Monday, July 31, 2006

Car Wars

Friday, July 28, 2006


"It’s all very Orwellian, of course. But when Orwell wrote of “a nightmare world in which the Leader, or some ruling clique, controls not only the future but the past,” he was thinking of totalitarian states. Who would have imagined that history would prove so easy to rewrite in a democratic nation with a free press?"

from economists view


runch!, originally uploaded by Knotty.


from tdfblog

Salon's daily sports columnist King Kaufman quotes John Eustis, interviewed on ESPN's Dan Patrick show, and noting that every rider who has contested the testosterone test has prevailed. Eustis also claimed that Landis's testosterone levels were low, but the ratio of testosterone to epitestosterone was above 4:1, the new "positive" level this year. Cortisone use (approved for use on Landis's hip) can reportedly raise testosterone levels, as can alcohol. Landis says he's a realist, and "can't be hopeful" that the B sample will measure differently from the A. Landis says he'll work with Spanish doctor Luis Hernandez, who has defended other riders in high testosterone cases, all successfully. Landis offers two possible contributors to the positive: the cortisone treatment we've all heard about, and a thyroid condition he says has led him to take a daily dose of thyroid hormone.

How disappointing if he wasn't a legitimate winner though..

Remember the Smurfs?

In my garden

I woke up this morning and there was a man stealing my gate. I didn't say anything in case he took a fence.

Fourth, Try Shimoda

from Robert Reich's blog..

"I'm sitting on the beach last week trying to relax into an abbreaviated summer vacation when someone I barely know comes up to me with a scowl. "Did you read that dumb-fuck middle-class agenda Hillary just put out? If that's all the Dems have to offer to deal with widening inequality, we're screwed," he says, and walks off. I feel my spine tingle, my shoulders begin to ache. To distract myself I pick up the paper and skim the headlines -- Hezbollah and Hamas attacking Israwl, Israel bombing Lebanon, Iraq tumbling into civil war, more chaos. Bird flu deaths rising in Indonesia, Iran and North Korea closer to having nuclear weapons. Famine in sub-Sahara Africa. Genocide continuing in Darfur.

By now I'm feeling nauseous. My cell phone rings. It's my good friend John, a welcome distraction. "How'dja like to go to a movie tonight?" he asks, a welcome distraction. Great, I say, eager for any escape. "Fine, he says, I just got tickets to Al Gore's film on global warming."

As a general rule I don't believe in escapism. I think citizens ought to get involved, be engaged in the world. Don't put your head in the sand. But in order to be engaged most of the time, you have to disengage a bit of the time or you'll go nuts. Before instant communications, before we knew everything going on everywhere, all the time, vacations were about taking a break. Even during the Great Depression and World War II my grandparents once a year trundled off to some remote spot to get away from it all for a week or two. At least they looked happy in the photos.

So how is it possible today to have a real vacation, to get away from it all when it all comes to us and when so much of it is so awful? For the last day (the last day I'm here) I've followed three simple rules, and frankly I feel much better. First, don't read anything. Second, don't watch anything. Third, don't talk with anyone."

Bridgestone Dog


After L'Etape I am, unsurprisingly, still very cycling focused.  This caught my interest..

Tips from the pros vis from bicycling dot com..

"Wrap your thumbs around your bar. Even some pros just lay their thumbs next to their fingers on top of the bar when they're not racing hard. But accidents seem to happen more often when people are relaxed than during the intense moments of a ride. Use your thumb as a hook, and you have a better chance of maintaining control during stupid accidents."


"When I was 13, my boss at a bike shop told me that when he was racing, his upper body was so relaxed that his lower lip would jiggle with the road vibration. To this day, when I time-trial or climb I relax my face, and my body tends to follow."


"Frank McCormack showed me how to dry my clothes. He laid out a dry towel, then he laid the wet clothes on the towel after he washed them. He rolled the towel up, then stepped on it, and finally wrung it as hard as he could. After that, you have to hang your clothes for only a little bit before they're dry."


