Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Doping in Sports--is there hope?

Athletic Turning of the Tides

There is a refreshing turn in an old story of doping in sports, with the recent admission from last year’s Tour podium finisher Bernhard Kohl, Canadian cyclist Geneviève Jeanson and Austrian triathlete Lisa Huetthaler. Both have pointed out Stefan Matschiner as a supplier for EPO and other doping products, as has Dr. Andreas Zoubek been named in scandals. I often wonder how even at the age group levels, how many athletes have pushed me down the ranks of results because of possible easy access to pharmaceuticals, not to mention the highly known fact it is very widespread at the professional levels.

What I applaud is Lisa’s coming forward to tell all at her own personal risk, to expose the ring and provide authorities details on how it all works. It certainly seems to be an underground market and black secret you catch a rare glimpse of. I have always been pretty good at forecasting likely “suspects” based off of overnight improvements to levels that seem unlikely. Or, at least, those who appear seemingly from nowhere not just at a amateur level, but a professional level to become top contenders from little more than a background as hikers or lumberjacks. One need to look at the odd physique transformation some become known for in the blink of an eye, to identify that something just isn’t right about that…

As a legitimate sport without the full blown reputation that cycling currently has as one of cheaters, triathlon can only hope there are more Lisa Huetthalers out there who come clean with their conscience and help clean up the sport, even after they themselves have helped to dirty it up. I am in no way condoning doping in triathlon, but it is sport, and there are always those who will try to win no matter what. It happens, in part, because there is a lot at stake for some athletes as far as national or world notoriety, money, as well as helping pull themselves and their family from poverty.
It is not to say all cyclists at the top levels, or triathletes for that matter are cheaters, they’re NOT. But there are a lot of them, just watch the media. Every week someone is getting busted, and it is almost humorous now to see who will get caught this week. Humorous because they caved into something they likely said they would never do when they started the sport, and for what? Glory and money. There is much more to sport than glory and money…things such as spirit of competition, health, social aspects, and adventure. Lisa should pay her dues for what she has done, and while tarnishing the sport, we should maybe look at it in a positive light that she is at least trying to help un-tarnish it some (of course AFTER she got caught…). But at least, we can certainly say she did NOT have to spill the beans, but she did. For that, you have to give her credit where due, even if it is a little bit after the fact. Eventually, maybe that word describing athletics can be used again with pure unadultered meaning…SPORT.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Cervelo’s New Toy (that will make your friends SUPER JEALOUS!)

Cervelo P4 Test Ride, March 25, 2009

I was amped up to head to the pool today, but wanted to see what sort of aero bars were on the website at Colorado Multisport in Boulder. Alas, I saw it was “Cervelo Demo Days” so on the way to the pool I wanted to stop by and test ride a P3C. Upon walking through the door—in all its glory…was a Cervelo P4 C in a stand, complete with SRAM RED, a Zipp disk and 1080 front. I honestly thought there would only be a “slim” chance of a P4 being there, but was prepared to try a P3 for kicks. When I was told I could test drive it, my eyes lit up and I heard angels singing somewhere above the ceiling tiles of the shop. I think there was also glitter appearing in the air throughout the shop. It just so happened that it was a wicked windy day in Boulder—and the swirling wind made my test drive very scary when crosswinds hit the front 1080 wheel. After dialing in the seat and for/aft position, I felt right at home.

Sure I only test rode it for about a half an hour total, but it was everything they said it would be. They being Cervelo and the critics. I am unsure of how the wicked trick water bottle would work in an Ironman, as the refill hole seems rather small—but it sure looked cool. The bike was stiff from a dead stop to full speed, with no noticeable flex at all. The P4 climbed like a champ up the short hill on Folsom Street (part of the famous Bolder-Boulder 10K race in May), and the SRAM RED shifting was just dead on with each click—but I would also like to try the new shift levers from SRAM that returns to the original position. The click throw is shorter than Shimano indexing, but the SRAM RED carbon cranks were about the most perfectly smooth pedaling I’ve ever had on a bike bar none.

