I shouldn't take blogactions. I also shouldn't be allowed to work on my own bikes.
So far, while on blogaction, I've managed to make a mess of re-cabling my bike, and have probably ruined my much-loved (and well-worn) Diadora pro racers. New shoes were not in the budget this year, but I suppose I've have to make room.
Uhg. To say the least, this has not been a banner week. At least I had the good sense to let someone else glue my new tubular wheels. I would have hated to have fucked up that project.
No matter, I'm pushing ahead, and still planning on kicking the season off this weekend in Prospect Park.
There is some good news. An article by me appears in the latest issue of Velo News, and will hit news stands in early March. But more on that next week, when I'm back from blogaction.
In the mean time, I wanted to make sure that everyone other there is aware that Dave Zabriskie, one of my all-time favorite pro cyclists was robbed while racing in the Tour of California last week. Zabriskie placed second in the race. Hopefully the winnings will help defray the cost of the missing vehicles and appliance. The bikes and other memorobilia, are, however, priceless.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
I shouldn't take blogactions. I also shouldn't be allowed to work on my own bikes.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
My first races of 2009 are now less than a week away, and I've got a whole lot to do between now and then to make sure my equipment is in top condition for the start of the new season, while continuing the good work I'm already doing to make sure my body is in top shape.
Here's my equipment to-do list for this week:
1) Prep my new race wheels for tire gluing. (And deliver to Blue Sky for gluing.)
2) Replace my handle bar.
3) Replace cables and housing.
4) Re-tape my handlebar.
5) Clean bike.
6) Lube chain.
7) Swap brake pads out for carbon-specific pads.
8) Pack, load car.
9) Drive to Brooklyn.
Right now, I'm watching Slum Dog Millionaire, which I have not seen, clean up at the Oscars, while I pick globs of old glue off of my race wheels, to get them ready for a new coat of glue, and new tires. While the wheels are sure to be fast, and slick-looking, the process of glue scrapping is a slight bit less than glamorous. So it goes.
Anyway, to ensure that I have enough time this week to accomplish the above the list without pulling my hair out, I'm going to take a break from blogging for the remainder of this week. As always, if you simply can't live without the soothing tones of my voice for a week, please visit me over at the City Desk, where I will be continuing to blog during the week.
I'll be back with a full race report next Sunday, after which I will resume my regular blog schedule. Have a great week, and wish my luck this weekend!
Thursday, February 19, 2009
After an ill-timed power outage last night, I missed the end of AToC Stage 4 from Merced to Clovis, so I'm just now watching the Tivo-ed end of the stage. I just saw Chris Horner go back to the team car... and pick of a Snickers bar. Awesome... that's why Horner's the man.
On general AToC thought, Velo News is telling us all about Cervel TestTeam's equipment (they ride Cervelos), but still no explination as to why they TT'd on the P3, and not the new P4.
Anyhow, this was another busy week, but it flew by with the distraction of the start of the racing season at the Tour of California. With my season's start little more than a week away, the work days are flying by as I get ready for the real work: my daily sweat session on the trainer. Next Saturday will see me down in Prospect Park, looking for the season's first bragging rights, and believe me, I can't wait.
The best news is that the weather is slowly improving -- yesterday's snow notwithstanding -- which has lead to more riding outside, and that's what I've been waiting for all winter. Hopefully it'll be warm enough for me to get out and ride this weekend. See you on the road?
In honor the first major American stage race of the season, here's the top and bottom five from the Amgen Tour of California:
Tops from the tour:
1) A major international stage race right there in the US, featuring many of the sport's biggest stars.
2) US domestic pros facing off against the Euro badasses.
3) Unbelievably large crowds lining the roads, even with shit weather on the first several stages.
4) A bike race, on TV! And yes, I'm willing to forgive a lot of the quality of the broadcast for this wonderful luxury.
5) Cav v. Boonen v. Thor v. J.J.
Bottoms for the tour:
1) The weather on the first few stages. Who's going to want to go race in the rain next year?
2) Crashes. I can understand some domestic pros going down, but shouldn't Levi know better? Oscar Friere, Kim Kirchen out and injured? Again, this is not going to help attract euro pros.
3) Bicycle theft.
4) Chalk at the end of stage four make it hard to see what was going on. It's a minor gripe, but still.
5) Finally... not having a TV at home, and thus being unable to watch while I spin!
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Although I've never been much a fan of Lance Armstrong's, I wouldn't wish a stolen bike on anyone. So, I was somewhat relieved to hear that the one-of-a-kind Trek TTX had been recovered by Sacramento police on Wednesday. Lance himself expressed something approaching jubilation over having his bike recovered over on his Twitter feed:
"Oh!! And they recovered the bike! Don't have details yet but it's apparently on it's way here. Thanks to the Sacramento P D for the help! about 5 hours ago from TwitterBerry"
He's also recently used his Twitter feed to speak out against Versus:
"I heard from lots of folks that Versus cut off Tour of California coverage for hockey. Lame!" 6:35 PM Feb 17th from TwitterBerry
And to laud his fans' taste in music:
"Driving to the race listening to "Barry's super sweet mix tape for Lance". Dude named Barry gave it to us. Thanks, Barry." about 9 hours ago from TwitterBerry
At first, I thought he was referring to former team mate Michael Barry, but clearly that Barry's mix tape is playing over at the Columbia-Highroad team van, and not the Astana camp.
