Friday, December 28, 2007

Makeover...

Over the next few days, I'll be revamping the site. Giving it a makeover in the new year, so to speak. If you drop by and think that "your mind is playing tricks on you," don't be alarmed as things may be appearing and then disappearing from time to time.

In the interim, please bear with us. I promise you won't be disappointed with the new iteration of the Triple Crankset.

Taking the Triple to a Whole Other Level

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays

Geseënde Kersfees Een Plesierige Kerfees Rehus-Beal-Ledeats Gezur Krislinjden Milad Majid Feliz Navidad Shenoraavor Nor Dari yev Pari Gaghand Tezze Iliniz Yahsi Olsun Selamat Hari Natal Zorionak eta Urte Berri On! Shuvo Naba Barsha Vesele Vanoce Nedeleg laouen na bloavezh mat Tchestita Koleda Bon Nadal i un Bon Any Nou! Gun Tso Sun Tan'Gung Haw Sun Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan Yukpa, Nitak Hollo Chito Nadelik looan na looan blethen noweth Pace e salute Rot Yikji Dol La Roo Mitho Makosi Kesikansi Sretan Bozic Prejeme Vam Vesele Vanoce a stastny Novy Rok Glædelig Jul Christmas-e- Shoma Mobarak Vrolijk Kerstfeest en een Gelukkig Nieuwjaar! Merry Christmas Happy Hanukkah Jutdlime pivdluarit ukiortame pivdluaritlo! Gajan Kristnaskon Ruumsaid juulup|hi Melkin Yelidet Beaal Gledhilig jol og eydnurikt nyggjar! Cristmas-e-shoma mobarak bashad Hyvaa joulua Zalig Kerstfeest en Gelukkig nieuw jaar Joyeux Noel Noflike Krystdagen en in protte Lok en Seine yn it Nije Jier! Nollaig chridheil agus Bliadhna mhath ùr! Fröhliche Weihnachten Kala Christouyenna! Jwaye Nowel Barka da Kirsimatikuma Barka da Sabuwar Shekara! Mele Kalikimaka Mo'adim Lesimkha. Chena tova Shub Naya Baras Barka da Kirsimatikuma Barka da Sabuwar Shekara! Kellemes Karacsonyi unnepeket Gledileg Jol Selamat Hari Natal Idah Saidan Wa Sanah Jadidah Nollaig Shona Dhuit Ojenyunyat Sungwiyadeson honungradon nagwutut. Ojenyunyat osrasay. Buone Feste Natalizie Shinnen omedeto. Kurisumasu Omedeto Mithag Crithagsigathmithags Sung Tan Chuk Ha souksan van Christmas Natale hilare et Annum Faustum! Prieci'gus Ziemsve'tkus un Laimi'gu Jauno Gadu! Wjesole hody a strowe nowe leto Priecigus Ziemassvetkus Linksmu Kaledu Heughliche Winachten un 'n moi Nijaar Sreken Bozhik IL-Milied It-tajjeb Nollick ghennal as blein vie noa Meri Kirihimete Shub Naya Varsh Merry Keshmish Gledelig Jul Pulit nadal e bona annado Bon Pasco Bikpela hamamas blong dispela Krismas na Nupela yia i go long yu En frehlicher Grischtdaag un en hallich Nei Yaahr! Maligayan Pasko! Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia or Boze Narodzenie Feliz Natal Christmas Aao Ne-way Kaal Mo Mobarak Sha Mata-Ki-Te-Rangi. Te-Pito-O-Te-Henua Bellas festas da nadal e bun onn Legreivlas fiastas da Nadal e bien niev onn! Sarbatori vesele or Craciun fericit Pozdrevlyayu s prazdnikom Rozhdestva is Novim Godom Buorrit Juovllat La Maunia Le Kilisimasi Ma Le Tausaga Fou Bonu nadale e prosperu annu nou Hristos se rodi Sretan Bozic or Vesele vianoce Buorrit Juovllat La Maunia Le Kilisimasi Ma Le Tausaga Fou Nollaig chridheil huibh Hristos se rodi. Subha nath thalak Vewa. Subha Aluth Awrudhak Vewa Vesele Vianoce. A stastlivy Novy Rok Vesele Bozicne Praznike Srecno Novo Leto Maligayamg Pasko Nathar Puthu Varuda Valthukkal Neekiriisimas annim oo iyer seefe feyiyeech! Sawadee Pee Mai Noeliniz Ve Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun Srozhdestvom Kristovym Naya Saal Mubarak Ho Chuc Mung Giang Sinh Nadolig Llawen E ku odun, e ku iye'dun!

From the Triple Crankset...

Monday, December 24, 2007

Reviews - Cervelo's Soloist

On the 12th day of Christmas the Crankset gave to me:
Cervelo's Soloist SLC-SL


Holding my line
As a sales and marketing professional, I spend the better part of my days bemoaning the ever increasingly aggressive, in-your-face, hustling, how-dare-you-not-buy my product style of sales and marketing that has proliferated our culture of consumerism. As such, I find myself rebelling from buying the overly marketed products of our culture so that I may, in fact, "show them".

Well, on this 12th day of Crankset Christmas, I'm here to tell you that even the strongest willed fall to the oh, so powerful forces of tantilizing marketing. Do I officially still hold my line if the marketing is deemed brilliant? Please don't answer that.

As you have surely figured out where this is going, I am the proud new owner of, you guessed it, a Cervelo Sololist SLC-SL. Okay, 4 months new anyway. I had every intention of posting the review some 4 months ago not long after sharing with you my terrible story of losing the Madone 5.9 with carbon Bontrager's (sniff, sniff) to a Paris Hilton-esque Jersey girl on the streets of Moorestown, NJ. It was that fateful day that I lost my year old, tried-and-true from Waterloo and the normal function of my right patella as she turned in front of me on the upside of my interval workout that night. The sad tale has given way to much physical therapy and now, the carbon beast from our Canadian friends.

Pedigree
Not that I would compare myself to talent of Amber Rais but I found some common ground with her when I read Granny's awesome interview and she claimed that she never considered herself a "sprinter" until, well, she starting sprinting. Funny how these things work. Rest assured, for the sprinters in our reading audience, you might want to read on. Your "Graceland" has arrived.

My first reaction when test riding this rig was "its noiser than a rusty bus". And let me tell ya, it hasn't gotten quieter. Reason? Gerard Vroomen and Phil White begged and pleaded their buyers to stop asking for a lighter Soloist. They asked "how do you perfect the perfect bike?" Their contention, as aero builders, has always been: aero, stiffness and then weight. True dat I say but come on? We all know in 2007 we're racing to the bottom of weight, are we not? So in 2006 they unveiled the pefected, perfect bike: The Soloist sans 200 grams. Also sans internal cable housing which rattles the little metal cable against that fat tube like a beer bottle rolling on a field of cymbals.

Now that I've gotten all the mud outta the way, let's get down to it. This rig is everything it's marketed to be and more. It's just that simple. Every review, every interview and every thing you've heard is factual. It climbs like a koala bear, slices wind like a samurai and sprints like Smarty Jones. I've heard the notion that it corners like a grocery cart with one bad wheel but I just haven't experienced that. In fact, the bike is considered superior in the crits by many. Granted, the stiff-as-kryptonite frame leaves litle margin for error but all in all once you've bonded with her, she responds like any good dance partner.

Sprinter's Delight
If there is one discipline that it reigns supreme however it's the sprint for certain. While I'm no McEwen, I'll tell you that my power range was fully tested on this rig. In fact, while my fitness suffered from the wreck of May, I know this bike had far more in IT, than me when pushing its limits. For kicks and giggles, I upgraded to Zipp 303 carbon clinchers which essentially removes the governor from the engine. Additionally, I personalized the SLC with my all time favorite FSA K-Wing bars and Fizik carbon railed Airone. The bike is full Dura-Ace gruppo, which proved not to be a casualty of the otherwise, snuffed out Madone.

In summation, I would tell you that if speed and power is your game with the ocassional 14%, eleven miler thrown in for good measure, this is your rig. And if Santa is still determining where you fall on the list, you best hope it naughty because this rig was built for riders that are anything but nice.

A very Merry Christmas to all and to all a good ride.

Reviews - Yakima

On the 11th day of Christmas the Crankset gave to me:
Bike racks by Yakima
Crumpler Bags
Wilier Triestina’s Cento and BH's Connect
Vanderkitten Clothing
Champion System Apparel
Spoke Punchers bike hats
ELEMENTAL Action,
A guest review of The Warmfront,
The 3rd Edition of the Cyclepassion - Bicycle Calendar,
Stocking stuffers from Three Story Press, and
Shimano and Campagnolo compatible "enhancement" brake HUDZ

Yakima Racks
For more than 25 years, Yakima has been one of the leaders in designing rack systems with "form meeting function" and durability in mind.

A little over a year ago, the Yakima Design Team went back to their collective drawing boards to "Rack it up like Socrates," with the simple philosophy to "Make it functional. Make it durable. And make it beautiful."

What came forth from that R&D process was a sleeker, more durable looking, solid, and stylistic re-design of their bicycle carrying roof racks. The "Viper" [shown below], which I have owned for many years, has since morphed into the "SprocketRocket" [although both are still shown on their website]. More than just an aesthetic re-design of the body [apparent from the images below], the "SprocketRocket" has upgraded features that were at times troubling, but manageable on the "Viper." A new secure skewer with an integrated adjuster knob makes locking down the fork easier, and a new adjustable "sliding wheel tray makes positioning the rear wheel a breeze and enables it to carry a large variety of wheel shapes and sizes."


For 2008, Yakima has redesigned their Hitch series of bicycle carriers. Mike Steck, Yakima's Senior Director of Marketing, gave me a preview during Interbike week.

The most noticeable difference from their previous Hitch series is a "beefier" set of bike arms or hangers. Not as easily noticeable, but fitting into the company's form meeting functional mindset, are bottle openers at the end of those new arms [see red end caps].

Yakima has also made it easier to get to your trunk or rear cargo space. In addition to their standard tilt-down and swing arm designs, renamed for 2008 as the "DoubleDown" (top) and "SwingDaddy," (center) is the aptly named "FlipSide"(bottom), which flips your bikes to the side rather than tilting backwards.


For those of you who prefer a "wheel style" carrier, Yakima has also redesigned their "HookUp" series into the "StickUp" and "HoldUp." The "StickUp" adds an extra measure of security when carrying odd sized bikes [like your children's] as the adjustable center arms work independently from each other.

