BikeMonkey Post
The sport of cross-country running is a fine one. I mean, who doesn’t get behind a brisk run in the woods for 5 km at a stretch? So much more interesting than going around a 400 m track or running on the city streets.

Cross-country features paths and forest roads, asphalt and grass sections. Up hill and down dale. Sometimes it gets a little narrow and the footing can be slippery or rocky…but for the most part it isn’t all that technical. We’re not talking parcour here.

As with most running, there’s no cheating, faking or room for much strategy. You run your race, you work your pace and you try to outrun the rest of the pack. Guys who were fastest on my cross-country team in highschool were the fastest on the road and the fastest on the track. There was maybe a tiny margin for guys who were slightly lighter to put the relative hurt on in the climbs, for some guys to downhill slightly faster or for the longer and shorter limbed to have slight advantages on the curvy or the straight. But the margins were slim.

Fast is fast in running.

Mountain biking is a different story although the differences from running aren’t as extreme as in road cycling. MTB racing tends to be a bit more of a solo effort with little advantage to be gained from sitting in a giant pack of riders. And as with cross-country running, the terrain varies from asphalt to grass to trails. Wide fire-roads and single-track paths, smooth, rutted or rockey. Sustained miles of mountain ascending, short power-climbs and flat terrain. What is up must come down and you have to be good at getting a little sideways now and again.

I always was about 10 pounds over the top end of the ideal range for running and biking competition from highschool through college. Ascending climbs of any duration was never my strong suit. The MTB racing phase came along later in life and I’d put on a good 8 more pounds by that point. So the sustained climb of anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes duration that occurred in the typical MTB course was a big hurdle.

I was not usually in contention to win MTB races. Top 10 finishes tended to be my goal. Sometimes you just have to be realistic about your individual abilities within the competition you have chosen to join.

One race day we faced a course that started and finished with a paved park road, maybe a mile long. On the out-leg, the course jumped off the road to a track-and-a-half with a creek crossing right before the main climb. Which was steep. Being a MTB race, the pack rolled out kind of slowly on the paved road. No sense in pulling the peleton along with you in a MTB race, right?

About 300 m from the start of the trail section, I just nailed it. Like a sprint finish, I mean. I’m sure everyone else thought I was insane…but there wasn’t anyone near me until I was well into the climb. Per usual, the climbers eventual caught and passed me and I kind of lost track of how many folks were in front of me. With multiple start groups on the same course, it can be hard to tell when you are just buried trying to go fast. The downhill section was pretty technical and I am sure I passed some folks here and there, some with flat tires. But still no idea what the race looked like until I crossed the line first.

It turned out the hole shot was everything in that particular race. The most important thing was getting a big enough lead at the start that my deficits at climbing were minimized. Anyone smart enough to get on my wheel at the beginning couldn’t get by and took a big face full of creekwater and a bad line. Climbers who reacted too late, or were caught up in the pack, let me have a few extra precious minutes on the climb. Then, in the rest of the course the matter was decided by the other parts of the MTB racer’s skill set. Descending, handling, power climbs and the final hammer to the finish on paved road. Some of those things were to my advantage.

Minimize the impact of your deficits so that your strengths can carry your through. Sometimes this requires advance planning* to pull off. It almost always benefits from full commitment to the initial move.

Somewhere, between cross country running and MTB racing, there is a lesson for science careers.
___
*yeah, I’d planned the holeshot when I previewed the course earlier.


BikeMonkey Post
Once upon a time I used to try to go fast on a mountain bike. Now and again. The picture here is not of “some random white guy you pulled off the internet” as a certain ex-intern once remarked to me. This is towards the end of a race held on a ski mountain where the cross-country course was basically UP, across, DOWN and zig zagging down the ski slope face was always a blast. I don’t do the stupid stuff anymore. In no small part because of mini-waccaloons that will depend on my brain functioning more or less normally for another several years. But…..I never was an idiot and if you look at this picture with an educated eye you’ll see that I have the rear locked up a bit too much and could have been making better time. Oh, hell, take a listen and I’ll meet you after the jump

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Props if you rode today!

I barely have to change the leadin for this reposting. Last time I said “Sports doping is in the news again this week.” It was a previous round of Lance-fest. Well, he’s finally confessed to doping through his 7 TdF wins and a lot more besides.

Doping has been with cycling since forever.

I put this up at the original DrugMonkey blog on 8/21/2007.


