VeloNews.com » Chris Case http://velonews.competitor.com Competitive Cycling News, Race Results and Bike Reviews Sun, 29 May 2016 16:52:05 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.3.1 Giro releases new Aerohead TT helmet http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/05/bikes-and-tech/giro-releases-new-aerohead-tt-helmet_406425 http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/05/bikes-and-tech/giro-releases-new-aerohead-tt-helmet_406425#comments Thu, 19 May 2016 07:00:23 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=406425

Giro says the shape of its new Aerohead helmet is the fastest it's ever tested. Photo: Giro

Launched at Tour of California, Giro Sport Design has a new take on aero helmet shaping that it says is the fastest it has ever tested.

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Giro says the shape of its new Aerohead helmet is the fastest it's ever tested. Photo: Giro

Giro Sport Design has a new take on aero helmet shaping with the Aerohead MIPS and Aerohead Ultimate MIPS helmets. The Ultimate made its racing debut in the 2015 Tour de France, where Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) wore it during his prologue victory, in the process setting the fastest average speed of any prologue in the race’s history at 55.44 kilometers per hour.

This fall, the two helmets will be available to the public. The top-of-the-line Aerohead Ultimate MIPS is claimed to be the fastest helmet shape Giro has ever tested. Using the Wind Averaged Drag standard (a calculation based on drag figures across the most common yaw angles) that Giro and many other manufacturers believe is the most reliable predictor of real-world performance, the Aerohead Ultimate MIPS is over three seconds faster over 40 kilometers (and 400 watts) than Giro’s previous Selector.

The 455-gram Ultimate helmet integrates a MIPS multi-directional impact protection system, featuring a TeXtreme shell (a thin, light form of carbon fiber) to combine a smaller frontal area and reduced venting for less drag. It utilizes the Giro Roc Loc Air retention system found on many of the brand’s other high-end helmets, as well as a Zeiss wraparound lens specifically designed for the helmet. Other small details include hydrophilic, antimicrobial padding (said to absorb 10 times its weight in sweat), a carrying pod, and two lenses, clear and smoke. The Ultimate will retail for $550 and comes in two colors: raw carbon and white.

The Aerohead MIPS has a polycarbonate shell and features four vents on the front and rear of the helmet. Giro’s thermodynamic testing shows it to be nearly 10 percent cooler than the Ultimate model. It also features the Zeiss lens, hydrophilic padding, and MIPS technology. It retails for $250 and comes in four color schemes. The helmet pod can be purchased for $50 and extra eye shields are $60.

A short test ride along the California coast revealed the helmet to be quiet (to road noises) yet allow for a level of conversation typically not practicable with many tight-fitting aero helmets. The unique design of the eye shield, which attaches via magnetic anchors with a solid click, wraps fully around the ears. This allows for more airflow into this area. It also allows the helmet to be put on with less constriction, since the shield can be anchored upside down and on top of the helmet. The small, flat “triglide” strap adjusters are quick to adjust and sit flat against the face for a svelte feeling. The lens was very sharp, with only minimal distortion in the far reaches of its radically curved shape.

The helmet design places the rider’s head more in the middle of its shape than other designs. In other words, a substantial amount of the helmet’s form sits over the forehead, making for a shorter tail. It makes for a unique look.

The Ultimate will officially debut at Thursday’s time trial stage of the Amgen Tour of California on the members of BMC Racing, Katusha, and Team Wiggins.

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Neilson Powless: A name to remember http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/05/news/road/neilson-powless-name-remember_405859 http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/05/news/road/neilson-powless-name-remember_405859#comments Tue, 17 May 2016 23:30:04 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=405859

19-year-old Neilson Powless finished third in the Tour of the Gila's stage 3 time trial. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

19-year-old Neilson Powless is taking on the biggest race of his young career this week in California

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19-year-old Neilson Powless finished third in the Tour of the Gila's stage 3 time trial. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

SAN DIEGO, California (VN) – Before this season, most of the elite cycling world knew nothing about 19-year-old Neilson Powless (Axeon Hagens Berman). And then he started winning, and winning some more. Through April, he had taken third overall at the San Dimas Stage Race, victory at the Redlands Cycling Classic time trial, and the overall title at the Joe Martin Stage Race, where he also racked up the win in the points competition (not to mention the best young rider competition). Most recently, he finished third in the Tour of the Gila time trial on his way to 12th overall. He leads the USA Cycling Pro Road Tour rankings. The kid is on fire.

“I have improved quite a bit from last year but it hasn’t been as big as the results are making it look like,” Powless said. “It’s just because I’ve maybe improved two to five percent and I’ve been in a leadership role. It’s been really great so far. After Redlands was when I realized it was going to be a really good season! It was an awakening.”

One person who has seen his rapid progress firsthand is teammate Logan Owen, winner of the Liège-Bastogne-Liège espoirs race this spring and a multi-time national cyclocross champion.

“He’s taken people by surprise and just come out and started smacking it!” Owen said. “It’s impressive. He’s a really nice guy. He’s definitely a huge talent for the future.”

Powless’s steady progression has taken him all the way to the Tour of California just two years after delving into road racing at a serious level, and four years removed from what he though might be a life as a pro triathlete.

His parents met at a triathlon. The day after he was born, his mother, who ran for Guam at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, brought him to the YMCA and into the pool. “They just didn’t want us to be afraid to try or do anything,” Powless said.

In 2011, he started getting serious about triathlon. He quickly realized it was hard to make a living in the sport, though he continued to compete. He won Xterra nationals, came third at worlds, only to improve upon those results in 2012 by winning both titles. Soon after he transitioned to mountain biking, racing in and around his Roseville, California, home.

His meteoric rise continued. When he was 17, he went to Europe with the national mountain bike team and also spent time dabbling in road racing. He had finished second overall at the Valley of the Sun Stage Race in Arizona, which led to his being selected to race the junior’s Paris-Roubaix, his third road race with the national team. He happily talks of crashing out of the race. The fact that he was extremely green is not lost on Powless.

Last year, as a member of the Hagens Berman team, as well as the U.S. national team, Powless served his time in a domestique role, slaying himself for the benefit of others. He enjoyed and appreciated every minute of it.

“Up until this year, I don’t think there was a single race where I tried to go for a result for myself. It was more about paying my dues and riding for other guys, and I enjoyed it a lot because when other guys succeed based on what you’ve done for them it’s a really cool feeling,” Powless said. “Especially the guys in the national team—all year long they were so appreciative of everything that you did. And I needed to pick up on all the nuances of how to race, how to read a race. It was a big learning curve.”

It all brings us back to California, which will undoubtedly be the biggest race in Powless’s nascent career. He’s all in.

“My teammate Tao [Geoghegan Hart] will for sure be going for GC. I’ll do whatever [team director] Axel Merckx wants me to do,” he said. “I’d like to go for a good GC; I’d really like to do well in the time trial and see how I stack up against the guys that are here. Obviously I’m not expecting to win but even top 20 would be pretty incredible.”

And where does he go from here? Only up. Powless, though, willingly admits he still has much learning to do. California will serve as a crucible, one in which every strength and weakness will be amplified among some of the best riders in the world. [On Tuesday, Powless rode to fifth place in the queen stage after attacking early on Gibraltar road -Ed.]

“Neilson’s really fresh to it, and it’s his first time doing everything and he’s definitely excelled being in the States for the early season,” Geoghegan Hart said. “The next step is for him to do that over in Europe because a lot of guys find that much more difficult — and not really the bike racing. It’s everything else.”

Powless is young enough that he can still be asked who his idol is, whom he wants to model himself after when he “grows up.” The answer comes quickly.

“Almost anyone at the WorldTour level is someone I look up to because I want to be in the WorldTour. I like Sagan — I mean, who doesn’t like him? — and he came from mountain biking so I have that connection with him. He has fun on the bike, he has personality. But I don’t know if my facial features would support such luscious locks.”

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California: GC race begins on Gibraltar http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/05/news/the-gc-race-in-california-begins-on-gibraltar-road_406031 http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/05/news/the-gc-race-in-california-begins-on-gibraltar-road_406031#comments Tue, 17 May 2016 13:24:01 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=406031

Rohan Dennis and Brent Bookwalter rode together in the opening stage of the Tour of California. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

Tuesday's stage 3 at the Tour of California will test the riders vying for the overall win — and it will demonstrate who is really on

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Rohan Dennis and Brent Bookwalter rode together in the opening stage of the Tour of California. Photo: Tim De Waele | TDWsport.com

SANTA CLARITA, California (VN) — For the GC contenders at the Amgen Tour of California, Tuesday’s stage 3 finishing climb atop the 7.4-mile, 8-percent-average Gibraltar Road above Santa Barbara is where the race ultimately begins.

The first two stages, though they have each included substantial climbs, have revealed very little about who is on form and who is merely hanging on. Undoubtedly, a great ride on the twisting summit finish of stage 3 will be any eventual winner’s first crucial step in a successful overall race. Expect some riders to explode dramatically, as the true overall contenders rise to the forefront of the race.

Rohan Dennis of BMC Racing, with a USA Pro Challenge title to his name in 2015 (not to mention a short-lived hour record, a Tour de France time trial stage win, and a victory at the Santos Tour Down Under), tops some pundits’ lists as the five-star favorite for overall victory — mostly based upon those outstanding time trialing chops. It’s a good bet he’ll do well in Folsom, but does he have the form to take on a 45-minute climb? His spring results don’t suggest he’s found his legs just yet — he skipped Paris-Nice due to illness and abandoned the Volta a Catalunya soon after. He rode to 21st at the Tour de Yorkshire in late April. Further complicating his ability to take the final yellow jersey could be team orders: BMC Racing management has stated they are racing for American Brent Bookwalter in California. The scenario is reminiscent of last year’s USA Pro Challenge, when the two teammates sometimes seemed to cooperate and sometimes battle their way to a one-two finish.

Fresh off a win at the Tour of the Gila, 24-year-old Lachlan Morton of Jelly Belly – Maxxis has his eyes set on a podium finish. An overall victory might be a tall order for him, but don’t discount his chances to put time into most everyone on the steep ascent of Gibraltar, as he did to take the first stage and the overall lead on the Mogollon climb at the Gila. His time trial skills aren’t nearly as robust as Dennis’s, so he’ll need to see substantial gains on stage 3 to hold on in the Folsom TT.