As testers won't be available until after the new year, we'll revisit Yakima's Hitch series after a hands-on review.

For more information, check out the Yakima website.

Reviews - Crumpler

On the 10th day of Christmas the Crankset gave to me:
Crumpler Bags
Wilier Triestina’s Cento and BH's Connect
Vanderkitten Clothing
Champion System Apparel
Spoke Punchers bike hats
ELEMENTAL Action,
A guest review of The Warmfront,
The 3rd Edition of the Cyclepassion - Bicycle Calendar,
Stocking stuffers from Three Story Press, and
Shimano and Campagnolo compatible "enhancement" brake HUDZ

Crumpler Bags
In the early 1990's, the idea of going into business to design and manufacture bags came from the simple thought that "everyone needs a bag."

Since that time, Crumpler has been one of the most easily recognizable manufacturers of messenger and active wear bags and accessories thanks to their marketing plan and logo. Their marketing has ranged from the conventional, as a partner to the Melbourne Fringe Festival, to the unconventional, bartering bags for beer. The Crumpler logo [inset] is an insignia Stuart "Stuey" Crumpler once inscribed into his early furniture creations [apparently a hot collectible item these days].

Unfortunately for the Australian based company, their initial foray into the American market didn't go quite as expected, as the blokes got sucked in by some "Hollywood" types. But they definitely came through that experience none the worse for wear, since they are now the bag manufacturer of record for companies such as Independent Fabrication and Twin Six.

At their Interbike booth, which by week's end definitely turned out as one of the places "to be," Bianca Dillon (inset), a marketing guru for Crumpler for the past 5 years, graciously took me through the paces.

Aside from its growing US market [based in NY], Crumpler has established itself internationally with stores in Singapore, Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Canada.

A physical location for making a bag purchase is actually a good thing because the Crumpler website was voted as one of the worst web commerce sites on more than one occasion. But for anyone who has actually ventured to their website, it encompasses enough Aussie "sensibilities" that you'll quickly forget that buying a bag was even on your agenda. It might not be the most easily navigable sites on the Internet, but it might be one of the most fun [think Monty Python after a great deal of beer drinking].

When you finally arrive at their catalog of goodies, you will see a bevy of bags and accessories for every use and purpose.



The Hoax
From the Crumpler website:
"This here son son sireee is a Hoax. It has nothing to do with terribleism. Or fat wah wahs. It has nothing at all to do with warmongreling and is only for fun n mental use. And the Hoax don’t shoot blank Czechs."

Bianca sent me away from Interbike with a blue version of their Hoax messenger bag to review [not pictured]. In the 3 short months that I've used [and attemptedly abused] it, the Hoax has quickly become a favorite [among my Timbuk 2 and Patagonia bags].



Functionality
One of the features of the Hoax that I first noticed was its Velcro enclosure. The three oval shaped Velcro enclosures [above] were strong enough that I rarely felt the need to use the clip. How strong you may be asking? If your bag isn't weighted down enough, you'll need your second hand to hold down the bag while you open it with the other.

The 2 side pockets are wide enough to handle your water bottles, while the main internal pocket is, well, big enough to handle all your beer (see inset).

Some of its other features are:
1x large internal velcro pocket
1x velcro pocket
Removable shoulder pad
Special colour Crumpler logo. Adjustable main strap w/ Quick Flick (TM) buckle and strap-trap accessory loop.

Durability
Another great feature of the Hoax is its construction. The water resistant 1000D Nylon shell & 420D Ripstop Nylon lining has the bag looking almost like new after 3 months. The use of only one arm [due to a broken collarbone] for the first 9 weeks of reviewing the bag provided me with enough information about its durability, as I dropped it more than I cared to remember.

Style
Whether it be from their regular set of messenger bags or from their Limited Edition bags, Crumpler has plenty of design and color combinations to soothe the "fashionista" of the fashion conscious crowd.

For a more products, check out their catalog of messenger bags, limited editions, computer bags, photography bags, "digits" (bags for digital stuff) and accessories.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Reviews - Wilier's Cento and BH's Connect

On the 9th day of Christmas the Crankset gave to me:
Wilier Triestina’s Cento and BH's Connect
Vanderkitten Clothing
Champion System Apparel
Spoke Punchers bike hats
ELEMENTAL Action,
A guest review of The Warmfront,
The 3rd Edition of the Cyclepassion - Bicycle Calendar,
Stocking stuffers from Three Story Press, and
Shimano and Campagnolo compatible "enhancement" brake HUDZ

It being a holiday travel weekend I got caught behind in our Christmas Reviews, so you'll get two reviews jammed into a 24 hour period. This morning, we take a look at Wilier Triestina's Cento and BH's Connect.

If you live in the United States, there's a good chance that you've heard of Wilier or BH, but probably haven't seen one up close, let alone ridden either [unless of course you've been over to Europe in the past 100 years or are a huge cyclophile]. But that will soon change as both the Italian and Spanish company have begun to have more of presence in the US.

Surprisingly, both companies have been making bicycles for well over 100 years [talk about well kept secrets or hidden gems].

Wilier Triestina
"Wilier is one of the oldest and most experienced names in road racing, producing alloy and carbon bikes in Italy. The brand was formed in 1906 by Pietro Dal Molin in a small workshop at Bassano del Grappa and after further development, a professional team was set up, captained by a rider from Trieste."

From those extremely humble beginnings, Wilier Triestina, was created in 1945. Its first offering in the red copper color would become an authentic Wilier trademark. "The firm was forced to close in the fifties but has been since re-established by the Gastaldello brothers from Rossano Veneto, who bought Wilier Triestina in 1969 and have been dedicated to providing professional teams such as Cofidis and Lampre, who took top honours in the Tour, with stylish, super-light and incredibly strong bikes."

Wilier Triestina's Cento (one hundred in Italian) came out in 2006. The swoopy lines of the top tube have been often compared to the earlier editions of the Specialized Tarmac, but it possesses a decided Italian flair.


Constructed with a patented molding process that enables precise control of tubing wall thickness, the Cento's unidirectional carbon fiber monocoque frameset uses both T60 and T30 unidirectional carbon fiber. The mix of light weight and heavier, more rigid tubing provides the Cento with a stiff, lightweight frame that weighs in at 900g without fork for a Large size.

But perhaps the most unique feature of the Cento is a special squared off integrated headtube and fork. For a racing bike, the "boxiness" of the headtube is certainly a departure from all the aerodynamic designs out there, but the company purports that its design provides more rigidity [especially in an area where it is needed].

"The chainstays are molded under high pressure in high modulus T30 unidirectional carbon fiber to provide maximum power transmission, and the front derailleur hanger that is constructed as part of the frame itself. The only aluminum parts on Wilier Triestina's new Cento are the aluminum inserts for the bottom bracket and headset cups."

The first thing I noticed, or rather didn't, was the weight of the Cento. Then again, that can probably be said for most high end carbon fiber bikes these days. Over a 2-mile loop that featured a recent fresh coat of asphalt and a descent one way, with the corresponding ascent on the other, the Cento performed impeccably well. Its easy to see why a climber like Damiano Cunego (Lampre/Fondital) has this ride under him as it was ultra responsive to accelerations when I chose to step on the gas on steeper portion of the climb.

The Cento that I rode was equipped with Campagnolo's new Record group for 2007, with Fulcrum's Racing Zero wheels, ITM's new 101 carbon fibre stem and bars and Selle Italia's new Thoorx saddle.

For more information go to www.wilier-usa.com

BH
Like Wilier Triestina, BH has been in existence for nearly 100 years. "Beistegui Hermanos S.A. (B.H.) was established at the beginning of the 20th century (1909). The brothers Beistegui founded a factory, where they initially manufactured firearms. In the early 1920’s, BH took their manufacturing expertise and turned their focus to bicycles."

The company is based in the famed Basque region of Spain. In 2005, BH was seen in the European peloton under Manolo Saiz's Liberty Seguros team. Through the efforts of Chris Cocalis, founder of Titus Cycles, BH has finally entered into the U.S. market. In 2008, the BH Connect can be found in the women's peloton under Team Vanderkitten (see below).

Bicycling magazine recently reviewed the Connect:
"It looks like an American-style crit bike. The 890-gram frame (claimed, size small) has a short head tube and very short chainstays (400mm), and the massive front triangle's tubes scream stiffness. The 71.5-degree head-tube angle, however, is a good degree slacker than normal.


On the road, the BH Connect's tucked-in rear wheel, shortish head tube and dominant front-end stiffness reward sprints and tight cornering. Testers rated bottom-bracket stiffness at about an 8-plus out of 10: not a sprinter's dream, but not flexy either. Ride quality is acceptably comfortable and isolated, which is, to be fair, somewhat extraordinary given the Connect's very compact triangles and large-diameter tubes. However, testers found the Connect's ride didn't sparkle with personality. Some also thought the relaxed head tube would keep them from choosing the Connect for crits, but this bike will, after working through a touch of heaviness as you tip it into a corner, carve up descents confidently at extreme rates of speed. It provides the rider with all the qualities of a top race bike without constantly demanding attention to maintain a line--what it lacks in initial responsiveness, it gives back in steadiness."

For more information, contact BH Bikes US.

Kittens Primped Up for NRC Party
TEMPE, AZ
– BH Bikes USA has signed on as the frameset supplier to the professional women’s road racing team Vanderkitten. The team will compete on BH for the 2008 NRC season. “This is a great opportunity for us to partner with a team of women who know how to ride fast and have fun. These women will be contenders in every event they compete in and will be superb ambassadors for BH,” said Chris Cocalis, CEO of BH USA.

Vanderkitten rider Liz Hatch Team Vanderkitten will ride on the BH Connect. “We are honored to have such top-notch support and sponsorship from BH Bikes USA. Vanderkitten Racing is committed to growing the sport of cycling for women and promoting fashionable, top quality, alternative cycling products. The BH Connect will allow all of our women to achieve the highest results possible while riding stunning, world-class frames. As a tribute to this relationship, we’ve changed our signature color scheme for the road team to something that will definitely complement both companies,” added Dave Verrecchia, Creator of Vanderkitten Clothing. Vanderkitten Racing will field and impressive roster for a first year team with seasoned talent and very strong development riders from the US, Canada and abroad. A key component to their flexibility will be their talented regional squad supporting the NRC effort.