We’ll start off our discussions on sports doping with the classic psychomotor stimulants, the amphetamines. You know, good old “speed”. A class of drugs primarily considered indirect dopamine agonists because they bind to the dopamine transporter with good affinity (dopamine reuptake inhibitor) and also act to facilitate dopamine release from the terminal. As with similar compounds they also tend to have some affinity for other monoaminergic transporters and will thus modulate norepinephrine and serotonin. Nevertheless, the major action usually under discussion is to increase dopamine levels in the synapse. Read the rest of this entry »

The recent news about Lance Armstrong and his numerous teammates, who are now confessing to having doped, raises parallels to cheating in the profession of science. I suggest you read the linked stories which all contain a fair bit of excuse making from the confessed cheats. “Everyone is doing it”. “I always wanted to be a cyclist”. “I was ambitious” and “They told me I had to if I wanted to survive at this level”. You will also notice that to a rider they appear to say that they made it all the way into the professional ranks without cheating. The hard way. With work and talent. So far the cycling doping stories are free of anyone claiming that they started out as a cheat from day one as a 15 year old amateur. And larded up with stories of long, hard hours on the bike as a teen.

Sounds a lot like academic scientists who make excuses for their scientific fraud, doesn’t it?

Another consideration which fails to emerge is the very nature of the top level competition, 20 days worth of hard racing, 4-8 hrs per day in the Grand Tours. Not clear it is possible for feats of sustained excellence to occur without doping, is it? Do you wonder about what it takes for a record of sustained excellence represented by multiple Cell, Nature and/or Science publications year in, year out from the same lab? You should.

Anyway, I thought I would revisit this personal observation, reposted from my blog.



BikeMonkey Cross-Post
It was someplace in the middle of my college years and I was home for the summer. I went to a circuit race that I’d raced a few times over the years. It was maybe a mile per lap, around a park.

Normally the circuit race is my game…..crits (under a mile, four corners around a block, typically) were cool, in theory, but I didn’t usually have a team capable of support and I’m kind of a wuss at the high-speed, elbow rubbing, apex cornering mid-pack thing. So a full-mile, maybe 1.5 circuit suited me well. Slightly less importance on repeated, high-speed cornering, lengthier straightaways to group up and the possibility of a short rise. Now, I sucked ass at hill climbs, true, but short power climbs, taken up out of the saddle were doable. Short enough and they were actually an advantage to me.

The course had a hill early in the lap after four right angle corners. Then it was about 30 feet of gain from 0.22 mi to 0.37 mi and then it was drifting up, almost flat up to 0.7 mi, then back down to the start line. Just after the course started downhill there was a acute turn, sharper than 90….crank it up to the 1.0 mi mark, bank a 95-100 degree left and it was about a tenth of a mile to the line.

Races were maybe 45 min at that point? I was in the Cat IVs so that seems about right. That would make it on the order of 18 laps or so? maybe 20. Not so far but believe me, you were hauling ass the whole time.

I always loved this course and had managed a prime (intermediate sprints within the race) or two over the years but had never won. My memory suggests that I was never in there for the finish…for whatever reason. Most usually because the climb had me at my limit. I could hang for most of the race, and be at the front enough by the start of the downhill to dice for primes at the bottom of the course. But in the end, someone would light it up enough over the climb late in the race for me to lose contact with the front.

Not this year…..

I was FLYING. I mean, I didn’t feel like Superman, toying with the other riders. I didn’t feel like I was riding a motorcycle. I was working my ass off, dicing it at the front through the danger zones, then sitting in. Chasing down breakaways a few times…. and above all else, strategically climbing the hill. No big deal, I was racing. And I’d get tired….and have to back off for a lap.

But every lap, I was in there. Coming through the left-hand turn that started over the crown of the hill, I would gain places, slip up to the front….shut dudes down. I may even have had to chase down some real climbers on a lap or two. And my HR would spike. But then I’d settle down and catch my breath and get back to where I needed to be.

And there I found myself, last lap. Up the right-hand side as we hit the corner in the middle of the hill…jamming up to the slightly strung out front 10. Slipping into the top five just before the turn onto the downhill…and then I nailed it. It was downhill so I don’t even remember the usual dramatics….flat or uphill and my back wheel was typically jumping around a bit when I spooled up a sprint. But I was goooooooone. Flew into the final bend a bit hot and I do remember juuuuuust not clipping the curb on the outside…and then it was up again and across the line.

FTW.

Of course, I hadn’t been doping, not really. But I HAD been training and racing above 6,000 feet for many months prior to this race. No doubt I had a significant red blood cell advantage over many of my competitors that day. I certainly had one over my own historical races on that course.

This is what EPO does, of course. Increases oxygen carrying capacity. So does blood doping.

Several years ago I started to realize that this is why you see so much explaining and defending out of the cycling dopers that get caught. “Everyone is doing it”. “I had to if I wanted to keep my (domestique) job”. “I had a bad day and needed to stay with the team”. “You still have to put in the work!”.

