Some years ago I was sitting in an editorial meeting for a magazine when the topic turned to lifestyle and how to portray the roadie lifestyle in a magazine. It quickly devolved into a debate about just what the roadie lifestyle was. What was the bullseye at the center of the roadie lifestyle. Was it the double century crowd? Was it racing? Was it bike commuting?
In the 1990s, there weren’t that many people who were passionate about bike commuting or the prospect of a social revolution based on the concept of the bicycle as primary transportation. Fortunately, that has changed. But back then, the idea of making commuting the centerpiece of a magazine’s editorial mission seemed like suicide to me. Similarly, the fact that some double centuries may only get two or three dozen entrants makes them outliers even-wise and not a donkey you want to pin your tail on. Even centuries don’t typify the riding life of most riders; after all, they may only do two or three in a year. Racing? Most of the people I ride with don’t have a racing license anymore.
My opinion is the same now as it was then: The center of the bullseye of the roadie lifestyle is the group ride. If you hope to reach cyclists with a lifestyle publication in print or on the web and you don’t get what a peloton is, you’ve already lost the battle.
As the day-in-day-out social nexus of the riding community anywhere I’ve ever lived, group rides do more for cyclists than provide a great way to train. They offer the community a valuable way for riders to get to know each other and form bonds beyond the sweat that drips off them. I could never live some place that had no group rides.
So this week’s FGR is a bit different, a bit more literal, as it were. Tell us about the group rides where you live. Are they year round? How many riders show up in-season vs. out-of-season. Does it slow down in the off-season? Does it have a killer name? Is it the same course each week, or do you switch it up? How long? How fast? And finally, are there so many riders and rides where you are that you have a menu to choose from come Saturday morning?
You never know what might turn into a feature for someone.
Bike Radar is the lifestyle sister site to Cyclingnews owned by Future Publishing. Veteran cycling journalist Matt Pacocha is the US Editor at Bike Radar and runs the site’s “Web Site of the Week” feature. We were honored to be asked to be featured as the site of the week there.
Matt did a fine job of capturing the essence of RKP. We hope you’ll check out the piece, and forward a link to your friends who may not be reading us right now. See the writeup here.
In his book Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, author Douglas Hofstadter presents readers with an unsolvable puzzle. Naturally, Hofstadter doesn’t tell the reader that the puzzle is unsolvable. The reader is given four rules and a starting point plus a solution they are supposed to reach. The experience is confounding.
Imagine someone tells you to draw a car route from any location in the United States to the town of Palmer, Alaska. You are given a set of reasonable rules: that cars can be driven on roads, that roads lead from any location in the United States to the state of Alaska, that Palmer is a town in Alaska. Define a route to Palmer. You’d think you could do it, right? Just one problem: Palmer is landlocked; though it has roads, none lead into or out of the town. The only way to reach it is by air or ferry. A route cannot be drawn from anywhere in North American to Palmer. Such is the problem of Hofstadter’s puzzle.
Hofstadter’s treatise on the nature of intelligence won the Pulitzer Prize for nonfiction and turned the field of computer science concerned with artificial intelligence on its head. The lesson of Hofstadter’s puzzle isn’t to defy the reader; rather it’s to teach the reader to think critically … in some applications, it could even be called suspiciously.
When I tried to solve the puzzle I struggled with it for an hour, then I tried to back from the conclusion to the beginning, attempting to reverse-engineer the problem and still couldn’t get from B to A. Only then did I begin to think that a solution wasn’t possible. Such an epiphany is Hofstadter’s introduction to the nature of recursive thought, an ability peculiar to human beings in which, put simply, we think about thinking.
I cite Hoftstadter’s book because reading it was a landmark in my education and taught me the value of thinking critically about information. I began to evaluate statements based not just on the value of the information they contained, but also on the likelihood that the statement was true or false.
I offer that as a backdrop to the revelation by Riccardo Ricco that his illness came as the likely result of a self-administered transfusion.
When Ricco returned to the pro peloton, I was apprehensive. I’m not going to quote him chapter and verse, but the body of his statements previously struck me as those of a person unrepentant in action. I wasn’t the only person to struggle with that issue; Mark Cavendish spoke forcefully of Ricco’s unrepentant nature. Let’s remember, Ricco claimed to Cyclingnews, “When I was found positive, I confessed everything. I was honest.”
