Saturday, February 27, 2010

An Olympic Post

- Canadians have changed. I like the old way better.
- The movement to put Cyclocross in the Olympics needs to get serious quick. Even if it means giving up another cycling discipline in the Summer Games, it's time for 'cross to put cycling in the Winter Olympics.
- The IOC has to know that there are some sports that aren't ready for prime time. Women's Hockey is a good example. It's not a world sport. It's a two-country sport. Look at the scores. Shelf it. Revisit it later.
- I was disappointed to see the NBA-ification of the events in Vancouver. For instance, the JumboTron at the Women's Classic XC venue flashed "MAKE SOME NOISE!!" as the leaders came into the stadium on the final lap. C'mon, do we really really really need to tell the crowd when to get excited? Are they so stupid as to buy tickets, drive all the way to Whistler wearing face paint in the color of their country's flag, sit in the cold rain watching the race for two hours, and then NOT know when to get excited? Doesn't it mean more when it's a more organic and spontaneous swell of crowd emotion rather than a computer generated outpouring of carefully planned applause?
- The Human Interest Factory has been working overtime this year producing heart rending stories on every athlete on the field of play. They're all fascinating, but honestly, don't we all have a story that, if told in soft focus with the right background music, would be just as interesting? Most would be just as compelling without the soft focus and music having to do with defying the odds, overcoming obstacles, and persevering through hardship. Isn't life, itself, against all odds? Aren't any of us just fortunate to have made it this far? Don't get me wrong, I'm not asking that we mint 2 billion gold medals for everyone. I'm just saying that, for me, the Olympics are fine without all the extra stories. I appreciate the athlete endeavors and the achievements of everyone who marched into the stadium. I wish they wouldn't distract from it by adding all the schmaltz. (I know I'm in the minority here and that John Q. Iowa needs those stories to keep from changing the channel.)
- I never watch Figure Skating.
- I'm not surprised by the attention that Curling gets every four years. I'm more surprised by how much attention the attention gets. When I see a news story about how much attention Curling is getting, I think: OK, but how many people will seek out a bonspiel next weekend? None. Come Monday, it'll slink back into obscurity seen only on CBC on Sunday afternoons. It looks interesting in the same way that shuffle board looks interesting.
- My knees still hurt just from watching the Moguls competition early last week.
- Short Track speed skating is chaos. And it's refreshing to see athletes acknowledge this fact in the post-race interviews. In cycling, we have the standard line "That's bike racing." to explain away all the things you can't control. I heard Apolo Ohno say almost the same thing after he was edged out.
- Speaking of Ohno, the best post-race interview ever came after his DQ in the 500m final. He alluded to the Canadian judges, but he also wrapped it up by saying, "I just need to go faster." Classy.
- From a spectator's perspective, the Luge, Skeleton, and Bobsleigh cast no magic spell over me. I'm sure they're challenging for the athletes. I don't mean to diminish the accomplishment, but I just can't watch one sled after the next doing the same exact thing as the sled before it. If they want me to relate to it better, they need to make it more like the backyard luge run that Scott Stanley and I built in 1973. It had pine trees on both sides, a bump that would break our spine, a tree stump that was hidden if we had new snow, a barbed wire fence that we had to duck under, and it ended by skittering us across a pond. Good times. (Remember when I said that we're fortunate to have made it this far? Well...)
- Speaking of Bobsleigh, when those guys hop out of the sled at the end of the run, don't you want to ask them for help with a home improvement project? Or ask to borrow their lawnmower? They look like my neighbors.
- I don't think people were excited enough about the American results in the Nordic Combined. That was huge. And I hope people saw the heart-stoppingly close races in the Nordic Ski events. It's an oft-overlooked sport that produced some of the most incredible finishes. Me? Biased? No sir. But if you'll excuse me, I have to switch my wax to something softer due to the warm weather we've been having.
The photo of Bill Demong's Nordic Combined finish was taken and kindly shared by Todd Hagemans. Thanks Todd!
- Favorite moment: The female German skater who, in the Team Pursuit semi-final, slid across the finish line on her belly but had the wherewithal to put her skate forward to get the best time.
- I know there'll be a huge post-event letdown after this is over for spectators as well as athletes and organizers. It's been a high-energy time with lots of drama and excitement. I lived it in 1996. Life was a vacuum for weeks afterward. What do we have to look forward to after it's over? College and NBA basketball? Thanks, but I'll leave my TV off until The Masters in April.
--- Have a favorite moment? Leave a comment.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Health Assessment

