Friday, February 27, 2015

Astanished

Astana: about to be sacked.  http://velonews.competitor.com/2015/02/news/uci-requests-withdrawal-astana-pro-team-license_361773

It's just sad, really.


Sadder, though, is the hard truth about the effects of that kind of shit in a sport like cycling which, predicated on drafting and teamwork, can be spoiled by one bad apple. 


This, from the diary of Ben King at the tour last year:


"Stage 18: 145 km

 

After yesterday's breakaway attempt I'm determined. I follow six moves in a row, twice believing we've established the gap. Then the road tilts uphill, and riders swarm around me like I'm going backwards. It feels like Astana brought in five fresh riders. The speed they hold for the first sixty km blows my mind. The first of two climbs on the menu is the legendary 17 km Touramalet. I pick my way into good position, find my rhythm and feel good for ten km until there are forty guys left. All of the sudden I'm bad. Really bad. I don't even notice the thousands of fans screaming in my face. I back off, collect myself and continue at my own pace. At the top a group passes and I latch on. We bomb the downhill, and collect a big group of riders. Ahead, atop the Hautacam, the final 14 km climb, Nibali cements his overall victory. 

At night, I'm too tired to sleep."


Those despicable fuckers. 


People who don't understand cycling can't grasp how simply throwing Astana out, results and all, doesn't actually fix the problem.  When someone dopes - even just one person or team - the entire race is altered, and you can never go back to make it right.  There is no instant replay, no red flag the coach can throw to say "hey ref, you got that one wrong."  The call stands and Ben's big break didn't get away.  It's a difficult concept to translate into the  immediate-gratification sense of fair sport that most modern American fans use when they, say, watch a replay on the jumbotron. The ship is immediately and permanently overturned, but it's subtle at first, until suddenly you notice that good guys with huge talent like Ben aren't household names.  


It's maddening, enough to make you do some crazy shit if you ever, say, saw Vinokourav in the airport, or had a chance to hit him with your car.  And that's just me as a fan.  For Ben - and all the guys like Ben - the impact is so much greater.  I wonder how guys that are racing clean can even stand to train, knowing what they are up against.

And still, there he is.  Smiling, giving interviews, riding as hard as he can.  Outside of his  God-given talents and lactate threshold, maybe it's the ability to just put adversity in its place and pin it anyway that makes a legit pro a pro.


Thank you, Ben.  


I hope you can someday find a level playing field on your way to the top.


Up, up, up.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

300

Post number 300 here: the triple century of blogging.  For those of you who have been along for the ride all this time, thank you, and I'm sorry I ate all your food.  That's what I tend to do on long rides.

Lately, I've actually been doing that on short rides too.  Just folding after about 45 minutes or so, borrowing food, and limping it in.  Could be the annual spring mileage increase.  These bonks, like the rest of the bumps in the road of life, they tend to come in threes I've been told.  So hopefully I'm turning the corner.

Taking stock, as one tends to do at a milestone such as this, I'm pretty happy with the way this has all played out.  Me eating your food and demanding that you push the forces of the invading Persians into the "hot gates" and you, there, sort of wondering what I mean by "it's rolly, but trending downhill."


But that's enough celebration, and in the spirit of getting back to normal, let's night ride.  Tonight at Timberwood, rolling by 9 PM.  Here's my note to the in-crowd, but please, if this is the sort of thing you'd like to partake in, know that you are a twisted individual - but you are not alone - and shoot me an email to be added to the list.  Or just show up and stake your claim.

"Just bizarre conditions to try to plan a night ride.  Bunch of snow on the ground right now, though melting fast, and sort of maybe re-freezing by 9 pm ish?  I guess it's possible that enough will melt today to make riding possible, but then the re-freeze will make for a decent surface.  Could go wrong either way - too hot or too cold - and the drag here is that with more snow on the way tonight, this is about as good as it's going to get.

