27 April 2007

The return...

OK, this is it. Yeah, this weekend I throw the old hat back into the racing ring. Yes, I'm going to pay some money, pin a number on my old jersey, and ride a race this weekend in Chapel Hill. This will be the first one since July of 2005. I actually feel sort of ready for it. I'm sure that those feelings will quickly be dashed once the actual racing starts and all, but I won't let that sway me. If it comes down to getting dropped off the back of the group racing around the Meadowmont neighborhood, so be it. I'll ride over to the car, re-fill some bottles, and have a nice ride home. I ain't gonna worry about it for the most part. Not the first race back. Worrying about that would just be plain old silly. Now, if I had been racing for a few months, and had some good results so far in the early season of 2007, I would worry. Not so much with this one. With this race, there are a couple of good sized hills out there on the course, but they are power hills. Meaning, you come into hill 1 with about 30 MPH of speed, and can move about halfway up said hill on pure momentum itself. Hill 2, well, you come into that one with a good head of steam as well, and then have to power through the middle and top of that bad boy, and then it's all downhill until turn 1. Flats after turn one, a technical turn 2, and then back up the hills again. Actually, I've never had a bad race on that course, even when racing the Pro-Am stuff a couple of years ago. So, we'll see what shakes loose. Even though bike racing is about winning, this time out, I'm thinking about finishing, and being happy with that for starters. Talking about old glory days, I almost won this race twice before, and cracked on the 2nd hill coming into the finish both times, but hey, I tried. Luckily for me, when I went into USA Cycling to renew the race license, for some reason, my upgrade never got plugged into the system, so they still had me as a category 3, so I won't have to go and beg Chips for a downgrade. According to USA Cycling, and my shiny new license, I'm already there. And just think, next season, I can get out there and race 35+. Now if we could only get Darden out there racing again.

The really bad thing about all of this riding that I've been doing lately though, is that I've developed bike lust again. Yes, it's true. I pine for the days of new carbon fiber and shiny titanium bits and pieces. Last year, when I wasn't riding, I was thinking that my old bike was a plenty fine machine. As I ride more this year, I look around and see lots of other bikes that I now want. Now (if the fiancé is reading this, don't kill me), if I didn't have to pay for a wedding this year, I'm pretty sure that I would have a new ride already. Alas, I do have to pay for a wedding, and that's really more important than a new bike at this point in time. I did finally get some new componentry though for the old frame. Yes, I've made the upgrade to 10 speed finally. A little Shimano Dura-Ace is going on there soon enough. Just have to find the time to take the old stuff off, and slap the new stuff on. It's not so much the installation of the parts, as it is the stringing of new cables and such. It's just a little time consuming is all. And I don't think that this is something I want to do say, Saturday afternoon, being that I'm racing on Sunday. But yeah, bike lust. I've got it bad. If there are those of you out there who want to get me something for my wedding though, a new Giant TCR Advanced would be nice (100mm stem please with 44cm center to center bars). Just in case. Or my Birthday is coming up. That would be a keen Birthday present. Now, I'm not going to hold my breath, but maybe if say, 30 or 40 of you pool your funds together, you could get it for me. Wait, then again, I don't believe that 30 or 40 people actually read my diatribes on here, so scratch that. Maybe the 4 or 5 of you that read this could pool your money together, but that might be cost prohibitive for you, but I'm worth it.

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22 April 2007

Getting more fit?

Getting more fit. That is the question right now. Sure, I've been struggling with this whole riding thing for awhile now, but I do believe that I had what one might call a breakthrough yesterday. I'm still not as strong as I want to be, or used to be for that matter, but there were signs that things were progressing. Signs that I've been looking around for now for a little while. Yesterday, I was able to complete the Saturday group ride.

Now, bear in mind, that this is just a group ride. Some use it as a race, or race simulation, but let's face the facts, it's still just a group ride. It can be quite spirited at times, and some other times, depending on who is on said group ride, it can be just a faster ride with a bunch of weekend warriors. This weekend, it was somewhere in between. As a friend of mine who was also on the ride said, the hard parts were still hard, but the rolling/flatter parts were easier. In essence, everyone was drilling it up the climbs on the course, and on the flats, they were recovering. Hey, I'm all for it. It has been a LONG time since I actually did this whole ride. Over the course of the last year and a half or so, I've done portions of it here and there. I've ridden the harder parts of it, and I've ridden the easier parts of it. But, just a few weeks ago, I got dropped from the group ride at about only 30 minutes into it. So like I said, progress. I can't ask for much more. Getting out of shape, and losing fitness was so easy, getting it back, it's a bit harder. I think most of us know that. I was even feeling so good at the end of it, that I made a little half hearted attack out of the group to make a dash for the "finish line" (seriously, there is actually a line painted on the road where the group ride officially ends - the final sprint). Normally, I would not do such a thing. I would be one to sit in, wait for the sprint, and make my bid for "glory" at Saturday World Championships. Instead, I attacked. I did so because I saw the sprinters in the group all buckling down their shoes, sitting in the draft about 4 or 5 people back, and just waiting. I could not let them get away with this so easy. I jumped, got about 200 meters really quick, and 2 more guys jumped up to me, and we tried to motor it as long as possible. It sort of worked, because near the "finish" the group had shattered from about 20 people down to about 10 when all was said and done.

