28 July 2012

There are some things I don't like

Even when I love something it is hard to always stay positive

My brother Mike marvels over how positive Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen can remain while commentating on a cycling race. Whatever people say about Phil and Paul, there is no doubt that they are always positive about cycling. Phil Liggett unflinchingly looks on the bright side, unquestionably believing good will prevail. That is quite a trait, or perhaps the craft of a paid position, but for me, a generally positive person, I admit I lack tolerance for certain things. I know I would not be able to keep all that goes through my mind to myself, as Phil and Paul do.
Today I listened to Paul Sherwen commentate for NBC on the Olympic men's road race. He maintained his professional tone straight through Vinokourov's win and Cavendish's and Phinney's losses. I definitely could not have done that. Within the walls of my living room, I was off the couch standing in front of the TV when Cancellara crashed head-straight into a hard right corner, I reacted with a loud, "Oh Noooo."

I was adding my own commentary (as many of us probably were) during the last few kilometers as I watched Vino cross the finish line in first place. My commentary went something like this, "Phinney quit looking at everyone else, if you want it - GO. Go after Rigoberto. Ah man, you just lost your race." "Vino, are you kidding me, Vino is going to win. Don't let him win. I would not have sat here for hours watching this race if I had known Vino was going to win. Ugh, four years with Vino in that title." "Poor Cav, bummer, but he is taking it well." "Look how sad Phinney looks, he missed out on everything else to focus on this race and he lost." "Awh, Fabian is crying.""Wow, Chris Horner is still talking." Unlike me, Paul had kept composed enough to only say things like "you cannot predict a race like this."
My brother was much wiser, he realized the NBC coverage was delayed, checked the results on line, saw that Vino had won, closed his computer in disgust, and went for a bike ride. I spent my time watching that race. I love this sport, but sometimes I don't like everything. One thing I do not like is the number of convicted dopers we still have actively racing in the peloton. I may not express my opinions often on this blog, but I don't like to see a known doper winning an Olympic Gold Medal.

The Olympics are sacred to me, they represent what sport meant to me as a child, when my heroes where Olympians. Vino does not fit the bill, I admit I am disappointed. Although Vinokourov stated this would be his swan-song and he is now retiring (again) after the Olympics. It seems an injustice, I wanted the gold to go to a young well-deserving rider, no matter what country he was from. I think it odd some press have called Vino an "unknown", which he certainly is not, what he is known for is not something I like to think of as an Olympic quality, but I understand many fans and teammates are proud of him and he certainly was happy.

I don't spend much time worrying about doping in professional cycling. People ask me what I think; I accept it as both history and possibility, but remain curious of the trends as methods come and go. A couple years ago I noticed as fans we seemed to be waiting longer for the riders to come through. Minutes lapsed behind the estimated time schedules until the riders actually arrived. Hmm either the riders were not riding as fast as previous years, or maybe use of performance enhancing drugs really had changed. Now I get questions such as, "What happened to Levi, is he no longer taking drugs?" I don't know, maybe Levi is not using drugs and others are back on them? But what and how, again I don't know.

What bothers me far more is the use of drugs in amateur racing. Weekend warriors, middle aged men and women who need to create an image for themselves as racers at any cost. I was disgusted at the news that David Anthony tested positive after winning his age-group (45-49) at the first ever New York Grand Fondo. This was the United States' chance at creating a true competitive style cyclosportif event which are so successful in Europe - and we end up with a past-his-prime doper, what is the point? All of this trickles down to the Juniors. It is not only the immoral concept of cheaters, nor the health of the athlete we are trying to protect, it is the pressure put on our youth that they must dope or have no chance to win in cycling. Wider Testing Reveals Doping Among Amateur Cyclists, Too

Still why the riders in the Olympic road race let Vino go off the front when he is a former Silver-Medalist (Sidney 2000) and known to ride his own race, I do not understand. I would have liked to see an exciting sprint finish battle between 7-8 riders for the line. I see no reason for anyone to be disappointed in Mark Cavendish, he remains the World Champion and continues to inspire young riders around the world and has significantly grown the sport of cycling in the UK. Cav is an admirable athlete. Also the fans in Britain were magnificent. Now that is the way to support a cycle race!

