Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tour de France Preview - Les Équipes du Tour - Part Deux

Here are the next 5 teams in our team-by-team preview of this year's Tour de France. We're going alphabetically, saving for the end those teams with rosters still unconfirmed at post time.

Be sure to keep coming back daily for more previews, random notes, and reports once the race gets started on Saturday in Monaco.

And in case you missed it yesterday, you can read Part Une of our preview here.

Team Columbia – HTC
Remember when Columbia won 6 out of 9 stages at the Tour de Suisse? Well, look for much of the same here. A double-digit win total is certainly within the realm of possibility as just about every rider on the team’s roster could win an individual stage.

Obviously, Mark Cavendish is the team’s primary focus during the flatter stages. But don’t forget Bernhard Eisel. He showed in the Tour de Suisse that he can win field sprints too and he has the ability to last well into the race’s final days. He’ll be working for Cavvie early on, but he’ll certainly have some chances to play his own hand closer to Paris—perhaps on the Champs-Élysées itself. Bert Grabsch could pull a win in any of the Tour’s time trials--same for Tony Martin, an outside bet to perform well on the GC.

And speaking of time trials, don’t think this team won’t be gunning for the TTT next Tuesday--especially if it means yellow for Cavendish. George Hincapie is never to be forgotten; it would be nice to see him add another stage to his palmares. And keep your eye on Maxime Monfort; he must be talented if earned a spot over André Griepel and 2008 stage winner Marcus Burghardt.

For the GC, Columbia’s putting its hopes in Kim Kirchen and Michael Rogers. Both have the ability for a Top-5 or Top-10 finish, but that might be a stretch in a year with so many favorites. Regardless, it will be a banner July for Columbia—just as it’s been pretty much since the season began.

For Euskaltel, the Tour will essentially be decided by the end of the first week. In particular, Stages 6 through 9 take place at least partially in Spain (or darn to close to it). Stage 9 from Saint-Gaudens to Tarbes rides through the team’s Basque backyard, climbing over the Col d’Aspin and the Tourmalet in the process. Expect to see the team on the offensive during this period, especially when the road begins to climb.

The team lost its main GC hope when Haimar Zubeldia jumped to Astana. Mikel Astarloza will hope to fill the void; he’s finished in the Top-10 before and rode well to finish 5th in the Dauphiné. Egoi Martinez and the rest will hope for some luck in breakaways, with Igor Anton focused particularly on the mountains. But it can’t be stressed enough: a win in Stages 6 to 9 and the team can spend the rest of the Tour essentially pressure-free. A win in Andorra on Arcalis, and the team can relax for the rest of the season.

Française des Jeux
Like other French teams, FDJ comes to the race hoping for TV exposure when live coverage begins and more importantly, stage wins. Thus, Marc Madiot’s team is well-stocked with rouleurs and escapees.

Anthony Geslin rode a brilliant race to win this spring’s Brabantse Pijl; he’ll be looking for the right breakaway to get him a win in his national tour. The same goes for Sébastien Joly, Benoît Vaugrenard, and Jussi Veikkanen, riders suited to winning races from small groups. Sandy Casar is reportedly the team’s main hope for the GC, but he’s never lit anyone’s fire in that department. Yes, he finished 14th last year, but do you remember it? He stands a better chance gunning for a stage win—he won one in 2007 following a dramatic day of racing.

That said, FDJ’s greatest hope comes from Belorussia in the form of Yauheni Hutarovich, a sprinter with several wins to his name this year. He’s another rider who can win out of breakaways and in field sprints. Look for him especially in the Tour’s final week. If FDJ gets a stage this year, there’s a good chance it will come via this rider.

Of all the roster omissions leading up to this Tour, perhaps none has bothered us here at Pavé more than Garmin leaving Will Frishkorn at home. Will was beginning to remind us of Jacky Durand with his fondness for the all-day breakaway. Courage, Will; you’ll get another chance for Tour glory.

As for the riders in the race, Garmin has selected—again—a team full of rouleurs and time trialists. He might be a punk, but Cavendish isn’t that off-base: this is a team for the TTT. On paper, only Daniel Martin appears to be a liability against the clock, so clearly, Garmin’s the 3rd entry in a 3-horse race in the Tour’s time trials (along with Astana and Columbia). In fact, except for Saxo’s Fabian Cancellara, I bet you’ll see every Top-10 spot in the each of the Tour’s TT’s occupied by a rider from these 3 teams.

For the GC, Garmin says Christian Vande Velde’s 4th place in 2008 was no fluke. Luckily, VDV’s Giro tumble is just the excuse they’ll need if he struggles to score a similar result. For the sprints? Tyler Farrar is talented, but he lacks the top-end power and the team necessary to beat Cavendish, Boonen, and Hushovd head-to-head. But don’t rule him out later in the race—maybe on the Champs-Élysées?

