Monday, May 31, 2010

(Ro)Mania II: Summer Slackdown

Ivan Basso is victorious in Italy, Valverde is banned world-wide, and I am resting up between my trip to Bucharest, Romania and my trip to Israel. Word.

The title of my last post had feral dog in it, but in the post I talked about a feral cat - minor oversight on the part of the management. Feral dogs really are a problem in Bucharest, I just hadn't gotten a picture of one before Friday evening. The city apparently rounds up the dogs and tags them:

This dirt patch and dirty dog were directly in front of a bridal wear store.I'm unsure why the government in Bucharest goes through all the trouble to capture the dogs and tag them. It has to cost a large amount of both time and money to run such a program. One would have to reason if the feral dogs really were such a problem, the logical step after rounding them up wouldn't be tagging them, but putting the dogs down (also know as 'euphenasia').

Since this is Summer Slackdown, I'm going to stop typing words and simply dump a bunch of pictures from the weekend. I'm even going to be so lazy as to not rotate pictures so they are upright. I will place captions on each one that you can scroll over and read if you are using IE. I know it doesn't work with Google Chrome, but I'm not positive about Firefox or any other browser. Enjoy.

Reportedly the second largest building in the world behind the Pentagon.  The Bucharest Parliament building is massive.Bucharest's finest have top notch working conditions.World-class Romanian living.Interesting contraption.  Looks like it predates the one in June's issue of Bike.It was very tasty.  The first alcoholic ginger beer I've ever had.Twins wearing matching outfits is cute on babies, not 65-year olds in international airports.The crews at the Bucharest airport decided that if they can't have anything nice than no one can.  Our ghetto suitcase prepped for Israel.

Friday, May 28, 2010

(Ro)Mania: (Pea)Cock Fights, Feral Dogs, and Probably More

First off I feel that I owe an apology to André Greipel for dogging him so hard a few posts ago. Herr Greipel won stage 18 of the Giro (the last sprinter's stage) to make up for some of his earlier lack-luster performances. Perhaps I should be giving him a big thumbs up and proverbial pat on the back since he stayed in the race as a sprinter even after the roads turned upwards. Cav, Renshaw, and Boonen can't say that and they were racing in the ATOC, a race that I claimed was inferior to the Giro. Then again, perhaps I should save a spot on the DB Podium for André 'Cold Duck' Greipel because he couldn't win a stage until the best sprinter of the race (Tyler Farrar) had dropped out.

Penny and I have had a very interesting day. When we left the airport outside Bucharest, we were dropped off at this "bus stop":

Seriously, the 'bus' dropped us off right at the base of those trees.Which had a paved path to this "train station":

We definitely felt that we were on the right path to get into town.As the train approached, a feral cat thumbed its nose at Romania's public transportation by walking on to the tracks and enjoying its mid-afternoon constitutional. While I don't have any photographic evidence of the cat-train encounter, I can only imagine it would look something like this if the cat was domesticated:

Don't be shy little guy.Once into the city, Penny and I walked around a park which contained a small zoo. One of exhibits was a cage of peacocks. No sooner had we walked up, two of the giant birds started a no-holds-barred demonstration that would make GSP crap his tiny shorts.

It's easy to make fun of people who can beat your ass when you are writing a blog!I missed the body check that started the conflagration.Feeling hungry and wired due to all the excitement, Penny and I headed to dinner where I sampled some Romanian-brewed beer:

I like the fact that it is the king of beers in Romania and it has a bear king on it.Judging from this label it would seem that the Romanians are a humble people. The beer was kind of what I expected; it smelled like a Heineken and tasted like a Pilsner Urquell.

28 May DB Podium
1. Idiot German Cyclists
2. LA and his gang (take a lesson from Vaughters)
3. Greipel (though I guess he could be included in #1)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pills, Pils, and the Other 'P' Word

Stage 16 of the Giro was one of the most exciting and ridiculous stages - a 12.9 kilometer uphill time trial. Seriously, if the organizers of the Giro expect the riders to race as fast as possible up the Plan de Corones with grades as steep as 24% and then complete a hilly, 173 kilometer stage the next day maybe they should rethink their stance on using performance enhancing drugs. Just look at the faces of Basso and Evans as they approached the TT finish line:

I came back for this?If this stage wasn't so steep I definitely would have thrown a slap or two at these Italian fans.The stage was so grueling Evans didn't even have the energy to slap any of the Italian fans that circled him.

