giovedì 30 ottobre 2014

In Short: AG2R TM Lavenu about Carlos Betancur

Betancur in yellow in the last PN
Carlos Betancur is one of my favourite riders and it has been great to see him so strong in the last Paris-Nice, where he won with a wonderful attack uphill, grabbing the leader jersey from a very unlucky Geraint Thomas. After that he disapeared and rumors said he was going to end his contract with AG2R. It wasn't true but the French team's Team Manager explains here his concern about the Colombian rider, very talented but not exactly committed.

Read it all here:

In Short: 
1. A good talk: "I learned via the press during the Tour de France that he was going to leave the team so I called his agent and he asked if there was a possibility of that happening. I said I was ready to discuss things but I've never had those discussions with him. Betancur is under contract with us until 2016. I had a good talk with Carlos during the Vuelta and it seems as though he has taken on board what we said. It seems that he has good intentions and I hope that he'll follow through on those good intentions over the winter because we want to have the best Carlos Betancur again. We know the boy has such incredible talent, it's crazy."
2. Not the behaviour of a top-level athlete: "It was very hard to get him to come back to France, and when he did come back he was a long, long way off his best shape. There was a period from April to June or July where effectively he didn't have the behaviour of a top-level athlete. He was ill but we never really found out what kind of illness he had. That spell of four months wasn't a positive one. We've spoken about all of that and we're starting over – him and us – with new intentions. He has enormous potential and we want to make the most of it – for him most of all, and for us as a team too. He needs to organise his life and behave like a champion athlete. He does have bit of a recurring weight problem that he needs to take care of, and we're there to help him and advise him with that. But then again, it's ultimately up to him to decide on the direction he wants to give his career."
3. Homesick? Betancur is going to become a dad: "We've noticed that when Colombian riders come to Europe it can be difficult for them, especially when they come to Europe for long periods of time.It's not like with the Australians. When the Australians come, they come for eight months at a time in Europe and they're ready to go to war. We've suggested to Carlos that he brings his family to Europe and organises his life here, because world cycling at the highest level is primarily in Europe. He came to Europe very young, at 19 years of age, and he went to Italy, where he found a welcoming entourage, which we can understand. Does he have to keep living in Italy? Why not live in France instead? In any case, we're here to help him organise himself in Europe."

My opinion
Well, a pro cyclist life is a hard life, for him and for his/her family. Carlos Betancur, like others, have to decide his priority. In my opinion that's a good thing, if you don't feel the contrast, the painful awarness of the relative incompatibility of a full family life with a serious top athlete life... well, you are only half a man/woman. Then you mast decide but it's good to know that there is a decision here.

lunedì 27 ottobre 2014

Yes We Like... Anton Vos: cycling photographer and Marianne's bro

I met him in Florence, at the finish of Worlds, and he remembered it well when I asked him on fb: "Sorry I was in your way when you took a photo". Yep, that's true :)
Anton Vos, just like his sister Marianne, is a very nice person and extremely kind. 
I asked him an interview and he accepted. See what he says:

