Wednesday, September 23, 2009

copperhead road

I'm pretty sure that it's only dudes, who upon encountering a venomous snake, insist that it pose like a pit viper. This viper, Agkistrodon contortrix aka the copperhead, was very slow to comply, likely due to the cool fall temperatures which made it a big sluggish. Or perhaps it knew, via its sophisicated heat sensors, that niether the stick nor the dumb scientists trying to get it to flick its forked tongue and coil for a strike, posed it no harm.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

he's a jackass

The President on Congressman Joe Wilson Kanye West.

No doubt the so-called Don't Tread on Me crowd will use the President's remark as just an another excuse to spread lies. Since journalists rarely call out even the most blatant slanders, reporting on them as though they are news, it becomes easy for the oppostiion to sell untruth as a policy alternative.

In a weird turn around though, it's the right wingers who are suggesting now that the government has overstepped its boundaries and is treading on individual rights and liberties. When the Bushites were in office, it was the left. Seems as though we're doomed to ping pong between levels of extremism in the country. Jackasses!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

the race is on for the tour of missouri

The recently ended Tour of Missouri brings to light just how far the reach of politics. Because of that it's sometimes difficult to get an accurate picture of race. The Tour of Missouri, let's call it TOM, is a good race. In it's first 3 years, it has consistently fielded some great teams and some top-notch riders. TOM benefits from being one of only 2 pro stage races left in the United States - next year they may be as many as four if Colorado and Georgia return. TOM also benefits from being near the end of the pro racing season but is hurt somewhat by occurring at the same time as the Vuelta E'spana, the last of the 3 Grand European stage races of the season. However, because few riders have the strentgh and stamina to compete in the Giro D'Italia, the Tour de France, and the Vuelta in the same year, some teams are looking for other venues. For pro teams with largely American sponsors like Garmin Slipstream and Columbia HTC the TOM provides them the perfect opportunity to showcase their talent on American soil. And because the TOM is a 7 day race rather than a 3 week race, it makes even more manageable from a financial standpoint.

One thing that TOM lacks, which it will never have, and will always prevent it from becoming a truly great race is mountains. We have hills in Missouri not mountains. Hills, especially the rollers that dominant our state, as any weekend cyclist knows, can be tough. In Missouri they can seem to go on and on forever. As tough as they may be to negotiate for amateurs, they aren't long enough to bring the kind of separation needed in a pro race to really matter. This is why the breaks during the long road races are always brought back and eventually won by the sprinters. Teams with strong sprinters like Columbia HTC love this because it means that they have a chance to win stages and gain media attention.

Columbia HTC sprinter, Mark Cavendish, was able to win the first 2 stages of the TOM, wear the yellow jersey for a few days and grab lots of media attention. Other sprinters, Thor Hushvold of Cervelo Test and J.J. Haedo of Saxo Bank were also in the mix most every day there was a field sprint. In fact they all won a stage and given how the bonus points were awarded they traded wearing the yellow jersey at some point during the race. However, all but Hushvold eventually abandoned the race. Sprinters may win the majority of the stages but in a race like TOM, without mountain stages, the eventual winner will be the person who claims victory in the time trial.

This year it was Dave Zabriski of Garmin Slipstream. Zabriski, the US national time trail champion 4 years running, is no slouch. He holds the record for the fastest time trial in Tour de France history. The TOM victory was Zabriski's first General Classification win of his career and was due to his ability as a time trialist.

Now that the race has ended another race has begun. How to keep the race funded for 2010. Lt. Governor Peter Kinder who single-handily has been responsible for keeping the race going over the last 3 years faces a lot of opposition from the Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon. It's a bit odd that cycling, which largely draws a Democratic crowd, isn't in the favor of the Governor but that where the politics comes into play. Kinder and Nixon never talk to one another; Nixon doesn't even return his calls. Kinder has used the race to essentially campaign, without seeming to do so, for a week a year on taxpayer money. At every venue, Lt. Gov. Kinder is one of the first to speak at the start of each race and the last to leave the podium. Local politicians at every town sing his praises because the race brings a large contingent of tourists as they pass through. They spend money which is why it makes sense for tourism dollars to be spent on the race and why it's a little ridiculous for Gov. Nixon to pooh pah the spending of tax money on the race. Considering how much the state pays to support professional baseball, football, and soccer the 1.5 million seems paltry. The real question is does the investment pay for itself and all indications are that it does so quite well.

Although Missouri companies such as Edward Jones, Drury Inn, and the Farm Bureau also provide sponsorship no one seems to be willing to put up the bucks to have the race named after them. Anheiser-Busch would rather throw $10 million toward NASCAR which might be smart considering that most cyclists pride themselves on drinking better beer.

Most everyone has some connection to cycling and walking around St. Louis and Kansas City it was easy to see just how diverse the interest in cycling remains. Older club and weekend riders, many of who have been riding for years, were out in force, many wearing their charity t-shirts and jerseys of events they have conquered. Then there were the young single-track riders in their retro woolens and sneakers. There were also the serious amateurs in their kits and the families in the matching mountain bikes and Livestrong equipment.

