Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Lance Capone?

A friend, historically in the know, said to me this morning, in reference to the Floyd Landis allegations, "icing on the cupcake, that's all this is Ger, just the little sprinkles". More on that later, but for now this little sprinkle appeared in the New Your Times this morning:
"But unlike the other investigations, this one involves federal authorities from the United States. They have become more interested in Armstrong’s alleged ties to doping since Landis accused Armstrong — his teammate on the Postal Service team — and other top cyclists of doping. "

Read more: Cycling Doping Inquiry May Broaden

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

26 Days and counting...

I was watching Stage 3 of the Tour of CA, the peloton tackled the Bonny Doon climb tilting up and away from the Pacific Ocean and summiting just over 2,000 feet above the waves. Its gradient is tough, I've never ridden it, but it has to be. I mean there, spread across the television screen a handful of riders hit the accelerator, none of them slouches mind you - Zabriskie, Leipheimer, Rogers, Horner, Armstrong and Andy Schleck - and then pop, there goes Schleck out the back. This is the same Schleck brother that last year hurt the legs and lungs of every cyclist in the Tour de France except Contador, and here he was getting dropped like a continental wannabe.

Andy has had a tough winter and spring, between crashes and bronchial troubles he has struggled to capture the form with which he destroyed the field at Liege-Bastonne-Liege with last year and carried into July. His form has struggled in 2010 because he hasn't been able to find consistent bike time - wow, can I relate!

Sometimes one of the hardest things to hang onto is perspective, especially when you are in the middle of it -
it - it can be anything. That's where I am now, trying to find perspective, regain focus, make sense of where this past 6 months fits into life going forward. I'm really lucky, I'm not afflicted with MS, or cancer, or battling some other life threatening disease. I just have a chronically messed up lower back and a series of bronchial issues that have made riding the bike - not racing - just riding the bike, a really frustrating challenge. And that's where Andy Schleck and I have crossing Universal paths.

Today was my 26th outing on the bike since the first day of this year - never more than three days consecutively - you don't build form like that, much less race. What you do eventually build is perspective on getting well - long-term perspective.

A couple weeks ago I came back from Paris feeling once again ready to make serious progress - then bang - the back popped and I was out again. For most of last week I rested with my new best friend, Mr. Icepack. This time it's different, the consensus is that I have actually dislodged my sacroiliac joint or SI joint
from the jammed position it has been sitting in, which translates into short-term pain, long-term gain. The muscles and flexibility I have been building in the back are starting to take over and I should be better off - in the long-term. It's hard to have perspective when you are in pain, spending the days hanging out with Mr Icepack and his little friends Ibuprofens. Now a week later and most of the pain has abated - just a bit of morning stiffness in the lower back - I'm back to workouts and feeling mentally and anatomically stronger.

According to Booby Julich (currently the technical director for Team Saxo Bank
), from CycingNews, "he [Andy] wasn't good and Bjarne [Riis] told him to pull the pin on the climb so that was what he did." Andy was frustrated having to pull back from chasing the three - Zabriskie, Leipheimer, Rogers - that eventually would crest Bonny Doon and stay away to the finish in Santa Cruz, but Saxo Bank's goal is July, the Tour de France. Sometimes it takes outsiders to keep perspective, illuminate the long-term goal, and most importantly pull the plug occasionally.

Perspective is sometimes a very hard word to swallow; races missed, rides with friends missed, trips rescheduled, simple activities postponed. I finally got out yesterday, Phil gave me the green light to ride easy, even up hills, I got in 55-60 easy miles and met a new rider, Larry, who may be out there with me from time to time. I rode up Rocky Point and thought of a blog entry I made here last August. I thought about my opening paragraph, "
Sometime hills are the best way, the only way to return to where you began. Throughout history hills have been there, pinnacles from which we see the world more clearly, personally, biblically, politically, metaphorically, they teach us how to humble ourselves and we are once again reminded that climbing always gets us out of the valley we're in." Then like now the climb gave me some perspective - I may rename that climb. It was such a joy to ride yesterday - like being a man release from detention. May be that's part of the re-occuring theme of this year - the joy of riding, regardless the where or the when, the how slow or how fast, personally or in a peloton. This year I cherish and remember exactly every day I have been on the bike - 26 days and counting.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Landis Lands First Punch - But No Longer Dreams

The day after Floyd Landis enters the nasty ring of accusations and denials, it appears clear Lance Armstrong is his sentinel opponent - and he has landed the first punch. Sure there are others, Hincapie, Levi, DavidZ, etc. including UCI head Dick Pound, but Landis came out swinging for the top step of the America podium of cycling icons and there's only one guy standing there - sorry Greg - it's Lance.

