Thursday, October 18, 2012

We've moved!

This old blogger site has served us well over the past several years, and it's not without a hint of sadness that I bid it a fond fare-the-well.  But the blog site has become much like what happens to my favorite jeans every November - I outgrow them!

In the attempt to deliver more local Columbia cycling content from a number of different writers, cyclists, advocates and athletes, we've developed a more robust format. 

We'll leave this site up for the sake of nostalgia - but please come visit us overe here from now on:


PooBah, GEEC & Pickle

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The right thing: Just do it.

By now, everyone has heard of the continuing fallout of the Lance Armstrong scenario.  Anymore - reading the cycling news is like watching a flock of vultures picking over a carcass.  And I continue to be guilty of said scavenging as well.  To that end, I remind you of the Nike commercial featuring Lance from 2001:

Fast forward to today and the statement that Nike issued  on their website:

"Due to the seemingly insurmountable evidence that Lance Armstrong participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade, it is with great sadness that we have terminated our contract with him.  Nike does not condone the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs in any manner.  Nike plans to continue support of the Livestrong initiatives created to unite, inspire and empower people affected by cancer."
I wonder what they want in return.  A medal? Are they suddenly expecting us to think they actually have integrity?  Let's remember that Nike signed football star Michael Vick after he had been arrested and found guilty of running a dog fighting ring....the first time in the history of sports marketing that a company dropped an athlete from their brand and then signed them back. 
As I was listening to the presidential debate last night, one question posed to the candidates was "How can we keep American companies from sending jobs overseas."  One answer I was looking for was not uttered by either candidate - and in reality, probably doesn't exist:  Convince highly successful American companies that NOT outsourcing their manufacturing to China, Indonesia and Vietnam (I'm talking to you Nike), where the law prohibits workers from forming independent trade unions and protective labor laws are unenforced, is actually patriotic - it's the right thing to do.  Convince them that even though this will reduce their profit margin, they will still be able to grow rich and would simultaneously put Americans to work - it's the right thing to do.  When was doing the right thing ever synonymous with doing the easiest thing?  Doing the right thing is hard......kind of like not doping.  I say this at the risk of sound ridiculously naive, I realize.  But how much money does Phil Knight really need, anyway?  So much that he endorses a torturer of animals? So much that he condones Indonesian child sweat shops? So much that he indirectly bankrolled the largest, most systematic doping program in the history of sport?
I guess it should not be surprising, therefore, that one of Nike's recent ad campaigns for a soccer jersey for the Sport Club International was delivered in some very unique and crazy expensive packaging:
"COLORADO BLOOD:  When a team enters the pitch, every fan wants the players to give their blood, sweat and tears for the club.  That's what inspired Nike for the launching of the new jersey of Sport Club Internacional. Known as Colorado (the red team), the red of its famous jersey was presented inside a blood bag."
Opening the box reveals an IV bad surrounded by plastic 'ice cubes'.
And within the IV bag is a red jersey, with Nike swoosh.
"MANIFESTO:  If there is one thing that identifies us, it is blood. Blood is what makes our hearts beat.  It is what keeps us alive.  Blood carries our history.  Every win, every tear, every trophy is there.  And trophies abound for those who have won everything....."
Indeed, "blood does identify us...." just ask Jan Ulrich, Ivan Basso, Frank Schleck and every other Operacion Puerto cyclist.
All Nike proved by dropping their endorsement for Lance was that they were the first rat to jump from the deck of the sinking ship.  Soon after they bailed - RadioShack followed.  Interestingly, at the time of this writing, the Lance Armstrong website still listed them both as sponsors.  Well if anyone is interested in playing a little doping bingo - I've attached a board below for you to play along....Any guesses as to which company is next?
Nike's abandonment not only opens the door for other sponsors to follow suit, but it nearly commands it if the others want to feign 'integrity' as well.***
Here's the kicker in my household....The GEEC loves Nike shit....she just ran the Chicago marathon in a great Nike running shirt.  I know she must grow tired (as I'm sure many of you have) of me bitching and moaning about all the facets that emerge surrounding this issue on a daily basis, so when she heard me complaining about Nike the other evening, she really looked weary and asked, "Is Nike on the shit-list too?"
I told her it's probably best to ignore me for a while...
*** Addendum:  Well, today ended up being a little like dominoes in the world of LA sponsorship abandonment.  In case anyone needs a refresher to their board, you can check out the COMO CYCO Tumblr site - or look below.  Hope everyone had fun playing!  There are still three open spaces....(We're looking at you Oakley, SRAM and Johnson!)


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Changes are coming!

