Wrong response Astana team

The UCI today requested a withdrawal of Astana team’s license. Does it really take extreme measures to get a team to get their act together? Apparently so. Yet, it seems Astana team still hasn’t gotten the message.

The response most likely to yield success is the one people everywhere want to hear. It’s the Astana team response that says these are the steps we are taking to come into compliance. It a response from Alexander Vinokourov that says, ‘I’ve scheduled time with CIRC on such and such a day, and I will talk openly about my past.’ It’s an ebook and a video series about how their riders train and prepare for the big races. It’s an open book, a freshly cleaned window into the team’s story. The response bicycle racing fans want to hear is how so many riders managed to fall afoul of the Astana team’s publicly stated doping stance without the team’s knowledge. We want to hear how the Astana team’s top riders are shielded from their teammates’ doping. We want to read that Astana team is protecting its own by putting the truth out into the world now, so that we can see their riders race with integrity, so that we can admire their efforts, and so we can believe in them.

The response we got doesn’t cut it. We hear that Astana team’s lawyers are looking into legal options. Yawn.

The puzzling and transparent ickiness of Astana Pro Cycling

The UCI sent a disturbing message on Wednesday: If you have the money and are good enough at hiding your doping, you can have a place in the UCI’s World Tour!

History has shown that if you hide your cheating well enough, you may profit tremendously. Politicians, preachers, and professional cycling have proven this. They have also proven that if you get caught, you will be dragged naked by your testicles (or toes) down a long street lined by people slinging bat guano into your orifices, taking your ill-gotten gains by any means necessary, or at least flaming you on twitter. And everyone leaves your party when you are out of cocaine. I mean money.

The unwritten rule in pro cycling has always been that you don’t speak poorly of the companies who sponsor teams. And you don’t turn down their money as long as they help the governing bodies maintain the status quo. For instance, Coors Light used to sponsor a popular US pro team, and although their beer tastes like water when compared to, oh, any other beer in existence (except maybe Beer Beer – is that still around?), the rule was you only spoke positively about Coors Light. Every rider out there appreciated them sponsoring so many awesome athletes. Coors Light rocks – Go buy some today!

The UCI seems to be confused. They clearly want big money in the sport, but they seem to believe that doping is a necessary component of pro cycling. They seem to think that maintaining the status quo of hiding doping is the right way forward. That’s the message they sent on Wednesday with the issuing of Astana’s World Tour license. It is almost as if they believe you can’t have one without the other. Yes, they pioneered the use of the biological passport, but how much money has that made them? They seem to think that companies who put ethics over winning (think Europcar) are less important, even though their racing is arguably more passionate and exciting.

Astana Pro Cycling is sponsored by many of the biggest names in Kazakhstan business, brand names much of the world has never heard of. For millions of annual operating budget dollars, the team in theory inspires either throngs of Kazakhstanis or a few generous businesspeople who like seeing their names on podiums, I’m unsure which. Every year in its long-running history, the team has endured doping positives. Why does Astana Pro Cycling still exist after having no clean years in the sport? (Perhaps ironically, the 2009 Astana team managed by Johan Bruyneel and sporting Lance Armstrong may have been their cleanest year.)

It cannot be that all Kazakhstanis lack the integrity and intelligence to adopt the same win at all cost attitude that the Astana team brings to professional cycling. I have to give them more credit out of basic human respect. I mean, if they can decry Borat, surely they can cry out for the sanitizing of “their” team? Why are the management and sponsors not demanding clean riders? Oh wait… Alexander Vinokourov is the manager.

I used to admire Alexander Vinokourov back when he was competing because I didn’t know he was cheating. His on-the-bike exploits were exciting. Of course, I’ve unwittingly admired many cheaters over the years (Lance Armstrong, Tyler Hamilton, Floyd Landis, George Hincapie, David Zabriskie, Johan Museeuw, and so on), and the fact is I don’t much care that they cheated to even the scales in an era that is long since over (I do very much mind that Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis took people’s money to fund their legal defenses, but if I was stupid enough to give to them, I guess I got what I deserved, in the form of my belief in pro cyclists being pretty well gutted [Chris Horner excepted]).

