Monday, November 30, 2009

Monday Musette - Beloki, Blogs, Kites, and Kits

Following the long weekend, there's a veritable cornucopia of things to enjoy! Let's jump right in:

1. Here's a great piece on the now legendary Armstrong-Across-Field/Beloki-Across-Asphalt moment from the 2003 Tour from the Freeman Transport blog. Selman's last point is spot-on: rest assured that Armstrong already knows the profiles of the key stages as well as he knows the lyrics to the new Heartless Bastards album. (Thanks to JD for pointing this one out to us.)

2. And speaking of Jeremy Dunn, did you catch his piece over at Bicycling's Sitting In? Go have a read; Jeremy's always got something good to say. After a trip to a local cross race yesterday, I'm thinking I might just have to get me a place on that bandwagon before the wheels fall off.

3. If you have nothing to do on December 20 and happen to find yourself in Philadelphia, you might want to consider coming to the 4th Annual Bilenky Cycle Works Urban Junk Yard Cyclocross race. Here are some pics from last year.

4. Some interesting bits from Cyclingnews today. First, Alejandro Valverde has officially announced that he's focusing on the Tour de France in 2010. Seriously? Yes, AJ, you won the Vuelta--finally. But the Tour's another ball of jamon. Don't waste your energy on a race you won't win; instead, set your sights on victory in just about any other race you enter (as long it doesn't have cobbles).

Confirmation also came that this year's Belgian TDF wunderkind, Jurgen Van den Broeck, has re-upped for another 2 years with Silence/Omega Pharma-Lotto. What do you think? Is VDB2 the real deal? Or will Lotto spend the next 2 years wishing they never let Cadel Evans leave?

And then there's the Giro's attempt to bring the start of the 2012 race to Washington D.C.--not sure what I think about that one. Long transfers are one thing, but a 6-hour time difference? That said, Robin Morton's g4 Productions group is leading the charge; if anyone could pull-off such an ambitious venture, it would be Robin. What about you? What obstacles do you see? What kind of effect do you think it would have?

4. Moving to the blogosphere, Red Kite Prayer's in-form right now. Several posts over the past week illustrate the talents of Padraig and his crew. Furthermore, they're adding a kit and a Twitter feed to the mix. One will cost you a little, while the other is free; but both are worth your time.
5. And finally, I can't mention kit without making another plug of my own. The design's complete, pricing is set, and the order form is here. The only thing missing is you!

Have a great week--and keep those comments coming!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

2010 Pavé Kit - Now Taking Orders!

It's the biggest shopping weekend of the year in the USA, so I thought I'd get in on the action.

The 2010 Pavé kit has been finalized, and orders are now being taken. All clothing will be made by Champion System; please head to their website for specific details about items and sizing.

S/S Jersey (Race OR Club Cut): $75
L/S Fleece Jersey: $100
ThermoShield Winter Jacket: $135
ThermoShield Winter Vest: $125
WindGuard Wind Vest: $70
Bib Shorts: $85
Fleece Bib Tights: $110
Fleece Arm Warmers: $30/pair
Euro Cycling Cap*: $12
Euro Winter Cycling Cap: $32
*Please note, the Euro Cycling Cap does not have a cloth stripe down the enter; the stripes are sublimated.

Shipping: $10 Domestic/$25 International

Please click this link to be taken to an online order form. Feel free to email your questions to "". Orders will be accepted until December 21st.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

We're taking the weekend off to spend time with family and friends, but we'll be back Monday!

In the meantime, keep checking Embrocation for the 5th and final installment of "Franco-Belge".

Have a terrific weekend, and happy Thanksgiving to those in the USA.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wednesday Cross Report and Power Rankings

Here's Erik's latest cyclocross report and Power Ranking. As always, you can read more reports and analysis over at his site, The Run-up. Feel free to share your comments and feedback below.

Both continents witnessed dominating performances by two riders this past weekend, Tim Johnson and Zdenek Stybar. Johnson took the solo approach, attacking the lead group at both rounds of the Super Cross Cup on Long Island. He was clearly the best rider in the US this weekend, forcing me to rethink my “sure thing” at Nationals: Ryan Trebon. Stybar's domination involved a little more luck and a whole lotta speed. The Czech champion used his newfound sprinting skills to win a four-up sprint on Saturday at the GVA Trofee round in Hasselt. On Sunday, Stybar again won in a sprint, this time against Sven Nys after another very fast race. Cleary, these are the two best riders right now on their repsetive continents. Johnson looks poised to carry his form into Nationals in a few weeks, while Stybar has loftier goals: the late-January World Championships in the Czech Republic.

Tim Johnson's stellar rides didn't surprise many people this weekend. He needed two commanding performances to wrap up the NACT title and solidify his place atop most major rankings in the US. Behind Johnson, his teammates Jeremy Powers and Jamey Driscoll held on so could sweep the podium both days. Ryan Trebon came close to cracking the trio’s stranglehold on Saturday, but ended-up 4th after trying to cover every move. On Sunday, Powers directly drew-out Trebon with an early attack, which would eventually allow Johnson to bridge and attack his way to victory. It is clear that the guys came with a plan and executed it to perfection. I see only two issues for these guys when it comes to Nationals. First, Nationals are in Oregon, Trebon's backyard, so he'll have an advantage. Second, and perhaps more importantly, Powers and Driscoll are without elite National Championship jerseys. Cooperation can only last so long and if selfishness takes over, it could spell disaster for the trio.

While the bulk of the US riders are focusing on Nationals, a long season remains for the European racers. Their championships are still months away, so it is all about finding form and gaining any edge you can. Zdenek Stybar clearly found his winning legs this weekend. The Czech rider has been quietly bouncing around the podium all season, just waiting to break-out. In the process of taking his 2 wins this weekend he beat Nys in a two-up sprint, preventing the Belgian from taking his 50th career Superprestige victory. The previous day, Stybar shocked the world by beating Niels Albert, Kevin Pauwels and Klaas Vantornout in an all-out dash to the line. Clearly he had the kick he needed this weekend. The bright spot for Nys was taking complete control of the Superprestige series by finishing a few spots ahead of Albert. Both races saw the usual moves from Albert and Nys, all of which failed in the end. We also saw attacks from riders no longer willing to settle for top-5 positions, most notably Klass Vantornout. Perhaps we're beginning to see some parity in European racing.

