Archive for the 'Racing' Category

07
Jul
09

The Official Denis Menchov Blooper Reel

Poor Denis Menchov just can’t seem to stay on his bike — maybe it’s his tires, maybe it’s his handling skills, or maybe he just loves the salty grit of pavement. Although the international cycling press lacks the cobbles to ask him which one it truly is, I suspect it’s the last one. After all, why would you lose your concentration and hit the deck during an important Stage 4 team time trial — one in which you’re fighting to keep time against powerhouse teams like Astana and Saxo Bank — unless you absolutely love the taste of French asphalt?

And think back to a month and a half ago, as Menchov was finishing up his final TT through the streets of Rome, enroute to his first Giro d’Italia win:

Sure, it was a little rainy and Menchov was on his TT bike, but have you ever had authentic Italian road?

[the rest of the highlights and bonus hilarity after the jump]

Continue reading ‘The Official Denis Menchov Blooper Reel’

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06
Jul
09

Mark Cavendish is Fastest Man in the World (sorry, ladies)

Tour de France 2009 Stage Three

Someone get Usain Bolt and Bill Curtis on the horn: according to every Versus commentator (including the mind numbing team of  Craig Hummer and Bob Roll), Mark Cavendish is now apparently the “fastest man in the world,” following powerful sprint wins of Tour stages 2 and 3. In both cases, Cavendish beat the strongest sprinters in the world by at least a bike length, and he even had time at the end of his Stage 3 win to further immasculate a tapped Thor Hushovd (Cervelo) by placing a call on his mobile to Thor’s girlfriend.

That said, even the fastest man in the world can’t do it alone, and Cavendish owes both Columbia-HTC teammates George Hincapie and Mark Renshaw a few beers for some of the best sprint lead-outs I’ve ever seen (“Again, [Renshaw’s] showed he’s the best lead-out man in the business,” said Cavendish after Stage 3). While it’s still very early in the race, Columbia-HTC have proven their ability to control the pack all the way to the end of a stage, and an uncanny ability for launching the Manx Missile at precisely the right moment (referring to Cavendish, not his penis).

Of course, none of this should really be surprising, considering the fastest man in the world is taking his marching orders from a brilliant Tour staple of the past:

Cavendish also praised Columbia sprint coach Erik Zabel, calling him “the most consistent rider of the last generation” and crediting his victory at Milan-San Remo to the German who wore the Tour’s green jersey for six consecutive years during 1996-2001.

“I just turned 24, I’ve won some races, but if I can combine my sprint with Erik’s consistence and experience. … We work so well together. There’s a great alchemy.”

Cavendish needs three more stage wins to tie the current British record of 8, held by Barry Hoban.

[see the Stage 2 finish after the jump]

Continue reading ‘Mark Cavendish is Fastest Man in the World (sorry, ladies)’

02
Jul
09

A Highly Visual Reference for the Tour de France

colorful pelotonOne of the things that prevents cycling from reaching a broader audience in the US, in my humble opinion, is the fact that it’s tough to keep track of all of the major players, especially in a Grand Tour like the one starting on Saturday. American sports, much like the American ethic in general, are centered around flashes of individual greatness — the quarterback, the running back, the pitcher, the home run bomber — and as such, team-oriented sports like soccer and cycling have no chance in hell of going mainstream, save for some sort of socialist/communist revolution.

The ironic thing is that professional cycling is full of individual heroics, but the fact that it comes in rarer flashes, after hours of riding in a tightly compressed, seemingly anonymous pack, leaves many people bored as hell. A person can only ask “Where’s Lance?” so many times before flipping over to the baseball game for good, where there are only two teams and pronouncable names on the back of each jersey.

In an effort to counter boredom-by-confusion, Bike Scene proudly presents a visual reference of all the teams competing in the 2009 Tour de France, so you can easily follow the teams and know who you’re yelling at.

[the complete list after the jump]

Continue reading ‘A Highly Visual Reference for the Tour de France’

28
Jun
09

Alberto Contador Will Win Tour, Make Love to You

PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OFFICE OF ALBERTO CONTADOR VELASCO:

6.28.09 (PINTO, MADRID) – There has been much confusion emanating from the international sporting press corps about the up coming 2009 Tour de France, and The Office of Alberto Contador Velasco (TOACV) would like very much an opportunity to set the record straight. Very simply, Alberto Contador, lead rider for UCI ProTeam Astana, will be the humble winner of the 96th running of the Tour de France, and will be accepting advanced congratulations and gifts at the address listed at the end of this release.

Contador has come off of a long season of training and preparations for this year’s Tour de France, and as leader of Team Astana, is excited to lead the other eight riders to victory on July 26th. Fresh off a Spanish national TT title, where he beat former Caisse d’Epargne rider (now TOACV staffer), Luis León Sánchez by 37 seconds, Contador is confident that he’ll be in the yellow jersey from the prologue — a short time trial in the streets of Monaco.

