Dear Michael

1 September, 2014

Dear Michael,
it was great teamwork. You said it yourself. And so it was. You won the stage and took the red jersey. Michael Matthews, the leader in the Vuelta for three days. Don’t underestimate it, because wearing the leaders jersey is something to be quite proud of. It’s just such a shame that all the attention in the cycling summary at the end of the season will go to that German sprinter: Marcel Kittel. Winner of four stages in this year’s Tour de France. It’s impressive, I know. He also took the yellow jersey after the first stage, just like he did last year. Pity that he could only enjoy it for one day.

Impressive or not, what you’ve done this year is also pretty amazing. You are making great progress. Winning a stage in the Tour of Slovenia, becoming 2nd in the Brabantse Pijl, winning a stage in the Giro d’Italia. In fact, you wore the pink leaders jersey for six days. Beat that, Kittel. In three weeks’ time you will turn 24. You are still so young. I dare to say that this year is your best year so far.

I honestly think that you are ready. You are ready for the Tour de France. I can’t wait to see you riding through the streets of Utrecht next year. And I can imagine you want to sprint against Kittel. After all, he has beaten you twice in the Giro earlier this year. You must want revenge for that.
The Tour de France will be the perfect opportunity to do so. On the first day, in the first sprint. You just have to cross the finish line before all the other sprinters. And Kittel, of course. And if you manage to do that, then you will not only win the first stage, you will also be the first leader. Now don’t worry, I’m sure that after pink and red, yellow will look fine on you too. Beat that, Kittel.

Ready For Take-Off

Today I have found more proof about the fact that boys will always be boys.
The third stage of the Vuelta started on a ship. And I’m not referring to the gigantic, white cruise ships. This morning the riders departed from a warship. An aircraft carrier to be more explicit. And most boys like aircrafts. I cannot describe in words what this carrier looks like, so for that I’d like to refer to the photo that Chris Froome took of it this morning.

First some information about the warship itself. It is the ‘Juan Carlos I.’ It is named after king Juan Carlos, the former king of Spain. The ship can carry aircrafs and helicopters and it is 230 metres long. It is used by the Spanish navy for multiple purposes. Enough of that so far. If you still are in an urgent need of more details about this warship, just google it and read whatever you want to read about it.

Back to the proof that I’ve found. Tobias Ludvigsson from Team Giant-Shimano stated on Twitter that this was the “coolest start I ever had.” Cadel Evans from the BMC Racing Team mentioned that this start was “impressive” and Nathan Haas from Garmin-Sharp said that his morning “was better then my day.” He also referred to the movie ‘Top Gun’, sending a tweet into the world that says: “take my breathe away you fantastic bike race you.” The soundtrack of that movie is ‘take my breath away’ by Berlin. And I have to admit, Manuel Quinziato does look a bit like Tom Cruise (you know, the handsome actor in that movie)
in the photo you can see below.

He was not the only rider who was lucky enough to take place in one of the aircrafts on the ship. Riders like Wout Poels, Imanol Erviti, Maxim Bouet and Oscar Gatto also had the opportunity to sit in an aircraft. Alexander Kolobnev even showed that he would be an excellent captain and Rigoberto Uran took a photo with one of the staff members. As you can see, all happy faces.
I think I have proved my point.

Captains

Wasn’t there any selfie today? Of course there was! What is a day without one? Three Belkin boys (Martijn Keizer, Stef Clement and Robert Gesink) show us the big crowd behind them, stating that many fans were present this morning to cheer for the riders (and take photos of that warship, I presume).

I do wonder: what is next? Today it is a warship, what will it be tomorrow?
The zoo? A football stadium? A swimming pool? With the current heat in Spain I think the riders prefer the last suggestion. I do know that the riders enjoyed themselves this morning. And that they will have some very sweet dreams tonight (about aircrafts. Lots and lots of aircrafts).

