Thursday, June 30, 2011

Alberto Contador faces doping question at Tour de France press conference

Alberto Contador was forced on the defensive during his pre-race Tour de France press conference after being quizzed about his still-undecided doping case from the 2010 Tour de France and his stance against doping.

In a packed room at the media centre in Le Herbiers, Sunday Times journalist and former professional Paul Kimmage lead the string of questions. He suggested that every team Contador has ever raced with has been implicated or associated with doping. He suggested Contador would be racing under a cloud at this year’s Tour de France.

Contador said Kimmage was mis-informed.

“My tolerance against doping is 100 percent but everyone can believe what they want,” he said bluntly.

He dismissed the idea that he could win the Tour de France and then be suspended and so lose his victory just a few weeks later.

“I’m able to concentrate. I’ve done it for several years. I’ve done lots of press conferences and stayed focused,” Contador said.

“There always a lot of pressure at the Tour, you can see that by the number of journalists here. The outside pressure is greater than the inside pressure. I’m able to stay focused and know that my objective is to enjoy riding my bike.

“The idea that I could lose the Tour seems ridiculous. I’ve undergone a lot of (anti-doping) controls and during my career because I’ve won a lot. It’s ridiculous that I could lose the Tour. I’m confident in the outcome of my case.”

Riis defends his team leader

Bjarne Riis tried to defend Contador, insisting that people should question the drawn out procedure that has resulted in him starting the 2011 Tour de France, while still not knowing if he will be banned for testing positive during the 2010 race.

“I beg you all to understand. If you don’t agree that Alberto is riding, you should question the system and not so much us or him,” Riis said.

“I was pretty sure there would be lot of questions about Alberto riding the Tour de France. We’ve had questions the whole year and will come again and again. The answer is the same as always: everybody would love to have had a solution a while ago, before the Tour, but that hasn’t happened. Unfortunately that’s the way it is. That’s the rules we have to respect, we can’t do anything about it.

"The system works like that. We have to respect the system as it is. Alberto was cleared by the system, and has all his rights to ride. As long as he is cleared we will continue to support him and that’s also the reason why he is starting in this Tour. I don’t see why he should be punished or suspended when cleared. I don’t think it’s fair so that’s also why he is here. “

Not a perfect race route

Contador was asked some questions about the Tour's route and admitted he wasn't sure how he'll fare following a hard Giro d'Italia.

“This is the first time I’ve done both races together. It’s not like riding the Giro and the Vuelta in 2008,” he said.

“Of course it creates doubts in your mind and the Tour is very unforgiving and you do not know how your body will respond. It was a very hard Giro this year. It’s difficult to say how I’ll perform over three weeks.

“I think it’ll all depend on how the race goes and how my legs are. We’ll see how strong I am in the Pyrenees.”

Contador refuted the idea that this year’s race route was perfect for him. He picked Andy Schleck as his number one rival but not his only one.

“It’s not the best route for me. I’d prefer a 15-30km time trial and then another 30km one. The mountains suit me but in 2007 there were 120km of time trials and that suited me better,” he said. “If I have to name my biggest rival, I’d say Andy Schleck. But there are a lot of other experienced riders who could do well and young riders fighting for victory too.”

Riis tried to be more optimistic than his team leader. “Alberto is ready after doing a hard Giro,” he said.

“He’s seen different stages of the Tour and is ready for this. He’s motivated. Alberto is uncertain of his condition after the Giro but I’m not that scared. I think I know what he can do. If he’s recovered well I think we’ll see him amongst the best.

“The main challenger will be Andy Schleck but there will be other guys that we have to pay attention to. There are seven, eight or nine riders with have a chance to get on the podium.”

Peta Todd: The Big Interview

By: CP

Love seems to be the latest trend in the peloton. Johan Van Summeren proposed to his girlfriend after winning Paris-Roubaix in April, before Liquigas domestique Valerio Agnoli got down on one knee on Italian TV after the sixth stage of the Giro.

It may be a bit too soon for Peta Todd to be seen sporting a big ring, but seven months since she and Mark Cavendish started dating, things seem to be going brilliantly for one of the peloton's most recognisable couples.

In light of recent events in Italy, perhaps the need for solace and companionship is justified and needed more than ever.

We meet just three days after Wouter Weylandt's tragic accident, and I begin by asking her how she would have reacted if it was Cav who crashed badly.

"You can't comprehend it. You can't do anything. You play out a million scenarios in your head. But ultimately, you can't live your life like that," she says bluntly.

"You know it can happen and you have to choose not to think about it."

In case you don't know, Todd is a Page 3 model. From Essex. But old prejudices paint an inaccurate picture. A self-confessed geek, she is not only funny but also undeniably intelligent. Within the space of a few months, she's become extremely knowledgeable about cycling. Before we've even sat down, we're discussing the route of that day's racing in Italy.

Like everyone, Weylandt's death affected her greatly, and we're soon talking about it again. She recalls her exchange with the Manxman on the evening of that fateful day. Yes, she supported him, but they tried not to dwell on things too much.

"It's kind of what wasn't said in our conversation that stands out," she says. "I can't imagine what it would have been like at the race, so I didn't want to put more on his mind than he had already. I just told him to be careful. What more can you say?"

Crash course
Todd knew almost immediately what it was like having to deal with a bruised and battered cyclist, as Cavendish hit the deck on a handful of occasions during January's Tour Down Under.

"I was still learning the sport at the start of the year," she admits, "and although Mark just kept on saying, ‘It happens,' I always wanted to tell him, ‘Well, don't let it!'"

Cav's time competing in Australia was also an indication of how difficult it is for couples to keep their relationships strong.

"It's easier when he's in Europe because the time difference is minimal. But when he was in the States on training camp, and Australia racing, my body clock went out the window.

"Because there's only two occasions during the day you can speak to him - before and after the race - I'd be staying up to 2am just to chat to him."

Despite the late nights and all the time apart, Todd has adopted a positive approach to things, as she adds: "Yes, there's a lot of goodbyes, but then there's also a lot of hellos and you always look forward to seeing each other again."

Grand memories
Having been out to the Classics, she got her first taste of a Grand Tour during the Giro, and it's a memory that will stick with her for a long time.

"I loved the Giro, but it's mental," Todd says, before laughing. "Luckily the staff really looked after me."

"Everyone wants a piece of him when he's there, so we developed a little signal where I'd see a little finger pointing at me through the bus window.

"That was my cue to get on it and give him a hug, but that was also when everyone starts going mad!"

Todd is planning to go and watch the Tour, yet seeing as she describes it as "the Giro times a thousand", she clearly knows exactly how big the race is.

"From people I've spoken to - other riders' wives, and friends, for example - the Tour is even more crazy.

"I'll go over and watch him race but the chances are I won't see him as much and I won't get such good access."

The pair met last year in Los Angeles at an event for Help for Heroes, a charity close to Todd's heart.

She was initially surprised by his accent, expecting him to be American.

Stage presence
"He told me he was a cyclist, but I never really thought about it. Then he went up on the stage and I thought to myself, ‘Who is that?' That's when everyone told me who he was."

Not knowing who each other was, they looked each other up online shortly afterwards.

"It's a strange situation to be in, when you can Google one another," Todd jokes.

"You can find out about anything online - ex-girlfriends, what they've said, when they've lost their temper. I think he got more from the web, in the sense that I'm a Page 3 girl."

While researching for the interview, I did what Cav did and looked her up. Unsurprisingly, there's more than the modelling to be found out about on the internet. She's also mother to a five-year-old boy, Finnbar.

And there's a sponsorship page for her Help for Heroes fundraising efforts, which have already seen her climb Kilimanjaro, run the London Marathon and jump out of a plane. Her next challenge is a 1,000-mile bike ride starting later this year.

Not so fast
Because of her relationship with Cavendish, everyone believes the bike ride will be easy for her. She couldn't disagree more.

"I look terrible on a bike, and they're not really my friend," Todd declares, as she recalls how she fell off during a 300-mile ride for the charity three years back.

"People seem to forget that's it's Mark who rides the bike for a living, and not me!"

Because of Todd's association with the Sun, I ask her about the chances of Cavendish joining Team Sky, therefore making them the News Corporation couple. She laughs.

"I don't think they can put ‘because your girlfriend does Page 3' on a contract. Seriously, though, who knows? There are a lot of teams who would love to sign him."

Her final comment is an understatement. The majority of the WorldTour teams would love to sign Cavendish for 2012, and noticeably, we've returned to that four-letter word, love, once again.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Chris Horner - Pushing 40, and Getting Faster

When you've raced this long, you learn to take advantage of every big opportunity you get. A conversation with the Tour de France–bound Chris Horner.

By bicyclingeditor

THIS WEEK Chris Horner of Team RadioShack heads to Europe to make final preparations before the start of the 2011 Tour de France, which begins Saturday, July 2. caught up with Horner last week at his home in San Diego to talk about his long career, and why at this year's Tour he'll have his best chance ever at stepping onto the podium in Paris. You’ve ridden for many different teams over the nearly 20 years you’ve been racing. In 2008 you signed with Astana, which sort of became RadioShack, and you’ve been there a while. How important has settling down with one team been for you?