So here's my plan:
Timberwood Grill at 8PM or so for the 2nd half of the UVA game.  I might be a little late.  Depart at 9pm, hopefully under clear, 32 degree skies on frozen turf, for a tour of Flo Lakes.  Done by 10:30 or so.  Let me know if you need the GPS coordinates.  
If the trails aren't frozen, we'll divert to the lawless underworld of 7 hills jeep track and do as the locals do (graffiti, littering, leaving our underwear behind for whatever reason.)  Good times.  

Could get weird.  Hoping for the best."  

It only gets better from here. 

And oh what the hell - just a little more celebration:




Up, up, up.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Day Pantani Wouldn't Ride


I think it was 1998 if I recall, at the Tour, and Pantani and others staged a sit-in protest, refusing to ride they said, because they disagreed with how the riders were being treated.  That year at the Tour was massive.  Of the 200 or so starters, less than 50% finished - many of them tossed for various forms of blood doping or otherwise caught up in The Festina Affair.  It was as bad as it ever got, the legend goes.  Riders with suppositories in their shorts, bags full of blood on motorbikes; this was the sport personified as an addict, on a complete bender, right at the very bottom, and about to get put into rehab.  Pantani, like many others, and with emotions that we can only begin to guess at, protested - though they didn't really proclaim innocence.  For them, it was hate the game, don't hate the player.  We did both.

This past Friday, about 48 hours before the Pantani ride would have otherwise gone live in 12 degree temps with 40 mph winds, and for the first time ever, we cancelled it.  And we've ridden The Pantani in some notoriously bad conditions too, so I guess cancellation really says something. Just too dangerous to promote sending anyone out on a 50 mile road race, let alone your friends on a ride that is purely for the glory.  Hours later, by sheer coincidence and completely unrelated, I got fired from the same job I've had for the last 8 years.  It was a bewildering afternoon.

You never really think about the race going on without you.  Life is like that.  It's tough to visualize the planet continuing to spin and people having conversations in your absence and life itself sustaining even when you are gone.  But that's what happens.  One moment you're in the thick of it, worth something tangible and making the tough decisions about what has to be done, and the next moment your phone and internet are shut off, and aside from the sort purr of freehubs pulling away or your laptop powering down one last time, you're left with an absolute hush of silence.  The speed at which you can be spat out the back is remarkable.

I ran into Bouber at the gym, and Belgian though he is, he agreed with cancelling the ride.  I think most people felt that way.  Or at least most people were glad to have an excuse not to go.  Or they went anyway and, quite possibly, perished out there.  This is the fascinating nature of a non-event event that didn't happen.  Metro, please check in with your whereabouts.

I wonder what Pantani thought about sitting there that day, absolutely guilty as charged, and yet still remarkable and defiant.  He looks sad.  He looks angry.  He looks hungry.  Or maybe that's just me.  I look at that photo, and he's still my hero, but he's on limited time now...and I can see the door is about to close.

Rescheduling The Pantani Ride would take some work.  It's just the nature of events - you lose credibility, your audience, fans, attendees, and a little bit of yourself when you can't deliver.  If doping were an option to fix it, you'd take it.  I get it, Marco.  So maybe this is what you need anyway.

So here's the plan: where one door closes, another opens, and for Pantani X 2015 reconciliation we're going asynchronous and digital.  Go put yourself a little crew together, go ride The Pantani route sometime (anytime) between now and the Ohill race (March 15), post your honest time in whatever format you deem legit, and I'll put your name on the leaderboard.  Strava not required.  It does require, of course, that you use a watch, clear your schedule for the day, pick the right bike for the job, pack your own lunch, find the right group of friends, and successfully navigate the course - all things you have to do anyway.  So not much changes besides the face that you'll be doing this thing without 90 other cold, bewildered souls in tow.  Just you and your crew this time around.

