Three Weeks in July

For the last two years, my son has cried at the end of the Tour de France. I’m fairly certain it had much, much less to do with drama and the thrill of victory and much more to do with not getting to watch TV while eating breakfast. Hey, you take what you can get.

I’m always a little sad at the end of the Tour, too, but mostly because it means there’s not a lot of summer left. The road racing circuit tends to dry up around here after July, and it takes me while to really start thinking about ‘cross. (Usually it helps to have the temperature under 80 degrees before flogging yourself on a ‘cross bike makes any sense at all.)

In the meantime, though, I’ll spend my mornings with a cup of coffee (or four) and the Tour. We’re part of the non-cable-or-satellite-dish-having crowd at our house, so we’ll be dialed in to the NBC Sports online feed. On one hand, it’s nice to be able to watch it wherever we are (like in a motel room next weekend when we travel to a race), but on the other hand, we tend to all stare at a smallish laptop screen for half the morning.

At $30 for the whole smash, it’s not too bad. The video quality was generally pretty solid, and was nearly HD when we hooked it up to our TV. It beats watching the ticker on Velonews.

Oh, and if we’re talking Tour predictions, here’s mine: Bradley Wiggins. He probably could have won last year had he not crashed out. He climbs well and time trials well. As long as he can stay off the pavement well, the path is clear.

Things That Work

With the exception of a select few items, everything we use on the bike (we being Velogear employees), we pay for from our own pockets. Sure, there’s a discount in play, but working for a cycling company doesn’t mean the truck gets backed up to your driveway.

One of the products available here that’s been working really well for me is the Feed Zone Cookbook. Written by Allen Lim and Bijou Thomas, the Feed Zone is all about real food that’s easy to prepare and tastes great. We’ve added a few of the recipes to our weekly menu over the last several weeks. My wife and I have both been pleasantly surprised by the results. For one, our son has devoured pretty much everything. He’s not a bad eater, but new foods are a crapshoot sometimes. He’s actually requested a couple of the meals a second time.

On the bike — the reason for the cookbook to begin with — things have gone equally well. I raced last weekend having fueled exclusively with food from the Feed Zone. Sure there’s a bit of fitness involved with racing well, but I rode as well as I have all year. It started with a good breakfast (I’ve tried a lot of the recipes by now, since I love breakfast) and continued with a hearty pre-race meal. In the past, I’ve had problems with feeling crippingly hungry about 30 minutes before race time. At that point, you’re left with trying to decide whether or not to eat before the race. And then, what do you eat?

That wasn’t the case this time around, and it was nice rolling to the line — and down the road during the neutral rollout — feeling content and confident.

Whether you race or not, check out the Feed Zone. As a guy who thought I had nutrition pretty much figured out, it’s been a revelation.

Things That Work Part 2

Because I’m a little slow on the uptake — or maybe because I’m dumb and stubborn — I tried 25c road tires for the first time a few weeks ago. My first road bike came with 23c tires, so that’s what I’ve always ridden. (I’m the same way with cassettes. I started on an 11-23 and that’s what I’ve had ever since.)

I had a pair of 23s that wore out their welcome, though, so I replaced them with 25s. Hey, why not?

I should have done that years ago. So much smoother, so much more comfortable. And no, they’re not slower.

Seriously, give them a shot.

 

Bad Influences

Hello there. Sorry for the long delay between posts. I’d like to say I was on Velogear special assignment, traveling Europe and taking in the Giro. In truth, I was out of bourbon.

But my stock has been replenished, so all is well.

During the hiatus, word came down of a new Strava land-speed record set in Omaha … on the rec path. The rec path that’s frequented by nice old guys who wave at me every morning on my ride into work, oblivious citizens with iPods, older ladies walking little rat-dogs and rollerbladers. The average speed for the five-mile section, which has many curves and underpasses, and is normally subject to very heavy use: 28-plus mph.

That’s the average speed. When you’re doing even 20 there, it feels like you’re going really fast. I can’t even imagine how fast this person had to be going through the blind curves to end with a 28mph average.

If you’re not familiar, Strava is a ride-mapping app/website that uses GPS data to establish leaders for certain sections of local routes. Your local climb now has a KOM leader (and it’s probably not you). Your local TT strip now has a speed king (again, probably not you — but keep on trying). (We have Garmin GPS computers here, by the way.)

