Friday, July 30, 2010

When hairy legs are weird

Riding a bike can be a great social endeavor—most of my friends are people I’ve met through cycling. But if you’re not in it because you love it, you’ll never stick with it. It certainly won’t help you make friends outside of cycling circles. Consider the following social ramifications of being a cyclist:

  • You’re considered weird if you’re a man and you don’t shave your legs.
  • You’re expected to wear stretchy pants.
  • Weighing 80 kilos or more is considered “big.”
  • You have no qualms whatsoever about stretching in public after a ride, even if that stretching occurs while waiting for a table at a crowded downtown restaurant.
  • You store tires, wheels, and perhaps even complete bicycles in your basement to protect them from the temperature extremes in the garage.
  • You genuinely believe that a really good bowel movement can give you a competitive advantage.
  • You know what carbon fiber is and can bore people at parties talking about the relative merits of unidirectional versus woven layups.
  • You drive a station wagon and will only ever drive a station wagon because you can fit your bike in the back without removing a wheel.
  • You envy Andy Schleck’s body.

  • You weigh your portions and count calories but don’t consider that an eating disorder.
  • You’ve lost brain cells as a result of tubular glue fumes but consider it a worthwhile tradeoff for the ride quality and performance advantage of a high thread count tire.
  • Your tires have a higher thread count than your sheets.
  • You genuinely believe that you can ride your bike during lunch and nobody will notice the way you smell all afternoon. Either that or you simply don’t care what you smell like all afternoon.
  • It looks like you’re wearing a white t-shirt when you have your shirt off at the swimming pool.
  • You don’t find it the least bit embarrassing to have your bike in your cubicle next to you with your sweaty, stinking clothes hanging over it so they’ll be somewhat dry when it’s time to commute home.
  • You still work in a cubicle rather than an office because you’re more focused on getting your Cat. 3 upgrade than getting a promotion.

Bottom line is that if you ride your bike worried about what other people think, you wouldn’t ride your bike for long. I make fun of people who wear pro team kits in plus sizes.



Or who spend a ton of money on a Pro Tour spec bike when what they really needed was a coach and a nutritionist. But if fantasizing about being a pro* by wearing their kits or riding their bikes is what motivates you to ride, who cares?

*We all do it. Don’t lie.

Riding a bike is like Duke Ellington’s philosophy on music: if it feels good, it is good. So find what works for you and stick with it. Evidently, frequent commenter Lifein360 feels good on a regular basis when he wears Saxo Bank and Cervelo team kits. I’d take that over a spoonful of Nutella any day.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Large, extra large, and 2XL

OK, so before I get into today’s post, I just had to repeat this line, which Andrew Hood must have been smiling when he wrote, about the upcoming Clasica San Sebastian:

…but the most combative rider at the Tour de France, Sylvain Chavanel, is sidelined with a toenail infection.

As you may or may not be aware, I have a couple of sites wherein people can post their times riding up some popular climbs. These sites are really more about dick waving than anything else because, due to self-selection, most of the times submitted are from people who are reasonably fast. If you’re just surviving the climb, after all, why would you want to announce to the world how long it took you? Especially if you had to stop and lean against the guard rail on your way up.

Anyway, not too long ago, I had someone submit a time for the north side of Suncrest. It was a fast time, too. He sent me his name, his time, and the date he did it, just like everyone else. And then he also pointed out that he did it on a Trek Madone.

Why the hell do I care what bike you did it on? One of my friends did it on a mountain bike, and I posted his time just like everyone else’s. Am I supposed to be impressed that you ride a Madone? I was impressed by your time, but I can’t see how it’s even relevant what bike you did it on. I mean, Madones are fine bicycles, but so are Super Sixes, Team Machines, C50s, TCRs, and F1s. Determining which is better really comes down to the individual, what fits best, and what you want it to do.

That you’re on a model ridden by a famous professional and bragging about it suggests that you probably don’t know much about bikes and just bought one because you-know-who rides it. If you know bikes and chose that one because it was best-suited for the job, you probably wouldn’t feel the need to point it out.

Bike shops exist and manufacturers sell through them for two reasons. First, because shops can save us from ourselves. And second, because when they can’t save us from ourselves, they can make money for themselves and their suppliers as a result of our poor judgment.

They save us from ourselves because bicycles are specialty products. And except for the bike nerds of the world, most people are ill-equipped to choose a bicycle or bicycle equipment without assistance from someone with specific product knowledge. Bicycle manufacturers want their products to be used correctly because it reinforces the value of their brand. They sell through specialty channels to help ensure consumers are getting the right product for their needs and will therefore be happy with it.

In some instances, however, a consumer knows what he wants, and what he needs is immaterial. These customers are easy to spot when they walk into the shop. They’re always wearing yellow bracelets, and they inevitably come in looking for Madones to ride while wearing US Postal Discovery Astana Radio Shack, Mellow Johnnies, or Livestrong team kit. Bike shops are happy to indulge these consumers’ desire to look like their favorite professional (and the only one they know by name). Even if these customers actually look nothing like their hero.

They look nothing like him because professional bike racers don’t wear kits that come in sizes large, extra large, and 2XL*. And I have it on good authority that a local shop that happens to sell Radio Shack team kits only stocks them in large, extra large, and 2XL (mostly the latter two sizes). In these instances, the shop is happy to take said customer’s money, send him happily out the door with his Mr. Incredible suit, and will no doubt be getting a good chuckle from their knowledge that said customer, for all his fancy equipment, would get absolutely destroyed by the 18 year old shop employee in the T-shirt and trucker hat who bit his lip to keep from laughing as he watched the transaction go down.

*Even amongst amateur racers, small and medium kits are the norm, with the handful of larges** ending up on the sprinters, rouleurs, and guys well over six feet tall for whom the mediums are just too short.

**I don’t mean to imply that there’s anything wrong with wearing a large. XL or bigger, and you might want to diet if you’re really into riding bikes. Unless you race MTB, where, thankfully, they offer a clydesdale category. But nothing wrong with a large. I mean, If I were proportioned as I am and of even average height, I’d wear a large. If I were over six feet tall, I'd be looking at XL or bigger. I’m just sayin’ don’t go rolling around in Radio Shack kit. Or any pro team kit for that matter. (Actually, if you don’t want to look like a Fred, don’t wear Radio Shack or Mellow Johnnies or Livestrong kit ever, no matter what size.) Unless the team is defunct and it’s a retro look. (Which is why Rock Racing kits are on the verge of going from only being cool to the hot chicks with douchebags crowd to being unequivocally cool.) Or unless you’re really fast. If you’re fast, you can wear whatever you want.

Taken to the extreme, these transactions can be both a huge windfall and a huge pain in the derriere for the shop. For instance, at the above-mentioned shop, a well-healed customer recently pulled into the parking lot in his Maserati. Apparently some of the people that work for him ride bikes and encouraged him to take up the sport. And to do so, he needed the best-of-the-best bicycle, which of course meant a Tarmac like those ridden by both the winner* and runner-up of Le Tour.

*The real winner of this year’s tour was Specialized and their CEO, Mike Sinyard. Specialized’s sponsorship of Contador when they already had the Schlecks and Saxo Bank under contract assured them of having some very high-profile product endorsements to complement their already-effective campaign highlighting Cancellara’s domination of the spring classics. Fit, function, and need aside, brand recognition leads to brand preference, and a brand recognized for having been used by race winners can certainly tip the scales in your favor.

The loser of the endorsement battle is Shimano, but it’s only for their own ineffectiveness. Mark Cavendish is more exciting and noticeable than about anyone else in the peloton—Shimano should be blasting all over the place that his 15 stage wins in three years all came on Dura Ace and PRO components, yet all I’ve seen so far is a little inset photo of him on the back cover of Velo News as a stage winner at the Tour of California. SRAM has gotten more mileage out of Mara Abbott winning the Women’s division in Tour of the Gila than Shimano has gotten out of Mark Cavendish dominating pretty much every field sprint he contests.

