Thursday, October 25, 2012, 07:04 PM - CyclingThe recent implosion of the cycling world in response to the USADA filing against Lance Armstrong has allowed for some interesting reading. I think for most of the people entrenched in the cycling world, the "news" wasn't really new. Very few people who understood cycling and its history firmly held the belief that Lance was clean--at least few people I know.
It was the sort of question you’d get asked at a dinner table while meeting your girlfriend's parents for the first time. Conversation is slow and so it comes out you used to race bikes... "as a cyclist... do you think Lance doped?!?". For fear of offending someone who had recently donated to Livestrong, or who's cousin's neighbor is currently fighting cancer, I would usually shrug, and comment about it being a "likely possibility". Better to choose ones battles in life—these potential in-laws might be useful for taking care of offspring in the future.
"Likely possibility" was my answer, but really, there was no doubt in my mind. It had stopped bothering me. Lance doped. So did a ton of other people in the sport previously. Heck, there are probably a few who still do it--to less effect, and at greater risk of being caught. That realization has long since been present. None of that USADA report really shocked me. Certain things I've learned recently have been amusing--the terms "echo positive", "Edgar Allen Poe", and referencing your favorite doping doctor as "Schumi" (short for Schumacher, who drives a Ferarri) instead of Dr. Ferarri is all stuff that "fills in the gaps" of a picture I had in my head of what life was like for these pros back in the day. But it didn't really change my view of the cycling world.
For other people, it apparently did. I had to remove my jaw from the floor when I read that 17+ year sponsor Rabobank was pulling the plug. I couldn't believe it. These allegations are 10+ years old! I'm not more connected than any other guy with an internet connection and a machine with 2 wheels and skinny tires. How could you invest millions of dollars, have stickbird Michael Rasmussen get booted from the Tour while in yellow, and not know about these sorts of stories? It's sad and it's frustrating--because either Rabobank was a pretty poorly educated investor, or they simply chose to pull out once public opinion of the sport seemed to change—even though the facts are still the same.
Similarly jaw dropping is team Sky's new mantra: Anyone who was (ever) involved with doping gets fired. Don't you people get it?! This continues the Omerta. The only difference is that a Texan in yellow isn't chasing down your breakaway or suing your ass. Instead, the Omerta is being enforced by Brailsford and his multimillion dollar sponsor, Sky. Jonathan Vaughters seems to be the only one who "gets it" and I think his criticality of both Sky and Cycling Australia are deserved. His statement here is so spot on--"You are losing your biggest asset". Please read those statements.
There is such thing as moral relativity--is it OK to lie about something that happened in a bike race 15 years ago so you can keep your job and feed your family? Some would venture to say that you couldn't fault someone for choosing to continue the cover-up. These people all really love their sport, they just have too much to lose. If they removed the potential for loss, they could expose the passion for the sport shared amongst these people, and the desire for change could be embraced fully. Instead these people have to choose their own livelihood over their beloved sport. Who can blame them for keeping up the charade? As a side note, props to Bobby Julich for coming clean anyway--despite knowing he would lose his job if he told the truth to Sky about something that happened so long ago.
Further jaw dropping: you get people--with generally the right perspective--offering up these ridiculous plans for "fixing the problem". Greg Lemond gets up there and recommends we all stop racing, and stop buying USA Cycling licenses. Really? Are you serious? Then masters racers who-were-going-to-quit-this-year-anyway “bravely” give up their sport “for the greater cause”. You’ve got to be kidding me. This makes me ill.
How many races have you been to that have been small--the type that make you quip "This one might not be around next year, they probably are losing money after they pay the police for road closures and pay all of the Cat 1's who can't afford gasoline to get home if they don't win cash primes". Probably a few. It surprises you when a few passionate individuals make the race happen the next year—against all odds. Some of my greatest racing memories were from those little races. After all, the real fast guys are probably chasing bigger prize purses—leaving the local fast ponies to win a race or two for once.
Now imagine all those small races disappear due to lack of attendance, and half the big race’s attendance are cut in half. This creates a scenario where there is less energy, passion, and excitement for cycling. This is not the solution! Who cares if Thomas Wiesel still has a role at USACycling, or if Ochowicz acts as a part time godfather of Lance’s children while serving his roles for USACycling and BMC? Do you really think those two dudes are twisting people’s arms trying to get them to dope these days? Really? Yes, they might have acted less-than-stellarly 10 years ago, but how does boycotting our only half-decent (sorry ABR, you don't qualify) governing body for cycling in the US have any positive effect?
Write a petition. Get a bunch of people to sign it. If you really don't like someone at USACycling, get that idea out there. That sounds reasonable. Instead this idea of "hey let's all quit racing bikes because Lance got caught" is being touted as a halfway rational action for the fight against doping.
What the heck? You know all these young guys who race at worlds? You know that ugly logo on their back? It's USACycling's logo. They support those young riders at worlds, they design those horrifically ugly kits, and fund some portion of their costs. I couldn't be more proud than to see the Tejay Van Garderens, the Taylor Phinneys, the Jessie Prinners (!) etc. wearing those jerseys. If we take away the support for our national federation, we take away support for the riders we are trying to protect from doping! If anything, we should all renew our licenses, and take out a track, cyclocross and mountain bike license purely for supporting the sole organization of substance in America that maintains bike racing as a viable, organized entity. Heaven knows it’ll be taking a beating because of the digressions of those involved in these matters 10+ years ago.
Anyhow, the era of error in cycling is a sad thing. Many, many people were ruined by the peleton’s access to these drugs, and that includes everyone from Armstrong to Andreu to Celaya. These were all smart people capable of much greater things, and maybe could have led more productive pasts. It is sad to me that their messes are creating misery for current professional cyclists. It is sad that people have lost their heroes. It’s sad that these guys have felt pressured into living lies for as long as they have. The whole thing is a tragedy. Let’s view it as such, dust off our fallen sport and give it, and its members, a little more TLC. The hard-nose approach will leave our sport battered and seeing a psychiatrist for years to come if we don’t do it right this time.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011, 10:35 PM - CyclingI’m usually busy enough these days that updating this blog just isn’t good use of my time. It was a fun outlet for expression—but now it serves merely as a moratorium of good times past. I miss bike racing sometimes, but not consistently enough to find the time to throw my leg over a top tube and roll around for 15 hours a week. Maybe in the future my time will seem less precious, or be in great enough excess to support such a habit. But until then, this blog will likely collect more dust, rather than less.
