Thursday, August 30, 2012

And suddenly, nothing happened: Belief and Reverence.

So, today I'm pleased to announce that an interesting thing is happening with the "Lance Armstrong" phenomenon.  Last Thursday, LA opted to not go through arbitration and discuss the evidence against him, which was his right.  USADA subsequently banned Armstrong for life and initiated the process to strip him of all his titles.  I feared that this news would bring the end of Lance Armstrong, as we know him, in a great cacophonous demise.  But since the day the USADA declared their action, things have been relatively quiet.  No anti-Lance protests were noted at the mountain bike race he participated in, nor the marathon he ran the following day.  And not a single anti-Lance peep was uttered from the crowd at the World Cancer Congress in Montreal during his speech in which he actually said "My name is Lance Armstrong.  I am a cancer survivor.  I'm a father of five.  And yes, I won the Tour de France seven times."

I have to be honest. I am amazed he actually said, "My name is Lance Armstrong!"  His humility is endearing, but really - how many people there didn't know who he was!  So fucking talent.

In addition, two articles from well-known sports writers have been published this week that are receiving a lot of attention which further demonstrates that Lance isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

Titled "I Still Believe in Lance Armstrong" by Buzz Bissinger, author of Friday Night Lights.
The headline of the article reads "To hell with the doping charges.  Lance Armstrong performed miracles.  Stop tearing down our idols.  Why I still believe."
The second article that caught my eye was authored by ESPN writer Rick Reilly and is titled "Lance is still worth revering."  In his article, Reilly says, "I'm wearing something yellow Friday for Lance Armstrong.....If he cheated in a sport where cheating is as common as eating, then I'm wearing yellow to thank him for everything he's done since he cheated."
You see, this is the beauty of Lance not arbitrating with the USADA.  If he had elected to go forth with a court hearing, he would have been forced to take on USADA all alone (not including the 12 or so ex-Bush administration lawyers he was paying, that is).  But now that he has declined the right to arbitrate, everyone else in America can arbitrate for him...not in an arbitration hearing - but in the court of public opinion - where it really matters!  And thankfully, we are winning!  I just need to decide what I can wear tomorrow that is yellow and that everyone can see easily!  I know just the thing....thank God it is in that perfect hue of Livestrong-Nike Yellow:
However, it is interesting to note from the aforementioned articles that those that support Lance are conceding that he may actually have cheated.  But they don't care.  And further, neither should you.  Why?  Because of cancer, of course.  What does cancer have to do with cheating, you ask?  Well if you have to ask - then you obviously just don't get it.
But hold on a tic - not all of Armstrong's supporters think he dabbled in the juice.  Some actually think there were dark forces, secretly conspiring against Armstrong which ultimately forced him into his current situation.  Here's cycling commentator Phil Liggett accusing US Federal Investigators of trying to pay people to lie about Lance Armstrong, thus fabricating a case against him in order to make themselves appear more legitimate (you can fast forward to minute 12:31 to hear the accusation).

And here's a transcription of the juicy bit if you find Liggett's voice akin to someone sticking a dart in you right ear....really deep....then wiggling it around....especially when he says shit like "argy-bargy." (Don't get me wrong - we all love him and want to sit on his lap and listen to him tell us bed time stories with his cute accent.)

"Again I come back, why is USADA, which is really a nefarious locals drugs agency in the United States, so intent?
Now I can tell you one thing. And I could prove it in SA but I, I went to, I met a chap who worked with Armstrong, err, on Saturday in Boulder Colorado. And he told me that he had a visit, two years ago, err to tell, and the question was, they were agents from a particular agency and, er, they said “will you tell us that Lance Armstrong took EPO? And we could assure that you will never want for money again“. That was his quote on Thursday and he told them in words I can’t put on radio what to do with that and they said “I think we’re talking to the wrong man” and they walked away."
Wow - these are serious accusations!  I hope his source recorded this alleged conversation - because we can't be expected to just believe this because he said he heard it!  Witness testimony is worthless in court from what I hear. 
Anyway, I know what you are thinking.  You are thinking, "Hang on one minute, there PooBah - no way I'm going to let you accuse Phil of making shit up to unilaterally support Lance because of some personal bias!"  Well, don't you worry - I never would.  Why, everyone loves Phil!  He has become the veritable voice of cycling!  We trust him like a gentle grandfather that smells of BenGay and Scotch, pays you a quarter to rub his feet and then asks you to pull his finger.  No way Phil could be so biased and non-objective on this topic - right?  After all, he has always been a stalwart anti-doping advocate.  He regularly vilifies any cyclist being found guilty of doping!  And he always knows how to remain objective...I mean........oh wait, what's this....
Ignore this.  I'm sure this is a photo of Phil admonishing Lance for something and masking it with a smile and a slap on the back for the cameras.  Phil is a bulldog! He's unflappable on the issue of doping - there is no way he could be swayed or persuaded to think Lance wasn't actually.....wait - hang on - what's this?
Oh shit.  Is that Phil sipping on a Starbuck's latte on Lance's personal private jet?  Well, so what if it is?  All these naysayers are already trying to destroy an American Hero that works miracles. There is no way I'm going to let them take down Phil effing Liggett with them!
If Lance is discredited as a great cyclist and a humanitarian, America would never survive!  Our only heroes in this country are self-absorbed, overpaid athletes!  And hardly any of them are cyclists.  Without Lance, no one may ever find the inspiration to ride a bike in the US again!  People with cancer would lose the will to fight!  Wrists around the globe would get cold in the absence of skinny bands of silicone.  Nike would lose the opportunity to use a disease to personally profit.  So won't you join me in wearing yellow tomorrow?  If you don't want to do it for Lance, then at least do it for Nike.  Do it for those little kids in Cambodia sewing the Livestrong tags on your new $200 sneakers.
"Smell that shoe.  Each one comes with an insole with your choice of a scent mixture already impregnated into it that overcomes your foot odor.  Options include 'strawberry-avarice' and 'lilac-anger'.....but my favorite is 'licorice-money."

