Divine intervention

I was saddened this week to learn of the untimely death of Aldo Sassi, one of the most reputable cycling trainers, based at the Mapei Centre in Varese. It was he who had worked with Cadel Evans to lift the rainbow jersey in 2009 and had assisted Ivan Basso in his quest for an untainted maglia rosa.

I had recently read an interesting article on his training methods which are markedly similar to those of my own trainer.  Sassi worked initially from the VO2 max and power output at the rider’s anaerobic threshold. From this he built a training programme based on a 3-day algorithm:

  • Day 1 – strength and resistance training on hills
  • Day 2 – anaerobic threshold work
  • Day 3 – long rides with climbs

Additionally, Sassi believed in a rider’s clear commitment to goals which needed to be shared with and understood by his team. Lastly, he believed that mental and inner strength were the all-important factors.

He likened a cyclist to  Formula 1 saying that while a rider has certain physiological attributes, “if you only have the driver and no car you cannot win. You have to have the driver as well as the car. Some might try to show that if you have a good driver you could still win with a bad car. This is not true in cycling. You have to be able to produce 6 watts per kilogram on the climbs or you will eventually lose.”

Sassi was recently criticized for working with Riccardo Ricco. Frankly, I thought, given Sassi’s sterling reputation, it was a stroke of genius on Ricco’s part to commit to working with him. Sassi said ” I think I made a good choice in selecting Riccardo Ricco. I am sure of it. He has the motor, the car, but the driver is not completely there. I am going to help him build his mental strength and self-belief.” Sassi is to be lauded, Ricco has paid the price and, like everyone, deserves a second chance.

If  it was left to Pat McQuaid, UCI President, he wouldn’t, however, be getting a second chance. McQuaid was quoted in L’Equipe this week as saying if he were a team manager, he wouldn’t hire Ricco. I suspect that Vacansoleil have hired Ricco because he will garner them plenty of points in the all-new UCI ranking system and help them stay in the sport’s first division. Remember, Mr McQuaid “what gets measured is what gets done”.

I’ve already blogged on this very topic but frankly it’s hard to support a system that seems to drive away rather than attract sponsors. It’s even hard to get sponsors to commit if you can’t guarantee inclusion at the world’s best races. Pegasus Cycling recently lost a sponsor but have fortunately been saved at the nth moment by another. Rumours abounded that Geox, both a new sponsor and a global brand, might pull out after being excluded from the first division, despite ranking ahead of teams that have been included.

This problem has been best articulated (IMHO) by Jonathan Vaughters in his blog on the cyclingnews.com website entitled “The Geox Paradox” where he highlights the current issues in sponsorship. This man knows what he’s talking about, you cannot say that of everyone involved in the sport.

My deepest sympathy goes to Aldo Sassi’s family, friends, clients  and colleagues: the world of cycling has suffered a grave loss.

Lazy Sunday afternoons

According to yesterday’s copy of L’Equipe, and possibly much to no one’s surprise, Wiggo is joining Sky. Jonathan Vaughters has evidently realised the futility in trying to hang on to a rider who wants to be somewhere else. No doubt Garmin will be amply compensated for losing a rider, still under contract, who finished 4th in this year’s Tour. Also, assuming that the 5 delinquent Pro-Tour teams managed to get all their paperwork in order and submitted to the UCI by the deadline, there’s probably going to be no more “big surprises” in 2009.

Regrettably, the weather today was both overcast and humid. However, nothing could dampen the boys’ (and girls’) spirits as we set off this morning for the pointage. I managed to cling onto the back of the peloton as we rode up the route de Grasse. The club hosting the pointage had thoughtfully signposted the way thus preventing most, but not all, from getting lost. A number of clubs arrived at the same time swamping the refreshments table and picking it cleaner than a horde of locusts.

On the way back from this morning’s ride, I picked up the newspapers (L’Equipe, Nice Matin and The Sunday Times) to enjoy over a coffee. There was an interview in The Sunday Times Sports section with David Brailsford which I started to read, anticipating gleaning some interesting titbits about Team Sky or indeed confirmation that Bradley Wiggins was Sky-bound. The interview almost immediately took a strange turn, backtracking to 2004 when David Millar was apprehended by the French police, in the company of Brailsford. At once, I realised it was a Paul Kimmage interview where no doubt there was going to be some pointed homily about doping in the peloton and it was highly improbable that I would learn anything of either use or interest about Sky, or indeed anything related to cycling. In the hope, rather than expectation, that I might be proved wrong. I read the entire interview. I wasn’t.

Instead of going to watch OGCN play Toulouse this evening, we’ve elected to stay at home and finish up a few necessary household chores (no, not the ironing) ahead of our trip to Paris next week. I’ve bought another bookcase which needed assembling. This will house my growing collection of cycling books in the entrance hall thereby alleviating the overcrowding in the main bookcase just outside of the kitchen which is home to my substantial collection of cookery books.

Most women will say that they can never have enough shoes. While I don’t necessarily disagree, given the choice between books and shoes, I will almost always opt for the former, unless you’re offering me a pair of Christian Laboutin’s. If you don’t believe me you are most welcome to come and check my respective collections of both.

My beloved also needed to tend to his collection of citrus trees which are exhibiting a distinct lack of TLC as evidenced by the absence of both fruit and leaves. I am many things, but green fingered I am not. He leaves them in my care during the week at his (and their) peril.

Postscript: 10/12/09 Wiggo’s transfer to Sky confirmed at a press conference this morning over 2 week’s after the L’Equipe story.