2016 Vuelta a Espana

It is late Sunday and I finally have the Vuelta a Espana posted.  Day 2 has come and gone and yet I am already a day in the hole.  How does that happen?  Well – I guess the stuff around the house could have waited a bit longer, or I could have used my time more wisely, or … insert feeble excuse here.  Heck – the first day was a flat team time trial for goodness sake.  It was along the lines of a 45-minute ride and that is with 20-minutes of warm-up and cool-down.  Well – maybe the rest will do me good later in the race because the hills are coming!

Good news though – the rib I displaced last month (while crashing in a crit) feels much better.  So, breathing without pain, or concern that there will be pain, is fantastic.  The bike has been a bit neglected in the last few weeks, but riding today felt wonderful.  Aside from feeling fatigued, but heck I was on the bike.

Enjoy the last Grand Tour – if nothing else it will be fun to follow!

Advertisements

2016 Tour de France

The Tour is here and the wait is over.  Many cyclists view this time of year as hallowed.  In one way shape or form these three weeks become like New Year’s, your birthday and Halloween (with all of the roadside costumes) rolled into one spectacle and extended for 3 fricking weeks!  How is this not brilliant?

Action, intrigue and suspense from the start.  We are four stages into the Tour and Contador has hit the deck – twice (stage 1 here and stage 2 here) – and Richie Porte has already lost time (:48 seconds.)  The GC contenders will come out to play tomorrow with the hills.  We will find out how serious the injuries were for Contador and if Porte can make up a few seconds.  Who knows, maybe both are “also-rans” less than a week into this year’s edition.

Amazingly, there are two riders who have received no coverage on Velonews or Cyclingnews over the past 96 hours and yet they were listed as potential winners of the Tour.  Froome has been talked about, Contador has been dissected with his crashes, but Quintana and Aru have remained invisible.  Heck – even Nibali has been a ghost (in support of his team leader.)  BTW – I am not sure about the dynamic between Nibali and Aru, but I think they are a little uncomfortable around one another.  Check out this video around the 4:20 mark and watch how uncomfortable they appear to be.  

Anyhow, we are off and rolling and it is only going to get better!  See you on the roads and ride safe!

Where did the time go?

It is May 5th and I now realize just how long it has been since I paid any attention to this website.  As in previous posts, I will mention how the have been many distractions over the past few months, however, I will not fall back onto them as excuses and just say “my time of negligence is over.”  This site has been on my mind for quite some time and I finally sat down and fired up the computer to make some edits.  New video links have been added and the 2016 Giro d’Italia route is up and ready for all comers!  I will not be able to attend to the entire list this evening, but the work has begun.  Expect to see more updated information coming soon.  In the meantime, enjoy the Giro and ride safe!

2015 Giro d’Italia

The Giro d’Italia starts today and the Grand Tour season is underway.  Contador is attempting the Giro / Tour de France double and his journey to repeat this cycling rarity begins in San Remo.  His Tinkoff – Saxo Bank squad takes on a  peloton including Ryder Hesjedal of Cannondale – Garmin (a team in the midst of a staggeringly awful year), Fabio Aru of Astana (the Italian hope to take this edition who had an exceptional Vuelta to end 2014), Rigoberto Uran of Etixx – Quick Step (who would like to be the second Columbian in a row to win the Giro after Nairo Quintana took the top step last year) and Richie Porte of Team Sky (time will tell how he does with the pressure of leading a team in a three week tour).  The four listed above are the major favorites, but watch out for some of the Movistar squad as an unheralded rider may make some noise.  Have fun watching the next few weeks and the Giro route is posted!  Give it a shot to experience your own partial Giro!

For more information on the Giro d’Italia check out cyclingnews.com

Giro-photo

 

Giro Overlook

 

The peloton on stage seventeen of the 2012 Giro d'Italia

Hardmen of the Classics

Spring is in the air – the wind is blustery, the temperature is “crisp” and the one day races are on the mind.  The five monuments (Milan San Remo, Paris-Roubaix, Tour of Flanders (Ronde van Vlaanderen), Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Giro di Lombardia) make up the Classic races of the pro racing calendar.  These one day epic events test the mettle of rider and bike with four of them taking place at the beginning of the race season.  To win a race of this type a rider must have fitness, tenacity and a dose of luck.  To wit, take a look at the current medical situations that have befallen both Tom Boonen and Fabian Cancellara.

