26 April 2008

Lovely leg...

Today I am spending another day holed up in the team house after it became blatantly evident that my leg is a bigger problem that initially expected. Since the crash on the first day of Tour du Loire et Cher my left leg has been really hurting me and pulling me out of joint completely.
I initially thought that I had sprained my knee but now am not sure at all. We had a physio here the other day and he did some funky things to my leg. It seemed to help, but only for about 24 hours. Now the legs feel exactly the same way it did five days ago. Which is not a good thing.
Just have to hold on until Monday so that I can go and see Peppo the Chiro in Italy.

Does this also give me an excuse as to why I did not feel as strong as I expected at the Tour? Hmmm...

24 April 2008

Tour du Loire et Cher Stage 5, 95km, Blois

A bit late with this update, but better late than never.
The last stage was a 7.6km loop through Blois that we had to do 12 times. Although some sections of road were very bumpy it was otherwise a lovely circuit. Especially for spectators. Cris crossing the river Loire on a lovely old bridge, through town and up a nasty little hill. Made nasty more by the speed we were going rather than the gradient.
As could be expected the race started as if the devil was chasing us! Balls to the wall! Coming over the bridge for the second time and about to go up the hill for the first time we swooped around a traffic circle and someone went straight into some road furniture (in this case small poles 50cm from the pavement, who knows what their actual function is!?).
Now seeing little poles in an unexpected position is not nice at the best of times. But while traveling at over 50km/h it is slightly hair raising. So was the fact that I was flying over bikes and rolling on the floor before I actually realised what had happened.
Fortunately all was well and I was up and chasing back on soon enough. Were it not for the long convoy of team cars I would have never made it back on again...
After that it was hang in there and pretend to recover a bit while thinking of attacking. Of course Jaro was one step ahead of me and went away with a rider from team Krolstone. This turned out to be a good thing as they did an amazing job, staying ahead of the pack for about 5 laps!
Once they were back in the bunch teams were lining things up for the evident sprint, so I decided to try it out myself. Alain tried to get me lined up but coming onto the bridge for the last time I was swarmed by riders on either side. Shows what a great sprinter I am..
After that it was a quick Greek shower, hop into the cars and the 850km drive home. Getting there after 1AM, fortunately with no incidents along the way.

19 April 2008

Tour du Loire et Cher Stage 4, 192km

Another long day in the saddle with a lot of wind but barely any climbing. The weather looked promising and it only ever drizzled on us a few times, although we did get horribly dirty on the wet roads. Not to mention our back wheels constantly wanting to slide out from beneath us in the corners...
Racing started rather quickly as usual and the group split up a few times in the slight gutters. After about 50km Jaro went in a solo break, to be joined by three others after a while. This turned out to be a great move as not to long afterwards we turned and the side wind hit us again. GLS and co put things straight in the gutter and Alain and I were left just short of the 15 riders in front. Fortunately for us the few riders with us were all keen on working so we got on pretty quickly. As did everyone else after things eventually slowed down.
A few clicks later and we were put back into the gutter. Alain, Jaro and I were situated perfectly right behind the three teams that were doing the work but a sudden corner and a near crash was enough to kill us off as we saw 15 riders go off down the road again. Once again we were left in a small group keen on working and closed the gap after a big effort, to once again have half the bunch catch us a while later.
I tried to break away quite a lot after that but was chased down every single time by the Danes in blue (GLS). A bit later a group of 7 got off the front and we were left in the bunch. Five final laps went by pretty quickly as all of a sudden we realized that the break would not be caught any more (some managers miscalculated that one). I did my best to help Alain in the final but it was Jaro who took him into the final corner at full blast so at least we walked away with a second place in the bunch kick.
The stage finished at around 18h00 which is interesting so we are about to go for a late dinner. Tomorrows stage is expected to be really difficult as it is only 95km, so should be really fast.

18 April 2008

Tour du Loire et Cher Stage 3, 175km

This was the stage that I did well in last year and moved me up to
tenth on GC so I was hoping for a repeat. This meant being awake at
all times and staying in front so as not to be caught out in the
gutter. Of which there would be a lot.

I tried to sprint for some KOM points after 5km which seemed really
suicidal as getting there was incredibly nerve wracking. I managed to
pick up one measly point but was still rather pleased that I had
managed to be there at all.

After that the real racing started and after the first gutter section
I was glad to see that Alain and Jaro had made it as well. Colo was
just off the back but a reduction in pace later on let everyone get
back on again.

