Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Some People Can't Ride Rant

There are a few things that I just don’t understand about some bikers. Take a wide bike lane along the highway for example, place two cyclists side by side with a faster biker coming up behind them. The overtaking cyclist yells, “On your left!” Remember, the two other bikers are obviously riding together and chatting, completely closing off the bike lane. The attempt to overtake is foiled briefly, as he has to slam on the brakes because nobody is moving over, and he would be forced into the lane of auto traffic. “On your LEFT!” bellows the faster biker again. “Thank you!” said one of the cyclists, who is nearest the auto traffic (without moving over).

What is wrong with this picture? Do the socializing cyclists honestly think someone just wanted to tell them they were coming up behind them? No! The lack of cycling education out there on the roads is sometimes dangerous, as the rules of the road and the sport seem totally oblivious to some. The cyclist should have heard the warning and followed into formation single file with the other cyclist and let the overtaking cyclist go by.

Take another example, yet two more cyclists riding side by side. The same warning by the overtaking cyclist was given. The rider closest to the auto traffic is wavering all over the road, given multiple warnings of an attempted pass directly behind both cyclists. Neither acknowledged the encounter, or attempt to move over despite no wind being present. The faster cyclist attempts to pass but has to move out and around them after checking traffic from behind. The wavering cyclist on the left makes a huge zig-zag forcing the overtaking cyclist out into the middle of the auto traffic lane. Again, these people need a basic riding on the road rules class before they seriously push someone out into traffic that could end in a death. BOTH of these situations happened to me this past weekend on the very same ride, and shows that even in the cycling town of Boulder, some folks just shouldn’t be out on the road until they learn a few basics. Let’s review a few of those…

1) Stay to the RIGHT.
2) When someone yells, “On your left!” Move over to the farthest right possible, because they are trying to pass you on your LEFT.
3) When riding side by side, especially on commonly used cycling roads, be aware of your position so as to not block the entire lane, which could endanger other cyclist.
4) If you are not able to ride your bike in a straight line, don’t ride on heavily trafficked areas until you do, you may just be endangering others as well as your life.
5) Learn proper hand signals for left and right turns, stopping, and pointing out debris on the road for other riding behind you.
6) Do NOT ride looking down at your pedals. If you can’t hold your head up long enough to ride a relatively straight line, work on strengthening your neck muscles before taking to the road—cyclists don’t want someone riding their bikes like they are drunk—it could prove fatal.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

2009 Hawaii Ironman preview

New Faces and Old Champions of Hawaii Ironman

Where to start…wow, Chrissie Wellington’s near half an hour win over second place at Ironman Australia leaves me void of words to describe exactly what is the driving key to
such super human performances since she has arrived on Ironman circuit. I suppose the only thing I can muster up to describe it is…way to go, the rest of the gals need to step it up a whole lot. What is the answer to Chrissie and how to topple her at Ironman distance? She has gone undefeated in her first six Ironman races, and now finishing 13th overall even amongst a deep field of pro men in Australia…she is now poised to take over Heather Fuhr’s long list of Ironman overall wins in a just a few short years. Should she keep up this tempo for the next few years, given she would maintain her dominance much like the aging Natascha Badman in Hawaii, she stands to break the all time Queen of Kona’s record not just in time, but overall wins. That honor belongs to the immeasurable Paula Newby Fraser.

PNF as she is known around the world is by far Ironman’s most dominating and legendary figure, with whom I have emailed on occasion and chatted with in person many times. In fact, she stayed at my wife’s house when wifey was growing up, while racing up in Canada through a Home-stay program for visiting professional triathletes. Whether or not PNF’s times will fall is not a question of if, but when. With the onslaught of newer more aerodynamic bikes and materials, helmets, nutrition, etc, someone is bound to go faster in Kona. It is the Holy Grail not just to win Hawaii, but to take down PNF’s record. Can Chrissie be the one to take the mantle from PNF and Natasha? Michele Jones and Natasha are bound to have something to say about it this October for sure.

Michele Jones, undoubtedly the most decorated all around female triathlete in the history of the sport. Sure she won Kona, but there was no Chrissie in the pro ranks, and Natasha had a not-so-good day. Don’t discount her, Michele knows how to win, but she doesn’t seem (as does anyone) to be in the same time zone as Chrissie. Natasha is the aging current active Queen of Kona, having bad luck the last few years. Natasha’s downfall is her running and swimming. While she may be able to bike faster than Chrissie on most days, getting left behind in the swim to play catch up will tax her for the run, which is Chrissie’s strength. The scale tips to Chrissie, who has an all-around solid swim/bike/run game. October is quite a ways off and much can happen during the race or leading up to it.

It remains to be seen what excitement comes down the line for the lineup of superstars of our sport in October, the early season races usually have no bearing on the Big Dance as far as predictions. Chrissie has moved to this very city I live in…Boulder, Colorado, under the guidance of 5-time World Champ Simon Lessing. Simon no doubt has a master plan to answer the call of whether or not he can match up with Sutto’s (Brett Sutton) magic of preparing elite athletes. One thing is for sure, someone will have to perform on an alien-like level to find an answer to Chrissie Wellington…she appears unstoppable right now with no answers on the horizon.

Props to Tim DeBoom for his 8:39 performance in Ironman Australia! Nice to see you back in the saddle again. Let’s hope he continues his comeback to the ranks of the podium in time for Kona. He’s still hungry, and he’s still wicked fast—on a good day he is as good as the best…Macca…Norman…he’s proven it twice. Last I checked as of this writing, that is one more time than Macca—the sometimes proclaimed best triathlete in the world.

Launching into the men’s discussion, Macca is very accomplished, but he is neither the best Ironman or short course athlete in the world or history. He may have won some championships—but Craig Alexander has too. Any way you chop it up, Craig is every bit the champion Macca is or was—he’s proven it at all distances. The media hops on the Macca band wagon partly because of his outspoken demeanor, whic is his choice and the media’s. But let’s keep things in perspective. Simon Lessing alone has won 5 ITU World Championships, and is the only man to beat Mark Allen in Mark’s last race of his career. Mark Allen has won Hawaii six times in a row himself, as has Dave Scott. Norman Stadler won it twice, so has Luc Van Lierde (with the course record on a more difficult coruse). The answer to Macca has already been found—that answer is any number of athletes toeing the line on Dig Me Beach could take the crown in the end, including 2-time champ Tim DeBoom.

Once known as the best Ironman runner in the sport, Tim DeBoom worked on his run in 2008 while training for the Leadville 100, and stated his run was as good as it ever has been. He can swim 48 minutes or faster in Kailua Bay, then ride in the pack not far off of the uber bikers…and then catch them all on the run if the stars are aligned. Then again, so can Macca and a host of others. My point is, don’t discount the “old guard” because media blitz on colorful athletes. Keep an eye on the quiet ones. Faris was quiet, as was Thomas “Hell on Wheels”—and Norman Stadler. Their voices were not heard, but their actions were seen on race day. The finish line is what these athletes are measured on for the next year for sponsorship and media attention. An athlete can be loud to nab a little media time leading up to the race, or quiet and nab a LOT of media time when you finish first at the Hawaii Ironman in October.