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Giro d’Italia – LIVE!!!

After a few days of searching the net for Giro d’Italia videos or streaming feeds, I found THIS!  Absolutely amazing!  The site lists down ALL the options for the viewers.  The best feed is Pop TV, where you can mix and match the video and audio.  Right now we are watching the video, but listening to the Eurosport audio.  COOLNESS!!!

Right now Andreas Kloden is doing well, coming in first in the second time check and overtaking the guy just ahead of him.  Levi Leipheimer, on the other hand, had to dodge a motorcycle and is now laboring his way up the final climb.  Alberto Contador is not having a great day, very understandable as he is riding with a fractured shoulder.  After the news of Contador’s injury, all eyes actually turned to Kloden and he is rising up to the challenge.

Here’s hoping that the Astana boys will do well.  GO ASTANA!


Giro d’ Italia: Stage 1 – Zabriskie Out

I’m still trying to figure out how to watch the Giro!!!  Argh!

Anyway, the main story for Stage 1 is that David Zabriskie of Slipstream had to leave because of a crash.  The crash actually affected many riders, including Astana riders, but Zabriskie was very shaken and had to be taken to the hospital.   I’m not sure about this but I heard it was a high speed crash.

At the finish, Andreas Kloden finished first among the Astana boys, coming in 8 seconds after the lead group.  Alberto Contador finished 2 seconds after, and Levi Leipheimer finished 10 seconds after Contador.

I have got to look for videos of the Giro!!!


Giro d’ Italia: Team Time Trial

The American teams dominated the first stage of the Giro d’ Italia with Slipstream coming in first, and High Road coming in third.   Astana came in seventh, not bad considering they were not able to prepare as much as the other teams, and there are sixteen teams all in all.

There are talks that the Giro could have the best field among the major tours this year.  The field includes Paolo Bettini, a 2-time world champion, Alberto Contador, last year’s Tour de France winner, past Giro winners Paolo Salvodelli and Gilberto Simoni, some of the best sprinters in Eric Zabel and Robbie McEwen, Vuelta a Espana winner Denis Menchov, and last year’s winner Danilo Di Luca.

Astana actually has three bets in Contador, Andreas Kloden, and Levi Leipheimer, but they have all been downplaying their chances because of the very little time they had to prepare.   They all found out about their invitation just last week!  Let’s see how the Astana boys do in the coming days.  Everyone is hoping that Alberto Contador peaks in the third week, during the mountain stages.


Astana part of Giro d’ Italia

Good news to US Postal/Discovery/Astana fans out there! I just found out that Astana was invited to be part of the Giro d’ Italia! Eat that, Tour de France! This is really good news. Astana has been doing really well in the competitions they’ve been joining.

It will be a challenge for the team though because they received their invite late. They will have to cram their preparations and make last minute plans.

I don’t usually follow the Giro, but it’s gonna be different this year I guess.

Go Astana!


A mess that is called CYCLING.

Here’s the story. The Amaury Sport Organization, otherwise known as ASO, the organizer of cycling’s best events such as the Tour de France and Giro d’ Italia, has not invited Astana to the Giro and the Tour this year. This is because they were BURNED by all the events during the past two years, which included Astana’s exclusion in the 2006 Tour and its exit in the 2007 Tour. The International Cycling Union, otherwise known as UCI, has called this decision ABSURD, as do I, because it is clear that this year’s Astana is very different. It has gone through an MAJOR overhaul. There is a new manager, team director, new members of the team – heck even Graham Watson, one of the best cycling photographers, is a new addition to the team!

Now even before this, the UCI and ASO have had their differences. It has actually gone from bad to worse, proof of which is UCI’s call for the boycott of Paris-Nice, the next tournament organized by ASO. The teams have just met and decided to go on with Paris-Nice, which is a huge blow to the UCI.

