Paul Andrews

Archive for July, 2009|Monthly archive page

This Day in Doping: Making cycling look clean

In This Day In Doping on July 31, 2009 at 12:51 am

Update: Brit cycling star Bradley Wiggins is making his blood profile public…let’s see a baseball player do THAT!

It was decent of Major League Baseball to hold off releasing the names of yet even more storybook champions who won while juiced in ’03 — until after this year’s Tour de France. Like the man says, pretty soon every major baseball accomplishment of the past decade will have an asterisk next to it.

Thank god for the Boys of Summer, though. They’re the only gang who can make professional cycling look clean.

You do have to marvel at the players’ protests. Their argument seems to be that it’s a crime that the truth has come out, because they were promised the truth would not come out. So really, they’re the victims in all this, and we should feel sorry for them. Sort of like the cop caught beating up the cyclist saying, “People should not be allowed to videotape the actions of the police in a private matter.”

The great part is, everybody walks. And fans keep going out and cheering ‘em on. It all reminds me of the end of “Burn After Reading.”

Members question direction of Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance

In Bicycle advocacy, Mountain Biking, Obama Bikes on July 29, 2009 at 6:19 pm

Can a professionally run mountain bike organization also be a socially vibrant club?

Or, as one Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance member put it at a sometimes painfully frank board meeting Monday evening, “Are we turning ourselves into a fund-raising group for mountain biking or are we a mountain biking organization that needs to raise funds?”

Drawing a number of Evergreen’s “old guard” — longtime members who carried over from the Backcountry Bicycle Trails Club (BBTC) days — the board meeting bared some long-simmering concerns over the direction of Evergreen and raised some new questions about the future of the group.

The genesis for the airing was discussions at the Kettle Crest gathering recently, as well as Evergreen’s grim financial picture. A number of issues also were raised in a posting by Len Francies to the Yahoo! list, which Tim Banning, Bob Hollander and others picked up on.

Then there’s the money outlook. Discussions about the need to strengthen the organization led to the hiring of a club executive director and staff to represent Evergreen’s interests in the larger community. Despite criticisms over an abrupt and uncommunicated name change, things rolled along pretty well, with the Colonnade project in particular netting local and national publicity for Evergreen. Improved access to Snoqualmie Middle Fork Trail, Duthie Hill, Paradise Valley and the projected Olallie network also proceeded.

When the economy began to tank, however, Evergreen ran into tall budget problems — hardly unique to it, of course, but daunting nonetheless. At Monday’s meeting, executive director John Lang reported that an emergency summer capital campaign (composed of board-matched grassroots funding) had raised an eye-popping $37,000, again a first for Evergreen.

But…some of that money is still in pledge form, and the club continues to lose funding it counted on from other sources. Lang particularly cited support from bike manufacturers and vendors. Big names like Specialized, Trek, SRAM and others, suffering in the current economy like everyone else, have thrown what philanthropy they still have available into the IMBA pot. Evergreen’s argument that it supplies many of the services of IMBA at the local level, and therefore needs separate funding, so far has not made inroads with these supporters.

Bottom line, literally: Evergreen probably has funding to carry it through the end of the year. Beyond that, things look dicey.

In the context of uncertain financial outlook, several speakers suggested that Evergreen should focus on strengthening itself internally first so that a unified front and energized volunteer membership can help evangelize to the larger community.

Several challenges were cited:

1. Alienated veteran members, some of which have left Evergreen altogether, need to be re-welcomed.

2. Volunteerism needs a way to function. Bob Bournique noted that two dropped projects this year, a Poker Run and 24-hour ride, could have been pulled off with volunteers, and could have raised money for Evergreen, had they not been cancelled by leadership. Bournique also noted that volunteers have “nowhere to go” in the current organizational hierarchy of the group, where they could be providing secondary and tertiary leadership roles.

3. More communication, and a different style of communication, is needed. Participation by leadership and board members on the Yahoo! group, use of Twitter and Facebook and other Web tools could enhance visibility with members and the general public. When issues are raised on the Yahoo! list, leadership needs to get involved.

Board members countered that leadership has tried to improve communications via Web announcements on the Evergreen site, and an e-mail newsletter. (Apparently the newsletter doesn’t reach all members, which Jen Lesher acknowledged correctly as a “database problem.”) But “announcements” are different from “give and take,” one member noted. Tim’s great suggestion: Set up an Evergreen online forum (which is quite different from a Yahoo! group).

