Tag Archive for Lance Armstrong

Collision maps reveal L.A.’s unsafe routes to school; more tragedy in pro cycling (and not just Lance)

I knew L.A. wasn’t the safest place to bike or ride.

But it never really sank in until I saw the maps.

Safe Routes to Schools has joined with the LACBC to call attention to just how far this city has to go before children to walk or bike to many schools, especially in lower income areas. New collision maps based on TIMS data (the Transportation Injury Mapping System) clearly shows how many injuries and fatalities occur near schools.

Just take a look at this map showing three years of collision data for South L.A. alone.

And I hope you have a stronger stomach than me when you realize that every dot on that map represents a human being injured or killed on our streets.

Of course, they weren’t all children. But these maps make the strongest argument yet that we have to improve safety around our schools.

“Traffic collisions, and the death or injury of Los Angeles’ people, especially our youngest community members, is heartbreaking and impacts everyone,” says Alexis Lantz, Planning and Policy Director at the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.

While the city has recently allocated $1.2 million to develop a citywide strategy to provide safer routes for children and their parents to get to and from school — and anyone else who happens to ride or bike nearby — there’s clearly a lot to do.

And a long way to go.

“Now with the TIMS data, the State of California has provided an amazing tool that allows us to see the neighborhoods, intersections and streets of greatest need and make strategic investments.  We need the City to provide staff, and create a plan to implement safety improvements quickly, so we can see our transportation priorities shift.  For too long, there has been a focus on moving cars to the detriment of our health and communities, the City of Los Angeles needs to put safety and people first,” says Jessica Meaney, California Policy Manager, Safe Routes to School National Partnership.

I mean, seriously. Just look at the maps.

………

In pro cycling news, Movistar rider Xavier Tondo was killed in a freak accident when he was hit by a garage door while leaving for a ride; friends and fellow pros remember him. Conspiracy theorists may note that he had recently told authorities about being approached by a doping ring.

Mikel Nieve scores his second mountain stage win in the Giro, as Alberto Contador surges to more than a four minute lead leading up to Monday’s rest day before the final week of racing.

Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner cross the finish line atop Mt. Baldy at virtually the same time to clinch the Amgen Tour of California for Horner. The Claremont Cyclist spends the morning with Rabobank. What it’s like to ride the Mt. Baldy stage of the AToC. Horner wraps it up on Sunday as HTC rider Matthew Goss wins the final stage and Lance Armstrong’s Team RadioShack takes the first two places in the general classification. Bicycling offers video of post-race reactions, while the Daily News is too busy talking with fans to get the details straight.

Between Chris Horner’s exciting run and the race up Mt. Baldy, this is the first Tour of California that seemed, to me at least, like a legitimate contender as a top-tier cycling race. Now if they can add another challenging stage or two — like maybe a peak-to-peak route around the San Diego area ending with a climb up Mt. Palomar, where snow wouldn’t be a factor — they might have something. Although going head-to-head with the Giro will always be a limiting factor.

And in case you’ve been in a coma the past few days, CBS’ 60 Minutes reported that former friends and teammates of Lance Armstrong  have turned on him to accuse the seven time TdF champ of doping; no one seems to care that George Hincapie reportedly confessed, though. If the accusations against Lance Armstrong are proven, he faces serious jail time; at the very least, his reputation will be in tatters. Tyler Hamilton’s lawyer discusses why the rider finally came clean. Former pro Scott Mercier says doping was pervasive when he was racing in the ’90, and UCI responds with the expected shock and indignation.

A writer for Road.cc asks the same question a lot of riders are asking right now: what happens when your idol and inspiration lets you down? And Italian police reportedly find nothing in an impeccably timed raid on Team RadioSchack’s hotel at the Giro.

………

LACBC releases a great new video explaining the upcoming 7th Street road diet and bike lanes in your choice of three popular languages. Meanwhile, those new LED lights on the Elysian Valley section of the L.A. River Bike Path are out of order for the foreseeable future after thieves steal the copper wiring.

