Cycling hates and needs doping at the same time. Lance Armstrong: did he or didn't he? Floyd Landis: pathological liar and a doper. Alberto Contador: suspicious. Ricardo Ricco: idiot.
Cycling is a weird sport. A bunch of dudes shave their legs, dress in skin tight spandex, and ride around in groups called a peloton (which is French for "platoon"). Weird.
We wake up at 4:30am in July to watch these guys ride around roads in France live on Versus (an obscure TV network that has 3 popular sports of weirdness: cycling, rodeo, and hockey). Weird.
There aren't a ton of us. We congregate at coffee shops (in our spandex), and we voyeuristically admire each other's bikes, helmets, shoes. Weird.
I know lots of people in and around the world of professional cycling and cycling media. Inevitably conversations with my cycling friends come around to doping in the sport. It's like a flame and all of us are moths. We can't help ourselves. Maybe it's a secret desire to know if that testosterone patch/gel really works? Can I win my local cyclocross cat-4 race by rubbing just a little gel on my belly?
The punchline is this: there aren't a ton of us and the cycling media and professional cycling community desperately need attention. They need people (consumers) to be interested. Their business models are driven by marketing dollars (sponsorships, advertising, TV rights, etc.). The smallish universe of cyclists isn't enough to feed the need of the marketers/sponsors. They need more audience and the cycling business community knows this. Doping scandals are the controversy that generates interest. Winning does too of course and Lance has likely made more of an impact on cycling-related consumption than any other single person/event/entity than any other in history – and the scary thing is that there may never be another Lance. Did he dope? Who the fuck cares? He was freekin' awesome to watch win those 7 tours!
2 races this past weekend, saturday and sunday. Weather was amazing in the Colorado high country (35 degrees and not a cloud in the sky). Racing at altitude is tough. Getting a flat at the bottom of the steep run up and running all the way to the pits to swap a front tire adds another dimension of hard.
Drove ~2hrs down to Colorado Springs on Saturday morning to hit the Pike Peak Supercross #1. Chilly but it stayed dry. The course had a couple of killer run-ups including the one below (that Greg made look easy).
Sunday was a lot more of a technical course at the Velodrome here in Boulder. A couple of fast straights right into tight switchbacks, railroad crossings, and a gnarly little mud crossing/run-up. They even ran us inside and through an obstacle course at the indoor track wich was cool. I think the twisty and technical courses suit me better. I hung on for 13th which wasn’t too bad given a fast Boulder 35+/4 field of about 60. Super-fun first weekend of racing for the season.
Last weekend I rode the Firecracker 50 in Breckenridge. As a friend put it: had they pre-ridden the course before they registered, they never would have registered. The site even says that there is a strict time-limit and the DNF rate is in the 25% range.
Even more, people that I ride with that are way stronger and faster than me said it was over-the-top hard (and fun). Below is the course profile, which pretty much tells you why he gave the sage advice..
Best advice I got was from Beeker (aka Greg Keller): ride the first lap and then, if you feel good, race the second lap.
My first lap, I took his advice and just settled in. Warm-up was the climb out of town and up Boreas Pass road. Result: I had a freekin’ blast! Riding it like a fast, fun ride was clearly the way to go. Never pushing the limit avoided a potential blow up. Moreover – no mechanicals, no flats, just steady riding. The only major near-miss, was a crazy sliding “almost” crash I somehow made it through on a long and steep descent. Still not exactly sure how I stayed upright, but thankfully I pulled it off at 30+ mph! Too bad no one was around to see it. I must’ve looked pretty funny flailing at that speed and somehow keeping the rubber side down.
Riding within myself on the first lap was definitely the key to a fun rest of the day. My first lap time was 2:39. Slightly slower than I wanted, but a decent time for a rookie.
Next lap I tried to turn up the pace, but also kept within myself. I finished strong with a total time on my computer of 5:30 – a full 30 mins faster than my goal going into the race. I’m certainly not claiming that it was a blistering pace (I came in 23rd in my category and I think the winning pro time was just under 4 hours) but fast enough to finish feeling good and whooped at the same time.
Greg already did a bang up job of recounting most of the ride at Mud and Cowbells. I like the video below ‘cause its probably the only time you’ll see me crest a hill in front of he and pete webber..! No matter that he rode the Koppenberg climb (17% grade) one handed and filming the whole time.
My friend Hunter leads a couple of these CX treks around the dirt roads and trails throughout Boulder County a couple times each year. Rides are 3.5 – 4.5 hours and always finish with beer and brats. A great way to get in great base miles with a fantastic group of folks.
One of the interesting things about Lijit is that it gives me a bunch of cool stats about the people that come to my blog, what they read, search for, and ultimately click on.
I’ve noticed that people search me (a lot) for: "cycling blogs" and no results are returned from my blog, because I’ve never written about cycling blogs. I have most of them book-marked in Del.icio.us so the results do show up in my Lijit search, albeit on the "my content" tab.
Here are the ones I like and read from time to time. Not all are "blogs" per-se, others are cycling-specific sites that have great cycling content and/or good RSS feeds (like VeloNews).
A few days back I raced my first time-trial. The Haystack Mountain TT just outside Boulder.
The course was about 3 miles longer than last year’s and had a long, slightly uphill, into-the-wind finish.
I may have been one of the only guys on a regular road bike.. What was I thinking? This is Boulder dammit! Doesn’t everyone have a TT-specific bike, skin-suit, and a tear-drop helmet for weekend-warrior activities?
The coolest thing about doing a TT is getting to compare my time vs. the Pros on exactly the same course with exactly the same advantages/disadvantages.
Ouch. This past Sunday marked the start of race season for me. I raced the Koppenberg Circuit race in Superior, CO. How hard can 4 laps be?
Friends that had done it before gave me good advice: “make sure you ride the course several times before the race”. They were right, that hill is a killer. It must be a 17% grade. Short, but very steep. The race flyer even says: “… don’t be fooled, this race is hard, you will suffer.” Great marketing.
I staged at the front, rode in the main part of the pack on the first stretch of dirt, then moved up towards the front just before the hill. That’s basically when all hell broke loose. 50 guys riding together on a narrow, steep, rutted stretch of dirt road, at speed.
It just takes one… One rider bumps another on a climb like that and people start stopping, spinning out, falling over. I made the top of the hill still on my bike, but I missed staying with the front group of maybe 15 riders.
Here’s where my true road racing inexperience kicks in.
I’ve done plenty of mountain bike races and Cyclocross races, I’ve even done a few road race hill climbs. I’m (supposedly) smart enough to know how NOT to get caught out in no mans land, but that’s exactly what I did. Lost the main pack, tried to bridge up to them by myself, and in the process, completely blew myself up.