Monthly Archives: July 2014

Hangin’ at Road Nationals

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Man, this hanging out thing is getting old. It has sort of been a roller coaster ride for the last month. Right now, I think I’m in a big dip of the cycle. It is not like I am in huge pain or am in a really bad situation, it is just that being sedentary isn’t much in my personality. I’m not moving as well as I was last week, so I’m trying to stay off my feet, which is pretty easy just sitting at a hotel, in air conditioning, in a King bed, with World Cup soccer as entertainment. But, I’d rather be doing just able anything outside instead.

We’re up in Madison Wisconsin, for the US Elite National Championships. Trudi is working the race for the BMC Development Team. There are 4 Americans on the team, doing the races. They are riding the time trial and road race.

I went to dinner with the BMC guys last night. They are all super nice and fun. They all have a pretty complicated schedule, being on a development team that is based in Europe. A couple of the riders are doing Bend after this and two others are flying to Italy to do a stage race there.

Changing the subject, I saw an article that said that Adam Hansen, Lotto, is riding his 9th straight Grand Tour. So, that is the Giro, Tour, and Spain for 3 years straight. That is some crazy schedule. And it isn’t like he is just finishing the races. He’s doing a ton of work, plus winning stages every once in a while. Shit, touch guy. He also makes cycling shoes. Light ones. They cost 2000 euros or something stupid like that, but they weigh less than 100 grams. Don’t worry, you don’t have to stress about getting them because it looks like they are sold out this year.

And, since we’re on the 9 subject, how about Sven Tuft, Orica/Greenedge, winning his 9th National TT Championship last weekend? That is a lot. Plus he won the road race too. I remember the first time he came onto my radar screen. It was Redland’s Classic, maybe early 2000’s. He started behind me in the prologue time trial. It was a 5 km hillclimb, 30 seconds intervals. I was maybe 2 km up the climb, thinking I was going good, when he comes blowing by me on a time trial bike, in time trial position. I was stunned. I didn’t know the guy and he seemed too big to be going that fast uphill. I picked up my pace and went by him the last 500 meters, but he still throttled me pretty good, by close to 30 seconds. He was in the top ten, maybe top 5. After that, I realized that he was the real deal, which he is.

Okay, US vs. Belgium this afternoon. I’m making a few phone calls, but nothing much else on the agenda for the day. Sometimes, I would kill for a relaxing day like this, but right now, I’m pretty much hating it.

The BMC guys getting ready to ride over to the road course this morning.  I was jealous.

The BMC guys getting ready to ride over to the road course this morning. I was jealous.

It isn't often where I bring bikes into the hotel, since I have a big van.  We're in a handicap room, which is nearly true.

It isn’t often where I bring bikes into the hotel, since I have a big van. We’re in a handicap room, which is nearly true.

Adam Hansen's custom cycling shoes.

Adam Hansen’s custom cycling shoes.

Bromont is a good hanger.  He is nearly camouflaged here in the doggie quilt cover.  It's really hard to pick out Bromont from all the other puppies.

Bromont is a good hanger. He is nearly camouflaged here in the doggie quilt cover. It’s really hard to pick out Bromont from all the other puppies.

Gert Steegmans Pissed, Team “Flicked” Him

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Gert Steegmans was pissed after the finish of the Belgium National Road Championships last weekend. He was off the front by nearly 30 seconds, in a 8 man break, with one team mate, when his team, Omega Pharma Quick Step, puts the rest of team on the front to chase the break down. Man, for a team like Omega Pharma, that usually rides like a Swiss watch in situations like this, to screw up the end of a race, especially Belgium Nationals, is pretty crazy. Boonen first complained about the leadout being on the wrong side of the road, then said something that doesn’t make any sense –“It was the plan [to allow Steegmans to plays his cards]. We protected the break until we suddenly started to ride. Of course I am disappointed, especially by the way we lost. Amateurism doesn’t belong to the championships.”

I guess Steegmans’ cards only get played until 500 meters to go. Hopefully the Belgium soccer team will use some of Omega’s playbook today against USA.

Here is the end of the race, in Flemish.

National Championships Belgium – Road Race HD… by CyclingHub

Flying on Crutches

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I flew out to Southern California today. I got a ticket on United since I wasn’t flying with a bike. I pretty much only fly on Southwest when I can now. Even though they raised their bike charge from $50 to $75, it is the cheapest game in town. Frontier used to be even better, a bike counting as just a checked piece of luggage, but they went to the dark side recently and now even charge for carry-ons.

