venerdì 24 ottobre 2014

When in Florence: L'Arte del Sogno (and Cycling So Far)

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All is special
There is a solo table in the café: a large confortable armchair close to the window. I usually sit outside, at the small table made by a recycled metallic net mixed to a creeper branch. I love the idea that the plant is having a second life. And I love siting on the narrow busy road, crowded of people walking or riding, distractly watching the ancient gate in Piazza Beccaria, where Borgo La Croce starts, that small stretch of sky.
Outside and inside
I can barely stay inside since when I came back from the country. But today it's cold. Finally, I'd say! We had no proper Summer and a very warm humid September. Now it's sunny, chilly and dry. 
L'Arte del Sogno is a small café and also a fornitures' shop with an artistic quirck - and I'm using the word in a positive way, meaning unique characteristic. It's pretty unique indead. There are other places in Florence where you can have coffee and cake while doing something else. But L'Arte del Sogno is different, cosy and a little messy. It's small and full of stuff in a creative disorder that makes you feel at home. Here I am this morning, still sleepy and not very happy.
Don't ask me why. Still again always the same. I feel very lonely now and then because I'm single at the moment and have a bad relationship with my family - or no relationship at all... My friends lives mostly abroad and I miss them in a day like this, when I'd need a good talk over a good coffee.
Team Sky on board
At least here I know that the coffee is good, and the cake too.
So what about procycling?  The next Tour de France  has been presented and yep: it suits Andy Schleck very well. Don't think of that, don't think of that... I spent the last two years suggesting that Andy was better to stop racing so now I can't complain he did. 
I also spent many years suggesting that he should have better tried to win the Giro or the Vuelta when the Tour's route didn't suit him... so now I'm really surprised reading those harsh reactions to Chris Froome. He said that next Giro suits him better than the Tour and lets him the time to get back in top shape for the Vuelta, so aiming to win both. Froome is one of the best climbers in the peloton but he's also a terrific cronoman when in shape (not in the last Vuelta): the Tour suits him but the Giro is even better because there is climbing and also TT. Where is the scandal? He starts to win so starts where he has got more chances. In add he targets two big tours and honestly Giro and Vuelta is more realistic than Contador Giro and Tour.
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Nacer Bouhanni crashed

Anyway he wasn't at the Tour presentation because Team Sky was sailing on the British sea for its first team gathering. 
The ex-Team Belkin became a yellow and black new Team LottoNL-Jumbo. I like the kit and I'm happy they found a new title sponsor. Taylor Phinney went to try the next Worlds' route in Richmond and that's great considering the awful crash  he had while reading the RR US . Nacer Bouhanni crashed now instead, at the  Six Days of Grenoble, and probably broke his collarbone. Lance Armstrong is fine it seems but will NOT ride in the Hincapie Granfondo. The news is that he was supposed to.... 
New Team new kit
As far as doping, Team Astana could lose its world tour licence as a consequence of his three positive riders and Roman Kreuziger will probably face an appeal about his case. Not so Impey who is back racing and winning after he could explain his positive by a contamination. 
Vincenzo Nibali is in Japan. and doesn't look concerned about the future of his team.
Vincenzo Nibali takes a photo of the photographer Yuzuru Sunada 
When in Florence is a new column of this blog, about places I like in the city and you should try. More or less cycling related, and COFFEE has got a very close link with cycling: many friends can confirm. Jens Voigt is famous for his many MANY coffee in a day and I once had an heartfelt conversation about' macchiato' and 'cortado' with the crosser Angus Edmond. ENJOY!

MORE ABOUT L'Arte del Sogno here: https://www.facebook.com/larte.delsogno?fref=ts

Phinney and Compton in Richmond

Nicki Sørensen: new role, same Team

Bjarne Riis: 
“I’m very happy to welcome Nicki in his new role. It’s an exciting opportunity and challenge for both the team and for him. It’s our clear ambition to step up in 2015 and deliver results. We will prepare ourselves to the fullest at home, but when we’re racing, we must perform. That requires a strong setup, and Nicki has the experience as road captain and the technical knowledge to guide the riders and help lead the team," 

Nicki Sørensen:
“I’m very happy and grateful. For me, it’s undoubtedly the best-case scenario and an obvious next step in my career. I’ve been on the team since 2001 and have created close friendships with my teammates and the staff. I now have a lot of experience after nearly two decades of racing on top level that I can pass on to the current riders, whom I know very well.
I will focus on coaching my riders on race tactics, training, how to manage life as a pro and teamwork. Besides these skills that you simply need as a top rider, I’ll also monitor training and progress as well as working with my colleagues to continuously improve the team’s approach. 
During the first period, I will also learn from the more experienced sport directors. I’m used to analyzing the race from my bike, but it’s different from the team car. I can’t wait to get started and I notice that the team is really motivated and ready to reach our goals."

giovedì 23 ottobre 2014

Karsten Kroon Retires

Karsten Kroon: 
“I feel fortunate. I have had a great career with many defining memories. I have made many close friends in cycling, and that is something valuable for me. But I can honestly say that I’m ready to retire from racing. I’m tired after 18 seasons and I look forward to spending time with my family and kids.
I want to thank Bjarne Riis for believing in me during the years and giving me the opportunity to spend the best seasons of my career on this team. My two seasons on BMC in ’10 and ’11 were plagued by two potentially career-ending crashes, but the team gave me another chance to come back and to finish my career the way I had wished for.
My stage win in the Tour is what I’m most proud of. It is something every rider dreams about. It was my first Tour de France and I remember how surreal it seemed, when I rode across the line.
It might sound a bit strange, but the 2009 World Championship in Mendrisio is perhaps the greatest experience of my career. I was dropped in the final part of the race and finished 20th, but I have never had better legs than I had that day in Switzerland. It was almost mythical for me. I remember that I felt as if I could keep going on my limit for hours and hours.
I think I’ll relax with my family and wait a while before I decide, what the next chapter in my life will be”.

mercoledì 22 ottobre 2014

Tour de France: Alberto Contador said...

