Tuesday, May 22, 2007

More Cycling + Less Drugs = More Women

This is a sign someone had posted along the Giro route today. Maybe this is how life is in Italy. If so, I'm moving. Regardless, it's how life should be somewhere.

However, in my experience living in the world we've created it's more like "more drugs + less cycling = more women". In fact, I'm still looking for the society where more cycling = more of anything, really, at least the way "normal" society views us. In the good ol' US of A, it's a constant fight to just keep riding our bikes on the road. The laws don't protect us--in some states a dead cyclist is, legally, nothing more than road kill. Hell, Texas keeps trying to ban riding and it's home to the most famous cyclist in history.

So I'll keep riding my bike and looking for my utopia. And I don't plan to stop until they pry my bike from my cold dead hands.

Monday, May 21, 2007


Piano may no longer be the tradition it was in the Giro but today's stage covered 26 kilometers in the first hour, which is an indication that someone is trying to keep the tradition alive. During my 50 mile race this Sat, the only time we were riding this slow was during the roll out. And our race wasn't even particularly fast. For a group of professionals to ride this slow it's unlikely that anyone's heart rate has even reached zone one. It's barely recovery riding.

It won't last. I'm sure the sprint will be bedlam and, prior to it, I'm sure there will be some attacks. But most of the riders are probably pretty psyched to get some rest because tomorrow it all changes. The next week and a half are absolutely brutal as the race hits the mountains. If you haven't been paying attention, now's the time to start.

Here's some crazy mountain racing from the Tour a few year's back.

Giro, Floyd, and Dope

You gotta love the Giro! I turn on the live broadcast this morning and circus music is playing and the peloton is absolutely flying along at 30kph. At first, I thought they must be showing the neutral zone because the riders are barely pedaling, laughing, joking with the cameras. But no, it's in the third hour and they're still just plodding along like a critical mass ride. So they are showing highlights of yesterdays stage along side the parade. Italy, man.

The reason this is happening is that yesterday was absolutely brutal and the next week is far far worse. The finishing climb yesterday didn't look steep but as soon as riders would stop pedaling across the line they'd instantly stop and topple over. The "real" mountains start tomorrw and it's going to be ugly. Everyone should watch. No, really, you should. I'm serious.

Now, perhaps the reason PIANO is coming back into fashion on this brutal course is dope or, perhaps, lack of it. On any given stage doping isn't a real revalation because with time to rest you can max most of the systems that it aids. But in a stage race, doping is huge because it aids recovery so well. So these piano days are like recovery rides. They'll get to some racing at the end but it'll mainly be the sprinters hammering. The GC guys will kick it in the middle of the pack.

So, is Floyd guilty? I'm certain that I know the answer but won't say it. I do hope he gets off though because the way the current system is he's being used as a bit of a scapegoat. With the Telekom revelations yesterday, um, cycling is just going to change. It has to.

Teams need to get rid of full time doctors. Let's see, what would a doctor do on a bike team; fix injured guys? Yes, of course, but that's not a full time job and a PT would make more sense on a daily level. Feed them. Um, no. Doctors don't know about nutrition, necesarily, so you have a nutritionist do this. Train them? Again, trainers and coaches do this. People who studied exercise physiology, not medicine. So, what do the doctors do then? A full time doctor is going to spend their time figuring out how to recharge the hormonal and other physcial systems to aid recovery from training and the ensure all systems are maximized, medically, for racing. But not using nutrition, or therapy, or training, because those are other's fields. The doctors field is, yep, drugs, or at least modalities that can include drugs. So if you are paying a medical doctor to make your team go fast it pretty much stands to reason that his job would include doping. That's what Dr. Fuentes (Operation Puerto) said and, well, it makes perfect sense. Fuentes' line was even something like "what else am I going to do, I'm a doctor?!"

Anyway, you can follow Floyd's trial in almost absurd depth on this site. It's pretty cool, actually:

Landis trial blog

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

How To Watch The Giro In The USA

The race is currently on the first real climb. It's not steep enough to sort out the race but in about an hour we should have an idea of who the real players are going to be. Here in the good 'il US of A, we don't have proper sports coverage, in spite of about 10,000 TV stations to choose from. If you have cable, Versus has some coverage of the race. But if you want full real time live coverage, you'll have to use the net.