People come in all shapes and sizes, and they all seem to work in my office building. Tall, skinny, short, fat, round, square and pear shaped.
Our Wellness Committee is constantly offering up ways to get in shape and live healthier lives. One incentive program they've developed is a reimbursement plan in which we receive $250 each year to use toward the purchase of exercise equipment. The only real requirements for this reimbursement are A. be a warm and breathing human being, (I just barely qualified) and B. participate in a health assessment through a local hospital (which is done on site, so it's hard to not qualify).
The assessment consists of a battery of tests (cholesterol, glucose levels, weight, BMI, etc.) and a collection of ridiculously-worded lifestyle questions (exercise, diet, etc.). For example:
1. How many times in the last 6 months did you driven a vehicle when you've had too much to drink? (Seriously? Are people actually providing a number to this?)
2. When lifting heavy objects, do you lift them properly by keeping your back straight, bending your knees, keeping your head up, and using your legs to do the lifting? (Of course not. I lift with my back so that I'll save my leg strength for when it matters: on the bike.)
3. If you are sexually active.... OK, stop right there. No need to discuss that here.
When they measured my height, they decided that I am 5'11". For the record, I haven't been that tall since the 1970s when I wore platform soles. (Everyone wore them, so don't laugh at me.)
When I stepped on the scale, they said the scale was off by 6 or 8 pounds. No sticklers for detail, them.
So based on those suspect numbers, they continued their assessment.
My numbers were all within a decent range except for my LDLs. But at the end of my assessment, they shook their head forlornly and said, "Mr. Smith, you are borderline obese. You need to get more exercise. You need to eat a healthier diet."
They're joking, right?
For those of you who don't know me, I'm of average build. Like most sprinters, I'm mostly leg and butt, but otherwise a normal body shape. I can fit very comfortably into a seat in the coach section of an airline - should the need EVER arise. I row, ride, ski, play tennis, volleyball, golf, and go to the gym regularly. If I'm in poor health it's because I'm beating the crap out of my body, not because I'm watching too many CSI: Des Moines reruns. (I love the episode where someone appeared to have stolen a grocery cart, and they used their investigative skills to determine that on a windy day it rolled across the parking lot and landed in a retention pond.)
Their tally of all my numbers produced that result? C'mon. (Or as my Pennsylvania friends say, C'mawn!)
Meanwhile, I'd like you to meet my co-worker, Mr. X. He weighs 305. Smokes like a Montana grass fire. Drinks a lot. Never exercises. Eats anything he wants whenever he wants. In a word: corpulent. But a super nice guy.
At the end of his assessment, they didn't mention more exercise or a better diet. In fact, they looked at his numbers and actually said this: "Your numbers look good. Just keep doing what you're doing. You might consider losing some weight."
Gosh, I don't think they looked up from their sheet of paper.
Our HR Department was tickled to report that we had 97% participation and that everyone was on the road to a healthy lifestyle.
Apparently, that was the most important aspect of the program.
My concern is not that they got ME wrong in one direction, but that they're getting others wrong in the other direction. To tell someone that they're doing fine - even though they maybe can't tuck their shirt in - isn't doing them any favors.
Ah, but all I can do is work on my LDLs.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Two-Handed Book - a book review

I am quick to say that I have only dabbled in the world of Triathlon. Geez, even THAT's a stretch; I did the cycling leg of a relay once. I didn't get wet, nor did I run two steps. Basically, I rode a time trial with other stuff going on and magic marker on my arm and leg.
Now I have to say that I'm at least considering the idea of doing a full one. (No, not a golf - surf - ride tri - an idea of mine that never caught on. I've done several.) No, a real one.
I don't recall the exact page number, but it was somewhere in the reading of Jef Mallett's "Trizophrenia" (please pronounce it like schizophrenia > Trits-oh-phrenia) that it struck me: this sounds like fun - by it's most odd and twisted definition.
Jef is a brilliant guy who isn't afraid to use the most obscure historical, scientific, or literary fact to make a point in a humorous way. His intelligence is what makes his Frazz comic strip so successful. (For example, he gets fan email from domains such as mit.edu, stanford.edu, and rpi.edu. I get email from gmail and yahoo.)
(I'm totally making some of that up. I don't get fan email.)
The wit keeps you on your toes as you read "Trizo". I marvel at how clever he is. We both name Bill Bryson as our favorite author, and I can totally see the influence. I can also see the uniqueness of Jef's writing. Good stuff.
Also keeping you on your toes - more accurately, your fingers - and the reason I call it a Two-Handed Book is because it takes two hands to read it. One hand holds the book while your other hand holds your place as you jump up and down the page to catch all of the footnotes. There are several. And they're hilarious. Worth the effort, for sure.
In a strange way, the jumping back and forth between footnotes and text is a lot like - I imagine - being a triathlete jumping back and forth between all three disciplines. Lose track of one, and your race will suffer.
There's a lot in this book. Yeah, you'd expect that from a book that covers three sports, but much more than just an explanation of what the sport is. It's a close examination of the three mindsets of an athlete that's not content with just one discipline.

