Before and After

07.31.2007 | 11:25 am

So I just finished my final Time Trial for the Banjo Brothers Big Bad Bulky Biker Bodyfat (B7) Challenge.

The upshot? I lost 31 pounds and dropped 5 minutes off my uphill Time Trial time since January. I’m 25% faster in the climbs than I used to be.

Did I beat everyone? Nope. The results aren’t all in yet, but I figure I’ll probably have to buy about a dozen jerseys or so. And you know what? I’m happy to do it — I’m proud to have anyone who lost more weight and gained more fitness than I did wearing a Fat Cyclist jersey.

I did, however, beat a lot more people than beat me. It’ll be interesting to see how many people who lost will honor their agreement.

Humiliation in the Form of Photography
So, let’s review where we’ve been, shall we? Here’s a photo of me when I started this blog, back in May of 2005:

And here I am today:

Yeah, I could still stand to lose a few pounds. Or do an occasional sit-up. Or do something about my pasty whiteness. But still, some definite improvement, wouldn’t you say? And my legs are freakin’ awesome.

The Leadville 100 is less than two weeks away. I’m as ready as I’m going to be. Ever.


Cycling and Doping: A Solution

07.27.2007 | 9:22 am

A Note from Fatty: Dr. BotchedExperiment and I ride together fairly frequently. When we do, I always try to get him to talk about doping in cycling. I do this for two reasons:

  • He knows what he’s talking about. Botched is an actual doctor and scientist. He understands the science and where it’s going.
  • It’s entertaining. Botched gets really worked up. He doesn’t just think about this kind of thing. He cares about it.

So I’ve asked Botched to write up his treatise on doping and what cycling should do about it. To my surprise and delight, he has complied. I think you’ll find it as interesting as I do.

Some careless and unlucky cyclists are getting busted for doping, and they’re really screwing up this year’s TDF. What I really worry about is the future. I don’t see the current anti-doping program working. Oh, I see it catching a few people, but there are enough data out there to suggest current anti-doping practices are only catching a small percent of the cheaters—and more importantly, I don’t feel assured that those who are not getting caught aren’t cheating.

Tearing cycling apart might be worth it if the sport was really going to be clean at the end. But it won’t be.

The future of doping lies in two places. One is the development of new drugs/methods/masking agents. The other is manipulation of athletes’ DNA such that they “naturally” produce more testosterone, human growth hormone, erythropoietin, etc. This is already technically possible and is done to mice all the time. In fact, it’s already been done in humans too. “Gene therapy” is a highly active field of research to treat human diseases by altering the DNA of patients such that those patients produce more of some gene than they normally do.

Any way you slice it, the anti-doping folks will always be playing catch-up to the dopers and we’ll never be assured of a peleton of clean cyclists or a “fair” winner of races. Instead what we’re going to be assured of is more of the same of what we’ve experienced this year.

The Solution(s)
The solution is to get rid of WADA, UCI, ASO, etc. and re-organize cycling with privately owned teams and a league collectively owned by those teams (as in the NFL). This provides a single body with authority regulate the sport, and a group of people who are financially invested in the integrity AND popularity of the sport. Since that’s never going to happen, an alternative is needed.

A paradigm shift is needed. I suggest cycling stop worrying about dopers and doping and start worrying about an even playing field and the popularity of the sport. I don’t really care that some riders are using chemicals or transfusions to ride faster; I only care that maybe some are and maybe some aren’t and that my favorite riders are being excluded from racing.

You can try to eliminate doping at all costs, or you can try to save cycling. I’m not sure you can do both. I suggest the following changes to current practices and thinking.

1. Switch the focus of doping tests from specific drugs to physiological parameters.
I suggested something similar in a previous post. The top juniors all over the world should have blood work and physiological testing performed a couple times a year. This gives a history hormone levels and performance values against which future deviations can be compared. Using this method, doping isn’t only defined by finding exogenous chemicals in the athlete or extra copies of genes; it’s defined by an improvement of performance values/hormone levels greater than two standard deviations above “normal” for that athlete.

Given that this is expensive and is too late for current riders (although CSC has recently started doing exactly this for its own riders) another version of this idea is to to use average values derived from the rest of the peleton, instead of individual values. For each hormone/physiological parameter set a cut-off value, and enforce that value.

This is already being done with hematocrit (percentage of red blood cells in blood). WADA and others established that a ‘crit over 50 might be dangerous, therefore any cyclist with a ‘crit above 50 is held out of competition for two weeks. The testers don’t have to demonstrate that the 50 was produced artificially (for instance by detecting the presence of artificial EPO) it’s an automatic bar.

