Twisted Spoke

My twisted take on the world of pro bike racing.

Archive for the ‘Garmin’ 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.


Boasson Hagen wins stage 3 in Tour of Oman. Does Farrar need Omani witchcraft?

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All hail the Sky.

An Italian, a Norwegian and an American sprinter charged across the Sultanate of Oman. Yes, cycling truly is a global sport. Time to consider couscous and maqbous, a spiced Omani rice dish, as an alternative to pasta.

It was top Sky signing (besides the stolen Mr. Wiggins) Edvald Boasson Hagen who beat Danilo Napolitano (Katusha) and Tyler Farrar (Garmin-Transitions) into the small fishing village of Qurayyat. Boasson scores the catch of the day — perhaps some big eye tuna — and champagne.

“I’m really happy,” Boasson Hagen told reporters at the finish. “Finally we made it. The guys made good lead outs in the last stages but I didn’t finish it off. To finally win is a good feeling.”

“There was an attack on the descent but Sutton and Vigano took me to the front. We lead it out but then Garmin came up on us. Sutton responded and then I went past them.”

Abdul coaches Tyler

The team of DS Scott Sunderland now has a time trial win in the recent Tour of Qatar to go with a stage win in Oman. The sprint was complicated by a desert wind blowing in but Sky and wind, well, that’s no big deal.

“The sprint was really fast and we were all on the left because there was a slight side wind blowing from the right. We lead it out but then Garmin came up on us. CJ responded and stopped them taking control, then I went past them,” said Boasson Hagen.

For Tyler Farrar it was another missed opportunity, close but no hookah pipe. He was later seen in deep discussion with revered Muslim cycling commentator Abdul Al Salaam concerning the mechanics of his kick. Abdul had been vocal about the Garmin rider becoming more Arabian stallion than camel.

Farrar was made an honorary member of the Omani capital’s Muscat Cycling club. They’ll be meeting this Friday at the French embassy and doing the Cornish to Albustan ride. But Tyler will be busy doing a time trial that day.

Boasson Hagen is now the target wearing the leader’s red jersey and the odds-on favorite to take the overall win. After scooping the winner’s time bonuses, he has 10 second lead on Farrar and Daniele Bennati (Liquigas-Doimo)

Wednesday’s hilly 187km stage will be a pressure cooker for Sky but right now, Boasson Hagen is on track to snatch the podium in the inaugural Tour of Oman. The question will be what can Garmin and Liquigas do to destabilize Sky.

Twisted Spoke votes for old fashioned voodoo and witchcraft. A quick intensive in the basics of Qaher Al Jinn might be what Tyler Farrar needs. This will require a speed reading of the book of al-Ghazali, but results are almost guaranteed.

Written by walshworld

February 16, 2010 at 11:06 am

Bennati wins, Farrar loses, Westra trick fails. Stage 2 at the Tour of Oman.

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Bennati beats Farrar.

Nizwa to Samail in the Sultanate of Omani. Okay, maybe it doesn’t have the automatic sense of drama and history as Milan to San Remo. Give it a hundred years.

After watching his Liquigas teammate Francesco Chicchi rack up two wins last week in the Tour of Qatar (sometimes called the Belgium of the dunes), Daniele Bennati marked the 148k stage as podium possible.

Farrar let me down!

Despite the usually dead-on prognostication by revered Muslin cycling commentator Adbul Al Salaam — who picked Tyler Farrar — the Italian sprinter beat the Garmin rider and Edvald Boasson Hagen (Sky Pro Cycling Team). It was first win since the Giro di Sardegna last February.

“I’ve waited too long for this win.  I’ve had so many problems that I’ve decided to stop looking back. Now I just hope to look to the future,” said Bennati.

“The whole team helped me during the stage and then Daniel [Oss] and Francesco [Chicchi] gave me a great lead out. Chicchi was amazing. I went with about 300 metres to go as the bunch hesitated. It was a long way out but I’ve got a long sprint when I’m fit and healthy.”

Today’s bold escape in the Middle East included Trek-Livestrong’s Ben Dowsett, Kristof Vandewalle (Topsport Vlaanderen-Mercator), Ben Gastauer (Ag2r) and Jackson Stewart (BMC Racing Team). The charging horde from Sky, Garmin, Saxo bank and Liquigas killed their chances 11 kilometers from the finish line.

