Friday, July 31, 2009

We are so pathetic

Ever since Dug blogged about Simply Sushi, I've wanted to go there. But since I've been, um, dieting, going to an all-you-can-eat place, even if it is sushi, just didn't seem to make sense.

Well, since tomorrow I'm doing a 170 mile race, with something like 9,544 feet of climbing, I figured I'd be OK having a larger-than-normal lunch today. And since my daughter, who loves sushi, is out of school for just a few more weeks, and I was taking the afternoon off, I figured I'd bring her to work with me, and we'd grab lunch together then head home.

All-you-can-eat lunch is $14.95 for adults and $9.95 for kids 12 and under. Between us, we ate three long rolls (menu price: $6.50 each) and one nigiri (menu price: $6.00). Total menu price: $25.50. Amount we spent for "all-you-can-eat:" $24.90. And I was really struggling to put down that last piece of spicy tuna roll.

The guy making the sushi looked at me like I deserved to be shoved into a locker or given a swirly when I told him we were done.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Good indicator of health and metabolism

Cadel Evans is a bike racer I should like. He’s the top pro with which I probably have the most in common. We’re about the same age, about the same height, and we both started out mountain biking before focusing (for racing purposes at least) on the road.

Here’s the thing, though. I can’t stand him. All I know of him is what I read in the press. And he doesn’t like the press, so he makes no effort to help his own cause. Seems as if he’s constantly making regrettable statements like this:

... I don't read articles about myself (those few that I do are rarely more than 50% correct), and really, I pay more attention to the liquids and solids I flush down the toilet (good indicator of health and metabolism) each morning than what most critics say.

I would have had no problem with this statement were it not for the parenthetical “good indicator of health and metabolism.” I mean, who doesn’t want to compare one’s antagonist with excrement? Short of comparing one’s adversary with Hitler, there are few better methods of ending an argument abruptly, albeit perhaps not in one’s own favor.

But really, I did not want to know that Cadel studies his own poo for clues about health and metabolism. I know zoologists and vets are big on that when trying to figure out how healthy animals are, but human beings are generally pretty good about describing ailments and allowing themselves to have their blood pressure and heart rate checked. So digging around in one’s own poo seems a bit much.

That being said, it’s not the least bit surprising that Cadel is obsessed with his own bowel movements. The cultural phenomenon that is Dug’s blog suggests that many, if not all, of us are perhaps a wee bit fascinated by the topic. Some have tried to postulate that Dug’s is a blog about nothing. But that’s simply not true; there’s a theme. Some just aren’t ready to admit it.

I’ll admit that bowel movements are cause for some degree of preoccupation in my own life, especially on race day. There’s simply nothing good about having to go during a race. Sure, peeing is no problem. We all overhydrate before the race, and so we’re pretty good about neutralizing when the pressure builds so we can cast off some ballast. Provided it can be done standing up.

But when the ballast casting involves sitting down, you’re on your own. Which can be a real problem when race organizers recommend arriving to the start at 5:00 a.m. There’s almost no way to get things moving at that hour. And when the race profile looks like this:


If the race is 170 miles long, you know you could be in for a very long day. 9,544 feet of climbing seems like no big deal compared with the thought of hauling around some unwanted cargo all that time. It could mess you up for days.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


Have you ever eaten salad with a spork? Or tried to change the face plate on an electrical socket with the screwdriver from a Swiss army knife? Either tool will get the job done, but not without frustration.

A certain company I used to work for seemed to have a workforce composed entirely of people content to eat with a spork. Regardless of the nature of the task, each and every deliverable was composed, edited, and presented in Powerpoint.

For example, one colleague wrote the functional specifications for a software program we were developing entirely in Powerpoint. Word would have been much cleaner and easier to use, but I don’t think she even knew it was installed on her system.

Complex financial summaries were also delivered in Powerpoint. Nevermind that all the calculations were done in Excel. It was too much to ask executives to look at a spreadsheet. One exclaimed “my eyes!” when someone opened Excel during a meeting. So we had to copy the tables out of Excel and paste them onto Powerpoint slides. I’m not sure what the difference was, but the execs seemed to like it better.

My favorite example, though, is the time I prepared a year-end summary of my department for another (executive-level) manager in my group. I wrote the bulleted summary in Word. I then copied and pasted—with no alteration whatsoever—the Word document into Powerpoint. I sent both files to the other manager for him to review.

He responded “I really liked the Powerpoint summary. That was a useful, easily-understood summary and will help us with resource planning. I didn’t like the Word version nearly as well though. I wouldn’t use that one with [VP of our group].”

“They were exactly the same.” I told him. “I just copied and pasted the text from Word into Powerpoint.”

“Well I didn’t like that version as well. The Powerpoint presentation was much more concise.”

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Schleck wins!

Paris - 18 September 2009 - Special to SkiBikeJunkie from FCFNS - Andy Schleck today won his first Tour de France, taking the yellow jersey from former race leader Alberto Contador. In an interview with the press, the young Luxembourger commented "I knew the final time trial would prove pivotal. I'm not known for my time trialing ability, but I'm pleased to take the overall victory. To see me take the top spot on the podium from Alberto Contado[pe]r should come as a surprise to no one. He was curiously strong, but the best man has won the race."

Despite the race organizers' best efforts to have the three week event come down to the final climb up Mt. Ventoux, the penultimate stage turned out to be a real snoozer, making no difference in the overall. Rather than actually racing, the top six contenders were content to reshuffle positions by one or two, apparently not realizing that Manuel Garate did something that none of the second through fourth place riders were able to accomplish throughout the three week race: cross the finish line in first place.

Perennial flame-out breakaway artist and former yellow jersey wearer Thomas Voeckler posted his first stage win at this year's event and had this to say about the final climb: "these men call themselves GC contenders, but we can all see the outline of pink panties showing through their bib shorts. Real racers would rather fail spectacularly and gain the admiration of the whole of France than never attack and ride to a podium finish nobody will remember in two years." When asked to elaborate, Mr. Voeckler was unable to comment, as he was running late for yet another celebration in his hometown of Schiltigheim.

It was apparent watching the climb up Mt. Ventoux that everyone besides Garate, Tony Martin, KOM winner Franco Pellizotti, and Thomas Voeckler--who made a spectacular but short-lived and hardly-noticed attack on the lower slopes of the famed massif--has forgotten that second place in the GC is nothing more than first loser, but that a stage win is, in fact, a victory.

Apparently the GC leaders confused the most anticipated stage in the largest annual sporting event in the world with a Saturday group ride and were content to ride together, make sure a brother wasn't dropped along the way, and hold hands and sing "Kumbaya" as they crossed the finish line.

