Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New Column - Erik's Wednesday Cross Power Rankings

As the 2009 road season winds its way to a close, it’s time to look ahead to wonders of fall and winter. For many, that means one thing and one thing only: cyclocross.

At Pavé, we can’t help but have a crush on the sport—like that cousin you see once in a while at family reunions and can’t help but wonder what would happen if you met her in a bar and had a few too many Vodka-Red Bulls—

But I digress. Sorry.

Seriously speaking, it’s time to show some love to the sport responsible for much of our early season form. Without cross, where would be come April? Without drop bars, knobby tires, and mud, what would we do when the asphalt ends and the rough stuff begins?

To do it right though, I’ve decided to do it the American way—I’m outsourcing. Erik Mitchell has been a good friend (and an okay student) since he entered my classroom in the 11th grade. Now he’s a fine, respectable young man known throughout the area as an announcer, official, race promoter, motor-pacer, and a racer. He works in a shop, rides with some of the area’s finest elite racers, and writes about the sport on his blog with a style I can appreciate.

So here it is, the first installment of Erik’s Wednesday Cross Power Rankings—both international and domestic. We hope you enjoy!

Take it away, Erik...

Wow, what a week it has been! We saw the best field ever assembled on US soil battle under the lights just off the Vegas Strip. Erwin Vervecken flew halfway around the world for 3 top-notch races, winning one of them. Jamie Driscoll and Jeremy Powers laid down several vicious attacks that saw them solo to victory. And speaking of solo victories, Niels Albert won his third consecutive race. (I wonder if he ever gets tired of riding alone.) Also, some guy on a steel bike notched two big UCI wins in Vermont of all places. Clearly it was an action packed weekend.

Riders like Page, Trebon, Powers and Vervecken have all found their stride as the real cross season begins. Not to mention some lady named Compton made mincemeat of the entire US Elite Women's field.

So who came out on top? Who's number one? It was a tough call with no real dominant rider on either side of the pond. The Europeans are starting to settle down just in time for the first round of the World Cup. Meanwhile the US continues to be a hodgepodge of one hit wonders and long time cross racers finding their form. It all should come together in Gloucester and Treviso next weekend. Here we go:

International Rankings: (Last Week's Rank)

1. Niels Albert (1) - Honestly, I'm running out of things to say about Albert. His dominance is clearly beginning to fade (he won by only 10 seconds this weekend) and it appears that the ever-consistent Nijs is right on schedule. Next week marks the first big test for Albert as Round 1 of the World Cup will find everyone in Italy. This weekend, Albert once again rode his own race, but it may be only a matter of time before he'll have to ride a very tactical race as part of an elite group.

2. Sven Vanthourenhout (6) - Jumping up to 2nd this week, Sven showed excellent tactical and technical skills while locked in a battle with Albert and Nijs. Obviously, his result was overshadowed by the horrific crash of his cousin in the closing meters. It appears that Sven is strong enough to ride with the lead group; he just has to ride smart enough to get there early and not waste energy playing catch-up. A podium place in Italy seems likely; however, a victory may just be out of his grasp.

3. Erwin Vervecken (5) - After a tenth place two weekends ago, Vervecken flew halfway around the world and picked-up three top-5 places, including a victory on Sunday. I've said all along Vervecken's farewell tour will be one to remember. Expecting three straight victories stateside was a bit ambitious on my part, but he showed he's still one of the best. He'll have a bit of a break while travelling back to Europe, giving him a chance to rest. However, while I still think he'll win a World Cup this year, Treviso (Italy) will not be it. But a top-5 is in the cards.

4. Jonathan Page (3) – 3rd, 2nd, and 3rd. Talk about consistent, talk about frustrating. Should he have worked harder at Cross Vegas? Could he have won? How much damage did those mechanical issues do at the USGP’s? Clearly, Page is on the verge of something special once again. While he hasn't shown his face in Europe (and will stay stateside, missing the Treviso World Cup), Page has shown that he's one of the best riders around. Traditionally, his best results have come after a season filled with mishaps and near misses. I have a strong feeling about Page this year, even if he leaves the US with lingering questions.

5. Kevin Pauwels (7) - Pauwels is my man this year. He lost a two-up sprint for 3rd against Sven Nijs. A top-5 next weekend wouldn't surprise me as Pauwels seems capable of riding with the leaders this year. The real question is can he attack the lead group? He's almost always going to be in the mix, but the ability to attack guys like Albert and Nijs will move Pauwels up to the top step. Just remember, Pauwels is young and will certainly be getting better with age.

6. Sven Nijs (9) - But he beat Pauwels, I know. Here's the important part: Nijs went from the gun, had everyone on the rivet, and would have won if he didn't puncture. So why isn't he further up, you may ask? Because it will be more impressive when he jumps up to #1 next week after he wins Round 1 of the World Cup. Clearly, Nijs wasn't lying when he said he wasn't going to come into form until October. It's scary to think about what he's still capable of doing when he’s in shape.

7. Christian Heule (4) - Heule picked up a pair of top-10 places this weekend and will make the transition back to Europe this week. I don't know if he'll reach the level of success he had in his first few races this year, but Heule is a veteran, and as we've seen with Vervecken and Nijs, cross vets are capable of amazing things.

8. Klaas Vantornout (5) - Klaas picked up a solid 5th place this past weekend, confirming the fact that he's capable of consistently placing near the top of the field. However, he still seems to lack the ability to stick with the lead group. Obviously next weekend is a big test for everyone, but it's time for Klaas to take the next step and move-up to the top of the podium.

9. Zdenek Stybar (2) - A big drop this week for Stybar. He most likely will pop back up towards the top after a World Cup podium next weekend. However, winning a round of the TOI Cup pales in comparison to winning a race in Belgium with all the big boys. (No offense to the Czech Republic.) As I said though, Stybar should do well next weekend, and who can blame him for wanting to spend some time at home before the season really heats up?

10. Katie Compton (NA) - Since I don't have a separate women’s power ranking, Compton earns the last spot here. (Remember this list is about the best cross racers, period.) And with an insanely dominating week, the real question is can Compton improve on her third place last year in Treviso? If so, she may move up another few spots.

North American Rankings: (Last Week’s Rank)

1. Jeremy Powers (8) - This spot was a real tough one. Powers rode solid at Vegas and crushed Round #1 of the USGP. It's tough to criticize his 6th place finish on Sunday, but that was his worst result of the week. Clearly a heavy road season is paying its dividends right now, but unlike most other roadies, Powers seems to be able to carry his form through a full season of cross. Last year he had a true breakout year, and with this kind of start, he could end up winning either the USGP or the NACT.

2. Jamie Driscoll (5) - Driscoll has always been a consistent rider who broke through last year at Nationals. The issue that still surrounds him (and to some extent Powers and Trebon) is that his success on the Elite level seems to come through long, leg burning, solo efforts. While there's nothing wrong with that, he still has yet to prove that he can ride a long, tactical, race with the big boys.