"Always wear gloves. I had a teammate who -never did, and her hands looked like they were 80 years old. If I forget my gloves, I can't start a race until I find an extra pair. It's just my thing."


"Remember that all the other riders are human. They train, they suffer, they bleed, they cry. I got that advice from my dad--I had the luxury of being the son of a former professional cyclist--when I was a scared and intimidated junior racing against people from California, Florida and New York, and seeing license plates from people 2,000 miles away."


"Believe. My dad raced in the '50s, and grew up in Colombia, where they used this stuff for energy called panela. It's like brown sugar that's been heated up. He told me I had to use the stuff. It's just brown sugar, but I believed, "This is it," so it really worked. Believe in something and stick with it."


"Plan ahead for shifting on climbs. If you put tons of pressure on the pedals when you shift, you can get stuck in a gear or drop your chain."


"I was told by a very close friend, much older than I am, to listen to everybody and believe no one--which basically means that you have to figure things out for yourself."


"Eat early, go to sleep early. Don't eat bad food."


"Suffer. Sacrifice."


"Eddy Merckx said, 'Attack when it hurts you because you know you are going to get away.' I just try to keep doing that."


"Take a nap every day. It's the most important part of training. I napped every day. It made the difference on every training ride."


"I think that the most important advice I got was more like a directive from my parents, and that was to wear my helmet. I was a rebel back then and would hide it in the bushes outside my house, but as the years went on I started to wear my helmet all the time, and now I feel naked without it. I have had some pretty bad crashes over the years and have always been thankful that I had my helmet on."


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Gervais, Crouch and Rooney

almost in cloud

almost in cloud, originally uploaded by Knotty.

This weather really really sucks.

Monday, July 24, 2006

wet and overcast

wet and overcast, originally uploaded by Knotty.

Very depressing - this is not provence. Wa! Bring back my holiday.

Yep.. Now I know.

from The Times by ex-pro Paul Kimmage..

"Sunday, July 9: When God created bike riders

One of my abiding memories from my former life as a professional cyclist is a conversation I had with my manager, Bernard Thevenet ― twice a winner of the Tour ― on the morning after the stage to L'Alpe D'Huez in 1987. We were descending the 21 hairpins by car to the start at Bourg D'Oisans when we noticed hordes of cyclists ― from aspiring pros to pot-bellied 40-year-olds ― sweating and panting their way up the mountain.

"They're timing themselves," Thevenet explained. "They know exactly how long it took the leaders to climb it yesterday, and tonight they will compare times and work out how many pros they'd have beaten on the stage."

A few minutes later we rounded the final hairpin. There was a whole line of them, queuing with their stopwatches at the bottom of the ramp, to race up the mountain. "What a bunch of sad bastards," I thought.

Of course it didn't take a Bill Gates to figure that there was some serious lucre to be made from accommodating these freaks, and in 1993 the Etape du Tour was formed, offering the cycling besotted an opportunity to race one stage of the Tour de France each year on closed roads. This year the 187km stage from Gap to L'Alpe D'Huez was selected.

Tomorrow at 7am a gigantic peloton of 7,548 riders will take to the start. They've been training like demons and shaving their legs for months. Don't ask me to explain what I'm doing here.

After a mammoth drive through the night from Rennes, I arrive at the tented village to sign on and start to have serious reservations.

In every corner of the merchandise stores there are guys sniffing the shorts that Tom Boonen wears, loading up on Power bars and spending thousands on carbon-fibre wheels. Tonight most will forfeit the World Cup final and go to bed early. Apparently, that's what Ullrich does.

Not me. I've trained minimally and refused to shave my legs. You see, there's one thing these anoraks will never understand: when God created bike riders, he created thoroughbreds and donkeys.

Monday, July 10: Eeee-awww

Christ! Where to begin? Alarm call at four; fall out of bed; shovel disgusting bowl of raspberry-jam-sweetened-porridge down neck; remove racing kit from bag and apply axle grease to shorts; spend 15 minutes on loo trying to shift last night's foie gras. Unsuccessful. Not a good start.

