Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Thanks to everyone for making 2009 a wonderful first year for Pavé.  Here's wishing you and yours a fabulous 2010!

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wednesday Cross Report and Power Ranking

Here’s Erik Mitchell’s last cyclocross report and Power Ranking of 2009. For more from Erik, visit his site, The Run-up. Feel free to share your comments and questions below.

It's Christmastime throughout the world and that can only mean one thing: lots and lots of European cyclocross racing. Since last week’s Power Rankings came out there have been 4 big races: a Belgian national-level event, a round of the World Cup in Zolder, and rounds of the Superprestige and GVA Trophy. The only consistent theme throughout all 4 races was the domination by the Belgian riders. Nys bookended the week with wins at the Noordzeecross and the GVA Trophy race in Loenhout. In between, Kevin Pauwels picked-up a huge win, taking Round 7 of the World Cup, while Niels Albert won the Superprestige race in Diegem. Needless to say, it was an action-packed week and a great one for the home riders.

Behind the Belgian Brigade, the usual cast of characters jostled for good results. Zdenek Stybar struggled in Zolder, but managed to podium at both the Superprestige ad GVA Trophy races. Behind Nys, Albert, and Stybar, the two stories were Gerben de Knegt—who pulled-out three-straight 4th places—and Sven Vanthourenhout’s conspicuous lack of results. All in all, we're seeing the same faces at the front and nobody really seems to be storming onto the scene. It's safe to say that Albert, Nys and Stybar are the best 3 riders in the world; the rest are struggling to prove they belong in the same class. So, where did everybody land? Time to check out this week’s Power Rankings:

International Power Rankings

1. Sven Nys (1) - Nys retains the #1 position partly because he raced all 4 races this week and partly because no one proved that they were truly better. The only issue for Nys was a crash that knocked him out of the Superprestige race—and most likely the overall title.
2. Niels Albert (3) - Albert's rocky past few weeks have begun to even out. He picked-up 2nd to Pauwels at Round 7 of the World Cup, won a round of the Superprestige, and finished 2nd to Nys in Loenhout. More importantly, he regained control of the Quadruple Crown: UCI Points, World Cup, Superprestige and GVA Trophy. The question is, can he hold it?
3. Kevin Pauwels (10) - As I said last week, Pauwels always responds well when he has a bad race. Honestly though, I didn't think he'd win a round of the World Cup. Nonetheless, the man to watch has suddenly launched himself into the limelight. Unfortunately, Pauwels suffered another letdown with a 16th place in Loenhout. I can't wait to see how he rebounds—again.
4. Zdenek Stybar (2) - Stybar lost major World Cup ground with a 6th-place finish in Zolder. He's only 20 points behind Albert, but when the series continues toward the end of January, he'll probably have other things on his mind. He still remains the only non-Belgian capable of donning the rainbow jersey. He's also the only person able to challenge Albert for the Superprestige overall.
5. Gerben de Knegt (8) - This week's #1 is 34 years-old, followed by guys 24, 26, and 25 years-old. Then there's the man from the Netherlands who made fourth place all his own at the ripe old age of 35. Even with all the consistency he's had this season, de Knegt still surprises me. Perhaps he'll figure out a way to beat these young chaps.
6. Klaas Vantornout (4) - Vantornout finished inside the top-10 three times this week. Points-wise, he's still ahead of Pauwels, meaning his spot for Worlds is nearly locked-up. Vantornout continues to knock on the door of greatness, but I think the aforementioned riders are just that little bit better—at least for now.
7. Dieter Vanthourenhout (n/a) - Three top-10’s mark Dieter's return to the rankings. Each week I write Dieter off—especially after his horrific crash earlier this year—yet he always creeps back into the rankings. He needs to find some consistency to remain here next week, but for now he earns the 7 spot.
8. Bart Aernouts (6) - Aernouts finished inside the top-10 in the three races he entered this week—barely—and is one of about a half-dozen riders battling for a spot on the Belgian Worlds team. I think this year he’s destined to remain in the chase group, but in a few more he should be with the leaders.
9. Bart Wellens (7) - Wellens finished a disappointing 21st in Zolder, but bounced-back with a 5th and a 7th. Wellens needs to remain consistent to have a shot at Worlds; he's still trying to find his race legs after some extensive (forced) time off. He’s only 32 though; he'll have plenty more years to represent his nation.
10. Radomir Simunek (9) - Simunek's 5th in Zolder was his best Word Cup to date and is very surprising since the Czech rider barely makes the top-10 at such important races. He's still young (27) which means he has a few more years to develop before things will really begin to click. At this point in the season, I think his goal is to try and win his national championship (not very likely with Stybar as his main competition) and represent his nation at Worlds, where he may use the hometown crowd to turn some heads.

Dropped this week: Sven Vanthourenhout (5).

The racing madness of "Christmas Week" continues over the next 7 days. However, it mostly consists of national-level races in Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Obviously, the bulk of the action will be in Belgium, where riders can contest three straight races beginning New Year’s Day with the GP Sven Nys. Yes, Nys has his own race, which this year is once again a part of the GVA Trophy. It's still a three-man race in the GVA series, with Nys trailing Albert by a mere 5 points. I should also note that next weekend almost every country is hosting its National Championship, which may cause riders to back off a bit this week or not race at all. Regardless, I'm sure many of the big boys will be out to play.

That’s it for 2009—see you next year! And please, share your comments below.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Monday Musette - End of Season Awards (You Haven't Heard of Yet)

It’s the end of the year, a time for reflection, renewal, relaxation, and—awards. To me, most of the serious ones have already been awarded to deserving recipients. But here are a few that might have been missed:

The “This Contract’s Not Worth the Paper Upon Which It’s Written” Award
Maybe we need to blame EU labor laws for this, but it’s hard to not give this one to Bradley Wiggins. Here’s hoping he’s able to make good on the potential Sky sees in him. If he doesn’t, it could prove to be one of the costliest blunders in the history of transfers.

The “A Promise is a Promise—Until It Isn’t” Award
Specialized shocked everyone this fall, first by signing Alberto Contador to an individual deal then by leaving Quick Step to supply bikes for the entire Astana team. Was a contract broken? No, the agreement between SBC and Quick Step was due to expire anyway. But reading between the lines, one can’t help but sense that Patrick Lefevere felt a bit betrayed by Specialized’s sudden change of heart.

The “Wasted Breath, Wasted Time, and Wasted Blood” Award
This past year, several teams and riders signed agreements with independent doctors to monitor and publish their “health” findings—only to end these agreements later. First it was Lance, then Team Saxo Bank followed suit. Have you ever read The Great Gatsby? Do you remember the part when the narrator, Nick Carraway, tells us “he’s one of the few honest people that [he] has ever known”? It’s an important moment, for Nick is ironically one of the most dishonest characters in the novel. A fact made doubly important due to the fact that he’s the one narrating. The lesson: never trust a person who boasts of his or her own honesty—especially if they take it back soon after.

The “Innovation Most Likely to Actually Innovate” Award
At first, I think we all thought Shimano’s Di2 electronic group would prove to be nothing more than a passing fancy. Skil-Shimano and Rabobank domestiques were the early testers, but that was attributed to nothing more than a result of their sponsor-team relationships. But soon other, more important riders began choosing to use it—including George Hincapie. And now, several of the World’s fastest cyclocross racers are riding it and winning with it—in some pretty adverse conditions. I won’t be fully sold until it wins a major one-day road race, thus proving its reliability in races where one untimely mechanical problem can be most costly (like on the Poggio, at the foot of the Muur, or in the Arenberg Forest). But I think that day is coming—soon.

