Archive for August 2010

Laurent Fignon   Leave a comment

I was deeply saddened this morning to check my twitter feed and read that Laurent Fignon had passed away of cancer at age 50. I had not been aware that he was battling cancer so I was particularly shocked by the news.  Apparently he was still working, providing television commentary at this year’s Tour.

Laurent Fignon - painting by Randall Talbot

I wasn’t sure why I felt as sad as I did. I certainly never new him personally but I sensed he was a good guy. He was my hero back in the 80’s as I started to seriously follow professional cycling, and particularly the Tour de France. I loved this guy’s style.  His look was unique enough – with the blond ponytail and glasses – just not what you’d expect for a professional cyclist but obviously this guy could ride and from all indications he was a good person and sportsman.

I was impressed by the words of praise for Laurent that flowed out of Twitter today from so many in the cycling community that I respect. The comments seemed heartfelt and confirmed him as a well liked and respected person.

Laurent won the Tour de France  in 1983 and 1984 and very narrowly lost to Greg LeMond in 1989. His life was not without some controversy but nonetheless he will be missed.

R.I.P Laurent Fignon

Posted August 31, 2010 by Randy Talbot in Cycle Racing, Tour de France

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The Bike Show – a recommended podcast   Leave a comment

I have to mention and recommend a cycling podcast that I’ve been listening to for the last year and find very interesting. I am referring to  The Bike Show which a weekly radio show on Resonance FM in London (England). The show is hosted by Jack Thurston and covers the whole spectrum of cycling.

I first discovered the program as Thurston did a couple of episodes describing his bicycle tour from Montreal to New York, but I’ve appreciated the coverage of all topics to do with bike culture. There have been shows about the Tour de France – previews and reviews. an interesting discussion and a debate of new plans for bike routes in London and a story on  Bicycle Thieves, a bicycle-based bit of theater in London (where the audience of 50 travel on bikes, alongside the actors to various locations where the story plays out – fascinating)!  As I write these words I am listening to an interview with Ron Cooper, a 79-year old frame builder as he reminisces over his life in the cycling world and some 7000 frames he has built.

You never know what the program will cover next – it’s kind of like cycle touring in an area you’ve never been through before – always a surprise, always a pleasure to be making the journey, and delight and food-for-thought in what you see (or in this case hear). While the programs often would be of most interest to someone in the London region (and secondly in the UK), never have I  found the discussion to not be informative and worth listening to. Also the programs feature a musical interlude with some connection back to the program of the day (I can appreciate the challenge in finding those musical connections). Most programs run about half an hour.

Check out the program’s  blog/program notes page and you will find links to listen to the programs or to subscribe on iTunes.

Posted August 8, 2010 by Randy Talbot in Cycling

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Canadian Cycling Magazine   Leave a comment

“The Incredible Steve Bauer” – the words jumped at me off the magazine cover  as I was browsing in a bookstore the other day. He was probably the greatest Canadian cyclist yet. I was a big fan of Steve in his heyday but I haven’t heard much about him recently. “I wonder what he is up to?” – that is reason enough to pick up this magazine and probably to buy it. What magazine? Canadian Cycling Magazine. I’d heard of this relatively new publication but hadn’t yet actually seen a copy. So I bought it and let me tell you what I think.

I’m impressed. This is a quality mag. It looks good, feels good and the content is solid. I like all aspects of cycling and this magazine delivers across the cycling spectrum. The June & July 2010 issue that I am reviewing covers  road racing with the feature article about former pro racer Steve Bauer, and another story about Canadian Kevin Field as an Assistant Director on the Livestrong Team. There is an article on cycling PEI (the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island) and a few articles touching on mountain bikes and riders. Nutrition, maintenance and training are all featured in this issue. If that wasn’t enough this issue also featured a Buyer’s Guide covering bikes as well as gear for road and mountain biking.

As I said (and just demonstrated), the content is solid. For me, another essential element of a print magazine is the presentation – and this one looks good. I’m a big photography fan so I was blown away by two 2-page photos in a gallery section – big beautiful cycling photos with just a minimum of text up at the top of one page – KUDOS! Another important aspect of a magazine are the ads and the ads in this one seemed very fresh. This may change over time or I might have a different impression if I read a lot of cycling publications but in this read through, I found the ads as attractive and interesting as some of the articles. The Canadian angle on both the articles and the advertising also serves to make the magazine fresher and more interesting (to Canadians any w-eh)

So back to Steve Bauer. I’d forgotten the details of his cycling career and just how impressive he was. To mention just a few: 4th overall in GC at the 1988 Tour de France, 8th, 4th, 2nd and 4th in Paris-Robaix between 1988 and 1991, and in yellow at the 1991 Tour de France for 9 consecutive days. These days Steve is the Director Sportif of the Team Spidertech Powered by Planet Energy. The article includes talk of Bauer’s dream of having a Canadian team in the Tour de France and a little anecdote of how Lance Armstrong asked Bauer to be the director of U. S. Postal Team before asking Johan Brunyeel. Interesting stuff! I’m hooked. I’ll be subscribing.

