Hilly Billy Roubaix 2015

July 26th, 2015 — 11:55pm

Pat Blair and Tim Proctor heading for the podium at the 2015 Hilly Billy Roubaix. Photo © Mike Briggs.

Much like the 2014 Hilly Billy Roubaix, the 2015 Roubaix was a wet one. Really wet. Instead of camping out on the course to shoot video, I instead tagged along with race director, JR Petsko, to get a close-up look at what it’s like to put on a 70 mile “dirty road” race in a downpour.

In the video you get to see the ups and downs of directing a race. From pre-race meetings, coordinating volunteers, making unplanned stops for supplies, to  following the race from the front. Watch along and get the inside scoop on what makes the Hilly Billy an American classic.

Special thanks to JR and the whole ABRA family for having us out.

A big hat tip to Mike Briggs for letting me use his photos in the video.

And finally, thanks for watching.

Hilly Billy Roubaix 2015 from In The Crosshairs on Vimeo.

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CXHairs Goes To Le Tour (Part VIII)

July 12th, 2015 — 2:43pm

Editor’s Note: John Kavouris finishes his exclusive coverage of the Tour for In The Crosshairs. It has been great having John on board and we hope to have him back during the cyclocross season for more coverage. Please let us know what you thought of our “offseason” coverage. Tweet at us at @CXHairs. Or send an email to CXHairs@gmail.com. And please, follow John and give him a virtual pat on the back at @JohnKavouris on Twitter and Kavouris on Instagram. All photos © 2015 John Kavouris.

Early morning overcast skies broke very quickly, for another gorgeous day of bike racing through the Brittany region of France. You couldn’t forget that we’re in Brittany (Bretagne, in French), because the flag of Brittany is EVERYWHERE. Not familiar with the flag of Brittany? You’ll figure it out pretty quick from the photoset. But right. Bike racing.

Out of Rennes, the course would roll through more French countryside of wheat fields, wind turbines, a single cat-4 climb, and sprint point, before an exciting finish on the Mûr-de-Bretagne. 2k at a 6.9% average sounds not terrible for pros, but there’s more to it than that. For ~1k, the climb averages above 9%, finally leveling off to ~5% down to ~3% over the last kilometer to make for a tough finish.

In Rennes, it’s clear that riders are getting over the first week nerves and beginning to relax. Compared to the past few days, there were pros everywhere in the hospitality village:

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Jakob Fuglsang (Astana) even took the opportunity to get some hairs cut at the BIC sponsor barbershop. I had a shave there a few days ago – they do great work, but I can’t imagine being “fresh haircut itchy” for 181k.

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Even Cavendish was in a chipper mood from yesterday’s win, signing autographs, and even taking selfies with fans.

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CXHairs Goes To Le Tour (Part VII)

July 12th, 2015 — 1:25pm

Editor’s Note: John Kavouris continues his exclusive coverage of the Tour for In The Crosshairs. Follow him at @JohnKavouris on Twitter and Kavouris on Instagram. All photos © 2015 John Kavouris.

Stage 7: Livarot – Fougeres (190.5km)

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In light of the drama, crashes, and weather over the last few stages, I am unreasonably happy to report that stage 7 was your average, run of the mill, Tour de France sprint stage. Weather was warm but not unbearably hot, breezes were light, the course was gently undulating. With only one cat-4 climb just after the start, this is the last day for a while that the pure sprinters will have a chance at victory. Besides the TTT on Sunday, a rollingly hilly stage 13, and Champs-Élysées, the riders will be seeing a LOT of mountains in their future, and the sprinters will be seeing a lot of time in the grupetto.

At only ~2,200 inhabitants, one would think that Livarot would be a little on the small side to play host to a Tour de France start. While the roads into town are limited (particularly if you’re approaching from the closed race-route side), once you do make it into town, it’s actually pretty quaint, and an exceptional host.

The Livarotais (yes, that’s what they’re called) certainly got into the spirit of things.

The Livarotais (yes, that’s what they’re called) certainly got into the spirit of things.

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For the riders, though, it looked like it was going to be a straightforward day.

Shortest stem cue-sheet ever.

Shortest stem cue-sheet ever.

Bonus: Jonathan Vaughters (Garmin-Cannondale’s DS) sighting!

Bonus: Jonathan Vaughters (Garmin-Cannondale’s DS) sighting!

At the sign-in area, riders were the most relaxed I’ve seen them yet.

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However, after Tony Martin’s (Etixx-Quickstep) withdrawl yesterday there was no yellow jersey present for the sign in. Chris Froome was virtual-leader all day, but would have to wait until Fougeres to wear the jersey again.

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Like stage 4 – no photos of the start line today, as the day’s itinerary involved a lot more driving to hit several photo stops along the stage. Aside from photos of the race itself, today afforded more opportunities to stop and observe the human condition that is the Tour de France spectator.

