11 December 2014

The day that pro cycling died

December 10, 2014 

Yesterday was a tough day personally. Surprisingly I headed into the day holding onto a small morsel of hope that the cycling world could be set back on track, a track which had been anything but straight and narrow for decades. By late morning that hope was dashed, gone with the news that the UCI and License Commission had awarded Team Astana a 2015 WorldTour License.

We can get into talk of probationary periods, legal evidence and rules, but these topics apply only when you are in the meetings and extremely close to the situation (or the bank accounts). It doesn't require too many steps back from the center of the storm to realize that most people were expecting a change to be loudly made. This time we really needed a demonstration of leadership.

In the weeks ahead of the licensing decision by UCI, the media embarked on a heavy campaign - digging through their archives - to write any additional information they had to throw in the incriminating pot of "they did wrong" against Astana. By Tuesday, people held their breath, the hope held dear - UCI has no choice, they must not give Astana the license, it is the only right thing to do.

Apparently in a cheating sport, right has no place.

On Wednesday, December 10th, the international governing body of professional cycling demonstrated, through their timid actions (report), that they have no real power at this point in time to correct the invalidity of the sport of cycling. A license was granted to Astana, a team with five recent positive doping samples from five athletes and a long history of trouble, yet denied to the Europcar team for insufficient financing.

From my view, I can no longer look at any bike race and know the best man will win. Instead I know the best cheater will win. I had hoped that reality would be corrected in the new era of cycling, it will not. It is clear the story of changes in cycling was PR to keep the sponsor dollars flowing and the fans coming (which is what the sponsors want).

It becomes senseless to spend time in the future getting excited about a competition, or promoting an event, when I can only visualize the outcome resembling the last 1 kilometer of the 2012 Olympic road race when the known doper Alexandre Vinokourov effortlessy broke free to win the gold medal with the peloton left staring ahead defenseless. My heart sunk knowing Vinokourov would be Olympic Champion for four years; my heart sinks every time I look at the seven-year gap in the history of the Tour de France; my heart sinks every time I realize a young athlete will be forced to dope to compete.

My mind becomes numb in trying to find some reason to continue to support professional cycling.

Yesterday voices were heard denouncing the UCI's actions, voices were heard commending the outcome, photos were seen of the Astana team celebrating with champagne. But tell me this - what rider wants to compete against a corrupt team, what sponsor wants to give money to either have their brand name tarnished by doping or watch their clean team consistently lose?

Why would any young rider want the shame of declaring he or she is a professional cyclist? Why would any sponsor support a corrupt sport? Why would any fan want to spend their time on the events of a cheating sport? I don't think the UCI fully realizes how many fans finally had enough yesterday and turned their backs on the highest level of professional cycling.

If I were a sponsor, I would immediately redirect my dollars to recreational cycling, to local events, to young junior riders and to the MAMILS of the world. There is no reason not to refocus our attention on the common man who loves riding on two wheels. It is the every day cyclist who is a much more noble cause than a cheating pro.

 - - - 

I was going to make plans to attend the 2015 Tour de France, I was going to make plans to attend the 2015 World Championships in Richmond, VA, I was going to make plans to attend the 2015 USA Pro Challenge in Colorado - instead I think I will take my own trips in 2015 to ride my own bike and not waste my time on what will be a corrupt outcome in a corrupt sport. I'd rather hang out with my friends and stay healthy.

Any sponsors interested in following the exodus from pro cycling can find the Regular Joe Cyclists out on the road using your products themselves. Come join us for some good honest fun. 

We'll be out doing it ourselves. Riding with my brother in the Alps - photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer.
Update 12/16/14: The highly respected voice of America sport - Juliet Macur - has written an honest article about Steve Johnson finally departing USA Cycling. Executive’s Ride Into Sunset Signals Brighter Day for U.S.A. Cycling, By Juliet Macur for The New York Times.

Related Posts by Pedal Dancer: The structure of cycling in America

09 December 2014

Host Cities for 2015 Tour of Utah Announced

A scenic Tour of Utah 2015

The host cities and stages of the Larry Miller Tour of Utah were announced today.

If you like taking a road trip through magnificent scenery; find rest stops oddly relaxing; enjoy exploring small towns in America and like the feel of the open road - the state of Utah is perfect for you. If you like unprecedented access to professional cycling teams and plenty of mountain climbs, the Tour of Utah (along with the Critérium du Dauphiné in France) is one of the best to see. If you want to be guaranteed that Astana will not be invited to your vacation, definitely go to Utah.

Although Utah is next door to Colorado, and along my usual drive home to California, I have never been to this race. It is true I don't care much for Tom Danielson, the overall winner for the past two years, but the real reasons are limited vacation days, the USA Pro Challenge taking place the following week, and my limited income (make that non-existent) does not allow me to spend lavishly upon hotels across the state of Utah (although they are not all that lavish), I'm just cheap.

From what I hear from fellow photographers - it is the race to attend. I particularly enjoyed hearing last year's story by Jens Voigt of leaving his hotel room to sneak out for a strawberry shake in Richfield, UT only to find a large group of riders doing the exact same thing. The Tour of Utah is an UCI-sanctioned, multi-stage, North American pro cycling event race, but one where you will enjoy a small town feel. Some very good teams raced in 2014, and not the same ones that competed at the Amgen Tour of California (May) or in the USA Pro Challenge (August).

