Archive for July 30th, 2021

Q&A: Luke Plapp on signing with Ineos-Grenadiers and racing at the Olympics

07/30/2021 12:03

Q&A: Luke Plapp on signing with Ineos-Grenadiers and racing at the Olympics

In early 2021, 20-year-old Australian Luke Plapp announced himself as a future star on the road. At the Santos Festival of Cycling in Adelaide – a scaled-down version of the COVID-hit Tour Down Under – Plapp rode to a terrific solo stage win, before finishing second behind teammate Richie Porte on the iconic Willunga Hill climb.

A couple weeks later, Plapp opted to skip the U23 races at the Australian Road Nationals, instead choosing to race in the elite category. He went out and won the elite time trial by more than 40 seconds, beating four-time national champion Luke Durbridge in the process.

Plapp’s golden summer attracted the attention of at least five WorldTour teams. Today, Ineos Grenadiers announced that they have signed Plapp, initially in a stagiaire role, which will become a full contract in 2022. Plapp is currently in Tokyo preparing for the Olympic team pursuit. CyclingTips caught up with him just after he arrived to talk about the significance of signing with Ineos, what he’s expecting, plus a little bit about the Tokyo Games.


How’s Tokyo?

Bloody hot and humid eh? Today has been the coolest day and it’s like … yeah it’s just so hot and humid.

It’s just being cool being around it. But we’re staying in our own hotel so we’re not anywhere near the [athletes’] village. We’re just doing our own thing as a track team, trying to stay as isolated as we can.

Is that just a COVID thing?

Yeah it is. It was the plan before the Games as well, before last year. It’s just always been our plan. We just wanted to be by ourselves. The village is 50 minutes from the track, so we wanted to be a lot closer so the travel wasn’t as far between racing. And I guess we can control all the food and it’s our own staff and we’re not mixing with other athletes.

How many guys did you bring over for the team pursuit?

We’ve got five of us and a travelling reserve. So six in total but [the sixth] can only race if literally we get COVID.

How do you choose the four-rider team from the five? How do you decide who’s going to be in a particular race?

We don’t know to be honest. We won’t know till probably the night before the race. Because we haven’t been on the track yet we’ll see how everyone’s come out of the taper and rides in the next week leading up to it.

I guess with the Games being like one ride over three days, if the qualifying team had a good ride, it’d be hard pressed to swap it out. You’re not going to get tired from a 20-minute warm up, 10-minute cool down, and three minutes of riding. So there’s potential just to keep the whole team throughout. I guess we’re lucky that we’re all so even. As a team we could just pick anyone. 

What will you guys be happy with out of the team pursuit next week?

I think if we didn’t win gold, we’d be walking away pretty bloody disappointed, to be honest. I mean, that’s why we’re here and that’s what we’ve been training for. We know Worlds in Berlin [where Australia finished fifth in the team pursuit – ed.] wasn’t a representation of who we are and where we were going towards and I think our training indicates that we’re on the right track. And if we didn’t win gold, I think we’d be walking away pretty disappointed.

So tell me about this contract you’ve signed. 

So I signed with Ineos[ Grenadiers]. So I’ll start there from August 1st. So obviously [Olympic] teams pursuit finishes on the fourth but as soon as the Games finish I’ll fly straight to [Tour de] L’Avenir and just race with the national team there and then when I’m back, it’s all systems go with Ineos.

I’ll target the Road Worlds, both TT and road race at the end of the year [Plapp will race in the U23 ranks – ed.], and jump in a few races and do some stagiaire [rides] in between.

You must be pretty excited about all that? 

Yeah. Look, it’s a dream come true to be with that team. I think ever since I’ve been growing up that’s sort of the team I wanted to go to. And even before I was getting results on the road, I think seeing what they’ve done with previous track and pursuit riders like [Bradley] Wiggins, G [Geraint Thomas], [Filippo] Ganna now as well, [Ethan] Hayter – they’ve got such a great track record of converting pursuiters and almost identical riders to what I am into Grand Tour riders from the beginning.

It’s not like they’ve poached them from other teams pretty much, they’ve built them up their own way. And you see Rohan [Dennis] there now as well – it’s the type of rider that works for them. They know how to train them and get the most out of them.

So I think it was quite an obvious choice for me in terms of performance. And I think in the last couple of years I’ve learnt how much tech makes a difference with the track programme and leading into the Olympics and I know that they’re the best in the business at that. 

So for me, [I’ll be] focussing on TTs for the next couple of years before hopefully going onto the Grand Tours – they’re obviously the leaders in that field. So it was quite obvious to go there for me, in that sense too. 

Do you see yourself combining road and track going forward, or will you do only road now?

If it was a four-year Olympic cycle, I honestly don’t know what I would have said. But with Comm[onwealth] Games next year and the [2024 Paris Olympic] Games only 18 months again after that, I will definitely combine track as well.

I’d love to race the TT in Paris and also dabble in the madison and potentially teams pursuit. I don’t want to rule that out at all. It’s only three years away so we’ll see how that goes. But yeah, I think the madison and TT would be the focus there.

You’re going to be a busy boy.