3. Ryan Trebon (9) – In the past, I’ve criticized Trebon for his lack of consistency—it seems as though my "advice" is paying off. He pulled-out 3 solid performances last week and landed on the podium on Sunday. Obviously the Stars and Stripes carries a bit of pressure, which I'm still not sure Trebon can handle. However, if he rides consistently, picks-up a few wins and some podiums, he could be in the running for the USGP or NACT as well. Whether or not he can repeat at Nationals remains to be seen.

4. Dan Timmerman (na) - Who? Here's the rundown: finished 110th in the UCI rankings last year and raced exclusively stateside. He had a bunch of top-10’s, an insane amount of top-5’s, but never picked-up a win. Perhaps this is the start of a breakthrough year for Timmerman. The competition he faced this past weekend was a little lackluster compared to the star-studded fields in Vegas and Wisconsin. However, don't count Timmerman out, he's the dominant leader of the New England Cross Series, which has had some pretty impressive winners in years past.

5. Chris Jones (na) - Honestly, Jones may never appear on this list again (ouch!). He's a solid road rider who seems to enjoy a cross race every now and then. That said, three top-10’s in three straight top-tier US races means he's doing something right. Still, he appears to be just a roadie with some leftover fitness he's trying to burn-off. Look at it this way: last year he raced twice in September, three times in November and once in December. Dedicated crosser? I think not. Job well done though.

6. Geoff Kabush (na) - Another longtime crosser who seems to be hit or miss. He had a solid mountain bike season and looks poised to pick-up a few wins this year. He's clearly one of the favorites for the "Maple Leaf" jersey that will be handed-out in a few weeks. Should he capture gold (more like red and white), he'll be looking forward to racing on home soil when the North American racing crowd heads to Toronto the following weekend. I'm not going to write-off Kabush as he seems to be coming into form, but he's got to prove he still has the ability to win on a bigger stage.

7. Barry Wicks (na) - Two top-10’s in three races this week bodes well for the other half of the Kona Towers. Wicks can basically write-off last year’s cross season after a few setbacks seemed to knock him out for the entire season. I have high hopes for him this year and if he and Trebon can find the form they both had a few years ago, the Kona duo could do some major damage this year.

8. Andy Jacques-Maynes (2) - A week after I called him the potential surprise of the year, Andy failed to pull-out a major result this past week. His 9th place on Saturday showed that he's still there, but after his superb performances in the Northwest last week it was a bit of a letdown. It will be interesting to see how quickly Andy can bounce back. Next weekend he'll head into the New England lions’ den in Gloucester.

9. Luke Keough (5) - Another pair of top-10’s mark the arrival of the future of US cross. He still lacks the ability to attack the lead group and go for the win, but that will come with time and patience. I don't expect any big victories out of Keough this year, but consistency will be key since Keough cannot dominate the big boys like he did the juniors in years past. It is worthy to note that Zach McDonald is looking very good in the Northwest. It will be very interesting to watch these two ex-juniors when they meet-up later this year.

10. Jesse Anthony (10) - Only one decent finish in three tries this week—it's a wonder why Anthony is still on the list. He continues to show signs of life, but lacks that little bit extra he once had. This may be the last week for Anthony, but he is returning to New England for a pair of races this weekend. Anthony always seems to be able to put something together when he races in the Northeast.

That’s it for this week’s rankings. Come back next Wednesday for more!

In closing, here's a look at the weekend ahead:

Oct. 3 - GP of Gloucester 1 (C2)
Oct. 4 - GP of Gloucester 2 (C2)
Oct. 4 - World Cup 1 – Treviso, Italy (WCD)

Should be lots of fun. As always comments, suggestions, and debates are welcome.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Monday Mustte - Worlds, UCI Tidbits, Interbike, and a Ride

1. While I can't say I told you so, I wasn't surprised to see Cadel Evans finally get the big win he's so desperately craved. It was a fantastic ride by someone not often known for taking matters into his own hands. With 4 riders in the final lead group of 9, Spain has to be wondering what went wrong after setting-up Sanchez perfectly for the win. As for Italy and Belgium, they were a bit under-represented in the final selection, with Cunego and Gilbert left to fend for themselves. But at that point in te race, if you can't handle things by yourself, you probably don't deserve to win.

But let's not take anything away from Evans' performance. The question remains: wither Evans now? Should he continue to try his luck in the Grand Tours, or should he perhaps adjust his focus to hilly Classics and short stage races? If he picks the latter, there's no reason why he couldn't have the most succesful season as World Champion in recent memory.

2. Not sure if you caught it in all the Mendrisio hoopla, but did you hear about the changes to the Worlds format for 2012? Looks like they're returning to the old model of having the Juniors, Espoirs, and Elites all competing at the same event with one key addition: a trade team TTT! The final details on this are still to be determined, but it looks likely to be run the week before the elite road race with trade teams instead of national teams competing. I'd love to see the return of the 100km distance, but that appears unlikely. No matter what, it will be an exciting event--if the teams and riders take it seriously. Will the winning team get to wear rainbow skinsuits? That sound you're hearing (off in the distance) is Jonathan Vaughters licking his lips...

3. For those of you planning your vacations now, the UCI 2010 World Calendar has been released.

4. Was anyone else shocked and bit saddened to hear that Will Frischkorn has retired? Hard to believe the guy's been a europro since before he could could legally by beer in the USA. Makes me wish now more than ever that he could have won that stage in the 2008 Tour de France. All the best, Will!

5. I hate to admit it, but I'm afraid I've not been able to live as vicariously as I had hoped via the current Interbike coverage. Pedal Strike's Kaiko has provided the best so far. Check-out her Flickr photostream, and then search for "Interbike" to enjoy scores of others. Mr. Dunn will certainly be keeping us busy this week as he sifts through his memories and photos. (Hopefully there's some photos from IF and Handspun.)

6. And on a personal note, a friend and I went for a ride with Fxdwhl from lockring.not.included on Saturday. You can read Fxdwhl's report here--he writes about such things so much better than I do. All I can say is that it was one of the best rides I've done in a long time. He's a great host, a fabulous rider, and if you haven't done so yet, the purveyor of one of the finest blogs out there. Stop-by and say hello when you have a chance.

That's it for today. What's on your mind? Thoughts from Mendrisio? Interbike?

Share your comments below.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Worlds Road Race Preview

Worlds Road Race

The Start List for Sunday’s Elite Men World Championship Road Race has been finalized, so it’s time for Pavé’s Race Preview. Let’s start at the bottom and work our way up to #1, shall we?

Finland (#201)
The last rider registered is #201, Jussi Veikkanen. He’s Finland’s lone representative and offers a terrific place to begin our run-down. Clearly a dark horse candidate, several constellations would need to align for him to take the win—but stranger things have happened.

Ireland (#’s 195-193)
Ireland brings three riders: Philip Deignan, Daniel Martin, and Nicolas Roche. Like their homeland, Ireland’s team this year is small, but not to be overlooked. Deignan just won a stage of the Vuelta, Martin is one of the sport’s future stars to watch, and Roche showed in the Tour that he too has big days ahead. Watch for them to play a supporting, but aggressive role in Sunday’s race.

