Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Pedal vs. Metal: A surge in bike ridership spurs a new kind of road rage

Here is an article from Newsweek magazine that talks about the surge of bicycle and car related events of road rage. It seems like the bad behavior is on both sides of the argument. I know I have been guilty of multiple bad decisions while riding my bike. I usually try to stay on less traveled roads or stay as much on the shoulder as I can.

I have found that the cars/trucks on the country roads can actually be worse than the busier roads since the drivers are often driving faster than the posted speed limit since they think they are by themselves.

For some reason people change when they get behind the wheel of a car (or maybe it is just the real person coming out). I know that I have less patience when I am driving. A delay of of a minute or two can sometimes feel like an hour. I have been driving slower these days. I usually am right at the speed limit or sometimes below.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Metuchen police take to bikes, foot patrols to save gas

From the Asbury Park Press. Wear a badge, carry a gun and ride a bike. Not a bad deal. I would not like carrying a gun but there have been plenty of time I would like to have had a badge. Here is a place that sells bikes to police, EMS and fire departments. Picture above is not the Metuchen Police Department.

METUCHEN — Borough police officers are taking to cycling this summer — not as a sport, but as a conscious effort to conserve gas during their daily patrol.

It is a part of conservation measures issued by Police Chief Jim Keane in a memo to his department as soaring gas prices threaten to dent the budget.Officers are asked to shut down their vehicles to prevent excessive idling and to rely more on two-legged transportation.

During their shifts, officers are asked to park their cruisers in the downtown business district and walk and talk to business owners and residents for a short amount of time per shift or per hour."Walking not only saves gas but is also good public relations," Keane said.

Officers are also encouraged to use bicycles for patrol, he said. Keane added that there is a downside to using bikes. He explained that police officer's cars are like traveling offices and contain oxygen tanks, first-aid kits, fire extinguishers, laptops and everything else that they need to be effective first responders."Guys on bikes won't have access to all the tools, and the same applies to walking on the beat," he said.But when it comes to high gas prices, patroling a 2.7 square-mile borough in a car is a luxury.

Other steps taken to conserve energy include ensuring that the closest units respond to a call and checking vehicles more often, especially for tire pressure.Keane also discourages backing up officers, unless requested.Officers are asked to reduce return trips to headquarters and complete most reports in the field.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Not a bad tour for the teams riding Specialized Bikes

Both of the teams that ride Specialized Bikes started the Tour de France on low notes. Quick Step found out that sprint star Tom Boonen was not going to be able to ride this years Tour due to some out of competition issues. The other team found out that its primary sponsor Gerolsteiner would not be returning in 2009.

Quick Step is a sprinting team and generally looks for wins on the flatter stages. Without Mr. Boonen riding it was going to fall to the other members of the team such as Gert Steegmans. However, Team Columbia's Mark Cavendish won 4 of the sprints and did not leave much for anyone else. Coming into stage 21 Team Quick Step did not have a stage win. It turned out that stage 21 was the charm and Mr. Steegmans was able to pull out the win. If you are only going to win one sprinting stage the final stage in Paris is the one to win.

Team Gerolsteiner was much more successful in the 2008 tour. They won the King of the Mountains (Bernhard Kohl),the two time trials (Stefan Schumacher), had yellow jersey for a couple of days (Stefan Schumacher) and finished 3rd overall (Bernhard Kohl). Not a bad Tour for a team that is not CSC - Saxo Bank. Hopefully they will be able to get a sponsor for next year.

2008 Tour de France Time Trial and a late afternoon ride

I was up early on Saturday morning but I was not feeling well (no need to share the details) so I decided I would watch the final Time Trial of the 2008 Tour de France. The Time Trials are kind of hard to watch. All the riders look like they are going the same speed (except of some of the sprinters who look like they are taking a victory lap) and it is only the time clock that tells who is really going fast.

At end of the Time Trial the General Classification turned out almost who I expected with Carlos Sastre of CSC - Saxo Bank in first and Cadel Evans of Silence - Lotto in 2nd. I had Christian Vande Velde of Garmin - Chipolte finishing 3rd but only if he won the time trial. The GC contenders will just ride into Paris together today so there will not be any change in the overall standings. The sprinters will be up today and some of the teams that have had success in years past will be looking to finish the tour with a win.

I went into the Tour this year looking for Cadel Evans to pull out the win. I did not really have any real expectations for either Team Columbia (formerly the German Team T-Mobile) or Garmin - Chipolte. I expected Team Columbia to concentrate on stage wins and not really be that concerned with the General Classification (Kim Kirchen was making me look foolish by wearing the Yellow Jersey in the first week).