Clearly, there are two new #1’s in the Power Rankings this week. But where does everyone else fall? Let’s find-out:

North American Rankings

1. Tim Johnson (2) - After swapping podium positions with Trebon last weekend, Johnson reminded us that he's truly a force to be reckoned with. He picked-up the NACT overall in convincing fashion and in the process let everyone know that after ten-plus years as an elite, he's not done yet. I have regained hope that the New Englander can take another National Championship in December. Perhaps he can win the USGP as well.
2. Jeremy Powers (10) - Powers missed the Mercer Cup last weekend due to some sort of illness. That seemed to have little effect as he regained his position as one of the top crossers in the US. He tried his patent first lap attack on Sunday and may have won—if Tim Johnson hadn't been there. I feel like I've said that before…
3. Jamey Driscoll (3) - "Mr. Consistency" retained his title with a pair of podium finishes this weekend. I'm still convinced that this isn't his year, but with the results he's posted, he could be the next big thing. It’s hard to believe he's the worst rider on his team.
4. Ryan Trebon (1) - A 4th and a 6th mean Trebon missed his mark. He's been the only rider capable of outfoxing the Cyclocrossworld trio this year though, so there's still hope. He finally gets to go home and let the big boys come to him. He's got three big races left: the final two USGP Races in Portland and Nationals the following week in Bend. Talk about home field advantage!
5. Adam Craig (na) - The mountain biker, turned crosser, turned mountain biker is back. Craig used to be a usual face at cyclocross races, but had backed-off a bit over the years. After a late start to the season, Craig caught many by surprise, including myself. Right now, he's definitely one of the best in the US.
6. Chris Jones (6) - Chris Jones continues to ride well without much attention. A pair of top-10’s on Long Island prove that he belongs at the front. Now all he needs is a marquee win to wrap-up his season and set him up for next year.
7. Valentin Scherz (8) - "The Swiss Sensation" was able to hang with the leaders this weekend, but landed a bit short finishing 10th and 5th. He's on his way to a MAC title and continues to make a great impression in the US. He'll be a name to follow in the next few months when he heads back to Europe.
8. Barry Wicks (5) - Wicks was inexplicably absent this week. Perhaps he's taking some time off before the rest of US focuses its attention on Oregon in December. Or perhaps it's something bigger. He's still a top-10 rider though, and I expect him back this weekend.
9. Geoff Kabush (7) - The "Maple Leaf Man" missed-out this weekend due to illness. Perhaps he'll bounce back like Powers did and storm the podium this coming weekend. He still hasn't found his rhythm this season; hopefully it doesn't set him back further.
10. Dan Timmerman (9) - Timmerman had a rough weekend and didn't make the trip to Long Island. He should be back this weekend, working off the turkey and stuffing on his way to the NECCS title.

Dropped this week: Davide Frattini (4).

International Rankings

1. Zdenek Stybar (3) - Stybar earned the #1 spot this week in spectacular fashion. Two fast races and all-out sprint wins gave the Czech the credit he deserves. Stybar will now have a lot of pressure on his shoulders; it will be interesting to see how he follows it up.
2. Niels Albert (1) - Losing the #1 spot for the first time this season, Albert didn't struggle as much as people might think. He ended-up 3rd in a 4-up sprint after trying to split the lead group numerous times. His 4th on Sunday was a result of him cracking, something he never does. Everyone has a bad weekend.
3. Sven Nys (2) - Nys drops a spot after a weekend filled with problems. He looked poised to take his 50th career Superprestige win on Sunday, but failed in the closing meters. His GVA Trofee race was marred by a rolled tubular that still has him scratching his head. Hopefully his luck will turn and we can see the Nys of old.
4. Klaas Vantornout (10) - Vantornout has struggled the past couple weeks, but he's starting to turn the corner. I expected him to be a top-5 rider this season and this weekend he finally began riding where he should. Two top finishes prove he's on the right track.
5. Kevin Pauwels (4) - For a second (no pun intented) I thought Pauwels might have grabbed a breakout win on Saturday. Alas, he lost the sprint to his teammate and slipped to 9th on Sunday. Pauwels is still young though and still finds ways to surprise people every weekend.
6. Bart Aernouts (6) - Aernouts continues to ride steadily toward the back of the main field. It's amazing how competitive the top-10 has become in Europe; Aernouts is one of many often caught in the middle.
7. Francis Mourey (5) - Mourey stays on the list because I think he's one of the top-10 riders in Europe. When he races he does well (mostly 5th place) and if he raced more I think his results would improve.
8. Radomir Simunek (9) - Simunek slid inside the top-10 again this weekend. He's one of those riders who can dominate the smaller races, while continuing to ride well on the larger stage. I think things will come around over the next few weeks; he may finally land on the podium in December.
9. Gerben de Knegt (8) - At 35, de Knegt is in the twilight of his career. That said, he manages to do just enough each week to finish inside the top ten. He may not reach the podium in a big race this year, but he’s still the Netherlands’ best hope this season.
10. Enrico Franzoi (7) - Sadly, Franzoi gets this spot for only one reason: no one else rode well enough to knock him off. He rounds-out the top-10 this week with an 11th place on Sunday. Despite this, I still think he's one of the best in Europe right now.

As for the weekend ahead, the US continues its craziness with no less then five UCI races. Baystate Cyclocross expands to two-days in Massachusetts while Jingle Cross continues its success with three days of racing in Iowa. The New England riders should be out in full force at the Baystate races, while the Jingle Cross offers a load of UCI points and may draw riders trying to move-up the starting grid come Nationals. If Todd Wells can overcome his injury, he may be a name to watch in Iowa. The clear favorite in Massachusetts is Tim Johnson.

In Europe, Sven Nys will get another crack at his 50th career Superprestige win on Sunday as that series heads to the Netherlands. However, all eyes will be on the World Cup in Koksijde, Belgium on Saturday. Albert needs to respond after a tough weekend, while Stybar needs to show that he can continue to win. I’m once again putting my money on Nys for Sunday. As far as the World Cup goes, I'm going with Albert. Not a gutsy call I know, but those two guys need to regain control of the field and those two series.

Enjoy your weekend! Gobble. Gobble.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Monday Musette - SBC/AC Follow-up, Merckx, Molly, & Christmas Shopping

For some of us, today presents the beginning of a short week, regardless, there's much to talk about:

1. My post Friday certainly generated a lot of feedback! First I want to thank everyone who shared an opinion. I'm excited to see the Pavé community growing into a place where opinions are shared and discussed by everyone--not just me.

That said, a follow-up to Friday's rant: despite how my thoughts came across, I am well aware that the sponsorship of a professional cycling team is a business decision made for the sake of what all parties involved consider to be their best interests. In Specialized's case, the chance to sponsor such as Alberto Contador is something most companies would welcome. I'm not so naive as to think that Specialized would refuse such an opportunity simply on principle.

However, my opinion is indeed one of principle, and--perhaps more than that--personal preference as my tastes are drawn to the Classics more than the Grand Tours. I believe just about anyone can build a bike able to succeed in a 3-week stage race; however, building a bike that is technologically advanced while still able to withstand the rigors of the cobbled classics is something much more difficult. With both Quick Step and Saxo Bank, I think Specialized had their bases covered--and I liked that.

So in short, while I understand the business implications of the decision, I wish they wouldn't have done it, simply because I would have preferred them to remain with Quick Step. And more so, I think Astana deserves--at some point--to be held accountable for its ramshackle decision-making and poor PR. As long as the Contador's and the Specialized's of the world enable/reward these teams by signing deals with them, the message will never get through that running a professional cycling team means a lot more than just paying your riders to race.

Okay, I'm off my soap box--for now.

2. If you recall, last week I asked for recommendations as to where I could get my Merckx bicycles fix. Tears for Gears seems to be the place. Great photos, clear scans of vintage catalogs (not just from Eddy Merckx), and some quality research make it a terrific read for anyone feeling a bit nostalgic. Dig around a little (seriously, it's the best way to fully experience all that's there) and find the database of Merckx serial numbers--if you're an owner, you might want to send your info!

3. Molly Cameron's been a web-pal of mine for a little while now, and while we've never had the pleasure of meeting face to face, I have been enjoying her exploits from afar. Two weeks ago, Molly went to head-to-head with the other contenders for the series title in Portland's Cross Crusade finalé, only to narrowly miss-out due to an untimely "chute". You can read Molly's account at her website and even watch a video, but I think this photo speaks louder than words.

