Did you hear?

May 20, 2010

This morning, my inbox was flooded with emails along the lines of “Did you hear?”  Unfortunately, I did.  Again.  Another cyclist coming clean after years of protesting his innocence.  Increasingly, I am getting disenchanted with my  sport. 

I started this blog in July of 2006 and found it fun and cathartic to express my views on professional cycling.  I would scan the news and provide a brief interpretation from my point of view.  Shortly after starting my blog, the Floyd Landis story broke.  I weighed in occasionally, tried to lighten the mood often, and really tried to keep the other news alive.  I did not want my blog to become a doping column.  The problem is that quite often, the only stories were of doping.  Basso, Hamilton, Vinokourov, Heras, Rico, and on and on and on.  Dick Pound got more cycling press than anyone.  His “Q score” in cycling was probably higher than Alberto Contador.

Then cycling acquired an autoimmune disease and started to attack itself.  Pound vs. McQuaid became a bigger draw than MMA.  Over the last year, my writing became sporadic since it was no longer cathartic but maddening.  I’ll still write from time to time but I’m in a cycling low right now.

I still read the news, follow the races, and cheer for riders. And pray they are clean.


It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

March 22, 2010

If you are a cycling fan, where are your thoughts come late March and early April?  Mine are in Belgium.  The true kick off to the cycling season.  The place where cobbles can tell stories back to the Romans; or at least look like the last people who paid any attention to them were Romans.

Well, I got the opportunity to put my body where my mind was.  On Friday, I was told I needed to head to the land of cycling, beer, frites w/mayo, and chocolates.  I immediately made plans to spend the weekend to watch Gent-Wevelgem.  While not the Tour of Flanders or Paris Roubaix but definitely worth it.

I contacted a few cycling tour companies to see if I could grab a last-minute cycling tours so my rear end could enjoy the same experience as my eyes.  To my displeasure, the three I contacted had cancelled their tours due to the economy. That’s OK, I’ll brave it alone. 

Then the other shoe dropped.  While I was needed in Belgium on Wednesday, I am also needed in New Jersey on Friday!  I can only blame it on “the man!”  “The Man” must have it in for me to send me there and then bring me home.


Schlecks seek emancipation from father figure

March 5, 2010

La Gazzetta dello Sport is reporting that the Schleck brothers are looking to break free from Riis cycling and form their own team.  The article is not on their English site and while my Italian is suspect, it looks like the two brothers are trying to poach Fabian Cancellara and have Kim Andersen serve as Director.

On my way home from Sweden, I was reading how Frank Schleck pledged his undying loyalty to Bjarne saying that he would always ride for the Dane.  He also felt that a new sponsor for the team was a mere formality.  So what happened?


The rumor that will never die

February 24, 2010

A Grand Tour stage in the US?  Wouldn’t that be great?  Seeing the best riders in their best form competing on US soil.   On top of that, having them compete on the East Coast, in my back yard. 

Each time I read this story, I pause for a moment and let the feelings wash over me.  I always wanted to see the Giro.  Who would have thought I could see it via Amtrak vs. Continental Airlines?  The possibilities.  We could top London as the best place to launch a Grand Tour.

Then in the blink of an eye, reality sets in and those feelings are washed away.  What are they crazy?  A 3,500 – 4,000 mile transfer across multiple time zones? 

Well, cycling news is the latest to report that the RCS Sport  is looking to start the 2012 Giro in Washington DC.  Thanks for the thought fellas but let’s think of the racers.  I don’t think having the Tour of California and the Giro both running simultaneously in the US is a smart idea.  Let it go. There is a danger that if you talk about a topic long enough, you begin to believe it is possible.

Then again, remember Live Aid a few years ago? Phil Collins played on two continents on the same day.  Maybe Lance can race in two UCI races on the same day.  Think of the publicity.  He rides the prologue, which could be held at a private airport, then he climbs aboard Air Lance and jets to the West Coast. Brilliant!


Cross France off Floyd’s vacation list

February 17, 2010

Mr. Harden, it’s my duty to inform you that the larceny of an equine is a capital offense punishable by death, but you can rest assured that in this court a horse thief always gets a fair trial before he’s hung – The Westerner 1940

As things do, this story is finding its own level.  It seems that AFLD Director, Pierre Bordry over stated his authority.  Shocking that the French anti-doping authority would try to do such a thing.  I guess France is still reeling over their loss of influence over anything outside their borders.  They may see doping investigations for their Tour de France as a way back to relevancy. 

