Archive for October, 2009

You Ought To Be Able To
ObesityEvolutionI put it at 18”; my wife said it was wider.  Let’s split the difference and call it 20”.  The bottom line is that a NYC bus seat is pretty wide. 

Much as I try to ride my bike everywhere, it doesn’t always happen.  I’m lazy (very lazy, so lazy, I mentioned it to my wife on our first date so she would know what she might getting herself into – in fact, I mentioned three things “just in case this ends up going somewhere” – namely, I’m the laziest person in the world, I ride my bike a lot and I mean a lot, and I really love watching TV.  At least now she can’t say she wasn’t forewarned,) and many times it’s impractical with a family.  The latter prevailed today, and I found myself on the 23rd Street cross-town bus with wife and son in tow.  A woman plopped down next to me (literally, plopped).  Next thing I know, I’ve got a meaty arm and even meatier thigh, encroaching on my seat and pushing me up against my wife.   Worse yet, the woman was one of those closet fatties.  You know, one of those people you don’t even notice is fat because they just blend with the rest.  It takes a really, really obese person to stick out nowadays, such is the state of the American populace.

And the answer is not to accommodate as they are doing in Brazil by putting in special seating for the obsese.

Fat Seat in Brazil

A large part of the reason I ride is to stay in shape.  That said, before I started riding, I lost 40 pounds in four months.  It wasn’t that hard.  I just changed my eating habits.  No exercise. No diet.  Just a little common sense and some will power.  To borrow from Floyd Landis (I think it was him in Lance Armstrong’s War), “I don’t understand the big deal.  If I want to lose weight, I don’t eat for a couple of days.”   I’m as big a comfort eater as the next person, but I also know when to stop – which coincidentally for me is Sunday when I start focusing on getting ready for next season.  

So to the woman who sat next to me on the bus today:  I don’t get it.  Is it really that hard to shut your mouth at the dinner table?  And no, having a diet coke with the super-sized Big Mac and super-sized fries is not watching what you eat.  Go ahead and have the real coke, it really can’t hurt that much more.  Start riding a bike or running or whatever, but your largesse is your problem and it shouldn’t be my problem.  You ought to be able to fit into a bus seat.  It’s pretty wide.

If that sounds mean of me (and it probably is), so be it. 

Merckx in Central Park
Eddy Merckx will be riding in Central Park on Nov. 14th with 70 people, each of whom will be paying $100 for the privilege (thanks to ratherberiding who’s blog Cyclosity is where I first read about it.)  It’s a fundraiser organized by the Belgian American Chamber of Commerce who will also be honoring Merckx with a lifetime achievement award.  The proceeds go to Children’s Lightning Wheels.  I get the idea of using a celebrity ride-a-long as a fundraiser and it seems like a worthwhile cause (although, it’s amazing how many causes there are these days and how many “a-thons” there are to go with them.  Last Sunday there were three walk-a-thons in Manhattan.)   What I don’t get is how on earth they expect to keep away the throng of people that will show up?  Not that anyone who didn’t pay would do that.  This is New York after all, the archetype of social etiquette.  They going to tell someone not to ride in the park?


Happy marathoning this weekend.  Looking forward to having the park back.

That’s today’s view from the back.

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Pre-Race Menu: La Carbonara

As this is the second recipe I’ve posted, you might be picking up on the fact that I like to cook.  And I think I’m pretty good at, all things considered.  Well, actually, one thing considered, namely that last night the owner of a well-known restaurant in NYC, helped himself to thirds of my Pollo al Cacciatore.  Unfortunately, he apparently didn’t like it enough to hire me as a line chef, despite my mentioning it about 30 times.

Today’s menu item is not pollo al cacciatore but spaghetti alla carbonara (or more accurately, pasta alla carbonara since I use organetti, little accordion pasta so my son can eat it.)  The dish is perhaps the simplest of all the pastas to make, so that leaves a little time for a digression.

