Far be it from me to disagree with Paul Sherwen. That guy has probably raced more pro races than I’ve seen.
Having said that, Sherwen’s take on Alberto Contador’s Stage 7 attack at Paris-Nice last weekend really surprised me. As the stage played out and the GC boys came to the front, Contador attacked in a group that included his two main rivals, Alejandro Valverde and Luis León-Sánchez, both from Caisse d’Epargne.
Sherwen thought it unwise for Contador to drop all his teammates, isolating himself with a pair of riders less than a minute behind him on GC. At first blush, this is an entirely reasonable criticism, and one that highlights the weaknesses of Astana’s roster and maybe, on some level, Contador’s tactical naivete.
To me, however, it seemed like a smart move, and one that demonstrated that Contador has learned much from his Grand Tour wins. It was just last summer, after all, that el Pistolero found himself alone with the Schleck brothers on a steep Tour climb, watching as they took turns trying to break him with attack after attack. He was able to hang in that day, but rivals took note. It might not be possible to beat the diminutive Spaniard one-on-one, but there is greater strength in numbers.
And so, coming to the pointy end of Paris-Nice, Contador did the simple math. The Caisse boys were clearly going to attack. None of his teammates would be able to stay with them, so rather than sit back and defend, he went on the attack, effectively preventing either Valverde or León-Sánchez from imposing the pace.
It was a blistering attack. His rivals sat on and let him work, probably hoping he’d punch himself out, but he played it perfectly, holding his speed high enough to discourage a burst from either one, while still riding within himself.
What Sherwen seemed to assume was that there was someone other than Contador on the Astana bus who could stay with Valverde and León-Sánchez on the attack. That was clearly not the case. What el Pistolero knew that Sherwen didn’t is that neither of the Caisse riders could stay with him on the attack either.
It was bold, smart and decisive. And it put him on the top step of the podium.
At this summer’s Tour de France, the GC competition will be much stiffer than it was at Paris-Nice. The Shleck brothers will be there. Cadel Evans with his new BMC team. The Shack and their geriatric posse. The chances of a strange alliance coming together are good. That sort of thing is Johan Bruyneel’s stock-in-trade.
In short, the world’s top stage racer just won’t be able to attack for three weeks. What worked on the road into Nice, won’t work in the French heat, day after day, up Alps and down Pyrenees. But then, come the summer, the Astana bus should have Alexander Vinokourov on it. David de la Fuente will be there for the mountains, too. Maybe also Oscar Pereiro and some of the other riders who’ve been busy at Tirreno-Adriatico, or Maxim Iglinsky who won this year’s Eroica.
If anything, Astana have proven this spring that they have the peloton’s strongest man AND a team that can support him, if and when he needs it, which, despite Paul Sherwen’s doubts, he didn’t on Sunday.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
OK, we asked what your everyday ride was made from and here were the answers:
As many of you pointed out, it’s all about conditions and distances. Some live where the weather is sunny and roads are smooth. Others of us (like me) live where the weather is a cruel joke and the roads are more suitable for adventure racing than transportation.
It’s hard to know how scientific we’ve been. In general, if you named an aluminum bike with carbon stays, I counted it as aluminum. If you said you train on steel, but race on carbon, I counted you as a steel. Remember, we were looking for your everyday ride.
So from the thousands of readers who stop by RKP everyday, if we extrapolate out from our small sample, a little over a third are either still riding steel bikes from back when that was the best a (wo)man could get, or have stayed true to their steel feelings. In my case, it’s both. A new-ish Surly Cross Check and a vintage Moser 51.151.
After steel came carbon, though there seemed to be some overlap with the aluminum people. You all seem to like it stiff and fast, and really, given the right conditions, who doesn’t?
I’m not even sure what to say about the titanium crew, not because I have strong positive or negative feelings about titanium. My wedding ring is made of the stuff. Titanium obviously affords its own advantages, chiefly lightness, but also stiffness and repairability.