My expectation was that Garmin - Chipolte was going to be happy just to be there and may win a stage or two but not really be a threat to the GC. I saw an interview with Mr. Vande Velde in the beginning of the tour and he said that he was going to concentrate on the GC. I was thinking that meant a top 20 spot. Certaintly the 5th place GC finish was an overachievement and might of been even better had he not crashed on the descent of stage 16. It was fun to watch.

Mr. Sastre deserves his win. The CSC - SAXO Bank team was the best team out there and they always had 3 guys (Mr. Sastre and the Schleck Brothers) on every climb. This made it hard for the other GC contenders that had to climb on their own. I was wondering why CSC - Saxo Bank selected Mr. Sastre over Frank Schleck as the main GC contender but it became obvious that Mr. Schleck needs to work on his TT abilities if he wants to contend in the coming years.

As much as I would have liked Cadel Evans to pull out the win I would have been disappointed had he won without winning a single stage. Given Mr. Evans' lack of team support maybe he even overachieved by finishing 2nd. I have heard a rumor that he is moving to Garmin - Chipolte next year but so far I have not heard anything confirming it. If it happens then there is a good chance that Garmin - Chipolte will be able to give CSC - Saxo Bank a run next year. Of course Team Columbia is going to bring a different team as well.

I really did enjoy the Tour this year. The end of the Tour is going to leave a void. I am looking forward to the Olympics since most of the top riders will be in China as well. Unfortunately, in the past TV coverage has been heavy on sports I am not that interested in (gymnastics) and light on sports I am interested in (cycling, wieght lifting).

I was up early this morning and I was watching the local (NYC) newscast and the sportscaster made a smart remark about the Tour and doping. I know that it was an attempt to be funny. It does seem to me that cycling is doing a good job of trying to clean things up. I think few sports would survive the kind of testing that cycling atheletes have to endure. The amount of money involved combined with the intense pressure to win almost ensures that there will be some dopers taking the risk of getting caught but it is no different than the situation in Major League Baseball or the National Football league. The thing is that MLB and the NFL does not really go too far out of its way to catch the "cheaters".

On a personal side I finally felt good enough to get out for a ride around 4 PM. The goal was to get 45 miles in at a good pace. I got some climbs in during beginning and some at the end. The middle was just some of the rolling roads through Marlboro and Colts Neck. I did run into a gentleman riding a Specialized Tarmac SL2. We ended up riding together for a couple of miles. It turns out that the rider Jason Walters is a Cat 1 racer. He also does coaching and bike fitting.

Channel 7 in New York is broadcasting the New York Mini Marathon live this morning. I am waiting for the final stage of the Tour to start on Versus.

Monday, July 21, 2008

In Defense of the Tour de France and the other Grand Tours

My favorite month of the year is July because that is the month that the Tour de France is run in. I would like May (Giro de Italia) and September (Vuelta a Espana) but with the Tour de France I get live coverage everyday on Versus network. I also get replays throughout the day and a special prime time replay with Bob Roll and Craig Hummer at 8 PM each night.

In spite of the bad press that this year's Tour has recieved (3 failed tests, 1 team withdrawal and the loss of a large team sponsor) I am still a fan and I get more excited about the outcome as the Tour progresses. At the start I am not always familiar with the riders. I know the more famous ones such as Robbie McEwen, Cadel Evans and George Hincapie. Thanks to Cervelo the CSC riders get a lot of press so I know the Schleck Brothers and Fabian Cancellera. I also know Christian Vande Velde thanks to his tour diaries on Velonews last year. As the Tour moves along I start to know the names of the other riders and I even get the correct pronunciation.

I think part of the appeal for me is that cycling has a little bit of everything. Like NASCAR and F1 it has spectacular crashes like the one on the roundabout in stage 15 (that nearly took out all of Team Garmin-Chiplolte) or the exploding Specialized S-Works SL2 of Stage 13. Like baseball it has long periods where not much happens only to be wrapped up by a great finish.

There is both pettiness and great sportsmanship all in at once. When Denis Menchov fell during an attack on a climb in Stage 15 the other riders slowed down to wait for him to catch up. Image the other drivers in NASCAR pulling over and waiting for a driver with a flat tire or other mechanical problem. Of course the riders do it because they want to be treated the same way when they have a problem. It would stink to have a rider lose the Tour because of rain or a flat tire. There is not much that can be done about broken bones.

Mark Cavendish of Team Columbia provided a lot of excitement during the sprinting stages (a flat 100 mile plus ride with a big mass race for the finish in the last kilometer) this year. It was funny how the other riders could stop themselves from pointing out Mr. Cavendish's inability to climb. In fact Mr. Cavendish did not start stage 15 because he did not want to climb the Alps for little or no gain. He had his 4 stage wins and is now looking forward to riding Madison in the Olympics with Bradley Wiggins.

Like football there is also strategy and team work. Since a group of riders together use less energy than 1 rider by himself it is important for teams to work together. Riders are controlled by the team managers riding behind in cars. All the riders have radios and it is similar to a coach on the sideline calling in plays to the quarterback.