In May of 2004, I went on an apartment hunting expedition to Rome in advance of my move.  I also arranged it so that I could partake of a week-long cycling trip to Sardegna on the back end, which happened to be one of the best run trips ever (and which also spurred my desire to starting a cycling vacation company.  That I wound up doing once I returned from Italy.)  Anyway, on the second day of the Rome portion of my trip, I had found a bike shop, through the yellow pages no less, that turned out to be my second home while I was in Rome.  Mario and Simone, the father and son owners of Cicli Lazzaretti, had extended an invitation to join a group ride from the shop the next weekend.  The night before the ride, I found myself roaming through the historical center, and as happens from time to time, I wandered on to a secluded piazza and into a tiny, hole-in-the-wall restaurant.  Wanting to gets some carbs in for the looming ride, I mistook the carbonara for another dish.  Mistakes often lead to great discoveries.

The pasta was excellent, and as the restaurant was empty, I got into a half-Italian, half-English conversation with the waiter and the owner.  This may be common knowledge, but it was then that I learned that carbonara originated with the American servicemen during WWII.  Longing for the bacon and eggs of home, GIs starting adding it to pasta.  And that’s really the beauty of pasta, you can pretty much add whatever you want to it and you can’t muck it up too badly.

I had a great dinner that night.  Try as I might, I never found the restaurant again while I lived in Rome, but I did come home with a recipe.

Organetti alla Carbonara

La Carbonara
Prep Time:  15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes – this dish can be prepared in the time it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta.

A note about amounts:  As with any recipe I post, they’re all of the more or less variety.

• 7oz pancetta, cubed  – look for a block of pancetta as opposed to thinly sliced pancetta although either will do
• 2 tbsp olive oil
• 4 eggs – I use 3 egg whites and 1 whole egg, but you can vary this.  I like the thinness of having more egg whites
• Pecorino
• 1 box of pasta – the dish is traditionally made with spaghetti


  1. Set water for the pasta to boil on the stove.   While waiting for the water to boil begin making the sauce.  At some point during this process the water will boil.  Put the pasta in the water then.  If you buy Barilla or De Ceccho pasta, the box tells you how long to cook it.  They’re always right
  2. Cube the pancetta
  3. In a large sauce pan, add the olive oil and set heat to medium
  4. Once the oil is heated, add the pancetta and stir.  Cook until the pancetta begins to turn pink (about 2 minuts).  Remove from heat once done
  5. In a bowl, whisk eggs, a splash of milk and pepper
  6. When pasta is cooked, drain and reserve some pasta water
  7. Return pasta to the pasta pot and put over low flame
  8. Stir in pancetta
  9. Stir in egg mixture
  10. Continue stirring over low heat for 1-2 minutes or longer depending on how you like the eggs
  11. If necessary (and it shouldn’t be) use the reserved pasta water to cut the sauce (e.g., if too salty)
  12. Top with pecornino

That’s it.  Very, very easy and very, very satisfying.

That’s today’s view from the back (and unfortunately not from a small, hole-in-the-wall restaurant in Rome.)

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Friday’s Bell Lap

A Sunday In Hell, Well At Least The Build Up Is Hell
NYCMarathonMid-October is quickly followed by the first weekend in November which brings with it the New York City Marathon.  The 3-5 weeks in between are dreadful for Gotham cyclists.  The weather and lack of sunlight in the mornings leave us with little choice but to ride in Central Park.  But enter the park at your own risk, if not physically at least at risk of needing to rush over to Duane Reade for a bottle of Norvasc to bring your blood pressure back to normal.  For the legions of would-be Greta Waitz’s and Aberto Salazar’s know no boundaries.

In preparation for the big event, the city installs seating and barriers 2-3 weeks in advance.  That means on any given day, the area around Tavern On The Green (guess we’re going to have to change the name of the meeting place soon) is littered with trucks dumping off the stuff or workers carrying the stuff from one side of the road to the other.  Here’s an idea, dump the stuff off where you actually need to put it.

As for the runners themselves, apparently the larger recreational lane (I say recreational lane because technically it is a bike lane) that came with the repaving of the park over the summer does not provide enough room.  In an off itself, runners running outside of the rec lane is no big deal (obviously, they’ll be yelled but you always ride with a buffer zone).  What is a big deal is the group of 30 or so idiots running short distance repeats, then doing an about face leaving them potentially in the path of coming cyclists.  Isn’t the marathon a distance event or am I missing something?  Added to that are the people who for some reason think it’s okay to run on the outside of the loop (i.e., in the right hand lane), making it a shooting gallery as you try to pick your way through.  I don’t think I’d care so much if there was at least an ounce of recognition from these folks that there are other people also using the park.

