Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Rainbow in Lombardia

Philippe Gilbert (BMC)'s victory in the World Championship in Valkenburg heralded his return to winning ways. Following his two stage wins in the Vuelta a Espana, his blistering attack on the last ascent of the Cauberg opened a huge gap immediately and put the chasers into indecision. Now that he will be sporting the Rainbow Jersey for the next year, what other races are left for him to win this year?

Photo by corto.maltese, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Fear not, for we still have Paris-Tours and Giro di Lombardia: both races he has won in the past. How will the Rainbow Jersey fare in these two races? Read our preview here and read on below for our history of the Rainbow Jersey and the fall classics.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Italian Geometry

Have you ever wondered why certain bikes have that "special" ride? To many of us, our first great road frame was an Italian frame, probably made in the 1980s or 1990s. We asked Tim K, an avid collector and restorer of Italian bikes, what gave them that special ride: fast for crits but stable for long fast rides.

This is a guest post by Tim K, our resident expert on frame geometry.

From Channone, under CC-BY-2.0.

If you're talking pre-80's (like that Masi in my basement) then Italian geometry is actually very slack compared to an American bike from the same era.  Remember, Italy wasn't very well-paved until the 1980's, so a quick-handling bike would also be brutally uncomfortable, as well as dangerous.  So, angles tended to be a little shallower (around 72 degrees) and chainstays were quite long.  Fork rakes were around 50mm.  Bottom brackets were quite low.

These bikes have an exceedingly pleasant ride.  You can toot around town on them, go touring on them, or get in the drops and really start hammering, all by tweaking stem height a little.  They are not, however, particularly fast, since tons of pedaling energy goes into flexing the frame.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Komentaar: the 2012 Elite Men's World Championship Race

With one blistering attack on the Cauberg, Philippe Gilbert of Belgium opened up a mile-long gap from the front of the field in the 2012 elite men's world championship; effectively redeeming his 2012 season. We were impressed by the work of the Belgian team and of course by Gilbert's sense of timing. Despite having a different finale than the Amstel Gold Race route that the course borrowed heavily from, Gilbert bested our estimate that the Spanish armada would win by sheer weight of talent and history of teamwork. Had the Spanish bet on the wrong horse? Did team Italy work too hard in the middle part of the race? We share our thoughts below.

Monday, September 17, 2012

2012 World Championship Road Race Preview

The coming World Championship in the Limburg, the Netherlands, has parcours similar to the classic race Amstel Gold.  As usually the case, it is an attrition-style long course. While it is true that the course contains the dreaded Cauberg climb as it nears the finish - it can be a death knell for the ambition of many pure sprinters - it is hard to predict how the race will go.

For one thing, the distance from the final climb to the finish line is changed enough that we think it will have a significant impact that rouleurs might make it to the finish. Or even rouleur-like sprinters.

Read on as we share our observations and historical lessons from the last two times the race was run here.

Monday, September 10, 2012

What's In a Name? Mauro Santambrogio and Campione d'Italia

One of the most valued mountain domestiques today, Italian Mauro Santambrogio of Team BMC played a significant part in Cadel Evans' Tour de France win in 2011. Tirelessly he paced Evans up the Alpine climbs, often the only climber left in the team to help their GC leader.

From Gianluca Gozzolli, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Just like many domestiques, Santambrogio rarely wins races on his own; but one victory in particular stood out, his win in Tre Valli Varesine in 2010. Finishing in the Alpine town of Campione d'Italia, Tre Valli Varesine is a great mid-summer race played out in the Italian alpine resort area.

Of course, what can't have missed what a great town name Campione d'Italia is: what's in a name? It is an exclave of Italy surrounded by Italian-speaking Switzerland that was ceded by Pope Julius II to reward the help of the Swiss back in the days. It stayed a part of Italy only because it was ruled by the Monks of Sant'Ambrogio in Milan, who then maintained their control of the town. Of course, that's the root of Mauro Santambrogio's name. We wonder if he celebrated this symmetry when he won that day in 2010.

Campione d'Italia: surrounded by Switzerland.

Campione d'Italia often hosts cycling races: the Giro d'Italia has held several stages there including time trials. Conveniently, it also hosts several casinos and use the Swiss Franc instead of Euros or Italian Lires back in the day.

So there you have it: Mauro Santambrogio and Campione d'Italia. What's in a name?