Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Did They Come To Race Or Train?

The "Mellow Johnny's" team — AKA Astana's Levi Leipheimer, Lance Armstrong and Chris Horner — just couldn't resist going for the win Wednesday at the SRAM Tour of the Gila. Leipheimer sprang from a disintegrating pack on the finish climb, taking a clear win ahead of young phenom Peter Stetina (Felt-Holowesko Partners-Garmin) and recently-rehired Chris Baldwin (Rock Racing).

Leipheimer said he had some doubts about whether the team should go for the win so early in the five-day race.

"I said to Lance coming up here, 'maybe it would be better that we try and let somebody else win, '" Leipheimer said at the finish. "And he said something that made a lot of sense, he said, 'you know what, you are a winner, go win the race and we'll figure it out.' So we'll figure it out."

It took a few miles longer than usual for the stage's traditional early break to form, as riders from Kelly Benefit Strategies, Bissell, OUCH-Maxxis and Trek-Livestrong were prominent at the front in the early miles. About 30 miles in, Kelly's pre-race favorite Andrew Bajadali crashed and left the race with a shoulder injury.

Twenty miles later, the break du jour formed, containing 15 riders, with representatives from most of the major teams (Mellow Johnny's was notably absent, but Trek-Livestrong was in there, with young Sam Bewley).

The group built a maximum lead of over three minutes, but as the pack approached the base of the Mogollon climb, the Mellow Johnny's team and a few of the other teams that were not in the break began to narrow the gap to just barely a minute as the 15 hit the first slopes of the Mogollon.

As the break headed across a windy mid-climb plateau, it was reduced to just four riders: Chad Beyer, Cam Evans (OUCH), Michael Grabinger (Fly V- Successful Living) and Daniel Vaillancourt (Colavita-Sutter Homes), with Team Type 1's Moises Aldape hanging just off the four.

But while Beyer poured on the gas, the pack was closing to within 20 seconds on the plateau, and when the three-mile climb began in earnest, a lead group of seven riders led by Armstrong passed the remainder of the break. With Armstrong was Leipheimer, Florian Stalder, Rory Sutherland (OUCH), Baldwin, Matt Cooke (RideClean) and Stetina.

Armstrong pulled into the first mile of the climb, with Leipheimer on his wheel. With about two miles to go, as the road narrowed to a crumbly, barely paved slope, Leipheimer accelerated and quickly pulled away.

"I tried to follow Levi's move but it was just so fast," Stetina said. Stetina faded back and rode with Cooke and Baldwin for most of the climb, then attacked Baldwin in the last 300 meters.

Team Mellow Johnny's - Levi, Chris and Lance

Lance Has Good News and Even Better News

By Bob Roll

Lance Armstrong has received a couple of pieces of very good news this week. Both of which were ironically rather underreported in the popular media. Huge headlines across the general media in the past few weeks heralded Lance's misfortune. The first story was his broken collarbone as a result of a high-speed crash at a stage race in Spain called Casillta Y Leon. Although fans were denied a head to head battle between Lance and his teammate Alberto Contador the media seemed delighted to have a news item involving Lance Armstrong possibly jeopardizing his chances at his comeback at the Giro d'italia and the Tour De France.

I personally have never been an alarmist and having broken my own collarbone witnessing nearly every cyclist I know being forced to recuperate from the same injury, I was fairly certain that Lance could recuperate in plenty of time to start the Giro d'Italia. In spite of my confidence and attempts to reassure people I got the impression that everyone was somehow convinced Lance's season was over.

I happen to be in Aspen recently to enjoy one last weekend of skiing that was quite pleasant in spite of hammering snow. Skiing when its snowing is one thing but for Lance to be training in these miserable conditions for 5 hours; not quite so pleasant, but essential to win the Giro or Tour. I met with Lance for dinner along with his delightful entourage to catch up.

It was quite refreshing to be able to ask Lance face to face, How's the collarbone champ? No problem, Lance answered. Apparently the surgery performed on the broken bone enabled Lance to be back on his bike training within a few days and he reassured me that since then his training had been going great. The strange thing about the whole episode was that while the bad news (that he crashed and broke his collarbone) was widely reported the good news (that he had it fixed and was training again) hardly saw the light of day.

The second episode of misfortune for Lance not surprisingly came from France. During a routine out of competition drug test performed by the AFLD, which is the laboratory in charge of testing drug samples in France, Lance allegedly violated the exact letter of the anti-doping procedure by leaving the sight of the tester. The ensuing panic and worldwide headlines lead people to believe that Lance would be banned from racing in France, which was actually never a part of any official discussion. In fact there was no procedure violation because Lance had asked permission of the tester to allow him to take a shower as he had just finished a long training ride and time was needed to verify the identity of the individual who was to carry out the test.

The media was quick to broadcast near and far of the report from the French anti-doping authorities that Lance may have violated the testing protocol. These incendiary comments by the AFLD provided ample fodder for scintillating headlines guaranteed to sell the news. To give credit to the media most credible sources also reported that the samples that were tested were all 100 percent negative for drugs. At the end of last week the AFLD issued a statement saying there would be no further investigation necessary and no sanctions imposed whatsoever. Funny that you had to search high and low for the good side of the story. Lost in the melee of the dirty laundry that passes for credible news was that Lance has been completely exonerated and is free to race the Tour of Gila, Giro D'italia and the big daddy of them all the Tour De France. Will there ever be a day when the good news takes up as much space in the media as the bad? Or is it human nature to wallow in the lowest common denominator? I hope the good news that Lance will be at the Tour baring any other broken collarbones will be a heralded just as loudly by the popular media and perhaps there is our silver lining. And will remind people how remarkable Lance's comeback continues to be.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Floyd Landis - First Months Back

Floyd Landis is three months into his return to the professional peloton. He's riding with the American O.U.C.H. Team presented by Maxxis and he is riding on a surgically resurfaced hip joint from an operation at the end of 2006. Bicycling spoke with Landis recently and, according to him, the hip has held up "very well" so far. He says it's 100 percent and that sometimes, he forgets which hip he had surgery on.

As for the results from his return to racing, Landis is a little cooler saying they are "pretty good." He showed some flashes at the Tour of California, but admitted it was harder to jump back into racing than he thought it would be. It was an up-and-down first major race back for Landis and he finished 23rd, over 10 minutes behind race winner Levi Leipheimer. Since then, he's finished 40th at the Tour of Mexico, dropped out of the Redlands Classic (a major NRC stage race), and did not start at the Tour of Battenkill on April 19. Still, Landis maintains he's just happy to be back and plans on continuing to ride and support his team in any way he can.

"It was just great to get back out there," Landis said. "It's been great to be back around the guys, and the fans were all great in welcoming me back."

As for his form and results, Landis's power numbers this season have been almost identical to his pre-surgery numbers, though he quickly adds, "you wouldn't know it from the results, and I ride with power meters and computers a lot less than I used to."

But he said he is feeling better and is still focused on racing. "I want to do the Tour of Utah, Missouri, the U.S. Pro, some one-day races and some crits," he said. Landis will also race alongside former U.S. Postal Service teammate Lance Armstrong at the Tour of Gila in New Mexico from April 29 to May 3. And the Tour de France?

"I have been asked hypothetically if I'd like to return to the Tour de France," he said. "And hypothetically, yeah, I'd love to do it again."

That eventuality depends on a number of factors outside his control--like the willingness of the Tour owners to allow his return, and his ability to sign with a Pro Tour team that gets invited. Obviously, a lot has changed for Landis since he stood atop the podium at the Tour de France, and much of it not for the better. His Tour title was stripped, he served a doping suspension and his name will most likely be shamefully linked with Tour history forever.

But there is one positive change in Landis's life. The Birmingham Hip Resurfacing procedure he had done in October of 2006 allows him to do the one thing he has always loved: ride bikes.

When news broke during the 2006 Tour de France that an arthritic hip was causing Landis pain, many questioned whether the joint would quickly deteriorate to the point that he would never race again. Landis endured and went on to win that Tour. When the dust settled after the summer of '06, Landis was left facing a two-year ban from the sport and a hip that was, in essence, dying. He turned his focus to his medical options.

"It was a really bad aching pain. It effected how I felt, but not really how I pedaled," said Landis. "I did a lot of research and got a lot of advice on what my best next steps would be before settling on the Birmingham Hip."

Birmingham Hip Resurfacing system is a procedure that is an alternative to a traditional hip replacement surgery. Dr. Andy Chao was the lead surgeon on the then state-of-the-art procedure that Landis hoped would give him the best chance to return to pro racing. Dr. Andy Pruitt of the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine diagnosed Landis's arthritic hip in the winter of 2005 and talked to Bicycling about the Birmingham Hip.

"The main difference between a traditional hip replacement and B.H.R. is that with B.H.R. you spare more bone in the femur," said Pruitt. "We are all watching to see how it holds up for someone at his level of athleticism. But it's a superb choice for a younger person with hip arthritis looking to continue an active lifestyle."

