Twisted Spoke

My twisted take on the world of pro bike racing.

Archive for the ‘Columbia’ Category

Cancellara wins time trial and overall in Tour of Oman. Goodbye Abdul.

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Oman, he's fast.

Who better to hack up the competition in the Middle East than the rider they call Spartacus?

Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) used a strong second place in the final time trial to win the inaugural Tour of Oman. Meanwhile, Evald Boasson Hagen got a measure of revenge by winning the stage, erasing the bad memory of his disastrous nature call two days previous.

Fast rising young talent Cameron Meyer (Garmin-Transitions) showed his skill in taking third place in the race against the clock and jumping into third overall. Somehow, someway, Garmin usually finds a way to grab a stage. While Tyler Farrar missed his shots, Meyer made his mark on the 18.6km course around the capital city in Muscat.

So ended the thrilling, exotic, surprising and exceptionally well run Tour of Oman. Kudos to Eddy Merckx, the Municipality of Muscat and the boys from Amaury Sport Organization (ASO).

Back in Europe the rest of the pro riders endured rain, snow and generally miserable weather. Not here in sunny Oman. The riders not only enjoyed the beautiful (though occasionally hot) weather and solid training but also appreciated the warm welcome and cultural exchange.

“It’s great to win but most of all it’s been a fascinating trip. The Oman people are special. We get hung up about so many things but they know how to enjoy life,” Cancellara said.

“It was nice to be in real contact with the people and see them along the roadside cheering for us. No other sport allows such close contact like that and it made racing here pretty special.”

Marco Pinotti (HTC-Columbia) took away far more than some hard racing kilometers from his trip to Oman. “On television, this part of the world seems quite dangerous because we’re near Yemen and just across the gulf from Iran, but it’s totally the opposite to what I expected,” said Pinotti.

Abdul Al Salaam

“Oman is an Islamic country, but everyone is friendly and quite open. They way they welcomed us is a clear sign for both us and for them that we can all live together. I hope this event continues in the future because it can only help different countries, continents and culture understand each other better.”

The young Boasson Hagen is not yet at the age to offer cultural assessments. He did however admit to hitting 100km/h on the descent of the second climb. Eddy Junior, slow down, wave to the locals, it’s good race karma. Still no word on whether the Norwegian got an Arabic tattoo while in Muscat — a tat and a podium placing, not a bad haul.

And so we must also leave behind revered Arabic cycling commentator Abdul Al Salaam, who has enlivened the race with his predictions and amusing presence. Now blind and in failing health, the former soigneur of Merckx and Hinault stood at roadside during the time trial, correctly guessing the exact speed of each racer based simply on the sound of the tires.

An amazing character — we hope to see him next year. Chapeau Omani cycling fans.

The Hincapie interview. What he left unsaid: the BMC Hincapie Sportwear clothing clause.

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Dressed for success. The Lycra CEO.

Just why exactly did George Hincapie leave Columbia for BMC? The question has yet to go away and in his recent interview with Velonews he gave his reasons yet again.

What he left out though, was the real reason: he wanted to make a fortune selling his Hincapie Sportswear and BMC now wears Hincapie every time they step off the team bus. If you saw his contract, you’d see the big fat Clothing Clause.

Let’s go over the verbatim transcript of his interview and just insert the missing words he wanted to but couldn’t say.

“I think people now understand why I came here [selling Hincapie Sportswear, baby]  The vibe among the team is great [Evans digs the Hincapie compression shorts]  the ambiance among the team has been fun [Ballan is all over the Hincapie socks and shorts!]‘

“For me, it’s important to keep things new [like the new Signature George line!] and have new challenges [double Hincapie Sportswearsales by end of 2010] So, for me going to BMC, and me helping them become a world-class team was very appealing to me [Even the Hincapie womens' line gets a boost]“

“I enjoyed the Giro. I really enjoy and appreciate the Italian culture [Ha! They wear that cheap De Marchi crap] and the ambience amongst the fans. I would love to do it again [not!] but obviously I want to do the Tour of California this year [Hincapie market share is USA heavy, baby, I don't need the euro market right now]“

“Mark (Cavendish) and I still talk several times a week, we still have a great relationship, and he understands my decision to come to Team BMC and why I came here [I left him a pile of free Hincapie sportswear. Mark's good for a plug.]“

“My inspirations are easy [duh, move merchandise! Buy more Hincapie!] — they’ll come from the team being successful [Wearing my branded Hincapie product]  the team being cohesive, and the team gaining worldwide attention [even showcasing my Hincapie Skin Defense stuff.] Whether that comes from winning bike races, I don’t know, but inspirations are simple, for me. [this Hincapie clothing clause was brilliant.]“

There you have it. The inside story on why George Hincapie left Columbia. In three words: no clothing deal. When BMC called him, George’s first question was, “who’s your team wear supplier?” Bingo.