………

Streetsblog wants your questions for LAPD Sgt. David Krumer, the department’s popular point man for the cycling community. LADOT Bicycle Services unveils a nifty new website. L.A. bike attorney Howard Krepack argues that the safety of cyclists has to be considered during road work, as well. Richard Risemberg looks at the art of riding in Santa Monica. CicLAvia wants to know what you think about the proposed expansion routes into Boyle Heights and South L.A. The Times looks at some unusual bike designs. Santa Monica riders review that city’s proposed bike plan. The recent presidential visit gives a UCLA employee a chance to ride the Westside.

A reader corrects the Press-Enterprise for saying cyclists are required to ride as far right as possible; the writer insists that possible and practicable mean the same thing. A Fresno-area cyclist’s tragic death in a solo bike accident could help up to eight other people through organ donation; I’d want some good to come out of it for someone if anything ever happened to me. Surprisingly, California ranks 20th on the list of bike-friendly states; surprising we’re that high, that is.

USA Today notes a nationwide movement to make the streets safe for cyclists; thanks to Zeke for the heads-up. That great epiphany moment that turns non-cyclists into confirmed riders is a myth. Fifteen reasons to fall in love with your bike. Elly Blue continues her excellent Bikenomics series with a look at riding while broke. Evidently believing them to be magic talismans that will ward off injury, a writer calls bike helmets the most important safe cycling habit — above, say, stopping for traffic signals, remaining visible or riding with traffic, or any of the other riding habits that might keep a helmet from being necessary. A firefighter’s career could be over after a cycling hit-and-run. New Jersey authorities seem unclear on the concept, as they instruct riders to share the road with fast moving traffic, rather than requiring speeding drivers to slow down; it may be time to retire Share the Road entirely. A New York actor and personal therapist explains why he’ll be riding the 10th Anniversary AIDS Ride. In a classic example of press bias, an 11-year old West Virginia boy is sideswiped while riding his bike, yet the local press reports that he collided with the car; thankfully, they note the car was not damaged.

The return of bike season means the return of road rage. Buy a Victorian London house, and get your very own bike museum. Police tell cyclists to stay off the 2012 Olympic mountain bike course. Scott cyclists pay to ride a new freeway for just one day, though not all do it to celebrate. This is what bike parking is supposed to look like; a Brit company tweets to take credit. A video look at the Pillars of Italian Cycling. How about a Norwegian-style bike lift? Jakarta gets its first bike lane, which immediately turns into parking for three-wheeled pedicabs.

Finally, video captures a cyclist getting by a car, and landing on his feet. And apparently, the solution to dropping off a bike and still getting back home is to throw your Dahon on the back of your Urbana — sort of like tossing a Mini in the back of a Hummer.

Casual cycling fans can stop watching the Tour de France now

Stick a fork in Lance.

He’s done for what he says will be his final Tour.

On Saturday’s stage of the Tour de France, Quick Step’s Sylvain Chavanel reclaimed the yellow jersey after an all-day breakaway, just 11 weeks after fracturing his skull during the Liège-Bastogne- Liège classic. Lance Armstrong lost time but moved up to 14th in the General Classification, while Levi Leipheimer broke into the top 20.

One day later, Levi was in the top 10. And Armstrong’s chances of winning were finished, just 8 stages into the Tour.

After several climbs, Saxo Bank’s Andy Schleck outsprinted Samuel Sanchez to cross the finish line in first place, just 10 seconds ahead of a group that included Leipheimer, Alberto Contador, Ivan Basso and Carlos Sastre, along with new leader Cadel Evans, aka Cuddles.

Notably missing was Armstrong, following two crashes and just missing a third, which resulted in numerous cuts and a sore hip and back. After gamely trying to catch up with the leaders, he was spent before he hit the last climb — and his chances of contending virtually finished, nearly 12 minutes back in 61st place.

According to RadioShack Team Manager Bruyneel, “It’s the end of Lance’s aspirations to win the Tour. Everything went wrong.”

Or as Lance himself put it on Twitter,

When it rains it pours I guess. Today was not my day needless to say. Quite banged but gonna hang in here and enjoy my last 2 weeks.

So now Levi is the new flag bearer for RadioShack. And Lance is the Tour’s most overqualified domestique.

In other TdF news, Bicycling interviews the man behind the tour, and Bradley Wiggins’ secret weapon is between his legs.

