Wednesday, July 31, 2013

#Junior Stage Race, Dad in The Team Car

Stage racing, or at least the concept of stage racing, isn't new to the juniors, but the fine details are crystallizing as they learn the rules. The Tour de France this year was the first time that Mackenzie had really taken a noted interest in the racing portion of the broadcast, but that isn't enough to understand all the details of true stage racing.

When I say true stage racing, I am in no way belittling the Ohio Spring Series stage race that several of our juniors raced, but the level of detail of Rimouski (as well as l'Abitibi) really takes it to the next level.

The biggest difference is the support caravan. Those cars driving just behind the riders and providing wheels/food/support/instructions? Yep, that's me this week. Behind the wheel of a vehicle following the race each day. While I am looking forward to this responsibility and seeing my own kid race from the relative safety of the follow caravan there are certainly responsibilities that come along.

At the forefront is the possibility of being fined. To drive in the caravan at a UCI stage race you must have a UCI license. Pretty sure this is just to be sure there is a way to fine you for screwing up - and as I am learning there are a lot of rules to being in the caravan. Fines in Swiss Francs are worn by riders as badges of honor in some cases - I remember one rider getting fined in the pits at Masters Worlds for an infraction that frankly was ludicrous. Though I guess if you read the rules really close it could have been legit.

Now I have follow specific order of rules - something Mackenzie will tell you I am not really good at doing. As opposed to a funeral procession where the direct family slots in first and then everyone else fills in the gaps to make a line, the stage race caravan is in the order of the fastest team overall to the slowest team overall (with a couple possible exceptions). This means I have to know which team is in front of us - and recognize the car. In le Tour that is easy - the first thing they do with Tour cars is wrap them in logos making them unmistakably recognizable. At Rimouski I will have to remember whether I am being the gray Camry from Missouri or the gray Camry from Quebec. Or maybe just get fined.

Our junior riders will also have to deal with the caravan. If they flat they have to get service and get back in the race. Going too far outside the time limit will disqualify them from the stage race, soloing back up would take all their energy and possibly zap them for the next day. That leaves them trying to draft off the caravan - as a parent I am deathly afraid of a rider this is the coolest thing ever.

But that brings us back to my driving responsibilities. Do I want to be responsible for running over the next Taylor Phinney? I don't know if the next Taylor Phinney is going to be here, but what if the next Ryder Hesjedal is here? I have to not hit cars and not take out the next famous North American cyclist at the same time. I can't wait to support the team as a driver. It may be my personal most interesting experience of the trip. 

We brought footage from 7 different Tour de France's to watch in the car on the way up - you can bet I will be watching the follow vehicles hoping I get my chance to be Manolo Saiz riding up Jan Ullrich's bum while yelling ALLEZ! ALLEZ! through the radio.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

#Juniors Go International - All In the Spin

Holy schnikes the summer has gone fast. Seems just a few days ago I was talking to several about this new exciting opportunity to bring international experience to a few of our local juniors. Before I knew it we are getting into the car and getting our drive back on.

For those unfamiliar with the story there are two major UCI stage races for juniors in North America, both happen to be in Canada. Tour de l'Abitibi is a 6 stage race the works its way around the countryside by Rouyn-Noranda in Quebec. Rouyn-Moranda is about 600 kilometers northwest of Montreal near the border of the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. l'Abitibi is only for boys 17-18 and this year had 22 teams of 6 riders compete. That is 132 boys racing against each other day in and day out for 6 stages.

The other UCI stage race, Tour de la Releve Internationale de Rimouski is focused on the other UCI juniors categories for both boys and girls. Boys 15-16 and girls 15-18 will compete during a 5 day, 6 stage race in Rimouski, Quebec - which is about 500km northeast of Montreal on the Fleuve Saint Lawrent. These teams will each have 4 riders and currently there are 21 boys teams and 15 girls teams registered to race.

What was I thinking? A round of rudimentary math tells me that is 144 teens - teens in their prime teen years - in a single hotel in Rimouski, QC. Guessing I will need to be up before 7am to use the wi-fi for anything important.

