Friday, July 30, 2010

You'd Be Surprised What You Can Live Through

With the Tennessee State Time Trial coming up this weekend, it is time for some more of my interview with Max Watzz's coach, the nefarious Angus MacKillimiquads.

RB: One of the reasons that Max started racing was because a number of people had said that he might be good at time-trials.

AM: Aye, that's another way of saying that yer squirrelly in a pack an' nobody wants to race with ye' 'ere you'll crash into 'em.

RB: (laughs) That's pretty funny.

AM: No. It's not.

RB: Ahem. Uh, yeah. Sorry. But, as I was saying, Max has been doing pretty well at the time trial this year. He's actually on top of the the points standing in Tennessee.

AM: Oh, really. Well, whoop-de-freakin' doo. How many of 'em has the idiot won, though, eh? I'll tell ye: None! If y'er fast, then ye win. He did nae win any of his time trials, and so he's nae fast.

RB: But he was second in one race and third in another ...

AM: As my sainted father, Lord rest his soul, used to say, "Ye don't win Silver ... ye lose Gold. An' if you lose Gold, you'll sleep an' eat with th' pigs, ye' little losin' bastard." A couple of years lyin' in mud an' fightin' with a 20-stone sow over slops will make a man out of ye', I kin promise ye' that!

RB: But Max is winning the points competition ...

AM: Ah, points be damned! That joost means that he's been to more races. Th' time trial is th' race of truth, ye fool. That means that th' man who wins a time trial is joost flat-out th' fastest man that was out there on th' course, on that day. There's no team-mate helpin' ye' out, no sittin' in to sprint at th' finish line ... it's joost you on yer bike against the fookin' clock. Ye' either win it 'er you lose it. Period.

RB: I get what your saying, but since Max has done well with two races then he's built up points ...

AM: If ye' say "points" again, I'll knock ye' in the head with one of me canes.

Uncomfortable silence

RB: Well, then. Moving on. How do you coach Max on a time trial?

AM: I've 'ad 'im doin' roughly the distance that he's been havin' to race for a couple of weeks before the race. Th' McMinnville race was about a three-mile climb, an' we figured that 12 minutes would win, so he was doin' 15-minute intervals. Memphis was 10 minutes on a flat course, an' Avery Trace was nine miles with some wee hills, so we focused on 20-25 minute efforts.

Th' state time trial this weekend, however, is 40 kilometers -- just under 25 miles for you Yanks. An hour should win it, but the little woos has nae done the test course yet in less than 1:05. I've 'ad 'im puttin' in max efforts for 1:10, so he should have a wee touch left in the tank at the end.

RB: Maximum efforts for over an hour sounds difficult. How do you gauge what a "maximum effort" is? By watts or heart rate?

AM: Watts are decent, but heart rate just shows what a woos ye' are. I go by puke.

RB: Excuse me? Did you say, "puke?"

AM: Aye. Puke. Vomit. Up-chuck. Regurgitation, for ye' nancy boys. Ye' know that yer working hard enough when ye' feel like yer goin' to toss yer cookies all over yer front wheel. Now, you do nae want to actually puke on th' front wheel, mind ye'. It's almost certain to interrupt yer pedallin' rhythm, it depletes yer energy stores, an' ye' get a face full of vomit when the wheel slews it back at ye'.

RB: I see.

AM: No, laddie, ye' won't. Trust me, vomit will smear yer glasses worse than mud. So, ye' have to stay right on th' edge of pukin' ... but don't puke. At least not until th' race is over. Ye' know you've really done yer best on a time trial when ye' can nae stop pedallin' when ye' cross the line, an' yer legs just kind of keep goin' round as ye crash into a tree or a spectator -- it's always fun to hit one of those poof photographers. When ye' finally taco th' front wheel and stop movin', ye' lay there twitchin' as all of yer muscles seize up in a total body cramp, an' ye' heave everythin' back to last week's Sunday dinner out on to th' pavement.

Aye ... that's a great feelin'. Ye' know then that you've really done yer best, an' if some other bastard manages to beat yer time then, you do nae mind it quite so much.

RB: Yeah, I get your point -- ow!

AM: Diddin' I warn ye' about that word?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ten Ways This Year's Tour de France Could Have Been Better

  1. Following Stage 17, Alberto Contador gives Andy Schleck a little "love slap." Schleck responds with a right cross that shatters Contador's jaw. "It was my Luxembourg Army training," Andy says afterwards. "We are known for our killer instinct."

