Summer is officially over

September 25, 2007

affect (af·fect) (af´ekt) the external expression of emotion attached to ideas or mental representations of objects

Some people use a calender to tell them summer is officially over. Last week, marked the fall equinox. To many, that marked the fall. To me, days on the calendar are just a guideline. My realization came with a simple task that is always hard to complete.

My father ushers in fall when he covers the pool. It is a sad day when you realize that you can’t take a quick dip whenever you want. To me, that is the first major sign that fall is approaching. My parents live 50 miles away. Just the perfect distance for a summer ride. My wife heads out with the kids in tow and my bathing suit packed in the car. I get to ride with visions of cool water acting as a carrot out in front of me. When the pool is closed, the carrot is gone.

But I’m not ready to give up on summer as quickly as my father. He closed the pool two weeks ago. I waited until last night to finally succumb to the inevitable. Reluctantly, I went to the parts bin and removed this.

What does this small skewer affect my emotions so much? The act of removing the skewer from my bike and inserting this one is an admission that it is time for the trainer.

The time when I could ride in the morning before leaving for work has long past. I know it but could not bring myself to pull out the trainer and begin the tedium of riding indoors. After watching the miles going down and the scale going up, I knew it had to be done. So, I reluctantly performed this yearly ritual.


Before moving forward, I’d like to take a minute to look back

September 23, 2007

About 14 months ago, I decided to start this blog. I did it on a whim, while watching the end of the 2006 Tour de France. Honestly, I didn’t know what I would write about or how long this would last.

I figured I would comment on races, riders, and other things related to the world of professional cycling. I would try to add my perspective on tactics, race topography, and anything else that struck my fancy. Doping and the dark side of cycling was not on my agenda. The day after my first post, the whispers started about a rider testing positive in a doping test. That rumor was later confirmed and the finger was all but pointed at Floyd Landis when Pat McQuaid called it the “Worst possible scenario.”

I didn’t realize it at the time but the circus was pulling into town. This circus would block cycling’s media sun. Nothing but this story would be allowed to grow for the next year.

I made a deliberate attempt to comment on a variety of topics in addition to the Floyd Landis situation. I felt that the riders in the peloton deserved what little attention I could give. The funny thing was, if I mentioned Floyd Landis in my post, I would see an increase in traffic by approximately 30%.

After the Vuelta and the Worlds, the cycling season was winding down and the Floyd Landis story kicked into high gear. The story grew in attention and, more importantly, complexity. Fortunately for the cycling community, two blogs surfaced that gave us civilians a front row seat for the proceedings.

First, all of us who call ourselves cycling fans owe a debt to the folks at Trust But Verify. This went from zero to the most authoritative site on the web within nanoseconds. While David and company profess a bias towards believing in Floyd, their candor at presenting all sides of the story is impressive.

TBV continued to make the complex simple as we wandered into the incredibly technical realm of drug testing. The group provided detailed explanations of the case so each of us could cut through the rhetoric and form our own reasoned opinions. I honestly believe that the success of TBV is a reason behind the “Wiki defense” strategy developed and implemented by the Floyd Landis team.

If you are currently a reader of TBV, take a moment and reflect on the amount of time, effort, and dedication put into this site over the past year+. Remember, these folks have lives and day jobs. If you have yet to stop by, take a few minutes to look through the site, I guarantee you will be in awe of the quality and quantity of information contained. Regardless of your opinions in this case, you have to give TBV credit in the formation of that opinion. Thank you, we can never repay the favor.

Secondly, I have to thank another blog, Rant Your Head Off. Dan (Rant) provided context and commentary to the data presented at TBV. The ultimate irony is that the title of his blog suggests thoughtless ravings dripping with vitriol, it is completely the opposite.

Many sites, including this one, provide opinion and commentary on the days events, RYHO’s posts are on an unparalleled level of thoughtfulness and insight. I never walk away unsatisfied. Generally, I walk away a little smarter than I was before. Think his New York Times to my local shopper.

There have been many other blogs where I wandered in to read and enjoy. They range from as close as Connecticut to as far away as Australia. I will not call those out for fear of forgetting someone. I did feel the need to send a note of thanks to the two mentioned above. The downside of blogging is a minimal return communication from those of us who benefit from your words and insight.

So, back to the traditional snarky commentary.


After further review…

September 21, 2007

I’ve had a little time to reflect. I consulted a very good friend of mine. Her name is Stella. Stella Artois. Being Belgian, she had a lot of great insight.

I am sitting here admist the carnage and find myself in the same place that I have been for almost a year. I was hoping beyond hope that Floyd would either get a fair hearing or a fair ruling. He had neither.

