Lance’s date with destiny

February 13, 2017 § 44 Comments

Enough time has passed so that we have a generation of cyclists who know nothing about Lance Armstrong and the U.S. Postal Service. Enough time has passed that even the bitter among us have turned their ire elsewhere. Betsy seems occupied with something more meaningful than Lance’s ill treatment of her, and although Greg is still searching for Lance’s lost watts, he finally seems at peace having reclaimed his role of Only American to Win the Tour de France Without an Asterisk.

And of course it’s at the moment that people stop watching that the saga begins its climax.

With six years of procedural wrangling over, endless motions denied,and discovery dogfights put to rest, the Jarndyce v. Jarndyce juggernaut of Landis v. Tailwind Sports et al. is finally going to trial. And the stakes aren’t simply high, they are, for Armstrong, beyond catastrophic. With a maximum judgment in the neighborhood of $100 million, and no hope of escaping it in bankruptcy due to the underlying allegations of fraud, it’s all or nothing for Team Dopestrong.

Funny thing is, it always was.

What’s not funny is that time has given Lance’s case a good dose of perspective. But first, the legal monster that’s about to eat his lunch:

Armstrong’s defense was always simple. The USPS got way more than the $32 million it paid for. How? Simple, Armstrong said. Look at the media coverage for those five USPS Tour de France wins, assign a dollar value to it, and you’ll easily eclipse the $32 million that USPS paid Tailwind Sports.

When the lawsuit began, this looked like a pretty strong defense, and you see it all the time in litigation. Sure I was bad, but you know what? You weren’t hurt by my bad actions, so I don’t owe you squat. The numbers were squarely in Armstrong’s corner, too. His media coverage over the 5-year period that he was sponsored by USPS was astounding.

He lied to USPS, but so what? THEY MADE MILLIONS IN FREE ADVERTISING.

Unfortunately, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, because over the course of the litigation the government’s lawyers applied the same metrics to the bad publicity generated by Armstrong’s sporting fraud. Initially perhaps the bad coverage was outweighed by his five years of smashing the Tour (who can forget the Austin billboard that read, “Who’s your daddy, France?”).

But as the years dragged on, the government’s lawyers kept toting up all the bad press and terrible media coverage that USPS received, and continued to receive, as a result of Armstrong’s fraud. The number of “negative media impressions” in the first four years after Floyd Landis sued Armstrong under the False Claims Act sits at a staggering 1.5 billion. Even at fifty cents an impression, that number overwhelms any positive media generated in the glory days.

What’s worse, Armstrong can’t now be heard to criticize media coverage as a measure of damages because his whole case rests on it. Now a jury is going to get to decide, in essence, whether USPS got more good media coverage from Lance or more bad media coverage. The answer is so obvious that Armstrong’s lawyers have done everything in their power to prevent the case from going to trial … and failed.

You can read the court’s memorandum opinion on both sides’ motions for summary judgment here. The language is blunt, and doubtlessly terrifying, however legalistic it may sound at first pass:

The Court generally adopts Armstrong’s proposed “benefit-of-the-bargain” approach to calculating damages in FCA cases, like this one, where the market value of goods or services supplied under a government contract are difficult to determine. It also agrees that the record evidence—including internal Postal Service correspondence and contemporaneous thirdparty valuation studies—supports a finding that USPS received substantial benefits as a direct result of the sponsorship. Ultimately, however, the Court concludes that the monetary amount of the benefits USPS received is not sufficiently quantifiable to keep any reasonable juror from finding that the agency suffered a net loss on the sponsorship, especially if one considers the adverse effect on the Postal Service’s revenues and brand value that may have resulted from the negative publicity surrounding the subsequent investigations of Armstrong’s doping and his widely publicized confession. Determination of damages must therefore be left to a jury.

