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Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood: Things I’ve learned; the UCI’s strong-arm tactics

It’s been a while since I’ve typed my way into the Neighborhood, and in that time I’ve seen a few things. Since I last penned a column I’ve been to Tennessee on family business, California for the Amgen tour and Wyoming to visit my mom. During these travels I’ve made a few observations and picked up a few snippets of wisdom. For example, did you know that in Tennessee, barbecued baloney is found on steakhouse menus? That a convenience-store chain in Middle America is called "Kum & Go"? It even uses cycling imagery in its advertisements. And how many out there know that a classic Mercedes can

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By Neal Rogers

Kum & Go: Barbecued baloney to go, please

Kum & Go: Barbecued baloney to go, please

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It’s been a while since I’ve typed my way into the Neighborhood, and in that time I’ve seen a few things. Since I last penned a column I’ve been to Tennessee on family business, California for the Amgen tour and Wyoming to visit my mom. During these travels I’ve made a few observations and picked up a few snippets of wisdom.

For example, did you know that in Tennessee, barbecued baloney is found on steakhouse menus? That a convenience-store chain in Middle America is called “Kum & Go”? It even uses cycling imagery in its advertisements. And how many out there know that a classic Mercedes can easily be converted to run on vegetable oil, as does my good friend Duncan’s, in Oakland? It’s true. The exhaust smells like muffins.

While at the Amgen Tour of California, I also confirmed that Toyota-United’s Mariano Friedick, does not, in fact, have a second “r” in his last name, as his 2005 team Jelly Belly had listed on its site. It’s Friedick, not Friedrick. (It’s even misspelled on Mariano’s individual results page at USA Cycling.) On the television front, I’ve been pleased to see that OLN hasn’t completely abandoned cycling in the post-Armstrong era, as some had predicted. In fact, in addition to providing a decent race line-up — daily Giro and Vuelta coverage notwithstanding — the network is posting generous video clips of its footage. This year’s Torino Olympics taught me that curling is less a sport and more an overgrown drinking game, sort of like slow-motion team air hockey. My man Jon Stewart’s hosting gig at the Oscars was greeted with lukewarm response, with some claiming he played it safe and others feeling he blew it.I thought he did a fine job, but then again, I’m a huge fan. The March 8 announcement that “The Daily Show” is now available on the iTunes music store was the best news I heard all day.

Stewart: The envelope, please

Stewart: The envelope, please

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Politics ain’t beanbag, even in cyclingAnother thing I’ve learned is that the UCI plays hardball when it feels its authority challenged. The recent controversy surrounding Tyler Hamilton’s participation in the unsanctioned Stazio criterium series in Boulder, Colorado, has prompted USA Cycling, via the UCI, to threaten any rider who competes with a suspended rider with a 30-day suspension.

UCI rule 1.2.019 has existed for some time, prohibiting its riders from participating in non-sanctioned events unless granted an exemption: “No license holder may participate in an event that has not been included on a national, continental, or world calendar or that has not been recognized by a national federation, a continental confederation or the UCI. A national federation may grant special exceptions for races or particular events run in its own country… Breaches… shall render the lenience holder liable to one month’s suspension and a fine of 50 to 100 Swiss Francs.”

UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani said Tuesday that while the sport’s governing body cannot prevent suspended cyclists from competing in unsanctioned races, it could take action against licensed pros racing alongside banned riders.

“We told USA Cycling that in the future any rider or team participating in a race — even a non-sanctioned race like in Boulder — with a banned rider like Tyler Hamilton, could be suspended for one month,” Carpani told The Associated Press. “If Tyler Hamilton wants to take part in this race, he can, and we can’t stop him. But all other riders and all other teams then cannot participate in that race. If they do, they can be suspended.”

Hamilton withdrew from the local series, even though his Tyler Hamilton Foundation was co-promoting it with local organizer Chris Grealish and his Denver-Boulder Courier Events. And while this is an isolated situation, it seems like a petty way to punish pro riders for participating in local early-season training races — if you ask me. But let’s ask a couple of riders what they think.

Scott Moninger (Health Net-Maxxis), a veteran of the Boulder racing community, was the top-ranked rider in USA Cycling’s NRC standings last year. He also frequently trains with Hamilton, served a questionable doping suspension of his own in 2003, and was the winner of the race in question that Hamilton participated in on March 5.

“Initially, I’m a little disappointed that the UCI doesn’t have something better do than worry about what Tyler’s doing while he’s suspended,” Moninger said. “USA Cycling and the UCI don’t usually pay attention to pro riders participating in non-sanctioned races. It doesn’t usually throw up a flag. But with the Internet as commonplace as it is, a number of pictures of Tyler racing popped up. I can see how it may have rubbed [the UCI] the wrong way.”

Moninger went on to describe the whole affair as “blown out of proportion,’ saying that it’s a situation where the UCI is “wanting to go after Tyler, but they can’t, so the next best thing is to suspend anybody who might want to play with Tyler.”

TIAA-CREF’s Will Frischkorn, who also competed at Stazio on March 5, called the incident “a challenging situation for the UCI.”