05:30 Arrive in Gap after one-hour drive from hotel; bedlam; coachloads of bike riders everywhere queuing to get into the town; abandon car, strip by the side of the road and ride to the start; hand rucksack with spare clothes to baggage truck; sip small cup of coffee; find shaded bush to urinate (yellow, reasonable flow); follow the pink arrows (race numbers 1-350) to my starting corral; I'm No 67, up front with the thoroughbreds.

06:40 Alain Prost is escorted to the front row of the grid; I don't recall losing to him in qualifying, but decide not to object; he's riding a Colnago, the Ferrari of racing bikes, and looks as fit as Floyd Landis. A few rows further back I spot the former Dutch professional Steven Rooks, who won the stage to L'Alpe D'Huez in 1988. He looks as fit now as he did back then. Don't any of these guys work for a living?

06:50 Ten minutes to the start. Tension is starting to build. A few guys have edged past me to steal a couple of lengths. Others are dancing and stretching limbs. The roof of my mouth is like a parched field. My bowel is starting to shift. I haven't felt this many nerves since the world amateur championships in 1983. And I'm the only guy at the front who hasn't shaved his legs!

07:00 Bang! We're off. Two idiots collide and crash after 500 yards.

Somebody else attacks and there's an immediate split at the front. I notice Prost's blue jersey ahead and sprint to close the gap. My legs are filling with toxins; my lungs are screaming for air; my inner voice is pounding me with abuse: "You idiot! You haven't covered two kilometres, and already you're in oxygen debt!"

07:55 Of course, you never really lose it, do you? The skill of moving your bike around a bunch packed like sardines, that is; the ability to put yourself in a position to avoid all the crashes. We've reached Embrun and I'm starting to enjoy myself. The competitive juices are flowing and I am holding my place at the front with the big boys.

As we climb up through the town, I place a friendly arm around Prost and introduce myself. He looks worried. The crashes are obviously getting to him. He seems to be breathing more heavily than me and is visibly under pressure.

"Don't be afraid, my petit," I assure him. "You're in good company here."

08:25 What you do lose is the horsepower, the ability to shift gears when the going gets tough. I'm almost two stone heavier than I was when I first raced these roads in 1986, and I am starting to feel it as we leave the village of Guillestre and enter the foothills of the Col d'Izoard. At the foot of the climb, a 14.5km brute that rises more than 6,000ft, I calculate that there are about 300 riders in front of me.

But suddenly my legs are powerless and I'm going backwards. I stop at the side of the road for a pee (orange, poor flow) and my bowel explodes with a fart that almost shakes the valley. Considerably relieved, I remount and try to attack the gradient again, but I'm belching like a trooper (that bloody raspberry-jam-porridge) and still going backwards.

A woman glides past me just before the village of Arvieux. (That may sound terribly sexist, but I've been cycling since the age of 11, and that's never happened before). I haven't passed a single rider since the bottom of the climb. They say age waits for no man? You'd better believe it. I've just been left behind by a 60-year-old.

11:45 I stop to take on supplies at the feeding station in Briancon. A reporter from the local radio station requests an interview. At first (because of my number), I think he's made the approach because he knows I am an ex-pro, but it's soon pretty obvious that he thinks I'm a donkey.

"How have you found it so far?" he asks.

"Tres, tres dur," I reply.

"Is this your first time to ride L'Etape?" "Yes," I say, laughing. "And it's definitely my last."

13:45 I stop to buy a cold can of Coke on the summit of the Col du Lautaret. I have always utterly detested this climb and my tank is almost empty. I chew an energy bar and finish the Coke and decide I've had enough.

There is no way I will make it to the summit of L'Alpe D'Huez. The plan is to enjoy the long descent to Bourg D'Oisans and climb off. I've got a wife and kids to consider. And it's not as if I've anything to prove. No, I'm climbing off, my race is run. And I can't say that I've enjoyed it.

