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Entries For: July 2007


No more Tour

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A Tour de France that had everything, heros, villians, mystery, tragedy and triumph. What more could anyone want?

And so it ended last night, the 2007 Tour de France.  Three weeks of some of the most intriguing and exciting racing I've ever seen, mixed in with a backdrop of doping and subterfuge. 

Remember way back in stage 1, with Robbie McEwen blasting the rest of the field to smithereens on pure adrenaline after crashing some 20km prior?  Robbie didn't recover from the crash and missed the time cut in the Alps.

Remember Cancellara winning a sprint finish in yellow?  Boonen's leadout man winning a stage (Gert Steegmans the missile).   The usual early stages with futile breaks, stages ridden at touring speeds, Brad Wiggins being hung out to dry for 100km, every time he slowed down, the peloton slowed too, torture ....

Almost everyone winning a stage early on (sprinters, that is!) - Hushovd, Boonen, McEwen, even Zabel managed to be consistantly high up, although unable to take a win, showing that cunning and positioning is just as important as raw speed yet again.

Crashes ... so many crashes this year, Obviously McEwen, but more tragic was Stuart O'Grady on a descent breaking ribs and puncturing lungs but not breaking his heart.  Mick Rogers, while virtual tour leader, crashing and dislocating his shoulder, Vino crashing early and riding on swathed in bandages and oozing blood for days.  Riders crashing into loose dogs not once, but twice. David Millar doing his best to ruin Mavic's reputation by ripping a Mavic disk wheel to bits on the startline of the final ITT.

The young German rider taking yellow and white for a day, on the podium the podium girls were tripping over his smile it was so broad.  David Millar putting on a show, bathed in sunscreen because of a bizzare allergy.

And then the hills ... Rasmussen, to cheers at first, then jeers and boos as the story unfolded, tearing the road up in the Alps before pulling a time trial from nowhere to hold his lead.  Who believed he was that strong?  Then, the controversy as he was removed by his own team after way too many mysteries about his wherabouts and missed doping controls during the leadup to the tour.

Vino winning a time trial, Vino driving Astana to split the peloton in a crosswind, destroying the French hopes by putting minutes into Moreau but seemingly to have no real purpose.  Vino cracking in the hills and losing 20 minutes, Vino attacking in the hills and winning a stage, Vino testing positive, Vino and his whole team being evicted from the tour. Vino living up to his reputation.  Never a dull moment.

And along the way, Contador going punch for punch with Cadel Evans and Rasmussen in the mountaintop finishes.  Attack, attack, attack ... Cadel driving himself beyond exhaustion to limit his losses in the hills.  Levi Leipheimer and Contador taking turns attacking Cadel until eventually getting clear.  Could Contador get enough gap to stay in front after the final ITT? Would SBS interupt a finish with an ad break to tell us all about Sniff and Stiff (with no irony at all re performance enhancing drugs) or some particularly dull car advert.  Yes to both.  Can Tomalaris say anything sensible at the end of a stage?  will Graham Gate with his Faux-French accent cribbed from Peter Sellers movies finally choke on some overstuffed foie gras?  One can but hope ... Will Paul Sherwin manage to squeeze in a mention of testicular cancer? Yes!  And David Millar .. yes!  Did anyone run a book on how many times?

The humour - Borat sightings, the usual nudity, the crazy drunken spectators in the mountains. Rasmussen waving away motorbikes (we think, still not really sure of what he was on about).

The late transitional stages where finally some breaks stayed away, the old soldiers (Jens Voight, Sandy Cesar and co.) dicing it out for a last stage win in their careers.  Sandy Cesar winning while dripping blood from an early crash.  Setting everyone up for the crunch - the final ITT.

Could Cadel catch Contador?  So close in the end, but so desperatly close also for Leipheimer, who won the ITT but Cadel held second - 31 seconds seperating first from third.  Footage of Cadel sprinting up the last 200 meters of the ITT, sweat spraying everywhere, just a few more seconds ... everyone in Australia with a bike and a TV glued to the time trial willing Cadel to find a few extra watts from somewhere, and probably quietly wishing for Contador to puncture or crack, but the race was true and Cadel got second in the end.  The Australian media being clueless about stage racing (too much time playing footy) and media pundits telling us Chicken Little stories about the death of the Tour.  The sky is not falling.  The Tour is much bigger than a couple of scandals - it wouldn't be a tour without scandals.

