Saturday, July 30, 2005

Bike Porn!

I'll be honest: I'm not the kind of guy that lusts over really exotic, expensive bicycles. In my opinion, a top-end bike is a top-end bike, and if the pro peloton tells us anything, once you reach a certain level of technical achievement, the only thing that really decides who wins the race is the skill of the rider. It's not the bike, but the engine that drives it, so to speak.

That said, I've always had a thing for Colnago. The fine lines, the sweet paint jobs, the attention to detail not present among some other companies...they're more or less the best in my eyes.

The new Colnago E1 follows in the grand tradition of the company:

I'd totally make out with that bike. My girlfriend is going to kill me.

The Blog/News Crossover

It's cool to see the illustrious Fat Cyclist as the author of a featured piece on It's even cooler that the piece continues the hilarious legacy of Mr. Fat.

Good work, sir.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Random Pro Update

courtesy Casey Gibson

According to VeloNews, future Grand Tour winner Tom Danielson is recovering well from his bout with knee troubles during the Giro. That's good news, since he has yet to complete a Grand Tour and prove that he can handle a three-week festival of pain and suffering with the big boys.

Several other up-and-coming young riders, including both Alejandro Valverde and Damiano Cunego, have suffered physical ailments this year. Cunego got mono during the Giro and Valverde abandoned the Tour with tendonitis. The young guns better stay in shape, if they know what's good for them. That's all I'm saying.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Perfect Day To Train

Today, "the bike had no chain", as the saying goes.

The Future Is Bleak

I watch The Daily Show With Jon Stewart religiously. In fact, I get paid to watch it every night by my employer (long story).

To my dismay, Stewart and the show have spent the past few nights dissing cycling with a vengeance. First they did a report on Lance Armstrong's win, where "reporter" Rob Corddry repeatedly made fun of the sport on the basis that nobody in America really cares. Sure, his jokes were hilarious, but only because they were sadly very true.

Then last night, Stewart interviewed sportscaster Bob Costas. When they weren't talking about Barry Bonds and steroids, they were both panning cycling. The usual themes of "I don't understand the rules" and "it's boring" came up, of course---and Costas even went so far as to compare cycling to "watching guys exercise". Ouch.

In a country that considers golf and auto racing to be sporting events, all of this is really no surprise, but I had hoped at least Stewart and his show would be a bit more enlightened than the average beer-swilling, moderately obese American sports fan. Maybe I was wrong. The show is still one of the best on TV, they're just not perfect.

I keep saying it, but now I really believe it. Cycling in mainstream America is dead with the retirement of Lance Armstrong. It will live on among those who know the true value of intense athletic training and competition and have respect for the long and majestic history of the sport, but like lacrosse and even soccer to a certain extent, it will not enjoy mainstream appeal. That's just how it goes.

Slow News Week

Not much to write about this week. The Tour is over, I'm in a short recovery period so I'm riding a little less and the persistent heat and rain has finally cleared---we're expecting a full week of really nice weather around here. I wish things were more exciting right now, but they aren't. Oh well.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

No Offense To The French, But...

Vinokourov signs with Liberty Seguros!

I don't mean to harp on it, but I'm REALLY glad Vino didn't sign with a French team. At least now that he's riding for Manolo Saiz, he will have a team capable and willing to excel at every race they enter. Saiz hasn't quite returned to the success of ONCE from back in the day, but with Vino added to the team and other guys like Jörg Jaksche, Luis Sanchez, Marcos Serrano and sprinter Allan Davis in the mix, the future looks pretty good. Good luck to them!

Monday, July 25, 2005

I Totally Agree

PezCyclingNews has the best summation of this year's Tour I've read so far:

As this had all the makings of and even the potential to be as exciting as other “Retirement” parties, the 2005 Tour tried to “spice” things up a bit with a special course and Prologue. Rather than being over in the first 10 days, this Tour was over in the first 20 minutes…

“Who’s it going to be this year?” was the question on everyone’s mind, and it almost lasted a half day! In the end (barring an accident) it came down to a simple math problem. Take the power to weight ratios from the Prologue and the very instant Lance passed Jan on Day One, this thing was in the hamper… If not for Vino trying to kick what ever ass was placed in front of him, it might not have seemed like a bike race at all.

Read the whole thing. It's funny, and dead on. If Lance never tries The (Athlete's) Hour Record, he'll let everyone down, for sure.

Just Skinny Guys In Tights, Right?

From VeloNews:

Many Americans have trouble deciphering the Tour's stage format, most not paying enough attention to understand the time gains mountainous stages can bring and the reasons behind teamwork and allowing rivals to win other stages.

Kansas City Star columnist Joe Posnanski admitted: "I don't understand how any of this works. I've been following the Tour de France since Armstrong started winning and I still don't get it. Stages? Time trials? And I'm not the only one who is mystified. Last week, a man called to ask if 'Armstrong had caught that guy Pyrénées for the lead.' I had to say, 'Uh, Pyrénées is not a person. It's a mountain range.' To which he replied: 'Oh, so he did catch him?'"

