I know I geek out a lot about races and the athletes who compete in them, but two of my favorite spring races are coming up in the next couple of weeks. Paris-Nice is a stage race that has 8 stages in it — two individual time trials, two mostly flat stages, and four really cool climbing stages and it starts this Sunday. Coverage will be on NBC Sports. For those of you with Dish, it is on channel 151 and a shortened version of the stages will be shown every day. The Abu Dhabi International Triathlon is this Saturday and I am not currently aware of any TV time the event is scheduled to get. The cool thing about Abu Dhabi is the sick amount of price money they will be giving to the top 10 male and female finishers. The winner of the male and female races get $50,000 each. That is some serious change.
Training is going well. I shared my goal of 450 miles on the bike for the month of February and I am going to hit that today. Freakin’ leap year is awesome — it gives me one more day to hit my training goals for the month. Depending on the amount of time I get, I may pound out 500 miles. That would be a stretch, but it is possible.
One other note — Jen Small of MilesMusclesMommyhood is raising money for her Rev3 teammates who are running across the country to raise money for the Ulman Cancer Fund. I know you all have been saving the money you were planning on donating to the Susan G. Komen Foundation and looking for an alternative, so here it is. The cool thing about this is for every $2.00 (who doesn’t have that amount in change sitting on their dryer?) you can be entered to get these girly headbands. I stepped up and got some entries, and if I win, you are right if you think I will have her send me the headband. Jen’s site is one I read regularly to get tips on triathlon training.
Let’s Handicap the Races
For the Abu Dhabi Triathlon, I think the race is wide open. The long distance course is what all the big ballers ride, at it is a 3 km swim, 200 km bike, and 20 km run. I would say that bike it no joke. In 2011 My favorites Craig Alexander, Faris Al-Sultan, and Jordan Rapp were all in the top 11 finishers. Someone correct me but Chris Lieto did not race in Abu Dhabi in 2011. But guess what — Lieto is racing in 2012. So I am going to go out on a limb here and say the strongest cyclists take the podium here — Faris Al-Sultan, Chris Lieto, and let’s put the 2011 winner Frederik Van Lierde up there as well. Last year places 1 -4 in the men’s race were separated by only :33 seconds and I am hoping for a similar finish. Also watch out for Dirk Bockel after joining the cycling team Leopard Trek and training with the top cyclists in the world. Let’s call him my dark horse option. But never call him a long shot…
In the women’s race, I am excited to see what 26.2ismycooldown.com hottie Angela Naeth will do at this distance. She placed 5th last year, and I gotta think that with the form she has right now after winning Panama 70.3, she may pull off her second podium of 2012. Of course she has some really stiff competition. Julie Dibbens, Leanda Cave, Belinda Granger, and Heather Gollnick should all be competing, which will give Angela all she can handle. Really, the podium could include any mix of these ladies, but I am going to stick with my new prodigy, Angela. Her other coach, Mark Allen, has helped fine tune her body to handle the pressure that a 200 km bike will put on her run.
Now let’s go to one of my favorite races of the year — Paris-Nice. I think this race is one of my favorites because of the coverage it gets and the names that will be participating. I am going to say that the podium on this race is wide open. The first and last stages are individual time trials but are only 9.4 and 9.6 km, which means not a ton of time will be gained or lost. There are two mostly flat stages and some really cool mountain stages. The company that runs the Tour de France runs this race as well, so all the familiar jerseys will be up for grabs. If you want to see the detailed preview of each of the stages, click here.
In this race, you have all the big teams participating — AG2R, Astana, BMC, Confidis, Eustatel-Euskadi, Garmin, Katusha, Lampre, Liquigas, Movistar, Omega Pharma-Lotto, Rabobank, RadioShack-Nissan, Sky, Team Eurocar, and Team Saxobank. Each team is bringing most of their big guns to Paris-Nice, but there are a couple who are missing. It is easier to mention who is missing at this point. You won’t see the winner of the 2011 Tour de France Cadel Evans (BMC) or Alberto Contador, both for very different reasons. I am not sure why Cadel has taken a pass on Paris-Nice, but Alberto is currently serving a suspension for doping during the 2010 Tour de France.
There are lots of mountain stages during the 2012 version of the race. Because of that, I am betting pretty heavy on Frank and Andy Schlek (Radioshack). They are both big ballers in the mountains and I would not be surprised to see either of them standing on top of the podium. The individual time trial is not their strength, so I think these short time trials will take most of that obstacle out of their path.
Of course Thomas Voeckler (Team Eurocar), the BAMF who held the yellow jersey for much longer than people thought he would during the 2011 Tour de France, is also racing. I would bet that if he is in good shape or as cyclists say, on good form, that he has a really strong chance of getting on the podium. He showed true grit during the 2011 TdF and he has a secret weapon — he is French. I think this is a race he wants to win. Like really bad.
As for dark horses, I am going to root for the North Americans here. Tejay Van Garderen (BMC), Taylor Phinney (BMC), Christian Vande Velde (Garmin), and Levi Leipheimer (Omega Pharma-Lotto) all have a chance at the podium. I would love to see Levi get up there if for nothing else just because he is coming to the end of his career as a cyclist. Of course, he is younger than I am. I really like Levi but of course, I hope the North American contingent has a great showing at the race.
Thanks for sticking with me this long. If you aren’t into cycling and bike racing, Paris-Nice may be a good race for you to sink your teeth into. There are only eight stages, so it will be shorter to follow than that TdF. You can watch each stage on TV while you run on the treadmill or ride your trainer. And yes, I will be posting daily updates for the race so you can follow the progress here.
Anyone else have any thoughts as to my predictions on Abu Dhabi or Paris-Nice?