Sunday, 28 February 2010

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad - A story of a race in pictures

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad has been a great opener on Saturday. Here it is in pictures. Many thanks to deLaatsteRonde.





Omloop Het Nieuwsblad - The Cobbled Season Begins

Are we seeing a new formular to this race? New Team wants to make a big impression on the peloton, New Team wins race, everybody writes lots of column inches and ASO take notice. Job done? Well the pressures on Cervelo Test Team and those upon the SKY Team are slightly different. CTT being Pro Continental and, in many ways, had nothing to prove and in so winning and hitting the podium regularly last year managed the year to be a stomping success. SKY on the other hand are playing in the big boys leauge, and winning this race has great importance as it shows their massive intent for the year ahead. To dominate the Cobbled Classics will take all of the combined brain power and energy of both the riders and the DS's on the day.


I was pretty chuffed to see SKY win, mainly for two reasons. 1. Juan Antonio Flechca, so often the bridesmaid and never the bride. Well thankfully that is over. Over the last 5 or 6 years he has been the most consistent none Northern European rider in all of those races. Hers's my thoughts on the rest of the Cobbled season, podium at the Ronde and Winner at Paris-Roubaix. If SKY choose to run the big powerhouses in the Team, I'm not sure that even the mighty Quick Step will be able to beat them, but that's my punt. 2. Scott Sunderland. He has had a very tough year. With both setting up a whole new structure and all the elements that go with it. Combined with the fact that one of his boys, Tristan, has not been very well provides a whole other bunch of stress and worry. As a parent I take my hats off to them (the Sunderlands), they are great people I love the fact the whole family is enjoying the success. He has always been friendly to this over excited cycling fan and I can't thank him enough for giving me some of his precious time.

Sharing the pic of Tristan, Saën & the @teamsky riders in Be... on Twitpic

Okay to the Race. I only came in with 59km to go. Swimming and a bit of shopping with the family took care of the first 150km so I can only comment on what I saw. Being the first Cobbled Race of the year many of the riders are testing each others form as this year the warmer races in Australia and the Middle East provided a very much needed burn up for the riders who have struggled to get the same quality training in the bag while being based in Northern Europe.


At 52km to go Boonen powers up the climb, riding away easierly from the other riders. I really think Boonen wanted to win today as it is one race missing from his palmares. Looking at how light and strong he is I'd suspect that the Ronde is first on his list, losing that extra 5kg will help him in this years edition for sure. With that surge in pace the gap to the leaders dropped to 1:25. Boonen pedals on but then realises that the group is catching up, knowing that there is strength in numbers he soft taps until they breach the gap to him.

A group of 20 or so riders bridge the 30 second gap to Boonen. His (Boonen) power looks to have remained intact even though he's lost the weight, a scary prospect for any other rider. The classic tactic of firing off a rider one at a time is deployed, this rarely works out with so far to go, but the process wittles down the selection of riders. Gilbet and Roelandts look strong and with Cadel Evan's gone they now can concentrate on being a good Classics Team again.

Sieberg goes at around kilometre 37 to go. At first I thought it might succeed but there was no way Boonen was going to let it go, he really wanted this. Boonen has a puncture at 27km to go which effectively takes him out of the race as he had to swap wheels with a Team mate, which didn't go as quickly or smoothly as it does when a Team mechanic does the job. Maybe next year Tom.


A group of six riders make the break. Noteable mentions have to go to two time winner Gilbert who had Team mate Roelandts with him (for the record I think Roelandts will bag a Northern Semi Classic this year) and Flecha. Sitting at home shouting at the screen only Gilbert or Flecha have the real chance of winning. Flecha goes at 19km to go. A long way out but winning can come from a bold move like this, it reminds me of Devolders attacks in Flanders over the last two years, maybe a dry run for this years addition for Flecha.


Gilbert seems unable to respond and having a Team mate there seems to be doing nothing in bridging the gap. Flecha must have gone deep into the hurt locker as the gap kept opening up. Sunderland manages to get along side him in the Team car and offer words of advice and encouragement. The Spanaird keeps going and the lead continues to build, he's gained 30 secs in 4km. Flecha has 12km to go and with only one sector of pave left (700m long) he has to keep going and not look back.


At this point Cervelo hit the front of the chasing peloton, Hammond and Hunt giving it big potatos to bring Haussler up into contention. Quick Step seem to be asleep today and the Lotto boys have had a much better race on a whole. With 6km to go Haussler hits the front of the chasing group, his left knee heavily strapped after his crash. I think he is using a product called Rock Tape, pop over to their site for the full skinny on this product.