Sweden (#’s 181-179)
Rider #181 is Thomas Lokvist. We haven’t heard much from him since his win in L’Eroica earlier this year, but he’s certainly someone to note—especially with Kessiakoff (#179) and Ljungqvist (#180) riding with him.

Canada (#’s 178-176)
Oh, Canada! You’ve got a team with depth similar to Ireland’s. Ryder Hesjedal’s (#177) confidence has skyrocketed since his terrific two days in the Vuelta. With Svein Tuft (#178) and Michael Barry (#176) riding support, he’s just the type to pull a big surprise—especially from an mid-race breakaway.

Slovakia (#’s 172-170)
Two of Slovakia’s three entrants share a last name—Martin and Peter Velits (#’s 171 and 172). Race favorites? Perhaps not. Riders who could animate and maybe finish near the front? Absolutely. Don’t forget, Peter won the U23 title in 2007.

Kazakhstan (#’s 138-133)
Cue the Darth Vader March. Kazakhstan takes the line with both Andrey Kashechkin (#137) and Alexandre Vinokourov (#138). They say they can’t stand one another, but I wonder if that will change should one of them be in a position to take the win. Vinokourov looked better than decent in Thursday’s ITT. Should one of these men grab the Rainbow Jersey, I’m pretty certain Pat McQuaid will spontaneously combust.

Slovenia (#117-112)
Another rider looking fast Thursday was Slovenia’s Janez Brajkovic (#114). He’s a talented rider, capable of making it over the hills with the best. Vuelta stage winner Borut Borzic (#113) rides as well; should a large group hit the line he could pull-off the shock of the year.

Switzerland (#’s 111-106)
The home squad looks set to do everything in its power to set-up Fabian Cancellara (#108) for the double. While at first this might seem absurd, think about Spartacus’ Tour de Suisse win this year. Think about his road stage win in the Tour. Think about his bronze medal in the Olympic Road Race last year. When he’s on-form and motivated—which he certainly is—he’s almost unstoppable. And don’t forget Michael Albasini (#106). He’ll probably go on the offensive to take the heat-off Cancellara during the race’s early to mid stages, but if given the green light, he could play spoiler.

Denmark (#’s 105-100)
Denmark’s squad seems a bit depleted this year, with only six riders taking the start. Jakob Fulsgang (#102) is a young climber more than capable of making an even bigger name for himself here. Matti Breschel (#101)—should the race come to a small group sprint—could certainly place well.

Czech Republic (#’s 99-97)
More than anyone else, Roman Kreuziger (#98) will be checking the weather report Saturday night—and praying. It might rain, and for a rider who’s narrowly missed big wins on wet days (San Sebastian and the Vuelta), he can’t help but hope the third time will be a charm. On paper—and I know I’ve said this before—I think he’s a favorite to take the win. The question remains though whether his head has what it takes to get him where he needs to be for victory.

France (#’s 96-91)
The boys from France only get six spots this year, but they have a team that could easily get the job done. Thomas Voeckler, Pierrick Fedrigo, and Sylvain Chavanel (#’s 96, 93, and 92, respectively) are all talented one-day riders. They’ll need to attack, attack, and attack some more if they hope to win. If they can stay fresh in the first half, and let the fireworks fly in the last 50km, they could bring home France’s first rainbow jersey since Laurent Brochard in 1997.

The Netherlands (#’s 90-85)
The Dutch are another squad bumped from 9 to 6 riders, but from top to bottom they have perhaps the deepest team in the race. Koos Moerenhout (#90) plays the role of the wily veteran, a road captain capable of reading the race as it happens. Sebastien Langeveld (#91) offers pure power—he can sit on the front all day and drive the field if need be. As for the rest, Karsten Kroon, Johnny Hoogerland, Robert Gesink, and Lars Boom (#’s 85 through 88) need to just sit tight and take turns going with the attacks in the race’s latter phases. Should one of these men come-up with the goods, it would be a terrific end to a season that—on the whole—fell short of national expectations.

Great Britain (#’s 84-76)
It’s a long shot, but David Millar (#81) and Roger Hammond (#79) will be carrying the hopes for the Union Jack’s success in Mendrisio, as we begin a group of teams with which the right to start 9 riders has to be called into question. Mark Cavendish—the rider who garnered the bulk of GB’s world points—chose to stay home, leaving the squad without an undisputed leader for Sunday. But don’t count Millar and Hammond out; they’re savvy riders, both capable of getting themselves in the right place at the right time to pull-off the upset.

USA (#’s 75-68)
Like Great Britain, the USA is another team that might have to face questions as to whether or not it deserves 9 riders in the race. Tom Danielson (#70) set fire to the first half of the Vuelta, then wilted when his bowels couldn’t hold-up their end of the bargain. Tyler Farrar (#72) won a stage in that race, but it was about 2 or 3 short of what we expected. Both are looking for big rides, but one has to think their best days are past them. For me, I’m excited to see what Thomas Peterson (#75) can do. He’s young, skilled in the hills, and rides with panache. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in the lead group come Sunday, possibly being the road race’s version of Tom Zirbel.

Norway (#’s 67-59)
A few weeks ago I would have been inclined to bash Norway for having 9 riders in the race. Looking at their starters though, I’d be eating my words. Thor Hushovd, Edvald Boassen Hagen, and Kurt Asle Arvesen (#’s 62, 60, and 59) form quite a formidable core. Boassen Hagen is the clear favorite here, but the rest could certainly take the win if things fall their way. In a large group, Hushovd will be tough to beat if the course proves easier than expected. From an early break, Arvesen could easily crash the party.

Luxembourg (#’s 58-55)
At least Andy Schleck (#58) is racing. It’s disappointing to see a team that earned 9 riders show-up with 4. Andy left the Vuelta with stomach cramps—maybe the time off was enough to get him the form he needs here. Kim Kirchen (#57) would love to end a disappointing season with the Rainbow Jersey. With only two teammates, they’ll need all the help they can get.

Belgium (#’s 54-46)
I still can’t figure-out why Stijn Devolder was left off the Belgian team. (Well, I think I do know actually.) Nevertheless, Belgium comes to the race with its best chance to win since Tom Boonen in 2005. By the way: do you know who won Worlds the last time it was held in Switzerland? Johan Museeuw. Don’t get your hopes up though, Tommeke fans; the favorite this time is Philipe Gilbert (#50). He’s been on a quite a tear lately, coming out of the Vuelta with the form of his life. If his team can avoid infighting (wouldn’t that be ironic, Stijn?), Gilbert could easily make Wallonia and the rest of Belgium proud. A strong group backs him including: Boonen (#46), Nick Nuyens (#52), and Greg Van Avermaet (#53). Of these, Nuyens might offer the biggest threat to Gilbert’s leadership, particularly if he gets himself in a break where a choice needs to be made between working and sitting-on. Boonen and Van Avermaet will be hoping for a sprint. If all goes as planned, it could be a terrific day for Belgium.

