Why do Cyclists Tweet?

I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from the release of VeloTweets. Thank you everyone for that, and please help spread the word about the site. These projects are about creating something that people love. There is no business behind it. The more people that like it, the more likely we are to make further improvements to it.

There is a secondary question that people have asked about extending something like VeloTweets into other sports. I think it is possible that could work, but I think that cycling has some unique characteristics that make it particularly well suited for Twitter. Through Twitter the peloton can send two really clear messages.

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RAGBRAI 2009 Full Route Announced

The full RAGBRAI route for 2009 was published this week. We are going to be going along the southern half of Iowa.

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One of the things my friend Jim, who did RAGBRAI once in his teenage years (and, in his own words, “will not be doing it again”), keeps highlighting for me is that RAGBRAI was in part created to prove that Iowa was not flat. There is a strong desire on the part of states to prove to cyclists they are not flat it seems. Texas Hellweek has a similar motto. There is certainly no lack of climbing in the 2009 RAGBRAI route. This graph shows the mileage and climbing feet for each day.

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Looking back on my posts from Texas Hellweek 2001 those routes had about 5,000 feet of climbing every day. It looks like Monday and Tuesday will be some good challenges.

Feet of climbing though has to be gauged with the distance of the leg. A better way to look at it is feet of climbing per mile.

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I’d say the route planners were pretty kind. The ride gets more gentle (on average) over the course of the week. Good stuff! Check out the complete route map on the Des Moines Register site for the details.

Registered for RAGBRAI!

I first heard of RAGBRAI several years ago when I was riding like a crazy man doing centuries nearly every weekend. RAGBRAI (pronounced rag-br-eye) is the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa. RAGBRAI is a 7-day ride, starting on a Sunday and ending on Saturday from the western edge of Iowa to the eastern edge. The route changes every year, but this year starts in Council Bluffs, IA and ends 442.3 miles later in Burlington, IA. Tammy and I are signed up to take part in RAGBRAI 37!

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RAGBRAI is an event unlike no other. It is the largest organized bike ride in the United States. You camp each night in small towns in Iowa. It’s too big to be defined by one thing. Some call it a party on wheels, others like to hammer the miles away. I’m looking forward to finally riding it.

We will have a lot of training to do before July 19th. It is suggested you get 1,000 miles on your bike before you show up. Additionally, I’m going to work harder than I have at dropping weight faster so that I’m carrying less heft across Iowa. I’m sure there will be much to say about this adventure in the future. More to come, and wish us luck! :-)

See also: RAGBRAI Wikipedia Page.

Lance Returns to Racing!

I had read rumors over the last couple of days that Lance Armstrong was going to be returning to racing, but there were rumors only and I figured they were very far fetched. Why would the 7-time Tour de France winner return?

Well, it wasn’t a rumor! He is racing in 2009! Wow!

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2007 Minneapolis Bike Tour

Tammy and I got to be one of the 4,500 participants in the very first Minneapolis Bike Tour a couple of weekends ago. I road with my Ironman Brother-in-law. We road the short route and Tammy and her sister rode the longer route.

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This was a really great ride. It seems like it’s Minneapolis’s answer to the St. Paul Classic. I’m really glad they started doing this and even more glad it was so popular. I’m looking forward to riding it again next year. If you enjoy the bike, make a point to do this ride in 2008.

Major Blow for US Cycling

It has long been wondered if US cycling would be able to survive the retirement of Lance Armstrong. Today we got our answer, and unfortunately it isn’t the answer I wanted. The Discovery Pro cycling team announced today that after this season the team will be disbanded (PaceLine release requires registration). The team that has won 8 Tours de France in the last 10 years and countless other races will cease to exist after this years season is over. The team led by perhaps the best director sportif, Johann Bruyneel, is going away. The team that was US Postal, and traces back to the Subaru-Montgomery Sports team, is going away. After shopping around for months since Discovery Channel decided to end it’s sponsorship, the team was unable to find a viable sponsor.