The epic disappointment that was the climb up Mt. Ventoux should come as no surprise to anyone, as the only thing epic about this year's tour was the whining. It all began before the Stage 1 TT when Jim Felt went to the UCI and whined about time trial bikes, specifically whether his would be legal. Next everyone who finished behind Lance Armstrong in Stage 3 whined about the crack that formed in the peloton, failing to mention the collective gape that was the pathetic effort of the 160 or so riders trying to chase down Columbia-HTC and a handful of friends of George Hincapie.

Stage 10 brought the biggest chorus of whines to that point in the race, as race directors, riders, and even commentator Paul Sherwin booed and hissed at the decision to ban race radios for all of two days. Forgetting that most racers in the world have never used a radio and that Ancquetil, Merckx, and Coppi managed to win a race or two without their benefit, the sobbing was enough that the planned second ban on race radios in stage 13 ended up in the rubbish bin.

Hincapie's earlier tipoff to a select few about the Columbia-HTC break was "repaid" when Astana, Garmin, and his own team chased hard on the closing kilometers of stage 14, keeping George out of the yellow jersey--though he'd only have held it for a day--by a mere five seconds. Once Big George started whining, he was not to be outdone. Thor Hushovd subsequently whined about Cavendish's tactics in the sprint, as Cav sat up early to maximize the gap to his teammate, ostensibly impeding Thor's futile chase of Cav for the 16th place points. Cavendish was then relegated in the sprint, losing what would have been the green jersey winning points in the process. Cav' of course whined right back, claiming Thor's green jersey was "stained."

The whining continued into the final time trial, when second place finisher Fabian Cancellara whined that Contado[pe]r won because he had the advantage of two motorbikes ahead blocking some of the wind. Although at this point any educated person is left to wonder if "two motorbikes coursing through the roads of France" was actually some sort of allegory for whatever Contado[pe]r had coursing through his veins.

Notably absent from the whining this year was epic whiner and excuse-maker Levi Leipheimer. It is assumed that Leipheimer felt he had nothing left to whine about after narrowly beating Christian Vande Velde and Denis Menchov in the tattered jersey competition, an annual award given to the racer with the worst bike handling skills, but not awarded in Paris since the winner rarely if ever makes it there.

Ordinarily it takes a fracture or two to take the tattered jersey, and Levi did not disappoint, deviating from the hackneyed clavicle fracture and giving the fans a real show by breaking his wrist. Vande Velde commented, "after winning the tattered jersey at the Giro, my priorities shifted to helping Wiggins on his way to his third loser placing, which after today I guess is actually a podium finish, though nobody will remember. I'm thrilled to see my countryman and frequent pavement kisser Levi win the tattered jersey in the Tour. Between the two of us, we do everything we can to ensure that the Euros never fully trust American bike racers to stay upright."

Leipheimer, reached from the hospital, added "while it is an honor to take the tattered jersey after coming so close in years past, I think once is enough. I've decided after my wrist heals, I'm going to work on my bike handling skills by racing the C flight at Rocky Mountain Raceway and following Dug Anderson as he descends American Fork canyon. I hear he flies down that road, especially when the pavement is moist. I'd like to be known for something more than my propensity to crash in the closing kilometers of big races, my most obvious legacy since nobody remembers the results of people who come close but don't actually win the biggest races."

As for Schleck's victory, though it will be a somewhat hollow one like Pereiro in '06, it will be a cherished win for the nation of Luxembourg and the all but 1% of the world's population who threw up a little in their mouths when they saw the embroidered pistol finger on Contadoper's hat on the podium in Paris. The collective annoyance with the young Spaniard should have been enough to disqualify him from the race on that basis alone, but unfortunately rules require something more objective, which was released today from the AFLD in the form of Alberto's doping control after the stage 18 time trial. While Contadoper has not been reached for an official comment, a team Astana spokesman provided the following:

"It should come as no suprise to anyone that Alberto was doping. How else does a 140 pound rider beat Fabu in a mostly flat time trial? For one thing, he rode for Team Astana, a team created for a known doper, Alexandre Vinokourov. Moreover Astana was formed from a legacy of doping teams, specifically the team where Alberto got his start, Liberty Seguros. Really the only surprise to anyone about our team's history is that Johan Bruyneel would agree to manage it to begin with and associate himself with an already tainted organization. Of course, Johan has always been desperate to win the Tour and coming to the 2009 event with two contenders isn't the only thing he's ever done to hedge his bets."

With Contadoper and DiLuca presumed to be serving two year bans, 2010 brings much anticipation that the final GC in the grand tours will be decided on the roads rather than in the labs for the first time in memory. Here's to hoping that while on the roads, the contenders remember that it is, in fact, a race. And that races are won with attacks.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A tale of two racers

Obviously, I admire Mark Cavendish. The guy’s results speak for themselves. Which is why I don’t get why he feels such a need to augment that by shooting off his mouth unnecessarily. I don’t see anything wrong with talking to reporters, celebrating success, and even giving competitors a good-natured rub. But to call someone out for having a “stain” on his jersey is going a bit far. Far enough that I’d call it not-classy.

Hushovd’s response on the other hand—going solo over several first category climbs in order to win 12 points from intermediate sprints shows class, determination, and maturity of an almost singular nature in today’s sporting world. Chapeau, Thor, for showing why the green jersey is given to the most consistent rider, not the rider who wins the most stages.

Don’t forget that Thor’s listed weight is 180 pounds, some 30 pounds more than Cavendish, who was biding his time in the gruppetto. But the only way Thor really weighs that little is if he’s just returned from a six hour training ride in 100 degree heat wherein he consumed no more than two water bottles. Even then, he’d probably need to precede it with a six week bout with giardia. He’s a big dude, so to lead the rest of the skinny peleton over some serious hills is quite a feat.

Contrast Hushovd’s behavior with that of Alberto Contador. Contador was comfortably in the yellow jersey going up yesterday’s final climb, having opened an insurmountable gap over anyone who could come close to beating him in today’s final time trial. And yet, he still found it necessary to attack his own teammate, dropping Kloden and in the process knocking both Kloden and Armstrong off the podium. Is he that insecure?

Then, after he attacked his own teammate on the climb, he refused to take a pull on the descent, ostensibly using the excuse that he had teammates behind and didn’t want to widen the gap on them. The Schlecks had no choice but to tow his sorry ass across the line. At least he had the decency to let Frank cross first, thus sparing us from that stupidly annoying “pistol” routine, though he was particular that there was no separation, lest the officials declare a meaningless one second gap between the racers.

Today El Ratón Contador won the final time trial, beating Fabian Cancellara by just a couple seconds. Cancellara is too classy to say it was anything but the fact that Contador was more or less motorpacing behind two gendarmes on motorbikes. Other analysts have postulated more complex theories, citing examples such as the last guy to beat Cancellara in a TT was Schumacher. Or that the two next fastest ascents in tour history after Contador’s climb to Verbier were by a couple guys named Riis and Pantani.

