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Friday, September 30, 2005

Danish Donut

With great trepidation I cracked open, at lunch, the latest Cycle Sport edition featuring over 6,000 pages on Lance Armstrong, in 17 hardbound volumes. It could take weeks to get through, and that's not even counting the time I will need to recuperate from Lance overkill before I'm even ready to attempt it.

Still, I noticed one item that got me, um, "thinking:" a mention of how great it was that Ivan Basso didn't mail it in at the Tour of Denmark, his sponsor's domestic tour. My question is, did the Danish fans care? Or more to the point, why is CSC considered a Danish team at all?

Their best riders aren't Danish. Basso, Julich, Sastre, Arvesen, Zabriskie... only Jakob Piil is a notable Dane, placing him a distant second behind the Chicken, who rides for the National Team of Holland. The rest of the Danes are guys like the Sorensens, roster fillers who lend little more than the minimum number of "o"s with a slash through it, to qualify for tax breaks in Denmark.

Also, despite what was reported, their sponsor isn't Danish, it's the American Computer Sciences Corporation, whose website currently touts whatever obscure technology they make which helped track recent hurricanes Katrina and Rita. No doubt they must do some sort of business in Denmark, but I find it hard to believe that the Danish national tour is a point of pride at CSC headquarters in California.

OK, obviously Bjarne Riis, who owns the team through Riis Cycling, is Danish, but even he can't seem to stand Denmark, having moved to Tuscany ages ago. The CSCs ride Cervelos, which I think are from North America someplace; in any event Cervelo shares something in common with every other cycling frame or component you can name: they aren't Danish.

So in sum, the team's nationality is based on the watercarriers and Riis's birth certificate. This isn't very important, except to Danish fans and to the team's scheduling of its priorities. In fairness, those priorities start with France, then Italy, then maybe Denmark. But seriously, if you're Mike from Copenhagen, do you really identify with these guys? If Greg LeMond were found in the early 90s (before the rise of US Cycling) coaching a bunch of Europeans for a French Supermarket-sponsor, would I have cared about them? Right.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

It's Miller Time..!

No not that awful beer that turns average working shmucks into wife beating felons. Bode Miller. Bode Miller has been relatively dis-interested in the white circus for some time. Seriously the FIS board makes the UCF look like MENSA members. He is a man with enormous talents and one major unfulfilled goal, an Olympic Gold Medal. This year, I predict, he will be honing his skills in all events to peak just in time for the 2006 Olympics. Do not look for him to repeat as overall champion this year. Look for Benny Raich to wrestle that title for him, by improving in speed events, high finishes in slaloms and GS's and taking the combined points wherever possible. Bode won't care if he DNF's from Christmas to Kitzbuhel as long as he hits his sweet spot in Turin. Other skiers worth noting this year are:

DH, Super G-

Daron Rahlves. This talented American speed junky has improved every year and comes into every race well prepared and he's in top shape. Every year he looks more like a body builder than a skier. One seriously tough guys and a personal favorite of mine.

Michael Walchhofer (AUT). He has owned the speed events this past year and he will be a favorite in all speed events this year.

Hermann Maier (AUT). The Hermannator with his surgically repaired lower leg and diminishing skills will always rise to the challenge of big events.

GS-

Benjamin Raich (AUT). Benny can flat out bring it in all technical events.

Masimiliano Blardone (ITA). This Tomba-esque GS specialist will finally live up to the early billing.

Tomas Grandi (CAN). A throw back to those Crazy Canucks of yesteryear.

Eric Schlopy (USA) Serious injuries have hampered his career but he came on strong at the end of the season.

SL-

Giorgio Rocca (ITA). Seriously have you ever seen Chris and Rocca together at the same time? Uncanny...

Benjamin Raich (AUT). Consistent and talented. This Austrian all-arounder is a master with the short skis.

Markus Pronger (AUT) One of the more talented of a whole army of Austrians that fill up the start house at every race.