Pruitt noted that the incision necessary to do the procedure is exactly the same as in a traditional hip replacement, so it's not less invasive in that regard. He also added that once a patient has B.H.R. done, he is committing to subsequent surgeries and complete hip replacement somewhere down the road. Nonetheless, "it's a great solution," said Pruitt.

So with a new hip, a new take on racing and riding and the support of his fans and one of the top teams in America, Floyd Landis is focused on the future.

"What you have been through in your life is what makes you who you are. I've been through a lot in the last few years," Landis said. "But it is nice to be back out there racing again, and I'm more excited than I was in 2006 when I took a lot of this for granted."

Physiological Demands of Stage Racing

By Matt McNamara

Stage racing is the ultimate test of a road racers repertoire. No matter your category or age there is a stage race to test your mettle. On the eve of the centenary Giro D’Italia we are reminded of the pure athleticism of multi-day racing. It’s a fair guess that, at some point, we all fancy ourselves stage race material, but what is stage race material and how do you prepare for YOUR grand tour?

Numerous studies have tried to quantify the demands of Stage Racing. Most have used professionals, or high level elites as subjects. While there isn’t a purely linear relationship between the demands of a multi-day professional race and your upcoming weekend omnium, they do offer some useful perspectives on what might be lurking.

Physiological Demands
By any measure a stage race represents a significant effort. The International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance published a study that looked at the power demands for three common stage formats: hilly, flat, and criterium. Granted these are professionals, but there are some interesting reference points. For example they found that criteriums displayed the highest mean average power output and race time spent above 7.5W/kg (262W/15.5%) versus hilly (203W/3.8%) and flat (188W/3.5%) stages.

Another relevant finding for the aspiring stage racer was the observation that during each stage the riders have between 20 (hilly), 40 (flat) and 70 (criterium) efforts above their maximal aerobic power (MAP/Vo2max), with a typical duration of 6-10 seconds. These efforts over the course of a four, five, or ten stage race can create a substantial training stress.

Another study, published by The British Journal of Sports Medicine, looked at the differing demands of 5, 8, and 21 day stage races. It was shown that professional racers can spend upwards of 31 minutes per stage above their ventilatory threshold (defined as ranging from 73-90% of VO2peak). Total time above VT was higher in the 5-day (31 minutes/stage) and 8-day (28 min/stage) than the longer 21-day race (14min/stage).

These trends are especially important as one begins to prepare for their own event. While your race may not require 30+ minutes above VT each day in the aggregate, it will probably require a similar percentage of time spent at that intensity relative to your race duration and category.

For example if an average 4-day professional stage race like the Giro del Trentino lasts approximately 12-14 hours that means the riders will spend roughly 14-16% of the race above VT. For an amateur competing in a four day race that takes 10 hours they can expect to spend approximately 1.5 hours above their VT. When planning for your race it is a fair assumption that your physiological demands will fall somewhere close to this target, giving you a clue about what you need to be training towards.

Monotony Defined
Another concept to raise when dissecting training and racing requirements for stage races is the concept of training monotony. Monotony is simply defined as the relative variation in training load/intensity from day to day, while strain is the cumulative effect of both training load and monotony. Dr Carl Foster put forward the idea in 1998 as a way to help monitor overtraining.

Monotony is usually measured as the daily mean training load, divided by the standard deviation (Training Load/SD), and has been shown to have a high correlation to the onset of illness and/or overtraining. Stage racing has a high monotony rating due to the continually high training load and low recovery time. The same concept can apply to your overall training. For example, if all you ever do for training is ride at the same pace (whether hard or easy) every time, then you have a high monotony rating compared to somebody who has a progressive series of workouts from endurance through to sprints and intervals.

Indeed, Rodriguez-Marroyo et al in their study of 5-day, 8-day, and 21-day stage races calculated the monotony, and found that while it averaged about 3.0 for each of the race lengths (meaning there wasn’t much difference in training load from day to day, eg no recovery) the total strain (Training Load x Monotony) was about three times higher in the 21-day SR. So we see that the longer a stage race lasts the more total strain it creates, this despite the lower total time spent above ventilatory threshold per stage.

This is important as in general maintaining a low monotony training plan is better for the long term development of an athlete versus a high monotony program, which may prove unsustainable. Instead athletes can vary their training load (volume and intensity) from day to day while still attaining the necessary total volume to approximate the upcoming race.

Training Modifications – The Weekend Stage Race
By far the most common stage race format for amateurs is the two-to-three day event.
These events will often have a road race, time trial and criterium to determine the final general classification.

For the most part the training for a weekend stage race is not much different than the training for the typical two-race weekend that many racers enjoy. That is to say you don’t have to do a highly specialized block of training to perform well. It is more important to arrive at the start line well rested and ready for the demands of the individual stages to come.

In training you should try to replicate the expected intensity demands of the individual stages, rather than the total training stress of all stages. If there is a criterium you can expect to have approximately 1x 6-10 second effort above MAP per minute of racing. You can also predict that you will have approximately 15% of your total race time at high intensities (above threshold) for a given road stage, and substantially more for time trials.

The study referenced above by Rodriguez et al in the British Journal of Sports Medicine showed that a racer will typically spend between 85% of race time below 5W/Kg on hilly stages, but only 67% of race time below 5W/Kg for criteriums, though this is probably due in part to the overall race duration of criteriums being much shorter.

If we approximate amateur workloads, based on the Coggan power profile, at between 3.5 and 4.5 W/kg at threshold then similar percentages of time below these values can be expected in races (eg 85% of time below LT power, 15% at or above LT power)

Training Modifications – The Multi-Day Stage Race
When stage races extend to four, five and six days, there is a necessary adjustment in one’s preparation and training for the event. One of the main adjustments, in addition to specificity, is to approximate the total workload of the event in an effort to help your body adapt. There is the caveat of monotony and strain to consider, however.

For longer stage races it may be wise to undertake one or two ‘overload’ blocks during your preparation. That is to say you should plan to do some race simulation blocks that will stress the body and allow for super-compensation to occur. These blocks should be at least 3-4 weeks apart, and the last should end at least two weeks before the start of your race so that you can taper properly beforehand.

Stage Racing is considered the top step on the competition ladder for road cyclists. It demands repeated high intensity efforts, often above ventilatory threshold, for extended periods of time, the ability to compete across disciplines and terrain, and exceptional aerobic endurance to sustain a high volume of sub-threshold workloads during long stages.

Stage races can be broken into three categories: weekend events, multi-day events of five to eight stages, and the grand tours lasting three full weeks. Training adaptations for weekend stage races are minimal, consisting primarily of event specific preparation at intensities and durations that approximate the individual stages. Multi-day races require a higher degree of event specific preparation targeting total expected training load in both intensity and duration, as well stage specific physiological demands.

Special consideration of the training monotony and strain must be addressed to help the athlete avoid overtraining and illness in preparation for longer stage races. It is common to schedule several ‘overload’ periods in the lead up to the event. The last of these should be completed approximately two week prior to the start of the targeted event. Remember that every athlete is different and experimentation with training load, recovery, and optimal preparation strategies are essential to find the right mix for your success.

About Matt McNamara:
Matt McNamara is a USA Cycling Level 1 coach with over 20 years of racing, coaching and team management experience. He is the founder and President of Sterling Sports Group, an online and real world coaching and training company located in Northern California. Sterling Sports Group is focused on creating a seamless interface between athlete and coach, technology and personal attention. Visit him online to learn more at

Team Mellow Johnny's - Lance's Gila Bid Back On

The Tour of the Gila promoter Jack Brennan confirmed that Lance Armstrong and his Astana teammates Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner will get to race in this week's race in New Mexico after all. USA Cycling worked out an agreement with the UCI, who had earlier denied them permission to do the race because the world body's rules prohibit top-level riders from entering national-level races.

"USA Cycling was responsible for making this happen," Brennan said. "I got a call that there was a problem with Astana showing up, and I e-mailed Sean Petty who was in Europe at UCI meetings. I also e-mailed Steve Johnson on Sunday and spoke with him a few times. They began to resolve this issue with the UCI right away."

Petty was able to work out a solution with the UCI which would permit only three riders from the same professional team to race under a neutral jersey for the national-level event. The agreement will also apply to the BMC Racing Team which, as a Professional Continental squad, falls under the same UCI regulation. Third division continental teams do not fall under the rule and are allowed to race national events with a full squad.

Brennan hopes that a permanent agreement can be worked out to allow top riders into the race in the future. "They all agreed that a solution needs to be worked out so this doesn't happen again."

Horner confirmed to Cyclingnews that the three had already made alternate plans for the week, and had to change their plans when they were allowed to race at the last minute. "I had my bags packed for Aspen and then I got the call from Johan and he said 'you're going to Gila instead.' I really don't know much more than that right now. I'm under the assumption that I'll be be racing the Mellow Johnny's jersey."