4. Last, but not least: lately I've been spending way too much time perusing photostreams on Flickr. Ira Ryan and Signal Cycles were two of my favorites this past weekend. My wife asked me yesterday what I wanted for Christmas; I wanted to say, "a deposit on a Signal cyclocross frame, please." Instead I opted for: "The real question is, what do you want for Christmas, honey?"

And I'll leave you with that for today. Any more thoughts on Specialized and Contador? Which do you think is harder: building a bike for the Tour or a bike for the cobbled classics? And last but not least, what should I want for Christmas?

Enjoy your day! Thanks for reading!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Why Specialized? Why?

I have to admit, I was pretty disappointed by the news this morning that Specialized was ending it’s agreement to supply bikes for Team Quick Step. I wish I could say I was surprised though. As soon as Specialized inked a million-dollar deal to provide bikes for Alberto Contador, I knew the writing was on the wall. At first I had hoped that Contador’s S-Works contract was a sign that he would indeed be joining Patrick Lefevere’s Quick Step squad for 2010; however, it now seems clear the signals pointed in exactly the opposite direction: not only won’t Quick Step be riding with Contador in 2010, but they won’t be doing it with Specialized either.

Why am I disappointed? Well, I’ve always had a soft spot for Lefevere’s Belgian super-team. Going way back to Mapei-GB, I’ve admired Lefevere’s ability to put together a squad capable of winning so many different races (except in July—hence the desire to lure Contador). During that time, I’ve been a Specialized fan as well, selling, fixing, and riding them off and on for the past 15 summers. I’ve always considered Specialized to be the anti-Trek, more concerned with selling an experience than developing a product with a “name” that everyone thought was “cool”. I have been also impressed to see Specialized’s managers stay true to their mission through their choice of sponsorships. Aside from the Mario Cipollini years, when Specialized decided to go full-bore into the Pro Tour ranks, they chose Festina, Gerolsteiner, Quick Step, and Saxo Bank to open the world’s eyes to their bikes—quality programs, that despite the odd scandal here and there, put forth consistent, successful, and well-respected teams at a time when Trek seemed more content to sponsor a “rider” than a “team”.

But lately, it seems that Specialized feels the only way to beat Trek at the publicity game is to mimic its sponsorship strategy, narrowing its gaze (and opening its wallet) for the sake of three weeks in July. Yes, an argument could be made that a Quick Step sponsorship entails narrowing one’s gaze to three weeks in April, but those three weeks are largely responsible for giving Specialized the European credibility it lacked for many years. And does signing Contador—and inevitably Astana—equal a "no-confidence" vote for Andy Schleck’s Tour chances? Or is Specialized hoping for an all-S-Works podium in 2010, a feat even Trek couldn’t pull-off?

And what of Lefevere? He’s been spurned twice now: first by Contador, then by Specialized. Eddy Merckx quickly swooped and signed a 3-year contract with the team, returning the Cannibal’s bikes to the sport’s top-level--and why not? If you were Eddy Merckx Inc. and you were watching Ridley slowly eat into your domination of the “Made in Belgium” market, wouldn’t you want Tom Boonen and Stijn Devolder riding your bikes in the races your fans care about most?

But while there is perhaps a happy ending for Quick Step and Merckx, the logic behind Specialized’s choice still escapes me. First off, who will fill the void left by Quick Step in the cobbled classics? Maybe Fabian Cancellara, but it remains to be seen if he has a team able to dominate like Quick Step has the past two years. And yes, Contador has won the Tour twice and appears to be the most talented Grand Tour rider since that American guy who rode bikes made by that other American brand. But does Specialized really want the baggage that might come along? Contador’s played a 3-month game of cat-and-mouse with the press and the 4 teams most eager to sign him (one of which being a team Specialized already sponsored and could have easily given the extra money needed to make the deal go through). He’s also demonstrated some immaturity and slight arrogance by picking a fight with the one rider possessing the talent, the team, and the connections necessary to topple him next July. And most of all, Contador’s displayed a complete lack of judgment by apparently agreeing to a contract with Astana, a team that hasn’t been guaranteed a Tour invitation yet and boasts not one, but two high-profile, convicted dopers. It sounds like exactly the kind of guy an American brand from Northern California would want to trust with its image and branding, right? In the end, I guess it all comes down to wins; something Specialized was not lacking from it’s other deals, but will certainly be banking-on this July.

Overall, to me it seems to be the kind of move reserved for a company more concerned with image than substance and less worried about maintaining a network of dedicated fans and owners. Maybe they want to attract folks who ride their bikes because “that guy does too” and not because of the bikes—or the company—themselves. Maybe I’m just being naïve. Maybe I’m more of a curmudgeon than I give myself credit for.

In the end, it looks like Specialized—rather than follow the road less traveled—has instead opted for the 4-lane, concrete superhighway to “mainstream popularity” constructed by Trek over the past 10 years. Today that highway has led them to Contador and Astana—a rider and a team that even Trek had the good sense to abandon. What does that say?

Congratulations, Specialized! You were the only major bike company that I thought did things “the right way”. Now it appears you’re just like all the rest.

Anyone selling a Team SC?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wednesday Cross Report and Power Rankings

Erik's back on track this week with his latest cyclocross report and Power Ranking. You can read more reports and analysis over at his site, The Run-up. Feel free to share your comments and feedback below.

We're 10 weeks into the season and one fact has remained true: cyclocross is unpredictable. Determining the best rider in Europe and North America is tough. Once again, Ryan Trebon and Tim Johnson split victories in the US. In Europe, Sven Nys picked up another victory, as did Niels Albert. So what can we determine from this past week of racing? In the US, Ryan Trebon may be the best one-day rider with Tim Johnson a close second. In Europe, Nys can still win, but Albert always wins on the bigger stage. And it appears that neither of these trends will end anytime soon. Nys still seems to be one step behind Albert, for whatever reason he can come up with. Meanwhile, Ryan Trebon looks to be the odds-on favorite for a repeat at Nationals unless Johnson can make it a multi-day affair. Behind, there's a whole cast of characters chomping at the bit, but no one seems to be able to break through. Even Stybar struggled to move-off the third step of the podium this past week.

Niels Albert captured another marquee victory at the Superprestige race in Gavere, Belgium. He also quietly picked-up a victory on Saturday in the Wallone region, although both Nys and Stybar were absent. The week started well for Nys, who won a tough victory at Jaarmarktcross and is probably ruing the fact that it’s no longer a GVA Trophy race. To his credit, a bad start and an untimely multi-mechanical issue likely cost him his 50th career Superprestige win. It would appear that all the skill and good luck Nys has had over the last decade has caught up with him all at once. Even Albert acknowledged that Nys was the better rider on the day though. I have high hopes that Nys and Albert will engage in a long slugfest over the next few months and am gaining a sneaking suspicion that Nys may prevail in the end.

Speaking of a slugfest, the long awaited battle between Tim Johnson and Ryan Trebon didn't disappoint in a messy pair of races in New Jersey. Saturday's race was a mud-fest thanks to a mid-November hurricane, while Sunday's race brought warm temperatures and a dryer, sticker, course. As I alluded to earlier, Ryan Trebon seems to be the best rider in the US right now--at least in one-day events. While he made big strides in expanding his USGP lead though, Trebon still seems unable to win two days in a row as he got the best of Johnson on Saturday, but was unable to back it up on Sunday. Luckily for Trebon, the National Championships are a one-day event.

