Saturday, July 10, 2010

Ramblin' Man

I got nothin'...I'm just tired from stayin' up late, gettin' up early...and oh, yeah...doing some work.

I've been waking up at 0530 all week...a pitiful slave to the Tour de France Live Broadcasts. This morning I watched Friday afternoon F1 practice from Silverstone, Great Britain. Formula One's oldest racetrack, Silverstone was a WW2 RAF Bomber Base, and after the war was "Repurposed" as a racetrack.

As is typical of Formula One this season, some teams are faster in relation to the rest, and some are going backwards. Formula One is all about "developing the racecar" Teams are constantly making changes to the cars and their subsystems to eke out another 1/10 of a second per lap in order to work their way to the front.

None of the development happens in a vacuum, all the teams are working on this widget, or that aerodynamic geegaw, so the playing field is in constant flux. Sometime the thousands of hours of design time, computer modeling, windtunnel testing, prototyping and construction make the racecar faster, and other times this investment of time, labor and cold cash moves the car farther back on the grid.

This season the teams are all mining the aerodynamics vein for their 1/10's by playing with the balance between downforce and drag.

Downforce allows much faster speeds through the corners, and enables scary-fast braking. There is a price to pay for downforce...drag. Drag slows the car down on the straightaways, where cars reach their top speeds. The engineers known as aerodynamacists, design the car's bodywork and wings (within the Sporting Regulations) to more efficiently control the airflow over the car and wings to limit drag and maximize downforce.

Just to keep everything interesting, F1's Governors change the Sporting Regs from time to time if some clever engineer exploits a rule so as to give his team what's considered to be an unfair advantage...all in the service of "Cost Containment" and "Competition"

Judging by Friday afternoon's F1 Practice, Ferrari's latest changes haven't improved the "Prancing Horse". Both Ferraris were down in 17th-18th place...You win some, you lose some...of course they could be sandbagging...I'll know after Qualifying in the morning.

I just read the latest news from Silverstone, and McClaren is removing their new Update Package after struggling in both practice sessions Friday...they went backwards I guess! All the teams are trying to catch-up with Red Bull Racing.

The tired I'm feeling this evening, is a "Good Tired" I earned it the fun way. I practiced my woodworking skills. I'm finally wrapping-up the "Beehive Incident" for SturgeUrge. I had to fabricate some 1x12 siding that's not milled anymore. Call it the Carpenters version of "Match the Hatch" This involved joining two 1x's with a finger joint, making some jigs for my tablesaw and router table, and duplicating the original siding I removed to access the beehive with BeeGuy Joshua. All this allowed me to stretch my creative muscles a little. Tomorrow I'll install the siding.

After I was done, I fired up the 'Net. I saw a Tweet from Reno's Reno Gazette-Journal about Boreal's opening tomorrow. The photo at the top of the blog is one of their poor groomers building the maze area so they can turn the lift for their "Shred Fest" this weekend. The forecast said it would be 80F in Truckee today, so it had to be at least 75 degrees up on the Summit. I feel for Boreal's Groomers today...there's no A/C in Snowcats. Throw in the Thunderstorms, and those guys are earning it!

It's one thing to build ramps and mazes in November when the cool Fall temps hearken to the New Season's's another thing to do all that pushing of wet, heavy, rotting snowpack to open a run and a little terrain park for a summer weekend. It's all about the Marketing. Watch the News Saturday night...there's better than an even chance you'll see video of Boreal!

No rest for the wicked I always say...0530's gonna come early in the morning! The Tour enters the Mountains Saturday...I expect fireworks! One more time, Lance!

Oh, Tyler Farrar finished second in Stage 6 to Mark Cavendish Friday...healing nicely he is.

Friday, July 9, 2010


Over in France, the Tour de France continues.

Two days sans drama...much to the relief of the racers I'm sure. No crashes, no injuries, no retirements, just the colorful peloton calmly traversing the telegenic French byways in that glorious summer light. I even saw the first field of sunflowers in bloom today during Thursday's Stage 5. Oh, a few seconds of drama surround the Bunch Sprint at the finish, but not enough to keep the blood pressure above a simmer.

There might be a "feel good story" brewing to take drama's place for another day.

American Sprinter Tyler Farrar's recovery from a fractured wrist and a sprained elbow that sent him to the hospital after Stage 2's crash massacre, continues apace. Thursday, he was right in front for the Finishing Sprint for a second day, contending for the Stage Win!

Welsh sprinter Mark Cavendish, who won six Tour de France stages last year, grabbed his first win, while Tyler crossed the line in 10th with the same time. After the finish, Farrar told reporters "The lead-out was perfect, but I messed up. It's only my fault I didn't make it today, I chose the wrong side of Julian Dean to sprint on."

Cavendish was in tears on the podium during the Post-Race Awards Ceremony. Cavendish has endured a less than a storybook season after 2009's total domination of the sprint specialty in Pro-Tour Racing. Just last month, he abandoned the Tour of Switzerland when his beloved Grandmother passed away suddenly. The bright beaming smile he wore as he crossed the finish line was the flip side of the coin that illuminated the emotional ups and downs he's endured so far this season.

