Roubaix Belongs To All Of Us

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As cyclist the word “Roubaix” conjures up something very special.

Roubaix means toughness. Roubaix means the cold crosswinds of Northern France in April. Roubaix means cobbles, suffering and greatness.

When Cochrane, Alberta resident Dan Richter named is tiny bike shop above an ice cream parlour one would assume that he had the imagery of the hard men of the peloton doing battle across the cobbles of Northern France in mind when he named his shop Café Roubaix Bicycle Studio.

Coffee and cobbles, what cyclist doesn’t like those wonderful things?

Local Bike Shop owners are a special breed. They sponsor events, offer wisdom and their shops serve as the hubs for any local cycling scene. An Afghanistan war veteran, Dan Richter poured everything he had into Café Roubaix. He left the service after suffering PTSD and put his life savings and his settlement from the military into his shop to get it off the ground.

Now it seems that after fighting in Afghanistan Dan Richter has another battle on his hands, this time with a corporate giant of the cycling world.

As cyclists we know that Roubaix is the finish town for the greatest one-day bike race in the world, Paris-Roubaix. Year after year we have watched cyclists enter the Roubaix Velodrome to finish their epic battles through l’enfer du nord. Roubaix holds a special place in a cyclist’s heart.

But apparently, we can’t claim ownership to that.

No, that honour goes to Specialized Bicycle Corporation who trademarked the word Roubaix for the Specialized Roubaix road bike.

Apparently you can trademark a towns’ name. Who knew?

It would be rare that anyone would want to name their business after an existing brand. In this case, Dan Richter named his shop because of the romance cyclists have with that region of France.

The name Roubaix also exists on other bike related products and nonetheless, Richter has been receiving threats of legal action from Specialized. According to legal analysts, this is a battle Richter can easily win but unlike Specialized, he does not have the estimated $150,000 to take this to court and Richter may be in the position where he must change the name of his business. This by the way will cost him far more than simply putting a new sign in the window.

Yesterday something pretty incredible happened. The Calgary Herald reported Richter’s’ plight and it spread across social media like wildfire.

I tweeted the Calgary Herald article and then watched it go viral across my social networks. People were seeing this as corporate bullying at its’ worst. We all understand that companies trademark their product to protect their brand as they have the right to. But I don’t think anybody who walks into Café Roubaix Bicycle Studio would do so thinking of the Specialized Roubaix.

A trip to Café Roubaix would be where we would meet people with the same fascination for this beautiful, unique event that we all wait for each spring. It would be where we could talk about bikes and bike racing and spend money on the stuff we love.

On Twitter and Facebook and Instagram others with a love of Roubaix weighed in on the situation and sentiment was unanimous. This was a big corporation bullying the little guy and that was simply not acceptable. And in the process of these thousands and thousands of posts something amazing started to happen: people started taking Roubaix back.

The Specialized Roubaix is a bicycle. Roubaix, however is something much larger and the cycling community is taking Roubaix back.

Roubaix belongs to everyone who’s ever dreamed of riding across the cobbles of the North. Roubaix belongs to those of us who go to work on a Monday morning in April still filled with the excitement of yesterdays’ race but unable to share it with coworkers because they simply wouldn’t “get it”.

Since yesterday there has been no response from Specialized. Perhaps they are a company that sees social media engagement as a Monday to Friday option. If so, this weekend they will have learned that this is not the case. The Specialized social media team is going to have quite a Monday morning on their hands.

A tactic meant to protect the Specialized brand has failed miserably. But Specialized aren’t the only losers in this mess.

There’s Dan Richter who is in the position of changing his shops’ name if Specialized hold their line. There are also the thousands of local bike shop owners who carry the Specialized brand who are in the position of having their livelihood depend on a brand that is now perceived as a bully.

It will be interesting to see what Mike Sinyard and his team at Specialized do on Monday morning. There are a lot of variables in play right now but one thing is for certain.

Roubaix belongs to all of us.

See the original Calgary Herald article here:

http://blogs.calgaryherald.com/2013/12/07/war-veteran-forced-to-change-bike-shops-name-after-threat-from-u-s-bike-giant-specialized/

The BaldBiker’s Book Review: Feed Zone Portables. Delicious energy on the go.

