Monday, May 30, 2011

Matthew Busche, US Pro Road Champion...

As if to confirm all his hard work at the recent Amgen Tour of California, Matthew Busche (far right in photo below, from Tour of California):

nips race veteran George Hincapie at the line, in today's US Pro Championship Road Race:

The finish was almost as close as the 2008 Championships, where Tyler Hamilton out-threw Blake Caldwell at the line:

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Barry Wolfe Grand Prix...

a few from the 35+ race

There was a little bit of a lot out in Woodland Hills today. I understand the first race was run on wet pavement; there was a little rain in the am. Middle races were pretty nice, but by the time the pro races got underway, first the women, then the men, it was seriously windy. There were at least two big crashes in the men's race which may have been a result of the wind. It was really howling, and every time the race turned a corner the wind would slam into the peloton from a different direction. The first crash occurred toward the middle of the race, and had a good ten riders lined up in the pit to jump back in the next time the bunch came through. The second crash was the game changer. It came with, was it one or two to go? and changed the outcome for a large percentage of the field, who were knocked out of contention. 

and a few from the pro/1/2 race

Alexi Martinez

Photos from the Women's Pro/1/2/3 race are here.
A very few photos from the Women's 3/4 race are here.
Photos from the Men's 35+ race here.
Pro/1/2 race photos here.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Vintage and Classic: SR Bicycle with Shimano 600ax...

I stopped by the Velo yesterday on my way home from GMR and immediately spotted this bike on the patio rack. It is an SR frame with Shimano 600 AX components. That is all well and fine, but what I noticed about it first, was the tubing - it is early aero. Both the seat tube and down tube incorporate what we today clearly recognize as aerodynamic shapes. 

The sticker above the headbadge spells it out - Shimano aero dynamic. The larger sticker on the seat tube says Shimano aerodynamic racing components. Both the Dura-ace and 600 lines came in the ax models. From what I have read, the ax line was introduced in 1981, as an attempt to redefine the design of modern racing components. It was one of those design developments widely considered to be "ahead of its time," and like many such creations, was not well received by the public. Production ended after only two years. 

I just wanted to update the above paragraph a little - you know, the more time you spend researching, the more you find out. I mentioned only two levels of components in the ax line. Of course there was a third, called Adamas, it was the lower end of the three; less high-performance, more everyday workhorse.

The SR bike line is a little more problematic. Information I have read is a bit muddied. There are three possibilities: 1) Some people say that SR refers to the well-known Sakae Ringyo, precursor of SR Suntour. 2) Others say that SR is of no relation to Sakae Ringyo, that instead SR was a manufacturer of mid-priced Japanese sport bikes built in Osaka in the 1970s. 3) There was an SR bikes being manufactured in the San Diego area in the 1980s, which produced several different models of sport and touring frames. Which is correct for this bike? I will not be able to let go until I find out. Which ever turns out to be true, this almost seems like a sort of project bike developed in partnership between the two companies. It seems likely that the aero-frame would have been designed in conjunction with Shimano releasing their aero-dynamic ax line of components. But that is all conjecture right now. There is another example here. It is more high-end, Shimano frame, with Dura-ace AX components. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

GMR Friday...

Things were warming up on the mountain this morning, temperature-wise I mean. Rolled up there solo, though there were plenty of other riders out, they were always going in the opposite direction. Felt better at the top than I did starting the climb which I always take as a good sign. I could have done without the racing motorcycles today, though. I don't normally have a problem with them, but today there was a group of four that were making multiple runs up and down the mountains; three of them were cool and throtled back when they came behind me, but the fourth guy (always in the lead) I guess had something to prove, and was just flying past every time. Other than that, it was a nice peaceful climb and descent.

They are faded now, but some of the chalk messages are still evident from last weekend. Though it doesn't look like it in the photo, this view is looking downhill, and someone's affection of Lars Boom can be read correctly climbing up. They are fading quickly.

Oh no, not another self-portrait. I had to throw this one in, as proof of my new, sleeker, moustache-less visage.

and even closer, to see what was reflected in my glasses. Have a good long weekend all. I am hoping to make it out to Woodland Hills on Sunday for the Barry Wolfe GP. Master's 45+ roll off at 9:35. Yikes!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mind the Gap: The Enigma of a Regional Bicycle Network...

