Tuesday, June 30, 2009

2009 Tour de France Could Decide Success of Armstrong Comeback


After Lance Armstrong won the Nevada City Classic cycling race recently and rushed off without the trophy, race officials figured he would never have second thoughts about leaving it behind.

“The guy’s won the Tour de France seven times, so we were thinking, why would he ever want the trophy from our little race?” said Duane Strawser, who directs the 49-year-old event held in California. “But wouldn’t you know it, the phone rang.”

An Armstrong representative called and asked that the trophy be sent to his home in Texas. That was when the significance of it dawned on Strawser. “Of course, he would want the trophy,” Strawser said last week. “It’s evidence of his success since his comeback.”

In September, Armstrong emerged from three and a half years of retirement, announcing that he would try to win his eighth Tour de France, a race that begins Saturday in Monaco. Aside from the winner’s trophy for the Nevada City Classic — his first win since the 2005 Tour — little has gone as expected for Armstrong in the reprise of his career.

He broke his right collarbone in March, causing a major hiccup in his training. His team, Astana, has had financial problems and nearly lost its racing license. A protest he led at the Giro d’Italia over course conditions was met with harsh comments from fans and the race’s director, prompting Armstrong to stop talking to reporters for the final two weeks of the event.

The personalized antidoping program he said would be led by the prominent scientist Don Catlin — which was to be the most extensive in sports history — fizzled out before it started. And an incident with French drug testers who knocked on his door threatened his eligibility for the Tour de France, his signature event.

Although many Armstrong-watchers consider the philanthropic element of his comeback to be a success — a main thrust of his return was to raise awareness and funding for the battle against cancer — his competitive success is likely to be defined by his performance over the next three weeks.

“I wouldn’t say that I’m not going for the victory,” Armstrong said in a phone interview on Sunday from France, where he was scouting several of the Tour’s Alpine stages. “I will say, full disclaimer, that it’s not been as easy as I thought. I think it’s also fair to say that I’m not as confident in winning as I was in other years.”

The biggest obstacle before Armstrong, 37, may be his teammate and the race favorite, the 26-year-old Alberto Contador.

“The trick is trying to be a responsible teammate and co-leader and understand that Alberto could not just be stronger, but could be a lot stronger,” Armstrong said of Contador, who won the 2007 Tour as well as last year’s Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a España.

Armstrong provided a few reasons, just in case Contador’s superiority turns out to be true. He said that his body had needed time to get back in the swing of serious cycling, and that his age and a midseason crash had slowed him.

Lately, though, his training performances have shown him to be as fit as he used to be, Armstrong said. Still, he is heading into this Tour with a different state of mind.

“I don’t feel the same sense of fear that I’ve felt before,” he said, referring to a fear of failure that fueled his drive to win. “Maybe that’s not ideal for me, but I’m comfortable with my record from before. I think I’ve proven my natural talents in 2009.”

To start the year, Armstrong raced in Australia’s Tour Down Under and finished 29th. Then he was seventh at the Tour of California, riding in support of his teammate Levi Leipheimer, who went on to win.

About five weeks after breaking his right collarbone, Armstrong competed in the Giro d’Italia, a grueling three-week race that began in Venice and ended in Rome. After starting slowly, he improved day by day to finish 12th.

Phil Liggett, the longtime cycling race announcer, said in a teleconference Monday that Armstrong proved by the end of the Giro that he was “probably one of the best riders in the race.”

Liggett added, “I think the riders are scared of Lance right now.”

David Millar, a friend of Armstrong’s who rides for the Garmin-Slipstream team, said Armstrong could intimidate his competition, no matter his age or fitness level.

“Come on, the guy has won the Tour seven times; he is almost programmed to win the Tour by now,” Millar said at the Giro. “If he doesn’t win, you could imagine it would be quite crushing for someone as competitive and self-assured as he is. But with his comeback, that’s the risk he has taken.”

Armstrong said falling short at this Tour would not be the biggest failure of his life. That, he said, would be his failed marriage to Kristin Armstrong, his former wife.

A loss at the Tour would not mean his season was for naught, he said, because his comeback has brought more attention to the Lance Armstrong Foundation. Donations to the cancer foundation over the past two quarters are up nearly 5 percent, according to figures provided by the organization. In 2008, before Armstrong’s return, $7,675,000 in donations came in during those quarters. In 2009, with Armstrong back, $8,056,000 came in.

More yellow rubber LiveStrong bracelets have been sold, too: 1,987,000 from January to May in 2009, up from 1,298,000 during the same period in 2008.

Nike is also about to release another wave of LiveStrong clothing and gear, and company officials said 100 percent of the profits from that line would be donated to the foundation. Derek Kent, a Nike spokesman, declined to provide details about the money raised from the partnership, but he said Armstrong’s return clearly “does help” with sales of the line.

Armstrong’s return has also brought more people to his foundation’s Web site. The traffic at livestrong.org surges in countries where Armstrong races, or just visits for an event, as it did in Mexico.

So why, then, would it matter to the cancer fight if Armstrong is on the bike or off it?

“With Lance being so visible on TV and in the media during a cycling race, from our standpoint, it’s critical for our work,” said Doug Ulman, the foundation’s president.

It had been 18 years since Armstrong entered — and finished second — in his first Nevada City Classic, in 1991.

In that time, he became a national champion, competed in an Olympics, received a cancer diagnosis and survived it. He married, had three children, then divorced. He won two more Tour de France titles than any other cyclist. He garnered legions of fans, and he picked up critics, too.

He has emerged from retirement to show that he can stay with much younger cyclists. And last month, he had his fourth child, Max, with his girlfriend Anna Hansen.

Yet even with his first Tour in four years just ahead, he is still curious to see and hold the Nevada City trophy. “It shows that I have been around for a long time,” he said.

Bicycle racing has led Bausch to a better life

By JOHN D. FERGUSON World Sports Writer, Tulsa World

Dotsie Bausch has found peace, focus and control in the sport of cycling. The former model spent seven years living a bit out of control fighting eating disorders along with a drug addiction.

However, a move to California in the mid-1990s and a change of careers were a perfect tonic. Bausch also discovered the world of bicycle racing. The healing began in earnest.

Bausch will be part of the Jazz Apple team racing in the fourth Tulsa Tough set for three days beginning Friday night in the Blue Dome District. Saturday's daytime races feature the Brady District and Sunday's finale is set along Riverside Drive and Galveston Street.

Bausch is the first to take responsibility for her life.

She knows her eating disorders began while an undergraduate at Villanova.

Estimates say 5-7 percent of American women suffer from one of the two starving or binge eating disorders at some time during their lives, according to the Medical News Today.

Bausch knows the guilt that comes with those disorders.

But, she is more than healed.

She gives speeches to women on getting help.

"I am super open with it when I speak," Bausch said by telephone from her California home, where Jazz Apple's team spends part of the year before returning to New Zealand. "I am completely recovered and have been for quite a while. There are reasons behind everything. I try to help others navigate through the pain and disease.

"There's lots of shame (connected with the disease). I try to be open and free about it."

Bausch spent 1993-99 suffering while trying to finish school and work.

"Everything changed when I knew I could be totally honest (about the disease)," Bausch said. "Some people go through this for 20 years. It was really bad in the middle for me and working full time as a model in New York. I don't blame the industry. It was all me."

Modeling opened many doors that allowed Bausch to travel and meet great people. But, a drug addiction was part of her daily life, too.

"It was all-consuming," said Bausch. "It's terrible for your system, but I was still functioning."

Things started to turn around when Bausch decided to change careers.

The move to California for the Louisville, Ky., native was another positive step.

She got help and discovered cycling in an unusual way.

Bausch moved to California to be a television production artist.

Her first job was on the set of the pilot for "Dharma & Greg."

When the work was done, items from the set were up for grabs such as old chairs and a mountain bike.

Bausch took the bike.

She wanted to ride and saw flyers for a 600-mile ride from San Francisco to Los Angles to benefit AIDS research

Luckily, she changed the knobby tires on the mountain bike before the ride.

Bausch decided she wanted the sleek road bike.

She got a racing license and suddenly took on road racing.

Bausch is considered one of the best climbers and time trial riders in the women's peloton.

She has an impressive list of podium appearances under her belt, capped off by a bronze medal in the time trial at the 2007 Pan American Championships.

She was a member of the U.S. National Team and won two national titles on the velodrome.

Bausch admits she got into riding late at the age of 26. She helps the younger Jazz Apple members as co-captain, setting the example and helping. She credits Jazz Apple team leaders Susy and Chris Pryde for much inspiration.

"Dotsie has a remarkable outlook on things and despite her busy life, she is naturally a nurturing and very open person who makes time for everyone," said Susy Pryde. "Her self-awareness and honesty also make that experience a genuine one."

"Bulimia and anorexia still remain somewhat taboo (subjects). It doesn't make sense to people. People understand overeating, but it goes the other way, too. Restraining from eating."

The day Bausch was interviewed, she received an e-mail from a Canadian woman who had been battling eating disorders. Bausch knew the woman and how she almost died.

"This was her five-year anniversary," said Bausch, who will sign autographs with her Jazz Apple teammates at Tulsa's Whole Foods Market at 3:45 p.m. Sunday. "And she is completely healed. Even if she was the only one that I've helped that would be enough. It was so cool for that e-mail to come through today. That was worth it."

To learn more about Dotsie click on the title link.