Larry Miller Tour of Utah
August 3-9 2015
7 Stages

Host Cities and Stage of 2015 Larry Miller Tour of Utah Google Map

List of 2015 Host Cities (and thereby closely the route) of the Tour of Utah:

August 3, 2015 - Stage 1: Logan - Logan
August 4, 2015 - Stage 2: Tremonton - Ogden
August 5, 2015 - Stage 3: Antelope Island State Park (it's an island!) - Bountiful
August 6, 2015 - Stage 4: Soldier Hollow - Soldier Hollow
August 7, 2015 - Stage 5: Salt Lake City - Salt Lake City
August 8, 2015 - Stage 6: Salt Lake City - Snowbird Resort
August 9, 2015 - Stage 7: Park City

Tour of Utah Women’s Edition Criterium Classic

Day 1: Logan, UT
Day 2: Ogden, UT

The beautiful desert of Utah
Utah scenery.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer®

05 December 2014

The structure of cycling in America

The levels of bike racing in the United States

Recently I attended an annual awards party for local road bike racing in Colorado; dinner was served before presentations and honors were awarded. Across the table from me sat four young, very talented, bike racers who had raced in the Juniors 17-18 year-old category for the past year. For them it was far more than a year, it had been years of racing and friendships formed by being on the same bike team. Even at their young age, I could tell their identity as bike racers had been forged. "What is next for you?" I asked with true interest. "Not sure, we will try to stay involved."

Theirs seems a fragile age of talent on the brink of waste. If they want more, these young men must be both judged and proven good enough to follow a selective path to national and international development. In addition they must completely devote themselves - and thereby their families - to the job of becoming a pro rider. A job which entails mandatory team contracts year after year, sacrifice, discipline and focus.

Their other possibility is heading to university, where few (but some) schools offer collegiate cycling teams. Only twenty-one colleges sustain official cycling teams across our nation. The remaining young riders have the option to compete in local bike races against grown men who have two or three $10,000 bikes each with excess money for gadgets and personal coaches. Their youthful identity and potential shelved through college, career building and a growing family, they wait to pounce on their big identity comeback as a local amateur hero, consuming their family weekends and holidays to attend bike races.

For some, this is enough, but for others, life begins or is altered at age 17.

How many of us want to be judged at age seventeen? How many of us were that solid at such a young age that talent, awareness, determination, tough mind, tougher body, money, support, means, guidance, opportunity and a good coach all aligned to make dreams happen? That is why continuing support of age 17 to 23 (U23, under age 23) programs are critical in the formation of a good racer.

I have a dear friend who - although he came from impeccable cycling genes - did not begin bike racing until age 24. Within a few stellar years he earned his place on an American Continental team. Although his ability is impressively strong, the sacrifices he has made for his love of bike racing are both scary and admirable.

Not every young bike racer is so lucky or so daring.  The organizational structure of cycling in America is critical in building a strong foundation for the sport for all ages, but for the rider age 17 to 23 - sponsorship, anti-doping, good equipment, proper physical training, respectful coaching, team unity and recognition of hard work is vital.

So much must fall in place for the potential of an athlete to be realized.

I think running might be a much easier sport to pursue. Cycling is not easy: it is not consistently available throughout our nation and it receives little overall attention, with less money. Yet I couldn't help but watch the 2014 Tour de France in admiration and wonder "Who is in charge of junior/U-23 development in France (and Belgium), because they appear to be doing a lot of things right?" No matter the nationality - young fresh talent might just save this sport in crisis.

How bike racing works in America (facts)
  • 2,700+ bike clubs and teams, high school teams, adjunct junior teams (find a club)
  • 57 Junior only bike clubs and teams 
  • 11 honored centers of excellence Junior and Under-23 development teams
  • 21 Collegiate Varsity (and emerging varsity) teams
  • 34 local bike racing associations (state or regional) 
  • 7 USA sport committees (BMX, Collegiate, Cyclo, Mountain Bike, Pro, Road, and Track)
  • 1 American governing body - USA Cycling
  • 1 International governing body - Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI)
This is a long list of organizations. We all know that this much bureaucracy teeters on really good people doing a really good job, or bad people doing a lousy job and messing it all up. Sadly, sport can shred the potential in good individuals through poor administration.

In 2013, leadership at the top level of UCI changed hands to British citizen Brian Cookson (Cookson presents re-worked cycling reforms to race organisers By CyclingNews). Improvements to the organization have been quick, slow, controversial and ongoing; so much more needs to be done. Major personnel changes also took place at USA Cycling in 2014, even more changes can be expected there through 2015. Changes are needed all around to manage growth in the lower ranks and recession in the upper ranks, plus dismal reputation of the sport.

Update 12/09/14: Steve Johnson to step down as CEO of USA Cycling, by Cycling News
Update 12/16/14: The highly respected voice of America sport - Juliet Macur - has written an honest article about Steve Johnson finally departing USA Cycling. Executive’s Ride Into Sunset Signals Brighter Day for U.S.A. Cycling, By Juliet Macur for The New York Times.

History of USA Cycling's name

1921 - The Amateur Bicycle League of America
1975 - United States Cycling Federation (USCF)
1995 - USA Cycling (USAC)
Programs and events nationwide to create better bike racers or more cyclists
  • Cycling Advocacy Organizations
  • USA Cycling certified coaching program
  • Bike club clinics and training rides
  • Local bike racing associations' development camps & seminars
  • Local amateur, collegiate, regional, and national racing calendar and events
  • Over 3,000 USA Cycling sanctioned events a year
  • National Collegiate events and Regional Collegiate Conferences
  • National Championships (annual)
  • World Championships (annual)
  • Olympics
Tremendous growth in bike racing was realized over the past five years in both the upper age-ranges (35+ to 55+) and the junior programs. Youthful discovery in sport often takes a planned course through junior development to pro level racing, but there is no one way to achieve success in cycling. Much of it has to do with getting that lucky break or getting along with people. And spending a lot of time racing in the saddle.

