Rural Riding at the End of May   1 comment

2013 May 26 – another Sunday morning, another Target the Tour training ride with the Edmonton Bicycle and Touring Club, starting from a service station on the south side of the Yellowhead Highway, a little west of Ardrossan.

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This day’s route took us North of the highway for a while before returning to the more familiar roads south of Ardrossan. It was a pleasant day and nice to see the countryside greening up. Here are some photos from that day, without further commentary:

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A Late Start to 2013   1 comment

Here in Edmonton winter lasted as long as I ever remember. There was snow on the roads into April and although eager to get back on the bike it seemed as if we were defeated before ever beginning. There was not a long training period before the late-July Tour de l’Alberta which had been my usual early season goal.

Nonetheless I started the season joining  other EBTC members for the Target the Tour training rides starting out at Ardrossan every Sunday morning. May 19th was only my second Sunday ride  and although I didn’t have a lot of training accumulated  I was eager to make up for lost time. If I felt okay I would do the longer (up to 80K?) option

D80-2140 editAs is typical on these group rides I see a lot of the group early on and virtually no one the last couple of hours. However, the rural and farm scenery is always there to keep me company.

Cows on the HillReaching the half way, lunch spot at South Cooking Lake I felt good enough to tackle the long route (although something told me It might not be a good idea). I had one riding partner keen on doing the same things so we set off south along a nicely paved secondary road. At a certain point we would take a smaller road west for a few kilometers to join up with another road taking us North.

D80-2175 editWhen we reached the designated turn-off we looked – hard – twice! This road wasn’t paved at all – just gravel, and loose stuff at that. However considering it was just a couple of Ks it seemed like a better idea to continue than to backtrack. Well, a couple of kilometers of loose, rough and slippery gravel and we realized that there would be a lot more where that came from. At this point we admitted defeat and went back along the gravel road then back up the highway until we could find a paved east-west road.

Oh did I mention the mosquitoes?! They were horrendous along this stretch of gravel – especially bad when we stopped to consult the maps and assess our situation but even when we were on the bikes we weren’t moving fast enough to outrun a swarm of mosquitoes.

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The rest of the ride back was uneventful but it was a bit of a grind at times with a headwind. Then, unfortunately with about 5K to go, I bonked! I completely ran out of fuel reserves and was reduced to crawling (figuratively) back to my car. It was a good day, a good workout but in retrospect, perhaps a little more than I had trained for.

The End   Leave a comment

Well, that’s a wrap!

I’m disappointed – very disappointed, but not entirely surprised. I refer to the the release yesterday (2012/10/10) of the USADA’s “Reasoned Decision” and the subsequent confession statements. I guess the USADA did actually have a case – too bad they presented it as a Lance Armstrong witch hunt. It is now apparent that the entire US Postal Service team/organization was involved and likely other factions within the sport. The findings still need to be reviewed and acted upon by the international body, the UCI, but now I am willing to consider it a done deal.

What sealed it for me were the public confessions, announcements by the previously highly-respected George Hincapie and Levi Leipheimer. At this point I really don’t care what Lance did himself. I feel betrayed by that team with which I was so impressed. I feel let down by the sport of professional cycling – I can no longer support it!

I admit I am still curious  about a few thing related to this saga: How Johan Bruyneel will present his defence and how this fallout will affect Lance’s Livestrong brand and work (He has done good work there for the cancer community and I wish him him well). Yes curious, but I won’t be actively following the story.

This is of course not the first time we’ve seen big doping revelations in the sport with the subsequent claims of a new era. Unfortunately it now appears that the new era was not one of just harder and smarter training, improved equipment and tactics, but also an era where the doping cheaters leapt ahead of the detection science. It is sad that there even has to be so much effort put towards the detection system.

I will continue to  write and advocate for cycling – as a means for physical and mental health, for touring and commuting but this will be the last post I will make with regards to professional cycling. No longer will I be spending my mornings in July glued to the coverage of the Tour (nor May’s Vuelta or September’s Giro). Ahh, I will miss them but (and I hate to paint the entire sport and all its participants with the same brush) I can now longer waste my time with a sport in which I don’t have the confidence of completely fair competition.

“This is the end – beautiful friend”

 

 

Posted October 11, 2012 by Randy Talbot in Cycle Racing

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Livestrong Lance   Leave a comment

Many people have weighed in on the announcement  last week by Lance Armstrong that he will NOT contest the USADA allegations against him – here’s my two cents worth on the topic.

In my heart I want to believe, I need to believe –  I DO believe that he is innocent – but I don’t know –  and you don’t know. If he is innocent only he will know for sure. If he is guilty chances are only a very few others will know. I fully understand him saying “Enough is enough”. What a burden to have to keep defending himself against the same old charges, year after year after year. It has got to be very, very tiring. I note very clearly that his decision (which incidentally he first announced months ago) to not contest the USADA allegations is in no way an admission of guilt!

If he didn’t dope then why was he so successful? I have a rationale that suits me. It comes down to hard work, smart work, dedication and focus – qualities I admire!

