Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Death by Tourmalet - a play in two acts

Meeting your maker is generally something all of us set out to postpone as long as possible. Accidents and old age are going to take their toll, but to go seek it? The 2010 version of the hardest sporting event on earth has decided to turn the clock back, a hundred years to be exact, and reenact Henri Degrange's passion play "Death by Tourmalet", or as the lead actor Octave Lapize in the 1910 version of La Grande Boucle remarked, "You are murders, yes, murders."

The Tourmalet is a monster. It's one of the few Pyrenean climbs I remember with great detail from our two weeks crossing the mountains from Perpignon to St Jean de Luz in 2007. The western side, from Luz-Saint-Sauveur, is 19km long, climbing 1,404m at an average of 7.4 percent with a maximum of 10.2% near the summit. Starting from Sainte-Marie-de-Campan, the climb is 17.2km, gaining 1,268m, an average 7.4% with a maximum of 11%. And as if the climb was not hard enough, the road department has been kind enough to mark your journey skyward, with little tombstone looking markers (I'm certain there was nothing
"murderous" in that choice) - each kilometer is inscribed by the distance to the summit and the average gradient of the next kilometer - in case your burning legs needed any additional reminder.

We, three of us, Todd, John and me, approached from the east through the now famous (thank you Phil & Paul) village of Ste Marie-de-Campan where the forge used by Eugène Christophe (more below) is now an official monument; it's on the left of the road, as you start through the village. From this side the granite monster is unseen for most of the climb; in fact, since the chopper views each July spare us most of the run up, I was actually a bit caught off guard. After Ste Marie-de-Campan the road flattens and dips a slight bit through a small valley. I'm racing along thinking -
"what's this about?" Then I began really getting concerned, less road and still all that climbing means the gradient is definitely going to bite and bite hard. It does, it did!

From the east it's a wonderfully long strange climb, that's why I loved it. It gets steep, 9%, 10%, 11%, and opens to the world. A couple kms from La Mongie you disappear into a couple of snow tunnels - that only look out to the north - kind of an erie feeling that something above you is happening that you are privy to, but who cares, your in your own little personal pain chamber. It's in these tunnels, at 11%, where Armstrong attacked on Stage 11 in 2002. That year the Tourmalet just watched it all from 4 km further above, they finished in La Mongie.

As I struggled through the ski town of La Mongie I remember shaking my head at how insane this was - the gradient - it was just plain stupid! To be riding through the center of any town, even a ski town, at 10-12% was crazy; I had to pedal or roll backwards! I kept thinking about all those orange shirted Basques that line the road here, mouths agape and flailing about like fish on a beach. If one of them trips they'll start rolling down through town, launching an avalanche of orange, it'll look like a giant pumpkin smashing contest. The image distracted me from the pain - just kept trying to turn the pedals over at a respectable rate. Above the town there is a since of relief, the road begins to switchback, and you have the illusion you are going faster, making real progress, the top, the Tourmalet, is somewhere close, you hope.

The Tourmalet is at the very heart of the Pyrenees - and it will be there for many many Tours to come. Like a giant splinter of granite thrust skyward through a limestone crust it is 100-150 million years and youthfully rugged - not a good glacier or rounded erosion to mar its flanks. It's the Andy Schleck of the Pyrenees peloton, young, raw, angular and enormous potential. So PS - Lance, you have years of comebacks ahead of you and the Big T will still be there.

