Sunday, April 29, 2007

Post L-B-L

So, I was off a bit on my Liege podium.

Actual:
1. Di Luca
2. Valverde
3. Schleck

It's a little strange to watch the Spring classics when the riders look like their racing in July. Jerseys open, dumping water over their heads.

PRO: Bettini pre-riding the Liege course on Saturday in the regular Quickstep blue shorts.

Race day: all white


Photos: PEZ(pre), velonews(race).

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The last 24 hours

6:00 p.m. Friday. Pre-show dinner. Cuban food. Pretty good. Waitress seems to know alot about Bob.

10:00 p.m. At the House of Blues with Strout, Kim, Bob, TB and Carlos. Naked Raygun was great. Songs I remember(incomplete and not in order): Surf Combat, I Don't Know, Mastastis, Rat Patrol. Everything very tight.

12 midnight, asleep.

6 a.m. Up, Elora's up, cannot escape her activity. Bowl of oatmeal, coffee and toast.

7:30 Rolling out the door to Judson (group ride).

11:00 Ride over. 63 miles, fast and steady, won the last sprint.

12:30 Working at the bike store. Business came in waves.

6:30 Leave bike store.

My Liege-Bastogne-Liege podium:

1. Valverde
2. Cunego
3. Bettini

Friday, April 27, 2007

My life revisited

At age 14, starting high school in 1980, my musical tastes were REO, Styx and similar type rock bands. That all changed when I met a kid named Tim Potter during my freshman year. His brother, John, had travelled all over the world when he was in the Navy, but England and the scene in London really captured his interest. He turned us on to the Clash and the Sex Pistols. Then other bands that no one had ever heard of like Kraftwerk. He had these boxes of European pressings that you couldn't even get in the States.

It was the "punk" bands that piqued our interest. Several bands are credited with beginning the "punk" movement, most notably, the Clash, the Sex Pistols and the Damned in England and the Ramones and the New York Dolls in New York. For me, The Clash were the best of these. Musically, more complex, and lyrically, more thoughtful than the others. Where the Pistols bashed through a song, the Clash caressed it, employing 3 or 4 guitar harmonies. From there, John introduced us to California hardcore- Black Flag etc.

John would take us to Wax Trax records, then on Fullerton, one of ths only stores in Chicago at that time where you could get anything other than rock and roll or "classic rock."

John used to wear this red leather jacket and of course his English rocker boots. He took us to Lucky Number, Neo's and a couple of other clubs. We couldn't always get in- hell we were only 15 or 16, but it was the challenge of it all.

We explored Chicago's punk scene. Going to bars like West End, Tuts and the Cubby Bear (when it was just a one room bar) to see punk bands, local and national. This is before Wrigley Field had lights, so as the all ages crowd would filter in for a punk show, the day time Cubs crowd would be finishing their beers and lamenting the latest Cubs loss. Interesting mix.

Bands we used to see regularly: Out of Order, Life Sentence, Big Black and of course Naked Raygun. The last time I saw Naked Raygun was probably during the summer of 1984, right before I went to college.

Tonight, they are playing at the House of Blues. My expectations are medium. How can a show now match an experience I had 20 years ago when I was 18?? At 18, my only care in the world was to go to college, drink beer etc. Now, my biggest concern is trying to balance time and commitments so that I can ride as much as possible.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

What's the point?

Yesterday, I saw the cyclingnews.com flash that L'Equipe reported that Floyd Landis' B-samples came back showing traces of synthetic testosterone. Today I saw that Landis, predictably and justifiably cried foul because his experts were denied access to the testing and because L'Equipe knew about the purported results before anyone else did.

I was going to do a piece on the whole stinking mess and then thought "What's the point?'"

Either he's guilty and that just sucks.

OR

He's innocent, but has no chance of proving it. He will have spent tons of money in a fruitless endeavor to clear his name because he's never going to get the chance to do it. Why would USADA deny Landis access to the lab and the procedures? What do they have to hide?

If an athlete cannot even get access to evidence that would assist him in defending himself, he has no chance.