    Officials do not penalize either rider for the incident. "It was tit for tat, as they say," comments Bernard Hinault. "Like punching out a protester blocking the road or throwing somebody off the stage."

    Contador, with his jaws wired shut, can only breath through his nose for the final three stages. Fortunately, by wearing a custom-made Breathe Rite strip, he is able to expand his nostrils sufficient to supply his lungs during the Stage 19 time trial, and still manages to win the Tour. Unfortunately, the sound of the wind howling over his freak-show-huge stretched nostrils permanently impair his hearing, and he never races again.

    In true champion fashion, however, Contador launches a foundation dedicated to bringing awareness to the hearing impaired -- ListenStrong. Unlike some people for whom Contador "never had any respect," he does not later return to racing, but focuses on his philanthropic activities, thus changing the lives of millions.

  2. Fabian Cancellera does exactly what he did every freaking day of the Tour. You cannot improve on perfection.

  3. Lance Armstrong puts Ruffy Tuffy clinchers on his bike for Stage 3. Not only does he not flat, he finds a Zen kind of peace and comfort on the ride, and uses them for the rest of the Tour. Afterwards, he takes up touring on a Surly Long-Haul Trucker, criss-crossing the country like Forrest Gump for seven years. Then he goes home.

  4. The spectators who insist on waving crap in the faces of the riders, splashing them with fluids of dubious sanitation, and running naked up the Tourmalet, come to the realization that they are idiots, and stop doing this. "I just saw myself on TV and realized what a tool I was," says one of the spectators. "When it stops being about the sporting event and starts being all about you ... well, then you're just being a jerk."

  5. Mark Cavendish, benefiting from his new-found humility after Stage 5, leads Mark Renshaw out to win the sprint on Stage 11. "I thought it was time for a little payback, after all he's done for me," the Manx Missile explained. "Besides, he's been acting really cranky on the team bus lately. If we didn't shake things up for him, he could develop some anger management issues."

  6. Frank Schleck does not crash, and is thus able to help Andy up the Tourmalet. Contador still hangs in, slaps Andy, yadda-yadda, but Frank is there to keep Daniel Navarro from wading in.

  7. Tyler Farrar does not crash, and finally manages to win a stage. The fact that there is a minor pile-up including Cavendish, Thor Hushovd, and Alessandro Petacchi 200 meters from the line does not detract from his joy on the podium. He cashes in on his new-found fame by launching a line of Tyler Farrar hair product.

  8. Christian Vande Velde does not crash, and manages to finish eighth overall. Since this is the same as he finished last year, America responds with a resounding "Meh." Sales of Garmin Edge 305 bicycle computers increase, primarily due to the fact that cycling Freds world-wide love numbers that they can spin in ways to make their performance appear to improve year-over-year. Garmin's marketing department claims the increased sales are a direct result of the team's sponsorship. Garmin renews the team's contract, thus ensuring another three years of eighth-place GC finishes.

  9. Craig Hummer is replaced by Holly from VeloCenter. Although slightly less knowledgeable about professional cycling than Craig (surprising many, who thought that such a level of comprehension not possible for a "sentient" being), she is obviously more decorative. Phil Liggett's hormones, long assumed by many to have dried up and blown away in the South African desert, wreak such havoc on his mental processes that he only refers to Damiano Cunego as "The Little Prince" 50 times during Stage 9.

  10. Johan Bruyneel changes tactics two days into the race, focusing the team's work around getting Chris Horner into the yellow jersey. "Hey, I'm too old for this crap anyway," says Lance Armstrong. Levi Leipheimer adds, "Yeah, and I probably should never have moved up from a Cat 2." Horner finishes the race in third place, and then announces his retirement. "I'm the Radio Shack guy that's smart enough to go out on top," he says in the press conference announcing his new position as the President of the Hair Club for Men.

Monday, July 26, 2010

RandoGirl Discovers Her Own Inner Max Watzz

Usually, when you loyal readers hear something about RandoGirl, she’s on the back of the tandem. This past weekend, she was on her single bike … and she was racing.

Here she is coming across the finish line Saturday, where she took second place in a 5K time trial.