For the techno-geek there are plenty of shiny gadgets. From the carbon frame bikes with index shifting and aero wheels to the onboard computers that calulate watt power. Every Tour broadcast has a least one segment where the vendors can sell their wares. So far Bob Roll and Robbie Ventura have talked to Cervelo, Specialized and Shimano. I just learned about SRMs this year because I noticed that they were one of the sponsors of Team Columbia as well as several other teams. For me the technology is kind of a negative since I would rather be riding rather than reading a tech manual (too much like my real job) but I did run into another rider that swears by them (rather than at them).

Stage 16 will be tomorrow (Tuesday) and it will be interesting to see if Christian Vande Velde can keep up with the other contenders. The top 6 riders within a minute of each other so they are all going to have to stay together. There is a good chance that this years Tour winner will get to Paris without winning a stage. The big mountain climbs will be won by breaks that stay away and the GC contenders will be in the second chase group. I do expect Denis Menchov to breakaway during one of the climbs and then make the rest of the contenders chase him. Team CSC is strong since they will have at least 3 riders in the front groups for all of the climbs.

While the dopers do disappoint me (I understand) they are not ruining it for me. I only hope with I will continue to get the same level of coverage in the years to come. I sometimes worry about teams losing sponsors but then I remember that there are two American teams with European riders sitting at home for this years tour one even has last years 1 and 3rd place Tour de France riders. I am sure that that RockRacing and Astana are more than willing to take the place of Barloworld and Saunier Duval.

Watching the Grand Tours (Italy, France and Spain) on TV is a great way for me to visit Europe without the jet lag. I hope that it is a trip I can continue to make in the years to come.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Take Back the Tour Song

I finally found out who sang the song that was used for Versus "Take Back the Tour" Commercial. The song is called "Brand New Start" and is sung by Paul Weller formerly of the Jam and Style Council.

For some reason this commercial disappeared after the first week of the tour and was replaced with a new one of Jonathon Vaughters talking about crashing during the tour. The tag line of which is "Next time you are in your car going 50 MPH strip down to your underware and jump out the door".

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Mark Cavendis wins his Fourth Tour stage and moves into second for the Green Jersey Competition

Mark Cavendish of Team Columbia has now won his fourth Stage in the 2008 Tour de France. Now that he has moved into second in the Green Jersey (Points) competition there is good chance that Mr. Cavendish will be pulling his tired body over the Alps.

Not much has happened with the Yellow Jersey (GC) since the rest day. That should change soon. It will be interesting to see how well Christian Vande Velde can do on the up coming mountain climbs.
There was one point in Stage 13 where a Specialized Tarmac SL2 appears to explode. It is just flying above the peloton. I am looking to see if there are any pictures. The TV replay showed the broken bike laying on the ground like a balloon with its air let out. I can only imagine the words that must have come out of the riders mouth as he hit the sign post in the middle of the roadway. I think the same people that design the roads in France work in New Jersey as well.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

You know you are from Syracuse when ...

I found this site that does city specific "You know are from __ when ..." comments. I thought some of these are funny. Even though I have not lived in the Syracuse area in over 20 years I thought they were funny. I can still relate.

You know you are from Syracuse when:
1) You know every possible cat-related Solvay joke.

2) During your morning drive, you can accurately forecast how warm the day will become judging by the intensity of the stench wafting off Onondaga Lake.

3) You know the correct pronunciation of "Pompey."

4) You no longer need to brace your eardrums when exiting the pressurized Carrier Dome.

5) You take out-of-town friends on drives past developer Bob Congel's house on Woodchuck Hill Road.

6) The word "iniquity" inspires images of a bejeweled hand gesturing from the edge of a grainy black-and-white television screen on Channel 5's Monster Movie Matinee.

7) You call the intersection of Salina and Jefferson streets "Downcity."

8) You can tell all the Hafner establishments apart.

9) You know the name of the guy who does all the voice-overs for WCNY-Channel 24.

10) You go to Sainte Marie Among the Iroquois and amuse yourself by asking the 17th-century "re-creators" what they think of the ongoing waterfront redevelopment project.

11) You still refer to 500 S. Salina St. as the Chimes Building and Sainte Marie Among the Iroquois as the French Fort.

12) Your children dream of being on WIXT-Channel 9's "Storm Team."

13) You saw Vanessa Williams when she made local appearances as Miss Greater Syracuse.

14) Your chest bursts with pride when Syracuse's climate runs as the top story on cable TV's Weather Channel.

15) You know the three women cited by the name of the now-defunct but once-delicious Caroma Restaurant.

16) You have the time and temperature number memorized. Extra points if you recall it as GR4-8481; double points if you know GR stood for Granite.

