Saturday, May 31, 2008

Contador one step closer to pink dream

Spain's Alberto Contador has moved one step closer to winning the 91st Giro d'Italia's overall classification by defending his slim lead on the race's penultimate day – 224 kilometres of racing over the Passo di Gavia and Passo del Mortirolo to finish in Tirano. The 25 year-old of Astana controlled attacks by Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) on the Mortirolo, while 2007 race winner Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) fell out of third place overall.

Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare) stomped away at the base of the day's final climb, Aprica. The 27 year-old Italian held off the chase of Gilberto Simoni (Diquigiovanni) to top the climb solo and finish, 16 kilometres later, in Tirano. Spaniard Joaquím Rodríguez (Caisse d'Epargne) escaped from the race leader group of Contador to collect third and the remaining bonification seconds on offer.

"I am without words," Sella stated. "Again my team showed well. The emotions are so high for me. I think that today I did something grande."

Riccò led Contador's group home for fourth and stayed second in the overall classification, four seconds behind Contador. Tomorrow is the final day with a 28.5-kilometre time trial to Milano.

"I will go and preview the course tomorrow," explained Contador. "I want to win the maglia rosa and it would be nice to also win the stage. However, the first objective is the jersey."

Friday, May 30, 2008

Bozzone Tackles Boise 70.3

By Timothy Carlson

Terenzo Bozzone, the 23-year-old New Zealand prodigy who made a big splash in the sport when he smashed the course record with a sensational 3:53:43 at Wildflower two years ago, is starting a new chapter in his career at the inaugural Ironman 70.3 Boise.

“I’m dedicating everything I do this year to racing to my potential to the Ironman 70.3 world championship in Clearwater,” says Bozzone. “So Boise will be my first race to prepare myself to get back to the world-class performance I’ll need to make my mark in long-course at the end of the year.”

Coming off a disappointing quest to make the 2008 New Zealand Olympic team, Bozzone says Boise will be his first of a trio of Ironman 70.3 races, followed by Kansas and Eagleman.

Bozzone sees Danville, California, star Chris Lieto as the man to beat in the cool swim, hilly and windy bike and fast, flat run at Boise. “The swim is cold, so I think I’ll leave my brain in a bag by my bike so I won’t get brain freeze,” he jokes. “I’ll probably need it on the bike, which will be hilly and windy - but most of all because Chris Lieto will be racing. He will be very tough competition.”

As far as staying near last year’s sixth-place finisher at Ironman Hawaii, Bozzone says he has done extensive preparation to return to his 2006 form when he blew away the field at Wildflower with a 2:16 bike. “I want to stay close enough to Chris to do some damage. I got a pretty good idea what to do when I managed to get in a wind tunnel a few weeks ago and tested different aero positions. Theoretically, I could have a 15 watt improvement - the difference could be huge. But you never know till you get on the road. How long can I hold it? And will it be comfortable enough that I can run hard after 90 kilometers on the bike?”

As for staying near his rival, Bozzone thinks of Lieto as gold standard on the bike, somewhat akin to the sentiment expressed in the ballad "New York, New York.”

“Lieto? If you can ride with him, you can ride with anyone. Maybe I can’t do it this weekend. But I will try to keep the gap as little as possible - close enough to chase him down on the run.” Indeed, if Bozzone saves something for the run, he has immense potential. In that epic Wildflower win in 2006, he ran a still-standing 1:11:57 half-marathon.

Bozzone comes into Boise quite motivated after coming up short in his Olympic bid.

After two ITU Olympic distance Junior World Championships in 2002 and 2003, and satisfying a budding affinity for the half Ironman distance in 2005 through 2007, Bozzone decided to return to short-course glory and try to fulfill his Olympic dreams for 2008.

With his enormous talent and youth came big ups and big downs. At last year’s ITU world championship in Hamburg, Bozzone lived up to his great potential and took seventh overall, top New Zealander, two places ahead of 2004 ITU world champion and Olympic silver medalist Bevan Docherty. Unfortunately, the race that counted for New Zealand Olympic selection was the Beijing ITU World Cup two weeks later. There, Bozzone crashed on the bike and straggled in 55th while fellow Kiwis Docherty and Kris Gemmell finished third and fourth, respectively, and sewed up the first two slots for Beijing.

This year, Bozzone missed the 2008 Oceania Championship in Wellington, New Zealand, while Kiwi veteran Shane Reed took first place. At the Mooloolaba World Cup, the last race New Zealand Olympic selectors considered before picking the last men’s slot, Bozzone took 14th - well ahead of Shane Reed’s 25th place.

Nonetheless, New England selectors opted for Shane Reed’s consistency over the brilliance of youth - and it hit Bozzone hard.

“At the time I was pretty ripped up,” says Bozzone. “It felt like I’d been squashed into nothing. Nothing bad to say about Shane. He is a great athlete and it would have been great if all four of us were on the team. But I thought I was next in line and my performance at Mooloolaba was ahead of Shane. I just felt there was no proper explanation why I didn’t make the team.”

Bozzone admits he has been inconsistent - alternately great and completely off. “I do occasionally have world class performances, but my body is not completely mature and occasionally I struggle. That’s why so far I haven’t had the race I’m capable of at Clearwater (where he finished sixth and ninth in his first two Ironman 70.3 world championships). I’ve ridden a little harder than I should and I’ve paid for it the last quarter of the run. I need to figure out my limits and how hared I can push the bike and the run.”

While he’s been just short of glory recently, Bozzone’s successes have lifted him above the early days when he’d sleep overnight in airports - sometimes in the janitor’s office. “Those days were definitely character-building. But I’m not sleeping by the side of the street recently. But you never know, if I keep racing the way I am…”

Bozzone, with his good looks and engaging personality and limitless potential, has made major sponsors Specialized, Saucony and Plumbing World in New Zealand, plus minor sponsors Oakley, Profile Design, and blueseventy wetsuits very happy and won’t be facing a lodging crisis any time soon.

And given his history, Lieto should beware the motivated Bozzone this weekend.

When asked what sparked his paradigm breaking course record at age 21 in Wildflower, the unfailingly polite and considerate Bozzone hesitated for a moment. “I don’t exactly know how to say this,” he says. “But the year before someone said a few things to me that made me mad. When I got back to Wildflower, I felt I had something to prove.”

Coming off his Olympic disappointment, Bozzone has rekindled those feelings. Perhaps that will be enough to overcome a shortage of the training he did two years ago at Wildflower. But whatever the result this weekend, Terenzo Bozzone is on a mission.

How Close, How Far?

By Graham Watson

Phew…this Giro is going to be too close to call if today’s racing is anything to go by. Alberto Contador saved his lead by the slenderest of margins, and he faces a mighty showdown with the Italians on tomorrow’s Passo Mortirilo. Depending on how much time he loses tomorrow – if any, of course – the race’s last-day time trial may have the deciding vote as to who wins the 2008 Giro d’Italia.

Today’s stage saw a classical Italian move against a foreign race-leader, and it almost paid off. In fact, it wasn’t exactly the case that all the Italians ganged up on Contador, but Di Luca’s attack with 45-kilometres to go forced Riccò to respond in order to protect his 2nd-place overall… The two Italians were seeking their own selfish goals, and perhaps without any pre-plan, they collectively put Contador in trouble.

It’s not to say Contador is in trouble – the Spaniard was in fact very strong considering the ammunition ranged against him – but stage 20 is likely to be a very painful day in the mountain for the little man and his team. Klöden was absolutely brilliant today, I cannot say enough good things about him - as too was Colom. We’ll have to wait and see if the team can muster the same efforts and more to cope with the aggressive racing against them tomorrow.

The Mortirolo is the steepest climb in the Giro – the nastiest by far. At 12-kilometres long, it can change the race for good if any one of the favourites is in difficulty. If it is Contador in such a way, the only hope is that Astana’s leader has some teammates not too far back who can close the time gaps on the following, gentle, ascent to Aprica. What gap is left after that chase will dictate how important Sunday’s TT is going to be… I’d say Contador can put 45-seconds into Riccò or DiLuca in such a time trial, so a bigger gap than that we don’t want to see in tomorrow’s finale.

