Author: Michael Better

Giro’s Aether introduces advanced MIPS technology

Giro’s new flagship helmet, Aether, uses MIPS Spherical, a two-part dual density foam that redirects energy during angled impacts.

Read the full article at Giro’s Aether introduces advanced MIPS technology on VeloNews.com.

Goodyear re-enters the bicycle tire market, 120 years later

Good Year’s full line of cycling tires are here, but did the company we associate with automotive rubber get bike tires right?

Read the full article at Goodyear re-enters the bicycle tire market, 120 years later on VeloNews.com.

Week in Tech: Trek’s full-suspension Stache; Astral wheels; Mavic’s French tribute

Here’s the Week in Tech — all the gear news, tips, and announcements you need and none of the marketing gibberish you don’t.

Read the full article at Week in Tech: Trek’s full-suspension Stache; Astral wheels; Mavic’s French tribute on VeloNews.com.

Week in Tech: Endura summer kit; Easton goes deep; Alpe du Zwift; Sagan the artist

Here’s the Week in Tech — all the gear news, tips, and announcements you need and none of the marketing gibberish you don’t.

Read the full article at Week in Tech: Endura summer kit; Easton goes deep; Alpe du Zwift; Sagan the artist on VeloNews.com.

Week in Tech: New Salsa gravel bike, Donnelly’s Roubaix-ready tire, Bont’s one-dial Boa

Here’s your Week in Tech — all the gear news you need an none of the marketing gibberish you don’t want.

Read the full article at Week in Tech: New Salsa gravel bike, Donnelly’s Roubaix-ready tire, Bont’s one-dial Boa on VeloNews.com.

Week in Tech: Niner’s trail bikes get a makeover, Bianchi’s new disc rig

This week’s roundup of tech news includes Niner’s colorful bikes, a race-ready, disc-brake bike from Bianchi, and some nifty accessories.

Read the full article at Week in Tech: Niner’s trail bikes get a makeover, Bianchi’s new disc rig on VeloNews.com.

Week in Tech: Sportful gravel kit, Donnelly 650b tires, and Muc-Off

Here’s your Week in Tech: All the gear news you need and none of the marketing gibberish you don’t want.

Read the full article at Week in Tech: Sportful gravel kit, Donnelly 650b tires, and Muc-Off on VeloNews.com.

The Week in Tech: Canyon women’s MTB, special Sagan shades, budget Shimano wheels

Here’s the Week in Tech — all the gear news, tips, and announcements you need and none of the marketing gibberish you don’t.

Read the full article at The Week in Tech: Canyon women’s MTB, special Sagan shades, budget Shimano wheels on VeloNews.com.

Women’s peloton ready for Belgian cobbles

A deep sigh of relief has dropped over the cycling world this week, as the spring classics are finally here. The women’s peloton will pound the cobblestones just the like the men this weekend with two races of their own — Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Omloop van Het Hageland.

As with the men’s opening weekend, Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is expected to be a war, while Omloop van Het Hageland usually comes down to a select bunch sprint.

The women’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad is fairly young, having only begun in 2008. Swede Emma Johansson is the only two-time winner, powering to victories in 2010 and 2011.

Hageland has an even shorter history, with the race beginning in 2011. Former world champion Lizzie Deignan is the only multi-time winner. She was victorious in 2012 and 2014.

The Parcours

Omloop Het Nieuwsblad goes from Ghent to Ninove this year and, as with the men’s event, covers the last 60 kilometers of the old Tour of Flanders route. This means the women will get to tackle the brutal Muur van Geraardbergen-Bosberg finish to end the opening classic of the season. The Bosberg comes a mere 12km from the finish, but by then, a very select group or a solo rider should be in the lead.

The race is 122km and the women will tackle eight climbs and three cobbled sectors. All of those come in the second half of the race, giving the riders ample time to get motivated to dig deep.

The first real selection of the race should come at the Haaghoek sector with about 45km to race. It is the fifth obstacle the riders will tackle on the day, with the Katteberg kicking off the cobblestones after the riders pass through Oudenaarde about 50km into the race.

Haaghoek is a brutal stretch of cobblestones and nearly 2km in length. Positioning will be key heading into this sector because the race might not be won at Haaghoek, but it can certainly be lost.