On an interesting sidenote, one of the other Astana team bikes stolen earlier the week was "found" by hotel staff. Does that smell odd to anyone else?
So, that's all well and good, BUT, I've been somewhat annoyed that with the biggest bike race this side of the Atlantic rolling its way through California, all anyone is talking about is Lance's stolen bike.
Case-in-point: At work on Monday, after I'd spent hours over the weekend watching the bike race, all anyone at work wanted to know was where I'd been when the bike went missing. OK. It's a funny joke. And yes, it's very good that people not usually interested in cycling are becoming aware that the sport exists -- but, no one even seemed to notice that Lance placed 10th in one of his first races back, or that some of the world's most talented cyclists had assembled in California.
So, in what strikes me as typical American fashion, it takes a crime to get bike racing into the consciousness of the general American public. But, it couldn't be just any crime. No one seemed to notice when Paolo Bettini and eight of his team mates had their bikes stolen at the Memorial Cimurri race in October 2007, mere weeks after Bettini won his second world title. It had to be the crime of the century, against the man who beat cancer and won seven Tours de France.
Uhg. I don't want to say it's hopeless -- but I'm not feeling very hopeful about the state of the general public's interest in cycling. Maybe A-Rod's revelations will help drive people to be interested in cycling. Clearly, we're going to need some kind of outside assistance to build mainstream popularity. If nothing else, at least the crowds lining nearly every stage of the ATOC, even in the driving rian, are somewhat encouraging.
To answer my co-worker's question, no, I'm not responsible for stealing Lance's TTX, and, while you're reading about stolen bikes, why don't you read a little about this awesome bike racing taking place out in California.
One last note out of California: On Sunday I observed that Columbia-Highroad was not riding bike sponsor Scott's TT bike, the Plasma. It turns out the plasma is designed more for triathalon, and therefore not appropriate for serious TT efforts. Scott is working on a solution, but in the meantime, the team is riding bikes left over from their sponsorhip with Giant. The interesting note in this is that Quick Step and Saxo-Bank both ride Specialized bikes, and TT on the tri-oriented Transition. It makes me wonder a) how legitimate Columbia-Highroad's concerns are if other teams are finding success on tri-oriented TT bikes, or b) if the Transitions raced by Saxo Bank and Quick Step are not quite the same as the stock bikes available to consumers.
Just like the number of licks needed to reach the center of a tootsie pop: the world may never know.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Instead, here's some news that I've been siting on for a five days.
Last week, Dieter Drake, promoter of the Tour of the Battenkill (now just two months away!), announced a full (and impressive) slate of pro teams that he's lined up to contest the Pro men's invitational race, scheduled for the Sunday following the pro-am event.
The only teams I don't see signed up to race that I hoped to are Rock Racing (despite early reports that they would be racing) and Team OUCH (which probably feels that it has bigger fish to fry). Other than that, it seems that anyone who's anyone in domestic racing will be in Washington County on April 19, including this nation's only continental-professional team, BMC Pro Cycling. Hopefully, I'll be chasing the pros around wearing my Velo News hat.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE BY THE TOUR OF THE BATTENKILL
Monday, February 16, 2009
read past the Tour of California to the whole story...
... it's be worth it!
Well, I sure hope that something interesting happens in the remaining six days of the Tour of California. Levi went in as the big pre-race favorite, and he has certainly lived up to expectations by taking the jersey early today. Good for him, but for the good of the sport, and the good of keeping viewer's interest (and, my god, TV coverage and photos online show that there are a LOT of viewers), I hope that someone is at least able to mount a credible challenge to Levi. Otherwise, we are in for a fairly boring, if scenic, ride through California.
In looking at the GC after today's stage, it seem that Levi could still face a challenge from Michael Rogers (Columbia-Highroad, at 24 seconds), David Zabriskie (Garmin-Slipstream, at 28 seconds), Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas, at 38 seconds), Jens Voigt (Saxo Bank, at 40 seconds), Tom Danielson (Garmin-Slipstream, at 42 seconds), and Ivan Basso (Liquigas, also at 42 seconds).
After that, the time gaps grow exponentially, with one of today's animators, Carlos Baredo, (Quick Step) at more than 4 minutes back, and in 19th place overall. Basically, anyone in this race lower than 16th on GC might as well write their chances off now.
Usually, it's at this point in a race that I would start cheering for my favorite rider of all time, Chris Horner. Horner, a super-solid all-rounder, is currently sitting 5th, at 34 seconds, seemingly a good place for a come from behind victory.