Monday morning, we awoke to a world far different than the one we left last week.  Something so monumental happened over the weekend, that our very definition of humanity has been forever changed.  You may think I'm referring to the man who rode in a helium-filled balloon 24 miles into the sky to the very edge of space, hurled his body out of it toward the earth and in so doing broke the speed of light with his own person, and little else, as reported by MSNBC.
There is the little grey blip of Fearless Felix as he became the first man in history to travel faster than the speed of light.  Of course that can't actually be Felix in that image, because travelling the speed of light means he traversed those 24 miles in a shorter time than what the human eye could even perceive - so that must be the turd he shat shortly after he realized he was going a whole lot faster than the speed of sound, which is what the physics professors told him he would achieve.  What an effing doper.  This is the kicker with doping - if you're going to do it, you have to learn to throttle back on your performance or it just looks too obvious!  Lord knows how many 'red eggs' his Red Bull was spiked with.
No, the real sporting achievement I'm speaking of this past weekend was from this guy:
Keith Levasseur
According to Runner's World, Keith Levasseur ran Saturday's Baltimore Marathon in 2:46:58.....wearing flip flops. An in so doing, he set a World's Record for fastest marathon time in flip flops. Now, many of you will scoff at him being awarded notoriety and fame for  running a marathon in inappropriate footwear - but I disagree.  You see, chasing such records is what allows people like Keith and me to feel relevant in an overly-competitive society.  Let's face it, Keith was never going to be able to break a world record marathon time in normal footwear.  Just like I could never break the hour record in cycling.  But I bet I could set the hour record wearing nothing more than a diaper - but only because nobody else has ever done it!  In fact, I've employed the help of the entire COMO CYCO team to help me in this endeavor.  I will keep you all posted on my progress....
Has anything major happened in the world of cycling recently, however?  Not much.....except that Levi Leipheimer got fired from Omega-Pharma-QuickStep for admitting he doped by a team manager (Patrick Lefevere) who was a doper himself (how's that for ironic). 
Oh yeah and Nike is under suspicion for paying half a million dollars to Hein Verbruggen to cover up Lancie's positive EPO test at the 2001 Tour de Suisse...I wonder what's going to happen this Saturday when Nike and the Livestrong Foundation are sponsoring the University of Texas' "cancer awareness game against Baylor" broadcast on ABC during which Nike and Livestong will be making a presentation and the 17,000-seat student section are all supposed to be wearing Livestrong T-shirts Nike has made for the game in vibrant Lance Yellow #7.  If there is a better example of a three-way mutual circle jerk on the planet this Saturday, please somebody, let me know.
But honestly, Lance should not despair.  According to a new study just published, testosterone administration substantially reduces lying in men:
So I imagine with all the T he loaded up on over the years, it's just any day now before Lance's mouth is going to open up and he's going to start vomiting the truth for like a month straight. But afterwards he's going to feel so much better.  Just like Tyler said, the truth is going to set him free.  Well actually he will probably go to jail - but you know what I mean.

And with all of these monumental developments in the sporting world, I think it is appropriate that I make the announcement that the COMO CYCO site is on the brink of some major changes that I'm very excited about.  Very soon, we will be shedding the world of blogging like a wet, sandy chamois at the end of a long gravel ride, and embracing the world of real websites.  To this end, I feel very fortunate to announce that I've coerced assembled some of COMO's finest writing-cyclists to start contributing regular content to the new site, which will cover a wide range of topics - all things cycling here in Columbia.  We will also be soliciting articles from you - the COMO cycling tifosi.
My partner in crime, the lovely GEEC, is working tirelessly to get the new site up and running, by which I mean she paid the 18 bucks required to secure a domain name with my credit card last night and looked at some different fonts for the header before she ate some cookies and fell asleep.  But hey, it's a start!  We already have a great race report for last weekend's Burnin at the Bluff that we are eager to post - so please stay tuned, kids.  Great things are on the horizon.

Friday, October 12, 2012


A lot is being written about the “bravery” of all the cyclists who have come clean the past couple of days.  And a few are dismissing this so-called bravery, because in all honesty, most of these guys came clean because they had to.  The Feds had tracked them down and put them on the spot and asked them point blank: “Did they or didn’t they?”  And lying to the Feds meant jail time.  Admission under the threat of punishment is not necessarily a mea culpa in my opinion.  I think most, if not all, would have been just fine taking their secrets to the graves with them, either because of shame for what they’d done or not wanting to risk the loss of a job, or more likely, both.  Who’s to blame them for wanting to keep their secrets?  Don’t each of us have embarrassing secrets we prefer no one ever found out about. 

