Monday, September 1, 2014

Time trial critical in setting up second half of Vuelta

Nairo Quintana will start Tuesday's individual time trial wearing the red leader's jersey. Though he's improved his time trialing, it remains to be seen how he'll stand up against riders like Chris Froome and Alberto Contador. Photo: BrakeThrough Media |
In a Vuelta a España packed with climbs, Tuesday’s 36.7km race against the clock could leave a decisive mark on the final GC.
The route offers some interesting terrain for the Spanish mountain goats facing off against favored GC rider Chris Froome (Sky). With a challenging, third-category climb in the opening 11 kilometers, followed by a fast descent, and some technical roads, the time trial could determine the GC fate of more than a few overall contenders.
Time trials at the Vuelta are always a little different than at the Tour de France. The Spanish tour usually lacks longer, flatter courses, where riders like Froome can take big gains against the climbers. On a similar distance of 33km in the 2013 Tour on the windy, power course to Mont-Saint-Michel, Froome took 2:15 out of Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo), and a whopping 3:28 out of Nairo Quintana (Movistar).
For Tuesday, Froome is the first to admit he’s not in the same condition he was for the Tour in July, so he’s certainly not banking on hitting it out of the park.
“It’s relatively short compared to time trials elsewhere, but I enjoy time trialing, so I am hoping to make the most of it,” Froome said Sunday. “It’s a huge fight here, and it’s going to be a big race all the way to the end. Every second here or there is going to count.”
Froome lost 23 seconds to Contador, Quintana, and Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) when he couldn’t follow the surges Sunday, and will be desperate for a strong ride to revive his overall chances. At fifth overall, 28 seconds back, he’s still right in the thick of things, but any gains taken against the clock Tuesday would serve as a welcome buffer going into the Vuelta’s brutal second half that’s packed with monster climbs.
Riders such as Tony Martin (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) and Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing), who won on a similar course last year, will be the favorites for the stage victory. Others, such as Adriano Malori (Movistar) and Kristof Vandewalle (Trek Factory Racing) could be in with a shot of the win as well.
All eyes will be on the clock, and the GC players. The difference between race leader Quintana and sixth-place Rodríguez is only 30 seconds, and as Quintana said, the race is virtually tied.
That will surely change Tuesday. The major GC candidates took a chance to preview the course during Monday’s rest day, and all agree that the course presents a stiff challenge.
“When you see it in person, you realize it’s harder than it looks on paper,” Contador said Monday. “The first part is a climb, with some sections truly steep, then a very fast descent over an irregular and difficult road. The last part, in contrast, you have to be stuck to your bike. It’s easy enough to describe it, but it will be very difficult.”
After Sunday’s cool, rainy weather at Valdelinares, forecasters are calling for a return of warm, sunny skies, with temperatures in the low 90s, with gusting winds, so conditions should be relatively equal for the main GC contenders starting at the end of the start list.
Contador, who’s made an impressive return to the Vuelta after pulling out of the Tour with a fractured leg, said Tuesday’s time trial will reveal much about the remainder of the Vuelta.
“Tomorrow is a good test to see exactly where I am physically,” he continued. “I don’t want to deceive myself, and draw the wrong conclusions from [Sunday's] stage.”
The more challenging course will be a blessing in disguise for Rodríguez, who lost the 2010 Vuelta to Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) with an abysmal time trial on flat, wind-blasted roads. Rodríguez has worked to improve against the clock, and on a similar course in the 2012 Vuelta, he only lost 59 seconds to Contador and even less to Froome. Rodríguez, who crashed out of the Giro d’Italia in May, is crossing his fingers for a strong ride.
“I have to be [optimistic], because the only chance I have to keep aspiring for victory in this Vuelta is to have a great time trial, and not get too far back in the GC,” Rodríguez said Monday. “This has been a Vuelta with a lot of movement. No one has given up yet, and all the favorites and their teams are engaged in the race. [Tuesday] will be an important test, and we’ll be able to see more things, and to truly test where each and every favorite stands.”
Rigoberto Urán (Omega Pharma-Quick Step), ninth at 1:26 back, will also need a superb performance to revive his GC hopes. Urán won on a similar course at Barolo at the Giro, taking 2:41 out of Quintana, who was ailing from a minor chest cold.
“I have a lot of hope,” Urán said. “I’ve worked hard this year on time trialing, and I’ve done some good ones. There’s still Cancellara, Martin, but considering the GC rivals, I hope to have a good ride.”
All eyes will be on Quintana, who will start last as the race leader, and have time checks to all of his rivals. If the Giro champ can limit his losses to the likes of Froome and Contador, he will only gain confidence going into the second half of the Vuelta.
“I’ve made improvements against the clock, and though there are specialists who will take time on me, I don’t think I will lose that much,” Quintana said Monday. “I have good legs now, and I hope to feel that way [Tuesday], and do my best ride possible.”
Tuesday’s time trial will surely reshuffle the GC deck yet again, but it’s doubtful it will be prove decisive.
Pundits say modern grand tours are won and lost against the clock, and that might well be the case in the Tour, but the Vuelta is a different kind of race, and the final winner will certainly be crowned in a brutal trio of climbing stages across Asturias.


