Friday, July 31, 2009

the blood chronicles

Bradley Wiggins, as promised, released his blood values. Lance Armstrong, despite all his lofty talk a year ago, did not.

Remember all that stuff about independent testing and transparency? Then he (LA) said it would be too complicated and no one would understand (it was in February of '09, but, sorry, no reference). Well, I might not understand it, but someone will, and they'll discuss it with others that will, and that's what transparency is all about.

While I'm anti-Lancing it up, I better link this as well. Very funny.

I owe The Onion link to the MABRA listserv. Predictably, after the link was posted, a chorus of self-righteous fury arose. "Jokes about cancer aren't funny," they say. Hogwash. When the burden of living has you down as under a ton of bricks, all you have left is humor. Even if dark. Perhaps, espcially, if dark.

Or, there's this posible explaination from another MABRA listserv contributor:

"I suspect that there's a correlation between not finding this amusing and thinking that Armstrong actually returned in the interest of raising awareness about cancer."

Maybe that's it.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


An interesting distinction made between the schedules of the "manager" versus the "maker."

Saturday, July 25, 2009

scout camp

Back from a week of scout camp. And not a day too soon. By day five my patience was wearing thin, which had me just as upset with myself for being impatient as with the boys for being, well, boys.


* Scouting is dumb. In my eagle board of review years ago I was asked why I wanted to get my eagle. I responded that I didn't, but that everyone around me told me I'd regret it if I didn't, so I was doing it on faith. I can't speak to the regret, but the only place having it gives me any traction is in scouting circles, and those aren't circles where I'm aching for legitimacy. Anyway, watching boys (and leaders) march around all week in matching brown shirts with badges sewn on all over left me nauseous. "Timeless values?" Sure...if conformity and hierarchy are values you think praiseworthy.

* The woods are awesome. And so here's the irony: scouting, for all it's pomp and Mary Kay motivation is banal and damaging, but w/o scouting I would have spent a lot less time in the woods as a kid, and a lot less time with rope, axes, knives, tents, trees, canoes, and a whole lot of other things that I think are worthwhile. So what we need is a non-paramilitary alternative to scouting. Ideas?

* Scouts are distinctly more nerdy in Pennsyltucky than in western Idaho. I'm confident of this. The difference? PA's low Mormon quotient. Mormons are scouts because they're Mormon (which provides a broader cross section of types and dispositions). PA scouts are scouts because they want to be scouts. I've learned to be wary of scouters (both youth and *especially* leaders) who want to be scouters.

* Speaking of timeless values, how about physical fitness? The current crew on staff at Hidden Valley are about the most doughy bunch I've ever seen. Yikes. And the scoutmasters? It got me wondering if there was some sort of BSA award for high BMI. These boys need to shed the tan polyester, lace up a sturdy pair of shoes, and get to...something...anything! Unbefreakinglievable. (The camp diet didn't help much either. All very high fat, high calorie crap. Another "timeless value?")

* I can't go as long without a shower as I once could. I can't tell you what a tremendous disappointment this is. Forty-eight hours is about the limit. Then finding a shower becomes my number one priority. This is really more for me than out of consideration of others. But if my neighbors find the stench undesirable, perhaps I could make a deal with some of my overweight scouting friends: I'll shower as often as they go for a jog.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

saturday riding

Tried to make it to the Chambersburg Y by 7:30 to meet up with a couple of guys, but woke up to a refrigerator with no milk (how can I get started in the morning without a bowl of cereal?) and after a quick spin to Sheets for that, and eating, and swapping wheels, and kissing sleeping wife, and mixing bottles, and all the rest...I didn't start rolling until a few minutes after seven...and when I got to the Y at 7:45 no one was there.

So, I rode by myself.

The big climb is Route 30 out of Chambersburg, the descent is from that point down to Burnt Cabins past Cowan's Gap State Park.

The climb on 30 was a first for me. I'd shied away from it because Route 30 is such an awful road elsewhere I was afraid to climb it with trucks and boats and campers and all that sort of traffic wizzing past at highway speeds. But I was wrong--there was plenty of traffic, but the road has a shoulder the width of a small house, is relatively free of debris, and for half the climb the ascending traffic has two lanes as well. So no worries. And it was a great climb. Looks like 1700 feet total, which I think is a touch more than Big Flat, with a much steeper and more steady pitch--the later a benefit of climbing on a highway made to US Department of Transportation specs.