17) You're beginning to suspect that the time and temperature lady actually died years ago and her voice is now computer-generated and preserved for all eternity.

18) You know where to find parking spaces in Skaneateles. Extra points for finding free parking spaces anywhere in downtown Syracuse.

19) You're surprised that people from other parts of the country know nothing about lacrosse.

20) You stood in a long line to see Blow Up at the Cinema East, when pubic hair did yet not have an MPAA rating.

21) Your snowblower gets stuck on the roof.

22) You miss Bowling for Dollars and its host, Bud Hedinger.

23) You are intimidated by the waitresses at the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que, instead of vice versa.

24) You recall the days when Tobe's Cherry Street smoker was the only bona fide barbecue in town.

25) You remember the key to open the door of local TV's Magic Toy Shop.

26) You think Nancy Larraine Hoffmann carelessly abandoned a promising career as a go-go dancer.

27) You know that Onondaga Lake Parkway is really Route 370, which used to be Route 57 and is called Second Street in the village of Liverpool, and you know that Tulip Street, Morgan Road and Euclid Road are actually one and the same roadway.

28) Your idea of fun is to pack a picnic lunch and go watch the mosquitoes get sprayed in Cicero.

29) You know what a "spiedie" is and pronounce "coney" like it has two o's.

30) You automatically give speeding cars with Canadian license plates the right of way on I-81.

31) You think that they really don't have enough weather coverage on TV and radio.

32) You remember when Armond Magnarelli had a real head of hair and Stan Colella was skinny as a rail.

33) They've chopped down a tree from your property and dragged it into Clinton Square for the holidays.

34) You've eaten clams surrounded by the clamshell-covered walls at McCarthy's on South Salina Street or Cap'n Mac's Clam Snug on Erie Boulevard East.

35) You remember doughnuts at Abe's and burgers at Tarbe's Grill.

36) You think they could squeeze in a few more parking spaces downtown if they'd only get rid of that pesky Jerry Rescue monument.

37) You can determine how much a person's house is worth by the way he or she pronounces "Skaneateles".

38) You know in your heart that before the apocalypse, the yin-yang sign at Marble Farms ice-cream shop will start revolving again. Extra points if you remember when it did revolve.

39) When the wind blows just right, you can tell when steel is being poured at Crucible Specialty Metals.

40) You can explain to visitors what salt potatoes are.

41) You remember when the original Phoebe's served soul food.

42) You heard Chuck and Gap Mangione perform at the 800 Club as the Jazz Brothers.

43) You already feel kind of nostalgic about the slowly disappearing tank farms of Oil City.

44) You remember Fairmount Fair. Bonus points for remembering it before it expanded at the western end; double points for remembering it before it was enclosed.

45) You've shopped at the Penn Can Mall. Bonus points if you remember its jingle or know that it's named Penn Can because of its location between Pennsylvania and Canada.

46) You define summer as three months of bad sledding.

47) You remember a Democratic congressman being elected from Onondaga County.

48) You know not to drive through Baldwinsville's Four Corners between 3 and 7 p.m.

49) Your favorite memory of former Mayor Lee Alexander is of him strolling into a Hotel Syracuse elevator with a blonde on one arm and a brunette on the other.

50) You've attended a Syracuse Firebirds game.

51) You held season tickets to both Syracuse Blazers hockey and Syracuse Scorpions soccer games.

52) You attended a Syracuse Chiefs game at MacArthur Stadium. Bonus points if you attended a Chiefs game at Municipal Stadium.

53) You've shopped at Switz's novelty store in North Syracuse.

54) You know how to decode the weather star on top of the MONY Tower.

55) You found out that Post-Standard political correspondents Gus and Luther F. Bliven were not two different people.

56) You design your Halloween costumes to fit over a snowsuit.

57) The mosquitoes in your yard have legal landing lights.

58) You have more miles on your snowblower than your car.

59) You still harbor mixed feelings toward Peter Andreoli for prosecuting John Mulroy and other local Republicans for political fund-raising shakedowns.

60) You saw the Police and the Romantics at the Firebarn Tavern before they had any hits.

61) You've eaten a frittata at Poodle's and Jim's on South Salina Street or Mario's Little Gem Diner (now known as Doc's Little Gem Diner).

62) Your favorite radio talk show host will always be Corny O'Leary.

63) Attending the State Fair is a family tradition, and you go more than three times during the 12 days it's open.

64) You remember when the limebeds broke and oozed out everywhere.

65) You've shopped at the Tri-County Mall.

66) You owe more money on your snowmobile than your car.

67) The mayor greets you on the street by your first name.

68) You characterize the four seasons as winter, still winter, almost winter and construction.

69) Your idea of a seven-course meal is a six-pack of Genny Cream Ale and a bucketful of Buffalo wings.

70) You have experienced frostbite and sunburn in the same week.