All that being said, Bode will be poised to take at least 4 medals at Turin. Like Tiger Woods and his chart highlighting all of Jack's major victories, Bode has the same chart with Phil Mahre (not literally, but he keeps it in the back of his mind, I'm sure). He would love nothing more than to ski off to the blue ice of Cannon NH as the greatest American Ski racer ever. Plus, Phil has been dissing him for years and He would love to shut him up.

-Per-

Moving On...

Let's face it, the cycling season is over. Yeah, I realize there are a couple "fall classics" left on the calendar, but they're kind of uninteresting, and DiLuca's overall lead is unassailable. So it's time to move on to important matters. Like giant squid.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Touch the Stars

I for the life of me don't know why this is happening, but to our Massachusetts audience, here's a rather intriguing cut-and-paste from Cycling News:

Liberty riders at Wheelworks

On October 2, 2005, six members of the Spanish Liberty Seguros-Würth team, including Roberto Heras and Joseba Beloki, will be appearing at Belmont Wheelworks, MA, for a Conference/Reception. The majority of the store on Trapelo Road will be closed off from 2pm to 4pm to host the event, in which team video footage will be viewed. The Spanish pros will be ready to answer any questions the public might have, as an interpreter will be on hand.

The riders attending the event are: Roberto Heras (Winner of the 2005 Vuelta a España for an unprecedented fourth time), Joseba Beloki (Finished top three in overall standings of the Tour de France in 2000, 2001, and 2002), Marcos Serrano (Winner of Milan-Turin 2004 and stage 18 in the 2005 Tour de France), Igor Gonzalez De Galdeano (Ranked 9th in the 2004 Olympic time trial and wore the yellow jersey in the 2002 Tour de France), Alberto Contador (2005 Winner of the Semana Catalana and touted as the next Miguel Indurain) and Luis Leon Sanchez (Winner of three professional races in his rookie season of 2005, including the Jacob´s Creek Tour Down Under in Australia).

For more information, go to www.wheelworks.com/liberty_seguros.htm

Friday, September 23, 2005

Worlds Predictions

OK, so who gets the nod? Methinks Boonen... not as motivated as Valverde, my second choice, so I may change my mind here. But I've picked Torpedo Tom for every other race, so why stop now? Anyway, I would discount McEwen and Petacchi; this race is going to have a lot of challenging moments, it isn't Zolder. Boonen is the top sprinter capable of toughing out a tricky parcours. Also, Zabel is too old. Bettini hasn't done much this year. Freire has cancer... in his ass. [OK, I watch South Park, I admit it.]

Dark horses: Pippo Pozzato, Maggie Backstedt, one of the Iranians. Also, don't discount the Rene Haselbacher combustion factor. Apparently that last turn is a doozy. Serious Italian, Spanish and Belgian money will be offered to one of the third-world guys to take Haselbacher out during one of the feed zones. If not, some also-ran with good bike-handling skills could be wearing rainbow come Sunday night.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

World Championships?

The field for today's men's elite TT has raised some questions in my mind. Julich notwithstanding, were were the "worlds best" riders today? No Botero, Ullrich, Leipheimer, Basso, Zabriske, Gonzales or Bodrogi. Were they all resting up for Sunday's RR? Are the suffering from a Vuelta/Tour of Germany hangover? In my mind, that would be like Bode Miller skipping the Super G to rest for the Combined. Maybe they should have it every two years like the FIS....

-Dissapointed-

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

For Real?

So, I got an email this morning from Cycling.TV letting me know that they will be broadcasting the men's elite Worlds Road Race live on their broadband. As a serial optimist and the only person I've ever met who watched the Giro live on his computer, I have to wonder... is this real? It's almost too beautiful to be true, but they seem pretty serious. Still, this is an outfit which, however well intentioned, had spent most of the year pitching reruns of Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. Anyway, worth investigating.

For now, no more talk of Vueltas and bottom brackets... it's time to get ready for the Worlds! Of course, it would help if Cycling News could round up some start lists. I for one would love to know who's representing the US in tomorrow's elite TT, given the repeated success of US time trialers this year in the pro peloton. We should be gunning for a podium at least, provided someone can take out Michael Rich in the starthouse.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Yaaay!! The Vuelta is Over!!

