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Monday, May 31, 2010

And Now For The Rest

I don't have too much to worry about for the month of May as work and family commitments have limited my ability to follow my inclination... on some damned fool crusade... to destroy myself on the seat of a bicycle... all in the name of a good time. But the month of June I hope to tear it up something awful.

When I get these crazy notions in my head to push myself to my physical limits or train to achieve some seemingly arbitrary goal, I risk the dangers of overreaching and overtraining; two common conditions that occur in ambitious athletes.

After a major physical effort I am more prone to sickness, injury and I have even felt a type of general malaise. It happens to us all. The stronger we get the more it takes to push us to that edge. Still, rest is a very important part of training and it can make a huge difference in performance increases. So, today I will rest and then hit tomorrow hard and fast, do some climbing practice on Thursday, before resting up for a hill century on Sunday to make sure my glycogen stores are filled and I am ready for a long day in the saddle.

There is a great article on training here with an excerpt below:

"Overreaching lasts from a few days to 2 weeks and is associated with fatigue, reduction of maximum performance capacity, and a brief interval of decreased personal performance. Recovery is achieved with a reduction in training or a few extra days of rest.

Overtraining (overtraining syndrome, staleness, systemic overtraining) is the result of many weeks of exceeding the athlete’s physiologic limits and can result in weeks or months of diminished performance - symptoms normally resolve in 6-12 weeks but may continue much longer or recur if athletes return to hard training too soon. It involves mood disturbances, muscle soreness/stiffness, and changes in blood chemistry values, hormone levels, and nocturnal urinary catecholamine excretion.

Stress factors such as the monotony of a training program and an acute increase in training program intensity lasting more than a few days increase the risk of development of overtraining. On the other hand, heavy training loads appear to be tolerated for extensive periods of time if athletes take a rest day every week, and alternate hard and easy days of training.

Pathologic fatigue is deined as fatigue and tiredness that cannot be explained by the volume of training. These are generally medical conditions such as infection, neoplasia, disorders of the blood, cardiovascular, or endocrine systems, and psychologic/psychiatric disorders. Included in this grouping are the side effects of medications and "chronic fatigue syndrome" - an ill defined medical condition. A recent article has muddied the water even further by describing muscle changes from years of high volume exercise training that may be related to this entity. Another controversial possibility is iron deficiency without anemia - although this is much more common in endurance runners than cyclists."

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Basso Takes Pink: News Cycles

In cycling news today: Ivan Basso ascended the podium at the Giro d'Italia decked in pink after claiming one of the most memorable and epic Giros to date. The Giro, along with its twin sister, the Tour de France, make up two of the three classic stage races. Stage racing is a long game with strategies and tactics thought out well in advance that may be slow to materialize over the course of a three week race. Each stage can take several hours to complete and for the casual sports fan, that is just too long to tune in to follow. For those who feel nine innings of baseball is too slow, watching cycling is torture. Lots of armchair sports fans tune in to the final stage and that is about it. This year's Giro had me captivated day in and day out and here is why:

The Giro At A Glance:
  • The opening flat stages in Holland threw some nasty winds at the riders, causing some pile-ups that threw the entire race into disarray. Early favorites like Sastre were virtually eliminated from the start. Other teams were crippled to the point of losing some of their more talented support riders and making the distribution of the workload more concentrated on a few.
  • Again, the weather created chaos for the Strada Bianchi Stage 7 and a little bad luck and a few forced mistakes threw the contest back up in the air.
  • Stage 12 saw the GC contenders hammer on each other to gain the upper hand in a stage that had originally been a bone thrown to the big sprinters in the group.
  • Nibali's stupidly amazing descent on the slick roads of Stage 14 to give the Italians a taste of home filed advantage.
  • The duel between Cadel Evans' thumping power and Ivan Basso's featherlight tip-toe styles of climbing up the Zoncolan on Stage 15.
  • The Plan de Corones ITT mtn TT saw riders opt for amateurishly looking compact cranks with 26-28 cassettes to lamely struggle up the pukingly steep ascents.
  • The insanely heroic descent made by Arroyo on Stage 19 on the wet roads that made the mighty, mighty Basso flinch.
  • Stage 20 was amazingly beautiful. I caught some of it on an internet feed and it looked like a string of postcards. with a descent on the other side that crackled with crisp technical feats and the electricity of speed.