“When a rider is suspended, they shouldn’t be taking part in a bike race. Even if it is a local training race, a bike race is a bike race,” said Frischkorn. “But it seems the situation should be addressed with the suspended rider, not innocent professionals. They shouldn’t disable the entire local Colorado racing scene for the pros. Having pro riders adds legitimacy for promoters and their sponsors. It’s good for local Cat. I’s and Cat. II’s to race against the pros, and it’s what we need for training when we aren’t on the road.

“It’s unfortunate that it’s cropped up to more than it needs to be. I think there is fault on both sides. Tyler and the UCI have been adversarial towards each other for two years now, and whether it’s petty or not, this is something the UCI can do to keep pushing him a little bit. It’s just kind of sad, honestly. We all love Tyler, he’s the greatest guy, but at a certain point, but even if you feel he’s been unfairly treated, he has been suspended.”

Wherry no longer bugged
One former Boulder pro not racing at the Stazio criterium was USPRO champ Chris Wherry, who now lives in Durango, Colorado. Wherry was also noticeably absent from his new Toyota-United team at the Tour of California, out with his second gastrointestinal parasite in four years (an earlier bout with a parasite came in 2003, while riding with Navigators Insurance).

Wherry heads to the Redlands Classic this weekend as the defending champion. I spoke with him prior to his participation at the San Dimas Stage Race last weekend, where he finished eighth in the opening time trial and was active in a breakaway during the Stage 2 road race before he abandoned the rainy final-stage criterium. Though the national champ doesn’t know for sure where he picked up the bug, he said a trip to Mexico last fall may have been the cause. He didn’t realize something was wrong until his team’s early-February training camp in Thousand Oaks, California.

“During the wintertime I just rode low-intensity base miles, so I never really taxed my system,” he said. “It’s almost like a low-grade virus in your system. Unless you’re doing something extreme you don’t feel it. Then at training camp we were doing team time-trial efforts, climbs, harder efforts, and my body wasn’t responding. My legs weren’t recovering, and my heart rate was super low.

“I took a couple of days easy, to recover, and then flew to New York for the official team announcement. When I got back to Durango I figured should be fresh as a daisy, ready to go out and hit it, but my body still didn’t respond. Then I started to think, ‘Wait a minute, I’ve had this feeling before. This is what it felt like in 2003.’”

Wherry said the discovery of the parasite came as a relief, putting an end to the speculation on what might be inhibiting his training. He began taking anti-parasitic medication during the Tour of California, and visited with his Toyota-United teammates in Santa Barbara — although he said it wasn’t easy.

“I wanted to do the race, but I also knew I had to take one for the team and not be selfish,” he said. “I can’t just go and do the biggest race of the year, regardless of my health. I have to get healthy.”

Wherry reports that after a month of medication, his form has finally come around and he hopes the whole matter might end up as a blessing in disguise.

“I was gunning for the Tour of California,” he said, “and now that it’s delayed me I might have better form for races later in season. Last year [with Health Net-Maxxis] I was torched by the Tour de Georgia because of the team focus on the California races. This year, Georgia might be my best race. There are a lot of races in between now and then.”

Trebon on the mend
Another rider who’s been plagued with mysterious weakness lately is cyclo-cross star Ryan Trebon, who will race the road with AEG-Toshiba-JetNetworks this year. In his March 10 blog entry Trebon described his symptoms like this: “Whenever I do a ride more than three hours, my body shuts down and I get sick for a couple of days… I bonk on the ride, get home, I have the chills and my stomach is all cramped up and shit. Then I spend the next 17 hours straight in bed without even bothering getting up at all.”

Treefarm is on the mend

Treefarm is on the mend

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Trebon’s symptoms sounded a bit like Wherry’s, if not worse, so I contacted him to ask if he’d considered the possibility that his lanky 6-foot-4 body might be hosting a parasite. He replied that he’s been feeling “a ton better lately,” but then again, he also wrote on his blog yesterday that, “I hope I will be able to get out of the way when the racing starts this weekend in Redlands, with my superior form as of late.”

Forward into the past
As I look at my window at yet another afternoon of springtime snow here in The Rockies, I can only hope that the weather cooperates this weekend for local bike shop Vecchio’s upcoming retro ride.

Originally planned for March 12, the shop’s first annual “Retro Bike Ride” has twice been postponed due to inclement weather. (As my pal Tim Quinn calls it, Boulder’s riding weather has been “downright bullshit” lately.) But they’re giving it a go again this weekend, and the forecast is for temperatures in the 60s.

I’ll spare you the details only a local could appreciate, (since that’s what the link above is for), but I do think the après-ride “suds and bench racing” are a cool idea, as are prizes for the most retro bike.

So how does one define a retro bike? According to Vecchio’s co-owner and Campagnolo-biased wrench Peter Chisolm, a retro bike is old. “Shifters-on-the-downtube-that-don’t-click” old. “Brake-cables-in-the-wind” old. Although he says he won’t be too neurotic about it, he writes that if “your oldest bike is aluminum (Vitus and Alan excepted), with brake-lever mounted shifters and clipless pedals, this ain’t the ride for you.”

For more info, email peter@vecchios.com.

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