Monday, September 5, 2011

Farewell to summer, and another US pro cycling team (sort of).

Well, another summer has come and gone. Labor Day weekend is in the books. Rats. I feel that once again it has flat passed me by. Oh sure, I got out on the bikes here and there...and I did the LIVESTRONG Davis back in July...but other than that I feel like I have nothing to look back on and say I DID. It's not like there's anything special that I didn't do that I had planned....nothing like that. Just the general feeling that I'm another year older. And time is picking up speed. I've been warned that it happens by pretty much everybody older than I's just now that I can feel it happening.

It doesn't help any that we were in Costco yesterday morning picking up a few things and the Christmas stuff is out in force ALREADY! Somehow that just seems to drive the final nail into the coffin of summer. Is it just me, or is it a fact that the decorations and stuff being put out earlier and earlier each year?

As to what I did this weekend, well..I didn't go for ANY bike rides! And I wanted to let me tell you...I just didn't. It was my choice...Jeannie wouldn't have said anything if I had ridden all three days. But I'm driving north TOMORROW to Sunnyvale, and I will be up there a MONTH! It's been quite a while since I was on any business travel. Years back I seemed to go for a few weeks 3 or 4 times a year. It was totally common, and I had my 'Sunnyvale' travel kit all bagged up and ready to load into the rental car. I'd take a full 'mini kitchen' as I was staying in a low budget room (on purpose...see, I got to keep the difference in the Per Diem rate of what was allowed and the actual cost of my room...but like all good things, that has come to an end). We are on 'reciepts' no more slumming for me. I have a 2 bedroom suite with a full kitchen. All the guys who have been going up there recently are staying there and they say it's great. Full kitchen will be more cooking chili dogs on my 2 burner stove on the coffee table. Or my little toaster oven making mini pizzas. Or any of the other culinary delights I'd whip up in my hotel room. The room with a mini refrigerator, and a mini microwave. No sirree..this time I'm living it up in the ritz!

I had to dig my Sunnyvale travel kit out of the attic (it's been THAT long since I was up there!) and go thru it. No need for the toaster, toaster-oven, mini stove, pots & pans and dishes. That will free up some room in my rental car, whatever it will be (hopefully a mini wagon or I AM bringing up both my mt and road bikes, along with all the gear for both). I will be working the graveyard shift, and at this point I can't say if that's good or bad. I typically have worked the day shift in the past, where we get out of work at 2:30pm. I'd have my bike already in the car, zoom back to the hotel (just a few minutes if I catch all the lights green)....jump into my riding gear, grab my water, and hit the road. I could usually catch about 15 minutes of the car pool lanes (they turn from 'all' to 'HOV' at 3pm) which would get me a good chunk of the way to wherever I was going. This time I will get off work at 6am, eat breakfast at the hotel (this one has free breakfast, which is a GOOD thing!) and sleep some, getting up around 2pm on ride days. Grab some lunch, and hit the road just as if I was working days. I'm in no particular hurry to get home, pretty much before dark is about my only constraint as I won't have lights. Shower up, grab some dinner, then read, surf the net, or watch the tube until I head into work around 10:30pm for my shift start at 11.  Such will be my life for the next MONTH. Oh yeah, I will be working EVERY SINGLE DAY while I'm up there. Good for the pocketbook I guess...which is why I go on trips like this. Baby needs new shoes.

Actually, PG needs surgery. Sheesh. Got some blobs to be removed. There goes another GRAND. At least we're not putting them thru college, but sometimes it feels like it! She will be going in while I'm up there, but this one should be rather easier on the it's going to be just 2 incisions with masses removed from just under the skin. No bone surgery and such for a change..whew! She might even have the stitches out by the time I get back. Her surgery is scheduled for the 16th I think.

OK...enough on all that....and on to CYCLING.

This Leopard Trek thing has my knickers in a twist. I HATE the idea! Not that either team bothered to consult me on this merger. I feel it's a travesty that LT will be letting go so many of their riders (who jumped ship from Saxo to come WITH Andy & Frank to this awesome new team). Nice. So THAT's how you treat loyalty. "Uhhm, err...well, sorry guys. We didn't win, and we can't find a title sponsor. So we're merging w/ the Shack. Bringing almost their entire team over, along with their director. Good luck finding a new job at this point in the season. Later gaters. Don't let the door hit you on the way out."

