Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Ride vs Write

There's a saying, "Men plan, God laughs." I keep looking over my shoulder this year with certainty that someone or something is chuckling loudly at my expense.

With a healthier back and clarity of purpose I expected to be back on the bike. Racing was optional, although the tandem version was discussed often with my race partner John. Riding, for the pure joy of it wasn't optional. I was really excited about riding the bike, especially up long mountainous roads; Europe even seemed likely. And then those Godly snickers grew to chuckles, now it's full on laughter.

The real joke is one of the reasons I can't find saddle-time is researching and writing about other people riding their bikes. There seems an injustice brewing. I now know more about the history of the bike (especially in the Tour de France) and pro cyclists (especially in the Tour de France) than any sane person except Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen, Sam Abt, Bill Strickland, John Wilkinson, Les Woodland and a few other Tour journalists. I only hope I can write about cycling with the skill and grace of some listed above.

So on this bright and sunny day, one of the first of spring in Portland, am I riding? No, I'm writing. I sit captive of the laptop and research, and soon start packing for the a trip to the Tour of California. No, not to ride as all my non-cycling friends assume, but to interview and write about riders. Then it's back for a couple more chances in the saddle locally here in Portland before taking off for France and more writing about riders as I chase the Tour counter-clockwise around the land of great baguettes and 400 cheeses.

I'm certain next week when I interview Jens Voigt he will explain with some quintessential and classically humorous Jensism that "this is crazy, you should riding not writing." I will have my bike with me, maybe I'll follow his advice.

Note: This is the last posting I will likely do here for some time - my connection to cycling is evolving. My current cycling book projects, Le Domestiques: The Dog Soldiers of July and Chasing the Lanterne Rouge, have shifted the connection I have to the bike and the Tour. I think that connection can best be explored in a other writings, on a different site. Please join me at Le Velo, Le Tour.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Slow Road to the High Road

What ever you think of Jonathan Vaughters one thing you have to give the man credit for is an effort to chart a new path both in the business of pro cycling and in running a healthy team. Sure, like all men, Vaughters plans, gods laugh. But all-in-all the course he has been charting and sailing for Garmin (currently Garmin-Cervélo) has been heartening.

Headlines of doping in cycling are a dime a dozen if that's you schtick. For some "news" organizations like the New York Times cycling is less a sport and more a drug invested European sideshow. For the NYT and similar landing a big fish doping (Lance for example) would be their winning the Grand Boucle. But headline grabbing sells papers, rarely the truth. Headlines are just that - lines - not even paragraphs, much less the whole story.

Cyclingnews today confirmed that Jonathan Vaughters is in the process of testing Thomas Dekker with possibly signing him to Garmin-Cervélo’s development team, but there are some big IFs before the ex-Pro suspended for EPO violations can spin a sprocket for the anti-doping crusader Vaughters.

"It's a slow process," added Vaughters, "but history has shown us that it's a mistake to bring an athlete off suspension back to the top level without a measured rehabilitation period."

"I asked him [Dekker] to contact WADA and offer his total cooperation with any questions they have on that [his EPO use]. That was a condition to even be considered. Not to sign." - read the whole CyclingNews article.

We don't hear enough about the work behind the races people like Jonathan Vaughters are doing to push the sport we all love into a more respectable future. Vaughters was on those early U.S. Postal Cycling teams and road as a pro through much of the dope-invested waters of the 1990's, he was a domestique and knows better than most it's a slow road to the high road, but sometimes you have to simply put it in the granny and grind it out to the top.

For the rest of us it's worth remembering doping headlines are just that - lines - not even paragraphs, much less the whole story.

Photo above - Jonathan Vaughters, CEO and Director Sportif of Garmin-Transitions from ESPN Magazine.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Carnage on the cobbles

"Even those lucky enough to make it to the velodrome in Roubaix, those who hadn't crashed, face days of recovery from muscles battered by jackhammering over the pavé and spent hacking up half the French countryside from their lungs."