After about 55km Jaro and I were mid group as we started a hill. Both
of us suddenly realized something was happening and quickly tried to
move up. As we hit the top of the hill and the wind hit from the side
Jaro and I reached Alain in about 30th position. Then the gutter hit
and we chased like morons, only to have two Frenchies leave gaps in
front of us. This left us in front of the second group chasing our
lungs out. Nothing to be done though, the twenty odd riders in front
were never to be seen again, no matter how hard we chased. And chase
we did! Oh my word!

I could write another two pages about that experience but would prefer
not to be reminded right now…

Shocker of the day: Us in the gutter…

The only thing that gives me a glimmer of hope is how strong we were,
especially Jaro! Then again, that only reminds us of what could have

17 April 2008

Part two

Alain managed fifth in the stage. Really impressive considering how far back he was at the last corner, 400 meters to go. Both of us were not suicidal in the final kilometers so I think we can both be glad to be safe rather than sorry!
I managed 19th in the gallop, which must be one of my best results in a sprint like this in Europe. Of course there were so many crashes so I wont make to much of a big thing out of it. This means that Alain moves up to 11th and I sneak into 14th on GC. Top thirty have the same time though so we will have to wait until the hills come before things really get interesting! The important thing is that Davide moves up to 8th from 20th in the convoy. That makes life so much easier!
To end it off, shocker of the day: As we came into a little French village at full tilt, swooping around a corner we came across a very old lady busy crossing the road. A motor biker, there to clear the road had stopped and virtually threw her walker onto the sidewalk and moved her as fast as he possibly could, imminent disaster waiting just waiting to happen. Fortunately everyone in the group saw her and avoided hitting her even though she was on the inside of a left hand bend ie. the shortest route for us to take...
That could have ended so badly...

Tour du Loire et Cher Stage 2 brief

Just got back from second stage. Busy waiting for Alain to get out of the shower so that I can clean up.
Stage was very interesting with a suicidal final 10km. Lots of crashes, one of which took Jaro out. Fortunately he is fine, but he did loose some time. Alain was fifth or sixth in the sprint and is still pulling his hair out as he was definitely the fastest there. Just a pity that I was not able to help him some more in the final.
More in a mo.

Quick update

Internet coped out on us in the hotel last night so this will be very quick. We are leaving the hotel in 30min for 205 fun kilometers in a howling wind. Should be interesting!
Yesterday was a bit of a bugger. I got second in the first KOM and was lining myself up nicely for the second one when someone crashed and I went down as well. Two kilometers before the second KOM. Ai!
It was a funny fall (more on that later) but I was scrambling back to find my bike and hop on within no time. Once on it things were not so good and I looked down to see my derailleur was smashed. Yelling to Davide over the radio about what happened didn't help much as the road was so narrow that it took a long time for the service vehicles to come up to us. A quick bike swap and a looong chase back into the bunch with the help of Davide and a German rider and I thought all was well. Only to find out that 35 riders had gone down the road, including Jaro and Colombo. Within no time they had 3 minutes on the bunch and I thought all was over.
Fortunately enough teams missed the move and within the last few kilometers we caught up to the front. Well. Fortunately for me, unfortunately for Jaro. Not quite sure which is better right now, but we'll see as the tour progresses.
Jaro, Alain and I ended up in the bunch sprint, but all of us were at the back somewhere.
Off for stage two now with what seems like a sprained knee. Does that even exist?
Fun fun!

15 April 2008

Some more

Some pics from the prize giving. Hopefully I will have some more action pics soon.
Second was Victor Mironov riding for the UCI Academy and Third was Alain Lauener, my team mate.
The remnants of my breakaway was caught on the line by the charging peloton but fortunately they were all still able to stay ahead and get decent placings.
As I am still smiling from ear to ear after Sundays excursion, here is a little bit more.
Video clip from a French Swiss Sports program. It is about half an hour long so don't open this if you are on dial up.
Go to 17 minutes into the video for the little bit on the Lancy race.

14 April 2008

Tour de Loire et Cher

We are about to leave for the Tour de Loire et Cher in France. A lovely 2.2 ranked five day tour that I came tenth in last year.
Should be a lot of fun!

13 April 2008

Results sheet

Grand Prix de Lancy 2008


Dimanche 13 avril 2008

5 tours - 177 km.

