63rd Vuelta: Week 2

by Jack  

Week 2 of the Vuelta ended the very same way as the first week. Italian Paolo Bettini (Quick Step) won the stage before the rest day while the GC favorites held out for a huge showdown on Saturday. Too bad none of this week's stages or results were the biggest news. Lance Armstrong's recent announcement that he will come out of retirement easily overshadowed anything the Vuelta could have produced. But as this week ends, the attention will return to the mountain goats as they tackle the final stretch of the last 3 week race of the 2008 season.

Stage 7 was the first big mountain stage of the the Tour. I wish I could comment on it but the entire broadcast was rained out. CyclingTV's coverage (and others as well since it was a problem with the feed) consisted of a recap of the early part of the stage and the final 1km run into the finish line. From what I've read, the stage was dominated by a day long break of which the winner, Alessandro Ballan (Lampre), broke away from to win the stage. The classics rider showed he can climb the big mountains as well. Behind him, the GC contenders revved it up in the final kilometer. Big favorite, Alberto Contador (Astana) attacked his challengers but was only able to gain 5 seconds for his hard work. Ballan ended up taking over the gold jersey as the new leader of the Tour.

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Yes! Armstrong Returns!

by Jack  

Just as everyone has speculated in the last few days, Lance Armstrong confirmed today that he WILL return to professional cycling for the 2009 season. In the much talked about Vanity Fair article, Armstrong sites cancer awareness as one of his main reasons for returning. Of course, there's also that "itch" that is factored into the decision as well.

This is decidedly good news for the world of cycling. A world that has been reeling from a series of doping scandals and a general drop in attention since his retirement. It is extremely important for American cycling as well. He has done more for this sport than any other cyclist and his name will no doubt bring even more attention in 2009. This means more fans, a rise in sponsorship money and hopefully a resurgence for the Tour de Georgia. Once the biggest race in the States, it has now been threatened by the lack of funds and may not return next year. With Armstrong's verbal commitment to participate in 2009, the race organizers have found the fuel needed to find a major sponsor for at least one more year.

It remains to be seen what ASO thinks since it's still no guarantee his team (assuming it's Astana) will be able to ride the Tour. If not, Armstrong has a plan. In published statements, Armstrong has stated that he has already talked to French President Nicolas Sarkozy about this, clearly bringing the same fire that he exhibited while winning 7 straight Tours.

Click here for the Vanity Fair article.

And click here for a personal message from Lance himself.

Lance Armstrong Returns?

by Jack  

Could Lance Armstrong be coming out of retirement? The answer is "yes", if you ask Velonews. Their report states that Armstrong has already taken steps needed to return to the pro peloton. Nothing has been confirmed yet but stay tuned. This is surely to be a huge story for cycling (even if a lot of die hard cycling fans roll their eyes). Stay tuned for more. In the meantime, read the Velonews article here or the cyclingnews article here.

63rd Vuelta: Week 1

by Jack  

Week 1 of the 2008 Vuelta closed with a lot of action, many changes in leadership and a fine butt whipping by Astana. Mirroring the Giro, this year's Tour of Spain started out with a short team time trial. These exist purely for show as minimal time can be gained between the GC contenders. Nevertheless, it did produce a lot of suffering as most teams finished with well less than the 9 riders each team started with. Surprise winner, Liquigas finished 8 seconds ahead of Euskaltel - Euskadi and put leader Filippo Pozzato in the first gold leader's jersey.

The second stage was very similar to this year's stage 1 of the Tour de France and consisted of a sharp uphill just before the finish. And just like the Tour, Spanish champ Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), triumphed and ended the day with the leader's jersey. Proving to everyone that his form is good, Valverde still insisted he is here to win stages and not for a high placing on GC.

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63rd Vuelta Update: Levi Golden!

by Jack  

American Levi Leipheimer (Astana) won today's 42.5km time trial stage at the Vuelta! He becomes only the 5th American to win a stage in the Spanish tour and only the 2nd American ever to wear the leader's golden jersey (Floyd Landis was the other).

Leipheimer gained a good chunk of time off of his other GC rivals, including teammate Alberto Contador. He sits at least 30 seconds ahead of any other favorite. Tonight's team meeting should be interesting in determining the next course of action for Team Astana. Astana comes into this race with their full support for Contador but this amazing ride changes the dynamic a bit. I think Astana will likely hedge their bets by supporting both riders and may the best cyclist win!

See the results of this stage here.