Armstrong still dominates Tour de France talk

By Scott Bland

There is a new route and a new drug-testing program, but the return of an old name is getting the most attention as the start of the Tour de France draws near.

Four years after retiring from professional cycling, Lance Armstrong will return with the Kazakhstan-based Astana team to try to pad his record of seven Tour victories when the 2009 race starts Saturday.

Despite returning to cycling less than a year ago and suffering a broken collarbone in March, Armstrong is considered one of the favorites to win the race. His Astana teammate, 2007 Tour winner Alberto Contandor, has the shortest odds from bookmakers, just ahead of Armstrong.

In a conference call with reporters Monday afternoon, Versus commentator Phil Liggett said they have a good chance to finish one-two. Liggett will lead a team of analysts on Versus, a sports cable channel, which will broadcast an average of 13 hours of the race daily over its 24-day run through July.

"My personal gut feeling is that they'll finish first and second," Liggett said, without naming his pick for the top spot.

Age will make Armstrong's quest for an eighth Tour crown more difficult. At 37, the Texan would be the oldest-ever winner, and teammate and rival Contador has overtaken Armstrong in mountain climbs, his strength in the early part of the decade.

Armstrong and Contador are hardly the only competitors with the pedigree to win.

Luxembourger rider Andy Schleck and Australian Cadel Evans, the Tour runner-up the past two years, are strong contenders as well.

The process of handicapping this year's Tour is made more difficult by a new race route. The event starts farther south than usual, in Monaco, and never gets farther north than the traditional endpoint in Paris, where temperatures are already above 80 degrees. Cyclists say the heat will make the first week tougher and will add a new element of difficulty to the mountain stages, particularly the Pyrenees.

"It could make it a much tougher Tour,'' said George Hincapie, a former Armstrong teammate and now with Team Columbia-High Road. "On paper, the Pyrenees days aren't as hard as the Alps days, but if it's hot it'll probably affect the Peloton (the main body of riders in the race.)''

Levi Leipheimer, an Astana member and the third-place finisher in 2007, said the hot temperatures at the recent Giro d'Italia race provided a preview of what to look for in the Tour de France.

"We had a couple hot days in the Giro, and I think it definitely played a role in separating the riders more than normal," Leipheimer said.

However hot it will be, riders sounded pleased to be answering questions mostly about strategy and the route, and less about doping. Performance-enhancing drug use has overshadowed a number of recent Tours, but Leipheimer said that the inception of a new "biological passport" program is removing the cloud of suspicion from all riders.

"I think it's a good thing," Leipheimer said. "They are tightening the net around dopers, and any way they can control the problem is a good thing."

The electronic program supplements better testing methods with a unified record of individual riders' tests to provide a better baseline for interpreting results. Based on information gathered from riders' passports, The International Cycling Union disciplined five riders two weeks ago over "apparent violations.''

Engaging ATP-PC: The Primal Energy Pathway

Whenever Grok needed to lift something really, really heavy, he drew upon the adenosine triphosphate phospho-creatine (ATP-PC) energy system. If he saw an opportunity to cut off a fleeing buck and had mere seconds to act, Grok would engage his ATP-PC energy to summon the requisite sprinting speed. Today, we use the very same energy pathways. The very same potential for feats of immense, instantaneous strength and power resides in our muscles (some of us more than others, sure, but that can be altered through training). Of course, the ATP-PC energy system is just one of three primary pathways in our bodies. All three utilize adenosine triphosphate (ATP) as the primary energy source, but the speed, intensity, and duration of our muscle contractions determine exactly how that ATP energy is tapped, released and recycled.

Keep reading…click on the title link.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Contador & Noval's View Of Astana's Politics

Benjamin Noval became an essential rider to Alberto Contador when he made his first conquest in the Tour in 2007. Since then, the Asturian has assumed the position of right-hand man wherever the climber from Pinto has participated. Last year he helped him win the *Giro and the Vuelta a España, and since the first of this season they’ve told him that they’re counting on him for the Tour.

Powerful rolleur, bodyguard deluxe at crucial moments, Contador’s “shadow” has carried out the same plan as his team leader. That leader has always counted on Noval, until yesterday Johan Bruyneel told him that the Asturian will not be along for the trip to the most important race in the world.

“For the good of the group, I’m not taking you.” This was the only explanation that Bruyneel gave Noval for drawing up a team consisting of Contador, Armstrong, Leipheimer, Popovych, Zubeldia, Sergio Paulinho, Dmitriy Muravyev, and the Swiss rider Gregory Rast, who has displaced the Asturian.

“Now I’m having an anxiety attack, because the only explanation that I’ve received isn’t convincing, nor is it based on sporting reasons,” explained the rider who, after months of preparation has seen his work ruined.

“My morale has hit rock bottom, because I sincerely believe that Alberto needs me. My work is to protect him, to prevent crashes. Now he’s left with only Paulinho, whom he also trusts.”

Noval understands that the team is committed to Kazakhstan and needs to include a rider from that country (Muravyev) in the “eight” bound for the Tour. He’s also aware that Bruyneel had a tiff with Lance Armstrong because the latter wanted to insist on including a third American and special helper of his, Chris Horner. Bruyneel did not consent and, feeling duty-bound to the prinicple of fairness, threw out Noval. “I want a more international team,” he said.

But the Asturian, who has both roomed with Contador on the road and joined him in training camps in the Pyrenees and Alps, knows that a three week race is very long time for a rider who is battling for the overall victory.

“I’m a nervous wreck, because I see that they’re not treating Alberto like the great rider he is. They don’t value him as a Tour winner, because the least they can do is ask him what he needs. I know that he’s very hurt, but what he must do now is forget all about it and concentrate on winning the Tour. It’s the best thing he can do. (Agustí Bernaus, sport.es)

Lance Armstrong says he'll kick ass after last year's 'joke' of a Tour!

By: Rupert Guinness

SEVEN-TIME Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong says last year's race was a "a bit of a joke" and has revealed that watching it unfold helped convince him he could win it again.

It was won by Spaniard Carlos Sastre from Australian Cadel Evans, Austrian Bernard Kohl - who was later suspended for doping, Russian Denis Menchov and American Christian Vande Velde. But in a new book, Lance Armstrong - The World's Greatest Champion, Armstrong makes it very clear he believes that, had he still been racing, he would have won the Tour again.

While his comeback to racing is aimed at promoting his Livestrong global cancer awareness campaign, he also makes it clear that the goal of winning an eighth Tour title was a huge motivating factor in his return.

That challenge confronts him next Saturday when he and 179 riders line up for this year's Tour that starts in Monaco and finishes 3500km later on the Champs Elysees in Paris on July 26. Interest in Armstrong's return at the age of 37 will be massive.

In the book, Armstrong also reveals the strength of his belief that his winning days are far from over.

"I'll kick their asses," he told author John Wilcockson in a conversation soon after last year's Tour while discussing his planned comeback. "The Tour was a bit of a joke this year. I've got nothing against Sastre … or Christian Vande Velde. Christian's a nice guy, but finishing fifth in the Tour de France? Come on!"

Armstrong also reveals his anger for the way in which the US television network Versus covered the Tour, and how it portrayed his sixth and seventh Tours in 2004 and 2005.

"They had this 'Take back the Tour' campaign, as if the past Tours were all won by dopers. And I was pissed they had these references to Triki Beltran and Tyler Hamilton and Roberto Heras and Floyd Landis - all these guys who were once on my team [and have since served doping suspensions]. Versus doesn't want to take back the Tour, they want to take back the ratings they had in 04 and 05!"

Armstrong, who has faced constant doping allegations despite never testing positive, is also keen to prove he is clean and hopes by racing the Tour again his four children will read about it.

"I'm doing this for my kids," he says in the book.

"With news so accessible these days on the web, they'll be able to read any story they want. And I don't want them growing up and reading all these things about me and doping."

Armstrong will not start the Tour as the Astana team's leader - at least officially. The leader will be Spaniard Alberto Contador, the 2007 winner who did not race last year as the team was not invited due to its implication in doping scandals under a former management.

Astana named their nine-man line-up, regarded as the team to beat this year. With Armstrong and Contador will be American Levi Leipheimer who was third in 2007 and German Andreas Kloden who was second in 2004 and 2006, as well as domestiques Yaroslav Popovych, Haimar Zubeldia, Sergio Paulinho, and Gregory Rast and Dimitriy Muravyev.

Astana team manager Johan Bruyneel said Contador had earned the leadership role this season, but many are forecasting a fall-out between the pair if Armstrong gets a sniff of a win.

Armstrong said this week that he doesn't care what number he has on his back. He was also interested to read a report of rumours that Contador was ready to join the American Garmin-Slipstream team if Astana's recent financial woes not corrected and the team disbanded.

Had the team folded, it was reported that Contador would not race in a proposed Livestrong team that would replace Astana and include Armstrong and those closest to him in the team.

2009 Tour de France - Are You Ready?

Livestrong San Jose - Please Take Part!

Please take part in the Livestrong San Jose event. Click on the title link to register.

Bahati three-peats at Manhattan Beach

By Mark Johnson

Rock Racing’s Rahsaan Bahati won his third consecutive Manhattan Beach Grand Prix on Sunday. Colavita Sutter-Home p/b Cooking Light rider Lucas Sebastian Haedo took second in the seaside Southern California NRC criterium while Ken Hanson of Team Type 1 placed third.

