Friday, June 30, 2006

Putting it all in perspective

Thanks, Fatty, I needed that.

The Year of the Asterisk

I read the news today, oh boy

So the blogosphere (have I mentioned that I hate that term?) is on fire this morning about the fallout from Operación Puerto. At least, the tiny little bicycling corner of the blogosphere that I frequent is on fire. So unless this is the first blog you read every day (and bless you if that's the case) you've heard the big splash that Operación Puerto has had on this year's Tour. The reports are somewhat conflicting at this point, with some stating that teams with riders being pulled are not replacing the riders (riding shorthanded) and other reports indicating that the riders will be replaced.

The list so far (31 riders)

Astaná-Würth: Michele Scarponi, Marcos Serrano, David Etxebarria, Joseba Beloki, Angel Vicioso, Isidro Nozal, Unai Osa, Jörg Jaksche

CSC: Ivan Basso

Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears: Constantino Zaballa

Saunier Duval: Carlos Zarate

AG2R: Francisco Mancebo

T-Mobile: Jan Ullrich, Oscar Sevilla

Phonak: Jose Enrique Gutierrez, Jose Ignacio Gutierrez

Comunidad Valenciana: Vicente Ballester, David Bernabeu, David Blanco Rodriguez, Jose Adrian Bonillla, Juan Gomis Lopez, Eladio Jimenez, David Latasa, Javier Pascual, Ruben Plaza, J.Luis M. Jimenez

Unibet.Com: Carlos Garcia Quesada

Retired/suspended riders: Roberto Heras, Angel Casero, Santiago Perez, Tyler Hamilton

In all the news I've read this morning, it seems there's one guy who gets it. David Millar. Millar was suspended two years ago for doping and the Tour is his first race since the suspension expired. Millar is providing the model that cycling needs to follow to shake the perception that it's dirty. It's simple, really. Admit your guilt if caught. I think this is what bothers me most about all the drug problems in cycling. In most cases, when a rider is accused of doping you get one of two reactions:
1. I didn't do it.
2. No comment/talk to my lawyers.

That's what makes Millar refreshing. He openly admits what he did. Millar says, "I f**ked up: I lied, I did wrong, I cheated, and I have to live with that now." And that's what I want to hear from Jan, and Ivan. And everybody else. I want them, if they are truly guilty, to 'fess up, apologize, and pledge to come back after their suspension and ride clean.

Web stories:

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Tour Drama

Today a Spanish judge removed the gag order that has been in place since the May arrest of Doctor (and I use the term loosely here) Eufemiano Fuentes and the beginning of what is being termed Operación Puerto. This has potential to have a huge Tour de France impact. You heard me, huge. How huge? I'll tell you.

The Spanish Secretary of Sport is flying to France tonight to discuss the results with his French counterpart, Jean-François Lamour, before the start of the Tour. Which, I need not remind anybody, is in two days. Some of the names being tossed around are big names in the Tour. In fact, two of my top three podium picks. Names like Jan Ullrich, Ivan Basso, Oscar Sevilla, Joseba Beloki, Santiago Botero, Santi Pérez, Quique Gutierrez and Angel Edo.

No matter the outcome, it won't be pretty. Here are the possibilities as I see them, from best possible to worst:
1. The Tour decides to allow the riders to participate in the Tour, pending more evidence. In my perfect scenario, the ultimate winner of the Tour will be cleared of his involvement post-race.
2. The Tour decides to ban the suspected riders from the tour. They are later implicated. It's risky, but it would look like a genius decision in hindsight.
3. The Tour decides to allow the riders to participate in the Tour, pending more evidence. In this scenario, the ultimate winner is later implicated. Bad for the Tour, and bad for the sport.
4. The Tour decides to ban the suspected riders from the tour. They are later cleared.

Here's the rub. If Scenario 4 should come true, while it would be terrible for this year, it could be a good thing in the long run. If athletes are not allowed to race just through involvement with a dirty doctor, it could be the one message strong enough to actually do something about doping.

Sources for the above are:

Date: June 29
Mileage: 23
Ride type: Commute
June mileage: 360
Year to date mileage: 1822

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Tour fever is coming...