The Tour of the Gila is in its 23rd year but was threatened by extinction when it was lacking sponsorship earlier this year. A groundswell of support saved the race and SRAM stepped in as a title sponsor. Brennan said that having the sport's biggest stars at his race will be a huge benefit.

"Having Armstrong, Leipheimer and Horner at Gila? It's an honour, a big honour. We have a really great race in place, a great organization and great community and state support. Yes, I think there will be a lot more crowds and we have been preparing for them."

2009 Wente Road Race

Wente Road Race features great scenery, smooth pavement, lots of climbing (close to 6,000 feet), and some nice, twisty descents, so I wanted to check it out. So refreshing after some of the flatter, nasty pavement races we've been doing.

Four fifteen mile laps comprised the race plus 1 extra time up the big climb for the uphill finish. Good course for me with the climbs and technical descending. First time up the climb the group of 75 was whittled to about 35-40. Then a hairball descent with a nasty corner stacked with hay bales to catch riders. It's one of those corners you can take with no brakes at 40 mph, but it's pretty ballsy! Second time up the climb things really began to shatter. I was about 15th over the climb and looked back to some big gaps.

After that smaller groups formed, and it was fun chasing and working with a few other racers. Toward the end there were two groups of 5 or 6 ahead, then our third group of 5 or 6.

Last time up the climb to the finish I decided my best bet was to attack, figuring I wouldn't do as well in a 200 meter sprint, so I attacked at the bottom of the climb to finish in the top 10 out of 75, I'd have to say this was my best race so far this season, and somewhat of a confidence builder.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Cavendish to test Giro form in Romandie

Mark Cavendish (Columbia-Highroad) will get a good indication of his form ahead of the Giro d'Italia this week at Switzerland's Tour de Romandie. Cavendish won two stages at Italy's Grand Tour last year, before claiming four wins at the Tour de France.

"It's an important race for Mark because it's his last before the Giro d'Italia, but there's no pressure here," said team sports director Tristan Hoffman. "If he gets a win, then that's great. But really we see Romandie as part of his build-up for Italy, one last test before the Giro."

The former T-Mobile squad is to practice setting up sprint finishes for Milan-Sanremo winner Cavendish. Other riders in Columbia-Highroad's squad will be preparing for July's Tour.

Tony Martin (Columbia-Highroad) is hoping to use the event to develop his riding ahead of the Tour. The German rider is particularly keen on seeing how he performs in the six day event's prologue and team time trial.

"Romandie is good training for me for the Tour de France, particularly since there's a team time trial, my first this year," he said. "Then I want to do well in the prologue, because it's 3.1 kilometres long which is a good distance for me. Finally I want to test my condition in the mountains and see if I can improve there.

"Some of the riders in Romandie are doing the Tour as well, so on the flatter stages we want to practice how we do the last three kilometres with Mark," Martin added. "My only complaint is there's no long individual time trial this year, and it would be better for me if there were. It's not so mountainous this time, though, as it has been some years, which is a plus. That way if we get a good result in the team time trial, we have a good chance of staying ahead."

The Tour of Romandie starts in Switzerland today and runs through to Sunday.

Landis, Sutherland to lead OUCH in Gila

Reigning National Racing Calendar champion Rory Sutherland and stage race specialist Floyd Landis will lead the OUCH-Maxxis squad at this week's SRAM Tour of the Gila. The squad has presented a formidable lineup for the Silver City, New Mexico event and says the disappearance of other races has increased the importance of supporting the remaining events.

"With a couple stage races going away this year, every one on the calendar becomes more important," said directeur sportif Mike Tamayo. "The guys have had a little time off following Redlands and they're very ready to race."

Gila's future had been under threat due to the economic downturn, but SRAM stepped in earlier this year to ensure the event's 23rd edition went ahead. "We're really happy that SRAM stepped in to take over sponsorship," Tamayo said. "Having one of our sponsors involved with the race gives us added incentive to put in a strong performance.

The five-day race includes three challenging road races, plus an individual time trial and a criterium in Silver City. "This race favors riders like Floyd and Rory who can put in strong time trials, but also can go uphill really well," Tamayo said.

OUCH-Maxxis for SRAM Tour of the Gila: Jonathan Chodroff, Cameron Evans, Tim Johnson, Roman Kilun, Floyd Landis, Pat McCarty, Rory Sutherland and Brad White.

No Astana for the Gila as UCI enforces rules barring ProTour riders from smaller events

By Neal Rogers

Any plans for Team Astana to compete in this week's SRAM Tour of the Gila appear to have been quashed by the UCI's decision to enforce a rule barring ProTour teams from competing in lower-tier events.

Horner told VeloNews on Monday that Astana's Levi Leipheimer and Lance Armstrong will not compete in the New Mexico race because of the UCI's stance. Armstrong spokesman Mark Higgins told VeloNews over the weekend that Armstrong would not race the Gila.

Horner decided earlier this month that he couldn't do the race because of injuries.

"The team didn’t get into Gila ... as always with Lance, the UCI is on top of everything that he’s doing," Horner said.

USA Cycling spokesman Andy Lee said his understanding was that the UCI was enforcing its rule 2.1009 (see rule below). Lee emphasized that it is a UCI rule, not a USA Cycling rule.

"It's not our place to waive the rule or enforce it," Lee said. "From what we've been told they (the UCI) are choosing to enforce that rule in this case."

Tour of the Gila director Jack Brennan said he hadn't heard anything but rumors about the situation. "I think that's really bad ... I can see the rule, but let's ease up now," he said.

The rule barring UCI pro teams from "National" events is rarely, if ever, enforced in the U.S., where the handful of U.S.-based ProTour riders routinely join nearby races, usually alone or with a handful of teammates. Leipheimer raced at the Sea Otter Classic earlier this month and he and Horner raced Oregon's Cascade Classic last summer. Cervelo's Ted King won the Marblehead road race in Massachusetts last month.

It's not clear whether the UCI rule, if enforced at the Gila, would prohibit BMC from starting. BMC, like Cervelo, is a UCI-registered Continental Professional team.

In an interview earlier this month, Horner said Astana director Johan Bruyneel wanted Horner, Armstrong and Leipheimer to race the Gila as a last preparation before next month's Giro d'Italia.

"(The Gila)'s perfect — it’s not too hard of racing so we can leave fresh, the weather is good, the altitude is perfect. We could end up showing up there with a really good team. It could be funny to see us at Gila, with a big squad," Horner said.

On Monday, Horner said the enforcement of the UCI rule was "wrong."

"It’s a pro race, you should be allowed to race your bike. If we are skipping ProTour races to do a non-ProTour event, then it makes sense. But you should never, never, never just not allow a rider to race his bike. ... every man should be afforded the right to work."

Horner said he, Leipheimer and Armstrong are planning to train for a week in Aspen, Colorado, before heading to Italy.

SRAM, the New Mexico event's title sponsor, is holding a news conference on the eve of the race Tuesday, and the company is promising "perhaps one or two surprises."

The company, which sponsors Astana, stepped in earlier this spring to sponsor of the race, which had been on the verge of cancellation for lack of sponsorship.

Since then, the race has rebounded, attracting its largest men's field ever, including OUCH-Maxxis' Floyd Landis, Rory Sutherland and Tim Johnson; Team Bissell; Team Type 1; Kelly Benefit Strategies; BMC Racing Team; and the Trek-Livestrong U23 team, including track world champion Taylor Phinney.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Potts And Wassner Win St. Anthony’s

The 2009 edition of the St. Anthony’s triathlon in St. Petersburg, Florida came down to which athletes could overcome the obstacles that the racecourse threw at them. While the pros were left to battle rough waters, the age group swim was cancelled due to safety concerns.

All athletes also battled strong winds, with Americans Matty Reed and Mark Van Akkeren dealing with extra difficulties on the bike. Reed suffered a flat tire about midway through the bike course taking him out of contention, while Van Akkeren could not overcome the effects of a bike crash. In the end, Americans Andy Potts and Rebecca Wassner proved the importance of the run in an Olympic-distance race by posting the fastest 10k splits and taking the overall victories.

In the men's race, Potts found himself in unfamiliar territory as he exited the water in fourth position behind Americans Dustin McLarty, Mark Van Akkeren and Matty Reed. Potts worked hard to make up ground on his fellow competitors, posting the second fastest bike split behind New Zealander Torenzo Bozzone. With Reed out of the race, Potts continued his blazing pace off of the bike. Potts' 10k time of 31:38 gave him an easy victory for a total time of 1:46:33. Bozzone's fast bike split allowed him to hang on in the run and finish second with an overall time of 1:48:02. Great Britain's Stuart Hayes rounded out the podium with a time of 1:48:45.