This has the makings of a grand soap opera reality movie the likes of which a nation tired of economic bad news, Wall Street stumbles, endless desert war, oil spills and Glenn Beck's Hitler-Obama tirades is dreaming.

But that's it - its and American soap opera. Okay, maybe David Walsh, self-appointed cycling-doping-journalist is taking glee in the pilot episode of what will undoubtedly consume the summer cycling season, but does this really have historical legs to stand on, in the only arena which really counts - The Tour of Cycling History?

I sound a bit like a broken record here, but folks, read your history books. And you know what you will find? History doesn't just repeat itself, it's been riding the same old grand boucle for more than a hundred years. Doping in cycling isn't new news.

Wait. Let me repeat that.

Doping in cycling isn't new news.

That is unless you love old news. News that has been chewed up and spit out a dozen different ways. News that has been printed and recycled so many times that it barely holds the ink. You can tweet and IM it a thousand times, its just old news.

This is not a condemnation or support of Landis, Armstrong or any other cyclist or person that has used some performance enhancer. Personally I think drugs are wrong. But this is about history. A history of a sport born out of marketing, media, and men who make money. Drugs have always been the lubrication of the 3Ms. They made this machine run throughout history.

The sport we love so dearly, cherish so passionately, are willing to put our lives on hold for 23 days each July for, is just that, a sport. SPORT - period. What we do on the weekends and a few other days a year is ride our bikes - we are not pro athletes - we are not paid to do this - and we are not paid to take certain risks to do this. Pro athlete are.

Landis landed the first punch while swinging at Lance Armstrong, and maybe a few others he feels wronged by, but what he is clueless about, and so too a litany of non-cycling-journalists at The Wall Street Journal, ESPN, NY Times, and others, and armchair cycling critics everywhere, is History (yes, with a capitol H) doesn't give a damn. It didn't give a damn in 1892 when they pedaled the first Paris-Brest-Paris, it didn't give a damn in 1896 when they pedaled the first Paris-Roubaix, it didn't give a damn in 1903 when they pedaled the first Tour de France, it didn't give a damn in 1924 when Henri Pelissier and his brother Francis spilled their guts and little boxes of pills to journalist Albert Londres for his Forcat de la Route, and it didn't give a damn in 1967 when Tom Simpson O.D.d on amphetamines and alcohol climbing the slopes of Mont Ventoux, and it didn't give a damn at king Eddy's tearful exit from the '69 Giro, and it didn't give a damn in 1998 at the Festina Affair, and it didn't give a damn at Il'Pirata's overdoes failed blood test in the '99 Giro d'Italia or after he died of a cocaine overdose in 2004, and it hasn't given a damn in past 107 years of drugged racing in Italy, Spain, Belgium, France or any other country.

Yes, I hate doping, I wish they, the pros, wouldn't, but History says it's not about Floyd Landis or any of them, as individuals, but as Le Tour de France Director Christian Prudhomme put it, it's about a dream:

“Cycling has always made me dream,… It is an extraordinary sport, a legend of a sport, a sport of legends. It's almost as hard as boxing and combat sports. It takes place in exceptional conditions, obviously the mountains, the cobbles. It's a sport where anything can happen. The weather plays a significant part and the riders have to confront it. It has always made me dream.”

We all dream of riding our bikes fast, faster than the next guy, fast enough to win. We all take risks when we try to go to fast. No one ever said chasing dreams was safe.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

LANDIS DOPED!.... and in other news...

If it isn't location, location, location, it's gotta be "timing, timing, timing", and Mr. Landis, you seem to have a history of neither.

You might have heard it, a far off poof? It was that small noise that might have registered on your audio Richter scale somewhere between the toaster popping up and the toilet flushing. Today Landis, via an ESPN interview, and The Wall Street Journal released a bombshell on the world - sit down for this - He doped!!! Unfortunately that small poof (the doping part) is growing into an atomic blast with an ugly mushroom cloud.