Chris Horner: It was just important because of the riders who are here with Astana and later of course with RadioShack, which in my mind is the same team. Some people at home can look at it as completely different teams, but when you see the management that was running Astana and see the management that is running RadioShack, and the riders we took from one team to the next team, it just feels like it’s the same team.

I’ve been comfortable here and I’ve stayed here four years now. It’s nice because they understand who I am. Certainly when I came over to Europe in 1997 with Française des Jeux and I’m asking for a Coca-Cola at the dinner table and everyone’s looking at me like I’m crazy, or the soigneurs and the directors aren’t even allowing you to have a Coke, like, No, no—you can’t have that. And you gotta argue with them that you can. So that’s the difference working with a team that has a lot of Americans, and certainly that’s the difference between being 40 years old and riding good, because at 40 they look at you and they say, He knows what to do. I’m 17 years professional; I’m riding at the top of my game. And so if I say I want a Coke or say I need a Snickers, they just hand it to me, versus when I was 24, 25 on Française des Jeux. I either had to force it from them or maybe sneak it and hide the wrappers under the bed so the directors didn’t see them. [Laughs] Do you ever feel like an outsider?

CH: In racing? Absolutely. You feel like an outsider a lot, because you gotta remember that I am an outsider. I’m an American kid in Europe. And I’m an American kid who grew up in San Diego, though I live in Bend, Oregon—a fabulous place. So when you come from places on the West Coast of the States and you’re going to Europe, it’s a huge change. OK, if I’m coming from the East Coast the difficulty is maybe half the difference. The weather you’re already kind of used to, the way the streets are set up on the East Coast are a lot like they are in Europe. But when you’re on the West Coast where you got these wide streets…. Everywhere you’re riding and driving in Europe, you’re lost. So do you feel like an outsider? Every day. You walk into a grocery store and you can’t figure out where the food is that you want or exactly what you’re buying in that box. I’ve been over there many years and it’s still there. It’s been reduced, the feeling, like versus when I went over there in ’97. You felt like an outsider every second of the day, but now it’s probably like every 20 minutes. [Laughs] What role has sacrifice played in your career?

CH: Sacrifice is another form of natural ability. In this sport you have to have multiple things: the natural ability to go fast and the natural ability to be able to sacrifice, too. You can train yourself to be a better bike rider; you can train yourself to learn to stay at home and sacrifice and not going to the party that night and not having 10 beers and getting drunk and trying to get up in the morning and train.

But there are multiple things you gotta do. I’ve seen a lot of people who have the natural ability physically but they don’t have the ability to sacrifice. I’ve seen a lot of athletes who a have natural physical ability and the natural ability to sacrifice but they don’t have the mental part of the sport, that when they’re really suffering to push through that pain level and go to that next level. Instead, they sit up and they quit, when possibly if they pushed through that pain level for 30 seconds they’d be in that front group.

Natural ability comes in many forms, and physical natural ability is just one of them. Sacrifice is huge; physical ability is huge. Those are the two main things. But there a lot of things you gotta do in this sport, and you’ve got to do all of them good to be the best. What’s your greatest asset as a cyclist?

CH: Knowing my limitations. That is the biggest asset that anyone as an athlete—as a cyclist anyway—needs to know. Limitations are simple. And there’s a wide range. There are limitations on how much food you can eat, how fast you can go on the bike, when to know when to attack, when to know if you should attack right now if you’re just going to blow up 10 meters after you get off the front of the group and come back and then get dropped.

When you know your limitations you can push yourself to the edge of your limitations. But if you know that going to train a thousand miles in one week is just too much, you’re over your limitations. So you need to know, what are your limitations on training, your limitations when you get to the race, your limitations on how many calories you can eat so you don’t get fat, or how many calories you can not eat so you don’t bonk. [Laughs] It goes across the whole spectrum of the sport. Know your limitations, and that will make you a fantastic professional. Over your long career you’ve won all kinds of races: criteriums, time trials, stage races, one-day races, even field sprints. How is that you’ve ridden yourself into the role of a Grand Tour contender?

Chris Horner: It’s a difficult question. Each year you change; your physique changes. So as a professional athlete, you’re always trying to change for the better, you’re always trying to get faster, find news ways to improve. Every year I’ve been trimming a little bit of weight here and there; I’ve been training good, eating good, resting good. So you just keep focusing on what you can do to make yourself better. I’m turning 40 this year and even at 40 you still got goals—hopefully you do, otherwise you retired already. [Laughs] So are you riding better now than you ever have?

CH: I’m riding faster than I ever have; I don’t think the power is better from three, four years ago. But I think the speed is faster because the weight is lower. The power is the same, because you take five pounds, seven pounds, sometimes as much as 10 pounds off—depending on what times of the season you’re comparing—and you’re going to go faster. Who are the influences in your life?

CH: My kids influence me every day. I got three kids, two girls and a boy. They’re fantastic. I always like to tell everyone they are absolutely the first thing I miss when I reach the end of the driveway; the moment I step in the home when I get back they are the first thing that gives me a headache. [Laughs] My girlfriend has a huge influence on my life. Just to be a better person, to be a good parent, a loving dad. I love my girlfriend. Those are the biggest influences.

Have there been other riders who have influenced me? Certainly. Racing with Jani (Brajkovic) has always been a good influence. You see his diet and how it’s working for him and the results he gets. I take little bits and pieces from other guys, too. I’m always paying attention in the race to what people are doing. And when we go to the dinner table I’m paying attention to what people are eating and seeing what’s working for other riders. What has having children taught you?

CH: Having kids has taught me that I love kids. Before I had kids, I didn’t think I wanted kids. And so when I had my first baby, I knew I wanted more kids. It’s also taught me that … well, it stressed me out more the finances and stuff. And especially being a professional athlete, it stresses you out more in terms of if you feel an injury coming or something that might affect your career or might affect your salary, and how you’re going to take care of your kids. When I didn’t have kids, I knew I could just go live in my RV. [Laughs] If you didn’t get paid one month, you stop renting your place, give the house back to the bank, jump in your RV and park it out in the desert and life was good still. But when you have kids that’s not an option. Kids bring an incredible amount of love into your world, and they bring an incredible amount of stress. You always seem to be wearing a smile, so you must be the guy telling jokes at the dinner table or on the team bus.

CH: [Laughs] No! I can’t tell any jokes—I have no jokes. I’m not a jokester; it never comes out. I smile a lot, and maybe people think I’m funny, but I’m not. I’m always happy, but I’m not always funny. Are you more laid-back these days?

CH: Personally, I don’t think so. You have to ask someone else that question. I think I’ve always been pretty laid-back. Actually, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve become grumpier. [Laughs] Certainly if you asked my girlfriend that that’s what she’d say. Do you believe in karma?

CH: Not so much. It’s there a little bit, certainly. I want to believe in it; I always think about it being there. But nah, not so much. Is there any karma in the professional peloton?

CH: You mean if there’s one bad guy and then he crashes in the next corner? No—that’s why I don’t believe in it! Because if karma was really true, we’d see some crashes in the next corner.

Armstrong, Contador, and doping Is cycling a cleaner sport these days?

CH: Yes, for sure. You see the differences…. The fans in the States can see it with all these young kids getting results over in Europe. And you see them, they’re riding so good and so strong. And you can see the speed differences in Europe in the field. So I think it’s a great time, it’s a fabulous time, as a youngster to be a cyclist. What do you think about the ongoing investigation of Lance Armstrong and also Alberto Contador, with the trial for his 2010 Tour positive now pushed back until after this year’s race?

CH: The case against Lance is almost 10 years old. I think it started back in 2000. It’s not much of a case now. Whatever this case does, it’s never going to change what Lance has done for the sport. He’s done amazing stuff. He’s had amazing results in the Tour; he had an amazing result when he won the world championships so young. And he’s done amazing stuff for cancer.

Then you look at the Alberto side. The way I see it—from amongst the riders and from amongst the fans—is that a lot of people don’t know what to think about Alberto, myself included. We don’t know if he took something. Even though he tested positive, we don’t know. Did he actually really take that? Because if you pop on Google, you Google “clenbuterol,” first thing that comes up is farmers feed it to their cows, people eat the cows, people test positive. It’s guaranteed; it’s undeniable. And so a lot of fans say—and this is my biggest problem; I hear this all the time—fans say, the ignorant fans, they say, Professional athletes know everything going into their bodies. They monitor every piece of food that’s going into their body. We have no idea what kind of food we are putting into our bodies! We didn’t grow the cow, we didn’t slaughter the cow, we didn’t prepare the meat, we didn’t even serve the meat. All we did was eat the meat. That’s it. Do we know what’s going into the body in terms of do we take the choice of chicken, steak, or a candy bar or a Snickers? Absolutely. But did I prepare any of that stuff? Never. Do I prepare the bottles during the Tour de France? Never. Do we take water from the side of the road from the spectators? All the time. Do we take a Coke from the spectators? All the time. Can Alberto have taken something on purpose to cheat? Absolutely. Did he? None of us know.