Monday, August 27, 2012

Learning from the King: racing and jorting

Oh Google Translate, how I adore you.  You are like the Mad Libs of the 21st century...especially when you talk about cycling:

From the Danish site comes this story of Lance Armstrong's return to bike racing this past weekend - a mountain bike race in Aspen...translated, for our benefit, by Google:

Lance Armstrong got beaten up in Colorado
Lance Armstrong started his career as a pure amateur athlete in the weekend with a defeat. He lost to a 16-year-old boy in a mountain bike in Colorado.
While many of the dethroned Tour de France king's old teammates drove U.S. Pro Challenge, also in Colorado, then asked Armstrong to Aspen Snowmass-Power of the Tour is not far away, where he placed second Square and got laesterlige lost to 16-year-old Keegan Swirbul who came in goal 5 minutes before Armstrong.
"Had fun by running Aspen Snowmass-Power of the Tour this morning. Got beaten by the guy who is young enough to be my son.  Keegan Swirbul - remember the name," tweeted Armstrong on Sunday afternoon.  And despite his earlier assurances that he would no longer comment on his case with USADA, he could not help.
"There is no one should feel sorry for me.  I have five great children and a wonderful boyfriend.  My cancer fund has not been damaged by this case.  In fact, increased donations to the Lance Armstrong Foundation to the 25-double the current level by the end of Thursday night.  I can assure everyone that I have a lot to look forward to.  I actually have not felt so relaxed the last ten years, as I do now," said Armstrong after the race according to Sportwereld.
He is apparently not very concerned at the prospect that his new career as a professional triathlete is over almost before it had begun.
"It's not about results. I play sports to stay in shape. I enjoy the beautiful landscape and a hard route as here in Aspen.  Some might say that it's ridiculous to spend a day off to suffer in this way on a bike.  But I've enjoyed it.  And I think it's perfectly fine that I'm a young guy who could in reality be my son.  He's fucking talent."
It's refreshing to hear that despite being beaten up in Colorado, Lance is still relaxed, has come out of the closet and is also somehow his own son.  Thank you Google translate.  This is the best bit of Lance reporting I've read in a while. 
But no matter how relaxed and out-of-the closet LA might think he is - it just simply cannot compare to this guy spotted at the US Pro Challenge yesterday by Velo Magazine editor Neal Rogers:
The Lion King - Mario Cipollini, replete with open shirt, aviators and cargo pants.  Armstrong could learn a thing or two about how to enjoy retirement from this guy.  And while chilling at the Pro Challenge, Cipo even made it his mission to try to reintroduce what has become a quagmire in men's fashion, the ever-tricky jean-shorts, or 'jorts' as they are now called:
Jorts have come and gone in men's summer fashion - but now that Cipo has stamped his oily seal of approval on them, it's only a matter of time before cycling Freds across the country begin to sport them while watching the local crit series and Pearl Izumi attempts to sew a 7 panel chamois into a pair.  Witness; the mere presence of Cipo in jorts forces two disembodied hands to appear out of nowhere and reach into a wallet to give Cipo money - for apparently no other reason that to get to stand in his presence!  
Come to think of it, Cipo might have learned that trick from Lance.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Lance Armstrong Grapevine actually MORE than's better to shut up and listen to what others have to say and think.  I get tired of my own mouth all too frequently which is the main explanation of why I take a hiatus from this blog so frequently.  Anyway - today I thought it would be smarter to tell you what other people have been saying over the past 12 hours since the Armstrong bomb dropped rather than trying to put my own spin on it.  Check back throughout the day if you feel so inclined, as I will be updating this post as time allows.
Lance Armstrong: "There comes a point in every man's life when he has to say, 'Enough is enough.' For me, that time is now." link

Travis Tygart: (USADA CEO) "Yes...the charges were not contested, so what automatically goes into place will be a lifetime ban from any participation from any sport which recognises the WADA code and disqualification from all results including any Tour de France victories, any other victories and placings beginning August 1st 1998 to the present." link

Sal Ruibal (Sports Reporter and Mountain Bike Hall of Fame Inductee 2007): "One doesn't dominate one of the hardest sports in the world for so long with a normal ego.  Or with normal blood values...Do we expect too much from our heroes?  Maybe, but that's why we have heroes.  And that's why it hurts when they let us down.  I hope Lance is able to find a new path with the help of his family and friends. Truth and reconciliation, in that order.  For yourself, not us." link

Dave Towle (US Cycling Announcer): "I'm pretty sure the fact that I support @lancearmstrong comes as no surprise.  He remains the G.O.A.T. in my eyes. #livestrong." link

Jan Ulrich (former pro cyclist, 2nd place finisher (x3) in the Tour de France, results from 2005-2007 removed by CAS for doping): "I've ended my career and I have always said that I'm proud of my second places.  It doesn't really bother me that much." link

Race Radio (Cycling commentator and blogger).  "Congratulations to @weinr (Dave Wein) on winning the 2009 Leasdville 100! Not all of Wonderboy's tainted "victories" go to dopers." link

Alberto Contador (pro cyclist, former LA team mate). "I am not really on top of the case.  I do not know if the case is closed or what.  All I know is that Lance was like a fortress, intelligent and with a strong head."  link