Another Piece of '03 Departs


Why do we care about Joseba Beloki?
Just another name on the "Operation Puerto" roster, right?

Beloki, a three-time podium finisher in the Tour de France, retired this week. He gets special affection from the Crankset, however, as a result of his fall during the 9th stage of the '03 Tour that forced Our Boy Lance to ride through a grassy field to avoid a crash.

That was the Tour during which the Crankset met. The Spanish rider had finished runner-up to Armstrong in 2002 and was third in 2000 and 2001. So he was OBL's chief competition in '03, and his crash was a shock.

Beloki suffered multiple fractures, and it was not until 2006 that he fully returned to the peloton with the Liberty team being run by Spaniard Manolo Saiz, having spent a few brief months with the French Boulangere team.

When Operation Puerto affair erupted in May 2006, Saiz and dozens of cyclists (including Beloki) were implicated.

Beloki began his professional career in 1998 with Euskaltel before moving on to Festina, ONCE, Brioches La Boulangere and Liberty.

He said he had no regrets about his career. But after the Tour of '03, he was never the same.

Friday, December 21, 2007

TRIPLE Exclusive - An Interview with Amber Rais, Part II


In Part II of my interview with Amber Rais, we talk about her new environmental venture, Elemental Action, find out what ‘WWJD” means to her, hear about her worst moment on a bicycle, and what her goals are as a cyclist.

You’ll also be privy to some of my foibles as a fledgling journalist, as I find out how difficult it is to transcribe answers while using a cell phone.

Granny’s 30 (G): For those not familiar with Elemental Action, could you provide a brief synopsis, and although they might be evident from the website your motivations for starting it up?

Amber Rais (AR): Elemental Action is an environmental consulting and marketing service I created with the goal of helping athletic teams implement and promote environmentally sustainable practices in their operations.

Because I know what it takes to run a professional team, I can streamline team operations in a more environmentally friendly manner without compromising the essential aspects of team management and performance. My background and connections in environmental science allow me to do so very efficiently and effectively, saving time and money, too.

My motivation to start the company arose from my frustration that some essential aspects of my job don't align with my principles of stewardship, and I believe that others feel the same way. People want to make a difference, and the key is to provide them with the tools to do something about it.

In my last year of graduate school I worked on an environmental education project and learned that the most effective way to engage people in stewardship is to forge connections between people and the environment, fostering a sense of connection and responsibility. Most people who enjoy sports – runners, cyclists, surfers, hikers, kayakers, you name it – have already developed this connection with their local environments, and are thankfully already involved in environmental stewardship. The next logical step – and my goal with Elemental Action – is to provide tools and resources for those who don't already have them, in order to facilitate positive change.

There are a lot of people in the cycling industry working for positive change, but there remains enormous room for improvement. My goal with Elemental Action is to help eliminate the gap between what we are doing and what we can be doing for the environment as athletes, industry members and enthusiasts.

G: In regard to stewardship, what type(s) of tools could you provide to help cyclist or cycling teams?

AR: There are many things teams can do to make a difference, but it can be daunting to know where to start, what the most effective plan of action would be, or how to integrate new practices with existing objectives. With time and effort, these problems are easily solved, but teams generally lack the bandwidth and resources to get started. Team management is a huge responsibility (I know from experience!), and staff usually have their plates full sponsorship, recruitment, travel, equipment and other planning. With my experiences in team management and as an athlete, I know how to integrate new practices without compromising existing objectives. Further, with my background in environmental science and policy, I have the resources and connections to get things done more quickly and effectively than would someone just getting started.

In terms of providing tools, I have a long list of practices that would be feasible for almost any team and that would yield substantial positive impact. Sometimes just letting people know what they can do is all it takes to get things going in a positive direction. Some examples are emissions-reducing strategies for travel, carbon offset programs (which ones are effective and which are a waste of money), recycling ideas, strategic partnerships, and so on. I'm hoping to get that kind of momentum going by offering these tools and resources through Elemental Action.

G: I always appreciated your little Green Tips at the end of your [Cyclingnews] diary entries. For our readers here and abroad, what is one simplistic tip or message that you could send them away with after reading this interview?

AR: Reduce, reuse, recycle. It really is that simple. Anything you can do to habitually reduce your consumption of energy or resources will make an enormous difference.

G: What aspects drew you into the sport of cycling?

AR: When I was swimming, I loved the rhythm and focus of the training sessions, so in a way, that carried over into cycling: you can get into a great meditative rhythm on the bicycle. With cycling though, I could make my own schedule, which was extremely helpful in graduate school, and I love that you can explore so much landscape on a bike. You move quickly enough to cover a lot of ground in a few hours, but slowly enough that you can soak in the sights and sounds and smells of your surroundings. It's a beautiful way to experience the world.

G: What do you love about cycling…dislike [hate]?

AR: I love cycling for the cycling. I love everything about it.

G: Shimano or Campy?

AR: SRAM!

G: So how long have you been using SRAM?

AR: I haven't as of yet, but that’s what we’re using on TIBCO.

[We proceeded to talk about which specific SRAM gruppo TIBCO will be using, and about how the unique shiting characteristics of SRAM might benefit her in the sprints].

G: What is your favorite moment(s) on a bicycle…worst moment(s)? Did it involve a crash?

AR: One of my treasured memories was from one of my first collegiate crits. I had no idea what I was doing. All I knew was that our sprinter Mary shouldn't be riding in the wind and could see her near the front being forced out of the draft by our competition. I got mad, motored to the front, told her to get on my wheel and rode as hard as I could on the front for twenty laps. We dropped all but two other riders, and she won the sprint, which I didn't contest, figuring my work was done. Our coach Art Walker, told me afterward that in cycling I should 'ratchet the machinery of the universe in my direction,' and later that evening, my teammate Katie Behroozi asked me why I hadn't sprinted at the finish. 'I'm not a sprinter,' I said, referring to my swimming history as a mid- to long-distance racer. 'How do you know you're not a sprinter if you don't try to sprint?' she asked me. Good point. The next day I made a four person break in the road race and sprinted. I came in second to a 'pure sprinter' from the opposing team. It was my best finish at the time, and soon I was known as one of the 'sprinters' on our team.

My worst moment wasn't my crash; it was mental implosion. Physical pain is manageable, but the anguish that comes from cracking mentally goes much deeper. It's one thing to give everything you have and not get the result for which you had hoped; it's quite another to have to ask yourself 'What if?' I've cracked mentally once in my career, and I don't ever want to experience that anguish again. It's a brutal lesson, but it makes you tougher.

G: You were certainly on a powerhouse of a team in Webcor last year, what were your reasons for the move to TIBCO?

AR: The time had come to try something new, and I just felt that this was the right path for me. I am especially excited about being part of the steep trajectory of growth in the Team TIBCO program and helping develop the program even further. Webcor has built an excellent program, and it was an honor to race with such a great group of people. They were very understanding about my decision.

G: You've stated that you want to be a cycling force both here and abroad. From your experiences in Europe, how would you compare the races and the competition?

AR: I've only raced two races in Europe thus far (The Route de France Feminine and Albstadt Frauenetapperennen), so my impressions are limited. From what I've experienced, however, the racing in Europe is more aggressive. I think this is because the fields are larger and generally have more representation. Sometimes in the U.S., if only one or two big teams are represented in a race, other smaller teams will race defensively, looking to the bigger teams to make all of the moves, which is not as fun as when you've got seven big teams all trying to annihilate one another in 100k. Other fun aspects of European racing are the road furniture and cobbles – they really keep you on your toes!

G: The Bay area was recently featured in a Bicycling magazine article regarding the risk that cyclist take and the repercussions [or lack thereof] that motorists face when accidents occur. What was your personal experience of riding in that area?

AR: There is a group in Woodside that wants to limit the number of cyclists who frequent their roads, in an effort to maintain the rural nature of the area. It's a beautiful town, but that means that a lot of people want to enjoy it. The community of Woodside includes a lot of ardent cyclists as well, who I'm sure enjoy the riding as well as the rural feel. The problem is that these types of issues become polarized - motorists versus cyclists, or Smalltown, USA versus Group Rides - when the issue is more complex and involves more than two perspectives.

Corrine Crawford's death was a shock to all of us, as was the death of John Peckham not long before that. A friend of mine, MaryAnn Levenson was struck by a drunk driver and thankfully survived, though she is still working through some heavy-duty physical therapy. She is amazing. I really admire her determination to get back to racing.

I can't count how many times a car has put my own life at risk to save ten or twenty seconds on a drive. Then again, when a group ride blows through a stop sign, it doesn't exactly make motorists and residents very happy. The bottom line is that people's lives are at stake, and both cyclists and motorists need to be respectful of one another in sharing the road. The responsibility goes both ways. Organizations like David Zabriskie's Yield To Life Foundation are great initiatives on opening dialogue between cyclists and motorists to increase awareness and understanding in this realm.

G: Do you know your racing schedule for next year? What races will you be targeting?

[Amber stated that she did not have her schedule as of yet, but the team will certainly be contesting all the major NRC races next year. She stated that she would probably target the stage races, as they really favor her skills, but she really does love it all, even competing in the hard and fast crits]

G: Will you try to do some races in Europe next year?

AR: This year, the National Team Residence Program will allow a few riders to live most of the year in Europe to race there on a semi-permanent basis with the National Team. The resident racers will comprise the core of the National Team for European projects, but there are opportunities for racers like myself to race some events where they might otherwise be shorthanded. I'm hoping to join them for as many projects as possible, to gain experience racing in international fields. My primary goal this season is to qualify for the World Championship team, and racing in Europe will be great preparation for that event.

G: What are your goals with the National team? Is Beijing a possibility?

AR: I've historically been very shy about verbalizing my dream to go to the Olympics, but to be honest, it has been my dream since I was ten years old, when I started competitive swimming. So, yes, my aim is to compete in the Olympics. Beijing is probably a bit soon for that, to be realistic. I'm taking things one step at a time, focusing on improving each year. This year's goal is to qualify for the World Championships.

G: What are your favorite races? Do you prefer the one-day Classics or stage races? Who is your favorite rider?

[Amber’s answer vacillated between one-day classics and stage races, even offering up the sentiment that all stage races are essentially multiple one-day races]

G: [Jokingly] Are you familiar with the term, waffling???

