Sunday, 27 September 2009

Fabian Cancellara

Fabian Cancellara embodies what many cyclists would love to be, a great all rounder. Be it TT, Cobbles, Short Stage Races he has a palmares unlike any other rider in the peloton at the moment. I think his exploits and his refusal to be pigeon holed make him an inspiration for cyclists the worlds over.

Cancellara's season didn't start so well compared to previous seasons. Missing out both in Flanders (snapped chain) and Roubaix, romours were rife that Fabian didn't like his new Specialized bike. In public I doubt you will ever here him say it, but what has been absent is the praise he used to bestow on the Cervelo machine. Specialized decided to make a new TT rig, which came as a surprise from one angle but in another it makes sense, this guy can TT like no other. Their (Specialized's)investment has proved to be a shrewd one as he is back on a winning streak.

My question is when will they build a bike that suits him for the Cobbles. The S-Works Roubaix and the S-Works Tarmac have been crafted with the input of the (now defunked) Gerolsteiner and Quick Step Teams. There has been a lot of input from Tom Boonen and it has proved again that investing in a machine for the star riders has captured the two biggest scalps in Cobbles Week, two years on the trot.

There is a lot of speculation to whether Specialized will continue with Quick Step for next season. They reputtedly but in a large bid to be the bike manufacturer of Team Sky, but didn't get it. So it might be that Saxo Bank are the only Team on the bikes for next year, we'll have to wait until January to find out.

Being unhappy with the current Specialized machine has fuelled rumours that Fabian may be looking to ply his trade elsewhere. SKY is the only name I have heard mentioned and if he does go he would be reunited with a previous bike that he has had some success on before. If the rumour is half true and if I was in Riis and SBC's shoes I would do everything in my power to keep him and provide him with the equipment he needs. He could well win the Road World Championships today to add to his TT medal he won on Saturday.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

April on my mind

Like many riders out there I love the Spring Classics and they are normally at the fore front of my mind when out riding. While out recently on a ride to prepare a route for a sportive all I could think about was 'damn this climb is going to be great training for Flanders'. I still can't work out if my obsession is good or just not healthly, but it is my cross to bare and I still enjoy it, but I am sure some friends are bored to the back teeth.

The ironic thing is, as a month goes, I am not a great fan of April. May is a little nicer but maybe the unpredictable weather of April is half of the appeal. One season the sun can bake down, the next it may be rain and sometimes even snow can be thrown into the mix. It feels like the Earth itself is just waking up and doesn't know what to do with its self.

As I write this the weather is turning, leaves are falling from the trees and the mornings have that crisp bite that requires arm and knee warmers. To be frank, I love it. When it gets to hot I suffer and I seem to go a lot better in the colder and sometimes slightly damper rides. Being a fair skinned and ginger of beard those baking hot days are a nightmare for me. The kindred joy for riding in crap conditions no doubt helps the draw to the Classics riders.

Physically I am more suited to those rides, short steep climbs can still be a bitch at times but they are less hard work than those long Alpine monsters (which have some appeal). I think more about the set up of my bike for that kind of riding with good padded tape, Open Pave tyres and always having a nice set of handbuilts tucked away.

I wish in many ways that the end of the season could mirror the Spring Classics. It was a shame that rides like the Eroica got moved to the Spring and was not left in October. It'd be great if there was three Pro Tour level races that had the same focus on toughness and the elments as the races in April. Giro de Lombrdia fits the bill on one level, but having another two might starve off the pain of not watching some real tough racing. Sorry if you are reading this from Belgium, I know the cobbles are a daily diet for the Flahutes of Flanders.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Tour of Britain, Stage 8 London

I was lucky enough to get a VIP invite to the ToB this year. Usually on such occasions the only difference from what everyone else can see and you is nothing, just that you are on the same side as the podium. It means that you can get a little closer to the riders and that's about it. 

This year Andy from Saddleback had arranged for me to ride shotgun in the Neutral Service Car 2. Driving the car on the day would be Sid Barras, a UK cycling legend. He's a previous National Road & Critrium champion and father of Tom who's a pretty fine roadie in his own right. A warm Yorkshire voice would be the narrator for todays events. 

You can see why the organisers ask ex-pros to drive, as they can feel the tempo of the race. Knowing the difference between when the peloton is 'tickling the balls' of an escape group and when they are on the rivet chasing was the instant information that they are able to give, and are quicker to pick up on it than most commentators. 

One lap around the circuit it became clear that no breakaway was going to succeed today. I think the biggest time gap of an escaping group was around the 21 second mark (when Nicolas Roche was on the front), but with the peloton rolling at 40mph in some sections this could have been brought back quickly when required (of course not without some effort).

The time seemed to whizz by and it was three laps to go. The call came out over the radio, 'Neutral Service 2 please come up to the peloton'. I wasn't expecting to get so close to the riders.  The thing you don't appreciate on TV is how effortless they are on the bike, the synergy between man and machine complete, a modern version of the centaur.

So the final lap was upon us, Sid's palms sweaty just as if he was in the bunch today. We had to turn off at the 150 to go point, hoping for a home win under the power of Russ Downing. A name was announced over the radio, we failed to hear it until the second time 'Merlo, Barloworld'. Who, was our collective response. So the finishing top three were:


1: Merlo,Michele (Barloworld)
2: Fernandez,Koldo (Euskatel Euskadi)
3: Sutton,Chris (Garmin-Slipstream)

1: Boasson Hagen,Edvald (Team Columbia-HTC)
2: Sutton,Chris (Garmin-Slipstream)
3: Reimer,Martin (Cervelo Test Team)

1: Boasson Hagen,Edvald (Team Columbia-HTC)
2: Sutton,Chris (Garmin-Slipstream)
3: Downing,Russell (Candi-TV-Marshalls Pasta)

Mountains Competition:
1: De Gendt,Thomas (Topsport Vlaanderen)
2: Mortensen,Martin (Vacansoleil Pro Cycling Team)
3: Canuti,Federico (CSF Navigare)

Sprints Competition:
1: De Gendt,Thomas (Topsport Vlaanderen)
2: Reimer,Martin (Cervelo Test Team)
3: Thomas,Geraint (Barloworld)

Looking down the results it bodes well for Team Sky next year with three riders showing a strong finishing.

Again a big thank you to Andy and the Saddleback Team. Visit their site to see some of the pimpest brands in all cycledom (trust me Zipp, Felt and Catelli are awesome stuff)

Friday, 18 September 2009

Friday film fest

and for those who couldn't care two hoots about Lance, something else for you to enjoy.

Happy Birthday Lance

Big Tex, the Boss or whatever you may call him. Enjoy this

Monday, 14 September 2009

Bicycle Film Festival

It is that time of the year again, albeit a little earlier. That is no bad thing as in previous years the BFF has always been around the Cycle Show (London). Most people are usually knackered after it and numbers have dropped. Not sure if I'll make the trip up, but this little film may tempt me.

Anima D'Acciaio Trailer Ver5.1 from Cinecycle on Vimeo.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

The Greatest Show on Earth

Having read Rouleur (issue 14) cover to cover on my recent journey I thought I'd dig out some clips. It makes you realise how much the sport has changed.