But all is not lost. The nebulous nature of valuing media coverage could mean that, after subtracting Armstrong’s unquestioned good publicity, a jury concludes that the damages aren’t all that substantial. What if Armstrong brought USPS $100 million in the good years, and cost them $101 million in the bad? The government gets a million times three, which is a lot less than $32 million times four. And of course a jury might conclude that the whole thing was a wash. After all, there are still plenty of people out there who think that whatever Lance did on the bike, he helped a lot of people by curing their cancer.

So on the battlefield, things are coming to a head, and a jury may find Lance and his sporting fraud and lengths to which he went to mistreat others and lie about his cheating repugnant enough to hang the entire bill around his neck. On the other hand Lance has a pretty formidable legal team, and he might ultimately prevail, or at least not get bankrupted. This would be a big bummer for ex-doper Floyd Landis who filed the suit, and who really isn’t an ex-doper anymore but is rather a doping entrepreneur peddling legal pot in Colorado. We’d call that ironic but it’s mostly sad, a doping cheat claiming he was harmed by other doping cheats and asking for compensation so that he can peddle dope instead of pedaling doped.

But back to perspective …

Here we are, almost eighteen years from Armstrong’s first Tour victory, spending truckloads of government money to prove that a bunch of bad media coverage outweighed a bunch of good media coverage. If the government wins, some dude will have to pay a few bucks, or maybe even go bankrupt. If the government wins big, a drug cheat who was stripped of his Tour win will be set for life by plundering the assets of another drug cheat who was also stripped of his Tour wins. That’s a morality play we can all get behind, right?

Yet during the time that this Battle of the Ex-Dopers has raged, our national landscape has radically changed. A scorched-earth, neo-Nazi thief sits in the Orange House, commemorating the Holocaust without mentioning the word “Jew,” as Imperial storm troopers rip poor Mexicans out of their homes and send them back “home” … to a country they’ve never known.

The Constitution itself hangs in the balance while the executive branch attacks the judiciary and while a prostrate and prostituted Congress rubber stamps a plethora of laws designed to turn us into the greatest kleptocracy the world has ever known, while the Great Orange Leader gives and sells secrets to the Russians and his minions openly promote America First in its purest sense.

It’s this backdrop that should make any right-thinking person look at the petty pothead ex-doper lawsuit filed against a petty ex-doping jerk and say, “Enough. Enough. Enough.”

END

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The Atheist Training Bible for Old Bicycle Racers, Chapter 24: Recovery tips

February 12, 2017 § 4 Comments

Well, the accolades have been pouring in after yesterday’s tour de force at the UCLA Road Race, like this one:

“Great job out there Wanky, your 12th place out of 22 riders makes it an almost-top ten, and a solid top 5% of all participants (Trump math). As your fan out here in Ittoqqortoormiit, I was wondering if you could share some Wanky Post-Race Recovery Tips for those of us who are wondering what the Complete Wanky Racing Package looks like?”

Thanks for the subtle inquiry, but there’s only one person who gets to gaze admiringly at the Wanky package, and it isn’t anyone in Ittoqqortoormiit, sir. Or any sir, for that matter.

With regard to recovery, however, I’m super glad to give you some tips, tips that, if assiduously followed, will one day allow you to get some great Top Five Percent Trump Math results in your local bicycle race and underwear contest.

