Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A quiet day

While the rest of the country is busy shoveling snow and digging itself out of one more monster storm, we in Northern California are enjoying another week of dry warm weather. The only drawback, apart from the increased risk of drought later in the year, are the constant high winds. Last night I once again had to get up and go out to retrieve a toppled garbage can and tons of debris blowing down the front steps.

The warm temperatures are certainly a boon to cyclists and runners alike. They are out in droves and many have already accumulated extensive mileage despite the early season. One rider posted he had ridden close to a 1,000 miles in January alone. He is not alone. With the advent of recording gadgetry we now see evidence of great accomplishments posted on a nearly daily basis.

Next weekend the Northern California road racing season starts with the traditional Cherry Pie criterium in Napa. Although sunny and dry conditions are expected, the absence of cloud cover also means a chilly -say frosty- early morning start. As most races in California take place in remote areas and before normal humans get out of bed on weekends, that will surely mean winter clothing for most cyclists. Once the races are over though, it should be T-shirt time again.

The Europeans are also getting ready. Now that the cyclocross world championships are over, most roadies are heading to (or are already riding in) Spain for spring training. The cyclocrossers meanwhile are finishing up the season, and Sven Nys did so by winning in Maldegem before Vanthourenhout and Stybar, who was fifth.

Although Nys had to settle for silver in Sankt Wendel, he is now topping the UCI list ahead of Albert. He also leads the Gazet van Antwerpen (GvA) ranking and the Superprestige Cup. Albert meanwhile holds on to the Worldcup.

The Belgians have mixed feelings about the cyclocross season. They would have preferred to win the world championships and although there is some finger pointing going on, overall people seem happy and content. Belgium can't complain since both Nys and Albert have had fantastic seasons. So the main topic in cyclocross news is the lack of leadership in the U23 category. Despite what you might think, U23 racing rarely becomes national news in Belgium, except in situations like these.

Although Belgian U23's captured several top 10 finishes -a feat that would surely warrant multiple press releases at USACycling had it happened to Americans- the fact that nobody got a medal has led former world champion and pro rider Bart Wellens to decry a "weak draft" and add, "there is no talent in the U23's."

In America on the other hand, all is quiet. The best performance here was a silver in the women's cyclocross, something nobody -except true aficionados- noticed. Our hero Lance retired without much fanfare and the little news we have is dominated by doping allegations that won't go away. In the latter category NY Velocity just published a transcript of the entire, 7 hour, Landis interview by Paul Kimmage. Not too many people took notice as neither the pro-Lance camp nor the much smaller anti-Lance camp seems very interested.

Paul Kimmage is not that well known over here, except for this 2009 Tour of California incident with Lance. On the European continent however, the man is blacklisted for his book Rough Ride: Behind the Wheel With a Pro Cyclist, where he came out and pointed fingers long before any doping scandal surfaced. The book won many awards but it did not endear him to the cycling public. Kimmage is now a reporter for the Times.

The Landis interview is fascinating reading though. Even if most of it were made up, or -more likely- heavily embellished, it would mean that doping is very widespread in pro cycling. That is not what anyone wants to hear right now. Least of all those who feel that we should leave the matter be, since the problem is now going away on its own due to better enforcement.

If you believe that you probably also believe in Santa Claus.

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