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Do you remember when the original PowerBar came out?

Aside from struggling with the Mylar wrapper in the late stages of a mountain bike race, I recall my first experience with so called “Sports Nutrition” as a pretty unpleasant experience. They were hard to get at, hard to chew and tasted horrible. But they did work. To a point.

Sports Nutrition has come a long way sice those early days. Bars and gels are easier to digest and deliver performance. The problem is, “Sports Nutrition” has very little to do with actual food. A quick glimpse at a wrapper will confirm my claim.

Biju Thomas and Alan Lim started a food revolution in the professional peloton when they began fueling up pro cyclists like the Garmin team with real food recipes that allowed cyclists to fuel their bodies with food and not food based products.

Thomas and Lim took their recipes to the masses with the Feed Zone Cookbook, a hugely popular collection of recipes for atheletes that focused on fueling up with a delicious and healthy menu.

Their new book Feed Zone Portables available from VeloPress takes that concept on the go with a collection of recipes meant to boost performance while on the bike.

A few years ago I had fallen into the same trap that millions of North Americans have found themselves in: I was eating more food based products that actual food. I was riding and racing but had gained weight and never really felt all that well.

After reading books such as Gina Mallet’s brilliant “Last Chance to Eat” and Michael Pollan’s “In Defence of Food” I had made a concious decision to change how I fueled my body. Since then I not only lost 20lbs, I feel better. At work, at rest and of course on the bike.

It was once explained to me that “performance is 20% training and 80% nutrition”. Feed Zone Portables gives you the opportunity to make the best of that 80%.

I love three things: riding my bike, cooking and eating. Feed Zone Portables offered an opportunity for all three so I was pretty stoked when my copy was delivered. 

Before we get to the 75 excellent portable recipes, the book explains it’s philosophy and how nutrition affects performance and why their recipes work. It’s detailed but not so much that you’d have to be a doctor to understand the concepts.

I got a lot from the chapters on nutrition and performance but what I really wanted was to get to the recipes!

Having a wife with a cookbook fetish, I’ve read more than my fair share of recipes and the recipes in Feed Zone Portables are easy to understand and the results are delicious and worth an extra couple watts at the pedals I’m sure. Each recipe also comes with detailed nutritional information for those who pay attention to that.

A week before getting my copy of Feed Zone Portables a friend gifted me a rice cooker. Good timing, if you’re cooking with Feed Zone Portables you’ll be using that bad boy a lot!

Rice balls are one of my favourite recipes in the book and there are lots of options. Two Bite Pies also offer some savoury nutrition that is easy to bring along on a ride. (My daughters bake so I get them to help with the crusts.)

ImageSweet Potato and Bacon Rice Balls have become a regular staple in my on the bike diet now. They are very easy to make, travel well and offer lots of energy. And bacon.

I’ve been using the recipes from Feed Zone Portables for a couple of weeks now and find them very easy to make, absolutely delicious and love the fact that I’m being fueled by real food. 

Here’s the best thing: my kids have been robbing my stash of pre-cooked goodies and I’ve found myself bringing rice balls, baked eggs and two bite pies for lunch at my Glamorous Day Job.

The best way to improve cycling performance is to improve what you put into your body. Feed Zone Portables is your guidebook to easy to prepare high performance fuel.

Feed Zone Portables is available from http://www.velopress.com and at better bookstores everywhere.

 

 

 

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Energy Bits – Little Green Balls of Awesome

ImageOnce every so often I get product to review here. Today I got to try something that could be the future of sports nutrition.

I’ve been paying better attention to what I put into my body. Focusing on food, not “food based products”. And it’s been paying off. But when it comes to fueling my body for rides I had been opting for the convenience of so called Sports Nutrition while keeping a blind eye to the list of ingredients.

Let’s face it, do we really know what’s in those bars, gels and sport drinks? If we did, would we continue to use them?

Recently I came across something that intrigued me during a conversation on Twitter. A product called Energy Bits joined in a Twit Chat I was engaged in and offered me a sample. Who doesn’t love free stuff?