And then here she is again, coming across the finish line Sunday, taking second place in a 20K road race.


The event was the Tennessee Senior Olympics, which is really a misnomer because RandoGirl is not a senior. I mean, she qualifies to race in this event because of her chronological age (eligibility for the Senior Olympics starts at age 50), but she’s still a young girl at heart, barely old enough to drink. She still can’t tell her father that I took her dancing, as he would then have to shun her.

Anyway, here’s how RandoGirl came to start racing. Back during the winter, RandoGirl’s coach (not Angus MacKillimiquads, but a nice lady named Tracey Drews who works for Carmichael Training Systems) decided that RandoGirl needed a new challenge. She’d done Six Gaps a couple of times, a couple of 200K's and all of the other local centuries, and the next logical step was a race. So Tracey got RandoGirl to sign up for the two cycling events in the Tennessee Senior Olympics, and she’s been training up for them over the course of the past few months.

She even got a new bike for this, although I’m not going to tell you about it. If she wants you to know about it, I told her to write a guest blog. It’s “in the works.” Trust me, though: Her new bike is sweet!

Anyway, RandoGirl trained, and practiced time-trialing, and went out and rode the course a few times. She got the flu about two weeks ago, has been suffering with a head cold and a cough since.  She didn’t think that she would do well in the race, but decided to go ahead and give it her best shot. And it turned out that her best shot was pretty darned good, since she missed first in the time trial by four seconds, missed first in the road race by 10 seconds and could have won the road race if she hadn’t started her sprint way too early.


Speaking of sprinting and the road race, it was won overall by Lonnie Puterbaugh, who is also a member of the Harpeth Bicycle Club and a friend of ours. Here’s Carol and Lonnie after the road race, with their shiny medals.  They have both qualified to ride any or all of the 5K/10K time trials and 20K/40K road races at the National Senior Olympics next year in Houston, TX.


Now, you might be thinking, “Senior Olympics? Like, a bunch of old farts trying to pretend they are Lance Armstrong?” No, it’s a bunch of seasoned athletes trying to pretend they are Alberto Contador, instead of some old fart like Lance.

Just kidding, Lance. You know I love you.

Anyway, I kind of had the same thought when RandoGirl told me about this. And then we go to the time trial staging area Saturday and I see there’s a whole bunch of guys who look pretty darned fit, riding some top-of-the-line gear.


A lot of the guys there are also the same guys that I see at TBRA (Tennessee Bicycle Racing Association) races, including Tom Gee. I’ve done brevets with Tom, and he usually finishes way before everybody else … certainly before I do.

Then, as they’re racing, I see the times that they are turning in over a kind of hilly 3.1-mile course. For example, the guy who won the division that I would have been in was under 7:30, which comes to about 25 miles per hour. Not too shabby.


We also saw Walter Thompson at the race, whom you may remember from riding, eating, and drinking with us in Florida. (Not that RandoGirl drank, mind you; she’s still under-age, remember?)

Another thing about the Senior Olympians: They’re smart. Here’s one of them warming up on a trainer, in the back of the truck. I thought this was pretty darned ingenious.


These ladies and gentlemen also gave me hope. They showed me that, just maybe, RandoGirl and I can be lucky enough to stay healthy and still do what we love doing into our golden years.


The two guys above are Bill and William Proffitt – father and son – both of them Senior Olympians. Dad won gold in the 85-89 division, while the son took silver in his division. I would love it if, 35 years from now, RandoGirl, the RandoDaughter, and I were all able to compete together in something like this.

You’re as young as you feel, and everybody feels young on a bicycle.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Doing the Magellan Thing

When I find something really incredible, the second thing that goes through my mind is, "So-and-so will really enjoy this." (The first thing is, "How can I do this again?")

Usually "so-and-so" is RandoGirl, which is probably why I go touring with her and drag her out to some of my favorite spots on the road. I spend a lot of my rides seeing things that I know she would also enjoy, and then I forget to tell her about them.

Other "so-and-so's" are randonneuring friends, or friends in my bike club, or you -- the loyal reader. I have been known to write blogs in my head; they're funnier than these pale imitations that you get to read.

