27 March 2014

Congratulations Tejay!

Tejay van Garderen won a stage today in the Volta a Catalunya

In the cold Spanish snow, Tejay won a stage of the 2014 Volta Ciclista a Catalunya to Vallter 2000. Where is that you might ask? Well I was wondering the very same thing myself, as in, "Where the hell is that?". I discovered Vallter 2000 is a peak (that I am guessing not many people visit) on the border of Spain and France, well north of Barcelona. Barcelona is the city where the Volta a Catalunya will end this Sunday.

Location of Vallter 2000 climb in Spain
Joaquin Rodriguez is currently in the lead of this race by 4 seconds.  The route map has to be one of the most confusing I have ever seen, all I know is they ride all over Cataluyna (Catalonia, Cataluña) in 7 days and 7 etapes.

Cataluyna has fantastic cycling. It's capital is Barcelona, it's provinces are Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. I last visited Spain in 2010, I wrote a bit about it: I finally get Girona, Cycling in Girona Spain, I'm on Vacation in France/Spain! (a beautiful beach north of Girona).

My coffee break in Cataluyna.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer®
But today - Tejay won Stage 4!

American Tejay van Garderen (BMC)  Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer®

Today's race coverage showed fog, fog, and more fog, with occasional riders appearing through -fog. Vallter 2000 is one of those remote ski stations. When it isn't covered in snow, it looks like this.

Vallter 2000
Which is a far cry from this, which is Barcelona
City of Barcelona, Spain, with the landmark Torre Agbar skyscraper
Which is known for this
Casa Batllo: architecture by Antoni Gaudi
And this
And this
And come Sunday - it will be known as the place where one of these men won the 2014 Volta a Catalunya. Three more stages to go:
General Classification after Stage 4
ESP  1  RODRIGUEZ OLIVER, Joaquin (KATUSHA)                 17:47:34
ESP  2  CONTADOR VELASCO, Alberto (TINKOFF-SAXO)           +    4
USA  3  VAN GARDEREN, Tejay (BMC RACING)                           +    7
FRA  4  BARDET, Romain (AG2R LA MONDIALE)                          +   10
COL  5  QUINTANA ROJAS, Nairo Alexander (MOVISTAR)               
GBR  6  FROOME, Christopher (SKY)                                             +   17
USA  7  TALANSKY, Andrew (GARMIN SHARP)                             +   18

Ciclista a Catalunya 2014 - Stage 4 - FINAL KILOMETERS. it is foggy! (hi ha boira) and it is snowy! (està cobert de neu).

20 March 2014

Photos for the Day - Pla d'Adet

Pla d'Adet is a climb in the Vallée d'Aure in the Pyrenees, France

My friend Paddy Sweeney of VeloPeloton climbed Pla d'Adet today (Plah-deh-day). He said, "Overall it's not a particularly hard climb as it is short and would be easier than Luz Ardiden or Hautacam." That is because the Hautacam is in Paddy's back yard and he climbs it (what seems like) every other day. 

I think Pla d'Adet is kind of hard. So much so, that I remember distinctly saying out loud after the last time I descended that mountain in 2010 on Bastille Day, "well I don't need to do that again." Once was enough, plus the 10-hour day we spent on that same mountain in 2005 to watch the Tour de France mountain top finish at the ski station. Do not get stuck in a traffic jam on Pla d'Adet. 

Still that mountain has epic memories for me. Just knowing that it looms over the Vallée d'Aure is magical. In 2010 I climbed a hill opposite simply to photograph it from different angles. Down valley is the city of Saint-Lary-Soulan. I totally disagree with Phil Liggett who claims this town to be one of his favorites in the Pyreness - "What? He needs to get out of that small broadcasting trailer more," I always scream at the TV.

The town of Arreau, north (up or down valley, it depends which way you are riding, because the road feels sort of flat) of Saint-Lary-Soulon, is a lovely town with a patio outside the Hotel de France and a pleasant river to picnic along. I like this valley a lot, it's beautiful. The climbs of Col d'Aspin, Hourquette d'Ancizan, Col d'Azet, and Pla d'Adet line the sides of this valley. Col de Peyresourde, Port de Bales, and Col de Tourmalet (east side) are close by.