He also accused American riders Levi Leipheimer, George Hincapie, Dave Zabriskie and Armstrong's longtime coach, Johan Bruyneel, and half the current peloton of involvement in doping. Well, Mr Landis, let me help you out, here is a link to every rider who has ever ridden the Tour de France - most of them have used dope as well - and much of it well documented - - go ahead, release all their names.

But Mr. Landis, this sucks, you lied, lied, lied, and now you want us to believe this? You asked for our money in support of your defense and you asked for our money to buy your book. Do we really think we don't think cyclists - yes, Lance Armstrong included - use(d) drugs? The truth is LA probably ingested (intravenously) more EPO than most - he had cancer! But he also came to the pros during the most elusive drug period, the early 1990's; EPO use before anyone knew how to test for it. And who is his longtime DS? Who also was a top pro during that period? Yes, Johan Bruyneel was a top pro, 4th in the Tour de France counts. But confessing now and saying your going to help others, you are going to help clean up the sport? By being a snitch? No, helping the sport of cycling is what David Millar and Jonathan Walters are trying to do. Did they dope? Hmmmm? They were cycling products of the '90s weren't they? (see
Garmin’s Jonathan Vaughters on Floyd Landis allegations: We will win the Tour of California and win it clean)

Guilt isn't any longer an issue - we have (or should have) all pulled our collective heads out of the sand - it's about timing and actions. Landis' timing is perfect - if you want to screw the world that I think screwed me so under the deadline, in the middle of two big Tours, send this test balloon aloft and see how many other people's lives you can screw up when it bursts.

So is he a whistle blower or snitch - neither, he's a desperately sad person. One who need some anger management therapy. Hurting people isn't redemption. There is an old saying, "Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past". Mr Landis, your past is what it is, time to move into a better future. Unfortunately you may have just screwed that up as well.

My favorite quote of the day (so far), "He lied to his Menonite mother. I think he even swore to her on the Bible. These guys are definitely wired different."

Yes, some people are "wired different". I was hoping Landis was, but not like this. In a recent conversation with cycling journalist Samuel Abt, he said, he lost all respect for Floyd Landis when Floyd made public the very private conversation Greg LeMond had on the eve of Landis doping trial. Respect, ultimately we really don't care about your record or your doping, but we do want to have respect in those we admire.

According to the article Landis says he is speaking out now partly because World Anti-Doping Agency's statute of limitations for doping offenses of eight years meant his evidence would shortly become unusable. Sorry Landis, but YOUR lack of honesty and credibility have made your evidence unusable.

That show of defiance and will on Stage 17 in 2006 was awesome - and no amount of lying, doping, or stupidity will erase that. That is why a photo of you breaking away on that stage hangs on the wall next to my trainer for inspiration. It will forever be one of the greatest single stages of Le Tour de France. Sadly, it has had a giant storm cloud gathering over it. It won't rest in our memories of great racing, because you would not let it rest. For you I am so terribly sad. You have lost all credibility. For you, as a human being, I have lost all respect.

And if you just can't get enough of this soap opera check out VeloNews' laundry list of Landis related postings - including:

Explainer: Could someone sue Floyd Landis for defamation? by Charles Pelkey

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mt Hood Cycling Classic - NOW or never!

Quick note for the folks who are interested in doing the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic. Sign up today! If there are not at least 30 ladies signed up by Wednesday, May 19th, the women's field will be canceled. The Cat 3 Men and Cat 4 Men should also sign up ASAP. Sportsbase will ask for a USAC license number- don't worry about it if you do not have one (these are OBRA fields). Type in XXXXX.

People also need to sign up for the TTT as soon as possible if you plan on racing it. There needs to be at least 150 racers committed by Thursday or the event will be canceled too.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ride of Silence

Posting this as a favor to Brian Echerer:


I am helping organize the 2010 Portland Ride of Silence. I would guess most
of you know
what this ride is about, if not here is the link:
In my opinion it is becoming the best way we can bring the awareness needed to the
issues at hand. The ride takes place Wed May 19th and tires roll at 7:00 PM starting
at Holladay Park, NE 11th & Holladay. There will also be a Beaverton ride at the same
time. Come early to hear the speakers that we are beginning to line up.
You can also look it up on Facebook and join the cause there:

Please help spread the word on this and come support your local ROS.

