Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Thoughts on Weekend Rides

Due to various scheduling and my lack of fitness, I chose to ride by myself this past weekend instead of going for a group ride.  As a result I spent about 4 1/2 hours on those two rides by myself contemplating cycling and various random miscellania.  I am going to share some of them with you.


First, it turns out that starting to ride after a long hiatus is hard.  It is hard on the legs, lungs and mind.  I like bike riding a lot, but it feels better when it feels better.  Sure that is axiomatic, but true nonetheless.  Although I guess that is part of being axiomatic.

Something else that is painfully true is that going uphill into the wind is harder than going downhill with the wind at your back.  I confirmed this on Saturday.  I needed to go by a post office box so I decided to ride Betts Road into Cheney and stop by the post office next to the airport (latest pick up in town, just in case you need that information).  I was thinking that I needed to cross the freeway by the truck stop most of the way up my Thorpe/Westbow route.  Or actually, I wasn't thinking, because that is several miles past the place to cross over at Grove.  As a result, I pushed into the wind up to the truck stop/Medical Lake exit area and then headed downhill, with a tailwind, back to the post office.  Uphill, about 3.2 mph hour.  Downhill, about 107 mph.  Unfortunately for me, after the post office, I turned around and went ride back uphill into the wind to get back onto my preferred route.

By the way, Betts Road isn't long, but it is a nice sojourn anytime of the year and it connects to a lot of places on each end.  Well, the whole world now that I re-read that sentence, but that is not what I meant.

On Sunday I was looking for more of a recovery ride (see last blog), so naturally I headed out Hangman, up Baltimore and then to Valley Chapel.  Say what?  It didn't make sense then and it still doesn't.  I had this idea I would use my lowest gear and moderate my effort going uphill.  Turns out that it is not possible at my weight and fitness level.  Going uphill is anaerobic no matter what pace.  Hell, getting to the top of a curb might be anaerobic for me right now.

I only had a a couple of hours to ride, in part because I left the house about 6.15 pm, so the plan was to ride out an hour, which usually puts me at the bottom of the Valley Chapel hill, and then turn around.  I hit the bridge at the bottom about 57-58 minutes in and I know it takes a bit less time to get home, so I decided to ride uphill (albeit slowly) until 1:05 so that I would get back after two hours.  The problem is that means going uphill for 7-8 minutes.  Oh hell go come now.  Between the gasping breaths, I recalled that my riding buddy B.S. (actually its R.F.S, Jr. if you want to be formal) has a theory that Valley Chapel is made up of three sections.  I maintain that it is made up of between 12 and 9,000 sections.  Twelve being the least you could break up the various pitches and sections and 9,000 being the number of pedal strokes it takes to get to the top.  I stand by my theory and reject B.S.'s theory as B.S.

As I headed home on Sunday, I realized that I had forgotten to grab any food to take with me.  Also, I had a small lunch and it had been a lot earlier in the day.  I shouldn't have worried, however, because the benefit of riding at dusk has been obviously for millennium to birds, bats and fish.  My tongue hanging out gasping for breath riding style meant that I was catching hundreds of bugs that are out at dusk.  I had to decide whether suffocating or bug consumption was better.  I went with bug consumption by necessity, but it must have helped avoid the bonk, so I've got that going for me.

I saw motorcycles out on Saturday and Sunday.  On Saturday a bike rider I know pulled up on his very hot, very fast Ducati to comment on my lack of fitness.  Actually, what C. W. said was, "you are working hard", but the unstated part was that I was on a 1-2% grade and gasping like I was climbing Alpe d'Huez.  On Sunday, when I stopped to turn around on the Valley Chapel hill, I heard the screaming tones of motorcycles up the hill and waited, not wanting to have a Kawasaki Ninja take the place of my saddle at 100 mph around a corner.  Three bikes went by, all riding two-up.  It looked a lot more relaxing than what I was doing.  Sometimes when I see motorcycles when I am riding my bike, I want to switch.  And sometimes when I am on my motorcycle and I see bikes, I want to switch.  Not when I saw them though.  Even though I was struggling, it seemed more honest and more of what I needed.  I'll save the throttle for another day.

Also, I completely totally 100% changed my mind as I climbed out of the cursed valley to get back to the Palouse Highway.  That section of road has special wheel holding abilities, doesn't it?

In any case, it's good to be back on my bike and riding again.  Even uphill.  And into the wind.  Yes, even then.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Random Bike Thoughts

As I alluded to in last week's lonely post, I have gotten back on my bike.  For a number of weeks, between weather and work and family, it seemed that there was no time for bike riding and when I am not riding my bike, it is a slower and more laborious process to write about bikes.  In the last number of days, however, I have managed to get in a plethora of rides and have a few thoughts.

