Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Dress for Success

In the upper Midwest, it gets cold in the winter. I mean cold as in temperatures regularly don't get above freezing from late November to March. And, here in Minnesota, we tend to get lots of snow. Last winter we accumulated 84.6 inches (that's a little more than seven feet) of snow, our fifth snowiest on record.

With this kind of weather, it can really put a damper on riding. The latest issue of Bicycling printed a guide to make it easy for those of us who don't often ride when it gets below freezing. This is it, reproduced for you:
65-70: START WITH Base layer; short-sleeve jersey; short-finger gloves; socks
60-65: ADD Arm warmers; full-finger gloves
55-60: SWAP IN Knickers or knee warmers; thicker socks
50-55: SWAP IN Leg warmers ADD Vest
45-50: SWAP IN Thicker gloves; long-sleeve jersey ADD Toe covers; a sock layer; ear-covers (comfort over style)
40-45: SWAP IN Tights; long-sleeve base layer; thin hat (you might have to loosen your helmet)
35-40: SWAP IN Shoe covers or winter cycling shoes; thick hat or balaclava
30-35: SWAP IN Heavier tights; lobster gloves or mittens
25-30: ADD Second long-sleeve jersey; mid-layer sock
25 and below: ADD Base layer short and/or knee warmers under tights

Keep in mind that this isn't the gospel and you may need to modify what you wear if it's windy or precipitating, or if you tend to run hot or cold.

There are also a few "clothing calculators" to help you figure out what to wear when the mercury dips. Check out Bicycling and Castelli's what to wear on VeloNews.com.

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Did they just say 'skirt'?

I've been participating in athletics and sports since I was a kid playing kickball with the boys on the playground. As I got older, I gravitated to various Asian martial art disciplines, the practice of which impacts my fitness and flexibility to this day. It didn't strike me as odd that a young woman wanted to do these things, and I wore the same uniforms as the men did. I had to change in a different room and I couldn't just strip my shirt off at the end of a workout session, no big deal; no one cared.

With an Olympic year approaching, women will be allowed to box for the first time! Cool, huh? I'm really excited to watch the men's and women's tae kwon do and judo competitions, as well.

So, enter the Amateur International Boxing Commission. They want the female boxers to wear skirts. Skirts! It would be one thing if skirts were a part of the traditional uniform, like for field hockey, but they aren't. The Commission's reasoning for this is "It will make the women easier to distinguish from the men, as if the completely different bodies wasn't enough. Poland adopted the uniform, calling the uniforms more 'elegant' and 'womanly.'" You mean, the different body shape, slimmer musculature, etc. won't be enough?! For the Olympic sports of fencing, tae kwon do, and judo (all "combat" sports) the women wear the same uniform as the men, it's practical!

Boxers have always worn shorts or "trunks". They're practical, they cover what they need to cover, the athlete can move in them, what's the problem? And, heaven knows men mustn't think women have *gasp* hips or thighs. Am I also incorrect in thinking that giving the ring-side judges a view is inappropriate?

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Another Save!

There was quiet fuming in my corner of the world when I read about the dissolving of Colavita-Forno D'Asolo squad on Monday. But, today, I feel a little more kindly disposed towards the veritable circus that is professional cycling.

Colavita's Heal to lead new, big budget women's squad

This is excellent news: More resources, both money-wise and marketing-wise to keep the squad training and riding, able to recruit new talent, and travel to more races. They'll also have the funding to bring in both veterans and new riders, getting a well-rounded, deep squad with the talent to bring home the hardware.

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Monday, October 24, 2011

What is happening?!

Days like these I wonder if the cycling world truly is imploding.

Top-Ranked NRC Team Colavita-Forno D'Asolo Folds

"'Without any intention of offending those many wonderful cycling industry companies who have supported our programs for many years, I must admit the direct cause of Colavita ending its women's team title sponsorship was in fact losing key industry supplier support,' Profaci said."

Wow, I'm baffled that another winning team (the HTC-HighRoad men's squad has already folded) has had sponsors back out. I really wonder what the reasoning is, too.
Is the down economy putting the squeeze on sponsorship money? Are these companies not seeing enough up-tick in business from sponsorship that they've decided not to put up the cash? Do they not want to be seen supporting a "dirty" sport, despite the huge strides and ongoing efforts to catch dopers and clean up the sport?

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Downsizing, please don't panic!