All photos by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer®

The climb of Pla d'Adet is on the right of the Vallée d'Aure
The climb begins with a massive switchback.
You climb and climb above the valley
Looking down on the town of Vignec below.
Steepness of the climb
So steep (Paddy) that the houses are perched in stone on the side of the hill.

But Paddy claims it's not so hard. I think it is because he is riding super well this year.  (https://www.facebook.com/pyreneescycling)

Paddy is right that this climb will be part of Stage 17 of the 2014 Tour de France: Route of the 2014 Tour de France, By Pedal Dancer. Paddy is also an excellent photographer.

Related posts by Pedal Dancer (when I climbed it in 2010): Pla d'Adet in 2005 and 2010.

And about the valleys in the Pyrenees: The Valleys of the Pyrenees and The Valleys of the Pyrenees in Pictures

What you do while hanging out on Pla d'Adet for hours for the Tour de France to race by.
Near the finish on Pla d'Adet
Caravan on Pla d'Adet
Being fans at the Tour de France
The riders just kept coming long after the stage was won by George Hincapie in 2005.
And then a massive traffic jam to get off of the road to Pla d'Adet, so ride your bike if you can!

19 March 2014

Photos of the Day - Lookout Mountain

Lookout Mountain is in Golden, Colorado

The Mountain has a big white M on it's face, that is because Colorado School of Mines sits at its base. So does the famous Coors beer production plant, which adds a distinctive aroma to the town of Golden, Colorado. This mountain climb is very popular with locals, it is short at only 5.1 miles in length, but worth including in a longer route.

Last Saturday I was on Lookout Mountain to photograph the inspiring racers who competed in the Oredigger Classic Lookout Mountain Individual Time Trial. It was cold and windy. I hiked all over the twists and turns of this well known local climb, I felt for those cyclists descending in the cold after such an effort. When I wasn't dancing to keep warm, I entertained myself by taking landscape photos in between racers.

This is Lookout Mountain. A climb to be included in this year's Golden Gran Fondo and possibly, not sure about, probably not, but has been included in the past - USA Pro Challenge.

Lookout Mountain. Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer®
The famous pillars of Lookout Mountain mark the start of the climb.
You climb quickly above the town of Golden and the Colorado School of Mines below.
Before you know is you are on the bends
The sweeping bends of Lookout Mountain
There are days when you'll feel alone on Lookout Mountain. In good weather expect lots of cyclists.
Beautiful trees and natural cooling system as a cyclist climbs Lookout Mountain
It's just man and mountain on Lookout Mountain
And the view - from Lookout Mountain toward Boulder
It gets steep in parts
You'll start wondering how much further you have to climb right about here
The views begin to distract you
View of Coors Brewing Company from Lookout Mountain
View of Golden from Lookout Mountain
View of Denver from Lookout Mountain
This sign marks the official (post) top of Lookout Mountain climb, but it continues going up from here to Genesee Park.
You know you rode it right if you look like this at the end.
Then you get to descend
All the way back down this short but dramatic 5.1 mile climb.
Lookout Mountain Facts:
Length: 5.1 miles
Total elevation: 1,438 ft
Average Grade: 5.3% (7%)
Lookout Mountain climb is called Pillar to Post for the landmarks at the start and finish.

My photo album from the race  on March 15, 2014 can be seen here, race results from 2014 Lookout Mountain ITT here. The fastest time from pillar to (just short of) post was by Michael Burleigh of team Primal-Audi Denver with a time of 18"01'.

Here is Team Evergreen's suggested cycling route which includes the climb of Lookout Mountain:
Here is the route of the 2014 Golden Gran Fondo (June 28, 2014) - the toughest Gran Fondo in America!
Golden Gran Fondo route map link
One of my favorite photographs from the day:
If he can do it, so can you!

13 March 2014

Concussions in Cycling

Brain injury is a really scary thing

I bet many of us know someone with brain injury - of varying degrees - but the fact is that if you immerse yourself in the world of cycling, you will know someone who has had injury to their brain. It has to be one of the scariest things for a cyclist and yet it is often not in the spotlight.

This year team Garmin-Sharp made a noticeable change in helmets to the POC Road AVIP; this year I followed the progress of Dale Stetina after his terrible road crash and brain injury; this year I need three hands to count the number of people I know with outward signs of brain injury.

