Many of us, including myself, have found our way to cycling watching Tour de France on TV. It has been possible to watch cycling live on Eurosport and national TV channels in some European countries for many many years. Today the services are widespread and it's possible to watch almost any cycling race, anywhere with a mobile device. There has been some exceptions though, including the Finnish cycling races. Fortunately the passion for cycling has brought a change to that.
Just over a month ago a big event took place. It was the farewell of Jens Voigts career, with his attempt on the Hour Record. For you who don't know, the hour record is nothing less than riding all out during 60 minutes and the result is your distance. And a new record he did, Voigt pedaled 51,110 km during one hour. Now, that record is being aimed at by Matthias Brändle and IAM Cycling. A serious attempt that is.
IAM Cycling has had a great start for the Tirreno-Adriatico 2014. Stage 1 yesterday (TTT) was a solid performance by the whole team. IAM Cycling crossed the finish line having an average speed of 52,7 km/h losing 50 seconds to the winning team. After the stage I spoke briefly with Kjell Carlström and congratulated about a solid performance. Kjell was pleased with the performance, but said that they have room for improvement. I also asked about stage 2, would that be a stage for Pelucchi and is he in good shape. With a smile he gave me a short answer and stated that Pelucchi is in okay form but will face a hard competition.
And today Matteo Pelucchi did just that, he won the stage 2 with a really outstanding performance in the last 100 m. The last kilometers were really hectic and with just 10 kilometers to go we saw a crash in the peloton. Fortunately IAM Cycling was already well positioned at that time. I had the chance to talk to Kjell after the stage and this was also the plan for IAM Cycling, to be positioned somewhere close to the front well before the finish line. "We had discussed the importance of being in front and the guys executed it perfectly". With just less than 3 km to go we also saw Kittel go down. I asked about if these are situations that you as a sports director inform the team about. "It was not necessary at that point to inform the riders, even if a stage winner favorite goes down, it's up to the riders to do what they do best and to focus on their own thing. Especially that close to the finish, you don't want to confuse the riders".
There were several teams trying to build up a leadout train, but all of those attempts were unsuccessful. It was almost chaotic at times, as it tends to be close to the finish line at a sprint stage. At a point it looked as if IAM Cycling riders could be trapped on the left side of the bunch. I asked how IAM Cycling had planned the last km and if they tried to do a leadout for Pelucchi. "A leadout was not our intention, we wanted to bring Pelucchi to a good position for the final sprint, and they riders performed exactly as we had planned. Sprints are always hectic and one moment you can be trapped and a second later you might find a perfect gap to break through for a sprint. When it comes to the final kilometer and meters it's all about your instincts and trying to feel how your legs are and to decide when to launch your sprint. We've been close many times this year, but today we finally got all those pieces right".
Watching the final 100 m on TV, one could see that Pelucchi first had to move sideways from left to right and then round Greipel from the right side. He actually tracked more meters than many other riders in the final 100 m. According to Carlström there was a slight headwind and Pelucchi managed to time his sprint perfectly taking advantage of Greipel's rear wheel. A solid performance by a young sprinter. "It was really well done by Pelucchi and the whole team leading Pelucchi to a such a great position. And of course a great honor to win in front of the home crowd, taking his first big victory in Italy. At the same time it is a big moment for the whole IAM Cycling team, winning on this level".
You can read an interview and reactions by Matteo Pelucchi himself on IAM Cycling website. This victory he dedicates to Kristof Goddaert.
“This victory is for you, Kristof. I gave everything I had to have this chance to dedicate a win to you up there, from where you are looking down and watching us.”-Matteo Pelucchi - IAM Cycling website
Tomorrow is a new day of racing, but after such a great victory I assumed the team will celebrate the win somehow. "Yes, the riders will have a glass of wine at dinner, but tomorrow will be a new and a hard day in the saddle so no more than that."
About stage 3, how is IAM Cycling targeting that, another stage win tomorrow? "It will be a hard day and the final short hill is really hard. Of course we have several cards to play now, but it will be hard. There might also be a chance for a breakaway tomorrow, if a group of 8-10 riders can build up a breakaway that could go all the way. Of course we will look out for those. But for the final sprint, if there's no breakaway we can have Haussler, Elmiger and maybe Pelucchi to go for it".
So tomorrow will be really interesting. IAM Cycling has now achieved at least one of their goals set up, taking a stage win. A good TTT performance was another, maybe that's already two goals achieved? You can read about the other goals in the previous interview with Kjell Carlström here.
So stay tuned for stage 3 tomorrow, live at 14:30 CET on Eurosport. And hopefully we will see some more great performance by IAM Cycling.
