Sunday, April 27, 2008

Luik-Bastenakan-Luik (LBL)

We finally finally had an EXCELLENT weather day so I spent it completely outdoors from 11am to 10pm. Finally at 10:30pm I am getting to watch LBL. Luckily i taped it!

The 97th edition (i think) started off with a few failed attacks; the peloton reeled them in after assessing it didn't contain the "correct" combination. It was fun to see some of the same guys attempt to get into every break. Clearly their order was to get into any move that goes off the front early in the race. Even though the pain isn't as bad when you attack early in the race, you still have the thought that there is still over 250km of very very hard riding ahead of you which seems to make up for the lack of pain!

The race announcer just told a cute story about Phillipe Gilbert (FDJ). When he was young, he used to sit at the base of the Cote de la redoute starting a week before the LBL event waiting for the pros to come by to ride the hill. And just before they reached him, he'd get on his bike to ride alongside the pros. He rode with Laurent Jalabert (jaja) on one of these yearly ascents.

Finally a break of 5 got away with up to a 13 minute lead. Uh-oh. One of them was dropped.

I just spotted Paolo Bettini. Wow. He came into the season a little heavy with the expectation to race his way into shape. By now he should be ripped but due to his injury - i think it was a broken rib from Tour of the Basque early this month - he's looking a little heavier than his usual fit selt at this time of year. I wonder if he's sitting in the middle of the peloton cursing that white (world champion) jersey and shorts with the wide white band. White has to be the hardest color to wear when you're feeling a little bloated. Considering he's riding in 6th wheel on a climb at 70km to go, he probably has other thoughts on his mind - like how am I going to win this thing. What a stud.

One of the 4 breakaway riders was dropped. Normally that wouldn't be worth mentioning but his last name is Kop. This means "head" as in "in the lead". In dutch, they say "kop van de wedstrijd' that translates into "head of the race." Oops, i take it back. I just saw his name written and it's spelled Kopp. Never mind.

Phillipe Gilbert just attacked and has already overtaken Kopp. Gilbert is now 1 1/2 minutes behind the three leaders and 40 seconds ahead of the peloton. It takes a lot of guts to attack 60km before the finish line and try to go it solo.

Oh my god! They are passing through roads that I've been ridden. I don't know why i find that exciting, but i do.

Gilbert is now about 1 minute behind the head group of 3. Now if he's already peaked many weeks ago, then he should be peaked out by now which makes his solo effort admirable. It also makes it a failed effort for a win. So the question remains...why jump away from the peloton if you know you have no chance to win? Maybe it is to take the pressure off of a teammate who is still in the peloton. Maybe it is for TV coverage. Maybe it is to prove to naysayers like me that he is still enjoying peak fitness. Or maybe the effort is for training.

My guess is this: He used to live nearby, and the timing of his attack puts him in with a very strong chance to pass through his former hometown of Remouchamps, where Cote de la Redoute is located, while off the front of the peloton. To make this happen, he has to stay away from the peloton for 12km. The peloton is 54 seconds behind and the three leaders are 1:02 ahead. He better pedal faster because he's losing time quickly. Will he make it? If i am correct with my guess, then his "finish line" is theoretically 34km shorter than the rest of many of the riders.

Uh-oh. 7km to go with the peloton only 30 seconds behind. Will he pass through his hometown off the front of the peloton? Funny enough, the race announcers just said that his imaginary finish line is the top Cote de la Redoute because he wants to put in a good show for his former hometown. Score. I win. Well, at least the announcers agree with my guess. 3km to go with the peloton 35 seconds in tow.

Gilbert just made the turn onto the climb with an 18 second lead on the peloton. It starts off gradual just after it leaves town, then when you make that blind left-hander, the pitch goes crazy - up up up and away. He's done it. The crowds lining the climb are going crazy. I would guess it's more important to those fans that he ride solo up the hill in front of the peloton so they could easily spot him and cheer for him than if he were to win.

The climb is riddled with PHIL PHIL PHIL written all the way up the climb. The race announcer just said that it must be a great feeling to ride over your name. I'd have to agree. Determined to make it to the top ahead of the peloton, Gilbert is clearly giving it everything he had. Wow, the crowds are completely engulfing him. He'd even benefited from a few ass-pushes along the way. Although it's very illegal to accept pushes, I doubt there will be any complaints from any of the other riders.