What springs to mind when you hear, or see, the phrase mind the gap? If you ride the rails, maybe as a daily subway or other rail line commuter, or perhaps as a longer distance traveller, you will know it refers to watching your step as you board. In particular it is a warning to be aware of the gap between train and platform. If you have any experience at racing bicycles, you may recognize it as a warning for you to be aware of gaps opening up between riders ahead of you in the peloton, to fill the gap, or bridge up before the gap becomes too large. 

Today, however, I am using it in a pejorative sense, in reference to those gaps which exist in bikeway systems due to differing jurisdictional priorities, policies, or what have you. In particular I am going to consider the eastern edge of Los Angeles County, the cities of Claremont, La Verne, Pomona, San Dimas and Glendora. I have seen Beverly Hills referenced as a black hole of bicycling infrastructure; well, out here in the east County area we have our own black hole, it is a space occupied by two municipalities, the cities of La Verne and Pomona. For a quick look at what I am talking about, check out the handy Metro Bike Map, the relevant area of which I have reproduced here:

In case you are unfamiliar, all the green lines represent class 3 designated bike routes, the pink lines are class 2 bike lanes and, the blue are class 1 bike paths. Keep in mind that the map is a bit dated now, it does not show the Pacific Electric Trail running east from Claremont (which would be a blue line), nor does it show the Citrus Regional Bikeway on Bonita Avenue in Claremont (which would be a pink line). Now, notice how a lot of those lines, especially those going in an  east/west direction across the map, end when they get to La Verne and Pomona. Below is what it looks like in reality where one of those lines ends:

Nothing dramatic, the painted line simply ends, the pavement continues. This is along Baseline; I am standing in Claremont, where the line ends is La Verne. If you continue along this road for another two miles or so, you will come to the city of San Dimas where, miraculously the bike lane reappears (actually it is an even better one, taking into account parked cars). In reality, I don't know if these lines are even necessary. I don't need a painted stripe to tell me where to ride, drivers too frequently ignore them, and things like this,

parking in the bike lane which, to me, would seem to render their entire purpose mute. To my understanding the purpose of a bike lane is to provide a designated space out of the way of faster moving vehicles; so does not allowing cars to be parked in these spaces, and thus forcing bicyclists out into auto lanes, defeat their entire purpose? Now, this post is not intended to be an argument about the validity, or otherwise, of bike lanes, whether or not they actually make things safer for bicyclists, create more problems than they solve. 

How many riders, who travel across multiple jurisdictions, stop riding when a bike lane ends at one municipal boundary. None, might be a good guess. The presence of a bike lane, or lack of one, is little deterrent when you have some place to go. If you have been reading here for a while, you may know that I feel bike lanes are niceties, but not necessities. At this moment in time bike lanes seem to be the defacto means of measuring a municipality's bikability, a city's commitment to providing for people who chose not to contribute to the problems of automobility. I tend to view bike lanes as a start, part of a progression to a better, more complete transportation system. But that is somewhere in the future. Right now, a city that incorporates bike lanes into its transportation plans is one that considers the well being of both residents and non-residents passing through. Those blank spaces on the map, the black holes where the bike lanes end, exhibit a lack of concern.

The lane ends/begins here. When so many bike routes/paths end at a city's boundary, does it say something about that city's commitment to providing safe, efficient means of mobility? And as a non-resident how do you respond, if at all?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The night's Bud's Ride mystery...

was not trying to figure out how the keep the wind from blowing me backward at the top of the hill, or even in more broad terms, how to keep from being dropped. No, it was figuring out why there was blood on my fingers and brake lever. I have no idea. There I am riding along when I realize the fingers on my right hand are sticky, and so is the brake lever. What the? There was enough blood that I couldn't tell where it was coming from, it could have been any one of three fingers. I didn't feel anything, so what the heck? Turns out there is a 1/2 ragged cut at the tip of my right index finger. There is nothing sharp on the brake lever, so I have no idea how it happened, and in fact don't even remember it happening, whenever it did. Not much to look at after all is said and done (not even sure if it is worth this post), but I still can't explain it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Peugeot, Record du Monde...

The last time I stopped in at the Velo, Dale had just taken in this Peugeot mixte. With the basket on the front it could be a pretty nice run-around-town bike. But it was the little flag that came with it, that I thought was a kick. I put it in the basket, just to show it for the photo, but I could see it flying from some long wire antenna. I wonder if it came with this frame model, or was just picked up somewhere else by the previous owner?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Xavier Tondo Volpini

the peloton rolls slower today
1978 - 2011

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Italian Thunder Alley...

