Archive for January, 2008

I finally got around to watching the Elite Men’s race at the Cyclocross World Championship thanks to Nathan Spear. The course looked cool but I think it would have been a much better race had nature cooperated to dump some rain on the proceedings. The strongest rider won but I would have liked to see whether he had the goods to take the big race under challenging conditions. I could get more excited about Lars Boom if he were going to race cross into the future. His plan was to commit to racing cyclocross seriously through Worlds in 2009 in Hoogerheide. Even though he won the big one a year early, he still is going to challenge for the title next year in front of the home crowd. After that, Boom is going to try to make it on the road. He has such a big engine, he will be plenty successful on the Rabo Pro Tour team and that will become his bread and butter into the future.

Because of the conflicting schedules of road and cyclocross, Boom is going to find it hard to dabble in both. While Franzoi and Gadret have managed to be moderately successful racing both cross and road (for Pro Tour teams), Boom is going to be a marquee guy. His sponsors are going to want him focused on the prestigious international events. Let’s face it, cross only has limited commercial appeal — really only the Flanders region in Belgium — so Rabobank isn’t going to want to waste one of their big guns in a tiny market. I’ll enjoy watching Boom and Thomas Dekker light up the peloton for years to come.

More exciting are the results of Stybar (2nd) and Simunek (5th). Both of those guys are young and fast. Boom is going to have his hands full next year tying to hold off those two as well as current U23 champion Neils Albert. In 2006, the U23 podium consisted of Stybar, Boom and Albert and Simunek finished in front of Albert in the U23 race back in 2005 (granted, Albert was just coming up from juniors). Next year I expect Stybar, Simunek, Albert, and Boom to be racing at the front and filling out the podium at big races.

While some young Czech riders have been emerging over the past few years, the French seem to be a bit of a revelation this year. Looking at the team strength from top to bottom, the French look pretty good. Gadret was top ten and Mouray probably would have been as well (and perhaps contended for the podium) had he not crashed. In the women’s field, there were three French racers in the top five and four in the top ten. The story was the same in the U23 race (3 in top 5, 4 in top 10) and the French got a win in the Junior race and also placed two more in the top ten of that race.

The US results were lackluster. The only bright spot was Luke Keogh’s tenth place finish in the Junior race. The other junior men gained some good experience and I hope to see them improve over the next few years. I didn’t see Selander or Summerhill in the U23 results and wondered what happened to two of the best U23 US racers. Page had some minor problems and lacked some form which cost him dearly in the fast paced men’s race. Timmy Johnson did pretty well given that he was struggling with fitness and hadn’t raced in a cross Worlds in seven years. The biggest stories were the two riders who didn’t race. Well, Compton tried to but her Factor V ruined her chances and she didn’t complete a lap. Trebon withdrew a week or so prior to the race because of a lingering back injury from the accident at US Nationals. Trebon was probably best suited of the US racers for the course at Treviso and I am sorry that he wasn’t able to race.

Edit: I forgot to mention Rachel Lloyd and her ninth place finish in the women’s elite race. Garnering a top ten at Worlds is something to be proud of. I’d also like to give kudos to local Portlander Sue Butler. She has raced well all year and was able to represent the US at Worlds. She finished 23rd.

I’m already looking forward to next year’s races but in the meantime, I’ll pick up a copy of this year’s Worlds for my viewing please while spinning away on the rollers. As I mentioned in a previous post, William at ProCyclocross.com will let you pick out a free DVD of a regular season race if you buy Worlds — and mention RONDE0708 in your email.

The rest of the world might know about this cool site but until now, it was off the OBRA radar. The site is a labor of love for founder and maintainer Colin Reuter. The site has a huge database of (what else) domestic cyclocross results. If you’ve raced a cross race in the US during 2007, odds are better than even that at least some of your results are listed on the crossresults.com. Just this week, Colin has finished adding all of OBRA’s 2007 results.

I’ve found the charts kind of wacky but the one on the far right side of a racer’s page is pretty interesting. It represents the normalized placing over time. In other words, it shows where you placed in the field as opposed to your absolute position. Thus, a 5th place in a field of 50 (0.9) will look better than a 5th place in a field of 15 (0.66). The other cool feature is the nemesis/victim lists. I find that my top nemesises are:

  • Martin Baker
  • Ed French
  • Mike Schindler
  • John McCaffrey
  • Tim Butler
  • Mike Wilson

My top victims are:

  • Aric Rist
  • Erik Voldengen
  • Bill Goritski
  • Greg Talbert
  • Jerome Dumortier
  • Ed French

I guess Ed and I were racing around each other all season and I only noticed it during a couple of races. Anyway, I thought is was cool that Colin’s algorithm roughly approximated the way I saw my competitors in real life. The lists contained the dudes that I tried to stay away from and those I wanted to chase down.

