Monday, May 7, 2012

Back in the Saddle

With the cycling season fully underway (I understand there were the Spring and Ardennes Classics. I watched them, but didn't post on them because of school. With that said, I have to give big ups to Big Jonny over at Drunkcyclist for being able to keep up with law school and continue to post. Either he is much better at time management or can operate effectively on less sleep than me, but now that I've lived through my first year of law school I can't comprehend putting in the effort needed at school and in the cycling blog world - and being successful at both. Anyway, what an early season for Tommeke! I am very pleased to see him doing so well. I'm hoping he pulls on a rainbow jersey at the end of this year.) with the start of the first Grand Tour, I figured now is as good a time as any to get back into the swing of things here at 50-34. Saturday brought us the prologue from Herning, Denmark. The Giro normally sees some pretty big names, and this year is no different. The prologue saw Cavendish, Fränk Schleck, and last year's recently crowned Giro champion Michele Scarponi.
In what was a big surprise, not only did Schleck not outright lose the prologue, he actually beat Scarponi. Needless to say (hence the reason I'm typing it and not saying it), Scarponi was lost for words when he was informed of the news that not only had he lost a lot of time to the stage winner, but that he had also been beaten in a TT by one of the Schleck brothers.
Look at that face. Scarponi, rightfully, is in disbelief. Being beaten by a Schleck in a TT is like losing a pull-up contest to a one armed man. It's possible, but not really likely. Actually, the more I think about it, losing a TT to a Schleck is like losing a pull-up contest to a Schleck. Have you seen the guns on those guys? In stage two, as expected, there was a bunch sprint. And, as expected, it was won by Mark Cavendish.
I find sprint finishes, even ones where it is almost inevitable Cav will win, exciting. But what was even more exciting was that Phinney lost his chain with about 8 kilometers to go. Instead of panicking, Phinney (in a seasoned veteran move at the ripe age of 19) calmly waited for assistance from a team mechanic and then began to time trial his way back to the bunch. Eventually some teammates dropped back and BMC used the unfortunate event as some practice for stage four's TTT.
Ridiculously, Phinney and his teammates made up something like 35 seconds in less than four kilometers. It was a showing of power that I did not think I would see. After he dropped his chain, I turned to my wife and told her, "He's never going to catch them this late in the stage," only to have her mock me when he did. I'll take a mocking when it is the result of some amazing riding like that. Today, another stage for the sprinters, showed how to perform a lead out train for the team's sprinter.
It was all for not though as Orica-GreenEdge took control at the end and delivered Matty Goss to the finishing line first.
It seems whenever a Grand Tour departs from points on the northern coast, there are some spectacular crashes. This year is no different. In today's third stage, a crash caused by Roberto Ferrari not only took down race leader Taylor Phinney, but took him out. Unlike Cavendish, who was the first victim of Ferrari's actions, Phinney was unable to carry his bike across the line. Behind Goss's impressive win, Androni's Ferrari created a wake of destruction that left multiple riders on the ground including Cav and Phinney. In racing there are times when wheels will touch and crashes will result. There are also times when openings appear and you have to make split second decisions that may determine if you win the stage or finish fifth (yes, first or fifth - those are the only two options when you are confronted with such decisions). Ferrari saw one of those openings today and attempted to shoot the gap, only to come across Cav's front wheel and begin the domino affect that is so common in finish line crashes.
Phinney crossed the line in an ambulance, but according to Cyclingnews will be able to continue in the Giro, which is a good thing for BMC as they get to start stage four's TTT with a powerhouse rider in their group. Hopefully the rest day gives Phinney a chance to recover a bit before Wednesday's stage. It's good to know that like me, Phinney is back in the saddle.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


I've missed cycling. Law school is a killer.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Battle of Brittany

Versus is currently running a commercial that equates riding a bicycle with flying. I can say, as a person who both rides and flies, they really aren't that similar. Let's say for argument's sake that both activities had certain qualities in common, I don't think many people would fly if the shared qualities occurred at comparable frequencies. Sure, in cycling as in flying you can go fast (relatively), feel the wind in your hair (if you're in an open cockpit aircraft and you ride your bike without a helmet), and explore new places, but luckily for those who tempt the gods of physics, crashing doesn't occur in flying nearly as often as it does in cycling. Case in point, today's stage in the TdF. Phil and Paul counted no less than ten crashes today. Two included pre-race favorite AC:

One forced Tom Boonen to fight just to make the time cut:

And one forced Shack rider Janez Brakjovic (who is not related to Erin Brockovich, or Julia Roberts who played her in the movie) to head to the hospital and eventually abandon the race:

The stage wasn't all blood though, as the peloton passed through the town of Saint Brieuc:

How would you like to live there? I can see it now,

You: Yeah, come on over for dinner.
Your Friend: Ok, where is your place?
You: It's the dull colored one, shouldn't be hard to find.

