Thursday, September 8, 2011

Nuggets about Radioshack + Leopard

Radioshack + Leopard = Reotard?

Shack + Trek = Shrek?

Radioshack + Nissan = Raiden?

Too tired to actually write much about the merger... other than the observation that a team with the Schlecks, Cancellara, Horner, Kloden, Brajkovic, Busche, Fugalsang is going to be a force next year. Still don't see that much support for Cancellara in the Classics though.

One thing is becoming apparent... the UCI World Tour teams are quickly being divided into the Haves and Have-Nots. Garmin, BMC, and now Radioshacktreknissanleopardtreknissanradioshackluxembourgschleckbruyneel are the Haves. The rest are the Have-Nots.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Angliru and other thoughts

The Angliru!
Though I had mentioned that the Vuelta is the "ugly sister" of the grand tours, it has some climbs that really are spectacular. The most iconic of the climbs is the Angliru... a beast of a climb in northern Spain that marked the summit finish of Stage 15 yesterday. The overall climb is 12.5km with an average of 10.1%. Think that sounds bad? Well, the final 6km of the climb average over 13% with ramps of 23%. Even the pros use mountain bike gearing to get up climbs like this. There are many climbs in Europe that I want to tackle... this is not one of them. To be perfectly honest, I wouldn't be able to ride up the entire climb and would certainly have to walk parts of it.

I won't dwell on the results of the stage from yesterday. I'll just say that Cobo's climb was impressive. Impressive enough that some people are questioning him and his authenticity. I can't say that I agree with them... their doubts are simply based on the fact that Cobo hasn't lead a grand tour in the past. Unless some evidence comes up that suggests that something is suspicious, I'd prefer to think that Cobo actually earned the right to wear the leader's jersey

Friday, August 26, 2011

No riding this weekend... Survival mode.

This past Sunday, I was trying to plan out my rides for the week (since I've not been getting on the bike much at all recently) and I was hoping to go for a ride out to Cold Spring this weekend. But it appears that I've been foiled. Stupid Irene. Now, I'm all for riding in the rain... but riding in this weather would be a little insane.

Let's see:
- Worst hurricane/storm system to hit NYC in decades.
- First MANDATORY evacuations of areas of NYC in... well, ever. Like EVER.
- Current forecast is calling for almost 7 inches of rain. 7 inches!!
- Hospitals and nursing homes are being evacuated. This includes my hospital, where hundreds of patients are being moved or discharged. Interestingly, the magnet for the MRI has been powered down and (I didn't know this) it takes a week for it to power back up again. What?
- The NYC MTA has said it will be canceling all public transportation starting on Saturday at noon. That means no buses, subways, or trains. The bridges may be closed as well if the winds get very strong.

So what does the intrepid cyclist do in weather like this? Well, head out to my parents' place this afternoon to make sure they're ready and well-supplied. Then come back home and batten the hatches for the next 48 hours. Maybe all my cycling gear with get the once-over and I'll spend Sunday tuning up my bike. Again.

For those on the Eastern seaboard, please be safe. No need to be a hero against Mother Nature.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Review - Pika Packworks EEP travel case

My biggest concern travelling to France for the Etape last month was figuring out a way to travel with my bike. I wanted a case that would, most importantly, protect my bike. But I didn't want to bring along a huge, heavy, hard case that would be a pain to lug around. I wanted something that I could move easily and that I could take onto a train or put into a taxi with minimal fuss. Essentially, like everything in cycling, I wanted something light and strong. I had heard about the Pika Packworks EEP case for a while through some other cyclists and some of the online reviews of the case were very favorable. So I decided to give it a try. And I'm glad I did.