Cycling.tv seems to have partnered with Versus and has live coverage. You have to pay for a subscription, which I might. So far, I haven't checked it out yet. But if they do this for all the big races the 24 bucks will be well worth it. In years prior, I paid for basic cable, basically, just to see a few bike races. Cycling.tv would be much more effient.

I usually begin my mornings by linking to the live Italian broadcast:

Rai Media

The fills the house with Italian audio, which gives it a nice ambiance even though I can barely figure out what's happening. It's also live video. Today I was greeted by views of the Amalfi Coast. Beautiful.

Also, if you've missed the stage live, Rai sport provides other coverage. And you can always check Ultimo Chilometro for the end of each stage. Oh, the they've change the song this year! I like the new one fine but it's just not the same as Il Grande Giro! I want the old one back.

Eurosport has live audio in English but, so far, it hasn't been working. I'm sure they'll fix it. To find it, go here:

Eurosport Cycling

Once the coffee is ready, I sit down and read the live coverage on Cyclingnews to catch up. They always have other insight and funny tidbits. So I''ll always read their coverage even if I'm watching a race live.


Velonews also has live commentary and can provide different insight. The downside to their live coverage is that it goes down as soon as the race is over and the winner will be revealed in the headline. If you're watching after the fact and want suspense, use Cyclingnews.


There's also now a site that sorts through all the links n' such. It's basically a whole site that constantly updates the contents of this blog entry. If one of my links isn't working, try this site and they will sort out the problem.


The attacks have started. Gotta get back to the race....

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Notes From Everest

I just got a message from my friend, Kevin, who is currently climbing Mount Everest. According to him, "it's quite the circus!" He's actually working, which just happens to include climbing. Here's a link to today's diary of the team's expedition, which is to re-create the path of Mallory and Irvine.

Day 7

Here's the main page, which today has an interview with Jimmy Chin about the various types of snow.

I have an absolutely great job but, sometimes, I still get jealous of my friends who have better ones. As a member of the North Face team, Kevin travels the world, pretty much just adventuring. I'm officially jealous.

But he's earned it. For one, he's one of the better all around climbers in the world. As I used to tell people, if it involves going up, Kevin is better than me at it. It doesn't matter what the form of locomotion is or what tools are used; he is a master climber.

But he's also paid his dues. We met in Yosemite during the 80s when he was permanently on the road climbing. I learned a lot from him. Much about climbing but just as much on how to live cheaply. He moved in with me once and had his entire existance whittled down to one haul bag of stuff. This way he could exist on a salary of around $300 a month. I followed suit--though never got my possesions below what would fit in my van--and spent the next decade living on as little money as possible in order to facilitate climbing as much as possible.

At some point, as a climbing jouralist, I began to realize that not many climbers had the resume of Kevin. So I wrote an article about him. At the OR trade show that year he came up to me, weilding a haul bag filled with gear, and said "This is great. I just show people this article and everyone is thowing stuff at me." Since then, he's been hard to track down. When I'm doing things that seem cool, I'll then get a note from Madagascar, Patagonia, or Pitcairn Island that make me jealous, but also motivate me to keep at it and continually find challenges for myself. I couldn't be happier for him. There are a lot of poser/schmoozer types out there who get money without the substance. Kevin's got the substance and he's earned every trip.

It's unknown just what will happen during this little adventure. They brought the A team, but with altitude and weather involved, it's never a casual affair. So check it out. Should be a good show.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Paying Dues

With the Giro getting underway, it's time to ramp up my fitness on the bike. I'm about to leave for a ride where I'm, for certain, about to get pummeled. I'm meeting our "pro" squad today for a fast group ride. These guys aren' realy pro, just Cat 1 & 2s who take bike riding real serious. Some are ex pros; some will become pros. Whatever. They all ride their bike a helluva lot more than I do.

I ride with groups like this a lot. It's no biggie. But I'm not fit yet, so it's going to be ugly out there (especially given we have a couple of cat 1 climbs en route). This is normal for the "start" of a season; the whole dues paying routine. But it always is interesting to get ready for these rides, where you're getting dressed, feeling normal--perhaps even good--but knowing full well that within an hour or so my heart rate will be maxed, I'll be scratching and clawing to not get dropped, and spend the subsequent two hours after that blurry-eyed in a state of delirium caused by oxygen debt and lactic acid build up. It's gonna be, ah-hem, fun.