How do you make the playing field as level as possible? How do you give smaller teams a good shot at winning against bigger, more well-funded teams? How can you, as a race organizer, keep fans coming back to your event year after year; how do you keep it fresh? These are questions that are always on the minds of race organizers, no matter if it's Le Tour or a local event on the NRC.

Nature Valley cuts men's teams to six riders

The organizers of the Nature Valley Grand Prix are cutting the men's teams from eight to six riders, the thought being to shake up the podiums and make the racing more exciting for the spectators. Racers and team directors will have to [even more] carefully choose which riders they take to the race and what role each rider will play. Thankfully, the women's teams will still field teams of eight riders. It makes sense, as the women's peloton is smaller than the men's field and needs all the racers it can get.

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Under Lock and Key

I've seen a lot of bikes get stolen over the years, especially in the city and on college campuses. It seems like no matter if the bike is a Schwinn from the 1970's or a newer mountain bike, if it has wheels, it gets stolen.

So, what can you do about it? The answer is obvious, lock your bike. But more than just lock your bike, lock it up properly. Just locking it may be a deterrent, but not locking your bike correctly may also increase the chances of someone riding away.

This guy is a mechanic in NYC and, though loud and opinionated (it is New York after all) he's got good points about how to properly lock your bike up:

1. Make sure the pole or rack that you're going to lock to is securely planted in the ground
2. Anything you want to see again, take with you: Helmet, lights, panniers, etc.
3. Use both a strong U-lock and a cable to lock your rear wheel and the frame to the bike rack and the front wheel to the U-lock.
4. Use a smaller cable to lock your saddle to your frame, or mark your seatpost and take your saddle with you.

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Monday, October 10, 2011

It Leaks!

And, again! Giro d'Italia Stages Also Leaked?

The big announcement for the Tour de France route every year is usually in the middle of October, so I didn't think anything big was going on when I logged onto CyclingNews this morning and saw "2012 Tour de France Revealed" at the top of headlines. Then I read the article's sub-title, "Race owner ASO published 2012 itinerary by

To quote Captain Jack Sparrow, "Apparently, there's a leak".

Oh well, this gives us diehards an extra week to analyze the route, the terrain, and make predictions about who will snatch which jersey next July.

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Where Is The Love?

While scrolling though the headlines on VeloNews at work this afternoon, I came across this:

Top women pros say they deserve minimum salary guarantee

Wait, they don't get one already? I thought the whole point of the UCI was to protect the riders? So, what? The women aren't real riders? They don't deserve the same rights and protections as the men? They mose certainly do! They train, they suffer, they race, they get hurt, the same as the men!

Un-flipping-believable. If I were a member, I'd be writing a passionate letter right now.

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Longest Ride

I had planned to ride the 40-mile Tour de Tonka route, since I missed the ride on Saturday.

It turns out following the painted arrows on the pavement didn't work out the way I planned, because this is what my computer said when I got home.

Umm, oops?

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Ridden Hard: 2011 Specialized Amira Expert

One of the perks of working at a bike shop is you occasionally get to test ride bikes, really nice bikes. Bikes that when you swing your leg over the toptube, click in, and take those first pedal strokes, it's magic. I present to you, the 2011 Specialized Amira Expert.

Yummy, isn't she?

The Amira Expert is a women's specific carbon fiber frame, tuned to a woman's weight, which is on average 30-40 lbs. lighter than the average man. Thus, in order to respond the way it's supposed to, they tweeked the carbon lay-up to respond better to a woman rider.

The bike was spec-ed with full Shimano Ultegra components, Fulcrum Racing 5 wheelset, a Specialized Jett Comp Gel saddle, and Look Keo Classic road pedals, courtesy of Francesca of the Specialized Demo team.

And how was the ride? She rode like a dream. The carbon made for a stiff ride and the geometry let me dip into the corners at the last second, when I stood on the pedals, the bike rocketed forward, and climbing the rollers was almost too easy (but that could have been because of the compact gearing). I loved the big drop from saddle to handlebars, too. My blue bike is set up with a seven centimeter drop between the saddle and handlebars. Usually, only racers have that aggressive a position on the bike, but I like it because I'm strong enough and flexable enough to be in that position without getting sore and I get the best leverage for climbing and sprinting.