Meanwhile, fallout from Floyd Landis’ accusations against Lance Armstrong continues to spread, as investigators look to talk with more riders, including close Armstrong associates Tyler Hamilton and George Hincapie.

But despite the bad news, some of us still love it.

………

Even in bike friendly Colorado, a backlash seems to be building against cyclists. And on the heels of the Black Hawk bike ban, a county in rural Missouri considers banning bikes from any two-lane highway without shoulders; Thanks to Jim Lyle for the link.

………

GT gets back on his bike, barely two weeks after suffering a heart attack. The Claremont Cyclist offers a photo tour of the San Gabriel River Trail from the Sante Fe Dam to Seal Beach and back; the upper section looks beautiful, though I could do without the concrete on the lower stretch. The RAAM rider critically injured when he was hit by a distracted driver plans to return to Spain this weekend, despite continued paralysis from the waist down; doctors say he will never recover 100%. A Chicago library on wheels is ordered to stop peddling. A Florida cyclist is killed while chasing after a getaway car carrying thieves who tried to rob his brother. The Wall Street Journal looks at stripped down bikes for rough city rides, and takes a break from covering Landis’ doping allegations to visit the Mecca of bike polo in NYC; thanks to George Wolfberg for forwarding the second link. A British group calls London Mayor Boris Johnson’s strategy to increase cycling fundamentally flawed and lacking in ambition; just weeks before his new bike share program kicks off, it faces a new lawsuit. As London removes guard rails, bike parking disappears too. A cyclist says London’s Critical Mass is just a critical mess these days. Thousands of Brits turn out to celebrate cycling. A tabloid style look at staying fit and feminine by biking. A look at how Flying Pigeon — the one in China, not NELA — is leading that country’s cycling comeback. Seven Singapore cyclists have been killed in just the first 5 months of this year. Two Kiwi cyclists are forced off the road and assaulted by a woman driver and her passenger, who drive off with a $12,000 bike.

Finally, proof some things never change. Consider this photo from Norwalk’s 1952 Bicycle Safety Week; thanks to Brent Bigler for the heads-up.

Kornheiser makes nice, Lance lets him off easy

Maybe they did a lot of talking offline, and ESPN personality Tony Kornheiser convinced Lance Armstrong just how sorry he was for urging motorists to run cyclists down with their cars.

And maybe Kornheiser truly is sorry. Maybe he meant it at the beginning of his broadcast when he reminded listeners not to take anything he says seriously.

Boys and girls, this is a comedy show. It is a often a show of outsize outrage, it is often a show of sarcasm, it is often a show of subversion. The only purpose in this show — and occasionally it’s even intellectual, occasionally, though that’s not the intent — the only reason this show exists is to entertain you and hopefully make you laugh.

But you’d think he would have enough sense to realize that some things just aren’t funny. And that some people take comments like that seriously — and I’m not talking about the reaction of the cycling community.

Especially since he says his own daughter sometimes rides a bike to work.

Personally, I think he needs a serious timeout, just like any other petulant child. And personally, I think Lance let him off way too easy.

But listen – and decide — for yourself.

Lance Armstrong on the Tony Kornheiser Show

A little this, a little that — Sadik-Khan, Street Summit, bike stats, bike art, Lance rants

First up, drop whatever you had planned, and ride, walk, bus or drive to Occidental College for tonight’s lecture by Janette Sadik-Khan, New York’s Commissioner of Transportation.

This is the woman most responsible for transforming NYC from one of the most bike-hostile places on the planet to what is rapidly becoming one of the world’s most bike-friendly metropolises, adding 200 miles of bike lanes in just three years.

And afterwards, you can ride over to nearby Disney headquarters in Burbank to protest the on-air anti-bike rant from ESPN idiot commentator Tony Kornheiser (see below).

The lecture is the kickoff event for L.A. StreetSummit 2010, which resumes this Saturday at Downtown’s LA Trade Tech College.

On Saturday, you’ll have a chance to hear speakers including Carl Anthony of Breakthrough Communications, Charlie Gandy, the Mobility Coordinator currently transforming the City of Long Beach, and Lydia Avila of the East LA Community Corporation.

In this afternoon, you can attend three sets of workshops on subjects ranging from the new bike plan, CicLAvia, LACBC’s bike count and increasing diversity in the biking community. Along with about 26 others.