In the women's race, 16-year old Proman Hit Squad rider Coryn Rivera took the win after riding a smart race and outkicking the competition out of the final turn.

With $15,000 and NRC points on the line, the call-up for the 48th annual edition of the race featured notable domestic pro names. OUCH-Maxxis brought Rory Sutherland and Floyd Landis. BMC's Tony Cruz rode over to the race from his nearby home while Team Type 1 lined up six-year Euro pro Matt Wilson. Rock Racing wheeled out the serious artillery in defense of Bahati’s title, including newly-hired Ivan Dominguez and Freddie Rodriguez.

The 80-minute race on an out-and back course with one gentle 50-foot riser started with a flurry of attacks doomed by a steady headwind and the field’s willingness to chase. Twenty-one minutes into the race Kahala LaGrange rider Adam Livingston worked up a 17-second gap on the field, but was caught after a long lap off the front.

Attacks followed by Rock Racing’s Chris Baldwin, Kelly Benefits’ Neil Shirley, Kahala LaGrange’s Brandon Gritters and Cruz, but the field was having none of it and all the breaks were quickly reeled in. Forty minutes into the race a promising break nipped off the front including dangerous motors like Landis and Rodriguez, but the group was anything but cohesive and was once again swallowed by the 100-plus rider field.

At the five to go bell, Thomas Nelson (Liquid Fitness-Adageo Energy) and Steve Reany (California Giant Berry Farms) had one last go but the two-man effort was again shut down by a storming field. A crash with three to go didn’t stop Rock Racing from getting five riders massed at the front with two laps to go. The Rock train kept the field pegged into a single-file thread for the remaining laps. Yet on Manhattan Beach’s notoriously sketchy back stretch Team Type 1’s Ken Hanson managed to surf up the Rock train on the wheel of teammate Aldo Ilesic. Hanson took the lead position going into the final sweeping U-turn before the 300-meter sprint to the finish, but faded to third after Bahati and wily Argentinian speedster Lucas Sebastian Haedo.

Bahati is having a run on seaside Southern California victories. He also won the Dana Point Grand Prix NRC crit in April and the San Pedro Grand Prix last weekend. The Los Angeles-based rider has spent a tumultuous year at Rock Racing, where he started as a pro, then raced as an amateur, and again went back to the squad’s pro roster a week before Manhattan Beach.

“I followed Ivan Dominguez the last three or four laps. He just kept saying 'whatever happens don’t lose my wheel.' That’s all I did,” Bahati said. He added that Team Type 1 disrupted the team’s lead-out plan on the dangerous downhill pitch to the final turn. “I did have to take off of (Dominguez’) wheel coming into the last turn because Team Type 1 had a great jump on us. So I just slid right in third spot and came out of the corner third and made it from there.” Bahati had nothing but praise for Team Type 1: “It was a great jump by those guys. That’s the way you’ve got to do it. But unfortunately for them I had better legs at the end.”

Team Type 1’s Santa Barbara-based Hanson gave teammate Aldo Ilesic credit for escorting him to the front on the stormy last lap. “I came through the last corner first. It was a little earlier than we wanted to, but it was either that or try and not go for the win at all. I ran out of gas with 75 meters to go. But it’s a prestigious race. It’s always good to get on the podium for third.”

Speaking in Spanish, Argentinian Lucas Haedo explained that the last lap wasn’t ideal because his lead out man Alejandro Borrajo went down in a crash late in the race. “I fell behind on the last lap, but on the final stretch I was able to move up and get onto Bahati’s wheel in the final turn. The sprint was really fast and I couldn’t pass. But a second place isn’t bad!”

Rock Racing’s Ivan Dominguez, who spent the early part of the 2009 season racing for Fuji-Servetto ProTour team and who placed second to Bahati in Manhattan Beach in 2007, said that Rock Racing intended to do all they could to defend Bahati’s title. “From the beginning that was the plan, to take Bahati to the finish. It went well.”

“It’s a crazy race,” the Cuban added. “It’s all about the last turn.”

Columbia-High Road Corner: It's Almost Here

By George Hincapie

George Hincapie is nothing less than a living legend in American cycling. A great classics rider, Hincapie also holds the honor of being the only teammate to accompany Lance Armstrong to all seven of his Tour de France victories. The mild-mannered, always amiable Hincapie is the captain of the Columbia-High Road team. The 2009 Tour de France will be his 14th. A versatile rider, he will make his presence know throughout the race, supporting team leaders in both the sprints as well as the mountains. And in between, he hopes to win his second individual stage in the world's greatest bike race.

This is my 14th Tour de France and all I can say is, boy, do I feel like I'm getting old! Really though, the Tour is something that just never gets old for me. And it's something I never take for granted. As a kid growing up in Queens I dreamed of doing the Tour just once, maybe twice. So to be here 14 years now is really special.

Now we're just one week away. What does that mean? For one, the work is done. It's time to relax and try to rest up a bit. We had a hard training camp in early June and then I raced the Tour of Switzerland, so now I just need to take it easy so I can be fresh. I'll probably take a long ride this weekend, but the next couple of days are also the last chance I have to enjoy being home with my family. So, to be honest, I haven't been thinking much about the Tour de France. I know I'll have plenty of time to do that once I get there.

This year, my role on the team is really multi-faceted. I will be helping lead out our sprinter, Mark Cavendish, for the sprint stages. If I'm good, I'll help out the guys riding for overall in the mountains. And then, of course, I would love to win another stage.

That's a lot, but I know what I can do. In the sprints, we normally try to have Mark Renshaw be the last guy on the leadout train before Cavendish makes his final sprint because, frankly, he's the best leadout guy in the world. But as much as you try to plan things out, everything happens so fast in a sprint that you've always got to be ready to improvise. That happened in the Tour of Switzerland and I had no problem jumping in and giving the final leadout.

Then in the mountains I hope to help Kim Kirchen. He's our designated leader. You never know what to expect from Kim, but he could easily be in the top five. He had such a great Tour last year, winning both the green and yellow jersey in the first week. This year he crashed badly early in the season so he had a quiet spring. As a result, however, he's actually riding strongly right now. He was strong in the training camp in the Pyrenees and then he just won a stage in the Tour of Switzerland. (And that was a hard hilly stage, let me tell you.)

So I know I have to ready to be there for him. I know if I am riding well I can hang with, say, the last 30 riders in the mountains. And that can mean a lot for your leader--I can bring him water bottles or pace him a bit. And if he's having a bad day then I need to be with him to help pace him and cut his losses.

Of course, I hope to be able to win a stage for myself. I like the stages in the Pyrenees, but there are also a lot of hard stages just after the high mountains. I like the last time trial in Annecy as well.

What am I expecting in this Tour? Well, this year has all the makings for a great Tour. On paper, Astana is the team to beat. But they are going to have lots of competition. Cadel Evans is going well as is Denis Menchov and the Schleck brothers.

I think this is going to be a very tight Tour all the way to the end. It's got to be when the next-to-the-last stage is the Mont Ventoux. I mean, anyone could go into the Mont Ventoux with a two- to three-minute lead and lose it on that climb. That's how hard it is.

But like I said, we'll have enough time to talk about the Tour once we get there. Right now I've got to take my daughter, Julia Paris, to school. We were in the States a lot this spring so she missed a lot of school here in Spain. As a result she'll be taking summer school.

For me though, my summer school will be the Tour.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

In Armstrong's return, it's all beginning to come together

By Suzanne Halliburton

The longtime coach was on a semi-serious training ride with his once-superstar pupil in the Colorado Rockies last summer when the conversation turned to the subject of retirement.

Austin's Lance Armstrong, the seven-time winner of the Tour de France, had been watching his favorite race on television earlier in the day, and he told his coach that he was considering a return to competitive cycling after a three-year absence.

Chris Carmichael, who has coached Armstrong for two decades, was stunned.

His first reaction was to try to talk Armstrong out of this audacious idea. But he knew that no one had ever talked the strong-willed Armstrong out of anything.

At Carmichael's urging, Armstrong took a day to think it over. Then, Armstrong called his coach and reiterated his plans.

"Then I got really excited — this is happening again," Carmichael recalled last week. "This is really cool."

It is happening again.

On Saturday, Armstrong will roll out of the starting gate for the short time trial in Monaco that kicks off the Tour de France, a three-week grind of an endurance race that covers 2,173 miles across five countries.

Armstrong has won a record seven yellow jerseys, one of the most identifiable symbols in all of international sport. Despite dominating the race from 1999 to 2005, he won't be a favorite to stand atop the podium against the backdrop of the Arc d'Triomphe in Paris at the race's end July 26.

Instead, 26-year-old Alberto Contador, Armstrong's teammate on the Astana team, is the odds-on favorite, after winning yellow in 2007.

"I'd say I'm an underdog," Armstrong said last week. "I'm a wild card."

But what a wild card.

American Chris Horner, Armstrong's training partner and teammate, told The Oregonian newspaper that Contador is the team's leader — at least on the surface.

"Well, on paper it's pretty easy to see it's going to be Alberto Contador," Horner said, "but sometimes you gotta look a little further than the cover."

Italian Ivan Basso, who was runner-up to Armstrong at the 2005 Tour, has predicted that Armstrong will be a "rampaging beast" in France.

Added Carmichael: "I call him a long shot to win. But I've seen miracles happen. I saw a miracle happen in 1999" when Armstrong won his first yellow jersey.