The ride began as a memorial for one cyclist in 2003, and has quickly grown to a
worldwide event in over three hundred towns and cities. Chris Phelan of Dallas,
Texas organized the first ride when his friend, endurance cyclist Larry Schwartz,
was struck and killed by the mirror on an overtaking bus. That first ride drew more
than a thousand cyclists through word of mouth and email communication over
a period of only ten days. There was no registration and no fees. Local media
reported the ride to be incredibly moving as these cyclists rode in silence,
occasionally wiping away a tear or patting a friend on the back.

It is important to note that the Ride of Silence is not a "Critical Mass"-style
ride. It is not a protest, but more in the nature of a memorial procession to
remember cyclists who have been killed or injured on the roads. The
primary purpose of the Ride is to create awareness among the public
that cyclists have a rightful place on the roads, and that motorists need
to be attentive to the risks they pose to more vulnerable road users.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

La Doyenne - you'll forever be my first

Liège-Bastogne-Liège is over. The last race of the Ardennes classic season is a week old, winner Vinokourov has moved on to training for Dauphine or Tour de Suisse, the street sweepers and the Ardennes wind has swept the confetti of useless riches spewed about by the marketing caravan from the gutters and sidewalks on the finishing hill in Ans, I have traveled on to Paris and started further research on the Lanterne Rouge book, and of the gritty little blue collar Liege? part of me wonders if the people of Liege ever knew La Doyenne raced through their city.

Granted this was my first - Pro race on the Continent - and you always have high expectations for your first. You want it to be special, you need it to be special, damn it,
it should be special. The first smells different, the first looks different, the first has a nervousness and uncertainty of outcome, and, regardless of how many or how few will weave together your future, this one will always be your first.

Liège-Bastogne-Liège, is affectionately called La Doyenne ("the oldest"). It is one of the five 'Monuments' of the European professional road cycling calendar. Cyclist's started pedaling out of Liege southeast through the countryside to Bastonne and back through the Ardennes hills for a decade before Henri Desgrange cooked up the Grand Boucle, and over half a century before bullets blasted and tanks violently shattered the tranquility of these country hills and villes. I was hoping to find some highlights of those earlier races, some glimmer of the glory claimed here by such icons as Merckx, De Vlaeminck, Van Looy, Hinault, but not even
petite peu, nothing!

Despite La Doyenne being the grand old race something is missing. In Liege and the finishing suburb of Ans there was less a feeling of
"wow, look what we have, let's celebrate!" and more a feeling, a very tired feeling, of... yawn... "oh, this again, wake me when it's over." On top of that it was doping disgraced, ex-retired, look-who-is-back-again, Alexander Vinokourov taking it with a perfectly timed attack on the steepest pitch 500 meters from the finish.

As beautiful a piece of strategic cycling as it was, it was not how I wanted
My La Doyenne to finish. I wanted a Schleck or Gilbert (like everyone in the crowd based on the chanting over the couple hours prior to seeing Vini grinding up the final hill) - or my personal good guy Jens Voigt, heck, the rainbow jersey was right there, since Cadel Evans has learned to smile I was fine with him celebrating My La Doyenne - but not Vini, anybody else, please, I beg the cycling gods.

My first did have a few wonderful characters - would it have been a Euro Pro event without a crazy Belgian wrapped in a flag emblazoned with a golden lion singing "allez allez" at the top of his lungs? (This one even employed a mini-megaphone blaring a recorded "allez, allez, allez ahhhhhhllez") Or the peleton of 60 plussers, in matching club kits, grinding up the two kilometer
Rue Walthere Jamar in their triples, then re-hydrating on pints of Leffe for the next two hours. And there were the Skoda girls passing out hats, and more hats, hats to babies, hats to old men, hats to young women, hats for each hand. And then come the 'clappers', those phallus-looking inflatable tubes that enjoy a half-life of about ten minutes off non-stop clapping, only to be jettisoned to join the rest of the curbside rubbish. Above it all loomed the jumbotron screen. Strategically positioned over the final corner 200 meters to the finish; we could see it all while immersed in the experience.

