Wednesday, December 11, 2013

below zero cyclocross

This past weekend in Bend Oregon marks one of the most memorable weekends of cyclocross I have done.  It snowed about half a foot on friday, then a deep freeze set in.  This wasn't unpleasant cold- it was 3 degrees, not accounting for wind chill.  It was make-smart-clothing-choices-or-get-frostbite- kind of cold.  It was Bend canceling the annual holiday parade kind of cold.  But this is cyclocross and you don't cancel races because it is cold.  Surprisingly the course was quite rideable and it was fun racing.  My new Boulder worked flawlessly.  There were sections of the course which were frozen off camber ruts that really tested bike handling skills.  The following video demonstrates the problem:  if you hesitate even for a second and hit the brakes- you fall down.  If you commit to the fall line and let the bike roll you stay upright!
Riding on snow and ice is easier than it appears.  On the rare occasion there is snow and ice in Seattle, I still commute to work on a bicycle.  In fact I make even more of a point to ride on those days because I know the traffic will be horrible.  Cars generally drive a lot slower when there is snow and ice on the ground so it is not any more dangerous to be out on a bicycle.  Use a wider tire at low pressure, don't lean the bike over or brake when turning.
Watching the elite riders this weekend, you wouldn't even think there was snow or ice on the ground.  Geoff Kabush took the hole shot Saturday and built an impressive lead.  I guess that is natural as he is a Canadian.  Only Tim Johnson was able to overtake him.  In the last half of the race, when all the other competitors looked more or less miserable, Tim Johnson had a big grin on his face.  My beer froze while I was watching this race.
On Sunday I had the pleasure of being lapped by Carl Decker (front row start today) and fake Miguel Indurain (where did Kabush find that Banesto kit?!).  I love OBRA.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Horner and the Vuelta

Was really happy to see Horner finally win a grand tour - especially when he was the oldest guy out there.  There are a lot of people saying that something isn't right about his win though.  The problem is, there is no way for anybody except Horner and his coach to know that right now.  The suspicious points:
1) He's old and he has never managed to win a grand tour before, so why now?  Well, he is old, but some older athletes are able to hang on to their endurance really well, if not speed and power.  And a grand tour is all about endurance.  He was forced to sit out the tour de france due to a knee injury, so it makes sense that he was able to specifically peak for the Vuelta when the other contenders were killing themselves at the tour de france and the Giro.  As far as never winning a grand tour before:  he has  ridden as a domestique for his entire career.  And one thing I haven't heard anyone pointing out is that Horner is usually good for a top-15 in the tour de france, despite riding as a domestique.  And more than once he has finished better on the GC than the team leader. Another thing- the Vuelta, being a bit short on the time trials but heavier on the big steep climbs, suits him well.  He certainly lost time in this Vuelta in the time trials but made it up in the mountains.
2)  His defense of Armstrong is weird.  That sort of does make you wonder if he is still in the mindset of doping is OK if you don't get caught.  I've always wondered if Horner was clean during the apex of the EPO years.  Who knows.  I've often wondered how Horner would have fared as a team captain in a clean peloton all those years.
3) The missed drug test on the last day.  On the surface it looks bad but it does seem like he followed the proper procedures and the tester messed up and went looking at the wrong place.  

I have always been a fan of Horner because he is a northwest native, always seems to have a great attitude- as evidenced by things like trying to give interviews in Spanish and giving his competitors a ride on his bike to the finish (Cascade Classic) -and occasionally races cyclocross to boot.  

