31 January 2014

Photo for the Day - Computers

When tracking every pedal stroke is a passion

Chris Froome and Richie Porte with their power meters on a training ride in Snowmass, Colorado in 2013.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw at Pedal Dancer®
Seeing these two riders out for a training ride in Colorado in 2013 was such a thrill. Hi Chris, Hi Richie, was about all I could say.

And I tried hard not to run them over.

Wow, is that who I think it is! Yes it is!  Photo by Karen Rakestraw at Pedal Dancer®  click images to enlarge
Did you know that Team Sky switched from using SRM power meters to Stages Cycling power meters for 2014. Yes, Chris Froome, well-known to be quite attached to his SRM will have to trade allegiance because his team signed a new contract in 2014 with Stages Cycling.

Stages Cycling is a Boulder, Colorado, based company. They manufacture a light-weight affordable ($699-899) power meter located in the crank arm of the bike. I find it interesting that team SKY also uses the services of Training Peaks, another Colorado based company. SRM is a German company. Read more: Team Sky switch to Stages Cycling power meters for 2014, By Road.cc

For a team known for exacting details and optimizing every performance enhancement possible through technology and training, people will pay attention to the equipment used by this team. It can translate to big sales to amateurs who want to ride like the pros. Although I'd still like to know why Team Sky's water bottles are green - proof that not everything should be copied.

Securing a sponsorship contract for monitoring the power of arguably the most powerful professional team in cycling must have been a tremendous celebration at the home offices of Stages Cycling. It is also a tremendous responsible for the young company. Road.cc did a complete review of the Stages Cycling power meter, read it here: Stages Power meter. Here is Team Sky's announcement of sponsorship: Stages Cycling join team for 2014

Stages Cycling manufactures only the alloy left crank arm, you'll still need a bike computer and software for reading power output. Compatible with Shimano Dura-Ace, Ultegra, SRAM, BB30, FSA, read more about Stages Cycling technology here: accelerometer based cadence measurement

Stage Cycling power meter is that small adding only 20g to the base crank arm weight.
Photo from Stages Cycling website.

Cycling software

I came across this lengthy list of computer software recently shared by RoadBikeRider in their newsletter, the list was compiled by Canadian cyclist Darren Cope and groups many of the miscellaneous software applications or apps for cycling. The number is far more than I ever expected. Thankfully the writer gives us his review and opinions.

Check out the list of cycling computer software and apps here: darrencope.com/cycling-software

30 January 2014

Photo for the Day - Teams

When you know a bike race is in town

A bike race is definitely in town when these team cars and buses roll in.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw at Pedal Dancer® click to enlarge
The 22 teams of the 2014 Tour de France were announced this week. Being selected for the Tour de France is big. Not only does the Grand Tour bring the best chance of highest income for the year, inclusion in the race is a symbol of being the best of the best (unless you are a French Pro Continental team then you just get to go).

Each of the 22 teams will have 9 riders, adding up to the traditional super big peloton of 198 riders and making getting a hotel room anywhere near a stage start nearly impossible. Below I have linked up each team's name with the corresponding ProCycling Stats page (great site!), the source for more information, team jerseys, riders, analysis and statistics.

WorldTour teams for the 2014 TDF

Wildcard teams for the 2014 TDF
IAM CYCLING (Sui) Sylvain Chavannel!
Team Netapp - Endura (Ger)

My review of the route and climbs of the 2014 Tour de France, here: Route of the 2014 Tour de France.  If the riders cover 3,656 kilometres in 23 days, think how far these team buses and team cars drive to get to the start and stop villages, to hotels, to feed stations, and pick up supplies. The teams cover big total mileage every year.
22 teams, 198 riders have to ride 21 stages and 3,656 kilometres in 2014

I always get excited driving down the road with the team buses heading in the same direction to the next start village. To me it has become a wonderful symbol of chasing a tour.