Not much happening lately. I've been all preoccupied watching the preparations for the Tour take place. The teams have been announcing their line-ups for the last week or so. And now it looks like Vino and the Astana-Wurth team decision will be postponed until possibly the day before the race. The Court of Arbitration for Sport is holding a hearing Thursday afternoon with a decision expected to come sometime Friday, according to Cycling News. Talk about a cliffhanger for the crazy Kazakh. I know that if Vino doesn't race, the Tour this year will be a little more dull.

Who will win? It truly is hard to say. Basso is the odds on favorite, and my gut says to go with him. So I will. I predict the GC podium will be:
"Crazy" Ivan Basso
"Pretty Boy" Floyd Landis
Jan "I didn't start training early enough. Again." Ullrich

Green jersey winner: Tom "T-Bone" Boonen
Polka dot jersey winner: Michael "self-destruction" Rasmussen
White jersey winner: Some guy I've never heard of. With a mullet.

Date: June 28
Mileage: 23
Ride type: Commute
June mileage: 337
Year to date mileage: 1799

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

The Rain in Spain

It may not be Spain, but we had some weird rain yesterday afternoon. People kept coming up to me, the resident biking weirdo, and (a little too joyfully) telling me that it was raining really hard. Thanks, I noticed. But the beautiful thing was that between getting in the elevator to go down to the parking garage and going outside, the rain had all but stopped. I rode home through puddles and was sprinkled on one or twice, but that was the extent of it. Clean living, that's what that is.

Hey Ray, I think I might have passed your wife on the way home tonight. It took me a few blocks to put two and two together. She was riding with a polka-dot king of the mountains jersey and matching socks. But it was the bike with those fancy fenders that made my brain struggle out of it's daze and take notice. If it wasn't her, it was still a cool bike. By the time I realized it, she had apparantly turned off because I didn't see her behind me any more.

Date: June 22
Mileage: 23
Ride type: Commute
June mileage: 268
Year to date mileage: 1730

Date: June 26
Mileage: 23
Ride type: Commute
June mileage: 291
Year to date mileage: 1753

Date: June 27
Mileage: 23
Ride type: Commute
June mileage: 314
Year to date mileage: 1776

Thursday, June 22, 2006

First major trike ride.

Wednesday morning I had a Lasik screening at 8:15. I'd already told work that I didn't know how long it would take, and that I might not be in at all. The screening went well, and I'm an excellent candidate. However, I don't have the money set aside in my flex spending account. They offered me a deal if I do it before the end of June, since this is their slow time (see flex spending accounts). Figuring in the deal versus the flex account tax savings, and also the fact that I've broken my prescription sunglasses and would probably need a new set if I don't do it now, doing it now would cost me about $400 extra. We'll see. Plus, while I was in the waiting room and my eyes were dilating, I watched some woman undergo the procedure. I think that was a mistake, because it kind of freaked me out. I had shades of A Clockwork Orange running through my head as they inserted the eye speculum under her eyelids. They should probably draw the curtain when they're doing that. Ew.

So after I drove home and let the eye drops wear off, I decided to head out for a ride on the trike. My goal was to get a rear rack so I can use it for commuting. I first stopped by Hiawatha to see what they could throw together. It's such an odd bike that we weren't able to come up with a good solution. After Kevin took the trike for a spin I headed up to Calhoun Cycle via the Chain of Lakes. They didn't really have anything great either. They had one rack that probably would have worked, but it was the same price as the Sun rack and they could order the Sun rack and have it in a couple of days. I read somewhere that delayed gratification is a sign of maturity, so I decided to have them order it and wait a couple of days.

By the time I was done at Calhoun it was 3:00. I realized this is my normal leaving work time and I needed to get home to pick up the kids, pronto. So I hauled ass (helped by a nice tailwind) down the Greenway and picked up my normal commute route home on Minnehaha Ave. I made it home about 10 minutes earlier than normal, but I was also starting from a different location and had no red lights to worry about on the Greenway. I have no idea how fast I was going, but it felt fast. But I think there's something about being that close to the ground that heightens the sensation of speed. Because I'm not a fast guy.

