Monday, March 31, 2008

Waterford Hill

The first race of the year receives such little attention. There is no fanfare. No ceremonial first pitch. No proclamation. No F-16 fly-over. No one is calling in sick to skip work to be there. No American Idol cast-off is singing the national anthem. It's just a bunch of guys meeting at a remote location on a cold and windy day ("But the sun was out!" they say, trying to make it sound warmer than it was.) to race their bikes.
Here's what it looks like for me each year as I sit on the back and play the game of "dear god let me go one more lap before I get dropped".

Colorful, huh? And by golly, the sun DID make it look warm.
There's a slight hill on this 1.42 mile course. It's about the size of a Chevy Cavalier. And it just about kills me every time we go over it.
I counted 6 die-hard fans standing along the course. Didn't they realize there's a golf tournament on TV that they could be watching??
Some guy with July legs won the race (and a signed copy of Roadie - The Misunderstood World of a Bike Racer - from VeloPress available at The rest of us split into two groups: the guys who actually trained this winter, and the guys who had every intention of training this winter but didn't. And me: the guy who hates training but hates getting dropped even more, so he finds the exact point in which he trains just enough to not get dropped.
And with that, racing season has begun.
Thank god winter is over!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Songs stuck in heads

Despite the cold and snowy weather forecast, we're about to start our Ann Arbor Spring Training Series which of course stirs up a boxcar full of memories.
Most notably, when Frankie Andreu was racing professionally, he would come home from Europe (immediately following Paris-Roubaix) and would mix it up with us. And though his fitness was worlds ahead of ours, he would fire the afterburners a couple of times and toy with us, and then pull aside during the last few laps so as not to have an affect on the outcome.
Once, when the pace was beyond torrid, he was near the back of the pack when he decided to pull out. This created a gap for the riders behind him, but he reached back and gave a hand sling to them so as not to screw them. Nice.
I have other memories of that race series for sure, but the one that I'll share with you now is of the time I got a song stuck in my head for the duration of the race: Istanbul by They Might Be Giants.
For those of you unfamiliar with this repetitive and catchy tune, here's the video. (Notice at the 40-second mark when the "melody" starts, it's almost exactly the right cadence for pedaling.)

The song is only 2:35 long. That ain't so bad. Yeah, but the race was 90 minutes. 16 years ago; I still remember it clearly.
Here's another song that I got stuck on during a training ride. Luckily, it's one of my all-time favorite songs because you can play it in a variety of styles. Not like Istanbul.

If you have a similar story, leave a comment. Please don't sing it into my answering machine.
Now go ride!

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Why Do Roadies Shave Their Legs? New Book Celebrates the Roadie Lifestyle and Explains the Sport of Cycling

Roadie: The Misunderstood World of a Bike Racer Entertains Roadies and Educates the Non-Racer

March 20, 2008 - Boulder, CO, USA - Veteran race announcer and long-time roadie Jamie Smith sets out to explain the sport he loves and the roadies who live for it in his new book from VeloPress, Roadie: The Misunderstood World of a Bike Racer. With help from the pen of nationally syndicated cartoonist Jef Mallett, Roadie celebrates cycling as it explains the neurotic tendencies of the sport and its lifestyle, from shaved legs and garish jerseys, to garages full of bikes worth more than cars. Perfect for roadies and their confused friends, family, and co-workers, Roadie puts an end to the head scratching and leaves roadies laughing out loud as they revel in their misunderstood world. Roadie is now available in bookstores, bike shops, and online at

Roadie begins by explaining the lifestyle of a roadie, or bike racer, through the staples of a roadie's life: devotion to the sport, the bike, the training ride, nutrition and bonking, and more. Smith moves on to "classroom sessions" about drafting and the breakaway, sprints and temporary alliances, and crashes. Smith explains the rituals of race day, the referee and race rules, and the tenuous relationship between rider and sponsor. Finally, Roadie explores cycling's race formats and how friends and family can get involved in their Roadie's favorite pastime.

Roadie is needed more today than ever as more Americans take up cycling as riders, racers, and spectators. The New York Times has called cycling "the new golf" and thousands of people are buying shiny new road bikes each year. For these recreational and fitness riders, Roadie offers a much-needed primer on the lingo, the gear, even the politics of a group ride. Pacelines, drafting, sprinting, climbing, and breakaways are turned into everyday commonsense with colorful anecdotes.

Millions of Americans watch the Tour de France during the month of July and the U.S. is now host to its own major stage races like the Tour of California, Tour de Georgia, Tour of Missouri, and Tour of Utah. In fact, bike racing is all over America, with shorter race events like Pennsylvania's Commerce Bank Triple Crown, South Carolina's USPRO Championships, Wisconsin's Superweek, and dozens of regional criteriums attracting thousands of racers and spectators. USA Cycling, the governing body of bike racing, reported an all time high in annual memberships for 2007 (which means record numbers of perplexed friends and family!). Roadie is perfect for those who have ever walked away from a bike race completely puzzled, explaining strategy for each race format and how best to watch the action from roadside. Roadie brings the excitement of bike racing alive for anyone with an appetite for adrenaline.