I did some research and Energy Bits brings something new to the table. They are not a sports supliment, they are not “sports nutrition”. Energy Bits are food. Perhaps, a superfood.

Energy Bits are small green tablets or “bits” made from Spirulina a freshwater algae dubbed by the United Nations and World Bank as the “healthiest food in the world”.

Elite atheletes have been extoling the virtues of Spirulina lately and the nutritional fact check is pretty impressive.

Having been out on a hard effort on the bike the previous evening and coming home from a long day at my Glamorous Day Job I was ready to pass on a ride or give myself the excuse of heading out on a “recovery ride”.

Instead I thought this would be a great opportunity to see if Energy Bits could breathe some life into a lethagic old dude. So I popped about 30 bits into my mouth and washed them down with water. (The best way to take them, the company says they are “an acquired taste”, marketing speak for “nasty”.)

Bits in I hopped on my bike and headed out into a stiff headwind.

After an initial warm up I started dropping the hammer and giving some big efforts. For a guy that didn’t want to ride, I was flying! Best of all, I didn’t have the “gut rot” I typically experience with gels or some bars. I felt better than I had expected and percieved a boost in performance.

These little, odd tasting things semed to work quite well.

With an ever increasing interest on understanding what goes into our bodies, Energy Bits may have a solid future in powering athletes bodies.

You can check them out and order product at http://www.energybits.com and follow them on Twitter at @ENERGYbits and #poweredbybits .

The BaldBiker’s Product Review: Muc-Off Bike Cleaner

Sometimes you get the urge to simply spend some money on your bike and this week I had one of those urges.

Sometimes the mistress deserves a little special treatment.

Springtime on the east coast of Canada is pretty hard on bicycles. The road hasn’t been cleared of a winters’ worth of grime and road salt and old nasty roadside snow banks leech a particularly nasty fluid on the road. Eventually that mess finds its’ way to your bike.

I’ve always been a bucket of car wash kind of guy when it comes to cleaning my bike but this week my trip to the local bike shop this week was then to pamper my road bike with a little spa treatment. Some proper bicycle specific clean and shine product. I’m familiar with the larger players in this market segment but the shop owner pointed me to something new. He indicated that he had just taken on a new line and suggested I give it a try.

He handed me the Muc-Off (like the name) Wash & Lube kit. Pricing in at around $35 Cdn the kit looks to be a good bargain. It includes a 500ml spray bottle of biodegradable bike cleaner, a 50ml tube of wet lube, a large microcell sponge, a detailing brush (quite handy) and the bag it comes in is durable enough to serve duty as a storage bag.Image

Having always washed my bike with car wash soap I was curious to see if a bike specific product would make any difference so in preparation for lots of weekend riding I put my bike on the back deck and started away.Image

Application is simple, wet the bike, spray on the product and wait 3 to 5 minutes for it to start working. Dirtier areas such as the drive side chainstay may require some extra coaxing with the detailing brush but I was impressed at how the road grime, dirt and sweat effortlessly seemed to fall off the bike.

A quick rinse revealed the product actually worked better than any car soap I’d used and brought a nice shine back to my ride.Image

Would I recommend it? Yes, it’s a time saver and does a fantastic job of cleaning the bike of the grime, sweat and other nasties that can cling to your frame.Image

Please note: the BaldBiker is always open to product for review. Take note Castelli, Cervelo etc.

Ion Designs: Keeping You Safe in the Dark

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Claire Driscoll wants to make sure your first impression is a bright reflection.

Driscoll owns and operates Ion Designs, a small business focused on making sure runners, cyclists and pedestrians are safe in low light conditions. After realizing that if she wanted better visibility while running in the evening she would have to purchase all new running gear, not exactly the most financially attractive proposition.

“I run and cycle and when I was looking for reflective materials I wasn’t finding any.” Driscoll explains over a coffee. “I already had lots of gear and I surely wasn’t going to go out and buy all new gear so I started looking for what’s available and quickly found that there’s nobody doing this in Canada, there’s a few in the States but they don’t seem to be too big or too active. This has a lot of potential!”

What makes Ion Designs unique is that her reflective products can be applied at home with an everyday iron and not a professional grade heat press. She poured over sample after sample until she found a supplier that had a product that worked easily for both her die-cutting process and the end user at home.