There are several ways of increasing your hematocrit, some are considered doping, some are not. Most of the peleton rides major races with a hematocrit very near the 50 cutoff. Why then, does it matter if one rider gets to 49 hematocrit by using an altitude tent, another goes and lives at 12,000 feet of elevation, another uses EPO, and another uses a blood transfusion? The result is an equal playing field with all the riders at a crit value of about 50.

Similar cutoff values could be established for many hormones and physiological parameters, such as testosterone, human growth hormone, hemoglobin content in blood, and glucocorticoid hormones, to name a few off the top of my head. I suggest that the cut-off values to be considered doping be quite stringent. I’m not suggesting dropping all testing for exogenous chemicals, since some are very easily detected and obviously go beyond the bounds of an even playing field (such as anabolic steroids).

2. Eliminate medical exemptions for high physiological parameters.
Since the future of fighting doping lies in tracking the physiology of individual riders and/or establishing cutoff values for physiological parameters, this is an essential aspect of leveling the playing field. Right now you can race with a hematocrit over 50—if you have a note from a doctor stating that your 60 hematocrit is a naturally occurring value. Depending on the drug/parameter in question, getting an exemption can be as easy as having your hometown doctor fill out a form.

As new, undetectable drugs are developed and as gene doping becomes a reality, it will be impossible to sort out who has a naturally occurring “naturally high” value and who does not.

As for exemptions to use certain (potentially) performance enhancing drugs to treat medical conditions, I think some official agency (I can’t believe I’m really about to suggest WADA be in charge of something) should be in charge of this, and riders should actually have to demonstrate the medical condition for which they seek treatment.

Racing bikes for a living is not an inherent right of human kind. If your natural hematocrit is 55, then if you want to race bikes, you’d better do something to keep it under 50 during competition.

3. Reduce the punishment for positive tests to a two week suspension.
This accomplishes 4 things.

  •  It allows cycling to try to clean itself up and level the playing field, AND still have a sport people care about at the end of the process. Under the plan I suggest, more cyclists will test positive, so kicking them all out isn’t a reasonable solution.
  • It reduces the pressure on the anti-doping system. Riders will stop fighting for their lives when they are accused of doping; financially and emotionally, it won’t be worth it any more. Currently guys (rightly so) try to tear down the system trying to save themselves, and frankly the system isn’t robust enough to handle it.
  • It reduces the focus on punishing dopers and dopers defending themselves, which are both very negative for the sport.
  • It will allow cycling to more fairly implement new testing procedures and make the cut-off values for being considered “positive” more stringent. If someone is actually innocent, then you didn’t ruin their lives.

Good News!

07.26.2007 | 11:02 am

I just got back from the Oncologist’s — Susan’s still there, doing chemo. The news is really positive.

The most important thing is, the tumors in Susan’s lungs are shrinking.  By a lot. Like by about 45% in diameter. So we definitely keep up the treatment, probably for another six months or so. After that, she’ll have some surgery, then a break for a few months.

Evidently, there’s been some fracturing in Susan’s right hip and in multiple ribs. Not much we can do about the ribs, but Susan will be getting X-rays of the hips today and seeing what can be done there. Maybe more radiation, maybe pinning the hips, maybe nothing at all and letting them heal on their own.

While this isn’t exactly the kind of news we were hoping to hear, these fractures probably occurred due to damage that happened before treatment began; we’re both very hopeful there won’t be any more fracturing and that it’ll get easier for Susan to walk soon.

And until then, she does get awesome parking spots.

The doctor gave her OK for Susan to travel, even up to Leadville (10,000 feet); Susan’s lungs are doing that well. So at this point, Susan’s definitely planning on crewing for me.

I’ve never been so excited or motivated to race well in my life.

Thank You
So many of you have prayed and meditated for us, and so many of you have sent us cards, comments and email. When we gave Susan’s doctor a pink jersey today (yes, she rides) and told her about how great all of you are, she was astounded.

I am extremely grateful to all of you and for all of you. Thank you.

Now I am going to go ride.


5 Questions About the Tour de France Thus Far

07.25.2007 | 11:22 am

Today, I have a few simple questions. Please answer them to the best of your ability. Thank you.

Question 1. Did the designer of the Euskaltel-Euskadi kit who put that half-moon at the top of the shorts want to make it to look like all the riders on the team have a horrible, horrible case of Plumber’s Crack? Or is that just an entertaining side-effect?