I know it can be tough for Canadian magazines to succeed  and I wish Canadian Cycling Magazine the best of luck (however, if they can keep up the quality, luck should play only a small part).

If you want to check them out online, note that their URL is http://cyclingmagazine.ca/

Posted August 3, 2010 by Randy Talbot in Cycling

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Looking back – the 2010 Tour de France   Leave a comment

Well it’s been a week since the end of the 2010 edition of the Tour de France, so I just want to collect and express a few of my  thoughts.

For me this Tour turned out to be a real disappointment.  Normally the Tour is  the sporting highlights of my year. I will get up early and watch part of the live TV broadcast   before heading off to work. Then in the evening I would watch the extended re-broadcast.  I’d be following all of the websites I can and generally I  am obsessed with cycling for 3 weeks. This year looked to be one of the great match-up between arch-rivals Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador. Aside from these two there seemed to be a number of serious podium contenders that would make it interesting. In the end though, I never really got into this year’s event and I feel empty – like something is missing from my summer.

The Lance-Alberto showdown which was to be the headline story was a big fizzle. Once Lance had his 3-crash bad day and fell out of overall GC contention, this part of the story was all over. I was saddened to see that Lance seemed to lose it spirit after that. I really hoped and expected that he would continue to ride with the big boys after that. It makes me wonder if he really had a chance to win anyway. If he hadn’t crashed would he have had the fitness and strength to keep up with Contador and Schleck? It was nice to see Lance’s big breakaway performance on stage 16. We can only speculate on how much was physical and how much was his spirit. Hopefully he will talk about this some day.

The Alberto-Andy Schleck story was still a good once The two riders were very evenly matched physically, both motivated and I liked that the contest was still being fought up until the second last day. A bit of  interest was provided by the Stage 15 controversy when Contador moved to take advantage of a Schleck problem and thereby steal the Yellow Jersey. I gave Alberto the benefit of the doubt on that one and I was pleased to see that Andy accepted his apology. Still I loved Andy’s initial reaction and comment ” My stomach is full of anger, and I want to take my revenge“. It’s a classic – I’m tempted to get a t-shirt.

I really liked the first week route, with some hills and cobbles. It certainly made things more interesting than just a series of sprint finishes that so often seem to be the story of the pre-mountain stage. Obviously the weather played a factor that week too. It was sad to see the crashes and a few dreams dashed but it was interesting!

A major disappointment for me  was the television coverage in Canada. In years past the cable network OLN Canada has picked up most of the Versus coverage from the US. This year OLN decided to carry only the live morning coverage (filling out their evening coverage with garbage like Operation Repo). As usual the coverage with Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen was excellent. However without the evening broadcast I missed out on the insights and humor of Bobke (Bob Roll). I really wish OLN/Rogers would realize what a gem they have with rights to cover the Tour de France. This lack of TV coverage really took the wind out of my sails, I just really never got into the Tour this year. I hope the Tour organizers will be able to award Canadian coverage rights in 2011 to a network that knows what they have and  how to do it right!

The television commercials are hard to avoid and watching hours a day you tend to see many of the ads over and over again. The OLN ads for their evening shows were bad to start with and particularly annoying when you realized that they were preempting  the good stuff.  However there were a few gems amongst the TV spots. The Alberto and Andy Specialized commercial was one of the best to air during the Tour – it made me laugh every time I saw it (deep fried turkey – ha ha!). I also thought the Nike/Livestrong Lance solo ride commercial was very inspiring. Finally, hats off to Cervelo for their honest, intelligent spots!

The 2011 tour is already shaping up to be interesting , just in terms of the riders that will be coming and going. It already  looks like the Schlecks and Contador will have new teams. We know Armstrong is going into retirement 2.0. Will Leipheimer, Horner and Hincapie follow him? The 2011 tour could be a year for a changing of the guard for American cycling. Canadians were very excited  and proud of the  7th place finish of Ryder Hesjedal from Victoria. It will be interesting to see if that accomplishment earns him a place as a team leader or will he be back to the role of a domestique in the 2011 race once the Garmin team leaders are healthy (assuming they are all still with Garmin).

How many days until the 2011 prologue? I can’t wait!