Twisted Spoke

My twisted take on the world of pro bike racing.

Archive for the ‘Contador’ Category

Specialized Shiv stabbed by UCI. Astana scrambles for bikes, yikes.

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Time's up for the Shiv.

Shiv, stabbed. Ouch.

Some famous racer once described a bike race as a knife fight. Well, Astana and Specialized just watched in horror as the UCI stabbed the Shiv to death. Now Alberto Contador, the race leader in the Volta ao Algarve, must scramble to find another bike for Sunday’s time trial. There’s an irony: time running out for new time trial bike.

In any case, you can’t help but wonder about the organization of Astana in 2010. In their first race at the Tour Down Under, they forget to bring race radios. Hello? No response. Hello? Now, in Alberto Contador’s first competition this season, they don’t have an approved time trial bike. What’s next — forgetting to bring a bicycle pump and spare wheels?

Now, Twisted Spoke is always ready to lend a hand in a dire emergency. This certainly qualifies. Word is that Specialized is flying in eight of the safer Transitions frames today, Saturday. But they still have to assemble them, size them and dial them in and mostly, pray for them.

According to most folks, the UCI might not approve those time trial frames either. Because in part, they have the same almost exact nose-cone problems as the Shiv. Mechanics will have to cut pieces to get closer to regulation but may still not impress the judges. It’s like the figure skating judges in the Olympics– the Romanian judge likes the nose-cone but the Korean judge is thumbs down. Poor Alberto, even when your brother is your personal mechanic, things go wrong.

The non-Shiv.

In any case, Astana needs a Plan B just in case the Transitions frame is also stabbed by UCI inspectors. Here it is in a nutshell: don’t buy, rent.

Cyclingrentals.com promises to rent a fast racing bike and “deliver it anywhere in Spain or Portugal, with bicycle rental from as little as €5 a day.” They throw in a combination lock if you want but skip that for the weight. That sounds like a great deal and even the penny-pinching Kazak management should jump on that bike.

Now, this is a genuine carbon race bike, it’s as aerodynamic as possible and, listen closely — this is the big selling point — it’s approved by the UCI. Plus, this is a rental company so they just pull a dozen out of the garage and away you go, baby.

Sure, Astana could maybe find a good bike store in Laguna, Portugal, where the time trial starts. But what are the chances, really, of the entire team dropping in Sunday morning and getting nine bikes? It’s like showing up at a small restaurant and all ordering the steak — there are only three sirloins left, my sad friend.

Imagine the chaos — “okay, we got a Merckx for Alberto and uhh, a Pinarello for De La Fuente but I gotta check what we have in back… ” Bad news and time ticking. This is the race of truth and the truth is, Astana is out of time.

Make the call right now. Because the Shiv is dead and the Transitions is still in deep doo-doo. Sure the rental bikes are a little slower but who’s riding it, right? Alberto Contador, that’s who. Just tell him to pedal faster.

Written by walshworld

February 20, 2010 at 4:50 pm

Contador tries to explain disappearing teammates at Astana launch. Where’s Kloden.

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Where did Kloden go? He was just here!

Sure, it’s been a tough off-season for Astana, losing eight of the nine riders on your Tour de France squad to arch enemy Lance Armstrong and Radio Shack.

Here, Alberto Contador tries to explain the disappearces, holding up Andreas Kloden’s empty jersey.

Written by walshworld

January 31, 2010 at 8:35 am

Passage du Gois back for 2011 Tour de France. Bring the Speedo suit.

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The Passage du Gois. Pedal fast boys -- the tide is rising.

News that the Passage du Gois will be on the route of the 2011 Tour de France reminded us that it’s not much of a passage. Various accounts describe it as wet and slippery and dangerous and even seaweed-covered. You could call it the Passage du Gall, as in who would dare pull this kind of stunt?

Imagine crashing out of the tour on the passage because your tire slid on a beached sardine or pelobate cultipede — the local species of toad. Sacre blue, mes amis. This place is for sailing and not cycling.

A balise. Climb up fast.

It’s also proof that the Gallic sense of humor does exist. The term passage would be generous and a part-time lie — twice a day the 4.5km cobblestone paved sandbank causeway, which connects the Noirtmoutier island to mainland France, is under water thanks to the Atlantic tides.

The tall post you see in the distance is called a “balise.” There are a good number and they serve as a self-rescue option — if you’re trapped by the fast rising tide, you climb up and wait a few hours for the waters to recede. The passage is better suited to snorkel gear than a titanium race bike.

