Monday, July 12, 2010

The Other Sabbath..

Sometimes, life gives you days of sunshine and balmy weather. Other times, it spits you out--just so--like an annoying watermelon seed. And sometimes, it sends you skittering helplessly across the dirty, gravelly pavement.

It seems that the most notable the Tour de France competitors and the Dutch National 'Football' squad, have had such a weekend. First off, kudos to the Spanish National Team for withstanding a gruelling 90 minutes of scorelessness, and then a marathon of the numerically elusive, though grammatically accurate, Extra Time, before scoring a goal successfully. There was much elation across much of this city for the remainder of the afternoon. The Dutch team, on the other hand, made a good run during this year's World Cup, and made it to the final round, officially claiming second place. Now, they have all the pressure of expectation in having to make it to the final round another four years from now, and none of the joy of winning it to carry them through.

Dissimilarly, and taking place in the Land of the Disappointed, or as some call it, France, Lance Armstrong is notably attempting an eighth wearing of the Maillot Jaune while riding the world's most famous local, crit (that is to say, criterium--not to be confused with cliterium, which is a word I'm seeking to define in a popular, online definitional site.) Sadly, his time swelled impressively in ways that would likely keep him out of contention, if not many public beaches. The race around the Champs Elysees is one of my favorite of events of my most favorite event of the year. Though, around our local scene, crit is a euphemism for 'being pwned by hay bales'.

Luckily, the world seems to be very aware of Lance's abilities and controversies. The only thing he had to prove was that at his age, he could still get up on the bike. I've heard that forty is the new thirty, though, so I'm wondering if he'll make another run at it in another few years.

That said, the Tour celebrated a day of rest, and for that, I applaud them all, and their miles of hard-riding restfulness.

The epic sport of controversy, however, recently served up an exciting match of bitter hatred that only peace-loving hippies can engage. It seems that scores of Beattles fans got to invoke their hatred of Yoko Ono, and transfer it to the new generation of Onos, at long last, by abusing the cherubic Sean Lennon. For years, little Seany has been granted immunity from true analysis of his lack of actual talent because of his famous last name, and parentage. I wish him well, and I'm glad that he is no longer succumbing to the misplaced expectations that he can produce quality original music. Now, it seems the stark light of uber-celebrity has turned it's ugly shadow, on that dear son.

Sean Lennon earned a new respect from me with the way that he recently stood up to a cold legion of vampiric fans. It turns out, that he recently allowed controversial, marketing genius, Lady Gaga, tickle the keys of Yoko's famous white, upright piano. The fans are upset over the contrast of the perceived persona like Miss Gaga's, against the perception of that of John Lennon. I'm not trying to downplay the impact that he had on the world of popular music as we know it today, but it's about time for a little perspective. Thirty years after his passing, he is, yet another famous, dead guy, who happened to write some very listenable little songs, not unlike the enormous influence of Bach and Mozart. I'm willing to bet that had she been playing the 'Minuet in G' on a Keytar, she would've received a much warmer response.

If we break this situation down to it's most basic, some American guy got a half-naked woman to sit patiently and play with his stuff. In other situations, this most basic scenario would garner little Seany major kudos, demonstrative fist-pumping, emphatic high-fiving, and other physical expressions of low-testosterone joy. Add to that, the Future, Dame Gaga, knows how to operate such an instrument, and has a talent for Cabaret, if Cabaret can be considered a talent, and not just an entertainment-career failsafe.

I don't know what it is about pianos, but music majors are drawn to them like Tour de France riders to uncomfortable-looking recovery technologies. For that, I say, stand proud Sean Lennon for getting to do whatever you want with your Mom's stuff, and keep mooching ivory-time Lady Gaga!

By the way, if you're riding the tour, or riding a Posture Pedic,

Ride safe. I love you all.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Survivor: the Reunion Tour

The Tour de France traversed sections of cobblestoned roads today, as I mentioned earlier, the 'Pave'. There's some discussion as to whether or not these sections deserved inclusion into the Tour. The answer is yes, in my opinion. The 'pave' are sections of roads in France; therefore, they're fair game. For over a hundred years, the Tour has been the 'Tour of France', not the 'Tour of Some Roads That Wussy Road Cyclists Prefer While They Deign to Visit France'. These are professional cyclists, so I'll venture that they've spent many hours in the saddle on many, varying road surfaces. What about tree roots? or potholes? or poor road conditions? or crushed gravel pavement? or Canada? Moreover, I've seen the guys riding the Tour this year, and unless I'm mistaken, none of them requires the dampening abilities of a good sports bra. Ride with hormonal 36D's, and then you can tell me about the physical beating you get from 'bouncing around on the cobbles'.