The summit has a historic café filled with old Tour
velos, mementos and pictures - and on a cold rainy day, hot tea, fresh crepes du chocolat as well as other foods. We were glad to see it and Jenn with the van and took refuge there. What it doesn't have is a couple of decent cycling jerseys. Why not? They could make a killing. This coming year alone the etape du Tour rolls through the summit with thousands of cyclomaniacs clamoring for their piece of history - seriously, is there not one enterprising Frenchman (or woman) open to the idea of selling a few hundred or more jerseys????? And then there are all the folks - mostly drunk and clad in day-glow orange of the Basque country - who will camp out for there for days and the ultimate prize - seeing their heroes suffer over the geant twice:

Stage 16: Bagnères-de-Luchon - Pau - 196 km

Km 11 - Col de Peyresourde - 11 km climb to 7,4 %
Km 42,5 - Col d’Aspin - 12,3 km climb to 6,3 %
Km 72 - Col du Tourmalet par La Mongie - 17,1 km climb to 7,4 %
Km 128,5 - Col du Soulor - 19 km climb to 5,3 %
Km 138 - Col d’Aubisque par le col du Soulor - 5,4 km climb to 6 %

Stage 17: Pau - Col du Tourmalet - 174 km (pictured above)

Km 57,5 - Col de Maris-Blanque - 9,5 km climb to 7,5 %
Km 118,5 - Col du Soulor par Ferrières - 22 km climb to 4,9 %
Km 174 - Col du Tourmalet par Barèges - 19 km climb to 7,4 %

Some History

I love cycling history, and few races have more drama filled days than the Tour. So it was in 1909 when first Director Henri Degrange was looking for the same thing every director since has sought - a way to just spice things up a bit. Tricky bit for the riders of the coming 1910 edition of La Grande Boucle was that Degrange had every Col and goat track in the land to choose from - nothing had really been climbed yet, his palet of pain was wide open, so why not choose the most painful? The Tours to that point were largely left to the rouleurs (those tireless fellows of the rolling lowlands) - the 2010 Tour will give then their due: the roly-poly hills of Medoc, Bordeaux, the infamous cobbley
“trouée” (the trench), in the northeast near Arenberg (where stage 3, Wanze-Arenberg Porte du Hainaut, will include 7 cobbled Paris-Roubaix sectors over a total distance of 13.2 km). But a century ago this coming year life in the young peloton was about to change - and it has since.

In the summer of 1910 riders must have approached the much anticipated
geant Tourmalet with some trepidation. Octave Lapize (the eventual winner of the Tour) reached the top of the Tourmalet first, followed by Gustave Garrigou. Garrigou was the only cyclist to reach the top without dismounting and received an extra 100 francs.

This next July as the boys cross over the summit (2,115 m / 6,939 ft, it is the highest road in the central Pyrenees) climaxing the initial fun ride up the east side on stage 16 (the easy side) they will be greeted by the large statue of Octave Lapize gasping for air as he struggles to make the climb - oddly it's a memorial to Jacques Goddet, director of the Tour de France from 1936 to 1987; why not poor Lapize? He's the poor schmuck who did all the work. The best part of stage 16 is whizzing down off the Tourmalet, with every rotation of the wheels, is a reminder - "Crap, we have to come back up this side!"

I've only seen the west side in a cold rain; a cold rain from behind the windscreen, following my stubborn friend Todd as he descended as cautiously as I have seen him come off any summit. If July 20th is anything like "our" Tourmalet, I can't fathom racing off that monster - yet the
maillot jaune will likely hang in the balance and it will be full on, like wheeled falcons stooping for golden glory.

geant Tourmalet has been crossed 73 times since Degrange tossed it in there in 1910 based on a trusted collegue's appraisal - After reaching Barèges (with the help of rescuers), Steines sent a telegram to Degrange: "Crossed Tourmalet stop. Very good road stop. Perfectly practicable." , after mushing to the summit in the snow. (Even the Vuelta a España has crossed the pass several times.) In first year the poor peloton, all 110 of them that started dwindled quickly, but the monster was the main culprit - only 44 near dead riders finished Degrange's little experiment. The Tour now had Grimpeurs!