Ilaria: You are one of the most famous cycling photographers: is there a race or a place you especially like to take pictures of? Why?
Anton: I like a lot of places but the traveling around the world is one of the nicest thing of my job, also world championships are always special.
Ilaria: Normally how many shots do you take in a race day and how many 'good' pictures you get at the end? Once I talked about that with Tim the Waele after a Roubaix and the difference really impressed me. 
Anton: I take between 500 and 1000 pics, 50 till 80 are sorted out. 
Ilaria: A big selection!
Anton: ...but first most important pics are between 5 till 10 pics.
Ilaria: Does the editing work take you a long time? And how do you like it?
Anton: I try to keep it as natural as it comes out the camera. I do just little adjustments in photoshop and some pics are cropped.
Ilaria: How do you see your photography? It's more a facts reporting, a kind of art, a way to catch feelings or...?
Anton: I see it as reporting, but I like to see work from other photographers because you learn every day! and I like also capturing moments in a special way...
Ilaria: How did you become a photographer? Was that your goal or did it simply happen?
Anton: I became photographer cause my sister was photographed by Cor Vos. Then I did a course with him and so my photography career started.
Ilaria: Indead, you are also Marianne Vos' brother and she's probably the best rider in the history of cycling. How do you feel about that? 
Anton: I'm very proud of what she has already achieved and what she is doing for women's cycling in general, she is a dedicated and very inspiring person to all people I think.
Ilaria: Yes! Marianne and you look very close: has it always been like  that? How was she as a child?
Foto Nico Vereecken - Photonews
Anton: We used to train together and she didn't want to loose. That's the difference between me and Marianne, I'm easily satisfied, and Marianne is not, it's changed a little in the years, we are now both aiming for the highest in the things we do.
Ilaria: I know that you ride but did you ever race?
Anton: I raced from youth 10 yo till amateur, I think till 2006.
Ilaria: Who is your favourite male rider? And female (Marianne excluded?)
Anton: Not an easy question! I may I mention two: Elia Viviani, because he is a real pro and I met him cause his girlfriend is racing too, and he is a very nice person. And I like Alberto Contador, because he is really interested in Marianne's racing and is following her career.
Ilaria: Interesting, that I didn't know. And what about women?
Anton: A female rider... it's not easy, but I choose Anna van der Breggen. She is very talented and she has been Marianne's big helper in the last two road championships Marianne won. I think she's developing very well and I think she will be one of the riders to watch. It was also nice to see the how the team Rabo Liv was very dominant... they took each other to an higher level.
Ilaria: Cycling a part, what do you like to photograph?
Anton: I like to photograph nice sunsets, or nature, wildlife like in SA, but I still prefer cycling.
Ilaria: How many kg of equipment do you bring around normally?
Anton: Two bodies, 70-200 300 and a 24 105 as lenses, laptop and chargers. It's a lot of stuff!
Ilaria. Yep! If you could change something in cycling, what was that?
Anton: I wish the female cycling got more attention on tv, cause they deserve that. Its growing but still needs more and women cycling is awesome to watch, not only the worlds, like this year there where 9 world cups with all different winners.
Ilaria: What's your best memory as a cycling photographer, the best moment you remember?
Anton: I always like the worlds because its such a big podium but overall i loooooooove the traveling: it's the best about this job.
Ilaria: You rode the Eroica this year: did you like it? 
Anton: I only photographed the Eroica. Next time I want to compete. It was a wonderful day and an awesome event.
Thank you very much!

domenica 26 ottobre 2014

When in Florence: The Kiosk by the River (Feverish)

The kiosk
It's true that Fall has got the most beautiful colours. This red, this gold, this brown, this purple, this feeble green, their infinite nuance and shade. It's true that the most amazing beauty is often to be found in simple, plain things: the sunlight seeping through the sparse foliage, patches of pure blue, the abstract intense glitter of the river's surface and the opaque murky green of its invisible dephts.
I can stay here all day, siting by the river and siping the bitter coffee from the kiosk, or just reading on a bench like I'm doing now, still slightly feverish for a recent cold but refusing to spent all day at home.
At the table by the river
Florence for the Florentins is shared in 'di qua dall'Arno' e 'Oltrarno', meaning 'by this side of the river' (where the center is, with Piazza del Duomo and Piazza della Signoria) and 'beyond the river' (Piazza del Carmine, Piazza Santo Spirito, Piazza Pitti, Porta Romana, Piazza Tasso). The whole city is then enclosed by the hills, Fiesole and Settignano 'di qua dall'Arno' Piazzale Michelangelo,  San Miniato al Monte, Arcetri, Forte Belvedere, Bellosguardo 'oltrarno'. The Center is held by a boulvard called 'i viali', built on place of the ancient walls and still dotted of ancient gates. I live just ouside the gate of Piazza Beccaria, south of Florence, 'di qua dall'Arno', in an area also called 'Bellariva' (Beautiful Bank) because it's close to the river and rich of parks. 
I used to come here to play when I was a child and my son first rode his bike here, in a part of the park designed for that, with an intricate net of small roads and even a small bridge. The busy guy and I met here in June, the last time I have actually seen him, in one of the hottest day of the year...
It changed lately, it became unkempt, quite dirty and dangerous at night. It's a pity.
The park
But the park itself is still beauty, the view on the river and toward Piazzale Michelangelo is stunning and since a few years there is the kiosk with its basic tables and effective service. The owner is a friendly woman in her thirties. Food and price are honest. Here you can drink a coffee, a beeer, a glass of unpretentious wine while eating an average croissant. For lunch they have salads, toast or precooked pasta. All tasty if not special.
In add you can stay as long as you want and the sparrows' show is for free. They are entertaining, those little birds! they have no fear and come eating directly from your plate, tweeting and jiging about in a cheerful mess.
I love this place. It's also a convenient meeting point to go cycling: a bike lane passes just by the kiosk and from here you can ride toward the Valdarno (by the river) or to the Chianti (up to Piazzale Michelangelo, down to Galluzzo...) or to the Center (but by bike it isn't fun, let me say, unless you are a true... Roubaix rider!).

