Thursday, December 31, 2009

Au revoir '09!

The Grateful Dead sang "What a Long, Strange Trip it's Been"...and 2009 could apply on multiple levels. A year that started out with a full-frontal assault of PBR Bull Riding action ended with a surprise trip to England and a 'reunion' with swimming stars i had not seen in a couple of years.

Wrapped up in a big 'holiday bow', as a whole, the year was a perfect example of the axiom to ALWAYS be prepared for anything, and WILLING to work for EVERYTHING you believe in.

I'm not sure where 2010 will lead- aside from the framework of work, family, and working out- but i'm excited for the opportunities that will come. As the clock ticks down on a successful year, i can't help but plan on the next 12 months being even more exciting and fulfilling, both personally and professionally.

So, with that in mind, i pose the question to you...what's your 'story' going to be? Here's to finding out. Happy New Year everybody.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Manchester "United"

Apply the 'key' word on multiple levels...

This city is UNITED in it's celebration of Christmas...
The U.S.A. Swimming Team was UNITED in it's quest to win the 4th 'Duel in the Pool'...
I flew UNITED to get here...
And of course, this town in SOOOO UNITED in it's soccer MADNESS, it's ridiculous...

It was a great trip- a very 'spur-of-the-moment' opportunity- and i'm incredibly glad i got to come here for multiple reasons...first, in my quest for 'world domination', i had never experienced this town, so to be exposed to everything Manchester has to offer was more than worth it.

Second, i'd be lying if i said i didn't love covering swimming. It's my first sport, and one of my life's passions. So, even though it does not happen very much anymore, whenever i get a chance to talk to the US, and world's best, it's a great treat.

Finally, growing up in the Midwest, i know all about 'weather', and more specifically, "White Christmas'". To go from 70+ degrees in SoCal, to freezing temps here, and all that that entails, has been a blast from the past, and brought back some amazing memories.

I spent my final night here doing my own version of a lifeguarding tradition known as the "Bicycle Bar Hop". Of course i did not have a bike, and they are called 'pubs' here, but you get the drift. If you're a connoiseur of the libations, you have to love the names of some of the pubs in this area...

'The Roasted Pig and Bar"- complete with stretched out 'Wilbur'
"The Slug and Lettuce"- my personal favorite
"Ape and Apple"- a subliminal critique on our 'fall from grace'???
"The Tiger Lounge" (timely- hmmm, what do you think goes on there?!)
"Grinch"- perfect for the Holidays (especially for those that can't handle the DRINK)
"Cloud 23"- do you think it's 2.55 x better than "Cloud 9"???
"Panacea"- the drinks MUST be strong
"The Moon Under Water"- with all the 2012 hype...maybe they are on to something!

If you are a fan of swimming, make sure to check out Michael Phelps, Aaron Peirsol, Dana Vollmer, and the rest of the US team in action, and in dominating fashion, on Dec 27th, 2-4Pm EST. It will be well worth it.

Happy Holidays everybody.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Morning "Expresso"

If you travel a lot, you know finding the TIME to work out is often less difficult then finding a PLACE to work out. Having lived my life on the road for the good part of two decades, i'm always excited to come across something that actually makes working out FUN.

If you're looking for a way to give yourself an energy boost and 'jolt' your competitive juices at the same time, look no further than the "Expresso" machine in your local gym. Interactive Fitness Holdings is the name of the parent company, and the Expresso Interactive Bikes are the BOMB!

You can pick your course (close to 30 to choose from); you can pick your skill level; you control your place on the road/trail (via moveable handlebars), and well as your PACE through the myriad of courses. The shifting mechanism gives you over 20 'gears' to choose from, and the best part??? You can race people all around the world via the internet connection.

I used one of these bikes for the first time close to 2 years ago at a YMCA in Kansas City, and have been lucky enough to come across them a few more times since then. And every time it's been a blast.

My 'target' for the day was the course, "Savage Revenge"...plenty of climbing, shifting, and distance. The snowy scenery did nothing to cool down my intensity, and it certainly didn't alleviate the skyrocketing temperatures in my body as i pushed the pace. (I have to thank the woman next to me on the Stepper for not fleeing at the site of so much sweat pooling at the base of the machine!)

As i said before, the machine is designed to MAKE you follow the course, and avoid the fellow cyclists that are on the road. If you are like me, it's much more fun to PASS, than to BE PASSED, so you are in a constant state of what i like to call "Junkyard Dog-mode" (where you CHASE everything in front of you).

It makes for one heck of a great way to spend an hour...just make sure you've got a few more to recover!!

Kudos to the Tacoma YMCA for investing in these machines. I hope your 'regulars' appreciate what they have as much as this intrepid traveler did.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Post-Thanksgiving Day Blues

Not the normal 'blues' you are thinking of- I'm talking about the BLUE HUES of the sky this AM when we were out at 5:30 for our ride. Rain was predicted, but being the Southern California Optimists that we are, we figured, 'No, it will rain later in the day!'. Well, at "O-Dark-30", often it's a bit hard to tell what the sky has in store for you. Today, all signs were 'go' as we started out. No wetness on the ground, stars in the sky (even though intermittent clouds could be seen with the reflected light of the city), and a mild breeze coming off the ocean.

Oh, how I, and my 'mate', miscalculated. About 30 minutes in, the colors that cracked through the horizon were an angry mixture of magenta's and blossoming blues. It looked like the sky was bruised as the Earth was hurriedly waking up. And as the pitch blackness gave way to the steel greys and mottled mixture of color, we were witness to the violence on the surface of the seas. White caps the size of ships came hurtling towards shore, their path about to come crashing, literally, into the landmass in front of them.

A perfect example of the force of the front with which we waged our slug fest- a downhill portion of our ride I usually average 40-45 mph (simply coasting) was instead replaced with a grueling, grinding cadence to try to stay at 20mph. My average watts at that point were around 450-500. Very interesting. And very challenging.

Those of you that have ridden around the Palos Verdes Peninsula know, however, that one moment you are fighting with the forces of nature (today in particular, the god Aeolus) but the next moment, you are the beneficiary of what was once an 'opposing force'.

Now those were sweet and precious minutes indeed! If only every ride could feel as if i had wings! But that's part of the fun, isn't it? To take what we envision as the perfect moment, and strive to attain it. Whether it be on a bike, or at any snapshot in time. A chance to turn the 'blues' into a breathtaking explosion of energy and color.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Who's ready for the FINAL(S) push?

Not sure if any of the world's top bull riders are nervous on the eve of their last weekend of work in 2009, but i sure as $%#@ am anxious to see how it all sorts itself out! Bring it on, buckaroos!

Yes, it's already been said, but let's be repetitive. THIS IS THE MOST COMPETITIVE RACE THE PBR HAS EVER SEEN. And if you are fan, and don't watch these next 3 days on Versus, and then the final day on NBC, i'm going to personally see that the PBR revokes your Fan Club membership, removes you from their 'Team PBR' Twitter account, and bans you from any future events.

Just kidding. I don't have that kind of POWER, you all know that! But you should be glued to the tube for the next 4 days. It's been good, but it's going to get down-right dramatic in 24 hours.

JB's looked cool and confident every time i have seen him, and so has Kody. JB's always got that 'Cheshire' grin too, which makes it seem like he's got a secret he's dying to tell you, but just can't. Kody may not smile as much, but his happiness was clear after every Round the first weekend. I think he's saving the biggest 'emotional release' the PBR has ever seen for Sunday, if in fact he wins the World Title he's been dreaming of his whole life.