AND THERE GOES BETTINI! He just dropped the peloton as they were trackstanding. That guy is amazing. He's cracked a lot of legs and spirits with his attack. And Andy Schleck just countered Bettini's move. About ten seconds after the group caught Bettini - just at the false flat on the top of the climb - Schleck went. Great timing. You have to have amazing legs to have the courage to attack just at the top of that climb. I've done it once after 4 hours of hard riding and just to get up it was not very pleasurable.

Schleck was just joined by Stefan Schumacher of Gerolsteiner. On a side note, I once passed Schumacher (in the opposite direction) on a training ride on Highway 1 climbing out of Stinson Beach. He was ascending that climb at about 3km/hr. It takes a pro to have the discipline to pedal that slowly on a training ride.

By the way, Danilo Di Luca is not in the race because his team was not invited to participate. That's sad that last year's winner has no chance to defend his title.

And Bettini is attacking again at 29km to go. The way he's riding you'd never guess just recently he was in the

The race announcer just told a story about Bettini and Bartoli. Many years ago, when former teammates Bettini and Bartoli stayed at a hotel together during Routa del Sol race, Bettini carried Bartoli (team leader) two flights of stairs up to his room so he didn't tire his legs out before the race.

Back to the race. At 20km before the finish, Schleck and Schumacher are still working together to keep a 22 second lead over the hard-charging peloton.

Cadel Evans (silence-lotto) just attacked on a climb. His effort brought the peloton one second closer to the dynamic duo up front. Up front, Schleck just left Schumacher. Considering Schumacher is not a climbing specialist but rather an excellent flat/undulating/sprinting kind-of-guy, this is not terribly surprising.

At 18km, it looks like Andy Schleck just held off on the power for a moment to wait for his brother Frank who is now on his wheel. And of they go - The two Schlecks, Valverde, Rebellin, and Joachim Rodriguez. Chasing them (at 15 seconds behind) are Cadel Evans, Cunego and Phannberger. The peloton is at 35 seconds.

They just showed the stadium of Standard Luik voetbal ploeg (Standard soccer team who just won the Belgian Championship this Season. They haven't won it in 25 years so it was a big deal when they took the title last week.

At 8km to go, Andy Schleck is off the front of the head group and his brother/teammate Frank is blocking. The gap to the second group is now about 45 seconds so it's looking like the winner will come from the front group. Rebellin is leading the chase to Andy. The just caught andy and naturally Frank attacked, leaving Andy for dead. It's not an easy task to drop Valverde or rebellin so i'd guess he's not going to get far. And we are not at the top of the last climb - 5km to go to the finish and the three are altogether.

Now that Frank may have burned the last of his energy stores, i'd suppose the winner will be either Valverde or Rebellin. The finish is slightly uphill which could favor either one. Maybe Rebellin will take it because he's more of a power rider. OK, i change my mind. Valverde is a much better sprinter - even if the course is slightly uphill. I forgot he placed 2nd behind Tom Boonen when he won World Championships. He has two silvers and a bronze in World Championships in fact.

It is under the 1km mark and the two (rebellin and valverde) are staring at each other while riding at about 6km/hr up the gradual climb. They have Schleck blocked in behind them. They just turned the corner and the finish line is in sight about 100 meters ahead. And they're off! Valverde easily takes it over Rebellin.

In hindsight, if i could play "Belgian non-cyclist sitting on couch critiquing race tactics" for a moment, I would say that i wonder what would have happened if Rebellin attacked just before the left hand turn. Rebellin had the inside line and could make a second on Valverde in the turn. That one second could have given him enough time to cross the line first. But in reality, considering Rebellin is one of the smartest guys in the peloton when it comes to race tactics, I would guess he made the best decision that gave him the best chance for success.

The spring classics are now officially over, so i am off now to cry myself to sleep. There are still many days until the Giro. And even MORE until cyclo-cross season.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Plants Rule the World...

or at least my diet. Last weekend I had the opportunity to talk about my plant-based diet for sport to folks here in Belgium at an event held by Belgian's Vegetarian Society called Ethisch Vegetarisch Alternatief (EVA) who were excellent hosts! I was there as a pro athlete and spokesperson for In Defense of Animals (IDA.)

