The verdict is in regarding the road rage trial of the Los Angeles emergency room doctor who was accused on six felony counts after he passed two cyclists and then slammed on his brakes. The two cyclists suffered severe injuries. Those injuries coupled with the statements made by the doctor at the incident scene and a history of previous harassment of cyclists led the Los Angeles District Attorney to decide to file criminal charges.
I have written about this incident a few times in the past several weeks:
This past Monday, a jury in Los Angeles deliberated less than a day before finding the doctor guilty on all charges. He was ordered to be held without bail and is facing up to five years in prison if the maximum sentences are imposed.
The news of the guilty verdict should give other District Attorneys the hope that they can also prosecute and win road rage trials where cyclists are the victims. In the past these cases were considered un-winnable because of the difficulty in proving that the car driver acted with intent to harm when a suspected road rage altercation between a car and driver occurred.
While this is undoubtedly a landmark trial with respect to road rage against cyclists it must be remembered that cyclists bear some responsibility. It is vitally important that when bike riders are harassed, either physically or verbally, by car drivers that they try to maintain calm and avoid any unnecessary altercations.
Just when you thought the pro rider transfer season couldn't get any weirder, it appears that Cadel Evans has left his Belgian Silence-Lotto team to head over to the USA/Swiss Team BMC. Evans had one year left on his contract with Silence-Lotto, but he was somehow able to get released from the service of his now-former team.
Given Evans' forgettable performance at the Tour de France, this might not seem to be all that newsworthy, but you might remember that just under two months ago, he won the World Road Championships in Mendrisio Switzerland. So, BMC is not only getting the plucky Australian, they are also getting the rainbow jersey. It is most likely a bit of coincidence that the rider who wore the rainbow jersey before Cadel, Allesandro Ballan, will be riding alongside Evans at Team BMC.
Of course, we will never know why Evans changed teams. Rumour has it that Team BMC, which is owned my multi-millionaire Andy Riis, basically had no budget when it came to signing riders for 2010 so there was a lot of money being offered to the top pros to come to BMC. This might seem a bit sleazy, but that's how it is done in the pro ranks, especially if you are a team like BMC and are looking to move up to the next level in the pro ranks.
Probably the biggest affect of bringing Cadel to Team BMC is that the Tour de France is now a real possibility. Team BMC is a Pro Continental, rather than Pro Tour, team which means they are eligible for a wild card birth to participate in the Tour. Last year, they showed well at the Dauphine Libere. With the likes of Evans, who has twice finished second at the Tour, Team BMC should be a strong candidate for a wild card spot.
If Team BMC does get into the Tour does the squad have enough talent to be able to support Evans, especially in the high mountains? All of their best climbers have never ridden the Tour which probably means that BMC team management might need to get out the checkbook and go shopping for a few more uphill specialists with some Tour experience. George Hincapie, who comes to Team BMC from Columbia-HTC can clearly be the road captain, but the mountains are another story.
Of course, at this point it is only speculation, but until the pros turn a pedal in anger in 2010, that's about all we can do.
Before anyone thinks I am dragging religion into this piece, I guess the title should really be "A Holey Bicycle." What prompted this whole subject was the shock and horror I experienced when I took the bottom bracket out of my bike and found that the aluminum cups which hold the bearings and axle were heavily corroded and pitted. It looked like a battle zone in there and I was not pleased.
No, I don't believe that alien intruders had somehow invaded my bottom bracket. Clearly there was water and some other interactions going on which could ultimately have caused a catastrophic failure if the corrosive process had gone on much longer.
The fix was a bit complex, but luckily I have some good mechanics as friends and they helped set my mind at ease. Props to Neil Macc, head of service at Palo Alto Bicycles, who drilled a hole in my bottom bracket shell to allow any water which might accumulate to drain out. Also, it was important, being a titanium frame, that a 'Ti prep' compound be placed on the aluminum cups and titanium frame to prevent any corrosion.
The big picture in all of this is that routine maintenance of your bicycle is pretty critical to avoid both premature wear and/or catastrophic failure of your frame and its components. Some people think it is a badge of honor to have a bike which looks like it was just pulled from a mud bog or tar pit. But, if you are like me and always seem to be heading out on some epic ride, you just cannot afford to have a catastrophic failure.
