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Monday, June 20, 2005

Catching up 

Gloriously, a completely non-political posting! It's partly personal, partly cycling-related, all the good things. There's even some car ads, just for a change.

Item the First: I'm selling Old Faithful, the eternal Tercel. It's a 1992, it's an automatic 4dr sedan, it's blue, it's Aircared until 2007, and it's cheap: $3000, and trust me, you can negotiate me off that price with ease. The downsides are that it has 300,000 km, it burns oil, and it has some rumply sheetmetal. I have no doubts that the car will happily continue running as long as the new owner adds 1l oil per tank of gas.

I'm also selling the faithful iMac, a 350 MHz OS9-running machine that is a serviceable e-mail/web station. Pretty, simple, and I'll throw in an external USB CD-Burner. $300... but for you, $200 firm. Just because I like you.

Item the Second: I was sick all week, ranging from a little bit sick to as sick as a dog. But it was all sick and weak. Saturday was near enough the worst day of all. I just sat around the house and lamented my headache, sniffles, and weakness.

Sunday morning I felt a lot better, so I got up early and did the Westside Classic, a gloriously hilly race suffer-fest which made me feel good to be alive, even as I stomped my way to an ignoble 41st-place finish. Oh well, my teammate Tom won our race. I am really looking forward to this race next year, as the course is lots of fun. Up, down, lots of pain.

Speaking of genetic freaks, here's your pre-Tour de France Lance-o-rama:

The NY Times talks about his subtle physiological advantages. Thanks for the pointer, Eric.

David Coyle, author of another Lance bio, gives a neat interview which makes his book sound pretty good, and which is well worth the read.

Here's my editorial on bike racing. First: a lot of attention is paid to Lance, without realizing that road racing is a pretty diverse affair, and there are a ton of well-contested events which don't get air over here simply because there's no Lance-factor. Did you know that Lance's team Discovery actually managed to get its Giro d'Italia rider, Paolo Savodelli, onto the top step of the podium? He rode a very, very smart race, and just took the win. Heck, he even had a Vancouver Island boy riding for him, converted mountain biker Ryder Hesjedal, not to mention perennial Canadian pro Michael Barry.

But I know, it's Lance and the Tour you want to hear about. Here's my poorly informed take: I think Mr. Armstrong wants to win this year just as badly as ever, and is well trained. But do you know why riders Lance's age almost never win grand tours, and especially the Tour de France? Recovery.

Recovery is a funny thing. Grand Tours basically don't allow enough time for it, so you just don't see riders at their best as the race grinds on. The scary thing is that recovery is one of the things that goes on a cyclist as they hit their mid-30s. A GC rider like Lance will probably have the same kind of power numbers as last year, and should look just fine in the early stages, but may suddenly have one or three very bad days in the second half of the Tour, and that's how you lose the race. It's exactly how Miguel Indurain, 5-time winner of the Tour de France, lost on his attempt at number six.

The counterpoint is that Armstrong does fewer racing days per year than any previous 5-time winner of the Tour, and he took a year and a bit off in the middle of his career to, you know, get cured of cancer. Those two things might be just enough to have extended his career a few years. Pro racing is so hard on the body that it's quite interesting how often a rider can come off of a year-odd mid-career setback (usually due to injuries), and pick up even stronger than before, as if their body was responding to a much-needed bit of recovery.

Recovery, at a much different level, is also what so many amateur racers overlook. Recovery is where actual strength-building occurs, as your body responds to the destructive effects of a workout by trying to add more muscle and exercise capacity to compensate for the strong effort. If you don't focus on recovery in your workout program, the workouts will make you weaker, not stronger.

Regarding the fiasco-race that was the United States Grand Prix? Just stupid. It was pretty much the worst possible outcome, and could be enough to ruin what is a great stop on the F1 calendar. My take? You can't race at Indy if your tires are going to delaminate. But isn't it kind of Michelin's job to get that right? The track was the same as it always was. Bridgestone managed to build a safe tire. If Michelin cocked it up (and the linked article notes that the teams generally have access to two tire compounds, but Michelin seems to have gotten them both wrong), then I think I agree, at first blush, with the FIA's call: if you get to the race and your tire supplier warns you that you can't go flat-out through the fast turn, well, sucks to be you, and you have to race at reduced speed through the fast turn, but you have to race. It's not Bridgestone's fault your tires suck, and it's not Ferrari's fault your tires suck.

And finally, you are all invited to watch me make an utter fool of myself at the Yaletown Grand Prix, starting at 1415h on Canada Day. My personal guarantee to you: I will not boycott this race due to unsafe tires.

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