Well if you have to get stuck in traffic on the autoroute transferring between stages, you might as well be entertained in the midst of the team buses. At the Tour de France, Photo by Karen Rakestraw at Pedal Dancer®
Follow that van and it will lead you to riders training up on the cobbles. The atmosphere approaching any race day is so fun. The day before Ronde van Vlaanderen, Photo by Karen Rakestraw at Pedal Dancer®

Update: Chris Horner was confirmed as signing to Lampre-Merida. Photo for the Day - Chris Horner.  Read the news from today: Lampre confirms signing of Chris Horner for 2014 season. 

How much will Horner make at Lampre-Merida? Well that remains to be seen because he and his non-official spokesman Baden Cooke designed a contract heavy with bonuses. Which means the better the 42-year old races, the more money he will make. Awesome idea I told my brother in our morning conversation today, "Probably something they should require of more riders, like Andy Schleck for starters." Sorry Andy, but performance based models make sense in a world of get your World Champion victory or Grand Tour podium and rush to sign a four-year contract, then answer one hundred thousand interview questions about the big come-back so your salary makes sense. Chris Horner has motivation.

29 January 2014

Sports Psychology Webinar

Sign up if interested

Thursday, 30 January 2014: British Cycling teams up with TrainingPeaks for Sports Psychology webinar tomorrow (+ video), more info. You'll need to sign up for this free webinar ahead of time at follow this link and will be sent an email on how to tune-in.

Webinar: Thursday, January 30, 2014 1pm to 2pm MST / 8pm to 9pm GMT.

Training Peaks is a Colorado based company which has gone global and now assists amateur and elite athletes around the world.

Dirk Friel of Training Peaks and their hands-on monitoring of power and training for the pros.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer®

Photo for the Day - Signatures

I wonder why I collect signatures

Now that is a bunch of signatures

I seldom ask for signatures from professional bike riders, but in 2012 I did. I took a Colorado cycling jersey with me to the inaugural USA Pro Challenge in Colorado and gathered signatures (when I was not being Media, of course). What resulted was the jersey above.

Who signed the jersey? I can hardly remember now. I think that is Andy Schleck's signature to the far right, Jeremy Powers signed the right sleeve, Oscar Seville drew a little bicycle for me (center-right), I think that is Taylor Phinney in the center, George Hincapie is on here somewhere, so is Laurens tem Dan and Jens Voigt.

The most clear signature is on the back of the jersey (below) and is that of Cadel Evans. Also I recognize Tyler Farrar's signature above Cadel's because he has the strong T. Other than that I would have to research signatures and race rosters to know who is who on my prized possession.
I can only make out Cadel Evans' signature on the back of the jersey.

There was a time when riders would work to perfect their signatures, in fact extra points or cash prizes were awarded for penmanship. The tradition of a well-crafted signature held for some time.  In 2012 I also took a small Colorado state flag with me to Interbike in Las Vegas to collect signatures. I had heard Mario Cipollini and Miguel Indurain would be attending the bike show.

Take a look at these signatures from two legends of cycling:

This is Mario Cipollini's signature. I liked that he signed in the middle of the yellow sun.
This is Miguel Indurain's signature. I think this is so cool!

A little history about rider signatures:

The sign-in sheet is a tradition in the sport of cycling. Often used to insure that riders did not skip over the route by taking shortcuts, riders were required to sign-in at various points along the stage. Today they of course only sign-in at the start, but I come up blank when I try to think of any other sport which has this same tradition.

In the historical book of the Tour de France titled The Tour de France, author Christopher S. Thompson writes, "The newspaper L'Auto had an obsession with assessing the beauty and elegance reflected in the racer's handwriting at the check-point sign-in sheets. A regular feature in L'Auto from the very first tour, Racers' signatures often received prominent coverage. Racers photographs were often accompanied by their autographs, suggesting that a racer's signature was as representative of him as his face."

I am very fond of the tradition of signing autographs. Here Johan Vansummeren and Andy Schleck offer their signature to fans in California at the Amgen Tour of California in 2013.

Johan Vansummeren and Andy Schleck offer autographs under the palm trees of southern California.
All photos in this post by Karen Rakestraw at Pedal Dancer® .