sabato 25 ottobre 2014

Cyclocross: Wout Van Aert Won Polderscross in Kruibeke

1. Wout Van Aert
2. Sven Nys
3. Klaas Vantornout
4. Jim Aernouts
5. Sven Vanthourenhout
6. Bart Wellens

Tour de France: What About Geraint Thomas as Team Sky leader?

Geraint Thomas:
"What do we think of the 2015 Tour de France route then? #cobblestones!"
GT: "That was one hell of an epic stage. Professional sport can be truly brutal. Gutted for Froomey but I'm determined to fight even harder now....all the way to Paris."
It's about time, isn't it? I read a lot of comments last year suggesting it and yes, I think it's true. I think that could be one of the explainations behind Chris Froome's probable option for Giro and Vuelta, with Bradley Wiggins focused on the trak. Paris-Roubaix is going to be important, not only as a goal but also as a test. Wiggins said he aims to win it and last year he did pretty well (9), Geraint Thomas (7) has always did well on the cobbles so if they are a bit a drag for Chris Froome - as suggested by Sean Kelly - Thomas is looking forward.
By the way, no: I don't think that avoiding cobbles is the main reason. Froome isn't a Roubaix rider but has never looked particularly afraid of paved roads. In the last Tour de France he was supposed to defend his position not to improve it in the pavé stage, and he had got a very good escort, including also Geraint Thomas. He crashed in a previous stage and started it injuried, absolutely not the best in such a demanding day. Then another rider brought him down before the race hit the first sector of pavé. It was raining. A combination of bad luck and adverse factors where the cobbles don't seem decisive. Not really.
That day Gerain Thomas finished 21 and may said he could have achieved a definitely better result racing for himself since the start. In GC he was 14 at this point. In general he's a good climber and able to sprint. In Paris-Nice he took and kept for two days the leader jersey, lost it to the final winner Betancur and crashed out from 2nd in stage 6. He finished the Tour in 22 place, working hard for Froome, then for for Porte, finally fighting for a team stage victory. In my opinion he has got a good chance.
I named Richie Porte: he said last year that to be leader in the Tour he should change team. That's probably true. It could have been last year but he fell sick. Now I suspect that Porte is going to play a support role - in Italy or in France - also in the next season. 
Sum up my impression is that Team Sky will play its cards on many tables: a double big tour win by Froome (Giro and Vuelta), Paris-Roubaix by Wiggins (or Thomas), a top 5 result in the Tour de France by a young British talent (Thomas) and maybe some nice stage victories by Ben Swift. About the Classics... that's Team Sky weak point since ever, but now they signed Stephen Roche, he can do it.
It doesn't seem so bad. But maybe I'm wrong...

A Perfect Move: Elia Viviani to Team Sky

A track background, professionalism, good English: the fast wheel from Verona looks perfect for Team Sky. And vice versa. Viviani is a riders I like a lot, especially for his quality of aiming to the best and never happy with less. He's a mature guy, older than his age - 25 - able to interpretate a situation and to express the feeling of the peloton. His girlfriend, Elena Cecchini, is also a class rider. He well represents the new generation of procycling.
See what he said: 

Elia Viviani:
"This is the perfect move for me and the timing’s right to make this big step in my career. I know exactly how Team Sky works and the professionalism, rider development and work ethic is exactly what I'm looking for. I hope that with my new team mates and staff I’ll be able to reach all the goals I have and this will be the perfect environment for me to do that. As an Italian rider my dream is to win a stage at the Giro d'Italia, and that’s a big target for me next season. Joining Team Sky is a great opportunity for me and I’m determined to bring them success."

Dave Brailsford
"I've followed Elia’s career for a long time, initially on the track and also as his career has progressed on the road. He has a fantastic temperament and is a fast finisher. We’re looking to have a greater focus on sprinting next year and Elia will help us pursue that goal. We’re very happy to welcome him to Team Sky and to support his ongoing development."

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:

Phinney and Compton in Richmond