Frankie Andreu (former pro cyclist and LA team mate): "Lance fights everything so I'm surprised he chose not to fight the charges. His press release sounds like a broken record repeating the same lines we have already heard hundreds of times from him. USADA has shown some true grit by not backing down from a popular and wealthy athlete - showing that clean sport is a right for every athlete. If Lance really wants to help his foundation and help people with cancer, he should admit to the past, apologize and move forward with a clear conscience." link

David Walsh (cycling columnist and author of From Lance to Landis; LA Confidential). "...the investigation should really be much deeper than Lance Armstrong. Who are the people who protected him? Are they still in cycling, are they still controlling cycling? Even the most neutral observer would say that cycling has been incredibly badly served by its leadership.” link

Bernard Hinault (former pro cyclist, winner TdF '78,'79','81,'82,'85):  "I couldn't give a damn.  It's his problem, not mine.  This is a problem that should have been sorted out 10 or 15 years ago but which never was." link

Johan Bruyneel (former pro cyclist and LA director, author of "We might as well win"): "Today I am disappointed for Lance and for cycling in general, that things have reached such a point that Lance has had enough and no longer wants to challenge the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) campaign against him.  Lance has never withdrawn from a fair fight in his life so his decision today underlines what an unjust process this has been.  I hope that it will soon be determined that the case that USADA initiated against me should never have gotten as far as it has." link
Youngatart1 (commenter on the Livestrong blog): "Lance is a HERO. His achievements are remarkable and deserve a Lot more Respect than he has been getting lately! The bureaucratic legalese of USADA is disgusting, and I am very ashamed to have Any of my tax dollars going to support those jealous jerks. Stay Strong Lance!! I have made another donation today to Livestrong from my limited income in support of him. " link

Mary Remuzzi (Nike spokeswoman): "Lance has stated his innocence and has been unwavering on this position. Nike plans to continue to support Lance and the Lance Armstrong Foundation, a foundation that Lance created to serve cancer survivors." link

USADA official ruling and statement: "In addition to the lifetime ban, Mr. Armstrong will be disqualified from any and all competitive results obtained on and subsequent to August 1, 1998, including forfeiture of any medals, titles, winnings, finishes, points and prizes." link

Kathy LeMond (wife of Greg LeMond, former pro cyclist and TdF winner (X3): "Finally". link

Travis Tygart (USADA): "....this is the most witnesses we've ever had in any case come forward." link
Nike (Inside the lines; The Nike Code of Ethics): "Compliance with laws and fair dealing:  Employees must comply with all applicable laws, rules and regulations.  Employees are expected to deal competitively and fairly with others and may not use deception, misrepresentation, or abuse of confidential information to obtain unfair advantage over competitors, suppliers or customers." link

Jim Ochowicz (long time LA supporter and friend, BMC coach): He has done so much for our sport over the years and I am sad at what has transpired.  I think he has earned every victory he's had." link

Floyd Landis (former pro cyclist and former team mate): "I really don't know what the solution is for the sport of cycling.  That's not my issue anymore." link

Filippo Simeoni (former pro cyclist and LA rival): "It leaves me a bit perplexed, because someone like him, with all the fame and popularity and millions of dallors he has, should fight to the end if he's innocent.  But I guess he realized it was a useless fight and the evidence USADA had was too great." link

Lance Armstrong: "Thanks to all the @LIVESTRONG supporters worldwide.  Donations were up 25X over yesterdays.  Thank you thank you thank you!"  link

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Go flag yourself

Wow - what a stage in yesterday's USA Pro Challenge To Make A Race in Colorado That Has No Mention of the Word Colorado in the Title!  If you were like me, you were watching the race on your work computer in a tiny window covered up by lots of bigger windows opened up to porn websites so that everyone else in the office would think everything was status quo.  But I almost gave myself away toward the end of the stage when I started yelling at the computer  - which I almost never do when I'm watching porn....other than that one time.  Anyway - what a nail biter...
Tommy D, barely holding off the chase group for the win!
I know I wasn't alone in my excitement either when I saw what MO State Crit Champ Austin Vinton Twatted in this Tweet:

To which I responded:

Well, this must have hacked Mr. Vinton off, because he sent me an email challenging me to a race.  And, I'm happy to announce I took Austin up on his challenge of going mono a mono, (or colon a colon as the case may be) - and after a lengthy discussion between his agent and my agent to get the details sorted out - a gastrointestinal match sprint commenced last evening.  Both he and I swallowed our Garmin 500s precisely at 6:00 PM. Upon retrieving them this morning (mine after three espressos and a bear claw), we uploaded the data to Strava.  Here's Austin's mapped segment:
GI transit time: 11 hours, 32 minutes
And my data:
GI transit time: 13 hours, 22 minutes
On first glance, it would appear as though Austin beat me.  However, I have it on good authority that he chased his Garmin 500 with two tablets of Ex-Lax and a Metamucil shake.  Therefore I issued an official protest and had his entry 'flagged' - which means that I have actually claimed the KOM crown (KOM = King of Movements).
Never heard of a flagged Strava entry?  Well neither had I until recently when my trusty sidekick, Pickle 2, did a little experiment on Easley hill.  One sunny Saturday morning, Pickle rode up the hill with his Garmin....only it was sitting in the passenger seat of his car.  He uploaded the data as though he had made the ascent on his bike and posted the data to Strava.  Not surprisingly, he was instantly awarded the KOM for ascending the 0.8 mile Easley hill at 19.2 m/h.
That Pickle can flat out MOVE!
Approximately 6 minutes after Pickle posted his KOM-worthy ascent of the big hill, he got a response from someone, whose name I've changed to "Mr. Rogers" for the sake of anonymity.
Was this Easley climb on a bike?
When Pickle didn't respond, the ride was 'flagged' and the KOM status was rightly returned to Mr. Rogers.  By the speed of Mr. Roger's response, and his sheer dominance in KOM crowns around COMO, I wonder if he keeps constant surveillance of Strava, maintaining each of his KOM segments open on his desktop computer and mobile devices at all times. Once an alert pops up on his smart phone that one of his KOMs has been bested, he assesses the data, and dashes over to a fire pole that descends into his garage where his bike lies waiting, tires inflated, chain lubed, skinsuit draped over top tube, bottles full of a 50:50 mix of Red Bull and Cytomax, ready to go at a moment's notice like the Batmobile, eager to reclaim his glory. 
The problem with our experiment is that Pickle went up the damn hill too damn fast resulting in him getting called out by Mr. Rogers and subsequently flagged.  But in light of the recent lawsuit surrounding Strava, I'm a little worried this was a reckless stunt to begin with.  What if Pickle's KOM didn't get flagged, and it inspired a whole host of COMO's Strava-teers to go out there and try to best it, and someone stroked out while climbing that stinking hill trying to beat a time that was actually set by Pickle's Bugatti (yes, Pickle drives a Bugatti - I really need to figure out how much we are paying him).
At any rate, now that I've flagged Mr. Vinton for inappropriate use of cathartics - I think my GI King of bowel Movements crown will remain safely on my own colon, thank you very much.  And rather than laying down the gauntlet, I will lay down the adult diaper to any COMO Strava-naut that thinks they can best it.  I may not ride a bike up a hill very fast, but I've always taken the advice of "shit or get off the pot" to heart and know how to do just that.
Speaking of flagging results, I still have no idea how Christian VandeVelde took the yellow jersey from Tejay VanGarderen yesterday when they finished in the same group.  To add confusion, BMC had previously filed a protest over the Crested Butte stage saying Tejay had gapped VandeVelde coming into the mountain finish on Tuesday suggesting that he should actually have a couple of seconds on the Garmin rider.  One would think the race officials could have reviewed the televised finish (or alternatively just looked at this photo).....
and made an immediate ruling on it, but they said they wouldn't make a decision until today - two days later?  And then BMC's director Michael Sayers decided to lash out at Team RadioShack for not doing any work in helping bring back Danielson yesterday and made the quote regarding the possum-playing RadioShack squad, "I think they forgot that the women's race is later in the week." Not a cool thing to say from the BMC leader as firstly, his team leader's wife, Jessica VanGarderen, is the race organizer for the women's race, the Blue Ribbon Alpine Challenge.  And secondly, the women's race was actually run yesterday and had to be shortened to a single day's criterium versus the previous 3-day event last year because of an absolute lack of funds.  Sayers can rip on the Shack all he wants, but slighting the women's race like that was pretty low...I think his ass needs to be flagged for that comment....

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Time management

The recent op-ed penned by Jonathan Vaughters in the New York Times regarding his doping and his suggestions for changing the sport has become a gift that just keeps on giving.  Shortly after it was published, Kansas cyclist, Steve Tilford decided to issue a response, lyrically titled, "Your Timing Stinks Jonathan."  (To answer your question, no, I didn't forget a comma in front of the word "Jonathan."  Tilford did.)  He sums up his opinion on the article with this statement:

"My take on the article is that it is disingenuous, feeding the general readership, an ignorant audience on this subject, misinformation. I could easily rip the thing apart on multiple levels.  But, that would be a waste of my time."

So, Steve Tilford suggests that if you are amongst the general readership of the New York Times and are not a pro-racer, you are an "ignorant audience."  Check.  Also - he says any further analysis of the piece would be a waste of his time.  Remember that.

Well, somehow Tilford miraculously finds some time to come back to the subject in another post the very next day, eloquently titled, "Good Guys don't always do the Right Thing."  Here he backs off a little bit in response to some comments he recieved and concedes that Vaughters is a "super nice guy."  But "Just because I think that he has ulterior motives for many of his actions doesn't mean I wouldn't like him."

I wouldn't have thought Tilford had the mental facilities to issue a back-handed compliment, but he does so here with surprising skill.  I bet Vaughters breathed a huge sigh of relief knowing that Steve Tilford might like him.  I wonder if JV will send him a reply asking him to circle "yes" or "no."

Reading Tilford's blog is like reading a letter from your Uncle Bubba in Hicktown, Mississippi.....the uncle that flunked out of an air conditioning repair internship, and now runs a worm farm.  Here are some other "Tilford Gems" from his second post:

"So now he [JV] gets a 2nd chance.  For me, he's not doing so well with it so far, in my opinion."

"His [JV] tactics and methodology isn't so obvious to me right now."

If I read sentences like this out loud, somewhere, my 4th grade teacher, Ms. Niarchos, shudders with a cold chill and senses that there has been a disturbance in the grammar force.

Well, Tilford's spewing vitriol finally caught the eye of Vaughters himself who commented on his blog which only inspires Tilford's inner idiot to begin spasming.  In response to the very fact Vaughters responded, Tilford says:

"I have no idea how you have enough time to keep up with all this electronically.  Maybe you've just blocked off this whole week to keep it all going in the right direction?  To me, it seems like you might have to start again on a "program" to have enough energy to deal with it all."

I love the way Tilford transitions from just being a harmless dumb-ass here to really getting nasty in suggesting JV should start doping again.

