It’s Not the Dopers Who Are Killing Cycling

03.14.2007 | 5:10 am

A Note From Fatty: Today’s post comes to you courtesy of Dr. BotchedExperiment, who spends all his time busting sick moves, thinking deep thoughts, wearing a square hat, and writing angry letters about things ranging from the way cheese smells to the deplanetization of Pluto (an outrage!).

Today, he is angry about the whole bike/doping situation. I find his logic compelling, and his anger cathartic. Enjoy!

Let’s get a couple things out of the way
There are two reasons doping exists in cycling. 1) Each individual cyclist is highly competitive. 2) For the top riders, there are millions of dollars at stake. Desire and money; prestige and cash. That’s it. Show me a sport where there is no money involved and the athletes don’t care whether they win, and I’ll show you a sport where no one’s cheating.

When I hear cyclists and pundits say that professional road cycling is too hard and it forces the riders to cheat, I want to pull my hair and bang my head against a solid surface. It seems these folks have never heard of track cycling, in which some races last ONE MINUTE and yet, track cycling has every bit a performance enhancing drug (PED) problem as road cycling.

Compare and Contrast: American Football and Cycling
America’s National Football League (NFL) is the most financially successful and fastest growing sports league in the world. American football is also one of the sports in which athletes would most benefit from using performance enhancing drugs.

Only recently has the NFL bumped up its penalties for a positive for a performance enhancing substance: 1st positive = 1/4 season, 2nd positive = 3/8 season, 3rd positive = 1 season. As you know, cycling has a 1st offence 2 year suspension, compounded by a 2 year Pro Tour suspension, making a 4 year ban for a 1st offence.

The NFL doesn’t use blood for any tests, only urine, and astoundingly only recently started testing for most masking agents and considering their presence as a positive drug test. The NFL still doesn’t test for amphetamines. Cycling uses blood, urine, and is trying to get DNA, and tests for an astounding array of substances.

While there are potentially millions of dollars at stake for each NFL player, in cycling, there are only a handful of riders capable of making that type of income.

In every way, NFL players have more reason to use performance enhancing drugs than cyclists, and yet the NFL has never been perceived to have a PED problem. I have never heard anyone say “Yeah, but the Superbowl winning team was probably on steroids,” or, “Ladanian Tomlinson couldn’t be that good naturally, he must be on human growth hormone.”

In the NFL, the drug testing and punishment is handled in-house by the NFL, and when there is a positive test, the details of the test are suppressed (again, only recently have they even started releasing the identity of the players who test positive). The only thing the public hears is “player x suspended 4 games for violating NFL drug policy.” You hear about the doper and the offence once, after the test has been substantiated, the penalty decided, and the initial denial of the player has been heard by the league. To make doping and punishing of doping even more of a non-issue, no records, wins, or titles are stripped from any players of teams, and there has never been a star player severely punished by the NFL for PEDs.

Time to make significant changes
I used to think the NFL’s drug policy was a joke, and that cycling did it right, but I was absolutely wrong. I have two words to say about that subject: Operation Puerto. UCI/WADA’s inept attempts at saving cycling from dopers is killing the sport. Just as police often suspend a high-speed chase in a city, understanding that during the course of catching the fleeing suspect they may do more harm than good, cycling needs to temporarily cease its more high-profile attempts at catching dopers until they can do it without seeming like a Three Stooges skit.

  • Somebody get a big, family sized roll of duct tape and wrap it around Dick Pound’s (WADA) and Pat McQuaid’s (UCI) faces until they can no longer speak. Every time they open their mouths, cycling gets worse.
  • Approach catching cheaters as a way of further enhancing the sport’s popularity, and STOP making catching/punishing dopers more important that putting an entertaining product on the road.
  • Abandon suspensions for “positive” results from current tests involving heterologous blood doping, testosterone, and EPO (except the 50% hematocrit rule). The science behind these tests is not indisputable and endless debate about them only hurts cycling.
  • Begin building physiological profiles for each rider, consisting of hormone profiles (testosterone, erythropoietin, etc) hematocrit levels, red blood cell precursor levels, and DNA (the real future of doping lies in modifying the DNA of blood cells such that an individual “naturally” expresses more EPO, testosterone, growth hormone, etc). These files won’t be of much use for riders who are at the end of their careers, but testing of all the top junior level riders should begin immediately. The idea here is that in the future “positive” doping results will be based on an individual’s deviation from their own “normal” parameters.
  • Get the testing labs under control. Right now it doesn’t matter whether someone returns a positive dope test because the labs processing the samples are being run so poorly that the results will never hold up (see Paula Pezzo and Floyd Landis for examples). Use private labs and hold them to a high standard.
  • Automate rider sample collection, storage, and retrieval. This is so easy it’s ridiculous. Take the human element out of sample collection and solidify chain of custody and eliminate access to the samples.
  • Unify cycling. I don’t know of any other sport that is run by more organizations, here’s a partial list: UCI, ASO, WADA, IOC, International Professional Cycling Teams (IPCT), national cycling associations, national Olympic associations, race promoters, and team sponsors (with each team having many sponsors). Some of this is due to the international nature of cycling, and is the result of an evolutionary process. Time for Intelligent Design! I realize this is nearly impossible unless one organization comes up with billions of dollars to buy everyone out, but the fight against doping has to be unified.

