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Goodbye, Andy

Andy SchleckIt’s no secret that Andy is the reason I got into cycling. I’ve told the story a hundred times; after the 2010 Tour de France ended, I hadn’t gotten enough of this cute cyclist who lost the race by 39 seconds, stolen from him by the dastardly Alberto Contador. With a little research, I found the Eneco Tour, and even though Andy wasn’t racing, I stayed glued to the computer and a cycling fan was born. So, even if it’s “old” news, I would be remiss if I didn’t offer words to close the Andy chapter of my cycling fandom.

It’s perhaps a little disingenuous to say that he’ll be missed by me, now that he’s retired, since he’s hardly been present for ages. But I will miss what he represented: a young man with untapped potential. How exciting to watch him rise up the ranks and prove himself! How exciting to imagine what he might do as he grew into his talent! I loved the thought of this young man, with his infectious smile, easy laugh, and unbreakable bond with his brother winning the Tour de France outright someday. But then…. life. And a lesson on placing too much expectation on one person.

12_schleckIf we placed heavy expectations on Andy, imagine what he placed on himself. As much as we joked about, and were disgusted by, the “Schleck-chute”, all I could wonder is how the disappointment felt to him. To know that people expected so much of you but you were unable to deliver, for whatever reason- how demoralizing that would be. To once be able to fly like a bird up the mountain to being barely able to finish a bike race- that must have weighed on him. And he knew how good he was. He had experienced the best of the best days on the bike. I wonder when, or if, climbing on the bike became a challenge for him and how it felt when that day finally came. How terrible to perhaps fall out of love with your bike- or at least, fall out of love with racing your bike.

Andy was easy to mock, as he seemed fragile, breakable- very unlike the ‘hard men’ cycling lore loves to honor.  And the high expectations placed on his abilities that he didn’t live up to did not convince Twitter to go easy him, as much as it was outside of his control.

However, I’ve wondered if his ‘protege’ status didn’t contribute to his downfall. He was able to rely solely on talent for much of his career. However, there comes a point during an athletic rise that img_1232_2_600sheer talent isn’t enough, but for some reason, Andy never seemed to develop the tactical smarts necessary to continue his climb. Although it’s possible that the development of those skills was stunted because of all the physical hurdles he had to overcome- it’s hard to focus on tactics when your tailbone makes it impossible to sit on a saddle, or when a bum knee makes it impossible to pedal, or when you’re on a disorganized new team. And yes, there was plenty of time when he wasn’t injured when he could’ve worked on this skill, but developing the nose for tactics takes lots of practice, trial and error, and in race experience, especially if it doesn’t come naturally. And I don’t think he was ever given that time to develop- I definitely think trying to set up a new team hurt him instead of helping him.

pcy140.schlecks_600But I think he will be remembered fondly, perhaps because of his faults and vulnerabilities. I was pleasantly surprised to read the Twitter comments on the news of his retirement: most people expressed sadness, disappointment and sympathy. His tear-choked press conference could have put a lump in the throat of the hardest critic- you could tell he was devastated to leave, but knew to stay would only lead to more stress and disappointment. In the end, I admire his decision to close the door on competitive racing instead of “waiting and seeing”. It has to be hard to let go of dreams and admit you won’t live up to expectations.

The criticism often put his way seemed to have an undercurrent of sadness to it: “Oh, how I want to see you succeed and it kills me to think about what could have been!” But in the end, it is what it is. Let us not dwell on what was not, but think about what was; whether it was his “stomach of anger“, his win on the Galibier, his win at LBL, “chain-gate”, or his commitment to his brother, I imagine many people have a favorite Andy moment and I hope this is what people remember when they think back on his career as a cyclist.

And I leave you with our podcast, where we  spend time reminiscing over Andy: what was and what could have been.

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A good recap of Andy’s career in pictures, over at Pez.

A touching goodbye from Rouler Magazine.

Special Guest Episode: Suze, or @FestinaGirl

We welcome our first special guest to the show! Suze, better known as @FestinaGirl on Twitter, joins us to talk about her love of cycling, her cycling crushes, the story behind her Twitter handle, and her writing projects. Check out her website, 100 Tales 100 Tours and her weekly shows on Velocast, This Week In Cycling. [apologies if there is a little bit of an echo- there were some technical difficulties we worked hard to fix!]

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Deep Thoughts: TdF ’14 Stage 8

Looks like there was a little testing going on today! Contador did a little attack to see where that got him and while Nibali was able to keep up, i think Contador was testing him…

  • Some weird weather today. Decent weather, then they rode right into some nasty rain! Then cleared up again, then raining again- gross. I’ll admit i’ve never minded riding in the rain, but I’ve never had to ride 3 hours with wet shoes and chamois.
  • Never did I guess this would happen in this Tour- torn between Contador and Nibali! It feels so weird to be rooting against Contador, but… I have to admit I am!
  • So Contador attacks on the last climb. Nibali follows right with him and is on his wheel the whole way up. However, he faded in the last few meters and looked pretty wrecked once he crossed the line. I’m not sure he would have kept up on a longer climb. But, his climbing style is different than Contador’s- Contador is a bit more explosive. I don’t think this stage shows Contador for sure as the overall winner, but it will make the mountains interesting.
  • It was so interesting to see those two climbing next to each other- Contador is a standing climbing and Nibali is a seated, grinding climber. Nibali’s style reminds me a bit of Cadel, but perhaps a little less grimace-y.
  • Richie Porte was impressive! Stayed close to those two when most couldn’t! Maybe Team Sky’s plan b will work out..
  • Talansky crashed again- things not looking good for him!
  • Tejay was with the front group and even though he wasn’t able ot keep up with the front three, he was able to make up time and is now in the top 10.
  • Right now I could see the podium being Contador, Nibali, Porte. But we’ve still got 2 weeks left and we’ve barely had a taste of the climbing to come!

