Live Coverage of the 2012 edition of La Doyenne, Liège-Bastogne-Liège.
Here is a question for you. Alberto Contador has now said that he would like to return to Saxo Bank and Bjarne Riis certainly seems eager to have him back. How can he return to a WorldTour team since he will be returning from a “two year” suspension? I thought the rules required a rider to be banned from a WorldTour team for four years. Or did I miss a rule change somewhere along the way?
Thanks for the explanation.
You are correct in recalling that when the UCI’s experiment with the old “ProTour” began in the 2005 season, the rules did include an additional two-year exclusion for riders suspended for doping violations.
The additional ban has never been part of the “UCI Anti-Doping Rules,” but rather it was incorporated in the “ProTour Teams’ Code of Ethics.”
Unfortunately, like the ProTour itself, the code began to unravel almost as soon as it was started. Early on, there were problems enforcing that sort of secondary ban. To start, several riders whose suspensions had begun prior to the establishment of the ProTour and the adoption of the Code, were able to return to the top tier of the sport without too much trouble. Case in point, you might recall the case of David Millar, who was suspended for two years after police discovered three empty vials of EPO in his apartment in France.
Riding for the Cofidis team, Millar’s suspension began in June of 2004. His suspension ended just a week before the 2006 Tour de France. Upon his return, he inked a deal with the Saunier Duval-Prodir squad. How did he manage to slide straight into a spot on a ProTour team? Well, early on in the process, those developing the new rules realized they would have a huge hurdle to overcome if the ProTour tried to impose its new rules retroactively. Such ex post facto enforcement would most certainly have been struck down, if not by the International Court of Arbitration for Sport, then by a further challenge to the European Court of Human Rights. Indeed, it was such a clear issue, it was never tested in either court.
Now you might also recall that beyond its Ethics Code, the ProTour itself was the subject of some controversy. For one thing, the idea hatched in the mind of former UCI president Hein Verbruggen and then handed off to his successor, Pat McQuaid, didn’t have the support of the sport’s biggest promoters. The Amaury Sport Organisation, which organizes the Tour de France, Paris-Roubaix, Liège-Bastogne-Liège, the Dauphiné to name just a few, opposed the concept from the start. Joined by the organizers of the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España, the opposition came from the people who were putting on the bulk of what the UCI called the ProTour.
The organizers, however, declined to recognize the effort and began inviting teams based on their own criteria. The problem was highlighted when Liquigas inked its own deal with Ivan Basso at the end of 2008. Basso had been suspended for admitting that he had “intended” to dope in advance of the 2006 Tour, using the talents of Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, who was busted in the Operación Puerto case.
The ex post facto enforcement problem wasn’t at issue. Basso’s suspension began well after the establishment of the ProTour and the adoption of the Ethics Code. This time, the problem was that the teams and promoters didn’t give a damn about the Code. Liquigas saw in Basso not only a talented rider, but one with broad appeal, especially in its home base of Italy. Liquigas signed him October of 2008 and he rode to a fourth-place finish in the 2009 Giro. That pretty much spelled the end of the secondary penalty.
The final nail in the coffin, of course, came as the whole idea of the ProTour began to unravel in 2009 and 2010.
Other additional penalties?
So now we have a new creature, the UCI World Tour. The top 18 teams in the world are now labeled as “ProTeams” by the UCI and the whole concept has at least the tacit approval of the big promoters, including Amaury and the other grand tour organizers.
The Ethics Code, and particularly the secondary suspension provision, have quietly slipped into the background.
But that doesn’t mean the end of UCI efforts to hold riders at the very top of the sport to a higher standard.
Last fall, the UCI management committee adopted a new rule ratified by the Pro Cycling Council which bars the points earned by riders within two years of a suspension from having their UCI points counted toward a team’s standings in the world rankings.
Now, as mentioned, the World Tour is open to those teams that have earned the ProTeam designation. Purportedly, that’s the world’s top 18 professional cycling teams. For example, Saxo Bank would not have qualified as a ProTeam in 2012 had it not been for the points earned by one Alberto Contador in 2011. That his results and points were later negated by the CAS ruling in his 2010 doping case didn’t change that for 2012. Saxo Bank was already part of the 2012 ProTeam roster and the UCI didn’t see fit to yank that for this year.
UCI ProTeams for 2012
- Ag2r La Mondiale
- FdJ-Big Mat
- Lotto Belisol
- Omega Pharma-Quickstep
- Saxo Bank
But what happens in 2013? If the rule survives expected legal challenges to CAS and, perhaps, the European Court of Human Rights, then it means that even if Contador is rehired by Saxo Bank at the end of his suspension and, as expected, rides the Vuelta in September, the points he earns won’t count toward Saxo’s end-of-season rankings.
That will certainly hurt the team’s chances of staying in the top tier for 2013. The UCI criteria also consider the standings of individual riders for the past two seasons. Again if Contador is rehired, his now-negated 2011 rankings wouldn’t count, nor would anything he earns in 2012, even if he goes on to win the 2012 Vuelta. It’s the same problem now faced by the Movistar team of returning doper Alejandro Valverde, who’s been riding quite well this season, but won’t have any of the points he’s earning this year applied to the team’s standings.