Were we running this team, we’d abandon any serious GC aspirations and go for breakaway stage wins (Ryder Hesjedal will do Will F. proud), the time trials, and field sprints once the big sprinters go home. We’d also let Daniel Martin ride his own race, following wheels in the mountains to see what he can do. And of course, we’d—cautiously—hope for the Yellow Jersey following the Prologue or TTT.

Then we'd go for hunting for a legitimate captain for the GC in next year's race.

Team Katusha
Katusha has also been unable to avoid a bit of Pre-Tour scandal. Asking the riders to sign a new clause in their contracts giving the team 5-times their annual salary should they be found positive for doping produced mixed results. Kenny Dehaes has already left the team for Silence-Lotto and Geert Steegmans has been declared “inactive”, thus leaving him out of the Tour roster. Couple this with Robbie McEwen’s absence due to a fall earlier in the season and you have a Katusha roster much less potent than originally planned.

As a result, the team comes to the Tour looking for stage wins. Filippo Pozzato is the new Italian Champion; he’ll be eager to show-off the tricolore. Sergei Ivanov, Alexandre Botcharov, and Mikhail Ignatiev are also capable of scoring breakaway stage wins.

Vladimir Karpets takes the line in Monaco as Katusha’s lone GC threat, but it’s hard to see him doing anything more than maybe finishing just inside the Top-10. He’s adequate both uphill and against the clock, but has yet to show the top talent necessary to hang with the big guns on a consistent basis.

That's it for Part Deux. Come back tomorrow for more!

Remember, if you haven't done so, you can follow Pavé on Twitter by clicking in the menu bar on the right.

And as always, we welcome your comments below.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Tour de France Preview - Les Équipes du Tour - Part Une

Here at Pavé we’re getting geared-up for our first year of coverage of this year’s Tour de France. Expect updates and comments on a daily basis, as well as speculation, gentle rants, and whatever else we might have up our sleeves.

Frankly, we're hoping it will be the best month Pavé yet!

To begin, we thought a team-by-team preview might be in order, particularly since the web is inundated with reports on the individual favorites. We’ll go alphabetically through all 20 teams, posting 5 each day as final rosters are submitted.

Come back daily to see what’s new!

Here's Part Une:

AG2R-La Mondiale

AG2R won two stages in last year’s Tour (albeit one was due to Riccardo Ricco’s forfeit) and returns this year hoping for more of the same. They take the start in Monaco Saturday with Cyril Dessel as their “GC Rider”, but he’ll really just be hoping for another stage win and possibly a finish in the Top-10 (although Top-15 or 20 seems more like it). Vladimir Efimkin would love to win a stage outright, while talented escape artists like Stéphane Goubert, Jose-Luis Arrieta, and Rinaldo Nocentini will look to make things interesting. This is a team that makes it's budget during July, and anything less than at least one stage will be considered a disappointment.


Agritubel takes the line hoping for stage wins and perhaps a Top-10 from the soon-to-be-retired Christophe Moreau. If Moreau can pull a Top-5 result in the Monaco Prologue his team will be one to watch during the first few days as he would love to pull on the Maillot Jaune once again. However, like many of the French teams, Agritubel’s real pain et beurre comes from the opportunists that stack its roster. The Feillu brothers (especially Roman), Sylvain Calzati, and Nicolas Vogondy are all riders capable of winning after long days in breakaways. Roman Feillu evens has the finishing speed to pull a surprise in a small sprint every now and again.


By most accounts, this is Astana’s Tour to lose. The team’s Tour roster can count 10 Grand Tour victories between Lance Armstrong and Alberto Contador, and several podium placings and Top Ten finishes through riders like Levi Leipheimer, Yaroslav Popovych, Andreas Kloden, and Haimar Zubledia. That said, one can’t help but wonder if this team has simply too much talent to work together cohesively. On top of that, it’s not like Astana’s had a drama-free Tour build-up either. Besides the circus that surrounds Lance Armstrong, the team has faced a sponsorship crisis, several rumors of Contador’s departure (first to Spain then to the USA), and now a bit of a dust-up over the immensely popular and talented Chris Horner’s omission from the Tour team (most likely to keep Contador content). Clearly this is not the preparation Johan Bruyneel wanted for his team over the past 6 weeks.

When the race begins on Saturday, right away we’ll see a crisis of too many cooks to stir the soup. Look for Armstrong, Contador, and Kloden to ride good prologues, forcing the team to immediately make decisions about who it will protect throughout the first week. Expect at least one rider to begin pouting within the first 4-5 days.

Assuming all goes at planned during the opening days, by the time the race hits the mountains we might witness a full-on rift with lines being clearly drawn between the Armstrong and Contador camps. It could create exciting racing for the fans, but it will be a nightmare for Johan Bruyneel. Will Contador crack under the weight of Lance and his entourage? Will Armstrong’s ego allow him to survive should things not go quite as swimmingly as it used to for him in the Tour?

