Archive for July 2011

A Well Deserved Rest Day   Leave a comment

The 2011 Tour de France reaches it’s well deserved first rest day – what a start it has been. It has been painful to watch because of all of the pain on the road. Fans need a break too. There were times in that first week when I really questioned if I wanted to continue watching. We all know that there are going to be crashes and there will always be riders having to abandon, but this year has been different in frequency and severity. Stage 9 had not one but two crashes that just made me cringe and I hope I never see anything like them again.
I have to admit that after Vino’s stage 8 attack I was kind of pulling for him and hoping that his last Tour might have a magic moment or two for him. To see the pained look on his face on stage 9 as his teammates carry him up out of that ravine – with a broken femur! – heartbreaking. What a way to kill a dream.
Then there was the second major Stage 9 crash – the France TV car crashing into the breakaway riders. Horrifying and inexcusable! The initial impact was bad, seeing two riders launched from the road was bad and crashing into that fence …
What grit, what character for the two of them (Sky’s Flecha and Vacansoleil-DCM’s Hoogerland) to get back on their bikes and finish the stage – particularly Hoogerland who tangled with the barbed wire fence suffering multiple lacerations and extensive bleeding – what a moving performance. I’m sure hoping the rest day is enough for these two to recover enough to continue but time will tell.
Of course Stage 9 was just one of many crazy crash filled days. Who would have guessed that so many GC contenders (Brajkovic, Wiggins, Horner) would have been knocked out even before the big mountain stages. Other contenders such as Contador and Leipheimer have had multiple crashes, and while they are still riding with no serious injuries, they’ve lost a lot of time and are unlikely to reach the podium in Paris. So far the. Schleck brothers stand out as the lucky, crash-free ones and if I were a betting man…
Of course there is still a lot of racing to come and as we know too well from the first nine days, anything can happen and lots of time can be lost in the Pyrenees and Alps.
So as much as I hate to see the crashes and injuries, you know I will not be able to ignore the rest of this year’s Tour.

Posted July 10, 2011 by Randy Talbot in Cycle Racing, Tour de France

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Summer Riding in Edmonton’s River Valley   Leave a comment

Yesterday I got out for a very pleasant ride – a ride in weather that was what I wait for all year – summer! The sky was mostly cloudy with a few sunshine breaks. The winds were minimal and temperatures around 20C. It great to be out on the wheels anytime but to be out shorts and a short sleeve jersey and be perfectly comfortable is what I live for.

It was a 40K ride in just under 2 hours on my Proctor touring bike – over one of my favorite routes. I ride out from central Edmonton on the north side, down River Road, across Groat Bridge and up Groat Road. From there it is along the top of the bank on Saskatchewan drive, down Keillor Road past the pastoral Whitemud equine centre. It is not uncommon along this “rural” section to encounter some bugs and I did – swallowed a bug or two and had a butterfly bounce off the bridge of my nose.

I crossed Whitemud creek and under the south end of  the Quesnell bridge (still a construction zone). Next there is the bike path through the delightfully wooded area on the south edge of Fort Edmonton Park followed by a good little climb up Whitemud Road. I continue along Whitemud Road  and onto Ramsay Crescent and past the point where a top of the bank home slid into the river valley a few years ago. A short off-road path takes me over to Rooney Crescent that I follow around  until I can cross Rabbit Hill Road. Rooney Crescent is a relatively quiet residential road but has has abundant hazards in the form of  many manhole covers that seem  to occur in offset pairs that stick up considerably above the road surface. To hit one of these, at moderate speed could dangerously launch a cyclist. There seemed to be some recent road work to level out some of these bumps but many hazards are still there so be cautious.

Once across Rabbit Hill Road, I follow the south bank of the river along Hefferman Drive and over to Hector Road where I find my 20K point. After a brief pause for an energy bar and a few gulps of water, I turned around and headed home for a 40K out and back.