After a stage that saw the GC favorites put in herculean efforts, it was expected that the pace would be a little slower on stage 17. That didn't stop Frenchman Damien Monier from soloing away from the break on the day's final climb to claim his first professional victory.

Chapeau Damien, chapeau.Despite his physically (and most likely emotionally) draining win, he was able to put on his best face for the post-stage interviews:

How do you think I feel, assnuts?The mountain stages of the last week or so have highlighted the superiority of the Giro over the ATOC. I know that Americans love the ATOC and think it's the most important race in the world (heck, Velonews ran their cycling show Velocenter everyday during the ATOC, only once discussing what was happening in the Giro, one of only three grand tours), and I agree that it is an important race for American cycling as it shows the sport has an American fan base (and more importantly can bring in revenue). But think about this: Neil Rogers (from the previously side-noted Velonews and Velocenter) pretty much said that Levi had no chance of winning the ATOC after he finished the stage 7 TT 25 seconds back. In the Giro, guys like Vino, who is 5:12 back after today's stage, are still considered contenders with only four days of racing left. Maybe some like to watch a stage race that is decided during one stage, but why race the other stages? That is why the race calendar includes the classics.

Since we're on the topic of cycle racing, let's have a chat about the TV commentators. A few years ago when I was just getting into professional cycling I loved the commentators and all the wisdom they imparted - explaining the tactics of breakaways, discussing team support, detailing the history of each rider/team, and reading the descriptions of each palace/castle/town the race passed through from the local tour book. Now that I have a basic understanding of how a race works I find myself criticizing the commentators and their need to always talk about something. I'll tell you guys, we don't need to know that you guys call Tommy Danielson 'Tommy D' or that George Hincapie never misses a move a dozen times each stage. So stop it, thanks.

Back to doping real quick. The whole Landis affair has brought Burt Friggin' Hoovis and his gang over at Flemish for Poser/Doucheblogcycling back to their roots. The world needs it's watchdogs, keep up the good work over there guys.

Finally made it to Keesman for a beer and some lunch on Monday. The signature beer offered by Keesman is their Herren Pils. Like any good pils, the Herren Pils is smooth with a hoppy flavor, as opposed to a "hoppy cyclist." Beautifully clear and clean, there is nothing better on a warm summer day than a dip in the river followed by a couple of Herren Pils at Keesman.

Seek this sign for some good beer, just be aware that it has some weird hours.It was hard to stop drinking it and take these pictures.While at Keesman, Penny and I were presented with this masterpiece of European hair:

I bet you didn't even notice the rolled shorts.As the week crests the hill and heads down its backside, I think it fair that I impart some training tips I've acquired over the years. Despite the fact that I have not competed in any sanctioned races on my bicycle, I have been known to use performance altering drugs: namely beer. Recently though I was introduced to what could become my new secret weapon in the daily grind:

Go ahead, open one up!Let's just hope the UCI never places it on the banned substances list.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The End of an Era (in Bamberg)

It was an absolutely beautiful day here in Bamberg and, like good Europeans, the Germans took to the bike paths en masse. Today was the last day I was able to ride since all of our stuff will be shipped tomorrow. I was looking forward to a great ride (which it turned out to be despite some difficulties). It seemed that the route was full of idiots today though: people walking two abreast and taking up the eight foot wide path, single roller bladers doing the same, older riders performing the obligatory weave to-and-fro for no reason, and a douche on a mountain bike who hopped on my wheel - twice. I dropped him once and he had the nut sack to invite himself to my draft again. I was hoping he would have done it a third time; I was prepared to slow way down, get behind him, and use his draft for a while.

I saw a one-legged man riding a recumbent bike and was thoroughly impressed. Of the impressive things I saw today he made the third step of the podium. The top two steps - two one-legged ladies riding regular mountain bikes.