When I look at it—and I’ve had plenty of time to think about this—a lot of people are like, What do you think should happen? Well, first off, I don’t think he should have won the Tour de France for that year (2010). Because I believe if you did test positive for a performance-enhancing substance like clenbuterol, then you’re out of the race. But I don’t know at this point in time if I believe that you should be suspended. Certainly, you need to leave the race; you need to have that result taken away. But I don’t know if you need to be suspended. Because I can’t control what kind of meat I have.

So when I look at what Alberto’s doing for the sport, in some way I think what is going on with Alberto right now is a positive thing, because if it would’ve been me, then I wouldn’t have fought the system. I would have just taken the positive and retired, and that would have been the end of my career. And it would have been a sad way to end it. But because it’s Alberto, he has the money to fight it. He has the money to possibly change the way they do controls in the future, where USADA, WADA, and the UCI have to acknowledge that it is possible you can have this drug in your system. Therefore, they need to find out how much is possible to have in your system at what levels so that if you took it at this level, it’d show up at this level, if you ate it, it’d show up at this level. So if you ate it, you’d be OK. Maybe they’d send you home and out of the race, but you could still race, as soon as your body is clean of it, and then you’d keep going. But it’s a bad way to end an athlete’s career.

You gotta remember, this is not just … we’re not just racing for fun. I love cycling. It’s brought me incredible joys my whole life. So I do race because I love it, but it feeds my family. So if I ate some farmer’s steak and I tested positive, I’d hate to think my kids are going without food because of that. What do you consider your greatest victory?

CH: You can go back to the Oakland stage (of the Tour DuPont) in 1996. You can’t really narrow it all down to one but that was the start of all of it, for sure. After Oakland, the wins started to come. I can answer your question many ways, because my favorite win would be the Olympic trials in ’96. But then I could say the Tour de Suisse stage was my coming out in Europe because finally no one could say, Well, he didn’t win anything in Europe. Then I could say Basque Country as being an epic win. And I can finish off this question simply with the Tour of California, because of the exposure and the quality of the filed. What does it mean to be a successful cyclist?

CH: It’s a difficult question. The simplest way to think of yourself as a professional athlete is you have a salary that can support your family. Once you’ve done that, you’re a success. The goals that you have for personal success, of course, are completely different—and that is, you want to be a winner. Because people always ask me, Oh, you’re a professional athlete? Yes. So you make money off that? Yes, they pay me to do it. The next question they follow up with is, Are you any good? So personally, you wanna be like, On my day, I’m the best in the world.

For me it was when I finally did the Tour de France. It was the one thing missing in my career and my resume. I don’t feel that I have to win the Tour de France to finish my career off and say, Man, I was one badass cyclist. But for me, I’d been a professional for so long—I’d won everything there is to win in the States—and I needed to know, before I retired, that I did the Tour de France. I don’t think professionally as a cyclist that you can finish your career off without doing the Tour de France. You’ve had a difficult time trying to get to the Olympics. Would you like to ride in London in 2012?

CH: I’d love to go to the Olympics. It’s been many years now. I think I’m going on the fifth time that they’ve had selections, ever since ’92 and I was in the sport. Certainly since ’96 I should have been on the Olympic team and every year they’ve had it since. Will this be another let-down year that the national team doesn’t take me to the Olympics? Well, that’s something you’ll have to ask the national team coach, or we’ll have to wait till the Olympics to figure it out. But I think it’d be a shame. And I don’t have a problem saying this: I’ve been one of the most dominant and successful U.S. riders around, and I certainly believe my spot is deserved on the Olympic team. Whether they pick me, I don’t know if I have a whole lot of faith but I’d still like to go, and hopefully something clicks in somebody’s head and I get the call. But I don’t think I’ll lose any sleep. Since ’96 I’ve gotten used to that let-down and now it doesn’t have the same effect on me as it had in ’96. In ’96 it was devastating; now I would just call it the standard quota that the national team usually treats me with. Let’s go back a bit. Give us your brief history of Chris Horner and the Olympics.

CH: [Laughs] There is no brief part about it! … Well, OK, here goes.

In ’96 I was certainly one of the most dominant riders in the US. I was on a small team; we were making $280 a month salary for eight months out of the year, not 12. Most of the time we had no soigneur and no mechanic showing up at the race. Half the time I had only two good teammates who were reliable, and I still managed to win 13 of the biggest races in the U.S. I still finished off the season ranked the No. 1 U.S. rider. If I wasn’t first, I got a list of seconds, thirds, fourths, and fifths longer than my arm. So, did I deserve a spot on the Olympics? Absolutely.

When you look at the Olympic trials they had in ’96, we had five races. And because it was only US riders allowed to race in them, it cut my team down and we lost Harm Jansen, who was really strong. When you look at what I did and what I won during the Olympic trials and what I had to fight against, all the big pro riders and their salaries and those guys having four guys in the final break, when I was there all by myself and picking up points and still winning at Seattle in ’96. When I won there I had to beat out Frankie Andreu and Kevin Livingston, two guys from Postal Service, and I still won outnumbered. And I still didn’t get selected.

My personal take on why I didn’t get selected? I didn’t come up through the national team. The coach decides who’s going to the Olympics, and how can a coach decide who’s going to the Olympics if it’s a rider he didn’t actually coach? There’s a huge conflict of interest in the past years on who goes and who’s not when you have a coach picking. Last time it was a selection committee of certain riders, and evidently they weren’t very educated and they picked other riders to go. And this time you look at it and maybe it’s they don’t look at me because it might be a field sprint. But certainly I have shown that I can do field sprints, I can do lead-outs, certainly I’ve shown in my 17 years of professionalism that I will work for a sprinter, and I will work for the best interest of the team, and I’m not selfish. I might not be afraid to tell you why I should be there, but I’m also not afraid to help someone to win the race, either. It’s been one of the devastating downsides of my career, not being selected, but I put it down to politics, and whenever politics is involved, you’re always fucked. You won the Tour of California so dominantly. Now you’ve earned a spot as a co-captain at the Tour with Levi.

CH: On RadioShack we don’t have co-captains but we got quad-captains! [Laughs] So we’ve got plenty of guys on RadioShack to ride good. If it ends up I crash or I go bad, we got Jani; if something happens to him, we got Levi and we got Klodi. So it’s really a positive time to come into the Tour as a RadioShack rider because you’re going to be given help from the other riders to look after you, and you got a shot at going to the podium at the Tour de France. It’s a fantastic year.

Years past, when we had Alberto (Contador) on this team, you knew exactly what you were doing going into the Tour. There was no chance that there was going to be an opening, that you were going to win the Tour de France or even win a stage of the Tour de France, because you gotta remember, when you got a guy like a really big hitter, like Alberto—who I raced with for two years—when you show up at a race for him, you know realistically you don’t even have a shot at going for the stage. Your sole job is to be a workhorse and get the job done and look after Alberto.

Versus now.

OK, even if I don’t meet my objective, my goal of going podium, even if I don’t meet my goal of going top-five, or you crash in the first stage and you’re down 10 minutes, you change the goals and you start going for stage wins. So now you’re 10 minutes down, you’re going up Alpe d’Huez, everybody’s looking at each other, they know you’re 10 minutes down, you attack and win a stage up Alpe d’Huez. So would I be disappointed if I don’t go top 10, top-five, or podium but get a stage win? I’d be quite satisfied. What do you see as your greatest challenge at this year’s Tour?

CH: The biggest challenge of course is just going to be what kind of fitness does Alberto (Contador) and Andy Schleck have coming into the Tour de France. Everybody racing to win the Tour de France, who wants to win a stage at the Tour, who wants to podium, has to ask themselves that question: What is Alberto’s form going to be like? What is Andy’s form? Because right now, there’s no doubt in my mind—off the form they had at last year’s Tour—no one’s capable of going that fast. That’s your first question.

Second is, Have I gotten faster to keep up with them? That’s the only thing that’s going to change. If they’re going the same speed as last year and you’re going the same speed as last year, you’re not going to beat those two. Not without an accident or an injury or something; that’s out of everybody’s hand. But that’s the question: What is Alberto’s form? What is Andy Schleck’s form? In your view, what is so special about the Tour de France?

CH: It’s the biggest race in the world—most viewed, best athletes. All the best cyclists meet up in July. The only other race I know on the calendar that all of the best athletes meet up at is Liège–Bastogne–Liège, a one-day race in Belgium. That’s it. Other than that, you look at the Dauphine. You had a third of the good riders at the Dauphine. You had a third of the good riders at the Tour de Suisse. And you had a third of the good riders at home training still, because they just got done leaving the Giro, or they’re like myself and finished with Cali.

