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The Cool Cat recently included a link to a site that (I thought) gave a pretty good explanation for how Floyd Landis won the stage he won…and in so doing refuted the claim that he doped. It was water…plain and simple. Read the article. It’s pretty interesting.

Anyway, this led to a brief off-line conversation between The Cool Cat and myself about Floyd and doping. But, that’s not what this post is about.

Instead…because this was all top of mind…I just happened to notice/discover/peruse something that was completely and exactly relevant…and extremely FUNNY…here it is:

Non-Doping Cyclists Finish Tour De France

August 30, 2007 | Onion Sports

PARIS—A small but enthusiastic crowd of several dozen was on hand at the Tour de France’s finish line on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées Tuesday to applaud the efforts of the 28 cyclists who completed the grueling 20-stage, 2,208.3-mile race without the aid of performance-enhancing drugs.

Enlarge Image Non DopingGreat Britain’s Bradley Wiggins finished the final 56km time trial in a respectable and drug-free 4 hours and 38 minutes.

Finland’s Piet Kvistik, a domestique with the Crédit Mondial team, was this year’s highest-finishing non-doping rider (142nd overall). Kvistik claimed the maillot propre, the blue jersey worn by the highest-placed “clean” rider, on the ninth stage of the race when the six riders who had previously worn it tested positive for EPO, elevated levels of testosterone, and blood-packing.

“This is a very, very proud day for me,” said the 115-pound Kvistik, who lost 45% of his body mass during the event, toppled from his saddle moments after finishing, and had to be administered oxygen, fed intravenously, and injected with adrenaline by attending medical personnel. “They say it is physically impossible to ride all of the Tour without drugs, but we prove them wrong this day.”

“What day is it, anyway?” asked Kvistik, his eyes rolling wildly in his head. “I can no longer tell.”

Kvistik’s overall time for the Tour was 571 hours, 22 minutes, and 33 seconds, beating by over an hour the previous record for a non-enhanced rider, set by Albrect Påart during 1923’s infamous ether-and-morphine-shortened race. Kvistik finished a mere 480 hours behind Alberto Contador, the overall winner, making 2007’s margin between doping and non-doping riders the closest in history.

“It became most difficult for us on the 7th stage, which was almost 200 kilometers and the first stage through the mountains,” Kvistik said while accepting the non-doping victor’s 100-franc check from his stretcher. “Not only did the excruciating pain and weakness in my legs make it difficult to walk my bike on the steeper stretches, it was mentally very hard to know that half the other clean riders were dead or dying. Also, the other 141 riders finished the Tour in Paris that morning, which made it all that much harder.”

“It’s rather a shame that the Tour’s ‘clean’ riders, or ‘lanternes naturelles‘ as the fans call them, receive so little attention, for their monumental achievement,” said cycling commentator Phil Liggett, reporting on the non-doping riders’ finish for Versus-2, the little-sister network to Versus, who carried the main Tour de France coverage. “It’s nearly impossible to compete in the full Tour while shot full of human growth hormone, erythropoietin, testosterone, glucocorticosteroids, synthetic testosterone, anabolic steroids, horse testosterone, amphetamines, and one’s own pre-packed oxygen-rich red blood cells. To do it on water and bananas is almost heroic, no matter what one’s time is.”

While Kvistik’s achievement is being celebrated by cycling insiders, critics of the Tour de France maintain that not enough is being done to combat the use of performance-enhancing substances in cycling’s premier event.

“Nonsense—pure nonsense,” said Tour general director Christian Prudhomme, who was vacationing in Switzerland as Kvistik crossed the finish line. “We have done everything we could imagine, both in terms of prize money and other incentives, to promote riders who compete without pharmaceutical aid. But we simply do not have the resources, nor the viewers the interest, to televise the entire two months it takes for a normal, unadulterated human to circumnavigate an entire nation on a bicycle.”

Kvistik remains in critical condition at the Hôpital Neuilly-sur-Seine, where he was placed in a medically induced coma to aid his recovery from exhaustion, malnutrition, and loss of bone density. Attending physicians say he is not expected to return to cycling.

Hilarious!!!

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I have been asked, “where are you?”
Well, I’ve been busy. Sorry for dropping off the radar…

I’ve been on my bike…getting back in shape.
And, while it wasn’t quite a Lance Armstrong effort, it was very good nonetheless.

