Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Irrelevant but inspired

Sometimes (frequently) my day job is incredibly busy for stretches that last weeks at a time.  I'm in one of those stretches right now.  During times like this, it is difficult to do other things like spend time with the GEEC, or ride my bike, or blog, or read, or play with the dog as much as I would like.  And while the dog will still be happy to play with me late at night when I sometimes get home, and my books will wait patiently on the nightstand for me, and not that many people really read this blog anyway, and the GEEC is usually happy to have a break from me now and then.....not riding really gets me down.  Because not only do I lose the daily stress-relief that comes with an early morning or evening ride, but if too many days go by, then I feel myself losing a fitness level that is not easily achieved for me, and I start to slide backward.  And this is beyond frustrating.  I stop feeling relevant and part of the group that, for whatever reason, I try so desperately to be relevant in.  This reminded me of something I read on BikeSnob's blog yesterday....

Yesterday, BikeSnob NYC commented on the New York cyclist and master's Cat 2 amateur racer David Anthony who recently tested positive for EPO at this year's NYC Gran Fondo.  The New York Times ran a story on he and other amateur cyclists who have recently been caught doping and quote Anthony as saying:

"It wasn't for money, and it wasn't for winning," said Anthony, a three-time winner of the Tour of Battenkill race in upstate New York. "It was about being relevant in the group, which was pretty addicting."

BSNYC does a pretty good job (as ever) at mocking Anthony, and specifically takes aim at his motivation.  He says:

"Winning, I can understand, but he actually did it for social standing?"

Snob then suggests Anthony has less hope at redemption that someone who serially abuses cocaine.  I certainly am not condoning Anthony's actions in any way.  However, if there was ever a motivation for doping that I could at least comprehend, feeling "relevant" in a group would be it. 

This brings me to the Olympic Road Races of this past weekend, of which I made several observations.

#1)  The future of men's American cycling is so bright, it needs to wear shades.  At one point, there were three breaks that had formed on successive trips up Box Hill, and each one had an American in it: Timmy Duggan, Tejay van Garderen and Taylor Phinney.  They were tenacious, relentless and passionate literally, to the bitter end.

#2) Ditto for the women's race.  Evelyn Stevens and Shelley Olds' relentless attacks through the rain and slop were nothing less than pure inspiration.  On any given day, they could have been on that podium.

#3) For the several Lance-supporters who have told me they were disappointed to see a former doper (Vinokurov) win the men's race.  It truly is the time to wake up and smell the turd in the chamois, guys.

#4) Giro winner Ryder Hesjedal auctioned off his pink jersey to financially support country mate and fellow cyclist Denise Ramsden so that she could compete in this year's Olympic games.  One hundred Canadian Olympic athletes were short of funds to be able to compete, but thanks to the $10,300 that Hesjedal's jersey brought, Ramsden's trip was covered and then some. 

And in case you needed any more inspiring stories....check this out. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The British (Olympics) are coming! Quit idling your bones!

Talk about low-hanging fruit.  This is almost too easy.  What can one say really?  The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree?  Like mother like daughter?  Don't worry, Mark - at least when your daughter's mother lifts up her dress, she does so while contemplating troubling geopolitical issues...Take this interview Peta Todd did for Loaded Magazine in which her dress has most definitely been lifted, but which doesn't stop her from thinking deep thoughts...

I sleep better at night knowing that while Peta Todd is showing her ass, she is also worried about the goings on in Pyongyang.  It's certainly more than what I am capable of when I am showing my ass, which usually occurs when the GEEC is eating her breakfast in the morning before work and I saunter out of the shower and drop my towel, turn around and say "Hey honey, did you see that beautiful full moon this morning?"  But as we've recently learned from Bradley Wiggins, Brits truly have their own unique vocabulary.  For example, in America, we use the term "couch potatoes" to describe the slothful, but in England, they are called "bone-idle wankers" as Wiggins instructed us not long ago.  However, it seems to me that the terms "wanker" and the state of being "bone-idle" seem to be contradictory (because if you are of the male persuasion, your 'bone' is anything but idle if you are......anyway - you get the picture.)  But what do I know - I'm just a "Yank" (which coincidentally enough, is a synonym of "wank" isn't it?)  At any rate - in specific reference to Peta and Mark and their concerns over the newly demonstrated exhibitionist tendencies of their daughter, the term "ass" when referencing one's posterior, isn't really even used in England as far as I can tell.  It's called an "arse" or "bum," I believe. 