TOACV would also very much like to thank the American rider, Lance Armstrong, for his upcoming support of Contador through the Tour’s 21 stages, including 3 grueling mountain top finishes. Here is a picture taken in 2008 by the Telegraph of London, featuring Contador with Astana manager, Johan Bruyneel, and Armstrong.

the threesome

Armstrong will make a fantastic domestique and addition to Team Astana, and may even be strong enough to win a second or third podium position.

[official TOACV video after the jump]

Continue reading ‘Alberto Contador Will Win Tour, Make Love to You’

26
Jun
09

Versus Network Really Wants You to Catch the Race

VS_LOGO_WHOLE2Versus has released their programming schedule for the Tour de France and, as has generally been true of years past, you’ll have to make a concerted effort to actually miss the race.

Much to the disappointment of hockey nuts and bull riding afficionados everywhere, Versus will turn into the Tour de France network come July 4th, with live coverage in the morning followed by race replays all day and extended primetime coverage in the evening — according to the network, it will average out to about 13 hours of Tour coverage each day… in HD, no less.

A sample day of coverage, taken from the official Versus television schedule:

Stage 13: Friday, July 17, 2009
Vittel – Colmar
8:30am to 11:30am: LIVE Daily Coverage
12:00pm to 2:00pm: Race Action Replay
2:30pm to 4:30pm: Race Action Replay
5:00pm to 7:00pm: Race Action Replay
8:00pm to 11:00pm: Expanded Primetime Coverage
12:00am to 3:00am: Race Action Replay

I don’t mean to complain, but really, Versus, how do you expect me to get any work done with a schedule like that?? At least the Cubs aren’t worth watching anymore, so that’ll free up a good 3 hours a day.

[Tour de France TV Schedule – Versus]

25
Jun
09

The Countdown Begins: 10 Days to Le Tour

2009_tour_de_france_route

It’s officially ten days until the 96th Tour de France blasts off in Monaco, and things are strangely quiet. Even with national championships going on, there’s not much news hitting the wires; the best (and most cliche) way to describe it is as the calm before the storm. And you’d better believe it’s coming. The multitude of Lance-centric storylines in this year’s Tour (the “don’t-call-it-a” comeback, Lance vs. Levi vs. Alberto) will have every media outlet on the planet gushing over the stage results as if they actually watched it — have you ever seen cycling recaps on CNN, or the local news, for christ’s sake? Take this moment to mentally prepare yourself for all of the “So how’s Lance doing???” questions you’ll field in the next month.

Something to keep in mind: even a seven-time champion needs Lady Luck to win the Tour de France, and anything can happen over 2,000 miles (3,500 km) of racing. Lance will have his hands full dueling with longtime wingman Levi Leipheimer and ’07 champion Alberto Contador; meanwhile, strong contenders like defending champ Carlos Sastre and Denis Menchov will give the Texan a serious ride for his money. Expect fireworks, feuds and flameouts (not necessarily in that order). I wouldn’t count Sastre out of it.

I’ll be updating throughout the next ten days with a variety of pre-Tour stuff to get your appetite primed. Stay tuned.

[2009 Tour de France]

14
Jun
09

Valverde Wins 2nd Dauphine Libere, Sets TiVo for Tour

Valverde and Contador, seconds before a passionate kiss

Valverde and Contador, seconds before a passionate kiss

Even though I’ve found myself in a bit of a post-Giro, pre-Tour funk, I pulled it together long enough to listen to Paul Liggett’s smooth baritone over the final stage of the 8-day Dauphine Libere (aired on Versus), a mountainous race run through parts of the French Alps that I have no chance in hell of pronouncing correctly.

After fighting off repeated attacks from Cadel Evans on the final climb of the race, the Col de Saint-Bernard du Touvet (see?), Spanish rider/alleged doper/likely douche Alejandro Valverde won his second straight Dauphine Libere, besting Evans and Alberto Contador, both contenders for the yellow jersey in a few weeks. He joins Lance Armstrong in the record books as the second rider to win the Dauphine Libere two years in row; this is also his sixth win of the season, including the Points and Mountains classifications at the Castilla y Leon (where Armstrong once again managed to steal the headlines).

The bad news is that Valverde likely won’t be able to challenge for the yellow jersey at the Tour, as the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) recently slapped him with a two-year racing ban in Italy for doping, and the Tour de France finds itself in Italy for a mere 60 km during Stage 16 (he has appealed the decision, but there’s no word if it will be resolved before the start of the Tour). The good news is that he’ll have plenty of time to use his Iron Gym (GET BETTER COMMERCIALS, VERSUS) in preparation for the Vuelta in the fall.

[the winner’s interview after the jump]

Continue reading ‘Valverde Wins 2nd Dauphine Libere, Sets TiVo for Tour’