I rode 400 miles in 13 days.
Last year it took me about 21 days to do 385.
So, I’m definitely happy with this year’s result.

And, considering that on two of the days within that 13 day span I didn’t get to ride, it’s an even more impressive achievement…in my opinion.

To conclude the training period, I competed in a local race last night. 40 miles of racing at a 25-30 mph average definitely kicked my tail. But, I was able to remain competitive throughout the entire race and finished with the leaders. I’ll admit, midway through the race I had brief delusions about being able to “mix it up” in the sprint finish. But, sadly, when things got really wound up on the final lap I was doing everything I could just to hang on the back.

4 years ago I stopped racing. 4 years ago I would have been able to finish in the top 3.

Coming back after that amount of time, and yet still being able to feel as if I had the “stuff” to deserve to be out there racing…and racing with guys in very good shape…feels pretty good. The time away hasn’t dulled me too much. The time away didn’t ruin me.

A side benefit to the recent physical activity is that I have lost 25 pounds since early May. And, this was done without changing my diet (one of the reasons why I like cycling so much). I burned a lot of calories pushing my lard-body up the hills during those 400 miles. And, the waistline is back to normal territory. And, considering that muscle is heavier than fat, it’s a moral victory to know 25 pounds are gone. Because obviously, more than 25 pounds of “round in the middle-ness” or “fat-assed-ness” has been affected in the fat to muscle conversion.

Science tells us that matter can’t be destroyed. And, one of Newton’s Laws states that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. To which I say, I feel sorry for the person(s) that ends up with my lost 25 lbs. But, I really don’t want it back…you can keep it.

Having ridden a bicycle for easily a total of 50,000 miles over the past 10 years, I can honestly say I have seen my fair share of Jamokes while out rolling down the camino. In my opinion, the observations made while riding a bike are unique to anything else. At a minimum, noticing the things people do while at the same time struggling with gravity and inertia provides a different perspective than the norm. And in a way it is like “stopping to smell the roses” or “noticing the trees for the forest”. Only when we put ourselves in different situations…or force ourselves to change perspective…do we truly notice things. And, aside from the immediate questions most people would ask of, “why in the hell would you ride a bike that much?” or, “doesn’t your a$$ hurt?” there are also the questions of “why put yourself into that position?” or “how are those observations any more relevant than any other?” or the simple “who the hell cares?”

To all of the questions – ‘Yes no maybe and because that’s how I am.’

So, yesterday, I took a spin out on the bike. Having voted early, I had some free time and chose to take advantage of what was nearly a perfect day. It was mid-afternoon and I wanted to ride for two hours.

In the end, it was great. I hadn’t been out on the road since ‘The Move’…and needed to clean out the arteries a little. I did that…I got in the 2 hours…and I don’t feel too tired today. Success is measured in small increments, you know.

But, this is a post about Jamokes…and observing them while riding…

Nearly EVERY ride of my rather illustrious cycling career includes the “disparaging comment hurtled at me through an open vehicle window by some jamoke”. (Where do you think the genesis for this site and my rather peculiar viewpoint of the world came from after all?) Yesterday was no different. The comments invariably follow this pattern: “Get off the road, BLANK.” or “Roads are for cars, BLANK.”

After all…simple is as simple does.

A person of lesser self esteem would probably take these incidents personally…especially when they happen with such regularity and include such venom. And, truth be told, there was a time when I would respond in kind with a single finger or the hollered epithet. I have matured, though, and no longer let it bother me. Now I beam my biggest smile and wave broadly and yell, “Good Day to You, My Brother.” in my happiest and cheeriest voice. That A) “My Brother” sounds a little bit like “You PHucker” to a person sitting in a speeding vehicle and B) the waving and smiling just infuriates the jamokes even more is a tad bit unfortunate. But, these are the things we must do to fight against the jamoke plague and help spread the overall sense of good cheer.

But, lost to all of the participants but The Jamoker in these vaudevillian interchanges is the supreme irony of it all. Nearly always the person yelling at me is sitting in a pickup, not a car. Thus, “Roads are for cars.”, would negate the rights of Mr. Pickup Truck driver too. Also, that they already have their window open when they pass me is generally because they are smoking cigarettes or discarding trash. Yet they feel are higher on the food chain than the cyclist and have a civic duty to yell at the lower orders? Irony indeed. Yelling at a cyclist probably completes the “Games To Play While High/Drunk/Dumb Driving” Trifecta. And, nevermind the brief/momentary delay caused by their being stuck behind a person on a bike, but generally they have to turn almost right away anyway…or, they wouldn’t have missed the red light anyway. That the cyclist becomes the target of their rage for the inconvenience of a mere momentary delay when time is measured in the scale of eons and epochs and atomic half-lives is just ridiculous. Most people out on the road seem to be in NO FRICKIN HURRY to get anywhere…getting paid by the hour…lost…clueless…or just in the godd@mn way…and yet, the cyclist becomes the target of the abuse.