Can Giant – Alpecin rider Laurens Ten Dam channel the talent and drive that saw him finish ninth at the 2014 Tour de France and pull off a victory in California, a place he calls home (he’s currently based in Truckee, near Lake Tahoe and the finish of stage 5) these days? The Dutchman downplays his chances, saying he’s still building toward the Tour de France in July, where he’ll serve as a mentor for Warren Barguil. He hasn’t raced since April and the Volta a Catalunya, but wryly smiles when declaring this is the one race of the year when he gets to race a bit for himself. “A top 10 would be successful. A podium would be successful. And I’ll try for the win on Gibraltar,” he said with a smile.

A smattering of other riders shouldn’t be forgotten — Julian Alaphilippe of Etixx – Quick-Step, second overall last year to Peter Sagan and a supremely talented rider in general, as proven by his Ardennes classics results of the past two seasons; Sky’s Peter Kennaugh, a talented climber but someone who might struggle to keep pace with the best at the TT stage; and Peter Stetina of Trek – Segafredo, who is motivated to return to his best form in the U.S. after a serious crash at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco in 2015 resulted in several broken bones and marred the bulk of that season. He has said that with every day of racing he is feeling stronger, but his recovery from rock bottom continues on a steady upward trajectory.

That leads us to Cannondale’s Lawson Craddock, perhaps the man most likely to succeed given his motivation (to win on home soil), form (proven to be at a high level by his ninth-place finish in the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, arguably the hardest race outside of the grand tours), and team (strong, motivated, experienced).

“I’ve been around this race for a while now — it’ll be my fifth year doing it,” said Craddock, who was third in 2014. “I’ve definitely got some good memories here: I was on the podium a couple of years ago. It’s just a race I really love to do well at and I’d like to keep it going this year as well.”

Those who’ve studied the road book know the race isn’t as simple as the two stages, Gibraltar and the time trial. There are dangers looming on other days — the coastal winds on stage 4, which also finishes with a tricky climb at Laguna Seca; the high altitude of stage 5 to South Lake Tahoe; and the saw-tooth profile of stage 7 in and around Santa Rosa on roads used in Levi’s Gran Fondo.

“Those two stages are probably the most deciding days — Gibraltar is such a hard climb, there’ll certainly be big splits by the top, and the time trial will be decisive,” Craddock said. “But if you look at each stage this year, you can’t let your guard down. From stage 2 to 7, every day is difficult. Every day we have to stay focused.”

At the 2015 Tour Down Under, Craddock crashed heavily after puncturing his front tire and then bounded into a drainage ditch with his front wheel collapsing, sending him catapulting over his handlebars. He suffered a broken wrist, rib, and sternum, injuries that kept him in the hospital for observation for three days, and saw him training at home for months thereafter.

He came out strong in 2016, finishing 16th at Paris-Nice and sixth at Critérium International. But the result that had people talking was his result in the Basque Country. At the time, Cannondale team manager Jonathan Vaughters had glowing remarks: “The significance of the ride he did — and it may be lost on people — is that if you can finish top 10 in the Tour of the Basque Country, then you can finish top 10 in a grand tour. It’s just tough. I wouldn’t say that about another week-long stage race.”

It might not be lost on Craddock, but the relaxed Texan has kept the result in perspective.

“It hasn’t changed me too much,” he said. “Obviously it was a good result and I’m really happy with it. It was just good to see everything come together. Last year was pretty rough, coming back from injury for the first half of the season. To be able to come into this season with a good base, with good training, it was just nice to show everyone else what I was capable of doing.”

But the race in Spain is now more than a month ago. A distant memory for most. The slate has been cleaned, a new field has been assembled in sunny (well, it’s been more gloomy and gray) California, and GC riders are notoriously wary of making predictions. The race is won on the road, they say. We’ll see how the legs are going, they quip. All true. But inside they’re all focused competitors. Who’s going to win?

“I love California. It’s kind of the race that put me on the radar of some of these WorldTour teams and helped me get a contract,” Craddock said. “Every year I love to come back, I love to come here and race to win. I’d be disappointed if I weren’t on the final podium.”

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Morton eyes California GC after Gila win http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/05/amgen-tour-of-california/morton-eyes-california-gc-after-gila-win_405967 http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/05/amgen-tour-of-california/morton-eyes-california-gc-after-gila-win_405967#comments Mon, 16 May 2016 14:07:37 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=405967

Lachlan Morton won the Tour of the Gila in early May. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

The Australian member of Jelly Belly – Maxxis said the Tour of California is his main goal of the season — and he thinks he can win.

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Lachlan Morton won the Tour of the Gila in early May. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

SAN DIEGO (VN) — Nowadays, Lachlan Morton might be better known for his “Thereabouts” adventures across the Australian Outback and American West than for his climbing prowess and pro cycling chops. But that could change this week.

The Jelly Belly – Maxxis rider has set his sights on a big result at the Amgen Tour of California. At 24, fresh off a win at the 30th Tour of the Gila, the Australian is hoping to carry his good form into his team’s biggest objective of the year and remind people of the talent that brought him a dramatic win on stage 3 of the 2013 Tour of Utah as a member of the Garmin squad.

“This is the first time I’ve had the Tour of California as my big goal for the year,” Morton said. “I’m prepared for it and I know I’m in good form. At a race like this you have to have a bit of luck on your side, but we’re in with a chance for fighting for a GC position and that’s my goal.”

According to Morton, the 2016 course is more dynamic than in past years when the race often hinged more on a good time trial performance than pure climbing form. The Gibraltar climb on stage 3 and, yes, the time trial on stage 6, are the two stages where the race will be won.

“But it could be lost on some other days,” Morton said. “Stage 1 should be pretty straightforward, the final stage in Sacramento should be pretty straightforward, but there’s always the wind on some other stages or tricky little climbs near the end of stages. No one is talking about the Laguna Seca stage — after a long day, the racing will be aggressive and you’ll see some big separations there at the finish. But I like that, because I see it as more opportunities. This year they’ve picked a route where it’s going to be a fight right until the end. I’m looking forward to it.”

The laid back Morton hasn’t scanned the startlist for his biggest rivals and has taken a more pragmatic approach, knowing the race will be won on the road and not on paper. He points out that no one knew Julian Alaphilippe would come second or that Peter Sagan would have won last year’s race.

“You can go through the startlist and see a whole different bunch of scenarios, but people overcomplicate bike racing, Morton said. “You either have the legs or you don’t.”

While the course is more to his liking, his recent win in the Tour of the Gila in early May was also a milestone for Morton, who has been racing in the New Mexico race since he was 18.

“Winning there was something I’ve wanted to do for a while,” he said. “This was my fourth one and I finally cracked it. I went there wanting to win, and it’s the first time I’ve gone to a race with the intent on winning, where I would have been disappointed with anything else. That’s a new feeling — something I haven’t had since I was a junior, really. To go there and execute that, it was big. And for the team, it was big. It’s nice to have that under the belt.”

Morton’s career, though still in its early years, has taken a number of twists and turns. He raced with the Slipstream organization (both the development and WorldTour squads) from 2011 until 2014, basing himself in Europe and attempting to cope with the stresses of the UCI WorldTour. It didn’t click. His motivation slipped. His form followed. The young Morton was lost. Soon he found himself riding across the Outback of Australia with his brother Gus and trying to understand what he wanted to do on a bike. Ride? Race? Wander?

He signed with the Jelly Belly squad last year and proved he still had the talent to perform at the highest levels of professional racing, albeit under more relaxed circumstances. He was able to do it while still having fun. Having his brother by his side was something that made it all that much sweeter.

It brings us to the inevitable question: Does Morton aspire to make a return to the WorldTour?

“This is the first year that I’ve thought about it again,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I miss it, but I’ve still got aspirations of returning, and there are races I want to do and things I want to do at the highest level of cycling. I’d love to ride the Tour de France one day. I’d love to race against the world’s best consistently. But at the same time I’m having so much fun here — as I say, I don’t miss the WorldTour. But I think I’d know how to do it better now. I’d be able to set up an environment there where I could perform, and that’s one thing I haven’t done yet in cycling. I definitely wouldn’t rule it out given the right circumstance.”

But first, there’s the Tour of California. He has something yet to prove. He has goals he wants to reach. He has a bike race to race, where anything is possible.

“If I get the opportunity to race with the legs I know I’ve got, without any bad luck, that’d be a successful Tour of California,” he said. “I think I’ve got a good performance in me, and if I can get that out and show it then it’ll be a successful race. At this point, I’d be disappointed if I was outside the top 10. If the stars align, I think I’ve got the form to get on the podium. But it’s bike racing, so I’ve got to go out there and do it.”

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Degenkolb just happy to be a cyclist again http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/05/news/road/degenkolb-just-happy-to-be-a-cyclist-again_405763 http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/05/news/road/degenkolb-just-happy-to-be-a-cyclist-again_405763#comments Sat, 14 May 2016 20:23:43 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=405763

Sprinter and classics star John Degenkolb was among the marquee names at the Amgen Tour of California's pre-race press conference Friday. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

John Degenkolb is gearing up for the Amgen Tour of California, his first stage race appearance of the year

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Sprinter and classics star John Degenkolb was among the marquee names at the Amgen Tour of California's pre-race press conference Friday. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

San Diego, California (VN) – John Degenkolb will take the start of the Amgen Tour of California not as a favorite for overall victory, perhaps not even as a favorite for a stage win, but simply as someone who is thankful to be alive, and to be able to race his bike again.

On January 23, the classics star was among six Giant – Alpecin teammates struck head-on by a car during a training ride in southern Spain. Injuries across the six ranged from broken bones to severe contusions, but Degenkolb was among the worst affected, suffering deep cuts to his face, arm, and leg, and nearly losing his left index finger. After a long recovery with surgeries in Spain and Germany, and after failing to finish in his first foray back to competition at the one-day Rund um den Finanzplatz Eschborn-Frankfurt on May 1, Degenkolb will make the start in San Diego on Sunday.

“I’m feeling good again,” Degenkolb says. “First of all, I’m very happy to be here because I’ve had some pretty tough months behind me now. I’m happy to start my first stage race. I just have to see how it goes … in Frankfurt I was okay, but I wasn’t able to finish so I hope I can stay in the race here. It’s a tough course so it will be really hard.”