This bike was nearly too much bike for my ability, but heck, it can only help in a race right? What better way to close the gap than with superior equipment. Geoff and Blake at Colorado Multisport were kind enough to discuss options, sizing, set up the bike so it would fit me better with some minor adjustments to make my test ride a truly wonderful experience. Now if this bike only had a pair of those Bontrager prototype time trial bars that Lance has…we’d have something that every triathlete would be jealous of having.
Unfortunately, I had to leave the P4 with the shop, as it was theirs and not mine. Who would pass up an opportunity to ride the legendary P4C though…certainly not me! The one thing I would want to change on the P4, is the cost. $4800 for the frameset (OUCH!)
Lastly, I didn’t get to swim…just weights and the bike ride. Something made me digress from my workout…something wonderful…called the Cervelo P4.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Potato Training

With Cour de Alene on the horizon I figured it was something I should write about today, and reflect on how the common goals of others can bring them all together whether they plan it or not at the oddest times. Saturday I was heading out for a ride and within a mile I came upon a couple cyclists--one of which had a tri bike & 3 bottles, so I asked her a bit about her training day ahead and plans for the season. The other was a former professional cyclist. Here are a few pictures of "Alicia" and myself take by Michelle on our way to Carter Lake. We spent nearly all of 35 miles chit-chatting away about tri geeky stuff, and comparing notes on the CDA course. Alicia had done CDA several times, and enjoyed the race. I peeled off once at Carter to finish my ride while she continued to Masonville.

The following day, for kicks, I decided I wanted to ride out & around Carter again (both up the North side for Larry in case he wants to know...). When I got to the Broadway/36 intersection, another triathlete on a Cervelo just happened to be heading out at the same time...nearly the same place I met up with Alicia & Michelle the day before. I got talking to Michael, a kid (26) who was of all things, on his long ride training for Ironman CDA! Bizzzzzaro! Two days, two people, at the same place both training for CDA. He was riding out around Carter as well...so we ended up riding the entire time together, chit chatting away, and of course I milked him for information about the course. While I didn't get a picture that day, I did have some fun riding with fellow athletes who were all going out for the same training rides for the same race and had some good laughs and conversation. The wind waned after a few hours just from being lost in conversation, but one thing for sure is that no matter when you are doing activity that may seem like it will be a solo effort--it can turn into a team effort with laughs and learning involved. Not just about training, but about people themselves.

Monday, March 16, 2009

5430 Triathlon Series in Boulder

It's already nearly St. Patty's Day & the trees already have buds on them, and the wind continues to howl as it has all winter in Boulder. I'm starting to see scores more triathletes out on the road with the group rides leaving Amante larger and larger each weekend. We are in for a dry summer I suspect--undoubtedly some scorching temps for the souls doing the 5430 series. This will be my first year NOT racing the series in quite a few years. My first year took me to a win in my AG on the 5430 Half, as well as the overall AG series. The next year took me to a Boulder Peak AG win by over a minute (okay, the fast guys never showed up that year), then last year things really took a tumble fighting off this torn hammy/glute tendon thing. But that actually happened 2 years ago--it just really got considerably worse in 2008. It was odd having a lack of training, and race results as well. A first ever over 11 hrs for an Ironman happened in '08 as well...I guess I won't need to wait until I'm almost 50 for that to happen now! Who knows, it could be slower next race as anything can happen in an Ironman. Let's just hope I can keep it in the 9 hr+ range this time around.

This past weekend I took a tour de farm roads with a few snapshots of the 5430 Sprint "twisty corner" where Neva Rd. splits off from Hwy 36. Next up, a couple shots of where the famous LeftHand Canyon & Hwy 36 meet (at the Greenbriar), which is where you come back from the Old Stage Hill on the Boulder Peak. There are a few shots of me taking a rest & slacking by sitting against a stone wall just enjoying the weather. Hard to believe it is only March and I've been able to ride in shorts at least one time each month since December.