Here’s my take. At the end of the day, these teams are funded by sponsors, who want exposure in the biggest cycling events. If the teams cannot be part of these big events, the sponsors will most likely think twice about their expenses. So by calling a boycott, UCI is actually helping kill the sport, even by just a little bit. However, the ASO isn’t off the hook either. Why not invite Astana? Why single them out? Hey, the T-Mobile team, now called High Road, has had a longer history of doping, and they’re still there. But banning High Road isn’t what I’m after. I’m after ASO’s FOCUS on what really matters – doping controls, safeguards, and penalties. Banning one team, which by the way is a NEW team altogether, will not ensure the absence of doping this year. It will not. So instead of all this fighting and bickering, everyone should be working on other things. I personally think that a 2 year ban is a very light penalty, especially for the younger cyclists. Why not have a lifetime ban? Why not strip the cyclist of ALL past awards? Why not have a stiff monetary penalty?

The victim of all these? The sport. I really hope that the end of the it all, the sport will prevail.

(Picture from the Johan Bruyneel website, taken by Graham Watson, one of the best, if not THE best cycling photographers ever.)


Tour of California

I’m pleasantly surprised to find out that 1) the Tour of California is well on its way and 2) Levi is leading!  It says a lot about Astana, a new team after the revamp.  I’m very excited for the team, but I still can’t believe that Astana will not be part of the Tour (Hey ASO, any way you can change your mind?  Pretty please???) .


Astana not part of the Tour!

Just when I thought Astana will be the team to beat in this year’s Tour de France, I find out that the team was not invited to participate. WHAT?! After building an awesome team led by Contador, Levi and Kloden, they don’t get to join? I understand that ASO is wary because of what happened in the past. But c’mon! It’s almost a totally different team!

I was really shocked when I found out. I’m actually lost. I don’t know who to cheer for. Will it be CSC‘s year, with Andy Schleck, who’s supposed to be the next Lance Armstrong? (Good luck to you boy!)

I’m so confused by all this.


Crazy Tour de France

Yes, Tour de France 2007 is over. It was a weird tour – really exciting, disappointing, shocking – definitely a roller coaster ride for the fans. After my last Tour post, all the excitement and shocking news happened, from the Alps to the Pyrenees to the last time trial and to Paris.Vino, the number one fave (supposedly – he definitely wasn’t MY favorite) screwed up so much in the Alps that everyone was sure he was out of contention. But in true Vino fashion, he came back – and boy he came back HARD – during the first time trial. He was probably humiliated in the mountains that he made sure he was going to win the time trial. HE FLEW. He beat Cadel Evans, who came in second, by more than a minute. People were amazed, people thought he still had a slight chance, depending on his performance in the Pyrenees – but they thought WRONG. Vino was tested positive for blood doping which resulted in Astana pulling out of the race. How sad for the team who was doing so well overall. I was especially sad for Kloden – he worked so hard for Astana, for Vino, all for nothing. I kinda like the guy.

Rasmussen, the number one fave for the King of the Mountains jersey, delivered indeed. He attacked in one of the first major mountain stages (forgot which one), got the yellow jersey, and held on to it for more than a week. Everyone thought he was going to screw up the time trial, but he surprised everyone with a strong finish. He and Alberto Contador of Discovery Channel made the Tour so exciting in the Pyrenees, with their maneuverings and attacks and all, that it became doubly disappointing when Rabobank, his own team, withdrew him from the Tour. He was withdrawn right after he beat Contador in the last Pyrenean stage. The reason was because the team found out he missed doping tests during the training, and because he lied about his whereabouts. Now, see, here’s the thing. If he missed the doping tests, why was he allowed to join the Tour? UCI also needs some cleaning up, in my opinion.

Alberto Contador – bless him – gave us something to be excited about. He attacked like hell in the mountains, until he cracked in the last Pyrenean stage. Then he won the yellow jersey, and defended it with all his might during the last time trial. Levi Leipheimer was the leader of Discovery Channel at the start, but along the way the team realized it was Contador who really had a shot at winning. And just like in the movies (okay, fine, I’m exaggerating ’cause there are not a lot of bike movies out there), Leipheimer ended up being a domestique and brought Contador to the finish line during the last mountain stage.

I need to talk about Popovych too, because HE WAS THE MAN! He worked so hard in the mountain stages and his work helped the team and Contador. His work cracked the leaders, until there was no one left with Contador except Rasmussen, Leipheimer, and Evans. I love Popo! After Georgie, he’s my next fave from Discovery Channel.

