Thursday, March 31, 2011

Fever pitch

DE RONDE IS COMING.


Two-time winner and on-and-off favorite, Stijn Devolder said he needed a day to recover from Fabian's solo ride in Harelbeke. In short, he was shocked, but as he pointed out, "Fabian is not just my problem."

Quick-Step announced that Tom Boonen will be supported by Dries Devenyns, Gert Steegmans, and Sylvain Chavanel among others, on Sunday. Initially we were told neo-pro, and grandson of Benoni Beheyt, Guillaume Van Keirsbulck would not start. According to Lefevre, "we don't want to burn him out. All those hills can be a bit much for a 20 year old." And he should know, Lefevre has won seven Rondes as manager. Three with Museeuw, three with Tom and two with Devolder.

Unfortunately, Nicki Terpstra crashed in the Driedaagse and now Van Keirsbulck will take his place and start anyways. So much for burning out 20 year olds.

Only the real die-hard and aging aficionados will remember how in 1963 in Ronse of all places, Benoni Beheyt took the world championship from his team leader Rik Van Looy in an upset that shocked the world of cycling like none other before or since.

Beheyt-Van Looy, do you remember this?

Leif Hoste's visit to the wizard oral surgeon apparently went well and he will be at the start, although his smile may be somewhat damaged due to the stitches in his eyebrow.

The Driedaagse saw an Italian victory this morning, but Guarnieri's success was quickly overshadowed by Sebastien Rosseler's amazing time trial that netted the RadioShack rider not just a stage but the overall victory. Fellow Belgian Bert De Backer started out in the leader's jersey, but ended up in 18th place, at 1'34, just ahead of Jens Keukeleire, the former neo-pro who swept like a whirlwind through Flanders last year but has not won anything so far in 2011.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Waiting for Sunday

Leif Hoste has second thoughts about the Ronde. The Katusha rider who fell yesterday in de Driedaagse is off to see the wizard the oral surgeon, who will determine what's next for him. An announcement will be made by Thursday according to Sporza, where the following picture of a bloody Leif appeared today:

Leif Hoste crash


And speaking of crashes, I too hit the deck (again) a few day ago. I wasn't paying attention on a downhill section and hit a speed bump that caused me to lose control of the bike. Apart from some road rash and another cracked helmet (and maybe some headaches) I am fine. Here are my pictures that do in no way compare to what befell Hoste:

Another cracked helmet. The crack is just behind the white part

It is red too but not nearly as impressive as streaming blood

Although Hoste had bad luck, his team mate Denis Galimzyanov made up for some of it by winning today's stage of De Panne in a sprint. I too console myself in the fact that my son won a podium spot in San Dimas. Here is the 17-18 podium with Alistair in second.

San Dimas, 17-18
Meanwhile Stijn Devolder went on record saying Fabian wasn't just his problem. Tommeke better watch out too he said. Quick-Step manager and minority owner Lefevere on the other hand was not nearly as pessimistic.

We also learned that WADA has joined UCI in an effort to keep the sport pure and remove the evil sinner Contador from competition for the next 10,000 years. Another embattled rider, Iljo Keisse, meanwhile took to the start today in Oudenaarde. Iljo can race but only in Belgium. His case, dating back from 2008 remains unsettled.

Keisse at the start of stage 2 of de Driedaagse

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Science and scientific facts

It continues to amaze me how little people know about science and the scientific method. There was another discussion on a coaches group recently where the topic came up. I stepped into the conversation briefly but decided to let it slip once it became apparent that I was angering folks and getting nowhere in the process. I am wondering what it is that people are taught in school these days, but in my day, reproducibility was one of the keystone principles of the scientific method.

Nothing should be considered scientific until it has been replicated by an independent party.
(It probably scares people that so little biomedical research has been replicated by independent parties, so they feel the matter ought to be swept under the carpet. It is too bad that so little research has been replicated, or that is too expensive or too time-consuming, or what have you, to do so. It is too bad, but it also means that the fruits of that research should not be considered scientific, period. The scientists may well be honorable, smart, well-meaning and virtuous, but until their findings are replicated by an independent party, these are not science.)