Yeah, I’d love to do the track at Commies [Commonwealth Games] and the World Championships every now and then and do like the mado [madison] and points races. I think we’re seeing so much now – we even saw with [Tom] Pidcock today, which is pretty unbelievable – if you cross over [from one discipline to another] you’ve got a secret weapon. We’ve seen it with Wout [van Aert], with [Mathieu] van der Poel, Hayter at the same time – he’s come in leaps and bounds this year. I think you can just learn so much and it gives you a little bit extra that those normal road riders don’t have. 

So when you join the team on August 1, is that with the team properly or are you as a stagiaire for the rest of the year?

As a stagiaire for the year just because the team’s got a full roster. It would have been from the start, from August 1, if they had a spot, but they’re completely filled as a roster so that wasn’t possible. 

And to be honest, I didn’t really want to race much anyway. L’Avenir was a good go with the national team and then I wanted to just focus fully on Worlds and with so much with the Olympics and L’Avenir I really don’t need any other racing in between that.

I don’t know how much stagiairing I’ll do – there’s a few races on the cards if I wanted to. But at the same time I’m not sure if I’ll do them in the lead-up to Worlds.

Plapp (left) after taking bronze in the U19 ITT at the 2018 Worlds. The winner that day: Remco Evenepoel.

Have they got you on a two- or three-year deal?

Three-year deal [starting January 1, 2022, after his stagiaire role – ed]. Good potential to go longer but nah, three years is where I was at.

Have they given you an indication of what sort of races they’d like you to do next year and what sort of role they see for you? 

Yeah. The other thing with that team was there was not a whole lot of pressure going into it. It’s not like I’m expected to go there and get results because they’ve got the boys for that.

But for me, it’d be focussing on those week tours with TTs in them. That’s the main goal for next year. Target those TTs in the week-long tours and see what happens in the rest of the tour.

Tirreno[-Adriatico] would be a good one if I got to race the TT at the end, but then there’s so many other tours where the TT’s at the start too. So it’ll just be learning my body, trying to manage myself through those sorts of races, and then working out how to perform in a TT when I could be a little bit fatigued.

And at the same time if the TT was at the start, if I had a good one, then it’s about working out how to hold onto a potential GC position. And at the same time it’s trying to have a good first week to then be in with a chance in the TT at the end. And that’ll just teach me how to race really well too.

But the main goal, and what they keep drilling into me, is just ‘learn the Grenadier way of racing’ and and ease into the WorldTour peloton. 

As you said, at some point you’d like to have a crack at the Grand Tours, but there’s no real rush for that, right?

No, not at all. But yeah, that’s where I’d love to end up and that’s what I’d love to be doing in the future. But yeah, I don’t think there’s a massive rush for that. And I think with me trying to still balance the TTs and a bit of track, it’s not going to be the easiest thing to turn around and do it next year like we’ve seen so many other young guys do at the moment.

I think with this team as well, there’s no pressure for me to turn up and get a result there straight away; I can sort of ease into it. And when I’m ready, I’m ready.

It’ll be good to have guys like Richie Porte there, who you know, to help you ease into the team and the environment, right?

To have a couple of Aussies who I’ve sort of grown up with along the journey will be quite special. And Richie will be able to take me under his wing in his final year, which I think, for me, will be really special to be able to ride in the same team as him in his final year as a pro.

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The world champion, the geared BMX, and the drama that followed

07/30/2021 12:03

The world champion, the geared BMX, and the drama that followed

‘Drama’ was a thread running through the BMX racing at the Tokyo Olympics. Favourites crashed out; the defending men’s champ was stretchered off, and is still in hospital; there were surprise medallists in both finals.  

For good measure, there was a bit of drama going on in the pits, too.

Twan van Gendt, the current world champion competing for the Netherlands, had a card up his sleeve: he was racing the first geared BMX bike in Olympic history. 

BMX bikes are invariably single speed, so you might be forgiven for thinking that Van Gendt had found a loophole and exploited it.

That’s not the case: BMX racing, like any other discipline in the cycling family, follows strict technical guidelines presided over by the UCI (International Cycling Union). Hidden somewhere in the depths of a technical guidebook – which, I can assure you, are not best described as scintillating reading – is the allowance that “multiple speed gear systems are permitted”.  

There was no sleight of hand; Van Gendt had just done his homework better than his competitors.

At various points in the sport’s history, riders and bike designers have attempted the development of BMX bikes with multiple gears, but they’ve never really caught on. The barriers are many, including (but not limited to) the monstrous torque of the riders; the fact that they’re spinning the cranks north of 150 revs per minute; the way the bikes tend to be either airborne or slamming back to earth; and – this is an important one – the weight of tradition. 

In pursuit of a decisive advantage in the Olympics, Van Gendt and his team (and sponsors) decided to throw tradition to the wind. Shimano supplied a Zee shifter and modified rear derailleur which Van Gendt put through extensive testing at his home track in the Netherlands. 

The Dutch star’s minimal set-up – two cogs at the back, a 16 tooth and a 17 tooth – was honed to give him a decisive advantage on the Tokyo track. The course is around 25% longer than a typical Olympics track, with more sections that can be rolled instead of jumped. The opening straight is longer, too – making Van Gendt’s two-geared drivetrain, at least theoretically, a race-winning advantage.