Another website, Twisted Spoke, then jumps into the fray and the debate between Vaughters and Tilford continues in the comment section there, where Tilford first tries to misquote Vaughters and then chooses his next targets: Trent Lowe and Giro d'Italia winner Ryder Hesjdal:

"How about Trent Lowe.  For that matter, Ryder.  Why would he [JV] another hire (sic) a rider off a team that was run by Johan Bruyneel when he personally experienced what Johan expected from his riders.  If you're attempting to run a clean program, why?"

And Tilford still isn't done with it.  He goes back to his own blog and writes this:

"First and foremost I can’t believe how much time Jonathan has spent on the Internet the past week. I have no personal knowledge if this is normal for him, but he seems to be posting anywhere and everywhere that his “mission statement” has been critiqued. It seems unfathomable that he has enough hours in the day to be doing this."

Sweet fancy Moses, if that isn't the pot calling the kettle black, my name doesn't rhyme with DOO-DAH!  (But I do give him credit for using the 50 cent word 'unfathomable' - which he even spelled correctly). 

All I can say is thank goodness we have Steve Tilford magnanimously policing the peloton and spending his valuable (and clearly very limited time) calling out charlatans like Jonathan Vaughters - and Ryder Hesjdal for that matter.  (I always suspected that he was dirty....he's just so....what's the word.....Canadian).  I wonder if all of this ranting has made Tilford thirsty....because if so, might I suggest....

Monday, August 20, 2012

Monkeys and blow

It sucks playing second fiddle.  I wouldn't actually know that as a fact, because the fiddle I'm typically playing is so far down the line it's not even in the orchestra pit, but rather out in the parking lot somewhere.  But as a general rule, playing second fiddle generally blows, which is why so many sayings are dedicated to the position.  "Always the bridesmaid, never the bride," or "second place is the first loser."  Even in the diarrhea song, 'second' gets so much disrespect that there is no reference made to what specific form of defecation you will achieve as you round second base.  If you're coming into first, your pants are about to burst, naturally. And if you are contemplating stretching your double into a triple and heading for third, you are going to lay a turd. And of course if you are sliding into home, your pants are full of foam.  But NOTHING if you are coming into second!  It is the forgotten position.

This year, one of two men have dominated the majority of sprint finishes in pro-cycling and they both have one, if not many, nicknames.  Mark Cavendish cleaned up at the Tour de France as well as the World Championships and is, of course, referred to as the "Manx Missile" (although we here at COMO CYCO like to refer to him as "Cavendouche."  And Peter Sagan, who dominated the Tour of California and won the green jersey in the Tour has since been called the "Tourminator" or the "Velvet Samurai."

And whilst The Samurai and the Manx Missile have been competing with one another over whose celebratory sprint pose is most douchetastic, American sprinter Tyler Farrar (it's pronounced like FAIR-rah, I'm told)

has usually been simultaneously mopping the pavement with his body in race after agonizing race this year. Well today, Farrar finally has pulled a big ol' salami out of his chamois in the USA Pro Challenge Tour of blah blah the form of a sprint win!  And truth be told, let's give the kid some props, because he did it by hanging with the winning field and dragging his ass up a long ascent into Telluride and over a couple stinger passes when many of the other sprinters decided to catch a ride in the sag wagon instead...I don't want to call anyone out...but....oh shit - hang on...a sneeze is coming on....ahh..ahhh....ahhhh-CHICCHI! 

Hell, even Farrar's teammate Dave Zabriskie suffered today, barfing away all of his vegan lunch and most of his vegan breakfast as he tried to stay with the breakaway group.  (He's a vegan, if you've not heard).  So can we finally give Farrar a nickname?  Oh wait - Christian VandeVelde just did.

"The Ginger Ninja gets the monkey off his back in the mountains. So happy for him."

Yeah - I think that nickname should stick nicely.  And this, apparently, is what you look like when you are a Ginger Ninja and you get a monkey off your back.
Begone, monkey!

And in other, much less interesting news, Lance Armstrong apparently has gotten himself some "fresh blow...."
And I thought he was just being accused for using EPO, steroids and testosterone....

Judge Sparks has sided with USADA and dismissed Armstrong's case against the anti-doping agency.  Looks like he's got until August 23rd now to decide whether he's going to accept USADA's sanctions or try to fight them through arbitration.  As I Googled this story, I noticed that many of the various news outlets have chosen to use the pursed-lipped, salmon-mouth photo of Armstrong seen above as visual representation of the story in an attempt to convey..... I actually have no idea what they are trying to convey, as he was neither photographed nor interviewed at all in response to this news story.  I guess the news agencies just subjectively guess what he may be feeling upon hearing this and then go through their files in search of a photo that conveys those emotions.....and today, that would be this....

Actually, now that I think about it, maybe this is what it looks like when a monkey jumps on your back...with some fresh blow.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Inventing shit and saving the world.

A reader sent me the following email this morning:

Dear PooBah,

I've got a kick-ass Swedish video that you HAVE to see.  It's from Sweden.
Check it out and let me know what you think.


I joke.  Actually, I wish that was the video he sent me.  The actual video Jorgen sent me was the following, entitled "The Invisible Bicycle Helmet."

Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention.  Anna Haupt and Terese Alstin have created an invention that....well, only its mother (or mothers in this case) could truly love.  In a nut shell, these women astutely sensed the need to completely redesign the bicycle helmet because:

1) "Bicycle helmets have always looked the same"
2) "It would be revolutionary"
3) They're "going to save the world"
4) To "become millionaires" and lastly
5) To try to achieve more comfort...

Regarding this last point, one of the creators explains,
"I always thought bike helmets were extremely uncomfortable."

...despite being apparently unfazed by the discomfort of wearing these:

Continues Anna, or maybe its Terese (I don't know which is which)....regarding conventional bike helmets...