As cycling fans, we have this odd relationship with those we watch and cheer on.  We don’t know these people.  We cannot understand what motivates them.  Yet we heap expectations on them and request acts of heroic proportions.  And then we put them on pedestals.  When we find out that they cheated to achieve such amazing feats we are left with three choices.  #1) Forgive and forget, #2) Not forgive, and not forget, and #3) Walk away from the whole stinking mess.  How do I rationalize forgiving Christian VandeVelde, for example while mentally persecuting Lance Armstrong (which, I admit, is exactly what I’ve done.)  I’ve met Christian several times – even ridden with him – and he seems like a super nice guy.  I listened to Armstrong speak once in Rolla, MO back when I was the biggest LA fanboy I knew, and I came away from his talk thinking he was an arrogant prick after he made some insult about the size of Rolla and refused to let a woman with cancer come up and hug him on stage during the Q and A.  But I was too scared to say how I felt because everyone else loved him.  But do I know either of these guys?  Absolutely not.  How do I make sense of the categorization my brain does automatically and without conscience thought: Christian is a good guy, Lance is a shit.  Partly because I could honestly care less at this point if they doped or not.  It’s more about how they have dealt with their decision and the fact that it now has become public knowledge.  Part of what defines character is how you respond to adversity.
Speaking of which, several years ago, I got to spend the day with Floyd Landis.  I was put in charge of organizing a benefit to raise money for osteoarthritis research, and was charged with coming up with a keynote speaker.  Floyd had been found guilty of doping, had served his 2 year sentence and was then making his comeback racing for Ouch/Maxxis on an artificial hip.  This was before he would make his full confession in the Wall Street Journal article.  At the time, I believed he was innocent of the doping charges.  I contacted Team Ouch and three phone calls later had somehow managed to secure him as the speaker for the event through his agent.  They never asked, but I guaranteed there would be no talking about doping, him winning, or not winning the Tour de France, or Lance Armstrong.  We just wanted to hear about what it was like to be a professional bike racer who performed with an artificial hip.  We made the public announcement that he was coming to speak at the event and I immediately got a couple of derogatory emails about the appropriateness of hiring a ‘doper’ as a speaker.  I stood my ground, defended Floyd, and the event remained scheduled as planned.
The day of the benefit, I had to pick him up at his hotel and take him to lunch.  There would be four of us going – and we were to eat at the winery in Rocheport – a 30 minute drive away.  When I met him and his agent in the hotel lobby, I was nervous.  He rounded the corner suddenly and came right up to me and said, “Hey, I’m Floyd” and shook my hand really, really strongly with a huge smile on his face, and I relaxed almost immediately.  I asked him if he and his agent would like to ride separately in their larger rented car, following us out to Rocheport, since it was a long drive, and I only had my Subaru Outback.  He said “Hell no – I can fit in the back seat – let’s go.” So I drove to Rocheport with Floyd Landis in the back seat of my Subaru.  Somewhere along I-70 I came to the realization that this was one of the most surreal experiences of my life.  Here was the man I watched ride solo and win Stage 17 of the 2006 Tour de France in what many have called one of the single greatest days of bicycle racing ever, sitting in my back seat.  The word ‘bizarre’ doesn’t come close to describing how I felt.  We got to the winery and Floyd asked if I rode.  I laughed it off, but he asked again and I confessed I was just a Cat 5 choade.  He asked me more about where I had ridden – out west?  Overseas?  I told him I had done both – ridden the Copper Triangle in Colorado and gotten to meet Davis Phinney through a mutual friend.  He asked how Davis was – if I had been able to notice any evidence of the Parkinson’s he is affected by.  He complemented him on being a truly amazing cyclist and a great guy.  I told him about how on the descent of Fremont Pass, the freewheel hub of my Mavic Ksyrium Elite had started squealing like an ape being raped  and he laughed and told me he had the same thing happen to him once.  I asked about his hip, how he was doing – and he told me the entire story.  Despite what I knew about Johan Bruyneel and Lance Armstrong largely ignoring his condition and not facilitating him receiving the appropriate medical attention to have it addressed when he rode for Postal, he remained respectful of them when speaking about them – although he did recount a story of Johan demanding he fly to Europe the day after he had two screws painfully removed from his femur which resulted in a massive hematoma that extended down his leg, which he would later have to hide from doctors to be allowed to race. 
As I drove him back to his hotel after lunch, I asked how his parents were, especially in dealing with the press and aftermath of the 2006 Tour.  He said they were doing just fine, and thanks so much for asking.  I asked what his Dad did for a living, and he told me about his trucking company.  Amongst other things, he moves gravel in large dump trucks, and generally loves his job.  There was a long pause after this, and he continued You know – sometimes I think that may be the most basic, and most gratifying job a person could have.  Move this stuff here, to that place over there. Work hard at it, then go home and enjoy the evening with your family.”  I liked Floyd.
The benefit that night went incredibly well.  Floyd seemed nervous at first during his talk, but warmed into it, and there was a great Q and A afterward with him.  He signed things for people, spent a tremendous amount of time interacting with folks and posing for pictures.  Basically he gave himself to all the people that were in attendance.  I was grateful and relieved that the whole thing had come off so well.  As I walked him and his agent back out to their car, he shook my hand firmly again and told me to give him a ring if I was out in San Diego; that we’d go for a ride.
The next year, he would confess to doping throughout his career, and to having done so under the direction of Johan and Armstrong on Postal, and then on his own with Phonak.  He was called a “rat” and a “liar” by cycling fans and ostracized from the sport by commentators, fans, other cyclists.  He had previously accepted money for his legal defense knowing he was guilty all the time – and people were upset with that.  But in my estimation, they were more upset that he was now calling Lance Armstrong a cheat.  Lance defended himself by saying Floyd was mentally unstable.  (In retrospect, I’m thinking you’d have to be somewhat mentally unstable to race at that level at that time.)  But from my day with Floyd, my impression was that he was as down-to-earth and genuine as a person could be. 
In the midst of Floyd being singled out by virtually everyone, none of his former teammates that also doped came to his defense.  Hamilton, Vaughters, Zabriskie, Hincapie, VandeVelde….they could have spoken up and said, “Hang on – he’s telling the truth.”  But they didn’t.  There was positive incentive, to be sure: defending a friend, telling the truth.  But they would also be certain to lose 2 years of their career and undergo the same smear campaign from the Armstrong camp (see Hamilton, Andreus, O’Reilly, Anderson, LeMond etc) – and maybe they would never be able to race again at the level they wanted to, like Floyd.  They circled the wagons, remained silent and protected themselves, and Armstrong indirectly. Now each has admitted to doping – under the threat of jail time.  Floyd was right all along.  As was Hamilton.  As was LeMond and the Andreus.  It has kind of played out like a movie.  On the topic of movies, Dave Zabriskie was recently quoted as saying that the movie “Breaking Away” inspired him to become a cyclist, and that’s what good movies do, “They inspire.  Make us believe we can do things and believe things.”
I also think a good movie makes you ask yourself “what would I do?”  Like every time I watch the movie Deliverance, I ask myself, ‘Would I bury that body deep and paddle on?  Or ‘Would I go to the police and say it was self-defense?’ And every single time, I think to myself, I’m burying that body deep and paddling my ass down the river pronto.  In the movie version of the cycling saga that has played out for us all to watch, I play the same game.  I’d like to think I wouldn’t have doped – but I probably would have (remember - bury that body deep and tell no one).  But I also like to think I would have confessed for the purpose of standing up for a friend instead of just to save my own skin.  But who knows?
I’d still like to take Floyd up on that bike ride. 
I still think Christian is a good guy. 
And I still think Lance is a shit.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Not even close to being ready to move on....