Teams Aircraft

Dear Tony

26 July 2014

Dear Tony,
I was looking forward to this day.
Most of the time I dislike watching time trials.
Nevertheless, watching you makes everything alright.
Not because the time trial is your speciality, no.
It’s your head.
The head of a hard-working man.
A mine worker, a builder, a farmer perhaps.
Your head shows suffering and dedication at the same time.
Your open mouth, the teardrops of sweat all over your face
and your big eyes fixed on the road ahead of you.
Were you nervous for today?
Was there any pressure, since you’ve already won a stage in this Tour?
I guess there was, since you are the world champion in this discipline.
Of course there was some competition, but you were the favourite.
Do you know that some riders are scared?
Scared that one day you will put every rider in the peloton out of the time limit.
Once you have found your rhythm, you are going so fast.
It almost makes it impossible for others to follow you.
On the bike you show that you are going all the way.
You fight for every second, leaving other riders behind with nothing.
Remember that you already gave us a time trial in this Tour.
As a matter of fact, several of them.
Whenever you were at the head of the bunch, shaking your head
up and down, riding like a mad man, eyes on the road,
you were acting like it was a time trial to you.
And today was no exception to that.
Tony Martin. Two wins in one Tour.
‘Der Panzerwagen’ did it again.

The Tour Selfies #3

Wednesday, the 9th of July. Who doesn’t remember the Tour stage on that day? It was wet, muddy and there were eight strokes of cobblestones. It was the day that Chris Froome left the Tour de France, the day that Nibali gained a lot of seconds on his rivals and it was the day of Lars Boom; the winner of the day. He has also introduced a new kind of selfie. Let’s call it ‘the day after’ selfie. We see Boom sitting in the bus, all clean and ready for another day. Boring selfie. No, I prefer the selfies that were taken on the day itself, right after the finish. That muddy face of Ben King (GRS) shows how hard it was on the cobbles. Jérémy Roy (FDJ) shares a photo from before the race and after the race with us, so we can clearly see the difference. It is also quite hard to recognize Paul Voss from Team NetApp-Endura. On the other hand, the boys from Movistar look like they had a good time on the bike that day. And although the boys of Team Giant-Shimano are still smiling, they really need to take a shower.

More selfies were taken since the cobblestone stage. Actually, Team Astana takes the phenomenon to a whole new level. They introduced the ‘gangster selfie’ to us. Michael Scarponi and Lieuwe Westra are particularly good at taking these kind of selfies. But I guess I wouldn’t want to run into Kévin Réza and Bryan Coquard from Europcar either. These guys can also pull some intense faces. Thomas Voeckler is famous for pulling different faces during a race, but his teammates can pull this off too. In fact, Réza looks funny in a selfie with another teammate, Perrig Quemeneur. On a rest day, funny photos always seem to appear more often than usual. Riders obviously need to relax and have some time on their hands. So Marcel Sieberg posted a selfie where we see that the Lotto-Belisol boys can also ride without their hands on the handlebars. It’s a classic: ‘Look mom, no hands!’ But José Serpa (LAM) finally had the time to shave and posted a selfie of his ‘less hairy face’. “At last,” he tweets, “a bit of time to shave”. Ben King (GRS) is just happy that it finally got a lot sunnier in France on the rest day.

Samuel Dumoulin and Romain Bardet from AG2R La Mondiale felt like they had to look sharp on the 14th of July, the French National Day. On La Fête nationale – or Bastille Day – the French riders always try their hardest to stand out and show their capabilities to the French public. This year, it was Tony Gallopin (LTB) who got to wear the yellow jersey on his country’s national day. This was a very special moment for him. Adam Hansen was also very happy with this and took a selfie of him and Gallopin in the yellow jersey. Besides that, Dumoulin and Bardet were happy with their Oakley sunglasses and tried to look tough and ready for action when they took a selfie of themselves before the stage.

A selfie is also a nice way to show who you have to share a room with during this year’s Tour. We learn that Paul Voss and Andreas Schillinger (TNE) are roommates in this Tour edition and since the first rest day the brothers Brice and Romain Feillu (BSE) are reunited again. Alessandro De Marchi and Marco Marcato (CAN) share a room as well, but in their selfie, they also include a reference to their teammate Peter Sagan. At the Tour’s team presentation in Yorkshire in the UK, Sagan showed his new ‘Wolverine hair’. Wolverine is a superhero that appears in comic books and X-Men movies. De Marchi and Marcato have a photo of Wolverine in their room and pose with it.

However, these kind of selfies sometimes do not only include riders, but might also include other interesting things. For example, Steven Kruijswijk seems to share his room with Laurens ten Dam and took a selfie in their room. But the Belkin riders have apparently joined the ‘Calippo hype’ and showed their Calippo on the selfie. In case you didn’t know, the Calippo is a freezie – or by some called ice pop or popsicle– that can be bought in different flavours. Since Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb shared their love for this popsicle, other riders and cycling fans have jumped on the bandwagon. Kruijswijk and ten Dam obviously felt like they couldn’t stay behind. Well, who could blame them?