Contador proves tough under Di Luca's pressure

Alberto Contador of Team Astana is proving to be a worthy holder of the Giro d'Italia's race leader's maglia rosa, holding the favourites in check today on the 238-kilometre stage from Legnano to Monte Pora. The 25 year-old Spaniard managed the gap gained by Italy's Danilo Di Luca (LPR Brakes) thanks to a lethal attack on the descent of the Passo del Vivione. Over the following 55 kilometres to the finish, the 2007 winner held the virtual race lead, but Contador closed the gap back down to 1'46" to keep the upper hand.

Italy's Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) tried his own attack on the finale up Monte Pora, distancing Contador to move closer to the race overall lead, gaining 37 seconds. Contador now holds the lead by four seconds to Riccò and 25 seconds to Di Luca.

"The team worked very well, they deserved a ten," said an exhausted Contador. "Compliments to Riccò and Di Luca, they have made this Giro very interesting. I will continue to say what I said yesterday, I will not be afraid of anyone. I came here to do one week, I have kept the maglia rosa and I am not going to obsess over Di Luca or Riccò."

Belarus's Vasil Kiryienka took his biggest professional win to date. The 26 year-old of Tinkoff Credit Systems attacked from the day's escape seven-man group at the base of the Passo della Presolana to finish solo with 4'36" over Di Luca.

"I said before the Giro that I would try three times and today was the third time," Kiryienka explained. "Thanks to my team, my DSs. I am very satisfied."

General classification after stage 19

1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) Astana
2 Riccardo Riccò (Ita) Saunier Duval - Scott 0.04
3 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) LPR Brakes 0.21
4 Marzio Bruseghin (Ita) Lampre 2.00

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Voigt conquers Worlds parcours for CSC win

One of the hardest men in modern day cycling, Jens Voigt, has taken his first-ever Giro d'Italia stage win by escaping solo with 36 kilometres remaining in stage 18 – 147 kilometres, ending with two 17.4-kilometres circuits on the parcours to be used for the 2008 World Championships. The 36 year-old gave Team CSC its first win at the 2008 race when he finished more than a minute ahead of Italians Giovanni Visconti (Quick Step), Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale) and Gabriele Bosisio (LPR Brakes), all of whom were part of an original 12-man escape that went free around 10 kilometres from the race start in Mendrisio.

Spain's Alberto Contador passed another day in the race leader's maglia rosa. His Astana team helped control the race that was held over mostly wet roads travelling from Switzerland to in Italy's Lombardia region. He finished with the main gruppo at 7'50".


1 Jens Voigt (Ger) Team CSC 3.22.46 (43.5 km/h)
2 Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Quick Step 1.07
3 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita) AG2R La Mondiale
4 Gabriele Bosisio (Ita) LPR Brakes
5 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas 2.04
6 Paolo Bettini (Ita) Quick Step
7 Félix Rafael Cardenas Ravalo (Col) Barloworld
8 Alan Perez Lezaun (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi
9 Mauricio Alberto Ardila Cano (Col) Rabobank
10 Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Recovox Athlete - Vince Rosetta Checks In

It seems like it has been forever since my last race but finally I was back in action at the Capital of Texas Triathlon (Olympic Distance) in Austin, Tx. I always look forward to this race because the course is so nice and fast. The best part about this years race was that is was a qualifier for the Age Group Nationals. Qualifying for that was goal number one.

I am glad to say, goal accomplished! I was pleased with my result in a very competitive age group. The heat was really blazing on the run so I think it really hit me harder than I would have liked but like I said, I qualified so I can't complain too much.

Next up on the schedule is Buffalo Springs 70.3 June 29th.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Plan de Corones too much for frayed peloton

By Andrew Hood

Frayed nerves that were already threadbare after two torturous weeks at the 91st Giro d’Italia spilled over Monday in the 12.9km mountaintop time trial up gravel roads to Plan de Corones.

While it made for great TV and proved popular with the tens of thousands of fans who trekked up the summit, it proved to be another source of irritation in an already exasperated, race-weary peloton.

“This race is just insane!” said Slipstream’s David Millar as he climbed into a cable car to take him down the mountain. “Taken individually it’s a good idea, but on a total, it’s not a good thing after the two mental days we’ve just had and the two hard weeks we’ve had before that. This race is just ridiculous.”

That sentiment was near universal among the peloton. Riders are fed up from a combination of long transfers, grueling stages, nasty weather, traffic jams and foul-ups that started when riders missed ferries while leaving Sicily in the first weekend.

Riders were exasperated after spending two hours in team buses following Sunday’s stage only to face a four-hour transfer Tuesday morning for the final rest day.

Jens Voigt (CSC) didn’t hold back when queried about whether the time trial was too much following back-to-back summit finishes across the Dolomites that included eight rated climbs.

“It’s a stupid race - I don’t like it! We are at a ski area! Leave it to the mountain bikers!” said an angry Voigt. “I don't want to sound like an old grand-mother, because I know cycling is hard. But this Giro is too much. It’s like a machine that missing some oil and needs a tune-up. With a few small details, it would be so sweet. But today, for 45 minutes of racing, I have to miss an entire day. And tomorrow is four-hour transfer. Where is the time for recovery?”

Others complained about the difficulty of this year’s Giro that everyone agrees has been one of the hardest in years. After a very difficult opening weekend in Sicily, the middle part of the Giro has been loaded up with hilly and medium climbs that made for great, unpredictable racing, but many say was simply too hard before the climb-heavy final week.

“They want us to ride clean? After this Giro ends, I am going to give a present of a bicycle to (Angelo) Zomegnan and tell him to ride this Giro and make all the transfers that they’ve put us through,” said an annoyed Enrico Gasparotto (Barloworld). “This Giro is too hard. Last year, I worked my ass off for Di Luca, but now I am even more tired as a protected rider. Every day has climbs, summit finishes, small roads, crashes, nerves. Even if there is one flat section, they would take us through a small village with tiny roads or make us climb a wall just to make for a good show.”

Giro d’Italia race director Angelo Zomegnan shrugged off criticism from the riders.

“Cycling needs spectacle like this to lift it out of mediocrity. Look around us, there are not mountains like this anywhere in the world. What do (the riders) want? Every day, this Giro has had huge crowds along the road, on the finish, big audiences on TV,” Zomegnan said. “This is the Giro, if they don’t like it, they can race somewhere else.”

Whether or not the entire peloton approved, there was no arguing that the setting of Saturday’s stage was nothing short of spectacular.

Huge crowds were shuttled up to the mountaintop finish line in comfort thanks to a network of ski lifts and cable cars that zipped them up the 1,089-meter climb. Tents selling hot German sausages and cold beers were waiting at the top.

Unfortunately for the riders, there was only one way up. The hard way.

Starting in the quaint ski village at San Vigilio di Marrebe, the first half of the course was up a steep, paved section to the top of the Passo Furcia. That’s where the 2006 road stage ended when heavy rain forced the cancellation of the Plan de Corones debut. The paved section climbs nearly 500 vertical meters with ramps as steep as 16 percent, and that was the easy part.

The “sterrato” takes over from there. Just over 5km long, the narrow forest road winds to the top of the Plan de Corones (Kronplatz in German), a stand-alone peak serving up spectacular, 360-degree views of the towering Dolomites of Sud Tirol.

The steepest bits are at the bottom and top, with ramps as steep as 20 percent and 24 percent, respectively. The gravel section stair-cased up nearly 600 vertical feet for one tough day at the office.

“That last kilometer is just brutal,” said Ryder Hesjedal (Slipstream-Chipotle), an ex-mountain biker who rode a 38x27. “I’m a little more used to the loose gravel than some of these guys. I just got up it the best I could. If it was raining, it would have just been a slaughter.”

Road conditions were better than expected. Local organizers packed in extra loads of gravel and used a special machine to compress the service road. Drainage was pretty good on the road, with only a few sections with puddles.

Luckily for everyone, the weather held up. High clouds blotted out the sun, but the gravel was mostly dry and held up after bike after bike sliced through the gravel.

Team cars weren’t allowed to go up the road, so riders were followed by mechanics on the back of motorbikes. Each rider had one trailing mechanic, who carried spares wheels.

The final 20 riders had two trailing motorbikes, one with a mechanic with two wheels and a second with another mechanic carrying a spare bike.

Also, if a rider has so many mechanical problems that they cannot finish the race within the time limit, they will receive the time of the last-place rider.

“The conditions of the course don’t allow us to properly support our riders, so is it fair to everyone? I saw motorbikes slipping out,” Caisse d’Epargne sport director Neil Stephens said. “What happens if Contador’s bike breaks and he can’t ride his spare? Maybe stages like this are too much. It should be fair for everyone.”

