Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Rain, rain, go away...

Wow, it's been a while since we've seen rain like this in Durban, especially at this time of year. It's poured for 2 days, and our plant actually closed at about 11:00 this morning because of flooding. And it's still raining! There are 2 things I hate about rain like this. the first is that my roof leaks. After a period of continuous torrential rain it starts pooling in the ceiling, and then eventually soaks through and drips down to the kitchen below. It's only in one spot (thank God) and still leaks despite having a roofer try and patch things up. I'm told the only answer is to lift the tiles, relay the plastic sheeting underneath, and then relay the tiles. Fine, but it will cost an arm and a leg, and so for now I live with the drip in my kitchen.

The second thing I hate, is that people seem to forget how to drive. People crawling along in the fast lane with their hazards on perhaps don't realise what a danger they are to other road users. Your hazards should only be activated when you are stationery, to alert other motorists to the fact. When the whole road is full of people driving with their hazards on, it presents a real problem for anyone that really has an emergency, as no-one will notice them. On a personal level, I find it exceptionally distracting to have all these lights flashing all over the place. If you can't safely drive at a speed appropriate for the fast lane, mover over! And what's up with people that don't put their lights on in weather like this? Do they think they're going to save their batteries? Sheesh!


I haven't commented about Tom Boonen as yet, mostly because I am so pissed off at him. In case you haven't heard, he got caught for cocaine in an out of competition dope test. Strangely, cocaine use is only a sporting violation if used in competition, and he has been allowed to continue racing. However, the ASO have excluded him from the Tour de France, as it is expected that he should "behave in an irreproachable way", so now we don't have last year's yellow or green jerseys in the 2008 race. Tom Boonen is a sporting hero in Belgium, and elsewhere, and that brings about certain pressures, but what was he thinking? In a press statement he apologised for his actions, but then also made a separate statement to say his drink had been tampered with. This is something of a conflict; what is the truth Tom?

Better news is that Silence-Lotto's Robbie McEwen has had a change of fortune. After a miserable 2008 thus far, the Aussie won his second successive stage in the Tour de Suisse yesterday. With Tom Boonen out of the Tour this year, this show of form bodes well for Robbie's quest for the green jersey.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, June 16, 2008

History repeats itself

Wow, with temperatures in the upper 20's anyone could be excused for forgetting it's mid-winter! Perfect weather for the 83rd running of the Comrades Marathon and Russian Leonid Shvetsov took advantage of conditions to not only win the race for the second time, but also to break the 8 year old up-run record. In Pretoria, the Springboks maintained their unbeaten home record against Wales, and at Le Mans in France Audi won the 24 hour race for the 3rd consecutive time. It must have been a tough weekend for the bookies! Actually, the only upset I can find in sporting news was Rafael Nadal winning his first grass court title, but with his current form I certainly wouldn't have bet against him!

Dauphiné Libéré

Dimitri Fofonov won the final Stage into Grenoble, but the day belonged to overall winner Alejandro Valverde. Cadel Evans sent his team-mate Yaroslav Popovych up the road on the Col du Granier as a test, but Valverde's team countered and the Australian settled for 2nd place. The performance of the top 2 finishers bodes well for the Tour de France, starting in less than 3 weeks time, but for 3rd place finisher, Levi Leipheimer, it'll be back to the States to begin his preparation for the Olympics, as his Astana team are controversially not invited to the Tour.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day

So I didn't get to sleep in this morning, but C spoilt me with chocolates and shortbread, and the kids had made cards at school; it felt really good to have my role in the family acknowledged.

I watched the rugby and then braaied last night with a bunch of mates that I've known most of my life; in most cases since school days. It was great to catch up with them; our lives are all different but also so similar. I am lucky to have this big circle of friends, but sadly I don't get to see enough of them. It's all to easy to let a busy schedule with work and kids get in the way of what's really important in life. I think that the size of a person's circle of friends says more about his character than any other measure of success, so I need to do more to maintain contact.

Dauphiné Libéré

Russian Yuriy Trofimov of the Bouygues Telecom team managed to get away from his breakaway companions on the Col de Joux-Plane, and then held off a last gasp dash for the line to take Satge 5 ahead of Cadel Evans and Alejandro Valverde. 3rd place was enough for Valverde to retain his yellow jersey, but it was good to see Cadel Evans riding so well in the lead up to the Tour de France. Of the 3 guys that stood on the podium in Paris last July, Cadel is the only one that will be at the start this year, and so therefore must be one of the favourites.
Dane Chris Anker Sørensen of CSC took a superb victory by more than a minute in Stage 6 on Saturday. However, the real action of the day was further down the field, where Alejandro Valverde successfully countered moves by both Levi Leipheimer and Cadel Evans, as they attacked time and again to try and drop the Spaniard. By the line Levi had gained a couple of seconds, but it wasn't enough, and Valverde holds a 39 second lead over Cadel Evans going into today's final stage, with Levi at 1:24. It's looking good for Valverde to take overall victory.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, June 13, 2008

End of the week!!!