Opportunities for select individuals only and Teams
  • USA Cycling National Development Program
  • USA Cycling Regional and National Talent ID Camps
  • USA Cycling Juniors international racing camps and trips
  • USA Cycling European resident programs for Americans (men and women)
  • USA Cycling U23 Mens Team and Womens Team (roster)
  • National Teams
  • 3 UCI America based Women's Teams- Road
  • 9 UCI America based Continental Teams - Road (mens)
  • 3 UCI America based Professional Continental Teams - Road (mens)
  • 3 UCI America based WorldTour Pro Teams - Road (mens)
By the time a Junior/U23 makes it through selection and development, there are not too many team options available to him (and less to her). It is also known that with the restructuring of the UCI into 2016, there will be even fewer WorldTour Pro Teams. Below is a list of Pro Teams, some are in the process of reorganization, signing riders, and applying for licensing (exact team structure and sponsorship for 2015 is not fully known at this time).

American Pro Teams

UCI WorldTour Pro Teams (Mens): (3 of 18 total teams worldwide)
BMC Racing Team
Team Cannondale-Garmin
Trek Factory Racing

UCI Professional Continental Teams / America Tour professional teams (Mens): (3 of 19 total teams worldwide)
Colombia (South America)
Team Novo Nordisk

UCI Continental Teams / America Tour teams (Mens): (8 of 110 total teams worldwide)
Astellas Cycling Team
Aseon Cycling Team
Hincapie Sportswear Development Team
Jamis-Hagens Berman
Jelly Belly p/b Maxxis
Optum-Kelly Benefit Strategies
Team SmartStop
*U-23 development team: H&R Block Pro Cycling (Canada)

UCI Womens's Teams: (3 of 22 total teams worldwide, 10 less than last year!)
Optum Pro Cycling - USA
United Healthcare Professional Cycling Team - USA

View all teams listed at: Pro Cycling Stats Teams
View 2015 team rider transfer list at Cycling Fever or Pro Cycling Stats Transfers

Did you know?
  • Every state in the United States but Oregon, South Dakota, North Dakota, Hawaii, and Alaska (and Wyoming I was just informed) have state cycling associations associated with USA Cycling? Oregon operates its own independent Oregon Bicycle Racing Association (OBRA).
  • Over 76,000 citizens hold USA Cycling racing licenses.
  • Tejay van Garderen, Timmy Duggan, Danny Summerhill, Ted King, Michael Creed, Danny Pate, Nate Brown, Kiel Reijnen, Chris Butler, Ryan Eastman, Taylor Phinney and many more top level pro cyclists started in junior clubs or through USA Cycling U-23 programs.
If your child is interested in getting into the sport of cycling - USA Cycling offers this Athlete Development Pathway guide. If your child is a girl - start lobbying now for equal pay in cycling. If your child is interested in running - buy him or her a good pair of running shoes, open the front door, and go for a run together.
- - - - 

Here is a photo I took in 2011 of local Colorado junior wonder Gage Hecht. Two weeks ago Gage won the Mens Juniors 2014-2015 UCI Cyclo-cross World Cup in Koksijde, Belgium. Watching his growth through the junior programs has been amazing.

USA Cycling race report... "American Gage Hecht (Parker, Colo./Alpha Bicycle Company/Visit Subaru). The 16-year-old Hecht beat out three Belgian favorites for the win, crossing the line seven seconds ahead of second-place finisher."

A young 13-year old Gage Hecht in 2011 spending his weekends doing what he loves (with his parents always nearby). Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer®

04 December 2014

Recommended Reading: Christian Haettich

Read this inspirational story of French athlete Christian Haettich:

Cycling over the Pyrenees with one leg

Christian Haettich was one of ten cyclists to complete the Triple Crown Haute Route in 2014. He did it pedaling with one leg and one arm, and at the age of 53! 

Triple Crown: three back-to-back seven-day events
Haute Route Dolomites
Haute Route Alps
Haute Route Pyrenees
22 days of racing
1 rest day
1,600 miles (2,575km)
60 ascents
60,000m of climbing

The 2015 Haute Route routes are already planned:
Pyrenees route 15-21 August 2015, Anglet to Toulouse, France (west to east)
Alps route  23-29 August 2015, Nice, France to Geneva, Switzerland
Dolomites Swiss Alps route 31 August - 6 September 2015, Geneva, Switzerland to Venice, Italy

How to enjoy 7 days in the Dolomites

Host Cities for 2015 USA Pro Challenge

The cities to host the 2015 Colorado stage race were announced today

Race Organizers have changed things up this year, which was needed. Colorado truly is a magnificent state, we have so much natural beauty and so many wonderful mountain towns that I am happy to see new places and roads featured for the 2015 race.


First impression of the 2015 route (which is conceivable based upon the order of host cities) is a raced formed across long road climbs. The kind of race where team work matters and many new names will be seen on the podium. Still it will be the kind of race where experience trumps all. There are opportunities for a sprinter, for a strong finishing climber, for a time trialist able to manage a twisty climbing course, but especially for a true team leader. To win - your team will have to sacrifice.

About the race between Host Cities

Steamboat Springs  |  A Basin  |  Copper Mountain  |  Aspen  |  Breckenridge  |  ???  |  Golden  |  Denver

Overall this will be a very nice week in Colorado. 

The race begins in Steamboat Springs - a welcoming cowboy ski town northwest of Denver. The following day there will be an early climb over Rabbit Mountain and a final climb to the ski station of Arapahoe Basin (A Basin) - one of my favorite roads to cycle in Colorado (especially the nearby Loveland Pass). Next the peloton will depart Copper Mountain, another ski village, and climb over Independence Pass into the familiar city of Aspen. They won't stay long, the next day the riders climb back to Breckenridge where the 9600'ft elevation individual time trial will take place the following day on Stage 5. This will be a do not miss day in Breckenridge (it's a Friday).