Single Speed Niners - After a few months with the single speeds, I am glad we built them.  I am convinced that my idea about the bikes for the boys being a good long-term purchase is correct and we have been having fun on them.  They are, admittedly, a bit more single purpose than some other bikes.  I haven't taken my geared, carbon mountain bike for a ride this year, but I am glad I have it and have to confess that I would keep that if I had to go to one. 

Riding with Boys - My boys are 14 and 16 this summer.  Our riding has been more fun this year than any prior.  They are a size and strength now (they are both coming up on 6' tall) that it is much easier for them to roll along and enjoy longer rides.  We had a fun single speed ride on Father's Day and rode the length of the lower Fish Lake Trail mid-week last week.  I hope I have last years' Fish Lake trail rides on Garmin Connect because I know our average speed is a lot higher, but mostly everyone was having fun, so that is the idea.

Garmin Edge 500 - Still really like this unit, although we had a falling out last week.  I rode up H195 from Hatch Road towards Spangle.  That isn't a steep climb, but the Garmin kept telling me the grade was varying between 0% and 3%.  I know that it is steeper than that, not a lot, but I would say the pitches vary from 3-6%.  I know that it is average a bunch of data to come up with the percent grade, and it always lags as a result, but for some reason it never seemed to hit any higher numbers and, I suppose because I haven't been riding and was working very hard I found myself becoming irrationally angry at the Garmin.  I normally just ignore it, but I couldn't.  I become obsessed with it acknowledging the work I was doing and kept focusing on it.  Very stupid and out of character for me.

Heart rate monitors - Read something over the weekend from a cycling coach that said heart rate monitors were useless.  This is usually followed by a pitch to buy a watt meter, but this time I was surprised to see that the coach suggested using "perceived exertion" exclusively.  Interesting because that doesn't involve selling anything.  A few years ago when I made one bike switch or another, I left off the computer and rode for three years with no computer/HR monitor/watts.  I do think that perceived exertion is an excellent way to train, but it also involves spending enough time training that you know your body and can both push yourself and let yourself rest when appropriate.  Honestly, I have a harder time easing off.  Like my ride yesterday.

I was tired and my legs were sore from more days of back-to-back training than all year so far, including a "run".  It's in italics because the speed I go cannot be considered running, but it was an excellent way to make my legs very stiff and sore.  Anyway, Sunday's ride was supposed to be recovery, spinning, leg-stretching.  I decided to keep my heart rate below 130 bpm as a way of enforcing this (whereas on Saturday's ride I was trying to keep my heart rate over 130 bpm sustained for 2+ hours)(Do either of these strategies make sense? No idea)(Yes, I do realize that it is only in relationship to % of max; I just don't know enough about it).  The conflict came when I realized that I was on target for a certain number of miles per hour, and then I noticed each mile where I was in correlation to that, which meant I kept pushing myself to keep up.  Umm, that doesn't sound like recovery does it?  Like I said, pushing myself I can do.  Letting myself actively recover - not so good, but at least with a HR monitor it is easier to constantly remind myself to tone it down.

Ironman - I spent time this weekend seriously considering the CdA Ironman 2012.  Normally I am completely against triathlons, but for some reason it crept into my head and I started considering it.  Probably because my wife is traveling so she wasn't home to point out all of the reasons it is a bad idea.  In honor of her, I haven't sign up.  Yet.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

I rode my bike!

I rode my bike this weekend.  Oh I know that lot's of people did, but I haven't been in the habit of joining them recently.  It was nice to be on two wheels again, instead of four, although it turns out my extended vacation from pedaling a bike means that I am less adept at it than I should be.  Or at least less adept than I remember being at one time, in the past, the way past.

Anyway, I rode to work on Friday and took the long way home to boost my weekly mileage approximately 100,712% over the prior week (okay math geeks, it was an infinite % increase if you want to get technical), and I rode my Niner One-9 on Sunday with my kids on their Niners.  Easy pace but much fun.

