Twisted Spoke

My twisted take on the world of pro bike racing.

Archive for the ‘Sky’ Category

Pozzato’s tats. Porn star, comedian, genius? An Arabic tattoo for Boasson Hagen.

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Only God has this much ink.

Twisted Spoke made a snap decision, because, well, sometimes we take on a sprinter mindset: primal instinct at high speed. Is Filippo Pozzato the reincarnation of 70’s porn star Johnny “Wadd” Holmes and more importantly, is the Italian cool or pathetically comical?

Porn star Holmes

When we saw Liquigas’s Pozzato naked from the waist up with his massive script tattoo that reads “Only God can judge me” we were forced to make an immediate call.

Was Master P a promotional bozo desperate for attention or an amusing renegade, an outsized, unique personality in the generally faceless peloton of working grunts.

The envelope, please. Yes, amusing renegade (and potential porn star!) for god-sakes! Always vote for personality unless it’s relentlessly self serving and blindly self referential. Mark Cavendish, take a bow.

Pozzato, who’s just started a rider blog at cyclingnews, has gained entry to the inter sanctum of TS luminaries. I mean, the damn tattoo covers his entire back, we give him props just on tattoo square footage. The King of the mountains is also the king of ink.

Left - Right, Top - Bottom, all Latin: "While I breathe, I hope, Don't let the bastards get you down, To the stars, through adversity, I will find a way or I will make one, Forbidden and Hate the living, love the dead. Nice.

We were on the fence about Pozzato after his oddly shameless burlesque strip show at Miss Cycling 2009. One of those events brilliant Italian men invent so they can see more young women nearly naked. Chapeau, Italian dudes.

We applaud those old school euro ways: Men ride bikes, attractive young women take off their clothes, old woman cook and clean and children shut up. Thus Italian history rolls on, happy and we look on from afar, envious.

But Pozzato’s creative ink job got us thinking and this being prime time for the Tour of Oman, let’s take tats down to the Middle East. Drunk cyclists and sailors do silly things in the desert. More than one rider is sure to leave the capital city of Muscat with a super cool inked phrase in Arabic.

Twisted Spoke is happy to offer up a few examples for inspiration. Garmin’s sprinter Tyler Farrar is already covered (pun) with his buddhist tattoos but everyone else has plenty of open real estate.

Left - Right, Top - Bottom, Arabic: Holy Warrior, Forever my love, Beware the spectre of the gun, I will love my mother, sadly lost file and finally, Serenity, Strength and Courage.

Filippo Pozzato’s backside is also taken but Evald Boasson Hagen, you need to get cannibaled up, brother. Those Cervelo boys laughed when you took your baby bladder nature break. Time to serve notice and go under the needle. They can do it right in the fancy rolling Sky disco if you want, by the massage table.

Nobody is gonna mess with you in the classics if they see that bad-ass Arabic tattoo on your upper arm. The one that says “Boonen’s a fairy.” or “Allah says Cervelo sucks” Yeah, ink that, shy Norwegian boy wonder.


Written by walshworld

February 18, 2010 at 12:04 am

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

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

First peek. Team Sky rolling discotheque.

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The VIP Lounge at the Club Sky rolling disco.

The disco ball is put away when the dance club is in transit. Travel safety thing, baby.

Team Sky unveiled the rolling Club Sky Disco on their web site this Friday. The former Volvo buses have been transformed into the hottest club on the ProTour circuit. Paris Hilton is sure to crash this club soon.

The space age design includes mood lighting and nine leather furnished seats for the riders and their party entourage. The seats even promise electric calf supports and integrated storage space for iphones and ipods.

The state-of-the-art sound system will pump electronic, R&B soul and late night down-tempo grooves. “We play whatever the riders and their ladies want,” said driver and DJ Reggie “Bubbles” Dawkins.

After-hours cocktails and dancing and other festivities are promised along with wide screen movies. Then as the evening winds down, VIP guests are invited to slip behind the club’s set of clear sliding pulse doors which ice up at the touch of a button. There, they’ll discover a lavish shower that provides a relaxing and intimate ending to a long exciting day of cycling.

The club will cater to an exclusive, upscale clientele and also features a champagne and massage suite at the back of the rolling club. “Everybody likes to get loose, you know. Don’t matter if you just won Milan San Remo or not, it’s all a party,” said Bubbles.

Given that the red-hot club has no fixed address, a red LED beacon will extend into the night sky to ensure the riders and revelers can always find Club Sky.

Team manager and bouncer David Brailsford summed it up: That’s what it’s all about, making these guys so proud they’re partying for Team Sky.” No, wait, he said “riding for Team Sky.” Sorry, slip of the keyboard.

Written by walshworld

January 29, 2010 at 3:55 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

Twisted Spoke fashion poll. The ugliest kit.

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Yes, we are naked.

Some people aren’t much on the understated new Team Sky jersey. Some think the new Radio Shack “thousand R logos” jersey is an abomination.

The latest version of Astana’s new kit met with a deafening silence. But for Twisted Spoke, the true horror, the fashion disaster, the incomprehensible lapse of all taste and judgement is the new Footon-Servetto design.

Since the jersey is basically flesh colored, the rider wearing this crime against cycling appears to be naked except for the massive black footprint of some giant crushed into his chest.

Urzay: "I own ugly."

Imagine fielding an entire team that looks like it’s already been squashed. You’re not exactly building a winner’s mentality there. “I’m naked, I’ve been crushed, I’m sponsored by a rickety fold out bed.” Yikes-arama.

A designer named Dario Urzay is responsible and we hope this was done for Footon Servetto as a freebie with no money changing hands.

Dario is obviously somebody’s cousin who “likes to sketch” or is doing this in trade for a set of aero rims. Whatever the case, he should be stopped immediately.

Ahh, but we dig deeper into the bold and scary fashion world of Dario. A wiki search turned up a second winner — world’s ugliest soccer jersey. Every artist needs a niche, a speciality, a sound-bite encapsulation the media can latch on to. F0r Dario, it’s freaky sportswear. we’re all for artistic expression but seriously, do not let this man near another athletic team of any kind. The consequences are simply to dire.

Footon-Servetto risks being the first team with a rider breaking his contract out of embarrassment. Don’t be surprised if Footon guys wear their rain capes when it’s 80 degrees and sunny.

But that’s our personal winner for ugliest kit in professional cyling. What’s yours?

Written by walshworld

January 11, 2010 at 9:52 pm