Moreover, we also regularly find selfies on the internet that do not include any human beings at all. No, these selfies seem to be taken by animals. Cows, dogs, and even horses that took a selfie with their phone. Wait, what? Of course these pictures were taken, photo shopped, and manipulated by people. But they can still be very funny to look at. There are also animals in this year’s Tour de France, except in this case, they are not real. And no, we are not talking about the animals that we see in the background of the race sometimes. Fast horses following the peloton or dogs that stand a bit too close to the road, we do not see them in selfies. That would be way too dangerous for the riders.

It is the leader in the General Classification and wearer of the yellow jersey who always receives a lion after every stage. These cuddly toys always end up in our Twitter timelines somehow. They are mostly lined up in the team buses and taken care of by the bus driver. The winners of the team classification also get a stuffed animal this year; a very adorable cow. Samuel Dumoulin (ALM) shared a ‘selfie of the day’ on which we saw this cow with blue shades on. His bus driver Cyrille Bertino, on the other hand, posted a selfie that shows the cow in quite another daylight; a cow that looks like he could ride Michael Cherel’s bike in the Tour. He has a jersey number on his back, wears sunglasses and has a helmet on his head. But Cherel can’t let a stuffed animal ride the Tour for him and just like all the other riders, he has to face the Alps in the upcoming Tour days.

The Tour Selfies #2

Yesterday the Tour de France left the United Kingdom and riders, staff and media travelled to France. When we look back on the first three days, we can conclude that they were very hectic. All the people in the United Kingdom probably thought: ‘hey, let’s go to the Tour this weekend and cheer for those riders”. There were thousands and thousands of British people standing along the roads. This was much appreciated by the riders. Alex Howes thought that it was amazing and Greg Henderson had the feeling that he was at a live concert.

On the other hand, there was also some criticism. The spectators were making selfies with the peloton. If you want to know the explanation of the word ‘selfie’, please read our first post about the selfies again. In order to make a selfie with the peloton, you have to turn your back towards the riders and then take the selfie. It’s very dangerous, although the selfie of a girl and Alberto Contador was quite genius and a huge hit on social media.

Still, after the first two stages, riders were asking the British fans to step back and not to stand on the roads. Zak Dempster even posted on twitter his top three of ‘dangerous selfies’. He thinks that a selfie with a human predator (shark, lion, crocodile) is the most dangerous selfie in the whole world. After that comes a selfie on a train track and on the third place you have the selfie with the back to a peloton. Still, this warning did not stop Vincenzo Nibali from taking a selfie with the little lion of the Tour de France.

More selfies were made over the last couple of days. Albert Timmer, Tom Veelers and Koen de Kort from Giant-Shimano were already in a good mood in the airplane on their way to Great Britain. The boys from AG2R had to wait for the team presentation, so decided to make a selfie of that. Adrien Petit and Cyril Lemoine from Cofidis already know what their next career is going to be. And Elia Viviani from Cannondale is probably a bit jealous of Peter Sagan’s cuddly toy and therefore decided to take a picture with this white jersey prize.

The place where you take the selfie is also very important. Geraint Thomas took one in a plane. You can count the eyes if you want to, because I did too. Tony Martin took one in the team bus. And no, that guy with the hoodie is not a gangster, that’s Niki Terpstra. But the number one prize for ‘best place to take a selfie’ goes to Dan, the uncle of Ben King. He shows us all what the safest place is to take a TDF selfie and for that, I’m sure, the riders will thank him very much.

The Tour Selfies #1

Today the Tour de France took off in Leeds, Great Britain. It’s a fact that the Tour became very popular over the past few years in that country. The credits for that mostly go to Mark Cavendish, who already has won many stages in the Tour de France. Still, Bradley Wiggins is the one that can call himself ‘Sir’ in Great Britain, because he won the biggest race of the world in 2012. He will not be there this year. Mark Cavendish will start though and all eyes are on him.

That was already the case two days ago, when the team presentation was held. There was a good vibe, the crowd was loud, riders were laughing on stage. And taking selfies. Wait. What? Selfies? Yes. If you don’t know what ‘selfies’ are, you must have been living under a rock for at least two years. According to the Oxford English Dictionary a selfie is a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website. The selfie already became popular at the beginning of the zeroes, when social media sites like MySpace were used widely by young people. It acquired a profile picture and most of the users posted a picture of themselves, taken with the webcam. When Facebook gained more popularity in the next years, selfies were made a lot less and the ‘normal’ photographs were the standard again. Nevertheless, technology stands for nothing and with the introduction of a front-facing camera built into the smartphone in 2010, the selfie was reborn.  In 2013, the Oxford English Dictionary even made it the ‘word of the year’.