And the discussion of "bums" brings me to what I really wanted to talk about today.  Not English "bums" but the good old-fashioned American version.  As you know, a little sports competition is set to begin this weekend in London called the Olympics, and there will be a handful of men and women riding their bikes in it.  On Saturday and Sunday are the men's and women's road races, respectively, and on Wednesday is the time trial.  I was curious to see who was going to be representin' (which is an American term) for the various countries, so I checked out this website showing the London Olympic 2012 cyclist's profiles complete with pictures used on their official ID badges. 

I was struck by how much the photos resemble mug-shots and look like a cavalcade of the homeless and incarcerated.  For your viewing pleasure, I bring you my favorites with some fictional charges they may have been brought in for. 

Sylvain Chavenel:
Heavily intoxicated,  he was arrested Monday morning at 3:30 AM in a Paris disco for asking a waitress to "rub his sore joint".

Taylor Phinney:
Brought in for questioning early yesterday regarding the theft of three extra boxes of condoms from the Olympic dispensary.  Upon questioning, Phinney stated, "You can never have too many spares...I live in fear of a puncture when I'm riding."

Frank Schleck:
Arrested last week for disorderly conduct when he was caught urinating through the open sunroof of a Nissan Altima owned by one Johan Bruyneel.  When questioned, he said, "I just suddenly had to go pee-pee very, very badly...."

Jakob Fuglsang:
Charged in Austria with indecent exposure when he tried to get a female pedestrian to fondle his "prized bratwurst" won during the recent Tour of Austria.

Fabian Cancellara:
Interrogated last week for allegedly dispensing diuretics without a license.

Cadel Evans:
Confused and disoriented, he was arrested late last Sunday evening for disorderly conduct when he was discovered staggering down the middle of the Champs-Elysees wearing a 2011 maillot jaune and no pants, saying he was looking for his lost stuffed lion plushie.

Branislau Samoilau:
Questioned Tuesday evening in London for the theft of Jonathan Vaughter's favorite argyle cardigan.

Peter Sagan:
Arrested for lewd conduct Wednesday morning in the outskirts of London during a training ride because passers by complained he had a cucumber stuffed down the front of his chamois shorts.  Upon further questioning, the accused, who is also known as "The Velvet Samurai," explained that he was just practicing his new victory salute for when he wins the Olympic road race.  An ensuing search was unable to identify any vegetable in his pants, however.  Charges were dropped. Bonsai.

Chris Horner:
Arrested for indecency when he was caught in public kissing the exposed derriere of an adult male wearing a Texas Longhorn's jersey with a giant yellow number '7' printed on it.

Timmy Duggan:
Found guilty of total bad-assery. Go get 'em Timmy!

Monday, July 23, 2012

2012 Tour de France: The Best and Worst

For the two or three of you that actually read this blog, you may have noticed that I didn't post anything last week.  That is because the GEEC and I decided to skip town with the COMO CYCO dog in pursuit of cooler climates which were happily discovered far, far away at a much, much higher altitude thankfully.  But what we gained in more pleasurable weather and scenery, we lost in Tour de France viewing, unfortunately.  So today I'm left trying to pick up the scraps of everything that went down in the past week.  Perhaps you missed a thing or two as well.  Just in case, let's catch up with some of the best and worst moments of the last week of the 2012 Tour!

Biggest prick in the 2012 Tour de France peloton?
That would have to go to the Stage 17 fan on the climb to Peyragudes....(credit)
Egoi Martinez was amused....passenger on AG2R motorbike - not so much.  But the man in the hat and little else prompted hashtags ranging from #dongstrong to #ricardo montaldong on Twitter.

Most aggressive former cyclist in the 2012 Tour de France?
Easy - Bernard Hinault on the final podium in Paris - chucking a trespassing hipster off stage and into the front row!  The Badger still has it!

