Twisted Spoke

My twisted take on the world of pro bike racing.

Archive for November 2009

Garmin rider Steve Cozza’s favorite NorCal training ride

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Cozza the raconteur.

It must be Garmin Day at Twisted Spoke.

No sooner had we finished our insightful reportage on the Garmin Sponsors than cylingnews.com published a story on Steve Cozza, the 24 year old Garmin rider from Petaluma, California — not 40 minutes away from the Twisted Spoke HQ.

The accompanying video takes you along with Steve on his favorite training ride, a 140 kilometer loop called the Marshall Wall/Alpine Dam ride. Some of the exact same roads we ride every week — in fact, I’ve done the Alpine Dam section hundreds of times including yesterday.

It’s a perfect introduction to the amazing beauty and terrific roads in Marin and Sonoma country. And why riders like Cozza and Levi Leipheimer live in the area. Besides the goat cheese and pinot noir and organic produce and sexy hippy chicks in miniskirts and crystals.

In the future, we’ll plan to keep our eyes out for Cozza. But he’ll probably blow past us so fast we won’t even get a chance to say hi.

Written by walshworld

November 30, 2009 at 12:07 pm

Team Garmin-Transitions. The sponsor as deadly weapon.

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They're not sponsors, they're guns.

Dumb teams have sponsors to bankroll their operating expenses. Smart teams have sponsors to destroy the competition.

This approach was masterminded in the sport of cycling by Lance Armstrong. Lance has 50 ways to win a stage race and at least a dozen come directly from his sponsors. Not only does he drive his team-mates, he harangues his sponsors, pushing them to provide him with innovations to help him dominate.

Armstrong starts each off-season this way: Giro, make me a lighter helmet. Nike, I want new fabric prototypes, Trek, that time trail bike better be 15% faster than last year. Oakley, my optics better kick their optics’ ass.  The Texan realized early on that the bigger and more powerful his army, the more weapons he had.

The latest team to take up the Sponsor was Deadly Weapon is Team Garmin. Run by the argyle genius Jonathan Vaughters, Garmin has assembled a collection of sponsors that are on board for far more than writing pay checks. A quick glance at their partnerships and you see the game plan. Like Trek and Armstrong, Sastre and Cervelo, Garmin has the hyper innovation of bike manufacturer Felt. Looking to go mano-a-mano and sunglass-a-sunglass with Lance and Oakley, Garmin just signed up Innovations Optical.

Garmin has Pearl Izumi working over-time on skin-suits, wicking tech and jet fabrics. They’re not just putting more colored diamonds on lycra. What about minimizing fatigue and cutting recovery time? The company 2XU is on the cloth cutting edge when it comes to compression wear. (Although they can’t match Hincapie’s compression lingerie.)

The Argyle Armada has 3T working on competitive advantages on stems, seat posts, forks, handlebars and aero manipulation. Vaughters and the engineers and designers at Zipp are deep in the faster rims think tank. Tire company Vittoria is laboring feverishly on new rubber compounds and ways to cutting rolling resistance.

Lead sponsor Garmin outfits the team with an array of GPS enabled techno-gadgets. Rumored to be in the works, a device that jams radio communication on other teams. Watch out Radio Shack and Astana.

Vaughters has gone on record as saying he believes that clean riders can win the tour and that their approach to nutrition, training and technology can close the 10-12% performance gap between Garmin riders and a rider using performance enhancing drugs. Like Armstrong, Vaughters is waging war on all fronts and he aims to win.

Nothing is left to chance and every possible weapon is examined. This includes recovery oils, a chest rub, an energizing foot spray and a host of other recovery products from Qoleum. And Garmin riders will have their after massage anti-oxidant cocktails courtesy of Pom pomegranate juice.

The old school euro-approach to sponsorship will pay the bills but it might not get your man on the podium. You need more than nine committed riders, a few mechanics and a team car. Armstrong and Vaughters know the right sponsors see the same thing they do: yellow.

Written by walshworld

November 30, 2009 at 11:32 am

Put some Tour de France under the tree.

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Have yourself a yellow Christmas.

Which cyclist is going to wear the coveted Tour de France t-shirt? Before you max out your holiday credit card, swing by the ProjectLeTour website and pick up some cool tour wear, calendars and posters.