Armstrong started as a triathlete so the man can handle a potential swim portion of the Tour de France — if he’s still unretired. But what about Schleck and Contador? How will they deal with swimming their way to Paris? There’s been much talk about practicing for the cobblestone sections that open the 2010 tour. The year after promises a new menace –beware the water park excursion.

Twisted Spoke says, bring the speedo. And stay on top of this passage du gois deal — it even has a facebook page.

Written by walshworld

January 26, 2010 at 8:54 pm

Lance Armstrong hits Alberto punching bag again. The King of Spain rides for Kazakhstan?

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Alberto hater

What did Lance Armstrong buy himself for Christmas? An Alberto Contador punching bag.

Maybe it was one of those end of year moves — start 2010 fresh, purge the last Pistelero disses.

In an interview with Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf and the Belgian Nieuwsblad, the Texan dumped all over the “humble and welcoming boy” — as Alberto’s new Astana Manager Giuseppe Martinelli once called him.

According to Lance, the Spaniard “is surrounded by yes-men’ and acts like “the king of Spain.” Things are getting vicious and cartoony at the same time. Hopefully Lance sent a tweet alert to Spain’s president Rodriguez Zapatero — the monarchy is back in Madrid and his name is Alberto.

The “Alberto complex”, a new psychiatric term we’re giving to Armstrong for usage, was discussed at great length. “If you have just won the Tour for the second time and you are the king of Spain, it is normal that all stories are all right. His career has barely begun.”

Armstrong then moved to his most pointed criticism, saying Alberto’s monster ego had caused the exodus of all his teammates. Sometimes also called the Reverse Pied Piper Effect. “Eight of the nine riders who rode the Tour, have gone away. To another team,’ said Lance. “Even his roommate.” Thank God he still has Brother Fran.

Would this have happened to Armstrong? No way, no now, not never. “I would have long since looked in the mirror. I would never let that happen. Never. If I had to change myself to prevent it, then I would do that. If they needed more money, I would do it. I would do anything for them.” Wow, lot of juicy material there — mirror, money, transformation. Okay, next smack-down.

“But Contador is totally different from me. It is very difficult,” said Armstrong. “He knows no better. He is a Spanish guy who is always in the same pueblo (district) resident. He has his friends, family, the street where he grew up, his country, his people. A great athlete like him must employ individuals who support him and have patience with him. But he is surrounded by yes-men.”

Alright, let’s tally Alberto’s flaws: egotistical, delusions of grandeur (King of Spain), dumb, small-town bumpkin, deaf and surrounded by yes-men (si-hombres in Spanish) and engaged in the overthrow of a democratic government (King of Spain thing again.) And he can’t twitter worth crap — we threw that in because we know Lance forgot that one.

Is this the place for cycling theory? What the H-E-Double Toothpicks (that’s “hell” for you non-parents) is Lance Armstrong doing? Why are he and Johan Bruyneel still slamming Contador five months after the tour is over? At 38 years of age, is Lance working himself up in one last motivational angry froth to give himself the training fuel he needs?

Armstrong was shocked to discover in the ’09 Tour de France that his month of mind games had no effect on Contador. He “ain’t easy to destabilize” was the realization. Perhaps Armstrong hopes a mega dose, 12 months off needling, psychological warfare and inflammatory tweets will do the trick. Or perhaps the answer is he simply doesn’t give a crap what the media thinks of all this Alberto bashing.

He wasn’t finished either. Once Lance had verbally slapped the Spanish rider, he took on the Spanish media for their slanted coverage, lack of professionalism and heavy support of the King of Spain. “So many dirty things, unbelievable. Complete bullshit, pieces of slime, fat lies,” said Armstrong.

“I understand that the Spanish media stands up for their hero, but it was so untrue what was printed. Come on, at the end of the day as a journalist, you f**king do proclaim the truth.” These are the kind of quotes cycling writers dream of waking up to. Enough invective for five posts, a feature and the inevitable return fire from Spain. Who needs races?

But there is somebody feeling pretty hurt in all this name calling. Imagine how left out Andy Schleck must feel? He was second in last years’ tour, he’s a serious contender, he’s standing in Armstrong’s way and yet he doesn’t merit even one Lance Diss? Couldn’t Lance at least make fun of him for crashing into that toy car?

The Twisted Spoke take on the Alberto punching bag? Unwise move by Mr. Armstrong. Even Livestrong fans must be wondering why the character assassination keeps going. Worse, we fear Lance has made himself a target for the thousands of crazy, violent Pistelero fans that will line the mountain roads near the Spanish border in the 2010 Tour de France.