Friday will be another day for the sprinters. Stage 6, the longest stage of the Tour at 141 miles, is an undulating course offering the last chance for the sprinters before the Tour turns uphill in the Mountains Saturday. Thursday, Tyler Farrar finished his post-race interview saying: "There will be other opportunities to come."

This could be viewed as drama trying to sneak back into the Tour!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Heat and Dust

The Tour de France always surprises me...OK, I may be a dim bulb, so I'll quote Forrest Gump: "You never know what you're gonna get"

Stage 3, was contested over 132 miles of road beginning in Belgium, and ending in Northern France, Tuesday. After enduring eight miles of pavé, the cobblestone roads that predate the invention of the bicycle, the Tour took the expected dramatic twists and turns, thanks to the cobblestone roulette.

Norwegian Sprinter Thor Hushovd won the day, and Monday's French Hero Sylvain Chavanel came to grief on the pavé suffering two flat tires in the final 15Km, which held him to 95th Place, 3:58 behind Hushovd.

Lance Armstrong also suffered a puncture around 16Km from the finish, and the resulting 45 second tire change took it's toll on his chances to add win number eight to his resume. Lance went from 4th to 18th 2:30 back, but in touch with the contenders...back just about a minute.

Alberto Contador suffered his flat just a few hundred meters from the finish, after contending with a broken spoke. In the finishing frenzy, Contador's teammate Alexandre Vinokourov lead the Contador Group away from Contador as he was slowed by the puncture. Contador finished 13th, 1:13 behind.

Another contender, Fränk Schleck crashed on the pavé, breaking his collarbone. Schleck retired and is facing surgery to repair the clavicle.

Saxo Bank teammate and younger brother, Andy Schleck finished with the winner's group and improved overall, solidly in the chase for the GC win.

Bruised and broken American Sprinter Tyler Farrar not only started the day with his broken wrist heavily taped, but he finished the race! Those cobbles must have been agony!

I was struck as I watched the riders endure the pavé, by the clouds of dust raised by the Team Cars, Motorbikes, and the riders themselves. I'm not sure which was worse...the clouds of dust or the forecast rain that didn't come to soak the proceedings.

Three days in, I'm already being swept up by the Tour's ebb and flow. This will be a great Tour...I feel it in my bones.

Team CorduroyPlanet had an up and down day Tuesday...

Alberto Contador GC
Oscar Freire GC
Carlos Sastre GC
Mark Cavendish Sprinter
Alessandro Petacchi Sprinter
Stuart O'Grady Sprinter
Jurgen Van Den Broeck All Arounder
Yaroslav Popovych Climber
Alexander Kolobnev Up and Coming Wild Card

In Wednesday's Stage 4, Team CorduroyPlanet Sprinter, Alessandro Petacchi won the stage in the final Bunch Sprint! Astonishingly, injured American sprinter Tyler Farrar finished 23rd with same time as the leaders...I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw him and his bandaged arm finishing just one meter behind the Winner! That's courage...We'll be seeing much more of Tyler Farrar in the coming years.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mountain Musings

I won't lie, it's been like a furnace here in the Inland Valley. I can't blame the heat for forgetting to turn my phone back on, or missing Jerry Otto's Fish Camp.

I talked to SturgeUrge this afternoon, and he had a good time up on the West Fork of the Carson River. Get this, they saw the DFG truck stock the river, and caught the crap outta those planters!

I'm sorry I missed it, but I'm falling behind my expectations for the Ancestral a hurry.

I did find the time to muse on all things mountainous, though. I began my day watching the first tiny mountains in this year's Tour de France.

There was big trouble on a mountain road in the Ardennes Forest of Belgium today. Almost every Tour de France racer crashed descending a rain-slicked mountain road. One rider in the breakaway fell, then a motorcycle put it down to avoid the downed rider...spilling engine oil across the road, which caused the whole chasing peloton to crash as well. All the big stars were on the ground today...including the core of my Fantasy Tour Team.

Most escaped with road rash or minor cuts and abrasions...except for American Christian Vande Velde, who I thought was a contender for the podium...if not the overall win. Christian finished the race, and along with two teammates went to the hospital afterwords. X-rays revealed broken ribs, and he withdrew. I'm still waiting to see if up and coming American sprinter, Tyler Farrar will suffer the same fate.

Big-League bicycle racing can be cruel. Tuesday's Stage 3 will be worse than today's massacre. Tuesday the race enters France and is contested over the infamous Paris-Roubaix roads including several sectors of cobblestone roads or as the French say, pavé.

The forecast promises only 20% chance of rain, but it doesn't take much moisture to make a horrible mess for the racers. They'll be in "The Hell of the North"...I'll be holding my breath!

While keeping an eye on my Twitter feed for Tyler Farrar news, I noticed that the Sierra Sun tweeted that business in the High Sierra was good over Independence Day Weekend. They also posted the season's Winter Weather Wrap-Up.