Sadly, the topic of doping in cycling is compelling enough that I felt the need to un-earth this blog from the internet-cobwebs that have accumulated. I’d prefer to be writing about my beloved sport in some other context, maybe with the heading: “Asshole pips Douchebag at Tour of Oman”. But let’s be honest, we like the fact that Mark Cavendish is kind of a douchebag and got served something proper today courtesy Theo Bos. Even if Theo Bos is an asshole too. That’s just fun sport.
It seems that just about everyone despises doping—not just cheating, but doping—with an undeniable ferocity. At the 2010 Tour I saw, with my own two eyes, “clean team” Garmin rider getting dragged up the Tourmalet via team car. Full resolution photo evidence right here. I forget which rider this was, and frankly, I didn’t care enough at the time to check to see if he made the time cut, got a time penalty for his transgression, or anything of the sort. I didn’t really care that he cheated. I was more amused that I got to snap the photo as evidence of cheating, than I was shocked or betrayed or…whatever else it is that people feel when they see that so-and-so doped.
But something about the term “doping” just seems to stimulate everyone’s “self-righteous rant” mode. And as evidenced by this blog post—I’m not immune to this effect.
I think maybe it’s an image thing. The image of a rider, bent over in some airplane-sized bathroom at the back of a team bus with his bag of blood swinging from a coat hanger above his head, with a dark-red colored tube leading from the bag, to needle, to arm. That’s not sport. That’s wrong. When a basketball player fouls, that’s part of sport. It seems more natural. The cause and the effect are obvious. The penalty is clear. One ref signals to another, a line of chalk is drawn, and if a fifth line is drawn, the player is relegated to warm the bench and drink Gatorade. With doping, we don’t know who’s cheating, how much he is cheating, and we read about it in the news for the 6 months after the race, rather than during. Cause, effect, and penalty aren’t so clear. You need an MD, a slew of specialized PhD’s, and a JD to work through just about any doping case. That’s not sport.
Anyhow, the point of this post was not to make commentary on cheating in sport, or under which constraints doping becomes cheating; as lots could be written about the arbitrary nature of what we decide is cheating and what is not. Caffeine. Altitude tents. IV saline rehydration. Hell, everyone’s favorite Midwest sprinter, Andy Crater, would probably mention THC’s questionable performance enhancing efficacy, but yet it remains on the WADA banned list. I accept that there is some quantity of arbitrary that must be applied—as long as it is broadly agreed upon, it’s acceptable to me. That’s as much a rule of life as it is a rule of anti-doping.
The point of this post was to discuss the recent overturning of Contador’s one year ban, and why I think it is a pretty important landmark case in the context of anti-doping in cycling. I also wanted to address R.K. Money’s twitter comments on the abbreviated version of this post.
So Contador got nailed for a pretty small amount of Clenbuterol found in his urine. As mentioned earlier, an MD, and a couple PhD’s would be helpful in the analysis of his positive. I could literally spend days researching the absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion of the drug. I could spend more time dissecting it’s mechanism of action, and it’s efficacy at the doses found. I could spend some time reading veterinary journals, and see if it is plausible that the concentration of Clenbuterol required to cause Contador’s positive could actually be found in beef, and waste my time essentially proving what the media already has told us that the experts have found: It’s a physiologically tiny quantity of the drug.
So then the question becomes, at what point does “doping” become cheating? When it’s intentional? When it’s “enough” to make the athlete harder, better, faster, stronger?
Well, how do you prove intention? How do you define what’s “enough” to make a difference? We could make clear cut, black and white decisions about doping: if you got X anywhere in your body, you are done. But is that really fair? As lab techniques such as the gas chromatography technique used to find a slew of illicit drugs on US currency (cocaine, PCP, methamphetamines, heroine, codeine) continue to improve, it’s increasingly likely that we will find something in the body of an athlete that is remarkably unremarkable. The important thing to ask is whether or not that substance is present in quantities that justify a suspension.
Some things are pretty cut and dry. You got Micera (CERA) in your body? You don’t find that on dollar bills and you couldn’t absorb it through your skin if you did. You can’t accidentally ingest it with your filet mignon. It has to be injected. At any amount that can be repeatedly and reliably detected, you should warm the bench.
Other things are not so cut and dry. Accidental Clenbuterol consumption from beef is theoretically and scientifically plausible. It is technically performance enhancing (although frankly, isn’t a drug that makes “sense” in the context of a grand tour—there are more efficacious, harder to detect doping methods), but at what level should it be considered a positive? That is a question that is tough to answer. Nearly all drugs have a dose-response curve and accordingly, any drug in any quantity (in theory) will increase performance. However, in a situation where you are far to the left of the steep part of that sigmoid curve, are you really doping? In the continuum of doping, are you really doping, and is it logical to presume so? Is “micro-dosing” at this level really helping your marrow pump out red blood cells at a performance enhancing rate? Or are you just blowing cash on dope that could be better spent on something like... a trip to altitude?
These are hypothetical questions, but when applied to each and every drug on the banned list, there are logical, reasonable, scientific answers. These answers are important in the context of doping.
This is not to say that athletes should not be responsible for what they put in their body. No one can ever truly prove intent. At the end of the day, if you have a performance enhancing substance in your body, and enough of it to make a difference, then you should warm the bench.
There are more shades of gray to this. Let’s say someone has a sub-threshold value of X banned substance in their body. Well, that could be because they dosed themselves long enough ago that the drug has been excreted/metabolized enough to not set off alarms. Well, unless you can scientifically prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the drug was ingested in performance enhancing amounts at a previous date, the athlete should not be accountable. Innocent until proven otherwise. Beyond a reasonable doubt.
It’s obvious to me that beyond a “reasonable” doubt is open to interpretation—and that’s where things get tricky.