I checked out a couple of guys on my team and found an amusing series of victim/nemesis pairs:

Which closes a nice little circle.

It looks like the site is light on the Seattle area races but I think that Colin might be adding more races as we speak. I’m sure that many of us could sink an embarrassing amount of time clicking our way around crossresults.com.

Hey, yo! We were looking at our web stats the other day — okay, like fifteen minutes ago, but who’s obsessing — and we checked out who we were getting the love from, so to speak. Our number one redirect is from Kenji’s OBRA blog. Kenji is a super fast cat 3 racer down in Salem, OR. But his biggest claim to fame is that he’s the top OBRA honcho (or is that figurehead for the Murray’s). Anyway, he’s got some good content on his blog and if you act fast, you can check out the awsome (cheesy) “interview” with the Gentle Lovers.

So what’s all that got to do with cross? Hot tubs, my friend, hot tubs. As in the famous portable hot tub as seen at the final Sunday USGP races in Portland the past two years. As seen in the New York Times (check out the final two pics in the slide show).

And while we’re talking about kick ass Portland bike teams, please direct your browsers over to Belgium Knee Warmers and read their post about said subject. You could go directly to the Teams of Portland project web site. But you won’t. Cause we’re all about padding the web stats. Your job, gentle reader, is to follow the link through BKW and on into the Teams of Portland site. Be sure to click on all those little images since a bunch like to tiny movies.

Lastly, what with me calling myself “we?” That would be the royal we, bub.

Okay, one more thing. Did you click on every single link on this page? If not go back and try again. And while you’re at is, here’s one more: We’re not sure why this dude hasn’t got any soup but we bought a decent set of wheels for our rain/commuter bike from him.

I’m sure that you all know Sven Nys is having a lousy couple weeks. But the guy knows how to win and you can’t discount that instinct. However, I don’t think the smart money is going to be on Sven this coming weekend.

Sport.be has picked their favorites and I can’t find fault with their thinking. In alphabetical order, they like Boom, Franzoi, Mouray, Nys, Stybar, Vervecken, and Wellens. Of those seven, my top four in no particular order are Boom, Mouray, Vervecken, and Wellens.

Boom is riding great. He’ll come into Treviso having won the last World Cup race (Hoogerheide)  and looks to have fantastic legs. Treviso is a fast course, not very technical, and the weather looks great. That means Boom can ride with the front group and attack late in the race when he feels that he is the strongest.

Vervecken has been riding pretty well lately and I don’t think his form is going to get any better. He’s not the strongest rider right now but he knows how to win this race. He used to have the best sprint of the veldrijden but it seems to have slowed a bit over the past couple seasons. Since Treviso is so flat and wide open, it might come down to a sprint finish. Perhaps Erwin has one more big sprint in him.

Wellens says that he put in a huge training week and then scored a couple second place finishes behind young Lars. This guys really wants to win Treviso. He’s a little hot headed and might attack one time too many and have no matches left when it counts. If Wellens races smart, I think he has the best combination of race experience and current racing form.

Mouray is a bit of a wild card. He’s been racing very well lately, having raced to a third place in the World Cup race in Lievin on January 13. He’s also posted some good results at recent World Championships so he can perform well in the big race. Mouray skipped racing last weekend so he should be coming into Treviso rested and ready. Last year at the World Cup in Treviso, Mouray outsprinted Nys and Vervekcen to win.

While racers from the host country have a history of good performances, I’m not sure whether Franzoi is going to live up to his billing. He hasn’t raced since his ankle injury and no one knows if his form is up to snuff.

Given my top four picks, I’ll hazard a prediction: Boom, Wellens, Mouray. In that order.

I’m planning on building up a set of Stan’s No Tubes wheels for this season. Based on the successes of a couple of local racers, I’ve decided that they sound like a nice thing to have in my arsenal. Erik Voldengen has a lot of great information about the setup over on his blog (do a search for “notubes”). I’ve got a tubular wheelset with some Tufo Flexus tires glued on that I’m going to sacrifice for the project. I’ll pull off the tires and sell them — probably sell the Reflex rims too — and use the Dura Ace hubs for the “new” wheels. The ERD for the Reflex and ZTR rims differs enough that I’ll have to purchase new spokes to get the correct length. I was hoping that I could just tape the rims together and transfer the spokes since that is a really easy process.