The “Innovation Least Likely to Actually Innovate” Award
It’s cool, it’s clever, and it might even work. But it’s not likely to gain a serious foothold in the marketplace.

The “Rider of the Year Who Has Not Already Won a ‘Rider of the Year Award’” Award
I’m not sure about you, but I think one of the best sub-plots of this year’s Tour de France was the mini-Renaissance of French cycling. I say “mini” because it will be difficult to fully proclaim France’s return to Tour prominence until they can boast of a true overall contender. That said, Brice Feillu gave it his best shot this year, winning the stage to Arcalis and finishing 25th overall—in his first Tour. Whether or not he has the talent to win the race outright remains to be seen, but he certainly deserves credit for a classy stage win that lifted the hopes of a nation in desperate need of someone to cheer for—all the way to Paris.

The “What Were They Thinking?” Award
When it was first unveiled to the press, I thought AG2R’s new kit might look pretty cool in a retro sort of way. Then I saw it for real.

And finally…

The “Best Blog That Uses European Cycling Jargon in its Title” Award
La Gazzetta Della Bici is a great choice, but it’s already won something. To me, the winner here is a recent addition to my Google reader: El Cyclista. It’s well-designed, offers focused coverage, and doesn’t overwhelm me with kitsch or angst. (A lesson I’m still trying to learn myself.) It deserves your regular visitation.

(Did you really think I’d create an award just for myself? Puh-lease…)

So I guess that’s it for the last Monday Musette of 2009. Who did we leave out? What awards do you have to share with the rest of us?

Would you like me to take a serious stab at identifying some "real" awards for 2009? I’m happy to offer my insights on the season’s important performances if you wouldn’t consider it redundant. If so, what would you like to see recognized?

Please leave your ideas and comments below. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wednesday Cross Report and Power Rankings

Here's Erik's latest Cross Report and Power Ranking.  For more from our cross expert, check-out his site, The Run-up.  And please, share your comments below.

In what was supposed to be the weekend where the World Cup overall would be decided—or at least create a clear leader—the opposite happened. We are now left with a tie for the World Cup title between Niels Albert and Zdenek Stybar—each with 435 points. More importantly, a resurgent Sven Nys has thrown his hat in the ring with three World Cup races remaining after taking the victory in style this weekend in more than deplorable conditions in Kalmthout, Belgium. Nys’ race was marred by some first lap disasters including a dropped chain and a crash, but he battled back, taking the lead on the final lap—where he crashed once again near the finish. Needless to say, Nys proved that he can win when it counts; he's perhaps the best rider in snow, sleet and rain. Behind Nys, it was the usual cast of characters with Stybar picking-up 2nd and Albert holding-on for 3rd. As a result, Stybar got the points he needed to tie Albert for the overall lead.  With a few races left, Nys needs to put some serious distance between himself and Albert/Stybar if he wants to capture the title.

The severe weather wreaked havoc on the rest of the field and produced some very unique results. Thus, there will be a few riders staying in the rankings this week that might have otherwise been eliminated—most notably: Radomir Simunek and Kevin Pauwels.  There was also a race on Friday in Belgium that can be considered a precursor to Sunday’s World Cup where Nys picked-up the victory with Tom Meeusen (a name for the future) and Stybar rounding out the podium. Albert finished a distant seventh.  All in all, it was a good weekend for Nys, The races continue prove there's great parity in cyclocross’ upper echelon.  That said, here's this week’s rankings:

1. Sven Nys (2) - Nys took home an "epic" victory in Kalmthout proving once again that you can never count out the elder statesman. He's in the thick of things in the Superprestige and GvA Trophy while a World Cup overall may be just out of reach. The next few weeks will prove critical to the Belgian Champion's season if he wants to win any of the major cross series—not to mention the elusive rainbow jersey, which will be awarded in about one month.
2. Zdenek Stybar (3) - The Czech superstar continues to prove he belongs at the front, doing just enough in Kalmthout to capture a share of the World Cup overall. With 3 races left, it's a crapshoot between him and Albert. And let’s not forget: there's nothing like winning the World Championships in you're own country.
3. Niels Albert (1) - Albert's season began in almost Nys-like fashion.  He’s since cooled-off a bit though, and as a result things have become quite interesting. Albert, Nys and Stybar are all in contention to win the GvA Trophy, Superprestige and the UCI overall ranking. To say that every race matters for these 3 would be an understatement.
4. Klass Vantornout - Vantornout returns to the rankings this week with a stellar 4th place in Kalmthout. Even with a half-lap to go, Vantornout was in contention for the win. He hasn't finished better than third this year and with the aforementioned riders I don't think he'll buck that trend any time soon.
5. Sven Vanthourenhout - Vanthourenhout stole Francis Mourey's usual 5th-place spot (Mourey finished 8th). He continues to have an up-and-down season, but seems to have more down’s than up’s lately. Perhaps he's beginning to turn the corner for a solid end to the season.
6. Bart Aernouts (5) - Aernouts managed to survive the mess with a top-10 finish in Kalmthout. At this point in the season he should definitely make the Belgian World's team and continues to have an outside shot at a podium placing.
7. Bart Wellens - Wellens' comeback hit another bright spot with a 9th-place on Sunday. It remains to be seen if he can return to the front of the field, but with increasingly good results, I have high hopes for him.
8. Gerben de Knegt (9) - de Knegt continues to surprise me with his consistent riding. He's the best Dutch rider this year (not bad for a 35-year-old), but remains chase group fodder. All things considered, that's not a bad place to be.
9. Radomir Simunek (7) - Simunek finished 4th in Friday's race and was in the lead group on Sunday. Sadly, a nasty crash knocked him out. Regardless, he continues to be one of the stronger riders this season.
10. Kevin Pauwels (4) - Pauwels had his worst result of the season on Sunday, finishing 32nd. He placed 6th on Friday and clearly suffered under the deplorable conditions in Kalmthout. It's only his third finish outside of the top-10 this year though, which is impressive. He also tends to bounce back very well following a bad result.

Dropped this week: Dieter Vanthourenhout (6), Enrico Franzoi (8) and Jonathan Page (10).

It's Christmastime throughout the world, which means one thing: lots of cross races. Over the next few weeks there are nearly a dozen cross races throughout northern Europe. This weekend holds the most prestige with a round of the World Cup and the Superprestige. There's also a GvA Trophy event next week. Needless to say all eyes will be focused on Albert and Stybar this weekend in Heusden-Zolder for Round Seven of the World Cup. However, another win by Nys wouldn't surprise me. With a win in Diegem on Sunday, Nys could all but lock-up his 10th Superprestige overall, but Albert and Stybar are only two and four points behind, respectively. Needless to say it will be no easy task and I can't wait to watch the fireworks.

Have a terrific holiday!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Monday Musette - Wintery Cross, Cool Bikes, Abt, Lance, and Tiger

1. If you missed yesterday’s World Cup cyclocross event in Kalmthout, Belgium, you missed a fantastic race set against a snowy, wintry backdrop—in short, you missed everything that makes cyclocross cyclocross. Never fear—you can watch the race (in 6 parts) here. Enjoy!