The final punch will come in the Pyrenees and it won’t be from Alberto Contador.

Written by walshworld

December 30, 2009 at 2:40 pm

Twisted Spoke’s 2010 New Years wishes for the peloton.

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Alexander Vinokourov. That Vino is caught once again and forever banished.

Bradley Wiggins. That the talented rider learns massive infusions of SKY cash will land him outside the top 10 in the TDF. Sometimes loyalty matters.

George Hincapie. The one of the nicest, stand-up and loyal guys in the peloton gets a win in his beloved Paris Roubaix or the Tour of Flanders.

Typer Farrar. That the battling buddhist teaches Mark Cavendish the meaning of humility by kicking his arse a few times.

Alberto Contador. We wish him a productive 2010 season but also the growing wisdom that there is no I in team. And good luck with the Kazaks — they don’t speak a word of Spanish.

Lance Armstrong. Lance always has our utmost respect. His 3rd in the tour last year was as impressive as any of his wins. Our wish for Lance: a mountain stage win in the tour, beating the young Contador and earning a few days in yellow. P.S. ease up on the tweets.

Jens Voigt. A true soldier and eternally optimist, here’s to Jens winning whatever race he picks out. And get a full face helmet.

Versus & Universal Sports channels. For godsakes, what must we do to get TV coverage of the Giro & Vuelta at a bare minimum? We kneel in prayer that this may change.

Christian Vande Velde. We hold out hope that VV will avoid crashes and tantalize us again in the TDF with a possible podium.

Levi Leipheimer. The first man to welcome Lance back from retirement, we hope he’s ready and in top form when Lance can push himself no harder in the Tour. Levi can win this thing with luck.

Mark Cavendish. That he learns you never have a ghost written autobiography when you’re only 24.

Danilo di Luca. We hope we never hear or see you again. A doper with an inflated and unrepentant ego.

Floyd Landis. May you rediscover the joy to ride at the top level again. The ProTour needs a talented and unique personality like Floyd. France, forgive him.

Joe Parkin. American author of A Dog In A Hat, his hilarious and revealing personal account of racing in Belgian in the 80′s. May your new cycling book be a best-seller.

Alejandro Valverde. Please, go away — for at least two years. You’re as guilty as Di Luca.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport. Find a backbone and no more case postponements.

Nicholai Proskurin of the Kazak Cycling Federation. Shut up.

Cadel Evans. A bold move going to BMC or yet another team with insufficient horsepower to help you back on the podium in the TDF? We’re hoping the first. Enjoy your rainbow.

Andy Schleck. Learn to time trial and make this a real battle with Contador.

Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen. Keep it up guys, don’t go retiring on us just yet.

WADA & UCI. Shake hands, play nice, act like adults.

Inego Cuesta, at age 40, the wise man of the peloton. Enjoy riding your 16th Vuelta. Chapeau.

Jan Ullrich. Just say it, you’ll feel better. Just ask Bjarne Riis.

Robbie McEwen. Rockin’ Robbie is a pain in the arse, the pre-Cav. But he’s irrepressible and an amazing bike handler. Here’s to a solid comeback and at least one grand tour sprint win against the Manxman.

The people behind the CyclePassion calendar. Will you please, please, please invite me to the 2011 photo shoots?

Chris Horner. NO CRASHES. NOT A SINGLE ONE. AND A TDF RIDE.

Angelo Zomegnan, Giro promoter. We thought you were a preposterous, egotistical blowhard — but you grew on us. Nobody else understands the importance of spectacle in a grand tour. May you always be surrounded by luscious podium girls.

Tom Danielson. You proved you were back last year. Here’s hoping for 3 uninterrupted weeks of good health in a grand tour and a top five finish.

Joe Papp. A multi-talented and articulate rider whose career imploded with doping. A fresh start, a new dream, somewhere in the cycling world because deep love for a sport deserves another chance.

Jonathan Vaughters, Garmin’s argyle genius. Love the argyle but this year let’s push the fashion envelope. I’m feeling seersucker.

Frank Vandenbroucke. We hope you truly are resting in peace.

Bob Roll. Bobke is the ONLY cycling commentator on air with a sense of humor. Don’t change a thing, Master B.

Carlos Sastre. Another quiet, hard working rider who gets his pick ax and goes down into the mine everyday. We wish you one last hurrah in a grand tour.

Twisted Spoke. Yes, a shameless wish for yours truly. More blog traffic. A paid writing assignment for a major cycling publication. Press credentials for the 2010 Tour de France.

