the Lance consequences

When people asked me questions about Lance Armstrong making a comeback 2 years ago, they were asking if I thought he could make a comeback to that level of competition…. my answer was I don’t think he ‘should’.

Should?
you mean could, correct?
No, I mean Should.

Honestly, I thought he could and probably would make a comeback and compete at the level of the top Tour de France riders. After his previous other wins, what could really stop the guy? training time? preparation? Have a crew of support people at your mercy 24/7? Those were all clearly out of the question.

To me the real question was Should he attempt a comeback. And my reasoning behind this question is now rearing it’s ugly head – doping scandals.

So, Lance is clean and gets off scott free? America is no longer the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ that it used to be…. But what if Lance is convicted of any doping charges – my concern is what Tarnished effects it will have on A) overall cycling B) the LiveStrong community.

How could it be tarnished you ask?
well, it has started already:
Lance Armstrong arrives for his latest press conference: on Twitpic

There has always been a background controversy surrounding allegations with LA, but now they seem to be even closer to dropping the gavel not in his favor. But LA doesn’t need finances in any way and I’m sure he has very thick skin from so many days in the saddle – but the cancer community and his foundation may suffer because of his ego under the guise of ‘comeback 2.0 for cancer awareness’, which may end up giving LiveStrong the opposite effect.

Once again, many folks outside or on the skirts of cycling maybe asking several questions about why?
Well, I wondered the same thing 2 years ago. Why? Like many greats you got away from the sport ‘clean’ – Should you chance that with a comeback? I guess only time will tell if Lance’s reputation will be for
A) winning 7 TdF’s
B) starting such a great foundation to fight cancer and inspire Millions
C) be another cyclist that got busted for doping (and possibly getting 7 Yellow jerseys revoked)

Is Rubbing Racing?

There has been some debate recently about whether or not ‘rubbing is racing’ in the cycling world. Although it may seem that rubbing is not (or should not) be involved in cycling and racing, the fact of the matter is that it is involved, and the reasons may not be what you would think…..it’s for safety!

on the right you can see 2 guys bump in this sprint finish of a cat4 race

Ever watch a big stage race on TV, and see the overhead shots of riders along the narrow streets. They seemed like they are packed onto the road in a sardine container. They are so close to each other that 1 potential slip would cause a pretty serious crash, which often happens when you get about 180 cyclists on the road. Tension is high. Riders are moving around the pack, domestics are dropping back to get bottles, jostling for position before a climb, riders have to grab feed bags as they go through the feed zone, there is a rotation of riders at the front of the peleton that are doing the most work, teams have to gather and organize for sprint lead-outs.

All of this moving around with in the pack, this pack that is in constant motion, not only externally, but also internally is another reason that rubbing is racing. In both racing and many group rides, riders often bump into each other, but I would bet that crashes per bump ratio is pretty low. In fact, I would be willing to bet that riders bumping into each other causing crashes is much more rare than when riders over-lap wheels!

photo by Jon Woodruff - www.TwoToneAtl.com

As you become a Stronger Cyclist and ride more group rides and especially if you race, you will at some point either be bumped or bump someone else. Riders may bump for several different reasons. The difference is A) how hard someone is bumped. If a rider is crashing, there isn’t much you can do. If a rider slowly shifts left or right then you may get bumped. B) the intention and C) the way it is handled.

The Intention: Often times, riders will simply shift slightly left or right and if you happen to be on that side of a rider, then you may bump into each other. Usually the little bump is neither planned nor intentional. The riders merely touch, separate and that is the end of it.

Sometimes this is a safety measure to let the person ahead of you know that you are on that side of them.

Sometimes in racing someone will bump into you attempting to move you over and/or take your position. Although this is more intentional, it is a legal move as long as their hands stay on their handlebars. In fact, this is a very common practice in a Velodrome race called the Keirin. (And much easier to take pictures of!)

photo by Carleton Hall - http://www.flickr.com/photos/carleton_hall/

If you ride in a group, you will more than likely get bumped. So here are some guide lines of how to handle it.

Guide Lines of getting Bumped:
A) Try not to freak out.
B) Do NOT slam on your brakes!
C) Attempt to hold a straight line

photo by Carleton Hall - http://www.flickr.com/photos/carleton_hall/

If you want to practice bumping, it is best to talk it out with a friend ahead of time, so you both know it is going to happen. Start by cycling in the grass, as you get close, try to barely touch elbows. Your goal is not to hit them or move them, but to just make contact.
Next time try to reach out with your elbow and attempt to touch the other person’s hip.

If you are not used to be bumped while cycling, there is a good chance that it will freak you out the first time. But if you handle the situation well, it really will become 2nd nature after a while. After a while you may find that like I did, I would bump my friends that I know how to handle the situation and I knew don’t mind, so much that eventually I would bump them and with out them seeing me, they would say ‘Hi Stephen’.

Bicycle Racing Tactics

If you have been watching the Tour de France you will see some of the top climbers use all kinds of racing strategy (or at least carry-out the directors strategy via their ear-piece). But if the more you know about what is going on the more clear it becomes why some riders make certain moves, which the commentators are so eager to speculate on.

For instance in the 2010 stage 13 of the TdF, in the mountains Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador allowed Menchov to attack them and gain valuable time, while the two of them eyed each other. It’s hard to say what they each were thinking, strategy wise. But as one person put it on twitter:

Strange day. Andy seems happy w/ 30 sec. on Bert, and Bert happy to give time to Menchov and Sanchez. Blunder for both, or smart riding?

The reason that this is so important in the TdF is that they will be facing a Time Trial coming up, where their team-mates will not be able to help, and Menchov will be strongly favored over Schleck and Contador.