Russia (#’s 45-37)
Russia takes the line with a solid team that—if it’s smart—will be putting all of its eggs in Sergei Ivanov’s (#39) basket. Ivanov’s a wily veteran who knows how to win important events. For example, who would have thought he would win his second Amstel this year over such strong competition? He’s been relatively quiet in his build-up, but if he’s indeed in good form, he has to be considered a candidate for the title.

Germany (#’s 36-28)
On paper, Germany comes to the race with a team of sprinters including Gerald Ciolek (#28) and Andre Greipel (#30). While a bunch kick seems doubtful, a German win’s certainly not impossible. Both of these men have shown an ability to survive after other fast men have been dropped. If a group comes to the line and Greipel’s in it, look for him to easily continue the domination he started in the Vuelta. Otherwise, Germany places its hopes in Tony Martin (#33), the bronze medalist in Thursday’s ITT. Will he ride for the others, or will he be given the green light to try for himself?

Australia (#’s 27-19)
Of all the 9-man teams, Australia has clearly one of the strongest—a solid mix of hard-working domestiques, veteran leadership, and 3 riders capable of winning in a variety of ways. Simon Gerrans, Cadel Evans, and Allan Davis (#’s 22, 21, and 20) need to be taken very seriously. Gerrans has shown himself to be one of the best one-day riders in the world over the past year, taking stages in all three Grand Tours. Davis is no slouch either; he’s been winning since January! As for Cadel, well, it hasn’t been the greatest season for him. When he wants to be, he’s a powerful rider more than capable of winning on a course such as this. If he can keep his head straight—and his tires inflated—he could easily outmatch the other favorites. Look for them to hold the Cadel card up their sleeve, saving him for the final move while Gerrans plays the role of top-lieutenant and Davis sits-in for a possible sprint.

Spain (#’s 18-10)
Spain’s depth may prove to be its own worst enemy. With both Alejandro Valverde (#18) and Samuel Sanchez (#17) in the fold, there could be a case of two many cooks in the lead pot. At some point, one man might have to defer to the other—a tough decision as both have the talent and the form needed to take the win. Will Sanchez repay Valverde for his patience in Beijing? Or will he try and avenge his loss in this Vuelta by adding the Rainbow Jersey to his Olympic gold medal? Oscar Freire (#12) rides his penultimate Worlds, hoping to spend his final season in rainbows. Like the Aussies’ Davis, he’ll need a field sprint or a large group to get to the line together, but even then he might have to defer to Valverde. Aside from these three, look for Carlos Barredo (#10) to play a roll in a breakaway at some point, possibly gunning for the win should he find himself in the position. Overall though, Spain has—along with Italy and maybe Australia and Belgium—one of the strongest teams in the race. Anything less than victory would be a disappointment.

Italy (#’s 9-1)
And last but certainly not least, we have Italy. Between the two of them, Spain and Italy have won 8 out of the last 10 world road titles—with Italy taking the last 3. They bring a team to Mendrisio ready for number 4. The defending champion, Alessandro Ballan, starts with dossard #1. However, while he’s in good shape, his Lampre teammate, Damiano Cunego, is everyone’s top-favorite following his 2 Vuelta stage wins. Clearly Cunego is the man to watch—which just might play into Ballan’s favor, allowing him to sneak away for a repeat win. And don’t forget Ivan Basso and Filippo Pozatto (#’s 2 and 7), they’ve won some big races too, and could easily take the race if the opportunity arrives. The same could be said for Stefano Garzelli and Luca Paolini (#’s 5 and 7). And don’t forget Michele Scarponi (#8)—he won 2 stages in this year’s Giro as well the overall at Tirreno-Adriatico. Then there’s Giovanni Visconti (#9), who’s been winning build-up races in Italy all fall. In fact, the only rider for Italy who we might logically say doesn’t take the line with a legitimate chance to win is Marzio Bruseghin. But even he’s a rider that—

Well, you know what I mean.

So in closing, here’s our Stone Rankings for the race:

5-Stone Favorites:
Damiano Cunego
Philippe Gilbert
Alejandro Valverde
Samuel Sanchez
Edvald Boassen Hagen

4-Stone Favorites:
Fabian Cancellara
Roman Kreuziger
Cadel Evans
Alessandro Ballan

3-Stone Favorites:
Allan Davis
Andre Greipel
Thor Hushovd
Nick Nuyens
Andy Schleck
Lars Boom
Filippo Pozatto
Ivan Basso

2-Star Favorites:
Sylvain Chavanel
Robert Gesink
Janez Brajkovic
Alexandre Vinokourov
Tyler Farrar
Giovanni Visconti

And last but not least, here’s Pavé's picks for the podium (no alliteration intended):

Rainbow Jersey: Philippe Gilbert
Silver Medal: Damiano Cunego
Bronze Medal: Edvald Boassen Hagen

Enjoy the race! And as always, share your comments below.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Worlds ITT Preview

While its Start List isn’t as star-studded as Sunday’s Road Race, tomorrow’s World Championship ITT possesses no shortage of riders capable of winning the Rainbow Skinsuit. Luckily, the list itself is short, making it easy to sort the contenders from the pretenders. Let’s take a look at the 10 whom we feel have the best chances for a strong performance. We’ll rank them in their predicted order of finish, beginning with #10.

10th Place – Dominique Cornu – Belgium
Cornu won the 2006 World U23 ITT title and is always an outside threat to pull a good result in an ITT. He didn’t ride the Vuelta, but he still remains a dark horse capable of a top-ten finish.

9th Place – Ignatas Konovalovas – Lithuania
Konovalovas stunned everyone when he won the final stage of this year’s Giro. His results in the Vuelta were somewhat lackluster, but he’s certainly capable of finishing just inside the Top-10 in Mendrisio.

8th Place – Marco Pinotti – Italy
Being the 4-time reigning Italian National Time Trial Champion has to mean something, right? Pinotti will have enough of fan base in Mendrisio to warrant a good ride. Columbia-HTC could end the day with 5 riders in the Top-10—he’ll be the first (from the bottom up, that is).

7th Place – Tony Martin – Germany
Tony’s had a relatively quiet late summer and early fall following his revelatory ride in the first weeks of the Tour. He’s always been known as a time trialist though; look for him to get himself back on everyone’s radar with a strong performance tomorrow.

6th Place – Frantisek Rabon – Czech Republic
Rabon’s another of Columbia’s slew of time trialists. He rode the Vuelta, but put in what have to be considered ho-hum ITT performances at best. Still, he’s a talented man against the clock, and is certainly capable of a finish in the middle of the Top-10.