"Word Up" awards to Ryan McConnell and Robson Palermo for their first weekend exploits. Many of you know in a previous life i did a 'little bit' of competing, and to see these guys step up and deliver in their respective ways has been a reminder that EVERYONE wants to be the best, but only a select few can channel and execute the emotions and actions necessary to come out on top.

Four more days. Four more chances to grasp greatness. A buckle and a title await one man.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Where for Art Thou, Sea Level?

"Rest Day" #2 here at the PBR World Finals turned into a 'killer' day on the road. And there was very little 'rest'. Took a buddy's advice and drove north on I-95 for roughly 30 miles, then made a left onto SR156. That was the only easy part of the morning.

Good thing i really like climbing. This 'hill' was not for the faint of heart. 17.4 miles UP. Literally. 28.0 KM for those of you more metrically inclined. If you are lucky enough to own the book "The Complete Guide to Climbing (on a bike!)" then you have read about this hill in the "Nevada" section. And it was well worth the effort to get there. The climb starts at over 3000 ft. of elevation, and finishes at over 8300ft.

Now, for a sea-lubber like myself, this poses some unique mental and physical hurdles. One, that crushing feeling in my chest that started to occur after about 30 minutes of exercise had to be monitored rather extensively. Two, most climbs i do last, at most, 20-25 minutes (this took me 2hrs to complete), so the never-ending visual of a 'tilted' horizon took some getting used to. Three, the temperature variance was off the charts- even leaving as early as 7:30AM, it was still almost 70 degrees in the valley, but by the time i reached the 'summit' (which was actually the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort), it was in the low 40's.

Nature vs. Man tally on the day: 10 cars passed me, but over 50 different birds flew above and around my slow-moving form. Of the 10 cars, 4 were actually trucks- either Forest Service or delivery. I'd take those odds any day on a bike ride.

After somehow not giving up, and taking pictures at the top for a few minutes (note SNOW-covered 'run'), it was a speedy descent. I decided to make things interesting by alternating 30 seconds 'HARD' with 30 seconds recovery...that really started to take its toll...i figured my heart would be acclimated on the way down, but no such luck. It still reverberated throughout my chest, neck, and head all the way to the bottom. May not have been the smartest thing to keep 'pushing' after feeling this way, but it was overwhelmingly motivating to be zipping along between 30-40 mph for half an hour.

If you are a climber, i would put this on your 'to do' list. Especially if you find yourself in Sin City, in shape, with a bike, a car, and a few hours to 'kill'.

And by the way, no cell service starting at about 7 miles up, so make sure you have that ROAD ID on...

Monday, November 2, 2009

Red Rock Extravaganza-Fantabulous!

Early AM 'call time' again today, but for a different reason...had to get on the bike fairly early due to the TEMPERATURES we are having in Las Vegas. After three days of watching the PBR riders heat up the Thomas & Mack Center, i felt i needed to catch fire on the road.

I revisited the Red Rock Visitor's Center Loop that i did on Saturday, but this time there was a notable difference...i brought along my buddy "Double D" (aka Dave Degelia), and instead of staying inside the 'park', we extended our ride all the way down Rt.159, and even west on Rt.160 (towards Pahrump, NV).

If you are out in this area, you HAVE TO ride these roads. They are that picturesque and magnificent. As i like to say, "Fantabulous"! (a joke amongst my close friends). I did my best to represent the 'Versus' colors, and even though today's few fellow riders were in stark contrast to Saturday's hordes, there were still enough 'rabbits' and 'targets' to keep things interesting.

I'm hooked on this area- i may head north to ride another route suggested by a bike guru friend, but it seems every-which-way i turn out here, there's a hill to climb, which means a smile to be had.

And don't forget, no matter where you go, don't forget those Road ID's...seriously.

PS- i thought my power output was getting better lately, but man, today was total confirmation of the 'wattage wonderland' i'm living go from Las Vegas to the Pyrenees as quickly as i did? RESPECT!


Saturday, October 31, 2009

There's always a sale on "Stupid"

And today, i was 'BUYING', Big Time.

As many of you know, i'm here in Las Vegas for the next 10 days for the PBR World Finals. It's a crazy schedule, but one that is very rewarding, not to mention fun to be a part of. This morning, however, i felt i could steal some time for myself, and head off to the "Red Rock" area for a fast-paced bike ride. I have spent the past couple of weeks planning for this ride- i drove out here specifically to bring my Specialized; i consulted friends for the most challenging and scenic routes; i packed a myriad of clothing selections to make sure i was 'covered' no matter what the weather conditions, well, you get the picture.

AM comes knockin' on the window, and i'm ready. I've laid everything out- water bottles, gels, arm warmers, vest, wind jacket, Powertap, Oakley's...i'm good to go.

I drive to the 'put in' point my buddy had suggested- about a 20-25 minute drive off the Strip, or more specifically, my LUXURIOUS Embassy Suites 'suite'. I no sooner have stopped the car when i realize, 'oh $%#@, i forgot SOCKS!'. Seriously. Of all the freakin' things, come on!

Are you kidding me?? Man, i am not the sharpest tool in the shed. At least not today.

There was no going back, there was definitely no way i was giving up, but it was 49 degrees out, and i wasn't about to sacrifice my toes in the name of 'cycling adventure', no matter how good i thought the route would be.

I thought of riding with my arm warmers wrapped around my feet- a modern-day version of Greco-Roman sandals, or like the soldiers you read of in the World Wars that wrapped their feet before hiking through snow. OK, i know, a tad dramatic. It wasn't life or death, but it was a fish-or-cut-bait moment. And then, off to the left, it was the "A" that caught my eye.

An "Albertson's"...seemed like a long shot, but i had nothing to lose.

I perused the aisles for a good 5 minutes, finally succumbing to the dreaded 'male phobia' of asking for help, and i was immediately instructed to find Aisle 5, and to keep my fingers crossed (as i was told that they stocked WOMEN's socks, but not MEN's).

A veritable cornucopia of lady's leggings and foot coverings greeted my frenetic mind, but alas, nothing of the men's variety. So, faced with the tough decision of REALLY not wearing any socks, or making 'due', i stared at my last resort...

white and pink SLIPPER SOCKS. Seriously.

I pulled the trigger, albeit reluctantly, on the purchase, and dang-nabbit, if they didn't turn out to be the most comfortable freakin' things i've ever worn inside my cycling shoes!! i'm going to start a new trend...i may even do an infomercial! BAM!

"Super Secret Cycling Socks to the Stars"...brought to you by Craig Hummer, by ACCIDENT!

All's well that ends well, as they say. I had a fantastic 2hr, 40 mile ride. My feet were warm enough, and besides the frustration, pain, and anguish PRE-PURCHASE, i only ended up spending 3 bucks on these babies! Bargain to BOOT! YES!

Saturday, October 10, 2009


I spent my childhood surrounded by Buckeyes. Literally. We had a Buckeye tree in the backyard of our house, we made 'Buckeye' candies at Christmas (peanut butter 'balls' with chocolate covering), i was sworn in to 'Buckeye Nation' earlier than i can remember, and of course, more often than not, i was subjected to Buckeye Humiliation at the hands of...(fill in the blank with your favorite NON-BIG TEN team)...most Januarys come the Rose Bowl, or less-prestigious post-season game.