2. And speaking of wintry backdrops--how about this?

3. One of the things I find tantalizing about cyclocross is the endless possibility it offers for building and tinkering with equipment. Case in point: Molly Cameron’s Ridley was the recent focus of a post over at Embrocation and it’s one of the finest bikes I’ve seen featured this season. Every part was painstakingly chosen for performance, durability, and yes, aesthetics. My favorite touch: the gold anodized Chris King bottom bracket.

4. Did you see Radio Freddy's interview with Matt Wilson?  Go give it a read!

5. Congrats to La Gazzetta dello Bici for some well-deserved compliments.

6. Sam Abt has a new essay over at the NY Times. I’ve recently started reading Abt’s book, Off to the Races, and what I’ve come to appreciate the most about his writing is its ability to give voice to the less-obvious personalities and events we might otherwise miss. For example, his subject today is the retirement of Stéphane Goubert—a rider never to have won a race by himself. It’s Abt at his best. Give it a read.

7. And speaking of the NY Times, did you have a chance to read the column in which Lance Armstrong (via George Vecsey) offers advice to Tiger Woods? Here's my question: is Lance really someone who we can trust in matter such as this? Yes, he’s never been accused of such “transgressions”, but one can certainly call into question his track record over the past several years--I'm not talking about doping either. My mother always told me that people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. I’m not saying that Lance lives in a glass house—but he certainly has more windows than most. Ride your bike, Lance. Tiger’s got enough on his plate without you throwing your two cents into the ring.

8. Regardless of your opinions of Lance Armstrong (and his opinions), this interview with David Walsh is quite thought-provoking. Honestly, I’m torn. Walsh’s steadfast pursuit of Lance borders on the obsessive, slightly insane even. At the same time though, I can’t help but wonder if where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Thanks to NY Velocity for such terrific journalism!

9. And finally, I have to spend some time sharing my thoughts about something that happened last week. If you came by late Friday, you might have read some pretty offensive and inappropriate comments left by one reader following the conclusion of an interview I conducted with Jeremy Dunn. If you read those comments and were even slightly offended, please accept my most sincere apologies. They never should have been posted.

When I started Pavé, it began as an experimental way for me to share my thoughts on the sport—in particular, the races, riders, and topics about which I’m most passionate. I never thought that it would grow into a site frequented and enjoyed by so many—but of course I happy that it did!

Over time I’ve come to especially appreciate the feedback, opinions, and—yes—criticism that gets shared via your comments. However, at no point did I feel a need to moderate them before being posted. I now see that I was perhaps a bit naïve. So now, in an effort to keep Pavé safe and friendly to all, I’ll be reading your comments before posting them on the site. Please do not let that deter you from sharing your ideas with the rest of us—if anything, let it encourage you to continue to do so, knowing that your doing it an environment that is safe and secure.

That’s all I have to say about that.

As always, have a terrific week! And feel free to share your comments below.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Saturday, December 19, 2009

First Annual Semi-Last Minute Holiday Gift Guide

If you’re like me—or my wife (who I hope is reading)—you’re a bit behind in your holiday shopping. And since everyone else has published at least some form of a holiday gift guide, I thought it would be appropriate to provide one of my own—albeit at the last minute. So without further ado, I give you…

 The First Annual Pavé Semi-Last Minute Holiday Gift Guide!

1. We begin in an obvious place: Rapha (who’s accepting UK, US, and Canadian holiday orders (to be received by Christmas) until 2pm GMT on the 20th). I was a recent recipient of the new Knitted Hat and neoprene Overshoes—two items I’ll need as winter continues to entrench itself up and down the Eastern seaboard. The 100% merino wool hat is one of the softest I’ve ever owned. It looks and feels great on the bike—both under and without a helmet; and is stylish enough to be worn around town. And since this is a Rapha product, there’s a tiny "Chapeau!" on the tag in the hat’s lining—a little extra motivation to get you going on those cold winter days. Better still, it’s not itchy, a common problem with wool headgear. I now have both the Knitted Hat and the original Rapha Winter Hat, and this one’s overtaken the latter’s place at the top of my headgear food chain.

As for the Overshoes, a good set of neoprene foot coverings is a staple of any rider’s winter/spring wardrobe. These are tough, with zippers and seams certain to stand up to months of pulling, tugging, and scraping. The zipper pull locks down against itself, and the reflective tab on the heel offers a bit of added visibility on overcast days—and you know you’ll be wearing them on overcast days. Like the Knitted Hat, the inside reveals a brief musing on riding in Belgium, as well as instructions for care and cleaning. One note on fit: I wear a 44.5 shoe and found my sample XL overshoes to be very baggy around my skinny ankles. Yes, XL is a size too big per Rapha's site, but I'm wondering if even an M would have fit better.

2. Another great last-minute gift idea is a magazine subscription. Boring? Yes, if it’s a subscription to something found easily in any local bookstore. But how about something more obscure? Maybe something French or Italian? Italy’s Bicisport and France’s Vélo are two terrific options. Better still, they’re both available for subscription via’s magazine service. Yes, they’re in a foreign language, but there’s something to be said for a bit of foreign reading laying casually on your coffee table. Expensive? Yes, but well worth the money if the recipient appreciates some of the finest coverage and photography Europe has to offer. (Bicisport’s issues frequently run over 300 pages—the May issue covering the Classics is perhaps the finest single publication all year.) Amazon now makes it easier than ever to get on board—order soon to ensure delivery of your first issue by the start of the season.  Here's a link for Vélo; and one for Bicisport.

For the book lover, there are several offerings to satisfy all tastes—several, in fact, are on my wish list as well.

3. The 2009 Edition of Rouleur’s Photo Annual has arrived. You can order it from Rapha to have it for the holidays. The latest edition of Rouleur (Volume 15) is out too—you might as well throw one in if you’re already paying the expensive shipping costs.

4. It’s a bit harder to get (you’ll need to have it shipped from the Netherlands), but Cor Vos has just released a massive collection of his best images from his 30+ years covering the sport called Emotions. Next to Graham Watson there’s not a more legendary name in cycling photography. It’s quite pricey (about $150) and it won’t make it to you in time for holidays; but, it’s hardbound and comes in its own stylish slipcase—another worthy addition to any fan’s coffee table.

5. As far as on-the-bike items are concerned, the #1 gift on my wish list isn’t available at least until January, so an IOU might have to do. Giro’s Prolight helmet was unveiled at this year’s Tour to an apparent lukewarm reception—from the riders at least. I like its retro style though, and its low weight and improved retention mechanism look to make it the most comfortable helmet on the market. I wonder how well it fits over caps?

And since we’re moving up in price, why not take advantage of the holiday season to treat yourself or the cobble-lover in your life to a nice set of classic-inspired tubular wheels?

6. Handspun’s Neo Classics hearken back to a day when the best wheels were made by hand. On these babies, DT’s 32-hole 340 hubset comes laced 3x with Supercomp spokes to a set of Mavic Reflex’s—the grey CD rim coating is your only option (but it’s the only one you want anyway). You can even have them tied and soldered for a slight up-charge. Remember, these are not wheels built by a machine—they’re laced, tensioned, and trued by an expert wheelbuilder right here in the USA. If you need the merits of riding tubulars explained to you, well…this isn’t a gift for you. On the other hand, if you or someone you know appreciates a solid, comfortable ride on a hand-built wheelset that can handle just about anything you subject it to—then these are right up your alley. Your cobbled alley, that is.