At the end of the day, the system has to work in a way that each substance is systematically reviewed—its attributes and characteristics defined. There needs to be a high sensitivity and high specificity test available for it. The cutoffs for each drug need to be defined in such a way that critical thought is applied. Certain things, based on their biochemical nature, are impossible to be found in the body unless deliberately put there—these substances (exogenous entities only absorbed intravenously, for example) would receive zero tolerance. Other drug cutoff points should be placed at a point just below where the average person could reasonably benefit from them.
It seems to me that the real doping being done is less and less exogenous hormones and chemicals. It’s the athletes own blood—stored away for months at a time until the day before The-Big-Stage or the Targeted-Spring-Classic. Well, I think the right step is being made with the biological passport. I also think following levels of plasticizers is brilliant. OK, maybe the 2% increase in hematocrit the day before The-Big-Time-Trial could naturally occur. But what is the likelihood that particular event coincides with a three-fold increase in X plasticizer found in the bag storing blood? Cutoffs made by smart people educated on the topic should be agreed upon, and then enforced. Just because you have X ubiquitous plasticizer in your blood doesn’t mean that you doped. But a preponderance of evidence, and the expert opinion of well educated people at the head of these cases, should be enough to decide.
The important thing is that riders are given reasonable doubt. That they are innocent until proven otherwise. In the case of Contador—who probably did dope—it’s as if they are burning him at the stake. It feels like a situation where they are saying “We can’t conclusively prove 100% that you doped, our test for plasticizers isn’t robust enough to prove you took a transfusion, but we think you did, so we are going to use some other wholly ridiculous quantity of chemical we found in your blood to call you positive”. That doesn’t feel right to me. That feels like the arbitration losing its sincerity in justice. That isn’t sport, either.
So, the idea that they didn’t burn Contador at the stake is comforting. They didn’t have enough evidence, and he was let off. This is the sign of a robust system—one that can recognize errors in its operations, can analyze the defendants counterpoints and can apply correctly the principles behind the word “reasonable” in the phrase “guilty beyond all reasonable doubt”. While many view this as a step backwards—I view it as a step forwards. It’s more important to have a robust, scientifically and ethically sound anti-doping agenda than it is to bust Contador this one time. Science will catch up, and there will always be cheaters. It seems more important to acquit someone potentially lacking integrity, in order to maintain the integrity of the organization as a whole.
In other news, I went for my first “real” (as in kitted up, non-commuting) ride in… months. It was awesome. The sun shined, and I smiled.
Tuesday, June 1, 2010, 09:32 PM - CyclingIt's been quite some time since I last reported on bike racing on this here bike racing blog. Life has been busy, but good.
This weekend I did what I've been doing for the past 5 years or so and raced the Memorial Day bike races out in IA. What a great series--a nice long Friday warm-up Burlington Road Race, Snake Alley, Melon City and Quad Cities "Cage Match" criteriums. This year was a different approach--going in I knew I was going to be a helper bee and not a winner bee (not that I've ever won any of these races, hah), and that helped me keep my head on straight when I finished near the bottom of the pack each day. In the past I'd have destroyed myself in an effort to finish top 20--if for nothing other than the decent payout at the end of the day. As a Cat 3 this was a well paying weekend...in the P/1/2 fields you have to be firing on all cylinders to pull a result, and that's with maybe a bit of good luck. That's what I love about these races, man. I get older, and they stay just as tough. (Insert Dazed and Confused reference here: "That's what I love about these high school girls, man. I get older, they stay the saaaaaaame age." )
Anyhow, here is how the weekend unfolded:
Friday started out as usual, fast, but easy. Getting sucked along during that road race by the draft means just about anyone who knows how to pedal and remembers to drink in the heat can be around for the finish. However, only 3 dudes were in contention for the vee at the end--and fortunately, my teammate Will "I can bridge a 3 minute gap in 3 minutes or less" Nowak got across to the winning break and nabbed 3rd. A super solid result. Back in the field was a dramatic implosion by the Roadhouse train trying to pull the break back, followed by the typical chaotic field sprint. I thought it was pretty funny just how chippy people were getting at the end of that race. We were bumping bars a solid 15 miles from the finish jockeying for position. It never stopped. I'm pretty sure one of the Kenda Pro riders who's name is near mine in the results could have benefited from a (large) dose of barbituates or quaaludes or benzos, or maybe he just wasn't hugged enough as a child--but what do I know. Anyhow, we kept Mike out of the wind and banged bars and elbows until about 1k to go when I got to the front WAY TOO EARLY and did a pretty crappy wind-up to catch an ISCorp rider just off the front. I made it another 200M after bringing him back to the fold before I blew and left Danny and Mike to finish the job. Mike definitely did finish the job and narrowly missed winning the field sprint by one spot. 3rd and 5th is a solid start!
Saturday: This race is crazy, and usually only 20-25 of the 100 starters finish. I knew I was not one of the 25 strongest guys in the midwest and refrained from racing. Instead, I sprayed the guys with water and watched the sufferfest. I saw guys going deep in the pain cave--and these were guys that definitely were in better shape than I was. Definitely a good decision not to duke it out. It was a tough race for all the guys--Will spent the better part of the Road Race in the break the day before and only had a 23 to race with, Mike didn't have his 202's, Ryan weighs approximately 350 lbs, and Danny and Waylon were doing the race for the first time. The hill was as steep as ever, and the clusterfsck at the base of the climb seemed as intense as ever. Still, a few money spots were nabbed, and despite the suffering, I think all souls involved will be back next year.
This is why I didn't race the snake.
Sunday was surprisingly easy--all the fastest dudes in the race, including heir Freund got in the break and rolled away midway through. It sounds like everyone in the break forgot that Marcotte won the last two, three, or six editions (I forget) of the race, and no one but Freund were willing to light it up and attack him at the end of the race. Guess who won? Marcotte. They probably just pre-write the winners check with his name on it. I was in the hunt for the last few money spots if things went right, but they didn't, and I ended up grabbing two fistfulls of brake in the bunch sprint when a leadout man went backwards in front of me. Despite someone running into me from behind I managed to a) avoid being sodomized, b) avoid eating poo, and c) not break anything on my bike. In my book, that is as good as the $50 I might have won anyways.
Heir 350lb Freund, and if you have good eyes, Danny and I.