Degenkolb was one of the last Giant – Alpecin riders to return to competition. Chad Haga fractured his eye socket, returned in March, and is currently racing the Giro d’Italia. Warren Barguil broke a scaphoid, and came back for the Volta a Catalunya in March. Max Walscheid is still recovering from a fractured hand and tibia, and has not raced so far in 2016.

The accident sidelined Degenkolb, the defending champion at Milano-Sanremo and Paris-Roubaix, and took the air out of Giant – Alpecin’s northern classics campaign. The delay in his return to competition was about overcoming both physical and psychological barriers.

“It was a horrible crash and of course that affects your performance on the bike, but also how you get back on the bike,” he says. “I was pretty scared before I did my first ride in traffic outside again. It turned out to be quite normal, luckily. I think it was the right moment — I didn’t go out too early. Your body and your mind need to finish the process and in the end I’m happy to be a cyclist again. Of course, I’m happy to be alive, but also just happy to again be living the dream to be a cyclist. That’s very important for me.”

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Reviewed: Enve SES 2.2 wheels http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/05/bikes-and-tech/reviewed-enve-ses-2-2-wheels_402932 http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/05/bikes-and-tech/reviewed-enve-ses-2-2-wheels_402932#comments Tue, 03 May 2016 16:42:46 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=402932

The rear wheel was noticeably flexy both on the road and in the lab. Photo: Brad Kaminski | VeloNews

Enve's SES 2.2 wheels are great for climbers, but they aren't quite stiff enough to justify their steep price.

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The rear wheel was noticeably flexy both on the road and in the lab. Photo: Brad Kaminski | VeloNews

“Exceptionally light climbing wheels ideal for the weight weenie.”

Score: 6.8/10
Price: $3,500
Weight: 1,350 grams (620 grams front/740 grams rear)
Rim type: Tubeless-ready
Rim depth: 25mm front and rear
Rim width: 18.5mm front and rear (internal)
Spoke count: 20 front/24 rear

Enve’s blacked-out SES 2.2 wheels are sleek and ultra light, thanks in part to the company’s new carbon hubs that weigh in at a paltry 232 grams for the pair. The hubs are full carbon and each spoke hole is molded with continuous carbon fibers, rather than drilled. This helps create a strong, incredibly light hub. DT Swiss provides the internals with its ratchet drive mechanism.

The look is gorgeous and the hubs will make you drool. At $3,500 for the pair, our expectations were high — near perfect, in fact. So how do the wheels ride?

Out of the saddle, there was a small amount of brake rub from the rear wheel. Acceleration was adequately snappy, but they still don’t have the effortless feel of the best tubulars. Compared to other clinchers in this price range, the Enves are below the best, but not by much. Still, for the price, these wheels should be perfect.

Testing conducted at Microbac Laboratories revealed that the front wheel was plenty stiff (the stiffest, in fact, when tested against the Bontrager Aeolus 3 TLR D3 clinchers, Shimano Dura-Ace WH-9000-C24-CL, and Campagnolo Bora Ultra 35). Surprisingly, the rear wheel came close to last in stiffness. The wheels also came in last in our inertia test, where weight distribution has a huge impact on how much energy it takes to get a wheel spinning. Translation: The rear wheel does not spin up as fast as its competitors, so you work harder to get going.

On the road, once the 2.2s are rolling, they’re easy to keep spinning. Combined with their light weight, that makes them nice on lengthy climbs. They’re tubeless-ready, too, which is a bonus. But Enve’s climbing wheels never approached the perfection we expected at this price.

Gram counters and featherweight climbers can find much to love about the Enve SES 2.2s, but given their numbers, we’d have a hard time recommending them over something like the Shimano C24s, which performed as well or better in our tests and cost roughly one-third as much. These are your best bet if the grams count more than blast-forward responsiveness.

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Why not? The story behind Speedplay http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/02/news/why-not-the-story-behind-speedplay_393676 http://velonews.competitor.com/2016/02/news/why-not-the-story-behind-speedplay_393676#comments Tue, 02 Feb 2016 19:15:41 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=393676

Richard Byrne with his prototype pedal and a Speedplay Zero model. Photo: Brad Kaminski | VeloNews.com

Speedplay founder Richard Bryne has spent most of his life looking for problems to solve — any way he can.

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Richard Byrne with his prototype pedal and a Speedplay Zero model. Photo: Brad Kaminski | VeloNews.com

If you’ve ever heard Richard Bryne’s name, you probably associate it with pedals. The founder of Speedplay — and still the only designer the company has ever had on staff — has spent most of the past 30 years obsessing over the ways riders attach their feet to their bikes. He has a historic collection of more than 300 pairs of pedals, which he says is the most complete collection in the world. There are all sorts of both strange and predictable iterations of the concept. But none of them look like Bryne’s signature product — the revolutionary lollipop Speedplay X that, admit it, you probably hated the first time you saw.

The X was jarring because nearly everything we associated with existing clipless pedals — the springs and tensioning hardware — was housed in its cleat. That allowed the X to be two-sided, since the only thing that had to be attached to the bike was a small platform for the cleat to snap onto. But the X came out in 1991, when clipless pedals were still relatively new, and the only ones anyone had seen looked like ski bindings attached to bike cranks (which they essentially were). That a pedal could be so small seemed impossible. In fact, Bryne had to bring the X to market himself after 22 different companies turned down his offer to let them license the design.

But anyone who knows Bryne, 62, would understand exactly why his approach to the road pedal was not a variation on existing designs but a complete, bottom-up rethinking of how the whole process should work. He is an indefatigable tinkerer who will spend years on a single problem, trying myriad approaches until he finds something that works. If the best solution is something outlandish, so be it. “I’m not happy until I’m happy,” Bryne says. “And hopefully other people will be happy when I’m happy.”

His is the approach of an engineer, rather than a product developer, and it explains why, seven years after announcing his Syzr mountain bike pedal, Bryne is only just now bringing that product to market, with a design that looks nothing like the prototypes he displayed at the 2010 Interbike tradeshow.

“It took five years of beating my head against the wall, trying to get this to work,” Bryne says. “The Syzr was the most frustrating design challenge I’ve ever been involved in. It is a really, really tricky thing. Because of people’s expectations of what it should do, it was the hardest thing to get to work — so much harder than anything else I’ve ever done.”

That’s saying a lot, because in addition to the X and Syzr, what Bryne has done includes piloting a human-powered vehicle to victory at the 1983 international speed competition, inventing the stationary trainer and a precursor to the aero bar, and creating a bike whose geometry, including the seat post angle, could be changed on the fly.

“His mind never stops, ever,” says Bryne’s wife, Sharon Worman, who also happens to be his boss, in her role as president of Speedplay. “He’s very dedicated to finding solutions. If he thinks he can make something better or create something that’s missing, then that desire carries him. Thriving on those challenges are a really big part of what makes him tick. It’s an innate curiosity that is just in his nature.”

One summer day in 1979, while riding laps at the San Diego Velodrome, Bryne was asked to audition to become the pilot of a human-powered vehicle. The bike, a three-wheeled arm-and-leg-powered prone recumbent housed inside a missile-shaped shell, had been designed and built by a man named Steve Ball, a San Diego mechanical engineer who had a fascination with speed and human power. Though Bryne won the right only to be the pilot, Ball’s anything-goes approach to problem solving would end up changing the course of his life.

“Steve didn’t have any background in cycling,” Bryne says. “The cycling I found before I met him was a very defined world — there were rules for frame geometry and there were rules from the last 100 years. And people didn’t like to see those things change. It was extremely conservative. And he came in with the only goal being to go faster than anybody else. He didn’t have any conservative traditional constraints. He was completely open to finding any meat on the bone, any area he could find for improvement.”

Over the next seven years, Bryne and Ball were fixated on the human-powered vehicles, including a human-powered hovercraft. In Ball’s garage, Bryne would watch over his mentor’s shoulder as he worked and reworked the designs. He learned how to use a mill and lathe and how to weld. He was able to pilot the other vehicles built by fellow hobbyists and inspect how those were crafted. For someone who hadn’t even finished junior college, it was as if he was suddenly double majoring in industrial design and philosophy — not just how to make stuff, but how to see the world and embrace challenges.

“I got to hang out with one guy,” Bryne says. “Steve taught me everything I know about design and engineering. It was more of an apprenticeship than it was a traditional engineering environment. He taught me how to use a machine shop, how to weld, and those were key ingredients in fabricating.”

During this time, while still racing on the track, Bryne began working with non-traditional bike geometries that would, he felt, allow the human body to produce more power. “I noticed whenever I was trying to put out maximum power, I ended up almost going off the nose of the saddle,” he says. “I was just guessing that my body was trying to get more power in that position.”

This led him to create the Ouija, a bike whose geometry could be adjusted on the fly. (The multi-directional adjustability that is a hallmark of Speedplay pedals has been a Bryne approach for decades.) Among the Ouija’s innovations was a floating seat tube whose angle could be moved in relation to the bottom bracket.

When a knee injury switched his focus from racing to coaching, Bryne began working with a talented young track athlete named Jim Elliott and put him on the Ouija. They discovered that by rotating the bottom bracket back in order to push the pelvis downward and open up the hip angle, Elliot could produce and sustain much more power. Based on those insights, Bryne built a bike with a radical 81.5-degree seat tube angle, which Elliot used to break the world 24-hour record. His 502-mile ride bettered the previous mark by 9.5 percent.

Elliot next set his sights on the Race Across America (RAAM). Since he had difficulty holding an aero position, Bryne — with help from friend and frame builder Bill Holland — built a place for Elliott to rest his upper body using two drop bars and forearm supports. In retrospect, Bryne says, they created the world’s first aero bars. There aren’t any photos to prove him wrong, though years later Scott USA benefited from a design they licensed from Boone Lennon, the head coach of the U.S. alpine ski team at that time, who received a patent for aero bars in 1988.

Still, there’s no question that, whether or not someone else had had the same idea earlier, Bryne’s aero bars, which he never commercialized, were a product of nothing more than his own drive and curiosity.

In 1985, Bryne looked to commercialize his 81.5-degree geometry concepts by partnering with Holland to launch Scepter. But the resulting bikes proved to be too bizarre to catch on. “Even the customers that bought the bikes said they were getting so much [negative] feedback from their friends that they wanted us to build them traditional frames,” Bryne says.

After forays into race promotion and even founding a company that made modular fencing for crowd control, Bryne still felt the tug of the bike industry.

“I was trying to think of an opening in the cycling market for some technological exploitation that would be marketable,” he says. “When clipless pedals started becoming popular, I started looking at the designs critically and seeing how I could improve upon them.”