Three years later, 1913, comes one of the most painful and retold acts of this play. The famous cyclist, Eugène Christophe, known as 'le Vieux Gaulois' (the Old Gaul), worked feverishly in village of Ste Marie-de-Campan to repair the front-wheel fork of his bicycle there after being struck by a car during the descent of the Tourmalet. Director Degrange's rules were strictly enforced and prevented him from obtaining assistance and he had to walk 15 km to do the repairs himself. While in the forge he solicited the "assistance" of a young boy to work the bellows - on top of the four hours he lost in repair the unsympathetic King of the "murders" tagged him with a 10 minute penalty. This gave the leading pack an advance of four hours and Christophe's dreams of securing the
maillot jaune went up in the forge's fires.

When the lads-n-lycra ascend the west wall it will only be the second time since 1974 that a stage finishes on the Tourmalet - and it may yet be the most dramatic final act in "Death by Tourmalet" since it was first crossed a century ago.

In the 'modern era' have there been tougher Tours than 2010? One thins is for certain - "Death by Tourmalet" should separate the men from boys, and the rest from the will to go on.

Inside Cycling - Perspective on the 2010 Tour route

By VeloNews' John Wilcockson

Slide show of the Tourmalet

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Joe's Grand Day Out

Ya know, some days are just meant for being on your bike - period. You can come up with a bazillion reasons why you should be doing a mess of other things - cleaning the garage, yard work, sitting on your arse watching football, painting something, etc - but bottom line is, you ain't gunna get many days like this in late October. So despite a sore back and only three days on the bike in the past several weeks, Alex, Chris and I piled the trusty rides into the Sube, made a swing by "Barnyard's" (Helen Berhard's Bakery) so Chris could get the proper morning kick start of fried dough and sugar to help soak up his diet coke, and then we were off, headed east on I-84 for Hood River and Joe... and who ever else he could cajole into a Saturday on the roads.

Turns out his cajoling technique is par excellence est sans égale
. No sooner had we shivered our way into a well discussed few layers of lyrca than Joe and a contrail of 30 plus arm-warmer clad folks came spinning up out of town. A cloudless deep blue sky over head, a fresh bite in the morning air and a gorgeous flush of fall color launched a perfect day on the bikes.

Seeing a gaggle of 30 or 40 riders pass by is too much temptation for anyone in a good pair of Sidis to resist. Michael Jones just finished a loop of 7 Mile Rd with the local group out of Hood River when "Joe's Grand Day Out" parade swooped through Mosier -
'Ya know, some days are just meant for being on your bike - period.' So he joined on and we rode along as the front of second group for a bit, chatting, talking local races and sharing like no other sport allows; and that's why the other non-impact sport doesn't work, ever try getting to know someone while doing the backstroke?

Joe had advertised this a "
A bunch of us will probably ride it a notch or two below tempo cuz of fitness level and to enjoy the scenery." Well, while our roll-out along the Gorge was below tempo enough Joe was definitely le grand patron, riding up and down the ranks (Hmmm... can you say double yellow-line violation?)(see lead photo :")(Joe - next time that will cost you a pitcher at Double Mountain!) keeping the rogue-riders inline, offering up encouragement, reminding stragglers of the end and beer.

Slipping up around the back of The Dalles we crossed over hwy 197 and started a gentle pace up Eight Mile Creek Rd. - one of the nicest little lazy stretches of road anywhere in the state (unless you are popping a lung trying to scorch yourself to a win in the Cherry Blossom TT). Along the way our wildlife highlight of the day when Joe's band of turkeys encountered the local fowl - our pelotons were about the same size, but obviously lycra is more intimidating than feathers, and they surrendered to the convicts of the road.

After a regroup (BTW - nice sprint out for the stop-sign warning sign Bill) we headed into the "lumpy stuff" in the orchards behind (south) The Dalles. If you have never ridden there it's worth a day poking around; see the linked MAP - it's the area around Three Mile and Dry Hollow Roads. The route is on very low traffic roads through oak tree forests, cherry orchards, vineyards, and wheat fields - with some sweet views of Mt Hood.