AR: Ha! Yes I waffled for sure on that one! I love it all - everything about cycling, so it is really hard to put one type of race ahead of another. If forced to choose, I'd say stage races.

[Amber went on to mention that her favorite races are the women’s]

After the US National Championship Road Race, Andy Stone (of Shimano) told my teammate Mara that the women's road race was one of the most exciting, tactical races he'd ever seen. It was a huge compliment, and I think it is indicative of the quality of racing in the women's fields.

My favorite rider is Jens Voigt. I have never met him in person, but my impressions are that he lays it all on the line everyday and manages to keep a sense of humor throughout all of it. Both are qualities I admire immensely. At Cascade in 2006, I ended up off the front almost everyday. It became a joke in the peloton: So, Amber, when are you going off the front today? Our director started calling me 'Jens' over the radio, and when I got home from the race, I found a package from my teammates containing a t-shirt that says "WWJD? What Would Jens Do?" I love that shirt. I considered it a huge compliment from my teammates.

G: Being a big proponent of women's cycling myself, do you think we will ever see the day when the women's races will carry equal weight to the men's rather than just serving as an appetizer or under card to the main course or main bout?

AR: I have to believe that with time, people will see what exciting racing is going on (and has been!) in the women's fields. The women's peloton is full of fascinating multi-faceted racers. You would not believe the number of graduate degrees that are lined up at the start of most of our races. These women are brilliant, dedicated and very talented athletes. So, not only is the racing exciting, but the women who are out there pummeling one another on the road are also very, very interesting people. Women's cycling is an undiscovered goldmine. It's definitely gotten better for women in cycling over the last few decades, thanks to those women who blazed the trail before now. I'm hoping to contribute to this momentum as well, so women who compete in the sport after I've retired have more of the attention and support they deserve.

G: Thank you Amber for taking the time to speak me. We wish you well on all your ventures and on your upcoming season.

Photos: Chris Norris (top, & third)

Who Followed Whom?

Interesting note on Pez Cycling's "Euro Trash" site about Johan Bruyneel's relationship with Alberto Contador:
If Alberto Contador had not gone to Astana this year, Johan Bruyneel would have followed his intended path out of cycling.

Bruyneel gushed to El Mundo: "His transfer convinced me that I had to continue. I can construct a good team around him. He is young and belongs in the group of the best current riders. He has the physical and mental strength of a champion. His development is, however, not near complete."

With that in mind, Contador still has much to prove: "There are other riders in the team (Kloeden and Leipheimer spring to mind) for whom we will also ride. Alberto must prove to us during the season, that he can win the Tour again in 2008. We have a lot of trust in him."

So many mixed messages in one conversation! Oy ve. This is what happens when you literally have a Tour de France podium sweep on your team.
ALSO:
-- Samuel Abt in the International Herald Tribune:
Reeling in 2008, a dead sport pedaling

File Under: WRONG, Part III

Usually, and unfortunately, we hear about cyclists being killed because of an accident. The following news item from the Chicago Tribune is not only tragic, but completely senseless.

Man Dies 8 Days After Beating by Youths on West Side

By Dan P. Blake
Tribune staff reporter

CHICAGO - December 21, 2007 - A 43-year-old man died Wednesday night, more than a week after a group of youngsters assaulted him on Chicago's West Side, police and family said.

Stanley Williams, who grew up in Oak Park but had recently been taking care of his ailing grandmother on Chicago's West Side, was attacked near her home in the 1000 block of North Long Avenue on Dec. 11, authorities said. He suffered head trauma and died at Mt. Sinai Hospital, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office.

"He told police he was walking down the street when he was struck in the face with a fist," Officer Marcel Bright said. "Then he fell down and at that point he felt like he was being punched and kicked."

According to his longtime girlfriend Erica McIntosh, Williams had been riding his bicycle about 4:30 p.m. that day before he was attacked by the group of teens. Bright said there was no description of his assailants on the initial case report, but McIntosh said witnesses described his assailants as neighborhood teenagers.

Police said no arrests have been made.

Williams' mother, Rosetta, said her son loved riding his bike year-round despite the weather and was probably returning home from his job as a cook at local restaurant when the assailants jumped him.

"All I understand is it was a bunch of punks hanging on the corner," Rosetta Williams said.

Police said they are awaiting the results of an autopsy scheduled for Friday to determine whether Williams died as a result of the battery.

Rosetta Williams said her son often would ride his bicycle through Cook County forest preserves to escape traffic.

A graduate of Oak Park and River Forest High School, Williams was trained as a window installer and recently worked as a contractor for the Chicago Housing Authority, McIntosh said. Together they had two children, ages 13 and 17.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Reviews - Vanderkitten

On the 8th day of Christmas the Crankset gave to me:
Vanderkitten Clothing
Champion System Apparel
Spoke Punchers bike hats
ELEMENTAL Action,
A guest review of The Warmfront,
The 3rd Edition of the Cyclepassion - Bicycle Calendar,
Stocking stuffers from Three Story Press, and
Shimano and Campagnolo compatible "enhancement" brake HUDZ

Vanderkitten
In 2008 Vanderkitten Racing will take the roads to hopefully raise the women's professional circuit to a new and respectable level.

But before the VK Racing team was a "glint in someone's eye," Vanderkitten was already a well respected clothing line for "Women Who Kick Ass."

The grassroots clothing company from Berkeley, CA was started "based on the lack of Urban Wear with a message relating to women who were strong, independent and empowered." And although Vanderkitten shifted their emphasis toward athletics in 2006, because of their relationship with Velo Bella Cycling, according to owner, Dave Verrecchia, "our original roots were a lot of musicians, DJ's, clubsters and artists."

So this holiday, if you're looking for the perfect item for that woman in your life that has "been discouraged from taking life by the horns, doing things that are reserved for "boys," and criticized for making a statement," then run, don't walk, over to Vanderkitten.


Photo: Jennifer Tilley - Professional Mountain Biker (Velo Bella - Kona)

Ritchey Stands by Two; O'Bee Employed

Ritchey Design Signs Contract to Continue Sponsorship of Health Net and Symmetrics Professional Bicycle Road Racing Teams

From Chip Smith (SOAR Communications):

SAN CARLOS, Calif. - Dec. 20, 2007 - Ritchey Design Inc. today announced the re-signing of separate sponsorship deals with the Health Net Presented by Maxxis and the Symmetrics Fuelled by FarmPure top-tier North American-based bicycle road racing teams.

The 2008 racing season will be Ritchey Design's fifth year sponsoring the Health Net Presented by Maxxis team and its third year sponsoring the Symmetrics Fuelled by FarmPure team with high-end carbon fiber and aerospace grade alloy cockpit components, such as handlebars, stems and seat posts.

"Health Net and Symmetrics are two of the toughest competitive teams on the professional road racing circuit," said Steve Parke, general manager and vice president of marketing for Ritchey Design. "We believe bike racing is the best place to prove our component designs. By signing with these two superb racing teams, we continue to move forward in producing the most innovative, top-quality products on the market."

Health Net Presented by Maxxis
"To run a consistently successful racing program we have to use equipment that can take the beating of 140 days of racing and 16,000 miles of training," said Thierry Attias, president & director of sponsorship for Health Net Presented by Maxxis. "Ritchey products can do that. Its products are cutting edge and super reliable. Any other partnership would be a compromise."

Ritchey will supply the Health Net Presented by Maxxis with its World Championship Series (WCS) Carbon one-bolt seatpost, Alloy Ergo handlebars, Carbon 4-AXIS stems and Pro Oversized 30-degree stems and alloy adjustable stems for time trial bikes.

Health Net is one of the most dominating domestic teams. The team has been home to multiple national champions, Olympians, world championship team members and one world champion. They have earned four consecutive USA Cycling National Racing Calendar (NRC) team titles and averaged 35 NRC one-day, stage and overall stage race victories, as well as averaging 66 NRC podium appearances per season since 2004. Overall, the team has averaged 72 victories per season in NRC, UCI and non-NRC races during the last four years.

Symmetrics Fuelled By FarmPure
"Signing with Ritchey Design for another season of sponsorship is a huge win for Symmetrics Pro Cycling," said Kevin Cunningham, Symmetrics Fuelled by FarmPure's team director. "Ritchey road parts are proven in some of the toughest professional races worldwide, and their philosophy of lightweight but reliable top quality materials will help to ensure success for Symmetrics Cycling."

Symmetrics will be using Ritchey's World Championship Series (WCS) Carbon one-bolt seatposts, Alloy Ergo handlebars, 4-AXIS alloy stems, as well as the new UD Carbon fork (sub 300-grams) and Streem saddles.

Canada-based with an all Canadian roster of racers, the Symmetrics team has an almost family like atmosphere, rare for an elite level road team. Team President Mark Cunningham and his brother Kevin have worked hard to retain top riders who are courted by bigger-budgeted U.S. teams.

In 2007, the team's three-time Canadian national champion, Svein Tuft, won the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) America Tour, which is a season-long competition between teams from North and South America and is one of the world's premiere events for professional cyclists. At the conclusion of the tour, Symmetrics was ranked 3rd out of 19 teams with 977 points (the second place team scored only 473).

As a result of Symmetrics Cycling's 2008 season, Canada earned three berths at the World Championship Road Race, as opposed to the single one it had last year, as well as three guaranteed spots for Canadian racers in the Beijing Olympics road race.

For more information about Ritchey Design, please visit www.ritcheylogic.com, for information about the Health Net Pro Cycling Team, visit www.teamhealthnet.com, and for information about the Symmetrics Pro Cycling Team, visit www.symmetricscycling.com.

O'Bee Finds a Job
In separate, but perhaps equally significant, news for Health Net Presented by Maxxis, Kirk O'Bee has re-signed for the 2008 season.

After a season in which the Michigan native [and now Vancouver resident] saw a return to form [winning two stages and placing third overall at the Nature Valley Grand Prix, winning a stage at the Cascade Classic, and capping it all off with a second career USPro Criterium Championship in August] O'Bee languished in the wind with nary an offer.

Some had speculated that offers were few and far between because of his past [being suspended for one-year due to an elevated testosterone to epitestosterone ratio in 2002]. When his current team didn't immediately chime in, it looked to be the end of his road career and an indictment by the whole of the American cycling community that the doping culture was no longer welcome; as there has been a similar sentiment [and expungement of riders, current and past] working its way through the disgraced European peloton.