Speaking of being impressed, Manuel Belletti's win in stage 13 of the Giro was great to see. It's good for his team Colnago-CSF, it's great for him since he won right around the corner from home, and it's amazing for cycling. His outpouring of emotions afterwards captured all of the beauty and suffering that is cycling:

Let it out man, let it out.Of course, I'm not totally convinced that he wasn't upset about the race organizer's decision to use 'The Final Countdown' as the awards presentation music. I was hoping to see this guy come out and perform a little:

If you didn't have adult onset diabetes, I wouldn't mind giving you a little sugar.Over on the worst coast, the ATOC has wrapped up with Michael Rogers surviving numerous attacks during the last climb of stage 8 to win the overall yellow jersey. For his efforts he was rewarded with a little bonus of $21,000 that he will proceed to give to the rest of his team:

Do you guys know how many Fosters I can buy with this!Have we seen the end of an era with Levi finishing in third behind Rogers and Dave Z? Um, I'm not sure that three wins by a pro tour rider in a non-pro tour race really defines an era. I'll leave that for the reporters to discuss, but I think that this season has seen the possible beginning of an era of dominance for Liquigas and their young rider Peter Sagan. In addition to his two wins in the ATOC (yeah, I know what I wrote about Levi, I wrote it), he won three stages in Europe earlier in the season. Here he is collecting his large check for winning the points competition at the ATOC:

Um, I don't speak English, how much money is this?And here is him collecting another large check for winning the best young rider competition:

Oh, cinquemila.  That's it?On Saturday Penny and I walked over to Mahr's Bräu and spent some time soaking in the sun and sipping one of Mahr's signature "U" beers (pronounced "oo"). "U" is short for Ungespundet-Hefetrüb (which means yeasty or cloudy). The "U" has a smooth flavor that is a bit malty and goes down quickly. The brewery was actually named the best brewery in the world by Men's Journal in 2005.

So inviting.It's sad to see it go.As I mentioned earlier, Penny and I are shipping our things tomorrow and moving out of the apartment. For the last couple weeks we're in Europe we are traveling to Bucharest, Romania and Israel. Should be exciting and interesting, though the trip to Romania will unfortunately put the kabbash on my watching of the Giro. It happens.

Lastly, to recap my score from BSNYC's May 21st quiz: six out of eight plus the bonus question. I think it's about time to look up Mensa's phone number.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Ashton Kucher is Smiling Somewhere

Since today is bike to work day, I actually got off my ass and went for a ride (didn't bike to work since I don't have a job). It wasn't the best ride as far as any physical benefits go, but the mental benefits of getting out on two wheels are immeasurable.

So a couple days ago BSNYC introduced the chaos theory (also referred to as the butterfly effect) which I took one step further and hypothesized that his writing about it caused the Garmin double with Farrar and Dave Z. Now it would appear that in all the chaos that has been occurring in the pro peloton, Francesco Chicchi's (mispronounced Cheeky) sprint victory in the ATOC has caused the first Italian stage win in the Giro:

Cav finished third on the stage.Though it took 12 stages, winning with the Italian champ colors on your back has to feel good.Back to the chaos that has rippled through the pro peloton; my heart sank when I read this. There is enough writing in all corners of the WWW that there is no need to summarizes the article. I'll just say this - it's depressing that he lied to everyone for four years, but if he's telling the truth now (which I believe he is) I hope the sport takes his allegations seriously and conducts proper investigations. Mr. Kucher is loving the fact that there have been references to his movie 'The Butterfly Effect' as well all the egg on our faces after Landis punk'd us.

I guess the one good thing here is that the ESPN gadget on iGoogle had, for the first and probably only time ever, two stories covering cycling:

Interesting that the third headline is about doping in the NFL.Sure, neither is good, but as the old saying goes, 'If you have nothing nice to say, become a journalist.'

On America's west coast, Liquigas got another stage win with their young star Peter Sagan:

Bam, I've got legs!At first he gave credit to either his legs, the color combo of green and blue (long live the Hartford Whalers!), or the Canondale logo on his shorts. He quickly realized his gaff and paid tribute to those by whom he is paid:

Nope, forget the last pose, this is what I meant to do.The last bit of cycling I'll discuss today is the ATOC coverage. The website is amazing and has allowed me to pull double duty watching the Giro in the early afternoon and the ATOC each night. Check this though:

Nice view.We don't have centuries only castles and palaces in America so the aerial coverage highlights oil fields, cows, and the always impressive junior college track. In addition to that, we as Americans have no problem renaming football and calling it soccer, but yet all the on-screen graphics for the ATOC have been in French. Does it make it more authentic to say étape instead of stage? I doubt it.

