With the Tour Down Under providing fodder for early-season speculation (not to mention fashion criticism), us warmsick Northerners (under home arrest due to 12F temperatures) are starting to have enough reason to get excited for the coming race season. Personal, professional – it doesn’t matter. Whether you like your racing on the television (and internet) or in a colorful peloton all around you, knowing that it’s just a month and a half until Things Start Happening is bound to get your heart rate up.
Podium Cafe‘s interview with George Hincapie managed to get me excited for spring classics a full two and a half months before they roll around. On the sobering end of things, Tom Zirbel announced that his B sample tested positive for DHEA. Those with too much time on their hands scrambled to their preferred message board, trotting out either brickheaded condemnations or tenuous scientific claims. Things don’t quite add up for an out-and-out condemnation, and to Zirbel’s credit, he is forthcoming and doesn’t limit his media exposure to PR-friendly soundbites swearing his innocence.
While we’re forced to make do by bundling up and braving the temperatures – or just sitting at our computers – those lucky dogs actually got to ride and race bikes in Australia, where Andre Greipel (who looks like a skeleton robot when he wins) proved dominant despite the fizzling of HTC-Columbia’s leadout train. Early season speculation in full effect, I wonder if Hincapie’s departure from HTC-Columbia will ruin their train (and Cavendish’s dominance of Tour de France sprint stages). I wonder if Greipel will take a run at Cav’s job, or leave HTC altogether for a shot at the Tour de France.
It’s too early for such things, though – though a glance at the calendar is a reminder that fitness must be deep and the racing season is approaching. The cold weather must be braved. And truth to tell, even at this time of the year, I’d rather brave the cold weather than the toxic menace of messageboards populated by shiftless idiots, babbling incoherent vehemence in their cabin fever.
I recently received the first letter for what will no doubt become a ground-breaking series of blog posts: Ask No One Line. That’s right.
Dear Missing In Millbrook,
Pros don’t have winters. They retreat to the perpetual laziness of temperate climes, where they bundle themselves up to make the readers of cycling news websites think that they are being hardcore – with their thirty-hour weeks in cold, thin air – but alas! The ruse is up: they forget about the gloves. Articles and photosets about “winter training camps” are just plain old misleading. Overdressing is PRO, white shoes are PRO, and wearing no gloves is PRO; actual winters, however, are not PRO.
Except for kids like the studly young Edvald Boasson Hagen, who, despite Team Sky’s training camp in Valencia (one giant orange, or so I’m told), is still in Norway, where his training probably consists of launching sprints after passing dogsled teams, descending fjords, and, in race simulations, imagining himself in a solo breakaway, throwing a quick glance up at the fiamme rouge while desperately trying to hold off the charging… glacier.
Here, in the winter wonderland of the NorthEastern United States, we ride on trying to hold off minor frostbite in our extremities, trying to hold off the creeping ‘winter weight.’ In twenty degree (that’s Fahrenheit, mind you!) weather, training means riding until you think you’re going to die, and then trying to make it home before you do.
With no races for another two months, we haven’t passed underneath the fiamme rouge yet, in our drive toward springtime. We’re still in that lonely no-man’s land, miles and miles away from the line, wondering if we can stay ahead of the pack or if we’ll tire ourselves out, get swallowed up and regurgitated behind, fatigued and weaving like a holiday drunk.
No One Line
Do you have a question for No One Line? Do you want to be published? Submit a question to our new lazy feature, Ask No One Line! Email no.one.line at gmail. Dot com, of course.
Call it a classic case that calls for thanking your teammates profusely by sharing prize money. Andy Hampsten’s one-second lead in the 1987 Tour of Switzerland is threatened by a ten-second time bonus for an intermediate sprint.
From over at the Cycling Art blog is a post on Steve Bauer‘s unusual bike, built specially for the 1993 Paris-Roubaix. That famous spring classic, routed over Napoleon-era cobbled roads, inspired quite a few odd bikes in the early nineties.
Bianchi built a full suspension road bike – yes, you read that correctly – for Johan Museeuw in 1994. The development team for this bizarre-o-cycle credit Greg Lemond with first using a suspension fork for Paris-Roubaix (on a bike with a small rear shock, too), though this trend got much less traction than that other one that he started.
Though the wild technological experimentation of the 1990s has passed, tinkering with boilerplate bike setups for Roubaix hasn’t. As recently as 2006, George Hincapie, riding for Postal, used a Trek with an elastomer shock in the rear wishbone seatstay; and cyclocross-inspired rigs have been an option for many riders when Roubaix’s feared-and-famed ill spring weather threatens to add another sloppy variable to the race.