Doing anything on the road in the evening exponentially increases the risk of a collision with a vehicle. Statistics indicate that the number of pedestrians killed between 6pm and 9pm is higher than any other 3 hour time frame and that nearly 65% of all pedestrian fatalities occur between 6pm and 6am.

Claire Driscoll believes that visibility is the key to reducing your risk of being struck by a vehicle and her products make it easy for you to safeguard yourself and your children from potential risk.

Presently her website features about 50 designs that appeal to runners, cyclists, triathletes and pretty much anyone who would want to be safe outdoors.

While she started marketing to fellow runners her product has also proven to be a popular fundraiser for schools and community groups. Because her process is relatively streamlined she can create school and team logos etc. that can be transferred to gym bags, backpacks and jackets.

Driscoll tells me that she hears a lot of praise for her products and only hears one concern which she can easily overcome. “Some people worry if it may affect their garment, they shell out a lot for that LuLu Lemon hoodie and they wouldn’t want to harm it. It`s quite simple actually, if you follow the garment instructions on the tag of your garment you’ll be fine.

You can find Ion Designs in fitness shops across Atlantic Canada and of course on line at www.iondesigns.ca Driscoll is also excited that soon she’ll see her first ad in Runners World magazine and hopes that this year is the year her business really takes off.

Neil Symington vs. the Worlds

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17 year old Sussex, New Brunswick resident Neil Symington has only been racing bicycles for 5 years and this weekend he’s off to Kentucky to represent Canada at the World Cyclocross Championships. This qualifies as “off to a quick start”.

 

I’ve had the opportunity to be lapped by Symington several times at local cyclocross races and recently chatted with him about his love for cycling and what it means to represent his country on the international stage.

 

Symington hails from Sussex, a typical Canadian small town known for being a top dairy producer. It’s a place where you’d expect to see a local farm boy make it to the NHL. For some reason, Sussex has been producing quality cyclists. Sussex is also home to Christian Meier who currently rides at the top tier for Orica Green Edge.

 

Neil Symington leads the typical high school life, hanging out with buddies and engaging with epic ping pong battles with his friends on weekends. But outside of school and his social network, Symington has committed himself to the life of a cyclist. In five short years he has gone from an introduction to the sport to representing his country at the top tier. His life in cycling started at the age of 12 dirt jumping his mountain bike with local buddies.

 

“I started hitting jumps like all of the local kids and then was encouraged to participate in local group rides put on by Outdoor Elements our local shop.” Symington explains that once he experienced the camaraderie of riding in a group, he was hooked. “John McNair from Outdoor Elements led group rides up to the Bluff (a tough local trail) and I was having my ass handed to me. For some crazy reason, I started to fall in love with it.”

 

Symington races every discipline of cycling that is available to him. He’s had success on the road, on the track and as a mountain biker. Cyclocross is something that he has found combines elements from every corner of the cycling world. “I was racing mountain bikes at the Mike’s Bike Shop (Moncton) series and everyone was talking about ‘cross in the fall. I had no idea what they were talking about but I went and tried it on my mountain bike. I thought it was a really cool. It combined everything. It had the feel of road racing, some of the skills of mountain biking and it’s a short and intense event. It feels like a lot of stuff but it’s completely unique. From the get go I thought it was pretty cool.”

 

This year Neil Symington was invited to compete at the Canadian Cyclocross Championships as a junior where the field for the Worlds team would be assessed. He entered the competition with high hopes and good form but says he may have made a costly mistake in his preparation. “Oh man, I wanted to win. I really wanted the jersey but I underestimated the weather, a total rookie mistake. It was cold and wet and I wasn’t prepared for that. I led the first part of the race but I was in a bad way because I had the wrong gear. I slipped back and finished 5th because I was suffering. The next day they had a ‘revenge’ race against the same field and I was prepared for the conditions and won against the guys that beat me the day before.”