Of course the shop was happy to sell this high-end Tarmac to this well-heeled customer. Even if he’s a novice and probably doesn’t know not to wear underwear beneath his bibs. The problem arose when he said “and I’ll need ten more so each of the guys who works with me can also have one.” It’s mid summer, and not even the Specialized warehouse has that much inventory.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


So rule number one for racing is don’t make any changes right before the race, right? Everybody knows this. Don’t try new food, new equipment, new anything on race day. Especially don’t mess with your position on the bike.

With this in mind, I went in for a bike fitting last Friday, the day before the Chalk Creek race. I haven’t had a bike fitting in a few years. The last time I was fit was on the frame before the frame before the frame I am on now. I just sort of transferred the measurements I had and tweaked them a bit to make sure I was comfortable and the bike handled well.

I had been thinking I should probably have a fitting for a while when Eric from Bikefix offered to do one for free after the Miller Race a couple weeks ago. They’ve started using the Retul fit system and said they’d do a fitting if I’d help spread the word about it via my blog. Does this satisfy my obligation? No? OK, I’ll tell you how it went.

What constitutes a bike fitting really runs the gamut, depending on who’s doing the fitting. Some fitters, like the famed Max Testa, just sort of eyeball things. And if you’re experienced and know what to look for, this can work pretty well. Others use tape measures and protractors and do some number crunching. This approach works well provided the position they measure you in is the same as the position you’ll actually be in when you’re pedaling the bike.

The cool thing about Retul is that it’s a dynamic system that measures you under load. How this works is they stick a bunch of LED markers to your joints and have you pedal on a trainer. The sensors then measure the various angles and distances and compare them to a range of values that, based on their research, are most efficient.


imageIt’s three-dimensional, so it captures not only angles and distances, but also lateral movement in your pedal stroke. 

All the measurements of your bike are also taken, so you end up with a dataset that can be used when setting up additional bikes.



So what were the results? Turns out, my fit on the bike was pretty good. Everything was within their recommended ranges except I should have been a little further behind my pedals. Eric adjusted the saddle fore/aft and height a bit and then I got back on to see how it felt. I was comfortable throughout the 3+ hour race on Saturday. (And if I hadn’t been, Eric was in the break with me, so I could have made my feelings known on the spot.)

The one thing that would add to the utility of a Retul fit session would be power measurement. The Retul software has the capability, and for the fitting I was set up on a Cycle Ops trainer that’s compatible with a power module, so it’s an option if you’re willing to put in the extra time and effort. For someone that’s getting set up on a new TT bike, measuring power as changes are made in position would be an essential part of setting up the bike. In my case, where I was on a bike I was comfortable with already and the changes were relatively minor, I don’t know that measuring power before and after would have made any difference.

I remember when shopping for my first bike wondering why manufacturers even published geometry tables, because I couldn’t make sense of the numbers and didn’t know how anyone else could either. With experience I learned what the numbers meant, how to use them to select the correct frame size, and how various differences affected the bike’s handling characteristics. I’m also quite the bike nerd and suspect not everyone spends hours staring at geometry tables before buying a bike. But even with the right size frame and the right frame for your needs, getting it dialed in can increase comfort and efficiency and make riding generally more enjoyable. Bikefix has a great a system with Retul to help select the right size bike or make the bike you’re on fit that much better.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Nobody’s fault but mine

Saturday was the Chalk Creek Road race. I’ve never done this race before, so I decided earlier in the week that I’d take a quick drive to Coalville and familiarize myself with the course. Especially since it has an uphill finish, and I’m more of a survive the climbs than win on them kind of racer. The one thing I couldn’t check out before hand was finish line location, because race promoters aren’t usually keen on setting up their finish line stuff and leaving it there for days at a time.

Turns out they’re not so keen on leaving it there for a couple hours, because when I drove by on Saturday at 7:30 before the 9:00 a.m. race start, it wasn’t set up yet. What I should have done is go back and check it out after I got my race number and was all dressed and waiting to stage. But I didn’t. Because I’m absent-minded, and it didn’t occur to me.

We started at the slowest of slow parade paces. Even with my computer set to kilometers per hour, the nominal speed still looked slow. Like 13 or something. Which was fine by me. I don’t really like to start racing until the end anyway, so the fresher I am, the better.

I suspected, however, that this race would be won in a breakaway. And against my wishes, I’d have to race well before the end. So my strategy was to try to be in any breaks that looked like they would stick.

Chris M. from Cole Sport is not afraid of solo breaks. He soloed for three of five laps at Little Mountain but got caught at the end. When he made a move, alone, we kept him in sight but didn’t chase him down. This cooperation lasted a little while, then Mike P. from Canyon decided to attack. I bridged. Then the two of us got chased down. So it went a few times, with the moves either being chased down, or the people in the moves sitting up because they didn’t like who else was there or didn’t think it would stick.

Once we got onto Chalk Creek Rd, though, and the hills started, Will got a gap with Eric and Roger from Bikefix*. I didn’t like the looks of two on one for Will, so when a few more guys tried to bridge, I followed. Ended up being nine of us in the break, with Bikefix and Revolution the only teams with more than one. I liked that mix.

*My loyalty to Revolution notwithstanding, Bikefix is a great shop in Bountiful. If you’re in Davis County and looking for a quality bike, capable service, or a highly-precise fitting, check them out.

The pace over the rollers was pretty relentless*, as we were trying to establish our gap and catch Chris, who was still up the road alone. My asthma kicked in, and it was all I could do to keep breathing, let alone rotate through and take a pull. But I didn’t want to be “that guy,” so I did my duty on the front and tried to hide that I was suffering so they wouldn’t try to drop me.

*For me, at least. I imagine for some, it was an easy stroll.

After the turnaround, we had both the wind and gradient in our favor. By this time I was breathing normally, and I also knew it would be harder for anyone who attacked the group to get away. We eventually caught Chris, and though we tried to go as fast as possible to catch and drop him all at once, he got on. And immediately started attacking each time we went up a hill. I don’t know where he found the legs for that.

The group was still 10 strong with about 2k to go when Cam from Ski Utah attacked. We were quickly on his wheel, and it seemed evident it would come down to a bunch sprint.

Coming around the final corner, I had no idea how far we had to the finish line. Jonny from Biker’s Edge attacked right away. My quads had been cramping, and I didn’t think I could sustain that pace for any amount of time so let him go, but tried to follow James from Simply Mac with the intent of coming around him at the line. I was looking for the 200 to go sign and figured I’d make the move then. I didn’t see it (went back, and it was there—some people were just standing in front of it as we rode past).

I figured one of the two tents I saw ahead was the finish line. I should have known it was the first one on the right since we had numbers on the right side, but I wasn’t thinking that clearly. I passed James between the tents and kept going but realized I had in fact passed the finish line based on all the other racers milling about. Can’t be too disappointed about getting third, but I think I had legs for better. Then again, maybe not, because I was never catching Jonny, and James is a fast racer who’s put the wood to me before. Will came in seventh, so it was a good day for Revolution - Cafe Rio.

I quite enjoyed the course and appreciated the volunteers, especially those who provided neutral support at the turnaround. The prizes weren’t the greatest, but I don’t race for monetary rewards anyway*—if I get anything at all, it’s a bonus. The city of Coalville was pretty specific about what was and was not allowed in terms of marking the course (no paint whatsoever), and Mike from Porcupine (the promoter) did as well as he could have within those constraints.

*Seriously, racing for money is absurd even if someone is paying your race fees and transportation costs. My team doesn’t, so I’ve dropped several hundred dollars on race fees this season**. My results haven’t been bad—top ten most of the time and top five about a third of the time. For those results, I’ve made all of $45 in cash, a little over $100 worth of gift certificates, and probably that much again more in merchandise. I didn’t need to go to business school to tell you that’s an exceedingly bad rate of return except when you consider that it’s still cheaper than a shrink.

