peloton with Eddy Merckx and his last tour was Bernard Hinault's first.
For further comparison between Mark Cavendish and Barry Hoban see cyclingart.blogspot.com.
Wednesday, 15 July 2009
This video shows Christian Vande Velde's wife, Leah, preparing and cooking homemade energy bars. The recipe ingredients are listed at the end as well as the prep and cooking instructions. I'm going to try this in time for my next long ride. Yum!
Here is a photo from yesterdays 10th stage of the peloton riding past a field of sunflowers. The Tour de France wouldn't be complete without a version of this iconic image.
Whilst yesterdays rather dull 10th stage passed off without any major race radio related issues it was a good day for Lord Cavendish (Columbia HTC) (sorry Jack I had to borrow your phrase). Today's 192km stage from Vatan to Saint-Fargeau is another fairly flat route and may well see Cav take yet another stage victory unless a breakaway can succeed.
It seems Thor Hushovd (Cervelo Test Team) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin - Slipstream) are the only other sprinters who are prepared to put up a fight against Cav and good on them too. Cav needs some competition. Can anyone explain why Tom Boonen hasn't even attempted to take part in a bunch sprint yet this Tour? For all the controversy surrounding Boonen and his penchant for a good party we all know he's a strong rider and a winner. So why can't he be bothered to even try to complete for a sprint victory? Maybe he's lost motivation due to Cav's domination. Lets hope we see Tommeke put up more of a fight before the Tour hits the Alps.
Tuesday, 14 July 2009
Sunday, 12 July 2009
Friday, 10 July 2009
Bradley Wiggins (Garmin Slipstream) finished in what I can only describe as the most surprising 12th place I've seen for a long time in cycling. Todays 224km 7th stage from Barcelona to Andorra Arcalis saw the peloton head into the mountains for the first time in this tour with a finish at an altitude of 2240 metres.
Bradley Wiggins is a multiple Olympic track cycling champion, an ex world track champion and a damn fine time trial specialist. What he wasn't was a mountain climber. I say wasn't because today Wiggins finished the stage in a group containing some of the best climbs in the world, Cadel Evans (Silence Lotto), Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank) , Fränk Schleck (Team Saxo Bank) and Lance Armstrong (Astana) to name a few.
To be quite frank I was dumb struck. That must have been Wiggins best ever performance in the mountains leaving him 5th overall in the GC only 46 seconds down on the overall leader Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale).
Apparently Wiggins has lost 10kg since last years Tour de France. In terms of power to weight ratio Wiggins must have retained all his power but is now dragging 10kg less up the hills. Move aside Christian Vande Velde it looks like Garmin Slipstream may have a new leader!
Thursday, 9 July 2009
Wednesday, 8 July 2009
Tuesday, 7 July 2009
I camped the night before the start just 10km from the start line since a drive from London would have seen me having to get up at 4am and there was no way that was going to happen. As it was I awoke just after 5am on the Sunday morning and fired up the camping stove. After a good breakfast of porridge, banana and coffee I quickly got cleaned and packed and headed over to the start of the event.
Signing in started at 7.45am for the pre-registered riders and I was pretty keen to get going so as to finish earlier. I managed to sign in and prepare myself in time to set off just after 8am. It was a good start to the day. Not only did I feel well good but I managed to hook up with a fellow by the name of Roy who also happened to be aboard the same bike as me, a Wilier Izoard. So off we went taking it in turns at the front for what must have been nearly 2 hours.
Close to the first feed point Roy punctured which is where we said goodbye although I had a feeling I'd be seeing Roy, the ex-racer, later on. The first feed point was the only one of the 3 feed points to provide food. I stocked up on some fig biscuits and flapjack, filled up the bottles and off I went.
In fact up until feed point 3 I was still feeling pretty good. Yes my legs were hurting a bit but no more than to be expected. As I was filling my bottles again at the 3rd feed point I asked one of the volunteers how far it was to the finish. He told me it was between 15 and 20km. I thought, that isn't so bad. Hardly further than my cycle to and from work every day. How wrong I was.