I have to be honest - this has not been one of my best weeks. On the plus side, I am feeling a little better, and have been back at work. The down side of that is trying to fit 5 day's work into 2 days! No problem, we've all been there, haven't we? I'm really looking forward to a relaxing weekend to try and complete the recovery process.

And to all the fathers out there: Happy Father's Day!

Dauphiné Libéré
Spaniard Alejandro Valverde showed what he's made of to win the Stage 3 Time Trial on Wednesday, beating my man Levi into 2nd. It was a stunning performance in difficult and wet conditions. The win was enough to put Valverde into yellow, ahead of the first mountain stages.

AG2R's Cyril Dessel took Stage 4 in spectacular fashion. He attacked the survivors of the day's breakaway and then soloed the final 20km to victory. All the main contenders finished together, so there was very little change to the overall, with Valverde holding on to the yellow jersey for another day.

Today's Stage 5 could be a key stage, with the massive HC Côte de Joux-Plane at 113.5km the decisive point. From the top of the climb it's all downhill, so there might be enough time for the bunch to pull anyone back. Should be interesting!

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Comeback... A second time around

After 5 days of feeling as bad as flu can make you feel, and with the addition of an eye and throat infection, I finally feel almost human again. Almost. Superman (4 yr old) went back to school this morning, so at least I've had some peace today. Mommy was home on study leave and really impressed me with her dedication - I hope she cruises her exam tomorrow. I had to tip-toe around a bit today, but it beats the hell out of blowing snotty noses all day!

It'll be back to work for me tomorrow (lots to catch up on!) and I need to start thinking about how I am going to get my training back on track. The Team Time Trial is out of the question - a 100% effort just a week after recovering from flu is not a good idea. So I need to look for an event that is a realistic date in the future, and plan my training around that. One thing I have learned over the years is it helps to have an objective when you train.

Dauphiné Libéré

As expected, Stage 1 ended in a sprint, with Spain's Alejandro Valverde taking the win, and big Thor Hushovd taking second. This was enough to give him the yellow jersey for the first time - well deserved for one of the nice guys in the bunch.
Another nice guy, American George Hincapie, of the High Road team, got a jump on the sprinters in Stage 2, and took the win ahead of Sébastien Chavanel. Hushovd came in 5th; enough for him to keep the yellow going into today's important 31 km time trial. Levi is in 3rd at 5 seconds - I wonder if he wants the yellow jersey back yet?

Thanks for reading.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The Greatest Show On Earth

If anyone thought I was referring to a cycling event, for once you'd be wrong. "The Greatest Show On Earth" has circus undertones, and on Saturday night I went to Madame Zingara at the SunCoast Casino. But, to call this a circus is wrong; it is so much more. It is an evening of fun, fantasy and fine dining. Dressing up for the occasion is optional, but advised. And the weirder the better! Everything about the evening is over the top, but truly unforgettable. Check out the website here. Highly recommended.

I, of course, am still as sick as a dog; my throat is on fire, my head is being slowly crushed in a vice, and my sinuses are completely stuffed. And the doctor said it would be a couple of days before I come right - I'm not sure I'll survive that long!

Dauphiné Libéré
My prediction was 100% on the money - Levi Leipheimer won the prologue by a mere second from Crédit Agricole's big Norwegian paceman, Thor Hushovd. Spain's Alejandro Valverde of the Caisse d'Epargne team showed his form with a third, 6 seconds off the pace. Cadel Evans should also be pleased with his 6th place in his first competitive ride since a bout of tendinitis. Today's Stage 1 features an uphill finish, and I think Thor would fancy his chances of grabbing the yellow jersey. But, overall, my money is still on Levi.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Here we go again

I woke up this morning with a sore throat, and generally feeling kak! I really don't want to get sick again, but I guess I'm going to be off the bike again for a couple of days.

Howick Classic

Locally, the Howick Classic MTB race is tomorrow (Sunday 8 June). This is one of the best events in the country, with some of the sweetest single track you'll ever have the pleasure to ride. Good luck to everyone riding, and enjoy!

Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré

The 60th running Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré starts on Sunday 8 June with a 5.6km prologue from Le Pontet to Avignon. The race includes a Time Trial on Wednesday, and several Pyrennes mountain stages before the finish in Grenoble on Sunday 15 June. The Dauphiné Libéré is the traditional warm-up for the Tour de France, and all the main contenders will be there, although it's unlikely any will risk showing off their true form. However, Lance Armstrong won in 2002 and 2003, right in the middle of his 7 TdF titles, so it's not unknown for riders to test their legs. One man that will be ready to show off his form will be 2006 winner, American Levi Leipheimer. The Dauphiné Libéré is very much a UCI race, and it is limited to the 18 ProTour teams. Thus, Astana will be there, with their man Levi as leader for this race. Alberto Contador won't be there; this race comes too soon after the Giro, but you can be sure that the whole Astana team will be out there trying to prove a point, yet again. Ironically, last year's winner, Frenchman Christophe Moreau, will not be in the starting line-up. This year he is riding for the Professional Continental team Agritubel, so he was not invited.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Coffee Ride

Friday mornings are our weekly Coffee Ride. The turnout today was abysmal. Eventually we had a group of 8, compared to the usual 20+. Sure, there has been a sudden drop in temperature as the first real winter days hits us. Sure, the road racing season is practically over, and for many people it is over. But our Coffee Rides are a great way to spin out tired legs, catch up with the gossip, and at the coffee stop, get to know the people we ride with every day, without their helmets on. To all those that slept in this morning: Tough; you missed a great morning to be out on a bike!

ProTour News

The ASO made a big announcement yesterday (Thursday): it has bought a 49% stake in Unipublic, the company which owns the Vuelta a España. This is an interesting twist to the ongoing battle between the ASO and the UCI. UCI boss, Pat McQuaid, has long believed the ASO are trying to put themselves in a position where they can create a rival international federation. This certainly takes them another step closer. In a statement, Unipublic claimed the reason for the partnership was to take advantage of the ASO's vast experience in organising and marketing similar events. Well, they got that right; the Vuelta needs a big push to get rid of the also-ran status amongst the 3 grand tours.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Back in the saddle

After 7 days of enforced rest, it was good to get out on the road this morning. The first thing I noticed was that temperatures have plummeted in the last week. OK, so we live in Durban, and don't experience real winter, but 15 deg C this morning was a shock to the system.

Our Fearless Leader reportedly had a sore throat, and so joined Club Duvet this morning. That left the rest of us to our own devices, and the planned team Time Trial practice was incorporated into Circuits rather than the planned route. That was OK by me - I planned to stay on the Circuit anyway, as I was going to try and keep my heart rate below 75% of max.

The Circuit we, and most cyclists in Durban, use, is a 5km flat route around Durban Country Club golf course. We share the road with other road users, although there is a bicycle lane marking (the only one in Durban), so it is usually quite safe. The east side of the route follows the beachfro
nt road (Broken Bottle Boulevard) and can be quite scenic, if you're still around at sunrise.

It was only a lap and a half before I realised my heart rate had hit 87%, and so I dropped off the bunch and circulated on my own. Usually I don't mind riding on my own (I get to do it quite a lot), but on a Thursday on the Circuit, a lot of people overtake you if your speed is below about 30km/h. As I was only averaging about 26, I got a lot of questioning looks. OK, so I was a big fat mobile chicane, and there were lots of guys practicing their TTT skills. I only wish I had had a big sign saying "Recovering from Flu, Pass Right".

Tour de France News

The big news this week is that the ASO (who own the TdF) have combined with the FFC (French Cycling Federation) to hold the Tour de France outside the control of the world governing body, the UCI. The dispute between the ASO and the UCI has been raging for some time now, and is mainly due to the UCI trying to enforce their ProTour regulations on the ASO controlled races. Under the ProTour regulations, the UCI get to decide which teams will be invited (the 18 registered ProTour teams + 4 Wild Cards); the ASO want to have total control. The same thing happened at Paris-Nice earlier this year, and the UCI made big threats against the riders who took part in this unsanctioned race. The threats have come to nothing, and the UCI is losing credibility as the governing body.

What the ASO fails to understand, or just doesn't care about, is that the 18 ProTour teams used their participation in all the major races (especially the TdF) as a lour for sponsors. If the ASO now starts including and excluding teams at will, then those same teams will face a tough time when it comes to negotiating new sponsorship agreements.

From my point of view, the UCI are in the right, but the ASO have the power. The sport of cycling needs a governing body, and all races should be held under their control. However, the race does belong to the ASO, and they also own many of the most important races in Europe (several are part of the ProTour calendar). Therefore, when the ProTour was evolving, the UCI should have involved the ASO, so an agreement could have been reached before the rules were announced. As it's not possible to go back and re-do, I think both parties need to have an urgent discussion to try and resolve their differences. Lock them in a room, and don't let them out until they reach agreement.

One thing that is not clear to me is whether Astana are included in the 18 teams the UCI want invited, or not. They should be; they are part of the ProTour. And the ASO have said they have been excluded for 2008, because the name has bad links to last year's doping problems. Well, if the UCI support Astana being in the race, then I support the UCI. To leave 2/3 of last year's podium out is a travesty!

Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

How sick is too sick?

