Friday, March 27, 2009

Got Away With It

I will never send text messages while my car is in motion.
That's a fresh topic here in Michigan where a friend's brother was hit on Wednesday by a motorist who was texting her BFF. She never saw him, so she never hit the brakes, so she did a LOT of damage. As Scott listed all of Jeff's broken bones, the halo, the severed ear lobe, the turtle-shell harness, the punctured lung, and destroyed bike, I blanched. I've sent texts while driving. Never had a problem.
We've all done it. And we got away with it.
But honestly, who among us hasn't also looked up to discover that they missed a quarter mile of driving? How many close calls DON'T you know about? You don't know.
We got away with it.
Sure, the road may have been lightly travelled. But a lot can happen in a little span of time...somewhere between B, F, and F.
I hate to say it, but I don't hate cell phone users. They tend to be more cautious than normal, and they at least look in the general direction of the road. Autonomic behavior covers a multitude of sins in that regard.
But texting? As much as I'm a fan of the medium, I don't want to be the cause of someone's nightmare or my own. I'll wait 'til I'm stopped.
So that was my last one. I hope it was yours.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

March Madness

We're at that point of the season where the race calendar is about to fire up, yet we're still wearing multiple layers of clothing. For me, this is the true March Madness. I'm sick of wearing a base layer and a wind breaker. I just want to wear the middle layer: a jersey. Not a thermal jersey, but just a regular jersey. I'll go with long sleeves if I have to, but Holy Jeebus! Enough already!
And gloves? Sick of them.
Glove liner? Ditto.
Tights? Lose these things.
Helmet liner? Done.
Shoe covers? Yuck.
And just like when we were kids, it never fails that as soon as you get all that crap on, you have to pee. So I spend the next 5 minutes getting the base layer back to where it was, then pull up the shorts over the base layer, then the tights up past the top of the short, then the jersey over the tights, then the jacket over all of it.
Then once I have it all in place, I go outside to find that it has now warmed up so that I don't need the base layer anymore, and that I should wear leg warmers instead of tights.
So I go back indoors and start again.
Finally ready, I head out. I get to the end of my street when the phone rings. I have to stop, lift up the jacket high enough to reach the back pocket (which it doesn't quite do), get the phone, take it out of the weather-resistant cover, take my gloves off.... shit, missed the call. Call John back and tell him that I'd be there by now if I didn't have to answer the damn phone!. Put it back in the bag, back in the back pocket, pull the jacket back down, gloves back on, and ride away.
Then 5 miles into the ride, I'm overheating! Jeebus! So I take the jacket off and try to stuff it into the jersey pockets which are too damn small AND are full of food for this death march.
By the time this ride ends (just before it gets dangerously dark), the temperature will have dropped 20 degrees, and I'll be a shivering lunatic as I roll back into my driveway.

Putting on a fake smile to make it all better, this is me trying to believe that it's really warmer than it is. It's not working.
But since racing begins next weekend, I know that every other cyclist in Michigan is out there turning thousands of miles. I have no choice but to fake it.
In my next life, I'll be a swimmer.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Antler Man

Bike Race Fans will recognize him immediately. Especially if he's wearing his horns and carrying his flag.
This is the guy who runs alongside the peloton wearing a helmet with an Elk rack on it.
I'll let you Google him: Dore Holte/Antler Man.
We saw him on the roadside in advance of the caravan. He was warming up. Brad and I stopped to ask him a few questions. Actually, we had several question for him, but it wasn't too far into his first answer that we noticed the sparks on the guardrail.

No further questions..
We drove on.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


I think I've shown similar videos in the past, but it's worth showing again; it's a truly remarkable feat that plays out each day on the road during the Amgen Tour.
Remember that we're taking a sports stadium and stretching it across 100 miles of public roads. Press, teams, spectators, security, officials, VIPs, technical support, management, and the athletes rolling across the landscape in a blur of internal chaos. Orchestrated mayhem. Planned insanity. Any road race of any size at any level is a remarkable and dangerous feat, but this one is immense. This is Michigan Stadium on wheels. And it rolls like a train through major cities, rural outposts, and through mountain passes.
I can't say enough about the crew that makes it happen. And I can only give you a glimpse into the machinations that make it work. Take, for instance, the pre-race briefing:

Rider and spectator safety is the overarching priority. Then providing for a pure competition and a clean field of play for the race is the next step.
This is just a peak at what it looks like out on the road:

(That footage is from the 2007 Tour).
I hope that bike race promoters everywhere will take note of what's being done here. There's a lot to learn from watching this ballet. Come to Missouri in September and see for yourself.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Tour Humor

The stage from Visalia to Paso Robles took us across the Central Valley which is where the crops are plentiful and the roads are laser-straight. We turned just 7 times in 100km. The course profile was drawn with a straight-edge ruler.
I couldn't wait to get to Paso Robles, but I'm glad I didn't take a short cut because I would have missed this.
Along the pancake-flat route, the routing crew which is responsible for placing temporary signs to direct the caravan and warn the riders had placed a sign along the road warning the riders of the hazzard ahead.

Some of the UCI officials were all a-tither on the radio talking about the sign and spent several minutes making it clear to everyone in the caravan that it was just a joke and there was not even a 2" rise or fall in the road. They kinda drained the humor out of what was obviously the funniest moment on the road all week.
I give great props to the Routing Crew for their comedic timing.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Lance Factor

They came from miles around to see Lance. They waited in the rain. They carried signs, photos, jerseys, and Sharpie pens hoping to get something signed. They followed him around corners and down alleys on the way to the team bus to catch a glimpse, say something to him, or just witness the spectacle.
There's no denying that he brought a lot of people out of their homes to see a bike race. But how many more people is he solely responsible for bringing to the race?
Everyone is saying that The Lance Factor (TLF) caused the crowds to double and triple at this year's Amgen Tour of California. I think that's an exaggeration. I'll agree that we had huge crowds throughout the 9 days, but I think too much is being made of TLF. Remember that we had Floyd, Fabian, Carlos, Tommeke, VdV, George, Dish, Levi, Thor, and a full list of A-list riders in the field. Being out on the entire route as Brad and I were with the Mobile PA-mobile,

(photo by BigJohn) We saw a more even number of supporters for all riders. For example, when we pulled up to a crowded intersection in the middle of nowhere, we'd see a combination of cycling fans and normal people stuck in traffic for the road closure. The cycling fans were holding signs in support of all riders. The normal people were just plain curious.
Granted, Lance did have his followers. Take a look at this video shot prior to the start of Stage Two in Sausalito. His army far outnumbers that of Garmin.

I really really wish I had grabbed some video of Lance's Army in Santa Rosa. They were very well-behaved and polite.
Here's a random picture taken from the stage prior to Stage 8 in Ranch Bernardo. We had crowds like this at every town we rolled through. But how do you determine how much of this is TLF? It's impossible to know, but the result of TLF will most assuredly be new fans. When people see this race caravan pass by for the first time, you can hear the collective gasp from the crowd. And you know they had no idea what to expect. The whoosh of the riders, the support cars, the motorcycles, the CHP cars, and the cloud of yellow chalk dust has a big impact on those casual visitors.
Look at this picture:
This was at the final stage in Escondido where Frank Schleck won in a two-up sprint. That's not just a Lance crowd. That's a huge crowd feeling the excitement of the bike race and going absolutely bonkers for it.
So let's thank Lance for bringing his people to the party, but know that it was a big party already.
I can't wait 'til next year with or without TLF.