Am I on track?

Am I on track?

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Rain, rain go away...

So here is something I had totally forgotten about in my 10 months unable to ride - the frustration of rainy days!!

I have always been a 'fair weather cyclist'. If its raining or the roads are wet, I'll leave the bike at home. Not because I find it uncomfortable - I have had some very fun rides in the driving rain!! But mainly as a safety issue, as I don't want to go for a slide down the road, especially if I'm commuting in amongst the vehicular traffic.

So only 1 ride for me this week so far. Monday to Wednesday was rained out, I happily got back on the bike Thursday, then Friday I gave the legs a rest... Hopefully next week the skies will be a little clearer...

Monday, 22 August 2011

Preview - 2011 Vuelta a Espana

The third and final 3-week Grand Tour for 2011 started this weekend - the Vuelta a Espana (or the 'Tour of Spain').  This Grand Tour always suffers a little in comparison to the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia  many cycling fans are still in 'post-TdF fatigue', plus the cycling world is also looking forward to the World Championships held just after the Vuelta (this year in Copenhagen, Denmark).

This year, a few big names have opted to skip the Vuelta - namely Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans, and the Schleck brothers, Andy & Frank.  However, the battle for the 'red jersey' (worn by the overall leader) will still be keenly fought.

For the overall winner, my tips are:

1. Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha)
Rodriguez is a Spanish rider, who skipped the Tour after a hard-fought 5th place in the Giro. He'll be hugely motivated, with the Vuelta being his home tour). He also has a punchy sprint finish for a climber, so is well-placed to benefit from the time bonuses (20sec for every stage winner) available on every stage. His weakness is the time-trial - he fel off the Giro podium thanks to a poor time-trial this year. My tip - 1st.

2. Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas)
Nibali is also skipped the Tour this year, after coming 3rd in the Giro. I think this is a key to success - riders can either focus on the Tour, or the Giro/Vuelta double. Otherwise, they are just too fatigued.
Nibali is a huge talent, and is the Vuelta's defending champion. He has also podiumed in all 3 of his last Grand Tours. If Rodriguez falters, Nibali will take the win.  My tip - 2nd.

3. Michelle Scarponi (ISD-Neri)
Scarponi took 2nd place in this year's Giro (won by Contador). I don't think he'll do the job in the Vuelta though - he's an 'old man' now, and I reckon he can only peak for one Grand Tour each year. He's wily and experienced, so that will keep him near the pointy end of the field. My tip - 4th.

4. Igor Anton (Euskatel)
A Spanish climber on a Spanish team - what more motivation does he need? Crashed out of the Vuelta last year while leading, and must be wondering what could have been. Don't think he'll win, but will push Rodriguez & Nibali to the limit. My tip - 3rd.

5. Jani Brajkovic (Radioshack), Jurgen Van den Broek (Omega Pharma-Lotto), Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky).
These three guys are lumped together as the "Tour de France redemption bunch". All three started the Tour in great form, but crashed out and abandoned very early in the race. While they are all terrific contenders, I question their ability to recover from injury and re-peak for the Vuelta. They will finish in the tip 10, but expect them to have at least one 'bad day' in the mountains that will keep them off the podium. My tips - Brajkovic 5th, Wiggins 6th, Van den Broek 7th.

Of course, there is also the Sprinters Jersey.  The hype this year is all about Peter Sagan (Liquigas), a young sprinter who has had great form this year. However, this is his first Grand Tour ever - how will he handle his first 3-week race?

My tip is that Tyle Farrar (Garmin-Cervelo) and Daniele Bennati (Leopard-Trek) will fight out the jersey, with Sagan 3rd. Super-sprinter Mark Cavendish (HTC) is also racing, but I suspect he'll drop out before the end to prepare for the World Championships.

For my fellow-Australian cycling fans - about 8 key stages willbe televised live on SBS this year, so we get to see some of this great race!! Hopefully we are all fully recovered from our 3 weeks of late nights on the couch watching Cadel Evans win the Tour...  :)

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Transfer season in the Pro Peloton

It's been an interesting transfer season in the pro cycling world so far. I thought I'd pen a few brief thoughts on what I consider to be some of the more key moves confirmed so far.

First of all, we have what is becoming the BMC SuperTeam.

Thor Hushovd (top) & Philippe Gilbert (bottom) - both destined to wear BMC jerseys next season.

BMC have signed both Thor Hushovd and Philippe Gilbert for next year. Already, they looked to be stacked with winners - Cadel Evans, Greg Van Avermaet, and Marcus Burghardt are just a few of the big names already in the squad.  Not to mention the potential of young American Taylor Phinney.

Obviously, the signings were all about BMC winning more than just the Tour de France and the week-long stage races that Cadel  has excelled in this year. However, as a fan of all things cycling, I'm not exactly thrilled.

