After watching the final stage of the Tour of California, a few observations:
#1. If you podium on a race, don't bring your kid (s) with you to the presentation, period.
#2. NBC Sports needs to stop dumb-ifying the sport for the none cycling fan. It doesn't matter how much you water it down ("Pro Continental is like a 2A team".), it just sounds stupid to a bicycle racing aficionado.
#3. Peter Sagan. Enough said!
#4. The future of american cycling is secure with a fresh crop of new, young talent. (i.e. Van Garderen, Talinsky, Dombrowski, to name a few)
And the first of the Grand Tours is shaping out to be quite the battle. After today's first "big" day in the mountains, everyone is pointing the finger at Ryder Hesdejal to take the final pink jersey home. Joaquim Rodriguez is riding with inspiration and bravado, but unlike everyone else, he hasn't had the usual "bad day" most riders have in 3 weeks tour and the pending ITT could be the breaking point for the Katusha leader. After all, 32 seconds lead ahead of Hesdejal is not a comforting distance, and the Canadian is well within striking distance. Yet, he (Ryder) plays it cool, avoiding any pressure saying that he's taking it "day by day". Basso and Scarponi together with Pozzovivo will probably go nuts on the next two mountain stages, trying to drop each other and everyone else, especially Hesdejal, hoping to build a lead that will help them during the time trial. But only the road will tell.
I have to name the Giro d'Italia as my favorite race of the entire year. The race is deep in history but the atmosphere that takes over the entire country in May for three weeks is just contagious, in a very positive way. Heck, my italian has grown over the last few years by just following the race via the Gazzetta dello Sport website. It helps that I'm also taking italian on Rossetta Stone, so May is a fun month to watch racing in Italy. And so far, the race has taken a very international flavor, not only with its depart in Denmark, but with the diversity of winners and pink jersey wearers. Good to see Ryder Hesdejal in pink for 3 days. The world champ is also in the mix by getting a stage win or two to add to his tally, and the italians are making sure the fun never stops, by adding some aggressive attacking in each of the stages thus far. "Purito" Rodriguez grabbed the jersey in stunning fashion and believes that he can take it all the way to the end. His team director is not that convinced, since the spaniard is known for dropping the anchor on the big climbs and has a known allergy to individual time trials. We shall see.
On this side of the Atlantic, the Tour of California is also taken place. "The Sagan Show" as it should be named, has had hills from day one, something better for the fan if you ask me. Those short prologue during starting a stage race is rather boring. The organizers have gotten it right I think, and the weather has helped too. But the young Liquigas-Cannondale phenom has shown his class in each of the first three days, by riding his bike with such panache. Nevermind he's a bit dry during his post win interviews, the show he (and his teamamtes) puts while on the road makes up for his lack of charisma, if you may.
And on the "WTF" column, this little gem. First the director sportif calls him "an idiot", only to turn around later and offer the full team support to the rider. What can I say?. The shoot now and ask questions later attitude that has clouded the sport, continues with poor reporting on the french leading sport's newspaper, a quick pull of the trigger on the part of team management and a rider's career hangs on the line. Just another day in the circus.
This has to be my favorite finish for a road race. Coldsprings offers a nice, rolling, 16 mile loop, with a tough uphill finish, so once the move back to Texas was completed last September, I quickly marked it on the calendar of races as a MUST!!.
Up until last Saturday, the training has gone according to plan. In Fayeteville, the effects of a week in Cancun showed that drinking and eating, then traveling straight to the race after 4 days of laying by the beach is not good preparation. Then at Beauty and The Beast, I could sense that things were starting to turn. But once I started to do the Gruppo VOP ride in Austin on Saturdays, my form just took off. So not wanting to push things as in previous years, I devised this plan to include two hard rides during the week, but plenty, and I mean, plenty of easy riding in between. Never was I a fan of one hour long rides, I couldn't be bothered, but now, after getting some good feelings and getting to the weekend rested as opposed as trashed from too much riding during the week, the chances at Coldpsring looked promising.
The only other time I did the race was in 2006, when I finished 3rd...with that in mind and knowing that the form was there, I told myself 3er or better this time, and to hug the yellow line as much as possible, especially on the approach to the finish. At a few minutes after 8am, the Masters 35+ 4/5 took off and my teammates Glenn and Danny were joining in the festivities. Totally against my style of racing (tail gunner), I spent the first lap of the race no farther than 5 positions from the front. The pace wasn't hot and it wasn't until someone went down somewhere in the middle of the second lap, that things started to pick up. As is customary with me, I went straight to the back of the group, but was finding it easy to move back to the front, thanks to wide roads and the undulations allowed me to carry momentum at will.
When we hit the last lap, a two man break formed and those two guys worked very well together...Glenn came by and asked if they would stay away. Shaken my head to indicate, no!!, I was sure that their short lead was going to be closed down by the main bunch as we got near the finish. But they kept a relentless and steady pace, while at the back the bunch became unorganized, or the chase was properly disrupted. Danny put on a ton of effort, together with a couple of other guys, to close the gap, but there was a team from Houston always getting in and slowing things down. At the front, the two escapees just kept their heads down while at the back we were already thinking about racing for third. Over the bridge we went and I was towards the back of the then diminished pack, safely inside but close to the yellow line, as my plan was. Confusion sat in with where the 200m mark was, but I knew that once the front sped up, the middle of the road would open up, and it did...I began to accelerate about 300 meters out, sticking to the yellow line, and passing riders...I glanced up and the two breakways were taking the two top spots, but two other guys were fighting for the last podium spot...I was now in full afterburner mode and closing fast on the next two riders, but one of them looked back and kicked again. So 4th it was...not the goal I had set, but not a bad result either. Glenn and Danny were not that far behind, coming in 6th and 7th.
Meanwhile, over in Denmark, the Giro is now on its way to the motherland. Good for Phinney to take the lead on Saturday and for battling two crashes on the next two stages. Ferrari's attitude and mouth didn't win him any friends today, but in pro cycling, people like him find the hard way not to mess or risk other riders chances, especially, when you are marked as the guy who took down the current World Champ. His manager, the cagey, Giani Savio went into damage control as soon as his rider had crossed the line. A great tactician but even better politician, Savio's PR move would hopefully sooth any hard feelings, and the up coming day off should help his cause.