I've been travelling almost non-stop for work-related reasons for about a month now.  Today, I had planned to write about some big changes I've been planning for the site, but then of course a massive turd-grenade just exploded in the cycling news.  (Thanks Travis for effing up my big self-thrown welcome home party!  I was going to run around COMO CYCO headquarters in my tighty whiteys and get drunk on jello-shots - but not now!)  So, rather than blather on about that, or anything else, I will leave you all to read up on the goings-on regarding those US pros who many of us have followed so closely for the past couple of decades and what they were up to if you so choose.  Here is a link to the USADA decision they have issued to the UCI: link.

I'd like to think that one of most corrupt athletes the world has ever seen has finally been exposed for what he is with all the proper evidence, and the house can now be cleaned.  But I think the corruption will run a bit deeper yet.  More specifically, I will wait to see how Nike, Oakley, Michelob and Trek will respond to today's news.  I know the answer already - and I don't know why I will let it surprise me, but it will all the same.  I expect he will deploy full cancer shield and suggest we (I) are all pathetic for living in the past as he suggested in his recent interview with LAVA magazine:

"Yeah, others won’t move on. It’s sad. I’m aware that it’s out there. It’s like, why are you continuing? You got what you wanted; Lance Armstrong never did anything in his life. Great. For some, it’s like, shouldn’t you be out training and focusing on what you’re doing? Fucking move on. So strange."
I tell you what, douchebag, I'll move on when you do.  Own up to it, pay back the money, send back the jerseys, give up your sponsorships.....they are all ill-gotten gains. Apologize to all the people whose lives you wrecked, and ask - no BEG - forgiveness from the team-mates who you expected to lie and risk going to jail for you when questioned by the Feds. 
Then, I'll move on......maybe.