Tomorrow it begins, the 2014 edition of Tirreno-Adriatico "race of the two seas". Together with Paris-Nice it is one of the first really big stage races in Europe for the season. As a fan of this race I'm really looking forward for it to begin. I had the opportunity to talk to Kjell Carlström before the start of Tirreno-Adriatico. This year Carlström is directeur sportif for IAM Cycling together with Marcello Albasini and the expectations are set pretty high.
Teams for Tirreno-Adriatico together with Paris-Nice can be built up by grand tour cyclists targeting Giro d'Italia or Tour de France, but for IAM Cycling the team is built up differently:
"Our riders consist, for both Paris-Nice and Tirreno, of classics riders, preparing them for upcoming classics as well as GC riders. In Tirreno we also can target some sprints. For us the goal is not to prepare the riders for Giro or the Tour."
Having names such as Haussler and Löfkvist in the lineup, IAM Cycling is a strong team. According to Carlström the team is able to perform well and maybe even surprise some of us watchers, but the main focus is on doing a good race and sticking to the game plan. Even if there are really strong teams and cyclists around, IAM Cycling will not focus on them.
"Our goal for Tirreno is to do a good team time trial, win a stage and have one rider in the top 10 GC. I'm satisfied if we fulfill these goals and I do believe we can hit it".
The weather for Tirreno this year seems to be rather good, and Carlström does not believe weather conditions will play a great role this year.
"Even if there can be windy sections along the coast, I don't believe it will affect the outcome too much. Probably it can reduce the amount of riders in the peloton, but nothing significant".
Tirreno-Adriatico this year has plenty of time trials. The race begins and ends with a time trial. Stage 1 will be a team time trial and the last stage an individual time trial. In grand tours we've seen time trials have been of key importance for the last few years. As Carlström mentioned, a good team time trial will be important for the team.
"We've done a couple of extra training days here in Italy and several TTT-specific workouts with the team. We've also ridden the TTT stage several times with the team in order to find the best tactics and technique for the route".
Cycling in Italy often means cycling in the mountains, Tirreno is no exception. Stage 4 and 5 will be stages for climbers. IAM Cycling has not been doing any specific training for these stages but Carlström admits the latter part of stage 5 with a climb up to Passo Lanciano and an uphill finish will be really hard. Looking at the lineups and the route of this year's Tirreno-Adriatico, there is according to me no doubt that it is a harder race than the Paris-Nice and Kjell Carlström feels the same. "I agree to 100%". There are many strong teams and riders, Richie Porte, Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky), Michele Scarponi (Astana Pro Team), Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team), Peter Sagan and Ivan Basso (Cannondale), Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp) just a few to mention. No doubt this will be a great race.
The results so far this season has not been the best for IAM Cycling, but Carlström states that it has still been okay. "Most of the cyclist are building form and are close to reaching the first top form for this year, so we can really expect good things to happen now".
Looking at the IAM Cycling lineup for Tirreno-Adriatico and especially Haussler, Löfkvist and Elmiger one could say they do have a slight positive upswing in results and shape even if they, according to me could still have done more. Carlström admits that this is partly true.
"You might be right with that, but then a little luck could have changed a lot. Many of our riders have shown really good training results, but of course races are races and many things needs to go right in order to win."
As a final question to Kjell Carlström, I wanted him to describe the team IAM Cycling we will see in the Tirreno-Adriatico 2014.
"A really tight team working well together and a team that will fight well against a hard competition"
Tomorrow we will see the first stage of the Tirreno-Adriatico 2014 and the race will be broadcasted by Eurosport starting at 14:30 CET each race day.
Below some links for more information:
Interview with Marko Vauhkonen – Suomen Kilpapyöräily ry
As some of you might remember I wrote about the Finnish cycling project that aims at lifting our road cycling future to a whole new level. We have a strong history in endurance sports such as cross country skiing and running, but in cycling we've never been able to reach a level such as our Scandinavian neighbors Sweden, Norway and Denmark has. One could blame it on the weather conditions, but that doesn't make sense since our neighbors have the same conditions.
I’m really happy and at the same time super excited about this new project that will hopefully have a huge impact in our cycling culture and finally help our young talents to reach the top elite in cycling. Suomen Kilpapyöräily ry (freely translated Finnish Cycle Racing association) was founded by 27 members not just anybody, but by the cycling elite in Finland including such names as current professional cyclist Jussi Veikkanen former professionals Charly Wegelius (directeur sportif, Team Garmin Sharp) and Kjell Carlström (directeur sportif, IAM Cycling Team) who are both still involved in the professional cycling today.