71) Half the change in your pocket is Canadian, eh?

72) The pungent smell once emitted from the Corenco rendering plant on Erie Boulevard East still lingers in your mind's nose.

73) You keep the snow tires on your truck all year because it ain't worth taking them off for only two months.

74) The Westcott Theater still makes you think of the long-running romance A Man and a Woman, and memories of the old Franklin Art cinema make you think of Linda Lovelace's Deep Throat.

75) You know that Speach, Curtis, Goudy and Knapp are actually Italian names.

76) You remember when Doug's Fish Fry had only one location, and you remember when owner Doug Clark actually liked the First Lady.

77) You know that anybody named Tarolli either hails from Solvay or has relatives there.

78) You still think of Channel 9's Mike Price as Baron Daemon.

79) You've noticed that True Value Hardware on any Saturday is busier than the toy stores at Christmas.

80) You remember when all the hookers worked on South Warren Street and most of them were transvestites.

81) You think driving is better in the winter because the potholes get filled with snow and snowbanks protect you from the guardrails.

82) You know the service elevator shortcut out of Hotel Syracuse's 10th-floor Grand Ballroom.

83) You suffer a heart attack while shoveling snow out of your driveway.

84) You hate Keith Smart.

85) You hate Hoyas, although you don't know what one is.86) You hate Hokies, although you don't know what one is.

2008 Tour de France - First Rest Day

Tueday was a rest day for the 2008 Tour de France. So far it has been an exciting Tour. None of the over powering teams that we have seen in the past but CSC-Saxo Bank is looking stong and may make a big move in the Alps.

Christian Vande Velde is still riding strong. Last year Christian Vande Velde was a rider for CSC and he posted a daily diary to Velonews similar to the ones that Christian's Garmin-Chipolte teammate Will Frischkorn (Titled: Fresh Korn) is writing this year. I thought Mr. Vande Velde's writings were insightful and funny. I felt like I got to know Christian. One of the last postings was about his decision to leave CSC and join the new American Team Slipstream (now Garmin-Chipolte).

Who would have thought that Mr. Vande Velde would be in 3rd place after the first moutain stage. Christian had no teammates with him on the final climbs on Monday's stage and was able to stay with Cadel Evans. He looked strong and in his post race comments he regretted not taking off with one of the other chase groups. I wonder how much help he is getting from his former CSC teammates.

I was planning on rooting for Cadel Evans to win this year's Tour (I know that it is not much of a stretch to root for the front runner) but it looks like I am going to be pulling Christian Vande Velde. I hope he can stay in contention all the way to Paris. So far he looks like he is having fun and keeping the right attitude.

After a good first week it looks like Team Columbia is back to working for stage wins rather than a Tour win.

The great thing about this year's tour is that it is taking my mind off of the US Economy. I am not sure what I will do after the Tour is over.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hurricane Bertha gave us a perfect Sunday

It has been a while since we have had two nice days on the weekend. While Saturday was hot and hazy Hurricane Bertha gave us a perfect day as it passed over Bermuda. Since I rode long on Saturday I decided to have a lazy morning. My daughter asked if we could go out to Sandy Hook. Since it was afternoon I knew that the parking at the beaches was going to be tough I suggested that we go up the Twin Lights in Highlands, NJ instead.

We have been up to the Twin Lights several times but it has been a long time since the last time we have visited. Both Light towers are open. The south tower has access up into the light area even though it is a little hot. The view makes the slight steam bath worth it.

The whole property is a NJ State Park but it used to be an Army Air Corp base. This is were radar was tested during WWII. The function of the Twin Lights is now handled by the Ambrose Light Tower that is out in the Atlantic.

The views from the Light towers are excellent. We walked up both the north and south towers. The view is not much different the north Tower has a better view of the Raritan Bank while the South Tower has a better view of the Shrewsbury River. I guess the dolphins are still hanging out in the river. When we drove by Bahrs Restaurant there was a sign for Dolphin Tours.

The Highlands Bridge is being rebuilt. The drawbridge is being replaced with a non-movable bridge that will be 65 feet over the water. I am going to miss the old bridge and in the mean time I am going to have to avoid the area when out on my bike rides. When I want to climb up Mt. Mitchell Overlook I will cut through Rumson and go over the Oceanic Bridge. It adds a couple of miles to the ride.

The Met Life Blimp was going up and down the shore. It took forever for it to go south but it was like a rocket going north.

We were thinking of going to Bahr's for lunch or even Moby's next door. We ended up going to The Clam Hut since we wanted to sit outside.

This paddle wheeler came by as we were sitting on the deck at the Clam Hut. I think it is a dinner cruise that leaves Atlantic Highlands and then goes up the Navesink River to Red Bank.

It was a good day. I did not get a ride in but sometimes it is good to do something different.