Oh, and here's what she'll look like next year at the S-Works level: First Look: Specialized S-Works Amira 2012

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Okay, the Girls Can Play, Part II

Well, it looks like Andrew Messick and AEG Sports listened to the criticism about making the Stage Six of the AToC a "Battle of the Sexes". The women will now have their own ITT (individual time trial) and a big purse to boot.
Women's Amgen time trial, invitation only, offers $10,000 purse
Mr. Messick, were you really surprised by the negative criticism of your prize money idea? I'm not.

I'm a little murky in my feelings towards such an event. Really, why would organizers just sprinkle women amongst the men in the ITT and tie the women's purse to how many men they beat? It makes little sense to this Women's Cat. 4 racer. I have no doubt that these elite women could ride the legs off a ton of the men, but why tie the money to that? Why not offer the purse in a traditional manner to both men's and women's fields? I don't get it.

I have no problem with women racing with men. I've raced Cat. 4 with Cat. 5 men for my entire (short) racing career. I actually like racing with the boys; it's challenging and motivating, especially when I can catch and stay on some one's wheel. I play co-ed hurling with men that outweigh me by 80 lbs. or more. And I love it! Playing with the guys makes me scrappy-er (is that a word?) and not afraid to make a tackle for the ball. I'm guessing it's the same, only even more so, for a professional woman cyclist.

I think a lot of pro women, purse or no purse, would jump at the chance to ride with the men. I would.

Boys, I still hope the women kick your @$$.

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Okay, the Girls Can Play

Sometimes I wonder if modern society and Western culture have come as far as we think regarding women. Specifically, how women are viewed compared side-by-side with men in their accomplishments in professional sports.

There was a little blurb on VeloNews.com two weekends ago.
I didn't even see it. A possible women's time trial during the Amgen Tour of California in May? SWEET! I've checked the AToC website and found nothing. Nothing on the news page, team page, stage page, nothing. Is something rotten in the state of Denmark?

Bouncing around the blogosphere this morning, I found this piece by a communications student: The League of Extraordinary Non-Gentlemen

Women have worked hard in the past 2,000+ years to be seen and treated as having as much to offer others and worth as members of society as men. The prize money for the competing women will be based on how many men they beat? WHAT? Why, after Title IX, Women's Liberation, etc. are you thinking this is an intelligent idea? You say comparisons will be made to men anyway. Why encourage it and perpetuate the idea that women have to measure up?

If you really want to help women's pro bike racing, why not invite all these top women's teams (Peanut Butter & Co.-Twenty12, HTC-Highroad, Tibco-To The Top, Team Vera Bradley, Colavita, et cetera) and let them ride their own ITT? That's what they do in Minnesota for the Nature Valley Grand Prix. And guess what? It works! The women are insanely talented, fun to watch, and yes, they are fast.

Versus is (rumored to be) giving this women's event at least ten minutes of TV air time. How generous of you! We might be able to watch one rider take off, ride the course, and finish in that time. How much airtime is being devoted to the men's TT?

Boys, I hope Kristin Armstrong, Amber Neben, Evelyn Stevens, Alison Powers, Tara Whitten, and all the other women kick your @$$.

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Oh, Joy! Oh, Happiness!

Parks Dept. Disavows a Speed Limit for Bicycles
For some odd reason unknown to this writer, the speed limit for cars in Central Park is 25 mph and for bicycles it was (posted in fine print on a few signs) 15 mph. In what world does that make sense or is safe?

After some police officers issued at least ten speeding tickets to cyclists in Central Park, the Parks Department disavowed the 15 mph bicycle speed limit and said the new limit was 25 mph, the same as an automobile.

Someone check the thermostat in Hell, I think it just went down .25 degrees.

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Monday, March 21, 2011

It's Mine! No, It's Mine!

While teams were riding their legs off and racing there hearts out at Milan-San Remo, the race radio fuelled debate between the UCI and the teams was getting nasty.
UCI's Open Letter to Pro Riders Regarding Radio Ban

According to this letter from UCI President Pat McQuaid, when riders were surveyed in 2009, only one in four responded and was evenly split between those for and against banning two-way race radios. It goes on to question why the riders' opinions "suddenly" changed and if they were being pressured to change their stance. I find it interesting that McQuaid is criticizing riders for caving in to the wishes of their sport directors, when he admits earlier in this same letter to caving to pressure from television networks.