On the surface, Strava combines two things I love: technology and the pursuit of speed. In my past life, I was a technology reporter for a good-sized newspaper. And I spend far too much time trying to go fast.

Who doesn’t love going fast? And who doesn’t love cool technology? I’ll tell you who: those grouchy old guys who say, “I’m doing just fine on my steel frame and six-speed-rear freewheel.” They might actually be doing just fine, but they’re a drag to listen to after a while.

But underneath it all, technology and going fast are two things that I sometimes don’t like. Usually it’s when those two are combined with an inappropriate situation — like drilling it on the rec trail, for example. Or announcing your wattage on a chill ride or after a big hill.

With awesome technology comes awesome responsibility. As ridiculous as that local rec-trail record is, most everybody who rides regularly here wouldn’t want anything to do with it. Chase the climbs, chase the descents, drill it on the open flats — yes, absolutely.

Let’s leave the rec trail to the regular folks. We don’t need any rat-dogs sliced in half due to your attempt at a record.

A triathlon question
Though I’ve done my share of running (and I’m kinda good at it), and I’ve done my share of riding (I’m moderately good at it), I have no desire to add swimming (at which I’d be no good at all) and become a triathlete.

Still, though, I have plenty of friends who chased the multi-sport bug and had decent success. I can tell they’re doing really well because my Facebook feed is full of knee-high-recovery-socks-in-public-wearing people who have medals around their necks. And they look really tired all the time.

While I get the basic idea behind all things triathlon, there’s one thing I do not get: photography. Is it a requirement for triathletes to take group pictures every time they gather? My buddy was tagged in a group picture after a group ride. And in another before and after a group run. (Group runs? People do that?) And there’s another at breakfast. Another before and after an event. And … wait, is that another group photo from that first group ride?

Why so many group pictures, triathletes? Is it a “pictures, or your training didn’t happen” thing? Is it to show off your legs? (Yes, you have nice legs.) Seriously, somebody fill me in here.

A Lance story
So Lance Armstrong is in all sorts of deep business at this point. You could argue he’s been in plenty of deep business over the past 15 years or so. Regardless, innocent or guilty, he has had a HUGE impact on cycling in the US. I think that’s the part that people don’t realize (or remember) in all of this.

Armstrong is the reason I started riding bikes to begin with — and I know I’m not alone. Not because I wanted to be like him, but because it made cycling fun to follow. Can he win another one? Can Jan Ullrich (or Ivan Basso) finally beat him? Armstrong, in 2005, made cycling interesting to a non-cyclist. Now, years later, here I am.

If you can’t decide whether that’s a good or bad thing, I don’t blame you. And if you’re not a big fan of Armstrong, I don’t blame you for that, either. But I’m glad to have watched him in his prime, regardless of how he got there.

Prepare For Battle

There are few things cyclists enjoy more than new gear. Unwrapping and installing fresh bits on a bike has to be one of life’s simpler pleasures.

In the absence of actual new gear to unwrap and install, looking at and dreaming about new gear is a passable time-waster. If you’ve been wasting as much time as me, you already know about the new Shimano Dura-Ace 9000 group that’s in the pipeline.

What will it be? Well, it’ll be 11-speed. It’ll be lighter. It’ll be shinier, probably. And it will include BATTLE INJECTION DOMINATION.

Yeah, you heard it right.

Check out this link from Bike Rumor. Due to some pretty awesome internet translating, the new Dura-Ace 9000 group is loaded with BATTLE INJECTION DOMINATION (yes, it must be capitalized. PRO is capitalized all the time, but that’s dumb. BATTLE INJECTION DOMINATION sounds awesome.).

We all know it will be a precise, perfectly-functioning (probably) product, but really I’m more concerned with what it looks like.

Take the crank, for example. It looks like Shimano is going with a four-armed spider (wait, is it still a spider if it only has four arms?), which is how its XTR mountain cranks work. And that’s fine, I guess — Shimano knows its stuff in regards to aluminum work.

