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Cycling certainly has ethics. Not every rider has the same set of ethics, but there are ethics nonetheless. And, it could be argues that some ethics are better than others. This all leads to the title of the blog which is why I am declaring myself a "no tow" zone.

 

By "no tow" that means that if, for some reason, I actually pass another cyclist while on a ride, it is not OK for that cyclist to immediately jump on my wheel and get a free tow. Why I am declaring myself a "no two" zone?  There are a lot of good reasons.

 

First off, while the rider drafting me is getting a "free" ride, it is not "free" for me. Of course I could be a jerk, but if there is someone behind me I now have to point out obstacles, let the rider know I am actually stopping at stop signs(heaven forbid); basically act like I am not the only one who is affected by my actions. Secondly, I have to worry that the rider behind me actually knows what they are doing and will not crash into me as I stop at the aforementioned stop sign(don't laugh, this has happened to me).

 

Frankly, I don't mind if the passed rider comes up to me and asks "do you mind if I sit on."  I usually respond in the affirmative for such polite behavoir. What yanks my chain is the passed rider acting like we are in some sort of mano y mano two-up race. Such a rider refuses to communicate when I ask him or her how they are doing just returning a steely-eyed grin that says "just you wait to the next red light. When you stop I am going to run it and take off."  Which, unfortunately is what a lot of those riders do.

 

It is almost like there are two separate types of responses to tagging along. The good guys, who seem to be in the minority, realize that they are imposing on your ride and ask permission. The bad guys, who seem to be in the majority, regard the passing as a complete stomping of their egos and respond in apparent insecurity by copping a major attitude and declaring 'let the race begin.'

 

I must add that when I pass a rider, I try to make it as non-competitive as possible usually saying something like "good morning" or "good afternoon". I realize that there are some people who just aren't capable of handling the act of being passed so I go out of my way to make everyone feel as good as possible about the situation.

 

But, sometimes my non-confrontational method just doesn't work and an instant competition ensues. At that point, I try to engage the rider in polite conversation in an attempt to diffuse the situation. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't.

 

OK. If you can't tell, I clearly feel pretty strongly about this situation. Instead of continuing this rant, all I ask of riders who want to latch onto a passing cyclist is to ask permission first. Just tacking onto a rider without any contact and even worse, turning it into a race, is pretty poor behavior. You should be ashamed of yourselves. Enough said.

 

Bruce

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Meet Team Ouch

Posted by Bruce Hildenbrand Jan 27, 2009

Team Ouch's most recognizable rider is Floyd Landis, but what about the rest of what looks to be America's most powerful domestic professional team. If anybody is capable of going toe-to-toe with the top flight Pro Tour squads at the upcoming Amgen Tour of California(AToC) it's Team Ouch. While I would like to single out every rider on the squad, let's hit the highlights and let the others grab some of the spotlight as the season rolls on.

 

L-R: Brad White, Pat McCarty, Karl Menzies, John Murphy, Kid Rock, Tim Johnson, Andrew Pinfold, Jonathan Chodroff

 

Several riders besides Landis have European pro road experience. Australian Rory Sutherland has won the individual National Racing Calendar point series competition, signifying the best US domestic pro rider, the past two seasons and is a threat in flat, hilly or just about any bike race. He can time trial, climb and sprint and has worked harder than any other rider, save George Hincapie, to try and win a stage of the Tour of California in the last two years. Here's hoping he gets that much-deserved stage win at the 2009 edition.

 

Karl Menzies is also Australian though he would rather you called him Tasmanian.He is a solid workhorse who can also sprint and unless the topography has some major wrinkles, he can win any big race in the US. Two years ago he finished second place in Australia's Tour Down Under just several ticks out of the top spot after wearing the leader's jersey.

 

Pat McCarty is the most recent addition to the team. At 27, the Austin native has already been a pro for six years starting first with Lance and US Postal then moving onto Slipstream. He has finished the Giro d'Italia. His presence in stage races will greatly enhance Floyd's chances, though Pat has been top three on stages as well.