That simple statement seemed to anger quite a few people, including some who claimed to be scientists in their day-jobs.

For whatever reason many believed that peer review is a good substitute for replication. Still others appeared to think that peer review was more important than replication.

While it is true that peer review (and especially peer-reviewed papers) is what gets people funded, and lands them sweet professorships, keeps them gainfully employed and brings them status and well known prizes, peer review is at best a meager form of QA. In biomedicine, even when applied diligently it most often fails because the reviewers lack sufficient knowledge of statistics.

But in reality, diligence is often little more than a highly biased endorsement of the sort known as "you scratch my back and I will scratch your back."

On a lighter note, the Vlaamse Wielerweek (Flemish road race week) is in full swing. Today Greipel won the first stage in the Driedaagse De Panne-Koksijde. Leif Hoste crashed on his face with 60k to go and gave up. He ended up losing a bit of a tooth and needed stitches on his eyebrow His appearance in the Ronde is now in doubt, but he was quoted as saying, "I give it 90% that I'll be there on Sunday."

Monday, March 28, 2011

If you just joined us

If you just joined us, I want to let you know that I am still on blogular holiday. Hence the short posts and updates. Normal coverage will resume sometime next month (I hope).

If you are looking for information on racing in Belgium, cyclist housing in Belgium, racing accommodation, or other things Belgian, follow the respective links.

Today I leave you with a picture and short video of Alistair doing his recon of Glendora Mountain Road for the San Dimas Stage Race. More about that race at a later time. Video to be posted later.

Glendora Mountain Rd.


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Hard to do better!

Fabian in the E3 Prijs with a spectacular solo; Tommeke in Gent-Wevelgem with a spectacular sprint; Alberto in Catalunya with his usual dominance; It is hard to do better than this!

Hopefully TAS/CAS will deliberate until after the summer so we get an exciting Tour de France. The best would be if they cleared Alberto, but that is about as likely as the Spanish Inquisition letting go of a suspected witch.

It would be a great disservice to the sport to have the LAY-o-par Schlecks unopposed or left in the company of the soon-to-be and often-misunderstood oldest winner of the Tour.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Some quick updates

I am on the road now with only spotty internet access so here are a few quick updates.

Today the Flemish race week starts (Vlaamse Wielerweek).

Fabian Cancellara won the E3 Prijs in Harelbeke in a spectacular manner that is not unknown to him: he time trialed to the finish. Tom Boonen did not ride as Quick-Step pulled him out at the last moment to make sure he would do well in Gent-Wevelgem tomorrow.

Gent-Wevelgem, a so-called semi-classic that was traditionally held mid-week has moved to a weekend slot and is now competing for true classics status. Even though the organizers were upset that Tom was going to ride for World Tour points, they are probably still very happy that he is coming. Even though Tom has said repeatedly that he does not like the race, I am sure he is eager for a win so this could work out well in the end. We will see tomorrow.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Incredulous revelations

Today the cycling world woke up to incredulous revelations. First, UCI will take Alberto Contador to TAS, the Sports Tribunal so they can get him suspended. "The credibility of the sport is at stake", says UCI president, Pat McQuaid. Tell that to Barry Bonds, whose perjury trial is currently underway in San Francisco. It must UCI the wrong way that Contador is not only back on the bike, but he is winning too.

The Belgians meanwhile, had to hear the organizers of Gent-Wevelgem complain that Tom Boonen is riding for points, not for the win in Sunday's race. Points Quick-Step needs to put their car in the pole position or at least a bit nearer to that position for the Ronde.

Boonen had originally said he would not ride Gent-Wevelgem because he did not like the race and in any case, he liked the E3 Prijs better. You may remember that the E3 Prijs put Boonen and Cancellara on their new poster after the bankers at KBC forced them to ditch Gaelle.