Before I jump into this weeks ranking’s, I must admit that it was hard to keep Todd Wells off the North American list. I saw him ride on Sunday and it was simply phenomenal. I'm not sure if he'll ever return to the National Championship level he once had, but for the second year in a row, he's had a great ride in Jersey. Job well done, Todd! Here are the rankings:

North American Rankings

1. Ryan Trebon (8) - Trebon's assault on a muddy USGP course in New Jersey was very impressive. And his 2nd-place on Day Two was very well-earned. One thing's for sure: Trebon is the best single day cross rider in the country, and that's good enough for the top spot on the rankings this week.
2. Tim Johnson (7) - Johnson flip-flopped with Trebon this week and looked very impressive on Sunday. He'll have a chance to sew-up the NACT next weekend in Long Island and looks poised for a solid European campaign. The odds are against him come mid-December, but if anybody can storm into the Northwest and win, he can.
3. Jamey Driscoll (1) - Driscoll busted his ass to finish 3rd on Saturday and paid the price on Sunday with a 5th-place finish. He's still the most consistent rider in the US and is definitely worth a 3rd-place ranking. It's hard to believe that he's only 24.
4. Davide Frattini (na) - Frattini is golden—when he shows up. He continues to impress the cross community when he races, even though he hasn't won since September. He's still an Italian citizen so I expect him to head to Europe in December and represent his nation at Worlds. Then we’ll see if his “US cross plan” pays off.
5. Barry Wicks (na) - Wicks returned to the national spotlight with a pair of top-10’s in New Jersey. He's riding really well this season, but he rarely sticks with the lead group. Nationals are in his backyard though; perhaps he's planning a huge performance in December.
6. Chris Jones (na) – In my opinion, Jones has been a full-time cross rider for nearly a month now. He continues to impress, especially with his 4th-place in the slop on Saturday. His 10th on Sunday was a result of his efforts on Saturday. It would no surprise me to see Jones finish inside the top-5 of the rankings at the end of the year.
7. Geoff Kabush (na) - Kabush finished a solid 4th on Sunday after missing the top-10 Saturday. He raced a long and successful mountain bike season this year and I think he's paying the price a bit. It will be interesting to see what type of European campaign he mounts ahead of Worlds.
8. Valentin Scherz (9) - The "Swiss Sensation" continues to ride well. Honestly, I had higher expectations for him this weekend, but a pair of top-10 is nothing to be ashamed of. He's my outside pick for a medal at Worlds. It will be interesting to see if racing with the big boys pays-off when he heads back to Europe and races as a U23.
9. Dan Timmerman (3) - Timmerman slipped a bit this week due to his lack of results. He's still one of the best riders in the country though, and has had only one other lackluster weekend this year. I still expect a top-5 result from him at Nationals.
10. Jeremy Powers (2) - Powers was unexplainably absent this past weekend. He's not on the list for the Super Cross Cup races in New York this weekend either (but neither is Tim Johnson, and we know he'll be there). Another week as an MIA, and Powers will be off the ranking.

Dropped this week: Nicholas Weighall (4), Derrick St. John (5), Adam Craig (6) and Jesse Anthony (10).

International Rankings:

1. Niels Albert (1) - Albert was one of the few riders to do three races this past week. He finished 2nd to Nys in Niel, but then won the next two. He continues to best Nys on the big stage and as a result, expanded his Superprestige lead. However, as Nys showed in Gavere, the gap between the two is closing.
2. Sven Nys (3) - Nys moves-up a spot as a result of his win and 2nd-place this past week. He neglected to race on Saturday and looked on-track for a big win on Sunday before a flat and mechanical spoiled his plans. His 50th victory will have to wait, but may come sooner than you think.
3. Zdenek Stybar (2) - Stybar picked-up a pair of 3rd’s behind Nys and Albert with two solid performances. He may have been able to pull of a huge upset, but was thwarted by an untimely crash at Jaarmarktcross. A big victory for the Czech is right around the corner.
4. Kevin Pauwels (4) - Pauwels remains inside the top-5 after another decent performance—this time in Gavere. While he narrowly lost the sprint for 3rd, he was still over a minute ahead of the rest of the competition.
5. Francis Mourey (5) - Mourey usually gets bounced from the Power Rankings after the World Cups because he doesn't race in other events. However, he picked-up a second place behind Albert on Saturday in Wallonia, and that's good enough to maintain a spot in the top-5.
6. Bart Aernouts (na) - Aernouts had a very consistent week with three top-10 results. He seems capable of some top-5’s, but podium spots will continue to elude him. I'm gaining more confidence that he'll finally crack the top-10 at a World Cup race this year as well.
7. Enrico Franzoi (10) - Like Aernouts, Franzoi picked-up three top-10 places this past week. He continues to be a chase group rider, but his dedication to cross (he left Liquigas to pursue a cyclocross career) gives me hope that he'll move-up to the lead group at some point.
8. Gerben de Knegt (8) - de Knegt skipped Saturday’s race, but took two top-10 finishes at the two races he entered. He continues to show improvement and is now a solid top-10 rider, however the top-5 is out of his reach.
9. Radomir Simunek (7) - Simunek had solid results all week, narrowly missing on a top-10 result at the Superprestige. He's still not a big-race rider, but his consistency is improving and thus remains in the rankings.
10. Klaas Vantornout (na) - Vantornout finally showed-up to race. He blamed over-training for his poor results over the past few weeks and backed it up with a 5th place on Sunday. Perhaps a new training plan has him back on track. Only time will tell.

Dropped this week: Martin Zlamalik (6) and Christian Heule (9).

In Europe, it will be another Albert/Nys/Stybar showdown as Belgium hosts both a Superprestige and GVA Trophy race. Nys is the odds-on favorite to win the Superprestige round on Sunday, but both Albert and Stybar will be looking to spoil his fun.

Domestically, the NACT returns to New York with two rounds on Long Island. Trebon looks ready to go, as does Johnson. Will it be a two-way split again; or will one of them be able to put back-to-back winning rides together? Your guess is as good as mine.

Enjoy the weekend ahead! Share your comments and feedback below.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Monday Musette - Horn-tooting, Merckx Love, Frame Lust, and Some Media

Some morsels for your Monday:

1. In case you missed it, I took Bill Strickland's Sitting-in Blog for spin on Friday over at Bicycling Magazine. If you like it, leave some feedback--I'd love to get invited back for more!

And while I'm tooting my own horn, hopefully you've been following my "Franco-Belge" story at Embrocation. Part 4 went live last week; the final segment will follow soon. Many of you asked for more tales from my days with Mercury-Viatel; this was a direct result of your requests.

2. And yes, in case you didn't know, I possess a soft spot for Eddy Merckx framesets. I've ridden several of them in the past--all before he sold his majority stake in the company. In an era of "What have you done for me lately?", I think there's something to be said for brand-loyalty--especially when the brand is a legend in its own right.

There are actually several places on the web where you can share your particular brand-love with like-minded souls. Gem runs a site called Bianchista where he expresses his lust for bikes, products, and of course, all things Bianchi.

A bit more of a focused appreciation--this time for DeRosa fans--comes from Germany via Bikeadelic. A stunning homage!

As for more recent brands, IF's been posting a slew of photos from their IF Owner's Club. I've had one of these in the past, and hope to again one day.

And what about Merckx? Do you know of a particular fan site or blog celebrating the Cannibal's bikes and frames? If you do, please share it with the rest of us.