28 January 2014

Photo for the Day - Passes & Badges

Some really great memories hang there

I have a bike room. A room like many of us probably have, in a section of the garage or a space in the basement. For many of us, our dream would be an entire room filled with bikes and equipment and good stuff.  My little space, which reflects my hobby, is tucked away in the basement and is actually a workbench with a collection of parts, tools, and lots and lots of memorabilia.

Today I noticed my collection of passes and badges hanging on the wall. Seeing them hanging there, reminded me instantly of my wide variety of experiences at past bike races. Wow, how they have collected over the years.

My favorite pass is this one - my VIP pass to the Tour of Flanders in Belgium (left in the photo below). That was an awesome experience! Apparently I Genodigde Brugge, although I haven't a clue what that means.

Now those were some fun times!
The pass hanging to right of the Ronde van Vlaanderen VIP pass above was my first VIP pass in the Unites States, a Rabobank VIP pass to the final stage of the Tour of California. I attended that stage with my nephew Kenny, I remember we were both so excited.

My first ever VIP experience happened to be the same day I first attended the Tour de France. The year was 2001. My sister-in-law Suz and I were standing in the street in Pau before the stage start when a nice gentleman came up to us and offered 2 passes for FREE. It took us a long time to accept they really were free. As in free is fun. "We actually need four please," we daringly replied, so four we got, two more for my brother and his good friend Stevo. The access with that pass was fabulous. And so started my absolutely spoiled access to bike races.

2001 - our first VIP passes to the Tour de France. I think we wore them well.
Perhaps my favorite VIP experience was in 2012, the time I got to hang out with my brothers, their wives and good friends at (once again) the Rabobank VIP tent in Los Angeles on the final stage of the Amgen Tour of California. After the race, the entire (now extinct) Rabobank team came over to hang out with us. It was the final year for the team, and it was a blast.

Relaxed fun with family and friends in the best ever Rabobank VIP tent
Another of my other favorite memories of being in a VIP tent lasted all of 5 minutes, just last year. After being out on the road in the pouring rain photographing the USA Pro Challenge race in Beaver Creek, I finally received a text from my friend Scott who said, "come join us in the VIP tent for a drink, we have a pass for you." I arrived dripping wet, only to be met at the entrance to the VIP tent by the largest scariest security guy ever who had clearly practiced his intimidation skills on fans for hours and would not let me enter. Fine.

Looking like a drowned rat, I hollered across the tent to Scott to come rescue me. Scott approached, and as if awarding me with a medal of honor, he draped the VIP pass around my neck. I turned to the security guy and smiled, smugly entering the restricted zone. I no sooner got to the table of friends when Scott informed me that they were going to dinner, "come join us." As we exited the tent, right in front of the scary security guard, Scott said, "Now can I have my VIP pass back." We all laughed, obviously that pass does not hang on my bike room wall.

Even the straps of other passes bring back memories.

Festina & US Postal?! are you kidding me, shameful, but they too tell a story.

I have accumulated lots of media, photo and press badges as well - those passes bring back memories of hard work but exciting access. They do not elicit the same fun memories that the VIP passes or bike show passes bring. Strange.

My bike room holds far more than passes. The space and workbench is filled with autographed jerseys on hangers, tires, old photos, parts I really should sell-off, inner tubes waiting to be used, and a nice box I finally bought to store my collection of race and team hats. But the fondest memories come from the trinkets, souvenirs or pins gathered over the years. so numerous, those probably will inspire future photos for the day .....

This was the sheet displaying all the types of badges allowed inside the team area at the Tour of Flanders in 2012.  It was thrilling to be there, read more stories from Belgium if interested: A day on the Kwaremont and Stories from Belgium.

27 January 2014

Photo for the Day - Tourmalet Loop Ride

One of the best loop rides in the Pyrenees

Riding along the D26. Part of this recommended loop ride, this road is between Lourdes and Bagneres-de-Bigorre in France
The first road I ever rode a bike upon in the Pyrenees was this beautiful green road above (D26). This may also be one of the very first pictures I took while riding in the Pyrenees. I'd say it was a good introduction.