Alas. He is on the dominant Astana team, riding on behalf of
Even if I'm a bit disappointed with the lack of GC drama thus far in the Tour of CA, I certainly can't say that the two road stages contested thus far haven't been exciting. It was a nail-biter today coming into Santa Cruz, and for a few moments, I wasn't sure if Levi would catch the leaders over the day's second major climb. And Sunday's rainy ride was a nail biter as well. I didn't think for a minute that Francisco Mancebo would have the legs left to sprint for the win, but he sure gave us a show!
Also, for anyone who suffered through the rain-delayed Versus coverage, as I did, how funny was it when the Rock Racing Caddy splashed the bejesus out of the camera moto!?
But enough of that.
Something much more interesting happened over the weekend.
While on a ride Saturday morning with Stephen, a local cat 1 mountain bike racer and President of the Saratoga Mountain Bike Association, I witnessed my first-ever frame explosion. Fortunatley (for me) it wasn't my frame that exploded, but Stephen's (he, obviously, is less fortunate).
Here is what an exploded frame looks like:
The alignment was correct,
but the tube looked short to me
In case you're wondering, it's some kind of an aluminum Felt. Possibly an F75, but I'm not positive of that. Anyway, for weeks Stephen has been complaining that his bottom bracket was making creaking noises. Earlier in Saturday's ride, he and I had discussed the nuances of plumber's tape as a means to quiet the threads of a noisy bottom bracket and/or BB spindle.
Then, as we were cresting a relatively small rise near Saratoga Lake, Stephen called for me to hold up and pulled over to the side of the road.
"Well, now I know where the creak is coming from," he said, looking at his bottom bracket.
I looked, but didn't see anything until he wiggled the now semi-detached seat tube. Oh. Clearly it's going to take more than plumber's tape to fix this creak...
Just don't stand on the pedals,
you might make it much worse
As you can see in the pictures, the weld joining the bottom bracket shell and seat tube just completely came apart. Stephen is relatively big (for a cyclist), but we're not talking sumo-wrestler here. He might be around 200 pounds, and is at least 6'4". In my estimation as a bicycle saleman, his weight alone should not have broken the bike. And, it's not as though this is a decades-old bike either, it had only been ridden for about one year.
So, Stephen sent the bike for a warranty repalcement, and I hope he gets it, because, as I can attest, the bike failed under normal riding circumstances.
On an intersting side note, Stephen rode the cracked frame the remainign three miles home, and even with the bottom bracket detached from the seat tube, but bike successfully carried him home. However, I did notice, while riding, that the seat tube seemed to be hovering above the bottom bracket, as if the tube wasn't really long enough, and the frame had been forced into position, then welded to stay that way. If that is the case, shoddy worksmanship is at fault for the failure, and not the rider.
Until Saturday, a broken frame was one of those things that I'd heard about, but never believed actually happens, except in the instance of a crash. I'm now a believer.
I've detailed my neglected 'cross bike to Stephen's garage as a sort-of gap bike for him to ride until he gets his replacement Felt. I hope it treats you well!
Sunday, February 15, 2009
First observations from the Tour of California Prologue (and stage 1):
-Cancellara is really fast, but seeming to work on his Cippollini impression.
-If I were Scott, I'd be really pissed that Columbia-Highroad is still riding a Giant TT bike, and not a Plasma.
-For some odd reason, Cervelo TestTeam was riding the tried & True P3 Carbon, and not the newer (& theoretically faster) P4.
-Lance really does appear to be back, and put in a very solid 10th place effort.
-Floyd Landis and Tyler Hamilton both have more work to do.
-What does one do with a stolen custom Livestrong/Astana Trek TTX?
-Tyler Hamilton, an Olympic gold medalist in the time trial, could have saved about 10 seconds if he had kept his head still while sprinting in to the line.
-Local hero Andy Guptil, Colavita Racing, is still my hero. He finished 130th.
-I still find it ironic that EPO-manufacturer Amgen sponsors this race, despite the apparent purity of their mission.
-Enzyte continues to underwrite cycling, to the chagrin of cyclists everywhere.
Here's the full scoop:
I'm now in to my self-imposed media isolation, which I'm observing so that I can watch the rebroadcast of today's stage in the Tour of California "live," without knowing who wins, but how cool was yesterday's prologue?!
For anyone who doesn't know, the Amgen Tour of California is the biggest, most important professional bike race in the United States. This year's edition is nine days long, ending next Sunday, and features several Pro Tour teams, many of whom brought Tour de France-caliber squads. The race is early in the season, but this is as big a show as any in the United States, and from watching on Versus on Saturday evening (do I know how to celebrate Valentine's Day or what!), it was clear that the race might as well be in June or even July. Everyone was there to race.
Of my podium picks, I went two for three. I'd picked Cancellara, Zabriskie, O'Grady. If I'd picked the top five, I would have had Floyd Landis in fourth and Levi Leipheimer in fifth. The actual podium wound being Cancellara, Leipheimer, Zabriskie.