David Weir

David Weir

The Marathon itself is actually rather pleasant.  I’ve been on both end of it, as a spectator and as a rider in support of a wheelchair competitor (you didn’t think I’d run one of those things did you?)  The wheelchair marathoners go off before the runners, and the job of the support riders is to make sure there’s a clear path and warn people on the roadway to get out of the way.  My friend and I (two riders are assigned to each competitor) ended up supporting David Weir, the then British national champion and a 4-time winner of the London Marathon.  We were clear instructed to not talk to our competitor and to ride as close to each curb as possible and not near the competitor, which we did.  At least until a right hand turn in Williamsburg that I saw but my friend didn’t – in his defense it was a bit hard to see as there was no barrier and the city lightly paints a dark blue stripe on the street to outline the course which is unfortunately next to impossible to pick up against the asphalt.  Anyway, I make the turn only to see a whole lot of bike coming right at me.  Weir has not place to go and veers of course, not making the turn.  From then on, we pretty much paced him by riding in front of him and also gave him our water bottles whenever he wanted (another no-no.)  Weir finished 5th that day.  Oops.

The Masked Marauder
Speaking of dangers in the park, while the park has a long-standing raccoon population, has anyone noticed the size of some of these critters?  Baby hippos come in smaller.  And unlike their other road hazard brothers, the squirrels, the raccoons come packing some attitude.  One stared down Sayid the other day in a game of chicken.  And they don’t play by the usual rules, i.e., going straight at them because they will eventually move doesn’t appear to always be the right choice.  At least with a squirrel there’s a chance you’re going to stay upright if you hit it.  Not so sure about these humongous procyonids.

Who Am I To Cast A Stone
I’m not really into bikes all that much (i.e., I don’t get all wound up over the latest this or that), and I’m certainly not up on the whole commuter, fixed-gear, hipster wannabe, single-speed, regular old Schwinn Varisty argument.  I have a couple road bikes and a few more frames that have accumulated over the years.  I also have a commuter that happens to be a fixed gear, which I chose with lots and lots and lots of help from a friend and teammate (who also had to come over to help me get the fenders on the darn thing.)  So far be it for me to say anything about anyone else set-up, except about this which rolled by as I was choking down lunch the other day.  To quote the “verbacious” Crash Davis from Bull Durham, “a bit much for the Carolina league.”


Looking forward to the rain, again.

That’s today’s view from the back.

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© Bettmann/CORBIS

© Bettmann/CORBIS

The New York Times ran an article in the Business section (true, the business section and sports section are one section but the article ran before any stories about the demise of the Yankees) about cyclists who travel for business taking their bikes on the road with them.  Since when is this news?  Doesn’t everyone figure out some way to train when they’re on the road?  I guess even with the smaller sized paper these days there’s still not enough news that’s fit to print.

Overseas, I had a period of three months where I was working in the London office four days a week.  I’d fly out on Monday morning and come home on the last flight Thursday night.  Packed the bike up in the Trico and rode as much as I could.  Without other commitments, I actually got in better training than when at home.  I’d leave the bike in storage room at the hotel over the weekend.  No big deal.  On the heels of London, I did three months of the same thing in Madrid.  Brought my constant companion along and did the same thing.  Back in the states, at any offsite, the bike would come along too.  If I couldn’t bring mine for whatever reason, I’d find some place to rent one.  No fanfare.  No big deal.  Just a necessary part of being a cyclist. 

I’ve never encountered any issues or hassles and there has always been lots of good training to be had.  (Well, there was one time, but it had nothing to do with the bike.  Going from Gatwick to Fumincino, I lost my passport – long story on how which is neither here nor there.  I’m an American, flying from London to Rome with no documentation.  No doubt, I’m on the next plane back to the States.  I get to customs and explain the situation.  Four things save me:  1) I speak only Italian to them, 2) I have copies of my documents, 3) the commander is really angry at Alitalia who offered no support at all so he spends an hour berating the rep at the customer service desk and 4) the company I worked for makes a product famous the world over which some people find quite humorous and my laptop bag is a marketing item for said product.  After an hour of joking with the guys in customs office regarding my bag, the commander comes back into the room and tells me that he’ll let me in, but I have to go straight to the US Embassy the next day and get a new passport.  I promise to – in fact, I had a harder time explaining how I could be in Italy without my passport to the Embassy than I did with the Italian border patrol – as I also promise to bring everyone some items with that product’s name on them.  The next week, just off my usual return flight, I go to the customs office with goodies in hand.  There are handshakes all around, and I am whisked through customs.  From then on, I am treated like royalty, never having to wait in line, and instead being ushered through the door reserved for airline personal.)