I never paid attention to Cadel Evans in the past, but after this year’s Tour, he gained my respect. HE. DIDN’T. GIVE. UP. He was dropped so many times but he kept coming back! And he’s an awesome time trialist. I wonder if he’ll ever win the Tour. Next year, maybe?

The Tour was so exciting and the final time gaps of the Top 3 riders are evidence – they were all within 30 seconds of each other. How cool is that?!

But it’s over now. Time for the teams to look for new sponsors, because there have been a number of sponsors who pulled out already. Again, damn you doping riders! You are destroying the sport that is feeding you!

Yes, it’s over. Time for riders to defend themselves against doping accusations. Damn you doping fools, you are destroying the sport! I admit, I now doubt all winners, all great rides, all comebacks, because of everything that has been happening. And I find that sad, because I am a fan. I can only find solace in the fact that they are stricter now with the controls, and slowly but surely, it seems like the controls are working.


Tour de France Review: Prologue to Stage 6

It has been crazy in the office the past week so I wasn’t able to closely follow the Tour! I’ve been relying on the headlines of the different cycling sites. Good for me that the first few stages are flat stages, which are not as exciting as the mountain stages. Thank God for the weekend, now I can catch up.

Ah, yes, the flat stages – ‘slower’ than other stages, not as exciting – but this doesn’t mean they don’t offer drama and interesting stories. Thanks to uTorrent, I was able to watch the Prologue and Stage 1. As I write this, I am watching Stage 5, first truly exciting stage with lots of climbs, including one that’s Category 2.

The Prologue was amazing! It was all about London – the weather was perfect, the backdrop was beautiful. All of the Brits’ hopes were pinned on David Millar and Bradley Wiggins. Poor Millar felt the pressure and ended up being 13th, the anchors said he felt like a newbie the week leading to the Tour. Wiggins did better, but it just wasn’t enough. Fabian Cancellara, the winner of the Prologue, F-L-E-W. He took so many risks and they paid off! Too bad for Stuart O’ Grady, when it was his turn he was the fastest at the time check, but he crashed in a nasty turn. My favorite Georgie was out to win, what with a very disppointing second place (by a few seconds!) finish last year, but he simply wasn’t good enough. He came in third after Cancellara and Andreas Kloden. Kloden did well and ended up in second place – is this a sign of what’s to come? Will Kloden do better than Vino? (I certainly hope so.)

Stage 1 was a typical flat stage. There was breakaway, which was caught by the peloton. And there were crashes here and there. The headline story though was that Robbie McEwen, a serious contender for any flat stage, was part of a crash and was left by the peloton. His teammates lead him back to the peloton just in time. And guess who won? From out of nowhere, Robbie surged ahead of the pack and won the stage! Even the commentators were surprised. Where did he come from? See, that’s the thing with Robbie, he finds these ‘holes’ within the peloton and brings himself to the front of the pack, sometimes without a leadout man, just going with the flow and following the leadout guys of other teams. I have so much respect for him because he makes sure he finishes the Tour, unlike other sprinters who give up in the mountains and end up abandoning. Boonen, anyone?

I wasn’t able to follow Stages 2-4, but I read that Stage 2 was won by Gert Steegmans. Surprising because he’s the leadout guy of Boonen, who was out to win because the finish was in his country, Belgium. In the end he let Steegmans win, I still have to check what happened to him. Stage 3 went to Cancellara and Stage 4 to Hushovd.

And then there’s Stage 5. It’s not a major mountain stage, more of a practice stage before the Tour reaches the Alps and Pyrenees. There is a Category 2 climb, 7 miles long, hard enough to cut up the peloton to groups, but not hard enough to destroy it to bits. There were lots of crashes, lots of them silly, but the major stories were the crashes that involved Kloden and Vino. Kloden‘s crash gave him a hairline fracture, we’ll see how that will affect his performance in the upcoming stages. Vino‘s crash caused him a few minutes, even if his whole team practically came back for him (except for Kloden). He is now a couple of minutes behind Kloden. What will this mean to Astana? We’ll see.

