- Posted by Simon Richardson
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Cycling Weekly got up early this morning to check out the team time trial course in and around Montpellier, and we're glad we did.
The course is a cracker, and it's going to cause a lot of problems for a lot of the teams. Mark Cavendish told us several weeks ago how technical it was, but it's only after seeing it that we know what he was talking about.
Much of the route is narrow, twisty and far from flat. Those sections also feature large sections of rough and broken tarmac - it's going to be tough.
As we were leaving the centre of Montpellier so were the Quick Step team. Seeing our opportunity we jumped in behind the last of their three cars and joined them for the ride. They rolled through all the red lights and major road junctions with nothing more than a beep of their horn and a wave from the gendarme on duty.
Quick Step were taking it very easy for the first 12 km that wind out of the city, but they were going fast enough to overtake Erik Zabel. He jumped in with CW, but didn't have much to say. More on that later.
At the bottom of the route's main climb the team stopped to answer the call of nature, so off I went with Zabel. Who still didn't have much to say. I sit on his wheel all the way up the climb and marvel at both how easy he's riding and how straight the top of his hair is.
Over the top of the climb we're trying quite hard. Then Quick Step come past us barely breaking in to a sweat as the temperature touches 30 degrees. At this point Zabel swings off the road to check his hair. He needn't have worried, not a single one was out of place.
Over the top of the climb and Quick Step start to up the pace. Suddenly I'm hanging on. Thankfully the guy driving the third car is the team's press man Alessandro Tegner who we know quite well. He eases back, lets me sit on his rear bumper, and tows me back up to the back of the second team car that's following behind the riders.
Not for long though.
Dropping down a long right-hander I let the car move ahead. Then, right after a tight left hander signaled the start of a short sharp climb. I was in the red and could do nothing but watch Quick Step ride away.
I rode on alone at a much steadier speed and thought I'd have a drink. I reached down for the bottle and realised it was virtually empty. I hadn't even noticed I'd drunk all my water. It was baking hot, and I still had 20km to go. Oh dear.
The next few kilometres were great cycling roads, but not if you're trying to keep in a nice tight-knit team time trial formation. The teams will have to ride in one long line over much of the middle section of the route, with the leading rider swinging off and jumping back on to the back of the line.
Entering the last ten kilometres I stop to answer the phone. All of a sudden Zabel flashes past, so I make some excuse about poor reception and chase after him, but not before a Gendarme tries to get me off the road. I wave my press pass at her and she lets me on my way.
As I'm catching him I think to myself, I bet no one tries to kick the great Erik Zabel off the route, just as a Gendarme tries to kick him off the route.
I catch up with him and decide to say hello this time. 'Hi, mind if I ride with you for a while?' thinking I can pick his brains about Cavendish and future sprints.
'No,' comes the response.
'I prefer to ride alone.'
I decide to then do something really annoying and sit ten metres behind him from where I can continue to marvel at his hair that really is quite remarkable. How does he get the top of it that straight?
Unfortunately I was denied the chance to sprint past Zabel on the finish line as we were directed off course with just 50m to go.
I'll get him next time, and when I do I'll ruffle his hair as if he's a naughty little scamp.
- Posted by Ian Cleverly
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The weekend in Abergavenny had it all; gorgeous weather, great racing, more big top stars than ever, and more than a little controversy. Here’s my rundown on the good, the bad, and the downright ugly.
MAN AT THE TOP
Hats off several times over to Bill Owen and crew for putting on a faultless weekend of racing. It started with the unpromising criterium on Friday night with a grand total of 15 riders (where were you, riders? Saving it for Sunday? Fools!) and ended with a gripping men’s race on Sunday. The junior race was a cracking good show: plenty of attacking and some smart moves from the young lads. The women’s race was, frankly, less than enthralling, but until there are more capable of taking on Cooke and Pooley – Armitstead being the exception – it will always struggle to catch fire.
The combination of NEG and police motorbikes enforced a perfect rolling road closure. With a bunch of 190 to contend with and a sprawling race caravan to escort through the often narrow and twisting roads to Monmouth and back to Abergavenny, it had to be spot on. And it was.
A serious number of people turned out to watch at the weekend. Saturday’s women’s race was well attended in town, with local hero Nicole Cooke doing the business for the Welsh, but Sunday’s race was packed all over. The canny could catch the action 12 times; once on the opening circuit, up the Tumble to see some real suffering, then back to Abergavenny for ten laps of the finishing circuit. The Tumble was rammed and the High Street was packed, which is just what you want to see for a National Championships.