There are other standards the UCI considers, including the financial viability and accounting practices of the team. Saxo has had its problems over the years, but appears to be relatively stable financially, for now.
That said, even if Saxo Bank doesn’t earn a spot among the ProTeams in 2013, it could still get a wild-card invite from one or more of the grand tours, whose organizers to maintain a degree of autonomy when it comes to the two, three or four additional teams to offered a spot. And really, which of them would be disinclined to invite a team with a rider who is arguably the best grand tour rider of his generation?
So, there you have it. There is a secondary, post-suspension penalty, but it’s not nearly as onerous as the one originally envisioned by those who crafted the ProTour Team Code of Ethics.
The Explainer is a weekly feature on Red Kite Prayer. If you have a question related to the sport of cycling, doping or the legal issues faced by cyclists of all stripes, feel free to send it directly to The Explainer at Charles@Pelkey.com. PLEASE NOTE: Understand that reading the information contained here does not mean you have established an attorney-client relationship with attorney Charles Pelkey. Readers of this column should not act upon any information contained therein without first seeking the advice of qualified legal counsel licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.
Follow me on Twitter: @Charles_Pelkey
When I think of my hardest ever days on the bike, I can’t help but feeling I’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg, even now. I’ve bonked twenty miles from home. I’ve crashed in the rain, in the dark, and still had to haul my bloody corpse home. I’ve been dehydrated and injured, and I’ve just straight up ridden every last ounce of energy out of my body.
And yet, every time have one of these experiences, I look back on it after, and I think, “Well, that could have been much harder, much worse.” And I envision what could have made it that way (usually more distance), and I just wonder what another 20 miles would have felt like in the condition I was in. Could I have handled it? Where would I have quit?
I had one of those days recently, a 70 mile cross ride on one of Spring’s hotter days. I only brought one bottle, and an early crash left me dealing with some unwanted pain later in the ride. You wouldn’t have looked in from the outside and said it was going to be a super hard day, but the combination of hubris (seriously, one bottle?) and stiffening muscles (I’m not as resilient as I used to be) turned it into a suffer-fest.
Ted King, the American on Liquigas-Cannondale, had a similar day last week. Reading about it made me feel much better about my own travails.
It’s one thing to challenge yourself with a big ride. Ask anyone who raced Battenkill, or Paris-Roubaix for that matter. It’s another thing to inadvertently impose those challenges on yourself by failing to anticipate all the things that can go wrong.
Mostly, when I sign up for what will obviously be a hard effort, I do so with an idealized vision of the conditions and how I will perform. Seldom do I project reality with any accuracy, and, in return, reality usually treats me to a hearty dose of humility. Go figure.
This week’s Group Ride asks the question: What was your hardest day on the bike? And why? Weather? Road/trail conditions? Poor planning? Lack of fitness? Tell us your tale.
The BMC media event I attended included not one but two bike introductions. Yesterday I had the opportunity to ride the new Teamelite TE01, a hard-tail 29er. Don’t worry, RKP isn’t changing its editorial direction, but we’ve made the decision to start including some off-road content when it seems appropriate. And this bike was so much fun it’s worth mentioning.
That it took the frequently innovative world of mountain biking as long as it did to move to a wheel larger than 26″ is something of a mystery to me. Sure, there are times when in ultra-technical terrain the smaller wheels are the better choice, but the bigger footprint, larger rotational mass and larger air volume does so much to make bikes ride better, riding a 29er for the first time can often make for an epic riding duh.
The TE01 looks a lot like BMC’s road bikes, for good reason. First is the simple matter of the industrial design. While it’s obvious that some RKP readers don’t like the angular lines of the tubes, they are a Swiss brand with decidedly European tastes. Hyundai this is not. The other reason the look is familiar is due to BMC’s incorporation of it’s Tuned Compliance Concept (TCC) design work into the frame. The idea is that the chainstays and seatstays will flex a bit, vertically, while the seat tube will flex fore-to-aft. The seat tube’s fore-aft flex is the reason for the small reinforcement coming off the top tube. One of BMC’s engineers told me that the seat tube moves enough that without that reinforcement the top tube/seat tube junction eventually breaks.
Of course, the big challenge with 29ers is to create a geometry that allows the bike to move nimbly. BMC went with a lower-than-some (most?) bottom bracket, which made the bike easy to lean into turns. In this regard it reminded me of the Specialized Stumpjumper 29er hard tail which was previously the best-handling hard tail I’d ridden.
The weather here on the Monterey Peninsula is almost unconscionably good, so pardon me while I go check out more cool stuff and do a bit more riding.
The superlatives fly about the Tour of the Battenkill: America’s biggest one-day road race, the toughest road race in the country, the greatest number of flat tires at a single cycling event. Since it began eight years ago, Tour of the Battenkill (originally called Battenkill-Roubaix) in upstate New York has skyrocketed both in attendance and attention.
As the event announcer (along with Richard Fries and David MacLeod ), I had a finish line view for the two days of racing this past weekend, April 14-15. After calling the names of some of the thousands crossing the finish line, the question I pondered was: why has Battenkill captured the imaginations of so many cyclists? The answer reflects changes happening in our sport.