3. Rapha's been adding more and more footage from this summer's Continental Calling over the past several weeks. I'll be sure to let you know when the ride we hosted gets the full treatment, but for now, enjoy this. While I love the fall, it kinda makes me miss summertime.

4. And speaking of gravel roads, Cyclingnews posted an article with one of my heroes, Michele Bartoli, discussing the gravel roads in next year's Giro. It sounds like it will be quite dramatic--perhaps even more so than the pavé included in the 2010 Tour de France.

5. And finally, here's a fabulous photo brought to my attention via Twitter. The caption says it all.

What about you? What's new and exciting in your neck of the woods?

Share your comments below!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Weekly Cyclocross Report - Power Rankings and Preview

Better late than never, right? Erik's been in California for the week, learning the tricks of the trade at Specialized's Corporate Headquarters. Luckily, we were able to tear him away long enough to get the latest installment of his Power Rankings--albeit a bit late. We hope you enjoy; and please, share your comments below!

Now that we're past the midway point of the season in the United States, we're starting to see several riders who are clearly better than the rest. The only issue that remains is completing the top-10 beyond the top-5. I hoped last weekend would give me a clearer view since there was only one UCI race in the US. However, most of the top guys decided to take the weekend off to rest before embarking on the final month of races leading up to Nationals. In Europe, the top-10 remained primarily the same as we're seeing more consistent riding from the top names in the sport. On both continents the top-5 appears to be set for a while, as the lead groups don't seem to be changing. We are seeing some interesting changes within the lead groups though. This weekend, Jeremy Powers and Jamey Driscoll picked-up solid wins, while Niels Albert returned to the top step of the podium slightly ahead of Zdenek Stybar, who continues to ride extremely well. Behind, there's still a struggle to stay in the top-10, as consistent results are hard to find.

In Europe, the cream of the crop traveled to France to contest another round of the World Cup. Once again, Niels Albert took the win, but this time he had company in the form of Zdenek Stybar. Sven Nys—whose latest excuse is an increase in training—came home in 3rd. It was no surprise to see Francis Mourey in 5th place (he's finished in that same spot at all the World Cups this year). Christian Heule returned to the top-10 and Martin Zlamalik continued his recent string of success. Obviously, the big story was Stybar, who actually attacked Albert and nearly pulled-off the upset. It is becoming increasingly clear that Sven Nys isn't riding like he used to, more importantly, Albert isn't as dominant as he was in the early part of the season. Thus, it's becoming crowded at the front of races in Europe right now, which means races are less predictable and the playing field is becoming more even. It's shaping-up to be a very exciting season.

It’s been a few weeks since there was only one UCI race in the US, but the expected showdown of the big boys will have to wait a week. Most of the top US guys are maxed-out on UCI points, so for them it's all about the National series and championships. Thus, both Tim Johnson and Ryan Trebon took the weekend off. Johnson caught-up on some well-deserved rest, while Trebon stayed home, trying to recover from his accident in Kentucky. Even Jeremy Powers only raced on Saturday (he won). Both races in Massachusetts this past weekend were marred by bad crashes at the start, and several poorly timed mechanicals. Adam Craig continued his recent string of success, making me regret keeping him off last week’s rankings. As far as the rest of the rankings go, you'll notice that it once again has evolved. The list was designed to identify the top-10 cross racers in the country. So, you'll notice riders who didn't race remaining on the list.

Without further ado, here's this weeks rankings:

North American Rankings:
1. Jamey Driscoll (3) - Driscoll's consistency finally paid-off with a well-deserved victory on Sunday. It could be argued that if Powers or Johnson were there he probably wouldn't have won, but Driscoll definitely earned it. The win is a good confidence-booster before this weekend’s USGP race in New Jersey, where he'll defend his series lead.
2. Jeremy Powers (2) - Powers was clearly the best rider on Saturday, and probably would have won on Sunday if entered. Like his teammate Driscoll, Powers can use his win as a boost for next weekend’s mid-Atlantic showdown.
3. Dan Timmerman (10) - Without a rolled tire on Sunday, Timmerman would most likely have landed on the podium on consecutive days. He ended up 7th after fighting his way back into the top-10. It was another solid performance from the New Yorker as he continues to stretch his NECCS lead.
4. Nicholas Weighall (6) - Weighall followed his superb performance last weekend with a pair of top-5’s in New England. He's clearly on a roll right now, but we'll see how he does when the big guns roll into New Jersey this weekend.
5. Derrick St. John (na) - St. John has been in the rankings before. He seems to stick to races in Canada, so perhaps he's branching out. Regardless, when he shows up he races well and always has a good result.
6. Adam Craig (na) - I left Craig off of last week’s rankings because I thought the Colorado races were a one-time deal. If Craig stays East for a few weekends, he'll stay on the list, if this was a one shot deal, he'll drop back off. He's capable of good cross results, so it's nice to see him racing.
7. Tim Johnson (1) – Johnson took a well-deserved rest weekend a head of two more rounds of the USGP. He'll follow that up with two rounds of the NACT, where he'll defend his jersey.
8. Ryan Trebon (9) – The effects of Trebon's crash remain to be seen. He's definitely gunning for the USGP overall, so this weekend’s races are very important. The question remains: can he beat Johnson?
9. Valentin Scherz (7) – Scherz won two non-UCI races this weekend, including another MAC race. This weekend, he should be an interesting wild card and may wind-up in the lead group.
10. Jesse Anthony (4) – The roller coaster ride that plagued Anthony's early season seems to have returned. He appears to still have some form, but we'll find out the truth this weekend.

Dropped this week: Geoff Kabush (5) and Dan Summerhill (8).

European Rankings:
1. Niels Albert (1) – The only criticism of Albert lately is that he's not as dominant as he once was. There are still only two riders capable of beating him and I think that it will happen sooner or later.
2. Zdenek Stybar (2) – Last week I posed the question of whether or not Stybar was really better thnn Sven Nys. Once again, he was. Stybar's notoriety is increasing and we will see how he handles the pressure. I have high expectations for him come late January.
3. Sven Nys (3) – The Great God of Cyclocross continues to struggle to win the way he once did. He's producing more excuses and still seems to suffer from a bit of bad luck. If he can find some late season success, perhaps he can pick-up some rainbow stripes and justify his up and down season.
4. Kevin Pauwels (4) – Pauwels is still a bit behind the top-3 in the rankings. He's clearly better than the rest, but still lacks the ability to attack the lead group. That will come with time though.
5. Francis Mourey (na) – Perhaps the true master of consistency, Mourey has finished 5th in every World Cup race this season. He doesn't race much outside of the World Cups, but still remains one of the best riders in Europe.
6. Martin Zlamalik (na) – Zlamalik finished 7th this weekend, which in and of itself, is very respectable. Zamalik has been on a roll lately, grabbing various podium spots. This may be a sign of better things to come.
7. Radomir Simunek (9) – Finishing just inside the top-10, Simunek continues to ride very well. The issue is he's still not capable of staying with the lead group. His consistency keeps him in the rankings.
8. Gerben de Knegt (6) – de Knegt remains in the rankings this week with another solid result at a major race. As with Simunek, de Knegt is always there, just never at the front. Regardless, he's still a very strong rider.
9. Christian Heule (na) – Heule is back in the ranking after another successful World Cup performance. I had high expectations when he first came back after his US trip. He had dwindled a bit lately though; perhaps he’s just trying to peak a few times this year.
10. Enrico Franzoi (na) – Franzoi's another rider who would be on this list more often if he raced more. Like Mourey, he seems to be a World Cup-only guy, but when he shows, he often does well.