Just last week I had the opportunity to meet one of the founding members of Suomen Kilpapyöräily ry., Marko Vauhkonen. Marko has a strong background in cycling, as one of his best personal achievements as a cyclist he mention the year 1984 and the Nordic championships (track) where he took a bronze medal. He has a strong background in international cycling as well, having experienced both European and world championships in both road- and track cycling.
I was really excited to meet him. Since I hadn't heard a lot about the project, but I knew there were many really big names behind it, I knew it would be big. We took a coffee and sat down, I thought it would be an hour, but I guess it took more than two and a half hours at the end. I guess when you have two cycling freaks talking about cycling, you shouldn't assume such things.
The 27 names behind the project are:
Juho Suikkari, Kimmo Kananen, Kjell Carlström, Jari Vanninen, Peter Selin, Patrick Wackström, Sixten Wackström, Marko Vauhkonen, Mika Hämäläinen, Kimmo Karhu, Oscar Stenström, Tauno Hietala, Peter Klimscheffskij, Vesa Rauttu, Pertti Linna, Jouni Hakala, Joona Laukka, Jussi Veikkanen, Harri Hedgren, Veikko Sinisalo, Juha Poutiainen, Kari Myllymäki, Vesa Mattila, Jukka Heinikainen, Christian Selin, Charley Wegelius and Jyrki Tujunen.
Many of you recognize some or most of of these names for sure. So after a "short" introduction of presenting myself to Marko and vice versa, I was eager to know how and why this project got started? It was easy for Marko to answer this question.
“For years we've seen many of our young talented riders struggle to get to the top, and there has been none or little support for these talented young riders. Last autumn I got a phone call from Juho Suikkari and together we decided that this trend can’t continue, we need to do something in order to bring cycling to a level where it deserves to be in this country. And with the current resources and investments, we knew it would be next to impossible to do so. So we decided to act, and more or less, that was the start for this project. Of course it took us a couple of days to send out invitations to a first ever meeting, but we were efficient and in just a few months we had started a project, made clear plans and started our work.”
It struck me how fast everything was built up. This of course is just a sign of how passionate these guys are about cycling and about their will to really do something important and big for cycling. At this point I was eager to know more and tried to take in all information possible.
Q: What are the main goals for the project?
“We want to look at this, not just as a single thing that will take our youth quickly to the top, but as a complete learning experience for our young riders. We have a clear mission to build sustainable, competitive and healthy youth. Money should not be an obstacle for anyone and our mission is to help, support and advice young riders how to be independent and help them gain international experience, which is such a crucial component in being successful.
Cycling races were won by individual efforts back in the 1930’s, but today you win and lose as a team.
All of us involved, we have a strong knowledge in the world of cycling all the way from the early -80’s, and we want to share that experience with our youngsters. We really want to emphasize the fact that cycling is a team sport more than anything else. We want our riders to really feel and internalize that what you give to the team, you’ll have back doubled. A team is as strong as its weakest link. Cycling races were won by individual efforts back in the 1930’s, but today you win and lose as a team.
And it’s not just about cycling, we of course want to prepare the youngsters for a life at the top, but also prepare them for a life after cycling, because we all know there is one. At some point the youngsters will grow older and hopefully they will be role models for the next generation of cyclists. It’s a complete package. Besides this we of course want to encourage everyone to ride their bikes and raise awareness about the sport itself. What also needs to be said, we are not competing with any national cycling clubs or the national cycling association in Finland (Suomen Pyöräilyunioni), we are here to support the youth together with the other clubs and the national association.”
All of that makes sense, right? Think about being a young rider and having a team like that behind you, supporting, sharing thoughts and advice with you. Being together with your role models and having them support you must be a “dream come true” for any athlete.
Q: What can you tell us about the support and visibility of the campaign so far?
“We’ve had a great start visibility-wise. Both Facebook and Twitter have attracted many followers without any big marketing so far. For social media we also have many great things to come when the season starts. We will also have some “visibility” in TV, and some stories will be shared along the cycling broadcasts for instance on Finnish Eurosport. We also have some great sponsors already with us, for instance Solvalla training centre (Solvalla idrottsinstitut - Solvallan urheiluopisto) where we also had our first training camp.”
So at this point, having the backgrounds I really wanted to know more about the cyclists, the team the first training camp, well everything. I tried to hold myself together.
Q: About the team, can you tell us more about the age group, what type of riders you have selected and how is the selection done?