All in all, it was a great childhood. I can remember Woody Hayes walking the sidelines. I can remember my parents (yes, BOTH of them) screaming at the TV on countless Saturdays as the leaves fell from the trees outside, and our spirits sank as well if the Bucks lost. That was what i figured 'normal' was. And that's what 'normal' still is here in the Heartland.

In no small way, my love of sports was born on those days- or at least my connection to what makes sports great. I loved watching everyone around me BE excited. FEEL the emotion. EXPRESS their passion. I used to dream of catching TD passes and celebrating in 'The Shoe', and every time i got to sit in the stands, even though that dream faded a bit with the progressing reality of passing youth, it was no less fun to DREAM.

It's probably been 30 years since i watched a game inside The Ohio State University's famous stadium, but every time i travel back here to Columbus, i'm transported back to those days, and those aspirations. Anything was possible, all you had to do was imagine it.

Here's the fun part. That glorious mindset was born here in Ohio, but i've carried it with me into adulthood. And as a parent, if i'm worth anything at all, i will teach my children to dream bigger than i ever would or could.

Go Bucks.

Monday, September 28, 2009

California Dreamin'

The Sizzle of Summer has far from faded here in Southern California. We 'locals' know that when the calendar turns to September and October, the true heat waves roll in. Look no further than this past weekend in Ontario. You could 'feel the burn' as my daughter and i drove (oh yes, glorious to DRIVE to work) inland roughly 60 miles to the '909' and felt first hand what it's like to stand right next to an oven! The mercury measured 110 degrees on the ride out, and forget that whole 'Yeah, but it's a DRY HEAT' mentality, it was stinkin' HOT!

As for the PBR's finest who descended on Ontario as well, they showed few ill-effects of the rising temps. In particular, Kody Lostroh caught fire and cranked up the heat on the competition, winning his 5th event of the year, and once again distancing himself from his closest challengers.

Our job on TV is to present the 'possibilities' of what could happen in the closing weeks of the season...Kody adeptly, and somewhat exasperatedly, emphatically declared this weekend that he could give a 'rat's behind' about what the commentators say, that his JOB is to ride bulls, and that's what he enjoys doing. Here, here.

If every rider cared as LITTLE about what was SAID, and more about what they did, it would be a much tighter Title Race. You have to hand it to Kody- he doesn't like the limelight, he disdains the distractions that come with his success, and yet, at every instance he has come close to relinquishing his lead in the standings, he finds a way to answer his rivals and his critics. I admire that.

California's real estate is some of the most expensive around, but Lostroh might want to make a down payment on some property- he's won THREE times this year in the Golden State. His wins in Fresno, Anaheim, and now Ontario have provided the backbone for his season's success. Kody admitted after his win last night that he is finally riding up to the potential that he, and his fans, have felt he has possessed all along. It's far from over, but his 'potential' could blossom into a BUCKLE in a few weeks time.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Reno-Bulls, Balloons, and Beef

Very strange to be fully immersed back in the PBR side-of-life. We've got a 6 week run to wind down the regular season, and then it's time to head to VEGAS, BABY! A lot on the horizon as we start this final push to declaring a World Champ, including a tight points race, and a contract dispute between Comcast and DirecTV that has affected a lot of our followers. I have had so many people ask me 'why have they dropped Versus?' and all i can say is these decisions are made way 'above my pay grade'. Bottom line, i have no idea. But, yes, i wish it would get resolved. The more people that see our shows, the better! Duh!

So, back to the basics- a weekend of bullriding, balloons and burgers. The bullriding- JB Mauney won, and cut into Kody Lostroh's lead. Exciting. Balloons- The Great Reno Balloon Festival greeted the dawn each of the two days we were there- close to 100 balloons in the air each morning- another exciting aside to the 48 hours+ in Nevada. BUT, the highlight had to be my culinary decadence! Burgers! I gorged myself not once, not twice, but three consecutive evening meals on beef...ah, it does a body good!

Sometimes you just have to say, WT'BLEEP'.

Can't wait for the coming weeks- plenty to write/tweet/comment on, but not before it's time. Until then, all the best.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Escape from New York

I love visiting the Big Apple. 99% of the time, I am there for work, so when I got the chance to mix ‘business with pleasure’ this trip, I jumped at the opportunity.

It may be referred to as a ‘Concrete Jungle’, but last week, I was finally made aware of what awaits just outside New York City’s urban interior. For two days, two of my friends played the roles of Lewis and Clark, as they led me on bike trips across the George Washington Bridge and into a veritable cornucopia of cycling options. I fell in love with the terrain instantly, and while it did not possess the vertical of some of my normal SoCal coordinates, it was more than enough of an interesting trek to make my spirits soar (and if I lived in the area, to keep me in stellar shape for any athletic goals).

Much like the city itself, with its cultural labyrinth and myriad of options, so too were the pathways we chose to glide upon. River Road, Palisades, 9W, and Nyack- all names I did not know before my two-day baptism by fire, but I know them now! To top if off, the café we stopped at in Nyack had one of the best paninis I have ever tasted. I tried to do my new “Versus” kit proud by hammering home each day as best I could, not sure I turned any heads, but at least the ‘colors’ were flying!

I can’t wait for the next chance I have to throw down and put myself through a suffer-fest of East Coast proportions! Here’s hoping it’s soon.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Rockin' 30 ROCK!

It's always fun to return to the Big Apple, especially when it's to perform on the 'big stage' of NBC!

I spent the weekend anchoring 'Sports Update' for the 'Peacock', and it was good to be back at Rockefeller Plaza. You are walking the same halls that many of the biggest celebrities in news, TV, and sports frequent on a daily basis. NY in the summer is absolutely chock-full of tourists, and it was fun to people-watch while i wasn't on the set. Perfect weather this weekend as well- in the mid-80's, but in the low 70's in the evening (which is when i finished work).

Let's talk about the weekend's sports for a moment. The fun thing about doing 'Update' is that it's a full-speed, distilled version of what's important in sports at that given moment. The producers, and everyone working on the show, have to be on their toes constantly, in case something happens that needs to be included in the highlights.

A fun, and informative, aside to that is that they have approximately 50 TV screens, all tuned in to different events. It's definitely sensory overload, but once you get used to it, the information is all there for the taking! You want to watch the Yankees? Bam! Red Sox, no prob. Pre-season NFL, there it is! Tennis? Track and Field? Tiger at the PGA...just look to the left or right. Really spectacular.

The sporting highlight of the weekend was Usain Bolt CRUSHING his own world record in the 100 Meters at the World Champs in Berlin. Final time- 9.58 seconds! The Jamaican was still pulling away from Tyson Gay as he crossed the finish, and what's even more amazing is that one of the researchers here at NBC found an article from December 31, 2008 where Bolt and his coach talked about how it was 'possible' to go 9.58 at Worlds. OK, can you say "Nostra-BOLT-us?!"

My FAVORITE part of my two days here was getting to talk about Lance Armstrong winning Leadville. It was not going to be something we highlighted, but it turned into a story the producers wanted to do- we even tried to get Lance on the phone- and i think it provided an opportunity to raise awareness of the sport of cycling, outside the parameters of the Tour de France.

A late-night plane flight back to Maine, and then two weeks off of work...i'm not going to know what to do with myself. Correction...i'm going to know exactly what to do- spend time with the family, spend time on the bike, and spend time gearing up for a hectic week of WEC and PBR at the beginning of September! Until then...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Fists of Fury and Shot at Glory

WEC 42...Torres vs. Bowles lived up to the hype in a BIG WAY!

