Monthly Archives: June 2013


Wiggo loses time in the Giro - photo AP

Wiggo loses time in the Giro – photo AP

Team Sky set out with a very bold statement in their debut year, 2010, that their mission was to put a British rider in the Maillot Jaune on the Champs Élysées within 5 years. After their first Tour de France that year, it really looked like a hollow promise. The team was far too aggressive on the early climbing stages and ill-equipped to back up that bravado with any results. They obviously had a pool of talent but just looked like a newly promoted small town championship football team taking on the might of the Mancunians (sorry to my American readers for the English football analogy, but there’ll be some more later).

The next year Wiggins was looking much stronger and the team more cohesive, but a crash in the first week put paid to any GC hopes. EBH nabbed a great stage win and he and Thomas both showed great promise as puncheurs.

2012 could not have gone better for them. Their GC squad looked like (and drew unwelcome references to) the Postal Train of the previous decade. Wiggins won all his tour targets with consistent climbing and imperious TT performances. His colonels on the climbs, Froome, Porte and Rogers made it all look so easy. We did get to see the first signs of trouble between their top two GC men with Froome’s ‘Hinault’ moment and the WAGs’ (that’s wives and girlfriends for the non-Premiership followers) twitter fight.

This year has seen a reversal of fortunes for our two protagonists as Froome has flourished out of Wiggo’s shadow. There’s been some more handbag waving with Bradley’s flip-flopping statements about who would be leading the team for this year’s TdF. I’m sure it’s a huge relief for Froome that Wiggins won’t be there on Saturday

Porte has proven himself more than capable of winning big stage races with Paris-Nice this year, and Uran was superb in the Giro. Where I’m heading with this is that it’s hard to keep a team cohesive when there are so many stars and not enough water carriers. Cycling is an unusual sport in that, unlike football, the whole team works to get the win, but only one of them (or two as is often the case with Sky) gets to stand on the podium. The rumours suggest that Uran is being wooed away by other teams looking for a GC leader. If he goes would Henao follow? They’re both ideally suited to the steeper climbs of the Giro and Vuelta and even though Porte is supposedly being groomed for a Grand Tour, presumably that would be the Giro or Vuelta and he could be up against the arguably better climbing skills of his current Colombian teammates on whatever teams they end up on. With Sky’s British-based team and Commonwealth preferences for leadership, you can imagine Uran might think he’d rather get a real leadership role where he isn’t having to make up time lost nursing Wiggins up the hill.

With their meteoric rise, and dominating performances, the comparisons to Postal have been inevitable. Aside from the predictable doping rumours, people refer to the Postal Sky Train style of racing. It’s certainly not as entertaining as a Voeckler breakaway or Contador dancing on the pedals up the Alpe, but it gets results like Georgie Graham’s boring, boring, boring Arsenal. Also like Postal, they’ve been pretty lacklustre in the Spring Classics. One day races really don’t seem to favour the Pain Train style. EBH hasn’t quite lived up to the promise of his talents so far. Poor guy, it doesn’t help him that a certain Mr. Sagan showed up on the scene!

They’ve completed their initial mission two years early, and while you’d think British cycling fans would be jubilant, there’s quite a bit of backlash about the team’s wealth, Murdoch money and, yep, you guessed it, overpriced Rapha kits. Combine that with the superstar roster twittering away at each other and it makes one think of Real Madrid or Man United. Ugh, now I hate them too!

What do you all think? Yes both of you! Are you Sky haters? Who will you be cheering for at Le Tour?

Badger Watch 2013

It’s almost time the Tour, which means The Badger will be in action once again, greeting local dignitaries, congratulating stage winners and kicking some ass!

It seems some French right-wing crackpots want to disrupt the Tour de France to protest against same-sex marriage. I don’t know what The Badger’s views on the subject of marriage are, but I do know that he doesn’t stand for anyone messing with the sanctity of his bike race.

Nobody messes with The Badger

Nobody messes with The Badger. Wait, wasn’t the guy on the right in Goodfellas?

The Badger can smell a fake FdJ rider from 50 metres.