But what’s the deal with the offset arms? Are they for battle? And the brakes? They seem lighter than the current (and past) Dura-Ace. I wonder what kind of domination will come from those? For me, the battle is myself against … well, everything. There’s very little domination going on there.

Despite my high hopes for BATTLE INJECTION DOMINATION, the headlining feature will probably be the 11-speed cassette. I guess that would fit the injection bit — fitting 11 cogs into a spot that formerly held 10.

If you’ve been hanging out here for the past couple of months, you probably saw the whole fatbike brouhaha. I still think fatbikes are like the wacky, look-at-how-unique-I-am step-cousin of the cycling world. Sure, they have uses — fine. I get that.

But this Craigslist ad pretty much wraps up everything in a nice, tidy bow. It’s almost as if the owner realized he was building a dumb bike halfway through the buying process. “On second thought … maybe I’ll just go halfway — just to see what it’s like.”

The title for this ad should be “Fear of Commitment.”

If you’re in the mood to dig into an aero argument, check out the latest tech piece from Caley Fretz at Velonews. I’m on board with wheels, but I still think aero frames are one of the biggest cash holes out there. The most un-aerodynamic piece of the bike/rider package is you. Get slippery and you’ll go faster.

Wait, that sounded bad.

 

 

Master of His Domain

If you’re the type to pay attention to such things, you’ve undoubtedly been keeping close watch on the cobbled classics — Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix. Since I tend to watch Twitter more than shaky livestream coverage, I’ve spent the last two weeks getting dropped by the local peloton in all manner of conditions: flats, hills, corners — I’m equally slow on all of them.

Of course, had I been present for the MCipollini-Giambenini-Gauss team camp in Italy a few weeks ago, I probably would have fared better. Team sponsor Mario Cipollini was on hand to give the ladies of his namesake squad a bit of guidance as they enter the season. Yes, Mario Cipollini, known for the sterling example he set while in the peloton.

The takeaway from the obviously staged team camp included an “I’m here to support women’s cycling” bit (which is very, very good), as well as a fairly humorous photo shoot. The funny part isn’t that Cipollini was there, it’s that these photos in no way made it look like he just happened to drop by one day during training camp. There’s not a candid shot in the bunch.

Some highlights:


“Come, dine with us!”


“You should eat breakfast. You know, for energy.”


“I had nothing planned for this presentation.”


“Yes, that’s it. Open the hip flexors.”


“It’s perfectly normal to stretch in full kit on yoga mats in a grassy field before riding. I did it all the time.”


“Yes, perfect! This is exactly how your sprint train should look!”


“In my biometrics training, I learned that the optimal amount of knee flexion, in relation to … uh … you know what? Just keep pedaling.”

Again, Cipollini isn’t dumb, and I have no doubt he has knowledge to offer this or any other team. But the idea of good old Uncle Cipo stopping by and going rider by rider on stretching, indoor-training form and proper nutrition is kind of funny.

Random link time:

  • What, exactly, was Thor Hushovd defying, anyway?
  • The stem on this rider’s new BMC should say everything you need to know about how relaxed the geometry is.
  • Have time for a photo gallery with about 7 gazillion shots? Check out this look at a carbon bike factory.

Live Stream

With a few exceptions, I don’t watch bike races online. Though we live in a time of unprecedented access to sporting events, sitting in front of my computer at 8 in the morning and not getting paid for it ranks low on my list of priorities. I’m the exception here at Velogear. Most everybody else is all over this stuff.

Don’t get me wrong — I love racing. And for the big races, I’ll watch. It’s no coincidence that the big races are also the ones that actually look good online. NBC Sports’ Tour de France coverage was worth every penny last year. And I’ve generally found that the Tour of Flanders and the Giro d’Italia look good, too.

Everything else? Grainy footage yanked from some Eurosport feed and passed through a Ukrainian television transmitter. Sound cuts out, picture cuts out and — sometimes — the feed just disappears.

Besides, I don’t have to actually watch the races to see what’s going on — I have Twitter. If you follow the right people, none of whom are Taylor Phinney, you can keep an eye on the race without having to babysit a shoddy feed.

Take Saturday’s Milan-San Remo, for example. At 290 kilometers, it’s the longest of the “monument” classics. It’s also known as the “sprinters’ classic,” since it’s not the hills themselves that are difficult, so much as their placement in the race.