My position has been that I do not know what a man is capable of doing when facing the destruction of a life’s work. After stage 16, Floyd was facing the biggest demon of his life (so far). When confronted with that, would/could Floyd look for an edge? I don’t know.

What I do know is that until I see proof that Floyd succumbed to temptation, I will continue to believe he did not. Looking at his performance on Stage 17, I did not see anything suggesting he was unfairly aided.

So, I waited for the hearing. In the hearing, I did not see anything that I would consider hard proof. In fact, I didn’t see soft proof. I didn’t see anything in the zip code of proof. If you are going to ruin a man’s life, you better have your case locked down. It wasn’t.

Then while waiting or the decision, I hoped and prayed (pun intended) that the decision would be made based on the evidence of doping. Not on political grounds, or personal character, or character of associates.

So a man’s life’s work is in tatters. The cost of the USADA keeping a perfect record, WADA validating a system designed by Torquemada himself, and the UCI just trying to keep its head above water.

Floyd will appeal to the CAS. I believe they will uphold the decision since the “process” was followed correctly. The CAS will most likely move his suspension start back to the end of the 2006 Tour. This will allow him to start riding and supporting his family again next summer. Unfortunately, the Commerce Bank Philadelphia bike race is in June and can’t provide a stage for his return.

The good news is the additional 2 year ProTour ban is meaningless as the ProTour will not survive that long. The bad news is that Floyd will be, of course persona non grata in a European peloton run by the Grand Tours. This, because he had the temerity to protest his innocence.

Until proven otherwise, I will support Floyd.  I will support and attend races where he competes.  We in the US will get the benefit of watching a top tier cyclist compete in our back yard.

In conclusion, for those regular readers of this column, I write this while listening to Mozart: Requiem in D minor.  If you are so inclined, I recommend the Sequentia: Dies Irae  or Sequentia: Rex Tremendae both of which were popularized in the 1984 movie Amadeus.


“Habemus Judicium!”

September 20, 2007

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When the furnace began to bellow, everyone in the square looked up at the chimney with anticipation.  The smoke started pouring out and it became clear, a decision has been reached. When the decision was announced, there was a collective inhalation of breath due to the shock.  It is official, Floyd has been found guilty.

The panel, today voted 2 – 1 in favor of the USADA and against Floyd Landis.  Floyd will most certainly appeal within the month to the CAS.  The USADA is now 35 – 0 in its cases and one wonders if that points to a flawed system.  As ESPN points out;

This was a nasty contest waged on both sides, with USADA attorneys going after Landis’ character and taking liberties in evidence discovery that wouldn’t be permitted in a regular court of law.

I’ll  leave you to find your own peace with the decision. 


Things are beginning to change

September 20, 2007

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This morning’s dawn brings us one day closer to a conclusion of Floyd Landis v. USADA, WADA, UCI, LNDD, RESPECT, (sorry). The atmosphere is continuing to change. Through the evening, we were joined by the paparazzi.

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Like their salt water counterparts, they only come when there is a scent in the water. This brings further confirmation that we are nearing the end of this chapter. Depending on who you ask and when you ask, you get differing opinions on the outcome.

The one thing for sure, the Marshall of the Conclave and the camerlengo have performed their duties well, rendering this conclave leak-proof. I expect rumor and speculation to run through the square as we approach the deadline.


The dawn brings a new day but the same message

September 19, 2007

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Even though the smoke remains black, the is a growing sense of anticipation in the air. Many of us are beginning to realize that this ordeal is moving, albeit slowly, towards a conclusion.

Many people have been holding this vigil for well over a year. Tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of the original Floyd Landis conclave. I’ve met many great people in the square. It will be sad to see them go.

Given that reality, we’ve been relishing these last few days together.  While some will go to Lausanne for the inevitable appeal, some will wait for any civil action, some will go home to see their families.  No matter what, things will not be the same.

As we enjoy each other’s company on day seven, we watch and wait.  By the way, TBV plays a great guitar. Harmony goes to Rant.

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The world watches and waits

September 18, 2007

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In the morning chill of day six, we see the familiar signs of the chimney starting up to give us our morning communication. As expected, the color of smoke is also all to familiar. Black.

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While waiting in this square, we missed George Hincapie take the win at the inaugural Tour of Missouri which also happens to serve as his coda for the Discover Channel team.

We are missing a good Vuelta which always seems to suffer from forgotten-child syndrome and this year is no exception. The “Best race no one sees” has given us some good racing.

The longest running team in the US, the Navigators, has decided to abandon ship (pun intended). This is especially difficult as the Navigators are based here in my back yard. My local bike shop served as their base for the past 14 years. It was not uncommon to see one or more Navigators training while I was out riding. I’ll miss those blue jerseys.

Well, that’s enough time in memory lane, I need to fold up my mat and get back to the vigil, Ciao.