I can see why Contador climbs so fast—he weighs nothing. It’s physics. But those same physics also suggest that a guy that size should not be able to go as fast as a larger, stronger rider on a mostly flat course. Cancellara, Wiggins, Armstrong, and Kloden (the last two being far from squeaky clean when it comes to doping accusations) all should have had an advantage today. And yet El Ratón somehow beat them.

Two years ago, everyone was wondering how much time El Ratón would lose on the final TT and whether he had built up enough of a cushion in the mountains. Today he won the final TT and we’re all left to ponder where the time trialing prowess came from.

If it looks like a rat and smells like a rat…

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Review of the Revolution Wheelworks Rev 22

After my writeup about how to upgrade your road bike, I decided to put my money where my mouth is and drop the coin for a pair of Revolution Rev 22 wheels. Full disclosure: I contacted Revolution Wheelworks and pointed them to my blog post, and the kind words about their product made them happy enough that they gave me a modest discount on the purchase of the wheels.

I ordered the wheels on Monday afternoon. A couple hours later, I got an email from Jonathan at Rev letting me know that he’d be building my wheels on Tuesday evening (after he gets home from his “day” job) and would ship them on Wednesday. Sure enough, they shipped Wednesday and arrived Friday. Along with the wheels, I received three replacement spokes (labeled “front,” “rear drive,” and “rear non-drive”) and a pair of Revolution Wheelworks socks. Each wheel had a tag with the model number, my name, and the weight of the wheel (which I verified, because, um, I’m anal and also have a gram scale). They were a shade under the listed weight of 1350 grams.

A lot of wheels claim to be “hand-built,” but hand-built really doesn’t tell you anything other than it wasn’t done by a machine. A good machine can build a better wheel than a crappy pair of hands, so I asked Jonathan for more detail. Here’s what he had to say, including some telling commentary about moonlighting as a wheel builder:

We're still a long way off from being about to quit our day jobs but eventually I'd like to at least cut down on some hours at work to keep things a bit more relaxed.  I guess I could hire another builder but I'm doubtful that I could find someone who would work for what I pay myself while putting up with the super anal tolerances I hold myself to as far as build quality goes.

And as for the build...measuring dish is pretty simple since I use a self centering truing stand.  I check the calibration on it about once a week and double check the wheels with a dishing gauge once they are done.

I stress the spokes a few times during the build process.  I have some leather gloves with very thick lining that I use for this.  One of the nice things about working with bladed spokes is the bladed section is being held by a tool while the nipples are being turned so you can't get too much spoke "wind up."  Even so, stressing the wheel is very important to make sure it holds its true as best as possible.

I don't trust myself to build without a tensiometer.  Some builders can do a good job by sound or feel but I'd rather depend on a tool to give me a consistent readout.  Each spoke is checked many times with a tensiometer and I'm pretty picky about getting things as even as possible.

For alloy wheels, I put a dab of grease on the base of the nipples as I'm lacing the wheel and a low strength (purple) locktite on the threads of the spoke.  This combination makes it fairly easy to get the spokes to the necessary tension, keeps the spokes in place and assures they won't seize up if and when they need to be adjusted.

The first thing I noticed about the wheels was how light they were. Indeed, this took some getting used to on the front, as I was used to a certain amount of gyroscopic effect from the front end, especially going down hill (as every ride from my house begins). I had to learn to adjust to the handling of the lighter wheel.

The next thing I noticed was the stiffness. This makes for a different ride quality. I would not describe it as less comfortable, but the increased stiffness is noticeable. As I’ve ridden more miles, the stiffness has become one of the characteristics I like best—I noticed a degree of flex in my old wheels when sprinting, and the Rev 22s have very little if any noticeable flex.

The bearings are exceptionally smooth. The hubs and bearings in my Bontrager wheels are made by DT Swiss, and I thought the quality there was exceptional. The Rev 22s are better still. They roll smooth and seemingly spin forever if you pick up a wheel and spin it. The hubs are the same as on all Rev wheels and are very similar in design to a Reynolds hub. I’m assuming that they’re sourced from an ODM and wouldn’t be surprised if it’s the same shop that makes hubs for Reynolds, especially since the pawls and ratchets in the freehubs sound identical.

Since I’m inclined to pick at nits, I will. The one annoyance I noticed about the rims is that they are pinned at the joint rather than welded and then machined. While this has no impact whatsoever on the strength or durability of the wheel, I did notice a bit of a hump or skip when braking, which has since gone away (took about 100 miles). Furthermore, a pinned joint isn’t going to be air tight, so running road tubeless is probably not an option on this wheel. Not an issue as far as I’m concerned, since I am pretty set in my ways as far as tires and tubes are concerned, but it could be a drawback for some.

As for how they are in action, that’s easy. They are noticeably lighter, which was the goal. The bike was a full pound lighter after installing the new wheels. And while a pound isn’t a huge amount, if it’s 10 seconds, and that’s the difference between getting dropped and staying with the lead group, then it’s material.

The most impressive benefit I didn’t expect was when sprinting. The increased stiffness and decreased weight make for a noticeably faster acceleration, which deserves at least some of the credit for my result at RMR. More importantly, though, on these wheels I am undefeated on the sprint to the fee booth at the bottom of AF canyon. Even on days when we’re gunning to the top and one participant called it “not much of a sprint” at the bottom, if it’s contested, it’s a sprint. And a win is a win.

These wheels are a win for price and performance.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

B flight

After the win a couple weeks ago, Steve and I decided to give ourselves an upgrade and race B flight at RMR. According to the placing guidelines for the Utah Crit Series, these are the requirements:

B Flite
1) A valid/current USCF license with Cat 3 or Cat 4 Status.
2) Your Crit Series Plate (if you want your points tracked and to participate in Cash awards)
3)You must sign your USAC release form
4)Helmet(worn at all times) Bike(USCF Legal)All USCF rules apply.

C Flite
1) A valid/current USCF license or you can purchase a 1 day license for $5
2) Your Crit Series Plate (if you want your points tracked and to participate in awards)
3)You must sign your USAC release form
4)Helmet(worn at all times) Bike(USCF Legal)All USCF rules apply.

We’re new Cat. 4’s, could technically continue racing in C, but B goes for 45 minutes, so may as well get the longer workout.

I don’t have a plate and probably won’t buy one this late in the season. At the start of the season, I came out thinking I was just here to get the starts I needed for the Cat. 4 upgrade. Then I got hooked.

Steve was feeling flush after winning his office pool for the Final Four and bought a plate way back in April. Funny thing is they didn’t bat an eye at me saying I was going to race B, but they gave Steve some grief and made sure he was actually a Cat. 4 AND made him trade in his plate before they’d let him upgrade. No going back for him now that he has a 300’s number.