I think the latter scenario bothers me more than if he actually cheated.

Monday, April 23, 2007

There are no coincidences

I was reading Dirt Rag this a.m. and read a piece written by Captain Dondo about all mountain bikers being part of the same tribe regardless of the type of bike or riding they do. When describing his own riding habits, he writes:

I believe God thinks he's Eddy Merckx (go look it up, Bucky), so I still rip around on my road bike quite a bit.
I got a chuckle out of the look it up part. But it is so true. Being an admitted post '99 roadie, I learned about Merckx from looking him up after reading stuff about Armstrong. Ultimately concluding that Armstrong was great, but he basically only rode the Tour. Merckx won everything, from March until October, beating the snot out of his opponents year round.


Later this morning, with Merckx on the brain, I'm walking from the subway to the office and I come across this bike in front of the Bank of America building, corner of Clark and Jackson.




You got to love that head badge!

The frame appears to be very similar to the bike Merckx is riding on in this photo circa 1971. Merckx was such a bad-ass that he raced on bikes that bore his name. Afte he retired from racing, he went into building frames.


Go here for Captain Dondo's blog and the web version for the Dirt Rag piece.

Merckx photo: Classic Rendezvous

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Like a Little Girl in Spring


There's something about the first nice-weather-fast-group-ride of the year. All week long, the forecast called for sunny skies and temps in the 60s. By Thursday, the forecast was even better: mid 70s. Booyah! No layers of clothes, no knee warmers!

E-mails and text messages were flying back and forth all week long.

Like a little girl in Spring. Going to bed on Friday, I felt like I was 8 years old and going on vacation the next day. Legs all fidgety, can't fall asleep, and waking up looking at the clock to see if I could get up yet. Ridiculous, I know.

And then its time. I know the group's going to be big because I pick up 2-3 other riders on the way to the start. The group is big, the biggest so far this season, 40+ riders. For some it's their first big ride of the season. For others it is just another Saturday. I can't explain it, but something feels different.
The ride rolls out, slow. Casual conversation, catching up with some people I haven't seen since the last time it was this warm: October. 5 or 6 miles in and someone goes. Then another. Then a line starts to my left, moving fast- that's got my name written all over it and we're off. The pace doesn't drop for 15 miles and when I look back behind me we've shed some riders already.
Some ebb and flow over the next 10 miles, then as we make the turn at half way, the pace is peaceful and the conversation returns.
Things pick up for the sprints closer to home and then it's over. No fuss no muss.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Those crazy podium guys


Dave Z: Alright, Levi, you beat me this time, but can you avoid the Crane? Can you? I said, can you? Huh.. What, no answer? I didn't think so. You got nothing Leipheimer nothing!





Thursday, April 19, 2007

Earth to Floyd!

Anyone home??

Saw this at a couple of places (PEZ, cyclingnews...):

Foyd Landis charging $25 to have his photo taken with fans at a bike store in Dallas TX. What the h.. e.. double hockey sticks is that all about?

One of the things I always thought Landis had going for him was that people, including the everyday cyclist, could relate to him. He was "us" as opposed to "them." When you meet him and talked to him, which I have had the pleasure of doing twice now, he does not come off like someone who would cheat. I know, it could be an act blah, blah, blah, but I never got a "creepy" feeling talking to him.

This latest gimmick to raise funds shocks the conscience. I thought the whole idea behind the FFF tour and wiki presentation was to bring people in, to sway public opinion in Landis' favor.

The last time he was in Chicago, one of things that I was impressed with was that he took photos with everyone. I wouldn't be surprised if 100+ people walked out of there with a photo of themselves with Landis on the camera phone.

Twenty five bucks for a photo certainly would raise money, but I didn't think (hoped) that was his only goal.

Skulls Prevail

Well, the "power" socks worked. I won the hearing I appeared on yesterday, thereby returning ownership of his home to my 80 year old client. We are a nation of laws, not necessarily of justice. Many times the law and justice do not intersect. Yesterday's result was a case in which the law allowed justice to be done.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Skulls

The Twin Six Skull socks. Have to be in court most of the day. A tough argument demands a tough pair of socks.




Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Them Crazy Bars

I was walking to the subway yesterday and came across an old Schwinn. Look at these funky bars.



With the shifters on the inside under the stem. Got me thinking about the old mountain bike bars that were popular in the late 80s and early 90s. Instead of regular bars with bar ends for climbing, some people ran these "wrap around" bars. A quick call to my mountain bike tech guru John led me to these: the Scott bars, which he informs me, were the first, and other companies, including Schwinn then made several different types of these "wrap around" bars, including the one pictured above.


These were pretty popular back then as riders were searching for anyway to get into a better position on the mountain bike. These bars certainly offered many different grips. Weight wise, they were fine because bar ends at that time were pretty heavy, even for the aluminum ones.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The 69er

Trek debuted the 69er at Sea Otter last year. From cyclingnews:

The 29in front wheel allegedly gives riders the “roll over anything" feeling up front, but the smaller 26in rear wheel apparently offers snappier acceleration.


Here's the single speed prototype from 2006.


This year, trek has added a geared hardtail and a full suspension version.


I understand the theory behind the 29er, but I am a little baffled by the 69er. Wouldn't the "snappier acceleration" of the 26" wheel be hampered by the resistance of the bigger wheel in front? And with the smaller wheel in back you'd lose the 29" advantage of "rolling over" obstacles. Other problem: you'd have to carry 2 different sizes of tubes with you, although if you're running tubeless, that wouldn't matter.

I haven't really looked into getting a 29er, first because I love my current bike and second because I didn't think I would gain an advantage, at 5'8" and 155 pds. It seems to me that taller and/or heavier riders would gain more benefit from the bigger wheels.

Interesting idea, kudos to Trek.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Post Paris-Roubaix Thoughts

What a race! The heat, the dust, the attacks. Besides O'Grady's race winning move, a few things that impressed me:

  • O'Grady looked like he was on a motor cycle while everyone else looked like they were standing still.
  • After the race, before O'Grady could even get cleaned up, a French reporter interviewed him, in French, of course. O'Grady responded in kind, never pausing or stumbling for words. I didn't know he was fluent in French.
  • During the interview, Cancellara and Michaelson came up to O'Grady and you would have thought they were long last friends who hadn't seen each other for years. A great example of the team spirit that CSC embodies.

That same spirit was present in Cancellara's post race comments:

As a defending champion, I'm very happy because I haven't lost it; we have won again as a team. I know what's on in Stuart's head now. It's a lot of joy. We'll celebrate it at the same hotel where we did it for me last year. In cycling, the sense of sacrifice must always be present. I already paired with Stuart in the finale of a classic last year in Zurich. It's a day of big cycling today; our whole team has done a great job.

It was refreshing to see that kind of team spirit. Pity those who forget that cycling is a team sport.

Quote: cyclingnews.com.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Racers' Point of View: P-R

Eddy Merckx, 3x P-R winner:

To the question of which great international classic he would like to win if he had the choice, a racer will always answer, Paris-Roubaix. It is simply the most prestigious race on the calendar and even a great career will be incomplet without a victory at Roubaix.

Andrea Ttaffi, '99 winner:

In this race (Paris Roubaix), the best will always win.

George Hincapie:

This is the one race that I dream of all year long, and look forward to all year long.
Chris Boardman:
It's a circus, and I don't want to be one of the clowns.

Sean Kelly winner in '84 and '86:

A Paris-Roubaix without rain is not a true Paris-Roubaix. Throw in a little snow as well, it's not serious.

Bernard Hinault, after winning in1981:

Paris-Roubaix est une connerie" translating to "Paris-Roubaix is bullshit" or "Paris-Roubaix is damned rubbish.
In "Road to Paris", Paul Sherwin:

Paris Roubaix is not a race that you need luck to win, it'a race that you need to not be unclucky.