Almost every fight on the undercard went the distance, so that pushed the Leonard Garcia fight to the 'live' card on Versus. And what a way to start off the night! It looked like it was 'lights out' for Leonard, but somehow Jameel Massouh did not realize how close he was to the win, and Garcia came back and made him pay.

Jeff Curran was a fan favorite in his 'Stars and Stripes' shorts, and chants of 'U-S-A' rang through the raucous crowd right from the start as he went up against Japanese sensation, Takeya Mizugaki. Many, including myself, believed Curran did enough to win the bout, but he was shut down in a decision which left the crowd in a funk.

Danny Castillo did not disappoint the legion of URIJAH fans by rep'ing Team Alpha Male in style, a HUGE right hand swayed momentum, and the match, in his favor. He pounced like a possessed tiger and finished off Ricardo Lamas.

The best 'back and forth' fight of the night was Cruz vs. Benavidez. From the start, it was a blur of fists, feet, and finesse. 3 rounds later, Cruz was declared the victor, and Benavidez flung himself to the canvas lamenting the lost opportunity. Cruz now sits as the #1 challenger in the Bantamweight pecking order.

Everyone assumed his opponent would be Miquel Angel Torres...


The 'shot heard round the world' can now be matched by the 'shots' heard round the world! Torres delivered a few, but then took a barrage that not only cost him the belt, but looked as if it cost him some brain cells in the process. Brian Bowles believed in himself like few others did, very reminiscent of Mike Brown last year when he went up against Urijah Faber. Bowles shook up the Bantamweight division like a fallen hornet's nest, and now, lays claim to the crown that had sat on the intimidating brow of Miquel Torres for what seemed like an eternity.

This was a night of questionable judging, but also unquestionable determination. Respect was served up in large doses, but the MMA world lives by the mantra, "What have you done for me lately", so the celebrations will be shorted lived.

Miquel Torres left the cage battered, and yes, beaten down, but not 'beaten'. You can bet he will use this as motivation for what is sure to be a quest to return to the top spot. The utter shock of seeing the former champ out cold on the canvas was enough to leave the crowd in deafening silence, but like the phoenix, expect Torres to rise up from the ashes of this defeat.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Something Wicked This Way Comes

On my way to Sin City for a wild weekend of WEC action! Miquel Angel Torres looks to keep one of the greatest 'unbeaten streaks' alive against Brian Bowles on Sunday night, live on Versus.

If you are already a fan of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), you know what this sport, and this fight in particular, offers. I love the 'mental acuity' needed in the sport, as well as the physical prowess. They have to think as thoroughly as chess masters, react with lightning quickness, and execute with surgical precision- based on a myriad of factors processed in the blink of an eye. It's the ultimate episode of "Survivor"- you have to be able to outwit and outplay your opponent, or else the consequences will be dire.

Torres is as complete a champion as Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, or Justin McBride. (You don't win for 5 years straight without doing something right). What all these men share is not just the passion to excel, but the unwavering desire to never settle for past excellence. What happened yesterday, has no bearing on what WILL HAPPEN tomorrow. In simple terms, it's often referred to as 'staying hungry', or reaching for a new goal. It's never good enough to win, but more important to win a certain way.

I admire that. Not just in an athlete, but in anyone who looks to make an impact on their chosen path.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Back in the PBR

Not exactly sung to the "Beatles" melody, but you get the drift...

Very weird to be back in the US, let alone back inside the arena after such a long layoff. I'm not sure what the Heat Index topped off at this weekend, but it was up there. San Antonio played host to the "Toughest Sport on Dirt" for the 3rd year in a row, and it was a combo-weekend for a lot of the DAY they went to go see Tony Romo and Co. kick up the dust in the Alamodome, and then at night, made their way over to the AT&T Center to see the PBR's finest kick it into high gear against a bigger, and altogether meaner, opponent.

Scary moments on Day 2 when Matt Bohon got KO'd by his Championship Round bull, Spitfire. Thankfully, even though he was carted off to the hospital by ambulance, word was, he was joking around.

So, from BIKES to BULLS in only a few days- and this coming weekend, i transition BRAWLING. Back in the cage for a WEC barnburner! Miquel Torres defends his Bantamweight title yet again, this time against Brian Bowles. And if i thought the heat in Texas was unbearable, well, HELLO LAS VEGAS!

Time to invest in some serious AC. Until next time...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Parisien Poster Boy for 'Pieds'

My feet are wondering what's up...i went from walking a minor amount each day over the past month, to putting in close to 40 miles in 3 days 'strolling' around Paris.

From La Marais to St.Germain de Pres...from Le Tour Eiffel to Place des Vosges...we came, we saw, we conquered...

I should have put my handprint at the base of the Arc de Triomphe, i felt so akin to Napoleon's Army- both in the 'marching' category and the 'thrill of victory' aspect.

And last night, what a way to culminate our visit...drinks on a house boat with a family friend as we stared at one of the world's most recognizable symbols, and then dinner with the same massive metal structure framed by a quiet French side street. It's hard to imagine the immensity of the Eiffel Tower could be made more beautiful, but this true slice of French life, off to the side of the tourist craziness a few blocks away, put the grandeur of Gustave Eiffel's creation in a cool context.

Alas, all good things must come to an end (at least that's what i'm told!), so back to America today, but my bet is Paris will be here next year...hopefully i will too.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Last Word- Stage 21

On a day when 'procession' outweighed 'aggression'- at least for 2/3 of the stage- the spectacle that is the final day of the Tour was still a pleasure to behold. As a bike fan, having our studio on the '50 yard line' in Paris was almost surreal. The sounds of the peloton resounded through the trees, and the smell of victory permeated the air.

Mark Cavendish really is "Superman". The kid out-kicked everyone by such a large margin on the famed Champs Elysee, that they had to go to the 'wide-angle lense' to even have another pursuer in the shot. He lit up the "City of Light" like few have over the decades, and in the process, set a standard for future generations.

Sport is inherently based on competition, and for over 100 years, the Tour de France has showcased rivalries and created icons. To excel at the Tour, you have to not only be able to overcome OUTER adversaries, but INTERNAL demons as well.

2009 marked the return of a legend, but one man in particular was more interested in building a legend of his own. The Tour is three weeks unlike any other, and it's that passion, and these moments, that sustain us.

And you can bet 2010 will provide many more twists and turns!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Last Word- Stage 20

If you missed a moment of today's stage, you missed a classic battle for the podium of the Tour de France. The 'Giant of Provence' became a giant canvas for the world's best to showcase their skills.

Andy Schleck played Picasso up the slopes. He declared stroke after stroke in an attempt to create a come-from-behind masterpiece. He would be matched every step of the way by Astana's Artisans- Contador and Armstrong. The Texan's steely tenacity and the Spaniard's superior strength provided the framework for one of the greatest days of gamesmanship of this year's Tour.

The places in Paris have been decided- it will be a triumphant return for two men in particular- Alberto Contador, after winning in 2007, and then denied entry in 2008, picks up right where he left off two years ago, winning his 2nd 'Grand Boucle'.

But as big a story is the return of 'The Legend', Lance Armstrong. Out of professional cycling for over three years, he found the 'Fountain of Youth' to finish in on the podium, and claims his best is yet to come in 2010!