News Cycles:

Taylor Phinney of Trek-Livestrong won his second U23 Paris-Roubaix here. This is pretty significant as Phinney, son of the former Team 7-11 star and US National Champion Davis Phinney, and is actualizing all the expectations heaped upon him as America's next great cyclist.

Taiwan's Super Athlete, Craig Johns, covers the Hualien Triathlon and sadly announces his retirement from triathlons here. The local triathlete community can now breathe a sigh of relief that his reign of terror has come to an end. This does not mean the cyclists can have a reprieve as Johns will continue to pursue cycling which isn't so hard on the joints.

Nathan reports on our Sunday ride here. This is why a Garmin is great.

Michael C. loses a street brawl with a pothole here.

Sabinna schools us on component sourcing here.

Joe Friel tells us everything science really knows about muscle cramps here. The short answer is "nothing", but don't tell the sport drink and supplement companies. I always find discussions of cramping interesting as I suffer from cramping on occasion. I found the best solution is the kitchen sink approach. I take 3 Tums before a ride for the magnesium, a couple bananas before a ride for potassium, try to stretch my calves (usual culprit), adjust my fit, drink enough liquids with a mix of water and sport drink on hot days... basically everything short of voodoo magic.

Darryl has launched his awesome directory for bike blogs here. I have to hand it to him for putting out the effort to consolidate the bike-blog universe into an easy to use directory that is easily classified into category and location. Check the Taiwan blogs ;)

Virginia Xing blogs on her preparations for a weekend of racing (even if it was complicated by rain) here. I was happy to have chatted with her a bit on the phone the other day to officially make her acquaintance. I hope to ride with her in the future to learn a thing or two. If you visit her blog you can see how much effort she puts into her training... and with a fistful of little boys to herd. Truly heroic.

Anyone else have something to report?

Beyond Lukang

Dog Watching

I hadn't planned on doing any riding today and was feeling good from yesterday's ride, so I thought a little stretching the legs might be about it for a lazy Sunday. I work hard all week and ride hard when I can. I figured I deserved a day to laze around.

Then I got the call that Nathan M. would be on his way down to sell one of the bikes in his stable and intended to do a little riding before meeting the buyer. The biking addiction turned on and I was ready to fly out the door for another ride. Michael T. was also on his way down to my area and the weather wasn't rainy. Yes!

Nathan is a really strong and dedicated rider who brings his big-city Taipei style of cycling down to quaint little Taichung every so often. Nathan is fast and powerful, so I was eager to stretch my legs out a bit.

Old Power Line

We passed through Lukang and headed into the tangle of roads that cut through the mud flats and fish ponds along the coast.

Following the Freeway

I really wish I could fully describe where we went so that any interested readers could check it out for themselves, but the roads out there are just a scramble of little lanes and alleys that follow along the Number 61 Freeway. That's about all I can say to describe our route. I highly recommend just getting out there and if you have the time, try to get a little lost.

Nathan Opens A Can Of Whup-Ass!

I had a great time exchanging pulls with Nathan. We pushed the speeds up into the mid 40's and made use of the flat terrain to open it up... to run the carbon out... er whatever.

Navigating The Landscape

As we headed North, the headwind really picked up. I like to call it doing "flat hills." Both hills and wind involve a force pushing you backward that you must resist.


We passed through all sorts of concrete bridgeworks and coastal construction projects. At one point Nathan and I exchanged pulls on a long, open bridge with a nasty headwind. We each managed to sustain a paltry 28kph the entire way and were both pretty much ready to turn the wind off by the end.

We wound our way back to the HSR station in time to meet the buyer and make a successful sale. It was a really nice day of riding. I felt great to be in good company with Michael and Nathan, and we had enough challenges along the way to give me the satisfaction of getting a good ride in. I love days like this.

Michael and Nathan Pose On A Dike

Nathan's Report with maps here

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Giro d'Italia Wraps Up Tonight

The Giro d'Italia (Tour of Italy) wraps up tonight (Taiwan time) and I have to say I have been able to follow every stage on live internet feeds or through some kind of live-blogging. What a great race this year. I have hardly cared to track the Tour of Californi-yawn.

Throughout the Giro the Maglia Rosa (Pink Jersey) has been up for grabs the entire way with the lead switching from rider to rider almost daily. I had been rooting for Cadel Evans, mainly because Vinokourov looks like Drago from Rocky IV and I don't like the way Basso's name looks. Yes, call me superficial. Actually both Vino and Basso were wrapped up in some pretty nasty doping scandals. Basso admitted the bags of blood found in the fridge belonged to him, but never said he actually doped. As it stands there are still several riders in contention. The Italians are poised to sweep the podium on home turf if Cadel Evans can't scratch out a victory on tonight's short TT stage.