The McLarty siblings proved to be the fastest swimmers of the field, with American Sarah McLarty also coming out of the water in first position. McLarty carried her power onto the bike, also posting the fastest bike split of the group. Behind her, long-course specialists Americans Dede Griesbauer and Bree Wee posted the second and third fastest bike splits. While Americans Rebeccah Wassner and Sarah Groff hung in the middle of the pack through the swim and bike, they quickly caught the competition on the run. Wassner and Groff posted the two fastest 10k times of 35:38 and 35:55 respectively, blowing them past the competition earning the pair a one, two finish. Wassner's overall winning time was 2:00:04, with Groff earning second with a time of 2:00:21. McLarty's advantage from the first two legs gave her a third place finish and an overall time of 2:00:27.

St. Anthony's Triathlon

St. Petersburg, Florida

April 26, 2009

1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run


1. Andy Potts (USA) 1:46:33

2. Terenzo Bozzone (NZL) 1:48:02

3. Stuart Hayes (GBR) 1:48:45

4. Richie Cunningham (AUS) 1:49:50

5. Andreas Raelert (GER) 1:49:54


1. Rebeccah Wassner (USA) 2:00:04

2. Sarah Groff (USA) 2:00:21

3. Sarah McLarty (USA) 2:00:27

4. Jillian Peterson (USA) 2:01:48

5. Jasmine Oeinck (USA) 2:01:56

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Ivan Basso back on top after three years

Ivan Basso is back at the top after a three-year absence due to his link in 2006's Operación Puerto doping investigation. The team Liquigas Italian won the Giro del Trentino overall Saturday in Pejo Fonti, Italy, two weeks before he will attempt to win his second Giro d'Italia.

"I am happy. It comes near my big objective and so it gives me a little bit more assurance," said Basso to Cyclingnews.

Basso's last race win was the overall victory at the 2006 Giro d'Italia. He won three stages and finished ahead in the classification by 9:18 over José Enrique Gutierrez. He served a two-year suspension for links to Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, and only returned to racing at the end of last year's season.

The three- week Giro d'Italia stage race is once again his objective. Basso seeks to win this year's edition, and the four-day Giro del Trentino gave him another chance to see his rivals before the main event.

"I got a good look, but these guys all know how to arrive at the Giro in form anyway. There will be some riders that we have not yet seen, guys who will come up as contenders at the Giro d'Italia."

Prior to the Giro d'Italia, Basso faces once last race: Sunday's Liège-Bastogne-Liège. He was scheduled to travel with teammate Franco Pellizotti by private airplane Saturday night to Belgium.

"I am not kidding myself, I am not a machine and to contend for Liège victory is difficult – it is very different course. There are many riders who have prepared specifically for that one day."

Liège-Bastogne-Liège is one of cycling's five Monuments. It is 261-kilometres long and features 11 côtes (climbs). Basso's last participation was in 2006, he finished 10th. He placed third in 2002.

Ivan Basso Back! Wins Giro del Trentino

Ivan Basso is back to the top after a three-year break due to his involvement in Operación Puerto. The Liquigas Italian won the Giro del Trentino overall Saturday in Pejo Fonti, Italy. His last win was the 2006 Giro d'Italia.

"I am happy, it comes near my big objective [Giro d'Italia, May 9 to 31] and so it gives me a little bit more assurance," said Basso to Cyclingnews.

Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini) won the final stage with a last minute counter-attack in response to Domenico Pozzovivo (CSF Group-Navigare). Di Luca finished ahead of Giampaolo Caruso (Ceramica Flaminia-Bossini Docce), Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo) and Pozzovivo.

The race was decided on the last climb, Pejo Fonti. Liquigas worked with Di Luca to increase the pace and drop Janez Brajkovic (Astana), race leader since Thursday.

Pozzovivo shot clear towards victory in the climb's closing metres, but Basso personally closed the gap. He continued in a single-minded effort: the overall leadership.

Basso's overall win and the stage win by Di Luca show the promise of two former Giro d'Italia winners two weeks before the 2009 edition. Basso immediately left after the stage for tomorrow's Liège-Bastogne-Liège in Belgium. It will be his last race prior to the Giro d'Italia, May 9 to 31.

Besides Basso and Di Luca, Giro favourites Garzelli, Brajkovic and Gilberto Simoni (Diquigiovanni) rode well in Trentino. Andreas Klöden (Astana), winner of stage one, ended the stage race with bad news: German investigations may have linked him to blood doping in 2006.

Final general classification

1 Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas
2 Janez Brajkovic (Slo) Astana
3 Przemyslaw Niemec (Pol) Miche-Silver Cross
4 Stefano Garzelli (Ita) Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo
5 Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita) CSF Group-Navigare
6 Gilberto Simoni (Ita) Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni-Androni Giocattoli
7 Giampaolo Caruso (Ita) Ceramica Flaminia-Bossini Docce
8 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini
9 Leonardo Bertagnolli (Ita) Amica Chips-Knauf

Advice for Athletes -- Eat Real Food

Athletic performance, exercise, food some nutritionists are arguing that sports drinks and power bars are not the best way to build body strength and agility, instead saying that you should listen to your body and eat real food.

Dr. Mark Tarnopolsky and Dr. Stuart Phillips are both in their 40’s and very active endurance athletes, but neither is in favor of ingesting special processed combinations of protein and carbohydrates. Neither doctor regularly consumes energy drinks or energy bars, preferring to drink water and eat regular foods.

The wisest advice for athletes may be to pay attention to what feels best to you, which foods aid your workouts, and at what times.

That your body needs real food to perform optimally should be common sense, but alas, it is not.

Exercise is one of the most powerful tools you have available to drop your insulin levels. This is important because elevated insulin levels are one of the primary drivers for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and weight gain. But the foods you eat are equally important to maintain healthy insulin and leptin levels.

You can’t expect to be optimally healthy if you only do one right and ignore the other.

Although you’d think professional athletes would know better, many athletes still make unwise food choices, and there’s no telling how much their performance and recovery from injury would improve with proper nutrition.

Most of us however, are not professional athletes who can actually get away with consuming extra sugar and carbs. Most likely, if you’re an average person with a regular exercise regimen, consuming sports drinks and energy bars will simply not benefit your performance or your overall health.

The fact is, high-sugar, high-refined carb dieting makes you more prone to muscle and joint deterioration and injury. Who knows how many careers have been cut short due to diminishing skills or injuries? There’s no telling how many careers could have been lengthened through optimal nutrition.

What’s the Correct Diet for Optimal Physical Performance?

Conventional sports nutritionists recommend a 4 to 1 ratio of carbohydrates and proteins, consumed during and directly after endurance events. Others emphasize eating the right foods at the right time, especially after exercising.

But other experts, such as John Ivy, chairman of the department of kinesiology and health education at the University of Texas in Austin, says your post-workout meal does not need to be laden with carbs. Rather, protein is key to stimulating your insulin response. Insulin increases your muscles intake of glucose, which refuels your body.

Others still place even less weight on the dogmas of sports nutrition. Says Dr. Rennie, a 61-year-old who was a competitive swimmer and also used to play water polo and rugby:

“The idea that what you eat and when you eat it will make a big difference in your performance and recovery is wishful thinking.”

Sadly, Americans spend hundreds of millions of dollars on energy drinks and energy bars each year. Bar and drink makers add dozens of elements to these products, including vitamins, minerals, herbs and whey.

However, the active ingredients usually come down to two simple substances: Sugar and caffeine.

When used properly, these products may have some benefits for intense, high-level training athletes. However, for most of you, the vast majority of these energy bars and powders only add hazardous toxins, chemicals, and useless calories to your diet.

Additionally, any good kinesiologist or muscle testing chiropractor will show you how sugar dramatically reduces your strength.

While athletes that train at high levels may need to replace their depleted carbohydrates with sugar immediately following a workout or game, if you’re exercising at a more moderate level, or not at all, these extra sugars just turn to fat, an overworked pancreas and worn out adrenal glands.

The fact is, eating whole, organic and biodynamic foods tailored to your nutritional type is the ticket to optimal performance, whether you’re a professional athlete or a weekend warrior on the tennis court.

What About Sports Drinks?

Sports drinks hit $7.5 billion in sales last year alone, and according to the trade journal Beverage Digest, sports drinks were the third fastest growing beverage category in the United States in 2006, after energy drinks and bottled water. Of course they want you to believe sports drinks are healthy and increase performance!

But when you look at the main ingredients: water, high-fructose corn syrup, and salt, are you really giving your body what it needs to function optimally?

The real problem lies in their choice of ingredients – the use of high-fructose corn syrup in particular – which should be your first tip-off that this stuff is bad news.

High-fructose corn syrup -- the number one source of calories in the US -- is the most prevalent sweetener used in foods and beverages today, and has been clearly linked to the rise in obesity and metabolic syndrome. Just like other sugars it disrupts your insulin levels, which in turn will increase your risk of nearly every chronic disease there is.

The ONLY time you should resort to these drinks is after vigorous exercise, such as cardiovascular aerobic activity, for a minimum of 45 minutes to an hour, and you’re sweating profusely as a result of that activity. Anything less than 45 minutes will simply not result in a large enough fluid loss to justify using these high-sodium, high-sugar drinks.