He turned to Ball for help. The two made a prototype pedal — milled from an aluminum billet — that showed promise but that was too big to be practical. So they put the blue prints on a Xerox machine, whose only reduction setting — 77 percent — established the size of Speedplay’s road pedals. “It ended up working perfectly for what I wanted for the second generation. And so it’s still that size today,” says Bryne.

The double-sided lollipop was born.

Next up was the cleat. As with most good cycling innovations, inspiration struck while Bryne was out for a ride. He reasoned a layered cleat system would allow for the adjustability he sought, by creating a composition that allowed for the independent fore-aft and lateral fine-tuning that are now core to Speedplay.

As had been the case with the Scepter bike, the market proved resistant to such a radical departure from the norm. After those 22 different companies turned down the opportunity to license the X design in 1991, Worman suggested they do it themselves.

The couple sought advice from Larry Carlson, a friend who ran the aluminum division at Easton. That company had introduced aluminum baseball bats into the market only to see vehement opposition before consumers finally started buying them. Carlson told Bryne and Worman that patience would be key, as big innovations often took time to catch on.

“We just fastened our seat belts knowing it was going to be a long lead up for these things,” Bryne says. “I think he was right. It takes the market time to adapt.”

Bryne has faced no greater challenge than the design of the Syzr, Speedplay’s re-entry into the mountain bike realm. (He patented the Speedplay Frog all-terrain pedal in 1992.)

The problem he set out to solve with the Syzr, he says, was the way all other mountain-bike pedal systems rely on the shoes’ rubber lugs to support and stabilize what are otherwise very loose engagements between pedal and cleat. That means a loss of power transfer. Bryne wanted to deliver the direct engagement — and improved efficiency — of road pedals in a design that could work in the dirt and muck of off-road riding. And he also wanted it to offer the adjustability that Speedplay is known for.

“I was pretty much the crash-test dummy for the project,” he says. “Though I was working on a bunch of other products at that time — the aero pedal, the walkable cleat, the Brass Knuckles — that was the one that was causing me the most grief. The Syzr was supposed to be the first product out of the assembly line, but it ended up being almost the last one.”

His biggest hurdle was that in wet conditions, and especially under load, steel surfaces bond with each other. Existing designs combated this by incorporating play into the design or by using soft brass cleats, which don’t bond with steel pedals but which also wear out more quickly.

In 2010, Bryne thought he was close enough to a solution — a special coating that prevented the surfaces from bonding — that he could announce his project to the world, which he did in a big way at that year’s Interbike trade show. He admits now that that was a big mistake. The problem was that the coating — along with several subsequent coatings — proved not to be very durable. After a few rides in muddy conditions, it would wear off, and everything would start getting locked up again.

“I like to look at what other people have done and evaluate where the opportunity is,” he says. “And the opportunity with mountain bike pedals was a big one. It came down to a lucky connection to ceramics that I had in the past. I thought, ‘What if I just try this?’”

The Syzr pedal that Bryne has finally brought to market looks a lot like the original Shimano 737 SPD, though with retention at the front, instead of at the rear. But the similarities end there. The revolutionary cleat consists of two concentric plates, one fixed to the shoe with the other rotating around it. This second plate engages with the pedal, while two V-shaped guides facilitate the pedal-cleat connection. And to solve the seizing problems that Bryne was so concerned about, he added four ceramic “rollers” to help alleviate metal-on-metal friction and allow for more consistent release.

Bryne admits there is a learning period to adapt to the feel of the pedal. It could be an instant hit, or it could flop. Or it could just be that, as was the case with the X, it will take seven years to catch on.

But if anything, Bryne has proven to be patient and thorough. He credits that, in part, to something Bill Holland told him when they decided they wanted to try to make the world’s lightest bike.

“I asked, ‘How are we going to do this?’” Bryne recalls. “He said, ‘You start at one end, and you don’t stop until you get to the other end.’ And that’s how you do these things. You uncover every stone. You don’t overlook anything, because it all matters.”

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Amateur hour: The ultimate laboratory http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/11/news/track/amateur-hour-the-ultimate-laboratory_389285 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/11/news/track/amateur-hour-the-ultimate-laboratory_389285#comments Mon, 16 Nov 2015 13:49:52 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=389285

The full account of managing editor Chris Case's attempt to ride his own hour record — from tech, to physiology, to pacing, to psychology.

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Sitting in with Fabian Cancellara http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/10/news/sitting-in-with-fabian-cancellara_387647 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/10/news/sitting-in-with-fabian-cancellara_387647#comments Wed, 14 Oct 2015 13:18:12 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=387647

Fabian Cancellara's season was far from perfect, with crashes and injuries disrupting his racing. Photo: Iri Greco | BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com

After arguably his worst-ever season, Cancellara reflects on his career, world championships, and his role as one of the peloton's patrons.

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Fabian Cancellara's season was far from perfect, with crashes and injuries disrupting his racing. Photo: Iri Greco | BrakeThrough Media | brakethroughmedia.com

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the October issue of Velo magazine.

Fabian Cancellara climbed off his bike and into the team car — another abandoned race. This season, it had become an unfortunate routine.

The swiss strongman suffered his way through the first road stage at the Vuelta a España, and began stage 3 pale and weak. With 37 kilometers remaining, struggling more than 30 minutes behind the peloton and outside of the time limit, his illness won the battle. Another chance to rebuild form was dashed before it even began.

For Cancellara, it was a continuation of a nightmarish season, forced out of his second straight grand tour only three days in. He abandoned the Tour de France after breaking two vertebrae in a high-speed crash on stage 3. Unbelievably, it wasn’t the first time he had broken his back in 2015. In March, he broke two vertebrae at E3 Harelbeke, eliminating him from his season’s biggest targets, the cobbled classics.

VeloNews caught up with Cancellara on the eve of his Vuelta start, to discuss his legacy, his frustration over repeated injury, and his status within the peloton.

After so many ups and downs this season, you must be incredibly frustrated.

It’s not frustration. It was not an easy year. I woke up sick after Oman; I had to take a rest there. Then I crashed at E3 and I had to take a rest. Then in the Tour de Suisse I got sick, and I suffered a lot. Then I went to the Tour de France and I won again and I crashed again. That is what is on the table, and I have to live with that. It is definitely not easy. I had some tough times. That is not a secret. An athlete doesn’t want to sit in bed looking at the ceiling or lounge outside counting the stars. I want to ride my bike, and I want to enjoy and suffer on my bike but not in the way [I’ve suffered].

Do the many setbacks you’ve had this year make you push retirement back another year?

No, no, no. I am working on it already. [Injuries] could happen next year, it could happen anywhere. What I’m doing now at the Vuelta is not just about what is coming at the end of the year, but it is also important for next year. Crashing out doesn’t motivate me more. I have always said I want to stop on the highest level that I can stop, and not just be cruising around. That is not what motivates me.

Another thing: I can choose this by myself, which is also nice. Because in the end, there’s always a second life. Cycling is not everything in life. It’s always part of my life now, but there is always another part of my life. This I see now, and it is always important to see. Yeah, life could be over in just a couple of seconds like in the Tour. I could not ride my bike, and I had to suffer for more months and weeks to get back. I saw fast the reality there, but I think of course the motivation and will are important.

It’s as if you’ve had three off-seasons and returns this year. How did you do it? It would have been easy to say ‘enough’ and sit out the rest of the year.

I had that in mind, but the thing is I am still fresh, still motivated, and I am still ready to go. It might be that [once the Vuelta starts] everything will be different and maybe I will come back to your question and say, ‘Hey, you were right. I don’t know what the hell I am doing here.’ And, mentally, I have to see how fresh and fit I am and how much suffering I can do.

But in the end we are just human. We are not machines. A machine you push a button. We humans have to push the pedals and the brain; the head is all about what’s there when you look in the mirror. That’s the reality.

The whole year was like this: If I was off the bike I had pain, and when I was on the bike I was suffering and trying to get back in shape. That’s why it was a tough year and a harder year than in 2012. In the end, I can’t change anything, and I can just go on.

In some ways it’s clear you’ve already begun to think about life after cycling. What do you want your legacy to be?

For me, what would be nice is for fans to like me how I was. For me to say I was the best here or the best there is not up to me — it’s up to the people. I still want to be supported by the people and in the hearts of people, and not to be forgotten as soon as I retire. Yeah, I am not Eddy Merckx. I am me. I never won the Tour de France, and we know the Tour de France is what gives you the biggest exposure. But in the end the Tour de France is not what it is all about. I am me, and that is what it is all about. I’m happy about what I achieved and proud of what I did. And this is what I try to do until the end of riding my bike — to get the best result and be remembered by the people.

Do you have any regrets about previous world championships?

Maybe Mendrisio [in 2009] was the world championships I threw away in the end. Mendrisio was the bad one. But in the end I won two classics. So I lost worlds, but on the other hand, is it now good or is it now bad? I saw it afterwards as a positive. It’s possible I may never win a world championship, but I have many other wins, so that’s better than a rider who may just win the world championships. Of course I would love to have all the wins I had in my mind, but it’s not that easy. And the older I get, the harder it gets.

If I stop cycling, and I haven’t won worlds, I won’t cry. Of course you’ll say Fabian hasn’t won worlds, but it is what it is. (Cancellara is a four-time world champion in the time trial -Ed.)

Was the fact that you were wearing the yellow jersey when you crashed on stage 3 of the Tour the only reason you got up and finished?

I was really hurting. I was in a world of pain but also a world of relief, because if you crash you want to stand up straightaway and go on, especially in this jersey. When we stopped, I said, ‘I’m not good.’ I felt straightaway this is the same kind of pain I had at the classics. We get up the climb and I went slowly back to the car and asked about some painkillers because I had some really high pain. But they tried to motivate me and keep me up. They said, ‘Okay you can stop the race.’ But I didn’t want to do it with this jersey. You know the jersey helps so much, gives you so much, and I tried to honor it and make it to the finish.

At 75kph, it’s not fun to crash out. Some people really didn’t believe that it was 75kph. I can be lucky I landed on the grass and not on asphalt. Just go in a car and jump out at 75kph; that’s how it feels at this speed. Yeah, it’s not fun, but even with the dangers, I am still alive. It’s amazing more actually didn’t happen.