Breckenridge is an excellent choice to base the peloton and it's entourage for two nights. As welcoming as Steamboat, the city is even more scenic and excels at hosting large events. After departing Breckenridge the peloton enters the yet unknown; the host cities and route of Stage 6 have yet to be decided. Race Organizers fancy the promotional idea of putting the vote to the people, a repeat of 2014 when they chose to get the people involved in route planning (or so it looks, I never know if they actually have the route fully planned already).

I think imagining routes is as fun as riding them - so share your ideas, if it does not impact this year, it might impact next year's route. Where should the race proceed between Breckenridge (Stage 5) and the start in Golden (Stage 7); your route idea must be within 150 miles of Denver. Take into consideration that Stage 6 is on a Saturday, so race organizers will want big crowds and good TV viewing, also the peloton will bed in downtown Denver for the last two nights to ease logistics. The race finish is once again in Denver on a Sunday.

Stage 6 options:
  • Within 150 miles of Denver
  • Easy bus transfer for riders into Denver after the stage finish
  • Generally National Parks are off limits 
  • Consider the costs to the towns suffering from recent fire or flood damage
  • It cost 250,000+ to close an interstate off-ramp
  • Team cars must be able to follow the riders
  • The route should attract big crowds
  • The route should look spectacular on TV
  • A clear leader will have emerged the day before after the ITT

Share your idea for the route of Stage 6 USA Pro Challenge 2015 here: prochallenge.com/2015stage6.

Stage 6 should be located somewhere inside this circle. There are a lot of mountains between Breckenridge and Golden, but not all roads/paths are suitable for a peloton and team cars (e.g., the I-70 corridor; Mt Evans is a National Park)
Previous host cities north or northwest of Denver include Boulder, Loveland and Fort Collins
Previous or possible host cities southwest of Denver include Colorado Springs, Castle Rock, Evergreen, Idaho Springs, and Golden.

My wish for Stage 6

I would like to see the race go up Lookout Mountain again to Squaw Pass and Red Rocks. For Front Range Colorado Cyclists - this is our prime stomping ground. Alternatively a stage between the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs  east to the Black Forrest rollers could be a tactically interesting race to watch.  There will be some noise to get the US Pro Challenge back onto Flagstaff mountain in Boulder - which just reopened this week - but Boulder is a very controversial location. My loyalty will always go to Golden or Loveland/Fort Collins for the historical support they have given the race over the years.

My route choice for Stage 6 is logistically challenging, but what a race it would be with terrific TV camera coverage:

Golden - Lookout Mountain - Idaho Springs - Echo Lake - Squaw Pass - Kerr Gulch - Red Rocks - Golden 

+8,589 ft   |   -8,593 ft    |    79.5 miles  |   max elev. 11,152 ft   |   anything could happen

Golden Loop

My second wish for Stage 6

The Peak to Peak Highway is a scenic byway crossing a beautiful stretch of high country Colorado. A route from Loveland to Eldora Ski Resort would attract crowds from Fort Collins, Loveland, Boulder, Nederlands, Golden and Denver. I am a fan of shorter pro routes where the racing begins from the start and continues throughout the stage. This route would parallel the continental divide north to south and features challenging false flats at altitude.

The Ranch - Loveland downtown - Big Thompson - Estes Park - Allenspark - Nederlands - Eldora

+8,625 ft  |  -4,324 ft  |  85.0 miles  |  max elev. 9,367 ft  |  magnificent Rocky Mountain climbing

Loveland to Eldora

Send in your wish for the stage route: help plan Stage 6

There will definitely be new teams racing in 2015. Changes have been made to the names, sponsors and ranks in the Pro Teams, Pro Continental and Continental teams. Even the women's teams are reforming for 2015. No announcement has been made yet about additional details of the women's stage race planned in conjunction with the 2015 USA Pro Challenge.

Exact Route details will be announced in spring 2015, this is when we will fully discover all the other great small towns the race will visit or pass through next summer. Teams will be announced in the months preceding, with final rosters announced 1 week before the race start.

August 17-23, 2015 should be a very nice week to spend on vacation in Colorado.

Remember - head to Steamboat Springs early so you can see and ride next to the teams training in the days before the race start!  Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer.

02 December 2014

Spending and Giving

It is giving Tuesday, a global celebration

Most of us were brought up to believe that it is better to give than receive. That through giving we can be happy and feel productive, that giving makes us better people. But giving makes much of the good in this world possible. It is fact that much of the arts, non-profit organizations, research, medical advances and education have not only been funded through our governments and our taxes, but by businesses and very generous individuals.

We couldn't make changes in this world without the giving of the very rich and the very poor. Every day thousands give their time to volunteering, others give their money. Both are equally valuable.

Give wisely

Now this is where the lessons lie: how many of us have participated in sporting events for a cause, even when that cause is not one we selected, and even when the event organizers went looking for any cause so they looked good? I for one like to support a cause I believe in. I think ALS is a terrible disease, but when cancer has taken the lives of my grandfather, an Aunt, two Uncles, and has been diagnosed and treated in my Mother, Father, all three of my brothers, myself and my dog - Cancer will always be my cause of choice.

This year I made small donations to individual friends who were conquering their dreams, and to the Amy Dombroski Foundation; the Bicycle Racing Association of Colorado's Junior program; Trips for Kids; and today to StandUpToCancer. I hate cancer.

Give today, and if you hate cancer too - give here to S↑2C  Stand Up To Cancer

If you have no money to give The Guardian (UK) gives some excellent ideas on how your can give. Giving Tuesday: 10 ways to donate that don’t cost a penny.

Give to your favorite cause.

14 November 2014

Recommended Reading for a Friday

A number of topics have caught my interest this week

Time for a recommended reading list....

A tale of the toughest bike race held across northern France through the battlefields just after the end of The Great War. What rider today could you imagine being this tough to complete an arduous race such as this? Circuit des Champs de Bataille By Rouleur Magazine.