With 3km to go all Flecha has to do is stay upright and not puncture. There's been lots of punctures today, with riders choosing to run regular tyres rather than some of the pave specials that are brought out in a few weeks. Rabobank have had more than thier fair share today, and although SKY are sposnored by Vittoria the tyres they are riding look like the reported pave prototypes that CTT were testing on Thursday. It may be those or maybe SKY has chosen to have some specials made by either Dugast or FMB. Flecha holds on for the win beating Haussler by 18 seconds and Farrar coming in third by a narrow margin. Oh and for the record, Boonen predicted Flecha's win today. I think a great career as a commentator beckons once he hangs up his bike.


K-B-K is today. I think that although the conditions will be less favourable I'd expect that the Quick Step and Lotto team will be in the mix. Not having a Belgian on the podium yesterday no doubt would hurt Flemish pride and I would bet that this will be adjusted today.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Tyler Farrar - Omloop Het Nieusblad, 2010

This is a great shot of Tyler Farrar sprinting for what became third place. As a Ghent resident I am sure he really wanted to bag this one today. I think the conditions where pretty good considering the really snowy,rainy and damp conditions over the past six weeks.

Showing this current form I wouldn't be surprised to see him on the podium again over the next few Classics. My best guess would be Ghent-Wevelgem as it has similar pacours as Omloop. To be fair though, most of the Big Races in Belgium are raced over the same roads just in a different order and direction. Maybe that is why Belgium is such a great place to race a bike.

Murilo Fischer - Omloop Het Nieusblad, 2010

Shows clearly all the joy and pain of the Classics in one photo, magical.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Steve Cozza's training loop

Steven Cozza's home training loop

Sorry it's a link as I don't know how to embed it into the page. This is a piece he did for Cyclingnews and it is absolutely visually stunning. Listening to Steve talking its clear he's as much a bike rider as he is a bike racer. I reckon he'd be great company on a ride, I especially like it why he talks about why he doesn't use music on this loop.

I am wishing him all the best as he recovers from his broken collar bone. I hope he's back for Flanders as he seems to love these tough races.For more on Steve go to his website here. If you do Twitter you can follow him here.


Above is a stunning image from Kristof Ramon and you can view more on his flickr page. He has a very unique style and captures the riders in a earthy real tone.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

And so it begins, the cobble season is upon us Het Nieuwsblad

It many respects it may seem cruel to start the cobbled season so early when the area is cold, wet and grim. It truly is the strongest that win. Ironically these early winners do not always flourish when the big days in April (but many have), but it is always a good indication of where everybody is at. Various Teams have been out on the course today, checking out the roads to see what this year's harsh weather has done to the surface. Cervelo today have been testing some wheels and playing with tyre pressures as they are now on the 320tpi version of the Pave tyre.

According to Boonen is the favourite, followed by Boasson Hagen and Gilbert. I think that's a pretty good bet and all three will have enough fire power to deliver something at the end of the gruelling race. Maybe though there could be a surprise and like last year when Thor Hushovd won, we may have another blossoming Classics star take the first cobbled win of the season. Outsiders would have to be Haussler, Hammond and Flecha.

Het Volk (as it was) has been traditionally a Belgian affair. The first none Belgain to win it was a one Seamus Elliot in 1959 when the race was contested over 209km and run out at a mind boggling speed of 40.965 kph. The 70's where very unusual in that it was won by four riders twice (Verbeeck, Merckx, Bruyere and Maertens) and only broken up by Peeters and de Vlaeminck.

The next none Benelux winner was Andreas Kappes in 1991, so its a pretty small list of names that go onto the list of people who have won it and are not from the area. Since then the only other none Belgian winners have been Ballerini (1995), Bartoli (2001), Pozzato (2007) and Hushovd (2009). If Gilbert wins he will enter the exclusive club of three time winners which is occupied by Joseph Bruyere, Ernest Sterckx and Peter van Petegem.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Pedro's Green Fizz - IMO

At a recent bike show I was given some of this to use. Being that the weather is pretty crap at the moment it's a great time to be trying out a cleaning product. To quote Pedro’s: Green Fizz - Pedro's developed this environmentally benign bike wash to work on the entire bike. With special foaming action, the surfactants of Green Fizz coat the bike and help wash away all the troubles from the toughest of rides. Pedro's created this product for use in the sloppiest of conditions without harming the flora or fauna. And Green Fizz can be used without water.

Pedro’s have been around for a long time and celebrated twenty years in the business last year. Like many they started off being unconcerned about the environment and have moved with the times and now all their products have environmental concerns taken into account. Firstly I may have made some assumptions on how this product would work, compared to other brands that are on the market. My road bike was about as shitty as I would have ever wanted to get it. The recent conditions have left the roads covered in crap and no matter how much rain there has been it hasn't cleared the asphalt.