  1. Facebag stretches. First step to restoring health and vascular vitality after a hard race is checking out all the people who might have posted pictures of you struggling off the back or other glory shots. Solid 3-4 hours of Facebagging, minimum.
  2. Jaw limbering. Call up a friend who didn’t do the race and gently exercise out all the kinks in your jaw by telling them every detail about the race. Bonus points if they’re engaged in a family activity or standing in line at Disneyland with a screaming kid in one hand and a diaper bomb in the other. Gold stars if you can use the words “super hard,” “incredibly hard,” “so fuggin’ hard,” and “dude, unbelievably hard” in every sentence.
  3. Bounceback calories. You probably burned 1,00o to 1,500 hundred calories in the race, so here’s the replenishment math: book1
  4. Carbon massage. If you didn’t win, you clearly need more equipment. If you won, you clearly need to reward yourself with more equipment. Post-race you must dedicate a couple of hours to shopping for new full carbon doodads that are 100% carbon and made exclusively of carbon and also contain 100% aero.
  5. Hasthtag push-ups. Since you’re a profamateur it is crucial that you say nice things about the products and services you don’t deserve and may not even actually use. This will relax your wallet and allow much new swag to enter your garage/man cave/bedroom.
  6. Calendar pilates. Now that you’ve done one race you can brag for the rest of the season that you are a bike racer. No recovery is complete without a search of all 2017 upcoming races and finding excuses not to go to any of them.
  7. Obligatory lunch out. In order for your muscles to recuperate from the stress of racing, it is imperative to take your S/O out for lunch so that she/he will let you go do the same thing next week. [Practice notes: Refrain from any race recaps or mention of anything pertaining to bikes. Refrain from complaining about how you can’t “lose that last five pounds” even though the waitress keeps asking if you’d like an extra basket of bread. DO ask her how her day was. DO pretend to listen. DON’T suggest she take it easy on the extra bread. DO try to lock her into permission for the next race when the check comes, but do it nonchalantly: “Wow, that’s an expensive lunch. McDonalds has gone through the roof!! But you are worth it times a million, honey! By the way, I’m doing the Fifteen Days of Meat Strings starting next Friday and will be gone for a month at the altitude training camp in Italy. Is that okay, honey-buns?”

END

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Why people go away

February 10, 2017 § 22 Comments

Over the years a lot of people have come and gone from the bike scene. Maybe it’s the same with tennis, jogging, or being a terrible surfer on mom’s couch, I don’t know.

What I do know is that one day they’re there, never miss a ride, and the next day they aren’t. Here are the main reasons people leave.

  1. They got the monkey off their back. Some people get into cycling because they’ve got demons. Drugs, alcohol, a terrible relationship, triathlons, etc. After a lot of bike therapy they sober up, dump the abusive partner, shred their USTA card, and there’s no will left to live (on the bike). Bye.
  2. Racing!!! Pity the person who gets into cycling because of racing. Either they win and realize that “there’s no there there” or they never win and realize they’re never going to win, like a Lunada Bay Boy on Mom’s Couch who finally realizes what everyone else knew all along, i.e. he’s a kook.
  3. Gizmos. Gear and equipment and stuff abound in this faux sport and it attracts a certain kind of weird person who thinks TT bikes and a locker at the velodrome that includes a compressed tank of helium are awesome. Eventually they buy all the gear. So bored now. Bye …
  4. Exercise freaks. Mongo ge bike and realize that Mongo can ride forever. And Mongo do. Until Mongo get tired. But Mongo keep riding. And Mongo get tireder. BUT MONGO MUST RIDE MORE. And then Mongo go away.
  5. Lonely people. Lonely person starts riding, meets people, gets invited to join club, is totally flattered, makes shit-ton new friends, discovers that bikers are just as repellent as the general populace only they wear Lycra underwear, returns to Hermit Kingdom.
  6. My Big Crash. Rider loves riding, rides hella fast, alla time. Rider falls and hits head, breaks nutsack, etc. Rider’s family throws bike in trash, hides shoes. Rider goes back to Arthur Murray dance studio because, safer.
  7. Job insecurity. Rider is all in and one day learns from boss that he’s one pay period away from being all out. Of a job. Rider knuckles back down to 15-hour days and mortgage payments.
  8. Bundle ‘o joy. Rider is on all the rides, does all the races, logs six days a week, 12k a year. Rider’s S/O gets a bellyful of baby. Rider becomes popular on Craigslist until all of garage bike shwag is replaced with portable baby poopers, car seats, and baby bassinets.
  9. Boredom. What is more boring than riding a bicycle? Aside from not riding a bicycle, NOTHING.
  10. Faster than I never was. Rider starts young and fast. Over time rider becomes old and slow. Rider’s mind eventually catches up with decrepitude of rider’s body, and that’s that.