Ho geez, was it just me or did this race start fast? Normally I can move right up to the front at the beginning of races, pretend like I know what I'm doing, and then fade to the back as the real racing starts. But not here. Seemed like the dudes coming out of turn 6 were just THROTTTLING (yes, with three T's) the pace every time into that headwind. I did eventually see the front of the race by pulling a few Ryan "Cleaver" Knapp chops. Greg Christian made a move after the last sprint that was looking good, and Will and I were in it, but it was swallowed up in mighty short order when man #2 in line (Dahmoff?) didn't pull through. Not like I was going to be powering the poop out of that break anyways. Oh well. I never saw the front after that brief effort. 350 lb Freund made a brave move at the end but was sucked up by the train(s). Without a train like the other teams, Mike was left fighting for scraps in a tight and treacherous crit and finished in the money to win a few bucks with Freund.
In other news: Verizon U25 P/B ABD is the best team I've ever ridden for. Great bunch of guys, and weekends are not only fun, but well organized. Shit gets done, bikes are raced, and we don't cry into our beer every day we don't win. Heck yea. All these years I spent being pissed off and angry after bike races when I should have been having fun. I thank everything holy that I kissed Ebert's ass enough last year that he kept me on the team and I didn't leave bike racing with a bitter taste in my mouth.
OK, that's all. Peace.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010, 07:32 PM - ShenanaginsNormally I leave this blog to light hearted topics of bike racing and other silly bullshit. Today I had an experience at a clinic, and I want to vent about it. Luckily, I have this little outlet for just that.
Mental health is under represented in medical education. I watched two 4th year medical students and an MD "treat" a bipolar schizophrenic heroin addict looking for help with detox today. After worthless exhaustive interviewing, he realized that we could do nothing to help him, so he left, irritated. After he left, his irritation was written off as "paranoid/schizoid behavior".
I agreed with the poor man's stance: why should we (the doctor) get paid by the government (medicaid) to do nothing for him? Why was he not sent to the detox program from the beginning? Why did we bring up painful memories of the deaths of all of his loved ones so we could just send him on his merry way?
His view (and my accompanying view) was not popular in the clinic.
"There are procedures we have to follow"
"We don't want to be sued"
Do you really think this homeless heroin addict has a lawyer? Or, are you making sure you have enough shite in your notes to have a billable encounter?
Even more frustrating is the fact that I sat there watching it all, despite knowing immediately that we were not a facility for detox. While watching the man twitch and writhe in the misery of withdrawl ... I should have interjected and said, "We can not help, we are worthless medical students just hoping to hear S1 and S2 (Bike racers: S1/2 = heart sounds). Leave for the detox program now."
Frustrating. Just because some MD diagnosed him as schizophrenic, or because he uses heroin, does not mean we should just write him off. The man knew the year he first started smoking, the date he used heroin first, the names of and dosages of all the (medical) drugs he was on. Shit, if half the patients I interact with remember the names of ANY of their medications, I'm happy. Usually it's just "the purple one". He knew specifically what each of his parents died from. He was as intellectual (or more) than anyone I've ever interacted with, but because he had the title "schizophrenic heroin user" he was immediately written off.
It's these people that need the most help. If you can dramatically improve the lives of the very bottom of society, it has a greater effect than say, slightly improving the lives in the middle. If you help this man with his addiction--maybe he won't rob your Mom on the way to grocery store. Maybe he'll convince his buddy to get clean too.
I think this man's problems were more important than the man before him--who had acid reflux from eating like shit, and wanted a prescription for Cialis. And yet, the man before him got way better care.
Ok, done venting.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010, 08:47 PM - ShenanaginsHillsboro this weekend. 87 miles of pain.
First time I've ever seen a P/1/2 race fill up this early in the season. This usually only ever happens at big cash/prestige events--Elk Grove, Downers ProAm.
It's like that one time I sold tickets to my bedroom. 125 brazilian super-models lined up with their $50 in hand to get a piece of the prize. I made an exception and increased the field size though.
Thursday, March 4, 2010, 08:24 PM - ShenanaginsSo, it's been a while. Medical School is fun, lots of work, but fun. Chicago is getting better, but the riding still sucks. I plan to do some research this summer to... FUND MY TRIP TO FRANCE IN JULY.
Only one thing going on in France in July that is worth sitting in an economy airline seat for hours and hours and hours... I'll let you all ponder what that could be. I will say, I already have at least one plan for getting my scrawny self on Versus. I'm going to try real hard to get on TV without being "That Guy". But if push comes to shove and I have to run across the Champs Elysee naked with yellow streamers in my hair and a picture of Lance tattooed on my ass.. I will do it.
Meanwhile, I'm sloooowly dragging myself back into shape. In two weeks I'll be in Bloomington. To all the people who I used to pummel at the early season races and rides: here is your chance. Pretty much everyone of you Cat 1/2 guys that I used to half wheel to death could drop me in my current form.
So, bring it. It's payback time...for you.
Saturday, October 24, 2009, 10:23 PMAttending medical school in Chicago sucks for bike riding. It ain't so good for my social life either.
That's all I have to say about that.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009, 12:23 PM - CyclingWhoa. I’m back.
In the past ten days or so, I’ve effectively doubled the amount of racing I’ve had all year. It’s pretty wild being able to say that at the end of July. Not racing collegiate and breaking a collarbone in June will do that to you. It’s interesting watching some guys start to fizzle just as I’m starting to get back into shape.
Speaking of getting back into shape: doing it at Superweek is rough. I usually show up to the collegiate scene in good but not great shape. At the collegiate scene I’d typically be near the top end of the field, and ride my way to fitness while putting others in the hurtbox. Showing up at Superweek without good fitness was a different story—it was an exercise in perseverance for sure. For “warmup” (and my first race back) I did the Bloomington crit (the Indiana State Championship, no less). I was able to ride my bike to the course as warm-up, and have a pint (or several) at the finish line pub post-race. Cool. The race was surprisingly hard, and the pace never let up for more than a ½ lap. Nuvo had a bajillion guys, and took the win. I was actually thinking about pulling the plug with 1 lap to go—didn’t want to get argy bargy in a bunch sprint—but I finished it out anyway. I was one bombed corner from the top ten, so I jumped in line and sprinted to 8th. For a local crit it’s nothing to brag about, but considering it was my first race back, I was OK with things. There are some pretty hilarious pictures of me from that race looking like I was suffering pretty badly. Based on the photos, you’d think I just rode Alpe D’Huez twelve times or some such. I won’t link to the specific ones as I can’t stand the shame and embarrassment . However, here is one from the start where I only look moderately wanktastic:
I love Isaac’s tongue. Hahaha.