Anyway, the point is, of course you take your bike with you when you travel.  Cycling is a lifestyle, and so, you do whatever you need to do to ride.  Rent, pay the exorbitant rate airlines charge these for a bike or buy the folding bike that fits in a suitcase.  Everyone knows this, and everyone I know does this.  When I land my next gig, if there’s traveling involved, you’ll find me with bike in tow, there’s no doubt.

So why, how, is this news?  For the Times no less.  Has cycling become so chic they’ll look for any angle on a story (or non-story?)  What’s next a story about people fixing flats?

That’s today’s view from the back.

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Friday’s Bell Lap

From time to time I’ve mentioned that I find the local cycling scene, or more accurately local cyclists annoying (we’ll, maybe I’ve implied it more than directly written in).  Here’s an example of why.

Rider X was lamenting the fact that his kit was slightly different from the kit of his two teammates, each of whose kit, coincidently, was also slightly different.  This was on the start line of a cross race, where I’ve been told an eerie quiet descends before the gun.  Rider X was then heard to say something to the effect that he’d call his the state track champion’s skinsuit.  Reportedly loud enough for everyone to hear, of course.

Why is that at the lower levels of our sport, and let’s face it, apart from the odd occurrence, e.g., George Hincapie, the very best cyclist in New York is still a pimple on the derriere of cycling in the grand scheme of things, the backs are always arched and the attitude always rides high?  As a bunch, and I know it’s a gross generalization, but in all the years I’ve been riding and racing, I’ve found it to be a fairly accurate one, the local peloton is brash, unwelcoming and unfriendly.  Newbies suck, that guy’s not as good as me, I did that hill in this time, look at that Fred, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.  Gus have so narrowly defined themselves that their self-esteem seems wrapped up in being a “cyclist” and towards that end, they have to stand up and shout their accomplishments, lest someone not know and think any less of them because of a poor showing.

I debated about writing about Rider X (and in fact called him Rider X) because I heard everything secondhand.  But I have had enough firsthand experience with him to believe that there isn’t any embellishment.  It’s always all about him.  This is the same guy who shows up to a 9W training ride with tubulars (borrowed tubulars no less).  This is the same guy whose teammates buy him breakfast when they’re on training rides.  No big deal in-of-itself until you decide to publically note the fact and lament that your teammates weren’t around on particular ride so you didn’t know where your snack iscoming from.  Maybe I’m picking on Rider X because I personally find him annoying and yet he’s managed to infiltrate my riding circle.  But, he’s not alone, especially not in the local peloton.

I’ve had the luck and good fortune to ride with some of the best the sport has to offer, all of whose names I’ve invariably dropped at some point (and am happy to do so again) in the course of writing A View From The Back – Fondriest, Tafi, Moser, Cassani, Motta, Clerici, Scinto, Sorensen, O’Neill, Fornaciari, Biasci, Magrini.  Holding aside Moser and Sorensen (exceptions that prove the rule perhaps), they were all incredibly approachable, friendly and modest.  While their fortunes are tied up in the fact that they are pros or ex-pros, they never give you the impression that they define themselves in terms of their cycling.  Sure it’s easier for them in some respects.  They’ve got nothing to prove to anyone.  Their accomplishments on the bike speak for themselves, and for the most part, they are still able to ride you into the ground.  But they’ve also got to listen to every cockamamie cycling story and inane question and they do so with grace. 

Not the local rider though.  They scoff at everyone and everything because they’re racers.  More than anything else though it’s the insecurity that baffles me.  I’ve no doubt Rider X’s comments were made because he knew he was not going to do well in that cross race.  In his insecurity, he had to let everyone know that he is a great, amateur track racer.  So insecure that he judges himself and therefore believes everyone else does so as well, on his performance at any given race.  Why else would anyone have the need to proclaim their championship to the masses in a completely different discipline?   How sad.