The amazing spectacle of riders protesting about dopers, not dope tests.  Surely one of the most promising signs that the sport is purging itself of the old guard.

Tom Boonen's vindication, taking home a stage win and the green jersey at last.

And Cadel, second place this year.  Achingly close to first, but beaten by a stronger climber with a more focussed and polished team.  Discovery/US Postal have now won 8 of the last 9 Tours. They know how to win a tour.  Bruyneel taking his team, post Lance, to a win no-one expected.  Cadel being so close that many are disappointed that he didn't win, but that's to miss the point - he did win, he won respect and he won admiration and he rode clean, and he got the best result ever by an Australian.  Next year Cadel ... Imagine if it was Cadel and Rogers fighting it out for the podium next year.

And now we can all get some sleep, no more tour lag 'til next year.  Thankyou for reading.

It's back, it's built. Power time ....

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The powertap is back

After some 2 months or so, the Powertap SL 2.4 is back.  It arrived on Friday, and I built it back into a 28 hole Mavic Open Pro, did a final retension today.  Now to get back to using it.  We can do power testing and power training again!  W00t!



Catherine Deveny in The Age says 'ride your bike'

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Some positive (and very accurate!) stuff on riding for transport in The Age today

Read this opinion piece in today's Age.  Good Stuff!

In case you can't get to The Age's copy, it's here too.



Stuart O'Grady, oh no.... and some good news about bikes in Paris

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A bad day for the Aussies in the Tour, but some good news also from France

Last night, Mick Rogers dislocated a shoulder in a crash while maliot jaune virtuel and looking super-strong, Robbie McEwen, who's struggled since his crash on stage 1 (which he won, adrenaline ... ) was eliminated by missing the time cut, and Stuart O'Grady crashed, breaking five ribs, three vertibrae, puncturing a lung and breaking a collarbone.  Not a good day at all.  I'm sure we all wish our best to Stu for a hasty recovery.

Cadel Evans is still going strong, he's riding defensively, but is holding 6th place and if he can feature in some attacks later and/or pull out the stops in the ITTs he must be a chance for a podium finish.  Simon Gerrans is the other aussie left, and he's staying out of trouble, look out for him in a break in week three.  Maybe a chance for a stage win from him.

But, in an interesting development in Paris, which is related to bikes but not the tour, Paris is about to have a fleet of hire bikes (10,000 of them) all around Paris hirable for some tiny fee (~$45AUD for a year's access to them, ~$1 to hire them) and the guess is that they'll be within 300m of just about everywhere in Paris.  Rumour has it that the City of Melbourne is looking at something similar.  Makes a nice change from all the bunk in the Age at the moment about how dangerous riding bicycles is.  They don't talk about how dangerous it is being a passenger in a train, or a pedestrian, or the occupant of a car, but bikes ... ohhh .. dangerous!  It's the old story really, if it's in the paper, it's because it's rare (man bites dog).

Anyway, you can read about the bikes in Paris thing here. They're calling it a 'Velorution'.

In other news, a few of us made the trip to DISC for Sunday's masters training, and in John Lewis' absence (he's sick) I ran the sessions.  We had about 9 riders I think, including Nathan and Rob Monteith.  We did mainly sprint work, with Stu Vaughan helping out with a new drill to work on flying 200 lines, which worked very well indeed.  Everyone's lines improved significantly.  We then did leadouts and honesty sprints, and finished off with the enduro 'take a lap' Grand Prix.

And, Vanders is back from his 7 week jaunt through South America, and he was frothing at the mouth describing his 3,500 (vertical) descent on a MTB ride somewhere.  That's right, the descent dropped more meters than the height of Mt Cook.  -wow-

This Wedensday is the showdown at the Blackburn Corral.  Club/committee meeting where I need to get the details of the summer sprint series approved so I can start promoting it. I think I may have a workable compromise....

Get well soon, Stuey.