Despite the lack of a contract, O'Bee maintained his spirits and even refocused his goals. He began to train for an opportunity to represent the country in Beijing as a member of the Olympic Track Cycling Team. Although he will be a long shot in his disciplines, he can now rest easy in the knowledge that Health Net seems to have found [or rather re-found] their man.

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

TRIPLE Exclusive - An Interview with Amber Rais, Part I


I am not a person who engages in the use of superlatives often. In fact, it is extremely rare. But after my recent conversation with Amber Rais (Team TIBCO), I was left with the assertion that a single superlative might not be enough in describing the 25 year old from Reno, NV.

Amber came into the sport of cycling later in life than most. She swam competitively as a child and eventually earned a partial scholarship to the Division I program at Stanford University. But after three years, and a career hampering shoulder injury, she suffered exhaustion from the sport.

With her athletic career in a tenuous position, Amber channeled her energies into her academics. Shifting her area of concentration to Marine Biology in 2001, she discovered new passions that in turn provided a much needed respite from competitive athletics. Amber would go on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Human Biology with a concentration in marine biology and environmental policy, and a Masters of Science in Earth Systems with a concentration in environmental systems and oceanography from Stanford University.

Her cycling career began like most, with a healthy curiosity. Amber actually began on the dirt entering a few collegiate mountain bike races, which isn’t too surprising since the Bay area is considered to be one of the birthplaces of the discipline. As she grew more adept at the sport and in confidence of her abilities, Amber switched to the road.

The switch to the pavement served to stoke her competitive embers, and in a short time Amber worked her way into becoming one of the top collegiate cyclists. With additional tutelage from her coach, Linda Jackson, the “all-rounder” now stands at the precipice of becoming one of the United States’ best.

In Part I of my interview with Amber Rais, we discuss stardom, her “hidden” talent, and some of her passions.

Granny's 30 (G): You've been touted as one of cycling's rising stars, how has it been dealing with stardom [fandom]? What do you feel is more difficult to deal with, stardom or the expectations that come with stardom?

Amber Rais (AR): This question will be much easier to answer if I ever actually become a star! I don't feel any extra pressure as I improve, but knowing that people connect with what I'm doing really fuels my motivation.

To be honest, not much has changed in terms of my mental outlook since I first dedicated myself to the sport. I just get more focused and motivated each year, and I don't feel any pressure except from myself, which is plenty.

What is really cool, however, is getting positive feedback from people at the races or from people who connect with something I've shared in my diaries. I am always surprised to get emails from readers or to be recognized at a race, but it is a great feeling to connect with people that way. Knowing that what I'm doing might have a positive impact on someone – anyone – is very fulfilling and motivating.

G: As an athlete, do you feel a responsibility for being a role model?

AR: I've observed that athletes are looked to as role models much more than they realize. It's obvious to most of us that Olympians and World Champions are role models, because we've looked up to them ourselves. What people often forget is that athletes of ALL levels are role models, and it's important to remember that.

G: You've mentioned your coach, Linda Jackson, and you are a participant in the USWCDP, how has each contributed to your development as a cyclist and as a person?

AR: Linda discovered me at the 2005 Cat's Hill Criterium in California, where she watched me race and said to my boyfriend David 'This girls has got it. If she wants to, she can take this as far as she wants.' Coming from Linda Jackson, this was huge. I always take compliments with a grain of salt to keep a realistic perspective, but Linda's belief in me was a major turning point. We began working together shortly after that. Her coaching took my fitness to a whole new level, and within a few months, I had signed with Webcor. Linda has been my rock from the beginning, and she constantly challenges me to improve and push myself.

I got involved with the USWCDP earlier this year as a mentor. I'm at a funny place in my career where I have enough experience as an athlete and cyclist to give back and serve as a resource for others, but I still have a long way to go and look to other mentors in the USWCDP for guidance myself. Michael Engelman has made enormous contributions to women's cycling, targeting unmet needs in the sport. He's got great vision, and we're working on some big ideas. I see a lot of progress in women's cycling already, and I want to do my part in targeting aspects where there is still room for improvement.

G: I'm a bit surprised by your statement that Linda's coaching took you to a whole new fitness level. Not to diminish any of Linda's coaching skills, but I would have thought that being an elite level swimmer you would have been at an extremely high fitness level. Were you speaking toward your general or cycling fitness in that statement?

AR: After I stopped swimming, I didn't think I'd ever compete in sport again, but I loved the vibrant feeling of being fit that comes with being an athlete. I took up trail running and loved it, but I was a fish out of water. I have a theory that swimming and running are mutually exclusive sports: if you get really good at doing one, you'll probably struggle with the other!

By the time I tried cycling, I had lost most of the fitness I'd had in swimming, but thankfully, my swimming career had developed a strong aerobic capacity, the foundation of which remained, latent, waiting for the proper training to be fully realized. My first year of competition, I primarily trained myself, with a lot of great advice from my fellow collegiate teammates at Stanford.

When we first started working together, Linda got me to push myself to a new level on the bike, and she hasn't stopped since! Swimming taught my body to endure an enormous training load and still recover well. I just needed Linda's guidance to get me on a proper regime of training and recovery specific to cycling. More than the physical training, she also helps me a lot with the mental aspects of training and racing, helping me stay positive and focused.

G: Why Graz, Austria?

AR: My boyfriend, David, and I have been talking about moving to Europe for a couple of years now. After finishing his PhD and minor at Stanford, he had job offers in Boston, Cape Town, Paris and Graz. Graz was the best of all worlds for us, since it offered great training for me and the ideal position for David. We've been here for three months now, and we're taking German language classes together. David is an Assistant Professor in Biomechanics at the Technical University of Graz, and I've been training and doing my research and consulting work from home. In addition to Graz and the Austrian wine country, we've gone exploring in the Czech Republic, the Alps and in Switzerland thus far. We're loving it here.

G: Do you speak any other languages?

AR: I speak French pretty fluently and am slowly learning German. Once I get the German down, Italian might follow, but first things first.

When I opened a menu on our first night in Germany for the race in Albstadt, I couldn't read a word of the menu. Now I have no problems with the menus and can read almost all of the signs I see around Graz. I really enjoy reading menus here for that reason: it reminds me of how much progress I've already made with the language. The speaking is coming along more slowly, but it will take time and practice.

G: What is one thing that most people don't know about you?

AR: For one thing, I play piano and compose music. I play any time I have the chance, but since I don't own a piano myself, those opportunities have become scarcer than I'd like.

G: Being in the land of Mozart, I would have thought that a piano would be in every household?

AR: My old apartment complex had a piano in the common area and was home to a lot of retired folks who loved to hear me play, no matter how horribly I might stumble. Whenever I needed a little ego boost, I'd go play and get a round of applause! Seriously, though, I loved brightening someone's day with a little music. I find playing very calming and rejuvenating.

When I was 14, I competed at Junior Nationals in Bryan, Texas (at Texas A&M, where they have a gorgeous pool!). I had a recital two weeks after the swim meet and needed to practice, so I asked the concierge if there were a piano in the hotel. He said, "Yes, in the bar." I went to the bar and asked the bartenders if it would be okay for me to play. They said yes, and that is when I realized that the piano WAS the bar. It was also at this point that a rowdy bunch of inebriated locals started heckling me about whether or not I played The Lone Ranger. I cringed to think what their reaction would be when I started to play Chopin and Beethoven, but I needed to practice. I sat down and played the pieces I was preparing, which included some very depressing waltzes and a somber Sonata. When I took a breather to chat with my coach, who had stopped in to listen, one of the locals came over - hat in hand - and asked whether I'd be willing to continue playing, as they were enjoying the music!

G: Who were your musical influences? What music do you enjoy listening to?

AR: My piano training included primarily what most people call "Classical Music" which generally refers to anything from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic and even Modern Periods. My favorite periods are the Classical and Romantic periods, but I love it all. I used to listen to Vivaldi before swim meets to get ready to race. That said, I also had Led Zeppelin and White Zombie in my pre-race CD collection, so I guess you could call my taste eclectic.

Being in Austria, I got to see the building where Mozart was born in Salzburg, and the building where he lived later in life. It was like walking on hallowed ground for me. I still haven't been to Vienna, but it's on the menu. A lot of people go to Vienna to study classical music, but Graz attracts those music students focused on jazz. I can't count how many times I walked out our door to be greeted with the sounds of a full live jazz band playing down our street on the town square - it's amazing!

In addition to playing, I studied a lot of music theory, and that background has deepened my appreciation for all genres, which isn't to say I like everything. There is some really amazing avant-garde music out there, but some of the new experimental stuff is more about being different than about quality music. It's got to be both.

David and I have a good friend - Steve Smillie - in Minneapolis who owns his own record label called One Percent Records (http://www.onepercentrecords.com/), so we get to hear a lot of great new music and underground bands through him. He's also a realtor and has a Blog called Twin Cities Hardcore Punk Realtor. Seriously, you should check it out.

G: You started out in human biology; did you have designs on medicine initially? If so, was there a seminal event that led you to focus on the environment and oceanography?

AR: Wow. You hit the nail on the head. When I went to college, I had no idea what I wanted to do, but had a vague inclination toward medicine, as I loved biology and everything to do with physiology. The Human Biology program was the perfect fit, because aside from the core curriculum, it allowed students to create their own 'Area of Concentration.' After I stopped swimming, I took advantage of my new flexible schedule and studied for a quarter at the Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford's satellite campus in Monterey, where I fell in love with marine science and discovered a new depth to my passion for environmental issues.

I got to do everything: tagging live sharks, elephant seals, harbor seals and tuna, SCUBA diving for research, designing microbiology lab experiments, conducting oceanographic research for weeks at a time at sea, building biodiversity surveys via snorkeling around deserted tropical reefs, testing VO2 max values in mackerel, measuring cardiac function in tuna, swimming with sharks, performing surgery to implant archival tags in live tuna, and so on….

The Marine Station is right on the shore of Monterey Bay, so I used to swim out to the mile buoy and back on my lunch break, often accompanied by twenty or thirty harbor seals who loved the company. They would nose my feet and bomb around trying to get me to dive and flip with them, then they would watch me leave the water, their curious little heads bobbing above the surface, wondering why I wouldn't stay and play. Just as fascinating as the charismatic mega fauna were the tiny little guys living on the rocky outcroppings in the kelp forests - anemones and nudibranchs and gastropods and algae and tube worms - all so eclectic and elegant in their design and appearance.