Posnanski later noted: "Hey, stupid people should be allowed to enjoy the Tour de France, too."

Wait, he's been following the Tour for SEVEN YEARS and he still doesn't "understand how any of this works"? Pay attention, douche bag. It's not that complicated. Just because some high school dropout isn't throwing a ball around or slamming into another future heart bypass recipient doesn't mean that cycling is above your mental abilities to comprehend. The guy with the lowest overall time wins. You can understand why a lower score is important in golf, right? And understand that the overall winner of a tournament doesn't have to win any of the rounds in order to claim victory, right? Then quit acting like a moron!

Sigh. Just more evidence that once Armstrong is gone, so too will be cycling from the eye of the American public---and American TV sponsors.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Payoff

It's the most satisfying feeling in the world when you find that your hours and hours of hard training have paid off.

Today I did a different Sunday ride, this time further out in the eastern sections of Jefferson County, where the hills are longer and harder and the country roads much rougher. At the front with me was a group of ten guys, all fairly strong and capable. I rode near the front of this group for most of the route, periodically skipping up the hills ahead of everyone else just to ease off and let them catch back up.

On the way back in, the mighty climb of Sleepy Hollow lay ahead of us. It's a long climb, with a fairly steep grade the whole way up. At the bottom, several guys surged ahead of me. I'm not sure what they were thinking, and I ignored their attacks as I settled into my rhythm---around 17 miles an hour in 39-19 then clicking down to 39-21 as the grade gets slightly steeper halfway up. I kept my heart rate at 190, just under lactate threshold, and never reached a level of oxygen debt that would have forced me to slow. Sure enough, I streaked past all the early attackers as they blew up one at a time. If you learn nothing else about hard climbing, at least learn the importance of pacing!! Follow your breathing and listen to your legs!

I finished the climb at least 15 seconds clear of everyone else, which gave me time to rest as they caught back up. That's my favorite thing about out-climbing people on group rides. By the time everyone catches back up to me, I've had time to rest and regain my composure. They're all still breathing hard and suffering, while I look like I just took a stroll through the park!

Anyway, the rest of the way back I stayed in the front, and once we hit River Road for the final flat run-in to the park, I led the pace at 24-26 miles per hour and dropped everyone but two guys. They didn't last much longer, and once I gapped them turning into the park road, I was gone. I was able to hold the pace for the final mile and finished a healthy four or five seconds ahead of the next guy. I know I shouldn't take these group rides so seriously, but it's good training for next season, when I begin racing full-time.

Tomorrow will be a well-earned rest day.

What A Surprise!!

Well, he did it. The Boss finished off his seventh straight Tour de France victory and promptly retired as promised.

I'd love to say his victory came as a complete and total surprise for everyone, but who am I kidding? Even though he's 34, he can still time trial and climb as well or better than anyone else in the world, so what do you expect?

The downside of his retirement, poetic as it may be, is that we'll probably never again get to watch every stage of the Tour on cable TV in the US. Without Lance to stroke off, what would be the point? Al Trautwig would have nothing to speak ignorantly about!

The good news is, riders like Ivan Basso, Tom Boonen, Tom Danielson, Damiano Cunego and Alejandro Valverde will keep us entertained for many years to come. I'm especially excited about next year's Tour---even if I don't get to see it on TV. The brightest young talents should all be accounted for when the race starts next July.

Also of note is the bright future ahead of Alexandre Vinokourov, one of the most exciting riders to watch in all of professional cycling. Case in point, today he skipped ahead of the sprinters and claimed victory on the Champs-Elysees. Bravo Vino!!

all photos courtesy AFP

The final Top 10:
1 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel 86.15.02
2 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC 4.40
3 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team 6.21
4 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne 9.59
5 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team 11.01
6 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner 11.21
7 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank 11.33
8 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 11.55
9 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems 12.44
10 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems 16.04

Particularly impressive were the rides by Mancebo and Leipheimer---especially Leipheimer. He continues to improve every year. Now, if he can keep the trend going even as he gets older, he could be on the podium as early as 2006. If that happens, OLN might decide to cover the race again. Yeah right. I mean, with all the squirrel hunting and rodeo events going on, when will they find the time?

Can't Buy A Better Curtain Call

courtesy Sirotti

Friday, July 22, 2005

The Grand Finale

Tomorrow is the most important day in this year's Tour de France. The individual time trial will determine the final overall standings. Will Lance win as predicted and solidify his seventh victory in a row? Will Ullrich finally surpass Michael Rasmussen for the last place on the podium? Will Ivan Basso live up to the precedent he set in the Giro as a born-again, top-of-the-heap time trialist?

Tomorrow will be as exciting as watching a time trial on TV can be.

