Tuesday, August 31, 2010

2010 Tour of Utah: Final Notes

The Tour of Utah billed as America's toughest stage race, with thirty thousand feet of climbing, was a spectacle worthy of any cycling event anywhere in the world. The sponsors, the kiosks, the displays, reminds one of old fairs where the community displayed their wares, very colorful and professional. If you were in search of anything related to cycling: clothes, bicycles, food, drink, this was the place to be.

At the prologue the organizers even had a small course for children marked off by orange cones, there were nervous parents watching their charges ride around, and there was a professional instructor teaching safety tips. New cyclists and cycling fans of the next generation.

A time trial, "the race of truth," is an all out effort where professional riders race the clock. The rider with the quickest time is declared the winner. There were two time trials at the Tour of Utah, one at the prologue and one at Miller Sport Park. There are cyclists who specialise in time trials, Fabian Cancellara, or Brent Brookwalter. Time trials have been decisive in determining who wins Grand Tour stage races. For example, Greg LeMond beat Laurent Fignon by eight seconds in a final time trial stage during the 1989 Tour de France.

The 2010 Tour of Utah also had a criterium in Park City, Utah. A criterium is a bicycle race where riders race a course through city streets in a specified number of laps. Criterium races have a closely grouped peloton: a French word denoting "group" or "pack." On occasion there are breakaways: by individual or small groups of riders who sprint ahead of the peloton and who hope not to be "reeled in": or caught by the pack. Some breakaways are successful, some not. The "bell lap" is the last lap of the criterium and in most cases the riders accelerate, or "wind up" in an all out sprint to the finish line. The first rider across the line is declared criterium champion. In the Tour of Utah the time of each rider in the criterium is added to the total time for the race, like in any other stage. Riders who do not complete the criterium are eliminated from the race.

Stage 1, 2, and 5 of the Tour of Utah consisted of regular road stages. A road stage is a race of a specified distance in miles (or kilometers). Road stages are ridden on conventional highways. The Tour of Utah had three conventional road stages. Road stages use racing tactics similar to criterium races, breakaways, gaps: the time between the breakaway riders and the peloton measured from some benchmark and the time calculated for the peloton to reach that benchmark; drafting: where a rider drafts behind another rider to reduce air friction and energy consumption: also known as wheel sucking. In breakaways riders ride in pace lines: where a rider leads the group and takes a pull: rides into the wind while other members of the group draft; then the leader rotates out of the front of the pace line to the back of the group and sprints to get back on while the next rider takes a pull. A well organized pace line where the riders work together can escape the peloton for an entire stage: and the stage is decided among the escapees. In flat stages, breakaways are discouraged by teams who have sprinters: riders who excel in sudden bursts of acceleration on bicycles and who race other sprinters in 300 meter drag races to the finish line. Sprinter teams do everything possible to reel in breakaways. Sprinter teams are organized groups of riders who form up in trains: team riders who protect a sprinter by taking pulls on the front and winding up the peloton to sixty kilometers an hour; then at the last second a sprinter is assisted by a lead out man: a teammate of exceptional ability who can eat wind at sixty kilometers an hour and peel of the front at the critical moment allowing the sprinter to hammer to seventy kilometers an hour and win the stage!

Whew! Makes you sweat just thinking about those sprints. Mark Cavendish, Thor Hushvold, and Robbie McEwen are the world's best sprinters: and if you are racing and not a sprinter abandon the area immediately. Sprints can be very physical affairs with jostling, shoulder rubs, and other physical contact. Sprinters do not allow novices to compete in sprints; if you have no business at the front of a peloton during a sprint; stay away for your own safety.

The Tour of Utah was decided on the twenty mile climb to Mount Nebo. Levi Leipheimer gained a minute on Francisco Mancebo and won Stage 2. Levi Leipheimer also gained an additional minute Francisco Mancebo on the little Cottonwood Canyon climb. Jai Crawford won Stage 5, Levi Leipheimer second, Francisco Mancebo third. Levi Leipheimer's Tour of Utah victory was an amazing feat considering the fact that Levi Leipheimer rode without teammates! for Lance Armstrong sponsored Mellow Johnny's.