So, with two exceptions, my picks were pretty good, and I wasn't far off with O'Grady, who finished 29th, 12 seconds off the pace set by a flying Fabian. I was, however, way off on Landis. The former Tour de France winner, former Tour of California winner (both in 2006), and former Mennonite (because, how often do you get to write that), finished 90th, 21 seconds off the pace.*
For Floyd, this is not an auspicious start to his big comeback season. His first major race back since his doping suspension stemming from the 2006 Tour, is Floyd's only chance to race against a high-caliber international field. This year, instead of riding for a pro-tour team, he's riding for the continental Ouch Pro Cycling team. I'm sure that he put forth his best effort, but sadly, it wasn't good enough. In 2006, Floyd would have been very close to winning the Tour's opening prologue, had he not had his start delayed by a nick in his tire. Of course, he may have been doping at the time. In any event, it was a far cry from the effort he put forth Saturday.
Floyd's poor performance notwithstanding, it was still a very cool race.
I always tend to be surprised by Levi Leipheimer, and given his podium in the 2007 Tour de France and 2008 Veutla a Espana, I really should give the guy more credit, but for some reason I never think he's going to be as good as billed. Fortunately for him, I obviously don't know what I'm talking about, and he did well to finish second on Saturday, backing up his billing as a pre-race favorite.
I'm now about an hour into the coverage of stage one, but haven't seen any racing, because it's raining in California, and therefore there are no cameras on the race. Phill and Paul are really reaching to keep viewers intersted. This, of course, is what makes racing in February questionable.
Cancellara is out with a fever, which I find very dissipointing. We know that Svein Tuft, who finished 9th yesterday, does well in poor conditions, so perhaps we'll see him rise to the occasion. Then again, Cavendish is looking very fast.
On that note, I'm going to give the race my full attention. Check back tomorrow for a stage one post-mortem.
*Creative googling allowed me get the results without revealing anything going on in today's stage.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Well, I'm really glad that it's the weekend. This was one of those really long weeks. Although, I'm noticing that every week is feeling that way these days. It was warmer this week, but it's going to be cold again starting tomorrow, so the brief respite was almost a tease. No matter, hopefully I'll be out on the road tomorrow, when it will be cold, but not toooo cold.
Anyway, after yesterday's drenching, I think I may actually be able to manage a little cold. Usually, try to take Thursdays as a day to reflect and wrap up the week. In all honestly, at this moment, I'm having a hard time remembering back to week's start on Sunday. With a little luck, a good night's sleep tonight will restore my head to it's usual chipper state.
Anyhow, here we go:
Tops from the week:
1) Last Saturday's ride. Without a doubt, the best ride so far this year.
2) My Sunday centerpiece from last weekend. It's got a great response.
3) Saturday's turkey chili. Not only was it delicious, it was good for five meals. Now, that's how I like to cook.
4) The warm. It touched 50 on Wednesday. I was walking around without a jacket. Glorious... I can taste spring.
5) The days are now getting noticeably longer. Finally.
Bottoms from the week:
1) Wednesday's rain. Ruined what could have been a great ride.
2) Breaking my skewer. $5 I didn't need to spend. Stupid cheap parts.
3) It's going to be cold again soon. Why isn't it spring yet?
4) My trusty Thermarest... Every time I plug one hole, I find a new leak.
5) Callouses on my thumbs... but removing those old tubulars wasn't as hard as I thought it would be.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Earlier today, I learned that the race would not be held in 2009, apparently because the parks department had decided that bikes are bad for parks. This is fair criticism, but it still stinks, especially after all the effort that volunteers put in to cleaning the park up after the race.
On a similar note, I went for a very wet and not-so-warm ride this afternoon with Mark Sumner of Clifton Park. On the way from 9P to Lake Desolation, we had a chance to mourn the Empire State Games. (Mark went to the games in 2007, with me in 2008, and quite possibly in years previous as well, I'm not sure.) With another race now canceled, I can only help but say "Another one bites the dust."
In lieu of today's post, here is an email sent from race promoter Dave Beals, explaining what's become of this staple of upstate 'cross:
I regret to inform everyone that the 2009 Schenectady Central Park Cyclocross Race has been canceled. The Commissioner of Parks with the City of Schenectady has decided that this type of activity no longer fits in with the type of activities that the Park management wishes to promote. The Commissioner also stated that the cyclocross race does too much damage to the Park during a time of the year where subsequent activities are adversely affected. The Commissioner's decision was final.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
It's been warmer over the past few days than it has been in weeks. This has had the bonus of a great ride on Saturday, and shrinking snowbanks around town. It also means that ice that had been frozen to the roofs of buildings around town has been letting go of its hold, loosing the subsequent battle with gravity, and shattering on the ground.
This is of particular concern where it relates to the ice coming off of my roof, and landing on the walkway to my entrance to the building. In fact, this is exactly the reason the my mail carrier made me move my mailbox to the building's front porch (my door is on the building's side). So, I've been spending some time moving chunks of ice out of the walkway to my front door. It's a good time.