Then I went up to race anonymously at Superweek. I spent very little time at the front. I quickly found that I didn’t quite have the fitness to be racing at the very very front, and the 20th-40th positions were dicey. Breaking my collarbone has turned me into a huge wusse. It’s pretty hilarious being at the back of these races. People are so chill. “Take the wheel, it’s all yours bro” If I heard that in the first 10% of the field, I’d probably be in bed… dreaming. Anyways, I raced Whitnall Park (fun, tough), Cedarburg (sketchy at beginning, tough), Racine (wicked tough), Kenosha (fun, rainy), and Downer Ave (mega-fun).
The only race where I really didn’t have the juice was Racine. Just felt like shite the whole race and got gapped off one too many times. I’d typically race until there were just a few laps left and then pull the plug—I’m not going to win a bunch kick at Superweek when I’m in good shape and I’m certainly not going to win one when I’m in poor shape. On top of that, the spot I’d be able to ride myself into (15th-30th wheel) is the most sketchtacular place to be. With not enough fitness to muscle my way further up I chose to save my collarbone for something else.
Downer Ave was crazy! I don’t usually dig the Garrison brothers’ work, but Downer was a different story. Freaking Blue Angel jets buzzing us mid-race? Wow, that was sweet. My whole chest reverberated with the noise. I couldn’t even hear the crowd anymore. Cool! I’m a pretty jaded crit rat, as I’ve been to a decent number of races, but I’ve never gotten the willies like I did at Downer Ave. Super Prime was a bust, but I wasn’t going to win that anyways.
So, all said and done, Superweek was a good way for me to get some racing in. The races had less attendance, but the fields had better riders. The races were generally better run, but the prizes were less and the entry fees were more (extra charge for writing a check? WTF?). Another few years and a healthy economy and perhaps the Garrisons will be able to get their shite together 100%.
Not much to say about this other than the fact that Chris Horner probably was bored and scared out of his mind the whole race. It was easy, and slow. That meant that there were about 170 guys (of ~180 starters) who were fresh for the sprint. Yikes. I was glad to chill out, and avoid the last lap mayhem. Poor Adam Bergman looked like he ate it pretty hard on the last lap. Hope he’s OK. My teammate also had a date with the pavement, but turned out to be OK.
Great venue, but boring race.
I must say that this year my perspective on racing has changed a lot. The focus is no longer on being a P-R-O, it’s on having fun while racing my bike. Since, I’ve started to see a lot of things that I never noticed before about the typical ego-maniacal face-smashing Cat 1 bike-bum. The worst part about this perspective change is that I realized that I used to resemble some of what I’m about to describe. For all you face-smashers out there:
News Flash: If you are racing as an amateur in the US, you just aren’t that goddamn good. You are likely an order of magnitude shittier than a so-so Pro Tour rider. On top of that, our sport has almost no following in the U.S. In other words, unless you are Lance Armstrong, no one cares.
Due to the fact that no one cares, the sport is propped up by a variety of wealthy people with interest in the sport. When the economy turns sour, those people just can’t support every D-Bag Cat 1 bike-bum.
Seriously. You don’t “deserve” to have your entry fee, gas, hotel, clothes, and bike paid for just because you win 3 races a year that no one pays attention to. If you are lucky enough to be on a team that supports you at all, be appreciative. Lose the ego. I hear amateurs complaining about how they can’t make any money racing their bike because their winnings go back to paying their next entry fee. *Ring Ring* Clue Phone: You are an amateur. There are “Professionals” in this sport that don’t even get paid. Show some damn appreciation. You just aren’t that good.
There are less and less people able to prop up this sport every day. I bet if they heard the sense of entitlement that I hear, they’d leave the sport in a heartbeat.
Bike-Bums Everywhere: Thank your sponsors. Ditch the entitlement. Accept what is given to you with grace and appreciation. That is all.
Thursday, July 16, 2009, 09:16 AM - Everything ElseI'm sitting here, finally back in the good 'ol state of IN (I'll get to story time later) and I couldn't help but chuckle.
I had some reading to do upon my return, and cruised to Dr. K's blog, and was reading about his Triathletic views. I too find triathletes to be a funny bunch. There is only one that I can think of that isn't a total wackjob. Anyhow, to the point. I was perusing SlowTwitch (a dirty dirty sin no doubt) and I was laughing at this photo's caption:
What the eff? You think a Tour de France pro would be caught dead doing a 4.25 hour Time Trial? Alone? You have some learning to do about bike racers. Besides, Greg Christian could probably do that with one leg, and he's just a lowly amateur Cat 1.
Then I had an about face as I flipped through the images:
Let's face it, any man who trades his child for beer has got to be one BAMF. I bet that dude crushes dreams like no other.
Seriously, anyone who can neglect their child for 30 hours a week of training, and then trade him for beer has got to be one HC kind of guy. Hopefully he won enough to pay for his son's psychiatric treatment till the age of 30.
That photo has permanently changed my view of triathletes. They aren't self absorbed wankers, they are Dream Crushing BAMF's.
Monday, June 22, 2009, 03:49 PM - CyclingAh yes... So what is going on with John Meyers?
He never updates his blog, hasn't been seen at the bike races, and is whispered to have gone insane--apparently he only talks in third person now. Perhaps he has gone the way of Tommy "Blow" Boonen, or worse... Marco "Elefantino" Pantani. He's probably laying dead at the Muscatine Motel 6 after snorting one-too-many-lines off a wrinkly hookers bosom. Poor John "Pinnochio" Meyers, that big shnoz of his was inevitably his undoing... so sad. Tragic really.
Alas, if only my recent life could be storied with escapades of bosoms and blow. Let's face the truth. No one has a bike racing blog where they get excited about posting about how slow they've been riding, how little they've been racing, and how many bones they've broken recently. That's fscking depressing.
