Sunday, April 27, 2008

Race Smart

Here is to hoping that everyone has a safe season this year. Keep the rubber side down, watch your line and remember your actions can impact the other riders around you. A bone head move all by yourself only hurts you, a bone head move at the front of a 50 man field can hurt the 49 riders behind you.

The Words of Phil Liggett

Everyone who races knows his voice. Phil Liggett has spoken perhaps some of the most poetic phrases ever heard when describing what cyclists do on their bikes. My favorite of all time has to be "he is going to have to dig deep into his suitcase of courage" when referring to Marco Pantani trying to hold Armstrong's wheel in the 99 TdF. What is your favorite "Liggett-ism? Send me your favorite phrase he has spoken on the air and I will compile a list of them here for everyone to read.

Friday, April 25, 2008


For those of you that missed the weekly ride last night beacuse of the threat of bad weather, shame on you. While only 4 of us showed up, in my opinion it had to be one of the best rides of the year. Sure we only did 30 miles and were only out there for about an hour and a half, but all the elements were there for the makings of an epic ride. And when I say elements I mainly speak of the rain and wind. Mix in hills, hill repeats and some work on team tactics and you have an outstanding ride.

It looks like we should be sending four guys out to Whitnall this Saturday, so we did some tactical practice to work on some team dynamics. It would of been even better had we had two different squads out, but I think we made some good progress none the less. It is nice to see that the team is starting to really come together so early in the season. All this work in the early season should start paying out soon, and the next big race we will be doing as a team will be The Tour de West Lafayette in Indiana next month. We still have three weeks to work out the kinks, but we should have a very strong showing there as well.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Another Great Tuesday Night

Perfect temperature, no wind, fast racing and no crashes. Thats probably the best way to sum up last night in Matteson. I was surprised at how few people had showed up compared to the first week. The thing that really caught my attention was the xXx'ers. Or should I say the lack of them out of about 50 riders there were only two from xXx.
BB-VP had a great showing last night with three starters in the A's race and 5 in the B's. In all six races we had someone in the top 5, and at least two in the top ten. We tried out some tactics last night, some worked, some didn't. But we will have plenty of time to work on those as the summer progresses. Thats the great thing about Matteson, you have three chances a night to try and get things right. I won't talk too much more about tactics here as I don't want to give anything away. Racing is difficult enough as it is, without other teams knowing what you plan on doing.

1997 Liege-Bastogne-Liege

Want to learn how to lose a race? Watch Jalabert in the 1997 edition of L-B-L. Bartoli was outnumbered 2-1 all the way to the finish by JaJa and Zulle. Attack after attack after attack couldn't break Bartoli. Finally he broke Zulle with 2k to go then rode JaJa off his wheel. It seemed as if JaJa was more concerned with what was happening behind him than in front of him. Lesson learned, the race is in front of you. After 7 hours and 19 minutes JaJa was 1000 meters away from a huge victory. Instead he was too worried about a possible counter attack and let the lone threat simply rde away from him. I don't think of Jalabert as taking second that day, rather he was the first loser! Bravo Bartoli!

Whitnall Park Criterium

This Saturday will host another running of the Whitnall Park Criterium. This race holds a special place in my memory for a few reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it is a great race. I first did this race way back in '96 or '97 I can't remember which now, but a few years back to say the least. It was to be my first crit after only my first road race which was the Rock Cut State Park RR in Rockford. I can remember distinctly that the weather was finally getting warm enough to ride without any extra layers, which was a welcome relief to what seemed like a very long winter.
This was to be a day of firsts for me, yet I hadn't quite expected the first one that was about to take place. As my teammates and I began preparing ourselves and our bikes for the race, there was one preparation making the rounds that in retrospective was probably a sign of the times, performancing enhancing drugs. Yep, you read it right, drugs. It was the late 90's after all and as we now know everyone seemed to be doing them. My teammates drug of choice you ask, ephedra. While they all sipped their sports drinks and popped their pills, I politely declined and applied some embrocation to my pale legs.
While our race was rather uneventful, I finished 11th out of about 30 I do remember some kid that showed up wearing a full Team Saturn kit and had a Team Saturn bike as well. I checked out the sticker on the top tube and it read VandeVelde. I had heard the name before at the Velodrome, and wondered how nice it would be to have a full carbon fiber bike and a team mechanic to keep it running.
I wonder what ever happened to that VandeVelde kid? Oh wait... I know, he has since gone on to ride in some other bike races I have heard of, namely the Tour de France for one. Christian ended up winning the Pro 1/2 race that day and has since gone on to lead the life we all dream of. Who knows maybe some kid will show up on Saturday and change his life forever too. I'll have to keep an eye on the results I guess.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ahhh... The Spring Classics

