Our First Cycling Post

I would like to introduce Lincoln Lu as our new cycling correspondent. He will be sending me posts on cycling to put up whenever he feels he has something to write about, and here is his first piece:

Although most people might not know this, the Cycling race calendar begins in January each year. Due to Globalization, the first few notable races are the Tour Down Under (Australia), the Tour of Qatar, and the Amgen Tour of California, allowing the race to escape the uncooperative climate of Europe during winter. But, as the more prestigious races are not until later in the season, and these are relatively new races, many pro cyclists treat these races as a training race, for instance, Lance Armstrong made his professional return at the Tour Down Under this past January. This doesn’t distract from the quality of the racing that a spectator will see at these races however. Many of these races will invite a few of the big, famous European teams to race alongside local teams, giving fans a glimpse of their heroes, allowing young local talent a chance to compete against some of the best in the world, and maybe catching the eye of a team director, and giving some good race training to the pros after a short off-season.

For many American cycling and sports fans, the biggest show in North America will be the Amgen Tour of California, which runs from February 14-22. Famous cyclists including Lance Armstrong, Ivan Basso, the Schleck brothers, Fabian Cancellara, Mark Cavendish, and Tom Boonen and others will be in attendance, along with a host of up and coming American talent. All together, there are two Tour de France champions in the peloton, 11 World Champions, 17 Tour de France stage winners, and 25 current and former National Champions. For many young racers in North America, Juniors (Under 18) and Espoirs (Under 23), the dream of competing at the Amgen Tour of California is a source of motivation that helps them gut through the long boring months of training in the winter.

Cycling is an endurance sport, and although the biggest races of the year only runs from March to October, many cyclists will participate in Cyclocross(picture doing a mountain bike course on a road bike with studded tires, and you pretty much have got it), which will extend their season until November or December, depending on the climate of where they live. And to be ready for the next season, where they will hopefully become stronger and faster, many cyclists will begin their training by December, if not November. Anyone who knows a cyclist will be able to tell if they were a serious racer or not, by how little they ate over Thanksgiving and Christmas, discipline being an important attribute to the serious cyclist.

The Amgen Tour of California has gained its widespread popularity by emulating the one week tours of Europe. It will contain 7 stages, and begin with a short 3.9km (2.4mi) Individual Time Trial Prologue, which will set riders by themselves against the clock. The stages will travel through the rolling countryside of California, with a few intense climbs that will get the pros ready for tougher races in Europe in the coming months, and usually finish with a large circuit in the finishing cities. This format, a road stage ending in a circuit, gives the race distance and pace of a European race, while satisfying American audiences’ preference for circuit races and the ability to see their favorite stars more than once as they speed by.

Racers in North America usually get their start in their mid-teens, as their bodies settle into their final dimensions, and are capable of building up the aerobic intensity needed for cycling. They’ll show up to club rides, and small local races as the new kid, riding alongside older men, and women, who have the disposable income to support their addictions. Some young racers will drop out after a year or two, realizing that cycling is just not for them, while others will become more and more serious. They’ll usually work at the local bike shop, receiving a discount on the bikes and parts that they’ll need to buy for themselves before they receive a big sponsorship. They’ll start to shave their legs, if not before their first crash, then soon after. And they’ll start to follow the European race scene, and train through the winter. By the time they’re 18, they’ll be able to hold their own against the older racers, and will eventually surpass the ones who have a job, a family, and a life to look after. Now these young racers will have to make a choice, whether to quit, and focus on University, to hold off school for a few years while they give a go at turning pro, or to try and balance the two.

The Amgen Tour of California is a race that I look forward to every winter keeps me motivated during the coldest months, and when it is on, it gives me extra incentive to stay on my bike and work harder. Living in the Canadian prairies, racing does not get underway seriously until May, and the Amgen Tour of California is a perfect time to ramp up my training from light spinning to structured endurance workouts. One of my favorite things about this race is that the organizers have wisely and kindly included a live stream feed on their website to anyone in the world. This gives me a chance to watch it on my laptop in the basement as I ride my bike on its trainer. I know that I will never win a Grand Tour in Europe, and starting as late as I did, it is unlikely that I’ll ever ride the Amgen Tour of California either. But as I ride, I can feel the camaraderie, the history, and the competition that unites cyclists the world over, and in some little way, I feel like I’m riding in the Tour, and competing against the best in the world, and the best of the past stars whenever I ride.

For more info, here is the official Amgen Tour of California homepage: http://www.amgentourofcalifornia.com/


3 Responses

  1. keep on going men

  2. Nice post!

    I became a fan of Lance Armstrong after my own battle with cancer. I’ve read all of his books and watched all the DVDs I could get my hands on while going through six weeks of hyperbaric oxygen treatments. I knew very little about the sport before watching a couple documentaries of the Tour de France. One of them was 7 full DVDs in length. I don’t remember how many total hours… but it was a lot!

    Discovery Channel also did their own documentary showing all the behind the scenes design and testing to make a competitive team. Lance is very particular about every aspect of the equipment in his quest to reduce weight, reduce resistance and increase speed. Plus all the physical testing and monitoring. Totally amazing.

    Keep up the good work!

  3. VolHawk,

    Congratulations on your defeat of cancer.

    The Tour is a magical race, the toughest test of endurance and skill a cyclist, or any athlete can ever imagine. I hope that you will someday become more than just a fan of Lance, but a fan of Cycling as well. Paris-Nice is on right now. You can still catch the last stage this coming Sunday on VS.


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