Tag Archives: Tour Down Under

Love. Hate. Love. Hate. Pro cycling

I knew the Santos Tour Down Under was underway last week. It was just something in the back of my mind the first couple of stages. Then I sat down to look up a show I had recorded on my DVR and found that because of my automatic setting from last season my DVR was recording the NBCSports coverage of the race.  So, while doing some stretching exercises on a rainy Saturday morning I pushed the play button.

Ahhhh, pro cycling. It is a love hate relationship. I won’t get into all of the baggage here, but will just say that much of the past has left me jaded. Granted, last year seemed to be an improvement over some previous ones. Perhaps the peloton truly is casting out its demons… but like most demons, the specters won’t go quietly. I fully expect that we’ll have our share of announcements during this year.

Still, despite the times in the past where I’ve flown too close to the flames of disappointment, the first few stages that displayed on my TV screen awakened the love for the sport. I realize that if you have never competed in cycling it might be hard to understand. However, if you have ever felt the pain of riding to the edge of your endurance to advance a teammate or maintain a breakaway — not to mention the exhilaration of having that pain pay off with victory — you understand.

I’ve said it before, but that is the thing that makes the sport so intimate. Watching most other sports and you can plainly see that the ability of the participants vastly exceeds your own. I admire watching my favorite basketball player soar to a thunderous dunk. However, I’ve never experienced that feeling first-hand (except maybe the times I played on an 8ft. goal). I’ve played backyard football before, but it isn’t anything like what we saw this weekend with the AFC and NFC championship games.

Pro cycling is deceptive. “Hey,” I’ve even heard, “It’s just a bunch of grown men riding bicycles.” How many times have I been asked, “Are you ever going to ride in the Tour de France?” It is in that way that pro cycling — especially on TV — is deceptive. It is harder to tell the difference between the professional and the amateur.

Is there a difference? You betcha! The power output, the speeds, the skill, the close quarters of the peloton… they are steps above. At the same time there is a relative similarity. A top sprinter is putting out 1800+ watts going toward the line. I’m pegged at 1300 at best. Those guys would leave me like I was sitting still. However, if you were to look at our faces and attempt to judge our efforts, you couldn’t tell that much of a difference. The uninitiated would not have the same sense of awe that I would.

While I was watching Will Clarke riding to hold off the rushing peloton around Sterling I not only got caught up in the excitement of the chase, I also had an inkling of what the Tasmanian was going through. I was on that bike with him willing the break to succeed. As he rolled across the line with his limbs shaking I could empathize.

I climbed on the trainer later that day with a little more motivation than usual. Watching the pros helped awaken a little more of the desire. During one stretch on the trainer when I set a goal to hold a certain wattage for a certain period of time, Clarke came to my mind as my mind started questioning my ability to do it. I imagined myself trying to hold off the peloton and if I could just hold the wattage until that time I would be the winner!

Of course, I was reminded once again of the darker sides of cycling when Alejandro Valverde took the fifth stage. I guess that is part of the story as well. I guess we all hope for forgiveness and redemption. In a way, I’m looking for a little of that myself in 2012.

Hincapie takes a piece of us with him

I’ll admit I’m a George Hincapie fan… not a fanatic, but certainly a fan. Part of it has to do with the man himself, but a large part of it is that George takes a little bit of me and my community everywhere he goes. Added to that is the fact that he has never let us down in the way he has conducted himself — both here in Greenville and around the world.

When he left HTC-Columbia, I wasn’t real thrilled. I liked Bob Stapleton and the chemistry in the team seemed genuine. Of course, it doesn’t hurt when a team dominates like they did in stage wins.

Bob is still the same and while several riders left the team, it appears the same camaraderie exists among the remaining and newer riders. However, with George moving over to BMC I find myself drawn to learn a bit more about the wild card team that is showing itself worthy in the Tour Down Under. I might find myself checking the general classifications for two teams this year!

Anyway, I happened across this article on CyclingNews.com and thought I would archive it here at LowCadence.com.  If you are a George or BMC fan, I think you will enjoy this up close look at the 2009 National Champion’s steed. The BMC STX01 RaceMaster is a nice machine!

Photo from Cyclingnews.com click image for gallery.

Photo from Cyclingnews.com click image for gallery.