Later Tommeke said would ride both races, but then last night, Quick-Step pulled him out of the E3 Prijs so he could concentrate on getting the much needed points.

And Competitor magazine revealed that Lance Armstrong has retained none other than running legend Alberto Salazar as his coach to prepare for a comeback in the sport of triathlon. That despite very recent public denials.

There is however, some good news. Nick Nuyens won Dwars door Vlaanderen, giving the Belgian public a much needed victory in the Spring races. Something to sustain us in these troubled times.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Radio Silence

You may know that UCI has prohibited the use of race radios for riders for the 2011 season. This was not well received by the pro pack and there have been incessant complaints, threats of strikes and various proposed boycotts. The teams and their riders contend that radios are needed for safety, but that argument holds little water as cycling has thrived for almost a century without radios.


UCI says the use of radios changes the way races are run and makes them less interesting. I tend to agree and if you read Johan Bruyneel's book you will find plenty of examples to support that idea. It is somewhat ironic that Johan is one of the strongest proponents of race radios and one of the most vocal UCI critics on this matter.

But if riders can find out where competitors are and what state they are in, or even have access to up to date expected arrival times based on speed, then they do ride differently. A lot of the tactics you learn in racing -such as getting out of sight- fall by the wayside when others are wired, and that really is a shame in my opinion.

The situation is a bit more complex when a mishap occurs. With radios riders can summon the team car when they suffer a flat. Without radios they often have to wait for long periods of time. One could argue that that is not fair. But then again, that is the way cycling has worked almost since its inception. In the earliest days, riders were expected to fix their own problems, and they were not allowed to use outside help. The same rule applies in triathlon today.

USACycling at first, decided to allow race radios in the US. But yesterday, they changed their minds and started following UCI rules.

Some organizers too have joined in the battle, often siding with teams and riders. The E3 Prijs will allow radios on Saturday, in defiance of UCI rules.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Car trouble

Things are not going well for world-domination-seeking Quick-Step. So far the team has not scored any points in the World Tour -Steegmans won Nokere Koerse, but that wonderful race is not part of the said Tour- and that means the Quick-Step car will be at the end of the caravan next Sunday at Gent-Wevelgem. Position 18 or higher!

Quick-Step will have to ride in the back

If you've ever been in a caravan following a race you know that that is not good. You want to be in the first 10. Otherwise, not only is it impossible to follow what goes on in the race -you're better off in front of your TV at home- but when your riders are in trouble, they either have to wait a very long time, or you have to try make your way through 18+ cars on country roads that are barely wide enough for one car.

If the unfortunate team does not score any points in the upcoming Gent-Wevelgem race, the car will be in 18th or higher for the Ronde van Vlaanderen and that would be a real disaster. The Ronde has so many narrow poor roads that moving ahead in the caravan is next to impossible. Furthermore, these stretches are where it is at. If you get stuck there your race is effectively over. So keep your fingers crossed this weekend and hope for the best. Otherwise Tommeke and friends will be in dire straits.

Koppenberg, getting one car through is hard enough

Monday, March 21, 2011

Salacious grins

My sources tell me the racy E3 Prijs poster is gradually being replaced by a more modest version, seen below. Whether Cancellara and-or Boonen can match Gaelle is for the reader to decide. The version below leaves out Flecha but a slightly different version featuring a larger Cancellara and a diminutive Boonen-Flecha is also in circulation.

The more modest version

Organizers with the outdoor version


Meanwhile the E3 website shows more images featuring the playboy model. Here she is with the organizers in a better-dressed, albeit more hands-on version. 


No word what the bankers thought of that shot. Gaelle however, is very pleased with the upset and publicity caused by the poster.

In 2009, E3 used the following poster, featuring the sister of Nico Eeckhout. The caption reads, you will come and look won't you?

2009 poster
But that is not all the controversy surrounding next weekend's event. The riders will also use race radios and headphones openly defying UCI's ban. How's that for making waves?


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Interval workouts

A short post today as I am still on my blogular holiday, trying to get everything ready for our Belgian trip in April.