The Badger can smell a fake FdJ rider from 50 metres.

My Life as a Bike

Sierra Madre del Sur Mud

Sierra Madre del Sur Mud and my 2002 Stumpy

Here’s the first post on my bikes. I suppose it makes sense to give a little back story, so to kick it off here’s most of the bikes I can remember owning that I don’t have anymore. I’m also mentioning where I owned them.

  1. Raleigh Chipper (UK) (like a Chopper but without the small front wheel and the 3-speed shifter on the top tube). This is the bike I learned to ride on. My friend’s dad painted it yellow and put some cool stickers on it.
  2. Piranha BMX (UK) – crap, the less said about this, the better. OK, one thing. Magnesium wheels!
  3. Mongoose Supergoose frame with yellow (what was with all the yellow?) Skyways and all gold anodized parts (Dia Compe MX brakes) (US and UK). Went through various parts specs, mostly based upon what else I could find that was gold to put on it. Wish I still had this.
  4. Raleigh Quasar road bike (UK). Reynolds 501 ‘aero’ frame, ‘aero’ water bottle, weird concave Weinmann rims and my first roadie. First bike I would actually go on rides to other towns on. Getting misty eyed thinking about riding the Yorkshire Dales on this thing with nothing but a bottle of water and a cheese and branston pickle sandwich.
  5. Specialized Hardrock Comp (US and UK). Pink and white frame. Suntour groupset with their answer to Shimano Biopace. I believe it was called Ovaltech. First mountain bike.
  6. Specialized Stumpjumper Team with Suntour XC Pro (UK). ’91 or ’92 model. Superb bike. Japanese built triple-butted Tange Prestige frame. Purple pearl over black. Rode this bike on trails all over the UK. It also travelled to Greece. Only bike I’ve ever had stolen. Wish I still had this.
  7. Specialized Rockhopper Comp (UK). Maybe ’96 or ’97. Beautiful powder blue frame, Shimano SIS and a Rockshox elastomer fork. First Alu frame. Decent bike. Sold to my friend. Put a lot of miles on this in London. Did my first century on it. Had my worst crash ever on it. Wear a lid kids! Seriously, wear a lid.
  8. Specialized Stumpjumper hardtail. 2002 model (US and then Mexico). My first bike with SPD pedals. This was my daily transport in San Francisco, my commuter from the city to Marin County, my trail shredder at Tamarancho and repack, my bike packing rig to Point Reyes, and later, my Mexico trail tamer and my Sierra Madre del Sur death marcher. Almost every part got replaced on it over several years. Started on a Rockshox Duke fork (terrible, exploded on a ride in Marin headlands immediately after the warranty expired), followed by an eBay Manitou Skareb (light, but noodley and not great damping) and then a Marzocchi Marathon S (heavy, brilliantly simple piece of engineering with coil/oil and one of the best climbing lockdown systems ever – still my favourite suspension fork and I wish I hadn’t sold it). Update on the Skareb: Just heard from my friend I gave it to and it just died with a broken bridge. Not a bad innings for a crappy fork. Upgraded most of the components – in order:
    • King Headset (still using these today on all bikes that’ll take them)
    • Thomson Seatpost (still using these on all bikes I’ve owned since)
    • Some sort of fancy Avid brake levers with Ti in the name and not much Ti in the parts.
    • Easton carbon riser bar (still being used on Brooke’s mountain bike and I still use their road carbon bars)
    • Thomson stem (still using these today on all my bikes)
    • Shimano XT Octalink Hollowtech 1 crankset (still have it in my parts drawer)
    • First custom wheel set – King ISO Disc hubs with DT Swiss Supercomp spokes and DT Swiss 4.1 rims (on Brooke’s mountain bike today)
    • Avid BB7 disk brakes
    • WTB Rocket V Ti saddle (still on my current MTB)
  9. Turner Burner 2004 (Mexico and then US). My first full suspension mountain bike frame. Supergo (now Performance/Nashbar) were selling off all the remaining stock. We were living in Mexico City and went to visit Brooke’s sister in San Diego. I drove up to their Laguna Beach store and picked up one of the last XL frames for super cheap. All the parts from the Stumpy were transferred over. An astonishingly good bike. One thing I will say, is that having grown up with full-rigid and later hardtail bikes, one learns to ride trails with a certain degree of finesse in order to stay on the bike on rough terrain. Moving to a bike with full suspension allowed me to build on that and not only ride sections that would have been very difficult before, it allowed me to take more technical trail sections at much faster speeds. This bike worked so well with the Marathon S fork, a supremely balanced ride. Was it the lightest 4″ travel bike around? No. Was it bulletproof, predictable and a boat load of fun? Abso-fucking-lutely. More XT stuff got added and I finally put hydraulic discs on it – another revelation. Anyone that says cable disc brakes are just as good is either lying or has never tried hydros (also, all you roadie curmudgeons that don’t get what the benefits are, have obviously never tried them either). The only bad thing I have to say about this bike is that the top tube could have offered more clearance. More upgrades from what was carried over from the Stumpy:
    • XT front mech (still rockin’)
    • Thomson straight post 27.2 (keep on keeping’ on)
    • Magura Marta 2007 brakes (you see where this is going, right?)
    • Paul Components 4″ rockers (these are rarer than hen’s teeth these days, sold separately to frame for what I paid for them)
    • Fox RP3 shock (sold)