The key will be Johan Bruyneel. Johan will need to define clear and consistent roles for his riders early. He will need to cultivate trust within the team and hope that his decisions are proven wise in the race’s decisive moments. If he can convince his riders that winning the race for the team is more important than winning the race for any one individual, he stands a chance to go down as one of the sport’s greatest sport directors. Otherwise, he might be forced to learn a lesson that Joe Torre, former manager of the New York Yankees, came to know all too well: having the most talented players doesn’t always mean you’ll have the best team.

BBox Bouyges Telecom
At this time, BBox’s roster is still unconfirmed. We’ll cover them once their roster’s set later in the week.

Caisse d’Epargne
Like BBox and several other teams, Caisse d’Epargne’s roster is still unconfirmed at this time. We’ll come back to them later in the week!

Cervélo TestTeam

Like many of the other Top Favorite’s teams, Cervélo was not immune to some drama in the weeks leading to the Tour, notably due to the omission of Simon Gerrans from the team’s roster. A stage winner in last year’s Tour and this year’s Giro, Gerrans was certainly a rider worth a place on the team, both for his talents in the mountains and his knack for finding just the right breakaway. Bits of speculation surround his absence; it could come to bite them in the derrière.

As for whom they did take, Cervélo seems to be bringing a team more suited to winning stages than defending Sastre’s win last year. The team will work hard to get Thor Hushovd the Green Jersey and perhaps a stage win or two through riders like Andreas Klier and Heinrich Haussler. Haussler’s particularly interesting to watch as an outside favorite for the Green Jersey.

For his title defense, Sastre will be forced to rely mainly on Inigo Cuesta to help him up the bigger hills, as the rest of the team seems more suited to flatter days. (Here’s where the presence of Simon Gerrans would have made perfect sense.) All in all, Sastre is an outside favorite—at best—to win the Tour this year. Look for him to lose time to the bigger, more talented teams and riders, ultimately hoping for a Top-5 placing and a stage win when things get hilly.

Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne

Like its compatriots, Cofidis will come to the Tour hoping for a stage win or two and—if he can put his l’argent where his bouche is—the polka dot jersey for David Moncoutié. Moncoutié shouldn’t be discounted; he’s a talented rider and has won a stage in the Tour before. Look for him especially on Stage 13 into Colmar, a transitional mountain stage with two Category 1 climbs—and no radios. As for the rest, breakaways will be the key with riders like Remi Pauriol taking turns off the front hoping for glory. Bingen Fernandez is also a potential pick to win a stage. It seems like Bingen’s been around forever; many in the peloton would appreciate seeing him take the big win he deserves. It could be his last chance.

That's it for now. Come back soon for the next team previews and more!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

(Superficial) National Championship Preview

It's a bit late in the game for it, but let's have a bit of fun and take a wild stab at guessing some winners in tomorrow's national championships. I admit that we could have done some research into the course profiles and start lists for each race, but let's face it, it's much more fun to make educated guesses based on who's showed what kind of form in various events over the past few weeks. Besides, these races often turn-out to be crap-shoots anyway, so reason often doesn't apply.

Let the (guessing) games begin!

National championships in countries like Austria are often extra-hard to call. The best riders have been signed to foreign teams and often find themselvs out-numbered by smaller-budget domestic teams. Thus, these individuals tend to fwork together to control the race in small mercenary bands. This year, I think Bernhard Eisel will take the win. His stage in the Tour de Suisse shows he's on-form, and he has the talent to win the race both from a break and in a sprint.

This race will come down to three teams: Silence-Lotto, Quick Step, and everyone else. Silence will be backing Philippe Gilbert in a breakaway and Greg Van Avermaet in a field sprint. Quick Step has Stijn Devolder for breakaways, Tom "It's Just My Allergies" Boonen for sprints, and wild cards like Sebastien Roesselar. As for everyone else, there's well...everyone else. For my money I'm picking Gilbert. He's obviously on-form, and the race goes through his backyard. (He'll be super-motivated.) If you really want an outsider, take Maxime Monfort. And if Serge Pauwels happens to take it home, just remember that you heard it here first.

Czech Republic
Look for Roman Kreuzinger to begin a terrific summer by winning his country's national championship. The question is, will he be forced to change it for something else in July?

Here's one for Saxo Bank. Chris Anker Sørensen's heading to his first Tour; he'll do it wearing the Danish National Champion jersey.

FDJ will have a national champion in the Tour, but he won't be French. He'll be Finland's Jussi Veikkanen.