Most unsurprising Tweet sent by a cycling spouse during the Tour?
Mark Cavendish's frequently half-naked girl informing the world she forgot her knickers.....shocker.

Biggest cycling news distraction from the 2012 Tour?
Lance Armstrong using Livestrong money and personnel to lobby against USADA who is currently charging him with doping.  Livestrong's purpose is supposed to be to raise cancer awareness isn't it?
"If I hold my thumb like zis, and speak wiz a German accent, I look a leetle bit like Hitler, ya?"

2012 Tour Team which invokes the most love-hate feelings?
RadioShack Nissan Trek...
Love: Jakob Fuglsang.
Despite not being paid by his team, then being removed from the Tour roster and any other UCI World Tour competitions by bossman "Hog" Bruyneel, Jakob still goes ahead and wins every other race he enters this summer...(incluing the Tour of Austria and a giant sausage) while the man who attempted to shackle him awaits formal doping charges.  Suck on that salami, Hog.

Hate: Chris Horner
Way to cover what was supposed to be George Hincapie's solo ceremonial break-away and then awkwardly suck his wheel 100 meters in front of the peloton on the Champs Elysees, stealing his glory for riding in the most Tours de France of any cyclist, you ass-munch. 

Cyclist who breathed the freshest air into the 2012 Tour?

Sagan, of course.  Not content with three stage wins and invoking the likes of Forrest Gump, a chicken and the Hulk during his victory salutes, Sagan attempts to steal more hearts by boob-raping female fans with magic markers.

Most insensitive photo posted on Twitter during the 2012 Tour ?
Richie Porte of Team Sky, crashed out on the couch in his tighty blackies and teddy the day after the Tour.....photo taken and posted by his girl Tiffany.....very not cool.

T-shirt with the least-veiled double meaning worn by a significant other during the Tour?
Christian Knees' girlfriend's shirt reading: "I heart CK."

Worst execution of a stoic game face in a period of great suffering during the 2012 Tour?
This one is a tie between SaxoBank's Chris Anker Sorensen literally every single day....

....and Bradley Wiggins' expression while on the podium in Paris during the singing of his National Anthem by Lesley Garret:

I'm giving this one to Wiggins because, as painful as that performance of God Save the Queen was, Anker Sorensen actually shaved two of his fingers down to bone when he reached his hand into his own moving spokes to retrieve some stuck paper, yet still finished the tour as "Most Aggressive Rider" while Wiggins only contemplated shaving his ears off in spokes during the performance of his national anthem.

What was your favorite Tour moment?  Discuss!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Getting defensive: the flatulent and the hairy

By now, much has been written about Tour de France leader, Bradley Wiggins', response to skeptics regarding his performance resembling that of the former US Postal team, now allegedly having been doped to win.  His response has been censored in almost all American news outlets including Cyclingnews:

"...after a pause, Wiggins replied: "They are just f***ing w*****s."

I think I know what he actually said - but only because I really like the comedic works of Ricky Gervais.  However, perhaps there are some readers who have been left clueless as to what Wiggo's eloquent phrase really was.  And I'm left wondering how the Cyclingnews editors decided how many letters to omit from each word.  Because with 8 asterisks in a two word phrase with 14 letters total - there are more asterisks than letters.  This might as well have been a game of hangman!
Some various possibilities:


I'm kind of partial to the last one, myself, as I have it on good authority that Wiggo might actually be the proud owner of a Farting Witch.

I fully admit to being a very skeptical cycling fan, and thus would also be considered a 'farting witch' by his standards, I suppose.  I'm not saying Wiggo is loaded - but who is to blame me for questioning anyone really, as the day after Wiggins went on his defesnive tirade, a rival Tour team's hotel was raided by French police and Cofidis cyclist Remy De Gregorio taken into custody by the gendarmes for doping.  So in all fairness to Bradley's defiant response to cynics, I say:

And speaking of doping, the Lance Armstrong saga has now boiled down to what will prove to be an epic battle between two animalistic forces.  Let me explain what I mean.  First, in response to USADA's charges that Lance Armstrong both used and trafficked performance enhancing drugs in a conspiracy that spanned many years, Lance's attorney have recently filed two lawsuits against USADA and its "Kangaroo Court."