If ten years of The Pantani Ride have taught me anything, it's when you've bet more chips than you actually have.  My apologies to anyone who feels the thing should have gone forward, regardless of weather, and that cancelling it somehow cheapens the DIY, non-event, Sisyphean nature of it.
For you, especially, the rock is still rolling.

Go push it.

Up, up, up.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Happy Pantani Feet

Well, happy is probably a stretch.  But given the conditions that Sunday seems destined to provide us for The Pantani, at least not getting frostbite would be a win.



The forecasted high is all the way up from 22 to 24 as of this moment, so that's one in the W column, but the low is now down to 6.  So I guess that's a wash.  And by wash, I mean frozen solid.

Indeed, social media, trailhead parking lots, and dimly lit bike shop smoking parlors all seem to be buzzing with the same conversation, starting with the question, "How the fuck am I going to keep my feet from falling off?"

If years of riding at night in freakishly cold temperatures have taught me anything - well, ok, they have not taught me anything.  If anything, exercise-induced oxygen deprivation at night in the cold has only killed brain cells, and I'm dumber now than ever before.  But I do know a thing or two about keeping your toes unfroze.  And in a first ever attempt at this rad new form of digital media that the smart kids like to call "Video" I've published a how-to up on the youtubes that may or may not help  you avoid frostbite.
Production value notwithstanding, I do hope that will at least give you some ideas about how to keep your piggies from turning black and falling off on Sunday.  Or at least convince you that you lack the proper gear to tackle The Pantani in such conditions, which obliges you to either go shopping at your LBS or stay home.

Anyone caught mail-ordering a pair of winter boots from Jenson will be dragged to the top of fox mountain and flogged with a sack of old cassettes, and poignantly, you'll be barefoot.

In all seriousness, please do take the necessary precautions.  These conditions that we'll be facing are no joke, and you could stand to really hurt yourself without the proper gear.  Be prepared and a badass, and you'll be OK.  Maybe.

Up, up, up

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Massive Attackers


A little Massive Attack on a Tuesday morning to set your day off in the right direction.  Mellow.  Steady.  But ready to launch up the road in an all-out, king-hell bid for glory at any moment.

Oh, and the forecast.  Already, fencesitters are throwing in the towel left and right.  Even the select few hardmen seem to have a tenuous grasp on how the fuck to dress for a road ride in single digits. So look - like most problems in life that you can't control, my advice is to just block the weather out, ignore it, and maybe it will resolve itself.  Indeed, the forecast has already changed from a low of 22 to a low of 25.  Things are getting better all the time.

So, podium preview, let's do this.  Last week, I sent out a call-to-arms, asking all the podium contenders I could think of to send in a photo of their Pantani bike.  And I got back some doozies.  Let's go straight to the top, I reckon:

Mr. Mark Smith checked in with this:

So, it's going to be like that, I guess.
He only might be joking.  And he'll likely drop you anyway, so it doesn't matter much.  But yeah, it would appear that Mark is playing his cards close to the chest.  Do with that what you will.

More legit, this one came in from B-slow himself:

That's a straight up road bike, sports fans.  Or at least it appears to be so.  Still, he'll never be able to pedal that around the pop in the snow, right?  Right?

Fellow podium threat, Mr John Patrylak, checked in with this: "I'll be laufing up all the climbs."

And, like most of you right now, I didn't get his little pun, nor did I comprehend what the gigantic, multi-pronged appendage was dangling off the front of his otherwise sweet bike.  So I did a little google-clicking and, boom, Lauf Forks.
Now that is pretty baddass, if you ask me.  I'm all about rigidity, low maintenance, and shredding anyway, and when you put in as many hard trail miles as John does, that thing makes a lot of sense.
Then again, it's $1,000 for 2.35 inches of travel, and so for the mathematically challenged of you, I went ahead and did the math on your behalf, and that adds up to $425.53 per inch.
Yowza.
Side note, though: Back in September, after I completely folded alongside the rest of my 4-man team, I saw John literally foaming at the mouth at about 8 AM at the 18 hours on the farm, grinning from ear to ear, about 200 miles into that thing, with the throttle still wide open, and having the time of his life.  So I don't think it matters what fork he's running, most of us won't be seeing it much after the gun blasts anyway.