Lieuwe Westra  (Vacansoleil) had the novel idea of sprinting for the line one lap before the finish. His thrill of victory quickly turned to the shame of embarassment when he learned of his mistake. Hard to consult the race Bible when it’s the Koran. He was later taken in for questioning by camel-mounted officers of the Royal Oman Police.

The race commissars?

Sadly, Tyler Farrar seems back to his second-place ways this season after finishing 2009 with a number of sprint wins. “My form is coming around and so it’s got to happen soon,” said Farrar.

Our wizened expert Abdul El Salaam was at no loss to explain Farrar’s second place.: “his kick is like a camel — strong but not the beauty of a stallion.” The camel gets another chance tomorrow in Qurayyat.

Written by walshworld

February 15, 2010 at 8:33 am

Farrar’s four-flat day in Qatar. Dance, anyone?

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We find ourselves back in the desert, in the Land of Q, the Arabian hotbed of cycling and the Belgium of the sand dunes. Italian fast man Francesco Chicchi (Liquigas-Doimo) won the sprint into Al Khor Corniche, blowing past Heinrich Haussler (Cervélo TestTeam) and Juan Jose Haedo (Saxo Bank). Qatar sits on one of the largest oil and gas reserves in the world, so the Liquigas boys obviously felt at home.

But Twisted Spoke is mostly astounded by Tyler Farrar’s flat-tire-athon in the final 20 kilometers of the race. Four, count ’em, four punctures that put him a collective four minutes behind Chicchi.

“Four flats in 20km is ridiculous. What can you do when that happens?” Farrar said after crazy day. “It was a nice finish and I think it was a good finish for me today. I was motivated but it all went wrong.”

So we dedicate this odd and sophomoric video to Tyler and his unlucky Garmin teammates. The unforgettable Bicycle Pump Dance. It must be extremely popular in Qatar these days.

Written by walshworld

February 10, 2010 at 1:19 pm

Vaughters makes full recovery from Wiggins loss. Life, post Wiggo.

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Jonathan Vaughters is feeling better, thank you. He appreciates your cards and letters.

The man they call JV took the ugly departure of star rider Bradley Wiggins personally. There were all the soap opera emotions: anger, a sense of betrayal, loss — staying locked up in his house in Boulder, Colorado listening to Nirvana and Nick Drake. You know, that dark period after the breakup, the black pall that was Brad. Late nights staring into the fire, wondering if he should have coughed up the dollars for Contador. If Vaughters had been Latin, he would have flown to London and shot Wiggins outside his flat, a crime of passion.

Wiggo where did you go?

Vaughters liked Wiggo a lot, loved his Brit humor in a Monty Python kinda way, valued his intelligence. There are plenty of lunch pail lunkheads in the peloton. The sports’ euro roots are in the farm fields, the coal mines, guys just happy to escape the Dickens drudgery. Pedaling a bike at insane speeds doesn’t requite a college degree or a working knowledge of Nietzsche or quantum mechanics or even an intriguing Netflicks queue.

Wiggo is a genuinely curious, intellectual guy with a wide range of interests like Vaughters himself. It was a separated at birth thing, they were man pals. The breakup was hard on JV. Rumor was for several weeks Vaughters grew listless, could no longer look at a men’s fashion magazine and that his trademark sideburns grew unruly and unkempt. The batteries ran out on his Garmin GPS and he just didn’t care. Bad, you know, really bad.

This was personal and this was professional. There’s no question, Vaughters believes he discovered Wiggins and did the Frankenstein routine on him. Piecing together a physical and psychological training plan that re-made the British rider into a scary good tour rider. The Garmin head honcho made Wiggins his personal project, discovering his immense potential when the rest of the cycling world saw just another track cyclist. Brad betrayed Vaughters’ vision of Brad. There have been dramatic, violent breakup movies based on less.

But Vaughters is back, with a serious case of Wiggin’s amnesia. The past is past and like Chinese history before communism, Wiggins doesn’t exist anymore in Garminville.  First, JV hit New York with the Men In Plaid party, doing the cycling twist on the popular TV show Mad Men. Adult beverages were consumed and the party went full blast. New York doesn’t give a crap about Bradley Wiggins unless he’s a DJ opening a new night club.