I believe these two images, swiped from the Quick Step Team site are of the Monte Zoncolan, at this years Giro d'Italia. The sound must be deafening as the riders race through that tunnel. Madhouse, just crazy.

Wonderful Pistachios in the An Post Ras...

While the Amgen Tour of California may have wrapped up today, one of our California-based teams, the Wonderful Pistachio's are busy racing in the An Post Ras in Ireland. This is an eight day race which started today, and runs to the 29th of May. This is one of the most important races in Ireland, and gives top amateurs a chance to race against professional squads, such as the Pistachio's. 

Some of Ireland's top racers are entered in the Ras, including Sam Bennett and Mark Cassidy, racing for the An Post Sean Kelly Team and, David McCann and Martyn Irvine, racing for the Asia Giant-Kenda Team. The Wonderful Pistachio's bring a five man squad to the race, Menso de Jong, Neil Coleman, Tim Farnham, Tom Faiers, and Collin Samaan. Other professional teams entered include the Rapha-Condor-Sharp, and the Sigma-Specialized Teams from Great Britain; there are also teams from New Zealand, Australia, France, Germany, Ukraine, Italy, and Greece. Today's stage 1 was a UCI 2.2 rated, 148km mostly flat race from Dunboyne to Portumna. Menso de Jong ended the day as the highest placed Pistachio, crossing the line in 23rd spot, 14 seconds behind the day's victor, Dean Downing of Rapha Condor. An account of how the race unfolded can be read here (and the Ras can be followed) at IrishCycling.

Tim Farnham finishes ahead of Colm Cassidy on Stage 1

Stage 2 was 164km in length, again mostly flat, between Portumna and Kilrush. Gediminas Bagdonas, a Lithuanian rider on the An Post Sean Kelly Team won the day, while Shane Archbold, of the New Zealand National Team pulled the overall race leaders' jersey onto his shoulders. Wind was a major factor of the day's stage, the largest group of riders crossing the line more than 34 minutes after Bagdonas took the sprint. For the Wonderful Pistachio's Neil Coleman and Menso de Jong were the best placed finishers at 51st and 52nd respectively, finishing in a large group 9:45 down. After the first two stages, de Jong sits in 36th place, 9:49 behind the leader. Full report is here.

Stage 3 saw the Ras arrive in more hillier terrain which suited eventual stage winner Nikolay Mihaylov, who was first across the finish line in Castleisland, after 175.3 km. Mihaylov of the France AVC Aix en Provence Team, and runner up, Oleksandr Sheydyk of the Ukraine ISD Lampre Continental Team rode clear of a 17 man break on the catagory 1 Crag Cave climb, 13 kilometers from the finish. Gediminas Bagdonas, victor in stage 2 came in with the remainder of the breakaway 15 seconds behind, enough to secure the race leaders' Yellow Jersey. Menso de Jong, was again highest placed finisher from the Wonderful Pistachio Team, crossing the line 37th, 2:32 behind Mihaylov. This moved him up slightly, to 33rd overall after three stages. Full report is here.

stage 3 victor, Nikolay Mihaylov

Stage 4, 142 km between Castleisland and Castletownberre, climbs five rated summits, including the final catagory 1 climb of Healy Pass, just over 23 km from the finish. This is an area I have visited on a couple occasions; it is quite mountainous, with narrow, twisting roads, giving the climbers in the bunch an opportunity to shine. Gusting winds and heavy rain greeted the peloton on the earlier climbs of Ladies View and Molls Gap. In this conditions various breaks and chases formed and reformed throughout most of the stage, until after 112 km the race was brought together on the run up to Healy Pass. Two km from the summit a lead group of 30-40 riders was together. This lead group splintered during the touchy descent. Several solo and duo attempts were made during the final kilometers, but the finale ultimately came down to a sprint out of the lead group, won by the Yellow Jersey Bagdonas, ahead of Shane Archbold, and Stuart Shaw of Australia Drapac Cycling. Menso de Jong was again, the highest finishing Wonderful Pistachio rider, crossing the line in 21st spot, same time as the victor.  This moved him up to 27th on g.c., 12:06 behind Bagdonas. Link to full report here.