Riding 76 miles alone takes a lot more out of you than riding the same distance with others. Obviously being able to sit on a wheel once in a while makes a huge difference, but I think just having company does too. I'm pretty confident that just having someone sit on my wheel would have increased the trip average speed by .5 to 1 mph.

I like riding alone too, of course. But today I had a pretty depressing book loaded on the iPod and it took a bit of the joy out of the ride.


Another thought: I love to race, but I'm not sure if I look forward more to race day Saturdays or long ride Saturdays like today. Without the car travel and all that, the later sure leaves a lot more of the day for other stuff.

Friday, July 17, 2009

the pine grove tt

Rode my third Mark Laser hosted pine grove tt of the year (actually, I think Mark likes to call these the Ironmasters). Having a front derailleur to keep my chain on prevented my having to stop twice like last time, and I posted my fastest time on the course: 23:39.

I feel like it's totally possible to get that time down another 20 or 30 seconds. I need something a little bigger than a 53x12 on the downhill sections. That would buy me several seconds. And of course I could easily buy some time with a deep-dish front wheel. But the biggest thing I think is just to spend a little more time on the tt bike. I only ride it at the races, so I've done little fiddling with my position (I think I can drop the front end another centimeter or two) and I often get weird side aches and pain between my ribs in my back. Eliminate that pain and I think I could go 30 seconds faster. Ride my tt bike more and I'd eliminate that pain.

I don't like to time trial much (the three Ironmasters I've done are the only three tts I've done this year), but I would like to try another 40k. Last year, doing my first, on a bike with an awkward setup, I posted a 57:13. I feel like I should be able to take 2-3 minutes off that easy.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

tour of mt. nebo

A photo from last Saturday's race...

...about the only good thing to come from my participation.

For reasons I don't understand (and not given), the promoter didn't offer a 3/4 field at the race, just a 1/2/3 field (thankfully no pros), a decision which I'm sure kept most of the cat 3s far, far away. For me, had the climbs been not quite so extreme (in pitch if not in length), I'm sure I would have been fine to hang on, but it's hard for this old sack of bones to compete with lithe 140 pounders 10 years my junior on 18 percent grades. Or at least that's my excuse.

No. Scratch that. I've no excuse. I just suck more than everyone else that finished in front of me. Also more than those that finished, because I bailed after four laps. (The course was held over an undulating nine miles of Lancaster County rollers for something like 1100 feet of climbing per lap. The 1/2/3s were to do six laps.)

My favorite moment of the day: After being dropped on the big climb midway through the first circuit I chased down the field on my own, with three or four riders in tow. When safe at the back of the field, one of the riders I towed along thanked me for my work, noting that he was too taxed to have been able to take a pull. "No need to thank me. We're all going to be gone on the next climb," I said. We were.


A (non) defense of dropping out after four...

I hate dropping out of races. I feel like such a smuck afterwards. For days. Weeks even. And there was no real reason to drop out anyway. There was no "field" to speak of, just groups of 1-4 riders scattered over the course. I was 18 miles and 2200 ft from finishing and riding nicely with a group of two others. But I hadn't come to Lancaster alone, and I knew Jon, Chop, and Mike had already (or were just about to) finish, and since I wasn't having any fun, I figured it'd be better to pack it in and get a jump on getting home.

But then we had to wait for the cat 4 results to be posted before we could leave (Jon took home $40), and that took way too long. I think we waited two hours. Absurd. And now, six days later, I'm still regretting the decision not to finish. Based on the finishing positions of other riders I was riding with at the time, I think I would have finished around 15th or 16th--that many riders were dropped and/or dropping out--and I believe I may have taken home a little cash. Oh well.


Do you ever find yourself running...just because walking will. just. take. too. long?

Earlier, I was heading to the basement to get a soda. About a 100 ft to the stairwell, down two flights of stairs, then about another 100 ft to the soda machine. I simply couldn't bear to walk. Soooo boooring... So I ran.