If you’re like me, you’re loyal to the bikes you’ve got, but always, always, always curious about what other people are riding. Is it better? Is it worse? Are they faster because they’re bike is lighter, or are they faster because they train properly? No. It must be the bike.
The other shoe has finally dropped. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has, finally, upheld Alejandro Valverde’s Italian suspension, imposed by the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI), finding that, not only does CONI have jurisdiction to impose the ban on the Spanish rider for races taking place in Italy, but further, that the evidence used by CONI to ban Valverde, may well be enough to expand the ban worldwide. The origin of the ban is a connection made between a bag of blood seized by Spanish police as part of the Operación Puerto investigation and a sample given for an Italian race, confirming, according to CONI, that Valverde participated in the doping program run by Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes AND that traces of EPO could be connected to Valverde’s DNA.
This decision alters the pro cycling landscape in a number of curious ways. First, it calls into question Valverde’s results from 2006, and the beginning of the Operación Puero scandal, up to his second place finish in the just completed Paris-Nice race. If, and this is a great big if, the UCI chooses to vacate Valverde’s results, then Samuel Sanchez suddenly becomes the winner of the 2009 Vuelta a España and Ivan Basso, himself a Puerto alum, climbs up onto the podium. Should the UCI back out all those results, the peloton will be full of new winners.
Beyond the rider’s individual results, the CAS decision demonstrates several things: First, the wheels of justice turn very, very, very, very slowly in cycling. We are years from the Puerto revelations, and though this process was slowed considerably by complications with the Spanish justice system, the fact remains that the national organizations overseeing the anti-doping efforts in Europe are NOT all together on procedures and protocols.
Second, it shouldn’t escape our notice that the Spanish police were actually the instigators of this entire episode, raiding Fuentes’ lab on a pretext not related to blood doping, which was not illegal in Spain at the time. Alejandro Valverde has never tested positive for banned substances in an in-competition screening. If it’s true that the Caisse d’Epargne rider made a practice of doping, then the testing the UCI is doing has not been effective in catching him, despite a string of wins that saw him end 2009 as the top-ranked pro rider.
Third, Caisse d’Epargne has already planned to end their sponsorship of the cycling team at the end of the 2010 season. If it’s most salable asset is banned from competition for two years, finding a new sponsor for a team that contains a wealth of Spanish cycling talent might be even more difficult. in light of recent sponsorship withdrawals by entities like Saxo Bank and Milram (though this is still up in the air) Valverde’s ongoing troubles signal yet another major blow against the sport in public perception.
Insiders will tell you that cycling is the most transparent sport, due to the high level of testing and prosecution of doped athletes. Outsiders will see just another big name rider convicted of cheating.
Now that CAS has exhausted Valverde’s appeals, we can look forward to the slowly unfolding drama of the UCI moving to expand the Italian ban to worldwide competition with the rider rushing around Europe trying to squeeze in as many races as possible before the hammer falls.
Okay, so let’s begin with the disclosure. You’re already aware that Mad Alchemy is an advertiser here at RKP. Radio Freddy at BKW had reviewed some Mad Alchemy product and my interest was piqued by his review of the Mango Love. Pete Smith, the proprietor, got in touch to ask about ad rates; I was thrilled to hear from him. I responded by telling him I’d been curious to learn more about his embrocations. I had read the copy on his web site and it seemed apparent that he was doing more than just making some heat-bearing smelly leg creams. Proper embrocation seemd, well, a bit of a crusade for him.
He struck me as an all-in sort of entrepreneur. Pardon me while I dig him.
Pete sent a few products to try and began advertising. I’ve tried them all, and while I like them all, the product I’ve decided I most need to review is the Russisch Thee, a warming embrocation. He classifies his embrocations according to whether they warm or not and then he includes a “burn meter” to show you, relatively speaking, just how much heat they will generate. Honestly, there are a few European embrocation companies that could learn a thing or two about clear descriptions from the Mad Alchemy site.
The Russisch Thee, or Russian Tea, is named in honor a holiday drink Pete’s mother-in-law used to make. In its description he says its flavor is characterized by notes of cinnamon and clove with a hint of citrus. Pete considers it a “medium heat” embro.