 

His performance on that weekend earned him a spot on the Canadian National Cycling Team to represent Canada as a junior at the World Championships in Louisville, Kentucky this weekend. Symington is looking for a good placing but training for the Worlds in the middle of a Canadian cold snap has meant he’s had to make adjustments in his preparation. “I’m pretty lucky to have a 2 acre backyard and my Dad and I built a cyclocross course for me to practice on. It’s got run-ups and barriers so I get to work on my technique. Once the snow flew I hit the trainer and the rollers hard. It’s tough but it has to be done.”

 

Neil Symington says he’s anxious to make a good showing in Kentucky and makes note that he wouldn’t be there without the support of his family, his sponsor Oakley Atlantic and National Cycling Centre Atlantic Canada.

 

Symington’s’ Coach Luc Arseneau feels the 17 year old is putting in the necessary work for a good ride. “I’ve rarely seen Neil so focused on a specific goal as he has been for this World Cyclocross Championship. He’s put some very good hours and has shown a constant progression throughout his preparation.”

 

Reflecting on his first opportunity to don the Canadian colors Symington is committing to putting in his best effort on the day and has set a personal goal for the event. “I’m taking it in as my first experience on the national team. Personally I want to be the best Canadian. It’s a truly great feeling to represent Canada and I’m going to be very proud to wear that jersey.”

 

At only 17 Neil Symington is committing to the life of a cyclist and may very well be the next rider to put New Brunswick, a seemingly unlikely place to find cycling talent on the map. He notes the success of fellow NB’ers Peter Wedge and Christian Meier as example of riders who, like him committed to the effort and saw results. He says he’s ready to follow in those wheel tracks to see where his two wheeled journey will take him. “Cycling is my life now. I don’t know where my spare time would be like without cycling. It’s going to be quite a ride.”

 

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The Bald Biker’s Book Review: The Time Crunched Cyclist

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Almost thirty years ago when I started in the sport of cycling training meant riding. Just ride your bike lots and you should get better. Eventually talk of interval training, heart rate monitors and power meters began to enter into the conversation and it became evident that if you were going to improve as a cyclist simply riding the bike wouldn’t be enough. You were going to need a plan.

This year after nearly 20 years away from the local peloton I decided that I wanted to return to racing. At first the goal was simply “don’t crash, don’t finish last”. As the season progressed my goals changed and I wanted to be competitive.

I needed a plan. But I needed one that was workable within my reality. I’m a 48 year old father of 3 with a glamorous day job and bike time is at a premium. 

Recently Velo Press released a new edition of Chris Carmichael’s The Time Crunched Cyclist. This new edition comes with new plans for commuters, mountain bikers and cyclocross. This year was to be my first season trying my hand at cyclocross so I would use the Time Crunched Cyclist as my plan of attack.

If you’ve been following cycling as long as I have the name Chris Carmichael should be familiar to you. He was part of the ground breaking Team 7-Eleven that revolutionized cycling and brought it to a global audience.

Carmichael’s Time Crunched Training Program (TCTP) focuses on intensity in absence of time. If you’ve only got 6 hours a week to ride, you should maximize every minute and the TCTP gets you there with very intense interval training that balances effort and recovery.

Carmichael calls cyclocross “a perfect application of the TCTP”. Cross races are short and intense, exactly like the workouts in his book. What I liked about the Cyclocross training in the book was the fact that it mixed things up. A combination of intervals and basic cyclocross skills practice kept things fresh.

A word on the intervals: they are hard Very hard. But you have to be honest with yourself and give the effort prescribed in the book. For someone who hasn’t done intervals in ages Power Intervals and Power Intervals with Run Ups make you dig deep and hurt like hell. Eventually, you learn to love the pain. Fifty Shades of Mud.

I entered ‘cross season in week 4 of the plan, as allowed in the book. My first cross race was an eye opener. I had never encountered that kind of intensity in cycling. And it didn’t stop. After 50 minutes at maximum effort my goal was to simply survive. I was begging for the bell. It didn’t go well.

As the weeks progressed, I noticed a change in my power and a little snap coming back to my legs. I did the work and in tandem with eating on the Simply for Life plan I was on my way to losing twenty pounds.

My goal was the provincial cyclocross championships and I arrived ready to race instead of dreading it as I had been earlier in the season. Despite being over-geared for a crucial section the race went very well. I was battling for the top three, a placing I was nowhere near earlier the season. The TCTP also helped me save some bullets for the 10 minute warning and I was able to commit to a final charge.