THE BIG FIGHT
Ladeeeez and Gentlemen. Introducing, in the red corner, Mr Colin Clews; UCI commissaire, organiser of the CiCLE Classic, tall, tanned, athletic. And in the blue corner, Mr Brian Cookson; British Cycling president, master of all he surveys, ‘something of the night about him’ as Ann Widdecombe might say.
But hold on. Cookson is not the villain of the piece. 'El Presidente' has weighed in and rescued the damsel in distress from the clutches of the big, bad commissaire.
All joking aside, the whole Armitstead medal-giving fiasco was an almighty balls-up that could – and should, with a little foresight – have been avoided. There seems to be bad blood between the two protagonists here that has not helped an already inflammatory situation.
The only good thing to come out of it was an admittance of wrong-doing on both sides; Clews expressing “lingering regret” that Armitstead was not awarded the silver medal on the podium, and was not given a choice of senior of under-23 medals, and Cookson apologising for the lack of clarity and guidance from BC that led to Clews’ disagreeing with both Armitstead and Peter Kennaugh receiving medals for two separate championships (although Clews is actually sticking to the letter of the law for UCI regs, which is another matter entirely).
So maybe, just maybe, we can learn something from this, shake hands, move on, and make sure it doesn’t happen again. Maybe.
The man was mobbed from start to finish. The minute he arrived in the car park, well-wishers, autograph hunters, media and the downright curious were all over him.
Little wonder, then, that Mark Cavendish looked so vexed after the race; standing in a car park, surrounded by well-meaning onlookers as he explained his frustration at pulling everyone else along in the closing laps, doing too much work and getting little help. And all the time, he would break away to have his picture taken with a youngster or sign yet another autograph. Then he grabbed his case and headed for the changing rooms, still looking stressed.
And as he passed me, a broad grin was clearly visible from the side. Cav, stressed? Not enjoying all the attention? Don’t believe a word of it.
ROOM FOR FROOME
For a man taking his first tilt at the British title (on account of not being British for very long) Chris Froome was given an almighty big cheer from the crowd in Abergavenny for his aggressive riding over the whole of the race and especially his refusal to lie down and be beaten in the finishing circuit.
Will the Kenyan-born Barloworld rider be part of the Sky team next year? He wouldn’t tell me, of course, but now knows that he will get a big welcome from the Brits, and was genuinely touched by the reception in Wales. A classy rider. Sign that man.
IN THE CONVOY
Big thanks to Julian Winn of CandiTV-Marshalls Pasta for providing a seat in the team car and for answering my banal questions. There was one mention of sheep, but I think I got away with it…
NATIONAL CHAMPS ON TELLY
Sat July 4 8pm Women, 8.30pm Men
Sun July 5 1.15am Men
Mon July 6 6pm Men
Mon July 6 6.30pm Women
Tu July 7 12.30pm Men
Wed July 8 11pm Men
Thu July 9 1am Women
Thurs July 9 10.30pm Women
Check all timings on the day. Schedule is subject to change.
- Posted by Rob Hicks
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I am now well and truly into the trip, and what a few days its been. On the first real day, we were up nice and early and made the short journey to Pingling to cycle around their famous tea plantations.
We were all issued with our bikes. To be honest, they weren’t the greatest, you can if you want hire out high-end road bikes, but for the nature of our trip coupled with the varying levels of fitness among the group, these ones seemed to do the trick.
For those of you who care, our bikes were called Giant Adventure 300’s or something similar to that.
In fact, Giant is a Taiwanese manufacturer and is one of the world’s largest bicycle manufacturers; everywhere you look you will see Giant bikes!
Oh yeah, before I forget, I have managed to find out my Chinese name, I now go by the name of Luo, Yi Sih, and will not answer to anything else.
Our first ride wasn’t too long, (around 20km), but it was quite demanding. There were some very steep climbs followed by some immensely exciting descents, flying down rugged, rural roads surrounded by huge trees and mountain tops. These descents couldn’t come quick enough, as it’s a great way of cooling yourself down; you think it’s hot in the UK at the moment? It’s over 40 degrees out here!
It is worth mentioning that although you are riding through beautiful sceneries and rugged terrain, the roads themselves are smooth, very smooth in fact. There are no potholes, no road debris, most of the roads are unused, traffic is sparse, and if you still don’t feel confident going on the roads, you can ride on the cycle lanes, which offer far more protection.
We soon stopped for lunch, which was interesting to say the least. Shih – Fang teahouse was the destination and the food in general was very tasty. Although I couldn’t quite prepare myself for the vast amount of green tea they were going to hurl upon us. Green tea noodles, fried rice soaked in green tea, chicken, pork, fish all doused in green tea, followed by a cup of lovely, refreshing green sodding tea!