There are two reasons for this. The first is America’s continuing lack of enthusiasm for cycling. The majority of America seems to lack the attention span for Grand Tours and don’t care to dive into the strategy and poetic agony of cycling. The second reason is more insidious. I find it impossible to believe that doping allegations are not part of this. Europe is weathering this storm as well, but the strong history of cycling gives organizations like T-Mobile continuing sponsorship even after significant doping issues. Mind you, Discovery has not had an issue in this arena. But combining the lack of a superstar like Lance that everyone can get behind, and the worry of a doping scandal is too much to overcome it seems.

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by Kevin Kallaugher, Economist, July 26, 2007

This is an unfortunate turn of events. In an attempt to see the silver lining, perhaps riders like George Hincapie will be able to move to other teams with more support for his Classics goals. I would expect that Bruyneel will find a new home. Or perhaps something else will rise out of the ashes of the most winning tour organization in the last decade.

Until then, thanks for all the great memories guys.

Doping in the Tour

The 2007 Tour de France is winding down, and is frankly a complete mess. The culprit, doping. Or, the appearance of doping. Yesterday was Stage 16 and the scene of a great battle on the Col d’Aubisque. After the stage Rabobank withdrew and fired the maillot jeune of the tour. Only days prior to that Alexander Vinokourov failed a test and was expelled from the tour, along with his entire Astana team, after blowing up the individual time-trial and beating the entire field.

Last year we had Operación Puerto which ejected many riders from the peloton. This years Tour seems comparable to the 1998 “Tour de Dopage” when doping scandals riddled the Tour and just over half of the riders that started finished the race. The 1998 doping scandals caused a permanent footnote to Armstrong‘s first Tour win in 1999 since many riders were suspended from the race.

Let me be clear, I think doping in cycling is a scourge and it needs to be remedied. I also completely believe that doping is prevalent in many sports, and I give cycling credit for being serious about doping. I would expect that more cyclist are caught doping than any other sport, I would expect that is largely the result from actually testing and doing something about it. Athletes in other sports dope. This isn’t a cycling only problem. Viva la Tour!

But.

There are many things that concern me about the current state of affairs. Take a look at Rasmussen. He never tested positive for anything. But, he did miss doping controls and allegedly lied about his location saying he was in Mexico when really in Italy riding in the Dolomites. Boom, he’s out. Why? Because Italy is where all the dirty doctors are. And riding in the mountains in Italy means you must have been doping. And, he did an amazing time trial so he must be doping. Couldn’t he also have just had a really strong day?

Additionally, lab tests are done with an A and B sample. If the A sample tests positive, you are out. The B sample is somewhat irrelevant because even if you test negative on the B sample your already gone. And where are these labs? France. It’s no secret that the French have an axe to grind, particularly with non-French riders.

On top of all this cycling tests are typically not tests of the substance, but the effect. For example, if your blood count is too high you are out. There is no detection of a drug, just the effect.

This all leaves cycling in an utter mess. It leaves fans in a state of confusion and dismissal. And nobody has a good answer. There is a growing theory that the leaders of the Tour must be doping, because if anyone in the peloton is doping you must be doping to beat them.

Cycling could decide to follow American Football and Baseball and make some token gesture on doping but really just let everyone do whatever. The problem with this is frankly cyclists will start to die! This isn’t a new problem, in 1967 Tom Simpson died on the climb of Mont Ventoux after taking amphetamines. The trouble with adding red blood cells is that your blood literally gets thicker, and combined with maximal effort you can simply die. If doping were just allowed I have no doubt deaths would follow.

There was discussion a couple of years ago of working with the pharmaceutical companies to add tracers to drugs so that they can easily be detected. This of course will just create a black market for drugs without tracers.

It seems the only solution is more testing. But cyclists are already pushed to the brink with random drug tests. They occur all year long, are completely random and are mandatory. Representatives show up at riders hotels on vacation in February for immediate tests. Brutal.

Today there is no maillot jeune in the Tour. Tour tradition compells riders to not wear yellow unless they earned it. It’s a rare stage indeed where there is no maillot jeune on the road. Tomorrow Alberto Contador from Team Discovery will pull on the yellow jersey, but forever with question marks. I still really enjoy this sport, but I hope that we can see a clean and uninterrupted tour soon.

Cargo Shorts Banned from Cycling

Tammy, Mazie and I went on a bike ride today. Tammy is prone to comment about how great it is to just “ride your bike”. What she means by this is to disregard the crazy gear of cycling — special shorts, shoes, shirt, socks and everything else — and just ride your bike. Street clothes. Normal shoes. You know, like “normal” people do. We were riding to Yum for lunch, about 17 miles round-trip with a long lunch in the middle. So I went with normal shorts like a normal person.

