Week in Review: 5 must-read stories from the week of Nov. 11
No peloton for old men
By Andrew Hood in Madrid
The stars lined up for Chris Horner during the Vuelta a España en route to becoming the oldest rider in history to win a grand tour at age 41.
But now, just when he should be on top of the world, Horner finds himself lost in space, without a firm deal to race next season.
And instead of planning out his 2014 campaign, the first American to win the Vuelta is pursuing a contract, certain he has two more years of racing in him, but facing the prospect of retirement.
Several factors combined to put Horner in this unsettling situation.
No Shack, no Alonso
First, Horner finds himself caught without a deal because he thought he already had something in the bag.
Two events in September combined to shape Horner’s fate. First, ongoing discussions with RadioShack-Leopard changed when he started rocking the Vuelta, thus upping his value. And second, Formula One driver Fernando Alonso stepped up to save Euskaltel-Euskadi from oblivion.
Alonso was set to take over Euskaltel’s license, planning to keep most of the team’s riders while adding some new ones. His interests and Horner’s quickly converged. Sources told VeloNews that Horner was poised to join the team, and at close to his asking price; one said Horner was asking 1 million euros per year with a two-year guarantee.
But just as quickly, things soured between Alonso and the Basques, and the deal was scuttled in mid-September. Alonso vows to regroup and form a new team for 2015, but Horner was left hanging.
By the time the Alonso deal unraveled, it was very late in the game for any rider without a contract, especially one who was in his 40s and asking for a lot of money.
Asking too much
Price was an issue in Horner’s negotiations with RadioShack, which will be rechristened Trek Factory Team in 2014.
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Shimano’s disc product manager discusses the future of brakes
By Caley Fretz in Maui, Hawaii
When Shimano sneezes, the industry as a whole holds out a tissue. To fall out of the company’s graces would be perilous indeed; within the cycling industry, it has no real match. It’s more than twice the size of its nearest competitor, SRAM, and has for well over a decade been the undisputed king of components. Nothing about the machines we love changes dramatically without Shimano’s blessing.
This month, that blessing was applied to the road disc brake. VeloNews was on hand in Maui, Hawaii, for the North American launch, and caught up with the senior product manager behind the new R785 disc system, Dave Lawrence, to find out what the largest component brand on the planet has to say about drop bar disc brakes.
VeloNews: What set off development?
Dave Lawrence: The understanding that (discs) were going to be coming in the future. At first we came out with a mechanical road disc at a lower price point; something for commuters and bikes like that. It started at the very low end, basically just a mechanical disc with a drop bar lever compatible stroke, at least five years ago. It was all Tiagra level. People were starting to play around with running them on some ’cross bikes and commuters.
At the time, the European pros weren’t the ones clamoring for it as much. So that’s as far as we went for a bit. But development on the hydraulic version started about the same time, five years ago.
VN: Who are these new discs for?
DL: First and foremost is, anyone who is looking for all-weather braking. That’s one of the distinct advantages of a disc versus a rim system. The easy one is the ’cross guys. It’s legal, they race in crappy conditions. And then, from there, it’s people who are looking for something with more confidence.
The linear progression of the braking is so predictable. You start to feel the brakes coming on sooner, and you get a very consistent feel all the way through the stroke. And I think that is really confidence inspiring. I saw it in the elite riders, they go into the corners braking later, feeling very confident in the consistency. That lends itself well to the average rider, someone who is less confident.
We’re looking into the idea that discs will be legal in non-UCI road races in the U.S. That could change things here, if suddenly you can race them in a crit. What does that do? Well, it brings up a host of things that we thought were farther down the line. We’re working on that now.
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Book Excerpt: Cavendish rehashes 2013 Tour de France struggles
By Mark Cavendish
I don’t like excuses and have never had much time for people or bike riders who make them. Yet as that hardest week unfolded, I could find and point to factors that in some way mitigated the near misses that, it being me, were now invariably described as “failures.”
In Montpellier on stage 6 there were undoubtedly a couple of issues. One was my bike — or “that fucking bike!” as I referred to it on the bus after the stage, my booming voice easily audible to the scores of fans and journalists huddled around the bus. I had four or five bikes at the Tour, and I’d sensed that something might be wrong with this one on the second day in Corsica. Yes, my legs had felt heavy, lifeless, but that still didn’t seem to fully explain why I was struggling so badly. I’d wondered whether someone had shunted me on the first day and slightly damaged the bike, cracking the frame or a wheel and making them feel spongy. I’d asked the mechanics to strip it down and check it out. Meanwhile, I had ridden stages 3 and 5 and was 40 km from the end of stage 6 on a spare when I came down at a roundabout. The team car stopped, the mechanic handed me a new machine … or so I thought, until, our radios having let us down and left me chasing without any teammates, I realized to my horror that I’d been given the same spongy bike from stage 2. It either hadn’t been changed or hadn’t been fixed, hence the “that fucking bike!” diatribe.