After everyone crossed the line, they descended by chairlift back down the mountain. From there, team cars shuttled them back to waiting team buses. Tomorrow? Another transfer of 275km on the final rest day.

The final verdict on Plan de Corones: It was just another day at the Giro d’Italia.

A Coming of Age

By: Graham Watson

Alberto Contador passed a major challenge today in his quest to win the Giro d’Italia. Following a few days of uncertainty as to the way Contador was riding, and not withstanding his excellent performance yesterday, all eyes were on him to pull of a great ride to silence any doubts about his right to lead the race. Contador did this with great panache, pulling further away from Riccardo Ricco, Gilberto Simoni and Marzio Bruseghin – probably the only men capable of causing Contador any grief in what remains of this race.

Franco Pellizotti may have won the stage, but Contador has sent a message to his rivals that he’ll be a tough nut to crack in the remaining days - today was a major pressure test, and Contador came through it with full marks.

Contador is still so young that, until today, I felt I had yet to see him at his maximum output. Then the little man came pedalling up the steepest part of the climb, his body language leaving little doubt he was at his very limit, his face creased with the effort he was making, his bared teeth flaring from a wide-open mouth.

Contador will feel very good about himself when he falls asleep tonight, for this was a performance he really wanted to make, as much as anyone else wanted him to make it for them.

A much needed day off beckons, Tuesday, followed by two quieter days, then the three final stages of the Giro – and they’re all very, very difficult!

Contador is fourth - padding his overall lead

Riding with apparent ease up nearly 1-in-4 slopes, Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) won Monday's 16th stage of the Giro d'Italia, a short, but difficult, uphill time trial from San Vigilio di Marebbe to Plan de Corones. Pellizotti (Liquigas) finished in 40:26.

Astana's Alberto Contador held onto the pink leader's jersey with a solid 40:48, good enough for fourth on the day.

"I gave everything in the last section of the race," Pellizotti said, while waiting for the final riders to finish to find out if his time would hold. "I was disappointed with my performance yesterday, but I don't know if it's fast enough."

Contador, the last to start, had a 33-second GC advantage over second-placed Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval). He padded his overall lead of Ricco by about 8 seconds.

Emanuele Sella (CSF Group Navigare), who won the previous two stages in the mountains but was still tenth on GC coming into the time trial, finished in a time of 40.32 for second place for the day.

Italian veteran Gilberto Simoni was third.

The 12.9km climb averages 8.4 percent and has portions near the top with 24 percent grades. Check back soon for a complete report and results and Graham Watson photos.

Stage results:
1. Franco Pellizotti (I), Liquigas, 40:26
2. Emanuele Sella (I), CSF Group Navigare, 40:32
3. Gilberto Simoni (I), Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni, 40:43
4. Alberto Contador (Sp), Astana, 40:48
5. Riccardo Ricco (I), Saunier Duval, 40:56

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Contador: ‘Pink jersey like a gift’

Alberto Contador (Astana) went from beach bum to Spain’s best chance to win the Giro d’Italia since Miguel Indurain won back-to-back editions in 1992-93.

Contador rides into Monday’s decisive individual time trial at Plan de Corones nursing a slender but significant 33-second lead to Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Prodir).

The defending Tour de France champion won’t be going back to France this summer to defend his title, so he’s making the most of the unexpected opportunity to race the Giro after organizers made a last-minute decision to include the team a week before the May 10 start in Palermo.

Contador spoke with journalists following Sunday’s dramatic stage. Here are excerpts from the press conference:

Q: Looking at the past two days, it was better for you today?

AC: The truth is yesterday wasn’t a good day for me at all. I had a lot of allergies to begin with, so considering how things went, I had to be content because I am not in top condition. Today when it started to rain, I felt a lot better.

Q: When the attacks came on the Giau, you had trouble staying with the favorites. What was going through your head?

AC: There arrived a moment when I didn’t feel very good. When they started to attack, I chased Riccò and Menchov, but I couldn’t get their wheel. I thought that my possibilities of taking the pink jersey were very slim. Then when we started to climb the Marmolada, my sensations were very different. Even though I broke my wheel, my head was totally focused on the pink jersey.

Q: What happened to your wheel? Did it happen when Bruseghin fell into you with about 5km to go?

AC: I broke a spoke on my rear wheel at the base of the climb. When I went to pump the pedals, I realized I had some sort of problem with the wheel because I could feel the wheel rubbing the brake. That’s why I tried to climb most of the time without standing in the saddle, so the wheel wouldn’t worsen. I bumped into Bruseghin when he fell, but the spoke had already broken earlier. With 6km to go, I was thinking about stopping to change the wheel or not. I decided not to and opened up my rear brake instead. I think it was the correct decision.

Q: Is this too early to take the jersey?

AC: Actually, I think it’s the perfect moment to take the maglia rosa. I came close yesterday with 5 seconds, so today to have it is the best moment. Tomorrow is a time trial, I don’t know the course like my Italian rivals, so they will have this advantage on me. I hope to climb in the morning with the team car. Tomorrow I won’t need my team. For them, it’s more or less a rest day. The following days are more normal stages so that we can control the race. Later we have two hard days, so I think it’s the perfect day.

Q: The differences are very small. Are you worried about that?

AC: Just like yesterday, we once again saw that the differences between the best are very small. What that shows is that everyone is more or less on the same level. This is good for me. They weren’t able to take too much time to me and I can take an advantage into the final time trial. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow. I hope things continue on the same way.

Q: Who do you see as your primary rival?

AC: I think the most dangerous now is Riccò. He demonstrated today that he’s very strong. But just as Bruseghin, Menchov, Di Luca and Simoni, all of them are very dangerous and we’re all on very small time differences. Any one of them can move ahead in the GC. You have to take it day by day and you cannot just focus on one rider. You have to watch them all.

Q: What does the maglia rosa mean to you right now?

AC: It’s like a gift. If they had told me 20 days ago when I was on the beach that I would be in the maglia rosa, I wouldn’t have believed it. I came here thinking about stages, but little by little, my condition improved. The people around me animated my spirits and they convinced me to keep fighting. The sensations improved and it’s for them that I am in the maglia rosa. My preparation wasn’t very good, so it’s nothing short of a gift to have this jersey.

Q: What can you expect from the remaining two time trials? What stages do you fear most?

AC: Without a doubt, the remaining two time trials should benefit me. It’s true that tomorrow is a different kind of time trial, it’s a climbing time trial on a very difficult pass, so it will depend more on individual strength than on being a specialist. So if things are close on GC, the final time trial will also favor me. Everyone will be attacking me. By far, the most dangerous is the stage over the Mortirolo (stage 20). It has two hard climbs, and even though it’s not a summit finish, the stage will be very hard and there can be big differences.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Contador Sits 5 seconds Out Of First At Giro

There was a big fight among the nervous GC riders, but no one was able to impose their will on the race.

Contador wasn’t his sharpest when two-time Giro champ Gilberto Simoni (Diquigiovanni-Androni) attacked with about 3km to go to blow up a group of about 20 leading GC favorites.

Just as Astana sport director Sean Yates predicted, it was a free-for-all among the GC favorites, but the stage didn’t turn out the way Astana hoped. Contador, Andreas Klöden and Levi Leipheimer were all dropped as Simoni, Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas) and finally Denis Menchov (Rabobank) made lethal accelerations.

“I was the first to attack. We were a bunch of sheep today, not a pack of lions. Everyone was too scared to attack,” said Simoni, who finished ninth and slotted into ninth overall at 1:31 back. “I tried first, but in the end it was Menchov who pulled clear. That was a surprise, but this Giro is just beginning.”

Menchov dipped across the line first among the favorites in 6th at 8:48 back, followed by rider after rider as they slinked across the line in dribs and drabs.

Next were Pellizotti and Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) at 8:57, Simoni at 9:01 with defending champion Danilo Di Luca (LPR) coming across in 13th at 9:14 back.

“It was an extremely difficult stage and everyone was at their maximum. Contador fell back, but he’s still the favorite for victory,” said Di Luca, who slotted into 5th at 1:07 back. “We now have the maglia rosa. I lost a little time, but this was the first mountain stage and this Giro is long. Tomorrow is another hard stage and it will tell us a lot.”

Leipheimer finished 34th at 13:08 back while Klöden was 17th at 9:57 back in a hard day for Astana. Contador was not happy with the outcome.

