Monday, August 02, 2010

Frenchman Wins Tour of Catskills; Landis Ties for 11th

August 2, 2010
See photos of race on Flickr
Frenchman Aurelien Passeron won the 160-mile, three-day stage race Tour of the Catskills yesterday, also cinching the King of the Mountains and stage finish for day three on Sunday.

Pic: Aurelien Passeron GC winner (right) and Brandon Milet, junior GC winner (left).
The Nice-born 26-year-old praised the race and the area, likening it to the region of Vosges in France, and said the climbs were as challenging--or more--than some of the toughest in the Tour de France.

Aurelien has been racing in the U.S. this summer with the Canadian based Garneau team and recently came in third in the Super Week competition, a 17-day race held across the U.S.

Floyd Landis, who came to the race unattached to a particular team, tied for 11th.  Landis was the 2006 Tour de France winner who was subsequently stripped of his title for testosterone use. He has recently been embroiled in an investigation of doping in U.S. cycling that he started off with allegations made while the Tour of California was underway earlier this year.

Farm Team Cycling's Brandon Milet took first in the junior classification.

Asked whether he thought the allegations by Landis had cast any type of pall over the race, Passeron said, "I can't judge him," and that he enjoyed having him in the race.
The pro peloton on Platt Clove (see Passeron center)

When asked about the drug allegations hanging over professional cycling, Passeron said he was not into criticizing or mulling over the past. "Now is the moment to go forward," he said, and described a project he was working on called Pedal Pour Bon Sante (Pedal for Good Health,) a holistic sustainable living movement that will include a clean, no-drug approach to cycling, the use of electric cars, and cultivating natural organic foods. During the interview with BBB after the race he left untouched the mayonnaise rich potato salad that had been brought to him with the rest of his meal.

Passeron's teammate Derrick St. John said the team set up the second day of racing, and tried to control the breaks, as well as tire out the other riders by taking fliers out in the front of the peloton before the toughest climb of the day. Their strategy worked, with Passeron taking the stage, and St. John fourth overall.
Pic: Landis on Platt Clove where grades are as steep as 23 percent.
The race took cyclists over some of the most demanding territory in the area, including America's version of the hors categorie, a 5-km climb up Platt's Cove, with 23 percent grades that made some cyclists get off their bicycles and walk in the 80 degree heat. Even Landis, who was near the front of the pro pack, appeared to be hurting on the ascent.

Others from the category 1/2 pros to the over 50 masters group, juniors and women, struggled up the climb with looks of agony on their faces, while spectators and walkers on the infamous stretch stood by yelling words of encouragement, "You can do it," and "It's only another 3 kilometers to the top," hardly the words they wanted to hear: More than one rider asked almost pleadingly, "Is it almost finished?" as they ground their pedals over the incline that is normally favored by local bears who sit cleaning their furon the outcrops dotting the road.

It was the first time since 1992 that that particular section in Saugerties, NY had been used in a race, said race promoter Dieter Drake.  That last time was when the Tour de Trump took professional riders up its steep climb.

Passeron said the climb was steeper than Col du Tourmalet in the Tour de France, Verbier, or even Mont Ventoux, but was shorter. Was it easy? "I never think something is easy until after it's done," he said in French.

Women's cat 1/2/3 coming up Platt Clove on stage 2

In this second year of Tour of the Catskills, the number of registrants more than doubled from 270 to a little over 600, said Drake, with 101 pros.

Many teams from the New York and New Jersey area were well represented, among them Team GS Mengoni, NYVelocity, Jonathan Adler, and Team Kissena from New York City, as well as Westwood Velo of Westwood and Strictly Bicycles of Fort Lee, both from New Jersey. (See all the pics from the two stage days of racing which will be uploaded later today.)

French, Canadian, German and Americans rode together in what might have seemed like a page book out of the European classics races except this time it was in the majestic hills of the Catskills, just two hours north of New York City.

Hull Farm, the last of 13 area farms still operating has family farm vacations to ensure its financial viability 

The first day of racing took riders through Greene County from the Windham ski resort along Route 23, a fast east west corridor for car traffic, down to the smaller, winding Route 20 and Route 10, two routes with uphill climbs and verdant scenery, farms like Hull Farms, cows, horses, and even deer breeding pens. Rabbits and bears scattered across the roads before and after the racers came and departed.

The second day's stage stretched along some of the most enchanting cycling routes in the northeast, that are barely traveled by cyclists but should be, first from Hunter mountain, back up to Windham to Route 23. Then the course traveled along a BBB favorite, Route 31 from Acra to Round Top along Heart's Content Road, to Route 32, followed by Blue Mountain Road in West Saugerties, and finally the piece de resistance, Platt Clove road back towards Hunter.

Landis was a big draw for journalists, who may have wanted to ask him why during the Tour of California he decided to make public his email allegations that he and the remainder of his U.S. Postal Team including Lance Armstrong and George Hincapie, were involved in systematic blood transfusions and EPO doping to enhance their performance.

The peloton comes through on Blue Mountain Rd., stage 2.
Landis and his team Ouch were not invited to participate in the Tour of California by its promoters, though Armstrong and his team RadioShack, were.  Currently with no team sponsorship, Landis traveled from California to be here, but Drake would not comment on whether his organization, Anthem Sports paid for the cyclist's travel costs.

So far, there is no corroboration for his allegations, but his words have set off several investigations, including a federal investigation by the Food and Drug Administration led by Jeffrey Notvitsky.

Passeron who was champion of the Under-23 category in France in 2005 says he wants to join an American team like RadioShack or BMC, and race again in the Tour de France and the Paris-Nice event. Passeron raced in the Tour de France with the team Saunier Duval in 2008 but crashed in the fifth stage, and landed in the hospital for a month.
With Garneau up front, the pro team comes to the corner at Hull Farm, stage one.

Although there were some spectators on the Platt Clove climb yesterday, there were few cheering riders along the stage on Saturday. Most seemed unaware that a bike race was going on, and some drivers inserted themselves among the racers in their big SUV's. When told there was a race going on, one driver said, "Yeah we're racing too." The ignorance of the race and the disrespect for the riders was one more indication that indeed, we were not racing in France but in the good old USA.

The pros round a corner along Route 20 near Hull Farm on Stage one.

Drake said that attitude would change with time. He started the older Tour of Battenkill held closer to his home in Cambridge, NY, six years ago, and this year he said they had between 40,000 to 50,000 spectators.

The Platt Clove climb wasn't easy to include this year either, he said because coming from Catskill they had to enter a new county, Ulster, and apply for double the amount of permits and other permissions.  The climb was a real draw for cyclists, attracting teams from New York City, Indiana, Virginia, and Quebec, Canada, so "it was really worth the time," he said.

Carrie Gray was a volunteer stationed at the corner of Hull Farm on rte. 20.

In 2012 Drake wants to put on a seven to eight-day stage race through the Adirondacks, Catskills, New England, and Canada, a northeast version of the Tour of California.  Judging by this year's Tour of the Catskills, not only will the stakes be higher, but so will participation.

For a more personal view of the race, read Cantabloggia's description of the three days of racing including the time trial prologue.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great racer !!! Well done Aurélien!