To sum things up where I left off: I raced Joe Martin. Got a 6th and a 10th in the 1/2's road races (which were more like Cat 3 races because any real firepower raced with P/1's). Then, a few days after feeling and riding like trash at the Memorial Day Races, I broke my collarbone on a group training "race". A week later, I went ahead with the surgery, a la Mr. Armstrong. The cool pictures:
Exhibit A: Broken Stuff
Exhibit B: Titanium Stuff
I've been relatively lucky to not have broken any bones prior to this, and frankly, I think the experience was a good one for someone who has interest in becoming an orthopedic surgeon. However, life is all about timing. I broke my collarbone two days before my final day at work--I had put in my two weeks so I could...race my bike all summer long.
Too bad, so sad.
The good news is that I've been able to ride (Indoors in 5 days, outdoors in 10 after surgery), and despite what my doctor told me to do, I even raced this weekend...at a time trial. Don't look for results, I went slow. That's all that needs to be said.
Anyhow, in about 3 weeks I should be able to take part in a mass start race, and life will be grand.
That's all for now.
Monday, May 4, 2009, 07:59 AM - CyclingTour of St. Louis:
I'll tell ya, I really like these little races that make you feel like "the real deal". Tour of St. Louis had a Crit, Time trial, and Circuit race. The TT (and corresponding omnium prizes) really makes the weekend a bit more fun and helps to add another element to the racing. The weekend went something like this:
This was an oddly tactical race. We were never really going that hard, but groups started to go up the road, have a decent gap, and stay out there. Most races it seems that everyone has to have half a lung spasming on their top tube before the break finally goes. Not here; Jeff went up the road with 5 others in a strange, not-that-fast move. Soon after, I bridged to a not-that-fast chase group and sat on. I kept getting yelled at for not working, but hey: I have faith in Jeff being able to win out of the move up the road. Dragging up 6 more dudes doesn't help our situation.
Due to the general slowness of the field, Jeff's move lapped the field. My chase group got tired of me sitting on, and went slower and slower until the field caught us. Groupo compacto. Now it is time to make sure Jeff can win.
Sidenote: It's also really freaking hot. At one point I turned around and saw only 20 dudes left. We started with twice that.
Anyhow, we make it to the last lap, and Mercy puts a couple dudes on the front to try and bring their up-a-lap man to the finish. It's Mercy, Mercy, Mercy, Me, Jeff, and everyone else. With 1/4 lap to go, I jump the Mercy train with Jeff in tow. Just enough room for Jeff in the gutter--the crosswind is strong. I drill it, take the corner hard, hear Jeff scream "Go outside" and as I'm packing up, Jeff flies around me with 150m to go for the Vee. Nice. I look back and the pack is splintered. I get back on the gas, and ended up in the top non-lapping spot in the field as well. A good start to the omnium.
A TT is usually just a TT. Go hard. Suffer. Feel ill. Hate life. The usual. This TT wasn't too different except for the ENORMOUS cross tailwind on the way out, and corresponding headwind on the way in. I spent some legit time in the 55 x 11, smashing it, just flying. Course was perfectly flat, smooth, awesome. Nice turnaround too. We had a cul-de-sac, not a knocked over cone.
I grabbed the vee there, and Jeff got 3rd. Good shape for the omnium. Oh, and I got $110 for winning the TT. That's probably the biggest pay-out for a Time Trial in the history of American bike racing.
Jeff once again proved that being able to read races is just as important as having the legs to win them. Jeff was in the hotseat, 1st in the omnium. I was in second. The plan was that I would not work any moves without Jeff. Each move I got in ended up dying--the unfortunate psychology of bike racing. It didn't matter though, Jeff bridged to two, I played shut 'er down, and he ended up with the vee, again. I got in a last lap move and took the "field sprint" for fourth. Not bad.
So, all said and done, ABD went 1-2 in the omnium, and won every event.
I'll be back next year.
Vernon Hills GP:
I also did a little race up in Chicago-land. It went something like this:
Follow a move, watch one committed fellow take a half decent pull. 2nd in line takes two pedal strokes, and then wildly flicks his elbow. Third in line, the same. Then everyone looks at the ABD rider (me, or my teammates) to drag the break around. To all the Chicagoans: We don't need to drag you around to get in moves. If you want to be in a break, don't expect a) someone else to do the work for you and b) it to not hurt. That’s how breakaways work: they hurt.
Anyhow, the plan for the day was for Ryan to win anyways, and since every time I so much as let out a toot, everyone wanted a whiff of it... Ryan ended up the road with Brian Dziewa. I followed the chase groups as they formed, but it seemed everyone expected me to chase down my own guy. Not going to happen.
After covering Scott Pearson's 3rd attack I decided that I wouldn't cover the next one. Ebert was on him like white on rice, and thus the remainder of the money spots were up the road.
Ryan smoked Dziewa and took the Vee. Ebert nabbed fourth, and I won the field sprint after watching some dudes get argy-bargy and try and kill Seth Meyer. Seth wisely took the straight line through the turn and watched Mr. argy-bargy eat shit. Seth has broken enough ribs this year, he need not break more.
Now off to Joe Martin. My fitness isn't where I'd like it to be, but that's OK. Joe Martin will serve as a springboard for the rest of the year: about to quit my job and play bike racer. One last hurrah before med school. I'm excited.
See y’all at dem bike races.
Sunday, April 19, 2009, 05:58 PM - CyclingFirst person to figure out and show me how to fix that <ul> on the right so it is aligned slightly more to the left gets a cookie.
I fussed with it for 5 minutes, and have decided I am much too lazy.
Team training camp was pretty cool. Did a solid 5.5 hour ride with Mr. Ryan Freund. About to go out for a sloppy ride in the wet weather too.
Joe Martin is coming up. Time to start getting my plans all set. Exciting.
Sunday, April 5, 2009, 11:40 AM - CyclingHillsboro Roubaix '09:
First two laps were uneventful with very few moments of real excitement. Closest thing to excitement was when a break of 7 or 8 was up the road, and Texas Roadhouse put 5-6 guys on the front to bring it back.
Beginning of lap 3, I decided to take off for a short lived move with Chad Hartley and Will Nowak. When it came back I flatted. I waited, and waited, and waited. About 4-5 minutes passed before I got my wheel change, and I said screw it. The pack was gone, way gone.
