Monday, September 29, 2008


Uhhh, yeah... Is this a good time to undertake a quarter-million+ dollar house remodel? ...while embarking on a career change that very well might have negative income? ...after buying a car for your newly-licensed teenage daughter? ...because of whom our insurance nearly tripled?


Impeccable timing.

(PS. Can I still get a TT bike and a CX bike?)

[add/edit] OK, I wrote the above before the news broke that the House didn't approve the bail-out package. This is getting even more interesting, albeit in a perverse watching-the-train-wreck sort of way. Maybe I am on the train while watching... Moving to the forward car ...I bought more stocks today, including a bank.

I consider myself a social liberal, and a radical on the environment, but I confess to being somewhat conservative financially. It's time to pay for the gross excesses and push the reset button. I'm glad the House rejected the bill.

[Note: I reserve the right to change my mind...]

Training Week -- 9/22 - 9/28

Running is taking over. Maybe not in total time, but definitely for fatigue and pain. Seems like each run demands 2-3 days of recovery, and seriously whacks my pedaling. This is uncharted territory for me. I'm wondering if it might be better to do more frequent easier runs, building slowly to a consistent 13 miler...

Mon: Ride, 1 hr, around Goleta
Tue: Ride, 1 hr, lunchtime hammerfest (was passenger until dropped)
Wed: Ride, 1 hr, Hope Ranch slog'ervals
Thu: Run, 8 miles: warm-up, 3-mile tempo, 4X quarter-mile repeats at 1:18, cool down
.....Ride, 1 hr, OSM, really slow
Fri: 0
Sat: 0
Sun: Run, 12 miles at 8:30 pace

Total: 4 hr riding; 20 miles running

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Still a Fan, Greg

Greg LeMond continues to pop up in the cycling news, most recently at an Interbike press conference where he directly confronted Lance Armstrong and doping expert Don Catlan. You can hear audio from the contentious exchange here and also a follow-up interview with Greg. A video of the press conference is on

The public's reaction hasn't been particularly kind. Based on comments in various internet forums, I'd say the prevailing opinion is that Greg needs to drop the crusade and get on with his life. The more vitriolic comments suggest that he's a whiner who can't stand being eclipsed by Armstrong, and that he has serious emotional issues. While I wouldn't go that far, it's clear that he's obsessed with exposing Armstrong's past doping. Unfortunately that obsession obscures his primary message and his ideas for better dope-testing procedures going forward, which I believe come from his sincere love for the sport.

But perhaps I'm biased.

I fondly remember going to races in NorCal ...including bygone classics like the Tassajara RR and the Butterfly Criterium... and seeing the whole LeMond family pull up in their lime-green VW Westfalia van. A young and enthusiastic Greg would come bounding out like a skinny blond puppy dog, always with a smile and always wanting to talk about bike racing. He was equally friendly with the good guys as he was with those of us who he crushed every weekend. It was impossible not to like him even though he was the purveyor of pain once the race started!

Now I'm an average Johnny Anonymo as a bike racer, but one distinction I do hold is being one of Greg's first acquaintances outside of the Reno/Carson City cycling community where he started. His first race was the Land Park crit in Sacramento in March of 1976. We were Intermediates, which in today's system would be called Juniors aged 14-15. The field that day was small, certainly less than ten riders. Greg went fast from the gun and soon only four of us were left. Despite it being his first race ever, he was barking commands at us to rotate through and keep the speed up. The few kids left behind were probably in total disarray but Greg cracked the whip to keep us focused nonetheless.

It's been well documented that Greg won his first umpteen races, and this was the very first of that streak as he easily took the sprint. I got 3rd. Afterward he came up to me and we talked for a couple hours, sitting on the curb watching the other races. I only remember one thing from that first conversation: he said he rode the rollers two hours a day the entire winter. The significance of that dedication quickly became evident.

The next day was the Tassajara Road Race, the unofficial start of the NorCal season. Nearly twenty years later, upon Greg's retirement, Kent Gordis wrote about that day at Tassajara in the tribute magazine "Greg LeMond, the official story"...
(click to enlarge)

Greg would go on to race nearly every weekend in NorCal for the next two years, winning a substantial fraction of the time.