I should stop here and level with you about something else. I’ve become a complete embrocation junkie. The way some women purchase perfumes or smelly candles I collect embrocations. Nothing against perfumes or smelly candles, mind you; I used to ride by Yankee Candle and love their candles to this day.
Where were we? Oh yeah: With a diverse assortment of embrocations to choose from in the morning, I’ve come to associate certain smells with specific conditions. In a funny way, it’s become a sort of double-check on my reading of the weather forecast.
Of course, that’s not to say I don’t get my choice wrong sometimes. However, to that point, I’ve come associate the smell of cloves, cinnamon and orange—the three leading aromas of the Mad Alchemy Russisch Thee—with a chilly day, a day that won’t reach 50 degrees.
The texture of Russisch Thee is creamy without feeling greasy. The orange color makes it easy to tell where it has yet to be massaged in sufficiently.
The heat in the Russisch Thee comes from capsicum; hot stuff indeed. It’s important to note that unlike with some embrocations where the heat comes on almost immediately, capsicum can take a little while to heat up. Be careful not to reapply just because you don’t feel anything initially. If it’s a cold morning, you might not want to leave this to moments before rolling out the door or those first few kilometers could be chillier than you had in mind. That said, when this stuff does get rolling it lasts longer than a four-course meal. Six hours is my rough count.
Naturally, anything that can make a 45-degree day feel like 70 degrees to your legs is something you’ll want to wash off your hands STAT. With a base of beeswax and shea butter it washes off with ordinary soap—no muss, no fuss.
On his site Pete includes an unusual endorsement of the Russisch Thee. Of all his embrocations, its the one he says he uses on race day.
VeloPress has emerged as the preeminent publisher of books about cycling. That the publisher is doing stellar work isn’t surprising, but the fact that they have so little competition from other publishers is.
Matt Fitzgerald’s new book Racing Weight: How to Get Lean for Peak Performance is the only title I’ve ever encountered that addresses weight loss for endurance athletes. Rather than just a manual on how to shave pounds from your frame, it addresses the larger issue of how to right-size your body.
It’s a question I’ve considered many times over the years. After all, there’s more to being fit than just have a single-digit body fat composition. So just what is a right-sized endurance athlete? More pointedly, what is right-sized you? It’s an intriguing question and one I never really found an answer to for me, personally, in all the different training manuals I’ve read over the years. Yet, in Fitzgerald’s book, finding an answer is easy.
The book weaves a very big-picture, integrated perspective on not just weight loss, but sport-specific considerations, diet evaluation, when you eat, dealing with hunger pangs, fuel sources and dietary supplements. Think of all the facets of fitness that relate to your weight and your performance and Fitzgerald has covered it. The title is nearly overwhelming in its thoroughness.
Even more impressive is Fitzgerald’s mastery of the underpinnings of the science. He cites study after published study showing how the human body behaves in response to any number of conditions. The sheer number of studies he cites is staggering. His mastery of the science involved allowed him to weave a sort of scientific narrative, where each new study is brought to bear upon the story of achieving a proper weight the way a bricklayer selects bricks according to the composition at hand.
At best, I would have imagined you might devote two, maybe three, chapters to weight and weight loss in a book on training. I’d never have believed anyone could compose a thought-provoking volume of more than 280 pages on the subject. Every now and then someone writes the giant-killer text, the volume that becomes the bible of a subject. Ten years from now most of us will be wondering how we managed before this book came along.
For my part, in the last 18 months I picked up more than 15 pounds thanks to a honeymoon and an injury that kept me off the bike for longer than I thought possible, like holding my breath for a day. All the old tricks didn’t work through the summer. And if a cyclist can’t lose weight during the summer … clearly new strategies are necessary. Nine pounds later, I’m on my way and can say this book taught me some important lessons.
Let’s take a break from the race-oriented blather and talk about our bikes some more, shall we? Some of us watch the Euro races avidly, but probably all of us pedal circles or squares or rhombi with greater regularity, nes pas?