An early morning Saturday Ride to Manasquan Inlet

Woke up before 6 AM on Saturday and I decided I would get an early ride in. The plan was to leave the house at 7 AM and be back by 10 AM so that I could watch the end of the Tour de France Stage 8.

So I made coffee, let the dog out and had a light breakfast of fresh blueberries (they are in season now here in New Jersey). Since I had set the bike up for a ride on Friday evening that I never got around to taking I was already to go. I was out of the house by 7 AM. As I was riding I remembered that there is an 8 AM ride that leaves Dorbrook Park in Colts Neck so I started to make my way over to the park. It is about 11 miles to the park from my house. I was going to hit some hills on the way but I wanted to make sure I got there on time so I took a more direct route.

I have never rode with this group before but some of folks ride in the Tuesday - Thursday Holmdel Park rides. This group is a little be older than the 8 AM ride out of the Colts Neck Muni Center. In fact I think that I am one of the younger riders even though I am 46.

The ride is around 50 miles and I figured that I would get a little over 70 miles for the day. By the time I got back to the house my computer showed that I had completed just short of 81 miles for the day.

The group rides at an A/A+ pace but the atmosphere is laid back. Since most of the riders have been riding in the area for years they have a bunch of planned stops. Since I have never rode with this group I was not sure of the ride rules. After about a 30 minutes into the group ride my morning coffee was kicking in and I needed to make a "nature break". I was thinking of falling off the back but I was afraid of getting lost so I figured I would suffer until some of the other riders had to do the same. Eventually there was an opportunity to sprint down a long straight road. I got in the line of riders that wanted to go fast figuring that I would have a few minutes at the regroup spot before the main group met up with us. It pretty much worked out as I expected but a mile down the road the group called a "nature break". I wish I had known that before. Oh well I wanted to get a sprint in.

We made our way down to the Manasquan Inlet. The group stopped at a cool cafe that was close to the beach and right on the inlet. I wish that I had brought my camera but I forgot to stick it in my pocket before I left. Lots of surfers were coming off the beach after their morning sessions. The picture above is a group of long boarders that surf out of Manasquan.

I was a little freaked out about a long stop in the middle of a ride. However, I looked down at my computer and I was just short of 50 miles. No harm in smelling the flowers. I did not sit down though because I still had 30 plus miles to ride and I did not want my muscles to tighen up.

It was a good ride and I would definitely ride with this group again. My style of riding is not very group friendly. When I ride by myself I ride hard when I feel good, I back off to catch my breath and then I go back to going hard. This style does tend to wear me out but since these are training rides (not really sure what I am training for) I do not mind. However, this kind of riding does not go over well with the group. I do get frustrated but I am a guest in this group so I try to behave myself.

I wish I could find 2 or 3 like minded riders that will go out on a consistent basis. There are a couple 2 and 3 rider training groups that I see around. I would come across this groups a lot last summer on the Langster. I have not really run into them that much this year.

I was planning on getting out early today and riding with the 7 AM group at Bike Haven but here it is 10:30 AM and I am writing this blog entry. I am also watching the final climb on stage 9. I am thinking of going out on the Langster for a 20 - 30 mile ride later today.

Friday, July 11, 2008

First week of the 2008 Tour de France is complete

The first week of the Tour de France is complete. The riders will not get a rest until Tuesday and it is 3 more days of climbing with a big climb stage on Monday.

Some of my random thoughts from the first week.

  • The French Countryside reminds me the area in the Central New York area. While the mountains in France are much higher the area surrounding Syracuse can be very hilly. The landscape is dotted with big diary farms. Lots of winding farm roads to ride on. Just have to get the rides in before the snow flies. It seems like the weather changes quickly in both places.

  • It might be fun to live in the French countryside. Maybe spend a month riding the area.

  • I am impressed with the two new teams this year. Actually it is only one new team (Garmin - Chipolte) and one recycled team Columbia - High Road (used to be the German based T-Mobile). I like the attitude of the riders on Garmin - Chipolte. Last year when Christian Vande Velde was riding for CSC he was also keeping a diary on Velonews. I looked forward to his daily posts and I felt like I really got to know him. I am really pulling for Mr. Vande Velde to do well.

  • It is nice to see George Hincapie doing well with Columbia. It looks like he made the right decision in moving to Columbia rather than going to following the other Discovery riders to Astana.

  • Looks like we have the first positive test by Manuel Beltran. Hopefully this is not the first of many. I have read about 20 others suspicious tests but there was a denial from the Tour organizers.

  • I am trying to branch out and follow the other teams rather than just the two "American" teams. I have to admit it is hard since I have are hard time with the riders names and the team sponsors are unfamiliar to me since most of them do not do business in the US. The CSC team used have as many Americans as Discovery although this year they did not bring any Americans.