I switched my Area of Concentration to Marine Biology and Environmental Policy, and studied on and off at the Marine Station for more than a year and a half. Later, I decided to pursue my Masters in Earth Systems, a program that offered the perfect combination of hard science and training in policy and resource management. I wanted to equip myself to get out in the world and do something to protect the beautiful, complex ecosystems I had come to know.

G: Is there a doctorate in your future?

AR: I applied to two programs back when I had first started racing. In my experience with research and watching a number of people, including David, go through PhD programs, it's clear that it would have to be my top priority. My personality is also such that I'm only satisfied with myself if I've given an endeavor my full effort. For now, my focus is cycling, and I'm giving it everything. A PhD program may well be in my future, but not until I've given cycling my all, and not until I've decided that I want to devote myself completely to a doctoral program.

In Part II of my interview with Amber we talk about her latest venture, Elemental Action, find out what "WWJD" means to her, and her goals for her cycling career.

Photos: Chris Norris (top)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Reviews - Champion System

On the 7th day of Christmas the Crankset gave to me:
Champion System Apparel
Spoke Punchers bike hats
ELEMENTAL Action,
A guest review of The Warmfront,
The 3rd Edition of the Cyclepassion - Bicycle Calendar,
Stocking stuffers from Three Story Press, and
Shimano and Campagnolo compatible "enhancement" brake HUDZ

With the news of Pacific Cycle forming an alliance with Champion System, I decided to take a look at the latter as it was certainly a new name to me since I've been in nothing but Pactimo apparel for the past few years.

Champion System
Founded by competitive cyclists, Champion System combines their knowledge of the apparel business with a love of the sport to offer the finest pro quality garments to the cycling masses. By allowing teams, retailers, clubs and individuals to order custom uniforms with unlimited colors and low minimums, Champion System sets a new standard in the custom cycle wear business.

Champion System currently makes cycling apparel for approximately 3,000 cycling teams. Amongst the more notables are Toyota-United, Jelly-Belly and Team TIBCO.

Champion has simplified the custom apparel business for retailers and consumers by offering:

* Low minimums-10 pieces for jerseys and 50 pairs for socks
* Affordable pricing-As low as $45 for a customized short-sleeve jersey
* Quick turnaround time-Delivery in as little as two weeks

Regardless of order size, Champion System shows attention to detail by adding a radio pocket to bib shorts, scaling graphics to each particular garment's size through a digital sublimation process and using full-length concealed zippers so that front graphics are clearly visible.

Probably the highlight of ordering from Champion System is using their Champion System Dressup Price List!

Champion System also manufactures customized technical apparel for the motor sports industry and team sports, such as soccer and rugby.

If you're small group of riders looking to create some kits, or a full fledged team, it would be foolish not to put Champion System on your list when considering cycling apparel.

I Thought Hemingway was a Fisherman!

"It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle."
-- Ernest Hemingway

Specialized Recall

Just in case any of our readers currently own the Specialized 2D helmet or bought one recently for the holidays, please read the below.

Bicycle Helmets Recalled by Specialized Due to Failing Helmet Standard

WASHINGTON, D.C.
– The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with the firm named below, today announced a voluntary recall of the following consumer product. Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed. (To access color photos of the following recalled products, see CPSC’s Web site.)

Name of Product: Specialized Bicycle Helmets
Units: About 3,000
Manufacturer: Specialized Bicycles, of Morgan Hill, Calif.
Hazard: The helmets fail testing required under CPSC's safety standard for bicycle helmets. This can pose a head injury hazard to riders in a fall.
Incidents/Injuries: None reported
Description: This recall involves the Specialized helmets, model 2D. Model “2D” is printed on the sides of the helmet in the rear. The helmets were sold for men and women in matte black, white, silver, blue, pink, and team colors.
Sold by: Specialized through its authorized retailers and online stores between July 2007 and October 2007 for about $200.
Manufactured in: China

Remedy: Consumers should stop using the recalled helmet immediately and return it to an Authorized Specialized Retailer to receive a free replacement or a full refund.

Consumer Contact: For additional information, contact Specialized toll-free at (877) 808-8154 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. MT Monday through Friday, or visit the company’s Web site at www.specialized.com.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Makeover...

Over the next few days, I'll be revamping the site. Giving it a makeover in the new year, so to speak. If you drop by and think that "your mind is playing tricks on you," don't be alarmed as things may be appearing and then disappearing from time to time.

In the interim, please bear with us. I promise you won't be disappointed with the new iteration of the Triple Crankset.

Taking the Triple to a Whole Other Level

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays

Geseënde Kersfees Een Plesierige Kerfees Rehus-Beal-Ledeats Gezur Krislinjden Milad Majid Feliz Navidad Shenoraavor Nor Dari yev Pari Gaghand Tezze Iliniz Yahsi Olsun Selamat Hari Natal Zorionak eta Urte Berri On! Shuvo Naba Barsha Vesele Vanoce Nedeleg laouen na bloavezh mat Tchestita Koleda Bon Nadal i un Bon Any Nou! Gun Tso Sun Tan'Gung Haw Sun Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan Yukpa, Nitak Hollo Chito Nadelik looan na looan blethen noweth Pace e salute Rot Yikji Dol La Roo Mitho Makosi Kesikansi Sretan Bozic Prejeme Vam Vesele Vanoce a stastny Novy Rok Glædelig Jul Christmas-e- Shoma Mobarak Vrolijk Kerstfeest en een Gelukkig Nieuwjaar! Merry Christmas Happy Hanukkah Jutdlime pivdluarit ukiortame pivdluaritlo! Gajan Kristnaskon Ruumsaid juulup|hi Melkin Yelidet Beaal Gledhilig jol og eydnurikt nyggjar! Cristmas-e-shoma mobarak bashad Hyvaa joulua Zalig Kerstfeest en Gelukkig nieuw jaar Joyeux Noel Noflike Krystdagen en in protte Lok en Seine yn it Nije Jier! Nollaig chridheil agus Bliadhna mhath ùr! Fröhliche Weihnachten Kala Christouyenna! Jwaye Nowel Barka da Kirsimatikuma Barka da Sabuwar Shekara! Mele Kalikimaka Mo'adim Lesimkha. Chena tova Shub Naya Baras Barka da Kirsimatikuma Barka da Sabuwar Shekara! Kellemes Karacsonyi unnepeket Gledileg Jol Selamat Hari Natal Idah Saidan Wa Sanah Jadidah Nollaig Shona Dhuit Ojenyunyat Sungwiyadeson honungradon nagwutut. Ojenyunyat osrasay. Buone Feste Natalizie Shinnen omedeto. Kurisumasu Omedeto Mithag Crithagsigathmithags Sung Tan Chuk Ha souksan van Christmas Natale hilare et Annum Faustum! Prieci'gus Ziemsve'tkus un Laimi'gu Jauno Gadu! Wjesole hody a strowe nowe leto Priecigus Ziemassvetkus Linksmu Kaledu Heughliche Winachten un 'n moi Nijaar Sreken Bozhik IL-Milied It-tajjeb Nollick ghennal as blein vie noa Meri Kirihimete Shub Naya Varsh Merry Keshmish Gledelig Jul Pulit nadal e bona annado Bon Pasco Bikpela hamamas blong dispela Krismas na Nupela yia i go long yu En frehlicher Grischtdaag un en hallich Nei Yaahr! Maligayan Pasko! Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia or Boze Narodzenie Feliz Natal Christmas Aao Ne-way Kaal Mo Mobarak Sha Mata-Ki-Te-Rangi. Te-Pito-O-Te-Henua Bellas festas da nadal e bun onn Legreivlas fiastas da Nadal e bien niev onn! Sarbatori vesele or Craciun fericit Pozdrevlyayu s prazdnikom Rozhdestva is Novim Godom Buorrit Juovllat La Maunia Le Kilisimasi Ma Le Tausaga Fou Bonu nadale e prosperu annu nou Hristos se rodi Sretan Bozic or Vesele vianoce Buorrit Juovllat La Maunia Le Kilisimasi Ma Le Tausaga Fou Nollaig chridheil huibh Hristos se rodi. Subha nath thalak Vewa. Subha Aluth Awrudhak Vewa Vesele Vianoce. A stastlivy Novy Rok Vesele Bozicne Praznike Srecno Novo Leto Maligayamg Pasko Nathar Puthu Varuda Valthukkal Neekiriisimas annim oo iyer seefe feyiyeech! Sawadee Pee Mai Noeliniz Ve Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun Srozhdestvom Kristovym Naya Saal Mubarak Ho Chuc Mung Giang Sinh Nadolig Llawen E ku odun, e ku iye'dun!

From the Triple Crankset...

Monday, December 24, 2007

Reviews - Cervelo's Soloist

On the 12th day of Christmas the Crankset gave to me:
Cervelo's Soloist SLC-SL


Holding my line
As a sales and marketing professional, I spend the better part of my days bemoaning the ever increasingly aggressive, in-your-face, hustling, how-dare-you-not-buy my product style of sales and marketing that has proliferated our culture of consumerism. As such, I find myself rebelling from buying the overly marketed products of our culture so that I may, in fact, "show them".

Well, on this 12th day of Crankset Christmas, I'm here to tell you that even the strongest willed fall to the oh, so powerful forces of tantilizing marketing. Do I officially still hold my line if the marketing is deemed brilliant? Please don't answer that.

As you have surely figured out where this is going, I am the proud new owner of, you guessed it, a Cervelo Sololist SLC-SL. Okay, 4 months new anyway. I had every intention of posting the review some 4 months ago not long after sharing with you my terrible story of losing the Madone 5.9 with carbon Bontrager's (sniff, sniff) to a Paris Hilton-esque Jersey girl on the streets of Moorestown, NJ. It was that fateful day that I lost my year old, tried-and-true from Waterloo and the normal function of my right patella as she turned in front of me on the upside of my interval workout that night. The sad tale has given way to much physical therapy and now, the carbon beast from our Canadian friends.

Pedigree
Not that I would compare myself to talent of Amber Rais but I found some common ground with her when I read Granny's awesome interview and she claimed that she never considered herself a "sprinter" until, well, she starting sprinting. Funny how these things work. Rest assured, for the sprinters in our reading audience, you might want to read on. Your "Graceland" has arrived.

