Archive for the ‘Cycle Racing’ Category

Paved – the magazine, reviewed   Leave a comment

The other day I noticed a magazine on a news stand that I hadn’t heard of before – it is called “paved” with the sub title “A brand-new skinny tire magazine from the editors of BIKE.

They call it “brand-new” but the issue I picked up is Issue 1 of Volume 2. I did get the impression from the editorial however that Volume 1 consisted of just a single trial issue in 2010.

I like this magazine. I like that it is a substantial 98 page publication on good paper with good photos and interesting articles!

Among my favorite articles in this issue is an inspiring story of Lindsay Crawford, an American rider I’d not heard of.  What a good read, this article by Gary Boulanger, of  late-blooming racer who at age 40 received an invitation to ride on a Tour de France team ( but never did ride). Then as a 61 year old, Crawford earned himself a yellow jersey. Lots of interesting history here. Still on road racing, Volume 2, Issue 1 also has a good article on the spring classic road race, Milan-San Remo

This magazine isn’t strictly about riding on paved  roads. there is an article riding the mud at World Cup cyclocross races and a photo essay about riding the boards on the track for six-day races. Overall the quality of photos in this magazine is excellent. The section called “[proof]” has a number of full page photos of cyclists on the road – from Oregon to Banff to Nicaragua.

What’s a cycling magazine without some equipment reviews? This one’s got a review of half a dozen high-end bikes ($10K price range) and a couple pages highlight of new gear (clothing, shoes, lights etc.) The magazine also includes a number of high quality ads for cycling gear.

Overall, a good cycling magazine and I will definitely  be looking watching my news stand for the next issue of paved (probably around mid-May?)

You can learn more about paved from its website, which includes links to their Facebook and twitter presence.

Posted April 19, 2011 by Randy Talbot in Cycle Racing, Cycling, Uncategorized

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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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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!

A Senior Pro Cycling Tour?   3 comments

I was feeling kind of sad the last few days hearing Lance Armstrong talk about his last mountain stage and the last time trial he would do in his life – and it got me thinking…

Now I’m probably not the first person  to have thought about this, and maybe it even has been tried, but wouldn’t it be neat if there was a senior pro cycling tour? I’m thinking of something along the lines of the Professional golf senior tour. There would be a minimum qualifying age – I’m thinking a cut-off of 40 years old. I’m guessing that fitness levels/capabilities would level off somewhat above this age so that it wouldn’t be unreasonable to  have riders 20 years apart being competitive with each other. Wouldn’t it be great to see many of the past greats compete against each other – time having healed some old rivalries while other rivalries may have been maintained and even escalated. Perhaps some new rivalries would develop from those who never crossed paths in their primes?  Can you imagine seeing the tour greats of different eras (say a 30 year span) riding together. I think it would be a blast.  I’d love to see Lance go head-to-head with Lemond. I think it would be a great draw for spectators and what draws spectators would draw sponsors.

I would expect the events to be scaled back from the regular pro tour – with just a  three month summer season based in Europe but it would be great for the sport if they had some events in North America and possibly other continents. I’m guessing the 3 week grand tour format would be out with maybe just single day events and a few 3 to 5 day stage races. I don’t see why they couldn’t include mountain, flat (sprinter) and time trial stages

Another idea, specifically for the Tour de France: how about a senior  event that would be open to all past TdF podium finishers (of perhaps anyone who had finished in the GC top-10 or perhaps anyone that had ever won a stage?) I’m imagining a one-day event on the day of the prologue? Wouldn’t that be exciting and a great way to pay homage to the Tour’s great history and characters?

What do you think – could this work? Would the old riders be interested in coming back to race? Would it be commercially viable? Do you think the riders would compete individually or can you imagine them being on sponsored teams?

Posted July 24, 2010 by Randy Talbot in Cycle Racing, Tour de France

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Tour de France 2010 – Week 2   Leave a comment

Unfortunately, I missed most of the action through the Alps and Pyrenees in the 2010 Tour. After the disappointment of not being able to watch much of the first week due to the OLN network in Canada’s decision to only broadcast the live action (with no evening re-broadcast), I thought  being in the States for the second week would allow me to watch the great Versus coverage morning and night. Unfortunately, the Hyatt Regency hotel in San Francisco where I was staying, did not have Versus on their Channel line-up. The only way I had, to keep up with the action and results was via Twitter (primarily @procyclinglive) and even then I had to ration my usage due to ridiculous data roaming rates.

It seems that the two big events of the week came from the two guys (LA and AC) that we expected to make the headlines in the year’s Tour – although this week’s stories were not as a result of them going head-to-head.