I believe I'm becoming increasing eccentric. And my self-consciousness about it is likewise decreasing. I shudder to imagine my grizzled 60 year-old self.


Monday, July 13, 2009

race radios

Since everyone else is (like how I said that like those dudes are my peers?), I thought I'd also weigh in on the race radio issue:

Lance Armstrong:

"I don't agree with it. I think that technology evolves, the bike evolves, the training, the diet, everything evolves… the fabrics that we wear. Look at the cameras, the microphones, the transponders on the bike… all of it has evolved."

Logic inconsistent with the reality of the sport. Like it or not, Lance, you play at a sport where tradition rules the day. And the UCI has a rulebook full of strange rules to protect it. So, while technology does change things, there are countless examples of technological advances that have been rejected to maintain a something of the traditionalism of the sport (wheel size, bike shape, handlebar configuration, etc.). Just because something can be done doesn't make it worth doing.

Bjarne Riis:

"The way I see it, it puts a big risk on to the teams. Our sponsors put a lot of money into this team, and to win the Tour de France."

Uh, sure. But if the radio ban generates interest, and makes the racing more exciting (it may not, but that's the hypothesis, and the reason for the test), then the sponsors are going to be better off, not worse. Even if your guy loses.

Michael Rodgers:

"It’s not such an issue for the more experienced guys in the race, but there are a lot of guys who grew up with radios as juniors, under-23s and professionals, for their entire careers, and they are just robots. If there’s not someone making a decision for them, they don’t know what to do. So I think it’s a good way to stimulate the younger riders."

Yeah, I think so too. Let's make the sport about decision-making as well as fitness. Every rider a tactician. As a fan, I like it.

Matt White:

"I’d rather we banned radios. I don’t mind if we lost radios altogether. We go through the stage everyday in the morning, and what I am telling them on the radio is only what I’ve told them in the morning, just reminding them."

Hmm... Matt sheds some light on the issue. Makes it sound like those that oppose the radio ban are motivated by sheer laziness...not being willing to study out the stage in detail in the morning. Interesting.

Stjin Devolder:

"Nobody has the experience to ride without the radios.... It’s something they did 10 or 15 years ago. Now it’s two stages here at the Tour, and the stages are pretty difficult. I think it will be a different kind of racing. Different results, also. For everybody, and for safety, I think it’s better with the radios. Now it’s pretty easy to know everything from the car and what position the breakaway is and if you have to do it yourself you have no information you will react on situations later than you would react with radio."

Devolder, oddly, has made a powerful argument for banning radios, even while opposing the ban.

Dave Z.:

"For all those people that say it’s a safety issue, I think it creates more of a frenzy in the peloton than anything. If a right-hand turn is coming up, the directors tell 150 guys to get to the front at the same moment. Otherwise we’d just take the right-hand turn and be done with it. I think it will be something to try out."

Open-minded Dave Z. Let's try it out. See how it goes. Re-evaluate. Sounds perfectly reasonable.

Dave Z. also said:

"It would be cool if they eliminated all the cars and spare bikes and we raced with tubes and things like that, but that’s probably another kind of racing."

Perhaps after he retires he'll be taking up mountain bike marathoning? But I like where this is going. Dave seems to understand the irony of bicycle racing being disturbingly consumptive of fuel. And perhaps a bit troubled by it. But, it's how he makes a living... Whaddya gonna do?

Marc Sargeant:

"In my opinion it’s going backwards. We have to go with our (era), and in every sport it’s a habit of coaching to give information to your athletes constantly. If you are taking that away it can even be dangerous. Certainly it’s a new way of thinking and riding for this generation. (Some say radios have made racing less dynamic), but if you are managing a team you want to be active in it."

I find this comment particularly revealing. Marc's opposed because without a radio he doesn't get to play, he doesn't have as active a part. Marc doesn't want to give up power.

My guess is Marc manages several fantasy Tour teams.

Tom Boonen:

"I don’t really have an opinion. I think it’s pretty stupid to even think about it."

Tom, that word you used. "Opinion." It doesn't mean what you think it means.