Tomorrow the celebration commences in Paris!

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Last Word- Stage 19

It was supposed to be a day for the 'opportunists', but the sprinter's teams didn't feel like following the script. Rabobank's relentless pace reeled in the escapees, and once the massive group made it over the final climb of the day, only a counter attack from reigning World Champion Allesandro Ballan delayed the inevitable.

Columbia-HTC flew their colors at the front, and the requisite chaos for Cavendish's wheel ensued. Former World Champ Oscar Freire even went 'off piste' for a bit to try to gain an advantage, but by the finish, a Cavendish victory was almost a foregone conclusion. FIVE WINS, and he may not be done yet, but this win in Aubenas ranks him alone as the best British cyclist in Tour history.

Lance Armstrong's brain was working as well as his body today. In contact with the front group, he lost NO time, while his GC rivals were four seconds in arrears. For Lance, and the other overall contenders, it comes down to the penultimate stage of the Tour...Mont Ventoux. They'll have to push themselves through the pain one final time, in order to glimpse the glory in Paris.

Vielles Vignes- 'Ancient Vines'

It's almost unbelievable to think we are back in the south of France. It seems like an eternity since we were here, talking about the first few sprint stages, but if we needed any reminders, there are plenty. The churches, the castles, the heat, and of course, the VINES.

On our drive into the town of Aubenas today (which is known for its CHESTNUT industry), the early morning light danced off of the countless vineyards we crisscrossed on the back roads of the Rhone Valley. I've got my fingers crossed that we may get another 'bonus bike ride' in, because aside from stopping at each vintner, the best way to see this countryside is at a more moderate pace.

The 'vielle vignes' are is a term commonly used on wine labels to indicate that a wine is the product of grape vines that are notably old. The practice of displaying it stems from the general belief that older vines, when properly handled, will give a better wine. Grape vines can grow for over 120 years. After about 20 years, vines start to produce smallercrops, and average yields decrease, leading to more concentrated, intense wines. In a place where wine production is longstanding, it often means a wine whose vines are thirty to forty years old. Some wine makers insist the vines should be older than this.

What wine-lovers can count on is that the Rhone AOC produces some of the best wine in the world...i just wish on this trip i had the time to enjoy it!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Last Word- Stage 18

The 'Race of Truth' determined the destiny of one man, but left questions unanswered for others.

Alberto Contador tore a page out of Lance Armstrong's playbook, and sent a message to every rider who dare challenge his superiority. His time trial win was a showcase of strength and confidence. He's now won in the mountains AND against the clock, proving he's the most complete cyclist at this year's Tour.

For the other overall contenders, the time gaps in Annecy promise a veritable slugfest on Mont Ventoux in two days time.

Lance Armstrong finds himself in a position to finish on the podium, but you can bet he wants much more than that on the 'Giant of Provence'. And if Astana can circle the wagons, there's still an outside shot for a sweep of the spots in Paris.

It's two days to go until we officially crown a champion, but Alberto Contador isn't planning a procession just yet. He has one more mountain to climb before the coronation commences.

Adios Alps! Ah...Annecy!

After three days at altitude it’s nice to take up residence in one of the most picturesque spots in France. Known as the “Venice of the Alps”, I’m referring to Annecy.

I may move here. Seriously. I was here before when covering the Dauphine Liberé, a prep race for the Tour de France that is held in June every year, and covers most of the same climbs you see in the Tour.

The lake of the same name is the 2nd largest in France, and is known as the most PURE in Europe. It was formed 18,000 years ago from the melting of Alpine glaciers, and is now fed by 7 rivers, and an underground spring.

It's a mountainous version of a 'beach community', complete with a laid-back style, and sports-centric atmosphere that even the most jaded of tourists would have to appreciate. I'm coming back- you can bet on it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Last Word- Stage 17

The Queen's Stage was worth a king's ransom to the Saxo Bank squad today! Flying up five 'categorized' climbs in honor of their fallen comrade, the 'Saxo Siblings', Frank and Andy Schleck, used a combination of 'acceleration' and 'sizing up their competition' to shed all their challengers, save the Yellow Jersey of Alberto Contador. Oddly enough, it was the Spaniard's surge that would leave him with a 2 to 1 DISADVANTAGE as Andreas Kloden couldn't keep up on the Col de la Columbiere.

At the finish, Andy rewarded his brother with a strong lead-out to assure Frank would take the stage, after all his hard work on a day with over 12,000 feet of climbing.

Contador proved once again he can match anyone in the mountains, happy to concede the win today as an 'homage'- his ultimate goal made all the more easier by Saxo Bank's efforts.

The surprise story was Thor Hushovd, flying the Norwegian flag, and the Green Jersey through the first 3/4 of the race. He's supposed to be a sprinter, but today he climbed like a mountain madman. For his Herculean effort, he more than likely secured his 2nd Green Jersey.

One final note- Contador did not make any friends within his own team yet again. Kloden and Johan Bruyneel expressed displeasure with Alberto's uphill blast, and Lance refused to comment (once again) on the Spaniard's racing tactics. Alberto may very well end up winning (or losing) this Tour on his own- and friends may be a rare commodity for the Conquistador on the final climb up Ventoux.

A Five-Course Meal

Our 3-pronged Alpine Assault concludes today in Le Grand-Bornand. It 's an area Lance Armstrong knows all too well- in 2004 he won here in spectacular fashion just ahead of Andreas Kloden (now his teammate). It was part of his "No Gifts" campaign, and that year, Lance seemed exceptionally possessed to show everyone that he could do it all.

Fast forward five years, and he we are, on the verge of what many consider the "Queen's Stage"- the hardest of the Tour- the headline of this morning's paper says it all..."Armstrong will not Surrender".

Lance's acceleration yesterday came at a time when the peloton was beginning to believe he was all too human. In an instant, Armstrong renewed talk of his tenacity, and perhaps his invincibility, every July.

Five Categorized climbs (4 of which are Category 1) would be hard enough, but when you mix in the weather conditions, it could be a war of attrition on numerous fronts.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Last Word- Stage 16

Two massive mountains and an infinite amount of monumental accelerations highlighted today's stage. One move in particular reminded us all of how good Lance Armstrong can be at his best. Left behind on the Petit-Saint-Bernard, Armstrong eventually exploded up the climb to bridge the gap to his teammates, Alberto Contador and Andreas Kloden. In the process, protecting his tenuous hold on 2nd overall.

"Fate" was cruel to Team Saxo Bank today. Despite their best efforts to put Contador's Yellow Jersey in jeopardy, all they had to show for it in Bourg-Saint-Maurice was the loss of Jens Voigt to a horrific crash. That will be a MAJOR blow to their hopes in the final five days of the race.

Congratulations to Mikel Astarloza- he wins the first road race of his career- and what a time to shine- with the world watching his every move, and more specifically, his final brilliant blast at 2K to go, leaving his breakaway 'mates' in the lurch.

A great ride as well by the Garmin-Slipstream squad. Bradley Wiggins rode impeccably, and David Zabriskie drove the chase in the closing kilometers as few can.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Pack Your Passports

Stage 16 weaves through three countries- Switzerland, Italy, and France. Amidst the cultural landscape, the common language of the peloton today will be PAIN. Straight out of the gate, the climbing begins up the Grand Saint-Bernard.