I don't know who did his artwork, but it's a total rip-off of Roadie. That's all I'm going to say about that.

I haven't picked which triathlon I'm going to do this summer. I'll keep you posted.
Read the book. Pick your event. And let me know where it is.
I won't be there to watch it. I just want to know if you're able to rise to the challenge.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Red Carpet II - I have more to say.

Thank you for pointing out my omissions. I guess I got tired of writing during the previous post and just cut it short without really hitting the highs and lows. I have to return to the topic and include them for the benefit of my non-cyclist readers who shouldn't be deprived of the opportunity to marvel at the hideous designs that somehow made the jump from sketched to stitched.
Let's start at the top by starting at the bottom.
Say hello to the Footon-Servetto-Fuji team.


Wow. Where do we begin? Well, that foot logo should be placed squarely on the arse of the person who approved the design. If I were on this team, I would put all my energies into winning my country's national championship (even if I had to bribe the competition) just so I wouldn't have to wear this thing. I need to revise something that I said in the previous post. I said, "The funny thing is that when you get 160 of these jerseys together and mix them all up, they all look great."
Not with this one tossed into the mix. That's like adding cilantro to tiramisu.


Is this the 2010 Milram jersey? Really? Well, I guess when your sponsor deals in flavoured curds, cheese, as well as buttermilk and whey drinks, you're going to have stuff like this happen to your jersey.


Here's the 2010 Astana Jersey looking much less K-Marty and much more toddler pajamas-y. They're the national colors of a country I probably won't be visiting. (Who knows, maybe my boss, Mr. Mayor, will develop a Sister City relationship with a suburb of Astana.) Me? I'm much more likely to be found eating flavoured curds in Germany.


I like the colors. I was never a fan of the old CSC jersey (I'm definitely in the minority there, I promise.), so I'm glad to see Saxo Bank has taken them in a totally different direction.


Team Sky from G.B. Everyone thinks they're going to come out and kick some butt. We'll see about that.
I've heard some negative things about this design already. I happen to like it. Simple. Bold. And hopefully it will erase from our memories the image of the old EDS track team that used a very similar design. By the way, are they still in jail?
Some might suggest that there's something sinister about the heavy use of black. I suggest that the heavy use of white is nothing if not weak. Case in point (from a few years ago):


Granted, this came from a team that was left in the lurch when they lost their title sponsor. This was almost a new twist on the blank slate "Your Logo Here" campaign. Eventually, Columbia stepped up with cash and changed the design accordingly.
We can't complete this look at jerseys without revisiting some other classics from the past.


Castorama is (was?) a Euro version of Home Depot. Somehow, they felt that overalls would work well on a cycling jersey. They were wrong. This one lasted just one of two seasons which is what happens to silly designs. (Are you listening Footon-Servetto-Fuji???)


Here's the Panasonic jersey that I referenced in the previous post. It's a classic much like the 7-Eleven jersey. Two requirements that I can give for a classic to become a classic:
1. It doesn't change much from year to year, and it lasts many years.
2. They won a lot of races.
Case in point...


They won tons. They didn't change the jersey much. A modern classic.
Check me on this one. Wiki says that MAPEI stands for "Materiali Ausiliari Per l'Edilizia e l'Industria", Italian for "Auxiliary Materials for Construction and Industry". During the 1995 Tour DuPont, I had an employee tell me that it stood for Mortars, Adhesives, Polymers, Epoxies, Industry". In your face, Wikipedia!
To summarize what we've learned here:
- Flesh-colored jerseys should be outlawed like the EDS team.
- Cows should be black and white. Never blue.
- A classic is less about the design and more about the wins.
- Wikipedia can't be trusted.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Cycling's Red Carpet

Tuned in too late to catch the Red Carpet portion of the Grammy telecast on Sunday, but I can guess how it went: a flamboyant male TV host with pink hair coloring rips on some, kisses the butts of others, and generally holds court on all of the women's dresses. I thought they all looked fine. Who am I to judge fashion? Have you seen what I wear? And if Pink wants to dip herself in water and hang near-naked from the ceiling by a silk thread? I'm cool with that.
Let me assure you that if cycling had a Red Carpet, cycling fans would be quite vocal about who was hot or not.
Jersey design is a topic that nobody really talks about, but everyone has an opinion on at every level of the sport. Believe me, if your club jersey is funny looking, EVERYBODY is talking about it. Just not to your face. And if you happen to slip through the fashion wormhole and come up with a cool design, you'll hear about that.
I have a John Deere kit that I got from a team in Athens GA that makes straight men downright giggly.
Everyone has their favorites and least favorites. Here are some to ponder.