And, even if you’re exercising for more than an hour, I still believe drinking plain, pure water is the best option to rehydrate yourself.

Four Simple Energy Rules for Athletes

Please understand that energy and stamina doesn't come from sugar. Taking in simple carbs like sugar, corn syrup, pasta, or bread before an event will tend to cause a quick spike in your blood sugar followed by a corresponding fall, making you feel more exhausted than before. More than anything, simple carbs and excess complex carbs will make you sluggish and hamper your performance.

If you want to create energy naturally, here are five simple rules to follow:

1. Just before a game or hard workout, eat a little bit of fruit, such as an apple, plum, pear, citrus fruit (not juice) or berries. They're great right before a game or workout, as they give you a small spike without the massive plummet.

2. Two to three hours before a game or hard workout, complex carbs, fats and a small amount of protein will do the trick. Sweet potatoes, brown rice, olive oil, almond butter, flax oil, walnuts, almonds and eggs are all easy to digest and can give you more sustained energy for the day.

3. Post exercise, your body is nitrogen-poor and your muscles have been broken down. That's why you need amino acids from animal proteins like chicken, beef and eggs, as well as vegetable carbohydrates.

4. Although many experts have advised athletes to load up on carbs before a long-distance event, fact is, burning sugar is not what happens over long distances. After a short period of time, particularly at slower paces, your body is burning fats.

Therefore, rather than loading up on carbs, more long distance runners are loading up on fats and small amounts of proteins prior to racing, with no more carbs than the body can easily store anyway.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Giro 2009 - The Favorites

Ivan Basso strikes fear in Trentino

Giro d'Italia favourite Ivan Basso struck fear into his opponents yesterday on the Alpe di Pampeago. The Liquigas rider finished second behind stage winner Przemyslaw Niemec (Miche-Silver Cross) in stage two of the Giro del Trentino.

"I believe that this is a great test after a reasonable time trial [stage one]. I can do better over longer stages with more climbs, this stage suited an explosive rider with only one climb," Basso told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Liquigas took the race under control in the finale, approaching the climb of Alpe di Pampeago. Basso led the reduced field in the final four kilometres, but had lacked a response for the explosive charge of Niemec.

Basso finished 22 seconds behind Niemec, who rides for Continental (third division) team Miche, and now is only four seconds behind overall leader Janez Brajkovic (Astana). His key Giro rivals finished further back on the stage: Gilberto Simoni (Diquigiovanni) at 45", Stefano Garzelli (Acqua & Sapone-Caffè Mokambo) 1:49, Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes-Farnese Vini) 1:50 and Marzio Bruseghin (Lampre-NGC) 3:24.

"There are still two hard stages left and I hope to be a protagonist," added Basso.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Disgusting Truth about Sports Drinks

Dental experts placed teeth in sports drinks and in water to compare the effects, and they found the sports drinks caused corrosion that could result in severe tooth damage if left untreated.

The researchers cut calves' teeth in half and immersed each half in either a sports drink or water. They compared the results after 75 to 90 minutes. The erosion on the half placed in the sports drink was clearly visible -- dozens of tiny holes appeared. There was no damage on the half that was immersed in water.

Brushing teeth immediately after the drinks would actually compound the problem, because the citric acid in the drink softens tooth enamel, leaving it vulnerable to abrasive brushing.

Sports drinks bring in over $7.5 billion a year, touting benefits like improved athletic performance, increased energy and superior hydration during exercise. Because of their glitzy marketing campaigns, which often feature celebrity athletes, many people are under the impression that these drinks are healthy and essential during or after a workout.

What they don’t advertise is that sports drinks are up to 30 times more erosive to your teeth than water. And as this latest study pointed out, brushing your teeth won’t help because the citric acid in the sports drink will soften your tooth enamel so much it could be damaged by brushing.

Sports drinks have high acidity levels to extend their shelf life (as do soft drinks). That can be especially problematic for a sweaty athlete with a dry mouth who can't produce enough saliva to regulate and protect his mouth from the acidity.

So when you drink a sports drink, it’s not an exaggeration to say it’s akin to spraying a fine layer of corrosive acid over your teeth. Further, the “benefits” are not much different than drinking a can of soda.

Why Sports Drinks are Not a Healthy Choice

The leading brands of sports drinks on the market typically contain as much as two-thirds the sugar of sodas and more sodium. They also often contain high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), artificial flavors and food coloring, none of which belong in your body,.

For those of you who are exercising to lose weight, you should also know that sports drinks are usually anything but low calorie. There is a perverse irony of people who are working hard exercising to burn off calories, only to be slurping down more calories and HFCS, which is linked to obesity, while they’re working out.

One study from the University of California at Berkeley's Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Center for Weight and Health even found that students who drink one 20-ounce sports drink every day for a year could gain 13 pounds!

And although these drinks are often referred to as “energy” drinks, in the long run the sugar they contain does just the opposite. It acts like an H-bomb -- a quick explosion of energy followed by a plummeting disaster, as your pancreas and other glands do all they can to balance out the toxic stimulation to your blood sugar.

And if your sports drink is low calorie and sugar-free, be warned that it likely contains an artificial sweetener, which is even worse for you than high-fructose corn syrup or sugar.

Most also contain loads of processed salt, which is there to replenish the electrolytes you lose while sweating. However, unless you’re sweating profusely and for a prolonged period, that extra salt is simply unnecessary, and possibly harmful.

Additionally, because salt intake typically increases your thirst, drinking most sports drinks will NOT quench your thirst while you exercise. It will instead make you want to drink more.

In many ways drinking sports drinks is not a whole lot better than chugging a can of soda after your workout.

Are Sports Drinks Ever Useful?

Less than 1 percent of those who use sports drinks actually benefit from them.

If you exercise for 30 minutes a day, at a moderate intensity, water is the best thing to help you stay hydrated. It’s only when you’ve been exercising for longer periods, such as 60 minutes or more, or at an extreme intensity, such as on a very hot day or at your full exertion level, that you may need something more than water to replenish your body.

Again, the only time you should resort to these drinks is after vigorous exercise, such as cardiovascular aerobic activity, for a minimum of 45 minutes to an hour, and you’re sweating profusely as a result of that activity.

Anything less than 45 minutes will not result in a large enough fluid loss to justify using these high-sodium, high-sugar drinks. And even if you’re exercising for more than an hour, I still believe there are far better options to rehydrate yourself, such as fresh coconut water.

Fresh coconut water is one of the highest sources of electrolytes known to man, and can be used to prevent dehydration from strenuous exercise or even diarrhea. Some remote areas of the world even use coconut juice intravenously, short-term, to help hydrate critically ill patients and in emergency situations.

So for most average exercisers and athletes out there, sports drinks are a waste of your money. Your best bet for your primary fluid replacement remains pure, fresh water.

Ivan Basso 2nd Overall At Giro del Trentino

Ivan Basso (Liquigas) made amends for yesterday's disappointing opening time trial performance in the Giro del Trentino by attacking in the final kilometres of today's tough road stage.

Although Basso's move shaped the racing in the second stage of the event, it was little known Polish rider Przemyslaw Niemiec (Miche) who took the win in Alpe di Pampeago after 141km of action.

Basso's second place behind Niemiec saw him move up into second overall in the general classification, just two seconds behind race leader Janez Brajkovic (Astana). It proves that Basso's preparations for next month's Giro d'Italia are now firmly on track.

Stage 2 Results
1 Przemyslaw Niemiec (Miche-Silver) 137 km in 3h50'44"
2 Ivan Basso (Liquigas) + 0'22"
3 Giampaolo Caruso (Flaminia) + 0'45"
4 Gilberto Simoni (Diquigiovanni-Androni) + 0'45"
5 Jani Brajkovic (Astana) + 1'01"

General Classification after stage 2
1 Jani Brajkovic (Astana)
2 Ivan Basso (Liquigas) + 0'04"
3 Przemyslaw Niemiec (Miche-Silver) + 0'22"

2009 Little 500: Yes, it's a real race

By Mark Zalewski

Baseball has films such as “Field of Dreams” and “The Natural.” Football has “Rudy” and “Brian's Song.” Basketball has “Hoosiers” and … “White Men Can't Jump?” (okay, there are probably better examples than that last one.)

The point is that sports and movies go together like Belgian beer and waffles. Of course cycling has a film to call its own ─ the 1979 Oscar-winner “Breaking Away.” Even the most fervent cycling fans among us might forget that the race featured in the story is, in fact, a real race... and the 58th running of the Little 500 is slated for this weekend on the campus of Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.

Now the drama at the center of the film's plot ─ the townie kids pitted against the silver-spooned collegians ─ was dramatic license for the film. In reality one must be enrolled as an undergraduate at the school to compete. There is a Cutters team but that was an independent team formed after the movie.

