Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Pedal the Cause

"The Professor"
Laurent Fignon
August 12, 1960 - August 31, 2010

As an American kid, I first came to know Fignon more for what he didn't accomplish, than for what he did.  In 1989 he famously lost to Greg LeMond by 58 seconds in the Tour de France's final stage time trial. This allowed LeMond to win the overall Tour by 8 seconds: the narrowest margin of victory of all time, and something that would alter forever how the last stage of the Tour de France would be organized.  Of course, I was elated - not that he lost, but that LeMond had won.  What I didn't know at the time was how he had already won Milan-San Remo and the Giro d'Italia that same year....or how he had won the Tour in '84 taking 5 stage victories.  Again today, he leads the cycling headlines for what he didn't ultimately succeed at; his battle with metastatic lung cancer, which took his life today.  He was quoted earlier this summer as saying, "I don't want to die at 50.....I'm still fighting."

On October 9th, COMO cycling hard-ass and blogger Dan Miller will be riding in St. Louis at an event called Pedal the Cause to raise money for cancer research, and he could use our help.   
You can go here to chip in a little cash to help fight the good fight, or ride the ride yourself and raise some money in the process.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Cycle Chic Sunday Roundup...resonate your energy fields!

The first order of business today is to thank the organizers of COMO's first Cycle Chic Sunday Ride which occured yesterday.  The good folks at PedNet put on a great event which I attended, dressed in what I believed was my best 'cycling chic' apparel.  My experiences along the way were the following:

1)  The average non-cyclist passer-by in COMO is not nearly as amused with seeing a parade of natty cyclists as the natty cyclists are to be in the parade, themselves. 
2) No amount of dinging one's bell will ever allow a cyclist to overcome the observation noted in the aforementioned statement.
3) The best way to cultivate some truly epic 'swamp-ass' is to ride your bicycle in 92 degree weather while wearing your church pants.

Photo credit: Missourian Neighborhood News.

4) Not to make the Cycle Chic event tawdry in any way, but I also have a bit of a confession to make.  There was a cyclist there of the female persuasion wearing a somewhat loose-fitting dress, who was, at one point, bent far over her handlebars making some adjustments to her front wheel prior to the ride.  It was at this precise and very unfortunate moment that I innocently looked over at her.  Unintentionally, I ended up staring right down into the chasm of her cleavage, which was rather overtly displayed. Somehow, from a distance, I ended up 'eye-to-nipple' as it were, with her right breast.  It was then that she looked up and completely caught me looking.  Embarassed, I rode away quickly and in very non-chic fashion.  I would like to take this moment to profusely and sincerely apologize for the inadvertent peek.  Crazy things happen when hot-weathered fashion and cycling collide and I'm quite sure that at the future installments of Cycle Chic (scheduled for the last Sunday of every month) as the weather cools, that high-necked sweater and scarves will be in order and this won't happen again.

Moving on.....

This weekend also saw some action in the world of pro-cycling, as the Vuelta a Espana began on Saturday with a night-time team time trial. Columbia HTC won in convincing fashion, thus putting Mark Cavendish in the race leaders' red jersey.  For the podium presentation, they placed Cavendish on an extra high step so that he would be taller than the Amazonian podium girls (barely) flanking him.

Sunday's stage into Marbella was one for the sprinters, but alarmingly, Cavs got beat at the line by Yauheni Hutarovich of FDJ.... to which I'm sure he responded, "Ya-who-ni Who-tarovich?"  Yeah...this guy bested Cavs, Farrar and Petacchi.

As he was celebrating on the podium with his champagne, I noticed something on his right wrist....

I've been seeing these wristbands a lot lately and haven't been able to figure out what they are.  But upon witnessing an infomercial over the weekend, I immediately recognized that the little white wristband was the source of Hutarovich's power which allowed him to beat Cavendouche.  Gone are the days of the yellow Livestrong wristband, and here are the days of the Power Balance Bracelet with the power of a hologram!