And now, news comes down the pipe that some teams are thinking of leaving the UCI and starting their own cycling league.
Eleven Major Teams Considering Plans to Break Away from the UCI

The teams are, understandably, keeping mum about a possible break. This whole fight is about so much more than two-way radios, it's about control. The UCI controls every single aspect of the sport: Who can ride, what teams get licensed to race, the race calendar, doping regulations and consequences, what equipment is legal, the list goes on. The riders themselves have very little say in how the sport is governed and run from day-to-day. Perhaps one good thing to come out of this whole thing will be more input from the riders on the sport that they give the best years of their lives to.

Is there no way these people can share a sandbox?

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

International Women's Day, Biker Style

Today is International Women's Day, a day to honor and celebrate the social, political, and economic achievements by women. So, in the spirit of celebrating women's achievements, here are a couple articles from Cyclingnews.com regarding the current state of the women's professional peloton and what can be done to improve it.

Five Ways to Improve Womens Cycling

Top Five Influential Women in Cycling

Top Five Rides of 2011

Let's go, ladies!

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Mais amor, menos motor

That's Portuguese, it means "More love, less motor".
Car Runs over Critical Mass Cyclists in Brazil
Driver Plows Through Dozens of Cyclists in Brazil
I don't understand how intentionally running down cyclists is self-defense, or how it's supposed to teach anyone anything. A bicycle is a means of transportation for millions (if not billions) of people around the world. There's no way in h*ll drivers, however maniacal, will frighten people off their bikes.

Go Critical Mass!

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Anyone Found A Parking Spot?

So, you think there are a lot of bicycle commuters in your town? How about this photo taken of a bicycle parking corral in Ghent, Belgium?

What I want to know is how does anyone find their ride? It's not like you can punch a button on your key-fob and your bike will meep-meep.

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Like the Terminator, She'll be back

Ah, finally! Something happy to write about in the wake of all the stuff on doping that I've been typing about for the past two months.
The next Armstrong comeback - Kristin's
Kristin's been working in the wind tunnel on her time-trial bike, preparing for the 2011 season.

I've been a fan of Kristin's ever since I tentatively dipped my toes into the pool that is road cycling back in 2004. I heard about her competing in Athens at the Olympics and how she started racing bikes after finding out she couldn't compete in triathlons due to hip issues. I was [am] impressed. Not everyone would take news like that so well, much less turn it into a stellar career the way she has.

I had the opportunity to speak to her a few times two years ago at a race I was volunteering at, you can read those posts here and I was pleasantly surprised that she was so... normal. It's amazing how often we forget that for all their accomplishments, training, and globe-trotting, professional athletes are people, too.

Good luck, Kristin! I can't wait to see how this season shakes out!

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

"I Can Ride My Bike With No Handlebars

... no handlebars." Not really, but it's a funny lyric, isn't it? And a funky lead-in to today's essay.

Actress Angie Harmon (Law & Order, Women's Murder Club, Rizzoli & Isles) @Angie_Harmon tweeted this morning: Today we're teaching #1 to ride a bike w/ no training wheels... Any tips?? Yikes! Why, yes, yes I do.

It got me thinking about how my dad taught my sister and I to ride a bike and why it worked. I talk through this same process with my customers at the bike shop when they ask me the best way to teach their kid to ride a bike. Here goes:
- Helmets are a must and make sure it fits properly. If the old one is more than three years old, replace it. At the rate a child grows, you might be looking at a new helmet every few years until their head quits growing. Fortunately, helmets these days are incredibly adjustable and you should be able to get at least a year or two out of it.

- Adjust the saddle (seat) height so that your child can touch the ground with flat feet. This will make it easier for them to maintain control of the bike when they loose their balance.

- It helps to have a slight decline to your driveway, and have your driveway empty into a cul-de-sac or a quiet street. This will help gravity do some of the momentum work for you.

- First off, don't worry about the pedaling. Start out just having the child push themselves with their feet and then lifting their feet off the ground. This will make it easier for them to learn to balance on two wheels.

- Once they've mastered balancing with their feet off the ground, have them push themselves with their feet, take their feet off the ground, and put them on the pedals. Don't worry about actually pedaling. That part comes next.

- Once they've got the hang of balancing and putting their feet on the pedals, have them push off with their feet, put their feet on the pedals, and start pedaling!

See? That wasn't so hard, was it?

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Armstrong Retirement, Take Two

They say timing is everything. And because I have an inquisitive mind, I am puzzling and theorizing over the timing of Lance's second retirement from professional cycling.
Lance Armstrong Retires From Cycling

From what I can gather, the plan at the beginning of the season was to make the Tour Down Under Lance's final race on the international stage, and he was [at least] signed up to start several domestic races over the spring and summer.