Author Jamie Smith has been a bike racer since 1983 and a bike race announcer since 1985, working his way up through the ranks of amateur cycling and traveling with some of the world's greatest cyclists. When he's not on his bike, Jamie Smith is a public information officer and photographer for the City of Rochester Hills in Michigan. More about Jamie is available at his website and his blog Illustrator Jef Mallett launched his "Frazz" comic strip in 2001 and it now runs in 150 newspapers nationwide. An avid cyclist and frequent triathlete, Mallett writes a monthly column for Inside Triathlon magazine and contributes to VeloNews magazine.

As a working bike race announcer, Jamie Smith is available for "Roadie Happy Hour" author events in conjunction with major U.S. races in Georgia, Missouri, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, and South Carolina.

Media copies, author events and interviews:
Dave Trendler, Marketing and Publicity Manager
(303) 245-2138,

Shops and clubs can place wholesale orders through:
Jen Soulé, Sales Manager
(800) 811-4210 x169,

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

March Notes

Random Notes -
- Racing season here in Michgan starts in 9 days. Our temps are still in the low 30s. Guess who will be late to the dance???
- A friend of mine called me yesterday to tell me that she was standing in the bike shop looking at her new bike that had just arrived and was in the process of being built. I was supportive and feigned the proper amount of jealousy. What are we, 12-year-olds??? The shiny new bike still gets our heart racing? I guess I thought that was one of those features of my youth that would be sanded off as I got older. Thank God it doesn't. She also said that other people in the store had been .... brace yourself, this is ugly.... touching it without her permission. I wanted to drive over there and hit them. Knowing my friend, I'm sure I was too late.
- I forgot to ask her what color.
- The books are in! They're at the VeloPress offices in Boulder! I just got an email saying that they should be shipping out soon! Now, if you envision boxes of books sitting on the platform at a train station dressed in fatigues with tiny duffle bags at their feet and tears in their eyes, you're crazy. They're made of paper. And they ship by truck.
- If you're in Clarkston, MI on the 5th of April, I'll invite you to stop by Kinetic Systems Bike Shop (60 S. Main) at 4:00pm for our first book signing. Jef Mallett will be there with a Sharpie pen and stories to tell. I'll be there lingering near the food. Hope you can make it out!

- Here's the "Author Portrait" that will be on the back cover of the book. They wanted my best side. Took me a few weeks to figure out which side that would be.
- OK! go riding!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Dedicated Fans

Some leftover goodies from the Amgen Tour.
This is the awards ceremony in SLO which came at the end of that miserable slog through the rain along the coast. Despite the rain and cold temps, the crowd stuck around to cheer for the Jersey Presentations. Everyone gave the riders so much credit - which they obviously deserved. But Levi was very gracious in his appreciation of the crowd.

C'mon, isn't bike racing a cool thing?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Marching Band

OK, my last two posts had a weird connection to marching band, so I'm breakin' wide and running with the MB theme today. I asked a friend of mine to chime in on the Michigan Marching Band experience. Blake lives in Chicago now but still bleeds Michigan Blue which is a darker shade of Cub Blue and not even in the Crayola scale of Dodger Blue.
Here's his offering:
"Discussing Rose Bowls and the physical and mental preparation that it takes to compete in an event like bike racing brings me back to my days as a member of the Michigan Marching Band.
"Like watching an elite runner as he effortlessly glides across the pavement in a marathon, few actually realize the training it takes to high-step out of the tunnel to the Band's up-tempo drum cadence and still be able to find a little extra windpower to play Michigan's famous fight song "The Victors" with 110,000 people rhythmically clapping and singing along.
"In the summer leading up to the beginning of the season, I worked out regularly, climbing stairs, riding my bike, running the treadmill, all to prepare myself for the kind of physical exertion that began the week and a half leading up to the opening game of the season. With 10-12 hour days out in the hot August sun, Band Week at Michigan is something you hope to survive through, but not without pushing your limits beyond what you thought was possible. (Of course, the reward of playing in Michigan Stadium, supporting the team and university and finding your way to one of those Rose Bowl Games makes all the sacrifice worthwhile).
"The anticipation leading up to gameday is nerve-wracking, yet incredibly exciting. Getting up before the crack of dawn and waking the city of Ann Arbor to the music of school songs sets the tempo as if practice were the soundtrack of the day. It's hard not to pause to watching the stream of maize and blue clad alumni return to the campus they love to reminisce about college life and grab a dollar hot dog en route to the stadium. As we trade our t-shirts and warm-ups for crisp uniforms and shiny instruments, a loyal group of fans wait for the drum cadence to begin and follow along as the band ushers the masses to the stadium and the rich tradition of what a fall Saturday is meant to be: College Football."
Thanks Blake! Well said!
And where do I find the dollar hot dogs in Ann Arbor? Or is that just a deal for the alums?
Up next: surfing.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Bo Don't Know Cycling. (a different Bo)