The Tour of Utah dodged several severe weather events during the week of the race. During Stage 2, Salt Lake City had a record fifteen minute precipitation event, rain, of .85." This record rain event happened at noon when the race was in progress, but fortunately, the race was south of Salt Lake, and KFNZ1320 race radio updates mentioned no weather related issues. Drenched to the bone, frozen, and standing under a Chinese pagoda in the International Gardens, I wondered what effect such a downpour would have on the peloton. But nothing happened! During Stage 5, the wind intensified with velocity during the stage from the south due to an approaching cold front, but the stage finished before the wind shift, which produced rain and in places down burst winds from the north up to seventy miles an hour, which downed power lines, caused damage to tree limbs, and scattered debris everywhere. I was riding up Wasatch Boulevard after the finish of the stage when gigantic towering cumulus began to form and drops of rain began to fall. Fortunately, I arrived home before the wind shift and the real horrors began!

Stage 1, Ogden to Research Park, the Big Mountain King of the Mountain climb, and my favorite local ride, was excellent, as always. I met a very nice couple who rode out on some Specialized carbon road bikes. We talked shop: cycling! The road conditions, the resurfacing project in Emigration Canyon, the lack of maintenance of the bike lanes that caused one rider to break his neck during a Emigration Canyon ride; the old road construction days during the widening of the Emigration Canyon road; the sprints through the traffic signals they installed during the construction: the trick was to hammer through the open lane before the signal changed and you were killed by some inattentive driver coming the other way! the bad old pothole days, and other topics. There was some guy who showed up riding a scooter, wearing a Sasquatch costume complete with long stringy hair, who handed out twenty dollar bills to passing riders in the blazing heat! And the nut who was waving Old Glory while the peloton passed. Crazy fun!

My Stage 5 ride to Little Cottonwood Canyon was not so fun. I had a late start and almost missed the race! The last KFNZ1320 race radio update that I heard was of the peloton decending the Alpine Loop, that decided the issue, continue onward! I would have not been late except I stopped to refill my water bottles at the North Little Cottonwood Road 7-11, and this delay made me just late enough to watch the Leipheimer and Mancebo groups fly around the corner and up the canyon! Heavenly Creator! I stopped my bike after passing by a man carrying a stop sign who was shouting that I couldn't go that way. "I am not going that way, I am here to watch the race, you fool!" A very nice man and his daughter, who were spectators of the race, laughed and invited me to watch the race with them. I agreed and we talked of local favorite Levi Leipheimer.

I can't wait until next year!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tour of Utah: Prologue, Stage 5, Stage 1, Photographs

Tour of Utah
Stage 5, 1, Prologue Photographs

Caravan booty, rewards for being a good fan.

Stage 5. These photographs of are groups of riders entering Little Cottonwood Canyon at Mile Zero. There was a very strong wind from the South ahead of an approaching cold front that split the race into echelons. I arrived at the race a little late and barely saw the first two groups go by while still riding my bicycle, therefore, no photographs, but the lead group was lead by Levi Leipheimer and the second group by Francisco Mancebo. Every group thereafter had large gaps, some up to five minutes or longer. The first riders are at the bottom of these photographs and the last groups are at the top due to a blogger formatting problem.

Entrance to Little Cottonwood Canyon Mile Zero, Stage 5

Mile Zero, Little Cottonwood Canyon. The climb is 13.5km at 8%.

After a fifteen mile sprint from Big Mountain I arrived in time to photograph these Stage 1 Podium pics.

Trek-Livestrong rider Alex Dowsett displays the Race Leader, Climbers, and Best Young Rider jerseys. Jeff Louder (BMC) Best Utah Rider and David Tanner Sprinter Jersey.

Big Mountain Summit. King of the Mountain. Stage 1. There was a three man sprint to the summit followed by closely spaced groups shown here. The groups arrived in reverse order of these photographs.

A panorama view from Big Mountain Summit looking East.

View from Little Mountain Summit of Mountain Dell Reservoir.

Francisco Mancebo in the start house. Prologue.

George Hincapie

A rider hammers home in the time trial.

George Hincapie in the start house. Hincapie would end his Tour of Utah at mile 39 in Stage 2 in a crash. Hincapie also suffered a damaged knee from this crash.