Just as I questioned Versus' comparison of cycling and flying, a couple weeks ago I questioned whether team Garmin-Cervelo would switch to a white kit for the TdF. Turns out they did:

I'm sure I'm not the only one who questioned (and secretly thought) if Garmin-Cervelo would switch to a "summer" kit. I guess professional cycling has become a little too predictable. And hey, wouldn't you know, Cavendish won another stage:

While Cav winning a stage isn't too out of the ordinary, winning a stage with an uphill finish in which the final sprint included classics extraordinaire Philippe Gilbert, most certainly is. Perhaps Cav is showing some of the form he showed in his 2009 Milan-San Remo victory.

On second thought, I'm not sure I should go so far as to compare two things that really aren't that similar.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Big Price, Big Expectations: You Don't Always Get What You Pay For

In my last post, I might have written that I would have another post on Monday, the 20th of June. Clearly that didn't happen. Lucky for you this blog doesn't cost you anything. Unlucky for me, this blog doesn't cost you anything.

While I was back east, my family and I visited the Mystic Aquarium. Seeing as how the aquarium is right on the shore (and the fact that each ticket was around $29), I had high hopes for what might have been inside. As the saying goes, always put your best foot forward, and that's exactly what Mystic Aquarium did:

Leading with their heavy hitters, the aquarium placed the whale tank directly inside the entrance. Needless to say the whales (there were three) were pretty cool. So how did the aquarium follow up? With this:

Yup, you got it, it's a frog. To be honest, it didn't get much better.

The next day we headed north up to Northampton, MA to do some sight-seeing. We visited the campus of Smith College, the largest of the Seven Sisters. As expected, the campus was beautiful. A scenic and calm waterway cut the area roughly in half. Crossing the foot bridge, we noticed a squirrel clinging to the edge of the concrete decking:

He moved around on the side of the bridge like a spider, until his grip gave out. At that point he fell, belly first, into the stream below. If he had started floating downstream I might have felt bad, but as it was he quickly climbed back up the bridge and scampered off into the woods.

On another part of the campus I noticed this graffiti:

I sure hope the artist's English teacher is for her. I'm no Slyvia Plath (who is, by the way, a Smith grad), but that is some horrible grammar. You would think for $53,460 a year even the freshwomen (yeah, I made that up, but I bet girls at Smith use something stupid like that to refer to themselves) would get some decent English training, as the clearly don't get much training in parking a motor vehicle:

On second thought, that horrible parking job might just be due to the driver being a woman versus any lack of training.

So, once again I visited a place that was expensive (luckily though I didn't have to pay tuition to walk to the campus) and in the end the product didn't impress as it should have.

Never fear though, as the day ended with a stop at the Northampton Brewery for a cold beer. I tried the Scuba Märzen (pronounced more like Mare-Tsen, not Mare-Zen) and completely enjoyed it:

Märzen, German for March Beer, is a lager that had its beginnings in Bavaria. The Scuba was caramel in color and had a delicious malty flavor - a great way to end the trip.

As we come to end of today's post, I must once again inform you of a leave of absence I will be taking. My wife and I recently moved into a new home and as such we have been busy, and will continue to be busy, getting completely moved in. I hope to be able to get back to regular posting next Monday with updates from the TdF.

Look on the bright side, whether I'm back on Monday or not, you aren't out any money.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Heading East

I will be traveling east this week, and as such will not be posting anything until next Monday. What will I post tonight? Just a picture that some smug zoo keeper, who clearly hates it when people confuse tortoises with turtles, put up in the tortoise enclosure:

I'm not one to correct the mistake of a fellow human being (of course I am), but when said individual clearly thinks everyone confuses turtles and tortoises and while correcting them makes TWO mistakes; well, I just can't pass up that opportunity.

Enjoy the week.

Friday, June 10, 2011

There's a Time to Walk Away and Then There's a Time to Ride Away Ringing Bells

There has been much written about the use of doping products in sports, and in cycling specifically. We've read about those we followed, routed for, and believed in test positive for PEDs. In almost every case the accused has rallied the troops, fortified the defenses, and vehemently denied any and all accusations. The arguments have ranged from the classic half-truths (I've never tested positive - which isn't the same as never using drugs), to the completely asinine (vanishing twin brother).

We've seen athletes who have been caught doping come clean (only because they were caught) and attempt to use themselves as a sort of positive example for other riders (Of course not without blaming the team and those around them for their doping in the first place. Egos, what a terrible thing to break - probably what led you to dope in the first place).

