Sunday, September 21, 2014

Vuelta wrapup, and my newest adventure

And so...the Vuelta ended TODAY (Sunday). At least here in my house anyway....I FINALLY got to watch the remaining stages! Stage 20 was the LAST chance for anybody to make any GC moves. Contador had it pretty well locked up baring disaster, leading Froome by about 1:19 and Valverde by a bit more....JRod was even farther back so he wasn't even seen as a credible threat at this point, no matter how many attacks he and his teammates make. Have to admit that I REALLY enjoyed stage 20 (as I did ALL the summit finishes this year). For this final road stage there were FOUR ranked climbs...a cat 2, a 3, a 1 and an ESP (HC in Tour lingo). Everybody knew it would come down to the final climb...and it was a beast. That would be where any moves would happen.

AC had his team on the front a large part of the day, as the GC leader should. Then Sky finally took over, and the 4 man break (which had been reduced to 3) was starting to get reeled in quick. AC, Valverde and JRod all sat behind Froome as team Sky plowed thru the countryside. The final climb didn't disappoint either...JRod attacked as expected, though earlier than I would have thought...very gutsy of him. The GC guys all let him go and held their pace. He had up to 30 seconds or so at one point, but seemed doomed from the start unless he had magic legs (which he didn't). He was eventually reeled back in with steady tempo and solid riding on the long final climb.

Froome took over on the front and Alberto sat on his wheel, knowing where his true threat lie. They dropped Valverde and Aru (who has really been a breath of fresh air this year) as they couldn't match the pace. All the break riders were sucked back and then it was Froome and AC. He tried valiently a few times to get a gap on AC, which wasn't to be. AC didn't look like he was in distress at all, just matching Froome's moves time and time again. And finally just inside the final 1k Froome made his last desperate attempt. AC not only matched it but attacked on his own immediately after Froome dropped to his regular pace.  A small gap quickly opened, to which Froome could only watch. AC stood on the pedals and danced his way to a nice little gap and held it all the way to the line, winning his second stage in grand style, confirming HE was the man. The rest came in exactly the order of the overall GC standings amazingly....Froome, Valverde, JRod and Aru. Can't recall EVER seeing such a finish. I guess it just shows they finished exactly where they belonged.

The short ITT for Stage 21 (very odd that it was SO short) didn't have any real surprises in store, other than the weather kicked up for the final riders as they finished in driving rain and wet roads. This all but sealed the fact that none of the GC guys would even be able to go all out, and they all finished WAY back in the overall standings, but not affecting the GC placements at all.

We can only wonder how this amazing race would have played out had Horner been allowed to race, and if Quintana not crashed out early. Could Horner have matched the top 3 in the climbs? I have no idea, but he claimed his power numbers were good, even with the chest infection. As to Quintana....sure he was going to lose time in the TT to Alberto (and typically Froome, which oddly wasn't the case this year). In the off season he will really have to work on that skill if he wants to be a true GC man for the Grand Tours. That's JRod's crux....he can't TT very well so no matter how awesome he is in the climbs, he loses the race in the TT's. I'd have thought he'd have fixed that by now...maybe he just isn't a TT kind of guy...not everybody is cut out to do well in that discipline.

No matter was a GRAND race from start to end. Sure the video is lacking as compared to it's big rich brother Le Tour...but as Susie has least they are able to show picture in picture...something le Tour needs to learn. I was really warming to the commenting team...don't really know anything about Gogo...but it was mentioned several times he used to race....and he did have great insight...AND he wasn't annoying. I have to wonder if anybody will pick up Jensie (or Horner if he doesn't get a racing contract with somebody) next was a real travesty that he wasn't able to defend his title. That's a very hard blow to a man looking for a contract, Grand Tour winner or not. And with the merging of Giant/Shimano and Trek, well...that's just another team lost for jobs. More bad luck in the pro peleton...and undoubtedly due to the doping past and sponsors shifting their dollars to less volatile sporting arena's where they don't eat their young alive. Such as the NFL...with their squeaky clean image (NOT).

And so...the cycling season is almost over. The Worlds are happening as I type....Team BMC with one of my FAVORITE riders (TJ) has claimed the Team Time Trial gold. That it rained and got windy for the final teams had no effect on the outcome (according to TJ....they would have won regardless). Yep...just another reason I don't like that guy. Whether it was true or not, it's VERY boastful and not really in great sportsmanship if you ask me (which nobody has). It's the World Road title that most interests me of course...lots of real contenders for that one...I'd love to see Fabian pull it off...but he will have a very difficult group of contenders to beat to do so.