Anyway, this need to share is why one of my favorite things to do is to design bicycle routes. Whether it's a Saturday spin, a permanent, the club century, a new 400K, or just somebody's route in to work, I am always willing to get out the maps and build someone a cue sheet. I take it as something of a challenge really -- hobbling together quiet streets and quaint country stores, and then getting everybody past a busy intersection by slipping through the back door. It's like drawing the solution to a maze populated by minotaurs driving loud red pickup trucks.

I've had a couple of routes percolating in the back of my mind for the past few months, and Saturday was finally my chance to get out with a couple of friends and work one of those routes out. Right now, we're calling it the Choctaw 200K. I may rename it the "Little Asses and Wild Turkey" route, after the most common variant of wildlife that we encountered.

2010 07 17_0001_edited-1

One of the goals when I designed this ride was to have it start and end near good food, so the first control is the Starbuck's in downtown Franklin. It was about 6 am when Jeff Bauer and I got there -- three other cyclists were sitting around outside. Obviously, this was a good place to start a ride.

Vida and Lynn Greer rode with us. Although Lynn had to get to the shop (Gran Fondo), he hung with us down to Bethesda, and so got to enjoy the first two climbs on the route -- Arno Road and Pull Tight Hill.

2010 07 17_0009_edited-1

Soon, we were rolling over Choctaw Road (for which the route may be named), Giles Hill, Flat Creek, and down Reynolds. This is when we hit the "exploring" part of the route, working from Google maps and route sheets from other area rides. We stumbled upon a county line, and I was able to win the sprint for it. Mostly, the roads were flat, with decent surfaces and barely any traffic.

We got on Lewisburg Pike then, heading more directly south. This was one of the roads that had me worried, but we were far enough from towns that the few cars there were had no trouble passing us.

A mile or two down, we came upon one of the spots that I had noted on my map and wanted to check out -- Marcy Jo's Bakery. The parking lot was full of motorcyclists, including our friend Kevin Bullock. We decided to stop and get a second breakfast.

2010 07 17_0010_edited-1

This place was definitely worth it, and should almost be a control. I have since added it to the cue sheet as an optional stop, and Vida wants to use this destination the next time she runs a Saturday ride for the bike club.

Our furnaces stoked, we continued south on Lewisburg Pike, crossing a couple of county lines. Vida and Jeff were ready this time, and they each took one.

Eventually, we returned to quieter roads to begin working our way west. As is often the case with quieter roads, the surface was often less than optimal.

2010 07 17_0012_edited-1

We were all riding along together when we came to this spot, where the road itself had apparently flooded a long, long time ago. The area to the left of the road was exposed rock -- ridable, but you needed to be careful. Vida says the Rapha guys call this "Vitamin G" (for Gravel).

While I took a picture and Vida posed, Jeff realized the reason that this road was in such awful shape: It was at the edge of the county. If you haven't ridden in the South much, this is common -- the "it ain't my jurisdiction" issue often affects roads, bridges, fields, and culverts. Jeff pulled a Contador and stole the county-line sprint while Vida and I were attempting to chronicle our adventure. This temporarily put him into the maillot meh of brevet leader.

A little further, and we encountered another tricky portion of our maze.

2010 07 17_0015_edited-1

Here we have Vaughn Road, New Vaughn Road, and Vaughn Road. We tried New Vaughn first, but it didn't seem right. According to the GPS, we were supposed to take Vaughn Road, so we turned right.


As you can see from the above downloaded track and the GPS maps, we should have been able to get to that intersection and continue. According to the map, this was the right way.

2010 07 17_0016_edited-1

According to reality, the road was closed at the creek. I am so glad that I regularly pay another $100 to Garmin for updated maps for my GPS. See how handy they are?

2010 07 17_0018_edited-1

Jeff was going to jump it, but forgot his parachute.

Fortunately, this was an exploratory trip -- we were supposed to discover things like this, right? So, we retraced our route, went down New Vaughn to where it ended on Hwy 50, and continued west on that. It was not as picturesque as the route that I had planned, but it got us to the control without jumping a creek.

2010 07 17_0020_edited-1

The Glendale Market was selling ice, as well as donkeys. We bought a bag and filled everything up, since the sun had now come out and it was officially becoming Hot. We then headed westward over a series of gently rolling hills, through fields of corn and cattle, with brief shady periods in calm cool forests. By the time we reached the Mt. Pleasant control, we were pretty hungry.

