Archive for July, 2008

Wim on the Champs Elysees

Sunday, July 27th, 2008

Wim held on to last place today, earning a place in history as the only three-time Lanterne Rouge in the Tour de France.  He was only 53 seconds behind Bernhard Eisel of Team Columbia after yesterday’s time trial, and although the last stage is largely ceremonial, anything can happen.   Today he finished 1:08 behind the stage winner, and well behind the main field of riders.  A few guys finished after Wim, but only one had the same time: Eisel.  I’d guess that Wim must have been sticking to Eisel all day, just to make sure he didn’t some how get ahead of him and spoil his third Lanterne Rouge finish.

Reports have it that Wim is likely to retire from competitive riding after this year’s tour, and now he can do so as a record holder, even if it’s a record that doesn’t show up on the official Tour de France site.

Way to go Wim!

He’s done it!

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

As you will remember, Wim Vansevenant had to thread a needle today in the penultimate stage of the Tour de France, an individual time trial.   Yesterday Bernhard Eisel lost 13 1/2 minutes relative to Wim’s overall time, becoming the new Lanterne Rouge by 42 seconds.  In order for Wim to make history by earning the Lanterne Rouge for the third Tour in a row, he had to come in at least 43 seconds slower than Eisel today.

Not too difficult, perhaps; Eisel beat Wim by a full minute in the shorter time trial in stage 4, and he got to start the TT after Eisel today, so he’d know the time to beat.  However, Eisel’s crashed repeatedly during this tour, and the group he finished with yesterday were all so beat up and bandaged that they might have been the cast of The Mummy Returns.  What if Eisel was on his last legs yesterday?  Today he might have finished outside the time limit (1.25 times the winner’s time) and been disqualified.  Today Wim had to race fast enough to stay inside the time limit — something I’m probably not capable of on my best day — while ensuring that, if Eisel was also inside the limit, he’d finish at least 43 seconds behind him.  A lot of calculations to make on the fly while performing in a world-class sporting event.

Well, the nice thing about the individual time trial is that they start in reverse order of their standing in the general classification, so by the time I got up this morning, Wim and Eisel had both already finished the race.

Vansevenant:  1:14:47

Eisel: 1:13:12

Vansevenant came in 1:35 behind Eisel; by my calculations, he’s back in last place by a margin of 53 seconds.   Close, but a deficit he should be able to maintain tomorrow all the way to the Champs-Élysées.   Nobody else is within striking distance — Sven Kraus was the closest, 1:12 ahead of Wim yesterday, and finished well ahead of him today.  What about the cutoff time?  Wim’s okay as long as the winner doesn’t come in under 51:49, a superhuman 38 mph average speed.  That looks safe so, I’d say unless something weird happens tomorrow, Wim’s going to make history by coming in last in the Tour de France a third time.  Go Wim!

Oh, yeah, and this stage will probably decide the yellow jersey too.   It would be nice if Cadel Evans won, so that Silence-Lotto could make bookends around the tour.

Update:  It’s official.  Wim’s again the Lanterne Rouge of the TdF, and only the flat stage to Paris remains.  Teammate Cadel Evans didn’t pull out an overall victory, though, and will be 2nd to Carlos Sastre.

More on Wim and the Lanterne Rouge at the TdF Lanterne Rouge blog.

Wim’s in trouble!

Friday, July 25th, 2008

In his race for a historic third Lanterne Rouge in the Tour de France, Wim Vansevenant hit an unexpected bump today.   I didn’t expect much to happen today, in a mostly flat stage.   The peloton usually stays together, and a breakaway of guys with no chance in the overall contention goes off the front, trying to stay ahead long enough to get a stage win.  But today I watched the news flashes with some concern as a group of 9 riders fell off the back of the peloton — including Team Columbia’s Bernhard Eisel.

Eisel was a comfortable 12 minutes and 9 seconds ahead of Wim at the end of yesterday’s stage, and who’s going to lose that much time on a flat stage?  Well, Eisel’s group lost almost 13 minutes to Wim.  So as of today, Eisel is the Lanterne Rouge, and Wim is 42 seconds ahead of him.