Sources: cyclingrevealed.com, Daily Peolton, Answers.com, wikipedia, cyclingnews.com.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Speaking of socks

PRO: White or black socks? White is generally accepted as the euro pro look. Here's a photo of Lance Armstrong in '93, white socks.


But, during the 2004 tour, Armstrong deviated from the "pro" look, wearing black socks on the day he won stage 13.


In response to Cyclingnews' question about the black socks, Armstrong responded:

I didn't have white socks in my bag today, so I put on the black ones...I know the black socks are a little bit controversial, but I sort of like them. I gave a pair to George and he likes them too. If the weather's a little cloudy, they fit the day. I'll probably wear white socks from now on.

Sure enough, the next day, back in white.


But, here's Armstrong wearing black socks the very next day, during a very tough stage 15. He won the stage and the yellow jersey.



Stage 16, the Alpe d'Huez TT, still in black.

The superstitions of the peloton are well documented. Did Armstrong get superstitious after stage 13, thereby wearing the black socks on each subsequent critical stage ?

I did some digging and discovered that at one time the UCI required white socks.

Bicycle Planet, in a story about DeFeet's Shane Cooper, reported:

From the beginning, Cooper broke traditional molds. "UCI rules said that socks had to be white and have only the sock manufacturer's logo on it," he remembers, "but when we made the [blue and yellow] GAN sock for LeMond's team in 1994, people loved it, and the rules adapted."

White or black? It's your choice.

Photos: cyclingnews, PEZ.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

It's all in the socks

I like to take "cycling" with me in everything I do. For example, I carry a messenger bag, even though I have never been a "messenger."

Here is a shot of me getting ready for a court appearance this morning. So studious!


I refuse to wear calf high dress socks. I prefer my cycling related socks. Here is today's selection. Dirt is good!


Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Tattoos of the Peloton #18 - Matt White


Matt White (rider in the Discovery jersey), from Stage 8 of the Giro, May 14, 2006.
Olympic rings. He raced in the Olympic Road Race in 2000. Turned pro in 1996, currently with Discovery.
Thanks to the staff at BKW for the find.

Monday, April 9, 2007

Post Flanders Thoughts

The only one smiling is Ballan.

Hoste's post race reaction sums it up. Cylingnews reported:
Right after he finished the race he sat down and swore up a storm, louder and louder. "F***, verdomme, I feel so bad right now, not only for me but for the whole team," he explained. "They were doing an excellent job all day long."


After the Bosberg, I commented: "Why isn't anyone from the Boonen etc. group chasing? They have like 12 guys and its only 20 seconds to Ballan and Hoste. They could catch them."

A more experienced rider then me responded: "Yeah, but they've got 150 miles and all those hills in those legs already."

Good point. I can only imagine what that must have been like. No longer pedaling circles, more like pushing anvils.

Photo, G. Watson, v-news.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Racers' Point of View: the Ronde

In 2002, 2x winner Briek Schotte, recalling the first "Ronde" held after World War II called it a "nightmare" of a race, commented:

It was 330 of seemingly unending kilometers... In the Valenciennes region we rode
over a track that had been totally ravaged by the tanks. We just stopped counting our punctures.
Andrea Tafi, the last Italian to win the Ronde (2002):

There is one secret, stay up front at all costs. If you are in the back you
are able to recuperate but it will cost you dearly.


I raced Ronde eight times. It is not only a race, all of the surroundings are special. To think that it is the only race where the announcer at the start line begins speaking at six in the morning. And the gathering point in Brugge is in the middle of town that is like an enchanting castle. You think 'The adventure starts here.'

Barry Hoban(raced against Merckx) winner of Gent-Wevelgem, and eight Tour de France stages when asked what it took to win Flanders:


Heart! Strength and fitness. Flanders can be over before the first hill; the hills are just part of it, the wind, the rain, the cobbles and the tiny roads all make the race what it is.

Bernard Hinault rode it 1978 and never went back:

I told the organisers it wasn't a race but a war game. Instead of a race, it's a lottery.
Oscar Freire:

Flanders is a special race where experience plays an important role. You have to know well the pavé sections.