When the day was done I'd put in 28 miles, according to the gmaps pedometer site. A pretty fair trial for the trike. And I did it with next to nothing, supply-wise. I took off with my phone, my cash card, and my garage door opener. No bags, no water bottles, no spare tubes, nothing. I covered bike paths, bike lanes and general on streen riding. And I enjoyed the heck out of the trike on all three. Now if I could only figure out a way to take it camping with me this weekend...

Date: June 21
Mileage: 28
Ride type: Shopping/Test Ride
June mileage: 245
Year to date mileage: 1707

Monday, June 19, 2006

Up again, down again

Yesterday morning I was making my way up Highway 13 on my way in to work. As I neared the top of the hill I looked over my left shoulder to see if the road was clear. It usually is at 5am, but I check anyway. In my peripheral vision I noticed something was actually on my shoulder. I looked again and it was a dragonfly (or damselfly, I never can tell). It was just hanging out, hitchhiking along. I crossed 13 and headed up Sibley Memorial Highway. I looked over my shoulder again, and it was still there. As I approached highway 55 I checked one more time. Still there. This is about three miles of riding with this bug on my back. It was cool. Once I reached 55 I slowed down and turned to get on the path so I could cross the bridge. The fly took this as a good place to disembark, because when I checked my shoulder at the top of the hill it was gone. When most commuters encounter a dragonfly, it's as a smear on their windshield, not as a passenger. It was a nice brush-with-nature kind of moment that made me feel good the rest of the way in.

After showering at the downtown Y, I was approached by a homeless guy. He came toward me with a bus transfer in his hand. I'd been scammed by the "hey mister, I just need one dollar so I can take the bus to visit my sick kid/sister/mother" approach when I was naive and new to working downtown. After that, my policy has been that I don't give money to the homeless. After working in downtown Minneapolis for 9 years, I can usually tell who really needs some help and who's looking for quick cash. This guy didn't need help. In Minneapolis, most of the ones who are working the prime commuter hours are doing just that, working. He thrust the bus transfer at me and grunted. I said, "No, sorry, I don't want the transfer." and tried to move off. He grunted again in a way that made me think he couldn't speak. He pointed at the transfer, and written in ball point it said "my dad died, please help, god bless" I was tempted, but even if I wanted to I didn't have any cash so again I said "No thanks, sorry." I started to pull my bike out of the rack. At this point he realized I wasn't buying. As he walked away he said, very clearly and with decent enunciation, "Fuck off, bike fag."

Date: June 20
Mileage: 23
Ride type: Commute
June mileage: 217
Year to date mileage: 1679

Nature Valley

If you read this blog, odds are that you're a bike junkie. Odds are also pretty good that you're based out of Minneapolis. And if either of the above (or both) is true, you already know about the big excitement on Friday night. Thanks to other, better, Minneapolis bloggers who post about current events in a timely manner.

So while my wife and kids were out milking cows, I was doing what I do best. Drinking beer at a pub and watching bikes. I hung out at the Local with my Cat3 buddy Ken and some of his friends getting warmed up for the race. It was a lovely Friday afternoon, perfect for beers on the outdoor patio just a stone's throw from the start/finish line. Then, everything went to hell. During the first wave of the storm, Ken, Shawn and John stayed outside and bravely hung on to one of the patio umbrellas. But the 65 mph wind proved too much and ripped it from their grasp, sending the umbrella flying down the street and them racing for the bar.

Once the front moved through the women's race began. And then the skies started to darken just in time for the men's race. I stayed outside and watched both, getting drenched to the bone during the men's. But since I had to ride my bike home eventually, it didn't bother me much. After the race I bid Ken and crew farewell and squelched my way back to work to get my bike. I hopped the light rail and found that the air conditioning was working overtime. So I rode the train until the a/c caused my teeth to start to chatter, and got off at 50th Street station. It was about this time I realized that I had no headlight and the batteries were dead on my taillight. But it was a glorious ride. Dark and rainy, sure. But there was enough ambient light that I could see everything in my way. And the rain was a damn sight warmer than the train had been. I stuck to the bike trail the entire way home, due to my lack of lighting, and made it home by 10:00. A late dinner, some reading and then off to bed. We woke up the next morning to find the power had gone out (Dad, the light in the bathroom doesn't work!). We took off for the in-laws' place Saturday morning for Father's Day weekend and didn't get back until about 9 last night.