Initially, he told RAI, “They searched my bags but only found some vitamins that we all use and so they decided to let me go home.”
Just a few weeks ago Ricco said “And yes, winning the Giro without doping is possible. To do that, you have to work and do your job properly.”
Okay, so we know he didn’t (do his job properly), but the stunner is that as he said that he was sitting on a bag of his own blood, so-to-speak.
This fall, coach Aldo Sassi took Ricco under his wing. Sassi is the man who famously paraphrased the bible passage on Nineveh in which he promised that we could have faith that seven cyclists were clean—his clients. Just two weeks later he added an eighth client: Riccardo Ricco.
If we take Ricco at his word—which ought to be a tenuous proposition at best, but deathbed confessions often seem to lack a certain editor—then the autologous blood transfusion he performed used blood that was just 25 days old. Perhaps this was his first autologous transfusion since re-entering the sport. Surely Sassi’s death was a blow. Perhaps he only returned to doping after Sassi died.
However, Ricco has been winning ever since his return, and this is where my experience with Gödel, Escher, Bach comes to bear: Given how he won prior to his suspension, is it reasonable for us to believe that since his return from his suspension that the only time he doped was in 2011? If we know one detail of cyclists who dope, the pattern of behavior is that those who do it, do it repeatedly. There aren’t many guys who have cleaned up as convincingly as David Millar.
There’s no way to know how tainted Ricco’s results at the Tour of Austria are; there is no just mechanism or reason to strip him of his wins, but his recent off-the-rails transfusion dulls them, but that isn’t the biggest problem with Ricco’s kidney failure.
For those of us who ponder implications, a natural question emerges: If Ricco has been doping all along (and that isn’t implausible), could Sassi have known about it?
Everything we know of Sassi’s career tells us that he coached athletes to succeed without the aid of doping. He was outspoken and principled about his dealings with athletes. Surely, he doesn’t deserve to have his reputation tarnished by Ricco, especially considering that he is unable to rise from the grave to defend himself.
And that’s the problem with Ricco; his doping leaves victims in his wake. The Saunier Duval team imploded following the expulsions of Ricco and teammate Leonardo Piepoli from the 2008 Tour de France, leaving riders and staff unemployed.
What will happen to Vacansoleil? Surely the sponsor won’t be happy about a doping controversy, even if the rider in question did help the team secure entry into the ProTeam division. One wonders just how Ricco thinks or if he considers how his actions could affect others. His seeming inability to consider the harm his actions might bring others fits the definition of sociopath.
Ricco needs to be banned from the sport for life, not because he’s likely to dope again and steal wins from deserving riders, but because another positive test has the ability to wreck careers beyond his own. We may not be able to protect him from his own stupidity, but the UCI has a duty to protect others from it.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
The legendary and iconic surf photographer Leroy Grannis died last week at the age of 93. His photographs of Southern California and Hawaii surf culture came to define the sport and its culture in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s. His work served as a touchpoint for every photographer who embraced the sport, and it loomed as an influence each shooter was forced to accept or rebel against.
Since moving to California some 15 years ago, I’ve come to admire surfers and appreciate surfing. It was only after moving to California that I was able to fall in love with the music of the Beach Boys; now I can’t understand how I made it through my college days without Pet Sounds.
And though I’ve never taken up surfing, it is something of a lighthouse for me, and serves as an inspiration for my riding (my quest to ride the great climbs of the Grand Tours), my writing (to speak to the soul of the sport) and my photography (capturing what a cyclist would value).
It is in this last regard that Grannis has been an influence on me. His work showed me the value of capturing non-riding moments as a means to illustrate the cycling life. It would be arrogant of me to suggest that my work is a qualitative echo of his (it’s not) but he gave me the inspiration to capture cyclists even when they aren’t pedaling. Think of Grannis as the Henri Cartier-Bresson of surfing.
Enough, enough, enough of all this doping-related blather. Just because the Tour of Qatar is as entertaining as watching someone do their taxes, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be spending this time chatting anxiously about the coming season, rather than sticking pins in our Pat McQuaid voodoo dolls or trying to understand how the body takes in and stores dime store stimulants.
There is actually a racing season coming.
And, as it does every year, the landscape has shifted. Whether it’s the renaming of Team SaxoBank to Team Leopard – Trek (What? They’re not the same team?), or the merger of Cervelo with Garmin, the talent has been thrown up in the air like a deck of cards and then quickly reshuffled. How will it all play out?