7. And last, but certainly not least, why not order some lovely new clothing to go along with your new helmet and wheels?  May I offer a suggestion?  Orders being taken through the 21st for delivery by the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad.

So there you have it, Sweetheart--I mean, Reader.  A short, but comprehensive guaranteed to please any Pavé rider or fan.  Better start shopping though, time's running out.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Pavé Interview - Jeremy Dunn - Part 2

Here's the second half of a recent interview we conducted with Embrocation and Rapha's Jeremy Dunn.  You can read Part 1 here.

 Photo by Daniel Wakefield Pasley

11. Tell us a little about your bikes—what are you riding?  
Well, my Rapha Continental bike was elegantly made by Richard Sachs.   My road bike was hand crafted in Switzerland by the fine folks at BMC.   Embrocation Racing cyclocross bikes for the last few years had been custom made by Igleheart. I've been pretty lucky to be have found a dear friend in Chris, he makes AMAZING I also have a 29er that he fashioned for me. It’s called the "Guilt Trip" for two reasons; one of those is because I don't get to ride it as much as I want to.

This year we have had the amazing fortune to be riding Custom Painted Ridley X-Fire bikes. I have never ridden carbon during cross season, so this is a new one for me as well. A little bit of a departure from the one-off custom guys, but it is always good to try something new and these machines do not disappoint.

Photo by Jeremy Dunn

When I was in Belgium this past spring I had the chance to tour the Ridley Factory, and I while I was there someone said “you have a cyclocross team right?” I said “yes” to that and the wheels started turning.

They are a great crew, the people from Ridley and they have done a great job of equipping us with some hands down AMAZING bicycles. Plus, it feels like we’re part of the Belgian cyclocross tradition at this point as well, and that never hurts.

12. What’s your favorite piece of “classic” equipment?      

I was always a fan of the old Shimano logo. The one with the green light blue and navy blue stripes. Good stuff color wise. Equipment? Mavic rims. I have this Mavic rim display at home that has cross sections of all the rims at the time. Very useful selling tool I might add.   Tubulars are also nice. Are they considered "classic?"    I also have a Lemond steel bike that apparently was made by someone named Pegoretti? I think he's Italian. In any case, it’s a very nice road bike.

13. Any heroes or role models—both cycling and non-cycling?  

Heroes, eh? That is always a funny question I think. The way I approach heroes is this: find some amazing qualities in the people, and then surround yourself with these people. Make sure that you interact with them as much as possible and in a genuine way and the experiences that come out of this are going to be hero worthy. Therefore, I have a lot of heroes. So, here goes:

My parents Dan and Kathy have always been my heroes. They are both teachers in many senses of the word and have impressed the "learning" vibe on me. Plus, they're both really into supporting everything that I'm into, so that always helps. And they're awesome and hilarious, so there's that too.

Peter Rubijono. He knows how to go into the dark places not only with his artwork, but also with his bicycle riding. I've been riding with him for years now and it’s amazing to see what comes out of both creative outlets for him. But the best part?  He knows how to come back from those places to hang-out and be a great friend too.

Slate Olson and Carey Schleicher-Haselhorst are also heroes of mine. It is pretty compelling to see what they have done with the Rapha brand in only a few short years; I feel pretty lucky to be involved with the two of them. Slate is always coming up with these race ideas and Carey has the design sensibility to make them look abso-freakin’-lutely amazing. Any of the design stuff that you see coming out of the U.S. office is all her.

James Morrison is my business partner when it comes to the Embrocation side of things. We like to call it a Creative/Business separation. I just come up with crazy ideas and he figures-out how to make them reality. He is really good with all that stuff. At some point along the way I realized that I couldn't do all of this on my own and James happened to be standing there saying "well, I think I could help fill that void." Plus, he can tear my legs-off on any road ride around...

…I could go on and on about all the people that are heroes to me. It is a seriously involved list.

14. Got anything in the creative pipeline we can look forward to?

Well, yes, of course, there is always something, is there not? I have been working on a few things that should drop around Christmas holiday. I have also been experimenting with this idea of putting out the publication entirely by myself, like, all my writing and all my photos… I know, it sounds incredibly vain, but an experiment nonetheless. Something like Edward Bair’s The Art Of Eating, although I just saw the new issue and it looks like he has other contributors as well.

The Rapha Continental is developing quite nicely as well. I have a feeling that you will be seeing quite a bit more of these guys this coming summer. We have the usual Gentleman’s Race’s planned for both coasts, but it sounds like we are going to be hitting some of the iconic American Cycling Events around the country. Things like that now-famous D2R2 and Ragbrai and Cycle Oregon. Which, I have to say, if the Continental has taught me one thing it would be something about Community, so I am excited to participate in these classic rides.

Then there is the matter of NAHBS this year too. I have yet to hear if they are going to approve my press pass, so, we shall see how that goes. Although I am interested in seeing what the town of Richmond has to offer. Should be good.

15. And finally, what comes to mind when you hear the word “pavé”?  

Nothing. Literally, my mind goes blank.  When I finally had the opportunity to ride the cobbles that were Flanders, Gent and Paris-Roubaix my mind went blank. I thought about all the stuff that people had said. That you, in fact, had said leading up to the moment when I hit the cobbles. But I think the best way I can describe it is that my mind went completely blank. Your brain rattles in your head and you can't focus for a second.  Pavé. What a word. 

Boonen Coming Through from j. dunn on Vimeo.

Thanks for the time, Jeremy--I know you’re a busy fella.  We’re looking forward to reading/seeing/riding what you’ve got in store!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wednesday Cross Report and Power Rankings

Erik Mitchell's latest weekly cross report and power rankings are below.  For more, head to his site, The Run-up.

A few weeks ago, I boldly declared that there are two certainties in cyclocross this year. First, if a rider shows up to race they will win. Second, Niels Albert will win every race he enters by a sizable margin. This past weekend—to a certain extent—justified those claims. On this side of the Atlantic, Tim Johnson proved that he's the best rider in the United States by winning his third stars and stripes jersey. In Belgium, Niels Albert was back to his usual self, picking-up a pair of solo victories on Saturday and Sunday. While he didn't show the domination he had earlier this season, Albert has clearly found his stride again. He also extended his lead in the UCI ranking as well as the GvA Trophy Series.

On Sunday, Tim Johnson took his third Elite National Championship in dominating fashion over Ryan Trebon and Jonathan Page. Page, the European-based American, had nothing to say except that he had a horrible day and Johnson had a great one. On the flip-side, Trebon acknowledged that he had the hometown advantage, but couldn't match the speed and technical ability of Johnson. Behind these three, Todd Wells continued to show his good form, as did the other guys.