The last 15km seemed to drag on forever. Up and down the damn hills through the bloody countryside. I ran out of water and became thirsty. I slowed down to what felt like a snails pace. I was surprised I wasn't being passed by everyone. Maybe they felt the same as me. I persevered, with gritted teeth. 'Surely this is the last hill?' I kept asking myself.
With about 5km to go Roy zoomed past me, legs like pistons. As he past he gave me a casual wave. I knew that would happen. Off he peddled into the distance leaving my sorry arse behind.
I arrived at the finish line with an official time of 5 hours 35 minutes and 38 seconds (some 5 or so minutes behind Roy). Was I happy to see that finish line. My entire body was aching but I was happy to have finished with a reasonable time. Next up is the Burgess Hill Rumble on 30th August. There's going to have to be alot of training between now and then if I'm going to ride it well.
The day after the ride I had no energy. I was super slow to and from work on my bike. It really does bring it home how amazing the pros are to be able to get up every day and ride for 200km competitively. Respect to them.
Friday, 3 July 2009
Team name: Easy Rouleurs
Andy SCHLECK SAX
Vincenzo NIBALI LIQ
Carlos SASTRE CTT
David MONCOUTIE COF
Mark CAVENDISH THR
Luis Leon SANCHEZ GCE
Thomas VOECKLER BBO
Maxime MONFORT THR
Heinrich HAUSSLER CTT
I've taken a major gamble not including Alberto Contador or indeed any Astana team members. I'm banking on Astana to implode under the weight of all their egos although I know this is unlikely.
I'm putting all my faith in key members, Carlos Sastre, Andy Schleck and Mark Cavendish to score me big points. I'm hoping for at least one good day from the remainder of my team. Fingers crossed for a stage victory from any of my French contigent, David Moncoutie, Thomas Voeckler or Maxime Monfort on Bastile day, 14th July. Also, I can always depend of Voeckler to get into multiple breakaways throughout the race. As for Vincenzo Nibali and Luis Leon Sanchez I have high hopes for these boys in the GC. Heinrich Haussler is just an animal that is almost certainly going to produce a Cancellaraesque attack with 2km to go to snatch victory from the pure sprinters. Well that's the idea anyway.
To enter your TDF fantasy team visit velogames.com.
Thursday, 2 July 2009
The guide starts off with a chapter called Planning Your Trip. It is here that Watson suggests different ways in which a trip to the Tour can be organised, be it through a tour operator, both official and unofficial or by planning it yourself. He moves on to outlining the pros and cons of the various ways in which to move around France during the Tour, be it by bike, car, Camper or train. Also, would you prefer to camp, hostel or stay in a hotel? Watson has it all covered. Not only that but he mentions important points especially relevant to non-Europeans in particular visitors from the United States, Canada and Australia relating to visas and driving permits.
The end of the chapter, indeed the end of every chapter, is entitled Legends of the Modern Tour. Here Watson indulges the reader with both photos and anecdotes about his favourite cyclists both past and present. It's a great idea that breaks the book up nicely by providing a bridge between each section. Also, it's a great excuse to brush up on your knowledge of some of the past greats.
Next up is Following the Tour. This brief chapter gives the reader a glimpse into the best ways of tracking down the Tour by planning a series of strategic interceptions. This could include attending the pre-race build up, visiting a mountain stage and what to do and look out for whilst at the roadside.
The Flavour of France is next. Here Watson writes about the people, the language and my personal favourite, food and drink. He goes into detail about the different types of restaurants to be found in France as well as going through some pretty obscure but nevertheless valuable culinary etiquette.