This week’s ride focuses on that age old question: What material to ride?
Are you a “steel is real” rider? An aluminum stalwart? A titanium beast? A carbon-fiber, um, person? Or, maybe, just possibly, a bamboo bandit?
This isn’t a theoretical question either. When we ask what your material of choice is, we don’t mean, “What would you ride if you had a better job and double the free time?” We mean, “What do you ride every day?”
Speaking for myself, I ride steel. This is a function of some vague notion I have that steel was good enough for riders of my ilk (i.e. slow) twenty years ago, and it’s good enough now. Further, it reflects my socio-economic situation. As the father of two and a mortgagee, I don’t feel I have the liquid assets to devote to a more modern material, not that aluminum is very modern. Finally, steel is, I believe, still thought to be the most forgiving of the frame materials in current use, and I can use all the forgiveness I can get. Sure, I dream of a carbon rocket, but I ride steel. Every. Damn. Day.
And so, Group Ride #13 rolls out of the lot.
For those considering relocation, the bible of city comparison used to be the “Places Rated Almanac.” It compared all the major metropolitan areas of the United States according to the standard indices you’d expect.
Concerned about education? That’s here. Transportation your issue? Got that. Jobs? Covered. Weather? One place is better than all others.
So that best weather? San Diego is tops. Allegedly.
That last is just a wisecrack. Everyone knows that if you want consistently good weather, unbroken 75-degree days for as many as 40 weeks in a row, you need to move to San Diego. It’s as close to Cabo San Lucas—the Love Boat’s favorite destination—as you can get and still be stateside.
I offer this as a backdrop to the Gran Fondo Colnago. Why hold a Gran Fondo in San Diego? Well, there’s the aforementioned weather. There’s the fact that it has a neighborhood called Little Italy full of amazing restaurants and wine bars. There’s an abundance of gorgeous scenery. It’s got the odd canyon road for a killer descent. It’s also got an army of rabid cyclists with the business savvy and boosterism to promote off one of the biggest rides I have ever attended.
The rain began as I was dressing. I rolled to the start in light rain composed of occasional drops the size of grapes. Standing at the start I was amazed at how the rain became heavier and heavier with each passing minute. The announcers, one of whom was Cycle Sport contributor Bruce Hildenbrand, began making jokes about how the heavy stuff would hold off—think Bill Murray in Caddy Shack.
By the time the Ferraris—three of them—started, the serious downpour was on. Of course, no amount of rain could drown the sonorous rumbling of one of Italy’s greatest exports (one of the few to rank higher than Colnago itself). I had already made up my mind that I was going to have a good time, rain or no and when I heard the Ferraris start I was ready to ride my bike. Hard.
The opening few miles involved a steady sorting of riders, with VIPs not interested in riding hard dropping back, fit riders heading for the rear wheels of the ex-pros and the thunder of those Ferraris. The first real sort came on the bridge to Coronado. There was a big acceleration at the front and by the time I made the left turn at the bottom of the bridge, a lead group containing former Olympian Dave Letteiri, former USPro Champion Kurt Stockton, former Olympian and National Champion Mari Holden among others were pulling away from a group of 20 or so.
Around mile 30 we arrived at the day’s second sag stop and after grabbing a couple of gels I immediately hit the road only to find myself riding with the Lettieri/Holden group. My carelessness was not without consequence. Following a few short pulls from me, the dozen-strong group quickly ramped up to a pace higher than I was comfortable riding at for the next 60 miles. There was a VeloNews staffer who looked eerily like Aussie Michael Rogers—on a time trial bike no less—who would head to the front of the group seemingly immediately after his own pulls and lift the pace. While Kurt Stockton looked comfy, I needed to save a few matches for the 80-mile mark.
