The Giro d’Italia is over. The Tour de Frances is just next month and the Ride the Rockies, by the time you read this, is nine days in the future. To say I’m wound up would be an understatement. Now the hard part: relaxing
I have been working out, watching my diet, counting every calorie both in and out for months. As I write, the new Shimano Dura-Ace group set is on a UPS truck bound for my home. I’ve begun to receive my media information from the wonderful folks who run Ride the Rockies and I can barely wait. I have to, however, and I have to relax a bit.
This next week is the taper. If you get on the RTR website, the training schedule goes from 185 total miles this week down to 90 next week. It’s time to give the legs a break and let them regenerate. Wednesday this week was the last day I lifted weights ahead of the ride. This is the week when we want to put our legs up a little more, drink even more water and stay off the bike for anything more than maybe 90 minutes.
This is a good week to check the bike. Make sure all of your cables and housings are in good shape. Check your break levers to make sure they’re not sticky or sluggish. Give the chain a good cleaning and re-lubing. Check to make sure your wheels are true. Even check your shoes and cleats to make sure they are clean and properly aligned. There are still plenty of things to do ahead of the week on the bike, even if we don’t ride.
Make sure you have your on-bike nutrition dialed in. Just because we are not pros does not mean we should ignore this detail. I have an array of sensitivities and intolerance, as well as a relatively tight budget. I have to watch what I eat so that I can enjoy my time on and off of the bike that week. I spent some time at CostCo this weekend gearing up with this in mind.
I’m not quite to the point of packing. That will come next week, but I have my bags and a bike box ready. If you are headed for Telluride, you should, too. I hope to cover all of this next week.
In the Amgen Tour of California, young American and Colorado resident Tejay Van Garderen snagged the races GC win, his first major stage race victory. Van Garderen seemed to be the odds-on favorite throughout the week that started in San Diego County under a scorching sun.
Racers suffered the first two days in 110-degree heat, amplified by the pavement. The race began in the south of the Golden State and headed north this year with visits to Mount Diablo where Van Garderen cemented his win, a trip over the Golden Gate Bridge for only the second time in race history, and a final finish in Santa Rosa where Peter Sagan took the final sprint victory as well as the green points jersey for the second year running.
Along the way, relative old-timer, Jen Voigt won stage five. It was his first win since last August when he won the Queen Stage of the USA Pro Challenge from Aspen to Beaver Creek on a long solo break away. Voigt, an international fan favorite, will also race the Pro Challenge when it again winds throu Colorado this coming August.
Just last Sunday, Vicenzo Nibali took an unusually cold and snowy Giro d’Italia. The race saw Dolomite stages modified, and in one case cancelled due to the snowy conditions. Some riders groused about the mid-race changes, but for the sake of rider safety, it was the best thing to do, according to race organizers.
Mark Cavendish won the final sprint into Brecia. It was his fifth sprint win of this year’s Giro. It assured the Omega Pharma-Quick Step rider of the races points competition win and made the Manx Missile only the fifth race to claim the points jersey in all three Grand Tours.
The town is still looking for volunteers and ideas for the weekend that the USA Pro Challenge wheels through town. Contact the Special Events folks at 586-6104.
Meanwhile, have fun, be safe. I’m going riding, at least a little.
The image is from the main street in Leadville during last year’s Ride the Rockies.
It is clearly cycling season, even at altitude. At the middle of May, one grand tour is snaking across Italy, one smaller tour is heading up the state of California and we are four weeks from the start of Ride the Rockies. But wait . . . there’s more.
The town of Estes Park is gearing up for its moment in the international cycling spotlight. With riders like Cadel Evans from Australia, Peter Sagan from Slovakia, Andy Schleck from Luxembourg and the Garmin-Sharp team from just down the hill in Boulder, it is very much an international event. Fans and reporters from around the world will likely show up, as well. Estes Park, as a whole, needs to get involved to show the world that we are a place to visit.
Bo Winslow, the town’s Community Services Director, has put out a call for volunteers. The town needs course marshals, idea people to help with related events in town the day of the race, as well as vendors to keep the visitors in Estes with food, gifts and the like. If you think you want to help, contact Bo at 586-6104 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have heard there are detractors who point to flopping rock shows as a reason that we should not care. To that I say, the bands who have come for those shows have not been top acts since I was in elementary school in the ’70s. The guys who will be blowing through town on August 24 will be the very best riders on earth right now. These are the best of the best. These guys are faster and fitter than anyone you personally know. These guys competed for medals in the Olympics and will be here preparing for the World Road and Time Trial Championships. In cycling, if you’re not in France in July, it really does not get any better than this.
To get an idea of what we are in for, tune in to the Amgen Tour of California, going on this week. Folks are lining the race route, especially on the climbs and in towns, two things we have going for us. We will see the end of a race within the race as the last King of the Mountains points will be collected at the top of the Glen Haven switchbacks.