Taking one (or three) for the team

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DISC report .. 'ouch'

Five of us hardy aboc'ers turned up to race at DISC on Thursday night, Nick Bird (doing his first races on track), Dino, Nathan, Neil and I (Richard is under house arrest on call this week).  Cheered on by Bev, Lucie and Emily.

A big field across most grades, D grade must have had at least 18 riders, and the same in C, and B was big too. This mean lots of willing legs and breaks would be be very hard to establish.  Fortune favours the brave, but tonight, the brave may well be the stupid! We shall see ...

Following the usual format, Nath (who had time for a proper warmup!) raced first, with Nick in D grade.  Nick impressed by finishing well, Nath was still warming up for later, and recorded a DNF.

The us, Dino, Neil and I in the C grade scratchy.  I let them know my plan, for what there was of it.  Shake up the field early and try to smoke out the workers.  I've won there before and also solo'ed away from a points race to take the last sprint, so I'm a threat and have to be marked. The riders there that pay attention know to cover me.  Anyway, Neil and Dino know that I'm not planning on going all the way in the scratchy, I'm going to try and weaken the rest so that Neil and Dino can fare well later.  Dino's in a base/build phase, so won't have much of a kick, but Neil is strong, and we're banking on his legs to finish things off.  It's fast and a bit messy, but with 8 to go there's an opportunity and I kick hard down the back straight, and quickly I establish a small break, two other riders are with me and we roll half lap turns for a lap or two before I sit up to get caught (and overtaken, my job's done for now).  Neil & Dino go through, I roll around recovering and pull out.  DNF, but Neil's finding his legs and Dino's hanging on.  We don't get a result, but the work will pay later in the night.  A few riders who fancy their chances are weakened and will have less later.

We watch the rest of the grades race, then it's the points races.  Nath & Nick are up first, Nath's plan is 'win the first sprint, forget the rest'.  He does. Mission acomplished.  Nick rode well and finished well up but I don't think he took any points? Nick?

Our turn, and our plan is the same, except we want Neil to go on with it after winning the first sprint.  An aboc train forms at the start line, I'm off first, then Dino, then Neil.  Off we go and I do a 4 lap turn pretty hard right from the go, then pull off and it's Dino's turn, but Neil feels it's time to go and he goes over the top, and holds off the bunch for the first sprint.  I'm blown and of course, am trying to recover as the rest of the bunch is sprinting, so I'm out of it.  A short, but pretty intense race for yours trully!  The race pans out, Neil's almost in a break but other legs aren't willing, and they end up all together until one brave lad with 7 to go attacks, and takes the second last sprint and the last, solo.  Strong ... Neil's cooked, but so is the rest of the field, only 50% finished, I think. Fortune favoured the brave and hats off to that lad who took the race by the horns and rode it the way he wanted to win it.

Watching A grade, Stu Vaughan is having an off night, too much work and travel, but he'll be back.

The last race, motorpace.  Nath's blown and doesn't finish, Nick rides well and finishes well up.  He's strong, and will be too strong for D grade very soon.

Our turn.  We spread out so that we can help each other later.  I'm on the bike for the first lap, Neil and Dino are spread out so we're roughly cutting the field into three.  At crunch time, this will mean we'll have numbers and position when we need it.  Away we go and the bike is hooting.  The bunch doesn't split, but it's very messy at the tail end.  With about 6 to go, Neil's on the front and I'm at 4th wheel, perfect.  Neil peels up, I open up a lovely gap and call him in, and he drops in front of me.  Perfect.  Textbook.  The bike peels off and Neil's second wheel, I'm third.  A girl who's name I don't know is first wheel and suprisingly, she hammers.  I've watched her race a lot, and never seen her go all that hard, but she's got legs tonight.  I've got the sit on Neil's wheel, as he pulls out to go around her, and he just sits on her hip. We're flying, my 90" gear isn't big enough, but Neil's on 94" and he just keeps going.  With 3/4 to go I can't hold his wheel any longer and there's a rider cheekily trying to squeeze under me but I block him in place. But at least I've ensured that anyone behind has to come past me first, giving Neil a buffer. In roady terms I was his sweeper,  although I wanted to be the sprinter. Not tonight, I'm at 185bpm (hrmax is 188) just in the draft and way undergeared.  Neil takes the win. The early work in the scratch race and the points race has paid, and we've been a strong team, imposing our will on several parts of the evening. Neil gets $10 for the win.  Aparently there was a crash but it was midfield and we didn't see or hear it at the front.