My mood wasn’t helped by the fact that we had gone too early again, duped by the stampede of general classification contenders and their teams that was now a daily occurrence. The conventional wisdom was that they would avoid crashes by staying at the front. In reality, it was more dangerous than ever up there, with more and better sprint teams sniffing around than in all of my previous Tours. Our problem was getting sucked into the frantic, stop-start chaos of it, losing patience and confidence in the timings we’d discussed before the stages. If one guy went too early or too hard, that could compromise everything. I wouldn’t ever criticize the guys if I felt that they were committed, and they had certainly been that in Montpellier. At the same time, I could also tell myself that the combination of the damaged bike, the chase after my crash, and the imperfect lead-out had contributed as much to my defeat as the bloke who had beaten me — in this instance, André Greipel.
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Misguided nostalgia: Changing positions on handlebar style
By Lennard Zinn in Boulder, Colorado
I have long been a stickler about only riding with a classic, round handlebar bend. I knew that there was no need to even try anything other than the “Merckx bend,” because Eddy Merckx knew how to grip a handlebar better than anybody.
Of course, having part of my job the past 30 years be testing bike equipment, I’ve certainly had plenty of “ergo bend” bars on my bikes. But I was always eager to go back to the classic round bend. I also avoided road bars with a back sweep, flare, or raised tops; how could you establish the same position you had before if the bar came back toward you or bent upward from the stem clamp? You’d have to drop the stem around accordingly for the raised sections, and it couldn’t do anything about the sweep or flare …
A couple of things happened recently, however, that caused me to rethink my position (pun intended) on the subject. One is that the bends on the bars got better. I must not be the only one who thought that early ergo bend bars, with the big reverse bump in the drops, were a bummer, because you don’t see any of them around anymore. And when Lance Armstrong started showing up with his brake levers sticking up super high, I cringed at it just like I did at his tall, black socks. But other riders followed, and the bar bends adapted so that they accommodated high brake levers.
The other thing that happened is that I became older, and while that may be a gradual thing, I find that the changes seem more abrupt, almost from one day to the next. One day, you find that your hands, back, shoulders, and neck can’t take what they used to, just like you suddenly find yourself looking for reading glasses when you want to read the length stamped on a crankarm, the recommended bolt torque imprinted on a stem, or the label on a wine bottle.
I never questioned having the drops of my handlebars level and the brake levers clamped well down on the curve of the bar. It seemed fine that my hands slid down the drops to land on the top of the lever hoods, just like Eddy’s did.
Now, however, my hands go numb when they get pinched for a long time in the smooth curve of a classic-bend bar where there is no support under the center of the palm. And I find that I’m happier when the top of the forward projection of the bar is horizontal (rather than having the drop be horizontal), giving my hands a nice platform behind the lever. The lever, which I set to angle up from this platform, I can grab like a handshake, rather than having my wrist bend as my hand slides down the curve to land on the lever hood.
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Craddock, Haga latest members of the youth movement at Argos
By Andrew Hood in Madrid
Argos-Shimano has built a successful foundation by forgoing big-ticket stars and established pros, instead mining for undiscovered talent.
Rather than hire expensive and sometimes demanding big-name riders, the Dutch team has tapped the under-23 ranks for seams of talent, and molded those men into major players.
Look no further than Marcel Kittel, a winner of four stages in this year’s Tour de France, or Frenchman Warren Barguil, who at the ripe age of 22 won two stages in his grand tour debut at the Vuelta a España.
Fitting perfectly into that modus operandi of the Netherlands-based team are American talents Lawson Craddock and Chad Haga.
“In cycling, you depend on true talent, and we believe those kids have true talent,” Argos manager Iwan Spekenbrink told VeloNews. “Lawson is one of the biggest talents of his age. It doesn’t matter if he’s American or from any country. He’s a big talent, period. While Chad hasn’t followed the traditional path to cycling, we see big room for improvement for him.”
The fact that the pair sidestepped other top programs to join Argos in the big leagues is testament to how serious young riders are taking the team’s program. Craddock’s arrival to Argos surprised some after he came up through the Bontrager development team, and many expected him to sign with a major U.S. squad.
Spekenbrink said the team had the 21-year-old Craddock on its radar as far back as last year.
“We saw him doing very well at U23. If you’re good at U23, you can be a good pro in five years. We have to make those steps carefully,” Spekenbrink said of Craddock. “He will have a chance to experience all kinds of racing, then together we can discover his potential.”
Both Craddock and Haga will have plenty of chances to race with Argos. The team’s grand tour focus will be on the sprints with Kittel and John Degenkolb, so that means there will be plenty of second-tier opportunities for both riders at smaller, but still very important races.
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