The top 10, going into the final ITT:

1 Lance Armstrong (USA) Discovery Channel 81.22.19
2 Ivan Basso (Ita) Team CSC 2.46
3 Michael Rasmussen (Den) Rabobank 3.46
4 Jan Ullrich (Ger) T-Mobile Team 5.58
5 Francisco Mancebo (Spa) Illes Balears-Caisse d'Epargne 7.08
6 Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner 8.12
7 Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 9.49
8 Alexandre Vinokourov (Kaz) T-Mobile Team 10.11
9 Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak Hearing Systems 10.42
10 Oscar Pereiro Sio (Spa) Phonak Hearing Systems 12.39

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Some Random Pro News

Two of my favorite riders will be making team changes next season. Juan Antonio Flecha, the only Spanish classics specialist, will be heading to one of the premier classics teams---Rabobank. With the exception of Quick Step and Davitamon Lotto, what better team could there be for him? He's definitely under-appreciated at Fassa Bortolo (the Petacchi-only club), and will hopefully make Rabobank more successful in the Spring than they have been the last couple of seasons.

Also, Alexandre Vinokourov will be leaving T-Mobile for an undisclosed new team. All I can say to that is THANK GOD. T-Mobile has some of the worst management ever, very little coordination and teamwork, and can only stifle a rider like Vino. As long as T-Mobile continues to insist that Ullrich will ever be as good as he was in 1997, the team will fail to achieve true greatness. Ullrich's only real chance was in 2003, and then only because Lance lost 15 pounds due to dehydration---and he wasn't even on T-Mobile/Telekom that year!!

Anyway, it will be good to see Vino in another team's kit. Unfortunately, he is apparently being heavily courted by three French teams: Cofidis, Ag2r and Credit Agricole. It's not a good sign when you leave the best German team that can never win the Tour just to go to a French team that can never win the Tour. Nobody sucks more at winning the Tour than the French these days.

Oh Yeah, The Tour's Still On...

I've been posting less about the Tour de France lately because, frankly, it has become all too boring. Lance pretty much has it wrapped up, though with only one stage win---likely the final time trial. To make it all the more dull, two other Discovery Channel riders have won stages. George Hincapie and Paolo Savoldelli have both triumphed in long breakaways allowed to escape by Lance himself. Don't get me wrong, any time I get to watch George Hincapie win anything, I get happy like a kid on Christmas.

BUT, seven years is a long time. It's cool that one man has been so dominant and so controlling to actually create his own era, but after a while it just seems unnecessary. Did he really have to win one more? It's unlikely enough that there will be another five-time winner in the next twenty years, let alone six wins in a row.

Oh well. Good for Lance and great for the Discovery Channel guys. They've won a ton of races this year, including the Giro and the Tour, and you can hardly scoff at that.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Weight Update

So the other day I was complaining about my ever-falling weight. That day I had dropped to my lowest point since I was a pimply high school kid---152. Since then the weight has stabilized for the most part at a healthy 154. Two pounds may not seem like a lot, but when you are nearly six feet tall the difference between 150 and 160 (and the small increments in between) is very significant.

On a related note, the black baseball hat I used to wear all the time in the winter doesn't quite fit anymore. It's a fitted hat, but fitted for a head with a couple extra pounds in it. Not realizing this, I wore the hat the other night while hanging with friends. Apparently the now-too-big hat made me look skinnier than I already am, because someone made a comment about me looking extremely thin. Naturally, jokes about "Emaciated Joe" were soon to follow.

Maybe the pizza and Little Debbie oatmeal cream pie I had last night will keep me from wasting away like Christian Bale in The Machinist.

One Thing After Another

My long training ride today was filled with various frustrating technical difficulties. As I left the house it started raining again (pretty much just over my little neighborhood---other streets were totally dry) and less than a mile into the ride, and still very close to home, my front tire went flat. This was the remaining Vredestein from the original set I bought in late March (the other developed a horrible bulge). The bike shop replaced the bulged one for free since they could get a refund from the manufacturer, and I put that one on the back wheel. So far so good with it.

But anyway, I digress. The front tire flatted and I had to slowly ride home---in the rain---to switch out my front wheel with a spare one that had a good tire. That done, I set back out on the ride.

First stop was the bike shop, where they trued my slightly crooked rear wheel and tightened the hub on my replacement front wheel---just basic stuff I needed to have done. That errand out of the way, I was determined to have a strong ride despite the mechanical issues I face so often these days.

The ride itself was fantastic, and I felt stronger than I have in weeks. Honestly, I've never felt so solid and strong on a bicycle in my entire life. I was holding a pace of 22 mph with no effort at all, my heart rate was responsive but fairly low and my breathing was full and easy. Even quick sprints up steep hills couldn't shake the great feelings in my legs.

Naturally, something had to happen. While definitely not catastrophic, I started to notice a faint knocking sound coming from my bike. At first I couldn't place it. I had just changed my saddle and figured it could be loose but that wasn't it. Then I checked the seatpost. Tight. I then inspected my headset for slack, but there was none. I got back on the bike and rode a while longer when I realized that the sound was coming from somewhere in the front chainring/rear cassette areas---I just couldn't pinpoint it. I rode back to the bike shop (the bike knocking like crazy in easy gears) and had my two favorite mechanics take a look at it. Of course, they couldn't find anything. I left with some hypotheses and a couple of recommendations, but no definite solution and a continued knocking sound that was making me crazy.