Nice little bit and photos in CyclingNews today:

Photo gallery: Carnage on the cobbles

And some lovely Paris-Roubaix slow-mo video from over on - Amazing Slomo Footage

Monday, April 11, 2011

With Panache Second IS Winning

It's been 24 hours now and most of the pave dust has settled back into the Flanderian farmlands for another cycling season. But with a week before we move on to the Wallonne it's worth considering the cobbles one last time - and the superman efforts and "strategerie", as our former President would have called it, of perhaps one of the finest "old school" cyclist of our time - Fabian Cancellara.

I say old school with great affection here. To me old school means 'panache', it means having the cojones to attack and make racing your bike what it is - fun! And when you are done it means knowing you gave everything and being incredibly proud of that.

Ya ya, I know it's professional, and sponsors pay for wins, and contracts are based on doing your job, but for heaven sake it's also about riding your bike. And that's why we love guys like Jens Voigt and Gilbert and Cancellara - they love riding their bike, they have panache. Somewhere along the line they found the old mold and discovered it wasn't broken. Ya know, the one that created Bernard Hinaut and Eddy Merkx, Fausto Coppi and Henri Pélissier.

"Cancellara’s biggest error was undoubtedly his performance in E3. It sounds perverse but did he need to show his hand that early, did he need to demonstrate such dominance in a race of mediocre importance? From that moment on, he moved from being Cancellara the favourite to being Superman, and every team, every rival, based their tactics not perhaps on their strengths but on his weaknesses."

Maybe Cancellara would argue there is no "race of mediocre importance". Cycling may be the one sport in the world where second is a winner: because it's done with panache - exploding out of a group of wheel-suckers (including the rainbow jersey wearer) to bridge a seemingly insurmountable gap to the remainder of the break group, then blow them away to finish second. Panache IS winning.

It would be interesting to the Cannibal's take on "biggest error."

The kids at CyclingNews went on to add -
"Yet it’s still hard to be critical of a rider who was essentially riding as a one-man team. The CN staff joked about letting him ride the TTT at this year’s Tour de France by himself this July. We stopped laughing once we realised he could actually win." -

Yes, I think the boy could knock off several other entire teams. Not because he is fast, which he is, nor because he is insanely strong, which he is, but because he would try it - he has panache!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Cancellara Inspires the Crotchety Old Guys

Ya gotta love the old Pros who pull no punches - the grand beauty of getting old - besides getting to tell everyone how old you are.

Gazzetta dello Sport also asked De Vlaeminck about Filippo Pozzato. He dismisses the Italian with some hard truths and blunt criticism about owning a Ferrari.

“Pozzato was a champion when he was young and had more class than Boonen. His problem is that he’s too good looking to be a rider.”

“A Ferrari is not the car for a rider, it’s for a footballer. The boss of Brooklyn (Giorgio Perfetti) gave me a Ferrari when I won Milan-San Remo but I couldn’t get my bike in the boot and had to take the saddle off, which I then forgot at home. I sold it after a year.”

More of Roger's bluntness: De Vlaeminck picks Cancellara as his Paris-Roubaix heir

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Whole Other Kinda Bike Riding

I ride a variety of bikes - all road for the most part - but what people do on "bikes" is frigg'n amazing - this is just plain scary in my book. I cringed a half dozen times while watching it. Perhaps the only thing scarier than this ride would be the ER in this third world country you get taken to if you crash. Enjoy at your own risk -

Thursday, March 10, 2011

One for the old guys

Today's finish in Paris-Nice was for the old dogs, the grunters, the weekend warriors who dream of hitting a finish line first.

It started a couple K from the final summit when a octet of known names hit the gas for the final time and summited the Cat 1 Col de la Mûre; a nasty little gift, with pitches of 12%, the organizers threw in a dozen kilometers from the finish after six previous categorized climbs. Ripping down a wickedly fast descent the group opened an 18 second gap and all looked set for Olympic champion Sammy Sanchez to take the stage. Radioshack had the young legs of Janez Brajkovic and the wisdom of old guy Andreas Kloden.

Then a beautiful thing happened. Brajkovic launched with Kloden on his wheel. Watching Kloden gritting and wincing the final few meters was like watch a sprint in slow motion. With a lunge his front wheel clipped the line a spokes turn ahead of equally suffering Sanchez.

