Riding Down Haleakala!

My first excursion from the cruise ship was a ride down Haleakala!

Haleakala Bikes

I was really excited about. Two friends that I work with have ridden UP Haleakala. Months of training and hard work, one raced up and one took a more leisurely pace. Both loved the experience.

Also Canadian cyclist Ryder Hesjedal has the unofficial record for riding up Haleakala in 2009 with a time of 2:32 beating Jonathan Vaughters official time of 2:38 in 1993, very impressive! Yay Ryder! (He was also the first Canadian to win a grand tour, the Giro last year). Jonathan is the manager of Team Garmin Sharp, who Ryder rides for. They have a very strict no doping policy so Ryder will NOT be making any confessions in the future.

Haleakala Road

Anyway I was excited to see this for myself and although I was riding down I couldn’t help thinking that one day I would like to come back and try riding up. It is beautiful and there was minimal traffic when we were there. The ride up would be worth it for the ride back down! For riding down you just need to be able to ride a bike, it’s really fun and easy. Coasting down, watching the beautiful scenery go by, when it was over I would have been really happy to go back up and do it again!

Armstrong Confesses!

Part one of the two part Oprah interview with Lance Armstrong aired last night.

Was it revealing?

Not really. He confessed to using performance enhancing drugs up to 2005. Nothing beyond 2005. Interesting. The statute of limitations has apparently run out on several cases that could be brought against him.

It’s not unusual, often cyclists confess after the statute of limitations has run out. Armstrong stuck with not throwing anyone under the bus, would not point a finger or comment on anyone else. Cycling and the mob have this in common. He will suck it up, take the hit but not be the rat.

To most he wouldn’t seem apologetic, still holding a certain amount of arrogance but that was the most humble I have ever seen Lance.

I will say he has the best publicist and media coach, that was for him as apologetic as you are going to see him. If he had cried I would have called BULLSHIT! He’s been coached and practiced his answers, pretty good answers and still very Armstrong. Still saying that in competition he never tested positive. Technically true, except for those answers about the Tour de Suisse, those were pretty flimsy.

Oprah was a good choice, she is calm, gives the room for him to answer and won’t push. Thrown up against Dick Pound for ninety minutes I would bet the police would be called. (Dick Pound was the former president of WADA and him and Armstrong sniping back in forth in the press has brought me a great deal of enjoyment over the years in a “OH NO HE DIDN’T…….. kind of way, Mean Girls have nothing on those two).

He didn’t attack anybody. Do I believe that he feels for Floyd Landis? No. Do I believe he still talks to George Hincapie? Yes. They are close, it is George. I also believe that when George was called to talk and did, that’s when Armstrong knew he was done. The others, by supporters, could be written off as whiney biatches but not George. George Hincapie is  a rock in cycling and if he says it, it’s true. Also George did not talk about testifying, did not make a statement and seemed really sad about the whole thing.

What will tomorrow bring? More of the same I imagine. Armstrong will give the correct answer to a pretty shallow interview. It wasn’t incredibly revealing, not if you’ve followed Lance and the charges against him. No real revelations.

A first step in trying to gain back public support? Maybe.

The next year will be interesting. Will he be shunned or embraced? It doesn’t sound like he wants to join the fight against doping. He just admitted to it, now I’m curious where he’ll go from here.

I Still Love Cycling!

