Specialized Securitor bounce back from the brink of disaster

Cycling is a sport of nuances and contradictions. It is also a sport where the highs of a stage win one day can come crashing down in a pile of twisted bodies and machinery the next.

The last women’s National Road Series (NRS) event in Ballarat over the weekend highlighted this predicament for Specialized Securitor.

The team celebrated victory on stage one of the Tour of the Goldfields with Canberra rider Kimberley Wells winning the bunch sprint at the end of a 20 lap criterium.

Less than 24 hours later, the elation of stage one’s victory came literally crashing down when the entire team crashed less than 500 metres into the Team Time Trial.

Luckily, they managed to get three riders over the line but by Saturday afternoon’s third stage, they were down to just two riders for Sunday’s final stage with Wells and Sophie Mackay.

Fortunes in any sport can quickly change, but it is how those involved respond that is the true test of character and integrity.

Watching the Specialized Securitor team prepare for Sunday’s final stage you may have been mistaken for thinking this was a team with the full compliment of five riders, not two.

“The crash showed how close of a team we are and how strong of a friendship we have. We moved on from it pretty quickly and learnt from it and no one was upset with anyone. I think it’s a credit to all of the girls that we are happy and can move forward quickly,” said Claire Trembath, who managed to finish the TTT but withdrew on stage 3 later Saturday afternoon.

The aftermath of Saturday morning’s crash also caused the team’s race plans to be altered as well.

With just two riders for the final stage, Sunday’s plan was to try to get into a breakaway and although Wells tried unsuccessfully, Mackay was able to seize an opportunity to find herself in the significant breakaway of the day.

The seven rider breakaway did get out to a 1 minute 23 second lead at one point, before Holden Women’s Cycling, Ruth Corset managed to over power them to take the stage victory.

The positive attitude of the Specialized Securitor riders was reflected in DS Bec Domange’s assessment of the Tour.

“We won a stage of the Tour and today we were in the main break of the day, so all in all I think we can take some really positive things out of the tour. We only finished with two riders and there’s only so much you can do with two riders when you’re racing teams with five.

“I think the girls will be really happy with how they went. They showed courage and determination with their riding. There are lots of positives to come out of it minus the TTT but other than that the girls have done well.”

Wells was equally positive about the team’s performance over the weekend. In reflecting on how Tour racing can consist of the highs and the lows, she points out,

“I think the Tour’s been really good for Specialized Securitor. I’m really happy with everyone in the team, the riders, the staff.

“When things aren’t panning out is probably when you learn the most about yourself and we even managed a few laughs.”

If there is one thing cyclists know, it is that luck can change in the blink of an eye and for Specialized Securitor, that is exactly what happened over the weekend.

The disaster of crashing forced the team to come up with a new race plan and although the weekend may not have finished quite how they would of liked, the team left Ballarat with high spirits and a strong sense of camaraderie.

 

 

This article originally appeared on The Roar

Chapeau, Cadel

The news on Friday that Cadel Evans was officially retiring from cycling after the Australian cycling season was not completely unexpected.

Even so, cycling fans, Australian or not, avid fans or casual fans of the Tour de France, joined together in a chorus of love and respect for the man who has done much to transform Australia’s connection to a sport usually played out on the other side of the world.

Cadel Evans has that rare ability and that rare honour of being one of the few people in the public eye who can make you truly proud to be Australian.

In sporting terms, he shares this honour with the likes of Rod Laver, Sir Donald Bradman and Cathy Freeman. These are athletes who inspired their generations as well as the generations that follow.

For some, Evans has appeared aloof and difficult to read. Not a natural media performer, he is a man who never hides his emotions. He wears his heart on his sleeve and this is surely one of his greatest assets. In many ways this is his most endearing quality. It’s also a quality that generates immense respect for him.

There are no smoke and mirrors, just the honesty of a man who has represented himself and his country to the highest degree in a sport that has too often let itself down.

Casting our minds way back to late in the twentieth century, Cadel Evans rose to prominence in the sport of mountain biking.

He was a four time National Champion, two time World Champion and Olympian before making the transition to the road.

It’s this transition that made him a household name in Australia.

His Grand Tour career got off to a healthy start with a 14th place in his first attempt at the Giro d’Italia in 2002 but it will be for the Tour de France that he will be most remembered by Australians.

Evans finished 8th in his first attempt at the world’s most famous road race in 2005.