Pika Packworks is a small company. Actually, I believe it's really just a one-man operation. I had a chance to talk to Mark Smedley over the phone before ordering the case and he sounds like one of the nicest guys out there. Mark makes all the bags... by hand... in his basement. He learned how to sew when he was young and, as a graduate student, gained experience sewing heavy fabrics because he was constantly repairing his rock-climbing bags. Using his experience as a mountain bike racer, he developed the EEP (Exercise Equipment Pack), which is the bag I used for my trip. His bags have been used by pro-level racing teams for years and has gained quite a following in the cycling community, despite the fact that he does no advertising. All his business is from word-of-mouth recommendations or user reviews.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Forgotten Grand Tour

I always feel a little bad about the Vuelta.... it's like the ugly sister of the grand tours. In my mind, the Tour is the pretty, smart sister who all the guys (advertisers) chase after. The Giro is like the really hot sister (think Angelina Jolie) who may not be as sharp as the Tour but is damned sexy. The Vuelta... well, it's the Vuelta. Still an amazing race but it pales a little in comparison to the other two tours.

That said, I think the Vuelta will be an interesting race this year. I'm looking forward to some of the climbs that they're going to do, especially the terrifying AnglirĂș where the final 6.5km averages over 13%. I think the overall will likely be won by a pure climber, though the moderate length TT in the middle gives people like Menchov a chance to damage the field.

A final quick thought of the morning... I need to get out more if I'm making analogies between grand tours and hot sisters.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Garmin Vector - 2012 and $1500

Additional details were released today about the Garmin Vector. Initially slated for release in Q4 of this year, it will now be released in the spring of 2012 (March, as per Garmin). As a pedal-based powermeter, it will be easily swappable across bikes and can allow the rider to get powermeter readings across multiple frames, groupsets, and wheels. The price will be approximately $1500, which is in the range of other powermeters but because of its flexibility, I expect that it will appeal to quite a lot of cyclists (both those who have used powermeters in the past as well as new users).

There are 4-sided strain gauges in the spindle of each pedal, which allows independent power readings from each leg as well as aggregate power output. The gauges communicate via external transmitters that are clamped between the pedals and the crank and use the ANT+ protocol, which means that headsets like the Garmin Edge 500/800 can be used. It's a simple and elegant system.

Should be an exciting new product! (And no, I don't get sponsored by Garmin... if it ends up sucking, I'll be very disappointed.)

Monday, August 15, 2011

2011 Gran Fondo Philly (where was Noah's Ark?)

At this point, it didn't matter where I stood... my feet were THAT wet.
I had spent all of last week drowning in paperwork and was really looking forward to riding the 2011 Gran Fondo Philadelphia. Last year's event was challenging and fun (if somewhat poorly organized) so I was excited about doing the ride again. Unfortunately, the weather decided that it wasn't interested in cooperating at all... and I exchanged drowning in paperwork with drowning in rain.

What exactly happened? Well, the forecast had seemed somewhat ominous in the days leading up to the ride. But given that meteorologists seem to be about as right as often as I win at blackjack, I was hoping that the weather would clear up for the ride. But when I woke up at 3:30am on Sunday to drive down to Philly, it was raining. And not just a little bit... it was raining record-setting amounts. But playing the role of insane cyclist, I loaded my bike into my friend's car and headed down to Philly....

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


I don't know what's going on but I'm drowning in paperwork. I went on a really beautiful ride last weekend that meandered up to Bear Mountain and back and I haven't had a chance to write about it. Which kind of sucks since I rode with some cool people and I wanted to jot down some thoughts in a ride report... especially since my memory feels like it's been fried recently.

I ordered myself a new toy this week and I'm looking forward to trying it this weekend... if it arrives in time.

Anyways, if I can get through the next few days (actually, the next 48 hours), then I'll at least have the Gran Fondo Philadelphia to look forward to this weekend. It sounds like it'll be a tough ride, especially since I haven't been able to put in many miles during the past few weeks. But I'm sure it'll be a fun ride. I'm especially looking forward to tackling the Manayunk Wall for the first time... that's going to be fun!