So when you’re watching the Dauphine, are you watching the best riders in the world? No. You watching some of them? Yes. Every race, aside from the Tour de France and Liège–Bastogne–Liège, you’re only watching some of the best riders in the world. But when you get to Liège and get to the Tour, you are watching the cream of the crop. It is the best and the hardest race, and that is what makes it so big.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Ivan Basso says condition improving at pre-Tour de France training camp

Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) has insisted that his condition is improving after his poor showing at the Critérium du Dauphiné and he is confident that he will be ready for the opening mountain stages of the Tour de France.

The Italian could only muster 26th place overall at the Dauphiné, and appeared to struggle both in the mountains and against the clock. He acknowledged that his training crash on the slopes of Mount Etna on May 17 had compromised his build-up to the race.

“With the scant preparation that I had as a result of the fall on Etna, I couldn’t go any better,” Basso told Gazzetta dello Sport. “Above all, I was missing something when I went into the red.

“An example: one day at the Dauphiné, I was on Boasson Hagen’s wheel for quarter of an hour above threshold and I was doing 430 watts. I’ve just done a test and I’m doing 440 watts at threshold. It means that my condition is improving. An excellent sign. I’ll be at my best by the ninth stage, with the first tough climbs.”

Basso is currently at a training camp with his Liquigas-Cannondale team in the Dolomites at the Passo San Pellegrino, where he has alternated blocks of two or three days of hard training with a day of recovery and resisted the temptation to over-compensate for the work his missed out on in late May.

“[Liquigas trainer] Paolo Slongo has marked me tightly because he was afraid I’d do too much,” Basso explained. “I’ve done a lot of quality work and I felt the improvement straight away.

“After the Dauphiné I was dead tired, and I allowed myself two days’ rest. Then I went to the Mapei centre to do a haemoglobin volume test, which was useful to take account of the situation.”

Noted as an assiduous trainer ever since Bjarne Riis oversaw his preparation at CSC before Operacion Puerto interrupted their relationship, Basso pays special attention to his diet in the final weeks before the Tour.

“For two months before a big race, I stop drinking coffee,” he said. “Especially in summer, it leads to dehydration.”

Contador a step ahead

When Basso first announced his intentions to skip the Giro d’Italia and focus on the Tour in 2011, it appeared as though Alberto Contador would not be on the start line due to his positive test for Clenbuterol at last year’s race. However, Basso was adamant that the potential absence of the favourite had not influenced his decision.

Contador’s Court of Arbitration for Sport hearing has been delayed until August, and the Spaniard is free to compete at the Tour.

“I didn’t pick the Tour because Alberto wasn’t going to be there, and now I’m not anxious about his presence,” Basso said. “The programme was based around three principles: my requirements, those of Nibali and, above all, those of Liquigas.”

Basso also freely acknowledged that Contador is a step ahead of him and the rest of the peloton, labelling him as a class apart.

“What does Alberto have over me? Simple, he’s a fuoriclasse, and I’m not,” Basso said. “He is among the chosen few of cycling of all-time and of world sport. I’m a good – or an excellent – rider.”

Basso ranked Andy Schleck and Cadel Evans on a par, a step below Contador, with Robert Gesink and Samuel Sanchez next in line. The Italian will himself be hoping to infiltrate those ranks this July. Flanking Basso in France will be a squad with plenty of firepower on the flat, and Liquigas were due to put in a stint of team time trial training on Thursday. However, Basso acknowledged that he may find himself a little shorter of support in the highest mountains.

“In terms of pure climbers, there will be only [Sylvester] Szmyd there to help me,” Basso said. “Then it will be up to me.”

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Natalie Coughlin supports Tony La Russa's ARF

Natalie Coughlin - "Dozer & SheRa are making their modeling debut in ARF’s Celebrity Calendar. The heat is unbearable, but at least it makes the doggies smile"!

Tony La Russa’s Animal Rescue Foundation (ARF) saves the lives of countless animals each year whose time has run out in public shelters and who are scheduled to be killed. ARF’s team of trained volunteers and expert staff make sure every animal receives proper nutrition, medical evaluation and treatment, training and lots of love as they await their new forever home. ARF’s shelter touches the lives of thousands of animals and people each year.

To learn more about ARF please click on the title link...

RadioShack's 2011 Tour de France Roster

Team RadioShack announced today the Team line-up of nine riders for the Tour de France 2011 (July 2nd-24th ).

The nine riders are:

Jani Brajkovic
Chris Horner
Markel Irizar
Andreas Klöden
Levi Leipheimer
Dmitriy Muravyev
Sérgio Paulinho
Yaroslav Popovych
Haimar Zubeldia

Team Sports Manager Johan Bruyneel, together with Team Directors Dirk Demol and Alain Gallopin will direct the team.

“It was hard to make the selection of these nine riders," said Johan Bruyneel. “After the injury of Sébastien Rosseler, we still had a pre-selection of 14 riders. In the end we can say that the complete 2011 Tour roster has been chosen based on the strongest team from both a sportive and experience criteria.

"With Brajkovic, Horner, Klöden and Leipheimer we will start with four guys who will be able to contend for the general classification," continued the Director of nine Tour de France wins. “Jani Brajkovic beat Alberto Contador in last year's Critérium du Dauphiné. At age 39 Chris Horner dominated the Tour of California and proves to get better with the years. Andreas Klöden has had a healthy and strong season so far, winning the Vuelta al Pais Vasco and finishing as runner-up in Paris-Nice. And then Levi...he was so impressive in Switzerland; he is ready. Too many leaders is not an ideal situation, but we are confident we can turn this into an advantage. Together we are strong to fight against Contador and the Schlecks. Moreover, after the first decisive stages you already have a very good idea on the tactics to follow. We proved in the past that Team RadioShack is a real Team. All riders sacrifice themselves with pleasure for the common goal. Team RadioShack is not a mixture of individuals.

"The hardest part has been to disappoint some non-selected riders. It is obvious that we will tackle this 2011 Tour de France with podium contenders. We are aware we won't win mass sprints this Tour but we decided that a good GC will be worth it and we make it our main goal in this Tour."

"As we do every year, the Directors and I carefully evaluate all the riders in contention. It’s never an easy decision for us to make, but in the end, we feel confident that the chosen riders will help us achieve our goals for the 2011 Tour de France.”

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Round 2 - Lance Armstrong Encounter Draws Scrutiny by F.B.I.

The F.B.I. has requested surveillance video from a Colorado restaurant to glean more information about a recent confrontation there between Lance Armstrong and his former teammate Tyler Hamilton, according to a restaurant co-owner.

Jodi Larner, a co-owner of the French restaurant Cache Cache in Aspen, said in a telephone interview Tuesday that she spoke to an F.B.I. agent in the morning and that he told her she would be subpoenaed for the surveillance tape.

Federal authorities, who for a year have been investigating Armstrong on suspicion of crimes relating to doping, are looking into whether the encounter between Hamilton and Armstrong on Saturday night constitutes witness tampering, said a person briefed on the matter. That person spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not want to jeopardize his access to delicate information.

A federal investigator working on the case declined to comment.

Hamilton, one of Armstrong’s teammates on the now-defunct United States Postal Service squad, is one of the witnesses in the case against Armstrong. Last year, he testified against Armstrong to a federal grand jury in Los Angeles. In an interview last month with the CBS program “60 Minutes,” he also described a secretive systematic doping scheme by the Postal Service team.

Armstrong, who has a house in Aspen, eats at Cache Cache about three times a week, Larner said. Hamilton, in Aspen as part of an event sponsored by Outside magazine, was dining on the restaurant’s patio Saturday night.

Larner, a friend of Armstrong’s, said the videotape would have images only from the kitchen area of her restaurant, so she doubted that it would help the F.B.I., she said, because the confrontation occurred in the bar area.

“I wish I had the incident on tape, so the whole world could see what happened between Tyler and Lance and shut up about it already,” she said. “It was a non-event.”

Hamilton, a 2004 Olympic gold medalist, was on his way to see a friend at the bar when he and Armstrong came face to face, said Chris Manderson, Hamilton’s lawyer. Armstrong threw out his arm to block Hamilton and began berating him, Manderson said.

“Would you feel threatened if someone said to you, ‘We’re going to destroy you on the witness stand and we’re going to make your life a living hell?’ ” Manderson said. “Not a lot of shades of gray there.”

On Monday, Manderson contacted federal authorities to notify them of the incident. He said they spoke to him about the issue more than once that day. As of Tuesday afternoon, Armstrong had not been contacted by any federal authorities seeking his side of the story.

Larner said Armstrong and his girlfriend, Anna Hansen, were having tequila drinks at the bar with Larner and two other friends when Hamilton walked by the bar at about 10 p.m. Armstrong stopped him and said, “ ‘Hey, dude,’ in a very sarcastic tone,” and Hamilton, looking shaken, tried to hug Armstrong, Larner said.

Larner said that she did not hear the rest of the conversation, but that Armstrong never left his barstool while he and Hamilton spoke.

Tony DiLucia, a patron and local real estate broker who was standing next to Armstrong and Hamilton, also said he could not hear the conversation. He said, though, that he could tell by body language that the exchange was not combative.