My strongest memory of Lance’s golden years was his singular focus on the  the Tour de France. He made that one event, his one goal. He was not interested in going after the other grand tours, the one day classics, world championships etc. Sure he did some of those events in his training and preparations, but the goal of winning the Tour de France remained THE purpose and that focus led to his success. I will remember reports of his elaborate preparation for the Tour,  such as repeatedly riding the very same climbs that would be used in the Tour de France stages, so as  to know every slope and corner of the course. His familiarity with he route gave him “home field advantage” on many of those classic Tour climbs that paid off in well-timed and efficient attacks.

Race tactics undoubtedly played a significant role in his success. Not only his individual tactics and his smart decisions on the road, but his team tactics were meticulous. Those tactics didn’t always make for the most entertaining races, as there was no wasted effort, no challenges on the road unless they’d lead to the ultimate goal: number one on the podium in Paris. Those team tactics were also demonstrated by  being part of a very strong team and using that team brilliantly. How many times did we see Lance’s teammates lead him up the climbs, saving Armstrong’s energy for the final assault, after his team mates had given their all.

Success also came from the extensive preparation and use of scientific tools by Lance and his team. I remember watching reports of his time trial preparations – using wind tunnels to analyze and make minute refinements in the bike, his position upon it and even the clothing he wore. This was no “short-cut” but a lot of intelligent application of science and engineering!

I hypothesize that Lance did have one unique advantage that lead to his great success. The cancer that nearly killed him allowed him to come back stronger than ever – stronger in precisely the ways necessary to become a cycling animal. When the chemo broke his body down, he had an opportunity that few athletes have – to rebuild their body , practically from the ground up, and to do so in a very specialized way. I believe that the rebuilt Lance, through his mind power and training, put energy into those systems (e.g. lungs and leg muscles) necessary for cycling, without wasting energy and weight on superfluous parts. It was as if an evolutionary process to transform man into a Tour-de-France-cycling-machine occurred not over a thousand generations, but in one man’s lifetime and body.

I wonder about the motives of those who have come out against Lance. Some of them I can dismiss as just being a bit unbalanced and not to be taken seriously, but other seemingly respectable people I just don’t know. I don’t understand where they may be coming from, unless the accusations are just a manifestation of some personal conflict between them and Lance. About the only person’s word that could have swung my opinion  on this case would have been George Hincapie. He would have seemed to know Lance very well and to be a very respected and honorable person, with no axe to grind against an old friend. Reportedly he had given incriminating evidence to the USADA but he’s never said anything publicly so we don’t know what Hincapie did or did not say. With Lance choosing not to contest the case we may never know for sure.

And what about the motives and tactics of the USADA? I’ll admit I don’t fully understand their jurisdiction or power. I especially don’t see how they can strip Armstrong of his 7 Tour de France titles. Think what they may, do what they feel they must, but the USADA did not award those titles so they are not theirs to revoke. In any case I don’t think Lance (after undoubtedly very much thought) really cares about the formality of those titles anymore.

I also wonder about how the decision to give up the fight to clear his name, will affects Lance’s cancer-fighting Livestrong activities (or indeed about his long-speculated political ambitions). Hopefully the effect will not be too negative, because whatever his doubters may think about his cycling performance, even they have to admire his leadership in the cancer fight. Perhaps one indication of the effect is a report that I saw saying that donations to the Livestrong campaign are up in the days immediately following the USADA’s deadline and surrounding publicity.

There is more than ample evidence that Lance Armstrong’s success came from hard and smart work. The evidence against him is weak and increasingly dependent upon a conspiracy theory that ranks up there with the most complex of them.  I don’t know for sure what the truth is, but for now I am comfortable with my beliefs. Live Strong Lance!

 

Posted August 27, 2012 by Randy Talbot in Cycle Racing, Tour de France

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2012 Tour de France – Wrap-up   Leave a comment

Well, that’s a wrap – the 2012 Tour de France. As I write this, there is still the final ride into Paris but that is largely ceremonial as far as the General Classification is concerned.

Bradley Wiggins won, but more by attrition and by a strong team, than by any personal heroics on his part. It is sad that his most noteworthy moment (to those outside of the UK anyway) will be remembered as his angry, foul-mouthed response to reporter’s questions.

Cadel Evans, the 2011 winner was supposed to challenge Wiggins but he never seemed to be in contention – he was dropped in the mountains and suffered big time losses in the time trial (where he was expected to do much better). I won’t be surprised if we hear some story after the race, about how Evans was hampered by an illness or injury that was not made public during the race.

Frank Schleck positive was a surprise but did I hear correctly that he tested positive for a diuretic which itself was not prohibited but is often used as a masking agent for other banned substances – so Schleck drops out immediately (or did the Radio Shack team make that decision?). I’ll credit Schleck for his cooperation with authorities and give him the benefit of the doubt with his suspicion that he was poisoned. Normally I may not have been so quick to accept that excuse but after the tacks on the road incidence, it does seem like someone may have been trying to influence the results of this year’s Tour.