Happy new year. Ride your bike.

Four Kazaks on Astana’s 2010 Tour de France team? Three too many?

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Kid Kazak

Who is running Team Astana?

Although the normal answer would be team directors Giuseppi Martinelli and Yvon Sanquer, the real power lays with the Kazak Cycling Federation and in particular president Nikolaï Proskurin.

That fact was underlined Saturday when Proskurin, not Martinelli or Sanquer, suggested to L’Equipe that four Kazak riders will be part of the nine man squad for the 2010 Tour de France.

It was this kind of meddling that infuriated former manager Johan Bruyneel. In his interview with the Belgian magazine Humo several months ago, the former manager of Astana claimed Proskurin was always trying to force more Kazak riders onto his roster.

“At the Tour I had selected the Kazak rider [Muravyev] they didn’t want,” said Bruyneel. “They wanted Bazayev and Iglinsky but I suspended the first during the Tour de Suisse because he was messing up his whereabouts and Iglinksy only rides for himself.”

Johan’s ideal number of Kazaks on a grand tour roster? He’d round the number down to zero. “What Vinokourov and Kascheskin messed with isn’t my mistake and except for those two there’s nobody in Kazakhstan. Yes, three domestiques, including two I’m not trusting and a bunch of young guys who aren’t ready for the Tour de France,” said Bruyneel.

(This brings up an challenging new cycling tongue twister: How many Kazaks can a Kazak count on if a Kid Contador could call Kazaks in Kazakhstan?)

At Radio Shack, Bruyneel has eight of the nine riders who were on Astana’s last Tour de France roster. There’s a high probability that defending champion Alberto Contador will be riding with a weaker team and perhaps one with divided loyalties. The Spaniards will ride for Alberto but will the three or four Kazaks?

Alberto Contador admitted last year was his most difficult and rewarding year. Speaking to Spanish daily AS, he said, “It seems that something happens to me every winter. Either I don’t have a contract, or we’re not going to the Tour, or Armstrong decides to come back, or I don’t have a team at all. I always seem to lack some degree of tranquility, but I always manage to avoid letting it affect my training.”

What’s clear is that Contador’s final year with Astana will be anything but tranquil. He won’t be battling with his own teammate as he did with Armstrong. He’ll be battling with the Kazak Cycling Federation. On the plus side, Proskurin doesn’t use twitter like Armstrong. On the downside, Proskurin brings to mind the crude shoe-banging of Khrushchev, the dead Russian cold war leader. It’s Borat without the comedy.

The Kazak Cycling Federation won’t be choosing a tour roster based on talent or a commitment to Contador. They’ll be filling positions based on which riders know the words to the Kazak national anthem. Sample lyric: “Emerging from malicious grip of fate, from hell of fire, We scored a victory of glory and success.”

Johan Bruyneel had the track record and power to over-rule the Kazak Cycling Federation’s roster selections. Will Astana team directors Martinelli and Sanquer have the same control?

Twisted Spoke has examined the situation in great detail. Our assessment: Not a chance in hell.

Astana’s Kazak revenge part II. Proskurin dooms Radio Shack with leaked intel on doping products.

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A bike race is a war.

This is the Kazaks versus the Texan and the Belgian. The latest and perhaps final round goes to the Kazaks. This may be checkmate.

First, it was Armstrong and Bruyneel stripping the Astana roster clean like ghetto boys taking a BMW apart in the projects. Round one, Radio Shack, big time.

But you don’t mess with the Kazaks. Especially not the volatile and vindictive Nicholai Proskurin, president of the Kazak Cycling Federation. It was he who fired back a strong message to the Texan, sending a paramilitary unit deep into Austin to break into Radio Shack headquarters and steal a $10,000 Livestrong time trial bike. That was bold and bad ass. It was like the decapitated horse head in the mafioso bed. The message was crystal: enough is enough. Round two, Kazaks.

Don't mess with Kazaks

Suddenly, it was round three and the gloves were off. Clearly ticked and fighting mad, Bruyneel played hard ball behind the scenes to sabotage Astana’s bid for a renewal on their UCI license. Proskurin was furious, working the press, frothing with rage, accusing the Belgian of manipulating the process. The Radio Shack saboteurs were trying to destabilize an already shaky team. Score another round for The Shack.

But then the Kazaks went full bore, scorched earth. French police already had some suspicious “transfusion kits” they’d fished out of the trash during the ’09 Tour De France. There were DNA fingerprints for seven Astana riders on the illegal merchandise. So Proskurin makes a few phone calls, reveals some damaging facts and suddenly seven riders are in deep doping doo-doo.

