Mark Cavendish is the fastest sprinter in the world, and yet he wouldn’t win a thing were it not for George Hincapie, Tony Martin, Mark Renshaw, and the rest of team Columbia-HTC. When Cav won Monday’s stage he wasn’t shy about ripping on the other teams: “some teams wanna ride like juniors, they wanna save themselves. In the end they got the results of juniors.”
While I find this an interesting statement from Cavendish, because he never once stuck his nose in the wind so had absolutely nothing to do with making that break happen, it’s recognition on his part of the importance of team and that he does, indeed, have the strongest team in the field.
Their job is to deliver Cav to the final few hundred meters with the freshest legs possible so he can go to work and destroy everyone in the final sprint. Given that he’s won something like 80% of the sprints he’s been in this season, I’d say they’re doing a good job.
As well as Columbia-HTC is working together, Astana seems to be at the other end of the spectrum, Tuesday’s win in the TTT notwithstanding. Contador is the logical choice for team leader, but Lance refuses to acknowledge this, making comments like “Alberto’s the team leader, for now…” Levi and Kloden seem to have their own ambitions as well, if Saturday’s time trial results are any indication.
The irony is that when Lance was with US Postal and Discovery, he expected unwavering loyalty from his teammates. All interests were subordinate to the overall goal of delivering Lance to Paris wearing a yellow jersey.
Lance’s refusal to get behind the team leader is a manifestation of how selfish and arrogant the guy is and why I don’t think I would like Lance Armstrong the person. Yet try as I might, I can’t keep myself from cheering for him. Maybe the swagger that should be such a turnoff is why I like him—and why I thought he was obnoxious when he wasn’t competing.
Of course, maybe having a big, obnoxious mouth is the one thing I have in common with Cav and Armstrong. That, and a team. Even if my team is just Steve and me.
We were back at it again at the RMR crit last night after taking several weeks off for no really good reason. It was hot—92 when I pulled into the parking lot. The asphalt was tacky. I didn’t bother warming up, as I was plenty warm just stepping out of the car. Neither of us was too excited about being there, but after so many rides in the hills, I wanted some fast, flat miles to make sure I could still ride fast in a paceline.
The pace was quick, but the accelerations out of the corners didn’t seem as painful. I think my bike handling has improved from racing and trying to hang with Dug, Elden, and Steve going downhill. I was able to maintain more speed through the corners and accelerate less after.
My biggest problem at RMR has always been positioning. So I decided I’d just glue myself to Steve’s wheel and not budge for anyone. As the laps counted down, the leaders sped up, the field thinned out, and we found ourselves closer and closer to the front.
Rounding the final corner, Steve was second wheel, and I was right behind him. The leader sprinted, futilely. There’s no way to hold it solo from the final corner to the line. We followed him until he collapsed, then I followed Steve’s leadout until I thought I could hold it from there to the line. I came around him and hit the gas. A few other guys were coming hard on my left but none of them caught me.
I’m no Cav, but it’s sure fun to pretend. I can see why he likes winning so much—it’s fun. And only possible with a great leadout. Thanks, Steve.