So, what happened?

It could be any number of things. First of all, Lance isn't the spring chicken he used to be. He's approaching an age where racers are either already retired or are certainly considering retirement. The wear and tear on the body is just too much to keep making it do as you please and expect it to hold up.

Second, he's been riding professionally for many years, spending time based in Europe, away from his home and family in Texas. And while it's exciting to get to ride your bike for a living in some of the most beautiful places on earth, I'm sure life on the road has got to take it's toll, too.

And, of course, some theorize that Lance's most recent retirement was due to the recent allegations of doping that has been levelled against him and his former U.S. Postal team. Personally, I doubt it. Lance has one of the coolest heads in professional sports and a killer business sense. He has also never tested positive for a banned substance. I doubt he would let these more recent allegations ruffle his feathers.

My sense is that he just felt it was time. When he retired in 2005, he was at the top of his sport. He'd won seven consecutive Tour de France maillot jaune and I think felt he had nothing left to prove to himself or to the sport. These past three seasons, I believe, didn't go quite as he wanted. He wanted an eighth yellow jersey and finished third in 2009 and 23rd last year. He didn't complain about it or make excuses, only saying that was the way sport played out sometimes.

Thanks again, Lance, for another great ride. Kick your feet up a bit and enjoy life in the slow(er) lane.

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hang A U-Turn!

Wow. I have to say that I didn't expect this.
Confirmed: Alberto Contador Cleared of Clenbuterol Charges
Spanish fed clears Alberto Contador...

And it sounds like he's going to be on the start-line at Algarve on Wednesday.

I wonder that it turned out this way. I know that Alberto is a huge national hero in Spain and many have hailed him as the next great racer of his generation. However, in the past few years, the UCI, WADA, and other national cycling federations have really begun to clamp down on doping of any kind, seemingly intentional or not. Look at Tom Zirbel's case, if you don't believe me. The sport seems to be really trying to clean itself up. So, why apparently go "easy" on a rider, even a champion, who had a banned substance in his blood? In the past, it seems to me, regardless of intent or how the substance got into a rider's body, they got slapped with a fine and a minimum two-year suspension from rider.

So, what prompted a decision like this? The untarnished image of a champion rider never before popped for doping? The fact that he had enough money to hire lawyers and had a team around him to deflect, spin, and protect? Perhaps I'm becoming cycnical in my old age, but why should that matter? I was under the impression that the system is set up to make sure everyone gets a fair shake, am I wrong?

So, what do I think? I think the decision to drop the charges was a fair one, since no one seems to really know how the clenbuterol entered Alberto's system. But what does a decision like that say about all the other riders who have said they unknowingly ingested a banned substance and their protests of innocence went unaknowledged?

I'm glad I'm not the one making these decisions.

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Alberto's Case, Continued

At a press conference in Spain earlier today, Alberto Contador once again protested that he never doped in his career. He lashed out at the media for dragging his name through the mud and the anti-doping rules and the system that enforces them.

At news conference, Contador vows to appeal
Contador Will Appeal Tour de France Doping Sanction

I'm sorry, but I've heard all this before. Floyd Landis sang a very similar song for years and look how that ended up.

That said, I think Alberto will fair better in whatever way he chooses to fight the sanction. He has wisely let his agent and his lawyers do much of the talking, rather than blindly flailing about as Floyd did. Alberto has allowed himself to be advised and guided (to a certain extent) by his legal team and has wisely not proposed any truly outlandish theories (contaminated whisky, really Floyd?) of how he believes clenbuterol entered his system.

What do I think? I think it's odd that only a small amount of the banned substance was detected and that plastics that could indicate blood transfusions were also detected. I think it's a shame that the anti-doping system that is so supposedly broken is still in place, without anyone willing to step up and propose changes. I think it's a tragedy of magnanimous proportions that some riders feel they must dope to gain an edge.

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Uh... Uh... Uh...

I step away from my computer for a bit to go workout and this happens!
Contador suspended one year, stripped of 2010 Tour de France title

I am absolutely flabbergasted. I thought Alberto would somehow slide on consequences resulting from his positive test for clenbuterol due to the small amount and the fact that no one seems to really know how the substance got into his system.

I'm not even sure how to feel about this. I'll be back with more once I've let this sink in.