However, my building has not fared as badly as the spa across the street from The Saratogian, which lost its rain gutter to the weight of of the ice. Here are some photos:
It stayed in place for two days
The metal was gone today, but the ice that accompanied it to the ground is still there
I'm sure glad I wasn't below when this came down
Makes you wonder what people did before heat tape
In other news, I've been spinning a lot. Apparently, I've spun to the point where my equipment appears to be rising up in rebellion. Today, while in the midst of a 10-minute muscle tension interval, I heard a large pop emanating from somewhere behind me. My bike immediately keeled over the left, and I feared the worse. Images of cracked carbon fiber danced in my eyes.
I popped off my bike, and went to inspect the damage. What I found was annoying, but not nearly as disastrous as a broken frame: I'd snapped my quick-release skewer in two. The axle parted ways with the cam side of the quick release. This was a cheap skewer of the type that comes with every new trainer, and you're supposed to use them rather than putting scars into your bikes pretty skewer. I'd much rather wear out this trainer skewer than my bike's Ultegra-branded skewer, so, this calamity could have been much worse, as I said.
Although I'd noticed that I've been riding much better this winter than last, I didn't realize how much more power I'm apparently putting out. So, in a way, it's nice to have that validation, that yes, I am getting stronger. But, it's also somewhat annoying to have to get a new skewer.
Of course, that's only one interpretation. It's also possible that I just wore out a cheap part. After spinning on it for the better part of three winters. I prefer to think that my massive quads defeated the part.
Monday, February 09, 2009
Talk about it
Talk about it
Talk about it
Talk about, Talk about
Talk about movin
Gotta move on
Gotta move on
Gotta move on
Won't you take me to
Won't you take me to
Won't you take me to
Won't you take me to
Where is Durkeetown? Well, it's a few miles south east of Fort Edward, just over the Hudson from Moreau. Although the name is very alluring, and makes the locale seem like it might be some kind of bustling metropolis full of happening restaurants, chic galleries and high-end shopping, I was surprised to learn (and Lipps Inc would be dismayed to discover) that it is little more than a tiny hamlet.
In fact, there really isn't any development at all, save some farms, and a road. But, I was pretty excited to see it with my own two eyes. Why?
Well, for one thing, Saturday marked the first time that I'd been outside on my bike since the beginning of January, and that ride did not go all that well for me: I arrived home with some mild hypothermia. Saturday's temperatures were forecast to be in the 40s, so I eagerly dressed to head out for a four-to-five hour ride with Jamie and Mike.
It was certainly not in the 40s when we left. In fact, the grey skies looked to threaten snow. For the first half of the ride, up to Durkeetown, I was damn cold despite wearing layers of winter clothes. My hands were numb pretty much immediately, as per norm. At least my feet stayed warmer this time.
As you've probably surmised by now, Durkeetown isn't all that much to see, and we rolled on through without stopping. A short time later, we ducked into a Stewart's in Ft. Edward, where my hands warmed up, and a hot chocoloate spread wonderful warmth through my torso. Shortly after we'd rolled out of Ft. Edward, and across the Hudson back into Saratoga County, the sun came out and it got warm for the first time in weeks.
I took off my neck gaiter, and unzipped my jacket a little. It was glorious. We rolled around Moreau Lake State Park, over Spier Falls, through Corinth and Greenfield, and eventually back home. All told, it was a five hour ride. Of the two rides I've done this year, it was, without a doubt the best.
But, even though it was great to be out on my bike, I will say that the only thing that made it tolerable was the thought that in a couple short months, I'll be riding in just shorts and a jersey. That first ride, when all you need is your skin to protect you form the elements, is the most wonderful feeling of the year: like slipping into a warm bath while riding a bike. Nothing beats it, and the thought of enjoying that ride is what keeps me going on these cold days.
At least this time, I wasn't suffering hypothermia when I got home.
Sunday, February 08, 2009
I am suspicious of many pros, and perhaps that makes me guilty of purporting a "guilty-until-proven-innocent" policy. While this may not be a moral stance, as one commenter suggests, I say that my attitude is a product of becoming a cyclist in a period in which one pro after another has been exposed as a doper. I was in France when Floyd Landis won the Tour in 2006. I was in Belgium when he was exposed as a suspected doper. I love my sport, but I now find it difficult to believe many of the performances I see on the road.
Magnus Backstedt retired last week
His timing is very odd
Towards the end of last week, two very suspicious events transpired in the world of professional bicycle racing.
First, we had a Belgian rider, Frederiek Nolf, turn up dead at the Tour of Qatar. In addition to casting a pall over the remaining two stages of the race, which was later won by Tom Boonen, another Belgian, the incident harks back to an era in which EPO was the norm. What makes me say this?
Well, at the risk of exposing myself to a libel suit, I can tell you that Nolf's death (of which an official cause has not yet been announced) is strikingly similar to the deaths of several other professional cyclists in the 90s. The trouble is that EPO, while doing wonders to boost a cyclist's blood's ability to transport oxygen, also thickens the blood. In fact, an athlete on EPO who does not wear a heart rate monitor at all time to ensure that their blood does not slow to a halt inside their veins, can die of a heart attack. It's a little bit like that time the oil turned to sludge inside Dante's engine block.
