Saturday, June 26, 2010

It was inevitable - iPhone + iBike = iBike Dash

If I could stomach paying through the nose for an iPhone this would be a convincing combination. The iPhone has the hardware needed, just add the iBike software for the most complete GPS and power 'bike computer' you could imagine. Allowing for the fact that it still back-calculates power from measured variables of course. Still brilliant. Oh yeah, I own an iBike, but no I won't be buying an iPhone just because it's funky.   

iBike Dash Cycling Computer | iBike Dash + Power
Expertly equipped with both the revolutionary cycling computer functions of the iBike Dash and the next generation of power measurement technology of the iBike power meter line, the iBike Dash + Power is the ultimate control panel for those who take their cycling and cycling fitness seriously.
Learn More

Friday, June 25, 2010

The decline and rise of global cycle sport - an interesting quote

For 20 or 30 years at the beginning of the 20th Century cycle racing generally - both road and track - was by some reckoning either the top global sport or one of a select bunch of contenders. Bikes were everywhere in those days and races broke out both on velodromes and between towns. The sport's decline, especially in the US and Australia only set in as the motor car dropped in price and roads were "improved" to suit that new fangled transport. 

PezCycling News - What's Cool In Pro Cycling
“You’ve got to realize 100 years ago, or 90 or 80 years ago… bicycle racing was the No. 1 sport in the United States, and it was by far the richest sport in the world,” Eustice said. “The American version of the sport was glamour. It was speed. It was showbiz; indoor races in Madison Square Garden. I mean, the riders made enormous amounts of money…. It was this crazy nightclub sports atmosphere.”

A roundup of Le Tour predictions - who gets it wrong this year?

It's hard to ignore Contador, even if he's likely to start a bit "fresher" than he'd like after a recent respiratory infection. Andy Schleck? He's got to be a contender, but we haven't really seen enough to know where he's at. Brother Frank is firing, so presumably the old 1-2 will be in action and working in Andy's favour. Menchov and Sastre haven't shown much lately, but they'll be in the mix. Evans and Basso will be super-fit but tired after the Giro. They may shine at first but be ground away as time passes. Or not. It's hard to tell until the "hard" stages reveal themselves. One bad day and your whole Tour can be wrecked, so it's really down to minimising losses - or hiding your weakness behind a strong team - on those "off days".

There are others who could surprise, old stagers like Vino or ever-hopefuls like Rogers. More than likely it'll be the strongest, most motivated team that gets their best all-rounder over the line. Contador may have some troubles in that respect, as may Evans. Basso and team look strong, as does Rogers. Whilst Armstrong looks too old on paper he has a good team of old stagers and the tactical nous to take his chance when it comes.

Once again we can't really tell until the wheels - and the dice - roll.

Here are some prognostications from around and about:  

SBS: Tour de France 2010
This year should also see a few former top GC contenders eclipsed into also ran status as a new younger cohort make their move in the era of Contador.

And as I look at my favoured names I'm struggling to find a place for Lance Armstrong anywhere in my top ten.

I see Alberto Contador, Andy Schleck, Ivan Basso, Roman Kreuzinger, Cadel Evans, Christian Vande Velde, Frank Schleck, Levi Leipheimer, Robert Gesink, Bradley Wiggins, Andreas Kloden, Samuel Sanchez, Alexandre Vinokourov, Michael Rogers, Denis Menchov, and Luis Leon Sanchez as all having a solid claim to a top ten spot.

Not that Armstrong can't perform. His Tour de Suisse performance shows that on the right day and circumstances he can, but the head of this years field looks like a competitive one.
SBS: Tour de France 2010: Reshuffling the 2009 deck
If I were to take the top 10 riders who finished the 2009 Tour de France, placed each name on a card, shuffled them around a little – or maybe not at all – added one or two names, and told you this would be final classification on July 25 this year, I imagine few would bat an eyelid.

This is not to say the 2010 Grande Boucle will not be a spectacular one – it is the Tour after all!

But what I don’t see is a revelation popping up near or on the podium when the peloton reaches the Champs Élysées, like Bradley Wiggins did last year. Or a surprise winner, like Carlos Sastre in 2008.

The ‘one or two names’ not in last year’s top-10 that I’m referring to would include Levi Leipheimer, who last year was forced to abandon after breaking his wrist and may be – or become – RadioShack’s main man this time round.