But, in a classic case of “it’s not about the bike,” winners tend to ride fairly ordinary set-ups. The classic saying is that winning at Roubaix isn’t about having good luck – it’s about having no bad luck whatsoever. Flat tires at inopportune moments and broken everythings – from steerer tubes to collarbones and everything in between – seem to sink contenders’ chances more so than having the wrong bike.
With winter providing the time and necessity for tidying my affairs around the house, I bought a small netbook to replace my dead-and-gone laptop from years past, thus freeing up my sweetheart’s computer more frequently – no more secret fights about who would check their email first when we get home. I also set about updating my RSS feeds and organizing my info streams, which led me to be reading Cozy Beehive for a while as I stumbled across some interesting posts.
Most notable is a guest post from Joe Papp, on how pros defeat doping controls. Papp, years after his doping bust, seems willing to openly discuss his history and the issues and practices of doping in professional cycling.
I’ve written about doping before. Like talking about religion or politics (or worse, both) during family reunion, doping is a sticky topic. Make sure they’re your friends, not just your riding buddies, before the conversation becomes heated.
I remain somewhat agnostic, fiercely ambivalent, and I harbor a compassion for dopers. I can easily envision an all-encompassing, brutally demanding, utterly competitive culture of few rewards for the low-paid hardworking pro, where cheating is seen as the only way to stay afloat – and indeed, where the same holds true for team management of middling teams, with jobs and sponsorship constantly on the line, struggling to produce results.
Despite the fact that Papp was an experienced doper, he was dumbfounded by his initiation at Whistle. Soon after his arrival, he claims, Whistle personnel started him on a serious drug regimen, passing out a potent type of EPO. “I suspected doping would be part of the program, but I didn’t know how profound it would be,” says Papp.
Papp’s story tells of a long, dark rabbit hole, filled with damned-if-you-do/damned-if-you-don’t choices. This does not waive the role of individual responsibility, but it also informs the need for institutional responsibility, a doping control that does more than bust riders. And so we’ve seen Astana banned from recent Tours de France for institutional doping support, and we’ve seen teams like Garmin and Columbia take avowed, organizational-level anti-doping standpoints. Meanwhile, Shimano, drivetrain parts supplier to many teams, has publicly announced that it would demand the return of its parts from teams embroiled in structural or institutional doping allegations.
These recent steps are, I believe, far superior than the Salem Witch Trial approach of the past decade. However, more is needed. Cyclists, as a broad community, need to acknowledge paths of redemption for accused or convicted dopers, and they need to acknowledge that there are gracious and honorable ways for cyclists to admit their fault. To fire invectives and ruthlessly and bitterly cast aside dopers runs the risk of damaging the spirit of cycling as much as cheating. Most importantly, anybody willing to armchair-judge anybody caught up in scandal needs to acknowledge that were their roles reversed, they’d have no damn clue what to do or how to behave honorably.
This is nothing new. There’s no news here, but as we settle into the winter and face boring news when nothing is happening, as we settle into anticipating the spring classics and the grand tours, it’s worth keeping in mind.
Snow on the ground means that it’s time to dig the rollers out of the closet, get back to working on a smooth pedal stroke, and queue up TV shows and movies on the computer, hoping they’ll keep you entertained enough to stay on the rollers long enough to get a workout.
From my friend and teammate Al comes this training outline:
Due to the shiiiiite weather I’ve been riding the rollers a ton and I’ve created the “Hulu Interval”!!!! Watch a hulu tv show while riding rollers. TV shows usually last around 22 minutes. In those 22 minutes there are three 30 second commercial breaks.
Step 1. Ride at a steady pace until the first commercial then sprint all out for the 30 seconds, then return to riding a steady pace and continue watching your show. Repeat this two more times when the commercials appear.
When the show is over get off the rollers, quickly change into sneakers and do 4 sets of squats with 25 reps per set. I’ve been doing it with a 25 pound weight held out in front of me. (You can also do tabata squats instead)
After the four sets immediately change back into road shoes, choose another hulu tv show, hop back on the rollers and repeat step 1.
Filed under: no one line
Happy New Year, everybody.
Here in chilly New England, it’s time to sit back, take a good luck at late autumn training, and tweak my plans for the next few months. It’s also time to troll through BikeReg for the dates of major races, and as I look at my new frame, I imagine sprinting and climbing on it in these major races, and my heartrate goes up a few notches.
This blog has been quiet for a bit, but with the New Year comes new gear, new plans, and a whole lot of new excitement. Deciduous trees, though they look dead and dormant in the winter, are actually using their stored energy to grow their roots deeper and stronger underground, laying the foundation for further spring and summertime growth in their branches and leaves.
That’s just what cyclists do: we lay the base of subtle strength in anticipiation for greater heights and higher reaches of the warmer months.