Off to Ivanhoe Nandos for chicken and chips with loads of extra hot peri-peri. Mmmmm, then I saddle up the roady and ride to Rich's to watch another amazing stage of the Tour.  A pretty good night, I'm happy, Neil's thrilled, Nath's done what he wanted to, Dino's been part of a winning team and Nick's broken a hoodoo and I'm sure is very happy with his courage. We put on a good show for the cheer squad.

Today, a Trek 1000WSD (47cm - it's tiny!) arrived for Emily Apolito, so now she has a beautiful new roadbike to ride the J13 team time trial on.  I did a quick fit for her and she looks so strong on that bike .. for an 11 year old she's great.


Dinner No.6, run & won

The 6th aboc dinner was a success!

Many of you reading this were at the dinner, so I don't need to spill the details, but it was great to have Tom Leaper as our guest speaker.  Thankyou Tom and Jo for coming and sharing your experience with us and trusting us with some special parts of your history. Tom showed us many of his jerseys and told us about racing the Giro and his time with the AIS squad in Italy, and how strong Ullrich was - Jan gave Tom 'the look' (made famous by Lance Armstrong, of course) on one occasion before launching into space during a race Tom was riding.

A few new faces, it was good to meet Teresa Goddard and Steve Fallon, and to catch up with old friends Jason 'Dutchy' den Hollander and Shane, Von, Justin and the HCC crew.  Thankyou Jess for coming too, I'm sure we'll miss you when you're in Shep, but we'll do our best to make it up there to do the Scott Peoples' memorial race.  For the rest of you, you pack of slackers, we'll be doing a doubleup at the next spin session (maybe ....) to make up for missing a night's training!  Double-up on pasta, anyway. Thankyou everyone that came, I hope you all had a good time.  Having a 'full house' makes it worth organising.  Next up is the next climbing camp in November, and maybe a dinner before then. I have another great speaker in mind, but I'll have to ask very nicely!

For anyone that noticed, I spent some time discussing the summer sprint series with Nicko (John Nicholson) and while we don't agree on exactly how to fit it in with the rest of the Blackburn summer track racing, I'm confident that we'll be able to make it work well.  I'm still hoping to be able to run it seperatly from the rest of the season, but Nicko made some good points and it may come down to a judgement call on the impact that the series would have on numbers at the regular summer track season.  Nicko's concern is that if we have two days of racing on one weekend, it will take away from the Saturday program, and he has a point.  I don't think he's necessarily right, but I understand what he's on about.  I think that the impact that the series would have if run seperatly would be minimal, and if anything, it would bring more 'foreigners' to the club than mixing it in with Saturday races. We'll thrash it out at the next club meeting ... then I can start to seriously promote the series.

Now to watch the Tour ... I hope Robbie's feeling better than yesterday, it looks like stage 1's crash really hurt him. Go Robbie! And everyone else, stay upright.



And so it begins

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Tour lag ....

Tonight, the prologue.  For the next three weeks, it's tour-lag every morning.  If this year's tour is one tenth as interesting as last years was, it'll be superb.  There's two Australians with real chances to get on the podium, Cadel Evans and Mick Rogers, and of course Robbie McEwen is a likely candidate for the green jersey, especially with Petacci gone for doping anomilies at the Giro.  Petacci probably wouldn't have made it through the mountains anyway, but you never know ... It's a long, wide open Tour, and it starts tonight!

Don't call me in the mornings, please ... I'm sleeping in!


Why would someone work in a shop?

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In any sort of shop? Why?

I had an interesting experience today.  On my way to my day job, I stopped off at the Monash Art Gallery to pick up a book.  Quite a high-end book, a gift.  They have a small book, card and print shop attached to the gallery. 

Two older ladies were sitting behind the counter, and seemed quite taken aback when I walked up to them, interupting their conversation, and asked if they had the copy of 'Lux et Nox' I had organised the day before.  To put this in perspective, they stock maybe 50 items or so.  Not a lot ... But they had no idea and had to call the manager.  Ok, I can live with that, they're volunteers, but their attitude was terrible.  They (and the manager) made no attempt to show me anything else and seemed desperate to get me out of there so they could get back to their chat about whatever it was they were talking about.