As it stands now:

  • 1 Ivan Basso (Liquigas)
  • 2 David Arroyo (Caisse d’Epargne) + 0:51
  • 3 Vincenzo Nibali (Liquigas) + 2:30
  • 4 Michele Scarponi (Androni) + 2:46
  • 5 Cadel Evans (BMC) + 4:00

Houli Loop!/后里, 臺中縣

"...but plans can fall through as so often they do
and time is against me now..."--The Smiths


At this time of year even the best laid plans often go awry. The weather is simply too unpredictable. The Central Weather had been calling for thunderstorms all week and they never materialized, so we took a chance and planned a century ride up into Miaoli to the Ming de Reservoir. At 5:00am, I could hear cars sloshing through the rain and by 6:00am we had called off the ride, so I went back to bed. The next thing I knew, my phone was ringing and Michael was on the line with the news that the rain had stopped and we could get a ride in. We wouldn't have time to pick off the century, but we put together some hastily made plans to salvage a ride and in just over an hour he was downstairs. His finger itching to try out his new toy; a Fuji supercalifragalisticexpialadocious camera. I took him over Dadu shan along the road I use for my night loop. We then rolled into Ching Shui in time for a little lunch.

That Little Vietnamese Place

There is a great little Vietnamese place on one of the side roads off the Highway 1. The food is fresh and always prepared while you wait. We foreigners gotta stick together, you know!

Coffee of the World Unite and Takeover!

The best surprise happened after we finished eating. Just as we hit the road, the rain picked up and we didn't feel like getting rained on and hoped to wait a few more minutes over coffee somewhere to see if the drizzle would abate. No luck. Not even the 7-11 had their brand of ashtray-tasting brew. We continued on and then we found it. There, just outside of Ching Shui, on that decaying old ribbon of concrete known as the Highway 1, right by the auto repair shop, betel nut stand and rebar lot... in a nondescript concrete box, we saw a sign for coffee. We couldn't really tell if they actually sold coffee or not from the looks of it. but we gave it a shot. As we walked up to the door, a look of "whatthehellaretheydoinghere" crossed the faces of the family inside. We noticed they had all the trappings to make coffee and went to order.

A Coffee Maestro

Once it was established that they could in fact sell coffee and that we could speak Chinese, we sat at the only table in the living room/cafe and ordered. The proprietor set to work like some type of coffee artisan in choosing the proper beans (Yemen) and working through a process of brewing, steeping and pouring to make the perfect cup of coffee. It took a long time to make, but I have to say that outside of Cafe Vivace in Seattle, this was one of the finest cups of coffee I have ever had. It was not too acidic, not like Starbucks, and just hit all the right spots. Perfectly carmelized! Apparently, the couple who owned the place lost their jobs a few years back and had nothing to do to maintain their house in Ching Shui, so they used their savings to buy a small coffee roaster and set to work learning how to roast and make coffee. They sell their beans and other products to other cafes and restaurants in central Taiwan. The place is called Lailin Coffee/來林咖啡, if you ever have the chance to stop in.

Michael Rides A Dike

After we reluctantly left Lailin Coffee, we headed up toward Dajia. Just over the bridge across the Dajia River we took Zhong Shan Rd. up the river valley toward Houli.

A Real Dike

This is a very pretty ride, away from most vehicular traffic, and through quiet farms and fields. Navigating the labyrinthine roads takes practice and intuition, but it a also very rewarding. At one point the road was closed to traffic, but this being Taiwan and not over regulated, we just rolled our bikes up onto the dike and kept right on going.

Little Shack On The Alluvial Plain

After climbing out of the river valley up a short, but really steep hill, we were up on the plateau in the area that had formerly been known as Varizan, or 麻里蘭社, a Pazih village which was once one of several satellites of the greater Anli village. When some of the land was parsed off to some Han farming families in the 18th century, many of the Pazih settled in the area to take advantage of the water networks and even negotiated with Han farmers for better resource allocation. The close proximity to the hills and to the river made the location an ideal spot.

Father Son Time (Another kid on a proper road bike)

We got back on the Highway 13 in Houli and checked out a very interesting Reynolds 853 steel frame that is a fantastic example of the acrobatics between OEM, subcontractor, marketing team and distribution network. The question arose how a Giant franchise could be selling a rebadged non-Giant bike that used the advertising literature of the original brand while blatantly being an obvious rebadge. Still... a light steel frame with full SRAM Force for a decent price. Not bad.

