Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood: Let the springtime begin

It’s been a beautiful week in the neighborhood here in Boulder, Colorado, as spring is clearly upon us. Friday’s forecast calls for 78 degrees and sunny skies, with no snow on the horizon — bad news for the skiers in the area, but welcome news for those of us ready to get back into a riding routine. For me personally, the past week brought a 31st birthday, shared with VeloNews technical editor Andrew Juskaitis and celebrated with some good old-fashioned tricycle racing at The Dark Horse, a local saloon sometimes referred to as “The Dork House.” The week also heralded the arrival of a much

By Neal Rogers

It’s been a beautiful week in the neighborhood here in Boulder, Colorado, as spring is clearly upon us. Friday’s forecast calls for 78 degrees and sunny skies, with no snow on the horizon — bad news for the skiers in the area, but welcome news for those of us ready to get back into a riding routine.

For me personally, the past week brought a 31st birthday, shared with VeloNews technical editor Andrew Juskaitis and celebrated with some good old-fashioned tricycle racing at The Dark Horse, a local saloon sometimes referred to as “The Dork House.”

The week also heralded the arrival of a much anticipated fancy new road bike (no excuses now) and the impending visit of a couple of college friends in town for a weekend of epic rides and general carousing. Let the springtime games begin, I say.

While out for a St. Patrick’s Day lunchtime ride with a colleague on Boulder’s notorious Flagstaff climb, I spotted (okay, was passed by) local pros Chris Baldwin (Navigators), Greg Henderson (Health Net-Maxxis) and Chuck Coyle (Vitamin Cottage-Dean), who were punishing themselves with hill repeats up the steepest sections of the climb. Baldwin, the 2003 national time trial champion, was flying up the hill unlike anyone I have ever seen on a climb I’ve ridden countless times.

Afterwards I caught up with the affable Baldwin — whose Navigators team has spent the early season in racing primarily in Italy — to find out what he’s been up to, and what he’s got coming up next.

In his first year training under former Motorola and Mapei team doctor Dr. Massimo “Max” Testa, Baldwin has undertaken a new training regimen that is focused on improving his climbing. “I’m just starting to feel right lately,” Baldwin said of his early season form. “I have this huge aerobic base, but I haven’t spent much time going anaerobic.

“Racing in Europe this year, I’ve been having trouble when teams were going to the front and sprinting up the climbs, so Max has got me on a program where I’m doing sets of three eight- to 10-minute repeats, sprinting into the hills, and then going into six minutes at lactate threshold. It’s non-stop work, and it’s kicking my ass.”

Training with Henderson, the New Zealander track sprinter who outsprinted Italian Ivan Quaranta at the Tour de Langkawi and more recently took second place in the 15km Scratch Race at the Mexico World Cup, Baldwin admits he is floored by the Kiwi’s brute strength.

“I’m trying to turn him into a grand tour contender,” Baldwin joked. “He’s just like Henk [Vogels] — he’s only comfortable in the big ring. He’s just so muscular that his strength exceeds his aerobic ability. If you were to throw him in the little ring, he’d just spin out and blow. He was riding the steepest parts of the climbs in the big ring. I couldn’t believe it when I’d finally hear him shift to the little ring at the very top.”

As it turns out, Baldwin’s current form won’t be seen at next week’s Redlands Classic, or the Sea Otter Classic, for that matter. Instead, his Navigators team will stick to its Europe-based program until the Tour de Georgia, one of Baldwin’s season objectives.

Baldwin admits it’s an unusual situation, racing for an American team that doesn’t prioritize early-season domestic races. Instead, Navigators brass allows the team to focus on European racing. It’s a formula that’s worked, as evidenced by Vogels’s second-place finish at Ghent-Wevelgem last April.

“It’s a total anomaly in the sport,” he said. “Terry [Deeks], the chairman of Navigators [a maritime insurance company], is just psyched on the team. It’s definitely more of a Schroeder Iron type of sponsorship, where the CEO or owner of the company wants to back a cycling team, than it is a Saturn type of sponsorship with clear marketing objectives. For Terry, the potential to put a team in a race like the Vuelta is rewarding enough. He has no alliances with one country.”

At the end of a three-week stint back in the States, Baldwin will return to Europe to race in the Italian Settimana Internazionale di Coppi e Bartali, March 24-28, which suits him just fine. “For me personally,” Baldwin said, “I love it. The more racing in Europe, the better. I’d like to be over there year-round. The European preparation is better for our guys.”