In addition to my excitement of getting to speak in front of a room full of Belgians for the first time, I got to meet fellow Organic Athlete member and journalist Jürgen Bruynooghe. I originally met him (through email) last year when he interviewed me for an article for EVA's magazine.

If you want to read all about it, check out Amy's blog. She was kind enough to report on it!

By the way, the photo was taken just before i got up to speak.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Waalse Pijl

AKA La Flèche Wallonne

I have ridden this course once and it is a certifiable bitch. The course feels like one perpetual climb, and the descents are so short that it feels like they're over before you even get to coast.

And Mur de Huy is nothing like most people have ever experienced. Not only is it rediculously steep and neverending, but what really makes it unbearable is that by the time you've reached the base of the climb you have already been climbing a few hundred meters! Oh and the pavement sucks; many sections are riddled with potholes and semi-patches which can be dangerous when you combine it with tight pack riding, wet slippery roads and compromised bike handling due to exhaustion.

The favorites towards the end of the race were looking to be Davide Rebellin (Gerolsteiner), Damiano Cunego (Lampre), Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto and one of my favorite riders) .

With 13km to go, Swedish rider Gustav Erik Larsson (Team CSC) took off with such power that it looked like he may just be able to pull it off...if he can get one or two riders to bridge to him and help out. As luck had it, two riders joined him for the painfest. It's amazing how much suffering can occur in such a short distance. The two riders were Fabian Wegmann (Gerolsteiner) and Alexander Efimkin (Quick Step.)

Of the three, Larsson looked the strongest. But just like many folks who are extremely talented in one way or another, Larsson had a fatal flaw. His was that he has descending issues. Just before he hit the pavement, he gave us all a scare by almost overshooting a turn. After the scare, we were all glued to the TV praying to the anti-crash gods that he makes it safely to the bottom with the other two so there can be a real showdown on Huy. Unfortunately that was not to be. Wegmann continued solo to Huy while Efimkin, who was delayed by Larsson's crash, trailed about five seconds behind.

Watching Wegmann continue on solo made me wonder what would have happened if he had waited a couple of seconds for Efimkin so they could work together. When I put myself in his position to figure out what I would have done, I realized quickly that would have been a tough call. On one hand, the peloton (of about 2o or so?) may have caught Efimkin and layed off the pressure just enough to give Wegmann those precious seconds needed to ascend to the finish line first. But on the other hand, it's not as if Wegmann would be out of view (think out of sight, out of mind) on a wide open slow-climbing Huy where you can see many seconds up the road.

I suppose Wegmann's decision was a non-factor because the outcome would most probably be the same.

As the favorites were engulfing Wegmann on the Mur de Huy, I'm sure all viewers were doing the same as I - screaming at the TV in an effort to push my personal favorites forward as if they were pawns on a game board. Well, it didn't work for my guy Evans. I suppose the TV screams for Luxembourg's Kim Kirchen (Team High Road) drowned out the Evans screams since he finished 1 second behind for 2nd place.

Not to sound corny, but just to finish a course like that within the time limit (usually i think about 5-20% over that of the winner's time) confirms that rider's status as a certifiable stud.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Sun, Sun, Sun, Here You Come...

Well it's about TIME. It hasn't been warm here in belgium since last April when we had a mini-heatwave. Other than that, it's been mostly freezing here. For the past three days, my face finally saw sun. Even my ears were warm while bare - completely exposed to the wind.

After four more hours of sun today, I looked in the mirror expecting a nice, even bronze complexion but what i saw staring back at me was a hodgepodge of brown hues. Bugger! Every year, the more time i spend in the sun the worse it gets! And every year i forget this happens until the first few sunny rides.

For many years, i thought i was a freak (because of the uneven tan). But last year, after one of the road races, I saw another gal with the same funky tan. In fact, I spotted a few others the same day with matching tans! I wonder if we are all using a funny sunscreen the partly melts in the sun.

If anyone has any ideas, I'd love to hear them!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Amstel Gold

The guys just finished the line so here goes my rendition...

This edition came down to a sprint - if you can call an 800 meter steep uphill a sprint. If i hadn't seen pro men race live many times, I would have thought the replay of the sprint finish was in fast forward because it is seemingly impossible to sprint up that steep incline as quickly as they did!

For the most part, the terrain really determined the outcome of the race. It was a rolling course with multiple steep climbs that were just long enough to shrink the field every by the top of every one.