I think it will be great to be able to train with tubeless and the resulting ability to run low pressure. And if I flat, I can just throw in a tube and still make it home okay. Now all I need to do is buy a couple of these (more expensive that Reflexes!):

I asked Erik Tonkin to weigh in about moving Nationals to January. This is what he said:

I think the way to go is this: race the true UCI-grade (World Championship) events–men, women, espoir men, and junior men–in January; race all other categories–the masses, as it were–in Dec. Add to them a non-UCI “senior” category, basically a 19-30 year old age group. (Currently, a rider between the ages of 23 and 29 has to have a UCI license to race at nationals, unless he or she wants to ride the single-speed event. That’s ridiculous!) Also, no one rider can race both events. So, a 32 year-old who fancies himself an “elite” needs to either race his age class in Dec. or nut-up with the UCI license and race the true elite men’s race in January.

Anyhow, this is how my thinking goes, and I believe it has traction at USA Cycling right now….

Erik is coming at the issue from the perspective of an elite racer who wants to be able to race to his fullest potential in the championship race. He wants the race to consist of the fifty or so fastest guys in the US.

While moving elite Nationals to January and leaving the rest of the races in December might be fine for the top racers, it doesn’t do much for the rest of the championship races. Fields of 100 or more are too large for races as important as a National Championship, especially given the seeding policy. Sure, the top ten guys from the previous year get call ups but what about the other fast dudes in the field? If they weren’t sitting in front of their computer the minute registration opened, then they are going to be stuck behind the masses.

I’m not suggesting that there be a codified qualification system or a clumsy (and costly, and practically unworkable) series of heats. I’m just suggesting that maybe some guys ought to self select and decide that maybe they shouldn’t race at Nationals.  I know that this sounds elitist and goes against the spirit of grassroots cross.

The conundrum is that cross is getting so popular that the old model or total inclusion isn’t working very well at the National Championships. Each year the fields are getting bigger and at some point they are going to have to be capped. That means that some fast guys might get shut out because they we’re fast enough clicking the mouse. If it gets to that point, then USAC is going to make some misguided rules governing qualifying for Nationals.

I know that going to Nationals is a great experience. However, it is a championship event and should cater to the fastest racers in the country.

I have some cyclocross DVDs and this is the time of year I really get a lot of use out of them. The weather is pretty crappy, the season is over, the days are short, and I need some motivation to get on the bike. Watching the pros race reminds me that if I want to get better, I need to work at it. Thus, I get on the bike and ride. The skills and bike handling the pros demonstrate are a joy to watch and I geek out watching their technique and strategy. Also, I scope out the courses and compare them with the ones I race. When I feel compelled to ride the rollers (not too often) I’ll play through a couple of races. Since they are only an hour, I can fit them in between the honey-dos and the kids’ TV shows when I’m just hanging around the house.

Two of my favorite races to watch happen to be World Championships — I keep coming back to the 2007 and 2001 races. 2001 was Vervecken’s first rainbow jersey and it came at the expense of Dlask, the local favorite. The weather was cold and the course was icy and slushy. Richard Groenendaal went out hard and looked poised to repeat his performance from the previous year. However, he faded and a lead group which included Vervecken, Dlask, De Clercq, Nys, and Wellens slowly whittled down to a select three who would make the podium. Dlask, racing in his home country (Czechoslovakia), battled with a young Vervecken and an elder De Clercq. In the end, Dlask couldn’t hang on though he fought hard for the win and De Clercq couldn’t quite hang on to the two. It was a sweet victory for Vervecken because he had twice finished second to De Clercq at Worlds.

The 2007 Worlds holds a special place for me as it does with many Americans since Jonathan Page took silver and was within a bobble of taking the rainbow jersey. I can’t watch the race without hoping that perhaps this time he’ll take that little riser clean and stay in front of Vervecken to the finish. There are lots of other compelling stories besides Page’s breakout performance. The Dutch rider Van den Bergh lead the first lap and flipped off the partisan Belgian crowd when they had the temerity to boo him. When it looked like Nys and Wellens were going to take control of the race, a camera vehicle clipped a barrier and sent it into Wellens’ path. Wellens and Nys went down and Vervecken sprung into a commanding lead. Though both racers continued, Wellens was down for a long time and finished the race with a broken hand. Nys met with a few more minor mishaps and appeared to lose his desire. He just went through the motions for the last half of the race.