I left Michael in Tanzi and hammered my way the rest of the 13km home. I was feeling great, so I tried to keep my speed up between 40 and 50kph the rest of the way home. That felt great.

So no great century ride today, but any day on the bike is a good day.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Weekend Notes

Despite the forecast calling for thunderstorms and clouds, there will be plenty of cycling action to satisfy the twitchy nerves of riders everywhere who need to get the next fix.

The AmainT 11km Circuit race will be going on out near the Taichung Science Park.
I believe things will get rockin' at around 7:00am. Lots of racers from all over will be there to join in.

Sunday: The Wu Ling Race up to the top of Ho Huan Shan will get going. It is quite a climb. Lot's of riders burn out early on this one.

Me? Maybe a Century Ride up to the Ming De Reservoir and back on the Highway 1. Back to the endurance training for June.

You Never Know What You'll Become

Like most people, I have known how to ride a bike for a long time. I remember my first hand-me-down, yellow, girl-tubed Schwinn I learned to ride on. The red Schwinn Stingray I inherited from my cousin. I have fond memories of my first dirt-bike with the Enduro number plate on the front my brother and his friend Darren painted and put together for my birthday. That was followed by the black and white Toys R' Us Huffy 10spd with spongy grips on the drop bars (I thought the Team Murray was stupid and the Stu Thompson series even worse.. Stu-pid). I got that because that is what I saw Jim Murray, the paper-boy riding. That bike sucked. As a pre-teen I bought the neighbor's 1980 chrome Mongoose BMX and tried to polish it up to look as nice as the new Fisher, Haro and Diamondback BMX bikes that were popular at the time. At the same time we dredged up the great Clipper by Columbia, a massive early 29er with super-fat tires and coaster brakes; the precursor of the mountain bike. That thing had no end to its crank range. These were all tickets to childhood independence and misused as a means to sneak off to the store to blow pocket money on: doughnuts, Laffy Taffy, Red Vines, Shasta, Fruit Pies, Hostess-anything for that matter, Fruit Rollups, Charleston Chews, Powdered Donette Gems, Nestle Quick, A&W Root Beer, Runts, Fun Dip... crap! It was wonderful. Income from becoming a paper route mogul made the issue of biking to the store a more serious enterprise. Once I bought a car I put the bike down and would drive or skateboard. Finally before moving to Taiwan when my car was no longer insurable, I used a Specialized Rockhopper that was about 3 sizes too big.

Now I am a quasi-roadie who is totally addicted to cycling and everything about it.
It is amazing what we become. Ten years ago I would never have thought I'd be lusting for bikes and following the Giro every night. These surprises make life so worth it!

1st Night Ride To Caotun: 48Km

These stats above that look like a richter scale are from my first night ride out to Caotun 草屯and back on the Highway 14 on the Changhua 彰化 side of the river, through Fen Yuan 芬園.

It wasn't so bad... but could have been better. I think I rode a little on the conservative side as it was a solo ride during peak traffic at night on a route I have done... maybe once before. I think it took way too long for my legs to warm up, but the added nutrition from insects flying into my mouth provided a little energy boost half-way through. I need to get a little bit faster on this route and I hope that will happen as I get more familiar with it. It was a great way to get a few more kilometers into my week. And yes, I still use Standard measurements.

UCI Responds

The UCI, which is the main governing body of professional cycling and the keepers of arcane beliefs that regulate official equipment use and other trivialities that influence what average consumers buy to look "pro", has issued a statement regarding the potential bombshell released last week by 2006 Tour de France winner and loser Floyd Landis detailing the UCI's response to the allegations it colluded with Lance Armstrong and others in hiding positive results from random tests for performance enhancing drugs.

Oooooo.... the plot thickens! I hope there is a part coming up where a splinter group of the Catholic Church sends out an auto-masochistic assassin to suppress the truth and preserve the power of the UCI and its Rosecrucian overlords.

UCI Press Release, May 25 2010

Floyd Landis’s accusations: clarifications from the UCI

Due to the controversy following the statements made by Floyd Landis, the International Cycling Union wishes to stress that none of the tests revealed the presence of EPO in the samples taken from riders at the 2001 Tour of Switzerland. The UCI has all the documentation to prove this fact.