  • We are starting to see a changing of the guard in the sprinters ranks. It seems like this years sprinters are either 23 years old or 36 years old. I would still like to see Robbie McEwen have a good tour.

  • It will be interesting to see what happens next year with a couple of the teams needing sponsors after this season.

  • I am impressed with the Versus Network coverage this year. I think that Craig Hummer is an improvement over Al Trautwig. Mr. Hummer keeps things light and is working well with Bob Roll. Of course it would not be the Tour without Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen doing the live play by play.

  • The "Take back the Tour" ads are making feel sorry for the alleged dopers.

  • Not that long ago helmets were optional. Now the riders wear the helmets at all times.

  • Will Frischkorn's diary entries (Fresh Korn) on Velonews are actually better than Christian Vande Veldes were last year.

I am looking forward to the rest of the tour and I am hoping the exciting racing continues all way to Paris.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Stage 3 of the Tour de France brings mixed feelings

I am a big fan of the flat stages that are designed to be the showcase of the sprinters. Stage 3 was supposed to be one of those stages. However, early in the race there was a 4 man breakaway. Every stage has its breakaway and they are usually doomed to be caught by the peloton. This one was supposed to be no different.

Usually on these races the sprinting teams start to put their leadout guys up front and kickup the pace. This usually signals the end of the riders of the breakaway who have been sent out by their team managers to get some TV time for the sponsors. However, this breakaway was different. The 4 riders in the breakaway worked together and when they realized that they had a chance at a stage win and maybe the yellow jersey the breakaway picked up the pace.

As much as I would have liked to see the sprint for the finish watching the 4 guys get a well deserved win was fun. It was great to see a Garmin/Chipolte rider finish second and then head into the first time trial of stage 4 in third place.

It was another day of no riding for me. The weather has been so bad that all of us on the East Coast should get a Fourth of July do over. The rest of the week does not look much better. I have seen other riders out but it is just not worth getting caught in a down pour.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Stage 2 of Tour de France with some random thoughts

If it stays like this for the rest of the Tour it is going to be interesting. In stage 2 all of the contenders were up front. The Yellow jersey even looked like he might get another stage win. Team Columbia's Kim Kirchen finished second to one day/sprint specialist Thor Hushovd.

I am a big fan of the early stages where the sprinters and one day specialists have a chance to shine.

Many of the teams are sponsored by banks but Team Barloworld has the most NASCAR like set of sponsors including Caterpillar (Barloworld is a large CAT dealer), Avis and Hyster. Team Barloworld also rides Bianchi bikes which are getting hard to get around here since most of their dealers are dropping them.

Trek is running commercials during the Versus coverage even though they have no frames in the tour. The only team riding Trek bikes Astana was not invited even though they have the number 1 and 3 finishers of the crazy 2007 tour. Cervelo and Specialized are continuing to run there ads. Specialized even ran a Tom Boonen ad even though Mr. Boonen was dropped from the tour after having too good a time during his down time between races.

The Take Back the Tour ad that Versus is running every 10 minutes is making me miss the dopers. While I do understand the need to try and clean up the sport I am not sure how I feel about the all cyclists are guilty attitude. No other pro sport is testing as much as cycling. The US football and baseball player's unions would definitely not allow the same type of testing to be used on their members.

It would be great if the 2008 Tour can finish without the silliness the marred the 2007 Tour.

The 2008 Tour de France Stage 1 is in the books

Since the weather here in New Jersey has been less than perfect this 4th of July weekend so I watched the live feed of Tour on Versus beginning at 8:30 AM. Since there was no riding I also watched the replays throughout the day including the primetime coverage at 8 PM.

This year's race opened with a stage race rather than a time trial prologue. I am not a big fan of watching the time trial stages since it is sort like watching NASCAR qualifying with a better chance of seeing a crash. In fact I usually only casually watch the coverage on the time trial days and then check the results online later in the day.

I am a big fan of the live coverage by Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen. There is a new guy with Bob Roll for the prime time show. I miss the MSG announcer that has been Mr. Roll's partner for the last couple of years.

The stage 1 winner (Alejandro Valverde of Caisse d'Epargne) has a good chance of being in the Yellow jersey when the tour gets to Paris. I checked out the website of Caisse d'Epargne and it does not have an English version only French and Spanish. I browsed through it in French to find out what kind of bikes they are riding (Pinarello). I could have gone to Wikipedia instead which would have been much quicker. I think I used to work for a company that has since become part of Caisse d'Epargne but I am not sure since the details are a little hazy.

The finish of Stage 1 was exciting. The sprinters did not come to the front but a couple of GC riders took off after the leaders and Mr. Valverde hit the gas and took the lead. I think it is going to be a good Tour.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Dolphins in the Shrewsbury River (Sea Bright, NJ)

There is a pod of Dolphins hanging out in the Shrewsbury River. They have been around all week. It happens every once in a while. I think small whales have gone up the river before and stayed for a while.