For the last kilometers up to the finish, there weren't many attacks among the 10 or so guys left. I suppose the thought of having to possibly use all your resources before the final 1km climb to the finish line may put you from a potential first place to dead last! It's not like the Paris-Roubaix finish where if one of those two guys accompanying Boonen in those last km's would have attacked, he'd only place 3rd at worst. Basically, it's much harder to fake fitness on a grueling climb!

Anyway, up the climb the race played out pretty much as most would have expected - Frank Schleck (last year's winner) took the lead with Damiano Cunego on his wheel. Rebellin et al were in tow. Just before the finish Cunego easily passed Schleck for the win. Cunego looked so incredibly happy. His first post-race facial expression was one of relief, complete with tongue sticking out!

I wish i had more to write but it wasn't nearly as interesting as RVV or Paris-Roubaix!

My personal race season should start soon so maybe i'll have more interesting stories - firsthand.

By the way, we finally had VERY PLEASANT weather here. Actual sun accompanied 17 deg.C weather. I felt sweat drip down both the front AND back of my torso. I cannot even remember the last time i felt warm. There is no other feeling like sun on your face and warming your legs.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend! Now it's time for my pasta, maybe a glass of red wine too.

Oh, and a trivia question: What was Lance Armstrong's best placing in amstel gold?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

How many calories have you burned today?

If crap weather burned more calories, I'd be in luck today. It was one of those rides where the ultimate goal was to avoid the frighteningly uncomfortable weather that the ominous black clouds spotted throughout the sky were sure to deliver. For the first two hours of the ride, luck was on our side. We managed to squeeze between multiple storm fronts.

But just as the Beatles tune 'Here Comes the Sun' began to play on my iPod, we turned the corner and were greeted by absolute darkness coupled with a wave of ice water. Great.

When i put my ride info into my new Calorie Burner Tool on the left side of my blog, it had no "weather" option to choose from. I wonder if crap weather really does burn more calories? I'd like to think so.

Monday, April 14, 2008


For those of you who are in Belgium or can fly here by the weekend:



Zaterdag 19 april 2008


Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Pleinlaan 2, L2-217

1050 Elsene


3 euro voor EVA-leden,

4 euro voor anderen

Met trots kondigen we de geboorte van EVA Sport aan !

EVA (Ethisch Vegetarisch Alternatief) is al enkele jaren de referentie op het gebied van vegetarische voeding. Met EVA Sport willen we aantonen dat je ook met een vegetarische levenswijze tot uitstekende prestaties kunt komen. Verder willen we de vooroordelen ontkrachten die rond vegetarische voeding hangen. We willen echter vooral zelf het levende bewijs leveren dat veggies heus niet de bleke slappelingen zijn waarvoor ze soms worden aangezien.


13u: verwelkoming, voorstelling EVA vzw en EVA Sport

13u30: lezing Christine Vardaros—Dispelling myths of a Vegan Diet for Athletes

14u15: pauze

14u30—16u10: film Vegan Fitness, built naturally

Christine "Peanut" Vardaros is profrenster bij Team Vanderkitten. Deze Amerikaanse verblijft in België voor weg- en veldritwedstrijden waaronder de Wereldbeker en de Wereldkampioenschappen. Wanneer ze niet op de fiets zit of door de modder ploegt, besteedt ze haar tijd aan haar andere bezigheden als columniste, journaliste, freelance schrijfster, commentatrice en spreekster. Sport, gezondheid, fitness, voeding, alternatief vervoer en dierenrechten behoren tot haar expertisedomeinen. Christine heeft een fitness- en sportcolumn in het Amerikaanse magazine VegNews.

Vegan fitness, naturally built is een film waarin 3 veganistische atleten de hoofdrol vertolken: triatleet Brendan Brazier, danseres Tonya Kay en bodybuilder Robert Cheeke. Je ziet er hoe veganisten leven, eten, trainen en deelnemen aan wedstrijden. De ideale film voor iedereen die interesse heeft voor een gezonde levensstijl: veganisten, vegetariërs, atleten en iedereen die geïnteresseerd is in gezondheid en fitness.