Between 2001 and 2003, only the Paris, Lausanne, Cologne, Barcelona and Madrid laboratories, commissioned by the UCI, detected the presence of EPO in the samples that had been entrusted to them for analysis. During this period, the first laboratory carried out three positive analyses for EPO, the second 18 and the three last laboratories one each. None of the samples concerned had been taken at the 2001 Tour of Switzerland.

The International Olympic Committee received a copy of all the reports for the positive analyses mentioned above. Furthermore, in 2001, all the analysis reports carried out at the Tour of Switzerland were sent to Swiss Olympic.

Since 1st January 2004, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) receives a copy of any analysis reports which show an abnormal result. WADA has not reported any abnormal analyses from any of its accredited laboratories that have not been duly dealt with by the UCI.

The UCI wishes to reassert the total transparency of its anti-doping testing and categorically rejects any suspicion in relation to the concealment of results from parties involved in this field.

Read more:’s-accusations_118561#ixzz0p1Gw1uwf

Monday, May 24, 2010

On The Dope

With the Floyd Landis allegations of rife doping on the pro tour set to cast a pall over this year's Tour de France, I thought I would dig up an article on some of the tricks top athletes and movie stars use to perform beyond their natural abilities and keep the paydays coming.

Outside Magazine did a great article a while back on the different performing enhancing drugs in which an amateur athlete puts himself through a regimen of drugs on the DL to see how the chemical cocktail could improve his performance.

"OK," the doctor said when we settled into his examination room. "What do you want to be?"

I looked confused, so he explained.

"You want to be bigger? Leaner? Faster longer or faster shorter? More overall endurance? You want to see better?"

"See better?"

"Human growth hormone does that for some people. It improves the muscles in the eyes." He tried again: "So, what do you want?"
This was quite a concept. Freud wrote that anatomy is destiny, and here was a doctor giving me a chance, in my late forties, to alter my body in the most fundamental way. It was strange, but also strangely alluring.

As a lifelong athlete, I have done my share of hard training for wrestling, cycling, running and fitness, and at no time did I ever feel inclined to try ANY type of supplement. I have always believed in receiving all my essential nutrients from the miracle drug called... food. I even resisted the allure of Creatine in the 90's and Whey protein. I just figured that if you couldn't get what you need from eating food, you're not going to get it. I have often simply organized my diet around the properties of the foods rather than the simple appearance, taste or whatever food lust I feel at any given moment.

The only time I have been aware or doping and steroid use was a guy I used to wrestle against, who gained 30lbs in muscle mass over a year and had stretch marks from the rapid growth... and after coming to Taiwan.

When I first moved into town and got settled, my friend and I decided to seek out a gym to keep fit. There were few gyms in Taichung at the time and most were really expensive. We finally found a gym that charged NT5000 for a year and was run by the former ROC weightlifting team from the glory days of the 1960's when Taiwan's diplomatic warfare was being fought on every international venue including the Olympic Games. The gym was in a concrete basement with no A/C and only rotating ceiling fans. The equipment was often homemade and made of steel and concrete molded in coffee cans. The ancient "Coach" would sit in the back doing calligraphy and occasionally shout for no reason.

We'd go in for two hours a day, four days a week and recover from some intense workouts over Taiwanese steaks. We were getting strong and ripped. I was 120lbs benching 7 sets of 7 reps at 210lbs... but I wasn't getting big, only strong.

The gym attracted gang enforcers and rabble as well as a small group of young guys who wanted to be weightlifters. We'd watch them come in looking like sticks and after a few months they were Atomic-Powered Supermen. The only thing we could see for sure was that they would get really big, really fast and disappear into the bathroom with their kits before working out. It was just kind of understood that these guys were getting a little extra help to prep for their competitions. Probably nothing exotic, just animal steroids or something, but they were surely on roids and had easy access to cheap performance enhancing drugs.
They were easy to get and no secret in the gyms of Taiwan.

Evening Ride: 5/24/2010 (72kph)

I had a pretty good night ride tonight. I saw an opportunity between rain storms to get a good ride in and took it. Hopefully Wednesday will pan out as well and I can get a few more hills in my legs for the month.

I put in a faster time today than last time and the new cleat position is beginning to pay dividends in conserving energy. I still need to build up a little more strength in my hips for the new position, but it feels great.

My climb was averaging 14mph (22kph). I felt pretty good about that. Maybe a little less energy than I wanted, but the climb also comes before I really have a chance to warm the leg up.