For those of you who have never or only passingly noticed this race for the sun forget any idea that this is just a bridesmaid event until the Giro and Tour come around. One look at today's Paris-Nice stage profile and anyone who has donned a pair of Sidis can feel the pain.

As for Andreas, chances are today was like watching a rare sunset, you savor the moment, burn it into your memory, and cherish into the future - after 13 years in the Pros you know how to savor, you know what it's worth. Congrats Kloden, you richly deserve it!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

How one New York bike lane could affect the future of cycling worldwide

A much more significant story than the future of one bike lane in Brooklyn [NY], a great deal hangs on the lawsuit filed against the city. Interesting in light of recent events in America's other mega-metropolis, Los Angeles embracing a full blown bike plan.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Paris-Nice: Day 2 - Stage 3

The pros really can inspire. Ya know as a little kid, like many little kids, I use to watch my favorite team and if the sporting gods were kind my team would make a miracle comeback and seal victory for me. After the game I would head to the nearest court or field and celebrate with friends an exuberant re-enactment would follow. I know darn well we played harder in those adrenaline spiked moments than normal. It was hallucinations of pro stardom that did it.

Growing up in the Seattle area it was the Seattle Super Sonics (until the Larry Stern highjacked the franchise for one of his crony friends and moved it to Oklahoma) and the Green Bay Packers (at least some teams pay homage to decades of childhood memories.) Today lads in lycra on machines of carbon fibre inspire my workouts (read exuberant re-enactments) to a heart rate beyond good sense.

So today was my Day 2 of getting into race shape and Stage 3 of Paris-Nice. Every year I get more enthusiastic about this race. If you have never taken the time, waiting until the "big show" in July, you are missing much more than a pre-season warmup event. Paris-Nice is much more than a week sliced out of the Tour. The race has a long, rich and colorful history peppered with all of the great names traditionally associated with the Grand Boucle - Poulidor, Merckx, Anquetil, Kelly, Jalabert. Watch it! (yes, live on Eurosport each morning)
Albert Lejune, owner of two newspapers Le Petit Journal based in Paris, and Le Petit Niçois based in Nice, created Les Six Jours de la Route in 1933 to establish a link between the two newspapers. For him it was about showing the charm of La Cote d’Azur to his readers with the help of a cycling race on an innovative route. For six days at the end of the winter season, the event went through the Valley of the Rhone; avoiding carefully the Alps and its difficulties, sparingly using the hilly hinterland of Nice, to be finally used as a favourable training ground for the spring Classics. The jersey of the leader was azure and gold in colour, evoking the blue of the Mediterranee and the golden sun in Nice. - from the ASO website.
And as a workout motivator there is something sufferingly real about it. Everyday you see big names, the boys of July, suffering to find there race shape - like I feel slogging up and down Portland's west hills. It's consolation when you finish that 50 miles training ride that across the 'pond' the likes of Jens Voigt, Frank Schleck, Sammy Sanchez, Bradley Wiggins, Tony Martin, and others are also hurting.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Pedaling Cubes

When things go south they call it pedaling squares; today things went further south, Antarctic south, I was pedaling cubes - Rubics Cubes.

Multiple media types, cycling broadcaster and others have picked up on the pedaling squares phrase, but I think it was from Paul Sherwin on a particularly vertical stretch of the Pyrenees in the Tour de France when the the utterance came tripping off his tongue and was the death sentence to the poor lad to which he was referring.

Since then we have joked loosely with the phrase on club rides and weekend mountainous adventures - ah, careful what we mock, it might be moi.

Today I was out trying desperately to get back in some shape resembling race ready. I have no illusion about what race ready shape feels like - especially when you 'pop' off the back in a race. Today I watched stage 2 of Paris-Nice and rolled off the porch with an illusion of getting into shape. This has been a pathetic winter for building base. More time in a window seat on a 757 than saddle time on a Super Six. I hope to race Banana Belt next Sunday - but god will I be slow - likely dropped. Oh, but that won't stop me ripping this old body to shreds trying to keep up and then limp home exhausted still clinging stubbornly to the illusion that I can race a bike in March with no training.

So as I plowed up a 9-10% gradient Sherwin's words continued to throb in my brain in counters-throb to that in my chest. No squares today, I was pedaling cubes.

