Saturday, June 29, 2013

La Grande Boucle!

Well..it's THAT time of year again...JULY! One of my favorite (if not THE) months of the year! For one thing, it's SUMMER! That means we occasionally get days like TODAY, where it's actually SUNNY, and the STUPID WIND has died down to a reasonable level (10-12mph would be typical and fine)...today was just such a day....did our Saturday morning club ride and it was actually HOT (to me anyway). We don't get much HOT here...our houses don't even have AC...I had to haul down our 3 fans from the attic for these last 2 or 3 days (the REST of the west coast area is sweltering in triple digits...we hit the 80's which is pretty much the same thing for us). The babies are all lying around with their tongues hanging out, looking for the breeze and some shade (they aren't used to heat either). I've actually had to remove most of the huge pile of blankets Jeannie uses (she likes to feel a PILE of blankets piled on top of her most of the year, so she can push them on top of me at some point when she finally gets hot, and I die most every night under a mountain of blankets and fur-babies).

Anyway...I digress (but you can't blame me...we just don't get toasty warm weather very often so it's a big deal). It's TOUR time! In fact, it started TODAY! I would have gotten up early to watch it live, but I've been working 12 hour shifts all week, and my 3am wake-ups take a toll...today I slept in till almost 6am (ahhhh...THAT was nice!). The 1st stage was already in progress, but my DVR is set to record one of the shortened versions...there is NO WAY I'll be able to find time over the next 3 weeks to view the live versions...I'll be lucky to watch even half of the reduced ones (and Jeannie can't STAND to hear Phil and Paul's voices...I guess I've broken her over these last few years...so I mostly have to watch the stages in the bedroom).

I think it's going to be a good year...Froome is the odds-on favorite, but I think (HOPE) there will be serious challengers. Contador seems to not be at peak form, but is he sand-bagging some maybe? He is surely a great TT'er, and he can climb like a goat when he's on form. Quite honestly, I don't think Froom could keep up with him on the climbs if he's back at his peak...we shall see soon enough. Andy Shleck? He just doesn't seem to have it any more....really lost it last year w/ that crash/injury. I'd like to think he'd be back to where he was a few years ago when it was he and Alberto gunning it out in the mountains. He has the team support...and I'll be rooting for him for sure. How about Valverde? Rodriguez? TJ and Cadel? (which one will get the full team support? SO far they are saying it's Cadel, but sadly I don't think he will be able to stay with Froome in the mountains, and TJ will be the guy with a chance...we shall see how long they wait to let TJ go for it).              

There is a Team Trial on stage 4...that will surely be interesting...it's always good for some shakeup of GC contenders...they can lose a good chunk of time if they are too focused on mountains and not enough on the TT aspect. I'm really sad that Fabian isn't here...what a heartbreak for me..he's one of my all-time favorites. but at least Jensie is still turning the cranks...good for him! (our ride today was on the same roads to Avila Beach where Radio Shack saw the winds change on Hwy 1 and quickly broke apart the peleton, and Jens took a flyer off the front to win the stage)...I was thinking about that stage as we had the crosswind portion (not as bad though thankfully).

Who else could be a contender? Astana is rolling with Janez Brajkovic....it would be nice to see him step up his game and be a GC contender...he's capable I think. Lampre has Cunego, who is a formidable cyclist for sure..but is he GC quality? Certainly Garmin has their money bet of  Ryder Hesjedal, but I'm afraid he won't be in the mix for one of the top 3 spots...but he could surprise me...I'd like to see that for sure. What about Voeckler? He's always ready for an attack and stage wins, but not really a GC guy...(his tongue hangs out too far for that..what a character! I'll be waiting for one of his signature long-range solo attacks to make it to the end). Simon Gerrans on Orica is also a worthy name...but I don't really believe he has the firepower to podium. Who am I missing?