"They're so bulky, like a hard mushroom on your head."

Was it just me - or did anyone else pick up on some awkward silence after Terese (or Anna) said, "like a hard mushroom on your head."  Moving on....

The women thus set out on a 7 year, 10 million dollar journey to design the world's first 'Invisible Helmet'.  According to the video they first "studied bicycle accidents and compared them to normal biking."  (For me, biking accidents are synonymous with normal biking - but that's why I'm nursing a fucked up shoulder incurred from just trying to pedal to work one morning.  I digress.) 

The inventors justify their mission:
"Cars are so yesterday. Bikes are the future."

As you can see, the girls are riding their bikes amongst a sea of cars (which shall henceforth be called "yesterday-mobiles" ) apparently helmetless.  Or ARE they?  Clever girls...

They get to work on their project in one of those refurbished warehouses with open-air office settings and whiteboards where everyone gets to interact and share ideas freely, probably pausing frequently to get in Nerf gun fights with their bosses and then have breakout sessions...

The women are wisely retrospective, and take time to marvel at what they've been able to achieve despite the fact they have breasts and ovaries.
"People wonder how girls could invent anything this technical."

Wow.  Ladies, I was wondering exactly the same thing!  Considering the historically poor math skills on standardized tests, tendencies to cry easily and the inability to safely commute to work one week of every month for fear of being mauled by bears attracted to your menstrual blood, it's a wonder the project has only taken seven years to complete!  But as we are carefully informed, the key ingredient to an orderly workplace is "getting a rooster," which must be Swedish slang for "hiring a female secretary to wear short skirts, make coffee and take memos."

"Get a rooster, and there will be order!"

So, so true.  The last thing anyone wants is a bunch of cocks running around the coop, smacking their hard mushrooms on people's heads.

At this point, it is finally time for the payoff.  Ladies, show us your Invisible Helmets...

Woah, whoa - hang on there sister!  Sure, I don't see a helmet on your head, but what's with the stiff shirtless turtleneck you are zipping on there?  It looks like someone ripped the collar off of a puffy ski-coat.  I don't get how that's going to....

Oh I get it now!  It's like a Go-Go-Gadget inflatable raft....only for you head!

I know that some of you out there may be scoffing at this idea because a) it's not invisible, b) wearing a 5 pound collar made of nylon fabric, with accelerometer and sodium azide/postassium nitrate canisters around your neck looks potentially more uncomfortable than a 250 gram styrofoam lid, c) turtlenecks are so.....yesterday (kind of like cars) d) it was designed by feeble-minded girls.  But I disagree and have already ordered a couple.  Sure, I'm a little worried about premature inflation when I eat shit going over the first set of barriers racing cross this season - but after that, my noggin is going to be living the sweet life for the rest of the race, tucked away safely in its own personal blimp-crib, while yours is going to look like a giant, swollen, uncomfortable, hard mushroom.

And as much as I am going to love using this little gem, I have to warn these women that this isn't the first time someone has tried to re-invent an everyday necessity so that it wouldn't have to be there to uncomfortably nag at you when you didn't want it to, but rather could be summoned with a simple puff of air should the "need" arise...

Thus, I've engaged in my own entrepreneurial spirit and have taken the liberty of combining the two ideas.  Now you can kill two birds with one stone and have your inflatable companion ride your bike with you while simultaneously protecting your head!

And it didn't even cost me 10 million dollars.  

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Racing bikes: a beautiful cul-de-sac.

As most of you have already heard, or read, last Sunday, an op-ed piece ran in the New York Times titled "How to Get Doping Out of Sports" penned by Garmin-Sharp team director Jonathan Vaughters in which he admits to doping during his career as a professional bike racer.  If you've not read it, you can find it here

For any of you that follow professional racing, this was not really news.  Vaughters has been hinting about using performance enhancing drugs ever since forming the early Slipstream team, which has since evolved into the current Garmin-Sharp-Barracuda squad.  In fact, the subject of his hints of a doping past were, in many ways, the inspiration for wanting to form a 100% clean team.  That said, he never came out and fully admitted to doping before, and certainly never revealed any details about the who, what, why and where of it all.
In his op-ed in the Times, he does fully admit to doping, but still does not reveal the who, what, why and where of it all.  At first, the response to his article from bloggers and writers was universal praise and gratitude.  Individuals on Twitter, and bike forums thanked Vaughters and even claimed to be moved to tears by his tale of growing from a small boy with a weird alarm clock, to a young adult who never got to go to Homecoming or the Prom because of his dogged pursuit of a dream to race in Europe which was ultimately realized, only to have his dream crushed by the pressure to dope in a widely corrupt sport.  The story worked in generating a lot of sympathy from a lot of observers.

But since the initial positive response to his admission, there has been a slowly building backlash not directly against Vaughters himself, or his admission necessarily, but rather to how and why he chose to air this confession.  As most know, the USADA is on the cusp of getting jurisdiction over the Lance Armstrong case and moving forward with arbitrating his alleged doping, and Vaughters is widely thought to have provided witness testimony of doping practices while on the US Postal team.  Neil Browne, cycling analyst and writer, suggests that Vaughters authored his recent piece with motivation not purely by what would benefit the sport, but what would benefit him personally, and is thus a "Jedi Master of Spin." 

Not coincidentally, JV has offered up his admission in advance of the USADA potentially releasing the names of all the eye-witnesses and their accounts, in a well-calculated preemptive move which allows him to control the story and appear more a victim than perpetrator.  Appreciative of the honesty, yes, but Browne suggests that it may all be too little, too late to actually benefit the sport with any significance.