P.S. George, I don’t know how long I can keep plusing your sales figures without, you know, a small token of appreciation. Don’t forget my post about the sexy Hincapie compression corsets, either. Money in the bank. I’m an XL, big fella, just like you.

Written by walshworld

February 18, 2010 at 7:49 pm

Neo-pro wins stage four, Boassen Hagen loses Tour of Oman. The bathroom-break breakaway.

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Howard beats Bennati.

A low blow?

The brash and heavily funded Team Sky got some humility lessons today in a hot and hot-headed day of racing in the Jabal Akhdar mountains.

Stage four of the Tour of Oman was loaded with surprises as neo-pro Leigh Howard (HTC-Columbia) won the stage while Edvald Boasson Hagen (Team Sky) paid dearly for a nature stop.

Arguments began after Sky handed the daily break almost seven minutes and then became furious when other teams refused to help close the gap. Informal rider poll? That’s your responsibility Sky, you’ve got Boasson Hagan in the red jersey so get to work.

The daggers are out.

There was no time to bring in a third party mediator or settle things with Omani khanjar daggers. Instead, Sky mashed the pedals and blasted through the feed zone, then threw everyone in the gutter with a half road echelon in the wind. Cervelo and HTC-Columbia were not amused.

It’s tribal justice in the Middle East, an eye for an eye, a flick for a flick. When Boasson Hagen stopped for a nature break 55 kilometers from the finish, Cervelo retaliated by going full gas, splitting the peloton and leaving the stunned Norwegian behind.

Cervelo TestTeam threw five riders in the split along with six from HTC-Columbia. Tyler Farrar, Boonen, Bennati, Stuart O’Grady, Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) and Marcus Burghardt (BMC) also made the now famous nature-break breakaway. Much has been said about Team Sky’s aggressive business approach to bike racing. That brash attitude, mixed with jealousy about their deep pockets, didn’t win any friends. This was a payback day in the desert.

The scene of the crime.

Team Sky eventually gave up the chase and Boasson Hagen brought home the main group 1:05 behind. His nature break dropped him 33 places down the standings. In the slight uphill finish in Nakhal, young Australian Leigh Howard (HTC-Columbia) topped Daniele Bennati (Liquigas-Doimo) and Tom Boonen (Quick Step) to notch his first big win. And so the battle of the bladder ended with Bennati taking the red jersey with two stages remaining.

However, the punches were still flying hours after the race. “That’s bike racing, the team rode well and solid, Edvald went to have a natural break, someone reacted to that, and the rest is history,” said Sky head coach Shane Sutton.

“Tension’s running a bit high after the stage, but it’s a long season and you can’t get too engrossed in one thing. We had the jersey for a few days, won a stage and the boys have done a fantastic job, we will be ready come the big classics. Now it’s time to regroup and rethink – and hit back tomorrow.” The hit back threat is the part to remember. Cervelo, bladder control will be essential!

British rider and veteran Roger Hammond (Cervelo) made it clear what he thought of British Team Sky’s tactics. “They brought it upon themselves. They can have it one way or the other. Either everyone plays the same game or they play unfairly and then they get unfairly treated,” he said.

The frankincense recovery oil.

Daniele Bennati, who benefited from the Sky-Cervelo slugfest, took the middle ground in explaining the days events. “It was an aggressive stage. Sky had the jersey and it was their responsibility to chase the break they had let go. Racing is racing but perhaps it wasn’t fair they attacked when Boasson Hagen stopped for a leak,” said the Italian.

In any case, no one is happier than Leigh Howard, who won what was arguably the queen stage of the inaugural Tour of Oman. Revered Muslim cycling commentator Abdul Al Salaam must have know something was up. Before sign-in, he was seen tapping the calves of each Columbia rider, then applying oil and frankincense to Howard’s legs. Never question the intuitive wisdom of Abdul for his lizard eyes have seen much.

Tomorrow the Team Sky daggers come out. Expect no mercy.

Written by walshworld

February 17, 2010 at 11:34 am

Andre Greipel, the Incredible Hulk on wheels.

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Massive Attack.

Yes, he has a big leg up. Two to be exact.