On top of all those you have Phil Zajicek - a rider who not only got caught doping and lied about it, but made others lie for him as well. What a douche. If that was the end I wouldn't mind so much. But read what he wrote in an email to Velonews:

“Today, I have accepted a lifetime ban from the sport of cycling. I have had an enjoyable and successful career which has taken me to all corners of the of the globe and I’m grateful for everything cycling has given me. It’s time to walk away from the sport and begin the next chapter of my life with the tremendous support of my wife, family and friends behind me.”

Seriously douche, people walk away from things where they have the choice do do that - you were forced out. I understand that he could have kept fighting, but a lifetime ban isn't something you 'accept', it's something that is imposed on you. Hopefully he eventually 'accepts' the fact that he not only ruined his cycling career, but he did no favors for those he had lie for him (I see the parallel argument here between the Millar video and him being 'manipulated' and those that lied for Zajicek - both parties had the option to not choose what they did).

Speaking of crazy stories, as I was in the first paragraph, everyone's favorite former Alaskan Governor (or really the only one anyone outside of Alaska can name), Sarah Palin sure came up with one about the midnight ride of Paul Revere. I'm pretty sure that Paul Revere's ride on the 18th of April, 1775, wasn't to warn the British or that he used bells to do so, but then again I'm no presidential historian or history professor like this guy. Wait, what did he say there at the 40-second mark?

Did he just say Revere's ride was on April 8th? This whole time we've had it wrong. Good thing CNN got this guy to set the record straight for all of use, not just Palin:

I guess what this all proves is that it doesn't matter if you're a professional athlete, former governor, or presidential historian, you don't always get the facts correct the first time around.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Other Shoe has Dropped, and It Appears to be Worn Out

What could be more fitting to write about in this, my 100th post, than the man who really got Americans (ok, only about seven of us) excited in the sport of cycling - Tom Boonen. Seriously, he used blow while at least some other riders in the pro peloton were turning to EPO, CERA, testosterone, Fluff, etc. When he finally takes off his lycra shorts for the last time and calls it quits, he most definitely has a spot in Hollywood. Truth be told Boonen is my favorite rider and I wish him all the best - go get 'em Tommeke, just lay off the white stuff.

Actually, the man I speak of is none other than Lance Edward Gunderson, better known to the world as Lance Armstrong. With all the allegations from former teammates, including Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis (George Hincapie is said to have given some pretty damning testimony to a grand jury about LA's, and his own, drug use), it is harder and harder for people that use reason to believe that he never used PEDs. In this article, author Renee Gough describes how her son - who is/was a huge LA fan - comes to grips with the Hamilton interview on 60 Minutes. Gough uses the metaphor of her son's favorite pair of shoes, a set of Livestrong Nikes:

I'm not sure what's worse, the fact that she uses as her subtitle, "Lance Armstrong's Livestrong apparel may be unraveling at the seams" - I fear that 'unraveling' is a bit of an understatement:

Or her son's response to the allegations made by Hamilton. In what Gough claims was an expertly reasoned response, her son's retort to the allegations was, "I’ve read Lance Armstrong’s book, the reason he did so good is because before he had cancer he didn’t realize how much he wanted it.” Sure, if will power is all it takes to get a person from a hospital bed and chemotherapy to winning the TdF, than I would have slept with so many girls as a young, 20-something roaming the streets of New York City. Bringing the story full circle, as well as tying (yeah, like laces, I'm in on it as well) together the shoe metaphor/unraveling pun, Gough says she is happy for the first time in her life to go shoe shopping to replace her son's Livestrong Nikes. This is where the story gets fishy; a woman who claims she hasn't been excited to go shoe shopping before? I'm not buying it.

While I understand her desire to replace the shoes, a physical reminder of LA, she falls in the same trap as just about every other person who discusses the issue of LA doping - that the Livestrong Foundation has cheated the same way LA (possibly) has. Hitting close to home, KC's soccer team - Sporting KC - has a new stadium that the writer of this article seems to believe links them directly to LA. I don't know if Livestrong has ever done anything illegal or if LA was involved, but what I do know is that no matter how horrible a person LA may turn out to be, the foundation he started is one that has an honorable cause. LA and Livestrong will always be linked, but transferring the negative aspects of the person onto the foundation is ridiculous.

No matter what happens with LA, Livestrong will most likely take a hit, but in the end people will realize when they pledge money to Livestrong or purchase Livestrong themed articles of clothing, they will be helping those with cancer (as well as hurting those children who work in Chinese sweatshops). In the end this all would be much easier to sort out and result in a much neater clean up if LA had just joined Boonen for an eight ball instead of (possibly) injecting himself with drugs. It's not as if he couldn't afford to waste a few hundred dollar bills to make straws.