Category: Olympics

August 13, 2008

Cancellara: Golden World Champion

Thumbnail image for BeijingOlympics.jpgCancellara vs. Contador, CSC vs. Astana, CSC vs. CSC, Astana vs. Astana. It was an up and down time trial that constantly redrew the lines of battle. The riders went off in three groups, with Canadian Svein Tuft the best of the first two groups, but it was the third group that really brought the fireworks.

Early on it was Contador scaling the Great Wall uphill, Cancellara tearing down that wall on the descents. Contador set the fastest time at the first time check on the uphill climb; Cancellara took back the lead at the second time check after the descent. Woe to any rider caught anywhere near the two as the passing of 90-second riders was fast and furious. Cancellara even got post-Tour-de-France revenge on Schumacher, who got to watch Cancellara power past at the start of the second lap.

Cancellara and Contador may have been eating up the time checks, but the man who was setting top times before them wasn't fading. Cancellara's CSC teammate Gustav Larsson had set the best times at the first and second checks before Cancellara and Contador rolled through. At first it looked like a battle between Larsson and Leipheimer, but Leipheimer slowly drifted further and further behind. CSC 1, Astana 0.

Big hopes were on Contador as he started his second lap. The uphill climb, which favored him so heavily the first lap, instead seemed to weigh heavily on his legs the second time around. Larsson, on the other hand, only improved on his position: this time when he set the fastest time at the third check, it stuck. CSC 2, Astana 0. Even Cancellara had to bow to Larsson's time.

With Leipheimer and Contador defeated, teammate was now turned against teammate. Contador now as battling Leipheimer for podium and It was up to Cancellara to prove his World Champion stripes by hunting Larsson down for gold.

It wasn't a fair battle. The time trial course was identical to the road race course. That final stretch into the finish is the same stretch that Cancellara screamed across to bridge two gaps and take bronze. They should rename that stretch in his honor because he tore it up again, taking the gold medal by almost half a minute. Larsson took silver and in the battle for bronze, Leipheimer held off both Contador and a late charge from Cadel Evans. On top of Kristin Armstrong's gold medal, USA cycling can be very proud.

As expected, the uphill course didn't suit Zabriskie's style and he wasn't able to best Svein Tuft's early best time. It seemed the course didn't really suit anyone, in fact. Plenty of riders in both the men's and women's time trial immediately dismounted and laid out on the ground just pass the finish. Even Cancellara had to take a seat and pour water of his head repeatedly.

August 12, 2008

Kristin Armstrong Gold!

Thumbnail image for BeijingOlympics.jpgShe's unbeatable on US soil and now she's crushed the field in China as well. Idaho powerhouse Kristin Armstrong, who took commanding victories at Cascades, the Nature Valley Grand Prix, and the Exeter TT, can now add a decisive gold medal to her tally as she won by nearly a half minute over the UK's Emma Pooley and Switzerland's Karin Thurig.

Emma Pooley seemed to set an unbeatable mark early in the day that others were minutes behind. Even Armstrong, who was busy passing Spain's Marta Vilajosana, couldn't best Pooley's time at the first split, but the race started to turn as towards the end of the opening climb. Armstrong was four seconds ahead at the top and powered on the descent to catch yet another rider in the sprint to the finish. Armstrong thanked many for her victory, including Cervelo for helping keep her equipment light for the climb, I suspect the legs have something to do with passing two riders on course and dominating the field.

France's 49-year-old cycling Queen Jeannie Longo was impressive in fourth, just two seconds off the podium. American (and Palo Alto native) Christine Thorburn also put in a good time to finish fifth another two seconds back. Both held close at the first time check, but the uphill finish seemed to just keep them out of contention.

Defending World Time Trial Champion Hanka Kupfernagel was distraught at the finish. The hot and humid Beijing conditions seemed a bit too much for her as she finished in 12th.

August 9, 2008

Sanchez is Gold

BeijingOlympics.jpgSpain got a well-earned gold as Samuel Sanchez took the sprint over Davide Rebellin and Fabian Cancellara. Spain played a good set of cards, first sending Carlos Sastre in an early break of 25+ riders that panicked teams like USA. USA was forced to burn Zabriskie and then McCartney early on in order to keep the gap on that break under control. When the peloton came back together, Sastre was then able to form the head of a top-class Spanish train: Sastre, Contador, Sanchez, and Valverde. Or as they now refer to themselves: le Tour, Giro-le Tour, Gold, and Spain.

The attrition was high under the assault of the Spanish Armada and even Contador had to pull the cord early, but it was Luxembourg's Andy Schleck that finally broke the race open. A group of twenty-or-so riders went off the front and Schleck attacked to whittle it down to Rebellin, Sanchez, Kolobnev, and Rogers. With some more digs it then became a select group of Schleck, Rebellin, and Sanchez, which looked like it could be the medal podium for the day.

But that was spoiled by the superhero move of the day, which goes to Fabian Cancellara. Michael Rogers and Alexandr Kolobnev were in a chase group behind, but as the kilometers ticked down -- 7km to go, 6km to go, 5km to go -- it just seemed that they would stay out of reach. With 2km to go the chase camera behind Rogers and Kolobnev suddenly panned back: Fabian Freakin' Cancellara, screaming across the gap! The TT champ's horsepower shot them across the gap to catch the leaders with 1km to go. It made for a tighter sprint and in the end it was Schleck who lost out as Cancellara rocketed to a podium position (sorry Luxembourg).

Leipheimer and Vande Velde were Team USA's best shots at a podium position. They both made the group of twenty that went away at the end, but neither could bridge up to the attack of Schleck. Leipheimer worked hard to bridge back to Vande Velde after being dropped, but the chase group lacked proper motivation with the likes of Alejandro Valverde, Cadel Evans and Paolo Bettini hanging on.

August 7, 2008

cyclodro.me for the Olympics

BeijingOlympics.jpg

Sorry folks, I was a bit busy, but Cyclodro.me is now up and running for the Olympics

Zabriskie Shaves

Proof here