As to the Green jersey, Omega Pharma has all their money on Cav for stage wins...not even sure if he will be able to get the Green Jersey this year...I see Sagan doing what Thor did years back: going out front in the mountainous stages and securing a lot of mid-ride points, and still being in the top 3 at the finish...Cav will likely only be interested in the wins and can be beat in points by a dedicated hard rider like Sagan. The points race should be interesting...also I don't count out Matt Goss, and Philippe Gilbert will most certainly be a very dangerous man with a mission.

KOM? No idea...that is a surprise most every year. TJ is still young enough to be the White Jersey...but I see his aspirations a bit higher than that after his win at the ToC. He believes he has a shot at yellow...now it all comes down to how Cadel rides, and how early the let TJ have the full team support.

OK...enough for the TDF primer post...I'm going to grab a sandwich and go watch today's stage! Then to bed early as I have a 12 hr shift tomorrow...the long days will be very difficult..as I can no longer visit ANY cycling websites...I want each day's winners to remain unknown until I WATCH it. Which is always a hard thing to do. My long shifts will just make it that much harder.

Who are your picks for the podium? I have no good reason but I have to admit I'm NOT rooting for Froome...there's just something about him. I'd LOVE to have Andy be back but I just don't see it...never been a HUGE Purito fan but against Froome I'll be rooting...and the route is set up this year to make it pretty exciting most of the way thru...no easy crusing for the win for sure (I forget the stage, but they go up Alp d'Huez TWICE on the same stage..first one side, then the other! How cool is THAT!)

Be careful in your comments please as to each day's winners and drama...as I won't get to see the stages until evening every day...no spoiler alerts until at least a day after (give me a chance).

OK..it's GAME ON!!

Cheers, and VIVA Le Tour!

Monday, June 24, 2013

LIVESTRONG Davis Challenge Century ride

First things first: I had originally posted portions of the following as a comment Sunday evening just before I crashed for the night. Then on my drive home today I was thinking about it, and realized the day needs more than a comment...it was such a grand day that it deserves a full-on post of it's own. So...I apologize if you had already seen the comment, as a lot of this will be the same, but I am expanding substantially AND adding pictures. With that, I take you to the THE REST OF THE STORY.

I realized I hadn't covered too much on Saturday' events, so here goes. We started gathering in the park around noon, and Team Fatty had our own tent compliments of LIVESTRONG. 
Looking clockwise from the left that's Fatty (checking something on his phone), Rob and Dave, then Greg, David (davidh@marin from the comments at Fatty's), his son Rune, his daughter Sage (you only see the top of her head...SORRY Sage!) and Lisa (aka the Hammer) sitting in the middle. Just a nice afternoon to hang out in the shade, temp is in the low to mid 90's.
Saturday evening was the Awards banquet, which the entire Team Fatty was invited (as we were once again the Team Champion fundraisers). Also David's wife Allison was the Messenger Champion (she had the most individual donors to her fundraising site, over 100). This was the first year we've met Allison, the last 2 years David came down by himself (they live in the Bay area). If you read Fatty's, her 'comment' name is Wife#1, and I must say what a huge pleasure it was to FINALLY meet her! You'll be hearing more about the family later on...it's quite a story!
 Here's Allison getting her award, which was just after she gave a WONDERFUL acceptance speech! 
(it was the best of the night. Seriously!)

 This year rather than have Fatty give a another speech, he was just called up to sit on a stool and chat (and answer questions) from Chris at LIVESTRONG. (btw: Fatty actually won TWO awards again this year, Captain of the Team Champion winners, AND he was also the Individual Champion, 
having earned more $ than any other person).

And here's me after the banquet was officially over, giving my I AM ALSO A WINNER pose.
I don't know why I do that every year...it just feels good.

The weather forecast had changed dramatically just a day or two before the ride. It had originally been forecast for HOT and HUMID, however it had shifted and now called for cooler than usual (OH THANK YOU GOD!)  with the possibility of rain (NOT so good). During the heat of the day it was probably in the low to mid 70's (and it didn't rain) which is a HUGE blessing from the 90's or hotter temps we've had the last 4 years (two at San Jose, 2 in Davis). Yes, this is my FIFTH LIVESTRONG event! Gosh how time flies!

