Monday, September 8, 2014

Bye-bye Vuelta, HELLO John Muir Trail!

Well, two topics today.
As for the Vuelta, just can’t get any better than these summit-finishes! Yesterday’s stage (Sunday) had Contador, Valverde and JRod literally side by side at one point on the upper reaches of the climb slugging it out like 3 heavyweight fighters standing toe to toe (to toe)…un-freaking BELIEVABLE! I love it that these guys all seem to be unafraid to throw it all out there on the road and risk it all!
Contador was the MOST aggressive of the 3…he attacked MULTIPLE times…each with a grimace on his face as he tried to gap the rest of the GC field on the steep upper pitches. But Valverde was right there EACH AND EVERY time…AS WAS Purito! Froomey was off the back AGAIN, yet still maintaining contact somehow (well, if you can call being alone off the back of the group but somewhat in sight of them as contact)…yet he held his steady pace as he has done most of this race, and fought his way back up to the ultra-diminished GC group yet AGAIN. But in the final reaches of the climb as the attacks were fast and furious he was unable to close the gap, and lost some more time to the leaders. It was Valverde and Purito who were the big winners (and by big I mean a few seconds closer to Alberto)…they BOTH finally gapped Alberto (again) for 5 seconds at the line, AND they both got a time bonus for finishing 2nd and 3rd on the stage!
OH MY GOSH, it was just amazing! And it’s not like Contador is sitting on his overall gap playing it safe…HE is the primary animator AND he's the guy voted most likely to win at this point! Valverde actually didn’t attack at all yesterday (which was his plan), which probably was a VERY good plan, knowing Alberto WOULD be. And Purito…wow....all bets are off on that guy…he attacked a few times also, and he still had teammates when Alberto and Valverde were alone! I loved watching Purito send a guy OR TWO to attack the lead group, then even with EVERYBODY KNOWING it was coming, to attack and try to get up to his guys anyway! Each time his guys attacked it was OBVIOUS, but that didn't stop them from trying OVER AND OVER! WHAT A STAGE (AGAIN!). And today is ANOTHER SUMMIT FINISH!!! Pinch me, I'm DREAMING!!!
I don't even know who to root for in this years Vuelta anymore...I'm jazzed by all THREE primary contenders! (and I wasn't a Valverde fan at ALL before this race...but I'm seeing him in a new light right now).

Yet sadly, my 2014 Vuelta viewing days end tonight, as my brother Greg and I take off on our annual backpacking trip early tomorrow (Tues) morning. We are headed back up into the Sierra’s for the next segment of the John Muir Trail. Last year we hiked the southernmost segment…from Onion Valley to Whitney Portal. This year we will go in up out of Bishop/South Lake trailhead, and come OUT at the Onion Valley trailhead. This figures to be a 63 mile 5-day hike (the 6th day is positioning cars, which is tomorrow). Once again I have my SPOT unit (Satellite Position Tracker) with me and it will be sending out our location in 10 minute updates real-time as we hike. Here is the link to my Google-maps SPOT Tracker for the duration of the trip:

As I mentioned, we will spend most of Tuesday commuting as we need to drop a car off at the Onion Valley Trailhead, then drive down and around and up to the South Lake trailhead to begin the hike. I don’t expect to get many trail-miles tomorrow…IF we get up there and can even get 3 relatively easy miles on the trail before sunset that will be a huge success. After that it’s BIG days all the way to Saturday, where we HOPE to get to Rae Lakes early enough to fish and rest for a day. The final day (Sunday) we need to hike out over both Glen and Kearsarge Passes (and then going back down, then north again to pick up the drop-car at the South Lake trailhead, and THEN driving home). For me that's about  a 7 hour journey from South Lake, and about an hour and a half closer for Greg. Sunday will be a LONG day for sure. And then I come back to work on Monday (ugh!)

Have a great week, we'll talk more when I'm back, plus I'll work on my annual photo-trip-report.

Cheers, and VIVA la VUELTA!!!