Tonight was the "Tuesday World Cup" group ride as it's called, but I decided to skip it. Though I had the best ride of my entire life and felt stronger than ever, I just couldn't stand the sound coming from my bike and figured all the fast guys could have a good ride without me.

I've done a couple of the things prescribed by my mechanics and tomorrow I'll see if anything has improved. If not, I'll take the sucker back to the shop and have them tear it apart until they find the problem. There's no way I can ride it unless the sound is fixed. I'm already paranoid enough about sounds coming from my brand new car---sounds coming from my bike will drive me straight over the edge.

I need therapy.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Rain Rain Go Away

This non-stop rain is wearing me out.

Ever since Hurricane Dennis made its way up through Alabama and Tennessee into the Ohio River Valley, it's been raining here. On Wednesday and Thursday, the huge, spiraling low pressure system sat directly on top of us here in Louisville. Naturally, that meant it rained throughout the day, and I don't think we've seen the sun since the last Sunday.

Today on the usual Sunday group ride, six of us chased down Papa John Schnatter on River Road---he had been out for a while on a huge solo break---at about 26-28 miles an hour. With rain pouring down.

I had road grit in my teeth by the time we hit the only big hill of the route and was completely drenched from head to toe. The drenched part has been the routine for seven full days now, and it's getting old.

Unfortunately, the rain is probably going to hang around a few more days. Yay.


courtesy Jonathan Devitch

George Hincapie won his first ever Tour de France stage today, to top an already superb season of racing for the coolest American cyclist nobody's ever heard of. He won an early semi-classic in Belgium, finished second in Paris-Rubaix, and won two stages of the Dauphine. And now a stage of the Tour in mighty fashion!

I've always been a big fan of Hincapie, and usually have to defend him when various buddies of mine criticize him for being a "Classics specialist" who's only won one Classic---Gent-Wevelgem a few years ago. Well guys, kiss Hincapie's rear wheel, because he's not hearing a word of it.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

I'm Feeling Guilty

Today I have a four-hour training ride scheduled. I should be on the road by now.

Instead, I'm crashing out inside today, avoiding the rain, and trying to regain some feeling in my legs. I did a hard hill interval session yesterday and today I'm paying for it. I woke up sore and demoralized, and neither my breakfast nor watching today's Tour de France stage woke me from my physical stupor.

It's still tropical outside with occassional rain and 70% humidity, with no end in sight. Every hour or so is another light rain shower. Yesterday I got home gritty and soaked, and it took me an hour this morning just to clean off my break pads, wheels and chainrings.

The road won't miss me today. It will be there tomorrow, and so will I.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Too Much Information?

Just in case you were wondering, my butt was pretty tender on my three-hour training ride today. I covered the usual 55+ miles or so but instead of feeling comfortable like always, my rear was a bit sore---no matter how much I shifted around on my chamois, I couldn't quite find a soft spot.

Perhaps it's due to my long trainer session on Tuesday while stuck inside avoiding the deluge of Once-Hurricane Dennis. I decided to wear an older pair of Pearl Izumi shorts I had lying around, with padding that has seen better days. By the end of the trainer ride my "seat" was on fire.

I wish I could take a few days off and let my bum get some rest, but there's no way that's going to happen---especially since I'm still an hour behind on my riding this week because of the rain and a dentist appointment yesterday. I'll just have to suffer through it like the champion that I am.

You really needed to know all of that.

Maybe It's Rigged...

courtesy AFP

Frenchman David Moncoutie has won Stage 12 of the Tour de France on Bastille Day.

What a complete and total surprise!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Vino Redeemed

courtesy AFP

This year's Tour de France is quite the roller coaster. In the early stages, David Zabriskie seemed like the fastest guy on two wheels, taking the opening time trial and holding the yellow jersey for several stages---and then crashing spectacularly in the team time trial and eventually quitting the race a couple days ago. Robbie McEwen couldn't buy a win against Tom Boonen, and he even got relegated to the back of the field in one bunch sprint for some questionable antics. In just a couple days, he came back and took two victories from Boonen with relative ease.

Yesterday, on the final climb to Courchevel, Alexandre Vinokourov of T-Mobile was dropped hard by the elite group led by Lance Armstrong. Vino looked totally spent and his race appeared over.

Not so. Today, he and Santiago Botero (another rider I predicted to be a possible dark horse winner of the Tour) broke away on a stage filled with major Alpine climbs and held off the field to the end. Vino out-sprinted Botero for the win, and gained more than a minute on The Boss. Still 4:47 back, Vino has lots of ground to cover if he wants a podium spot, but the Alps aren't over and the Pyrenees are still to come. A lot could happen. Botero especially has a chance to contend for a high placing, as he is now only 3:48 back in sixth place.

This is definitely the most exciting Tour since 2003. Hands down.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Rapha Versus Reality

Hands-down, Rapha Performance Roadwear is the coolest cycling-related site on the entire Internet. It's no contest. No other web site makes road cycling look so glamorous, so cool.