"I didn't have the day I was hoping for," he said. "I've been struggling with allergies and it really affected me today. The legs couldn't respond as they normally would have. To be five seconds from the maglia rosa is disappointing. I'm not happy with how things went at all."

Riccò settled into fourth overall at 1:02 off the pace. A winner of two stages so far, Riccò made headlines overnight by claiming he was going to “attack the beach boy and the Kraut,” referring to Contador and Klöden, but woke up with a cough.

“This morning I didn’t feel that great and I had some problems breathing the way I wanted to,” said Riccò. “Like I said before, the mountains at the Giro aren’t the same as in the Tour. The gradients are much steeper and you have to manage your forces better. I gave my most, but I hope to be feeling better for tomorrow’s stage.”

The 91st Giro continues with Sunday’s six-climb, 153km 15th stage ending atop the Marmolada. The fireworks have just begun.

Results, Stage 14
1. Emanuele Sella (ITA), CSF Group Navigare in 5:37:14
2. Vasil Kiryienka (BLR), Tinkoff at 4:38
3. Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver (ESP), Caisse d'Epargne at 5:08
4. José Rujano Guillen (VEN), Caisse d'Epargne at 7:28
5. Paolo Bettini (ITA), Quick Step at 7:59
6. Denis Menchov (RUS), Rabobank at 8:48
7. Franco Pellizotti (ITA), Liquigas at 8:57
8. Riccardo Ricco' (ITA), Saunier Duval at s.t.
9. Gilberto Simoni (ITA), Serramenti PVC Diquigiovanni at 9:01
10. Jurgen Van Den Broeck (BEL), Silence-Lotto at s.t.

Overall, after stage 14
1. Gabriele Bosisio (ITA), Team L.P.R.
2. Alberto Contador (Sp), Astana, 0:05
3. Marzio Bruseghin (ITA), Lampre, at 0:28
4. Riccardo Ricco' (ITA), Saunier Duval, at 1:02
5. Danilo Di Luca (ITA), Team L.P.R., at 1:07

Friday, May 23, 2008

Stage 14 preview: Verona → Alpe di Pampeago, 195k

Five years ago to the day, Gilberto Simoni won stage 14 of the Giro d'Italia atop Alpe di Pampeago in the Dolomites -- his home turf. This year's stage 14 also finishes on the steep Alpe di Pampeago (7.8k, avg 9.6%) and Simoni said back in March that a possible repeat was his best shot for winning a stage at his final Giro.

The day starts off with three climbs all around 9.5k @ 5.7% providing ample warm-up before the long cat 1, Passo de Manghen. The descent down Passo de Manghen isn't technical by pro standards so it will be hard for a break on Manghen to stick. Instead, it could be Alberto Contador, Riccardo Ricco and Gilberto Simoni grinding it out as Alpe di Pampeago gets steeper and steeper -- the two young superstars against the wily, sentimental favourite. In total, stage 14 has 4000+ metres of climbing and this is just the start of what should be an exceptional final week at the Giro.

Coconut Oil

Ray Peat has an excellent article about the benefits of coconut oil. Coconut oil is made up of mostly short- and medium-chain fatty acids. What this means is that they are immediately available to the body as energy without the use of the carnitine transport system, being absorbed directly through the stomach instead. If you consume coconut milk or oil, you can actually feel your body temperature rise, owing to coconut oil’s effects on metabolism (half a can of coconut milk has actually made me sweat). Coconut oil also supports thyroid function, another driver of metabolism. Coconut oil is rich in butyric, lauric and myristic acids, which are variously being used to treat cancer and infection.

Click on title link to read the article.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Riders using Viagra for altitude?

The story of Gerolsteiner rider Andrea Moletta's father being detained by the Italian anti-doping police in a car with a large amount of Viagra might have simply been the source of many dirty jokes had it not led to his son's withdrawal from the Giro d'Italia.

Natalino Moletta was stopped by the Italian Guardia Finanza as one of three passengers in a vehicle travelling from Padua to the Giro d'Italia which reportedly contained 82 packages of Viagra, along with a disposable syringe hidden in a tube of toothpaste and a refrigerator with other unidentified products. The search was reportedly part of a wider investigation into doping at gyms in Padua, but reports also indicated the car, and thus the products on board, were headed to the Giro d'Italia. However, there is no indication that the police action was aimed at the Gerolsteiner team.

"It was a targeted police action," Gerolsteiner director Christian Henn told dpa. He said Andrea Moletta could not explain why his father was caught up in the incident, and agreed to leave the Giro. "If they were looking at Moletta, why wasn't there immediately a raid in our hotel? So far everything has been quiet," Henn said.

Doping is rife in fitness clubs worldwide, and Viagra is a widely used as a recreational drug, so it is possible that the products in question have nothing to do with cycling. Still, the Gerolsteiner team deemed it serious enough to remove the rider from the race. Do we have yet another Willy Voet on our hands? Was the car bringing drugs to riders in the Giro? And if so, why Viagra?

Viagra, or sildenafil, is normally used to treat erectile dysfunction, but a 2006 study published by the Journal of Applied Physiology (JoAP) and reported in Science Daily claimed that the drug can significantly enhance performance at altitude in some cyclists. At the moment, the 'little blue pill' is not on World Anti-doping Agency's prohibited substances list.

WADA's spokesman Frédéric Donzé confirmed that Viagra is not banned in competition, but said that the agency is looking into the matter. "WADA is aware of the high altitude study presented in Science Daily. WADA monitors this substance, as it does with many other substances, and is currently funding a research project on the performance-enhancing potential of Sildenafil at various altitudes."

But is Viagra a performance enhancing drug outside of the bedroom? The JoAP study tested ten trained cyclists at sea level and in an altitude chamber simulating 12,700 feet (3870 m) above sea level (or about 1,200 metres above the Giro d'Italia's Cima Coppi). The results were remarkable: while no benefit was gained at sea level, the Viagra group improved its performance over a six kilometre time trial at altitude by 15% over the group given a placebo.

However, the average numbers were deceiving, because the Viagra group was split into "responders" and "non-responders". Four of the subjects had shown a more marked decrease in performance at altitude than the others with placebo, and when they took Viagra, the difference went away.

Another study from a group in Belgium from 2007 tested the drug on "healthy subjects" before and after acclimatization to altitude (5,000m) and saw the performance benefit of Viagra vanish once the subjects were adapted to the low oxygen environment.

The impact of altitude on exercise capacity varies widely from person to person, depending on physiology and acclimatization. Some adapt quickly at high altitude, while others can have severe reactions such as mountain sickness or pulmonary edema - which typically show up above 2,400m.

Whether or not the drug can give a benefit to riders at altitudes below this level remains to be seen. With Monday's mountain time trial from San Vigilio di Marebbe to Plan de Corones heading from 1,200 up to 2,273 metres above sea level, will we see riders popping Viagra to get up for the race? If they do - and if the drug is not banned by WADA, and only the riders who have the unfortunate physiology to have their blood vessels seize up in hypoxic conditions can get a benefit - is it doping?

Bennati Takes A Close Win At The Giro

A photo-finish was required to separate Bennati, whose stage win was his third on the Giro, and High Road’s Mark Cavendish, who shot through to the finishing line.

Third place was taken by Australian Robbie McEwen who shadowed Bennati without being able to overtake him.

Bennati came out in front at the last corner and sprint the final 200 meters for his third stage win after those in Milazzo (Stage 2) and San Vincenzo (Stage 9).

Spaniard Dionisio Galparsoro, who stands well off the pace in the overall standings, led a long sole breakaway from the start, building up a 14-minute advance on the peloton. But he was reeled back in with 10km to go.

Friday's 13th stage sees the riders tackle a 177km run between Modena and Cittadella, another potential sprinters’ stage before the Giro heads to the mountains on Saturday.

1. Daniele Bennati (I), Liquigas, 169km in 4:05:29
2. Mark Cavendish (GB), High Road
3. Robbie McEwen (Aus), Silence-Lotto
4. Koldo Fernandez (Sp), Euskaltel-Euskadi
5. Paolo Bettini (I), Quick Step, all s.t.