"I've been very encouraged by his (training) data. Good signs are coming."

Armstrong, who said he is more relaxed than he ever was during his Tour winning streak, is less than three months away from his 38th birthday. The sport usually sends the top cyclists to an exit well before that age.

Armstrong was 33 when he retired the first time, telling a crowd of 500,000 in Paris, "Vive le Tour," before going on a vacation in southern France.

Eddy Merckx, Miguel Indurain and Bernard Hinault, who each won five Tours, left the sport at 32.

Belgian Firmin Lambot remains the oldest Tour champion. He was 36 when he won in 1922.

Italian Gino Bartali is the only rider in Tour history to win yellow jerseys 10 years apart, in 1938 and 1948.

Armstrong said his age hasn't played much of a factor in his comeback. He healed quickly from a broken collarbone in late March, riding in the three-week Giro d'Italia in May.

He's dropped 25 pounds during his comeback, including the muscle he'd gained in his upper body. He'll start the race at a stick-thin 160 pounds, his racing weight when he was dominant in the time trials and mountain climbs.

Armstrong's comeback also centered on his cancer-awareness and support foundation based in Austin and his plan to take its LiveStrong message global.

In the past year, he's talked cancer awareness with the prime minister of Australia and the president of Mexico and shared a press conference with the Italian foreign minister.

"We have already surpassed expectations," said Doug Ulman, president of the Lance Armstrong Foundation. "And he hasn't even started the Tour."

Armstrong, in his comeback, is proving to be as popular as he was in the midst of his seven-year Tour reign.

Nike, which has been a sponsor of Armstrong's throughout his professional career, is premiering a commercial tonight featuring the cyclist and several other athletes and actors. It's called "It's About You" and will run nationally throughout July.

Armstrong also has endorsements from FRS, an energy drink; Clear2O, a water bottle company; and Horizon Fitness, a line of cardio exercise equipment.

LiveStrong.com, an interactive health and fitness site, is attracting 5 million unique visitors a month.

Bill Stapleton, Armstrong's longtime agent, said Armstrong's comeback will be the subject of a documentary, which will hit theaters next spring. A book of behind-the-scenes photographs from Austin photographer Elizabeth Kreutz will be on sale in December.

Meanwhile, at Armstrong's suggestion, he's receiving no salary from Astana. In his heyday, he earned a salary of about $4.5 million.

It's all beginning to come together, just as in his unprecedented string of Tour victories. From the training rides — Armstrong has been in Aspen the past month, riding at elevations of up to 8,500 feet to prepare for the Alps and Pyrenees — to his personal life — on June 4, he became a father for the fourth time when son Maxwell Edward was born.

All four of his children will be in Paris when the Tour ends. The three oldest — 9-year-old Luke and 7-year-old twins Grace and Isabelle — were on the podium with their dad in 2005.

Will there be another trip to the podium for them?

Armstrong won't predict.

"I want to ride my best," Armstrong said last week, "win a stage, maybe be on the podium."

In conversations during his comeback, Armstrong seems to relish the idea that no one is giving him much of a chance of winning.

In past Tours, Armstrong was known for using slights from other riders — real or perceived — as motivational tactics.

Carmichael said the motivation this year for Armstrong is adding up to a "perfect storm."

"Nobody responds better than Lance when the odds are stacked against him," Carmichael said. "I think Lance scares the hell out of everybody."

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Bally's founder Don Wildman speeds up at 76

By Roy M. Wallack

Don Wildman, founder of Bally's, speeds up at age 76. His fitness strategy? Younger friends. “Old guys don’t train anymore, so all my buddies are real young,” he says. “They’re more fun. They push you, and you push them, and you forget how old you are.”

As the writer discovered during one grueling workout session, the best you can do is just try to keep up with the 'Circuit' master, surfer and triathlete.

We're 45 minutes up a forbidding Malibu dirt road that climbs 2,200 feet in four miles, and the Wild Man is ahead. Way ahead. Out-of-sight ahead. And my excuses begin:

"I'm a mountain biker, but I've never ridden right after a grueling, two-hour, all-body weight-room workout before." "It's so hot -- 90 degrees and rising -- that I'm literally blinded in my own sweat." "I'm bonking because I haven't eaten a thing in over three hours."

But, of course, the Wild Man hasn't eaten either. He lifted the same weights I did, probably more. And, amazingly, he hasn't swallowed one sip of water all morning; he didn't even pack a water bottle on his bike. So at the top, when he greets me with his typical upbeat attitude -- "Wow, I'm really getting strong; that's the first time I ever rode this in my middle chain ring" -- I look at the leathery brown face, the slightly stooped shoulders, the washboard abs and bulging biceps, and I face reality: "A 76-year-old man just kicked my butt."

And then: "I better train harder."

Malibu resident Don Wildman, possibly one of the fittest septuagenarians on the planet, has always had that galvanizing effect on people. Founder of the company that became Bally's Total Fitness, the giant health-club chain, Wildman not only made a career out of telling people to get fit, he fit the part himself, packing his life with daily workouts and an endless parade of grand physical challenges -- world-class sailing races against Ted Turner, 90 holes of golf in a day, nine Hawaii Ironman triathlons.

The activities didn't retire when he did 15 years ago. He picked up big-wave surfing, helicopter snowboarding and stand-up paddle boarding, once paddling the length of the Hawaiian Islands. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, he leads "the Circuit," a grueling two-hour weight workout at his gargantuan home gym that has become legendary in Malibu. He rides seven days a week and paddles three. "I don't rest," he says.

And as you read this, he probably isn't sleeping. He'll be racing round the clock across the country on a road bike as part of Team Surfing USA, a four-man team competing in the 3,000-mile, coast-to-coast, Race Across America.

The team portion of the race, known as RAAM and now in its 28th year, began Saturday in Oceanside and will finish in Annapolis, Md., in about a week. Team Surf, which paddled 115 miles from Malibu to the start and will bike and paddle to the Statue of Liberty after the finish, hopes to use the event to raise money and awareness for several causes, including ALS (Augies Quest), autism (Beautiful Son Foundation) and cystic fibrosis (the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation).

A RAAM veteran, Wildman did the race at age 60 on a 1994 team that finished a few back from the winners in five days, 21 hours, and 24 minutes. Today, the father of three grown sons is old enough to be the dad of two of his RAAM teammates -- Tim Commerford, 41, the bassist for the rock group Rage Against the Machine, and 45-year-old Laird Hamilton, the famed big-wave surfer. He could be a grandfather of the third, Jason Winn, 27, owner of Bonk Breaker energy bars.

A day in the life

Entering my 50s and hoping to stay fit, I had wondered if I could hang with Wildman. I'd heard raves about him from tennis great John McEnroe, one of his Malibu riding buddies, during an interview. Hence, the workout and subsequent ride up the hill.

Now, with that pertinent question clearly answered, we coasted back down to his 5-acre cliffside estate and stashed our cycling gear in one of his four garages crammed with bikes and Porsches. Then we hopped in a souped-up golf cart and headed for his one-room beach house on the shore of Malibu's Paradise Cove. Next on the agenda: an hour of stand-up paddle boarding.

Before we wrapped up the nearly five-hour workout -- a normal thing for Wildman -- he jumped up to a bar and reeled off 12 full-hang pull-ups, his lats flaring out like a cobra's hood. I eked out 11; between gasps, I said, "I'll get you on these next time, Don."

"Yeah, but you better do those overhanded," he says. "You know those underhand ones are a lot easier." Of course, he's right. I need to train harder.

Some people keep very fit into their 40s and 50s. Wildman is heading full-speed into his 80s.

Wildman isn't exaggerating when he says that his mountain biking is stronger than ever. "My bike speed is similar to my Ironman days -- and there's a reason for that," he said. "Strength helps cardio. In the last decade, I started to try to keep my strength up. As you get older, the fall-off in strength is greater than the decline in VO2 max [oxygen uptake] -- unless you fight it."

Wildman took his old circuit-training routines and ramped them up into what he calls the Circuit, a now-legendary two-hour blasting session. One wing of his estate looks like a compact version of a Bally's gym, stocked with a couple of dozen machines, free weights and inflatable exercise balls.

Everything gets used.

Wildman usually doesn't work out alone. Joining us were his Team Surf teammates Commerford and Winn. Hamilton is also a frequent workout partner, along with McEnroe, 50, and Detroit Red Wings star Chris Chelios, 47. A pattern emerges: None of them is within a quarter-century of him.

His advice: weights, competition -- and younger friends

Wildman eats healthfully and takes lots of supplements, but the key element to his fitness strategy is younger friends.

"Old guys don't train anymore, so all my buddies are real young," he says. "They're more fun. They push you, and you push them, and you forget how old you are."

Young friends also teach him new games. "When Laird met me in 1996, he saw that I was an aggressive snowboarder -- and thought I'd make a good tow surfer," says Wildman, who often joins Hamilton for surfing and paddle boarding in Hawaii and other big-wave hot spots.

Conversely, he got Hamilton hooked on mountain biking, an obsession since he moved to Malibu in 1983.

Of course, acting like a man 50 years younger carries some risks. Three years ago, Wildman tore his rotator cuff while snowboarding in Argentina. Heli-boarding six months later, he drove his left femur through the end of his tibia, shattering the latter. ("I couldn't walk on it for 12 weeks, but I could cycle with the other leg," he says.) Last winter, he broke his left femur at a right angle when his mountain bike slipped on black ice in Utah. Ten days later, he was doing chin-ups; two months later, snowboarding.

