Wednesday, December 29, 2010
A few months ago I was doing a ride from Win’s Wheels here in Westlake Village. It was a celebration of sorts, to send Brett (a Win’s employee) off to college and the start of his bicycle racing career. Well we had a nice large group for our ride and we rolled out easy but soon enough we were going up the famous Rock Store climb. I can’t remember who it was trying to race me to the top but I was keeping him close just for kicks. Suddenly we were coming up on two riders when the fellow racing me said to them, “look who’s coming up behind you.” Now these two guys were totally decked out in DZ-Nuts clothing and my competitor on the climb used this to his advantage. I gladly slowed down to talk to these super die hard DZ-Nuts fans. They were brothers and they called themselves the DZNUTSCREW. We all re-grouped at the top, chatted and took some pics together before the ride continued down to the coast. It was a great moment for me and a great day on the bike.
Weeks later, I reconnected with the DZNUTSCREW off the bike. We carved some pumpkins on Halloween with our kids and one of the brother’s showed me his SMART car. He told me how long his commute was day in and day out on one of the world’s busiest freeways. Turns out he’s a dedicated High School teacher with a major commute. He had an idea that we should wrap the SMART car in DZ-Nuts logos for some rolling advertising during his drive to and from school. After some discussion with the DZ-Nuts management team we got the car wrapped and the end result sure is SWEET.
The DZNUTSCREW showed up at my place to take some photos of the new Nutmobile. I couldn’t help myself but to get on top of that car with my bike. After a few publicity photos that the neighbors seemed to be enjoying, we headed out on the road together for a training ride. And it was a really good training ride indeed. Turns out the DZNUTSCREW is a great motorpacer and we got a ton of pics for the web site. It was such a nice sunny winter day and riding behind that car all logoed out just made the legs roll over with good sensations.
For more stories by DZ please click on the title link.
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
This article was written before Aldo passed away due to brain cancer a few weeks ago. He was truly one of the best cycling coaches out there...enjoy.
Aldo Sassi had a reputation as one of the most trusted men in cycling thanks to his transparent approach to coaching. Over the last 25 years, he has nurtured this reputation, which was the backbone of the Mapei team from 1999 to 2002 and is the foundation of the Mapei training centre northwest of Milan.
From the Mapei training centre, he helped Cadel Evans win the World Championships in 2009, and Ivan Basso return to win this year’s Giro d’Italia. He continues to coach them as well as Matt Lloyd, Michael Rogers and a new, controversial, client, Riccardo Riccò.
We wanted to know, what is so special about Sassi’s coaching philosophy and what is his process? He was kind enough to take a break between appointments and explain.
TESTING THE ENGINE
“I mainly examine the VO2 Max and power output at his anaerobic threshold when I take on a new rider. Of course, I take into consideration the period that he just finished when I analyse these numbers, whether he just came off a month of rest or the Tour de France.
“From the numbers, I build a training programme. It’s simple, it’s based on a three-day algorithm. The first day is SFR, Salite-Forza-Resistenza or strength and resistance training on climbs, the second day is anaerobic threshold work, and the third day consists of long rides with climbs. This is repeated with some small variations and I adapt it based on the rider’s day-to-day response and his SRM power feedback.
“I get data back from someone every day. Ivan Basso sends me his daily. By the morning, they have an e-mail back from me with any needed updates. To be honest, the algorithm for Ivan and Cadel [Evans] is quite similar. I make some variations, mixing in the time trial bike on some days instead of the road bike, or using motor pacing on some days.”
MY PHILOSOPHY: NO DOUBTS, SLEEP WELL
“If you are strong enough you can reach the results you want on your own using only your commitment and your muscles. If you don’t believe this then you had better look for another coach.
“In the recent past, I had a very strong rider who obtained very good results always in the same period of the season. However, I did not understand how he always obtained those results every year in that same period. I sat down with him and told him, ‘Listen, I think that it is better we stop working together now. I am not interested in continuing.’
“He said, ‘I am clean, I am sure of it.’ He said that but I could not understand how he did what he did. I said, ‘Maybe it is clear for you, but it is not for me. And I prefer to sleep well.’
