Archive for July, 2008

Tour de France – Paris in Sight

Friday, July 25th, 2008

3,365 kilometers (2,091 miles) down, 196 kilometers (122 miles) to go.Tour de France - cycling through the sunflowers

It’s time you met Ryder Hesjedal. Appropriate name for a bike ryder, eh?

Hesjedal is on the American-sponsored Team Garmin-Chipotle (why yes that is argyle on their team kit).

While three of four Americans in the Tour are on his team, Hesjedal is the first Canadian to ride in the Tour since 1997. At the start today, he was 52nd overall and while no one remembers the name of the guy who finishes fifty-2nd, he’s doing exactly what he’s supposed to in his role on the team.

During Stage 16, Hesjedal was even mentioned by name during Versus’ coverage of the race. As the guys peddled over the Col de la Lombarde and the Col de la Bonnette – Europe’s highest pass at over 9,000 feet – Hesjedal kept pace with Lance Armstrong’s former teammate, American George Hincapie. Hesjedal’s teammates include Americans Christian Vande Velde (currently 6th overall), Danny Pate and our buddy Will Frischkorn.

Props to Hesjedal for the hard work and to Canadian fans waving huge, Canadian flags along the mountain route.

Separated at Birth?

If you’re looking for a Sydney Crosby in the cycling world, look no further than Mark Cavendish, winner of an impressive four stages in this year’s Tour. While he’s not touted to be the next, say, Lance Armstrong, he does have a similar, youthful look and mannerism as Crosby, and is predicted to be the next Big Thing in his cycling specialty: the sprint.

Some fantastic crashes occur during sprints, but I think Jonathan Vaughters, manger of Team Garmin-Chipotle (and former pro cyclist) was referring to mountain descents when he said, “If you want to know what it’s like to crash in a professional bike race, next time you’re in your car, strip down to your underwear and jump out the door at 50 mph.”

Thanks for the tip.

In other news, holy cow – is July a great month for sports or what? If you didn’t catch the Nadal-Federer final at Wimbledon, you missed one of the all-time most exciting events in sports. I always say: if you’re not big into spectating sports, just catch the premier events. That way, you see only the best-of-the-best in skill, response to pressure, and drama – just like the Olympics. This was by no means an exception.

Timbits

There’s a piece in a recent¬† issue of Wired magazine about this new ice vest that certain endurance athletes (marathon runners) wear before they race, to lower their body temperature. Vande Velde was seen pulling on an ice vest before starting the Stage 4 Time Trial, the event when cyclists go all out, one by one, over a shorter course to see who’s the fastest. VdV placed 8th out of 178, so it must’ve done him some good.

Here’s some pretty cool Tour road art.

Tour de France! (sorta)

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

Allez Y'all! Tour de France 08 Call me crazy.

I have unwavering faith that all you hockey fans out there have been inspired, or at least your curiosity piqued, to check out the Tour de France this year. Want more aggression in cycling, you say? You got it.

You have three freaking weeks of nearly full-day coverage to choose from for a morsel sampling, so there’s really no excuse. Hell, choose them all and call it a staycation.

Speaking of Corner Gas, the Canadian show has had episodes about hockey and curling of course, and now cycling, gob bless ’em. They referenced Le Tour on a recent episode about a spin class, where the instructor encouraged spinners to (i quote loosely), “Pretend you’re a crazy spectator on the side of the road on a stationary bike at the Tour de France!”

Wha? Those silly Canadians.

Note: Apologies to anyone who might be scarred for life after clicking on the “crazy” link above….

Sorta

Alas, time has expired with no change in the decision to refuse Alberto Contador (and Team Astana) the chance to defend his title at the Tour. Instead, listen for names like Cadel Evens, Alejandro Valverde and Carlos Sastre to take the podium.

No Tom Boonen in the sprint finishes, either.

Wide open field.

Tips

Hands down, the best way to watch any sport is with a little knowledge. Here’s a basic tutorial, Tour de France 101,¬† to get you started. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really tell you things to notice for pure entertainment. I’ll get to that….

Tip One: If you have a short attention span and/or minimal interest at this point, skip the reading on gruppettos and echelons. I didn’t have to learn about those until TdF 102 and neither should you.

Skim the stuff about how climbs are categorized, but it’s enough to know that “hors categorie” isn’t nearly as fun as it might sound. To summarize, it’s the most difficult climb/s of the day – the kind you and i would vomit on ’cause it’s steep and/or at kilometer #136. No more juice in the legs. All light-headed and silly.

Tip Two: Here’s an abbreviated list of what to take note of for the sake of entertainment:

Bob Roll. Anything that comes out of this man’s mouth is worth listening to, wacky though it may be. If you have a problem with Bob, you have a problem with yourself.

– Phil and Paul. Duets in sports broadcasting don’t get any better. They have British accents and witty idioms. If you’re an intellect or/and female, you can’t get enough of the accents.

– Otherwise, it’s a matter of what you’re into. If you like watching crashes, they’re there.

If you like watching men with quads the size of California redwoods pound the pedals and bump shoulders to the finish line (sprint), catch a long, flat day.

If you like watching crazed, naked, booze-infused fans run side-by-side with suffering cyclists, catch a “mountain finish” stage.

There’s plenty of stunning scenery. Cyclists occasionally take a “nature break” to enjoy the view as well (sometimes, they don’t even get off the bike).

Timbits

In case you hadn’t heard, Barry Melrose will share his coaching wisdom once again, this time with the Tampa Bay Lightening.

And for those of you familiar with cyclist Floyd Landis and his testosterone dealio, the ruling is in and it ain’t in his favor. I.E. Floyd doesn’t get to keep his 2006 Tour de France title.

Allez Y’all!