Experts, director sportifs and other sprinters were astounded by the speed, strength and dominance of Andre Greipel in the 2010 Tour Down Under. Many theories were floated — EPO-laced sauerkraut, bionic limbs, selective gene splicing, a small turbo surgically inserted between his heart and legs.

But it was Saxo’s Banks Stuart O’Grady who had the correct answer. The Australian simply said look at the considerable bulk of his legs. The photo above was taken at the 2008 TDU and you can only imagine how massive those thighs appear now.

This man is the Amazing Hulk on wheels. When his skin starts turning green we’ll have full confirmation.

Written by walshworld

January 25, 2010 at 5:14 pm

Greipel and gripes. German wins second stage while others complain.

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The G man with Stapleton.

Welcome to the Tour Down Under presented by HTC-Columbia.

The team may have re-ordered the sponsor position but nothing else has changed. If there’s a sprint finish, they’re going to win whether it’s Cavendish or Greipel. They could probably throw a geriatric Mario Cipollini on his old Saeco Cannondale and win.

Once again, it was Andre Greipel who won in front of Greg Henderson (Sky) and Robbie McEwen (Katyusha)  in his home away from home, Hahndorf. The German sprinter is the most popular rider in the heavily Deutschlandish town. Griepel may someday be elected mayor.

“Today we wanted to give a chance to the breakaway but the other teams wanted to chase them back,” said Greipel. “We have a good team here to maybe hold on to the leader’s jersey, but there’s two really hard stages coming up.”

The stage from Gawler to Hahndorf followed the usual procedures. Omega Pharma – Lotto teammates Mickael Delage and Olivier Kaisen and UniSA-Australian National Team rider David Kemp made the early and doomed escape. They had the crazy, champagne-soaked podium girls fantasy when the gap reached 11 minutes. But then the relentless pressure from HTC-Columbia and Team Sky yanked the leash back.

Read the book, guys.

With 9k to the finish, the peloton came back together in one big, fast, happy family. From there it was textbook Columbia, the team that wrote the “Sprinting For Dummies Textbook” for the rest of the lycra universe. Doesn’t anybody read anymore? Greg Henderson and Robbie McEwen battled it out to take Behind Griepel honors and Henderson wasn’t happy about McEwen’s tactics.

“Chris Sutton couldn’t quite get in front, then McEwen came and bashed me off CJ’s wheel, so I’m not really sure what he was up to there. I might have to ask him later on,” said the Sky sprinter. Hey, why do you think they call him Rockin’ Robbie? The man is train-less and a superb bike handler so what did Henderson expect — Miss Manners?

There was also a bit of the old argy-bargy between BMC Racing Team’s Danilo Wyss and Graeme Brown (Rabobank). “I was directly on the wheel of Greipel when Graeme Brown came at me from the left and forced me off my perfect line,” said Wyss. “If that hadn’t happened, I certainly would have finished higher up.”

That’s what happens when one team dominates the sprints — the others bicker among themselves. Count yourself lucky boys, it could be worse. If it were Cavendish, you’d not only lose, he’d embarrass you with one of his trademark victory routines.

Written by walshworld

January 20, 2010 at 8:56 am

Riccardo Ricco hits back at Cavendish. The parasite speaks.

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Parasite, bike.

Biological impossibility? Parasite talks!

Doper Riccardo Ricco responded to recent comments by HTC-Columbia’s Mark Cavendish that he was a parasite. “Why am I parasite? What does he mean when he says I’ve shown no remorse?” Ricco asked.

The alleged ringworm or intestinal fluke insisted that he’s filled with remorse after his suspension for CERA during the 2008 Tour de France.

“I even helped the anti-doping investigators and that’s why they gave me a 20-month ban instead of 24 months. Of course, he (Cavendish) is at the peak of his career and so he can say what he wants.”

In a recent interview, Cavendish heaped abuse on the Italian climber. “It’s insulting to the passion that I have and the others have for cycling … and for someone else to not give a shit about that, it’s incredibly demoralizing to have to compete against that,” he said.

However, in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport, Ricco hit back at the Manxman. “I’m not going to respond because I’m the last person who can speak after what I did. He’s the number-one sprinter in the world and so he’s always right.” said Ricco. “I’m not that bothered about what he’s said or what he thinks. Anyway, you shut people up with your legs, not with your mouth.”

Ricco’s legs are in for quite a challenge. Mark Cavendish isn’t’ the only HTC COlumbia rider disgusted by Ricco’s imminent return to racing. In a Twitter message, Marco Pinotti said the idea that Riccò and fellow CERA doper Emanuele Sella could be at this year’s Giro ‘made him puke’.