It really wasn’t that different than C flight. In C, the riders on the front push the pace to try and shake loose the pretenders as they accelerate around the corners. There are rarely if ever any breaks. In B’s, nobody is going to shake loose, so guys go off the front to try and make a break, and the leaders chase them down. Either way, you can sit in the middle and avoid doing much work if you want to save your legs for the sprint.

I was more or less feeling things out tonight and didn’t have any intentions of contesting the sprint in a meaningful way. The fact that we got tangled up with the A flight on the back stretch of the bell lap didn’t help my positioning much. As we rounded the final corner, I was surprised at how much ground I was making in the sprint, and probably could have had a top 10 had I chosen a better line.

My choices were to a) squeeze between the rider to my left and the barrier and risk crashing, or b) hit the brakes, go behind the rider, and restart my acceleration. I chose “b.” Crashing just isn’t worth it if you aren’t getting paid. Steve chose a better line and ended up with a top 10 finish. I’m hoping to do the same next week.

The shocker of the night was that “Crits are Stupid” Bob showed up to race the C’s. As a recovery ride no less. I guess he struggles with self control and has a hard time reining it in whenever there are hills involved, so going somewhere flat is his best option. Bob, you should race 4’s with us at Sanpete. It’ll be fun.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Failing to relive my former glory

Utah Highway 72 is a quiet country road that runs through Fremont, Utah and up into the mountains where Highway 25 splits off to take you towards Fish Lake. My grandfather had a pasture off of this road, and my uncles still graze their cattle there today.

Nearly thirty years ago when we were visiting my grandparents, my sister and I went with my grandfather out to this pasture to get the cows and bring them back to the corral for milking. We all drove out there together on my grandpa's old tractor.

As cows are wont to do, they weren't cooperating about being driven in front of the tractor, so my grandfather needed to get off to drive them on foot. But my sister, who was eight at the time, and I, along with the tractor, needed to get back to the house. So my grandfather put my sister and me side-by-side on the seat of the tractor, set the throttle, and told us to drive it home.

Approaching the first corner we needed to turn, my sister said "I think we need to start turning now." We still had a good 20-30 meters to the corner.

I told her "no, we need to wait until we get to the corner, or we'll end up in the ditch."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, I'm sure."

"Then you drive." She moved over and gave me the wheel. I was six years old.

We rounded the first corner with no problem, and then the second, which put us on the road leading up to the house. As we approached, I saw my grandma on the porch. But instead of beaming with pride at the sight of her two young grandchildren driving the tractor unassisted, she had a look of fear and promptly went back inside.

My mom came out next, followed by my dad, who didn't even stop on the porch to look but immediately hurdled a fence, ran across the corral, hurdled another fence, jumped on the tractor, and brought it to a stop.

Angered as I was that my dad stopped the tractor for me rather than just telling me how to do it (as if I could have reached the pedals anyway), it was still my greatest moment of glory to that point in my life and perhaps even to this day.

And so it was with high hopes that I went into the Capitol Reef Classic hoping that being back on Highway 72 for at least part of the course would see a repeat of my former majesty. It was not to be.

Going into Friday morning's time trial, I pondered abandoning all hopes in the GC and just soft pedaling to save my legs for the subsequent stages. I didn't and should have. I rode the TT Danilo Di Luca style, on a normal road bike with no aero bars or TT helmet. About five minutes in, I got passed by my 30 second man on full TT setup. A few minutes after that, my minute man went by on a similar rig. As if that weren't enough, one of the Cat. 1/2/3 field blew by me a little later.

I didn't feel great after the TT effort, and when we came back in the afternoon for the circuit race and it was 103 degrees, I didn't feel any better. Nevertheless, I thought my best shot for glory would be if the circuit race came down to a bunch sprint. Unfortunately it's hard to set up a bunch sprint when another team sends a break and the only teammate available to chase him down is also your leadout man. After Steve and Steve alone led the chase from the front of the pack with literally nobody else taking a pull, I knew that even if we did chase down the break, Steve would have nothing left for the sprint.

So I took a flyer solo to try and join the break. This got the attention of the rest of the field, and just before I caught the break, they caught me and hammered up the hill. I was gassed from the effort and couldn't hold the pace. Dropped as I was, I just soft-pedaled the rest of the way in. I was shocked not to be DFL, but there was one more down the road behind me.

Judging by the speed of the climbing in the circuit race, I knew Saturday's road race was going to be just a matter of survival. I barely hung on up the first climb. Once we passed Mill Meadow and the feed zone (which Rachel handled flawlessly handing up a musette bag) and started the climb towards Johnson Valley Reservoir, the small Cat. 4 field of 14 was strung out all over the road.

Once at the top, I worked with two other riders to catch Steve and a couple Skull Candy guys, Kevin and Eric. By the time we got to them, Brooks and Tyler from Team Wright had dropped back, and the eight of us formed a gruppetto. The fact that Tyler had been dropped was indicative of just how fast the pace was--Tyler had led the field up the climbs at the State Championships, and then at High Uintas, his first race as a Cat. 4, he and Alex duked it out, and Tyler ended up taking the win.

The attitude in the gruppetto was more that of a group ride than a race. We cooperated well in the paceline and moderated the pace as necessary to keep everyone together. We lost one racer to a flat at the last feed zone. Then on the final climb, Tyler attacked and took a couple guys with him. I wasn't in the mood to challenge for sixth place.

I told Steve when we got done that the difference between him and me is that he has no quit until he crosses the finish line. I had given up once I chased back onto the gruppetto. Though had it come down to a bunch sprint, my attitude may have been different--I think I could muster the motivation for a 30 second flat out effort, but ten more minutes at threshold, not so much.

I rolled across the finish line feeling like a dry, overbaked biscuit. I downed a 24 ounce water bottle immediately and still felt parched. I got a 44 ounce diet coke at the gas station and was still thirsty, even after another bottle of water, so I had another on the drive home. At 6:00 p.m., five hours after finishing, and having consumed over eight pounds of fluid in the interim, I finally had to pee. Welcome to stage racing I guess. I was just glad that we got to start the road race in the morning rather than waiting until mid day like they do in the Tour.

After carrying the Lanterne Rouge after the TT, I picked up a spot or two in each of the subsequent events. Not what I had hoped for, but I guess not too terribly bad in my first race as a Cat. 4, especially considering there were only 14 of us, a few of whom should be upgrading to Cat. 3 after this event. I'll gladly take this experience over sandbagging my way to a podium as a Cat. 5, even if it is a harder transition than I expected.