Here is a sample of an 1.5 hr interval workout on rollers. Several interesting observations can be made, which I will leave to the reader as "homework."  The intervals are 2 minutes, 1 minute and 30 seconds. Power in red, cadence in green.



Another set added in on Tuesday, March 22. 1 hr ride. Same rider. Scale adjusted.


Another set, one hour, added on Wednesday, March 23. Different rider.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Another day, another hill

Neither Fabian's magic cranks, nor Gilbert's superform could prevail against the Aussie onslaught of Matthew Goss at this year's primavera, aka Milano-Sanremo. It was an eventful race to say the least and provided fantastic spectacle near the end, especially when Belgian Greg Van Avermaet took off like a banshee on the Poggio. But Van Avermaet proved no match for Gilbert & Co, who in turn had to submit to Fabian and Goss. Even the Italians managed to grab some headlines, but former world champion Ballan's fourth spot was the best they could do. Tom Boonen who had set expectations low after his earlier illness rolled in after 1'12'' in 28th place.

Here for your entertainment some video of Annelise competing in a toprope climbing event in San Francisco. She made it all the way to the top, but the video ends before she gets halfway. She is climbing the green-white route -in case you wonder why she skips obvious holds- which is rated at 5.10c.

Friday, March 18, 2011

For the birds

While everyone is eagerly awaiting tomorrow's Milano-Sanremo or the equally famous Tobacco Road Marathon, I want to draw your attention to two other Belgian sports -although there is at least some doubt as to whether one of them is really a "sport"- that are commonly associated with the kermis. This just to show you that there is more to the kermis than the kermiskoers.

The first and legally most controversial -there is at least one legal precedent establishing that it is not a sport- is the duivensport (literally the "pigeon sport"). In this activity, that is popular in both Belgium and the Netherlands, pigeons are boxed and driven 300-1,300 km into France or Spain before being released. Pigeon sport is in effect an adventure race that combines navigation and time trialing for pigeons. It is no walk in the park either, as pigeons fly anywhere from 60 to 130 km/h (37-80 mph).

And they are off!

The objective -for the pigeon- is to make it home and deliver a ring that is then put in a special device to time the bird. Unfortunately, duivensport is rather boring to watch and the only thing offered to the spectator is birds circling their home till while anxious owners try to lure them in and retrieve the ring. Needless to say, many birds first sprint home and then spend hours flying around their till while the owners tear out their hair and chew up their fingernails.

Vinkensport or "finch sport," on the other hand is a spectator sport, a truly exciting activity where owners sit in front of cages and count the number of songs birds produce. A legitimate song is marked on a special stick and the bird with the most songs wins the event. To get a true sense of the intensity and tension created by this event, I post the following video of a vinkenzetting at the 2010 Destelbergen kermis.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Magic Cranks

In the world of pro cycling, EPO is so yesterday.

Real pros like Fabian Cancellara use special motors, and now, it was revealed, special cranks as well. Although Denis Migani begs to differ. "Fabian doesn't have a motor," he was quoted as saying. And Migani should know, he is the mechanic. So what does Fabian have?

"Fabian rides since 2007 with revolutionary Gold Race-cranks. A special liquid is injected that reduces friction by 95%. The system can result in a gain of 2.5 seconds per kilometer and is UCI approved."

The friction is so low, these cranks can't remain still

The rest of the pro-pack apparently doesn't care and according to Migani "lots of riders are not interested in novelties and therefore they do not know the system." Or maybe they put their trust in the novelties prepared by the pharmaceutical industry?

But I can tell, not so with you, my dearest bike consumers. Gold Race may soon be as hot as the iPad2. It sounds like a must have item for any self respecting triathlete or Cat 1-2-3-4 rider. Especially since it is priced at a sweet 1,100 Euro  (only $1,542!). In short it's a steal, but you may want to wait for the SRM or Quarq CinQo power meter version, which will be just at tad under $5,000 if I calculated it right.

Saturday, la primavera.