Milan-San Remo’s other alternate name is “The Most Boring Race in the World — Even Worse Than Paris-Roubaix.” It’s mile after mile of nothing, for hours and hours. Then, with 25K left, something finally happens.

And that 25K might be great, but it doesn’t make up for the previous 265.

So no, I didn’t watch Milan-San Remo this year. I did notice a number of gleeful “Mark Cavendish is getting dropped” tweets. For a guy who won it in 2009 and has shown good form this year, he did not have a good day.

But what I don’t get is the Cavendish hate. Is it because he’s the undisputed sprint king of his generation? Is it because he talks a lot? Is it because he’s a sprinter?

To cycling fans, the exploits of the classics hardman — Fabian Cancellara, let’s say — are far more honorable than those of sprinters like Cavendish. I get that — dropping the bunch with 30K left builds far more drama than dropping them with 30 meters left.

But it’s not like Cavendish is popping off and coming in second or third. It’s not like he’s Tyler Farrar. No, Cavendish is winning. If you’re going to chirp, at least be a winner.

Is it his perception as a whiner? Please. Half of Team BMC has been portrayed as whiners, and they’re somehow being showered with love.

Thor Hushovd? Complained about his team pretty much all last year. George Hincapie? Remember his 2010 Tour de France hissyfit? Cadel Evans? Until recently, a nutter.

All of those guys have whined and gotten away with it. So why not the guy who wins more than all of them?

Things You Don’t Need

Like any good sport, cycling gets hung up for weeks on end (or months) about the latest tech innovation or race strategy or scandal or whatnot. Usually, it’s a lot like the football world blathering on and on about Tim Tebow. There’s an awful lot of hype, but in the end there’s no substance. (Or passing game.)

The buzz during ‘cross season was disc brakes. “My next ‘cross race bike must have disc brakes! I need disc brakes. Better stopping! Better modulation!” and so on. Nevermind the fact that tires play a bigger role in cornering and stopping than brakes. We must have disc brakes!

As an example, think of the last snowstorm you saw. The majority of the vehicles in the ditch were probably four-wheel-drive cars and trucks. I’m sure their brakes were awesome, but without traction, they had nothing.

Now that we’ve hit spring, the disc brake discussion has moved onto road bikes. And it’s the same thing all over again: “Must. Have. Disc. Brakes.” I’ve seen a number of people tweeting and ranting about the whole being not about more power, but more control — better modulation.

For those who have ridden one of the top three groups from either Shimano or SRAM in the last three years, I ask you this: at what point have you found your brakes to be lacking so much that you need to buy yourself a whole new bike to get the performance you’re looking for? Do any of these groups, when properly installed and tuned, lack control and modulation?

I’ve ridden everything from Dura-Ace brakes to Tiagra brakes to SRAM brakes of different stripes. I spent my first two seasons racing a bike that had non-branded Tektro brakes. Never did I say, “Man, if I had disc brakes, I’d be such a better racer.”

What did make a difference was getting the right wheel-and-tire setup. Better grip in the corners, more confidence and no hands on the brakes. And riding lots. Racing lots. Neither of those requires a new bike … unless you wad up your bike in the process.

Besides, disc brakes for road bikes, for all intents and purposes, really don’t even exist yet. Sure there a few companies out there with jerry-rigged setups, but in terms of production-ready, let’s get this disc-brake bike built-style kits, there are none. It’s not unlike the long-threatened Garmin Vector pedal-based powermeter. First announced in 2009, it still hasn’t hit the market. This, after Garmin purchased Metrigear, its developer, and threw the heft of a much larger company behind it.

The current ETA is this summer, though past ETAs have included March 2012, fall 2011 and “sometime soon.” I’ll believe it when I see it.

As for the disc brakes on road bikes, you’re welcome to jump on board as soon as they’re available. You will, of course, have to ride something that looks like this:


Woof.

I’ll go ahead and use my money for things that will actually make a difference on the bike, rather than things that add weight and require new equipment that 99 percent of the shops in the country won’t have in stock when you really, really need it.

How’s that for more control?