According to the website, the hologram "is designed to resonate with and respond to the natural energy field of the body."  I could go into a lengthy scientific explanation of how holograms resonate with your energy fields and everything, but instead, why not hear it from one of the self-proclaimed (and heavily paid) Power Balance generals himself, Shaquille O'Neal.
Apparently if Shaquille had his way, he would cover every part of his body with a Power Balance hologram, which is honestly, a scary thought.  I'm not sure the world is ready for Shaquille O'Neal resonating energy fields from every part of his body.  But you shouldn't just believe O'Neal's testimony.  Professional cyclist (MTB) Willow Koerber also endorses the Power Balance wristband.  I was lucky enough to stumble upon a photo of Koerber in which you can see her energy field resonating so intensely that she can barely keep her jersey zipped up!
What a bargain at a cool $29.95.  I never saw a Livestrong bracelet have that effect before.....talk about resonating energy fields!  I wonder if the woman at the Cycle Chic Sunday ride was wearing one as well?

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Mail: A festival of shite - defined by your bicycle.

We start off today's session of Friday mail with a letter written in as a comment to Wednesday's post wherein I described the act of commuting to work by bicycle as a "shit sandwich"....tasty on the outside (representing the rides to and from work), and a wee bit nutty on the inside (the day to day grind).

Dear Poobah,

The bits in between the bread can be a festival of shite, but somehow, no matter how bad things get, we humans seem to cope much better if we can define it...

I hope this helps you, 'cos personally, I'm having a Bristol 7 of a Friday!!
Last Dog
Last Dog-
Thanks so much for your letter.  I agree, defining and categorizing every piece of minutia certainly makes me feel better about most things.....which is why my sock drawer is so incredibly well managed.  However, I'm sorry your day is a Bristol 7....The only advantage I can see to that kind of a day is that at least it passes quickly with little effort.  Mine, on the other hand, is definitely shaping up to be a Bristol Type 1 Day..."Seperate hard lumps, like nuts (hard to pass)."

Dear PooBah,
My 16 year old son has been begging me for a motorcycle of the Japanese crotch-rocket variety.  I've been very reluctant to give in to him, so I bought him a bicycle instead.  He absolutely refuses to ride it however and claims that he will never get a date by riding a bicycle to school.  I'm not so keen on him dating yet, anyway, so don't think this is much of a tragedy.  Yet, he needs a method to get to school.  I consider myself a pretty handy guy, and a rather hip dad, so decided to modify his bicycle into this.
Do you think he will like it?
Robert H.

Whether he likes it or not is irrelevant.  You've accomplished your two primary objectives: 1) He now has transportation to school and 2) He will not be dating anyone in the near future.  The rest is his problem and you get the COMO CYCO Dad of the Year Award.

Dear PooBah,
I have been contemplating getting a fixie due to the simple elegance of having a bicycle unencumbered by gears and derailleurs.  But I'm very worried about the stigma now associated with them related to the whole "hipster scene."  Are there other options for getting a bicycle that is stripped down to the bare necessities?
Thanks a bunch!
Taylor T.

Firstly, you shouldn't worry so much about what others think about you.  If you're a fixie lover, embrace it and be proud.  There are worse things to be called than "hipster".....like a "pedophile" or "dog-killer" or a "tea-bagger."  What a minute - did the "tea-baggers" change their name to "tea partiers?"  Anyway - if you really want to show up the hipster crowd with a bicycle that achieves new levels of simplicity, while possessing a machine that is simple to own and operate, consider this little number

Dear PooBah,
I've been doing a lot of training in the mountains lately to become a better climber.  But recently I've started to develop some knee pain that is starting to nag at me.  I'm worried this could be an issue with bike fit and am concerned that perhaps my bike doesn't fit me well.  I've attached pictures of it and of me so that maybe you can help me figure out the problem.
Thank you!
Gina Y.

Most knee pain issues can be attributed to seat height.  If the pain is in the front of the knee, try raising your saddle a bit, if it's in the back, try lowering it.....And although it's a long shot, you might also try spinning an easier gear when climbing.

Dear PooBah,
I really want to get into time trialing but am intimidated by the expense of all the special equipment.  Therefore, I've been scrounging ebay quite a bit lately.  Just this morning, I came across a sweet helmet that I think will work just perfectly for me.  Can you take a peek at it and let me know if you think it would work?
Thank you-
Kelly F.

Try sending another photo, please.  I can't seem to see the helmet in the picture you sent me.

