Wednesday, July 20, 2011

It's actually a race! For real!

Who would have thought that the Tour would be in the state that it is in now? A frenchman in yellow in the final five days? All of the main GC threats still clustered together within just a few minutes? Alberto Contador unable to punch home one of his trademark huge jump in the mountains attacks?

After years of seeing the same formulaic racing where the eventual winner does one big day in the mountains and then plays defense for the last week and a half until the final time trial allows him to stamp his seal on the race and call it good, we are actually seeing a race of seconds. We're seeing men probing and shadow boxing, taking a few seconds here and there, but not the attack that takes minutes away and all but ends the Tour early. It's exciting!

Laurent Fignon, the last frenchman
to wear yellow into Paris
After such a crash filled first week, the race has recovered and some truly amazing performances have come out of it. Pierre Rolland of Europcar continues to impress as he slays himself in defense of Thomas Voekler's yellow jersey. It is great to see a wild card team make it to the biggest race of the year and actually do more than just get some tv time by throwing lambs to the slaughter in the early no-hoper breaks of each day's stage.

The next three days will be the make or break days of the Tour. The underdog lover in me would like to see Voekler gut it out in the Alps and go into saturday's time trial with a minute of his lead still intact and then turn himself inside out for 24 miles and keep the yellow jersey by seconds into Paris. The rationalist in me knows that this is so improbable that not even Voekler thinks it is realistic. My prediction for Voekler is a final spot on the podium in Paris, but thursday and friday will have to see him ride like an immortal to make that a reality.

Stage 18 and Stage 19 should be days of major warfare. The Schlecks have to take time in the mountains to survive the time trial assaults of Contador and Evans. Look for Samuel Sanchez to try to ride onto the podium with a stage win in one of these two hard days. The only thing I know for sure is that I haven't been this excited in the final week of the Tour in years.

We've got a few things rolling at the shop right now. We're putting together an order for pink Luna kits. You can get a jersey, shorts or just about anything else in fabulous pink! I'm hoping to rock the pink long-sleeved skinsuit for cyclocross this season... Also, in honor of all the successes of Specialized sponsored teams and riders at the Tour, we are selling the 2012 S-Works Prevail helmet (MSRP $230) for $199! You can order any color offered for that price. These helmets are unbelievable light and incredibly well ventilated - a must for surviving the heat we are experiencing now. And believe it or not, if you are having thoughts of cyclocross this season, now is the time to be seriously getting your affairs in order with regard to 'cross specific items like frames, brakes and tires. Most everything is available now, but by mid August pickings start to get pretty slim.

Now get out and ride!

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Cycling Karma

You've got to wonder sometimes if there is a certain natural order in the professional cycling world that rights wrongs beyond the scope of UCI, WADA or any other authority. Then again, it may just be the natural ebb and flow of changing fortunes as careers rise and fall. This opening week has seen a typically nervous and eager Tour de France peloton crashing hard and often.

Alberto Contador goes into the mountains with a deficit to his chief rivals, but also with the extra efforts of several chases back to the peloton and the commensurate bumps and bruises that come from "touching the floor". Is it just bad luck? or does the Tour enforce its own code of ethics on its participants?

Radio Shack have suffered mightily, but I think their woes are less of the karmic kind and more an example of going in to a major race without a clear goal in mind. A disciplined outfit like Radio Shack, who are more accustomed to going in to the Tour with the singular purpose of putting Lance Armstrong on the top podium are now like an elite fighting force without a leader. Sure they are good on paper. Sure they have several guys who could step up and be "the one", but without that clear, decisive leader they are riding without much direction or fire and the large number of crashes and losses they have suffered so far are the result of that kind of listlessness.

This theory does little to explain the broken collarbone of Bradley Wiggins who looked to be an interesting threat this year. But then again, I've been watching British Eurosport coverage of the Tour and to say that they had a bit of bias would be a definite understatement. I though that commentator David Duffield was going to start crying on air when Wiggins was seen holding his collarbone. Commentator Sean Kelly serves as the nice, dry Irish counterpoint to all of the English wingeing. His subtle, rapier-like comments are great and he truly struggles to try and be magnanimous when he is asked about riders that he raced with in the '80's and '90's. His struggles to try to say something nice about Djomoladine Abdoujaporov, "the Tashkent terror", were painfully comical as he broke down exactly why Abdou was a dangerous sprinter to be around.

But let us not forget the Luna Cycles p/b Whoever wants to give us money Fantasy Tour de France and my complete and utter domination of the first week in this prestigious Fantasy cycling event. It goes without saying that Team Roadspeeder is in this thing to win it and if we make the other fantasy teams look silly in the process, so be it.