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Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood: April Fool’s Month?

Is it just me, or has it been April Fool’s Day all month long? It seems like every time I go online to check the news, the headlines are straight out of The Onion. In some cases, they’re not at all funny, but are equally as hard to fathom. Just in the past 10 days, a report was published in the science journal Nature on fossil findings that supposedly prove the evolutionary link between fish and land animals. Another report claims that an early Christian manuscript has surfaced after 1700 years including the only known text of what is known as the Gospel of Judas, which postulates that the

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By Neal Rogers

Say what?

Say what?

Photo: Graham Watson

Is it just me, or has it been April Fool’s Day all month long? It seems like every time I go online to check the news, the headlines are straight out of The Onion. In some cases, they’re not at all funny, but are equally as hard to fathom.

Just in the past 10 days, a report was published in the science journal Nature on fossil findings that supposedly prove the evolutionary link between fish and land animals. Another report claims that an early Christian manuscript has surfaced after 1700 years including the only known text of what is known as the Gospel of Judas, which postulates that the treacherous apostle may have been simply obeying his master’s wishes when he turned Christ over to the Jewish council of priests, who in turn handed him over to the Roman Pontius Pilate. How’s that for something to think about over Easter? Quite a month for Christian fundamentalists, eh?

Times also have been confusing for the pretentious hipsters in the Cult of Macintosh, now that Apple’s new Intel-equipped Macintosh computers are capable of running the Windows XP operating system, using software Apple developed. Not an April Fool’s joke. Honestly. Maybe my next PowerBook — pardon me, MacBook Pro — will play those race-highlight videos on velonews.com.

The world of cycling has been just as bizarre and confusing since the calendar flipped to April. Gerard Bisceglia’s departure as CEO of USA Cycling was as unexpected and it was unexplained.

Meanwhile, the news out of Philadelphia is that the city’s annual 156-mile road race, beginning and finishing on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, will return at the behest of the state’s governor, who contributed 400,000 of the taxpayers’ dollars to the event. It seems a bargain, since the race is expected to return $15 million in revenue to the local economy. Too bad San Francisco Grand Prix race organizers and the city of San Francisco couldn’t come to a similar accord.

The racing scene has included scenes as surreal as Chris Horner’s interesting stall tactics at the finish line at the Tour of the Basque Country, world-class mountain-bike pros like Thomas Frischknecht and Gunn-Rita Dahle-Flesjå face-planting in the mud at the Sea Otter Classic, an American world track champion and George Hincapie’s steerer tube failing at Paris-Roubaix, while he was in the lead group and in the hunt for that elusive victory.

Of course one of the most surreal scenes in memory was the train chuggin across the course at Roubaix, nearly stopping the three-man chase group with 10km remaining. Like many of our readers, my first thought at seeing the trio of Leif Hoste, Peter Van Petegem and Vladimir Gusev crossing the tracks was that it was inherently dangerous. What a horrible sight it would be to see those guys get creamed by a fast-moving train on live television. And while I understand the race jury’s decision to follow the rules and disqualify them, I have to question how many of those jurors, put in the same situation, would have done the same thing. Paris-Roubaix is a race that is about survival, and when you are that close to the finish, all you are thinking about is getting to the line. A tough call, to be sure, but the better question to ask is why the race organization couldn’t have better avoided the entire situation.

Barry smiles through the pain

Barry smiles through the pain

Photo: courtesy of PJ Rapice/thepaceline.com

And then there are the sport’s latest tragedies. Guys like Hincapie, Michael Barry and Christian Vande Velde have gotten off comparatively easy with their respective separated shoulders, broken vertebra and collarbone fractures. Poor Saul Raisin took an unexpected turn for the worse last week after a crash at the Circuit de la Sarthe in western France developed into a brain hemorrhage, a coma and emergency surgery. The morning I read that that Saul was in critical condition I was in complete shock, and I am thankful to hear that he is now showing signs of improvement. Messages for Saul and his family can be posted on his Web site.http://www.saulraisin.com/sitemain/

Last but certainly not least is the terrible news out of Seattle, Washington. Brad Lewis, a 38-year-old Cat. 2 racer for Recycled Cycles, died of an apparent heart attack during the April 9 Boat Street Criterium.