Of course, you should take racing seriously and do everything you can to do as well as you can, just as you should thoroughly enjoy the results you might reap.  And yes, I get that you do need to have some of that ubiquitous killer attitude to do well.  And that’s fine.  But at the end of the day it’s just a bike race and amateur one at that.  There’s so much more to life.  A little perspective goes a long way, especially once you figure out that there’s more to life than how you raced yesterday.  Heck, might even make you a little happier too.  That would bode well for the rest of us.

Random Pic
Thanks to No One Line who tweeted this rather funny cartoon.


Especially for MtJ
Get your umbrella out because you’re going to need it.  See you Tuesday.

That’s today’s view from the back.

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(c) Deborah Atkinson

(c) Deborah Atkinson

As I got home from a ride over the weekend, I ran into some friends from across the street who were just heading out.  It was 8:45am.  I had been on the bike for a good bit over three hours at the point. 

It never used to be like this.  Back in the good old days an early morning ride meant 8:00 am, and quite frankly, I found that tad too early, so usually it meant a 9:00 am meeting time.  And this at time when I was young enough to bounce back from anything, even a gig that went until 2:00 am.  Weekday training rides were not allowed before 7:00 am.   Never.

Then the alarm switched to 6:00 am.  I got a new job, I moved into the city, and I got a new girlfriend.  I couldn’t please everyone, so I sacrificed an hour of sleep to get my rides in.  I hated riding with the loop open to traffic in Central Park, but not even that could persuade me to get up earlier.  I would have rather done workouts at night (which I did and which I hated because it hung over your head all day long like that term paper in college.)  It was pretty much the same schedule in Italy, as I could get my ride in and still get to work on time.

I came back from Italy with a wife and more work responsibilities so I did the unthinkable and set the alarm for an hour in which the first digit was 5.  5.  5.  5.  I kept repeating to myself because I couldn’t believe it.  I figured maybe it would seem normal if I said it a lot.  I didn’t.  But, I’d get to the park by 6:00 am and meet some teammates and we’d do our thing.  The good part:  during the summer it was light out and the loop was closed to traffic.  Bad part: That darn Armstrong guy had set of a cycling resurgence and the park was a kind of crowded.

It was somewhere during this time, Sayid decided we should do our weekend rides at the then unthinkable hour of 7:00 am.  His thinking was we could beat the rest of the world, get back early, like by 11:00, and still have the whole day.  And so we did, relishing it every time we’d be on our way back on Riverside Drive and we’d see the legions heading out.  Oh the fond memories I have of those days of riding in actual sunlight.

My son was born and I got more responsibility at work.  The park kept getting more and more crowded and training started becoming more and more difficult, so Sayid upped the meeting times.  He moved weekend times to 6:00 am, which was fine with me because I could get back to take care of my son, but he also moved the weekday times.

First it was 5:30, which was okay because I could still get up while the clock was showing a 5 as the first digit.  Unfortunately, we noticed we could only get in about 30 minutes of hard riding before the crowds hit the park.  The first response was to head over the bridge during the week.  Not so common when we started doing it – not saying we were the first but we didn’t have much company.  That worked when there was enough sunlight in the summer, but not so good for the spring, fall and winter.   So Sayid did the unthinkable and upped the meeting time to 5:00 am.  This is where I drew my finish line in the sand.

I don’t remember the exact words, but suffice it to say my mom would have been reaching for the dish soap.  No way.  I wasn’t budging.  Not a chance.  And then I did.  My daughter came along, and I needed to be back even earlier than before.  If I wanted to get my 2-2.5 hours in on a weekday, I had to get out earlier – really kind of simple math.  And so the alarm clock was set for 4:20 am.

I still remember the first time.  It was surreal.  I just given up sunshine.  About the only positive was that I could run up 10th Avenue instead of the bike path. It was just me, a few club goers trying to keep their night alive a little longer and the garbage trucks.   I tried to console myself with the idea that it was a strategic advantage on race day as I would be getting up a normal time while everyone else would be still sleepy-brained because of the super early wake up call.  That lasted about two rides.