The French National Championship is an entertaining race to watch for no other reason than it's certain to produce a French winner. Besides, it's a tremendous honor to wear the tri-color in July in France's national tour. It's also a race where several evenly matched teams take the start, each with a rider or two capable of winning the race in exciting fashion. David Moncoutie was someone we had tipped to win this race following his stage win in the Dauphiné, but he's staying home to be with his newborn son. For me, BBox seems to have the best riders right now with both Pierrick Fédrigo and Thomas Voeckler ready, willing, and able to take the win. That said, this might be just the race where a wild card like Sylvain Chavanel might be able to exploit the political tactics of the larger teams and take the win with minimal help from his trade team buddies. If he shows the form he had earlier in the year, he'll take it easily. He's my pick.

Fabian Wegmann has come to make this race the cornerstone of his season, proceeding to follow his national win with a three week flag-waving session off the front at the Tour (with nothing to show for it). This year, I think Columbia could get another national title with Tony Martin the lucky recipient. But wait, we're forgetting another of this spring's major protagonist's! Heinrich Haussler's been rounding into form quite nicely following his spring exploits. He's headed to the Tour looking for a stage win and perhaps a green jersey should his teammate Thor Hushovd falter. Look for him to start things off with a win in his national championship (well, one of them). And don't worry, Fabby, come Tour-time you'll find the national title was a curse, and you'll finally get the stage win you and Milram have been craving for so long.

Great Britain
Like Austria, GB's a race where a small group of continental pros battle the domestic men for bragging rights. Last year, the locals won, with Rob Hayles taking home the title. If he competes, everyone will be curious to see how Cavendish fares. However, I'm thinking a race like this won't be his cup of tea. Garmin's David Millar is a candidate, as is his teammate Bradley Wiggins. But let's pick another wild card here, and go with a rider from Britain's most consistent domestic team this year: Rapha-Condor. Dean Downing's name sticks in my mind for some reason or another, let's go with him!

The Italian Championship is always an exciting race with a start list full of potential winners. Recently we picked Alessandro Ballan to formally announce his return to the sport's top level with a win here, but lately I've been thinking that Damiano Cunego will take home the jersey. He's not riding the Tour, and he certainly has something to prove following a spring with less-than-stellar results. He gets it!

It's the Schleck's versus Kim Kirchen. Kirchen will take it! Andy will get revenge in July.

This is usually Rabobank's race to lose. This year, I think they might. Lars Boom is certainly able to repeat, but I think Skil-Shimano will be motivated beyond belief to take the Dutch Champion to the Tour. I'm picking Kenny Van Hummel.

This is an interesting race with several riders capable of taking home the honors. Assuming a domestic team isn't able to snatch the win from the bigger guns, look for an interesting showdown between this country's three greatest names: Kurt Asle Arvesen, Thor Hushovd (not sure if he's racing), and Edvald Boassen Hagen. I'm taking Boassen Hagen.

Sergio Paulinho will prove his Tour invite was warranted--at least he hopes it does.

This one goes to Katusha. Sergei Ivanov has the form and the savvy to take this one for the (other) boys in red, white, and blue.

Here's another race for Columbia this time with Thomas Lövkvist getting it done.

Switzerland's another race like Austria. In fact, one can't help but wonder what a race combining the two countries' championships would be like. My pick: Michael Albasini. He's won some big races this year, and is clearly in-form.

Spain's a country similar to Belgium: two or three major teams with a bevy of riders capable of winning and several smaller domestic teams and individuals spending a weekend away from their trade team colleagues. Alberto Contador's already fired his warning shot for July by winning the ITT earlier in the week. The clear pick is Alejandro Valverde. He's angry following his Tour exclusion, has a strong team behind him, and will probably have Luis Leon Sanchez willing to work for him (he'll have the team to himself in France). Oscar Freire presents an interesting option, but I think he'll be overpowered by the larger teams. Valverde's the pick.

That's it! Feel free to share your picks--or critiques of my omissions--in the comments section. And if I left a country out that you have a tip for, share it as well.

Have a great evening!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Monday Musings - Death of a Legend and Suisse Wrap-up

1. I don't like it either. Race reports are smaller. Less photos. Information is scattered and difficult to locate. Don't get me wrong, it's still the go-to site for all our cycling needs, but I can't help the sense I'm beginning to the feel the way I've come to feel about Velonews' new print layout and schedule. The worst part? Apparently they've eliminated their entire history in the process. Wondering who won the 5th stage of the 2001 Paris-Nice? Forget it. This leaves a considerable void; hopefully not for long.

So now where will you go for all the latest news and reports? Share your thoughts in the "Comments" section below.

And does anyone happen to know a good database for cycling records and results? We need one now.

UPDATE: You can access the "old" site by clicking "Full Archive" on the top right menu on the "new" site. Thanks for the tip, Jeremy!

2. In case you missed it, Columbia-Highroad owned the Tour de Suisse, romping to wins in 6 of the race's 9 stages. Even more impressive? They did it with 5 different riders!