Not only would a catastrophic failure potentially ruin a big ride you had been training for, but if you ride in some very remote places like I do, having your bike break takes on a whole different meaning. That might sound a bit extreme, but having to spend a night out on a lonely dirt trail can give you a very different perspective.
As we get ready to go off of Daylight Savings Time it might be a good time to take your bike into your local bike shop(LBS) for that end-of-the-season tune-up. Some people may decide to wait until we go back on Daylight Savings Time and do a spring tune-up. Whichever you decide, the key is to get regular maintenance on your bike. You do it for your car. Why treat your bike any differently.
There are several items worth adding. First and foremost is that Lance Armstrong has apparently made his decision whether to ride the AToC or the Giro which had conflicting dates. The good news is that Lance has said that he will be on the start line in Nevada City when the AToC begins on Sunday May 16th.
Lance's participation in the AToC is a huge boost to the race which has been extremely popular, but has yet to show a profit for AEG, the event's owner. Having Lance on board will give the AToC it's best chance at success. Rumor has it that if the race doesn't show a profit this year, AEG may decide to either sell the race or disband it.
Another interesting observation is that there will be a lot of climbing and, finally, a mountain-top finish. The queen stage of the race is stage 6 from Pasadena to Big Bear Lake which is rumored to contain over 13,000 feet of climbing. Unfortunately, the Station Fire, which ravaged a portion of the San Gabriel mountains may prevent the stage from climbing up to the Angeles Crest Highway.
However, if that hurdle is cleared, look for the very challenging stage to begin with a massive, 5000+ foot climb from Azusa on Highway 39 to the Angeles Crest Highway. This ascent, known locally as 'Cloudburst', is very similar in length and percent grade with the big, legendary climbs of the Tour de France like the Col du Tourmalet or Col du Glandon.
Once the race reaches the Angeles Crest Highway, there is a about 1500'-2000' of up-and-down ridge riding on the way to Wrightwood. If the race descends from Wrightwood all the way down to San Bernadino, the final ascent to Big Bear Lake is 5000+ feet. Though the grade of this climb is a bit shallower than 'Cloudburst' look for major fireworks on the long grind uphill to the finish.
With a 30-mile, flat time trial the next day in Los Angeles and a tough circuit race featuring the 2-mile, 10% Rock Store climb the final three days in the 2010 AToC will be nothing short of spectacular. Three-time AToC champion Levi Leipheimer is clearly one of the favorites, but with the switch to a May time frame he might find a few more competitors with potential race-winning form. On paper it looks to be a very exciting race.
The long-awaited trial of the former ER doctor who crashed two cyclists in Los Angeles is underway and it makes for good reading/viewing. From a process point of view, it is very interesting to see how the doctor's defense attorney paints a picture of the cyclists to the jury. Clearly, he is trying to win the case for his client, but we can learn much about what the attorney perceives as the correct way to portray a cyclist to a jury.
Just to refresh your memory, in 2008, two cyclists were descending Mandeville Canyon Road in Los Angeles when a car pulled up alongside the riders and a heated discussion ensued. Following the discussion, the car passed the riders, pulled in front of them and the driver slammed on the brakes. One cyclist impacted the back of the car and hit the pavement suffering a separated shoulder. The other cyclist went through the rear window of the car almost severing his nose and requiring 90 stitches to re-attach it.
After this incident, it came out that there had been several other incidents, on the same road, between cyclists and this particular driver.
What is interesting to me about this case, besides the outcome, is how the defense attorney is portraying the cyclists to the jury. This could give a good indication on how we cyclists are perceived by the car-driving public. This could be of great benefit to us cyclists and our relationship with car drivers.
The executive summary is that the defense attorney has tried to portray cyclists as not very skilled and who could fall over and crash without any outside influence. I haven't yet seen the attorney try to portray cyclists as rogue warriors who disrespect laws and authority which may mean that this type of behavior is not pertinent to this particular case, but I was fully expecting it.
Fixie Fever has descended on an urban center near you. In places like San Francisco, Los Angeles and Boulder fixed gear bikes are all the rage and the latest craze for all those who are trying to be non-conforming.
