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.