Monday, May 25, 2009

Out of offfice announcement

Tamar and I (sound of trumpets) will celebrate our 10th anniversary on Friday, May 29th. It's 10 years since we met at the funky Quarry Street Cafe in Philadelphia. Tamar lived in Philly then and worked parttime at the cafe. 

I was there to work for Mavic at the U.S. Pro Championships plus a couple other big races the same week. The race put us up at a hotel near the cafe, fortunately.

I lived at that time in Chico, California, north of Sacramento, 3,000 miles easy from Philly. The odds were against us for several reasons. No need to list them here. Tamar will agree when I tell you that it hasn't always been smooth sailing, but it has mostly been smooth sailing, for which I am thankful, to say the very least.

We are going to Durango and Moab to visit friends and attend a low-key, no wet t-shirt contest, motorcycle rally in Moab. I'm riding my Kawasaki to Durango; Tamar is flying. We'll stay with our friends Jim and JM (that's not Big Jim, it's Dr. Jim) in Durango. The two couples will ride to Moab on two motorcycles. 

Tamar has never seen the Four Corners area. I've never been to fabled Moab. We hope to see many of the sights and enjoy our time away. I'll be back (Good Lord Willin' and the Creeks Don't Rise) on Tuesday, June 2nd. If I can post blog entries while we're away, I surely will. 

Ten years...sigh....

Apropos of absolutely nothing....

Here's an Uncyclopedia reference sent to me by my old Tucson friend Big Jim, now living in Saint Louis and working for Cannondale. 

If you see the Cannondale truck at events, be sure to say hi to Big Jim. And buy a Cannondale, huh? Not from Jim, though. Buy it at a Cannondale dealer near you and tell 'em Big Jim sentya. Ignore the look of bafflement on their faces....

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Those cycling friendships....

By Peter Rowe from the San Diego Union-Tribune, here's a piece about two guys who raced bicycles pre-WWII, lost touch with one another and....  Oh, read the story....

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Thanks to Glenn for the heads-up....

Or I'd have missed this. It's Coppi vs Bartali, their old rivalry still alive, still stirring souls in Bella Italia to this day! From the NY Times....

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New bicycle-themed cafe opens in Pittsburgh...

Here's the link to the Pittsburgh TribLIVE piece about the new cafe, called the OTB Cafe. Is it just me, or have you too always assumed that OTB meant "off the back." The cafe owners, as you'll read, feel differently....

Thanks to my friend Tena...

By Reed Albergotti - from the Wall Street Journal, a paper seldom found linked on my blog: Giro Descending, and a terrific piece it is. Look at that photo! Is that a helicopter shot?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

This morning: A press motordriver killed on his way to the start of the Giro stage

From VeloNews Online today:

A motorcyclist escorting media at the Tour of Italy died after being involved in a traffic accident Tuesday morning, race organizers announced.

Fabio Saccani, 69, was driving to the start of the race's 10th stage at Cuneo in the Italian Alps when the accident occurred near the town of Bra in the north-west of Italy.

Organizers held a minute's silence for the veteran motorcyclist, who was participating in his 33rd Giro d'Italia, at the awards ceremony following stage 10.

Because I work at bicycle races on the motorcycle, the loss of one of the guys gives me pause. But the loss of a guy who's worked 33 Giro d'Italias...unthinkable. However well we ride our bikes and motorbikes, we do not ride better than Fabio Saccani. 

I have always heard that the Euro motordrivers are ex-motocrossers or road racers - they are not recruited from rank and file motorcyclists. And conditions at the Giro can vary widely: visibility, traction, road surface and gradient. Saccani did 33 three-week Giros...and who knows how many other tours and single-day events, in Italy and across Europe.

I rode with Jim Ochowicz in the 7-Eleven car at the Giro years ago. I was stunned by the speeds on the descents. As we screeched around the corners, I could read the kilometer speedo of the Italian cop on the MotoGuzzi descending next to us - inches away. They're heroes, all those guys... 

Godspeed, Fabio Saccani!



Veer, the (indie) movie, narrated by Matthew Modine - about the new urban bicycle culture

Here's the link....

Monday, May 18, 2009

Every picture tells a story....

Aprilia rider Max Biaggi at the World Superbike event in Kyalami, South Africa. No one pretends to understand the moody Roman - who suffered as a MotoGP racer in the Valentino Rossi era and who now suffers on a bike-in-development in WSB in the Noriyuki Haga/Ben Spies era.

Terrific photo by Graeme Brown - stolen impulsively from Superbike.com  Click on it to enlarge!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

But can she bake a cherry pie....?