Promises, Promises

There’s a story this morning on VeloNews that helped ring in the day with a chuckle. That’s, of course, assuming that finding my son wrapping an old PlayStation controller around the dog’s head and getting ready to lead him around wasn’t funny enough. (Well, it was and it wasn’t.)

The story on VeloNews was an interview with George Hincapie, centering on BMC’s ambitions for Paris-Roubaix. The first sentence:

George Hincapie vows to help his new BMC teammate Thor Hushovd at Paris-Roubaix and seems to have thrown in the towel on his own dreams of winning the Hell of the North.

“Hincapie vows to help his new teammate … .” One would hope so, don’t you think? Isn’t that kind of the point of having teammates? For help? Besides, what else would Hincapie do?

He is 38, and with the exception of one year (2005, when he was second) wasn’t ever a threat to actually win Paris-Roubaix. While I can appreciate his pursuit of the race like a crazed sea captain seeking his white whale, it’s long past time for him to give up the dream. (Much like I’ve long since given up  hopes of following in my uncle’s steps and being the World UNO Champion. Damn Draw Fours.)

At the risk of enraging the George Hincapie fan club, which may or may not be similar to enraging the fatbike community, I have to ask this question: How, exactly, did Hincapie gain rock-star status, anyway? Because, other than Gent-Wevelgem, the Tour of Missouri, a couple of national championships against second-tier pros, what’s he won?

Seriously. Is it the eternal Paris-Roubaix struggle? Is he the lovable sidekick, playing the right-hand man to Lance Armstrong, then Mark Cavendish, and now Cadel Evans and Thor Hushovd? As a racer, he’s one notch ahead of Levi Leipheimer in the excitement category, which is setting the bar very low. And personality-wise, he doesn’t have a ton of charisma — he says the right things and smiles a lot.

There has to be more to it than that. If you have any theories, lay ‘em on me.

If you’ve been following the Le Tour de Langkawi — and I know you have — you’ve been wowed by Jose Serpa of the Androni Giocattoli Venezuela team. He not only climbs magnificently, he has easily the most well-maintained facial hair in the peloton.

Look at that guy! Curly, jet-black hair, sideburns that look painted on, a trim goatee. Well done, Mr. Serpa. He looks like Marco Pantoni, except with hair — lots of it. And hopefully without the cocaine problem. And the being dead problem.

New Shimano Dura-Ace is coming soon(ish). Team Sky’s Alex Dowsett had a prototype DA 9000 group on his bike last week in Belgium. For better or worse, it looks like if you’re a Dura-Ace rider, you’re going to 11 speeds at some point in the future. Because I wasn’t riding when the 9/10 switch happened (I was running lots then), I missed out on the retro-grouch rumbling.

This time, I fully look forward to participating, mostly because I don’t want to change my stuff. I’ll be the guy who tapes together his 10-speed groups until they disintegrate. Eventually, I know I’ll have to switch over. But I’m going to resist as long as possible.

Fat Jokes

For the last few months, trending topics in cycling have included the following: cyclocross, disc brakes for cyclocross, Alberto Contador, Lance Armstrong, new SRAM Red and fat bikes.

For all items except the last one, I get it (even if disc brakes on ‘cross bikes are dumb for racing). Those make sense — I can see the reasoning behind their places in the conversation.

But fat bikes? Really?

Why anyone — one lone person in the world — would want to pilot one of those things is beyond me. But to have them be popular enough have multiple websites devoted to the cause and to require manufactures to offer multiple models means there must be something to the whole trend.

Because, come on — fat bikes can’t be a dumb as they look, can they?

First, consider the cost: around $2,000. The Surly Neck Romancer Pug will run you $1,850 — or about the same as a SRAM Rival-equipped ‘cross bike. But unlike that ‘cross bike, for which you can find replacement bits pretty much everywhere, your fat bike requires special TLC. And most shops don’t have that kind of stuff.

Also, fat bikes weigh a metric ton. I saw a guy struggling to get up the slightest of rises on my neighborhood trail after the last snow. It looked like a ton of fun. And it was … for me … as I passed him on my ‘cross bike.

Next, let’s compare the utility aspect of a fat bike to a cyclocross bike. The fat bike is a very good choice for riding in the snow, due to the extra-wide tires, which create a kind of snowshoe effect. So, hey — score one for the fat bike!