Can Wim still pull this out?  Well, tomorrow is the last individual time trial.  The other ITT this year was stage 4, and Wim lost exactly a minute to Eisel in that one.  Furthermore, this time trial will be 1.8 times as long as stage 4.   Most important, competitors start in reverse order, so Eisel has to go first.  That means Wim will know how much time he needs to lose.

Still, it’s going to make for an interesting day tomorrow.  Both the Maillot Jaune and the Lanterne Rouge are likely to be decided by the same stage.   Go Wim!

As always,  you can get more Tour de France Lanterne Rouge news by going to the Lanterne Rouge Blog.

Why drilling is the wrong answer

Monday, July 14th, 2008

2006 US Oil consumption 20,687,000 bbl/day
2006 World Oil production 87,000,000 bbl/day
US Oil production 5,102,000 bbl/day
(Source: DOE)Potential increase from offshore  and ANWR drilling: 3,000,000 bbl/day
Potential decrease in demand from higher fuel efficiency standards:  2,500,000 bbl/day
(Source: Newsweek)

So here’s the deal:

a) Our oil production is a relatively minor part of world oil consumption.
b) Increased exploration and drilling won’t result in more production for at least 5 or 10 years
c) We can get about as much effect more quickly by increasing fuel efficiency standards
d) Not to mention just driving less
e) Not to mention alternative energy sources
f) Oil is a finite resource that has many uses besides burning it
g) We’re going to be sorry if we burn the stuff up now and don’t have it later
h)  We’ll probably find safer ways to extract oil from sensitive places later

So we should spend our time and resources on conservation and alternative energy sources instead of frantically trying to find ways to use up an irreplaceable resource as fast as possible.

Yeah, the Newsweek article cited above presents an argument for more drilling as a stopgap to tide us over.  It’s a shortsighted answer to a long-term problem.  Get a bike.

Update on knee and Wim

Monday, July 14th, 2008

Knee: It’s getting much better.  I’m able to spin on the trainer without pain, and although it hurts a bit when I do the leg presses that my PT recommended, it’s still improving.  So I figure I’ll be back on the road soon.

Wim:  Still bringing up the rear.  He’s getting a bit more recognition; a blog post on the web site now.  The man is a rock.  He’s steady, he takes care of his teammates — I saw him in a rare TV appearance when Cadel Evans crashed yesterday and the whole team pulled him back to the peloton — he doesn’t finish dead last most days, but he just finishes far enough back to maintain his overall last place.  He’s 1 min 42 sec behind Matthieu Spreck.

You can’t just fall off the back and finish at midnight (my personal strategy, except that I probably couldn’t make it over the Col du Tourmalet if they gave me all night).  There’s a time cutoff set by the judges for each stage, which depends in an arcane way on the difficulty of the course, the speed of the winner, the phase of the moon, and the quality of the wine served at the judges’ dinner the night before.  One rider, Magnus Backstedt, was already kicked off the tour this year because he came in 5 minutes past the cutoff.

Anyway, it takes a rare combination of high-level athletic skill and personal humility to be the Lanterne Rouge.  Especially 3 times.  Go Wim!

Cycling, my knee, and Wim Vansevenant

Wednesday, July 9th, 2008

I went to physical therapy on Monday, and the therapist (Todd) thinks it’s just a little irritation of the ligaments.  He gave me a topical treatment with dexamethasone, a steroid, and some exercises to do.  I thought I was pretty damn flexible, but he showed me ways to modify my hamstring and quad stretches that are just LOTS more painful.  Yay.  Anyway, he thinks I should be back to normal within a couple of weeks, and for the moment I can ride a little on the trainer.

Last night I thought I’d go be a spectator at the local Tuesday night criterium.  There were 7 guys racing in all.

Tuesday Night Crit

Patrick makes a tight turn

Tuesday Night Crit

I tried flash just this once, but didn’t want to make anyone crash.

Tuesday Night Crit

This is the artsy shot.