Since this is effectively the end of the North American cross season, this is the final week of the domestic power ranking. However, there's still a lot to look forward to. For the first time in years, Tim Johnson is prepping for the World Championships and hopes to represent this country in style. Jeremy Powers and Jamey Driscoll will most likely spend some time in Europe as well. Behind the elite men, there's a slew of U23 Americans looking to cut their teeth on the European circuit—as well as Katie Compton’s quest for a rainbow jersey. Needless to say, the season is far from over for the Americans. In the rankings, Tim Johnson climbed back to the #1 spot, but where does every one else fall? Time to find out, one last time:

North American Rankings

1. Tim Johnson (3) - Johnson has been the fastest rider when it counts this year and ended the US season on top, picking-up another National Championship as well as the NACT overall title. For the first time in over a decade, Johnson will turn his focus to the World Championships. The tough part is we won’t have an idea of how he'll fair until mid-January.
2. Ryan Trebon (4) - When all was said and done on Sunday, Trebon ended-up where he belonged. While he showed signs of the form that won him a National Championship last year, he never really proved he was better then 2nd place. He won the USGP overall, but failed to really impress. His relaxed approach to the season was interesting to watch, but was a very big part of why he's the second-best rider in the country.
3. Jeremy Powers (1) - Every year, Powers continues to improve and turn heads. This year he found the podium in all sorts of ways and looked poised to finish in the top-3 at Nationals. Some will argue that he may have won if it weren’t for an untimely crash. I would argue that every time he's taken-off at the start, Johnson has bridged across and won. I think the best he could have done was second, perhaps next year he'll finally take the top spot when it counts.
4. Todd Wells (2) - Wells proved it's better late than never, grabbing a slew of UCI wins ahead of Nationals. Somehow that put him at the top of everyone's list for the big dance. I was more reserved figuring he would only finish on the podium. His 4th-place finish this year means his cross career may not be over just yet.
5. Jamey Driscoll (5) - The most consistent US racer of the year, Driscoll ended-up 6th at Nationals, whereas last year he capped-off the season with a silver medal. With another season or two in the US, mixed with some European racing, Driscoll should be a true National Championship contender for the future.
6. Dan Timmerman (6) - Timmerman was my wild card for a podium spot after a tremendous breakout season. He finished 8th behind some very impressive company. He took the NECCS overall proving that he belongs with the other heads of state. Hopefully he’ll travel a bit more next year and if all goes well he could end his season on the podium.
7. Chris Jones (7) - Jones rounded-out the top-10 in Bend, again proving that he's not just another roadie who struck it lucky at a cross race or two. Depending on how his road season plays out next year, Jones could move from the front of the chase group to the lead group.
8. Daniel Summerhill (9) - Summerhill picked-up another National Championship in the U23 race. He has experienced the feel of the World Championship podium; if he keeps his focus and finds his form come the end of January, he could do it again.
9. Geoff Kabush (8) - You can either blame the Canadian or me but when it came down to it, Kabush was more consistent than Barry Wicks this season. It should be interesting to see what Kabush does with the rest of his season. From here, he could put in a solid European campaign, or back-off a bit and go all-out next year on the MTB circuit. Either way, he’s earned the #9 spot this year.
10. Adam Craig (10) - Much like Wells, Craig figured-out how to race a full mountain bike season and half of a cross season with great success. Hopefully we'll see more of him next year; perhaps he can better his 7th at Nationals.

Internationally, Niels Albert returned to the top step of the podium for the first time in nearly a month on Saturday, ahead of the usual crew of Sven Nys and Zdenek Stybar. Nys lacked the usual excuses and essentially admitted that he had a bad day. Stybar, who lives in Essen where the race was held, also lacked excuses as he settled for third. Sunday was more of the same as Albert took another victory followed by Kevin Pauwels and Nys. It’s hard to tell for sure if Albert is back though. The only safe thing to say at this point in the season is that there are 3 men capable of winning every weekend and the rest just have to watch the fireworks. I still have a feeling that Nys will pull something off before it’s all said and done, but for now all eyes should be focused on Stybar and Albert. Once again, there are several changes to the rankings as the European cyclocross world continues to mix thing up. Here's this week's ranking:

International Rankings

1. Niels Albert (2) - Albert returned to the top step with a pair of wins in Belgium. The World Champ was up to his usual tricks, attacking from the start and never looking back. More importantly he regains control over the UCI ranking (a competition that doesn't matter as much any more) and the GvA Trophy.
2. Sven Nys (3) - Nys had another legitimate chance to take the victory on Saturday. A mid-race bike change turned the tide for the Belgian National Champ, but he ran out of real estate in the end. He seemed very upset about losing valuable GvA Trophy points; it appears that at this point he's focused on overall series wins rather than individual races.
3. Zdenek Stybar (1) - The Czech Champion could only muster a 3rd and 5th this past weekend. He's still amongst the top three in the world right now, he just needs to continue to try to win and control the races. Trust me, he'll be back on the top step of the podium soon enough.
4. Kevin Pauwels (na) - Pauwels returns to the rankings this week with a pair of top-5 finishes. He's been my surprise pick from the start and dropping him from the ranking last week was tough. He's still knocking on the door of a huge win this year, but seems a small step behind. That will change with experience.
5. Bart Aernouts (5) - Aernouts had another solid weekend of riding, however, he still isn't capable of riding with the leaders. He's another relatively young rider who could have his chance over the next few seasons.
6. Dieter Vanthourenhout (na) - Vanthourenhout looked poised for another stellar season until that nasty crash a few months ago. Since his return, he continues to be up and down. He's definitely off the pace of the leaders, but continues to finish in the top-10. If he can remain consistent there's no reason to believe that he'll drop from the rankings.
7. Radomir Simunek (8) - Simunek's 7th place on Saturday seems to fit the Czech perfectly. He has consistently finished just off the podium this year in races both big and small. He's another rider who needs a few more years to mature; then, he'll be a regular protagonist.
8. Enrico Franzoi (na) - The Italian continues to struggle to stay in the top-10 in the rankings. He's consistently riding in top-15, but has failed to make a significant impact in any race this year. With the names ahead of him on this week’s rankings that's not hard to believe, but unfortunately, I don't expect it to change any time soon.
9. Gerben de Knegt (7) - de Knegt picked-up another pair of top-10 places this past weekend. He dropped a couple of spots, but still remains in the rankings thanks to his consistency. He's the second-oldest rider to make the rankings this year, but he's lasted longer than some of the youngest.
10. Jonathan Page (10) - This may or may not be my Christmas gift to the American. His 3rd at Nationals was clearly a disappointment. However, his 8th in the World Cup two weeks ago—combined with his Nationals result—leaves him here for one more week.

Dropped this week: Klaas Vantornout (4), Bart Wellens (6), and Erwin Vervecken (9).

Kalmthout, Belgium will host Round Six of the World Cup this Sunday. With the US season over, we will begin to see some Americans making their way across the pond, however, they usually take this weekend off. That said, I expect Katie Compton and Jonathan Page to head back to Europe soon to continue their seasons. With a nearly 100-point lead over 3rd place, the World Cup has become a two-man battle with Albert taking his “commanding” five-point lead over Stybar to Kalmthout. This is a crucial battleground for the two riders. Obviously, whoever comes out on top will take the lead with 3 rounds remaining. More importantly, it's a battle for momentum and the mental edge. All-in-all, it promises to be a slug-fest.

That’s it for this week! Share your comments below.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Pavé Interview – Jeremy Dunn - Part 1

Photo by Dan Sharp

Embrocation, Rapha, Rouleur, Bicycling—the list goes on and on. 

Jeremy Dunn’s hands are in several projects; chances are you’ve seen something of his over the last 2 years—especially if you’re a frequent visitor to Pavé.  He’s professional, talented, hard working, and—as I painfully learned during my day with the Rapha Continental, very, very fast.  Recently, Jeremy’s taken some time from of his busy schedule to answer some questions and share his thoughts on cycling, heroes, and of course, pavé.