At the front, Page and Franzoi tracked down Vervecken and made a race of it. When Page and Franzoi lead the race, the mainly Belgian crowd looked stunned. Eventually, Vervecken came back and Franzoi dropped off to set up a nail biting duel over the bell lap. Each rider tried to attack the other but neither could get an advantage until Page made a mistake up a small rise perhaps 500 meters from the finish. Vervecken never looked back and took his second straight and third overall World title. Wellens fought back to a fifth place finish and showed his frustration with some impolitic words in the post-race interview.

This years’ race looks to be wide open and I hope that it will be as entertaining as it was in 2007. William at ProCyclocross.com tells me that he’ll have Worlds ’08 available on DVD a few weeks after the race. If you tell him I sent you (put RONDE0708 in the email), he’ll give you another race of your choice from the regular season free when you buy the World’s ’08 DVD. He usually has Worlds available in English or Flemish. Get the Flemish version because the English version usually misses two or more laps in the coverage.

I’ve posted this elsewhere but I’ll post it again here for a wider audience.  Here is how the race in Treviso is going to play out.

Wilant Van Gils takes the hole shot but crashes when he moons the booing Italians. Page rides over his neck “accidentally.”

Nys gets body checked by a drunken fan on the third lap. A hard chasing Wellens is disgusted by the unsportsmanlike conduct and karate kicks the offending fan in the forehead. He is then DQed. Nys is discouraged after losing 30 seconds and just phones in his effort for the remainder of the race. Vervecken takes the opportunity to ride to the front.

Page chases really hard and brings Franzoi, Groenendal, Boom, and Mouray up to Vervecken. Groenendaal attacks and gets a big gap.

Mouray tries to bridge and Boom sticks to his wheel. Mouray tries to get Boom to work but he refuses, citing a teammate up the road.

With two to go, Boom realizes that RG doesn’t ride for Rabo anymore and attacks Mouray and bridges to Groenendaal. Page works harder than anyone else and brings Franzoi and Vervecken up to young Lars. RG pops like a champaign cork. Mouray dangles.

Stybar comes out of nowhere and roars through the lead bunch and Vervecken gets on his wheel. Boom catches and everyone else falls off. Stybar and Boom duel until the bell while Vervecken sits on.

Page makes a last ditch effort to bridge and hauls Franzoi to the back of the front bunch. Mouray comes back and latches on to them.

Boom goes to the front and drives hard. Page takes a poor line on a hill and drops off the back. Stybar attacks Boom and Vervecken, Mouray, and Franzoi sit on.

Boom turns on the jets and gets into time trial mode and Stybar falls off the back. Vervecken, Mouray, and Franzoi sit on.

Franzoi attacks with 500 meters to go. The Italian fans are so overwhelmed with passion for their native son, the crowd barriers can’t contain their weight and fans spill across the course. Boom and Mouray crash on the mayhem. Vervecken passes the carnage like a hot knife though butter.

Franzoi enters the finishing pavement but cuts his front tire on the sharp transition. He sprints for all he’s worth but Vervecken manages to pip him at the line.

Podium = Vervecken, Franzoi, Boom

I’ve had discussions with a bunch of people regarding moving cyclocross Nationals to January and I’ve changed my opinions quite a bit. First, let me say that it sounds like the UCI has mandated the change so it’s not if, it’s when. And when is January 2010. Now, on to some of the arguments and information that has softened my position.

I had stated that US racers would travel to Europe to race over the holidays in Proctor’s cross camp and then stay until Worlds. That is wrong. It looks like Tim Johnson and Ryan Trebon are the only two male US riders doing it this year (for the women, I think Sue Butler is) and that’s two more than did it last year. The standard procedure is to race a bunch of races over the holidays, fly back to the US for some training and return a few weeks later for Worlds. Moving US Nationals to January puts it smack into the block of time the riders would be in the States training prior to Worlds.

Moving the date to January might freeze out some of the mountain bike or road guys. Moving cross Nationals back three weeks might interfere with their training plans or pre-season camps. They might not mess with cyclocross Nationals if it’s going to interfere with the discipline that pays the bills. Since I think that the National Championship should go to a dedicated cyclocross racer, I don’t mind if the other dudes miss out.