My favorite competitor in this year’s Tour was Wiggin’s Sky teammate Christopher  Froome. He’s the type of rider I like to watch (and support) one who is strong in the mountains and a good overall competitor. I’ll be watching him closely  next year and if he does end up on a different team, things should get interesting (not to mention how interesting things will be if Andy Schleck is back, and Ryder Hesjedal too).

I was also impressed with some of the sprinting performances – Peter Sagan comes to mind first but also the powerful finish of Mark Cavendish on Stage 18!

Overall, I found this year’s tour to be the most boring that I have seen. Although I faithfully watched the live race coverage everyday (via British Eurosport), I never seemed to really get into the race. I don’t think there was anything wrong with the event, the coverage or the course, It’s just the way things worked out.

The next big event on the cycling calendar is of course the Olympics but I’ve never found Olympic road cycling to be particularly captivating – probably because of the way Olympic TV coverage jumps around from event to event. What I am looking forward to next is the Vuelta d’Espana. I’ve heard very little of who will be riding but I am  looking forward to it nonetheless.

So what did you think of the Tour? Did it meet your expectations?

Posted July 21, 2012 by Randy Talbot in Cycle Racing, Tour de France, Uncategorized

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Thoughts on the First Week (of the 2012 TdF)   1 comment

As I write, Stage 8 of the 2012 Tour de France is just ending – a few thoughts on the first week of this classic:

This year I’ve been following the tour much as I did last year.  I’m using  SteephillTV as a gateway to live video feeds. I usually chooses a Eurosport feed and have been enjoying the commentary from Sean Kelly and David Harmon. I am happy enough with this coverage that I have not even explored the coverage from Canadian or U.S.  sources (which frustrated me so much last year)

I also have been finding the Skoda Tour Tracker app to be handy for results when I am away from my desk. I am a little disappointed that the videofeed is not available in my area through this app, but the  text updates and results are great to have.

My biggest disappointment of the first week was Canadian Ryder Hesjedal withdrawing from the race. That came as a result of him being caught up in the big, bad crash on stage 6 that saw him getting pretty beat up and losing 13 minutes. A time loss of that magnitude would be very difficult to make up against the front runners Wiggins and Evan. Although  Hesjedal definitely was physically injured I have to wonder how much  the the decision to withdraw was to made so he could focus on other events. He has already turned his attention to the Olympics and then perhaps (having save himself from the exhaustion of the TdF mountain stages) he will make a go at the Vuelta?

The crash that took out Hesjedal affected many of the riders. He wasn’t the only member of the Garmin Sharp team forced to withdraw, nor were they the only team. There seemed to have been an inordinate number of crashes during the first wee. It reminds me of the year of Lance Armstrong’s last Tour. The race seems quite wide open at the start, then crash by crash, the field of GC contenders gets whittled down. Frank Schleck also lost  a fair bit of time in that crash and for that reason alone seems like a long shot for the podium now but it should be an interesting last two weeks, with lots of mountain stages.

What are your thoughts on this year’s Tour?

 

Posted July 8, 2012 by Randy Talbot in Cycle Racing, Tour de France

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The 2012 Tour de France has Begun   Leave a comment

I know where I will be every morning for the next 3 weeks – glued to the coverage of the 2012 Tour de France (live web coverage via Eurosport). The Tour is easily my favorite sporting event of the year. I love the way it is different every year – the route changes, the teams and riders change but what stays the same gives it it’s great appeal. There is always some drama, always some unpredicted happenings and undoubtedly there will be some exceptional personal performances.

This year has started with some pre-race controversy. I’m thinking primarily about a number of stories with Team Radio Shack: dissent on the team, unpaid riders, an injured Andy Schleck (who won’t be racing), the drug allegations against Director Johann Bruyneel, Chris Horner’s initial exclusion from the team. They had been my favorite team but now … I just don’t know.

The favorites to win GC this year are defending champion Cadel Evans and Bradley Wiggins. They could do it but somehow both of these riders leave me a little cold. I don’t dislike them but neither do I have any strong feelings for them. It seems that this year’s line-up lacks riders that evoke strong positive or negative emotions – no great personal rivalries.

So who am I predicting to win? Don’t know! Who am I pulling for? Well I’m going with old-timer Levi Leipheimer. I’ve liked his attitude and personality for years and he is probably getting near the end of his career. It would be nice to see Levi win the GC (or at least get on the podium). If everyone stays healthy and accident free he may be a longshot but if the cards fall in an unfortunate way for the other front runners, Levi could be there.

I’d also love to see Ryder Hesjedal perform well and take it. Common belief say that a rider can’t do well in both the Giro and the Tour (and Hesjedal did win this years Giro). Maybe it’s time to put that old thought to rest. Ryder rode a smart Giro and maybe did not exhaust himself. He may have what it takes to pull off a double – wouldn’t that be something!

Whatever happens I will be enjoying the Tour. I would enjoy it even if just for the coverage of the peleton cruising through the varied and wonderful French landscape.

Who are you pulling for in this years Tour?

Posted June 30, 2012 by Randy Talbot in Uncategorized

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