The Highlands bridge is being replaced so the Dolphins could have gone into the river to feed. They might have got spooked and stayed.

I have added a video bar that contains various videos of the dolphins. Check it out.

Red Bank 4th of July Fireworks (Held on the 3rd)

Last year I did not attend the Red Bank 4th of July fireworks show (Officially called Kaboom and is actually held on the 3rd) but I made a mental commitment to attend this year. I almost missed them since I thought they were going to be today (July 4th). Fate was looking out for me. I was planning on riding in the evening with the Holmdel group. My daughter wanted to go to Starbucks to get a Frappuccino (the $5 milkshake) and I decided to stop at Smoothie King to get a smoothie before the evening ride.

I parked in front of Smoothie King and Lauren went down the block to Starbucks. Dave the owner of Starbucks has rode with me a couple times. I asked him if he wanted to ride with the Holmdel group. He told me that he would ride if I wanted to work for him. That is when I found out that the fireworks were on Thursday and not on Friday. It looks like the evening ride was going to be preempted.

Lauren and I decided that we go back home and then take the NJ Transit train from Middletown station to Red Bank (A 1 stop 6 minute train ride). The round trip ticket cost $2.75 but the conductor never took it from us and parking at Middletown station cost $6. The train is the way to get to the Red Bank fireworks since Red Banks' stations is centrally located and is a short walk to multiple view spots. The only downside is that everyone has the same idea the the trip back is a little crowded.

Lauren and I have been talking about eating at Juanito's for a while but it has not happened. However, Juanito's is close to the Red Bank station so part of the evening plan was to stop at Juanito's for dinner. Too bad I had already had the smoothie earlier in the day. At least Lauren was still hungry. My tacos were good but I want to come back when I have more of an appetite.
I had not really planned the whole thing out. I was not really sure where to go. I was thinking of going over to the Rt 35 bridge but then I remember the parking lot of the Molly Pitcher Inn. This turned out to be a good decision even though we did not have our own chairs.

The show uses two barges. One was right in front of us and another barge was down the river near Fairhaven. Last year I as riding over the Oceanic Bridge in Rumson when they were taking the barges out. From the parking lot of the Molly Pitcher we could see both sets of fireworks. It was cool since both barges are sync up with each other.

The atmosphere is sort of family friendly Woodstock. The parking lot got a lot more crowded as it got closer to the start of the fireworks show.

As soon as the show finished we sprinted over to the train station and got on the train that was coming through. We were back to the house by 10:30 PM.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tour de France starts this weekend (July 5)

This weekend is the beginning of the Tour de France. Thanks to Lance Armstrong the month of July is filled with live morning feeds and several replays throughout the day on Versus Network (formerly OLN).

The Versus Network has been heavily promoting their coverage of the Tour with a campaign called Take Back the Tour. In spite of the controversy that has surrounded the Tour I am always jazzed to watch it.

I have been trying to follow the races that have led up to the tour so that I would have an idea of who the riders are. I have to admit that I do not know anyone except for some of the sprinters and one of them Tom Boonen will be absent. I have been expecting Astana to get a last minute invite like Giro but I guess the Tour organizers are true to their word.

It looks like this could be Cadel Evans' (pictured above) year. I will be interesting to see if Robbie McEwen can win the Green Points jersey this year after crashing out last year. Of course there is the possibility that Silence-Lotto is spread too thin trying to support both a General Classification contender and a Sprinter. Last year the team was Predictor-Lotto but the pharmacuetical company Omega Pharma NV has decided to promote their anti snoring drug (Silence) rather than the pregnancy test (Predictor). Although I have always that the combination of a pregnancy test and a national lottery was the best sponsorship combination in pro sports.

Two America teams picked up sponsorship at the last minute but I do not think either team will do that well. High Road (Columbia) might get a stage win but it is going to be tough. Slipstream/Chipolte (Garmin) will do better at the Olympics where Taylor Phinney is set to rip up the track.

The primary Specialized Team QuickStep will be without the services of Tom Boonen since he was caught enjoying his free time too much. The sprinter centric team has a couple other strong riders so they could still do well in the race for the Green Jersey.

With the exception of George Hincapie all of the American riders in this year's tour will be mostly filling support roles. The teams with the strongest Americans (Astana and Rock Racing) are not invited to this year's tour. Maybe next year. Rock Racing is starting to grow on me. They definitely have more style than the other teams. Having one crazy owner is always good for a sport. While Mr. Hincapie is the road captain for High Road they are set to do better in the sprint stages and I would not expect them to be in contention for the General Classification (GC).

No matter what we are once again garanteed a first time winner. Some of the other teams that have been riding in the middle of the pack are going to have some opportunities to move up. It will definitely be the year that I learn some new names and some different sponsors.