Thursday, December 28, 2006

Adcock Park records updated

Folks, I have updated the CCCC Adcock park track records. Via Paul Craft. So blame him for any errors!

An old fashioned story of drug cheating

Interesting story at of a rider (Rachel Dard, by name) caught out in several ways - back in the old days- 1976 in fact. He was apparently cheating by doping, then cheating the test by swapping urine, then cheating by pressuring the doctor to let him off by destroying his report. Upon realising he hadn't completed the job thoroughly enough he chased said doctor and pressured him again to destroy the empty vials, only to come undone when the doctor finally spilled the beans anyway. Now one must wonder exactly how many got away with it. Plenty, one suspects. But these were days before EPO, so we are talking (presumably) of steroids, cortisone and amphetamines.

Not good, certainly, and even in the amateur ranks it was common enough to know of this sort of thing. Drinks that were "special" and only for a given rider - laced with brandy or whatever alcohol they preferred, to be used prior to the sprint... although what effect that may have had is difficult to judge - maybe the effect was in their head? Or bananas with amphetamines for that lift you need, or think you need, just before a sprint or major climb. And the ever-present No-doze tabs. It can't have been just me hearing these stories, or watching riders throwing tantrums when they got the "wrong" banana... can it?

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Cronulla capers - racing in the Shire

I've always liked Cronulla - wide streets, endless beaches... and the ferry to Bundeena. The fact that it's almost on a peninsula - surrounded on 3 sides by water - Botany Bay, Port Hacking and the Pacific Ocean - has arguably preserved its charm, high rise blemishes not withstanding. Strangely it has a heavy rail line (which replaced the old steam tram, but I guess that's another story) a bit of a luxury for such a small pocket of Sydney. It's a great place to hold a bike race. And so they did.

Now it was great to get live TV coverage - but as usual we had ill-timed ad breaks when riders went away, and when we came back to the action we got a long interview with a rugby league coach. Oh well.

Great, dominating ride by Kate Nicols to win the women's crit. As for the elite male racing, it was great to see Rabo's Brown win and Disco's White making impressive attacks... but it had a feel to it, somewhat akin to "off season" or "staged". Now it may have been absolutely legit, but firstly we saw McEwen go away in a break and then get caught (so the public got to see the road sprinter in action); followed by a successful break and a home-town win (just!) by the pro sprinter. Hmmm. Local boy Whitey was 3rd. Hmmm. Now I'm convinced the locals were indeed trying - no question about it (great rides by local crit specialists Jose Rodriguez and Peter McDonald, btw) - but the pros were taking it a bit easy, surely? I have seen similar local crit fields blown apart (and lapped) by just one pro on his "off season" break... but who would profit from seeing that under the gaze of the crowds and TV cameras? No-one one, really. The pros want to put on a show - that's their job - and don't want to crush the locals just for the sake of it. And that's exactly what we got. It was great to watch, anyway.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

That crash in Surfers

When Astana rider Davis went down 5 metres shy of getting on the back of the breakaway, 2 things happened. 1, an opportunity was lost and hard work was wasted. And 2, they were relegated to the chase bunch (ie the peleton). Now from Davis and company's viewpoint it was unfair. 5m is hardly a gap at all and for riders of this caliber they would have made it across, for sure. So morally they expected to join the break after the lap out (which they duly did, but got pulled out by race officals). Now I can see their point - a crash is a race incident deserving of lap-out consideration; but equally they should have taken due care to negotiate the corner without incident, just like the breakaway did. After all, if that breakaway was able to make the corner safely at similar pace then maybe they should also expect not to be penalised for their skill in doing so.

Now it may have been a mechanical incident that brought Davis down, but it didn't look mechanical. And why didn't the chasers simply pass Davis and continue the chase? I can understand Davis taking a lap out and (in theory) rejoining the chase bunch, but what about Brown and co? I'm not sure what held them up (did they all fall, or have 'mechanicals'?) but by taking a lap out and they rejoining the breakaway that they had nearly caught seems a bit rich. 5m is still 5m guys. Now if it had been a club race we'd just get up and chase again. Or did I miss something?

Neil Stephens on an Aussie Pro team

Cyclingnews has another good interview with Neil Stephens, Aussie bike legend. I don't know Neil personally although I've ridden with him a couple of times - in a large bunch! I do know a man who claims to have helped the Stephens brothers off to their start in bike racing back in Canberra (and yes I believe him); and I also know about the Rookwood cemetery training loop, so there's scope for scandal there surely?