After the regroup - and loss of Chris who decided to ride the road less traveled (can you say G R A V E L) and disappeared somewhere up Five Mile Rd. - Alex and I decided to give Seven Mile Rd climb a shot - no one else took the bait - so we said goodbyes until beers back in Hood River and road out The Dalles like the Lone Ranger and Tonto, two guys who knew something the rest of Joe's Peloton was oblivious to. What this pair was headed for was not a lovely climb above the Gorge (see "the best day ever" she burst!
), sweeping vistas of late October autumnal hues, but a survival ordeal of gusts and ripping winds to surpass anything Fabian Cancellara attempts at the San Diego Air & Space Technology Center Low Speed Wind tunnel; there was no position, TT or otherwise that was going to make this fun. So with bad back seconding the motion we turned, with wind at out saddlebags and flew back over to the Gorge Scenic Hwy and headed west. The wind was still blowing but at least twists and turns of the road offered occasional reprieves.

Into Mosier we crossed Chris - he didn't get our message and slugged it out over Seven Mile, encountered a baby rattlesnake, and survived the gusting sidewinds downhill. Thinking for certain we were trailing Joe & Co. we "notched" it down even further and pedal west to finish off 80 odd miles and six or so thousand feet of vertical - all the while wishing the Double Mountain folks would send a pizza out to meet us.

Thanks Joe for truly Gorge-ous Grand Day Out!

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Bike - a democratic tool that has liberated the people

Yes, that's right, bikes aren't just for racing, rondonneuring, slopping about in the mud, and tearing through the forest. In fact, their original purpose was to democratize society, level the playing field of transportation between the rich and poor (remember in the 1800's horses cost heaps to own and maintain, plus there was all the poop on the streets to clean up) and to be the ultimate modern tool: one that would liberated women (and their dress), erode racial barriers (thank you Major Taylor) and offer everyday kids and adults freedom and healthy exercise.

Oregon (Bike) Manifest Reception and Discussion:
October 29th, Thursday @6:30PM

Join Danish photographer of the “Dreams on Wheels” exhibit and film maker, Mikael Colville-Andersen, will be joined by Portland City Mayor Sam Adams and Jeff Mapes (author of Pedaling Revolution and Senior political reporter for the Oregonian) for a panel discussion on progressing the bicycle movement.

From the website:

"Colville-Andersen’s talk will explore Copenhagen’s journey toward establishing the bicycle as a feasible, acceptable form of transport, as well as touch on the importance of marketing bicycle culture to the average citizen.

He explains how the 500,000 people on bicycles each day in Copenhagen are not “cyclists,” nor are they “environmentalists;” they merely choose to ride because of an existing safe, quick infrastructure. 30 years of traffic and urban planning have transitioned the bicycle from an instrument of sporting equipment to a democratic tool that has liberated the people of Copenhagen from cars, and created the foundation for one of the world’s most liveable cities."

Thursday, October 22, 2009

"Above all, be safe out there."

Those were the final words by Charles Pelkey on VeloNews in The Explainer - We just wanna ride: in his October 21st entry. From where ever our departure point is at the end of a ride I generally say to the guys I ride with, "Be safe." I truly mean it. There is nothing casual or habitual about that pair of words. I mean it each ride more than the previous. Despite more of us out there, or because of it, the conflicts are increasing.

Over the past weekend I was finishing up a ride with Alex and we were only blocks from my house when the road offers a right turn to bikes and pedestrians only - a large right arrow with red circle and slash through it as well as verbiage saying no right turn emphasize the point. In the past year the entire road crossing has been redesigned to include a concrete road island, flashing lights, a speed register unit advising to slow to 15 mph. The effort has worked, most of the time. The biggest problem is a few drivers want the right turn, they just can't give it up. The issue is vehicle rights (as in turns) threaten cyclists and pedestrians.