Yeah….yeah you do. And no, you don’t feel like you are cheating.

What you feel like is …”finally! I feel right. Like I’m where I should be based on my training!”

I can see how it would be very easy to convince yourself it wasn’t exactly cheating.

But it is.

Sports doping is in the news again this week. Some 60 Minutes program accusing Lance Armstrong, yet again, of being a doper who just didn’t get caught. Prof-like Substance has a few thoughts on the matter under a title which questions whether pro cycling can survive if Lance is proven to have doped. Are you kidding? Doping has been with cycling since forever.

I put this up at the original DrugMonkey blog on 8/21/2007.


We’ll start off our discussions on sports doping with the classic psychomotor stimulants, the amphetamines. You know, good old “speed”. A class of drugs primarily considered indirect dopamine agonists because they bind to the dopamine transporter with good affinity (dopamine reuptake inhibitor) and also act to facilitate dopamine release from the terminal. As with similar compounds they also tend to have some affinity for other monoaminergic transporters and will thus modulate norepinephrine and serotonin. Nevertheless, the major action usually under discussion is to increase dopamine levels in the synapse. Read the rest of this entry »

Remember "Redneck"?

May 20, 2011

No, not these kind.

This one.

He’s tearing up the Tour of California!

With five kilometers to go to the third KOM, the gap had increased a bit with a lead of one minute and 10 seconds on the chasers, still led by Team RadioShack. Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) of Team Garmin-Cervelo launched an attack on a small climb that interrupted the decent and was quickly joined by Paul Martens (GER) of Rabobank Cycling Team, but Hesjedal continued to do most of the work on the front. On the third KOM, Anthony crossed the line first, and the fourth KOM was captured by Jonathan Patrick McCarty (USA) of Team Spidertech Powered by C10.

As the race continued, three riders from Team RadioShack kept pace at the front of the peloton. Horner and Leipheimer leapt off the front to chase Hesjedal, leaving Schleck and David Zabriskie (USA) of Team Garmin-Cervelo behind. They were able to catch him, but Horner proved to be too strong for both and he established a gap between himself and Leipheimer and Hesjedal, a decisive move that put Horner in the lead with three kilometers to go until the finish.

YEAH! Go HORNER!!!!

I had to stop some commuter last week and fix her front quick release for her. Nothing that scares the crap out of me more than seeing someone with the lever in the wrong position, poised for a nice little whoopsie. I’ve seen the aftermath of what happens when a front wheel drops off and it is not. at. all. pretty.

This should make the essential point:

If that still wasn’t clear, read this.

This is Bike-to-Work Week (and if you can only make one, Friday is Bike-to-Work Day) in the US. Let’s do it, folks!

It ain't about "deserve"

December 13, 2010

GMP has a, well, spirited post up lamenting the seeming fact that awards in science breed their own success. Creating an “Accolade Magnet”. Meaning that once some investigator is blessed with “Promising Young Investigator Eleventy!!!11!!!!” of Society for the Hopping of Bunnies, she then goes on to win accolades from her University, another three or four societies, segue into the Mid-Career Investigator (Eleventy!!11!!) awards, etc.

What aggravates me is that I know this person well and I have never been dazzled by their techical brilliance or originality. However, AM is the nicest and most pleasant person you are ever likely to meet (on the outside of course). Always upbeat, with a megawatt smile as though you just made their day just by showing up, perpetually supportive of students even when they act as procrastinating asshats, just being an annoyingly calm, collected, friendly person. I, personally, want nothing more than to punch that fake smile off AM’s face.

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RIP Fig Newton!

August 31, 2010

The great French cycling champion Laurent Fignon has died at the age of 50 from cancer.
As Velonews notes, he was French National Champion in 1984, took the Milan-SanRemo in 1988 and 1989 and Fleche Wallonne in 1986.
Fignon won the Tour de France in 1983 and 1984 and the Giro de Italia in 1989.

Ciclismo-Campioni-Laurent-Fignon.jpg
1989 Tdf, final stage (source)

Great rider, very classy.
He also had the honor of participating in one of the very best moments in sport, ever. The final day of the 1989 TdF found Fignon ahead of Greg Lemond by 50 seconds. That year the final day was a 25 km time trial- single riders against the clock, no drafting involved. Watching that stage coverage was certainly the greatest moment in sports that I have ever watched. Lemond beat Fignon by 58 seconds to win the 1989 Tour, as it happens, but Fignon was visibly battling the whole way. It was epic.