I was in 20-30 of those races, some of which were more memorable than others. In 1977 we were first-year Juniors (age 16-18) racing against older, bigger, and more experienced kids. That proved challenging for me, and I often struggled to hang on. One of my few decent results that year was the Butterfly criterium in Pacific Grove. For juniors and seniors it was classified as a National Prestige race, which would be somewhat analogous to an NRC event today. Fairly early in the race I managed to hold on to Greg's wheel as he escaped the pack. As I recall, I attempted to pull through but most likely provided no help at all for the few laps we were out there. Just before being caught, he turned to me and said that he would go again with ten laps to go. I actually processed that information and was later paying attention ...from mid pack... when he did indeed attack again with ten laps to go. He soloed away for yet another win. I got 10th place, which was a thrilling result for me.

One of his most memorable NorCal performances took place in 1978 at Cat's Hill where Greg, the reigning US Junior RR champ, entered the senior race, which included Wayne Stetina, the reigning Senior RR champ. I do not know why I skipped the race that weekend, but I regret it because the drama that unfolded is the stuff of legend. Thanks to NorCal cycling guru and head-honcho Casey Kerrigan who archived many old NCNCA newsletters, here is a picture and description of that day...
(again, click to enlarge)

(SB folks: note who got 3rd place that year!)

By mid-1979, at 18 years old, Greg was arguably the best rider in the US. He won many national-level Senior events and capped off the year with a rainbow jersey from the Junior World Championship RR in Argentina. His time in California was pretty much done.

The following year he was racing in Europe, and his upward trajectory continued. Here, also from the "Greg LeMond, the official story", is a podium shot from his first major victory...
(SoCal folks: note a smiling Thurlow Rogers in the middle!)

Well, not much point in me continuing the history lesson beyond this point because everyone knows it.

I feel fortunate at having been around when LeMond started racing, and enjoy reminiscing about those first couple years. I was in the right place at the right time. One point I want to make clearly is this: Greg was one of the most genuinely enthusiastic bike racers I've ever known. I never saw him get conceited or arrogant, despite the incredible success he had. I last saw him in 1981 when he returned from Europe to demolish the field at Nevada City. I don't remember talking to him that day, but I do remember him being humble in victory. Nothing about his public persona I saw in later years made me feel any different.

I think people should cut him some slack now.

[Updated, October 13th 2010]

Well, a lot has changed in the two years since I wrote this post. With all that's happened, only the most naive or delusional fans wouldn't now acknowledge that cycling has some deep and systemic doping problems. Yet, you still find two diametrically opposed opinions. There are many who feel cycling should take the path of certain other high-profile sports, only giving lip service to anti-doping while keeping the dirty laundry out of sight. Why scare away sponsors and promoters, they ask? It's an impossible problem to solve; they say dopers will always stay a step ahead of testers. Dope testing is a joke, just as it should be.

I don't share that view in the slightest. Why? For one, I cannot subscribe to a passive acceptance of cheating. Life has gray areas; sport should not... if it's in the rules, enforce it. But more importantly (to me), if doping is tacitly allowed at the highest levels, you can be sure it will become more and more pervasive in lower echelons of bike racing. It's a bleak future if juniors are faced with doping.

And maybe it's already metastasized at lower levels... Rumors are swirling that a bomb will soon drop on amateur masters racing in the US, one that would hit pretty close to home for me and some readers of this blog. I'll be greatly saddened and disappointed if the rumors prove true, because I had respect for some of the individuals involved. I liked them, and defended them when people made accusations that seemed unfounded. Yes, I was probably too naive.

Sometimes I long for the simpler, more innocent days of bike racing. And on that note, I'll leave you with another historical picture, this one from an old issue of Competitive Cycling. Here's 16-year-old Greg on the front leading the way up a hill in the National Road Race championships in 1976. Hey Greg, I'm glad you're staying on the front and leading the way for a cleaner future in bike racing.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Return of the King

Sorry Ron, I just can't help myself...

Legal Disclaimer: Ron has never expressed his feelings for Lance one way or another. I have no reason to think he has a man-crush on Lance ...or Bobke for that matter... he just made the unfortunate mistake of providing me with a picture just begging for some Photoshop work...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Name Those Riders (History)

Like many bike-racing obsessed teenagers, the walls of my room were adorned with colorful images of great riders and epic races. Legends from across the Atlantic, grand tour winners and spring-classics hard men, cols and cobbles, thundering field sprints ...all of it very mysterious and entrancing to this fledgling early-teen cyclist. Of course I was also in awe of the US stars--the George Mounts and the John Howards--but it didn't take me long to figure out the cycling world's pecking order. I knew the very best racers weren't in Berkeley or Boulder.

No, for Dave Stoller and me, it was the Italians, French, Belgians, and Dutch that we were obsessed with.