That's the only reaction I can muster to the third of the Big Three grand tours. And this year, I can say with some certainty, the Vuelta was truly #3.


I know I run some risk here of sounding like an uninformed crank, since this was the only GT that came with absolutely no meaningful US coverage. Hopefully this blog isn't too widely read (yet) in Europe. But seriously, was that a huge snore or what?? A comfortable Heras win comes with the obvious dimmer on competition, as now the organizers in Madrid have to contend with the same here-we-go-again malaise afflicting most of the Lance-era Tours. Add to that legitimate questions about how the race can be won so easily by a guy who was dropped on every bump in the road in July, and you're left with a thoroughly uninspiring race. But at least the last few Vuelta's had some drama, namely whether Heras could ride a time trial. This time around, a tailwind carried him completely out of danger. Yawn.

Admittedly, if Simoni had the same success in the Giro, we'd be just as tuned out by the lack of competition, methinks. But a) he didn't; and b) at least the Giro has climbs like the Stelvio and the Finestere that nobody can deny the significance of. With few exceptions, the Vuelta's climbs are too short, not steep enough, or within stages that are too short to guarantee our admiration. All that can keep it on par with the other GTs is fierce competition, and for some reason this year, after a few furiously contested Vueltas in recent times, that competition just melted away.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

VENGA ROBERTO!!

Roberto Heras' performance today in the final ITT of the 2005 Vuelta has cemented his unprecedented 4th victory. By finishing in second place, a fraction of a second back, he has put a nice finishing touch on an otherwise uninspired season. The shy climber from Spain has come a long way from his 2002 performance where he dominated in the mountains but was steamrolled in the final TT. After his final spin around Madrid tomorrow he will become the most successful Vuelta rider of all time. Past winners include, Rominger, Kelly, Hinault, Merckx, Zulle, Ullrich, Ja Ja, Delgado and many other greats of the sport. Heras has topped them all. Muy Bueno Roberto.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Campy V Shimano Chapter 8: Final Thoughts

To this point I have essentially broken down all the key components as designed by Campy and Shimano (Record and Dura Ace, being the primary focus). There are other parts worth noting as well. Headsets: Campy makes a threadless design as well as an integrated version that is used in Cannondale and many other frames. Campy Headsets are solid performers, built to be installed and forgotten about. Shimano offers a threaded headset (???!!) but no threadless design. Dura Ace kits usually include a Cane Creek headset since they obviously haven't thought about headsets for about 10 years.
Pedals: Shimano has abandonded their SPD model for the road and gone back to a look style. I have a set of the original Shimano Look-style pedals from the early 90's and they were outstanding. Lance kept an old set on his bikes until Shimano decided to go back to that design. The Dura Ace pedal is outstanding. Lightweight, triple sealed bearings, large platform and smooth release. Campy Makes a pedal that is similar in design to the older Time pedals. They are also light weight and well built.
Seatposts: Shimano makes an aluminum Dura Ace and Ultegra model post. The Dura Ace is a solid performer and fairly light in weight. Campy has a very wide selection of posts including carbon fiber models in the Record and Chorus lines.

