Saturday, June 29, 2013

What The Tour de France And NASCAR Have In Common – Both Are More Entertainment Than A Race.

Is this what fans come to see? 

Well, the French have finally jumped Le Shark.  Much as it had been plainly obvious to fans for years now, after beholding the ridiculous finish to the First Stage of the 2013 Tour, all doubt has been removed that the French are running a twenty-one day cabaret.  Harsh words?  Heck no, this was pure comedy on parade.  And, if the rest of the pain & suffering will be like today, this is going to be one loooonnnggg Tour.

First off, who were the brains which thought placing advertising banners right at the edge of the course, diabolically poised to snare pedals (and they did), believed this was a good idea?  Then, not to be outdone by the advertising geniuses, who felt setting up the finish of Stage 1 as the “Mother of all field sprints” believed that was a safe thing to do?  A NASCAR-Style pack formed (as usual), placing disaster only inches away, and guess what happened?  A NASCAR type massive wreck, of course, taking a lot of the top-ranked riders with it.  Who could have seen that coming (sarcasm alert)?  If the Tour organizers think this is what the fans want, they have their heads up their collective butts.
Upper photo - NASCAR style packs & NASCAR style wrecks. Lower photo - When advertising banners attack.  Photos by Graham Watson

And finally, about that Orica-Greenedge bus stuck under the finish line banner.  They should have queued the theme from the Benny Hill Show while that whole fiasco played out.  Those folks made the Keystone Cops look alike a bunch of Nobel Prize winners.

And not to be outdone by the Organizers, in an interview with French newspaper Le Monde, Lance Armstrong told the dirty truth about how the Tour is won.  Funny things humans can be – All of those people angry at him for lying are suddenly mad at him for telling the truth.

You can’t make this stuff up, folks. 

Viva La Tour!

Friday, June 28, 2013

On The Eve Of The 100th Edition Of The Tour de France, Team Blanco Becomes Team Belkin.

Photo courtesy Team Belkin

Blanco-Belkin, Tomatoe-Tomato.  Good luck, lads.

Trek Launches Updated 2014 Series 6 & 7 Madones.

Trek Leopard Team colors for the 2013 Tour de France

Trek announced this morning all new Madone 6 and 7 Series frames. The frames are lighter and have better braking and ride quality due to updated chainstays. Details are as follows:

What is changing for the Madone 7 Series?
  • 25 grams lighter (Now 725g 56cm U5 Paint Scheme)
  • New designed chainstay
    • Increases braking performance
    • Provides improved ride feel
What is changing for the Madone 6 Series?
  • New designed chainstay
    • Increases braking performance
    • Provides improved ride feel

     Kammtail Virtual Foil aero technology, and still built in the U.S.A.

     Team Leopard colors for the 2013 Tour de France.  Next year it is all Team Trek

    Bike can be run with either electronic or cable operated groups

     Note brake caliper is a Shimano Dura-Ace model

    Note how chainstay tapers at the tip to provide a smoother ride

Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Well-worn and weathered - From left to right: Castelli, Gizmo, Pearl Izumi, DeFeet

Unless you do Triathlons, you wear socks when you ride a bicycle.  Socks are a cycling accessory which are not usually given any thought, yet they are vital to your riding experience.  They come in various colors, sizes and materials, yet, which socks are correct for you are not on most riders’ radar.  Traditionally, this is accomplished purely by size, color, cuff height and price.  However, choosing the correct cycling socks is so much more.

So, just what is the purpose of cycling socks, and what materials should one look for in a quality pair?  Well, in addition to comfort and the elimination of chafing, moisture transfer is probably the biggest benefit of wearing socks.  And, not all socks accomplish these goals in a similar fashion.  This is where material and construction comes into play.  Allow me to elaborate.

Cuff height: I used to exclusively own and wear short-cuff socks, as I figured less was more in the comfort and cooling department.  Boy was I wrong.  See, there is a reason professional racers wear very tall socks.  They have a very noticeable, supportive-compression feel, thus they are a lot more comfortable, especially on longer rides.  Yes, this seems counterintuitive to wearing shorter socks, however, once you try the tall variety, I doubt you will ever go back to the shorties.