His fourth place in 2006 and his back to back runner up placings in 2007 and 2008 cemented him as Australia’s number one road cyclists.

It was also these results that ensured his Australian fans were on hand to will him over the line in 2011 after two disastrous campaigns in 2009 and 2010.

There is no doubt that his 2011 victory at the Tour de France was the pinnacle of not just his career, but of Australian cycling.

Evans’s win in 2011 was the culmination of years of grinding away to win the world’s most famous bike race.

Australian cycling fans and fans of the Tour de France didn’t just jump on the Cadel bandwagon in 2011. We had spent the previous seven years sitting up until the wee small hours, cheering him on.

Many Australians who tuned into the Tour de France coverage may have known little about the intricacies and tactics of three week stage races, but one thing they did know, was that they were tuning in, sacrificing sleep to watch one of our greatest athletes conquer a sport dominated by Europeans.

Evans is a member of an elite group of cyclists who have worn the leader’s jersey in all three Grand Tours as well as one of the few to have stood on the podium in all three of these events.

His palmares is too long to go into detail here, but his results are nothing short of spectacular.

Evans has been nothing short of a trailblazer in Australian cycling.

To be a World Champion in two disciplines of cycling, the first Australian to win the Tour de France and the first Australian to be world road race champion are just a small part of what will be a wide reaching legacy.

He has introduced thousands of people to a sport that has never held the sway of cricket or the various football codes in Australia.

The sport of cycling is growing in Australia and whilst there are many hard working Australians contributing to this, it is Evans who is the most well known.

He has brought a whole new audience to Australia’s National Road Championship, the Tour Down Under and even to national broadcaster SBS.

Surely, Evans’s success in Europe has contributed to the increased coverage of road cycling on SBS as well as to their flagship regular coverage the Tour de France.

Evans has also brought immeasurable joy to sports fans in this country. He has taught us that perseverance and self belief, that fighting on when all seems against you are the most valuable qualities one can possess.

His honesty has been refreshing and inspiring and like the greats before him, such as Laver, Bradman and Freeman he will be an inspiration to as yet unborn sporting stars.

At this year’s Australian Open tennis, the great Rafael Nadal stood in awe of Rod Laver and asked politely, “May I have a picture with you, Mr. Laver”.

There is no doubt that many years into the future, a young champion will ask something similar of Mr. Evans.

That is how far reaching his legacy will be.

Thank you for the memories and chapeau, Cadel Evans.

 

This article was originally published on The Roar

 

 

 

What’s in a name?

Shakespeare told us that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, so we shouldn’t dwell on a name, especially when the love of our life is from the family one has been taught to despise.

For my sins, I was once a teacher and the best classes were the ones where the kids all had the same names.

I’m appalling at learning people’s names. After looking at the Orica GreenEdge website, it would appear I’m not the only one.

The powers that be at Orica GreenEdge must also have similar problems learning names because a quick look at the men’s team on their website, demonstrates that of the 25 riders 10 names are repeated, but another 3 have very similar sounding names.

Better still, the lovely folk at Orica GreenEdge have listed their riders in alpha order of their first names. Clearly they too see the humour in a team made up of essentially the same names.

Let’s take a quick squizz.

We have Cameron Mayer and Christian Meier. Very similar names indeed.

Cameron Meyer Orica GreenEdge website
Cameron Meyer
Orica GreenEdge website
Christian Meier Orica GreenEdge website
Christian Meier
Orica GreenEdge website

Let’s not forget the two Jens’s, Keukeleire and Mouris.

Jens Keukeleire Orica GreenEdge website
Jens Keukeleire
Orica GreenEdge website
Jens Mouris Orica GreenEdge website
Jens Mouris
Orica GreenEdge website

Then the Matthews begin:

Matthew Goss Orica GreenEdge website
Matthew Goss
Orica GreenEdge website
Mathew Hayman Orica GreenEdge website
Mathew Hayman
Orica GreenEdge website

Matthew Goss and Hayman but Michael Matthews makes a double appearance. He is also one of the three Michaels and he adds to a trio of Matthews.

The three Michaels are Albasini, Hepburn and Matthews.

Michael Albasini Orica GreenEdge website
Michael Albasini
Orica GreenEdge website
Michael Hepburn Orica GreenEdge website
Michael Hepburn
Orica GreenEdge website
Michael Matthews Orica GreenEdge website
Michael Matthews
Orica GreenEdge website

Finally we have the Simons, Clarke, Gerrans and Yates.