5th Place – Bradley Wiggins – Great Britain
I’m sorry, but I think the wheels are about to fall-off for the men in red, white, and blue (they did have it first, my American friends). Cavendish has already pulled-out of the road race (why was he even thinking of riding such a hilly event?), and now I think Wiggo will fall short of where most English-speakers are hoping he’ll be. Cite whatever reasons you like, but I think it will come down to whatever pressure he’s feeling as a result of the contractual tug of war being waged between Sky and Garmin. Sure, it’s usually the agents who sort these things out, but don’t you think BW’s phone has been ringing off-the-hook with people wanting to know the latest? It wears on a rider, really it does. Maybe next year, Brad. For now, you’ll have to be content with 5th.

4th Place – Lars Boom – The Netherlands
In my opinion, there’s only one rider capable of upsetting Fabian Cancellara and it’s Lars Boom. Realistically, the talented crosser (can we even say this anymore?) is probably more suited for the Top-5, but I think he’s by far the man with the deepest talent. If he wins gold, you can say you heard it here first. If he finishes 4th, well…I guess you can say you heard it here too!

Bronze Medal – Bert Grabsch – Germany
Germany gets both of its entrants in the Top-10 with last year’s champion only mustering 3rd. He’d be a favorite for a repeat if not for the two riders ahead of him.

Silver Medal – Edvald Boassen Hagen – Norway
I think Boassen Hagen’s a smart guy. I think he knows that his team is perhaps a bit over-matched for Sunday and that he might need to take his stab at a World Championship a few days earlier. I think he knows that everyone’s all but giving Cancellara the gold medal outright—a lot of pressure for any man. Sounds to me like a recipe for an upset. But if Boassen Hagen wins—given the August and September he’s had—can it really be called an upset?

Gold Medal – Fabian Cancellara – Switzerland
Um, let’s see:
1st, Prologue, Tour of California
1st, Prologue, Tour de Suisse
1st, Stage 9 (ITT), Tour de Suisse
1st, Stage 1 (ITT), Tour de France
1st Stage 1 (ITT), Vuelta a España
1st Stage 7 (ITT), Vuelta a España

Is there really any doubt? Cancellara will win his 5th Worlds gold medal. The competition is fierce—especially at the back-end of the start list—but Spartacus should claim the title that—as his results can attest—should be rightfully his.

So there you have it—tomorrow’s Top-10 a day early. Who did we leave out? Who’s your pick for the Rainbow Skinsuit?

Share your comments below.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday Musette - Interbike, Di2, and the Vuelta

While we won't be making the pilgrimage to Vegas this week, we are eagerly awaiting the various reports and eye-candy that make it one of the most fascinating of the year. Here are some things we recommend you check-out:

1. The good folks at IF have posted some pretty interesting photos on their blog about things to look for at this year's show. While they won't have a dedicated booth of their own, they're building bikes to be showcased by companies including Whipperman, EDGE, and Cane Creek. What caught my eye the most was this photo. I can't place the date, location, or anything for that matter, but I can tell that it looks F-U-N!

2. Our friends over at Handspun are also set to reveal some new goodies in the handbuilt, spoked-wheel department. For instance, David tells me that the Pavé-favorite Neo Classic clincher is due for an upgrade. From the looks of things, it will soon be coming with a deeper HED Belgium rim. To be honest, I'm a bit skeptical of an alloy rim with anything other than a box-section profile, but David's promised us one of the first sets to try and change my mind. Look for more to come--as well as a review of the current tubular Neo Classic.

And in other news:

3. It's become clear to me that by February we'll know if Di2 is here to stay. Competitive Cyclist noted earlier that Hincapie won the national championship on it, clearly demonstrating his confidence in the group's reliability and performance. Now Niels Albert appears to be taking things one step further. My eyes could be deceiving me, but take a look at Albert's bike from this weekend's cyclocross race in Neerpelt, Belgium. Looks to me like he's running Di2, no? If the group can survive the rigors of a European 'cross season, then at what point must we all take it seriously? Will we see winner at Roubaix next Spring aboard the electronic grouppo?

I can't help but wonder if Shimano wanted us to feel uninspired by 7900. By practically inviting us to criticize the group, they've given themselves almost the perfect cover under which to develop, tweak, and fine tune what might truly become the new industry standard. If Albert wins in the sand at Koksijde and the mud at Overijse and he does it with Di2, I just might have to consider myself convinced.

4. As for racing, Worlds is set to begin later this week. I'll be saving my official picks for later, but it looks certain to be an exciting race with just about everyone peaking at the right time.

5. The Vuelta shaped-up as planned, with Alejandro Valverde finally getting the Grand Tour win he so craved. While it's a terrific victory for Valverde, Caisse d'Epargne, and the Spanish fans, I can't help but think it will ultimately prove to damage his chances in other races. Let's face it, Valverde's never going to win the Tour. Let's hope his Vuelta win doesn't cause to him to forego his chances in other important events in exchange for glory that will never come in July.

6. And finally, is Roman Kreuziger inconsistent or what? Look at his results in the three races against the clock in Spain: 6th in the Stage 1, 63rd in Stage 7, and 5th in Stage 20. One can only wonder what he might have done on GC had he ridden to his potential in Valencia. And watch-out for Phillip Gilbert. He took 6th in the final ITT, a sign that he's in the shape if his life. Mendrisio beckons.

That's it for us today. What's on your mind? Headed to Interbike? Early picks for Worlds? Final thoughts on the Vuelta?

Share your comments below.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Weekend Preview - Vuelta and Isbergues

The Vuelta wraps-up this weekend with a flat 27km time trial around the ancient city of Toledo and the traditional final stage into Madrid.

Friday's Stage 19 was supposed to provide a last chance for GC fireworks with a summit finish in La Granja. Unfortunately, more explosions happened off the back of the lead group than at the front with Robert Gesink succumbing to his injuries from a crash a few days ago--he lost several minutes and now sits in 6th place overall, a whopping 5:30 down.

As for Saturday, look for Alejandro Valverde to hold his lead. The gaps are simply too far to his challengers; he should prove able to keep them at bay. As for the rest of the podium, Cadel Evans could leapfrog Basso and Sanchez to claim 2nd place. If he does, look for the talk to begin of "what could have been" had he not flatted on the stage to Sierra Nevada. As for Sanchez and Basso, neither should be discounted--they've been known to ride a good ITT when it counts.

As for the stage winner, I'm picking Frantisek Rabon to give Columbia-HTC yet another stage win. Greipel should bag them another come Sunday as well.

Moving north, one of my favorite fall races, the Grand Prix d'Isbergues takes place Sunday, with a bevy of French and Benelux teams taking the line. Look for Romain Feillu, Jimmy Casper, Yauheni Hutarovich, and Nick Nuyens to fight it out for the title. Remind me sometime to tell you the story involving me, a hungover mechanic, 7 flat tires, and Geert Van Bondt hanging-on to the side of our team car at about 70kmph--with only two of the car's wheels on asphalt. It happened at Isbergues.

Ah the memories!

What about you? What are you looking forward to this weekend? Any picks?