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I have no option to not wear my cycling shoes since all of my bikes have clipless pedals (a must!). But I decided to go ahead and just wear my normal shorts and spare the world me in lycra. This was horrible. It’s not just that the cycling shorts have padding that make the saddle more comfortable. It’s that regular shorts are hot. They are baggy and restrict leg movement in odd ways. They bunch up all over. It was absolutely horrible.

I’ll never ride my bike over 2 miles without cycling shorts again. I’ve learned my lesson.

Make Minneapolis Bicycle Friendly

A few months ago I sent a suggestion to the mayor of Minnetonka to request that they work with the League of American Bicyclists to get Minnetonka the designation of a Bicycle Friendly city. She had someone on her staff look into it but they ultimately decided it would be too difficult to pursue.

In the new flyer from the League I noticed that Chicago had just received this designation. So, I dropped a note to Mayor Rybak of Minneapolis on this topic. Maybe Minneapolis would go for this. If you think this is a good idea, how about sending him a note yourself.

Mayor Rybak,

My name is Jamie Thingelstad and I’m a resident of Minnetonka but work, and have lived, in downtown Minneapolis. I’m also a bicyclist and enjoy commuting back and forth to work on my bicycle using the great trail network that we have in the metro area.

A few months ago I sent an email to Mayor Anderson of Minnetonka suggesting that she seek to have Minnetonka designated a Bicycle Friendly Community by the Leage of American Bicyclists. I am a member of the League of American Bicyclists as well as a member of the local Twin Cities Bicycling Club. Mayor Anderson’s staff looked into the award but were unable to justify the investment.

I noticed that Chicago has now been designated a Bicycle Friendly Community, and that made me think that perhaps Minneapolis would like to seek the same designation. If Minneapolis achieved the designation it would be the first city in Minnesota to do so, and hopefully not the last. I think this would be a fitting achievement for the state that leads the country in miles of “Rails to Trails” paths.

Thank you for your time and consideration, and of course, your continued support of cycling in Minneapolis and the surrounding area.

Sincerely,

Jamie Thingelstad

Congratulations Discovery!

When I was in the 2nd grade I had my heart broken. It wasn’t over some cute girl as you may expect. No, I was (and am) a geek at heart, and my heart was broken because I had learned that you could not be an astronaut if you required glasses. And there I was, in all my glory, with my glasses (I’ll spare a reference to a picture here for my own sake). My dreams were shot. Space was off limits for me.

In the 2nd grade I didn’t realize the million other reasons why I would not be going into space. It seemed my vision was the only thing holding me back. I’ve always loved the stars and the exploration of our universe. If I had my pick, it would be a pretty amazing area to work in, but I’m afraid my math just isn’t where it would need to be to work with all those big brains.

Like many people my age I remember the exact moment that I found out about the Challenger disaster. I was walking into my science class in junior high, and my teacher told us the shuttle had exploded. We spent the entire hour watching TV coverage of the disaster. I’ll always remember that. One of those moments that is forever frozen, and locked into your brain.

We also had the experience of visiting Cape Canaveral, coincidentally shortly after the Columbia disaster. It was moving to see the freshly placed tribute to the astronauts that had died at NASA‘s monument. They have a very impressive monument to the astronauts that have died in the pursuit of the unknown.

So of course I was excited to see the Return to Flight today of Discovery and it’s crew. The shuttle roared off the launch pad and everything went extremely smooth, or as a bunch of NASA geeks say, “nominal”. After visiting Cape Canaveral and seeing these facilities in person I certainly have a bigger appreciation for the scale of everything that goes on there.

I’m happy to see that NASA is back in operation. It concerns me a bit that people think this can somehow be made risk free. After all, we are strapping people to a controlled explosion and launching them into orbit! This is dangerous, extremely risky business. We should take all precautions that are possible, but let’s not kid ourselves that this is exploration, and there are dangers.

Hat’s off to all of NASA, and to all those brave souls aboard STS-114. Oh, and the astronaut on the mission from Japan, he wears glasses!