Simon Clarke Orica GreenEdge website
Simon Clarke
Orica GreenEdge website
Simon Gerrans Orica GreenEdge website
Simon Gerrans
Orica GreenEdge website
Simon Yates Orica GreenEdge website
Simon Yates
Orica GreenEdge website

As a predominantly Australian team we can clearly see that Australian names during the 1970s and 1980s didn’t veer too far away from Matthew and Simon.

Names come and go and they travel in packs. When I taught in the UK I taught lots of Charlottes and Lucys and I once taught a class of Matthews and Mitches.

I guess Orica GreenEdge is no different and the patterns of names we see in broader society we see in this professional racing team.

Clearly the way to get onto this team is to be a Matthew, Simon or any other name that sounds remotely similar to any of the existing team members.

And thank you OGE for pointing this out on your website.

Aussie tongues are firmly in cheeks here, me thinks.

Keeping the Vultures at Bay

So, the vultures are beginning to circle.

They’re not yet visible to the naked eye on the ground. The birds of prey are still a little too high in the sky to be clearly seen, but they are there.

They sniff out the beginnings of a sliding career almost from the other side of the galaxy.

They sense a feast will soon be upon them.

An inability to mention Orica-GreenEdge’s decision to include young Michael Matthews in the Aussie teams Giro lineup without mentioning the exclusion of fellow Aussie, Matthew Goss is such an example.

Obviously, it’s fantastic news that ‘Bling’ Matthews will get a guernsey at next months first Grand Tour of the year.

And there is no doubt that he deserves it.

Matthews broke GreenEdge’s European drought with a victory in the Vuelta a La Rioja and then followed up with a stage win in the Vuelta Pais Vasco (Tour of the Basque Country).

He took two stages in last year’s Vuelta, his first Grand Tour and now he will get another chance to race in a Grand Tour.

Matthews’s inclusion in the Orica GreenEdge Giro squad is also testament to the team’s earlier statements that they will select their sprinting options based on results.

The reality is, Goss just doesn’t have the results to warrant inclusion.

www.greenedgecycling.com
http://www.greenedgecycling.com

The Tasmanian had a so-so Aussie summer.

He didn’t finish the Aussie Road Race Championships, he went for a ride in the Tour Down Under and same again in the Herald-Sun Tour, although he did manage a second on the first stage.

Having said that though, the Aussie summer races were all about Gerrans and Orica GreenEdge had a successful summer down under.

Goss also managed a second on the third stage of Paris-Nice, although stage eight has turned out to be the beginning of a series of DNFs.

Dwars door Vlaandren and Gent Wevelgem round out the trilogy of DNFs.

But then again, the whole team had a pretty disastrous Gent Wevelgem.

In all fairness to Goss, the vultures shouldn’t be so hasty to line him up as their next meal.

But and there is a ‘but’ here. Goss does need to produce something and produce something this season.

His stellar 2011 is no longer the recent past.

In the last two years, the Tasmanian really hasn’t produced any results to really write home about.

www.perthnow.com.au
http://www.perthnow.com.au

It’s been too long since we’ve seen a winning Goss.

And as will happen to all of us, he isn’t getting any younger.

A new breed of sprinter is upon us, lead by German Marcel Kittel and co.

Goss needs to reassess his role as either a sprinter or a lead out man or something else….

This is an article I wrote in January last year about Goss.

http://www.theroar.com.au/2013/01/30/i-hope-thats-not-a-primate-on-your-back-matt-goss/

In revisiting it, I suppose you question whether I have a bit of blind loyalty because I’m essentially still arguing that now is not the time to get the knives out.

But I do wonder for how much longer we can keep this up.

I do sincerely hope that Goss reclaims some form or transitions his career into its next phase.

Most importantly, I do hope the vultures are kept at bay.

 

 

Tragedy at the Tour of Flanders

The Tour of Flanders otherwise known as the Ronde Van Vlaanderen is without doubt my favourite race of the year.

I absolutely love the Classics and I love this thrilling race.

Sadly, yesterday’s even saw one of the nastiest crashes between a rider and spectator that I think you’re likely to see.

Garmin- Sharp’s Johann Vansummeren collided at practically full speed with an elderly female spectator. There is footage on YouTube, but frankly, I’ve decided not to include it in this post because it is quite sickening.

Essentially, Vansummeren was at the back of the peloton and he didn’t see that on the small traffic island he was hurtling past, a group of three spectators perched watching the race.