Maybe not. Point is that someone got Neil on a bike, riding, then racing, then winning. You and I know that winning - or at least having a sniff - is enough motivation to train and train some more. Neil's never shirked training. For me it was gentle persistence by the then Randwick Botany club president (thanks Col) that finally got me racing. Sometimes it takes some nudging. Neil surely had a host of other, different factors that got him going and kept him going. And now he's 'putting back' into the sport. I'm not a great fan of nationalism, indeed it's high on my list of the cheap tricks and bread and circuses used by politicians and power brokers to distract us from thinking straight, but I can see the excitement that will surround any 'national' team entering the pro peleton, be it Kazahk or Aussie. Anything that gets what amounts to an alternative sport (an alternative to footy and cricket!)'out there' in public view is good. If not great.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Osteopenia and cycling

You read about this quite often. Most recently Pam Hinton wrote this is

We recently completed a study comparing bone density of adult male cyclists to that of runners and triathletes. Our subjects were competitive at the regional level, ranging in age from 18-60 years. The cyclists, as a group, had lower bone density of the whole body, leg, and spine compared to the runners and triathletes. Additionally, a greater percentage had osteopenia, i.e., bone mineral density less than one standard deviation below the mean for young adult males. The two groups of athletes did not differ in age, body composition, training load or diet. My point is that low bone mineral density among cyclists is probably much more prevalent than we know.

This is not the only such study to report that cyclists as a group have a lower average bone density. Now the question is why? Firstly you'd imagine that higher-impact sports would naturally require and acquire higher bone densities - indeed you could probably guess that cyclists as a group would be one step above swimmers and well below runners on this 'impact' scale. Now I'm not sure this has been verified, but you'd certainly imagine specialist swimmers to be 'worse-off' in that respect. So why do we not read of swimmers and osteopenia? Perhaps we don't read the right reports? Or is there another factor at play here, perhaps something to do with which body types are attracted to each sport? Remember that a swimmer's mass is supported by water, so hydrodynamics and technique is probably a bigger factor than outright mass.

OK, so here's my theory: cycling actually selects for low-density bone mass. If you looked at cyclists as sub-groups I'm imagine you'd see some pretty low figures for climbers and much higher numbers for TTers and sprinters (but still less than runners). Of course any gym work would assist the sprinters keep the bone mass up, but that aside you'd expect power-to-weight ratios to select for skinny, low-bone-mass riders against the heavier guys. Why? Simply because mass that doesn't propel you forward drags you backward. So the bigger, heavier guy must lose weight in order to be competitive with the lightly framed guy or girl, or they will simply change sports. Look at cyclists in general. They aren't built like football players, are they?

So when it comes to testing cyclists as a group of course bike riders will have lower average bone mass - it's an advantage to them! Now it's also an advantage for runners, but moreso for road endurance runners. (Although the impact alone will keep that density level up rather than down.) When you mix it up with triathletes you get a range of specialities (swimmers, runners and cyclists, or combinations thereof) and thus body shapes that even out the ratios a bit. Whereas with cyclists, especially road cyclists, it comes down to low mass almost all the time. Or you just get dropped. It's not as though you can make up time on your swim or run leg, eh?

Conclusion? It's not one thing. Yes, it's a low-impact sport, so by all means do your cross-training and jumps and take calcium plus vitamin D. But don't imagine that cyclists will become heavily built, with denser bones. In fact lightly built people gravitate towards cycling because they have an advantage. We are stacking the sport with osteopenics - because they go faster! Or at least that's my (untested) theory. And I - a long-term cyclist - am osteopenic, too!

Friday, December 01, 2006

John Sunde holds back

Well not much. I haven't been to Heffron Park for 9 years or so - and haven't raced the Tuesday night group handicap for even longer - but John Sunde in today's Cyclingnews paints a melodramatic picture of cycling at its timid worst in his latest Tuesday race report. If you raced, don't read it. You may have been busting a gut, doing your best.. but not in John's eyes. You were hiding at the back. You may have been the organising club... geeeze, why bother, eh? Now John's right, of course - some riders do hide in bunches. And handicaps are not usually won by hiding. But these group handicaps lend themselves to this sort of thing, don't they? When have they been different? Some riders bide their time, hoping that the bunch gets up and that they can launch their blistering sprint to win overall. Maybe more riders are doing that now, as John attests, but I wasn't there to see. Maybe John raced on Tuesday and didn't get a place. Maybe because he has swapped clubs (a while ago now, sure) and joined St George - also the winner's club, btw - he now has an axe to grind about his old club. Maybe he just wants more people to come and have ago. What do you reckon? For myself group handicaps are either a complete joke - you may as well have scratch races - or are flat-out dangerous when faster bunches swallow up slower bunches to form massive packs (on a tight circuit!). Yes, you do improve your skills - if you survive. Anyway, it's certainly entertaining to read!