 

Tim Johnson is the road captain for Team Ouch and has decided to pass up a slot at the upcoming World Cyclocross Championships to be ready to bark orders when the Tour of California starts in just over two weeks. Tim recently won the USGP cyclocross title and also has European pro experience. Expect Tim to cover early breakaways or drive it at the front if Floyd is wearing the AToC leader's jersey.

 

John Murphy is a mere 25 years old and had a breakout season in 2008 winning the Tour of Taiwan. He can sprint and time trial and has a very bright future. He recently relocated from Athens, Georgia to Temecula to be able to train with Floyd. I am betting that it pays off big time.

 

Mike Tamayo is in his second year as the team director having taken over the reigns from long-time head honcho, Jeff Corbett, in 2008. Mike brings experience leading a number of top-tier women's teams including Victory Brewing. The chemistry on the team is excellent, look for Mike to make sure that things continue to run smoothly.

 

Also on the team are Brad White, Jonathan Chadroff, Cam Evans, Andrew Pinfold, Bobby Lea, Roman Kilun. Check out their website at www.teamouch.com.

 

Have at it boys!

 

Bruce

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Team Ouch

 

Probably the best way to understand Team Ouch is to go on a ride with the squad that can only be described with in one word, 'ouch'. It must be remembered that Team Ouch is the re-tooled Health Net-Maxxis squad which has added one Mr. Floyd Landis to it's 2009 roster. The Health Net boys have won the prestigious National Racing Calendar title, signifying the best team and best rider in the USA, since their inception in 2004. Mr. Landis has won the Tour of California, Paris-Nice, Tour of Georgia and the Tour de France.

 

So, agreeing to head out on the road with these guys has the potential to send mere mortals crying for their mommas or just seriously questioning their passion for cycling. After all, it really isn't all about the bike.  But, it wasn't the first half of the ride which prompted such heavy introspection. No, it was when the team got back to the hotel and Floyd decided that he hadn't had enough fun for the day.

 

Dr. Brent Kay, Floyd's long-time friend, co-founder of Ouch Medical the team's title sponsor and part-time hammer on the bike suggested that Landis take a few of us on an "hour of power".  When Dr. Kay wouldn't exactly disclose all the details of the proposed route, I should have been suspicious, but since he was joining us, I thought all would be fine.

 

Would you buy a used bike ride from these two guys (Dr. Kay(l), Floyd(r))?

 

Yeah, right. After the first 21% wall, it didn't get much easier for the next hour and a half as one steep pitch after pitch followed.  I saw 30% once and even 38% on one particularly bad patch. When it was 27% (the grade of a black diamond ski run) things seemed to be manageable. Granted these ultra-steeps were only 200-600 yards long, but, that's about the length of the climbs in the Tour of Flanders and nobody is calling those a cake walk.

 

This is what a 30+% hill looks like.

 

Enough of my whining. All seven of us survived and though I will not be at the starting line of Floyd's first big race, the Amgen Tour of California, I can tell you that from my perspective, the boy is looking pretty darn fit. Welcome back.

 

Bruce

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The remaining nine teams for the 2009 Tour of California were announced today and there weren't too many surprises. One fun factoid worth reporting is that there were sixteen(16) teams participating in the first Amgen Tour of California comprised of eight Pro Tour and eight non-Pro Tour squads. In 2007 and 2008, eighteen teams toed the line composed of nine Pro Tour and nine non-Pro Tour squads.

 

In 2009, there will be seventeen total teams, eight Pro Tour and nine non-Pro Tour which is a bit of a departure from previous years. Rumour has it that two Pro Tour teams Fuji-Servetto and Milram tried to obtain a slot in the race, but obviously they did not make the cut. So, it is a bit of a mystery why the race organizers didn't even out the Pro Tour and non-Pro Tour squads by inviting either Fuji-Servetto or Milram.

 

The original eight teams (all part of the Pro Tour) announced last month are:

AG2R- La Mondiale, Astana, Garmin-Chipotle, Liquigas, Quick Step, Rabobank, Saxo Bank, Team Columbia.