The big improvement came in my descent. I know the hill and where the manhole covers are, so I can hit it with more confidence. When I can be sure no cars will cross my path I can really open it up. That is just about 72kph and I still had a little more in the legs for that.

My fight down Hsitun Rd. stayed in the mid 20's (40's) and the sprint down Wenxin edged the 30's (50's). I think I held back a little at the end. Shame on me. Now I feel much better and can face the rest of the week.

Night Loop: 5/24/2010

Night Loop: 5/13/2010

Death On Wheels: A Cycling Guide To Taiwan's Most Dangerous Cars

6: Toyota Altis

The Toyota Altis comes in at a close number six mainly because of the large numbers of them on the roads. The Altis is considered to be a decent car and it is often driven by young professionals as their first car bought for them by their parents as a graduation or wedding gift. Often, Taiwanese parents will buy big ticket items for their children to insert themselves into a relationship or purchase filial piety. At risk of sounding cynical, these gifts are a means of extending parental control over children once they have left the home. The Altis is often driven by self-important young people who still feel like the world should revolve around them and they drive like it.

5: Taichung Taxi

Taxis in Taiwan are known to be driven by hoodlums and maniacs and in Taichung we have the best of them. I have been in taxis that hydroplaned trough city streets in rain storms. One amphetamine addled driver buzzed a police station making play gun shot noises while he waved his arm out the window as if shooting a gun. He later took a freeway offramp at about 70mph toward a brick wall... with his hands off the wheel. My mother was not amused. Taxis are aggressive bullies of the road that use brute force to negotiate traffic. The taxi only made it to a 4th place standing for the fact that they are easily seen, universally recognized as a hazard and the drivers must receive some sort of licensing.

4: Mitsubishi 4x4 Van

The scourge of the mountain roads is the Mitsubishi 4x4 minivan. These are usually encountered during mountain rides and in the countryside. The owners jack these terrors dangerously high for such a narrow wheelbase and then take the mountain roads at very high speeds. There is an overall sentiment of invincibility on Taiwan's roads where the concept of fate reigns supreme. These little bastards have it is spades. If they don't hit you they may tip over on you. An added danger is the higher possibility that the drivers are not licensed and often totally wasted.

3: Toyota Zace

The Toyota Zace haunts dreams and comes with a devil may care attitude. Just look at it and you know immediately how it is driven. "Just look at the bones!"

2: CMC Mini Truck
The dreaded CMC minitruck ranks second on the list as it is cheap, easily obtainable and the preferred transportation for many of the occupations that are fueled by alcohol. It is the Saturday Night Special, the Zip Gun of Taiwanese automobiles. Anyone can hop in and drive one of these trucks and they may or may not be insured. These little devils shoot out of side streets and sweep across six lanes of traffic at full speed. They are cheaply built and lack many of the safety features that can be found in most other modern vehicles. Blue Death.

1: Nissan Cefiro

The reigning champion is the dreaded Nissan Cefiro. Of all the dangerous vehicles listed this one tops my list as a danger to cyclists. It looks like a reasonable, modern vehicle that should be no more dangerous than any other, but I have a theory. The Nissan Cefiro is designed to evoke the classy and elegant lines of the more refined European luxury cars. They are obviously emulating the big daddy of Taiwanese status symbols; the Mercedes, but for a much lower price point. Those who would like a Mercedes and can not afford one pick up a Cefiro. They have the same feeling of entitlement on the roads as those with the European luxury cars, but they also have a little bit of a chip on their shoulder that they are not behind the wheel of a Benz or a Beamer. They drive with anger and arrogance. They truly would like to imagine they are VIPs on their way to an emergency meeting in Geneva. The Cefiro owners lay on the horn, weave, speed through lights and make creative turns. They are also "classy" enough for the middle aged man who goes out with the boss and returns home drunk. The Cefiro is a staple of the KTV and "Entertainment Center" parking lot. I have seen more shithead Cefiro drivers than any other in my 12 years in Taiwan. That is why the Cefiro speeds off with the prize for the Most Dangerous Car To Cyclists In Taiwan. Congratulations Cefiro... you earned it!

T-Mosaic's Child Prodigy?

Sometimes I go off on how you'e never too old to get into cycling. And that is true.
On the flip side... you're never too young either.

Check out these photos from T-Mosaic's ride out to Hsi Tou and the little guy on his Louis Garneau Kids roadie. Right on!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Taipei Traffic (Video): Some Guys Have All The Luck!