For those either into simplicity or with poor mechanical skills, I can understand the lure of a bike with only one gear and no shifters or derailleurs. The single speed craze descended on the mountain bike scene about eight years ago and was met with a similar response.
There is something to be said for not having to bother with making decisions when you are out riding your bike. Unfortunately, as a cyclist in a world full of 3000 pound cars, tuning out is a very dodgy proposition. So, even if you are riding a fixie, please don't tune out the world around you. That is a very quick way to get hurt.
And speaking of safety, one of the "trendy" (read "peer pressure") aspects of fixie riding is to ride without brakes. Yeah, you can skid to a stop if you are very skilled and the terrain is amenable, but for most fixie riders and the terrain where they live, at least a front rim brake is a very good idea.
If you look back a bit in the history of fixed gear riding, it was popularized by bike racers during the off season as they looked to improve their pedaling motion. Yes, the best bike racers in the world were the first fixie riders and they always rode with at least a front rim brake. Why then, has it become so "trendy" (read "peer pressure") for fixie riders to ride without brakes?
I don't really know, but what I do know is the increasing number of reports from my biking friends in urban areas of near misses by cars of fixie riders who were unable to stop their bikes effectively and came close to being hit by cars who had the right of way, most notably at intersections.
Yeah, it might be perceived by some to be cool to ride a fixie, but please do it responsibly. The life you save may be your own.
In the 100 year history of the Giro d'Italia only one American has ever stood on the top step of the podium. In 1988, Andy Hampsten became the first, and only, US rider to win the pink jersey or 'maglia rosa.' Not only did Hampsten create cycling history as the first American winner, but he took the leader's jersey in a snowstorm on the Gavia Pass on a stage that has become legendary.
That stage on the Gavia Pass is known as 'the day strong men cried' because the brutal conditions forced many of the best professional riders in the world to crack and seek shelter from the storm in their team cars. That wouldn't seem to be a bad thing, but the race was still in progress. Snow fell heavily on the ascent of the 8500' pass, but it was the raging blizzard on the descent that separated the men from the boys.
Andy Hampsten didn't win the stage that day. He finished seven seconds behind Erik Bruekink. But, he won two other stages and held off Breukink on the final day's time trial stage held in pouring rain. It was that kind of grand tour and Hampsten's was a well-deserved win.
Now, you can own a slice of history by purchasing a newly designed poster featuring a photo of Andy climbing the Gavia Pass in the snow. Next time you are on the fence about going out for a ride in less-than-ideal conditions you can look at Andy's face and hair caked with snow and realize that the weather outside isn't too bad. Check out www.cinghiale.com for details on ordering.
In early October, Levi Leipheimer hosted a Gran Fondo in his adopted home town of Santa Rosa, California. For those of you wondering what a gran fondo is, it's an Italian phrase which roughly translates to "big ride." Gran fondos are all the rage in Italy with as many as 10,000 cyclists showing up for the most popular events. It's a big deal in Europe and it's about time that these events migrated west across the great pond.
This past March, the Gran Fondo San Diego(www.granfondosandiego.com) was the first gran fondo to be held on American soil. Since then, gran fondo fever has hit the states with the Levi Leipheimer event being the next in line and a whole bunch of events scheduled for 2010. If you haven't experienced a gran fondo, you will have plenty of opportunities to do so next year.
Levi's event(www.levisgranfondo.com) featured a picolo(25-mile), medio(63-mile) and gran(103-mile) fondo routes with the 103-mile course following one of his favorite training rides. King's Ridge is one of the most beautiful roads in Northern California; it was hard to find a cyclist complaining about the challenging climbing and stunning views. Both the 'gran' and 'medio' fondos finished with the short, but steep, ascent of Coleman Valley Road, which was featured in several editions of the Tour of California.
Undoubtedly, the most heartening aspect of the Levi Leipheimer Gran Fondo was the outpouring of support from the community of Santa Rosa. It seemed like half the city came out to either volunteer for support or cheer on the riders. Levi has definitely made an impact on this community. His three wins at the Tour of California and his efforts to bring that race to Santa Rosa have endeared him to the public and the gran fondo offered Levi's fans an opportunity to show their appreciation.