PS: Don’t even get me started about the way UCI and ASO politics are screwing up the sport.


Guess My Weight, Win a Secret Prize

03.13.2007 | 4:01 am

I’ve been on the road now for nine days, more or less (I was back home for the weekend). Here are some interesting statistics about my trip:

  • Number of days during which I have stuck to my eating plan on this trip: 0
  • Number of times I have exercised during this trip: 3
  • Number of times I have weighed myself since beginning this trip: 0
  • Number of belt notches I have had to let out since beginning this trip: 1

So here’s a story problem:

“If a Fat Cyclist goes on a two-week-long business trip where he eats every meal at a restaurant, doesn’t have time (nor facilities) to exercise, spends several hours of each day snacking to keep himself awake while driving (a sedentary position), and occasionally goes on evening eating binges to drive away the boredom of being alone in yet another hotel room, and if, furthermore, that Fat Cyclist weighed 162 pounds before leaving on that trip, what will the Fat Cyclist weigh at the end of this trip (i.e., this Friday)?”

The three closest-to-correct answers get a cool Fat Cyclist-labeled item currently under development (value: $15), the item being something which I have not announced yet but am definitely excited about.

In case of ties, earlier entries win.

PS: I am going to be having very little time to post during the remainder of this week and next week. So if you’ve ever thought to yourself, “I have a story/observation/witty piece of fake news that should go in Fat Cyclist,” now’s your chance. E-mail me your story. If I think it feels like something I would write, I’ll post it. If I don’t post it, however, just remember: it’s not you. It’s me.

My Gracious Acceptance / Good Loser Speech

03.12.2007 | 2:00 am

Today (Monday) is the day when I find out whether I won a 2007 Bloggie Award for “Best-Kept Secret Blog.” I promised I would post either my gracious acceptance speech – including a video of me demonstrating my ability to make my face turn purple — or my  good loser speech, depending on whether I won.

There’s just one problem: I’ll be traveling for work — to Texas, though ironically to a different part of Texas than where the awards will be presented — and won’t be able to check the Bloggies site until several hours after the awards are presented.

So I think I’ll go ahead and post both of those speeches. One of them’s bound to be correct.

My Gracious Acceptance Speech
I knew I’d win. I just knew it. The other bloggers — a cowgirl, a moose, a dog, and a compulsive letter-writer — may have all actually been better writers than I. OK, fine, they all are better writers than I, but that didn’t matter in the end, did it? Because out of all of us, only one of us has tapped into the highly coveted overweight middle-aged comedy bike rider zeitgeist.

I predict nobody will ever trivialize this massive demographic ever again. Why do you think that bicycle racing is consistently one of the top-rated sports among television viewers, led only by football (both American and not-American), basketball, baseball, billiards, hockey (both ice and air), hot dog eating, yodeling, tennis (both regular and table), and gardening? It’s a huge sport and it’s on the rise. Watch out.

Next, I really should thank everyone who took the time and effort to vote for me.

But I’m not going to.

The fact is, you already voted for me, and it’s too late to take back your vote now, because I already won. Yeah, I know you’re thinking it’s incredibly petty of me to not acknowledge you, but that’s your problem.

I would, however, like to thank all of my Ads-for-Schwag partners for giving me lots of cool stuff to bribe my readers for votes with give to my readers as thanks for their continued support. Oh, and while I’m at it, I have an announcement: now that I’m an award-winning blogger, I’m charging $1200/week for ads. I hope that won’t be a problem for you.

Finally, I did promise that if I were to win this award (and let’s face it, there never was any doubt that I would), I would demonstrate my extremely rare and useful superpower: the ability to make my face turn purple at a moment’s notice.

So here you go: How to Turn Purple.