Quotes: cyclingnews.com, pez, daily peloton.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Freire

A couple of days ago, I watched Brabantse Pijl. Description from cyclingnews:


After 117 kilometres the peloton hit the local circuit - five laps of 17 kilometres each with Rabobank and Cofidis taking command. The local circuit featured three climbs: first the Bruine Put (800m, maximum gradient 14 percent), then the Lindenberg (600m, maximum gradient 7 percent) and finally the Alsemberg
(400m, maximum gradient 10 percent) where the finish line was marked.
The finishing circuits were so hard that on the second to last lap only 50 riders remained in the group, out of 200 starters only 97 finished. Attacks ensued and Kim Kirchen, with only Boogerd(Rabo), Nuyens(Cofidis), Freire (Rabo), (P-Lotto), Gasparotto (Liquigas) and Kroon (CSC) following.

Having Oscar Freire in your break, seems to have the same effect as being with Boonen, racing for 2nd place. Leukemans, who attacked with 5k to go only to be caught at 1k, said

"It's not a good idea to wait for a sprint against Freire, so I gambled but lost,"

Sure enough, Freire won the sprint thereby winning the race for the third time.

Current Odds at Unibet for Flanders

Boonen 3 to 1

Bettini 7 to 1

Cancellara 9 to 1

Pozzato 17 to 1

Freire 25 to 1.

Friday, April 6, 2007

The Best Week in Cycling

This weekend starts what some consider to be the best week in all of road cycling. The 1-2-3 punch of:


Ronde van Vlaanderen (Tour of Flanders), Sunday April 8
Gent - Wevelgem, April 11
Paris - Roubaix, Sunday, April 15.


There is calm before the race. A place like this chapel, at the top of the Muur, the second to last climb in the Tour of Flanders, is normally a place of peace, of contemplation.

But on race day, it is transformed. Add race barriers, 100s, maybe 1000s of die hard fans, the Lion of Flanders waving in the wind and you have the chaos that is the Spring Classics.



Look at how wide that path is. It's more of a sidewalk than a road. The race course appears to move into an even smaller space as it curves to the right at the top. Each of the 18 hills in the Rhonde presents an opportunity for an attack. Each one will cause riders to pop out of the lead group.


Notice anything about Quickstep and P-Lotto's lineups for Flanders:

Quickstep-Innergetic
1Tom Boonen (Bel)
2 Paolo Bettini (Ita)
3 Wilfried Cretskens (Bel)
4 Peter Van Petegem (Bel)
5 Kevin Van Impe (Bel)
6 Gert Steegmans (Bel)
7 Sébastien Rosseler (Bel)
8 Kevin Hulsmans (Bel)

Predictor-Lotto
11 Leif Hoste (Bel)
12 Stefano Zanini (Ita)
13 Johan Van Summeren (Bel)
14 Roy Sentjens (Bel)
15 Bert Roesems (Bel)
16 Björn Leukemans (Bel)
17 Wim Vansevenant (Bel)
18 Wim De Vocht (Bel)
7 Belgians and 1 Italian, each.

My prediction for Flanders- Tom Boonen. I know I'm not going out on a limb with this, but he looks very, very strong right now and this is Quickstep's domain. Quickstep will be sporting it's own 1-2-3 punch in Boonen, Bettini and Van Pategem. Boonen is especially motivated because this would be 3 in row.



If you don't watch alot of road cycling, these 3 races are the ones to watch, especially Flanders and P-R. There is something very unique about these races: their history, the riders who have conquered them as well as the riders that have been vanquished by them.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Struggle

Long ago, Shapespeare wrote:

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,


This passage, much longer than just the opening phrase, has been interpreted a number of ways from a debate on suicide to a discussion of action vs. inaction. While I am no scholar, I prefer the action vs. inaction take. Inaction, in many ways is like "death."

It is better to act, to strive... to struggle. It is the struggle that drives us and in the end sustains us.