In recent years you have become a leader in the peloton, a patron. You’ve spoken up when things aren’t to your satisfaction, when things aren’t safe. Is your position as a patron something you enjoy?

In the end there are situations where I am looking after myself and I am looking after cycling. Sometimes there are situations where it is okay for me, but it is not okay for cycling or for the riders. I am helping and standing up because when you are a leader of a team and you have won some races, people listen. It’s not the small riders that have to stand up for other riders. It has to be the bigger riders who win the big races because in the end we [are the ones who] can help in giving back. Of course, politics are not always easy, but if what happened this year in Oman [when a sandstorm threatened the safety of the racers] happened again, I would again stand up. I didn’t get shit, but I got comments. Safety first, and that is why I was pushing, pushing to find a solution, to a find a solution together. It’s never an ending; there is always a solution, but we have to find the solution together. This is cycling, and when everyone is [being egotistical] we are not going to move forward.

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A Case for Suffering: Amateur hour http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/10/news/track/a-case-for-suffering-amateur-hour_387109 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/10/news/track/a-case-for-suffering-amateur-hour_387109#comments Mon, 05 Oct 2015 13:45:59 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=387109

For Chris Case, the hour proved the perfect way to test the potential of man and machine — and the fastest way to hurt like never before.

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USAPC: Dennis wins stage 5 TT in Breckenridge http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/08/news/road/usapc-dennis-takes-stage-5-tt-in-breckenridge_382136 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/08/news/road/usapc-dennis-takes-stage-5-tt-in-breckenridge_382136#comments Fri, 21 Aug 2015 22:54:31 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=382136

Rohan Dennis (BMC) went for a bigger gear on his screaming descent off Boreas Pass. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing) extended his overall lead after winning the stage 5 time trial in Breckenridge

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Rohan Dennis (BMC) went for a bigger gear on his screaming descent off Boreas Pass. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

Rohan Dennis blazed to the win on stage 5 of the USA Pro Challenge, tackling the 8.5-mile time trial course in 18:11:23. He extended his lead in the general classification to 44 seconds over teammate Brent Bookwalter, while Canadian Rob Britton (SmartStop) rose in the overall standings to third, sitting at 1:31 back from the Australian.

“I felt worse today [at the bottom of Moonstone Road] than I did yesterday, that’s for sure,” Dennis said. “I got to the bottom of it and it’s about four minutes and I said, ‘you just gotta pace yourself here.’ You can only gain three or four seconds on the descent so really whoever gets to the top the fastest wins.”

Dennis crested the climb some 36 seconds faster than the rest of the field, allowing him to take caution on the steep and twisting finishing kilometers back to downtown Breckenridge.

Top 10, stage 4

1. Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing), in 18:11:23
2. Rob Britton (SMartStop), at 0:27
3. Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing), at 0:31
4. Dan Eaton (Axeon), at 0:38
5. Gavin Mannion (Jelly Belly), at 0:39
6. Taylor Phinney, (BMC Racing), at 0:39
7. Tao Geoghegan Hart (Axeon), at 0:47
8. Lachlan Norris (Drapac), at 0:48
9. Jack Bobridge (Budget Forklifts), at 0:48
10. Nathan Brown (Cannondale-Garmin), at 1:07

 

Top 10, overall

1. Rohan Dennis (BMC Racing)
2. Brent Bookwalter (BMC Racing), at 0:44
3. Rob Britton (SmartStop), at 1:31
4. Gavin Mannion (Jelly Belly), at 1:49
5. Lachlan Morton (Jelly Belly), at 1:53
6. Tao Geoghegan Hart (Axeon), at 1:58
7. Lachlan Norris (Drapac), at 2:02
8. Toms Skujins (Hincapie Racing), at 2:08
9. Hugh Carthy (Caja Rural), at 2:13
10. Julien Bernard (Trek Factory Racing), at 2:14

 

A number of early riders bested one another in succession before Jack Bobridge (Budget Forklifts) became the first rider to go under 19 minutes, doing so by a mere second, with a time of 18:59.

Bobridge’s time would not last long, as stage 1 winner Taylor Phinney (BMC Racing) bested Bobridge by nine seconds, finishing in 18:50.

But Phinney’s best time would not last much longer, as Dan Eaton of the development squad Axeon Cycling stunned the field and went one second faster than Phinney, the two-time national time trial champion.

“Honestly, I wasn’t expecting that at all,” Eaton said. “I came into the day feeling good, my teammates were confident in me, especially after my ride yesterday when I was able to make the front group. So, I was feeling confident on Moonstone [Road]. I really feel like I paced it right. I hit the climb with everything I had and pretty much exploded at the top. ”

The young guns continued to set searing times, with Gavin Mannion (Jelly Belly) coming in one second back from Eaton, in 18:51.

Soon after, Rob Britton (SmartStop) established a new best time at 18:38.

“We knew the uphill finish on stage 2 and this stage were the only real selective stages,” Britton said. “I’ve been riding my time trail bike a lot, been warming down on it every day just so that I was comfortable on it, and I felt really good this morning.”

Dennis was the last to start, but caught and passed Rob Squire (SmartStop) on the climb of Moonstone Road, erasing the two-minute advantage he had at the start in under six miles.

Squire finished 2:42 down, the last rider to finish the race, falling outside the top 10 overall.

“It wasn’t great by any means but, hey, I still finished, I think I’m still inside time-cut,” Squire said with a laugh. “I’m here to fight another day.”

On Saturday, the men’s peloton will ride 102 miles from Loveland to Fort Collins, a route that includes a difficult climb up Rist Canyon, which tops out some 33 miles before the finish. A few uncategorized climbs on the roads to Fort Collins will offer a launching pad before the finish downtown.

On his chances to keep his podium position, Britton was cautious.

“Tomorrow there are still opportunities for anything to happen, it’s not straightforward,” he said. “Yesterday Cannondale put the race into the gutter quickly, and if the wind had been a few degrees more crosswind than it could have been a heck of a lot more damage. I don’t’ think tomorrow will be a walk in the park, it’s last day to shake things up.”

Neal Rogers contributed to this report from Breckenridge.

 

 

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Cycling to extremes http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/cycling-to-extremes_379937 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/07/news/cycling-to-extremes_379937#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 12:45:25 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=379937

Are endurance athletes hurting their hearts by repeatedly pushing themselves beyond what is normal? Velo takes a closer look.

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Outback and beyond: Lachlan Morton returns to pro racing http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/05/velolife/outback-and-beyond-lachlan-morton-returns-to-pro-racing_369050 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/05/velolife/outback-and-beyond-lachlan-morton-returns-to-pro-racing_369050#comments Wed, 06 May 2015 12:13:44 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=369050

When talented young Morton became disenchanted with the European peloton, he rode to the center of the Australian outback with his brother

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A Case for Suffering: The Heroic http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/04/a-case-for-suffering/a-case-for-suffering-the-heroic_366801 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/04/a-case-for-suffering/a-case-for-suffering-the-heroic_366801#comments Fri, 17 Apr 2015 12:29:46 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=366801

Eroica California is a celebration of the golden age of cycling, an event in which the beauty of fatigue and the taste of accomplishment can be acutely experienced. It is modeled after L'Eroica, the original vintage cycling event held among the rolling hills and white gravel roads of the Chianti region of Italy since 1997. Here, Chris Case stands beside a 1969 Alfa Romeo Giulia 1300 TI, with his borrowed orange De Rosa mounted to the roof rack, near the top of Cypress Mountain, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Photo: Chris Case | VeloNews.com

Chris Case takes on the challenging terrain of Eroica California, and learns something of what it was to ride in the golden age of cycling

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Eroica California is a celebration of the golden age of cycling, an event in which the beauty of fatigue and the taste of accomplishment can be acutely experienced. It is modeled after L'Eroica, the original vintage cycling event held among the rolling hills and white gravel roads of the Chianti region of Italy since 1997. Here, Chris Case stands beside a 1969 Alfa Romeo Giulia 1300 TI, with his borrowed orange De Rosa mounted to the roof rack, near the top of Cypress Mountain, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Photo: Chris Case | VeloNews.com

Editor’s note: Velo managing editor Chris Case is on a quest to ride and race the most fascinating and challenging cycling events around the world. Follow his journey on Instagram and Twitter: @chrisjustincase. Questions or concerns for his well-being? Send him a note.

The light was flickering like an antique cinema projector, hazy shafts of sun casting down upon the dirt double track, through the thick canopy of a hollow, secluded canyon.

Light. Shadow. Light. Shadow. Flick, flick, flick.

This was my vision, out of focus in the noontime light, but there nonetheless: Coppi, climbing, crouched into a coil of potential energy, his long nose guiding him like an unstoppable ship.

This was what flashed before my eyes and through my mind while climbing Cypress Canyon — far from Gaiole in Chianti, or the Strade Bianche, the birthplace of the original L’Eroica — inside this perforated tunnel of trees near the Central Coast of California.

This was Eroica California. Part Italy. Part America. A Civil War reenactment for cycling, brought to the shores of the Pacific Ocean.

Find yourself a bike, and be sure it was made before 1987, complete with downtube shifters, toe clips, and external cable routing into the hoods. Find yourself a jersey, make sure it’s wool, and preferably plastered with an Italian surname. Get your black shorts, your bright white socks, and a “hairnet” helmet if you can. You’re ready for Eroica (the events outside of Gaiole, of which there are now four, one each in California, Japan, England, and Spain, all go by the title Eroica, and the original remains L’Eroica, or “The Heroic”).

The day before I had been handed a Crayola orange De Rosa, the bottom bracket recently returned to a state of function, the tubular glue still wafting through the air as I re-familiarized myself with the art of kicking into a set of toe clips. For period-correct footwear, there are a few options to choose from, assuming you don’t have 25-year-old shoes decaying in your closet. I chose a classic black pair from Vittoria’s Line 1976 — Italian-made leather which I wore with pleasure, both because of the yesteryear styling and the out-of-the-box comfort.

The bike harkened back to an era of racing that predates my birth; luckily, it fit like Ugo De Rosa made it himself to my specifications. And, authentic to the epoch, the tubulars were narrow (22mm), the gearing constrained (53-42 in front, a six-speed, 12-26 cassette in the rear, which offered a wider range than the original equipment would have), and the braking rather grim.

It was time to conjure the spirit of Coppi and Bartali, Géminiani, and Merckx.