After the climbs and sectors begin, the riders will have very few kilometers of pavement between each cobbled obstacle. The longest gap of recovery, or greatest distance between the cobbles, is near the end of the race between the Tenbosse and the Muur. There are 10km between those two climbs, with the Murr beginning about 16km from the finish.

Omloop van Het Hageland on Sunday is a race in the Lotto Cycling Cup, a series of Belgian UCI races. The start and finish are in Tielt-Winge. The race consists of an opening 53km loop, followed by six local laps of 13.3km. The race covers 133km overall. The lap contains a short, steep climb that could provide the opportunity for a rider to upset the sprinters, but a bunch gallop is very much expected.

The race will be shown live at livestream.com. The broadcast is not geo-restricted.

Both races this weekend have a status of UCI 1.1, which for the women is one step below the WorldTour.

Sunweb has an embarrassment of riches

In 2017, Dutch riders took a sweep of the first four places at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and it could very well happen again in 2018.

Defending champion Lucinda Brand of Team Sunweb will be on the start line and has said the new route with the tough, two-climb finish suits her better. She will have an impressive team backing her up, which includes two former Tour of Flanders winners.

Ellen Van Dijk won the Tour of Flanders in 2014 and finished fourth at Omloop Het Nieuwsblad last year, after spending a good chunk of the race out front alone. The “pocket rocket,” American Coryn Rivera, emphatically won Flanders last year in a sprint to the line. If Rivera’s at the front of the race after the Bosberg, she will be a good bet to take home the victory.

Chantal Blaak (Boels-Dolmans) will be making her debut as UCI world road champion and will hope the rainbow bands bring her a little luck on Saturday. She has finished second in Omloop Het Nieuwsblad the last two years, and in 2015 she was fourth. She helped her teammate Lizzie Deignan win her first race as world champion back in 2016, so she’s aiming to repeat the feat of her teammate.

The new course should suit world time trial champion Annemiek Van Vleuten (Mitchelton-Scott). She kicked off her season last month in Australia, and her time trial abilities could come to the fore should a select group of riders enter the final two climbs battling for the victory. We could see a long-range attack from Van Vleuten if she’s at the front of the race when the finale kicks off.

Mitchelton-Scott has a great 1-2 punch with Jolien D’Hoore able to finish the race off if it comes down to a sprint. The fast-finishing Belgian switched from Wiggle High5 to Mitchelton-Scott over the winter. D’hoore should be in the mix both days this weekend, as she is the defending champion at Omloop van Het Hageland.

Elisa Longo Borghini (Wiggle High5) and Amanda Spratt (Mitchelton-Scott) are two other riders that should factor into the finale on Saturday.

With Sunday’s race set for the sprinters, many teams are swapping out riders overnight, though Boels-Dolmans is most notably not. D’hoore is the heavy favorite on Sunday as the defending champion. Chloe Hosking (Ale-Cipollini) won the Cadel Evans Great Ocean Road Road last month in a sprint on a difficult course. She finished second to D’hoore last year at Omloop van Het Hageland.

Ellen Van Dijk will lead Team Sunweb on Sunday. American Ruth Winder is a solid second option for the squad, should Van Dijk fatigue in the finale from racing the day before. Winder is only racing on Sunday.

Notably, 19-year-old American Skylar Schneider will be making her debut with Boels-Dolmans this weekend. There is no easing into the racing for Schneider, as she will be racing both days to kick off her 2018 season.

Many riders are starting their 2018 racing seasons this weekend, so we could potentially see one or two big names falter. However, it is only the opening weekend of the classics and there are still five weeks until the Tour of Flanders.

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How dangerous is mountain biking? NICA to investigate crash data

Is high school mountain biking more dangerous than tackle football? The National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) has a plan to find some answers.

For 2018, NICA has invited the University of Utah to study crash statistics from the league and to compare injury reports from mountain bike racing to those from other high school sports. The two-year study will examine numbers from the 2018 and 2019 seasons, with the final results being available in 2020 at the earliest.

“Now we can compare apples to apples because there is a lot of data about football and high school sports,” said Austin McInerny, NICA’s executive director. “That’ll be a pretty fascinating day when we really can compare it and debunk some of the myths about the inherent dangers of mountain biking.”

