Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Something in common

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.


  1. Congrats on the win. Sweeter that it was the result of a team effort with your brother.

  2. Why should Lance get behind Alberto if Lance honestly believes he can win? Out of the two, whose victory would be worth more to the sponsors?

    At least let them get to the mountains before questioning Lance as a teammate. I'll go out on a limb and say that if he can't hang with the climbers he'll be the best domestique Alberto has ever had the pleasure of riding with.

    Anyway, congrats again on the win last night. For some reason I got my days mixed up and thought you had won DMV. I'm even more impressed now that I realize it was RMR. Nice work!

    I think the two of you should go for the double tonight. Winning back-to-back weekday crits would be pretty dang cool.

  3. Kris: Thank you.

    Mark: The inclusion of Paulinho on the squad to the exclusion of Horner suggests that the sponsors (or whomever--apparently not Johan Bruyneel--is calling the shots) are backing Contador for the win. I'm not saying Lance won't be a great support if he clearly can't win. I'm just saying he'd have never tolerated that sort of behavior from a teammate in 99-05.

    If only I could race my bike every night, we'd go for the double. But alas, other duties beckon this evening.

  4. Good times for sure last night. You nailed that sprint perfectly, it was fun to watch.

  5. Great job on the win. Impressive that your form is still there after a few weeks off.

    I was going to write almost the exact same thing about Lance. Thanks for writing it for me. I read a quote from him that said something like "I don't agree with the theory that there can only be one team leader." Um, that's just because you aren't the team leader. I guarantee he would have never said that from '99 to '05.

    But for whatever reason, I can't help but cheer for him. I hope he at least makes it close. If Contador drops everyone on Friday, then the tour is basically over.

  6. Question is, are you behind Steve as the team leader, or does Steve recognize you as the leader? :)

    You don't have to answer that question.

    Very nice job on the win, and good job to Steve as well. Sounds like you're having fun. I'm just getting fat.

  7. Psycho Rider: I don't agree with the theory that there can only be one team leader.

  8. I'm cheering for Lance. He's already shown that he belongs and can still challenge. As far as his attitude or arrogance...I'm okay with that too. But I admit that I've thought about it, and I've waffled a bit from time to time. And if the man ever fails a drug test, I'm done.

  9. Mark - congrats on the win man, nice job! Steve, I've been sleeping, was just reading comments and learned you'd won the champ jersey at the state race a while back big - big congrats to you too! You two bro's are putting together a heck of a year.

  10. Very cool- great job on the win!

    I'd jump into the TdF discussion, but I decided that for the month of July I'm not discussing either Lance Armstrong to Michael Jackson.

  11. Nice job on the win! I'm hoping for a similar leadout this year at the Boise Twilight if things work out.

    Maybe if I changed my name to Mark it could help too as I think the name is lucky...

  12. Lance didn't have a Lance Armstrong supporting him '99-'05. Landis and Hamilton were up and comers - turned out to be flashes in the pan and Hincapie is, well the stalwart super he's always been.

    not really apples to apples. the mtns will sort things out. even if they don't it should be a hell of last week and climb up ventoux. without Lance and Contador dueling it out who would we be watching? Cadel riding someone's wheel for three weeks?

    i'll take the Astana intrigue.

  13. Eber, US Postal hired and deputized Roberto Heras because they feared him as a rival. Heras in his prime was every bit the threat to Lance that Lance past his prime is to Contador.

    I'm with you, though. I like the drama. Almost as good as watching T-mobile in the days of yore.