2008 US Cycling Championships

by Jack  

Tyler Hamilton (Rock Racing) seems to be enjoying a renaissance of sorts this year. He won the Tour of Qinghai Lake, has shown good form at other races such as the Tour de Georgia and now has capped his comeback by winning the US Road Race Championships. Clearly the biggest win since returning to racing from a 2 year suspension, Hamilton beat out the entire Garmin-Chipotle team as well as Team Columbia's George Hincapie to claim the US National jersey from Levi Leipheimer who is racing the Vuelta.

How much did he win by? A hair, literally. Take a peak at the photos from the link below.

Click here for the full results.

63rd Vuelta a España

by Jack  

Link: http://www.lavuelta.com

Note: This post was written on Friday but because of server problems, this didn't get posted until Sunday.

It's almost September, a full month after an exciting Tour de France and big time cycling is back! Yes, the 63rd running of the Vuelta a España, or the Tour of Spain, will commence this Saturday, August 30th and finish 3 weeks later on September 21st. The final grand tour of this season will see some big guns battling it out in a war that wasn't allowed to take place in July.

Spain's Alberto Contador and his Astana team are back with a vengeance to prove once again that they are both the best stage racing team in the world and that Contador is the best stage racer in the world. Joining Contador at the top of the favorites list are this year's Tour champ Carlos Sastre (Team CSC-Saxo Bank), Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne), Damiano Cunego (Lampre), Igor Antón (Euskaltel Euskadi) and Contador's teammates Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Klöden.

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Pro Tour to Continue?

by Jack  

The last week or two have been extremely important for cycling. For one, the Olympics presented us with some epic races for both the men and the women. We are all excited to have Levi Leipheimer has a bronze medalist and Kristen Armstrong as Olympic Champion. The other major development was the ongoing dialogue related to the future of the Pro Tour and the battle between the governing body of cycling, the UCI and the owners of the Tour de France, ASO.

It was announced this past Monday that we could possibly be close to a concrete agreement between the UCI and ASO in how the international cycling calendar should be organized. But first, a quick background.

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Save The Legs!!! Store Now Open!

by Jack  

Link: http://www.cafepress.com/savethelegs

The Save The Legs!!! Store is now open! Thanks to Cafepress, show your support for Save The Legs and the sport of cycling by wearing or displaying your Save The Legs!!! apparel or product. There, you will find T-shirts as well as other apparel, stickers, housewares, hats, bags and pet products with the STL banner tastefully displayed.

Any profits earned through the Save The Legs!!! store will go towards maintaining and improving this website as well as the promotion of the sport of cycling. If you have any requests, please feel free to contact me. Thanks in advance for your patronage, you may click here to go to the store.

2008 Olympics Men's Time Trial II

by Jack  

I have to admit that I was way off on my predictions for the men's time trial this past Wednesday. Only one of my top 3 made it on the podium while the other two, including my gold medal prediction, didn't even contend.

Levi Leipheimer came through with a much deserved bronze medal for the States while Swiss Fabian Cancellara proved again that he IS the best time trialist in the world. A surprising ride from Swedan's Gustav Larsson helped secure silver for him. My pick for gold, Kim Kirchen came in 23rd, over 4 minutes back while Cadel Evans put in a strong 5th place considering the injury he suffered at the end of the Tour.

For those of you that missed Levi (and the American gold medal winner in the women's time trial, Kristen Armstrong) on the Today Show this morning, here's the link to the clip on MSN. Don't mind the 30 second commercial at the beginning.

Cyclists cruise to medal stand
Cyclists cruise to medal stand

2008 Olympics Men's Time Trial

by Jack  

It's been a few days since Spain's Samuel Sanchez won the men's road race over silver medalist, Italy's Davide Rebellin and Bronze medalist, the surprising climber, Fabian Cancellara. Much of the same field will now contest the time trial on Wednesday over the same hilly circuit course that caused trouble for many riders. The men will tackle the circuit twice for a total of 47km.

Many of the contenders for the time trial will be the same as the road race. But as we saw there, the race will probably be a bit more unpredictable than we'd like. The two most obvious gold medal favorites are German Stefan Schumacher and the big Swiss, Fabian Cancellara. Typically, I wouldn't put Cancellara as one of the favorites because this course is much too hilly but he showed great form during the road race and beat many of the other climbers to take 3rd place. For Schumacher, he must show that he can be successful in the smog of Beijing. If the road race was any indication, he may not perform up to par.