You can see the rest of the photos I took at flickr. These aren't the best of the best, mind you. This is all I got. When I pulled my camera out of my bag Friday it started giving me a low battery indicator immediately. So I was able to get a grand total of 11 shots.

Date: June 19
Mileage: 19
Ride type: Commute
June mileage: 194
Year to date mileage: 1656

Friday, June 16, 2006

Nature Valley, here I come

Yesterday, my wife unwittingly gave me a great Father's Day present. She asked if we could switch schedules today. This doesn't sound like much on the surface, but hear me out. During the summer, I'm the early bird. I get up early and ride in so I'm at work by 6:30. This means I can leave work by 3 and pick the kids up from daycare. This also meant that today I couldn't hang around downtown and watch the Nature Valley Grand Prix after work.

A few months ago our girls started asking if they could see cows being milked. As luck would have it, Nancy's grandparents have a working dairy farm. So this afternoon she and the girls will be heading down to Henderson to see where milk comes from and I'll be watching professional bike racing. Sometimes, things work out so well it's hardly believeable. If you're going, I'll be the dorky looking guy. No, not that one, the other one.

In trike news, I took the trike out last night for a spin. A more mature, controlled spin. Didn't want to end up with another batch of road rash. I rode it up the longest hill of my commute, the stretch of Highway 13 between 494 and the Big River Regional Trail. While I was geared down extremely low and going extremely slowly, it wasn't horrible. I probably put in 2 miles or so, and had a blast.

Date: June 15
Mileage: 25
Ride type: Commute
June mileage: 175
Year to date mileage: 1637

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

OK, so, trike

Lots of suspense since the last post. New trike, injuries, what happened? How could I leave you hanging for two days? Easy, I've been busy. Sorry 'bout that.

Yes, I got a new trike. I found a good deal on a Sun EZ-Tad recumbent trike. Thanks to Jon for pointing out the craigslist ad! So I met the guy Monday after work, took a test ride around his parking lot and took it home. Here's the skinny. The bike was purchased new in January this year. He did some winter ice riding on it, but not much else. He's got the extra-wide 2.1 tires, fenders, and a rear view mirror added. Other than that, it's bone stock. And totally sweet.

Now the next question is, how does one go about crashing on a trike? Easier than I thought imaginable. Once I got home I took the trike onto the dead-end street behind our house with my kids. They were riding their bikes around and wanted to race. Of course, they were trying to take advantage of their old man by starting the race while I was still facing the other direction. So I gunned it forward and hooked a hard left hand turn. During the turn, the left wheel came off the ground. So there I am, two-wheeling it. No problem. But, soon enough I've got to straighten this thing out. So I reached for the brake. Nothing doing. I'm not in trike-think just yet, apparently. I squeezed the left brake lever, but since it has left and right braking and the left tire was off the ground, it had no effect. I'm not sure what happened at that point, but I overbalanced somehow and ended up sitting on the pavement. The moral of the story? Don't get suckered by a 7 year old. And because I know you're concerned, the trike is fine.

Jim's comment about me being all road rashed up at work was very humorous. Especially since I've had like 6 people in the last day come up to me and say, "What did you do to yourself? Did you crash your bike??" I tell them yes, I crashed. I even tell them that I was goofing off with the kids. But what I don't mention to most of them is that I was riding a three-wheeler...

Date: June 13
Mileage: 23
Ride type: Commute
June mileage: 127
Year to date mileage: 1589

Date: June 14
Mileage: 23
Ride type: Commute
June mileage: 150
Year to date mileage: 1612

Monday, June 12, 2006

Boy, am I cool

Who could possibly crash on a trike? Me, that's who.

My wife said, "I think you'd better take a few practice rides before you take that to work." I'm thinking she's a smart woman.

