Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Deutschland Tour Stage 5: True Grit

Strength in numbers doesn't always work for you. In 1969, Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman had each other in the best actor category, but they split the vote and John Wayne won for the aforementioned cowboy movie of a different kind. And today at the Deutschland Tour, we saw true grit beat the numbers again, as Jens Voigt put on a great, gutsy performance to stay in the lead.

Brutal was the word of the day, as the Pro Tour reached its highest point of the year with the final climb on today's stage. Lampre and Discovery worked hard, and together, up to the base of the climb, setting a hard tempo and trying to isolate Jens. They did a fine job, and it was nice to see the Discovery train at work, knowing I had to appreciate these moments before they're gone! Jens just had Chris Sorensen, but as the climb started in earnest the Disco and Lampre boys melted away, leaving Levi Leipheimer and Damiano Cunego to fend for themselves anyway. Sorensen worked for Jens as long as he could, but fell off as the group shrank even further.

Neither Levi nor Cunego could come through on their teams' work. They gave it a valiant try, but Jens was on a mission and dropped them both in the final kilometers, picking up valuable time before Friday's Time Trial. As the commentators said, Jens has a great suffer face, and it was on all the way up. You know how much he wants this - to defend, to win clean for Germany, for his sport. Big Jens has a big heart, and it was great to watch. David Lopez Garcia had pulled away at about 6K to go, and took the stage, looking very happy crossing the line.

Jens, second on the day, was completely spent. He got off his bike and sat on the ground soon after the finish. He was there, leaning against the barriers, for a good while, toweling off, changing shirts, having a drink. But he was happy, and had that great big grin come podium time.

It was great to see Linus Gerdemann again, with his helmet at that rakish angle - German TV cuts to him kind of like French TV cuts to Thomas Voeckler. Here's hoping Linus actually progresses from his first 15 minutes! Thomas, dear, I kid because I love.

Great shots of the day - the riders went through a toll booth halfway up the climb! You don't see that every day. Good thing it was on the climb, as they were a small group already in single file. There were great shots from the helicopter of the steep grade, it was a monster climb. Several times WCSN dropped the commentary and just showed the feed, and it was really nice. One time was during a stretch of road with no fans, so it was almost silent, just the whir of the helicopter and faint noise of the small pack of riders. It was great to have a few moments of what the riders hear (provided they weren't getting screamed at in their ear). Context aside, something we can all relate to - breathing, pedaling, just trying to get to the top. Those passages were worth the five bucks alone!

Obviously, I love me some Tour, but I like these smaller races too. It really is all about the bike, kind of nice without so much pomp and circumstance. The Devil was still there, though!

Update on Uran - our pond crasher of yesterday. VeloNews reports he was being operated on all night, with broken ribs on both sides. CyclingNews reports that he broke both elbows and his right wrist. Sadly, I'm guessing they're both right, and as CN said, he has a long road ahead of him.

Sprinters stages coming up, Zabel is only one point behind, go Erik!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

So In Love

Amber has nothing to worry about, it's not like that, but I am so in love with Floyd Landis right now! Our boy rocked at Leadville today, and I'm so happy for him I could just burst! It probably helps that I'm a little delirious from a four-hour ride myself today, but hang with me. TBV has good photos and stats, and VeloNews has a good quote. Floyd, baby, you didn't have to take my blood comment literally! Congrats to Dave Wiens on his fifth win - I'm sure if I had followed every detail of his life for the past year, I'd be just as happy for him. ;-) Of course I want Floyd back in Pro Tour races, but if that is not to be, I hope he can keep doing things like this. There is nothing more joyful to me than watching talented people do what they were put on this earth to do. And it seems to make them pretty happy, too. :-)

May I also profess my love for Jens Voigt? And Fabian, and Bobby, and Levi, George and Tommy, and so on and so on. CSC did some rockin' themselves at the Tour of Germany, winning the TTT. Classic Jens - he went for a one-second time bonus yesterday, so he could be in yellow today if the team won. I could quote everything Jens said, because I loved it all, but I'll just give the links, here and here. My personal favorite: "The course was very challenging and almost disgustingly hilly." And in the middle of all that, giving props to the DC riders and staff, a class act as always. Disco came in a solid second, and Tommy D is getting his racing legs back, can't wait to see what he can do!