14:45 I've reached the outskirts of Bourg D'Oisans and I'm looking skyward towards the ski resort perched on top of the mountain; L'Alpe D'Huez, the Mecca of cycling. As a boy, on training rides after school to the Hill of Howth, I must have won that stage a million times in my head. As a pro in 1986, it wasn't quite as much fun struggling to keep pace with Hinault and LeMond, but even when you were on your knees, the sight and sound of that crowd was always a buzz.

I stop at the final watering zone at the bottom of the climb and consider going on. It's only 13km.

I'm thinking, "It's only 13km . . . that's an hour-and-a-half at worst." I climb back on my bike, glance at my watch and begin the ramp to the first hairpin with one thought in my head: "You sad bastard."

15:45 I've covered the first nine hairpins at a painfully slow crawl. It is 37C. I'm starting to hallucinate.

"Why is toilet roll always white?" "Why are there no black riders in the Tour?" "Have I just been passed by a guy with one leg!" I stop and rest in the shade by the side of the road.

It's the first time in my life I have ever stopped on a climb. There are bodies scattered everywhere; most sitting on the crash barriers; some lying exhausted by the side of the road.

I resume the climb after a 10-minute break. I'm thirsty. The heat is stifling. I'm wondering how much more I can take before having a heart attack. What a strange irony that would be. The muppets in the press room would piss themselves. I pedal for five more hairpins and decide to rest again. At the village of Huez, with 4km to go, I stop for a third time. I can see the finish now, three hairpins over my head. One more push should do it.

16:45 Did it. I cross the line and a guy removes the timing strap from my ankle. Another hands me a medal and says well done. These are the statistics of my ride. It has taken me 1 hour 57 minutes and 12 seconds to climb L'Alpe D'Huez and 8 hours, 52 minutes and 9 seconds to cover the 187km. I have finished 907th in my category (40-49 years old) and set the 2,635th best time.

Alain Prost and Steven Rooks have beaten me by almost two hours. The winner, 21-year-old Blaise Sonnery, was an hour quicker again. I collect my rucksack from the baggage truck and sit down to change my clothes.

On the opposite side of the road, a guy who has just finished is spewing his guts all over the pavement. There are more, lying in the medical tents on drips. They wanted to ride a mountain stage of the Tour; they wanted to live the dream and experience how it feels. And now they know."


At the bottom of Alpe D'Huez after 7 and a half hours plus of riding with a very numb bum, I realised that with my wife and her parents stuck at the bottom of the climb it would have been all too easy to have called it a day and sloped off home.  Except I had asked people to sponsor me for a good cause.  What would I tell them if I didn't finish it?

The day started at 3:30am with an alarm clock.  Big bowl of cereal, then in the car and on the road by just gone 4.  We arrived in Gap just after 6am.  I changed and applied sunscreen.  But not to the back of my calves.  Idiot.  The sunburn hurt later.  With butterflies in my stomach I set off into central Gap and luckily managed to follow the other 5000 or so cyclists to the start area.  Time for a pee.  Not the only one with that thought.  I don't think the bushes and hedgerows along the start area will ever be the same again.

Watched the sun rise above the mountains on the horizon.  Very pretty.  It lit up the 5000 or so cyclists in front of me and the start line.  7am and the distinctive sound off clack clack clack as everyone clicked into their pedals.  Then the same again as everyone unclips and waits for the procession ahead to start moving.  It took just over 20 minutes to get over the start line.

And they're off!  So game plan is take it steady, easy over the first climb, grind out the second and endure the 'Alpe".  Bollocks to that.. jumped onto the back of a bunch doing 35-38km/h.  Wahay!  I did manage to keep my head together and not use up too much juice.  Just got on the back of groups and got a good tow as much as possible.  I think I averaged over 35mk/h for the first couple of hours.  And then the climbs began..