Taiwan Cycling Technique Series #27: Threading The Needle

My cycling friends often give me a little grief for stopping at stop lights and even at some green lights.
I will admit that I am a cautious cyclist with a healthy respect for my environment and averse to excessive risk. It is just that Taiwan comes with its own set of dangers that any cyclist must understand and respect. Traffic does some odd and unpredictable things here, so you just have to adapt.

Sesquipedaustralian has a great series of posts on their Taiwan cycling expedition.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Chiayi Foothills and Hua Shan

Traditional Tea Picking

Today Michael T. and I were joined by the new fellow in town, Darren R., who has just landed in the central city of Feng Yuan all the way from Portsmouth, England. It was great to have another excellent rider in the crew and he was also great conversation. Welcome to the neighborhood!

The initial plan the team from the welcome wagon had prepared was a serious day of climbing all the way out to the Alishan Train Station. Unfortunately due to a problem with the navigational equipment... of course... the navigational equipment... we missed the turn-off that would have taken us on a grueling day of climbing and forearm busting descents. Instead, we meandered around the beautiful tea areas of Chia yi county.

The Foothills

We drove down to Gukeng, in Chiayi County and parked near to 228 Memorial Park right off the highway 3. After loading up at the Gukeng 7-11, we hit the Chiayi Local Route 158 into the hills.

Darren Starts His Ride

The 158 was a nice little rural road through farms and up hills. This seems to be a popular place for weekend cyclists. We were passed by several groups on their way down the mountain. Even the low views are spectacular.

Farms of Chiayi

The green cliffs of the foothills loom in the distance and tease you for a descent picture; a call that can never be answered with any justice or accuracy using a simple camera. I wish my pictures could convey the beauty of this area, but your imagination will have to suffice.

The Cover of A Million Tea Boxes

The 158 connects to the 149/149甲. These are the same road for a while so be careful when they split. We saw a few riders making good time on these hills and wondered how they could have the energy to maintain that type of energy after so much climbing. I wondered where they had been coming from on the other side.

Meet The Central Mountain Range

Just on the back of the first hill the road comes to an abrupt crossroads and smashes into a wall of mountains as it splits with a fantastic peek at the Central Mountain Range.

Giving the Bike A Rest

We took the 149 toward Meishan and began a nice climb into the high mountain tea farms. The area around Changhu 樟湖 was spectacular. I stopped at one corner along the rim of the valley to watch the old women picking tea by hand and a couple eagles play a game of tag above the tea farms. It was a magnificent scene.

The View From The Summit

Just as I could feel my legs getting into the idea of a long day of climbing I realized I was on the summit of a hill... on the front side of the range. Below me was the plain with Douliu in the distance. I couldn't imagine how this road could ever get back into the mountains to go up to Alishan. After a brief discussion, we discovered we had overshot the turn-off onto the 149甲 and were too far to make it back and finish the ride in a day. We had to commit to taking the 145 to the end.

Debris Flow Mitigation Demonstration Area in Hua Shan
Fun For The Whole Family

Sadly, the end came up rather swiftly at the bottom of a screaming descent. I was able to hold 62.kph down several stretches and used the opportunity to practice cornering. I am still gun-shy of cornering as cars tend to over shoot their lanes and a few close calls can stay with you for a long time.

We stopped in Hua Shan in Taiwan's coffee growing area and had a bite to eat before heading down to the car. Due to the region's new distinction as a "coffee area", it is impossible to find anything that is not coffee related and we went thirsty for far too long.

We finally made it back to Gukeng with much fresher legs than anticipated, but a fantastic ride in the bag.

Total: 35 mi/56km

Michael has a write-up and pictures here.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Shot Heard Round The World: Landis

The Wall Street Journal published a lengthy piece today in which the disgraced and disqualified 2006 Tour de France winner (and loser), Floyd Landis, took pot shots at several of the biggest names in cycling, including the 7 time TdF winner and Team Radio Shack leader, Lance Armstrong.

Landis alleges that he and his fellow U.S. Postal Service teammates routinely used testosterone patches and Erythropoietin (EPO) under the instruction of coach Johan Bruyneel and the President of USA Cycling, Stephen Johnson. Landis implicated Armstrong, George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Dave Zabriskie and essentially the entire professional cycling establishment in colluding to promote and disseminate performance enhancing drugs to the peloton of professional cyclists.

Until these latest emails were sent to ESPN and The Wall Street Journal, Landis has vehemently denied ever using performance enhancing drugs. Landis even secured a book deal from Simon Spotlight Entertainmen for Positively False, a book in which he co-authored an in-depth denial of the allegations leveled against him.