In reality, the season won’t shift. In the areas with a robust offering of races, promoters aren’t going to change the dates of established races. Changing a races date could have serious implications with venue availability and attendance. Also, it would take a significant amount of cooperation, communication, and planning to shift a season full of dates some number of weeks into the future. The season is going to get longer with at least an extra couple weeks added and some races over the holidays.

If there aren’t many races over the holidays, that isn’t going to be a big deal anyway. Most guys go into Nationals over trained anyway and taking a week off to spend with your family will pay dividends at Nationals.

The sponsors would love to see the season extended a few more weeks. The late Fall and Winter are slow times for the bike industry and they would like to see some more racing to keep people coming through the doors looking for product and requiring services. One local shop owner said he’d love to have people come into his shop in December looking to get some tubies glued.

I don’t know if it will reduce the participant numbers for Nationals or not. But if it does, then that’s a good thing. But that’s a topic for some other post.

So the new date is reality and we’ll have to live with it. The world will continue to spin on its axis and the seasons will change unabated.

Looks like some folks jumped the gun — including me. I’ve included the press release. Since Bend is looking to bring Nationals to Bend in December, I’m not sure that they will want to sign up for the new January date. I’m not positive about the ski season, but I’d be willing to bet that crosers wold be competing with skiers for hotel space. I’m not too sure that the resorts would be thrilled about that.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 10, 2008

Contact:
Justin Yax, DVA Advertising/PR, 541-389-2411, justin@dvaadv.com
Doug LaPlaca, Bend VCB, 541-382-8048, doug@visitbend.com

BEND VISITOR & CONVENTION BUREAU INITIATES BID PROCESS TO HOST 2009 AND 2010 USA CYCLING CYCLOCROSS NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS IN BEND
Local Organizing Committee Being Formed, Potential Race Venues Identified

(BEND, Ore.)–The Bend Visitor & Convention Bureau today announced that it is forming a local organizing committee and has initiated conversations with USA Cycling in an effort to secure the 2009 and 2010 USA Cycling Cyclocross National Championships in Bend.

The USA Cyclocross National Championships attract approximately 1,800 competitors annually, and between 3,500 and 4,000 people including support staff, families and media. Because the championships typically take place the second weekend in December – a traditionally slow tourism period that falls between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays when occupancy levels at Bend lodging properties are well below 40 percent – they would provide a welcome boost for the local tourism economy.

In a letter of intent being sent to USA Cycling, Bend Visitor & Convention Bureau president and CEO Doug LaPlaca cited Bend’s unique combination of scenic beauty, world-class recreation, outstanding amenities and overwhelming enthusiasm for cycling throughout the community as reasons why the organizing committee believes Bend is the perfect destination to host the Cyclocross National Championships.

“Bend has all the amenities, resources and enthusiasm needed to host a national event such as this, especially at a time when tourism numbers are typically slow in the region,” said Doug LaPlaca, president and CEO of the Bend Visitor & Convention Bureau. “By identifying windows when occupancy levels are low, and targeting major events that can help fill those gaps, we have the opportunity to generate significant incremental tourism revenue which in this case would equate to more than $1 million in tourism spending per year.”

The organizing committee that is being assembled to pursue the event includes representatives from the Bend Visitor & Convention Bureau, Oregon Sports Authority, the City of Bend, Bend City Council, the Riverhouse Conference Center, Central Oregon Velo, and representatives from Bend’s cycling community, including professional and former professional cyclists who call Bend home. Renowned national cyclocross race director Brad Ross is also part of the committee and has already scouted potential race venues.

According to USA Cycling, Cyclocross races are typically held on grassy loops, no longer than a few miles in length, with a few short road or dirt road sections. There are numerous sections where riders must dismount to run over man-made barriers placed around the course. Mud and slippery conditions are very common, and the best courses are serpentine loops that give spectators plenty of viewing opportunities while challenging riders with steep, short hills and sharp, technical corners.

In recent years, the Cyclocross National Championships have been held in Portland, Ore. (2003, 2004), Providence, Rhode Island (2005, 2006), and Kansas City, Missouri (2007, 2008).

About the Bend Visitor & Convention Bureau:
The Bend Visitor & Convention Bureau is a non-membership, non-profit economic development organization dedicated to promoting tourism on behalf of the City of Bend. For more information or to order a complimentary Official Visitor’s Guide to Bend, contact the Bend Visitor & Convention Bureau at 1-800-949-6086 or visit www.visitbend.com .