  1. Stage 15 was a real barn-burner! FIVE cat-1 was the Queen Stage of the race! And it didn't disappoint for sure! All the GC men were there on the final climb, as expected. Puriot had his team on the front a long time bringing back the break (as his team missed it, unlike Movistar and Saxo). Froome's team spent a good chunk up front setting tempo for the climb, and it was either due to Froome trying to control the pace at the front to stop the flurry of attacks, OR he was feeling good and was going to give it a go. Well. He have it a go. And it was a GOOD GO at that! When he accelerated off the front, only Alberto could follow! Valverde and JRod were left struggling, with Uran even behind them. And Froome never let up...he continued to build a gap over his 2 chief rivals (for 2nd and 3rd only, as Contador stayed with him maintaining his gap in 1st). Froome FINALLY looked like the guy we're used to seeing on the climbs! He only took 2 weeks to show up, but better late than never!

    Certainly Valverde and Purito were stunned and unable to reel them back in, and finally after sitting on Froome's wheel for about 3.5k of the final 4, he fiercely attacked leaving Froome in his dust, and won the stage, cementing his overall 1st place position pretty firmly. I thought Froome had enough to jump from tied for third all the way to 2nd, but he barely missed it, even with the 2nd place time bonus...he is now 4 seconds behind Valverde, but almost a minute faster than Purito! OMG what an amazing stage!

    Tomorrow is a rest day, and there is one more mountain day...and also a TT (which Froome will show up, the FAST one or the sad one?)...however it's a short one and even if Froome is on his A game, he won't be able to gain much time on Valverde I'd guess..only Puirto will be the loser in that. And Contador, I don't expect him to lose any time there either. Right now it's all Alberto's to lose. And one of his teammates got thrown out for FIGHTING today on the 4th climb! There were one-handed fisticuffs even! And right in front of a commissars car even...took them a bit but they discussed it and threw them both out. Never seen a fight on the road before like that...pretty crazy stuff!

    And so...Alberto seems to have a good grip on this race, which if he holds on will be his third Vuelta win. But who will finish the podium, and in what order? THAT we will have to wait till the very end my friends!

    Have a great week, I'm OUT OF HERE in the morning headed for the high-country!

    GAME ON!


  2. Always look forward to your trip reports, Matt! Hope today was a great birthday!



    Loved your Vuelta write-ups SO much & am missing you & them dreadfully this week, but I'm glad you & you brother are able to get away together & can NOT wait to hear AND SEE all about this year's adventure!

    Hopefully, you'll have recorded the Vuelta while you're away. You definitely need to watch Thursday's stage (9/11 - things got even CLOSER!) & tomorrow's stage (Sat - 9/13) is supposed to be a HUMDINGER! And then Sunday is the small TT. Looks like it really will come down to the end. I of course will not be able to see ANY of it (sniff, sniff, whine, whine) & won't even know who WON until I come into work Monday. Agony!

    Anyhoo, hope you had a great bday & are having a blast on your trip. Can you clarify that you will drive 7 HOURS after you finish hiking on Sunday?! Wow, just don't know if I could do that! You guys are amazing! :)

  4. Thanks for the B-day wishes everybody! I spent it driving up to go backpacking (and also hiking in the first 3 miles, up to about 10,600' I think where we spent night #1). Got home last night (Sunday), unpacked the car, and all my gear is lying in the living room floor (still). Worked today, ugh. THAT was a long day. Both Greg and I are pretty wiped was a brutally fun trip. Lots of sore bits...ankles, hips, knees, Chapek boys aren't known for ramping up our activity prior to the trip so we are 'ready' for it. No...we like to go in cold-turkey and gut it out. That's how we roll. And pay. And Pay some more. But we MADE it! GREAT weather rained/hailed the day before we went in, and sunday as we drove home it rained all throughout the Sierras...we missed it on both ends just by dumb luck.

    I'll be working on the trip report when time far I haven't even downloaded my pictures. Nor have I peeked at Velo news to see who won the Vuelta...I have all the stages recorded....thanks for the hints on what stages to watch Susie...I"ll FF thru most of them to get to the good parts when time allows. And yes...after we got to he 'out' trailhead where we had Greg's car parked, we drove down the mountain into Independence, then north into Bishop where we had the most spectacular breakfast on the planet, then drove back up to our departure trailhead to pick up MY car. THEN yes...I had a 7 hour drive home, Greg probably about an hour and a half less. And it was HOT the entire drive down the 395, had my AC running all the way (typically I never run my AC in my car, as it's never hot in Santa Maria).