Lewis, a former Raleigh USA employee who most recently worked with Full Speed Ahead, was a fixture in the Seattle racing scene over the past 10 years. He reportedly began weaving during the race and collapsed. EMTs were unable to resuscitate him, and he was pronounced dead a few hours later at a nearby hospital. Though Lewis had no history of heart trouble, an FSA colleague who bike-commuted with him said Lewis had recently complained of chest pains. A medical examination is under way.

A vigil was held on April 10 at the Recycled Cycles bike shop, with hundreds in attendance. A memorial ride is scheduled for 10 a.m. Sunday, April 16, leaving from Recycled Cycles. Funeral services will be held at 1 p.m. Monday, April 17, in Seattle.

My heart goes out to Lewis’s wife, Emily Westbrook, a pro-level bike racer with Subway Express and a friend I made at the Cascade Classic years ago. A memorial fund has been set up by Recycled Cycles to help out Emily and Brad’s family during this difficult time. Donors can send checks made out to “Recycled Cycles – Brad Lewis Memorial Fund” to the shop at Recycled Cycles, c/o Brad Lewis Memorial Fund, 1007 NE Boat Street, Seattle, WA 98105.

* * *

After a long, cold winter, spring has finally arrived here in Boulder, Colorado. The past week has been sunny and warm, and because of daylight savings, seemingly an hour longer — at least to those of us who aren’t particularly early risers.

Spring is a time of renewal, and over the past few weeks I’ve replenished my iTunes library with new releases from Band of Horses, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and one of my all-time favorites, Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals.

Though it came on April Fool’s Day, one of the highlights for me this month was the chance to meet — and ride with — Ben Harper’s guitarist Michael Ward. Ward, a Cat. 2 racer and an excellent climber, is also the author of a children’s book about the joys of cycling called “Mike and the Bike.” While touring, Ward, 39, carries a titanium-and-carbon Ritchey Breakaway with him, and though he’s no longer racing, he rides whenever possible. “While all the other guys in the band are sleeping,” Ward said, “I get to go out and see the roads of the town we’re in, meet all kinds of people and stay in shape.”

Look for a multimedia feature about Ward in the upcoming issue of VeloNews, which features Roubaix winner Fabian Cancellara on the cover and is expected on newsstands and in mailboxes next week. In the story, you’ll read about how Ward became friends with Lance Armstrong back in 1997, and how Armstrong even suggested Ward join the 1998 U.S. Postal Service squad as a domestic rider.

Riding for Postal didn’t pan out. Instead, Ward contacted Saturn team manager Tom Schuler, who saw the market sense in providing a rock star with team clothing and a bike. Ward was Saturn’s only Cat. 3 amateur, which turned out to have its drawbacks. “I would show up to races with a bull’s-eye on my back,” he said.

Ward was generous enough to invite me and a friend to see Harper and the band’s sound check and performance at Boulder’s Fox Theater on April 1. No joke. Also at the sound check were Ward’s Carmichael Training Systems coaches, Chris Carmichael and Jim Lehman, and Lehman’s wife, Jessica. I hadn’t seen either of the CTS coaches since I was invited to Colorado Springs to check out one of their climbing camps last summer.

A Discovery Channel crew was at the CTS camp, filming scenes for its Fit TV series “Chasing Lance.” A few people have told me they’ve seen shots of me riding an uphill time trial on the episode titled “Gearing Up,” but I haven’t managed to see it yet. I also haven’t yet scribbled up an account of my experience at the camp, so look for that in the future.