We set off in the Champagne air of a Paso Robles morning, perched upon antique steel before the sun had had a chance to rise. If you squinted, you could take yourself back to another time, the darkness aiding in the imagining of a bygone bicycling script. Hunched, rocking bodies atop clicking-clacking machines. Old cables, friction shifters, cold fingers. The hypnotic silhouettes of symmetric, contouring combs of vines.

If you wanted to be in Italy, you were.

By sunrise, we had reached the first checkpoint — if you were heroic enough to take on the 127-mile route, this was the first of five checkpoints where you received a stamp confirming your arrival — amid the olive trees of Olea Farm. Breakfast would be nothing other than Belgian fries cooked in luscious olive oil, sprinkled with Himalayan salt. Ketchup and salsa for your pleasure. Big bowls of olive oil and spices lined long tables beside sliced baguettes.

A glorious day was upon us. Until it wasn’t. Pfft, pfft, pfft. Air, under pressure, evacuating through a tiny hole, intermittently interrupted by the revolutions of the wheel. Mile 40.

If, like me, you aren’t a part of the generation that rode “sew-ups” to train on, puncturing a tubular far from anywhere is a requirement for understanding the spirit of L’Eroica, a ride back through time when hard was harder and long was longer.

This is when my new friend and riding mate Chuck Teixeira became my impromptu guide to the essence of 1974. It isn’t that changing a tubular on the side of the road is difficult, but there is comfort in having someone who has done it hundreds of times beside you, if only to convince you that riding for another 90 miles isn’t suicidal.

No glue? Use that rear brake to heat up the rim, melt some fumes, and get one percent more adhesion through the magic of thermal dynamics. Or so he told me.

Given the ramshackle state of the spare tire that was affixed beneath my saddle, (something I didn’t realize until it was too late), I could only cling to the paradoxical premise that an old tire that was beat to hell but still kicking was a sturdy tire that had put up with a lot of shit and was ready for more.

It can be done, trust me, said Chuck’s poise. I was less alarmed at the insanity of riding glueless as I was incredulous at the adoption of clincher technology. So what if you died around the next bend, changing tubulars was efficient. Rip one off, slide one on. Just try not to turn that much.

This is when Chuck told me about the first time he rode tubulars. At the mid-point in this particular out-and-back century, he pulled into the parking lot to turn around and head home. It had been straight roads all day, until now. In front of the gathered crowd, he turned, both the tires slid off, and he crumpled to the ground. He rode gingerly back the 50 miles to the finish, bloody and embarrassed. But he always remembered to glue his tubulars to his rims after that.

We set off down the winding roads, my front tire cozily bonded, my shoddy rear spare, complete with cuts in the sidewall and tumors beneath the tread, merely lounging around a whirling hoop, ready and waiting to drift off.

The roads eventually led us to our next checkpoint, amid the forest on the lower slopes of Cypress Mountain. From here, we were headed over the Coast Range on a rustic back road, complete with 20 percent grades, and, ultimately, paradisiac views of the Pacific Ocean.

But paradise would have to wait a while. Tubular eruption number two. Mile 60.

Things just got a bit more difficult. I had no more tires. But I had Chuck, who insisted I take his spare.

“No way! I’ll figure something out. I can’t take that from you,” I said.

“Yes, come on, take it. It’s a long walk out and it’s good karma for me,” he said. Then he set off on his immaculate Teledyne Titan, all 16 pounds of early titanium technology and “Drillium” trimmings, up the climb, knowing I’d likely catch him by the top.

While I sat there in the sun, peeling another tubular off and tossing another on, the flies buzzing and the soil parched, absorbing the scenery and the circumstances, I could only think of one thing: bike racers from long ago. Eugène Christophe and the Pyrenean blacksmith shop, forging forks to ride on. The absurd number of miles and the frequency of mechanical misadventures that defined the early years of racing. All alone; figure it out; ride on.

I rode on. And 200 meters up the road, I was standing next to Chuck again.

This time, it was Chuck who had punctured. “I’m going to need that tire back, Chris.”

We laughed; it was not our day. We considered the options; it seemed my day was about to get a bit longer, a bit harder. The only way out of this jam was to walk or ride my way up the steepest climb of the day, with one good tire and a very small cluster of gears. I leaned my bike against the edge of a dilapidated bridge and took a photo of its knackered state.

“That’s it, make the most of it, Chris,” Chuck said as he drifted away into the distance.

This was a bike ride; I was riding this bike. And it was going to get me to at least the top of this climb, maybe farther. Then, I’d figure something out.

Riding on a flat tire on dirt isn’t too hard; you just have to mind the off-camber switchbacks that can peel the tire from the rim and into your brakes. And try not to hit every rock since this isn’t your bike. True to the spirit of the golden age of cycling, steep just became steeper.

Though I held out hope that I would eventually find a solution to carry on with two intact tires, I also reasoned there was a good chance I was nearing the end of my inaugural Eroica. I drilled it. I passed a lonely figure who grumbled at my rate of ascension. “I’m lighter since I have less air in my tires than you…” I yelled when I was already past him, trying to be gentlemanly about it all.

And then I saw it. The vaporous haze of Pacific Ocean views. A water station. People. Cars. Not a tubular in sight, and 13 sinuous miles of catastrophic tarmac between me and the town of Cambria.

Hero status would have to wait until next time.

The gathered support staff snapped photos of me. Maybe I looked as depleted as Octave Lapize as he crested the Tourmalet in 1910 and famously screamed “Murderers!” to the gathered officials. Or, I’d like to think, maybe I struck as handsome a figure as Anquetil after a fifth Tour victory.

In any case, I was offered a ride down the mountain. My riding time was through.

Jim was the proud owner of the most appropriate sag wagon there could be for this day: a 1969 Alfa Romeo Giulia 1300 TI, adorned with a checkered flag racing stripe, lowered and stiffened for racing, with one roof-rack tray and red vinyl seats.

I saluted the fine folks gathered at the aid station as I bid them arrivederci, and was promptly swooshed down the hill toward the sea, by a piece of historic Italian machinery.

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Q&A: L’Eroica founder Brocci brings golden age of cycling to California http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/qa-leroica-founder-brocci-brings-golden-age-of-cycling-to-california_364294 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/03/news/qa-leroica-founder-brocci-brings-golden-age-of-cycling-to-california_364294#comments Thu, 26 Mar 2015 21:39:01 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=364294

"L'Eroica means pedaling along peripheral roads which require dexterity and speed but which, at the same time, distance you from the pressure of the motorized world, make you look around, rediscover your surroundings and a healthy way of life." Photo: John Watson |TheRadavist.com

An interview with the iconoclastic founder of L'Eroica, Giancarlo Brocci, ahead of the first-ever Eroica California in Paso Robles

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"L'Eroica means pedaling along peripheral roads which require dexterity and speed but which, at the same time, distance you from the pressure of the motorized world, make you look around, rediscover your surroundings and a healthy way of life." Photo: John Watson |TheRadavist.com

L’Eroica started in 1997 because of one man, Giancarlo Brocci, who admired the values of cycling’s past so much that he wanted to reconnect others to that heritage, one inspired by Italian history, literature, culture, and music. L’Eroica also began as a foundation for the protection and preservation of the last gravel roads in Tuscany. The ride was born and held in and around the Chianti region, with 92 “hunters of feelings and emotions,” as Brocci calls them, at the first event.

Now, the charm and effort of riding a vintage bike over rolling country hills has spread throughout the world, including events in England, Spain, and Japan, and, this year, California.

On April 12, Paso Robles, California, will host Eroica California, taking advantage of the beautiful unpaved and paved roads through the vineyards, oak-studded rolling hills, and coastal mountain ranges of San Luis Obispo County in central California. It will be the first Eroica with an ocean view.

VeloNews spoke with founder Brocci (through a translator) to learn more about the event and the L’Eroica phenomenon.

VeloNews: Why L’Eroica? Why did the world need an event like this?
Giancarlo Brocci: Why L’Eroica? Because sport needs new, credible heroes, who awaken people’s enthusiasm.

L’Eroica, in today’s world, considering how sport has been molded to business, is a return to the deep roots of cycling, rediscovering the beauty in fatigue, getting back to real needs, like hunger and thirst, which must be satisfied, or being physically tired, as opposed to stressed.

L’Eroica means pedaling along peripheral roads which require dexterity and speed but which, at the same time, distance you from the pressure of the motorized world, make you look around, rediscover your surroundings and a healthy way of life.

L’Eroica today is also an opportunity to rethink the cycling of the future, the type of cycling that is capable of attracting people to a world of adventure and unexpected events, enterprise and crisis, and of champions that we can start to trust again.

VN: How did you decide on the rule that participants must ride bikes built prior to 1987?
GB: Bit by bit we adopted this rule to establish a selection criteria. Initially, all types of bikes could participate in L’Eroica, although prizes were only given to those taking part on vintage-style bikes. Then we excluded MTBs, and from 2009 modern bikes, reserving our event exclusively to “Heroic Bikes.” The year 1987 was chosen for various reasons, but basically, bikes participating in L’Eroica must have external brake cables, down-tube shifters, and pedals with toe straps.

Bianchi is creating a special model with these characteristics; “Bianchi for L’Eroica” will provide a vintage-style bike in modern sizes, especially for young people who often have difficulty finding old bikes that are suitable.

VN: What is the golden age of cycling, in your opinion? Is it in the past or future?
GB: For us Italians, the golden age of cycling coincides with the sporting duel of the century, between Gino Bartali and Fausto Coppi. Their rivalry told of a deep passion that involved and divided the whole country, well beyond the reaches of their battle on the road. Their victories also marked the rebirth of Italy in relation to the rest of the world, following World War II.

Here again the bike prevailed over the arrogance of the motor; cycling was on the front pages of all our newspapers and the feats of the cyclists, more recounted than witnessed, became legend overnight. Ask me about that era of cycling and you’ll get an obvious answer — the answer was the creation of L’Eroica. You must start from cycling’s amazing past if you wish to rebuild the future of this great sport.

It is no surprise that my idea to bring professional cycling to the white roads — obviously considered folly by the experts — was met with huge world acclaim: Strade Bianche [for professional riders] was followed by the Montalcino stage of the Giro d’Italia in 2010, and the inclusion of a cobblestoned stage in the Tour de France.