Straight away leaving the start, I came upon a flock of VIP-viewing-experience helicopters. While zipping around in a helicopter like a boss does sound alluring, I can’t imagine it’s a way to REALLY see the race without also watching a live feed. And then, what’s the point?…

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This. This is how you spectate a race. With friends and family and neighbors, on the side of the road, with camper vans and probably an adult beverage or two. Found here just outside of Canapville, but at virtually anywhere else along the course.

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CXHairs Goes To Le Tour (Part VI)

July 11th, 2015 — 12:22pm

Editor’s Note: John Kavouris continues his exclusive coverage of the Tour for In The Crosshairs. Follow him at @JohnKavouris on Twitter and Kavouris on Instagram. All photos © 2015 John Kavouris.

Stage 6

Abbeville – Le Havre (191.5km)

Stage 6 of the Tour ran from Abbeville to Le Havre, on a mostly coastal route. While predominantly a flat stage, the course featured three categorized climbs (all cat 4), and an uncategorized but punchy finish on the Côte d’Ingouville in Le Havre – 850m at 7% average grade. The weather was fantastic: ~20C, sunny, and a crosswind light enough to not cause any problems for the group. I spent the majority of the day absolutely shredding the backroads of France trying to head-off the race for more photo opportunities. But unlike yesterday, I had ample time to snack, caffeinate, and even tap the shutter button a few times in the start town.

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Fans have been lined up for hours to grab promo bits and bobs, watch highlights on the big screen, and stake out their spot for when the teams finally arrive.

Speaking of staking out their spot, it’s those Canadians from stage 1!

Speaking of staking out their spot, it’s those Canadians from stage 1!

I didn’t ask how long they’d been there, but they’re again in prime location for autographs. No joke, of all the riders they were actually able to ask for autographs as they came in/out of the sign-in area, their hit-rate must have been somewhere around 1/2 to 1/3. They cleaned up!

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One of MANY signatures on the day, here with Nicolas Roche (Sky).

Over in the team area, Cannondale-Garmin mechanics make final adjustments to bikes for the day.

Those little fins sticking out behind the saddle? Dimension Data is behind them, and they provide realtime GPS data for all riders. Apparently, this data is being logged and will be made available to teams (and maybe the public?) to analyze how the race went down. So, informatics geeks, you too can be a part of ‘marginal gains.’

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Anything for the shot.

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The start also provided a fantastic gallery of facial hair stylings*:

The Weening (Orica-GreenEdge). Just beyond 5-o’clock shadow.

The Weening (Orica-GreenEdge). Just beyond 5-o’clock shadow.

The Soupe-lesse (Cofidis). Souplesse. Solid beard. SOLID.

The Soupe-lesse (Cofidis). Souplesse. Solid beard. SOLID.

The Degen-Stache. (Giant-Alpecin). Here is a picture of John Degenkolb’s mustache. Also pictured, John Degenkolb.

The Degen-Stache. (Giant-Alpecin). Here is a picture of John Degenkolb’s mustache. Also pictured, John Degenkolb.

The Olde-Timey. Only the most seasoned peloton veterans.

The Olde-Timey. Only the most seasoned peloton veterans.

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CXHairs Goes To Le Tour (Part V)

July 10th, 2015 — 12:41pm

Editor’s Note: John Kavouris continues his exclusive coverage of the Tour for In The Crosshairs. Follow him at @JohnKavouris on Twitter and Kavouris on Instagram. All photos © 2015 John Kavouris.

Stage 5: Arras – Amiens (189.5km)

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Today’s stage started off pretty miserable for everyone. Weather in Arras was cold and rainy, I was slow out of bed this morning, and traffic into Arras was unfortunately slow. I arrived to the start a mere 20 minutes before riders would roll-off, and didn’t even get my breakfast of hospitality village snacks. Sometimes, life at the Tour is truly hard.

This was unfortunately my view for too much of the morning.

This was unfortunately my view for too much of the morning.

Although I did see the start off, today. The weather forecast wouldn’t change much, with drizzle/rain over the better part of the day.

On the plus side, the zig-zaggy parcours allowed for many photo-stops along the course.

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My day truly began in the rainy countryside, somewhere outside of Monchy-le-Preux.

Pierre-Luc Perichon (Bretagne-Seche Envioronnement) was the lone breakaway rider of the day.

Pierre-Luc Perichon (Bretagne-Seche Envioronnement) was the lone breakaway rider of the day.

Moments later, the peloton passed, looking mostly interested in keeping warm.

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CXHairs Goes To Le Tour (Part IV)

July 8th, 2015 — 6:01pm

Editor’s Note: John Kavouris continues his exclusive coverage of the Tour for In The Crosshairs. Follow him at @JohnKavouris on Twitter and Kavouris on Instagram. All photos © 2015 John Kavouris.

