Saturday, September 19, 2009

Notes from the Grand Prix

The wind, rain and the twenty five times up the hill at Morgan's Point made for a great race Saturday. There was great racing Sunday too, and I think the change in time allowed for more crowds than we've seen at a race in a long time.

-Award for best back handed compliment recipient goes to Garth. The lead three weren't asking what the gap to the chasing pack was, they were asking what the gap to Garth in particular was. When it got close I could hear them talking up the hill, "shit, we can't let him catch us. He's really strong."

-I love that you can practically make out the brand of helmet that was worn here.

-Being in a pace line is a beautiful thing. You're in pain and agony, focused on nothing but the wheel ahead. In a race it feels like it is impossible for anyone to ever have been faster, so in the red are you. I took a lot of photos of the day, but I don't think photos of cycling often portray the paradoxical emotions of a bike race. They look like what they are; are bunch of guys riding in single file. That's why I like this photo. Mud and sweat splattered, it captures the pain of a hard bike race.

-I always like to see so many juniors toeing up to the start line. Congratulations to all of them for toughing out the conditions and ending their season on a high.

-Hot Tubes are fast. They are a junior team that tore it up pretty good, but most people have never heard of them. As background, they are one of, if not the best US junior talent scouting teams with their riders graduating to bigger and better things. This year Lawson Craddock was one of the young riders down who finished second at the Junior Worlds this year. A couple of years ago, one very young Ben King was top 10 on GC in Bermuda. He went on to ride for Lance Armstrong's Trek-Livestrong team and is now having a great season with Fly V Australia.

He's still only 20, look for him to make the ProTour jump soon. Maybe we'll see the same progression from this year's Hot Tubes class.

-An interesting race day nutritional option for those who just can't face another bowl of pasta: "Put a PowerBar choc gu in a coffee cup and then pore a shot of espresso over the top. Time prior to departure: when leaving out the door- Get your favourite flavour of PowerBar between two pieces of bread, or fruit toast and place in microwave for 30seconds. The PowerBar melts…this is soooo good." Courtesy of Mr. King.

-Speaking of Grand Prix alumni, it's good to see that Russel Downing who famously won on Mark Lombardi's old bike, has finally been offered a well-deserved ProTour contract with Team SKY. He's always been a good rider, but his performance in the final stage of this years Tour of Ireland was one of the best rides of the year. If you haven't seen it watch it here. Isolated and surrounded by a dozen other riders, he demonstrates that the best defense is a good offense.

-If you see Darren Dowling, ask him about the almost-crash-of-the-year he witnessed. It involved Brian Drea, a superman position, a sideways bike and a 20 foot slide.

-I want to buy a pair of new wheels this winter. I want Zipps - because no other wheel is as fast and well engineered - but scenes like this make me wince. It wasn't any one's fault, a moment of inattention was all it took. I'm now more than ever leaning towards a pair of handbuilts on Chris King hubs.

-Tony Gibbs wins teammate of the weekend award. My mental calculation has him being on the front for 95% of Sunday's crit. In the first half of the race he diligently chased down attacks when they happened. In the second half he set a pace fast enough to deter any attacks. It was an impressive show of force totally dedicated to his teammate's ambition. When the race was done he rolled across the line 30 seconds behind the leaders, content that he had done his job and his team had capitalized on it.

-Peter Dunne has made all of our lives more difficult. He's taken a (previously fun) B Group race, and recruited three teenagers with heart rates that go north of 200 and have a penchant for sprinting and attacking. Dominique got the wins this weekend and I won't be surprised to see him racing in A next year. Treshun and Marquise also showed impressive racing this weekend and with another winter of training can only get faster. Everyone take note and consider yourselves warned.

I don't think anyone would have expected this amount of success from the Berkley programme a year ago. It's incredible and I hope it only grows from here.

-I've already mentioned Garth and Brian, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the great ride that Mark Hatherly put in to hang with the best for as long as he did. He was taken out by a crash on Saturday, but really showed himself well on Sunday.

-Bikes have come a long way in the last ten years. You hardly ever see an aluminum rim under a PRO and almost all frames are carbon as if by fiat. It's amazing then that amongst PROs the one piece of bicycle equipment that has defied the never ending pursuit of lighter/stiffer is the saddle. Check out the saddle that Tom Barras is sporting. It's an old Concor.

-Sponsorship works. After seeing Tom ride wheels I'd never heard of - SL Carbons - I spent time on the web trying to find out more, and that's got to be worth something. They make two wheels, a 50mm carbon deep rim and a Mavic Comet knock-off. The website is pretty disappointing, and the product discription is brief to the point of making a Haiku seem wordy: "round, black and they have spokes." That's it. No weight. No commentary. Nothing. Still, at £595 with the ability to give them a trial run they're worth consideration.

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