Cadel Evans and my dark horse podium pick Michael Rogers, who deservedly finds himself back to his best and by simply doing his own thing, may well profit from the tactics played by Astana, Saxo Bank and RadioShack.
Tour De France: 10 Riders Who Need A Result |
As the Tour de France approaches, Cyclingnews takes a look at 10 riders who need a result to save their season.

Dental issues, illness, crashes and accusations have left some of the sport’s biggest names in the shadows and out of the results. It could be because some of their careers are nearing an end or simply because they’ve said they’d do better but failed to deliver. One way or another, these guys will be looking for a strong performance in France.
Top Twelve Tour Contenders |
With less than three weeks to go until the Grand Départ in Rotterdam, the 97th Tour de France is shaping up to be one the best. With one of the most spectacular routes and a host of big names riders set to start, Cyclingnews casts an eye on the 12 most likely to figure in the overall.
2010 Tour De France - Predictions
2010 Tour De France - Predictions
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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

What I'll be watching in July... Le Tour day by day

Apart from the usual coverage there are some websites below worth keeping an eye on, especially if you otherwise miss (or can't get) the live TV coverage.

Tour de France 2010 - The Tour 2010
Stage Type Date Start and Finish Distance Details
P Prologue Saturday 3 July Rotterdam > Rotterdam 8.9 km
1 Plain Sunday 4 July Rotterdam > Bruxelles 223.5 km
2 Hilly Monday 5 July Bruxelles > Spa 201 km
3 Plain Tuesday 6 July Wanze > Arenberg Porte du Hainaut 213 km
4 Plain Wednesday 7 July Cambrai > Reims 153.5 km
5 Plain Thursday 8 July Épernay > Montargis 187.5 km
6 Plain Friday 9 July Montargis > Gueugnon 227.5 km
7 Medium mountains Saturday 10 July Tournus > Station des Rousses 165.5 km
8 High Mountains Sunday 11 July Station des Rousses > Morzine-Avoriaz 189 km
R Rest Day Monday 12 July Morzine-Avoriaz
9 High Mountains Tuesday 13 July Morzine-Avoriaz > Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne 204.5 km
10 Medium mountains Wednesday 14 July Chambéry > Gap 179 km
11 Plain Thursday 15 July Sisteron > Bourg-lès-Valence 184.5 km
12 Hilly Friday 16 July Bourg-de-Péage > Mende 210.5 km
13 Plain Saturday 17 July Rodez > Revel 196 km
14 High Mountains Sunday 18 July Revel > Ax 3 Domaines 184.5 km
15 High Mountains Monday 19 July Pamiers > Bagnères-de-Luchon 187.5 km
16 High Mountains Tuesday 20 July Bagnères-de-Luchon > Pau 199.5 km
R Rest Day Wednesday 21 July Pau
17 High Mountains Thursday 22 July Pau > Col du Tourmalet 174 km
18 Plain Friday 23 July Salies-de-Béarn > Bordeaux 198 km
19 Individual time-trial Saturday 24 July Bordeaux > Pauillac 52 km
20 Plain Sunday 25 July Longjumeau > Paris Champs-Élysées 102.5 km

Tour de France Live Video Streaming, Photos, Results - Guide to Pro Cycling Live Race Coverage - Watch Cycling TV |

Tour de France Live Streaming Video - The Guide to Pro Cycling Live Race Coverage - Watch Cycling TV - Photos, results, wallpaper, news, commentary

2010 Tour de France Route Map, Stages, Preview, Updates, Etape du Tour
2010 Interactive Maps and Google Earth file
June 21 update: Interactive stage maps with associated kml and gpx files for each stage and an overall kmz Google Earth file are now available. See the 'preview' links in the race summary table (right) for the interactive stage maps, kml and gpx files
Tour de France 2010 route mapped - Podium Cafe
Tour de France 2010 route mapped
Swisscheese_tiny by tedvdw on Jun 21, 2010 11:36 AM EDT Comment 42 comments

The Tour organisation traditionally provides quite some detail on the route they are taking, as they did for the 2010 route. I was able to use that info to map all of the 21 stages (including the prologue in Rotterdam, Netherlands) via the Bikemap mapping service. Quite an enjoyable process for me and of course I learned a lot about the route. For instance, stage 18 to Bordeaux looked deadly boring on first glance, but it turns out they just about take the smallest roads of the whole Tour that day. Probably beautiful to ride there yourself! After the jump I embedded the map for possibly decisive stage 15 to Bagnères-de-Luchon (Edit: alas, that didn't work!), linked to the other stages and put up an all-in-one download link for use in Google Earth.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Another ride with Lance...