    Gotta much to do, so little time. I need a clone so I can stay at home and do MY stuff and send him into work to suffer. But that would be a rather large line I'd be standing in I'm afraid (the clone-purchase checkout line I mean).

  5. Glad you're back safe & sound & can't wait to hear/see ALL about it! I'm also going to refrain talking about the Vuelta until you see the final stages as I want YOU to write up your take again. Especially for Saturday! The write-up at cyclingnews is beyond BORING & the writing itself stinks. Anybody else notice the quality decline in race write-ups at that site this past year? And don't even MENTION the lack of editing these days! Anyhoo, from what I could gather, Saturday's final mt action was great. The mini-TT on Sunday was a bit shocking on the results as it seems no one but Valverde of the top GC guys really tried that hard. I think it rained at some point but from the pathetic write-ups, I can't tell if that is what affected the results or not. I don't know, maybe they figured you can't really make up that much time in such a short TT so it wasn't worth the effort.

    I think David Millar has now officially retired. I will miss him in the peloton very much. He could probably be some total arrogant jerk in real life, but I have enjoyed watching him ride since he joined Garmin in 2008 (late 07?) & especially have enjoyed listening & reading him (about his doping days & that clean cycling is possible). I think he would do very well as a commentator - smart, articulate, good sense of humor, & does not suffer fools gladly. Anybody read his book? I keep meaning to buy Cav's & Millar's books, but I've been trying to save every penny the past few years so just haven't yet. Would love to hear from anyone who has read these or any of the recent (past 2-5 years) cycling books.

    And I read today that Cadel will be retiring next Feb after the Tour Down Under. Not a surprise. Wonder what he will do next. Will miss seeing him too. Gee, except for Horner, it seems almost ALL the guys from the 2000-2010 decade are now gone. And Horner still doesn't have a contract for next season.... Question - if AC, Froome, J-Rod or Valverde had tested with low "cortisone" (whatever) levels before the Vuelta, do you think any of THEM would have been forced out? I don't - I think the "test" would have "disappeared".......

  6. Well, I have been able to sneak in watching Stage 17 (ho-hum...another flat sprint finish...sort of..with some cobbles and such thrown in at the end to break up the ginormous field) and then tonight was Stage 18 (ye HAW! Another summit finish...or nearly...there was a k or so after the summit...but close enough). As all the summit finishes, there was Purito, Froome, Valverde and Contador at the end duking it out, with Uran holding all of them off with a small gap (he's too far back to be a real threat, but not so far that they will let him have a minute or so). It appeared that Froome was going to be dropped after a massive Katusha attack (one of JRod's teammates first then he himself went)...and immediately Valverde and Contador pulled it back, w/ Froome dangling off the rear looking like he was about to drop. And then SUDDENLY, from out of nowhere, FROOME slips by Valverde on the left and BAM! He's GONE!

    I have earned some new respect for Froome this Vuelta...he is far from the invincible Tour rider we've seen in previous years. Here he looks about to die, then ATTACKS! It's very Jens'y if you ask me...LOVE IT! He pulled up to Uran and then without hesitation went past him into the front and pulled Uran, without asking for help! They built up a nice little gap, I'd say at least 25 to 30 seconds. Alberto was just sitting on Valverde's wheel, as it was Valverde who was about to lose 2nd place on the podium...and Alberto has over a minute and a half cushion. But as Froome was getting out of sight on the corners suddenly Alberto realized Valverde WASN'T going to pull him in (very smart if you ask me) HE had to close the gap some, which he did. As they passed the summit with 1k to go it looked like he would gain at least a half minute PLUS the time bonus (either 10 or 6 seconds)...but when Alberto lit it up, he LIT IT UP! And suddenly there they were, about 50 yards back only. Froome dug deep and it seemed Alberto eased up, as they gap increased just a bit. As they came to the line Uran attacked and Froome had nothing to give..he had given all he had. So Uran won the stage, w/ the 10 second bonus...Froome took 2nd and got a 6 second bonus, and I was counting in my head and it appeared about 14 seconds before Contador, Valverde and Purito came across. Valverde nipped them at the line for the last time bonus of 4 seconds...but he still lost 2nd place. Froome gained just about 20 seconds on Alberto, and if memory serves me right, he now sits at 1:19 back (I can't go look at Velo News or any other cycling site to get my facts straight, or I'll find out the overall results which I DO NOT want to do! I still have the remaining stages to watch, and as long as I don't get a spoiler, it's like they're live as far as I'm concerned (thanks for not spoiling it Susie!! Really appreciate that!)