Tornado Tom (Tom Boonen), or Tommke, went down earlier this year with a dislocated shoulder.  While his competitor Fabian Cancellara, Spartacus, fractured two vertebrae less than a week ago.  Neither of them are expected to line up for the upcoming races.  This opens the door for some very exciting racing to take place at Paris-Roubaix and the Tour of Flanders (Ronde van Vlaanderen).  One of the possible winners garnering a bunch of press is Sir Bradley Wiggins.

Mr. Wiggins has stated this will be his last race in a Team Sky kit and he hopes to go out on top.  This race has been his primary target since announcing his retirement.  Many people have tapped him as a favorite for Paris-Roubaix as his track record, no pun intended, at coming away with the victory at his major targets is rather impressive.  After being told the Tour de France was beyond his skills he went on to win it in 2012; when told Tony Martin was unbeatable in the time trial he became World Champion in 2014; and when dismissed as a non-threat for Paris-Roubaix in 2014 he finished in ninth position.  All of these results show that when he latches onto an idea he becomes a factor.  Time will tell whether he can capture lighting in a bottle one more time.

With Sir Brad gunning for the cobbles of Roubaix and the two men who have battled for the Classics crown for the past decade out of the running it is quite possible some new talent may rise to the fore.  Luck, wind, time and fitness will tell us more in the upcoming days and weeks.  What an amazing time of year to be a fan!

Sweeping a dirt floor

There are certain moments in life that seem redundant.  You know sort of Sisyphean in being; a task that once done seems to regenerate and begin again.  Washing the dishes just prior to making dinner, finishing vacuuming the carpet just before the dogs come home from a long trail run and, to harken back to a long ago age for most of us, sweeping a dirt floor clear of unwanted debris.  (Is a dirt floor ever “clean?”)  That last one seems like a huge ask of someone.  In some ways, Lance Armstrong seems the same as a Sisyphean task because as soon as you think you are finished listening to him or reading about what he said this time or doping culture within cycling with him at the pinnacle, he seems to crop back up in a cycling discussion.

Prior to starting the dissecting of Lance the cyclist and Lance the man it may be best to clarify one thing: he was amazing!  Period.  Or rather exclamation mark.  His career, in particular at the Tour, was/is filled with accomplishments.  Seven Tour wins…in a row.  Undeniably amazing!  Again, before we start examining him through the lens of a microscope one thing needs to take place.  Ready?  Think back about those Tour wins and how you felt about them prior to the USADA reasoned decision.  Okay, maybe we need to go back a little further.  How about at the end of the Tour in 2005?  Awesome, amazing, flabbergasted, “My breath was taken away” were all reactions to his accomplishments.  Here was a man who had made the Tour his largest goal for seven years and he nailed it each time.  No bad days that put him out of the general classification (GC), no punctures that cost him huge amounts of time, no bad crashes, no illnesses, a team that crushed all comers, no tactical mistakes that he could not overcome.  For.  Seven.  Years.  What an amazing string of … nothing too bad happening.  This is still unheard of by those at the the top of the GC.  Of course, in the end, he also had to train, let’s put away the thoughts of syringes for a moment, to be able to ride at such an elevated level.  No one within the peloton could touch him.  He won convincingly over a great group of racers.

Speaking of all the other riders – they were not some collection of chumps.  They were at the top of the sport.  These were the people on the cover of VeloNews, Cycle Sport, Bicycling, Sports Illustrated and the like.  They ruled the cycling world.  Then in 2006 the dominoes started to fall and one by one they were all, except a select few, found out to be doping and were sanctioned by the International Cycling Union (UCI).  What does all of this mean?  Well, for one, it helps the argument that the majority of riders were doping at the time.  Does this make it right?  No, but since we know in hindsight that doping was prevalent among the top tier that these top riders were competing on what could be called a “level playing field.”  The podium at the Tour seemed to display the best dopers racing in July.  But, just like training, or even natural talent, some were better at this skill than others.  Again, does this exonerate Armstrong or any of the others?  Nope.  The vast majority of cycling fans believe in clean and fair racing.  However, it appears the treatment in terms of rider sanctions has been subjective.  Six month to two year bans has been the norm yet an exception was made for Lance Armstrong.  Many of those who were part of the system with Lance and doped alongside him were given six month bans.