Some people think – what’s up with cycling? It’s just a bunch of cyclists racing. But there’s so much strategy to think about, there are mountains to be climbed, sprints to be won, and tactics to be used. With Stage 5 of the Tour, CSC needed to balance defending the yellow jersey and wasting there energy. Fabian Cancellara isn’t their leader, so CSC has to conserve their energy for the major mountain stages where Schleck and Sastre (their co-leaders) might need it. But the yellow jersey is the yellow jersey, and one should never disrespect it. In the end, he kept the yellow jersey. Good job.

Speaking of respecting the yellow jersey – I remember last year when I felt that Phonak totally disrespected the yellow jersey. The breakaway had a 30 minute lead on the peloton, and it should have been easy enough to defend the yellow jersey, but they practically gave it away. I was dumbfounded, and it truly showed how inexperienced Phonak was.

Speaking of CSC – I believe they have one of the best teams (I’m having doubts if Discovery is still THE best team out there). They have a stellar line up, they prepare intensely, and they strategize well. They just lack a standout leader. If they have one, they will win hands down. I absolutely don’t believe in co-leaders. The whole team should be focused on one person alone, it should be absolutely sure as to who the leader is. This is what made Lance win 7 times. Remember the T-Mobile mess with Vino and Ullrich? It was amusing to see how teammates are going against each other, and it definitely did not help in their cause at all.

Stage 6 was won by Boonen. Need to read up on that one.

I am looking forward to Stage 7, the first of the Alps stages. (I could have been there now, sigh.) There are 4 climbs, 2 Category 3, 1 Category 4, and 1 Category 1 climb. The leaders should start emerging in this stage – hey Levi, come out now! Please show me that you can indeed win this race!


The Greatest Show on Earth

Okay, okay. I’m biased. I know that only a few people will agree with me when I say that. To those who don’t know yet, I’m talking about the Tour de France. It just started, and I’m so giddy with excitement!

I admit, this year’s Tour is plagued with many problems, number one of which is doping. It’s not unique to the Tour, it’s a problem of the sport itself. It’s sad, but the show must go on. Sad because all winners will be doubted now, sad because so many good riders are sidelined due to doping allegations. My line now is “May the best non-doper win.” But I’m still excited, because every year the Tour has surprises, every year it offers drama. I’m still looking forward to the great (and stupid) decisions of the different teams, the performance of the peloton, the breakaways, and drama of the climbs.

A lot of people think this is Vinokorouv‘s year, but I think the race is still wide open. Who knows, we might just be surprised along the way. (Remember Rasmussen?) But I agree that Vino has a good chance of winning, primarily because it seems that he has a good team. Astana did well in Dauphine Libere, too well for my liking. The team won at least 2 stages and they did well during the time trial. Their Tour line up includes not only Vino, but Kloden and Salvodelli as well. Kloden is a good climber, and this has been proven twice when he was part of the Top 3 for General Classification. Salvodelli has won the Giro twice. But they have yet to prove themselves during the Tour.

And what about my team, Discovery Channel? They started strong this season, having several stage and tournament wins, but they were a big disappointment during the Giro and even the Dauphine. I’ve never been truly impressed by Levi, their chosen leader for this year’s Tour. Damn, he was #26 in the Prologue!

Yes, off they went. This year’s Tour de France has started, and I’m still trying to figure out how to follow it. Bittorrent, please don’t fail me. Anyway, CSC‘s Fabian Cancellara won the Prologue, even without their Director Sportif, Bjarne Riis. Riis recently admitted to doping during the year that he won, 1996. The Tour has since then taken out his name in all official publications, and they mentioned that Riis wasn’t invited this year. Well, that didn’t affect the team at all. Kloden was second – there goes Astana! And my Georgie was third! I was surprised to see another Discovery rider within Top 5 – Vladimir Gusev. It would have been great for the team but their leader was #26 – a mortal sin I think for any good leader. Not within the Top 20! I am so disappointed.

Okay, time for me to search for videos on the Prologue…