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2008 Olympics Men's Road Race

by Jack  

Link: http://www.nbcolympics.com

For those of you willing to give up an evening of rest, don't forget to catch the live coverage (I think) of the Olympic Men's Road Race tonight at 11:00pm EST here. Of course, this is NBC and a major network so let's hope they don't cover equestrian for 3 hrs and show 30 minutes of highlights at the end. I can't guarantee I will be up watching it and if I (or you) don't catch the live broadcast, make sure to catch the tape delay coverage on TV starting at 10:00am EST on Saturday. From the looks of the schedule, they will run bits and piecies throughout the afternoon so crack open a beer or two and bring your patience.

In terms of the favorites, it looks good for Spain's Alejandro Valverde but since one day races are such a luck of the draw, the race is probably wide open. I am, of course, rooting for the Americans. Since Levi Leipheimer did not compete in the Tour, he has had his eyes set on the Olympics. Let's hope he can come through for the red, white and blue! Enjoy the show!

PS. Sorry for the late post and the time between posts as "work" has been getting in the way. I'll be posting more regularly soon.

Post Tour Withdrawal

by Jack  

About a week after the end of this year's Tour de France, I have developed post Tour withdrawal. I'm left wondering what the rest of the cycling season will bring. The spring classics have come and gone, the Giro cemented Alberto Contador (Astana) as the best cyclists living and the Tour has finally confirmed Carlos Sastre (Team CSC-Saxo Bank) a winner that we had always felt he could be.

Every July brings a culmination to the cycling season. It is the cima coppi, if you will, of the entire sport. Too bad it is right smack in the middle of the season and not at the end. For potential Tour winners, their year effectively ends once they cross the finish line in Paris and any event they may ride in between then and the end of the season may be token. But this year may be different. Carlos Sastre has confirmed that he will ride the Vuelta a España, setting up a potential showdown with last year's Tour winner Contador. Will there even be a match up? Contador has trained exclusively for the Vuelta while it remains to be seen if Sastre can muster the motivation needed to get through another 3 week race. Throw in the defending champ, Denis Menchov (Rabobank), whose participation is not yet confirmed, and Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel Euskadi) and you have a race!

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95th Tour Review: Sastre!

by Jack  

Now that the 2008 Tour de France has come to a close, I can honestly say I was dead wrong. Wrong in who I predicted to win and how the race would have panned out. There were a lot of surprises and a few disappointments but it was filled with action! Here's the run down.

Spanish rider Carlos Sastre (Team CSC-Saxo Bank) proved he was the strongest rider throughout the 3 weeks and came away as the undisputed winner of this year's Tour. Sastre kept under the radar until it mattered and showed he was the freshest of all of the contenders when it counted, in the final Stage 20 time trial. At 33 years old, Sastre had always been a podium contender but just missed that little bit of something to put him over the edge. Well, he had that little bit of something this year. But also, he (and whomever would have won) benefited from the absence of Alberto Contador and Levi Leipheimer (Astana) making this Tour as open as the 1999 Tour was. Way to go Carlos!

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95th Tour: Week 2 Review

by Jack  

As week 2 of this year's Tour comes to a close, it certainly didn't end without causing a lot of controversy. Unfortunately again, the main topic was not what happened on the road but what happened off of it.

We learned this week that in addition to Manuel Beltran (Liquigas) testing positive for dope, two other riders also were caught. Spanish rider Moisés Dueñas (Barloworld) also tested positive for EPO and was kicked out of the Tour but his team decided to continue the race. So far, even with these two riders testing positive, the general consensus was that this is still a successful Tour and that the cheats are now few and far between. But then the big news broke on Thursday. Italian rock star Riccardo Riccò (Saunier Duval-Scott) tested positive for EPO. But this wasn't any old EPO. He was found to have traces of a new generation of EPO called CERA. Apparently some people think that the testing agencies haven't caught up and thought they could sneak by with this new drug. Riccò found out the hard way that this type of action will not be tolerated. Let's hope week 3 will be clear of negative news.

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95th Tour: Week 1 Review

by Jack  

I am writing this as I watch the Versus evening recap to today's stage 7. If you haven't been in front of the internet today, then you probably will be surprised by the fact that Manuel Beltran (Liquigas) has tested positive for EPO. Yet another black cloud has moved over the Tour de France. Just when we thought the dopers have lost, this news erupts. Here in America, it has always been innocent until proven guilty so I will reserve judgment until Beltran's B sample gets tested. But I am very, very disappointed for all cycling fans and for the rest of the peloton. Now on to the review...