Date: June 8
Mileage: 19
Ride type: Commute
June mileage: 79
Year to date mileage: 1541

Date: June 12
Mileage: 25
Ride type: Commute
June mileage: 104
Year to date mileage: 1566

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Kindness of Strangers

I pulled the Jamis out of my bike quiver this morning, intending to make up for the fact that I didn't ride it yesterday. Yesterday when I left there was a 30% chance of showers and the skies looked vaguely threatening. So I took the Schwinn. And of course, it didn't rain on me. It's funny because in most situations I'm pleased when I don't get rained on, but when I ride a bike specifically because it might rain I feel a little put out when the weather fails to make good on it's side of the bargain.

As the kids and I waited for the bus I transferred all of my gear from the pannier to the messenger bag, because I still haven't decided if I want to put a rear rack on the Jamis. The bus arrived, kids boarded, and I took off. I had ridden about half a mile when I heard a semi-loud popping sound. I immediately thought, "I've been shot!" I blame this response on the fact that I'd stayed up late last night watching Reservoir Dogs. I don't want to ruin the ending if you haven't seen it, but suffice it to say that there's a lot of shooting.

Once I came to my senses, I realized I'd flatted. I pulled the bike over to the side and pulled off the back wheel. In no time, I had the tube out. I felt like the father in A Christmas Story. "Four minutes. Time me." I opened up the messenger bag and realized I didn't have a tube for this bike. Oh Fudge. OK then, I'll just patch it. As I got the patch kit out I realized my pump was still in the pannier. This time I didn't say "Fudge." I said THE word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the "F-dash-dash-dash" word!

So, I sucked it up, put the tire back on the rim and the wheel back on the bike. I repacked the messenger bag, turned around and started walking home. I hadn't gone far when an older guy in a van who was turning into the golf course stopped and asked if I needed a lift. We threw my bike in the back and I was home in 30 seconds. Beats walking. I stashed the Jamis, pulled out the Schwinn and was only 15 minutes late to work. So a big thanks go out to the guy in the blue minivan.

On my way home from work I made a quick stop at Hiawatha and bought two new tubes from Jim along with a frame pump. No rest for the wicked.

In other news, I just found my trike on eBay for only $975, and free shipping! A brand new 2005 model. Good gravy, what a deal!

Date: June 6
Mileage: 19
Ride type: Commute
June mileage: 60
Year to date mileage: 1522

Monday, June 05, 2006

Test Rides

Sure sure, I rode my bike today. But y'all don't really care about that. No, I'm sure you've been feverishly waiting since yesterday's post to figure out, "Which bikes did he ride at Erik's?" Step right up, here's the 411.

I went to Erik's for a specific reason, which I'll get to soon enough. But for some background, I've been doing a lot of thinking about recumbents. The idea appeals more and more. Don't get me wrong, I like my diamond frames. I'm not planning on giving them up. But it would be nice to have an option. Something...different. So that's what I rode.

First ride: The Burley Canto, priced at $1149

After doing hours worth of internet research, I had thought the best thing in a recumbent would be a short-wheelbase (SWB) bike. The SWB is supposed to be extra zippy and responsive, perfect for commuting. And since about 90% of my miles come from commuting that's my primary focus. After a quick primer from Mike the bike store guy, I took it out. It took two quick pushes of my right foot to get rolling, and then I started pedaling. And nearly immediately, I realized that a short-wheelbase recumbent is a squirrely creature. Every little jiggle of the handlebars had me swerving and thinking I was going to crash. The adreneline was flowing through me for the entire ride, and not in a good way.

Pros: Nice ride, extremely responsive. I'm sure I would get used to the squirrely nature after a while. Plus, it's configured so that it can be set up as short wheelbase or long. There's a second headset up front, and one can just move the front wheel up there. Nice idea, good thinking Burley.
Cons: Scary, scary, scary to ride. Makes me wonder if I'd ever convert it back to a SWB after riding it LWB.