Overall, after Stage 12
1. Giovanni Visconti (ITA), Quick Step in 53:05:46
2. Gabriele Bosisio (ITA), Team L.P.R., at 5:50
3. Alberto Contador (ESP), Astana, at 6:59
4. Marzio Bruseghin (ITA), Lampre, at 7:52
5. Andreas Kloden (GER), Astana, at 7:54
6. Vincenzo Nibali (ITA), Liquigas, at 8:04
7. Paolo Savoldelli (ITA), Team L.P.R., at 8:09
8. Riccardo Ricco' (ITA), Saunier Duval, at 8:32
9. Danilo Di Luca (ITA), Team L.P.R., at 8:33
10. Erik Larsson Gustav (SWE), CSC, s.t.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Fire Still Burns For Spencer Smith

I started doing triathlons when I was 16. Now, 18 years on and at the ripe old age of 34, I still cannot leave it alone.

Believe me, I've thought about it, take last year for example, I was sure I was finished with racing, my mindset was that I was going to train just to keep fit. However, the competitive mind takes over. Local races then led to a 70.3 race… Already before that 70.3 race, I was thinking about how much I really wanted to race the World Championships in Clearwater. I live right there and how many times can you compete to be World Champion in your home town…Okay, the World's did not go to plan, but it did teach me one thing… I still have that competitive fire burning inside me, which is going to be harder to put out than I thought!!! And to be honest with you, why should I? Mark Allen won Hawaii well into his mid to late 30's and won it well.

Racing is like a drug. You do not really want to put yourself in the "Hurt Box" but there is no other feeling like it. Even when you don't get the result you are looking for, you turn the negative into a positive by telling yourself…"Right, that wasn't me out there…I know I can do better than that next time"…and the cycle continues.

That brings me to '08. I have been in Tucson, my home away from home for about 4 weeks and at this time of year, it's a hard place to beat weather-wise for training. No epic camps for me, I take the more softly, softly approach. I have been creeping really. Just doing the miles, while enjoying the sun on my back. However, I know that will soon end and I will have to start with more than just miles and time to get up to speed. I must admit though, the tan is coming along nicely.

Until then Onwards and Upwards….


Manchester United wins Champions League final on penalty shootout

John Terry ran up to the ball, with Chelsea needing only a successful penalty kick to win its first European Champions League title. The Blues captain slipped on the wet turf of Luzhniki Stadium and his shot glanced off a post Terry fell to the ground and bent over, his head between his knees, and Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin Van der Sar raised his arms in triumph. A few moments later, Van der Sar was celebrating again, batting away Frenchman Nicolas Anelka's drive to give United its third European title.

"If it wasn't for the slip by John Terry, it would have been all over," Van der Sar said after Manchester United beat Chelsea 6-5 in a rain-soaked penalty shootout Wednesday following a 1-1 tie. "It's our luck that he slipped."

This championship, following titles in 1968 and 1999, came in the 50th anniversary year of the plane crash that killed eight United players in Munich, Germany. Fourteen penalty kicks were needed to decide the first final between two English teams.
"I think it is fate," said the Red Devils' Ryan Giggs, who made his club-record 759th appearance to break the record he shared with Bobby Charlton -- one of the plane crash survivors.

In a testy match that saw eight yellow cards, the ejection of Chelsea's Didier Drogba and a broken nose for United's Paul Scholes, Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 42nd goal of the season with a header in the 26th minute off a Wes Brown pass.
Chelsea tied it in the 45th when Michael Essien's shot hit defenders Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, and the ball dropped to an unmarked Frank Lampard, who scored from 12 yards. He pointed both hands skyward in honor of his mother, who died April 24.

Ronaldo, considered by many Europe's top player this season, made the first key miss in the shootout when he slowed his approach and was stopped by goalkeeper Petr Cech on United's third kick. "When we missed the penalty kick, we thought we were in trouble," said United's Alex Ferguson, who led the club to its 22nd title overall since he became manager in September 1986.

Terry stepped up with the score 4-4 and Van der Sar dived right. The shot went left but hit the post.

"John is Mr. Chelsea. He's Chelsea through and through," Lampard said. "He wants this more than anyone."
Anderson and Giggs then converted for United around Salomon Kalou's score for Chelsea. That left it up to Anelka and -- sacre bleu! -- Van der Sar correctly dived to his right. At just past 1:30 a.m., the save set off another celebration for the Red Devils, who 10 days earlier won their second straight English Premier League title by beating out Chelsea on the final day of the season.

While his teammates ran to congratulate Van der Sar in front of the United fans behind the goal, Ronaldo lay face down in the center circle. Eventually he got up to join in the celebrations. "That's the first penalty shootout I've ever won," Ferguson said. "I lost three with Aberdeen and three with United, so it's seventh-time lucky." Terry was in tears at the end and was hugged and consoled by coach Avram Grant, who appeared to throw his runners-up medal toward Chelsea fans. "We hit the bar, we hit a post, we were the stronger team for sure," Lampard said.

Carlos Tevez, Michael Carrick, Owen Hargreaves and Nani scored the other kicks for the Red Devils. Michael Ballack, Juliano Belletti, Lampard, Ashley Cole converted for Chelsea.Manchester United won its first European title since it was purchased three years ago by Malcolm Glazer, whose Tampa Bay Buccaneers won the 2003 Super Bowl.

Chelsea, which has become a European power under high-spending Russian owner Roman Abramovich, finished with 10 men after Drogba was ejected in the 116th minute for petulantly tapping Vidic in the face with his hand. Lampard hit the crossbar in the fourth minute of injury time with a left-footed shot from 15 yards. Giggs nearly broke the tie in the 100th but Terry deflected the shot with his head. "I feel very proud for lads," Ronaldo said. "This is everything for me. It's a magnificent season for me."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Kid Contador Positions Himself For A Podium Run At His First Giro d’Italia

Lampre’s Marzio Bruseghin won the tenth stage of the Giro d’Italia on Tuesday, blasting through a 39.4km individual time trial route from Pesaro to Urbino.

The 33-year-old edged out Tour de France champion Alberto Contador (Astana) to take the stage win, while Giovanni Visconti, of Quick Step, retained the overall lead.

Contador, who is suffering from a minor fracture of his elbow, finished eight seconds slower than Bruseghin, which was better than his Astana teammate Andreas Klöden who was third, 20 seconds adrift.

The specialist climbers managed to avoid too much damage in terms of losing time as Italian Gilberto Simoni lost less than a minute and his compatriot and already two-time stage winner Riccardo Ricco less than two minutes, even, though he fell during the stage.

Defending Giro champion Danilo Di Luca is over two minutes behind Contador, who is looking to the Giro as some form of consolation for not being able to defend his Tour de France title.

For Bruseghin it was his second ever stage win in the race, a year after winning another time-trial at the Giro.

Wednesday's 11th stage is a 199km ride from Urbania to Cesena with several climbs on roads that the late Marco Pantani used for training.

Today's top ten
1. Marzio Bruseghin (I), Lampre, 56:41
2. Alberto Contador (Sp), Astana, 56:49
3. Andreas Kloden (G), Astana, 57:01
4. Marco Pinotti (I), High Road, 57:17
5. Paolo Savoldelli (I), LPR, 57:25
6. Denis Menchov (Rus), Rabobank, 57:27
7. Vincenzo Nibali (I), Liquigas, 57:35
8. Gustav Erik Larsson (S), CSC, 57:40
9. Levi Leipheimer (USA), Astana, 57:42
10. Gilberto Simoni (I), Serramenti PVC, 57:43

1. Giovanni Visconti (I) Quick Step, 43:12:02
2. Matthias Russ (G), Gerolsteiner at 3:31
3. Gabriele Bosisio (I), LPR, at 5:50
4. Alberto Contador (Sp), Astana, at 6:59
7. Marzio Bruseghin (I), Lampre, at 7:52
6. Andreas Klöden (G), Astana, at 7:54
7. Vincenzo Nibali (I), Liquigas, at 8:04
8. Paolo Savoldelli (I), LPR, at 8:09
9. Riccardo Ricco (I), Saunier Duval, at 8:32
10. Danilo Di Luca (I), LPR, at 8:33

Monday, May 19, 2008

Alberto Contador Has Fractured Elbow

Alberto Contador’s visit to the radiologist today revealed a fissure in the radius head of his left elbow. The fracture, without dislocation, stems from his Stage 8 crash from Rivisondoli to Tivoli.

Though Contador was able to complete the stage and yesterday’s Stage 9, the bruising and discomfort prompted a formal examination on the Giro d’Italia’s first rest day. The x-rays showed that the fracture is stable and the 2007 Tour de France Champion has been cleared to ride tomorrow’s time-trial.