It also sent the BMX world into a bit of a meltdown, with traditionalists decrying Van Gendt’s set-up as being against the spirit of the sport. Before the opening ceremony had even begun, it looked like Van Gendt had struck a decisive psychological advantage.

Van Gendt’s finely-honed preparations didn’t end there. Red Bull, who sponsor the Dutchman, built a replica ramp and opening straight to match the dimensions of the Tokyo course, so that Van Gendt’s preparations and testing of the geared drivetrain could proceed perfectly. 

Of course, sometimes an athlete just doesn’t have the legs on the day. For Van Gendt, today was that day; he had a literal extra gear, but metaphorically couldn’t find one. 

In the semi-finals, he finished in eighth of eight for the first two heats, improving to seventh in the third and final of his rides in Tokyo only by virtue of US medal contender Connor Fields crashing out. After all that, Van Gendt walked away with the lowest score of all semi-finallists.

Meanwhile, Van Gendt’s teammate, Niek Kimmann pulled an improbable victory out of the bag, securing a gold medal for the Netherlands.

A different Dutchman on the top step of the podium: Niek Kimmann of the Netherlands.

Kimmann was riding with a fractured kneecap, after an official walked into his path on Monday. He didn’t have a replica track to train on, and he only had one gear.

But his performance – and Van Gendt’s comparative underperformance – did demonstrate one thing: marginal gains are all well and good, but you still need to be the best rider in the race. 

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Tadej Pogačar signs new deal with UAE until 2027

07/30/2021 12:03

Tadej Pogačar signs new deal with UAE until 2027

Tour de France winner Tadej Pogačar has renewed his contract with UAE Team Emirates. His contract ran through 2026 already making it one of the longest contracts in procycling but the Slovenian adds another year beyond that. He will turn 29 in the final year of this contract.

On his way home from Tokyo where Pogačar took the bronze medal in the Olympic road race, he made a quick stop over in the United Arab Emirates to sign the contract extension with the team he joined in 2019.

“I am really happy to be able to commit my future to the team and stay here for the next years,” he was quoted in the team’s press release. “I feel at home here, it feels like a big family. This team is a really good fit for me and I am fortunate to say that I have not only found colleagues but friends. I’m excited for the years ahead and what they will bring, hopefully more success for me and for the team. I hope we are inspiring lots of kids to ride bikes.”

Pogačar is only 22 years young but has already won two Tour de France titles, a monument in Liège-Bastogne-Liège and World Tour stage races like Tirreno Adriatico and the UAE Tour this season and the Amgen Tour of California in 2019. He won nine Grand Tour stages already, three in every Grand Tour he started in. 

UAE Team Emirates manager Mauro Gianetti has already started building a team around the Slovenian rider. With Spaniard Juan Ayuso, UAE Team Emirates also have the most promising young rider of this moment. The 18-year-old won the Giro U23 with a three-minute margin in June and joined the pro ranks straight after with a second place in his first race with the team, the Prueba Villafranca – Ordiziako Klasika. Also New Zealander Finn Fisher Black is also one of the young, exciting talents to join the team.

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Track cycling events at the Tokyo Olympics, explained

07/30/2021 12:03
Team pursuit track cycling event.

Track cycling events at the Tokyo Olympics, explained

With the road, MTB, and BMX racing now complete at the Tokyo Olympics, we turn our attention to track cycling at the 250 metre-long Izu velodrome.

Track events dominate the cycling programme in Tokyo: of the 22 cycling events, 12 of them are on the track. All told, there’s a full week of velodrome racing on offer, from Monday August 2 to Sunday August 8.

If you aren’t familiar with track racing, it can be hard to get your head around all the different disciplines involved. Hopefully the following guide will help.


First up, it’s important to note that track cycling events are split into two categories: sprint events and endurance events.

Sprint events require short explosive efforts, and are often very tactical, requiring a heavy focus on positioning. They tend to be contested by larger, more muscular riders.

Endurance events are longer and require sustained hard efforts. Riders that race on both the road and track — the likes of Mark Cavendish, Elia Viviani, or Kirsten Wild — are usually more suited to endurance events.

Cyclists complete a handsling during a madison track cycling event.
Dutch pair Kirsten Wild (left) and Amy Pieters complete a handsling during a madison event.

Sprint events

These are the three sprint events happening at the Tokyo Olympics, all of which have a men’s and a women’s competition.

  • Sprint
  • Team sprint
  • Keirin

Let’s break these events down.

Sprint

Also known as the “match sprint,” the sprint is a one-vs-one format with two riders starting at the same point on the track. While the race is for 750 metres, only the final 200 metres are timed. Early laps are usually raced at low speed, with riders sometimes coming to a complete stop as they battle one another for position, trying to force their opponent to the front (the worst spot to be). The first rider across the finish line wins.

A total of 30 riders will start the competition, which begins with a 200-metre flying-start time trial to seed the 24 fastest riders. From there, there are five rounds of one-on-one racing to narrow the field down from 24 to 16 to 12 to eight to four and finally to two for the final. Between the rounds of 24, 16, 12, and eight there are a total of three “repechage” rounds to give lower-ranked riders a second chance of progressing through the competition.