Colors and design: Why all of the stupid, useless, childish sayings on socks these days?  Yes, we know “Doper’s Suck,” and no, we don’t think your socks truly believe “I’m with awesome.”  Come on, how about a decent, comfortable, durable sock, taller than our ankles in basic, solid colors?  White is nice, but like cycling shoes, they are a major pain in the ass to keep clean.  Why can’t we get some adult choices here?

Complaints about cycling socks: The outright difficulty in finding taller cuffs, and when I do, why are they designed solely for winter use?  I will also admit to not trying something “Just because the Pro’s do,” however, taller socks are a lot more comfortable to me.  The hard part is finding some taller than 9 centimeters (whatever happened to inches?).  Oh sure, some manufacturers make 13cm socks, but the majority are made for cold weather riding, plus they cost $18.00-$20.00 USD a pair.  Sorry, I am not paying that price.  We’re talking socks here, people, not Louboutin shoes.  

Pearl Izumi Elite Tall sock with my favorite Fizik shoes

Here are my impressions of a few brands you may have heard of. 

Castelli touts their socks are being “60% Meryl Skinlife Anti-Bacterial Fabric,” plus Poliammide, Lycra and Elastico (Eccellente!).  I don’t know what all of those terms mean, but they sure do sound pretty impressive (sarcasm alert).  I have a pair of their Rosso Corsa socks in my rotation now, and so far, I am pretty impressed with them.  They are thinner than most competing socks, and I will have to be patient to see how their durability works out.  I have also been using Pearl Izumi’s Elite Tall Sock, which is also quite comfy, durable, but a whole lot thicker than the Castelli Rosso Corsa.  Pearl lists their sock as being made from “Elite Transfer Yarns,” which is marketing speak for Polyester, Nylon, and Spandex.  Another staple of my sock rotation are DeFeet Levitator Lites, which they tout as being made from Coolmax, Nylon, and Lycra.  They are Castelli thin, comfortable, and a bitch to keep clean (I have two white pairs).  One brand that has really impressed me are a pair I received from Road Bike Action Magazine’s in-house Pro, Neil Shirley.  I had never heard of GizmoPerformance Socks before, and they are made from Coolmax, Nylon and spandex.  These have become a pair I find myself using more often than not, and I will procure a few more of these for my sock rotation.  Since they are the most comfortable socks I have been using, that goes to show even if manufacturer’s use similar materials, they do not achieve similar results.
To sew this all up (pun most certainly intended), if you have shopped for cycling socks long enough, you will indeed discover there are a few oddities to the process.  First, one manufacturer’s size is not like another manufacturer’s sizing.  Also, the descriptions of cuff height’s are all over the place.  Why no common measurement system here?  I mean, does the cuff height get measured from the bottom of the foot or from the ankle?  If it is the ankle, how is that done?  Is it from my ankle joint, or what, being I don’t know where an ankle officially starts or stops.  And, as for color choices, darker colors are not a sin.  White is nice, but just try keeping them clean for any longer than five minutes.  And finally, just because they say “Cycling” on the package does not mean a pair must be north of $18.00 USD in the cost department.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Stop Sign: While A Nuisance To Many, They Can Actually Make You Stronger And Faster.

A Stop Sign make you stronger and faster?  How can that be?  To many a cyclist, the Stop Sign is a conundrum.  It is an Enigma.  It confounds, confuses, and infuriates.  It is to be scoffed at and even ignored.  Well, in actuality, the Stop Sign can be so much more. 

Many, many miles ago, I used to ride with a club which completely ignored Stop Signs.  At first, I went with the flow and jammed right through them, too.  It felt liberating, yet it felt weird.  It was kinda’ like being nude in public.  Yes, it may have felt like I was free, but in realty, my stupidity was laid bare for all to see.  The public has a right to expect much more from us. 

After a period of time I could see frustration on the faces of drivers which had no idea what to do with cyclists disobeying the traffic laws.  So, I went to THE source – Our California Highway Patrol (CHP) for answers.  And, I got them.  In basic terms, they told me this: “Bicycles in the State of California are bound by the California Vehicle Code (CVC).”  So, the reality of the law is this: Same road - Same rules.  Yes, it is that simple.  There is no exemption for cyclists, just as there are no exceptions for any motor vehicle, pedestrians, dogs, cats, Smurfs, or Unicorns.