Each of the past two weekends as we finished a ride a vehicle in front of us has turned right where it clearly says, in sign language, "no right turn - Except Bicycles". Dropping Alex for the moment I sprinted ahead to catch the vehicle and let the driver know the error. I think each time my demeanor has been informative and purposefully not accusatory and not angry. The result - two VERY different responses. The first, a woman, apologetic, the second, a 30-something man, belligerent, denial, finally caustic, profane, and it nearly erupted in him getting out of the car (I think he realized there were two of us [thanks Alex], much fitter, and that it was stupid, or else his wife tapped him on the leg as if saying - don't been more stupid than you have been.)

My solution if he had stepped from the car was going to be simple - my cell phone, a call to the police, a picture of him out of his car and one of his license plate/with car - and if required ride away from his rage. I'm not fighting anyone - period. But the real question is HOW do we move forward on the issue of sharing the roads in a culture that is so car dominant with an attitude of car/driver-entitlement? How do we have encounters that don't end in road rage? I know I have had more than one middle-finger pointed at me in anger
, usually accompanied by a couple of F-bombs, for something another person on a bike (not always a cyclist) did. That residual anger get's people - cyclists - hurt. So how? How do we start to turn things around? I think the only solution is we ALL get involved.

In a Charles Pelkey article “Whose bike path is it anyway?” two weeks ago the discussion has often turned to how to deal with problems. That's what we need to figure out, before more people get killed and badly injured ("at a time when a doctor (of all people) is on trial, facing charges of trying to assault – some might argue that he was trying to kill – two cyclists on a narrow canyon road near Los Angeles.")
The long-term solution of course is changing the car/driver-entitlement mentality, but that will start with early eductation in elementary schools and take a couple decades minumum, but a great place for all of us to get involved. In the interim what? Timely question here in Portland as the city is in the process of evaluating its 20-year draft Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030 (see Portland Cyclists - share your voice - please!).

With that in mind Pelkey's final comments in the Oct. 21st Explainer are even more purposeful:

"I’ve mentioned before and I insist on mentioning again, that cyclists and other non-motorized travelers need to make sure their voices are heard. We ride and we vote. Whether it’s a question of access or holding public officials accountable and supporting those who pursue cases.

Perhaps the first step is to work with advocacy groups either locally or those, like Bikes Belong, [in Portland we have BTA and reporting tools like B-SMaRT on BikePortland.org] which operate on a national level and lobby Congress on critical access and funding issues.

It's important to get involved and stay involved. I realize that activism related to the one thing that brings you a bit of peace, some relaxation and a whole lot of contentment can be a real pain in the ass at times. Riding should be fun. It shouldn't require going to meetings, writing letters and dishing out dough to organizations. Unfortunately, it does."

(Portland is definitely trying and my kudos to everyone working so hard from the Mayor's office to PBOT: The City of Portland Bureau of Transportation is moving full steam ahead on their first 15 miles of new bicycle boulevards that were promised by Mayor Sam Adams when he took office in January. See all the details on BikePortland.org)

Last Sunday's driver encounter was a shitty way to end a lovely fall ride, and while the driver probably will be aware of that corner in the future, he likely hates cyclists (all of us - because after all, we are like eggs and all look alike) even that little bit more now. But I think of the morning when I approached that corner and three little kids were on their bikes, crossed what they thought would be a safe section of road, to reach the crosswalk for an even safer crossing of the street - had either of those two vehicles rounded the No Turn Right - Except Bicycles at that moment little bodies would have scattered like bowling pins, certainly injured probably worse - so if it takes occasionally ending a lovely fall ride with an encounter so be it. I would rather my voice be heard than the screams of an injured cyclist or child.

Locally how you can get involved resource links:
Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA)
Bike Safety Monitoring and Reporting Tool (B-SMaRT)
BTA Bike Safety and Education Programs
RideSmart Program (Cascade Bicycle Club)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Oregon Handmade Bike Show

Mark your calendars - and checkout some very cool rides and great craftsmanship.