Prologue results:

1. Taylor Phinney Trek Livestrong (U23 Development Team)

2. Alex Dowsett Trek Livestrong (U23 Development Team)

3. Brent Brookwalter (BMC)

Stage 1 Results:

1. David Tanner (Fly V Australia)

2. Alex Dowsett (Trek-Livingstone U23 Development Team)

Stage 5 Results:

1. Jai Crawford (Fly V Australia)

2. Levi Leipheimer (Mellow Johnny's)

3. Francisco Mancebo (Canyon Sports)

Tour of Utah General Classification

1. Levi Leipheimer 12.39'40"

2. Francisco Mancebo 12.42'10" +2'30"

3. Ian Boswell 12.43'36" +3'56"

Thursday, August 26, 2010

2010 Tour of Utah: Reprise

The 2010 Tour of Utah was sensational with vast improvements over the 2009 version, but not perfect. There were issues that must be addressed before the 2011 race and I hope that people will take these issues seriously.

KFNZ 1320 radio, a local sports network here in Salt Lake City, Utah; and part of the official media group of the Tour of Utah, did an outstanding job of updates of the race, but astoundingly forgot to mention the time when the capitol prologue was to start! I left the University of Utah Marriott Library at six o' clock, raced down the eleventh avenue bike path to the entrance of City Creek and ran into a mounted police officer. "Has the race started yet?" "The race has started" he replied. So, I rode down to the turnaround point and watched a few riders, then left to take photographs at the Capitol building, wasting an incredible amount of time riding around Memory Grove. Come on guys! Mention the prologue start time on the radio!

I probably should mention that a man at the Prologue did give me a card that stated, "tell us what you think!" Good idea! Here goes!

The Tour of Utah Official Race Program Guide was a slick, glossy publication with incredible photographs, team lists, and adequate stage information that proved invaluable. However, there was no rider lists for any team. Even the 2009 Race Program had a rider list, without bib numbers. At the Tour of Utah Stage One kiosk at Research Park, I gave the gentleman a lecture as to the importance of the rider list. He claimed that there was no rider list because teams and riders that were scheduled to race, failed to show up! "Do you know what happened to Bahati Foundation?" I asked. "No," he replied. Finally, exasperated with my interrogation, he told me that the rider list was "on line." "What if you don't have a computer?" "Then you are out of luck." Probably, half of the people in the Great State of Utah have no computer! You guys can do better than that!

Then there is the publication Cycling Utah. Cycling Utah is a local publication that carries informative information of cycling events, races, helpful tips, safety and bicycle advocacy issues. Cycling Utah also has interesting Tour of Utah news, rider interviews, and other race tidbits not to be found elsewhere. Cycling Utah would have been an excellent resource guide if it could only been found. In the University of Utah Marriott Library, stacks of the July issue of Cycling Utah was available, but the August issue was missing. I checked the Marriott Library news kiosks every day to no avail! Cycling Utah, keep your current issues, current and available!

You would think with the fixed gear/single speed cycling craze going on with university students these days that the Tour of Utah would focus on such a promising target audience. But, alas, no. Not one 2010 Tour of Utah Official Race Program Guide was anywhere to be seen on the University of Utah campus! Do better! Create interest in the race!

I have some photographs of the race and will post them with some additional comments soon.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Bahati Foundation Exits Tour of Utah

The Tour of Utah, America's hardest stage race with thirty thousand feet of climbing, scheduled to start on August 17 and end on August 22, 2010, has already provided some surprises. Bahati Foundation has vanished from the team list entirely, without explanation, but one could suppose that the Jeff Novitzky doping probe of Michael Ball and Rahsaan Bahati and is gaining ground.

Nevertheless, the rider lists have been published and 2009 Tour of Utah champion Francisco Mancebo Perez will return with Canyon Bicycles.

The overall best team of the 2010 Tour of Utah will be BMC Racing Team with former national champion George Hincapie paired with 2009 Tour of Utah Prologue time trial winner Brent Bookwalter and 2008 Tour of Utah winner and 2009 podium finisher Jeff Louder. Other potential challengers of note are Team Type 1 rider Mike Creed and KFAN Composite Team rider Burke Swindlehurst. Team Radio Shack rider Levi Leipheimer will compete as an independent rider and it will be interesting to see how he will fare unsupported on the climbs without any teammates! With simple cycling tactics one would expect Hincapie, Bookwalter, and Louder to employ simple team tactics to isolate and eliminate Leipheimer.

United Health Care rider Brad White returns to challenge for King of the Mountain. In 2009 Brad White lead the pack over Big Mountain in East Canyon by three minutes.

The Tour of Utah begins at the Utah State Capitol building on August 17, 2010 with a prologue time trial up City Creek canyon to the snow removal area and loops back to the Capitol building, the course is uphill, downhill, flat, short, and very fast.

See you there!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Lance Armstrong Doping Investigation: USADA: Witness Tampering?