So, whether I was riding with a group or solo, I took the CHP’s information to heart.  I began to follow the rules just as if I was driving my car, and yes, that included Stop Signs.  It was then I began to discover three things of extremely significant importance.  One, I was now being consistently dropped from groups by obeying the law.  Two, the surprised stares and verbal “Thanks” I was receiving from drivers was completely unexpected (including one fellow that said he had never seen a bicycle stop for a pedestrian in a cross walk before, when I stopped to let him pass, per the CVC).  And finally, by stopping at every Stop Sign and signal, I had to work extra-hard to catch back onto groups or getting back up to my regular pace when riding alone.  And that was when I began to notice the single most important benefit from stopping – I was doing Intervals and getting stronger without even knowing it.  Who knew, by the simple virtue of making every stop, I was going to get stronger?  It was a beautiful revelation. 

See, that was what I meant in the title of this article with the term “Stronger and Faster.”  I became a much better rider than I would have if I had “Gone with the flow” by blowing through stop after stop.  By unknowingly doing multiple intervals on long group (and solo) rides, I was getting more of a health benefit than I could have ever imagined.  I found I now could run down any break-away, I was much quicker from standing starts, and I was now better able to get up to, and sustain, a given speed.  One time I was even asked if I had batteries in my bike.  On one group ride, a lady exclaimed, “How can anyone launch off a stop and get up to speed that fast without an electric motor of some sort?” (Editors note: I don’t ride with that group anymore, as they still insist on rolling through stops at will)

So, the next time you are cruising along at 20-plus MPH, feeling like you are in the break-away at the Tour de France, remember two things: One, you are not on the Tour, and two, Stop Signs are the law, and you owe it to others, as well as yourself, to do the safe, and lawful thing.

Besides, stopping will make you much stronger and faster.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Riding Tip For The Week: Clear That Intersection!

We have all seen them before.  We have all had to brave their angry jaws over and over, again.  Like it or not, we have all had to face them: The Dreaded Intersection.  Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they serve a necessary, albeit, dangerous function in the flow of traffic.  Here is a tip on how get through them and live to ride another day.

Since we all have to deal with these obnoxious danger zones, I am passing on a tip which can save your life.  Clearing The Intersection is a valid term used to describe looking both ways to make absolutely sure cross traffic has indeed stopped.  Yes, you may have the right of way, be it via a traffic light or stop sign, but not everyone out there behind a steering wheel is paying attention, lest alone to you on a bicycle.  In the most simplistic terms: Looking before you enter any intersection will indeed save your life, someday.

I was again reminded why I always clear an intersection when I was at a very busy four-lane, four-way, traffic light controlled version.  When the light turned green for me, I did my customary look right and left, and that was when I saw her.  She pulled out of a gas station to my left, ran the red light at very high speed, and would have killed any bicyclist which had not cleared the intersection.  In short, this bitch was a complete douchebag, not only for her careless act of stupidity, but for the fact she was laughing while she did it.

In my bicycling experiences, I have seen people as aware as the proverbial hawk, and I have seen people totally asleep while riding, especially so at intersections.  The latter are the one’s which need to take clearing an intersection to heart.  I have ridden with some people for whom, unfortunately, it looks to be not a matter of if, but when, they will be taking a ride in the back of a Coroner’s Wagon.  Sad to admit, but this is very true.  See, there are people who are in their own little worlds on a bike, just as there are those in their own little worlds behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.  Statistically, and tragically, they both will meet someday.  Our mission is to not be one of those statistics. 

A hardcore case in point: A friend of mine lost her Law Enforcement husband while he was on duty.  For over two decades he was a Motor Officer, rode safe, was aware of his environment, and had avoided injury due to his safety diligence, and, he was a cross-county road cyclist.  But then, one day, it happened.  Near home, comfortable in his surroundings, and undoubtedly at ease in his mind, he made a fatal, deadly mistake.  He entered an intersection on his patrol motorcycle without clearing it first.  He was broadsided by a driver that ran the red light, and his life was ended instantly.  He left behind a wife and a son.