Friday, July 17, 2009


As if it were possible to upstage the soap opera that is team Astana, Mark Cavendish has done it. If it’s possible to be bigger than Lance Armstrong, he is. Easily the most exciting rider to watch in this year’s tour. Only thing bigger than Cavendish himself is his personna (Cavendish plus Cavendish’s mouth and antics).

He’s probably done winning stages for another week or so. I’m off doing my damnedest to emulate the guy in my first ever stage race this weekend. Until Monday, here’s more of Cav’s take on stage racing. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Like every cyclist in the world except Alex, I am deeply engrossed in the Tour. For the mountain stages, I record it on my DVR and then try and hide in a cave all day, devoid of media exposure, until I can come home and watch and see the results as they unfold.

Flat stages really only have three highlights: 1) the crashes; 2) the catch (when the breakaway gets caught); and 3) the glorious bunch sprint. So I’ve taken to waiting until about 10:30 or so and then finding the closing kilometers on Youtube.

If the breakaway manages to stay away, I get to see the best part of that in the closing kilometers, those nervous moments as they pedal for all they’re worth, constantly looking back to see how close the chasers are. If the lead is substantial and the group is all together, the tactics start to play out—who’s going on a flyer, who will be forced to take the front. It’s all there, drama, intrigue, deception.

And of course if they get caught, who can deny the excitement of a bunch sprint? The peleton thundering towards the line at 60Kph, the sprinters tucked safely into the train, waiting for that moment less than 200 meters from the line when all hell breaks loose and they test the very limits of their bicycles in a burst of power and fury. Great fun.

Watching on Youtube allows me to see the good parts almost live, with all the suspense of watching as it happens. I can then go back and watch the crashes, which inevitably seem to always involve Levi and/or Christian Vande Velde (I really don’t get it—are these guys that bad at handling their bikes, because it’s beyond bad luck the frequency with which they hit the pavement), at home. Youtube seems to be a good compromise and allows me to sneak a peak at the commentary on VeloNews as opportunities allow without fear of a spoiler.

Long story short, this week has been crazy busy for me, and sneaking four minutes to watch the tour on Youtube in the morning or 20 minutes to blog while I ate lunch yesterday have really been the only breaks I’ve taken between 9 and 6 from dissecting a 200+ page contract into a manageable set of requirements and deliverables.

I finally got the contract management document sent off to the CEO last night and came in this morning relieved that the pressure wouldn’t be quite so high today. I figured he’d need most of the day to digest what I’d sent him and mid afternoon we’d get together to review.

About 10:30, I pulled up the closing minutes of stage 12 on Youtube. Transfixed as I was to the screen, I didn’t notice anyone walking up behind me. At that point it was too late. There was no clicking away or minimizing, I just had to leave it there. On my 23” monitor.

I turned around to talk with the CEO. He didn’t say anything, but a couple times I saw him glance over at my screen, which he was now facing and I wasn’t, to see the video of a bike race I was watching. On company resources. On company time. Doh!

In case you missed it and you’re feeling brave, here it is:

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How not to be fat

A few weeks ago, when Elden, Kenny, and I were riding up the Sundance side of the Alpine Loop, we passed a guy who was making progress but struggling mightily to get it.

“You’re lucky,” he said as I went by.

“How’s that?”

“Because you weigh about 60 pounds less than I do.”

I said nothing more, but I was actually bugged by his comment. Because luck has nothing to do with it. I like cheeseburgers and chocolate donuts just as much as the next guy. Moreover, I don’t have bird bones or a high metabolism like Brad or Rick (which is not to say Brad and Rick don’t earn the results they get, because they’re as disciplined or more so than anyone I know). As if that weren’t enough, my wife makes desserts capable of putting most pastry chefs to shame.

So to suggest that my modest climbing ability or that my weight—which is still “over” according to BMI tables and positively portly compared to most Pro Tour riders—are a matter of luck completely misses the point. Because I used to be fat. Fat enough that pictures from ten years ago are painful to look at. Fat enough that at age 25, my doctor told me I needed to lose weight. So I did.

As a result, I have very little patience when people complain about being fat but do nothing about it. If you don’t want to be fat, it’s really quite simple: eat less.

Body composition is determined 80% by diet and 20% by exercise. Exercise is important, to be sure. But it doesn’t take much more than a donut or a cookie or two to offset the calories burned in an hour-long workout.

Furthermore, if you’re actually overweight rather than fit but-still-obsessed-with-losing-more-weight (like most cyclists), losing weight is really pretty easy, provided you have some discipline. In hindsight, I’m amazed at how easy it was to lose the first 30 pounds. If you want specifics on how to do it, here they are:

  • Exercise at least 30 minutes every day, 60 is better. I know I said diet is more important—it is. But exercise has a lot of ancillary benefits beyond weight loss, and it will add a measure of discipline to your fitness program—you won’t be as tempted to negate your hard work when temptation comes your way.
  • Cut sugar and flour out of your diet. Think real hard before putting sweets in your mouth. A Jonagold or Honeycrisp apple tastes better than 95% of all desserts anyway. Bread and pasta are calorie dense but don’t provide a lot of nutrition. You need carbohydrates for fuel, but try and get as much as you can from fruits and veggies. After that, focus on whole foods, such as oatmeal or sweet potatoes, that are rich in fiber and nutrients.
  • Front load your calories. Eat a nutritious breakfast so that you start the day with plenty of energy. Eat enough to top off your energy level at lunch, snack on fruit and/or nuts if you need a boost in the afternoon, then eat just enough for dinner to take the edge off your hunger. Go to bed hungry.
  • Leave grazing to the cattle. You’d be surprised how many calories you can consume by “just having a bite” of something or finishing off the animal crackers or other snack your kids left behind. If you’re starving and can’t stand it any longer, eat an apple or a banana and have a glass of water.
  • Give yourself a day off once in a while, but don’t go nuts. Weekends are good for this, especially if you do a long ride or other exercise on the same day to offset most of your indulgence. A pastry or a bowl of ice cream can be therapeutic at times, but limiting it to one day a week will keep you from losing control.
  • Drink carefully. Lots and lots and lots of water is good. You’ll have to pee all the time, but you’ll learn to live with it. I don’t know why drinking lots of water speeds weight loss, but it does. Unsweetened green tea, diet soda, or black coffee are OK if you get sick of water (I’m sure I’ll get reamed by someone in the comments about diet soda, but I maintain it’s better than HFCS, plus I just like it). Avoid juice, regular soda, lattes, and pretty much any beverage with calories in it. Even sports drink should be used sparingly and only for workouts over 90 minutes (sorry, Brad).

So there you have it. I know a lot of cyclists who have lost a lot of weight. We all did it more or less the same way. But please, don’t call it luck.