Friday, August 5, 2011

When the things we buy are better than us

"I can't believe he just spent $XX for that new ____. He's not even a good cyclist. He couldn't even keep up with our recovery ride the other day and he's spending money on things like that. What a waste."

We've all witnessed or have been guilty of situations like this... where it appears that an individual has spent "more than they should" on a piece of cycling gear. But what exactly does that mean? Where is that fine line that separates a good purchase from one that is extravagant? And when do we risk ridicule for buying something that is "beyond" what we should?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Review: Giro Aeon vs Specialized Prevail. Fight!

Giro Aeon (left) and Specialized Prevail (right)
Helmets are a necessary evil. If the world were a perfect place, we'd be able to ride our bikes without ever have to fear accidents and we'd enjoy the breeze across our un-helmeted heads. But alas, that isn't reality. So brain buckets are a necessity. Don't get me started on the douchebags who pretend to be Pantani and ride with only a handkerchief....

Anyways, if I could design the perfect helmet, what would it be? It would be light, aerodynamic, and well-ventilated (pretty much like anything in cycling). The two helmets compared here today are the latest attempts by Giro and Specialized to make bike helmets that maximize those 3 qualities.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Parting thoughts from the 2011 TdF

Now that the Tour has finally finished, I have a few leftover thoughts about the overall race. This race was, in my opinion, one of the best that we've had in recent years. It was full of drama, excitement, angst, and energy. Sure, some of the lows of the race (like Hoogerland getting thrown into a barbed wire fence) were terrible... but the great things that came out of the race were unbelievable.
  • This was a tour of heroes. Husholvd won the jersey and defended it proudly... even through some of the stages where people thought he'd lose it. And then he won a "mountain stage" into Gap, something that nobody expected. Voeckler showed that he was not just a talented rider but also that he has one of the biggest hearts in the peloton. That man fought and fought and fought to keep his yellow jersey. When he finished at the summit of the Galibier to keep the yellow jersey by 15 seconds over Andy Schleck, I think every one of us cheered him on. And whatever people may say about Contador, that man has a lot of fight in him. It was a daring and courageous move for him to attack on Stage 19 so he could try to salvage something from this Tour. I think he won the admiration of a lot of fans for his effort that day.
  • I think Andy Schleck grew as a cyclist during this Tour. I get the sense that he evolved over the course of the three weeks. The first two weeks, he spent a lot of time cycling defensively... always looking back at his rivals and being conservative. But his brilliant attack on Stage 18 was one that people will remember for a long time. He'll remember that and, having done it once, will do it again in the future. I think he learned during that single stage how to be aggressive and that will serve him well in future Tours.
  • Cadel Evans was a deserving winner. Watching him, I felt sympathetic when he was put in situations over and over again where he had to do the bulk of the work by himself. Many of the other GC contenders refused to help him so he shouldered the burden and went after the victory. When I was watching the final award ceremony, I got the sense that the Schleck brothers deeply respected Cadel's victory. How can you not? Watching him get teary-eyed and so emotional... you KNEW that this meant something for him. There was a sense that he appreciated how precious the victory was. And that was beautiful to watch.
  • As a final note about riding the Etape... there is something very cool about knowing what it feels like to ride into Alpe d'Huez, take that final left turn, and see the finishing line. Having done that makes seeing the stage on TV that much more amazing.
It's been a great 3 weeks. Now maybe I can actually do some work and catch up on life.

Finishing with a note about Hoogerland... that rider is a stud. This t-shirt is appropriate.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The greatest stage in recent memory

The climb up the Galibier. (Photos courtesy of
My apologies for being MIA for the past few days. I came back to a pile of work and other random bits and pieces of life that needed my attention since my return from France/Geneva. This is one of the problems with going on vacation... work doesn't stop accumulating just because I'm gone.

In any case, if you weren't aware, there is this little race that's been going on across the pond called the Tour de France. In this little race, there is a group of protagonists who have been riding their bikes over hills, down mountains, and  across fields... all wanting to wear a bright yellow jersey on the streets of Paris. Apparently, winning this bright yellow jersey is, well, only one of the biggest accomplishments in any sport.