“As all riders know, winning a Grand Tour takes some hard work, luck and health. Unfortunately, having a small fracture does not make the journey to Milan any easier, but I’m motivated and will try to fight through the pain,” said Contador after his afternoon training ride.

“I do not intend to leave the race”, commented Alberto Contador at his return to the team hotel.

“During my training ride of today, I felt my elbow, but I felt as well that I could do the normal or desired efforts. So, why should I leave the race then? Moreover, this race is one of the big cycling monuments. I am a hard one, I stay. The last days my legs felt better and better. The longer I was in the Giro, the better I felt. “

An extra problem can be that, due to the position of the injury, the aerodynamic position on the time trial bike cannot be fully obtained.

“That is a problem for tomorrow”, continues Alberto Contador. “I hope I still make a good time trial. The doctors tell me that it is a small fracture. With a bit luck, I can recover a bit during the “easier” stages of Wednesday to Friday.”

Sports Director Sean Yates recognized that the first week of the Giro was quite a challenge for his Team.

“After a week of crashes and Grand Tour style racing, it’s good to have this rest day. We lost Steve Morabito the other day [dislocated shoulder], the Goose [Vladimir Gusev] was banged up earlier in the week and now Alberto has a small fracture.
It’s certainly not ideal for any team vying for the Maglia Rosa, but we’ll reexamine the injuries after each stage and hopefully make it to Milan with the remaining eight riders.”

Strong Ride Powers Lieto

Two-thirds of the way through yesterday's Silver Columbia Triathlon at Centennial Park in Ellicott City, Chris Lieto found himself in familiar territory. Having made up considerable ground during the bicycle portion of the race, Lieto now had a different, albeit more desirable, problem to contend with.

"When you're in the lead, you don't know what's going on behind you," said Lieto, who was in first place going into the final leg based on his outstanding performance on the bike. "You're not running scared, but you don't get any input, either."

Fortunately for Lieto, he didn't need much input, because in the end the 36-year-old had enough output to not only capture the overall title but also break the course record. His time of 1 hour, 51 minutes, 13 seconds broke the mark of 1:51:46 set by U.S. Olympic qualifier Matt Reed in 2006. Reed did not participate in this year's event.

"I didn't know I was on a record pace until I came down the stretch and saw the clock," said Lieto, of Danville, Calif., who won for the second time this season after a victory in Miami in April. "At that point, I made sure I gave a pretty good effort at the end."

With race conditions described by several contestants as nearly perfect, the event consisted of a 1.5-kilometer swim, a 41-kilometer bike ride and a 10-kilometer run. It featured 24 professional competitors as well as more than 2,000 amateurs. Race organizers estimated the crowd to be about 7,500.

The outcome was decided on the bicycle course.

Lieto, considered one of the strongest cyclists in the sport, was not among the leaders after the swim portion. Neither was 2007 Ironman world champion Chris McCormack, who began the race as the odds-on favorite to win. While Lieto was busy catching and eventually passing those in front of him during the hilly parts of the bike course, McCormack and two other riders lost valuable time after some confusion with a race coordinator led them to veer off course. McCormack would recover and finish third with a time of 1:57:22 but afterward was clearly thinking about what could have been.

"It's disappointing," said McCormack, Triathlete magazine's 2007 Athlete of the Year. "I really wanted to win, and I was definitely in a position to do that but ... these things happen."

McCormack's troubles opened the door for 18-year-old Andrew Yoder to finish in second place at 1:54:31, improving his time from last year - a junior record - by more than five minutes. Since he turned professional midseason last year, his time does not qualify for the junior level. Still, the person some were calling the future of the sport was thrilled not only with his improvement over the past year but also to be sandwiched between two of the sport's elite.

"I hung with Chris Lieto and finished in front of Chris McCormack. ... It was awesome."

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Giro Stage 8: Hitting the Deck

By - Graham Watson

There's nothing like a close call to sharpen a cyclist's concentration, and Alberto Contador had his today – hopefully with no signs of permanent injury.

The Spaniard was having a harmless chat with a mate from Saunier Duval when he hit the deck on a sharp corner, landing on the floor with three others. This was 20-minutes before Steve Morabito called it quits at the feed-zone - he too had fallen today, damaging the same shoulder injured in a fall on stage two last weekend.

If this is all Team Astana's bad luck out of the way in one day, then the rest of the Giro should be a piece of cake. Of course, it won't be - how many hundreds of bends and corners do the riders have to deal with each and every day? Any one of which could bring them crashing down.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Amputee runner wins right to try for Olympic spot

Double-amputee sprinter Oscar Pistorius won his appeal Friday and can compete for a place in the Beijing Olympics.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that the 21-year-old South African is eligible to race against able-bodied athletes, overturning a ban imposed by the International Association of Athletics Federations.

CAS said the unanimous ruling goes into effect immediately.

Pistorius still must reach a qualifying time to run in the individual 400 meters at the Aug. 8-24 Beijing Games. However, he can be picked for the South African relay squad without qualifying.

Pistorius appealed to CAS, world sport's highest tribunal, to overturn a Jan. 14 ruling by the IAAF that banned him from competing. The IAAF said his carbon fiber blades give him a mechanical advantage.

A two-day hearing was held before a panel of three arbitrators at CAS headquarters last month.
Pistorius holds the 400-meter Paralympic world record of 46.56 seconds, but that time is outside the Olympic qualifying standard of 45.55. His training has been disrupted by the appeal process.

Even if Pistorius fails to get the qualifying time, South African selectors could add the University of Pretoria student to the Olympic 1,600-meter relay squad.

Pistorius would not require a qualifying time and could be taken to Beijing as an alternate. Six runners can be picked for the relay squad. Pistorius also expects to compete in Beijing at the Sept. 6-17 Paralympic Games.

The verdict also clears Pistorius to dedicate himself to competing at the 2012 London Olympics.

The IAAF based its January decision on studies by German professor Gert-Peter Brueggemann, who said the J-shaped "Cheetah" blades were energy efficient.Pistorius' lawyers countered with independent tests conducted by a team led by MIT professor Hugh M. Herr that claimed to show he doesn't gain any advantage over able-bodied runners. CAS said the IAAF failed to prove that Pistorius' running blades give him an advantage.

"The panel was not persuaded that there was sufficient evidence of any metabolic advantage in favor of a double-amputee using the Cheetah Flex-Foot," CAS said. "Furthermore, the CAS panel has considered that the IAAF did not prove that the biomechanical effects of using this particular prosthetic device gives Oscar Pistorius an advantage over other athletes not using the device."

Pistorius was born without fibulas -- the long, thin outer bone between the knee and ankle -- and was 11 months old when his legs were amputated below the knee.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Smart Fuel: Almonds

We’ve known for quite some time that a peanut isn’t really a nut (it’s a legume), but turns out almonds have long been sneaking in to the mixed nuts too! In fact, almonds are nothing more than a seed for an almond tree, a medium sized tree that produces flowers and almond fruit.

But that’s not where the trickery ends: Although similar in that they have an oval shape, off-white flesh, thin, brown-hued skin, there are in fact two kinds of almonds: Sweet, which are the ones we eat, and bitter, which are used to make almond oil or Amaretto but are otherwise inedible. For our purposes today, we’re only going to be talking about the raw, edible kind.

Perhaps one of the earliest convenience foods, the almond has gotten honorable mentions in many historical texts, including the Bible, and were previously referred to as the “Greek nut” in reference to what was thought to be the nut’s – uh, seed’s – birthplace. Today, almonds are cultivated in many of the countries that border the Mediterranean Sea including Spain, Italy, Portugal and Morocco, as well as in California.

But why should you be eating them? Almonds are a good source of supplementary protein, providing 7.62 grams of protein per quarter cup serving, compared to just 5.5 grams for the average egg. In addition, they are an excellent source of manganese, potassium, copper and vitamin E and also provide a hefty dose of heart healthy monounsaturated fats. In fact, ounce for ounce, you could say that almonds are a real health nut!

In terms of specific health benefits, it has been suggested by several large studies that almonds can reduce cardiovascular risk. In an analysis of four large prospective studies on the health benefits of almonds, researchers determined that eating nuts at least 4 times a week reduced coronary heart disease risk by as much as 37%. In addition, each additional serving of nuts was associated with an estimated 8.3% reduction in coronary heart disease risk. Research suggests that the almond’s protective heart benefits stem from its combination of powerful antioxidant flavonoids, the majority of which are concentrated in the almond’s skin.