In a week of Armistice Day and Veteran's day around the globe, Pez Cycling reflects on how the battlefields crossed during the 2014 Tour de France left a big impact on what they thought would be a simple visit to cheer on a bike race. Remembrance at Le Tour de France By Peter Pestes for Pez.

News about an event organizer taking steps to ward off a damaged reputation by banning all formerly suspended dopers from participation. The Taiwan KOM Challenge: why we banned all formerly suspended riders from our race By Crankpunk

An honest interview about one female cyclist's view of the current state of women's racing. Exclusive Q&A: Nicole Cooke By Simon Withers of CyclingNews

Now that you read that article, read these 'Cycling is now one of Britain's best loved sports' and Sir Bradley Wiggins: I want my Team Sky development team to create a lasting legacy for next 10 years By Tom Carey of The Telegraph. It is interesting the things top cyclists negotiate into their contracts.

Anyone who has not yet discovered the Flipboard App or Longform online or app, needs to check them both out - they will expand your world through excellent writing.

This week on Longform I enjoyed reading the amazing story of Vivien Thomas (I had seen the movie years ago) titled Like Something the Lord Made A great read by Katie McCabe for The Washingtonian about an individual who truly advanced cardiac medicine.

On a fun note, the Mile High Urban Cyclocross Chaos race takes place this Sunday in Denver. An unusual race based near the rail yards of downtown Denver. An unlikely setting for a bike race but one with tons of character and good cheer. The temperature at 8:30am, when the first wave of racers are set to take to the frozen course, is estimated to be 14˚F. If a bike racer can work in that temperature, I sure hope my camera can. (video of the race by OnSightMedia)

To leave you on the note of good character and racing - read Be Your Personal Best by Selene Yeager of Bicycling

13 November 2014

The growing force of womens cycling

What do I think of women's bike racing?

It seems I ask this question of myself every other week; the answer, I find, is often different.

One thing is for certain - womens cycling is again growing and I better adjust to changing times. With brutal honesty I admit I was fearful of the change and uncertain of how I would cover the newly added women's stage races to the Tour of California and the USA Pro Challenge. Was it social pressure to suddenly know everything there was to know about womens cycling or was it recognition of my own ignorance about the sport of womens cycling.

I followed the generation who created the womens movement, I was schooled through Title 9, I have witnessed the unequal status of women's sport for decades. And yet I have never been on the forefront of making the change happen. I honestly have never been into all women's sports, only a select few. I enjoy watching women tennis, swimming, skiing, track and field; all exciting sports in their own right. But womens hockey, baseball, or soccer? No.

I reasoned that just because I like men's football, basketball, golf and cycling, that was no reason why I must also follow women's football, basketball, golf or cycling. In my mind they were separate sports and one did not piggy back upon the other. I had no obligation to a professional sport simply because women did it, or simply because I was a woman.

Now that researchers have been trying to lay to rest the myth that sex sells sport, most fans admit they mostly look for ability on the field from top athletes (except for those nude women's kits that got far too much press in 2014). This revelation means we can focus on the excitement of pure athleticism and good competition. Perhaps the reason I have never really been into women's cycling is simply because I have not been exposed to the highest level.

My point is - maybe it is time that I give some attention to learn about professional women's cycling. Maybe I will enjoy the sport. I don't get that excited watching a local amateur race, but expose me to the best men in the world racing a WorldTour race and I get plenty thrilled. I know all the teams and the riders, I have my favorites and I know the history. I unabashedly celebrate the outcomes of individual effort in sport as if the athletes were my best friends.

It took me years to learn about professional men's cycling.

Maybe if I start learning now about women's cycling, I can catch up to the point where I can truly appreciate the athletes and their performance. This is exactly the opportunity we are being given by way of the Amgen Tour of California and the USA Pro Cycling Challenge having added multiple day women's races to their 2015 calendars.

Even if we are not fans of womens cycling today - we might be tomorrow, or better yet - next year. Our daughters, nieces and neighbors might be the next great stars of the sport. We grow our interest, we grow our support, and the athletes benefit now. It takes a willingness to say yes, I am going to watch and encourage more women's bike races.

For now if these races have to piggy-back onto the men's races, so be it. Soon they will stand on their own and maybe one day we will hear that a mens race has been added to a womens stage race. The best form of equality is when the athlete becomes known as a professional bike racer of outstanding ability, without gender attached.

I better step up and be part of this change, I know I have a lot to learn. Womens bike racing is in no way new and the sport has waxed and waned over the years. Growth has not been a constant upward curve, races have been eliminated, diminished, reborn again. But I hope the movement now gathering steam sticks and womens cycling continues to earn respect, admiration and sponsorship.

The Amgen Tour of California included a womens criterium as early as 2008, adding a time trial in 2011. Finally 2015 will see a three-day stage race, followed by a separate ITT for the women five days later. The men's and women's races will overlap, spreading viewership, I worry. More info: amgentourofcalifornia.com/competition/womens-races.

The USA Pro Challenge had previously featured a womens circuit race run in conjunction with the pro race on the streets of Aspen, but in 2015 race organizers will present an official USA Pro Challenge womens stage race. Full details have yet to be released for the 2015 mens or womens parcours in Colorado.

The Giro-Rosa in Italy is the most prestigious women's stage race. We have only four opportunities in America to see the best of the best in womens racing. If you live in Utah, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Arkansas - you are the lucky ones. I won't make it to any of these races in 2015, but I will make a point of watching online, if possible (How to follow women's road cycle races live).

It is clear that change is in the air worldwide for womens bike racing. “We’re going to have a much stronger world cup calendar and international calendar,” UCI president Brian Cookson recently told CyclingNews. Listen to Cookson address women's minimum wage and calendar and developments on this CyclingNews video: UCI President Brian Cookson on the progress of women’s international cycling. Cookson states "women's events don't always need to be secondary or subsidiary to men's events, they can stand on their own and be really successful." 