Friday, July 10, 2009


The tour enters the Pyrenees today. I have no idea what happens or how the contenders stack up, because I wrote this in advance and set it to auto-post this morning. This year’s Tour is proving nearly as interesting as the Giro, but for entirely different reasons. The only thing that could make it better were if Jan Ullrich were racing.

I feel like Phil Ligget on Versus this week, what with the constant mention of Lance Armstrong, but I can’t help it—there’s one more thing I want to get off my chest. I think Lance is back for a reason and wants to win for a reason: he wants to do it clean.

I don’t buy Lance’s argument of “I’ve never failed a drug test, therefore I’m clean.” Frankie Andreu was riding right alongside Lance, and he never failed. Same for Jonathan Vaughters. Both have admitted since to being on the sauce. Also along for the ride were Manuel Beltran, Floyd Landis, Roberto Heras, and Tyler Hamilton. We all know how those turned out. Sure, these guys got caught after they left US Postal/Discovery, but that's only because US Postal/Discovery[/Astana?] were [are?] better at doping and doing it undetected than anyone else. I can’t imagine a team leader as dominant as Lance not doping when his domestiques were.

Moreover, it’s taken as a given that Jan Ullrich was doping. And a clean Lance Armstrong doesn’t beat a doped Jan Ullrich. Ever. Say what you will about Jan being overweight, less-disciplined, whatever. I’ve re-watched archive footage from ‘01 and ‘03, and Ullrich was a lean, fit, fast rider. And somehow Armstrong just rode away from him, not just in the mountains, but in the time trials as well.

I [want to] believe that the peleton has cleaned up immensely over the last four years. That between the biological passport and the more sophisticated tests, anti-doping authorities finally have the upper hand, and most of the riders are racing clean.

But my faith is weak. I have a couple Garmin-Slipstream water bottles that say “100% clean” right on the side. It will only take one positive from that team for me to lose faith, not just in them, but in Saxo Bank, Columbia-HTC, and all the other teams that claim to have internal measures in place to ensure riders aren’t doping.

Lance has backpedaled from his position that the 2008 Tour was a joke. Could it be that he thought it was a joke because the contenders, save Kohl at least, were clean for the first time in years? And that nobody rode away with the race like he used to because nobody was juiced enough to do so? But now that Lance is [finally, I hope] racing clean, he realizes just how tough it is?

Armstrong is very concerned about his legacy. His behavior this year points to that. His foundation points to that. In the back of his mind, he’s got to be concerned that sometime, somewhere, somehow his credibility as a clean racer completely disappears. So he’s back for one more—clean this time [?]—just in case.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Time to change the filter

Several years ago I was in Washington D.C. attending a conference at which my company received an award prestigious enough that a couple members of Congress took the time to present it. The award presentation took place in a meeting room in one of the Congressional office buildings. While the honorable [name withheld] was up front giving the presentation speech, I was “whispering” snarky comments to one of my colleagues.

Here’s the thing, though, I can’t whisper. I have one of those voices that carries. I can speak in an auditorium with no microphone and everyone will hear me. But I forget this sometimes, so one of the people from our PR firm casually walked over from the other side of the room and told me, in the kindest possible way, to shut my trap.

Throughout my adult life, I’ve made my living by and large with my ability to communicate. I never have a shortage of things to say, it’s just a matter of whether or not they’re appropriate. Professionally, I have to keep the filter between my brain and my mouth set to eleven.

On this blog, however, it goes down to three or four. I would turn it all the way off except that my dad and my wife read this thing, and I’d prefer to avoid being disowned or divorced. That and I don't want to alienate each and every one of my readers.

Sometimes, however, I go too far, and in a vain attempt at snarky humor say things that are perhaps a bit much. For that, Padraig, I apologize. In pondering the name Red Kite Prayer I had an idea I thought would be funny. Perhaps it was, perhaps it wasn’t. Perhaps I was just bummed about the dissolution of Belgium Knee Warmers. Regardless, I hope you’ll take the attitude that there’s no such thing as bad publicity and move on. As cycling blogs go, I’m a Sergio Paulinho to your George Hincapie—I didn’t even know you knew I existed.

Moreover, when certain athletes talk about their sport with an air of superiority or confidence, we call it swagger and say it’s justifiable given the results. But to one fan swagger may be arrogance or worse to another. In Padraig’s case, his knowledge of all things cycling could justifiably be called swagger. Which is not to say we agree about everything. But if I only read things from people I agree with I’d be pretty bored. And boring. So I’ll keep on reading, and enjoying, Red Kite Prayer.

If a guy like Lance Armstrong, whom I’ve publicly called selfish and arrogant, can apologize, so can I. And for what it’s worth, Lance, I thought the ‘08 tour was anything but a joke. VDV was gritty and tireless throughout. And Sastre riding off the front up Alpe d’Huez was a heroic way for a man to win the only way he knew how. It was almost enough to make me forget the pacifier incident.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Something in common

Mark Cavendish is the fastest sprinter in the world, and yet he wouldn’t win a thing were it not for George Hincapie, Tony Martin, Mark Renshaw, and the rest of team Columbia-HTC. When Cav won Monday’s stage he wasn’t shy about ripping on the other teams: “some teams wanna ride like juniors, they wanna save themselves. In the end they got the results of juniors.”

While I find this an interesting statement from Cavendish, because he never once stuck his nose in the wind so had absolutely nothing to do with making that break happen, it’s recognition on his part of the importance of team and that he does, indeed, have the strongest team in the field.

Their job is to deliver Cav to the final few hundred meters with the freshest legs possible so he can go to work and destroy everyone in the final sprint. Given that he’s won something like 80% of the sprints he’s been in this season, I’d say they’re doing a good job.

As well as Columbia-HTC is working together, Astana seems to be at the other end of the spectrum, Tuesday’s win in the TTT notwithstanding. Contador is the logical choice for team leader, but Lance refuses to acknowledge this, making comments like “Alberto’s the team leader, for now…” Levi and Kloden seem to have their own ambitions as well, if Saturday’s time trial results are any indication.

The irony is that when Lance was with US Postal and Discovery, he expected unwavering loyalty from his teammates. All interests were subordinate to the overall goal of delivering Lance to Paris wearing a yellow jersey.

Lance’s refusal to get behind the team leader is a manifestation of how selfish and arrogant the guy is and why I don’t think I would like Lance Armstrong the person. Yet try as I might, I can’t keep myself from cheering for him. Maybe the swagger that should be such a turnoff is why I like him—and why I thought he was obnoxious when he wasn’t competing.

Of course, maybe having a big, obnoxious mouth is the one thing I have in common with Cav and Armstrong. That, and a team. Even if my team is just Steve and me.

We were back at it again at the RMR crit last night after taking several weeks off for no really good reason. It was hot—92 when I pulled into the parking lot. The asphalt was tacky. I didn’t bother warming up, as I was plenty warm just stepping out of the car. Neither of us was too excited about being there, but after so many rides in the hills, I wanted some fast, flat miles to make sure I could still ride fast in a paceline.