And lest we forget, Saxo Bank won the other 3 stages and the GC. Cancellara's win has some folks claiming the race wasn't hard enough. To me, it just shows the effects of a spring more or less "off" for Spartacus.

And no, he's not a GC-rider! Remember the 2006 Hincapie Experiment? Let's learn from our mistakes. That said, if Fabian doesn't take the yellow jersey when the Tour begins on July 4th, it will be huge upset.

3. Did you notice that Frank Schleck didn't start the final stage yesterday? Did you notice Andy Schleck finished 15th? I know everyone's talking about the impending Astana feud, but it will also be interesting to see how the Brothers Schleck interact come Tour-time. Is Frank a step behind Andy, or is he simply timing his form a bit later?

Update: Apparently, Frank's suffering from knee pain following his fall in Amstel. This will be interesting to follow, especially since it will take the pressure off him come July. Don't write him off yet.

4. Roman Kreuzinger did not defend his win in last year's Tour de Suisse, but that's a good thing. Ever-present near the front when the race mattered, Kreuzinger looks all set for a banner July. He can climb and he can time trial (better than most of the the other GC favorites despite the above photo). A top-5 pacing is certainly within his reach, especially if his talented young teammates can rally around him.

5. Just a hunch, but in yet another demonstration of just how beneficial taking the spring "off" can be, put Alessandro Ballan down for the Italian National Championship and a stage in this year's Tour.

6. The TDS also marked the return of Kim Kirchen. A proven contender, Kirchen gives Columbia at least one rider to back for the GC. (But do they need to? Wouldn't winning say, 15 stages, be enough for them?)

7. In tech news--yes, we're not unaware of the technical side of things--Frank Schleck appears to be riding a new Specialized S-Works Tarmac in this photo from the weekend. Maybe it's a new paint job, but now's the time of year when companies begin unveiling their latest and greatest.

That's it for today! Remember to share your comments with the rest of us. Have a great week!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Radio Free Europe

I love it when news breaks that allows me to make clever titles from 80's alternative rock hits...

The UCI announced yesterday that it would allow Stages 10 and 13 in this year's Tour to be run without the use of radios. Stage 10 covers 193 km and takes the riders on a 193km Bastille Day parade from Limoges to Issoudun; Stage 13 covers 200km from Vittel to Colmar. Both stages are considered "relatively flat" which means the French might have a "relatively realistic" chance to win a stage since they will have practiced riding without radios at their National Championship.

Pardon, mes amis! I kid because I love. Seriously, I do.

To be honest, I'm excited to see what happens in a stage run without the almighty earpiece. Riders in favor of the ban will clearly be eager to prove a lack of radios creates better racing; riders against it will be out to dispel the notion that radios have any major impact whatsoever. In my opinion, advantages will clearly go to riders used to riding without them and directors more adept at calling a race through the window and not the mouthpiece. If the experiment produces exciting racing without any major GC shake-ups, look to see more of it in the future.

If ASO were really gutsy though, they would ban them on Ventoux. Can you imagine? The penultimate day, a stage finishing atop one the Tour's most legendary climbs, with no radios? Now that would be something to see!

What about you? Do you support the use of radios, or do you think they water-down the racing?

Share your comments!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tour de Suisse, Stage 4- Live Stream

For a live stream of today's Stage 4 of the Tour de Suisse, click here.

10:19EST Update: We're not sure when it begins (basketball's on right now), but it's the first reliable source we've found all week.

10:39EST Update: Looks like there will be a stream, but it's delayed. I'll keep trying!

11:16EST Update: Still basketball...

Monday, June 15, 2009

Monday Musings - Dauphiné Wrap-up, Suisse Begins, and the Dope Show

1. We're in the thick of the Pre-Tour build-up races and this past week's Dauphiné-Libéré didn't disappoint. Let's back our way down the final GC:

--Alejandro Valverde won another Dauphiné thanks to a superb effort on Mont Ventoux. Given his pending absence from the Tour's start list and a possible worldwide ban, one couldn't help but wonder if this might have been Valverde's last hurrah for a year or two. In my opinion, assuming he's not suspended from competition anywhere other than Italy, missing the Tour might just be the best thing for him. Why? Well, having won the Dauphiné in such fashion, Valverde and his entourage can now boast about "what might have been”, without having to face the reality of his inevitable French collapse. At this rate, Valverde and his team should hope for the best regarding a possible worldwide ban, then put all his remaining eggs in the Vuelta/World’s basket later this year.

--Cadel Evans rode yet another consistent race to yet another 2nd place. Does Evans’ style remind anyone else of Jan Ullrich? I might be alone on this one, but I’m just not convinced that Cadel has the stuff to win the Tour, namely, he doesn't have the acceleration to match the pure climbers, and he can’t time trial well enough to put the time he needs into the likes of other GC contenders—namely, Alberto Contador.