Another day, another ride. With Bill Skinner this time. It just sounds like any training ride, really. And those long lonely 6 hour rides? Don't we all miss 'em! If only my 4 year old could keep up on the hills ;-)

Sitting In
“The past four years,” he told me at the end of his season, talking about his retirement, “there were a lot of times when I’d be doing stuff but saying to myself, ‘What I really wish is that I was on a bike ride right now.’ What I have to get back to this year—I’m just talking to myself—is doing long rides alone. I did long rides in 2009 but very few alone. I’m always around people—teammates, fans, sponsors, donors—always surrounded by people. That time, a two-hour ride or a four-hour ride, a six-, eight-hour ride, that time alone is invaluable. In the old days I did most of my training alone. And that is probably the single most important thing I missed.”

The power of the Cycling Gods - I'd take a meeting with Liggett over Lance, though

The ride with Lance story is quite charming, really. But I prefer the meeting with Phil ;-)

A ride with Lance « Marijolamarche's Blog
Walking towards Lance, I understood what he meant. He exchanged a few words with Kevin, his agent-bodyguard, who turned to me : « Stay here, don’t move. » I heard Lance looking at Quick, asking Kevin: »a picture with the dog? ». « Yes, the dog and the girl ».
Slowly, he came over, stopped by my side and starting peting my 4 legged son. He was very mellow, standing next to me, but at the same time quite distant. During the shot I just thanked him for taking the time. I had a weird feeling that the shot was taking forever. Time had stopped. Then I just walked away, not wanting to over do it.

Phil Liggett - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Phil Liggett MBE (born 1943) is a British commentator and journalist who covers professional cycling. He currently commentates on the Tour de France and bike races for Versus and ITV. He is a former amateur cyclist and received a professional contract in 1967; instead of turning professional he saw a future in sports journalism after he wrote a few articles in cycling magazines about races in which he participated.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Hardly a surprise, but if you want to burn fat well - exercise more

Well what a surprsie. It's not proof per se but it does indicate that the fitter you become the more likely you are to burn (rather than store) fat. And that process is cumulative - ie a good pattern of exercise behaviour fosters a positive feed-back loop of fat-burning potential.

Phys Ed: A Workout for Your Bloodstream - Well Blog -
What they found was that after 10 minutes of treadmill jogging or stationary-bicycle riding, the healthy adults showed enormous changes in the metabolites within their bloodstream, as did the less-fit group, although to a lesser degree. In particular, certain metabolites associated with fat burning were elevated. The fit adults showed increases of almost 100 percent in many of these molecules. The less-fit group had increases in those same metabolites of about 50 percent. As for the marathoners, their blood contained up to 10 times more of the fat-burning markers.

The lactic acid myth, massage and other contradictions

I never get a massage post-exercise - and yes, I have tried it. Like "warming up" by stretching it just didn't seem to make much sense (instead I warm up by gradually increasing my exercise intensity from a low level). Many others report - or at least hold - a different view. And the article quoted below may help explain at least why some myths persist and why sometimes we do things that we don't actually understand...

So does massage reduce the lactic acid build up? No. But then again why is lactic acid painted as a 'bad guy'? It probably isn't.

Phys Ed: Does Massage Help After Exercise? - Well Blog -
Lactic acid is widely believed by many of us outside academia to cause muscle fatigue and soreness after exercise. Physiologists are more skeptical. Recent studies have found few negative effects from lactic acid and, in fact, have shown that it provides fuel for tired muscles. But the studies are not definitive, so “it’s still theoretically possible” that lactic acid has some impact on fatigue

Phys Ed: Does Massage Help After Exercise? - Well Blog -
As a “direct result” of the lessened blood flow to their muscles, Mr. Tschakovsky says, the volunteers being massaged wound up with far less lactic acid removal than the groups who recovered passively or actively. Massage “actually impairs removal of lactic acid from exercised muscle,” Mr. Tschakovsky and his colleagues wrote in their published study.