Surfing in Hawaii with Hamilton in September 2008, a barrel slammed Wildman into his board, punctured his lung and broke a rib. A month later, he won three gold and four silver medals in cycling events at the World Senior Games, which he has competed in for the last five years.

"Seeing high-level people your age once in a while is important," he says. "It tells you that you're normal."

If all goes as planned, there will be many more accidents and Senior Games to come, because "the Wildman luck" is genetic too. His dad lived to 88, his mom to 94. He's had no medical problems other than an overactive thyroid 30 years ago. He rarely gets sick.

Wildman likes being a role model but finds it ironic that usually he inspires younger people, not his peers.

"When I met the Wild Man, I was in my late 30s and already starting to think slowing down was natural," Commerford says as Wildman serves us raspberry yogurt at his downtown Malibu yogurt shop, his latest passion. "Then we rode together, and the same thing that happened to you happened to me: I thought, 'What's my excuse? I gotta train more!' "

Adds Wildman: "People my own age say, 'It's too late for me . . . but all kinds of studies show that even nursing home populations can improve with exercise. And you get the reward for it: The endorphins. So pick something that you really like doing -- cycling, trampolining -- and just do it.

"As a kid, you go out and play. As an adult, you want the same fun, the same excitement," he says. "So when people say to me, 'When are you going to grow up?' I always say the same thing back: 'I hope I never do.' "

Emma's (Moffat & Snowsill) win big at Hy-Vee

Current points leader Emma Moffatt of Australia continued her dream season with a win today at triathlon’s largest payday in a time of 1 hour 59 minutes and 46 seconds. With over $1million USD in prize money up for grabs this weekend it was the Beijing Olympic bronze medallist who powered her way through the Olympic calibre field to claim the $200,000 first place prize in the Hy-Vee ITU Triathlon Elite Cup this morning. In second was the other Aussie Emma, Emma Snowsill, 1 minute 33 seconds behind. And in third, Canada’s Lauren Groves another 12 seconds back.

"Wow, it's amazing, it hasn't sunk in at all yet,” commented Moffatt at the finish. “It's great to put together two great races in six days and to come away with the win, I'm ecstatic. It was good to make the break and get a lead and I was a bit concerned when Andrea [Hewitt] came with me for the first lap. I was just trying to focus on running and not on the money. I don't know what I'm going to do with it, I haven't given it any thought."

Sweltering, windy conditions greeted the 50 starters as they dived into Blue Heron Lake this morning. In typical fashion American swim expert Sara McLarty led out of the water, 37 seconds ahead of the group. Her lead would not last long though with an efficient pack led by last week’s Washington D.C. Dextro Energy Triathlon – ITU World Championship winner Moffatt, New Zealand’s Andrew Hewitt, 2008 world champion Helen Jenkins of Great Britain and the American duo of Sarah Haskins and Laura Bennett having closed the gap in the first three laps of eight.

The surprise was Olympic champion Emma Snowsill who failed to make the first group out of the water and was relegated to the larger chase group for the entire 40 kilometre bike segment. The bike course in West Des Moines is flat and technical with multiple hairpin turns, which favoured the eight woman lead group enabling them to put small amounts of time in the chasers on every lap. Entering second transition, the lead would be 55 seconds.

In a repeat of last weekend’s performance, Moffatt immediately went on the attack early in the run, dropping everyone except for Hewitt. The Kiwi would not last long however, and by the end of the first lap Hewitt was already beginning to fall back leaving Moffatt to cruise to victory and her largest payday ever. Never taking her foot of the gas for a moment Moffatt still posted the fastest run of the day with a 35:35 10-kilometre split.

Second place Snowsill showed her run prowess reeling in the entire lead group, except for Moffatt, with the second fastest run split of the day. After an up and down 2008, Lauren Groves showed her run form keeping within striking distance of Snowsill all day to claim her first major podium.

“Two podiums in two weekends is really pleasing, especially from where I've been placed after the bike”, said Snowsill. “It's easier to have your team mate beat you. I think we'll be having a big party back in Oz when we get home!"

Hy-Vee ITU Triathlon Elite Cup
1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run
Elite Women - Official Results
Gold – Emma Moffatt (AUS) 1:59:46
Silver – Emma Snowsill (AUS) 2:01:19 +1:33
Bronze – Lauren Groves (CAN) 2:01:31 +1:45
4th – Magali di Marco (SUI) 2:01:48 +2:02
5th – Liz Blatchford (GBR) 2:02:04 +2:18
6th – Andrea Hewitt (NZL) 2:02:26 +2:40
7th – Lisa Norden (SWE) 2:02:37 +2:51
8th – Daniela Ryf (SUI) 2:02:59 +3:13
9th – Sarah Haskins (USA) 2:03:26 +3:40
10th – Helen Jenkins (GBR) 2:03:45 +3:59

Simon Whitfield gets Beijing Revenge

Canadian Simon Whitfield’s renown sprint finish did not let him down today at the Hy-Vee ITU Triathlon Elite Cup. In what seemed like a replay from the Beijing Olympic Games, four men came into the finish straight together side by side: Whitfield, Germany’s Jan Frodeno, who was the man to pip Whitfield in Beijing, Australia’s Brad Kahlefeldt and New Zealand’s Kris Gemmell. Unlike Beijing however, Whitfield would cross the line first with an elated roar one second ahead of his chasers in a time of 1 hour 49 minutes and 43 seconds, claiming triathlon’s top payday. After a photo finish review, the third of the season, it was determined Australia’s Brad Kahlefeldt just nipped the tall German at the line for second with Frodeno in third. Gemmell finished fourth.

“That was some payback for last year, in a sporting sense,” said Whitfield at the finish. “I wanted to get one over on Jan [Frodeno] after last year's Olympic Games. I always want to win the races the other guys want to win. First thing I'm doing is buying this amazing toy house for my daughter Pippa. She's been running round the front yard at home and really inspired me."

Sixty-two athletes hit the warm, calm waters together and almost that entire group would exit together. With such a large group forming on the bike it looked to be a runner’s race, but with $200,000 on the line the strong cyclists were not content to hand it over without a fight. Once a pace had been set it was attack after attack over the 40 kilometre bike loop keeping the average speed high at over 42km/hr. Led by the 6’5” Matt Reed of the USA, there would be over a dozen attempts to shake things up. None would be successful however until Reed’s fourth attempt with three laps remaining. On his wheel was another strong cyclist in Stuart Hayes of Great Britain. These two put almost a minute on the chasers by the second transition.

Their efforts from the bike showed though and the two soon became the chasers as the sport’s thoroughbreds took aim. By the end of the first lap there would be only six: Whitfield, Kahlefeldt, Frodeno, Gemmell with Jarrod Shoemaker of the USA and Javier Gomez of Spain.

A chess match of race tactics ensued with multiple surges testing each others’ legs over the next seven kilometres. With only 400 metres to go the six athletes would spread across the road seemingly waiting for the gun. Whitfield would be first to go followed closely by Kahlefeldt, Frodeno and Gemmell, leaving Shoemaker and Gomez behind. With only 50 metres left it looked as though Whitfield would be overtaken but with a grimace across his face, pulled a body width away at the finish line to take the $200,000 USD first place prize.

“It's been an amazing year with these sprint finishes and today I had a good one,” commented Kahlefeldt. “I felt really easy out there and thought I could win it, but Simon [Whitfield] used his experience and placed himself really well in the last technical section and there was no stopping him. Jan [Frodeno] and I always seem to come together this year and we got a bit close in the home straight, but that's racing."

"I felt great on the run, but today Simon had the edge,” added Frodeno. “We kept dropping him, then he would work back up and we couldn't shake him. He really did well in the home straight. Brad [Kahlefeldt] and I have raced really closely this year and we clipped heels in the last bit, but it's nothing really."

Hy-Vee ITU Triathlon Elite Cup
1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run
Elite Men - Official Results
Gold – Simon Whitfield (CAN) 1:49:43
Silver – Brad Kahlefeldt (AUS) 1:49:44 +:01
Bronze – Jan Frodeno (GER) 1:49:44 +:01
4th – Kris Gemmell (NZL) 1:49:45 +:02
5th – Jarrod Shoemaker (USA) 1:49:47 +:04
6th – Javier Gomez (ESP) 1:49:51 +:08
7th – Brent McMahon (CAN) 1:50:07 +:24
8th – Tim Don (GBR) 1:50:21 +:38
9th – Danyl Sapunov (UKR) 1:50:26 +:43
10th – Ryosuke Yamamoto (JPN) 1:50:32 +:49

Friday, June 26, 2009

Check out photographer Ken Conley's Work

This photo was taken by Ken Conley at the 2009 Nevada City Classic. Ken does some of the finest cycling photos around. His primary focus of photography is cycling both local California events and pro.

Click on the title link to see his amazing work.

Astana's Chris Horner explains why he was left off Tour de France roster

by Chris Horner

Tuesday was when it all started to go wrong for me.

I woke up in Aspen, Colo., to clear skies and beautiful temperatures. It was going to be a great day to ride six hours with Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer, my Astana teammates, as we continued training for the Tour de France. There was only one problem; I still hadn't gotten my ticket to France, which was the real sign of a securing spot on the Tour team.