--Speaking of Alberto, he could be bluffing, but the Spaniard seems to be on track for another July victory. He was clearly riding within himself throughout the week, seemingly gauging his efforts on those of his rivals. This might not be such a big deal were it not for the fact that he rides for Johan Bruyneel, a director known for the perfect timing his riders’ performances.

--Robert Gesink rode well in the mountains to ultimately finish 4th. His role in the Tour will be interesting considering the presence of Denis Menchov. Actually, Menchov’s might take some pressure off the squirrelly climber, ultimately launching him to what could prove to be the best Dutch GC placing in years.

--Liquigas better start saving it’s money. Vincenzo Nibali rode with the favorites all week—both against the clock and when the race went uphill. In doing so, he’s become Italy’s newest GC-darling. With Roman Kreuzinger well-placed for a repeat-win in the Tour de Suisse, there will be plenty of suitors ready to over-pay for their services in 2010. With Franco Pellizotti coming to France following his 3rd place in the Giro, Liquigas will have—on paper at least—one of the race’s most dynamic line-ups. A Top-5 finish is not out of the realm of possibility for these two in what could turn-out to be the last time they enter a stage race without the pressure of being mentioned with the major favorites.

--David Millar rode himself to a 9th place finish, consistently placing well in both the time trials and the mountains. But hold-on before you start dusting-off your Union Jack—Millar is not a GC contender at the Tour. To me, his Dauphiné showing puts him on track for a transitional stage win, and maybe for a good showing in the Prologue (if he starts early and Cancellara gets a flat or is rained-on). That's it.

--It was heartening to see David Moncoutie and Pierrick Fedrigo win stages in the Alps. They’ll be carrying their nation’s hopes for a stage win in the Tour along with Thomas Voeckler and Sebastien Joly. Look for one of these four to win the French Championship in 2 weeks.

--And finally, how about BMC’s Brent Bookwalter? While his overall placing wasn’t too impressive, he rode at the front all week, and certainly turned some heads at key points in the race. Could a Pro Tour ride be in his future?

--One general thought before moving-on: if you by any chance caught the Versus coverage of yesterday’s stage, you surely saw at least one of the network’s “Can Anything Stop Lance” TDF commercials. Here’s a bigger question: can anything stop Versus from failing to acknowledge the 179 other riders competing in this year’s race? Yes, Lance’s return offers a fascinating sub-plot, but will Evans, Contador, Sastre, and the Schleck’s be reduced to the role of supporting characters in another Lance love-fest? Hopefully, Versus will get it right once the race begins.

2. The Tour de Suisse is under way with the final set of July contenders testing their legs. Roman Kreuzinger and the Schleck brothers have the most to prove, perhaps more so against the clock than in the mountains. All three will need to improve significantly in the time trial in order to have a real hope of challenging the other big favorites. Sunday’s final stage offers a 39km test around Bern. While the overall might be decided by then, it will be interesting to see the times these three can produce. I’m also eager to see the return of Christian Vande Velde as he seeks the last bit of form he’ll need to prove his Tour last year wasn’t a fluke. And don't forget Lars Boom. I'll peg him now for the win in the final TT; anything more than that and someone might make him a non-CX offer he can't refuse. We’ll do our best over the coming days to keep you aware of live streams when available.

3. A new feature went up last week on Rapha's Features page. It's a terrific run-down of what to expect from next month's Etape du Tour finishing atop Mont Ventoux. Regardless of whether you're riding the Etape or not, it's a terrific article with wonderful writing and photography. Read it here.

4. And now some doping! By now you’ve read at least one article about Bernhard Kohl’s L’Equipe interview and the UCI’s bio-diabolical passport program. If you haven’t, you should go here and here.

While I won’t re-hash what’s already been said, I will make one point. Kohl’s assertion that the UCI passport gives riders extra information which enables them to dope more effectively seems to support a contention I’ve held for quite some time: for every 1 dollar/Euro that goes into the research and development of methods to fight doping (in any sport), there are at least 2 dollars/Euro’s going into the research and development of ways to continue to do it without getting caught.

At some point, maybe we should just go back to the days of urine testing for amphetamines and anabolic steroids. Besides, the UCI doesn’t seem to be overly concerned about handling positive tests on a consistent basis anyway, leaving it to the national federations and teams to make the choices that it—the UCI—is too afraid to make on its own.

5. Things that make you go "Hmmm...": Check-out this photo of Cadel Evans climbing Ventoux. I could be wrong, but doesn't that look like a Powertap Computer on his handlebar? Do you see a Powertap rear hub? Would someone like to share how this is possible? I'm sure there's an explanation out there somewhere; I just have yet to read it.

UPDATE from an anonymous reader: "Cadel is using a CycleOps Cervo -- he can swap in and out his PowerTap wheel whenever he likes because of its Ant+ compatibility."