 

The final nine teams (all non-Pro Tour) announced today are:

 

Bissell Pro Cycling Team, BMC Racing Team, Cervelo Test Team, Colavita/Sutter Home Presented by Cooking Light, Fly V Australia presented by Successful Living Foundation Team, Jelly Belly Cycling Team, Ouch Presented by Maxxis, Rock Racing,  Team Type 1.

 

It looks like the predictions I made last month when the Pro Tour teams were announced were pretty spot on with Colavita and Cervelo Test Team replacing Kelly Benefits on my potential list.

 

Probably the most interesting tidbit from today's announcement is that with the inclusion of Ouch Medical, it means that the first ever winner of the Amgen Tour of California, Floyd Landis, will make is return to racing at the California event. In a year of comebacks, will Floyd be as welcomed as that guy named Lance?

 

Bruce

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The Kids Are Alright

Posted by Bruce Hildenbrand Jan 20, 2009

Any doubts that Lance wasn't serious about his comeback were dispelled on Tuesday(well, Wednesday Australian time) when the 130+ riders contested the Tour Down Under's second hardest stage. On paper, the race as a whole looks pretty tame, but the speeds have been high and the temperatures even higher creating a real baptism by fire for Lance 3.0.

 

Lance didn't win the stage. Lance didn't even contest the sprint.  However, with about 15 miles to go, Lance, being Lance, took a dig and broke away. It was a moment when the race was on the verge of completely disintegrating demonstrating that the Texan can still read a race (and probably listen to Bruyneel on the radio) and time an attack to have maximum benefit.

 

If the stage had been a tad bit harder, my guess is that Lance would have had a better chance of staying away. As it was, the sprinter's teams were just able to smell the finish line so it all came together and a bunch gallop to the line ensued. Yeah, yeah, yeah, but we got to see Armstrong once again off the front in a pro race. That was definitely worth it, even if a former Discovery Channel rider not named Lance ended up winning the stage. Kudos to Allan Davis.

 

Also worth mentioning is that the back half of the field did lose contact before the finish. Lance made the split to the front group, once again showing that he is pretty darn fit as well as being motivated.

 

OK, the Tour Down Under is not all about Lance. Besides Team Astana there are 17 other ProTour teams and the like of Team Columbia, Rabobank, Quick Step, Garmin-Slipstream, Lotto, Saxo Bank, Euskatel/Euskadi and Katusha have all shown themselves at the front. Good on ya, all!

 

Bruce

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The Amgen Tour of California(AToC) has even started, but I am already calling it an unqualified success. Why so, you might ask? It all has to do with a little stretch of blacktop called Tunitas Creek Road. This very popular Silicon Valley climb will be included in Stage 2 of the AToC. While this 8-mile, 2000-foot ascent comes a bit too early in the stage to be decisive, it is still a worthy test for cyclists pros and amateurs alike.

 

Unfortunately, the pavement during the steepest part of the ascent has been deteriorating over the years and a serious repaving was definitely in order.  You might remember my blog from a month or so ago where I lamented that Tunitas Creek Road was supposed to be repaved for the AToC, but the local road crew appeared to have only done half the job and packed up for good.

 

So, I sent an E-mail to AToC Race Director, Jim Birrell, notifying him of the situation on Tunitas Creek Road.  Here are a couple of key paragraphs from the E-mail:

 

"Having ridden this road for the past 20 years, I can tell you that just filling in the obvious potholes is not going to make a significant improvement in the quality of the road.  The pavement in this 2-mile section is so old and poor that even without a rain storm, new potholes seem to appear overnight.  The only way to really fix the road is to lay down brand new pavement, curb-to-curb, as was done on approximately 1.5 miles of the upper section of the road during the repaving this past fall.

 

Frankly, I think the quality of the pavement in the aforementioned section is way below the standard of quality of the roads that should be part of America's premier stage race.  But, don't take my word for it.  An inspection from someone on your technical committee(not someone on the local organizing committee) will quickly reveal the substandard quality of the roadway.  Yes, it really is that bad."

