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2012 Tour de France – Wrap-up   Leave a comment

Well, that’s a wrap – the 2012 Tour de France. As I write this, there is still the final ride into Paris but that is largely ceremonial as far as the General Classification is concerned.

Bradley Wiggins won, but more by attrition and by a strong team, than by any personal heroics on his part. It is sad that his most noteworthy moment (to those outside of the UK anyway) will be remembered as his angry, foul-mouthed response to reporter’s questions.

Cadel Evans, the 2011 winner was supposed to challenge Wiggins but he never seemed to be in contention – he was dropped in the mountains and suffered big time losses in the time trial (where he was expected to do much better). I won’t be surprised if we hear some story after the race, about how Evans was hampered by an illness or injury that was not made public during the race.

Frank Schleck positive was a surprise but did I hear correctly that he tested positive for a diuretic which itself was not prohibited but is often used as a masking agent for other banned substances – so Schleck drops out immediately (or did the Radio Shack team make that decision?). I’ll credit Schleck for his cooperation with authorities and give him the benefit of the doubt with his suspicion that he was poisoned. Normally I may not have been so quick to accept that excuse but after the tacks on the road incidence, it does seem like someone may have been trying to influence the results of this year’s Tour.

My favorite competitor in this year’s Tour was Wiggin’s Sky teammate Christopher  Froome. He’s the type of rider I like to watch (and support) one who is strong in the mountains and a good overall competitor. I’ll be watching him closely  next year and if he does end up on a different team, things should get interesting (not to mention how interesting things will be if Andy Schleck is back, and Ryder Hesjedal too).

I was also impressed with some of the sprinting performances – Peter Sagan comes to mind first but also the powerful finish of Mark Cavendish on Stage 18!

Overall, I found this year’s tour to be the most boring that I have seen. Although I faithfully watched the live race coverage everyday (via British Eurosport), I never seemed to really get into the race. I don’t think there was anything wrong with the event, the coverage or the course, It’s just the way things worked out.

The next big event on the cycling calendar is of course the Olympics but I’ve never found Olympic road cycling to be particularly captivating – probably because of the way Olympic TV coverage jumps around from event to event. What I am looking forward to next is the Vuelta d’Espana. I’ve heard very little of who will be riding but I am  looking forward to it nonetheless.

So what did you think of the Tour? Did it meet your expectations?

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Posted July 21, 2012 by Randy Talbot in Cycle Racing, Tour de France, Uncategorized

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The 2012 Tour de France has Begun   Leave a comment

I know where I will be every morning for the next 3 weeks – glued to the coverage of the 2012 Tour de France (live web coverage via Eurosport). The Tour is easily my favorite sporting event of the year. I love the way it is different every year – the route changes, the teams and riders change but what stays the same gives it it’s great appeal. There is always some drama, always some unpredicted happenings and undoubtedly there will be some exceptional personal performances.

This year has started with some pre-race controversy. I’m thinking primarily about a number of stories with Team Radio Shack: dissent on the team, unpaid riders, an injured Andy Schleck (who won’t be racing), the drug allegations against Director Johann Bruyneel, Chris Horner’s initial exclusion from the team. They had been my favorite team but now … I just don’t know.

The favorites to win GC this year are defending champion Cadel Evans and Bradley Wiggins. They could do it but somehow both of these riders leave me a little cold. I don’t dislike them but neither do I have any strong feelings for them. It seems that this year’s line-up lacks riders that evoke strong positive or negative emotions – no great personal rivalries.

So who am I predicting to win? Don’t know! Who am I pulling for? Well I’m going with old-timer Levi Leipheimer. I’ve liked his attitude and personality for years and he is probably getting near the end of his career. It would be nice to see Levi win the GC (or at least get on the podium). If everyone stays healthy and accident free he may be a longshot but if the cards fall in an unfortunate way for the other front runners, Levi could be there.