“When I start with a rider, I ask them to commit to my philosophy"
“When you have doubts that the results are not solely physiological, even without the proof, you are forced to choose your direction and give a signal. I want to sleep well, without any doubts. The classical ‘preparatori’, or old-school coaches mix training and pharmacological support, but I work only on training.
“When I start with a rider, I ask them to commit to my philosophy. When they come here with their team, like Lampre, I reach that commitment with the team. When the riders come here on their own, like Ivan Basso or Matt Lloyd, I talk with them directly about this.
“Every rider that comes here has to be committed to ride clean and be available for all the haemoglobin testing that we wish. If someone does not accept these, then we don’t work with him. Maybe this is not enough to be sure they are clean, but it is a good start.”
“A rider’s goal has to be clear to me and shared amongst him and his team. I can go about creating a training programme for him once I know his racing schedule. Sometimes with the rider, I will suggest to the team to create a certain race schedule.
“Cadel Evans, for instance, needs a light first half of the season because his goals have been at the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France, and that is a big intensive block. Also, he trains in Australia over the off-season and the weather there quickly improves his condition. This could be different for Cunego, who this year will have a strong focus on the April classics.”
“The mind is the driver of the machine. It motivates.
“An athlete has to work in a determined way as Ivan Basso did this year to prepare for the Giro d’Italia. It means that even when it is rainy and dark outside, as it is today at the Mapei headquarters, that you go out and train regardless. You have go out and complete your required training even when you think you are not doing well. It is on these dark days when the other riders lose their motivation to train and you can get the advantage, the mental advantage.
“Mental strength is the most important when it comes to time trials, where a strong head will truly prevail. The effort and the approach is very different with a road stage or a one-day classic. In time trials, you have to concentrate the entire time if you want to win or even do well. You are there, holding your aero position and if you feel pain in some particular part of your body then you must ignore it, to resist it or fail. It can be a terrible event because your mind has all the time in the world to wonder and let any small problem get out of control.”
“A cyclist has certain physiological attributes: VO2 Max, power output at anaerobic threshold, body fat per cent… It is like Formula 1: if you only have the driver and no car then you cannot win. You have to have the car as well as the driver. Some might try to show that if you have a good driver you could still win with a bad car. This is not true in cycling. Either you have to be able to produce six watts per kilogramme on the climbs or you lose.”
“Self-belief is very important. There are riders who don’t believe in themselves and some of these riders fall into doping. Through doping, they believe they can find the magic aid to get results.
“I try to encourage and build my riders’ self-belief by supplying them some reference data. I show them the numbers that I know is enough to guarantee results. I then prove it to them over an over in the lab, behind my motor bike or with the data I get back from the races that they compete in. I say, ‘Look, here are the numbers, you can win race X or race Y.’
“If you are able to work for X amount of time at six watts per kilogramme then you will be competitive with the top riders at the Giro d’Italia or Tour de France. I get them to the level where they can produce that power and when they get it, they will trust themselves. Simply put, I am building their self-belief.
“The mind is the driver of the machine"
“Matt Lloyd had an impressive season this year with a stage win and the mountain classification jersey at the Giro d’Italia, but he is not always able to focus on his goals. If he was able to then he would be able to aim for a podium finish at the Giro d’Italia. Matt is an example of a cyclist who has the ability, but lacks self-belief and the commitment to pursue the goal. He needs to believe in himself, to believe that he can reach his goals.”
“Stress is a point that coaches and their athletes often leave untouched. A rider can suffer from stress before or during a race. Sometimes, there is an actual stress, but I am afraid that sometimes stress is just an excuse.
“Stress can come from directors, family, parents of young riders or even coaches. Once it is there, forget about it, your performance will be severely penalised. A lot of it depends on the rider’s own psychological characteristics; some of us are always stressed and some of us are not.
“Some people say that Damiano Cunego stresses too much during stage races, which does not allow him to sleep enough and to recover properly. There is no way around it, you will certainly have problems when stress causes an imbalance in your normal recovery habits. The people around Cunego have warned me that this may be an issue and since we started working together this autumn, I have given it some thought.