Gas prices, always on the rise! Latest in Oakland.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Nokere Koerse

Gert Steegmans, a Quickstep rider who once embarrassed his team leader Tom Boonen by outsprinting him, has won Nokere Koerse. Defending champion and just-beyond-neo-pro Jens Keukeleire was fourth. Another Aussie, Graeme Brown was third and second place belonged to Stefan van Dijck from the Netherlands.

Nokereberg, where the race ends is one of my favorite cobblestone climbs. It is also the location of Tanderus, one of my favorite restaurants. Plenty of reasons to visit tiny Nokere it would seem!

Nokereberg
Final 3K through Kruishoutem to Nokere with commentary from Johan Museeuw.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pass the vegemite

Cadel Evans, the soon-to-be oldest winner of the Tour de France, came out of hibernation this week to win the Tirreno-Adriatico in the dominant fashion we have come to expect from him. Cadel continues the Australia-New Zealand wave that is sweeping the cycling world.

Feels good mate!

While that cycling world is anxiously awaiting la Primavera, aka Milano-San Remo, I am sure folks in Belgium are really much more interested in tomorrow's edition of Nokere Koerse, won last year by none other than promising neo-pro Jens Keukeleire.

Today is also a sad day for Belgian cycling. 40 years ago, on March 15, 1971, then world champion Jean Pierre MonserĂ© ("Jempi") was killed during a bike race. He was 21 years old.



I dug up some more photos to entertain you while I am on my blogular holiday. Here are some shots from my first Iron distance endurance race, the Great Floridian in Clermont, Florida.  I finished eight in my age group, despite running out of food and suffering badly on the bike.

In Clermont, FL, triathlon capital of the world..
First Ironman
And finally a shot after finishing the first trademarked Ironman in Panama City Florida.

That was easy!?

And a very well worn race number from that infamous race.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A quick note: race results

When you run a marathon in the US, your family and friends can get race updates while you run, in real time. Every time I ran Boston, my wife would get an update when I passed a 10K marker, and after the race I would grab my cellphone out of my bag and check my result, accurate to the second.

Not so in bike racing though. Not only do you have to travel miles into nowhere land, and rise at some ungodly hour to race in front of a stack of windmills, or -if you are lucky- a herd of cows, but you won't see results until hours later. And most likely these results will be wrong to boot. Your friends and relatives on the other hand will have to wait several days for those results to appear on the web. And that in the land of Google!

NCNCA has only recently discovered the race chip and even with that chip, it still took several days before the results of the first race, the Snelling road race were posted. Since I did not go there I don't know how accurate these results were, but if history is any indication, then don't hold your breath.

When you race in Belgium however, your friends and family will get accurate results within hours. Because of the time difference, these people will often find results as soon as they wake up on the very day you raced. You will get results within 15 minutes. Unlike cows, people do not like to wait around for podiums!

To find results for your loved ones who race in Belgium, go to wielerbond vlaanderen  and look at the bottom right under "Wedstrijdkalender en Resultaten." Find the city where the race was held and look for a star icon. As soon as results are official they will appear there. You click the star and voila, accurate, up to date results.

To find out about categories and the race calendar, check this out.

And finally, a few pictures of Annelise climbing a 50ft indoor wall.

Annelise taking on the 10a/b


 Here is another one:

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Another visit to the bierkroeg


Yesterday we again visited The Trappist, a bierkroeg in Oakland. Here are some shots.

Almost looks like an alley in Gent this way


Inside the bar is decorated with beer ads, like this Dutch one
We had two Duvel Greens, in small Duvel glasses
Menu: the fare is more German than Flemish
In this shot it almost looks like a smoky Belgian bar, but there is no smoke here

Friday, March 11, 2011

Blood, sweat and beers

For those of you who just tuned in, I am still on my blogular holiday, so for now all you get is some pictures to keep you entertained.