Moyenne : 39.48 km/h

Elites - Amateurs

Pos. N° Nom Club Temps total Ecart avec 1er

1 225 Dan Craven TEAM Fidibc.com 04:18:56 -

2 244 Mironov Victor Centre Mondial du Cyclisme 04:20:50 01:54

3 227 Lauener Alain TEAM Fidibc.com 04:20:50 01:54

4 226 Montanari Matteo TEAM Fidibc.com 04:20:50 01:54

5 271 Beuchat Roger Team Serramenti - Diquigiovanni 04:20:50 01:54

6 207 Murf René Team Hörmann 04:20:50 01:54

7 189 Moser Andreas Burgis Cycling Team 04:20:50 01:54

8 228 Marycz Jaroslaw TEAM Fidibc.com 04:20:50 01:54

9 193 Andres Roman GS Rufalex 04:20:50 01:54

10 201 Birrer Mario Team Hörmann 04:20:50 01:54

11 213 Locher David Team BMC-Seppy-Teker-Hottinger 04:20:50 01:54

12 335 Fischer Nicolas 04:20:50 01:54

13 315 Corti Pascal Cyclophile Sédunois 04:20:50 01:54

14 188 Lang Pirmin Burgis Cycling Team 04:20:50 01:54

15 245 Monsalve Jonathan Centre Mondial du Cyclisme 04:20:50 01:54

16 180 Anzalone Maurizio Vélo-Club Mendrisio-PL Valli 04:20:50 01:54

17 209 Anderegg Andreas Team BMC-Seppy-Teker-Hottinger 04:20:50 01:54

18 242 Lovassy Krisztian Centre Mondial du Cyclisme 04:20:50 01:54

19 246 Monsalve Ralf Centre Mondial du Cyclisme 04:20:50 01:54

20 182 Giani Marco Vélo-Club Mendrisio-PL Valli 04:20:50 01:54

21 229 Czakowski Konrad TEAM Fidibc.com 04:20:50 01:54

Grand Prix de Lancy 13 March 2008

FINALLY! My word, It's taken since mid 2005, but I finally did it today!
(I know this is long, but today I think it can be..)
GP Lancy, held in the far west of Switzerland on the outskirts of Genevra is a 177km Handicap race over five laps, which started in the chilly early hours of the morning. Fortunately the sun came out pretty quickly and things brightened up as we set off 10 minutes behind the Amateur bunch (hence Handicap race).
We fielded ten riders this morning, four of which were in the Amateur bunch which as usual meant that we were not allowed to do any pacing work. I was slightly concerned as no team seemed to really be setting up a pace line but before long it became obvious that today's race would be an attacking one. Towards the end of the first lap I jumped after a BMC rider (from the American Pro-Conti BMC team) and we got a nice group of about 8 riders pacing for all it's worth. Unfortunately that did not last for too long but that did not matter too much.
Shortly after being caught by the bunch we caught the majority of the Amateurs (wow, they must have been crawling today!) and not long afterwards I was off the front again.
I can't really remember how it happened, I just remember all of a sudden that Jaro was going wild and encouraging our group to GO as we had a gap. We hammered it up the next climb and got a slight gap before I really got to look around and see that we had formed a group of just about 20 which increased slightly as we picked up the remnants of the amateur breakaway. With Fidi numbering five in the break we were pushing it to get going and evidently did a good job of it. With two laps to go we had a two minute advantage as the group decreased slightly and we dropped Steven (who won the Amateur event in Fully).
One lap from the end I attacked really hard going up a steep and narrow climb just after the finish line and the group whittled down to nine riders with Jaro, Alain (Fritz), Matteo and myself still in there. I tried to get Matteo and Jaro in on a bit of 'two man attack and dead wheel action' but the two misunderstood me and the attack flopped. Instead Jaro threw a counter attack and got away solo which was fine. Matteo and I played blockers and really made the other riders lives miserable as they could not get any rhythm going without Matteo or I butting our front wheels in and destroying what they had going.
Unfortunately Jaro went a bit to far out and with a section on a dead straight road into a head wind he was reeled in slowly but surely. As the catch was about to happen we turned right and went over a little bump which after 170km could hurt any ones legs. Two of the chasers put in a move but did not get far. As soon as they realized that and slowed I jumped with all I had left and veered wide to the opposite side of the road. Flying past Jaro who was really going slowly by then I put my head down and went for it.
Davide was going wild on the race radio and must have repeated 'Chase the motorbike' at least thirty times! I knew that my team mates would be blocking at the back, just like I had been doing up until my attack so all I had to do was go balls to the wall. Davide was on my tail, still going wild, so I had extra motivation to do so.
After a while he changed his tune and would tell me to keep going as the race was not finished yet. Push push push. I only ever looked back once as I took the final turn into the final kilometer and could not see anyone behind me. That didn't change anything though as I kept my head down and going all out. All of a sudden, with 300 meters to go Davide mentioned over the radio that I nearly had a two minute gap so I could sit up, zip up and enjoy the victory!
I could barely believe it. It's been SO long since I won in Europe that I almost felt that it would never happen again..
One HUGE shout out to the team! We were amazing today! This bodes well for the next few races!
Can't wait!