Pierre, now says that if Floyd chooses to return to Fench soil, he may be asked to come to suburban Paris to answer questions to a judge chosen by AFLD. Maybe the CIA can resurrect their New Earth Army program because Floyd has the incredible mind to match his athletic abilities.  He can win the Tour de France and rival Kevin Mitnik in computer “security” circles.


Just when you think it is over

February 15, 2010

Floyd Landis is back in the news. If you remember, back when Floyd was fighting for his professional life, he had copies of multiple files from the Chatenay-Malabry lab.  Those files showed how poorly samples were handled and multiple mistakes made by the lab.  It seems that those files were also stolen.

Four years later, the French want to talk to Floyd about his part in the hacking.  An arrest warrant was issued after Landis ignored a summons sent last November.  An international warrant was also issued for Dr. Arnold Baker.  I have no idea what this means for the rider who just recently left his US based team OUCH (now United Healthcare). Just as he was looking good on the bike again.

Maybe this is in retaliation for Roman Polanski?


DVD Review

February 13, 2010

Like many of you, I hate the trainer. The worst day on the calendar is when I have to remove my skewer and screw on the trainer skewer. With each revolution, I feel my mood darkening. Then when I take the walk to the basement, I can hear the line from The Green Mile. “Walking the mile, walking the mile.”

I have gilded my cage with a TV and DVD player that are designed to keep me just this side of sanity line. Each season, I bring a fresh new stack of DVDs to the basement to set the right mood. The 2009 Tour and Giro join stalwarts like Breaking Away and the one day classics on the play list. They help pass the time but I still have many days where I stare at the cyclycomputer wondering why time passes sooo slowly. This year I added a new DVD to the list and I want to tell you about it. That movie is called Bicycle Dreams.

The film by Stephen Auerbach chronicles the 2005 Race Across America. As I mentioned above , I watch a lot of cycling videos I have seen many riders in their share of pain. This was different. Riders ride over 300 miles a day forgoing sleep for almost two weeks and their pain is mental. To watch a determined stare go vacant in the matter of a few days, touched me. The most compelling scene was when Jure Robic, who had all but won the race, wanted to quit because he could not call up an image of his wife and child.

Lance Armstrong is quoted in the movie saying extreme athletes are running away from something. I saw much of that. Others I saw running towards something. There are many stories in this race and not all of them have a happy ending. In any RAAM, approximately half do not finish. The most tragic is that of Dr. Bob Breedlove who thought each day was “another day in paradise.”

Mr. Auerbach’s movie has garnered multiple film awards and received rave reviews from national publications including USAToday. All I can add to this list of reviews is that I could not turn the movie off. I set out to ride an easy 45 minutes to an hour on the trainer. I ended up doing riding the full length, including the credits. I never even glanced at my computer for a time check.

This is a must have on your winter DVD list.


Assassins!

October 5, 2009

Next July will mark 100 years since Octave Lapize spat those words at Tour founder Henri Desgrange.  Those venom-laced words came after the inclusion of the Tourmalet.  Ever since that day, the Col du Tourmalet has towered both literally and figuratively over the Tour de France. 

A few facts about the Tourmalet.  The Tourmalet is 19.4 km long with an average gradient of 7.4% .  It bites the hardest with a 10.2% max gradient at the very end.  The Tourmalet  has been featured more times than any other mountain pass in Tour history including the past two editions.   Even the Vuelta has crossed the Tourmalet on a few occasions.  However, there has not been a mountain top finish at the Tourmalet since 1974.  I’m not counting the ’02 and ’04 finishes at La Mongie.  The Tour just got too big for the Grande Dame. 

So, what do you do for the 100th anniversary of the Col du Tourmalet?  Well, word leaking out of Belgium via Cyclingnews is the Tour may have a stage finish at the summit of the Tourmalet.  The stage finish will be on the second ascent of the mountain.  That’s right, riders may have to ride up the mountain twice in one stage.

I think riders may spit out a few expletives of their own to mark the occasion.  Remember David Millar’s finish line abandonment during the 2002 Vuelta?  Leaving his bike at the finish line atop the Angliru.  Didn’t Einstein talk about insanity as doing things over and over again?  Maybe that will be the word sent the way of the latest Tour boss.


Is it paranoia when people ARE out to get you?

October 2, 2009

Sometimes, it doesn’t pay to get out of bed in the morning.  Each day I, like most people in the country, wake up worried about the economy and my job.  Like most people, it seems that both are very tenuous.  But at least I have my bike.  I believe the bicycle is the best invention for stress relief, thought clarity and of course physical fitness.  Bike racing is such an alluring sport that when watching, everything else moves to the background.

