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.

22 July 2012

The Tour de France is so cool

Wow wow and wow
Do I need any other word to describe a day at the Tour de France? I spent the past five days in the Pyrenees as a tourist, two of those days were spent on mountain stages of the Tour de France, the other 3 days were spent saying statements like, "wow this is beautiful" and "wow this tastes so good" and “this road is steep.” We ate really really really good food and met some very fun people. Really, would be my second choice of word to describe a vacation in the south of France. Really fantastic views, really great roads for cycling, really friendly people, really glad I came. 
Compared to the predominantly French feeling of stages 10,1 1, and 12, I had attended last week in the area of the Rhone River Valley, stages 16 and 17 in the Pyrenees highlighted some of the best climbs in the Pyrenees and had that epic feeling. The weather was perhaps the best I had ever experienced on a Tour day (in 6 previous visits). Perhaps Cavendish and Zabriskie would not agree, as they reportedly suffered in the heat, but as a fan, the clear skies made for dramatic views as we sat on a hillside waiting for a pack of riders to pass by. 
Last Wednesday morning we joined the gathering numbers of cyclists riding the approach up the D934 south of Pau to climb the Col d' Aubisque. This road is commonly included on the route of the Tour and happens to run directly below the sauque (farm) where we are staying in the Vallee d'Ossau. To understand the Pyrenees one must grasp the idea of various valleys running south into a huge mountain range stretching west to east and dividing France from Spain.
To understand the Tour de France, one must grasp the idea that these valleys mean nothing to a cyclist who must traverse 5 valleys in one stage and never get the chance to sit and enjoy the view, eat a grilled sausage sandwich from a local food vendor, giggle over trinkets thrown from an entertaining caravan, or have the opportunity to stop and snap photographs along the beautiful route.
Cycling on the route of the Tour de France is like getting to play a scrimmage game with your best friends on the football field before the Superbowl and then meeting fans from around the world who are there to do the same thing and then getting to stand on the sideline and watch. The only goal of a fan is to have a good time, under good weather, and cheer on their favorite riders. We got to do all of that. 
We were so excited we woke early to begin our ride up the mountain, we did not want to be blocked by the Gendarmes, which is sort of par for the course. The Col d’Aubisque was tricky since it was the first of 4 significant climbs of the day and the caravan would pass by 2 hours prior to the riders. We had no idea what to expect, we only wanted to be there to participate. We continued pedaling, up and up, receiving cheers are we rode past surprised fans.
Never once did it occur that we were doing something extraordinary, we are cyclists from Colorado, where half the riders are women. But here in France, it is a rare sight to see women riding epic climbs. Two days later we met 2 women from Florida who were here to do the same thing. When they told us they traveled all this way to ride onto the route of the Tour de France, we responded, “wow that is so cool,” but wait, we were doing the same thing!
The Tour de France is a grand organized chaotic exciting festival. A day of people helping people, offering pushes up the hill, sharing caravan swag, allowing passage on the descent, laughing and smiling no matter what your country or language. The experience as a fan melds well with the goal of teamwork of the pro riders. To me the Tour de France is people, then sport, and then scenery.
We rode, we walked, but we got to the top of that mountain. Those Gendarmes let us by, but not until we engaged them in various honest conversations explaining - yes our cycling shoes were in our napsacks, but our flip-flops were on our feet. No, we would not put back on our cycling shoes after passing the Gendarmes because we were content to walk up the Col d’Aubisque rather than ride up it (actually much harder), nor would we de-flat our tires (as they suggested) to prove our intent. The Gendarmes would have to trust that we were experienced flip-floppers on 9-10% grades. Negotiating with a Gendarme is a subjective art form in France.
The Tour de France riders got to ride up the Col d’Aubisque. On Stage 16 of the Tour de France, they rode up the Vallee d’Ossau to climb the Col d'Aubisque (Col #1), across to the Col du Soulor, down to the Valley Lavenden, up the Gorge de Luz, up the Col du Tourmalet (Col #2), down to the Adour River, up the Col d'Aspin (Col #3), down to the town of Arreau in the Vallee d’Aure, up the Col de Peyresourde (Col #4), and finally descended into the spa resort of Bagneres-du-Luchon to an entirely new outcome of the Tour de France. Well no wonder after all of that.
Meanwhile after watching the riders pass by, we had a short pedal to the top of the Col d’Aubisque where we enjoyed a grilled sausage sandwich and a cold drink at the café while watching the Tour proceed on TV. Our biggest concern was carting back our huge stash of caravan loot and wondering where our next baguette would be found. Being a fan is easy.
I want to let the riders know that the fans have an incredibly good time out there waiting for their over-heated high wattage bodies to ride by. Thank you for providing us with a great excuse to wile away the day on a beautiful mountainside in France.
We came home to sleep and do it all over the next day, during a totally different experience on Stage 17 at Peyregudes (tons of fun). For now photographs from being a fan at Stage 16 of the 2102 Tour de France: Thomas Voeckler won the Stage! This was the scene on just one of the Cols - can you imagine the others?
Monica proving she will wear her flip-flops (thongs for you Aussies) up the Col d'Aubisque.