But what is it that makes people continue, whether it’s racing or touring or commuting or rando-ing or MTB-ing? Easy.

They keep doing it because slow or fast, long or short, dangerous or safe, it’s flat fuggin’ FUN. You know who you are.

END

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A series of unfortunate climbs

February 9, 2017 § 14 Comments

A long time ago when I had little kids there was a book called “A Series of Unfortunate Events.” I’d occasionally flip through it but I only remember the author’s name, Lemony Snicket, and the premise, which was a couple of hapless kids having terrible things happen to them.

I don’t remember if there was an evil person pursuing them but they were mostly homeless, always running from something, and invariably in trouble.

So last night I was running over the pre-registration list for the ultra-leaky-prostate-category in Saturday’s UCLA Road Race, and I came across a bunch of new names, which is weird, because by the time you’re this old and slow you pretty much know who’s going to show up where and who isn’t.

Then it hit me. These guys normally race Boulevard as their super hilly road race and skip UCLA, but Bouelvard’s been taken out behind the outhouse and shot, so they’ve decided to make UCLA their season opener.

That is brave. Misguided but brave. You see, UCLA has nothing in common with Boulevard. Whereas in Boulevard you get to pedal for two laps entertaining visions of glory or maybe even sticking your thumb in the peloton’s eye once or twice before you suddenly notice that your legs fell off at the railroad tracks, UCLA isn’t like that.

UCLA is a series of very unfortunate climbs, beginning about .25 miles into the race. In other words, now is a real good time to cancel your registration and try to get a refund because if you are an old leaky prostate and you haven’t done this race before but are thinking it might be a good season opener, you are making a mistake along the lines of “Maybe I can clip my toenails with this here wood chipper.”

Of course your idea of a great time may be getting dropped immediately, in which case this is the perfect course for you, and you will have lots of company. Or your idea of a great time may be getting dropped two miles in, in which case you’ll have even more company. But if you’re thinking of using this as a way to eke out a top-10 placing and see where your fitness is, let me help you out:

  1. You’ll only get top-10 if numbers 11 on down quit.
  2. Your fitness is for shit.

In addition to a course where the only thing harder than the impossible starter climb is the downhill, UCLA also has a series of unfortunate weather events. Have you been riding on the trainer during all this rain lately? Have you failed to toughen up adequately for racing in the 40’s? Of course you have, and UCLA is going to offer up a series of terrible weather events to punish you for your laziness. At 5,000 feet elevation it will be cold. It won’t rain but it may sleet or snow. And if it doesn’t do any of that, it will force you to choose between too many clothes at the start, only to melt and collapse because it heats up unbearably later, or start with too few clothes so that you tip over and freeze to death on the first lap.

There are a lot of free-range dogs on course so at least your carcass will be recycled.

Anyway, I’m mostly kidding about all this. It’s a great, fun race. You’re gonna kill it. See you there.

END

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Tough guy

February 7, 2017 § 19 Comments

Fake cyclingnews.com wrote a story about how the new extreme weather protocol may be making pro cyclists softer. Of course the lead photo is Andy Hampsten going over the Gavia through 78 feet of snow as it rains boulder-sized ice floes on his head, but they could have picked any of a zillion photos from BACK IN THE DAY, a glorious place that never existed and that everyone who wasn’t there can’t wait to return to.

The fake news subtitle says “Safety first as organisers and teams less willing to take risks,” but the fake article says nothing about safety first in the traditional sense of the word, i.e. concern for human life. Instead, we learn from Team Evil Empire’s Rod Ellingworth that “We spend a lot of money on riders, and their health and safety is key to the team.”

That sentence says it all, just reverse the logic: “We didn’t used to spend any money at all on riders, so their health and safety was irrelevant.” Which is how pro cycling used to be. Riders were treated like animals, paid nothing, forced to ride in spectacles so horrific that the only way to endure, much less win, was to become hopelessly addicted to heroin, cocaine, and every manner of drug, and then once used up–which took only a few years–thrown to the side so that another crop of desperately poor riders could be fed into the machine.