2010 07 17_0023_edited-1

This restaurant was a little too nice for sweaty, stinky bicyclists, but we were not impressed with the McDonald's and other little spots in town. Inside, the lunch counter was cool, comfortable, and quick. Jeff and I each had a malted, while Vida got an ice cream cone.

2010 07 17_0024_edited-1

From here we had one last "unknown" road, taking TN-166 to Hampshire. It had a couple of longer climbs than I had anticipated, but was generally pretty good.

Once on US-412 in Hampshire, we picked up one of my old club routes. We climbed up to Ridgetop, going past one of my favorite bed and breakfasts and a good winery, before zipping down Cathey's Creek Road. There, we came upon a huge turtle lying in the road. We couldn't determine if he was supposed to be so flat, but we could tell that he was not dead. Vida picked him up and flipped him into the weeds, where he at least stood a chance of recovering.

2010 07 17_0025_edited-1

You cannot go on a ride with Vida without her rescuing something.

2010 07 17_0026_edited-1

I really enjoyed this part of the route, since Jeff and Vida had never been in this area. Cathey's Creek is always beautiful, followed by long climbs and tough rollers on Love Branch, Kettle Mills, and Greenfield Bend Road.

2010 07 17_0027_edited-1

This is the ridge on which Greenfield Bend runs, looking down towards Williamsport.

2010 07 17_0029_edited-1

We stopped again at the Williamsport store, and then continued north on Snow Creek Road and Leiper's Creek to Water Valley. Vida took the pace up there, saying she was "smelling the barn," and pulled us along at about 24 mph. We slowed down a bit past Fly, and then she started again as we climbed the hill before Boston Community. I sensed that she was trying to steal the town-line sprint there, and so I hung on and swooped past her over the top. Since I outweigh Vida by 70 pounds (counting my bike ... or maybe even if you don't), it was easy for me to take that last sprint on the downhill.

With 110 miles down, Vida turned off north for home while Jeff and I climbed Bear Creek, working our way back to Franklin. There, we were finally able to indulge ourselves with another of the advantages of starting a ride from a good-sized town.

2010 07 17_0032_edited-1

Maybe I should call this "One Sweet Ride."

Monday, July 19, 2010

Now We Have an Answer …

RandoDaughter votes “not” because Contador’s voice sounds like Senor Wences.

RandoGirl says it’s because Contador has no class.

I live with some really smart women.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Why Not Contador?

WARNING: If you've been recording the Tour de France stages to watch later, get out now while you still can. I'm going to talk about Stage 8.

Still here? Okay, then. Don't say that you weren't warned ...

It was right after the third crash that involved Lance that an evil thought entered my head: I wished that Alberto Contador would crash.

And we're not just talking about a little road-rash-on-my-hip crash. I wanted a collarbone-in-three-places kind of crash. I wanted something bad enough that Versus would have footage of him the next day, all bandaged and sad-looking, getting into a team car for a ride to the airport, so that he could recover and watch the rest of the Tour from home.

Now, I'm no saint, but I am normally a fairly nice guy. And I'm not the only person that feels this way. When talking le Tour with my cycling friends, most of them have the same visceral dislike for Contador.

So, what did he ever do to us?

Some people say it's the "finger-bang" thing.

You think that's annoying? Is it any worse than someone telling us that they've won seven Tours?

Or someone bragging about how easy it was to stomp his rivals in this sprint finish?

There are hand gestures that may warrant a broken collarbone, but making a little toy gun thingy is not one of them.

Other people say it's because he's cocky. Wow, like we don't have other guys out there that are cocky.

We can dislike the guy that beats us up the big hill every Tuesday night because he's cocky, but professional athletes have to believe in their abilities. Maybe sometimes their abilities do not measure up to their belief, but if they do not think that they can do super-human things, then they will not attempt to do super-human things. And attempting super-human things is the only way that we can change our definition of what super-human is.

Besides, we have enough cyclists who are sufficiently unsure of their abilities so as to torpedo themselves in races.

(Yeah, the skull t-shirt so counteracts the wimp factor of cuddling a Pomeranian)

RandoGirl and the RandoDaughter have a better excuse for why we hate Alberto: They say he's ugly. RandoGirl, in fact, thinks that he looks like Zorak, the alien villain from the "Space Ghost" cartoons.

OK, they've got me there.

Oddly enough, by the way, they both think that Fabian Cancellera is cute.