America’s Biggest One Day Race?
With 2193 starters across 38 races, it very well may be America’s largest single day road race, though I’ll leave the comparison stats to others. No matter what, the numbers are big. Nearly 2200 starters in Saturday’s amateur races. 150 more for the Sunday UCI pro race. 100+ for a Sunday morning charity ride with Greg LeMond. 100+ for the preview ride three weeks prior. Hundreds more registered but didn’t show-up (DNS)—which with an $80 entry fee is a story in itself.
More than 1000 of those racers were in the category 4 and 5 divisions, with no less than 14 separate category 5 races contested. Riders hailed predominately from the Northeast, but promoter Dieter Drake said riders from 48 states attended, plus hundreds from Canada (the border is three hours north). The tightly-run event turned Main St. in the village of Cambridge into a pro-tour level finish venue, bolstered by a product expo, live music, and this year the appearance by LeMond.
The Toughest Road Race in America?
Of course there’s no answer to that question. Battenkill’s steep punchy climbs help shatter the field, but plenty of races get more vertical. At 62 miles (124 for the UCI Pro race) and winning times of 2:45 – 3:00 hours, it’s not overly long. But the 62 mile loop that starts and finishes in the village of Cambridge is unlike any other in the US. It’s a backroad journey through open farmland, narrow canopies of trees, and a covered bridge—the kind of naturally car-less, rural roads you wish you could ride everyday.
But Battenkill’s numerous dirt sections are its trademark, and therein lies one of the special ingredients that have led to its popularity. It’s not actually the toughest one day race in America, but to many of the riders—especially those new to racing—it feels like it might be.
The Greatest Number of Flat Tires?
Here again we have no stats. The list of DNFs (other than the UCI pro race, which is a different deal) wasn’t overly long. But the dirt sections did cause countless punctured tires. Support vehicles—including Mavic neutral support in Sunday’s pro race—ran out of spare wheels. Many riders started with their own flat fixing kit, which some put to use.
Rather than being a discouragement, the flat tire factor might actually have contribute to the day’s drama. It means uncertainty and luck that could work for or against you. Techy-types groove by selecting tubeless tires (Stan’s No Tubes saw the opportunity and was a lead sponsor of Battenkill), sealant, or extra-big rubber. Moreover, the punctures come because you’re out there flying down gravel roads in a cloud of dust, with a number pinned to your back, and a tunnel-vision of getting to the front and not being gapped.
The Future of Cycling?
At criteriums and industrial park circuit races, riders get dropped and pulled, or scored a lap down—if they’re given a finish place at all. While in road races, grinding away after getting popped can be the loneliest, most discouraging miles you ever pedal.
At Battenkill, the course and pace shredded the packs of 100+ riders to bits, with a group of a half a dozen finishing together considered large. Arguably, everyone was dropped except the usual lead group of 2-3 riders. But that didn’t lead to helmet-throwing disappointment. Instead, many were plotting a return for next year.
The race somehow blends the best flavors of a grand fondo and a road race together. The result is that everyone who finishes … even everyone who starts … goes home with rich stories to tell. And therein, I think, is the secret of Battenkill, and where our sport is heading.
Image: Dave Kraus
If you ever doubted that grand touring bikes were destined to become a sub-category of road bikes taken seriously by the industry, it’s time to stop. With the introduction of the Trek Domane and now the new BMC GF01, basically every one of the cool kids has one. Some of the early efforts weren’t particularly successful (no names mentioned) because the designs contained one or more flaws that either compromised the feel or the handling of the bike.
BMC has spent the last 18 months developing the new GF01. The GF stands for gran fondo. This is BMC’s first not to a bike meant to embrace the needs of the more recreational rider. Grand touring bikes such as the Specialized Roubaix (and the women’s Ruby) have had an easy time gaining traction with the disease-ride set, but they have lagged a bit with more serious riders. For the most part, I think the problem has been one of marketing. In defining the bike as one appropriate to the needs of the less avid cyclist, avid cyclists frequently come to the conclusion that the bike won’t meet their high-performance needs.
So how do you overcome that misperception? Easy. Put your sponsored pros on it at Paris-Roubaix. The tactic has worked well for Specialized. It was serving Trek well with Fabian Cancellara this spring with his win at l’Eroica, but his crash at Flanders will make the rest of his spring campaign a what-might-have-been and the Domane won’t get all the attention it could have. What you may not have noticed was that Team BMC rode the new GF01 at Paris-Roubaix. Had Thor Hushovd turned in the kind of performance he was shooting for, you would certainly have heard more about the bike by now.
Last night I attended a technical presentation on the bike, followed by a Q&A before riding the bike this morning. For those who’d like me to cut to the chase, I’ll tell you this: This is a seriously great bike. I’d put the GF01 up against the best bikes in this category.
So how come?