With a clever mix of great photography, creative web design, amazing (and expensive!) clothing for sale, and interesting feature articles on the culture of bike riding, Rapha just makes road cycling look cool.

It's no exaggeration to say I've lusted over Rapha's goods for some time now---and would kill to get my hands on a couple of their Sportwool jerseys or a jacket perhaps. Rapha is king of cycling style.

Unfortunately, while Rapha may present to us an image of cycling similar to what Gucci and Armani do for fashion, the reality is a little less spectacular:

This Entry Rated PG-13

I think OLN should rename their coverage of the Tour de France from "Cyclism II" to something more appropriate.

How about "The Lance Armstrong Blowjob Hour", brought to us, of course, by Al Trautwig. Sorry, Alex, but your dad needs to give it a rest---Sheryl's starting to get jealous.

The Future Is Now

courtesy AFP

The first true mountain stage of the Tour de France, and the first real revelations of the race. Young Alejandro Valverde of Spain not only hung with Lance Armstrong on the final climb to Courchevel, but he out-sprinted The Boss to win the stage in amazing fashion, far ahead of the other "favorites" for the overall win.

Ivan Basso finished a respectable 1:02 down, but arguably out of contention as long as Armstrong holds his current form. Jan Ullrich, Andreas Kloden and especially Vinokourov (all of T-Mobile) were dropped hard on the final climb, and can now all kiss their chances goodbye. Assuming all current trends hold until the end, of course.

Michael "Chicken" Rasmussen again proved formidable, finishing third and essentially clinching his claim to the polka-dot jersey of the King of The Mountains. Despite looking thinner than Nicole Richie, Rasmussen has some serious power in his skinny legs.

The hard mountain stages in the Alps continue tomorrow, with climbs of the Madeleine, the Telegraphe and the Galibier all facing the riders---many of whom will be quite demoralized after today's spanking by Discovery Channel.

Hopefully I won't have to watch the Tour tomorrow while riding the trainer for two and a half hours like I did today, thanks to The Storm Formerly Known As Hurricane Dennis sitting right on top of the Ohio River Valley. I don't call the trainer the "hamster wheel" for no sucks riding in place!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Tire Woes

In the last week of March I purchased a pair of Vredestein Fortezza TriComp race tires for my bike. I read several reviews of them, some good and some bad, and decided to give them a try. Having spent $90 for the pair, I was hoping for the best.

Well, sure enough, problems have arisen.

Yesterday while warming up before the big Sunday group ride, I noticed a pronounced hump in my front tire. If it hadn't been clearly visible over the handlebars, I'm sure I would have noticed it by the audible thump thump thump and the sudden rough ride I was experiencing.

My front tire has developed a pretty significant bulge, and the tire is shot. Granted I run them at 135 psi, but their advertised maximum pressure is 175---the tire seriously looks like I tried to cram 300 psi into it.

This is after just over three months of use, mind you. Sure, I ride a lot of miles, but there's no excuse for a $45 tire to bulge after just 2000 miles. My similarly-priced Bontrager Race X Lite tires that came with the Race Lite wheels I train on already have more than 3000 miles on them and they're still in great shape.

Looks like I'll be going back to those. I wonder if the bike shop will replace the Vredesteins, but I doubt it.

In the future I'll take the negative reviews at much more seriously.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Weight A Minute

Taking a cue from Fat Cyclist, I'll take this moment in blog history to discuss my weight problem.

The problem is, I'm still losing weight.

At the end of January, I was a hefty 168 or so. That's pretty significant considering I'm 5'11" on a good day. Today, after finishing the Sunday group ride (and hitting my max heart rate of 194 TWICE), I was down to 152. I'm naturally thin, but I don't want to look like Kate Moss, you know?

152 is hardly anorexic, I know, but too much more weight loss and I'll start losing speed on the flats---and crit racing may be right out. Compared to the monsters that race around this region, the "Rugby Racers" as I like to secretly call them under my breath while shamelessly sucking their wheels every chance I get, I might as well be Marco Pantani. Before the coke, of course.

There's just not enough climbing around here to justify the kind of weight loss I've had. Below 150, I won't be able to hang with the flat group rides and their murderous 30 mile-an-hour pace lines that are so popular here in Louisville.

The solution? Start eating. I already eat at least 2700 calories a day, and clearly that isn't cutting it with this heat. Time to up the ante. Maybe I'll stop ridiculing all the walruses who choke down those "Super Beef And Bacon Monster Gigantic Thick Burgers" at Wendy's or Hardee's or wherever the hell they are---and have a few for myself!

A Simple Request...

Dear Robbie McEwen,

Can I borrow your legs?

(Photo courtesy of Luc Claessen)

Sunday Group Ride

It's not really anything special, just a 25-mile group ride with the local Louisville Bicycle Club members, but I always look forward to it on Sundays. There's always somebody there looking to get a good break going, so I never end up riding off the front alone. Well, at least not until the end.