With four hours to go the race suddenly appeared on the screen. There was a break. Out on the road the Motocam cut to tight shots of Andy and brother Frank (Schleck), Gilbert was there too, a roar came up from the gathering crowd, Mr Allez Allez unleashed his mini-megaphone, things were looking good. This was awesome - sitting in the sun in Ans, basking in the color and excitement of my first Pro race, washing down a
baguette au fromage with a pint of CTS - what a great replacement for the 5AM wake up to watch online back in Portland.

As we drank and ate something was off, not with the food, with the jumbotron, it was reporting 59km to the finish - about two hours... but wait... it should still be.... I looked at Todd (the numbers guy) and he said, "that can't be". Exactly I thought. But there it was,
the race. Back to the beer and the break-away. Still it nagged at me, something felt wrong.

Out in the street things were moving a little to pedestrian to be only two hours away - police just milling about, barrier builders struggling with corporate logo banners, Skoda girls still unloading dozens of silly Gilligan looking hats, and the crowd was still, well pretty small.

WAIT A SECOND! Schleck's got the wrong jersey on! About that time Todd was getting the lowdown from the 60 plus guys drinking themselves into race shape. Errrrgh! What idiots! We're watch last years race!!! Come to find out that too is a tradition in these ASO events, you entertain the finish line crowds with last year's race until this years edition comes on live. What idiots! Blame it on the Leffe and the incessant "allez allez allez" blaring in our ears.

Finally our race was on, live, and again the Motocam focused on Schlecks and Gilbert much to the crowd of 'homers' and Mr Allez. They were and hour and a half out and by now the local crowd was swelling, barrier spots were filling up and the police had shut down traffic from the
Rue Walthere Jamar. You could feel it, at last the race was palpable. My first was finally real.

The Andy and Frank Schleck fan club squished themselves against the barriers to insure no one crowded them out. They had down enough pints and smelly sausages to earn their place. The club was completely comprised of cute young girls clad in T-shirts with the brothers Schleck boldly staring from the backs like mug shots at a local police line up.

At last the race arrived, the initial wave anyway. The first of the team vehicles tore up the
Rue Walthere Jamar like they were the ones competing for the 2010 La Doyenne. (Considering most are driven by ex-pro-cyclists perhaps there is some secret competition the rest of us aren't privy to?) I had never seen little cars scurry in such frantic fashion. Then came police motorcycles, blue lights flashing, followed by a caravan of ASO officials and then just below the 1K flamme rouge the headlights of the red lead car, a glance at the jumbotron confirmed it, the race was here.

What the jumbotron also confirmed was the Schlecks and Gilbert were not here, yet, and you could feel the crowd collectively deflate like one of those clappers that had clapped once too many. The
Rue Walthere Jamar is a long exagerated straight drag, mostly at 6ish%, with a pitch around 500 meters to go at maybe 8-9%, that's where Vini attacked, and so did the crowd - "dopage, dopage, dopage" you could hear rising disgustedly from behind the barriers - this was not who they wanted to see first up the hill.

The next two waves were real battles as riders like Cadel Evans, Gilbert, Chris Horner, the Schlecks, Voeckler and Contador vied for placings in the top ten - the gritted teeth, pained faces, hunched backs and laboring breaths told the story - these guys were killing themselves after 260 kms.

It was the next half hour that made my first La Doyenne real - riders straggled in to the finish, many in tattered groups, some chatting, a few smiling, domestiques that had done there work, others just getting to the finish line, off their rides and collapsing into the team buses. These last few were candidates, potential heroes, the focus of my Lanterne Rouge story come July. None of these faces I really recognized - in these final few meters they all had a similar sameness about them, a mask of exhaustion.

Finally the voiture balai, the broomwagon, crept slowly up the hill - La Doyenne was over.

After wards a Flemish fan told me this was his third La Doyenne and, "they [Liegers] are all like sleeping", he said with a mock yawn, "up in the north it's a party, you must come, everybody comes", he was referring to the cobbled classics of Paris-Roubaix and Flanders. La Doyenne will forever be my first, but never my last - I'm looking for the party.