Whether you go to San Diego, Santa Rosa or parts east, if you haven't ridden a gran fondo it's definitely worth checking out.
There are a lot of 24 hour mountain bike races on the US calendar, but the 24 Hours of Moab is something special. For one, it's Moab. Other than maybe Marin County, California, there is no other location on this planet that is more synonymous with mountain biking than Moab. The Slickrock Trail, and the slickrock in general, is known world-wide and attracts off-road cyclists from around the globe to ride its rough surface up almost impossible steeps and down improbable drops.
Another factor is the quality of riders who participate. As the organizers like to say, the best mountain bike race in Colorado is located in Utah which is the quick way of saying that a large proportion of teams come from the Colorado Front Range and also the Rocky Mountains. But, that isn't to say that other states aren't well represented as well. At the 2009 edition racers came from Utah, Arizona, Colorado, California, Washington, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico, Kansas, South Dakota, North Dakota, Texas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvannia, Tennessee, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, New York, etc, etc, Not to mention Denmark, Norway, Germany. Well, you get the idea.
With such an world renown location the race atttracts a quality field, just about every top North American professional rider has made an appearance in Moab. The 2009 edition was no exception with six time 24 Hour Solo World Champion Chris Eatough, four time 24 Hour Solo World Champion Rebecca Rush and three time 24 Hour Solo National Champion Pua Sawicki just a few of the stars in attendance.
In the men's solo event, Chris Eatough was the heavy pre-race favorite, but a bout of the flu caused him to pull out before the start. That left the door wide open for 2008 Moab winner Josh Tostado to repeat his victory from last year and also pull on the stars and stripes jersey for his first ever National Championship.
Pua Sawicki built a huge lead in the women's solo race, but a mysterious stomach problem forced her to retire in the wee hours of the morning. First-time 24 hour racer Ezster Horanyi, from Boulder, Colorado, took the win and the stars and stripes jersey as well.
While much of the focus of the race is on the solo competitors, over 380 teams in about 20 categories participated. Over 1200 total athletes tackled the slickrock and sand which define the Behind-the-Rocks course. It was a great event for all the participants and their support crews. Yes, the 24 Hours of Moab really is special.
While bike racing and baseball are both sports, besides that they have very little in common. You rarely see a pro cyclist scratching himself in public and when the rain comes pouring down in a bike race, they don't pull a tarp over the roadway and let the competitors head to the clubhouse to get warm and dry. But, if the stars align and some interesting developments actually develop, bike racing may soon resemble baseball.
Well, to be honest, it is only a momentary resemblance, but if things work out it might just be one of the most interesting happenings in pro cycling since some washed up, has been from Texas announced his return to cycling last summer (hint: Bret Favre lives in Louisiana and his cycling prowess is questionable).
The lineup of dominoes starts with Team Astana. The beleaguered Kazakhastan squad is hoping to get its Pro Tour license renewed for 2010. With the best stage race rider in the world, Alberto Contador, on the team the renewal may seem like a slam dunk. However, Lance Armstrong and Astana Team Director Johan Bruyneel left the team in 2009 and the squad is now being run by Alexandre Vinokourov.
You might remember 'Vino' from his 'exit stage right' performance at the 2007 Tour de France when he tested positive for blood doping. He served a two year suspension and is now back in the sport. But, as we have seen with other cyclists who were caught up in the web of doping, the sport of cycling sometimes finds it hard to forgive certain cyclists. Vino appears to be one such rider.
There is a rumour that because of Vino Astana will not get a Pro Tour license in 2010 setting up a very interesting baseball-like chain of events.
The first event in the chain is that when Astana does not get a Pro Tour license, Alberto Contador will be able to break his contract and become a free agent. The second event is that the new British professional squad, Team Sky, has been salivating over Garmin-Slipstream rider Bradley Wiggins. Not only did Wiggins turn a bunch of heads in finishing fourth at the 2009 Tour de France, but he's British (nothing he can do about that) and that's a very advantageous combination for Team Sky.
The third part of this scenario is that Wiggins has a buy out clause in his contract reportedly valued at $7-8 million US dollars. The last part of this whole chain of events is that Jonathan Vaughters, the head honcho at Garmin-Slipstream, wants Alberto Contador on his team in a very bad way (well, who wouldn't).