Johan Bruyneel:

"I don’t think any argument justifies this. We have a lot of arguments to say we want to use the radios every single day, and against that I don’t see any arguments that make any sense."

As I read this I pictured Johan running around in circles with his hands over his ears yelling, "La, la, la, la... I can't hear you. I can't hear you. There are no arguments for the race radio ban. I can't hear you. La, la, la, la..."

Johan is obviously also concerned about giving up power. It seems obvious that radios benefit the favorites, the strong teams. That should be reason enough to give them up.

Alberto Contador:

"I am against taking away the radios, because without them, a fall or a puncture could cause the strongest rider to lose the race."

I was cheering for this dude to win the Astana feud...until now. But this is pure douchebaggery. Want to be assured the strongest athlete wins? Do triathlon. Cycling is a sport, and in sports you've got to be able to win ugly. The underdog always has a chance. And that's what makes it interesting (and occasionally exciting).

good sportswriting... always worth reading.

Friday, July 10, 2009

also awesome

From 1985...about 2 1/2 years before I bought my first racing bicycle:




...during the 1935 Tour de France.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

the solo win

I love this stuff.
That's the way to win a bike race. Solo wins should be worth three or four times the points (in stage races and for Pro Tour standings) and listed in a separate category when tallying wins.
(Thanks, Graham.)

Monday, July 6, 2009


It's been almost two months, but I have my Tarmac back. It's hanging, longingly naked, in the goat cave. Beckoning me. And I'm just about to head home to (hopefully--depending on what domestic duties await me when I get there) start the build.

At first blush, it appears the boys at rrvelo did a first-rate job patching up my baby after its mishap. However, I haven't ridden it yet, so we'll see. I regret a bit not forking over the extra $200 or so for the touch-up paint and new decals, but at the time I just couldn't bear it. The incident has been expensive enough already. I'll get pictures up soon, but the war wounds are more than obvious.


I just emptied a cache of pictures over the past month or so from my iPhone. The iPhone doesn't take great pictures (one of the few things it doesn't do well), but they're pictures all the same. Here's a few.

(Not sure why these are taken of the non-drive side, why there are bottles in the cages, and why the odd crank position. Typical goatish amateur absent-mindedness...)

What I've been riding for the past while. Frame/fork purchased on eBay for $150. It's alarmingly easy to find killer deals on frames via eBay, but the prices of used wheels and components are sometimes awfully close to discounted new.

Notice the wheels...
...which I mentioned are the first wheels I've built. This picture was taken right after Poolesville, so everything's covered in a thin veil of dust, but I dig the red anodized rims.

This frame has been ok. It's not the Tarmac, but compared to the Tricross at the Tuesday Nighters...well, there's not much compairson when you get out of the saddle and hammer. My Tricross is just too...spongy. Which is to say non-responsive. This Giant is a worthy second-string road racer.

Some of you will recognize it's strikingly similar appearance to my old Giant, and while I think the fork is exactly the same, the frame is actually quite different. For one, this one is a touch bigger, so it fits. But then there's the seat tube, for instance, which has a much cleaner design than the shim/collar design on the other one I was riding. I don't know the historical Giant catalogue well enough to put model names and years to the differences. What I do know is that the TCR, for the past several years, has been about as much bike for dollar spent as you can buy. And there are a lot of them out there, which makes getting a really good used bike for not much fairly easy.

A couple of bad shots in Horse Valley from Saturday's ride. Jon M. and I rode over Big Flat to pick up Big E, then east to the Arnettesville Fair Grounds to rendevous with Jim H. Together we rode back up over Big Flat and across the valley, over the Upper Strausburg climb, deposited Jim H. at his family Fourth-of-July-get-together, then back to Ship.

Jon M., Big E, and the Joel train at the little country store in Fannettsburg a few weeks ago. A refueling point for the return run over the Strausburg climbs from Cowan's Gap (or whatever the pass is called at the summit on US30 between Fort Louden and McConnellsburg). That was a nice ride. Six climbs of 8-10 percent grade at least a mile in length. Well, the climb out of Roxburg to Lower Horse Valley Road is a just under a mile, but I'm counting it anyway.