The one thing we will have that the California race doesn’t is that many people will still be on summer vacation when the Pro Cycling Challenge comes through. And, because it will be a Saturday, and with our proximity to our major population centers, we could see a crowd matched only by the Scot Fest, except they will all funnel into downtown. This is a chance to show a global audience all of what Estes Park has to offer.
There will be another, slower but no less enthusiastic group pedaling through Estes Park 19 days ahead of the pros. I will be riding the Colorado Rocky Mountain Bike Tour through here on August 4-5. It is the opening day of the ride that loops beginning in Fort Collins and visits EP, Golden, Fraser, Steamboat Springs, Walden and back to Fort Collins. This makes a whole summer of fun for me.
The CRMBT is like Ride the Rockies, only smaller and tougher. While RTR allows 2,000, or so, riders, CRMBT allows only 500. The rout tends to be more challenging, as well. While the toughest day in the saddle for RTR will be Day 4, when we ride over 10,850 foot Wolf Creek Pass, the third day of the CRMBT starts in Golden, climbs Lookout Mountain, ride to Evergreen to climb Juniper Pass, plunges into Idaho Springs, slogs to the base , then climbs Berthoud Pass before finishing in Fraser. Three big climbs over 85 miles. Riders are even invited to ride the Mount Evans Road, if they feel so motivated.
Tour director Peter Duffy explains that it is a tour for a more dedicated crowd.
“I don’t want to bad mouth the Ride The Rockies,” he hastens to say. “I’ve ridden it, it’s fun. The CRMBT is smaller and tougher. We want to appeal to a more dedicated cyclist. The people who ride CRMBT will be a little fitter and a little more enthusiastic.”
I start my organized riding season this Saturday with the First Ascent Ride, a fund raiser for Livestrong. It is a metric century, starting and ending in Golden, starting with a climb of the Golden Gate Canyon, a road that pitched up to 14 percent in sections, then follows the Peak to Peak highway before descending Coal Creek Canyon and returning to Golden.
The ride features several members of the 7-Eleven cycling team, as well. It should be a great morning of riding. If you find your Saturday morning open, check the First Ascent Ride website and head down to Golden early. The ride begins at 7:30.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.
This image is from the USAPCC web site.
Back when the great Eddie Merckx won his legendary 525 races, cyclists often rode everything. They rode the Spring Classics, the Grand Tours, the World Championships and the “Tour of the Falling Leaves”. Starting in the late ’90s, this began to change. While Merckx won the Giro five times, the Tour five times, the Vuelta a Espana twice, he even won the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in the same season more than once. This has not been done since 1998 and not attempted more than a handful of times in the last 15 years. This is not all bad, especially for American cycling fans.
While for nearly a century, pink has been the color of May on the international cycling calendar, yellow and grizzly bear graphics have made their way in. The three-week tour of Italy had been the natural lead-in for the Tour de France, in the era of specialization and growing prominence of France’s big tour, the Tour of California has become a big race for more than Americans. This was helped in no small part by the moving of the race from February to May in 2010 after two abysmal weather years. Since the move, the biggest teams and racers have made the move to the Golden State.
The Tour of California is “only” a one-week race, this year beginning near San Diego on Sunday, May 12, and heading north for the first time, finishing in Santa Rosa on May 19. The Giro d’Italia is a three-week Grand Tour. Three weeks on a bike takes a big physiological toll on a body. It not only trims any extra fat off a racer, it begins a catabolistic process. It breaks down muscle in an attempt to find more energy to move the body on the bike. This is a difficult from which a racer has only five weeks to recover. As the Giro d’Italia is the most important race for and in Italy, the Tour is the biggest prize in all of stage racing. As a result, a shorter stage race has tremendous advantages for teams and racers whose ultimate goals are Tour wins.
So the best sprinter in the world not from the Isle of Man, Peter Sagan, will be back in California this weekend. The Boulder-based Garmin-Sharp team has the honor of defending Giro champion, and some of the Americans are in Italy to help with that defense, Dave Zabriskie, Garmin’s time trial specialist, will lead a strong team in California. Even Belgian hero Tom Boonen had planned to hone his sprinting skills in California before his crash at the Tour of Flanders last month.
The rise in American cycling will feature prominently again this August here in Colorado. While most Spanish-speaking racers will head to the Vuelta a Espana, most racers with a shot at September’s World Road Championship will skip the Vuelta in favor of the shorter, though still challenging Pro Cycling Challenge. Bad for the Vuelta, already the Grand Tour’s redheaded step-child, good for American cycling fans.
Meanwhile at the Corsa Rosa, Katusha’s Italian rider, Luca Paolini, is ensconced in pink. Defending champ, Garmin’s Canadian rider, Ryder Hasjedal, is 34 seconds back, tied on time with Sky’s leader, Bradley Wiggins.
The Manx Missile, Mark Cavendish started the Giro with a sprint win in Naples.