Oh, and the Giro starts this morning. Check out a Velonew's preview:

The Contenders

team by team

Race Preview

Check back too, cause I will track down the song!

Il grande giro.

Il Grande Giro.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Tuesday Inspirational Video

Okay, so maybe yesterday's vid was a little scary. It was inspirational to me, watching her go for it like that. This shows Chris Sharma working on some sick project. Watching Chris always makes me think I could try a lot harder. This is a great sequence on a fantastic-looking route.

Saddle Up

On Saturday, I was sandbagged by the Weather Underground. Not the revolutionary group from the 60's, but rather the web site, which attempts to predict weather down to 3 hour increments.

As I was sipping my coffee, the Underground informed me that our 70% likelihood of rain would be diminishing steadily throughout the day. Since the rain had already stopped, I dressed for cool dry conditions and got ready for a long ride out East Canyon.

My bike needs some love. I haven't really tuned her all winter and she had been making some odd noises. A cursory check before Saturday's ride revealed a broken saddle--cracked in two right down the middle. Hmmm, I thought, I wonder how long it's been like this? I swapped my Fizik Aerion for a beefy Trans Am off of my TT bike and was good to go.

I'd been feeling particularly feeble this year, since my lack of form seemed somewhat shocking, even though I hadn't been training much. I really needed some miles. My route would take me up Emigration canyon over Little and Big Mountains, then out towards Hennifer. It was cold, but dry, and since my route was mainly uphill for the first 10 or so miles I knew I'd warm up.

The snow flurries first appeared low in Emigration. I wasn't worried. After all, the weather was "clearing". I also felt good. Fairly strong, and certainly much better than I had all year. I was using one to two gears higher than I had been on this climb lately and exerting no more effort. It wasn't all about gained fitness over the last week; my broken saddle had been robbing me of power on every stroke. I wondered how long it had been that way. Last fall's races? I had no idea. Man, I thought, I don't deserve to have a nice bike.

I'd only seen a few riders heading up Little--rare for any Saturday--and all were coming down. Near the summit, three riders were descending. One, in shorts, was laughing about how he couldn't see. The snow fall had increased. Looking into the distance, there was no sign of Big Mountain, just darkness. But I was feeling good, so down I went, descending into East Canyon. I thought of the Bishop in Caddyshack saying to Carl (Bill Murray) his caddy, "God would never interrupt that greatest game of my life."

Near the end of the descent, I saw a rider heading uphill. I smiled and nodded. He didn't look very happy. He would be the last rider I'd see.

I was bummed that they'd opened the road up to Big Mountain. It's usually closed until the end of May, providing a pristine riding environment. It wouldn't matter today, however. The sightseeing opportunities had been minimized with the white out conditions. I'd only see a couple of cars the rest of the way.

The snow was now coming down hard. It was thick and heavy; not normal Utah powder. But since I was heading uphill, it wasn't at all unpleasant. In fact, it was rather blissful, just riding along in the dead quiet. It felt like riding in a Christmas card. It was also supposed to be clearing, right? At least that thought kept me going.

Near the top of Big, the wind picked up. The snow was coming in at a different angle and seemed to be getting wetter. This could mean that we were breaking through the clouds cover. Or it could mean nothing of the sort. Whatever the reason, conditions were getting less pleasant. I thought of Carl telling the Bishop, "I don't think the heavy stuff's going to hit for quite a while now."

At the summit of Big, conditions were ridiculous. The snow was coming in horizontally and the road was slush. I snapped a pic and looked in my intended direction. It was completely dark. I wasn't cold, yet, but had been heading pretty much uphill the entire ride. My Team Marco Polo winter jacket was doing a great job but it wasn't a rain jacket, and things were wet. I also only had on one pair of light gloves and no toe covers.

But things were "clearing", so I headed down Big in my intended direction. A few minutes later it became clear that things were, indeed, not clearing anytime soon and the I'd been sandbagged by the Underground. Isn't that what the revolutionary group did too? As I recall, they become famous/notorious more for things that had gone amiss rather than having their intended effects.