Then JV let go of his angst and turned it over to Garmin Statesmen David Millar. It was Millar who did the dirty work of dumping on Wiggins and it was okay because Millar has props in the peloton and like Wiggo, he’s a fellow Brit. His disses have dimension and weight. He was a quote machine, and if anyone could illicit some remorse from Wiggins, it was Millar. Unfortunately, Wiggins was already happy with Uncle Fester at Sky and had closed the scab.

In any disaster, a family must close ranks and Garmin did. From Millar and Tyler Farrar on down, the party line was repeated: We’re a stronger team without Wiggins. We’ll miss him but the loss won’t have anything to do with results. Have a nice life at Sky, you clueless, greedy, betraying emaciated Brit. End of story in Velonews, Cyclingnews and Eurosport.

And then, the future. With sponsors and the cycling press waiting for the end strategy, Vaughters went on the offensive. In interview after interview, the message became, don’t forget about Christian Vande Velde, Zabriske is going to surprise in 2010 and watch out world, we’ve found the next Wiggins in Irishman Dan Martin. That was a nice symbolic touch, Irishman replaces ungrateful Brit. And being the savvy guy he is, you can bet Vaughters wrote some new protective measures into Martin’s contract extension. Should he have an amazing season, Martin, unlike Wiggins, is not leaving early.

And so the Wiggins chapter closes at Garmin. Lessons learned. Jonathan Vaughters left himself open, he cared too much, but the breakup is well and over. It was Director Sportifs Who Love Too Much And The Riders That Leave Them. That won’t happen again. As David Millar has said, he loves the “soul” of team Garmin. Vaughters is still going to put his heart and soul into his team. But he won’t be burned again.

Written by walshworld

January 1, 2010 at 10:12 pm

Zirbel denies “knowingly” ingesting DHEA. “Unknowingly” a tough sell.

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Zirbel "knowingly" riding his bike.

Dope, meaning clueless?

“I didn’t knowingly ingest any DHEA,” said American rider Tom Zirbel after his A sample came back positive from a WADA-accredited lab at the University of Utah. So, the only remaining option is what — unknowingly?

The “unknowingly” option is always a hard one for Twisted Spoke. Top riders scrutinize every facet of their training including a near religious focus on their diet. They weigh their food, they count every calorie and obsess about the benefits of each bite. They’re maniacally careful about what they put in their bodies. Unknowingly is just hard to swallow.

In Zibel’s case, the unknowing excuse is doubly hard to accept. He claims, “I’m ignorant about these things, I didn’t know what DHEA was until I was first notified about my A sample.” These days any rider with half a brain has a basic understanding of what is and isn’t on the banned substance list. A steroid like DHEA is in screaming capital letters that are hard to miss. It’s the same multi-function steroid that ended Tyler Hamilton’s career.

But the most damning unknowing is when Zirbil goes into further detail about hiring an expert to oversee the handling of his B sample. He said, “I have a chemistry back ground so I thought I could check things out as well.” Having a working knowledge of chemistry makes the unknowingly argument even more difficult to believe. The man is a dedicated professional athlete with an interest in chemistry in a sport with a pervasive and public doping problem and he’s never heard of DHEA? That puts quite a strain on credulity.

If this weren’t what seems like the 100th rider in the last 10 years to plead ignorance about a positive doping test result, we could perhaps say, yeah, maybe, somebody in a white lab coat messed up. It happens, everybody makes mistakes. The newspapers are filled with cautionary tales of botched procedures and medical malpractice horror stories.

It would be a tremendous misfortune and gross injustice if Tom Zirbel is innocent. He finished second to Dave Zabriskie twice at the USA time Trial championships. He had a new contract with Garmin-Transitions for the 2010 season. His results are now questioned, contract terminated, career hanging in the balance. There’s lot of undoing in the unknowing.

“I won’t say that it’s out of the realm of possibility that I would walk away from this,” he said. “But I’m pretty irritated about everything. It’s too early to talk about this but if it’s two years I would be pretty bitter. I’m 31 and I have to start thinking about life after cycling anyway.”

Sadly, it seems to Twisted Spoke that Zirbel has unknowingly repeated the same sad, ignominious mistake as many riders before him. We look forward to writing a full retraction and apology to Zirbel should his B sample come back negative.

In the meantime, we’ll just say, welcome to retirement, Tom.

Written by walshworld

December 28, 2009 at 11:34 am

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