My first reaction when test riding this rig was "its noiser than a rusty bus". And let me tell ya, it hasn't gotten quieter. Reason? Gerard Vroomen and Phil White begged and pleaded their buyers to stop asking for a lighter Soloist. They asked "how do you perfect the perfect bike?" Their contention, as aero builders, has always been: aero, stiffness and then weight. True dat I say but come on? We all know in 2007 we're racing to the bottom of weight, are we not? So in 2006 they unveiled the pefected, perfect bike: The Soloist sans 200 grams. Also sans internal cable housing which rattles the little metal cable against that fat tube like a beer bottle rolling on a field of cymbals.

Now that I've gotten all the mud outta the way, let's get down to it. This rig is everything it's marketed to be and more. It's just that simple. Every review, every interview and every thing you've heard is factual. It climbs like a koala bear, slices wind like a samurai and sprints like Smarty Jones. I've heard the notion that it corners like a grocery cart with one bad wheel but I just haven't experienced that. In fact, the bike is considered superior in the crits by many. Granted, the stiff-as-kryptonite frame leaves litle margin for error but all in all once you've bonded with her, she responds like any good dance partner.

Sprinter's Delight
If there is one discipline that it reigns supreme however it's the sprint for certain. While I'm no McEwen, I'll tell you that my power range was fully tested on this rig. In fact, while my fitness suffered from the wreck of May, I know this bike had far more in IT, than me when pushing its limits. For kicks and giggles, I upgraded to Zipp 303 carbon clinchers which essentially removes the governor from the engine. Additionally, I personalized the SLC with my all time favorite FSA K-Wing bars and Fizik carbon railed Airone. The bike is full Dura-Ace gruppo, which proved not to be a casualty of the otherwise, snuffed out Madone.

In summation, I would tell you that if speed and power is your game with the ocassional 14%, eleven miler thrown in for good measure, this is your rig. And if Santa is still determining where you fall on the list, you best hope it naughty because this rig was built for riders that are anything but nice.

A very Merry Christmas to all and to all a good ride.

Reviews - Yakima

On the 11th day of Christmas the Crankset gave to me:
Bike racks by Yakima
Crumpler Bags
Wilier Triestina’s Cento and BH's Connect
Vanderkitten Clothing
Champion System Apparel
Spoke Punchers bike hats
ELEMENTAL Action,
A guest review of The Warmfront,
The 3rd Edition of the Cyclepassion - Bicycle Calendar,
Stocking stuffers from Three Story Press, and
Shimano and Campagnolo compatible "enhancement" brake HUDZ

Yakima Racks
For more than 25 years, Yakima has been one of the leaders in designing rack systems with "form meeting function" and durability in mind.

A little over a year ago, the Yakima Design Team went back to their collective drawing boards to "Rack it up like Socrates," with the simple philosophy to "Make it functional. Make it durable. And make it beautiful."

What came forth from that R&D process was a sleeker, more durable looking, solid, and stylistic re-design of their bicycle carrying roof racks. The "Viper" [shown below], which I have owned for many years, has since morphed into the "SprocketRocket" [although both are still shown on their website]. More than just an aesthetic re-design of the body [apparent from the images below], the "SprocketRocket" has upgraded features that were at times troubling, but manageable on the "Viper." A new secure skewer with an integrated adjuster knob makes locking down the fork easier, and a new adjustable "sliding wheel tray makes positioning the rear wheel a breeze and enables it to carry a large variety of wheel shapes and sizes."


For 2008, Yakima has redesigned their Hitch series of bicycle carriers. Mike Steck, Yakima's Senior Director of Marketing, gave me a preview during Interbike week.

The most noticeable difference from their previous Hitch series is a "beefier" set of bike arms or hangers. Not as easily noticeable, but fitting into the company's form meeting functional mindset, are bottle openers at the end of those new arms [see red end caps].

Yakima has also made it easier to get to your trunk or rear cargo space. In addition to their standard tilt-down and swing arm designs, renamed for 2008 as the "DoubleDown" (top) and "SwingDaddy," (center) is the aptly named "FlipSide"(bottom), which flips your bikes to the side rather than tilting backwards.


For those of you who prefer a "wheel style" carrier, Yakima has also redesigned their "HookUp" series into the "StickUp" and "HoldUp." The "StickUp" adds an extra measure of security when carrying odd sized bikes [like your children's] as the adjustable center arms work independently from each other.

As testers won't be available until after the new year, we'll revisit Yakima's Hitch series after a hands-on review.

For more information, check out the Yakima website.

Reviews - Crumpler

On the 10th day of Christmas the Crankset gave to me:
Crumpler Bags
Wilier Triestina’s Cento and BH's Connect
Vanderkitten Clothing
Champion System Apparel
Spoke Punchers bike hats
ELEMENTAL Action,
A guest review of The Warmfront,
The 3rd Edition of the Cyclepassion - Bicycle Calendar,
Stocking stuffers from Three Story Press, and
Shimano and Campagnolo compatible "enhancement" brake HUDZ

Crumpler Bags
In the early 1990's, the idea of going into business to design and manufacture bags came from the simple thought that "everyone needs a bag."

Since that time, Crumpler has been one of the most easily recognizable manufacturers of messenger and active wear bags and accessories thanks to their marketing plan and logo. Their marketing has ranged from the conventional, as a partner to the Melbourne Fringe Festival, to the unconventional, bartering bags for beer. The Crumpler logo [inset] is an insignia Stuart "Stuey" Crumpler once inscribed into his early furniture creations [apparently a hot collectible item these days].

Unfortunately for the Australian based company, their initial foray into the American market didn't go quite as expected, as the blokes got sucked in by some "Hollywood" types. But they definitely came through that experience none the worse for wear, since they are now the bag manufacturer of record for companies such as Independent Fabrication and Twin Six.

At their Interbike booth, which by week's end definitely turned out as one of the places "to be," Bianca Dillon (inset), a marketing guru for Crumpler for the past 5 years, graciously took me through the paces.

Aside from its growing US market [based in NY], Crumpler has established itself internationally with stores in Singapore, Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Canada.

A physical location for making a bag purchase is actually a good thing because the Crumpler website was voted as one of the worst web commerce sites on more than one occasion. But for anyone who has actually ventured to their website, it encompasses enough Aussie "sensibilities" that you'll quickly forget that buying a bag was even on your agenda. It might not be the most easily navigable sites on the Internet, but it might be one of the most fun [think Monty Python after a great deal of beer drinking].

When you finally arrive at their catalog of goodies, you will see a bevy of bags and accessories for every use and purpose.



The Hoax
From the Crumpler website:
"This here son son sireee is a Hoax. It has nothing to do with terribleism. Or fat wah wahs. It has nothing at all to do with warmongreling and is only for fun n mental use. And the Hoax don’t shoot blank Czechs."

Bianca sent me away from Interbike with a blue version of their Hoax messenger bag to review [not pictured]. In the 3 short months that I've used [and attemptedly abused] it, the Hoax has quickly become a favorite [among my Timbuk 2 and Patagonia bags].



Functionality
One of the features of the Hoax that I first noticed was its Velcro enclosure. The three oval shaped Velcro enclosures [above] were strong enough that I rarely felt the need to use the clip. How strong you may be asking? If your bag isn't weighted down enough, you'll need your second hand to hold down the bag while you open it with the other.

The 2 side pockets are wide enough to handle your water bottles, while the main internal pocket is, well, big enough to handle all your beer (see inset).

Some of its other features are:
1x large internal velcro pocket
1x velcro pocket
Removable shoulder pad
Special colour Crumpler logo. Adjustable main strap w/ Quick Flick (TM) buckle and strap-trap accessory loop.

Durability
Another great feature of the Hoax is its construction. The water resistant 1000D Nylon shell & 420D Ripstop Nylon lining has the bag looking almost like new after 3 months. The use of only one arm [due to a broken collarbone] for the first 9 weeks of reviewing the bag provided me with enough information about its durability, as I dropped it more than I cared to remember.

Style
Whether it be from their regular set of messenger bags or from their Limited Edition bags, Crumpler has plenty of design and color combinations to soothe the "fashionista" of the fashion conscious crowd.

For a more products, check out their catalog of messenger bags, limited editions, computer bags, photography bags, "digits" (bags for digital stuff) and accessories.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Reviews - Wilier's Cento and BH's Connect

On the 9th day of Christmas the Crankset gave to me:
Wilier Triestina’s Cento and BH's Connect
Vanderkitten Clothing
Champion System Apparel
Spoke Punchers bike hats
ELEMENTAL Action,
A guest review of The Warmfront,
The 3rd Edition of the Cyclepassion - Bicycle Calendar,
Stocking stuffers from Three Story Press, and
Shimano and Campagnolo compatible "enhancement" brake HUDZ

It being a holiday travel weekend I got caught behind in our Christmas Reviews, so you'll get two reviews jammed into a 24 hour period. This morning, we take a look at Wilier Triestina's Cento and BH's Connect.

If you live in the United States, there's a good chance that you've heard of Wilier or BH, but probably haven't seen one up close, let alone ridden either [unless of course you've been over to Europe in the past 100 years or are a huge cyclophile]. But that will soon change as both the Italian and Spanish company have begun to have more of presence in the US.

Surprisingly, both companies have been making bicycles for well over 100 years [talk about well kept secrets or hidden gems].

Wilier Triestina
"Wilier is one of the oldest and most experienced names in road racing, producing alloy and carbon bikes in Italy. The brand was formed in 1906 by Pietro Dal Molin in a small workshop at Bassano del Grappa and after further development, a professional team was set up, captained by a rider from Trieste."

From those extremely humble beginnings, Wilier Triestina, was created in 1945. Its first offering in the red copper color would become an authentic Wilier trademark. "The firm was forced to close in the fifties but has been since re-established by the Gastaldello brothers from Rossano Veneto, who bought Wilier Triestina in 1969 and have been dedicated to providing professional teams such as Cofidis and Lampre, who took top honours in the Tour, with stylish, super-light and incredibly strong bikes."

Wilier Triestina's Cento (one hundred in Italian) came out in 2006. The swoopy lines of the top tube have been often compared to the earlier editions of the Specialized Tarmac, but it possesses a decided Italian flair.


Constructed with a patented molding process that enables precise control of tubing wall thickness, the Cento's unidirectional carbon fiber monocoque frameset uses both T60 and T30 unidirectional carbon fiber. The mix of light weight and heavier, more rigid tubing provides the Cento with a stiff, lightweight frame that weighs in at 900g without fork for a Large size.