I was wearing my Smith & Nephew jersey today, and thinking about both of these races as I rode, so it was great to come home and see the results. My ride, all things being relative, was a great one - sunny skies, stunning scenery, a new saddle, and I didn't run into any small children or horses! (It's Acadia in the summer, one has to be thankful for such things.) I even managed to take some photos, I'll try and get them up somewhere soon.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Another Day

Disco realized they had to explain themselves, and made some interesting comments. (I use "Disco," because it's easier than naming the four guys, and has always meant the team rather than the sponsor anyway.) So, it was a walking away more than a being forced out. I mean, the environment is what they decided they didn't want to deal with, but it was them deciding rather than a lack of sponsors. There's spin there, but I think the spin is backing up why they wanted to leave, not the fact that they did want to leave. The story on Johan (same link) also provides some insight - how this is how he's made each cycling decision along the way, quick and painless. Painless for him, of course; we can still feel bad for the riders and staff. But for the four horsemen, if they're not feelin' it anymore, it makes sense to leave. We thought they might be good pillars for the future of cycling, but if they don't want to fight that fight, as Lance said, they're not our guys. So long, and thanks for all the fish; we'll always have Paris. (someone had to say it ;)

Speaking of fish, plenty other in the sea to be happy about. As Axel Merckx says goodbye, we have a gene-pool double-dipper in Taylor Phinney, who just won the Junior World Time Trial Championship. That's got to be the best medicine for Dad.

The Tour of Germany is under way, with Robert Forster taking the opening stage. As the man said himself, a German rider, on a German team, in a German race, that's got to soothe things in Germany a bit. Also fun to read about Fabian Cancellara working for JJ Haedo, love that team spirit. And next up is a TTT, what's more fun than that?

And Floyd is racing his bicycle, can I get an Amen? As I said, it's been so soothing to read about him training the last few weeks. It's where he belongs, and it means he'll have fun on Saturday. Fun in that blood, sweat, tears, pushing themselves to the limit way that professional cyclists like to have fun. :-)

Wild Blue Yonder

On the demise of Discovery, just a few thoughts off the top of my head for now:

I had somewhat mixed feelings, which I think mirrors some of the issues in cycling. I've been annoyed at Johan for signing OP riders, and the team's deafening silence on doping issues, and have had my suspicions that Johan is of the old guard. But, how he runs a race is one of the more beautiful sights in all of sports. (see Disco Apocalypse entry) It's like how I feel about Lance - I don't always like him, but I sure do love to see him ride.

Yes, I think Levi will land on his feet, as suggested at VeloNews. But he's a guy who particularly benefited from having a strong team around him, and had finally gotten back to one, so there's something sad in that. Maybe he can go back to Rabobank, they have a rock-solid support team now!

Disco had such a good team atmosphere, despite whatever class system went on, I worry about the guys in that respect also. They seemed to flourish in it; will they be able to continue on the same track with other teams? Guys like Popovych, Danielson, Brajkovic. Johan had great patience in developing riders, I hope they can find that elsewhere. We've seen what a difference team atmosphere can make, like how T-Mobile killed Bobby Julich and others. I'm sure some things were done wrong at Disco, but a lot was done right, it was a tight operation. If the staff all find jobs elsewhere, do they bring that, or does it get diluted?

I agree with Marty, Bruce Springsteen's Dublin Sessions CD is awesome traveling music. And so it is with that version of Blinded By The Light that I think of one of the probable stumbling blocks in finding a new sponsor. Johan's signing of four OP riders. I don't want to go too far on that bandwagon, of it being the sole reason for Disco's demise, but it made an impression. It rankled me, and many others, from the start, and perhaps gave insight into Johan's blind need to win. Yes, it is confounding that the GC and Team winner of the Tour can't find a sponsor, but would the picture be different if it had been Levi on the top of the podium? And I don't just mean the American angle.

Though I thoroughly enjoyed the book, Daniel Coyle was tiresome with his Tom-Wolfe-wannabe symbolism in Lance Armstrong's War. But the basic ideas did have merit, including the river of money flowing beneath the feet of a bunch of (mostly) guys who by luck or design caught the Blue Train. That flow just came to a screeching halt and I imagine some people are going to have some sleepless nights. Here's hoping they followed the age-old advice to diversify and aren't all left holding empty baskets.

Lance and Johan's comments strike me as a tad disingenuous - we might be back if the sport figures itself out. Oh, please, don't do us any favors. ;-) How about staying and fighting and making sure it does? It's a little like - we can't find a sponsor - oh, we didn't want you anyway. Yeah, right, 'cause you had no fun winning the Tour again, huh? Are you telling me Lance can't float them a year to see if the situation improves? Heck, he can even incorporate the cancer thing - Team LiveStrong. Ah, well, as Lance said, I'm sure we haven't seen the last of some form of this program.