Having women's cycling stand on it's own is my hope and vision for the future. When we achieve a mixture of men and women leadership and sponsorship throughout both men's and women's bike racing, the result benefits everyone and signals an appreciation of the truly able athlete. That is when we know we have equality.

Dutch cyclist Marianne Vos - one of the MOST AMAZING ATHLETES you will see in any sport, male or female. Photo via www.mariannevosofficial.com

I believe building a solid following might have more to do with the quality of the business and operation then in the quantity on the calendar.  

Womens top level pro races in the USA for 2015 - Full Calendar Women 2015
Total UCI Womens Races over the year (signs of adjustment):
  • 2006 - 57
  • 2011 - 70
  • 2013 - 65
  • 2014 - 76
  • 2015 - 78
Learn more:
Update 11/14/14: Exclusive Q&A: Nicole Cooke By CyclingNews An honest interview about the current state of women's cycling.

10 November 2014

Coffeeneuring Challenge - an old Denver tradition

Cruising to coffee in downtown Denver

Not all coffee shops survive - as I can attest - because two of the coffee shops I hunted for during this Coffeeneuring Challenge had up and vanished before I was able to pedal to their doorstep. For my #7 of 7 Chasing Mailboxes Coffeeneuring Challenge I decided to visit a coffee shop that has survived the test of times. The Market - in LoDo (Lower Downtown Denver).

When I moved to Denver in 1990, The Market was the first coffee shop I ever visited in this large city. That is because The Market was pretty much the only coffee shop in Denver. After living overseas in Southeast Asia for 5 years, I had become accustomed to afternoon tea or coffee. The coffee shop craze, although already active in Seattle and Portland, had yet to migrate inland to Denver.

Life as an expat taught me that taking time for a warm drink in the afternoon signaled a moment of relaxation. It was a tradition I quickly learned to enjoy. I liked going to The Market to overhear foreign accents (something I missed terribly when I moved back to the U.S.) and watch others who practiced the tradition of good conversation and relaxation over a cup of coffee. The Market was a bit before it's time and it's patrons have rewarded it with consistent business for 31 years.

In 1983 two brothers, Mark and Gary Greenberg,  from New Jersey bought the market and created the current format of service including a coffee bar, fresh foods, deli, chocolates, bakery, catering, and specialty grocery items. The company website claims, "The Market was the first espresso bar between New York and Los Angeles, eighteen years before it became trendy to open a coffee house on every corner." Plenty of restaurants and shops have come and gone on Larimer Street over the years, but The Market has remained steady.

In the 1970's and 80s downtown Denver was sorely neglected, unattractive, dirty, without use. Then the mayor promoted an economic urban renewal that made the area attractive to restaurants, shops, loft living and plenty of new businesses. LoDo boomed. Before the renovation of Lower Downtown the single block of Larimer Street, between 14th and 15th streets, was a small oasis of preserved historic architecture. The Market has always been the cornerstone of Larimer Street, although it resides in the center of the block. The Market is a Denver tradition.

My coffeeneuring challenge To LoDo Denver

Adventure #7
Coffee Shop: The Market
Website: http://themarketatlarimer.com/
Address: 1445 Larimer St
City: Denver
Neighborhood: LoDo (Lower Downtown historic district)
Date visited: 11/09/14
Bike ridden: cruiser bike
Miles ridden: 10
Coffee enjoyed: Latte mocha mint
Eats: nothing, the coffee was like pudding!

Photos from my ride:
The city never sleeps, even on a Sunday morning (mountains in the background)
The modern landscape of the upper part of downtown
Typical historic architecture found in the Lower Downtown (LoDo) district of Denver
The Market !
The coffee bar with fresh baked goodies
The market
The entrance has that old time historical feel
My Latte mocha mint. The Barrista took his time to hand blend this yummy drink for me and added the nice design on top.
Sitting at an outside table in front of The Market on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.
Blake St (near to Larimer St) in 1866. We've come a long way!
 It was a great setting yesterday outside this traditional coffee shop in Denver. TODAY IT IS SNOWING!!!

I have completed my coffeeneuring challenge for 2014, but will be pedaling to more coffee shops in the future. That was tons of fun - thanks Chasing Mailboxes for organizing and inspiring the challenge.

09 November 2014

Catching up with tech advances in cycling

Who says a bicycle never changes

Did anyone else complete the 2014 Cyclingnews Reader Poll? Sure I know all the riders, sure I know all the races, and most certainly I have my opinions on who and what are the best. But then the tech questions appeared before my eyes. Uh-oh I don't know all these, I realized in shame.  There have been a lot of new technological equipment changes and advances in the bicycle industry over the past year(s). I need to catch up.

Advances are so numerous, the Cycling News poll devoted two pages to best new tech advance and best new product. I copied the two pages onto an email to myself, titled it "Learn" and sent it off to myself as a message to get-with-it. Today it has become my Sunday homework, and now, yours.