The D26 happens to be part of one of the best 102 kilometer rides in the Pyreness (in my opinion) and one I have yet to map out and recommend on this blog. So here it is - the loop ride of: Lourdes - Bagnères-de-Bigorre - Campan - Col du Tourmalet - Barèges - Luz-Saint-Sauveur - Argelès-Gazost - Lourdes (starting at any point along the route) and riding in one big loop.

This year, a dream week in the Pyrenees awaits any cyclist lucky enough to attend the Tour de France. If you will be riding in the 2014 L'Etape du Tour, you will ride (race) much of this loop. If you will be attending stages 16,17,18,19 of the TDF, be sure to leave a day available in your itinerary to complete this entire ride on a non Etape (July 20th) or non Tour day (July 24th).

If you have ridden in this area before, watching the landmarks pass by during this year's TDF Stage 18 TV coverage will bring back fond memories. Any time you find yourself riding on the D918 through the Pyrenees, you will surely find a corresponding smile on your face.

Loop ride, Lourdes-Col du Tourmalet  click to enlarge 
Google Map
Route: D26 - D935 - D918 - D921 - D913 - bike path/D921B or D13 through Boo-Silhen back to Lourdes.

This loop ride provides a good sampling of what it is like to ride both the small roads and big mountain passes in the French Pyrenees. I particularly like the first part of this ride (be sure to take the D26 and not the busy D937) through the low-traffic green hills between Lourdes and Bagnères-de-Bigorre. It might seem like it is taking more time than the bigger highway, but the ride and short punchy climbs, are beautiful, fun and a good warm-up to the long steady climb up the D935 to the Col du Tourmalet.

Photos from the ride:  all photos by Karen Rakestraw (or ride partners) at Pedal Dancer (2003-2012)
That is me climbing on the nice quiet road to Campan from Bagnères-de-Bigorre
One of the most recognizable structures on the climb to La Mongie/Tourmalet is this avalanche shelter, (look for it in the TV coverage and you will know how much further the riders have to the summit).
The village of La Mongie might be a little quiet in summer, but you will see lots of cyclists on the road who will give you an encouraging cheer.
Looking back down at the ski village of La Mongie, you have a sense of accomplishing a big climb.
Almost to the top and the steep long climb continues
Just a few more hundred sheep to pass
A couple more curves to the top of the Col du Tourmalet
That small passage to the left marks your arrival at the summit. You will not be alone, this climb is very popular.
You'll need to take your own photo of the Giant, the landmark of the summit.
Sit on the patio at the restaurant at the top of the Tourmalet, have a drink, and watch the riders come and go. For most the climb is an incredible accomplishment.
Carry a souvenir back down the mountain in your jersey pocket
Now you'll have to get off the Tourmalet - down that valley you go on a long long descent west.
Look back to see how high you had climbed
Roll through the town and Barèges
Continue through Luz-Saint-Sauveur, or stop for a drink before continuing
Into the Lavendan Valley and past Saint-Savin (on the hill) and into Argeles-Gazost on your way to Lourdes.
From here you can catch the bike path/road back to Lourdes, this is your warm-down but plenty of miles of steady pedaling. Bikes are not allowed on the freeway, it's a bit tricky at the junction at Argeles-Gazost so check your GPS or map.

Remember the Hautacam sits within this loop ride, at the point of Argeles-Gazost: Photo for the Day - Hautacam.  Luz Ardiden is another off-shoot from this loop, take a left (south) onto the D921 at the town of Luz-Saint-Sauveur. Col d'Aspin can also be climbed from this loop ride, veer off onto the D918 east at the town of Campan.