The systematic doping of United States Postal Service (USPS)/Discovery Channel was despicable and should be punished.  It was widespread and all encompasing.  Riders, team trainers, team directors and team doctors have been implicated over the years in a multi-level organization with one goal – win the Tour de France.  We, as fans, know the inside story to the USPS/Discovery Team and how the doping was carried out, but what do we know about the others?  Has there been the same type of vigor investigating T-Mobile, Liberty Seguros, the old Kelme team, Phonak, ONCE, Team CSC?  Does it not seem logical that if the top tier racers were doping that all of the teams had a system?  Hey, maybe it was not a very good, polished, or even effective system, but there has to be more fire with all of the smoke in the air.  Are we all still in the mindset that the Swiss, Germans, Italians, Spanish, or any other European country, could not have a system that rivaled the depth of precision, expertise and timeliness to match Lance and Co.?  So why was Ullrich banned for two years, Hamilton banned for two years, Valverde banned for two years, Basso banned for one year, but Armstrong was banned for life?  Because he was a dick to so many people is the answer, but being an awful person does not play in court.

Lance Armstrong deserves to be banned from competing in any UCI sanctioned race for a long time, however, the lifetime ban is excessive.  Heck, Johan Bruyneel was not banned for life and he is just as culpable as Lance.  Bruyneel was banned for 10 years not a lifetime.  Ten years is equivalent to two and a half presidential terms and we all know how long a presidency can seem!  So it seems as though the Armstrong punishment was because he doped (a lot), was an absolutely awful person to many people and, to add to the list, because he was the “golden boy of the UCI.”

He won his first Tour the year after the Festina affair, see the Europeans can put together a system, in a Tour that was called by many in the UCI and press as the “tour of redemption.”  It was supposed to be a clean Tour showing that the evil of doping had been rooted out of the sport.  The sport was at a crossroad as many fans had become disenchanted with the peloton and many, again in hindsight rightfully so, were suspected of doping.  But at the end of the 1999 Tour who was standing on the podium?  The brash and arrogant man from Texas who staunchly defended himself as a non-doper who had passed all of his drug tests*  (*Minus the cortisone that showed up at a test for his “saddle sore.”  Many years later we find out this was used as a cover for a positive test.)  But at the time the UCI was on cloud nine because here was a racer who had ignited the cycling world, opened the USA market and, thank goodness, he was clean.  Wink, wink.

Three really good reasons to get Armstrong out of the sport: he doped over the course of all his Tour wins, he was an A-hole and he had tarnished the reputation of the UCI.  Yep, he pissed off all the wrong people within the sport and he absolutely pissed off the fans of cycling worldwide.  So why delve into all of this Lancexamination now?  Because Lance Armstrong completed an interview with the BBC earlier this week and many are finding his comments disturbing.

When asked if he would dope again he replied with the following: “It’s a complicated question, and my answer is not a popular answer,” Armstrong said. “If I was racing in 2015, no, I wouldn’t do it again, because I don’t think you have to. If you take me back to 1995, when it was completely and totally pervasive, I’d probably do it again. People don’t like to hear that.”  Lance you are correct.  People do not want to hear that answer.  But when taking the long view the response makes sense completely.  This article is not here to champion Lance Armstrong, but take a moment to think about the ramifications of his sentiment.  As cycling fans in a post-Lance era we have largely deplored the need for doping to exist in the peloton and we have witnessed clean Tour winners of late.