Ellingsworth should have said, “People deserve a safe and healthy working environment. Intentionally endangering them for the pleasure of others too craven or weak to do it themselves is wrong.”

But it was Team Evil Empire, after all, and he was simply voicing the calculus of the moment. These riders cost a shit-ton to develop and maintain. Don’t throw away the investment on one bad day of riding weather.

Cycling has a lot of fake tough guy stuff. Fake tough riding in bad weather. Fake tough riding long miles. Fake tough climbing high mountains. But you know what it doesn’t have very much of? Real toughness.

I used to be a Boy Scout but got booted after a couple of years due to general incorrigibility. I had problems with authority and rules, and although our scoutmaster was a kind and gentle guy, there were rules and you did have to follow some of them. Naturally I honed in on the ones that absolutely had to be followed and broke them, like the time I tried to cut off a tree limb before I’d gotten my totin’ chip and instead sawed off half my middle finger. Mr. Black wasn’t happy, mostly because I bled four gallons of blood, but also because I’d undertaken to do something I wasn’t qualified to do and had hurt myself as a result.

He didn’t care what my parents were going to think, exactly, he cared that I’d been hurt on his watch and that it had been his responsibility to make sure I didn’t do crazy shit like saw off part of my hand. Several other scouts earned a ton of first aid and finger reattachment merit badges that day, though, so from a scouting perspective it wasn’t all bad.

Mr. Black was healthy and fit but he wasn’t fake cyclist tough. The only thing he knew how to do was raise a family and look after a pack of wild Texas kids. But that’s not tough.

The other day one of my friends, a guy named Eric Arentsen, was coming back from some long-ass bicycle ride. He had just left Camp Pendleton and was riding north towards San Onofre State Beach. Suddenly he was flagged down by a group of cyclists and asked if he was a doctor. He saw a cyclist on the ground who was turning blue, and several cyclists trying to revive him. Several people had phones out and asked him to find a ranger or doctor.

He sprinted ahead and found a big group of riders that had just done a U-turn at the bottom of the parking lot. Two nurses turned around from this group to render assistance to the cyclist. He then caught a few more groups, several of which had passed the dying cyclist on the ground and had not bothered stopping to help. About a mile up he found a ranger who rushed to the scene.

Finally two fire trucks, a sheriff, and a life guard truck heading south with all lights flashing let him know that help was at hand. Eric was behind two cyclists riding side by side when the vehicles passed and he was stunned to see they cyclists not pull over in the narrow parking lot to give the vehicles room to get by. The vehicles slowed noticeably as they passed. When he rode by the riders they talked about the incident at the end of the parking lot and they said they “didn’t want to get involved.”

The cyclist survived, no thanks to the people who didn’t want to get involved. They were probably really tough cyclists, too, able to ride hard and fast and long but not quite tough enough to stop and help someone who was on death’s door, and certainly not tough enough to move over so that emergency vehicles could safely pass.

I wish it was an isolated incident, but I see it and hear similar stories all the time about self-absorbed two-wheeled douchebags who won’t stop to help change a flat, who won’t stop to find out if you’ve got the mechanical under control, who are often so fucking serious about their tough-ass hobby that they can’t even be bothered to wave back or smile.

It won’t surprise you to know that Eric is a scout. Not just any old kicked-out-of-scouting-like-Wanky-scout, but an Eagle Scout and a scoutmaster. He’s a tough guy where it matters the most, setting aside his own selfishness to make sure a fellow human is okay. There’s no fake tough to people like Eric, just gentle decency and warm humanity that will go to the gates of hell and back if it’s the right thing to do.

Oh, and he can kick your ass pretty good on the bike, too.


UPDATE

I received this awesome note about the women who stopped and saved the cyclist’s life. Decency and a willingness to help … wow. From Lauren Mulwitz:

I must say I am moved. I think we are all moved by what happened this weekend.