More information

The #1 source of information, climb profiles, wonderful photographs, and history about climbing the Tourmalet can be found at: Velo Peloton Col du Tourmalet 

Other loop or recommended bike rides I have written about in France:

The route of this year's L'Etape du Tour (July 20th) includes some of this recommended loop ride (including the section of road between Bagnères-de-Bigorre - Campan - Col du Tourmalet - Barèges - Luz-Saint-Sauveur - Argelès-Gazost). This is basically Stage 18 of the 2014 Tour de France.
Map of route from the city of Pau to the climb of Hautacam.  Map from pyreneesmultisport.com

26 January 2014

Photo for the Day - Snow Hiking

I took my dog for a nice walk in the snow yesterday

When the snow is not deep enough for snowshoes, but the blue skies and windless day make for a perfect hike in the snow, that is when it is best to hit the trails. My dog Jack and I both put on our snow boots and enjoyed a beautiful blue-skied Colorado day in the nearby mountains (near Mt. Evans).

Today made me wish that nice winter weekends would last and the cycling season would stay at bay. I'd much rather be walking through the woods, and today I did just that.

Still, I am nearing 3000 visits to just this one post by Pedal Dancer (published only 24 days ago): 2014 Colorado Cycling Events and Bike Rides.  It appears people definitely want to participate in bike events in 2014.

25 January 2014

Photo for the Day - Cadel Evans

Cadel Evans - when 1 second really mattered

Cadel Lee Evans, BMC Racing Team.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw at Pedal Dancer®
It was a big day at the Tour Down Under yesterday(today), as Cadel Evans lost the leaders jersey to Simon Gerrans by 1 second. Richie Porte tore up the final climb to the finish line, winning the stage by 10 seconds and shaking up the General Classification. There are now four Aussies in the top five of the stage race.
  1. Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica Greenedge 18:02:19
  2. Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team 0:00:01
  3. Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida 0:00:05
  4. Richie Porte (Aus) Team Sky 0:00:10
  5. Nathan Haas (Aus) Garmin Sharp 0:00:27
The photo above has always been my favorite photograph I have taken of Cadel Evans because he looks so tired after the stage. To me this is how every rider should look after a good hard bike race. His is the face of exhaustion, always a good sign that the battle was hard fought.

This was Cadel before a stage start, refreshed, no road dirt, no exhausted eyes.
Photo by Karen Rakestraw at Pedal Dancer®

Another one of my favorites of Cadel, focused pre-race.
Cadel won the World Road Race Championships in 2009 earning those impressive stripes.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw at Pedal Dancer®
Cadel Evans lost by one fragile second in the battle on Stage 5 of the Santos Tour Down Under. The final GC outcome will be known on Sunday after the last stage of the Tour, but there is little likelihood that the climbers will get time bonuses tomorrow, it looks like Simon Gerrans might carry the ochre jersey to the final podium (unless more surprises are in store), leaving Cadel Evans to reflect upon that fleeting 1 second.

Other big accomplishments by Cadel Evans:
.... Santos Tour Down Under  2014 - missed by 1 second!
Critérium International 2012
Tour de France 2011
Tirreno–Adriatico 2011
Points Classification, Giro d'Italia 2010
UCI ProTour 2007

Check out this old photo I found of Cadel from 2005, 9 years ago, at the Tour de France.
A young "Cuddles".  Photo by Karen Rakestraw at Pedal Dancer®
Cadel's teams have been:
1999 Volvo-Cannondale (MTB)
2001 Saeco Macchine per Caffè
2002 Mapei-Quick Step
2003–2004 Team Telekom
2005–2009 Davitamon-Lotto
2010– BMC Racing Team

His country has been Australia, for 36 years.

Oh, and Jens Voigt put on the green Most Competitive jersey AGAIN for Stage 5! Photo for the Day - Jens Voigt

24 January 2014

Photo for the Day - Jens Voigt

Got to love that Jensie!

Is he a man, or is he machine?  Or should the caption read: Jens Voigt heading into his last year of racing wide-eyed and bushy-tailed. Actually Jens stood like this for maybe two minutes in the middle of a team presentation. Until someone must have hit his restart button.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw at Pedal Dancer®
Jens Voigt is back to racing this week at the Tour Down Under and once again making us all proud by earning the most aggressive (called the Most Competitive) jersey after Stage 3. I'd say Jens is sending a loud and clear signal that this, his last, year of bike racing will certainly not be a glory tour; Jens intends to race to the end.