Post group ride, I took a nice easy ride home, and considered training for the day a success.

Next week, I start racing again. We'll see if I can get myself dropped in the first 15 minutes or so next weekend. If the race shakes out like the one I watched a few weeks ago though, I should be OK. Oh, and I'm going back to the cat. 3 ranks for now. No pro-am this coming weekend. That would be pure folly.

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18 April 2007


Things they are a changin' at work this week. First, we have a new plant manager coming in. This guy is what we like to call, high strung and all. In other words, he walks around with a chocolate bar in one hand, a Mountain Dew in another, and basically is set loose onto the world, or in this case, my workplace. Word on the street is that he tends to work about 70 hours per week, or more, and walks around like a maniac. And for a tier 1 automotive supplier, he has no customer knowledge or has had no tier 1 customer contacts. He is completely inexperienced, as far as it comes to customer relations. This can be learned, so I'm not too worried about him, except for the fact that he might say something wrong at some point in time, and doom the plant, but hey, they hired him, not me. In his current capacity (he works at one of our closely located sister plants) we've already had some run ins with one another. Me saying that his parts are bad, and that his process stinks, and him arguing with me that indeed, even though the parts measured bad, they really weren't "that bad" and that we should be able to use them as is. Someone doesn't understand the concepts of quality I think, and how we actually assemble things together. It will be interesting, especially since as far as I know, the man has never set foot in this facility before. Methinks that he has a lot to learn. Luckily for me, I have a machining background, so I know what happens on his end of things, whereas he's not so sure what goes on here. He'll learn fast I think. I hope. Ah hell, we're probably going to be closed in a few years anyway so no big deal.

The other thing that is changing is that my boss has been re-assigned to our sister plant down the road from us, and she is being replaced by someone who used to work in our department just a couple of years ago. Now, I know this guy coming in to replace our boss now, and let's just say, I'm less than enthused about him coming back into this facility to "lord" over the department he once worked in, and was the junior member of. Oh, and when he interviewed for a different job within our company, when he originally left our department, he basically threw everyone under the bus during his interview. Saying that our manager didn't do her job, that another member of our team wasn't assigned much work because she was a friend of our boss, and that essentially he was the ONLY person in the department who did anything. Funny, 2 years after he left our department, we're still cleaning up the shit he left behind. Going through his records, we quickly found out that indeed, he didn't do much of anything, and with the new position that he took after being a quality engineer, he didn't do much in that posting either. It just goes to show that if you kiss the right asses around here, you can indeed go far within this company, whether or not you know what you're doing, and this guy, I'm convinced, does NOT know what he's doing. Again, I'm very scared that during a meeting with a customer, or something like that, he's going to say the wrong thing, and doom us. It will happen. He LOVES to throw people under the bus, whether or not he works for them or not. I don't see this happening any differently in the near future. He will say or do something stupid in front of the customer, and we will all pay for it. Not to mention, either myself, or my co-workers will probably get blamed for it.

To sum up. New plant manager, might be good. New quality manager, he's going to suck. And that's all I really have to say about that.

This past weekend though was the Hell of the North. Yes, Paris-Roubaix. The Queen of the Classics, and every other title that it is beholden to. I've got to say, we got some coverage of the race, video coverage, but it was not good. OLN, now known as VS, only had one hour of coverage for a 6 hour race. This is just silly. They used to show Paris-Roubaix live as it happened, and now, we've been stunted down to a measly hour long piece of coverage, which included about 20 minutes of fluff (tech talk about bikes, interviews with the main protagonists and crap like that that most Americans enjoy). Although, I did still have a party to celebrate the race. Pomme frites, beers, and well, more pomme frites. Somewhere along the way, some funnel cake got thrown into the mix, a request from one of the party attendees. It was fun to have folks over, now if only the race coverage were just a little better. Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not asking for the entire race to be shown, actually, 2 hours is more than enough for me. But an hour? That's just silly. I might have to subscribe to cycling.tv as they showed the entire thing, and I could transfer it over to the TV as well, so that might be something to look at in the future.

