Monday, March 23, 2015

The Spokes Man

...discussion points from the Commish.

Captain on the Road
Missed by a nose

As the dust begins to settle from Milan-Sanremo I can begin to look back at what actually happened in the race.  Degenkolb showed impressive power and race tactics, but there was another rider with whom I was most impressed. As I think about this years race as well as lasts I am compelled to say that the best ride of the day was by none other than Luca Paolini.
Image result for tinkoff saxo water bottle holder
Not the Captain
We know what a protected rider is and his lieutenant's role seems pretty easily defined.  In addition, each team brings several domestiques, be it climbers, strongmen or just some guy who's good at carrying water.  But we also often hear that a certain rider is designated as the "captain on the road".  What exactly is this?  Some say its just a bullshit title given to make a domestique feel better.  Others say these are the guys that really control the race.
El Capitan
There have been a lot of good "captains" over the years.  Big George Hincapie is the first to come to mind.  A man who seldom won himself, but was always on the winning team.  So why was he good? (Remember the motto of  this blog: the only thing lamer than doping talk is tech talk)  The ability to read a race, position and protect his rider and probably most important, the ability to control the speed of the peloton.  The Spokes Man's question  of the day:  who's the best road captain out there today? Who do you want calling the shots?
Pulling on the Poggio

Luca, with his sagely beard, embodied the role of "captain on the road" last Sunday.  As his team leader Kristoff began to suffer at the back on the Cipressa Paolini took action.  First to the front of the peloton to slow the pace a bit.  Then he gathered his teamates as they dropped back to help pace Kristoff to the top.  As they entered the last climb of the day who was there to set the pace?  Luca.  Fast enough to deter attacks, slow enough to drag Krsitoff up.  Job well done.  Oh wait, there's more.  After guiding his man down the tricky decent he pulls wide around the final turn placing his man right at the front of the peloton.  How did he navigate this terrain so well as others (Gilbert) crash and others (Sagan) follow single file? A little digging shows us that Luca has a few podium finishes here himself.  He knows the route, knows his leader and knows himself.  Some say he dropped him off a little early, but that is Kristoff's style.  Also, his man almost won being able to hold off all but one for the last 300 meters.  It's a shame that Paolini wasn't rewarded with a team victory.  Its a shame that his amazing performance as a road captain becomes a mere footnote.  Had Kristoff won I have no doubt people would be talking about how Paolini had done the same thing last year.  Instead, Luca will have to fight for  few more victories of his own in order to be recognized.  Road captains may be respected, but only race winners are glorified.


The Broom Wagon up after the weekend's races.

Degs the Legs
My hair is so caffeinated!
Yeah, we all saw it.  Team Wiskota Dynamic went 1,2 at Milan-San Remo, but hey I'm not really expecting any kudos.  With impressive rides by both Degenkolb and Kristoff, Wiskota Dynamic hits his first goals of the season making those early round picks count in the Monuments.  The score sheet has plenty of room for others as Mathews, Sagan, Cancellera and more secured solid placings.  

Best scone ever?
Great race and a great host made for a successful Wiskota team event last Sunday.  Thanks Kalberers, hope to do it again soon. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Broom Wagon up after the week's events 
From the Sun to the Seas

Image result for Tirreno adriatico Nairo
Best of the best?
Nitro Katana proved to be the strongest in Italy as our much anticipated battle between the "fantastic four" fizzled out before it really got going.  The snowy mountain top finish made for good watching, but when it came down to it Nairo was the best of those who were trying.  Best of the best?  Perhaps, but we'll need to see a little more.  Is Bauke Bartokomis the early season revelation?  

Image result for Porte Paris nice podium
Best of the rest?
Nice $700 cap, goofball
Skynet dialed up the power train launching Richie Porte to victory on the decisive stage in Paris-Nice.  We got some pretty fun action on the penultimate stage run into Nice with rain, breakaways, crashes and of course disappointing Americans.  In the end, Porte and Thomas put in an impressive effort to keep their positions only topped by Porte's impressive victory in the final mountain TT.  Best of the rest? Perhaps, but some other stage racers would be well served to take note.  Choose your program carefully and win while you can.  Porte will have an impressive race victory under his belt before he implodes at the Giro, while Talansky and TVG will have saved their efforts for another top 20 moral victory at the Tour.  
Image result for paris nice 2015 porte crash
I want to see more of this
Image result for paris nice 2015 porte crash
And less of this
Up next:  La Primavera, La Classicissima, the first Monument: Milan-San Remo!!!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Forza’s Fury

Last week’s racing wetted my appetite for the rest of the classics’ season. The early races are cool and fun but the real racing has officially begun.
At the Omloop, Ian Stannard showed that he should have been drafted in the Wiskota Fantasy League. Stannard, Wiggins, and G Thomas will be a formidable trio at Paris Roubaix. Sep Vanmarke of Team Forza was also showing good form on the cobbles but was bullied by a flat on the helligan. Team Etixx-Quickstep looked to be the strongest team but were felled by bad tactics and possible hubris as they decided to attack and breakup their stronghold on the early season classic. Chapeau to Stannard, nicknamed Yogi because of his bear-like strength , for a very exciting win.
At KBK, Cavendish showed that he is indeed fast and strong. Kristoff learned that sprinting against J.J. Lobato is cute but he hardly stands a chance against the real fast men. I guess we will see what happens at Milan-San Remo, eh Commish? Wager perhaps?

Strade Bianche

The Strade would be at the top of my list for races that I want to see. The Tuscan countryside, food, wine, art and cycling all sounds so yummy. The Strade Bianche incorporates the cobbled classics with an Ardennsien finish into Siena. The riders roll through 200km of Tuscany, up and down hills, and across white gravel roads called “sterrati”. Definitely a must watch.


Image result for 4 bottles of wine
Alejandro Valverde, Simon Gerrans, Peter Sagan, Fabian Cancellara.
My money is on Fabulous Fabian for the win. He likes this race and is motivated to win. I do believe that he will need to ride away from the group in order to win. Valverde is motivated for points and if he can get across the sterrati the finish is well suited for him. Sagan is tailor made for this race.

Image result for 3 bottles of wine
Carlos Betancur, Moreno Moser, Zdenek Stybar, Nikki Terpstra
Betancur could win this race if he wants to. But he’s probably going to eat too many pastries. Moser has won this race but without the help of Sagan I would be surprised to see him win again. Stybar and Terpstra will be riding in front of the strongest team and can play off one another to steal a victory from the favorites.

Vincenzo Nibali, Greg Van Avaermaet, Ian Stannard, Filippo "Pippo" Pozzato
The Shark of Messina (Nibali) will put his stamp on this race. However, that means very little in terms of a win. Most likely he will get a way for a bit and will be caught. GVA and Yogi are both really strong and in great form. I also like Pippo, mostly because he’s Italian and what else can he possibly win.

Image result for 1 bottle of wine
Rinaldo Nocentini, The Slaw Niemec, Damiano Cunego, Sep VanMarke.
Probably not a winner here but I have to consider that Cunego is now riding for an Italian Pro-Conti team and won’t have many opportunities to show his greatness. Sep could get away on the sterrati; the Slaw and Rinaldo have both placed well in this race.

Image result for glass of wine
Honorable Mentions : Lars Boom, Sammy Sanchez, Uran Uran, Slagter, Oscar Gatto.

Enjoy the race fellas!

Gregario Forza