It is around this point that my memory of it all blurs.. the first climb was long.  Very long.  Up and through a ski resort and up and up.  Then the road started winding and it got steeper.  I had been told that people would walk on some of the climbs.  I didn't believe it.  Not over the first one?  But sure enough here they were.  Feet down.  I took some strength from this as I felt pretty good and kept spinning - at less than 60rpm, is that 'spinning'? - and sure enough the top arrived, all 2360m above sea level of it.

Time to fill the water bottles.  There was an official feed station here.  And the previous riders had done a lot of feeding.  The ground was covered with crushed plastic mineral water bottles.  Lots of tables with sports drink mix.  Just no water to mix it with.  I parked the bike and bundled my way to the back of the water truck.  Snagged a six pack of water.  Score!  Refilled and got back on the bike.  Saw David - my Shimoda training partner -  at this point, but it wasn't long before we split up on the fast descent to Briancon.

From Briancon, after a ridiculously steep hill in the middle of town, it was a long 30km climb.  A real grind.  Not particularly steep but very long.  Tried to concentrate on not labouring too much.  It went on and on and on.  David passed me around the 120km mark.  I would have liked to stay with him, but I didn't feel comfortable at his better pace.  Another feed station mare at the top.  One guy filling water bottles from one tap.  I trust that the milky cloudiness of the water was down to natural minerals.  Not too appetising though.

Long, long (notice a repeated use of any particular adjective here?) descent to the lowest point above sea level of the whole ride.  Bundling down the road around 50km/h, blasting through very dark tunnels, particularly after the bright sunshine of the day and the fact that you are wearing sunglasses was pretty exciting.  According to my bike computer I topped out at 72km/h (44mph).  I would imagine it was somewhere on this section of the ride.  Then my wife called me.  So obviously I didn't stop, just got on the phone, in the light, then dark, then light, then dark.  I do remember having a right old swear at someone who got very close indeed on the exit of one tunnel.  Foreigners!  Anyway, Joli sadly informed me that she and her parents had not been able to get up to the finish at Alpe D'Huez before they closed the road.  Too much traffic.  But they were waiting at the last feed station.  Just before the final climb.

Less of a bunfight here and my darling wife snagged a whole pack of crystal clear mineral water.  Wonderful.  I unloaded a few items i didn't want to carry anymore, got a kiss for good luck and much against my better judgement set off for the top.

It doesn't really matter what you read about this climb.  The history, the challenge.  Or the fact that I wanted to get up it after nearly 8 hours on the bike.  It was really difficult.  Soul searchingly difficult.   And really hot!  Luckily I copied many of my peers and reloaded the water bottles regularly from the streams alongside the road.  I was very aware of the heat, but kept an eye on my heart rate and endured.  Then with about 7 or 8km to go, I got off.  Feet down.  I couldn't believe it.  But I was really spent.  Cooked.  I got into the shade for 5 minutes and sipped my way through a whole bottle.  Then sucked down my final gel.  What was I doing here?  Right then.  Now to the blinking top.  Back on the bike.  In the granny cog.  Head down.  Concentrate on each push.  I had started trying to concentrate on the sections between the 21 hairpins.  Now it was just concentrating on pushing the pedal round once more.  Then once more again.  And again.  Then I saw the 4km sign.  Now I knew I could make it.  Couldn't I?

1km to go.  Much flatter now.  Small downhill section in fact.  Phone rings.  Joli again!  I haven't done it yet!  Nearly, but not yet!  Round the corner and uphill for 200-300m to the finish.  Obviously I knocked it up a few gears, came out of the saddle and went for the sprint finish.  Only to stop that nonsense after 75m and take it steady.  Crikey I was tired.  And wobbly.  Funneled over the line, remove the transponder.  See David.  He looked shattered.  Struggled with the Alpe too.  Still manged nearly an hour quicker than me overall.  Exactly as I suspected.  Although I had secretly hoped to have got closer to him.  Next time?  Not likely.

