Weekly Rap - December 3, 2008By Rick Scott
Welcome back to The Weekly Rap. It’s time for training camp and we’ve got news about teams, honors and injuries to help you through the off-season.
The BeatOn the track, Iljo Keisse and Robert Bartko won the Gent Six-Day in Belgium after gaining a lap on Erik Zabel and Leif Lampater. The second World Cup track cycling event concluded in Melbourne, Australia. The majority of road racing action this time of year is taking place in the Southern Hemisphere where spring has sprung and summer is just around the corner. Recent road races include the Vuelta Ciclista Chiapas in Mexico, the Vuelta a Ecuador, the Tour d’Indonesia, and one-day criteriums in Australia and New Zealand. Otherwise, cyclo-cross races – during which cyclists pedal off-road and run short sections carrying their bikes over obstacles - are keeping the adrenalin junkies satiated until the 2009 season begins next month.
The FlowSo what are the roadies doing this time of year? They are training long and hard building endurance and strength. Top professional teams typically hold one or two training camps. The goal of the first camp, usually held in late November or December, is to foster the opportunity for new riders to get to know their teammates, to work on teambuilding exercises, plan racing and training schedules for the new season, and take care of the business of bike distribution and fittings. Usually the athletes ride together daily, but this time of year they also spend time in the gym, hike, cross-train and engage in other rigorous training activities as opposed to only slogging through endless hours on the bike. The second training camp, usually held sometime between mid-January and mid-February, is when time on the bike increases and becomes more specific to the type of races each rider will do throughout the season – fast and flat one-day classics or hilly Grand Tour stage races.
Typically training camps are held in warm climates, which makes Spain a popular choice this time of year for such teams as Astana and Team Columbia. While Astana riders like Lance Armstrong, Alberto Contador and two-time Amgen Tour of California winner Levi Leipheimer are bonding by surfing together, other teams have vastly contrasting ideas. Team Liquigas is in Northern Italy where they went mountain biking in the snow and hiked frigid trails. Team Saxo Bank (formerly CSC) deployed in native Denmark where they engaged in team owner Bjarne Riis’ grueling military-style survival boot camp. Sometimes training camps conclude with team presentations to the media. Last month, Garmin-Chipotle’s camp in Boulder, Colorado included a team presentation at which the mayor honored the team’s success this year by unveiling argyle bike racks, which will be installed around the city where many of the team members reside.
The off-season is the time of year to resolve any nagging physical problems that may require surgery and/or periods of rest and rehabilitation. Grand Tour champion Contador had surgery to improve nasal breathing after a crash in the Giro d’Italia caused his sunglasses to crush part of his sinus canal. The injury didn’t seem to slow him down as he went on to win both the Giro and the Vuelta a Espana. Helping ease Contador’s pain was news that for the second consecutive year he won the prestigious Velo d’Oro, an honor selected by a panel of international cycling journalists polled by French cycling magazine, Velo. It’s also the second consecutive time the Spaniard bested Amgen Tour of California prologue winner Fabian Cancellara for the honor, but this year his margin of victory was more assured.
Seven-time Tour de France winner Armstrong made it official that he will be back racing the biggest bike race in the world in July. The Texan, who will be making his debut at the Amgen Tour of California on Valentine’s Day, will most likely be riding France in support of Astana teammate Contador.
Amgen Tour of California stage winner Robert Gesink (Rabobank) was named Dutch Cyclist of the Year after only his second season as a pro. The 22-year-old climbing phenom is on track to become one of the sport’s greats.
ProTour squad Scott-American Beef has become Fuji-Servetto for their new title sponsors. The word on the streets has recently retired Amgen Tour of California stage winner Paolo Bettini taking over team management. If the two-time World Champion does take charge, the buzz is that he might merge the team with another Italian squad.
Although the ProTour lost two teams - Gerolsteiner and Credit Agricole - for next season due to the withdrawal of title sponsors, two squads have joined the ranks to keep the number of teams at eighteen. In an earlier column, we mentioned that America’s Garmin-Chipotle entered the fold. Katusha (previously known as Tinkoff Credit Systems), led by new recruits Robbie McEwen, Filippo Pozzato, Vladimir Karpets and Gert Steegmans, became the first Russian team to receive a ProTour license.
Team Columbia sprint sensation Mark Cavendish “crashed” in his home while playing computer game Wii. Apparently the snowboarding game proved to be a bit too realistic for the 23-year-old British speedster, who sustained a minor injury to a calf muscle after falling off the board. One day he might have a laugh about it, but perhaps not at the moment...
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Rick Scott is president of Great Scott P.R.oductions, an entertainment and sports public relations, marketing and management boutique. He can be contacted through www.greatscottpr.com.