So here's how things could work out. Astana doesn't get a Pro Tour license and Alberto Contador breaks his contract. Jonathan Vaughters sells Bradley Wiggins to Team Sky to raise the money necessary to hire Alberto Contador. The only thing missing from this scenario is the 'player to be named later.'
Will this whole secenario play out? Who knows? Both Contador and Wiggins are exceptional riders and wherever they end up, they will continue to excite us all with their exploits. But, it is fun to play a little 'what if?'
I had the opportunity to save a person's life last week. It's kind a a bittersweet situation. On one hand, you hope that people don't need to be saved, but on the other hand, it feels pretty good to save a life. I was out riding my bike coming out of the Santa Cruz Mountains into the town of Palo Alto. When eastbound Sand Hill Road crosses Highway 280, the single lane turns into two lanes. That might sound like a good thing for cyclists, but in this instance, it's not.
The problem is that the new lane comes in from the right as it is the off ramp from Highway 280, one of the major freeways serving the San Francisco Bay Area. So, cyclists heading eastbound on Sand Hill Road suddenly find themselves in the left lane when the off ramp turns into the right lane. I don't know about you, but I don't want to be stuck in the left lane of a road that has a 50mph speed limit. When the right lane begins, I want to move over to the right side of the road to stay out of the way of traffic.
Unfortunately, if a car is coming off the off ramp of Highway 280 as I am trying to move into the right hand lane we have a conflict. The powers that be who created this situation anticipated this potential conflict so they put a "yield" sign for the cars coming off the off ramp. Unfortunately, most cars are traveling at 50+mph coming off the freeway don't see the sign and hence, there always seems to be a bit of confusion when the a car and a bicycle try to occupy the right hand lane at the same time.
Which brings me to what happened last week. I was heading eastbound on Sand Hill Road and it being rush hour, I was hyper-sensitive to any potential bicycle-car conflict as I approached the aforementioned off ramp/new lane. Unfortunately, the cyclist I was catching up to in front of me seemed to be in a daze. I looked to the right to see an SUV barreling off the off ramp at 50+mph seemingly oblivious to the fact that he was supposed to yield to any traffic coming into his lane.
The inattentive cyclist was slowly moving over into the right lane directly into the path of the SUV driver. A split second before the cyclist became road food I yelled at the top of my lungs 'Dude, watch out for the car.' The cyclist snapped out of his fog, looked over and straightened his right-trending trajectory just enough to allow the SUV to slide past. A fatal collision was narrowly averted.
The SUV driver slowed and I caught up to him. He told me he thought he didn't have to worry about the cyclist because he thought we had our own bike lane (there is no bike lane). I caught up to the cyclist and he thanked me for waking him up.
The moral to this story is that we cyclists may have rights, but we may also be dead right. It is important that we cyclists are always attentive to what is happening on the road and we use our situational awareness to realize when there are dangerous situations developing. Yes, the SUV driver would have been at fault if the collision had occurred, but the cyclist should have realized the dangerous nature of that particular situation and have been more attentive.
I posted my best guesses on the proposed route for the 2010 Amgen Tour of California, but speculation is just that speculation. I had the opportunity to speak with one of the organizers and he was kind enough to fill me in. BTW, the official announcement of the route is scheduled for October 22.
The first stage of the race will be a point-to-point course starting in Nevada City in the Sierra Foothills and finishing in downtown Sacramento. Stage 2 will start in Davis and travel to Levi Leipheimer's hometown of Santa Rosa. The course will be lengthened from last year's route to include a spin by Bodega Bay which also means that the steep Coleman Valley climb may also be on the program.
Stage 3 is San Francisco to Santa Cruz which is similar to last year's stage, but it will probably not cross over the Golden Gate Bridge.
Stage 4 is San Jose to Modesto, most likely along the same route as was used in 2009 when Thor Hushovd claimed Cervelo Test Team's first ever win.
The details of Stage 5 are a bit sketchy, though it will finish in Bakersfield. Race organizers would like to put the actual finish line at Bakersfield College which sits on top of a bluff and would allow for several challenging finishing circuits once the race reaches town.