Cyclist and blogger Seth Davidson (aka Wankmeister) has issued a far more caustic appraisal of Vaughters' piece...

"Too bad he [JV] doesn't read my blog......He could have....saved himself some embarassment.  You know, the embarassment from saying totally ridiculous shit that makes him look like a liar and a hypocrite, and that makes us look like tools for taking the time to read it."

Davidson bullets JV's thoughs on why doping is bad in his post and then contradicts each and every one of them.  Of particular interest was his response to JV point #3: "Doping forces young athletes to abandon their sport if they choose not to dope." To which Davidson replies:
"Wait a minute....that's a negative?  Trading in your stinky bibs for an Armani and a cubicle at Goldman-Sachs?  Sign me up! Cycling is a cul-de-sac, and the only people in it are broken, or deluded, or drug-addled, or all of the above.  The more young athletes who give up this ignoble pursuit as a profession and go get real jobs, the better.  You can bicycle chase on the weekend."

All of this from a guy who has raced.....a lot. 

Or try this one:

JV point #4: "Riders who refused to dope, and walked away, were punished for following their moral compass."

Davidson: ".....The whole point behind morality is to do what's right, regardless of the consequences.  In fact, it is only by taking the punishment of an unjust system that morality makes sense,  You're never punished for taking a moral stand, you're rewarded for it because, asshole, morality is its own reward.  Which is the main reason it's so unpopular."

Why do I bother referencing Neil Browne and Seth Davidson on this topic?  Because they are smart and savvy and completely non-saccharine.  Are they jaded?  You bet.  But I don't think I am alone in saying I'm weary of every commentator and blogger (present company included) trying to turn the story of some cyclist into a fairy tale, replete with humble beginnings, aspirations of grandeur, an arduous journey, a climactic challenge, a fall from greatness and a chance at redemption and then victimizing anyone that would challenge this pursuit.  None of us actually live like that - why should we press-fit the lives of professional cyclists into that mold?  That everyone thinks they deserve some kind of experience like this is probably the reason why those who dope do not have to face the reality that a very, very few of us will ever be considered truly exceptional at anything....least of all pedalling a bike around.

All of that said, I do think Jonathan Vaughters is good for the sport, currently.  He manages a respectful and intelligent team of gifted and seemingly conscientious athletes.  Yes, he doped, and if I am speculating correctly, it will soon become public knowledge that he told some investigators that Lance Armstrong doped too.  But if that does come to pass; if he is listed as an eyewitness and a snitch to Armstrong and Bruyneel's drug program, how is it that he comes off smelling like a rose, when people like Floyd Landis, and Frankie and Betsy Andreu lost so much in testifying the very same thing not that long ago.

I often ask myself, what would have happened when Floyd came clean and began suffering the backlash, if Vaughters, and Zabriskie, and Hincapie, and Leipheimer and Hamilton all came forward and said, "Hang on - we all did it.  We all saw it.  Floyd's not alone.....The sport is fucked right to the core."  Maybe, just maybe, that kind of altruistic maturity to prevent a single person from having to dangle alone at the end of the noose could have changed the sport and have prevented the past 4 years of accusations, threats, investigations and insinuations.  But that's just not the way the race is run.  After all, if you are one of the lucky few to get into the break, you form allegiances quickly and then use everyone with you to stay away until you get the chance to screw them all and go for the glory on your own. 

In his post, Seth Davidson says that cycling is not a beautiful sport in one of his responses to a commentor named Matt, and lists quite a few reasons to justify his answer that make, on the surface, a pretty convincing argument that I couldn't even begin to contradict as eloquently as he lays out.  But maybe that's the point.  Cycling is filled with pain and anguish and if you are racing - 95% of the time, full of wasted effort.  There are always a million reasons to quit and walk away from it (whether you are riding or watching)..and yet we come back to it.  If that's not beautiful, I don't know what is.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Speed....with style.

The Olympics are over.  And I'm very, very OK with that.  Watching the Olympics is kind of like eating Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.  When you start eating it, it tastes so good that you are pretty sure you could easily ingest your own body weight in the stuff, but somewhere into the second box, you're thinking you should have probably stopped at one.  Similarly, when the Olympics started, I wanted to see it all.  This is the only explanation I have for watching people swim back and forth in a pool 4 different ways night after night.  But after a couple weeks of watching different swimming strokes, the whole thing started to strike me as a little ridiculous, because at some point I came to the realization that swimming is not necessarily about being fast.  I mean, shouldn't swimming be like running, or cycling in which the athletes perform whichever stroke gets them from point A to point B the fastest?  Why do the backstroke for 200 meters when the freestyle will get you there quicker?  It would be like repeating the 100 meter dash only making all the runners run backwards, or better yet, on all fours.  In this way, by the end of week one, any non-freestyle swimming competition started to remind me of the Ministry of Silly Walks...


Then I remembered that swimming already has its own version of the ministry of silly walks....which is actually the ministry of silly walks on acid.

But before any swimmers start sending me hate mail - let me say, I think I get it.  It's less about being fast and more about being fast in different ways.  And speaking of which, Saturday was the Missouri State Time Trial Championship, and I was pleasantly surprised to see that being fast wasn't nearly as important as being fast with style.....I'm talking about anyone who, say, made their own rear disc wheel out of some packing tape.
Quite possibly the coolest TT rig to ever have graced the Missouri State TT championships (photo courtesy Roger Hinson).