All quarterfinals and semifinals, plus the final, will be contested via best-two-of-three matches.

Men’s world record: 9.100 (Nicholas Paul, Cochabamba, Bolivia, 2019)
Women’s world record: 10.154 (Kelsey Mitchell, Cochabamba, Bolivia, 2019)

Team sprint

The team sprint is not a conventional sprint event — it’s actually more like a team time trial. The men’s race features three-rider teams and is contested over three laps, while the women’s event features two-rider teams and is raced over two laps.

Each race sees one team pitted against another, with one team on each side of the track. Each rider sits on the front for one lap before peeling off, leaving the team with one less rider after every lap. Only one rider from the team must complete the race. The team to complete the required number of laps first is the winner.

The men’s competition is expected to feature eight teams of three, while the women’s will feature eight teams of two.

Women's team sprint track cycling event at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Two riders competing in the team sprint at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

All teams will post a time in the qualifying round with teams then paired against each other in the first round based upon seeding (i.e. first against eighth, second versus seventh etc.) The winners of the four heats advance to the medal round, with the two fastest teams competing in the gold-medal final and the two slowest teams racing for bronze.

While sheer speed is vital, technique is also key in this event as riders must get off the line quickly from a standing start, get rapidly into a tight and efficient formation, and race as close together as possible to maximise drafting. No energy can be wasted and changeovers are closely scrutinised by the commissaires, so the margin for error is tiny.

Men’s world record: 41.225 (Netherlands, Berlin, Germany, 2020)
Women’s world record: 31.928 (China, Olympic Games, Brazil, 2016)

Keirin

A popular gambling sport that originated in Japan, the keirin is one of the most recognisable track events. Between three and six riders compete in a sprint race of three laps (750 metres) having followed in the slipstream of a pacing motorbike (derny) for the first 750 m. The motorbike gradually increases in speed from 30 to 50 km/h before peeling off and letting the sprinters battle it out.

Positioning behind the derny is paramount – after the first derny lap riders will jostle each other out of position to gain an advantage over their rivals as the derny speed increases. With three laps remaining the derny leaves the track and the sprint is on. Hitting finishing speeds of up to 70 km/h, riders fight to be the first across the line.

Thirty riders will start the women’s competition, and likewise in the men’s.

Keirin track cycling event.
Riders follow the derny during a keirin event.

The keirin is contested over four rounds. In round 1, the top two in each of the five heats will progress to round 2. The remaining riders will go the “repechage” where they’ll have a second chance to earn their way into the second round.

There’ll be three heats in the second round, with the top four in each going through to the semifinals. The semifinals will feature two heats of six, with the top three in each going to Final A (for the medals) and the bottom three in each going to Final B (for places 7-12).

Endurance events

There are three endurance events happening in Tokyo as well. As with the sprint events, these are all contested by men and women.

Team pursuit

In the team pursuit, two teams of four riders start on opposite sides of the track, racing against each other to be the first to complete 4 km. If one team catches the other before the finish, the race is over there and then.

Riders follow each other in close formation, each taking turns on the front. When the lead rider has completed their turn they peel off the front, swing up the track, and then rejoin the team at the rear.

The team’s time is taken from the third rider to cross the finish line, so it is common for one rider to take a longer “death pull” towards the end, burying themselves such that they cannot maintain the group pace afterwards. This allows the remaining three riders to recover briefly in their teammate’s slipstream before making a final acceleration towards the finish line. 

Note the time-trial-style handlebars used in the team pursuit, compared to the drop bars used in sprint events.

Eight teams of four will each contest the women’s and men’s competitions. These competitions will begin with a qualifying round with each team setting a time for seeding. In the first round, the top four teams are seeded against each other (first vs fourth, second vs third) and the bottom four teams race one another.

The winners of the top-bracket races go on to race in the gold-medal final. The seeding for the rest of the finals (for bronze/fourth place; fifth/sixth; seventh/eighth) is determined by team times from the first round.

Men’s world record: 3:44.672 (Denmark, World Championships, Berlin, 2020)
Women’s world record: 4:10.236 (Great Britain, Olympic Games, Brazil, 2016)

Madison

Named after Madison Square Garden in New York City, where the event was first held — and alternatively called “Le Americaine” in French — the madison is perhaps the most exciting, and also confusing, event in track cycling.

Two-rider teams contest the mass-start event, raced over 50 km (200 laps) for the men and 30 km (120 laps) for women. Only one rider from each team is allowed in the race at a given time. Teammates hand-sling one another in and out of the race; resting riders circle the top of the banking.

Points are awarded for sprints every 10 laps with the top four teams awarded five, three, two and one points respectively. Those points are doubled for the final sprint. Teams gaining a lap on the main bunch are awarded 20 points while teams losing a lap are deducted 20 points. The team finishing with the highest number of points wins.

The best madison teams will have one rider with great endurance, capable of a long push to take a lap, and one who specialises in sprinting and can take sprint points or make a sudden explosive effort to make a break. As an example, Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish have been world champions in this event twice, in 2008 and again in 2016.

The madison hasn’t been held at the Olympics since 2012 when it was a men’s-only event. Tokyo hosts the first ever women’s Olympic madison.

