Tour de Jank, Stage 9* – Burma Road Hill Repeats

The Ride

The * for today represents me kind of giving up. I’m still owing a cobbled stage for stage 3, and I missed yesterday – bad day at work, and just kind of unmotivated when I got home.

Today, though, I’m energized again – good talk with my supervisor, better talk with his boss, and some clarification of what the heck I’m supposed to be doing that’s largely in line with what I want to be doing. So a setback’s not always a setback, often it’s just a re-direction.

The ride today – Finally got out of the office and onto the roads for a lunchtime set of hill repeats. North on Burma Road, four times up the (very meager) hill at the north end of Burma, each time in an smaller cog starting from granny gear, and back down Burma at about 85% of sustainable effort. Legs felt great, I finished all 4 hill repeats, and I had a negative split on the ride back with an average speed over 20. It’s relatively flat on Burma, and I’m pretty sure there’s no elevation change, but I’ll check that when I pull the ride off of my Garmin tonight.

The Race

“Bastille Day, when 800 rebels stormed a guard of 100, lost 98 men, and freed just 7 prisoners, inspires French tactics to this day.” – @cyclocosm

It’s that time of year, again, where we look outside our borders to the second greatest event in sport, the Tour de France. 21~ish days of French countryside, podium girls, and skinny guys in tights with a tolerance for pain beyond anything an offensive lineman could ever comprehend.

This year’s race is already a classic – Lance Armstrong’s packed at least 8 years of bad luck into his last tour, we’ve seen one of the favorites from Luxembourg taken out by cobblestone roads in northern France that pre-date Napoleon, and the God of Thunder duke it out with a Manx man for the title of fastest man alive.

As the race enters its middle week, it’s just come out of the Alps and will be streaking across the middle of France towards the Pyrenees, where, in the 100th anniversary of the race’s first visit to these mountains, a Spaniard riding for a Kazakh team will try to stay ahead of a small guy from a small country.

And 10 days from now, the race will end with champagne on the Champs d’Elysees.

Next year? I think I’m buying a projector and stringing up a sheet between the trees in my backyard – watch the whole thing with a cold beer sitting in the backyard.

Tour de Jank, Stage 7 – Newport

The Ride

There’s a couple of rides around here that are completely epic, and of which I don’t think I’ll ever get tired. Today’s stage was one of them – the loop around southwest Aquidneck Island, specifically Ocean Drive. Sure, there’s some traffic downtown, but in general, it’s awesome.

Headed out with Tracy, who’s in crazy good shape. Part of the highlight for me is riding through downtown Newport – there’s enough traffic that it’s going slower than you can go on a bike, and it’s a trip to dodge traffic. Once you’re past downtown, Ocean Drive weaves along the Atlantic, and takes you into Bellview Drive and the legendary mansions.

The last bit of the ride is out Burma Road – undeveloped property that the Navy’s been hoarding for a while.

This is why I love cycling.

The Race

First day in the mountains, and, as expected, not much shakeup.

Tour de Jank Stage 6, Jamestown Island

The Ride

Lovely, lovely ride Friday Evening – about 23 MPH around Jamestown Island, 16.9 MPH. The ride’s feeling good – the spin is coming back, and I’m digging on it.

Tonight was almost perfect, ‘cept for locking my keys in the car at the end of the ride, and needing to get Missy to come bail me out. But, sitting and watching the day fade into twilight was perfect.

The Race

CAV! Man, another bunch sprint. Beautiful.

Tour de Jank 2010, Stage 5 – Lame to Lamer

The Ride –

I must confess, sports fans, I almost blew it on Thursday. Good, good stuff at work, but I let it get in the way of lunchtime hill repeats.

Then, since number one son is headed off for the first time to sleepaway camp (Way up north in Connecticut, nearby April Anne) this weekend, and since I’m keeping the nation slightly safer for democracy this weekend, we headed down to Costello’s for some fried clammy goodness and family bonding before he goes away for weeks at a time. I’m including pictures taken from our seats that I took while we ate. Did I mention it’s BYOB?

Oh, right – the ride… Yeah, so today’s ride was exceptionally lame – I pulled out the trainer once we got home and got the kids in bed. Did about 45 minutes in front of the TeeVee listening to Bob Roll and Craig Gummer yammering on. But – I got ‘er dun.

The Race

I love the variety in cycling. The beauty of the mountains counterpointed by the terrible suffering going on in the faces of the climbers. The sea of colors as the peleton crosses fields in bloom.

But what hooked me was watching bunch sprints. During Armstrong’s first couple of tours, Mario Cipollini duked it out with Eric Zabel, Tom Steels, Stuart O’Grady. Absolutely nothing like watching 40 guys charging down a straight at 35 or 40 miles per hour, Paul Sherwin and Phil Liggett shouting from the television, horns and fans clapping. Takes you straight back to the first time you rode your bike with a friend in the neighborhood – who’s fastest to the next driveway?

Today lived up to that – huge bunch sprint, with the “Manx Missile”, Mark Cavendish from the Isle of Man, running away from everyone.

Tour de Jank, Stage 4* – River Road and Neighborhood Crit

The Ride

The ride was a short one for Stage 4 – just 9.5 miles needed. I headed down to River Road in the rapidly fading twilight, rode it into town, turned around, and rode back. Once I got to the Neighborhood, I did two laps of the place at roughly a mile each to bring the total up to 11 miles. Such an overachiever.