“So a project life-cycle is 4 years and the target age group is 15-18 year old riders. We want to keep the “doors open” for everyone. For this year’s team we've been looking at last year’s results and gathered the cyclists who had the best results in their respective age groups. We will be competing with a 6 “man” strong team in each competition and we have 3 in reserve for each race. We do not classify or categorize our riders, we select them to each race separately and have a rotation on the lineups. We go into every race with a mentality that we can win that race, we give 110 % each time we are competing, as a team and on an individual level. If we see that there are other talented guys outside of our group who are improving and racing well, we keep our doors open for them of course. At that age there are huge differences in how the boys develop, some might develop at an early age, some might show their talent years later. That's why I say we keep our doors open, and that's the only way to go. “
Q: In social media we saw a couple of weeks ago pictures and some stories from your first training camp. How was it, what was the agenda and how would you sum up the training camp?
“Honestly, I’d say it was as good as a training camp can be. No, actually it was even better. It was one of the best training camps I've seen and experienced content-wise in my life. Probably it was so rich in content that the youngsters weren't able to assimilate everything, but if they were able to memorize 30 % of what was said, they already took a great leap forward as cyclists. Besides great lectures and support by Kimmo Kananen, Kjell Carlström and Charly Wegelius, we had an individual bike fit for the guys, surprisingly all had to make some adjustments in their positioning on the bike.
We also had the opportunity to have Jani Paju with us, who introduced Fustra to the guys. Fustra has been a success in many countries and is also used by the top elite as a way to improve especially your core strength. In cycling, Fustra is used for instance by IAM Cycling Team.
We also focused on activities that were not related to cycling where the focus was on building team spirit. And I think we nailed that as well, better than expected.
The lectures were interesting and practical and our days were filled with action. Basically we got up at 7 AM and had a full schedule until 22 PM. We learnt how to get a bottle from the team car properly, safe and efficiently. We also went through how to take advantage of bad situations such as punctures. As Wegelius pointed out several times, no panic, use your brains!”
As a final question I wanted to know when we’ll see a Finn on the podium, either in a spring Classics race or on a grand tour. Marko didn't need to think for long.
“ 2016, Mikko Paajanen. He has had a really good off season this year, and according to his own words he has never been in as good shape as he is now. I’m confident he will be the next big Finnish cyclist.”
And so, two and a half hours later we realized it was already pretty late. Time goes by so fast when you talk about cycling. I’m really excited to follow this project, and having heard many details I cannot yet reveal here, I’m looking forward to a year in cycling I've never experienced before. It was also really great to meet Marko, such a great person! I will be reporting about the project as it progresses so stay tuned! We will see the new team compete for the first in Finland in Turku, April 26th and 27th. So stay tuned for updates, there will be some great news, I promise you that!
- Suomen Pyöräily Nousuun Facebook
- Suomen Pyöräily Nousuun Twitter
- Mikko Paajanen - website
- Solvalla Training Centre Facebook
A week ago I chatted with Kjell Carlström and we decided to meet in Turku. I’ve been fortunate to get to know this former Team Sky professional cyclist currently working as Directeur Sportif (DS) for the Swiss IAM Cycling Team. Kjell has also been motivating and coaching me in my training and because of that I have been able to develop as a cyclist, both mentally and physically. So as you all know, it is always great to meet such people, this time was no exception. Also, talking with people who share the same interest, hours easily feels like minutes. I of course was eager to hear everything about the switch from a professional cyclist to a directeur sportif and all the latest about the team.
Q: What were the highs and lows from the first year, season 2013:
A: Well there was a lot happening during 2013, but definitely the big disappointments of the year were the fact that IAM Cycling was left out from both Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France. But thinking about those now a year later, they really wouldn’t have fit in our program for the year, and maybe it was better the way it turned out. Of course also bad luck for some of our riders such as Löfkvist was unfortunate.
Looking at the good things, there are many of them. We got a really good start in Qatar with Martin Elmiger battling for stage win on stage 1, finishing second on that stage. Of course Martin had a superb year and we were really pleased with the progress he made, and especially he was a really solid rider all year. Of course Bayern Rundfahrt was a good race for us with Stefan Denifl winning the mountains jersey, Heinrich Haussler winning stage 5 and the whole team performing really well and having both Martin Elmiger (9) and Marcel Wyss (7) at the GC top 10 and winning the team classification. We had a good year, but this year, we want to win even more.
Q: So what about your own ambitions or goals for the coming year?