Cyclists performing a handsling in amadison track cycling race.
Wiggins (left) and Cavendish on their way to a madison world title in 2016.

Omnium

The omnium is a multi-race event. In the case of Tokyo, the omnium comprises four different mass-start races held on the same day (down from six events at the Rio Olympics). Those four events are:

Scratch race: All riders start together with the goal of being first over the line. This is raced over 10 km for men and 7.5 km for women.

Tempo race: Riders accumulate points by winning sprints or taking laps. With the exception of the first five laps, intermediate sprints occur every lap with the first rider in each sprint awarded one point. Riders can also gain 20 points for lapping the main field, and any rider caught by the main peloton loses 20 points. Raced over 7.5 km for women and 10 km for men.

Elimination race: The last rider is eliminated after every second lap, until only the winner remains.

Points race: Points are awarded at intermediate sprints every 10 laps, with five points for first place, three for second, two for third, and one for fourth. Points are doubled at the last sprint. A rider who laps the field gets 20 points while a rider lapped by the field loses 20 points. This event is raced over 25 km for the men and 20 km for women.

The winner of each of the first three events – the scratch race, elimination race, and tempo race – will be awarded 40 points with second place receiving 38 points, third place 36 points, and so on. The final event will be the points race with riders starting with the points they have accumulated from the first three events. Their total will then increase or decrease depending on their performance in the points race.

The rider with the most points after all four events is the winner. The winner of the omnium tends not to be a specialist in any of these events, but rather a jack-of-all-trades.

Cyclists in a track cycling event.
In Tokyo, the omnium consists of four mass-start races.

When the races are

Want to know when you can watch a particular track event? Follow the link for a full schedule of track cycling events at the Tokyo Olympics. Alternatively, here’s a list of the medal events that are happening each day and at what time, Tokyo time (GMT +9):

Monday August 2

  • 6:06pm: Women’s team sprint (bronze medal race)
  • 6:09pm: Women’s team sprint (gold medal race)

Tuesday August 3

  • 5:19pm: Women’s team pursuit (bronze)
  • 5:26pm: Women’s team pursuit (gold)
  • 5:41pm: Men’s team sprint (bronze)
  • 5:44pm: Men’s team sprint (gold)

Wednesday August 4

  • 5:59pm: Men’s team pursuit (bronze)
  • 6:06pm: Men’s team pursuit (gold)

Thursday August 5

  • 5:45pm: Women’s keirin
  • 5:55pm: Men’s omnium points race (final event of four)

Friday August 6

  • 5:15pm: Women’s madison final
  • 6:35pm: Men’s sprint finals – race 2
  • 6:50pm: Men’s sprint finals – decider

Saturday August 7

  • 4:55pm: Men’s madison final

Sunday August 8

  • 11:45am: Women’s sprint finals – race 2
  • 12:00pm: Men’s keirin final
  • 12:05pm: Women’s sprint finals – decider
  • 12:25pm: Women’s omnium points race (final event of four)

Viewing notes

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you tune in:

  • Early reports are that the Tokyo velodrome is very fast. Australian team pursuit rider Luke Plapp told CyclingTips “It’s so quick here! I’m expecting some times that may not be broken for a long time! Conditions are crazy!” Expect new world records in the men’s and women’s team pursuit.
  • The women’s team pursuit has only been in the Olympics since London in 2012 and Great Britain has won both gold medals since. Team USA, headlined by Chloe Dygert, are the reigning world champions though.
  • The British men’s team pursuit squad has won the last three Olympic gold medals. Since Rio, though, Denmark has risen as one of the teams to beat, so too New Zealand, and Italy with Filippo Ganna at the helm.
  • Australia’s men’s team pursuit squad was left reeling after fifth place at the 2020 Track Worlds (won by Denmark ahead of New Zealand, France and Italy). The Australian team is desperate to bounce back, and improve on the silver medal it won in Rio.
  • The men’s team pursuit world record has been broken five times since Rio. Twice by Australia (2018 and 2019), and then three times in two days by Denmark (at the 2020 Track Worlds). Their fastest effort was a full two seconds faster than their previous best.
  • Laura Kenny (Great Britain) is the two-time reigning Olympic champ in the omnium and will be among the favourites for that event. Perhaps her biggest rival will be reigning world champ Yumi Kajihara (Japan).
  • Road star Elia Viviani (Italy) is the reigning men’s Olympic omnium champ. France’s Benjamin Thomas (also a road racer) is the reigning world champion.
  • Great Britain’s Jason Kenny (husband to Laura), has been in the gold-medal-winning team sprint team for the past three Olympics. He’s also won the last two individual sprint gold medals. Kenny is currently tied as the athlete with the most Olympic golds of any British athlete (six, with Chris Hoy). He’s a great chance of setting a new record in Tokyo.
  • The Dutch pairing of Kirsten Wild and Amy Pieters will start as favourites in the first women’s Olympic madison. They’ve won the last two world titles and took silver the year before that.
  • In the men’s madison, the favourites will be Denmark’s Michael Mørkøv (of Deceuninck-QuickStep fame) and Lasse Norman Hansen. They’re the reigning world champs.

If you want to go deeper on the rules and competition structures of track cycling, take a look at the UCI’s rules and regulations document.