11 April 2008

GP Valloton, Fully, 6 April 2008

Another race on the Swiss National Calender, at least this time it was a normal Elite race and not handicap, which meant proper racing instead of confusing tactics and being told to hold back (where's the excitement in that?).
We took the 250km, 4 hour drive to Fully on Saturday, taking the shortcut along the narrow lake side roads and over the massive Simplon pass. Everyone was very happy when we booked into a familiar hotel and tucked into a very good looking dinner. Pasta, potatoes, steamed veggies galore, chicken and pasta sauce. At the time I could not have asked for more. Leaving the hotel at 4.30 the next morning in order to make the early start I started wondering though...

With a slow drizzle and the sun still hiding behind the mountains we set off at a fast pace and after Jaro and Konrad's two attacks were unsuccessful I tried and managed to get away with two other riders. We immediately opened up a huge gap which was surprising but as we got to the 2km hill (nasty bugger but not a killer) I could not hold the guys wheel (other breakaway companion had blown by then already). I dropped. Stunned.

Around about this stage I started picking up how my stomach's rumblings grew louder and louder.

I hung around for a while and managed to get myself into the big split of the day but was suffering big time. Hanging on for dear life on the climb and in the gutter, watching in dismay as Jacques Janse van Rensburg (riding for the UCI Academy) went down the road on his own for a while. At the time a 'normal' move seemed inhumane to me.
Even though the team was sitting pretty with our five strongest riders in the 25 man break things were going backwards. Ben was dq'ed after getting help from the cars after a puncture, while Jaro, Konrad and myself were fading fast. Matteo, the goat/mountain man who can eat rocks if he likes was unaffected. Of course. So he was left to do his own thing as with one lap to go the combined Namibian and Polish forces retreated in full force.
Matteo was able to finish in the group behind the lone winner and get a decent fifth place while the rest of us were headed for the showers.
Even Davide (manager) was struck by the dodgy pasta sauce so there were not too many hard feelings going around. Also thanks to Steven, our team mate in the Amateur ranks, things were a little rosier as he was able to win his race solo!

Now all is better and I for one am hoping to make up for a really disappointing race!

Quote of the month

You cannot dream yourself into a character: you must hammer and forge yourself into one.
Henry D. Thoreau

10 April 2008

GP Courtine 31 March 2008

As usual the Swiss have some pretty crazy ideas, like holding the first National race of the season at over 1000 meters. Fortunately it was a lovely day so there were no weather issues, but there was still a LOT of snow all over the place, as can be seen in the pictures. The race was another Handicap race over 120km where the amateur bunch was let off 8 minutes ahead of our elite bunch. As we had riders in both groups we were not allowed to chase but thanks to the other teams we caught the amateurs on lap four of eight.

Soon after that I went away in a break of six riders and always hovered around one minute ahead of the bunch. Leading up the 3km climb/drag towards the finish for the bell I put in an acceleration and the size of the break was halved. 15km to go, three riders and a raging pack behind. The gap started coming down and we steamed ahead as fast as possible. As we hit the final ascent for the last time, 3km to go, the bunch was hovering at thirty seconds.
I immediately attacked and the UCI Academy rider with us was left behind. With 'ou toppie' Elminger, a masters world champion riding for the Continental team Steg-Computers hanging on my wheel I put in all I had. Not willing to give him a free ride I put in three accelerations, eventually getting rid of him and setting off solo.
With 1500meters to go I came out of the woods, with the finish in sight, but that is where the headwind hit me. I could see the bunch coming closer, bit by bit.
300meters to go I glanced back on final time, and thought that I had it.
Less than 100meters from the line they all came rushing past me... I was spent and could just roll across the line in 22nd place. It's been a while since I needed a little bit of privacy and a quiet corner after a race...
By the time that I got back to the team car I had calmed down enough to be very pleased by the news that our Goat (Matteo Montanari) had actually won the sprint! Not too shabby for the little guy!