Dear PooBah,
I have a pet hamster.  I'm very worried that he is suffering from boredom.  I made an elaborate habitrail system for him to enjoy, but he he just lazed around the food bowl, acting disinterested and listless.  Then my sister dropped one of her Barbie's toy bicycles into his cage and the next day I caught him doing this.
What is going on?
Thank you.
Lyle M.

Don't worry.  This is just his "himster" phase.  He will outgrow it.  Until then, make sure your sister doesn't put any PBR in his waterer or slip some of Barbie's jeans in there...if so he will try to squeeze into them, and I'm guessing he's not trained enough to keep his little Bristol Type 5's out of them yet.

Dear PooBah,
Thank you for your helpful tip last Friday regarding learning marital arts utilizing household items as a way to cross train for cycling! My new found skill of 'magazine self defense' has not only helped me attract women, but also helped me defend myself while riding in the group rides. Why, a rolled up copy of Glamour helped me fend off weaving triathletes while attending the Thursday night group ride last evening. Speaking of the Thursday group ride, I had some downtime while waiting for our illustrious leader, Mr. Brinker to wave the checkered speedo which officially starts the ride, and came upon this video on my phone.

After watching this, I have come to realize that such interactions between tri-athletes and roadies might be a univeral truth, and thus exist outside of the COMO bubble as well.  Do you think that tension will always exist between the groups? 
Buck Russell

Great question.  Yes, it does appear as though some very real differences exist between the so-called "TriGeeks" and the "Roadies".  While one group prides themselves on excelling in solitary, weaving fashion, the other tends to travel in packs and gets fearful while alone.  And as one group prefers to ride nearly naked, baring the skin on the upper arms, upper thighs, mid-drift and ankles regardless of the climactic conditions, the other likes to have these areas covered, even in sweltering heat.  One group maintains a list serve and issues up thousands of emails a day through which members are exceedingly and constantly congratulated for achieving their personal goals, while the other group has a list serve that hasn't been updated since Clinton was in office, and messages are sent sporadically only to taunt other members and refer to the miniscule size of their genitals.  Thus, the sprawling drama has unfolded with two opposing factions, not unlike the Romeo and Juliet allegorical musical of West Side Story.  There were the Jets and the Sharks, and never did the two see eye-to-eye until they finally came together through love (and a really homoerotic knife fight between a bunch of dudes in really tight pants)....But no - I speak of a love like that between Tony and Maria.  I wonder if such a relationship exists in COMO-VILLE that could tear down the barriers? 

Who is brave enough to cast aside their aerobars, or mid-calf socks to reach across the double yellow line, I wonder?  Maybe the knife fight would be better?

Have a great weekend, everyone.  Thanks for reading.  See everyone Sunday evening at Cycle Chic!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Lessons in 'chic'

Sometimes commuting to work by bike is like eating a shit sandwich made on really good sourdough bread.  The delicious bread represents, of course, the rides to and from work in the morning and evening, but the shit in the middle is everything else.  This morning was such an experience.

Granted, the day is still young and many other good things could happen.....but how can it get any better than a gravel ride as the sun is just coming up and it is 62 degrees out with no humidity?  Thus, having sunk my teeth through the top layer of tasty bread this morning, I now find myself fully engaged in the flavor of the inner layers of some finely sliced poop of the day.  At least I can look forward to a more palatable ride home this evening, that is, if the meat hasn't soaked too deeply into the bottom layer of bread like a sweaty bologna and mayonaise sandwich that's been sitting in the sun.

And speaking of looking forward to things, I just wanted to remind everyone again about CycleChic this Sunday.  I've been invited to this on Facebook now about 20 times....so I'm thinking I'm going to have to make an appearance.  Here's what the invitation says:

"Put on some swanky duds!  We're going "cycle chic" on a 5-mile guided bike ride through downtown Columbia.  It's all about style over speed, so get yourself - and your bike - all dressed up! Prizes for "most chic" helmet." 
Flat Branch Park Gazebo @ 4:00 PM on Sunday, August 29th.