**No, I don’t make enough money that several hundred bucks is no big deal. My bike has Ultegra on it and I brown bag pretty much every day because I like racing and sacrifice where I can to make it work. When I come home from a race with anything of value, it’s a bonus that did not factor into my motivation for a good result.

After the race, however, some riders—who apparently couldn’t take five minutes to read the race flyer and look at the maps that were posted online—complained pretty vocally via the UCA email list about the job the promoters did. Apparently reading the one-page flyer was too much to ask, and these racers, who got off course, expected someone would lead them by the hand.

Guess what, guys, even in the Tour de frickin’ France, the racers ride around with course maps in their pockets. You know, so they know where they’re going. Even though the roads are closed and lined with fans. If you make a wrong turn, that sucks. You might get DQ’d. But don’t go acting all mamby pamby because you turned where you weren’t supposed to, and then complain because there wasn’t a course marshal to tell you not to turn there. Knowing the course is your responsibility.

I realize there are some races that are better organized than others. That’s fantastic. It creates a free market for racing. If you don’t like a particular race or promoter, you don’t have to do the race. I also realize that in some locales, the prize lists are better than they are here. That’s great too. If the prizes are good enough to be worth the travel, by all means, go enter those races.

But the reality is that here in Utah, we have between three and five opportunities to race midweek from April to September and another race almost every weekend. In Boise, which is a cycling-mad town, they have five weekend races in the spring, a six-week midweek crit series, and a couple of mid-summer crits and road races. That’s it for the year until ‘cross season. So I’d say we’ve got it pretty good by comparison.

None of these promoters is getting rich organizing events. They do it because they want to create chances for people to race. It’s hard work. Some are better than others. But at least they’re doing it.

The volunteers are giving their time so you can have a race. They’re called VOLUNTEERS for a reason. Did you thank them? Probably not. One of you yelled at my wife for not doing it right when she was offering neutral handups at Little Mountain. Did you realize nobody asked her to do that and she was just grabbing empties and refilling them because it was a hot day, and she thought people might appreciate it? Did you realize she had three kids with her that she needed to keep safe and out of traffic while she was giving you handups? Unless you or your wife/girlfriend/mom/dad/brother spent Saturday morning sitting in the sun handing up water, driving a wheel car, or waving an orange flag to try and keep riders on course and vehicle traffic moving through, then shut your pie hole about the volunteers and just be glad they were there at all.

I’ve been guilty of complaining to promoters in the past—usually it’s because what they described in the race flyer/bible wasn’t what happened on course, not because of a mistake I made because I failed to read the race flyer/bible. Next time, if I have constructive criticism, I’ll be sure to whisper it to the promoter quietly, and publicly thank him for giving me a chance to race at all.

As for last Saturday, thanks Mike and Porcupine Cycling for a great event. Well done.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The ice sock

At Boise Twilight Criterium and Idaho State Crit, Eric and his teammate Matt were rolling around the course looking like hunchbacks. Temperatures were high, so they had ghetto ice vests consisting of a sock with a bunch of ice in it stuffed down the backs of their jerseys. Eric said it made a huge difference.

At the Miller Motorsports Park crit on Thursday, it was hot, so I decided to try the same thing. It worked wonders. The ice lasted most of the race, but even after it was gone, the wet sock stuffed in my jersey still seemed to cool things down.

Not sure if the ice so close to my brain made me stupid, though. They raced us in a combined A/B flight, and when A flight teammate Spence went on the attack on lap one, I followed the group that went after him. Then after we had a gap, the other two guys decided they didn’t want to put in the effort to chase and fell back. I decided to continue bridging to Spence. I thought to myself “what are you doing? This is a 75 minute race. You do not want to be in a break for this long. And if it’s not going to stick, you don’t want to be here at all.” The two of us worked together for about 8k. If you can call Spence pulling 80% of the time “working together” that is.

After we got caught, the pace stayed high, but none of the attacks seemed to stick. We were all together on the last lap, with Spence on the front and me right behind. Spence attacked, and I stayed put. He got a bit of a gap, but being last lap and all, it didn’t last long.

We were racing on the outer track, which was set up so that from the final turn, we had 1000 meters of arrow-straight, pancake-flat tarmac to the finish line. We were doing 50kph+, which was just fast enough to discourage solo flyers. I was tucked in about fourth or fifth wheel. It was a perfect leadout.

With just over 200meters to go, I started my kick. I had good acceleration and got a gap right away. They never caught me. It only took 38 races, but I finally got my first win of the season. Mike H., who was also rocking the ice sock, finished 3rd. Steve won the circuit race at Capitol Reef last Friday, so Saturday’s crash notwithstanding, it’s been a good week.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A baby’s playpen

“I think we are turning cycling into a baby’s playpen and that’s what happens in these circumstances.”

-Carlos Sastre, following stage 17, in which Contador slowed the peloton after Sammy Sanchez crashed

My first thought when Contador slowed the peloton following Sanchez’s crash was that he was trying to make up for “chaingate.” Sastre* made his opinion known by continuing to chase after the breakaway.

*Jonathan over at Revolution Wheelworks astutely pointed out that there's "Something ironic about the guy who crosses the line with a pacifier in his mouth calling others 'babies.'"

Everyone has their opinion regarding whether Contador should have stopped when Schleck dropped his chain. In the heat of the moment, my emotional response was one of outrage, thinking Contador should have waited and then resumed racing once Schleck’s machine* was fully functional. But in hindsight, I realize this has more to do with my preference for Schleck over Contador than anything else.

*Am I the only one that finds these yellow bikes for the yellow jersey holder garish and annoying? And they seem to be temperamental, too. I remember Fabian having to get his adjusted mid race in a previous tour, and I can’t help but wonder if Andy would have had the mechanical had he been on his primary machine rather than this ridiculously jaundiced clown bike.

Same could be said about my response when Renshaw closed the door on Tyler Farrar moments after using his head to try and extricate himself from Julian Dean’s hooked elbow. I thought Renshaw was in the wrong, and while expulsion from Le Tour seemed harsh, I felt as if some recourse was needed, and relegation would mean nothing. In hindsight, however, I realize that I’ve come off my line in bunch sprints just like Renshaw did. Farrar failed to grab Cav’s wheel, so Renshaw got on it. That’s what a good leadout does. The headbutt and closing the door were excessive, but so was the punishment. My emotional response the day of was based as much on my desire to see Farrar win a stage at Le Tour as anything else.

Cycling has written rules, including holding your line in sprints and not head butting. If you violate the written rules, race judges take action. I got DQ’d from the Bear Lake race for just such an infraction. I didn’t think it was fair because I thought officials were just looking to make an example of someone, but it wasn’t up to me. I’m sure Renshaw and the rest of team HTC-Columbia feel the same.

In Contador’s case, however, it was a perceived violation of an unwritten rule that’s caused all the hubbub. For starters, I find it painfully ironic that so many within and without pro cycling are indignant about this so-called breach of etiquette, and yet these very same people quietly ignore, vainly attempt to justify, or happily participate in illegal doping. But the bottom line is that compliance with these unwritten rules is a courtesy. And the prerogative is always with the one extending said courtesy whether or not to do so.

The only situation in which it’s not a courtesy is when it’s your job, and the person signing your paycheck tells you to wait. Chris Horner rode himself into the top 10 today and will be the best-placed rider from the USA on the GC. Yet he waited and nursed along a struggling Lance when the latter got destroyed in the Alps. Attention then turned to supporting Levi’s GC hopes helping Lance win a stage, and again Horner did his job. But imagine where Horner would be had the team come in intent on supporting their strongest rider? Yet I haven’t heard Horner complain, because he knows who butters his bread.

Many think of these courtesies as one of the grand traditions of bicycle racing. The reality is that in days past, things were much tougher on the racers, with no team cars and no help allowed from teammates, other racers, or really anyone. When stuff went wrong—and it did—they were on their own. So to decry Contador for desecrating the sport’s history is to not know the history.