Quite honestly, it leaves a VERY sour taste in my mouth just THINKING about it.I just see it as a HORRIBLE thing. Levi jumping ship (most likely, as we STILL don't know for sure)...Horner does what? Back to being a full time domestique? That would be pretty sad, being as he doesn't have a lot of years left in his legs at the Pro level I'm afraid. If this is the state of cycling (and not just in the US apparently, if LT couldn't find a title sponsor either)...well, I think the whole sport at the Pro level is in trouble. There's lots of blame to be flung about....however it all comes down to the doping saga's most likely. Which is so very sad. I'm not sticking up for the dopers here, but it's just an extremely sad thing that Cycling is under the Olympic umbrella. I think that is what is killing them....being under WADA.

Look at US Football (or for that matter, the REST of the worlds soccer). You don't see them crucifying their talent. At worst a couple of games suspension is typically the norm. Nor do you see multi-year suspensions in basketball, baseball, or Hockey. All quite successful sports that have HUGE sponsor dollars. Are they any cleaner than cycling? Not by a LONG-SHOT would be my guess. They just continue to look the other way like cycling USED to do. I think that most people don't really want to know. We just want a good show, becasue at the end of the day, that's all sports really is to most spectators. The races keep getting harder and harder (look at the Grand Tours) yet somehow they expect the riders to continue to give superhuman performances day after day, but NO CHEATING. They (the race owners, television, and sponsors) all want their cake and eat it too. And IF a cyclist is caught enhancing his abilities, well, he is hung out to dry. Skinned alive. A sacrificial lamb. Dropped by his team, an outcast.

I certainly don't know where this all ends....the US has lost Team HTC and now sort of lost Radio Shack. Team BMC is based here on paper...but I have to ask you, has anybody seen any BMC products for sale in this country? I don't see ANY BMC bikes on the road...though I imagine there are a few. But I've NEVER seen any in a shop. I know they are a big  brand over in Europe though. We can CALL it an American team, but that would be somewhat misleading I'm afraid. And it's very sad, as we have a lot of up and coming US riders right now. I'm afraid with the way things are going in the Pro Peleton, they will all be headed to European teams in just a few years, if there are any left. Like it was before Lemond. Sure, we will still have zillions of recreational riders in this country, but the mighty sponsor-dollars will have been put with more lucrative sponsorships like NASCAR, the NFL/NBA/Baseball and the like.

I'm afraid the only way to save cycling is to either lose all the big money, or lose their Olympic attachment. If it wasn't an Olympic sport they would be out from under WADA, and they could make their own wink-wink testing program and then claim they are clean like the big US sports do. Would that be right? Not really, but it works. Tune into a Monday Night Football game sometime and just LOOK at the SPECTACLE! The TV ads bought with HUGE dollars! Are those guys on the field dope-free? Does anybody really care? But what about when someone IS caught dirty? Bad will serve a 2 week suspension. Lose 2 weeks of pay. Then right back into the fold, do your job. Win at all cost. And behind the public scolding, they are shaking his hand when he's back.

In cycling,  if the current trend of loss of sponsors continues, no one will be able to AFFORD to dope. That would also solve the problem. TV revenue would plummet. Races would still go on, however rider salaries the world over would be commensurate with low level pro sports here in the US: pretty much poverty level but doing what you love. Fame would still be there, especially in Europe as I don't see that changing no matter what happens to sponsor dollars. The die hard fans will still know who their hero's are.

So. We shall see what happens in the following weeks and months. Where all the displaced riders will  finally end up. I'm afraid at the moment that I'm having a very hard time getting psyched up for next season. But when it comes around, I'm afraid I will be rooting for Garmin more than ever. Sure, I'll still be cheering on George, and Chris, and Levi, and a plethora of others. But for a team? A true US based team? Not much left to choose from all of a sudden.

And on a closing note, I know that Rae already mentioned this....but Cathy, I sure have my fingers crossed that you will retain your job with the team. I know you've been awfully quiet lately, (busy is probably a huge part of that)...but still it scares me. I wish you luck. Maybe it IS time to get into writing about dog-sledding and such. That sport seems to be growing, and there's nobody testing the dogs (yet).


