The Vuelta, The First Race of the 2013 Season?

Cycling goes big on history. Champions from the past are venerated and today’s races draw prestige from their past and not their past list. At the same time it’s a sport that’s always looking to the future. Make a mistake today and there’s always tomorrow and look at the Vuelta where several riders are there to train for the World Championships, a three week grand tour is a mere training camp for future races.

But there’s a hidden side to this. Namely we have riders wearing the jersey of one team but riding for another. This happens because they have already signed for a new team for 2013 but are racing the Vuelta for their existing team. For now it’s not changed the results but it is easy to envisage a range of scenarios where the results are distorted.

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Ag2r’s recovery secret: -170°C ice baths

cryotechno sauna

I wrote a quick piece last summer about Ag2r La Mondiale’s use of ice baths. Many teams use these for recovery, the basic idea is that the cold water helps reduce swelling in muscle tissue. But there are varying degrees of sophistication. You’ll find some teams using Oscar-The-Grouch technique, a trash bin half filled with water and then topped up with ice. A couple of teams use the same bins but have special machinery to cool and pump the water, saving the soigneurs from freezing 20 litres at a time.

But Ag2r are using far more sophisticated means. Forget climbing into icy water, they simply walk into a “cryo sauna” booth as depicted above. This is transported on a team truck. Operated by trained personnel, it allows the athlete to momentarily experience temperatures of -170°C (-270°F). Instead of the gradual cooling via icy water, this is meant to be a faster and more direct method. Dressed in cotton shorts, as well as gloves and socks to cover the extremities they climb into the booth, close the door and stand upright. The super cold air is quickly channelled inside.

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The irresistible rise of Nicolas Roche

Irish eyes are on the road ahead When asked what he’d do if he was French selector for the upcoming World Championships, veteran journalist Jean-Paul Brouchon promptly replied that the first thing would be to make Nicolas Roche a French rider. Roche is half-French already, obviously with a famous Irish father but he spent time … Read more

Gadret Speaks

There was plenty of controversy during the 2010 Tour de France and one polemic was Ag2r-La Mondiale’s John Gadret’s “moment of treachery” when team mate Nicolas Roche punctured and Gadret refused to give him his wheel, despite the Irishman being the team leader and sitting higher on GC. Roche said afterwards that he felt like … Read more