Category: cycling

Review: Every Second Counts – Lance Armstrong

Despite believing that Lance Armstrong was a drug using cheat, I really enjoyed his first book “It’s not about the bike“. It was a well written, compelling story. Lance is a wonderful example for everyone, not just – cyclists or cancer patients, regardless of whether he’s using performance enhancing substances or not.

“It’s Not About The Bike” was not near enough to dissuade me that Lance’s actions on Stage 18 of TDF 2004 were anything but the actions of a bully forcing a smaller man to keep his mouth shut and not speak out against drugs in cycling. Even after the stage Lance said:

I was protecting the interests of the peloton. The other riders were very grateful.

It’s difficult to interpret this statement and his “zip your lips” message to Simeoni in a positive light, in any other way but “don’t speak pubically about drugs”.

After reading “It’s Not About The Bike” I had a strong admiration for Lance and the way he got through his cancer ordeal, and his cycling performances were phenomenal, drugs or no drugs.

What about “Every Second Counts“?

Well the first thing I’ll say is that I picked this up at about 1am on a work night as some light reading before I went to sleep. I turned off my bedside lamp at 5.30am hoping that I’d survive the day on 3 hours sleep after reading all 250 pages straight through. Bonus point to Sally Jenkins – what a fantastic writer! If you are a world-famous athlete wanting to tell your story with a ghost writer, there’s no one better.

The story takes us from his preparation for his second Tour de France victory in 2000 all the way to his fourth consecutive victory in 2003. As a cyclist and sports fan I really enjoyed his description of training and the races themselves. The other part of the story is human – dealing with the events of September 11th 2001, dealing with children, his cancer foundation, the annoyance of dealing with shameful French bureaucracy.

He did mention Stage 18 ’04, giving his side of the story in a few words. Although I’m not convinced by his explanation and I still think it showed the character traits of a bully, I must admit that the book did originally influenced me back to believing he was a clean rider. I can’t pinpoint exactly why. I think it was a combination of the way he talked about the drugs tests and their effect on his life. The book is very personal at times and after reading it I feel I know how the guy thinks. I may not like him, but I have massive respect.

To summarise: this is an excellent book – 9/10. It’s better than his first, and better than most sports autobiographies you’ll find. I recommend that everyone read this book, you might find it inspiring, or simply a captivating page-turner.

Update 2012: In response to some abusive comments left here and recently updates in the Lance story, I’ll clarify my thoughts on Lance cheating. I believe that there’s now no doubt that Armstrong not only cheated, but he probably has masterminded one of the greatest sporting frauds in known history. He has been stripped of all 7 Tour titles – but not his ill-gained prize money.

Armstrong tested positive for corticosteroids in the 1999 TDF and the UCI let him off with a back dated script, even though it was against the rules (it should have been a 2 year ban). USADA now has confirmation from Swiss anti-doping laboratory director Martial Saugy that Armstrong tested positve for EPO at the 2001 Tour of Switzerland (Armstrong should have received a ban of 10 years for this). Saugy also confirmed meeting with Armstrong and Bruyneel to discuss those 2001 positive tests. The UCI also confirmed that Armstrong donated $100,000 and another $25,000 to the UCI at the time of those positive tests. And allegedly, USADA recently re-tested some of Lance’s old urine samples with new tests and they have come back as positive.
I’ll leave the last word to Matt Seaton:

What is astounding and disturbing is that one man – a dominant personality as well as a dominant athlete – was able to enforce his will, isolate, bully and silence his doubters and critics, and win the world’s top cycling event year after year and make people believe in him, despite there being, apparently, dozens of witnesses to its utter phoniness. Too many people had too much invested in the Lance Armstrong story, and the power of persuasion followed the money.

The moral of the story is that if a cyclist looks too good to be true, then he probably is. But if a cyclist looks too good to be true and has an entourage of lawyers, press flaks, doctors and bodyguards, then he definitely is.

Sports + Geek = Results Microformat?