“It looked like two guys having an intense conversation, but Lance never stood up and Hamilton just stood there,” said DiLucia, who is friends with Larner. “In my honest estimation, I never saw any aggressive stuff happen at all. If things were heated, you’d figure Lance would at least get up.”

After the confrontation, DiLucia was invited to sit down with Armstrong to have drinks with him. Hamilton went back to his patio table and had coffee and dessert.

Larner said she told Hamilton later Saturday night that he was not welcome back at her restaurant because the group he was with did not tip its server.

The next day, she said, she returned to work to find threatening voice mails on the restaurant’s answering machine because she had stood up for Armstrong on Saturday night. She said she planned to contact the local sheriff about them.

Mark Fabiani, a spokesman for Armstrong, said he and Armstrong had nothing to add to the bystanders’ accounts of the incident.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Attorney says he's alerted feds of Tyler Hamilton's confrontation with Lance Armstrong in Aspen

Cyclist Tyler Hamilton's lawyer says he notified federal authorities about the Olympic gold medalist's awkward reunion with his former teammate Lance Armstrong in an upscale Aspen bistro over the weekend, saying the run-in may have constituted witness tampering.

Attorney Chris Manderson said he believes the staff of Cache Cache may have notified Armstrong after Hamilton and his party arrived at the French restaurant for dinner on Saturday night.

"I don't believe this was a chance encounter," Manderson said. "It was well-publicized that Tyler would be in Aspen for the weekend."

Hamilton testified last year before a grand jury investigating Armstrong and other cyclists accused of using performance-enhancing drugs. He accused the seven-time Tour de France winner of using banned substances - and acknowledged his own drug use - during a May 22 interview with "60 Minutes."

Hamilton, in Aspen for an event sponsored by Outside magazine, was pushing his way through the bar area at Cache Cache when somebody stiff-armed him, Manderson said. The person blocking his path turned out to be Armstrong, Hamilton's former teammate with the U.S. Postal Service team.

According to Manderson, Armstrong was extremely confrontational, demanding to know how much CBS had paid for the interview. Armstrong, according to Manderson, also told Hamiltion that his lawyers would "tear him apart on the stand" if the investigation leads to an indictment.

Hamilton asked Armstrong to continue the discussion in private, Manderson said, but Armstrong refused to leave the bar and continued to berate him.

Cache Cache owner Jodi Larner, a friend of Armstrong's, denied there was any confrontation. She said she was at the bar with Armstrong when Hamilton walked by, and she did not see Armstrong act in a confrontational manner. Armstrong greeted Hamilton, she said, and Hamilton tried to hug Armstrong - a move Armstrong gently rebuffed. "There was no drama," she said.

Armstrong attorney Mark Fabiani told the Daily News that Hamilton and his friends pulled up in front of Armstrong's Aspen home on Sunday. The group did not approach the house but instead stood on the street, taking pictures and speaking loudly. Armstrong was not at home at the time.

"It shows how obsessed Hamilton is with Lance," Fabiani said.

Manderson said the allegation was completely untrue.

"Fabiani's allegation is utter horse----," Manderson said. "His client threatened a witness in a federal investigation, and he just wants to spin some farcical conspiracy theory? This idiotic allegation has less credibility than the infamous Iraqi information minister (Tarik Aziz)."

Dave Zabriskie - The Dauphine

By: DZ

First of all Congratulations to Wiggins. It was an extremely hard version of the Dauphine this year and he pulled out the big W.

From the start I had to wonder who’s in charge of logistics? It took quite awhile to get to the hotel and we were staying on top of the mountain where the last stage would finish. It was a bit of a pain logistically to drive down a 20km mountain for the prolog in the morning but that’s what we do. It was also kind of restless sleep up there at altitude. Too much tossing and turning for me and not the more restful sleep that I need.

I was the first to go from the team because the directer was thinking the weather would be bad in the afternoon. Well the whole day was kind of a crap shoot and the weather was the best for the last guys. My corners were a little wet and I was not eager to go down. I also didn’t have the best warm up routine as everyone seemed a little off their game that early in the morning, like my bike being taken for UCI measurements when I needed to be warming up on it. Oh well, that’s the game, dealing with little things like that. In the end I was off the pace, a little too explosive for me. The truth is I’m more of a long TT guy.

The next few days went ok. I’ve been testing a new climbing technique that is really helping me stay up there on the longer climbs. We had Tyler in there for the sprint day on the 4th stage and I got up there and pulled a particularly fast train to bring the break back in the end, which felt pretty good. I really don’t think I’ve felt this healthy in a long time.

The last 3 days were the hardest of the race and the attacks were nonstop for 100km from the start. I remember on one day when things finally settled down I was on one of those verbal rolls that most of the guys in the peloton appreciate. I really don’t remember what I said or did but that fact remains that I can usually take the edge off of the moment with a sharp observation, a good-natured but nonetheless mocking imitation, or by blurting something out that’s so random, so ‘out there,’ so insanely funny that I’ve even cracked myself up from time to time. On this one day either something got lost in translation or the Rabobank rider Carlos Barredo thought my humor was directed at him, which it was not. His stare and stern look were boring a hole in me and I really didn’t want him to take a swing or try to whack me with a wheel. I quickly settled him down when I delivered this line with all the seriousness I could muster: “it’s all cool man, they gave me a special license which allows me to make fun of everybody here.” He laughed. I laughed. We all laughed.

It was a good productive week for me. I’m enjoying the racing more than ever before. The body feels good, the mind is at rest, and importantly, it appears I haven’t lost my sense of humor.

I’m back again in Girona. This morning I’ve been reunited with my family and it’s my wife’s birthday. The cake will be small, at least for me, but the celebration will be real. The family are all sleeping now, having just arrived they’re battling a bit of jet lag. Awake or not, I’m just happy that they are here and we’re together.

Till next time it’s DZ checking out with a smile on his face.

-Dave Z.

Share on Facebook

Friday, June 10, 2011

Ivan Basso: There is still time before Tour's first climbs

Ivan Basso (Liquigas-Cannondale) believes that he still has time to find his form before the start of the Tour de France. The Italian has struggled at the Critérium du Dauphiné, as he suffers from the fall-out of a May training crash.

Speaking to Gazzetta dello Sport, Basso insisted that the only solution to his current predicament was to keep working.

“I’m still someone who has won the Giro, I won’t use a magic wand,” Basso said. “I don’t need a metamorphosis, I just need to work.”

Basso floundered during Tuesday’s time trial around Grenoble, which was held on the same course as the penultimate stage of the Tour. He ultimately lost over six minutes to stage winner Tony Martin, but he said his performance was affected by his lack of racing miles in recent weeks.

Basso had not competed since the Tour de Romandie, and spent part of May training at altitude at Mount Etna, the scene of his accident. Although he has since recovered from the facial injuries sustained in Sicily, Basso missed out on a week’s training.

“It was a hard and difficult time trial, and I’m missing race rhythm,” Basso said. “I’m here to find that. I’ve done quantity, but not a lot of quality [in training]. After the time trial I called Amadio and Zani to reassure them. I wanted them to know what my real condition is.”

Basso acknowledged that his build-up to the Tour has been far from ideal, in spite of his decision to skip the Giro d’Italia in order to pitch his preparation towards July.

“I won’t hide that it’s a very delicate moment,” Basso said. “The fall on Etna injured and upset me. I’m missing a week of work, so I won’t tell everyone that I’ll be flying at the Tour. But I’m doing everything possible to take advantage of the time that remains. And it’s quite a bit. There are 32 days to the first climbs.”

With the Dauphiné heading into a long weekend in the mountains, Basso’s ambitions are realistic for the final three stages.

“I’m looking for a ray of sunshine,” he said. “A sign that I’m on the right path.”

After the race finishes at La Toussuire on Sunday, Basso will stay in France for three more days to reconnoitre part of the Tour route. On Monday, he will view the finishes in the Massif Central at Superbesse-Sancy and Saint Fleur, before riding the Alpe d’Huez stage in its entirety on Tuesday. His reconnaissance concludes on Wednesday with the Izoard and Galibier.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Armstrong - Oakley Rebellion Commercial

Are We Built to Run Barefoot?

At a recent symposium of the American College of Sports Medicine’s annual meeting in Denver, cutely titled “Barefoot Running: So Easy, a Caveman Did It!,” a standing-room-only crowd waited expectantly as a slide flashed up posing this question: Does barefoot running increase or decrease skeletal injury risk?

“The answer,” said Dr. Stuart J. Warden, an associate professor of physical therapy at Indiana University, “is that it probably does both.”

Barefoot running remains as popular and contentious a topic among exercise scientists as it is among athletes, even though it is practiced by only a tiny subset of American runners. These early-adopter runners, however, tend to be disproportionately enthusiastic and evangelical. Many cite the best seller “Born to Run,” by Christopher McDougall, which touts barefoot running, and claim that barefoot running cured them of various running-related injuries and will do so for their fellow athletes. “There are people who are convinced that barefoot runners never get injured,” said Daniel E. Lieberman, a professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard who runs barefoot himself and spoke on the topic during last week’s symposium.