We still have the men's individual time trial to look forward to on Wednesday: Final -Hampton Court Palace - Wednesday, 01 August 2012 14:15. View the Olympic men's individual cycling time trial start list / roster, you will see that Vinokourov is on the list (he reports it will be his last race). I probably will work through the event so I don't take the chance of witnessing him win. Although this time I am hoping that Cancellara triumphs. His visit to the hospital after the road race showed no fractures on the xrays, but the Swiss team is waiting to make the decision about whether Fabian will race on Wednesday. (Update 30 July: Fabian will race)

If the gold is not for Fabian, I would be happy to see any of the other lead contenders on the podium. I like Luis Leon Sanchez and Peter Velits (I am a big fan of both riders), but Tony Martin, Chris Froome, Taylor Phinney, even Wiggo would all deserve the gold. It is also possible that Cadel Evans will not race the time trial event at the Olympics, he reports problems with his health and a general uncertainty. We may be hearing of a retiring Cadel Evans soon. (Update 30 July: Cadel will not race)
As a reminder of the 53.5km Stage 19 individual time trial at the 2012 Tour de France, only 5 of the riders within the top-20 results will be competing in the Olympic road time trial on Wednesday. There are plenty of riders who did not race in the Tour de France and thus it is unclear how they will stack up against each other in regards to form, but I wouldn't put all your eggs in the Wiggo basket. The Olympic course is also mid-distance at 44 km with plenty of turns. In the words of Paul Sherwen "you cannot predict a race like this ahead of time."

Time trial results from Stage 19 Tour de France (these riders will be competing in the Olympics). See the Full Olympic ITT Roster by VeloNews.com
1 Bradley Wiggins (GBr) Sky Procycling 1:04:13
2 Christopher Froome (GBr) Sky Procycling 0:01:16
3 Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (Spa) Rabobank Cycling Team 0:01:50
4 Peter Velits (Svk) Omega Pharma-QuickStep 0:02:02
18 Bert Grabsch (Ger) Omega Pharma-QuickStep 0:03:43
2012 Olympic time trial route map
Humor is sometimes the best way to get over disappointment. Human nature - it keeps us guessing.

27 July 2012

Recommended Viewing: Tour de France photos & Olympics

The Atlantic Part I and Part II Photos
I enjoy when The Atlantic publishes a recap of what they believe to be the best photographs of all stages of the Tour de France. The photos bring back nice memories. 
Olympics begin today with Opening Ceremonies tonight! 
Olympic Games 27 July - 12 August
2012 Olympic Cycling Schedule - Road
2012 Olympic Cycling Schedule - Track
2012 Olympic Cycling Schedule - BMX
2012 Olympic Cycling Schedule - Mountain Bike

Who will be racing for gold on the road in the Olympics
Related post: US Olympic team for cycling and route maps and time schedule