Vansummeren was taken to hospital but later released with a black eye, some stitches and cuts. He is, however, devastated at the news that the elderly woman is reportedly in an induced coma.

According to Velonews.com “I am in shock,” Vansummeren told Sporza. “I have a black eye and a few stitches, but that’s not important now. I feel bad for the people involved.”

He goes on to add, “I have no desire to go further into [details] of the crash,” Vansummeren said. “It would only get bogged down on who is to blame.”

And this is very true.

Already my Twitter TL is filling up with comments that the race organiser should have put someone on the island to warn riders of it and there has been the obligatory, ‘well, they shouldn’t have been there’, too.

We may well argue that the spectators should not have been there but the reality is, no one deserves to be in an induced coma for being somewhere where they shouldn’t have been.

If we all received punishments for doing something silly, then 95% of the population would be in an induced coma. We have all made stupid errors in judgement and thankfully, most of the time we have escaped unscathed.

As for arguments relating to whether an official should have been on the traffic island, well that requires a number of factors to be taken into consideration.

Not every piece of ‘traffic furniture’ has a gendarme waving a warning flag. I suspect race organisers have a system for deciding which pieces of traffic furniture are maned and which are not.

But, as cycling becomes more and more popular and as the crowds at these events grow, it seems that some solutions to potential collisions with spectators and riders need to be considered.

The start line at Brugge via @michael_hepburn and @ORICA-GreenEDGE on Twitter
The start line at Brugge via @michael_hepburn and @ORICA-GreenEDGE on Twitter

One of the best things about cycling is that spectators can get so close to the action. This is something that should be preserved. The expense and extreme commercialisation of other sports leaves many feeling cold and empty, but the fact that anyone can line the road and cheer their cycling heroes is one of the best things about cycling.

But in order to preserve this, there are a few things that need to happen.

Perhaps organiser may look at having security patrols, keeping fans a safe distance back? Fencing off 250-300 kilometres of road is just not a logistical option and quite frankly, who wants that to happen? No one.

But having some security patrolling the sideline may be a solution to fans who get too close.

Educating the public about the dangers of getting too close to the action is also worthwhile, however, this is a slow burning strategy.

Another rider, Trek’s Yaroslav Popovych also had a strange collision with a female spectator yesterday.

His handle bars got caught up in a woman’s jacket.

Yes, it was a windy day, but once again this suggests the woman either got too close or did not realise just how close these riders can get to the side of the road. This is yet another example of where spectators either need to be told to stand back or where an education strategy may be useful in preventing further accidents.

Yesterday’s events were absolutely tragic.

Let’s all hope that the woman makes a full recovery and that Johann Vansummeren also recovers, not just form his physical injuries but from the emotional strain of the tragic collision.

 

 

IAMCycling: Kit of the Year?

I do love writing about pro riding kits but sadly my attention has previously focussed on the World Tour teams.

Check out this piece from a few months ago:

http://crankpunk.com/2014/01/14/kate-smart-takes-a-ganders-at-the-2014-protour-kits/

For whatever reason, I’ve given little thought to the Pro Conti teams but that has certainly changed this season.

I think it’s pretty clear cut who has the best kit this year.

IAMCycling.

The Swiss Pro-Conti team are easily the best dressed riders you’ll see on your TV screen.

Sadly, it wasn’t always like this.

Their 2013 kit was a little bland.

IAMCycling 2013 Kit
IAMCycling 2013 Kit (solightbike.com)

The white sleeves did nothing to bring the deep blue to life and this poor choice of contrast did nothing but drown out the light blue trim.

The key to this year’s improved kit is the addition of red across the front of the kit.

Sylvain Chavanel
Sylvain Chavanel (cyclingtips.com.au)

Seriously, how much better is this kit?

Like many I’ve been concerned about the dark colours in the peloton but with the addition of red, and let’s remember, red goes faster, the IAM boys are easily identifiable.

Well done IAMCyling and best of luck for the year!

Heinrich Haussler
Heinrich Haussier (podiumcafe.com)

 

IAMCycling Kit
IAMCycling Kit (scott-sports.com)
IAMCycling 2014 Kit
IAMCycling 2014 Kit (iamcycling.ch)

 

To shave or not to shave

From what I can tell, men who ride bikes get mightily sick of the constant question, ‘So, do you actually shave your legs?’