After Greipel’s first win, I saw him put his arm around George’s shoulder. That Hincapie Sportswear USA National Championship kit looked pretty good standing out from the crowd around. I couldn’t help to think of the crew over off Pete Hollis Blvd when I saw it. There was a piece of Greenville right there on the roads of Australia. More than that, there was one of Greenville’s best ambassadors doing what he does best… riding a bike and encouraging a younger rider.

Unfortunately, for the big guy, he had a little tumble in the beginning of Stage 3 and had to get patched up a bit. Then he had trouble with his front wheel. However, he came back to finish with the main group – just 1 second behind the winner. That puts him in 19th place in the general classification only 20 seconds back. More important is the fact that BMC has moved into 3rd on the team classification. This bodes well for fans who want to see George and his team in the major races of the year.

Versus vs. YouTube

I didn’t get tot see the coverage of the Tour Down Under last night. I also forgot to set my recorder. So, I wasn’t able to see any of the coverage on Versus. Ah, but never fear… there is always YouTube.

Thing is, I bet that by the time you take the commercials out of the Versus coverage, you are left with about the same amount of video. I think next time I’m going to get out my stop watch and see how much of the 30 minute program ends up being advertising.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad that Versus is covering the event. However, is it too much to dream that someday that coverage will be a bit longer with a little more insight into the stories surrounding the events and riders?

The Low Cadence Lair

While watching Johan Bruyneel’s Twitter feed from the Astana car during the fourth stage of the Tour Down Under, I saw the following tweet… “George Hincapie just came back to the car to tell me I had to stop twittering and concentrate on the race. What’s YOUR opinion on that?”  My response?  “GO BIG GEORGE!”

However, far away from Australia is the “Low Cadence Lair.”  This is my partially finished basement where I manage LowCadence.com, take my work home from the university, and do my Worthwhile responsibilities.  Oh yeah, it is also the place where I do my trainer work.

Come on in!

Come on in!

The table is for meetings with my business partners, my kids, and for collecting all kinds of stuff.  The red bike is my first road bike — an 06 Specialized Allex Elite with Mavic wheels and Shimano 101 components.  I call it my rain bike, but since I’ve put the power meter on my Tarmac the Allez has not seen much action.  The jerseys are special ones from events.

The command center

The command center

I do most of my work on my MacBook Pro.  I also have a PowerBook that I use as my base computer and pvr.  Thankfully, I have plenty of computing power over at The Worthwhile Company should I need to get real heavy duty!  DSL and VPN help me turn the home office into a connecting point for the various areas of responsibility in my life.

The work bench

The work bench

What to do with all those old numbers?  I thought about saving them and having one of those wind breakers made out of them.  Probably never will, but is kind of cool to have them under glass on the work bench area.  This is where I have done some hardware (computer) work in the past.  Don’t deal much in that now days.  Now it is just a place to spread things out.

The business area

The business area

There is my Tarmac on the trainer.  I have the TV there on the rack in front of the bike.  There is also a shelf that I can put water bottles on and set the remote, etc.  The book shelves to the left are built in and have a bunch of books on there that I need to weed through.  There are some old programming books that would be better off in a museum!

Wind and water

Wind and water

Looking back from the bike you can see the conference table again along with a water cooler (makes hot water for tea as well!) and a fan.  During the warmer days of winter, I have that fan going!  Oh, the car?  That is a little pedal car I won at a gala that was autographed by Kyle Petty.  I keep hanging onto it.

So, there you go.  When you read about my spinning, you’ll know this is where I’ve been.  It is a cool little hang out.

Oh, Bruyneel’s final word? “Ok folks! Please no comments any more about George. No matter what he says, I’m gonna do it anyway. George is a good guy!”

Shoulders and knees

Yesterday started with me laughing at André Greipel and ended with me feeling bad for him.  A lot can happen in a day… or a week.  It is part of the sport — rolling with the punches and overcoming.

My last post was about George Hincapie’s “non-standard” jersey.  That brought to my attention the story about André stealing George’s jersey.  Seems George was almost treating that thing like a security blanket and the younger rider was going to get some of that mojo (or play a prank on his mentor).  The jersey came up missing, but Greipel was caught because of the Hincapie markings.

It is neat to see some of the inner workings of a team.  It makes you understand the riders a little more when you see them on the bike.  It also makes you feel all the more for a guy when things don’t go his way.

Greipel was sitting second in the standings at the start of stage 3 yesterday.  He was poised to make a good run at being a two time winner in the race.  That opportunity went down to the pavement early in the stage as he ran into a motorcycle that was jutting out into the race lane.  He ended his day with a dislocated shoulder.