I will have a bit more to say about it, plus a bit about the Tour de Suisse, the Daphane, and the upcoming Tour de France, all later this week.  In the meantime, enjoy the first nice weather the Inland Northwest has experienced since last August.  Tuesday Night racing this week, 2nd to last Wednesday Night Mountain Bike Race and Summer Parkways - more fun than that at which you can shake a stick.
SSD

Friday, June 10, 2011

Last doping blog this week

Last time I printed the list of riders and the level of suspicion ascribed to them for likelihood of doping in the opinion of the UCI during the 2010 TdF.  A couple of thoughts.  First, I think you have to recognize that the UCI is a very political entity.  I'm sure that they use science in their process, but they aren't above using a bit of national bias both for and against people.  Second, as I look through the list, there are surprising positions at both ends for me.  I was surprised to see Christian Vande Velde in the same category with Lance, because I thought that the UCI would just put Lance at a 10 for general purposes.  Of course, maybe that isn't fair to say about the UCI, but certainly some organizations (ASO, I'm looking at you) would.

Michael Rogers at a 7?  I thought his lack of climbing compared to some would have left him lower in the list.  Wiggo at 5?  Sorry to see him half that high.

Notice a suspicious number of large riders who seem to be particularly strong hill-climbing domestiques very high up on this list?  I do.

Here is the same list spread across nations instead of teams:
1. France 1.23 (based on the average of 35 riders)
2. Netherlands 1.25 (8)
3. Switzerland 1.60 (5)
4. Portugal 2.0 (3)
5. Slovenia 2.25 (4)
6. USA 2.37 (8)
7. Belgium 2.69 (13)
8. Denmark 2.80 (5)
9. Austria 3.0 (3)
10. Germany 3.27 (15)
       Australia 3.27 (11)
12. Spain 3.27 (32)
       Great Britain 3.27 (8)
14. Italy 3.70 (17)
15. Belarus 4.0 (3)
16. Russia 4.33 (6)
17. Kazakhstan 5.33 (3)
       Ukraine 5.33 (3)



Link - http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/lequipe-calculates-index-of-suspicion-for-teams-and-nations


I am surprised that Great Britain and Belgium weren't flip-flopped on this list.  I do think that some nations are more prone to doping than others, certainly because of the attitudes of the coaches and organizations, but also traditions and national attitudes.  It seems to me that of the cycling powers, Italy, Spain and Belgium stand together in the "anything you can get away with goes" category, while the younger generations in most place, notably Great Britain, Australia, US, appear to be against doping; a changing of the guard if you will.  I don't know quite what to think of the French, in part because they are so sanctimonious about their anti-doping, but it wasn't that long ago that Virenque was a national cycling hero and his cleanliness was always in doubt no matter what the French housewives thought.


All in all, I thought the list was interesting and noteworthy that the UCI created such a list.  I don't think that there is nearly as much doping in cycling as there was, but then again, going from 95% to 50% is a dramatic drop.  I just don't know how dramatic to think it is.


Lastly, while I hate the problem and it substantially decreases my enjoyment of professional racing, I do think that there is an effort to remove it from cycling.  US football, baseball and basketball could not be more hypocritical in their drug testing.  It might as well be non-existent for the way they go about it.  My understanding is that in the NFL, the drug tests are scheduled months in advance.  It is obviously possible to avoid testing positive even when you are subject to random tests; it is a virtual impossibility to fail the tests when they are scheduled well in advance.  Also, in the NFL, if you fail a test, the first and ONLY notification goes to YOUR AGENT.  Not your team, not your coach and definitely not the public - just your agent.  It is only after you fail the second test that your team and coach find out and I don't think there are sanctions until your third failure - which means that you have to be a complete idiot AND want to be caught, to really have a problem with drug testing in football.  Which means to me, that at least cycling is serious about stopping the use of PED's.  In other sports, they are more worried about the level playing field, and as long as everyone is doing it, it is level, right?


I think it is time to move onto something more fun than a discussion of doping, don't you think?  How about some decent weather and riding bikes?  I think so too.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

UCI List of Suspicious Riders and Teams

This was new news a few weeks ago, but warranted comment I thought.  The UCI has created (but didn't intend to publicly release) a list of riders and a level of suspicion about their drug use.  There are various factors that cause riders to move up or down the list, which is ranked from 0 to 10.  Here is the list:

0 Mario Aerts, Yukiya Arashiro, Stephane Augé, Michael Barry, Francesco Bellotti, Jose Alberto Benitez, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Lars Boom, Maxime Bouet, Pavel Brutt, Fabian Cancellara, Manuel Cardoso, Dries Devenyns, Samuel Dumoulin, Julien El Farès, Simon Gerrans, Anthony Geslin, Bert Grabsch, Christopher Horner, Robert Hunter, Kristjan Koren, Burt Lancaster, David Le Lay, Christophe Le Mével, Adriano Malori, Koes Moerenhout, Amael Moinard, Lloyd Mondory, Damien Monier, Juan Jose Oroz, Remi Pauriol, Mathieu Perget, Gregory Rast, Mark Renshaw, Nicolas Roche, Jurgen Roelandts, Pierre Rolland, Anthony Roux, Jeremy Roy, Mathieu Sprick, Rein Taaramae, Sebastien Turgot, Niki Terpstra, Brian Vandborg, Kristof Vandewalle, Ivan Velasco, Thomas Voeckler, Fabian Wegmann, David Zabriskie
1 Marcus Burghardt, Sandy Casar, Anthony Charteau, Sylvain Chavanel, Julian Dean, Mickael Delage, Martin Elmiger, Johannes Fröhlinger, Jakob Fuglsang, Robert Gesink, Xavier Florencio, Adam Hansen, Ryder Hesjedal, George Hincapie, Andreas Klier, Roger Kluge, Alexander Kuchinsky, Daniel Lloyd, Mirco Lorenzetto, Martijn Maaskant, Aitor Pérez, Alan Pérez, Jerome Pineau, Ruben Plaza, Alexandre Pliuschin, MaartenTjallingii, Rafael Valls, Maarten Wynants
2 Eros Capecchi, Mark Cavendish, Stephen Cummings, Remy Di Gregorio, Arkaitz Duran, Mathias Frank, Oscar Freire, John Gadret, Francesco Gavazzi, Volodymir Gustov, Thor Hushovd, Christophe Kern, Thomas Löfkvist, Sebastien Minard, Daniel Navarro, Grischa Niermann, Stuart O'Grady, Rubén Pérez, Christophe Riblon, Thomas Rohregger, L. L. Sanchez, Carlos Sastre, Fränk Schleck, Simon Spilak, Bram Tankink, Stijn Vandenbergh, Benoit Vaugrenard, Jens Voigt, Eduard Vorganov
3 Ivan Basso, Grega Bole, Brent Bookwalter, Dimitri Champion, Gerald Ciolek, Rui Costa, Damiano Cunego, Mauro Da Dalto, Francis De Greef, Markus Eibegger, Imanol Erviti, Tyler Farrar, Fabio Felline, Juan Antonio Flecha, Maxim Iglinskiy, Vasil Kiryienka, Roman Kreuziger, Matthieu Ladagnous, Robbie McEwen, Maxime Monfort, Sergio Paulinho, Joaquin Rodriguez, Andy Schleck, Chris Anker Sörensen, Sylvester Szmyd, Paolo Tiralongo, Amets Txurruka, Johan Van Summeren, Gorka Verdugo, Charles Wegelius
4 Lance Armstrong, Janez Brajkovic, Bernhard Eisel, Cadel Evans, Pierrick Fédrigo, Juan Manuel Garate, Andriy Grivko, Jesus Hernandez, Ignatas Konovalovas, Sebastian Lang, Levi Leipheimer, David Millar, Daniel Moreno, Serge Pauwels, Manuel Quinziato, Luke Roberts, Samuel Sanchez, Christian Vande Velde, Nicolas Vogondy
5 Alessandro Ballan, Matti Breschel, Alberto Contador, Cyril Gautier, Inaki Isasi, Sergei Ivanov, Vladimir Karpets, Alexandr Kolobnev, Karsten Kroon, Steve Morabito, Benjamin Noval, Jose Rojas, Nicki Sörensen, Alexander Vinokourov, Bradley Wiggins
6 Linus Gerdemann, Christian Knees, Egoi Martínez, Alessandro Petacchi, Francesco Reda, Mauro Santambrogio, Geraint Thomas
7 Jeremy Hunt, Andreas Klöden, Tony Martin, Christophe Moreau, Michael Rogers, Wesley Sulzberger
8 David De la Fuente, Ivan Gutiérrez, Danilo Hondo, Matthew Lloyd, Iban Mayoz, Dmitriy Muravyev, Rinaldo Nocentini, Daniel Oss, Kevin Seeldraeyers, Kanstantsin Siutsou, Jurgen Van Den Broeck
9 Denis Menchov
10 Carlos Barredo,Yaroslav Popovych
Here is the link to the place I found the list: http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/ucis-suspicious-list-leaked-from-2010-tour-de-france.  Here is a link to a derivative of that list, which ranks the teams according to their riders: http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/lequipe-calculates-index-of-suspicion-for-teams-and-nations
And the list of teams: 
1.Cofidis 4
2. Bbox Buoygues Telecom 14
3. FDJ 15
4. AG2R-La Mondiale 16
5. Garmin-Transitions 17
6. Cervelo 20
     Footon-Servetto 20
8. Rabobank 21
9. Liquigas 22
Team Sky 22
11. Milram 23
       Saxo Bank 23
13. Euskaltel-Euskadi 24
14. Katusha 26
15. Lampre 28
16. Quick Step 30
17. Omega Pharma-Lotto 31
18. HTC-Columbia 32
       BMC 32
Caisse d’Epargne 32
21. Astana 39
22. RadioShack 40

Monday, June 6, 2011

Doping in Cycling

You could just tell from the title that this would be a cheery welcome back to the blog, right?  I will try to not go on too much of a diatribe, but a couple of things seem interesting and noteworthy in the sea of words written on this topic recently.  