Accidents happen, but if we understand the type of unseen damage that is happening, we understand the treatment and know where to find help - outcomes may improve. A broken bone can mend, but a broken brain can change a life forever.

This video is really really excellent at explaining exactly what happens to a cyclist in a fall. About why the intensity of the fall does not equate to the severity of injury or to the longevity of symptoms. And why we need to seriously rest both physically and mentally (for about 2 weeks) after a fall and should not be rushing to get back on the bike, just as a ball player should not be rushing to get back in the game.
Diagnosing and treating concussions in athletes.
Premiere Date: 9/2/2013
Eric Freitag is a licensed psychologist and a board certified clinical neuropsychologist. He started the Sport Concussion Program in 2006 and has provided baseline and post injury care to hundreds of athletes. He explains the risk factors for athletes as well as the medical implications of concussions. Learn how to spot a concussion, when to see a doctor, and how treatment should progress.

Video (30 mins): link
Please watch this video, and thank you to my cycling friend Suze for sharing the link.

Education and rest

If more athletes, coaches and officials had a clear understanding of signs and symptoms and what to do for an athlete post crash, perhaps someone could stand up and say no to a cyclist wanting to race in a later category or the next day. Watch this video and you will understand exactly what is happening to our brains. This is an area where education would help immensely.

Help with head injury

A friend, Scott, highly recommends this organization for individuals with brain injury.  Brain Injury Alliance of Colorado - serving individuals affected by all forms of brain injury such as stroke, TBI, tumor and infection.


Improvements in engineering of helmets continues, but the nature of falls in cycling are best treated by experts, and rest.

Johan Vansummeren in the team's 2013 Giro helmet.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer
Thomas Dekker in the team's new look for 2014 - POC.  Photo from Garmin-Sharp team website.

You probably noticed the new look on the heads of Garmin-Sharp riders, whether you like the style or not, the purpose is safety. Although the purpose of those POC sunglasses seem to be pure style. Garmin-Sharp riders will wear the Octal helmet, the Octal Aero and the Tempor TT helmet for the next three years.

The new Garmin-Sharp helmet styles: Octal, Octal Aero, and Tempor

Related post by Pedal Dancer: Protect your noggin.

Man with a helmet - one of my favorites of a relaxed Philippe Gilbert. Photo by Karen Rakestraw of PedalDancer

12 March 2014

Book Review - Juliet Macur's

Cycle of Lies

Notice how I titled the piece Juliet Macur and not Lance Armstrong. That is because I am a bit tired of the subject. Yes, I watched a bootleg copy of the recent movie The Armstrong Lie. I was left numb and without energy after watching the movie. I also felt disappointed that nothing new was revealed, other than witnessing the movie director being manipulated like everyone else had been.

The author of Cycle of Lies, Juliet Macur (bio), is different. She is a highly respected NYT sports reporter since 2004, who has been paying attention to doping and legal issues in sports for a very long time. She studied and observed the destruction and finally has written a book. The result is that she actually has new stories and insight to share.

Read excerpts from Juliet Macur herself

This is the piece that Juliet Macur wrote for The New York Times highlighting her newly released book Cycle of Lies. It's free and worth a read: End of the Ride for Lance Armstrong, By Juliet Macur, NYT. Once you read this, you will probably want to read more.

Book Reviews

I am right there with you if you don't want to spend another dime on the Lance Armstrong topic, but at least you can read these two recent book reviews.

The Drug-Fueled Uphill Ride and Headlong Crash of a Secular Saint, By Mark Kram Jr., The New York Times.

Cycle of Lies review – Juliet Macur's unflattering portrait of Lance Armstrong, by Tim Lewis, The Observer.

Does anybody care about doping anymore?

It's all about the gas these days: Giant Shimano and MPCC call for Xenon gas ban, By CyclingNews.

Yes, the subject still lingers. I am personally more fascinated in the skinny drug and the use of drugs in local amateur races, but if you are interested in what is happening in the world of doping in the pro ranks, this is a good summary catch-up read by Joe Lindsay of the Boulder Report: A Partial History

Check out this tidbit of ancient doper history - Hamilton, Mayo, Armstrong, Ulrich - on Alpe d'Huez, 4km from the top in 2003 and going a little too fast. I was such a sucker.