Studies also suggest that regular almond consumption can reduce the risk of developing gall stones and may even help stave off weight gain.

So now we have you hooked, its time to stock up! Almonds are available at just about every grocery store and convenience store – heck, you can even find them in gas stations – either still in their shell or with the shell removed. Shelled almonds are available whole, sliced or slivered, with or without skin. For maximum health benefits, opt for those that have the skin intact (do it for the antioxidants!) If purchasing almonds in the shell, look for those that are intact with no splits, tears, dents or other signs of trauma. In terms of shelled almonds, those that are hermetically sealed will last the longest, but be sure to check the ingredients list – even if an almond is listed as dry roasted, it can sometimes contain added sugar and preservatives.

In terms of uses, almonds are perhaps one of the more versatile nuts. For breakfast, they can be used to add crunch and flavor to plain yogurt or can be ground up to add extra protein to a protein shake. In addition, they are delicious when sprinkled over cooked leafy green vegetables, added to stir-frys, or used to texturize a simple chicken salad. Also, consider using finely ground almonds as almond flour. It can be used in some recipes in place of traditional wheat flour.

Giro ’08 St 6: Visconti’s Big Break!

Aaah, we haven’t had one of these for a while! A Grand Tour peloton turns a blind eye as a monster escape screams up the road and rewrites the general classification. Somewhere, Claudio Chiapucci is smiling ….. as a younger Italian hero lives the dream.

Swapping the tricolore of national champion for the fabled maglia rosa tonight is 25-year old Giovanni Visconti, hand-picked for QuickStep by none other than ‘Il Grillo’ himself. Paolo Bettini had been watching the youngster from his early days on Domina Vacanze and personally saw to it that he became a team-mate.

And now Visconti’s racing future is secure as he pulls on one of the sport’s most beautiful jerseys. Maybe he was inspired by the race start in his Sicilian homeland, but the youngster was smart enough to keep tabs on Matthias Russ of Gerolsteiner, who was lying closest to him overall. By picking up the bonus sprint with 90kms to go, and a handful of seconds advantage over the finish line, he did enough to edge into the pink jersey.

And he gets the narcissistic pleasure of reading about himself all over the Italian sports pages in the start village tomorrow!

Visconti was one of a dozen in a breakaway group, joined by the USA’s Jason McCartney (CSC), Big Magnus Backstedt of Slipstream, Astana’s Maxim Iglinsky, Alan Perez of Euskaltel, Daniele Nardello from Simoni’s team (to save on the typing!) ….. and, for a while at least, the unfortunate Rene Mandri. Ag2r’s Estonian crashed out of the action and out of the race with an unscheduled visit to the floor.

Today’s racing situation was no doubt helped by the organisers wisely deciding to slice off the 34-km finishing circuit before a pissed-off peloton sliced something off the organisers. After some tortuous transfers already, the Giro bosses recognised the “… stresses and unease …” (classic PR speak) of the riders and gave them a break.

So instead of a stage the length of a Classic race, we had a bloody long and undulating stage anyway, but hopefully an extra hour’s recovery tonight. And we also have to eliminate ‘Circuito del Gargano’ from the stage title!

In the main field, Liquigas were quite happy to let the lead go to another team, and with no-one of major concern in the break, it was allowed to stretch out to 16 minutes. They were hammering it all the way, too, with the first three hours being particularly balls-out – 47.4 km/h!

55 kms from home and Visconti, Nardello and CSF Navigare’s Matteo Priamo tried to escape from their buddies but were quickly back in the fold. Priamo had ants in his pants because he was next to try something serious and it stuck.

10 kms from the line, and he jumped again. When Visconti looked over for some help, Alan Perez roared up to Priamo and they were ……… goooone. McCartney and then Backstedt did all they could to haul things together, but the nasty final gradient hampered the chase.

Priamo nailed Perez to the floor in the sprint – a bit slo-mo after 230kms – and scored the best win of his career. The shattered breakaway arrived like the survivors of some long walk to freedom, all over the road. The peloton trundled in well over 11 minutes later.

Stage 6 Result, Potenza - Peschici (Circuito del Gargano), 231.6km

1 Matteo Priamo (Ita) CSF Group Navigare 5hrs 24’ 49”
2 Alan Pérez (Spa) Euskaltel + 8”
3 Nikolai Trusov (Rus) Tinkoff + 27”
4 Paul Martens (Ger) Rabobank + 31”
5 Maxim Iglinsky (Kaz) Astana + 32”
6 Daniele Nardello (Ita) Diquigiovanni + 36”
7 Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Lampre + 40”
8 Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Quick Step same time
9 Magnus Backstedt (Swe) Slipstream + 43”
10 Matthias Russ (Ger) Gerolsteiner + 47”

Overall GC After Stage 6

1 Giovanni Visconti (Ita) Quick Step 27hrs 14’ 04”
2 Matthias Russ (Ger) Gerolsteiner same time
3 Daniele Nardello (Ita) Diquigiovanni + 1’ 22”
4 Alan Pérez (Spa) Euskaltel + 4’42”
5 Francesco Gavazzi (Ita) Lampre + 5’ 34
6 Matteo Priamo (Ita) CSF Group Navigare + 9’ 07”
7 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas + 9’ 08”
8 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) LPR + 9’ 15”
9 Morris Possoni (Ita) High Road + 9’ 16”
10 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas + same time

Check in at for daily updates on the Giro

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Peloton Growing Peevish Over Transfers

Riders are at their wits’ end with the seemingly endless string of transfers, delays and hassles associated with the opening days of the 91st Giro d’Italia.

In the first three stages of racing on Sicily, there were no less than 500km of transfers, nearly as much as the peloton has raced.

Tensions came to a head following the botched ferry transfer across the Straits of Messina from Sicily to Italy on Monday evening, when what should have been a 20-minute ferry ride turned into a four-hour odyssey.

“At the Tour, they shut down the roads when the riders need to make a long transfer,” Tour de France champ Alberto Contador told MARCA. “We’ve been stuck in traffic here for hours. We didn’t get to our hotels until 11 p.m. and hardly had time to eat and get a massage.”

Fed-up riders nearly protested ahead of the start of Tuesday’s fourth stage, but decided to bite the bullet and race. But they took their time about getting down to business, and the opening two hours of racing were at a snail’s pace of 37kph.

Slipstream-Chipotle has had its fair share of hassles associated with the chaos that is the Giro.

Following its victory in the team time trial Saturday, the team bus got lost in the maze of streets in Palermo. After nearly two hours of combating traffic, someone realized that their prizes included a Garmin GPS device. David Millar opened up the package and punched in the team’s hotel and they were home in no time.

The start of stage three from Catania to Milazzo was delayed for 15 minutes because the team bus was snarled in traffic and couldn’t arrive to the sign in.

Riders spoke again ahead of Wednesday’s stage and demanded that Thursday’s long stage be shortened.

“We spoke with Robbie (McEwen) and (Danilo) Di Luca before the stage and everyone agreed that we demand that the longest stage be shortened,” said race leader Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas). “The stage will still be the longest at 230km instead of 265km.”

The complaints didn’t fall on deaf ears. Race organizers agreed to shorten Thursday’s stage, the Giro’s longest, by 33km to appease the irritable peloton. The 265km stage from Potenza to Peschici will be reduced to 231.6km by eliminating a final loop and will conclude on the first passage at the line. It will still be the longest stage of this year’s Giro.

But there’s still more suffering on tap, and not just on the bike. The peloton faces three more long transfers over the next four stages going into the first rest day Monday.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Rock Racing's Sevilla Second While Botero Bows Out

El Socorro, Colombia — While Rock Racing’s Oscar Sevilla narrowly missed out on a victory on Stage 2 Monday at the Vuelta a Colombia, his teammate, Santiago Botero, retired from the race, citing fatigue and a desire to do well at the Olympics.

Botero had claimed victory in Saturday’s prologue time trial, leading Rock Racing to a 1-2-3-4 sweep. But the race’s defending champion is looking ahead to an even bigger goal – success in the Olympic Games in Beijing later this year.

“Santiago has been training super hard since November of last year to win the Tour of California – a race he unfortunately was not even allowed to start,” Rock Racing Team Director Mariano Friedrick said. “Fortunately, he had enough fuel in his tank to win Redlands and do a very good job at the Tour de Georgia. Ultimately, he knew he didn't have the form to win this Vuelta and mentally he needs a rest.”