The man behind ProjectLeTour is Brent Humphreys, a super talented Austin, Texas photographer who covered the 2007 Tour. His pictures capture the scenic beauty, the epic climbs and crazed fans — the silliness and lunacy of the Tour. A unique, behind-the-scenes perspective you’ve probably never seen before.

Put the whole thing together and you have a shopping experience Amazon can’t match. Amazing Tour de France photos and distinctive cycling gifts.

Tour legend says the t-shirt gives you wings. What cyclist doesn’t want to fly in the new year?

Written by walshworld

November 30, 2009 at 8:55 am

Team Saxo Bank’s new Tour weapon: the two-headed Haedo.

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Two heads, one bike. A tour advantage.

News that Team Saxo bank had the two headed Haedo brothers Sebastian and Juan Jose on the roster upped the stakes for this year’s Tour de France.

“This is part of our Tour preparation,” said Bjarne Riis.  We will worry about a jersey for two heads later. Right now we’re just excited. This gives us a decisive new weapon.”

The possibility that the ban on race radios may be enforced during the tour makes the two-headed Haedo a force to be reckoned with.

“One head looks back, one head looks forward. That’s a 360 view at all times. Strategically, that’s good for us,” said Riis. “Impossible for a break to get away without us seeing.”

The technical challenges of building a race bike for the two-headed Haedo brothers is one that excites bike manufacturer Cervelo. “It’s not as hard as it sounds, because you’re still talking about two arms and two legs,” said designer Mark Corliss. “It’s more about getting the balance right with the extra head. That’s another 20 pounds. You don’t want to compromise bike handling with two heads when they head down hill.”

For his part Sebastian Haedo was ecstatic about the Saxo bank debut: “I believe that it was destiny for me and for my brother to race as one and who better than to do it with than on a team like Saxo Bank. People laugh at our two heads together on a bike, but we are fast, very fast.”

Written by walshworld

November 28, 2009 at 9:54 am

Curious George, Bike literature 101.

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The biker riders' first book.

You’re a cycling addicted bike rider, a two wheeled fitness fanatic but you know that one day you’ll die. How to pass on the bike joy to your chromosomal off-spring? Buzz Lightyear doesn’t ride. Sponge Bob doesn’t own a bike. Dora the Explorer mostly goes on foot.

It’s too early to start reading them the Paris-Roubaix, Hell of the North book or the Eddie Merckx biography. Kids under 10 are simply not ready for the complex story line in Armstrong’s It’s Not About The Bike. Hold the cancer teaching moment for later, much later.

You are going to snuggle in bed with your kids and read them the classic. The book that will begin to cement their own love of the the two wheeled freedom machine.

The answer, the first ride in cycling literature is Curious George. Yes, that irrepressible French Monkey who is just too damn curious for his own Gallic good. He’s like Barbar without the trunk. And this time he’s on two wheels and pedaling full blast into mischief. No, there is not an audio book with Phil Leggett reading this. You’re  reading,

And let’s not forget the mysterious director sportif in this cycling narrative: the man in the yellow hat. You see, the symbolic connection? It’s a French author. Ergo: yellow hat leads to yellow jersey just like marijuana leads to heroin. Don’t tell the kids that. Adult concept.

So you’re set. Ease the kids into the world of cycling journalism. Then when they’re ten, get them a subscprtion to Cycle Sport. At twelve, maybe, the Bernard Hinault book. Don’t rush them, okay?

Curous George first. Then the training wheels of literature come off.

Written by walshworld

November 27, 2009 at 10:28 am

Trek-Livestrong bike stolen, Mellow Johnny’s burglarized. A warning from Astana.

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Is the Kazak mafia behind this?

This was a warning, pure and simple, in a deadly game of revenge.

There’s no need for police to investigate who masterminded the theft of a Team Trek-Livestrong time trial bike this weekend.

The Trek Equinox TTX SSL was stored in the future home of the Team Radio Shack, in the same building as Lance Armstrong’s Mellow Johnny bike shop in Austin, Texas. We know the guilty party: Nikolai Proskurin, president of the Kazah Cycling Federation.

Revenge is an ugly game and this is all about payback. Armstrong knows the real story and so does Radio Shack director Sportif Johan Bruyneel. Only yesterday Proskurin accused Bruyneel of sabotaging Team Astana’s attempt to re-new their ProTour license. “Bruyneel told us that he would do everything possible to ensure that they withdrew our license,” Proskurin stated.