Just like that his race changed.  The week is done for him and his whole season will have to adjust.  Thankfully, he is young and nothing was broken.  He’ll be back.

George carried the banner for the Columbia team with a fourth place finish.  That allowed him to move up one position in the standings, but he is still 20 seconds back.  The old man is showing some legs this early season!  Must have been that last UWBL ride 🙂

Me?  I got home last night from mid-week service at my church fully intending to spin while I watched the UNC vs. Clemson game.  However, during the day I started to feel some soreness in my knees.  It has been a long time since I’ve had the feeling.  I know why.  I’ve just got to work it out.

The reason is because I was pushing too big of a gear during my 2 hour trainer workout Tuesday night.  I felt no pain at all during the effort, but I know that the low cadence is what did it.  It was the first long effort after being off the bike for a week.  I thought I had warmed up enough, but I’m pretty sure I overdid it.

I skipped out last night to give them a break and focused on relaxing them and stretching out the muscles around the joints.  Tonight I’ll get back on, but I’ll back off doing anything really hard.  I want to make sure I am good to go this Saturday when I hope to take part in the longest ride yet (5 hours) for the Upstate Winter Bicycle League.

BTW, thanks for reading LowCadence.com.

Hincapie’s jersey

I climbed off the trainer last night after two hours.  I had a couple of sustained efforts over 300 watts.  For the first time in a while, I had a good feeling about it.

Sometimes after a ride, my legs feel really good.  I’m not sure how to describe it, but my legs just feel strong — tired, but strong.  The times I don’t like are those when I get off the bike and my legs feel weak.  Last night’s “ride” gives me a little more confidence.

Of course, I’ve been following the Tour Down Under.  Team Columbia took the first stage while Quick Step grabbed the second.  George Hincapie came in fifth after his team made an effort of controlling the race.  This moved him up to 13th in the overall classification with his teammate (and stage one winner) André Greipel holding down second overall.

A mystery to me was the jersey George was wearing.  It looked very similar to his teammates’, but some of the outlines on it seemed to be lighter.  I was trying to figure out the significance of the difference, but couldn’t find anything on any of the cycling news sites.

So, I decided to ask the man himself.  George replied, “Its actually an aero jersey that Hincapie made. We thought we had the art exact but its a little off. Will go back to normal Jersey.”  Then I remembered reading something on Kirk Flinte’s blog about a new aero jersey.  There was my answer right there.

As for me, it looks like I will be wearing last year’s Spinners jersey in the Spring Series.  We just got our order in for our new kits and I can’t imagine they’ll be ready in a month.  It will be nice to get a new one.  Mine is pretty beat up from a crash.

Just about a month to go

I’ve just pointed my browser away from usacycling.org where I had my race license renewed.  Looking at my account I see all the accomplishments of last year wiped away.  Any rank I had in 2008 is gone.  Now as a category 4 racer, I have a chance to write a new list.

While the pros jumped into their race season with the unofficial official start of the season with a criterium in Australia, the racing begins for us on February 21 with the first race of the “Spring Series.”  It is going to be pretty cool for me because that first race is also my 41st birthday.  I’m hoping for a nice present!

That means I’ve only got about a month to get ready.  I know I am farther along this year than I was last year.  I also know that I have to be farther along this year.  So, in many ways it is as though I am starting all over again.  You know?  That is kinda fun!

Aussies and dizzies

George Hincapie news from Twitterville…

Lance Armstrong first comments, “At dinner with George Hincapie in Adelaide. Catching up! Love this guy like a brother.”  George comes back with, “Dragged Lance Armstrong out to a bar. He’s not happy. I love it. He’s getting mobbed.”

Earlier in the day (Australia time) we have this report from the official Tour Down Under Twitter account, “Huge day today! Had a Columbia Press Call this morning with George Hincapie being the favourite.”  Of course, there is a ton of press on the scene because it is Lance Armstrong’s first race in his come back.  The question Hincapie gets the most?  “What will it be like to race against Lance Armstrong?”

The Tour Down Under starts January 18th.  Versus will have a 30 minute recap of each day’s stage at 4 PM.  The final stage will be shown in its entirety on January 24th at 10 PM.  You can see the full schedule here.

I’m still fighting something.  It would appear that the cold I had/have has settled in my inner ear.  I get quite dizzy at times and have to sit down.  This is very discouraging.  I have not been on the bike for nearly a week.  I’ve got to get on today and at least spin my legs a bit.