A: I always wanted to win a grand tour. Before as a cyclist, and now as a DS. And even if we did have a good first year, I want to strive to be even better and do things better and more efficient as ever before. There is a lot to do, and that’s why I like this job. You can never be completely ready or done with what you do. It’s about the whole process. We’ve implemented the Fustra training method, and we’ve been really happy with that. Many riders have added this method to their routine, and we do see results as well. And sure, we do have some new things coming up…
At this point he gave me that laugh, you know when you have a secret you know will make a difference and sure, will be revealed at some point because it will end up in good results.
Let’s see what that is, it will be big, he continued laughing.
I realized it would be meaningless to even try to know what that is. So I didn’t ask more, just laughed along. We’ll see…
Q: What are the differences of being a pro cyclist and working together with pro cyclists?
A: It’s a totally different point of view that you have. As a DS you really need to be able to think in wider paths, you need to be able to think about the cyclists, things as a whole. When you plan or execute, you need to be able to see the whole picture from all angles. What seems logical for a cyclist might not be logical in the big picture, and sometimes it is hard to communicate that. At IAM Cycling, we try to talk and listen to our guys as much as possible, yea we do talk a lot.
Q: Goals and important dates for this season, which cyclist do you expect to step up and how is the team built up?
A: We have some important races we want to target with certain riders. The whole season expectations will be a mix of individual races and grand tour ambitions. The main goal is to be on the Tour this year, to win at least one stage, have the yellow jersey or have at least one rider in the top ten GC. We target to have at least one of these happening on the Tour, of course we are glad to nail them all! We have several riders who are able to target these goals. It’s are a huge advantage for us since we have a strong team with many good riders this year.
Of course we also want to win a classic in the spring, and we all know the biggest one is Paris-Roubaix. We have a really good mixture of riders for the first half of the classics and this gives us possibilities for building a great strategy in order to win. We have for instance Chavanel and Haussler, both really experienced and strong riders. Reichebach and Pelucchi have both good sprinting capabilities; we expect them to show up as well. Frank and Wyss both are able to step up this season too; we really have a wide range of cyclists who can, on a good day, win any race. Of course Löfkvist have all the possibilities to ride really well. He was really unlucky last year, we just need to change that and he can really have a successful year, he has made some great improvements lately. And Elmiger, huge year for him. He proved he can perform and this year he has some great targets where he really can win, and we really do believe this can be his big year. As a whole I see many of our riders to step up this year and reach a solid performance on high level.
It is also important that we don’t classify our young riders at a too early stage. Everyone needs to get opportunities to show what they can do and what they are best at doing. Too many become domestiques because they are classified as domestiques at an early stage. We don’t want to do that.
Q: Any comments on the Tour de France 2013 and what do you expect from the Tour de France 2014?
A: Well, the 2013, I expected Team Sky to perform and Froome to win, I had no doubt about it. For me it didn’t kill the interest in the tour, but maybe it didn’t offer the greatest excitement. It seemed that many teams had given up already before the race started. And the Alp d´Huez stage showed us all that even the Team Sky riders can be beaten, they’re humans as well.
For the 2014 edition of the Tour, Froome is of course the favorite. But it will be more interesting, because I don’t think Team Sky will be as dominant this year. Will be interesting to see how the Schlecks, Contador, Nibali and Rodriguez can do. There are many strong riders and teams such as Garmin and BMC. And maybe someone else as well…
Again a laugh from Carlström, I think he just mentioned IAM here.
The media pressure on Team Sky is huge, and it might affect how they ride and put a really hard pressure on all the riders there.
Q: What do you think about your former team and roommate Chris Froome?
A: He is a great guy, really down to earth and I wish him all the best of luck of course. During the time I spent with him, I really don’t have one bad word to say about him. Well in the beginning, before becoming a big name and grand tour winner, he really struggled with keeping his head with him when cycling. It was often just full speed and all out efforts instead of thinking of race tactics. But once he got that part in shape, well the rest is history as we know.
Q: So what is your relation to cycling today, do you still ride your bike and do you sometimes think it would be great to be racing?
A: I do ride, but not much these days, maybe less than 1000 km a year. Yet another laugh by Kjell. Well it would be great to race to win, but when I think about the amount of training it would mean, no I don’t want to get back there anymore.
It could be great to be able to go back 15 years, and try to do things differently. Not of course that I regret the things I’ve done, but I think it could have been of great importance to be able to believe in myself even more. That could have changed many things for me as a professional cyclist.
Suddenly the lights blinked. I realized the restaurant was closing and it was already 10 pm. I also realized I’d forgotten about my food and that there was still plenty of food left on the plate. Hours really can be minutes.
I will try to follow more closely on the IAM Cycling Team progress this year, and every time I have the possibility I try to catch up with Kjell to hear the insiders from races if possible. So stay tuned!