As it happens, my opinion doesn't matter, given that the riders have already completed this stage. Oh, and the Giro went over a whole section of dirt roads under the rains that frightened Noah. If I had to choose between slippery, unpredictable, undulating mud, or a pancake-flat, dry cobblestones, I'll take the cobbles any day. Unless I'm hormonal. But then, my bike runs off to the local bars, or the circus, or some such, on those days.

One thing that's kind of interesting about the 'pave' sections, that isn't as apparent on the smoother roads, is that it really shows off 'good form', vs not. Namely, you can really see the guys riding with their elbows parallel to the handlebars, rather than parallel with the bike. I'm not a physiologist, but it looks like the 'elbows out' position puts more strain on the triceps and deltoids, which would tend to give the bike a left-right force. No wonder, they crash so much.

The 'elbows in' position uses more of the biceps and abs, makes the position more aerodynamic, and forces the rider to bend their elbows more. Especially on cobblestones, stiff elbows increase the harshness of the ride, and stresses on the neck, shoulders and back. That, and toned biceps and abs have more of a mass appeal, than deltoids and lats.

Arguably, if you're going to be riding for more than an hour, it's important to change up your position, occasionally, and take advantage of other muscle groups; otherwise, you'll tire out faster. Again, I'm no physiologist, so if I just said something way incorrect, feel free to ejicate me. Though, for the record, I will find new ways of displaying my jackassedness in the future, if this didn't do it.

and...there! I did it!

I was able to write about today's Tour stage, without commenting about whether or not any of the riders 'have the stones'.

Ride safe. I love you all.


So here it is..

live coverage of the Tour.

Today's stage is being billed as the Hell of July, due the Paris-Roubaix homage they will complete today. After yesterday's crashes, today's roads paved with 'pave', it may be an unexpected respite on sensibility.

We shall see.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Give me your tired, ..Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free

Today, for the first time in a while, Seattle actually had better weather than Central Europe. Here, cyclists were imbued with an unfamiliar sense of well-being, inspiring congenial greetings, well-wishing, and generally good behavior, not often seen in the recent meteorological morose through which we just passed. For the pro-cyclists in Belgium, I sympathize with the dismal rain they experienced today, and the subsequent rain enslickened (Not misspelled, I just made it up--it means: recently rendered slippery as all shit.) roads, as well.

As I mentioned earlier, today's stage is not the first that I've seen of this year's race; I've slacked. As a cyclist, the Tour de France represents the premier event of my favorite pasttime, much like Free Donut Day does for those progressives seeking the release of imprisoned donuts everywhere. I've been overwhelmed by the majesty that it is this race, and was too 'entranced' by the scenery of Holland (which, I'm told, happens a lot, there,) I was hoping to find evidence of 'doping', as the competitors passed through Rotterdam and Brussels, but if they were, it wasn't of the sort I was hoping to see. That said, the events in the last 3,000 meters of yesterday's stage, may have been the sign, I missed.

As it happens in most modern Tour de France happenings, the race has been Nascar-ifically eventful. I'm guessing this is no accident, given the courting of American audiences and their tourism dollars. Even the four-mile, Prologue stage, that launched the whole thing on Saturday was not without incident.

Usually, the Prologue defines cycling's equivalent of the 'Pole Position' (Thank you, motorsports!) rankings for the first, official stage of the race. It's usually short and gutsy. Indeed, the commentators on Versus, spent more time tying their ties, I imagine, than each of the riders spent out on the day's race course. Nonetheless, seeing Bob Roll in a tie, is an event worth waiting for, almost as much as the prologue itself.

So, yes, the World Cup quarterfinals took a back seat to the most epic of epic events, the Tour de France, and I couldn't be happier. By the way, in case you were wondering, Wimbledon crowned new winners, over the weekend, as well. But it wasn't going to be Roger Federer, so I chose not pay witness. That said, if you'd like a more complete wrap-up of the actual events of the Tour, you'll be better served by BikeSnobNYC's new Universal Sports blog, regarding these events.

I homage, and I hope to learn.

So, in Snobbie's first post, he mentioned that the rider's characters would reveal themselves. I think it's important to introduce the riders 'characters', as we've come to know them, so we can better appreciate the manner in which they choose to reveal themselves this time around.

No discussion of pro riders can be complete, nor started, without mentioning the General Classification (GC) contenders. This year, the cast includes:

Lance Armstrong

and the Yin to his Yang, Alberto Contador.

Will it be the year for Levi Leipheimer?

Or will Mick Rogers build on his Tour of California win?

Will Christian Vande Velde avoid adversity, and build on the promise he showed just a few, short years ago? (It turns out, no.)

Or will David Miller be the one to rise to fame

Maybe Carlos Sastre, will congenially steal the limelight again?