It’s amazing to watch the strategy of each racer in the tour as the days go by. Sometimes the strategy changes very quickly from winning to surviving. But rarely the opposite happens. The strategy of a multi-stage race has many differences and similarities to a single day race. A good team will know how to use their strengths for an advantage, and to avoid having a team mate in a tough spot.

This is part of what it is like to be able to ‘read a race’. Knowing how a race is going to unfold before it happens. Two of the best at it that I’ve seen were: at 45 years old 1996 Olympic alternate, Kent Bostick, and Jittery Joe pro, Jeff Hopkins.

Hopkins became notorious for telling a racer on the velodrome that they would be the next one out, then make it happen. He knew the race and the dynamics so well, that it was hard to combat his combination of strength and strategy. He is somewhat infamous for sitting at the back of a local Pro NRC criterium, and crashing because he was waving at some ladies – gets put back into the race banged-up and bloody – and rallies his team to get him into the top 5 for the finish. Later, his team mate said ‘when a guy like Hoppy says get me up there, you do it!’

As I raced with Bostick he would ask people if they were happy with 2nd and if you said no, he would just attack you. He made it in your best interest to say ‘yes’ and gladly work with him to get you to the finish line ahead of the main field. He would make sure that everyone in the break took a turn of pulling and then watch to see who was stronger and who was getting tired. Bostick knew how the race was going to unfold in his mind before it even happened. Even if he was the oldest guy in the Pro1,2 field and maybe not the strongest, he was able to use strategy to overcome his opponents.

1) Create a strategy. Some good ideas for strategy is to have a team meeting before the race starts. See who has the legs and strongest desire to win that day.

2) Plan the outcome. Next figure on a plan that will have the race unfold as you would like to see happen, and a back-up plan in-case it doesn’t.

3) Action. Next, when the time comes, take action! Act upon the plan that the team has created as best as you can.

4) Learn. Regardless of the outcome, always try to learn from what happened and improve your teams results.

The Head-Butt

If you haven’t yet seen stage 11 of the 2010 Tour dr France, then stop reading now…. or maybe watch the video first of the sprint finish because really, what else was there?

The finish of this stage saw a Cavendish lead out man Renshaw head-butt Farrar’s lead-out man Dean apparently because he came to close to him and nearly impeded his movement. A) he wasn’t totally holding his line B) he was starting to impede the line of Renshaw.

I have chatted with a couple great sprinters & they seem to feel that this was all fair in a top-notch sprint such as this. Too bad we didn’t get to see a 2 teams, 2 separate line, Sprinter vs. Sprinter!
I don’t think I blamed Renshaw for the first head-butt, I guess he needed the 2nd to get his point across as Dean clearly didn’t realize the point that Renshaw was making, but the 3rd was clearly cause for a DQ.

Now, watch this, after the sprint finish they re-play in over-head slo-mo.

Now tell me you don’t blame Renshaw for that head-butt! Dean makes a move to his left and puts out an elbow towards Renshaw impeding his forward line. Maybe he didn’t handle it the best, but when you have Cavendish on your wheel and your job is to lead him out, you have to keep moving forward, but suddenly another lead-out man starts cutting you off?

However, the officials may see all this a different way:
– “History shows that a headbutt will get dq’d from stg result (mcewen2005,Zabel 97)”
– “History also shows that looking over shoulder at rival then taking them to barriers will also get u dq’d from stg results”
– “History will now show that combining the 2 aforementioned tactics will get u sent home…greater than the sum of it’s parts”
-Robbie McEwen

Regardless of what you feel about Renshaw’s actions during the stage, I think that it was the right call to make from the officials based on this.

1 thing is for certain that will come of all this….. Head-butting, coming to a Cat4 race near you!

Track Racing Video

Here is a little video insight into what it is like to ride/race at the velodrome. This was a Wednesday evening race series in July. The race was the B group (they have A,B & C categories). Good times & since everyone has taken a ‘track riding class’ and is on a fixed gear bicycle with no brakes, it is actually much safer than most road riding. No one can slam on their brakes. To slow down you simply don’t pedal as fast. Because the velodrome has 34 degree bank in the corners, riders will go high into the corners, then ‘drop down’ to pick up lots of speed before going into the straight-aways.

Here is a little article on the Dick Lane Velodrome in the Atlanta magazine

A great thing about racing at the velodrome is that everyone is very friendly and you can share race tactics in different scenarios, then go right out and attempt it right away since the races vary in length from single lap ‘chariot’ races to 50 laps and even the ‘unknown’ race in which only the director & their assistant of the velodrome know when they will ring the bell for the last lap.

DLV Wed. Night Race from Stephen Carhart on Vimeo.

Most everyone usually runs about an 88 inch gear.
For this nights races I was running a 95 inch gear (46×13) – challenging, but not on purpose (I had left my gears at home by accident). But it did make me mash a larger gear than I normally would. Although I usually don’t do it some track races will over-gear to gain leg strength.

Track racing will test your ability to push the same gear for a period of time, then get that gear up to your max spinning effort.

If you are in the Alanta area, the Dick Lane Velodrome has loaner bikes so you can try a beginner class and see what it is like to get bounced around on the lap of the Velodrome.

Road positioning in Traffic

Here is a cool animated graphic that points out some hazards of where a cyclist is positioned on the road. Are you riding too far Right?

Riding too far Right?

I tend to agree with this video. Cyclist that do not make themselves seen maybe the cause of an accident. Many motorists just do not pay enough attention to things outside the vehicle while driving & make mistakes.