The rivalries that are a part of this race can go back decades, often involving fraternities and sororities. For many years the race was all Greek-dominated. But in the early 1980s the real Cutters team formed as a splinter group out of one of the fraternities, and won the race. Since then teams from the Greek system, residence halls and independents have traded wins with the Cutters, the team which has since enjoyed the most wins, at nine.

What is at stake? Not a dime. Whatever money the race generates, all of it goes to fund scholarships, more than $1.4 million to date. For the riders, there is only pride. But make no mistake; the level of competition that surrounds the actual race is as serious as it gets in bicycle racing.

The student-athletes, many of whom have never raced a bicycle before, train most of the year for this one event. Some are former high school sports stars, others are just in it for the experience. It is so serious the top teams pay for their riders to go on spring break training camps to Arizona and Texas, foregoing the usual fare of partying in Mexico or Florida. That represents serious dedication for a college student.

Of course it is easy to think of this race as below tier, being only an amateur college race ─ the rules mostly forbid category 1 or 2 cyclists from participating. But every year this race has tens of thousands of fans in the grandstands and has been broadcast live on television for the past seven years... and that's without Lance Armstrong racing in it! What other American race can claim that?

How does it work?
The race itself is unlike any other in cycling. It is modeled after the Indianapolis 500 motorsport race to form a strange hybrid of track, cyclocross and criterium racing. It is run as it was 58 years ago, on a “Chariots of Fire” style quarter-mile cinder track, adding the risk of some intense road rash for those unlucky enough to crash.

Riders are obligated to use what the rules define as a “stock” bike, which is about as low-tech as one can get these days. First, it weighs a lot compared to today's carbon wonder-bikes... about 22 pounds. Second, teams can only change a few insignificant parts, such as the seat and handlebars. The gearing must be 46x18, with a coaster-brake style freewheel hub and platform pedals. (The taping of shoes onto the pedals a la 'Dave Stoller' is not allowed.) What comes out of all this is a level playing field so that ability and not money determines who wins.

Teams consist of three to four riders that “exchange” during the race, making for the most unique aspect of the event. Exchanges are done on-the-fly with one rider coming into the team's designated pit, on one pedal like a 'cross racer getting a clean bike.

Meanwhile a teammate stands on the opposite side waiting to take the bike and continue racing, hoping to regain their spot in the pack. Even more challenging is that the exchange must take place within only a 16-foot long pit area. The only rule for exchanges is that there must be ten (five for the women) at any point during the race.

Like the Indy 500, the teams must qualify to be in the race, riding a 4-lap time trial with clean exchanges each lap. The fastest 33 teams make it and are seeded as such, like in the auto race, in ten rows of three. There is a 3-lap parade before the green flag is dropped for a flying start to 200 laps (50 miles) for the men and 100 laps (25 miles) for the women.

The initial laps are usually very chaotic, with the top teams fighting for position and the weaker teams trying to keep up. A crash in the first few laps is quite common and the protocol for that is identical to the Indy 500. Yellow flags slow the field down holding their positions as the carnage is swept up. Also as in the car race, the pit is a critical strategy position with a team coach using a marker board to communicate with riders.

In the final laps the race is usually down to 4-5 teams in contention, though there have been rare cases of a solo break and even recently a team lapping the field. The main strategy for teams at this point is to decide when to exchange to put the sprinter on the bike ─ too early could wear the sprinter out, and too late could cost valuable position in the lead group.

This year's event is packed with the usual rivalries and pre-race favorites. The back-to-back defending men's champions, the Cutters, have qualified third behind two fraternities with the Cutters' captain Eric Young winning the spring series' individual time trial.

In the women's race, the defending champion Delta Gamma team is farther down in seventh, and will get a challenge from the Teter dorm team who qualified for the pole position with a new track record; as well as the independent team Wing It, whose Kristi Hewitt won the ITT with a record herself.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Lance Armstrong - High Altitude Healing

By Chris Carmichael

I'm less surprised that Lance broke his collarbone, and more surprised that it's the first time he's broken it in the 19 years I've been working with him. Come to think of it, he's had remarkably few injuries in his adult life. Back in 2000 he broke a vertebra in his neck in the process of flipping over a car – if memory serves – while training in the mountains before the Sydney Olympics. Beyond that, he's really only had the normal scrapes, bumps, and bruises that come with being a professional cyclist. And in typical Lance fashion, he took his recent crash in stride and looked forward instead of lamenting about what he could have done differently.

And as much respect as I have for European physicians, I glad Lance endured the long plane flight home to be treated in Austin, Texas. I'm not an expert in healthcare systems, but having been in and out of my share of hospitals around the world with my own injuries, injured athletes and kids, there's no place I'd rather be treated than in the US. I broke my collarbone in East Germany in the early 80s, and when I went to the hospital all the instruments and facilities looked they were straight out of WWII. Then my doctor came into the room and proceeded to smoke a cigarette throughout my examination. They told me I needed surgery, and I could only imagine where the metal plate was going to come from, so I gritted my teeth, got off the table and walked out. My plane ride home was a lot longer than Lance's, but probably just as painful, and in my case it turned out I didn't need surgery after all. In Lance's case, x-rays in Austin showed the fracture – and the subsequent repair - was more complicated than previously believed. But the surgery went very well and he was back on the bike within days.

I caught up with Lance last week in Aspen, Colorado. He was out there for some altitude training and to do some work on climbing. The benefit to being able to live and train in Austin, Texas and Aspen, Colorado is that Lance can really take advantage of the Live High, Train Low concept. In this training protocol, athletes go to altitude for periods lasting a few weeks at a stretch, and then return to a lower elevation or sea level for several weeks after that. While at altitude for a few weeks, the body adapts to elevation by producing more red blood cells – but the downside to staying at altitude too long is that it's difficult to put forth high-power training efforts and even harder to recover from day to day. For instance, Lance's sustainable power output on a climb at 10,000 feet is lower than his sustainable power output on European climbs that tops out at around 7,000 feet.

Going back to a lower elevation allows an athlete to take advantage of the red blood cells produced during exposure to high altitude. Lance can go back to Austin and ride at higher power outputs for sustained efforts because his body can deliver more oxygen to his working muscles. However, since there's no need for his body to continue circulating so many red blood cells now that he's closer to sea level, he gradually loses the benefits gained from being at altitude. That's why Lance and other endurance athletes alternate between spending time at higher and lower altitudes. Of course, it could just be an excuse to go to Aspen, too.

When I was with Lance, it was about three weeks since his surgery and we decided to see how he handled some time on his time trial bike. It was the first time he'd been on the bike since he broke his collarbone, and the first time he'd put that kind of pressure on it. One of the big concerns was the potential for great pain caused by road vibrations and bumps. After all, in his normal riding position on a road bike, he had his wrist and elbow to cushion some of the road shock before it reached his shoulder. But on the TT bike, the vibration goes straight from the elbow pad right up into the collarbone.

All in all Lance was on the TT bike for about 30 minutes, and while there was some minor pain, the ride was promising. While he's been doing training efforts on his road bike that build time trial power, I think he'll be back to full-throttle time trial training sessions on the TT bike very soon.

With the Giro d'Italia rapidly approaching, I'm happy with Lance's form. The broken collarbone was a setback, but from a training perspective I think he's come through it quite well. He's excited about racing in Italy, motivated to perform well for the team and himself, and eager to get back into the fray.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Rock Racing pulls out of Gila as funds dwindle

Rock Racing's financial difficulties have force them to pull out of the upcoming Tour of the Gila, set to begin on April 29 in Silver City, New Mexico. "There just isn't enough money for us to be able to get there," team owner Michael Ball said.

The Rock'n'Republic jeans manufacturer owner is having to tighten his belt as the economic crisis impacts company sales. Earlier in the year Ball admitted the team would require another sponsor for its full roster and season to be guaranteed.

"We might try to do some other events," said Ball. "Gila is too expensive for us. We need to tighten the belt."

Rock Racing had enlisted a strong line up for the race which included US National Criterium Champion Rahsaan Bahati, Jeff Eckert, Danny Finneran, Sergio Hernandez and Nick Sanderson. Michael Creed, Chris Baldwin and Cesar Grajales were also expected to take part, but have since been 'let go' from the amateur squad due to budget cutbacks.

The team is confirmed to compete in the Tour of Columbia, the Tour of Missouri and TD Bank Philadelphia Championship, according to Ball. "We will still be out there racing but we have select races that have the best return for the sponsors," Ball said. "A year ago I threw money at the team and now it's different - very humbling."

The team's website has received a makeover, which includes the slogan 'Rocks not dead - brace yourself'.

Ivan Basso - Back in Italy

Ciao to everyone. It has been a great two weeks since I last wrote a diary and it is only around 20 days until the start of my season's objective, the Giro d'Italia stage race.

I returned Saturday [April 18] from the Spanish island of Tenerife, the place now famous thanks to Lance Armstrong's winter training camp. I passed a good 14 days together with my teammates training at altitude. Pellizotti, Stangelj, Miholjevic, Carlström and Szmyd joined me on the trip.