My personal favorite bit of irony, though, is the thought that the drivers of luxury cars probably hurtle epithets towards the pickup trucks with just as much frequency. “Roads are for cars, CowPoke!” “Get out of my way, HorsePhucker!” “Get that dirt-encrusted manure-smelling P.O.S. pickup truck back to the pasture, you jamoke!”

Because, everything is relative…

While only probably JustACoolCat, HeavyLiftWithCaution & AlphaRat will appreciate this, it is important for me to record (for posterity sake…not bragging) the training accomplishment. During the last two weeks the wife and kids were away. I had always planned their absence would be used to get myself in a better state of shape. Would I be doing IronMan’s? Certainly not. Would I even be close to the level of form and fitness I had in 2003? No again. But, I was determined to get the waist pleats back in my dress pants.

So, here’s the report…

During the 16 day span, I rode 12. Two of those days were ‘easy spin’ days with no real mileage or extended level of effort. Additionally, it should be noted that the average daily temperature for July 2006 in Texas is now one of the hottest on record. 15 days reached triple digits. And, while there wasn’t a single day with a record high (110 or 115 or 125 or whatever), the overnight temps and relative dew-points throughout the month stayed very high…thus causing the average monthly record. And, it didn’t rain either. So, it was always hot when I was out there.

I rode about 385 total miles. Some times I had the wind at my back, most times the wind was trying to knock me down. Several rides were moderately to extremely hilly. I varied the efforts. I made it hurt. I probably could have gotten another 100 miles in if I had wanted…an extra 10 each outing would have done it…but, I was more intent on making each mile count instead of the overall total. JustACoolCat suggested I ride up to Minnesota. 385 wouldn’t have gotten me halfway. Sorry, Coolio, it was the best I could do.

Finally, I joined my old team on two of the rides. There were several new faces in the group, but mostly I saw the familiar companions. In the past, I was always among the most fit…maybe not the fastest or strongest…but certainly in the top 5. I could always compete in the sprint hot spots or hill climbing. I was typically helping to set the pace. I was usually showing off. This time, they were all in shape and I wasn’t. I got dropped both times. I lasted a little longer the second time out…but, that’s grasping at straws. I’m nowhere near my 2003 level of fitness.

Today the family returns. And we will be doing other things (soccer starts soon). I certainly won’t be riding 385 miles again anytime soon. I won’t be getting back to 2003 fitness.

But, I feel like I used the time wisely nonetheless…

Just for the record, I have naturally high testosterone levels too.

Have something hard between your legs for three weeks…going up and down…fast and slow…but, sleeping in a bus with a bunch of scrawny guys with weird tan lines…and you too would have an intense desire to GET BUSY!!!

Go Floyd Go…

BetterHalf gets to take July off from work. So, every year she takes the LilOnes north to see the InLaws. It’s a nice break/trip for all three of them. Get away from the heat. See the extended family and old friends. Hang out and have fun. And, the InLaws appreciate it too. Usually I have traveled up and back, to help with the LilOnes on the plane, for each part of their journey. It’s eExtended weekends up there for the bookends to their trip with work back down here in between. I get quiet time when back here. It’s a fair trade and worth the two flights.

Last year I planned to get back in shape during their absence. “I’m gonna ride every day.” Didn’t happen. A) I needed more than two weeks to get in shape and B) I wasted a bunch of time. Also, the ride every day part is hard to do when the nether regions get sore. And, I was very sore (down there). So, I ran a little (I hate running). And, rode as much as possible.

This year, we have the house thing looming. So, we decided that I would stay. No back and forth for me. Plus, the Lilones are now well behaved when on planes. (They have flown more in their short little lives than I had done by 25 years of age.) They’ve been gone since last Friday.

I have ridden 6 days straight. I have NOT wasted the opportunity this year.