The tickets were supposed to be there the Friday before. When they didn't show then, I still didn't worry because I was told the team would have them to me on Monday. Then Monday came and went, and there were still no tickets. Now both my girlfriend, Megan, and I were starting to worry and wonder what was going on.

Instead of getting ready to ride like I normally would have, it was becoming clear that things were not right, and that preparing my suitcase for the drive home should be first on my list of things to do Tuesday morning. When bad news comes, a fast exit is generally in order, since hanging around and watching others prepare for the race I wouldn't be riding only adds insult to injury.

About halfway through folding my clothes and reorganizing my suitcase, I got the call -- from Johan Bruyneel, our team manager at Astana -- that I had been waiting for. As I had feared, his message was that I wasn't going to the Tour this year. Many reasons were given, but all I really heard was that there would be no Tour de France for me.

Politics seemed to once again be what was holding me back from doing what I love, racing at the top of my sport. Johan gave me many reasons why he couldn't take me, and all of them made sense to me from a political standpoint, but absolutely no sense from a straight up who deserves to go standpoint.

So I asked if he would be willing to release me from the team if I could find another squad to pick me up for the Tour. I thought he would say no but I had to try. After I asked many times, he finally said he wouldn't release me, which meant that I really would miss the Tour this year.

Knowing there was no reason to get upset with Johan, I hung up the phone after thanking him for what I knew was a hard call to make, and for the fighting I knew he had done on my behalf with sponsors and riders on the team to get me on.

Like everything you do in life, politics exist even in cycling. And, like in every other aspect of life, they limit the power people have to make decisions. As a result, Johan's hands were tied.

It was always going to be a difficult decision, with so many interests weighing in on the nine precious roster positions.

One spot would go to a Kazakh, for the sponsors. Dmitriy Muravyev got it.

Four would go to our top GC riders -- Alberto Contador, Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Kloden -- all of whom have finished on the podium at the Tour.

Two went to Haimar Zubeldia and Yaroslav Popovych, who were selected early as support riders.

The eighth spot went to Gregory Rast, a big guy who could help tackle the flats.

That left one final spot -- the spot I had believed to be mine.

But instead, Alberto, whom the team was being built around, wanted to take one of his "boys" with him as a support rider. So Sergio Paulinho was in and I was suddenly the odd man out.

After the call I did what I always do when things are going badly; I rode my bike.

The next day, we got everything loaded up, and I thanked Lance and Levi for their efforts to get me on the team, since they both did more than their fair share of lobbying on my behalf. I thanked Lance once again for putting me up in a great place in Aspen to train with him and Levi, not to mention the great racing in Nevada City, Calif., last Sunday.

It was time to get on the road, headed for home. There was nothing more I could do in Aspen, and I had three kids at home, missing their daddy.

Before I go I would like to thank Johan again for his efforts. Don't be too hard on him -- he has a difficult job and was stuck in an impossible position. Everybody has to make hard decisions sometimes, and in that situation it's impossible to make everyone happy. This time I'm sure he's not the one at fault, and I appreciate all he has done for me in the two years that I have been with the team.

I love this team and am happy to finish out the season with it.

Now it is time to forget about the disappointment of missing the Tour and focus on what comes next on the schedule, whatever that may be. It's been a season of setbacks and comebacks, and this is just one more bump on the road, which hopefully foreshadows an even greater comeback.

Thanks for reading. Until the next race...

Alberto Contador Wins 2009 Spanish TT

Alberto Contador is the new national Time Trial Champion of Spain. Contador (26) was the fastest rider on the 47.8 kilometer long course between Torrelavega and Cuevas de Altamira. Contador was challenged by Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d’Epargne) who had the best intermediate time – one second faster than Contador - after 27kms. But in the second part of the race, Contador reversed the situation finishing 36 seconds faster than Sánchez. Ruben Plaza (Liberty Seguros) finished third, one minute and 4 seconds behind.

For the Spanish champion, it’s his first gold medal in the event as a professional rider (as U23 rider he won the 2002 championship). Earlier this season, Alberto Contador won three other time trials (in the Tour of Algarve, Paris-Nice and Tour of the Basque Country).

“I needed some extra training on my new Trek time trial bike”, commented Contador. “And the best way to do that is in a race. Thanks to its distance this was a good simulation of the Tour de France time trial. My preparation for the Tour is done. I cannot complain. I am ready. This was of course not only training, I really wanted this Spanish title. I had to struggle till the end to beat Luis León. I am proud to be the champion of Spain, and I will show the Spanish colors for the first time in Monaco in the first stage of the Tour de France.”

Result of Spain’s Time Trial Championship (Torrelavega-Cuevas de Altamire, 47.8 K):

1. Alberto Contador (Astana) 1.04.40
2. Luis León Sánchez (Caisse d’Epargne) 0.36
3. Ruben Plaza (Liberty Seguros) 1.04
4. Francisco Mancebo (Rock Racing) 1.46
5. Iván Gutiérrez (Caisse d’Epargne)

Chris Lieto's Pro Challenge Race Report

By Chris Lieto

After the last couple races being a close finish and dramatic I wanted to make a clean break in the first leg
of the new Pro Challenge Series. I rode a 49:40 time for a 40K time trial giving me a 3 minute lead ahead of
Alcatraz 2nd place finisher and strong cyclist David Thompson.

2nd leg of the race was a 800 yrd swim, 2.5 mile run, 800 swim, 2.5 run

Fathers Day weekend was spent with my son at the Silicon Valley Olympic Distance race and the first stop of
the ProChallenge Series. My son Kaiden joined me for the weekend as we worked the Green Machine K-Swiss and
Trek Van. We got prime expo space to park the Van and set it up as a booth and hung out Saturday and Sunday
answering peoples questions and promoting my sponsors. Kaiden and I spent the night in the van, which meant I didn't
have far to go to get ready for the first leg of the Pro Challenge in the morning.

I woke up at 5:00am ready to go. I rolled out of the van and my bike and trainer was set up for me to get
warmed up. The first leg was a 40k time trial event. Each athlete leaves for the TT in 1:30 intervals. I was the first to
head out on the TT and went out hard and soon felt like I made a mistake and would not be able to hold power for the
whole 40K TT. 7 miles in I felt like I was going to blow. In the end it was probably a good thing because the first 10
miles was into a headwind. My new Trek bike rides amazing and slices through the wind like nothing else.
There was one good climb in the middle of the course, and Iattacked it hard and carried that momentum over the top
and the rest of the way back to the finish. Not having to run off the bike I dug deep and pushed hard knowing I didnʼt
have to save anything. The last couple miles I was hitting speeds over 40mph. The new Trek bike did its job and I
rode a 49:40 for the 40K giving me a 3 minute lead over David Thompson, who finished 2nd at Alcatraz the previous

Over 3 hours of rest later we got to start the second leg of the race. A 800yrd swim followed by a 2.5 mile run
and then straight back into the water for another 800yrd swim and finish it off with another 2.5 mile run. With my
2nd place finish at Boise Ironman 70.3 last week I was unsure how the legs were going to feel. Pushing myself to
the sprint finish with Craig Alexander last week left me a little tired and so I really didnʼt train much this last week. I
was glad I had a big lead and didn't have to push super hard during this leg of the race. I maintained my lead
through the first half of the leg and after running the 2.5 miles and having to dive back in the water was an
experience. Your arms are dead and you are grasping for air. I eased into the second swim and tried to find good
rhythm and pace that would allow me to finish strong. Coming out of the water I still had a solid lead and got to
enjoy the crowd the last couple miles. It was a tight circuit run course of just over half mile loops through the expo and
finish line area. It really made for an exciting race with great spectator crowds.

The new series is very excited and something I am excited to be a part of. Creating new formats to make the
sport of triathlon more exciting and spectator friendly. Know it is time for a little rest and recovery before
my build and training for Ironman Hawaii. Thanks for all your help and support and look forward to connecting with
you all soon.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ben Jacques-Maynes' perspective from the back of the Astana train

By: ROAD Magazine

ROAD: You were behind both Levi and Lance, what's your perspective on how they look just prior to the Tour de France?

Ben Jacques-Maynes: They were looking really good. They are able to step their pace up at will. Whenever they needed to go hard they could. You could tell they were deciding they wanted to ride hard or really damn hard. They definitely weren't showing all their cards to me. They were there for a good hard workout, but they weren't riding at their maximum. It was a two-man time trial. There was a lot left in the tank from them and I was pretty impressed to see them ride that hard for that long. I think they're going to have a really good Tour. I think Lance was either trying a little harder or inherently had a little bit more than Levi. You can see by looking at some pictures that he was suffering a little bit more, but he was really putting it out. He was definitely motivated to work hard and get a lot out of the race.

I raced with Levi right before the Giro (at Sea Otter), and I was wondering if he was working a little too hard there. He was going good, obviously, but he might need to temper this a little bit. Now it looks like Levi was tempering himself a little bit. So it looks like Levi is planning on being good for the whole three weeks instead of suffering during the last week. The last week of the Tour is where it is going to be won especially on the Mont Ventoux. Those guys are smart and planning ahead and you can see that by the way they rode and I had the unique opportunity to watch it before his last Grand Tour. Levi, Lance and Chris flew back to Aspen that night and did another four hours the following day. I drove home and slept. That's the difference right there.

