Handicapping Le Tour

A confirmed bike nut such as myself would be thoroughly remiss if he didn’t take the chance to comment on the Tour de France. So, here’s my take on the Grand Boucle:
For the general classification (Yellow Jersey):
Lance Armstrong – amazingly, the “safe bet” for a hors categorie seventh consecutive win. Though he’s had fewer racing days than in any recent year, there’s no sign that his form has suffered. If Le Boss makes it to Paris, he’ll be on the top step of the podium. However, he’s not guaranteed to make it to Paris. I wonder if he’s used up his racing luck over the past six years.
Ivan Basso – revealed vastly improved time trialing skills in this year’s Giro d’Italia but succumbed to a stomach problem that cost him huge amounts of time in the mountains. Assuming he stays healthy and shiny-side up through the first week, he’ll be Lance’s biggest threat.
Jan Ullrich – Lance perpetually identifies Der Kaiser as his closest rival, but he has not shown the requisite ability to attack on steep mountain passes. T-Mobile has made a show of focusing on the GC win, dumping former multiple green jersey winner Erik Zabel from the Tour team. But I simply don’t think the formula will work.
Alexander Vinokourov – Ullrich’s erstwhile lieutenant is more likely to land on the podium than he is, in my estimation. He had a convincing stage win on Mount Ventoux at June’s Dauphin

Soldier Ride 2005

I’m somewhat reluctant to admit that I had to find out about this from the Today Show this morning, since it pushes at least two of my buttons pretty hard, but I’m glad I did turn on the tube this morning. Soldier Ride is a charity ride created to support our brothers and sisters in arms who have been maimed in combat. Right now, a team of amputees from Iraq and Afghanistan are completing a cross-country ride. The Today spot was in Illinois. I got this from the journal on the website:

June 14, 2005 – After about 45 miles Lonny’s prosthetic leg started to irritate his stump. Rather than quit and ride in the RV, he took it off and rode the rest of the day on one leg. Enough said.

Indeed. I don’t expect you to donate to these guys simply because I did, but I do think it’s worth pointing out that there are still gaps in the support system for our troops. The VA and active-duty military medical systems are far better than they were during the Vietnam era but they are struggling to keep up with the stream of amputees who need months or years of rehab at Walter Reed or other specialized facilities, usually far removed from home. This imposes a tremendous financial and emotional burden on what is usually a young, struggling family. Soldier Ride and the Wounded Warrior Project stand in that gap.

Cyclonauts Road Race, Monson, MA, 6/18/2005

Amateur road races, at least here in New England, are relatively rare compared to their criterium or circuit race counterparts. While there are no hard and fast rules, criteriums usually cover many loops of a short course, 1.5 miles or shorter. Circuit races have a longer loop, say up to 10 miles or so, and the number of laps drops appropriately. Road races involve either One Big Loop or perhaps a large loop followed by a finising loop.
Given my current (low) level of training and commitment to racing, I like road races quite a bit more than crits or circuit races. Road races place much less emphasis on cornering skill, generally have a much steadier pace, and offer a much lower chance of getting lapped and pulled. For these reasons I looked forward to the Cyclonauts race, hoping to redeem myself a little bit after my last outing.

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Kill your telephone

Tonight I tried Skype for the first time, and I’m impressed. It has excellent voice quality, using full-spectrum sound as opposed to the ~2.5KHz band of a normal telephone. We had a few drops but not any worse than my cell phone. If you can get used to talking to your computer instead of a phone handset, this can replace the phone for a lot of situations. Oh, and it’s free. As far as I can tell, though, Skype does not encrypt the voice channels so I wouldn’t use it for sensitive communications.

Wachusett Circuit Race, 5/28/2005

May 2005 was one of the rainiest Mays on record in Boston. We had a grand total of six sunny days, and we got rain on a few of those. Most of the weekends were gray, rainy and cold – fine for March, but really disappointing for May. So, when the forecast promised a sunny morning for the Wachusett Circuit Race in Gardner last weekend, I knew the field would be ready to rock. I signed up with two clubmates for the combined Cat 4/5 field, scheduled for 10 laps of the 3.4-mile circuit. Because the fields were combined I knew I’d probably be in over my head, but I have few illusions about my ability to win. After everything I’ve put my body through in the last decade or so, the miracle is not that I race well, it’s that I can roll to the start at all.

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