The doping era is in the past, and much of pro cycling appears to be riding clean. Of course, who knows? After all, Monsieur Vinokourov returned from a 2-year doping ban to win the Olympic Road Race gold medal and promptly retired from competition. I can feel oh-so-confident that he was clean, because all riders are so awesome after two years away from competition that they can simply ride away from the cream of the crop in pro cycling. Uh-huh.

Apparently, the UCI doesn’t care about Astana cheating. That is disturbing. They cannot claim to want a clean sport in one breath, then issue a top-tier World Tour license to an obviously corrupt team in the next. The transparency of the UCI’s license commission in issuing a pro license to a cheating team while denying a team lacking just 6% of the required operating budget (Europcar) sends entirely the wrong message to pro teams and sponsors, not to mention fans, without whom, there would be no pro cycling.

Of course, we all want to believe in the clean veins of Vincenzo Nibali. He seems like an innocent victim, à la, right guy, wrong team, wrong time. He seems like a good guy. His quiet demeanor and ‘proof is in the pedaling’ approach are admirable.

I hope Astana and the UCI can learn how to make admirable decisions in the future.

One lane, one Escalade driver, one cyclist


The term ‘one lane road’ itself ought to be the clear indication to a driver that there is no room to pass. If you’re driving a small car, you may eek out enough room on a small road to pass a cyclist. If you’re in an Escalade or Hummer, however, driving such a huge vehicle comes at the price of waiting your turn on one lane roads. I cannot generalize that it’s all large vehicle drivers, but it just so happens that on this tiny rarely used residential road that winds from the bicycle path up a narrow, short, steep hill into my neck of the woods, I’ve had encounters with an impatient Escalade driver, a Hummer driver, and various large truck drivers. I have not once had an encounter with a small vehicle driver. That seems to indicate that in at least some cases, the larger the vehicle the smaller the brain.

The hill takes all of two minutes to ride up. It’s not long, but sections of it are fearfully steep. You don’t ride up this hill unless you have a good fitness level. Yesterday’s Escalade driver didn’t care. I could hear him revving the engine to hint that he wanted past, but of course there is absolutely nowhere to pull over or give room. And the thing is, two minutes is a small price to pay for ruling the road by sheer size.

Upon reaching the top of the hill, as I took the sweeping right hander, my Escalade adversary swung out into the oncoming lane of traffic which he could not possibly have seen was clear, and gassed his behemoth engine like his life depended on it, which in a way it did since he was taking a blind corner in the opposing lane of traffic.

Like a larger animal does not equal greater intelligence, a larger vehicle does not equal a smarter driver.

Sometimes I wish I had an Inspector Gadget arm to reach inside a speeding vehicle and slap the driver silly, but a friendly wave often works just as well.

The math of why cars don’t fit in Seattle

Virtually every day you drive a car in Seattle, you’re going to sit in traffic. I keep seeing a city adding mass instead of reducing it, and I wonder (aside from the whole big business thing) why the fairly obvious math of why cars don’t fit is consistently left out of the conversation. The only people who don’t sit in traffic are those of us who ride bicycles or walk to get around.

At its current population, if each Seattle metropolitan resident drove a car every day at the same time, we would have roads full of skyscrapers made of stacked cars. If you love sitting in Seattle traffic (4th worst in US), you can skip this post. If you would like to understand why it’s so durned gridlocked and learn a simple approach for doing something about it, read on.

Upon returning from virtually any ride through Seattle’s traffic mess, I could easily sit down and tap out a scathing rant about how poorly driving humans treat riding humans, but why? I understand the plight of drivers. The fact is bicyclists can react and maneuver in traffic quicker than cars, and it probably frustrates people who have spent a year’s salary on two thousand pounds of steel, plastic, rubber, and glass to have to share “their” space with human counterparts aboard 19-pound machines of love and grace that cost maybe a month’s salary. Goats are likely gotten when they have to witness that same bicyclist travel across town faster than their more expensive vehicles will allow on the very same roads. But since we all pay taxes, there’s realistically no valid argument against bicycling.