To make a good grand touring bike, a company must deliver three things. Miss any of these and the bike deserves to be an also-ran. The first thing the bike needs to do is accommodate a less aggressive fit. Whether the issue is one of spare tonnage or lack of flexibility, or even just being new to the sport, these bikes should accommodate a higher bar position relative to the saddle. For stack/reach types, that’s more stack and sometimes a bit less reach. The second thing one of these bikes needs to do is offer greater comfort than a similar road bike. Comfort that isn’t tied to fit is managed by reducing vibration and increasing compliance. Finally, these bikes must remain stable when riding on the bar top, but also offer crisp handling in turns and on descents.
The GF01 comes in six sizes, 48, 51, 54, 56, 58 and 61cm. Sizing geometry was based on reach and stack and the corresponding increase in top tube length and head tube length results in a very linear progression through the sizes. My 56cm review bike had a 55.6cm top tube paired with a 17.6cm head tube. I’d have liked a 12cm stem with this combination, but the fit wasn’t bad. Compare that to the 55cm frame in the Race Machine (that’s the most comparable size) and the GF01 features a 4mm shorter top tube and an 8mm longer head tube. Definitely a less aggressive fit. Like previous BMC models, this bike uses the same 73.5-degree seat tube angle found in the Team Machine and the Race Machine. What’s different with the GF01 is that this model is available with three different seatpost setbacks: 3mm, 18mm and 30mm. In the 56cm frame that range gives a fit tech effectively 2.5 degrees of adjustable seat tube angle (that’ll be less in the 61 and more in the 48), and that doesn’t even figure in the fore-aft adjustment of the saddle rails, so if nothing else, the GF01 will be easier to fit more different riders correctly than previous BMC bikes.
In addressing comfort, BMC likes to point to their Tuned Compliance Concept (TCC). The idea is that tube shapes and strategic layup will allow the seat tube and seat and chain stays plus the fork to flex vertically. We’re talking minute distances here, but every little bit can help. Those angles in the chainstays, seatstays and fork are designed to increase flex ever-so slightly. While I didn’t get exact numbers, BMC reports that the GF01 has 40 percent more vertical compliance than the SLR01 Team Machine. I need to be honest and say I was expecting something more like 100 or 150 percent more. How much movement is there, really? A 1000Nm load will move the axle 4mm vertically. What they ultimately settled on was no accident, though. After considerable modeling, four rideable prototypes were produced, and ridden by the BMC Team before settling on a final design. The comfort story doesn’t end there, though. There are, fortunately, two other components that come into play in the bike’s comfort. First is the seatpost. Each of the posts is designed to include some vertical compliance. BMC produced roughly a dozen different rideable prototypes; the first ones that went to the team were, reportedly, too soft. And because of the different offsets, the flex is adjusted accordingly so that they each offer the same flex pattern whether you’re using the 3mm offset or the 30mm offset. Last, but not by any means least, The GF01 has clearance for 28mm tires. After my recent post The Bell Curve, this is a pleasant piece of news.
To make a bike handle predictably, the designers must build in enough stiffness that the bike’s behavior in turns doesn’t change as speed increases. That was a far bigger problem with bikes in the 1990s than was stiffness at the bottom bracket. Those early aluminum and carbon fiber forks flexed sideways more than the average steel fork and often left you feeling like you were sliding around on a mover’s dolly. Whereas bottom bracket flex was a nuisance, fork flex had the ability to turn even the most confident bike handler into a timid kitten. To make sure the GF01 would provide performance up to the standards required for racing by the BMC team, the bike was built around a massive down tube, head tube and chainstays. The idea was build the compliance into the top tube, seat tube and seatstays, while making the spine of the bike—the head tube, down tube and chainstays—stiff enough for pro racing. It seems to work as advertised; on short climbs it responded well to input while I was out of the saddle.
In my size, the bike handled well on the twisting roads around Monterey. But here, I do have a bone to pick with BMC. In six sizes, the bike gets four different head tube angles and only one fork rake—50mm. As a result, the trail is all over the place. Here’s a rundown of each size with its head tube angle and resulting trail:
- 48cm: 71˚, 6.42cm
- 51cm: 71.5˚, 6.1cm
- 54cm: 72˚, 5.79cm
- 56cm: 72˚, 5.79cm
- 58cm: 72.5˚, 5.48cm
- 61cm: 72.5˚, 5.48cm
Four of these sizes are going to handle very well. The 54 through 61cm frames will all handle with great response, though the experience of someone on the 61 will vary some from someone on the 54. Moving on, the 51 is going to be a slightly sluggish handling bike. I have my doubts that its handling will be particularly confidence inspiring. Unfortunately, from what I see on paper, the 48 is a school bus. That thing will have all the inclination to turn that a flying cannon ball does. That’s really my only serious knock against this bike, though.
A note on weight: This is roughly a 1kg frame. The 54 is said to come in at 995g. Most of the bikes in this category come in a bit heavy due to efforts to make them more comfortable. What’s interesting to note from BMC’s numbers is that this frame is 11 percent heavier than the Team Machine, yet it possesses a third more torsional stiffness and almost 20 percent more stiffness at the BB, all while offering a 40 percent increase in vertical compliance.