This is the time when riders race for country; 63 countries will compete in the race. Roster list of riders for the 2012 Olympic road race:
LAGAB Azzadine - Algeria
RICHEZE Ariel Maximiliano - Argentina
EVANS Cadel - Australia
GERRANS Simon - Australia
GOSS Matthew Harley - Australia
O'GRADY Stuart - Australia
ROGERS Michael - Australia
EISEL Bernhard - Austria
SCHORN Daniel - Austria
HUTAROVICH Yauheni - Belarus
KIRYIENKA Vasil - Belarus
SAMOILAU Branislau - Belarus
BOONEN Tom - Belgium
GILBERT Philippe - Belgium
ROELANDTS Jurgen - Belgium
VAN AVERMAET Greg - Belgium
VANDENBERGH Stijn - Belgium
FISCHER Murilo Antonio - Brazil
NAZARET Magno Prado - Brazil
PANIZO Gregory - Brazil
ANDONOV PETROV Danail - Bulgaria
GYUROV Spas - Bulgaria
HESJEDAL Ryder - Canada
GARRIDO Gonzalo - Chile
DUARTE AREVALO Fabio Andres - Colombia
HENAO MONTOYA Sergio - Colombia
URAN Rigoberto - Colombia
DURASEK Kristijan - Croatia
ROGINA Radoslav - Croatia
ALCOLEA Arnold - Cuba
BARTA Jan - Czech Republic
KREUZIGER Roman - Czech Republic
BAK Lars Ytting - Denmark
BRESCHEL Matti - Denmark
FUGLSANG Jakob - Denmark
SØRENSEN Nicki - Denmark
GUAMA DE LA CRUZ Byron - Ecuador
TEKLEHAYMANOT Daniel - Eritrea
MANDRI Rene - Estonia
VEIKKANEN Jussi - Finland
BOURGAIN Mickaël - France
CHAVANEL Sylvain - France
DEMARE Arnaud - France
GALLOPIN Tony - France
NADIRADZE Giorgi - Georgië
DEGENKOLB John - Germany
GRABSCH Bert - Germany
GREIPEL André - Germany
MARTIN Tony - Germany
SIEBERG Marcel - Germany
CAVENDISH Mark  - United Kingdom
FROOME Christopher - United Kingdom
MILLAR David - United Kingdom
STANNARD Ian - United Kingdom
WIGGINS Bradley - United Kingdom
TAMOURIDIS Ioannis - Greece
RODAS OCHOA Manuel - Guatemala
WONG Kam-Po - Hong Kong
LOVASSY Krisztian - Hungary
HAGHI Alireza - Iran
SOHRABI Mehdi - Iran
ZARGARI Amir - Iran
MARTIN Daniel - Ireland
MCCANN David - Ireland
ROCHE Nicholas - Ireland
MODOLO Sacha - Italy
NIBALI Vincenzo - Italy
PAOLINI Luca - Italy
PINOTTI Marco - Italy
VIVIANI Elia - Italy
ARASHIRO Yukiya - Japan
BEPPU Fumiyuki - Japan
BAZAYEV Assan - Kazahkstan
VINOKOUROV Alexandre - Kazahkstan
PARK Sung Baek - South Korea
SARAMOTINS Aleksejs - Latvia
BAGDONAS Gediminas - Lithuania
NAVARDAUSKAS Ramunas - Lithuania
DIDIER Laurent - Luxembourg
OTHMAN Muhamad Adiq Husainie - Malaysia
RUSLI Amir - Malaysia
RANGEL ZAMARRON Hector Hugo - Mexico
BERDOS Oleg - Moldavia
CHAOUFI Tarik - Morocco
JELLOUL Adil - Morocco
LAHSAINI Mouhcine - Morocco
CRAVEN Dan - Namibia
BOOM Lars - Netherlands
GESINK Robert - Netherlands
LANGEVELD Sebastian - Netherlands
TERPSTRA Niki - Netherlands
WESTRA Lieuwe - Netherlands
BAUER Jack - New Zealand
HENDERSON Gregory - New Zealand
BOASSON HAGEN Edvald - Norway
KRISTOFF Alexander - Norway
LAENGEN Vegard Stake - Norway
NORDHAUG Lars Petter - Norway
BODNAR Maciek - Poland
GOLAS Michal - Poland
KWIATKOWSKI Michal - Poland
CARDOSO Manuel Antonio Leal - Portugal
FARIA DA COSTA Rui Alberto - Portugal
SANTOS SIMOES OLIVEIRA Nelson Filipe - Portugal
NECHITA Andrei - Romania
ISAYCHEV Vladimir - Russia
KOLOBNEV Alexandr - Russia
MENCHOV Denis - Russia
KASA Gabor - Serbia
STEVIC Ivan - Serbia
SAGAN Peter - Slovakia
BOLE Grega - Slovenia
BOZIC Borut - Slovenia
BRAJKOVIC Janez - Slovenia
IMPEY Daryl - South Africa
ROJAS GIL Jose Joaquin - Spain
SANCHEZ GIL Luis Leon - Spain
VENTOSO ALBERDI Francisco José - Spain
LARSSON Gustav Erik - Sweden
ALBASINI Michael - Switzerland
CANCELLARA Fabian - Switzerland
ELMIGER Martin - Switzerland
RAST Grégory - Switzerland
SCHÄR Michael - Switzerland
HASSANIN Omar - Syria
AKDÝLEK Ahmet - Turkey
KAL Mirac - Turkey
KUCUKBAY Kemal - Turkey
GRIVKO Andriy - Ukraine
KRIVTSOV Dmytro - Ukraine
DUGGAN Timothy - United States
FARRAR Tyler - United States
HORNER Christopher - United States
PHINNEY Taylor - United States
VAN GARDEREN Tejay - United States
SOTO PEREIRA Jorge Adelbio - Uruguay
KHALMURATOV Muradjan - Uzbekistan
LAGUTIN Sergey - Uzbekistan
GIL MARTINEZ Tomas Aurelio - Venezuela
RODRIGUEZ Jackson - Venezuela
UBETO APONTE Miguel – Venezuela

25 July 2012

Image of the Day: my favorite view

The sauque in the Pyrenees
On a clear morning
And on a misty morning
Looking south to Laruns, the Pic du Midi d'Ossau, the Col d'Aubisque, Cirque du Litor and the Col du Soulor to the left.

24 July 2012

I'm back at La Lanterne Rouge

And Mom - Olive baked me a Birthday cake!

Two years ago I was lucky to find a wonderful place to stay in Saint-Savin, France. In the heart of one of the richest cycling valleys in the Pyrenees, you will find Paddy and Olive who run La Lanterne Rouge Cycling Lodge (VeloPeloton). They welcome cyclists from around the world to stay and cycle to their hearts content. I stayed for two nights, two nights is definitely not long enough. There are climbs galore, excellent food and good company - why leave?