What is the Best New Product?
  • Speedplay SYZR pedal
  • Schwalbe ProCore tubeless tire system
  • Garmin Edge 1000
  • Shimano XTR Di2 electronic mountain bike transmission
  • GoPro Hero 4
  • Giro Synthe aero road helmet
  • Fabric ALM saddle
  • Zwift virtual group ride indoor training system
  • Campagnolo Record/Super Record road group
  • SRAM Force CX1 1x11 cyclo-cross bike transmission
  • Don't know (this is NOT an option, you will know once you read the reviews below) 

Take the time to read up on each of these new products and you will know a lot about recent developments in our sport. I have selected some of the best written reviews by leading tech reporters from varying sources found across the web (actually my favorite reviewers are Logan VonBokel, James Huang and Ben Delaney but I have ventured to offer a variety). In order of new products listed on the Cyclingnews Reader Poll, please read:

First Look: Speedplay Syzr Mountain Bike Pedals, Updated Cleats – Interbike 2014, Review by Andrew Reimann of CXMagazine

Interbike: Schwalbe Procore dual-chamber tire system Review by Francis Cebedo of Mtbr.com

Garmin Edge 1000, Review by Ben Delaney of BikeRadar.com

Reviewed: Shimano XTR Di2 is capable, at a steep price Review by Logan VonBokel of VeloNews

GoPro Hero 4: Everything You Need to Know Review by Grayson Schaffer of OutsideOnline.com

Giro Launches High-Performance Synthe Helmet Review by Mike Yozell of Bycling.com

First look: New saddles from new brand Fabric Review by Adam Newman of Bicycle Times

Zwift: Indoor Training, Made Bearable Review by Patrick Brady of Red Kite Prayer

Campagnolo Super Record RS groupset review Review by Matt Wikstrom for Cycling Tips

SRAM Force CX1 groupset launched Review by David Arthur of Road.cc

The fact that I had to dig past every major online sales site to find a review of the new GoPro Hero 4 might indicate who is making a gazillion bucks on the newest product released.  If you read Logan VonBokel's review of the new Shimano XTR Di2 you will read how he thinks it is "The best group." Now that it is winter in Colorado, I think the Zwift Indoor Trainer would come in very handy.

What is the best new tech advancement?
  • Full-suspension fat bikes
  • BioShift automatic shifting
  • Focus RAT quick-release thru-axle system
  • Inexpensive power meters
  • Direct-mount road brakes
  • Canyon MRSC magnetic suspension system
  • Automatically adjusting safety lights
  • Schwalbe ProCore tubeless tire system
  • Advanced aluminium frames  
  • 3D printing
  • Don't know (this is NOT an option, you will know once you read the reviews below)

Next take the time to read up on each of these tech advancements. Again I have selected some of the best written reviews by leading tech reporters from varying sources found across the web. In order of new tech updates listed on the Cyclingnews Reader Poll, please read:

Fat bike mega gallery - Interbike 2014 Review by Josh Patterson of Bike Radar

Hands-on with the Bioshift Automated Bike Shifting System Review by DC Rainmaker of DCRainmaker.com

AngryAsian: Bring on the thru-axles Review by James Huang of Bike Radar

Product Reviews: Power Meter Buyers Guide Review by Road Bike Action. Also read AngryAsian: Why are power meters so expensive? Review by James Huang of Bike Radar

Reviewed: Disc who? Shimano’s rim brakes of the future Review by Caley Fretz of VeloNews

Eurobike 2014: concept bike unveiled by Canyon - the MRSC Connected Review by Timothy John of Road Cycling UK

The Best Commuter Bike Lights Review by Eve O'Neill of TheSweetHome.com

First Ride: Schwalbe Procore dual chamber system Review by Danny Milner of Mountain Bike Rider

Aluminum: Call It a Comeback - Bicycling Review by Joe Lindsay of Bicycling.com

3D Printing: The Printed World News by Filton of The Economist

What this homework exercise has taught me is that bikes do indeed change and advances are continuously made as man is forever trying to improve. It also makes me realize there is an endless amount of gear to spend my money upon and an old bike is any bike older that three years. Mostly this quick review of tech advances in the bike industry for 2014 has taught me that I should have been a gear tech reviewer. Could you imagine the pure happiness of package after package of this goodness arriving at the doorstep of your office, or being flown out to new tech press announcements? I would love my job.

Look how happy these people look to be riding a bike indoors? That might be the biggest advancement ever in cycling.

Photo from the Zwift Indoor Trainer FB page

Somehow I ended up not linking to any Cycling News tech reviews, for a full list of their reviews, please read: cyclingnews.com/tech

Related posts by Pedal Dancer®: The bikes that won the 2014 Tour de France

01 November 2014

Coffeeneuring Challenge - old & new roads near home

A traditional stop at Hudson Gardens

Chasing Mailboxes 7-week 7-coffee shop 2014 Coffeeneuring Challenge continues.

I would bet that every road cyclist in Denver has stopped in at the tiny refreshment hut called Nixons at Hudson Gardens. Hudson Gardens sits right on the Platte River bike path. Try as I might to avoid bike paths, I am not alone is using this path to quickly get south out of town. On summer weekends the place is packed with cyclists. In early spring or late fall, less so; today was very quiet. The Hudson Garden rest stop was fixed up a couple of years ago and now offers fine tables, shade, restrooms, water fountain, bike pump and tool station and a snack shop.

Today I ordered a cappuccino. I sat and enjoyed my coffee with my friend Julie, whom I met out riding.

I am on Coffeeneuring Adventure #6 and have been trying to visit a different neighborhood and order a different kind of coffee drink at each challenge. Hard to believe I only have one more challenge to go, which is good timing because I am trying to avoid the chocolate mochas or pumpkin Lattes. It seems my New Year's Resolution to loose some weight has hit me early. So far I have enjoyed an Americano (my standard favorite), a boiled coffee, drip coffee, iced coffee, cafe latte, and a cappuccino. I hope I find something different next week.

My journey into new neighborhoods has been a great experience. Today after meeting up with friends, I said no thank you to taking the same bike path back home, intead I continued south toward Chatfield Park and then east connecting to Clarkson Street. Clarkson is a fantastic road for cycling. Quiet, pretty and rolling - it's just plain great. I had never used the southern part of the road before and was happy to discover that it is a much better alternative to the bike path (except I would miss Hudson Gardens).