This region of Switzerland is famous for the DOG of the same name. The first mention of the breed was exactly 300 years ago. The original purpose was as a guard dog, but as most of you know, they became famous MOUNTAIN RESCUE DOGS.

The dogs always work in groups of four- two to lie down on either side of the victim to keep them warm, another licks the victim to wake him and keep him awake, and the fourth looks for human assistance by barking or fetching someone.

Napoleon Bonaparte crossed over the Grand Saint-Bernard pass in 1800 on his way to fight against the Austrians and enter Italy via the pass. 60,000 troops, 35,000 horses, and 50 pieces of artillery did not slow him down, it was here that he delivered his famous quote upon being told the army may not make it through the pass, "The possible can be achieved by everyone, I want to attempt the impossible."

The famous writer, poet, and adventurer, Richard Halliburton crossed over the pass in 1935 as he attempted (and succeeded) to duplicate Hannibal's famous feat (in 218 BC) aboard the back of an elephant.

They traveled at an average speed of 3km/HR...i think our cyclists will be just a tad faster today!

2nd Rest Day Reflections-Mont Blanc and More

First and foremost, an epic ride this AM with Bob Roll. We descended from out hotel at 6000ft, down into the valley that houses Bourg-St.-Maurice, and then we turned right around and came back up the 22KM climb to Les Arcs 1950.

For an ocean rat like myself, the rarified air was noticeable, and it added an element of calculation as to how hard to ride.

As for the REAL RACE that's going on around us, well, part of me doesn't want to believe Lance has thrown in the towel, although every interview he's given since the finish of Stage 15 points to that fact. That said, i think 2 things: first, Lance has never given up on ANY GOAL until the proverbial 'finish line', and second, if he really has come to terms with his 'cycling mortality', then it came not in an epiphany, but in a slow simmer on the climb to Verbier. Lance is a master of control, not just of himself, but of his surroundings. An ancillary benefit to that is he is able to recognize what qualities made him the best- IN OTHERS. No one knows better what it takes to win the Tour than a certain someone from Austin, TX. If he's willing to concede that Alberto is the better man, well, than Lance is a 'better man' for it.

Andy Schleck is conceding nothing however. His comments leading up to tomorrow are exactly what you would expect from a 'fighter', and from someone who is confident in his ability. He's made it clear, this race is not over until Paris.

Bradley Wiggins continues to be the 'wild card' and the wildest revelation of this year's race. If he can climb as well, or better, in the coming days, he'll put himself in a great position for the Time Trial in Annecy.

Carlos Sastre is bemoaning his lack of respect, so look for him to channel his anger into a huge day either tomorrow or, better yet, on Wednesday.

And finally, Cadel Evans. The 'Land Down Under' so desperately wants him to rise to the occasion after his 2nd place finishes the past 2 years, but he admitted Stage 15 was his worst day on the bike EVER at the Tour. Let's face it, there is NO WAY he is going to win the Tour de France, and he has very little hope of even finishing on the podium, it smarter for him to try to seize time in the mountains (tomorrow's descent gives him some advantage) or rest up for the Time Trial on Thursday (where, at best, he'll gain 20-30 seconds on anyone)?

Ah, Le t'aime!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Last Word- Stage 15

As predicted, the peloton exploded on the slopes of Verbier today, and the pain was evident on the faces of every rider. Alberto Contador's acceleration on the final climb left the world's best in his wake, and Astana's two-week gamesmanship finally gave way to survival of the fittest.

With 3 Aces up his sleeve, Johan Bruyneel finally set the Spaniard free, and what a flight it was.

In one fell swoop, Contador claimed the stage AND the jersey he's sought to defend for two years.

Lance's Armstrong's effort was more than admirable. He may not be the best on his team, but he is still one of the best in the world, finishing the stage in 9th, but more importantly, moving into 2nd overall for the Yellow Jersey.

Stage 15 will be remembered as 'The Shake Up in Switzerland', or perhaps a 'shakedown' by Astana. As we head into the 2nd rest day, they tactically take control with three men in the Top Four. They have been doing most of the work the past week, now they finally reap the rewards to show for it.

Verbiage prior to Verbier

To be or not to be in Yellow. Everyone's got an opinion on this one that's for sure. I, along with every American cycling fan, feel horrible for George. Fate has dealt him such brutal blows in the Classics, that i have always loved to see his demeanor during July. That's what made it so hard to take yesterday. For him to question the motives of his best friend, and former teammate, means his heart and even his will was broken. The 'Maillot Jaune' would have stood as a symbol of his lifetime of service and sacrifice, and to have it be stripped away by 5 seconds is almost too cruel.

That said, i'm going to reserve judgement as to how and why it happened, and who played the key role in it's collapse, before i choose a side. I want to lash out at someone, or something, but everyone involved may have a valid reason as to why they did what they did.

Bottom line, today's another day for LEGS, rather than LIPS, and the ascent up the final climb is harder than a few of the riders realize.

The town of Verbier is one of Europe's most famous resorts. It's considered a playground for the rich and famous- Richard Branson and Diana Ross are frequent visitors. The 'off piste' skiing is considered second to none, and for the past 15 years, the town has been known for it's classical musical festival.

It's the first time the Tour will visit, but it has been used multiple times by the Tour of Switzerland over the years.

Bonne Nuit

Well, it was with great regret that i rolled out of bed this AM. Only because i can honestly say that last night, i stayed in the best hotel EVER when we have covered the Tour de France. And i'll take it a step further...the rooms were 2nd only to a couple of hotels in Las Vegas i've been lucky enough to visit. Hotel Nevai. Look it up, book it, then travel here and prepare to be 'wow'd'!

Dueling decks (either side of the suite), hot tub, fireplace, plasma screens, walk in shower...the list goes on...going to be very hard to convince anyone this is a 'tough' job after this.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Last Word- Stage 14

On a day when everyone thought it would be the Columbia-HTC Express in action, it was their "Pappa Bear" who put on a performance, as Mark Cavendish's exploits took a backseat to George Hincapie's breakaway effort. As the 12 in front clicked off the kilometers, it looked like Hincapie had the Yellow Jersey in hand, but ultimately, the effort would come up a miniscule SIX SECONDS SHORT, and Rinaldo Nocentini stayed in yellow.

As George himself said afterwards, "It was the opportunity of a lifetime, and it didn't work out.", but you can bet somehow, someway, somewhere down the road, he'll use this as motivation for a pinnacle performance.

For Lance Armstrong, Alberto Contador, and the other 'overall' contenders, it's finally time to play their cards. Tomorrow we CLIMB, and anyone without wings will crash out of the contender's race.

Windy, Wet, and Cold- All Day?

As expected, the rain has returned. It should make for a less-than-ideal day in the saddle. But hopefully it motivates the men to get to Besancon as quickly as possible. We made it here last night in a reasonable amount of time, so a sit-down dinner was in order. 'Filet de boeuf avec pomme frites' was the call- hard to pass that up, wherever you are in the world.

Look for the fast men to finish in a flurry. Mark Cavendish should be smarting from Thor Hushovd's cagey move to steal back the Green Jersey, so expect him to marshall the troops to the front and ratchet up the pace as they crank out the final few kilometers.

So, Besancon...mentioned in the journals of Julius Caesar, it has been historically significant through the times of Charlemagne, the Holy Roman Empire, and both World Wars. It is perhaps best known, however, for it's famed 'Citadel'. Designed by French military engineer VAUBAN, the fort would fall to Spain after he drew up the original plans, so the Spanish saw no reason why they shouldn't follow his design. Once the fort returned to the French, it would take Vauban nearly 30 years to complete.