The weather is perfect, I had a strong week of riding, and my legs feel great. Can't wait to get going!

A Win For Chicken

courtesy AFP

Michael Rasmussen of Rabobank---the man they call "Chicken"---scored a tremendous win today by soloing to the finish of Stage 9 a full three minutes ahead of the chasing group. Already wearing the polka-dot jersey, Rasmussen tightened his grip on the prize for best mountain climber. Not to mention that he also accomplished his dream of winning a stage in the Tour de France.

The chasers, Jens Voigt (CSC) and Chrisophe Moreau (Credit Agricole), finished a full three minutes ahead of the main peloton, moving Voigt into the race lead---for now.

Tomorrow is a rest day and then the Alps begin.

Items Of Interest

Stage 8 of the Tour was interesting for a number of reasons. Allow me to list them:

1) Discovery Channel was nowhere to be found on the final big climb of the day. Only Il Falco was there with Lance as the road turned upward for the final time of the day, and he was toast after just two major attacks by Vinokourov, leaving Lance alone to chase his rivals down. He did so, but not without some energy loss and perhaps a significant blow to his morale. The key to his success over the past six years has been a team that ruthlessly dominates the climbs---a team nowhere to be seen in Stage 8.

2) T-Mobile had all three major contenders on the final big climb---two of whom attacked relentlessly (Vinokourov and Kloden) and one who kept Armstrong firmly in check by riding his wheel (Ullrich). T-Mobile was a force to behold in Stage 8, as Vinokourov attacked twice and softened up the field letting Kloden race away for a stunning second place finish (and a big time gain on Lance).

3) Andreas Kloden is clearly back in form after a weak spring. He was smooth as silk up the last climb and fast as lightning down the descent. With Vino and Ullrich also showing strength, T-Mobile has all three contenders ready to actually fight for the victory this year.

4) Joseba Beloki finished well, inside the front group with Armstrong, Ullrich and the other major contenders. Though Stage 8 was not nearly as tough as the later days in the Alps and Pyrenees, Beloki could finally be returning to the form he lost during a horrible crash in the 2003 Tour. Time will surely tell.

As the climbs get harder in the coming days, the race will surely become even more exciting than it is now.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Robbie Mc-Two-en!!

courtesy Roberto Bettini

Australian champion Robbie McEwen doubled his winnings at this year's Tour de France by beating all others in the final sprint of stage 7. Despite continued rain and a long finishing straight filled with attacks and a crash, McEwen out-powered every rival (including an out-of-position Tom Boonen).

Now the green jersey competition is alive with Tom Boonen retaining his lead but McEwen once again in contention.
Points classification

1 Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick.Step 133 pts
2 Thor Hushovd (Nor) Credit Agricole 122
3 Robbie McEwen (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 96
4 Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Cofidis, Le Credit Par Telephone 91
5 Robert Förster (Ger) Gerolsteiner 75

The "big" surprise of the day (pun intended) was Liquigas strong-man and former Paris-Rubaix winner Magnus Backstedt, who finished second behind McEwen with a very impressive burst of speed down the final straight. Backstedt is a very large guy---the heaviest in the peloton at 90+ kg---and next to little McEwen is quite an intimidating rider. It is fairly well-known that many early-career sprinters go on to become successful one-day racers (or, in the case of Laurent Jalabert, mountain climbers), but maybe Backstedt will reverse the trend to become a great sprinter after success as a one-day racer. Who knows?

The Agony!

courtesy AFP

Pictured above is Christophe Mengin. He almost won stage 6 of the Tour yesterday. He didn't, because he crashed in the very last turn before the finish while leading the race after a long, brilliant breakaway effort.

Several dozen riders followed him to the pavement in that corner.

Two riders made it through just behind poor Mengin, one by the name of Lorenzo Bernucci (Fassa Bortolo) who scored a very surprise stage victory and his first ever win as a pro. The second rider is of much more importance, for it was Vinokourov. He launched an amazing attack off the front of the peloton just before the final treacherous turn, and only Bernucci was able to hang on to his wheel. When Mengin crashed, Vino almost went down, and Bernucci used the moment to move ahead and take the win.

Vino, though finishing second, showed what tremendous power he has---and showed that his desire to attack has not diminished. His style of attacking is so great to watch. He jumped off the front of the peloton, then slowed a bit, then jumped hard again, fully dropping all those who tried to follow the first attack. In seconds he was away and streaking toward Mengin. Had it not been for the crash in the corner, Vino would have taken the win, easily.

I can't wait for the mountains.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Training Notes

I'm now several days into my second Base month of the second training regimen of the year. Today I only rode for an hour, but 20 minutes was tempo riding spent firmly in heart rate zone 3, which for me is between 160 and 175 beats per minute.

I've noticed something about my body when I'm riding in zone 3, which I assume to be a sign that I lack training experience. While my breathing is steady and solid---no gasping and weazing (that's reserved for zone 4 and above)---my legs get very sore. It seems that my lactate threshold is very low compared to my heart rate. Whereas my LT should be somewhere in my upper heart rate zones (high 4, low 5) it seems as though it's actually in the low end of zone 4, around 180 bpm. My max heart rate is 194 or so, and I've reached it on a number of occassions, but my legs fatigue much earlier.

