Saturday shorts

Track racing has a big debt to the USA and in particular New York. The sport was so popular a century ago with urban audiences that today’s Madison race, where pairs of riders take it in turn to compete in a sort of relay race got its name from the Madison Square Garden. The original venue has now gone but a wealthy benefactor has donated $40 million to help build a indoor velodrome again in New York. There’s talk of a Harlem velodrome but I think one reader via Twitter had a better suggestion:

That said there’s already a Major Taylor velodrome in Indianapolis. Still, regardless of the name this is good news. London has a brand new velodrome for the Olympics but Paris does not, or at least nothing viable. There are plans for the French Cycling Federation to move to a giant new complex complete with a velodrome as well as road circuit, off-road paths and more.

Classics done
Tomorrow’s Liège-Bastogne-Liège marks the end of the classics season. Has it been a vintage season? I think it’s been mixed, with some highlights. Tom Boonen joins the greats and by some counts, is the greatest ever cobbled classics rider. Sep Vanmarcke was a surprise and the only rider to get the better of Tom Boonen.

Fabian Cancellara Milan Sanremo

Fabian Cancellara crashed out but lost out in Milan-Sanremo. This blog is sponsored by Ride magazine and they did a good interview with race winner Simon Gerrans which explains just how hard it was to follow Cancellara going down the Poggio with the Swiss rider attacking out of every corner and even distancing Nibali and Gerrans at one point. Gerrans explains he was at the limit to stay in the slipstream. Above all it turns out he was going to attack on the Poggio but Nibali went two seconds early, which explains how Gerrans was able to get on the Sicilian Shark’s wheel.

Two weeks to the Giro d’Italia
The Giro d’Italia is the second biggest bike race in the world and it’s trying a label of “the most beautiful bike race in the world” which should work well. I’m not sure the Danish countryside will offer much when the race begins in Herning but once back on Italian soil there should be plenty of stunning scenery. Italy is a picturesque place but the race takes place just as spring slips into summer. Vegetation is a lush green, the still snow peaks of the mountains reflect bright light and the season as a whole shifts from Belgium, mud and grey skies to something brighter.

About time
A good bike often has an elegant appearance, even one where engineering triumphs form will look harmonious. So I’ve long wondered why the humble bike computer has crashed the party. These are often mounted on the stem with cable ties or rubber bands, a complete after-thought of design.

3t stem

But now it seems component manufacturers are working to make the computer integrate, we’ve seen some attempts before but the version by 3T above looks interesting. Of course many don’t want a device on the bars and the Garmin computer shown is huge. But I can’t think of many consumer products where you can drop $10,000 on something and use DIY plastic to fit a part.

Le Premier Tour
France votes for a President this weekend, the first of two rounds is on Sunday. It’s got little to do with cycling but the language of the sport does cross over. Yesterday I heard le dernier sprint, “the final sprint”, used to describe the last minute campaigning and other phrases like la tête dans le guidon, the “head in the handlebars” is often used to describe working hard.

Perhaps the campaign is like the Tour de France as politicians travel across all of France but ultimately only a few moments of the campaign prove strategic for the results. Only this time a Frenchman will win.

Naked Spanish riders
A photo of several of Spain’s top cyclists posing naked was the most popular read on tumblr this week. Don’t worry the photo is just about work-safe although don’t you might not want to gawk for long. I put a few photos on the tumblr microblog from time to time, partly so I can retrieve them later, like a cheap cloud computing library.

21 thoughts on “Saturday shorts”

  1. Certainly the 6 day racing is good to watch but for real and not on TV. You get food and drink at the track.

    On the French elections didn’t Sarkozy ride a bike?

    • PS The Madison to me is meh. I far prefer the Kilo and pursuit races. As the Keirin betrays it’s gambling origins, the Madsion reeks of the era of dance marathons and other events designed for the attention challenged.

      • In defence of the Madison, I think it requires much more attention than other track events – it’s the one race that requires concentration and patience to follow, unlike other events which are generally shorter and simpler.

  2. Very cool that a new velodrome is in order for NY, Harlem would be really cool! Viewing the above photo brings to mind a subject that I read little about — black athletes in cycling. Aside from the economic issues that get discussed, it takes only 1 person to have public success to open up more/better opportunities for ALL citizens. Look what Tiger Woods did for golf (aside from his extra-marital fiascoes); opportunities for kids of all races became widely available, many funded by Tiger himself (let’s not discuss that his game might be “cooked” indefinitely).

    It’s about breaking barriers in sport. The great Jessie Owens won 4 Gold medals in the ’36 Olympics, plus 18 black athletes also competed in the “Nazi” Games of Berlin. Arthur Ashe broke barriers in tennis, and let’s not forget the infinitely-talented black baseball leagues and Jackie Robinson bursting into MLB to finally break the color barrier in 1947 [I’m blind to color — that color in sport was/is an issue at all makes my skin crawl].

    From a physiological standpoint, countless black athletes have a preferred muscle-fiber makeup that gives them often superior speed and jumping potential. Fast-twitch muscle fibers, if predominant in the legs, gives that athlete an incredible advantage in sprinting, jumping and anaerobic activities in general. One must look at evolution and history to see why this muscle-makeup often occurs; of course, many white athletes also have this makeup, but my point is that it’s time to have black athletes in numbers in cycling.