“How do you combat it? You have to talk with the rider to put him in a more comfortable environment. If you are self-confident, you don’t stress so much. I have tried different methods. I remember 20 years ago, I started to work with a technique called Autogenic Training, a relaxation method developed by Schultz [German psychiatrist Johannes Heinrich Schultz - ed.]. You tell the rider his legs are getting heavy, his arms are getting heavy and so forth. They start to relax. It had mixed results, though, and I stopped using it.
“We have to work as a team to set proper targets for Damiano Cunego. For example, we need to decide if it is good for him to target long stage races or the one-day races, the classics. The one-day races are less stressful than the long stage races, but that also depends on what a rider, not just Damiano, believes. If a rider is highly motivated for long stage races and you limit him to one-day races, then he will suffer.
“To avoid stress, the rider has to be consciousness of his capabilities and to put his targets at the right level. When you have targets related to your capabilities then you will be satisfied and not stressed. Otherwise, you will be stressed beyond believe trying reach an unobtainable goal.”
“Coaches have to try to monitor the rider’s work and his response to it. This is where the science is not perfect, we are still far from having a good support or analysis method to manage a rider’s workload. I receive data files from the riders daily – average and peak power outputs from their training and racing via the SRM files – and we draw blood when they come in to the Mapei Centre. However, it is difficult to quantify the work done and especially the kind of work that was done. Today, we have too much data coming in and not enough time to manage or to analyse it.”
“The relevance of a coach in cycling has to be considered only so much because the riders are the ones who perform, not the coach. I am not trying to sell myself out of a job, but just being honest.
“Probably the best sign of a good coach, though, is to choose his athlete well. I never search for cyclists, they have to find me if they are interested. Otherwise it means there is no motivation and if there is no motivation, it is only a waste of time for me and for the rider.
“When we had the Mapei team, it was mandatory to be tested and followed from the Mapei Centre, but was obvious that not all the riders did it that way. I did not have the possibility to pressure those who only followed the Mapei programme partially. After that experience, I accepted only athletes that asked to work with me.
“My first answer was usually, ‘I am sorry, I have no time and I am not the best because if you work with me I will impose some limitations.’ Like I said to Dario Cioni, ‘If you want to go faster, the first thing you have to do is change your coach because you know that I work only on training. There are other preparatori who are better able to improve performances!’ Fortunately, I had athletes like Cioni and Evans who said, ‘No Aldo, we will only work with you.’
I think I made a good choice by selecting Ricardo Riccò – I am sure of it. He has the motor, the car, but the driver is not completely there. I am going to help him build his mental strength and self-belief. There are too many other coaches out there who want to try to improve his body’s physiological response – that is not my job.
“I know he is a risky client, but sometimes you have to roll the dice to win big. If someone doesn’t put faith in this sport, how can we make changes? Besides, Riccardo has a wife and child to support and needs help.
“The Mapei Centre is good because of its ethical approach and its attitude to coaching each cyclist as a man, as a person. This was our philosophy from the beginning. We have had tried to create a family, a hi-tech and science-based one. After the first day of testing here, the cyclist knows all of our staff, which gives them great self-confidence.”
Monday, December 13, 2010
Ivan Basso went training with his Liquigas teammates on Monday morning but admitted it was a difficult day in the saddle after hearing the news that his coach Aldo Sassi had passed away during the night.
Basso knew Sassi was not well said he will leave the Liquigas training camp in Sardinia to attend Sassi's funeral.
The two have been close ever since Sassi agreed to coach Basso as he made a comeback from his two-year suspension. The two spent long hours together simulating races near Varese and developed a special affinity when Sassi was diagnosed with cancer. Basso lost his mother to cancer in 2005.
"It's very sad news and it's difficult for me to express how I feel," Basso told us.
"I'll always remember the close relationship I had with Aldo. I did a test at the Mapei centre last Tuesday and that was his last day there.
"I had a special relationship with Aldo because of what I've been through and for what he was going through. He was a very understanding and affectionate person. He was one of the few people who really understood me. We had some special moments together during my comeback and then on the podium in Verona at the end of the Giro.
"It's been a difficult time for him since he was diagnosed with cancer but he was an example to us all how he fought hard and carried on."