As to my newest adventure (btw, I'm still working on the backpacking writeup...still need a copy of Greg's pictures before I can finish) this Wednesday morning I'm heading south to the LA area (for work).  I'm to be working with our PTS division  (Payload Transportation Service) picking up and delivering a Govy- spacecraft to Vandenberg for launch later this year. The PTS team has already been down last week and dropped off the GINORMOUS container (called the SCTS...for Space Cargo Transportation System). Effectively this, the largest of our payload containers, is the same size inside as the Space Shuttle cargo bay (which was originally designed to carry government spacecraft into orbit). The SCTS container system is an amazing thing...a totally self contained clean-room environment, self-provided power, temperature, humidity, keep it's MOST precious cargo safe and secure when it's not inside a cleanroom, or inside a fairing for launch, or lastly safely on orbit.

The factory will be loading the vehicle into the container early this week, and we will be transporting it in the dead of night to the backside of LAX and finally inside special gates, where our two specially modified C5 aircraft will be waiting nearby. The convoy of vehicles is something to behold...the mammoth SCTS container, propelled by it's "Prime Mover" (a specially designed huge diesel rig with all-wheel steering, created to tow the container on the streets, and also up/thru/and finally out of the modified C5 aircraft). The clearance inside the C5 is literally a few inches getting the container in the aircraft...we have a special "mockup" building modified to the exact specs as the inside of the C5, where our team can practice this maneuver (which is not an easy thing to do) prior to every mission. At the aft end of the container is the "bogey" which is a one-off specially designed vehicle of it's own right (somewhat similar to the back end unit of a fire department ladder truck,with it's own driver and steering) also has lots of wheels, all wheel steering, and it has lift/drop capability so when the prime mover / container start to go up the ramp into the aircraft, the bogey can lift the rear of the container up so it goes in almost level. There is a line running down the middle of the entire cargo bay and there are cameras in all the vehicles so they can be assured at all times they are driving dead-center in the bay. It's quite the complex job, but our PTS guys are the best in the world at what they do.

In the end sometime the following week the C5's and all of the crew will meet again at Vandenberg (where we typically work our 'day jobs') and unload the container/spacecraft, and eventually convoy it out to the waiting payload center (also in the dead of night). The loaded container typically travels a max speed of about 5mph on the streets, and with the modified tractor and bogey at the back it is capable to making 90 degree turns and even taking reasonable size hills, although it is a complex move. PTS guys will be on headsets all around the container walking the entire route (much like secret service agents outside the presidents car). The route thru the streets of LA is all pre-approved, and lots of off-duty police/sherrifs/highway patrol vehicles will be blocking traffic for us at all times. And there are actually a lot more people than you'd think out in the middle of the night, all wondering what's going on as we pass I'm sure.

I'll be riding probably 2nd vehicle back from the container in our special electronic 'monitoring' vehicle chock full of equipment (I'm not part of the actual PTS crew, I'm with the spacecraft). When the container is loaded on the aircraft we will load some of our equipment on-board also, which makes the flight with the precious cargo. I have to assume that only the finest pilots make this kind of mission....spacecraft aren't designed to be lying horizontal in gravity and take any kind of stress. They do go horizontal during construction quite often...but that's a far cry from that position in a jet takeoff/landing....the only real stress they are built to handle is in the vertical position (for the immense pressure/vibrations/etc of launch). I'm guessing these special pilots are capable of taking the largest airplane in the US arsenal and kissing it down on the runway so softly that you aren't aware you even landed.

I'll also end up working 12 hour nights in our electronics vehicle for a while after we arrive back at Vandenberg, and that will go on until the spacecraft is safely inside the payload facility. After that we hand the safety/security of the vehicle off to other hands and get back to our day jobs (and speaking of day jobs, mine is KILLING me of late). We have been short handed for a LONG time now....and last week they announced another round of layoffs...more WORKERS gone, leaving even more managers to do whatever it is they all do all day while we the working class KILL ourselves. Very frustrating to say the least. But hey....I'm sure I'm not the only one less than satisfied with their job these days...and at least I still HAVE a job. Thankfully things like this mission and other trips come up now and then, giving me a break from the short-handed drudgery of daily life.

OK. Back to my chores here at home...trying to get all my backpacking gear stowed and packed back into the attic for next year...which is among the many job's I've assigned myself for today. Busy busy busy... no rest for the weary.

Have a GREAT week!