I was expecting that the Foaming wash would foam a little more than it did. There was a small amount of bubbles on contact, but in my head I think I was expecting something visually more spectacular. On regular grime thrown up from the road it performed perfectly well. I used a bucket of hot water to rinse off. Compared to my usual products the bike lacked that lustre that I had become used to. So on this front it performed well, but not stellar.

The area where I was left a little more disappointed was that the cleaner seemed to lack any real power to remove stubborn grime or grease (I feel like a washing liquid advert!). The main active ingredient is Sodium Tripolyphosphate (STPP). The United States Food and Drug Administration lists STPP as "generally recognized as safe", along with salt, vinegar and baking powder. It is also used in many other cleaning product and foods. 

What I failed to take into account when I first used this product was how American and UK companies view bike cleaning. Muc-Off popularised the 'Spray and Go' method which nearly all UK companies have adopted. Other notable brands such as Pedro's, Finish Line and Morgan Blue all take the approach of using a whole range of products to get the job done. This is pretty important to note as it influenced my initial outcome as I had been originally sold the idea that Green Fizz was using the UK model for bike cleaning.
So in summary the product works, but it lacked the lustre that I had come to expect from using other products. This may be a good thing as the product is trying to one job and not two or three. Greasy cassettes, chains and to some extent rims where a major hurdle for this product so a proper degreaser would have to be called in. My end question is on the 'environmental aspect', when you have to use more of a product to clean the dirt away, when does it become a series of diminishing returns? My thoughts are mixed and I'd give it a 7/10 if we are doing ratings for performance and 9/10 for making me feel better about the environment.

Give it a try as one man’s poison is another man’s pleasure and what works, or doesn't, for me might not result in the same experience for you. For the 2010 Road Season Pedro’s continue to supply products to the Garmin Transitions team.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Farrar - in Green


Farrar is in Green at Oman. Damn he looks good in that colour. For the full report skip on over to slipstreamsports website to get the full skinny. There is something I like about Tyler Farrar and here is my list.
  • He lives in G(h)ent. Unlike many US Pro's he favours the tough playground that is Flanders. Who'd bet against him winning one of the Classic or Semi Classic races that criss cross his training roads. Gent-Wevelgem must be close to his heart and he has just a good a chance of winning it as Cavendish.
  • He's a big sprinting unit who is developing at a very nice rate, maturing like a fine wine.
  • On the bike he has a great position. I know this is really sad but having fitted many riders over the years I really enjoy observing someone who sits well on a bike. I know it's geeky.
  • As a fellow red head I have that affinity that you can only have if you have it.

I hope he has a great year and thankfully in the cyclesport arena you don't have to be Nationalisitc about which riders you like. He's on my to bag list, I reckon he'd make for a good interview and for some reason even though he has had some great late season success last year he is largely left alone by the press. Not sure why, but if I was in their position I'd try to grab some of his time.

So Good Luck Tyler, hope you have a great season and maybe one day you can exchange the Green Jersey of Oman for the one in France.

A Nod please, but no Wink

Sunday came and I said goodbye to the Wife and kids for 48 hours. Great I thought, I'll get out on the bike. I made one of two connected mistakes. Firstly I sat down with a cup of tea and turned the telly on (mistake #1). Then while flicking around I came across a Neil Diamond ITV Concert Special (mistake #2), bollocks transfixed by the smooth tones of the 'Jewish Elvis' (a nickname which I never knew he had till I got on Wiki) I watched the rest of the Show.

 a bit of Neil Daimond pre ride is a good thing

So, a bit later than planned, I eventually got out. I had planned to head to some hills where there are a series of climbs which could be straight out of the Flemish Ardennes, I like to think of it as Little Flanders. I thought it'd really help get my head and body in shape. The roads round here are pretty crap at the moment with whole sections of the road broken up and pot holed, I was getting more of a Flanders experience than I was expecting. A brief lack of concentration left me a cropper on one of these monster holes. Luckily I was fine, but it changed the course of my day. Instead of heading towards Little Flanders I turned left and went up a climb which could have left me swearing if I'd had any breath left in my lungs. A rude awakening for sure.

Before I made the left turn up the rude climb (think La Redroute, or at least in my head it is) I stopped to have that 5 minute paranoid post crash check over the bike. A group of mates (about to head up the climb) split into two and separated by 30 seconds both checked to see if I was okay while I was fiddling away. I was quite touched because having lived in London for over 16 years, most people couldn't care, or where too afraid to ask. Since moving down here the riders of West Sussex and Hampshire have been so friendly and welcome. The best part is that people couldn't give a shit what kind of bike you are on, that snobbery just doesn't exist.

Flanders can look alot like West Sussex in places

I've always taken the view that we are all on two wheels and for those moments we belong to a big, and generally friendly, family of two wheeled happy folk. I've always tried to give a hello, a raised hand or if I'm completely knackered a nod. Further into my ride I bumped into some of the South Down Velo guys on their way home, more nods and hellos. I like it, especially when I am riding solo as it makes you feel a little less alone while out there in the lanes.