“They’ve had a second chance but they’ve never apologized to the other riders in the peloton, to the team staff that lost their jobs and above all to the fans they betrayed,” said Pinotti.

Cavendish versus Ricco. No doubt round three is coming soon.

Written by walshworld

January 18, 2010 at 11:55 am

Cavendish calls Riccardo Ricco a “parasite.” What kind, specifically?

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Ricco's mechanic testing his new bug bike.

Somewhere in Italy, Riccardo Ricco is acting out a variation of a climactic scene from David Lynch’s film, The Elephant Man. “I am not a parasite!”

Speaking with journalists at the HTC-Columbia training camp in Mallorca, sprinter and amateur biologist Mark Cavendish called Ricco a parasite. He said Ricco doesn’t deserve any welcome back bear hugs from the peloton.


“He’s like a parasite coming back. It’s not just the fact of what he’s done, because everyone can make mistakes, it’s that he’s not even sorry about,” Cavendish said. “It’s the lack of regret for all the damage that he’s done, that’s what upsets me.”

Cavendish neglected to offer specific details on just what kind of parasite Ricco was. Is the former Saunier Duval rider, who tested positive for CERA during the 2008 Tour de France, a tape worm, intestinal fluke or hookworm?

As of this writing the Center for Disease Control has no data on the number of parasites in the pro cycling ranks.

However, Cavendish was pretty sure he’d identified Ricco as one. And hasn’t happy that the Italian parasitical organism didn’t seem to possess much of a conscience.

Dwarf tapeworm

“It’s insulting to the passion that I have and the others have for cycling … and for someone else to not give a shit about that, it’s incredibly demoralizing to have to compete against that,” he said.

Cavendish noted there was a wide ethical gulf between  Riccò’s zero apology approach and the one taken by the Manxman’s good friend David Millar at Garmin.

“(Millar’s) deeply sorry for what he did and he wants to do something right about it,” he said. “It’s about people who don’t regret what they’ve done.”

Ricco? Is that you?

In separate news, Cavendish was also candid about the loss of teammate George Hincapie to BMC. “In every single race, he was right in front of me,” he said. “That’s a massive, massive loss to the team. His experience and power will be hard to replace. On a personal level, he was one of my best friends on the team, to share that joy of success with him. It will be hard without him.”

That’s all the news from the Cavendish channel. File under parasite returns, good pal leaves.

Written by walshworld

January 12, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Stapleton says Armstrong “handing mantle” to Cavendish. Uh, no.

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Mantle not moving

Bob Stapleton, head honcho at Columbia HTC  said in a CNN interview that Lance Armstrong was ‘passing the mantle’ to Columbia sprinter, Mark Cavendish.

“I think it is very interesting that the biggest name in the sport is embracing, and indeed passing the mantle, to the second biggest name in the sport. From Lance to Mark.” So sayeth Bob.

Twisted Spoke news analysis: uh, no. Don’t think so.

The most dominate endurance athlete of the modern era and winner of an astonishing seven Tour de Frances does not pass mantles to anyone. That’s part of what makes Lance the man. If you have a YouTube scoop of Lance in his bathrobe outside his house in Austin handing over the mantle to anyone, you let us know.

Remember the 2004 Tour when the Texan refused to throw T-Mobile rider Andreas Kloden a small bone and let him win the Alpe d’Huez stage? Armstrong accelerated hard and wiped out the German. Commenting on the win, the Badger himself, Bernard Hinault, a ferocious five time tour winner, congratulated Armstrong. “No gifts,” said Bernard.

The mantle ain’t going anywhere. If you want it, bring a crowbar, shotgun, bazooka, a flame-thrower and enough dynamite to blow Texas to China. Lance will not part with the mantle. He likes the mantle. He ripped it away from Greg Lemond years ago and Greg is still ticked off about it. Until the next great American stage racer shows up, Mellow Johnny isn’t gift wrapping the goods.

According to Stapleton, there are a number of common points between Armstrong and Cavendish. “There are many similarities between the two, both in their attitude and the way they look at themselves. Both are very confident and highly capable, but also very, very self aware,” said Stapleton.

But there is also one big difference. Armstrong has mantle in hand, ain’t handing it over. Sorry Manxman.

Farrar has speed to beat Cavendish, says Garmin’s Weltz.

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I'm a buddhist till the last 1000 meters.

Boy Racer versus the Battling Buddhist. It could be the sprint match-up of 2010.

Columbia’s Mark Cavendish going kick-to-kick against Garmin’s Tyler Farrar. Is the young rider from Wenatchee, Washington catching up to the fastest sprinter in he world?