    Cycling in the US is currently quite “hot” (even with bad economy, bike sales are strong) and I think we’re on the brink of another “explosion” of popularity. When a few of our youngsters hit their strides, Tejay Van Garderen, Taylor Phinney, Andrew Talansky, Alex Howes and U23s coming up, we’re gonna see Americans on podiums in Europe again (not to discount accomplishments by Hincapie, Leipheimer, Horner, etc.). Tejay will podium in the TDF sooner than later and Phinney is certainly one of the world’s best TT; I do believe he’ll wear the WC stripes for the TT within 3 or 4 years.

    Team 7-Eleven started the first “mini-wave” of interest, followed by LeMond’s 3 Tour victories which began a big wave of interest and popularity, followed by the Texan’s 7 (cough, cough) TDF wins. My hope for our future is: clean riders who win through hard training and natural talent.

    Gotta say, the Spring Classics weren’t the same without Cancellara. Wish there had been more inclement weather just to throw another variable into the mix (this global warming is for the birds).
    But, on the positive side, Boonen is back and gave us a Spring to remember, Gilbert is almost there and Peter Sagan is ready to win some races!

    …and we’ve got INRNG to blog about it all!

    P.S. Had a good laugh with the naked Spaniards:)

    • Roadie 61, enjoyed your trip down US Cycling memory lane,

      You may have forgotten Nelson Veils a very good black track sprinter from the recent past.

      Least we not forget Audrey McElmury grew up in La Jolla California and she was the first America woman to win the World Road Championships. George Mount and Jacque Boyer as well were early entries to the Euro-contiential pro peloton.

    • And watch out for East Africans (Ethiopians and the like) for aerobic performances. if they can win marathons, why can’t they win up the Angliru.

  3. I wonder if the the most beautiful bike race in the world “the most beautiful bike race in the world” will be covered in HiDef this year?

  4. The correct slogan is La corsa piu duro del mondo nel paese piu bello del mondo ie The world’s toughest race in the world’s most beautiful place. This has been the slogan for awhile now and they’ll get no argument from me. Belgium is certainly cycling-mad, but it’s…Belgium. There’s no place as beautiful or with better food than La Bella Paese in my book. We have a couple of Garmin gizmos and I HATE the look of ’em too, and only have it on my bike when it’s really needed – 3T’s stem doesn’t make it look any less ugly, it might be even worse than just the GPS alone.

  5. @Roadie61,
    Gregory Bauge, from France, 7 times World Champion on the track; Kevin Reza, from Guadeloupe, a domestique for Team Europcar are two other examples.
    Italy can be beautiful, granted, and some of the food is great ( Nutella was a stroke of genius). Too bad they don’t use butter and can’t cook their noodles properly…
    Vive la France!

    P.S: Wink, wink, nudge, nudge…

  6. Frogboy – reminds me of the story I read about a Tuscan tour guide. He booked lunch at a tiny osteria for a couple, a place he had to call favors in to get a table. When he picked up the clients, the guy says something like “since the Italians for some reason are unable to cook ITALIAN food properly, we’ll be taking our meals at our favorite place, McDonald’s”. Nutella? Only children eat that in Italy. Once you’ve tasted any of the better quality spreadable chocolate-hazelnut spreads here, Nutella tastes like crap in comparison. Novi from Piedmont is better by a factor of 10 and some of the artisanal ones are amazingly good. I got spoiled from our time in Viterbo where some of the best hazelnuts in the world are grown. Don’t get me started about pasta in France, we spent 10 years chasing LeTour all over and have stories that will turn your stomach!

  7. “This time a Frenchman will win..” It got me laughing for a while.
    That Sevilla/Perdiguero/Aitor González/Búfalo Gutiérrez picture must be about 7 years old, and most of its characters’ careers have pretty much been brought to an end. Weird seeing it again.

  8. Roadie61

    There is a very common misconception that genetics play the key role in determining sporting prowess. Yes, genetics are very, very important (e.g. VO2 max is believed to be genetically pre-determined) however this is not the key factor.

    Somewhat counter-intuitively, the key factors are social. Kenyan distance runners and Jamaican sprinters have preferred genetic make-ups and geographical locations that are suited to elite training, but it is that fact that young athletes in those countries have role models to follow that encourages them to take up a sport (often to make a better life for themselves). This becomes self-perpetuating as elite training groups develop which then reinforce the pattern as uber-selective training groups develop.

    From a very young age, the most athletically gifted children are drawn towards the sports that society determines (through the advice of parents, teachers or the children’s views of the sports in the media). This is why the best athletes in the UK are attracted to football before track and field. If you want to understand how important track and field is in Jamaica check out the CHAMPS event (a high school event which is the most attended sporting event in the islands).

    The success of cycling in the UK over the 10 years (first on the track) has established the sport in the nations minds. This will encourage more children to take up the sport (of all races). In this group of new participants you will have some people more genetically disposed to such an endurance event. These will be the most successful, because they have good genetics, but because society has provided the pathway for them.

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