A suggestion was made to publish minutes of board meetings as one way to keep members apprised.

4. Evergreen leaders need to get out on rides. Bob mentioned that there is member sensitivity to the fact that John is “not a mountain biker.” Whatever John’s leadership qualities are, and no one seemed to impugn them, it is in fact unusual to have the titular leader not emerge from the community. How big of an issue this is to general membership is open to question, and board members are of course active riders.

5. What happened to the ride calendar? Hardly any of the big weekend rides that used to crowd the calendar this time of year are making it onto the Web site. A lot of group riding has gone off-list, partly because the membership is fragmented and there is no way for new to merge with old.

My take: Much of Evergreen’s current straits can be blamed on the evolution of mountain biking in general. There’s a nation-wide movement to unify trail user groups — call it multipartisanship — in hopes of improving access for all. The Mountaineers and Washington Trails Association went through similar spasms as they became more “professional,” and the name change to Evergreen sprang in part on a need to “legitimize” the club in the eyes of government agencies, public forums and other user groups. Len Francies pointed out on a positive note in the Monday meeting that the name change has resulted in “instant recognition” of Evergreen where before BBTC was a head-scratcher to most of the public.

But while professionalism is a necessary step, it doesn’t have to be at the exclusion of the fun part of mountain biking: The riding. There are plenty of examples of successful mtb organizations which also do lots of advocacy, trail work, public volunteering and other outreach, while still getting in regular rides together.

What struck me, listening to Monday’s discussion, is that on a macro level the club is feeling its way through the Obama revolution, where fund-raising relies less on Big Money than on many modest contributions from many sources raised through social networking tools, and where communication must flatten to peer-to-peer, rather than an Olympian “thus shall it be” approach.

Is it in the DNA of Evergreen to adopt a flatter, more networked approach? In post-meeting discussions, I found people focusing on that question. The membership will have another shot at addressing these and other issues at the end-of-August board meeting, being dubbed a Town Hall, time and place yet to be formalized. We’ll keep you posted, and in the meantime don’t be shy about raising the noise level on the list and elsewhere!

“I see we have a lot of passion,” Jen said at the close of Monday’s meeting. “That tells me we have incredible energy and enthusiasm to work with.”

102, 103 & Counting: Hot ridin’ in the old town

In Bicycling on July 29, 2009 at 5:50 pm
Not even the high for the day!

Not even the high for the day!

Wife: “Where are you going?”

Me: “It’s Wednesday. You know I go to the Wallingford Farmers Market on Wednesdays.”

Wife: “You’re going to take your bike?”

Me: “I always bike to the farmers market.”

Wife: “Are you crazy?! It’s going to hit 100!”

Me: “We cyclists are tough.”

Wife: “There is such a thing as heat stroke you know.”

Me: “Cyclists don’t get heat stroke. They create their own breeze.”

Wife: “I can see the headline now: Avid Cyclist Suffers Aneurysm In Heat Wave”

Me: “Miraculously Rides Through It and Arrives Home Safely.”

In happier times...

In happier times...

And so it goes in the World of the Misunderstood Cyclist. When you love to do something like ride, little things like heat waves don’t get in the way. Heck, if torrential downpours and freezing whiteouts and foot-deep snow and roadways full of black ice don’t stop us, why should a little extra sunshine? Besides, we’re doing our part to reduce global warming and climate disruption so this kind of thing — the hottest day on record in Seattle history — won’t happen for future generations.

So don’t call us nuts. Call us responsible. Call us sensible. Call us on our iPhones…

Daily Roundup: Bleet the heat, banned cyclists, NoTubes lawsuit, Lance boosts Tour TV and more

In Bicycling, Daily Roundup, Mountain Biking on July 29, 2009 at 12:35 pm

It’s hot, may reach 101 degrees in Seattle, making it the hottest day ever … recorded … in history. Right now we’re at 94, I’m about to head out on my second ride of the day. Will keep ya posted! Tweet tweet

By the way, when you blog and Twitter the same item, I’m calling that a Bleet, right? So to make things clear, I will bleet the heat!

First Colorado, now Iowa seeks to ban cyclists from using roads…to echo Bike Rumor, W-T-F ??

