Apart from family, what could be more important than wine and bikes? Of course, there might be the odd rant about other topics on here too...

Friday, July 29, 2005

Vino escapes T-Mobile

As Tim at Peleton Blog commented not so long ago, T-Mobile has been a pretty stifling team to go to work for in the past several seasons. Not too much of a surprise then that double stage, and Champs Elysee, winner Vinokourov is saying "Auf Wiedersehn" to the boys in pinkish and instead has opted to team up with Manolo Saiz's Liberty Seguros. Not sure what it means for Heras if he's considered a Tour hopeful but I'm sure both will be soothed up the Alps and Pyrenees to the sound of Manolo's "Venga, Venga!!"

Life without Lance

I'm just back from the Denver/Boulder area in Colorado and feeling very fat and sluggish having not had the opportunity to do any altitude training... While I was working out there I was thinking about life without Lance and have decided to give up blogging because there's just no point any more!

OK, I'm kidding, but I was thinking about what this means and I think it's great on a number of levels:

American cycling has never been so strong. 3 in the top 10 of the Tour; 5 in the top 20; every day except one in Yellow; 3 US stage wins (not counting the TTT) and three US stage winners; even ignoring Lance, there are star riders/leaders from the US on teams from several countries - Switzerland (Landis), Germany (Leipheimer), Spain (Horner), Denmark (Julich and Zabriskie), Belgium (Rodriguez was a star lead out man for McEwan); as well as the strength of the one US team - nice timing for Discovery to take over! Lets hope it all translates into a continued interest from OLN...

Discovery - Lance will no doubt remain heavily involved in the team, but with and without him, this year has been amazing - the Giro, The Tour de Georgia, the Volta Catalunya, Kurne, the Tour and three stages from three riders as well as a host of smaller races and very significant placings (Paris-Roubaix). Bodes very, very well for the post-Lance era.

The Tour - It's hard to see anyone beating Basso give his form this year, his dedication year round and his support from a very savvy Bjarne Riis. Now that Ullrich's primary motivation is gone, I'm not convinced we'll see him on the podium again...

Ex-Mountain Bikers - some very highly placed fat tire riders this year, including some top-10 finishers - Rasmussen, Evans, Landis

Exciting riding - there are a few riders coming through that are being heralded as potential tour winners that have a great deal of all-round skill - Valverde, Cunego, DiLuca, etc. have the potential to out-Vino Vino and turn any stage race on its head, from hills to sprints these guys are just exciting to watch whether in stage races or full-on classics.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Fassa Bortolo to Fold

The Fassa train will not be leaving the station in '06. Rumour is that Petacchi will trace his former rival Cipollini's footsteps and defect to Domina Vacanza dragging along Fabio Sacchi, Marco Velo and Alberto Ongarato for the ride.

Guerini saves T-Mobile's Tour

A very smart win today for Giuseppe ensures T-Mobile are virtually assured of the team classification. Two stage wins and the team classification doesn't quite match their ambitions coming in to the Tour, but it ain't so bad all things considered.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Amy Gillett RIP

Shayne Bannon, Australia's high-performance manager, best summed up Gillett's death and the injuries to her teammates - "It makes everything that has happened to the sport of cycling over the past two years totally insignificant"

Pass with distinction

I just got the results from my wine test and managed to get the highest possible score - a pass with distinction. Will probably think about doing the next level in the new year.

Vino to depart T-Mobile

Vinokourov is set to leave T-Mobile to be the captain of another team. Not surprising given the way he has been treated at this year's Tour by his own team, but he has been one of the shining stars on an underperforming T-Mobile team.

Kloden drops out

Following a crash yesterday, Andreas Kloden has had to abandon. While the mainstream media are claiming that he hasn't lived up to last year's potential, he has been an amazing lietenant for Ullrich this year - keeping him in the race on more than one stage. Very hard luck for the former East German.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Catching up

An absolutely crazy few weeks at work saw the company that I work for bought by a private equity firm and, since I manage communications, me flat out working on the deal. We had to cancel our vacation to Italy and are now planning on going there in October while we're in Europe (already going to Dublin). I've not had much time to do anything other than work but I have caught as many stages as I could late at night (if you don't have a DVR, get one!) and my impressions of week 2 TdF 2005 include...

