Monday, November 26, 2007

Ullrich Publicly Blames Pevenage, Pillsbury For Career Woes

In a recent interview with Der Sprockets, former professional cyclist Jan Ullrich has confessed that his career was negatively influenced by both Rudy Pevenage and The Pillsbury Doughboy. Pevenage has recently been linked to the Operacion Puerto scandal and Pillsbury has long been rumored to cause fatness in bicycle racers.

"Rudy became involved during my younger days on the German National Team, providing training plans and helping me with some strategic decisions. Pillsbury, or 'D-Boy' as I eventually called him, came around after I won the Tour in 1997. He mostly provided pastries, cookies, and bisquits" explained the disgraced German.

It has been well documented that Pevenage was Ullrich's primary coach and mentor during his checkered career but only recently has there been indication of Pillsbury's influence on the rider.

"People always point the finger at Rudy and say that he made me take EPO and got me into the Fuentes Blood Doping Ring. But that doesn't really explain the entire situation" said the noticeably chubby Ullrich as he polished off a fresh plate of chocolate chip cookies.

"You see…it was really all D-Boy's fault. I mean, I never even knew what a centrifuge was until Pillsbury cautioned that my cinnamon-to-epicinnamon ratio could get thrown out of whack and potentially cause a positive waistband result. That's when I first realized that I had developed a problem. "

"It was around this time that Rudy began telling me that I either had to ditch the Doughboy or start some hard-core doping program. By this point, I had D-Boy's number on my speed dial and he was bringing me hot, flaky bisquits like three times a week. There was no way I could just stop eating tasty baked goods cold turkey…so Rudy and I started a regular routine of EPO, Testosterone and Blood Doping. It was really the only logical option."

When asked who was most to blame for his history of performance enhancing drug use, Ullrich thought for a moment and then stated that while Pevenage and Pillsbury contributed to it, one of the primary culprits was actually the cycling media.

"You see, I'm 6 feet tall and weighed about 160 lbs for most of my career. And while I've never really been considered skinny, it's a bit of a stretch to say that I was fat at any point during my racing days" explained the freckled German.

"But you guys always kept hounding me when I would stop at the local German bakeries, so I had to go underground and ended up getting hooked on Pillsbury. If it weren't for the constant scrutiny and all these pastry chefs leaking information to the press about my Strudel habits, I would have kept my snacking in the public eye. But instead I had to act like a common street junkie and bake my stuff at home, unsupervised. It was just so simple. Preheat oven. Open package and there you go. That is what led to my downfall."

At this point Ullrich stood up to loosen his belt and asked if there were any final questions. A portly Belgian reporter who had often criticized the Olympic and World Champion for being overweight, took the opportunity to ask what the German planned to do in the future.

"I am really not certain what I am going to do now. But I think I read that Cinnabon just partnered with Pillsbury so I'm pretty excited about that. Maybe I can do some German endorsements or something for them. I giggle when I get poked in the belly too."

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Caught Slippin'

Boulder, Colorado

The Boulder Theater played host to yet another great cycling event Wednesday evening, with the first public presentation of the 2008 Slipstream/Chipotle presented by H3O Professional Cycling Team, in association with the Davis Phinney Foundation.

Hosted by the ever on-form Dave Towle, the public presentation actually followed an earlier dinner from which a nice swerve was being cultivated amongst many of those on hand. The vibe was Boulder Formal for the most part, with a nearly equal distribution of suits and dresses versus down and fleece.

Faces such as Ron Keifel, Andy Hampsten, Nelson Vails, Michael Aisner and many other legends of the sport dotted the audience, enhancing the sense that this was an important event in U.S. cycling. But then again…it is Boulder, where the local Whole Foods has a minimum of 6 current or former professional athletes strolling through the aisles at any given time.

But as the night wore on I became more and more convinced that we were, in fact, witnessing a historic event. And not just for cycling, but for the sports world as a whole. It can be effectively argued that Slipstream is truly at the forefront of the fight against doping and has set perhaps the best example of how to compete honestly and cleanly.

It is no coincidence that, even though Slipstream has morphed into a Tour-caliber team of internationally renowned riders, there is still a strong core sense of purpose reminiscent of the TIAA-CREF/5280 development team originally started by Jonathan Vaughters. It was reassuring to listen to Scott Hirshorn, Managing Partner of presenting sponsor H3O, as well as team owner Doug Ellis confirm their commitment to investing in the sport of cycling. It never hurts to have benefactors and JV has secured an impressive group of financial supporters who seem to share his vision for the future.

But for as much as the Slipstream/Chipotle presented by H30 (goodness that’s a mouthful) team presentation maintained this theme of working toward a better future, it was pleasing to see the “reality-TV-ish” documentary featuring Danny Pate, Mike Friedman and other members of the team who probably never thought this group would have gotten this far, this quickly. There are a lot of guys that could possibly feel overshadowed by all the new Pro Tour riders on the team but I get the sense that JV will remain true to the guys that have been with him for a while.