On Stage 15 [and I make the following comments without benefit of having been able to watch the race] there was the controversy of Alberto Contador taking advantage of an Andy Schleck problem to jump ahead up the mountain and gain enough time to take the yellow jersey from Schleck.  I’ve always admired Cycling for the sportsmanship demonstrated by waiting when one of the GC contenders encounters bad luck, such as a flat or getting caught up in someone else’s crash. In this case though Schleck’s chain slipped off. To me that does not sound just like random bad luck. I’d attribute it to less than ideal bike tuning or a rider error. If that is the case then I say that it is fair to take advantage of the situation. The best (strongest, most technically skilled and strategic) rider (and team) should rise to the top. Andy’s team should have had someone right there with him to hand over a bike or pace him back to AC (had it not been for the bad fortune of Frank Schleck in Week 1, this is exactly what might have happened and I expect Contador’s move would not have got the same attention).  I’d also give Contador the benefit of the doubt in this case as it might have been difficult for him to know the nature of Schleck’s trouble while in the heat of the battle.  All that said I am still pulling for Andy Schleck and I hope he pulls off a decisive move on Stage 17’s Col de Tourmalet to win back yellow with a nice cushion to carry him through the time trial.

The second big news of the week was Stage 16. I’d been waiting to see Lance Armstrong recover from his disastrous first week and show that he wasn’t about to roll over and quit even though the podium was out of reach. Lance got away in the breakaway on this stage and stayed away but unfortunately just didn’t have enough left at the end to win (or even seriously contend for) the sprint for the win. Still it was a good effort and what seemed to be smart tactical riding from the legend. A week ago I hoped we would have seen more from Lance in these mountain stages, maybe keeping up with Contador/Schleck (just to prove he could) and perhaps a stage win (which Stage 16 could have been).

I’d been pulling for Team Radio Shack which on paper looked to be one of the strongest in the peleton. Although Armstrong is their leader they seemed to be one of the few teams with three serious podium contenders. I’ve been a bit disappointed that Levi Leipheimer hasn’t been more of a factor since Lance faded away. Although Levi is sitting 7th (and that isn’t bad at all), it would have been nice to see him in the race for a podium place. Kloden has been less of a factor that I expected but probably would have shone more had Lance been in contention.  I am really impressed with Chris Horner – a strong support rider for sure but who’d have expected him to have 25 minutes over Lance! Team Radio Shack has got to be a little  disappointed overall they can still salvage some respect by winning the overall team classification which they currently lead.

So going into the final 3 or 4 days what are we to expect? Well, Thursday’s Stage 17  should be the highlight. If Schleck can breakaway from Contador and gain a few minutes (yes that is a very tall order) he could be in a position to  survive the expected Contador advantage in the time trial. If El Pistolero can stick on Schleck’s wheel all day he should be in yellow in Paris. I’ll be watching intently the next few days knowing that even if the racing doesn’t keep me on the edge of my seat at least I can enjoy the wonderful scenery of the French countryside (love that TV coverage!)

Posted July 21, 2010 by Randy Talbot in Cycle Racing, Cycling, Tour de France

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Tour de France 2010 – Week 1   2 comments

Monday July 12 – Rest day, after 8 stages done.

Like many cycling fans my heart dropped watching the bad luck that befell Lance Armstrong and killed his hopes of winning or even reaching the podium in this his final Tour.  He has had bad luck throughout the first week but the triple whammy on the Station des Rousses – Morzine-Avoriaz stage was sad to see. I have long been an admirer of Lance and deep down I was really pulling for the “old guy” to dig down and pull out his magic again. Even before yesterday’s Stage 8, Lance had probably crashed (or got caught up in others’ misfortunes) more times in the first week of this Tour than in his seven-year run of victories.

When he went down, I like every one watching the TV coverage saw Lance swap his bike and then the shot of the back of his jersey being scraped up. I wondered how that happened. It wasn’t until later that I saw a video taken by a spectator on the other side of the road. From that fixed perspective one is reminded of the speed the riders are traveling at. Then all of a sudden there is one cyclist flying along upside down, on his back. That of course was Lance and it made me sick to watch it and all the more in admiration that he was able to get back to the front of the peleton before eventually succumbing to  the pace and his injuries.

It just goes to show how fascinating and perhaps unfair this sport of cycling can be. A rider can be in the best shape of his life but be in the wrong place at the wrong time and it can all be over in a hurry. I  wonder how the first bit of bad luck can lead a rider to over-think his riding a bit, resulting in split second delays which can lead to subsequent bad situations. I also have to wonder how wounds from one crash can slow down one’s reaction times ever so slightly but again enough to leave a rider in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Even with the Lance factor neutralized it still looks to be a very interesting last couple of weeks. Contador looks strong although maybe not as dominating as we expected – but I was very impressed with his team support.  Andy Schleck looks really capable (even without the support of his injured-out brother Frank). Then of course there is still Levi Leipheimer. He is a very strong rider and if he was on just about any team other than Radio Shack he would have been the leader and GC-contender from day 1. Put the resources of team Radio Shack (arguably one of the top teams in the tour) behind him alone and he could easily reach the podium. This one ain’t over yet!

I also don’t think it is all over for Lance. I’m sure he will live his line and “LiveStrong”. He has stated his intent to finish the tour and to enjoy it. Could he have a stage win or two in him. I can imagine the main contenders not worrying about him for GC and letting him go on a break. Get a couple Radio Shack team mates with him and it could be interesting. Probably not gain-back-12-minutes-back -into-podium-contention interesting but I’m thinking a top-10 finish is not yet out of the question – or how about Lance making a run for the polka-dot jersey???

Yes it will be interesting and I get wait for the action to resume tomorrow!