In my ideal cycling world, all the 'heavy hitters' would be on different teams - I love seeing these guys race each other. However, we'll now see Hushovd and Gilbert racing together in Milan-San Remo and the Tour of Flanders, and Gilbert with Cadel in Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Tour of Lombardia.

To me, that's a shame.

Cadel Evans & Philippe Gilbert after racing to the line - sadly, we won't see that again...

Finally, a few quick notes about Australian start-up team GreenEdge.

As an Australian cycling fan, its hard not to get over-excited about this team. Some of the new signings include Simon Gerrans, Jack Bobridge, Travis and Cameron Meyer, and Stuart O'Grady.

GreenEdge have stated upfront they are looking to initially pitch themselves as a "one-day Classics"-style team. So far, they are certainly recruiting the type of rider who will excel in this type of race.

I also like some of the 'old heads' they have recruited. Guys like Stuart O'Grady, while they may no longer be at the very peak of their cycling powers, will be able to teach and guide the up-&-coming younger riders in so many ways. The opportunity to ride under Stuey's guidance will be invaluable.

That's all for now. I'm looking forward to watching the transfer season progress - I'm especially keen to find out the ultimate destination of Mark Cavendish, now that his HTC team has folded.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

10 months & 3 days

Finally - after 10 months & 3 days after the SMIDSY (sorry mate, I didn't see you) from the old lady in the white Corolla, I have once again cycle-commuted back in to work...

Yesterday was another day of beautiful cycling weather in Brisbane. I was pretty nervous getting ready, but excited as well. The ride in was terrific, very relaxed and calm (apart from being chased by a duck!). 

The hills were, as I expected, a little painful, but I sat in the 39x25 and just spun up as relaxed & steadily as I could.  All up, I covered 23km at an average of 20.1km/h. My butt was already feeling pretty sore, having lost all its hard-earned callouses long ago! My legs though weren't too bad, which is encouraging...

After some deliberation over the course of the afternoon, I decided I'd ride home as well. My main concern was my sore butt!! Could it handle another hour on the bike?

I decided to take a 'short-cut' back to the Gateway Bridge bike path, which cut 1.5km off the commute, in the hope it would save some time and some pain. There was definitely some discomfort, but I managed to soldier on... The hills heading home were much harder though, I could feel the legs really struggling, especially in the last 1/4 of the commute home.

When I finally got home, the stats told the story. 21.5km at an average of just 18.7km/h. Yes, it really was a struggle! But of course, a bad day on the bike is still a million times better than a good day on the bus! 

I am so pleased with my ride yesterday. Both that I made it - a 45km first day back is pretty good - and that I also immediately got back that sense of enjoyment for the bike. I'm looking forward now to slowly rebuilding my form and fitness over the next couple of months.

Monday, 15 August 2011

"Baseline stats" and some prep...

So I've been preparing to re-start my cycling journey. For me - it really starts when I begin to cycle-commute again. In my mind, that signals my transformation to being a 'cyclist' again.

I have had to jump through a few hoops first, though. My wife, who has always been very supportive of my endeavours - but who is understandably a bit edgy about me being 'back on the road' again - made a couple of requests before I got back in the saddle:
1. Sort out our Wills, and
2. Tell my parents!!

On Friday, our Wills were signed in our solicitor's office - done! And today I sent out an email to my parents and in-laws, making it clear that if I were to be killed while riding my bike, that it's not my wife's fault for "letting me ride my bike again"...

So I'm sorted!! Weather permitting, tomorrow will be the big day. To say I'm excited is an understatement. It would also be fair to say I'm a bit anxious and nervous too, but I suspect that'll ease once I get in amongst the traffic again.

This morning, I jumped on the scales to check what my weight was so I could track how I progress over the coming months. The needle on the scales flickered a fraction below 90kg - and so I'll mark off 90 kilo's as my starting point (ugh!). It could have been worse though - I smashed up my fair share of dagwood dogs and strawberry ice-creams with the family at the Brisbane Ekka yesterday...!!

Also, I've been keeping my eye out for some good value bib-knicks. I have three pairs in my regular rotation - 2 x Route7 Pro's (my favourites!), and a pair of Descente blue bibs (to match my club jersey).

The Route7 knicks are fabulous, and I bought them for only $30/pair - bargain! Sadly, that model are no longer made, and I've been somewhat bummed in the search for similar good value knicks (as alluded to in previous posts, I'm a by-necessity cheapskate).

So I was excited to receive an email from Torpedo7 today, revealing a new model of Route7 bibs - the Route7 Elite bibs - and on special for $30! I'm going to order a couple of pairs tonight, and see how they go... I'll do a review down the track and let you know if they are any good...!!


Fingers crossed for a sunny day and peaceful traffic on the roads tomorrow!!