Friday, December 10, 2010
Mario Cipollini has launched a stinging attack on what he called the lack of machismo in modern cycling. The Italian, who recently joined the Katusha team as a consultant, said that he is bemused by the reaction of certain riders in the current peloton to defeat.
“I lived a very different cycling,” Cipollini told L’Equipe. “At the beginning of a sprint, I felt like a gladiator, ready to do anything to keep my place. And when I lost, I wasn’t capable of going to congratulate whoever had beaten me, like Andy Schleck did at the Tour. Me, I’d hate him because he’d taken the bread from my mouth.”
The friendship between Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador is something that Cipollini finds difficult to fathom and he echoed the thoughts of the late Laurent Fignon on the aftermath of the “Chaingate” incident.
“Seeing Schleck and Contador embrace on the Tourmalet after crossing the line and then seeing Contador affectionately pinch Schleck’s cheek during his interview was unreal for me,” Cipollini exclaimed. “Logically, Schleck should have been raging, he had just lost the Tour after all.
“After the chain slip incident on the Port de Balès, he should have attacked the Spaniard day after day, in front of the microphones and on the air too, without giving him time to piss!”
Nor did Alberto Contador escape Cipollini’s criticism. “Machismo is disappearing, I can’t find it in Contador,” he complained. “Contador has the anonymous face of a surveyor or an accountant.”
Cipollini was also left bemused by the reaction of Italian leader Filippo Pozzato at the end of the world championships road race in Geelong.
“Pozzato has just been beaten for third place and a second later he has only one idea in his mind, to congratulate the winner,” Cipollini said incredulously. “What can be going on in his head? Has winning become so incidental at this point that there is no joy or disappointment? Are they only working men now?”
“I read an interview with Umberto Veronesi, a scientist, a reputed oncologist and Minister for Health,” Cipollini continued. “In five hundred years or more, human beings might have both sets of genitalia, male and female. I don’t want this evolution to have started already in cycling…”
Cipollini admitted to being far more expressive when he was defeated and he believes that the riches now on offer to top cyclists mean that the edges have softened on many rivalries.
“At the end of Milan-San Remo in 2003 I threatened to strangle Bernhard Eisel while shaking my fist because he had blocked me with 300 metres to go,” Cipollini recalled. “And I was really frightening. I could see it in the eyes of the spectators.
“I had the meanness in me and it was necessary. The others weren’t going to give me any gifts. In Flanders, on the Koppenberg, the gregari would throw themselves under your wheels to block your route. And if you were in a bad position 3km from the line, Kelly and Vanderaerden would start an echelon straight away to put you in the ditch. That was the rule.”
Basso and Contador
As well as decrying the lack of machismo in modern cycling, Cipollini also offered his thoughts on the doping problems that have engulfed the sport, both internationally and in his own country. He called for life bans for offenders, and he believes that Ivan Basso’s involvement in Operacion Puerto ought to have marked a sort of “year zero” for Italian cycling.
“I would have saved Basso, who was at the start of the problem,” Cipollini explained. “The manipulator was Fuentes. He was the one who cleaned the blood and kept it. Basso has served as a scapegoat, he has paid and punished himself with humility and came back into the light at the Giro. But all of those who came afterwards knew, and with them, I would be less tolerant. To err is human; to continue is diabolical.”
In spite of his earlier criticism of Contador, Cipollini also expressed his hopes that the Spaniard can prove his innocence.
“I hope Contador manages to prove his good faith, otherwise it would be a big disappointment,” he said. “Cases like Riccò and Di Luca were only a matter of small motors trying to improve their engines. Riccò is not Pantani, but Contador is of another calibre.”
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
As the European-based riders climbed a mountain for their first official rider meeting, American-based riders also went off the beaten path for their first team get-together. It’s safe to say all Team RadioShack riders have a “need for speed.” And Tuesday morning this urge was answered…While attending camp, our sponsors at Nissan wanted to add a little “innovation” to traditional team-building activities and training rides, so they invited us to the Nissan Arizona Test Center in Scottsdale.
With over 3,000 acres and 46 miles of test roads, it remains one of the largest and most innovative automotive testing centers in the world…And as we soon found out – the perfect place for a cycling team with a “need for speed” to do some team-building.