Stage 4: Seraing, BE – Chambrai, FR (223.5km)

The Tour de France actually entered France for the first time in 2015, and it did so in epic fashion. Furthermore, it’s as close to CX as it gets at the Tour: cobbles. From Seraing to Chambrai, the peloton saw 7 secteurs of cobblestone ranging from 1,200 to 3,700m in length, with a total of 13.3km of stones. If that wasn’t enough, the consistent threat of rain throughout the day kept suspense high for what flavor of slippery the riders might have to face: dusty or wet.

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With cobbles in the mix, teams are looking for every advantage they can get. With most teams I spoke with today, riders were expressly planning to swap bikes around 70k to go, just before the onslaught of secteurs leading to the finish. Most teams had a fleet of endurance road bikes atop their cars, to complement the standard/aero road bikes their rides would set off with. AG2R-La Mondiale took things a step further, with Jean-Christophe Peraud and Romain Bardet opting to swap to canti-equipped Focus Mares cyclocross bikes.

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Just in case, their bikes were also fitted with a full inner chainguard, in place of the standard Sram derailleur chainspotter.

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AG2R don’t mess around. Strangely absent was any form of clutch-type rear derailleur. They’re taking every other precaution, might as well have one?

Elsewhere in the team zone:

John Degenkolb and his mustache  (Giant-Alpecin)

John Degenkolb and his mustache (Giant-Alpecin)

Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing). Still bummed. He is. I am. You should be, too.

Fabian Cancellara (Trek Factory Racing). Still bummed. He is. I am. You should be, too.

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CXHairs Goes To Le Tour (Part III)

July 7th, 2015 — 12:52am

Editor’s Note: John Kavouris continues his exclusive coverage of the Tour for In The Crosshairs. Follow him at @JohnKavouris on Twitter and Kavouris on Instagram. All photos © 2015 John Kavouris.

Stage 3. Antwerp – Huy (159.5km)

After the miserable weather conditions of yesterday, today should have been a change of pace for the riders. A few cat 4 climbs and beautiful weather is all that separated the riders between Antwerp and the Mur de Huy (and the Côte de Cherave, a punchy .9k cat 4 a few k before it). Not that Cherave and the Mur de Huy are easy (they’re not), but so close to the finish, all a rider needs to do is get up the damn things, and they’re not going to miss a time cut. It should be exciting racing for those at the front, but not demoralizing for those not. Now, with that being said…

Holy bike race! Stage 3 was crazy. Some serious action went down, Mur de Huy provided some fireworks, the yellow jersey changed hands, and the tour saw its first abandonments. But first, let’s start at a relaxing, beautiful start in Antwerp:

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The Cathedral of Our Lady (Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedraal in Dutch) served as an excellent backdrop behind the long yellow path to the day’s sign in.

So Belgian.

So Belgian.

High-five suspense.

High-five suspense.

Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) in green after yesterday’s stage. After today, he bumped up his lead a little further against his closest rival, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo)

Andre Greipel (Lotto-Soudal) in green after yesterday’s stage. After today, he bumped up his lead a little further against his closest rival, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff-Saxo)

Oh yeah, here’s that digital sign in podium I mentioned in the last post. See? Glorified iPad.

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CXHairs Goes To LeTour (part II)

July 6th, 2015 — 4:21pm

Editor’s Note: John Kavouris continues his exclusive coverage of the Tour for In The Crosshairs. Follow him at @JohnKavouris on Twitter and Kavouris on Instagram. All photos © 2015 John Kavouris.

Stage 2: Utrecht – Zéland (166 km)

Before saying anything about the weather conditions of a race, it would be wise to actually check the weather. Looking at the profile of today’s stage, one would think that yes, this is a straightforward sprint stage, but that’s not quite how things unfolded.

The weather in Utrecht was hot and sunny, making for excellent departure conditions. I spent the morning hanging around rider sign in, and chilling hard with fans. The actual act of signing in is rather uneventful… the Giro has this fantastic glass board that the riders sign:

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The Tour should then have something better, with holograms and lasers or something? Nope. Just a podium:

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It’s supposedly a digital sign in, but I had a glance at it. I think it’s a glorified iPad. Come on, Le Tour. Lasers and holograms, please.

But rider sign in does offer a chance to see every rider one by on, and is a great time for fans to get signatures from their favorites. IF they get their spot early enough. These Colombians had clearly been there all morning, but were absolutely the most animated fans, and took home more autographs than I can count.

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By quick count, I put 6 Colombians at this year’s tour. And if you’re these guys and chanting “CO-LOM-BIA! CO-LOM-BIA!,” you’ll get a signature from all of them.