Do I think Contador should have waited? Yes. It would have made his inevitable victory in Paris elegant and impressive. But perhaps Alberto’s confidence that he could ride away from Andy Schleck on a fully functional bike simply was not there, so he took advantage of the opportunity. Allowing Schleck the stage win today was a nice gesture but a pitiful consolation prize in the context of what might have been had Andy’s bike not malfunctioned.

At the end of the day, though, it’s a race. And you can’t fault anyone—not Renshaw, Sastre, or Contador—for making like Jens Voigt and racing.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Captcha or gotcha?

Captcha verifications are not that hard, just type the characters you see in the box in the field provided, right? Well I can’t do it. My success rate is seriously less than 50%. And it’s not that I’m a bad typist (actually, I’m a good typist—ask recently avid reader and commenter Ralph, who astutely pointed out that what I do on this blog is called typing). It’s just that for some reason what I see and type is not what the captcha supposedly displayed.

Which begs all sorts of unanswerable science/philosophy-type questions, such as is what I see as blue the same as what you see as blue, or is it more like your red?*

*Actually this whole notion of whether what I perceive as blue could be your red doesn’t make much sense. Which is not to say that the perception of colors is fixed—there’s certainly enough variation within the structures of the eyes and brains of various humans that the way colors are perceived may not be and is likely not perfectly consistent from one individual to the next. But any variances seem most likely to be a shift rather than a transposition. Colors are the perception of wavelengths of light. The wavelengths don’t vary, but how we perceive them likely does to a certain degree, so while a yellow to me may be closer to what I see as orange to you, it’s highly unlikely that my orange will be your purple and vice-versa. Or at least that’s my half-baked theory from having given this very question a certain but not very thorough or verifiable degree of thought.

Except in this case, it’s a question of whether what I perceive to be certain letters are actually the letters displayed, and if not, how on earth I can successfully do things like read books or write highly-engaging and entertaining (sure to be bestsellers were they not proprietary and confidential) software functional specifications and user documentation.

I recently posted an ad on Craigslist for a wheelset I’d like to sell, and it seriously took me four attempts to get the Captcha phrase correct. From now on I’m going to start clicking on the accessibility link and have the digital voice read to me rather than making another one of my consistently inaccurate guesses as to what combination of characters is supposed to have been displayed.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bike mercenary

The Idaho state championship crit course is a far cry from the Twilight Criterium. Whereas Twilight is a four corner course in downtown Boise with spectators lining the streets, the state champ course is an eight corner affair that winds through a neighborhood reminiscent of Pleasantville on happy pills, with the only spectators being residents sitting on their front lawns and porches, and in some cases, grilling hamburgers.

The last three of the eight corners are in close succession and form a chicane ending about 75 meters from the finish line. The chicane is too tight and the finishing straight too short to pass, so first guy through the first corner is almost assured of the win.

Alex placed fourth in the Cat. 4 race despite having a guy go into his rear derailleur and being stuck in his 15 cog the last several laps. I have a feeling the bunch sprint would have turned out differently had he been able to shift. Tyler M. from Simply Mac won the race in an impressive breakaway, soloing for 30 of 45 minutes. That means Tyler will probably upgrade to 3 before Tour of Park City. Not sure how I feel about that.

I signed up for Masters 3/4/5 as well as Cat. 3. The races were back-to-back, which had me a little nervous. But in the past when I’ve raced two crits in one day, I’ve done well in the second, though I’ve always had at least an hour between races to recover.

In the Masters race one of the guys from George’s* went off the front on a prime lap. He had a gap so decided to try and make it stick. One of his teammates got on the front to ride tempo but then did the most asinine thing I’ve ever seen, slowing and cutting hard right across the rest of the field. We were fortunate he didn’t wreck the whole bunch. For all I know, he was trying to.

*George’s is one of those huge teams with a bunch of really cool guys and some excellent racers, but a handful whose actions at times make the rest of the team look bad.

A bunch of us yelled at him. Someone (I think from his team) even said “sorry about that—he always rides like a dick.” Then I pulled up next to him, and he started half wheeling me. We went back and forth like that through the chicane, all the while wondering if he would do something else stupid and take me out. I was pissed, so I opened it up on the finishing straight and bridged to his teammate.

Nobody came with me, so the teammate said “let’s work together.” I sat in for a bit to recover before trading pulls for a couple laps. Then I rotated up and raised the tempo to try and increase our gap on the chase. I ended up riding away from him. I was by myself with a decent gap and seven laps to go. I knew there was a chance since I’m from out of state and ineligible for the state championship that they may not chase, so I just rode as hard as I could and hoped for the best.

First lap, still away. Six left. Came around again, and lap counter was still on six. They made us do six to go twice! Five then four then three then two, and I was still away. Bell lap, and I got around turn one with a gap. I got to turn two as the chase was coming around turn one. I thought if I just went hard and was first to the chicane, I could win this. I gave it everything I had.

With about 50 meters to the chicane, I looked back and the field was almost on top of me. I tried to go harder but realized the acceleration just wasn’t there. I got caught 20 meters from the corner. I just sat up and let them come around because I had nothing left.

Somehow I ended up placing sixth even though there were a lot more than five guys that passed me. They were not pulling lapped riders, and quite a few people had fallen off. If lapped traffic was helping chase me down, that’s pretty lame. I can understand not pulling people if you’re trying to encourage participation, but perhaps it should have been made more clear that rejoining the lead group was a no-no. I don’t know—maybe none of them helped, but I don’t think they should have even been in the bunch. At least I won a prime, but finishing sixth sucks when payout is five deep. (Unless they don’t find a sponsor for the category and don’t have a payout at all, which is what happened to Tyler.)

I wasn’t sure I’d even have it in me to line up for the Cat. 3 race, but Alex had a full bottle and a gel ready for me at the start area, so I figured I’d ride until I got popped. The first few laps weren’t too bad, and I was able to recover somewhat. I decided I’d contest the first prime and try to make back my entry fee then call it a day. Steve’s comment about this approach was “Bike mercenary. I like it.”

I got through the chicane first on the prime lap, but Matt H. from Reel Theatre, the guys I used to ride with in Boise, decided to go for it as well. Matt has a good kick (he won the bunch sprint at Twilight the night before), but I had enough of a lead that I held him off by half a wheel. The two of us had a gap, and Matt was saying “let’s go.” But I was thinking about just pulling off the course and laying down in the grass.

The pace the next couple laps was mellow enough that I could sit in, so I kept telling myself I’d just ride until I fell off. I never did. Cam C. from Ski Utah got in a break with Eric D. from Reel and a couple other guys. Cam and I had agreed beforehand that we’d watch out for each other, but Matt covered most of the attacks to help Eric, so all I did was sit in or ride tempo.

By the last lap it was clear the break would stay clear. One guy had tried to bridge and was in no-man’s land. I felt good enough by the end to try for placing and was second of the bunch through the corner and held it for 7th overall.

Even better, though, was seeing the smile on Cam’s face from having taken the win. Way to go, Cam. Too bad you’re not eligible to be state champ.

I have replayed that Masters race over and over in my mind since, wondering if there was something more I could have done. Yes it’s heartbreaking to work that hard for that long alone and get caught that close to the end, but I also know that if I’d had anything at all left, I would have used it. The tank was empty. And yet, for someone who’s not a breakaway rider, who’s not adept at time trialing, to ride someone off my wheel and hold it for eight laps in some ways feels like one of my best results of the season.

Aside from the few people who took too many risks that put themselves and others in danger, it was a great weekend of racing. The spectacle of Twilight is pretty amazing. It’s one of the biggest races in the country, so to have a chance to participate as an amateur is pretty cool. Kurt H., the USA Cycling rep for Idaho, did an excellent job organizing the state champ race on Sunday. He also paid me my primes in cash and thanked me for coming to Idaho to race. And of course it was great to go back to Boise and see and race with old friends.

Monday, July 19, 2010


When I lived in Boise, unless we were out of town, there were two events every summer that we made it a point to attend as spectators: the Wells Fargo Twilight Criterium and the Eagle Criterium. Both are four-corner downtown crits, with lots of excitement. And by excitement, I mean crashes.