Second ride: Sun EZ-1 Recumbent, priced at $579

Based on what I saw on the 'net, I never thought a long wheelbase (LWB) recumbent would appeal to me. All the reports say that they're slow. Perhaps it was just the relief after riding the Canto, but I truly enjoyed the EZ-1. It's a smooth feeling ride and made me very confident immediately. But it is slow. I was just tootling about in the residential neighborhood behind Erik's in Burnsville (which may have some of the heaviest bike traffic in the area, due to the test rides), and even after 10 minutes I was comfortable enough to just about have it topped out gear-wise.

Pros: Stable, forgiving and a pleasure to ride.
Cons: Slow. Even during the test ride, I could already see the possibility of getting bored with this one. It would be nice for a ride with the wife and kids, but not much more than that.

Third ride: Sun EZ-Tad, priced at $1169.

This was the main reason I came. I knew they stocked trikes, and I really wanted to try one out. It did not disappoint. This thing was insanely fun to ride. I had it out for probably 25 minutes, completely permagrinned the whole time. It's like a cross between a bike and one of those go-karts at the raceway. Fast, fun, and wild. But I never felt out of control. I loved the under-seat steering. I also really liked the idea that, when you stop for a red light (or anything else) you literally don't have to do anything but stop. You can stay clipped in. It was weird not having to put a foot down, but extremely cool. This is the funnest (I know, it's not a word) thing on wheels I think I've ever ridden.

Pros: Fun, fun, fun! And fast. And fun! And, wow.
Cons: Heavy. I'm not a weight weenie, so it doesn't bother me. My Raleigh weighs about 50 pounds with my pannier on it, which is what this bike weighs (with no pannier). But it the weight just wasn't a factor. The biggest con for me was the SRAM components. The rear derailleur was plastic. Not just the cogs, but even the cage that holds the cogs. Doesn't seem very good, long term. But I could always upgrade these and put the plastic stuff on the Raleigh. At least it won't rust in the winter like the stuff that's on there now did.

I'd given my credit card to Mike to secure the test rides, and it was incredibly tempting to roll in the door on the trike and say "Sold!" It was my birthday, after all. We received a small, unexpected windfall a week or so ago. Nancy immediately bought a heck of a nice lens for her camera and told me I could take some of it and get "a bike or something." But this might be a little more than she was thinking of...

Date: June 5
Mileage: 15
Ride type: Commute
June mileage: 41
Year to date mileage: 1503

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Today is your day...

It didn't seem like much on paper, but I had a pretty nice little weekend. Saturday afternoon we had a proper birthday party for out girls, who turned 7 last week. There were 7 birthday guests. We played a rousing version of pin the tail on the donkey, had a pinata, the girls swam in the pool and jumped on the trampoline. Vast quantities of candy, pop, cookies, chips and cupcakes were consumed. We sent them home tired, smiling, and jacked on sugar.

Nancy wasn't feeling well, so as soon as the party was over the girls and I jumped in the van and headed north to the city of granite, St. Cloud, to visit some friends. The girls all played together, the grown-ups grilled, drank beer, had a fire and hot tubbed. A delightfully low key evening. We stayed up way too late and were woken way too early by the kid the next morning.

Once we safely arrived back in the Twin Cities today, I headed downtown with my buddy Sparky to pick up some shelving from MPR. I felt vaguely guilty about listening to Jack FM while in the underground parking ramp of MPR, but such is life. But Jack is a good one to inspire musical discussions amongst old friends. By the way dude, that was Patty Smythe with Scandal who sang The Warrior. I remembered it this afternoon while fritzing about. No google required.

After moving the shelving I headed home to check in on the wife and kids. No change in any situations, so I headed out to Target to get some essentials. And Reservoir Dogs (on sale for $7.50). And a semi-obnoxious patterned shirt. Happy birthday to me! After finishing up at Target I cruised down to Erik's. I spent about an hour there test riding recumbents. Holy smokes was that fun. I have got to get me one of those. Then when I got home I cooked up some tacos and beans, had a beer, bathed the kids, read them a story, and sat on the patio for a while.

Life. Sometimes, it seems pretty darn awesome. Had the Mrs. been feeling better, it would have been close to perfect.

Date: June 2
Mileage: 16
Ride type: Commute
June mileage: 16
Year to date mileage: 1478