Once again the Spring Classics dished out incredible weather. From the sleet, snow and rain from Flanders, to the horrible weather that was predicted at Roubaix that never happened. The weather in Northern Europe is always unpredictable as storms roll in off of the Atlantic with just a moments notice. And here you always thought that Chicago weather sucked. Check out this photo of Stuart O'Grady at Flanders this year, snow and all.

The weather for this years Roubaix was supposed to be so bad that most teams had custom bikes built just for the race. Most of the bikes that were built had seat and chainstays that were lengthened for more mud clearance as well as longer forks for additional clearance up front. The Silence-Lotto team went as far as using Ridley X-Night cyclocross frames with cantilever brakes. Fortunatley the weather turned out better than predicted, and most teams were able to use their standard road frames. It just goes to show how much the weather can affect a race such as Roubaix. Kinda makes you wish you had the choice to run different bikes based on the weather doesn't it?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Little Smut With Your Cycling News

God bless the folks over at Pez Cycling News for including their take on smut called Daily Distractions. I was just introduced to Pez Cycling recently and felt that I should spread the word. Now when you are surfing the net and net a little smut to brighten your day simply click on and scroll down to the "Daily Distractions" button. Included so far this season have been female racers, podium girls, random girls at Spring Classics and if you send in a picture of your wife, you get a free pair of Pez Cycling News socks! And if your wife happens to catch you looking at smut just let her know that you are keeping up to date about the world of cycling. The entire world of cycling.

A Tuesday Night in Matteson

The SCW Tuesday Night Training Series was officially kicked off last night, and unlike last week the weather cooperated with us this time. It was great to roll into the parking lot and see familiar faces, many of whom haven't been seen since last year. After doing a few warm up laps the entire field of more than 100 riders gathered in memory of Pieter Ombregt (xXx Racing). Brian Boyle (xXx Racing) said some kind and inspiring words as everyone held hands, after a moment of silence we then proceeded to ride a silent memorial lap.

And while it was the first nite of the season, the racing was relatively calm and crash free. Obviously there were some new riders out, but the racing was cordial if not even relaxed. We had a good showing last nite with 8 riders showing up including Elvis, Brian, Joe, Dan, Sergio, Jim, Jorge and myself. Elvis and Brian raced the A's while everyone else settled into the B group. The pace was typically fast and a couple of the guys got shot out the back, but hey thats what free laps are for right? If anything, it showed who has been putting in the miles with consistency this spring. As the season progresses we should start to learn each others strengths and weaknesses which will allow us to work together better as a team. Where else does $7 allow you to have so much fun?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Sorry...I Couldn't Help Myself

I know 'cross season is still months away, but watching World Champion Bart Wellens can be so inspiring. Just watch how fluid he is, even when the conditions are horrible and people are falling all around him.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Rained Out

Last night was supposed to be the first night of the SCW Tuesday Night Training Series but the races were cancelled due to the weather. However Beverly Bike-Vee Pak still had six members show up and get their new numbers for the upcoming season. We were joined by two xXx's and a Wheelman.

Since we were unable to race we took the opportunity to hold a team meeting and discuss future races as well as training rides and tactics. We hit upon the fact that the Northside has a slew of opportunities for group rides, while the Southside is sorely lacking. Therefore we are opening up our club ride to other interested riders and racers. The ride meets at Starbucks at the corner of 103rd St and Longwood Dr. in the heart of historic Beverly and departs at 6:30. During the summer months the ride will typically go until sunset and later and could include hills, a Chicago rarity.
If anyone would like any more info or would care to join us feel free to drop me a line at

Tactics 101

Hopefully you were able to catch the Tour of Flanders on Vs. yesterday. While the coverage itself was mediocre at best it did happen to catch some really great opportunities to watch tactics unfold. On three seperate occasions I felt as if I was watching a tutorial on Tactics 101.