On the afternoon of Sunday, February 5th we were on a team training ride down by Camp Pendleton. Upon meeting at a rest stop, our team was alerted of a gentleman having a heart attack. That gentleman’s name is James Nishida. Immediately we rushed to the scene, and Cindy Fenton, Michelle Disanti, and myself began CPR. What felt like an eternity, probably lasted about 15 minutes as we tried to resuscitate him. The whole time thinking, this is someone’s brother, someone’s husband, someone’s father … and he has to wake up.

You meet nurses, doctors, and paramedics all the time, and are somewhat aware of what they do … but you sometimes forget how amazing they are until you see them in action. They have the ability to save a life, which is one of the most amazing qualities a human being can possess. Cindy and Michelle showed no fear and went immediately into action. Cindy unselfishly gave him rescue breaths, which when you don’t know someone, takes a lot of courage and unselflessness. Michelle performed compressions until she was fatigued, and even then continued until the paramedics took over, and I kept the airway open.

This past weekend, my teammates, Michelle and Cindy performed a most heroic and compassionate action. They saved a man’s life. So, I would like to publicly acknowledge their heroic efforts as well as the rest of Purequosa for their support. We are all pulling for you James and wish you the best life has to offer.

To Brooke Nishida and family, we are all here for you and can’t wait to meet and hug James.

I love you girls. I love life. Proud to call these women my sisters.

END

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Are you riding too much?

February 6, 2017 § 24 Comments

Yes, you.

You know who you are.

More importantly, you know how your legs feel right now.

Tired.

Yeah. You, who don’t race for a living, are trying to figure out how to get through your Super Hangover from being on your bike all day yesterday. And the day before.

You know, that string of days that put you at more than 300 miles for the week with some crazy amount of elevation.

Has it occurred to you that, at age 40-whatever, you’re riding too much?

Has it?

Okay, I can already hear your answer. “TOO MUCH FOR WHAT?”

And that’s a good answer, because on the Internet the best defense is all caps. But you have a point. Too much for what?

Let’s drill down, shall we? I’d make a flow chart but those are too difficult. So here’s a handy self-diagnostic quiz:

  1. I ride more than 200 miles a week and I’m not paid for it. T/F
  2. I’m tired. T/F
  3. I ride when I’m tired. T/F
  4. I’m too tired for sex. T/F
  5. After I ride, I do things I have to do but I do them tiredly. T/F
  6. My thighs ache right now. T/F
  7. My back aches right now. T/F
  8. Every time I get ready to ride my bike I have to climb a small mountain of tired to get dressed,air up the tires, and roll out the door. T/F
  9. No matter how tired I am (like right now) I always make the group ride, after which I’m even more tired. T/F
  10. Being tired feels bad but not riding feels worse. T/F
  11. I feel guilty because I’m too tired to talk to my family, but I feel guiltier if I don’t ride. T/F
  12. I’m pretty sure that being tired helps me lose weight. T/F
  13. If you’re not tired you aren’t riding enough. T/F
  14. “Too tired legs” can only be overcome with a quick 2-hr. spin. T/F
  15. Other people ride a lot more than me and they’re not tired. T/F
  16. Tired is a state of mind. T/F
  17. Rest is what happens when your competition quits working. T/F
  18. I can recover with a good hard run. T/F

If you answered “True” to any of these except the first one, here’s some advice: Up the mileage. You’re clearly not tired enough.

END

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Some super observations 

February 5, 2017 § 21 Comments

It’s that day of the year again and:

  1. I only know one of the teams who’s playing.
  2. Traffic on the 101 is nonexistent.
  3. I saw my first Nuttall’s woodpecker.
  4. The parking lot at the pier in Santa Barbara is empty. On a Sunday.
  5. I don’t have to ride my bike to have fun.
  6. The wheel in the sky keeps on turning.
  7. The less you want the more you have.
  8. A good cup of coffee is good to find.

END

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