Garmin-Transitions’ directeur sportif Johnny Weltz thinks so. “Tyler has really come around,” said Weltz at the Vuelta launch. “We knew that he had the potential, but it was just the moment for it to happen. I do think that he has the speed to beat Mark.”

Mark, you hear that over in the Canary islands where you’re training? Cavendish made a point last year of tweaking Garmin and Farrar constantly. It was a running joke at Team Columbia and there’s no love lost between the two American squads at odds.

After a frustrating string of near misses, Farrar finally got his first Grand Tour victory in stage eleven of the Vuelta a España. He also knocked off three wins in the Eneco Tour and stage three in Tirreno Adriatico where he beat the Manxman at the line.

According to Weltz, there are more first places to come. “If you look at the difference in Tyler, between the beginning and the end of the year, he is much leaner and stronger, and is climbing very well. He is perhaps not quite as snappy as Cavendish, but he is stronger [all round]. And I think he can get even stronger again.”

Farrar is a student of Buddhism, has traveled to Tibet and has two tattoos written in Pali, one on his arm that says “May you be happy,” and another on his wrist the denotes “inner peace.”

You might think the last 1000 meters of a ProTour sprint is the last place to bliss out. As the Lion King Mario Cippolini once said, “it’s like a war on the bike, with the words and the mind. This is what a sprinter is made of.”

When it comes to the trash talk, nobody beats Cavendish. In last year’s Giro, Cavendish said of Farrar, “it’s a shame for me to say this, but he’s not — he’s a super, super good sprinter, but he’s not at the level of Petacchi and me.”

In the classic Western True Grit, bad guy Robert Duval laughs off John Wayne’s bold statement that Wayne will arrest him — “I call that bold talk for a one-eyed, fat man.” Twisted Spoke things Cavendish better watch the wise cracks next year.

Tyler Farrar is closing and closing fast.

Written by walshworld

December 19, 2009 at 5:47 pm

Cavendish, Columbia on dangerous Canary island. Lust and dinosaurs at training camp?

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Raquel is one hot cave girl.

We’re not saying Mark Cavendish is in danger. We’re only saying watch out and stick close together because crazy things have happened here.

Boy Racer and his Columbia HTC team are training in the Canaries, on the Spanish island of Lanzarote. This is the exact location where in 1966 they filmed the fantasy adventure One Million Years B.C. That last part evidently standing for Before Columbia.

The original theatrical poster invites us to  “Travel back through time and space to the edge of man’s beginnings…discover a savage world whose only law was lust!” Savage as in vicious dinosaurs ripping cave men apart like deli hot wings. Doesn’t matter how fast you can sprint on a bike if there’s a tyrannosaurus rex behind you.

And there was the lust. Because the dish in question was none other than 60′s sex bomb Raquel Welch. It may be that even 44 years later there’s some lust left over, a tribe of sex-hungry cave girls still hiding out that would distract the training regime of the most hardened bike rider. Did I really say hardened?

Beware deadly dinos.

One Million Years B.C. concerns the story of the Rock and Shell tribe back in the pre-historic day battling the aforementioned dinos and each other. At the thrilling climax, a huge volcano erupts, basically destroying the planet, leaving only the sexy Raquel cave girl and one lucky man to rebuild the human race.

In actual fact, the island of Lanzarote is home to the largest submerged volcanic tunnel in the world. Hey, you never know when one of these babies can blow and team Columbia would be well-advised to have helicopters ready. Scorching hot lava will melt down a titanium or carbon fiber bike in minutes.

All we’re saying is, crazy things have happened on Lanzarote. They filmed the sci-fi movie The Krull here. A story of an alien called the Beast and his band of Slayers making life difficult for hero Liam Neeson. The princess is taken to the Black forest and much evil is done and by the way there’s no bike path there. Go at your own risk to the castle.

Cavendish vs. Alien?

Is that enough to scare off a merry band of bike racers? Then what about Alien Mine, also filmed on this Canary rock? An interstellar war between humans and reptiles with Dennis Quaid as savior. Blood, destruction and laughable story structure. Dangerous things just occur on a regular basis on this island.

Lets all just say a short prayer for Cavendish and Columbia HTC. What with the screaming hot lava, vicious dinosaurs, alien reptiles, beasts, slayers and sex-starved cave girls, things could get pretty rough. This is no training camp vacation and Mark Cavendish may rue the day the Columbia brass said, pack your bags, boys, we’re Canary-bound.

The sooner they get off the island of Lanzarote, the better.


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