Now, my sources at PedNet have told me that some phone calls have come in raising the question of whether or not this is an all-female event.  Thus, the suspicion has been raised that some may be confusing the word "chic"  (pronounced SHEEK) with the word "chick".  Note that the first word has a long "i" and the second word has a short "i" and a "k".  Merriam-Webster defines "chic" as meaning "smart elegance and sophistication especially of dress or manner."  The word is of French origin, which makes me cringe, quite honestly, as I have hated the French language ever since my 9th grade French teacher made me repeat the words "parapluie bleu" (French for "an umbrella which is blue") over and over as punishment for pronouncing it as PARE-a-plooey BLUE, which to me, is much more fun to say.  At any rate, the word chic can apply to both women and men.  To help us all determine what is chic and what is not chic prior to the ride on Sunday, I've put together a visual demonstration.  However, these images represent my interpretation only as to what CycleChic means to moi (pronounced MOY), and should not disuade you from either participating, or dressing in whatever way fancies vous (pronounced VOOS).  On with the show:


"NOT chic"


"NOT chic"


"NOT chic"


"NOT chic" (but kinda cool somehow)

And of course, there are some derivations of CycleChic...

..like the fellow on the right who I classify as "chic with a touch of douche (pronounced DOOSH, also of French origin, and is roughly translated into English as either 'a shower', or 'a choade', or in this case, 'a showered choade')"

And this trio which I consider "douche with a touch of chic"

And this, which I consider as just "full douche..."

Men, as you can see, we have a greater challenge.  A fine line exists between chic and douche, and at any given moment, you can be as close as a scarf or a little too much hair gel away from straying over the line. I realize that this may seem like a grey zone as to what is considered appropriate.  But if the previous photos have demonstrated anything concrete, it is to stay away from carrying roadkill, livestock or a mullet with you on Sunday or you're never going to attract any women (pronounced CHICKS).

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

No worries, mate....we're moving to Luxembourg!

It's a tough week to be an Australian pro racer, I guess.  And the worst possible thing you can do as an Aussie is apparently win at the Eneco tour.  Robbie McEwen (Katousha) shows some late-season form in winning Stage 1...
and then Aussie track star and now road pro Jack Bobridge (Garmin) wins stage 5...
and both are snubbed from the Australian world's team for Mathew Hayman and Wesley Sulzberger?  Who is doing the math on this one?  I'm certainly not discounting the abilities of either Hayman or Sulzberger, but they haven't been truly competitive since the spring, while both McEwan and "Jacky Bobby" are racing well NOW.  If performing well at the Eneco tour spells trouble for the selection to your respective country's world team, then Andre Greipel should be worried, as yesterday he took his second stage there.  And consistent with nobody from HTC Columbia knowing how to execute an appropriate victory salute as they cross the line, Greipel busted this one out in Heers, Belgium as he won.

(This photo reminds me of how my grandmother used to try to pry her dog's ancient lips open to spray this stuff into her mouth called "happy breath" in an attempt to squelch the distinctive odor that can only come from a 15-year-old Miniature Schnauzer's mouth.  There's just something impressive about the ability of those Germans to purse their lips: both Andre and Heidi....)

But for all this worrying, someone who is certainly not worried, according to cyclingnews, is Bjarne Riis.

Despite losing the Shlecks, his directeur sportif Kim Andersen, Jakob Fuglsang, and likely both Stuart O'Grady and Jens Voigt to the new Shleck-tastic Luxembourgian team as well as watching Matti Breschel leave for Rabobank, Riis is content with the three Spanish amigos of Ben, Dan and Jesus (Noval, Navarro and Hernandez.)  And the article published by cyclingnews regarding Riis' lack of concern is accompanied by three photos of Bjarne looking definitely NOT worried:

While Bjarne is busy not worrying in Denmark, the country of Luxembourg is also not worried, and in fact rejoicing in celebration, and not just because Frankie got married on Saturday...

but because Andy has become a national hero and is beloved by all Luxembourgian children....take this photo he posted on Twitter of himself with some kids who painted a mural for him:

"Message: Nice welcome gift! Big Hugs to the kids in my street for this!!!"

If you are having difficulties making out what is on the front of Andy's t-shirt as he sits amidst the gaggle of children, you can see it better here....because it's the exact same shirt that teammate Jakob Fuglsang is wearing at the post-Tour gala......I'm sure the boys especially liked to hug him while he was wearing this...to get a better view....
There's nothing that weird about two friends sharing a shirt, is there?  I mean, Contador and Shleck are also friends....so maybe Bert will share his Maillot Jaune with Andy for a bit.  I think Andy must feel virtually naked without it....as was depicted in another gift Andy received from "his biggest fan, Sigrid (8 years old), also posted on Twitter.