The only “excitement” of the ride came on the way back, just after I had crossed over Groat Bridge and was connecting back on to the River Road bike path. I’d just turned onto the path and was moving slowly as I  briefly looked down to get my shoe on my pedal. At that moment I drifted into the fence railing on my right, scraping my right upper arm and taking a wood sliver. Fortunately I didn’t fall so I just continued on for the last few flat and fast kilometers.

Yes, “Summertime, and the riding is easy …”

Following the Action in Day 1 in the 2011 Tour   2 comments

In yesterday’s post I  talked about my options in following the 2011 Tour de France from here in Canada. As I write, the first stage in nearly complete and here is what I did.

Without digital cable to watch the TSN2 television coverage in Canada, I have resorted to web coverage – and it hasn’t been bad. Without subscribing to the NBC All Access Pass I have not been able to follow the commentary of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen [I just noticed that the all access pass is restricted to U.S. residents only so that option wouldn’t have worked anyway].  What I have been watching is the english language UK web feed from Eurosport via fromsportCOM.  The  biggest drawback to the web feed is the small display window – but it is fine for sitting right in front of the computer screen. Pleasantly, I am finding the commentary on this feed to be good – Phil and Paul are not the only capable commentators.

Not only am I tuned in to the video/commentary feed but I also have a number of other browser windows open for various info on the Tour. Here are the websites I currently have open:

Who am I picking to win this year’s Tour? There would seem to be half a dozen contenders and I think it will come down to the breaks – the good and bad luck of teams and individual riders.  If Contador plays it safe and smart, he should be a favorite. Personal I am pulling for Andy Schleck this year. After a couple of second place  finishes I’d love to see him come out on top this year. I also wish the best for Canadian rider, Ryder Hesjedal  and in terms of teams, I’m cheering for Team Radio Shack. We will see what happens.

Following the 2011 Tour   1 comment

It was the day before the-start-of-the-2011-Tour-de-France and … I am excited, but confused and anxious.

I am excited because the Tour is my favorite sporting event and seeing the French countryside in the TV coverage always makes me smile, partly because of memories of the riding I’ve done in that country.

I am confused and anxious because I am very unsure what my Tour-following experience will be like this year. For a number of years we had pretty decent TV coverage as the OLN Canada cable network had picked up and broadcast the excellent, live and enhanced Versus coverage from the U.S. Then last year (2010) OLN slashed their coverage to just the live coverage in the morning with no broadcast of the extended coverage in thew evening. I was not happy with that situation and lamented that the powers that be should not give Tour broadcast rights for a country unless the network was going to do it right.

So here we are in 2011 and have things improved? Well OLN Canada is not broadcasting the Tour so that sounded promising. The fact that TSN announced that they had the rights sounded good but coverage details have been slow in coming and I don’t like some of what I’ve heard. My first criticism is that the Tour will not be on the main TSN network but on their TSN2 network. TSN2 is a digital channel which I do not have in my cable package, and am not equipped to receive. So do I make an investment for just this 3 week event – is is worth the cost and hassle?

Another problem was that I didn’t know what I would be getting in the TSN2 coverage. From the now available TSN  schedule it appears that TSN2 will be providing the live coverage (approx 0600-0930, local time) and a rebroadcast most afternoons at 1300. There are however 7 days when the rebroadcast will be on regular TSN network (which will not require digital cable capability), in the evening.

Until very recently I wasn’t sure from where TSN2 was going to pick up their commentary feed. I  am very happy to discover that they will in fact be featuring the Versus team of Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwan and the often corny, but so delightful, Bob Roll.

At this point I will probably make do with the web coverage of le Tour for a day or two and see if that’ll be adequate. I have also been considering the NBC/Versus All Access Pass for enhanced web coverage of the Tour.

If  these web options don’t cut it, I may have to splurge for additional cable hardware and channel packages. One way or another though, I will be (virtually) there. I am excited – for the Tour always has drama, unpredictability and of course, great scenery.

 

How will you be following the 2011 Tour de France (especially from Canada)?

 

Posted July 1, 2011 by Randy Talbot in Cycle Racing, Tour de France

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