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A ride of loss, love, and longing among the mountain ash

07/30/2021 12:03

A ride of loss, love, and longing among the mountain ash

Cycling writer Peter Foot takes us along for a stirring ride as he ventures onto quiet tracks and dirt roads in the Dandenongs Ranges, east of Melbourne, Australia. As you’ll read, this wasn’t your average bike ride – it was an opportunity to step back and take a look at a world gone mad, and to feel grateful for the things that mean most.


The dappled shade makes it hard to see rocks from a distance. The track angles down and I pick up speed. I feel the breeze on my neck, hear the whir of the freehub. 

A couple of fast sweepers. I look ahead to discern a line, then glance down to check for rocks, then back at the line. There is the bike, and my connection to it, and the trail, and the loamy smell of the forest. I position my hips so that the tyres bite and drift just a touch and the whole bike feels primed like a bow that snaps back and shoots me through the exit. Yes. There it is. 

There is something depthless about it, this kinetic experience. When you’re overbalancing, when one foot stands in chaos, it brings you back. I need that now. I’m wound up like a thousand-day clock, to borrow the words of former Australian prime minister Paul Keating. It’s been a strange year. 

And I’m tired. So tired. Without making a conscious decision I stop pedalling. The freehub winds down then clicks to a halt, and I choose a more-or-less random spot by the side of the track and lie down. I take my helmet off and let my head rest on the soil and I close my eyes. 

It’s been a strange year. The pandemic, of course. In Victoria, one of the world’s hardest lockdowns. Who would have predicted, a year earlier, that in the winter of 2020 you would need a piece of paper – essentially a passport – to travel more than five kilometres from home? That in the evening I could walk into the middle of the street outside my house – technically breaking curfew – and see not a soul. No person walking, no cars, no sounds, like the apocalypse. And strangest of all, that a coalition government would double the Jobseeker payment

Then there were the bog-ordinary things that suddenly became complicated. The risk calculations you make about hugging a family member, or shaking the hand of a mate. The way you would go over, sometimes obsessively, how that person coughed near you at the supermarket, or you absent-mindedly rubbed your eye? How through a small, innocent mistake, you might jeopardise the safety of your loved ones? Sometimes it feels like 2020 was primarily an exercise in managing anxiety. At least I’m better at it now.        

I gradually tune into the space around me. The rustle of leaves in the breeze and the shriek of a white cockatoo. I savour the cool mugginess of the shade. A couple of ants crawl on me. A little tickle on my ankle, another on my arm. The odd fly buzzes around. I feel my brain getting pulled down by gravity. I’m leaning into the fatigue. Falling away …

… a sharp sting on my knee. An involuntary spasm brings me upright. A march fly. I bat it away with the back of my hand. How long have I been here? I want more rest, like a thirsty man wants water. But I’m awake now. Kind of agitated. May as well keep going. I climb wearily back on my bike.  

I trundle along the easy double track of Dandenong Creek Trail until I reach Zig Zag Track. It’s called that because it switchbacks steeply up towards the summit of Mt. Dandenong. I sit and grind away, keeping my weight low and forward. The front wheel lifts slightly off the ground and I swing left and right to keep balance. Sweat is making my T-shirt stick to me. A jogger passes me going down and we exchange a hello. 

I reach a level bit of track again, and then a fun little downhill that’s straight with a few rocky bits. I hold it in line and weight the forks. I clomp over the rocks and I feel the bumps work through the oil and the air chamber and up through the headset and the bones in my arms. Yes, there it is again. There’s bliss in movement. Bliss.  

There’s a group of people milling about on the trail ahead. I slow down and when I am near them the vegetation to my left ceases to be there and instead there is a view of the city. It’s wide and unhindered, like standing a few feet away from an IMAX screen.  

The CBD is a little cluster of sticks in the distance. The suburbs stretch out all the way to the base of the mountain below me. I can see the dark blue of the bay to the south and the hazy grey of the ranges to the north. It was like a vast prison, not long ago. This whole city. Encircled by the bay and the ranges and police checkpoints. Crazy.

My wife got a positive test result early in the year. But it wasn’t for COVID. She was pregnant with our first child. COVID-19 hadn’t reached our shores yet, but when it did it sure complicated things, like all the contact with the medical system involved in gestation and birth. More risk calculations, weird new procedures. For one of the ultrasounds, partners were banished from the waiting room. I stood out in the laneway with two other dads-to-be, looking at my bemasked wife through the glass. One of the guys who already had a child told me a bit about fatherhood.     

The uncertainty ratcheted up as waves of pestilence came and went. It was decreed that partners would only be allowed to stay in hospital two hours after birth. It was decreed that labouring women may not use a bath or shower, a very common strategy used for relaxation and pain management. What other decrees might be suddenly enacted? What if I happened to have a fever when it happened? Would I be allowed in? Would my wife labour alone? Would I miss the birth of my child? In the end we opted for a home birth.    

I leave the view of the city behind and a short while later the trail goes from flat and wide to steep, rocky singletrack. I stop at the top and look down. It’s line ball. On my other bike I wouldn’t hesitate. But I am without a dropper, and possess more stem length than fork travel. A couple of years ago I went over the bars on this bike and broke my arm. That won’t do now, with a baby and everything. 