And I’ll be hosting a session on bikes and politics at 1pm:

Session 1: 1pm-1:50pm
Room: tba

Presenters:

Ted Rogers, LACBC Board Member and author of BikingInLA

David Vahedi, Attorney, co-founder of the Westside Neighborhood Council and recent candidate for the 5th Council District

Aurisha Smolarski, LACBCCampaigns and Communications Director

Marcel Porras, cyclist and Transportation Director for L.A.’s 13th City Council District

Kent Strumpell, 11th District representative for L.A.’s Bicycle Advisory Committee and member of the California Bicycle Coalition’s Legislative Committee

Short Summary:

The bicycling community is the sleeping giant of local politics, with an estimated 2.7 million cyclists in Los Angeles County. This informal discussion will explore how to wake that giant to make positive changes in our state and community, and offer an insider’s perspective on how bicyclists can impact the political process to influence elected officials and elect bike-friendly candidates.

I hope to see you there.

The organizers of StreetSummit are asking that each workshop be video recorded for future use; unfortunately, I don’t have a video camera. So if anyone would like to volunteer to record the session, just let me know.

………

Exactly what L.A. cyclists have been missing.

Bikeside’s LA Bike Map provides the city’s first searchable database enabling you to submit, track and study near misses, collisions, harassment and bike theft. This will give cyclists the information we need to spot and avoid dangerous areas, and argue for much needed road improvements and police protection.

And yes, the link will soon find a permanent prominent home over there on the right.

………

A suicidal cyclist riding the wrong way evidently picked a Desperate Housewives star to run into, judging by press reports. Shawn Pyfrom, who plays Andrew Van De Kamp on the show, was driving somewhere in the San Fernando Valley when an elderly man riding against traffic made a sudden turn into the path of his vehicle.

To his credit, Pyfrom reportedly assisted the bloodied biker until help could arrive, and no one has yet been cited by police.

However, it does beg the question of why a cyclist riding the wrong way — one of just 4% of local riders who risk their lives that way, according to the LACBC’s bike count, despite what many drivers will tell you — would turn directly into the path of what had to be a clearly visible oncoming vehicle.

Then again, so far, the only reports are coming from the actor’s publicists.

Maybe that explains it.

………

A couple quick notes from the Santa Monica Museum of Art.

Over the course of the next four Saturdays, German artists Folke Koebberling and Martin Kaltwasser will dismantle an old car and turn it into two fully operational bicycles at the Bermot Station Arts Center.

And mark your calendar for the Cause for Creativity: Tour de Arts, Vol. 2 workshop, bike tour, exhibition and closing party on August 22nd.

………

A New York cyclist is knocked into a bus and killed after getting doored by a driver; as Cyclelicious points out in a well-deserved rant, at least some of the city’s press clearly doesn’t get it. One paper describes it as a freak accident and another — which evidently doesn’t know how to construct a sentence, had this to say:

Cops issued the unidentified driver of the Camry a summons, though it was not immediately clear why, police said.

Streetsblog reminds readers about the video from the Chicago Bicycle Program that explains how bikes and buses can safely share the roads; more important would be teaching drivers the dangers of opening their doors without looking.

………

BikesideLA tells the story of the Birdman, the survivor — barely — of yet another horrifying hit-and-run. Damien notes that authorities and the press blame once again blame the victim in a PCH hit-and-run; sort of like accidently shooting someone and blaming them for standing in front of your bullet. Another call on City Watch to dismantle LADOT. LACBC unveils the city’s first bike count, but doesn’t name the people who actually did it. DIY sharrows return to the streets of L.A., if not actually on the streets; the more or less true story behind the signs. Mega bike shop Perfomance Bicycle comes to Woodland Hills. A Cal State Fullerton cyclist examines fixies and their riders, and finds them lacking. The cyclist missing in Portland was found dead yesterday in the Willamette River; cause of death undetermined pending an autopsy. A great list of the top 10 rudest things a driver can do when encountering a cyclist. Bike Radar looks at why Florida is the nation’s most dangerous place for cyclists. The West Side Greenway in New York’s Battery Park City goes extremely high tech. Zeke takes an unexpected mostly pleasant, semi-frightening ride, only to discover Lance, Levi and Alberto are actually all good friends — and then he wakes up. London cyclists are asked about risk-taking behavior in an attempt to understand an unexpected spike in deaths; I’d start with the city’s truck drivers instead. Poland’s parliament considers making the country more bike friendly. Maybe this is why so many Dutch women ride.