At this point I'm sure it's obvious that I'm a Campy guy. I always liked Shimano and when building my most recent bike, I looked long and hard at Dura Ace. Through my research I would hear/read statements like "Campy is too expensive", "Shimano is more readily available", "shops are more familiar with Shimano....". What I discovered was that a full Campy Record 10 gruppo is actually less expensive than Dura Ace 10. Some of the disposable parts on Campy are more money (cassettes and chains), but the Campy shift levers and cranksets are much less money. Campy components are also re-buildable. They have a very extensive parts catalog and althought the parts aren't cheap, you don't have to worry about a worn out spring or gear rendering a component useless. Shimano by comparison makes "disposable" components. Also, Campy has gone from 8-9-10 speed over the last decade. In each case, upgrading has been relatively easy. If you want to upgrade your Shimano components, you will find that only the brake calipers can be re-used. Plus you can still purchase Campy 8-speed parts from their catalog.
Shops do have less familiarity with Campy, but I find the Record to be pretty easy to work on I do agree that Shimano compatible wheels and cassettes are more readily available, but there are still plenty of shops that carry Campy, even if it requires a bit of driving.
With regards to performance, I have been amazed with how my Record group has held up to it's first season. I tightened the cables after the initial break-in period, but since then, I am yet to take a wrench or screw driver to my Campy drivetrain. Plus the shifting is lightning quick and there's a solid "chunky" feel to it. Shimano is a bit smoother, but there is a spongy feeling to it. I also favor the feel of the Campy levers. They fit my hands just perfectly and I find the thumb shifter to be convenient and fast.
Obviously this series has been based largely on my humble opinion, but I really wanted to present an honest real life comparison of the two groups since I am familiar with both. Don't write off Campagnolo as "bike jewelry" as so many do. It's truly a workhorse.
Thank you.

Pete

Overall Winner. Campagnolo


Campy V Shimano Chapter 7: Wheels

Personally I'm a factory wheelset guy. I have found that handbuilt wheels (Dura Ace or Record hubs on Open Pro's) are heavy, non aero and I find myself truing them up and breaking spokes, so I have decided to avoid any lengthy discussions on hubsets. Let's just say both Record and Dura Ace have excellent hubs that are serviceable, strong and light. I would prefer to use this thread to discuss factory wheelsets.
Shimano offers 5 wheelsets. Their Dura Ace wheelset (7800) comes in an aluminum and carbon model. Both use a Dura Ace aluminum hub, stainless steel spokes (bladed) and come in a semi-aero profile (24 mm rear rim height). The spoke nipples are at the hub which the company claims reduces rotaional weight. Shimano also offers an ultegra version (the 600), as well as 2 lower end models (550 and 500). Their lightest model tips the scales at 1,310 grams (w/out skewers). Personally I have owned an older Ultegra quality model (the 540), and to be frank, they were junk. Heavy, poor hub, spokes breaking and they were noodles. They did change the spoke design to a more traditional 2x rear and radial front which should be an improvemnt to their old 16 spoke, hoop design. Shimano 7800 wheels are a nice touch to your Dura Ace bike, but by know means is this a specialty of theirs.
Campagnolo has 8 wheelsets in their line. They have three low profile wheels (Proton, Neutron and Hyperion), 4 mid-aero wheels (Vento, Scirroco, Zonda and Eurus) and one deep-profile TT model the Bora. Campy's lightest wheel (Hyperion) weighs in at a mere 1,240 grams a set due in part to their use of carbon in the rims and hub body as well as a titanium pawl carrier. I ride the Proton's which have a Centaur-quality hub, assymetrical rims, ovalized spokes and an aluminum hub (with grease port). They are light, stiff, sturdy as hell and the set cost the same as my rear Ksyrium Elite.
Overall Campy wheels are built with the highest quality and they offer a model for all performance leves and price points. Shimano clearly does not focus on wheels. I would pit Campy wheels against wheel specialists like Mavic, Zipp, Rolf and Velomax any day of the week. Big advantage Campy.

Shimano 2
Campagnolo 4

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Campy V Shimano Chapter 6: The Drivetrain