Bicycle Retailer: Judge grants stay in NoTubes lawsuit…but it looks to me like NoTubes won this one. More power to ‘em. Specialized has strong-armed too many small outfits in the bike biz, nice to have the tables turned on them.

Lance’s chances boost France’s glances: TV coverage of the Tour de France brought in nearly double the viewership this year from last. Lance brought ‘em in, but you have to congratulate the Versus team, from commentators to camera people on down. The Tour often was dull, but the coverage never was.

Worldchanging: Let’s complete the Burke-Gilman Trail already!

This Day in Doping: Chief downplays ‘clean Tour’

In Bicycle Racing, This Day In Doping on July 28, 2009 at 11:40 am

Bicycle.net has a great update on the “clean Tour” of 2009, but as Prudhomme notes, it’s too early to declare victory. For one thing, detection techniques that today find nothing will tomorrow improve. People are looking askance at Contador, a little guy who somehow nonetheless can time trial with the best. But something about Contador strikes me as being honest. And since no one challenged him except Andy Schleck, whom I also feel is clean, then maybe this indeed was a dopeless Tour.

Time will tell. Well, time and the lab…

Daily Roundup: New Mojo, Bike stimulus funding, Jill Kintner on Mont Ste. Anne and more

In Bicycling, Daily Roundup, Mountain Biking on July 28, 2009 at 11:29 am

Ibis has announced a 6-inch version of its killer Mojo carbon fiber frame. The geometry is slacker but I can’t imagine a ton of difference between this and the 5.5-inch Mojo, other than weighing half a pound more. Both still spec’d with air shocks. So where’s the weight diff? I’ll be intrigued to see one up close but for now I’m sticking with my Pivot Firebird (with the DW-Link)…

Biking Bis has the rundown on state non-highway stimulus spending.

Mountain Bike Action has results from Mont Ste. Anne, but Jill Kintner’s blog is a better read. She’s ‘bummin’ about 4th place but hey, one of those days and besides, a whole lotta riders out there would trade for 4th in a World Cup event!

Issaquah mountain biking star Luke Strobel shows off his bike. Hope to run into him on the local trails some time…

Schweitzer expands its downhill options.

Calendar reminder: Kranked ‘Revolve’ premier Thursday

In Mountain Biking, Trail Access, Videos on July 28, 2009 at 9:40 am

See Kranked’s latest “Revolve” mountain-biking film and benefit your trails at the same time — head for North Bend Theater Thursday evening at 6:30 and enjoy the show!

See a blind rider do jumps at Whistler! Find out how Jamie Goldman got fired from Santa Cruz Bicycles! Watch in dumbfounded wonder at how Lance McDermott came in second in Crankworx 2008! Hear Sam Pilgrim pronounce the word “aluminum”!

It’s all there, and lots more, with spectacular footage from Megavalanche, from Coast, B.C. and Chatel, France, as well as points elsewhere.

Sponsored by the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, your regional representatives in the battle to gain more access to trails.

Armstrong Courting Schleck(s) for Radio Shack Team?

In Bicycle Racing on July 28, 2009 at 6:49 am

It was a small gesture, barely noticed. But when Lance Armstrong placed his left hand on Andy Schleck’s right shoulder and congratulated him “warmly” on the podium in Paris, it may have sent a signal about his machinations for the Tour de France in 2010.

The bad blood between Lance and Alberto Contador means the two already have established an intense rivalry for the 2010 season. But being realistic, Lance has little chance of beating The Pistol on his own. There’s a question whether anyone can beat Contador … anyone except Andy Schleck.

But for a couple of bad breaks and one missed opportunity, Andy and Alberto would have been separated by seconds rather than minutes as the Tour headed to its final decisive week. With a slimmer margin separating the two on Ventoux, there’s a question whether Andy would have held back in hopes of reeling his brother Frank toward the front. And if he hadn’t held back, maybe A.C. would not have been able to hang on as he did.

You never know.

Andy lost crucial time in two early misfortunes. He missed the late “Lance” break on stage 3, losing 41 seconds. And the Team Time Trial on Stage 4 hurt him as well, costing another 40 seconds. At the end of Stage 4 he was down by more than a minute and a half, a discouraging hole from which to dig out of.

Andy also could not hang with Alberto during the latter’s predictable breakaway on Verbier in Stage 15. Nor could Andy and Frank, working together, shake Contador during their stirring attacks on Columbiere in Stage 17.