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Monday, January 24, 2011

For Carla

This is quite cool. The Nature Valley Grand Prix has established the Carla Swart Sportsmanship Award as a memorial to Carla Swart, the HTC-HighRoad rider who was killed on a training right last Wednesday.

I never had the opportunity to meet Carla, but from what I gather from what's been written about her, she raced with heart and tenacity. In 2008, she won the Division I road race, individual track titles in 2 kilometer pursuit and match sprint, the cross-country and short track mountain bike titles, the individual mountain bike omnium, and placed first in the US cyclocross nationals. And she did all this as a college student! She also raced in the Nature Valley Grand Prix in June 2008 on the Collegiate All-Stars team and in 2010 for the Vera Bradley Foundation team.

VeloNews published this article Making the Grade,
after her break-out collegiate season in 2008. I remember reading this article and thinking, Wow, now there's someone worth watching.

Here's the press-release:
Nature Valley Grand Prix Establishes Swart Sportsmanship Award

Minneapolis (Jan. 24, 2011) – Organizers of the Nature Valley Grand Prix have announced the establishment of the "Carla Swart Sportsmanship Award" as a memorial to an alumna of their 2008 Ryan Collegiate All Star team. The award will recognize the female athlete at the race who sacrifices her own chances for the good of the team. Carla Swart was a South African Olympic hopeful and the most decorated collegiate rider in U.S. history.

Swart died Wednesday after she was hit by a truck during a training ride in the central Free State province of South Africa. The 23-year-old was a member of the Ryan Collegiate All Star team at the Nature Valley Grand Prix in 2008 and competed professionally on Team Vera Bradley Foundation in last year's race. She won 19 national titles during her collegiate career and most recently finished 10th in the women's elite road race at the world championships in Melbourne, Australia.

"Cycling is a team sport, with talented athletes often sacrificing their own chances to support a teammate,” Nature Valley Grand Prix Executive Director David LaPorte said. "The Carla Swart Sportsmanship award will recognize these unsung heroes. We'll ask the racers to vote for the rider on another team who has sacrificed the most in support of her teammates. Particularly since the radio ban, the riders themselves know the most about who deserves this award."

The Carla Swart Sportsmanship Award winner will be recognized before the race's final stage, the Stillwater Criterium. The honoree will receive a special jersey to wear and a front row call-up, LaPorte said. Besides the recognition, a front row start is particularly valuable in Stillwater since the race hits the fabled 23 percent grade on Chillkoot Hill almost immediately.

Brian Sheedy, Swart's fiancé and a former professional racer, said he and Swart's family are extremely grateful to have an award established in her honor.

"She touched so many people with her vibrant and loving nature and her smile," he said. "She did so many things in this sport in such a short time. She was probably South Africa's top cyclist – man or woman – and their biggest hope for the Olympics, by far. On the world stage, she was making a name for herself really, really fast."

John Barron, director of the Collegiate All Stars, said it made sense to establish an award in Swart's memory because her performance at the Nature Valley Grand Prix helped her gain a professional contract.

“No one will forget Carla's infectious smile, razor-sharp focus and her stunning athleticism that she displayed at the 2008 Nature Valley Grand Prix as a member of the Ryan Collegiate All Stars,” Barron said. “I expect the recipient of this annual award will receive the extra strength, spirit and fortitude she will need to finish the last, brutal stage of the race.”

Swart went on to ride for the Team Vera Bradley Foundation at the Nature Valley Grand Prix last year. Her former team manager, Lisa Hunt, said the award will serve as a long-lasting symbol of the rider that her teammates and friends referred to as the "ginger ninja."

“Few cyclists will achieve what Carla did in the short span of her career,” Hunt said. "And by this, I mean not just the victories, but the relationships she built with her teammates. She gave more than 100 percent in every race. This award will strive to recognize others who display the same unselfish nature that made Carla the ultimate teammate.”

"Good-night, sweet prince;
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Friday, January 21, 2011

To Languish In Obscurity?

Unfortunately, Floyd Landis has become somewhat of a joke and a pain in the butt to many in the pro peloton. After his positive test for synthetic testosterone and being stripped of his yellow jersey, he's flailed at anyone and anything that may have had anything to do with the sport. Now, nearly five years later, he's finally hanging up his cleats (and hopefully, his microphone).
The Landis Blues
Floyd Landis retiring from cycling, says cycling can't be fixed

Yes, I'm one of those people who believed in Floyd right up until he came clean earlier this year. I've even still got his book on my shelf, I can't make myself get rid of it.