Our guess is ex-Kazak military made the night raid on the Mellow Johnny store. Or possibly an organized crime group from the former soviet republic. This was a warning –one  bike only. Nobody tortured or killed, no abductions or ransom to pay.

But make no mistake, Nikolai Proskurin sent Radio Shack a message. You stole almost a dozen of my riders at Astana and now you’re messing with my license. Back off or there will be blood. Armstrong is probably on the phone now with Blackwater security and laying a perimeter around the store.

I hate to be the one to say these words but the kids should be sent to a safer place as long as Proskurin and his henchmen are on the prowl.

Note to Austin police: be on the lookout for burly guys with shaved heads and heavy slavic accents trying to order bottles of Marmara Kirmizi beer in the Austin bars. An obvious tip off.

You don’t mess with the Kazaks. This is war and a simple break-in to snatch a $10,000 bike is nothing. This won’t be the last we hear from the Kazak mafia.

Written by walshworld

November 25, 2009 at 11:18 am

Operacion Grial, the next Operacion Puerto doping ring. A ghost from Kelme.

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Walter Viro. The sharpest needle in the doping haystack.

New cycling expression: “You’re Kelme-ing me.” A twist on the drug infested old Kelme team and used to express disbelief, frustration and shock at the never-ending revelation of Spanish doping rings. Next up, Walter Viro and Operacion Grial.

Get ready to see the name Walter Viru a hundred times in the next six months as this drug story unfolds. He’s the Man with the Syringe, the head of yet another doping ring uncovered by the Spanish Guard Civil.

It’s the usual stuff we know so well in the Post-Peurto world: raids, illegal products, riders, doctors, pharmacists taken in for questions, computers and cell phones seized. A total of a dozen people in custody already in Barcelona, Valencia, Murcia (shout out to home boy Alejandro Valverde!) and Granada.

You’re Kelme-ing me, Walter Viru. His name doesn’t have the theatrical musicality of Operacion Puerto’s Dr, Eufemiano Fuentes but he is Peruvian, providing a little South American flavor to the same old sordid story. (Fuentes himself is busy these days organizing a charity event for suspended riders.)

Walter was a former collaborator with Fuentes at syringe-central, the Spanish Kelme team. Remember those disgraced green boys Roberto Heras, Oscar Seville, Aitor Gonzales? Yeah, that team. Let’s just agree to wipe every result any Kelme rider had in their drug run from from 1980 to 2006.

Jesus Marzano, former Kelme rider and whistle-blower, claims Viro had a close relationship back in the day with one of the four UCI approved Spanish testing labs. “The owner of this clinic, a renowned hematologist, called Walter Viru, who is one of the doctors for Kelme, [in order] to alert them the day before the UCI vampires were coming to take the samples from the cyclists,” said Marzano.

Twisted Spoke begins to think even we could uncover a Spanish doping ring since they seem to be everywhere. We’d simply slip on a Caisse d’Eparne jersey, wander into any pharmacy and whisper “pssst, Alejandro sent me. My legs feel heavy.” If we asked “Donde esta Doping Ring?” at the local tourist information booth, they’d probably point us in the right direction.

The Operacion Peurto story began in May of 2006 and drags on to this day without any conclusion in sight. Will be still be talking about Walter Viro in 2012? We have Jesus and Grial, the Spanish word for “grail” so perhaps someday we might get the holy truth.

Written by walshworld

November 25, 2009 at 9:49 am

Schleck cobbles together a plan to win 2010 Tour de France.

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Sticks and stones may break Alberto's bones.

Forgive me oh Lord, for I have succumbed to the use of a cheap pun headline.

Nevertheless, that’s the plan Andy Schleck has in mind to beat two-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador. He’s not going to beat him in the mountains or time trials, he’s going to whomp him on the cobblestones. Yes, Shleck’s going to stone Alberto to death.

The Saxo bank rider and bald brain trust Bjarne Riis have identified stage 3 as the tipping point, the Spanish rider’s soft underbelly. The 207-kilometre stage from Wanze to Arenberg has seven sectors of pavé, 13.2 kilometers of Roubaix-ish cobblestones.

“If there is a chance, we’ll go for it. We will train as much as necessary to be familiar with this stage,” said Schleck, who last month called Contador “da man.”

And while Contador will have the invaluable help and experience of nobody you can name, Shleck with have Fabian Cancellara and Stuart O’Grady, two Paris-Roubaix winners, at his side.