Allow me to take a moment to define this topic since I have already covered the cranksets and derailleurs. In this thread I will cover cassettes, chains and chainrings. Shimano entered the 10 speed market in 2004 with Dura Ace and expanded their line to include Ultegra in '05. Campy introduced 10 speed with Record in 2001 and currently offer 10 speed in Record, Chorus, Centaur and Veloce.
Shimano Dura Ace cassettes are a combination of titanium in the largest cogs and nickel plated steel in the remaining cogs. Campy Record uses a similar combination but also includes an all titanium cassette. Dura Ace has combinations ranging from an 11-21t to a 12-27. Record ranges from a 11-21 to a 13-29. Both are durable and light, with Campy winning the battle of the featherweights with their all-ti version. I have used Ultegra 9 and Chorus (the rest of my group is Record) and the Chorus is still perfect, while past experience has had me chucking the Ultegra by this time of year given my current mileage.
For chains both companies offer a 10 speed chain with solid pins. Campy also offers an Ultra-Drive model with hollow pins to shave a few more grams. My Record Chain is showing almost no stretch after a season of pushing big gears. I cannot speak from experience regarding the Dura Ace 10 chain, however last year there were many reports of chains breaking if they were not installed properly.
In the category of chainrings both companies offer alloy chain rings in the standard 39/53 set-up. Campy also offers a popular 50/34 version while Shimano has yet to introduce their compact version (I understand that it will be available shortly with Ultegra). Both companies offer a triple, but up to this year Shimano only offered it with their 9 speed groups while Campy has had a triple for quite some time.
Both top groups offer long lasting performance and light weight with Campy winning the weight battle with their all-ti cassette and hollow-pin chain. Shimano is relatively new to the ten-speed market, and after the initial bugs it appears that they produce a fine drivetrain. However due to better selections and time tested technology I would tip my cap to the Italians. Advantage Campy.

Shimano 2
Campagnolo 3

Meanwhile, Somewhere in Spain...

This is a wicked shoaht post... I'm drunk, traveling, stressed, it's late, and I still have a briefing paper to write before bed. But isn't it odd that nobody (OK, I) feels like talking about the Vuelta? For the past decade or so, readers of this site have unanimously cited the Vuelta for its drama, excitement and heroics. And this year... nuthin. My theory is that the Heras hangover is making this a lesser Lance-Tour syndrome, where the race looks repetitive, and at least the Tour has the benefit of an elite lineup, some good subplots, and a barrage of TV coverage. The Vuelta...? Nuthin.

Heras looks solid, apparently, and hopefully OLN will show some mercy and give us a brief video presentation to that effect. But I'm so uninterested and irritated with the Vuelta that I hope he blows up on the final flat TT. Cheers! Back next week, sorta.

Campy V Shimano Chapter 5: Derailleurs


Functionally both companies make derailleurs that perform in a similar fashion. Both offer a 10 speed system, both work flawlessly and both are meant to last. Shimano uses an aluminum alloy body and cage. Campy uses carbon cages and ti bolts. Ho hum. We'll call it a draw.

Shimano 2
Campy 2

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Campy V Shimano Chapter 4: The Brake/Shift Levers


Ok, here is where the argument begins for most devotees of the Italian and Japanese top Gruppos: Ergo vs. STI. Let's start with STI. Shimano's integrated shift-brake levers set the early standard for this genre which began a dozen years ago. STI, uses the brake lever to not only, well..brake, but it is also used to shift toward the larger cogs or rings on both front and rear. Under the brake lever is a smaller lever that works in an opposite manner. Each click will move the chain toward the smaller cogs or rings. Shimano levers are well built, light and many enjoy the "flight deck" feel to them. You can shift from almost any hand position, on the hoods, in the drops etc. The shifting is precise and effortless.
Ergo is Campy's version of the integrated shift/brake lever, but the design is quite different. Campy uses a fixed (or non-rotating) brake lever, and the small shift lever behind the brake lever is designed to shift toward the larger cogs and rings. To shift toward the smaller cogs and rings, Campy uses a thumb lever on the inside of the brake hood. Campy's system also offers precise shifting and a comfortable hand position. Ok, big deal you say. They both work so it's just a matter of preference right. Not exactly....
Campy has four major advantages over Shimano in their design. In no particular order:

1. Campy's left lever has 8 trim stops for the front derailleur. This guarantees that no matter what gear combo you are riding in, you can move the front derailleur out of the way, essentially making it like a friction shifter. Yeah yeah, I know why do you need this? Ok, ask Lance why he still uses a downtube shifter on his bike for mountain stages. It has nothing to do with weight and everything to do with having the ability to eliminate chain rub on crucial mountain stages. Campy's design is also made to work perfectly with a triple set up.

