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It happened today.  I’ve felt it coming for some time – even thought about why it may be happening.  But there I sat on the edge of my couch.  I’d carefully planned my lunch break (I was working from home) to coincide with the mid-day Versus presentation of the end of Stage 5 of the Tour de France.  It was another flat stage – so all down to the sprinters.  The last few kilometers showed the normal dominance of the HTC Columbia lead out train (more on that choo-choo later)  But wait – Garmin snuck in there.  Things were getting interesting.  It was coming down to the line…  could go any way…

That is when it happend.  That is when I realized that I was not cheering on Tyler Farrar, hoping he could overcome his fractured wrist and take the win.  I wasn’t hoping for Thor Hushovd to win (as he should, if for no other reason than his name is Thor)  What was I hoping to see?  I wanted to see anything but Mark Cavendish riding across the line with his arms raised.  For a large number of reasons, I found myself rooting against someone rather than rooting for someone.

How the hell did that happen?

My wife thinks it is because he always wins.  That may be true.  I’ve definitely got an “always cheer for the underdog” type of mentality.  It is boring to look at the elevation profile for a stage and know “Yup – that’ll be Cav fumbling with his green sunglasses again…” (by the way – can anyone find video of that online?)

Is it because I’m completely sick of hearing the term “Lead Out Train”?  Yea – that might just be it.  Seriously need to call it something different.  It is almost as infuriating as the “Manx Missle” comments.  Makes me want to form my fingers into a gun and shoot them all in the head.

Mostly, I have to be honest and say it is unfair of me.  Sure, the guy is cocky, but all those stage wins gives a person at least some justification for being cocky.  I tried to be really mad at him for the Tour de Suise crash – but I’m still not sure I objectively think he was actually in the wrong there.  From now on maybe I’ll just salute him on every win the way he saluted folks

This has been a tough start to the Tour for me. First off I spend the first three days without internet access and spotty-at-best cell coverage.  I mean – how in the hell am I supposed to properly enjoy and communicate about the tour without twitter??  Imagine my horror as I look on suffering alone, in isolation, as my pick for the overall win Andy Schleck cradled his arm, looking as if we wouldn’t be able to get back on the bike.  Or waiting on the edge of my seat for a smallest nugget of information out of Phil Liggett regarding the state of Tyler Farrar.  This tour is already started with precious few sprinters to challenge Mark Cavendish.

Then, I get back to the comfort of home, laptop out, Droid phone at my side and remote control in my right hand.  I switched over to channel 966 – that’s Versus HD on my local Comcast.  What did I find?  Ummm – only a 3 minute recap of the highlights where a 2 hour broadcast was advertised.  And about 5 words about Frank Schleck being down – but no details other than a quick video clip of him laying on the ground.  What???

This isn’t the first time that Versus has allowed a total “dumbass” to make programming decisions.

Seriously, folks.  Not showing the programming at the advertised time sucks.  But showing the end of the race at that beginning of the advertised time – thus blowing the excitement of the entire stage before people can wait for the advertised rebroadcast of the stage later that night.  Well, that’s just messed up.

I’ve got to get back to my uber-commute tomorrow anyhow so I won’t have access to the satanic Versus channel anyhow.  Today I’m going in search of internet outlets to fulfill my racing addiction.

According to an article posted at Wall Street Journal online, Floyd Landis has engaged “in hours of interviews with The Wall Street Journal in May.”  This article is apparently a distilled transcript of those interviews with little to no commentary on any other points of view aside from a couple “no comment” or “I deny everything” quotes.  To be fair to the Wall Street Journal, however, those accused in Landis’s statements have been fairly quite on the issue by choice.

I’ve approached this issue with some skepticism since it first broke.  I’ll agree with other statements that have been made that the credibility of Floyd Landis is somewhat in question.  However, I’m neither a Texas flag waving Armstrongian or a Texas flag burning anti-Armstrongian.  While I would find it very disappointing, I concede the possibility that Lance Armstrong may have a couple of bags of blood hanging in his closet next to whatever skeleton may also be there.  It was with this open mindset that I was actually looking forward to reading this article – hoping journalistic impartiality would prevail at the WSJ and I could get some compelling information.

Instead, I got hundreds of words of direct quotes from Floyd Landis, followed by this gem:

One evening during the camp, a handful of team members piled into a black Chevrolet Suburban for a night on the town, with Mr. Armstrong serving as the master of ceremonies.

Mr. Landis had met Mr. Armstrong briefly in the past, but most of what he knew about the world’s most famous cyclist was what he’d read in Mr. Armstrong’s 2000 memoir, “It’s Not About the Bike.” Mr. Landis had devoured the book, in which Mr. Armstrong chronicled his comeback from testicular cancer and portrayed himself as a modest and devoted family man.

Mr. Armstrong took the wheel of the Suburban and roared off through the streets. Stop signs didn’t rate more than a tap of the brake, Mr. Landis said. Some traffic signals were wholly ignored and speed limits went unheeded. In the middle of the trip, Mr. Landis said, another rider asked, jokingly, “Are there no cops in this town?”

The journey ended at the Yellow Rose, a strip club on the north side of town. Don King, the club’s general manager, said Mr. Armstrong and other cyclists on his teams have been coming to the club for about a decade. The riders were ushered into a booth. They ordered drinks and mingled with the dancers.