I dismount and clamber down with my bike. My movements are impatient and imprecise. I’m not here, really. My mind is getting caught up in little things, like how that fly woke me up before. I chastise myself for thinking about something so silly. I’m wasting this beautiful day, and that just makes me more tense. I’m wound up like a thousand-day clock. 

Fifteen minutes later I come to a cafe. I order a roast vegetable foccacia and a mango smoothie. While I eat I breathe. Just breathe. I look down the ranges and into the dark waters of Silvan Resevoir, a deep looking hole in the green canopy of the forest. I chew and I breathe.  

After lunch I find a shady spot near a gazebo and lie down on the moist ground. I’m going to have a proper rest now. Nothing can disturb me. Thoughts eddie and swirl. They wash up on the shores of my mind, and I watch them recede back into the water. I feel the breeze against my skin. A while later I open my eyes again and spend a few minutes looking at how the sun lights up some of the leaves a radiant green, while others are in shadow. The breeze makes the light flicker and hop. 

I rub some sunscreen into my arms and face and neck. I swing my leg over again and trundle along some smooth singletrack. I ride through a grove of the tallest tree ferns I’ve ever seen. In one large dead eucalypt, someone has installed a little door. I open it and there is a surgical mask inside. 

I come out onto Olinda Creek Road. It descends the eastern side of the range. I pick up speed. I fly past cobalt blue agapanthus, their bauble heads reaching out from the side of the road, like they’re craning their necks to watch me pass. What a beautiful name: agapanthus. How delightful it is that they exist, and that they have such a lovely name, and that the sun is out. 

At the end of the road I look at my map, and I set off down an unfamiliar track. And I do what I came here to do. For the next couple of hours I set off down unfamiliar tracks and I run my eyes up and down trees and I chortle. I find a seldom-used stretch of singletrack with many small logs down over it. I weight the front and spring over them and sometimes the back wheel scuds over the bark, and sometimes I clear them clean in one movement. 

Later I pedal along a wide, flat track and I pass a walker and I observe the bark on the eucalypts. Later I grind up a straight, overgrown track that goes through a stand of broad leaf trees. It’s beautifully shady and it reminds me of a North American forest. For a moment I forget everything and I feel that I could actually be on the other side of the world. I stop for a minute and see a lyrebird scratching in the soil. The Dandenongs are criss-crossed with such trails. It’s worth taking a day to explore them.  

In the late afternoon I realise that the road I’m on leads all the way back to near where I started. I didn’t intend for it. It was serendipitous. It’s management-vehicle only, it’s relatively flat, and it means I can avoid the main road and its traffic. It goes through a sprawling arboretum. On the left are groves of California Redwoods. On the right a broad leaf tree from Asia. Chinese Boodelie-boo, or whatever the little sign said. The sun is getting lower and taking on that golden hue. I continue my chortling.

I round a bend and come to a row of large mountain ash. Their enormous trunks line one side of the road. So much mass in them. The sun slants in on an angle. It’s enchanting. I’m half expecting to see a forest fairy hopping between the trees. I stop and take in the scene, and I can’t help but think of dad. It convulses through me at random times, the weight of it. 

He received his diagnosis just as the novel coronavirus COVID-19 was being declared a global pandemic. He had two surgeries, rounds of chemo, and other stuff. The day after the first surgery, he was giving me advice on the phone from ICU about a job interview I had coming up. Typical dad. Always thinking of me and my sister. Another time we sat in the courtyard of the hospital and patted a neighbourhood cat, and talked about family.  

When he could still walk we used to walk around the park during lockdown, with all the other joggers and dog-walkers and frisbee-throwers. I savoured the talks we had. I savoured them more than I think I’ve savoured anything. He put things in perspective for me always, and listened. 

“Look after that wonderful wife and son you’ve got,” he would say.  

“I will Dad.”

I’ll never forget the light in his eyes when he first met my son. I’ll always be grateful that he could be a grandfather before he died. I’ll always be grateful that my dad and my son could share a few months together, here on earth, in the place where the mountain ash soar. 

The route

 

You can find a detailed ride guide for this route at Peter’s website, Adventure Cycling Victoria.

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Categories:CyclingTips

DMT KR1 TDF Shoe Review

07/30/2021 12:02

Just ahead of Tadej’s second Tour de France victory, DMT released their newest road cycling shoe – the Tadej Pogacar KR1 TDF version in – what else – TDF yellow.  But there’s more to this shoe than just a signature & fancy color to enhance the already very nice KR1 line – like traditional laces, a super-stealth profile, and killer comfort from the one-piece knit upper.  Let’s step in to my review…

dmt-kr1-tdf-laces

DMT caught my eye a couple years back when they introduced their KR1 line at Eurobike (watch my video here), is was a super comfortable yet high performance road cycling shoe, that was also light, sleek and stylish.

The original version was a hi-vis orange, which complimented the PEZ kit very nicely – if I do say so.  They were later released in more traditional black, and white versions.

dmt-kr1-prosecco-pez

DMT struck sponsorship gold – er, yellow – when Pán Pogacar (look it up..) won yellow at the 2020 Tour de France, and what better reason as an equipment supplier to launch an all new, slightly revised version of their top of the line KR1 road shoe?

