Bringing back the Cycling Cap one Domestique at a time

About Armstrong...

Fans continue to fan, haters continue to hate. Truly polarizing figures don't come in bigger packages than Texan Lance Armstrong.

Lance Armstrong, the survivor, who overcame testicular cancer and returned to, of all sports, Pro-Tour Cycling.

Lance Armstrong, winner of an unprecedented and record seven straight Tour de France maillots jaunes. 

Lance Armstrong, founder of the Livestrong Foundation; responsible for helping cancer patients and furthering cancer research.

Lance Armstrong, Father of the Yellow Wristband.

Lance Armstrong, The doper.

On the 17th of January, 2013, Armstrong finally pulled a 180 and admitted what many people either knew or, at the very least, suspected: that he used performance enhancing substances and blood transfusions to win... something he vehemently denied countless times in the past. 

 One may agree with Armstrong's statement that winning without doping is not possible 'in that generation'; that everyone else does it. But putting it bluntly...IT'S JUST NOT RIGHT. All this does is make fans of top level competitive cycling fools for worshiping fake, amped up idols. 

The thrill of all sport is watching these superhumans we call athletes compete, outdo each other, beat each other up and elevate themselves above the rest. But where is that thrill now? Knowing that the victor won not because he was the best but because he had the best doping doctor and most sophisticated blood doping scheme outside East Germany behind him? 

That Armstrong coerced teammates to 'follow the behavior' (as alleged by some former teammates) is taking all of this to a whole different level. It's one thing to dope your person, but to forcibly inject erythropoietin into your teammate to prevent him from ratting out, is another matter altogether. This paints a portrait of a man who does not give a crap about anything but himself. Not the sport, not his teammates, nothing. Only himself. Armstrong denies this and attributes his teammates' doping to peer pressure and his bullying, but as he himself said, he's not the most believable person in the world right now. 

In the end, all this seems like a calculated attempt at a give and take. Lance confesses, authorities let him race again. 

I honestly don't know what he's smoking but confessing to a talk show host or anywhere outside of an official investigation doesn't really count for much. This is Armstrong still trying to get what he wants... to control the playing field. 

That's what that confessional to Oprah was about. Controlling the field. No contrition, no revelations, no gory details. Just dipping his toe in, tossing little bits and pieces, an checking how the water ripples.

The obviousness of it all is underwhelming. 

Armstrong is hoping the confession will merit a reduction of his lifetime ban to 8 years. By retroactively enforcing this to 2005, when he last 'crossed the line', Armstrong is not so subtly looking for his suspension to be over this year. In which case he can join races again. Of course USADA tests still flag Armstrong's post 2005 as doped...

It's not all bad though.

To his credit,  Armstrong got a lot of attention for Cycling as a sport.  People took notice, bought their first bikes rode it as a means of getting fit. His Livestrong Foundation, is alive, kicking and in the forefront of the fight against cancer. For these alone, the man deserves a second thought before being written off. 

As to the people he stepped on utterly destroyed with his brutal rebuttals, he should do the right thing... reparations of court earnings perhaps? Or maybe at least make amends or apologies.  

In the end, Cycling's greatest modern hero may have done the greatest damage to it. If he truly cares for the sport as much as he says he does, he should man up and do his part to clean it up. Get rid the stigma which equates peloton to dopaton. 

That's what a real hero would do.

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Review: Shimano Dura Ace WH-9000 C50 CL

Shimano is not the adventurous type when it comes to adopting cycling trends. The Japanese giant is known to stick to its guns and err on the side of what's proven and reliable as opposed to, say, losing a few grams.  The word traditional often comes to mind. 

That isn't to say that once cycling theory becomes cycling fact, Shimano would still stick to how things were previously done. Indeed, Shimano often takes these newfangled concepts and integrates them into their existing products.

Case in point is Shimano's staple aero road wheel, the venerable C50. Mr. Shimano and his crew of cycling engineers took a good hard look and the 7900 series C50 and gave it one heck of an update. Yes, the good old C50 is reborn and has gotten a lot better! 

The latest incarnation C50 is the WH-9000-C50-CL. Quite a mouthful... Shimano seriously needs to come up with less verbose names. The wheelset sports the classic 50mm deep profile in UD carbon with an aluminum brake surface. However, similarities between this and the previous 7900/7850 editions stop here. A product of Shimano's 'Blade Concept', these wheels incorporate features which Shimano feels are key to slicing the wind.  

Biggest news here is Shimano's adoption of the aerodynamic toroidal shape. Whereas the previous C50s were essentially V-Shaped, the 9000 series now sport the de rigueur aerodynamic shape. 

Shimano calls its toroidal shape the D2 rim profile. Where traditional aero rims tackle drag reduction duties by itself, the toroidal shape factors the tires into the equation.  By taking the tires as the leading edge of the shape and building the rim around this, the toroid is completed. 