VN: Would you like today’s professionals to use less sophisticated bikes?
GB: Without exaggerating with the nostalgia, I think that something can be done to restore the original traits of cycling. I am not a great technical or mechanical expert, but I am happy to see that efforts are being made to stop hyper-technology from distorting an essentially beautiful vehicle. All too often, safety is sacrificed in the quest for speed and performance. It is also useful to remember that the Tour de France forbade the use of gears until 1937. Not putting limits on the use of gears leads to a type of uphill cycling that is in no way “historical” and is decidedly unromantic to watch.

VN: Who are your favorite professionals today? Is there anyone who reminds you of past greats? Are there any heroes in cycling today?
GB: I would say [Vincenzo] Nibali and [Fabio] Aru, because they are talented and they are both good and serious athletes; and [Fabian] Cancellara for his physique and showmanship.

Of course they could remind us of past greats but today’s cycling is in the hands of trainers and rule-makers: without asking them, it is difficult to understand when we’ll be able to rekindle our enthusiasm. We will end up losing interest and that is the worst thing that can happen to any passion.

The young pro cyclists of today are already heroes just by virtue of the fact that they have chosen such a difficult sport in the 21st century. [In the past, cycling] was a relatively easy choice for most people, as the choice was simply between various [difficult professions], and as the great Alfredo Martini once said, “At least cycling means that you get to eat in restaurants often.” Today, top-level cycling is not a need, it’s a vocation; cyclists should automatically be put on a pedestal.

But, those who manage today’s cyclists don’t want them to be heroes; restrained by the business of sport, [pro cyclists] receive highly specialized training to reach their “peak” performance; they get thinner and thinner, it’s terrible to watch, crazily pushed on by the power-to-weight ratio.

Let them eat! Introduce a minimum body weight. Then they will be attractive to watch again, and they will last more than one month a year. One of our L’Eroica mantras is: “From heroic cycling to the sweet life,” when cyclists were good-looking sex symbols, not to be pitied, like anorexic models or patients suffering from a chronic illness, queuing up for a drip.

VN: What’s your favorite thing about the bicycle?
GB: As a boy, my passion for cycling was brought to me by those around me, at the clubhouse by the old people of the village, because when there was a cycling race, there was always a party.

Then, when I went from reading about cycling to practicing the sport, my bicycle became a life companion, enabling me to discover slow tourism, a healthy lifestyle, a special sense of freedom, it helped me to lose weight — very gradually — I felt capable of great feats which were only valid in my own head. I still feel really young, although I’m now a grandfather. With good reason, the beautiful Gaiole in Chianti, my hometown and that of L’Eroica, was nominated by Forbes magazine as one of the “best places to live in the world.”

VN: The idea of L’Eroica has spread around the world. Where would you like to see it in the future?
GB: It is fantastic to see how many people, sharing the same values, also share the concept of L’Eroica. Participation is growing among young cyclists, women and English-speakers, exactly those who never knew this type of cycling. A real community is forming, of people who are happy to be together, sharing their experiences, feelings, and passion and, in some ways, a lifestyle.

After Japan and England, I went off to discover the wonderful roads around Paso Robles in California and those of the Rioja in Spain; like my own home where we have Chianti Classico and Brunello, these are also great wine regions offering gravel roads, without traffic and with breathtaking landscapes.

The future? The south of the world. I’ve seen a lot of it and it would be fantastic, during our winter, to cycle in the southern hemisphere, where cycling is younger and where it is easy to capture the idea of adventure and wide-open spaces. Where would I like to go? South Africa and Australia are the two objectives that seem closest; Argentina is my heart’s desire.

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Velo Magazine — Buyer’s Guide 2015 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/01/magazine/velo-magazine-buyers-guide-2015_358870 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/01/magazine/velo-magazine-buyers-guide-2015_358870#comments Wed, 21 Jan 2015 19:59:14 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=358870

If you're gearing up for spring riding, pick up a copy of the 2015 Velo Buyer's Guide to find the best bikes, clothing, and gear for 2015

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The best bikes and gear of 2015, all in one issue. The 2015 Velo Buyer’s Guide is on newsstands and in bike shops now.

The Velo tech crew of Caley Fretz and Logan VonBokel reviewed more than 125 products for the 2015 Buyer’s Guide, including helmets, shoes, jackets, packs, gadgets, and, of course, bikes.

They highlighted the best bikes across segments, from dream road bikes to full-suspension mountain bikes, road bikes built for climbing to workhorse steeds and everything in between. In addition, they took a look at the best gear and bikes for particular types of rides — have a look at our Editors’ Picks for climbs, gran fondos, singletrack, and snow.

Women’s bikes and gear are also scrutinized and analyzed, for both road and off-road adventures.

After selecting a dream bike, and the gear that every cyclist is drooling over, find out which rides or races you need to add to your bucket list. From La Ruta to Leadville, L’Etape to the Flanders Sportive, you’ll never be the same rider after any of these rides of a lifetime.

At the back, Dan Wuori describes the frightening symptoms of those suffering from Bike Fever. After reading this issue, you may need to consult with your physician on proper treatment protocols.

The 2015 Buyer’s Guide contains everything you need to know to find the best bike for you, the best gear for the type of riding you love best, and our picks for the bikes of the year, on the road and on the trails.

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Velo Magazine — February 2015 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/01/magazine/velo-magazine-february-2015_358653 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/01/magazine/velo-magazine-february-2015_358653#comments Tue, 20 Jan 2015 22:22:58 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=358653

Take a look at the ever-changing sport of cycling: Morton's journey within, Phinney's road to recovery, a domestic racing crisis, and more

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The sport of cycling is all about change, whether you’re a pro or a Joe. You’re constantly trying to improve, forcing yourself to ride faster, longer, higher than you have before.

That’s the theme of the February issue, our first-ever Crossroads Issue. We focus on the riders and races — the very structure of the sport itself — that are currently in a state of flux.

In the weeks before this issue went to press, the sport’s biggest stakeholders assembled in Paris to devise a new structure to the WorldTour, a plan that will drastically change the race calendar, the size of pro teams, and the number of races held. Andrew Hood explores these proposals.

Closer to home, the domestic road racing scene is shrinking, as elite amateur teams face sponsorship issues amid the disappearance of high-level national events. It’s a vicious cycle that threatens to cut off the all-important grassroots development of the sport; collegiate racer Max Nagel dives into the reasons behind the exodus.

One of the biggest obstacles the sport faces is its lost credibility, due to never-ending doping scandals. It’s a topic that has been synonymous with pro cycling for decades, but never more so than in the last 10 years, and it’s a topic that overlaps several stories in this issue. Recently, non-sanctioned events have begun taking matters into their own hands, barring any rider who has served a doping suspension from participating. Caley Fretz takes a deep look at the new phenomenon. Later in the issue, Dan Wuori pens a heartfelt letter to UCI president Brian Cookson, asking him to show true leadership in the wake of Astana’s controversial WorldTour license decision.

While the sport looks to find its way forward, American Taylor Phinney looks to find his way back from a catastrophic injury sustained at the 2014 U.S. national road championships over Memorial Day weekend. Two days after winning the national time trial championship, the BMC Racing rider crashed heavily, snapping his leg and severing his patella tendon. Back home in Boulder, Colorado, Phinney embarked on a heavy regimen of physical therapy, and our photo director, Brad Kaminski, was there to document it for a powerful photo essay.

Another rider whose career is at an intersection is American Chris Horner. The winner of the Vuelta a España just 15 months ago, Horner is now back in the U.S. with Airgas-Safeway, slated to compete at the same domestic events he dominated a decade ago. Yet rather than a hero’s welcome home, Horner’s return is clouded in suspicion over doping accusations that persist, even in the absence of a positive drug test. Neal Rogers explores that issue.

On the other side of the age — and career — spectrum is enigmatic Australian Lachlan Morton, our cover selection this month. An immensely talented climber, Morton walked away from a WorldTour contract with Garmin-Sharp at age 22, disenchanted with life in the European peloton. He didn’t turn his back from cycling, however; instead he rode deep into the heart of the Australian Outback, along with his older brother Gus, to reignite the passion that molded them both into professional racers. The Morton brothers will return to pro racing in 2015 with Jelly Belly, and will likely be battling with Horner on the most demanding climbs in North America. Chris Case reports on their journey.

All that and much more in the February issue of Velo, on newsstands now.

Subscribe to Velo magazine >>

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Austin Heritage Tree Foundation weighs in on ‘cross nationals controversy http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/01/news/cross-nationals-controversy-continues_358436 http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/01/news/cross-nationals-controversy-continues_358436#comments Fri, 16 Jan 2015 23:34:52 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=358436 Controversy surrounding the postponement of 'cross nationals continues as Austin Heritage Tree Foundation contradicts USA Cycling

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The controversy surrounding the postponement of the USA Cycling national cyclocross championships continued today when the Austin Heritage Tree Foundation (AHTF) posted a response on their website to a letter sent by USA Cycling’s vice president of national events, Micah Rice, to riders who had registered for 2015 nationals to address concerns and complaints stemming from the postponed Sunday races.

In its response, the AHTF disputed the accuracy of some of Rice’s claims.

The letter stated:

“In the letter sent recently to all participants to explain what happened, Micah incorrectly [emphasis in original letter – Ed.] claims that AHTF reviewed and walked the course. We did not. The event organizers met with a grounds staff person from the Parks Department (PARD) and a forester from PARD Forestry.”

The letter went on to accuse Rice of further inaccuracies in his account.

“Micah further claims incorrectly [emphasis in original letter – Ed.] that AHTF walked the revised course and was pleased. We did not meet with the event organizer or participate in any walk-through…”

VeloNews reached out to Rice for a response. His reponse appears below, unedited and in its entirety.

“My understanding was that the two arborists that I met on Sunday afternoon before the walkthrough were from this Foundation. They introduced themselves as tree experts that were with a group in town, but it is possible they were with a different group (a misunderstanding on my part) and asked to be there by PARD. Whatever the case, PARD communicated to me that these arborists must be happy with the changes that we were to make to the course in order to run the races on Monday. It is possible that I was mistaken on the group the tree experts were with.

“I think we can continue to beat this to death on a microscopic level, but the main thing is that we did walkthrough’s with tree experts that PARD asked us to do. Per our permit and relationship with the city of Austin, we did our due diligence and made every change asked of us by the landowner — in this case PARD.”