Alberto Contador:
“The first stages are a bit different from the last few years. You have to be in good shape from the very first stage. It begins with a short time trial, but there will be time difference.
We must to be strong in the two uphill finishes, because, although they’re short, sometimes there are bigger time differences here than on the long climbs. It will be very important to have a strong team to stay protected. This is also important on stage 4 with cobblestones, which we will have to see before determining how difficult they are.
This first part of the Tour ends with a team time trial in which it will be important not to have lost riders in crashes or from illness, because a stage like this will be different if you have lost two riders in contrast to having a full team ready, The key to this first part will be to avoid losing time, as it will be in the mountains, where this particularly mountainous and demanding Tour will be decided.
The uphill finishes in the Pyrenees will be very important, just as is the finish in Mende, a finish that I know well. Despite being short, there will be differences on this climb. In the 2015 edition, the recovery from all that effort will be very important, especially if you look at the last week in the Alps. It will be very complicated in case you have to defend the lead, although the last week gives many tactical possibilities in case you have to attack. In general, it’s a Tour where you have to arrive in good shape and stay fresh and well recovered until the very end.
I like this Tour, it’s harder than what the last years have been and requires me to recover well from the Giro d'Italia. But I will prepare myself thoroughly."

Bjarne Riis:
“I like this parcours and I think it is going to be a spectacular race. I hope we will perform well in the team time-trials. The first week will be very demanding and stressful in order to get a good position in the peloton before for the first climbs. I also like to have cobblestones, because this year they resulted in a very interesting stage, although I hope it does not rain that day.
I like this course. It requires us to have a strong team and the absence of a long time trial is also good for us. I don't think the Tour has to always stay the same. In the same way that not every year there are cobblestones or a time trial. The Pyrenees and the Alps will be very hard and that will make a spectacular race: we need to have a spectacular race and I think that's a good change”.

Tour de France: Chris Froome about his (no) partecipation, aiming Giro and Vuelta

Froome in Florence, 2013
"There's no two ways about it, next year's Tour is going to be about the mountains. There's very little emphasis on time trialling which means the race will be decided up in the high mountains. With 6 mountaintop finishes it is going to be an aggressive and massively demanding race.
The team and I will have to give it some careful consideration before we make any commitments to which of the grand tours I will compete in.  I see myself as quite a balanced GC rider and the Giro with it's inclusion of a long TT of 60km and tough uphill finishes will make it a well balanced race which suits me well.  If I did the Giro I may also be able to get myself back to top shape for the Vuelta and go there with a realistic chance of aiming for the win.
In the past I've only targeted one grand tour each season but it could be a good opportunity for me to focus seriously on two.  It's still early days though and we'll have to sit down and put our heads together as a team to work out what 2015 is going to look like for us.
I actually quite enjoy the challenge of riding on the cobbles. It's a difficult and stressful obstacle for us to overcome when it's part of a race like the Tour de France, but we're all in the same boat and there's no reason why I'd be any worse off than any of the other GC contenders. The cobbles were not the cause of my departure from the Tour this year, it was the crash on the previous stage which could have happened to anybody.  I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. 
We'll have to see who's going to be there but I think Alberto Contador will be the man to beat.  You can never discount the likes of Nairo Quintana, Vincenzo Nibali and other GC contenders like Purito (Rodriguez) and Valverde.  Alberto is the guy who stands out though.  He came back after his injury in an amazing way to win the Vuelta España title this year and I expect him to be just as strong next season".

Tour de France 2015 Presentation (and a bitter taste)

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Ready to listen
The new jersey
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Route confirmed

First of all, I cried like a cow: images of the last Tour de France on the screan, so many emotions and the bitter taste of the end of a dream. Not one image and not one word for the crash that  ended Andy Schleck's career, that hurts. But also that has been the last Tour de France.
Even worse considering that Cadel Evans was there and  called on stage. He's going to retire, just one more race in Australia, named after him. The memory of the Tour he won in the last day ITT on Andy Schleck. It was 2011, the  Tour of his victory on the Galibier - and I was there. 
Fortunately they don't show images of it. The victory in that Tour changed Evans' life, as well as Andy's. In a very different way.
Not there instead Alberto Contador, nor Chris Froome. Weirdly Team Sky placed its team camp today.
Looking forward, not to the past, the next Tour offers climbers good opportunities: a tricky start with a taste of Classics, pavé and a lot of wind in the North, then Pyrennes, some average mountain in the center of the country and the Alps. Very few time trial.
The start is in Utrecht, the finish of course in Paris: there are 9 flat stages, 3 hilly stages, 7 mountain stages, 5 summit finishes, 1 ITT and 1 TTT.
First reactions sound enthusiastic. I like it too. Various, it's going to be open.
Finally, a bit of fashion report: almost all riders were wearing dark boring formal suit. The only exception: Blel Kadri, in shirt. Not bad also J.C. Peraud wearing jeans and a destructurated short jacket.




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Some pavé
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Some Classics' climbing
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A new summit finish in the Pyrennes
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On stage
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All stages
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Official poster
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Tony Gallopin