Whilst addressing the ‘us versus them’ approach of car drivers versus bicycle riders, whereas drivers use gas pedal pressure, hand gestures, yelling, and borderline psycho steering in wielding their belted-on massiveness to state protestations on road sharing, I tend to use agility, good bike handling, and the keyboard.

I know how frustrating it can be for a motorist to not elicit the hostile response that would justify the not-so-lovely hand gestures bestowed upon bicyclists, instead receiving a friendly wave of the hand when you really want to see the rapid ascension of a middle finger rocketing skyward. I get it.

I understand. It’s about apathy. The thing is, we don’t need to be apathetic about changing commuting habits. It’s a solvable problem which can inspire healthier, happier living for durned near everyone.

We all want to change, but change is hard. Many of us see the ridiculous nature of planting 3.5 million human beings (Seattle metropolitan area) in automobiles in a city that can’t possibly house that many. I’ve been doing a little math, and the numbers paint a clear picture. The cars don’t fit.

The right of passage at 16 years old for earning a driver’s license sets people up to believe we have a right to “own the road,” but there simply is not enough road for each of us to own it.

Washington state is ranked as #1 in Bicycle Friendliness, an interesting score which ranks states by legislation and enforcement, policies and programs, infrastructure and funding, education and encouragement, and evaluation and planning. Oddly, however, less than 2% of Washington residents commute by bicycle. Clearly, Washington, and particularly Seattle given its small area footprint, are poised to turn bicycle commuting into the majority transport method.

It is high time to stick those angry hand gestures in your ear, face the realities of our region, and embrace healthy change. Here’s the math:

Seattle Traffic Math - It's not rocket science to see that a change in commuting methods is essential to our health and happiness.

Seattle Traffic Math – It’s not rocket science to see that a change in commuting methods is essential to our health and happiness.

Seattle Office of the City Clerk
WikiAnswers (How big is a car?)
Seattle Department of Transportation
NWCN – Study ranks Seattle 4th for worst US traffic
The League of American Bicyclists
TomTom Americas Traffic Index
Bicycle Friendly State Report Card

A compendium of other interesting facts resides at Cars Stink.

A word from your no longer exhausted writer

At last it seems I have emerged from the exhaustion I bought down upon myself, which caused me to not put up any of the posts I had been writing for this here Bikelops cycling blog.

In September, I made a misguided decision to take up cyclocross racing as inspiration for writing this blog for a self-directed class for school. I do a fair amount of these self-directed studies, and they usually work out great, with huge learning benefits. The lessons I learned this time were not what I was after, but they were equally important nonetheless.

It was a good idea actually, but not the right time. Since I had no real time to set aside for training, I fit it in where I could, which ultimately caused my body to sort of shut down for a time. It was as if aliens took over and imposed long hours of deep sleep. I had no say in the matter. Imagine taking melatonin supplements midday every day for six weeks.

I was writing posts the whole time, but at a slower than normal pace. I was consistently failing to revise them however, and did not post them regularly as intended. This week I am putting that wrong to right, adding in all of mid-October, November and early December’s posts.

The biggest takeaway from the project was that my normal super-productive self cannot slot cyclocross racing into a schedule that already includes full-time university and full-time work. Sometimes my ambition gets the better of me.

In any case, I am now putting up all of the backdated posts from when I was suffering through exhaustion. Since the writing here is not time-sensitive, I hope it will still be of some entertainment value to some kind reader or three.

– Your humble cyclist and writer

A Confederacy of Dunces On Bicycles

A Confederacy of Dunces On Bicycles

Although densities are different, these two fabulous books utilized the same color palette… 31 years apart!

Being a life-long graphic designer, mine eyes are quite attuned to colors and palettes. So it was as I sat down to some bathroom reading, debating betwixt “A Confederacy of Dunces” or “On Bicycles,” that I noticed a peculiar thing: They’re the same book. Oh wait, that’s not right. They do, however share identical color palettes on their respective covers. So now I know there is someone else in the world who loves and admires “A Confederacy of Dunces” and loves riding bicycles. Awesome!