What would I do differently?
1. Eat more.  Both before and during.  Eat much more.  I knew this from training, but I guess I got caught up in the excitement and to be honest I had expected to be able to get more food during the day at the 'feeding' stations than was actually available.  2. Go to bed and get some sleep rather than watching the World Cup final.  4 and half hours of sleep wasn't enough.  Obviously.  Duh.  3. Be part of an organised tour.  Without my darling wife driving for over 8 hours that day I would not have been able to do the event.  Thanks Joli.

Stage Details
Three climbs: Col d'Izoard ('Hors Category' – 2,360m high, 14.5km long, average gradient 7.0% at 86.0km), Col du Lauteret (category-two – 2,058m, 12.1km, 4.4% at 134.0km) and L'Alpe d'Huez ('Hors Category' – 1,850m, 13.8km, 7.9% at 187km).

8500 entered.. 7548 started.. 2145 in my 30-39 Age Category..
the 21 year old winner did it in 6 hours.. yikes.
i had an actual time of 10h7m and an elapsed time of 9h49m.. yes, it took nearly 20 minutes to get over the start line after the official 7am start..
more frightening is the fact that it took me over 2 hours to get up the 15km Alpe D'Huez climb..
i came 4260th overall, and 1233rd in my age group.

Franck Schleck won Stage 15 of the Tour de France one week later in 4h 52m.. crikey.  Superhuman.

Thank you to all who dug deep and sponsored me.

A few camera phone pictures here..

Thursday, July 20, 2006


empty!, originally uploaded by Knotty.

Cotes du Ventoux Rose

Saturday, July 15, 2006

mas de la vallee

mas de la vallee, originally uploaded by Knotty.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

l'etape finish - at last!

l'etape finish - at last!, originally uploaded by Knotty.


waterfight, originally uploaded by Knotty.

Monday, July 10, 2006


bunfight, originally uploaded by Knotty.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Sur Le Pont D'Avignon

Off on a jet plane to France tonight..

AF from Narita, overnight to Paris, then down to Marseille to meet the outlaws, then hire car to the house in Malaucene and the rest of the family for two weeks..

Really looking forward to the holiday.. full of an equal measure of trepidation and excitement about L'Etape.. got very stressed and hassled trying to pack my bike.. the bleedin pedals wouldnt come off.. removed the crank arm and it all fitted in the end.. it'll be all over by Monday night, and boy, I am looking forward to some celebratory beers..

Safe travelling to all who read this.

yeah baby

yeah baby, originally uploaded by Knotty.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

I dont care about obscure

"I want to start selling shirt that say "why yes, my encyclopedic knowledge of obscure bands DOES help compensate for my tiny penis and utter lack of redeeming characteristics!"

Is that too wordy for a shirt?"

via indietits

You could change 'obscure bands' to numerous other things.. such as out of the way restaurants, bars, boutique hotels and the like.

Foreign Accent Syndrome

"I didn't realise what I sounded like, but then my speech therapist played a tape of me talking. I was just devastated."

Full Story
from the BBC

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

For the Indians amongst you..


What is indiagoes?

indiagoes is a news service that aggregates and delivers Indian news.


Ever wondered how fast you type?  See how fast here..

via lifehacker

Monday, July 03, 2006

To all the kids who were born in the 1930s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes. Then after that trauma, our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking. As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags.

Riding in the back of a pick up on a warm day was always a special treat We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle.

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this. We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank soda pop with sugar in it, but we weren't overweight because


We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the street lights came on. No one was able to reach us all day and we were O.K.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, no video tape movies, no surround sound, no cell phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms..........WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them! We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.

We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes. We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them!

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law! This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever!

The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all!

And YOU are one of them! CONGRATULATIONS!

You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated our lives for our own good.

And while you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave their parents were. Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn't it?!

via 'circular' email

Saturday, July 01, 2006

10km & 850m

10km & 850m, originally uploaded by Knotty.

Down there and back was 1hr 25mins.