As a cyclist, the struggle is constant, never-ending. It is a struggle against everything:
against the road, the wind, the hill, the elements, other riders and sometimes even ones self. Mind over matter, it is the ability to push beyond. And on the other side, discover what you are made of. We've all seen this played out: Voekler keeping the yellow jersey, Hamilton with the broken collarbone.

The cyclist's struggle is to maintain velocity, both speed and direction. Always in pursuit of velocity, forward momentum.

To end that struggle marks the "death" of that moment. Getting flicked from the group, being unable to clean a section of trail, falling off the pace at a mountain bike race and watching the riders you were with ride away: all part of the struggle. Live to ride another day. Learn from the experience, from that struggle.

"Death" only occurs when we give up and walk away.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

E3: Foreshadowing of Quickstep Flanders Dominance?

So, it was back on the trainer for me this week as the temps in the a.m. here were too cold. I know I should be outside, but after the bone-chilling experience on Saturday, I don't want and can't risk a cold right now.

So what better way to catch up some early season races. Yesterday morning I watched the E3. What a great race.

Stijn Devolder attacked and 2 went with him. Soon after, Boonen bridged taking one with him. A short time later, Cancellara bridged a 17 second gap, made contact, then dropped back to give teammate O'Grady a ride to the lead group.

It has been said that like racing against Armstrong, racing against Boonen is racing for second place. But that's not the half of it because a short time later, Oscar Freire attacked out of the second group and Bettini went with him. Freire suffered and dropped back, but Bettini made it to the lead group. So, now the lead group has Boonen and Bettini in it. So, if you were demoralized when Boonen bridged to your lead group, how do you feel when his teammate Bettini shows up!? Unfortunately for Bettini, when he attached on one of the next hills, he snapped his derailleur and his race was over. While Bettini was out, his attack launched the final move for the 4 who sprinted for the win.

Boonen won the sprint with relative ease. Can you see it? A lead group at Flanders with Bettini and Boonen in it? Boonen was quoted as saying:

The E3 Prijs doesn't keep any secrets; if you're good here, you're good in the Tour of Flanders as well.


That goes for your team as well.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

What a difference a day makes

Yesterday, I headed out for Judson ( a local moderately fast group ride) with a 60% chance of rain. My rule is if it's dry when it's time to roll, I roll. It was dry at 7:30 a.m. so I rolled. It sprinkled a little off and on, but nothing major, then at about 25 miles in, it rained and the temperature dropped. A group of us decided we had had enough and we turned to go home. I was colder than I can describe. A few times, my teeth chattered.

Pushing the pedals felt like sticking needles in my quads. With 10 miles to go, I had to just push the pace, it was the only way I could think of to heat my core up and get warm. It was probably the worst ride ever.

Today, headed out for the same ride. Clear sky, only a 10% chance of rain, but 20-30 mph winds out of the S-SW. The faster-than-me guys pegged the front of the group and we were pushing 28 or so within 10-15 miles. A tail wind is all fine and good, but with that great force pushing you along, in the back of your mind you have to remember:


"This same wind is going to kick the crap out of me on the way back."


Sure enough, I got flicked on the run back. My third or so time through the pace line, I hit the wind and blew up. I can't think of a worse feeling. One moment I'm fine, waiting for my turn at the front. The rider in front of me pulls off and the force of that wind almost knocked me back. I grit my teeth and dig in, pull through and then POP! Like a balloon. Nothing. Heart rate redlines. Leg speed drops. The rest of the group files past like I'm standing still. A couple of guys (Thanks Scott) slowed to see if I could catch their wheel, but I was fried.

Luckily, the group stops right after this section for a few moments at a gas station to refuel etc. and I caught back on. I struggled the rest of the way home, but didn't get flicked again.

It is this struggle, when I am at my limit that keeps me coming back for more. I will never be the faster person in the group. I will probably never stand on a podium. I am not a "natural athlete." What I will do is to go as fast as I can for as long as I can.

One day, horrible ride, the next day, a great ride.