I am on my way to the Galapagos and the book I chose to take with me is “Racing Through The Dark” by David Millar. I have been saving it for this trip as I wanted to have a block of undisturbed time to read it . In the meantime though some thoughts on cycling.
This past week the USDA suspended many more riders and released information connected to the Lance Armstrong case. I went in to work and since everybody knows I’m a cycling fan people come by to give their comments and opinions. This causes me to start arguing because I on behalf of cyclists feel offended.
Just so that my non-cycling fan friends can have a little understanding let me explain a few things.
Doping in cycling was so widespread and ingrained in the culture of cycling that it was like weed to Hippies. If you’re living in that life you’re probably doing it. Former riders become managers, trainers, consultants  and when putting together the training plans, they want the best performance they can get out of the rider. Teams seek out sports Dr.’s and devise a training plan. Part of that plan in the past probably included ways to speed recovery and promote endurance in a quick and effective way, otherwise known as doping. There are several methods used and in cycling the most used ones seem to be EPO and blood doping. Basically to increase the amount of red blood cells and increase oxygen consumption, okay it does more but that’s the basic.
Riders come to a team relying on the trainers and such to provide guidance and there is pressure to perform. Results equal dollars and cycling teams rely on sponsorships, managers want the money shot of their rider going across the finish line with their jersey zipped up. Watch a race and notice that before a cyclist crosses the finish, he zips up his jersey, if he forgets, he’ll only forget once after the talking to he’ll get after. Cyclists tend to have strong verging on arrogant personalities (okay verging on), at least the best do. There is a reason they have nicknames like “The Cannibal” or “The Badger”, devour, win, attack. I can totally see how a cyclist would believe they can get away with an enhanced training program, arrogance is a great tool in denial,  trust in the team, the Dr.’s and go along. Make no mistake though even if  they are using doping methods they still have to train, to put in the time, to be dedicated. I could use EPO and I would still debate getting off my bike going over a speed bump all the while complaining “God I hate hills……”
My favourite team is Garmin who have a race clean philosophy. Jonathan Vaughters has referred to it as a philosophy. It is so ingrained that to race clean is to adopt a new philosophy, to change the culture that cycling has been operating in. Garmin wanted to prove that racing clean can be done and can produce results.
Their results have been impressive, Ryder Hesjedal  was the first Canadian to ever win the Giro! GO CANADA, EH!
 More than that though Garmin looks like a team, they act like a team, they seem to have fun. The love of cycling seems to be at the core of their philosophy. They were the best team at the tour in 2011 and although Dave Zabriskie was not there in person (he had to abandon after a crash), they brought out a cardboard cutout of Dave. I laughed. Thor Hushovd was on the team that year, he had a great year and also looked like he was having a blast (just a side note if you put “GREAT RIDE BY THOR!” on your facebook you might open yourself up to pornographic references from friends, “Thor had a great day at the Tour” is more family friendly).
Following Jonathan Vaughters, David Millar and Zabriskie on twitter during the tour adds a level of lightness to the long grueling race (Mark Cavendish is also great on twitter).  Millar is very funny and my favourite from the last tour was a tweet about blue skies and THE DEATH STAR …….. with a picture of the Team Sky bus. This was shown to me during a meeting and I laughed out loud. Which brought disapproving looks. Then the fellow cycling fan who had shown it to me doodled a picture which almost made me spit my coffee across the table. He had drawn a cartoon of Dick Pound and Lance Armstrong (he labeled it, otherwise I would have thought they were potato people). Lance had his hands up to his face and was screaming “Noooooo!!!” because Dick Pound had just told him “Lance I am your Father………..”
Okay back on track. Even now if you look at the suspensions being handed down, the related offences are in the past. Many of those being suspended now are no longer doping (I would like to believe). They seem to be hanging their heads and are being “…… sad, sorry, humble cyclists” (to steal from Winnie the Pooh). What they did was wrong, they know it, they will take the big ol’ piece of humble pie and return when the suspension is over. This is what the cyclists who seem to integrate with success back into the sport do. Trace it back take a look, the whiney biatches don’t recover, they point fingers, place blame and drag others down. I’m sure part of that is they have broken the code, they snitched and therefore can’t be trusted. Just as the Mob has a code of not talking, I imagine cycling does as well. As Paulie says in Goodfellas “Now I have to turn my back on you……”
So the riders take the fall. Is it fair when there are so many other people involved as well? It’s like Milli Vanilli, Rob and Fab totally took the fall. They were the scapegoats. They were the ones branded as the cheats and the liars but if you trace it back they were just two break dancing kids from Germany who the record company execs thought looked good. Once that ball started rolling I’m pretty sure it was too late to get out and they were dropped like hot potatoess by everybody who had created them when the shit hit the fan.
Yes I just compared cycling to Milli Vanilli but it is similar. Riders wanting to succeed find a snowball is being created once started it can be almost impossible to stop. Suddenly choice has too many implications, the simple black and white becomes muddled. It is bigger than them, it is managers, trainers, sponsors and fans. Suddenly personal choice seems the least of their worries with the weight of expectations on them.
The changes to cycling need to happen at the management level and I believe those changes are happening, not just with Garmin but with many other teams as well.
Maybe now that the house has not only been cleaned but totally demolished cycling can turn the page and start a new chapter.
I still think that cycling can excite, inspire and provide role models to look up to. Yep, I believe in cycling.

CONTADOR!