The day began as Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Chris Horner, Matthew Busche, Bjorn Selander and Ben King took turns experiencing the Nissan and Infiniti line-ups. Each rider rode passenger as professional test drivers reached speeds up to 110 mph around the track.
Naturally a competitive bunch, several challenges quickly unfolded. With bikes on hand, the riders raced a two-mile time trial course. Despite the veteran field, Bjorn Selander took the win. Perhaps Lance and Levi were saving up for the real competition of the day….the AutoCross Challenge. Each rider would race along a course marked by orange cones in a Nissan 370z. As the rules allowed each driver three runs, the best posted time would be taken for each rider.
And so the competition began! Levi, a proud owner of a custom-Team RadioShack GTR, was feeling confident in his ability to “master the shift” and maneuver the course like a true professional. However earlier that day, Chris Horner raised a few eyebrows becoming the first person the Test Center has ever seen to strip the tires off a Nissan Leaf. One thing was clear: Redneck Horner was not afraid to take the turns full-gas.
Despite Horner being deemed the day’s “biggest dare devil” and Levi’s taunts, Lance edged both longtime teammates and friends to win the Challenge. Also on hand was Trek-LIVESTRONG director Axel Merckx. Axel represented the team directors of the world with an aggressive-style of driving unmatched by any of the riders. Congrats to Axel for taking the day’s “Most Aggressive Driver” award. Trek-LIVESTRONG is lucky to have him behind the wheel...
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Monday, December 6, 2010
Alberto Contador put his doping problems aside for a few days to spend time with his new Saxo Bank-SunGard teammates in the Canary Islands.
The Spaniard does not know if he will be able to race with Bjarne Riis’ team in 2011 after testing positive for Clenbuterol during the Tour de France. However he seemed to enjoy the get-together in Fuerteventura as he got to know new teammates including Richie Porte, Baden Cooke, Nick Nuyens and Jonny Bellis.
Team owner Bjarne Riis is known for his tough boot camps, that push the riders and staff to their limits. In the past he has taken his team to the wilds of Northern Denmark and even South Africa, forcing everyone to overcome their fears of water and even dangerous animals, to prepare them for the problems of the season ahead. With budgets tight for 2011, the Danish team held a more traditional camp at the resort of sponsor Playitas in Fuerteventura. The riders spent a week together, riding their new Specialized 2011 bikes and competing in teams as they learnt to wind- and kite-surf, and perform as a group of acrobats.
Because most riders are still under contract with their 2010 teams, they rode in their old kit. Contador rode in his Astana clothing and Nuyens was in his Rabobank kit. They will be able to wear their new kit from January 1.
The atmosphere was relaxed but Riis kept an eye on everyone in the team.
“To me, the most important issue during this year's team building has been to integrate all the new riders and staff and to establish a team spirit based upon good and memorable experiences which will be remembered and talked about throughout the whole year,” Riis said.
“And I can already see that it is paying off. The atmosphere is relaxed. People are laughing, having a great time and it's important for me to know that everyone gets the feeling of being part of the well-known Saxo Bank-SunGard team spirit.”
The riders are set to return to the Playitas resort in Fuerteventura for further training before the start of the 2011 season.
Friday, December 3, 2010
Grand Cayman continued to roll out the red carpet for the Garmin-Cervelo squad's first gathering of its 2011 roster. On Wednesday the team enjoyed time swimming with stingrays, exploring the island of Grand Cayman via a treasure hunt plus an exhilarating helicopter view of the Caribbean island with a former military pilot putting the aircraft through its paces.
Another venue visited by the team was the Cayman Motor Museum, chock full of exotic, rare, and classic cars and motorcycles from the personal collection of Norwegian shipping magnate Andreas Ugland, who's called Grand Cayman home for 20+ years. While
David Zabriskie was spellbound by the original Batmobile from the late 1960s Batman television show, world champion Thor Hushovd received a warm welcome from Ugland, a compatriot who happens to share the same hometown of Grimstad in Norway.