Thursday, April 25, 2013

gardening pro tips for cyclists

I'm inspired to write this after spending too much time mowing the lawn when I should have been riding.
Dont fight moss.  Its green, right?  A perfectly manicured lawn is for golfers.  Clover looks okay after you mow it, and the bees really like it.  Same can be said for a lot of other weeds.  If dandelions were unknown and a botanist suddenly discovered them in a remote area, people would go apeshit over them.  They are edible.  If your neighbors complain, tell them they are not weeds, they are salad greens.  If you must wage war on dandelions, just ask your kids to make a bouquet out of them.  That will sort of slow them down.
Use native plants when possible.  Flowering currant is one of my favorites.  Birds and beneficial insects like them, they fit in nicely, and you don't have to waste time watering them or nursing them to health because they are native and like to live here.  Sword ferns:  my wife thinks they are ugly.  I disagree, and besides, what else are you going to grow on that north facing slope that is wet and dark 9 months of the year?
Ivy is evil and only rats enjoy it.  Its probably worth it to yank it and plant something nice in its place.
That about covers it.  Now get out and ride, its spring!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Paris Roubaix

I was excited to see Spartacus, Vanmarcke, and former cyclocross superstar Zdenek Stybar in a break with less than 20 km to go.  Then heartbroken to see Stybar clip a spectator, nearly crash, and lose contact with the break.  10 seconds might as well be 10 minutes when faced with regaining contact with Cancellara inside of 20 km to go in Paris-Roubaix.  On the crappy live internet feed I could see Stybar get suddenly knocked clear over to the other side of the path, collide with another spectator, but amazingly stay upright.   Those are cyclocross bike handling skills for sure. Lars Boom was in the mix earlier in the race too.  It would be fun to see some cyclocrossers win a spring classic and follow the path of the legendary Roger De Vlaeminck.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The tunnel

I found this article rather interesting.  Could it have been that maybe McSchwinn was right about the big tunnel?  Remember that in the upcoming mayoral election please.  Our original toll forecast, from the people ramming this project down our throats, has now been downgraded more than 50 percent.  This is going to cost someone a lot of money.  Probably me, come to think of it.  Remind me again how much of the bicycle master plan is unfunded at this point?  Why is it that traffic forecasts concerning auto use are always this optimistic?  And why is it always the opposite concerning bicycles?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

World Cyclocross Championships- the aftermath

The main impression I have after watching these races is how much it looked like a World Cup on TV.  Which is impressive- USA cycling, the city of Louisville, and everyone else involved pulled off a coup to produce a race of this caliber.  No easy task given the weather conditions and having to make the painful decision to reschedule the races at the last minute in order to not have the whole event cancelled due to flooding.  The course, the crowds, the number and quality of racers- all looked like a world championship or World Cup race in Europe.  The only difference was hearing Richard Fries call the race in a language I can understand.
Another similarity to a European World Cup was, unfortunately, the lack of Americans at the front of the race.  The exception being Katie Compton's silver medal and Logan Owen's gutsy ride to being about 40 meters short of a bronze.  I don't think there was any catching little van der Poel but a small mechanical cost him a podium spot.  He was quickly reeling everyone in but van der Poel at the end of the race.  Page probably had the form for a good result, if not a podium, but suffered numerous mechanical problems.

 It was demonstrative to see a train of orange and blue at the front, just like in Europe.  And demonstrative to see Nys and Vantornout start flying like deranged poltergeists around the course in the last couple of laps when everyone else was starting to show signs of fatigue.  

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

cyclocross world championships

in Louisville this weekend!  This is a big deal:  the first time a world championship cyclocross race has been held in the U.S., and the first time that the top Euro talent such as Niels Albert and Sven Nys will be racing here.
This will be the best chance ever for U.S. riders to earn a rainbow jersey, as we have the home turf advantage for once.  And not only U.S. riders- local riders!
I really like Logan Owen's chances for a win.  Right now there are only a couple of Belgians that can beat him in his age group.  This is the kid that I try not to get lapped by in local races.  I used to beat him when he was 15 and racing as a Cat 3....

Zach McDonald, another local, recently decided to race the National Championships as an elite and not U23- and still took third place.  His form is perfect right now and he is a contender in the U23 race.

With the very best from Europe here, an American world cyclocross champion is a bit of a long shot- but the chances are better now than they were when Page got his silver medal.  Jeremy Powers will get a second row start I think- if there is a dry course and Powers has a great race, he could win.