The bikes we rode were well-spec’d. They used a full Ultegra Ui2 group with an Easton EA70 cockpit and Easton EA90 tubeless-ready wheels. The drivetrain included a 50/34 compact crank with an 11-28 cassette. While this may not be entirely necessary in Florida, newer riders who live near any sort of hills will find this gearing to alleviate the humiliation that comes with many race-spec’d bikes. I was surprised to learn that BMC’s engineers were able to position the brake mounts carefully enough to avoid long-reach calipers while spec’ing that 28mm tire. That’s a neat piece of work.
As built, the bike will retail for $6599. Not cheap, but not crazy expensive, either. I’m told stores will begin receiving demo units following Sea Otter and the bikes will be available in June.
After my experiences riding the Race Machine and (albeit more briefly) the Team Machine, I’m inclined to say that this is, so far, my favorite BMC bike. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to spend some more time on one in the near future.
The recent car-bike collisions that put both Levi Leipheimer and his Omega Pharma-Quick Step teammate Tony Martin in the hospital with broken bones emphasized the dangers every cyclist faces when training alone on the open road. Leipheimer was hit from behind a few kilometers from his team hotel in Spain while riding on the far right of the right shoulder of a busy highway. Martin was only five minutes from his home in Switzerland, riding on a bike path, when he was apparently sideswiped by a motorist.
However much we use the roads, there’s always a new lesson to be learned. I learned a few new ones last week. First off, while driving home last weekend from a hike with my wife, I stopped at a three-way intersection, entering it at a sharp angle. When I looked left I didn’t see anything on the road, but later realized that the curve of the road had hidden a bike rider from my view. After turning right, I saw the bike in my rear-view mirror, about 100 feet away, approaching me fast on the long downhill. So I immediately gunned the car to keep well clear of the rider, but I still heard a distant voice through the open car window angrily shouting, “Asshole!”
The lessons from that incident was: (a) as a driver, I should have stopped longer at the intersection because of the sharp angle and looked more carefully to the left, and (b) if I’d been on the bike, I should have ridden more defensively and expected that a car entering the road from a tight angle might not be able to see me. That evening I went for a ride up the same canyon. As I was waiting to turn left onto the road, I waited until traffic cleared from the left, and I then waited for a last car from the right to pass by before I headed for the far shoulder. But on seeing me, the driver of that last car stopped for me and waved me across the road. I put up my hand and said, “Thank you.” Nothing better than a courteous car driver!
Happily, I can say that only vary rarely in my many decades of riding a road bike have I felt like cursing at motorists for dangerous behavior … and much of my riding has been in cities such as London and New York. Like Leipheimer, I try to ride as far to the edge of the road as possible and always be aware of the location of any cars around me — whether they’re ahead, behind or to the side.
Knock on wood, I’ve had only two actual collisions with vehicles. The first was in my college days when I was riding my bike from London to join some classmates on a geology field trip to the southwest of England. I was on a major road (remember we ride on the left in the UK), descending a long hill that curved to the right. There was no shoulder, so when a big truck (they’re called lorries in England) came up from behind me, the driver moved out to his right to pass me before cutting back toward the left.
I was wearing a black wool sweater my mum had knitted for me, and as the lorry cut back in too quickly (the driver obviously misjudged my speed), the back edge of his vehicle caught a loop of my sweater and dragged me off the bike and some distance down the road. Somehow, I was not badly hurt, but the front wheel of my bike was pretzeled. The driver stopped to see if I was all right and kindly gave me a lift to the nearest town (it was Paignton in Devonshire). He dropped me off at a bike shop and paid for the repair. I was able to carry on riding to my destination and wasn’t even late for the start of the field trip. A happy ending to what could have been a very nasty accident.
The other incident happened in my hometown a few years later. I was riding one evening to a meeting of my cycling club, heading slightly downhill through a green light. Just as I headed reached the intersection, a car going the other way cut across the street right in front of me. My bike hit the car’s headlight and I flew through the air and landed face first on the hood. The only thing that broke (besides my bike’s front wheel) was a front tooth. So maybe there is a tooth fairy, after all.
The other good part of that story is the traffic light where I crashed was right outside the apartment where a club-mate lived. I rang on his doorbell. He took my bike up to his place and he gave me a ride to our club meeting in his car. Another happy ending.
There are two more lessons to be learned from these incidents. One, motorists tend not to be looking for cyclists when they make turns, and that was probably the reason why that car turned in front of me at the light and why the motorist in Switzerland sideswiped Tony Martin last week — he was knocked unconscious and didn’t remember exactly what happened. Two, motorists almost always underestimate the speed at which we ride our bikes. That was the case with the truck driver in Devon who moved in too soon and dragged me off my bike. As for Levi Leipheimer, the elderly driver that hit him from behind most likely didn’t see a cyclist — although he might also have thought the shoulder was a driving lane.
Anyway, whether you’re riding or driving on the open road, take extra care today—and every day.