Finally, Lance Armstrong calls ESPN radio host Tony Kornheiser a “complete f-ing idiot” for his recent remarks, including a suggestion that drivers should just run cyclists down. Consider this excerpt courtesy of Bike Radar:

“The last time I looked, the roads were made for automobiles…,” Kornheiser said. “We’re going to be dominated as if this was Beijing by hundreds of thousands of bicyclists …”

He’s no fan of cycling attire either, saying: “They all wear … my God … with the little water bottle in the back and the stupid hats and their shiny shorts. They are the same disgusting poseurs that in the middle of a snowstorm come out with cross-country skiing on your block. Run ‘em down.

“Let them use the right, I’m okay with that. I don’t take my car and ride on the sidewalk because I understand that’s not for my car… Why do these people think that these roads were built for bicycles? … They dare you to run them down.”

Lance calls the remarks “Disgusting, ignorant, foolish.” Or maybe he was referring to Kornheiser himself, who was recently suspended for making inappropriate remarks about a female co-worker’s attire.

Road.cc suggests tweeting your displeasure to @ESPNRadio980. Or maybe we should direct our anger to ESPN’s parent company, conveniently located right here in Burbank.

Update: Thanks to Todd Mumford for sending a link to the audio of Kornheiser’s rant; and yes, it’s even worse than I thought.

My latest post, in which I admit to doping

There was a time in my life, not so long ago — okay, maybe longer than I care to admit — when cycling was my life.

It was right after my starving writer phase, which, as it turns out, isn’t nearly as romantic as it sounds when you’re the one starving. And since no one wanted to read my writing – or more precisely, no one wanted to pay me so other people could read my writing (whoa, déjà vu!) – I shifted my focus to something that paid every bit as well.

So for the next 6 months or so, I rode my bike.

I built my own wheels. Stripped my bike down to the bearings and rebuilt it from the ground up to make sure every part was lubed, tightened and adjusted to perfection. I stretched. I read about cycling. I dreamed about cycling.

And I rode. At least 50 miles a day, every day. Other than the occasional attentions of a cute little pastry chef, that was my life, from the time I got up until I slid my aching thighs back into bed.

And I would have snorted peanut butter, black tar heroin or thermonuclear waste if I thought it would make me a better rider.

I’ve been thinking about that lately, after our local Bike Snob pointed out yet another cyclist caught doping, on a team dedicated to riders with questionable reps.

I’ve written before about my disappointment when Floyd Landis lost his appeal, even though my initial reaction, as I watched him race, was that he had to be on something to rebound the way he did after bonking so badly the day before.

It also broke my heart when fellow Colorado boy Tyler Hamilton was busted. And I’ve long wanted to believe that Lance Armstrong is merely super-human, despite the insistence of the French, as well as Greg LeMond’s apparent insistence that he was the only clean Tour de France winner since Maurice Garin crossed the finish line in 1903.

(Am I the only one to notice that only Americans with names starting with L are allowed to win le Tour? Which means I’ll be putting my money on Levi Leipheimer if Astana can get back in.)

Then again, who’s to say that the great racers of the pre-testing era, like Bernard Hinault or the legendary Eddy Merckx, weren’t on something themselves? There’s no reason to believe they were, of course, just as there’s no proof they weren’t, other than the fact that they dominated their eras every bit as much as Armstrong did his.

But they weren’t tested, so we’ll never know for sure. And even getting repeatedly tested over a seven year period doesn’t seem to convince some people.

But then, that’s what we do. We take things.

Because if there’s something we think will make us ride a little better, a little farther, a little faster, we’ll try it. Whether it’s Lance Armstrong’s energy drink or a shot of gel for that extra boost in the middle of a ride.

Don’t believe me? Just check out the checkout counter of your nearest bike shop, and count the number or gels, bars, shots and other assorted sugar-based supplements. Or pick up a copy of any cycling magazine and see if the supplement ads outnumber the bike ads this month.