Besides the obvious Canad(i)a and Dudley Doright jokes the trip is a huge feather in the cap for all our juniors heading up to race. Imagine being 15 or 16 and getting the opportunity to race in another country against some of the best competition that you could find. It is a trip that will either cement ones love for bike racing - or destroy it. I am not certain there is a middle ground.

The biggest rule that impacts this race is the use of the UCI cadet cassette for racing. We all know the UCI is full of rules, some good, some bad, but what exactly is the rule for UCI cadet cassettes? European and UCI rules for juniors 15-16 require the use of a 16 tooth smallest cog on the cassette. The typical response from adults locally is "what? how can they do that?"

Let's look back at a recent race during the big crit weekend in Cincinnati. At Madeira two juniors, Ian and Spencer, pulled away from the adult men in the Category 3 race running junior gears - 14 tooth cassette. But hold that thought - I hear saying that's a 14t, not a 16t. The interesting part of this race was that Ian and Spencer never really used the 14t until the sprint at the end. In fact Spencer was spinning, remarkably, in his 52x19/52x21 most of the race - and they were closing in on lapping the field before the end.

Reaction to junior gearing locally is decidedly 'Mericun. We are a V8 and Ahnold society. Faster means more power, more muscle, bigger thighs, and a 55x11. Trying to mentally envision how they could keep up with the average group ride with only a 52x16 leaves most perplexed.

Why would they do that? Why would the UCI limit the juniors on gearing? The primary reason for junior gearing is to level the playing field for all kids and help prevent over-exertion injuries that can result from trying to push too big of a gear. Many argue the need for these specific rules - let the kids ride! Let them push whatever gear they want!

If the result of learning to spin is speed like Ian and Spencer, then I want a junior cassette on my bike too.

Stay tuned this week as we keep you up to date with the trip and the success of our kids racing.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Leather Jersey: Who’s Cool Stages 10-15

For the first 9 stages, you were leaning towards Ted King for the overall, after his heroic attempt to make the time cut in the TTT with three broken testicles and his spleen hanging outside his jersey.  In Stages 10 through 15, some new contenders have emerged, like a one hander wheelie and a changing of the sprint guard.  Each stage of the tour we’ve been asking, “Who’s the coolest rider?”  It’s up to you to find the cool, a spirit you admire.  After this weekend we’ll know for sure.

When you join the daily conversation on Facebook, like or comment to be entered to win the Leather Jersey Prize package presented by Pearl Izumi and awarded randomly at the end of the tour which includes a GU Sample Pack and a pair of RoadIDs.

Let’s take a look back at stages 10 through 15 and who you thought was cool.

Stage 10 The Cold Shoulder
As the sprint launched going into the final corner, Cav and Argos Shimano leadout man Veelers tangled.  Cav finished 3rd.  Vittel took the win.  Fingers pointed at Cav for deliberately riding through Veelers to make the corner on track with Greipel’s wheel.  Others cited Veelers for possibly impeding Cav’s line.  While I don’t agree with them, others said anything goes in the last 200 meters.  Personally, I saw Veelers flick his left elbow twice prior to peeling off the front of the train.  Maybe Cav didn’t see it, but that tells me Veelers at least tried to announce his intentions.  Neither gets the Leather Jersey on Stage 10.  We give it to the Argos Shimano teammates for stopping with the spatula to scrape the Veelers pancake off the tarmac.

Stage 11 What’s Cool in a Time Trial?

Sam Andy Schleck for pulling out an even more disappointing TT than we all thought him capable of!

If you fast forwarded to the last 10 riders, you would’ve missed the winning ride from Tony Martin 4 hours earlier.  Being obligated, he sat in the hot seat for well over 3 hours in the hot French sun waiting to take the stage win when the last rider Froome came up short.  While that was impressive, I’m going to give the Stage 11 Leather Jersey to Ten Dam.  I gravitate towards riders that turn themselves inside out, win or lose.  We spotted Ten Dam with a ten inch drool going from nose to mouth to chin to neck.  And for that incredible loogie, Ten Dam goes home in the Maillot Cuir on Stage 11.