Blondie had an idea about posting rugby results that got me thinking about applying Microformats to sports results . She was talking about posting the results in a format like this:

  • Home Team (score)
  • Visiting Team (score)
  • Date
  • Location
  • Was this a league match or special event/tournament
  • If so, what league/territory/division
  • Notables
  • If there are photos, what’s the website
  • Other information

This kind of thing looks ideal for Microformats if you don’t want to go down the database route. I jumped on the Microformats IRC channel to find out if such a beast already exists, here’s what the guys had to say.

[23:02] * Now talking in #microformats
<sportcrazy> hi y’all
<sportcrazy> I am looking for a MF for describing sports results
<sportcrazy> do you have such a thing?
<bewest> like a news update?
<bewest> or is that like an event?
<sportcrazy> it’s an event I guess
<bewest> that’s kind of like the results of an event
<sportcrazy> an event result
<kingryan> box scores?
<sportcrazy> e.g. sport=rugby homeTeam=x awayTeam=Y homeScore=45 awayScore=22 etc
<kingryan> well, you could start by making them hCalendar events
<bewest> yeah, but that’s only the last bit of it, right?
<ntoll> hmmm…. what about ordered results (e.g. sprinting)? Use event mf within a result mf?
<bewest> the most important thing is where and when it took place, correct?
<sportcrazy> I was thinking about that
<sportcrazy> and diving etc
<bewest> that part is easy
<bewest> ordered list
<sportcrazy> the most important thing… that’s debatable
<ntoll> sportcrazy, the important thing is to re-use what is already there and only extend when needed after looking at how other ppl have marked this sort of thing up
<bewest> I suggest you start experimenting with the who what when where of a sporting event
<sportcrazy> sure
<bewest> and then try adding on top of that with scores and stuff
<bewest> perhaps with XOXO
<bewest> with some small pieces to describe the game, resulting scores and other information
<sportcrazy> XOXO?
<ntoll> so so… my first thought was to use hCalander for when, hCard for where
<ntoll> sportcrazy, marking up lists
<sportcrazy> k, thanks for your help guys, I’ll go explore what’s available
<tantek> hCard is good for marking up hCalendar locations: link

Sounds interesting – I’m going sign up to their mailing list and have a look into creating a suitable Microformat, I think it’s needed at this point. It’d have to be fairly flexible to support the many various results types. Anyone else out there working on similar ideas?

Tour de France 2007 route and Happy MLK day America

France and America in same headline shocker!

Happy Martin Luther King (Jnr) Day to any Americans reading this! I’m disappointed to see that the Big G didn’t change their logo

Tour de France 2007 route mapOn to cycling – exciting news – the route of this year’s TDF has been released! “Running from Saturday July 7th to Sunday July 29th 2007, the 94th Tour de France will be made up of a prologue and 20 stages and will cover a total distance of 3,550 kilometres.”
We already knew that this year’s Tour is starting in dear old Blighty and now we have the details. The 8km prologue (a short time trial) will be around the streets of London starting in Whitehall. It will pass pass the Houses of Parliament en route to finishing on The Mall. The next stage also starts in London with a 200km trip to Canterbury.

On to France , the Tour will have a series of long flat stages before it enters the Alps and the major test starts. The riders will have a brief respite along the southern coastline before hitting the Pyrenees. Read more on the official TDF website.

Journalist breaks tradition, uses logic in criticism of cyclists

Adrian Fitch highlights a refreshingly intelligent article which criticises the urban cyclist for actual wrongs, unlike the steaming pile of manure from Erin Baker last year. It’s great to see a journalist putting even a modicum of thought into an anti-cycling rant.

Brian Hennigan had a wonderful rant against what he described as antisocial cyclist s in Tuesday’s Edinburgh Evening News.

He targeted:

  • Pavement cycling: “If you don’t have stabilisers on, the road is the only place we should find you whizzing along”.
  • Running red lights: “Apart from anything else, your invisibility to other road-users might just be proven in a way you did not envisage”.
  • Those who cycle where it is prohibited: “one day someone is going to get fed-up with your selfish behaviour and you will be amazed how far you can travel without a bicycle when someone jams a stick in your rear-wheel”.
  • Stealth ninja cyclists: “Cycling without lights at night is not some environmentally courageous way of showing how you and the owls are as one; it’s a way of being on a bicycle that says: “I don’t care about anyone else other than myself”.
  • And of course, helmets: “Anyone who thinks pedalling au naturale is fine deserves whatever non-indicating delivery van might lie in their future”.