Floyd Landis took the matter to court, which resulted in the bizarre and emotional testimony of three-time Tour de france winner Greg Lemond, who testified under oath that he had implored Landis to "save cycling" with a simple admission to doping. Lemond further testified that he had shared confidential details of his childhood sexual abuse with Landis in an attempt to draw him into an honest confession and help clear his conscience. A 2007 report from ESPN details the matter here:

The only sure bet is that Landis' battle to win over public opinion took a massive hit Thursday after his business manager, former teammate and close friend Will Geoghegan was revealed to have made a legally ill-advised and personally vicious phone call to LeMond on the eve of LeMond's appearance at Landis' arbitration hearing.

Everyone in the courtroom knew LeMond agreed to testify for the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency because he was out to help the agency's case against Landis. Case insiders also knew that the two riders had an acrimonious phone conversation last August, shortly after Landis' positive tests were announced, and assumed LeMond would describe that call in unflattering terms.

But few people were prepared for the broadside LeMond delivered with the simple, modern act of handing his BlackBerry to USADA lawyer Matt Barnett, who placed it on the podium to display the phone number on an overhead projector.

The number shown was one reporters covering the case had entered in their cell phones many times over the past few months as Geoghegan barnstormed the country with his friend Landis, rallying support for Landis and asking fans for contributions to fund his defense.

One can only imagine how donors to the Floyd Fairness Fund felt when they learned about what LeMond said next.

The courtroom was silent and still, except for Landis lawyer Maurice Suh, who whirled toward Geoghegan at the first mention of the phone call and began whispering to him intensely. Geoghegan, a former rider who first befriended Landis when Landis was a teenager, sat with his head bowed and his exposed neck flushed crimson in the row of seats behind the defense table.

LeMond earlier had said that during the August phone call, he confided details of his own childhood sexual abuse to Landis and implored him to admit that he had doped, a confession LeMond said could "save cycling" and Landis' own mental health.

"You were sharing this in an effort to help him?" Barnett asked.

"Yes," LeMond said.

According to LeMond, Geoghegan tried to use that information in a threatening phone call placed at 6:53 p.m. Wednesday night.

"I'm your uncle, and I'll be there tomorrow," LeMond said a then-anonymous man told him, and continued with references to vocabulary best known to pedophiles. LeMond later traced the number using a paid Internet search.

With his reputation in tatters and a two year ban, Landis has recently attempted to revive his career with a few middling results for Rock Racing; a team that cultivated a "bad boy" image through its liberal employment of ex-dopers and tainted names. In 2010, Rock Racing was not issued a professional license and was relegated to amateur status. The downgrade caused the team's big names to seek their fortunes elsewhere and Landis has failed to get picked up by a new team.

This is why I view the latest allegations with a little caution. It seems that Landis is in desperate need of publicity and more importantly-- income. Accusing some of the most decorated figures in the sport of doping is a very great way to generate a new stream of revenue. Seeing as we are now in the middle of cycling season and in the lead up to the Tour de France, these new revelations are guaranteed to keep Floyd Landis' name in the headlines a little bit longer. Not only does his sudden need to come clean feel oddly timed, but his allegations and insinuations that Mellow Johnny himself taught Landis how to dope seems a little extravagant. Again, Landis seems to be mislaying blame from himself onto others. In his admission he is again attempting to avoid taking responsibility by painting himself as a victim of a corrupt system and corrupt leadership.

I don't know if Armstrong or others doped. I know they have yet to test positive and I know they are routinely tested and I know the French have prayed for a positive result for nearly a decade. I also know that Floyd Landis holds zero credibility at this point and these allegations, whether true or not, make him appear to be a troubled and vindictive individual who was denied the full glory of the podium by doping and so he hopes to drag everyone else down with him. If Floyd can not shine... then nobody else shall either.

It just sounds like a sad way to win.


Link to one of the actual letters: here

New York Times Article: here

VeloNews Ongoing Coverage: here

UCI Denies Allegations: here

Armstrong Responds: here

Quote From NYT:
I think Landis is in a very sad situation and I feel sorry for the guy because I don’t accept anything he says as true,” McQuaid said in a telephone interview on Thursday. “This is a guy who has been condemned in court, who has stood up in court and stated that he never saw any doping in cycling. He’s written a book saying he won the Tour de France clean. Where does that leave his credibility? He has an agenda and is obviously out to seek revenge.”