Lee’s Lowdown: The Post Season Blues!
The road season has come to an end, but not to worry, Lee Rodgers is here to lighten the mood and chase away those post-season blues. Lee takes us on a roller-coaster journey from the latest Lance Armstrong machinations, through the Taiwan KOM Challenge, onto the ride of the season and a surprisingly a big finish with car free cities in the future. A full bag of lowdown.
Here they come, the post-season blues, like a squad car full of cops arriving to bust up an underage drinking party, miserable at the thought of you daring to enjoy yourself with the carelessness of youth whilst they, world weary and disgruntled, plod on through the stark reality they call ‘life’.
There is no reasoning with either and both must be endured. For me the off season means writing articles like this, when I am pressed to write about not much in particular in as entertaining a way as possible to try to ensure that you lot are at least mildly amused. And so, with not a great deal going on in the world of pro cycling outside of Lance Armstrong spilling his beans all over Tom Wiesel’s back and another dollop on Ochowicz’s shoes, let’s look at a few different snippets in this week’s Lowdown.
First up is a sneaky little preview of the Taiwan KOM Challenge, a race that I work on as the Communications Manager, responsible for bringing in the foreign media and international riders. PEZ’s very own Matt McNamara will be making it out this year so stay tuned for a special report as he attempts to clamber up what might just be the world’s hardest mountain rideable on a road bike.
The race starts at 0m sea level just a stone’s throw from the ocean in Hualien, East Taiwan, and rides over 100km to 3,275m. The first 92km average 3-4% and are a walk in the park compared to what comes next, 8km of brutal, perfect storm size waves of asphalt that hit up to 27.5%. The last kilometer in particular is intense and sees even the best climbers zig-zagging up it, with the accumulated effect of what went before, the altitude and the large drop in temperature (up to 20 degrees from the start to the top) hitting you like a George Foreman sucker punch.
This year’s star invites are the Vuelta a España KOM classification winner Omar Fraile of Caja Rural-Seguros RGA and Lasse Norman Hansen of Cannondale-Garmin. Fraile is an exciting prospect who has garnered the attention of some top level teams whilst Hansen is very much a power rider, having won Olympic gold in the Omnium at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
I rode this hill twice and came 4th in the 2012 edition and it damn near killed me. At the finish I got off the bike and got down on all fours to kiss the earth like the Pope landing at JFK. . . and stayed down there for another 20 minutes, unable to get up! By the last km I had tunnel vision and couldn’t feel the left side of my body. These days I’m in the car, eating cake like Eddy Merckx, feeling rather pleased with myself!
It is a brilliant event though and I urge anyone with a lack of common sense and a bicycle to come try it. Stunning terrain, ridiculous pain, and a t-shirt. What more could you want?
On to Peter Sagan, the man who won the World’s Men’s Road Race with that scintillating attack just a few short weeks ago. French newspaper L’Equipe recently asked a host of top riders to select a ride from 2015 as the most impressive of the year, and the new Rainbow Jersey wearer came out tops.
There were other stand-out rides in 2015 with John Degenkolb for me in particular being impressive in taking Milan-Dan Remo and then of course Paris-Roubaix a few weeks later. Whilst Milan suits his style very well it was his ride on the cobbles that provided the real highlight of the early season. His aggression and sense of purpose were ferocious in their intensity, and anyone who watched him as he rode across to the leaders and then sat on the front churning away at an ungodly speed won’t forget that in a hurry. That may actually have been the ride of the year (in a one day race), better even than Sagan’s. Degenkolb himself though chose Sagan’s ride as his favorite of 2015.
“Everyone was waiting for an attack of that kind and we were all prepared for it,” Degenkolb told L’Equipe. “It wasn’t a surprise. Yet nobody was able to go after him. I find that really great.”
Chris Froome chose Mikel Landa’s ride at the Giro, a slightly curious choice, perhaps designed to get the maximum out of the Basque as an uber-domestique at next year’s Tour? For me Landa’s ride in Italy was both remarkable and confusing, as it looked to me like he could have won the whole thing for Astana and actually would have had his ITT not been so poor. Was he under team orders not to threaten Fabio Aru’s chances or is he really not very good at uphill TTs?
Of his move to Sky, you can see the reasoning behind it (better salary in most likelihood and no more pretending to like that kit), but I do wish he was going to a team where he was the leader as he is an exciting prospect in his own right.
Finally, here is something that really cheered me up this week, and it’s the news that Oslo is planning to ban cars from its city center by 2019 in a bid to slash greenhouse gas emissions. I know, I know, global warming is a crock of dolphin-choking on-a-plastic-bag crap, but. . . what if you’re wrong?
Anyway, in a landmark move the Labour party went ahead and smashed this through despite grumblings from local businessmen who obviously are not drive by ideals of our profit but by a deep-seated concern for the health of the planet and survival of mankind. . . or something like that.
Paris recently experimented with car-free days and several European cities have a system where only half the city’s cars are allowed to be driven on any given day, something I applaud, but it this idea of having no private vehicles within a certain radius – supported by an intensive development of cycle lanes – it’s something that I think should be implemented all over the world.
Yes, it might well help the earth and annoy conservatives, always a good thing, but the bike makes people healthier and happier, and if there’s anywhere that both these should be encouraged it is in our cities, where life zips on at a near uncontrollable pace and where people tend to be more stressed out and frazzled.
It’s not just Oslo planning on this kind of move, Frankfurt all plans the same within 20 years, planning a network of green ‘channels’ that would link up 40% of the city, and in Denmark they are making superhighways for bikes that radiate out from the city center.
We should remember that just 100 years ago there were very few cars in our cities and towns and that 150 years ago all buggies ran on horse power – the real kind. What we take for granted in this modern age has not always been here, and the retaking of the streets by people who move under their own power, well, that would be something.
Almost makes those post-race blues bearable, eh? Almost.
Lee Rodgers is a former professional road racer on the UCI Asia Tour circuit now racing MTB professionally around the world. His day job combines freelance journalism, coaching cyclists, event organizing and consulting work. You can keep up with his daily scribblings over at www.crankpunk.com.