What a difference a day makes.

Yesterday I was talking to a fellow cycling fan at work and he said that Contador had lost the Vuelta and Rodrigues would win.

Then this morning on Stage 17 Contador attacked and broke free with Paolo Tiralongo a former teammate and boy did they do a GREAT run. Eventually Contador left Tiralongo behind and won the stage. Rodrigues suffered and lost over two minutes, Valverde made a run and tried to close the gap to Contador and almost did. He came in seven seconds behind Contador.

At the end of the day Contador won the stage and is leading the Vuelta, Valverde is in second and Rodrigues has dropped to third.

If you don’t watch cycling this would be a stage to watch, it will be one for the books. Amazing cycling.

Now I’d like to say that Contador will win the Vuelta but …… tomorrow is another day.

The Tour de France Has Started!

Why so many pictures this week?

The Tour has started!

This is where I wish I was going to be on Sunday, July 22:

Cycling!

Something BIG happened this weekend. Ryder Hesjedal pulled on the maglia rosa at the Giro d’Italia. In other words he took over the race lead and gets to wear a pink jersey (the Tour de France has yellow, the Italians hand out pink). This was the first time that a Canadian has EVER worn the pink jersey. A big deal and Ryder is a a great cyclist, very consistent, nice guy and loves burritos. Canadians should be very proud of him. He got it on Saturday and held on to it on Sunday, there is still a long way to go to the end, he hasn’t won the race but just to get it and hold on to it is a big deal.

Inspired by this I head out on my bike on Saturday and Sunday. I love my new bike (I think I’ve mentioned this). It’s a Specialized Vita Elite, it is AWESOME. I’ve named my bike Charlie and will be having a romance with Charlie all summer. I love getting ready for a ride and am always happy leaving my place ready to head out. The first minute or so goes really well. Look at me! I’m exercising! Getting fresh air! Look at me go!

Then at about the three minute mark, I wonder what the hell I’m doing. Part of this is because most of my rides begin with a hill. My legs say WTF are you doing? I feel tired. I look at the end of the street and think, I’ll turn around. Now we would be five minutes in. I keep going and look at another hill. Why do I do this? Is is fun? I want to turn back.

When I get to the top of the hill things get better. Downhill! Yeah! Then the dread of knowing I will have to come back up this hill. The ride then evens out. I start to find my legs.  Start feeling better. Now we’re about fifteen minutes in. I start feeling better, feeling more confident. I come up on another hill and tackle it, knowing my favourite part of the ride is coming up. It’s a long stretch over looking the Glenmore reservoir. Not only is the scenery beautiful but I’ve hit my stride I feel great. This is why I do it. I often think can’t in my life and the more I cycle and take on distances and hills that I used to look at and think can’t, now I know that I can. I’ve done it. I can do it again.

Cycling has given me so much. The I can has spilled over into other areas of my life. It clears my head and makes me feel like I can to a lot of things that I’ve thought I can’t about. So even in those first five to fifteen minutes that I wonder WTF am I doing, I know what’s coming and for that feeling I push through it and keep going. Each time a little faster, a little farther, getting stronger. I love it.

Killing My Quiver

Dear Omega Pharma-Quickstep,

I have a problem with your new uniforms. Certainly I can see on paper the concept looked nice and clean. Seemed like a good idea but the shorts need to be changed.

Here is a picture of Tom Boonen Click Here.

This is a great picture. Why? Because you can’t see the shorts. Only his adorable smiling face, so happy after winning stage one of the Tour of Qatar. I was happy seeing this picture and usually I look forward to seeing the other shots but then I see this picture of  Tom Boonen Click Here.

OMG WHAT HAVE YOU DONE? You’ve designed shorts that have turned Tom Boonen into a wide walker. He looks like he has child bearing hips. This is not the silhouette we want from a cyclist. Sleek, strong, powerful is what we want. Bring attention to the thighs NOT the hips. It’s quite a feat to make a professional cyclist look chunky but you have succeeded.

All I have to say is NO NO NO this is WRONG WRONG WRONG

Tom does not have wide hips, he has perfectly fine hips and very nice thighs. These shorts make him look chunky and they are killing my quiver. Please change the shorts so that Tom goes back to his normal sexiness. I’m sure you have time before the spring classics, the shirts are fine. I only ask that you change the shorts.

Please change the shorts and bring my quiver back.

Thank you