We showed up around 7am on Sunday morning and lined up at the VERY FRONT, due to our status as the Team Champions. There was much picture taking and the announcer-dude (about 15 feet to our left) was a very busy man being as he had a captive audience of ALL 800 or so riders and their families/friends/etc.
 At the start line, from the right (yes, I know I did that backwards) that's Rob (Zeeter), Jeremy, myself, Greg, Steve, and sadly I can't remember the name of the last guy...anybody? I am so ashamed!

 At one point while we were all milling about, I slipped my bike behind Gregs, then pulled out a short piece of rope I had brought along and tied our bikes together (unbeknowst to Greg). I then said rather loudly: "OK, I'm READY to RIDE! He turned around and boy was that a great look on his face!
(Photo credit to Rob, thanks my friend! My shot was badly blurred).

 Not too long before the start. That's Fatty and Lisa on the left, Rob is sitting in the tri-wheel custom rig (he was in a really bad car accident almost exactly 5 years ago, and is currently fighting very hard just to do what we see as very simple things). He and his dad Dave will once again pedal that rig over the 45 mile route, and Amy (his mom/Dave's wife) rides a bike along with them. That's Amy standing to the right of Rob (black hair). They are SUPER awesome and inspiring people to say the least!

The Texas 4000 group then was called to the VERY front (as they always do) and one of them, a young girl named Hillary, sang the National Anthem very admirably. The Texas 4000 (in case you've never heard of it) is a group of University of Texas (Hook-em-HORNS @Austin) students who commit to raising at LEAST $4500 AFTER being put thru the wringer and being selected from all the throngs of kids who submit entry forms. Then they split them into 3 groups (Coastal, Mountains, and new this year: the Ozarks) and they ride their bikes EVERY SINGLE DAY from Austin to Anchorage Alaska (hence the 4000...that's MILES). We meet the new group of them ever year as the Coastal group plans their ride to coincide with Davis. We personally meet and chat with many of them every year, and if ever there were a more inspiring group of young people, well...let's just say that I just can't imagine that's possible! You can Google "Texas 4000" and find all kinds of information, AND you can even follow the groups progress. They finally will all meet up in Whitehorse Alaska and then ride as a huge group from there to Anchorage. It's quite a commitment as you can imagine...takes their entire summer vacation (but WHAT a vacation!).

 Finally a little after 7:30am we are off. Most of the Texas 4000 group pedals off to the side (as they are riding for FUN today, as tomorrow they pedal on to San Francisco and beyond) so the rest of us can FLY. The Fatty train is quickly organized, and in not very much time at all we were again at the very front of the race (officially it's NOT a race but a ride. However, any time there are more than 2 bikes, don't kid yourself...it's a race). I took one short pull at the front and then quickly got back into the line, saving my strength for the LONG day in the saddle that I know was ahead of me. My goal this year was to finish WITH Fatty, Greg, Lisa and anybody else who is able to hang on for the full 95 miles.

Yes, it's a rather lofty goal.
 
 This is the view from the FRONT of 800 cyclists (ok, 798 if you want to be picky). That is Lisa (aka the Hammer) in front of me, and then Fatty on the very front setting the pace. Beyond Fatty it's all open road, 
with what I believe is the police escort still in view.