Sunday, April 13, 2008


I can't help but be amazed by these guys! They rode the first part of the race at an average speed of over 50kph (30mph). Sure it's a pancake-flat course but the extended nasty cobble sections and tiny windy roads should have slowed them down a bit! What the trying terrain did manage to do is cause most of the riders to hit pavement during some point of the race. With all the race crashes, where most of the riders hit the pavement (or cobbles) at some point during the race, it was really hard to keep up with who was up and who was down. I did notice, however, that one of the race favorites Pozzato did an amazing job after his nasty crash that ripped his his shorts to shreds. His effort was not enough, though, because by the time he got to the front, the peloton had just split again.

The cobbles are just so incredibly hard that guys were falling simply by slipping - even when they had perfect view of the road ahead. And when the guys behind would try to adjust their path to avoid riding on top of the guy, they too would fall, causing major pick-up-stix all over the course.

With all the confusion, I only really started to pay attention to the race at 50km to go, when the peloton got down to about 12 riders. Hincapie was part of the group but somehow disappeared. When the camera panned back to him, he looked fine but was not riding very fast. He was getting visibly frustrated by two guys on his wheel. He was trying to wave them past but they wouldn't pass him. Maybe they figured he's George Hincapie so if they stay on his wheel, they will inevitably make it to the front of the race! He must have crashed or had a technical.

Stijn Devolder put in a MAJOR attack on the cobbles at about 45km to go. A few minutes later he was joined by Stuart O'Grady of CSC. (Pretty impressive move for O'Grady who self-admittedly has no form.) When Boonen stood up making a motion to follow O'Grady, Cancellara stood up as well, basically letting Boonen know that if he tries to go, he will be bringing Cancellara with him. Smooth move! Boonen sat back down.

Now that the peloton is down to six guys to bridge to Devolder of Quick Step and O'Grady of CSC, Lief Hoste (Silence-Lotto) who is one of the favorites to win has to chase - WITH Boonen AND Cancellara on his wheel. That must suck. Worse yet, his blistering pace just dropped his own teammate Van Summeren briefly. By the way, we have a Slipstream-Chipotle guy (Maaskant) in the group of 6. If he won, that would be EXCELLENT for the American-based team who have been very outspoken about their anti-drug policy.

Group back together. Boonen and Cancellara are staring at each other. Boonen finally attacks and Cancellara is instantly there, along with ballan in tow. Perfect timing - right before a cobbled section where you can gain lots of time in a short time. Naturally the three instantly make a gap from the chasing group of four with Hoste forcing to chase - again!!! With a quickstep and CSC in the group, that leaves them with only two guys to do the chase to bridge to the three strongest guys in the race. And the other guy from Slipstream-Chiipotle knows that as soon as he does a pull in the front and someone attacks, he can kiss his top 10 in paris-roubaix goodbye!

Well, the playing game got both Hoste and Maaskant chasing devolder and O'grady. All of this while the three front rider continue to work together. The chase group of four are back together.

At the head of the course, Boonen, Cancellara and Ballan are working nicely together except for the periodic attack by Boonen and Cancellara. How can these guys race at 60kph after over 250km of riding.

With 15km to go, they are already starting to play games. Cancellara just elbowed Boonen around and Boonen took his time to make his move to the front. With Boonen and Cancellara staring at each other, it would be funny if Ballan won. If he doesn't, I will just edit this blog to read something else! haha - if i remember to do that!

They are at 11km to go, the three are on the small windy roads, great for a last minute attack. Two of the tree guys must be really feeling the dread of having to choose the perfect moment for an attack that will stick so it doesn't come to a sprint finish. I'm getting exhausted just thinking about how they are going to pull that off...and how much self-inflicted pain that will cause. At least it's not raining.

Ballan just sprayed water on his back. In 10 degree C weather, that can't be a refreshing feeling.

You probably know who I want to win, but just in case it isn't known, of the three leaders I'm hoping for a Boonen win. It is now 4km to go and they are still working together. The track is just around the corner. Maybe the non-Boonens heard what i wrote on my blog and agreed with me that it is just too dreadful to get the nerve to attack Boonen. I bet they are thinking at this moment, "Shit! The track is almost here, less than 3km to the finish, how do i get rid of Boonen? My legs hurt, I'm tired, and even if i attack, Boonen will hunt me down and shoot past for the finish, leaving me in 3rd place. If i wait for the finish, then my legs will hurt for only twenty seconds and i have a chance for 2nd place."

OK, less than 2km left. Boonen just gave Cancellara a nudge to get him in 2nd position while he himself takes the back so he can keep an eye on them all.