Stage 12 Changing of the Guard
The top step of the podium seems shorter for sprinters.  In recent years we’ve seen Robbie McEwen, Ale Jet, and Boonen rise and fade.  On Stage 12 we got the first hint that Cav may have hit the crest of his wave, while Kittel stood up on his board and rode around Cav in a two-up battle.  Looking back in a few years, Stage 12 could be the day the sprint guard changed hands from Cav to Kittel.  For that we give Kittel and his Ivan Drago haircut the Leather Jersey.
Steven The Kittel boil over.

Stage 13 Honest Emotion

Darryn  Cav. He was so happy after winning that stage. Like a little kid.

With my boss, I always say there’s no middle ground.  It’s either great or it’s crap.  I think the same holds true for Cavendish.  It’s either a day like Stage 10 where you snatch a reporter’s recorder away, or it’s a heavenly harp glissando crowning achievement of glorious proportions.  Cav got his day on Stage 13 and he, like Jan Bakelants on his Stage 2 win, let the emotions flow as if this latest win was his first ever.  Raw emotion is always cool in my book, and for Stage 13 we pull the Leather Jersey over Cav’s shoulders.

Stage 14 Tofu in the Sun

You had no idea that Sojasun is Italian Tofu, until Julien Simon attacked a huge breakaway containing a few heavies like Jens Voigt, Tejay van Garderen and Marcus Burghardt.  It was a valiant attack.  You could hear his parents screaming at the TV as he threaded his way through the streets of Lyons lined 6 deep in Bastille weekend fans.  It was one of those pound the sofa and hide your eyes attacks, even if it didn’t make it.  You make Italian Tofu cool, and for that you get the Leather Jersey.

Stage 15 Sagan Wheelie

Jason He deserves leather for that wheelie!

This stage might be the one where you had the epiphany that Froome’s climbing attacking pedaling style resembles that of the motion you use when the sheets are tucked to tight at the foot of the bed.  However, we’re going to give the Leather Jersey to Sagan.  Not for the wheelie, not for the one hander, but for the one hander wheelie at the base of Mt. Ventoux directly in front of Team Sky at the front of the peloton.  When you go out the back, go out with a bang.

Ted   I'll see your sheet-kicking and raise you a sissy-fight between 10 year old siblings.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Leather Jersey: Who’s Cool in Le Tour?
Right now, it appears to be a resounding Ted King for the overall.  You’ve been answering as each stage of the tour we’ve been asking, “Who’s the coolest rider?”  It could be a guy like Sky’s Pete Kennaugh who got clipped and sent into the ditch on Stage 9, only to show up at the front a few minutes later in bandages.  “You okay bud?”  “Yeah, I’m good.”  It could be a classic moment like Voeckler with his tongue out and jersey flapping in the breeze.  It’s not the most combative or aggressive, the stage winner or the DFL, although it could be.  Each stage of the tour, it’s up to you to find the cool, a spirit you admire.

When you join the daily conversation on Facebook, like or comment to be entered to win the Leather Jersey Prize package presented by Pearl Izumi and awarded randomly at the end of the tour which includes a GU Sample Pack and a pair of RoadIDs.

Let’s take a look back at the first 9 stages and who you thought was cool from Facebook.

Darryn Thomas Voeckler. I'll send you my mailing address now.

Stage 1 Cool Gorilla Patience
On stage 1, in German National Championship stripes, Andre Greipel stoically waited for a wheel change.  Some look like a big fat tub of guts in horizontal stripes (cough Cavendish), not Andre the Giant.  Greipel could’ve been the gorilla, bent over, arms flailing with the rear skewer.  No.  Like he flatted at the edge of the Grand Canyon, he stood tall and proud in his stripes, an eagle eye on the horizon, as the mechanic slipped a new wheel in the drops.  That’s how you rock the stripes, ya big monkey.

Stage 2 Cool Raw Emotion
After a gutsy move to push clear off the front, young Radio Shack Belgian Jan Bakelants held on to a razor thin margin and rode to a sweet stage 2 win.  Wait a minute.  Who?  Yeah you Wiki’d him too.  Don’t lie.  With 3rds at Belgian Nats and the Tour of Luxembourg, the win was a milestone in his career.  However, what made this moment so cool were his raw emotions running clear as he crossed the finish line first at the Tour.  There was no pre-planned Saganesque hulk flexing, no finger guns to the sky, no tired pointing at sponsor logos.  It was as if it were Christmas morning and dad rolled out the bike from the front closet with a bow on it.  Honest expressions, that’s Leather Jersey worthy.

Stage 3 Polka Dot Panache
The French guy in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, what was his name?  Oh yeah!  It was Jean Girard, played by Sacha Baron Cohen.  That’s what I think about when I see Pierre Rolland in Polka Dots.  You almost want to tongue kiss him.  Pierre’s polka dot panache was the most stylish case of the chicken pox we’ve seen.  After winning the Polka Dot Jersey, Pierre Rolland kitted up head to ankles in the dots: helmet, skin suit, gloves and bike.  Seeing him on the podium, my wife pointed out two strategically placed, (What’s the word?  Oh yeah.)  nut dots.  Shake and Bake Pierre!

Stage 4 iamcool
He favorited my tweet.  How cool is that?  Ted King gets the nod on Stage 4.  Nursing injuries from earlier crashes, like three broken testicles and with his spleen duct taped to the outside of his jersey, Ted took to the Team Time Trial on a road bike, got dropped by his Cannondale teammates in the first kilometer, and stuck it out solo in hopes of making the time cut.  Even though the race jury gave him the hook because he finished 7 seconds out of the time cut and despite a small social media campaign to keep him in the race, his courage, determination and grit won him the Leather Jersey du jour. 

Nathan Ted king for doing on a road bike.

Stage 5 Sagan’s Goatee
Ahoy!  He’s not a baby face no more.  He’s Friggin’ Captain Jack Sagan.  Even though Cavendish took the sprint in a shaggy 5 o’clock sasquatch, Peter Sagan makes a move to become Il Pirate part deux by the scruff of his chin.  And for that, you get the swashbuckling Leather Jersey on Stage 5.  Sagaaarrrrn!

 Sam Sagan for fighting to stay on the stage podium despite no leadout men as usual and no aero helmet!

Stage 6 Brakool
With the media focused on South African Daryl Impey wearing the yellow jersey, many of you took note of Janez Brajkovic’s Ted King type toughness.  Brako of Astana went down with 11k to go.  Obviously seeing dancing figures of Borat dancing around his helmet, it took forever for him to get back up.  Still he threw a leg over and finished the stage.  We like to think he went to the tour’s mobile hospital unit wearing the Leather Jersey.

Stage 7 Jens “Kiss” Voigt
Suck it Gene Simmons.  Jensie, while off the front in an early breakaway on Stage 7, yucked it up for the moto camera while improvising a prosthetic tongue out of an energy bar.  A photo remains elusive, but it looked something like this.  Jens Voigt, thanks for keeping the tour fun and for that you get the Leather Jersey on Stage 7. 

Kimberly I nearly did a coffee spit-take when I saw that today. 

Stage 8 Movistar
On Stage 8, the Sky meat grinder was in full effect, Froomator with Porte as his henchmen made Spanish sausage out of Contator, going 1-2 on the stage.  Still, Movistar’s Valverde and Quintana kept the tour’s drama alive.  Quintana launched out of the pack into virtual yellow with a minute lead over the summit of the Pailheres.  He would hold it through the descent and up the final climb at Ax 3 Domaines until Froome joined him with about 5k to go.  No one expected Valverde to be the closest competition to Froome at the finale (only 1:25 back) and for that we give the one-two punch of underdogs Valverde and Quintana the State 8 Leather Jersey.  They could wear it together.

Roderick I have to tip my cap to Valverde. He's the only one who managed to give even the slightest hope that the Tour isn't already over.

Stage 9  Ryder’s Sunglasses
The Sky started falling on Stage 9 leaving Froome isolated.  But, like on Stage 7, it wasn’t the big move or win that caught your eye as cool.  Perhaps a poke at Froome’s white specs, reader Ginger was keen to point out Ryder Hesjedal’s big cool hipster glasses.  With teammate Dan Martin taking the stage 9 win, we’ll give Ryder the Leather Jersey to match his sunglasses.