Can't wait to see how this unfolds!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Don't give a shit about Lance Armstrong

What do you do you if you have a dark heavy secret that you have kept buried for so long?  Of course, you go tell Oprah (for a lot of money I'm sure)
I honestly don't care  about Lance- he is not the first and won't be the last professional athlete to cheat and then lie about it.  The bigger problem is that his national and international governing body helped him do it.  If Lance really did care about the sport, about the only thing he could do at this point is say: " I could only get away with this because the UCI and USA Cycling helped me."  Then we could get rid of the people in charge of those organizations and we  might see some real change in the sport.  Right now if I want a racing license I have to mail a check to USA Cycling or the UCI if I want to race in Canada.  Steve Johnson and Hein Verbruggen are still in charge and acting like nothing is wrong.  If the governing body of the sport is cheating, and everyone knows it, how can anyone ever take bicycle racing seriously?  Lance has not only screwed over his past competitors- he is screwing the next generation too because right now nobody is interested in sponsoring a bicycle racing team.  Can't say I'm surprised.
To those that say "Lance Armstrong still won those 7 tours because all his competitors doped too..." In a way they are right- I don't care about what place Basso would up with either.  What I do care about is that there was probably some poor Colombian kid that would have beaten Lance on a level playing field.  Any legitimate competition needs rules.  At this point its looking like a rigged game with the UCI in charge.  If some people are allowed to dope and others aren't, you might as well retroactively move the finish line.  Now bicycle racing is about as legit as WWF wrestling.
Screw it.  Unless there is change where it counts- I'll be riding in a wool jersey in any event that doesn't require a license from USA cycling or the UCI.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sandy Hook

I've been ruminating on this.  I have a daughter in kindergarten; its hard not to.  Then I saw in the paper this morning that NRA's answer is "a good guy with a gun" in every school.  I liked McSchwinn's response the best:  "they have shown that they are clearly out of ideas.  Its time to stop listening to them".

"A good guy with a gun" is a good analogy, I think, for the way people view roads.   There are a lot of people that feel that in order to be safe, you have to be inside a larger chunk of steel than the next guy.  In a way, they are right.  But that is not a game that I want to play and not a world I want to live in.  Its true that I might get run over by a car, but it would be certain  that I'm fat and unhappy and suffer a coronary event with the alternative. Why not design roads and vehicles in a way that looks out for the safety of everybody?  I don't want a doofus with a gun in my daughters school for that added false sense of safety, and I don't want to have to rely on a two ton machine just to get to work or the grocery store in one piece.

By the way, do you know what was state of the art with respect to guns when the Second Amendment was written?  Powder and loose balls.  A rifle wouldn't be invented for 100 years.  How many kindergartners do you think would have died if that kid had to stop and reload after every shot?

Done with USA cycling

I've been disappointed with the governing body of bicycle racing here in the US for a while but this article at Velo News is pure gold.  So here is my first resolution of 2013:  I am not purchasing a racing license from USA cycling until there are some big changes and maybe Steve Johnson is gone.  I am conflicted about this  a little because I feel that at the local level, people have been putting on excellent races and series under the auspices of USA cycling- such as the Seattle Cyclocross series and the MVA.  I have also done OBRA and  MFG races though, and I know they are awesome and these people are making a tremendous effort on the grassroots side of the sport and it shows.  OBRA's approach is what is going to grow the sport of bicycle racing in the long haul.  Through hard work and a love of the sport, OBRA has developed the largest cyclocross series in the world by participation.  Its a bottom-up, people power approach.  USA cycling is a top down, republican-trickle-down-economics approach.  And interestingly a lot of professional riders are not happy with this approach either.  I'm not going to support USA cycling if they are going to actively interfere with OBRA or any other alternatively sanctioned series or event.

Sometimes I think bicycle racing is a pointless narcissistic endeavor that I should just abandon entirely. There are plenty of other ways to ride a bicycle.  But then on the other hand I think that it really is a beautiful sport, physically demanding, and a lot of fun.  I am proud of my modest achievements as an amateur bike racer, I have had fun doing it, and I am proud of the power in my legs.

So this year it might be MFG cyclocross races and the odd trip down south for OBRA road and track events.  I really wish WSBA would follow the lead of OBRA though- and ditch USA cycling.