"Message: Just got a painting from my biggest Fan 8 year old Thanks Sigrid :)"

I'm guessing that's Contador on the right, pantsless, but in the Maillot Jaune with the big smile, and Andy on the left with the Luxembourgian flag over his head, frown on his face and wearing nothing but a black hole in his chest where his heart should be?  All that's missing is the dropped chain...

Ok - so maybe somebody is a little worried in Luxembourg....

Monday, August 23, 2010

Flushable movements: of kids, cross and mud

As the days of August slowly fade, the eyes of many a summertime roadie drift toward cyclocross season with the same anticipation that workaday clockwatchers stare at the number 5.  They have put their time in, and now want to start to play.  And in Mid-Missouri, cyclocross happy hour begins officially with the 3rd Annual Hermann Cross race.
Registration is now open, so follow the link above to start getting your mud-buzz on Sept 18 and 19th.  And speaking of cross, a reader sent this video to me, which was posted on Cyclocross Magazine online:

Of course this video may be construed as being quite sexist, as there are probably just as many women as men out there who want to escape the kids for a little while to spend time on their bikes.  And there are some men who will find a way to bring the kids along.  Take the cyclist I passed this morning on my way to work:

On first examination, I thought this gentleman had his daughter straddling the tob tube, tucked into his crotchal region holding on to the handlebars.  But as I passed, I realized that she was actually sitting on a top-tube mounted child's seat complete with foot rests and a handle platform to grip.
Not having kids, I feel somewhat ignorant to a certain "paternal consciousness" which I'm guessing kicks in at specific times to help discern at what age a child is safe to do various things, like bathing the cat, lighting the gas stove or retrieving a burned bagel from the toaster with a fork.  So my initial impression of this contraption was that it looked pretty risky....especially if you endo-ed and your child ended up being squished between the pavement and you.  That said, I cannot see much difference between this and my father letting me sit on his lap as he drove our family's 73 Oldsmobile down the highway at 75 mph sans seatbelt or airbag back in the day.  And really, is having your kid ride in front of you any more risky than having her ride in the trailer behind you....especially if you are going to be doing a long gravel ride after a rain shower, as fellow COMO cycling blogger Lieutentant Dan wrote about last March in a post entitled "Mud baby."

"Mud baby: the aftermath"

Alas, as cyclists, we accept certain risks ourselves and then subsequently deal them out accordingly to the ones we love, like it or not.  And speaking of risks, I am proud to say that I partook in the Booneville Festival of the Arts ride this past Saturday, a "rolling" 52 mile route (damn you, Hill of Lupus, damn you to hell).  We hadn't been on the road more than 5 miles when I heard someone behind me say, "Yup, the beginning of these rides always starts out the same....one long choade line."  I'm guessing I was one of the choades this individual was speaking of.  The Booneville ride raises money for something, but for the life of me, I cannot remember what.  I do know however that I paid a whopping $25 to do it.  Before we started that morning I had to use the bathroom inside Thespian Hall and saw this sign, which a reader also noted, photographed and sent to me.
But I always flush after I perform anyway? 

Maybe I could designate that my $25 goes to pay to fix up the bathrooms in Thespian Hall....I mean, sometimes a good performance can evoke movements that truly are flushable....

Friday, August 20, 2010

Friday Mail!

I realize many out there are reading this blog from remote corners of the globe.....from internet cafes in Nepal, train stations in Moscow, research outposts in Antarctica and double-wides in Moberly.  And to such far-flung individuals, I say, welcome, but sit tight and be patient - because I have to offer up some local news for this weekend before we get to Friday Mail.

1)  Saturday, August 21 @ 7:30 AM:  The 18th Annual Missouri River Festival of the Arts Bike Tour.  The designated 42 mile course rolls through rural Cooper and Moniteau Counties.  However, you don't have a hair on your butt (as my father would say) unless you do the 10 mile additional Lupus Loop.  If you've never done the Lupus Loop before, get your granny gear dusted off, because it's a little hilly.  But here's a little warning - it's not the Lupus hill itself that is the worst, but the one after that.  Registration opens at 6:00 AM the day of the ride at Thespian Hall, 522 Main Street, Booneville.