But in the past year, anecdotal evidence has mounted that some runners, after kicking off their shoes, have wound up hobbled by newly acquired injuries. These maladies, instead of being prevented by barefoot running, seem to have been induced by it.

So what really happens to a modern runner when he or she trains without shoes or in the lightweight, amusingly named “barefoot running shoes” that are designed to mimic the experience of running with naked feet? That question, although pressing, cannot, as the newest science makes clear, easily be answered.

Most of us, after all, grew up wearing shoes. Shoes alter how we move. An interesting review article published this year in The Journal of Foot and Ankle Research found that if you put young children in shoes, their steps become longer than when they are barefoot, and they land with more force on their heels.

Similarly, when Dr. Lieberman traveled recently to Kenya for a study published last year in Nature, he found that Kenyan schoolchildren who lived in the city and habitually wore shoes ran differently from those who lived in the country and were almost always barefoot. Asked to run over a force platform that measured how their feet struck the ground, a majority of the urban youngsters landed on their heels and generated significant ground reaction forces or, in layman’s terms, pounding. The barefoot runners typically landed closer to the front of their feet and lightly, without generating as much apparent force.

Based on such findings, it would seem as if running barefoot should certainly be better for the body, because less pounding should mean less wear and tear. But there are problems with that theory. The first is that the body stubbornly clings to what it knows. Just taking off your shoes does not mean you’ll immediately attain proper barefoot running form, Dr. Lieberman told me. Many newbie barefoot runners continue to stride as if they were in shoes, landing heavily on their heels.

The result can be an uptick in the forces moving through the leg, Dr. Warren pointed out, since you’re creating as much force with each stride as before, but no longer have the cushioning of the shoe to help dissipate it. Most barefoot runners eventually adjust their stride, he and the other presenters agreed, landing closer to the front of their feet — since landing hard on a bare heel hurts — but in the interim, he said, “barefoot running might increase injury risk.”

Even when a barefoot runner has developed what would seem to be ideal form, the force generated may be unfamiliar to the body and potentially injurious, as another study presented at last week’s conference suggests. For the study, conducted at the Biomechanics Laboratory at the University of Massachusetts, runners strode across a force plate, deliberately landing either on the forefoot or on the heel. When heel striking, the volunteers generated the expected thudding ground reaction forces; when they landed near the front of the foot, the force was still there, though it generally had a lower frequency, or hertz.

Earlier research has shown that high-frequency forces tend to move up the body through a person’s bones. Lower-frequency forces typically move through muscles and soft tissue. So shifting to a forefoot running style, as people do when running barefoot, may lessen your risk for a stress fracture, and up your chances of developing a muscle strain or tendinitis.

So where does all of this new science leave the runner who’s been considering whether to ditch the shoes? The “evidence is not concrete for or against barefoot or shod running,” said Allison H. Gruber, a doctoral candidate at the University of Massachusetts and lead author of the hertz study. “If one is not experiencing any injuries, it is probably best to not change what you’re doing.”

On the other hand, if you do have a history of running-related injuries or simply want to see what it feels like to run as most humans have over the millenniums, then “start slowly,” said Dr. Lieberman. Remove your shoes for the last mile of your usual run and ease into barefoot running over a period of weeks, he suggests, and take care to scan the pavement or wear barefoot running shoes or inexpensive moccasins to prevent lacerations.

And pay attention to form. “Don’t overstride,” he said. Your stride should be shorter when you are running barefoot than when you are in shoes. “Don’t lean forward. Land lightly.”

On this point, he and all of the scientists agree. Humans may have been built to run barefoot, “but we did not evolve to run barefoot with bad form.”

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Tyson Cole - Sushi's Great White Hope

Tyson Cole and one of his best customers Lance Armstrong.

The decision to have a meal at Uchi, the Japanese restaurant in Austin, Texas, is often arrived at skeptically, at least for diners who have never tried it.

"Why bother with raw fish in the land of enchiladas and queso?" is how the Austin-based writer Paula Disbrowe put it, echoing a sentiment so commonly expressed about the restaurant it's a wonder the business ever got off the ground, much less thrived to the point where waiting an hour for a table is basically a given, even if you go at 6:30 on an uncharacteristically cold night. "I just couldn't believe that I would experience sushi bliss in Austin," Disbrowe recalled. "It seemed more dangerous than eating at a cheap East Village sushi spot on a Sunday night."

When Liz Lambert, whose Hotel San Jose and Hotel Saint Cecilia are two of Austin's most fashionable properties, brings friends from New York or Los Angeles to Uchi, "they act like we still serve the frozen shit, or fish from the Gulf, like planes don't exist." Lynn Yeldell has had similar experiences. The film colleagues from Hollywood she brought to Uchi were reluctant diners at best—and, like seemingly everyone who visits the place, enthusiastic converts by the time they left.

Yeldell was sitting with her partner, Alisa Weldon, along the short edge of Uchi's L-shaped sushi bar, recalling past dinners while sharing a series of plates from the restaurant's daily changing list of specials. On this night, these included trapezoidal segments of aji from Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market, the largest in the world, pressed against sushi rice with black sesame and miniature crosshatches of scallion. A more elaborate production brought thin slices of raw flounder subjected to a trio of ingredients—smoked sea salt, yuzu zest, candied quinoa—applied so sparingly they barely distracted the eye from the texture of the flesh. Each bite, however, was like tasting the fish in surround sound.

Uchi's dining room could be mistaken for the living quarters of a particularly expressive member of Austin's thriving tech-entrepreneur community: hard lines and wood surfaces set against floral-print wallpaper the shade of a watermelon-persimmon smoothie.

Five chefs worked in concert behind the sushi bar most of the night, forming a kind of balletic assembly line. They passed plates between them, adding elements until the dishes were complete. Periodically, one chef appeared to intercept an order before it was handed off to a waiter. He inspected plates in the manner a nearly blind man reads a small-print dictionary, bringing his head so close it appeared his eyelashes might brush the food.

That is Tyson Cole. Given the ethnic makeup of Uchi's kitchen staff, which is predominantly Asian, and the artful, sure-handed accomplishment of the food, an unknowing customer would not likely guess Cole to be Uchi's owner and executive chef. And it gets trickier. If, like me, you overheard him speaking fluent-sounding Japanese with his staff prior to catching a glimpse of him, you would be surprised to discover he is actually a white Sarasota, Florida, native and Texan transplant who, in his thirty-nine years, has spent a grand total of eighteen days in Japan.

In fact, the more one learns about Cole, the harder it is to fathom what is clear after repeat visits to Uchi: He has created one of the country's great Japanese restaurants in a landlocked city two time zones removed from the eastern border of the Pacific Rim. Japanese make up two-tenths of one percent of Austin's total population—the second-lowest percentage (native Hawaiian being the first) of any ethnic group tracked by the U.S. Census Bureau in Austin.

And to Cole's mind, the improbability of his restaurant's existence—never mind its success—only enhances the ineffable pleasure people take in dining there.

"People don't really know what to expect," Cole says of Uchi. "It's a sushi restaurant, a Japanese restaurant, but also an Austin restaurant. Until they get there and really see and feel it and touch it and eat it, they don't really know."

Cole's road to becoming one of Japanese cuisine's Great White Hopes began in the early '90s, on a day when his slumber was interrupted by his girlfriend's offer of a deal: Get a job or get out. He ended up washing dishes at an Austin sushi restaurant called Kyoto, and his introduction to the house fare wasn't exactly Proustian.

"I thought it was fucking disgusting. I hated it," Cole recalled over a lunch of empanadas and chimichurri at an Argentine café in Austin. "I'm American. I grew up with mac and cheese."

If Cole is a sympathetic observer of the skepticism-erasing phenomenon that is Uchi, it could have something to do with the fact that his own indoctrination did not reveal him to be a quick study. In his first couple of years at Kyoto, he rose from dishwasher to daytime and then nighttime waiter—and barely touched the food. For a while, he worked with a fellow non-Asian waiter who spoke Japanese. "I just thought it was stupid," he says. "I was like, 'Stop trying to fake it. You're not fucking Japanese.'"

In conversation, Cole, who is slight and goateed, betrays the saddle-leather temperament of a steak-and-potatoes Texan—which is how he described his father—but prolonged exposure to the alternative culture inside Kyoto clearly awakened something else within him. His cynicism was initially punctured by his Japanese coworkers, with whom he found himself spending most of his free time, usually drinking beer and watching Japanese cooking shows.

"Being surrounded by those types of people, and the way that they lived and the way that they did things, I had never experienced anything like that," he explains. "Everything was so black-and-white, proper and structured, beyond all of the bullshit minutiae you have to deal with in America. It wasn't like taking a trip to Japan and being like what's-his-name in Shogun. It was more like, Here I am in this restaurant working with Japanese people and having to conform to their ways—and liking it. It was about the people, a lot of it. But then the food kind of passed it."