Tuesday Night Crit

Josh wasn’t actually racing with the kid on the handlebars.

Tuesday Night Crit

Cool-down lap.

And in a final note, Wim Vansevenant is still on track for a historic third Lanterne Rouge in the Tour de France.  I’d say more, but this topic is much more thoroughly covered in (where else?) the Tour de France Lanterne Rouge blog.

Tour de France — Who will be the Lanterne Rouge?

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

Last year I did some bike racing, and at the Hillsboro Roubaix I had the distinction of crossing the finish line, looking back, and seeing them dismantling the scoring tent.  Just as the leader of the Tour de France is the maillot jaune for the yellow shirt he wears, the last finisher is known as the red lantern, or lanterne rouge.  There is actually some honor in this — I was the last to finish the Hillsboro Roubaix, but at least I finished.  A lot of people dropped out.

The Tour de France is a grueling competition – over 2000 miles in 3 weeks, and the peloton averages over 25 mph on that.  Just finishing is an enormous athletic accomplishment.   Especially if things aren’t going that well for you, often the case if you’re in last place.   A lot of riders wind up in the voiture balai, the “broom wagon” that sweeps up the drop-outs.

So who, you ask, is the likely Lanterne Rouge this year?  My money is on the man who brought up the rear both of the last two years:  Wim Vansevenant.  Can he pull it off again?  After two stages, he’s 178th out of 179.  He’s a comfortable 9 minutes 1 second behind the leader, and only one rider stands in his way — Juan Mauricio Soler Hernandez, who is a minute and 22 seconds behind Wim.   And Soler is riding with a probable broken wrist.  Unlikely he’ll finish.


Follow-up with data:

Nobody has ever earned the Lanterne Rouge three times.  Two-time winners are:

Jimmy Casper (2001, 2004)

Daniel Masson (1922, 1923)

Gerhard Schönbacher (1979, 1980)

And of course Wim Vansevenant (2006, 2007).

Jimmy Casper is also in the race this year, but Wim has almost 7:30 on him already.   Go Wim!


Over the top recap

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008

So, we had a great time all in all.  BTW, Cabell made a successful pitch to call the trip WiMiUp, (UP for the Upper Peninsula), and that’s how it’s tagged in my flickr account.  We’ve pooled our photos — 498 of them altogether — at

It was an adventure.  Somehow we managed to have north winds while we were headed north on the west side of the lake, south winds while we headed south on the east side of the lake, and to end the trip, a 15-20 mph NW wind while we rode NW from Manitowoc to Green Bay on the last day.  It was generally colder than I expected.  I knew that mornings were going to be in the low 50s, and highs mostly in the 70s, but these cool temps in combination with the wind (and frequently a mist off the lake) made for chilly riding often.   Several days we kept tights on the entire time.

The Upper Peninsula is beautiful, but often rather sad.  The motels were mostly empty, and every other beach cottage was for sale.  As Bob, the owner of Rosie’s Family Restaurant (see below)

Cabell at Rosie's Family Restaurant

said, high gas prices this year are just the icing on the cake.  The problems really started with the Reagan administration’s union-busting in the air traffic controllers’ strike.  As union strength and American dominance of the car industry have declined, high-paying jobs in Detroit have quite literally gone south, and there are just not that many blue-collar workers vacationing in the UP any more.

Still, I suppose the lack of vacationers worked to our advantage, since roads were quiet
Deer Crossing the road

And the scenery was exquisite.


WiMiUp 036

In the Lower Peninsula’s northwest area, the tourist towns were doing better — not so far to drive from Chicago, etc. — and there were surprisingly many bicyclists.   Several nice bike paths, as well.

WiMiUp 174

Now I’m home icing my left knee, which didn’t really deal with the trip very well.  The doc gave me prescription-strength Naproxen, and I’m starting physical therapy on Monday.   Apparently it’s just irritation of the patellar tendon, but I’m not taking any chances.  I don’t want to be off the bike any longer than I have to.   In any case, we made it.

WiMiUp 308