Anyway, when Trudi dropped me off at the Madison airport, I was a little apprehensive about getting around the airports and planes on crutches. So far, that hasn’t been a problem. I got the super fast TSA pre-approved line at security and sailed through. Sailed through until they flagged my bag. I didn’t check a bag because it is $25. The guy said he saw something metal in my bag. I told him that it was probably my bicycle pedals. (I brought my pedals along just in case I feel up to a little jaunt.) He told me no, it looked like a L. Then I remembered I brought a 8mm pedal wrench along. I told him it was inside my cycling shoes. So, he opened my bag and found the pedal wrench.

He then proceeded to put the wrench up against a ruler mounted on the machine and it measured 8 inches. He told me that it was illegal to fly with a tool that was longer than 7 inches and said I had two choices. Go back to check-in and put the tool in my checked bag or surrender it to the TSA. I told him that I didn’t check a bag and that I wasn’t up to going back down to ticketing and checking the tool. I have other pedal wrenches, but this seemed ridiculous. It was a pedal wrench. I had way more dangerous things in my carry-on. I had a small pair of scissors that I would choose as a weapon over the pedal wrench it that is what it came down to. Even my crutches, in my opinion, would be considered more dangerous than the pedal wrench.

Anyway, he asked me again if I wanted to surrender the tool. I asked if there was any other option. He said I could talk to a supervisor. I didn’t really see the point, but I asked him if there was a chance that the supervisor would let me keep the wrench. He shrugged. So, the TSA guy goes and gets his supervisor. Actually, two guys show up. He remeasured the pedal wrench and tells me that it is too long. I ask him if there is any exceptions to the seizure rules. Then, out of the blue, he asks if there is a medical reason that I would have to have it. I think about it for a second, and bing, a brilliant idea comes to me.

I tell him that I have a prescription for physical therapy and that it is for low impact resistance, such as swimming and riding a stationary bike. And that I brought my pedals along to use for that. He asks me for the prescription. The two TSA guys read over it for a little and finally say that there isn’t anything that specifically mentions riding a bike. I said that the doctor just told me that verbally, but it did say low impact exercise, which cycling is.

The supervisor didn’t say anything for a little while and finally said, something like, “I can give this back to you if you assure me that you’re not going to do something dangerous with it on the flight.” I thought that was a weird statement/question, but I told him that I would stick it on the bottom of my bag and it wouldn’t see the light of day until I landed. He then handed the pedal wrench back.

I was really surprised that is how it worked out. I thought I needed to thank the guy for using common sense and making a fair decision. So, I put my arm out and thanked him for just that, using common sense. Rarely in this day and age of “terrorism” and flying, will someone in authority, bend the rules, even if those rules seem ridiculous.

So, the flying has been good so far. Getting off the plane in Denver, my little jet had landed and I had to walk down stairs to get to the runway. Man, the stairs are too narrow for crutches. So, I just held them in one hand and hopped, one-legged down to the tarmac. That is the extent of the trouble I’ve had so far. I hope that is all.

At the Madison airport.  I have my walking stick toe strapped to my crutches.

At the Madison airport. I have my walking stick toe strapped to my crutches.

I've used this every time I've crashed and broke something below my waist. I got this walking stick/cane in England, nearly 30 years ago, after crashing in the British Milk race.

I’ve used this every time I’ve crashed and broke something below my waist. I got this walking stick/cane in England, nearly 30 years ago, after crashing in the British Milk race.

The first TSA agent just about to take my pedal wrench.

The first TSA agent just about to take my pedal wrench.

The pedal wrench.  I still have it in my possession.  I'm wondering if I should check my bag on the way home.

The pedal wrench. I still have it in my possession. I’m wondering if I should check my bag on the way home.

US Elite Road Nationals

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I find it unbelievable that neither Velonews or Cyclingnews has an article, or even just the results, of the US Elite Road Race National Championships that were held yesterday in Madison. Both did a little post on Tanner Putt winning the U23 race, that was held at 7 am yesterday morning, but neither have a thing about the Elite race. Even USA Cycling gave it only one paragraph – In the second and final race of the day, Emerson Oronte (Boulder, Colo./GS Ciao) pulled away to win the 140km men’s cat 1 race by 13 seconds. Erik Stack (Meridian, Idaho/Canyon Bicycles-Shimano) nipped Walton Brush (Portland, Ore./Team Mike’s Bikes p/b Equator Coffees) to claim the silver medal.