Anyway, it was now cold. I mean, really fucking cold. Well, maybe not so much cold as miserable. The "snow" was no longer idyllic. Instead, it pelted me in the face like BBs and I felt like I'd been stuck in a slushy machine. In an attempt to stay get warm, I hammered back up Big in the big ring and thought of the Bishop, sitting in the bar telling Judge Smails, "There is no God!" At the summit, I shook the slush off of myself and my bike and snapped another shot.

The descent off of Big wasn't particularly fun. In one direction, the wind was in my face and the slush peppered me hard, no matter how slow I went. It was one of those "should I go slow so it doesn't hurt or go fast and get it over with" descents. Should I stop was also on my mind but that wasn't going to get me home. I had over 20 miles to shelter and most of it was down hill. I thought of what Bobke had said in The Day The Big Men Cried, something along the lines of "before this day I thought that I could descend 10 kilometers in any type of weather..." and that he'd almost hit someone on that fateful descent who had gotten off their bike and was running uphill to try and get warm. I thought about running uphill.

I finally stopped after the steepest big to wipe the slush off. Everything facing forward was covered in about 4" of slush. I knocked it all off but my fingers and feet was fully soaked and numb.

I hammered at any opportunity, trying to warm up, but it wasn't clear that the speed and, hence, wind wasn't offsetting any heart rate rise. My fingers and toes felt wooden and hurt, which got me wondering how long it took to get frostbite. Uphill to the top of Little, I shook my hands alternatively, attempting to get some feeling back before the descent. When I'd left Little, conditions were pleasant. I was hoping they'd remained so.

No such luck. The descent off the top was wet, cold, windy. I could probably be home in 30 minutes. How long did it take to get frostbite again? By the time I was in the canyon proper, I couldn't feel my tips. I decided that if the Sun and Moon cafe was open I would have some breakfast and, alas, maybe there was a God after all.

I grabbed a cup of coffee and headed to the bathroom to "fix" my fingers. It took a while to bring them back to life. I couldn't put hot water directly on them for a at first and it was reasonably painful regaining their use. I couldn't do too much about my toes. They were soaked, but at least they could thaw before the rest of the descent.

After breakfast, the ride was wet--"clearing" my ass--but uneventful. My toes were frozen by the time I was home but nothing a 30 minute shower couldn't fix. All in all, it was my first adventure of the year and, certainly, the most fun I'd had since my birthday challenge. I thought of this as I neared home. It's easy to stay comfortable and not take on things to push your envelope a bit. But that kind of life doesn't really appeal to me. Still, sometimes I forget and need a serendipitous adventure to remind me. Epic season is now open.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Monday Morning Inspiration Video

Youtube is great, especially for those of us who don't have TV because, now, when somebody says "did you see..." we can check out whatever it was we missed.

Anyway, I was doing some research and found this vid of my friend Katie attempting to onsight The Tombstone. This route is historically very hard and scary. Dean Potter took a long time to do the first ascent and videos of him falling near the end were pimped by Black Diamond for ages. Subsequent ascents doused the grade a bit, though it's still one of the more impressive crack lines in the US. Katie is small and has very very good endurance. She's an ex-competition climber, one of the best in the world, and one of the first women to onsight 5.14. After quitting climbing for a few years, she's back with a different attitude. She no longer competes and, instead, lives in her car, travels, climbs, and writes (ah, the memories). Cracks, regardless of grade, tend to favor or disfavor individuals entirely based on finger size. Katie is small, so if Dean did it she can probably, at least, get her fingers into the thing. Whether or not those locks are good, however, is another story...

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Il Grande Giro!

I can't believe it's May already. In California, our road race season is winding down. In Utah, it's just beginning; a good thing for me. But May is also the month of the Giro d'Italia, which is probably my favorite bike race.

The Tour's nice and all, I love all of the classic single day races, the Vuelta seems to always be very exciting, but the Giro is, well, somehow just special. Perhaps it's because it's "the most beautiful"; maybe because it's early and we're not sure who will be strong in the grand tours for the year; but mainly, I think, is that it's in Italy.

Italians loves bike racing. I mean really love it. Kind of like Belgians, but with better food, wine, coffe, weather, and mountains. Because it's in May, the Giro has all sorts of different elements. It might be hot, cold, rainy, or snowy. Mountain passes sometimes close down. Stages sometimes flood. The southern stages can also be the first truly hot races of the year and melt the peloton.