The crashes in the Eagle criterium were so frequent that it was the exception rather than the rule for any field to finish without at least one crash. Often there was more than one crash. Some of the crashes were really bad, and featured Zipp 404s getting folded in half and racers getting hauled off in ambulances. It was enough to make me swear off of crit racing.

Then I moved to Utah and decided to race crits just to get starts for my 5 to 4 upgrade. Then I discovered that they’re fun and that I’m reasonably good at them. And crashes happen, but not even every race. Just last Friday, UTRider mentioned what good luck I’ve had with road racing, having had crashes happen around me on several occasions but in more than 50 races never actually going down. (You see where this is going, right? I’m being super subtle with the foreshadowing.)

Saturday, teammate Alex K. and I went to Boise to race in the Twilight Criterium. Alex raced in the Cat. 4-5 race, where there were only two crashes, which he avoided, and finished 9th out of 50+. Then I watched as my friend Rob got taken down in the Masters B race. Then I lined up--at this point perhaps a tad nervous--with the combined Cat. 3/Masters A/Pro Women field.

There were a couple crashes, but I managed to avoid them. What I couldn’t avoid was the heat (it was over 100F/38C*). It didn’t help that my bottle of Carbo Rocket bounced out of my cage on the third lap when I hit a manhole cover, so all I had left was the less-than-half full bottle of hot water that was in my other cage.

*I know, I know, I’m supposed to be all metric all the time around here, but I have absolutely no frame of reference for temperatures in Celsius. That whole subtract 32, multiply by 5, divide by 9 thing is just too complicated to do in my head, so I can never get a sense for how a certain nominal temperature feels. On the other hand, I’m going to switch my bike computer to metric, just because I have a much better feel for distance to a finish line and what I can hold in meters than I do in miles. I just need to find the stupid instruction manual so I can learn how to do it…

Heat, crashes, and lack of water notwithstanding, I felt reasonably good, even when I was being elbowed off of a wheel or pushed into a curb just so someone else could move up one position. (Seriously, a lot of those guys seemed to have no fear of crashing and to be quite willing to risk wrecking someone else to get on a wheel I would have let them have without the contact.) TJ from FFKR had gotten into an early break with a guy named Bubba who’s a Cat. 2 masters racer from Nevada and two-time national crit champ. The pace stayed high as we tried to chase them down, but I had no trouble staying in the bunch and towards the front.

On the bell lap, I decided to take the outside line, as I could carry more speed and thought I’d have a cleaner path to the finish. I was probably about 10 or so back, so not ideal placing, but we were three wide, so I thought I could make up ground if I started my kick early. My plan was to go from the last corner and try and hold it to the end.

I never made it to the last corner. One of the Bobs Bicycles guys tried to pedal through turn three, clipped his pedal hard enough to tripod and put his rear wheel into the pro woman next to me. She went down and into Carl from RMCC, who was right in front of me. Carl went down, and I was boxed in with wrecks and had no place to go but into the curb and up on the sidewalk.

I managed to get my front wheel onto the curb, but my rear wheel skidded. I got a foot out, but it slipped, so I went down hard on my gloved hand. Somehow skin never touched pavement. I got back on and rode across the finish to sympathy cheers from a crowd that undoubtedly thought I had been popped off the back. I was 41 of 41 finishers, with the two people who crashed around me among the five DNFs. Bubba got the win. TJ got swallowed up in the bunch sprint.

My hand was a bit sore, but other than that I wasn’t injured. My shifters got dinged up and my downtube got scraped where it hit the curb, but my bike also made it through OK. I was unlucky to be caught in the crash, but lucky to come out of it as well as I did.

I drove for five hours to do this race, so not exactly the result I had in mind. Fortunately, the Idaho State Championship criterium was scheduled for Sunday, so we stuck around to race that as well. Come back tomorrow for a report on the rest of the weekend.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Yet another window sticker

In 2007, I rode Lotoja for the first time. That year, I rode it the way most participants ride it: me against the course. Could I finish? Could I ride 200+ miles in one day? Placing was immaterial—we rode in the “rolling picnic” category, so there would be no official placing anyway. Steve and I rode together, starting among the last wave of riders, and had almost nobody to work with once we passed the first feed zone.

Having proven we could survive the course, the next year we decided to do it again, this time to try and improve on our time. We bought annual licenses just so we could race with the Cat. 5 annual license holders and have people who kind of knew what they were doing to work with. We ended up placing reasonably well in our category and decided this road racing thing was fun.

Last year we decided to race in the Cat. 4 group. Which meant we’d need enough race experience to qualify for an upgrade. So we started doing local races “just to earn an upgrade.” And so began an addiction. The season started with Lotoja as the primary objective. When I got injured a week before the race and wondered whether I’d even be able to compete, I should have been disappointed. I wasn’t.

Having done a bunch of events and having discovered that there are a lot of great events that non-racers aren’t even aware exist, the relative importance of Lotoja diminished. I ended up being able to race. I didn’t have a great day, and I didn’t particularly care.

This ambivalence towards Lotoja hasn’t gone away. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it when registration opened in April. I haven’t been sure I wanted to do it since registering. The argument Steve used to convince me to do it was that if the subject ever comes up that you race your bike, the first question anyone in Utah asks is “did you do Lotoja?” Because of the prominence of the event in this state, it’s almost compulsory.

I really should want to do it. The challenge is still there. Whereas the first year it was just a question of can I finish, this year, I’m signed up in the Pro/1/2/3 field. How will I rate? I don’t have any delusions of hanging with Cameron H. or Nate P., but can I stay with the bunch? Will I be in position to bury myself to set up a teammate? These are all questions I should want to answer. This race is an opportunity I should want to have. But I’m struggling to find the drive and conviction to really make it happen.

The one thing I’ve done the last couple of years that’s made this race more rewarding than it would be otherwise is to raise money for the Huntsman Cancer Foundation. I was motivated to do this by Elden and his wife Susan, as I watched them fight this ugly disease. Cancer took Susan last summer. It continues to take wonderful people in the prime of their lives.

Perhaps by racing, and racing to benefit the Huntsman Cancer Foundation, I’ll be doing something about this nasty disease. That should be motivation enough. Please click this link and make a donation and help me make Lotoja about more than yet another window sticker.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Work permit

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Wayne Gretzky said that. Jens Voigt lives by it. Jens and other breakaway specialists know that >90% of the time, the break will be caught. All that work and nothing to show. But the handful of times the break isn’t caught, someone from the break wins. You can’t be that someone if you aren’t in the break.

So it was with Sergio Paulinho today, although today the break had a 100% chance of staying away. For starters, it’s Bastille Day, the day every French rider wants to win a stage. The French people want a French rider to win the stage, and Le Tour organizers are French people. So they designed a stage that was perfect for a breakaway, knowing full well that there were no French GC threats, so the only way a Frenchman would win a stage is in a breakaway (and so far Chavanal has, twice). It was the last day in the Alps, with climbs at the beginning to keep the sprinters out of contention, but no climbs at the end to make the stage decisive on the GC.

Who would have thought that Paulinho would bring the Radio Shack team its first, and very likely only, Tour stage win? Moreover, who would have thought that a Portuguese rider on an American team would win on Bastille Day? Strong work, Sergio. You earned it. Enjoy it. Time will tell whether you have salvaged the only glory your team will see in the event it built its season around.

As for taking shots, I’m not much of a breakaway rider. I proved that last week. Moves like that are a gamble and lose situation for me. Which is not to say I won’t keep trying.

Sometimes there are shots you know you won’t make but that you take anyway. Which is what I was thinking about when I saw this job posting. I’m not a journalist, I’m an amateur hack blogger. My training is in business—I know more about discounted cash flow analysis than I do about publishing and media. But if someone did offer me the chance to move to Europe and write about cycling full-time, I don’t know how I could say no. If only I could figure out the little detail of getting a UK work permit…

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


How about Le Tour so far? Best edition of Le Grand Boucle I can remember. Can I get an amen to that?