Nearly three hours later I rolled back on the porch remembering with workouts, you're never disappointed you did, just disappointed you didn't. Equally - any day on your bike - cubes or square - is a great day to be alive.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

LA Pedals Into The Future

If Los Angeles, the city in lust with the car, can pedal into the future, maybe, just maybe, there is hope for this petroleum addicted world. It appears the LA City Council is on the verge of pedaling back to the future with a new bicycle transportation master plan that would create 1,680 miles of interconnected bike lanes, streets and corridors - amazing what happens when a city's mayor almost gets killed riding his bike.

In 2008, two cyclists were seriously injured on a narrow Brentwood road when a driver slammed on his car's brakes in front of them. The driver, physician Christopher Thompson, was convicted of numerous charges, including assault with a deadly weapon.

Bill Rosendahl, who represents the district where the crash occurred, said it made him rethink the way the city puts cars on a pedestal.

"There has been a real awakening in the city," he said. "We're starting to think of our streets differently. They're not just conduits for making cars move fast."
Think about that last quote - wow! In the 1890's that's one of the only ways we thought about our streets. If we could only get the wheels of progress to turn the speed of bicycle wheels - the L.A. city council looks set to shift gears and approve the future.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Riccò, Cobras Never Bite Themselves

Last November CyclingNews did an interview with "The Cobra" as he made his way back into Pro cycling after a 20 month ban for doping - a ban that disgraced not only himself but tarnished most of the climbing stages in the 2008 Tour de France. In the article Riccardo Riccò: "The Cobra is dead" he was quoted:

“I’m no longer aggressive like I used to be,” Riccò told Cyclingnews on Thursday. “Once upon a time it would have bothered me if the Italian papers talked more about [Ivan] Basso, [Vincenzo] Nibali and [Michele] Scarponi than me, but not any more. The phoney wars don’t interest me any more. I’ve calmed down a lot. I’m tranquillo now.”

He then announced with a chuckle: “The Cobra is dead! You don’t believe me? It’s true…”

Maybe we weren't listening, was Riccò telling us more than we knew.

Something stunk when watching Riccò, maybe I just have issues with people giving themselves their own nickname.

That was November, last year, so we were waiting. Apparently Riccò has this time bit himself, a self-inflicted wound that may, and should, spell his cycling doom.

Italian police investigate Riccò for blood doping

Maybe Riccò can use that bit of prison time and life-time ban from cycling (if convicted - it's his second offense) to study up on his natural history - he'll find cobras are elegant silent reptiles, that only strike when forced and never ever bite themselves.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Broken People Need a Broomwagon

Long ago I grew tired of following and commenting on the Floyd Landis self-destruction. I tried for a long time, like many, to hold out a glimmer of hope that this guy, known for his grit and indefatigable determination, was indeed a true twiner of the Tour de France, and that amazing ride on Stage 17 into Morzine should be what we remember, not the endless appearances before a microphone accusing and being accused.

This morning I found myself skipping over the latest about Contador and ended up reading about, of all people, Landis. I'm glad I read this piece. It made me realize we need a broom wagon for humans, cyclist aside, like Floyd Landis; they aren't bad, just broken. A broom wagon so they can just crawl in, away from the looky-loo insensitivity of media and public, and go work in private at getting ready to start the Tour of Life the next year.

Today CyclingNews reported on the interview Landis did with former cyclist turned writer Paul Kimmage in the Sunday Times. It saddened me once again for Landis, but in a different way, as a human-being broken. Broken in a way we never wish for any human.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Mark & Mike's Grand Adventure - West End Bikes

Ok, this is right up front - a plug for Mark and Mike's new store here in Portland - West End Bikes.

West End is opening their doors at 1111 SW Stark Street Portland, OR 97205 - (503) 208-2933

I've known Mark Ontiveros a long time and this baby is close to his heart. All the love of cycling he exuded for years comes to fruition in this new Specialized Concept store - once inside and you look around the feeling is immediately, 'this is what a bike shop should feel like.' There are old stores that are cool, and I have been in many across the US and Europe, but creating a new shop from scratch that has this kinda vibe is not easy - Mark and Mike France, is business partner, with the support of Specialized bikes, have pulled it off.