2) Saturday August 21 @ 3-4:00 PM:  The Boone Dawdle Ride begins leaving from Shiloh Bar and Grill.  More info here.  Big props go out to Cyclextreme for offering up some great raffle prizes, but also hosting a bike clinic in the parking lot of Shiloh's from 2 to 3:00 PM to help get your ride ready for the leisurely cruise up the trail.

3) Saturday August 21 @ 6:15 PM:  Missouri State Track Championships at Penrose Velodrome in Penrose Park, St. Louis.  More info here.

And mark your calendars for NEXT SUNDAY evening, August 29th. 

Columbia's very fist Cycle Chic Sunday ride is going down from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM.  Bust out your nappy duds and your cruisers for a 5 mile tour through downtown COMO starting at Flat Branch Park.  This is a great opportunity for COMO cyclists to unite (whether you are a polo player, a roadie, fixie-loving hipster, a CX or MTB afficianado, recreational cyclist or hard core commuter) and show the community how many of us there are.....and how damned good we look. If you are unfamiliar with Cycle Chic Sunday concept, check this out.
Now onto the mail!

Dear PooBah,
From the things you write about, I'm guessing you consider yourself a "roadie" which probably means that you ride in ridiculously tight clothes.  I just cannot conceive of this.  When I ride to work in the morning, I have to be wearing loose fitting clothes, and prefer my favoirte pair of jeans and flannel shirt. Here's a photo of me riding to my office just yesterday morning.
I think most of the ire invoked by the community toward cyclists probably stems from individuals like yourself wearing your embarassing tight pants!  Nobody wants to see that....
Thanks for considering-
Charlie T.

Haters gonna hate.....but I so smell the faint aroma of denial about you....

Dear PooBah,
I was out riding the other evening when a deer jumped out of the woods along the roadside and ran in front of me.  We very nearly collided which scared me to death.  It could have killed me.  It occured to me that as cyclists, we don't often ride very defensively when it comes to encountering wildlife on the road.  Therefore, I've decided to offer a clinic about "Rural Riding" during which one of the exercises will involve what to do when encountering a large, antlered mammal.  We'll start by practicing with deer stand-ins at first...what do you think?  Can I sign you up as a participant?
Cindy G.
I really applaud you taking the initiative in starting a course like this....clearly it's much needed.  Just one question - is the thong part of your clinic's dress code?  You might want to send an invitation to Charlie, above.

Dear PooBah,
Let me preface this letter by explaining that I am an Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering here at the University.  My comments are regarding the strength assessment of different race wheelsets.  So much has been written about which modality of mechanical testing is most appropriate for bicycle wheels....ie should they be tested in compression, in bending, in tension, etc.  From an engineering standpoint, it's a very complex issue.  Furthermore, materials testing machines can be very expensive to own and operate.  As you know, in these difficult economic times, it can be challenging to justify to the University the purchase of such expensive equipment.  However, I think I may have developed a much less expensive, and equally accurate, method of determining the strength and stiffness of various wheelsets that involves the use of two of my PhD students.  Please note that prior to testing, both students donned protective eyeware to prevent accidental injury subsequent to unexpected catastrophic failure.  I've photographed the mechanical testing process and submit this for your review.
Dr. Thomas Pascoe

Dr. Pascoe,
I might direct you to the University's policies regarding research ethics.....in addition to the odd bicycle spoke, there might be a few rules being bent by your lab as well.  At any rate, I'm sure this photograph will help you get your forthcoming manuscript through the peer-review process in a speedy fashion.  Best of luck.

Dear PooBah,
Thank you so much for posting my story about booting a tire with a Red Bud Leaf last week. It was nice to finally look at your blog and find a post worth reading. Maybe with a little help from your friends, this little hobby of yours might become bearable to the CoMo cycling scene. And with that, I would like to seek your advice. Recently, while taking a break from dominating the popular World of Warcraft (W.O.W.) video game, I came across the following video.