In the end, I placed 3rd in my category, a nice end to my season. What’s more important is that with the intense, structured training in The Time Crunched Cyclist I was able to boost my fitness, drop twenty pounds and fall back in love with racing my bike.

Next year I`ll have goals focused on road racing and the Time Crunched Cyclist will play a major role in achieving those goals.

The Time Crunched Cyclist is available from Velo Pres. It`s easy to understand despite the fact that there is a lot of science behind the plan. Whether your goals include road racing, mountain biking or a fondo the TCTP could play a huge role in achieving them.

The Bald Biker’s Book Review: THE SECRET RACE Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups and Winning at All Costs

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Tyler Hamilton doped and he lied about it.

Now he’s one of the most honest men in cycling.

Hamilton’s new book THE SECRET RACE Inside the Hidden World of the Tour de France: Doping, Cover-ups and Winning at All Costs lays bare the systematic doping programs that have existed at cycling’s top level for years.

If you are looking to the book as a “tell all”, yes it’s all there. He details the shadowy world of team owners, soigeurs, doctors and athletes and he names names. Michele Ferrari, Bjarne Riis and yes, Lance Armstrong. They’re all there.

But there’s more to the book than his allegations toward Armstrong, of which there are many. The Secret Race gives insight into the mind of a doper. Why athletes choose to cheat, how they justify that decision and the burden of guilt they carry until they decide to come clean should they ever choose or be forced to.

In his book (co-written by Daniel Coyle who wrote “Lance Armstrong’s War”), Hamilton explains the feeling of helplessness his US Postal Service team felt arriving on European shores only to learn that without doping there would be no hope in being competitive. Without results, riders don’t get contracts and teams don’t attract sponsors. Hamilton explains that racing clean you felt cheated and doping was the only way to level the playing field.

After justifying the decision to start using performance enhancing drugs and manipulating his hematocrit levels Hamilton begins to participate in a doping program that was originally administered by his US Postal team with the responsibility eventually shifting to the rider after the Festina affair. Hamilton explains the methods and code words used to carry out the practice. EPO is named “Poe” or “Edgar”, blood bags are “BBs”, syringes and needles are hidden in coke cans and doping products are transported by a shadowy man on a motorcycle known only as “Motoman”. Very cloak and dagger.

Hamilton also illustrates in great detail how cyclists manage to keep a step ahead of the sports officials and drug testers and how certain cyclists if caught were able to make deals with the UCI to have positive tests quashed.

In the book Hamilton claims that “everybody gets popped” and that includes himself. When a blood transfusion goes awry, Hamilton ends up with someone else’s blood in his system, gets ill and tests positive. Like others before and after him he denies the charges, lies to the public and tries to carry on as a professional cyclist.

Eventually as we all know, Hamilton has to come clean under oath in a federal investigation.

He’s also had to come clean to his family and friends. Now in his book, he’s coming clean to the world and in doing so he may be doing the sport of professional cycling a great favour. Like David Millar, like Floyd Landis and like Jonathan Vaughters he’s admitting what we’ve all known deep down. Doping was rampant and accepted. If the sport cannot admit to its’ past, perhaps it can never move forward as a clean sport.

It’s a fascinating read into the mind of someone faced with serious choices and consequences.

THE SECRET RACE is published by Random House.

The Rise Again Ride

The local bike shop is the hub of any cycling community and this week Sussex lost theirs. For awhile anyway.

After a fire gutted a historic block of buildings in Sussex the town was left without a bike and ski shop, a lovely restaurant, a Chinese buffet, a yoga store and a soap shop. It’s a big hit to the community and whether all of those businesses return to the town or not remains to be seen.

Cyclists are generally good people. We share a spare tube when someone flats and we send rider back to pace somebody home if they have bonked. But what do we do when a friend loses a small business that is vital to the cycling scene and the town’s economy?