Follow me on Twitter: @johnwilcockson
Image: Photoreporter Sirotti
Here are some thoughts following Sunday’s 47th edition of the Amstel Gold Race:
1. Well, Italy finally won a spring classic after what seemed to be a pretty long drought—it just wasn’t the rider or the classic many expected. That said, savvy fans weren’t surprised to see Gasparotto taking the victory Sunday. A rider who has proven able to survive tough races and then win group sprints, the former Italian National Champion finished third last year after winning a stage in Tirreno-Adriatico. His Astana team rode a fantastic race, protecting the Italian with multiple teammates until the final trip up the Cauberg. Gasparotto delivered, timing his sprint perfectly and failing to be overwhelmed by Philippe Gilbert’s initial surge. And while Fleche Wallone and Liege-Bastogne-Liege might be a bit too hilly for him, the question now remains whether Gasparotto’s Amstel performance makes him a candidate to be Italy’s captain for Worlds—a race that will be held on a similar course (with a nearly identical finish) later this season.
2. Speaking of Gilbert, he appears to have found some form at just the right time. While he’s clearly not at the level he was at this point last year (his unsuccessful attack Sunday was essentially the same acceleration he made to win the last two editions of the race), he will be a contender at both Fleche and Liege. And while repeating last year’s historic quadruple is out of the question, a win in Liege Sunday would certainly erase any bad taste from his mediocre (by Gilbert’s standards) start to the season.
3. But while Gilbert’s resurgence is good news for BMC, the team also lost Cadel Evans early Sunday as the Australian continues to struggle with a sinus infection. That’s a blow to Gilbert’s chances as Evans would have been a valuable card to play Wednesday and Sunday. Greg Van Avermaet rode a fantastic race on Gilbert’s behalf yesterday, but an in-form Evans might have tipped the scales in BMC’s favor.
4. Speaking of Van Avermaet, I’m not sure of his contract status, but one has to think he’ll receive some pretty nice offers once it expires. How long can this talented—and still relatively young (26)—rider be expected to sacrifice his own chances on behalf of others?
5. Anyone who underestimated just how much of a role Jelle Vanendert played in Gilbert’s success last year needs to watch yesterday’s sprint one more time. The Belgian will do his best to salvage Lotto-Belisol’s spring with a win later this week.
6. It bothers me when good riders make foolish attacks—and I’m not talking about Katusha’s Oscar Freire. His move made sense and it almost stuck. But I am talking about Omega Pharma – Quick-Step’s Niki Terpstra. Terpstra’s been one of the spring’s most consistent riders. He certainly could have secured his third consecutive top-10 finish in a major classic had he not taken it upon himself to try and bridge to Freire with less than 10 kilometers remaining in Sunday’s race. Some might say he was setting-up Dries Devenyns for the sprint—I’m not so certain.
7. Hats-off to Garmin-Barracuda’s Alex Howes who after finishing sixth in Wednesday’s Brabantse Pijl spent 200 kilometers off the front Sunday. Let’s see what the 24-year-old can do in Fleche and Liege!
8. If you’re going to spend two weeks preparing for a race, Matti Breschel, you might as well finish it. Rabobank continues to be cursed in its home event. It’s been 11 years since Erik Dekker took the last win for the host nation and team. The irony of Oscar Freire (who left Rabobank this past off-season) almost taking the win Sunday had many pundits smirking at their computer screens.
That’s it for me—what’s on your mind following Sunday’s big event?
Follow me on Twitter: @whityost
Image: Photoreporter Sirotti
I’ve got a friend—a bigwig with an eyewear company—who crashed recently. Somehow, despite 20+ years of competent use of quick releases, the skewer on the front wheel came loose. He was on a top-of-the-line carbon bike, so no biggie, right? Well, as it happens the fork had no lawyer tabs. But this was a road bike, so he’s not doing jumps and wheelies, so no great whoop, right? Well, he popped the front wheel just a bit for a storm drain.
This would be where the front wheel flew out like a cat from a closet.
His injuries read like an inventory of the human body. They aren’t nearly as bad as what his wife threatened to do should he crash again.
I’m not naming names because it’s not my story and I suspect there may yet be some litigation. The unfortunate thing here is that what was arguably a lousy quick release have given the lawyers ammo for crap like lawyer lips. Ugh. Because to many people those damn tabs would have solved this problem.
No, those tabs aren’t the solution. Better quick release skewers are.
Which brings me to an item I’ve been meaning to review since before we switched presidents. These Ritchey WCS titanium quick release skewers. It just took someone else’s pain to make me act. I don’t use them as often as I’d like because so often I’m sent wheels with skewers. And most of the time, I hate those skewers. The problems range from the movement not being smooth enough to having levers that feature a little outward curve that comes to a point right where I want to use my palm to push the lever closed.
Who dreams this stuff up?
I have previously not been a fan of ti skewers because they stretched just enough to prevent the wheel from being locked in place with the same security I found in steel skewers. That’s not a problem with these. They feature levers that are a whopping 8cm long, longer than any other levers I possess, though longer may be out there somewhere. The advantage of the longer lever, as we all know, is Archimedean. And because the levers feature a gentle curve, they fit nicely in your hand and look dashing as they curl around a fork blade or dropout and chainstay.
I weighed them at 82g, exactly what Ritchey claims. How’s that for refreshing?
They retail for $69.95. That may seem a lot until you ask yourself about the price of safety.