As it turns out, (right as I flatted) Puffer meandered away from the field, and several bridged to form the winning move. That was all she wrote. Jeff Schroetlin made the break and pulled out a 4th. Jensen won.
At one point I thought my epoxy-repaired wheel was on the verge of imploding, but I realized that was not the case--it was just the road making a somewhat rhythmic thump-thump-thump-thump. When I flatted though, I pretty much ended any life left in that fixed up rim. Oh well. The front is still going strong.
That about covers it. Don't think I'm going to race in Indy today. Radar looks like a shit storm will hit right at showtime. Looks like I should have stayed in St. Louis. Damnit.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009, 07:42 PM - Cycling
However, this advance in technology triggered a firestorm of controversy during the 1929 Tour after Zippicelli gained over one hour on his rivals during the 366km stage from Perpignan to Marseille. The final straw was Zippicelli's shattering of the hour record during the weeks following the Tour, where he used his super wheels to break the record in only 52 minutes, stopping along the way for a glass of wine.
Sunday, March 29, 2009, 07:44 PM - CyclingWow, the season really is about to start. Usually by this time of year I've done at least 6 races. This year Hillsboro will be race #1, numero uno. Should be interesting. My fitness is decent enough; we'll see how I fair in the snappy conditions of a typical bike race.
Speaking of Hillsboro, I just decided to race carbon wheels there. Brave. These wheels have been risen from the grave though:
I cracked both of these up last year riding circles around Wisconsin's capital building. A little epoxy though, and I think they are ready to roll. With a little (lot of) help from the lady-friend, I was able to get all the awful glue off too. Which brings me to my next point:
Tubular glue fucking sucks.
Messy, obnoxious, ugly waste of time. This is why I've finally decided to take the leap and order Tufo tape. Here's how I finally convinced myself:
Everyone talks about how you lose precious watts to hysteresis with tape. I agree, you probably do. Spongy tape probably sucks up a watt or two relative to a nice firm glue job.
However, every year I lose at least a watt or two inhaling nasty fumes in my living room dealing with tubular glue. Not healthy.
Further, it's damn near impossible to get a tubular mounted straight with glue. The tire messily gets on, and is instantly in love with wherever it sits. It doesn't want to be centered. It wants to sit crooked and lopsided. This means your tire isn't round nor straight. So every time your tire rotates, you have to power your entire bike vertical the 3mm that your tire is out of round. Multiply that by about a billion (the number of times your wheel revolves in a race) and you've practically added a whole additional hill to your race.
6 watts gained in hysteresis, a half dozen lost in out-of-roundness.
Tufo tape also holds darn near as well. At 125 PSI, the Conti Glue rolled on average at 66lbs of force. The Tufo tape rolled at 63lbs. Based on the ridiculous amount of effort it takes me to remove a tire with a traditional glue job, I'll "risk it" and give up the difference in bond strength.
Oh, and Tufo tape is easy. even retarded triathletes can use it.
Monday, March 16, 2009, 04:56 PM - Cycling
"Put pics of your bike on your blog when you get some free time, all the cool sponsored kids are doing it."
Ok, done deal:
Friday, March 13, 2009, 08:25 AM - CyclingIt's been a while. Between work, riding, and the shenanigans of life, I've been pretty busy.
BVDG was in town last weekend; that was pretty sweet. I can't get enough of face-smashing with a P-R-O. Bennett looks the part these days--something about him screams P-R-O. Maybe it's his spent-a-month-in-Arizona-tan in March. Maybe it's because he's so darn strong. Not sure. Either way, we rode hard for a few hours, and I was le tired. Bennett got the worst of it though, because he was le blind. The light from my blindingly pasty white legs burned right through his P-R-O shades. His retinas will never be the same.
In other news: daylight savings has brought newfound zest to my life--it signals the start of spring, warmth, and most importantly, Wednesday Night Worlds. I showed up for the admittedly chilly face-smashing kickoff this week and I remembered two of my favorite things about bike racing:
I love to attack, get a bit of a gap, and sit down. When I see someone attempting to get across to me, I stand up again and slam it for a bit, and then sit down again. Just as the person starts to get a whiff of my draft, I stand up and slam it again. If I do it right, they slowly float back to the pack with their tail between their legs. Domination is amusing.
Another thing I love is: Someone else attacks to bridge to a move. I hop on the gravy train as they pound the pedals. As they are gasping for breath, waving the elbow looking for the reprieve of my sweet 6'4" draft (expecting camaraderie and love all-around) I stand up and slam my way across to the break without them. Ah yes, the first time this was done to me, I learned a great lesson. Now I too can be a big-mean-bully-on-wheels.
Bike racing is SO awesome.
Other news: I owe several people emails. I'm lazy. So if I owe you an email, it's probably because I'm too darn sloth-like to type it out, but simultaneously too damn awkward to call you out of the blue. If you are one of those people, I apologize. Medical School interviews are going well. My new team bike is Rad. Working a real job sucks. That about covers it. Peace.
Friday, February 20, 2009, 07:47 PM - CyclingI'm only posting here because I get harassed if I don't.
Peer pressure sucks.
Anyways, thought I'd show you guys this:
Swankity. More here. A good idea, probably requires a bit more thought and engineering.
Sunday, January 18, 2009, 11:40 AM - CyclingMy buddy Waylon started a little Chicago-Based Cycling forum for discussing "the scene".
Hop on over here if you are so inclined.
Sunday, January 18, 2009, 09:21 AM - ShenanaginsTop Ten Terms You Don't Expect To Hear During a Medical School Interview...
2. Tramp Stamp
1. Bike Porn
Some of you know, some of you don't. I'm applying to medical school, and it's a lengthy process. Lot's of essays, interviews and... waiting, are involved. I recently went up to Rush University Medical College for an interview. They have a top 10 orthopedic surgery program, and it is generally a sweet-ass school.
So I'm interviewing with this doctor, and it seems like it's going well. Nothing too out of the ordinary. All of a sudden, he slips in "Saving weight on a bike for a 250 lb guy" and "I'd never heard of the term bike-porn before".
Holy shit. The guy read my blog.