The New York Times has reported that the United States Anti-Doping Agency has offered shortened suspension times and other incentives to cyclists who may have information into the doping allegations of Floyd Landis: who claims that the United States Postal Service Professional Cycling Team, and unnamed associates, used US Postal Service sponsorship money to purchase and traffic performance enhancing substances. Floyd Landis also asserts that the United States Postal team had a organized program of performance enhancing substance use within the team during the six year Tour de France reign of Lance Armstrong (1999-2004). Floyd Landis also claims that he personally witnessed Lance Armstrong use performance enhancing drugs. Floyd Landis also claims that he participated in a planned team blood transfusion aboard a US Postal team bus at a rest stop in France. Floyd Landis also accuses Allen Lim of providing him with performance enhancing substances during training rides in Spain (2006). Floyd Landis also accuses George Hincapie and Levi Leipheimer of using performance enhancing drug use during the US Postal years. Floyd Landis also accuses US Postal Service sport director Johan Bruyneel of running an organized program of doping.

After Floyd Landis had tested positive for synthetic testosterone during the 2006 Tour de France: Floyd Landis informed the press that Travis T. Tygart of USADA had made Landis an offer. If Floyd Landis would "blow the whistle" on Lance Armstrong, accuse Lance Armstrong and the US Postal service team of performance enhancing substance abuse, USADA would reward Floyd Landis with the shortest suspension in history. Immediately, Travis T. Tygart issued a press release denying the deal. Tygart claimed that USADA would never make deals with dopers. Floyd Landis called the deal beneath his dignity and refused to cooperate.

The eternal question will always arise: What motivated Floyd Landis to change his mind? Why the e-mail messages to Steve Johnson of USA Cycling? Why did he admit to testosterone use during the 2006 Tour de France? Why did he offer to "blow the whistle" on Lance Armstrong and the United States Postal Professional Cycling Team?

Even stranger is who Travis T. Tygart thinks he is targeting with these shortened suspensions and incentives? What incentives? Money? What riders? Floyd Landis? No. Floyd Landis rides with a racing license issued in Canada. If further action is taken against Floyd Landis the action will originate in Canada, not the United States. USADA won't be able to protect Floyd Landis from prosecution, no matter how much information he provides. [Note: Jan Ullrich was issued a Swiss racing license and was prosecuted by Switzerland, not Germany during Operation Puerto.]

USADA must be thinking that there will be an epidemic of "non analytical findings" against Lance Armstrong and his US Postal teammates, thus the deal. A "non analytical finding" does not require a positive doping test, merely testimony of people who observed an athlete in the commission of a doping offence. Tim Montgomery was given a two year ban by the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) when his teammates testified to the fact that they witnessed Montgomery using the "clear." Under this logic if Floyd Landis claims that he saw Lance Armstrong or Levi Leipheimer using performance enhancing substances and if Landis could verify this claim then, in theory, USADA could issue a "non-analytical finding" and begin an arbitration prosecution.

Warning: To those people who are offered the USADA deal. Beware: USADA is subject to the WADA code as a signatory therefore they must abide by the WADA code. If you are offered a USADA sanction that is less than the sanction required by the WADA code; and if WADA or the UCI appeals the sanction to the Court of Arbitration of Sport (CAS) your deal with USADA could be invalidated! The best example of this is Alexandre Vinokourov who was caught blood doping during the 2007 Tour de France. The Kazakh Federation, where Vinokourov was issued his license, gave Vinokurov a one year suspension. The UCI was outraged by this leniency and appealed the short suspension to the Court of Arbitration of Sport insisting that the regulation two year ban be enforced. This could happen to you if you accept a deal from USADA! Contact your lawyer immediately!

Under the World Anti-Doping Agency Code: Article 17, there is an eight year statute of limitations. Keep this in mind. The three people most affected; Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, George Hincapie, and Johan Bruyneel. The years affected; 2003 and 2004. Why? Because Floyd Landis rode for Phonak in 2005 so he has no first hand knowledge of any wrongdoing. Tyler Hamilton, who has been subpoenaed, left US Postal Service in 2000 so his testimony would come under the statute of limitation period, and have no bearing in a USADA prosecution. There would have to be other witness testimony to the fact that Lance Armstrong and US Postal Service used performance enhancing substances during the period when Floyd Landis was not a member of the US Postal team. Other riders claim they used performance enhancing drugs when at US Postal, who they are and what period of time are secret.