Dropped this week: Erwin Vervecken (7), Klaas Vantornout (5), Bart Aernouts (8), Dieter Vanthourenhout (10).

Both sides of the Atlantic feature important races this weekend. Sven Nys will try to take full command of the Superprestige as it heads to Gavere, Belgium. There are a bevy of other races in Europe as well, but obviously the Superprestige is the biggest and has the most on the line. On the US side of things, it will be a Cyclocrossword/Kona battle for control of the USGP Leader’s Jersey with back-to-back races in New Jersey.

Again, all apologies for the delay in getting the column to you. I know it’s been two weeks in a row, but hopefully it’s worth the wait.

Please share your comments below! Have a great weekend!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

New Embrocation Column - Franco-Belge (Part 4)

Head over to Embrocation Cycling Journal to read the latest installment of "Franco-Belge". We hope you're enjoying the story.

Feel free to share comments/questions below!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Monday Musette - Hampsten, the Mandeville Canyon Case, Knickman, etc...

Here are some snacks for your Monday:

1. In case you missed it, our friends at Hampsten Cycles recently unveiled their remodeled site. Steve's promised us an interview as soon as I get some questions together (feel free to make suggestions in "Comments"). Until then, you can read more about Steve and his bikes in a recent interview over at Red Kite Prayer.

2. And speaking of Red Kite Prayer, VeloNews drafted Padraig to cover the recent Dr. Thompson/Mandeville Canyon case. Padraig knows the victims, yet he does a terrific job of reporting the story while remaining impartial. He's also discussed his take via RKP. In an essay offering expanded insights and anecdotes, he provides a perspective that only someone directly involved with the facts and personalities of the case could provide. In short, it's one of the finest pieces of journalism I've read in years. Furthermore, the photos he includes often speak louder than the words accompanying them. For now, justice seems to have been served; but as Padraig points out, one day this man will be back on the streets. Hopefully, by then he will have learned his lesson.

3. Moving from "bad" guys to "good" guys, if you have ever met Roy Knickman, you've made the aquaintance of one of the friendliest, most down-to-earth guys the sport's ever seen. Since my time with Mercury, Roy's been a trusted friend and mentor (even though we don't get a chance to talk as much as we used to). This past July, Roy's 13-year old son, Andreas, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma (bone cancer); he's been in treatment ever since. Luckily, Andreas comes from good genes. If he's half the fighter his father is, cancer will be no match for him.

Roy raced with some of the sport's finest (Hinault, Lemond, and Hampsten to name a few), and was recently interviewed by the folks at Competitor Radio. (You can download the podcast here.) It's worth it to hear Roy's stories of his time in the peloton, as well as his discussion of his family's recent experiences as Andreas fights his battle with cancer.

After you've downloaded and listened to Roy's interview, take a minute and head to Andreas' site at Leave a message in the guest book to let him and his family know you're thinking of them; and if you like, make a donation to the folks at Caringbridge so they can continue to share the stories of those in a similar situation.

3. IF posted a lovely little photo essay about the machines they use to make the magic happen. I'm not sure why, but I find it fascinating how some of the machines were converted to serve IF's needs.

4. And finally, check this out. Food for thought indeed.

That reminds me, I'm out of Chimay.

As always, we welcome your comments--enjoy your Monday!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Bradley Wiggins - Is Garmin Planning a Tea Party of its Own?

So Sky delayed the announcement of it’s final roster today, news that has sent everyone into yet another tizzy of speculation over the future of Bradley Wiggins. Sky’s been a rumored destination for Wiggins since his eye-opening 4th place in this year’s Tour. The problem? He has a year remaining on the contract he signed with Garmin before the 2009 season.

Garmin’s been relatively silent on the matter with both Jonathan Vaughters and Matt White saying little more than “he has one more year on his contract”. After following the situation for quite some time, I have to say that if I were Jonathan Vaughters, I’d let Wiggins go. Here’s why:

1. Money - Releasing Wiggins from his contract will certainly involve some form of a buyout—either by Wiggins, Sky, or some combination of the two. Given the fact that Sky reportedly offered Vincenzo Nibali—a rider who finished the Tour 3 places behind Wiggins—1 million pounds, gives Vaughters an idea of Wiggins' value to the British squad. The math is simple: take the difference between Wiggo’s 4th and Nibali’s 7th in this year’s Tour, add several World and Olympic titles, then multiply by the fact that Wiggins is British. Factor in the perceived exposure Garmin would have received with Wiggins riding for them in next year’s race, and you have a figure that would make the transfer worthwhile—for Garmin, at least.

Does Vaughters have the guts to make the move? I say yes. At first, he seemed to be a bit too loyal as a General Manager when he started, choosing to offer semi-lucrative long-term contracts to former teammates and riders he groomed while working his up through the ranks of the sport. However, Vaughters has shown himself lately to be quite a shrewd businessman, making decisions he might not have made previously. Not renewing the contracts of popular riders like Mike Friedman and possibly Danny Pate was a start; jettisoning long-time wheel sponsor Zipp for Mavic was a stronger indicator of Vaughters’ willingness to do what in the best business interests of his team.

Garmin's reminders in the press of Wiggins’ contractual status serve only to assure us all—and especially the management at Sky—that this is not about Wiggins; it's about his contract, setting the stage for the announcement of what could prove the largest buy-out in the sport’s history.

2. Alberto Contador - Did you find it ironic that Alberto Contador’s trying to negotiate a clause in his “contract” with Astana that frees him from the team should anyone test positive? (No word yet if he’s including himself.) It seems as if Contador desires to ride for a clean team—and he’s making it known publicly. Last week I wondered if one of the reasons Contador has not signed with Garmin is his suspicious past, offering Prentice Steffen as one possible bug in Vaughters' ear warning him of the risks of employing someone like Contador. Could it be that Contador’s using his negotiations with Astana to show Garmin that he’s worthy of a contract with one of the cleanest team in the sport? Absolutely! In the end, his apparent signability, combined with what could be an astronomical influx of money from a Wiggins buy-out, makes it even more plausible that Contador will be wearing orange and blue in the 2010 Tour—and Wiggins won’t.

3. Wiggins’ Attitude - Now things get tricky. It’s never a good idea for a manager—in any sport—to set the precedent that squeaky wheels get the grease. Sending a message to your athletes that all they need to do is whine to get their wishes creates chaos, undermining management’s ability to manage. That said, the fact that Wiggins has made little attempt to hide his desire to leave Garmin for Sky has to factor in Vaughters' plans. Wiggins recently compared winning the Tour to winning the Champions League, saying, “You need to be at Manchester United, but I'm playing at Wigan at the moment.” For American fans, this is the equivalent of saying that to win the World Series you need to be with the New York Yankees instead of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The statement is a clear slam of what Wiggins considers to be Garmin’s ability to deliver him to the top step in Paris.

Why would Vaughters want someone with a potentially cancerous attitude in his team bus? The short answer: he probably doesn’t, which is why most of his public remarks focus on Wiggins’ contractual status as opposed to his value to the team. If Vaughters wanted Wiggins to stay for the good of the team, he’d say so.

And can you blame him? A cycling team is a much more fragile team-environment than a football or baseball team. With only a handful of riders participating in any given race, combined with the pressure-cooker environment of a 3-week Grand Tour, it’s an understatement to say that the possible spread of one rider’s bad attitude is worrisome.

