are sometimes smooth and silky, and other times tired and tight.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Opening Day


Much to my surprise the sun is out, and it’s a reasonably warm day for late February. In fact, it's so good that I decide to wash off the grit and grime that’s accumulated on my bike these past few months. After all today is race day. My first of the year. I'm a little nervous, mostly because work, travel, bad weather, overindulgence, and my own indifference have left their mark. It has been a long four and a half months since the last time I pinned on a number.

On my way to the race, I see throngs of people wandering along the bike path, making their way to the local exhibition hall. Most of them are young women, and I find myself wondering what the event is. I pass a sign with the text “Nine Month Fair,” with a silhouette of a pregnant woman. Ah hah. I think of the extra weight I’ve picked up, and wonder if it’s an omen.

While it’s been months since I found myself riding this particular route, it comes back to me automatically. I could almost do it with my eyes closed. Almost. There’s been some road works since, and I have to take a few detours. This makes me edgy. I’ve become so superstitious about the rituals of my pre race ride: riding on the road, as opposed to the bike path by the Olympic Stadium; not having to wait for the drawbridge by the lock; and stopping to relieve myself by the highway. I realize that this is borderline neurotic. Regardless, I indulge the behavior. It keeps me calm, and today, that’s what I want to be.

I arrive at the clubhouse, and see one of the local baby faced assassins. He's sitting at a table, and on the other side is the Flying Doctor. Last year I found myself in several break aways with both of them. There’s no danger of that happening today, not with my form, or lack there of.

I go to get my number. There have been a few changes since last year, the biggest one being the introduction of a timing chip. Forms need to be filled, signatures signed, etc, etc, etc. This is all in Dutch, and I’ve let my Dutch slip, which slows everything down. Things aren’t helped all that much by the fact that I can hardly understand a thing that the gentleman behind the desk is saying, nor he me. By the time I’m done, the line behind starts to snake out of the door. Good thing I got here early.

I look around to see if a friend, whom I know was coming, is there. Nope. Not such a big surprise, seeing as he’s constantly late, usually the last to line up before the start. I sit myself down at my favorite table, and pin on my number. I look around and see more familiar faces, as I nurse a cup of coffee. It’s busy, but not as bad as I expected. Probably for the best, what with the timer chip slowdown. The room suddenly fills up, racers who've just finished the earlier event. I spot van der Moser amongst them, and wonder how he did.

There’s not much time left, and I'm getting cold, so I ride a short lap to warm up. It’s not really necessary, but it gives me the chance to ride off whatever remaining nerves I have. The roads are damp, but apart from a few puddles, it looks OK. I won’t get too filthy, which is a bonus. I make my way around, spinning lightly. I stop around the 200 meters to go mark, to finish off the last of my pre race rituals, before rolling up to the line.

It's five minutes past the hour, and things are running late. Must be the chips. From the start house we're welcomed back, and given a brief explanation about the benefits of the new technology. The volume of the PA waxes and wanes, making it as incomprehensible as my Dutch was 30 minutes earlier, when I was signing in. Across a field of lycra, over a fence, I see my friend coming out of the clubhouse, putting on his helmet, and swinging a leg over his bike.

Late as always.

And we’re off…


Apparently every 15 seconds of fame counts

Image Hosted by
graham watson.

“I was very impressed with the event,” Armstrong said. “Everyone enjoys the race. The crowds were simply amazing. It was a tough final day, a great race, and it was good to be back in it. Hats off to the organizers, the state and the people for coming out. I’m excited to be back, but I don’t know if I’ll be back in 2010.

Image Hosted by
graham watson.

“The crowds were nothing short of amazing,” Rogers said. “They make the race more enjoyable for the riders, and make us race harder. And I’m stoked to finish third because the caliber of the field is like the Tour de France.

Image Hosted by
graham watson.

“It felt like the Alps in July,” Leipheimer said, “not California in February.

Image Hosted by
graham watson.

“The crowds were tripping over each other at the top." Zabriskie said. "I don’t think they knew what they were doing like they do in the Tour de France, so I was trying to be careful not to hit them"

I can understand enthusiasm. I can understand that the Tour of California is, well... in California. But seriously... what was it with the fans?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Russian Echelon

Image Hosted by
photo courtesy of harm from

Monday, February 16, 2009

Found: Lance Armstrong's stolen Time Trial Bike!

Image Hosted by

Shake, rattle, and roll

I've never been a fan of appropriated graffiti aesthetics, especially on bikes. Maybe that's because I started riding in Manhattan, during of the Koch era, when graffiti was still everywhere, including my bike. It could also be due to the fact that I currently live in a city where a can of spray paint is the go to solution when you want to disguise a stolen bike.

It doesn't help when some boutique bike makers misread artists like Jean Michel Basquiat, to rationalize their concept behind a horrific paint job. While they see it as edgy, all I think of is middle class suburban kids, spraying Anarchy A's on brand new leather jackets, or cutting holes into their brand new jeans, in a futile attempt to mimic something they saw in a magazine, or MTV. At least that's what I did when I was in High School.

Image Hosted by

These days that kind of DIY rebellion is passe. Why do it yourself, when you can buy it at the mall? Companies like Rock & Republic have made their fortune selling pre packaged disent to the masses, so it didn't come as a surprise to see that, along with their grafitti and stencil aesthetic racing kit, they've got grafitti paint jobs on their bikes. What did surprise me is that this wasn't some high end paint job like last year. With their financial issues, I guess that's to be expected.

Now, I can understand the desire to cover up the fact that they're riding a bike that can be picked up on the internet for less than the price of most other pro team's wheels. What I can't understand, after seeing some shots of the Rock Racing work area in VeloNews, was why they couldn't have done something to cover up their attempts to customize.

At this rate I won't be too surprised to see Hamilton, Peña, Mancebo, and Guiterrez showing up to the Solvang time trial on spray-painted bikes that look suspiciously like Treks.

Image Hosted by

Image Hosted by

Does Michael Ball stand next to his Escalade, shouting "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain," as a can of Rust-Oleum spreads the message?

Monday, February 9, 2009

On the Road

Image Hosted by