‘Tis the Season

It’s that time of year.

Time to gird yourself for the events on the calendar. Time to gather with friends. Time to celebrate. Time to shave your legs.

The cycling season has begun. With races like Tour of Qatar and Tour of the Mediterranean under our collective belts and Tour of Oman underway, it is time to start thinking about spring classics and grand tours. It is time to hop back on the trainer and ride along while watching www.cyclingfans.com and the Sufferfest. But more importantly it is time to keep tabs on all our favorite cyclist and the stats of our favorite races. I mean, c’mon, you don’t want to be left out of the cool kids watercooler group, do you?

Right.

So, I’ve begun collecting a list of approved iPhone apps for teams and races. I haven’t had the time to go through each of these in detail, but as I do I’ll pop back in here and add a blurb about their usefulness. And, as new teams and races release apps, I’ll add them as well. Am I missing something? Just holler and I’ll add it.

Enjoy!

Women’s Teams:

BOOOO! None yet. WTF Tibco, Specialized-lululemon, GreenEdge?

Men’s Teams:

AG2R LA MONDIALE Pro Cycling Team – Netco Sports

BMC Racing Team – Netco Sports
The app is easy to use, provides decent information and gives quick access to current race stats and news. I give Marco Pinotti five stars for the best ears in the Peloton.

Omega Pharma – Quick-Step – The Application Store
Again, another easy to use app with a main wall focusing on recent team news. The team section is easy to navigate with a quick swipe setup to scroll through the team. Competitions are still showing 2012 dates. Light on features and detail and only two stars for showing Tommy Boonen without a smile. Play to your strengths, Omega!

RadioShack Leopard Trek – Explose
This app is pretty. Easy to use and lots of detail not only on races and news, but loads more information on the riders, as well. Calendar is up to date, and there is even a “Surprises” section that should at some point contain surprises. Five stars for the depth of info on the riders.

Team Sky Cycling – BSkyB
Same level of info as the Omega app, with little to show on the riders but the standard news and calendar. Nothing too special about this app, but I’ll give it a three stars for a pretty picture of Bernie.

UCI – Triple IT

Races: 

Amgen Tour of California RadioShack Tour Tracker – Tour Tracker LLC
Still showing 2012 info.

Exergy Tour Tracker – Tour Tracker LLC

Giro d’Italia – RCS Digital SpA
This app gets me giddy for the pink jersey. News, stage detail, classifications, teams, photos, video, live commentary! Data galore! Five stars for a well executed app and for the volume of info.

Tour de Romandie – Geomatic Ingénierie SA

USA Pro Cycling Challenge RadioShack Tour Tracker – Tour Tracker LLC
Still showing 2012 info.

airdrives – product review

i’m a geek.  i’m also a geek that loves music.  so, when it comes to working out, i’m just nuts about the technology that allows me to take hours worth of my music out on the road or trail with me.  the one ongoing drawback of this technology, though, is how it reduces your ability to be aware of your surroundings.  i refuse to run with music if i’m out on city streets, whether running or cycling, and with recent wilderness issues in southern california, even trails aren’t safe to run on with music.

until now.

AirDrives, interactive stereo headphones, are a new product that successfully addresses the issue of being cut off from your surroundings while wearing earphones.  i tried these bad boys out a couple times over the past few Silver-headphones-1weeks and have been really impressed with how the product works.  the design has the earphone wrapping around the ear and sitting outside the ear.  at first i was somewhat skeptical, thinking that the sound quality would be poor, but i was quite wrong and was immediately impressed with the sound quality AND the ability to hear my surroundings clearly.

i ran with them on busy streets and was able to hear my music very clear as well as approaching cars and ambient noise.  toward the end of one of the longer runs, the sound did start to get a little quieter.  i can’t say if that was a result of more power drain from the earphones or if my ipod was just running low on juice.

i also took them for a spin out on the bike.  again, i was skeptical of the sound quality.  i turned the volume up a little bit more than i have it when i run, and i was pleased to have decent sound.  when i rode into a really strong headwind, the music got a little tough to hear, but was on par with what the earbuds sound like when riding into the wind.

the key thing that i noticed, though, was that in all cases, i was able to hear approaching cars, ambient noise and people’s voices.  i’m very pleased with the product’s performance and excited about what this means for runner and cyclist safety.

get them online or at your local best buy for $99.99.  the sticker price is a little bit higher than what i thought they’d retail at, but, seeing as it’s christmas time, i’d say put them on your list and talk your loved ones into investing in your safety. 

and i ran, i ran so far away (and cycled, too!)