Later that night, some of the cyclists drove downtown to the offices of the agency that represents Mr. Armstrong. There, the party accelerated, according to Mr. Landis. Four strippers arrived at the offices with two bouncers and began performing a private show for the cyclists and others, he said. Mr. Landis and another young rider who attended, Walker Ferguson, said some people were snorting what appeared to be cocaine.

It is right here that any hope of honest journalism faded.  Notice it is no longer clear in the article that these allegations are the unsubstantiated words of Floyd Landis.  Instead, reporters Rhaveeed Albergotti And Vanessa O’Connell have shifted to present Landis’s claims as fact.  It was at this point my opinion started to shift towards one side of this debate.  Given that parties, strippers and cocaine actually have nothing to do with doping in pro cycling, this started to take on the odor of a smear campaign from a disgruntled Floyd Landis as some have claimed.  And of the Wall Street Journal realizing the sensational nature of those claims and throwing journalistic due diligence out the window in favor of sensational words.  Shameful.

All of this being said, there is definitely a part of me left with a nagging soundtrack of Perl Jam’s song “Jeremy” ringing in my head as I mull all this over.  “Floyd Landis spoke in… class today.

Video posted to Look Cycle TV’s video stream on YouTube shows the new Look 695 – the latest crown jewel in the Look bicycles lineup – in action.  Notes on the video advertise:

695 : technological revolutions that maximize performance.
ZED 2 Crankset: Unequaled stiffness to weight ratio. Unparalleled
performance. The all new LOOK C-Stem and HSC 7 FORK: Unrivalled
stiffness and light weight, adjustability, and precision handling. [sic]

The folks over at CyclingNews.com have some of the technical specs in their article.  You can watch the video for yourself at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pt2NyCmjlU.

There are numerous races both large and small that make up the pro cycling season.  However, none get quite the attention of the three grand tours:  the Tour de France, the Giro de Italia (Tour of Italy) and the Vuelta a España (Tour of Spain).  However, this year I’ll also be doing three of my own grand tours:

* My wife Melissa will be with me on these two rides

Wait.  The Tour de Ross’s Commute?  What the heck is that??

For over three years now, I’ve been commuting an average of 3 days a week between my home in Sacramento, CA and my work in Palo Alto.  It is about 125 miles or so by car.  Of course, I don’t do it by car.  However, after a couple of the “Oh – did you ride here from Sacramento” jokes from coworkers as I rolled my bike into the office, I decided to make it so that I could actually answer “Yes!”

That’s right, I’ll be throwing my faith (and bike, and life) into the hands of Google maps and their new bike route mapping to plot my safe path the 139 miles I’ll be riding.

There are some interesting challenges and points of interest in my route:

I don’t fully know what to expect of this ride yet.  That is part of why I am so excited about it!

I got home from work to find that the entry packets for next month’s Group Health Seattle to Portland Classic (STP) had arrived for my wife and I.  I’d actually been kinda looking forward to this.  However, upon opening one of the two envelopes, I was a little bit overwhelmed by the explosion of materials and promotional items that poured out.

  1. Flier for an additional 10% off of anything (including bikes) at select Pacific Northwest Performance Bicycle shops.  Also worthy of note – the Seattle location near the start line is open 24 hours on the night before the start.  Brilliant thinking on the part of the store management if you ask me.
  2. Ad from Carter Subaru.  Apparently the Subaru Outback is great for carrying mountain bikes.
  3. Flier for STP merchandise.
  4. Sample of Chamois Butt’r.  Cause there is no better time to try out a new chamois cream than on a double century!
  5. Ticket to get my bike transported back to the University of Washington from Portland at the end of the ride.
  6. Parking pass allowing me to leave my car (the Prius mentioned earlier) on the UW campus while I do the ride.
  7. Flier for Marathonfoto.com.  Apparently they will take pictures of me.
  8. Jersey number with 2 attached luggage tags.  They transport bags for you from Seattle to the end, and to the midway point if you are doing the ride over two days as my wife and I are.  My wife got number 4771, I got 4772.  Clearly she is the team leader.
  9. Handle bar numbers.  (Huh?)
  10. Helmet number (a sticker).  (OK, so to end the confusion that I had on the handlebar/helmet numbers, I read the FAQ.)
  11. 4 saftey pins.  Presumably for jersey number.
  12. 3 twisty-ties (you know – those paper-coated metal wires)  Presumably for the handlebar numbers.
  13. One branded rain jacket / wind breaker
  14. Cloth bag.  I’d like to say it is a musette, but the straps aren’t nearly long enough.
  15. Route sheet for the Personal Support Vehicles.  I don’t have one currently.  Maybe I can pick one up from Carter Subaru?
  16. And finally – the ride guide.  All 23 pages of it.

All joking aside, I’ve been very impressed with the organization of this event from the first minute I started checking out the website.  Given over 200 miles of planned route and 10,000 participants, I would hope for nothing less.

Considering the fact that Lance Armstrong has helped to morph Twitter into pro cycling’s apparent news outlet of choice, it seems fitting that he would chose that form to officially confirm that this – the 2010 Tour de France – would be his last.

Note: Armstrong's next tweer read " Doh, sorry, meant 'my' final Tour."

However, somehow I suspect it will not be the last of the biting commentaries on the cycling world as a whole.  Versus channel, I’m looking in your direction:

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