Or, maybe we should just let Sylvain Chavanel enjoy his catch for a little bit, after all. But the French never get to enjoy their own race, anymore. Perhaps, we should let this year pass.

And what of Cadel Evans?

and, what if Bradley Wiggins has something to say about it?

Will George Hincapie will finally shed his Susan Lucce reputation?

And what about the Schleck brothers? They're a formidable team within a team, and have seen success at the Tour before.

That said, what of the sprinters?
(Okay, the word 'Friends' may be a bit of a stretch.)

Or will it come down to a team competition?

Like Radio Shack?

Or Liquigas?

Either way, Mark Cavendish said it best, "It's just bike racing. Get on with it."

If you'll be in the forests of Arenberg tomorrow,

Ride safe. I love you all.

It's in the air, and I caught it!

It's 6am on Monday morning in Seattle, and I'm as excited as a six-year-old on Christmas morning. I've poured out a bowl of my favorite breakfast cereal, ruined it with soy milk, and turned on the Versus network to the live coverage of this year's Tour de France.

This is the third day of the Tour, which has passed through the Netherlands and Belguim, already. Yes, I watched those first two stages, but as I missed the early a.m., live coverage, I was only super-excited to watch, as opposed to the super-duper excited that I am this morning. I missed the other live editions because I could not summon the intestinal strength to get up early on a holiday weekend. As today's the third day of said holiday, let's just say that I'm still awake from what most would consider, yesterday.

I will venture to comment on the earlier stages later, but for now, I must catch up on the 'cycling education' that the Versus network chooses to issue every year. I'm tickled by this years version. Instead of just the usual, condescending explanations, there's an accompanying computer animation, and let's face it, cartoons are just fun.

Spoiler alert of the day: Alessandro Petacchi proves early on why it's important to watch the Italian cyclists anytime that they're on screen. I happened to see Twilight over the weekend (and managed to avoid paying any actual money for it,) and Ale-Jet has cleansed the subsequent disgusting crust from my eyes. In the words of the Spanish commentators of a few Vueltas ago, Petacchi, Petacchi, Petacchi!!

I'll be back later with more. But at the moment, the tour's on, so I gotta go. So exciting!!

If you're going to be getting into position for the bunch sprint today,

Ride safe. I love you all.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


I'm taking a break from all the fabulousness that is the world of professional and semi-professional sports for a moment, as today is the Fourth of July. The only day on the American Calendar where you must capitalize the full English spelling of the date. (Not to be confused with the day to be capitalized in Spanish, Cinco de Mayo.)

According to my Facebook Research, today is a day to celebrate our freedom to blow stuff up. It's also a day to celebrate another one of the age-old freedoms: to put opinions into print form. We have a freedom of speech for a reason, and that is, to use it.

It is often said that any time our nation sends our soldiers off into battle, they are fighting, at essence, for our freedom. I've not always accepted this in the literal sense, most notably, for our most recent engagements. I've never believed that the nations of Iraq nor Afghanistan have posed immediate threats to us, as nation-states. No matter, I do feel strongly that the children of our nation's soldiers should be allowed to feel proud of the work that their parents are doing, and that they should be reunited with them, permanently, as soon as possible.

In the results of our military engagements, part of the fabric of our collective freedoms were earned during the Vietnam War. The stated goal of this conflict was about fighting off the spread of communism, seen as a threat at the time, to the tenets of our own system. In the forty years since, we have seen communism, largely, perish from the political landscape of the globe, because of economic successes, rather than any from the battlefield. That said, though the end of communism was not the actual benefit we received, we've earned many freedoms because of this experience.

As Oliver Stone stated in his 'epic' film, "Platoon", we fought ourselves. We fought ourselves, and we earned precious freedoms. Decades and another few wars later, it's important to reflect on the freedoms that the fight in Vietnam earned us.

Freedom for introspection. It's okay to look forward, and it's also okay to look inside. Previous generations were not allowed this freedom. Indeed, some are still afraid to use it, but despite that, it is okay to do.

Freedom to accept. We may choose to disagree, but at heart, we are all Americans, using our freedoms. If we look inside, this is what we always find. And for that we can all be proud.

Freedom to reveal. Because we are free to accept.

Freedom to be less, and to give that much more.

Freedom to have an outward strength, and an inner strength much stronger.

Freedom to forgive. Others. And ourselves.

Freedom to love.

Many have said that we should forget Vietnam. We allowed our soldiers to fail. If we allow ourselves to forget, we fail those who fought for us, and the love that they gave our cherished nation.

We should remember. We should enjoy all of the freedoms they earned us.

And most importantly, we should celebrate.

Ride safe. I love you all.