On Thursday morning the team took part in the 'Ride with the Pros' event in which approximately 85 riders, comprised of sponsors and local cycling fans, rode for approximately two hours on quiet Grand Cayman roads. While the pace was predominantly leisurely, the team dropped the hammer in the latter portion of the return journey to their host hotel to give those along for the ride a lesson in speed and the art of riding in wide open terrain buffeted by strong crosswinds. The planned acceleration was public knowledge from the offset for those along on the ride but as one would expect the Garmin-Cervelo squad soon shed their companions and rode alone along the coast before dialling back the throttle and allowing many to catch back on for the final kilometres.
"There's a lot of people on this island who hosted us and supported bringing the team here and part of our thank you was to do a bike ride with them," Jonathan Vaughters told us. "I have a big payroll these days and I can't just take 80 people off to the Cayman Islands. We've worked with Grand Cayman's Tom McCallum to drum up the support and he's done an incredible job of getting government support and everything else to get this camp off the ground. He gave me the thumbs up of 'yes, we can do it' a couple of months ago and here we are."
Part of the team took advantage of an opportunity to scuba dive in the afternoon hours and the day was capped off by An Evening with the Pros gala at Camana Bay's Abacus restaurant where the team mixed and mingled with VIPs. The event concluded with an auction of Garmin-Transition team bikes and memorabilia to benefit the Cayman Island Cancer Society.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
Liquigas-Cannondale will close their first official team gathering for the 2011 season at the Dolomite ski resort at Moena, Italy on the Passo San Pellegrino on Thursday afternoon.
The Italian team met for their now-traditional four-day winter camp this week to train and plan for the news season. It is the third year the ProTeam squad have used the unique environment to build team spirit, with heavy snow seeing the riders such as Ivan Basso and Vincenzo Nibali swap their road tyres for snowshoes and toboggans.
It was also a chance for the riders to get to know one another after a number of roster changes during the past several months. Daniele Bennati, Roman Kreuziger and Francesco Chicci have moved on, but the the team have welcomed a host of new riders, including US riders Ted King and Timothy Duggan, Australia's Cameron Wurf and Germany's Dominik Nerz.
Liquigas finished second behind Team Saxo Bank in the International Cycling Union's (UCI) 2010 team rankings thanks mainly to Basso and Nibali's respective Giro and Vuelta a España triumphs. Last week the UCI confirmed it had renewed the team's ProTeam licence for a further three seasons. The team will outline on Thursday the riders' rosters, however team boss Robert Amadio left no doubt about the big targets for the team next year.
"The first objective remains the three Grand Tours: the Giro di Italia, the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España," Amadio told Gazzetta dello Sport.
Basso, 33, said last week that he plans to skip the 2011 Giro, which he won overall for the second time in his career this year, in favour of targeting the Tour de France. Conversely, Nibali is expected to focus on his second Grand Tour victory at the Giro. The 26-year-old finished third overall at this year's edition of the race before becoming the first Italian since Marco Giovannetti in 1990 to claim the overall title at the Vuelta.
While the team proved its Grand Tour credentials this year, it also had a strong presence throughout the 2010 Spring Classics season. The squad will look to Slovakia's Peter Sagan, 20, and Italy's Daniel Oss, 23, to spearhead its challenge next Spring.
Sagan told Gazzetta, "the dream is San Remo", while Oss, who finished fifth at Gent-Wevelgem in March, is "pointing at Flanders."
Liquigas will follow the Moena camp with a longer and more traditional training camp on the Italian island of Sardinia from December 9-22. The team will commence the new season at the first UCI World Calendar event of 2011, the Tour Down Under, in Australia on January 16.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
An extended group of Kelly Slater’s friends and family gathered in a plush LA warehouse on Monday to celebrate his 10th World Title. As you can imagine, when it comes to Kelly, even “intimate” gatherings can number in the hundreds and include catered food, drink and even a giant Kelly cake.
Kelly’s agent Terry Hardy presented a gift from Eddie Vedder; his original framed diamond album of Pearl Jam’s “10” specially reworked to acknowledge Kelly’s 10 World Titles. Quiksilver CEO, Bob McKnight then mockingly patted his pockets and joked: “I have that $10 million check here somewhere…”
This is like an out-of-body experience,” Kelly said with tears in his eyes, “it doesn’t feel like all this is happening for me, I’m just stoked its happening to somebody” he laughed.
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