My all time favorite is the Alfa Romeo jersey from the 1980s. For me, this conjures up memories of Dan Franger/Matt Eaton/Tom Broznowski/Jeff Rutter in the Wheat Thins series. Those were the days. I was just getting into the announcing racket when this team was active.


The one that gets the most first place votes is this classic 7-Eleven jersey. Sells well on eBay. I can't even begin to name the riders who wore this one. Too many. Oh, I COULD name them all, but you don't have time.


My other all-time fave is this French-based Mondrian-esque creation that was THE jersey in 1985-86.


Just before the La Vie Claire team ruled the world, the Renault team was the cool one.
I'm skipping the Peugot kit and the Panasonic kit in favor of this favorite. Just the color of it says unconventional. I've been waiting to start a team of my own just so I can resurrect this shade of green.


I was working a race in Lancaster PA in 1990 when our host drove us past a bike shop that had one of these hanging in the front window. We stopped. I bought it. I still have it. No ma'am, it don't fit me no mo'.
OK, so let's bring out the current jersey designs. Like 'em or not, we're stuck with them all season.


A lot of people LOVE the argyle of the Garmin-Transitions kit. They sell a lot of them at the Expo area. There's not that much change from previous year's design save the "Transitions" sponsor name on the chest. When they first came out with the argyle motif, people snickered. The team rocked, and now argyle is the new houndstooth.


Aside from the flip flop in sponsors (HTC will appear over Columbia in '10), this team changed little in their kit design. They're down to just four American riders in 2010. (2 men, 2 women) But they still have the Manx Missile Mark Cavendish which made this jersey the fastest one on the road in 2009. It'll appear in a lot of race finish photos - usually with a guy with his hands in the air.
I'm not crazy about the faux abs painted on the front, but do you think I'm going to take that up with Stapleton?


Bold. I like the darkness. It reminds me very much of an old local jersey in the Detroit area. (The background looks like Lake Superior, but I'm told it's a pond out west. The kind you can't drink.) This team kind of exploded this year - in a good way. Going big was in their strategic plan. This is the year that they really made the jump by signing several big names in the game. This jersey design is also a striking move. I would say it's much more bold than....


...THIS. When Radio Shack announced their involvement in the Lance Continuum, everyone wondered what the jersey would look like. The mistake these people made was to believe that a big name and a big budget would mean a big design. So far, the reaction to this ... dare I call it a design?... has been luke warm. I've always been against the use of grey in a cycling jersey. Who wants to match the color of the road? Of course, some will love it because of who is wearing it. It's not in my top five. You can form your own opinion. Perhaps it'll last as long as their batteries. I'll give you this: it's marginally better than...


a-sta-NA. Did you know that, in Kazakhstan, they pronounce it with the emphasis on the NA? Weird, huh? Look at me stall for time while I try to find something nice to say about this KMart looking jersey. ... ... ... I got nothin'. Never liked it. Can't lie to ya.


At the Tour of California Expo area, the team camp with the busiest souvenir booth was Rock Racing. Always 10x as busy as Garmin or any of the others. Contrary to what you might think, people weren't standing in line waiting to buy a Team Type One jersey. I can't figure out why. Rock Racing was the hot item last year.
I haven't seen Rock's 2010 design yet. I think they're more concerned with getting licensed to race than designing a winning jersey. We'll cut them some slacks.
Get it? Slacks?
Rock Racing is sponsored by Rock 'n Republic Jeans.
( long pause )
OK
...moving on...

OK, this is the last one. Cervelo. Distinctive, I guess. People like it. Basically, it's the logo for the bike manufacturer placed on a black jersey. Easy to find in the peloton. Cycling fans recognize it quickly. This design would probably make me look thinner, so I should probably be a big fan. Unfortunately, I'm just big.
As a cycling fan and race announcer, I've seen a LOT of jerseys. Tons. And as a club member, I've tried my hand at jersey design. It's not easy. What looks good on paper doesn't look good on a body. Some jerseys have been memorable (GS Mengoni, Saturn, Subaru Montgomery, Wheaties-Schwinn, etc.) Some have been forgettable (Sunkyong AKC, Montgomery Bell, Monex, ScotBiKyle, Kelly Benefits, first year of USPostal). The sponsor's corporate colors and logo have a lot to say about it. And the final product is usually the result of a focus group committee that met through internet conference calls comprising of people that have never been to a bike race.
Singularly, we can scrutinize them like dresses on the Red Carpet. The funny thing is that when you get 160 of these jerseys together and mix them all up, they all look great.
I guess we should just be thankful not to have to see George Hincapie dipped in water and hanging near-naked from the ceiling by a silk thread and singing.
Have a favorite? Post a comment?
Can't get that image of George hanging in the rafters out of your head? Sorry.