 

 

Deep Thoughts: TdF ’14 Stage 7

Pretty shallow thoughts on today’s tour- not too much to say!

  • Love how the peloton will reel the break in and let them dangle a minute out there for kilometers on end. So cruel!
  • Did anyone else notice the massive air horns for Peter Sagan when he was on the podium?? Someone in the audience blew their air horn non stop the whole time Peter was on the stage!
  • Speaking of Peter, why did he make that late attack, pulling Greg with him? Was he just trying his luck? Because I can’t think of another reason why you’d start so early. He seems to be lacking some tactical sense lately, but perhaps he’s just on a learning curve- winning is more than just sheer strength!
  • Another crash controversy: At first look, it seemed to me Talansky drifted left without looking and overcompensated when he saw Gerrans swinging into him. Coversations on Twitter raged as to whether Gerrans is at fault as well- did he cut over or did he hold his line? Most seem to be of the opinion that Gerrans cut over but Phinney and McEwen think otherwise! Talansky also thought Gerrans was in the wrong- Vaughters tweeted that Talansky wanted an apology from Gerrans. People on Twitter were saying from an overhead shot, Gerrans move didn’t seem so extreme, but I haven’t been able to find an overhead video of the crash. Your thoughts?
  • Tejay has crashed 5 times so far! Can’t believe he’s still in one piece.

Stage recap

 

Deep Thoughts: TdF ’14 Stage 6

The most exciting part of the day was waiting to see if any crosswinds would split the peloton! Sadly (from the viewers perspective, anyway!), the crosswinds weren’t strong enough to bother anyone except those dangling off the back.

  • The Invisible Man was visible today! Andre Griepel has been mostly MIA recently- but today the Gorilla was back! It was good to see him mug again. Although, I’ll admit I was rooting for Renshaw!
  • There were a fair number of crashes but the most serious seemed to be a crash involving Jesus Hernandez- it looks like he had to abandon because of a concussion. This is a bit of a blow to Contador, because Hernandez was a big climbing asset.
  • Sky also didn’t have a great day- Zandio abandoned as well.
  • The way Giant Shimano was controlling the head of the race, I wonder if it’s the new HTC! However, by 5km to go, Giant was nowhere to be seen. Instead it was the former couple all over the front- Lotto and Omega Pharma. I couldn’t believe Giant had let the lead go, but it seems while the crosswinds weren’t quite enough to tear the peloton apart, they were enough to tear Kittel apart!
  • For half a second, I thought Kwiatkwoski was going to make it! Although I’m a little confused why he went- weren’t they riding for Renshaw? I’m still don’t always understand tactics! Perhaps it was to draw out the other teams to chasing him down?
  • My favorite part of the stage was everyone talking about how awesome Nibali was yesterday 😀 Welcome to the fan club!

Stage recap

Episode 81: Giro ’14, Week 1

We recap the first week of the Giro, talking about our impressions and predictions. Jeff also recaps the Tour of California, since Anna didn’t watch it at all. It turns out Jeff finds Greg Lemond too nice and Anna does some nice wordsmithing.

NEW! We’re now available on Stitcher Radio- Stream our podcast on demand via their app. Available here.

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Episode 80: Panda Poop!

The dreaded “d” word (doping!) makes a comeback. We tackle the subject and come to NO conclusions, plus talk about Fleche Wallonne and LBL. Anna wants to hate Lance but is secretly (or not so secretly anymore!) fascinated by him. And we finally solve the mystery of Dan Martin’s LBL crash: panda poop.

NEW! We’re now available on Stitcher Radio- Stream our podcast on demand via their app. Available here.

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Episode 70: Dubai, Phinney, Qatar, Paris-Nice

We speculate on Taylor Phinney’s future, wonder if Tony Martin is a whiner, decide we like the 4 day stage races, and can’t wait for the new Paris-Nice route! Also, if Wiggins and Fabian went head to head at Paris-Roubaix, who would win?

Tour of Dubai!

Paris-Nice!

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FIRST LOOK: BMC 2014 kit

FIRST LOOK: BMC 2014 kit

Meh. I love the red, but I’ve never been a fan of the weird black blocking. At least it stands out!

And oh god, Taylor’s hair. I just cannot take him seriously with that hair!

FIRST LOOK: OPQS 2014 kit

FIRST LOOK: OPQS 2014 kit

I can’t tell if the lines on the bibs are meant to intentionally make their thighs look huge or not. Either way, I liked the lighter kit from last year better. This kit has too much black!