I sat up on a long false flat and quickly saw a rider in one of the ’08 Highroad rain jackets make the same choice. Turns out it was AEG’s Andrew Messick who I’d met only the night before. Andrew proved to be terrific company. We rode together up the six mile climb and on the descents of Hawley Springs Road and Lyons Valley Road in the hinterlands near Jamul, Messick proved himself to be a very adept descender in the rain.
The rain continued like darkness.
Messick and I traded pulls like we’d been training partners for a decade. I hadn’t had that level of comfort with a rider I’d never ridden with before since I stopped racing. But at the Olympic Training Center we parted ways; I needed calories.
An engineer for a tire company once told me that the biggest contributor to flats, the thing that predisposed a tire to a puncture more than anything else was water. As you already know, rain is a great way to get a flat, and get a flat I did.
Soon after, a group caught me and it was this quintuplet that I rolled with to the finish. Somewhere around mile 92 or 93, the rain actually stopped coming down. I didn’t really notice at first; we continued to rooster tail through standing water straight to the finish.
At one point one of the riders in our group, Allain, a Belgian hard man he flew over specifically for the event asked me if we were back in San Diego.
“I think so.” I didn’t really know. It had been five hours since I’d last seen a familiar road, which was while we were on Coronado Island. I could have been in Portland for all the familiarity I had with the neighborhood. We were entering an industrial area with numerous railroad tracks and all I could think about was watching for the turns and making it over the railroad tracks without falling.
Allain’s bike was equipped with some Schwalbe Super Moto tires that were wider than a “Biggest Loser” contestant. I eyed his bike with suspicion. Those tires were perfect for this weather. I began to wonder if he knew things I didn’t. Just how good were the weathermen in Belgium?
Rolling into the finish was surreal; riding through downtown gave nothing away and so our final left into the parking lot where the ride finished came unexpectedly. Someone yelled at one of the riders not to sprint in the finishing chute; thank heaven. It was narrow and contained a few turns. We received finisher’s medal after we crossed the line and returned the timing chips.
I’ve eaten more post-century meals than I care to remember. Most of them weren’t exactly memorable—little wonder I don’t remember most of them—even though they were all useful. This one was unusual for the quality of food. It was delicious as only Italians could produce. From pasta to polenta, salad to sausage, there was a lot of great food.
Looking back, the course had an extraordinary number of turns compared to most centuries I do. They were well-marked and the signs were easy to see well in advance. And with so many turns, there weren’t enough off-duty cops in all of San Diego County to have all the intersections controlled for us, so we needed good signage.
I know plenty of people don’t get what the big deal is about Gran Fondos. To all of them I say, do one. The mass start and self-selection into groups makes the event, well, a good deal more unified. The random start for the average century just isn’t nearly as interesting to me as the self-selection that comes when you find a group riding at exactly your pace.
While I showed up for the Gran Fondo Colnago ready to have an enjoyable ride no matter what Mother Nature served up, though I had admitted the only reason I didn’t want it to rain was to make sure I could get photos. Even with the rain, this was a high-profile event that was as well organized as any event I’ve ever entered, easily on a par with Sea Otter, but with the downtown departure and finish it made for a memorable event.
Google has announced at the National Bike Summit that they have added a “bike there” option to their popular mapping service. It’s a big development for the cycling community. In yet another example of a company taking seriously cycling as a real-world means of transportation, one of the world’s best-capitalized companies has taken an important step in showing Americans that cycling is a viable form of transportation.
The move is important for two reasons. First, it gives cyclists an important resource for using their bike for transportation in unfamiliar locations. Second, it sends a message to the rest of the population that cycling as a means of transportation is, uh, gaining momentum.
Twelve months ago the possibility of using Google’s mapping function to plan a usable bike route seemed a pipe dream. There was a petition, but most petitions have all the power of voodoo dolls. Except this time. Some 50,000 people signed the petition and Google listened. So far the function works for 150 cities in the U.S., but the company says it plans to expand it everywhere and eventually make it usable for portable devices such as the iPhone and Droid.
But we owe our thanks to more than just Google. The Rails to Trails Conservancy provided data on some 12,000 miles of bike trails. The League of American Bicyclists contributed data on bike lanes, bike ways and bike paths.