Dopes

July 13, 2010

Are we going to get to the bottom of the doping scene in US professional cycling? The FDA is on the case

George Hincapie (BMC) and Tyler Hamilton are among the riders who have been asked to cooperate with the federal investigation into doping practices in American cycling at large and the US Postal Service team in particular, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The criminal investigation, led by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) special agent Jeff Novitzky, is focused principally around Floyd Landis’ recent allegations of systematic doping practices at the US Postal Service team.


BikeMonkey Guest Post
ESPN is reporting that Floyd Landis, previously a world-level professional cyclist, is now admitting to using performance-enhancing drugs for “most of his career”.
You will perhaps recall that the Landis case has appeared on the DM blog a time or two before.

In a brief fan’s overview for those too lazy to Google, steadily improving journeyman* / domestique Floyd Landis started to show some real prospects as a Big Tour winner with some big performances as a super-domestique in 2004, and an initial foray as team captain in 2005. Landis was showing excellent signs of class in the early 2006 Tour but the usual Tour deal-breaker of a few great performances from competitors and one bad day had Floyd on the ropes. Stage 17 saw Floyd come out and just slay the competition with an all day break to put himself back in the race he would eventually win. It was a great stage to watch. A desperate attack in the early going which was surely doomed to failure. (This is a common rhythm for the bigger bike race stages- one man is usually unable to hold off the peloton until the finish if the teams are determined to catch him.) Yet Landis did. Despite the fact that the main General Classification teams knew he was riding back into and possibly away with the entire race. They couldn’t catch him. Floyd just kept hammering away the kilometers, obviously suffering like a dog and continuing to pour on the power. It was amazing.

He tested positive for testosterone doping in samples collected after that fateful race day. Given that this is a substance to be found in humans anyway, the conviction hinged on analysis of the ratio of carbon isotopes in the detectable testosterone. This ratio analysis indicated the presence of exogenous testosterone- i.e., that not manufactured naturally by Landis’ body.
Allegedly, anyway. Landis fought tooth and nail to overturn the conviction. The reporting from ESPN gives us a little clue as to why a now-admitted long-term doper would have fought so hard in that particular conviction.
He didn’t do it.

Read the rest of this entry »

“I am not a victim. It was my decision to dope. I can assure you, I have never told by a boss to dope, but I have also never experienced a rider being asked why he suddenly became so fast,”


BikeMonkey Guest Post
The latest pro-cycling cheater is one Thomas Frei, recently of the BMC team. He was caught using EPO, unceremoniously dropped from his team and spoke to the press. His comments are refreshingly honest.

“Of course I would have gone on doping. The money tempts you, it is the same for everyone,” said Frei in an interview with Swiss website NZZ.ch.

Ahh, the fight for glory, right?

As for himself, he said that he started his pro career clean. “Then came the hard stage races, and I learned that infusions were used for recovery. Everything was legal, but I still didn’t want any of it. But at some point it started [for me], because everybody does it. The doctor gives you the first shot, and then it isn’t long until you give yourself the first illegal shot.”

There’s the rub. It ain’t physiologically possible to do that job, even just the job of domestique, on pasta. They all know that. We all know that. The circumstances are ripe for doping just to survive. Just to have a paycheck. Just to have a team slot for the next season.
There couldn’t possibly be a lesson for science careers in here anywhere.

"The Redneck"

January 5, 2010


BikeMonkey Guest Post
PalMD came up with a reflection on just what bothered him about the recent debacle in which a beloved and bucolic icon who practically defines “Minnesotan” (not to mention upper-Midwesterner) appeared to be an antiSemitic idiot. PalMD was previously a fan of Garrison Keillor and felt included in the folksy community of Prairie Home Companion and Lake Wobegon. Keillor’s blatherings were, from appearances, received as a chest push and door slam accompanied by “Wait, not you Jewboy!”.
This let me crystallize my discomfort with another cultural icon, albeit one considerably less famous than Garrison Keillor.

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“Uh, dude? The sunscreen goes on the part that sticks out, not under your clothes.”


BikeMonkey Guest Post
Let me tell you about a recent observation from a member of a very large and productive GlamourPub research group. “Gee, BigPIDude sure is looking pale these days, isn’t he?“. And he was. Translucent. Let’s be honest here. When you have a big group headed by one domineering PI with lots of people who are there essentially for their careers (as techs or doctoral level resident scientists) they get a little nervous about the PI’s health. As well they should. This business doesn’t always come with a succession plan for taking over an established research group.
But this guy is hale and hearty, comparatively speaking. Gets out and exercises fairly frequently. Still likes to compete in the physical games at the company picnic. And dude’s parents lived to a ripe old age. So what gives? Someone else pointed out that he’s obsessed with sunscreen- lathers up copiously before venturing out into the sun. They thought it was because he has some sort of anti-skin-cancer obsession.
I think otherwise.

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