With the weather being so crappy lately, I've taken to frequenting the breweries a bit more. Last night I enjoyed some weinerschnitzel (breaded, fried pork cutlet) and a couple beers at Klosterbräu.

The years have been good to her.Klosterbräu has been around brewing their signature beer, Schwärzla, for a mere 477 years, making it Bamberg's oldest brewery. The Schwärzla is very dark in color (as the name would imply) and has a nice, faint bitter aftertaste that reminds me a little of dark chocolate and maple syrup. Not the pancake syrup like Mrs. Butterworth, but real New England maple syrup.

The waitress took the empty glass as soon as I was done so no empty frame.Once I completed that glass (which was taken away very quickly, unusual for Germany) I ordered myself a delicious Braunbier (brown beer). This beer is amber in color and has a smooth flavor that tastes like greatness. When push comes to shove, Klosterbräu brews the best beer in town.

You should come enjoy one yourself.As I sat there listening and watching, I think I saw the real difference between breweries in Germany and those in America. In Germany, the breweries have an atmosphere of community; they are a meeting place where you catch up with your friends and neighbors. In Franconia (northern Bavaria), there are two constants in every town larger than a couple hundred people: a church and a brewery. In America, the micro- and craft breweries have an atmosphere of enjoyment (and in some bad cases elitism). While enjoyment is not a bad atmosphere to nurture, it's not the same.

Speaking of America, it seems that there are many people worried about their personal information on Facebook. I do not have an account, but my wife does and I read the website Lamebook so I see the crap people put on there. It doesn't make sense to me that people are so willing to share information concerning their bowel movements, possible STD infection, and disturbing stories of walking in on their parents after work activities, yet they are in a huff about protecting personal information. Here's an idea - instead of 'networking' with society over the internet (this blog excluded), get out and get involved in person.

As I slowly step down from my soapbox, I've decided to reduce the frequency of the DB podium to once a week, giving those who made amateur mistakes time to regroup as well as allowing more time for others to show their true colors. So I'll close this week with updated standings and a nice video for you to enjoy.

21 May DB Podium
1. Floyd
2. No Middle Name
3. Landis

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Shattering the Intellectual World

Penny and I shipped our wine the other day as we continue our preparations for our move back to the US. The wine shipper traveled across Germany from west to east, only to walk into what had to look like an American drug den. There are air mattresses on the floor, Penny had dried remnants of a white mud mask around her nostrils giving the impression she likes to party with the big kids, and all of our liquor was piled up inside a closet. Nevertheless, the shipper was very nice and refused to pass public judgement of our living conditions.

Speaking of the air mattresses, mine suffered a puncture which I quickly patched up with a spare tube patch I had. Unfortunately, all this did was delay the inevitable deflation and rude awakening with my spine separated from the hardwood floor by a few millimeters of plastic.

In his guest blog for Universal Sports, BSNYC attributes HTC's stage wins in the Giro with Matt Goss and the ATOC with Mark Cavendish to chaos theory. Here today, I am taking it one step further and attributing Garmin's stage wins in the Giro with Farrar and the ATOC with Dave Z to BSNYC's writing about chaos theory. I wonder if there is a name for the idea that writing about a theory can cause an event to occur?

Two stage wins for Fairah.  Go Argyle!It was a pretty lead out by the boys in orange and blue.

In DB news; it only took 10 stages, but Greipel got in the action with a top 10 finish. Perhaps HTC should be looking at the line-up of Greipel, Goss, Renshaw, and Cavendish as the train during the TdF - you know, putting the slower guys in front of the faster ones.

In the sunshine state, Dave Z joined the break with Levi and Mick Rogers over the Bonny Doon climb and held them off over the final meters to claim the stage victory and slip into the yellow leader's jersey. I'm not sure how many sunglasses he beat Rogers by at the line, but it looks to me to be about one beer can in the finish line photo.

Maybe not a full can's length, but perhaps the size of a Red Stripe bottle.Though it wouldn't have won him the stage, Zabriskie made sure that if his tire didn't cross the line first, at least his hand would. For his efforts, Zabriskie was awarded an absolutely beautiful, worthless surfboard:

Take this crap back and finish it!It doesn't have any fins. How is he supposed to stabilize himself and maneuver the board without fins? That's like having a bike with no handle bars, which seems to be the dangerous direction some fixie-hipsters are heading.