    Wow....this has to go down as one of the most animated/exciting Grand Tours in ages IMO!

    OK...I am slowly working on my backpacking writeup...need to get the copies of Greg's pics tho..I mailed him an SD card w/ mine today...hopefully will have his in a few days (so there will be at least a few pics of ME....we each carry a camera, so my pics are of scenery and Greg...and his are scenery and ME). I've noticed on my Universal Sports channel that I've been getting ALL KINDS of cycling races...the Tour of Britain, and tonight there was another one (I deleted it, as I have ZERO time to watch yet another race, let-alone the remaining Vuelta stages).

  7. Jens has set the new Hour record! Over 51kph! WAY TO GO JENS!!! Now THAT is going out in style! I'd imagine soon Fabian and then Dan Martin will both give it a go, and I'd assume both will advance the distance over Jens...but his name will forever be in the books as having held the world hour sweet is THAT! Jens is still my hero!

  8. Hey Susie...I agree w/ your assessment of the "Horner" crisis (his low cortisone result)'s almost like the entire cycling world was embarrassed that such an old guy there must be something wrong...and they were happy to have a reason to keep him out this year...I'd sure have loved to see what he'd have been able to do against AC/Froome/Valverde & Purito (not to mention Quintana had he not crashed out)'s been a fun race to watch tho. Hopefully stage 20 tonight! (watched 19 last night...more ho-hum flat).

    And hey! How's your new car? Haven't heard much (and by much I mean anything)....I've only ever had ONE new car in my entire I know it's a big deal...did you get the Corolla? (or was it a I forget)?? Do tell...what options did you get? What kind of mileage are you getting? (I'm kind of a mileage snob w/ my diesel 5-spd). Do you still have that "new car smell"? (love that smell...but it only last's so long, then it's gone forever).

  9. Hey Matt - can't wait for you to watch Saturday's stage & write up your take here! I THINK NBC is supposed to broadcast a compilation show of the Vuelta this Sunday - at least I think I read that when I printed out the cycling TV schedule before the TDF. Hope so! I did go to to see video of some of the final 1-5Ks of some of the stages, although I haven't done it for Saturday's stage yet as I wanted to read your take 1st.

    And yes, HURRAH for JENSIE! I was able to click on the livestream yesterday about 30 seconds before he took off & saw him on his 1st lap, but then I had to go to a meeting. By the time I came back, it was over! Crap! But, thrilled to pieces that he set a new record. This should get other guys (Spartacus, Wiggins, Martin) to now do it. I think some cyclists & older cycling people are not happy about this change of the rules, but heck, WHEN was the last time you heard or cared about this record? I've been reading for 2-3 years that Cancellara was THINKING about doing it & nothing ever came of it. Now we actually have a new start & lots of publicity & maybe it can become a "thing" again.

    Hey - AC says he's going to ride the GIRO next year! Don't understand that at all if he really wants to beat Froome in the Tour! After 2011, he KNOWS how hard it is to ride to win 2 Grand Tours back-back! Plus, he could get injured in the Giro & be out of the Tour entirely. I thought beating Froome/Nibbles/Quintana at the TOUR would be his priority.

  10. Ahh, my car - I got the Corolla. In RED! Still canNOT believe I own a red car! The blue wasn't available except in the much pricier "S" version & of the other colors, red was the only one I could stand.

    Anyhoo, it's taken time to get used to it, but I do like it. I did NOT like the automatic door locks at 1st (never had before), but now they're ok. I do like the automatic windows & the button for changing my radio station on the steering wheel (AWESOME!).