Hincapie: what a humble but unbelievable guy. He won the Queen's stage and was back the next day of riding (split by the rest day) as the last Discovery rider alongside Lance. Getting a bit of flack from the Phonak boys for failing to work during his winning stage, but it's the first past the line that folks remember...

Vinokourov: doing his best to make this year's TdF as exciting as this year's Giro. While he went backwards on a couple of stages, he was very very exciting going forwards.

Fast Freddy: not only a great lead out but managed to take third on one stage to steal points for O'Grady off Hushovd - amazingly intelligent riding at 50+ miles an hour.

The other Americans: 3 Americans in the top 7. 5 Americans in the top 20. Chris Horner having an absolutely amazing first Tour - pretty good rookie, I'd say.

Cadel Evans: I thought I was pushing my luck including him in my top 5, but the seven-time-collar-bone-breaker (according to Paul Sherwen) on Stage 16 showed amazing potential for a Tour rookie - I'll include him again next year...

Eddie Mazzolini: who needs the other pair ;-)

Kloden: kept Ullrich in the running for as long as he could (even if that involved chasing down Vino)

Rasmussen: no idea where he came from, but he has done an amazing job hanging in there. It'll be very interesting to see how he does in the TT. His goal was the spotty jersey and it looks like he's done the job there, but I'd love to see him hang on for a podium place.

Basso: once again, the only man to hang with Lance in the high mountains. Unfortunately for him, he couldn't lose him.

T Mobile and Jan: Finally they realized that if they want to win, they have to attack. They have thrown everything at Armstrong and for the first time that I remember they isolated Lance on several occasions. Unfortunately for them, they weren't able to capitalize on it and usually ended up actually losing time.

Leipheimer and Landis: usually hanging on in 4th, 5th or 6th wheel in the high mountains - bodes well for the post-Lance era.

Lance Armstong: nuff said

Other thoughts:

There were only three riders to wear the yellow jersey this year. Two were American. Two dropped out.

Armstrong has never been so isolated as this year, and he's never looked as strong in my mind.

Discovery are looking good for a run at the 'triple crown' of Giro, Tour and Vuelta - if anyone has any gas left in the tank...

A phenomenal Tour for Discovery - the Yellow Jersey for the majority of the race; the TTT; a stage win for Hincapie. All that's missing is the 9th man (very hard luck) and a stage win for Armstrong (final TT maybe?).

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Armstrong in control

Today was just an unbelievable day of cycling. When I watched today's stage (this evening) I already knew who the top three placed riders were and even still I was on the edge of my seat for the last hour.

Today was a sort of fantasy: watching George Hincapie (followed by triki and azavedo) at the front of the peloton drop a "who's who" of riders that read like a winning lineup but they were being dropped: Mayo, Heras, Beloki, Vinokourov, etc. and then Armstong made Popovych turn the screw which saw Ullrich, Kloden and others dropped and then Armstrong dropped Basso and others to whittle the field down to Rasmussen, Mancebo and Valverde (not bad for someone who'd only won once outside of Spain)...

Monday, July 11, 2005

you have to keep on trying your luck until it gets on your side

A lesson in life from Jens Voigt(who claimed the yellow jersey following a great breakaway with former teammate, Christophe Moreau), who following his great ride yesterday was quoting as saying, "you have to keep on trying your luck until it gets on your side."