You can have your $2100 Zipp Sub 9 tubular carbon disc wheel and stick it in your chamois, I say.  The real recipe for speed with style is:  One 32-spoke wheel slathered with one-half roll of some Scotch Super Strength ($2.99 a roll), mix with an old-school chocolaty Masi, add one Austin Vinton lightly marinated in Gatorade, bake for 53 minutes, 44.6 seconds and out pops either the fifth fastest man of the day or the only UPS Store clerk you know with shaved legs and funny tan lines.  And whereas Austin (Mercy Cycling) might tell you he could have done better in the TT, it would have been hard for him to have improved his performance in the Missouri State Criterium championship the next day (which he won) besting among some other seriously talented cyclists, pro and mentor Brad Huff of Jelly Belly.
(Photo courtesy of Flannery Allison)

Another year, and another incredibly talented cyclist is showered with the pinnacle of achievements.  Meanwhile, we, the less-talented cycling horde of COMO are showered with the detritus of every day cycling life.  Case in point: a regular contributor to the blog has sent me the following photo of what was found by the bike rack outside of a friend's office here in COMO recently:
1 small tube of Crest toothpaste, 3 razors, one fork and a condom.

Fancying myself as a bit of a Sherlockian devotee, I've tried to piece together what we might deduce about the individual who dropped this assortment of items, assuming they fell from one's saddle bag.  At first I was convinced this individual must also be a roadie, hence the need for the razors.  But then I realized the collection of items must have actually been owned by a tri-geek because a) a tri-geek is more likely to need three razors versus one: one for each leg and a special one only used for the "bikini-area", b) serious roadies would never be caught actually eating anything in public, so would have no need for a fork and c) only the tri-geeks in this town are fully expecting to get laid by someone in their group at any given moment during a training ride. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Individual pursuit

No time today for a lengthy post.  But I did want to make special note of Taylor Phinney's recent Twitter exhibition of what I consider to be the beating heart of the true Olympic spirit: horniness.

How else can you explain a blatant exploitation of the soul-crushing loss of someone's dreams and aspirations for the last 8 years as your own personal hole-shot for a hook-up?

Who says the individual pursuit isn't an Olympic event this year?

Chapeau, Taylor.  Fingers are crossed....

Monday, August 6, 2012

Olympic news; failures, retractions and booger-eating

I need to start today by issuing a full retraction on a statement I made last week about people needing to give the entire "#NBCFail" thing a rest.  Why have I changed my mind? At the end of last evening's prime time recap coverage, NBC chose to feature another interview of Missy Franklin by Bob Costas during which he showed her a taped greeting from Missy's obsession, "The Biebs".  During said video, Bieber is holding his little brother who proceeds to pick a booger out of his nose and then eat it while Bieber speaks.
Missy is naturally completely smitten by this and turns inside out with giggly teenage hormones and issues her own publicly televised response.

The only, and I repeat ONLY, way this saccharine, cringe worthy, non-Olympic moment could have been salvaged to be watchable in any way, is if Missy picked up and held the diminutive Costas in the same fashion Bieber had held his little brother, and let Bob pick and eat his own nose rocks during her reply.

I don't fault Missy here.  She's a kid and should be allowed to act like one.  I don't even fault Bieber's little brother for eating his own boogers on air.  If I was being forced to be on national television held by Justin Bieber, I would try to demonstrate some act of defiance myself.  No, I blame NBC and that ass-munch Costas for essentially ripping off the Brady Bunch episode where Marsha makes an ass over herself falling for the Monkee's lead singer Davy Jones.  There were clearly no other worthwhile Olympic themed stories to tell during that time.  Why would NBC prefer to spend those 5 minutes telling an inspiring story of the hardships some athletes from less-privileged backgrounds (say from Mongolia, or Uzbekistan, or France) must face in trying to not even win a medal in the Olympics, but only qualify or even find the money to travel to the Olympics?  Yes indeed, full retraction issued.  NBC, you suck.

And speaking of stories from the Olympics that aren't getting enough air-time.  Check out British track-cyclist-phenom, Chris Hoy's, hot pants!
"The University's research team said the Adipower muscle-warming pants would offer a "real benefit to performance."

Real benefit indeed!  Rumor has it that the Swedish track team stole a pair of the hot-pants upon arriving in London and decathlete Bjorn Barrefors overdosed on them prior to his pre-competition warm-up....

And this reminds me that one of the least reported stories of this year's Olympics is the supposed sexual proclivity of some of the athletes.  It seems that the media is being very shy about reporting on the issue and I've only seen about 200 articles published on the topic of the athletes humping like little bunnies in the past month.  Luckily, Aussie BMX cyclist Caroline Buchanan is staying "on top" of the situation and brings us the following photo via her Twitter feed:

Yes, apparently the Australian government didn't feel as though the 150,000 condoms that Durex supplied to the athletes for this year's competition would be adequate for their squad so they decided to bring their own.

But if watching your hearthrob's little brother eat his own boogers while wearing hot pants and having casual sex with uber-athletes who are still trying to get rid of the crabs they picked up in Beijing doesn't make you want to live vicariously through the life of an Olympiad, perhaps this website hosted by the BBC will help.  Titled "Your Olympic athlete body match", you can plug in your height and weight and find out which athletes you are closest to in body size.

A mystery to none, I'm of rather large proportions, so was really curious to see which Olympic athlete I might be comparable to.  I figured I probably wouldn't match up with the aforementioned Bjorn Barrefors, or Ryan Lochte (much to the disappointment of the GEEC) but still my hopes were high as I embarked on my athlete body-matching quest.  What I learned was that I am, unfortunately, too big for this frequency distribution and am apparently "off the chart" so to speak.  So, instead of returning a single male athlete's name, the program said I was actually equivalent to the combination of two athletes.  More specifically I'm the size of a double version of Bahrain runner Ali Hasan Maboob.  Don't believe me?  Check out Mahboobs...