Dropped the bike off for a tune-up yesterday, so to kill time before I could pick it up I did what any reasonable man would do - I drank some beer. The first stop was Brauerei Schlenkerla.

The traditional brewery signs are called ausleger, which means arms or outrigger.The specialty beer at Schlenkerla, and the beer that Bamberg is famous for, is the Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier, or smoked beer. At first, many describe the flavor as one of bacon, but the more you drink of it (either during one sitting or over time) the less it tastes of bacon. It is a dark beer that is an acquired taste, but once you acquire it not any smoked beer will do.

A meal in a glass.Penny and I were visiting the San Juan Islands in Washington State and stumbled upon the San Juan Brewing Company. They brewed a handful of great beers that served them in a little pub with a wonderful atmosphere. The only problem was that they tried a smoked beer, which they actually named their bacon beer, that was no comparison to Schlenkerla. I would still recommend the SJBC though if you find yourself in their neck of the woods.

After finishing off my beer at Schlenkerla, I made my way next door to the baby brewery in Bamberg, Ambräusianum.

No ausleger for the new kid in town.Many Americans refer to Ambräusianum as ambrosia, which is unintentionally ironic since the signature beer is the Hell (which means light). In Germany, when a beer is called light it is simply in reference to the color and not the calorie count, since Germans don't care about that. The beer is a golden color with a sweet, honey-flavored taste that goes down extremely smooth.

I had the brewery all to myself.We'll end today with an unusual rear suspension setup that I ran across/into after my aforementioned beer consumption:

I love how all it takes to secure a bike in Europe is a lock through the rear spokes.Here is a closer look:

I don't get it.I guess it would work, but it seems that the angles don't really match up. Perhaps the owner has trouble parallel parking his bike and has been known to bend a rear rim or two. Hopefully he wears his helmet.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Breakaways, Study Breaks, and Breakfast

What an amazing couple days of competition.

Matthew Lloyd soloed his way to a great victory in stage 6 of the Giro:

I actually almost fell asleep on the bike as I crossed the finish line.  No more questions.He was so tired after his effort he couldn't keep his eyes open during the post stage interview. Lloyd's break gave him the Maglia Verde (and after all the work Paul Voss put in to earn it), but also led to him finishing stage 7 a whopping 24:10 behind stage winner Cadel Evans:

Seriously, where are my teammates!Evans got in the lead group and marked every acceleration and breakaway like a true world champion and pulled away from Vino and Cunego over the last few hundred meters. The combination of the "strada bianche" and rain resulted in some incredible racing, leading some to reminisce of "the glory days of racing." I don't know, maybe the racing was cooler back when cyclists wrapped spare inner tubes around their collarbones to prepare for the inevitable crash, but for me the glory days of racing are occurring right now because I am alive to watch them. Heck, I think Cadel would agree with me:

This is why I keep my wedding ring around my neck and not my finger.In the same stage, Vino relentlessly and repeatedly attacked, setting him up in the Maglia Rosa as Team Liquigas had some trouble on the slick, rain soaked roads. As America's #1 family practitioner reminds us, "Bitches can't hang with the streets." Alas, it seems Vino's rough upbringing in Kazakhstan still leads him to doubt the cleanliness of gifted clothing:

Those motherf'ers!  They just Fabreezed the one Wiggins lost after stage 2!
Luk Beines/AFP/Getty Images
Over in the sunshine state, Cav drew second blood in the Amgen Tour of California (technically the roads of Sacramento drew first blood as there were multiple crashes prior to The Missile crossing the line). Unexpectedly, he didn't raise three fingers in celebration of his third victory of the year:

He told ya'll yesterday what was going to happen in Sacramento. Cav enjoying his day of glory:

This sure beats the Isle of Mann.I received a 29% on the May 14th edition of BSNYC's weekly quizzes. I also got the correct answer on the bonus question, but I am unsure of the weight of the bonus compared to the standard questions so there is no way to accurately calculate my final score. As long as I convince myself that taking part in those quizzes is good prep for the LSAT I'll be fine.

Lastly, a mystery man won some sweet "unsanctioned" eating competition. Biggest win of the week and no one to give big ups to. Reminds me of the glory days of competitive eating.