Team Sky was the overwhelming winner in stage two’s team time trial on the island of Ischia. Surprisingly, it was Sky’s firt TTT win in a grand tour. The win put Sky’s Salvatore Puccio, who also happens to be Italy’s national time trial champion, in the pink leader’s jersey.
Hesjedal took off on an attack during stage three, only to be caught and passed by eventual stage winner Paolini.
Stage four saw former Giro champion Danilo DiLuca get swamped by the sprinters teams less than 400 yards short of the finish line of the 153-mile stage in Serra San Bruno. Sprinter Enrico Battaglin took the bunch sprint. Paolini kept the rain-soaked pink jersey.
Stage five, 126 mostly-flat miles from Cosenza to Matera, was marred by a crash inside the last 1000 meters. Sprinter John Degenkolb of Argo-Shimano avoided the crash and made up a huge gap in just about 100 meters to take his first career win in the Italian tour.
Look west this weekend. The Amgen Tour of California will be televised on NBCSports network beginning Sunday. To see the Giro d’Italia, visit Steephill.tv to find a live video feed.
One grand tour and one smaller tour are underway. It’s nearly crunch time for training, and for fund raising. By the time most folks read this, I’ll be out on my bike.
The weather has been nice, and while I’ve talked about it plenty, I try not to complain too much about my collar bone. I was surprised to discover just how far this column goes and how many people have heard about my injury.
I was hiking up to Gem Lake about 10 days ago and met a gentleman from Denver. He noticed my camera gear and sling and correctly guessed who I am. On Tuesday night, I was doing a shoot for Children’s Hospital, all the way down on their new Fitzsimmons campus. It was an event with big donors, department chairs and hospital and foundation executives. A donor, again after spotting the cameras and sling, asked if this was my column. It’s nice to know this is read all over.
So, I mentioned Children’s Hospital and donors. I got to see the new hospital up close. I got to see a few of the many children this facility helps every day. I’ve also managed to meet some of our locals over the last few years, who have benefited from this great hospital. It’s nice to be a part, even a small one, of helping this hospital. You can be a part, as well.
I am still trying to put together my team for the annual Courage Classic bike tour. The important part is the fund raising. Riders raise money for the hospital, providing funds for them to purchase equipment, recruit top-notch talent and finish this state-of-the-art facility down in Aurora. All of this for the benefit of Colorado’s children.
There are two ways to help out. You can join me. Go to couragetours.com/2012/team/estes and sign up. Do to schedules, we are low on riders. We would welcome new team members. If you can’t or don’t wish to ride, you can always donate. Go to the same web address, pick a rider, and donate. It’s actually pretty easy.
If you don’t already know, the ride, itself, is three days around Leadville, Vail and Summit County. The riders are friendly and pleasant. The scenery is breathtaking and the support is the best of any ride I have ever done. The support consists of volunteers mostly from Children’s Hospital, so they’re cheerful people, anyway. The organizers also promote a contest among the aid stations, so they are competitively happy and enthusiastic. The real heart-warming icing on the cake is Team Courage. This is a team of kids and their parents who have been treated at Children’s Hospital. The festivities on Saturday night include introduction of the team, to cheers and hugs. On Monday, the last day of the event, the whole team masses and then crosses the finish line together.
Riders of the event get medals at the end, but the real reward is knowing you’ve helped this wonderful hospital. This will be my fifth year, and I hope to do it for many years to come. I would love to have some new friends to join me.
In the professional world, 22-year-old Slovac Peter Sagan of the Liquigas-Cannondale squad has absolutely dominated this year’s Amgen Tour of California. The young sprinter has won the first four stages, and has worn three of the for competition jerseys; best young rider, sprinters points and the yellow jersey of the overall leader. He may have trouble on Thursday with the Bakersfield time trial, however. All of the top GC contenders, including defending champ Chris Horner, are withing 30 seconds of the lead.
Friday will also be a challenge for most sprinters as the stage starts in Palmdale, north of Los Angeles, and heads west for a big climb and a finish at Big Bear Lake. The problem, for the rest of the field, is that Sagan won the climb to Big Bear last year. If Sagan can hang tough in the time trial, look for him to win the race and take home his first tour overall win.
Over in Italy, irony took headlines at the Giro d’Italia on Wednesday. Roberto Ferrari won the bunch sprint after yet another crash in the final kilometer of the stage. Before Wednesday, Ferrari was best known as the erratic sprinter who crashed world champ Mark Cavendish and GC leader Taylor Phinney in the last 100 meters of the first road stage of the race, a week ago Sunday. Phinney has not ridden very well since and Cavendish has looked tired, though he did pick up a sprint victory last week.
Joaquin Rodriguez of the Katusha team leads the overall. Canadian Ryder Hesjedal of the Garmin-Barracuda squad is 17 seconds back. Several overall contenders are within one minute of the lead and the race has not yet hit the high mountains. The year’s Giro is completely up for grabs with eight stages left. This should be fun.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding. Really.