 

Well, Jim is a stand-up guy and he sent his technical representative for this area, Eric Smith, out to inspect the road. Lo and behold, this week, about a month after my letter, there was a road crew out on Tunitas Creek Road finishing the paving project. Major props to the Jim and Eric for working this issue and fixing the problem. If you ever wondered about the lasting benefits of having a big-time bike race in your area, this is certainly one of them!

 

Bruce

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In only three days, Lance Armstrong (AKA Lance 3.0) will enter his first professional competition since he announced his comeback. Armstrong will take part in Australia's Tour Down Under(TDU) which starts Tuesday, January 20th.  As Oz is a day ahead of the USA, Lance's re-debut will actually be occurring here in the US on Monday.  There is a possibility that he will ride the 30-mile Cancer Classic race on Sunday (Saturday in the USA), but the real race begins on Tuesday.

 

How Lance 3.0 will perform is, of course, the hot question. Word from inside the Armstrong camp is that Lance's most recent performance test had the Texan measured at 440 peak watts at threshold. As a comparison, Lance's best number during his Tour de France winning streak was about 450 watts. Not surprisingly, being at 440 watts this early in the season and also this early into his comeback put him way ahead of his schedule and prompted coach Chris Carmichael to suggest that Lance 3.0 take a few days off the bike.

 

But, is Lance really taking this race seriously when he has basically only been talking about the Giro, in May, and the Tour, in July? He has clearly taken some serious steps in his preparation to insure that he will be as acclimated as possible for the TDU.  He spent the last several week on the big island of Hawaii acclimating not only to the Australian heat which can reach 100+F, but also the time zone change. Also, a photo of him taking a training break with his GF Anna Hansen revealed a totally ripped body; he looked even better than some of the years he triumphed in France.

 

So, it seems like Lance has brought his A game to the TDU. He is being paid a reported $1 million (probably US dollars) to start the race, but that money is not going into Lance's pocket rather it is earmarked for cancer research. Unfortunately, the six-day race offers little challenges in the way of climbs or time trials. The longest significant hill is only about 2.5 miles long.

 

Lance needs to find his racing legs meaning that he needs to feel comfortable on the bike going 30mph and riding in a pack of 100 riders doing the same. It seems like the safe bet for Lance 3.0 is to hang out in the pack and let the sprinters fight it out for the stages and overall glory. But, something inside me says that Lance won't be content to be just 'pack fodder' and that during at least one of the stages he will bust a move if only to be out in front, face in the wind, for a few miles before the sprinter's teams close it down for the finishes.

 

Stay tuned for updates as the race unfolds.

 

Bruce

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Above the Law

Posted by Bruce Hildenbrand Jan 14, 2009

Steven Segal made only one good movie and it wasn't 'Above the Law'. 'Under Siege' is still a first rate action flick, unlike his latter body of work where he had gained so much weight he had no mobility so he had to confine his trademark martial arts moves to a bunch of face slapping reminiscent of the old Three Stooges movies.

 

But, this blog isn't about a guy who let Kelly LeBrock slip through his fingers, this is about cyclists who ride as if the traffic laws don't apply to them. Today, during my ride, I slowed to a halt at a stop sign, put my foot down so that the car turning left coming from the opposite direction could proceed. At that very instant, the Palo Alto Noon Ride, about 30-40 riders strong, blew the stop sign and continued on its 'racy' ways.

 

It might be a bit strong to say that I hate the Palo Alto Noon Ride, but it's close.  I don't have any respect for a bunch of riders who put their selfish needs ahead of the laws of the state. But, more importantly, their selfish actions create a whole lot of negative sentiment towards cyclists. And that sentiment spills over to affect me.

 

More than once, I have stopped a police officer to report an illegal action by a car towards me while I was out riding only to have the officer tell me, "you guys who do the noon ride don't follow the laws either." Now, it can be argued that the problem with the officer's response is a result of the officer's bias and not the action of the riders on the Noon Ride, but if the Noon Ride actually obeyed the law, this wouldn't be a problem.