Are there still dopers in the peloton?  Check out the team Astana debacle and the answer is definitely yes.  However, listen to the newest generation of riders and the overwhelming majority speak of a clean(er) peloton and a mindset shift leaning toward clean riders being in the majority rather than the minority.  Want proof of a cleaner peloton?  Let’s re-examine the quote from Lance because in it he says “If I was racing in 2015, no, I wouldn’t do it again, because I don’t think you have to.”  Wow!  The formerly unrepentant dope ring leader douchebag says he would race clean in a race today because you don’t HAVE to dope to compete.  What fantastic news!  No, really, as cycling fans this may signal hope for the future of the sport we love.

If Lance speaks about a clean(er) peloton, then maybe all of our hopes for clean racing could be coming to fruition.  Only time will tell if we were correct in having hope of fewer doping stories, but wouldn’t it be great to continue to hear current riders talk about the peloton as clean and have it be true.  Maybe, just maybe, we can use the quote from Lance Armstrong as some sort of clarion call for others to join in clean cycling.  Hell, for a man who felt compelled to cheat at such an astronomical level to get a lifetime ban to come out and say he would NOT cheat in this day and age is wonderful news.

Okay, it may also be some political maneuvering on the part of one Lance Armstrong, but the political gains become losses in the second half of the quote.  “If you take me back to 1995, when it was completely and totally pervasive, I’d probably do it again.”  Whoops!  Not what the good folks at the UCI want to hear from you Lance.

Does Lance deserve to have his ban reduced?  Maybe, maybe not, but a lifetime is awfully long and it may be time to begin the discussion regarding a reduction.  If Lance is able to help the sport by speaking with the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC), then the balance certainly starts to tip in favor of a possible reduction.  In the end, it all seems to come down to this: how long do we have to sweep this dirt floor?

Inversion

First and foremost I need to disclose a fact – I LOVE WINTER!  There are plenty of people out there that will disagree with me or, at the very least, will tell me loving winter is irrational.  But it is true I LOVE WINTER!  Now that this fact is out in the open it seems appropriate to expand on this concept of winter love.

Growing up in a mountain city created a sense of adventure and exploration.  In our family we did not stop playing because it was cold or snowing.  We were encouraged to get outside and build snow forts with tunnels in the snow that had been removed from the driveway, hike in the mountains and see the deer that were now feeding in the lower elevation.  Heck, more than a few times I ventured down to the elementary school and skied the small slope dreaming of being an Olympic racer.  Extra ski poles were set up as a giant slalom course, a countdown in my head (5…4…3…2…1…GO) and off I went through the “gates” to clinch gold by a slim of margin.

Once the dream of Olympic gold had waned since I was a good skier, but nowhere near the caliber of my schoolmates, basketball took over the “dare to dream” section of my brain.  Since it was/is a winter sport and the nearest available court was in my backyard covered with snow it meant clearing the court (i.e. shoveling) needed to take place so I could practice.  The snow was removed from the court and out I went.  A light jacket was worn so it would not affect my shooting form while out practicing.  Bad practice is worse than no practice.  After a while my hands got cold because they were exposed to the snow, cold and the wet ground from the snowmelt which meant that practice had to take place in short 15 minute bursts followed by warming up in the house.

Many years later a great deal of my winter exercise takes place indoors.  Why?  One reason is that my focus has changed from “stick and ball” sports to running and bicycling.  During these cold, slippery and months of inversion I tend to stay inside when I exercise.  (Inversion is a weather phenomenon where the temperature in the valley is lower than the temperature in the foothills due to accumulation of exhaust, smoke and other particulates.  Most of the time the inversion looks like fog.)  Cold, somewhat depressing, and not conducive to riding outdoors the inversion drives me inside to “ride.”  While I do enjoy catching up on streamed videos it can become a bit mundane.  Sidenote: there is some really interesting stuff out there on the interweb!  My tactic at this point is to play a cycling video on mute and view it fullscreen, while a second browser tab plays music.  Hopefully this description makes sense.  But it is pretty cool watching the Giro ride through the Alps while Led Zeppelin plays in the background!

In the end, while I do love winter, I also hope our inversion does not keep me limited to enjoying the outdoor pursuits inside for too much longer.