We hope you enjoy the conversation!

1.  Hi, Jeremy, and thank you for taking the time to talk to Pavé.  Let’s start with something basic: what’s your 6-word memoir?  

I'm not done with it yet.

2.  Clearly, Jeremy, but I doubt if someone as hard-working as you ever will be.  You’re originally from the Midwest, then there was Boston, and now you’re in Portland.  Can you connect the dots for us?  What inspired the moves?  

Let’s see, I moved from the smallest of small towns—Lancaster, Wisconsin—to Milwaukee, and from there to Boston, and now I find myself roaming the streets of Portland. Milwaukee to Boston happened because at one point in my life I was into the documentary television world, and the best place to be for that was Boston. (PBS, in fact.) Good times over there...but then I got bored of that—or maybe it got bored of me? Can't tell which it was. Either way I went back to working in the cycling industry and that took me all over the place, finally landing on Portland.

3. “I went back to working in the cycling industry” is a bit of an understatement.  You’re involved in so many endeavors and projects—maybe too many to discuss here.  But how ‘bout we start with Embrocation?  How did it begin?  What inspired you to get it rolling?  

Embrocation started as an idea really. What I thought was, it would be great to put out a monthly little publication that would come out three times a year, all during the cyclocross season. But then, as I started to pull together writing and photos for it, and realized that I knew absolutely nothing about magazines or how to put them together, the project kind of evolved. This happened by basically pushing my own deadlines back further and further and seeing the content grow larger and lager. Plus, I read an issue of Rouleur somewhere in there, which totally changed my perspective on what a cycling publication really could, and should, be: an honest, beautiful look at the sport. Thing was, they were only talking about what was going on in Europe. So, I shifted my focus a little bit.  Richard Sachs and Chris Igleheart were also both an inspiration behind getting it going. I took a real liking to some custom steel-ness and when I saw the passion that these two were putting into their bicycles it made me want to produce something that was akin to that sentiment.

4. What’s the biggest challenge associated with running your own journal?  

Getting people to submit stuff on time and being on time with deadlines that I've set for myself (insert nervous chuckle).  It always seems that time is slipping away from me. I've got all these ideas and they all try to come out at once, so what I try to do is make sure that they have the proper outlets for getting out--sometimes they do and sometimes they don't.

5. The Embrocation Racing Team was a good idea.  When did you decide to roll the magazine and name into team sponsorship?  Why?  How did it come to be?

Well, that's always been the idea. I, along with a few others like Craig Roth (of Cambridge Bicycle and way back, Strangers Racing), have been putting together these slightly small scale cycling teams for a couple of years now. Racing for one shop or another (Harris Cyclery and then Cambridge Bicycle) and we always used to say to each other, wouldn't it be cool to be racing for something that we were doing, making, producing...I mean isn't the point of the team to advertise? Well, let’s make something that we want to advertise...and then at some point it made sense to just kind of roll them into one.

Photo by Dan Sharp

6. What is your vision for Embrocation?  Where do you see it headed in the next several years?  

Years? Shoot, man I'm trying to focus on the next few weeks! Although, to be completely honest, it blows my mind to know that a year has passed and I've met and exceeded my goal of putting out more than one volume of Embrocation.  [Editor’s Note: if you’ve never laid hands on a copy of Embrocation, Volume 4’s a terrific place to start!  You can order it here.]

7. Now the Rapha Continental.  What’s your role?  How did you come to be involved?  

Oh boy. That's a good one. Short answer: I was asking around to find some people to help out with my booth at NAHBS two years ago in Portland and somehow paired up with the “Dynamic Duo” of Daniel Wakefield-Pasley and Dan Sharp. Both were involved with the inception of this "Continental Project" and soon enough, so was I. I had the fortune of being able to pull together some of the bicycle builders from the East Coast as well as a crew of incredibly tough, incredibly handsome gentleman to ride said bikes. My role now: always evolving, always writing, always riding.

8. And now the inevitable question for anyone involved in the Rapha Continental: how do you define “epic”?    

I would like to think I've come to define it by saying that as long as I'm having a good time out there then its epic. Bill Strickland recently told me to re-read every sentence that I write and ask myself if each and every one is completely honest. Well, I just did that, and I feel completely OK with the above statement.   That being said, the hardest days always end up being the most fun.

9. Well, you’ve certainly had a lot of fun then.  What’s been the most rewarding thing you’ve experienced as a result of your involvement with the Rapha Continental? 

Well, I think that seeing the whole project come to fruition is pretty great. But the best thing? Absolutely the most rewarding thing about the project?

The people involved. Each and every one of the riders on the "team" I would call a friend. And when you're out riding with your friends it is going to be rewarding every time you swing your leg over the bike.

That, and standing in a taxidermy shop in West Virginia watching a man that makes his own moonshine play the banjo for my friends and I who were out on a bike ride together.

10. When packing for a trip with the Conti crew, what’s one thing you never leave home without and why?  

There is always something that gets left out. But the one thing I never leave home without is...well, embrocations. How can I help to insure that everyone looks great on the Conti rides? Make sure that I have enough embrocation for everyone. 

That's it for Part 1.  We'll post Part 2 later in the week in which Jeremy discusses what bikes he's riding, heroes, classic equipment, and of course--pavé.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Monday Musette - Trek, Track, Wilson, Winter, and...Hipsters?

Here's your Monday Musette:

1. Photos of the The Shack's new Treks have been released.  Your thoughts?  Personally, I find them too busy.  And what's with overabundance of customized, team-specific wheel decals?  On the other hand, Sky's Pinarello's are much more pleasing to my eye. 

2.  Olympic track racing just got boring with the announcement that the IOC is removing the individual pursuit, the points race, and the Madison from the games beginning in 2012.  While I support the IOC's goal to create more gender equity on the track (the 2008 Olympics had 7 events for the men and only 3 for the women), there has to be a better way of achieving it. 

3.  You might have missed it in all the Wiggins hullabaloo, but Matt Wilson signed a deal with Garmin-Transitions that will put him right back where he belongs next season--racing in Europe.  As far as I'm concerned, Wilson for Wiggo is a good trade for Garmin.  Wilson is a consumate professional--positive, helpful, and experienced.  He's ridden all the big races from the classics to the Tour, and will provide a wealth of knowledge and talent to Vaughter's squad--particularly in the cobbled classics and the Tour's flatter stages where he made a name for himself by the side of Baden Cooke.  Am I biased?  Perhaps a bit, but this time next year I bet Wilson will have made more of an impact at Garmin than Wiggins will have made at Sky.

4.  Cycling made the New York Times today, as talks are heating-up between the Giro organizers and Washington D.C.  While it's a logistical nightmare, it's certainly not inconceivable.  US-readers: if it happens, would you make the trip to see it?

5.  Competitive Cyclist deserves the credit for finding this one.  If you've never seen it before--watch it now.

6.  And speaking of things you need to see, add this to the list:

7.  And finally, if you were waiting until the last minute to order some Pavé clothing, now's the time.  The next 10 people to order a jersey and bibs will get a free cap. 