Tyler Stewarts Ironman CDA Race Report

The last time I crossed the finish in first place in an Ironman was back in 2006 when I took the amateur title at the World Championships in Kona. That was my last race as an amateur and it’s been a long three years since then filled with lots of training, lots of travel, lots of illness, lots of laughs and lots of tears, but on Sunday it all came full circle when I found myself back at the front of the pack. I am thrilled to have won my first Ironman as a professional…I think it still hasn’t sunk in yet! Ironman Coeur d’Alene was not one of those perfect days, where everything goes your way and things feel magical but it was an extremely special day for me for many reasons and one that I won’t soon forget.

Let me step back a bit. In October 2008, I toed the line at Kona for the first time as a professional. The short recap: it was a disaster of a day. Physically I felt terrible and adding insult to injury my bike seat fell off at mile 70 forcing me to ride for an hour without at seat until I was finally able to duct tape it on for the final miles. After spending so long standing out of the saddle my day concluded with a long jog/walk marathon on fried legs! After the disaster of Hawaii I decided to do IM Arizona but in the six weeks leading up to the race I was constantly sick, always shaking after workouts, having terrible stomach problems and wondering what was wrong with me. I never told anyone how bad I was feeling because I was hoping to be able to use IM Arizona to end my season on a positive note. In reality, my season was over…I just didn’t know it yet. After a decent swim and an uncharacteristically slow and uneven bike during which I was seeing spots and blacking out, I was pulled off the course before the start of the run and ended up spending several hours convulsing in the med tent with no idea of what was wrong with me. The doctors thought I must have done a poor job of nutrition and hydration but I knew it was something else and it would be several months before I was able to figure out what had really happened. Long story short, during the months leading up to Arizona, I had been prescribed a dangerous amount of medication to treat a fairly routine thyroid condition. The overdose of medicine pushed me into an extreme hyperthyroid state and on the racecourse I suffered what my doctors termed a “thyroid storm” that for the vast majority of people results in death. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I was one of the lucky ones. In the months following Arizona I spent about $10,000 looking for answers with multiple visits to doctors and specialists hoping to figure out what had happened to my body. Once properly diagnose I spent another two months coming off all the medication I had been prescribed and went to one of the darkest places I have been to in my life.

I didn’t want to do anything…I didn’t want to get out of bed, to exercise, to socialize, to do anything. I was gaining weight and I felt terrible. I truly believed that I was not going to race this year, if ever again. I spent the winter doing very little exercise. I swam a lot at very slow paces, and taught my cycling classes at 50-100 watts. By April I had started feeling better but had been told by my endocrinologist that it would take me six to nine months to fully recover from what my body had gone through during the fall. I was still very tired and unmotivated but my coach, Matt Dixon, pushed me forward as he started to see life in my eyes again. He started making me train again in March and I had some of the worst days ever. I wanted to cry every time I worked out, my body was not my own. My bones ached, every stroke in the pool felt like I had 20 lb. weights in each hand, every pedal stroke felt like I had already ridden for hours, and every jog step ended in a walk. But Matt made me take these bad training days and make them a positive. He made me realize that I do need to listen to my body and become more aware of the feelings in my body. I needed to learn to not be so tough! Matt made me do Wildflower in May and I crossed the line in 4th place thinking about how out of shape I was but also how lucky I was to be doing what I loved again.

I was reinvigorated but IM CDA was only six weeks later and I had a lot to do to get ready physically but more so emotionally. All I could think about was that I had “failed” at my last attempt to do an Ironman in Arizona and I came to CDA with serious reservations and doubt. But on Sunday I was able to silence that doubt and turn the page to a new chapter of my life.

I hate the week before the race. I get so nervous, and I always ask myself why – I mean I’m not curing cancer or developing an AIDS vaccine, so why am I nervous? It’s easy to lose perspective in this world that we float around in and I certainly do the week before a race. I lined up race morning a little frazzled and really without any thoughts of a potential win. I had had people tell me they thought I could win, but I also had them tell me that about Arizona, back in November.

The gun went off and into the water we went. I felt like I got beat up in the swim. It was rough out there and the way out was like swimming into a wave pool. Every time you breathed you got smacked in the head and drank a mouthful of water. I hate swimming anyway (only because I am so terrible at it ;) ) and I was pretty sure I was going to get out of the water 15 minutes off the lead. After barely making it around the first lap in the 35 minutes we got before the amateurs started, I was quickly swallowed up by masses of age-groupers. Some may hate this but I love it! Instead of swimming by myself for 2.4 miles I at least had company for the last mile. It makes the water move a whole lot faster and I can catch a little draft off every set of feet flying by me.

I was out of the water in what I thought was a terrible time, only to have someone yell at me that I was only 6 minutes off the lead. I couldn’t believe it! I set out on the bike course with a clear head and my plan in place. I was going to ride smart, take it easy on the hills, and use my technical skills to destroy the down hills and all the tight turns. I had just gotten these new Mavic ultimate wheels that felt amazing. I was a little nervous as all the other pros were using discs but I stuck with these wheels and I truly believe they were the right choice. Between those and my trusty Orbea I was able to break the bike course record by about 11 minutes. I finally caught up to the lead group at about mile 50. I was afraid to pass, not knowing if they would then try to come with me or if maybe I was riding too hard and would blow later. I took the risk and passed them with such a pace that they didn’t even try to stay with me. I knew I still had one girl out front and as I rounded into the second lap, I passed her as well. Riding through the huge crowds at the start of the second loop was amazing. I had taken the lead and everyone was roaring. I went out on the second lap just hoping that no one would catch me. I held the lead off the bike by about 10 minutes. But I knew I had some seriously good runners behind me and I had started to cramp at the end of the bike and my back was killing me. I am not used to being the one who is being chased, it was a completely different mindset, but a great challenge to see how I would handle it.

Off the bike in first place, with 26.2 miles to go. Wow…that’s a long way to try to hold off the caliber of girls who I knew wanted to catch me! I actually had not run for about 3 weeks leading up to the race as I have had a little calf strain so I really did not know what was going to happen. I felt terrible off the bike. My bike fit is something I am still trying to work with and I got off with a completely locked back. I threw down some Advil and just hoped it would relieve my pain. I shuffled my way through the first 16 miles but let second place come to within 3:30 of me at about mile 15. At mile 17 my back unlocked and I found my legs. I think the girls behind me knew I was having problems and put on the gas to try to catch me, but when I found my legs I found my pace. I ran about 6:45 pace from mile 17-26 and finished the race with almost a nine minute gap in front of second place.

The day was far from the perfect in terms of my nutrition, my body and my preparation. But it was the perfect day in terms of the outcome. My thyroid storm is over, I am healthy and am only going to get healthier and fitter from this point forward. I am so fortunate that my family, my husband, my training partners, my doctors and my coach all saw the light at the end of this dark tunnel that I most certainly did not see. I did finally see that light as I crossed the finish line on June 21st. I have a new sense of confidence in my health and where my body is. I am really proud of myself as well as of all of my friends, family and sponsors who stood by me when I was in my dark hole. I fortunate to be surrounded by such an amazing support network including the LUNA Pro Team, purplepatch fitness, Pacific Bicycle, Endurance Performance Training Centers, CycleOps and Endless Pools. I also want to thank my family and friends for their continued support.

I am so excited and so lucky to have found this sport. When I went back to the finish line at 11pm on Sunday night to watch the last hour of finishers, I realized, as I do each time I am lucky enough to make it to the final hour of an Ironman, that I am not the real Ironman. It is those people who are out there all day, challenging themselves with every step, with every bit of inspiration that brought them to the start line. They are the winners in my mind and I am so happy to be a part of something, a sport, that is a goal for so many to accomplish in their lifetimes. Anyone that even attempts an Ironman should be proud of themselves. It’s easy in life to sit back and watch the days go by, to not challenge yourself or to be limited by fear. I always tell myself before a race, when I am nervous, that all the feelings I am having just means that I am alive. I am living my life, I am challenging myself and hopefully I can inspire one other person to challenge themselves.

To a great sport, great people and the dream of a lifetime, to be an Ironman champion.


Astana Announces Tour de France Team

As expected, Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador are included in Astana's 2009 Tour de France team, which was officially announced today.

Contador was unveiled as team leader by Astana directeur sportif Johan Bruyneel, but it's hard to see the team not getting behind seven-times Tour winner Armstrong if he turns in a better ride.

"After winning the Tour in 2007 and then becoming the fifth cyclist in history to win all three grand tours," said Bruyneel via the Astana team website. "It's hard to find a better stage racer than Alberto. "He has worked very hard, earning the right to represent the team as leader this July."

Bruyneel was equally ready to praise Armstrong: "I'm very happy with where Lance's form is leading up to the Tour. He's worked very hard during his comeback season and I know he is extremely motivated for the Tour de France." Armstrong and Contador have a very strong squad to back them up - whichever rider they ultimately rally behind - in their aim for overall victory.

Andreas Kloden, Levi Leipheimer, Yaroslav Popvych and Haimar Zubeldia are all seasoned stage racers and are capable of stage wins in their own right as well as performing super-domestique duties for Armstrong and/or Contador.
It's certainly one of the most diverse teams in the Tour, with seven countries represented in Astana's Tour line-up: USA, Spain, Germany, Kazakhstan, Portugal, Ukraine and Switzerland.

Having suffered from money troubles in the lead-up to the Tour, the Kazakh squad's accounts now seem to be settled and the Union Cycliste Internationale have given them the green light to carry on racing. For now.