Share your comments below.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

New Embrocation Column - Why the Vuelta Matters

Pavé's new Embrocation column "Why the Vuelta Matters" just hit the web newsstand. Go have a look--and be sure to read Craig Gaulzetti's column from last week too.

Share comments below!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Worlds 2009 - Trouble in Belgium?

There's trouble brewing in Belgium--and no, I'm not talking about a new batch of Chimay.

National coach Carlo Bomans has named the following 8 riders to the Belgian National Team for the road race next weekend in Mendrisio:
Phillipe Gilbert
Tom Boonen
Francis De Greef
Kevin De Weert
Maxime Monfort
Nick Nuyens
Greg Van Avermaet
Maarten Wynants

At first glance, doesn't this list appear to be lacking one key rider?

If you said Stijn Devolder, I think you're right--and so does Stijn. Devolder--currently riding the Vuelta in preparation--thought he was a "certain pick" for his country's team. He's on the list of 5 riders in contention for the 9th and final spot; but for Devolder, the insult has already been hurled.

According to Bomans, he wanted a team of riders that would be 100% committed to getting Gilbert the win. If that's the case then, why is Tom Boonen riding? No offense to Tommeke, but does Bomans really think he'll be able to offer any assistance on a course that's rumored to be quite tough? Boonen can barely win a field sprint right now, let alone compete in a long, hilly one-day event. And Bomans doesn't think that Nick Nuyens and Greg Van Avermaet--if given the opportunity--will ride for themselves? Surely, he can't be serious.

He is, and stop me calling me Shirley.

To add insult to injury, Bomans responded to Devolder's fury by criticizing him for not riding more offensively at the Vuelta. Not to repeat myself, but what's his reason for including Boonen then? Where has he been over the past 17 days...or 67 days for that matter.

Here's my take: Carlos Bomans was one of Patrick Lefevre's key flahutes back in the heydays of Mapei. I can't help but wonder if Lefevre's a bit miffed over Devolder's reported attempt to fly the crowded Quick Step coop for undisputed spring leadership with The Shack. Maybe this is Lefevres's subtle way of letting Devolder know that he shouldn't attempt to bite the hand that feeds him?

We'll soon know if Devolder ultimately gets his place on the team, but in his mind it might already be too late. If this is a taste of things to come, it could be a very interesting April for the Belgian boys in blue and white.


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Monday Musette - Vuelta, Waiting for Cadel, Worlds, etc...

Here's our thoughts for Monday:

1. As we predicted, this weekend's stages at the Vuelta have separated the men from the boys--or have they? As it stands after today's Stage 15 we have 6 riders within 1:54 of one another. Of those, Valverde, Sanchez, Evans, and Basso seem the most lilely to take the overall win thanks to their superior time trialing abilities. For my money, look for Evans to unleash some serious revenge on the others for not waiting for him to have his wheel changed following a flat tire in Saturday's stage, thus costing him a minute on GC. Assuming of course that no one gains serious time on the last summit finish.

2. And speaking of Saturday, should they have waited for Cadel? Had he been in the golden jersey, yes. He wasn't though, so they can technically claim they had no obligation. That said, was there really any reason not to have waited? He flatted near the top of a climb; they could have easily coasted for a bit, allowing him to regain contact before descending to Sierra Nevada. Also, they weren't really chasing anyone and there were no contenders chasing from behind. Seems to me that Cadel's reputation for being a bit of a brat might have caught up with him. Regardless, waiting would have been the most sporting gesture. Two wrongs never make a right--unless you're talking about Danilo DiLuca.

3. Here's perhaps the most overwrought Cyclingnews line ever: "As he basks again in Vuelta glory this Sunday eve--a fortnight before the World Championships--Cunego will surely now be starting to hear the dulcet tones of Switzerland's siren worlds song."

4. Paris-Brussels was won by Matthew Goss, a rider with a serious future in the Spring Classics. Romain Feillu took the win Sunday in Fourmies. Too bad the course for Worlds isn't a bit flatter; he might have earned an invitation.

5. And speaking of Worlds, the Italian and German Worlds teams have been announced. No real surprises other than the fact that zee Germans apparently think this year's race is being held in Zolder, Belgium.

6. Did you hear (courtesy of Cycling Quotient) that Garmin will not be renewing the contracts of Mike Friedman, Jason Donald, Kilian Patour and Blake Caldwell? Hans Dekkers (Landbouwkrediet) and Chris Sutton (Sky) are also leaving, along with several riders yet to be confirmed. Just thought you'd like to know.

That's it for today. Hopefully you're enjoying the waning days of summer.

What's on your mind? The Vuleta? Worlds?

Share your comments below.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Weekend Preview - Vuelta, Semi-Classics, Britain, and Univest

A jam-packed weekend of racing awaits--here's a preview:

The Vuelta’s three “hellish days” began today with the first of three consecutive summit finishes. Congrats to Ryder Hesjedal for winning Garmin it’s second straight stage--and the first for a Canadian. (Does anyone else think the organizers goofed by having a KOM less than 100 meters from the finish line?) The climbing continues Saturday with another summit finish, this time atop the infamous Sierra Nevada. Sunday offers more pain, with one of many super-steep climbs the Vuelta organizers seem to have a knack for finding: the Sierra de la Pandera. By Monday, we should have a clearer idea of whom will occupy to top few steps of the podium in Madrid.

Today’s racing left Valverde in the Golden Jersey, with 5 riders still within 1:03 of his lead. Needless to say, the next two days should provide some of the most dramatic racing of the year. Danielson and Gesink appear to be the biggest animators, with Cadel Evans, Ivan Basso, and Damiano Cunego looking primed to add fireworks of their own. Tune in if you have the time.

This weekend also marks the return of big-time racing to Northern Europe, with the annual fall semi-classics Paris-Brussels and Grand Prix de Fourmies. Paris-Brussels is without Robbie McEwen, the winner of the last 4 editions. Nick Nuyens, the last rider to win it before McEwen’s string of dominance, takes the line this year eager to add another win to his record. It would be a nice end to a season in which Nuyens has failed to deliver the big classic win his team has been seeking. He’ll have ample support; Rabobank’s bringing along a squad that also includes Juan Antonio Flecha, Matthew Hayman, and Sebastian Langeveld.

Other riders to watch in these races? Last year’s Fourmies, winner Giovanni Visconti, takes the line with Team ISD, perhaps hoping to make the final cut for Worlds. Luca Paolini and Stefano Garzelli line-up for Acqua & Sapone hoping for the same. Liquigas makes the trip too, with Ghent-Wevelgem runner-up Aleksander Kuschynski leading the way along with Frederik Willems. French teams are naturally bringing some talent with BBox and Cofidis starting Thomas Voeckler and Christophe Kern respectively both days. FDJ comes with Christophe Le Mevel, Frédéric Guesdon, Anthony Geslin, and Yauheni Hutarovich forming the core of its contingent. Agritubel takes the start with Belgian Kevin Ista, Nicolas Jalabert, and Romain Feillu.