These types of sudden deaths usually occur in one's sleep, as, it appears, was the case with Nolf. So, although I have no evidence to support my theory, the circumstances lead me to think that EPO could have played a role: Nolf, an otherwise-healthy professional athelte winds up dead in his sleep. There are other circumstances in which a person can die in their sleep, but EPO is a known cause, and has been linked to similar deaths in other cyclists.
So, that sucks. If my suspicion is correct, it would mean the EPO is still present in the world of professional cycling, more so than some would like fans to think, and a young cyclists (Nolf was 21), is now dead, far ahead of his time. Doping among cyclists is not only disingenuous to fans, it is also a grave risk to the health of the athletes -- a fact that sometimes gets overlooked.
In a more minor note, we had former world cross country champion Christophe Dupouey commit suicide, also on Wednesday. Although this death appears to be more about ongoing depression than anything else, Dupouey had a role in the 2003 "pot belge" doping scandal. He was never convicted of doping, but if he was a mule, it wouldn't much of a stretch to imagine that he was doped as well. Anyhow, his death is tragic, but likely the result of not enough counseling, rather than too much EPO.
Moving on, we have last week's most shocking cycling news. Magnus Backstedt, riding with Garmin-Slipstream of late, retired. A big man, and a big star in his native Sweden. His stated reason for leaving is to spend more time with a development squad that he sponsors and runs in Sweden. Backstedt won the Paris-Roubaix in 2004, a stage of the Tour de France in 1998, and a stage in the 2003 Giro d'Italia.
Why I am including this news in a post about doping? Well, it's very odd that a rider, 34 years old, would announce his immediate retirement in February. To me, this arouses the suspicion that he failed one of his team's internal doping controls, and was shown the door. Garmin-Slipstream is known for being a clean team, and maintains a strict doping control program. In addition to adding some redundancy to the anti-doping program administered by the UCI, the team's internal program gives the team the ability to handle positive tests in a slightly quieter manner.
If Backstedt did indeed test positive for a banned substance in an internal, out-of-competition test, the team could ask him to leave without having to go through the embarrassment of a failed in-competition test, the results of which would be broadcast to the cycling media. They get rid of a suspicious rider, and they keep their clean image. Of course, this is just speculation.
However, it is possible to get answers, and nothing would make me happier than to prove that I'm wrong in this regard, and that Backstedt is complete clean. In order to request blood test results, accredited members of the media need only to file a formal request. Of course, I am an acredited member of the meida, and I am willing to file such a request.
BUT, I also need a licensed hemoatologist to analyze the results, and at present, I don't know any hemotologists. The team requires that a licensed professional be available to analyze the reults before they release them. If you are such a blood professional, or know one, please get in touch with me. If I'm wrong -- and nothing would make me happier -- than at least there's still an intersting story in how open this team is with sharing the blood values of their athletes. If I'm right...
As for Nolf, no matter the cause, his death is a great tragedy, but keep watching Velo News for the autopsy results...
Friday, February 06, 2009
Right now, I'm sitting in Uncommon Grounds, a cafe here in Saratoga, and feeling very uncomfortable. Although I spend a lot of time here, and usually like hanging out, tonight is different.
My 'cross bike, which I've been using to ride around town while the streets are ribbed with ice, is sitting outside unlocked. I forgot my lock at home. So, the bike is leaning against a plate glass window, and I'm sitting immediately on the other side of the glass.
I've developed a routine: type three or four works, make sure the bike is still there, resume typing. So far, I'm getting things done, and the bike hasn't been stolen, but this is certainly not my preferred method of operation.
Anyhow, another week has gone by, and I would like to take this opportunity to tell you which moments of the week were good, and which weren't.
Tops from the week:
1) I recently got some new Speed Weaponry. Should be a nice advantage in my first races, which are coming up.... Check back soon for photos, but suffice to say Scott is looking VERY fast these days... (thanks James!)
2) Temps in the 40s tomorrow, I can't wait to get out for a ride.
3) My computer's new keyboard and "top case," courtesy of Apple. Thanks guys!
4) Emily turned 24, and had a fun party to celebrate, thanks!
5) I got some new clothes, it's always good to spruce up the old wardrobe!
Bottoms from the week:
1) There was a stabbing on Broadway. Although it's always exciting to cover breaking news, I could have done without the violent crime.
2) I've got pretty, fast, new wheels, and it's too salty to ride them outside... oh the injustice...
3) Chocolate Syrup. This is a stable in my diet, as I use it to mix my post workout recovery drink. Unfortunately, I did not realize how much corn syrup was in it. I've now switched to powdered chocolate milk, which is more expensive, but hopefully better for me.
4) A rider dies in somewhat-suspicious circumstances at the Tour of Qatar. Blood getting a little thick on you?
5) 12 Westwood Velo riders in the Cat 3 field at the Tour of the Battenkill Valley?!