This eliminates eddys formed between the wheel and the rim and presents the wind with a unified shape to cleave it with. The improved aerodynamics will translate to faster speeds given the same effort, or less power to maintain the same speed. Shimano says that this shape is effective at wind yaw angles from zero up to 15 degrees. 

Second big upgrade on the rims is the width. Rims for the Clincher version are now 23mm wide, up from the previous generation's 19mm. While this may just be an after effect of the D2 profile, it is indeed an upgrade in itself. As discussed in our Dura Ace 9000 C24 TL review , the primary benefit of this is improved rolling resistance, traction and ride quality. 

The Dura Ace C50's now come in a 16-21 spoke configuration. The front is laced radially while the rear comes in what Shimano calls Optbal 2:1 lacing. Quite simply, there are two spokes on the drive side to one on the non-drive side. The 14 drive spokes are cross laced while the 7 non-drive spokes are radial. Shimano engineers reckon that this grants the wheels greater strength and durability compared to previous C50's, which were laced 10-10 each side.

The thin, bladed spokes receive a neat cosmetic touch. Each individual spoke is half-painted to give a fade effect to the wheelset. While this may not be to everyone's taste, we think this decoration is fresh and adds a bit of flair to the set... rather like implying motion even if the wheels are just on display. Graphics feature the now familiar 9000 series silver-gray swoosh, first seen on the C24. Unlike the C24, however, the lines on the C50 are much more decent and clean looking. That said, we still prefer the professional looking 7850/7900 graphics over the current ones. 

 Spokes, in closeup

Gone are the 7850's red alloy nipples. The 9000's spoke nipples have been hidden inside of the rim. While this no doubt aids aerodynamics, it will make truing a bit of a pain...necessitating the removal of tire, tube and tape. Fortunately, Shimano has a reputation of building bombproof stuff so this shouldn't be a frequent concern. 

Holding everything together are the all new 9000 series 100% Titanium freehubs.  Shimano's easily serviced cup and cone system reappear. And while there may be a debate over cup-cone vs cartridge bearings, few will argue that cup and cone is the way to go for ease of maintenance. 

Shimano lists the weight of the WH-9000-C50 as 1672 grams, but our scales have them at 1710 grams without rim tape. This is more or less the norm for a set of high end 50mm aluminum brake surfaced carbon clinchers. We substituted Shimano's blue High Pressure Rim tape with a single layer of Stan's Yellow rim tape. This gave us a 20 gram weight savings  for the set(Stan's: 5g; Shimano Rim tape: 15 grams). 

A single layer of Stan's Tape will knock 10 grams off of your rim

RoadieMania's ligthened c50s. Add 20 grams for off the shelf weight

It's interesting that the 9000 series C50 is a tad heavier than the 7900.  No doubt contributing to this is the increased spoke count of the rear wheel. 

Scottie's new shoes

On the road, however, the wheels feel positively lighter than the 7850 we have used in the past. This may be in part due to the increased width of the 9000 series rims. Wider wheels = decreased sidewall flex = lower rolling resistance = easier to spin. Indeed, the C50s are almost as easy to spin as the C24s, moreso given a rolling start.  

When the C50s start spinning is when they really start to shine! Each pedal stroke is rewarded with continuous speed. The deep 50mm rims slice the wind as expected and carry momentum very well.  In particular, speeds above 30 km/h are definitely easier to maintain compared to a set of lightweight box section rims. Like all aero wheels, crosswinds are still a concern but not as much as, say, a 60mm or deeper rim.

The flipside though is accelerating from a standstill: The weight will definitely make itself felt.  The additional weight of the rims would also be felt in long climbs. However, for rolling hills, the C50's are still outstanding... after all, they only weigh as much as a matching set of Mavic's Ksyrium Equipe S or Fulcrum's Quattro.... not too shabby for a deep aero clincher with an alloy brake track!

And speaking of brake surfaces, the alloy track on the C50 work extremely well with the highly regarded BR-9000 dual pivots. The alloy tracks indeed add weight, but they also add peace of mind. These are wheelsets which you can confidently brake on in 50kph descents without any worry. 

The C50s hold up just as well as the C24s do on rough asphalt with just the right balance of stiffness and vertical compliance. Whether you want to hammer down for a sprint or do a century, the wheels just take it all in stride and do its job. 

The WH-9000-C50-CL is a wheelset with very few faults.  Modern aerodynamics, features, materials, craftsmanship and Shimano reliability, the C50 has them all.  If asked for cons, we'd say weight and graphics...but as you can probably tell, this is just nitpicking. 

These hoops are just 200 grams short of perfection. 


A modernized rehash of a bulletproof classic. Rides well and makes good use of momentum. A bit porky, but that's to be expected from an deep wheel with an alloy brake surface. 

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