My Good Loser Speech
I knew I’d lose. I just knew it. I mean, how many cyclists are there in the world? 10,000? Maybe 12,000? Okay, let’s say 15,000, tops. And say a third of us are middle-aged. That’s 5,000. And then say 10% of that 5,000 has a sense of humor that matches mine. Now we’re down to 500. How many of us middle-aged cyclists with similar senses of humor are fat? OK, all of us, fine. But when you factor in that only 5% of the people in the world even know what a “blog” even is, we’re down to about 25 people in my universe of potential readers. Add in friends and family and we’re up to 27 potential readers.

So yeah, I’ve mentioned things about getting around 8,000 pageviews per day. The truth is, though, I’ve always known that 7,500 of those are just me reloading the page over and over, hoping — praying, really — that somebody has left a comment.

And I’m pretty sure Dr. BotchedExperiment is responsible for about 485 of the other daily pageviews. Thanks, Dr. Botched.

Still, when I found out that I had — through some cosmic error, no doubt — been made a finalist in the “Best Kept Secret” category of the 2007 Bloggies, I — fool that I am — held out hope that I would win.

Oh, what willful vanity!

Consider the blogs I was competing against:

  • The Gilded Moose: A talented satiric writer pokes fun at celebrities. Well, who’d want to read that? I mean, besides everybody?
  • To Whom It May Concern: A talented writer writes letter-form essays about common experiences. Who could possibly find something to identify with in a blog like that? I mean, besides everybody?
  • Woof Woofington: A woman writes about her life from a dog’s point of view, including why people should learn “mouth to snout” resuscitation. Who wouldn’t want to know that? Well, I wouldn’t, but that’s just me.
  • Confessions of a Pioneer Woman: A smart, funny, nice woman who’s also a stellar photographer and a talented writer tells engaging stories about her interesting life. Who could possibly enjoy such a blog? I mean, besides everybody? 

It’s just not fair.

Oh, I guess now’s a good time to announce: I’m renaming my blog and changing its focus a little bit. From now on, this is the “General Purpose Blog About Everything and For Everyone.” I’m sure you’ll find something you like in it.

Anyway, I’m not bitter. I mean, it’s not like all my readers didn’t go out and vote for me. 

Oh, you didn’t?

Well, I’m sure you meant to get around to it. That’s cool. I wouldn’t want to have inconvenienced you by making you take the thirty seconds required to go cast a vote for me. I mean, it would have taken a lot of effort (three mouse clicks) and money (none) to go vote for the guy who spends roughly an hour of each day writing something for your entertainment. I wouldn’t want to overwhelm you with my irrational greed. 

No, no. Don’t feel guilty. Obviously, my blog wasn’t worth your vote. Don’t start pretending like it is now. It’s too late for that.

Oh well. I guess I’ve reached the part where I have to congratulate the winner. Fine. Here goes:

Congratulations, winner. Enjoy your stupid Bloggie.

And now, I shall go sulk. Some more.

Please Leave Your Congratulations. Or Condolences. Or Both.
After about 1:00pm Central Time, the actual winners should be posted at the Bloggies site. Please feel free to check it out, see how I did, and leave me an appropriate note.

On the other hand, why wait to leave a note until you know how things turned out? I didn’t.

PS: Thanks to all the people who have entered the “It’s Nice to be Nice to Dave Nice” raffle. We’ve raised $1085 for Dave’s Great Divide Race fund so far (the raffle ends this Saturday, at which point I’ll be emailing the winners and sending out info on how to get your email address). As you can probably imagine, after telling Dave how much we’ve collected for him, I did not have too difficult of a time getting him to promise to wear a Fat Cyclist jersey for some of the days during the race.

The Ultimate Cyclist Vacation Club

03.9.2007 | 8:44 am

This is either the best idea I have ever had, or a completely idiotic, impossible fantasy. Maybe it has elements of both. I’ll let you decide.

First, though, the backstory.

I used to subscribe to pretty much every bike magazine out there (sometime soon, I should go into why I don’t anymore, but not right now). In particular, I looked forward to reading Mike Ferrentino, Zapata Espinoza and Captain Dondo’s descriptions of their biking adventures.

Then, as I rode my local trails, it occurred to me that if one of those high-falutin’ bike adventure journalists ever bothered to show up in my backyard, I could show them trails every bit as awesome as the exotic locations they traveled to. In my mind, I started putting together what I considered the ultimate five-day biking trip to Utah.

It would make for a spectacular five-day biking trip, I promise you.