Cole's friends ultimately got him hooked on sushi's gateway drugs. "Like any other American, I'd only eat the rolls," he says. This led to a period of tuna addiction—"I ate a lot of tekkamaki"—which piqued his curiosity enough to forgo the rice and explore sashimi. The burning-bush meal came later when, at the age of twenty-two, one of Cole's Japanese chef friends took him to Nippon, a sushi place in Houston, where he ate raw flounder with ponzu sauce.

"It was momentous, mentally," he recalls. "It didn't taste like fish. It tasted like something I'd never had."

Looking back on it, Cole realizes he was particularly taken by the ponzu's vinegar and citrus, but before he would go on to understand those elements well enough to deconstruct them in his food at Uchi, he would need to talk his way into the kitchen. Informing his Kyoto colleagues of his desire to make sushi wasn't enough.

"You're white. You can't make sushi," is how Cole recalled the response. "So I was like, 'Okay. Fuck you. I quit.'"

Thus began a wave of firings and re-hirings—he was once dismissed for giving free dessert to Denzel Washington—that textured Cole's decade-long rise from apprentice to sushi savant. He began in the kitchen, making rice and rolls outside public view. When he finally got behind the sushi line, he says, diners would occasionally "refuse for me to make their sushi because I wasn't Asian or Japanese."

Cole's whiteness remained a barrier for entry to new jobs and a source of customer suspicion. Even after having taught himself to speak serviceable Japanese, he says, he was turned down for a job at Musashino, which he'd identified as Austin's top sushi restaurant, by its chef-owner Takehiko Fuse. It was 1995, and Cole remembers being told speaking Japanese wasn't enough. He needed to know how to read and write it as well.

Fuse eventually relented and hired Cole, whose skills sharpened dramatically in his six years at Musashino. While he was surrounded by more talented colleagues, Cole says, few of them were as interested as he was in turning the job into a career. "Someone from Japan that would want to live in Texas? Most of them were musicians," he explains. "They didn't want to be chefs per se. But I wanted to be as good as I possibly could. I was always the first one there, the last one to leave."

During the end of Cole's tenure at Musashino, Fuse took him on a trip to Japan, but Cole's closest exposure with the Japanese kitchen's rigid discipline came inside the restaurant that still sits in an unmarked space below a Chinese buffet off a stretch of Austin highway. He rose to become Musashino's top lieutenant, which is when, as he puts it, "I really started developing my own style."

Certain customers learned to visit Musashino on nights they knew Cole to be on duty. "They wanted to be challenged," he says, "and they wanted to learn about [Japanese food] as much as I did." To keep up with demand, Cole shopped for ingredients that would never meet the approval of the ultra-traditional Fuse. He combined bluefin tuna sashimi with goat cheese and Fuji apples, now a signature dish on Uchi's menu.

"I was being forced to be creative," Cole says. "I wanted more colors. I wanted more toys. I wanted more things to add."

Uchi's late-afternoon, predinner staff meeting is held along a string of pushed-together tables in the restaurant's dining room. Relative to the controlled chaos of dinner service, the room is startlingly quiet as chefs bring out dishes to the floor staff for explanation and tasting. The ensuing conversation at times takes on the tone of upper-level grad students pondering Jane Austen.

A waitress broke the silence after a plate of Wagyu beef short ribs took center stage. "I thought there was going to be more lemon," she said.

"I don't get the salt at all," offered a colleague.

While the beef was marinated in a mixture that included sake kasu—the yeast deposits left behind after sake ferments—the dish is what Cole calls an "Uchi-fication" of a Thai staple, created in collaboration with his Thailand-born chefs. The dish was slightly modified from the night prior, when the beef came sliced thin through the bone; grilled medium rare but still, considering the cut, remarkably tender; resonant of citrus but also sansho, a Japanese cousin of the Szechuan pepper; and with an invisible dusting of toasted rice, which electrified certain bites with a crackly texture while reining in some of the beef's fat-marbled richness.

"We really make a point to bring everyone's experiences and skills into the picture," Cole says, referring to the short ribs. "I'm the one who edits it."

Masa Saio, Uchi's head sushi chef, brought out a plate of hiramasa—you may know it as amberjack—sashimi, one of the evening's three featured raw fish from Tsukiji. Saio, who is Japanese, has been at the restaurant since the day it opened in 2003, when Cole made a point to have plenty of Asian chefs on his staff, in part for appearances' sake. "It needed to look authentic," he explains.

Cole conferred with Saio in Japanese as his staff plucked at the hiramasa with chopsticks. He then turned his attention to Paul Qui, the restaurant's Filipino chef de cuisine, who will move over to Cole's new restaurant, Uchiko, when it opens in the summer. Unlike the flagship, Uchiko will accept reservations but otherwise conform to Cole's prevailing sensibility.

Which is what, exactly? Even before he'd ever tasted Japanese food, the one-time painter remembers being visually mesmerized by it: "Look at all those different colors of the flesh!" Today, Cole can speak at length about the femininity of Japanese—and, by extension, his—cooking, a characteristic that makes his food the antonym of the barbecue and Tex-Mex for which Austin is justifiably famous. Before he settled on Uchi, the chef spent hours writing names on paper, hoping to hit on a visually sensual grouping of letters.

"I kept coming back to s's and u's and o's, because of the curves," he says. "I thought they were really feminine."

Uchi is also Japanese for "house," and to Cole one of the main attractions of the restaurant's space is that it used to be one. "It doesn't feel too Japanese," he says. "I didn't want it to be clichéd. We wanted it to be an Austin restaurant, and Austin is accessible. You can go into any restaurant any time, day or night, in shorts, sandals, T-shirt, whatever."

A few hours after the staff meeting, diners waiting for a table spilled out Uchi's front door. Cole says veterans of the long table waits have developed a drinking game involving the animals lurking in the branches of the wallpaper.

Earlier in the day, the kitchen received a shipment of Australian finger limes. "The pulp is like caviar," says Yoshi Okai, one of Uchi's sushi chefs, and he's right, provided you can imagine caviar discharging a piercingly tart fruit juice when it explodes in your mouth. During dinner, he gently placed a small mound of the pale-green orbs on the surface of pieces of John Dory nigiri. The only other ingredient was a tuft of peppery radish sprouts, which Okai cut from a miniature potted garden of herbs and microgreens with his swordlike sushi knife. The accent ingredients' sour-vegetal bite focused the fish's sweetness like a white screen does the contours of a shadow.

A similar play of flavors unfolded more expansively in a dish based on a South American technique for making ceviche. Slices of yellowtail tuna belly sat at the edge of a pool of a gazpacho-like sauce made of cucumber, jalapeños, citrus, and juiced fennel bulb. A thick line of wasabi was embedded with golden brook-trout roe, the only non-green element save for the fish, which was dabbed with a paste of garlic, salt, lime zest, and Thai chilies Cole calls "Uchi chimichurri."

Each bite seemed to reveal an ingredient that altered the dish's direction. In the end, it tasted like justification for bringing yellowtail ashore.

"You can say, 'Oh, that dish isn't Japanese,'" Cole would explain later. "But the thinking behind it and the aesthetic of it is Japanese. The presentation is Japanese. And some of the flavor profiles remind you of Japanese food. That's my responsibility"

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Dave Zabriskie returns to Spain

By: DZ

After Nationals I flew straight out to Barcelona. I was traveling with the tools of my profession. I had 4 bikes with me. Moving those through an airport is no easy task even with the best of the luggage carts. I really wanted to blend in while passing through Customs. I thought it best to be with a big crowd and not to be isolated on a short line with all my gear. It took some tricky maneuvering with 4 bikes in tow, but, remarkably, I made it through without being stopped. I wasn’t breaking any laws, it’s just a pain in the chamois to get stopped and questioned. With that much stuff I thought I might be just the candidate for the endless amusement of the Custom’s control officers.

Right outside of the airport doors the faithful taxi driver was there to help me. He happily drove me to Girona. Walking into my apartment here gave me a surprising feeling of being home, which I guess means that after 11 years I’m finally getting used to it here. Funny how we adapt, sometimes quickly and sometimes slowly.

I ran into Jacky Bobby (Jack Bobridge) my Garmin teammate. I like this kid and he’s a true talent. We spent some time together in Switzerland at the Tour of Romandie and through some fortunate set of circumstances we ended up rooming together. During our down time our conversations eventually led to lifestyle and diet. I’m not a preacher so I tread easy when folks ask me about my diet (or my opinion of theirs) and that was certainly the case when Jacky and I spoke. But the kid is not only a talented cyclist he’s also a smart listener. After Romandie Jacky did some of his own research, drastically changed his diet and says he is really feeling quite good (which he wasn’t always before). He has cut out dairy and red meat from his diet. I must say I too felt pretty good (about the fact that he was feeling better) and for having this kind of positive influence on him. Maybe I am a preacher.

But I’m going solo at the moment and mostly preaching to myself. You should hear that rap. The apartment has been pretty lonely with the family not coming over for another week. I told myself I needed some hobbies. I debated that a bit with myself and I reminded myself of all the video gaming I’ve done. But I don’t really game much any more. I reminded myself how much I enjoyed TV. But I don’t find much satisfaction with what’s on television any more. So I started reading this book on the Ipad about Area 51, and so far that’s been pretty interesting. When I get through it I’ll let you know the title and whether or not I recommend the book.