well, this week at work wasn’t a true work week, seeing as how we had several appointments with tc and whatnot and as a result, working out at lunch wasn’t really an option most days. add in the fact that the gym was overhauling it’s locker rooms and the showers weren’t available and that resulted in little to no training. i was determined to get in at least one run, one bike and one swim during the week, though, just to keep loose and active.
so, despite the limitations of the week, i was able to get out on wednesday and knock out a fantastic run. i ran back bay and cruised along happily in the warm sun for about six miles. i meant to take it easy, but it just felt so good to be running and getting some sun that i ended up moving along pretty quick. i didn’t feel the effort until i got home and sat down to feed tc. it was all i could do to keep my eyes open and stay alert enough to interact with him. whew!
friday after work, i planned on getting into the pool at the gym and getting some swim time in. i headed into the newly refurbished locker room, got changed, rinsed off in the newly refurbished showers, walked out on the newly finished and painted deck, hopped into the pool and noticed the new lane markers and began to put on my goggles. no sooner had i put the strap on the back of my head and a lifeguard came over and informed me that they’d be closing the pool in 2 minutes to accommodate one of the swim teams that practices there. so, i DID get in the pool. only i didn’t swim. but the water felt good and refreshing. that counts for something, right?
saturday morning i was up bright and early, fed tc and then hopped on the bike to head over to the irvine transportation center where i met pete, quentin and oz for a nice, long ride down to solana beach. we headed through newport coast down to pch, where oz broke off and headed north. the rest of us took pch south and cruised along through newport, dana point, san clemente and along the beach at san onofre and camp pendleton. the route was fantastic and by the time we hit camp pendelton, the june gloom had burnt off and we were presented with beautiful sun, low 70′s and amazing views of the beaches of san diego county. we finally hit solana beach after about five hours of riding and 70 miles (my longest ride ever!). we picked up our tickets at the solana beach amtrak station, bought some burgers and then enjoyed the lazy train ride back up to irvine.
two out of three ain’t so bad and the great ride with fantastic company made up for the lack of a swim. next week should be better for training since it’s a full work week and the gym is back to full functionality.

oh my, bute

following a fantastic week of work in congleton, uk, the lads from the office drove me up to manchester airport on friday afternoon and i headed up to glasgow for a weekend with my photography master friend and keeper of all knowledge of scottish history, patrick. patrick, another internet friend for the past several years, has been a constant source of inspiration with his amazing photographs of the wild and beautiful places in scotland. known by his rap name, pMo; he met me outside the concourse in glasgow, holding a beautifully crafted placard with the “AH”, amazing hip, symbol clearly displayed.
with a head full of cold, i did my best to be witty and chatty, but generally just let pMo fill me in on all things scotland (which, of course, i could listen to for days on end). after a week of the english accent, i was surprised to see just how much i enjoyed the scottish accent over the british one. so much richer, not as nasally and with the rolling of the r’s and glottal stops, it just seemed less forced and more comfortable to listen to. anyway, on the agenda for the evening was a quick stroll around paisley, then a quick train into downtown glasgow and dinner at a nice italian restaurant. the walk around paisley introduced me to the fine architecture of the abbey and the town hall, beautiful pieces of stonework and just calling to be photographed.
the plan for saturday was to hop the train from paisley down to wemyss bay, take the ferry over to rothsey and cycle around the isle of bute. we were on the train by 10am and the weather looked like it might be challenging. it was a right dreich day, with a steady smirr (yeah, i’m showin’ off). by the time we hit wemyss bay, though, the cloud had cleared away and the warm sun was out in full force. in rothesy, we saddle up and headed off on our trek around the island. the route wound around the southern tip of the island, through some beautiful forest, up a wee hill called mount stewart and past the home where stella mccartney was wed and then down into the bay town of kingarth. from there, we broke off the main road and headed toward st. blaine’s, a church/monastery/village that dates back to the 700′s. at the end of the road, we hiked up the hill to the beautifully treed plateau on the hilltop where the ruins were. it was absolutely gorgeous. the wind was blowing through the numerous hardwoods and creating a quite serene, yet mystical feeling to the place. we wandered around the grounds while patrick told me stories about the history behind the place. after a short visit, we were back on the bikes and reconnected with the main road.
from here, we headed down to scalpsie beach (correct me if i’m wrong, pMo) where i introduced pMo to the joys of stinger honey gels and he returned the favor by warning me not to touch the dead jellyfish on the beach (get it, both can sting? haha…i kill myself). anyway, we spent quite a while down at the beach, shooting the shore and annoying the seals trying to sunbathe. a little while spent there and then it was back on the bikes to head to one of pMo’s most famous photography locations; the shipwreck at kildavanan. we wandered the beach, shot the wreck and then took a break for some ice cream. the wind started picking up a bit and the temperature dropped a bit. we hopped back on the bikes before we got too much of a chill and headed on our way back to rothsey.
we took another quick detour to explore some standing stones and a couple beautifully weathered trees and then stopped at a church missing it’s roof where we wandered the graveyard and the grounds, shooting the ruins and remains of history. the ride back into rothsey was quick from that point and we made the ferry just before she left and then made the train just before departure in wemyss bay. our timing was perfect! it was a long day, but filled with great history lessons, lots of goofy jokes and splendid time spent with one of my favorite photographers and amateur adventurers.
sunday morning gave us a chance to do something a little more low key so we headed back into glasgow to visit the kelvinhall museum, recently re-opened, and then browse pMo’s old stomping grounds, the university of glasgow. we wandered around, smirr attempting to soak us and shot a few photos here and there and then headed back into paisley where it was time to say goodbye. i promised i wouldn’t give out the secrets of how beautiful and exciting scotland was, because pMo doesn’t want it crawling with american tourists wearing shorts and flip-flops, but God help me, i can’t stop myself. pMo was the genuine deal when it comes to hosting a tourist like myself. he hooked me up with all the cool, relevant history and took me on an adventure that hooked me on the beautiful and wild places of scotland and you can’t beat a holiday like that. thanks pMo, you’re a real friend and a fair dinkum scotsman.