I wish things could have been different. I wish Floyd hadn't doped. I wish he'd come clean after he got popped in 2006. I wish he'd committed himself to riding clean after his suspension was up, like David Millar did. I wish he'd just had a better attitude.

I'm tempted to feel a little sorry for him, what's he going to do now? Can he do anything other than ride his bike? Only time will tell, I suppose.

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Gone Too Soon

It's always frightening and sad when a cyclist is killed doing what they love. It's even more scary to me when that person is fresh out of college and at the beginning of what promised to be a great life.
Carla Swart killed in South Africa

Carla was out on a training ride when she was struck by a truck while trying to retrieve her cycling computer. It sounds like the driver tried to stop and even swerved to avoid hitting her, but without success.

How many training rides to we go on every year, never really thinking that we won't be back home in a few hours? How often have we stopped or swerved to pick something up off the road, either because we dropped it or to make sure no one else hits it? This was a training accident, by all accounts, what could have been done to change the outcome? I'm at a loss.

Rest in peace, Carla; you will be missed.

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

You Like It Here?!

Yep, I really do!

You might live in Minnesota
- If you consider it a sport to gather your food by drilling through 18 inches of ice and sitting there all day hoping that the food will swim by. I don't understand it, but people do it. Forget all day, they'll do it for the weekend!
- If you're proud that your state makes the national news 96 nights each year because International Falls is the coldest spot in the nation. Sure! Is that sad?
- If you have ever refused to buy something because it's "too spendy". Gotta love those "Minnesota-isms.
- If your local Dairy Queen is closed from November through March. Yes! The one I ride by in the summer is now closed for the season. No Dairy Queen until spring for me.
- If someone in a store offers you assistance, and they don't work there. Yes, this really does happen here. I've done it, and people appreciate it!
- If your dad's suntan stops at a line curving around the middle of his forehead. It's either that, or put sunscreen on that bald patch. I think a hat sounds easier.
- If you have worn shorts and a parka at the same time. Personally, not a parka, but a fleece, sure. I used to work with a guy who wore shorts all year round: Parka, shorts, and Sorels!
- If your town has an equal number of bars and churches. If it's a small town, they could be kity-corner from each other.
- If you know how to say: Wayzata, Mahtomedi, Cloquet, Edina , Pequot Lakes....and Shakopee. Okay, say it with me: Why-ze-ta, Clo-kay, Eee-dine-a, Pi-qua Lakes, Shock-apee.
- If you think that ketchup is a little too spicy. Ketchup is spicy? Since when?
- If vacation means going "Up North" for the weekend. Up north always means "the Cabin". It might not even be an actual cabin, more likely what the rest of the world calls a house or condo.
- If you measure distance in hours. How far to Grandma's house? Two hours.
- If you know several people, who have hit deer more than once. Yes, and man, your car will be toast.
- If you often switch from "Heat" to "A/C" in the same day and back again. Give it five minutes, the weather will change.
- If you can drive 65 mph through two feet of snow during a raging blizzard without flinching. Nooo, more like 25 mph. Unless it's the first snow of the year.
- If you see people wearing hunting clothes at social events. Yes. I have relitives who have worn camo or blaze to family dinner.
- If you install security lights on your house and garage and leave both unlocked. My neighbors did this, I don't get it.
- If you think of the major food groups as beer, fish, and Venison. I thought it was beer, walleye, hotdish.
- If you carry jumper cables in your car, and your girlfriend knows how to use them. Oh yes, this is a must.
- If there are seven empty cars running in the parking lot at any given time. Yep, they have to warm up before we get in.
- If you design your kid's Halloween costume to fit over a snowsuit. Don't laugh, my mom used to do this. And there was that blizzard back in '91...
- If driving is better in the winter because the potholes are filled with snow. Ugh, nasty potholes.
- If you know all four seasons: Almost Winter, Winter, Still Winter, and of course, Road Construction. I thought there were only two season: Winter and Road Construction.
- If you can identify a southern or eastern accent. I can. I can also usually guess what region or state.
- If your idea of creative landscaping is a plastic deer next to your blue spruce. Um, no.
- If "Down South" to you means Iowa. "Down South is south of Missouri.
- If you know "a brat" is something you eat. Yes, please. With mustard, and sauerkraut.
- If you find -10 degrees "a little chilly". With wind, or without wind?

Until next time, ride long and keep the rubber-side down.