Of course, the reason why he had to file this suit not once, but twice, is because Federal judge Sam Sparks tossed out the first attempt less than 7 hours after it was filed stating,
"This Court is not inclined to indulge Armstrong's desire for publicity, self-aggrandizement or vilification of Defendants, by sifting through eighty mostly unnecessary pages in search of the few kernels of factual material relevant to his claims."
"Armstrong's complaint is far from short, spanning eighty pages and containing 261 numbered paragraphs, many of which have multiple sub parts," Sparks wrote. "Worse, the bulk of the paragraphs contain 'allegations' that are wholly irrelevant to Armstrong's claims - and which, the Court must presume, were included solely to increase media coverage of the case, and to incite public opinion against the Defendants."

Among many other "irrelevant" facts listed in the original version are the results of the Texas youth swimming championships which Armstrong entered when he was 12 years old, and finished fourth in the 1,500-meter freestyle. (See it here, page 8, paragraph 28.)
This, of course, is a brilliant scheme concocted by Lance and his attorneys, and is better known as the Chewbacca Defense.  If you've not heard of this style of legal defence, I refer you to its inception:

Who can really predict who will win in a battle between a kangaroo and Chewbacca.  I mean - sure Chewbacca is 8 feet tall and apparently possesses human-like intelligence, but let's not forget that in the Empire Strikes Back, he was ultimately unable to repair the hyperdrive on the Millenium Falcon in their highest moment of need, and R2D2 had to save the day.  But let's also remember that some think Chewbacca is nothing more than some dude in a fuzzy suit.  And have you ever seen what a kangaroo can do to a dude in a fuzzy suit?

Call me a farting witch, but my money is still on the kangaroo...

Friday, July 6, 2012

Tour de France week 1 recap: The Perfect Storm

Do you remember the scene from the movie  The Perfect Storm where the ass-munch weather man nearly creams his jeans as he considers the rarity of the meteorological event that is unfolding on the Doppler radar before his eyes?
(The best acting in the entire scene actually came from The Count plushie)

Well this week, it is I who is the ass-munch weatherman, only I'm watching the Tour de France, which has become an equivalent perfect collision of calamitous events resulting in an epic wake of destruction.  Like various and severe weather systems intersecting, so too have the different story lines in cycling news woven together to form a veritable cesspool that is not necessarily fun to watch, but impossible to turn away from:
Oh jeeze...

Storm System 1:  USADA's timing.  Travis Tygart will certainly never be accused of being overly discrete.  I suppose when you want to make an example of someone, picking the biggest stage possible is definitely one way to go.  But the least he could do is give Vaughters a friendly "heads up" that witness names were about to be named.  I mean, the usually well-coiffed directeur was particularly disheveled when the news broke and didn't even have a chance to put a fine point on his sideburns before talking with the press yesterday!

Storm System 2:  The entirety of the commentating crew of NBC's Sport's Channel covering the Tour.  Could there be a more insipid or banal pairing than Liam McHugh (Liam McWho?) and Bob Roll?  One knows nothing about the sport, and the other thinks he knows everything.  Then consider that Roll and fellow commentator, the dementia-laden Phil Liggett, are both so infatuated with Lance Armstrong, that they cannot bring themselves to discuss anything that might be perceived as negative about him.  In light of the announcement yesterday of some of USADA's witnesses against Lance to include George Hincapie, Christian VandeVelde, David Zabriskie and Levi Leipheimer - what any normal cycling news person would consider to be 4 very significant nails in Armstrong's coffin - the NBC crew spoke on the issue for a grand total of 30 seconds and then immediately cut to slow-motion crash footage of the previous days....over and over and over and over and over....and in such fashion has become the gonzo journalistic source for cycling in America.  Of course Team RadioShack Nissan Trek is advertising heavily on NBC sports for something called the Nissan Ultimate Access competition - so they probably have an agreement with NBC that no more than 30 seconds a day can be dedicated to negative news about Armstrong or Bruyneel.  I wonder if the clause says something like "If excessive bad news is released regarding Armstrong and doping, distract the viewer with more crashes - maybe they won't notice." (The old "monkey likes shiny" trick).  And speaking of crashes, and in specific regard to NBC's 'man on the street interviews', how many different answers do you expect to the question, "How did you avoid the crashes today?"  Yet they keep asking anyone they can shove a microphone in front of (Tyler Farrar excluded.)  Just once I would like Greipel or Goss to answer, "Dude - we were going 45 MPH - how the fuck should I know??  I closed my eyes and gripped the handlebars and somehow came out on the other side!"