At least half the book is made up of a Chapter called The Regions of France. In this chapter Watson covers every region of France with some regions, such as the Alps, receiving more attention that others. Firstly there is a close up map of the region, then Watson focuses on points of interest in the region such as a famous stage that passed through, the best places to ride your bike, amazing hotels and food and drink. Each region section ends with a accommodation recommendation and a mention of the regional food speciality.
A guide to the Tour de France wouldn't be complete without a chapter dedicated to the mountains and this guide doesn't disappoint with the next chapter, Mountains of the Tour. The chapter is split into three regions, The Massif Central, The Alps and The Pyrenees. What comes next is much detail on many of the most famous mountain passes to have been used in the Tour including such legendary names as Puy-de-Dôme, Alpe d'Huez, Col du Galibier, Mont Ventoux, Col du Tourmalet and Col d'Aubisque to name but a few.
Finally Watson gives tips and suggestions about photographing the tour, a natural end to a guide written by a photographer dedicated to shooting many iconic images over the past 30 years.
This book has got me so excited. Not only excited about watching the Tour but more than that it has really given me an urge to get myself over the Channel with my bike ASAP to enjoy some of the France Watson writes about so well. This really is an insiders guide. There are exquisite little hotels nestled up on the side of medieval hillside villages in The Massif Central and the Midi-Pyrénées that you'd be hard pressed to find even with the help of google. This guide opens up the readers horizons in terms of where to go and stay.
The book is beautifully presented with hundreds of Watson's photos. Not only that but it's very well bound with a cover you can wipe the red wine off, quality! To top it all off, for the train spotters, there's a list of 55 great climbs on the back page along with the heights. I've done 4 of them. Only 51 to go, I can't wait!
Tour de France Travel Guide (Velopress) costs £17.99 plus worldwide shipping and can be purchased from Urban Hunter.biz.
Wednesday, 1 July 2009
For those who may not be aware of the concept behind Etape du Tour, each year amateur cyclists get the chance to ride one stage of the Tour de France on closed roads, just like the pros. This year sees around 8000 Etape riders tackle arguably the most fascinating of stages, the 167km stage 20 from Montélimar to Mont Ventoux. The real stage 20 takes place on Saturday 25th July. The Etape day happens 5 days earlier on Monday 20th July.
As I said the DVD is a reconnaissance of the stage and is presented by self proclaimed rider, writer and marketeer, Mike Cotty. Cotty starts off by talking through what types of kit the Etape cyclist will need ranging from the type of bike including wheels, gearing and tyres, through to clothing and nutrition. All of it is common sense stuff although it's always nice to be presented with a clear summary to make things as easy as possible.
Cotty then moves on to a little culture by visiting some of Montélimar's sites, including a trip to the local nougat shop and factory. I found it very amusing that at no point throughout the entire DVD did Cotty take his helmet off. Whether in the nougat factory or sat outside of a bar at the end of a long ride, the helmet stayed on.
Moving on to the ride itself and this is where the DVD starts to come into its own. Cotty rides the entire route, albeit over 2 days. As Cotty rides he points out many crucial snippets of information relating to road conditions, weather, when to eat, where best to stay with a group and where the most technical sections are. All in all very useful information especially for those not used to riding in a large group over roads that are unfamiliar.
I won't be one of the riders taking part in this years Etape but if you are riding it and haven't yet seen this DVD I would recommend taking a look. It really does give the viewer a clearer idea of what to expect. My only criticism, and my wife agreed with me on this, is the music. Many of the action sequences of the DVD that see Cotty swooping up and down the undulating hills are accompanied by really bad techno music. It's the kind of annoying techno that you'll sometimes hear on video games but unlike the video game there is no option on the DVD to turn the noise off.
Incidentally, the competition question that I answered correctly to win the DVD was:
"When cycling up to the top of the Mont Ventoux from Bedoin village what is the name of the rest point just below the tree line where you can buy coffee, food or use the toilet?"
Visit Cyclefilm for further information or to buy The Road to Mt. Ventoux - L'Etape du Tour 2009.