My question is this: Which niche sport do you think the opposite sex finds most attractive and why? I've been really lonely lately and am thinking of switching sports from cycling to something else. Do you think taking off my flamboyantly colored lycra and taking up the YoYo would increase my chances with the ladies? I have to admit, I've never received any action purely because I'm a cyclist. In fact, I'm starting to wonder if it's a repellent. Of course, they could just be intimidated by the fact that I am a level 80 Gnome Warlock in W.O.W.
Buck Russell

Great question!  I do think you should consider a switch in niche sports that would encompass all of your skills....like the fighting prowess you've developed playing W.O.W., your communicative abilities so eloquently demonstrated in your letters to me, and most importantly, the fierce intensity which which I'm sure you compete on the bike.  Combining all of these attributes into a sport will no doubt attract the ladies.  After doing much research, I've concluded that the following sport is your calling.

In fact, the women will likely be crawling all over you with such ferocity once they observe you pull this move out in Room 38, that you may find yourself forced to employ the "magazine of death"  on a few of them as well.  Make sure you have a copy of Ladies' Home Journal with you before you go out....oh wait, I'm sure you always do already.

Thanks for reading and sending in your letters!  Have a good weekend.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Women's Bike Racing

Over the past two weeks, the cycling blogosphere has been buzzing  about the lack of equality in women's bike racing.  Four recent events seem to be garnering the most attention from cycling blogs and have fanned the flames of a long standing smoldering topic:

1) The NRC categorized Atlanta 100K race, so named for the distance the men's race covers, is actually only a 10K race for the women.  Whereas the payout for the men's Pro 1/2 is $10,000, the women's payout is listed as $2,000 (down from what once was $7500) and comprises cats 1 through 4 - an open field.  Because the women's payout isn't 50% of the men's, this race has subsequently been eliminated as an NRC event for women.  The short 6 miles of the women's race is not even considered long enough to qualify for upgrade points.
Image courtesy Beth Newell whose blog is found here.

2) The recent announcement of the mid-September released date of the 2011 Cyclepassion calendar.    For several years now, a calendar has been produced featuring provocatively dressed and posed professional women cyclists. 
The 2011 calendar will feature US cyclists Willow Koerber, Hether Irmiger and Liz Hatch.  Versus cycling blogger and author Neil Browne asked if the production of such a calendar helps or hinders women's cyclists, and as one would expect, those posing were all in favor of it..."We can be really good in a sport and feel beautiful," said Irmiger or Subaru-Trek Racing.  An equally inciteful comment was made by Lotto Ladies pro Veronica Andreasson who said "We are female riders and we can use it for profit."  (Despite actual figures being difficult to find, it's a well known fact that female pros make a fraction of what the men's potential salary is.)

3) The recent announcment of the Quiznos Pro Challenge stage race in Colorado in 2011 had a glaring omission compared to something that its predecessor, the Coor's Classic, possessed:  a women's  race.  The lack of a women's component in next year's Colorado stage race has frustrated Peanut Butter and Co's pro, and Boulder native, Mara Abbott.
Photo courtesy of the dailycamera.
In an excellent piece published on the dailycamera site, Abbott describes what she felt when she heard the story on NPR regarding the forthcoming Colorado race.

"I actually had to turn it off just because it made me so sad, because I don't necessarily see it as very likely that they'll have a women's race.  It's probably my lifelong dream to have a stage race in Colorado.  I invent them in my head.  If there's a men's stage race and they don't have a women's one, I'm going to have to leave town....When you have Lance Armstrong on your side, it's easier.  But we need Lance Armstrong to say, "And we also would like to have a women's field."

Abbott's accomplishments are impressive:  She won the  Tour of Gila in New Mexico, the US Road National Championship in Oregon, was the first American to win the Giro Donne in Italy (the women's version of the Giro d'Italia) and then another overall victory at the Cascades Classic.  Her next goal is the road world championships in Australia in October.

4) A debate is occurring between two cycling blogs authored by women over what is considered appropriate racing etiquette for women learning to race.  A contributor to the heavily read DrunkCyclist blog named Judi Rothenberg wrote a piece entitled "Sad truth about women's bike racing" in which she referenced an experience she had while trying to race crits but being forced to compete against the men's 4/5 group because of the organizers not offering a women's race.  She wrote a letter to the USAC rep and race promoter requesting a women's C race.  The letter concludes with the remark, "USAC needs to stop permitting races that don't treat women equally.  It's bad for the sport."  This resulted in her being verbally accosted by a male member of her community, but also invoked a sharp repsonse from amature female racer Kerry Litka whose advice for women entering the sport included: "Don't cry about getting dropped in a training race because the promoter doesn't offer a women's race."  She goes on to say:

"The promoter does not owe you, me, or any other person anything. You can promote a race for any category you want – Pro-1 men, P12 Men and P12 Women only, Masters Men 35+ only, Transexual Metermaids 30-44 – there is no rule specifying who they have to cater to."