    And speaking of mileage - I have a funny story. My previous 3 cars were also small & all had 9 gallon gas tanks. I just ASSUMED this car did too. So, I'm driving the 1st week & the gas gage barely moves. I'm thinking I'm getting even better mileage than the book said (30 mpg)! The 2nd week - it STILL has barely moved & I'm getting concerned. By the 3rd WEEK, I still have over half a tank, so I'm thinking my gas gage is broken! I finally look in the book & find out the tank is 13 gallons! I only have to get gas ONCE A MONTH! Whooo-hooooooo!

    Another thing kinda funny is that the ONE thing I was looking forward to with a new car (besides NOT worrying about it breaking down) was I'd have working AC again! Well, I've barely used it! It wasn't as hot/humid here this summer, plus this car does not get NEAR as hot as the Paseo (I can cover the moonroof with a sliding cover inside which none of my other cars had). Yes, I have a moonroof - for me that's a MUST. Along with automatic transmission. Nope, have NO desire to drive stick. :)

    I don't have GPS or Bluetooth or any of the other fancy-schmancy options as I don't have a smartphone & don't drive anywhere these days except back & forth to work.

    I PLAN to keep this car 11-12 years (or even up to 14 if no problems, fingers crossed) & then buy 1 final car to drive off in retirement. That's the PLAN anyway. Until I win the lottery. ;)

    HEY, I did win $20 last week from my lottery subscription! Just 500,000 more of those checks & I'll be taking EARLY retirement! LOL!

    You watching any college football? The 2 main teams I've been following the past 3 years (ND & sorry, the Buckeyes) both have bye weeks tomorrow. I do really like RB Todd Gurley of GA & hope to finally catch Oregon as I want to see the QB - Mariotta. I SORT of follow my alma mater (MD) too, but I'm so LIVID about them jilting the ACC & hooking up with the Big 10 that I just don't care much.

    Have a great weekend!

    1. Hey Jetta diesel is my first car w/ the fancy electronic keyfob...LOVE that little thing...what a piece of luxury! It also has the sunroof/moonroof (the slide thing that covers it during the heat of day). And it also has radio controls on the steering wheel like yours (that's a MUST for me). Auto-tranny is great if you have traffic....but I grew up w/ a stick, and considering how very rarely I go into heavy traffic my stick is just fine (gets better mpg, and as I said, been driving a stick all my life...don't even think about it). I also don't have a smartphone (I have a tracfone pay as you go, usually sits in my car turned off ..tho I do carry it on bike rides). I just got a new garmin GPS for my birthday (my old one was a TomTom...hate that thing....the maps SUCK, AND they want to charge me a LOT for ONE map update,. and it's user interface (ie: finding addresses and features) is horrid...just IMO..never buy a TOMTOM again for sure). Haven't even unwrapped it yet...we're having my bday tonight (Friday!)..woo-HOO! Being as I was on the road for backpacking by 5am back on the 9th...and then got home last Sunday evening, and working all week...tonight is it...having a leisurely evening, Jeannie buys me a nice chinese take-out (this is REALLY GOOD take out)...that's about as much celebrating as we homebodies do. But it's nice.

      Gotta run, almost time to go pick up our dinner...MMMMMMMM! Kung Pao Chicken...(the BEST KPC I"ve ever had btw). And Fried rice, and egg rolls....mmmmMMMMMMMM!

      Oh, and haven't seen a lick of football yet this year...too much bike racing! I'm interested in Oregon tho...(and of course, big Blue...though they've had some rather pathetic did they do last week against ND? Or was that the week before...I did flip thru and see them playing but couldn't sit and watch). And my Dad follows Wyoming..(he's alumni)...for a small school they play pretty decent ball...I like to watch them when I can. And also North Dakota...a cousin is ND alumni (then he went on to Harvard law school for his masters...he's the youngest partner ever in his firm in Rock. Center up in NYC...he's freaking brilliant). I REALLY gotta run...dinner time!

      gotta ride tomorrow, hopefully Vuelta Stage 20 either tonight or tomorrow...yea! It's the WEEKEND!