You can read more here.

6. Finally, some scary writing and photography in the "Good Wheels Gone Bad" department for fans of Mavic's R-Sys wheels. Ben Delaney from Velonews writes here about the explosion of his front Mavic R-Sys wheel. (Yes, he was riding it at the time.) Scary stuff indeed.

On that note, enjoy your week!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Dauphiné Final Stage - Live Stream

For live video coverage of today's final stage of the Dauphiné, click here.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Dauphiné Stage 5 - Live Stream of Mont Ventoux Summit Finish

For live video coverage of today's Stage 5 (finishing atop Mont Ventoux) of the Dauphiné, click here.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Un Pari Fou?

Josef Fischer - 1896
First Winner; Fixed Winner!

Un pari fou...a crazy bet. By now I'm sure you've read the various accounts of last summer's Rapha Crazy Bet. Maybe you also read of Jeremy Dunn, Guy Andrews, and Co.'s attempt at another crazy bet this April. Well, it seems that I too am not immune from the lure of the seemingly preposterous. Let me explain:

Back in April, I was contacted by a wonderful French fellow named Alexandre who invited me to participate in a "project" he's hoping to accomplish next Spring. It's rather simple: he's trying to assemble a group of folks from around the world to ride the entire Paris-Roubaix race course the day before the pro's tackle it. Easy, right?

And oh yeah, he wants to do it on a fixed gear.

Yup, you read correctly. You can read more about the project here. There's photos of Alex, his bike, and of course, various sections of pavé. There's even a great video of him tackling the sector at le Carrefour de l'Arbe...on his fixed gear! Better than that, Alex tells me he rode the final 90km of the race this past April. On his fixed gear!

Have you wrapped your head around it yet?

Honestly, as crazy as it sounds, I'm intrigued. Incredibly flattered by his invitation, I might just take him up on it. (It's actually something I was facetiously contemplating with some friends over a few beers last year.)

Whether or not the plan--or at least my participation in it--comes to fruition, the project offers some terrific food for thought. Is it crazy? Yeah, a bit. Can it be done? Only time will tell. And don't forget, back in the day, it was fixed gear or nothing.

Regardless, Alex seems pretty convicted to make his dream come true. I wouldn't bet against him.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Pavé Interview- Take Two! - Zac Daab

We had some publishing difficulties yesterday, but here's the inaugural post in what we hope will become a regular feature (not the errors yesterday) on Pavé. Zac Daab is a legend in many circles--on both coasts. Originally a member of the Seven Cycles crew, Zac moved to Seattle where he is now the owner and proprietor of the Cascade Bicycle Studio. Perhaps more importantly, he and a few friends are the brain-trust behind HUP United, a team of like-minded individuals with a penchant for many of the wonderful things we here at Pavé appreciate, in particular: Belgium, dirt, and of course, pavé.

We hope you enjoy the interview, and we thank Zac for his willingness to be our first subject!

First of all, Zac, thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Let's start with some background: what would your 6-word memoir be?

"Do great work; take risks." I guess that is five words!

We'll accept five words; math was never my forté either. Can you tell us a bit about the beginnings of HUP United. ? Who, what, where, when, why, etc.?

HUP United started when I was at Seven Cycles in Boston. It was really just me and a few fellow friends at Seven: Max, Bernard, and Mike S. We kinda wanted a shop team, with a specific shop kit. It was getting a bit complicated making it happen, so I just made it happen, without any connection to Seven. The first race we went to was in New Hampshire, part of the Verge Series. It was completely snowy on the course; the night before they plowed. We had a wicked good time, and the traveling to races together really formed HUP. HUP started out with 4 folks, and now we have about 8 regions, with nearly 100+ CX honch and honchettes lurking about.

Can you summarize the “HUP philosophy” for folks who might be unfamiliar with it?

Race your bike. This is not about sponsorship; we are our own sponsor. Onehupfindsanother.

HUP’s clothing and image certainly make several nods to Belgium and Belgian cycling culture; can you tell us more about that? Were these premeditated decisions, or did they just happen organically?

Our kit started out green and blue. We felt it was too close to another New England team though, so we set-out to create some designs based on Mapei and the Belgian National kit. Mapei was such a unique set-up with an Italian-based company joining forces with Belgian and Italian riders, and just destroying the spring classics, with style. The kit was truly flamboyant and loud. We liked that, and were inspired by this sensation. Now, if you go to nearly any cross race in America, it’s guaranteed you’ll see at least one HUP rider FULLY kitted out. We have three iterations of kit right now: Blue, NOIR, and Blanco. NOIR has kinda been the CX kit, Blanco is the Memorial Day to Labor Day kit, and Blue is classic.