A short film revealing why every girl needs a daddy:   video

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Car-free in America? A panel discussion from today's NY Times

Prompted by the Times piece I posted Monday, here's a discussion among experts about US cities without automobiles.... Can it be done? 

Celeb cyclists hiding out pre- and post-race

This is a fine short piece by Daniel Friebe from bikeradar.com. It's about Mario Cippolini's race site celebrity. And about thinking twice before we diss a certain Texan for keeping himself scarce before and after races. That stuff would get old in no-time. Just reading a few 'graphs about it made me shudder....

Monday, May 11, 2009

Be still my beating heart....

From today's NY Times: Europe Imagines Its Suburbs Without the CAR! Click here...

Much as I hate traffic and the way people act when they drive...

Like Stanley Fish in this NY Times editorial, I'm a car nut. My nextdoor neighbor taught me to drive a stick-shift in his MG TD. When I owned cars, years ago, they were cool cars. This is a fine piece by a guy with genuine credentials - as a thinker and a car nut.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Typically I wouldn't post a link to this sorta story...

But the guy featured in it comes through in an unexpected way. And he's a Scientology minister, whatever that is. The two or three Scientologists I've met have been fascinating people. This guy's from Hollywood, CA; he lost his leg in a motorcycle accident (not his fault) years ago. His doctor suggested a bicycle.... Worth reading, I'd say. From the LA Times.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

What was the most amazing thing you saw at the Tour of the Gila, Maynard?


Everyone asks about Levi and Lance, the Astana teammates riding at the Gila for Lance's bike shop in Austin. The few people who ask about their Astana teammate Chris Horner are fans of US racing - who watched Horner when he dominated our events just a few years ago.

That's Horner at the front in the terrific Casey Gibson photo from VeloNews Online's Gila coverage.

At the Gila you could watch the "protected rider" in action. Levi did not see the front until the last miles of the road stages. Lance did more work in the first 90% of each stage, but he did not slave up there providing shelter for Levi, his red-leader's-jerseyed teammate. Horner did it.

Horner stayed at the front mile after mile after mile, going fast enough to discourage attacks, fast enough so guys felt they were already stretched and were reluctant to jump away. You could not see the effort on his face. He smiles, sorta, or holds his mouth in something very like a smile. 

You think: That guy is enjoying his work. 

And you think: Whatever he's paid, he earns it and he's worth every dime. Because you and I cannot do what Horner can do; we can't ride hard uphill and down, into headwinds and down frightening descents, without a break, without so much as easing off for a few pedal strokes. 

On our best days, we could not sit on Horner's wheel in a headwind. 

I remember at Redlands just after Y2K that Horner, racing for himself, could do whatever he wanted. He could wait as long as he wanted and jump away whenever he wanted, and none of our best riders could do anything about it. 

He was head and shoulders the strongest. Everyone knew it.

Now he's moved up to the top level in the sport and he's no longer 28 years old. But he's still the same locomotive, still breaking guys' legs. 

What's changed? Now he does it for his teammates. What hasn't? The smile; it's the same.

Who'd believe it....?

More US Marines killed on motorcycles in the States than are killed in Iraq or Afghanistan? 

From USA Today, here's the link.  

I believe it was George Patton who said: The idea is not to die for your country - but to make the other poor bastard die for his. 

Maybe instead of bombs, we should drop Harleys and Ninjas out of aircraft over these war-torn areas. Free motorcycles, fueled and ready to ride. Cheaper than bombs and just as effective, plus the motorcycle companies need the business. 

If we felt guilty about dropping such lethal devices on our enemies, we could include helmets and manuals with the usual caveats: Remember to wear eye protection and ride defensively. Hey, feel the freedom....

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Okay, I'm bragging a little. It's MY blog after all...


I was on my way home from Silver City on the motorcycle. I stopped in Santa Fe and spent the night at a sumptious Motel-6 on motel row. As soon as I got out of the shower, I called Tamar.

She'd come home from her trip to Philly and because she knew I'd miss it and want to hear about what happened, she watched the MotoGP broadcast on the Speed Channel. She told me that our fave Valentino Rossi had won.

And she told me that Jorge Lorenzo (pictured on the right thanks to Superbikeplanet.com), Rossi's teammate and the fastest qualifier, had been chasing Casey Stoner and had (here's the point of the post) low-sided harmlessly. That's what she said.     

Does your wife or girlfriend watch the MotoGP broadcast when you can't? Can your wife or girlfriend recognize a low-side getoff and tell you about it? Well? Does she? Can she? 

If you answered yes to either or both questions, you (like me) are a lucky man...