2. Campy's brake levers, since they have only one function, provide a quicker and more solid brake engagement. Trust me, I've tried both and there's no comparison.

3. Campy offers multiple shift capabilities when you want some extra power for that sprint. Simply hold the right thumb lever down for a second and voila, you are in your 11t gear ready to sprint. Shimano's dual rachet system requires one shift at a time. It's fine if that's what you're used to it, but once you try Campy, you'll love it.

4. Carbon, Carbon and more Carbon. Campy uses carbon in their levers which makes them 90 grams lighter than the DA. The carbon also provides a nice feel and they look fantastic.

There are some other factors as well, which I will cover in the final chapter regarding serviceability and replacement parts (stay tuned), but on function and form for the shifters it's hands down, Campy.

Shimano 2
Campagnolo 2


Campy V Shimano Part 3: The Brake Calipers

Both companies use a standard side pull caliper brake with two distinct differences. Campy uses a single pivot rear brake and a dual pivot front. The reason for this is to place the most stopping power where it's needed the most, in the front. This works beautifully. I have found myself never "locking them up" no matter how quickly I need to come to a stop.
Shimano uses a front and rear dual pivot with one added feature. They place a lever on each caliper that can open the brake as needed for a quick wheel change or to prevent rubbing if the wheel is out of true.
Campy choses to have a quick release at the brake lever, and although you do lose the ability to adjust on the fly, Campy brakes have a wider span to begin with, so rubbing has never been an issue with me. Plus Campy brakes just feel lighter and stronger. Advantage Campy.
Shimano 2
Campagnolo 1

Monday, September 12, 2005

Campy V. Shimano: Chapter 2, the Crankset

Given the integration between the crank and bb, especially with Shimano, I won't exhaust this topic. Shimano's drive-side crank has the spindle built in and the non drive side crank arm clamps around the spindle. The entire set up is pretty stiff and the drive side can never come loose. There have been instances where the non-drive side crank arm has come loose (even off), but I'm still a fan of the overall design.
Campy's cranks are beautifully sculpted and they offer a solid feel (especially the Record which uses uses a 4 arm design, where the chain rings bolt right to the crank arm). Campy also has a carbon ('bling 'bling) model as well as a compact design. The integration with the outboard bb, overall low weight for the alloy version and superior stiffness gives Shimano an ever so slight advantage over Campy, despite the latter's craftmanship and better choices. Round 2: Shimano
Shimano 2 Campy 0

Friday, September 09, 2005

And with that...

... please welcome DP Assistant Manager Peter Van P. He's my backup when I'm away, as well as the site's technical expert. And my big brother.

Campy V. Shimano: Chapter 1, The Bottom Bracket.

Italian component giant, Campagnolo produces one of the most beautiful gruppo's in the world, Record. They have placed carbon fiber on most non-load-bearing parts, for light weight and asthetics. They have even placed carbon fiber in their bottom bracket housing which produces a traditional sealed bb that tips the scales at a mere 190 grams.
My experience with the Record BB is that it is stiff enough for Magnus Backstedt, and therefore stiff enough for me. However the Record BB is hopelessly old school with it's square spindle and internal bearings, especially when compared to the Dura Ace BB with outboard bearings coupled to their one piece crank.
My Campy Crank/BB combo requires more tightening than my three-year old Ultegra 9 (octalink style) set-up, due in large part to the traditional spindle. It also requires a crank-puller to remove (no biggie since I own one), but it certainly lacks the convenience of the Dura Ace. I have also been told by friends that have the new DA10 set up that the stiffness is superb.
Advantage; Shimano.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Back in Town

After three weeks on the road, I return home to find nothing has happened, just one seven-time Tour winner threatening to come out of retirement as well as a few Petacchi sprints and a barnburner of a Vuelta, as usual, involving Roberto Heras, as usual. I've got nothing to add to the Lance saga, so in the coming days, look for this site to play catchup on the doings in Spain. And now, I must get a decent night's sleep.

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