Granted, these are short rides…trying to ramp up slowly in order to avoid the Nether soreness…and it seems to be working. Also, the heat has been difficult to handle. So, I’m doing shorter, more intense rides, instead of the long bataan death march style. Even in-shape people are avoiding outside excursions. The prognosis? I’m feeling pretty good.

Stuff on the ‘get done’ list is happening as well. I have been a good boy about that. Eleven days from now the PUSH begins, whether I’m ready or not…so, the usual procrastination has been eliminated. Finished the kitchen tile (pictures soon). Worked on the sprinkler system (am annoyed there). Packed a little. Painted a little. And, planned a few things out.

This weekend will be busy…both with riding and projects…hopefully the heat will subside.
And, I have told myself that any gains made on the ‘get in shape’ front NEED to be maintained. No slipping.

Carpe Diem…

WOW!

You see that 107 in the north part of Texas? Well, that’s where I live. And, it is HOT.

I did 125 back in July of ’95 while in Phoenix for 2 weeks. Played golf in it. Climbed Camelback Mountain in it. But, that’s a dry heat, they say…and, as long as you carry lots of agua, you’ll be OK. So, I carried lots of water.

107 in DFW? It’s not a dry heat here. It’s high humidity too. And, here it is 7:30 in the evening and the temp is still up at 106.

HOT.

Call me crazy…but, I’m going for a ride…

UPDATE – the map is now showing 105…prolly won’t need as much water now…

I'm the first to admit, I have NEVER been in the same league as Lance Armstrong with my cycling. In fact, I wasn't ever even the best rider in any of the groups/clubs/teams to which I belonged. There was always someone better…or stronger…and smarter. Instead, I was like the tortoise in that famous fable. I was slow and steady…and occasionally I won a race.

Lance, however, dominated. They still tell Lance stories here in North Texas. By the time I got here, he'd already fought back from cancer and was about to win the Tour for the first time. But, I was told stories about how when he was still in high school he'd ride to the races from his house. Then, he'd do the race and beat everyone else easily. Then, he'd collect his winnings and ride home. All in, those could have been 100 to 120 mile days. He was beating guys ten years his senior. He was doing it after already having worn himself out. He was doing it easily. He was still in high school.

It's an amazing story…it's an amazing feat…and it very simply illustrates a) how great he is as a cyclist and b) how much disparity there is from his to my ability.

For the non cyclists, here's an analogy I have used to better explain the cycling world…and Lance. Lance is to cycling what Tiger is to golf. Yes, Tiger is prolly a bigger star…makes more money…had to overcome greater obstacles (although cancer IS a biggy). But, for his sport, Tiger is the pinnacle performer. Lance is the same for cycling. But, there is where the similarity ends. Without any slight to Tiger and golf/golfers, cycling is harder in my opinion. I know. I have done both sports. Cycling is harder.

I'm gonna get sidetracked on the analogy here for a moment to explain why I think cycling is harder. Golf is only moderately a physical game. Sure, the ability to swing the club the same way every time and hit the ball a long way is inherently a physical activity. But, it is nowhere near as tough and grueling as riding 120 miles in 90 degree heat. Just look at caloric burn for the two sports. And, while everyone that plays golf would describe it instead as a mental game…with the primary struggle being within…again, cycling wins. Pushing oneself to achieve the necessary fitness, maintaining the strategy and tactics for the various and multiple race scenarios, and keeping focused enough to avoid the many dangers of the sport all combine to make it tougher than all but the most prestigious and lucrative of golf tournaments. The stress of cycling is very high.

But, this isn't meant to deride golf. It's a very good sport…and very tough too.

So, back to the analogy…Amongst cyclists that race competitively there is a category system, similar to the handicap system of golf. Tiger and Lance as the best in their respective sports are at the top of the ranking systems. Next down would be all of the other professionals. (Professionals would be those trying and hopefully succeeding at making a living by playing their respective sport.) On the third step down the ladder for golf would be the club or teaching pro. These are the guys/gals in the country clubs who either stopped trying to make it professionally, or never tried in the first place, but who are still very good. In cycling that same role/level would be categorized as a Category One. Next step down in golf is the member of the country club who happens to be a pretty good golfer, maybe plays a couple of times a week, probably wins some money from his/her buddies every once in a while, and occasionally enters the club or city championship event. In cycling the person at that level would be categorized as a Two. In my best shape ever, I was a Two. And, the races I did as a Two were obviously extremely hard. Getting to that level and gaining the distinction of being a Two, however, was worth the difficulty. I was (briefly) in an elite group. I was racing against people that were A LOT better than I. (and I was in shape) And, on a percentage basis, it was a very small group. Just making up numbers here, there are prolly a couple thousand pro cyclists in the world…maybe 10 thousand cyclists at the One level…maybe 20 thousand at the Two level. At the other end of the racing spectrum, there are prolly a couple million beginning racers.