Right now, Vaughters is playing it smart, choosing to treat this as a business decision and not a personal one. Anything else would compromise his standing with his riders and staff.

4. Wiggins’ Ability - I’m sorry to say it, but I just don’t think Wiggins will prove able to live up to the hype. His value to Sky lies more in his nationality than his talent. Do you think they would be making such a push for him had he finished 37th in the Tour? I think not. Yes, he’s won various World and Olympic titles and proven himself to be more than capable against the clock, but victory in the Tour? Seriously?

Wiggins’ Tour result was one of those once-in-a-lifetime rides we see every few years. I’m not saying he can’t finish inside the top-10 again, but I’ll bet that 4th will be the highest result we ever see from him. Remember, by most accounts, this year’s Tour was not incredibly difficult; it favored a consistent rider like Wiggins. I wager that if this year’s Tour would have included 1-2 more summit finishes, this conversation wouldn’t be happening right now—Sky would have made Garmin a fair offer following Wiggo’s 12th place, and his bags would have been packed long ago.

It all comes down to a textbook case of risk vs. reward, where the risk lies with Sky and the reward with Garmin. Vaughters seems to be playing the role of shrewd GM, trying to “sell high” at the peak of Wiggins’ value. Can you imagine the look on Sky’s collective faces should they pay handsomely for Wiggins only to have him finish 11th in a 2010 Tour won by Contador—for Garmin—who was signed with the money the team received for Wiggins? Maybe the exposure Wiggins would receive with home viewing audience makes it worth the risk for Sky. But I'd rather win with a foreign rider than finish lower with someone from home.

In the end, look for a deal to be reached sometime soon, freeing Wiggins to leave Garmin for Sky. Maybe Vaughters and Sky’s management can find somewhere between Boulder and London to seal the deal, somewhere like…Boston?

Here's hoping the Sky doesn't indeed prove to be the limit for Wiggins.

Your thoughts? Share them below.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Wednesday Cross Report and Power Rankings - Better Late Than Never?

Here's the latest column and power rankings from Pavé's own cross-correspondent, Erik Mitchell. Be sure to check-out Erik's new site, The Run-Up, for all things 'cross! And please, share your comments and feedback below.

The season's biggest trends continued on both sides of the Atlantic this past weekend. In the United States, still dominates the big races, but the little guys are getting some exposure at the smaller UCI races. On the other side of the Atlantic, there are two riders, Sven Nys and Niels Albert, who seem capable of winning every race they enter. So what does this mean? Well, if you show up to a race in the US and a member of the team is there, you will likely lose. Similarly, if you race in Europe and your last name isn't Stybar, you have little to no chance of winning as well.

Sounds depressing, doesn't it? Maybe, but on the other hand, it could make things very interesting. At the smaller US and European races, we are starting to see some real up-and-coming talent. At the bigger races, where it's literally a Who's Who of cross, there's always a great battle to be seen at the front of the races. In my opinion, this could be one of the best cross seasons ever.

The US season is winding down with each passing week; now it's just a matter of finishing-up the National and regional series, crowning a National Champion, and sending racers to Europe. This weekend, the big guns were at Rounds Seven and Eight of the NACT in Colorado. took the top 3 spots both days in drastically different conditions. Jamey Driscoll picked up 3rd both days, just behind his teammate Jeremy Powers. The real story was Tim Johnson's domination in the mud and slop on Saturday and then his super-fast win on Sunday in warmer, dryer conditions. Johnson is clearly the man to beat right now and his odds of success in Europe later this year keep improving. In my opinion, there are only two guys who can beat him right now: Ryan Trebon and Jonathan Page. While it's a bit too early to choose favorites for Nationals, I'm going to start with these three for now.

Turing to this week’s Domestic Power Ranking, behind it was a crapshoot as Dan Timmerman, Barry Wicks, and Trebon were all noticeably absent from the races in CO. Clearly the guys who raced in Colorado get priority and consistency is still key. Top-finishers Adam Craig and Jeremy Horgan-Kobelski were left-off the rankings because they're one timers who we won't see at the national level again. Adam Myerson at least deserves a mention--his two top-5’s in New Jersey were great to see, but not enough to get in the rankings. Speaking of New Jersey, the MAC series rolled along and much like Colorado saw drastically different courses and conditions on both days. Saturday's race was sandy and fast, while Sunday's mud-fest saw a significant shaking-up of the top-10. Nicholas Weighall took the win on Day 1 while Valentin Scherz dominated in the slop to pick-up the win on Day 2. For both men, the wins were their first UCI Elite victories.

In Europe, where the season is in full swing, there are fantastic battles every weekend that have left virtually every important series/title in a dead heat between Nys and Albert. It was all about the Superprestige on Sunday. Sven Nys' domination of the series has seen some missteps over the past few years and on this occasion Niels Albert got the better of him. It appears Nys' 10th title will be tough to earn. Aside from Albert’s win, the big story was the struggles of the other favorites. Due to horrible course conditions, there were bad starts, crashes, and miscommunications with pit crews. In the end, it was Albert who took home the victory with the ever-present Zdenk Stybar in second. Nys rolled home third. In the rankings, these guys fill the first three spots.

It should be very interesting to see how Albert and Nys handle themselves over the next few weeks. We are seeing some serious chinks in their armor and it's only a matter of time before someone is able to capitalize. The other trend we are seeing in European Ranking is the consistency of the top ten riders. Only two riders dropped out this week: Francis Mourey and Katie Compton. Mourey disappeared again this past weekend, but should return this weekend at the World Cup round in France. Compton's US results were impressive, but don't warrant a spot on this list.

In general, there's more consistency in the European Ranking, since it's the same guys going head-to-head every weekend. In the US, things are still all over the place due to injuries and multiple races each weekend. Things are going to be condensed over the next few weekends though, so a true North American Power Ranking should solidify itself just in time for Nationals. For now, here's this week’s rankings:

North American Rankings:

1. Tim Johnson (1) - Johnson proved that he's the best in the country right now with two wins. Saturday's came in the mud, while Sunday's was dry and warm. Clearly course conditions aren't hindering the veteran and at this point in the season he looks unstoppable.

2. Jeremy Powers (5) - Powers picked up a pair of second places in Colorado and appears to have bounced back from the illness he had last weekend. He look poised to win on Sunday but was spoiled by Johnson's superb effort.

3. Jamey Driscoll (2) - Driscoll's consistent riding has put him in the lead of the USGP, and while the NACT seems out of reach (thanks to Johnson), he still is the UCI point leader among Americans. It's amazing how consistent he's racing and how many points he has, even though he isn't winning.

4. Jesse Anthony (8) - Anthony's jump may surprise many, but his 6th-place in the slop should have been followed by a top-5 on Sunday. An untimely and nasty crash knocked him back to 16th. But Anthony may be back. Maybe.

5. Geoff Kabush (6) - Kabush appeared to be on track for a good finish on Saturday before dropping-out. The Canadian champ followed it up with a good ride on Sunday. Kabush has put in a hard and long MTB season, but his cross legs seem to be there. How long he can hang-on remains to be seen.

6. Nicholas Weighall (na) - After a victory on Saturday in the sand of Southern New Jersey, Weighall put in a solid effort in the mud on Sunday and ended-up 4th. Weighall has a long career ahead of him and is still finding his place in the elite ranks. So, while this may be his only appearance in the ranking this year, I expect to hear from him again.