In the Wrap-Up, they reported that Kirkwood did turn chairlifts over the holiday weekend. reports that five North American Ski Resorts are open in July, including Boreal where they will turn a lift next weekend, July 10th and 11th. The three other holdouts are: Timberline Lodge on Oregon's Mt Hood, Mammoth Mountain in SoCal, and Whistler in British Columbia, Canada.

This just in, Tyler Farrar suffered a broken wrist, and although his Directeur Sportif says Tyler will start in the morning, either way he's not a contender for sprint glory anymore in this Tour. With less than seven hours before the Trade Deadline, I traded up for Contador, so I have two GC Contenders now.

With Armstrong and Contador for the GC, Norwegian sprinter Thor Hushovd, two Spanish Climbers (in addition to Contador): Juan Antonio Flecha and Juan Manuel Garate, Spanish All-Arounder Luis Leon Sanchez, the up and coming Brit All-Arounder, Bradley Wiggins, and my Russian Ace in the Hole...Vladimir Karpets.

So, about an hour of wrestling with my team it dawned on me...given the capriciousness of this year's Tour, I'd better put together a second team. (I'm a Fantasy Sports Conglomerate now, so sue me)

Now Team CorduroyPlanet is ready for action.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

So It Begins

What a fascinating, modern world we live in!

I finally started paying attention to the day just before 0830. The tube was still on, now tuned into one of those noisy, live audience, NASCAR racin' talk shows...ugh.

I clicked around until I found the LIVE Feed of the Tour de France Prologue from Rotterdam, in Holland. Beautiful, rich HDTV images of the wet streets in Rotterdam's afternoon showed thousands of cycling fans lining the course.

Earlier this week, I watched VersusTV's Tour de France Preview Show. Again today the announcers are pumping their favored storyline: Lance Armstrong vs Alberto Contador. The Old Lion vs the Heir Apparent. Last year they were teammates, not this year.

You may have heard of Lance Armstrong. He's the Texan who won the World's most famous Grand Tour. Grand Tours are three week bicycle races. Lance won the Tour de France seven a row. Last week, Lance announced via Twitter: "I'm ready for my last Tour de France"

The Spaniard Contador has won the Tour twice. He's the next Big Thing. Young, gifted and on his way up, the sky's the limit.

I don't need any prodding to get excited about Le Tour, but television loves conflict, hence Lance vs Alberto...

Pro cycle racing is interesting on many levels. It's an individual sport, and it's a team sport. In pro road racing, the individual wins or loses, enjoys the glory or infamy, but only with the help of his team. It takes a strong team to protect a top contender through three weeks of racing, so he can shine on the right days to win a Grand Tour.

The team works for it's leader. They protect the leader from attacks by opposing teams who are working for their leaders. Team mates will "break the wind" for the leader, that is they will ride just ahead of the leader to do the hard work of breaking through the air, allowing the leader to expend less energy in the draft. A well rested leader is fresher, and better able to counter attacks from his rivals.

The peloton is the huge group of racers that make up the main group of riders (198 riders start the race). This dense group really can fly when all are working together. Once the peloton makes up it's mind to chase, they can catch, or bring back almost any small group of escapees who've "broken away"

The Breakaway is a small group of racers, or a single rider who accelerates away from the peloton and goes it alone. This is the province of brave men, who are almost always caught by the finish line. Winning a stage on a break away is a huge accomplishment, and for most pro riders is a career highlight.

The first week of Le Tour de France is contested in Northern France, where the roads are flat and wicked crosswinds can take their toll. This year, the Organizers have added pavé, ancient cobblestone roads. These sections of pavé are rightly famous as sectors of the Paris-Roubaix Bicycle Race, one of cycling's Spring Classics.

First run in 1896, Paris-Roubaix is a tough of it's nicknames is: l'enfer du Nord, The Hell of the North.

Originally, the moniker was bestowed on the route in the wake of World War One.

In 1919, carload of the race's organizers along with the press, set out to reconnoiter the route after four years of artillery shelling and trench warfare. From Great Britain's ProCycling Magazine:

"They knew little of the permanent effects of the war. Nine million had died and France lost more than any. But, as elsewhere, news was scant. Who even knew if there was still a road to Roubaix? If Roubaix was still there? The car of organisers and journalists made its way along the route those first riders had gone. And at first all looked well. There was destruction and there was poverty and there was a strange shortage of men. But France had survived. But then, as they neared the north, the air began to reek of broken drains, raw sewage and the stench of rotting cattle. Trees which had begun to look forward to spring became instead blackened, ragged stumps, their twisted branches pushed to the sky like the crippled arms of a dying man. Everywhere was mud. Nobody knows who first described it as 'hell', but there was no better word. And that's how it appeared next day in the papers: that little party had seen 'the hell of the north."

The fog of time has changed the sentiment to fit the times now, so The Hell of the North" refers to the treachery of the cobblestones, that often decide the outcome of the race by attrition, mechanical failures, tire punctures, or crashes. Hell indeed...

Tuesday July, 6th Stage Three will be contested over 128Km of these roads including four sections of pavé. Those racers that make it to Tuesday's Finish Line will be covered in mud or dust, looking like refugees of war.

High drama? Damn right! Just one note in the symphony that is bicycle racing.