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Tejay van Garderen crushes Vail ITT, breaks record

Tejay van Garderen wins the Vail time trial to take a secure hold on the race lead. Photo: Casey B. Gibson |

Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) extended his overall lead at the USA Pro Challenge on Saturday by crushing a rain-soaked edition of the Vail Time Trial that saw him shatter his own record.
The 10-mile race against the clock, which started in the ski town of Vail and climbed most of its namesake pass, was run under dark skies on wet roads. The climb began gradually, then steepened into a steady grind for the final three miles.
At the top, Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo) held the soggy hot seat with a finishing time of 26:06 as van Garderen started his own race of truth down below.
But in between Tom Danielson (Garmin-Sharp) was setting his own brisk pace, hitting the time check in 12:43, the fastest ride to that point.
“I’ll be honest. I was definitely a little bit insecure. I haven’t done a good TT this year,” he said. “I gotta think back to my last time trial in Tour of Suisse or whatever … it was nice to get that monkey off my back. Once I got out there I felt really strong … and the crowd was incredible. Colorado crowds are second to none.”
Van Garderen bettered Danielson’s mark by 20 seconds when he blazed through, but the battle continued.
Danielson blew Rogers out of the hot seat when he hit the line in 25:19, 47 seconds better than the Tinkoff time-trial specialist. But van Garderen did likewise to the Garmin climber, thundering home in 24:26, winning the stage and breaking his own record of 25:02 — with an average speed of 24.6 mph.
“I think I was assisted by a bit of tailwind, that helped. Rain and cold didn’t help. Whether or not I set the record, it was a win-win today,” said van Garderen. “Having experience on this course was huge. The first one I did, I blew sky high. On the second one, I was good, but the pacing was off. This one I was perfectly smooth the whole way.”
Danielson had to settle for second on the day at 52 seconds with Serghei Tvetcov (Jelly Belly-Maxxis) third at 1:08.
“Superman over here just came flying through,” said Danielson, referring to van Garderen. “He’s the best guy in the race. To be second to him is a big honor. I’m very, very happy with my performance today.”
On the overall, van Garderen confirmed his grip on the yellow jersey. Danielson had moved into second at 1:31, while Tvetcov sat third at 1:45. Rafal Majka (Tinkoff), who started the day in second overall, slipped to fourth at 1:48.


Sunday, August 17, 2014

2015 Rock N' Road Cyclery SoCal TT Series Tentative Schedule


#01 09/14/14 PS Velo TT
#02 09/28/14 Fiesta Island TT
#03 10/05/14 Piru TT
#04 10/11/14 Santiago Cyn TT
#05 10/19/14 PS Velo TT
#06 11/16/14 PS Velo TT
#08 11/22/14 Santiago Cyn TT
#09 11/23/14 Fiesta Island TT
#10 12/07/14 PS Velo TT
#11 01/--/15 Piru TT
#12 01/--/15 PS Velo TT
#13 02/--/15 Piru TT
#14 02/--/15 Fiesta Island TT
#15 03/--/15 Santiago Cyn TT
#16 04/--/15 Santiago Cyn TT

Saturday, August 2, 2014

2015 S-Works Venge


Tour de France tech: Time trial gear, part 2