First, Lance Armstrong.  Yes, you have to acknowledge that he has not failed any drug tests.  If I don't, I would expect a hit squad of lawyers to begin attacking my credibility (of which I admittedly have little).  That aside, a couple of thoughts.  At some point don't you have to have something to say other than "he's a liar" or "he's changed his story"?  The whole thing about doping is 1) you aren't supposed to do it, which means that you HAVE to lie about doing it before you get caught - otherwise it defeats the purpose, right?; and 2) after you get caught and want to come clean, that NECESSARILY means that the story is changed.  Does that make the person a liar, yes, because they violated the rules and usually said they weren't, but does that mean the person has NO credibility.  No, it doesn't.  Character assassination is now an accepted part of any PR battle, but at some point the process wears thin when it is repeatedly so predictable.  

Next up, Alberto Contador.  Oh boy Alberto.  

If you watch any competitive sport at the top level - and I mean ANY - ping pong, track, swimming, skiing, you name it - the top level competitors are very close.  Sometime incredibly close.  I think, in fact, that when you are measuring World Cup Skiing or Olympic Swimming in 1/1000's of a second, isn't it pretty much pointless?  I would say that it is except that it is impressive that some athletes manage to be that couple of thousandths of a second better repeatedly.  I don't know how you do that, but it does prove that the level of competition is very very close.  So, contrast that with the Giro d'Italia.  Contador was the strongest guy, BY FAR, every single day.  He literally rode away from every guy every day.  Doesn't that strike you as suspicious?  Particularly from a guy who is currently in the process of being prosecuted for a performance enhancing drug use?  

So, point one - I didn't enjoy watching the race because it was hard to not dwell on the possibility, nea likelihood, that Contador was enjoying the benefit of pharmaceutical help to his race.

Point two - How can Steve Schlonger and Todd Gugugulski not SAY ANYTHING about the possibility of PED's in Contador's riding.  Not a comment, not a hint, not a joke, not a mention whatsoever about the concept.  Now that is a crock of shit.  Seriously.

Similarly, did anyone think it was odd when three guys on the RadioShack team rode away from the entire peloton on the Mt. Baldy stage?  A heretofore unknown guy literally paced two teammates while every single international level rider fell behind.  Impressive, no?  Umm.  Anyone remember the picture of three Mapei riders crossing the Paris-Roubaiux finish together.  Something fishy then, something fishy now.  Speaking of which, is Schleck going to not only keep up but hand Horner his ass in one month at the TdF?  Could be for a lot of very valid reasons - at almost 40 Horner can't stay at or get back to peak fitness for TdF; that Schleck had an undisclosed injury or illness; that Schleck will gain a lot of fitness in training and racing in the meantime - but is it also possible that Schleck (who paid thousands of Euros to the Operation Puerto doc for "training plans" only) might have a bit of an extra "kick" by the time the TdF comes around?  I have no idea, but I hate that the sport I love causes me to be so cynical about it.

Lastly, on my uplifting doping diatribe, I think that Gerard Vroomen, one of the founders of Cervelo, deserves a lot of credit for his recent comments about this issue recently.  Here is a link to a story about the blogs: http://www.cyclingnews.com/news/vroomen-on-doping-the-media-basso-and-schleck.  Here is a link to his actual blog: http://gerard.cc/.  The dude does have an unusually large cranium, but I like what is coming out of it.

Next up, more doping discussion.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Hiatus

It was unplanned hiatus, but a hiatus nonetheless.  We didn't plan on a gap between entries, but then again, we didn't plan on a miserable cold wet spring and we didn't plan on catching the black death plague.  Or maybe it is more like a green death plague since it would appear that green death is what I am hacking up.  In any case, between being sick and not riding a lot, it has meant that there was less to blog about in the world of cycling.  Or more accurately, our cycling world.  Because I have heard of other people riding bikes and racing bikes and I even caught wind of a bike race thingy in California and one in Italy.  Which reminds me of a thought.  Which I will blog about soon.

Sorry for the gap in your reading entertainment and look for a return to your normally scheduled blog next week.