Stage 6 appears to be the mountain-top finish at Big Bear Lake. Stage 7 will be a flat, 30-mile individual time trial in the Los Angeles Area.
The final stage, Stage 8, will be very difficult. It starts with a descent from the Woodland Hills area down Encinal Road then a climb back up Decker Canyon Road. After that, multiple circuits of a local loop which includes the Rock Store Hill, a very steep climb that ascends 1000 feet in 2 miles, will be ridden before finally finishing in Thousand Oaks, the hometown of the race's primary sponsor, Amgen.
Previously, I reported that Yosemite Valley was on the agenda. Unfortunately, the Park Superintendent decided not to allow the race to come into Yosemite, because the event offers prize money and there is a rule prohibiting races of such type in the park.
Details of the route for the 2010 Amgen Tour of California(ATOC) are leaking out bit by bit though the official announcement is scheduled for sometime next week (October 6?). As was announced earlier this year, the race will move from February to May with the 16th to the 23rd being the proposed dates.
It appears that the race will start in Sacramento, but unlike last year when the stage was a very short prologue, the course will most likely be a road race up into the Sierra foothills that begins and ends near the Capitol.
The next stage is rumoured to include Levi Leipheimer's home town of Santa Rosa.Given that Santa Rosa is over 100 miles from Sacramento, the stage will most likely finish in Levi's hood, a potential start city could again be Davis, the new home of the US Bicycling Hall of Fame.
It is not clear if the race will visit the San Francisco Bay Area, but what seems to be clear is that Yosemite Valley will be on the agenda. One proposed route could be from Merced to the Yosemite on Hiway 140 and then a return on Hiway 41 to a finish in Fresno or Clovis, where there was a stage finish last year.
The 2010 race route was supposed to be announced just before Interbike last week, however, last minute logistical hassles, mostly like dealing with the race entering Yosemite National Park, caused a postponement until next week.
The town of Bakersfield will host either a stage start or more likely a stage finish as the Rabobank Arena, owned by the race's third most important sponsor behind Amgen and Herbalife, is located there.
Another stage finish is scheduled for downtown LA at the Staples Center which is owned by AEG the owner the Amgen Tour of California and is the home of the LA Lakers.
The first ever mountain top finish for the Tour of California is penciled in for the village of Big Bear Lake in the San Bernadino Mountains. Sitting at 6000' above sea level, any route up to this ski resort town will include a major climb.
The usually decisive time trial stage will follow the finish in Big Bear Lake and is slated to be a 29-mile test in Venice, just west of LA, on the Pacific Coast.
The race is not scheduled to visit the San Diego area in 2010; the final stage will most likely end in Thousand Oaks the hometown of the race's primary sponsor Amgen.
So, there you have it. Mix speculation with rumour, add just a hint of fact and you have the route of the 2010 Amgen Tour of California. Well, maybe!?!?
So Cadel Evans is now the World Road Champion. Cadel and the Australian team rode a great tactical race with Evans only putting his nose into the wind in the final few miles. Previously, I wrote that I hoped that Cadel's most important win would take the pressure off and allow him to be more positive with journalists and fans. Well, one thing I forgot to mention is a little thing my friend Lindsay reminded me about which is the curse of the rainbow jersey.
Winning the World Road Championships carries with it the privilege of wearing a rainbow jersey for the next year. The jersey calls you out as the reigning World Champion. For every rider incapable of winning the Tour de France, winning the World Road Championships is the greatest achievement of their career (OK, maybe Paris-Roubaix is up there,too). Unfortunately, there seems to be a bit of history to support the fact that for many winners of the World Road Championships, their winning ways stop when they pull on the rainbow jersey.
That's why they call it the curse of the rainbow jersey. You win the biggest race of your career then spend the next twelve months trying to explain to journalists and the public that you are still a deserving champion even though you haven't won anything since the year before.
Which brings us to the Cadel dilemma. While I was hoping that this win would turn Cadel's whining ways into winning ways, given the curse, it appears that next year may prove to be a, well, um, uh, bit of a down year. Clearly, the curse may not affect Cadel, but if it does, how will it affect Cadel? We can all get frustrated when things don't go our way. Hopefully, Cadel can defeat the curse and all will be smiles in 2010.