I wish I could find the transexual metermaid 30-44 catetgory in the next race I enter, personally.  I think I might be able to take a few of them at the line.....But in all seriousness, I'm not even about to try to conclude this post with some over-arching synopsis of the state of women's cycling, as 1) I'm not a woman, and 2) I probably can't even be considered a decent cyclist most days.  But even I know that something needs to change.  Unfortunately,  money talks and bullshit walks....and until women's races can attract more attendance and participation, this is going to be a battle....but one very much worth fighting. 

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The kids are allright (the Canadian ones, at least)

On Monday, I reported on my experience riding in the New Belgium Urban Assault Ride in St. Louis, and I posted a photograph of two adults engaged in a post-ride adult-themed game.

I went on to make a little joke about how there were kids observing this game and how they might learn a thing or two.  Well, the mother of the observing child (whom I highlighted with an obnoxious green arrow) wrote in Monday to let me know that she was, in fact, "the happy recipient in the red shirt."  I would like to take this moment to applaud her sportsmanship, her readership and most importantly, her mothership, which was just about to be boarded as I took the photo...

And speaking of little kids, an interesting article has just been published in the journal entitled Injury Prevention which studied the effects of bicycle helmet laws in Canada on helmet use and bicycle ridership. 
The researchers found that both young cyclists as well as adults are significantly more likely to wear helmets as the comprehensiveness of helmet legislation increases, but that such legislation does not decrease ridership.  What interested me most about this article was the fact that when non-age specific laws (typically geared for riders under 18) were implemented, helmet use still went up in younger cyclists, thus suggesting that older cyclists serve as role models for the younger crowd.  Or  does this just suggest that youthful Canadians are more obedient of their parents?  Well, from my years of watching Degrassi Junior High, I seriously doubt it.....those kids were a bunch of hellraisers!

"But Alex, what aboot your helmet?"

If there is another thing that the Canadians are doing well in addition to wearing their helmets and obeying their elders, it's winning their time trials.  Svein Tuft appears to be coming in to form for the forthcoming Canadian road races as he demonstrated with a nice win in this week's Eneco Tour prologue in the Netherlands, yesterday.
This performance rounded out a good week for the Garmin boys with Tyler Farrar taking his second consecutive Vattenfall Cyclassics and Dan Martin winning the Tour of Poland.  Much like last year, Garmin seems to have decided to peak in the silly season of road racing.

Speaking of sillyness, I have really been trying not to comment on the ongoing Armstrong/USPostal investigation, despite the number of cycling blogs that are.  I am attempting to ascribe to somethng my father once told me, which is that opinions are like assholes in that everyone has one, and very rarely do you take interest in someone elses (unless of course you are a proctologist, or a blogger).  That said, with opinions (and assholes) weighing in on the debate of "did he" or "didn't he"  I thought some kind of a metric to measure public opinion on the matter might be interesting.  Thus, I uncovered two sites on Facebook thanks to the Cozy Beehive blog which may provide some assistance.  The first is entitled, "Petition to Drop the Federal Investigation of Lance Armstrong" and comes complete with a photo of LA in the maillot jaune carrying an American flag in Paris....

...and the second is called "Petition to Investigate Lance Armstrong For Fraud" with a photoshopped image of LA snuggled up next to a syringe:

If we look at the number of "People who like this" on each Facebook page, the numbers reflect that the individuals interested in dropping the investigation are beating those petitioning to investigate LA for fraud 108 to 3.  Obviously, trying to determine how the general public feels about this topic by following the number of Facebook Fans is statistically flawed, but more importantly, irrelevant, as is likely, the entire investigation.  I suspect people will fall into one of two camps:  Those that will support him regardless of the investigations' conclusions, and those that won't, again, regardless of the results.  And looky there, just like an asshole, I offered up my opinion.  If I were Canadian, I would have probably listened to my father better and kept my mouth shut aboot the whole thing.