Question 2. How come people keep sending Iban Mayo to the Tour?

Question 3. Has anyone else who has seen the movie The Triplets of Belleville noticed the separated-at-birth-level of resemblance of the kidnapped grandson in the movie and Juan Soler Hernandez?


Question 4: Do you think it hurts Soler’s feelings when Liggett and Sherwen refer to him as “Mister Gangly,” a “Huge Spider on a Bicycle” or say, “well, he’ll never look good on a bicycle, but he can certainly make it go uphill?”

Question 4a: Do Liggett and Sherwen make fun of any other rider, or just Soler?

Question 5. Where’d Zabriskie go? He was in, and then he was out, and nobody ever said anything. (I have a theory on this one, actually: I think he was so deeply absorbed in the new Harry Potter book that he read through the night and into the morning. By the time he finished the book, his turn to race the TT had come and gone.)

Bonus Question: Suppose you record each day’s Tour stage, then carefully avoid learning any results during the day so you can enjoy watching it that night. Further suppose that today you accidentally found out that Rasmussen won another stage today. Finally, suppose that you shortly afterward find out that Rasmussen has since been kicked out of the TdF and has been fired. Supposing all these are the case, is there any point at all to watching today’s stage this evening?

PS: Sorry to spoil it for anyone who didn’t know Rasmussen won today’s stage. Seems like a moot point, tho.

PPS: I’d like to direct everyone’s attention to this little piece I wrote back in April. Not so absurd anymore, is it?

Tour de France Finally Clean!

07.24.2007 | 12:41 pm

PARIS, 24 July 2007 (Fat Cyclist Fake News Service) – Following the positive homologous blood doping test of Alexandre Vinokourov and subsequent withdrawal of Team Astana from the Tour de France today, Race Director Christian Prudhomme announced that everyone else racing in the Tour de France is clean.

“Well, that about wraps it up,” said Prudhomme at a hastily-called press conference. “We finally got the last doper. Everyone else racing the Tour is as clean as a whistle. Possibly even cleaner. You can now watch the rest of the race with full confidence that everyone still in the race — especially all those guys who had like half an hour’s advantage on the once-frontrunner Vinokourov — are not doping. At all.”

Asked about current race leader Michael Rasmussen and the cloud of suspicion hanging over him, Prudhomme responded, “Well, is he still in the race? Yes, he is. So he must not be doping, or we would have caught him, just like we have caught all the dopers.”

Smiling for the press, which was completely reassured, Prudhomme noted, “It’s a fantastic time to be a fan of professional cycling, now that we’re finally finished cleaning the sport up.”

Fans and Racers React
“I used to worry about whether some of the pros were doping,” said Matt Carter, an American cycling fan visiting France to see the Tour firsthand. “But now that the sport has these really reliable drug tests in place, anyone who’s foolish enough to cheat will be caught and punished. I’m just glad that Alexandre Vinokourov was the only one left cheating, and that the other GC guys — each of which was just about forever ahead of Vino — aren’t doping.”

“I sometimes used to look around me and wonder,” said Levi Leipheimer, a clean racer for Team Discovery, “which of the cyclists around me are doping. Now I no longer have to worry about that, because all the dopers have been caught, leaving only the honest racers in the peloton. It’s a great feeling.”

“Yeah,” agreed teammate Alberto Contador, a clean Freshman racer currently in second place in the Tour de France. “I don’t understand why anyone would need to dope anyway. I mean, look at me! I don’t dope, as clearly witnessed by my negative test results, and I’m still able to take first and second place, stage after stage after stage!”

“What’s crazy,” said Nick Abbott, an Australian race fan, “is that Vinokourov somehow thought he could get away with it! Didn’t he realize that anyone who dopes is going to get caught by this foolproof dope detector machine WADA has built?

No More Tests Needed, Ever Again
WADA Chief Dick Pound took today’s announcement as an opportunity to say, “I’m very pleased that we’ve finally arrived at the point where our sport is all cleaned up. Effective immediately, there will be no more tests, since they are no longer necessary. Also, I am disbanding WADA, since it has so thoroughly done its job that it is no longer necessary.

“I feel immensely gratified,” concluded Pound, “to have played my part in this highly effective anti-doping campaign in the great sport of cycling. With the capture of the final doper in the pro peloton, we’ve crossed the finish line, and we’ve won. It’s a great day for all of us.”

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