For those who have heard of the big wild fire here in Boulder back in January, I have to tell you that the scorched mountainside is no more. It has PLENTY of fresh green grass growing all over, so if you do come to Boulder you will find virtually no traces of any wildfire anywhere. What you will find is a nearly perfect and freshly repaved road for almost the entire Boulder Peak course. Barry Siff just so happened to have a race on the very roads Boulder decided to give a face lift to, so it is a fast course even with the altitude and hills. What goes up must come down right? For example, I hit 44.9 mph on a downhill on Nelson Rd yesterday--which is part of the Boulder Peak. The road was so smooth I had no fear of any high speed crash, in fact, I was drinking a watter bottle & holding on to my bike bars with only one arm in the aero bars!

Lastly today, I wanted to tell you a few things about the 5430 Series. Barry puts on a great series, and fully supports USAT, a yearly charity (this year it is blindness), and has been a leader in efforts to ensure his series leaves a zero carbon footprint. The competition both pro and age group are world class, with THE best in the country (both short & Ironman racers). Not to mention the plethora of athletes from other countries visiting and training in the Boulder area all summer, often use these races to tune up for other major championship races. The thing about these races though, if you want to podium finish--good luck! Some of the top names in the world live here and race these races...Chris Peeters, Tim Hola, Kirk Framke, Eric Peterson, Craig Greenslit, Andy Bigelow, Jeff Keil. These are all guys I know (except for Jeff Keil & Craig Greenslit), these are serious athletes and they are as serious and fierce of competitors as you'll find anywhere in the world. In fact, many of these guys are either national age group champions or have placed in the top 3 in the WOLRD Championships of either Olympic, Half, or Ironman distance. Get out of town and come visit Boulder for the 5430 series...it's too bad I'll be in Cour de Alene for Ironman, otherwise, I'd be on the line ready to knock heads with some of the best guys in the world. I don't mind a few bumps and bruises for a little fun!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Short Long Ride--81+ miles

It was dumb luck I had just reached the Gateway Park entrance/exit as the "Gateway Ride" was leaving. Any given ride has 40-80 riders depending on the day. These rides have included local pros such as Tyler Hamilton and a cast of Cat 1, 2, 3, 4 & the misplaced triathlete (myself!) The first 10 riders peeled out of Gateway as I meandered my way into formation. What struck me as odd was the yo-yo affect large groups of roadies have. One minute we're all tootling around chatting, then the next we're all hanging on for dear life. When I was in the fourth row of rotation for pulling the near 70 riders, I realized there is no way I should even be with a group such as this as I was fighting off the remains of a cold for the second week. Wisely, I peeled off to the side and sat in the back of the peloton, and decided to hang on for dear life that way as most triathletes do not have the large close & personal riding technique that roadies have. Translated, it was safer to have me out of the way--in the back. When we finally hit 24.5 miles in 1 hr, 32 seconds, and the pace kept cranking up from there, I decided to drop off the group and ride my own pace. Okay, honestly...I blew sky high and was the third or fourth from the peloton to blow sky high. There was a straggler up ahead, maybe 100 yards, so I used what little TT ability left in my legs to catch him and pull him back up to a pack of four. From there I have no idea. Upon getting to the base of the climb at Carter Lake, the entire peloton was strung out with about 20 left at the front and gaining distance on whoever was left. Some riders had turned around with their tails between their legs & headed back in the direction of Boulder. I rode to the top of Carter Lake, stopped at the top and snapped a few digital pictures. From there, the new couple of miles took me about 15 minutes to get through with all the picture taking.

It was such a sunny day out I couldn't resist getting some shot which you see here with this entry. Simon Lessing & Chrissy Wellington were stopped at the top of Carter Lake, but those were the only "famous" triathletes I recognized. The goal was to get some good photos, a long ride in, and a little intensity--okay, but not THAT kind of intensity. But it was fun anyhow. The total ride ended up being 81 miles but with around 30 miles left I somehow got a slow leak in the rear tire. I only had one CO2 so had to stop & nurse the tire back to Boulder. Sure the spare tube would have worked, but why waste it when the tire was toast anyhow? What I really needed was a new tire...oh, and to close the valve stem the entire way (which is where the slow leak was actually at). I spun my way back home going at times only 12 mph into a headwind. There I had the distance, intensity, a little repair practice, good company, scenery--so the ride was a success! I got to follow that up with a easy 1,000 yard "loosen up swim" later that afternoon.