As for the race itself, it was a good edition. While in North Carolina we were enjoying what should have been Northern France weather (rain, high winds, and more rain), the guys over riding the race were enjoying sunshine, and temperatures in the mid to upper 70's. Of course, this doesn't make the race any easier. Oh no. It might actually make it harder. It's dustier, and the speeds, much higher. It was a good battle. Although I am happy with the man that came out on top, Stuey O'Grady from Australia, I really wanted Juan Antonio Flecha to win it, and he rolled across the velodrome line 2nd on the day. So close, and yet, so far. I won't really go into detail about what went down in the race, as there have been enough write ups on that thing already (check Cyclingnews.com, or Velonews.com, or Pezcyclingnews.com, or any other cycling website for that matter), and I don't need to re-hash it. Stuey won in a grand fashion though. He rode away with one of the first breakaway groups of the day, and then attacked at a very opportune time, and then went solo to the victory in Roubaix. O'Grady, a very deserving winner, who is turning himself into a good classics or one day rider. He used to be somewhat of a decent sprinter, but he's lost his jump somewhere along the line, and now, he is one for the breakaway, and or the solo bid for glory, which is what he did this past weekend, and he is the first Australian to win this race as well. Good on him. Always good to see a well deserving winner.

OK, that is all for now. As I am actually writing this at work and posting it later on during the day when I get home, time to wrap it up, and get something done for the day. Actually, this has been written in bits and pieces, and I actually HAVE been getting things done today. No, really, I have. Honestly.

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07 April 2007

Down in flames...

I'm not the one going down in flames of course, but one Mr. Jan Ullrich after the revelations of this past week. We have, a man, who I would say is, or rather, was one of my cycling heroes found out that indeed, he did have a bunch of blood banked ready to re-inject into himself to give a little boost on those "off" days. Jan, what the hell were you thinking? I know, all of those tough years when you were supposed to be the golden boy of cycling, the NEXT BIG Tour de France star, and then you had that pesky Armstrong guy roll in and take your thunder. And not only that, but he had a better back story than you did. How do you compete with someone who battles and wins against cancer, and then continues onward to win Tour after Tour after Tour? I could see why you would prescribe to more devious means to go faster, and to be able to possibly take down the Tour champ Armstrong, but you didn't need that. What you needed to be doing was you needed to train more. Lay off the strudel and the danish in the off season, and just go out and ride your bike. But instead, it appears that you decided to try and take shortcuts instead of the hard working route. Yes, I understand, even with the shortcuts you still had to work hard, but man oh man, it's such a disappointment.

Not to mention that the support that you received from your fans over the years was pretty much unparalleled as far as I can tell. People were behind you every single step of the way in your quest to win the biggest most prestigious race on the calendar. Hell, you had the entire nation of Germany cheering you onward up the cols and through the time trials and over the flat stages, and look at the turnout you had when the race took a turn into Germany. Unbelievable how many people lined the roads just to see you pass by.

But then, this week, your career took a turn towards negative town, and even worse, you let your lawyers make stupid statements about why Dr. Fuentes (and OB-Gyb if I'm not mistaken) had 9 bags of YOUR blood in his storage bin. While it being true on the surface that this is not for sure an indication that you blood packed, and or blood doped, but it doesn't look too good my friend, not good at all. And to have one of your lawyers pop up and say that this does not mean anything at all, and that it is "normal" for people to have their blood stored in different locations just makes it look even more insane really. Let the long list of excuses continue. So, if indeed you were storing your blood for a possible future surgery Jan, what kind of surgery was an OB-Gyn going to performing on a world class cyclist anyway? I'm not sure that his particular branch of specialty really applies to you does it?

This week, cycling took another hit to its reputation when your DNA came back matching those blood bags, and literally every good thing you did in your own career Jan has come to be recognized as being tarnished now. The Olympic medals, the Tour title, the national titles, everything, as far as I'm concerned, tarnished. Who knows how long you've been doping, possibly your entire career. It's not as if the East Germans (who you used to ride for) were known as being scrupulous in their means of making their athletes faster, stronger, and better. I'm probably certain that behind the iron curtain, there were many bad things going on as far as doping was concerned. Then you had your "trusted" advisor Rudy Pevenage, who I'm certain, had undue influence on you, and I believe to the detriment of your own career that you listened to him a little too much. He was a hanger on, looking to get rich off of you, and it appears that he offered you lots of bad advice no doubt.

But none of this matters anymore. You've gone down in flames, and your further damaged cycling just when many of us, fans of the sport, thought it couldn't be damaged any further. Thanks for that. It has now gotten to the point where it is hard to enjoy the sport for the actual sport of it, and any good performance is looked upon with apprehension and or suspicion, and this is in part because of people like you. My love for the sport will of course go on, and I will still watch the big races, and talk about the results, but always with a wary eye towards the headlines of cyclingnews.com to see who got busted for what on a particular day.

Thanks Jan for helping to chip away at the sport just a little more.

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02 April 2007

Just a teaser...

For those of you in the know, you know what is coming up in a couple of weeks. Here are just a few pictures to let you in on the little "secret". See the pictures below.

Need I really say more?

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