Still fighting a little jet lag, but on my way to the Dauphine tomorrow so that should help me to get back into a routine. I’m pretty excited to go to the race. After the drama of the California Tour and then the National’s, it’s really no fun to be sitting around alone with not much to do but some light training and ‘light’ reading. Although I think it just snowed where I’m going to race and something tells me they don’t give a shit.

Dave Z.

Ivan Basso resumes racing at the Dauphiné

Ivan Basso (Liquigas) will be racing again at the Dauphiné, starting with the 5.4-km flat prologue in Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne on Sunday. It will be the first time the Italian has put a race number on his back since the Tour de Romandie, one month ago. He’s still on the road to recovery since he crashed in training in Sicily on May 17.

Basso travelled to France on Friday with his Australian teammate and regular training partner Cameron Wurf to ride an Alpine stage of the Tour de France prior to taking part in the Dauphiné. “I’ll go and see some more stages after the Dauphiné, so I’ll have a clear picture of the Tour de France in the Alps”, to told us.

“I’m still in the process of recovering from my crash,” Basso said. “It’s been a real halt in my preparation for the Tour de France. I’ve resumed training slowly. I’ve been struggling quite a lot since. I’m getting better but my form is far behind where I wanted to be.”

At the Dauphiné, Basso will race against riders who have made the top ten of the Giro d’Italia and who will want to capitalize on their current form, like Joaquim Rodriguez (5th) and Kanstantsin Sivtsov (10th). Among the GC contenders of the Tour de France, hot favourites for the Alpine race are Cadel Evans, Samuel Sanchez, Robert Gesink, Tony Martin, Jurgen Van den Broeck, Bradley Wiggins, Alexandre Vinokourov and defending champion Janez Brajkovic.

“I wouldn’t say that my ambitions for the Dauphiné are limited, they are non existent,” Basso made clear.

“I’m coming to look for the right race rhythm for the Tour de France. This is an important week for me. I won’t be able to deliver results but I’ve looked at the course of the Dauphiné and the number of uphill stage finishes will help to make the efforts I need right now. It’ll give me a first indication on what my shape is like at the moment. The sensations will be far more important than the results. I have one month to find the right rhythm and present myself on the start line of the Tour de France with the ideal condition.”

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Freddie Rodriguez joins Team Exergy

Freddie Rodriguez has joined the US-based UCI Continental Team Exergy and will take to the starting line at the TD Bank Philadelphia International Cycling Championship on Sunday. The decorated sprinter will captain his new outfit during the one-day classic and is confident that his own fitness will carry through to a strong performance.

"I had kept my eye on Team Exergy, the team, riders, message and where they want to go in the future,” Rodriguez said. “I wanted a team that can use someone like myself to mentor the riders and help them grow and that I can continue to grow with. We decided that this was a good time to come on board. My fitness is up to the point where I feel like I am competitive.”

Rodriguez, 37, was born in Bogotá, Colombia and now resides with his family in Berkeley, California. He is a notable sprinter having raced for international teams Mapei, Domo-Farm Frites, Acqua e Sapone and Predictor-Lotto throughout his career.

“Freddie will fill many roles this year but we are most excited about the wealth of knowledge and experience he can share with our riders,” said Team Exergy partner Remi McManus. “Freddie is the most decorated cyclist racing in the US peloton and we are thrilled to have him.”

Rodriguez will debut for Team Exergy at a race with which he's very familiar, the TD Bank International Cycling championship, an event that doubled as the USPro Championships through 2005 whereby the first American to cross the line won the national title. Rodriguez won the stars and stripes jersey on three occasions in 2000, 2001 and 2004.

“I have high ambitions for this weekend,” Rodriguez said. “I have come into this race and have either won or been on the podium in the past. I think I’ve been on the podium at least five, maybe seven, times. I feel good, my testing and power files are up to par. My only weakness is the lack of high-end racing. The motivation is there and this is a good start because it is a race that I really love.”

He competed under the now defunct Rock Racing team for two seasons, in 2008 and 2009. He spent last season and much of this year competing for the local team Specialized Racing that is linked to his Fast Freddie Rodriguez Foundation. He placed sixth at the Merco Cycling Classic Downtown Grand Prix in March and contested several other California-based events this spring.

“Last March I was left without a team when Rock Racing folded and I was building a house and had a new born, so we had a lot going on,” Rodriguez said. “I decided it was better to concentrate on my family and get everyone situated. I spent that year launching my own clothing company [Prooff] and the Fast Freddie Foundation so we teamed up with Team Specialized development and work with kids.”

Team Exergy also added twin brothers Kevin and Conor Mullervy to its roster.

The team's roster also includes Andres Diaz, Carlos Alzate, Matt Cooke, Chris Hong, Kai Applequist, Eric Barlevev, Sam Johnson, Erik Slack, Ben Chaddock and Quinn Keogh.

"These additions were yet another step toward building the best possible team for the future,” McManus said. “I think I speak for all us when I say we are very excited to bring Freddie and the Gingers into the fold. These guys are not only good racers they have ties to their communities and charities, which is a very important aspect within our team."

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Mark Allen: Race Recovery

by Mark Allen

Many of you are starting into the meat of your racing season, which can mean lots of races on the calendar. The challenge to hitting good performances at more than one or two of them can be not so much about gaining more and more fitness, but rather making sure you are fresh and recovered from a previous race if the next one is close. What close means is going to depend the distance of each event. So let's take a look at a few scenarios and give some guidance on how to recover well during your racing season from race to race.

Recovery Starts Before The Race.
This is one of the least understood issues about recovery from a triathlon. It is not just what happens after you race in the days or weeks that follow that will either lengthen or shorten your recovery period, but also what you do in your pre-race preparation. A race is a huge demand on the body, even a sprint triathlon if done at your top capacity. If you go into a race tired from training, dehydrated from not attending to your fluid intake in the week leading up to your race, under-rested because of lack of sleep or just plain stressed from life, the race itself can push you over the edge that causes you to get sick, injured or to end up just plain and simply burned out.

This described me in the first few years of my career. I thought I was fairly invincible with my training so I did not back off enough in my tapers and as a consequence always raced with residual muscle breakdown that had not fully repaired from my daily workouts. I underestimated the amount of time I needed to sleep to really be fully charged going into a competition. And being the procrastinator that I am, I usually ended up sleep deprived because I didn't plan ahead with my prerace equipment and packing needs (see our April newsletter for tips on a checklist of what to have with you for racing). The result was that post-race I would be slightly injured, burned out with no energy for a few weeks rather than just tired for a day or two, and I often got a little sick. All of these things kept me from training for the next race, so of course to make up once I did get my feet back under me I would over-train to overcompensate for the days I missed, which of course put me right back into a state where instead of a few easy days of recovery after an event, it would take weeks again.

So the takeaway lesson is that if you have multiple races in a short period of time, go into each and every one more rested than you feel you need so that your recovery afterward is strictly going to be from what you did in the race rather than a compounded recovery period that is from over-training and racing.

Active Recovery.
One of the best ways to recover post-race is to do active recovery. Sitting around may feel like what you want to do (and there is a place for just chillin' like a villain) but if you can do some very easy swim, bike and run workouts in the few days after you race this will flush out your muscles and will help the food you eat in those days target the areas that were just used a little more effectively. If your legs are super-sore as they usually will be after a half or full Ironman race, exchange the running for some easy walking until you feel the soreness is gone.

The worst thing for post-race recovery is sitting still for a few days. The soreness will go away, which feels like you are recovering, but your muscles will become like cement rather than recovering in a manner that keeps them supple. So even if you are doing your final race of the season and don't plan on much activity for a while, try to do active recovery for 3-14 days after your race as a way to ensure smooth working muscles before you put your body in dry dock.

Keep It Healthy.
The tendency after a race is to splurge on all the vices you may have deprived yourself of leading up to a big competition. Unfortunately, for most of us that doe not mean we are going to gorge ourselves on a bunch of carrots. It's likely going to look more like teenager's junk food binge. However, all that great tasting stuff is going to be severely lacking in the nutrients that your body needs to recover and repair quickly. Go ahead and treat yourself to some of your favorite decadence, but also try to put in a base of good nutritious food and lots of plain good water along with it.

Wise Wisdom.
On great rule of thumb is to make sure to give yourself one easy day for every mile you run in your race before you go out and do anything really fast or taxing. This is a great way to put the brakes on long enough after a hard race to allow your body time to recover before you add more muscle damage into the mix. Both good and bad races can leave an athlete with a tendency to go back at it hard too soon. A good race fills you up with so much enthusiasm that without this simple rule as a safeguard you may get back into the swing of hard training too soon. The frustration from a poor result can do the same thing making you want to go out there right away and train even harder than before so that the next race does bring the finish that you had hoped for. But either way, temper the fast stuff until you are in the clear with a day of easy training for every mile that you did in the run segment of your triathlon.

Good luck!