I've never been so flabbergasted in my life. Of all the expected topics, I'd never thought about my weblog coming up in a medical school interview.
Long story short, the man had a good sense of humor, and didn't rag on me too much about this silly little page on the interweb.
Goes to show, watch what you put on the internet.
Sunday, January 11, 2009, 12:44 PM - ShenanaginsI usually keep the irritable, cranky side of John Meyers off the internets. Today, I'm particularly cranky, and went to one of my favorite bike porn sites and found this. For those too lazy to click, I'll summarize.
"Hello, I'm a complete fatass. I ride a size 49 and weigh 250 lbs. I'm looking for ways to save several hundred grams from my $5000 bicycle. I'm too lazy to read or search the internet to find this information, and would rather have someone else tell me how to best waste my money on carbon fiber bicycle parts."
I'd suggest: A diet.
Ok, I'm done now. Thanks for reading.
Sunday, December 28, 2008, 03:13 PM - ShenanaginsIt seems I owe y'all an update. Life is a bit different from when I last posted, and updating my cycling buddies on my activities has been pretty low on the priority list. However, if you are reading this it means you are a die-hard TSK fan--I lead the rest of the dogs off my scent-trail when I let johnmeyers.info die. Only the hardcore stalkers and roadie-whores remain at john-meyers.com.
Anyways, I've gotten a real job pretending to be an engineer for Cook Medical, a medical device company. I work weekdays, 40 hours a week--you know, like a real person. It's a pretty cool gig though, and I get to play with lots of fancy expensive tools all day long with an occasional foray into the innards of a cow or pig for the purpose of testing one of the prototypes I've (attempted to) make. It's a little odd being an engineer with a non-engineering degree but thus far it's working out OK.
So I'm a "real person" now. A contributor to society. Less of a living-out-of-a-car lowlife bike racer. It's a pity. The check in the bank is over-rated kids. Don't do it.
As far as my cycling goes: I made one attempt to start training about a month ago. I was riding everyday for about a week before I cracked. Cold weather, miserable conditions, and a distaste for my TT bike got me down. For some reason I refuse to strip down my TT bike and put road bars on it again--that being sort of against the principle of why I bought the TT bike in the first place. So, I pretty much double the suffering of winter training by having to do it bent over and with my elbows 1cm apart.
It's such a dire situation that I even did the unthinkable...and for those that know me, this truly is unthinkable: I bought a pair of running shoes. I'm hoping running will allow me to keep some semblance of fitness until it a) warms up a bit and b) Ebert gets me a road bike so that time spent on two wheels isn't so miserable.
I know every year I lament about how slow I am, but this year I really am. Hopefully once I have a legit road setup to use I'll be able to get to my old ways of axe-murdering and face smashing, but at any rate I won't be walking into the first few races with the confident swagger I used to.
Anyhow, I hope you all had a Merry Christmas. Props to Wayne Simon for his spread on CBR, what a legend. Props to R.K. Money on smoking some bitches at the Ohio 'cross scene. Props to all the guys I raced with who went Pro--a ton of you out there.
That's it for now.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008, 12:23 PM - ShenanaginsThe self-centered cycling community of Bloomington describes the Hilly-One-Hundred as "like... the biggest social ride ever".
Shhh. Don't tell them about the MS150.
Anyhow, the ride itself was really fun. Tons of people, some phenomenal roads I hadn't even ridden myself, rest stops with fried chicken, cookies, apple juice and live bands with saxophones. Sweet.
No beer though. I had to fix that:
And all these Indiana kiddies talk trash about how Illinois doesn't know how to party. If that showed up at an Illinois group ride, it'd have been gone in 10 miles. I just drank the last flat, skunked beer last night. Nancies.
We smoked them at football this weekend too. Myself and Le Skeeter were the only ones in the bar yelling at the top of our lungs every time Illinois scored. Amusing. No fist fights occurred. Probably because of Skeeters menacing stature.
Oh yea, and that's a single speed: 48x17. Thank God Skeeter was there to pull me up the hills on his mountain bike.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008, 04:26 PM - Cycling
That's one-way of my little ride today.
So, if you take into account that it acts as a GPS, MP3 Player, satellite radio receiver (not actually, but works as such), crappy camera, internet/email device and a phone all-in-one, I think the iPhone is a good deal.
Monday, October 13, 2008, 02:43 PM - CyclingHilly Hundred on 48x17.
Anyone willing to bet that I won't do it?
I'm pretty low on cash!
Monday, October 13, 2008, 08:59 AM - CyclingFear of looking like this guy:
Monday, October 6, 2008, 10:43 PM - ShenanaginsWhat I've been working on...
Recently doing a little webdesign on the side for a Champaign-Urbana club. Let me know if you a) have suggestions for the site b) see any issues with it.
If you like what you see and would be interested in having me do your site too; shoot me an email.
Thursday, September 25, 2008, 11:01 AM - ShenanaginsBeing the currently unemployed loser bike racer that I am, I have large quantities of time to do things such as: procrastinate, look for employment, procrastinate, look at bike-porn, delay response to important emails, and since it is nearly October: look at, but not ride my bike.
Anyhow, since it's something like 10AM this fine Thursday and I've fullfilled my duties of bedmaking, dishwashing, vacuuming, teeth-brushing, toe-nail clipping, and maybe showering... I figured I would keep to my rigorous schedule of bike-porn viewing and coffee drinking.
While viewing the contents of the deviously named folder, "Interbike 2008" I came upon what I believe to be, a true celebrity sighting.
This, my friends, is evidence that The R.K. Money is alive and kicking in Las Vegas.
Herein lies the evidence:
1. Note the faux-euro-mullet. Often imitated, rarely duplicated.
2. V.I.P. Pass. Only given to R.K. Money and Mario Cippolini.
3. Zipp Tee. Perhaps as seen here.
4. Clean shaven. Or waxed. Touchably smooth for the ladies.
5. New Balance? How could it be anyone other than The R.K. Money?
And it is official.
I need a job.
Thursday, September 18, 2008, 02:27 PM - ShenanaginsThe experts say that the internet is a huge drain on the productivity of corporate America. Well, imagine if you replaced the cubicle computer monitor with a pair of these:
Click for increased size.
(Hand shown for size comparison.)
No one would get any work done!