Over the past two weeks, we've had the opportunity to watch some incredible racing. Philippe Gilbert winning the first stage with incredible panache. Thor Husholvd winning the yellow jersey and then defending it for an entire week (while even leading out Tyler Farrar for the latter's first career TdF stage win). And Tommy Voeckler taking over the yellow jersey and doggedly holding onto it through the mountains in which he was supposed to lose it.

But today's stage... it was probably the most brilliant bike racing I've seen in recent memory.

There are plenty of accounts about the race that you can read here, here, and here. But here are my thoughts about some of the important points of the race.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Brief post - video clip

After the near-daily blogging during the Etape weekend, I'm trying to catch up on other things (like work... and bills.) The joys of returning to NYC.

But see this for a little clip of the Etape I put together (rather quickly) for some friends of mine.

I have a few other entries that I've been working on... namely comparison reviews of the Specialized S-Works and Giro Prolight shoes and one of the Giro Aeon vs the Specialized Prevail.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Vacation from vacation

Having destroyed my legs on the Etape, I needed another vacation to recover from that part of my vacation. So I'm spending a couple of days here in Geneva, Switzerland. The watch and chocolate capital of the world. It's actually been pretty nice to just relax here and explore the city a little bit. It's not a very big city and one could walk from one end to the other over a span of a couple of hours. It's really pretty though. The only downside has been the weather... it's been raining rather hard here since last night.

In any case, here are some pictures from my exploration of the city.

Walking down from my hotel to the lake, I came across the park that lines much of the waterfront. I took this picture yesterday when the weather was actually still pretty nice, about 80 degrees and no rain. There were lots of people out there. One interesting thing I noticed was the diversity of people... Geneva is far more racially diverse than I was expecting.

This is the view across the lake to "Old Geneva". You can see the Rolex sign on the building below the church. Actually, if you look along the waterfront on that side of the lake, nearly every building is topped with a famous jewelry-makers such as Montblanc, Breitling, Raymond Weil, IWC, Vacheron Constantin, etc. A bit rich for my taste.

How rich? How about a Rolex completely encrusted in jewels?

Taken in a schoolyard. I don't speak French so I have no idea what this says. But it looked kind of neat with the lettering.

Apparently, campaigning in Switzerland is a little different from the US. It appears that this man wants us to choose him. Actually, I have no idea if this was a political advertisement or some kind of art.

Walking over to the waterfront near Old Geneva, there is the Jardin Anglais. The most famous part of this park is the Horloge Fleurie, or the Flower Clock. A beautiful, living tribute to Geneva's most venerated industry, the design changes from season to season. It's something my mother would love.

My first planned stop of the morning was to be at Auer Chocolatier because I had heard that they give tours of their chocolate factory. But before I managed to make it into the actual store, I ended up sitting down in their little cafe to have breakfast. Let me just say that I hadn't had a real chocolate croissant until this morning. Combine that with a couple of other pastries and a perfect cup of cappuccino and it made for a very tasty breakfast.

After that, I went to the actual chocolate store. Unfortunately, I was foiled in my attempt to go on a tour of the chocolate factory. Apparently the information I was given was a little outdated... they stopped giving the tours a couple of years ago. So I was relegated to being a regular customer. At least the chocolates were great!

I have a tendency to wander around whenever I visit a city. Perhaps because the rest of my life is fairly structured, whenever I go on vacation I enjoy walking aimlessly around a new city. Of course, since it was raining really hard this morning, this made it a little more wet than I would've liked. Oddly enough, I managed to find the road to purgatory during my walk. I desperately wanted to see what was behind the door.

I also came across an antique shop that sold old scientific and medical goods. Unfortunately it was closed so I couldn't go in. Probably not a bad thing since, knowing me, I'd probably end up spending 500 Swiss Francs on snake oil that is as useless today as it was a hundred years ago.

