I have to admit that I’m bike racing crazy. I used to watch just the Tour de France, but now I’ve got “Bicycle Racing” in the TiVo season passes and I’ve watched all the major races this year. I’m currently watching the Giro d’Italia, another major tour but not as major as “le Tour”. Many of the best riders and teams (including US Postal) give it a miss to prepare for “le Tour”, but the best sprinters are there.
Some random thoughts follow.
– I’ve never been a big sports watcher. I used to watch hockey when I was young, but the 1972 Canada-Russia series ruined it for me. I don’t even get excited about the Stanley Cup any more. I’m not sure why I’m so into road bike racing. I think it’s all the tactics and team work. In a way I feel embarrassed about this, because when Vicki married me I wasn’t a big sports watcher, and I know that her first husband was more than just a little bit overboard as a sports fan.
– “Legalize My Cannondale”? The SAECO team, which is currently dominating the GC in the Giro, uses Cannondale bikes which have stickers on them saying “Legalize My Cannondale”. Evidently the bike they use is lighter than is legal, so they have to put weights in it. One day they even wore “prison stripes” instead of their usual red jerseys as part of a protest against this rule. I have mixed feelings about this. I was a cross country ski racer in the late 1970s, early 1980s, when composite materials were just coming for the fore. The FIS (Federation Internationale du Ski) banned skis narrower than 44mm because ski racing was becoming a race to see who could survive a whole race with the narrowest skis. People would try narrower and narrower skis, and who cares if you broke your skis in one out of three races as long as you placed well in the other ones. They set an arbitrary limit to stop the equipment wars. Then the same thing happened with ski boots/bindings. Adidas made a very innovative plastic boot and binding combination that was light and strong and gave you really good control over your skis. But it was *too* light, and in the 1976 Olympics the Russian team was plagued by ski binding failures that cost them a couple of good chances at medals. A few years later Salomon perfected the plastic ski shoe for racing that while heavier than the Adidas system was FAR stronger and gave you even better control of your skis, allowing you to skate much more easily than before. Things have never looked back. (Too bad it was the Salomon-inspired skating stride that doomed me to never race again.) The same thing happened in ski poles – I saw a world championships where in the relay finish sprint, two racers collided and one of them had to finish with a broken pole. It was those Blackfeathers that I mentioned once before. Very strong, very light, very expensive, but a slight sideways impact and they’d shatter into pieces.
I can see similar things happening in cycling tours, especially since you’ve got a team car there to swap out components if anything happens, and a lot of teams are there to contest individual stage wins, not the GC, so losing a few with a broken bike is worth it if it leads to a win the day everything works. I have to wonder if they haven’t already passed the sweet spot when I see how many people get flat tires in the course a stage – today one guy got a flat while he was on at attack, which sure helped the peleton! Maybe they need a rule about tougher tires or make the team cars stay further back so there is more of a penalty for flatting.
– On the equipment front, I was watching “The Lance Chronicles” about Lance Armstrong’s preparations in the off-season. One day was showing him in the wind tunnel trying to place the numbers and radio pockets in dead air off his back to reduce the wind resistance. This was of course for his time trial clothes. I had two questions about that:
- Why don’t they pay more attention to wind resistance for non-time-trails? Sure, most of the riders get a big boost by drafting behind others, but surely when you’re up front or on a break away you could get some advantage from a few of the aerodynamic tricks used by the time trial suits and shoes?
- Why don’t they put the radios on the bike, in a aerodynamic fairing behind the stem tube or something, with a bluetooth headset? Especially if you had a Cannondale, that would help bring the weight up to legal, and you wouldn’t have to be lifting the radio up and down while dancing on the pedals. I wonder if that would violate any sort of rule?