Around mile 10 we had picked up a few non-Fatties into our paceline, and as I was riding 3rd or 4th wheel, the guy in the very front rode us right over a lovely deep square-edged pot-hole (without pointing it out so the rest of us would NOT hit it, which is his responsibility being the front rider). I was riding about 6" behind Jeremy, focused entirely on his rear wheel (at that speed and following distance you really need to be paying attention to the rider in front of you). I saw him bounce hard, and mere microseconds later I hammered over the hole, which (unbeknownst to me) bounced one of my 2 irreplaceable Fatty Camelback Podium water-bottles right out onto the road (which is pretty dangerous, as everybody else behind me now needs to not only miss the pothole, but also my water bottle which is skittering around on the road). I'm really going to miss that bottle...rats. (By chance does anybody have an extra to sell me?) It was a horribly hard hit on my rear wheel and I was worried (with what turns out to be good reason). Within the next mile my rear tire was going flat. I sadly pulled out of the blazing Fatty Train at mile 11.5, and that was that. I would not see them again until after the finish. Many of our team had already fallen off the blistering early pace, and one of my teammates Leigh Anne kindly stopped to assist with my flat repair (and catch her breath I suspect...the Fatty train was holding between 22 to 26mph thus far, with no sign of slowing down).  After I changed out my tube we took off, with most of the "fast" riders having already gone by.  

Unbelievably, within the next 2 miles it was flat again! I only carry ONE spare tube (Note: I have NEVER-EVER flatted twice on one ride before, and was quite distraught ...I think I said some bad words), but Leigh Anne had again pulled over with me and quickly volunteered her tube (so I didn't have to try to patch my tube on the road. Or maybe it was so she wouldn't have to watch me fling my rear wheel into the field and have a pout-fest). She apparently had been designated as my 2013 LIVESTRONG guardian angel (every year at this ride it seems I have need of help, and every year one of our teammates always steps up). I was quite thankful, as TRYING to patch a tube is not very easy or fun in the best case, and doing it on the side of the road (watching all the REST of the fast people zing on by) would be miserable. I pulled the tire off all the way this time and checked my rim...I was afraid maybe I cracked it with that huge hit...but saw no damage, and also no damage to my tire that I could find...so I pumped up the new tube and off we went. We saw the occasional Fatty here and there, and off and on we would find others interested in either working with us or just taking a rest in our draft....some would hang with us for a while but mostly (for the next 86 miles) we were pretty much alone, which seems hard to believe with 800 riders on the course.

We took turns pulling on the front with the other resting in the draft, and I have to admit there were a few times when she was absolutely destroying me (but being a guy riding with a girl I couldn't say anything and had no choice but suck it up and hang on for dear life, praying she would back the pace down before I passed out). Turns out that many of the guys on the team have similar stories after riding with her in previous years...she is quite strong. In a moment of complete honestly I have to admit here that there was probably NO CHANCE WHATSOEVER that I would have been able to hang onto the Fatty Train to the very end, and looking back in hindsight my flat tire was probably a good thing, as it saved me from utterly destroying myself (like I did LAST year, and the year before that, and the year before that....you get the picture). The 100 miles seems a LOT further when you've burned up ALL your matches early in the ride, believe me.

Everybody knows that the last 80 miles of a century are the hardest! (I read that the other day at Fatty's, don't know his name, but he is the author of the "100 Miles of Nowhere, Where the Winds come sweeping down the plains division" post on 6/21/13). I LOVE THAT LINE...it should be on a T-shirt!)...but thankfully it was cooler than expected, and the wind was manageable. There is one little story I need to share in what otherwise are the boring miles of survival. We were cruising along pushing the best pace we could manage, and had already come out of the hills and were onto the last 30-40 miles where the road is FLAT and LONG, with an occasional 90 degree turn where all you see is more FLAT and LONG road in front of you, and the wind constantly shifts directions. I was in front taking a long pull into the headwind when Leigh Anne says she recognized the rider ahead (just a few hundred yards)...it was a woman she had met earlier but didn't catch her name, and she asked if I could find that out when we catch her. I put my head down and put some real effort into it. We were gaining on her by seemingly INCHES at a time. In what seemed like FOREVER I finally managed to cross the gap and pull alongside her, and it turns out she was much older than I am (just guessing of course, but she had a nice  head of silver hair peeking out of her helmet)...and she was a rather tiny thing..I'm betting she couldn't have weighed more than 100-110lbs. She then jokingly said "what took you so long? I heard you back there and slowed down for you". We all got quite a kick out of that...but secretly what was left of my self-esteem just poured right out onto the road like a cup of spilled milk, as this little 'older' lady was crushing me. 