Still, Andy was the one guy who looked like he could crack Contador in the 2009 Tour. Lance undoubtedly noticed.

Whether it would be in the Schlecks’ interest to hook up with Lance is an issue fraught with backstory intrigue. There are lots of pros, lots of cons. On the pro side, if Andy could get assurances that once he asserted himself, Lance would really work for him, it might be Andy’s best hope. Lance has shown himself time and again to be not just a powerhouse of a rider (still, at nearly 38), but a master strategist.

Some of the mistakes Andy made — I would call his hanging back for Frank a mistake, even if he had no chance at raising his overall placement — and his apparent lack of form early in the race, when he could not hang on Contador’s wheel, would not be repeated under Lance. No one knows how to prepare for a Tour better than the King.

Lance could also coach Andy in time-trialing, a past weakness but one Andy is overcoming.

The big “con” here is that Andy would have to stand in Lance’s shadow much of the Tour. That’s just the way things are. Andy has more ego and pride than he appears to have, as exemplified by his closing TV interview with Versus. He admitted he was disappointed to finish 2nd. A hundred and sixty other riders would have killed to be where he was. But it was a clear testament to Andy’s ambitiousness.

There are inevitable contractual issues for Andy and brother Frank (assuming the two would stay on the same team), and political considerations as well. But a Lance-Andy alliance for 2010 (Team Radio Schlack!) would set up the most potent rivalry against Contador, and wow, the media and cycling worlds would just go crazy.

This Day in Doping: Rasmussen ‘rejected,’ 2008 Tour revisited, A scientific analysis analyzed

In Bicycle Racing, This Day In Doping on July 26, 2009 at 2:08 pm

Bicycle.net: UCI opposes letting Michael Rasmussen, the 2007 Tour “winner” who was kicked off his team as he was poised to take the yellow jersey to Paris (for lying about his whereabouts earlier in the season), return to competition because he hasn’t paid his share of anti-doping costs. Although Rasmussen was certainly a cheat, he was never actually caught doping (amazingly). And still hasn’t been “detected.” Further support of the argument that cycling cannot adequately police cycling.

France’s anti-doping agency, which has had a spat or two with the UCI over thoroughness of testing, says it will re-analyze 2008 samples from the Tour. About 15 riders will be affected, although they are not yet being named. (Thanks to BikePure.org for the link.)

The Science of Sport: Can scientific analysis tell if Contador juiced? A detailed look at the VO2 max issue in relation to Contador’s time trial win. Fascinating even though ultimately too many variables (especially wind direction and velocity) impede an accurate consideration:

There are people (experts in the sport) who believe that the upper limit of performance should lie around 5.6 to 5.8 W/kg on a longer climb. This is well below what is being calculated for the current Tour, particularly the Verbier. However, if the wind speed is not controlled, then the calculated power output may well fall below that “ceiling”. The point is, we just don’t know what the wind is doing and so the margins are currently too large. Therefore, you cannot use isolated performances, lacking control over variables, to infer doping.

Thanks to Cyclelicio.us for the link.

See Colours and Puke: The joy of Whistler

In Mountain Bike Trail Reviews, Mountain Biking, Multi-Day Trips on July 26, 2009 at 1:18 am
Can Whistler avoid Moab Disorder?

Can Whistler avoid Moab Disorder?

Every year I go to Whistler expecting it to show signs of Moab Disorder. Moab of course used to be the center of the mountain biking universe. Then too many people went there and did that. The blase and inattentive locals did nothing to grow the culture, tapped-out riders started looking elsewhere, and what they found was Whistler, B.C.

That said, the Whistler scene this season is not what it has been. Crowds are noticeably thin, lift lines are short to nonexistent, and the locals are already complaining about the 2010 Winter Olympics The burning issue: Charging for parking. Pay parking is scheduled to hit Lots 1 through 3 next June, although 4 and 5 will remain free for the time being. Underground parking fees were “reconsidered” after a bitter town meeting recently but are expected to be re-instituted in time for the Games. Paid parking aside, locals face a near 20 percent boost in taxation over the next three years. I also heard that shop owners’ rent is doubling for the duration of the Games. That’s got to leave a bad taste for small businesses in the village.