Today's theme is blood, sweat and beers. There is no blood (thank goodness) but plenty of sweat, and a great beer called Saison de Dottignies. Dottignies is a town that is also known as Dottenijs near Kortrijk -but just over the language border. The beer is actually brewed in the Flemish region by Brouwerij De Ranke in Wevelgem, but is in the Walloon style. I love it. I like it even better than the Saison Dupont I reviewed earlier -and which may be more authentic for all I know.

What is also ironic -at least for Europeans- is that these are seasonal brews (saison means season) meant for late summer refreshment but I am drinking them in winter.

Sweat on the floor. Also notice the rust on the roller frame. Hard workouts!



A good brew to rehydrate!

Finally, this shot of people waiting outside the Apple store for the iPad2. They had been there for over 6 hours already and there were at least another six to go.

The umbrella line

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Kermiskoers

The big news yesterday was of course the season opener for kermesse races, better known as kermiskoersen in Flanders. While Americans tend to think kermesse means race or local race, Belgians know there is more to a kermis than a bike race.

In any case, Steven Caethoven of Veranda's Willems won in Wanzele by beating out Klaas Lodewyck in a five man sprint at the end of a 170 km event marred by rain and wind. An eleven man breakaway started at 35 km and held on to the end, when five made a final break from the break. The leader was quoted as saying,"This feels really good, the first win is always the most difficult."

And here is another gas picture to lighten your day. Yes gas is expensive -for Americans that is, Europeans would think it is a bargain. Please don't send any whining letters complaining about high gas prices. I too do not like to pay more, but in the end I think we should. We should pay A LOT MORE for gas.

The solution? Drive less. It is healthier and better for the environment.

Over $4 a gallon!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

More wardrobe malfunctions

This example was apparently too racy for even the Belgians, or at least Belgian bankers at KBC. It is an announcement for the E3 Prijs in Harelbeke. It will be replaced by a more modest picture showing three riders,  Tom Boonen, Fabian Cancellara and Juan Antonio Flecha. I know Tommeke is hot, but he is no match for Gaelle!

 See here for other wardrobe malfunctions in Belgium.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

More pictures

First Big Kahuna in 2003. One of my first half-iron distance races. The water was so cold that year it took me almost 10 minutes in transition to warm up and get going. I was told the swim course was too long--it surely felt that way. My total time was 5:39:05 and I was 13th in my age group. I swam for almost 1 hour (52:01) and was thoroughly frozen. The bike leg on my old Merckx that John Cobb thought was way too small for me. Last shot is near the finish on the beach, Annelise tried to run into the chute with me but I did not see her coming so I ran past her.

FROZEN!!

On the bike, a 2:36:19

Finish, Annelise in the background

Monday, March 7, 2011

Photo Interlude

During my absence from blogular posts, a few photographs to entertain you.
The top tube of the Parlee after it was fixed

With the IM Canada sticker

It seems the guys from down under are going to win everything this year. A New Zealand win in Paris Nice, another New Zealander in Driedaagse and an Australian in Kuurne. To say nothing of what happened in Arabia.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Oakland

This defunct furniture was dumped on Marlborough Terrace in the Oakland hills yesterday. It was witnessed by a neighbor who told the offenders she would call the police. She did but nobody cares or maybe the City thinks this is a suitable art nouveau installation? That is Oakland for you.

I took a break yesterday. Unfortunately, it is raining today. Kreitler Rollers of course: 1hr 15 minutes, 1,205 calories.

art installation on Marlborough Terrace

Also tried this Belgian beer recently: St Feuillien. It is now pretty big in California. A Tripel much like Tripel Karmeliet but I prefer the latter. 

St. Feuillien in a generic glass
Finally, congrats to Thomas De Gendt, a big victory in Paris Nice! Alberto also showed his mettle in the Tour of Murcia.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Couldn't resist



Gas prices are going up


And up..
12 mile run in the Berkeley Hills, on Strawberry Canyon trail. Overcast with occasional sun, 12C/54F. Started out to do 7 but ended up doing 12!!

Endurance racing: it's not about horses or cars. It's all about human power!