The contribution of data by the Rails to Trails Conservancy and the League of American Bicyclists allows search results to return routes that combine flat routes over known cycling corridors. Because it skews routes toward the flat, some routes will be longer than you might anticipate.
I’ve played around with the tool some and can confirm it will create routes based on the flatest possible route. Fortunately, you can change a route by dragging it onto the roads you prefer.
Google reports a five-person team based in Seattle has been working on the project since October. Google employees who commute by bike vetted routes before the tool was unveiled and were able to make suggestions that help the tool recommend routes cyclists would more naturally pick.
The reality check for any cyclist using Google Maps to create a bike route is bike-specific color-coding it uses. Bike paths are indicated in dark green. Bike lanes are indicated in light green. Roads that aren’t specifically meant to be bike ways but are suitable for reasons of topography receive a dashed green line.
While it won’t tell you where the group rides are, Google Maps is a powerful new tool for people to discover a city—whether their own or a new one. It will also present bicycle advocates with a graphic presentation of a city’s weaknesses when it comes to bicycle infrastructure. In Los Angeles, advocates are already using it to point out the deficiencies of several bike paths to nowhere.
I shot the photo above at the 1990 Tour de Trump. This was the year of my introduction to the practice of embrocation. Readers of BKW may recall this image from another post I wrote called “Belgian Knee Warmers.” This was literally the first time I had ever seen a pro rider embrocated for cold, wet conditions. I had seen some footage of PROs massaged post-race, but this was the first time I had seen a rider massaged pre-race as well as the first time I had a chance to see that the soigneur was using something with more backbone than regular massage oil.
The soigneur working on Viatcheslav Ekimov wasn’t stingy with the embrocation. He was applying it like a detailer would car wax. The smell was a heady bouillabaisse of menthol, Provençal spices and witches brew. And he massaged Eki’s legs right up to the hip joint and deeply enough to hit the bone.
That season my teammates taught me about embrocating before a race. We were in New England and collegiate racing took place early enough in the spring that it was easy to identify with the Northern Classics. Our weather was cold without fail but also included liberal doses of rain. It was this latter feature that caused one of the old guard of our team (a guy who had raced for France’s famed amateur club ACBB) to teach us that tights were cycling’s answer to the sponge. They absorbed cold water, picking up weight and making you cold.
As it was my first season of racing in New England, everything I thought I knew about the cold was coming up short. My tights were too thin. The only jacket I owned was a windbreaker. I’d never seen booties. I was trying to split the atom with an axe.
I dropped by the local market and picked up a goodly sized jar of Icy Hot. Afraid of using too much, I applied it only to my knees. An hour later, my knees felt amazing but my calves were cold and my quads and hamstrings, protected by that ultimate insulator—6 oz. Lycra—were shockingly, surprisingly, cold.
I’ve learned a lot since then. Embrocation has been a helpful ingredient in many of my best race performances and it is something I truly continue to use on a regular basis. It’s true that you don’t often see a PRO training with embrocation on his legs, but such is the difference between the members of a ProTour team and privateers like us who must fix our own flats, mix our own bottles, self-massage, and do our own laundry. Once you learn how to use embrocation, it begins to feel like a secret weapon.
When other riders find out that I use embrocation, I tend to get a lot of questions about the practice. While I believe many riders are familiar with the basics, I thought it might be helpful to pass along the tips I learned from others. Forgive me for the really rudimentary bits.
The first step is to pull on your bibs. The last thing in the world you want to have happen is to have your chamois go sliding over some Dutch oven embro before settling on your fruit cup. Pull the bibs up and then, once the shorts are in position pull them back down just a touch if you plan to use a chamois cream. (Of course, this assumes you put your chamois cream on you rather than on the chamois; that’s perhaps fodder for a Friday Group Ride debate.) Similarly, you don’t want the bibs smearing chamois cream up your belly, especially if it’s the high-powered stuff with some menthol in it.