There’s generally a sense that the bloom is off the rose, with lots of finger-pointing over growth, greed and Americanization. None of this would matter if the economy was still going gangbusters, but Canada, while not in the same tank as the U.S., nonetheless feels the ripple effects of our own recession. After years of constant hammering, sawing and cement trucking, Whistler is finally silent. The only remaining construction appears to be the Celebration Plaza in the village and paving of the main parking lots, which should have been done years ago anyway.

Steeper than it looks...a LOT steeper!

Steeper than it looks...a LOT steeper!

Still, Whistler is not suffering Moabic complacency. Even though some old trail favorites, like Babylon by Bike, are falling into neglect, the general network continues to expand. One reason lower Babylon is almost unrideable is a detour to the new See Colours and Puke, a twisty, rocky plunge of more than half a mile in elevation over a mile of trail whose name refers to what happens if you miss (and the original title of the Cheakamus Challenge). The drawback to See Colours is that it drops you on the opposite side of Tunnel Vision, which is a rollicking black-diamond run with structures and bridges back to Creekside that leaves far less pedaling to get you back to town. You can access both from the dirt Microwave Road, now nicely graded most of the way, up from Function Junction. But you have to choose one or the other going down.

Didn't sound like much back then!

Didn't sound like much back then!

I’ve been riding Whistler since the early 1990s and was amused to find in my bevy of maps one that contained “Mountain Bike Park (proposed Summer 1996).” Before the park, the only way you could ride Whistler Mountain itself was to climb fire roads, either by the sardonically named Whistler Highway (the world’s steepest fire road, an ugly ascent) or the back side up Microwave Road from Function Junction to the BC Rail Microwave Tower, and then Khyber Pass singletrack (a bunch of hike a bike in that one!). Oh, there was one other way: Hire a guide or go with a guided group by gondola to the top and ride down escorted. I did it once. It was 83 degrees in town and snowing at the top. I rode my Rockhopper hardtail with an elastomer fork. We took it mighty slow but had a marvelous time without having a clue what we were up to.

No one knew then what a hit the Park would be, transforming the entire sport into a wheeled version of downhill skiing. Although downhilling is not my cup of tea (no matter how much, at my age, I wish it were), there’s no question Whistler’s advances have been great for expanding the MTB aura and culture.

But there are two pitfalls with the Bike Park approach. The first is that a park ultimately is a fixed entity. Within the acreage alloted, there can be only so many trails with only so much diversity.

Second, a park potentially sucks interest and dedication away from Whistler’s rich trails network. Trails inevitably get less use, fall into disrepair and start to go away. New trails do not get built. The cross-country culture wanes.

On my cursory tour of trails I did see signs of disuse. For the first time I can remember since it was completed, I met no other riders on Comfortably Numb, named after the Pink Floyd song, and the worst ass-kicking a 16-mile trail will ever administer (its nickname locally is Uncomfortable Bum). The trail still seems in good shape, but the gravity set will never have the energy or patience to tackle this kind of ride.

The same held true for River Runs Through It, Whistler’s most popular trail, as well as my personal favorites, Shit Happens and Kill Me Thrill Me. While no singletrack rider in the States would consider the latter classic cross-country rides, they do represent classic Whistler XC. Which means they go up and down, over roots, rocks faces, chutes and ladders, and hardly ever let you coast. You take a licking till you’re barely ticking, but still emerge with a smile on your face.

Young rippers mix it up near Lost Lake

Young rippers mix it up near Lost Lake

Even so, hardly anyone was riding them. I saw more traffic on Lost Lake’s network of trails, which keeps getting more accessible for beginners while still offering some challenges. Especially encouraging were the DFX kiddie riders, entire clots of 5-to-8 year olds in full MTB gear learning the skillz. I even ran into a pack of DFX grrllzz. You have to congratulate Whistler-Blackcomb for conceiving stuff like this. They understand the future of the sport. (DFX stands for Downhill, Freeride and Cross Country.)

Canada seems to “get” the power of mountain biking as a cultural as well as commercial investment. Everywhere you go, trails networks are expanding and locals are promoting the sport. While Marin mainstays still bicker over access and segregate usage, as we do right here in King County for that matter, in B.C. it’s all comers welcome, everywhere. Whistler may be going through a hiccup with the Games and various municipal challenges. But so far at least, it is avoiding Moab Disorder.

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