Thankfully early evening arrived, and our private two-floored coach took us to our next hotel, the Hotel Royal Chiao Hsi. A lovely hotel, situated in the hills of Yihan where there are numerous hot springs.
After going for a dip, I then visited a small pool area, with a sign saying Doctor Fish. I noticed everyone around me sitting on the side with their feet dipped in, strangely, no one was swimming. Intrigued by what was going on, I decided to join them. Within a second of plopping my feet in the water, hundreds of tiny fishes pounced on my feet. I screamed once again (for a second time on this trip). What on earth is going on? After talking to a few people, and then talking to a few more just so I fully understood, I was informed that no, this wasn’t a mistake and that these fish were supposed to be here. They also have a job to do. You see, as they don’t get fed, they instead feast on the dead skin on people’s feet for food! Have you ever heard anything more disgusting? And what more, people seem to like it!
With this valuable information now haunting me for life, I whipped my feet out in a blink of an eye, and headed off to dinner.
Steak tonight, medium rare, and thankfully no green tea to be seen.
- Posted by Robert Garbutt
- comments (1)
You'd think that giving out the medals would be the easy bit. Not on the evidence of last weekend's road national championships you wouldn't, when British Cycling president Brian Cookson clashed with the chief commissaire over who should be given what.
The squabbling started over Lizzie Armitstead when she finished second in Saturday's women's championship. Silver medal? Certainly not. There are rules about this sort of thing. She's an under-23, so she gets a gold medal for that instead and nothing for the senior race.
Confused? The bike fans in Abergavenny certainly were when Armitstead was missing from the podium but then Cookson sprang into action to retrospectively correct the actions of Colin Clews, who being chief commissaire, had mistakenly thought he was in charge.
Clews rallied the backing of the team managers in advance of Sunday's men's race to support him should another youngster sneak into the medals. Peter Kennaugh did just that, he was third, but Cookson had the measure of Clews and was straight up on the podium hanging a bronze medal around the neck of the under-23 national champion before you could say rulebook.
So rules are rules, unless you decide to change them. In this case it was a damn silly rule that shouldn't have existed in the first place, so there's no complaints from me.
- Posted by Simon Richardson
- comments (1)
The men's national championship road race goes over one of South Wales' most feared climbs - the Iron Mountain. Or, as it's better known in the cycling world, the Tumble.
Cycling Weekly came down to South Wales today for the weekend of racing and decided to take a quick look at what's in store for the men's championships. (The women's and junior races use a different circuit that doesn't feature the Tumble.) The climb starts in the town of Llanfoist and climbs to over 400 metres above sea level in just over three miles.
The very bottom is gentle enough, but it doesn't take long before it ramps up and around the first hairpin. After that it's a long straight under the trees that becomes quite a drag. Round the second hairpin and there's another long straight that looks as if it gets steeper in the distance.
At the end of that straight it's over a cattle grid and in to classic Welsh mountain scenery - with sheep and mist thrown in for good measure.
It's this top section that really starts to bite as it winds it's way around, hugging the side of the mountain.
Unfortunately for us the top of the climb was shrouded in mist, so we didn't know we were at the top until we arrived there - and then there was no view to enjoy. Instead it was on with the rain capes and gilets and off down the other side towards Blaenavon.
The Tumble is unlikely to trouble any of the continental pros returning this weekend, but it's tough enough to split the 191 rider field that will tackle it. Any splits that do open up are likely to stick as the approximately 20 mile circuit has a sting in the tail.
Just before the riders hit the centre of Blaenavon they're sent right and back up and over a smaller climb. It doesn't compare to the Tumble, but the undulating road will catch some riders out, especially if there's a wind blowing.
The riders that do get over this section in front are likely to be the ones battling it out on the shorter finishing circuit around Abergavenny as the descent towards Brynmawr is followed by a fast section of main road all the way back.
My tip for the podium? I'm going to say Millar, Hunt and Russell Downing. Most of the British pros are exhausted after the Tour Series and Cavendish wont be able to move without 20 riders jumping after him.
National Championships 2009: The big preview
- 26 June 09:
- Blog: Michael Hutchinson
- 25 June 09:
- Rob Hicks: cycling in Taiwan
- 18 June 09:
- Castelli 24hr: probably the best bike race in the world
- 16 June 09:
- I'm doing my bit for Bike Week
- 13 June 09:
- Simon Richardson at the Castelli 24 hour crit