This might be the ultimate, unsanctioned, impromptu charity ride. This Saturday, July 28, for the second year running, Liquigas-Cannondale racer Ted King and 2009 U.S. Cyclocross National Champ Tim Johnson will undertake a low-key fundraiser ride. The event will raise money for the Colorado Red Cross in the wake of the wildfires that have ravaged the state. Just as last year, the pair will be riding with their friend and amateur racer Ryan Kelly, who's along, according to King, "because he asked."
In a Tour de France that has thus far been mostly ho-hum because of Team Sky's insipid domination, Peter Sagan, the Liquigas-Cannondale prodigy, has breathed some life into the race. In just his third year in the Pro Tour ranks and his first appearance at the Tour, the 22-year-old has proven himself a force by winning three stages and dominating the points competition. He's shown his versatility in the process, too: He took the Stage 1 win in a powerful, uphill move with Swiss strongman Fabian Cancellara, distanced some of the best sprinters in the peloton in a flat-out dash on Stage 6, and all-but locked up the points competition by instigating an audacious long-distance breakaway on the mountainous Stage 14. If he makes it to Paris—which is almost a foregone conclusion barring disaster—he'll take home the green jersey for most points on his very first try.
From the sound of it, he also stands to drive away from the French capital in a new car thanks to a wager he made with Liquigas president Paolo Zani. We caught up with the Slovak last week to ask him about his staggering season (he picked off five stages and the points classification at the Tour of California this spring and four stages and the points competition at the Tour de Suisse), his Tour domination, and the infamous bet.
Since Cadel Evans won the 2011 Tour de France, BMC has unveiled a pair of pro-level bikes, including the classics-oriented GrandFondo GF01 and a yet-to-be-publicized TMR01 aero bike. And while those bikes—in addition to the TT-oriented TimeMachine TM01—may factor in his title defense this Saturday, the Aussie will rely primarily on the same bike he won with last year, the TeamMachine SLR01. You might wonder why one of the best racers in the world doesn’t have a new bike model for the most important race of the season. Having spent the last half-year testing the SLR01, we have the answer: This bike is just that good.
THE FRAME The SLR01 is not BMC’s most expensive road frame. That honor goes to the Impec, a bicycle that took over five years and $40 million (in the form of a dedicated new factory) for the company to create. So why would Evans choose the SLR01 over this super bike? “Cadel prefers the compliance of the SLR01,” Markus Eggiman, BMC’s marketing manager told me. Put another way, the SLR01 is more comfortable than the Impec, and comfort is at the heart of the story of this bike.
With Andy Schleck (right) out of the Tour, there will be no repeat podium in 2012. Photo: HTO3/Flickr
Last fall, when two of the biggest teams in pro cycling, Leopard-Trek and Radioshack, announced their merger, expectations were high that the new super team, Radioshack-Nissan-Trek, would steamroll the peloton and put one of the Schleck brothers, likely Andy, on the top step of the Tour de France podium at last.
Fast forward nine months, and the team has failed to live up to expectations. In fact, with only three notable wins to its credit so far in 2012—Fabian Cancellara won the Strade Bianchi and stage 7 at Tirreno-Adriatico in March before breaking his collar bone at Paris-Roubaix, and Jakob Fulgsang took the overall at the Tour of Luxembourg earlier this month—it's no overstatement to say that the merger has thus far been a flop. Team director Johan Bruyneel acknowledged the grim situation in recent weeks, calling the team's performance "far below expectations" and "unacceptable."
And as the springtime failures have amassed (the team came up empty at the Ardennes classics, Frank Schleck pulled out of the Giro citing injury), rumors of strife between Bruyneel and the Luxembourger brothers have amplified. Late last month, Bruyneel even implied that neither of the Luxembourgers were guaranteed a spot at the Tour if they didn't shape up.
Now it looks like Bruyneel's veiled threat is coming half true.
Leipheimer en route to winning the 2012 Tour de San Luis. Photo: OPQS/Tim de Waele
On April 1, while training in Spain the day before the Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco, American Levi Leipheimer was struck down by a car and suffered a broken fibula. Not only did the accident knock him out of the Pais Vasco, for which he was considered a favorite after a strong early season that included winning the overall at the Tour de San Luis, but it also dealt a serious blow to his hopes of winning his fourth Tour of California.
Just six weeks after the injury, Leipheimer, who admitted that he wasn't yet at his best, still rode to an impressive sixth place overall at California. Since then, he's been working hard to rehab the leg in preparation for his big goal of the season, the Tour de France. Speaking to us from an altitude training camp in Utah, the easy-going American told us about the accident, his subsequent recovery, and his plans and hopes for the rest of the season.
Congrats on Tour of Cali. Sixth overall with a leg issue has to be considered something of a success? It’s a good race to start with after an injury. It’s relatively safe, the roads are big, the peloton is small. So it was a good one to come back to. I was happy with the ride, but it could have been better without the injury. The Tour of California has always been a big goal of my season, so it was disappointing in some ways, too.