Turns out her name was Janet, and she is now a hero of mine. I rode alongside for just a minute or so chatting, then dropped in behind into her draft to recover some (YES. I was now drafting on the little 'older' lady...hey...give me a break, she was killing us!). Soon after that two guys came up and by us rather quickly. Janet instantly jumped out of the saddle and hammered her way onto their wheel, leaving me fighting hard to catch onto that little train. It almost killed me but I pulled us across, but then the guy in front accelerated even more. I held it as long as I could and finally told Leigh Ann there was no way I could hold that pace, and she said she couldn't either so we dropped off, once again on our own. Not too much further there was another 90 degree turn, and the guy in front (who had pulled away from the other guy and Janet) , slowed and waited. After we had all made the turn he lit it up once again, and I said "NO WAY we're falling for THAT again!" and let him go. They quickly put some distance on us, but a little while later I could see they were slowing down...we had almost caught up with them when they all pulled into a SAG stop. At this point I think we were at about mile 85 and had no need of a stop, so we kept going. And that was the last we saw of Janet.

The remaining miles went by pretty quick...you start to regain some energy when you can see the Davis water tower in the distance off to our left. As we were nearing the end we were chuckling at our "87th wind" (we each had been taking long pulls in front and then long drafts in the back to recover...each time you get back in front you suddenly have ANOTHER '2nd wind'). 

And finally we are back inside Davis and the closing mile or so inside the town where you are protected from the wind by trees and buildings, and there are police waving you thru all the stop-signs and stop-lights. FINALLY we make the turn onto the final 600 yard (or so) finishing straight that goes right back under the start/finish line. The announcer-man on the right of the finish line has a display unit telling him who we are (we all have little chips on our bikes and there are sensor units laid out on the road throughout the course...we passed over the final one a few hundred yards from the finish so that's how announcer-man sees who is coming up to the finish).  He makes a big deal to the crowd of EVERY finisher, announcing your names in his booming voice, and people are clanging cowbells and cheering for every single person. It's a real feel-good moment for sure, and all cancer survivors swing off to the right side where they are given a yellow rose. We soft pedaled thru on the left side, and finished with a riding time of right around 5:30, with an elapsed time of right at 6 hours (that includes all the stops including my 2 flat tires). It would have been an entirely different story here if Leigh Anne hadn't stopped back at mile 11...she really saved me from a rather sad day on the road.

And back at the ranch, Greg, Fatty, Lisa, Jeremy and a few others came across the finish line under 5 hours ELAPSED time, with just UNDER 4:30 of actual ride time (which is an incredible time for sure!) After we finished we were sitting around under our little tent eating pie (compliments of David H every year), chips and salsa (compliments of Amanda) and whatever else we could find, and just enjoying the company. Every so often another Fatty finisher would come over and would regale us with their story. Around 2:30pm or so Fatty and Lisa had to jet (literally, as they had to fly back to Utah). David H and family (I mentioned them earlier: David, Allison, Sage and Rune) were ALL riding the full century. Sage is 12 years old (this is a correction, I originally mis-stated that she was 13...sorry Sage!), and Rune is 9. There is a time cutoff at 4pm (after that they pull you off the course. This is also a correction, I originally thought it was 5pm) so they realized they'd never make that finish if they started with the rest of us at 7:30, so they were out on the course (making them the FIRST people to start) around 5:40am. Allison said they were the FIRST people to use the port-O-potties at the first few SAG stops, which is an amazing gift for sure! The Fatty train had passed them around mile 35, and we passed them at mile 50. They were looking pretty good at that point...I had already gone by and then Sage flew on by me in a little 'you can't pass me' sprint-thing...it was SO cool! Here at the half-way point was the entire Houston family riding a century together. (Oh..and David was riding his forty-something pound tandem bike with NO 2nd person, Allison was riding a 'cross' bike with off-road knobby tires, and the kids were both riding bikes that must have weighed at least 30 pounds...which really makes me feel rather pathetic thinking about ANY complaints I might have had during the ride). 