Wednesday, February 04, 2009
As some readers already know, I've been working, along with Dieter Drake, to promote a criterium in downtown Saratoga Springs this spring. Although Dieter and I are still working to find a course, we had a major success today in finding a sponsor to provide the majority of the financial backing we'll need to get the race rolling.
I'm not going to divulge who the sponsor is just yet, as I want to save that bit of news for a splashier announcement later, but it occurred to me that I haven't yet written about the race here.
Our biggest challenge at the moment is finding a course that will work. This is one possibility, also pictured above. This is another possibility, although this one would require a little more leg work. Both of these are very preliminary concepts, and neither has yet been discussed with the powers-that-be here in Saratoga Springs, they're just ideas we're kicking around.
The idea behind a crit in the city is that Saratoga has a great downtown, and could provide an excellent opportunity to hold a bike race in a high-traffic, high-visibility locale where lots of people who would not ordinarily be exposed to bike racing could see a series of races unfold over the course of a day. It would have the added benefit of bringing hungry bike racers into an environment full of businesses ready to serve them, and the multitudes who will doubtless turn out for this event, there is no shortage of hotel rooms here in Saratoga!
That our race has been designated the New York State Crit Championships for 2009 is icing on the cake. Last year this honor went to the Glens Falls crit, which was a great race, also promoted by Dieter. But, and forgive my civic pride, I think Saratoga can host a classier event -- as long as the powers that be, who are understandably concerned with diverting vehicular traffic away from businesses, help us to find a place where this can all go forward.
To share the few details that we have so far: the race will be held on May 31, and we will have about eight categories for open, masters, and junior races. As I mentioned above, we have brought on a local (and very enthusiastic) sponsor. Most importantly, we have found a charitable organization -- also based locally -- that will recieve the race procedes as a donation.
Hopefully, the race will be proximate to downtown Saratoga Springs, and hopefully we will be able to incoroporate some kind of outdoor expo, complete with food vendors and live music. That's pie-in-the-sky stuff, but a guy can hope, right?
There will be more details as the plans for the race unfold. For now, mark your calendars for May 31. You won't want to miss the 2009 New York Crit Champs!
Although our title sponsorship for the race is now set, we're still looking for presenting sponors, or sponsors for individual categories. If you're interested in sponsorship and/or branding opportunities, or would like more information about the race, feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org, and stay tuned!
Tuesday, February 03, 2009
After seven months of dicking around, a Belgian tribunal decided that Tom Boonen would not face criminal charges for doing some lines back in June. As you'll recall, I was disappointed that Boonen was barred from riding in last year's Tour de France as a result of testing positive for coke out of competiton, and I was incredulous at the thought that he might face up to five years in prison for using a party drug.
I would be singing a different tune if Boonen had a) been found to be dealing drugs, or b) been using cocaine in competition. But, neither is the case, and that being so, I found (and still find) his use of recreational drugs in keeping with his celebrity status. If someone is a rock star, they're expected to act like it. Just look at Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Kurt Cobaine, and dozens of others. Do you really think that they're sober all the time? Don't tell me that some kind of substance wasn't involved when Plaxico Burress shot himself in the leg.
Of course not, but there are no random drug screenings for rock stars -- or football players -- the way there are for cyclists. The issue here is that cyclists are held to different standards than other celebrities -- different even from other celebrity atheletes; sure, Michael Phelps offered an apology for that whole bong thing, but no one is talking about sending him to jail! So why did the Belgians drag Boonen's name through the mud for so long? Maybe to make an example? I have no idea, and it doesn't even really matter.
Had Boonen been found guilty of a crime (which, technically, he was), he would have needed to face the appropriate consequences. It looks like sitting out last year's Tour was consequence enough, and I'm glad for that decision.
Bonnen is now able to resume his ass-kicking ways, which he got to in short order, taking a sprint win at the Tour of Qatar. As a cycling fan, I couldn't be happier.
Monday, February 02, 2009
I want to preface this post by saying that I love my brother very much, and I cherish the times we've spent together and our many common interests.
See, we're very close
I even put my arm around him!
Apparently, Eric, who goes to the University of Colorado, is thinking of joining his school's triathalon club. Needless to say, I'm very upset about this. As anyone worth their weight in Gu knows, triathletes and bike racers get along like Canada Geese and airliners, which is to say, not very well at all.
Ever tried to have a conversation with a triathlete while riding? It's damn near impossible, as they're so concerned with staying down in their aero bars, that they can't ever seem to harness the brain waves to form a complete thought, as they are too busy concentrating on maintaining their balance. That issue is compounded by the fact that aero bars are inherantly tough to ride, and, when put in the hands of someone who doesn't know how to control a bike to begin with (triathletes are, as a rule, terrible bike handlers), it's a recipe for disaster that involves much swerving, and nary a straight line.
hopefully he's a better swimmer than biker
Too bad he covered his aero wheel dimples with those stickers...
