Peloton of commuters

Five days into my new London job. As I expected – I cycle every day. Living and cycling to work is different in London to what it is in Wales. Oddly, London is pretty nice.

In Wales you cycle pretty much on your own, whereas here in the big smoke you ride in ad-hoc pelotons. Pelotons that may live for anything from few seconds to, ah, few more seconds. They form and disband in blink of an eye. Though you still get the benefit of a peloton’s visibility.

It seems that drivers here are very aware of cyclist. And though there’s a lot of traffic, people are looking for you, showing much more respect than expected.

Forty minutes is my average commute time. To work, as it is downhill and I don’t want to sweat it is a bit quicker. On the way home, on the other hand, I go all out, but the climb to Muswell Hill – is a decent climb. My legs judge it at at-least 10%.

Oh, and I cycle past this

Gooners live here

Gooners live here

Fool me one time…

I must be a sucker. There is no other word for it, I guess. I believe people and believe in them. Though years of being a cycling fan made me a cynic, I still belive people. Even cyclists.

When everyone said that Jan Ullrich must be doping – I didn’t belive them. Even though many of his performances were out of this world. Though never convicted of doping, the Puerto Affair made it quite clear that Ullrich is not just fond of doughnuts and other pastry, but also of blood-doping.

When Landis got caught, I knew it made perfect sense. After all, his heroic recovery and solo attack were out of this world. But his constant defence and reluctance to accept the charge made me think he was innocent somehow. I mean, this defence ruined him financially. Yes, I believed him.

After he came clean about his cheating ways I find myself torn; on the one had I feel I have to believe him, while on the other I believe Lance Armstrong.

Now my favourite rider – Fabian Cancellara, aka Spartacus,  is involved in insinuations about a new kind of doping. Mechanical doping.

Of all things that form the alleged accusation, then one which stands out in my eyes is at 1:56. Spartacus and former world-champ Tom Boonen are at the top of a gruelling climb. Spartacus is distancing Boonen while sitting on his bike, whilst Boonen is in visible pain trying to kick the bike over the hill and keep up. It looks, much like Landis’ miracle attack – out of this world. Again.

Cancellara winning the tour of Flanders

On the podium after beating Boonen

Did Cancellara change bikes during the race? Yes he did. Is it normal? Yes it is. Do I believe him when he says this is all rubbish? Yes I do. Would I be ashamed for being fooled for the n-th time within a year or two? I hope not.

LandisGate

Do you smell a rat?

So Floyd Landis spat in the soup. After years of denying any wrongdoing and fighting to prove his innocence, throwing all the money he had, and a million of his fans’ money into the fight, he’s decided to come clean and take as many of his rivals as he can down with him. And though being a Mennonite, Landis showed no respect for the bible and lied time after time in his trial, protesting his innocence.

Everybody now is looking to see if there is any truth in the allegations against Lance Armstrong, even the federal authorities in the US

Now, of course Floyd Landis has zero credibility. And of course it is possible he not lying this time. And of course Armstrong is denying.

So, jail for the Texan?

The great absurd is that whether Lance Armstrong actually doped or not… it is better for cycling that he is found innocent rather than guilty.

Should Lance be found guilty – the whole of cycling would suffer. Armstrong brings a lot of glamour and money into the sport. If he is found guilty it would deter big American sponsors. In the past few years the American contingent to cycling has grown from a lone Motorolla->Us-Postal->Discovery team to four: RadioShack (Armstrong’s current team), Columbia-HTC, Garmin Transitions and BMC.

Almost all Americans are now familiar with cycling. Much of this is thanks to the Texan. When he went to compete in the Tour Down Under in 2009, the media frenzy was unprecedented. He is not the messiah, but he may be a very naughty boy.

Armstrong’s guilt would not impact the fight against doping in cycling. Cycling already does ten-fold more than any other sport. Including almost infringing on rider’s basic human-rights. No other sports-person has to declare three months in advance where he is. Cycling has introduced the biological-passport which again goes way beyond what any other sport was even willing to consider.

Should Armstrong be found innocent, though guilty, it would be a shame that who potentially would be the greatest doper of all times walks free. Should he be found guilty it could be a huge blow to a sport that is just now starting to regain credibility. Not least amongst its fans.