It just seems to me that there’s not a lot of difference between the creatine & amino shakes I downed back then, and doping with EPO or testosterone. One is legal, while the others aren’t. But they all build strength and boost performance.

It’s just a matter of degree.

Timur explores downtown, while a group of riders take a slightly longer tour around the city. Will manages to get back home from Newport Beach car free, despite a series of rail-based misadventures. And this just in, Damien and Gary announces that the Cyclist’s Bill of Rights has been passed by the L.A. City Council, not that it will mean anything if our local bureaucrats don’t pay any attention to the city leaders. Still, we all owe a big round of thanks to the Bike Writers Collective, who not only kicked it all off, but pushed it over the goal line.

Thank you, guys. We owe you.

My latest post, in which I admit to doping

There was a time in my life, not so long ago — okay, maybe longer than I care to admit — when cycling was my life.

It was right after my starving writer phase, which, as it turns out, isn’t nearly as romantic as it sounds when you’re the one starving. And since no one wanted to read my writing – or more precisely, no one wanted to pay me so other people could read my writing (whoa, déjà vu!) – I shifted my focus to something that paid every bit as well.

So for the next 6 months or so, I rode my bike.

I built my own wheels. Stripped my bike down to the bearings and rebuilt it from the ground up to make sure every part was lubed, tightened and adjusted to perfection. I stretched. I read about cycling. I dreamed about cycling.

And I rode. At least 50 miles a day, every day. Other than the occasional attentions of a cute little pastry chef, that was my life, from the time I got up until I slid my aching thighs back into bed.

And I would have snorted peanut butter, black tar heroin or thermonuclear waste if I thought it would make me a better rider.

I’ve been thinking about that lately, after our local Bike Snob pointed out yet another cyclist caught doping, on a team dedicated to riders with questionable reps.

I’ve written before about my disappointment when Floyd Landis lost his appeal, even though my initial reaction, as I watched him race, was that he had to be on something to rebound the way he did after bonking so badly the day before.

It also broke my heart when fellow Colorado boy Tyler Hamilton was busted. And I’ve long wanted to believe that Lance Armstrong is merely super-human, despite the insistence of the French, as well as Greg LeMond’s apparent insistence that he was the only clean Tour de France winner since Maurice Garin crossed the finish line in 1903.

(Am I the only one to notice that only Americans with names starting with L are allowed to win le Tour? Which means I’ll be putting my money on Levi Leipheimer if Astana can get back in.)

Then again, who’s to say that the great racers of the pre-testing era, like Bernard Hinault or the legendary Eddy Merckx, weren’t on something themselves? There’s no reason to believe they were, of course, just as there’s no proof they weren’t, other than the fact that they dominated their eras every bit as much as Armstrong did his.

But they weren’t tested, so we’ll never know for sure. And even getting repeatedly tested over a seven year period doesn’t seem to convince some people.

But then, that’s what we do. We take things.

Because if there’s something we think will make us ride a little better, a little farther, a little faster, we’ll try it. Whether it’s Lance Armstrong’s energy drink or a shot of gel for that extra boost in the middle of a ride.

Don’t believe me? Just check out the checkout counter of your nearest bike shop, and count the number or gels, bars, shots and other assorted sugar-based supplements. Or pick up a copy of any cycling magazine and see if the supplement ads outnumber the bike ads this month.

It just seems to me that there’s not a lot of difference between the creatine & amino shakes I downed back then, and doping with EPO or testosterone. One is legal, while the others aren’t. But they all build strength and boost performance.

It’s just a matter of degree.

Timur explores downtown, while a group of riders take a slightly longer tour around the city. Will manages to get back home from Newport Beach car free, despite a series of rail-based misadventures. And this just in, Damien and Gary announces that the Cyclist’s Bill of Rights has been passed by the L.A. City Council, not that it will mean anything if our local bureaucrats don’t pay any attention to the city leaders. Still, we all owe a big round of thanks to the Bike Writers Collective, who not only kicked it all off, but pushed it over the goal line.

Thank you, guys. We owe you.

My latest post, in which I admit to doping

There was a time in my life, not so long ago — okay, maybe longer than I care to admit — when cycling was my life.