Unfortunately, they’re as bad as any other bike in deeper snow. And when the snow is wet? Forget it. It’s like trying to push a car. (Photo stolen from Bike Rumor.)

A cyclocross bike, on the other hand, can cut through that same snow and probably do it faster. And since it has a tire more like a blade than, say, an oar, it can cut through wet snow too. And when you’re done with that, it can handle pavement or gravel duty with equal aplomb.

Fat bike? Well, let’s talk abut that snow some more. Maybe in places farther north — say, anywhere north of Minneapolis — they’re a solid choice. But if there’s no snow, this is not the bike you’d choose to go for a ride.

On a fat bike, 10 mph feels like warp speed. On any other bike in your stable, you’re probably doing 10 mph with one foot clipped in.

If the cyclocross bike is the Swiss Army Knife of cycling — able to handle whatever is thrown its way — the fat bike has to be the tiny knife that goes with the butter tray. It’s good for one thing only. Even triathlon bikes are more useful than fat bikes, and that’s saying something. My TT bike has been hanging in the garage untouched since July — the last time there was a time trial anywhere near here.

But clear pavement is pretty much a year-round thing, making the TT bike considerably more useful. That still doesn’t mean you’d want to ride your TT bike everywhere, but at least you wouldn’t get passed by that shaky old lady on her beach cruiser.

Though bike rides of all kinds are pretty fun, I can only hope that the industry forgets about fat bikes as the weather warms. There’s already plenty of “dumb” in cycling — I’m looking at you, long-promised-and-yet-to-be-delivered Garmin power pedals — we needn’t make it worse.

The Pinnacle of Cycling? Oof.

It’s mid-February and the professional racing season is nearly upon us. I say nearly because, though there have been a handful of races already, nobody really cares about them. Flat race across a desert with nobody at the finish line except the officials? Hoooo, boy. Sign me up!

If nothing else, the early season races are good for seeing exactly what each team will be wearing for the upcoming campaign. As always, some are better than others. And, as always, some are so god-awful they look your local club team’s “Photoshop expert” got hold of them.

I’ll detail the top 5 and bottom 5. You can assume that the teams in the middle are so boring they deserve only a cursory mention.

Top 5

Ag2R La Mondiale — Hey, I’m as surprised as you. Yes, this is the team with the brown shorts. But it also has a great color scheme — brown, white and blue work very, very well together. And about the brown shorts: Is it any worse than red, really? Or blue with orange tiger stripes? Or pink? No, it’s not.

RadioShack Nissan TrekSure, it’s a mash-up of the good-looking Leopard Trek team and the only OK-looking Team RadioShack, but the results are pretty solid. It’s still a clean look, though I could have done without the RadioShack wordmark jammed into the red stripe. But hey, bonus points for a sweet bike.

Team SkyBlack and white and blue. You’re going to see a trend coming up, but these guys are the ones who started it. Over the past two-plus seasons, this has been the Team Sky look, and it hasn’t changed a bit. There’s a lot to be said for being consistent. Plus, the black and white of the scheme looks awesome with Mark Cavendish’s rainbow stripes and Bradley Wiggins’ British champion’s kit.

Liquigas-Cannondale — Score another one for consistency. Though it’s bright as all get out, it’s a classic pro cycling look. Somehow.

Rabobank — The only thing that changes in the Rabobank kit is the pattern of the orange, blue and white color swaths. That’s what you should expect from the Dutch. Loud — but consistently loud.

Bottom 5

Omega Pharma-Quick Step — Two teams are jammed together once again. Omega-Pharma and Quick Step celebrated their union by essentially recreating the Leopard Trek kit from last season. Score one for creativity!

Team Astana — Yep, still awful. Baby blue and yellow. Sure, why not?

Lampre ISDHot pink and blue. Can you tell they’re Italian?

Team Katusha — Sure, the Russians buck the blue trend with red, but that … that’s a lot of red. Wow.

Vacansoleil-DCM — Somehow, they made one of 2011′s ugliest kits worse. And to top it off, they get new Bianchi Oltre bikes. That’s not the bad part — the bad part is that they’re not even done up in team colors. Where everybody else has a total “look” going, these guys look like they stole bikes from Jan Ullrich’s one-and-done 2003 Bianchi team.