Monday, May 4, 2009

Maynard and Steve....oh, and Lance and Levi

In this fine Casey Gibson image from VeloNews Online, we see Levi Leipheimer in the Gila leader's jersey and what's-his-name from Austin wearing a black Mellow Johnny jersey. 

On the left we see a guy in a white motorcycle helmet. That's mechanic Steve Donovan of Denver, Colorado. If you look carefully, you'll see a guy in front of Steve on the motor. He's wearing a blue outfit and a yellow helmet. 

That's your blogger, watching the action on the final climb of the last stage, the Gila Monster, of the '09 Tour of the Gila.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Michelle and Lance, still maybe


While the women were racing the downtown crit, I walked around metro Silver City looking for the Livestrong Team car, hoping to find someone who could point out Axel Merckx. I've never met Axel.

I asked a couple of guys in Livestrong t-shirts, as if that set them apart, and they said, hey we just bought the shirts.

So I walked a bit further and saw a tall guy in a different looking Livestrong shirt - it had one of those skinny Euro t-shirt collars. I asked him if he were with the team and he said he was in perfectly clear English with a slight Euro accent. Are you Axel, I asked. He admitted he was.

I told him I drive the SRAM support motor and that I needed a favor but not for me. I told him about Michelle and how the race revolves around her, how all her friends and family work as volunteers, and how everyone connected with the race loves her.

And I told him she was sick with cancer and was undergoing treatments. I asked him if he would try to get a message to Lance about this woman, and that a call or a few minutes spent with her would thrill her and be a fine thankyou to the woman, the race and the town.

He said he'd try to do that, pass my message along, but that he couldn't guarantee what would happen.

If it were me, he said, I know what I'd do.

I knew it was a longshot when I came looking for you, I said. But my friends and I sat down and talked about how we might reach Lance, and asking you seemed to be the best way to go.

I'll do what I can, he said.

And I thought: That's what I've done too, whatever I could.

I'll be working tomorrow and then starting for home. I won't be near a computer for a day or so. Thanks for following my Tour of the Gila reports.

This is a great bike race. Not perfect but perfectly epic.

Michelle and Lance....maybe


This is my 10th Tour of the Gila. Since I started coming here, my contact person at the race, the person who arranged my lodging and made sure I was okay, has been Michelle Geels. Year after year. Michelle must be in her 40s; she's a FedEx or UPS driver, maybe, but race week she's the go-to person. She knows everyone here. Her friends and family all work race jobs.

There would not be a Tour here if not for her. Now she's got cancer. She's enduring chemo treatments and has lost her hair. Her mother Trish (who handles race housing) and Trish's boyfriend Steve (he does the neutral support except for the elite women and pros) both shaved their heads in solidarity with Michelle. Is that sweet or what?

So Michelle is sick and skinny and it makes you uncomfortable to see her.

Now it's race week and as we are unable to forget, Lance is here. You don't see Lance but you see evidence that he's here: helicopters, Dutch journalists, TV cameras, five or six still camera operators as passengers on motors...and Lance's personal photographer. She's on a motorcycle too.

Lance is staying somewhere secret. He appears as the start gun goes off and disappears just as his bike's back wheel rolls over the finish line. He's not hanging around anywhere. Maybe he brought a chef and other staff... Who knows.

It seems to some of us that it'd be great if Lance could call or visit with Michelle for a few minutes, that it'd thrill Michelle and it'd be Lance's thanks to her and to the race and to Silver City. And I'll bet Lance would love to do that, for everyone's sake.

You wonder at the same time how many times someone has asked Lance to talk to a very sick person, how that sick person is so important in so many lives....and would love a moment with our survivor hero.... so much suffering.

No one knows even how to get a message to Lance. The Livestrong Team is here, Axel Merckx as their manager. I'm going to try to talk to Axel today. I've never met him but everything you hear about him is good. Maybe he can talk to Lance or knows someone who can talk to Lance...

I'll let you know if I can do any good. If you're reading this, send some good energy Michelle's way and wish me luck with Lance...

Friday, May 1, 2009

What we do...

So.... we're riding along on the motorcycle behind the pack or the break. We'll see a hand go up, and a rider will work his way to the right side of the road. He'll usually point at his front or rear wheel if he has a flat, or he'll point at something broken if he needs a bike. Yesterday a guy pointed at his saddle, which had broken and tilted oddly at 90 degrees to its usual orientation.