Will Taylor Phinney’s move to BMC put them on more podiums? Will Tejay VanGarderen improve on last season’s promise? What of Jack Bobridge, the new owner of the world individual pursuit record? Will Radio Shack, the de facto retirement home for aging racers, have more to offer than they did last year, in Lance’s swan (dive) song?
Can Tyler Farrar help Thor Hushovd pour glory on the rainbow stripes, and can Hushovd help Farrar best Mark Cavendish? Can they even coexist? Will Andrei Greipel rise up to compete at the very top of the sprint pile? Can Phillipe Gilbert win big in the Spring? What does Fabian Cancellara do for an encore after complete lighting up 2010? Will Tom Boonen come back to the form from his early career?
So many questions. This week’s Group Ride tries to keep it simple: What is the most interesting unanswered question for the 2011 season?
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International
Some of you may have been aware that I’ve been working on a book about cycling. It’s called “The No Drop Zone: Everything You Need to Know About the Peloton, Your Bike and Riding Strong.” It’s being published by Menasha Ridge Press (with whom I did “Bicycling Los Angeles County” in 2007). “The No Drop Zone” will be coming out in May.
“The No Drop Zone” is a book aimed squarely at beginners, but has been written to contain nuggets of fun as well as the collective wisdom of the peloton. Even the most experienced among you will find something useful within its pages, I hope.
To promote the book, peloton magazine will be excerpting bits of it in a new section on their web site called “Wisdom.” Stop by and have a look; it might be your cup of tea or glass of wine, er, beer. It’ll be updated twice a week.
Rest assured, once the book is out, I’ll let you know about it. I’ll also be getting around a bit for some group rides disguised as speaking engagements.
And because custom frame builders are close to my heart, I’m pleased to announce that peloton has indulged me with a new column on its web site called “Artisans.”
Those few among you who read Asphalt may remember the column “Torchbearers.” Readers of Bicycle Guide might recall the column “Hot Tubes.” “Artisans” picks up where those left off.
Each week peloton will post an interview (in two parts, as they are quite long) with a frame builder. Because the craft of frame building extends well beyond just those who build frames to painters, tool makers and more, I’m going to leave the definition a little loose. It won’t all be one-man shops, either.
Artisans will get some space in the print issues as well. Photos always look great on paper, so we’ll give these some space to breathe.
Sooner or later, I hope to turn “Artisans” into a gift book (i.e. coffee-table book). I’ll let you know how my progress goes on that front as well.
I hope you’ll drop by peloton.
What you are about to read involves no bike. In this case, it really isn’t about the bike, because there isn’t one. There is only snow and ice and slush and wind, narrow, choked roadways, invisible sidewalks, copious amounts of wool and down, rock salt and sand.
Here in New England we are enduring a winter that failed to read the record books before unleashing its snowy fury on us. I could wax all hyperbolic about it, but suffice it to say that even the hardiest souls have nowhere to ride their bicycles. Mine are hanging from the rafters of the garage. I’ll not mention them again.
In the morning, I take my oldest son to kindergarten. Normally, this is a short walk across a beautiful park, but this isn’t normal and the walk, despite remaining the same distance, is no longer short.
Just today, my boy and I were inching our way down the street (the park is waist deep) clinging to the four foot snow banks to keep passing cars from spraying us with a syrupy mix of salt, sand and melting snow. I had the dog with me, because he hasn’t been out except to answer nature’s call in three days. Every few feet we had to stop to scrape the salt out from in between his paws. It collects there and stings until he’s limping and whimpering and sorry he didn’t just stay on the couch. Even with two cups of coffee sloshing around in the tank, I was struggling to put a happy face on the day.
And then it occurred to me.
This is just a different flavor of suffering. And I know about suffering. In better weather, this is a thing I seek out, cultivate and measure myself against it. It is an essential ingredient in my sanity, such as it is.
So beneath my hood and under my wool hat, down between my ears where I am always warm, I simply shifted gears. It is true that life is all headwind at the moment, but if I down shift and keep my head down, if I hide in the peloton and keep the pedals ticking over, eventually I will arrive.
I know how to suffer.
We thought you might enjoy veteran photographer John Pierce’s take on this past weekend’s World Championship.
Stybar, Nijs and Kevin Pauwels on the podium
Images: John Pierce, Photosport International