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.