It was a time to get in some work, but also to stay together as a team like we did earlier in the year at the Benicàsim camp. We always headed out on our training rides together, but with each of us having different variations depending on our form.

Though it is a small island, every day we were able to ride a different route. Pellizotti and Miholjevic were there a few months ago and so they knew the island roads well. We were able to do some interesting rides, climbs and flats.

Some days I rode for up to nine hours. Usually I do not take an iPod, and fortunately, for these long ones there was Carlström with me to pass the time and chat about life. In addition, there is always something beautiful to see on the horizon – it is a beautiful island.

Though it is a tourist spot traffic is not so bad. When we got away from the lowlands we had a lot of peace and could really focus on our training.

Sweet home Varese

I had a nice weekend with my family at home, relaxing ahead of another tough week. It will be essentially my third week of hard training: I returned Saturday, today [April 20] we previewed the team time trial route in Venice, I will race the Giro del Trentino from Wednesday to Saturday, then fly immediately after the race to Belgium for Liège-Bastogne-Liège Sunday. Trentino and Liège back-to-back will be a huge demand on my energy, but I look forward to it because it is a good physical test, to put my body under the stress of day-to-day racing.

I don't expect a result in those races; I think it is still too soon to reap the benefits of Tenerife. Will I win a stage in Trentino? It is hard to say if I will be the favourites, I have just come back down from altitude and so it is an unknown.

Team time trial

It was good today in Venice – always a magical city. It was my third time there to try the 20.5-kilometre team time trial course and I am now very familiar with it. We were able to hit it hard three times, thanks to the help of local police who blocked the course. We did it a fourth time, but only to spin out the legs.

It is always important to win when there is a chance in the Giro d'Italia. If we start well it will help our morale. Liquigas is a team that has always done well in the time trial: a win last year in the Vuelta a España and two years ago at the Giro d'Italia. It's obvious – sending the riders to Venice, having the police block the road – the opening day will be important to us.

I was also able to fit in parts of the San Martino di Castrozza stage and the Alpe di Siusi stage in these days. After those: basta, I have seen all of the stages and I am ready for the start on May 9.


I know that everyone has been focused on Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders, but not me. There was not good coverage of the Classics in our hotel or I was just too tired to follow. I know Roman Kreuziger and Vincenzo Nibali did well in Amstel Gold. I can tell you that they are both strong riders and have a big future ahead of them, you already caught a glimpse of that at the Tour de France last year.

It will be the same for Flèche Wallonne Wednesday, unfortunately. I will not be able to see any of it because I will be racing Trentino. However, I think I have a good idea of who will be the strong riders for Liège regardless – they are always the same 10 or 12 guys.

I think that these races and the work I have done – in Argentina, California, Tirreno-Adriatico and Tenerife – will certainly produce results in the Corsa Rosa. We will find out soon enough, talk to you later.


Basso & Liquigas reconned TTT course

The Italian Liquigas team previewed the Giro d'Italia's stage 1 team time trial in Venice yesterday. Eight of the nine potential Giro riders inspected the parcours, with Alessandro Vanotti the only absent rider due to sickness.

The opening stage is an out-and-back course along the Lido, 20.5 kilometres in length. "We did the parcours three times, thanks to the police who closed the course off," Ivan Basso told us.

Basso will check out stages four and five, the first hard mountain stages, as well.

The team has not announced its final roster yet for the three-week race from May 9 to 31.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Nydam Envisioned Battenkill Victory

Having maintained a solo attack for most of the race, Scott Nydam (BMC) enjoyed a satisfying victory at the Tour of Battenkill-Roubaix Invitational. After spending nearly 175km off the front, Nydam muscled his way to the finish line more than two minutes ahead of second-placed Karl Menzies (OUCH p/b Maxxis) and third-placed Francois Parisien (Team Planet Energy).

"I'm stoked," Nydam told us. "It was a very satisfying win. I went into this race hoping to win and was envisioning going to the line alone. This win felt like it was a long time coming and everything came together today. I knew where to use my efforts on the course and how to maintain my speed on the climbs, descents and in the dirt."

The main group was reduced to just 25 riders by the end of the race. Menzies bridged across to Nydam's lone chaser, Parisien, and used his speed to win the two-up sprint for second place. "Obviously winning was our number one goal but we rode the race as best we could," said Mike Tamayo, OUCH p/b Maxxis directeur sportif. "We raced hard and BMC raced hard too. Hats go off to them for a great race. My guys really left it all out there today and they should be proud of that."

The men's 160-rider peloton anxiously lined up to start one of the longest and toughest events held on American soil, literally. Nearly 40km of the total 200km road race was held on New York State dirt roads. Blue skies made the otherwise epic race tolerable because the dirt roads, combined with undulating terrain and strong winds, caused the large field to dwindle to 62 by the finish.

"It was a great course, a really hard course and riders made a big deal of the dirt," said Tamayo. "It was the climbs that made it hard. The dirt brought the handling skills factor out but the attrition came from the climbs."

Nydam initiated his early move with Bobby Lea (OUCH p/b Maxxis) in tow on the first dirt section, 16km into the lengthy event. The pair worked together for more than 100km and gained a maximum of five minutes on the peloton. "Bobby did a great job today," explained Tamayo. "Once he got caught he stayed in the race and did a lot of work for the team today."

Lea lost Nydam's wheel before the start of the second lap and was joined by Parisien. The pair of chasers worked together to try to bring Nydam back but the solo leader continued to pick up another valuable minute. "When I started the second lap I got radio bits that some attacks were going and a chase group had formed," Nydam said. "But I still had a three-minute lead and at that point my thought was to maximize the amount of time off the front to give my teammates a free ride for as long as possible."

Behind Nydam and his chasers, Bissell and Team Type 1 lead the bid to bring back the escaped riders. But, the time damage to Nydam was too hefty and the race continued for second place. "Once the chase was reabsorbed I knew there was going to be some time of indecision," Nydam said. "It was a long enough and hard enough race to really work into peoples heads."

Lea was reabsorbed into the bunch where his OUCH p/b Maxxis teammates assumed responsibility at the front. "We really relied on a rider like Tim Johnson to use is cross power over the dirt sections to bring back Parisien," Tamayo said. "That's where the race of attrition started to take over and ten riders fell off the back each time we went over another climb."

Menzies attacked the small chase group that included Sean Milne (Team Type 1) and the previous day's winner Chad Beyer (BMC) to bridged across to Parisien. "Karl got away on one of the descents wit eight kilometres to go," Tamayo said. "Overall it was a good bike racing, an epic day and a great ride. Tactical race and attrition took over at the end."

Theo Bos Brings Down Daryl Impey

Dutch rider Theo Bos (Rabobank) brought down race leader Daryl Impey (Barloworld) in the final stage of the Presidential Tour of Turkey on Sunday.

The incident, which was barely caught by the TV cameras, was a hot topic on twitter as well. Lance Armstrong (Astana) was quite surprised the judges didn't issue a ruling against the Dutchman. "Bos doesn't even get disqualified. Pitiful. He deserves a long suspension," Armstrong said via twitter.

2009 Boston Marathon

America's New Marathoner - Kara Goucher

On July 26, 2006, in just her second 10,000-meter race, Kara Goucher became the second-fastest American ever at the distance, placing third in Helsinki in 31:17.12. Among Americans, only Deena Kastor has run faster. It was part of an amazing season that saw Goucher set personal bests at four distances… After years of mutual injury and frustration, the Gouchers moved from Boulder to Portland, Oregon, in the fall of 2004, where both Kara and her husband, Adam, have flourished …Goucher established herself as one of the top collegiate cross country runners while at Colorado. She was undefeated for the entire 1999 cross country season until the NCAA Championships, where she finished ninth... she returned in 2000 to win her second Big 12 cross country championship, the NCAA title and then won both the 3000 and 5000m at the NCAA Championships... was the only collegiate runner in the 5000m finals at the 2000 Olympic Trials, where she finished 8th... Formerly Kara Grgas-Wheeler, she started running in the seventh grade because she wanted to win an award at her junior high school... to get the award, she needed academics, arts and athletics... she chose cross country because they didn’t make cuts...was a psychology major at Colorado... In 2001, she married fellow Colorado alum, distances runner Adam Goucher.

Boston Marathon - Goucher takes home 3rd

In one of the most dramatic Boston Marathon finishes, Salina Kosgei (KEN) and Dire Tune (ETH) ran side-by-side nearly all the way to the finish line on Boyleston St. With a mere second separating them, Kosgei edged out Tune for the win, with Tune collapsing immediately upon crossing the line. American Kara Goucher held on for third place, and was overcome by emotion once she crossed the line. Just 9 seconds from first place, Goucher's goal today was to win.