Astana 2009 Tour de France team
Lance Armstrong (USA)
Alberto Contador (Spa)
Andreas Kloden (Ger)
Levi Leipheimer (USA)
Dmitriy Muravyev (Kaz)
Sergio Paulinho (Por)
Yaroslav Popvych (Ukr)
Gregory Rast (Swi)
Haimar Zubeldia (Spa)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Stellar Field at Hy-vee Triathlon Elite Cup

The ITU circuit moves across the USA from Washington, DC to Des Moines, Iowa for the Hy-Vee Triathlon Elite Cup and Triathlon Team World Championships.

With the largest prize money for any triathlon race in the world on offer, the big guns are eyeing up the $200,000 first place positions, making Hy-Vee one of the most sought after and exciting competitions for spectators and athletes alike. However the athletes will have to battle the oppressive conditions as well as each other with temperatures likely to peak in the mid-thirties on race day.

The men’s race draws in the Olympic medallists, Jan Frodeno from Germany, Simon Whitfield from Canada and New Zealand’s Bevan Docherty, as well as 2008 world champion Javier Gomez from Spain. Gomez faired the best last weekend at the Dextro Energy Triathlon – ITU World Championships with a second place finish, with Frodeno the strongest of the chase pack in sixth. Both Whitfield and Docherty failed to finish, with some observers speculating that they might be saving energy for this weekend’s onslaught.

The Aussie pairing of Commonwealth champion Brad Kahlefeldt and the ever reliant Courtney Atkinson will look to take the cash back Down Under, although New Zealand’s Kris Gemmell will have other plans.

Home support will rest on the shoulders of Jarrod Shoemaker who looked strong in Washington to clock a top ten finish. Andy Potts and Hunter Kemper, who were fourth and fifth in DC, will save their energy for the team championships.

A strong European contingent will be looking for success despite the race coming just a week before their continental championships. Russia’s Dmitry Polyansky returns to action following victory in last weekend’s European under 23 Championships and will line up alongside the up and coming Ivan Vasiliev. Will Clarke and Tim Don spearhead the British assault in the absence of double World Championship winner Alistair Brownlee, whilst Africa’s sole representative, Hendrik De Villiers from South Africa, will hope to perform better than in Washington where he suffered mechanical failure and a crash on the bike.

The big question in the women’s race centres around whether Emma Moffatt can beat compatriot and Olympic gold medallist Emma Snowsill for the second weekend in a row.

The Australian pairing have dominated the Dextro Energy Triathlon – ITU World Championship Series thus far this year, although few expected Moffatt to outrun Snowsill in Washington, DC. With the seemingly invincible triple world champion suffering her first defeat to anyone other than Vanessa Fernandes since 2005, can Snowsill register her second Hy-Vee win?

Laura Bennett delighted the American fans as she crossed the line in first place at Des Moines in 2006, although a repeat performance looks unlikely as she continues to come back from a prolonged injury. Sarah Haskins might be USA Triathlon’s best shot at a medal having finished fourth last weekend in Washington.

With Switzerland’s Daniela Ryf, the 2008 under 23 world champion, finding some excellent form in Washington, a repeat performance for her would guarantee a big pay day, whilst her training partner, Lisa Norden from Sweden, will be hoping that the cramping she suffered on the run in DC will not return come Saturday.

Japan’s Juri Ide usually races strongly in the warmer climates, and the Beijing Olympic Games fifth place finisher could cause an upset on race day. Her team mate, Kiyomi Niwata, has shown some good form this year and her experience could pay dividends.

Britain’s 2008 world champion Helen Jenkins put herself back in the running following a fifth place finish in Washington as she looks to find the form that gave her third place and a cheque for $25,000 at last year’s race.

An outsider for a good result may be Lauren Groves from Canada who ran through to tenth place in Washington, posting the third fastest run split behind the two Emma’s from Australia. She will line up alongside Kathy Tremblay who has already shown some fine form with a fourth place finish at the Tongyeong World Championship race in Korea.

Armstrong Needs 2% To Win - Chris Horner Interview

By: Bruce Hildenbrand (RBA)

Chris Horner was riding extremely well at the Giro when a crash on stage 10 fractured the tibia in his left leg and forced him to retire. He is now back on the bike training in Aspen, Colorado with teammates Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer. Road Bike Action talked with him about his recovery, current training program and what's going to happen at the Tour.

Road Bike Action: how hard is it to comeback mentality after you had such great form at the Giro?
Chris Horner: Mentally was, truthfully, kind of the easier thing to recover from because you knew the form was good. At least then I thought my selection for the Tour was good as long as the leg was good.

The hardest thing all year has been California, the form was really good, and I busted the knee. I finished California but it was getting worse and worse every day. I could barely walk. I went to Pais Vasco and my form was exceptional easily as good as the Giro, maybe even better. I crashed; broke the collarbone got thought that and went to the Giro. I was racing the Giro with the broken collarbone. It hadn't healed yet. It was some bad luck. Hopefully it is done and over.

At least I know that everything I am doing training-wise is working so I will just keep doing that. Hopefully my selection for the Tour is there based on the results I have already had. So everything is very optimistic.

RBA: How much time were you off the bike after the crash in the Giro?
CH: Two weeks off the bike. There were twelve days were I could actually feel pain walking if I put stress on it. Now the leg is good. I haven't had any pain at all since the twelfth day. No pain from the bike at all. I have had multiple five-hour rides and felt no pain at all. I would say it will definitely be healed before the Tour if it isn't already healed now.

RBA: Did you do anything special to quicken the healing process?
CH: I did a lot of special things. I especially didn't train for two weeks. I especially didn't walk much.

RBA: How is your training going with Lance and Levi?
CH: We have the three amigos here training. For me it is the first time I have been training this high so it is a different thing for me. I am trying it out and hopefully it works. We are at 8000' and training up to 12,000', Independence Pass.

I have never done this kind of altitude before so I have now idea. If I could just stay where I was at the Giro I would be happy, but if it give me a little extra help, cool. There is going to be some good form at the Tour.

RBA: How are you feeling now?
CH: The weight is fantastic; the legs are very good. It just a matter of being around the corner. We are at altitude so you lose 100 watts. I have never trained at this altitude before so I don't know how you are supposed to feel. I know it sucks, but I am pretty sure it sucks for everybody. We have three really good riders between Lance, Levi and myself and nobody is going over 300 watts. And at sea level, 300 watts is an easy day in the saddle.

It's ugly. If you are doing 200 watts, that's a fantastic ride. If you are doing 225, you are asking yourself 'Do I really need to go this hard?' A couple of days ago I rode up and over Independence Pass to the junction at Twin Lakes and back. I was on the bike for 4hours 40 minutes and was averaging 209 watts.

RBA: Who are the favorites for the Tour?
CH: Menchov definitely looks good. I think we are going to have some great talent with Astana with Lance, Alberto and Levi possibly even Kloden, too. Cadel is going to be really good. He always is. It seems like he is even more motivated this year with how aggressively he was riding at the Dauphine. We will see if that helps him or hurts him. Those guys are my favorites right there. Outside of that it is going to be difficult to predict.

RBA: How do you think the Tour will play out?
CH: I hope it is exciting, for one. That is always good for the fans. I would like to see where Lance just rips it up somewhere alone the course. It would be a legendary race if Lance were to come back and just light it up.

It is going to be difficult to say at this point and time. I think people will be waiting. It will be a little calmer. There is so much left at the end there. The second to last day we are going to be going up Mont Ventoux so if you are better than everybody you can just win it on Ventoux. But, you better have some confidence to wait until almost the last day.

RBA: Is there a possibility that on Astana there are too many chiefs and not enough Indians?
CH: No. I don't think so. You have two guys on the team, Alberto and Lance, going in, as leaders of the team and those two guys will figure it out amongst themselves. Then you have seven strong guys to help them out.
The only scenario you would see where there is a problem if there are two strong leaders, Lance and Alberto, and they didn't have any strong help behind them. But there is so much strong help behind them that they can afford to wait it out to see who is better.

RBA: How does Levi figure into the mix?
CH: I would say, at this time, everybody except Lance and Alberto are going to assume a supporting role in case one of those two guys get into any kind of trouble. Eight guys aren't going to wait if Alberto flats early on or if he goes up a climb and gets dropped early on. That's not going to happen. But you can have three guys wait for him if he has a problem. We had that scenario at the Giro where I am staying with Levi and we are down to five guys so Levi always has a teammate with him.

2% to go for Tour de France glory

RBA: How is Lance looking?
CH: If you look how good Lance started coming towards the end of the Giro, by the end of the Giro he was looking good. That's not the Lance everybody is used to seeing, but 12th overall at the Giro after three years away is pretty solid. And he was able to follow some big moves near the finish in the last week by big riders. That's a big improvement.

He needs 1% more form to stay with the best in the world and 2% will put him with Alberto. I see Alberto as 1% better than everybody out there and Lance just needs 2% better than he had at the Giro and he's going to be fighting for the win at the Tour de France. 2% is small. He needs to lose a kilo or two of weight and that's 1%, a little more extra training and a little more rest and that's 1%.

RBA: Do you need to kick him out of the car when you are headed over to the McDonald's in Aspen?
CH: I don't eat McDonald's anymore. I gave that up. It's not a permanent thing, but at the moment I haven't eaten fast food burgers since Tour of California. I still have my occasional donut, though.