George Hincapie has spent the majority of his career on the US Postal/ Discovery Channel Team. Since Lance Armstrong’s streak of seven straight Tours, George was one of the only men to be on each of the Tour winning squads. With the structure of the Disco/Postal squads George was allowed to go for wins in races that suited him most. Paris-Roubaix was the big race that George always set his sites on but never quite seemed to have the luck or the killer instinct to win. If you were to knock Hincapie for anything it would be the lack of killer instinct to go for a win during a bike race or know when to make the killing move to win. For all of the talent that he possesses he would always miss out.
(pic from Flickr)
The second edition of the Tour of California is in the record books with another win by a hometown racer. Levi Leipheimer took the reigns over from Floyd Landis as the next Tour of California champ. The race proved very popular with fans though it did not break the record of most attended sporting event in California. It just missed by about 100,000 or so.
The race continued to attract record crowds, besting its own record of 1.3 million fans last year, and shoring its place as the most attended cycling race in the U.S.
Not that 1.3 Million is a shabby number at all. The race continues to grow and it is a good chance for domestic US Pros to rub elbows with Euro ProTour Pros who are just starting to find their legs for the season.
Go Clipless has a nice writeup on a recent USA Today article that talks about how cycling is growing in the US. The fans lining the roads of the Tour of California definately show that there is a large interest in the sport, but just how large is this interest?
Race organizers are predicting that the eight-day event that ends in Long Beach Sunday will attract more than 1.3 million spectators and break its own record as the biggest sporting event held in California since the 1984 Olympic Summer Games.
(Levi warming up from flickr)
The Tour of California is the dominant cycling news at the moment. The second edition of the race is a mix of excitement and controversy. There was great action on stage 3 with breaks happening all day, and a great victory by Jens Voight who was in most of those breaks. Small controversy arose with the Stage 1 crash and the decision to neutralize the race since most of the field was caught up in a freak crash.
The Tour of California bike race is in its second year and growing. Latest word is that the organizers want to grow the race to become a major Grand Tour. Of course with a successful bike race following the same format for two years in a row, the organizers have nothing to do but dream of ways to make the race grow. In the past thoughts of growing the race to step on the toes of the major Grand Tours would be met with scoffs, laughing or at least a “we can dream can’t we” type of response. Not this year though as cycling as a sport is at a major crossroads where everything is up in the air for its future.
The Amgen Tour of California site seems to always come up with very innovative ways to show the race. Last year the Tour Tracker provided real time pictures and some video to help with the race coverage. This year the Tour Tracker made a technological jump by providing live streaming video in a dashboard that overlays the course profile, GPS location and live flickr photos.
The combo is very impressive. The video is in full screen mode which makes the picture a bit pixelated, but can be accommodated by resizing the screen to a smaller size. The video feed is fairly smooth for web videos. Just about the same quality that you would get on Youtube. I am impressed with their decision to go full screen which looks very slick. (Sorry for the Bob Roll-like gushing)
CSC is putting some of its technology on display at the Tour of California. Several riders will wear an OmniLocation device that can track the racers in real time. As WIRED News reports the device is more than a GPS:
“This is more than just GPS,” says CSC’s Identity Labs chief technologist Dan Munyan. “This is object field tracking. We want to be able to focus on a field of objects in motion, looking not only at where they are on the route, but also where they are relative to each other.
“It’s much cooler than the nüvi in your car telling you when to turn left and right,” he says.
Ivan Basso was interviewed by SkyLife.it where he was asked about the current problem in Italian Soccer, Marco Pantani, the USA and his objectives for 2007. The interview is quite frank both the the interviewer’s side and Basso’ side. This is really a refreshing let’s not beat around the bush type of interview. Unfortunately Basso does not want to talk much about Operation Puerto and does not care to see the Pantani movie.
“My first thoughts are with the policeman that died. I would like that no one forgets him and what happened. Then I would like to add that last year on the Giro course there were 6 million spectators and not one punch was thrown. There aren’t as many police present and usually nothing bad happens.