In the men's race, Deriba Merga (ETH), had a slightly more comfortable cushion than the ladies, as he crossed the line first at 2:08:42. Daniel Rono (KEN) finished second in 2:09:32 and American Ryan Hall took third in 2:09:40.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Will Leipheimer & Armstrong race Gila?

Talk of Astana's participation in America's Tour of the Gila might become a reality. The five-day stage race is scheduled to begin on Tuesday, April 29 in Silver City, New Mexico. Levi Leipheimer told us regarding his own appearance, "It's possible, but not for sure."

Talk about Astana's marquee American riders Lance Armstrong, Chris Horner and Levi Leipheimer making an appearance at the Tour of the Gila began circulating last month. The event conflicts with the team's scheduled European event at the Tour of Romandie, of which the three Americans are not registered.

"It would be cool to ride Gila," said Leipheimer, who recently won local California races Sea Otter Classic and Copperopolis. "I've done it before once and I love the desert. I'm not sure if we can do it, there are other races in Europe we might ride to prepare for the Giro d'Italia."

Although the Tour of the Gila is promising, Astana Press Officer Philippe Maertens could not confirm their attendance. "Lance has not made any decision on his plans between Castilla y León and the Giro d' Italia. We, too, have to wait. Chris Horner is scheduled for the Classics so it would surprise me if he will fly to New Mexico."

Tour of the Gila's event director Jack Brennan increased the men's field limit to 175 competitors, the biggest field in the history of the event. Brennan noted that while Astana has not registered yet, he would love to have them.

Lululemon "Rocks" Xterra Oakland Hills

I had the pleasure to take part in one of the best races I have raced in a long time. Having spent the last 26 years racing and watching triathlons grow I have missed that "old school" feeling when you race.

Today I took part in the Oakland Hills Xterra trail race series and it was one of best races I have raced in years. Its great to see athletes who are racing their first race, and the grass roots feeling that many triathlons lack now.

Team Lemon was out in full force. Its great to see a company with so many of its employees coming out and supporting local events. I ran in their Run:Response Short and it was by far the best pair of shorts I have run in. its been years since I've worn shorts to run in since I'm always running in tri-shorts, but my friend suggested I try them out and I'm glad she did since they were much more comfortable than wearing tri-gear. Lululemon is coming to Walnut Creek. If you live in the area be sure to check them out. All the garments I have tried have really impressed me, and the folks I've meet from their company are truly great ambassadors to their products and community.

Click on the title link to check out the shorts.

"Check out the team lemon video from our Xterra race today -"

Paul, Henning Victorious In China

In conditions rivaling the toughest of any Ironman on earth (with temperatures as high as 113 degrees F), Charlotte Paul and Rasmus Henning took the titles at the second running of Ironman China. Henning led from gun to finish in his first Ironman race. Though he struggled in the marathon (and cited that he missed a special needs bag), Henning won with a nearly 30 minute margin over second place Patrick Wallimann, with his time of 8:53:20. Wallimann's time was 9:22:49, and Jozsef Major finished third in 9:38:52.

Coming back from what she thought was a disappointing race in New Zealand, Charlotte Paul ran her way from fourth off the bike to first place, with the fastest marathon overall (3:35:44), finishing in 9:48:14. Her time was good enough for fourth place overall, in an event that melted some of the best athletes in the world. Edith Niederfriniger finished second in 10:01:39, and Tereza Macel, who had led for the swim and the bike, finished third in 10:13:43.

K-Swiss Ironman China
April 19, 2009

1. Rasmus Henning 8:53:20
2. Patrick Wallimann 9:22:46
3. Mike Schifferle 9:28:49
4. Jozsef Major 9:38:52
5. Byung Hoon Park 9:57:10
6. Shigenobu Ikegata 9:59:55
7. Patrick Evoe 10:03:38
8. Assad Attamimi 10:06:24
9. Yoshiaki Teramoto 10:09:15
10. Petr Vabrousek 10:12:06

1. Charlotte Paul 9:48:14
2. Edith Niederfriniger 10:01:39
3. Tereza Macel 10:13:43
4. Donna Phelan 10:25:15
5. Kim Loeffler 10:29:53
6. hillary biscay 10:39:14
7. Lidia Rekas 10:50:13
8. Yvette Grice 11:05:43
9. Jocelyn Sui-Yee Wong 11:08:10
10. Megumi Kobayashi 11:14:26

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Leipheimer grinds out solo victory over Bissell

Astana's Levi Leipheimer picked up a close victory Friday at the 2009 Sea Otter Classic road race in a competition that he deemed to be a "training run". The Santa Rosa resident was racing on his own, without the benefit of his world-beating Astana team, but still he had the superior fitness and experience to pull ahead of the otherwise dominant Bissell Pro Cycling team at the top of a long, steep Ford Ord grade that marked the finish line.

Leipheimer decided early on that he was going to approach the Sea Otter road race as a robust training event in preparation for the summer race season. In pre-race comments Leipheimer not give himself much of a chance to win against the combined strength and cunning of the well-oiled Bissell boys, a commanding group of athletes who swept Thursday's Sea Otter criterium.

"This is home for me,” he said. “I came up through the ranks doing these local races and I appreciate them. And I wanted to keep a light spring training schedule. So, this is what I call free training – to get out there and battle with these guys. And it was tough.

"I'm just really enjoying springtime in California," added Leipheimer.

Indeed, Friday was a spectacular one for a bicycle race. Refreshingly warm, with a slight coastal breeze to cool down the riders who might otherwise have overheated on the winding, hill studded 69-mile course. The course looped through the verdant sage and oak forests of the Fort Ord backcountry, the weather sparkled, but the star was clearly Leipheimer.

Using a wealth of world-class experience and a simple strategy – to stick closely with the Bissell team throughout, and then fight it out on the last hill – Leipheimer was able to chase down a series of breakaways. Bissell standouts Paul Mach and San Jose's Ben Jacques-Mayne led the attacks along with yesterday's criterium winner, Morgan Schmitt, who came in third in the road race.

"We had a pretty good day in the breakaways. We were trying to send as many guys up the road as possible to try and tire him out," said Mach.

Leipheimer proved to be more than up to the task of rabbit-chaser. The rider pedalled away to win by four seconds.

"We went pretty much into the bottom of the final hill together. Morgan went first, then Ben, and then I went and Levi was on my wheel. I tried to put in a dig at the end to see what would happen. But basically he (Leipheimer) just sat there, and then he passed me. He waited for a long time, and I guess that was payback for all of the pain that we put him through during the race," said Mach.

Hamilton Blames Woes On Depression

When he was at the top of his career, Tyler Hamilton became a hero for gritting his way through two Grand Tours with broken bones to finish on or near the podium. Few people knew that in the height of his fame, he was suffering from a deep depression. His condition only became public on Friday after the American announced he had tested positive for a banned steroid, DHEA, which was an ingredient in a homeopathic supplement he was taking to treat his condition.

Hamilton's mental state hit bottom at a time when he had just garnered some of the finest results of his career. He had ridden to second place overall in the 2002 Giro d'Italia, despite riding with a fractured shoulder from a dramatic crash on stage five. The next year he rode to fourth overall in the Tour de France, and took a solo stage victory while riding with a cracked collarbone.

"The best year of my life, in 2003, when I should have been on cloud nine was when I was the most depressed," said Hamilton. He returned to the USA at the end of that season as a national icon. He was given a hometown parade along with invitations to pitch the first ball at a Boston Red Socks game and ring the opening bell on Wall Street.

"I was back home in Marblehead and I couldn't get out of bed. I've been dealing with it my whole life. It is a disease I've had for a long time. I don't want people to think I'm just this weak person who is going through what everyone else goes through when divorce and cancer happens in the family. This is more. I'm dealing with it head on right now. This is my primary focus."

According to Hamilton, depression is a genetic disease that runs in his family. "My grandfather and grandmother, my mother and sister all suffer from depression," said Hamilton who's grand mother committed suicide when his mother was thirteen. "People weren't treated for depression when my mom was a kid, if they were depressed they were just crazy. Depression doesn't get talked about a lot but it is a serious disease. I have seen personally what it did to my mother and it is the most important thing in my life."

Hamilton noted that depression goes generally unnoticed in athletes because of their ability to handle high physical expectations. "As an elite athlete, the public expects you to have perfect physical condition and also a perfect condition mentally, but that is not always the case," said Hamilton who claims only his closest friends a relatives new about his depression. "Athletes don't talk about it because it is a sign of weakness. It is nothing to be ashamed about, it's a disease. It effects lives and can take lives."

According to Hamilton, he has been treated for clinical depression for six years. Now that he has decided to retire, his primary focus is to improve his mental health and raise awareness for athletes who suffer from the same disease.

"I kept it quiet with my team, to be a strong teammate and to show that I was strong and not weak. I wanted to be a good leader and know that they always count on me. The older guys can take care of themselves but I wanted to be there for the younger guys. I'm sorry to everyone on my team, staff, riders and Michael. To the whole cycling world – I'm sorry for this situation."