I’ve recovered well from my flu, and am feeling a lot better. I still have a lingering cough; the remnants of a bronchial infection. However, I am always unsure of when it is safe to start training after flu. We’ve all heard horror stories about guys dropping dead because the decided to run a marathon too soon after a bout of flu.

This then begs the question: How sick is too sick to train? I found this at

“A good rule of thumb is that if symptoms are confined to the neck or above, it is probably fine to work out but at a reduced level initially and then advance the intensity and duration as tolerated. On the other hand, if symptoms occur below the neck, one should rest until the problem resolves. A fever means the body’s temperature regulation centre already has its hands full and may not be able to tolerate additional physical stress of training. Exercising with a fever can also be a recipe for dehydration. Muscle aches, diarrhoea, and difficulty breathing all indicate that an infection is more serious and that the body needs rest in order to heal.”

So if I still have chest problems (ie below the neck) I shouldn’t train. But I don’t have a fever any more, so is it alright? Well, I think that training at a reduced level should be OK, as long as I don’t induce a coughing fit, at which point I’ll be forced to back off anyhow.

I guess I’ll be riding alone though; the last thing any cyclist wants is someone coughing their germs all over the bunch!

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

MTB vs Road

Today's post courtesy of Glen:

On Sunday 1 June, the same day as 24 year old Alberto Contador completed a victory which owed as much to his maturity as to his ability (yes I know he had Bruneel to talk to, but he still had to listen), 21 year old South African, Burry Stander, got his best ever result when he came second overall, by 9 seconds to Christoph Sauser, in the MTB World Cup XC in Andorra, after having led the race in the final lap.

That is almost as impressive as Contador.

For most of Burry Stander's career USA & Europe have been streets (well trails) ahead of SA in quality of riders, training, equipment & resources (that may be changing now). He only got a pro contract (a very poor one by Alberto Contador's standards) by racing in the USA and being so much better than his class that they couldn't ignore him. Even this year he had to fight his way through hundreds of slower riders while he improved his start seeding. According to some sources, MTBs presently outsell road bikes by as much as 300 to one. The level of competition is astonishing - up to 250 fit, professional, skilled, starters per event! I'm not saying Contador has had it all his own way, but I am saying that while a Grand Tour is undoubtedly harder to endure, podium at a MTB World Cup is no easier to achieve.

Well done Burry! This bodes well for Beijing in August.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Giro d'Italia Stage 21 - Finale

The Giro ended rather predictably on Sunday on the streets of Milano. Alberto Contador became the first non-Italian in 12 years to win the Giro, and he did so in fine style, beating all his nearest rivals by a comfortable margin. Italian Riccardo Riccò, only 4 seconds behind at the start of the day's racing, never stood a chance. He was behind from the very first check-point. Closer was the battle for 3rd between Marzio Bruseghin and Franco Pellizotti. On the day, Pellizotti was the faster man, but Bruseghin did just enough, hanging on to his 3rd place by a mere 2 seconds.
Astana and the Tour de France

Contador is a worthy champion, and it is disgraceful that his Astana Team have not been invited to the Tour de France so he can defend his '07 title. The team have been completely overhauled since their infamous exit from last year's tour. About the only thing remaining is the name, and for the ASO to use that against new figurehead Johan Bruneel, and riders like Alberto Contador, the United States' Levi Leipheimer and Germany’s Andreas Klöden is an absolute tragedy. All three riders are podium contenders, and excluding them takes a lot of the interest away from this year's race.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Giro d'Italia Stage 20

Alberto Contador has only one hurdle left to cross to win the 2008 Giro d'Italia. On Saturday he did all that was required of - he marked Riccardo Riccò all the way to the finish, protecting his 4 second lead. Big loser of the day was Danilo Di Luca, who slipped back to 7th overall at 4:18, and out of contention. Gilberto Simoni did everything he could to salvage his last Giro by taking the stage win, but was caught out by the attack from Emanuele Sella, who went on to take his third stage win. Sella has had an unbelievable Giro, and has also almost definitely secured 5th overall, and the Best Young Rider jersey for his efforts.

Final Stage

Today's Stage 21 Time Trial into Milano was an interesting addition by the Giro organisers. It had the potential to leave the final standings up for grabs right to the last day. That is still the case, with only 4 seconds separating the top two riders: Alberto Contador in the lead, and Riccardo Riccò in second place. I believe Riccò is no match for Contador in a Time Trial of this nature. The course is dead flat, and should suit a rider of Contador's abilities, but weather conditions and the efforts of the last 3 weeks could take their toll. The greatest challenge may come from another Italian, Marzio Bruseghin from the Lampre Team, who won the Stage 10 time trial by 8 seconds from Contador, and who now lies in 3rd overall at 2:00. The pressure will also be on Riccò to defend his 2nd place, so whatever happens, it's bound to be a thrilling affair right until the last man crosses the line.

Thanks for reading.