The Oregon Bicycle Constructors Association (OBCA) is pleased to announce the 2009 Oregon Handmade Bicycle Show (OHBS), to be held over Halloween weekend, Saturday October 31st and November 1st, 2009, in the
Staver Locomotive Building. Bicycle parking is available at the location. Please enter from 30th for bicycle parking. Plan your trip using bycycle.org (http://www.bycycle.org/). Take Tri-met, the #77 line drops off within two blocks of the Staver Locomotive. And yes, on street parking is available.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

F R A N C E.... the final frontier

These are the voyages of Capt. Prudhomme and the starship ASO, boldly going where no media hyped cycling event has ever gone before...

Just hours ago they unveiled the 2010 TdF route, including the much anticipated hundredth anniversary of then director Henri Degrange's near death march up the muddy goat track climb of Col du Tourmalet. In 2010 they lads in lycra will get tortured by Tourmalet twice - stock up on your high altitude blood supplies boys.

One day, I'm going to go to the Tour de France route unveiling ceremony for myself - just to see in person how ridiculously overhyped this event can be. Until then check out this bit of video-whizbangery...

And for a more practical look - these from VeloNews and Cyclingnews:
2010 Tour route unveiled
2010 Tour de France: a taste of the classics
Rider's reactions to 2010 route

Friday, October 9, 2009

Is the Magical Rainbow working?

Pilippe Gilbert won the Coppa Sabatini in Italy Thursday, Gilbert was quick to credit Cadel Evans, who made his debut in world champion's stripes, for the win. He told VeloNews:

"He did a lot of work on that final climb," he said. "He showed what kind of champion he will be. He put a lot of effort into making the break stay away and then worked selflessly to ensure that our team won the day."

It was not reported whether or not Cadel was seen to smile, but somewhere under the rainbow the magic just might be working???

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dope, Dopes & Dopers

Sometimes you start a blog - oh, say in the shower, or on the bike, or while having a pint with your girlfriend (her's is usually anything other than a pint), or when the new issue of CycleSport magazine arrives and Lance isn't anywhere on the cover in name or likeness (gotta be a mistake at the printer's). Then sometimes you have this blogopiphany just before you open another's blog and see it's a viral blogopiphany, they too are going down the same circuitous route of "WFT? - I can't believe what I just read?"

Well thank you Joe Lindsey (Boulder Report) for your befuddled-bewilderment at the most recent round of anti-doping WTF. From Joe's blog (but do go read it all), "First, they only re-tested 17 samples. Second, they didn’t find anything. Third and most interestingly, they didn’t expect to. “It was not our goal to find anything,” said AFLD head Jean-Pierre Bordry, to German press agency DPA (via CyclingNews), adding (via AFP/VeloNews) that they just wanted the “security of the truth” in knowing they’d not missed any positives. But they didn’t expect to find any. But ran the tests anyway. Gotcha."

Then said Bordry. "I am astonished that there were no positive doping tests at this year's race."

Okay, stop! I don't have a Phd in anything grammatical or pharmaceutical. But WTF? Bordry, where are you going with this?

For a moment let's skip all the alphabet soup labeling - CERA, AFLD, EPO, UCI, WADA, LA, WTF, eLaMiNOP, or whatever. Something that needs a little light shown on it is, if the cops quit catching robbers because robbers quit robbing (ya, right, I know) do we no longer need cops and therefore without cops we will get robbers robbing again which means we need cops to... well, get my point, sorta? It's about catching dopers, you dopes.

What is Bordry babbling on about? So, “It was not our goal to find anything,” HELLO? If you don't, you don't have a job! And neither do the dozens of other members of the labcoated beaker-brotherhood. As my friend from India would say, "Give me a break mon."