But Cinzano never came to Stockton so the closest I could get to the Euro stars were the 24"-x-36" glossy pictures on my walls. How many hours did I stare at those posters, wondering to myself in the dead of winter, "If I stay on the rollers another 30 minutes, can I be a winner too?" "Maybe just one more set of squats and my quads would look like that" They weren't life-size on my wall, but of course they were larger than life in my mind. Other kids had posters of Reggie Jackson, Van Halen, and Farrah Fawcett ...I had Eddy Merckx, Bernard Thevenet, and Roger DeVlaemink.

You johnny-come-lately fans of bike racing have no idea what it was like 30 years ago. No, no OLN/Versus, no streaming internet video, NO BLOGS. Maybe you would get TdF top-3 buried in the back of a big paper like the SF Chronicle or the LA Times, but then only if it was a slow day for Major League Baseball. Mostly you just waited for your mid-August issue of VeloNews for tour coverage. A couple pages in black-and-white. I'm telling you this so you might better understand why those large colorful posters of bike racing held such power over me...

...which might also explain why I still have many of them now, 30 years later, on the walls in my bike room, where I can stare at them doing squats or riding the rollers.

So today when I was out futzing around with my bikes I had the idea to see if any blog readers could possibly identify some of the riders in the posters. Kind of a history test. Obviously any cyclist could recognize the big stars. In fact, if you are a cyclist reading this blog and can't recognize Eddy Merckx in his prime, then go away and never come back!! ...Just kiddin'

But since most people could identify the big names, instead I'll show you some wall hangings with lower-level riders, or riders before they were stars. A few of these should be easy; others I'd be amazed if anybody knows. If you want to play, send me your answers or put them in a comment. If you know someone who's been around for awhile, point them here and see if they can get some right. Maybe I'll even give a prize to the best history student! So let's begin, and you can click on the pictures to get a larger size image.

#1 - In case you cannot tell, this is a Euro field sprint. I have no idea what race it is. One rider jumps right out at me, but I can't pull any other names out of the gray matter. Can you?

And speaking of gray matter, don't you just cringe at the notion of 40 mph field sprints like that with no helmets?!?

#2 - I think this is an easy one, at least the front rider, but perhaps not. You tell me. Bonus points for naming both riders. This was one of two large posters listing the NCNCA calendar for 1981.

#3 - This is the other one from that calendar pair.

#4 - Believe it or not, there was a 7-day stage race held in the hills between Santa Cruz and San Jose, California. It was a pretty big deal regionally. This race-ad poster shows one of the favored riders. He had a very colorful history. Who is it? Bonus points if you can describe a really bizarre incident that occurred in the race involving this rider.

#5 - A really old ad for the track national championships. I'd be shocked if anyone can name any of these riders. I'd have to do some research to confirm your answers anyway. Note that our governing body back then was the ABLA (Amateur Bicycling League of America) and it became the USCF a year or two later!

#6 - Not really a poster, just a full-page magazine picture that I ripped out and stapled to my wall (and kept for 30+ years). This guy was one of my many idols when I was a wee junior, and to this day I can remember a few of the tidbits of expert advice he gave me in very casual passing.

#7 - Another race ad, albeit for a local crit in NorCal. I know at least 4 and maybe 6 riders in this picture. Very few people on earth would be able name them, although there's a slim possibility one is lurking on this blog. He is in the picture. One of the riders should be known to everyone.

#8 - And finally, another race ad, but this one for two events in Santa Barbara. The artsy effect of the picture makes it even more difficult to identify them. A hint: everyone in this picture was a NorCal rider, and all were very good. One still goes to the track (Hellyer) occasionally.

A bit about these races: they were promoted by Doug Knox in conjunction with a week-long series of big-time races in SoCal. Many of the best riders in the US came. The first weekend were two crits in LA, one in Westwood and the other downtown. Tuesday was a night-time crit in SLO where Eric Heiden showed up (and was mobbed by Cal Poly coeds). Thursday was the Santa Ynez RR, Friday was the Solvang crit, Saturday was a circuit race up and down State St. SB, and Sunday was the crit around Santa Barbara High School. It wasn't exactly the Amgen Tour of California, or even SuperWeek, but it was big-time and it was here. So anyway, blow me away and name any of the riders in the poster.

Training Week -- 9/15 - 9/21

Only two runs, but at the extremes. 10 miles non-stop (a first) plus a 4-mile race at 6:02 per mile (haven't run fast since last winter).