stage 4 video from the An Post Ras site

On to stage 5, an 156 km race from Castletownberre to Blarney, and taking on four third category climbs and two second category climbs. Sixty-three kilometers into the race, and following on the heels of the capture of an earlier break, the winning move rode clear of the peloton. Myron Simpson of the New Zealand National Team, Johannes Kahra of Thuringer Energie, Dean Windsor of Rapha, and Tobyn Horton of Motorpoint joined break instigators Lachlann Norris from the Drapac Team and David O'Laughlin of Waterford Comeragh. The break built a maximum lead of 4:00, until the An Post Sean Kelly Team of race leader Gediminas Bagdonas slammed the hammer down, cutting the lead to a minute and a half at the top of the final climb. With 24 km to go and the peloton charging fast, Norris made a solo jump. His five breakaway companions caught Norris with about 6 km to go. With three to go Simpson made his own charge and was able to hold off Horton and the peloton, which had absorbed the remainder of the break, with a four second advantage. For the Pistachio's, Menso de Jong finished 26th in the field sprint, which has moved him up to 23rd spot on g.c., at 12:06. Unfortunately, according to the official race results Wonderful Pistachio riders Tom Faiers and Tim Farnham were unable to finish the days stage. As usual full report can be read here.

Only a single Wonderful Pistachio rider took the line at the start of stage 6, Menso de Jong. The sixth stage was a 167 km race between Blarney and Tramore contained less serious climbing, but still required the racers to top six third category summits. After all was said and done de Jong came in solo in 24th position at 2:06 back. This moved him up to 20th position overall at 12:18. About 110 km into the stage a group of four riders broke clear of the peloton, Lachlann Norris of Drapac, Anatoliy Pakhtusov of ISD-Lampre, Wouter Sybrandy of Sigma Specialized, and Marcin Bialoblocki of the Motorpoint Team. Three of the riders stayed clear to the end, with Bialoblocki taking first, five seconds up on Pakhtusov and ten seconds ahead of Sybrandy. Yellow Jersey wearer Gediminas Bagdonas came in at 1:54, enough to retain his overall lead by 32 seconds over Pakhtusov. Link to full report here.

Well, I certainly fell behind with stage 7 but, in brief, the 161 km stage between Tramore and Kildare was taken by Giant Kenda rider, Martyn Irvine, who attacked out of a break with under ten kilometers to go. Irvine was part of an eight man break that got away from the bunch early in the race and stayed clear to the end, three hours and forty minutes later. Menso de Jong, for the Wonderful Pistachio's had a solid ride to finish in 50th spot, 17 seconds back, and retain his position in 20th on gc. He also sits in 5th position in the Irish Sports Council Under 23 Overall competition. Full report for the stage is here.

With only 32 seconds separating the top two riders, Sunday final stage could decide the overall standings. And, with 18 seconds separating third through eighth positions, the final podium spot was up for grabs as well. Such a situation tends to make for some good racing. The final stage, 133 km, with five third category climbs between Kildare and Skerries, included a final 13.8 km circuit which the racers would have to round twice before the last sprint of the Ras. After about 40 km of racing David McCann of Giant Kenda, and Tobyn Horton of Motorpoint broke free of the bunch, gradually increasing their lead to more than three minutes. Horton would eventually crack and fall off the torrid pace being set by McCann, but McCann would hold on to win the stage ahead of the hard charging field led home by Shane Archbold. Gedeminas Bagdonas finished well enough in the bunch to claim overall victory in this 2011 An Post Ras. Menso de Jong finished the day's race at 61st spot, good enough to end the weeklong event in 20th place. He also retained his 5th position in the Under 23 competition. Full report of the final stage, and final official standings. I just want to express my thanks to Shane Stokes, of, who provided the live coverage feed of each stage, and then the detailed wrap-up afterward. If I couldn't be there for the race, reading these reports were the next best thing. The photography by Inpho Photography were fantastic, as were the video clips of each stage, shown on the An Post Ras website.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Tour of California Stage 7: A Morning with Rabobank...

Hope you like orange, white and blue

Rabobank weapon of choice

Lars Boom, 2008 Dutch National Road Race and Time Trial Champion. he is also a former Cyclocross World Champion, and has won the Cyclocross National Championship each of the past five years

Eric Breukink, director sportif, and former
Tour de France stage winner and podium finisher

Oscar Freire, 1999, 2001, 2004 Road Race World Champion. he is wearing the
Breakaway From Cancer Most Courageous Rider Jersey

Just a little photo preview to the mornings stage 7 start to kick things off. Over the years, Rabobank has consistently been one of this families favorite teams, so we pretty much made a beeline through the team area, making direct for the big orange, white and blue Rabobank team bus. They were set up kind at the far end of the concourse, so we had to make our way through some crowds outside the various other team car/bus areas. Mob scenes were greeting riders and staff outside the Leopard-Trek, Radioshack and Garmin-Cervelo buses, in particular, and in contrast the Rabobank bus seemed virtually abandoned. Ourselves and a couple handsful of loyal supporters. Most of the Rabobank support staff was already out and about, milling around, waiting for something to happen - riders and top staff were still to show. Suddenly an explosion of sound erupted from the Radioshack area across the street, tee shirts started flying left and right through the air, and the swarm was on.