Then soccer connotates violence?
At the moment yes. Why is there violence in soccer and not in cycling? It is difficult for me to give an answer that will satisfy everyone. But my take would be like this: Soccer is closely followed. All it takes is one error by a referee, any mistake could reignite tension with fans. In my world fortunately this does not happen.
The first edition of the modern Tour of California is in the books with a win by Floyd Landis. Was the race worth the effort? Will it justify Amgen’s marketing budget? Did the organizers lose money or make money or break even? So many questions, but from my vantage point up in the armpit of the USA (New York State, actually it is nice here, but seeing the Cali weather makes me yearn for some sunny days and dry roads) it would have to be a success.
The Amgen Tour of California brought out some very good competition to the shores of the USA. Most importantly many of the big names to honor the ToC with their presence were American stars. This is a new phenomen of the last 10 years that so many American riders are at the top of the sport. We have more potential Tour winners than Spain or France! and this is the year after Lance Armstrong has retired. Problem is that not many of these riders are as well known in non-cycling households. They know Lance because he is a superstar, but they *may* have heard of Levi and Floyd. They know Big George is Lances longtime friend, but do they know about his fight to win Paris-Roubaix? Probably not.
All of the big name Euro-based American riders were on hand and they were on form. Hincapie won two stages, Floyd Landis won the important stage 3 TT that gave him the win and Levi Leipheimer started off by taking the prologue. These are all good names to take up the headlines of the inaugural Tour of California. The organizers couldn’t have asked for a better performance from the top American riders who made the race seem important even though it is in February.
Face it, the TV coverage is basically a non-starter. Sure, the race was broadcast on TV. The coverage started off horrible, but gradually improved as the crew worked out the technicalities. Paul Sherwin and Bob Roll were sans Phil Ligget to broadcast the race, and they did their usual jobs. The main problems that I see with the TV coverage are the time at which it was broadcast. Some letters to Velonews clarified the TV coverage situation saying that the coverage was not produced by ESPN, but was produced by the Tour of California and was broadcast at times purchased by the organizers. This is understandable since this is a first year race and some networks probably would not want to take a chance broadcasting a new event in a sport that does not have a ball involved.
This week has a common theme, sprinter type riders taking two stage victories. Ale-Jet Petacchi took two stages at Valencieana, JJ Haedo, George Hincapie, and Olaf Pollack like winning so much they did it twice.
Since Floyd Landis’ dominating Time Trial win on Wednesday the Tour of California was pretty much set for GC placings. The rest of the stages did not give much chance for the top contenders to mix up the overall as the stages each came down to a sprint.
In the sprints there were some familiar faces showing up on the podium. Juan Jose Haedo took two wins that were very important for his new team. The sprints were pretty much the only stages where smaller US teams could compete since the other power stages were won by guys who are much higher on GC. JJ Haedo looks to have great form so far, but can he keep this form going into the Tour of Georgia in two months time?
George Hincapie has great form for the early season classics. Last year Big George grabbed the first win in a long time starting off a year of phenomenal performances that culminated with a win in toughest mountain stage of the Tour de France. George has started his year in winning ways again, by taking the “power” stages. When the pure sprinters are dropped on the hills George is the next best.
Olaf Pollack got a few sprint wins for T-Mobile allowing the German team to get some attention in an American rider dominated Tour of California. T-Mobile has a great deal of interest in the US market and showing the Californian’s watch the Tour the Pink and White certainly helps their visibility.
Ale-Jet Petacchi won a few stages in the Vuelat Valencienna, not huge nes since he is in great form taking wins almost at will. The big news will be the showdowns he will have with Tom Boonen and other super sprinters. The two Lampre sprinters Napolitano and Bennati will be looking to better the Milram man. If one of these two can best Petacchi in a straight sprint that will be news. They have been successful getting wins where Petacchi was not competative or in other races. Look for these two to get some more mop up wins and have a breakthrough against Petacchi possibly on the Giro.