An interesting blend of past, present and future was on display as the legendary Davis Phinney was introduced along with his son Taylor, the recently crowned Elite Pursuit National Champion and Junior World Time Trial Champion, to discuss the Davis Phinney Foundation and Taylor’s newfound friendship with Slipstream’s David Millar. Davis was talking to Austin Murphy of Sports Illustrated as we entered the event but he still stopped to shake my hand and give C-Mac a kiss on the cheek. Smooth. It would be nice to see Murphy cover this event for Sports Illustrated and provide more coverage of the team and the Davis Phinney Foundation. They might get a little more attention than from me writing about them.

Some of the funniest moments of a night that contained a significant amount of laughter, came as Davis and Taylor introduced a short film about Millar. Davis got the first laughs with a comment about how he used to be as tall as his 6’3” son who towered above him on stage but Taylor quickly got some solid chuckles of his own. While recounting his training ride with Millar, the young Phinney mentioned that they talked about racing and girls and stuff but quickly covered himself and his training partner by mentioning the Scot’s girlfriend by name and reassuring, “Don't worry. We only talked about good stuff.”

The short film about Millar by Andy’s cousin Nigel Dick, was pretty entertaining. I haven’t really been too sure about the formerly disgraced World Champion but I found his first-person account intriguing. The fact that he is a part-owner of the team makes his participation with Slipstream all the more interesting. I am also curious to see how they incorporate argyle into the British National Champions jersey.

Shortly after the film, the whole team came out and sat somewhat informally on a collection of stools, couches and chairs up on the stage while Dave Towle did the rider introductions in almost alphabetical order. It is pretty easy to see that there is a clear separation in experience within this team between the Pro Tour guys and the domestic riders. But whereas some teams might fracture into entirely different groups, I hope that Slipstream gives the younger guys a shot at the bigger races whenever possible.

After the rider introductions there was a question and answer segment that was pretty entertaining and somewhat surprising. There was some dude in the audience that kept hollering out “Magnus!” so the gigantic Swede with the full-on British accent came out and basically said that he was going to win Roubaix this year. He was then joined by Mike “Meatball” Friedman, who seemed to be one of the most enthusiastic and semi-awestruck holdovers from last years team. It was interesting to note that the 6’4” bald Swede and the significantly, shorter and hairier American pretty much epitomize the spectrum of differences within this diverse team. I don’t know if Big Maggie could have pulled off the bow tie look that Meatball had going though.

Shortly thereafter, Backstedt, Zabriskie and Millar were asked which races they would most like to win in 2008. Maggie said “Roubaix” of course. After a couple moments of awkwardly humorous silence and some hemming and hawing, Zabriskie said “Some kind of timed event.”

Then Millar surprised more than a few people in the audience when he responded that he would most like to win Paris-Nice. He followed up by saying that a victory in the ASO race would ensure a Tour de France selection which, judging from most accounts, is virtually guaranteed anyway.

Zabriskie’s comment was pretty funny though. He had the crowd busting up a bit later when he was asked about his favorite food. DZ seems to go for the slightly uncomfortable but oddly thoughtful humor and mentioned that he liked burritos. He did so while standing under a giant tinfoil-wrapped Chipotle balloon and made sure to recommend that we all eat them too. Way to please the sponsors Dave.

One of the coolest parts of the night was seeing how happy Christian Vande Velde was to be back in Boulder. VDV has kind of flown under the mainstream U.S. cycling radar but has really been putting up some great performances lately and has been named the road captain for the squad in 2008. It could have been the residual liquid pleasure from the earlier dinner, but Christian seemed like the happiest guy in the place.

The Boulder cycling family vibe was also in full-effect as Dave Towle managed to get the whole team and crowd to sing Happy Birthday to local up and comer Timmy Duggan. The steadily improving rider was celebrating his 25th birthday and one can only imagine the many lessons learned that night from the likes of Julian Dean and Matt White. It’s always dangerous when birthdays, Kiwis and Aussies mix.

By the way…I couldn’t tell if it was the lighting or what but Julian Dean looked like Colin Ferrell’s stunt double or something. It was kind of funny. I think he may get some more face time with the cameras now that he’s not going to have to tow Hushovd around anymore.

The night wrapped up with a live auction to raise money for the Davis Phinney Foundation that threatened to go past my bedtime. C-Mac and I left during the bidding for one of David Millar’s Paris-Nice leader’s jerseys and I heard Dave Towle mentioning that Connie Carpenter-Phinney had added a pair of underwear that the Scot had left at their house while visiting. I don’t have official verification yet but someone told me the jersey (and presumably the skivvies as well) went for $8500. How much of that was for what, I do not know.