Storm System 3:  Peta Todd (girlfriend of World Champion and sprinter Mark Cavendish) has become the new directeur for Team Sky.  She sends out a single Tweet (which she subsequently removed) suggesting Team Sky is not protecting her Man Missile enough, and during Stage 5, they lay down a lead out train for him unprecedented in this year's tour.  Team directeurs were later quoted as saying, "We thought Peta had a good point.....actually maybe two."

Storm System 4:  Peter Sagan.  Not only does he acquire the nickname "The Velvet Samurai" but he also channels Forrest Gump:

But all the crashes have made him a little jumpy, so today he is sporting a bell on his bike to let the peloton know where he is at all times.

Storm System 5: Tyler Farrar.  The poor kid is literally wiping the road with his body all the way to Paris.  So frustrated was he with his crash yesterday, that the bloodied Garmin sprinter charged directly onto the Argos Team bus after he rolled over the finish line to have words with Tom Veelers, even though, as far as I could tell, Veelers had absolutely nothing to do with Farrar going down.  And the whole charging scene was fairly reminiscent of a friend of mine who always thought it would be cool to almost be in a bar fight, so would tell me, "Dude - I'm gonna go get in that guy's face - make sure to hold me back." 

Tyler is probably way too nice of a guy to actually kick anyone's ass anyway.

So what can we learn from the movie The Perfect Storm that might apply here?  Many possible lessons, honestly. 

#1) Lance kind of reminds me of George Clooney's character, who, let's be honest, was far too good looking and well-spoken to be a North Atlantic tuna fisherman, and learned that even those attributes couldn't keep his ship from sinking in the end.  Also - if you keep enough stinking fish in the ship's hold, sooner or later, you're going to start smelling as well.

#2) If watching weather patterns (or bad Tour coverage) on the radar makes you an ass munch weatherman, maybe you should stop watching and go outside more.

#3) Kind of like how the movie really has no use for the attractiveness of Diane Lane, just throwing some booby pictures up cannot salvage a mediocre blog (sorry Peta).

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Blogging hurts

Cycling is an inherently dangerous activity.  Unless, of course, you elect to ride a recumbent tricycle - but that too comes with certain risks, like being on the receiving end of so much scorn and ridicule.  Alas, if you decide to perch your ass atop two skinny wheels and pedal around long enough, Newtonian physics will eventually make an example of you, or so I've been told by many a friend recently in various conciliatory tones.  And for whatever reason, whenever life wants to make an example out of me, it seems to be a requirement that it happen in front of as large a crowd as possible.  Such was the case last week as I was trying to ride to work.  Early Monday morning I was standing on the pedals darting across a busy intersection on my bike when fate played its fickle card and I suddenly ended up on my head and shoulder in the midst of rush-hour traffic.  My bike was inexplicably jerked out from underneath me, and both inertia and centripetal acceleration had their way with my body, and like an upside down catapult, I was slung onto the asphalt so fast that I didn't  realize what had happened.  Luckily, the woman driving the SUV behind me decided not to run over me, but rather got out of her car when she saw that I was not moving, and unceremoniously dragged me over to the sidewalk.  I looked up at her and said, "What happened?"  She replied, "You went over the handlebars - and we need to get you out of the intersection."  I tried to sit up by extending my arm to lift myself and felt my right shoulder crumple beneath me with an audible creak and a scraping sound I could feel more than hear.  I then became acutely aware that the dull numb feeling that had overtaken it was being replaced with a searing, hot pain.  I removed my helmet and noticed that it was dented on the outside, and cracked on the inside.  The woman in the business suit asked me if I needed for her to call 911 and must have interpreted my dry heaving as a "yes".  Just about that time, another SUV passed by the scene and honked its horn.  A pleasant looking older woman leaned out the window and yelled something to the effect of "It serves you right!"