The casual cycling fan says, uh-oh, Astana’s in big trouble. Just the opposite — who do you think those riders work for now? Radio Shack. The evil Kazak Proskurin is taking Radio Shack down and it’s a chess master move. His thinking: They took our riders and now we destroy those riders. This is the kind of brutal logic and guerilla tactics that wiped out the U.S. in Vietnam and Iraq.

Suddenly, it’s Radio Shack with the weaker roster, the team barred from the 2010 Tour de France and Alberto Contador and Alexander Vinokourov taking first and second place.

Think Twisted Spoke is crazy? Think again.

Written by walshworld

December 23, 2009 at 5:47 pm

Police claim Astana had illegal transfusion kit during tour. 7 finger prints for 9 riders. Who got gypped?

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Seven different fingerprints, nine riders. WHo was left out?

French police claim they have in their gallic mitts illegal syringes — what they call transfusion equipment– taken from Team Astana during the 2009 Tour De France. This medical stuff is banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Twisted Spoke will not jump into the conspiracy fray. Too early in the case and besides it’s the holidays, a short moratorium on pokey needle stories. However, the intriguing tidbit in this story is the presence of “seven unique DNA fingerprints.”

Now, this could be no story at all. The French doping agency (AFLD) hates the UCI and vice versa. The French newspaper Le Monde, in which the story ran,  has never been a big Armstrong fan. This is probably just huffing and puffing without consequence — a specialty of the French and Italian legal system.

But let’s just suppose for a moment that those seven syringes were illegal and the goodies held within were not just vitamins. What does this mean? Well, the implication is pretty staggering.

Who missed the secret sauce?

It means two riders on Astana tour team got gypped. Right now, two guys on Alberto Contador’s winning Tour de France squad are wondering why they didn’t merit the secret sauce. They’re like the final two kids in line at the ice cream truck on a 100 degree summer day who find out the last frosty rocket pop was just sold.

In other words, they feel cheated, shafted, the black sheep of Astana. Oh, sure, they’re thinking — Armstrong and Contador and Popovych get the good stuff. What about us? No wonder the tour was so exhausting– we were riding without the jet fuel.

Now, knowing the French legal system, this story is just hot air than will slowly dissipate over the next month and nobody will ever hear of it again. But just in case, we think those seven DNA fingerprints could be pretty revealing. Who were the two low men on the Astana totem pole?

The Radio Shack Team Astana training camp in Tuscon. What?

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An Astana double-dose. The A & B team.

Whoever manufactures the Astana team wear better double production quick. There are two ProTour teams wearing the blue and yellow of Astana at two different camps. Crazy stuff.

The original Astana, now known as the Donor Team for Radio Shack, is training around Pisa, Italy. The new riders are still wearing their old team colors as they await their krazy kazak kits. That’s a triple K for those scoring at home.

Meanwhile over in Tucson, Arizona, team Radio Shack is also wearing the Astana colors since over ten of their riders left Astana to ride for Armstrong and former Astana manager Johan Bruyneel. They are still waiting for the new Radio Shack wear while Nike works through the final prototypes.

That’s a whole lot of Astana. While this gets sorted out, let’s try to keep everything straight in our heads. Astana A, original formula, is the Alberto Contador squad; Astana B (for Bruyneel) is the not-quite-dressed Radio Shack team.

That’s a lot of Astana Laundry.

Written by walshworld

December 12, 2009 at 3:09 pm

Astana and the leaning tower of Pisa. A training camp metaphor.

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The Pisa cycling metaphor

File in ironic cycling photos: The Astana Pisa pose.

Here’s a photo that makes Twisted Spoke laugh with all the underlying irony. The famed crooked tower in Pisa is a metaphor for all things Astana.

Alberto Contador leaning toward leaving Astana, then leaning toward staying.

Crooked Kazah rider Alexander Vinokourov back in the fold.

A team roster that tilted heavily toward Radio Shack with over 10 riders leaving to join Lance Armstrong and former DS Johan Bruyneel.

The uneven record of the Astana team management– the missed paychecks, missed UCI deadlines for licensing, the shaky, uneven financing.

The back and forth, right and left of the Oscar Pereiro contract squabble — he’s retiring, he’s not, he’s not invited to camp, he’s going to camp.

This is a team out of balance, destabilized and trying to find secure footing again.

Good luck with that, guys.

Written by walshworld

December 11, 2009 at 11:05 am

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