After several years spent working for Seven, you’re the founder/owner/proprietor of the Cascade Bicycle Studio. What inspired the switch? Were you at all apprehensive to give it a go on your own?

I gained so much experience at Seven Cycles, working with Rob Vandermark on fit and design, and working with the sales and marketing folks who really have a good handle on a service-based brand. When I went out on my own in 2005, I knew that I could be successful because Seven was a very strong brand, and I had a very strong relationship with the company. I honestly can say that Seven is in a class of it’s own, and is way ahead of the curve in so many areas.

Lately there’s been a lot written about the Pacific Northwest—particularly Portland—bike scene. What’s your take? What makes the area so special?

Portland is a funny place. It’s like Park Slope and Williamsburg rode their bikes to the West Coast. I think part of the special-ness centers around a very vibrant geographic location where there is a lot of green, access to major alpine areas, and ocean. Portland is comprised of extremely talented and creative folks, who value the outdoor lifestyle. And, at the end of the day, Portland is still a small town, with an NBA team. I know the city has been extremely pro-active about transportation and bicycling, and I believe that is also a draw. That said, if I see one more t-shirt with a unicorn, I’m going to vomit. I’m waiting for the bumper sticker that reads: “I grew a beard, and all I got was this lousy lugged steel frame.”

What about your bikes? Can you take us on a tour through your stable?

My current stable is quite plentiful right now. There is a fine line between the bikes I ride because I own a bike shop with demo bikes, and the bikes I own outright. That said, right now on the road I am riding a BMC Racemaster SLX 01 which is an aluminum/carbon frame. I also have my Seven Odonata (now called the ID8) from 2000. This serves as my winter rain bike with full fenders, and my base mileage (3+ hour) bike. In Seattle, nearly everyone has a rain bike. And they are usually nice. For CX, I have three bikes: custom Sycip aluminum, custom titanium Seven, and a 333 fabrication single-speed. I was riding the Seven the other day, and thought it was super cool how versatile this bike has become: I ride it regularly as a commuter single-speed with a fender, I have raced it in Belgium at Master’s Cross Worlds, I have ridden it up the Koppenburg, I have won single-speed cross races on it, and right now it’s set-up as a single-speed with file treads as my summer commuter. Finally, I have a Sycip Java Boy which is the bike of all coffee bikes, with painted Honjo fenders, and Shimano Alfine disc/internal group. Oh, and I just got an Ibis Mojo SL ATB rig with 5.5” of travel. It’s insane! 24 lbs and 140mm of travel in the rear. I have a Seven ATB single-speed, too. I think that’s it. My girlfriend Beverly and I rode a Co-Motion tandem for the first time last weekend and had a ton of fun.

What’s your ideal ride? Location, weather, companions, bike, etc.

Over Memorial Day weekend, I pretty much had the perfect riding weekend. On Friday afternoon, I went out with Max and B and we hammered the s*** out of each other (that sounds wrong) and rode for about 1.5 hours with relentless attacks on our road bikes. It was a local road ride, and it was 70 and sunny. Saturday I rode up to Woodland Park, a city park about 10 blocks from my shop, and I pre-rode a cross course that we’re using for a race this fall in Seattle. There has never been a CX race there, and me and my friend Terry are putting on a 6-race series this fall called MFG Cross. I rode my singlespeed with file treads. On Sunday, my pal Dieter and I went to Bellingham to ride our ATB’s. We spent about 5 hours exploring a local mountain called Galbrith Mountain. Lots of small connected trails and many possibilities to get lost. D hucked some ILL 10 footers. I watched. We ate burritos. On Monday, Beverly and I went for a tandem ride in the city, and ended up at a local beach. I haven’t ridden a tandem in a while, and it was a ton of fun having some chitty-chat on the bike, and staying together.

What, no pavé? We'll forgive that one for now. Do you have any heroes or roll models—both cycling and non-cycling?

VDB. What else is there to say about the dude? Wicked doper, hopeless comeback, but few look better on a bike than Frankie Boy. I'm also big into basketball. I am a fan of CP3 (that's Chris Paul-ed.) of the NBA's New Orleans Hornets, and really liked watching Rajon Rondo play this season. Rondo is like the little man at 6’2", and was dunking OVER Dwight Howard this year. Vicious.

What do you want to be when you grow-up?

If I grow up, I’m in trouble.

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

There is a photo on pages 68 and 69 of the book Flandrien (we're trying to locate copies of these-ed.). I think this photo does justice to what it must be like to ride pavé in epic conditions. I rode some of the Ronde a few years ago, but it was tame on a cross bike with 32’s in the sun and dry conditions. To race for 5+ hours on constant pavé must just be a nightmare. Or, "ass-mare".

Thanks so much, Zac. Please keep us posted on all that's going-on over at HUP.

And again, please accept our apologies for yesterday's publishing technical difficulties. Thank you for reading!