It was right after my starving writer phase, which, as it turns out, isn’t nearly as romantic as it sounds when you’re the one starving. And since no one wanted to read my writing – or more precisely, no one wanted to pay me so other people could read my writing (whoa, déjà vu!) – I shifted my focus to something that paid every bit as well.

So for the next 6 months or so, I rode my bike.

I built my own wheels. Stripped my bike down to the bearings and rebuilt it from the ground up to make sure every part was lubed, tightened and adjusted to perfection. I stretched. I read about cycling. I dreamed about cycling.

And I rode. At least 50 miles a day, every day. Other than the occasional attentions of a cute little pastry chef, that was my life, from the time I got up until I slid my aching thighs back into bed.

And I would have snorted peanut butter, black tar heroin or thermonuclear waste if I thought it would make me a better rider.

I’ve been thinking about that lately, after our local Bike Snob pointed out yet another cyclist caught doping, on a team dedicated to riders with questionable reps.

I’ve written before about my disappointment when Floyd Landis lost his appeal, even though my initial reaction, as I watched him race, was that he had to be on something to rebound the way he did after bonking so badly the day before.

It also broke my heart when fellow Colorado boy Tyler Hamilton was busted. And I’ve long wanted to believe that Lance Armstrong is merely super-human, despite the insistence of the French, as well as Greg LeMond’s apparent insistence that he was the only clean Tour de France winner since Maurice Garin crossed the finish line in 1903.

(Am I the only one to notice that only Americans with names starting with L are allowed to win le Tour? Which means I’ll be putting my money on Levi Leipheimer if Astana can get back in.)

Then again, who’s to say that the great racers of the pre-testing era, like Bernard Hinault or the legendary Eddy Merckx, weren’t on something themselves? There’s no reason to believe they were, of course, just as there’s no proof they weren’t, other than the fact that they dominated their eras every bit as much as Armstrong did his.

But they weren’t tested, so we’ll never know for sure. And even getting repeatedly tested over a seven year period doesn’t seem to convince some people.

But then, that’s what we do. We take things.

Because if there’s something we think will make us ride a little better, a little farther, a little faster, we’ll try it. Whether it’s Lance Armstrong’s energy drink or a shot of gel for that extra boost in the middle of a ride.

Don’t believe me? Just check out the checkout counter of your nearest bike shop, and count the number or gels, bars, shots and other assorted sugar-based supplements. Or pick up a copy of any cycling magazine and see if the supplement ads outnumber the bike ads this month.

It just seems to me that there’s not a lot of difference between the creatine & amino shakes I downed back then, and doping with EPO or testosterone. One is legal, while the others aren’t. But they all build strength and boost performance.

It’s just a matter of degree.

Timur explores downtown, while a group of riders take a slightly longer tour around the city. Will manages to get back home from Newport Beach car free, despite a series of rail-based misadventures. And this just in, Damien and Gary announces that the Cyclist’s Bill of Rights has been passed by the L.A. City Council, not that it will mean anything if our local bureaucrats don’t pay any attention to the city leaders. Still, we all owe a big round of thanks to the Bike Writers Collective, who not only kicked it all off, but pushed it over the goal line.

Thank you, guys. We owe you.

Riding through the pain

I remember watching a live broadcast of Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France.

I don’t recall what year it was, maybe his third or fourth victory, perhaps. This particular day, the course went over one of the great mountain passes; as I recall, it may have been the Croix de Fer, or possibly l’Alpe d’Huez. Or maybe it was some other steep mountain pass, I really don’t remember anymore.

What I do remember, though, is Lance starting his climb at the base of the mountain as the best riders in the world were spread out in front of him. One by one, he caught each of them on that ascent. And one by one, they struggled to keep up with him, before each one cracked and fell hopelessly behind.

Of course, some people looked at performances like that and assumed he must be doping, like so many others. Others said it was his muscle structure, that he somehow had more strength and endurance than anyone else on that course.

But the best explanation I’ve heard is that he was simply willing to endure more pain than anyone else. It wasn’t that he didn’t feel it; it’s just that he didn’t let it stop him.

And that makes sense to me. You see, I’m the same way.

I suffered a serious knee injury when I was just a kid in junior high school. Unfortunately, surgery didn’t fix it, ending my football career and leaving me with a trick knee that had me in almost constant pain.