It is a decently written rant. I’d agree with Brian on almost every point excepting the helmets issue. I think it’s not a simple argument, and I so believe it’s up to people to decide for themselves whether wearing £25 worth of potentially life-saving plastic is really that much bother. For me, there’s no question 🙂

Treacherous roads, trails and beaches of Mayo

Disclaimer: this post may contain excuses, whining and blatant advertising, along with some of the most beautiful scenery in western Europe.
Nephin mountains in the west of Ireland

So I took quite a few pictures down in Mayo over the Christmas but I’ve been slow to update and tidy up my flickr account to a point where I’m not ashamed to link to it! Here are three photo sets you might find interesting.

Around the mountain, through the forest and down the rocky road

The 23rd of December was looking like a decent day in the midst of a stormy late December, so it seemed like a good idea for Dad and I to take out the mountain bike s for a spin. I bought him a Giant Boulder back in August, like every good son should, and he’s become an addict, beating me in mileage since August quite easily, like every good dad should.

A 12 mile trail around the bottom of Nephin Beg. A tough trail on hardpack forest roads with some serious climbs and a couple of crazy descents. I was hanging on for dear life on the second last, hitting upward of 32mph and realised that the trail surface was completely washed away by storms. Great fun, and as much work as a 30 mile road trip, easy.

My dad beats me

Earie morning along the ShannonFiguratively speaking of course. Never should have bought him that bike.

Our next trip was the day after Boxing DSt. Stephen’s Day – we had a long road trip planned, from the River Shannon on the borders of Leinster back into Mayo. Our planned route was around 47 miles with a potential bonus 20 miles if we were still up for it at that point.

Dad was again on his Giant Boulder MTB, but this time he swapped out his knobbly tyre’d wheels with a second set of spare wheels which have faster gearing and Deore hubs incidentally… courtesy of his favourite (and only) son. I was on my lovely Surly Cross Check .

He beat me, because as you’ll notice in the 2nd picture of the set, he’s cleverly wearing the under-helmet head warmer that I bought him, but I decided I’d be stylish and omit mine. It was a fairly mild day and if it did get colder I’d notice and put mine on too.

Five hours and one excruciating headache later I was reaching into my pannier for my new Thermos flask (thanks Dad!) of tea, and hoping that would help with the brain freeze.

In the end we got to Claremorris just fine, despite going half-way around a large hill, turning back because it looked to be getting steeper, and having our detour take us up over the hilltop – D’OH!

Following in the Footsteps of the Four Famous Flannerys

The interesting thing about the route we followed in the road trip to Charlestown is that it’s almost identical to the route that John Mulligan took on foot. John who?

John Mulligan , a close friend of my family’s, has released a new book called ” Following in the Footsteps of the Four Famous Flannerys ” (Amazon UK 8.69) This book details the journey of the four more than 150 years ago, and John’s retracing of their route in modern day.

John and my father have walked the same route as the famous Flannerys. Dad and I were cycling the final stretch of the journey that he had yet to complete.

All of the royalties and profits from the sale of this book are being donated to the Aurelia Trust a non-profit Irish NGO that works to improve the lives of abandoned and at-risk children in Eastern Europe.

West Mayo, next stop New York

Celtic cross in Belmullet, Co. MayoWhen I said “some of the most beautiful scenery in western Europe” I meant it – west Mayo is a fantastically beautiful place. Of course I’m not claiming to have captured that scenery in these pictures, but I’ve tried. These are pictures from walk on the beach in Belmullet on the west coast of Ireland on Stephen’s Day.

Blatant advertising

Yes, as if that wasn’t enough already – here’s the book information again!

Books on Amazon UK

Four Flannerys website