So please lets be a better example of being a human to your fellow velo riders and acknowledge each other. The warmth and passion that you have is best passed on to as many people as possible, and maybe we are just making the world a better place one revolution at a time.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Cervelo Test Team Project California Version 1

Project California Version 1

You have to take your hats off to Cervelo, they have again upped the bar not only in the weight of a frame, but also in the stakes of price. Ouch $9600 dollars is a huge sum to pay for a frame, but I am sure there will be some takers with bikes reaching over $15k being an easy possibilty!! The great thing about what Cervelo has learnt in producing this frame is that it will filter down through the range in time, but I'd expect the price still to be pretty high.

I think I'd be a bit heavy for one, but I'm sure if it follows Vroomen/Whites philosphy it probably won't have a weight limit, which truly makes the mind boggle. Makes me think that the Team may have something super special lined up for Paris-Roubaix, it might just be the extra edge that Thor needs to lift that cobble stone after 260km.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Vredestein, V for Victory - Part One

Vredestein for many people is a tyre brand that doesn't come into the equation when making a choice for some new rubber. In my world of tyre snobbery I don't take manufacturers seriously unless they make tubs. That statement may seem crazy in the light that I choose not to ride tubs, well it's a bit overkill unless your racing these days. But the reason this is a good measure is that if they make good tubs, generally they will make excellent clinchers. Adding weight to this argument just look at the two big players Continental and Vittoria. Both make fantastic clinchers because of what they know about tubs, although the process is different.

I have ridden two recently the first being the Fortezza TriComp Slick and most recently the Fiammante DuoComp.

Fortezza TriComp Slick
It's not a name that flows off the lips and this may be a barrier for some people. Catchy easy to remember nams make it easier for a tyre to be recommended by your peers I am sure. For the sake of space I'm going to call it the FTCS for the purpose of the review. This is probably the lightest clincher tyre I have ever tested, and because of the Puncture resistant layer I decided to give these a go. Being tall and heavy I would normally run a mile from such tyres. Oh and the weight for the tyre was 182g which is truly impressive.

As you can imagine mounting on the rim was a breeze as the tyre is very supple due to both the kevlar bead and the reduced amount of material on the sidewalls. My routes to work have a multitude of road surfaces to encounter and provides a good daily litmus test to base the weekend riding on. The first thing you notice is that the FTCS quickly gets up to speed and has a very low rolling resistance. This proved to be favorable on the flat and climbs, but on the descents it lacked a little confidence in hitting corners at top speed. I messed around with pressures and found that 115 seemed about right, offering the grip that I was missing while using it at the higher pressures of 120-140 psi. At the those higher pressures the tyres went like a rocket and I suspect that using these on a TT or hill climb machine would be a massive advantage over other clincher users, but not over those on tubs.

Riding on wet roads while still raining presented no problems. The exception to that rule was when it had stopped raining and the slippery road surface would become too much and grip on corners would rapidly decrease. I would loose loads of speed coming into a roundabout as in these conditions I lacked confidence in its grip factor. This was an experience I last felt while riding the GP4000 (none black chili) as these performed the same way in those conditions.

So in my opinion I think on the right day these would make an excellent choice for the Sportive/Day rider, but in the right conditions. Basically a ride with a reduced chance of rain fall. On the puncture protection front these performed beyond my expectations. A dodgy tube allowed me to test the tyre at 60 psi and it had no major issues. The only puncture I received was in the same area where the object pierced a Pave CG tyre, so I was duly impressed.

If Vredestein can sort out the grip in the wet greasy conditions, and make it ride more like a regular TriComp they will have a winner of a tyre combo, which the sub 90 kg guys will really be able to make the most of. The tyre is available in 5 colours & around the £50.00 each.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Franco Ballerini - RIP

Really saddening news has just come through on the wire, Franco Ballerini has died while being involved in a car crash while in a rally in Tuscany. For more on the news see Cyclingnews.

He was a special rider in the Classics winning Paris Roubaix twice ('95 & '98) Second ('93) and a Third in '94. He also won Het Volk in '95, making that a special year, and also won Paris Brussels in '90.

In recent years he will be remembered for bringing harmony to the Italian National squad. So often Italy would be the favorites but somewhere it would go wrong. He steered victories in '02, '06-'08 and made the Squadra Azzuro a force to be reckoned with on any Worlds Course. He seemed to be able to make the difficult decisions to get the result. Franco seemed to command the respect of the riders that led to success when it mattered most.

I am sure that Italian Cycling and Cobble lovers the world over will be mourning the sad news. My best wishes go out to his family.

Franco Ballerini (December 11, 1964 – February 7, 2010)