All undergarment auctions aside, this was a night that made me feel exceedingly optimistic for the sport of cycling in this country. The dissolution of the Postal/Discovery team and series of recent doping scandals which have tarnished the image of professional cycling in the U.S. have also shifted the focus squarely on Slipstream/Chipotle presented by H3O.

And if last Wednesday night in Boulder was any indication, we will have a lot to look forward to and even more to cheer about in the years to come.

Now, about those new kits...

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Cup Check - A Weekend of Cross In Boulder

For many outside the cycling community, Compton is a city located in South Central Los Angeles, known primarily as the birthplace of "Gangsta Rap" and Trebon is the name of a small tourist town in the South Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic.

But for those of us in the know, Compton and Trebon are also the names of the best U.S. cyclocross racers as well. And they proved that fact beyond question this past weekend in Boulder.

One of the first things that I noticed at the Redline Cup, held at the blustery Boulder Reservoir, was that Katie Compton was rocking an all-blue kit and not the customary stars and stripes. Dave Towle was working the microphone and soon clued me in to the fact that she was wearing the UCI points leader colors. I suppose she was probably tired of the same old National Champion's jerseys anyway and plus, it gave the other women a chance to see a different colored blur for the first half of the first lap until she rode away from them all.

I am actually saving most of my Katie Compton material for the piece that I will write after she wins the World Championships this year. It should be good though.

Ryan Trebon had a rough start on Saturday but slowly worked his way back up to the usual suspects of Tim Johnson, Jeremy Powers, Joachim Parbo and teammate Barry Wicks after a few laps. He mingled with the others for a moment but then went all Turbo and immediately put about 30 seconds into everyone. Treefarm has an interesting demeanor when he's racing and sometimes it's hard to tell if he's even trying but when he does finally get to the front and hits the can be pretty impressive. Both of the courses this weekend favored power and speed so it was natural that Trebon and Compton murdered everyone.

I would like to take this time to address the above photo of Joachim Parbo, the Danish National Champion. He seems like a nice enough guy and I've only heard good things about him but after watching him race a half dozen times over the past two years, I just simply cannot get past one thing. Or, well I guess two things. His hairy legs.

And not just normal hairy legs but, like, Tonkin Caveman style shaggy legs. You can't really see them too well in the above photo but they are kind of out of hand. I's sort of cool with Tonkin because he's just unshaven everywhere and he's from the Pacific Northwest where hairyness is the norm. But how does a Danish cyclist not shave his legs? Does Bjarne Riis know about this? I feel like it's almost disrespectful somehow.

Anyway, Sunday's Boulder Cup was held in the shadow of the Flatirons and under the watchful eyes of Len Pettyjohn, Michael Aisner and Scott Moninger (above) among many others. Being a typical Boulder event, there were current and former pros all over the place in the crowd but it was particularly cool to see Chris Baldwin and course marshall Tyler Hamilton moving barriers before the Cat. 4 event. How many other sports would ever have a scenario like that? Maybe Carmelo Anthony or Allen Iverson will rebound for me next time I go shoot hoops.

Since Compton and Trebon basically crushed everyone, the best drama of the weekend actually surrounded Geoff Kabush trying in vain to hold off Chris Horner for 5th place behind Johnson, Powers and Wicks. The heavily side-burned Canadian was able to maintain his lead in the technical sand sections for a number of laps but Happy Face Horner was visibly faster on the grass and asphalt. After steadily closing the gap Horner finally caught and passed Kabush on the long paved run through the finish, shown in the picture above.

How Chris Horner doesn't have a job right now is beyond me. The guy is one of the best race animators I have ever witnessed. I've seen him do a ton of road events including a first-hand view of his win at the SF Grand Prix a few years back but I think Sunday's 5th place may have been the most impressive. He doesn't have many UCI points so he had to start mid-pack and he would lose ground on most of the guys ahead of him on the technical sections. So...he basically rode ridiculously fast to get up to 5th place, ahead of both the Danish and former Canadian National Champions.

I was at the final Crank Brothers event at the Polo Grounds in Golden Gate Park a few years ago for what was, I believe, Horner's second cyclocross race ever. He showed up to registration about 10 minues before the race in the full yellow Saunier-Duval kit, proceeded to stack it a few times and still finished in the top 15. I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that he is now getting podiums in year three considering he was top 10 at Lombardy a few weeks ago.

The above photo is blurry because my camera was set wrong, but you should be able to see that Trebon is holding a giant sword above his head. There were these crazy Lion-Heart guys running around with wigs and a huge Flanders flag who gave Treefarm this huge metal sword in the final straight. Big time props to Trebon for handling it because that thing did not look light at all. I think everyone had that initial nightmare flash of him decking it and committing hara-kiri as he crossed the finish line. Realistically though, that sword gave him a tougher time than any of the other competitiors.