It is official, they are on the track together. Suckers. The bell is ringing at 5hr 58 minutes and Ballan is leading the sprint which is 1 lap in distance. Boonen came around both of them on the outside and just destroyed them - DESTROYED them. Not even funny, not even close. He made it look like child's play. OVER twenty bike lengths.

After all the negative talk about him over the recent weeks - rather months - it is great to see him take back his honor using his legs. I also want to note that he was an excellent support rider in this race for Devolder when he attacked earlier in the race. Real class.

Yippee - Maaskant (Slipstream-Chipotle) just rode in for fourth. Great job. O'Grady-5th, Hoste - 6th and Devolder - 7th. I think Hincapie was 9th from what i just heard.

How touching - Boonen is I am too. Devolder just came over and they hugged and Boonen started crying again. Mind you, this is now seven minutes after the finish of the race. Gosh he looks so incredibly thrilled. He is being interviewed right now by flemish television and - only in Belgium - midway through it both interviewer and Tommeke switched to French.

OK. The race is over and so am I.

Thanks for reading my rendition of Parijs-Roubaix. I would have taken photos but it's just not the same when you take them of a television set.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Gent Wevelgem

Since the race finished in a sprint there isn't nearly as much to say about it. Just after winner Oscar Friere crossed the line, they interviewed him in Spanish, then translated what he said into dutch. Based on my fluency (or lack thereof) of both languages, his interview was pretty boring. He basically said his legs were good and the team was strong. Oh, and he said something about being the first spanish rider to win the race. He then listed his next goals as Amstel Gold (saying that"The hard part is to finish in a group; sometimes i did a good sprint but not for the first position"), Tour de France, Olympics and World Championships.

They also interviewed Robbie McEwen about the sprint and he said that the peloton shot to the right, then to the left and boxed him in so he had nowhere to go.

One problem that's been growing in these pro races is the interference of the motorcycles (photos/video/police.) They get too close to the breakaway riders who obviously use them to draft off of to get a gap.

Mark Cavendish had a few angry words to say about the race afterwards. He said it was too dangerous to sprint. People who can't sprint were giving it a go today because it was a headwind into the finish. He thinks they have every right to finish - especially since it's a one-day race - but it made it too dangerous for those who are actual sprinters. He was almost crashed out five times during the finishing section and didn't even get to sprint. He seemed pretty peeved!

One rider absent from the front of the race for most the day was Tommeke Boonen. According to what he has been saying in interviews, he's saving himself for Paris Roubaix this sunday. From the looks of his effort level the two times i saw his face up front, he looks to be enjoying some nice form!

Sorry i don't have any more stories to tell! I expect Paris Roubaix will be a lot more exciting!

On another note, it turns out that Angel Gomez - the Saunier Duval - Scott guy who crashed in RVV got off easy from his nasty crash. He only has a cut in his knee and a broken elbow. He expects to be back racing in a few weeks. In an interview, he said that he had his head down to look at his bike because he was having mechanical problems and never saw the raised platform. The only part of his bike that was able to be salvaged was his water bottle cages!

Here are a couple of articles that were in Monday's paper following Tour of Flanders. Boonen is basically quoted as saying that he was naturally happy about the win of his teammate Stijn Devolder. He felt as if he won a little. He also talked about once Devolder got a gap, he encouraged Devolder to go for it. But as they say in the article, But next week, in the hell of Parijs-Roubaix becomes Boonen Time again.

On the same sports page, Cancellara is quoted as saying, "being the favorite is not easy."

The headline of the Devolder article is one of my all time favorites now, "Mijn Kinderdroom." This means "My childhood dream." Below his photo there is a short article about Tour of Flanders Wins in the National Champion Jersey.

Second runner up for best headline is the one below the Boonen article. "Geantwoord met the pedalen" (answering with the pedals.) Love that!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Ronde van Vlaanderen

Holy toledo - what a race! There was so much excitement in this year's edition of Tour of Flanders! Unbelievable! The peloton exploded, regrouped, exploded, regrouped, until it whittled down to maybe 20 riders or so. What made this year spectacular is that the riders who finished at the front this year were those who were showing their faces throughout the whole day! In the end, a guy originally intended to be a domestique for Tom Boonen crossed the line first. He is current Belgian National Champion Stijn Devolder.