And don’t forget Quick Step and Silence-Lotto. With most of their best riders racing in Spain right now, Sylvain Chavanel leads the cause for Quick Step with Greg Van Avermaet doing the same for Silence. The usual line-up of Belgian and French Continental Teams are taking part too, with the best being Top Sport Vlaanderen with Jan Bakelants, Ben Hermans, and Nikolas Maes.

Moving Northwest, the Tour of Britain begins this weekend as well, with last year’s winner Geoffroy Lequarte returing to defend his title supported by a strong Agritubel team including Brice “Don’t Call Me Richard Virenque” Feillu. The real favorite has to be Edvald Boassen Hagen, with a strong Columbia -HTC contingent of riders able to deliver him the victory. The question is whether or not management will let them. Remember the Tour of Poland? Remember how close he came to the win with seemingly little or no help from his team? Think it’s a coincidence considering he was probably in the midst of negotiations with Team Sky?

Other riders with British ambitions are Tour-hero Brad Wiggins, Nicholas Roche, and Joost Posthuma. Pippo Pozatto’s there as well, no doubt hoping to fine tune his fitness for Worlds and Paris-Tours. For one last wild card team, watch team Joker Bianchi from Norway. Lars Petter Nordhaug and Alexander Kristoff have shown incredible talent over the past few weeks; they could pull a surprise.

Finally, the Univest Grand Prix takes place this weekend, bringing top-flight UCI racing the Southeastern Pennsylvania. Top amateur and elite squads including Trek-Livestrong and Felt-Holowesko Partners will showcase the riders of the future. I’ll be riding the Cyclosportif tomorrow and hopefully sticking-around for the rest of the day’s action.

All in all, there’s something for everyone this weekend. Who are your picks? Which race(s) will you be watching? Share your comments below.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Vuelta d'Espana Midpoint Report

Well, the Vuelta has about reached it’s midpoint, providing us with a good chance to look back over our pre-race predictions. If you recall, we divided this year’s participants into 4 groups according to what their attitudes and goals might be heading into this year’s final Grand Tour. We labeled them Redeemers, Builders, Asserters, and Seekers depending upon whether they are: a)redeeming themselves for an unfulfilling season; b) building form for later in the fall; c) asserting themselves as a legitimate contender in their given area; or d) seeking a new or better contract for next year.

As per usual, we’ve hit the target on several occasions (with others still to be determined), while missing horribly on others. Keeping in mind there’s still 10 days left to race, let’s see how we're doing, beginning with The Redeemers.

We presented Cadel Evans and Alejandro Valverde as both seeking some redemption at this year’s Vuelta. So far, so good as they sit in 2nd and 1st place respectively on GC with only 7 seconds separating them. With several exciting days remaining, the pending dual between these two talents might be one of the season’s finest.

Kim Kirchen came to the Vuelta for redemption as well—too bad he’s already dropped-out due to what have been described as “intestinal problems”. Clearly, this has not been the season Kirchen was banking upon. Maybe the environment at Katusha will give him a fresh start?

While the Redeemers came to the race seeking immediate redemption, several of the Builders hope to find the form they’ll need to get it a bit later on. Case in point: Tom Boonen’s been close to a stage win on several occasions, but he still seems to lack the last-second burst he needs to win. Time will tell if Tommeke’s season will end on a high note, but one can only hope the kilometers he’s logging now will reap rewards in October.

On the other hand, Damiano Cunego, another of our “Builders”, seems to be doing quite nicely. He won the Stage 9 summit finish and currently sits in 7th place overall. If he keeps it up, he’ll be the overwhelming favorite at Worlds and Lombardy--if he doesn't go too deep in Spain. His compatriot Alessandro Ballan has had a quiet Vuelta so far, one can only guess how he’ll be later in the season. Maybe he works for Cunego at Worlds?

And finally, Fabian Cancellara stormed to wins in both Vuelta ITT’s and is the clear favorite to win the World Title on his home turf.

As for the Asserters, Andre Greipel has clearly cemented himself among the world’s finest field sprinters by winning 2 stages and wearing the Gold Jersey for a few days. Furthermore, he’s staying with Columbia-HTC for 2010, thus ensuring that perhaps the strongest challenger to Mark Cavendish’s sprint throne stays home.

The first draft of today’s post mentioned Tyler Farrar as someone who fell short of our forecast. However, the young American finally broke through today, winning Stage 12. It caps a fantastic year for the Garmin rider, one which saw him progress steadily through the ranks of the world’s best field sprinters. Another win or two certainly wouldn’t be a surprise, firmly planting Tyler—along with Greipel—as one of the best in the world.

Samuel Sanchez was hoping to assert himself as perhaps Spain’s second-best Grand Tour rider. He currently sits in 6th place overall, about 1 minute down on the leaders. That’s a bit of a deficit, but it's one Sanchez is clearly capable of overcoming given the right circumstances. The Vuelta’s been won and lost in the final week before; Sanchez could still pull it off.

On the other hand, Andy Schleck’s Vuelta ended on Sunday when he abandoned about 90km into Stage 8 with stomach cramps. I expected more from both him and his brother (who abandoned today to have season-ending knee surgery). That said, Andy won Liege-Bastogne-Liege and finished 2nd in the Tour. A rest is clearly in order following what has been a long, but successful season.

An astute reader asked why I forgot to mention Robert Gesink among the Asserters. Clearly he was right, as young Robert’s currently sitting in 3rd place on GC. With several mountain stages still to come, Gesink could give the Dutch a well-deserved Grand Tour victory.

And finally we have the Seekers, and what a good group they’ve proved to be.

Ivan Basso and Tom Danielson have consistently ridden with the leaders, currently occupying 5th and 4th place on GC. Basso’s been reported to remain with Liquigas next season, while Danielson’s name has been absent from most transfer talk. That said, a solid Vuelta for both might just lead to some greener pastures for these two talented men.

Simon Gerrans has already claimed what he sought, winning Stage 10 into Murcia. He's now won stages in all 3 Grand Tours and will surely command a hefty salary for next season. My money’s on SKY getting his name on the dotted line.

And finally, there’s Chris Horner, a man we mentioned as possibly vying for the win. Unfortunately, Horner’s run of bad luck has continued, with a first week crash taking him from the race before it really even began. It’s clearly been a tough season for Chris.

So let’s see: that’s 7 stages and 6 of the Top-10 on GC for men we mentioned before the race. Not too shabby! Although the others might be sending us some hate mail for jinxing their chances.

What about you? What are your thoughts on the first half of the race? Share your comments below.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Monday Musette - Univest, Vuelta, and More

Here's what's on our minds this Labor Day:

1. This coming weekend, the new and improved Univest Grand Prix returns to Southeastern Pennsylvania. The Saturday road race and Sunday criterium are joined this year by a Friday TTT in Allentown. The final start list is still to be confirmed, but it's already being rumored that Taylor Phinney will use the race to make his return to competition following a bad fall in the Cascade Classic.