Those of you familiar with my musings on cycling will know, that I think you boys all need to HTFU and wax, but alas, I have digressed.

And anyway, it’s not the hair on cyclist’s legs that I’m concerned with, today.

Oh no, it is far worse than that.

It’s the hair on cyclist’s heads that is causing me all kinds of cause for concern.

What is it with cyclists and Ned Kelly beards these days?

Now don’t get me wrong, dear reader, I love a slightly hirsute man as much as the next person and a wee bit of Bernie Eisel designer stubble is quite nice to look at, indeed.

 

Bernie Eisel - Twitter
Bernie Eisel – Twitter

But seriously, this quasi-hipster, I want to look like a bush-ranger, out of control mane of man stubble, invading half a face just doesn’t do it for me.

It leaves me all rather perplexed, perhaps in the same way we women leave you blokes scratching your heads and wondering, “Women really are from another planet”.

There a couple of overtly, facial haired up examples riding through the peloton as we speak and non comes to mind quicker than Giant-Shimano’s Simon Geschke. He even seems to me to be the ring leader in these hairy shenanigans.

Copyright Brake Through Media via www.velonews.competitor.com
Copyright Brake Through Media via http://www.velonews.competitor.com

His hairy face has been a fixture of the peloton for a while now and it begs the question, ‘If cyclists shave their legs in order to be more aerodynamic on the bike, then surely growing a beard is counter productive to that, therefore male cyclists really just shave their legs cos they like it?’

Right?

According to a report posted on the ABC website, Gillette’s parent company, Proctor and Gamble has reported a 17% drop in sales during the December quarter and there are a number of reports out there or men paying up to $US8500 for facial hair transplants, you know, to hide the patchy bits that don’t grow.

Obviously as a bit of feministy chick, I am at no point suggesting that men should be dictated to, in terms of what they do to their own bodies and I suspect there are plenty of chicks out there who dig a man’s face with thick, luscious whiskers, a number of centimetres long, but, is all of this facial hair slowing said cyclists down?

And it’s not just Geschke, what about Katusha’s Luca Paolini?

Copyright Tim de Waele via www.velonews.competitor.com
Copyright Tim de Waele via http://www.velonews.competitor.com

The man could be housing an entire village of Lilliputians in his thick, gingery facial mane.

Geschke and Paolini may have braved Sunday’s very cold Milan-San Remo but quite frankly, had they of found themselves in a situation of famine, there’s probably enough crumbs and food scraps amongst those whiskers to keep them going for a good month or two, plus the afore mentioned residents.

Apparently some men feel they are taken more seriously with their bush ranger-esque facial hair, but I can’t help but think professional cyclists with exceptional facial growth are just confused.

Their legs are primed for speed but their faces are slowing them down.

 

The Cycling Season has started

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Aussie cycling season. It is after all summer here in January and I’m fortunate enough to not work at this time of year, so I get to gorge myself on Aussie cycling. Delicious!

And of course there is the Middle Eastern swing, to steal a tennis term, in February to keep the Foxtel subscription in tact.

I cannot lie to you, though, I found Paris-Nice and even Tirreno Adriatico a little flat this year. Or it may just be that I’m in  touch with my masculine side and I find multi-tasking between cycling and tennis a little bit of a challenge this year.

Either way, it really wasn’t until Sunday’s Milan-San Remo that I began to feel the buzz of the cycling season again.

Spring is in the air, even if Sunday’s weather conditions left more than one rider with hypothermia and quite a few drinking tea from their bidons.

And with the European Spring comes the Classics season.

What is it about this time of the cycling season that enthrals us so?

After all, those of us living in the Southern Hemisphere aren’t looking forward to thawing out after a long, cold winter.

Quite the contrary, many of us are dreading the onset of a long, cold winter (and dear reader, whilst Melbourne may not get to sub zero temperatures and ten feet of snow, it does get quite nippy down here).

It is also tempting to argue that my cycling passion has been reignited by what I hope will be a glorious showdown, or two, between the two great Classics riders of our time, Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara.

We have been sadly starved of an epic contest from these masters of the one day race.

No. What the beginning of the Classics seasons brings us is the true romance of European cycling and these races signify the beginning of the European season proper.

I for one am very excited to once again be in true, deep love with cycling.

My sleep patterns from now until August will be interrupted, my household will be kept awake into the wee hours and my ability to function during the daylight hours will be severely compromised.

Bring on the rest of the Classics season!