Towards the end of the race Sebastien Langeveld (Rabobank) was in a break with two other riders from different teams. At the same time Juan Antonio Flecha (Rabobank) was bridging up to the trio ahead. What did Langeveld do in this situation? He sat on the back of the trio, much to the consternation of the two riders in the break. And what did Fleha do? He also had the tactical smarts to sit in and let his companions try and bring bak the trio ahead. These were both simple yet very effective tactics that we can all learn from. Langeveld needed the help of Flecha and so did no work with his break in an effort to let Flecha latch on. Meanwhile, Flecha also did not contribute to the efforts of the chase. In not working with the group he also assured that the Langeveld break might be able to stay away from the chase.

The other tactic that was of note may have actually been planned to work out a bit different than it actually did. Tom Boonen (Quick Step) appeared to have been on incredible form yesterday. On a few occasions he actaully rode the lead group off of his wheel while climbing the bergs. All indications were pointing to a Boonen win. When Patrick Lefevre launched Stijn Devloder at around 26k to go he figured that at least the attack would cause a split and whiitle down the possible contenders to threaten Boonen's win. If Boonen had tried to make an attack he surely would have been a marked man. However, by sending Devolder down the road the plan was that if he was caught, Boonen could make a counter attack.

By sending Devolder away, Boonen was able to sit in while everyone else was forced to try and bring him back, or risk losing their chance at the win. Theefore, Boonen got a free ride for the final 25 kilometers from the rest of the group. Although the group never reeled in Devolder, and Boonen was never able to lauch his counter attack, the tactic still netted Quick Step the win. One would think that Boonen would be upset at not bagging his 3rd win of the Ronde, however review of the finish reveals that as Boonen's group crossed the line he was sitting up pumping the air in victory for his teammate Devolder.

Sure we will never race the Tour of Flanders, but as aspiring racers we can watch and learn how the pro teams can use tactics to their advantage. Each race allows us the opportunity to try something new, to see what works, and what doesn't work. And the best way to try and use tactics is to race as a team whenever possible. So next time you have the chance to view a PRO road race, sit down with a notebook and see how it should be done. There are so many nuances that might not present themselves at first, but a 2nd viewing may provide insight into why a particular move won, and perhaps why one didn't. In bike racing it isn't always the strongest man that wins, but the smartest.

Who Is Your Pick

Who do think can win today at the the Tour of Flanders? Will the "Tornado" Boonen pull out his third win and join a very elite club? Can Cancellara lauch himself with a few k's to the line and surprise everyone like he did at Milan-San Remo? Maybe Phillipe Gilbert will attack on the Muur du Grammont and hold off everyone.

This year there are so many possible winners it is too hard to call. Leif Hoste has finished 2nd he last ouple of years out, so maybe it will be his turn, although he hasn't showed much form in 2008. Cancellara may just be using the Ronde as a warm up for next weeks Roubaix, plus the wind and rain may not be to his liking. Gilbert is having exceptional form thus far for 2008, however he has never placed well at Flanders. Juan Antonio Flecha is always a threat for a long solo break towards the end of a race, but the hellingin may prove to much for him. Besides he seems to prefer the flatter cobbles of Roubaix next week.

Sure Alessandro Ballan won last year, but without his strongman Bennati to look after him does he have what it takes to slip away again? Then there is Thor and Magnus the two big sprinters. If Thor can make it to the line with the group he stands a chance at the sprint. And big Magnus is primed and ready to go after his crash at Qatar. Then there is George. His third place shows he has the smarts and legs to put him where he needs to be, but does High Road have the team to get him there? I just don't think so.

This may seem like an obvious choice but I am going with Boonen. He has yet to win a a race on Belgian soil yet in 2008, but his early season form was incredible. The Tornado will either win it or end up finishing last. Sure he had a great Qatar, but his last victory was Stage 2 of California. I feel that he has been racing smart since then and not chasing meaningless victories. He doesn't need to win 25-30 races a year anymore like he used to. Now that he is 27 and has raced the Ronde 7 times he has the best chance for victory today.