The Navy SEAL above is a prime example of why triathletes have a bad rap among other two-wheelers. Notice that this soldier was so concerned with applying blue and yellow decals to his Canadian-made Cervelo P3 and mis-matched Zipp wheels (paid for by tax dollars?) that he neglected to properly align his Vision aero bars (made in Taiwan). It appears to me that this ill-informed athlete was attempting to emulate the "praying Landis" TT position, but instead of using his forearms to create a fairing that would direct airflow away from his chest, he's only succeeded in creating an awkward riding position in which he will only make his already poor handling skills worse. It also appears that his bull horns are about four feet wide -- which is not aero no matter how you slice it.
So, if you can't count on a member of the millitary's most elite force to figure out how to ride a tri bike, how can you expect anyone else to do it? You can't, but I digress.
Worse yet, triathletes, obsessed with keeping their heart ticking away within a precice range, are no fun to ride with becuase they refuse to engage in the sort of dueling that bike racers revel in on training rides: town line sprints, spontaneous bursts of speed up random hills, and pace lines to rival freight trains. Granted, none of these activities are conducive to the sort of endurance needed for a triathalon, but training should be fun, god damn it! You know what I call someone who doesn't like to have fun while riding their bike? Lame.
So obviously, I'm concerned that my brother, generally considered a fairly cool guy, is going down this disasterous path of lameness.
I'm also somewhat surprised. Although Eric is very athletic, he's pretty much always focused on non-endurance sports. He was primarily focused on baseball in high school, and later dabbled in mixed martial arts. Throughout, he's particiapted in ancillary activities like weight lifting to support his primary focuses. Although he runs for cardio, he has never been much a cyclist, and (as far as I know) isn't much of a competitive swimmer.
He likes hiking, and for a time talked about trail running, but the idea of him putting it all together was somewhat surprising. I'm trying to wrap my head around how a baseball player with a weight lifting background, and some experience in outdoor sports will translate into a half shirt-wearing triathlete. In my mind it doesn't compute, but, of course, I've been wrong before. Here is a visual representation of what I'm talking about:
Maybe I'm wrong. Do you think it adds up?
So, I hope to help guide Eric through this venture, so that he will at least be one of a small number of triathletes who knows how to properly shift (incidentally, the majority of those riders were formerly my coworkers at JackRabbit Sports.) Of course, after reading this post, he probably wont want anything to do with me and my disparaging comments. Oh well.
Sunday, February 01, 2009
They decided to leave me off the team this year
Maybe next year...
While most of the country was getting ready to be glued to their sets with eyes on some guys chasing a pig skin around some astro turf, I was paying attention to two sporting events that are actually important: 'Cross worlds and the Tour of Quatar. You see, today is the only day in the years where the worlds of 'cross and road racing co-exist.
At 'cross worlds, we've got a host of major disappointments. One of the hot favorites, and all-around hottie, Kattie Compton, was relegated to third place by Marianne Vos (NED) and Hanka Kupfernagel (GER). Although I'm disappointed that my personal 'cross hero didn't come away from the championship race with a rainbow jersey, it still sounds like it was an exciting, tactical race, filled with drama, which is never a bad thing. Besides, Compton is the US national champion, and the stars-and-bars national champion's jersey wouldn't work well when combined with the rainbow stripes of a world champion. So, for fashion's sake, perhaps it's better this way.
Georgia Gould was the third-placed American, in 13th place. Rachel Lloyd was the second American, in 11th.
There was also a men's race, but without a competitive American 'crosser in this year's event, I found myself with little interest for what was ostensibly the premier event. In case you're wondering, Jeremy Powers, who finished 35th, was the top-placed American man. Jonathan Page, who once earned a silver medal at 'cross worlds, was 52nd.
All of that pales in comparison to the fate of US Champ Ryan Trebon, who was apparently brought down by a camera boom. How's that for a crappy end to your run at a world title?
In a slightly warmer-looking climate, the Tour of Quatar got underway with an American victory by Garmin-Slipstream. Tom Boonen's Quick Step squad was second by less than a second. We can now look forward to five days of Boonen sprint victories in the desert.
Have you ever watched the Tour of Quatar? I'm very excited that road racing is underway, but even I have to admit that Qatar is about the least exciting way to start the season. There are no hills, the scenery all loods that same, and Boonen wins everything. The only factor serving to break anything up is the wind, and even that has been unreliable in recent years.
But that's no matter. In less than a week the Tour of California will get underway, and that is a much better way to start the season. I can't wait.
So that's all for today's racing news. In other news, I've won two second place awards from the Suburban Newspapers America conteset for papers of circulations up to 25,000. A story I wrote nearly a year ago on problems with a state registry for sex offenders that led to the Saratoga Springs School District hiring a known pedophile as a bus driver, won me an award in breaking news, and the whole team won an award for our coverage of a local Democratic primary, in which the "Democrats for Change" wrested control of the city committee from the "Democrats United." The Saratogian also won six other awards in various categories. It was a good year for us!
Obviously, I'm very proud of both awards, and hope to win more in the future...