Pro cycling also attracts interest because it's accessible in ways that other professional sporting events are not. Sure the cyclists may whiz by you on the race at speeds approaching 40 mph at times but they are just feet away. Position yourself at the top of a climb and it's easy to see the anguish on their faces. For most other sports you only get those sorts of closeups on television.

Before the races it's also easy for fans to mingle backstage and see the preparations that go into keeping the race moving. Because the races are constantly moving from town to town, the staging areas are portable and run out the backs of tour buses and vans. Mechanics set up popup tents and each day prep the bikes in full view of spectators. This has the added benefit of selling the sponsors and many cyclists are gear heads who are frequently searching for the latest technology. Pro bikes are the place to see the latest in streamlined technology before it hits the stores.

It will be a tough road for the TOM next year because Nixon is vindictive. Maybe come Christmas, Nixon will find a shiny new bike underneath his Christmas tree and have a change of heart.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

lock, load, and repeat

Although this photo is from the stage 1 finish of the Tour of Missouri it could have just as easily have been from today's 2nd stage that finished in very similar fashion in the southeast Missouri burg of Cape Girardeau. A mass field sprint, set up in the last few kilometers by some disorganized attempts to control the front by various factions from Kelly United, Cevello Test Team, and even a brief attempt by OUCH - all of which fell apart more than 300 meters from the line, ended with the usual suspects fighting for the same 3 spots on the podium. Although the 2nd and 3rd place riders switched positions from the day before, Cavendish laid down the same marker. Thor Hushold looked to have the stage in his pocket until Mark Cavendish jumped off his wheel and rode past with ease to take his second consecutive stage and stay in yellow for another day.

The Tour moves into the Ozarks for a couple of days that will allow some riders besides the sprinters to flex a little muscle. Although these hills can definitely put the hurt on the peleton, the Ozark stages offer the chance that a long break could stay away until the end. Such a well-placed break could give Columbia HTC the chance to move someone like George Hincapie into the race lead.

Monday, September 7, 2009

tour of missouri missle launch

Crowds in St. Louis may not have been as large for the opening stage as they were for last year's closing stage but they had lots to do in the Market Street area where the race began and ended. Live music. The City Garden art park. Plus racing from the 2nd turn and on to the end.

There was an early break, no surprise there, just as there was no surprise that the peleton left the 3 riders off the front (Chris Anker Soerensen, Saxo Bank; Tomas Vaitkus, Astana; and Moises Aldape Chavez, Team Type 1) have a show of it until the last 3 km. Then, as scripted, the well-organized Columbia High Road team locked, loaded, and fired the Manx Missle, Mark Cavendish, over the line just ahead of frequent runnerups J.J. Haedo (Saxo Bank) and Thor Hushvold (Cervelo Test Team). When asked when he realized he had the race won, Cavendish replied in typical fastest-man-in-the-world style, "as soon as I awoke this morning."

landis among Tour of Missouri peleton

Floyd Landis, the American cyclist that many want to forget, was part of the talented field that just kicked it into high gear for stage 1. The field also includes crowd favs George Hincapie, Mark Cavendish, and Levi Leipheimer along with defending champ Christian Van de Velde. The 2009 Le Tour Green jersey holder, Thor Hushvold and stage winner Franco Pelizotti. Expect todays stage to end in a bunch sprint with odds to Cavendish.

keep on truckin'

St. Louis remains one of the very few US cities with the gumption to hold a Labor Day Parade. It's a rather modest event, excepting for the thousands of Unionists and their families who participate and who line the streets to watch a steady stream of 18-wheelers, panel trucks, and delivery vans decked out in bunting and pride. When these trucks toot their horn, it sounds a lot like America the Beautiful.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Jelly belly takes the beans

We're priming ourselves with Schafly Pale Ale and our complimentary pack of Sport Beans in ready for the 3rd annual Tour of Missouri kicking off, Labor Day, in Missouri's river town, St. Louis. Jelly Belly, which may not be the strongest team in the field, does hold court as the longest sponsor of professional cycling in America - 10 years running.

this little piggy

You don't have to take your chances with the flu vaccine which has yet to arrive in many parts of the country. No, you can just touch the wrong doorknob and VoilĂ ! a brief respite from the world awaits you. But, if you're like most of us, you'll end up with a mild case. By mild it generally means that fluids won't be leaking from your ears but you'll still be spending 4 days prone contemplating, among other things, your own mortality.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

victim of consequence

Without pollen there would be no Flower Project but some kinds of pollen are a little much. The Giant (Ambrosia trifida) and the Common or Annual (Ambrosia Artemisiifolia) Ragweed, both native to this area, are blooming profusely at the moment. No matter if your principal operational mode is Darwinian or faith based, allergies are a cruel joke that make little sense from either perspective.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


This is more like my kind of organic debris.


Dead rat in the middle of the wier.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

record low marks return of dinosaurs

Fall fairs begin early. No need to relocate during August as dog days have given over to dino haze.