If it's a flat tire, I watch the rider and time my braking so I stop behind him on the shoulder. I plant my feet so my mechanic's getting off the motor doesn't topple it over. I watch as the mechanic runs to the bicycle, removes the dead wheel and puts in a new one. The mechanic picks up the dead wheel and pushes the rider, who has just remounted his bicycle, off to a rolling start. I follow on the motor and the mechanic jumps on.

We ride up to one of the support cars, wiggle in behind it and ride up to the rear door on the right side. My mechanic hands the wheel thru the window to another mechanic in the back seat, who in turn hands out a fresh wheel. We ride forward and through a gap in the line of cars to our position just behind the pack.

Savvy riders realize they have a flat, raise an arm and ride over to the shoulder. They have shifted gears until the chain is on the outermost cog. They get completely off the bike and stand next to it, waiting patiently (no kidding) until the service is complete. Sometimes the wheelchange goes badly and seems to take forever. In most cases the rider is cool and says nothing, even as he watches the pack disappearing in the distance and his race going up in smoke.

I have done as many as 20 services in a race - in the rain at the Olympic Trials in Jackson, Mississippi. I have done as few as none - yesterday at the Tour of the Gila in Silver City, New Mexico.

If the rider needs a bike, my mechanic will radio his need and his bike size and pedal choice to the support cars. One of them will drive forward past the pack and stop a distance up the road. While they are driving, a mechanic will stretch out the window and get a bike down from the roof. He'll put a wheel in it if the front has been removed and put pedals in it. He'll stand on the shoulder with the bike so the rider can pedal up and switch bikes in seconds. The seat post binder is quick release so the rider can adjust the seat height as he goes.

Often riders finish well on bikes loaned them by support crews. When I worked for Mavic, for a year or so we loaned bikes with Mavic's electronic shifting, so riders had to figure out how to change gears on their strange loaners - midrace!

Some of the team mechanics understand what we do and why we're there, but some are so proprietary about their riders and the riders' bikes that they'd rather we ignored their guys.

If a team has only one team car, as is typical, and the team has riders in the pack and in the breakaway, the car can't be both places. We help riders whose team cars are unavailable - because the team has riders in both places or because the officials won't let the car into the short gap between pack and break.

If the officials do allow cars into that gap, pack riders will draft the cars and catch the break. Generally, if the gap in 30 seconds, the officials will put a support motor behind the breakaway. When the gap reaches a minute, they'll put a support car in - and the team managers can choose to stay back behind the pack, or go forward to their rider or riders in the break.

More later.... from scenic Silver City NM

Friday morning, day off, what I do here

In the pro/Cat one race here, all the riders are on teams, I believe, and each team has a team car in the caravan that follows the pack. The team drivers draw numbers for their car's position in the line.

If you draw #17, and the commissaire announces over race radio that one of your riders needs a service (could be anything from a chat or the retrieval of his rain vest to a broken bike or flat tire) you're a long way back. Could take you a minute or so to work your way up.

As SRAM neutral support here, we have a motor (we hardly ever say motorcycle, just motor or moto) behind the pack with a driver and passenger. The passenger carries a front and rear wheel, plus a few tools in a fanny pack. We also have three cars behind the commissaire car that follows the pack, each with wheels and complete spare racing bikes.

And we have another motorcycle and another car in front of everything, waiting for a breakaway. When a break forms, the motor will drop back behind it. When a big enough gap exists between pack and break, the car will drop back and the motor will wait to see if the break splits. The motor will follow the rider or riders who break away from the breakaway.

Our second motor driver (that's how we describe the guy steering the motor) is a cyclist and motorcyclist...and I believe a licensed official, but he has never worked tech support. So he is working the breakaways, where he can learn the job in relative peace, dealing with a few team cars and an official car and motor or two. Nice and restful up there.

On my motor, Steve Donovan and I are positioned in front of the commissaire's car and the medical car and the nearly 20 team cars, and behind the 160 bike riders. Because the bike riders are always needing something, water for instance, from their cars, the cars come up to the pack and take care of their riders - again and again and again.

The cars want to be where we are, and they can't understand why we're there, in their way. Often they express their bafflement by placing portions of their cars quite close to our legs or the taillight of the motorcycle. Inches away, I'd say, on narrow, winding country roads, roads you'd love to ride on your motorcycle or bicycle, but roads that seem awfully confining with a car brushing your shoulder.

If the team is lucky enough to have a rider in the break, the car will go up to the break to take care of that rider. THEN, we take care of mechanical problems and flats for that team's riders who are still in the pack. You'd think the team drivers would understand that and cut us a bit of slack, but they do not. Their priority is retrieving that rain jacket or the handing off of water bottles.

More later today about what we do and why we matter....and should not be run over.