Enjoy your Monday and share your comments below!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Garmin vs. Sky - Wiggins Transfer Analysis

The dust has finally settled—Bradley Wiggins has officially signed with Team Sky. And now that the deal is done, the finality of the transfer has got me thinking: who now has the better team for the Tour de France? Does Sky truly have a core of riders capable of delivering Wiggins to the podium in Paris? And conversely, has Garmin lost its best chance for a high placing? While anything can and will happen between now and July, let’s take a look at how things might shape-up, beginning with Sky’s prospective 9-man Tour team:

Kurt Asle Arvesen surely deserves a spot—he’s a proven Grand Tour stage-winner and provides the experience and veteran savvy necessary for a new team to have success on the sport’s most challenging stage. Michael Barry’s another talented veteran, able to help on tougher days; he’ll provide unwavering service to his teammates. Edvald Boassen Hagen has to be included as well—he’s just too talented to leave at home. He’s a favorite for the Prologue and seems certain to grab a stage at some point. Look for him to be the bright spot for the team should Wiggins fail to deliver. Dario Cioni will get a ride—if he doesn’t ride the Giro. He’ll be a valuable and necessary asset for Wiggins in the mountains and can’t be left home. Simon Gerrans will also warrant a start—he’s another past stage-winner who can also help the team when it matters most. Thomas Lövkvist—if he’s not too miffed about losing his leadership to Wiggo—will also have a chance to prove himself should his captain falter. Maybe Wiggins takes the spotlight allowing Lövkvist to make a surprise of his own? So far then, including Wiggins, that’s 7 riders for 9 spots. Who’s left?

Of the rest of the roster*, I think it will come down to Sylvain Calzati, Juan Antonio Flecha, and Serge Pauwels—a tough choice. Pauwels is a dedicated team rider, someone willing to sacrifice his own chances for the sake of his team (as we all witnessed in this year’s Giro). Calzati and Flecha have both won stages in the Tour though, and would be two more cards for Sky to play from breakaways. I think Pauwels gets one spot (Scott Sunderland likes a good Belgian), and Flecha takes the other (he’s a bit more high-profile than Calzati). That makes nine:

Boassen Hagen

On paper, it’s truly a solid team—a GC contender, former stage winners, veteran leadership, and young talent. Looking over these nine though, do you notice anything? Well, I see 4 riders who might look for stages when they should be looking to help Bradley Wiggins, only 2 riders capable of offering serious help on difficult stages, and 2 riders who’ve never even ridden the Tour before. Does this have the makings of podium spot for Wiggins?

I don’t think so.

Now Garmin. If I’m Jonathan Vaughters, I’m thinking of getting my first Tour stage win with Tyler Farrar. Mark Cavendish is a tough nut to crack, but his team’s diminished by the losses of Hincapie and Burghardt. Garmin bolstered its lead-out train this off-season, adding Robbie Hunter and Johan Vansummeren to the mix. It’s not an indomitable line-up, but it might be just enough to get Farrar over the line first on one or two occasions. So let’s start building Garmin’s Tour team with the following men:

Tyler Farrar
Robbie Hunter
Johan Vansummeren
Julian Dean

That leaves 5 spots. David Millar, Dave Zabriskie, and Christian Vande Velde are givens—barring something unforeseen, there’s no way Vaughters leaves them home, and for good reason. Like we saw at Sky, we’re left with 2 places for 3 riders: Ryder Hesjedal, Daniel Martin, and Tom Danielson.

Hesjedal gets a nod for his ability to support the team on a variety of terrain—as the Aussies used to say: “he’s a driver”. He can wind it up for sprints, or set the pace on climbs. Heck, he showed us in the Vuelta that he can win when the road goes uphill too! Frankly, it’s only a hunch, but I think Vaughters is done with Danielson. Yes, he rode a good Vuelta—for two weeks at least—but he just doesn’t seem to have the fortitude (intestinally and otherwise) necessary to succeed in a 3-week Grand Tour. Vaughters has given Danielson more than one opportunity to prove he has the makings of a Grand Tour contender, and he’s failed every time. Time to look elsewhere for the next Garmin GC surprise. On the other hand, Daniel Martin’s young, talented, and eager to prove himself; Vaughters can’t wait another year to see what he’s capable of. Thus, Martin gets the spot. Vaughters has scored two consecutive top-5 finishes with men previously thought to be incapable of such feats—I wonder what he’ll do with someone from whom we expect results. Here’s the final team:

Vande Velde

So who’s got the better squad?

As much as I think Wiggins’ attitude stinks, it has to be said that Sky has the more impressive Tour team—on paper. With several riders capable of winning stages, and at least one chance for a good GC result, Sky will come to the race with a terrific chance of performing well. Garmin? There’s certainly potential, but more things will need to fall into place for the wins to start flowing. That said, there’s one advantage for Garmin: less pressure. Sky boasts a star-packed roster, now led by Bradley Wiggins. With the roster they’ve compiled, anything less than 2-3 stages and a Top-5 placing will be a disappointment. Furthermore, Garmin will certainly be racing with a chip on its shoulder—Sky (especially Wiggins) will get no favors from the boys in argyle.

So while some might be tempted to think Sky won the battle, they should be cautioned to remember that the way is not over. In fact, it’s only just begun.

In the end, it adds yet another intriguing sub-plot for a Tour that gets more and more interesting each day.

And it’s not even 2010 yet.

Your thoughts?

*Prospective roster data from Cycling Quotient. If you haven’t bookmarked this site yet, you should.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Wednesday Cross Report and Power Rankings

Here are Erik Mitchell's latest cyclocross insights and Power Rankings. For more, head over to The Run-up.

With just one weekend left before the US National Championships, chaos ensued in Portland, leaving more questions than answers. Many, including myself, thought it would be a two-horse race in "the showdown" at the final two rounds of the USGP; however, by the time the dust settled, two new riders had thrown their hats into the ring for a national championship. Todd Wells and Jeremy Powers came-off the previous weekend’s victories to dominate the competition in two of the closest races we've seen all year. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the Czech National Champion Zdenek Stybar proved that he's a force to be reckoned with by winning his second-straight World Cup race. The usual protagonists were there, including a frustrated Niels Albert and a bitterly disappointed Sven Nys, but it was the first time this season we saw daylight between Stybar and the rest of the field, albeit by 6 seconds.

It would appear that Stybar's win is the beginning of another shift in Europe. For the first two months, it was Niels Albert pulling-out all the victories, now it's Stybar's turn. How long it will last is anyone's guess. Obviously he's hoping to have this kind of form and luck come the World Championships in January. The only common thread behind these two dominant figures is Sven Nys' issues. To be fair, Nys has suffered an extraordinary amount of mechanical problems this season. This time however, it was a lapped rider that apparently got in his way. I just hope that these aren't excuses for a lack of domination. Behind these three, things continue to change including a surging Jonathan Page and a consistent Erwin Vervecken. One last note, after all of the hype over the past few weeks, Francis Mourey suffered his worst result of the season—15th. A returning Bart Wellens took his place in 5th. Here are this week’s International Power Rankings:

International Rankings

1. Zdenek Stybar (2) - Last week Stybar dropped-out of the top spot and perhaps that was the motivation he needed to win another World Cup race. The biggest thing to take away from his victory was the fact that he did it solo. This means he can win the hard way and in sprints. That’s dangerous.
2. Niels Albert (3) - Albert moves up a spot after a solid 2nd-place finish on Saturday. Albert saw Nys take sole control of the Superprestige last week and is close to losing his World Cup overall lead to Stybar. He still controls the UCI overall ranking and the GVA Trophy series, but those leads are closing as well. He needs to figure-out something soon, or he may be left with nothing at all.
3. Sven Nys (1) - A big drop for Nys this week. Could he have won? I think so. Nys isn't what he used to be, but he's close. I give him the edge to take control of the GVA overall this weekend, meaning he has to best both Stybar and Albert.
4. Klaas Vantornout (4) - Vantornout continues to ride very well. He's slowly getting his shots at victory and it wouldn't surprise me if he pulls one out sometime this year. For now, he'll have to settle as “the guy behind the big three”.
5. Bart Aernouts (6) – Aernouts’ 6th place on Saturday moves him up one spot this week. He continues to finish just outside the lead group this year; I don't expect that to change any time soon.
6. Bart Wellens (na) - Wellens' return to the World Cup was very impressive this past weekend. He picked-up 5th place and thus, has returned to the rankings. I'm not going to say he's here to stay, but I see this as a sign of things to come. It's nice to see him back racing.
7. Gerben de Knegt (10) - The elder statesmen of the Netherlands continues to ride well. I keep saying that his best years are behind him, but at this rate, I can't wait to see what he'll do next. Either Vervecken or he will do something special this year.
8. Radomir Simunek (na) - Simunek bounces back into the rankings after a nice top-10 finish on Saturday. While his countryman continues to get all the press, Simunek is showing he's capable of mixing it up with the best in the world.
9. Erwin Vervecken (9) - Vervecken's newfound consistency keeps him in the rankings this week, ultimately knocking-out my man Kevin Pauwels. The Farewell Tour has been very kind to Vervecken and I couldn't be happier. If only he can show-up these young punks sometime soon.
10. Jonathan Page (na) - In the North American rankings, I allude to who I think will don the stars and stripes. Page scored his biggest result of the year this past weekend, finishing 8th in Spain. He will return to the US this week, giving us a true idea of where the US and Europe stand. Let's just say I think he's found his form.

Dropped this week: Kevin Pauwels (5), Francis Mourey (7), and Sven Vanthourenhout (8).

In the USA, things are coming down to the wire; just when I thought I had my Nationals pick locked-in, two new riders surged to the front of the men's race. While Ryan Trebon took the USGP overall and Tim Johnson ended-up on the podium both days, Wells and Powers stole the show. Perhaps the most interesting thing about this newfound duel was the fact that Wells and Powers were the only two riders who raced the weekend before—in fact, they both dominated the competition. Behind, Jamey Driscoll failed to impress as he wound-up 5th on Saturday and 7th on Sunday. The only real surprise was Adam Craig who continued his late season cross campaign with a 4th place on Sunday. In New England, Dan Timmerman grabbed two victories en-route to a NECCS overall title. He will surely be a wildcard at Nationals this weekend.

So, as we head into the final weekend of racing in the United States, here's this week’s Power Rankings:

North American Rankings

1. Jeremy Powers (1) - Powers rode extremely well this weekend, narrowly missing victory on Day One to Todd Wells. He was able to reverse that on Sunday though. Is he the next National Champion? I'm going to let that question linger. It should be noted that the following 3 riders represent the only National Champions this decade not-named Jonathan Page.
2. Todd Wells (8) - A few weeks ago I tipped Wells for some late season magic. Who knew that he would produce four-straight UCI wins? A crafty finish on Sunday prevented him from five-straight, but the two-time National Champion seems poised for another title.
3. Tim Johnson (2) - Johnson struggled a bit (relatively speaking) behind Powers and Wells. He knows how to win when it counts, but I'm surprised to see him drop a spot in the rankings. He'll be the third rider on the starting grid and is still a heavy favorite.
4. Ryan Trebon (4) - Trebon's up and down season continued in Portland. While he did manage to wrap-up the USGP overall, he looks a bit behind the form that saw him win Nationals last year. While he's still a favorite in my book, he should probably wear the stars and stripes all week—it may be a long time before he wears them again.
5. Jamey Driscoll (3) - "Mr. Consistency" slipped a bit as well this week. Perhaps it was the pressure of the USGP, or maybe it was just a bad weekend. Either way, Driscoll popped onto the scene with a silver medal at Nationals last year, perhaps he'll shock the world once again.
6. Dan Timmerman (5) - Timmerman wrapped-up the NECCS overall with another pair of UCI victories. I have high hopes for the New Yorker this upcoming weekend, but honestly, I don't expect him to win. He's in my top five though, especially after barely losing to Jeremy Powers the week before.
7. Chris Jones (7) - A pair of top-10 finishes keeps Jones in the rankings, but he seems to have dropped back to become the perennial leader of the chase group. But like the rest of the guys in the rankings this week, he's still within striking distance of the podium.
8. Geoff Kabush (na) - Kabush already has his National Championship jersey, so he'll take this weekend off. He continues to ride well though, and I expect some decent results if he chooses to visit Europe this winter.
9. Daniel Summerhill (na) - Summerhill has had a quiet cross season thus far, but when he races, he does well. He's my pick to win the U23 jersey at Nationals, I just hope his road commitments for next year don't clog his mind or his legs.
10. Adam Craig (6) - Craig responded well from a disappointing 11th on Saturday, finishing 4th on Sunday. He has an outside shot at a podium this weekend, but the odds that the mountain bike superstar picks-up the stars and stripes are slim.

Dropped this week: Valentin Scherz (9) and Justin Lindine (10).

This weekend, the biggest US race of the year concludes a stellar North American season. I won't make my outright predictions here (you can visit The Run-up for my predictions of every US National Champion), but I think I've outlined the contenders pretty well. As usual, I expect a big surprise this weekend, but it won't come from anyone outside of this week’s rankings. All that's left is to watch what may be the most exciting National Championship race in years.

While all eyes in the US will be on Bend, Oregon, there's a bevy of races throughout Europe this weekend. Most importantly, there is a round of the GVA Trophy in Essen, Belgium. All the big names should be there, but the focus will be on Nys, Albert and Stybar (what else is new?). Those three are separated by 4 points in the GVA rankings, so one of them should finally take command of the series.

What about you? Who are your picks for Nationals? What about the GVA—how do see things shaping-up?

Share your comments below.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Monday Musette

Lot's to look at today:

1. Did you see that Mavic is adding tires to its repertoire? Call me a cynic, but don't these look eerily similar to Specialized's open tubulars--which look eerily similar to Vittoria's EVO KS?

2. Did you know that VDB has a posse? Well, he does. And soon it will have t-shirts (because nothing says "posse" more than matching t-shirts).

3. Do you happen to live in Stockholm? Are you looking for a fixed gear for all your winter fitness needs? If you answered yes to both, then this is for you. A pretty nice bike if you ask me.

4. Here's a great set of images featuring the Mongolian Cyclocross Team and their ambassador/benefactor/host/godfather, Johan "Those Aren't Plugs" Museeuw. All kidding aside, this is a great program that certainly extends the boundaries of cyclocross way beyond its traditional borders.

5. RKP published an interview with the man behind ATMO, Richard Sachs. I'm not sure what's more interesting--the interview itself or the comments it sparked.

6. Domestique and El Cyclista are two terrific sites I stumbled upon recently. Check them out and add them to your regular reading. I love El Cyclista's kit!

7. And last but not least, while we're on the subject of kit--you have 2 weeks left to get some Pavé kit of your own. The order form is here. Contact us with questions.
That's it for today--enjoy your Monday!