Evolution of an Idea
As I’ve become less and less starstruck by biking journalists and more interested in just having fun with people I like, the idea of the Ultimate Five-Day Bike Trip in Utah has morphed. I’d still like to put together such a vacation, but it occurs to me now: there are other people in the world who love biking just like I do, and know their local trails and roads just as well as I know mine, and would enjoy showing them off to a few people just as much as I would.

And that’s where the idea of the Ultimate Cyclist Vacation Club (UCVC) came from. And here’s how it would work

Self-Selecting Cliques
Practically anybody at all could join the UCVC. The only prerequisites would be that you’d have to be a cyclist, and you’d have to be willing to be a host at some point (I’ll explain what the host does in a moment).

Being a member of the UVCV doesn’t mean anything, though, until you’ve joined a clique. UVCV members surf around the lounge area of the virtual club, joining conversations, talking about what kind of riding you do, what kind of people you like to ride with, and what your very favorite local trails are.

Eventually, you’ll find a group of people who love the same kind of biking as you. They invite you to join their biking clique.

A clique can have no more than seven people in it. This rule is as absolute as it is arbitrary.

Like-Minded Cyclists + Local Knowledge = Dream Vacation
From here, the UVCV is pretty simple. Each clique would determine for themselves how often they have these vacations, and how many days those vacations last. Each clique member takes turns being a host: putting together an awesome biking vacation for their clique in your home area. When you’re host, you’re responsible for choosing what trails people will ride, where people will stay, picking them up at the airport, arranging with a bike shop to take care of any gear needs travelers will have, where to eat…pretty much everything. You’re Mr. Rork, and your hometown is Fantasy Island.

And, naturally, when it’s someone else’s turn to be the host, you should expect them to put together every bit as nice of a vacation for you as you did for them.

And Then You Ride
Once everyone arrives, you get to show off your hometown trails and/or roads. Show them the absolute cream of your crop — the stuff only locals know about. The stuff that makes you absolutely positively certain that your hometown is the best place in the world to ride. Your mission is make your clique seriously consider moving to where you live, just on the strength of the quality of your trails.

So, what would I look for in a UVCV clique, and what would I be able to offer as a host? Here’s what I’m thinking:

  • Type of rider: I like riding road and mountain. On a vacation, I think I’d rather weight my riding toward more mountain, but maybe that’s just because I’ve never been on the ultimate road ride. I like rides that last all day. and I like technical riding, but not so technical that I need to be a trials phenom.
  • Rider personality: I like cheerful people. I do not like complainers, unless things are obviously going really badly, in which case I do not like cheerful people. I like sarcastic people, unless sarcasm is the only arrow you’ve got in your comedy quiver. I do not like bossy people, but expect people to appreciate my innate leadership qualities. I do not like it when people make fun of how I always get lost.
  • Where I’d like to ride: I’d like other members of my clique to represent places that are mostly close by — at this time in my life, a trip to Italy or Australia just isn’t likely. So, I’d be looking for AZ, NM, CO, WY, and ID riders for my clique. From what I hear, there’s tons of great riding in each of these states, and I could get to them easily.
  • What I’d have to offer as host: I would show off Tibble Fork (the Best Place in the World, which includes incredible views, difficult climbing, and two kinds of exquisite descents), Hog’s Hollow (ending in a natural waterslide), the Gauntlet (an epic 80-mile road ride with 9000 feet of climbing), then off to Southern Utah for Gooseberry and Little Creek Mesa. There are innumerable great burrito / fish taco places in the area. And the Marriott here costs about as little as a Super 8 in most metro cities. This week would wipe you (and me) out, but you’d love every single ride.

I Have No Idea Whether I’m Serious About This
Is this a good idea? Or is it completely stupid and/or impossible for some reason that hasn’t occurred to me? If it is a good idea, what would your UVCV ad look like? 

PS: Enough out-of-United-States-ers have said they want to be in the Dave Nice Raffle that I’m going to try to include them. So, here’s how things will work if you’re out of the U.S. and win a prize that has to be shipped. When you get notification that you won, you can do any of the following:

  1. Have me give it to some other random raffle ticket holder.
  2. Have me send it to someone in the U.S. you know.
  3. Have me send it to you, but you pay the shipping.

PPS: A huge “thanks” to all the companies that have put up prizes and to everyone who has donated. So far, we’ve raised $940 for Dave. That’s pretty awesome. I’m sure all you non-US-ers are now going to sign up for the raffle so we can break $1000, right?

PPPS: This Monday, watch for a very special edition of this blog, where I either tearfully accept my Bloggie Award, or make a snarky concession speech, depending on whether I win. 