Two hours, a trip to the ER in an ambulance on a backboard and some X-rays later, I had a diagnosis:
You see that space between those two bones?  That's not supposed to be there.

After reviewing my films, the ER doc came into my room and said "Good news - nothing is broken!"  Still flat on my back with a neck brace on, my teeth gnashed together with pain, I whispered, "I beg to differ."  He ignored me.  "We'll get you in a sling and you can get out of here!"  Hang on, I thought.  There is the small matter of me getting to wallow in my misery a bit longer, and also - shouldn't an orthopedist probably review these films?  "Do you want something for the pain?" he asked as he removed my neck brace and propped up the hospital bed, a little quicker than I would have preferred, which caused my shoulder to erupt in pain that flowed like molten lava from a crack in the earth across my chest and down my arm.  "Does the Pope shit in the woods?" I thought (I was still a little dazed).  But, in reality, all I could get out was a pathetic "Uh-huh."

I one-handed a text to a friend a little later in the day and told him of my official diagnosis; an AC separation.  He replied "Hey - you're just like Steve Tilford!"  Actually, I'm the very antithesis of Steve-effing-Tilford, I thought.  Yes, I too am old - but I'm slow, don't own a hippy van and cannot see myself racing my bike in three weeks.  Honestly, I'd be happy if I could just start wiping my ass again by then.  By the way, who knew that a task like that required so much skill and dexterity - but I promise you it does.  Go home tonight and try it with your non-dominant hand - I dare you. 

And just as the Tour de France is underway, and I should be at the pinnacle of cycling inspiration, I find myself riding the proverbial bench with a lot more comfort than my bike.  And there are lots of other things that hurt like hell as well.  Like blogging.  I cannot seem to position this arm in any possible way that affords any comfort - especially while trying to type.  And making my arms into little wings and trying to flap them back and forth would be completely out of the question:
Peter Sagan winning Sunday's Stage 1.  What the hell was this move, some kind of Slovakian chicken dance?  Cavendouche has got more than just losing sprint stages to worry about - I think someone is about to upstage him in the victory salute category as well.

I know what you are thinking and you are right.  It could have been a lot worse - and I am very lucky to be otherwise OK.  Cycling is inherently dangerous - and we take risks both riding and watching apparently, as I just read an incredibly well-reported story that a Tour de France spectator was hit by a publicity caravan car today, fracturing his leg:

"A spectator has been hit by a vehicle in the Tour de France publicity caravan, leaving him with a fractured leg...the spectator was taken to a hospital and has "one or several fractures."  The vehicle driver was not injured."

One or several fractures.  Could be just the one....or it could be a shit ton....or maybe it's just singular in nature....but then again, it could be a bunch.  Who the hell cares? I bet it hurts all the same.  Also important to note is that the driver is OK.  Isn't it amazing when a car runs over somebody how rarely the driver is hurt?  You'd think that in at least a handful of cases, if a 4000 pound car runs into a soft squishy human, that sometimes the car would suddenly ignite into flames and explode - right?  That certainly would have seemed fitting for the guy who hit Johnny Hoogerland in last year's Tour, anyway.

Before I sign off today to go take my afternoon dosage of legally prescribed narcotics and vodka chaser, I wanted to give a shout-out to a couple of COMO kids who raced well this past weekend in the Tour of Lawrence.  Big Tree Cycling's Edward Kim who won the Cat 4 circuit race on Saturday and Walt's Cycling's Lawrence Simonson who had a 13th place finish in Sunday's Pro/1/2 crit.  Good on ya' boys. 

Also - if the sweet lady who rescued me from the intersection last Monday morning, or any of the EMTs or hospital staff who took good care of me read this, thank you sincerely.  It's the first and only time I've ever had a shirt ripped (OK - maybe 'cut' with bandage scissors is more accurate) from my chest by a woman - and even though I wouldn't trade that part of the experience for the world, I hope I don't see any of you again anytime soon.