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One team that will be toeing the start line at Redlands, and at this weekend’s Pomona Valley Stage Race, is the Japanese Shimano Racing Team. Registered as a UCI D-3 squad, the Shimano Racing Team is the number one men’s bicycle racing team in Japan.

Team manager Akira Bando, who also spends his days working as a drivetrain specialist at Shimano’s Osaka, Japan, headquarters, is looking forward to the upcoming events.

“The Shimano Racing Team has great international experience but competes mostly in Asian events,” Bando said, “so we are very happy to be visiting the United States this year to race. Our riders are very excited to compete with the great North American riders and teams, and of course we are also happy to visit our colleagues in the wonderful weather of Southern California.”

Riders to watch include a former Mapei team member and winner of the 2003 Tour of China, Yoshiyuki Abe, who also rode for Japan in the 2000 Olympic Games. He will be joined by 2003 Tour of Malaysia winner and Giro d’Italia finisher Hidenori Nodera as well as Shiniri Suzuki, the number-one ranked rider in Japan.

Shimano Racing Team roster for U.S. events:Yoshiyuki AbeHidenori NoderaShiniri SuzukiHisafumi ImanishiTomoya KanoYoshimasa HiroseKaoru OouchiMasamichi YamamotoYukihiro Doi  (U-23)

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The Redmond, Washington, velodrome known as the Marymoor Velodrome has taken on a title sponsorship and, consequently, a name change. The venue has received a three-year sponsorship from Group Health Cooperative and will now be referred to as the “Group Health Velodrome.”

According to Harley Sheffield, the ‘drome’s managing director, the Marymoor Velodrome Association puts on more than 130 days of competition and training programs at the velodrome each year. Under the partnership agreement, Group Health will get exclusive naming rights for the velodrome and title sponsorship of the popular Friday-night race series.

“It’s a pretty impressive thing that a large corporation is willing to commit $350,000 to a facility dedicated strictly to cycling,” Sheffield said, “especially one that is 30 years old. Not long ago the county was evaluating the costs of all their facilities and it was pretty clear that the velodrome was not generating a lot of revenue – especially when compared to well-used soccer fields of comparable size.”

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Worlddiff.com women’s cycling team owner John Alsedek has reason to smile this week. Although he’s not ready to divulge the name, he has confirmed a new title sponsor for his women’s team.

“Not exactly Saturn money,” Alsedek explained via e-mail, “but enough for the team to do a good NRC schedule and do so with support at all the events.”

Although a new title sponsor for the team means less publicity for Alsedek’s worlddiff.com, an online publication billed as the “e-zine for the globally inquisitive,” it does mean less work for Alsedek, who has been working multiple jobs to help offset the team’s expenses.

Alsedek said he’s holding off announcing the title sponsor until after Redlands, in order to give the sponsor time to set up a new web site and prepare a formal announcement, but insists the check is already in the bank.

“It’s a pretty modest sponsorship for now,” Alsedek said, “but one that has the potential to grow into a big women’s program for 2005 if I show them it’s worthwhile.”

The team’s current roster includes:

Tracy Cundiff (26, Alexandria, Virginia)Andrea Dvorak (24, McLean, Virginia)Sarah Faulkner (25, Austin, Texas)Magen Long (19, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) (Associate, also races for OBRU-TheBicycle Store)Jessica Peil (24, Great Falls, Virginia)Aimee Vasse (24, Grosse Pointe Park, Michigan)

•••

Good news for those lucky readers who have the Outdoor Life Network in their homes. OLN’s cycling-event coverage will now premiere on Sundays (starting March 28) and repeat on Thursdays, meaning that in many cases, same-day delayed coverage will now be shown on Sunday afternoons.

Below is a list of OLN’s updated cycling premieres :

3/28  Criterium International (same day delayed), 4p.m. EST4/4  Tour of Flanders (same day delayed), 4p.m. EST4/11   Paris Roubaix (same day delayed), 4p.m. EST4/18  Amstel Gold (same day delayed), 4p.m. EST4/25  Liége-Bastogne-Liége (same day delayed), 4p.m.EST5/2  Dodge Tour de Georgia, 4p.m. EST5/9  Sea Otter Classic, 2:30p.m. EST5/16  Tour of Romandie, 2:30p.m. EST5/23  Tour du Lanquedoc, Part 1, 2:30p.m. EST5/30  Tour du Lanquedoc, Part 2, 2:30p.m. EST6/6  Giro d’Italia Finale, 4p.m. EST6/13  USPRO Philadelphia, 4p.m. EST6/20  Classique Des Alpes, 4p.m. EST