Just as the degree of ability and talent, though, between the club pro and Tiger is as wide as the Grand Canyon, the gap between Lance and my meager cycling talent is immense. When Lance said he was "on his bike, 6 hours a day", I believed it. And, I knew too that he was averaging 25 mph during that 7 hours…and prolly had his heartrate up near 200 bpm the whole time. There's no comparison.

"What Am I On?"

It's a great commercial.

Free Association here…nearing a hallucinatory state…expecting to fall asleep any second now…

On Memorial Day in the United States of America in the year 2006 I got to ride a bike through the rolling suburban hills of North Texas. I saw the flags waving in the well manicured yards. I noticed the folks pulling boats, either on their way to or just returning from the area lakes. I observed the light amount of traffic on the roads…hopefully everyone was enjoying the holiday. I contemplated how appreciative I am of the sacrifices made by the women and men in both the past and present to ensure I had the opportunity to enjoy some leisure and freedom on this day.

It wasn't as hot as Friday…only 90 or so…and I set out while it was still morning. But, the hills were the same. The wind was the same. And, it was the same flabby rider. I rode 40 miles and averaged 15 mph. But, I took a few shady breaks at the tops of the hills to get my heartrate down. So, despite the appearance of improvement, my time/distance average is surely more like what I did on Friday.

Speaking of Friday, I did NOT follow the advice as prescribed by KarlaBabble and take 4 Advil and 2 shots of Jack to ease the soreness. Primarily, this was because I don't possess those two items, being a Vodka and Excedrin man instead. But, also, I decided against following KarlaBabble's advice because, quite frankly, I don't believe she holds the proper and requisite degrees or accreditation to be diagnosing any treatment programs for pain in my nether regions. (that's a joke, in case anyone missed it…)

I have often thought while riding that riding is surely on the same karmic/cosmic level as catching the big wave as HawaiianMark describes. Despite never having surfed, I've seen enough movies/TV and read enough about surfing to have a fair appreciation for it. Cycling would seem to me to be similar. Pushing yourself…cresting a tough hill in the 12 ring (versus the 23 granny gear)…zooming down the other side of the hill at 35-40 mph and having the wind cool ya down while your heart rate drops just enough to hit the next hill and start over…that's what it's about.

Today, there were a couple of spots where people had their sprinklers running and the spray was hitting the road. Each time I cruised through the waterspray and thought about the squirtgun wars WriterMother fotographed and discussed. It would have been fun to do that upon returning to the house.

I didn't get rained on, as always seems to happen to CoolCat. If he ever complains about getting wet while riding, I'm gonna suggest he move to North Texas.

James at Heavy: Lift With Caution always seems to have friends or relatives to accompany him on his rides. Unfortunately, I didn't have a traveling companion and was alone with my thoughts. But, I did see lots of other cyclists out and about, which is always nice.

Speaking of thoughts while riding, I contemplated long and hard what I thought about the whole blog crush idea. I realized that, having been on the losing end of unrequited love many times before, this blog crush thing is no big deal. But, more importantly, I decided that connecting with people is as much about physical fortitude as it is about mental clarity and pure thought. To be in true and complete shape, both the mind and the body have to be operating at peak efficiency. And, this epiphany came to me right at the base of the toughest hill of the day.

Upon returning home, I paused for a moment and thought about grabbing a cold brew. If I were in England this would be standard routine (or so I fantasize). But here, for some reason the Puritan in me (or the fitness geek) has this idea that exercise and alcohol don't mix.

For some strange reason and for as long as I can remember, the poem by Robert Frost (from which I have borrowed for the title of this post) has worked its way through my head while riding. It's an eccentricity, I know. Cycling as a companion to a Robert Frost poem? Surely this is a joke, right? It's not. I think of it as my guide…my goal…and my conscience. There's no stopping. There's no time to dilly-dally. Get the ride done. Get that fitness. Wear yourself out. Be competitive. You have miles to go before you can sleep.