I assume that this will improve with more training, especially as I log several years of serious riding under my belt. Everything I've read and the advice I've gotten from more experienced racers suggests this to be true. Hopefully that's the case.

All that said, I did a full twenty minutes at 23-24 miles per hour at between 165-175 bpm, and while my legs were a bit sore, I felt strong and capable. After I finished the tempo interval, my recovery was very smooth with my heart rate dropping to zone 1 in just a matter of seconds.

Now I just need to keep this up, and someday I might actually be good.

G'Day Mate!

courtesy Roberto Bettini

Rocket Robbie McEwen claimed victory in stage 5 of the Tour, just edging out Tom Boonen at the line. Boonen was streaking toward the line as fast as ever, but McEwen successfully latched onto the bigger man's wheel and flew past at just the right moment. While Boonen still holds a firm grip on the green jersey, McEwen has shown that he can keep his phenomenal form all year.

In other Tour news, The Boss tried to make a very nice gesture today by refusing to wear the yellow jersey in honor of Dave Zabriskie, who crashed out yesterday during CSC's barely-second place team time trial effort. Though he signed in wearing his Discovery team jersey, the race organizers stopped the peloton at kilometer 0 and forced The Boss to put on the maillot jaune due to sponsor expectations. Though it didn't work out, it was an extremely sportsman-like gesture. Would Lance have done the same for someone like Ullrich or Vinokourov---someone not from the US? Perhaps, since in the past Lance has waited for rivals to catch up after falling or having mechanical troubles during key stages.

Kind gestures aside, Lance remains in the yellow for another day as the Tour heads into stage 6.

The Tour So Far

courtesy Roberto Bettini

Dave Zabriskie's run in the yellow jersey came to a violent end yesterday, as he crashed out during team CSC's second place team time trial effort, with less than two kilometers to go. Discovery Channel beat CSC by just two seconds while setting a new record for average speed in the event. The Boss now takes over as race leader.

It's really a shame about Zabriskie, and not just because it's a shame any time someone loses the yellow jersey. It's a shame because---for once---an American other than Lance Armstrong got some press coverage. In fact, the media, especially OLN, took quite a liking to young Mr. Zabriskie, with tons of glowing praise for him on TV and on the Internet.

I have a theory as to why this is: Zabriskie comes across as normal. He's quiet, witty and generally easy-going. He's shy in front of the cameras and chooses his words carefully when asked questions by reporters. He's humble and heaps tons of praise on his teammates even when the focus should be on himself. In general, he's the polar opposite of AMERICAN HERO CYCLING LEGEND LANCE ARMSTRONG. Zabriskie, more than other Americans like Floyd Landis, George Hincapie and even Bobby Julich, comes across as an honest-to-god "regular guy", even if his sense of humor is a little over most people's heads. You couldn't ask for a better race leader.

And on a related note, I'm growing more and more disgusted by OLN's coverage of the Tour this year. Last year was pretty bad, with Lanceophilia at an all-time high. This year, it's become gratuitous. It's unbelievable to me that as Discovery Channel crossed the finish line at the end of the TTT, OLN cut to a split screen of Sheryl Crow's face---I assume to catch her reaction to the finish. This makes sense considering that she's the only girlfriend in the entire peloton. Only Lance Armstrong has a mate that cares about how he does in the race.

Dear OLN: Quit pandering to an audience that you don't have. The only people watching every single day of Tour coverage are the usual suspects: actual cycling fans. No one is watching the race to keep up with Sheryl Crow's exploits, that's for sure. In fact, nobody even remembered that she was alive until she started dating Lance Armstrong---so spare us the Sheryl's Reaction Split Screen and focus on the FUCKING BIKE RACE. Thanks.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Boonen Makes It Two

courtesy AFP

Tom Boonen won his second stage in as many days with what Phil Liggett called a "very Cipollini-like sprint", coming from deep in the pack to out-power all others for the victory. Boonen is once again showing everyone that he's not just a dominant one-day rider, but also a phenomenal sprinter.

Boonen moves to 70 points in the Green Jersey competition, a full 20 ahead of second place Stuart O'Grady. If Boonen can survive over the mountains---which he did last year---he could be THE man to beat for the prize.

Also of interest were the antics of Robbie McEwen, who got boxed in behind Boonen and to the left of O'Grady during the final sprint. In a desperate effort to get room, McEwen started pushing O'Grady with his head hard to the right. The stunt, while funny to watch, was enough to get McEwen relegated to last place in the bunch (186th out of 189). He sacrificed a third place finish and some needed points...and will have to work that much harder later in the Tour.

courtesy AFP

David Zabriskie retains the Yellow Jersey going into the very important Team Time Trial stage, where his CSC team should be a top contender. Their only real rivals are Discovery Channel and maybe Phonak. It should be fun to watch.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Boonen Back To Form

courtesy Sirotti

Tom Boonen won the second stage of the Tour today, taking advantage of Robbie McEwen's big mistake---starting his sprint way too early at around the 250 meter mark. Boonen had a huge explosion of power right near the end and won by a bike length over Thor Hushovd, with McEwen finishing third.