I'm no retail expert, but I've learnt a lot in 3 years of working at Cycle Science.  Firstly, the single most important thing to ask yourself if you want to work in a shop, is why?  Why work in a shop?  Sure, some people do it purely because it was all they could get as a job, and you expect bad service when you go to department stores, fast food vendors and so on. But if you're going to work in retail, as a volunteer or by choice, then you need some passion.  You need to believe in something.  When I work at CS, I believe I'm doing a service not only to Peter (the shop owner) by helping him to make a living, but also to the people that come in to the shop looking for service and advice.  I'm passionate about bicycles, and the people that work in a gallery need to be passionate about the art in the gallery.  If I was working there, I'd be taking every opportunity to show customers things, give them a chance to experience something that they hadn't seen before.  Even something as simple as 'have you seen the current exhibition?'.  Working at an LBS, or a gallery, or anywhere with a focus on something specific requires passion if you want to do it well, and contribute to not only the coffers of the enterprise you're working at, but also to the people who visit the shop.

I go back to the local Brumbies bakery in Blackburn not because they're a chain bakery with a reputation (I don't like franchises) but because I went in there and the lady working there, when I asked about chilli pies, said they didn't have any, but that they reckon their curry pies are ace.  She believes in what she is doing and that what she's selling is good.  Now I'm a regular there. Nick's Souvlaki bar (gone now, alas, and Lambs is not as good) for years was my favorite souvlaki vendor (I'd go there specifically on my way home from overseas trips) not because they made the best souvas (although I think they did) but because the people who served me cared about what they were doing and wanted me to enjoy the food. It wasn't just 'gimme your $8 and piss off'. They wanted me to come back again and they knew what mattered was more than just having good food. My local Indian restaurant (Khusboo, where we have the aboc dinner, plug, plug!) is the same, it thrives because they work hard at customer service, not just making yummy grub.

These people at the gallery could have shown me some of the photos in some of the other books, shown me some prints, suggested I make time to see the current exhibition, asked me if I own a camera, anything .... if they'd engaged me perhaps I'd have not only bought more stuff from the shop, but also broadened my experience and enjoyed it, and spread the word.  If they were more interested in racking up brownie points for 'volunteering to help at the gallery' the'yd be better off staying home watching daytime TV, in terms of them helping the gallery and helping to expose more people to the art they had on display (which is very topical and I think, quite important, but you wouldn't know from these muppets). The hardest thing to do is get people in the door in any business or enterprise, once they're in, it's vital to engage them somehow.

If you come in to Cycle Science, and I'm there, I'll get bikes under you for you to ride, will talk Tour de France, encourage you to consider road riding for transport and think of ways to make it work for you, get into racing in some form, join BV or a racing club, discuss the merits of different bike fit ideas, training and so on. Why? Because I believe that bicycles are great, and that most people benefit from riding them. That's why I work there. If you work in retail, or are thinking about it, ask yourself why? I think it's a valuable question to ask yourself sometimes.

Back to riding bikes ... no DISC for me tonight, will try and squeeze in a training ride between a pile of training programs that need doing, my Dad's in hospital with some nasty internal bleeding thing and is probably getting operated on today, birthday dinners and real world jobs that go crazy sometimes (don't ask me to do another Windows SBS upgrade for a few months, please, Neil & I are -exhausted-!).  Dad, get well, I want you to come and watch some racing at DISC one night!



speed and gears

A handy calculator

I stumbled onto this today while showing Briana James and Mike Goldie how relevant (or otherwise) spinning 200+rpm is :

It's a calculator for speed vs gear inches.  The bottom line is that the fastest track sprinters, if they're pushing 100" in a flying 200, are doing ~160rpm. If they're pushing bigger than that, it's lower cadence. It depends on the rider, but the fastest flying 200's are around 72-73km/h, which is, on 100", around 155rpm.  I think they ride bigger gears than that (106"?) so that cadence is even lower. It's still a very high cadence, but it's not 200rpm, and top track sprinters would be unlikely to ever break 160rpm in a race situation on a race gear.


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