Editor’s note: We’re taking a little different approach to Charles Pelkey’s Explainer column this week, with duties shared by Charles and yours truly. I’d asked Charles previously if he would be willing to address the issue of stop-as-yield. To me, it seems a genius way of cutting out the biggest, most cancerous chunk of cycling scofflaw behavior. And I figured Charles would have some idea about the best way ordinary lazy citizens like you ‘n’ me could do a bit of cycling advocacy that might result in a law all cyclists would dig.
What I didn’t count on was he doesn’t like the idea. So he suggested we do a point/counterpoint.
You know what they say about not bringing a knife to a gun fight? Yeah, well no one talks about what happens when you show up with a pea shooter. I’m prepared to change my opinion once Charles has made his case. I’m not looking forward to that because I really like the idea of stop-as-yield. I take first at-bat.
Point: I like the idea of stop-as-yield. Why? Easy. I live in a place where our population density has risen dramatically in the last 15 years. The number of stop signs I encounter when I head out for a ride has more than doubled what it was when I moved here. The number of stop lights has risen noticeably as well. I like to think of myself as a pragmatist. There’s never going to be a scenario in which some variety of running stop lights will be acceptable. But because there are a couple of places (yeah, I think exactly two) where cyclists are allowed to treat a stop sign as a yield if no other traffic is present seems a genius idea.
Because you’re a cyclist, I really don’t need to sell you on this idea. It’s like sex. It sells itself. Not stopping saves watts (and allows you to get home with higher average speeds for that all-important Strava download). It also gets you through most intersections more quickly and given how much more often so many of my friends are hit in intersections, I can’t blame anyone for wanting to get away quickly.
The other piece of the equation that I think could be helpful is how it might—and I’m only saying might—change a certain amount of cyclist behavior. Around my home, the ticket for running a stop sign isn’t cheap, but if no one’s around I and my friends tend to give them a slow roll on early morning rides. We essentially treat them as stop-as-yield. We see our behavior as victimless crime. However, in the afternoons, when many more police are out and enforcement much higher, I make sure to stop. Tickets for running a stop light in the nearby towns are crazy expensive. The cheap ones are $371. But I see many riders run lights with the same nonchalance that they possess as they cruise through stop signs. I’d like to think that if there was a more significant delineation (not that the existing one is insufficient) between stop signs and stop lights, some riders might stop running lights, or doing that half-assed, right turn followed by a U-turn followed by another right turn. They aren’t fooling anyone.
That’s the thing: The biggest gain I see here is that by decriminalizing our most frequent infraction, maybe we’d clean up some of our other behavior. Maybe we’d seem like something other than total scoff-laws. I see loads of drivers make exasperated gestures at cyclists who run through intersections when they’ve got anything but the right-of-way. It’s clear their frustration with us paints with a large brush. In talking with non-cyclists who have seen our behavior I’ve heard many times that the conclusion they draw more often than not isn’t, “See that cyclist skirt the laws! That low-down no-good biker!” No, it’s, “Cyclists—all cyclists—suck ass.”
We’re all guilty of a single rider’s infractions. And so each driver who witnesses a rider blowing through an intersection without obeying a law decides we’re all the same and guilty of flouting traffic laws. I’ve come to a stop at many an intersection only to have some rider come up from behind me and just ride through. The other drivers present invariably look at me and wait for me to do the same thing. Their clenched teeth and glares say it all. And so I wait, extra long.
So there you have it. I believe that stop-as-yield has the ability to make our lives as cyclists easier. It is also my hope that if our towns threw us a bone with stop-as-yield, that if we responded by better obeying stop lights, our stock as respectable citizens would rise. It’s hard to chart just how this would manifest, but I don’t think it’s a stretch to imagine that drivers might be more courteous and police might show us more consideration in the event of some sort of accident. Just passing another law that gives regard to cyclists could do a lot to remind the populace that we have a real right to the road.
It seems like a great idea that just needs a million-dollar-per-municipality marketing effort and some really smart cycling advocates in order to become law.
Counterpoint: It’s those “clenched teeth and glares” that I respond to, as well, Padraig. Where we have a fundamental disagreement is what a change in the law would do to change drivers’ attitudes. I’m not sure abolishing certain regulations which scoff-laws commonly ignore is the way to engender respect for the law. I do, however, suspect that it will do a lot to piss off those who have to follow the rules, no matter what.
We can trace the roots of the idea to a law passed by the Idaho legislature in 1982 (Idaho Code: Title 49, chapter 7). Since then, similar efforts in other states have met with mixed results.
Idaho is a state much like Wyoming, where I live, and quite unlike the growing urban/suburban environs of Padraig’s home in Southern California. Nonetheless, we do have similarly laid-out streets here in Laramie, usually presenting cyclists (and motorists) with a stop sign every two blocks in low-traffic neighborhoods.
Idaho’s pioneering statute allows:
A person operating a bicycle or human-powered vehicle approaching a stop sign shall slow down and, if required for safety, stop before entering the intersection. After slowing to a reasonable speed or stopping, the person shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching on another highway so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time the person is moving across or within the intersection or junction of highways, except that a person after slowing to a reasonable speed and yielding the right-of-way if required, may cautiously make a turn or proceed through the intersection without stopping.