 

Where I live in Silicon Valley, it is not just the Noon Ride which acts as if the laws don't apply to them. The ride goes at noon five days a week which is a lot of law breaking, but there is also the Wednesday night Valley Ride and the Saturday morning Spectrum Ride which basically take over the roads and create a lot of bad feelings on a regular basis.

 

Nothing is going to change because of this blog. Racers and racer-wannabees will continue to act selfish and put their needs ahead of the law. And the fact that their actions are going to make it harder for me to ride my bike is also not going to change.

 

The former manager of the Palo Alto Bike Shop once told me that one of the racers who they sponsor asked for some extra compensation, because in his words, "I am out there riding my bike wearing your jersey getting you a lot of publicity."  The manager replied, "I just got off the phone with an irate car driver who said that a cyclist wearing our jersey made an illegal left turn, cut him off,, and almost caused a traffic accident."

 

You make the call.

 

Bruce

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As Lance Armstrong arrives in Australia for his first professional race of his comeback, you can own a piece of the Texan's cycling history. Lance's 448-acre ranch at Dripping Springs is for sale. Located outside of Austin, TX this sprawling estate features a Tuscan-style house, built in 2003. The 4241 sqft dwelling has five bedrooms and five bathrooms. Also included is a 1 bedroom/1 bath guest house.

 

All that acreage and square footage is pretty appealing, but the real gem of the Armstrong ranch is Deadman's Hole, an idyllic recreation spot where you can swim, dive or just lounge in the sun. And if all the water sports are still not enough, the ranch includes seven miles of hiking/biking trails each being marked with yellow Livestrong flags.

 

This is clearly a top-drawer retreat for the outdoor enthusiast, unfortunately, with a price tag of $12,000,000 the prospective client base is a bit limited. But, with Lance's acclaimed attention to detail, you have to believe that this is one very sweet crib.

 

So, if you can come up with the coin, you can be riding on Lance's personal bike trails, jumping into Deadman's Hole or just sitting on the porch of a Tuscan mansion enjoying a memorable sunset.

 

Bruce

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You know it's getting bad out there when cyclists start experiencing road rage.  No, I am not referring to the all to common bike-car altercations. The incident I am referring to is a bike-bike dustup. There was no car involved. This was a case of one cyclist taking it out, literally, on another. And, to top it all off, the aggressor has had assault charges filed and is awaiting his day in court.

 

It all went down several months ago in Madison Wisconsin, a place known for having lots of bikes and people who ride them. It is a college town with a history of being bike-friendly and has also produced some of the country's top bike racers. This is probably one of the last places you would expect some sort of bike-bike road rage incident, but yet it happened.

 

Colin Obrien, owner of the Cronometro bike shop, was cycling home from work one dark night when he happened upon a couple of riders. Neither had any sort of light on their bike so as Colin passed, he said "get a light" or words to that effect. The male rider of the group must have taken offence at that remark because he followed Colin home and then assaulted him in front of his house.

 

I have known Colin for almost 30 years and he is one of the nicest and mellowest guys on the planet. Maybe it was just that he made the remark at the wrong time to the wrong person; I don't believe that there was any malice intended in Colin's remark.  He truly loves riding his bike and wishes the same for others. But, something went wrong and now Colin's attacker is facing assault charges.

 

What is interesting here is that if we cyclists can get along amongst ourselves, how can we expect us to get along with cars? We have to be able to be civil to our fellow riders. Clearly, a lot of car-bike road rage incidents originate with the car driver, but we as cyclists also need to be able to keep our rage in check.  If we can't do that with our brethren on two wheels, it's going to be a long road ahead.

 

Bruce

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It usually only happens in early August, but right now, I am suffering from a bad case of Post Tour Depression(PDT). I am not talking about that bike tour around France in July, I am 'jonesing' for the Tour de Ski. Most one-day cross country ski races are pretty darn exciting, throw in a gun or two and they get even more so. But, the Federation International de Ski(FIS) has really hit it big with the Tour de Ski.