Phys Ed: Does Massage Help After Exercise? - Well Blog -
“This experiment had a specific aim, to see whether massage improved blood flow and lactic-acid removal in an exercised muscle. It did not. That does not mean massage doesn’t have other beneficial effects. We just don’t necessarily know what they are yet.”

Spot the contradiction - Kirchen has "heart attack", put in coma but "infarction ruled out". Huh?

There's clearly something seriously wrong with Kim Kirchen, bad enough to be put into an induced coma. But the reports leaking out are careless and contradictory. That's the nature of news - reactive and uninformed speculation first, then (with any luck) a careful reappraisal and statement of the facts. Hopefully this is a recoverable situation for Kim Kirchen.

More strangely, there is a report that Kirchen had "experienced similar problems in the spring". Surely not too similar, or he'd have been advised to rest at the very least. More to come out here I'm sure.

Cyclist Kirchen in coma after heart attack -
LIESTAL, Switzerland, June 19 (UPI) -- Cyclist Kim Kirchen of Luxembourg was in a medically induced coma Saturday, hours after suffering a heart attack while riding in the Tour of Switzerland.

Kirchen was stricken Friday night, hospitalized at Zurich University Clinic and put into a coma, where he will remain for 24 hours while being evaluated, Team Katusha said in a statement.

An infarction and thrombosis have been ruled out in preliminary tests, the statement said.
Cyclist kept in a coma after heart attack - Cycling - Yahoo! Sports
“We were all together when it happened yesterday evening at the hotel,” Katusha sports director Serge Parsani said. “He felt really bad and we immediately sent him to the hospital.”

Parsani said Kirchen experienced similar problems in the spring.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Riders send a message to Cavendish after his crash-thru sprint (zagging all over the road) followed by a dummy-spit

Sprinters tend to be fiery, edgy characters but they usually have at least some sense of self-preservation, especially when they reach pro level. But they (and we) all make mistakes. When there's something at stake - like a sniff of victory - sprinters tend to throw caution to the wind and go for gaps that perhaps aren't there or make moves they regret later. McEwen himself has been accused of recklessness in the past but as a successful, experienced pro-rider he has earned some stripes in this debate. And when asked by a reporter what he thought about Cavendish's actions yesterday he was measured but forthright. Cav was wrong to swerve into Haussler and even more out of order with his petulant behaviour afterwards.

McEwen Ready For Tour De France |
"There's a fine line between right and wrong in sprinting," McEwen said, "and it was definitely crossed yesterday."

The riders staged a brief protest at the start of today's stage to send a message to Cavendish not only for causing the crash, but for reacting to criticism by spitting on the ground.

"The one minute delay at the start today was a signal from his peers that what happened yesterday, the spitting incident after the crash in particular, is not acceptable and I'm sure he understands the message."

Cavendish has not been winning this season with the ease that he experienced last year, and McEwen thinks the pressure has gotten to him.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

There's something in the water in Tasmania - Matthew Goss wins again

I last saw Matthew Goss racing in Launceston just a few.. hmmm... quite a few years ago. Nice to see him get another win. Often the lead-out guys don't get many chances, so it's always good to see them take a win. What interests me here though is this continuing Tasmanian connection. Is it the water? The smaller cities and quieter lifestyle? The mountains? Or just small-town luck?

It seems to be all of the above, but it doesn't hurt to have ex-pros like Michael Wilson and Danny Clark hailing from the same state either. It also doesn't hurt that Tasmania has kept up the good old Aussie tradition of a track circuit, where velodromes are actually put to use, fostering clubbies and drawing crowds. Once you have the fostering happening and a pattern of support the rest seems to happen. Break the chain somewhere and it collapses, leaving velodromes idle and crowds going elsewhere. I know it's a leap from country track carnival to global ProTour but you have to have a solid base to grow on.   

Philadelphia International Championship: Results, Route Maps & Results |
HTC-Columbia sprinter Matthew Goss got his wish, to turn from lead-out man for the team's top sprinters Mark Cavendish and André Greipel into a race winner. The speedy Australian powered to the line to beat Liquigas-Doimo's Peter Sagan and young BMC sprinter Alexander Kristoff from a 34-rider front group.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

I never used to worry, I just dodged the dangers. Now I see danger all around me. The fears of the paranoid cyclist

I could cut this short and write "don't do interval training on roads with intersections, driveways or other potential hazards" but it's more complex than that.