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José Rodolfo Serpa (Lampre-Merida)

Rigoberto Uran Uran (Etixx-Quickstep)

Rigoberto Uran Uran (Etixx-Quickstep)

Much like the Colombians, this group of Canadians had clearly been there all morning, but were always STOKED to have someone come over to them.

Zakkarai Dempster (Bora-Argon18)

Zakkarai Dempster (Bora-Argon18)

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CXHairs goes to Le Tour (Part I)

July 5th, 2015 — 3:46pm

 

EDITOR’S NOTE: It may not be cyclocross but it’s cycling and it’s the freakin’ Tour de France. So when the opportunity to have a reporter in the field arises, we are going to take full advantage of it. These reports come to us from Crosshairs Skinny Tire French Grand Tour and Chemistry Correspondent, John Kavouris. John is usually based in Boston, where he is usually an organic chemist. Occasionally, he gets to live in Europe, get press access to grand tours, and report for CXHairs. He is always a cyclist. All photos © 2015 John Kavouris.

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If you were paying attention to Instagram (follow CXHairs and Kavouris on IG) or Twitter (@CXHairs and @johnkavouris) yesterday,

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you should know that ‘day zero’ of TdF coverage went well for CXHairs. One harrowing journey* later, and I have all kinds of ridiculous access/perks.

Outside of the photographer’s meeting, ‘day zero’ was rather uneventful. All of the operations in Utrecht occur at the mammoth Jaarbeurs convention and expo center, which houses caravan parking, press center, race jury, etc etc.

Photo © 2015 John Kavouris

Photo © 2015 John Kavouris

There was a little gawking at caravan vehicles, a little visiting sponsor tents, a little seeing a cute kid totally have a moment with Miss WattBike, and a little of… whatever the hell this is, as seen while passing by a technical-zone tent.

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Tomorrow, we get into it…

Stage 1: ITT (13.8k) This is every bit the circus you’ve heard it is.

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There are: throngs of people, pros orbiting the start area like it ain’t no than, Thomas Voeckler’s (Europcar) inability to sit still on his bike, wacky promotional efforts, and a few Aussies getting the right kind of weird.

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Shout out to Backstage Pass. We love your work. Continue reading »

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GWENNESS And The Offseason, So Far …

June 19th, 2015 — 3:27pm

Cross will be here soon enough. It seem like only yesterday we were watching Mathieu van der Poel win the World Championship and continue to cement his place, along with Wout van Aert, atop the new cyclocross hierarchy. But as of this post, we are only 89 days away (according to the countdown at www.crossvegas.com) from the beginning of the 2015-2016 cyclocross season.

In the meantime, the skeleton crew left to man the controls at In The Crosshairs have been working on a variety of projects to stay busy. We were up in Pittsburgh, Pa., recently, filming the Steel City Showdown road race. That video should be available in the coming weeks. We will be covering Hilly Billy Roubaix in a week, along with other adventures throughout the summer.

We are also hard at work putting together an AMAZING opportunity for cyclocross racers and those who want to get into the sport. The weekend of August 8/9, in partnership with Fulcrum Coaching, we will be hosting a 2.5 day cyclocross camp with U.S. National Champion Jeremy Powers. The camp will take place on the grounds of the Armed Forces Retirement Home in Washington, DC. This is the site of the 2015 UCI DCCX race weekend. So not only do you get 2 days of instruction from the two-time national champ and a staff of high-level cx coaches, but you also get a preview of one of the largest races on the U.S. calendar. Along with the two full days of instruction (including video analysis of your form), we will be hosting at Bike Doctor of Waldorf an interactive event with J-Pow. If you saw the video interview we did at CrossVegas last year with Sven Nys (SVENNESS with SVEN: https://vimeo.com/106149974) we will be doing a similar presentation concentrating on Powers’ World Cup and National Championship races. This event is included in the cyclocross camp. Limited additional seats may be available for a nominal fee. More info on the camp is coming your way soon.

In July, we should be getting reports from the Tour de France. What does this have to do with Cyclocross? Not really sure. But we will most likely have media credentials, so dammit, we’re going to cover the darn thing.

As if that wasn’t enough, from time to time we continue to dip our toes into the world of ITU World Triathlon. The racing is compelling and the races have been condensed down to a palatable 15 minutes. Episode 3 of GWENNESS is up and running now. You can watch it here:

Finally, as you may have guessed by the playlists on all of the videos we put together for this site, we’re music fans. So much so that we started a podcast called Kids Don’t Follow. If you want to hear new music or geek out with us about a specific genre or region, check out the show on iTunes (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/kids-dont-follow/id986075178) or online here: http://kidsdontfollow.libsyn.com/

If that’s not enough, or you really just came here for a cyclocross fix, here’s Tom Meeusen jumping a barrier in a skate park on his road bike.

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