 

As I described in my blog last week, the Tour de Ski is a 9-day, 7-race cross country ski racing event based loosely on the Tour de France. The event has a prologue time trial, time bonus sprints, a time cut, flat stages, and mountain stages, the final day featuring a climb that can rightly claim to be the Alpe d'Huez of cross country skiing. And to top it all off, the Tour de Ski includes both men's and women's races.

 

The 2008-2009 edition was a real nail-biter a combination of the depth of the fields, format of the races and the huge prize list($100,000 in total prizes with cars going to both the men's and women's winners). These skiers came to lay it all on the line and it that they did.

 

The final stage featured the gruelling climb of Alpe Cermis, a 3.5-mile(6km), 1400-foot(425 meter) test that is unique in both it's length and gain in world-class cross country ski racing. What piqued the drama was the format of the final stage with the skiers heading out in order of their overall standing and with a time advantage equal to their standing on the other skiers.

 

In cross country skiing they call it a 'pursuit' race. If Gunnar is leading Thor in second place by 32 seconds going into the final stage then Gunnar starts 32 seconds ahead of Thor and so on and so forth all the way down the individual standings. So, unlike the Tor de France, the racer who crosses the finish line first on top of Alpe Cermis is the overall winner.

 

The women's race provided the most exciting moments as the second place Finnish skier, Aino-Kaisa Saarinen, made up a 40+ second deficit on her first place teammate, Virpi Kuitunen. about a mile before the top, but blew up and was passed by Kuitunen just before the finish. Both racers collapsed in the snow, but rolled over to give each other a congratulatory hug.

 

The men's race was a runaway win by Switzerland's Dario Cologna, but the best ski of the day was Italy's Giorgi di Centa who moved up from 14th to 4th overall on the brutal ascent of Alpe Cermis.

 

Thank heavens the Tour de France is only seven months away. I am not sure I can go much longer without a Tour. Hey, but don't forget about the Giro. That could be the best grand tour in 2009 and it starts in just five months.

 

Bruce

 

ps- you have to check out the TV channel NBC Universal Sports. They totally rock.

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The Pros are Looming

Posted by Bruce Hildenbrand Jan 5, 2009

It's a new year and that means that the start to the pro cycling season is just around the corner. There is a greater buzz in 2009 than in the past few years because Lance Armstrong will be back in the saddle again. No, that's not a bad country western (is it country western or country and western) lyric? The Lanceman is hitting the road and we are all coming along for the ride. But, before you get all huffy about the apparent Lance overload in the press, this blog isn't about Lance.

 

Back in the day, the pros started the season in very early February. A number of races have held the honor of ushering in the new year. The Tour of the Etruscan Coast held just down the street from Paolo Bettini's place in Tuscany was a great way to kick off the season. The Etoille de Besseges in France and the Ruta del Sol (AKA Tour of Andalucia) were also in the mix.

 

But, recently a number of events in other continents have forced the pros to log some major miles before Christmas. The Tour Down Under in Australia and the Tour of Qatar, in Asia(well the Middle East), run by ASO, the company which owns the Tour de France are becoming very popular with the pro teams.

 

If you are a top flight professional team like the boys at Garmin-Slipstream, just when you want to have your whole squad together for a pre-season camp, everybody seems to be heading more than a handful of time zones east and west. This year the Garmin-Slipstream boys have obtained(how about 'earned') a ProTour license which means they will have to be at the Tour Down Under in Oz as that is the first event of the ProTour calendar.

 

Because the Tour of Qatar is owned by our friends at ASO, even though the Garmin-Slipstream team is guaranteed a start in the Tour de France because of an agreement signed by the UCI, which owns the ProTour, and the three grand tour organizers(Giro, Tour, Vuelta) there are a lot of other ASO-owned races like Paris-Nice, Paris-Roubaix, Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Criterium International that the Garmin squad would like to be present at the start line.

 

So, when the Garmin-Slipstream team heads to Silver City, New Mexico later this month, only 12-14 of the team's 25+ riders will be there for the pre-season camp.That's just the way things work these days. The world has gotten a lot smaller when it comes to professional cycling.

 

Bruce

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