Maarten Tjallingii

Paul Martens

Eventually Eric Breukink  emerged from the Rabobank bus to talk with some of the staff. Eric was one of my favorite racers back in the 90s, and he is now director sportif of the Rabobank team. I walked over to get his autograph on our giant foam finger, and he was happy to oblige. Cool. Soon after, the team started to emerge through the buses door. Some stopped for photos or autographs, before hopping on their bikes to ride over to sign-in. Lars Boom, Oscar Freire, Paul Martens, Michael Matthews, Maarten Tjallingii, et al. Lars Boom also took a moment to sign our big foam finger, as well as pose for a photo with the boy. We looked for Freire, but he did not come back to the bus after sign-in. Later, I noticed a kid walking around the expo area with a Dutch flag, he had gotten someone to sign it. Pretty cool. 

Laurens Ten Dam, who would finish 3rd on the Queen Stage to Mt. Baldy

riders and staff

Lars Boom, and the boy, sporting his Best Young Rider's Jersey

the foam finger signed by Boom and Breukink

Residents of Claremont, and fans of cycling turned out enmasse for the start of Stage 7 of the Amgen Tour of California. They started showing up in the start and expo areas well before any of the teams made their appearance. There was a noticeable buzz of excitement running through the crowd. The Kiwanis Club was serving up pancakes, and the various cafes and bakeries in the Village were doing a lively business. Eventually, racers did begin emerging from their team cars and buses (more of that in a minute), signing autographs, answering questions, before hoping on their bikes for the ride to sign in. This is one of the coolest aspects of professional cycling, fans get this time to mingle with their favorites, pick up freebies from the various teams. It is a very laid-back, relaxed atmosphere. The differences between teams is also very telling and noticeable at this time - there are the big, well funded teams with custom, luxury buses, and there are the small teams with no bus, who make do with team cars only. It was striking seeing racers from the little NetApp Team just sitting around on the backs of their hatchbacks, right next to this huge Rabobank bus. It is like the difference between the major and the minor leagues, and gives you some new found, or renewed admiration for the efforts of the little guys.

Leopard-Trek, and Andy Schleck supporters made themselves known
(their flag said Andy Schleck on the other side)

volunteers at the start area

Ryder Hesjedal of Garmin-Cervelo

Sven Tuft of first-year Canadian team, Spidertech

Christopher Baldwin checking his spokes

in the spirit of the day

expo area was crowded

shirts were flying through the air over at Radioshack

i believe that is Dave Zabriskie, winner of Stage 6

Juan Jose Haedo

Eventually the gun sounded, and the racers took off on two neutral circuits through town, followed closely by teams cars, race officials and photographers motorcycles. I have been to many races, both major ones, and small local ones, and it was truly amazing to see spectators lined along every square foot of the route, cheering, ringing cowbells, waving flags. One would think that the supposition that the only thing Americans know about cycling is Lance Armstrong was really just an urban myth. Clearly the people cheering and yelling were appreciative. What was equally amazing was how quickly the set up was torn down once the racers and support caravan rode out of town. The Amgen crews immediately began packing up their barricades and stage for the concluding Stage 8 in Thousand Oaks, tomorrow.

and they're off - riders on the front include
Jonathan Patrick McCarty, Peter Sagan, and Levi Leipheimer

off the back, at the gun
one of the hardest working men in the peloton, Bernhard Eisel

the girls do like Andy

parading through town during two neutral laps

bikes may use full lane (so says the sign). ya think?

yellow jersey on his shoulders, Chris Horner

Peter Sagan, in the green Herbalife Sprint Jersey
and Ben King, National Champion, lead the peloton out of town

George Hincapie (BMC)

bringing up the rear, the broom wagon

If you didn't read Levi Leipheimer's comments following his victory at Mt. Baldy, I think they sum up the day perfectly: "The course is spectacular. It felt like the Tour de France. I hope this becomes a staple in the Tour of California. It'll be an iconic stage."

Link to the rest of the photos will be posted here soon.
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