Paddy and Olive (and young Sean) have become friends, it was so good to return again to see them. But leave I must, tomorrow will be my last day cycling in the Pyrenees before I depart from Toulouse. Awwwh shucks. But look at all the fabulous sights I saw during my stay in Saint-Savin .... 

I arrived last night and took a walk around the tiny town on the hill with a distinctive church (which caught quite a bit of Tour de France air time. So did La Laterne Rouge which was mentioned on TV - so exciting). 
Tourmalet and Luz Ardiden are up valley
Church in Saint Savin
town of Saint-Savin near Argeles-Gazost
local homes
Saint-Savin town square
Lavendon Valley
View across to the Hautacam
My corner room at La Lanterne Rouge
Today I cycled to Gavernie. A nice easy road which definitely ranks as a "destination ride".
I got to cycle this road to the Cirque de Gavernie
hiking to the Cirque
I sat by this creek for a long time with my feet in the water
hiking families came by (love the baguettes in the backpack)
local school boys were fishing for trout
Grandpa was watching
These souvenirs kept whistling (crack me up)
The Napoleon Bridge on the road back to Saint Luz Sauveur
We had a delicious dinner tonight and Olive made Katie (their niece) and me a birthday cake. There are two other guests at the Lodge right now, Jonathan from England who is riding his bike (and eating cakes) all over France for 6-weeks and Audrey who just arrived from Singapore, another Aussie guest left yesterday after staying for 10-days. 
Tonight after dinner I sat out in the yard and chatted with Paddy, always good conversation with Paddy around, it was nice to relax as the sun was setting. If you are a cyclist, La Lanterne Rouge is a nice place to stop by for a few days, climbs in the area (out the back door) include the well known climbs of the Tour de France - Col du Tourmalet, Luz Ardiden, Hautacam, Col du Soulor, Col d'Aubisque. Plus fantastic riding to and hiking in the areas of Cirque de Gavernie and Cautarets. Would you believe La Lanterne Rouge is already booked up for 2 weeks around the 2013 Tour de France by a large group from New South Wales, Australia. 
The road from Saint-Savin to Gavernie
Tomorrow more riding, and packing.

Stage 17 on Peyragudes

The setting was perfect and it had never been used before
I hope it is used again, because Stage 17 of the 2012 Tour de France had everything. We sat perched on a hillside watching the fog cover and uncover a distant mountain. The Port de Bales was around the corner, the riders would be climbing it shortly and then heading our way. We sat waiting 150 meters from the finish line after managing to get ourselves to the top of yet another mountain. This time we were in the Pyrenees at the mountain top finish of Peyragudes.

The climb was steady and cyclists lined the road turning their pedals upwards through a large crowd of fans. I entertained myself guessing the accents overheard – Spanish, Australian, Norwegian, Swiss, Italian, German, British, hmm not many Americans. The campervans became thick as we wend our way to the Col de Peyresourde and it’s famous Creperie, where we had a coffee and a piece of local cake and enjoyed the atmosphere of being at the Tour de France.

The crowd and especially the waitress at the Creperie were great fun. The creperie is a traditional stop for cyclists and they were lucky to have two big business days this year since the previous day’s stage had passed in the opposite direction. We joked and laughed with the waitress who was incredibly jovial, then rode down about 2km to the juncture of the road to the ski station at Peyragudes. There we said hi to Peter Thomson who had a very nice location and set-up for his pack of clients with Thomson Bike Tours. Remember I did an interview with Peter last winter? (An Interview with Thomson Bike Tours). It was great to finally get to say a brief hello.

We had another 5-8 km to ride to the finish line at Peyragudes. I don’t remember exactly how long it was because the riding went by very fast. We were entertained by the roadside activity and the growing crowds, the Tour was still hours away. Tents were scattered across the hillside, camper vans squeezed in so tightly I imagined that groups of men had gathered to guide each one into it’s place on the green hillside.

Any place would have been a good place to be on Stage 17. We found a nice spot on the hillside near the finish where we could see the road below as it snaked among the camper vans and into the first village then traversed a long road to our right and finally passed the second village and to the finish line in front of us. I had always considered most ski resorts in France as not particularly attractive, but Peyragudes is new and felt like Vail Village in Colorado. The setting was spectacular. The weather absolutely perfect.