A side effect of a guilty Armstrong would be a hit on the fight against cancer. Where Armstrong could be considered by many no less than a saint through his LA Foundation/LiveStrong charity.

So, is he guilty?

Personally? I believe he is innocent. But I have also to acknowledge that he could be guilty. I hope is found innocent, firstly because he is innocent, but also because I love cycling.

On a side note

MJ on Armstrong’s cap stands for Mellow Johnny which is Armstrong’s brand. It comes from mispronunciation of maillot jaune – yellow jersey. His coffee shop – Juan Pellota is… uniballer.

Cyclist guide – how to cyclerun

I am bad at running. Even worse than cycling, I’ll have you know. Not as bad as swimming probably.

But unfortunately I like doing those things I am bad at. Maybe it is the pain and suffering I enjoy. Mother nature gave me the wrong genes. I suffer from a blood disorder which means I have tiny lazy little red cells. So lazy that they won’t do the most basic thing – carry oxygen to my aching muscles, but they’d happily sip a nice cocktail in the sun. That’s my story and I am sticking to it.

But, since I’ve been cycling for so many years I have some basic endurance. The body is an amazing machine. And even I can produce pedal strokes that for the untrained eye would appear fast. My body has learned how to turn the pedals around 90 or even 100 times in a minute. I can be quite efficient doing that.

Ok, so far that is the Prolog. Now to the subject matter.

One-pace Bruce started running with us lately. Now that Albino has left the company it is just down to one-pace Bruce and myself to keep the tradition of lunch-time runs. Basically, Bruce has everything going for him, apart for a full set of hair on his head. He is 10 feet tall and weighs less that I do. So every step he makes he covers 10 times my distance. At least! Without exerting any additional energy. Plus, because he is tall he can get the clean air, with unused oxygen. Whereas I need to settle for used air with discarded oxygen.

The weather on the day in question was typical Welsh day – drizzle with cold wind. In other words – lovely. I was very very tired. At lunch-time one-pace Bruce asked me if I’m coming. I said I’ll skip it. Tired, hungry and in no mood. So Bruce did the unthinkable – he said no problem he’ll go alone. I couldn’t take such a blunt insult and immediately changed my mind. I’d come. But only if he runs slowly. And so the deal both of us knew one-pace Bruce couldn’t keep was struck.

Well, I guess by now you’ve realised that one-pace Bruce is named so for a reason. Just under 8min/mile is his pace. If he sprints – it is 8 min/mile. If he just plods along it is 8 min/mile. And he can do it for long distances. Half marathon even. And I bet he’ll carry most of it through the London Marathon this April. To make him change pace you have to physically cripple him. I think.

So here I stood all dressed up for a run, feeling dead and empty inside. My legs filled with lead. 8min/mile is a sprint for me. I can keep it for four miles. On a good day. With back wind. And probably someone elses legs/heart/lungs.

Off we go

Since my legs were heavy I’ve decided not to try to lift them. I’ve tried to do what my body is used to doing – cycle. Turn my legs over very quickly with baby steps. Fooling my body to thinking it was actually cycling. I think I was doing 3 paces to my old 2.

Two miles in and I hardly feel tired. Breathing is easy and one-pace Bruce is panting behind me. I’ve decided not to look into my Garmin Forerunner all the way. Just run. The thought of my glorious lunch awaiting me driving me on.

On the last straight one-pace Bruce was coming at me. Trying to pip me to the line. We’ve run many times together and he was always first. By minutes. But I was having none of that. I just started running rather than cycling. I’ve started putting in long ‘normal’ strides but keeping the high turnover rate. Since I had just a few hundred yards to go motivation pulled me through. Anyone can run for a few hundred yards.

I blitzed one-pace Bruce with 7:20 min/mile for 4.5 miles. All that while feeling weak.

Bruce and I in the olympic race

That's us. Really 🙂

Conclusion

Cyclerun isn’t for everyone. It worked for me. I am now slowly starting to use this style more and more. Finding it is much more efficient for my old crumbling body. I believe that once I start cycling seriously again (this week hopefully) I would benefit from it even more.

So if you’re a cyclist and you find that running on a flat is hard but uphill seems quite natural… do what I did – cyclerun.