So about this time last year, I was fed up with Cadel’s whining. When he went and won the rainbow jersey I was disgusted to see it land on the shoulders of someone I didn’t consider worthy of the honor.

About the same time, I was cheering for Lance. Then I showed up at a race LA had declared would be all about him and discovered that indeed everything in his world is all about him. To the exclusion of people that should matter to him and apparently do not. Since then he’s blocked me on twitter, and I can no longer stand the guy nor his sycophants who do the commentary on Versus.

The tables have turned.

During this morning’s broadcast, I had to endure Phil and Paul lamenting the rotten luck LA had in Sunday’s stage, crashing three times by their reckoning. Well let’s see: the first time, he was forced off the road but didn’t crash. Shouldn’t have made a difference. The second time, he wrecked himself in the roundabout. Nobody to blame but him (it’s not bad luck if you wreck because of your own inattention). Three teammates then rode him back into the race. The third time he also did not wreck, but just had to stop for a wreck in front of him. And at that point he had given up anyway, even though two teammates, Brajkovic and Horner, both of whom were well-positioned on the GC, were loyally and wastefully hanging back with him rather than riding with Levi where they should have been.

Contrast that with the casual mention given to Cadel, who also crashed on Sunday. The broadcasters talked about how he must be sore, what with his bloody elbow and hip and all. But they didn’t seem to recognize that while Lance was pathetically throwing in the towel (much as his title sponsor seems poised to do as a corporation), Cadel was riding himself into yellow.

As today’s stage continued and it was clear Cadel was in a bad way, Phil and Paul reiterated that it was clearly a case of bad luck and not bad form that had hurt LA on Sunday because LA was gapping a suffering Cadel going up the Col de la Madeleine. They seemed to fail to notice that LA was likewise getting gapped by his own teammate Levi, who was being similarly gapped by the only two remaining racers that matter, Contador and Schleck.

Well as it happens, Cadel wasn’t just suffering from the effort he was putting in on the climb. Whereas LA suffered a bit of road rash on Sunday and lost 12 minutes as a result, Cadel suffered a fractured elbow, but managed to ride himself into yellow. Who’s had the bad luck now? And who said “luck be damned, it’s a race, so that’s what I’m going to do.”

Other guys who have been racing include Thor Hushovd, scrapping for intermediate sprint points, knowing a green jersey in Paris is far from a sure thing. And Dani Navarro, who has been hurting himself up some impossibly difficult climbs, riding GC guys off his wheel to set up Contador. Contador squandered it Sunday chasing attacks from guys who weren’t GC threats, but Navarro was back today doing it again.

Then of course there’s Jens Voigt, getting in the break knowing it was his only way to be out front on the Madeleine and in position to help Schleck. Then he pulled Schleck and Contador to 1K to the summit until saying “shutup legs” was not enough and they simply could turn the cranks no more. The anguish on his face spoke volumes about how much it means to him to ride for his captain.

Whichever of Schleck and Contador wears yellow in Paris will have earned it—catching the break before the line today showed their commitment and dominance. But the true spectacle of Le Tour are the Hushovds, the Navarros, the Voigts, and the Cadels whose pride in their own performance prevents them doing anything short of laying everything they have on the line.

Cadel has honored the rainbow jersey every time he’s worn it in competition. And today he honored the yellow jersey in the process of losing it. To cowboy up and race with a broken elbow is the epitome of hard man.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Damage assessment

The situation with JunkieBoy’s bike was made all the more acute because he was hoping to do the kids’ race at Miller Motorsports Park last night. So I decided to take the rest of the day off of work and see if I could piece together something for him to ride.

The vandals did a real number on it. One of the crankarms was broken where the pedal threads in, the chain guard was dented and scratched, the stem pad was tattered, and both wheels were completely destroyed. I seriously can’t even fathom how someone could do something like that to a little boy’s bike and think it’s fun.

We had one of Junkie Girl’s old bikes in the garage, from which I was able to steal crankarms, pedals, and some wheels. I disassembled and reassembled both bottom bracket and rear hub, which were both a nightmare. Sealed cartridge bearings, two-piece cranks, and freehub bodies are so much easier to deal with.

I think I screwed up the rear hub, maybe even leaving out a bearing somewhere, because it would barely coast. And both wheels were significantly out of true. But as long as he kept pedaling, it worked OK. He was just happy to have something to ride. And I was happy to see him smiling as he pedaled around the track.

His old man did OK at the grownup race. I felt confident I would do well if it came to a bunch sprint, but I suspected a break would go and stick. A few attacks came and went, which I covered. Each time I did, things came back together. Then Eric E. from Bikefix took a flyer, and I knew he’d have some staying power.

I bridged up to him and sat in for a bit until I felt almost recovered. A guy from Ozone was with us. Ozone and I each took one or two pulls, then Eric pulled through again and accelerated slightly. Ozone fell off, then I got detached as well. We faded back and hoped that the group working together could bring Eric back.

We couldn’t. About half the field didn’t even realize there was a guy off the front, but I don’t know how much that would have mattered—Eric was riding strong and took the prime lap and the win. It was an impressive performance. I managed to stay out front on the bunch sprint and took second.

So far this season, I have two 2nd place finishes, three 3rds, two 4ths, a 5th, a 6th, three 7ths, two 8ths, a 9th, and three 10ths. But no wins. I would like a win, even just one. My results are more consistent than last year, but so far that top step of the podium has eluded me. Maybe next week the drought will end. At least that’s what I keep telling myself. I think if I finally win something, I may just call it a season and relax.

After the race I went to the park with my big, intimidating mag light and shined it in teenagers’ eyes while I questioned them about the bike. No leads. Just more stories of thugs vandalizing other kids’ toys besides my son’s. Ick.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

On wins and weakness

  • Just like white shoes and yellow jerseys(never wear a yellow jersey, unless it’s as race leader, even if you are fast), if you’re going to wear a plaid skinsuit, you better come in first or last. Steve now has two wins in two races wearing the plaid skinsuit at DMV. Mike H. has also done pretty well in plaid. I need to get me one of those.
  • My teammate Rob B. is quiet but fast. He shows up, races, says thanks when you congratulate him, and that’s about it. With no teammates to help him, Rob took the win in B Flight at RMR Tuesday night. He’s had a lot of good results, but I think it’s his first win of the season. Nice work, Rob.
  • Rick had big plans for an epic MTB ride yesterday that didn’t end quite how he wanted. Heal quickly, Rick.
  • Today’s win notwithstanding, the HTC-Columbia leadout train is a shadow of its former self without Big George Hincapie driving it for the final kilometer. When that guy got on the front, nobody came around. Garmin-Transitions looked like they had the train today, but I think Farrar is lacking some pop what with racing on a cracked elbow and all. I’m still pulling for Tyler to notch a stage win and don’t know how he managed to race on the cobbles with that injury.
  • Speaking of cobbles, Chris Horner said that “cobblestones just do not belong in the Tour de France.” His reasoning? Cobblestones “result in less excitement in the long run when we reach the mountains because big name riders have either crashed out or have lost so much time from a crash that they no longer have a chance to win the Tour.” Well who says the race has to be decided in the mountains? Cobbles are part of France and the country’s culture of bicycle racing. Why not include them? Why not balance the parcours so a guy like Cancellara has a legitimate shot in the GC? Just because they don’t suit you or your team doesn’t mean they don’t belong. You don’t see Hushovd whining because there are mountains. It’s a bike race. HTFU and race.
  • What’s with Cavendish sitting up after Petacchi got around him in stage 4? I can see not burning the matches because you’re not going to win. Trust me, I get that. But if you’ve talked as much as Cavendish has about winning the green jersey for the most consistent rider, why not keep going and try to be consistent. Hushovd won green last year with one stage win. He’ll probably do the same this year by consistently placing near the top because he keeps racing until the end.
  • I realize dishing on pro bike racers is pretty weak. But these guys get paid to race, and I want a show. What’s far and away weaker than a professional sitting up or whining about the course is the mamby-pamby jack-wagon who decided to vandalize my son’s bike last night. My son is 5. That bike is his pride and joy. For one night, he forgets to put it away, and the teenagers who hang out at the park decide that destroying it is their idea of fun. We’ll see how much fun they have hanging out there the rest of the summer what with the nasty, vindictive lunatic that’s just gone off his meds living next door.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Back to the Future

Pretty sure I saw Marty McFly cruising around my neighborhood on a flying skateboard this morning. I’m just wondering where I can get one?

back to the future

Actually, this is a photoshop job. I always scorn for those that fall for internet hoaxes, but I totally swallowed this one. Oops. Thanks, Pat, for pointing out what a sucker I was.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Earning my cheeseburger

Independence day may be about barbecues and fireworks, but you gotta earn your cheeseburger. Which means as much time on the bike as possible over the holiday weekend.