We spent hours on that mountain but I was never bored, it was worth coming early. Sponsor carts and staff handed out constant free items to the gathering fans before the caravans arrival – Skoda and LCL caps, Haribo candy, Vittel water, Bic pens, Le Coq Sport jersey keychains. It was fun watching kids and adults collect and share the swag. The French kids next to us shared their candy, we offered duplicate hats to the swiss couple to our right. We laughed at the Aussie’s who held handfuls of snack crackers. The Skoda yeti character came by, the Festina character came by flipping caps off of unsuspecting fans laughing through a loud speaker. It was delightful and we giggled out loud.

When the official LeTour.com website claims that 46% of fans come “first and foremost to see the caravan,” this is exactly what they mean. There was no way one could take anything seriously in the midst of such playful fun. TV announcers may convey the intensity of the sport of cycling (even though this year was less suspenseful) and cameramen try hard to present the beautiful landscape of France, but being at the Tour is a combination of mischief, relaxation, and silliness. There is a lot going on along the roads at the Tour de France.

We could watch the big screen TV from our spot on the hillside and listen to the French announcer's booming voice. We saw Valverde was in the lead, we knew to expect him first. We could see Wiggins in his yellow jersey approach on the road from far below, the helicopters whirling overhead. We did not see or know that Cavendish had fallen just down the road because we were busy cheering the lead group and the peloton as they raced for the finish line before our eyes.

Before the mid-pack of riders arrived, the lead riders were already descending down the same road. Suddenly we were watching riders coming and going in both directions, recognizing them easily as they passed. The finish was to the left, the exit off the jammed-pack mountain to the right, both seemed equally important to the riders. The infamous Tour de France traffic jam would start within minutes of the finish, and oh what a traffic jam it was. I always thought someone should have warned me that cycling off of a Tour de France mountain stage is like trying to ride a bike in and out of a Rolling Stones concert.

Traffic is expected when the entire caravan, team cars, fans cars, campers, walkers and cyclists attempt to descend at the same time. We later met a French cyclist in the town of Arreau, at the bottom of the mountain, waiting for his friends, he asked us what was taking so long. Many many cars up there, we explained in our 1st grade French. If there was a sport for descending after the TDF – it would be my #1 sport. I love it! I cannot explain it other than to say it is totally thrilling to be around thousands of people who just had a super great time and are now headed home to tell stories of their day.

Down the Col de Peyresourde we rode at high speeds when suddenly two cyclists passed us pacing behind a car. I came across them later along the roadside and commented that it looked like fun. Next thing I knew we were joining their group of traveling Aussie cyclists guided by Tony of Diamond CycleTours (www.diamondcycletours.com) for a drink at the Hotel de France in the town of Arreau. They were great fun and a perfect ending to our fantastic day. Thanks for the drinks and laughs.
Alright time for some photographs of the day – Stage 17 2012 Tour de France, the day I wished would never end.

All photos by Karen at PedalDancer.com and Monica B. (click any image to enlarge)
Creperie on Col de Peyresourde
Really funny waitress
Thomson Bike Tours' set-up
Campervans on road to Peyragudes
Monica and the Red Kite

finish line

Skoda Yeti
Aussies, and Phil Liggett's love child - or so he claims
Lots of free stuff
We are really at the Tour de France
Impressive caravan
fans waiting
caravan entertainment
PMU podium girls
Our views
Alejandro Valverde arrives to win the stage
He really wanted the win
Wiggo arrives
Froome and Wiggins
Vincenzo Nibali
Tejay van Garderen
Chris Horner
Here comes Cadel
There goes Cadel
Immediately the riders headed back down the hill
Ivan bundled up and heading downhill
A jacket, a coke and they were riding again, down this time
Edvald Boassen Hagen
Thomas Voeckler
The chase group
Chris Horner, already eating
The peloton arrived

singing songs
having drinks in Arreau after the stage
My human interest observation from the day: I noticed as the riders approached the finish line a few of them were looking back to the large bend to see who was coming, many others had an agonizing expression on their face, but a good chunk of riders were looking out across the spectacular landscape across the view down the mountain. These men had just ridden 143.5 kilometers and were probably consumed with the pain and pace and getting to the top, and yet instinctively they couldn't help but look down the road at the spectacular view off Peyrugudes and wonder where they had come from. We all do it.
The look back
 The grimace
The wow look at that view
Glad we weren't the only ones enjoying the views on a beautiful day in France. Even Mark Cavendish enjoyed the view (or maybe he was just tired of looking at Bernie's back).
Simon Gerrans threw his bottle, we didn't catch it. (bottle mid-air)
Peter Sagan came in smiling ... of course, he had a lot to smile about.
We went home with smiles as well. What a day!