Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Stop the blog! Armstrong retires

Really, Lance Armstrong's press conference hardly delivered earth-shattering news; just about everyone expected the six-time Tour de France winner to announce his retirement immediately following this summer's crack at a seventh win.

It would have been way more entertaining if George Hincapie had been right. Armstrong's team mate predicted the cyclist was going to announce his bid for Governor of Texas.

Just think of the possibilities: cars outlawed in favour of bicycles; thousands of kilometres of new cycle paths constructed; tax breaks for individuals who exercised so much time per day. All that and Sheryl Crow as the first lady too!

I can already see the Governor's first press conference: "Well, Jeb Bush tried hard to catch me, but he just didn't have the momentum in that last county. But I was feeling good, so I just decided to pick up and go."

The New York Times has a nice multimedia package on Armstrong at: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/19/sports/othersports/19cycling.html?oref=login

The paper is also reporting the Tyler Hamilton, the Olympic Gold medalist in the time trail in August, has been suspended for two years for a drug violation. It's a heart-breaking revelation. Many cyclists look up to Hamilton for his gritty style, best exemplified when he rode day after day in the 2003 Tour de France with a broken collar bone.

The irony of the Hamilton suspension coming on the same day Armstrong announced his retirement won't be lost on many. Armstrong is among the world's most tested athletes for drugs.

Monday, April 18, 2005

A clear winner

Italian racer Danilo Di Luca sprinted to win the Amstel Gold Cup Sunday, overcoming the course's 30-some hills and emerging, despite the fog that blanketed the event, the clear winner.

How foggy was it? Bad enough that OLN carried coverage of the minor California Redland race instead. The poor weather conditions in Holland made it impossible for the television helicopters to go out and shoot footage of the Gold Cup. Viewers saw the final sprint and that was it for the 40th anniversary of the one-day classic.

For more coverage: http://www.cyclingnews.com/news.php?id=news/2005/apr05/apr18news

Of course today's big news, aside from the Boston Marathon (http://www.bostonmarathon.org/), is of course Lance Armstrong's press conference set for this afternoon. Armstrong is widely expected to announce his retirement following this year's edition of the Tour de France.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Boonan cobbles together a win

Tom Boonen officially became the Belgium master in the one-day classics when, just two weeks after winning the Tour of Flanders, he pulled off a major coup with a winning sprint at Sunday's Paris-Roubaix race. In doing so, the Quick Step team rider crushed the hopes of Discovery Team's George Hincapie, who had hoped to become the first American to win the so-called Queen of the Classics.

Paris-Roubaix offers a gritty spectacle with the hard-charging peloton jouncing over treacherous cobblestone sections during the race. During yesterday's event a crash seemed to occur over every cobblestone portion. At one point the peloton appeared to implode as a rider went down in the middle of the pack, causing a chain reaction of cyclists to vanish in a tumble of wheels and bike frames. One of the unlucky racers was one-day classic expert Peter Van Petegem, who withdrew from the event.

Boonen and Hincapie broke away late in the race with two other riders, dropping the Swiss giant Magnus Backstetd - last year's winner - before they reached the velodrome at Roubaix. Once in the velodrome, it was all over but the crying. Boonen sat on the wheel of Hincapie, who in turn drafted Spanish rider Juan Antonio Flecha. While Hincapie and Flecha hesitated, Boonen went, sprinting off the American's back wheel to win the grueling race.

For full coverage, check out Samuel Apt writing in the International Herald Tribune: http://www.iht.com/articles/2005/04/10/news/bike.html

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Keller versus Bourdain

Bouchon by Thomas Keller - The owner of Napa Valley's world-famous French Laundry decided to open a bistro in Yountville, California called Bouchon. I was lucky enough to eat there a year-and-a-half ago and enjoyed one of the best lunches of my life. So naturally when Keller released his bistro cookbook, I was intrigued.

What made it particularly interesting was not too long ago I'd read Anthony Bourdain's treatise on bistro cooking and so I wanted to see how the two compared. You can imagine.

It comes as no surprise to discover that Keller is much more finicky than Bourdain in just about every way. Bourdain's approach is, "C'mon, numb nuts! You can slap that roast chicken together."

In contrast, Keller's book is fussy and the recipes more complex in their preparation.

The one thing that struck me as innocuous about Bouchon (the book), however, was its over-sized coffee table format. The book is so unwieldy as to be awkward in a kitchen. Nor is it the sort of volume you'd want to accidentally splash red wine on.

Whereas Bourdain's, well, it practically begs for red wine....

Both struck me as having equally valid approaches and both featured recipes I'd like to try. Overall, I found Bourdain's more down-to-earth and approachable, although for sheer eye candy Keller's Bouchon is unmatched.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Booming Boonan crushes Hincapie's hopes

Like the alliteration?

The race wasn't too darn bad either. Of couse, I'm referring to last night's Tour of Flanders, during which Tom Boonan (Quick Step) with only nine kilometres to go broke away from a lead group of six riders to capture the race.

The event made for a wonderful night of coach potatoism and offered a lot in terms of sheer cycling spectacle. With 17 climbs, many of them at a steep 20% grade, over the last 50 kilometres of the Belgium course, the riders already had a tough enough task. Add cobblestones and the race was positively daunting.

Discovery Channel was out in full force for the race with Lance Armstrong riding support for George Hincapie, who hoped to become the first American to bring home gold from the Tour of Flanders. It didn't happen. Instead, Hincapie was snoozing in 30th place when the six-man break developed. Why the veteran racer wasn't further up front isn't clear, but it certainly played out as poor tactics.

For an interview with 24-year-old Boonan, go here: http://www.cyclingnews.com/road/2005/apr05/rvv05/?id=features/tom_boonen05

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Classic TV

That's how I'd define Corner Gas. It's a great Canadian comedy - literate, intelligent, funny and even has bikes. How great is that?

In the most recent episode, the two police officers who patrol the Saskatchewan town of Dog River, the setting of Corner Gas, get bicycles. One of them even ends up with an aero helmet with "police" lettered on the side. It's absolutely hilarious and, yes, you probably need to see it.

Not so funny is the fact that cars keeping backing over their bikes, trashing the frames and wheels.

The best part of all that is the bikes are only a sub-plot on this extremely amusing show. I just adore it - but then my friend Gordon tells me that only folks from the West get it. (Yes, I know this blog is written from Prince Edward Island, but I'm from Edmonton and will always be a prairie boy).

Anyways, kudos to the folks at Corner Gas for their creative use of bikes. Check them out on the Interweb (as the good folks of Dog River call it) at: http://www.cornergas.com/