Next, if you’re going to wear a heart rate monitor or base layer under your bibs, put them on now. You don’t want to be fumbling with the tail of a base layer or the chest strap with embrocation on your fingers.
Put on your arm warmers and jersey. The idea is to be finished dressing (except for your jacket or vest) at the point you deal with the hot stuff. On rare occasions, if my lower back has been fussy, I’ll leave the jersey off as I apply the embro and when I’ve finished with my legs, I’ll massage some into my lower back.
Roll the legs of your bibs up. I rest one foot on the toilet seat so that I can access the whole of my leg and really massage the embrocation into my skin. Depending on the brand of embrocation I’ll take anywhere from a dab to several fingers full of cream. The Euro brands generally seem to require a bit more to do their job than some of the American brands. I begin by dabbing some around my lower leg and then massaging it in before moving above the knee. I go way up my thigh with the embro, almost as high as I shave, and I learned after my first crash to shave very high indeed.
Some embrocations are meant to be applied a little thicker so that they actually provide a thin layer of insulation. Many of these, in my experience, aren’t equipped with much heat so I’ll combine embros to get the effect I want. On cold and wet days, I’ll begin with something with a fair amount of heat; the Mad Alchemy Russich Thee in medium is a particular favorite. Once I’ve massaged it in, I’ll add a thicker, non-heating layer over it, and my go-to embro for this is the Record Pregara Impermeabile thanks to its mix of petroleum jelly, paraffin and lanolin. It’s a leg warmer that can’t get wet.
Once the ride is over, if the day has been particularly brutal, conditions-wise (which for here means I’m coated in industrial ooze and dusted in sand) I’ll undress in the shower. The very next thing I do is apply Dawn dishwashing liquid to my legs, even before I worry about rinsing the sand and grime off my legs. The sand helps pick up some of the embro and acts as a kind of 300-grit loofa.
When trying new embrocations, use them sparingly if you’re not sure just how much heat they’ll provide and try them on shorter rides. The two big mistakes you can make in using embro are using way too much and ending up with your legs on fire before the ride is over, and using embro without much staying power on a long ride. Once you know just how it it’ll be and how long it lasts, you can start working it into your arsenal of big day prep materials.
Try a few out. You may find that on those hardest days your legs feel just a little better and you can dig a little deeper.
There’s a reason races have finish lines. It’s so the riders know when they can stop riding and everyone else knows who won. There are a few of us, myself included, who really think Alberto Contador is going to win Paris-Nice, but there remains the issue of that pesky finish line that’s got to be crossed.
And between here, where we are now, which is to say perched between Stages One and Two, all the GC boys packed together, and that big banner that signifies the end, are a million and two opportunities to lose the race. In fact, just today the Pistolero took a spill on the pavement that called into question, for me, his team’s ability to keep him out of harm’s way. Because the aforementioned contact between world’s greatest stage racer and asphalt occurred within the final 3k of racing, Contador was given the same time as the group he was riding in, so no major time loss. But other favorites, like Alejandro Valverde, Lars Boom and Luis León-Sánchez managed to stay far enough out in front to avoid trouble.
Not EVERYONE thinks this is Contador’s race to lose though. Randomactsofcycling thinks León-Sánchez will take the title, and Soleur and James can see Chavanel in yellow. No one picked Lars Boom. Except Lars Boom. Long live the underdog.
While Paris-Nice grinds slowly southward, the Montepaschi Strade Bianche, aka L’Eroica, wound its way across Tuscany, crunching across the legendary white gravel roads near Siena. L’Eroica is a tune up for Tirreno-Adriatico, but it is also Italy’s answer to the cobbled classics of Northern Europe.
Accordingly, many of the classics specialists showed up, hoping to add a win in this race, which is rapidly emerging as a big event on the calendar. They all lost to Maxim Iglinsky, whose biggest win to date is a stage at the Dauphiné in 2007. Iglinsky’s win puts paid to the notion that Astana’s Kazakh contingent is just pack fodder.
Hopefully, this race is going to get more coverage in coming years.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International