That pretty much brings me up to my current stable, which is interesting (if only to me), because, I’d never owned more than one bike until after this point. I’ll update this post as soon as I can dig up some pictures of some of these bikes. Stay tuned.


The Americans are Back!

Henao, Uran Uran & Quintana

Sergio Henao, Rigoberto Uran & Nairo Quintana

Back in the 1980s, the Café de Colombia team lit up the climbing stages of the grand tours. The great Luis ‘Lucho’ Herrera, otherwise known as El Jardinerito (The Little Gardener), won the mountain classification in all three grand tours and even won the Vuelta d’España in 1987.

We haven’t seen much of Colombian riders in the Pro Tour since the demise of the Café de Colombia team in 1990. Perhaps certain ‘training techniques’ allowed lesser climbers to keep up with these masters of altitude, but now there’s a whole new generation of Colombian pros that are lighting up the peloton.

The new wave are more than just mountain goats. They’re much more rounded riders than the previous generation, able also to perform in the tough one-day Ardennes classics or in the race of truth against the clock. Perhaps this is partly due due to them being picked up and groomed by top-flight teams with big budgets and all the benefits of modern sports science.

Sergio Henao and Rigoberto Uran are instrumental to Team Sky’s pain train when the road turns up. Uran turned in such a solid performance in the Giro (including a very strong TT ride and a mountain stage win), that when his leader Wiggins wigged out, he was well enough placed to take a very convincing second overall. Nairo Quintana (Movistar) stole the Tour of the Basque Country from Richie Porte, with Sergio Henao clinching third. Henao took the win at the Volta ao Algarve and finished second at La Flèche Wallonne. Carlos Betancur (AG2R) has proved himself this year with great classics finishes in La Flèche Wallonne (3rd) and Liège–Bastogne–Liège (4th) then garnering a superb grand tour performance clinching 5th and the young rider’s jersey in the Giro (Uran won it last year). In fact, four of the top 20 in this year’s very tough Giro were Colombians.

Traditionally, the European peloton has been dominated by the European powerhouses of cycling. France, Italy, Belgium, Spain. For all the excitement in the US cycling media about Tejay finally coming good* and Talansky about to, a look at the WorldTour standings reveals a fascinating picture of where the young talent is coming from. Of course the season has a way to go, we’ve still got two grand tours and the world championships, but I doubt many would have predicted that Colombia would be 2nd in the world rankings right now with 766 points. In contrast, the USA is sitting 12th with 296, and with two very lumpy three week races coming up, you can bet the young Colombians will be to the fore again.

The Americans are back! They just happen to be South Americans.

*Yes, Tejay won the Amgen Tour of California. How many WorldTour teams were there? Let’s not forget who won that grueling 109F climb in Palm Springs – Janier Acevedo from Colombia, on a little continental team, who went on to finish third overall.