Despite a toothache and a June of little to no racing, Boonen looks as strong as ever. It would be a surprise if several more stage wins aren't in his immediate future.

David Zabriskie retains the maillot jaune, and Thomas Voeckler gains the polka-dot King Of The Mountains jersey.

OLN continues to wear me out with their boring, meaningless interviews of Sheryl Crow like anyone gives a shit what she has to say about bike racing. Really, between the constant exposure of "Lance's celebrity girlfriend" and Nike's overpriced "10/2" line of crap (wow, one whole dollar to charity!!), I'm about sick of The Boss already. Basso, Vino and all the other contenders better bring it in the mountains this year.

Peloton Fun Facts

Courtesy of, here are some fun facts about the Tour de France peloton:

* At 35 beats per minute (BPM), Chris Horner (Saunier Duval) and Laurent Lefevre (Bouygues Telecom) both have the lowest resting heart rates.
* And at 7.66 litres, two riders also have the largest lung capacity: Christophe Moreau (Credit Agricole) and Mikel Astarloza (Ag2r-Prevoyance).
* The heaviest rider? No prizes for guessing here: it's big Maggie Bäckstedt from Liquigas-Bianchi - all 95 kilos of him!
* The lightest? This one's a little trickier: it's Horner's team-mate, Leonardo Piepoli, weighing in at a featherweight 57 kilograms.
* The tallest? The long and lanky Johan Van Summeren, who falls just two centimetres shy of the two-metre mark.
* The shortest? I am Sam, Ag2r-Prevoyance's Samuel Dumoulin.
* The average rider: 1.79 metres tall, weighing 71 kilograms, with a resting heart rate of 50 BPM and a lung capacity of 5.69 litres. The average rider, but by no means average figures!

For perspective, which I'm always keen on giving, I match up pretty well with the least on paper.

I'm 1.8 meters tall, 70 kilograms heavy, and have a resting heart rate of 40. I have no idea what my lung capacity is, but I should get it checked. It's cool to know that my resting heart rate is as low or lower than many of the pros---not that it means I could keep up with them, of course...

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Dave Z Takes The TT

In stunning fashion, American time trial specialist Dave Zabriskie won the opening stage of the Tour de France today, beating The Boss by just two seconds but effectively crushing the rest of the field. Also of note, Armstrong passed Ullrich about 5km from the finish. Passed him! In a time trial! Phil Liggett said during OLN's coverage this afternoon that Ullrich has never been passed by anyone in a time trial before. Holy crap!

But, back to Zabriskie.

courtesy AFP

Dave Zabriskie has been one of my favorite riders ever since last year's Vuelta, when he went on a huuuuge solo breakaway during stage 11 and ultimately held on for the win. After winning the stage, he was asked what exactly was going through his head while out on the road alone for so long. His response? That he was singing a line from a Guns N Roses song over and over...You can't catch me....

Zabriskie is known for his strange sense of humor and quiet demeanor. A man of few words, when asked for a statement by CyclingNews after winning the stage 8 time trial in this year's Giro, Zabriskie said only "Rock and roll, dude." That's my kind of guy.

One final note; Zabriskie's aptly-named web site,, is thin on content but high on laughs. Of particular interest are his "One Question Interviews" with various other pros in the peloton during races. In one of them, Zabriskie asks Charlie Wegelius of the Liquigas Team if he's ever actually had "liquigas".

I hope Dave Z holds onto the Yellow for at least a couple of days---he deserves it. interviews with Zabriskie:
December 2004
June 2005

Friday, July 01, 2005

An Option

I was sitting around trying to figure out how to balance my busy riding schedule, the demands I face at work, and my need to watch every single stage of the Tour de France on TV.

I might end up riding the trainer all month just so I can stay glued to the TV. It seems like OLN hardly ever carries bike races anymore, so I can hardly pass up this opportunity! I may hate hate hate riding the trainer, but I may also have no choice.

If only I could find someone to bankroll me for a couple of years so I don't have to work---just ride. And watch the Tour in July, of course.

Medic! Can I Get A Medic! has posted some funny pictures from the pre-Tour medical checks. Some of the favorites included in the shots are Tom Boonen, Robbie McEwen, Baden Cooke and Lance Armstrong.

And of course, don't forget the Great French Hope, Thomas Voeckler:

Just by looking at these pictures, several things are evident:

1) Tom Boonen has lost a little weight and looks fitter than ever.
2) Baden Cooke has a terrible haircut.
3) Levi Leipheimer has lost weight, and is either in great shape or near death.
4) Lance looks very strong and very ready to go.
5) Pro cyclists are as dorky as all other cyclists.

Looks like someone has been riding a lot. And on that note, I'm glad I'm not the only one with some truly horrible tan lines.

Photos courtes of AFP