Why share such a tragedy with all of you?  Well, I too ride motorcycles, and have been doing it for over thirty-years.  I was taught by an experienced rider a list of “Golden Rules” about motorcycling, all of which were laid out to save my life, and to insure a lifetime of happy miles.  One of those rules was to “Always clear an intersection.”  That piece of wisdom not only applied to my motorcycling life, it has also transferred over, and proven extremely useful, to my bicycling life, as well.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The 2013 Tour de Suisse Podium. Just Another Instalment Of "I Hate It When I Am Right."

Roman Kreuzinger, Overal Winner Rui Alberto, and Runner-Up Bauke Mollema. Graham Watson photo

Well, I called this one when I published Saturday's article on why Time Trials (TT'S) do not belong in stage races ("Why Time Trials At Stage Races Are A Completely Stupid Idea.").  See, not only does Pro Racing have a pharmaceutical problem, they also have an internal organizational, stupidity problem.  For a simple explanation of that last statement, read on.    
Mathias Frank (Team BMC) began the day with a thirteen-second lead, and ended the day with a 1:43 deficit - All due to a TT.  In simple terms, if not for the TT, the final podium would have looked completely different.  If the Organizers think this adds "Excitement," then just run a one day, one stage TT race and call it a done.  Why all of that wasted time on road stages if a TT is going to decide it all?  The Organizers would save a ton of money by simply eliminating the days and days of stages that are not going to amount to a hill of beans, anyway. 

Summing it all up, this is just another piece of evidence supporting my claim that TT's do not belong in stage races.  Additionally, if you have to switch from a TT bike to a Road Bike (like some competitor's did due to a big climb), then something is very, very wrong with the race and the course.

I hate it when I am right (OK, not really).

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Why Time Trials At Stage Races Are A Completely Stupid Idea.

David Veilleux at the 2013 Tour de Dauphine being robbed with every pedal stroke. Graham Watson Photo

Picture the following scenario: You are a professional road racing cyclist.  You have worked hard to hone your craft.  You enter a major stage race, kick everyone’s butt on the first stage (‘cause that is what you are trained to do), amass a two-minute lead, which you hold through multiple stages, only to lose it all via an Individual Time Trial (ITT).  Well, it happened to David Veilleux (Team Europcar) at this years' Tour de Dauphine.  And, this was not the first time a TT totally altered the General Classification (GC).

OK, here is the logic in how the 2013 Dauphine played out.  Because of the TT, a 1:58 second lead turned into a 1:09 second deficit.  That is nuts.  If the logic of leaving TT’s in a stage races is upheld, then the notion of bicycle racing being a “Team Sport” is complete nonsense.  It is plain to see why.  A rider attains a GC lead, the rider and team defend the GC lead (the team sport part of the equation), but the ITT rears its ugly head to sways the entire balance of the GC.   A Team effort?  Hell, no!   

This makes absolutely no sense to me.  Why would the Union Cycliste Internationale(UCI), and various other alphabet soup organizations around the globe, purposely sabotage their own competitors with a sideshow?  I mean, is this a sport or entertainment for those who insist on a TT as part of a race?  And, it happens all around the world, in large races, all the way down to  locally sanctioned events.    

And, even in the “Mother of all Races,” the Tour de France, it gets even worse.  Not only is there a TT, but there is also a Team Time Trial (TTT).  What the F**k?  Is this cycling or a Football game?  You know, you play your heart out, accomplish your task, but the Goalie/Kicker blows it, so all of the team suffers.  Unreal.  

World TT Champion Tony Martin winning the ITT at the 2013 Tour de Dauphine. Graham Watson Photo

Here is the bottom line: Though both disciplines are conducted on bicycles, road racing and the TT are two, totally distinct disciplines.  Chew on this example: Much as swimming and diving are both conducted in swimming pools, the similarities end there.  It is the same with cycling.  Additionally, it has been said of many a racer that “If they would just become a better Time Trialer…”  Well, the converse is true, as well.  Why does the not TT’r become a better road racer?  And besides, if they are such similar events, then why does the UCI offer two, separate Championship Gold Medals and Rainbow Jersey’s for each discipline?  If they recognize separate championships, then why do they mix them into racers, thus deciding the race outcome more often than not?

If you are still not convinced about the absurdity of a TT in a stage race, just remember how the 1989 Tour de France was decided.  Yeah, I bet many people forgot about THAT wholesale robbery. 

Leave TT bikes where they belong - In Triathlons.