The selfie is here to stay. Many people all over the world take selfies. It is a popular phenomenon. And the more people in the selfie, the merrier. Of course everyone still remembers the selfie made by comedian an tv host Ellen DeGeneres at the Oscars this year. This popular selfie was probably also in the minds of the people working at the organisation of the Tour de France. Wouldn’t it be nice if all the teams would do a selfie before the tour presentation? And then post the selfie on the official Twitter account of the Tour de France? So it happened. Photos were made (in some blue room, apparently). Lots of hilarious photos. Weird photos. Serious photos. They are all there. I did not know that the OPQS team only existed out of Mark Cavendish? And that Lotto-Belisol is starting this Tour with only four riders? Where were the other five? Maybe they had a bad hair day or they had to get to the bathroom in a hurry. And all the other Lampre riders were probably eating a banana somewhere in that same room and only Rui Costa had time to be part of the selfie.

Strange. I miss two teams. There are no selfies of the IAM Cycling Team and the Trek Factory Racing Team (I can hear all the Schleck-fans crying out loud in my head now). Perhaps deleted by accident? Or did those teams refuse to do it? Or just walked by and said: “selfies are so 2013.” There is no explanation for that anywhere on the Twitter account of the Tour. They do claim that they made the photos by putting the hashtag ‘TDFselfie’ in the lower right corner of each photo. But let’s be honest, these selfies are no real selfies. The riders are just looking at a big screen, making a weird face (Laurens ten Dam from Team Belkin), roll with their eyes (Lotto-Belisol) or give their best smile (Romain Bardet of AG2R). These are just photos of the riders of each team. They were not taken with a smartphone or by one of the riders of the team. However, the Tour organization did place them on a social media website. Still, that does not instantly make them selfies. The Tour probably wanted to show that they are aware of the selfie hype and wanted to be a part of that in order to promote their event. A nice idea and it sure provided us with some hilarious photos, but they might have to check the explanation of the word ‘selfie’ again in the Oxford English Dictionary. Based on that definition, we have to call the ‘TDFselfie’ action a #fail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos Dutch Road Championships 2014 #3

Dutch Road Championships 2014 / 29 June / Elite Men

During the Dutch Road Championships, all the professional and talented riders from The Netherlands are in one place at the same time. It is a great opportunity to see all the Dutch cycling heroes just before a lot of them – 17 riders this year – will travel to the start of the Tour de France. The cyclists had to ride the course 18 times, which is 243 kilometres through and around Ootmarsum. The Championship also took place here in 2008 and 2011. In 2008, it was Lars Boom (BEL) who won the Dutch Nationals in this town in Twente. But it was sprinter Pim Ligthart (LTB) who became the Dutch Champion in Ootmarsum in 2011.

In total, 105 riders were present at the start of the race. Only 59 of them managed to finish the race though. In the first hours of the race, there was a head bunch that consisted of 15 riders. Maarten Tjallingii, Tom Leezer (BEL), and Tom Stamsnijder (GIA) were present in this group. But when it started raining and there even was some thunder and lightning, a crash in the peloton had its effect on the race. About 10 riders got away and reached the head bunch. Afterwards, this group split up and riders tried to attack. But it was Sebastian Langeveld (GRS) who attacked at about 20 kilometres to go.

Niki Terpstra (OPQ), who has known Langeveld since they were juniors, decided to let him ride and the others just looked at each other. Terpstra, who became the Dutch Champion in 2010 and 2012, was very happy for his friend Sebastian Langeveld when he was the first rider to cross the finish line. Maarten Tjallingii (BEL), one of the strongest riders of the day, was not able to reach Langeveld. In the bunch sprint, Terpstra became second and Wesley Kreder (WGG) completed the podium.

Sebastian Langeveld also became second in the Dutch Time Trial Championship in Zaltbommel. This was held earlier on in the week and Tom Dumoulin (GIA) became the winner. Jos van Emden (BEL) became third. Dumoulin has already shown that he can compete with the best time trialists of the world. In the Tour de Suisse, Tony Martin won both time trials, but it was the young rider Tom Dumoulin who secured the second spot both times too. Next year, all the Dutch Championships will take place in Emmen, Drenthe.

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