The non-thrill of sleeping on the bike

Have you ever fallen asleep at the wheel? People do it all the time. In fact, Wikipedia says 250,000 people fall asleep at the wheel every day. That’s why there are road turtles on the side of highway lanes – to wake you up. Being asleep at the wheel is so common that it’s often used as a metaphor for f___ing up. Driving is quite often as boring as watching oil dry, especially if you’re doing a daily commute.

Sleeping on the bike is much more difficult since your entire body and brain are (generally) fully engaged in keeping you upright and moving forward, yet I’ve fallen asleep on the bike. It isn’t pretty (well, compared to its driving counterpart, it is pretty, but I digress). I’ve done it about four times I think, unless I count the roughly twenty times on one ill-conceived ride.

I’ve considered forcing myself to train through this exhaustion thing, but I keep recalling the time I attempted to thwart jet-lag after returning from Japan. I tend to struggle with weird sleep patterns for about two weeks after an ocean crossing back to the States. A friend suggested I stay awake through the day, and maybe go for a bike ride. It seemed like a reasonable idea at the time.

About five miles in, my eyelids made the suggestion that this was in fact a bat-sh*t crazy idea, and they closed. I’m hurtling forward at something like 20 or so mph, and I’m suddenly asleep. I hit a small bump in the trail, woke, and hit the brakes.

‘Twas an easy decision to turn around and ride home. Riding home, however, was not so easy, for my eyes closed over and over along the way. Each time I felt them droop, I stood up to sprint in order to wake back up. I repeated this countless times until I got home, folded into bed, and woke at 3am for my destined appointment with the jet-lag god and goddess who rained their reign over me.

All other instances of bike-sleeping have occurred at approximately mile 155 of the Seattle to Portland ride. Luckily, I had caffeinated gels with me to WTFU (wake the ____ up) for my self-appointed date with the finish line.

Mmm… STP.

Running with the bike, like a woman? (Not)

With apparent exhaustion putting the kibosh on regular training, I’m instead reading up on everything cycling. In today’s book, “Cyclocross” by Simon Burney (a great cyclocross training resource), I’m reading ‘Running with the Bike’ in Techniques and Tactics, in which Burney notes that Dutch cyclocross racers encouraged him to, “Run like a woman… you know… swinging your spare arm and using your whole body to run, like women do!” [Erm… I so hesitated to write this, but, well, it really says that.]

This has me squirming in my seat because, well, it’s sexist (as Burney notes), but also because I run with my whole body. In fact, I ran competitively for ten years with my whole body. In further fact, perusing videos of the 2013 Track & Field World Championships, it’s pretty clear to see that nearly all runners – female and male alike – swing their arms and use their whole body. One could argue that running without the whole body would in actuality be standing still, but of course you’d be arguing only to Dutch male cyclocross racers.

Look at how goofy this guy looks:

This has me recalling buried surreal dreams where I am channeling my inner scamperer. It turns out there are real-life people who run on all fours, on the track no less. In fact Guinness decided there should be a world record for it (although it seems to be conspicuously missing from their site). Surely these people will be the leaders of a new colony of humans bent on devolving the species to its four-legged yesteryear of four or so million years ago. There’s a photo here, or just imagine a leopard without the spots or long stride, and dressed in black and red track togs and spiked flats, with its head down.

One thing I did some years back to make running with the bike more comfortable was to augment my frame with a high density foam pad to cushion my season-long bruised collarbone and back, but one day I moved the padding to my jersey instead, which worked out great. Eventually, a coach taught me how to shoulder the bike in such a way that it no longer seems to bother me at all.

Colnago World Cup cyclocross bike

Colnago’s cyclocross frames feature a curved support beam between the top and seat tubes, so the bike can rock on your shoulder easier while running. My guess is they’re going with the idea that you’ll be using your whole body.

The national personal trainer program

How about using those millions of tax dollars doled out to build mass transit in the name of fighting obesity to instead fund a national personal trainer program? Such a program could provide a trainer, dietician, and whomever else needed to help people become motivated to take the baby steps necessary for improving their own health. This program would create thousands of jobs across the country and directly address a host of health problems such as obesity, lethargy, heart disease, stress, and Obamacare, plus societal issues like laziness, boredom, and traffic rage, all while keeping metropolitan traffic manageable.


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