Now in a related (hang in there, I promise it is) Part II:
In all this we also lose track of the fact that this is entertainment... wait, it's Entertainment, with a capital E. Since when do any of these 20/30-something year olds - virtually none with an education beyond the bike - save lives, prevent wars, right social ills, create great art, even teach bike safety to a local grade school? (Ok, one concession: Major Taylor was chipping away at the color barrier when he raced.) They do what they do for themselves and for us as Entertainment. Like NASCAR (sorry, more alphabet soup) we even like the crashes - fess up, we've all seen a few youtube bike disasters.

As Entertainment it is entertaining - let's enjoy it.

C'mon, this years TdF was Entertainment because of the soap-Astana-opera - we enjoyed it - it was real egos crashing into one another, not just bikes - we all can't wait for Prudhomme's route announcement Oct 14th so we can talk about Season 2 of As the Tour Turns.

The thing is it has always been Entertainment - they created races to sell stuff; to sell newspapers, sell beer, sell bicycles, hell, maybe even sell dope.

One of my "favorite" doping stories is from the early 1920's when riders in the Tour de France use to smear cocaine-flake-impregnated cold cream on their legs to ward of the cold and pain while crossing the lofty Cols Director Henri Desgrange had cooked up to make the race 'truly manly'.

From a Wikipedia entry:

In 1924 the journalist Albert Londres followed the Tour de France for the French newspaper, Le Petit Parisien. At Coutances he heard that the previous year's winner, Henri Pélissier, his brother Francis and a third rider, Maurice Ville, had resigned from the competition after an argument with the organiser, Henri Desgrange. Henri explained the problem - whether or not he had the right to take off a jersey - and went on to talk of drugs, reported in Londres' race diary, in which he invented the phrase Les Forçats de la Route (The Convicts of the Road):

"You have no idea what the Tour de France is," Henri said. "It's a Calvary. Worse than that, because the road to the Cross has only 14 stations and ours has 15. We suffer from the start to the end. You want to know how we keep going? Here..." He pulled a phial from his bag. "That's cocaine, for our eyes. This is chloroform, for our gums."
"This," Ville said, emptying his shoulder bag "is liniment to put warmth back into our knees."
"And pills. Do you want to see pills? Have a look, here are the pills." Each pulled out three boxes.
"The truth is," Francis said, "that we keep going on dynamite."

Henri spoke of being as white as shrouds once the dirt of the day had been washed off, then of their bodies being drained by diarrhoea, before continuing:

"At night, in our rooms, we can't sleep. We twitch and dance and jig about as though we were doing St Vitus's Dance..."
"There's less flesh on our bodies than on a skeleton," Francis said.

The acceptance of drug-taking in the Tour de France was so complete by 1930, when the race changed to national teams that were to be paid for by the organizers, that the rule book distributed to riders by the organizer, Henri Desgrange, reminded them that drugs were not among items with which they would be provided.

There are others - from caffeine suppositories to hidden pee bags. Indeed, the history of modern doping virtually launched itself with the cycling craze of the 1890s - that's 1890's, as in over a hundred years ago, 10 years before they dreamed up the Tour - and the six-day races, or Madisons, (yes, they actually raced virtually non-stop for six days! Hell, I'd need drugs too for that) that lasted from Monday morning to Saturday night (no racing on the Sabbath, c'mon, this a dignified sport of Pius gentlemen). Extra caffeine, peppermint, cocaine and strychnine were added to the riders’ black coffee. Liqueurs, like whiskey and brandy, lifted the spirits of the tea drinkers. And one of the best - nitroglycerin - to ease breathing after sprints. This was Entertainment.

Of course there are always those on a crusade - Irish cycling journalist David Walsh, and John Hoberman, professor and chair at the University of Texas at Austin, self-proclaimed doping historian and author - their attacks are relentless against dope, Lance, and all before him. But guys, that's the point, there is an endless line before him.... So? Don't you get it? It's Entertainment!