Saturday, I signed up for the Terry McGinnis Memorial Criterium in Holladay. Terry was a fixture of Utah bicycle racing for many years who passed away of cancer last year. I never knew him, but his friends and family should be proud of the event the race organizers and city of Holladay put together in his honor. The course was excellent, as was the community and sponsor support.

Three categories were offered, Masters, Cat. 4/5, and Pro/1/2/3. I didn’t want Dave Harward or Cameron Hoffman to come away from the event with a damaged ego, so I opted to race Masters alongside Jon S. rather than lining up in the Pro/1/2/3 field.

I won the first prime on lap two. Primes were offered every 1-2 laps after that, and I now wish I would have worried less about saving legs for the end and more about winning primes, as they were $25 each. Jon S. ended up taking home $100 in winnings on the day, and a couple other guys won even more.

Instead of contesting primes, I mostly sat in near the front, watching and waiting for someone to attack. With three laps to go I was in great position.

My cheering section watched in eager anticipation as we came down the back stretch. The dark-haired one on the right is Twin B., whom we borrowed from Alex for the day.

On the last lap, I was sitting right behind Jeff from Canyon. I didn’t think he was planning a move, so I had to be mindful of what was going on behind me. Sure enough, as we started up the hill the final time, his teammate Mike C. attacked. I responded and caught him as he got to the top of the hill. We’d had a tailwind on the back stretch all day, which probably would have meant being able to hold it from there to the final corner, and the finishing straight was too short to make up any positions, so it was a race to the last turn.

But the wind had died down, which meant making a move at that point was a gamble. I gambled and came under Mike on the second-to-last corner. I should have punched it and tried to get a gap, but instead went steady hard and just tried to hold them off. Mike and Seth from Skull Candy were right on my wheel. Just before the last corner they came around and it was all over. Seth got the win. Jon led the rest of the field across the line for fourth.

It’s the closest I’ve come to a win this season, but I can’t feel too bad about leading Seth out, even unintentionally. Last Wednesday he raced DMV on his birthday, and I offered to give him a leadout. Instead, I lost track of where he was and almost wrecked him. I think he’d prefer this result over that one anyway. Either way, I was happy to have for once come away from a race with more in winnings than I spent on entry fees.

After the race, we delivered Twin B. to her house and enjoyed a barbecue with the Watcher family, where Alex and I loaded up for the next morning. About nine hours after leaving their house that night, I was back, this time ready to take on a long MTB ride.

Alex, Cory, and I rode up Emigration Canyon to Little Mountain, got on the Mormon Trail and rode that over Big Mountain to Jeremy Ranch. As we approached Jeremy, we spotted two owls. See if you can spot one of them mid-flight in this photo.

After stopping at the Jeremy store for Hostess pies and Rock Star*, we headed over to Pinebrook and enjoyed some wildflowers on our way to Mid Mountain.

*Alex introduced me to Rock Star. It’s my new doping product of choice. I now superstitiously drink one before races. I don’t know if it makes me ride better, but I feel better. At least until it wears off.

Mid Mountain has been re-routed between Red Pine Lodge and Spiro trail. The new trail is not an improvement. I was feeling fine up to this point, but instead of riding fairly level, buff singletrack, I was riding very loose, dusty, bumpy, rough trail with lots of ups and downs. It sucked the life out of me. And Cory too, as he wisely bailed out down Spiro and had his wife meet him for lunch in Park City.

Alex and I continued on up Crescent Grade, Apex, and eventually to the top of Puke Hill, where we were rewarded with nice views of Big Cottonwood Canyon, with Pfeifferhorn in the distance.

We dropped down the Crest, interrupting the excitement of that trail briefly to take in the scenery.


From there we descended Great Western to Little Water, then Pipeline from Elbow Fork to Birch Hollow, then on to Alex’s house on the road.

Alex told me after that even though he told me the ride would be between 95 and 110k, he had actually refigured it and knew it was closer to the 134k we actually covered but didn’t tell me for fear of scaring me off. But really, what’s another 25k amongst friends?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Two wrongs don’t make a right

I’ve had a lot to say about doping in cycling. What I’ve failed to give much attention is that while I think cycling is still rife with doping, it’s no longer nearly as blatant as in other sports. The difference is that cycling—because it’s been forced to due to sponsor withdrawal—has attempted to do something about its cheating problem.

Contrast this with the three big sports in the USA or football* elsewhere, where if there is a doping violation that actually gets prosecuted, it warrants hardly more than a slap on the wrist. Manny Ramirez was suspended 50 games for a doping violation. Out of a 162 game season. That’s less than 1/6th the penalty a cyclist receives for testing positive. The size and speed of players today should be sign enough that they’re juicing to achieve those physiques.

*One of the quirks of this blog, at least for American readers, is that I insist on using the metric system all the time and I refer to association football, or soccer, as football, whereas what they play in the NFL is referred to as American football.

It’s rumored that Operation Puerto was stifled because it was found that Dr. Fuentes was doping not just cyclists, but footballers. And Spain couldn’t tolerate the notion of seeing their football heroes’ reputations sullied by links to performance-enhancing drug use.

I have no idea to what extent performance-enhancing drugs are used in football, but doping notwithstanding, football has its own cheating problem, which is brilliantly outlined on one of my favorite websites, The Science of Sport. From that article:

Cycling is still burdened by its doping past, make no mistake, and the legacy of its "great" champions means it will forever be questioned - again, this is a deserved reputation.  But it has certainly improved - the efforts of the biological passport and the invasive testing and the sponsors have gradually begun to control the extent of doping in the peloton.  As we will see over the next few weeks, the power outputs produced by the winners are coming down.  They are now "physiologically believable".  And for this, anti-doping efforts deserve some credit.

However, today, I felt the need to comment on another sport, which is, without doubt, more corrupt, more fraudulent and more immoral than cycling.  That sport is football - a sport that is completely without morals and an ethical code.

The rest of the article is worth reading. I hope you come away wondering, as I do, how an elite athlete can be hauled off the field in a stretcher, only to reappear moments later, fully fit, and ready to compete, and come away from the experience with the self-respect to look himself in the mirror. And why we as fans tolerate and even embrace such behavior rather than ridiculing it for the cheating that it is.

Contrast that with Manuel Cardoso, who crashed and suffered a broken clavicle and a double jaw fracture in Saturday’s prologue, yet still had the sack to get up, get back on his bike, and finish the course.

And then tell me which sport has a bigger character problem.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Something’s brewing

I don’t normally post twice in a day, but this article from Greg Lemond is worth reading in its entirety. Hang on for the last paragraph, though—it’s a zinger. There’s a lot of buzz that the Wall Street Journal is going to drop a big bomb on Le Tour’s opening day tomorrow. Can’t wait.

And if you're a game theory nerd like me, here's the answer to the question "why now?" with regard to Floyd coming clean.