On the subject of gearing, socks, and what not, Wilson sent this handsome devil in:

Pink socks as bar mitts - oh, you enterprising bunch of 1-gearers.  Not much to say about the bike that Wilson hasn't already confirmed, but the pink socks prove once and for all that you CAN polish a turd.  Wilson might not be THE favorite, but he is MY favorite.  And that's worth something (nothing.)

Others checked in too, though not many other pictures.  Plenty of folks on the fence about what bike to ride, what tires to run, how to dress, and so forth.  Also, a lot of verbal sandbagging, false claims of poor fitness, rumors of going to an actual road race in North Carolina, and general diarrhea of the mouth.  Blah blah blah.

Of note, and conspicuously missing from all of this, Mr. Qwadsworth didn't even respond.  Filthy levels of preparation happening there, I imagine.  Though maybe he'll check in later this week, or at least hold still for long enough that someone can take a picture of him and send it to me.

That's all I've got for you at this point, except for this picture of Todd humping the rooster at the base of Brokenback.

Never gets old.

Up, up, up.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The wrong day IS the right day

So, yesterday was nice, right?  I went for a road ride wearing just shorts and a t-shirt, and the mercury went all crazy, and by the time I figured out what was happening I was riding up Mission Home and it was like 90 degrees or whatever, and I was pouring sweat like a toilet in the summer when the AC quits.  It is days like yesterday when they happen to happen in the month of February that act as verification that not all is lost here on Planet Earth.  Yet.
Cantore predicts Pantani DOOM!
Which brings me to next Sunday, the 15th, which of course you know is Pantani day, and at 11 AM, I've been told by the meteorological experts that the gun will go off here at the Rancho Relaxo and temperature will be well down into the 20s, and perhaps as low as 9 degrees at the top of the pop with 30 mph winds.

I've seen it worse.  And it was awesome.

Still, keeping in mind that this is still a full 7 days out, and no one actually knows anything 7 days out, and it's probably not going to be so bad once you get rolling and blah blah blah, I'm forced to face the fact that B-Slow literally asked me a month ago to run the Pantani yesterday vs. the 15th because it would have been better aligned with the collegiate racing schedule, and I told him to pound sand.  And it would have been amazing.  So as it stands, you can blame all of your lost digits, icy crashes, and whatever other woes befall you on the 15th on my lack of support of collegiate racing.

I am sorry about all that.

But look, dig into the trenches with me here for a moment Pantani brothers and sisters, and cast yourself into the predicted future atop Brokenback mountain on the 15th where it's 9 degrees and the wind is howling, and you're 3 hours into it, and you're pondering life, and thinking about becoming a vegan, and wondering why the fuck you keep doing this to yourself every year, and what would this be like if you'd just committed to the road bike, and whatever else goes through your mind when you're hoofing it up that son of a bitch in the freezing cold, and stop: remind yourself - mid trudge - that this is exactly what Pantani did.  Years and years of training on grades this steep in conditions this bad because, despite all of the things he lacked, he had an overabundance of heart.

Wise or not, Pantani always seemed to go for it anyway.

There's also a pretty good chance you'll get to see what Jon C's bare ass looks like when it's that cold, so that'll be worth something.

OK, so stay tuned, try not to panic, and we'll monitor the weather forecast, discuss the Vegas odds of victory for a certain runner-up from last year, preview the blinged out bikes of all the podium contenders, and generally behave like we're fucking psyched to do this awful thing to ourselves again on Sunday.

The wrong day IS the right day.

Up, up, up.


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Best thing I did today:



Where one idol falls erect another.

If you can, eradicate all traces of the first.

Keep moving.