Furthermore, Idaho also allows something that makes me even less comfortable:
A person operating a bicycle or human-powered vehicle approaching a steady red traffic control light shall stop before entering the intersection and shall yield to all other traffic. Once the person has yielded, he may proceed through the steady red light with caution. Provided however, that a person after slowing to a reasonable speed and yielding the right-of-way if required, may cautiously make a right-hand turn. A left-hand turn onto a one-way highway may be made on a red light after stopping and yielding to other traffic.
Yup, not only does Idaho allow stop-as-yield, it allows for red-light-as-stop-sign.
I must confess. I do often “roll through” stop signs on my way to work or on my way out of town for a long stop-sign-free ride on the open roads that are quite common here in “big empty” of the Rocky Mountain West. I am, by definition therefore, a scoff-law at times. Frankly, I like the idea of not having to stop at an empty intersection and, I have to admit, I’ll probably keep up the practice, especially on those early summer morning days, when the only car you tend to see belongs to the guy delivering the morning paper.
In my younger—and considerably cockier—racing days, I probably did more than that, riding up to intersections at full speed, quickly casting a glance left, then right, and blowing through as if mine were the only vehicle on the road. I had a few close calls and I count my lucky stars that I am still around. I was not a model cyclist. I was the cause of many a clenched jaw, icy stares and, of course, a large number of extended single digits.
My point is that I am not claiming to speak from the moral high-ground here. I was not “Captain Safety” at times, although I do try to be a responsible cyclist now that I am older and a parent. My opposition to stop-as-yield (and its more dangerous cousin “Red-light-as-stop-sign”) is based on pragmatism. I am simply concerned about the perception that cyclists try to impose a double standard, embracing the claim that we have the same rights as motorized vehicles when it is convenient and calling for separate rules when it is not.
Cycling advocates have fought long and hard for our two-wheeled brethren to be afforded the same rights as any other vehicle on a public street. While that battle is far from over, with the right to use the road comes the duty to abide by the same rules. Same rights, same responsibilities.
Surveys around the planet confirm that motorists view cyclists with, at minimum, a degree of concern and, at worst, outright hostility. Part of that is rooted in the unpredictability of some riders’ use of the road. Another part of it, is that drivers—rightly or wrongly—see cyclists as willing to ignore applicable traffic rules when those rules are inconvenient.
I avoid the use of the term “traffic laws” because Padraig and those that agree with him are taking the correct approach and hoping to modify existing law in order to accommodate that double standard. My problem is that it would remain, even after a revision in the law, a double standard.
Padraig’s idea of “a million-dollar-per-municipality marketing effort” aside, the post-modification perception of cyclists-as-scofflaws would remain. Aside from the particularly interested segment of the community—in this case, we cyclists—getting the word out to drivers would be a formidable task.
I am much more comfortable with the idea that many “reasonable” cyclists regularly glide through an empty intersection in violation of the “letter” of the law, than to have a host of less-than-reasonable cyclists hold on to what they believe the “spirit” of the law might be and habitually blow through intersections while asserting their “right” to do so.
My nightmare is the thought of herds of urban-fixie-hipster types rolling through intersections screaming “bicycle rights! Bicycle Rights!” further alienating the public and virtually erasing any progress we’ve made over the past decades. That damage would take far more than “a million-dollar-per-municipality marketing effort” to repair.
… and what about the children?
As a parent, my kids grew up calling me “the helmet Nazi,” knowing that before either of them swung a leg over a top-tube, they damn well better have a helmet on top of their heads. I furthermore demanded that they fully comply with the rules of the road, riding as far to the right as is reasonably safe and that they come to a complete stop at lights and stop signs.
I quite frankly fear for parents whose children get that mixed message that it’s sometimes OK to slide through a stop sign. The stop-as-yield requires a degree of judgment – and visual range – that may be beyond the abilities of a typical nine-year-old. So what do we do there? Is it worth incorporating an exception to the new rule for those below a given age? In an environment with bigger cars and trucks, often operated by drivers with shorter attention spans, I shudder at the thought.
Admittedly, my worst-case thinking hasn’t proven to be true in the great state of Idaho. With nearly 30 years of data now available, there hasn’t been a measurable change in the number or character of bike-related injuries or fatalities since the 1982 passage of the law. I’m not so sure we could expect the same result in a more densely populated environment like Patrick’s home in SoCal.
Finally, I have to address the “energy savings” argument Padraig and others have raised.
First, I’d always believed that the primary reason we enjoy the bike and the ride was to do just that: burn calories and use up wattage. I am not too sure that maintaining a higher average speed to download into your on-line training diary is necessarily worth even the slightest compromise in safety. Nor is it worth risking a further division between cyclists and motorists, who already see cyclists as an annoyance.
Indeed, the whole energy savings argument might actually be the basis for a similar proposal to be made on behalf of drivers. Think of the carbon savings if we allowed cars not to come to a complete stop at stop signs. Legalizing the so-called “California stop” for automobiles makes about as much sense to me as does legalizing the “Idaho stop” for cyclists. In both cases, I don’t buy it.
I am an advocate of the “Share the Damn Road” approach to cycling. With that in mind, I think we ought to “Share the Damn Duties,” too.