Watch my unboxing video to get a feel for what’ll be like when you open your own pair…

3D Knitting Makes Everything Better
As well as several top-level features that make this shoe worthy of a TDF winner, the standout of them all is the comfort and support supplied by the 3D knit upper.  3D knitting allows the manufacturer to create a full seamless piece of fabric to fit around a three dimensional shape (ie: your foot), in a single knitting process.

The image from the DMT website shows a DMT technician holding an actual one-piece upper before it’s been bonded to the sole.

The 3D process was invented close to a decade ago, but has been refined in response to the growing demand for textile based clothing, in this case footwear, because of reduced demand for leather based shoes, and also because the 3D process has been shown to eliminate up to 60% of the waste from earlier production methods that involved cutting and trimming fabrics to fit different sized shoes.

dmt-kr1-tdf-full

For instance – the laces connect through loops that are channeled through knitted … channels.  And that segues nicely to another feature of these shoes – the laces.  As DMT’s first lace-up knitted shoe – the elimination of a BOA or strap-style enclosure makes for a much sleeker profile (see how the knot tucks away into a stealthy elastic pocket below).  t also means fit for many feet shapes can be improved because the laces stretch around the curves and arch of the foot.

dmt-kr1-tdf-lace-guides

Indeed – the entire upper is knitted as one piece of fabric, but with variations in the knit to allow for different levels and strengths of support at different parts of the shoe.

dmt-kr1-tdf-laces

Even the piece of fabric where the shoe tongue traditionally sits is part of the one-piece upper – and knitted as part of the upper as a stretchier section to better conform to various foot shapes.

dmt-kr1-tdf-inside

The knitted upper also allows for very good breathability.  Here you can see how light shines through and the various vent holes and textures of the fabric.

dmt-kr1-tdf-heel-cup

The heel cup of this TDF version is substantially lower than the original KR1 (right, above).  I first thought this might be an issue holding my heel in place, but actually found no issues with my foot slipping around, thanks to extra gripper on the inside and the taller cuff.  The lower overall height at the heel also makes slipping into the shoe easier.  The DMT designer chose to lower the heel cup to create a completely different look, covering the foot as little as possible.

The heel cup and toe box are reinforced with a synthetic coating to add structure and support, while the top section around the ankle fits snug like a sock.  Getting these on is best done with a shoe horn – which thankfully comes in the box.

dmt-kr1-tdf-sole

The sole is full carbon fibre – light, stiff and strong.  It’s shaped to add strength and reduce flex.  The replaceable heel plate is more substantial than some other shoes, which makes it easier to walk around the coffee shop.

dmt-kr1-tdf-cleat-holes

Cleat placement is easy thanks to marked guidelines on four side of the cleat, and a slot for Look’s Memory Cleat guide (although the shoes will take many different types of cleat/ pedal combos.)

dmt-kr1-tdf-vent

The toe box is vented at add airflow for hot days.

PERFORMANCE
I said it before when I first started riding the original KR1 – these shoes are incredibly comfortable – thanks to that 3D knit design.  This knitting technology is now a few years old, and it’s very likely you already own a pair of knitted footwear.  The big sports brands like Nike & Adidas have had knitted shoes in their lines for a few years, and you can see a sock-drawer full of startup footwear brands popping up on your social media feeds daily.  I think I now have three pairs of non-cycling knitted footwear – and nothing beats them for comfort.

The beauty is that the knitted design allows the shoe to more easily conform and shape to a much wider range of foot shapes – including mine… and I’ll bet yours too.

I’ve been riding the original KR1 for a couple of seasons now, and have found it’s durability equal to its comfort.  I do take care of my gear, and that means wearing covers when the weather throws a day of dirt and muck up, but after two seasons, the original KR1 is looking almost as good as day 1. The synthetic fabric is tough, the stitching has held together, and I’ve got only good things about the KR1.

Outta the box, the KR1 TDF version looked really interesting to me because I’ve never worn a lace up road shoe, and the way DMT has engineered an outta sight stretchy pouch to stow the bow is so cool that you can barely see there’s a knotted lace tucked up in there.  Very sleek.

The laces are a stretchy material as well – which allows lots of options to tension the shoe across a big variety of foot shapes – and that’s probably why they feel so good.

My only real concern was whether the lower profile of the ankle section of the shoe would allow my heel to slip out.  Turns out it does as intended and has held my heel in place as promised.

The sole has proven its worth under my original KR1’s, and is as stiff as I need it for my 140lbs climber’s build.  Everyone has a different way of interpreting tactile information, so I can only comment on myself, but if this show is stiff enough for a Tour de France winner, I’m sure it’ll work for you.

Priced at US$499 these are obviously at the high end of the shoe range, but could very well be worth it if you’re looking for a shoe with as proven record winning the world’s biggest race, offers top level comfort and durability, and looks pretty different from most other shoes out there.

They come in 20 sizes – from 37 – 47 and half-size increments.

• See more and buy ’em at the DMT website here.

 

The post DMT KR1 TDF Shoe Review appeared first on PezCycling News.


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