ANYWAY....around 3:30pm Jeremy (who had an App on his phone so he could see the data from the little bike sensors)...told us that they had just passed the 90 mile mark (the century was actually only 95 miles)...so we knew they were now very close to finishing. We all went up to the finish line, and Greg read my mind and beat me up to the announcer-man and gave him all the info on this incredible family so he could make a big deal when they came across the line (which he did)...So we were all there at the finish line and along with a LOT of other people, and raised quite a ruckus as they passed. Allison told me their ride time was 8:27, with an elapsed time of 9:53 (all SUPER AWESOME!!!!)

Here's the link to my youtube video of them coming across the line (this was my FIRST ever youtube btw):

Houston family finishes 2013 LIVESTRONG Century

And here is the triumphant Houston family posing for the press! That's Sage, Rune, Allison and David.
And just so you know, they are the NICEST people you could ever hope to meet!
Our Fatty-Family is CHOCK FULL of people like this! That's what really makes all this so special!

 After the ride we all showered and changed, and then along with the Houston family, our new friends Jason and Amanda and their son (all new to the Fatty family this year), Rob, Greg and I all went out for a really nice Italian dinner to put an exclamation point on our wonderful day. We were sadly missing our good friend (and "Sista from another mista') Angie Gibson who couldn't be here with us this year...Angie, we really missed you! Sure hope you come back NEXT year! Poor Greg and I...what were we to do? NOBODY was there to tell us things like what to eat, what to do (at every moment) and in general making nearly all our decisions for us (being guys, we truly NEED this btw). We didn't hear "You're KILLING ME Smalls!" even ONCE this weekend! How utterly SAD for us! Just 2 guys, totally WRACKED with indecision!

And so...like every other LIVESTRONG event we've been to, it's been just a GRAND experience, and I also now have a few more faces to associate with the names of our huge Fatty Family.

And with that, another year of my highly anticipated LIVESTRONG weekend is over once again (boo hoo, It always makes me sad to think about it).

Have a great week!

Cheers!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

LIVESTRONG Davis

Well...it's that time of year again...one of my FAVORITE times....the LIVESTRONG Davis event. I fund-raise all year for LIVESTRONG, even in the face of it's uhm, er...less than fortunate publicity in recent times from some guy who used to ride a bike for a living.  This is my FIFTH year fundraising and doing the LIVESTRONG event...I got sucked in WAY back when Fatty's wife Susan was still battling her cancer.

ANYWAY....my brother Greg and I drove up today...usually we come up on Friday, and our "sista from another mista" Angie holds her big whoop-de-doo and rents out the Cycling Hall of Fame for the evening JUST for team Fatty. This year she's been fighting some personal ordeals and hasn't been on the bike for a LONG time (Greg finally talked to her this afternoon...she said it's been since October since she's ridden). It's sad being  here without our "sista'" as the three of us tear the place apart with FUN every year...but we're glad she seems to be fine and getting her life back on track...we sure wish her the best and hope to see her next year!

Tonight is the Awards banquet...our entire team is invited (as we won the Team event again, and Fatty won the Individual award again). It's always a fun time, and always quite inspiring...as there is lots of food, some wine and beer, and lots of motivational talk by people who are SURVIVORS...telling their story. I"m sure this year will be much the same.