Voigt, Michael Rasmussen (who consolidated a big lead in the mountains jersey and took the stage), Stuart O'Grady (who made it over the hills and sent his team to the front to contest the sprint and finished fourth to take some great sprint points in the absence of the other fast men) and Lance Armstrong (who gave up the yellow jersey to an immensely popular rider on the team of a key rival, ensuring his team don't have to defend the jersey and he'll have some help from CSC if they really want to keep hold of the jersey), and the Discovery Team (who controlled the race with the absolute perfection of a child that was reprimanded because of their behavior the day before...) were the big winners yesterday. Jan Ullrich (who crashed on one of the descents (although x-rays showed him all clear)) was probably the only real loser on the day.

Continuing the long tradition of waiting for rivals after crashes, the Armstrong group slowed yesterday to allow Ullrich (who was brought back to the group by teammates) to rejoin.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Dave Z abandons

Poor Dave Zabriskie's injuries sustained during the team time triall crash have caught up with him and he abandoned during today's stage.

It's really the first bad news for any American rider since the beginning of this year's Tour. Only American riders have worn the yellow jersey. American riders have won a stage, an American team won the team time trial, 4 American riders are in the top 10 - all in all, pretty impressive.

Congratulations to Dave Z for winning a stage, wearing yellow and battling for as long as he could - see you in the Vuelta!

Will CSC get the jersey back

Seeing as I've been so late in posting lately, I figured I'd write a post during a stage in an attempt to get ahead. At the moment, Michael Rasmussen and Dario Cioni are way out front with Rasmussen taking all of the mountains points in the first few climbs (including a Cat II climb). Behind them is a chase group being led by Jens Voigt, who is currently second on GC only a minute behind Armstrong. Voigt is a great rider but he won't be a long term GC threat. Could be a very smart move of Armstrong's to let Voigt take the jersey and force CSC to defend it over the next few days in the Alps (after tomorrow's rest stage).

Bush takes another tumble

George Bush crashed into a policeman while riding his bike on the grounds of Gleneagles at the G8 Summit. It's his second bike crash in a year, following the crash on his Texas ranch during the presidential campaign last year. Imagine what he was like when he was drinking...

Chinks in Discovery's Armour

Saturday's return to France from Germany saw the Germans (Dutch and Kazakhs) really shake things up. As expected T Mobile attacked on the final climb with Vino hitting hard three times in a row. On Vino's first attack, Savoldelli closed down the gap with Armstrong on his wheel, but that first attack blew the discovery team apart and Armstrong was left isolated to chase down the subsequent two attacks and finish the stage. Andreas Kloden took advantage of Armstrong's isolation to attack and bridge up to early breakaway Pieter Weening who beat Kloden on the line by two milimeters. Discovery have a lot of questions to answer...

Catching up

Work still kicking me while I'm down so not much posting of late.

On Friday, two fairly unknown riders got much of the headlines - after a lengthy breakaway, Chris Mengin crashed within sight of the line in very slick conditions and causing a chain reaction of crashes behind, and into him. Bernucci Bravo who was chasing down Mengin managed to avoid the crash and with info being fed from Cancellara who went down, he pushed all the way to the line for the win. The big news though was second placed rider Vinokourov who was slowed down by Mengin's crash but managed to stay on his bike and steal 19 seconds from Armstrong's lead.

Friday saw Robbie McEwan bag his second stage to draw level with Boonen on wins - that dq is looking costly... Hushovd is still looking strong and could play spoiler in the green jersey competition.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

London blasts

I'm not at all a religious person, but it seems like one of those times that you can't help but say that our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and families of the bomb blasts in London.

Almost all of my family and friends are accounted for (bar one cousin who we're waiting to hear from) and any I've spoken to are shaken but sounding in good spirits.

Watching the BBC this morning, I was amazed by the calm and professionalism of the police, emergency services and hospital staff. Clearly, their emergency response plans are both well rehearsed and largely effective. It's also unfortunately true that London and Britain have far too much experience dealing with terrorist attacks so they are naturally equipped to deal with any occurance.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

McEwan bags one

Following his DQ disappointment for the Ram affair, McEwan outfoxed the bunch and came around Boonen to take his first stage in this year's TdF. He claims to have written off his chances of winning the green jersey, but Boonen is already feeling the pressure complaining to reporters that he is missing out on 50 minutes per day of rest time because of the obligations that come with the jersey. Still, if the pressure does get to him, it might be Hushovd that will capitalize and not McEwan. Big Thor is looking very consistent so far.