Known as the 'watch making capitol' of France, Besancon is also the birthplace of Victor Hugo. His best known works are 'Les Miserables' and 'The Hunchback of Notre Dame', and some call him France's greatest poet and exponent of the Romantic Movement in France.

Friday, July 17, 2009

The Last Word- Stage 13

On a day when the rain returned to the Tour, no one was able to rein in the power, and the passion, of Cervelo's Heinrich Haussler. While most were content to seek shelter in the peloton, Haussler ventured into the elements virtually alone. Breaking free of Sylvain Chavanel on the descent of the Category 1 Col du Platerwasel, the German used a combination of skill, speed, and fearlessness to assure the greatest win of his young career.

Rinaldo Nocentini did enough to keep the Yellow Jersey for another day, while Lance Armstrong and Astana regrouped, and refocused, after the devastating news of the loss of Levi Leipheimer this morning.

Lance knows all too well that the show must go on, and while he's lost a loyal sidekick for the remainder of the race, Lance often finds motivation when his back is against the wall. Oddly enough, Levi's departure could prove a powerful catalyst in the days to come.

The Vosges

As the riders run into Colmar today, they must pass through the mythical Vosges Mountains. We cut through the center of the valley last night, and it was interesting, that while the Vosges lack the steepness and immenseness of the Alps, they hold their own when it comes to an overpowering sense of trepidation. There are no easy avenues UP or DOWN.

The script wouldn't be complete without the weather playing a part. Rain is in the forecast, so look for the roads to become even trickier. Astana's luck certainly went south this morning- Stage "13" began with the news that Lance's trusted lieutenant, Levi Leipheimer, is OUT with a broken wrist. The storm is brewing not only in the skies, but in their team bus as well.

Interesting note, France's famous heroine, Joan of Arc, was from the Vosges area.

A couple more tidbits:

The peloton makes its way through the Alsace region today. Besides its WINE and CHEESE, one of the things Alsace is famous for is its STORKS. In the 1970's, the population had dwindled to only 9 mating pairs, but in 1984 the town of Munster (yes, that Munster, cheese fans!) took the lead in helping to protect the species. Their nests can weigh over 1,000 pounds, and the young storks fly after 60 days, reaching maturity between three and four years of age. From birth to the age of one year, they have black beaks, which is how the young and old can be told apart.

Finally, the town in which we finish today, Colmar, was the birthplace of Auguste Bartholdi. Ring a bell? He created a little something called the "Statue of Liberty" (among others).

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Last Word- Stage 12

The sprinters loosened their stranglehold on the standings today, but the peloton seemed reluctant at the beginning to let anyone get away. It took close to 40 miles before the acceptable group of seven were allowed to distance themselves.

AG2R-La Mondial did most of the tempo work, keeping the gap around a manageable four minutes, but finally, two amazing accelerations from Saxo Bank's Nikki Sorensen left him alone at the front, and gave him ample time to celebrate his 1st ever stage win at the Tour. His elation will undoubtedly elevate the moral of the team, after losing workhorse, and road captain, Kurt Asle Arvesen to a broken collarbone two days ago.

Lance Armstrong's drama was limited to a flat tire with 30 miles to go, but his teammate Levi Leipheimer seemed to get caught up in a crash near the finish. Thankfully he would not lose any time since the fall occurred within the "3K'" safety net.

Once again, Astana kept their "A-Game" on ice- perhaps tomorrow is the day they will finally unleash.

Agua por Favor

Today's stage finishes in Vittel. Anyone who's ever stepped into a Whole Foods, or other 'high end' grocery store has seen France's most famous water sitting on the shelves. It's actually owned by Nestle, which interestingly enough, also owns Powerbar (for all you athletes out there).

The surrounding area was also made famous by Charles de Gaulle, president of the Republic from 1958-1969. The great military leader and French statesman resided at 'La Boisserie', and it is said he would stay in his old village before EVERY major trip, press conference, or difficult/dramatic moment.

The symbol of his movement was the "Lorraine Cross". Free France adopted it as its emblem in 1940 as a way to combat the 'Swastika'.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The Last Word- Stage 11

Necessity is the mother of invention, and at this year's Tour de France, desperation is beginning to set in for all the other sprinter's teams. American Tyler Farrar came closer than anyone has so far- he was within a bike length at the line- but the victory salute was still delivered by Columbia's Mark Cavendish, his 4th win at this year's Tour. An added bonus- the Manx Missile is now the Man in Green.

Another quiet 200 kilometers for the yellow jersey of Rinaldo Nocentini, as well as the yellow and blue of Lance Armstrong's Astana crew. They check another one off the list...11 stages down, and one day closer to the deciding days of the Alps and Mont Ventoux.

Comedy or Tragedy?

Or should i say, "Dumb and Dumber"...Bastille Day is a day the French hold above all else. It's also a day where the country completely shuts down. So, imagine our surprise, with a double-dose of dismay, when we realized that we were going to run out of gas, well before our rendezvous point at the hotel. Hmmm...what to do.

A quick thinking colleague advised us to hover near a petrol pump in the hopes of 'paying off' one of the locals- giving them cash in return for using their credit card to access the pumps. Because guess why? The 24-hour pumps here only use the European style credit cards, which have a special chip in them, which leaves us out in the cold. Or in this case, out in the cold by the side of the road!

So, our Angel of the Evening finally showed up, and we thought, "BAM! We are on our way".

The Gods, as well as being 'Crazy', can also be fickle. Our enjoyment was short lived. Turns out my esteemed colleague, and car mate, unbeknownst to me, put the WRONG FUEL INTO THE TANK. So...5K down the road, our car was no longer capable of attacking the asphalt.

Well, the COMEDY of ERRORS was well underway by this point. We called more troops into the mix- thankfully a bevy of co-workers arrived to aid us- and after switching bags into a few other cars, we realized there was no place to put our bikes. No problem! (we thought)...we were 'only' 62 Kilometers from our hotel, we'd just ride in.

And so began the Quest for the Pillow (as in, i was already really tired). Did i mention, the sun set approximately 25 minutes after we started our ride?? And did i mention my riding partner thought it was OK to leave me behind as he motor-paced off of a car, but i did not get in the draft?

Well, this story could go on forever, so i'll end by saying, I got to see fireworks exploding off to my left as i hammered into town, I got to the hotel after being escorted by a car full of my TV teammates, and i got to appreciate that no journey ever goes the way you plan. So, you'd better enjoy the 'ride'.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Last Word- Stage 10

It's becoming an almost foregone conclusion, but it is still an incredible sight to behold. Columbia-HTC delivered Mark Cavendish to the final few hundred meters, and he delivered his team its 3rd win at this year's Tour. The Manx Missile is now only one win away from tying the British record in only his 2nd 'Grand Boucle'.

It was a pedestrian day for the peloton. The pace didn't quicken until the final 12 miles, so Lance Armstrong and Co. got a 'virtual' day off. This was always going to be a day that suited the sprinters, so Lance, Levi, and most of the others were literally along for the ride.

In fact, Lance called it one of the most relaxed days he's ever spent at the Tour. That will change soon enough.

Mecca for Fashionistas

During the Tour de France, you'll see and hear the initials "L.A." throughout TV, print, and radio reports. Of course, they are referring to Lance Armstrong.