Immediately after each Stage, a press conference is held in a secret location away from the madding crowd. Since I'm from Meechigan, I have a fond connection with the Rose Bowl having wasted numerous New Year's Nights watching Michigan lose the big game. So when I learned that the post-race press conference would be held inside the RB, I made a point to attend.
It's just a stadium, really, but I wanted to actually go inside the room where Bo (Schembechler not Jackson) stood every New Year's Day and explained why his team lost. (I can now check that one off my list.)
There's a lot going on in there. Take a look:

They bring in several notable riders for Q&A which then breaks out into a one-on-one sessions around the room as the riders try to escape to their buses (after explaining why THEY lost). In the next room is where we find all the photographers uploading their images. Since photography is what I do for my real job Monday thru Friday, it's a treat to look over the shoulder of Graham Watson, Casey Gibson, and Jon Devich as they work.
It would be cool to be there when the Michigan Marching Band is playing, but that takes a distant second place to this day.
And the funny thought that struck me while I was taking this all in: Bo wouldn't understand any of what was being written, spoken, or digitized here today. Poor sod.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

It's a big World out there.

World Cycling Productions is a Minnesota-based company that has been producing bike race videos since the late 80s when Lemond was King. It was started - almost on a lark - by Tim Grady.
There was a time in my life when I would have given my right arm for a chance to join their team. In fact, I sent them my resume and demo reel back in 1994 hoping to get a seat on that bus. Traveling to all the major races with a camera? Are you kidding? That has my name written all over it. Alas, it has someone ELSE's name written all over it, and I am relegated to the back of the pack placing orders out of the most extensive catalog of race videos.
I had never met Tim. So when Nelson pointed him out milling about in Santa Clarita, I sauntered over and tried not to look like the country bumkin that I am. I started with some general questions and started rolling when the topic turned to the persistent popularity of the Lemond-Hinault era videos. See where it goes from there.

I would have talked longer, but the race was about to start, and I was miles from my truck. Didn't want to pull a Delgado.
Maybe someday the guy who has my job will tire of having a front row seat to every major cycling event on the planet. When he does, I'll be ready with my Betacam....Hi8 tape.... no,, that's obsolete... MiniDV... Nope... HD-hard drive. (As you can see, we've gone through several format changes since I sent my resume.)

Monday, March 3, 2008

Marshal Mayhem

When you build a sports stadium that is 135 miles long, you need an army of course marshals who stand at every single intersection and prevent cars from driving onto the course. It's an important job.
For this crew, the week is a lot like band camp, The Amazing Race, MTV's Road Rules, and National Lampoon's Summer Vacation rolled into one.
Without this crew, the race would not exist.
The course marshals for the Amgen Tour of California are a dedicated bunch. Who on Earth would actually sign up to be squeezed into a van with 8 other strangers, drive like demolition derby contestants, and stand in the cold for hours just to block an intersection and wave an orange flag?
And then when the event is over, they immediately sign up to do it all over again in Georgia two months later.
Here are some clips of one of the most important jobs on Tour.

When people spend too much time in close proximity to others, they sometimes develop similar traits.
This video clip was shot during Stage 6 somewhere on the outskirts of Santa Clarita.

They are led by a man called X. Here we see him addressing the troops in the parking lot of the Cabana hotel prior to the start of the Prologue in Palo Alto.

If you're interested in being a marshal for any of the big events (CA, GA, or MO) (and let me tell you, it's a G-R-E-A-T way to meet great people and see great racing), you'll need to visit any of the event websites and find the volunteer link.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

AToC Internet Coverage

I peeked into the Internet Tent during the finish of the grueling Stage 4 of the AToC in SLO to catch JoE Silva and FrankiE Andreu providing the color and play-by-play. Actually, I was just trying to get out of the rain hoping that they had one of those cool heaters like those found in the VIP area where Nelson was hanging out. They didn't. It was freezing which is why you see them moving around trying to stay warm.
As recently as 1990, we'd get our information on the Tour de France by reading the results in the next day's paper. We longed for the days when we'd have same-day coverage. When OLN (now Versus) gave us that, then we wanted LIVE start-to-finish coverage. Well, now we have it, and we're finding that it's not as exciting as we'd expected. The Internet broadcast is a difficult task because you have to fill HOURS upon HOURS of time with as much cycling knowledge as possible without sounding repetitive or stale. Think about that for a minute. Is there a topic that YOU can talk about for - in this case - seven hours without wilting some? And would you be willing to do it while cold and wet? I doubt it.
When you consider what they were up against, JoE and Frankie did a great job in some pretty wretched conditions.
Here's the clip.

And oh yeah, I forgot to mention some Canadian guy named Dominique rode away from George and instantly became the talk of the town. Amazing ride.
There's a shot of a guy standing on the Awards Stage. That's Tim Walsh, one of the guys who first pitched the idea of starting the Tour of California. He's a super cool guy and fanatic bike race fan. You have him to thank for all this.