I dropped what was then RCN Cable in favor of Dish Networks back in 1999 because the latter carried a little known channel called Outdoor Life Network.  When I switched to DirecTV a couple of years later, I made sure OLN was in the channel lineup I knew Patriot Media (the successor to RCN) did not.  Everything was going well until OLN started to program bull riding at the expense of cycling.  Bull riding?  That was a slap in the face.  OLN had morphed into Versus and had outgrown cycling.  It’s parent Comcast was moving it towards direct competition with ESPN.  But I found Cycling.Tv and the European peloton was back in my life.

I’ve never been in an earthquake but it must be really scary when the one thing you can count on, the earth under your feet, betrays you.  I’ve been in a tornado’s path once but at least I could huddle close to the ground for safety.  Over the last few months, I think I have felt a figurative earthquake.  In May, the Giro was dropped from Versus and by extension Cycling.TV.  You see, the cycling website had linked it’s fortune to Versus so when the cable channel declined to renew the contract with the Italian race, it caught Cycling.tv right where it hurt the most.  Not only was the Giro gone but the whole Italian series.

Then Universal Sports stepped in.  I could see the Giro online even if Anthony McCrossan and Brian Smith were not there with me.  OK.  I immediately called DirecTV.  “Get the Universal Sports Channel!” I yelled.  The answer was no.  During the same time, the Verizon FiOS trucks pulled in my neighborhood.  I looked and they had Universal Sports!  I called and asked when I could sign up.  The Giro was three weeks long, could I possibly be that lucky? No.  They started laying the conduit at the other end of my neighborhood.  Oh well.

Universal Sports

The economy continued to tank and Verizon hooked up half of my neighborhood (the wrong half) and left.  I am about 200 yards from FiOS.  Does anyone have an extra 200 yards of fiber optic cable and a wire splicer? I watched the Tour in Versus HD.  Lance saved my Tour since I doubt I would have gotten the coverage had he not come back.  For three weeks, Versus reverted to OLD. Only Lance Network.  By the end of August, I received a message. “DirecTV will no longer carry Versus due to Comcast’s Outrageous demands.”  What? Then August changed into September and I was teased yet again.  My TiVo told me I had a cycling recording.  How could that be? Well, DirecTV replaced Versus with Universal Sports!  YES!

I watched the World Championships with the biggest grin you could imagine.  Until October 1st when I found out that DirecTV only ran the channel for a month.

Do you see what I mean?  This can’t be pure chance.  Someone must be doing this on purpose.  Yes, I know with 6 billion people in the world, why me?  But do you have a better explanation?

So,  everyone call DirecTV and tell them to lay off me.  I’m under enough stress already.  Give me Universal Sports!

Or get those Verizon trucks back here.


UCI Launches Anti-Doping Education Program

September 28, 2009

In 1930, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, in an effort to alleviate the effects of the… Anyone? Anyone?… the Great Depression, passed the… Anyone? Anyone? The tariff bill? The Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act? Which, anyone? Raised or lowered?… raised tariffs, in an effort to collect more revenue for the federal government. Did it work? Anyone? Anyone know the effects? It did not work, and the United States sank deeper into the Great Depression. Today we have a similar debate over this. Anyone know what this is? Class? Anyone? Anyone? Anyone seen this before? The Laffer Curve. Anyone know what this says? It says that at this point on the revenue curve, you will get exactly the same amount of revenue as at this point. This is very controversial. Does anyone know what Vice President Bush called this in 1980? Anyone? Something-d-o-o economics. “Voodoo” economics. – Ferris Bueller’s day Off 1986

Professional cyclists must be feeling that their profession is becoming more like a job every day.  The latest is the mandatory training program on doping.  Riders must complete a DVD or online “training” course by the start of the Tour de France next year or lose their ability to race. 

Was that wrong? Should I not have done that? I tell you, I gotta plead ignorance on this thing, because if anyone had said anything to me at all when I first started here that that sort of thing is frowned upon . . . you know, cause I’ve worked in a lot of offices, and I tell you, people do that all the time. George Costanza Seinfield

I put training in quotes because if you listen to the UCI, the main goal is more CYA than education.  The UCI wants to squash any excuse of “I didn’t know” or the old “Was that wrong?” I have to tell you, I have sat through many of these type of education courses.  When written to cover a rear end, there is no more boring course on the planet. 

I wonder if Ben Stein is the host?

Bueller? ... Bueller? ... Bueller?

Bueller? ... Bueller? ... Bueller?


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