This morning, on our drive into Issoudun, we went by a certain factory that anyone in the fashion world would recognize by the initials "L.V." That's right, the one and only Louis Vuitton- purveyor of handbags, luggage, and luxury items extraordinaire. Here's a little history:

In the mid 19th century, Louis Vuitton was a renowned trunks and luggage retailer. Entering into the 20th century, the company expanded in terms of locations and financial success. Beginning in the middle of the century, it entered the fashion world, integrating its signature Monogram Canvas into purses and bags. Since the 19th century, manufacture of Louis Vuitton goods have not changed: Luggage is still made by hand. "the craftsmen line up the leather and canvas, tapping in the tiny nails one by one and securing the five-letter solid pick-proof brass locks with an individual handmade key, designed to allow the traveler to have only one key for all of his or her luggage. The woven frames of each trunk are made of 30-year-old poplar that has been allowed to dry for at least four years. Each trunk has a serial number and can take up to 60 hours to make, and a suitcase as many as 15 hours."

The brand is highly counterfeited, and just over 1% of the items bearing the trademark monogram are authentic.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Last Minute Preparations-Rest Day Thoughts

3 hours on the bike this AM, on tomorrow's course, was a rejuvenating, and eye-opening experience.

Cows, horses,, feed troughs, hay bails...weed-whacking, painting, all went by in a blur as i tried to emulate (ha!) the men i describe on a daily basis.

One of the reasons the Tour de France is so special is it involves so much of the country. And i don't mean the landscape. The PEOPLE of France want the world to see the shining colors of each town, just as much as the suffering of the riders on the bike. They take PRIDE in the race route, and the brief moment of notoriety the passing peloton brings.

Each town spends countless hours, and countless dollars, putting their 'best face forward'. Those of us who follow the Tour, whether it be here AT the race, or at home on television, could learn a thing or two from their commitment.

While we are all individuals, sometimes it's OK to support the 'collective'- if the larger goal benefits the largest amount of people. The Tour gets it, and so does every municipality along the way. I want to be here because i love what the Tour stands for, from a sporting standpoint, but also for what it represents to it's country. Pride, tempered with appreciation, abounds on these roads. You can't help but feel it's presence.

Everywhere i rode today, people shouted "Allez" ('go'), made fun of the fact that the race was actually TOMORROW (so why was i riding TODAY?), and found my little part in the proceedings entertaining. I even had a tractor operator race me up a hill- he waved, gave me the thumbs-up, and laughed hysterically as he drove past me on an incline.

You can say a lot about the French, but one thing they can never be accused of is taking this race for granted. It's perhaps the grandest global stage they now have. And every citizen i've seen, gives it the respect it deserves.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Last Word- Stage 9

The Tourmalet plays no favorites, and holds no grudges. Each year she is a blank canvas on which someone can create a masterpiece. Today, destiny teased two men, and it was Pierrick Fedrigo who fought off his rival, and one of nature's greatest mountains, to add his name to the history books.

The French riders, long dormant in their 'summers' of discontent, have awakened with a new-found 'joie de vivre'. With 3 stage wins, and a 'home team' with the Yellow Jersey, the Tour is already a success beyond their wildest imagination.

Rinaldo Nocentini held on to the Maillot Jaune for another day, and, conceivably, for another week. AG2R-La Mondial defended the honor, and took the responsibility, on the day, relieving Astana of any 'play making' duties.

For their part, Bruyneel and his Kazak-backed brigade did what they had to do- at one point, it was Lance himself who worked on the front to close the break- maintaining an 'order' amongst the rank and file, and continuing to look forward to the Alps.

A rest day tomorrow, but it far from puts to REST any of the questions that remain in this July's developing drama on wheels.

Which way to the Future?

Not sure which group is headed in the 'right' direction.

Yesterday after the stage in Saint-Girons, it was debatable as to who made more 'progress'.

The independent spirit is alive and well in the south of France that is for sure. This man looked at me like i WAS THE CRAZY ONE when i asked if i could take his picture. I found the contrast telling.

Bikes, Bottles and Lance

What a scene at the hotel last night- Astana was there, and so were the cast of characters who we've been talking about all week. I spoke with Lance briefly, and aside from some playful banter, his most notable remark was "Strange race, huh?"

What was interesting, and probably refreshingly to see from Lance's point of view, was someone else was garnering MOST of the attention in the dining room. That distinction went to Edouard Mouiex, the director of sales of one of the most famous Bordeaux labels in the land- Petrus.

I was lucky enough to try a bit of the bottle you can see here back at Christmas last year, and i can honestly say, it was the most sublime wine i have ever experienced.

It would have gone marvelously well with our menu last night, but Bob Roll chose a more modestly priced prize. A 2001 White Bordeaux that he considered an undiscovered gem on the menu. The sommelier even gave him an acknowledging nod upon seeing his selection- a true sign that Bob Roll was on his A-Game!

One of the perks of traveling with the man many consider to be the FACE of American cycling, he's got a brain to back up all that craziness!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Last Word- Stage 8

On the day that the Tour returned to the roads of France, it would be three OTHER "E.U." countries that would celebrate.

It was a brilliant combination of gamesmanship and gusto by Spaniard Luis-Leon Sanchez. Like a professional poker player, he held his cards close to his chest, and waited for the 'river' to reveal the Ace.

Italian Rinaldo Nocentini benefited from great teamwork and great tenacity to hold onto yellow, while Norwegian Thor Hushovd studied the race book to perfection. The God of Thunder placed himself amongst the breakaway early on- no easy feat considering the day started with a Category 1 climb- to take full advantage of the sprint bonus points.

His calculated move moved him into the Green Jersey, an honor he hopes to build on as we wind towards Paris, but a war he will have to wage with Mark Cavendish every step of the way.

Lance Armstrong, Alberto Contador and the Astana juggernaut did just enough out on the road to keep their vice grip on the standings. While there is no debating their strength on the bike, MOST are debating the strength of the BOND that tenuously holds the team together.

Stage 8- Saint Girons

Not a fun drive last night, it's always AGONIZING getting off of a mountain top, and Arcalis was our first reminder this year, that no matter how much 'modernization' takes place- faster cars, better paved roads, GPS systems...all that is useless when you're sitting in bumper-to-bumper, stand-still traffic.

The good news is that today brought sun, mild temps, and a revitalized vibe to the TV compound due to TWO things. First, and foremost, the Lance-Alberto soap opera is too good, and too fun, to ignore. Second, Astana is actually staying in our hotel tonight, so we'll get to see firsthand, how the two, and the team, interact.

At the finish line, we've already anticipated a 'breakaway' to go from the start, but the difficulty of the 1st climb has made it hard to prognosticate who could, or will, stay away until the line here in Saint Girons.

It's peaceful here at the moment, that will NOT be the case in a few hours.

The Shot Heard Round the World

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!!

Alberto Contador is the BOSS! It seems the whole cycling universe wants to know WHY Contador accelerated in the final few kilometers. Let's call Oliver Stone. Conspiracists are already having a field day with how Stage 7 played out. Without directly accusing him of anything, Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer both hinted that the TEAM PLAN was a bit different than how we saw it unfold.

Suffice to say, the Astana dinner table was probably a bit quite last night, at the least, a tad subdued! The exact opposite can be said for dining tables around the world- we've got plenty to CHEW ON these next few days...let the conversations commence and the determined debate rage on!