I guess the media thinks that no one gives a shit about the results of our Elite National Championships. Velonews arranges to have the US Pro Road Nationals shown live, but don’t even bother to post the results of the Elite race. I finally found the results from the races at USA Cyling. If you interested, click here. Kevin Fish, KCCX cross racer, had a stellar result finishing 6th in the U23 race, along with Nick Torraca, my temporary Boneshaker Team mate from Joe Martin, who finished 13th. I was a little surprised that the Athlete Octane Team didn’t have anyone in the mix for the win. I guess those guys are focusing on the criterium. I will be shocked if they don’t win that race.

In the Elite race, I really don’t know any of the guys that finished near the top. But, that doesn’t necessary mean anything. I don’t know a lot of good riders. You have to remember than Eric Marcotte, our US Professional National Road Champion this year, finished 11th in the Elite National Road race last year, so it shows that on any given day, a race can be won by a large number of riders. That is one of the best aspects of the sport, in my opinion.

Cycling is a participatory sport and there are a lot more readers of the these websites that are interested in the results from the National Road Championships than that of the US Pro Nationals. They are doing a disservice to their readers by not, at least, listing the results.

Anyway, shame on Velonews and Cyclingnews for ignoring our US Elite Nationals. Junior Nationals too, for that matter. The National Championships, that are held in Madison, is the highlight of many riders season. It is too important to be ignored by the cycling media.

Hope all you guys have a great 4th of July!

Where I'm sitting right now doing this post.

Where I’m sitting right now doing this post.

My view.  The blue is the ocean.

My view. The blue is the ocean.

This is Hank and Kaya, back from their walk.

This is Hank and Kaya back from their walk.

July 5th – Start of the Tour de France

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Out in California, the coverage for the Tour starts at 3 am. And it goes for over 6 hours. That is truly amazing. It’s a huge change from what it was just a couple decades ago. I guess we have to thank Lance for that???

I was talking to Tom Schuler, ex-7-11 Professional, about things he might regret in his career. He said first that he never rode the Tour. Tom was US Pro Champion and won lots and lots of races. But, he said he gets little respect from the young riders because he never rode the Tour de France. And he could have, very easily. Like so easily that he actually had to strategize or lobby how to NOT ride the race.

Back then, other than Andy Hampsten, Davis and a few others, no one wanted to spend a month in France racing a 3 week stage race. There was no media coverage and it really did nothing for a rider’s American contract. Plus, you lost out on thousands of dollars of prize money you would have won racing here in the United States.

Back then, I too, was never really interested in racing the Tour. One year, between my Levis Team and Schwinn days, I made a few phone calls to try to get on a Tour team. I called Phil Liggett, who was the point man of British Cycling at the time. There was a British team, sponsored by, I forget the exact name, maybe ANC or something. It was a trucking service I think. I knew that Malcollm Elliot and Adrian Timmis, guys I’d ridden the British Milk Race with a couple times, were on it. Phil told me that he thought it wouldn’t be a problem to ride the race, but there was something screwy with their support, pay or something. I decided to drop the whole thing and ended up riding for the Wheaties/Schwinn team for the next 3 seasons. I think most of the British guys riding the Tour that year race quit the race early, so it would have been just survival, at best.

The Tour wasn’t what it is now. It was shitty hotels, with only cold water. No team buses, just a couple team cars. It was a completely different deal that the race is now. The race is as much an made for TV entertainment segment as an athletic event. I guess that’s okay. Whatever it takes to get a bicycle racing main stream is alright??

Watching the Tour today, I was surprised how many people were out for the race. It was amazing. It seems like Britain has really signed off on the bike racing thing. I guess having the last two winners of the Tour coming from your country gives it a real boost.

The finish today was indicative of what field sprints have become. The riders started the ball rolling and the officials never did anything to stop it. Head butting, elbowing, leaning and contact seems to be the current state of field sprints. And the guys laying on the ground is the result. I didn’t watch the replay too many times, but it looked like Cavendish was at fault. He seemed to be behind Gerrans and initiated the contact. It was intentional contact for sure. The sport needs to address it, like I wrote here a couple weeks ago. The sport is dangerous enough on its own. This needs to stop.

And, how about Chris Froome finishing 6th on the stage. Maybe he is going to go for the Green jersey later on in the race? It’s been awhile since the GC riders participate at the front at the end of a sprinter’s stage. I’ve always thought, if you get to the end of the race, why not put out the energy the last minute to get a result. Plus, at the front, you are usually out of trouble a little more than further back. That might not be true now.