German journalist and physician Hans Halter once said. "No dope, no hope. The Tour, in fact, is only possible because — not despite the fact — there is doping. For 60 years this was allowed. For the past 30 years it has been officially prohibited." That doesn't ruin it.
As Entertainment it still is entertaining - let's enjoy it.

So everyone in cycling, please spare us the WTF denials, proclamations and moments of shock and pained distress when ever you catch or get caught - you'll never win an Oscar for them. In a world of REAL problems all you are doing is protecting your silly little jobs - period. If for two seconds you think any of your bullshit matters, might I suggest you hop on a plane, fly to Sumatra and tell the woman who just lost her house and two children to a tsunami - then listen to her story, she will show you genuine shock and pain.

Related: Dope - a good read on the subject can be found in the pages of A Dog in a Hat or check out the DVD The Six-Day Bicycle Races.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Portland Cyclists - share your voice - please!

Portland officials want citizens to provide feedback on a new bicycle plan that would shape riding issues for the next 20 years.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation has asked for public input on a draft of the Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030. The bureau will hold an Oct. 27 hearing on the plan. Portland’s City Council will hold another hearing on the plan on Jan. 20, 2010.

Portland adopted its first bicycle master plan in 1996. Since then, the bicycle network has doubled to more than 300 miles.

The Public Comment Draft of the Portland Bicycle Plan for 2030 is available for review at: http://www.portlandonline.com/transportation/BicycleMasterPlan. Comments are due by Nov. 8.

Steve Hoyt-McBeth with the City Office of Transportation: "One of the things that we're looking at with the bike master plan, is trying to not fight over crumbs among the different types of strategies but try to broaden the number of strategies to get more people on bicycling."

Only 1.5 percent of the city transportation budget goes to biking – which might sound low considering the city’s calculation that 18 percent of the Portlanders use bikes as their primary or secondary mode of transportation.

Related: Bicycle Commuting Rising, But Still Pales Compared To Europe and Copenhagen - City of Cyclists

Monday, October 5, 2009

Horner Shacking up with Amrstrong & Leipheimer

Local Bend pro cyclist Chris Horner has penned a contract with Team RadioShack for the next two seasons enabling him to continue riding with former Astana teammates Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer, according to The Oregonian article posted tonight on their website. The O - for which Horner reports regularly in a race diary and feature columns - reports that Horner, in one last show in his Astana colors, will line up for the start of the season's last great classic, the Giro di Lombardia, on October 17th.

Friday, October 2, 2009

abbia un grande giro della bici!

S0me ideas may be long overdue. This weekend Levi Leipheimer hosts the King Ridge Gran Fondo based out of his adopted home town Santa Rosa - the event is sold out, as in SOLD OUT. That happened over a month ago as 3,500 cyclist want to experience a bit of Levi's roads and get a taste of what tens of thousands of Italian cyclists get virtually every weekend of the late spring through early fall. Gran Fondos are a cherished tradition of the cycling passionate Italians.

More on the ride in this VeloNews article:
Sell-out crowd of 3,500 expected at Leipheimer’s Gran Fondo and a nice review, photos and map over on steephill.tv

Levi isn't the first or only Gran Fondo in the US, but its the first to get into the Italian flavor of the thing - several local and domestic pros from teams like Bissel and BMC will be at the start, and everyone doing the Gran Fondo King Ridge (the full version) will have a timing chip.

Gran Fondos are a bit century ride and a bit race - at least the Italian versions. They're a hybrid we don't really have much of in the US, but could badly use. They keep the full scalle of road cycling connected to the community and alive. It's not uncommon to see a handful of local pros and past pros lined up at the start. In some Italian Gran Fondos the biggest names in cycling are fixtures at their local event. Whole towns are taken over for the day or weekend. And like Levi's Gran Fondo the proceeds often support local cycling and another charity. I wish I could be there, abbia un grande giro della bici!

A great way to discover Italy - Gran Fondos

Maybe we need a few more Gran Fondos popping up around the country??