Who Dat?

Back in the 80s, long before the X-Games existed, Tom Haig traveled the world as an extreme athlete. He visited more than 50 countries as an international high diver, doing multiple somersault tricks from over 90 feet.

That life came crashing down one Sunday morning in 1996. While training on his mountain bike, he smashed into the grill of a truck and became paralyzed from the waist down. But less than a year later he completed a 100-mile ride on a hand-cycle and traveled by himself to Europe and the Middle East.

Since then he has continued to travel the world as a consultant, writer and video producer. He spent six months launching a Tibetan radio station in the Himalayas and shot documentary shorts on disability in Bangladesh, France, Albania, Ghana and most recently Nepal.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Stage 11: Torino-Arenzano 214 km

Vladimir Isiay-who?

(Giro coverage streams live, as well as constant reruns, on www.universalsports.com)

Cycling tactics are the kind of things that are discussed months in advance; gone over ad nauseum on the eve of a grand tour; then tweaked and refined until every rider knows exactly what their job is. Until a Spanish executive screams at his team manager to get his jerseys on the television screen or he’ll pull his sponsorship before the end of the race!

More than likely that sentiment was levied down to Álvaro Pino Couñago the manager of the barely professional Spanish team, Xacobeo Galicia. Couñago then likely asked for volunteers for a solo breakaway and the only hand in the room was rookie Russian pro Vladimir Isaichev (or at least I think that’s his name as it is spelled differently on the three websites he’s listed).

Thus Couñago's pre-race plans are thrown away as his unknown rider builds up more than an eight-minute lead over the course of 150 kilometers and tries for dear life to crest the last hill of the day and survive to victory. What usually happens in these scenarios is that the peloton wakes from its stupor with 50 or 60 clicks left and demolishes the rookie leaving him miles behind as they roar to the finish.

Thus was the fate of Mr. Isayachev (I’ll use all his spellings to make sure I get it right once) as he was swallowed up 35 kilometers from the Italian Riviera in his quest for stardom. And in the North Portland, Ore. offices of Columbia Sportswear, an Amercian executive, Ma Boyle, smiled at her computer screen and thought, “Mark’s gonna win again!”

Sure enough, 20 kilometers after the heads of state made a great showing over Fausto Coppi’s famous Passo del Turchino, the peloton regrouped and charged into Arenzano together. Minutes later, back in Portland, Ma Boyle looked up from her computer and raised her fist in the air as Columbia’s Mark Cavendish (GB) distanced his arch rival, Italian Alessandro Petacchi (LPR Brakes) for the win. All the GC favorites were in the first group, so there were no major changes in the standings.

Squeezing in second on the day, ahead of Petacchi, is the newest pure sprinter on the American circuit, Garmin’s Tyler Farrar. The U.S. has never had a dominant sprinter so Farrar’s status is a welcome sign to a nation of climbers and GC specialists. But unfortunately the rest of the news for the Americans is bleak. Garmin said today that Tour podium hopeful Christian Vande Velde’s crash during stage 3 was actually much more severe than first thought. Several new breaks have been discovered and his season is in jeopardy. Astana’s Chris Horner crashed hard in yesterday’s stage 10 and did not start today. Velonews reports Horner is headed back to his home in Bend, Ore. to recuperate and prepare for the Tour. Levi Leipheimer also hit the deck in today’s stage, but finished strong, losing no time.

Tomorrow’s 62 km. time trial around Cinque Terre will have journalists from around the world glued to Lance Armstrong to see if he is actually as strong as his latest results indicate. Leipheimer needs the ride of his life if he hopes to knock off the 1:40 he trails Pink Jersey wearer Danilo Di Luca (Ita – LPR Brakes). He also trails seasoned time trialists Denis Menchov (Rus-Rabobank) by 20 seconds and Michael Rogers (Aus-Columbia) by seven.

Oh and as for Vladimir Isaiyichev (3rd spelling!), he finished 174th on the day, eleven and a half minutes behind Cavendish. But he did manage to get his jersey on international television and computer feed for more than two hours. Now if we only knew what his sponsor, Xacobeo Galicia sells?

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