Okay, anyway, I’m glad the Tour is on. I’m still sleeping poorly and it is always something to look forward to. I’d much rather just be out riding my bike myself, but if that isn’t possible, then watching the Tour de France isn’t a bad alternative.

Beating a Dead Horse

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Okay, this is getting old, but it’s what I have on my mind today, so it’s what is going to be posted here. This intentional contact bike racing is complete and utter bullshit. It happens constantly and is getting more aggressive by the race.

It’s not like it is only happening in the Tour and the Giro. There is a trickle down effect. When riders like Chad Hartley and Travis McCabe leave comments here that it is okay and part of the sport, then it is in my backyard. I’m doing this for self-preservation. I have enough trouble staying upright on my bicycle sometimes. Guys pushing and leaning into me doesn’t help the cause.

Let’s go to the Tour finish yesterday. Obviously, by watching the finish, and by the statements by Mark Cavendish, there is no dispute what happened. Cavendish attempted to create a hole where there wasn’t one. This “tactic” works, a certain percentage of the time. But it doesn’t work, a lot of the time. And if it doesn’t work for the pros, then you can imagine how it doesn’t work for amateurs. But when the pros do it, then it is emulated by everyone else. (It’s sort of like riding with your forearms on the bars in the time trial position. It’s really a stupid way to race a bike, but since Fabian does it, then everyone needs to have it in their quiver.)

Let’s go to Mark’s own description of what happened yesterday. On the Omega Team website, Mark states-

“Simon and I came up, and I think two of us wanted Peter Sagan’s wheel. The others moved to the left. I wanted to go but Gerrans was there. I used my head to try to take us across the road. Gerrans wasn’t budging, I wasn’t budging, we crossed bars and we both went down. At the end of the race, in different circumstances, I would have hit the brakes and not tried to go for the win. The stage had been lost. I wanted it that bad and I tried to find a gap that wasn’t there. I spoke to Simon after the stage, I asked if he was OK, and I also spoke to him on the phone later and apologized to him. I really hope he’s OK and today’s a good stage for him. I wish him a good rest of the tour.” (Whole statement here.)

So, he used his head to try to take them across the road. I guess since he didn’t take his hands off the bars, that is supposed to be kosher??? The officials and the UCI doesn’t seem to be interested in controlling this. The only reason I can come up with for that is there is a certain entertainment value of crashes at the end of races. Or crashing in general. And for sure, our sport, especially the Tour, Giro and Classics, the televised events, are being molded by the entertainment value. And a big part of that is the crashes. As a rider, I find this disgusting.

Where is the relegation? Where are the fines? Mark apologizes to Simon and it is all good. It was super lucky that only one other rider fell in the incident. Anyone mention his name? Anyone know his name? Maybe he was set up perfectly and it was going to be the defining moment of his bicycle racing career. No one seems to care about the other riders affected. There could have been 50 guys laying on the ground, with hundreds of thousands of equipment destroyed, and only the two names, Cavendish and Gerrans would be mentioned.

These riders are making enough money that there needs to be huge financial penalties imposed when this stuff happens. But, no, an apology will suffice.

In the national, regional and local events all over the world, it is the same. But there aren’t names. Just destroyed equipment and injured athletes. I really don’t think that the trade-off of good television for the pros is worth the carnage on a worldwide basis.

We, as riders, have allowed this to happen. Realistically, our sport is self policing. There isn’t an official riding around in the peleton. So, the sport, the participates, police it. And that is the problem right now. When the tactics and riding styles benefit the best teams, the best riders, even if it is bad for the whole peleton, or bad for the sport in general, it seems to be accepted. And lots and lots of what is going on in the sport right now, at the basic level of the sport, on the road, is completely asinine.

The sport is dangerous enough without allowing this stuff to happen. And, in reality, “this made for TV cycling”, Rollerball or Gladiator cycling is ultimately going to be worse because the riders are going to be hurt and not competing.

This Tour would have been more exciting having Mark Cavendish in the race, but he’s not. It’s a lose/lose situation.

The initial lean.

The initial lean.

And the end result.

And the end result.

On The Move

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I got up early yesterday morning and flew back to Kansas from San Diego. Trudi got back late the night before from the Road National Championships in Madison and had a flight yesterday afternoon back to Northern California to get ready for Bend.