I had to leave the Ben Harper show early, as springtime racing has picked up here in Boulder. With the time change and all, I had minimal sleep before my buddy KP and I pedaled over to the start of the April 2 Koppenberg Circuit Race, held the same day as the Tour of Flanders. We tried to talk Ward into coming out and jumping in the race with us, and he entertained the idea, but later sent a text message that the band’s after party had gone until 4 a.m.

Six days later it was on again at the April 8 Boulder Roubaix, held the day before Paris-Roubaix. Holding these types of races, i.e. on courses intermixing dirt and paved roads, is a cool way to get excited for that evening’s race coverage on OLN. And believe it or not, I managed to watch both the Flanders and Roubaix tape-delayed coverage without knowing the outcome.

Back here in Colorado, 15-year-old Taylor Phinney (Team 5280 Magazine), son of Davis and Connie Carpenter Phinney, twice entered the Koppenberg Circuit Race, winning the junior race and placing fifth in the Cat. 4 event, which began 20 minutes after the junior race ended. I was in that Cat. 4 race, and no, I didn’t beat the 15-year-old. I did manage to beat KP, however, in a two-up sprint for 45th place that nearly killed me after sitting on his wheel in a headwind for the final kilometer. KP calls it a leadout, and I like that.

Rock on, man

Rock on, man

Photo: courtesy Deirdre Moynihan/Tyler Hamilton Foundation

Scott Moninger (Health Net-Maxxis) won the Koppenberg’s 47-mile pro/1/2 race in a two-man uphill sprint against Priority Health’s Tom Zirbel, while Jelly Belly’s Andy Bajadali trailed in six seconds behind.

The following weekend, it was Moninger again in a two-man sprint on dirt roads, only this time it was against Toyota-United’s Chris Baldwin after 77 miles of racing over a rolling Boulder Roubaix course that was 75 percent hard-packed dirt roads. Under sunny skies, Moninger, Baldwin and a handful of others slipped away from the field in the final 20 miles. A series of attacks saw Moninger and Baldwin slip away and time trial to the end, where the race came down to a sprint between the two training partners. Finishing third, 20 seconds back, was Jonathon Garcia of Einstein’s Bagels. It was a prestigious local win for Baldwin, who is still looking for his breakthrough NRC stage-race win.

“We were both pretty empty by the time we got to the finish,” Moninger said. “It was actually a pretty pathetic sprint on both our parts. At that point, I was just committed to staying away and taking second.”

The following day Moninger raced, and won, twice. Two hours winning the 75-minute Oredigger Classic criterium in Golden out of a bunch sprint, Moninger toed the start line at the Tokyo Joe’s/AST Sports Spring Crit, where he soloed out of a small group with three laps remaining and time-trialed to the finish, crossing the line 10 seconds clear of second place rider Jake Rosenberg (Rio Grande-SG), with former teammate and criterium specialist Dan Schmatz (Kodakgallery.com-Sierra Nevada) another 10 seconds back.

In the process, at 39 years of age, Moninger pulled off a career first, winning two races on the same day. The two criterium wins not only marked the first time he had won two races in a single day, they also gave him his 250th and 251st victories in a career that has spanned 16 years as a pro.

In other Moninger news, the cagey veteran appeared in the April 13 edition of the “Frazz” comic strip. (Frazz’s creator, Jef Mallett, is an avid cyclist and race fan.) Look closely for Frazz’s Mt. Evans T-shirt. As for me, well, I didn’t fare too well at Boulder Roubaix. I could try to provide some sort of lame excuse here, but the fact is I don’t have one. The course was in great shape, the conditions were ideal, I had a perfect warm-up ride on the way to the start, and the race itself started off at a moderate pace. I just choked, spending too much energy at the front and drifting to the back on the course’s main power climb. I was glad when I asked one of the race volunteers for the winning time and was told they didn’t have the resources to record times, just finishers.

Better luck this weekend at the Boulder-Larimer Road Race, where fellow VeloNews staffers Fred Dreier, Ben Delaney, Nick Ramey and Nathan Forbes will all be racing. That’s right, guys, it’s on the Web site now, so you’re locked in. No backing out.

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