Mon: ride, 1 hr, OSM easy
Tue: run, 10 miles, non-stop, ~8:30 pace
Wed: ride, 1 hr, easy around Goleta
Thu: ride, 1 hr, OSM, moderate-hard (~17:00)
Fri: nada
Sat: ride, 3.5 hr, roco ride to 2nd Casitas hill
Sun: run, 5 miles, Goleta Education Foundation 4-miler + w/u

Totals: 6.5 hrs riding; 15 miles running

Friday, September 19, 2008

Who Lands Here ...and Why?

I imagine most bloggers are curious about who looks at their site. I am. Knowing your audience helps focus what you choose to write about, or, at a minimum, how you decide to write it.

For example, if I knew my parents were regular visitors, then I probably would NOT post this link and would NOT say how I'm going to sneak one of those ring tones onto my thirteen-year-old son's phone and then call him when he's with one of his girl friends. No, that wouldn't be a good post for them to read, lest they wonder who really is the thirteen-year-old. And it was purely hypothetical anyway...

But unfortunately (or fortunately?) the anonymity of the internet makes it impossible to know who's looking at your blog, so it's probably best to assume your [parents; boss; children; spouse; etc.] are checking in. Reminds me to keep up a certain level of maturity.

I do keep a freebie hit counter on this blog, which tells me a few interesting stats such as: the number of visitors, their ISP and location, and how they were referred (if coming from some other site that links here). The visitor's location is often screwy, for example, it says I'm in Bakersfield for some reason.

When visitors land here after doing a web search, the hit counter shows what they search for. Some of them are pretty amusing so I decided to keep track for a week or two. Here are a few search-engine referrals:

"Aaron Musicant's Ass" -- that's the one that prompted me to start tracking some of the searches. I'd say there have probably been around 20 Aaron stalkers who landed here.

Aaron is, as most SB locals know, a great kid who grew up racing with Echelon. He was one of the top juniors in California, with good skills with a snappy sprint. His family supported local cycling and even hosted an up-and-coming Hilton Clarke for a year or so. Then Aaron went off to college and eventually made his way down to LA. He'd occasionally come back to SB for weekend rides and races, but basically I lost track of him.

Then one day as I walked through the room where my son was watching TV, I saw this. Holy crap, that's Aaron! My son was very impressed that I knew a big-time TV star!

So, for all those teeny boppers who land on my blog hoping for a shot of Aaron's ass, all I can say is... Sorry. But now at least you know a little bit more about him.

A lot of people land here after searching for some kind of advice about a problem. Here are a few of the recent queries:

"Mavic freehub sticking" -- That one shows up nearly every week, and google sends them to this post from last winter. That tells me it's a common problem. BTW, that post also gets hit a lot by people searching for torque-wrench info.

"gastric bypass for 20-year-olds" -- hmmm.... not sure I can help with that one.

"Pee off the bike" -- Makes me proud that I'm on the first page of google results for that important bit of information.

"How to blood dope" -- Excuse me?!? That's a bit disquieting, and not only that, I just did the same search and found that my blog isn't even in the top-10 pages of results. Somebody out there is really digging deep.

...and sometimes the searches that land people here are just a little weird, for instance...

"What idiot would compost goat-head thorn weed?" -- Well, I can't help you with that one, but I agree, it's a good question!

Finally, somebody from the midwest searched for:

"Druber smack" -- Not sure, but maybe you want to go here for druber smack.

That's all for now ...gotta clean up my desk.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Gimme a Break

Your Vittoria CX flats on Old San Marcos Rd. so you rip it off the rim and toss it by the side of the road?!?! You can't even fold it up and put it back under your seat where the spare tire had been?!?

Well, it's not sitting on the side of the road anymore because today I took it to the FBI crime lab for fingerprint dusting so we can see who the lazy-ass litterbug is. I already have my suspicions...

Training Week -- 9/8 - 9//14

I dropped the ball on this weekly monotonous post because I stopped training after the Nationals RR. Since then I've had a lot more zeros than riding days anyway. But now I'm running semi-regularly and I most definitely want to track that progress (if any). I'm committed to doing the SB Half Marathon on November 1st, but, as of now, running 13 miles non-stop isn't even conceivable. Assuming some miraculous improvement, and I actually successfully complete the Half Marathon, then I'll seriously consider a full marathon for sometime in January or February. We'll see.

Even without those races hanging over me, I'd still be running during the off season. I'm convinced that it's beneficial to Masters-age bike racers. You've probably heard about the issues with bone density, but if not look here and here. Weight-bearing and impact exercises like running will offset the bone-density loss from too much cycling. Further, pedaling a couple million 172.5 mm circles every year is not something we humans evolved to do. It's not natural, and it puts our muscles out of balance if it's all we do. Running IS something we evolved doing, and if you are careful, doing a bit of running can really help restore proper muscle development.