But that's not the whole story. Along with Saturday's road race, John Eustice and his crew offer a terrific cyclosportif event for the rest of us to test our legs on the race course. All the hills will be there--a blessing or a curse, depending on your outlook. Pre-registration has closed, but you can still come and sign-up on the day of the event. Pavé will be there; hopefully you'll be able to make it as well.

2. The Vuelta intensified over the weekend with a time trial and mountaintop finish to separate the wheat from the chaff. Roman Kreuziger did a fantastic job of making me look like a fool, losing several minutes in Saturday's TT. Andy Schleck--the man I tipped for win--followed suit, abandoning on Sunday with a stomach virus. Right now, Alejandro Valverde and Cadel Evans seem to be the two main favorites, with Robert Gesink poised to play the roll of spoiler. Ivan Basso and Tom Danielson look to be making comebacks of their own, while Damiano Cunego appears ready to end his year with a bang--and the possibly the rainbow jersey.

3. For the past few weeks, we've been riding a nice set of Neo Classic wheels from Handspun, shod with a pair of FMB Paris-Roubaix tubulars. Look for more photos and reviews in the future. The wheels are currently being passed around by members of the Pavé test team to ensure as many perspectives as possible. It will be our first equipment review; we couldn't have picked a more appropriate product with which to start.

4. If you haven't had a chance yet, head over to Embrocation Cycling Journal for a new column by yours truly. We're also eagerly anticipating the arrival of Embro Volume 4. Look for our thoughts once it gets here.

5. And finally, our good friend Duncan from Here Come the Belgians has just launched his new team of the same name. You can follow Team Here Come the Belgians here; be sure to drop by and send them your best as they embark on this fall's UK cyclocross season.

That's it for today--remember, keep those cobble entries coming! We've already had some submissions, but there's room for all.

Have a great week; share your comments below.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Your Weekend Assignment

(A stretch of stones on the bike trail between Philadelphia and Valley Forge.)

It's the last weekend of summer. For some, a holiday weekend. For others, the last gasp before school begins. For many, the last chance to get in a few good rides before the autumn begins.

So here's one last assignment for you: remember that Project I introduced way back when?

You know, the one about documenting cobbled and bricked roads? (I'd say dirt and unpaved too, but there's already a terrific project that's been created to catalog those.)

Do you remember yet? No?

Well, here's what I want you to do: go find some terrific cobbled or brick roads in your area, take some photos, jot down a few of the details (length, grade condition, etc...) and send them to me to be posted on the site.

You can find some examples from my area here.

Here's what I'm offering in return: we're working on getting some Pavé cycling caps made. Once we do, I'll send 1 to the first 3 people that respond with worthy entries.

I'll also send 1 to the person who submits the entry that is located farthest from the Pavé Service Course in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

I'll also send a cap to the person who submits what the Pavé Editorial Staff (I use that term loosely) consider to be the BEST entry.

So get riding and FIND THAT PAVÉ!

I'll go about making some hats.

Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

New Embrocation Column - An Open Letter to Jonathan Vaughters

Pavé's posted a new column over at Embrocation. You can read it here.

Feel free to come back and share your comments below.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Transfer Period Opens - Win, Lose, or Draw

I’m no Burt Reynolds or Dom DeLuise, but I know a good game of Win, Lose, or Draw when I see one. Yesterday gave us our first chance to sketch-out some team rosters for 2010. So, let’s pick-up a marker and head to the easel:

First, the Winners:
1. BMC has to be considered the major winner of the 2009 transfer season having assembled a top-notch Classics squad. Alessandro Ballan brings talent and panache along with his palmares; Marcus Burghart is a man for the future (who's already happened to have won several races). George Hincapie comes to provide the experience necessary to guide the rest to victory year-round. Look for Ballan to make the push for Flanders, Burghart for Ghent-Wevelgem, and Hincapie for Roubaix. And don’t forget Karsten Kroon—he’s no slouch either and could bring the team another win a week after Roubaix at the Amstel Gold Race. Overall, it was a pretty impressive haul for Jim Ochowicz and John Lelangue. Now they must hope for the invitations they need to get their riders in the best races. With this roster, it shouldn't be a problem.

2. The next winner is Liquigas, who won simply by staying put. They announced that the bulk of their roster is staying-put, including wunderkinds Vincenzo Nibali and Roman Kreuziger. Even Ivan Basso returns for another year in the green and blue, perhaps spurning an offer to ride with Lance at Radio Shack? Kuchynski and Quinziato remain for the Classics, along with talented domestiques like Willems and Vandborg. And don't forget Franco Pellisotti, he'll be back as well. Sometimes the best moves are the ones not made, I guess.

And now, the Losers:
1. Lampre should be chided for letting Ballan go. For an Italian team, losing homegrown talent has to be considered a disappointment. His replacement? Alessandro Petacchi. Sure, he’ll bring stage wins in the Giro, but he’s getting older, is no stranger to scandal, and he was probably overpaid. What’s Saronni thinking?

2. It was inevitable; Columbia-HTC had to start losing sometime. With so much talent, choices had to be made. Right now, Burghart, Hincapie, and Kirchen are the biggest names to depart, but Edvald Boassen Hagen and Thomas Lokvist are likely to leave as well. Columbia’s re-stocked a bit, signing young talent from around the world as well as up-and-comers like Martin and Peter Velits. But the riders they lose will leave a mark in the win column for sure, especially Hincapie, whose guidance and veteran leadership will be missed in the Classics and the Tour.

These teams get a Draw:
1. Team Sky certainly wants to make a splash, choosing to wait a week or so to announce it’s full roster—maybe to finalize a few more names, perhaps to ensure the spotlight’s all their own. Rumors are swirling as to whom they’ll sign, with Boassen Hagen and Simon Gerrans topping the list. Whenever it happens, it will be exciting to see the final shape of the UK’s first Pro Tour team. Until that time though, judgment must be reserved.

2. Garmin made some noise, signing young talent and some classics help in the form of Johan Vansummeren. That said, I was hoping for more. They need a rider with the talent and experience necessary to help the younger guys start to win bigger races. Vansummeren might bring that, but it’s hard to tell given the role he played at Silence-Lotto. For now they get a draw, but if they don’t start contending in the Monuments soon or hit the podium at the Tour, it could turn-out to be a loss.

3. Radio Shack made a splash from the Tour to now, but let's look at their signings objectively. Clearly, this is a team for Lance. He's surrounded himself with dedicated riders willing to sacrifice their own aspirations for his sake. But honestly, does Lance have the legs left to match his ambition? I think not. Radio Shack will come to the Tour fully loaded, but if Lance can't hang with the other favorites, which rider will pick-up the mantle? Levi? Popo? And what about the Classics? Yes, Geert Steegmans is a talented rider and well-suited to the Northern races, but he's very inconsistent and has never shown the ability to deliver as a protected rider. So for now, The Shack gets a draw, but like Slipstream, time will tell the true merits of its acquisitions.

Otherwise, it was a relatively quiet September 1st.

What about you? Which teams did I miss? Share your thoughts below.