Editor’s note:  As I write this, Mathias Frank of Team BMC holds a thirteen (13) second lead going into the final stage of the Tour de Suisse.  And that final stage is... An Individual Time Trial.    

Friday, June 14, 2013

Garmin Edge Touring GPS Bicycle Computer Spotted. Yes, It Actually Performs Like An Actual GPS Navigator.

"Following the new Edge 810/510 GPS cycling computer introductions, looks like Garmin’s bringing out a full featured navigation model for bicycle touring.

Garmin Edge Touring GPS cycling computerThe Garmin Edge Touring likely drops the real-time weather, live ride tracking, bluetooth connection and advanced power data usage for a complete mapping package tailored to cycling. Enter your destination or search the points of interest and it’ll tell you how to get there. Or, enter the distance you’d like to ride and it’ll pop up different route options. On road or off road (mountain biking) routes come preloaded, or use Garmin Connect and Garmin Adventure to find and download new routes or share your own. Once your route’s selected, it provides turn by turn directions.

The form factor mimics the new 810, with a weatherproof housing and 1/4 turn mount. Given the lack of physical buttons, we’d guess it uses the same touch screen, too. Street price looks to be around $270, but that’s not confirmed…and other details are missing for the moment. Except that it’s white. Yes, it’s white…

Garmin Edge Touring GPS cycling computer

Basic cycling computer functions like speed, cadence, distance, time, etc., are surely built in, and we’d guess Garmin’s typical GPS-enabled features like incline and altitude are included, too."

News courtesy Wiggle and BikeRumor

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Team Sky - Better Living Through Chemistry.

Chris Froome at the 2013 Critѐrium du Dauphinѐ.  Photo courtesy Getty Images

Let’s just get this out of the way first: I am not the chronic, suspicious type.  I don’t go looking for things which are not there extrapolating a belief system from unproven data.  This is why I hold off on giving my opinion on whom I think are users of Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED’s).  I mean, I have read literally thousands of articles which immediately point a finger at the “Guilty” in less time than it takes to actually drop that proverbial hat.  However, when you observe a statistical outliner, you owe it to logic to start asking pointed questions.  Let’s examine the details.

Now that anyone with a pulse knows the Pro Peloton’s of the world subsists on PED’s, I cannot just sit back and watch the lead-in race to the Tour de France and not call out an obvious oddity.  As I alluded to in the opening paragraph of this article, I take no pleasure in writing about this subject, however, after what we saw out of Chris Froome on Stage 5 of the 2013 Critѐrium du Dauphinѐ, I have to say that Team Sky is ahead of the pack in more ways than one.  All one had to do was watch the end of the stage and see the explosive, uphill speed which was not normal for a human after just riding over one-hundred, hard kilometers (100K).  And, this was not the first time Mr. Froome had done the impossible.

At the 2012 Tour de France, on Stage 7, Froome reeled in a very strong Cadel Evans with the same display of explosiveness not seen from a normal human after riding such a hard stage at such a hard pace.  But wait, there’s more.  Somehow, in that same 2012 edition of the Tour,  skinny, creepy Bradley Wiggins won the overall, and he also cleaned up at the 2012 Olympics, too.  Wiggins’ and Froome’s performance sure did make Laurent Fignon’s comment that PED’s have made “Donkey’s into Thoroughbreds” very credible, if not prophetic.  Seriously, we have not seen performances like Mr. Froome’s since the days of Lance Armstrong and Marco Pantani pulled in the Golden Age of Erythropoietin (EPO).

Bradley Wiggins at the 2012 Tour de France
What evidence do I have?  None.  However, this has not stopped the raging chorus of finger-pointers shooting off their hardened, empirical opinions from masquerading as facts, either.  I am just calling out an oddity, and time, the almighty equalizer, will shed ultimate light on the situation.  And, I would not be very upset if I was wrong.  The only problem is that the Pro Peloton keeps proving the doubters right!

Thus, in the secret battle of “Catch me if you can,” here is where we are at: The Dopers will always be one step ahead of the Authorities, because to catch the cheats, you must first find out what the cheaters are taking.  Additionally, while an “Edge” has always been sought since the Dawn of Man, winning on the World Tour these days does not take good equipment or a good trainer, anymore.  Now, all you need is a good chemist and a good doctor.

Advantage: Team Sky.