The pace was quick, but the accelerations out of the corners didn’t seem as painful. I think my bike handling has improved from racing and trying to hang with Dug, Elden, and Steve going downhill. I was able to maintain more speed through the corners and accelerate less after.

My biggest problem at RMR has always been positioning. So I decided I’d just glue myself to Steve’s wheel and not budge for anyone. As the laps counted down, the leaders sped up, the field thinned out, and we found ourselves closer and closer to the front.

Rounding the final corner, Steve was second wheel, and I was right behind him. The leader sprinted, futilely. There’s no way to hold it solo from the final corner to the line. We followed him until he collapsed, then I followed Steve’s leadout until I thought I could hold it from there to the line. I came around him and hit the gas. A few other guys were coming hard on my left but none of them caught me.

I’m no Cav, but it’s sure fun to pretend. I can see why he likes winning so much—it’s fun. And only possible with a great leadout. Thanks, Steve.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

More news from Lake Wobegon

Bloggers are generally a pretty self-absorbed bunch. We have to be. To think that other people want to read the details of our bike rides, look at pictures of our kids, try our recipes, or know what we said to our daughter’s date when he came to pick her up, we’ve got to have a pretty egocentric view of the world.

Most of us recognize that there’s always someone faster, better-looking, or more successful, but to take stuff that’s pretty much all about us and publish it on the Internet suggests some pretty severe Lake Wobegon effect. Unless you’re Dug. Because I’m pretty sure he is, in fact, from Lake Wobegon.

Of course, there’s a hierarchy, and some blogs are more self-absorbed than others. Many are nonchalant and self-deprecating. Some are well-researched and informative. Others are hoity-toity and pretentious, often without realizing it. (If you’re a blogger, you’re probably now panicking, wondering if I’m talking about you with this last one. If you read my blog, I’m probably not.)

The blog that takes the hoity-toity cake—and yet that I read anyway because pretentious as it is, the writers still know a lot of interesting stuff—is Belgium Knee Warmers. Good material most of the time, but pretty full of themselves, too.

Due to perceived popular demand, the much more pretentious half of the pair behind BKW has decided it’s time to launch a solo career and has a new blog called Red Kite Prayer. As if it weren’t enough to have cycling often knocking the five axes of life off balance, Padraig now has the audacity to imply that either cycling, his blog, or both are a religion. Please.

I mean, what is Red Kite Prayer anyway? Sure, I get that there’s the flamme rouge, or red kite, at 1K to go in a race. But is he suggesting that racers offer prayers upon passing underneath? Or that God is actually moved as some arrogant bastard with an angel’s portion of natural gifts implores the almighty for a further outpouring to help him secure victory?

I’m pretty sure that God has no preference whatsoever as to which of us pathetic souls who put riding bikes in front of so many other worthy causes will actually win a given race. If he did, I’m confident that it would be one of the meek who’s actually written into the will rather than some arrogant, self-serving, agnostic.

Moreover, RKP is right up front about the fact that he intends to use this “religion” to make money by selling ads. Now, I’ve got no problem with bloggers trying to make money or get free stuff from their blogs. I do it. We put enough time into these things, that it doesn’t seem like a big deal to get something out of it once in a while. But to feel the need to offer an explanation sounds a lot like the PTL club to me. But I guess you can’t have religion without guilt.

Of course bloggers, and even pretentious bloggers, aren’t at the top of the self-absorption heap. Because if publishing the details of our lives in a blog post isn’t conceited enough, nothing screams “I don’t give a crap about you, but you should still want to know every bit of minutiae about me” quite like limiting it to 140 characters.

Seriously, aside from alerting people to breaking news, why does twitter even matter? With a blog, at least people are (generally) taking the time to put together a few coherent paragraphs. But a text? Telling me (and the rest of the world) that you’re “listening to Bob Marley and getting a massage?” I think that’s less relevant than a Cadillac ad during Tour de France coverage. Even if it were relevant, please explain to me why I should care.

But twitter’s not even the worst of it. Because as far as I can tell, it’s just a low-investment, low-return manifestation of narcissism. If you’re an English footballer, on the other hand, apparently you’ve lived enough life and gained enough experience in 25 years that it’s your duty to share it with the world in an autobiography. Besides Joan of Arc, has there ever been anyone in the history of the world who’d lived enough to be worth writing a book about by age 25? I didn’t think so.

Friday, July 3, 2009

On the rivet

There’s nothing quite like being the focus of a blog post read by 15,000 readers a day to apply a bit of pressure. Especially when that post declares in no uncertain terms that beating me is the objective at the weekly Alpine Loop ride, and probably every other ride in between.

It started out innocently enough. I had mentioned before that one of my goals was to make it from the fee booth to the summit in under an hour. Fatty asked me as the ride began whether I planned on trying for that today. “No,” I said, “I don’t have any ambitions of going hard this morning.”

That being said, I wasn’t going to back down, either, since Steve and, as of last Tuesday, Elden are pretty much the only people in the entire world that I care about beating. I figured we’d take it pretty mellow since Steve’s friend Matt was running late but could catch us if we didn’t go too hard.

Matt never caught us. Elden set a pace that can best be described as blistering. At first I thought, this is quick, but that’s OK. Then when we saw Chad and Chris on the side of the road changing a flat, I was glad to stop and have a breather. Back on, and we were at it again. I was in the pain cave and wanted desperately to get out. Elden and Steve were just riding and chatting with no indication that they were hurting. This was not going to be sustainable.

Then, just after Pine Hollow, Elden sat up and said “I can’t keep this up today. Or any other day for that matter.” I was relieved. I suspected he had gone out hard in an effort to break me. I thought he didn’t know how close he was to succeeding. I relaxed a little but kept up the pressure.

Two minutes later, though, Elden was back on. I can sustain a heart rate of 165 for as long as I need to. 175 is painful, but I can hold it for short periods. I was at or over 180 most of the last several miles.

With a mile and a half left, I was nearly done. I decided I’d hang on for another half mile, and if Steve and Elden were still pushing it, I was letting them go. When that half mile was up, Elden was clearly suffering. I rode past him and up next to Steve. He was breathing as hard as I was. I never hear Steve breathe.

I knew we had beat each other up and we were all on the rivet. I maintained my tempo and slowly rode away from Elden. Any sprinting to the summit would begin well after mile marker 18 (half mile to go). It came and went. When I thought we had about 100 meters left, I could tell Steve was hurting, so I dropped two gears and went. I read the landmarks wrong—we had 200 meters to go, and I was consumed. Steve easily overtook me.