30 minute meals

Various and sundry cookbook authors have made their fortunes writing books on how to, in 30 minutes or less, assemble assorted canned foods and pre-prepared ingredients into a meal that you can claim as “homemade.” Evidently, even though it takes at least 90 minutes to decide what take out to order, place the order, drive to the take-out destination of choice, park in the designated 10-minute take-out-customers-only parking, pick up the food, pay the bill, drive home, take it out of the packages, eat the food, and figure out what to do with all that take out packaging since it won’t fit in your kitchen wastebasket and it can’t be recycled because there’s food all over it, people are still unwilling to dedicate more than 30 minutes to actually cooking a meal.

But whether it’s take out, a 30 minute meal, a gourmet tour-de-force Rachel has reserved for a special occasion, or even a bag of cheap popcorn from 7-eleven or a bucket full of easter eggs, I typically look forward to eating. With one exception.

To optimize recovery after a workout, one should eat within 30 minutes of exercising in order to replenish glycogen stores and minimize recovery time. This meal should include carbohydrates and protein, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

This meal could include wild caught salmon, crème brulee, heirloom organic vegetables picked at the height of ripeness just hours before serving, and the most delicate on the inside, crusty on the outside artisanal breads with hand-churned butter, and it wouldn’t matter because I would still not want to eat it.

I can ride intervals until I can barely walk. I can ride so hard in a crit that I have tunnel vision and can taste bile coming up. I can burn the insides of my lungs in the thin air while climbing a mountain pass. All of these seem more pleasant than trying to choke down some food within 30 minutes of the workout ending.

The one thing I can reliably consume at the end of a workout without feeling like I’ll throw it back up? Diet Coke. Zero carbs. Zero protein. Bubbly water laced with chemicals. Yeah, like that’s going to help.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


I pulled a post. It was an attempt at humor that may have gone too far. And while I'm sure it would have enhanced my reputation as a blogger, it may not have enhanced my reputation in other aspects of my life. I know I advocate owning what you say and I'm not. Sorry.

It's back up. Because something's brewing. And being on record with my position about the guy is more important than any consequences.

Lance Armstrong blocked me on twitter

Lance Armstrong has 2,537,691 followers on twitter. He used to have 2,537,692 until he blocked me. That’s right, of those 2,537,692 people, he singled me out, blocked me, thus preventing me from following his announcements to the world each time he eats, sleeps, changes what’s on his playlist, pees, or pees in a cup for the doping controls.

I’m sure you’re wondering how this came to be. First some background: I don’t like Lance Armstrong. I know, shocking, right? You may think I don’t like him because I think he’s a doper*. If you thought that was the reason, you would be wrong. Doping has little to do with it. I don’t like him because he’s a jerk. I won’t go into them, but I have my reasons.

*If you’re head is still buried in the sand about him doping, especially in light of the Landis allegations detailing how they would microdose with EPO during the Tour in order to maintain hematocrit and reticulocyte levels within acceptable parameters, you’re fooling yourself. Hematocrit should not rise as a result of doing a three week stage race, but that’s exactly what Lance’s did during last year’s tour, according to information he posted on his own website.

Microsoft Word - Lance Armstrong – Test Results August 09.docx

But I’m not the only person who thinks LA is a jerk. I’m not the only one who regularly suggests he’s on the sauce. So why single me out? Well apparently his fragile little ego can’t handle heckling. And when he would post particularly ridiculous tweets, I would respond in the same manner Pat or Dug or any number of you would hopefully respond to me in the comments if I said something stupid on this blog: I would make fun of him. And apparently his skin is quite thin, because it only took a handful of comments.

It began sincerely enough when LA announced to the world that he had given a Trek Madone to French President Nikolas Sarkozy, and that this was somehow going to help cure cancer. So I responded:

@lancearmstrong Wouldn't it have been more effective to donate the cost of the madone to @PowerOfBicycles? Like Sarkozy needs a Madone.

Then, instead of, I don’t know, using Google or Wikipedia, Lance, who apparently missed that part in school, decided that the most efficient way to find out what was the first official day of summer was to ask two and a half million people all at once:

What's the first official day of summer?

To which I responded:

@lancearmstrong Did you even go to school? #lazydumbass

Then when he got his answer, even though all but probably six (five of which were in his entourage) of those two and a half million people already knew it, he decided to perform the public service of making sure they knew:

First day of summer? June 21.

To which I responded:

@lancearmstrong No shit.

Then in response to this story, according to which French anti-doping president Pierre Bordry accused UCI drug testers of favoring Astana during last year’s tour, I wrote the following:

@lancearmstrong "Bordry accused UCI drug-testers of favoring Lance Armstrong's former team Astana..." $100k? What a bargain.*

*Lance Armstrong made a “donation” to the UCI. He claims it was to support their anti-doping efforts. According to Landis, it was a payoff to get them to look the other way at a positive.

I really shouldn’t take credit for this one, because it was Rachel’s idea. But on 21 June, I posted the following:

@lancearmstrong Today is the first official day of summer. In case you forgot.

And after the astonishingly bad officiating during the group stage of the World Cup, in which two goals scored by the USA were disallowed, one for no reason at all, one for a dubious off-side call, I posted this:

Wonder how #usa #worldcup results would differ if @lancearmstrong made a donation to fifa?

It finally all came to a head after LA gushed over the beautiful scenery during his training rides in the Pyrenees and pointed everyone to a video of the ride:

Video from yesterday's recon up the Port de Bales. Beautiful up there.

I watched the video. All it showed was LA, as seen from the window of the team car, with a couple minutes of Johan driving the team car. So I responded:

@lancearmstrong It may indeed be beautiful there, but all the video showed was your ugly mug with a cameo of Johan. Not so much beautiful.

Then earlier this week, I read on Velonews that LA had announced via Twitter that this would be his last time racing Le Tour. And I thought “wait a minute—I didn’t see that on Twitter.” And then I thought “come to think of it, I haven’t seen LA announce what he’s eating for breakfast, that he’s sitting in an airport terminal, that his phone just rang, or any other exciting and noteworthy events that two and a half million people are just dying to know about. Why? The guy’s as regular as three bowls of bran flakes when it comes to announcing the mundane, but I’ve seen none of it.”

So I clicked over to twitter, and I looked at who I’m following, and I didn’t see LA’s name. And I thought “this is weird, I’ve thought about un-following LA because anything worth knowing from twitter gets reported by the regular press anyway, but I wasn’t quite ready to stop heckling him for the more ridiculous selections from his constant drivel. I don’t remember un-following him, but he isn’t there.”

Out of curiosity, I navigated to his page and clicked the follow button. And this is what I got:


“This user has blocked you from following them*.”

*I hate the use of them as a singular pronoun. Twitter does it. Facebook does it. Seriously, how hard is it to include gender as part of someone’s profile and add logic to your software** to generate the appropriate gender-specific pronoun rather than taking this lazy and incorrect approach. “He or she” and “him or her,” though clunky, are both better alternatives than they or them when referring to the singular***.

**I’m in the software business, so I know the answer is: not that hard at all. Unless you’re lazy. Or simply unperturbed by mismatched diction. I think of these people as the kind who don’t wear underwear because they don’t want to have to wash it.

***Of course in LA’s case, since he has an entourage, the plural may in fact be correct.

So evidently seven is not only the number of times LA has won Le Tour, but it’s also the number of sarcastic comments he can tolerate on twitter before his armadillo-like skin is penetrated and he has to single out, from the two and a half million followers, one sarcastic and annoying critic in a sea of sycophants.

LA claimed in his first book that if it came down to a contest of who could suffer the longest, he knew he could always win. Well he and I were having a contest of sorts to see who could suffer the longest—could I suffer his incessant tweeting of non-events longer than he could suffer my sarcastic responses? Guess we know who won that one.

And for the record, my snarkiness is 100% clean. I got this way through years of cynicism and did not artificially enhance my annoyingness in any way. I am the most tested smartass in the world, and I have never tested positive for a banned substance. Now what color jersey do I get? And which beer—it better be a particularly bitter one—wants to sign me up as its spokesman?