Everybody else

Garmin-BarracudaBlue and white and black. Boring. Argyle hasn’t been cool since 2009, anyway.

BMCRed is eye-catching. But when combined with dark red and black it’s less so.

Euskaltel EuskadiOrange and black. Always with the orange and black. And those helmets are god-awful.

FDJ BigMatWhite and blue, yes, but at least the red part of it means it’s French. And that’s something, I guess.

GreenEDGE — They played it safe, that’s for sure. See that splash image behind this link? It’s RadioShack Nissan Trek with green instead of blue.

Lotto Belisol — I’ve heard a lot of people complaining about this one. No, it’s not awesome. This model is probably the problem.

Movistar — If you swapped the bright green helmet for a navy or white one, I’d be on board. But this? No.

Saxo Bank — How do you feel about blue? And birds?

These guys are as good as it gets in the pro cycling world. They should be dressed accordingly. But, unfortunately, they’re not. That said, wearing what we wear, you have to expect to look a bit ridiculous anyway, don’t you?

Long Gone

I’ve been asked a few times over the past week or so for my take on the Alberto Contador/Lance Armstrong/Jan Ullrich thing.

Or, basically, how do you feel about doping/alleged doping/getting fat?

And, despite my best efforts to summon a not insignificant amount of rage, I cannot. I just don’t care.

That’s not a reflection of my love dimming for the sport, or of weariness upon hearing yet another doping story. And it has nothing to do with the personalities themselves. I’ve never been a Contador fan, really. Armstrong had retired (the first time) before I ever raced a bike. And Ullrich? Sure, he was cast as the enemy, but he very rarely stood in the spotlight in the Lance era. He was harmless.

I just don’t care about the fates of these three riders. Or about doping in general, really. Sure, it’s a problem in cycling — but only in pro cycling. Where I race, in the Cat. 3 amateur level, doping is a non-issue. For that matter, the rest of the trappings of pro cycling are a non-issue, too: money, sponsors (though we have a few small ones), contracts, to name a few.

It’s about riding a bike for fun and fitness. For the challenge of trying to make that bike go really fast, even if your body says no. When I ride out of my garage, the state of pro cycling is not on my mind.

To be bummed about doping because you’re a cycling fan is fine, but I think that just means you’re ascribing too much weight to what you’re watching: They’re people riding bikes. They’re pretty fast, but they’re just people riding bikes. It’s entertainment.

If you’re a football fan, think of it this way: do you watch it for the purity of the sport? No, you watch it to see two guys plow into each other. Consider the lack of uproar over doping positives. In 2006, Shawne Merriman of the San Diego Chargers served a four-game suspension for a steroids violation. He remained a fan favorite and finished third in the NFL defensive player of the year balloting.

Spectator sports are entertainment, nothing more. They’re nothing upon which to place your faith or base your identity. And they’re certainly nothing that should dim your enthusiasm for a sport in which you can actually participate.

When you think about it, that’s probably why so many people get so bummed about doping in cycling: they know how hard it is to go fast. And when somebody takes a shortcut, it’s an affront to those who have turned the cranks in anger without resorting to outside assistance.

But take a step back and think about it. It’s disappointing as a fan, but does it affect your next ride in any way? Does it mean you won’t be able to take advantage of the next unseasonably warm day?

No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t matter. Pro cycling is the exception in the greater world of cycling. It’s fun to watch, yes — of course.

But cycling is much more fun from the saddle, when rolling down your driveway. Your love for the sport, passed on to others, is the future of cycling — not some skinny, doped-up skinny guy climbing the Galibier.

Random link time

  • Cyclismas is my new favorite (fake) cycling news site. Tyler Farrar’s scathing post-sprint commentary cannot be missed.
  • SRAM unveiled its new Red group last week. In person, it’s every bit as cool as you’d think. And for those complaining about no 11-speed or electronic options: Do you really think you need that stuff?
  • Nick Legan’s columns are a must-read on VeloNews. The rest? Meh.
  • You know how everybody’s all “Pinterest this” and “Pinterest that?” Behold, the coolest Pinterest site of them all: Ours.