Schleck told Le Quotidien, “his problem will be the pavé. He could suffer, while [brother] Fränk and I will be able to rely on specialists.” And he’s not talking about the orthodontist, fellow cyclists.

Do not be surprised to discover later that Bjarne Riis has asked race officials to dig up a few sections of road and install more cobblestones. Prices on cobblestone have never been lower. Andy Schleck thinks he’s found a chink in Alberto’s armor.

“He does show some weaknesses, like this year at Paris-Nice. So he is not unbeatable. To succeed, we must do everything at 100 per cent, ” said Schleck.

The back-up plan is just to throw rocks at Contador when he crashes.

Written by walshworld

November 25, 2009 at 9:06 am

Astana’s ProTour license review drags on. Approval by insult?

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Team Astana: plenty of bikes, no license.

As the glacial pace of the UCI’s review of the Astana ProTour license continues, the Kazakh Cycling Federation employed a novel approach to gaining approval: insults.

“It seems to me that they don’t want an Asian team in the ProTour, and for it to beat European teams,” Federation president Nikolai Proskurin alleged. The world shakes its head in amusement — the guy is actually playing the racism card. That’s brilliant.

Then the angry Proskurian shifted gears, moving from insults to conspiracy allegations, claiming former Director Sportif Johan Bruyneel is trying to scuttle the approval.

“Bruyneel told us that he would do everything possible to ensure that they withdrew our license,” Proskurin stated. This is a perfect reminder that the UCI considers the Astana management a bunch of bozos.

Then the federation head slid into some generic whining, claiming it would be difficult to satisfy the additional financial requirements. Proskurin argued that there is already a significant bank guarantee in place. “A guarantee from Samruk-Kazyna is much more important, because it has the stamp of approval of the government itself.” Everyone knows how stable the Kazak government is, right?

All this leading to the question, is this a smart approach to getting your ProTour license re-approved? The antagonism, insults, bullying, disparaging remarks and whining might work in the homeland but the UCI is based in Switzerland. They appreciate sophistication and manners and keeping the dirty laundry in the basement. Does Mr. Proskurin think that approach will earn Astana extra points on a close decision?

Back in the day, loud, obnoxious Americans used to go to Europe on vacation, yelling and flashing their big fat wallets. Those days are long gone, replaced now by the ugly rich Russians on holiday. Twisted Spoke thinks the Kazaks are taking the same approach. It doesn’t win many friends.

Written by walshworld

November 24, 2009 at 12:49 pm

Beppu the wheelie man confirms Radio shack signing.

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Wheelie Man Beppu in the 2009 Tour de France.

The wheelie is a big dealie.

Armstrong and Johan Bruyneel know what it takes to put together an invincible team for the grand tours.

First, there are the rouleurs, the guys for the flats who can hammer all day, setting a murderous tempo and shoving everyone away from Lance like a New York club bouncer.

Then, there are the super climbers, the guys that deliver Lance up into the high mountains, setting him up for the final, decisive attack. They’re emaciated, ruthless and into torture.

But the forgotten role, one overlooked by most teams but always optimized when Lance is in charge is “the wheelie man.” This is a misunderstood role. Most of the old school euro squads dismiss the wheelie man as non-essential, a circus extra.

Instead they’ll select an extra climber or lead-out man. This is foolish and the results bear out the thesis. In point of fact, the wheelie man has proven one of the many decisive weapons in Armstrong’s tour arsenal.

The role was pioneered by Floyd Landis in the days of the powerful US Postal team. From 2002 to 2004, Landis drove the pace in the Alps and Pyrenees, delivering Armstrong to three yellow jerseys and then celebrating with monstrous wheelies. Soon, the other teams feared Armstrong’s Blue Train and the deadly wheelie.

Now, at almost 38 years of age and hunting for one last maillot jaune in the 2010 Tour de France, Armstrong is taking no chances. Monday, Radio Shack officials confirmed that wheelie man Fumiyuki Beppu was on the squad. It’s the final piece of the tour puzzle.

Does the Saxo Bank team of Andy Schleck have a wheelie man? Nope. Has Astana taken steps to sign a top wheelie man? Doubtful. Thus we see once again the meticulous preparation of Lance Armstrong. Nothing is left to chance — not even the wheelie man. Welcome Beppu.

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