Week 1 of the 2008 Tour has no doubt been one of the most exciting first weeks in recent history. Certainly I can't remember anything that can be compared. The organizers have completely rethought how the first week works in hopes of making the Tour more exciting. They've done that with great success. We no longer have to sit through 7 or 8 days of rather monotonous racing just to get to the first mountain stage.

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95th Tour de France Preview

by Jack  

First, let me say happy 4th to all of the Americans and happy Friday to the rest of the world! I'm writing from Philadelphia, the birth place of America, today as we're here to visit some friends and just be tourists for the weekend. Of course, I do have the DVR set to record the first 2 stages of this year's Tour and will anxiously follow cyclingnews' live commentary on my phone. (My wife's rolling her eyes now.)

Before I get into the Tour, let's recap the poll that has been running on the right side of this page. The poll asked, "Who do you like better?" between the 3 American winners of the Tour de France. (Yes, Floyd was included.) The winner by only 4% is Greg LeMond. Lance Armstrong followed with Floyd trailing in for 3rd. I was particularly surprised with Greg coming out on top because of his recent spats with Lance and Trek. I think the reason may be because all of us will always remember the first American Tour winner and the dramatics that Greg provided through all of his 3 wins. Sure, Lance won a record 7 times, but bar 2003, it was relatively "routine". So now we have it, unscientific of course. It's time for a new poll. Who will win the Tour? Now on to the preview.

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Floyd Landis

by Jack  

By now I'm sure you've heard the outcome of the CAS decision in the Floyd Landis case. I'm not going to get into the specifics (you can get all you want here) but just want to say how disappointed I am with the verdict. I still choose to believe in Floyd and hope that something good can come out of this. I also hope that Floyd can come back stronger and once and for all prove everyone wrong. But I am pessimistic about this since the same system that put him in this predicament still exists. As the 2008 Tour begins in a few days, I can't help but imagine what would have been if Floyd, Levi and Alberto could have been in the hunt against the likes of Cadel, Alejandro and Damiano. We can only dream at this point.

Who is Bikesnob NYC?

by Jack  

Just who is this Bikesnob NYC person? Does anyone know? He (or she) is supposed to be anonymous but I'm sure most people have wondered who exactly this person is. What does he/she look like? What is his/her day job? Does he/she have a job? Why exactly is this person so entertaining to so many fans on the internet?

I have to admit, I enjoy the occasional Bikesnob NYC (BSNYC from now on) post and have even made comments to a few of the posts (though I'm pretty sure no one reads them). Because I'm pretty new to the cycling blog world and have only recently made the rounds to all of the blogs including BSNYC, I still do not fully understanding what BSNYC, the website, is all about. I'm perplexed by the ubiquitous first few comments which include such single words like "Podium", "2" or some other, what seems like, random words. Of course, I understand they are all trying to be the first "commenter" of the post, but why? And why be anonymous? It's just turbid. But regardless, I do enjoy the posts and it is one of the sites I visit on a regular basis.

Now, with that said, I thought it would be cool to poke fun at the supposed anonymity of BSNYC. Apparently, we were both at the Harlem Crits a few weeks ago and after looking at some of BSNYC's photo's I realized he was within my line of site as I was taking photos. So could I have possibly caught BSNYC on camera? I, of course, don't know the answer but maybe someone else might be able to offer some insight. Follow me to my exhibits...

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Doping in Sports

by Jack  

So we found out from football God Terry Bradshaw today that the Steel Curtain of the 4-time super bowl winning Pittsburgh Steelers of the 70’s were all ‘roided up. I’m certainly not one that likes to bring up the subject of doping because of what it’s done to cycling but when similar news erupts pertaining to our mainstream sports, it should be noted. We all know that cycling has gotten a bad wrap because of doping. A lot of the press should be attributed to the strict standards and frequent tests that have been instituted over the years. Unfortunately, when you test more, you’ll inevitably flush out the cheats more which then lead to negative press. But when you don’t test, all is quiet. Take baseball for example, testing didn’t exist until recently. Now what do we know? Football is the same way and today’s news just confirmed it. Yes, it wasn’t illegal back then. Yes, a lot of its side effects weren’t known but a performance enhancement is a performance enhancement. If you take drugs to help your sore muscles, it’s a performance enhancement. Similarly, if a cyclist takes EPO to help his endurance, it’s a performance enhancement. The double standard of negative coverage for cycling is finally sharing the “spotlight” with sports most American’s can relate too. Hopefully, this will help educate the public as well.

The next step is for the public and press to acknowledge all of the positive’s that have come from the strict drug policy of cycling and hope that we’ve reached a point where we can only go up without looking back. Now onto to July please.

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