It's always good to see the fans come out and uh, support the riders. These young ladies were Kona fans and had plenty to cheer about at the podium presentation. The term groupie may be too harsh, perhaps they are old friends, but regardless, scenes like this speak to the growth of cyclocross in the States. Although we still have a long way to go before there is a Kona dance squad, great events like the Redline and Boulder Cup will certainly help the growth of this crazy sport. Cheerleaders or not.

And finally, we have the Man, the Myth, the Legend...the pink vest. I've seen this guy marshalling a bunch of events and he always sports the pink Pearl vest. Awesome.

Are you tough enough to rock the pink vest? I didn't think so.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Dr. J's Tech Talk: Watt You Talkin' 'Bout Nietzsche?

Not many people realize that when Friedrich Nietzsche wrote of "The Will To Power" he was actually talking about cycling. The whole concept ended up getting misconstrued through various false interpretations, but his original point was really just that cyclists are always seeking ways to increase their Power output. In fact, legend has it that Nietzsche was actually one of the first inventors of the SRM power meter.

In Fast Freddie Nietzsche’s own words, he promotes the notion of the Will To Power by stating, "Physiologists should think before putting down the instinct of self-preservation as the cardinal instinct of an organic being. A living thing seeks above all to discharge its strength — life itself is will to power; self-preservation is only one of the indirect and most frequent results"

Originally, Nietzsche 's name for this concept was "Discharge Your Strength" but he quickly changed it to "Will To Power" after he started getting some off-color responses and DNA donor inquiries.

Anyway, all "Jens Voigt as Ubermensch" philosophizing aside, Nietzsche helps us in the cycling world to understand the true importance of power and our natural desire to exert it. Interestingly, while I have not been able to locate any data on the German philosopher’s wattage numbers, it is said that his VO2 Max was phenomenal. And his famous nihilist quote “God is dead” was reportedly uttered in triumph after thrashing his training partners in a particularly brutal session of climbing intervals.

But speaking of wattage and power…I thought now would be a good time to put James Watt’s legacy into a greater scientific context so that we may better understand just how weak we all are. The term “Watt” is far simpler to unwrap than “Power” (which has more connotations than you can imagine) so let’s look at what this unit of energy, equal to one joule per second, really is.

An organization that I am involved with manufactures laser systems which have peak pulse powers on the order of >1 Terawatt, so consider this the conclusion to the earlier entry about Time that confirmed how slow we all are. For reference, a Terawatt is equal to 1 trillion watts. As Snoop says, “Don’t get mad…I’m only being real.”

A Few Examples...


60 W – The power of a typical household light bulb.
232 W – Average power output of Floyd Landis during the 2005 Tour de France.
379 W – Average power output of Floyd Landis while placing 6th in the final TT of the 2005 Tour de France.
430 W – Average power output of Ondrej Sosenka while covering a UCI record 30.8 miles in one hour.
745.7 W – 1 Horsepower.

Kilowatt (1 Thousand Watts):

1.39 kW – Per capita average power use in the U.S. in 2003.
1.7 kW - Approximate power output during the final sprint of a typical Tour de France flat stage.
2.378 kW – Average power output for 5 seconds by Manfred Neuscheler on a Bike-Ergometer. 40-200 kW – Approximate range of power output of typical automobiles.

Megawatt (1 Million Watts):

2.5 MW – Peak power output of a Blue Whale.
10.3 MW – Electrical power output of Togo.
190 MW – Peak power of a Nimitz Class aircraft carrier.
900 MW – Electrical power output of a CANDU nuclear reactor.

Gigawatt (1 Billion Watts):
1.21 GW – Power needed to run the Flux Capacitor in Back To The Future.
2.074 GW – Peak power generation of Hoover Dam.
3 GW – Approximate peak power of world’s largest nuclear reactor.
12.7 GW – Average electrical power consumption of Norway in 1998.

Terawatt (1 Trillion Watts):

1 TW – Approximate peak power of femtosecond laser pulse.
1.7 TW – Average electrical power consumption of the world in 2001.
3.327 TW – Average total (gas, electricity, etc) power consumption of the U.S. in 2001.
13.5 TW – Average total power consumption of the human world in 2001.
50 to 200 TW – Rate of heat energy released by a hurricane.

Chuckawatt (1 Quadrillion Watts):

1 CW – Average power unleashed by a Chuck Norris round-house kick.

So…now we know a little more about Wattage. I don’t have the schematics for constructing a Wattage Cottage yet but I think I may wait to build one until they produce a power meter for my bike that measures Chuckawatts. So far, Jens Voigt is the only known cyclist with a CW rating and he ripped the bottom brackets out of a dozen Cervelos before they could verify the result.

But that’s a story for another time…