So, we had about an hour overlap at the airport to say hi.

One upside to being on crutches when flying is that I got to pre-board with the other slow, gimpy passengers. On Southwest that means a choice of the best seating since there aren’t any assigned seats. So, I got the best seat on the plane, in my opinion, just behind the exit row, with no seat in front.

I also got pre TSA approval on both the flight out and the return. I’m wondering how they pick that. It saves the shoe removal, leaving your laptop in your bag, etc. It seems much less intrusive, plus much faster.

I finally got into the ocean on Sunday. I went pool swimming the two days before that. My right shoulder is super sore from using crutches. I had rotator cuff surgery on it last year and it never really got back to what it was. But, walking around on crutches, or using a walking stick or cane, is not good.

Swimming went pretty well. It seemed like both shoulders got about the same amount of work and felt evenly tired. The first day I only swam a kilometer. The 2nd, closer to a mile. I can only swim about 400 meters before my arms, mainly my shoulders, are so weak I need to rest. I haven’t swam forever.

I started swimming underwater towards the end. I was doing 25 yards underwater, on the minute. I can’t really kick with the broken hip, so it is sort of slow going. It takes around 35 seconds to get across, so I had 25 seconds to rest. I probably did it 15 times or so. I finally did a couple lengths of the pool, which was 50 yards. It took a few one lap efforts, to get used to holding my breath for that long. I used to be able to do 100 yards, 4 lengths of a 25 yard pool, but that seems really long now.

Swimming in the ocean was a little scary. The waves were breaking pretty big and I was worried about getting through the beach break, both going out and coming back in. It worked out fine. I forgot how salty the water is. Plus, how buoyant a person is in salt water. It was really warm, somewhere in the 70’s I think. I wish I could have bodysurfed. Next time.

I’m only in Topeka for a night I think. I’m heading out to Colorado through the weekend. My friend Stacie rented a house in Vail for 10 days. Plus, my team mates, Bill Stolte and Brian Jensen are riding the Leadville 100 qualifier in Leadville on Saturday. Bill is already in Vail. I’m not sure where Brian is. He’s already in Leadville and is staying in Colorado most of July to acclimate. He finished 12th last year and it was his 2nd mountain bike race ever, I think. He should improve this year. I’d like to think that I might be able to ride with him sometime the next month or so, but it has been pretty slow going this last week, so I don’t have any preconceived thoughts on my recovery rate just now.

I didn’t see the Tour today yesterday. After Cavendish crashed and is out, all that the commentators where talking about, before the stage, was whether cycling is a contact sport. Christian Vande Velde said it is for sure. He said there was contact going on during the neutral zone, riders trying to move up because of the roads being so narrow and twisty.

I’ve raced the British Milk Race twice, on those very roads, and never thought much about it being that dangerous. But, the fields I was in were closer to 100 riders than 200, so that makes a difference. But, I don’t really see how leaning and contact would make it any safer.

I guess I have to believe what Christian is saying. And if, or since, it is true, then someone needs to address the issue. As I’ve written before, it offers nothing to our sport and is only going to ultimately lead to less participation. And cycling is a participatory sport here in the United States.

I did ride my bike yesterday. About 9:30 last night, I took Bromont around the block and then rode over to a friend, Ian’s house, to give him some tire glue. He’s heading out to Colorado Springs to help his wife, Caitlin, do some track racing Friday and Saturday. My leg felt pretty good really. It was a joy getting out on my bike. I stayed a little late and got stuck riding back in a thunderstorm. The wind supposedly blew 60 mph, but it didn’t seem that hard, maybe 40. I was creeping through wet corners, worried about falling on my hip. I got thoroughly soaked.

Okay, I need to get back to watching the Tour. It’s a love/hate relationship.

Trudi heading into the airport as I was heading out.

Trudi heading into the airport as I was heading out.

When I had surgery, they had to cut off my St. Christopher medal.  There were a lot jewelers at the La Jolla Farmer's Market on Sunday, and  it's back to where it belongs.

When I had surgery, they had to cut off my St. Christopher medal. There were a lot jewelers at the La Jolla Farmer’s Market on Sunday, and it’s back to where it belongs.

Plenty of legroom on the flight.

Plenty of legroom on the flight.

This ant was crawling around the plane.  I wonder where it started and if it will ever see its home again.  Maybe the plane is its home.

This ant was crawling around the plane. I wonder where it started and if it will ever see its home again. Maybe the plane is its home.