Devolder was originally told to attack to take the pressure off Boonen so he and his team didn't have to work at the front. And once the peloton caught Devolder, the plan was to use him as a springboard for boonen. It was a plan that could have worked perfectly, but we'll never know.

When the peloton caught Devolder, he immediately attacked the group again at a distance of twenty-something KM from the finish! Boonen then became the super-domestique, squelching any moves of the riders to bridge to Devolder. To drag Boonen up to the finish line would be suicide - or at least it would be an easy way to put yourself down a spot on the rankings since he can normally outsprint just about anyone in the field (his teammate Steegmans wasn't there - haha.)

Watching Devolder repeatedly die and come back to life while the rest of the peloton took turns burying themselves to bridge the gap was really exciting. I found myself alternating between blowing at the TV and pushing my elevated foot towards it in an effort to help propel Devolder forward.

Most belgians I suppose don't care which belgian wins - as long as it's a belgian. But there's something special about a Belgian winning the grandest of all Belgian races in the National Champion jersey. I remember when he won the jersey last year, many people were saying he was just lucky and that Boonen should have won. His actions today was proof that his jersey was no fluke. In fact, I think he too needed confirmation because, as he crossed the line, he pulled at his belgian champion jersey to show it off to the crowd. If i were a sensitive kind of gal, I would have found myself teary-eyed by his gesture. He had the opportunity to prove to the naysayers that he is deserving of the respect that comes with the jersey. And he won it in an exceptionally classy style.

On the flipside, I unfortunately witnessed one of the worst looking crashes I've ever seen. A spanish racer named Angel Gomez of Saunier Duval - Scott rode right into one of those treacherous tree islands planted in the middle of the road. It seems to be a fairly new belgium/holland thing to plant trees in the middle of the street - on BOTH SIDES - to discourage auto drivers from speeding. Instead what it has done was piss a lot of people off. They have caused crashes for both cyclists and autos, back up traffic, and upset families living next to these islands; every time a car has to stop to let a car in the opposite direction pass, he then must rev the car to get it going again. If you have over a hundred cars stopping and starting in front of your house around the clock, you'd get tired of it too.

Anyway, Gomez must have had his head down, didn't see the official waving the bright yellow flag, and smacked the concrete border around the tree while traveling at least 45kph (almost 30mph.) From the impact, both he and his bike broke in half. He landed a little more than 3 meters (around 10 feet) past the tree, accompanied by his folded front wheel with fork attached. The rest of his bike landed across the street. Latest TV reports are that he broke his femur and elbow. That really sucks!!

On a side note, a few of the favorites didn't have a great day. Lief Hoste's rear deraileur broke off and landed in his rear wheel. Since it happened on one of the tiny cobbled climbs, he had to wait a very long time for a spare bike. Philip Gilbert also had bike troubles and he hit his knee on his handlebars. When asked if the strongest guy one the race today, Gilbert responded, "I don't know. I didn't see the race." I thought that was pretty funny.
Fabian Cancellara of CSC brought up a good point that always plays a major role in a race like this. He said that he felt that there was nothing more he could do today to win because he was one of the pre-race favorites. Every time he tried to do something, someone was on his wheel.

Well, that's my take of the race today.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Wanna hear me talk in Brussels?

The Belgian Vegetarian Society is having a sport-focused day of talk and film and I get to be their guest speaker! They are also showing a documentary film that include two very cool vegans (Tonya Kay, an incredible dancer and robert cheeke, a highly successful bodybuilder.) The camera follows them around for the day, interviewing them, watching them shop, etc.

By the way, we all returned from La Roche en Ardenne last night. What a beautiful place! It only rained 1 1/2 times so we got to spend a decent amount sightseeing from the saddle. more on the trip soon...


Op zaterdag 19 april 2008 organiseert EVA Sport in Brussel een lezing en filmvoorstelling over plantaardige sportvoeding. De veganistische wielrenster Christine Vardaros zal het hebben over de mythen rond plantaardige voeding voor atleten. Daarna kan je kijken naar 'Vegan fitness, built naturally', een documentaire waarin Brendan Brazier, Tonya Kay en Robert Cheeke je tonen hoe ze leven, eten en sporten als veganistische topatleten. De exacte locatie en het aanvangsuur worden zo snel mogelijk op de EVA-website gezet of kunnen opgevraagd worden via Website: