PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling : Lee’s Lowdown: TT Heaven & Hell

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Lee’s Lowdown: TT Heaven & Hell
giro13st18-niblegs650 Did you hear that noise? It was audible all the way from Italy, it sounded like a thousand hot air balloons being pricked by a thousand needles but it was in fact the humongous sigh of relief emanating from the puckered mouth of Cadel Lee Evans on learning just a short while ago that the Gavia and the Stelvio have been cut from today’s 19th stage of the 2013 Giro.

Lucky boy.

“Did I have a poor time trial?” asked Evans, seemingly adrift, momentarily, from reality, a cosmonaut drifting through space, incredulously staring down at the severed lifeline in his hand. “I’d say it was a very bad time trial, a lot worse than I expected,” he continued, thankfully back on planet Earth.

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Yes, it was indeed a stinker, and on a hill that shouldn’t have presented such a problem for the Aussie. Not too steep, not too long, he should have been able to grind up to at the very least a top 8 finish. As it transpired, he came in 25th, a rather whopping 2.36 down on the Astana rider, Vincenzo Nibali.

Now 4.02 back on the GC, his 2nd place is under threat from Sky’s Rigoberto Uran Uran (so good, they named him twice, either that or his father has a stutter), who is just 10 seconds down now on the BMC team leader. So, no Gavia today and no Stelvio and Cadel has a better chance of hanging on, because you know Uran will be ready to rock as soon as he sniffs an incline.

But let me not be too harsh on the Australian, he did after all come into this race with the media on his back after string of underwhelming results and to get ready for July. As he said:

“It’s not for a lack of trying that I lose a couple of minutes to him. I’m unlikely to win but considering I came here for training for the Tour de France, second place at this point is not too bad. The reason I came here was to get back to my best for the Tour. I want to give everything I can and being second at this point is good. I have to see my glass as half full. There are two ways to look at this. At one point I was second at 30 seconds and thought that maybe I could win this Giro. But I’m here to get back to my best and in that regard, it’s not something I should be kicking myself in the backside for.”

Well said. It is hard to overestimate and indeed almost impossible to explain just how hard it is to be in even the top five in any multi-day event, never mind the world’s second biggest race. Bad early season, 36 years old, little help from teammates, 2nd is not too shabby. I’d be surprised if he holds it though. Uran is climbing better, simple as that.

Now, I’ve mentioned this before but back to Uran’s haircut, or lack thereof. I went through my hippie stage, and my grunge phase, and had the flowing (ok greasy) locks but then I wasn’t a pro bike rider. Is he losing watts? Can anyone tell me? Either way he’s bringing out the grandmother in me – it just looks scruffy! A million euro a year (or whatever) and can’t afford a haircut? Maybe on his new team he’ll sharpen up.

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The new team, by the way, is rumored to be Omega Pharma – QuickStep, the team with the second most annoying name in Pro Tour history for journalists, only superceded by RadioShack Leopard Trek. Where’s ONCE when you need them? Anyway, if Uran does go to OPQS, Cav once again gets a Grand Tour contender to contend with. That’ll warm his cockles.

Watching Uran yesterday it was interesting to see his style. On Eurosport the commentator spoke about the fluidity of the Colombian’s style but I didn’t see much evidence of that – if you want fluidity, watch Nibali again, he was like a bull in the arena yesterday, all sinew, muscle, power and grace, with two sharpened horns for good measure. Uran has a long torso and short legs that don’t really lend themselves to grace, but he can certainly ride. His TT helmet, and Nibali’s, reveal just how much aerodynamics has progressed over the years. Kamm tail thinking is alive and kicking.

One rider I mentioned in my last article who is not going well right now is Gesink. He came in 1.38 down on Nibali and though in 12th on the GC, he’s over 10 minutes down. Maybe he’s getting ready for July. One race within the race that has been very interesting is that for the White jersey. Rafal Majka of Saxo-Tinkoff put in a stormer yesterday to take 6th just 2 seconds ahead of Ag2r’s Betancur (overcoming a 1 second deficit at the first split, that is how close it was). Majka won it back yesterday but it is all still to play for.

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To finish that close together shows how evenly matched the pair are, and for them to put in that effort speaks volumes about their determination, as they beat several more experienced and fancied riders. At one point the Eurosport commentator said:

‘Here is Betancourt. Last 500 meters. He’ll be wishing this time trial finished half a kilometer ago.’

To which the esteemed Sean Kelly replied: ‘Or halfway down the climb… Or that it hadn’t started at all.’

Now that was a cyclist speaking! If you’ve never tried a time trial, go and find the nearest man-eating beast to you, get within 100 meters and tie a raw piece of meat to your back, get its attention and then run for your life for 20km. Then you’re kinda getting close to how it feels. Kinda.

I love riding time trials and yet I have hated every one I’ve ridden. Curse the lot.

Two last things I want to mention. The first is, we haven’t had a ‘doping’ positive so far at this Giro (Ed: this was written before Danilo Di Luca’s postive test announcement on Friday), but, we do have several riders going quite well, riders that have been under banned for ‘having relations’ with certain doctors or that have been outright banned for full on doping. Now I don’t think it is fair for riders to be constantly upended by a commentator referring to their doping past of contacts with doctors, but the absolute silence coming from most commentators when certain cyclists win or attack just reminds me forcibly of the situation that we have always had, namely, journalists afraid to comment on or criticize riders.

We have a situation right now that is leading many to feel that the UCI is hoping all this terrible doping stuff will just go away, and that it is ‘Business as Usual’ – Armstrong and his cabal has gone and we have turned a corner. Well, that is not going to happen like that. Just a few days ago yet another rider tested positive, this time Sylvain Georges who was busted for what he says is an over-the-counter product – the same team had Frenchman Steve Houanard test positive for EPO last year. Worried about your status? I should imagine.

Now to be fair, and this may have gone under most radars, but when Giovanni Visconti won Stage 15, some journos in the press tent questioned him about his relationship with Dr Ferrari that saw him suspended for a few months. Visconti responded to the journalist thus: “You’re so smart and young, and you ask a question about the past?” he said. “I think when you make an error, you pay, you close the chapter and you speak of another. I think that question is out of place.”

Heard it before right? But to his credit, as the journalists were leaving the room, Visconti stood and said this: “Wait, I wanted to apologise for how I responded. I was so happy and it hurt to hear a question like that, but it’s clear that someone would want to know. Everyone in life makes mistakes, but for me the chapter is closed.”

“What did I learn? If I look back, I see that you have to trust your own means and have faith in yourself without looking elsewhere.”

Much better. In fact, very refreshing, to hear a rider say he understands why we would want to ask this question. Scarponi and Pozatto were also banned for their connections with the doctor (3 months and in the off-season), and yes, it is all over and done with as far as the riders are concerned, but the journalists and the fans do have every right to be asking these questions, and the commentators have a right to mention what is going on and with whom. No, in fact, they have a duty to do so.

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Onwards and upwards, which brings me finally to Nibali. What a ride, what an absolute pounding he dished out. Beautiful. Fantastic style, great force, all wrapped up in that lovely pink skinsuit. He just looked so dominant from the very beginning, though when the first time check said ‘-1.21’ on Evans I presumed my tv was broken. Impossible! But no, he was flying.

Sammy Sanchez stood there in the winner’s tent staring at the monitor shaking his head, probably cursing the organisers for making him stand there anyway for close to an hour. He was most definitely unamused! Nibali is the best here, no doubt. The Italians got their stage win, the rest got a whuppin’, and Contador just got a proper rival.




Lee Rodgers leads a double life as a pro racer on the UCI race circuit with the Lapierre Asia Cycling Team, competing in the UCI Asia Tour as well as some European events and the likes of the Tour of Qatar and Oman, rubbing shoulders with the best the WorldTour has to offer, whilst keeping up a day job as a cycling journalist. The highlight of his cycling career so far was winning the Singapore National Champs – road race and ITT – as well as claiming the Green Jersey at the 2.1 Tour de Taiwan in 2012, and naturally, writing for PEZ. His writing appears in several magazines and websites and you can catch up with him regularly on his blog, http://crankpunk.com/


 

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