  1. And Susie....just peeked at Michigan's schedule & whipped by Utah yesteray...and CRUSHED by Notre Dame 2 weeks ago. One good thing (for you) from Maryland moving to the Big 10 is you will get to watch them dismantle big Blue the week before T-day. We REALLY need to get rid of Hoke (the coach)...he's taken them down lower and lower every year. Can't believe they've stuck w/ him this long. He went 11-1 the first year w/ the team he inherited...and now that they're all his recruits they stink. We'll be lucky to go 6-6 this year. And it looks like FS dodged a bullet @ Clemson yesterday too. Have to admit it, the SEC overall just has the best teams...hard to argue w/ that I guess. But there are still good/great teams outside the SEC...that's what everybody forgets.

  2. And would have liked to seen the Oregon/Wisconsin game...THAT looks like it was a great one. I've been a Wisc fan for a while....way back when I first got out of the Navy I had some schools up in Madison...really like that area. They've had a pretty decent football team every year too...this year doesn't look any diff...took #2 Ore to w/in 1 TD...not too shabby for an unranked team.

  3. Hello.....(hello)....Hello.....(hello)....echo...echo....chirp.... chirp....

    Where IS everybody? JD? Barbara? Rae? Susie?

  4. Hey Matt - sorry, I've been out sick the past 2 days & am now in the office TRYING to catch up. Will read your wonderful long post tonight & hopefully comment tomorrow.

  5. Hey Matt! I've been trying to catch up on work the past few days & have stayed late yesterday & today, but wasn't able to get here to comment. I'm tired & want to go home now so can't write all I want but as always, LOVED your Vuelta stage wrap-up! So much more entertaining than what's been on cyclingnews! And I've also ALWAYS been so impressed with what you do & reading your upcoming work activities just floors me. Question - if they keep laying off workers, HOW will all the work get done? And I think you've written about his before, but how did you learn to do what you do at work? In the Navy?

    Alrighty, gotta head on home. Have a great weekend!

    1. Susie, I'm not really sure how all the work is getting done (in my shop, it's lead engineer does triage every morning and has to decide what is the most important work at that very moment, and that's what we work on...this goes on every day, with most of our work waiting for manpower to get started on/done).

      I had electronics for 3 years in high school, then worked in electronics my entire career in the Navy, so yes, that prepared me for my current job...but most of what I actually do I learned on the job or in company schools/training (such as fiber optic work...never done that before, but here I do TONS of fiber work...which I really enjoy).

  6. Oh, you lose me when you start talking football (a trait that kind of impacts my social life here in Buckeye Country!) But, I do love reading about your job. I hope that financials steady out so that there are no more layoffs and calls for "increased productivity". Even in the hospital we have to deal with that! Unfortunately, the sicker our patients are (over which we have no control) and the harder we work to keep them alive, the worse our productivity is. Have there been cuts to the gov't budget that pays for these missions? Sorry I am not aware. I remember what happened to the economy in San Diego when defense spending was slashed after the collapse of the USSR.

    I am really hoping that Fabulous Fabian pulls it off! I will be at work so won't be able to watch either the men's or the women's race. I read that Simon Gerrans is touted as the man to beat, based on his wins in Canada (I really have to manage to get to those races someday). I've never been a big fan of his, based on some whining a few years ago -- but I should cut him some slack, he was quite young then and has really become a good racer.

    speaking of the Worlds, do you realize that it is being held in Richmond VA next year? SusieB, you would be able to get there, right? I've got it circled on my calendar and my vacation request ready to turn in the minute that it can be -- but I need to figure out if it will fall on my "regular weekend" -- if so, no vacay days for me :( Hmm, maybe that will be the time to retire...


    1. Hey Rae...sorry about the 'football' talk (I love football, but apparently it's only me and Susie that are in that category). Interesting that you are in enemy-territory-central (Ohio State, and me a Michigan fan) and you don't watch Football...I'd think it's state-law or something that you like Buckeye football! (GRIN)

      I had heard the worlds are in Richmond next Sister in law LIVES in Richmond now...(be seeing her again this T-day as we pass thru Richmond to get to my bro-in-law's farm about 2 hours or so west of Richmond). I wouldn't mind somehow making THAT trip myself....hmmm...we'll have to see what's happening...I have a place to stay, just need to GET there...

      and yep, the economy is killing our contract slow but sure...we've had layoff after layoff these last few years as the customer (the Gov/Air Force) is losing it's budget too. We're doing so much more with so much less that I can't believe it...or in my shop's case, it's just not getting are stacked to the ceiling and we do what we can when we can...crazy way to do business if you ask me!