7. Valentin Scherz (na) - The Swiss Sensation picked up a well-deserved win in the slop on Sunday. He also had a great performance at Granouge making me think he's a good rider in the mud. He's finished in the top-10 all year in the States; perhaps this win is the start of a breakout year for the young Swiss rider.

8. Dan Summerhill (na) - Summerhill has been mixing it up both in Europe and at home this year. Another trip to Europe seems imminent for the youngster, perhaps a Worlds podium is in the cards as well. It's hard to say if he'll stay in the ranks longer than a few weeks, but it wouldn't surprise me.

9. Ryan Trebon (3) - Hopefully Trebon can bounce back this weekend. It sounds like his crash in Kentucky was worse than most people realized. Even if he is concussed, he should be back in time for the USGP Mercer Cup rounds in a few weeks.

10. Dan Timmerman (4) - Timmerman took some well-deserved time off this weekend, before tackling the last half of the US cross season. He even had time for a short interview with me. Like Trebon, I expect Timmerman to be back this coming weekend ready to tear things up.

Dropped-out this week: Chris Jones (7), Barry Wicks (9) and Davide Frattini (10).

European Rankings:

1. Niels Albert (2) - Albert quietly continues to have poor starts, but nobody seems to be either willing or able to press the pace and put him in the red. It didn't help that everyone else was slipping and sliding this weekend. Regardless, Albert is one of the top riders in the world right now and certainly earned the #1 spot--this week.

2. Zdenk Stybar (5) - Stybar finally got the attention he deserved as he lost the lead on Sunday, but kept the pressure on Albert. One wrong move or superb day, and Stybar could easily grab the win. Is he better then Nys? He was this weekend and that's all that matters. It should also be noted that the World Championships are in the Czech Republic in January. Hmmm…

3. Sven Nys (1) - Last week Nys seemed to be back to his old self. It's hard to believe that one bad pit cost him the race, but it definitely could have been a difference-maker. I don't think he's a sure thing anymore, but he's still one of the top three riders in the world right now.

4. Kevin Pauwels (4) - Pauwels was my pick this year to surprise. He finished 4th this weekend behind Nys, but was still over a minute behind the leaders. I'm still not sure that he'll reach the top step this year, but he's definitely a podium regular.

5. Klaas Vantornout (3) - Much like Pauwels, Vantornout is a podium regular who isn't quite capable of reaching the top step. The only advantage Vantornout has is that he's not Albert or Nys, which means he won't be as heavily marked at the World Championships (I guess the same can be said for Pauwels).

6. Gerben de Knegt (7) - At age 35 de Knegt is clearly in the twilight of his career. He continues to place in the top-10, even at the bigger races, but is rarely in contention for the win. The scary part: he's the best chance the Netherlands has for a medal at Worlds.

7. Erwin Vervecken (9) - It wouldn't be fair to de Knegt if I didn't mention Vervecken's age as well (38). The main difference between the two? Vervecken still has the panache to pull a surprise victory—which he will do at some point this season.

8. Bart Aernouts (8) - Aernouts continues to have solid showings at smaller races. He's still a step behind the leaders though and he rarely finishes inside the top-10 at the World Cups. But he's not the lowest ranked Belgian on this list.

9. Radomir Simunek (na) - Simunek hasn't raced much this year. He seems to pick and choose his races, in which he usually finishes inside the top-10. He's Czech, so I expect him to pick things up in the latter half of the season in preparation for the World Championships.

10. Dieter Vanthourenhout (na) - Dieter's back on the list after a solid 10th-place this weekend. He seems to have recovered from that nasty crash earlier this season; now he just has to find some form.

Dropped-out this week: Francis Mourey (6) and Katie Compton (10).

For the first time in a while, things are pretty straightforward this weekend. All eyes will be on Round 3 of the World Cup in Nommay, France. Francis Mourey will be there, representing his country on home soil. Niels Albert has to be the heavy favorite, but out of all the podium finishers last year, Sven Nys is the only rider scheduled to start.

In the US, the 19th Annual (yes, 19th!) Cycle-Smart International will take place over two days in Massachusetts. Dan Timmerman will bring his Series Leader jersey into Northampton against a star-studded field. No word yet if the Kona or’s boys are going to show up, but it's in’s backyard. All in all, it promises to be an action-packed weekend on both continents.

What are your thoughts? Share them below.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Wednesday Cross Report and Power Rankings - Coming Tomorrow

Our Wednesday Cross Report will come tomorrow. (Our columnist glued too many Dugasts today and the fumes went to his head!)

Come back soon!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Monday Musette - Cadel, BMC, Ghent-Wevelgem, and More!

Here's what's on Pavé's mind this Monday:

1. The twitterati were abuzz this past weekend with news of Cadel Evans' transfer to BMC. Twitter's an interesting phenomenon as it allows you to witness the evolution of the news as it broke. First it was revealed that Evans did not re-sign with Silence-Lotto; then came the lists of teams with which he might land including SKY, Garmin, Radio Shack, Astana, and AG2R. Teams soon began taking themselves out of the running--with Garmin making a particular effort to clear its name (maybe to prevent Wiggo from growing more hostile?) from the list--until BMC was finally announced and confirmed as his destination.

It's yet another in a series of bold moves for BMC who--despite my comments a week ago--apparently has aspirations for a Tour invite in 2010. Evans gives them a strong GC-rider and man for the hillier classics. It will be interesting to see how they use him: will he shoot for smaller stage races and the Ardennes classics before heading to the Giro for the win; or will the team earn an early invitation to the Tour, allowing Cadel his traditional build-up to the race he would so dearly love to win? I know I've said it before, but I think Evans (among others) would be well-served by a change in focus; he could easily win Paris-Nice, the Ardennes classics, Romandie, and the Dauphiné if he so desired. A Tour stage win or two would be possible before making another late-season assault on the Vuelta and the fall monuments. Of course, Evans will probably again place his eggs in the Tour's basket again, but maybe BMC can convince him to do otherwise--if they want him to.

2. And while were talking transfers, SKY is announcing its complete roster this Friday. Consequently, we might finally gain some clarity regarding the future of Bradley Wiggins. If he indeed leaves, will Garmin move to have Contador take his place?

3. Following on the heels of news that Gent-Wevelgem has been moved to the Sunday before the Tour of Flanders comes the report that it's being lengthened as well--from 200 to about 250km. And why shouldn't it be longer? It's no longer sandwiched on the Wednesday between Flanders and Roubaix, thus giving the organizers the luxury of adding some distance to attract teams eager to use it as preparation for the following weekend. What remains to be seen is how the teams treat the E3 Prijs--the traditional Flanders testing ground--the day before. We'll have more on this in a future column, but for now, it's some intriguing food for thought.

4. For those that have asked, the final few pieces of Pavé kit are being finalized this week. We'll announce the rest of the designs and ordering information soon. Thanks to all for expressing interest--we're looking forward to the legions of Pavé riders hitting the road next year.

5. And speaking of hitting the road, Fxdwhl took us on another terrific ride through his neighborhood on Saturday. Falling leaves, crisp weather, and some muddy singletrack were the days main courses (along with a pile of dog s--- I just couldn't seem able to avoid). You can see for yourself over at lockring.not.included.

That's it for today. For more reading, feel free to head to Embrocation Cycling Journal for the latest from Pavé as well as terrific pieces from some like-minded souls.

Enjoy your week! And as always, share your comments below.