my own alpe d’huez

mixing up the training has been a blast for the last few weeks. the great thing about ‘supposed’ tri-training is that mixing and matching your workouts creates an ever changing, creative blend of physical exertion. when the body is burnt out from running, swimming is still an option. when it’s too hot to grind out a track workout, the wind generated by cycling will take the edge off…and so on.
tuesday and wednesday, i figured in the spirit of le tour being in the alps, i’d create some moderately hurculean workouts to show some solidarity for my comrades (menchov? ekimov? popovich?) in spandex. i took the bike to work on tuesday, planning on running at lunch, then cycling home from work. cycling back to work on wednesday morning, swimming at lunch and then lifting after work would round out the two days efforts.
tuesday’s run was warm, but nothing too bad (thank God for a drinking fountain at mile 2 and 4). i headed home on the bike at about 5pm into relatively warm conditions. rather than take my normal 17 mile flat route home, i thought i’d enjoy some of the coastline and ride through newport coast and out to pch, followed by a trip up laguna canyon and back to the house. the route i planned had what i knew to be an epic decent, but i’d never been through the area that i would take to get up to the top of the decent. i wasn’t sure if it was a simple grade or something more epic. before leaving work, i quickly mapped out the route, memorized all the turns and then clipped in for the trip home.
the first couple miles went by quickly over some moderately tough rollers through post work traffic, but then by around mile 5 i made the turn onto the hill. it began easily enough with a fairly slight grade, but was turning ever so slightly as to obscure what was coming ahead. slowly, the angle picked up and before i knew it, i’d come over a false flat and was faced with a wall in front of me. i channeled the peloton and dug in for the climb. the new bike is outfitted with a computer that includes cadence. i’d heard or read somewhere that 80rpm is a good training pace, so i stuck to that and kept the gearing right at a level where i could maintain that. my speed dropped fast and i turned into a human sieve…with no summit in sight. i kept grinding up the climb which had now stretched into several miles. shortly after mile seven, though, i topped out on the main climb and was treated to an amazing view of newport coast, looking down into one of the many wilderness parks that dot the coast.
there were a handful of smaller climbs before i topped out and began the decent down to pch. the climb had been completely worth it, though…the downhill was long, smooth and had long, sweeping turns. i was able to hammer the big gears and get over 40mph on the ride down. that’s crazy fast on a bike. quick thoughts of hitting something in the road flittered through my mind and i briefly thought of pulling a kessler (vs. canada, since he broke his collar bone) but put the frightening images out of my mind and just enjoyed the speed, the weather and the view.
before i knew it, i was down on pch and pedaling along the coast with a nice ocean breeze pushing me along. several more rollers greeted me as i headed down to laguna beach and just before the last drop and climb, i stopped briefly for a gu and some fluids, and was greeted with another great view of crystal cove and the betty ford house out on the point. i pulled out the cell phone and took a shot.
the rest of the ride was a comfortable stroll through laguna canyon with a stiff breeze pushing me along and temperatures in the completely reasonable range. i rolled onto our street just at 24.5 miles and, for taking the long way home, i’d been completely rewarded by one of the more memorable rides i’ve ever had. i think i’ll make this route a regular ride since it features all the great aspects of riding in southern california. hill, ocean, favorable winds and amazing views…it was a day for the history books.