While Botero withdrew at the 37-mile mark (60 km), Monday’s stage was well-suited to an on-form Sevilla, who finished third in the prologue. With temperatures soaring over the century mark and high humidity, the peloton was reduced to fewer than 40 riders by the time the final 25-mile (40 km) climb began. Rock Racing was well-represented with both Sevilla and Victor Hugo Peña – who finished second in the prologue.

“Oscar looked relaxed and composed at all times, and under no circumstances was he in trouble,” Friedrick said.

Sevilla bided his time on the final ascent, covering several attacks in the closing kilometers before making a go of it on his won with 300 meters left, only to be passed by Jhon Freddy García (UNE) just before the finish line.

The result did not significantly change the overall standings, though, and Sevilla remains in sixth place, 42 seconds behind overall leader Carlos Ospina (GW-Shimano-EPM).

Tuesday’s Stage 3 departs from Piedecuesta and finishes 103 miles later (136.4 km) after passing over three categorized climbs, including a Category 1 ascent.

91st Giro - Pizzo Calabro & Cantazaro

General Classification after stage 4
1 Franco Pellizotti (Ita) Liquigas 16.41.26
2 Christian Vande Velde (USA) Slipstream 0.01
3 Danilo Di Luca (Ita) LPR Brakes 0.07
4 Morris Possoni (Ita) Team High Road 0.08
5 Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) Liquigas
6 Nicki Sørensen (Den) Team CSC 0.17
7 Kanstantsin Siutsou (Blr) Team High Road 0.18
8 Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) LPR Brakes 0.19
9 Andrea Noè (Ita) Liquigas 0.22
10 Daniele Bennati (Ita) Liquigas 0.24

Team Astana on GC
14 Andreas Klöden (Ger) 0.28
17 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa) 0.30
23 Levi Leipheimer (USA) 0.40
29 Antonio Colom Mas (Spa) 0.51
30 Andrey Mizurov (Kaz)
32 Vladimir Gusev (Rus) 0.54
108 Assan Bazayev (Kaz) 8.15
116 Maxim Iglinsky (Kaz) 11.16
179 Steve Morabito (Swi) 25.17

From R to L: Italians Giovanni Visconti (Quick step/BEL), Paolo Bettini (QUick step/BEL) and Danilo DI Luca (LPR Brakes/IRL) pedal during the fourth stage of 91st Giro between Pizzo Calabro and Cantazaro on May 13, 2008. Great Britain's rider Mark Cavendish (High road/GER) won the stage and Italian Franco Pellizotti (Liquigaz/ITA) remains first of the overall rank and keeps the pink jersey.

Fatigue and Riding Styles

by Dr. Stephen Cheung, Ph.D.

Every spring it happens. After a winter of mostly solo rides either commuting or indoors on the trainer doing intervals, the first few group rides of the year are just brutal reawakenings to the realities of the highly variable nature or racing. What are the neuromuscular differences, if any, between hard constant efforts and group races?

Solo or Group?
With focused workouts, most coaches advocate doing the real quality work during solo rides to maximize the odds of staying on track with the planned program. That avoids the sometimes chaotic nature of group rides, with different riders wanting to do different routes or efforts and many devolving into race-like hammerfests. I agree with that in general, but the right kind of group ride is also essential to replicate race intensities. And honestly, one of the big allures of road riding is the effortless feel of a great group ride.

Even having moved to the cycling hotbed of the Niagara region, home of Canadian legend Steve Bauer, the majority of my riding time is still solo. I figure that, even on a good week during summer, solo riding still constitutes at least 60% of my cycling time, with my main group rides being the Tuesday night club races and the Sunday hammerfests. This is infinitely better than in Halifax, where my schedule, number of cyclists, and roads meant that it was difficult to schedule any group rides at all, and even my group rides might consist of one or two others.

Rites of Spring
So after a winter spent building base endurance via commuting, along with long efforts at moderate intensities to build lactate threshold, the first few group rides and races of the year always comes as a severe shock to the system. No matter how many solo hard efforts you do and how creative you get, it’s still nearly impossible to really replicate the intensity of racing. The variable nature of the ride, along with the intense and unpredictable change of pace in a fast attacking group, always leaves me incredibly fatigued. That’s why racers talk about needing to race to get into race shape.

Same idea with triathletes. We as roadies love having them on group rides, because they love nothing better than going at a steady hard pace no matter what the terrain or group dictates. And roadies, especially in the final kilometers before a sprint for a town sign, love nothing better than getting a great leadout by tucking in behind them.

So we know anecdotally that steady-state and variable riding feels differently, but are there actual physiological and muscular differences between the two styles of riding?

Theurel and Lepers
In a recent 2008 issue of the excellent European Journal of Applied Physiology, a French research group set out to determine whether constant paced versus variable cycling elicited different effects on the muscular system. Such a study has implications on planning and monitoring of training, along with planning recovery from hard efforts.

The design of the study was simple and clean, utilizing the same muscle tests that I have employed in a number of studies on the effects of heat stress on muscle function:

• Cyclists were highly experienced and fit. Ten experienced cyclists (10 years in the sport on average) riding about 11-12h/week on average and with an average maximal aerobic power of 395 W.

• Two cycling trials of 33 min were performed, and the muscle tests were done both before and immediately after the cycling trials. Cadence was freely chosen.

• In the constant effort test, subjects rode at a constant 70% MAP wattage or 277 W. No easy effort!

• In the variable trial, subjects rode at 3:20 min segments, with each segment involving intervals of 200, 150, or 100% MAP for 10, 15, and 20 s, respectively, with the remainder being recovery bouts at 50% MAP. Overall average power for the 33 min was also 70% MAP.

• The muscle test was a maximal voluntary contraction (MVC) of the knee. It was isometric, meaning that the subjects tried to straighten their knee from a 90 degree angle with the leg strapped in place, such that the muscles contracted but the leg did not move. The force of this contraction was measured.

• In the middle of this MVC, the knee extensor muscles were directly stimulated with an electrical signal, producing a further increase in muscle force. This is called an “interpolated twitch” technique, and can give a good measure of what percentage of the total “ceiling” capacity of the muscle you were able to voluntarily contract, and scientists call this your “voluntary activation” (VA). If you were tired, in general your VA would decrease.

Variable Fatigue - The primary finding of the study were:

• Heart rate was slightly but significantly higher with the variable (162 beats per minute) than the constant (157 bpm) trial.

• In keeping with the long-term reports on the difference between road racing and time trialing, freely-chosen cadence was lower for the constant effort (90 rpm) than the variable trial (99 rpm).

• Also in keeping with most riders’ perceptions, the variable trial felt harder, with ratings of perceived exertion being higher in the final third of the trial compared to constant effort.

• Lactate values were much higher with the variable (11 mmol) than constant (6 mmol).

So it is pretty clear that the physical strain and also the perceived intensity of the exercise was much higher with the variable trial. What did the muscle function data look like? In short, the same pattern of greater strain was seen with the variable trial:

• Both types of exercise caused muscle fatigue, with maximal force decreasing in both conditions. However, the degree of impairment was much greater with the variable (26%) than constant (16%) trial.

• Same pattern was seen for the voluntary activation. Both exercise trials decreased activation levels from the baseline of 98%, with a greater decrease in the variable (96%) than in the constant (97%) trial.

Rubber on the Road
A study such as this is an excellent opportunity to remind ourselves of the unique nature of different disciplines within cycling. Time trialing or long intervals ARE different from short and hard accelerations. In the same vein, training for criteriums, which are what the variable condition in this study most closely replicates, can cause quite different stresses on the body and physiological adaptation than training for long and hilly road races.

As mentioned at the start of this article, the other important consideration is the proper quantification of training to ensure you are monitoring your efforts and adequately on the lookout for overtraining. For those of you recording power, it’s not enough to simply track average power for a ride, just like it isn’t enough to track average heart rate or speed. And using software like CyclingPeaks WKO+, it’s also not enough to track “normalized power” or Training Stress Score, because both parameters seek to turn the complexity of a variable ride into a form of constant ride.

The key additional parameter to keep an eye on in WKO+ is the “Intensity Factor” or IF score, which is a measure of how variable the ride power profile is. The higher the IF, the greater the variability in power. So a steady endurance ride or even a hard series of long intervals or a time trial would have fairly low IF values, whereas a criterium would have very high IF. Combining this with a normalized power parameter would give the best indication of the true intensity and training load from a workout or training cycle.