Armstrong back in Yellow (by force)

Similar to 1991 when Greg Lemond refused to wear the yellow jersey at following Rolf Sörensen crash, Lance rolled out today in Disco gear "to honour the fact that Dave Zabriskie lost the jersey because of an accident yesterday". At the "départ réel", however, Jean-Marie Leblanc stopped the whole peloton to give Armstrong "the opportunity" to put on the jersey.

London gets the 2012 Olympics

Moscow, NY, Madrid and Paris (eliminated in that order) failed in their bids to host the 2012 Olympics, being beaten out by London. I think London will do an amazing job and I'll probably think about heading over for it. It would have been nice to see the cycling events in NY though...

NY Times TdF coverage

The Times is doing a whole feature on the Tour and even have a multimedia report from George Vessey (which is really him speaking and them showing scrolling photos). I get pretty annoyed with mainstream media's coverage of cycling usually (because it's so bland and aimed at such a low common denominator, it's often inaccurate), but George's report was really good until the end, when he said that nobody leaves Armstrong's team and remains his friend - and at the same time showed photos of him with Hamilton and then Zabriskie (who Vessey even remarked he liked). Because Zabriskie was never a big name on (then) Postal, that doesn't count?

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Zabriskie to continue

tdfblog is reporting that Dave Z has managed to avoid breaking any bones and is determined to start tomorrow. Hopefully he can fully recover before the big hills.

Tough luck for Zabriskie

Dave Z - only the third American to wear the yellow jersey - somehow hit the deck in the final 2K in today's TTT and in doing so handed over the yellow jersey to Lance. By the sounds of it, he and Julich had been a big part of CSC's great time today, continuing the amazing time trialling form of the American's in the Tour.

Boonen Brace, and the ram

Tom Boonen picked up where he left off earlier this season with a couple of great stage wins. Watching most of the stages on DVR in fast-forward, Lance has looked very comfortable and Boonen has looked outstanding on the flat.

Meenwhile, if Bettini is the cricket, do we need to start calling McEwan the ram?

Better late than never

Why is it that when you most want to be able to sit and watch the TV for 3-4 hours a day for 21 days, every aspect of your life goes nuts so that you can hardly see any at all? I got to see the opening time trial on Saturday - but only just. My wife, son and mother-in-law were all in the car on the road waiting for me as Lance crossed the line - bear in mind that that's a manhattan street that I'd left them sitting in. Thankfully, there wasn't too much traffic for the holiday weekend ;-)

I'm not normally a fan of watching time trials but Saturday's brought me back to '89. I was on the edge of my seat and by the end, my heart was racing. I think Lance actually slowed deliberately in the home stretch to avoid any concern of defending the Yellow. Not a gift in his "no gifts" way, but it would be to his own advantage, in a way. We may never know (or he could have been asked and have already answered the question and I just haven't had time to read any news...).

Friday, July 01, 2005

Reuters: Ullrich in car crash, not seriously injured

CHALLANS, France, July 1 (Reuters) - Germany's Jan Ullrich, the 1997 Tour de France winner, was injured in a freak training accident on the eve of the Tour's start on Friday but escaped mostly unhurt.

A T-Mobile team spokesman told Reuters that Ullrich, one of Lance Armstrong's leading rivals for Tour victory, crashed into his team manager Mario Kummer's car after he was forced to brake unexpectedly.

Ullrich hit the rear windscreen, which smashed into pieces, and suffered cuts near the throat.

The spokesman said the German, a five times Tour runner-up, was treated by the team doctor, who said the bruises and cuts were only superficial.

The Tour starts with a 19-km time trial between Fromentine and Noirmoutier on Saturday.