At the top, Steve asked me if I’d timed the ride from the fee booth. I hadn’t. “Well I have a moving time of 1:02 from my car.” He parked at least two minutes and probably three or four from the fee booth. It’s not an official time, though, especially since we stopped to talk to Chad and Chris. Trouble is, as much as it hurt, I’m reconsidering whether I want an official time.

Matt caught us a few minutes after we got to the summit. I’m really, really glad he wasn’t in the mix for fear of how much worse it may have been. Scott had the maturity to let us fight it out, and he rode his own pace but made it up by blitzing the downhill in a way that would make Dug proud. I would seriously love to see those two start the descent with the pros when the tour of Utah rolls through and see who gets to the bottom first. My money would be on Dug and Scott.

I don’t think, however, that Scott realized the importance of the sprint to the fee booth, as he led the entire descent. Steve and I both wanted to make up for Dug and Elden beating us last week and used Scott as our leadout. Steve may have taken the KOM points on the day, but I won the green jersey. And green is, after all, the new yellow.

Ski Bike Junkie 1-0 Fat Cyclist

(Not that anyone’s keeping score.)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Two sandwiches, callouts from Europe, and green is the new yellow

Today’s post is a hodgepodge of a lot of stuff that’s been on my mind that I want to get out before everyone takes off for the holiday weekend or gets too busy watching the Tour. Kinda lengthy, so if you’re short on time, read the first part, do what it says, and save the rest for later.

Yesterday I met Rachel for lunch. We still followed the pattern of not eating stuff we normally have at home, but after the disappointing phở incident, she chose something far more “normal” than Vietnamese soup—seafood.

She had the halibut, I ordered the crab and avocado sandwich. Having ridden to work and not eaten anything since, I was starved. They brought the sandwich out, and it looked awesome. I took one bite and it was awesome. And then I noticed it: a hair. In the sandwich.

I pushed it aside, told the waitress about it, and she told me she’d bring me a new one. They weren’t super quick about it, and by the time I got it, Rachel was through with her lunch. My new sandwich came, I ate it, then I pushed aside the piece of lettuce on the plate. Yet another hair.

I won’t name names, because to their credit, the restaurant did the right thing and didn’t charge me for my lunch (though they still charged me for Rachel’s).

But this got me thinking—a sandwich is something pretty insignificant. Not worth making a scene over, and the cost of one sandwich won’t make any meaningful difference one way or another to my bank account.

The cost of a lot of sandwiches, however, can make a big difference. There are a good number of you who read this blog—not much compared to Elden, but way more than I ever expected would. So how about taking the cost of one sandwich, $5 or so, and donating it to fight cancer? It won’t make any difference to you, but all of you together will make a big difference and will get us one day closer to finding a cure.

As many of you know, I’m raising money for the Huntsman Cancer Foundation. Elden is making a big push with the Livestrong foundation. Both are great organizations, and partners in this effort. Last year enough people donated to the Huntsman Cancer Foundation in Susan’s honor that Elden and Susan were given a brick in the courtyard with their names on it. Let’s continue building Susan’s legacy—click here to make a donation today. Right now, in fact. Before you keep reading. I'll wait...

With all the millions of blogs out there, I’m constantly surprised by who takes notice of what, so yesterday when Eber sent me an email with this image:Win_Susan_LA

I knew it was more than just a few of us that took notice of Susan and Elden and their fight against cancer. I’m pretty sure Lance tweets at like 30 minute intervals, but I still don’t know anyone else whose had both a picture and a tweet in his or her honor. Win Susan!

Finally, while we’re on the subject of people noticing blogs, I got an email this morning from a guy at Nike’s ad agency in the UK who noticed mine. We all know Lance is a Nike athlete, and he’s back at the tour. But Mark Cavendish is also a Nike athlete and will also be at the tour.

Lance is not even the favorite from his own team to wear yellow in Paris, so the chances of him winning an eighth tour are pretty slim. Not to mention, he’s older than I am.

What we are almost assured of seeing, though, is Mark Cavendish taking a stage win, if not the green jersey, in Paris. Cav takes a lot of heat for a lot of things—notable among them his aversion to climbing and his mouth. But one thing that’s not up for argument is that the guy is insanely fast in a bunch sprint, my favorite kind of finish to watch.

Mark Cavendish

I like Cav’s chances of wearing green in Paris. I imagine he does too. He mentions in the video embedded below that he’d like to get one stage win. That’s typical cyclist sandbagging. He wants to win every sprint and take the green jersey.

But when guys like Tyler Farrar and Thor Hushovd are talking about trying to get one stage win out of the ten or so stages that will likely end in a bunch sprint, they’re serious. And the only guy they’re thinking of beating is Mark Cavendish.

The current print issue of Velo News has a nice writeup on Cav, and how he used to be a disorganized, overweight bank clerk. (By the way, overweight meant he weighed 78 kilos/172 pounds/12.25 stone at 1.75m/5’ 9” tall—what a porker!) The amazing thing to me is that he didn’t get anyone’s attention with his wattage, and yet he’s nearly impossible to beat in a bunch sprint. Says something about the importance of tactics in a sprint, and I don’t think there’s anyone with better instincts, because he can win any way he needs to.

Anyway, enjoy watching this clip. Enjoy watching Cav, whom I’m predicting will win on Sunday. And you’re welcome, Nike UK, for the free advertising. Happy to do it. Oh, and if you didn't read directions and kept reading instead, now would be a good time to go donate $5.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

When stars align

I used to fly fish a lot more than I do since I started riding bikes about six years ago. Rachel asked me at one point whether I liked riding bikes better, and I said “no, it’s just when you ride bikes you’re guaranteed to have a fun time, whereas fishing depends a lot on the conditions.”

Catching a really great fish is a unique thrill like skiing really deep powder. Both are rare moments, and lots of variables have to come into play to make them happen.

Every once in a while, though, the same sorts of variables all align on a bike ride, and it provides the sort of thrill usually only found when catching a trophy fish or skiing deep pow. And sometimes even approaches hotel sex.

Monday night was one of those rides. UTRider, Kris, Alex, and I all met up to ride Millcreek before the gate opens to vehicle traffic. Conditions were perfect, and the company was excellent. We ran into the Samurai, who had the same smile we did—the kind you can’t wipe off your face.

This was my first ride ride with Alex, whom Elden described as “Bill Nye the science guy if Bill Nye the science guy were an extremely powerful rider.” That’s pretty accurate. He’s not just a strong rider and intelligent—he’s fun to hang out with. He’s nice enough that he could probably make friends with a cougar and have it purring and sitting on his lap if he wanted to.

Anyway, Kris and Alex snapped a few photos. They don’t do the ride justice, but it gives a hint of the good times we had. My only regret is that the gate is now open, so we won’t have a chance to bomb those descents without worrying about hikers until next June.