I'm not crazy about bike paths, mostly because they are truly mixed-use paths with small children, dogs on leashes, skaters, and couples walking side by side. Kind of a crazy environment for a road cyclist. Plus bike paths are graded so that a rider's challenge stays too steady between -3 to +3 degrees in grade. I rarely get my heart rate up. I prefer to use my gears and vary my speed. I like rollers and small climbs and I don't like only looking at the shoulder/saddle of the rider in front of me. I am happiest when I am on a real road. The trick, these days, is finding safe roads.

Today I found new safe roads in the city and had a good cup of coffee.

A recommended inner city 29-mile loop ride in Denver and Littleton (click to enlarge)
I could easily extend this ride southwest into Chatfield Reservoir (doing hill repeats on the road up to the dam), or continue up Deer Creek Rd. Or I could link this route east to Cherry Creek Reservoir using East Quincy Ave (another nice inner city road to ride on a bike) .

Adventure #6
Coffee Shop: Nixons at Hudson Gardens
Website: hudsongardens.org/content/snackshop and www.hudsongardens.org/
Address: 6115 South Santa Fe Drive
City: Littleton
Neighborhood: South Platte River
Date visited:11/01/14
Bike ridden: road bike
Miles ridden: 29.0
Coffee enjoyed: cappuccino
Eats: nothing (the gardens are only 10.0 miles from my house)
Weather: 64 degrees, windy
Comments: nice setting, very quiet in November
Music: Pandora blues guitar channel

Nixons' friendly sign on the bike path at Hudson Gardens welcomes cyclists.
Nixons on the Platte River bike path in Littleton. Bike-in only, no cars.
The one of a kind rest stop in the Denver area. this area is usually filled with cyclists resting under shade trees.
My cappuccino in it's small white cup awaits me
I think I am going continue this challenge as long as winter allows.

27 October 2014

Coffeeneuring - riding a long way for coffee

The day I rode 62 miles for an iced coffee

Last Saturday I woke up excited to be free to ride my bike, it was coffeeneuring day. I knew there was a big cyclocross race happening north of Denver someplace, but I was so happy knowing that I would instead be out riding my own bike. I felt carefree, not having an exact plan, the point was to ride and enjoy. I headed south and east out of Denver deciding to hook up with the Plate River bike path. Maybe I would stop in Littleton, maybe ride to Chatfield Reservoir, Deer Creek, or maybe Highlands Ranch. I knew the locations of a couple coffee shops on route.

Then I ran into a friend.

He was biking in the completely opposite direction. So I turned around and followed him all the way back into and across the city and out to Nebraska. Okay, it wasn't actually to Nebraska, but it sure as heck felt like it, we rode out in Parker/The Pinery someplace. I rode 62-miles. I had brought one bottle of water with me and one Gu packet (which just happened to be resting in my helmet from a previous ride when I got dressed that morning, thank goodness I stuck it in my jersey pocket). I thought I was headed to a coffee shop, I wasn't prepared for such spontaneity. Somewhere out near Nebraska I spotted a convenience store and begged Bob (who never stops) if I could get some water. Two bottles and 62 miles of riding is exactly how NOT to ride a bike. Wow was I hungry and dehydrated when I got home.

But it showed me what I am capable of doing when I set my mind to go mode.

This friend I happened upon on Saturday is the very same friend that I had written about this summer in Cycling Injures. Bob had suffered a broken back, pelvis and ribs when he was struck by a truck while cycling in June 2014. Here he was out riding his bike. I was so excited when I first saw him, I actually got off my bike and started running back toward him yelling his name. Bob is a bit like me on a bike: he doesn't talk much while riding, which I really like; he is quite capable; and he never stops, which I really like except, of course, when I have no water. But there was no way I was going to complain to Bob about anything.

Then he dropped me, twice.

I can honestly say it was the best 62-mile bike ride I ever completed, only to get coffee 2-miles from my home. Limping back toward home after saying goodbye to Bob, I realized, "I guess I need to go get some coffee, somewhere." So I stopped into Stella's on Old South Pearl Street. Not the best coffee, but a nice location (one I was saving in case a snowy day happened within my coffeeneuring challenge). Stella's is in a very cool neighborhood block of restaurants and shops which sort of rivals Old South Gaylord Street near my home.

After a long warm ride, I ordered an iced coffee with a bit of honey. It came in a plastic cup and was gone in four minutes. Then I rode home for real food.

Adventure #4
Coffee Shop: Stella's
Website: www.stellascoffee.com/
Address: 1476 South Pearl Street
City: Denver
Neighborhood: Washington Park
Date visited: 10/25/14
Bike ridden: road bike, dressed in the most unbecoming lycra
Miles ridden: 62 miles
Coffee enjoyed: iced coffee with honey
Eats: nothing, I needed a real meal
Comments: being spontaneous is fun!

My iced coffee blending in with the fall leaves

Good thing I carried my small camera for those 62 miles so I could snap these photos. I didn't get any of the ride because ... we didn't stop long enough!

The next day, on Sunday morning, I met up with two friends (Julie and AG) to ride city bikes through the parks to the Denver Botanic Gardens. We toured through the Chihuly glass exhibit at the gardens and sat for a coffee at the cafe in the gardens. It was lovely. A very relaxing morning before heading off to a pumpkin carving party. Halloween is this Friday.

Adventure #5
Coffee Shop: Cafe at the Denver Botanic Gardens
Website: www.botanicgardens.org
Address: 1007 York St.
City: Denver
Neighborhood: Congress Park
Date visited: 10/26/14
Bike ridden: B-cycles and cruiser bike (https://www.bcycle.com/)
Miles ridden: 7 miles
Coffee enjoyed: Cafe Latte
Eats: a rice krispie treat
Comments: Beautiful day in the gardens with friends

Rice Krispie treats are gluten free, but not calorie free

Chihuly glass in the Botanic Gardens