Triple Winners and the Tour of Flanders

The classics season is in full swing and will continue this weekend with the 94th edition of the Tour of Flanders. The winner of the last two editions Stijn Devolder will be in with a chance of winning for the third year in a row, something which has only once before been achieved, by Italian Fiorenzo Magni almost 60 years ago. However Devolder’s Quick Step team mate Tom Boonen will also be looking to win his third edition of the race having won before in 2005 and 2006. Boonen is undoubtedly the leader of the Quick Step team at the classics, but ironically, it is Boonen’s status as leader that has allowed Devolder to win the Tour of Flanders for the last two years. In virtually identical races, 2008 and 2009 saw Devolder attack from about 20km out and solo home while other pre-race favourites were busy marking Boonen. Had Devolder been riding for any other team, Boonen’s Quick Step team mates would have chased down any breaks in an attempt to set Boonen up for his own race winning attack, therefore denying Devolder a victory.

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Discover your cycling potential

There is an enormous focus these days on the training values of a cyclist. A rider will base his season goals and training schedules around values like lactate threshold, maximum heart rate and VO2 max. Measured in mililitres per kilo per minute, Tour de France winners typically have a VO2 max upwards of 80. It’s a measure of the ability to transport oxygen around your body. Lance Armstrong’s magic number is reportedly 84, Greg LeMond’s was over 90. I on the other hand, have a VO2 max value of 54. I also have a maximum heart rate of 201, my lactate threshold is at a heart rate of 148 bpm and I am made up of 16% fat.

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Award nomination!

I received news over the weekend that the Irish Peloton blog is a finalist in the 2010 Irish Blog Awards. This came as a surprise no doubt, but a thoroughly welcome one at that. Irish Peloton will be up against the Back Page Football, Arseblog, Green and Red, and Sport is a TV Show.

I started writing this blog last September mostly as something to take my mind of the thesis I’m supposed to be writing. To write about the sport that I love is great, I enjoy it immensely. My Dad (who writes his own blog about being a professional Irish Traditional musician) was the one who first got me into cycling. Back in the days before the Internet and Sky Digital the only cycling that was on TV was the half hour highlights shows provided by Channel 4 in the evening after each stage of the Tour de France. Myself and my Dad would sit down to watch them together and he would diligently record each half hour show on to VHS always remembering to press pause when the ads came on, but even more importantly, remembering to unpause again when the ads were over. After the Tour was over, we’d be left with two full VHS tapes of the Tour highlights which I watched over and over until the following July. The first Tour I watched was in 1992 when Miguel Indurain’s domination was becoming increasingly apparent. I loved the manic sprinting of Djamolodin Abdoujaparov and the swashbuckling Claudio Chiapucci. I remember being hugely impressed by his solo effort up to Sestriére. I also remember in the 1993 Tour de France watching with disbelief as Mario Cipollini won a bunch sprint on one of the early stages without even lifting his arse off the saddle!

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Finally, Milan San Remo…

The first monument classic of the season takes place this Saturday. Milan San Remo, at almost 300 kilometres is the longest race on the calendar. Last year Mark Cavendish had most people fooled before the race sayingSan Remo is one of the most difficult races on the calendar, I am only 23 years old and don’t expect too much“. He had in fact been preparing specifically for La Primavera with the help of his sprinting mentor Erik Zabel, a four time winner of the race. Cavendish delighted in the comments of riders like Boonen who beforehand had scoffed at his chances of successfully negotiating the Cipressa and the Poggio saying that the Manxmancouldn’t get over a railway bridge“. Cavendish certainly had the last laugh when he beat Heinrich Haussler to the line by the narrowest of margins to become Britain’s second winnner of the race after Tom Simpson in 1964.

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Make way Valverde, here’s Luis León

The form of two riders throughout a season, red indicates the form of a rider with a specific season goal, black indicates a rider who attempts to be competitive across an entire season.

Amongst the plethora of classic victories and Tour de France green jerseys, one of the most remarkable achievements on the palmarés of Seán Kelly is that he won Paris-Nice seven times in a row between the 1982 and 1988. While commentating on this year’s edition of the race yesterday for Eurosport, Kelly admitted that only for the first two years of the seven was he actually treating the week-long stage race as a season goal. For his remaining victories he said his form was simply a by-product of his preparation for his major season goal, the spring classics. He even went as far as admitting that some of his overall wins were down to luck in getting into the right breakaway at the right time. The Irishman as humble as ever is probably doing himself a disservice. To win one edition of the Race to the Sun by sniffing out the right break could be consigned as luck, but seven?

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Time Trial to the Sun

Paris-Nice, the first major stage race of the season got underway yesterday with an 8 kilometre prologue time trial. It was won by the young Dutch rider Lars Boom who’s stock seems to be growing further after his transition to road racing from cyclo-cross last season. The main favourites needn’t be too worried as they all finished within 30 seconds of Boom. In fact only once in the past 10 years has the winner of the prologue of Paris-Nice gone on to take the overall prize, that was Jorg Jaksche in 2004.

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