I also happened to come across what is apparently the world's longest bench on the Rue de la Treille. Because it was raining, there was nobody else on the bench. I would've liked to have a picture of me on that bench all alone but nobody was around to help and I didn't have my tripod. Oh well.

I've always like the narrow European streets with their cobblestones and old buildings. They're full of character and are often lined with really good restaurants!

I ended up at the Cathedrale Saint-Pierre, which was an unexpected find. It's apparently a cathedral belonging to the Swiss Reformed Church and was the adopted home church of John Calvin.

There was a wooden chair inside that was used by Calvin. They wouldn't let me sit on it.

Hidden away in the corner of the cathedral was a tiny little spiral staircase that led up to the towers. Strangely, of the dozens of people in the cathedral, only 2 or 3 others found this staircase. But for those who did, we were rewarded with unobstructed views of the city and lake.

Finally, a better shot of the fountain that is one of the defining features of Geneva. Really quite cool.

Location:Rue de Lausanne,Geneva,Switzerland

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Pictures from the Etape!

Hey guys,

So now that I've moved to a nice hotel with a reliable internet connection, I'm actually able to upload some of my pictures from the ride! I've captioned them but the formatting is still off a little bit. Click on the pictures to see a larger version.

Modane, the starting village. Talk about a stunning view to start off the morning.

Nerves = peeing.

My starting pen. I actually arrived a little early so I was close the front of my group.

Once we got onto the main street, there were cyclists as far as you can see... looking ahead.

And behind.

Once we got on the road, it was a quick 15km ride to Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne.

And, we're on the first climb! The Col du Telegraphe.

Every kilometer, there is a marker on the road (the little tombstone-shaped thing... the big sign is temporary) that tells you the distance to the summit and the grade of the upcoming kilometer. So this one says that there is 1km to the summit with an average grade of 8%.

Still headed up....

There is a quick 5km descent off the Telegraphe into the village of Valloire (first elimination point) and then we began our assault on the Galibier.

The first 10km are relatively easy, with the gradient hovering around 4% the entire time. And on parts of the ride, you could see other cyclists in the distance (look carefully... way in the distance).

After making a wide right hand turn at Plan Lachat, the real climbing begins. 8km at an average gradient of 10%. The views were spectacular. So was the pain. If you look at this picture, you can see the line of cyclists snaking up the mountain.

A monument to Pantani, about 5km from the summit.

Cycling in the Alps allows for some awesome images.

At the summit of the Galibier, looking down into the valley where cyclists stretch as far as the eye can see on the road that's draped on the mountain.

Summit of the Galibier.

Descending from the Galibier. Fewer pictures of this since I was too busy trying to stay alive on the switchbacks while hitting speeds of over 40mph.

Finally getting to Alpe d'Huez. Beginning the climb... about 2km in where the gradient is a steady 10%.

Looking back on Turn 9.

And finally the view from Alpe d'Huez proper. There's no cool little plaque like there was on the Galibier... just a huge huge ski resort.

Finally, let me mention again that I met some really amazing and friendly people on this ride. First would be Michael, who was my roommate for the 2 days in Valfrejus and after the ride at the Etape. A true gentleman. Soft spoken, thoughtful, and the nicest person you could meet. Also happens to be the president of a large insurance company. I also spent a lot of time with Tom, from California, who is a 64 year old who does Ironman Triathlons like people do afternoon jogs. Also Michael from Strava and Ashely, who were both really chill and one of the few in our group close to my age. I've already blamed Michael for getting me addicted to his website. But that's okay... it's still an awesome site. Overall, the group was a highly accomplished bunch of cyclists, including multiple triathletes, a couple of randonneurs (including a RAAM qualifier and someone riding Paris-Brest-Paris), and a guy who rode 500km on his first Texas time trial (a test of how far you can ride in 24 hours straight). As you can tell, these guys are all really accomplished athletes and it was really great to meet them all.