During the first high school mountain bike race of the 2017 National Interscholastic Cycling Association season, a rider from Fairview High School in Boulder, Colorado crashed and hit his head. Per NICA guidelines, the team administered NICA’s post-crash concussion protocol. According to the team’s coach, Andrew Feeney, the rider suffered concussion-like symptoms that lasted for months. The team elected to sit the rider for the remainder of the season.

Later in the season, another Fairview rider suffered a head injury during a crash, and also went through NICA’s concussion protocol. That student was able to race after a few weeks of recovery.

Every mountain bike racer crashes — tumbles and falls are endemic to a sport that requires its athletes to pedal over rocks and dirt. Yet nobody knows just how dangerous mountain bike racing is when compared to other sports.

“I get kids coming up to me all the time saying, ‘I got a concussion playing basketball. I got a concussion from football,” said Feeney, who teaches also science. “I would be curious to see what the concussion rates are for those other sports compared to mountain biking.”

McInerny said NICA commissioned the study to overcome the stigma that mountain bike racing is simply too dangerous for high school students. Founded in 2009 in California, NICA has seen rapid growth in recent years. In 2018, the league added Maryland, Oregon, and West Virginia, bringing 21 total states under its organizational wing. More than 14,000 high school children will participate in a NICA race in 2018.

The league operates competition seasons in both the fall and the springtime. This spring, seven NICA leagues will hold competition: Texas, Northern and Southern California, Alabama, North Carolina, New Jersey, and New York.

Despite the growth, McInerny said the league still faces hurdles in new communities and often times its safety concerns that keep schools and parents from letting kids participate in the league.

“Ultimately, we want to be able to tell school districts because a lot of schools right now are saying, ‘No, we are not supportive of a mountain bike team, it’s too dangerous,’” McInerny said. “We need to be able to say, ‘Let’s compare the stats and compare it to football or baseball or whatever.’”

The University of Utah study will examine crash data, injury reports, and incident reports submitted by NICA coaches during the spring and the fall. Each NICA coach keeps a weekly report about the amount of time the students are exposed to the risk of injury each week. In essence, the coaches track how many hours each week their students are riding. Coaches also fill out regular incident reports — the reports are required whenever a rider visits a doctor, loses training time, or misses school due to a crash or training injury. Each report asks questions about the specifics of the injury, as well as how it occurred.

Dr. Stuart Willick, a professor with the University of Utah’s orthopedic center, will oversee the study. He said the study would rely on a four-step method to draw its conclusions about NICA’s safety record. The process will see researchers categorize the injuries and try to understand their causes, before determining whether NICA can enact preventative measures to avoid future problems.

For instance, what if the research determines that injuries are occurring on loose, downhill sections of trail that involve sharp turns?

“One might be able to inform coaches and student-athletes to be more careful on downhill turns with loose dirt,” Dr. Willick said. “Another might be to have racecourse staff or crew to change race courses to avoid the most dangerous turns.”

Dr. Willick said it is challenging to draw definitive conclusions about safety between two different sports — for example high school football versus mountain bike racing — due to the enormous variables between the two sports. Some comparisons can be made, he said. Still, the study could help NICA decrease its injuries by pinpointing areas where injuries regularly occur.

The study represents the latest step that NICA has taken to address rider safety. Since NICA is not affiliated with varsity athletics or USA Cycling, it creates its own rulebook and rider safety guidelines.

NICA’s rulebook has a protocol for head injuries, which requires students who have hit their heads to be cleared by a doctor before returning to practice or competition. All NICA coaches must also take an online course in head injury treatment in youth that is produced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

McInerny and other NICA officials believe the rules and safety protocols have helped the league thrive amongst teenaged riders. For many NICA participants, the league represents their first experience with competitive cycling, so the rules and safety precautions govern riders across a wide spectrum.

Feeney says adult riders always ride at the front and rear of NICA-led rides. If a crash occurs, an adult always sees it happen, and can react quickly. Adult riders carry two-way radios for communication, and Feeney tries to have a ratio of six high school riders for every adult rider on a training ride.

Crashes will and do happen. The key to overcoming them, Feeney said, is to simply be prepared.

“We’ve had a couple instances where we had a kid, and we were worried about a potential head injury, so we had to walk them out of the trail. [The safety plan] is so everyone knows where the closest exit trailhead is for whatever the trail might be.”

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