The Race

Man, lots to talk about in the Tour. First, there was the disaster that was Stage 2 – who freaking cancels 20 km of racing due to rain? Though, to be fair, there was a huge amount of carnage in the peleton – VdV out, everyone down. But the interview with Thor Hushvold after he got his stage win stolen from him…

Stage 3 was no less gripping – Thor coming back from insult in stage 3 to take the stage on the cobbles; the remaining Schleck stunning the world by riding well, Lance Armstrong losing time and giving yet another classic sound bite (“Riding between cars and trying to pass, eating dirt – literally!”)

And Stage 4 was visually stunning – through fields of sunflowers, and ending with a full-on bunch sprint without major carnage.

Man, what a race

*I’m dink on Stage 3 – busy at work getting back on Tuesday, plus I’m looking for a suitable set of cobbles to ride. And, speaking of “busy at work” – Dave has a wonderful post about what a load of BS that is.

Tour de Jank Stage 2 – Old Mystic-Noank-Mystic-Old Mystic

The Ride

Since the TDF stage 1 included a couple of bumps, I rolled up route 184 to Flanders Road, and headed down to Noank. Man, this is one of my favorite roads around – it’s a pretty good climb up to the top of Flanders hill, and then nothing but flying down to Noank, all while looking out over Fisher’s Island Sound.

I think this whole idea might work – I’m absolutely loving riding the bike again. I’m going to try to squeeze in a run this evening – love running in the hot.

The Race

Stage 1 didn’t dissapoint at all. I cannot get enough of watching the run-in to the finish. Favorite moment of the day was watching Cavendish shrug and wave at the camera after his crash. Dunno if it’s just me, but it seems like the peleton has been getting into a better mood between last year and this year. The optimist in me wants to think that this is a result of a cleaner pack – less cases of road rage.

I’m digging Bob Roll’s rider interviews – here’s yesterday’s with Tyler Farrar, who’s going to be one to watch in the next few years

Today’s stage, Stage 2, doesn’t look to have much potential to shake stuff up. Bunch of climbs, but nothing terrible that can really shake up the general classification

Tour de Jank 2010 – Stage 1, Old Mystic-Quanaduck Cove-Old Mystic

OK, so the premise behind the Tour de Jank is that, as the Tour de France is going on across the pond, I’m going to do a tenth of the tour distance every day, ‘cept in and around New England. Ideally, I’ll get back into posting pictures, but who knows. My guess is that this lasts all of one or two days.

I’ll probably be a day behind talking about the actual race, as I tend to catch the coverage in the evenings after the kiddos are in bed.

Stage 1 – Old Mystic-Quanaduck Cove-Old Mystic

Stage 1 was a sprinter’s stage, relatively flat run along Route 27 to Route 1 out to Quanaduck Cove in Stonington, and returning along roughly the same route, ‘cept coming up the Groton side of the Mystic River after a delay for the drawbridge. Legs felt good, bike was a little squeaky. Pretty good average speed – above 16 MPH for the whole ride.

TDF Prologue / Stage 1

First, a couple of suggestions on following the Tour.

In the US, Versus (the bull-riding and hockey channel who I may never forgive for pre-empting the finish of one of their Tour of California stages for a hockey pre-game (PRE GAME!) show) owns the coverage. Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwin, Bob Roll, and an increasingly competent Craig Gummer do the commentary. They’ve put a bit of a paywall in front of much of their internet coverage, but it’s not too shabby. I may try their iPhone app once my phone arrives.

My current favorite semi-pro cycling commentary comes from Cosmo Catalano at Cyclocosm (shout out to the Nutmeg State!). His twitter feed (@Cyclocosm) is phenomenal. Here’s an example of Cosmo’s work.

The Luckiest Man in the Peloton from Cosmo Catalano on Vimeo.

For the best of scrounged video, check out Cyclingfans. Their twitter feed is pretty good, too.

The prologue was good. Usually, I hate the time trial stages – just sitting around watching guys suffer without any strategy other than “Ride. Ride fast.” (Courtesy of Missy)

I’d also recommend following @LeviLeipheimer and @dzabriskie – Leiphimer because he’s freaking amazing, and Zabriskie because he’s pure gonzo cycling.

But the prologue was an exception. Maybe because it was only 10 minutes of effort per rider, or maybe because Lance FREAKING Armstrong came in 4th, finishing in front of Alberto Contador. I’m pulling for Armstrong, partly because I’m an ignorant American, and partially because I refuse to acknowledge that 38 is over the hill. (And, ’cause I’ve picked up a similar amount of grey hair in the last year).

What to Watch For

I’ll admit I’m a bit behind in pre-read for this year’s tour, because life has been a little hectic (in a good way). But, as opposed to most years, it’s good to get in front of this year’s Tour. Tomorrow and Tuesday are going to hit a good chunk of the roads in Belgium and northern France that are ridden in the Spring Classic races, and should end up shaking up the General Classification (The thing that Armstrong’s won 7 times) much earlier than most years.

The spring classics are huge one-day races held in March and April, nasty weather months in Northern Europe. Think rain and cobblestones. They’re also wicked long – Paris-Roubaix is close to 200 miles, with about 20 miles of cobblestones through places you heard about in World War 1 histories.

The race favorites are going to be trying to stay ahead of the pack, as with close to 200 riders going 25 MPH on cobblestones, it’s likely that there are going to be some major crashes. It’s also likely that some of the wafer-thin climbers are going to be sorted out, as having a little bit of butt helps out on bumpy roads.

I did catch today’s sprint finish, complete with massive crashes in the run-up to the sprint, one apparently caused by a wayward dog. Good on Allesandro Pettachi, who’s been out for a couple of years after a nasty, nasty crash. Good start to the tour.