At the bitter core of the road cycling training apple is a big, hairy, dangerous risk. If you are on a bike and ride like you 'need to' in order to train "properly" then you exacerbate that risk. You probably ride fast, sometimes as fast as (or faster than) the traffic (there's good and bad in that, I know). Sometimes you do intervals or sprints, both of which increase the difficulty drivers (and pedestrians and in my area dogs for that matter) have in judging closing distances. Sometimes - heaven forbid - you get with other riders and on rare-ish occasions perform small-scale impromptu "faux races" on public roads. Not real races, mind, 'cause that would be illegal. We all know the feeling though - that competitive streak comes out and suddenly you must win that KOM or sprint, even if it means increasing your "road risk". I understand all that, it's human - even car drivers do it at times (which must be worse, surely?).

I also understand that many drivers make it all so much worse by not being aware of a wide range of possibilities and in turn making incautious and uninformed decisions. Thus they overtake bike riders when they really needn't and shouldn't (like across double lines, around fast downhill corners or just before some other hazard) and pull out in front of them at intersections. In a perfect world both drivers and riders would see all hazards, understand each other's needs and make optimum decisions. But it isn't and they don't.  

And whilst I don't want to pick on one incident, particularly one I don't have the full facts about - the accident linked to below is one I 'just' manage to avoid almost every day and feel I need to comment upon. Whilst I have an understanding of the hows and whys of these things and take due care, I suspect there's an inevitability about bikes and cars clashing on shared roads. If I want to continue training on public roads, I run that added risk. I accept it and simply continue to minimise the risk by prudent training risk management (I'll explain that concept in a momemt). When I was 25 and riding about 5 or more times further per week than now I didn't have exactly this level of fear and expectation but I did take similar precautions. I was also fitter, faster and had better reflexes. I'm more than double that age now and have to take that age into account.

The basic problem is that in order to train properly I have to:
  • ride faster than many drivers expect (exposing myself to 'intersection hazard')
  • ride even faster in short bursts I feebly call 'intervals' (increasing my unpredictability in 'intersection hazard' situations)
  • sprint up hills (again increasing my unpredictablity as many drivers just can't imagine the possibility)
  • do all this on public roads.
Ideally we'd have safer closed roads available just for training (and yes there are some places like that but they are usually small, offer inadequate terrain and are hard to find - and in any case involve a ride or drive just to get there). And often otherwise ideal training grounds are increasingly flawed compromises - look at Centennial Park in Sydney, once a haven for cycling but so emasculated by speedbumps and car-friendly regulations as to make it almost unusable (but we use it anyway as otherwise..?). OK, we have to share public facilities but sometimes sharing doesn't work very well. I don't see much "sharing" going on with other 'dedicated' sporting facilities, so why is road cycling subjected to this restriction? Golf courses are for ruined walks, rugby fields for mudwrestling and so on. If I dared to take my bike onto a hallowed field I'd be removed - permanently, I suspect. I also accept that sometimes car and bike racing facilities are shared but there aren't too many of those around and training is usually not permitted. At least track cyclists have a few velodromes to use.

None of this is going to change overnight. A set of reserved training roads in public parks doesn't just happen (although such tracks at Maroubra, Hurstville, Sutherland and Lansdowne in Sydney are good examples of what could be done) and improved driver awareness of cyclists' needs takes time. In the meantime we cyclists must endure and adapt...      

So what are my methods of 'prudent training risk management'?
  • Use a dedicated car-free area if available - but not a narrow public cycleway or shared-use footpath unless visibility is excellent (a couple of tracks in parks I know are suitable)
  • Avoid peak hour unless travelling in the opposite direction
  • Avoid competitve bunch rides where taking risks has become endemic
  • Choose safer roads with fewer or no intersections or driveways, blind spots and other hazards
  • Be aware and cautious where risk is likely and always have a 'safety margin'
  • Back off if you see are driver about to make a decision - assume the worst
  • If in doubt use an indoor trainer instead. 
And here's the incident that started me writing...

Romoli Seriously Injured In Training Accident |
Romoli was doing an interval ahead of her two training partners near Airuno in Lecco when a driver turned in front of her. The rider from Treviso crashed into the side window and suffered deep lacerations to her face and fractured vertebrae.