I’d also love to see Ryder Hesjedal perform well and take it. Common belief say that a rider can’t do well in both the Giro and the Tour (and Hesjedal did win this years Giro). Maybe it’s time to put that old thought to rest. Ryder rode a smart Giro and maybe did not exhaust himself. He may have what it takes to pull off a double – wouldn’t that be something!

Whatever happens I will be enjoying the Tour. I would enjoy it even if just for the coverage of the peleton cruising through the varied and wonderful French landscape.

Who are you pulling for in this years Tour?

Posted June 30, 2012 by Randy Talbot in Uncategorized

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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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My Season Starts!   Leave a comment

Just a week ago, the first weekend of spring 2011, I was out cross-country skiing here in Edmonton’s river valley. The snow was great, the temperatures winter-like and the prospects of getting out on the bike anytime soon seemed remote. However what a difference a week can make, especially a few days when the sun shines and the temperatures rises  to seasonal highs of around +8. Don’t get me wrong, there is still lots of snow on the ground and I’m sure the skiing would still have been great today but something inside me changed this week and it had to be two wheels not two “boards”.

Happy cyclist (me) on the Edmonton trails

I kept my expectations moderate for today. I would have been happy to just get in a 15 minute ride. As it turns out I was out for at least an hour and covered 16K – with many stops to take photos. I stuck to the paved paths on the north side of Edmonton’s river valley trail system from Riverdale to the base of McKinnon Ravine. It was mostly sunny so I was surprised to learn that the temperature at the time was only +3C. I guess I was properly dressed wearing a couple of layers plus a Gortex jacket. I had a head cover under my helmet and was wearing full-finger winter cycling gloves. The only part which was a little cool by the end was my feet as I was wearing  just a single pair of socks inside my regular cycling shoes (the same as I would wear in summer).

gloves for the "just above freezing" temperatures

I knew it would be messy so I rode my “mountain” bike. Last year I had replaced my knobby tires with some relatively smooth road tires so I was a little concerned that I might have trouble on the trails, especially if I encountered patches of snow. It turns out my tires were fine. There were a few patches of snow and ice but I was able to get by these obstacles without incident.

My machine for messy first day conditions

The key to riding the trails today (and I expect it will be for a couple of weeks at least) is to take it easy. It is more an exercise in technical riding than technically riding for exercise. It is more brain and fine motor skills than a strong cardio-vascular endeavor. This is just as well for me, at this point of the season.

So what was it like on the trails? Pretty much like I expected – the first two descriptors that apply are wet and sandy!

My tire, wet and sandy trail, water and ice on the edge

There were only a couple of stretches where there were puddles right across the trail. Most of the time there was a clear path although not necessarily both lanes. Most of the trails I was on today had been plowed during the winter and I rode the trails on the north side of the river which have been exposed to the sun, leading to rapid melting of what snow had been left on the trail. There were a couple of sheltered areas where there was slushy snow across most of the trail. The greatest hazard I noted was ice on the sloping trail under the Low Level Bridge (the north side of the west end of the bridge).

Debris and puddle on trail south or Rossdale Power Plant

Water in one lane, snow on the other - trail northwest of Groat Bridge

 

Snowiest trail section - a couple turns south of Low Level Bridge

Icy trail section looking west to start of McKinnon Ravine

Overall the trails were better than shown on these four last photos and they can change quickly. In fact looking the other direction  from that last icy section is this nice clear stretch of trail:

A mostly clear, dry bike trail (note the frozen North Saskatchewan River on the right)

Although the trails were not ideal there was not much traffic on the trails which made it easy to move from side to side to choose a safe path. I did encounter few cyclists and a number of walkers and runner. I found myself going very slowly around the others so as not to spray them with water or sand.

I knew it was going to be dirty and I could feel the grit in my drive train throughout the ride. This is what my bottom bracket area looked like after 16K out there:

Yes, there is some cleaning and probably some re-lubing to do which isn’t particularly fun, but overall it was sure wonderful being  out cycling again. It is comforting to know that things (weather and trail conditions)  can only get better for the next 4 or 5 months.

 

 

 

Posted April 2, 2011 by Randy Talbot in Cycling, Uncategorized

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