For the next few years, I had a standing prescription for pain killers, as I tried to convince someone — anyone — that there was still something wrong with my knee. But the orthopedist who did my surgery couldn’t admit that he might have failed; instead, he told my mother that I was faking it to get the pills.

Fortunately, she didn’t believe him. But that night, I went home and handed her my bottle of pain medication. And I never took another one.

Not a few years later, when another orthopedist finally fixed the problem my first doctor had insisted didn’t exist. Not in my 20s, when I fractured my back — without causing any permanent damage, thank God.

Not a decade later, when I misjudged a corner while riding through a high-speed turn, and ended up with severe road rash from my ankle to my chin. Not over the past decade or so, when that first botched operation resulted in a severely arthritic knee.

And not this past year, when a freak beachfront bee encounter put me in the intensive care ward for a couple days, and on a long, hard path to recovery.

It’s not that I don’t feel the pain. I’ve just learned to ignore it.

When I stopped taking pills for that knee, I had no choice but to learn another way to cope with then pain. Eventually, what I learned was simply to tolerate it.

Just focus on something else, and get on with my life.

It’s not like I’m a superhero or some bizarre freak of nature. It still hurts. It’s just that I made a conscious effort not to think about it. And eventually, that just became second nature to me.

Of course, that doesn’t work with everything. A sharp, unexpected pain — such as a back spasm, or a sudden injury — always breaks through whatever defenses I may have, and gets my immediate attention, just like it would anyone else. And emotional pain, like losing a loved one, can bring me to my knees.

But chronic pain, or pain I can anticipate, like the kind you experience on a hard ride, I just don’t think about.

And that’s made me a better cyclist. Because it’s given me the ability to just keep going, no matter how tired I am, how strong the wind or how steep the hill. As long as I have the strength to keep going, a little pain won’t make me quit.

Like back when I was first leaning to ride hills, for instance. I realized that I could spend my entire riding career confined to flat courses, or I could just suck it up and learn to climb.

It wasn’t easy, as any beginning climber can tell you. But eventually I was able to ride every hill on my usual riding routes, no matter how long or how high.

So I set out to conquer the ultimate challenge.

There was a hill in a nearby state park; not that long a climb, really — maybe a half mile or so. But the road was so steep, most cars struggled to get over it, and I’d never seen another cyclist even try to ride it.

And that, to me, made it irresistible.

One bright sunny day, after a good warm-up, I started up the base. I only made it about halfway up before I cracked. But I kept going, inching along, already down to my lowest gear, pedaling one stroke at a time. By the time I was 3/4 of the way up — where the hill really got steep — my legs were nothing but rubber, and my heart felt ready to burst.

But I kept going.

Finally, about a hundred yards from the summit, with the road so steep I still couldn’t see the top of the hill, I was so far past the breaking point that I could barely turn the pedals. So I started thinking to myself, “Don’t quit.”

Each time I pedaled, every time I turned the crank, “Don’t quit.”

“Don’t. Quit.

Or at least, I thought I was thinking it. But I must have been saying it out loud, because when I finally topped that hill, about a dozen people standing at the top broke out in spontaneous applause. I caught my breath, waved and rode off, embarrassed as hell.

But I realized in that moment that I could accomplish anything I wanted on my bike, if I was just willing to work hard enough, and accept the pain that came with it.

Which is just as true for life as it is for cycling.

 

Just Williams recommends Cyclecraft, the U.K.’s official bible for all things cycling — and questions why it teaches cyclists to take the lane, but the country’s driver’s manuals don’t teach drivers to expect it. Good question. Town Mouse discusses her E-number, while raising her count for roadkill and arseholes encountered while cycling. Evidently, it’s not just cyclists who have to deal with arseholes, and not just in the U.K. According to Streetsblog, Metro wants to reconcile with cyclists. Will-I-Am (the other one) spots a semi heading upstream to spawn. I wonder how many lives this could save here — and how many battles could be avoided in the ongoing war between cyclists and drivers. A writer in Petaluma questions if more bike lanes are making the roads more dangerous. Finally, the Irish Times — no, not the pub on Overland — questions whether a more Continental approach would encourage more cyclists. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to get on my bike and ride until my legs fall off — not literally, I hope.

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