The funny thing is now it seems pretty normal, to us at least.  About the only time I realize just how insane it really is (getting up at 4:20 am for anything, especially a hobby is simply not normal under any circumstances, unless it’s hockey because of the rink times and even then it really isn’t ok) is when I’ve just met someone and the conversation invariable works its way to cycling, as it always does.  You get some pretty strange looks when you say “I get up at 4:20 am to go riding.”

So while I looked at my friends with wide-eyed wonder and a fondness as I recalled the glorious days of sleeping in, I wouldn’t change my routine for anything.  It’s 8:45 am, and I’ve got the whole day to spend with my family.

That’s today’s view from the back.

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Riding back from some shopping last week, I was run into by a bicycle delivery guy going the wrong way up the bike path on 9th Avenue.  He was too busy looking at some woman walking across the street to notice that he was a) veering across the bike path and b) he was now heading straight for me.  I can’t remember why, but I couldn’t move to my left and didn’t want to for fear the numbskull was going to suddenly take corrective action and head straight for me again.  In the end, the impact wasn’t a big deal, as I had slowed down to a crawl and he finally realized where he was headed.  There wasn’t much to say and no harm was done, so I just kept on my way.  And while I was ticked off, I can’t say I was the least bit surprised.

Someone once wrote “Cycling’s enemy is not the car; it is the idiot” (actually, the BikeSnob wrote that, and although I don’t read the Snob with any regularity, when the Snob writes something like that it usually becomes part of the vernacular.)  The problem is there is no cure for the idiot. 

We live in a world in which everyone is so self-centered, so self-absorbed, that I question what awaits my kids when they grow up.  Why else do people walk three-abreast down a crowded sidewalk?  Why else do people walk in the bike lanes?  Why else did I get run into?

I live in a condo in Chelsea.  Small enough building that everyone knows everyone.  A couple of months ago, I walk into a smoked filled elevator on my way down to get my bike.  I ask the doorman what’s going on (I’m also on the condo board) and what he tells me is beyond belief.  I head up to the roof deck, where another unit owner and his half-dozen friends are sitting on the water tank compartment, lighting firecrackers and throwing them onto the roof deck.  Said unit owner’s reaction when I tell him to stop is “What’s wrong, they’re noiseless firecrackers?”  We once had a fire in the building once because someone threw their cigarette butt either from a balcony or the roof deck onto someone else’s terrace.

We live on a block where there is a movie shoot just about every other week.  A neighbor got into it with one of the guys who puts the cones out 24 hours in advance to keep cars from parking.  Mind you, the shoot doesn’t start until the next day at 6am, but they’ve already blocked off the street.  Anyway, my neighbor tells the guy he’s parking in front of the building and that the car will be moved by 6 am as required.  The cone guy doesn’t like that and suddenly there are three of them confronting my neighbor and one of them takes a swing with a pipe at my neighbor as he enters the building.  Over a parking spot, that was going to be vacated on time anyway.

More than anything what bothers me is that way the people make their issue your issue.  Take my friend, the delivery guy.  He’s going the wrong way, not me, yet I’m now the one with the issue.  Same when there’s a double parked car that forces you into traffic.  You’re the one getting yelled out, when the other drivers’ real issue is with the double parkers, not you.

So what’s the point?  I’m not sure there is one.  Originally, I set out to expand on the thought that despite the Snob’s voice that cyclists need to be treated more like cars, what we really need is to try for as much rideable “territory” as we can possible get.  Obviously, I veered off that path.

The Snob went on to write, “When it comes to sharing our roadways, the most important thing is to retain our humanity by respecting our fellow humans.”  Ubuntu botho renewed.   And yet, try as I might to live it, and trust me it’s hard just because it’s a hard thing to do, it does take two to make it work.  “My humanity is bound up in your humanity.”  Actually it takes all of us, but I’d settle for a handful. 

Armstrong to the 2011 Ironman
Apparently Lance Armstrong is going to do the Ironman Championships in 2011.  I guess it’s cool, although I’m sure the we could do without a MellowJohnny’s sleeveless jersey being on the market.  Armstrong should do well given his triathlon background and the fact that if Udo Bolts’ experience is anything, Armstrong should be the first one off the bike.   The bigger question is what’s Armstrong’s obsession with Laurent Jalabert?  First professional cycling.  Then the New York City Marathon.  Now the Ironman.  What’s next?  Armstrong tries for the polka-dot jersey next year?

That’s today’s view from the back.

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