We ride. Really what else can you do? After the fire there was an outpouring of support for the shop’s owner and he quickly thanked those who offered kind words on his Facebook page. But those who frequented Outdoor Elements wanted to do something a bit more tangible. So yesterday one of the shop regulars suggested a Saturday morning ride to show solidarity with the shop owner. Soon enough a Facebook event was created, invites went out and in less than 24 hours a crew of about 20 showed up bright and early to go for a spin in support of the shop owner.

It was a great ride. Rides in that area always are but that’s not the point. What was important was to get out and show the guy who would true your wheels the night before a race when there are other bikes ahead f you on the bench that you appreciated what he does for the cycling community.

Good shop owners are vital to the success of a local cycling scene. They organize weekly rides, put on races and sponsor costly and time consuming events. We can show our support by of course shopping locally and sharing our love of cycling that will ultimately bring more business to local bike shops.

Today required something a little more, a gesture to say that we appreciate what you do and we’ll be back when you are.

It’s too soon to say when the shop owner expects to be up and running again so today we got to ride with him and say “John McNair, for putting on races, tuning skis at the last minute and everything you do for recreation in the area: thank you and we’ll be back when you are.”

Concerning Lance Armstrong

So here we are.

After 7 Tour de France titles, a World Championship and a universal “crusade against cancer” Lance Armstrong has abandoned the fight to clear his name from the doping charges that have hounded him since the late 90′s and will forfeit his Yellow Jerseys, Rainbow Jersey and open himself to a barrage of lawsuits from former sponsors including the United States government.

Not to mention a lifetime ban from any sporting event.

It’s about time.

I have to admit. For a time I bought into it. Yellow wristband and all.

I was witnessing a story like I’d never seen before and suspended disbelief to buy into the myth that someone could come back from “life threatening” cancer and perform at the top level of human performance.

I bought the books, supported companies that sponsored him and praised Big Tex as a super hero who could come back from the brink of death and conquer cancer and the sport of cycling to my cycling and non-cycling friends alike.

What a great story. What a pile of shit.

Call me gullible but I wanted to believe it was true.  Especially when somebody very close to me was fighting his own futile battle against cancer. “Look at Lance, you can do it.”

Reality started to hit me when I was at a home medical supplies trade show and a triathlete who also happened to be a cancer specialist was taking me to task for my praise of Lance Armstrong. She explained that the cancer he was diagnosed with and at the stage he was diagnosed with had a success rate in the 90′s. An easily treatable cancer when caught when it was.

She also reminded me of positive B-Samples from the 1999 Tour de France that Armstrong’s powerful defense team had tossed on a technicality.

I continued to watch Armstrong win Tour after Tour in a manner that revolutionized racing Grand Tours and made it hopelessly boring at the same time: command a team of bullies to ride at the front at such a furious pace that eliminates the excitement of attacking a bike race. Effective and dull. Yet I watched the subsequent victories that would come.

Eventually my suspicions began to grow. He never had a jour sans. While he stood atop the podium, others in the top 5 had been revealed as dopers in each and every Tour he won. Was he that much better an athlete or simply better at hiding an ugly truth?

When questioned about doping his retort was the standard “I’m the most tested athlete alive and never tested positive.”

Fact is, he had. In 1999.

He had also admitted to running on hot sauce when he was diagnosed with cancer as was revealed when Team mate Frankie Andrieu testified under sworn oath.

Now, with the noose tightening and 10 of his former team mates on record including his faithful lieutenant George Hincapie it looks like Lance Armstrongs’ luck has run out. He’s run out of people to lie to and those to whom he’d included in his lies are now speaking out.

He’s got nowhere to run and has given up fighting the charges against him that will prove to be his downfall. What will follow will be a pathetic fall from grace resulting in the demise of  his public persona and his financial empire.

It’s the end of both an era and a charade.

As cyclists what can we do?

It’s simple.

Go to your local weekend race and race for baked goods and homemade medals.

Go ride a local century or get a kid, a new cyclist excited about riding a bike.

Racing bicycles for sums of money has always resulted in cheating and has built a culture of cheating in the sport but it looks like we may be at a turning point. For that, I am hopeful.

Maybe Lance Armstrong giving up the fight against him (face it, if the 10 who testified had the opportunity to speak, he’d be done) is a turning point for cycling.

The worst doper in history has folded his cards.

Maybe we can just move on now.

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