Jonathan Maus, on said, "West End Bikes is likely to become one of the top shops in town the moment it opens for business. And in Portland, that's saying something."

See photos and Jonathan's other thoughts on A sneak peek inside West End Bikes - take a look, it's a shop worth getting excited about.

John (Hatfield, alias 'stokerboy') and I are proud to be wearing West End kits when we race the Calfee tandem this season. The new WEB kits can be seen a few photos down in Jonathan's article.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

"R" - Racing Reruns

Team RadioShack - "The Shack" - have blessed the New Year by doing a facelift to one of the worst looking kits in last years peloton. The new kits will hit the road just in time for the Aussie Pro Tour opener - the Santos Tour Down Under.

Each year January reveals new looks in the peloton, new teams, new riders, new kits, 2011 repeats that tradition. This year it appears you are either black & white or red & white, other wise you are "so last year."

The new look Shack kits are emblazoned with a huge scarlet "R" on a white background. Unfortunately what may also be 'so last year' are the results of the "R."

Hmm? "R"

While the kits are a clear aesthetic leap forward from that mess the boys road in throughout 2010, the "R" unfortunately may most accurately stand for Rerun and Retirement. For the team the Aussie Tour will be a rerun retirement of Lance Armstrong. Really.

Sadly the rerun part of "R" will also apply to Results. "R" as a team is a little long in the tooth. The average age of this team is staring down the road at 40.

Maybe the biggest "R" for fans of the new look Team RadioShack should be Realistic - at least you can realistically ride in a new kit that doesn't look Ridiculous.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Team Leopard-Trek, a.k.a. Luxembourg - the return of aesthetic sanity

You know it doesn't take much, just a flicker, and the hope returns. We're just days into 2011 and the newest (sorta) pro UCI team, Team Leopard-Trek's (a.k.a Team Luxembourg), presentation of their new kits dramatically reverses, thank god, a trend of hideous kit design that reached its pinnacle (or pit) in the flesh-colored disaster of Team Footon >>>>>.
After three decades of downward spiral from the neon glare of the 1980's to the non-design design of recent teams, e.g. Radioshack and Sky, there may be a return to kits that will assume their place among the classics - Pegueot, Molteni, Formaggio, for example, of years past.

Cancellara, Schleck brothers, et als on the new team will be sporting a simple elegant - old fashion - white body, black upper, spliced by a light azure strip. And in the greatest time machine journey back, one that would delight Mssr. Degrange, the sponsors, Trek and team manager Brian Nygaard's management company Leopard assume a tasteful - read "small" - presence on the side panels. Other corporate logos are again 'tastefully' placed on the upper black panel right and left - Craft and Mercedes.

Finally for the jersey collector in all of us, the riders will have their monikers enscribed on the jersey collar - replicating a move Team Sky began last season (Sky's one good move - see the general kit design disaster "Keep It Simple Stupid."

Score one for history, for style, for taste, for aesthetic sanity, thank you Brian Nygaard.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Bike Photo Contest Awards Jan 6th 2011

Come and join us at the 2010 Bicycling Northwest Bike Photo Contest Awards presented by Pro Photo Supply this Thursday night at the newest bike shop in Portland (so new the doors are only open for this First Thursday event!) - West End Bikes.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy Peace-filled New Year

Quick post to wish everyone a happy, healthy, upright, rubber-side-down, New Year.

Before taking off for work on the Gulf Coast last week I did manage to renew an old tradition of riding the first 100 miler of the year on my birthday - the "Kids" were nearly all there and I'll post that blog with photos this week. More importantly it also renews my cycle-blogging as well. Work elsewhere around the world has drawn me away from the bike and the posts, but lots are planned, including a trip to the Tour 2011, this year as well as a return to some "recreational racing" - yes, the back might be recovered enough to give it a go.

Tandem riding, and racing, will take a front seat this year so I'll post many more links and ride reviews here for those of you interested - keen to start - or curious about something different.

FYI - The Chasing the Lanterne Rouge book project is also rolling down the road nicely so look for posts here as well as coverage on the 2011 rouge rider live from the Tour.