I think he looks like a bit of a dork, but he does strike the right mixture of ability and humility. Also, you've got to respect the way that he pulled Andy Schleck in on stage 3.

So, maybe it's the "putz factor" for Alberto. We see homely Fabian Cancellera shredding his legs for his GC guy, and we like him. But then, when I was watching stage 8, at one point I saw Contador get a bottle of cold water, drink a little bit, and then pour the rest over Daniel Navarro's head. Navarro had been pulling Alberto most of the day, and looked like death warmed over -- as opposed to his normal look, which is more of the "single-digit-IQ" variety:

Anyway, so here's Alberto trying to save the life of his overheated encephalopathic teammate, and my first thought is, "Oooh. You drank from that bottle. You're dousing him in your spit."

Meanwhile, any of us that have raced 117 miles over two Cat 1 climbs in July know that cold water feels spectacular about that time, even if you get it from that leper guy in "Papillon."

So, Alberto's there for his teammates, so he's probably not a putz. He's not good looking, but -- as a straight male -- that doesn't really matter to me. He's no more cocky than most of the guys in the pro peloton, and there are worse things that he could do with his finger. (Again, as a straight male, I don't know what those things are ... and don't want to know.)

So why did I want him to crash?

Put simply, it's because he made me feel old.

Sure, Andy Schleck is younger ... although he looks so young that, frankly, I would ask him where his mommy is if I saw him out riding on the road.

But it was Contador that beat Lance last year. And he's probably going to do it again this year.

We're all getting older. Even Benjamin Button had a finite amount of time. Some of us exercise to extremes in vain attempts to deny our degeneration, but at 51 years of age, I know that I am on the downhill side of this ride. Unlike Contador and Schleck, I probably ain't going to get much faster on a bike.

Lance is there with me -- worse, probably, because he performed at peak levels during his prime years. It makes me sad to say, but he really should not have come out of retirement.

Since man first discovered language, we have used it to sit around the fire and tell stories of heroes who survived the great battle. Legends who dust off their shield and return to the fray can only prove that they are, after all, mortal.

I should be angry with Lance, but I relate to him far too much. So, instead, I'll be angry at the little peckerwood who ran out onto the battlefield and got lucky with that first swing.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A 300K Without Lights

Before Saturday, I'd never done a 300K without having to turn on my lights. Maybe this is because I've always done 300Ks in the spring, when we barely get 12 hours of daylight. More likely, it's because I'm slow, and can't seem to maintain an 18-mph average for 11 hours and keep off-bike time under 30 minutes.

But this past Saturday, I had it all: Fourteen hours of daylight, and a fast tandem to sit in on.

First, some disclosure. I did turn on my taillight before we started, but just because it was pretty foggy out in Leiper's Creek.

That's John Shelso in the center of the picture. He's the guy that saved my life last month. Sadly, I didn't get to ride much with him because I was hanging on for dear life behind the tandem with Jeff Bauer and Fredia Barry.

Earlier in the week, Jeff had asked if I was going to be riding the 300K. I told him that I was, and he said that I probably wouldn't see him and Fredia much, since I would "go off with the fast guys."

Here's Jeff and Fredia and most of "the fast guys" about mile 30, heading up Pulltight Hill.

George Hiscox, in the yellow jersey, was telling us about this year's Cascade 1200K. He had a funny story about his third day of the ride, when he decided not to stop at the overnight control so that he could do one of the long climbs in the cool of the evening. He didn't realize that "cool of the evening" at the top of the Cascade Mountains means 30 degrees and snow on the sides of the road. When he got to the top, he was suffering from hypothermia and became tired, so he laid down to take a nap. When he awoke an hour later, he was freezing, so he started down the mountain. Halfway down, he was freezing even more, so he stopped in a bathroom on the side of the road and stole all of their toilet paper, stuffing it in his jersey and wrapping his exposed extremities as best he could to pad what is (obviously, if you look at the picture) a lean frame. This worked enough to get him down the descent and back to the warmer desert of east Washington.

Can you just imagine being in a car driving up that mountain from the other side just before dawn and seeing a mummy with blue lips, shivering violently from the cold, heading down on a bicycle? This is why I love randonneuring -- the stories you hear are priceless!