 

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Lifetime Achievement Award: Jens Voigt http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/12/news/road/lifetime-achievement-award-jens-voigt_354266 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/12/news/road/lifetime-achievement-award-jens-voigt_354266#comments Sat, 27 Dec 2014 13:00:01 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=354266

Jens Voigt (Trek Factory Racing) closed out his career at the 2014 USA Pro Challenge in grand fashion, attacking all the way home. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

Jen Voigt's tireless appetite for breakaway punishment and glory made him one of the peloton's icons. He retired at the end of 2014

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Jens Voigt (Trek Factory Racing) closed out his career at the 2014 USA Pro Challenge in grand fashion, attacking all the way home. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the December 2014 issue of Velo magazine, the annual awards issue.

Not long after he had finished his time trial on stage 9 of the 2012 Tour de France, his 15th appearance in the grand tour, Jens Voigt walked over to a shady spot of lush green grass, plunked down in a camping chair near the team van, and began eating a sandwich and chatting with teammate Yaroslav Popovych.

Fans strolled past, a few chatting with him, others snapping casual photos of the affable, articulate German in his RadioShack team wear. French. English. German. Fluently flipping back and forth to cater to the needs of the fans.

It was hard to believe that this regular guy was one of the most popular cyclists of his generation. He employed no posse. No security guards. He wasn’t being swarmed like so many others of the peloton might be, nor would he mind if he were. This was a man of the people.

“I think it’s easy for people to identify with [me],” Voigt said two years later, during an interview with VeloNews at the 2014 USA Pro Challenge, the final race of his professional road career. “I’m a hard-working guy; there is no façade. You get what you see and you see what you get. There are no hidden secrets; I am just the way I am. Apart from being able to ride my bike really hard, I’m just an Average Joe. I have children, I raised them, I clean my garage, we don’t have a gardener, or a nanny; it’s just my wife and I.

“I have two dogs — I walk them, I clean up after them. It’s just everyday life. It’s things like this that make people think, ‘He’s a normal person — exceptional bike rider, but just a normal person.’ To be normal is a good thing.”

Except Voigt is anything but normal. His professional career is legendary for its longevity more so than his proclivity for wins; it has spanned nearly two decades. Still, his palmarés is not without its highlights, including a record-tying five overall victories in the Critérium International, stage wins at the Tour and Giro, a record-tying 17 starts at the Tour, and, of course, at the ripe age of 43, a new hour record [Voigt’s record has since been bested by Matthias Brändle -Ed.].

But more than that, Voigt was a firebrand on the bike. He did not quit; he often agitated. He let his legs do the talking, until his legs got too loud with the pain and he had to … Shut. Them. Up.

Voigt is one of few cyclists in the history of the sport to have coined a ubiquitous catch phrase, “Shut up legs!” which, late in his career, adorned the bikes he rode.

The average fan loved the Average Joe, the aging veteran that would never say die, the angular, lanky racer who would try and animate a race for the sheer joy to be reaped from absolute effort. Late in his career, his breakaway struggles seemed to, more often than average, survive until the end. How’d he do it?

“He just has boundless amounts of energy,” said Bobby Julich, who rode with Voigt at Crédit Agricole for two years, before reuniting with him for another five years at Team CSC. “I used to be roommates with him for quite some years and I’d just be impressed … He was on or he was off. He was absolutely just gibbering, or he’d just be sacked out and a bomb could go off and he wouldn’t wake up. How has he kept that? I don’t know. I think it’s something inside his character. He’s looking for something. He wants to be better. He always has a different objective. And I think that’s important that you always have an objective. Since he got on Twitter and started to understand the fan base that he’s created, they motivated him to stay in the peloton for two or three more years than he would have been if he didn’t have that sort of support.”

But with that support, Voigt defied age, logic, and, regularly, common sense, to craft magical, against-all-odds stage wins across the world.

Think back to stage 13 of the 2006 Tour, 231km from Béziers to Montélimar, the longest stage that year: Voigt got in a five-man breakaway which finished an improbable 29 minutes and 58 seconds ahead of the main bunch. At the line, Voigt outsprinted Óscar Pereiro to take his second Tour stage win. (Periero went on to win the Tour, following Floyd Landis’ suspension, based on time gains taken from that breakaway.)

Think back to stage 4 of the 2012 USA Pro Challenge, which finished in Beaver Creek: Voigt attacked his breakaway companions on Independence Pass, early in the stage, then soloed on for 100km to take victory with almost three minutes to spare.

It was like that until the end. Literally. He tried, in vain, on two occasions, to win from a breakaway at his final race in Colorado. This Average Joe always tried to be a bit different.

“Ninety-seven percent of the [pro] bike riders are very, very good and talented bike riders, but I always try to be in the other three percent,” he said. Which is to say he thought of himself as anything but normal. “Exceptional. Awesome. Out of the line, out of the norm. I always try to be out of the norm.”

It was a style he discovered when he was much younger, then honed through the years as his ever-aging body tried to keep pace with the whimsy of his mind and its youthful sense of invincibility. He wanted to keep winning; his body was less often up to the task.

“I discovered very early on that I was not a good sprinter, so if you arrive alone, no one can beat you in a sprint. So, why not win alone? When I was a junior, everyone was climbing and time trialing about the same, but as I got older, I realized that I was never going to climb like Fränk Schleck, or sprint faster than Cav [Mark Cavendish], or beat Fabian [Cancellara] in the classics, so I had to work to find a way to win,” Voigt said. “I had to ask myself, ‘What sort of skill has Mother Nature given me?’ For me, it was to work the long and hard way, and put every one else in the meat grinder.”

Mr. Popular

Voigt was born in Grevesmühlen, in the far north of what was then East Germany. He joined a national sports school at age 14, and trained in cycling and track and field. He won his first race, the Peace Race, in 1994; he served for four years in the German army before turning professional in 1997 with the ZVVZ-Giant-Australian Institute of Sport team.

Over the years, he has been teammates with some of the most popular characters in the sport, including Chris Boardman — who told him, “It’s much better to be on the giving end of pain than the receiving end.” He’s ridden in the same colors as Ivan Basso, Stuart O’Grady, the Schleck brothers, Fabian Cancellara, and Julich. He also has served as a mentor for countless younger professionals.

“I used to joke with him all the time,” Julich said. “We were at Tour de Georgia one year and it was a time when all the Americans were there, and I told him, ‘Jens, you’re the second-most famous bike racer in America.’ … He’s just a simple guy, he’s an honest guy, he’s a hard worker, there’s no real flash with him, but he gets the job done. He always seems to be at the right place and get himself on TV. But the thing that makes him most liked, I think, is just the simple fact that he takes the time out of his day to make normal people feel special. A lot of big athletes can make the race organizers, or the VIPs, or a politician — if he’s at the race — feel special. But Jens definitely goes out of his way to say or do things for people that don’t really have an influence on him or his income or his racing. I think that’s pretty cool.”

Still, among all the noteworthy and charismatic figures that have influenced Voigt over the years in his 17-year career, none has had a more lasting impact than the first man he knew.

“I think I’ve picked up bits and pieces, but [my mentor] is my dad. You know, my dad was just a workingman and was born in 1946, the year after [World War II] finished, and he had a hard childhood,” Voigt said. “He was born at our family farm, which is north, near Poland, and they had to leave. They left with only what they could carry.

So, they were leaving in summer with all [their] winter clothes on, because they never knew how long they’d be gone. They’d have to walk 20 or 30 kilometers to the next train station, to get on a freight train for days, until they reached German grounds. So, he had a very hard childhood and he did everything he could to make sure that we went to school and had good results in school.”

For an East German, Voigt was, admittedly, a bit of a free spirit at his sports academy. Not so much a rebel, he said, but “different” with his thinking. Behind the Berlin Wall, Voigt was just being himself, something that may have raised suspicions in his youth, but which he jokes about today.

“I’m sure some of my teachers were telling the secret police about what I was saying,” he said. “I’d say that there is probably a file of me with all of the things I said. Both of my parents weren’t in the [Communist] party, so it wasn’t an ideal scenario for us. Had I not met some of the people I met along the way, who supported me, I probably would have been removed from sports school.”

For his final farewell, Voigt became the man of the hour. With the UCI establishing new rules for the hour record that allowed for more aerodynamic track bikes to be used, Voigt was able to better the mark of Ondrej Sosenka, taking the new record out to 51.11km. Under the UCI’s new rules allowing modern aerodynamic technology, the Average Joe had gone farther on a bicycle in an hour than anyone in history. His record stood for less than two months before Matthias Brändle (IAM Cycling) established the new mark of 51.85km.

But is this really the end? Is mighty Jens Voigt done for good? Will there really be no more attacks from the dinosaur of cycling? Julich, for one, isn’t certain.

“You know, I’m still doubting that he’s going to retire [laughs],” Julich said. “I know what it feels like, I know what it sounds like when you’re done — with Jens, he doesn’t quite [give me] that feeling. It’s important that you leave it all out on the road, with no second thoughts. I’ve just gotta wonder if this is actually going to happen. He had such a great send-off; I don’t think anyone has had a better last month, a farewell month like Jens had. So it would be hard to go back on that. But I hope he got it all out.”

His legions of fans most assuredly feel differently; they hope he still has more in the tank. And, likely, he does. Jens Voigt is the Average Joe for the ages. And in 2014, he was the man of the hour.

Editor’s note: Trek Factory racing announced in December that Voigt will stay involved with the team as a consultant.

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Top 14 stories of 2014: A tale of two breakaways http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/12/news/road/top-14-stories-2014-tale-two-breakaways_355035 http://velonews.competitor.com/2014/12/news/road/top-14-stories-2014-tale-two-breakaways_355035#comments Fri, 19 Dec 2014 18:45:39 +0000 http://velonews.competitor.com/?p=355035

BMC Racing's Michael Schär (left) saw a more than four-minute lead over the top of the last climb – 38km from the finish – reduced to seconds inside the final kilometer of the 210km race. Hincapie rider Joey Rosskopf (right) was caught 3km from the finish. Photo by Casey B. Gibson.

At the Tour of Utah, breakaway companions Michael Schär and Joey Rosskopf were on opposite ends of the spectrum between agony and ecstasy

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BMC Racing's Michael Schär (left) saw a more than four-minute lead over the top of the last climb – 38km from the finish – reduced to seconds inside the final kilometer of the 210km race. Hincapie rider Joey Rosskopf (right) was caught 3km from the finish. Photo by Casey B. Gibson.

The post Top 14 stories of 2014: A tale of two breakaways appeared first on VeloNews.com.

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