Race Report: The Newark Hilton Stationary Bike Cycling Championships

03.7.2007 | 12:21 pm

I didn’t want a contest. I just wanted to work off the Delta Snack Box, the QDoba Mole Burrito, and the TCBY Frozen Yogurt (with mini M&Ms) I had eaten before, during, and after my flight.

I just wanted to try to do something right, food-and-training-wise, during my trip.

So as soon as I arrived at the hotel, I dug out some shorts and a jersey, put on the running shoes — I figured there was no way the hotel’s gym would have SPD pedals — and headed to the second floor.

There were only two stationary bikes: one upright, one recumbent. And both of them were taken. Both the treadmills were taken, too, which is good or I would have been forced to run. Ick.

So, confronted with the options of either lifting weights or skulking menacingly near the stationary bikes, I skulked.

It worked. Within a few minutes, someone got off one of the treadmills, and the woman on the upright stationary bike hustled over to it — clearly, she had been riding the bike just to kill time.

I got the seat to something approximating the right height for me — not easy when the saddle only adjusts in one-inch increments — and started pedaling the Lifestyle 2000 (or whatever it was called).

Hill Workout Plus
I’m pretty sure that in 1983, some very good salesperson sold the same exercise bicycle to every hotel in America, and that nobody has sold any exercise bikes since then. Meaning, yes, I’ve been on a bike like this before. I started pedaling, pressed the “Hill Workout Plus” button, and started pressing the “Level Up” button over and over, until I felt some resistance.

Then I turned on the iPod, put my head down, and tried to switch off my brain.

I did not succeed.

Here’s the problem with hotel exercise bikes. They’re poorly maintained (mine had a sticking point at the 8:00 position on the left crank), they have short crank arms to monkey up your spinning motion, and their built-in programs are specifically designed to bore you to death and back again.

OK, technically that’s more than one problem.

I endured the Hills Plus workout program pretty well, keeping my cadence right at 100, my heart rate right at 145. The hills never lasted more than a minute, so I didn’t really feel like they should be called “hills.” More like “very big molehills.”

As I rode, I occasionally looked over to my right. There, on the recumbent, spun a guy — about my age — who looked like a triathlete. You know the type.

Now something I’ve noticed in hotel gyms many times: nobody stays very long. I arrive, start pedaling, and by the time I’ve done a half-hour workout, there’s been a complete turnover in the gym.

But not this time. The guy was still pedaling, a nice 95+rpm cadence by the look of it.

So, when the workout ended, I immediately dialed up another one. This time a “manual” workout: a half-hour long spin where I got to specify the resistance at will.

A Brief Contemplation on Saddles and Sorting
As I pedaled, I devised a simple and foolproof test to tell whether someone is a cyclist. Here’s how it goes: Offer a person identical bikes, except one has a narrow saddle, and one has a big, padded saddle. The person who picks the big, padded saddle is the one who doesn’t know better — i.e., the non-cyclist.

The reason this simple test occurred to me is that the saddle I was sitting on was big and padded, and I was rapidly discovering how awful such a saddle feels — the thing was cutting into my butt in any number of painful ways.

On a good bike with a good saddle, I can literally ride all day. I could not, however, ride a bike with this saddle for more than two hours if my butt depended on it.

And it was while I was thus thinking that second half-hour workout ended.

And still, the triathlete (for I was increasingly certain he was a triathlete, though we had not yet spoken) pedaled on.

So I dialed up another half-hour workout.

It was official (in my head, anyway): it was a contest of endurance.

An hour and seventeen minutes into my workout, the triathlete finally spun to a stop. I contemplated saying each of the following things:

  • “Done already?”
  • “Better luck next time.”
  • “Good effort.”

Instead, I said none of these things. He, however, walked up to me and asked, “So do you ride mountain or road?”

Oh, so he was going to try the friendly approach. Fine. I can play that game. “I like both. How about yourself?”

“Oh, I’m a triathlete.”

I knew it. Knew it.

“Hey, enjoy the rest of your workout,” he said, and left.

I continued spinning, at a renewed pace.

Until he had been gone thirty seconds and I was confident he wasn’t coming back. Then I got off that stupid bike and promised myself I’d never ride on a hotel exercycle again in my life.

PS: Everyone who’s bought raffle tickets to support Dave Nice: Dave emailed me last night saying, “Thanks! I am blown away at how helpful cyclists are!” The raffle has earned more than $700 for Dave so far, which is awesome. In fact, it’s more than 1/4 of the total amount Dave’s trying to save up for his race. If you haven’t bought tickets yet, you still can: click here.

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