After descending Pulltight Hill -- and about mid-way through George's story -- Jeff said we had to stop and read the historic marker there. I've got to admit that I've bike past this 50 times and never read it. Interesting bit of history, though.

From here we went through Eagleville, where a few keys roads are being moved. After clearing the control there, we rolled on towards Bell Buckle. Although the fog had mostly burned off, we still had enough haze and clouds to keep the temperatures low; unfortunately, the extreme humidity kept it from being really comfortable, except on some of the shadier roads.

We developed a routine through here that kept our moving average high. I sat immediately on the tandem's wheel (yes, I am a selfish pig ... and your point is?). When we approached a road, I would zip ahead and watch for cars, trying to time Jeff and Fredia's entry to the intersection so as to keep them from wasting energy by unclipping. This also gave me the best vantage point for the early town-line sprints and the "secret" county line sprint (at the top of the hill just before you get to Bell Buckle, where the pavement turns from "iffy" to worse).

Our moving average was almost 18 miles per hour when we hit Lewisburg just after 11:30 am. I managed to take one last town-line sprint there by going off the front with Tom Trinidad; however, 95 miles of hard riding were then taking their toll, and I had to stop for a big lunch at Wendy's. By the time everyone had eaten and topped off bottles with ice and fluids from the nearby convenience store, the fast threesome from Jackson (Tom, George, and Darius Blurton) were gone.

Leaving Lewisburg, we had the usual few miles of busier roads before turning onto some hillier ones. At this point, our group was down to Jeff and Fredia on the tandem, Bob Hess, Larry Lewis, RJ Locurto, and myself. On every steep hill, Jeff would tell us to go on (the classic, "Leave me. Save yourself" speech). Anyone foolish enough to begin the following descent without Jeff and Fredia, however, would soon find themselves being passed by a descending tandem rocket, and furiously sprinting to regain that receding rear wheel. Bob and I (that's his shoulder there) quickly decided it was smarter to just wait at the top and take Jeff and Fredia's picture when they came over.

At the Mount Pleasant control, the cashier told us that the Jackson contingent had only left about 10 minutes earlier. We were pretty tired by this point, however, and took our time filling bottles and Camelbacks with ice and fluids before we headed out. This turned out for the best.

You may have seen the classic horror movie, "Village of the Damned." Well, the above is a scene from "Control of the Cooked." It's the Gordon House rest area, next to Hwy 50 on the Natchez Trace. We had been moving so fast that we got there before 5 pm, and the volunteer who was going to man it that evening, dispensing cold water and sandwiches, was not due until 6 pm. We had, literally, been too fast for our own darned good.

Fortunately, we had a few bars and gels to munch, and the bathrooms had water (albeit tepid), so after a short break we all headed out for the last hilly 30 miles. Fredia had been having some stomach upset, so I stayed with her and Jeff while Bob, RJ, and Larry went on. The sun was now low enough to make most of the Trace shady, and a short shower earlier that afternoon had washed away much of the remaining heat, so we just chatted and spun easily as the miles rolled by. As all three of us were pretty hungry, we started to talk about what we would eat that evening. Fredia really wanted a turkey sandwich. I described an elaborate plan to call in a pizza order at Mellow Mushroom in downtown Franklin as soon as I got to the car, so that it would be waiting for me when I got there. I could then just walk in and scarf it at the counter.

When we got to the end at 6:55 pm -- 12 hours and 55 minutes after we had started -- Bob had a recovery meal for Jeff waiting in the cooler in his truck.

You chase a rabbit for almost 200 miles, you damned well deserve to eat whatever bunny you want.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Some of My Favorite Roads

If a picture is worth a thousand words, video must be worth billions and billions. Here's some video from the ride that I lead Saturday for the Harpeth Bike Club.

This first is not actually the ride, but me going to the ride. Well, to be honest, I'm actually going directly opposite of the direction that I would have to go to get to the ride -- I'm biking to Panera before the ride to get a scone and a cup of coffee.

Ah, the things I won't do to get in an extra 20 miles.

Anyway, this is one of my favorite little roads for heading this way, because it's closed to cars. Hence, the only vehicles that I encounter on this stretch of road are the people that live there, and they tend to be nice to people on bicycles.

Notice the stop sign and bars. If there's a downside to this road, it is that sometimes the traffic is so light that it gets a lot of debris after a storm. I can live with that.