I agree no rider is a bigger crowd favorite, no rider is so recognizable no matter what country he steps foot inside, and no rider has become such a legend among the old and young. He is endearing, enduring and deserving. And he is ours. I find comfort in watching Jens race his last year, because I believe he will always be involved in the world of cycling. This is not goodbye for Jens Voigt.

Way to go Jensie!
Jens Voigt, well-known for his grit and wisdom, continues to delight. Cameron Wurf, a Tasmanian former Olympic rower on the Cannondale team, has been blogging from the race, his writings include side stories about his chats and time spent with The Jens.
  • "My conversations with jensie are becoming a highlight of my day in the bunch. Each day there is somthing different for us to have a yarn about and today was no different."
  • "A few minutes later I saw a black flash rip passed in my peripheral vision which could only mean one thing, jensie was on the attack. He went so hard that he was half a km up the road before anyone could think about following let alone chasing him. What a LEGEND!"
  • "Anyways back to fun with jensie. Later in the day I waited until we had a good little audience around of people I felt we could have a little fun with. My cannondale boys were there of course, the lotto boys, the sky boys and a few of jensie's team mates. At this point I said "hey jensie, why does your jersey look like a T shirt? Which got a good laugh out of all the boys as I had hoped. Then as things calmed down a bit Bernie Eisel, another absolute legend and gentleman of the bunch said "jensie ordered them a few sizes to big as he is planning for his retirement! Knows its his last year of getting free cycling kit!" That response had us in stitches, nice to have a bit of fun in the bunch, it is the first race of a long season afterall and we have to ensure we enjoy as much jensie moments as possible!"
Read Cameron Wurf blogspot or follow him on Twitter @cameronwurf  (Cameron Wurf himself won the Most Competitive award at the TDU on Friday, January 24th!)

Cameron's blog is a good read for the inside scoop of what it is like for a racer at the Tour Down Under. There are just 2 more stages remaining in the Santos Tour Down Under after today's stage, and Cadel Evans is in the lead in General Classification, his team BMC leads the Team Classification. Adam Hansen leads the Mountain Classification, and Simon Gerrans leads Sprinter Classification. But on January 23rd Jens Voigt was again known as the most aggressive rider!

2014 Santos Tour Down Under Stage Results:
Stage 1 Simon Gerrans (Aus) Orica-GreenEdge
Stage 2 Diego Ulissi (Ita) Lampre-Merida
Stage 3 Cadel Evans (Aus) BMC Racing Team
Stage 4 André Greipel (Ger) Lotto Belisol
Stage 5
Stage 6

If you'd like more flattering photos of Jens, here are a couple: All Photos on this page by Karen Rakestraw at Pedal Dancer®

Jens Voigt and his legs that will shut up.
Can you imagine if you saw this guy riding toward you? - you'd smile too!
I wrote this fun story last summer about Jens Voigt searching for a cookie and coffee at a bike race, still one of my favorite memories at a bike race: Jens Voigt p/b Cookies and Coffee

Learn more about the most aggressive jersey and all its names in the various tours: Aggressively Courageous and Combative

Of course Jens is now wearing this jersey of the Trek Factory Racing team, read more about the TREK jersey design and make.
Photo from www.trekfactoryracing.com

Some previous Pedal Dancer blog posts about Jens Voigt (there are many more):
Jens Voigt - Hero of Stage 20 (2013 TDF)
Amgen Tour of California - Stage 5 results (2013 ATOC)
Jens and Stuey (2012 TDU)
Jens Voigt on the Podium (2012 ATOC)
Fan Frenzy: Jens Voigt - Stage 16 (2011 TDF)
Image of the day: Cover boy Jens (2011)
Recommended Reading: Jens Voigt (2011)
Upsetting the Apple Cart (2010)
What would Jens Do? - Jen's letter to the fans