Also, there's a different vibe about it (which has been changing over the years with media pressure); where the Tour has panache, the Giro has piano. It's not uncommon to see stages play out like a parade for the public. When a stage goes piano, it slows to a crawl. This gives the riders a break but is something special for the public, who can actually ride along with the peloton. Since the entire race is now televised, this doesn't happen much anymore. I think the riders must miss it. But piano is still a tradition and you'll still see stages cruise along at 20kph for periods of time, which means that when things get fast, they get REALLY fast. I remember a hot stage in Sicily where they spent about 100k cruising around with spectators as though it were a ride down the esplanade. When they finally decided to race, it was the fastesst and most exciting riding I'd ever seen. I think Cipo won that day. Bike racing needs another Cipo.

The Giro also has mountains; the most beatiful on earth. And they're steep. This year's edition feature one, the Zoncolon, that makes L'Alpe d'Huez look look like a freeway overpass. L'Alpe's steepest pitches are 11%. The Zoncolon AVERAGES nearly 12%. It has prolonged sections of 18%, 20%, and 22%. Two years ago, the race sorted out on the penultimate climb up a monster called the Finestre. This climb is not only long and at elevation, but it's dirt. The Giro can be cruel, and that makes for great drama. It's no wonder that Bob Roll's finest tale covers one mountain stage in the '88 edition. If you haven't read "The Day the Big Men Cried," put it at the top of your list.

And the Giro has that song. Ah, Il Grande Giro. It gets in your head and it stays there until you've been on your bike long enough to beat it out. It's how I met Big Jonny over at Drunk Cyclist. We shared the same sentiment about it. Most American's, unfortunately, will never hear it. And that's a shame. But for us in the know, our world will be a better place because of it.

Time to get on my bike...

I can't find the song but here's a link to the company that usually broadcasts the race, where you'll hear it every day.

Giro preview at Cyclingenews.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

April Training Update

The big news is that I'm not sick anymore--woo hoo! Man, whatever I had was crazy. Apparently, I'm not the only one. A bunch of people I know had some never-ending flu this winter/spring. I'm also not injured so my main training goal for the year is still on track.

To give an example of how often I'm uninjured, at least when it comes to climbing, Bob and I were climbing in St. George at the end of my illness and, I guess, something seemed off to him (probably me not complaining about something hurting) prompting this statement out of the blue, "Hey, you're not injured anywhere, are you?" as if it were a condition he'd rarely seen--and we've been climbing together for 10 years.

One of my personal problems living in SoCal was lack of new things for me to do. I have an explorer's mind and have trouble doing the same things over and over. Therefore, when I'd climb--which was only during parts of the year, usually the off-season for racing--I'd try and rush back into climbing shape because I'd already done almost every "easy" route in SoCal so that the only thing that held in real interest was harder stuff. This would generally lead to a quick improvement in my climbing level, to overexuberance on a certain project, to injury. This may sound stupid and, well, it is. But it's also the path that most (no exaggeration) climbers go down. Hang around a group of climbers and, if the conversation is on climbing, the chances of injury being a subject is pretty high.

In Utah, there's so much new for me to do I really don't have this problem. I'm happy climbing any grade, provided it's something new. So here I'm a lot more likely to slowly build into shape instead of focusing too much on one thing.

With that in mind, I did do this in Cali this month (see my last blog). This did cause a bit of finger strain so I'm taking a climbing recovery week (big holds). But that's par for the course and it was time for a recovery week anyway.

I had a pretty good running month, with a few runs longer than 3 hours. I plan to up that this month. I have a couple big runs planned, including a some night stuff (and, oh, I guess I need a new 50 miler on the schedule, too).

Biking sucked but the month ended with my longest ride of the year (60 miles over 4 climbs, approx 6,000' of gain), which felt fantastic. This month I'll probably ride a lot more. There are weekly races now and many of our trails have cleared up.

Evaluating my year end goals I'm now pretty far behind. The only thing I've really ticked off are some 5.12s. It's not too bad, however, since my base is building up. If this month goes as planned, I'll be back on track for the summer. And as long as I'm not injured, those goals are really unimportant. It's always about the journey and, uninjured, it will continue.

In other news, Sandee's birthday challenge was off the charts, Phil is attempting one even crazier, bike racing season has begun with plenty of doping news, and my hair is longer than it's been since I was 14.

Catch ya on the trails....