Anecdotally: For years I had chondromalacia patella in my right knee and thus favored my left leg when riding. Had I used a device to isolate the power output from each leg, there's not a doubt in my mind it would have shown that my left leg was stronger. The circumference around my left quad was two cm greater. Then 4-5 years ago I started running and my knee trouble disappeared at about that same time. It's not a coincidence.

If you're a Masters' age rider, you should consider running this winter. Just be sure to start really gradually because your aerobic system will be so much fitter than your running-specific muscles. Run off pavement if possible, and get good shoes too.

Mon: Running, 4 miles w/ Ben at 7:30 pace.
Tue: Riding, 1 hr, lunchtime hammertime.
Wed: Running, 8.5 miles w/ Chester at 8:30 pace.
Thu: Riding, 1 hr, OSM, tempo mostly.
Fri: Running, 2 miles at ~9:00 pace.
Sat: Running, 4 miles w/Gina at 7:30 pace.
Sun: Riding, 3.5 hrs, Worlds, sucked wheel mostly.

Totals: 5.5 hrs riding; 18.5 miles running

Friday, September 12, 2008

Pier to Peak 2008

The Pier to Peak half marathon was held a few weeks ago and I pedaled up along side the runners to snap a few pictures before joining the group ride.

This is Aaron Guillen. He is a very fast runner. By my calculations, he can run up Gibraltar Rd. faster than many cyclists around town can climb it on their bikes. Seriously, by doing some math on his pace and making adjustments for the final driveway and the flat/downhill section near the top, he can probably do the uphill at about a 55-minute pace.

Matt Dubberley has a big VO2Max and so he made a valiant effort to stay with Aaron. It lasted about a mile. He cracked a bit farther up but still finished in the top ten.

Chicken Ranch Matt is showing he's more than a one-trick pony.

Our friend Steve Miley always has a smile on his face, even when running up a 4,000 foot mountain. Wait, maybe that's a grimace.

Gina smiles for the camera too. This must have been about the 50th time she's done the race up Gibraltar. How can that be if she's only 29 years old?

This is Dr. Andy Bruckner and he's about 150 years old. He was my all-time favorite teacher at UCSB. He taught Real Analysis and Functional Analysis, which are incredibly fun classes if you are a math nerd. But best of all, he'd have his classes over for gourmet dinners and lots of wine.

Race results can be found on the SBAA site and better pictures than mine are here by DJ and here by the SB Indy.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sorry About That

I didn't really mean to neglect this blog, it just sorta happened. The hit counter says 70-80 visitors continue to check in each day, which makes me feel quite guilty indeed.

Perhaps I owe you an explanation.

When we got home from North Carolina, I had twelve phone messages from Barack Obama. That was strange because he usually only calls once or twice a week. Sensing this might be important, I called him back immediately. He got straight to the point, "Will you be my running mate?"

Obviously I was flattered, but my first thought was whether or not Washington DC had decent group rides. Apparently he had anticipated my concerns because he quickly added that the Secret Service agents would ride with me whenever I wanted, and that they'd even do a few races where I'd be the protected rider. Literally. He then sweetened the offer further, suggesting that DARPA would develop me a power meter weighing in at 10 grams.

I spent a week seriously considering the offer --and so I was too distracted to blog-- but in the end I said no, and suggested he find somebody a little older and more politically seasoned.

And just when I was about to blog about that experience, I got a call from the Theoretical Physicists at CERN regarding their new Particle Accelerator. Seems they had a little problem with an upcoming experiment. They were planning to smash some beams together at high speed, but were worried they might accidentally suck the entire planet into a crushing black hole. That got my attention too.

So I spent the next week deeply engrossed in some physics calculations --and so I was too distracted to blog-- and thank god I did because I found a couple critical errors in their software. I emailed them a patch last week. Since they started up the machine yesterday, and we're still here, I guess it worked. You're welcome.

Which brings us up to last week. I started having some "Is-this-really-all-I'm-doing-with-my-life?" kinds of thoughts. Not exactly rising to the level of a mid-life crisis, but distracting enough that I wasn't interested in blogging.

You know, thinking about things like, "Should I quit my job, and am I finally done with bike racing?"

Stuff like that.

But there's also the inevitable follow-up question, "Then what will you do?"

It's hard to answer the first question without also addressing the second one.