I know my fundraising is down from previous years...tough times at the moment...I know the entire event usually brings in around a Million dollars, and this year we are maybe around 350 grand...quite the hit due to a guy who used to ride bikes falling from grace. But I and my teammates endeavor to persevere (got that from the Outlaw Josey Wales...and it seems fitting). LIVESTRONG is a great organization who helps people and their families survive the cancer fight, free of charge. That is an entirely different animal from that guy who used to ride bikes...that is what I believe and what I tell people who ask...and I continue to pray that I NEVER need their help....but am thankful they are there for those who do need it, and why I continue on in my own small way to help where I can.

Tomorrow is the bike ride...the highlight of the weekend. Greg and I are doing the full 100 miles, my big plan is to DRAFT DRAFT DRAFT all day long. Greg, Fatty and Lisa (aka the HAMMER) are all WAY stronger than I...and my only hope top hang with them is to wheel-suck like a big dog! So...that's my basic strategy...of course, we get front of the pack starting privileges tomorrow morning...and when the announcer says GO and WE are in the very front...it's hard not to be jazzed by that (there is a police escort in front of us) and ride like the WIND to hold the front spot...at some point I am SURE I will be THE front of the entire pack...however briefly...this year I need to suck in my pride and get back into the Team Fatty pack and begin my day-long wheel-sucking campaign. IF I am successful, I will finish with Fatty, Hammer and Greg. Last year it was just the 3 of them, as I had dropped off WAY back. I hope to do better this year. We will know by this time tomorrow.

No matter how  I do, it will be a GREAT day, and afterwards the team hangs out and has PIE, compliments of davidh (one of my friends and teammates from the bay area). He brought his entire family this year (wife#1 Allison and his kids too: 13 year old daughter Sage, and 9 yr old son Roan. The ENTIRE FAMILY is shooting for the full century, and realizing that they will be slow have arranged to start at 5am, well ahead of the rest of us at 7:30. ! That's quite a huge thing for 9 and 13 year old kids! Allison and Roan recently completed Fatty's 100 Miles of Nowhere...Allison told me tonight that her and Roan got back to the house in the dark after a LONG day, and they were 5 miles short...she told him it was good enough and he said no, so they put on lights and then rode up and down the street to get those last 5 miles. What were you doing when you were 8 years old? I feel rather embarrassed thinking that I was watching Gilligans Island and such, and NOT riding my bike 100 miles!

OK...we need to be off in mere moments for the banquet...hope you are having a nice weekend, and I"ll check back in maybe tomorrow, maybe next week with an update as to how the rest of the grand LIVESTRONG weekend played out.

Be safe, get in a ride if you can, and CHEERS!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Unbelievable!

I had some other things in mind for today's post, however an article on Velo News the other day caught my attention and won't let go. Here is the link:

http://velonews.competitor.com/2013/06/news/new-report-presents-data-driven-doubts-on-performances-past-and-present_290708

In a nutshell, the article is an overview of a digital publication based on research going back up to 30 years. Here is a quick excerpt giving you the gist of it:

"Not Normal? An insight into doping and the 21 biggest riders from LeMond to Armstrong to Evans examines riders both old (Bernard Hinault) and new (Chris Froome, Bradley Wiggins), and labels performances across an index of suspicion versus believability.
It’s the result of years of research by its editor, Antoine Vayer, a French journalist and a Festina trainer from 1995 to 1998 who has written for French dailies Le Monde, LibĂ©ration, and l’HumanitĂ©."

 More bits from the article:

"The authors claim their projected data comes in at about one-percent higher than actual watts generated by Horner on marked climbs, though one measurement differs by as much as 9 percent, up the west Tourmalet ascent, so it’s important to take the metrics with a grain of salt."


"In short, the findings aren’t particularly kind to many of the riders, and generally indicate what most keen observers already suspected: most great rides, according to the publishers, are slightly suspicious at the very least, and can veer into superhuman performance."