  1. I gotta say that I am feeling the same way about what RS is calling a merger and LT is calling "new title sponsors". Maybe I just need some time to get used to it, but I currently can't see how this is a positive move for either team. Well, other than the fact that there is now one solid team with sponsor $ coming in ;)

    What WILL happen to all of those guys who left with the Schlecks? With HTC and 11 LT guys all looking for teams right now, there will be a problem in the supply/demand area. Most importantly -- what about JENS?!?!?!

    I also wonder about the fit between Johan and the feel-good, buddy-buddy, cook-for-the-team vibes of the LT squad. They just don't seem compatible....

    Yes, I've always been a Garmin (Slipstream) fan, but they definitely will be the team that I think of as the American team. It's nice to claim BMC, as they have their base/license here and they will have quite a few US riders, but it does seem to be sort of in name only.

    Speaking of Garmin...
    For anyone who follows JV on Twitter, there have been some really interesting conversations about the viability of the current model of cycling vs that of other, larger professional sports. Can it survive as a sponsor-driven sport with no TV revenue share? Should the entire system be revamped? There does seem to be a serious problem when what I would consider the two most successful teams in the sport can't continue in their current configuration. Something needs to change.

    Like I said - maybe I need time to get used to the idea. I'm sure I'll still be cheering on Schlecks, Horner, Fabian, etc no matter what team they are riding for, but this move doesn't seem like a good one to me.

    Cathy, let us know what your perspective is when you get the chance and whether or not you get to move with the team - hope so.

    I can't believe that Labor Day has been here and gone already either. Our weather has made a HUGE shift too. Friday night we were sitting outside sweltering in upper 90s (with @ 90% humidity) and tonight I had to put on sweats and a jacket to take a walk. Nice relief though.

    Everything was crazy here upon my return, as anyone with two young kids could have guessed! Finally got things mosty back to normal and we're tackling school - which has been unbelievably HOT but should be better this week. Both kids loved their schwag from the race with the vuvuzelas, bells, and jelly bellys being the biggest hits!

    Happy Labor Day everyone!

  2. Hi everyone! I am not actually in a position to comment right now and truthfully don't know if I'll be picked up as part of the new team. I'm part of the sponsorship side of the team, not the sporting side, so I probably won't know for awhile if I get to go with the new group. The same group in Austin that is currently my boss will continue with the new team but it remains to be seen what contractual requirements are put on them.

    So, we'll see! I always have plenty of other options but of course would like to continue if the job is offered.

    You always have to keep in mind that professional cycling is first and foremost a business. Business. Business. Business. Repeat after me!

  3. Well, howdy from Sunnyvale. Getting ready to go in for my 2nd graveyard shift...gonna be a few days before I'm adjusted to this schedule I'm afraid. Cathy, thanks for checking in...I'll be keeping my fingers crossed for you. Susie, where are you? Haven't heard from you since before the hurricane...hope all is well (I see on the news that the east coast is getting hammered by MORE rain again...gadzooks...if we could only shift that to Texas!) We've got some fires burning here in Cali we enter the peak of fire season.

    Last Saturday we had a fire break out southeast of town, and as I was doing my yard work I'd get treated every so often to the thumping chop-chop of the giant Sikorsky lift helicopter (that has been adapted for firefighting) flying over on it's way to our little airport for fuel I assume.

    Anyway...all is well up here. Went for my first bike ride in 2 weeks this afternoon...did a road ride up Saratoga Springs's a hard 7 mile 2000' climb. It was in the high 90's when I started and was in the mid 80's at the top...whew. Been a few years since I did that one, and I forgot how hard it was. More traffic than I remember too.

    I'll take tomorrow off from riding (and hopefully get some GOOD sleep finally...working on 7 hours for the last 2 days) and then do a Mt bike ride of my FAVORITE trail on Friday. That's the general plan anyway, we'll see how it goes. My back is still sore...not sure what I did but 2 or 3 weeks ago I pulled a muscle somehow, and I just can't seem to totally overcome the thing...getting old sucks!

    OK...gotta get ready to head in...pack my lunch, shower, we go again! Later gaters...Game ON!

    (You're still younger than I am...)

    Have a wonderful day -