I shut off the camera partway up the climb. Here's the descent. I actually saw another rider going up this hill Saturday, even though it was just barely 6 am.

From here, I got on Edmundson Pike. There's video of that, and you can sort of tell how pretty the sky was, but it's kind of long. Instead, I'll give you video of the next road on my Path to Panera -- Old Smyrna.

The speed bumps kind of make it roller-coaster-y, don't you think? I tried to pan the camera to one side so that you could see some of the estates along this road, but the lighting wasn't right. Don't ask me about the weird way that the lady was running -- must be some kind of upper-body workout thing.

After this, I was getting close to Brentwood. There was a 5K at Maryland Farms, which is part of Brentwood, and there were a lot of cars driving past me along this stretch. Normally, it's pretty empty at this time of day. The good thing was that, since these were athletes on their way to a run, they passed me with lots of room. Athletes tend to understand that you should not crowd other athletes on the road.

With scone in belly and coffee cup full, I turned back southward towards Page High School and the ride start. A mild wind out of the south had come up, so I had to kind of time trial my way south for those 15 miles. It worked out in that I was on time, and I think Max Watzz appreciated the workout.

One last favorite road I'm going to show you here is Cross Keys Road, which we turned on just after going over Pulltight Hill. It's smooth and shady -- excellent attributes for any road with the way temperatures have been lately. At the end of the video, we're turning on to Choctaw Road, which may be even better.

Unfortunately, it's big so I had to upload it to YouTube.

You can just hear my nattering little voice in the background. Too many words.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Happy Anniversary

One week ago today marked the two-year anniversary of the sentencing of Tommy Lee Carroll to eight years in prison.

Mr. Carroll is the Friendsville, TN, man who ran over Jeff Roth in Maryville in 2006. This was one of the events that precipitated the passage of the Jeff Roth and Brian Brown Bicycle Protection Act of 2007, which makes it illegal for motorists to pass a bicycle without maintaining a distance of at least three feet. Breaking this law is a Class C misdemeanor, with the penalty being "not greater than thirty (30) days in jail or a fine not to exceed fifty dollars ($50.00), or both, unless otherwise provided by statute."

In the three years since the Three-Foot Law went into effect, I cannot find evidence that any driver has been cited for breaking it. This is even more interesting in light of the fact that a number of cyclists have been hit by automobiles during that time. Two cyclists -- David Meek of Chattanooga and Sharon Covington Bayler in Fayetteville -- were struck and killed by vehicles, but the drivers were not cited for violating the three-foot law.

Somehow, those drivers managed to hit and kill the cyclists while maintaining three feet of distance. Not only were they not charged with vehicular homicide, they didn't have to pony up $50 to the State of Tennessee.

In other anniversary news, one year ago today the Tennessee law that bans texting while driving went into effect. A locals news station this morning reported that 19 tickets have been issued so far.

Yes, that is state-wide that 19 tickets have been issued for texting while driving. I see more than 19 people texting while driving every morning on my way in to work.

Distracted driving accounted for 20% of the accidents in 2008. Cyclists -- because we are smaller and rarer than cars -- are more vulnerable to this because drivers are not looking for us, don't expect us, and don't see us. When you add to that mix a driver tweeting about the epic burrito he had for lunch, you get an equation that all too often yields an injured or dead cyclist.

Maybe it's hard to spot drivers texting. I'd like to know how many of the 19 tickets were issued after an accident, when the driver said something like "Gee, officer, I just didn't see him because I was watching this hilarious video of a dog on a unicycle on my iPhone." Most people sitting in traffic next to a cop probably don't whip out their cell phones and start text messaging somebody, just as they don't tend to take a long pull from that bottle of Jim Beam lying in the passenger seat.

Traffic cameras might be a better way to spot drivers texting, but there aren't very many of those (in spite of the way it seems on "CSI"). We can't expect the phone manufacturers or carriers to do anything, like report texting activity from a moving vehicle, since that could be bad for business -- although most parents would probably pay extra for a feature that would disable texting on their kids' cell phone when it's moving.

I don't necessarily want to live in a police state where my every move is being monitored, via hidden cameras or cell phone towers or killer robots. But I wouldn't mind local law enforcement doing a little more ... I don't know ... enforcement of the law?! At least the ones where it's obvious when somebody breaks it, as with the 3-foot law.