They have ranked 21 riders based on their times up iconic climbs (mostly in the TDF). It ranks the riders into green (normal), yellow (suspicious), orange (miraculous) or red (mutant) categories. Here's where I go into a tailspin: recent riders such as Evans, Wiggens and Froome. Evans and Wiggo come in under yellow, along with Vinreque, Moreau, Fignon and Hinault, and Voeckler!  Miraculous riders are Landis, A. Shcleck, Valverde, Vino, Jalabert and FROOME! And the Mutant riders (besides obviously Armstrong) are Ulrich, Pantani, Contador, Basso, Riis, and yes, Big Mig himself: Miguel Indurain (who had publicly stated that he believes Lance was innocent btw).

Do you see where I'm going with this? Sure, we pretty much know by now that the old-timer hero's were doping. I mean, is anybody disputing the red listed riders? I doubt it...they fall under the 'yep, we knew it' category for SURE. But in this current Biological Passport "CYCLING IS CLEAN" blah-blah blah-era, to have Evans and Wiggens as "suspicious" and Froome "Miraculous" just blows my mind! Say it isn't so!

Now of course I realize that this is just a report (based on math), and it has room for error. However, the data seems spot on with what we already know for the old-timers...(and they based a lot of the numbers on Horner). However, to throw all of this out saying it can't be right would be throwing math that we pretty much know are fact: ie the watts per kilogram of a rider and the numbers that are pretty much near the high-end capability of a person. Human beings haven't gone and suddenly mutated into some new form of life where they are all of a sudden capable of putting out ridiculous numbers in this category. That change will naturally be a very VERY slow creep of what's humanly possible (without artificial augmentation). Anybody who has numbers above that didn't get them naturally I'd venture to say.

So now.... we have all been led to believe that current 'players' are performing clean. Such as Evans, and Wiggo. To hear Wig's vehement response 2 years ago to nay-sayers after his Tour win suddenly reminds me of Lance, and how he not only vocally denied but CRUSHED any doubters. And now we have Froome, who is going to be Sky's captain for the Tour this year (AND the top pre-race pick for winning) is being shown as a highly-likely doper.

And so, here we are almost on the eve of the 100th edition of le Tour de France, and it would appear (if you believe any of this latest report) that we are still unable to believe they are riding clean. As we already know, just because you don't get caught means almost nothing.

What are your thoughts? Do you believe Wiggo and/or Froome are clean? How about Evans? (and I mean not only now, but the year he won?) Is it possible that after ALL we've been thru on the doping front that top riders are STILL putting it all out there and doping for a chance to win? I guess I have to say "why not?" I mean, really, not much has changed as to what's on the line: fame, power, $$MONEY$$...and ANY type of an edge a rider can get could be WELL rewarded (as long as you don't get caught).

And then there is the thoughts on Lance, and the other crop of old-time winners. Lance has had all his wins stripped from the record books....but the rest (including Riis who even admitted he doped for his win) still have their wins. 

Voeckler was one of the only 'recent' riders to respond, and he said "This is not the first time people wonder about my performances and I can conceive it, even if it hurts, because I sometimes doubt myself about those of some riders. However, I am quite surprised that this questioning is built, as often, on uphill cycling timings or power ‘calculations,’ because it seems logical that the actual power developed by a [rider] can not be exactly known unless the bicycle is equipped with a device aimed to measure power,” he wrote, adding that the calculations, in his opinion at least, failed to account for racing factors, such as slipstreams."

I'm not totally sure what to think about this. To calculate a riders power all you need is an accurate weight and a time up a known route (based on other riders data which they had w/ Chris Horner's). Now granted this doesn't compensate for road conditions (wind, rain, etc) and if it was only for one climb then yes I'd say the data is not likely to be accurate...however it appears they used multiple climbs to rank these riders. The slipstream that Voeckler talks about doesn't really come into play that much on the climbs...(and funny he should mention that, as his best climbs are when he's all alone out front on one of his famous solo breakaways).

Great googly moogly...will we EVER get away from doping? I'd say not. Human nature is what it is, and there will always be those who will risk everything for the chance to capture the golden ring.

Welcome to the 2013 Tour!

Cheers!