But perhaps the most unique feature of the Cento is a special squared off integrated headtube and fork. For a racing bike, the "boxiness" of the headtube is certainly a departure from all the aerodynamic designs out there, but the company purports that its design provides more rigidity [especially in an area where it is needed].

"The chainstays are molded under high pressure in high modulus T30 unidirectional carbon fiber to provide maximum power transmission, and the front derailleur hanger that is constructed as part of the frame itself. The only aluminum parts on Wilier Triestina's new Cento are the aluminum inserts for the bottom bracket and headset cups."

The first thing I noticed, or rather didn't, was the weight of the Cento. Then again, that can probably be said for most high end carbon fiber bikes these days. Over a 2-mile loop that featured a recent fresh coat of asphalt and a descent one way, with the corresponding ascent on the other, the Cento performed impeccably well. Its easy to see why a climber like Damiano Cunego (Lampre/Fondital) has this ride under him as it was ultra responsive to accelerations when I chose to step on the gas on steeper portion of the climb.

The Cento that I rode was equipped with Campagnolo's new Record group for 2007, with Fulcrum's Racing Zero wheels, ITM's new 101 carbon fibre stem and bars and Selle Italia's new Thoorx saddle.

For more information go to www.wilier-usa.com

BH
Like Wilier Triestina, BH has been in existence for nearly 100 years. "Beistegui Hermanos S.A. (B.H.) was established at the beginning of the 20th century (1909). The brothers Beistegui founded a factory, where they initially manufactured firearms. In the early 1920’s, BH took their manufacturing expertise and turned their focus to bicycles."

The company is based in the famed Basque region of Spain. In 2005, BH was seen in the European peloton under Manolo Saiz's Liberty Seguros team. Through the efforts of Chris Cocalis, founder of Titus Cycles, BH has finally entered into the U.S. market. In 2008, the BH Connect can be found in the women's peloton under Team Vanderkitten (see below).

Bicycling magazine recently reviewed the Connect:
"It looks like an American-style crit bike. The 890-gram frame (claimed, size small) has a short head tube and very short chainstays (400mm), and the massive front triangle's tubes scream stiffness. The 71.5-degree head-tube angle, however, is a good degree slacker than normal.


On the road, the BH Connect's tucked-in rear wheel, shortish head tube and dominant front-end stiffness reward sprints and tight cornering. Testers rated bottom-bracket stiffness at about an 8-plus out of 10: not a sprinter's dream, but not flexy either. Ride quality is acceptably comfortable and isolated, which is, to be fair, somewhat extraordinary given the Connect's very compact triangles and large-diameter tubes. However, testers found the Connect's ride didn't sparkle with personality. Some also thought the relaxed head tube would keep them from choosing the Connect for crits, but this bike will, after working through a touch of heaviness as you tip it into a corner, carve up descents confidently at extreme rates of speed. It provides the rider with all the qualities of a top race bike without constantly demanding attention to maintain a line--what it lacks in initial responsiveness, it gives back in steadiness."

For more information, contact BH Bikes US.

Kittens Primped Up for NRC Party
TEMPE, AZ
– BH Bikes USA has signed on as the frameset supplier to the professional women’s road racing team Vanderkitten. The team will compete on BH for the 2008 NRC season. “This is a great opportunity for us to partner with a team of women who know how to ride fast and have fun. These women will be contenders in every event they compete in and will be superb ambassadors for BH,” said Chris Cocalis, CEO of BH USA.

Vanderkitten rider Liz Hatch Team Vanderkitten will ride on the BH Connect. “We are honored to have such top-notch support and sponsorship from BH Bikes USA. Vanderkitten Racing is committed to growing the sport of cycling for women and promoting fashionable, top quality, alternative cycling products. The BH Connect will allow all of our women to achieve the highest results possible while riding stunning, world-class frames. As a tribute to this relationship, we’ve changed our signature color scheme for the road team to something that will definitely complement both companies,” added Dave Verrecchia, Creator of Vanderkitten Clothing. Vanderkitten Racing will field and impressive roster for a first year team with seasoned talent and very strong development riders from the US, Canada and abroad. A key component to their flexibility will be their talented regional squad supporting the NRC effort.

Another Piece of '03 Departs


Why do we care about Joseba Beloki?
Just another name on the "Operation Puerto" roster, right?

Beloki, a three-time podium finisher in the Tour de France, retired this week. He gets special affection from the Crankset, however, as a result of his fall during the 9th stage of the '03 Tour that forced Our Boy Lance to ride through a grassy field to avoid a crash.

That was the Tour during which the Crankset met. The Spanish rider had finished runner-up to Armstrong in 2002 and was third in 2000 and 2001. So he was OBL's chief competition in '03, and his crash was a shock.

Beloki suffered multiple fractures, and it was not until 2006 that he fully returned to the peloton with the Liberty team being run by Spaniard Manolo Saiz, having spent a few brief months with the French Boulangere team.

When Operation Puerto affair erupted in May 2006, Saiz and dozens of cyclists (including Beloki) were implicated.

Beloki began his professional career in 1998 with Euskaltel before moving on to Festina, ONCE, Brioches La Boulangere and Liberty.

He said he had no regrets about his career. But after the Tour of '03, he was never the same.

Friday, December 21, 2007

TRIPLE Exclusive - An Interview with Amber Rais, Part II


In Part II of my interview with Amber Rais, we talk about her new environmental venture, Elemental Action, find out what ‘WWJD” means to her, hear about her worst moment on a bicycle, and what her goals are as a cyclist.

You’ll also be privy to some of my foibles as a fledgling journalist, as I find out how difficult it is to transcribe answers while using a cell phone.

Granny’s 30 (G): For those not familiar with Elemental Action, could you provide a brief synopsis, and although they might be evident from the website your motivations for starting it up?

Amber Rais (AR): Elemental Action is an environmental consulting and marketing service I created with the goal of helping athletic teams implement and promote environmentally sustainable practices in their operations.

Because I know what it takes to run a professional team, I can streamline team operations in a more environmentally friendly manner without compromising the essential aspects of team management and performance. My background and connections in environmental science allow me to do so very efficiently and effectively, saving time and money, too.

My motivation to start the company arose from my frustration that some essential aspects of my job don't align with my principles of stewardship, and I believe that others feel the same way. People want to make a difference, and the key is to provide them with the tools to do something about it.

In my last year of graduate school I worked on an environmental education project and learned that the most effective way to engage people in stewardship is to forge connections between people and the environment, fostering a sense of connection and responsibility. Most people who enjoy sports – runners, cyclists, surfers, hikers, kayakers, you name it – have already developed this connection with their local environments, and are thankfully already involved in environmental stewardship. The next logical step – and my goal with Elemental Action – is to provide tools and resources for those who don't already have them, in order to facilitate positive change.

There are a lot of people in the cycling industry working for positive change, but there remains enormous room for improvement. My goal with Elemental Action is to help eliminate the gap between what we are doing and what we can be doing for the environment as athletes, industry members and enthusiasts.

G: In regard to stewardship, what type(s) of tools could you provide to help cyclist or cycling teams?

AR: There are many things teams can do to make a difference, but it can be daunting to know where to start, what the most effective plan of action would be, or how to integrate new practices with existing objectives. With time and effort, these problems are easily solved, but teams generally lack the bandwidth and resources to get started. Team management is a huge responsibility (I know from experience!), and staff usually have their plates full sponsorship, recruitment, travel, equipment and other planning. With my experiences in team management and as an athlete, I know how to integrate new practices without compromising existing objectives. Further, with my background in environmental science and policy, I have the resources and connections to get things done more quickly and effectively than would someone just getting started.

In terms of providing tools, I have a long list of practices that would be feasible for almost any team and that would yield substantial positive impact. Sometimes just letting people know what they can do is all it takes to get things going in a positive direction. Some examples are emissions-reducing strategies for travel, carbon offset programs (which ones are effective and which are a waste of money), recycling ideas, strategic partnerships, and so on. I'm hoping to get that kind of momentum going by offering these tools and resources through Elemental Action.

G: I always appreciated your little Green Tips at the end of your [Cyclingnews] diary entries. For our readers here and abroad, what is one simplistic tip or message that you could send them away with after reading this interview?

AR: Reduce, reuse, recycle. It really is that simple. Anything you can do to habitually reduce your consumption of energy or resources will make an enormous difference.

G: What aspects drew you into the sport of cycling?

AR: When I was swimming, I loved the rhythm and focus of the training sessions, so in a way, that carried over into cycling: you can get into a great meditative rhythm on the bicycle. With cycling though, I could make my own schedule, which was extremely helpful in graduate school, and I love that you can explore so much landscape on a bike. You move quickly enough to cover a lot of ground in a few hours, but slowly enough that you can soak in the sights and sounds and smells of your surroundings. It's a beautiful way to experience the world.

G: What do you love about cycling…dislike [hate]?

AR: I love cycling for the cycling. I love everything about it.

G: Shimano or Campy?

AR: SRAM!

G: So how long have you been using SRAM?

AR: I haven't as of yet, but that’s what we’re using on TIBCO.

[We proceeded to talk about which specific SRAM gruppo TIBCO will be using, and about how the unique shiting characteristics of SRAM might benefit her in the sprints].

G: What is your favorite moment(s) on a bicycle…worst moment(s)? Did it involve a crash?

AR: One of my treasured memories was from one of my first collegiate crits. I had no idea what I was doing. All I knew was that our sprinter Mary shouldn't be riding in the wind and could see her near the front being forced out of the draft by our competition. I got mad, motored to the front, told her to get on my wheel and rode as hard as I could on the front for twenty laps. We dropped all but two other riders, and she won the sprint, which I didn't contest, figuring my work was done. Our coach Art Walker, told me afterward that in cycling I should 'ratchet the machinery of the universe in my direction,' and later that evening, my teammate Katie Behroozi asked me why I hadn't sprinted at the finish. 'I'm not a sprinter,' I said, referring to my swimming history as a mid- to long-distance racer. 'How do you know you're not a sprinter if you don't try to sprint?' she asked me. Good point. The next day I made a four person break in the road race and sprinted. I came in second to a 'pure sprinter' from the opposing team. It was my best finish at the time, and soon I was known as one of the 'sprinters' on our team.

My worst moment wasn't my crash; it was mental implosion. Physical pain is manageable, but the anguish that comes from cracking mentally goes much deeper. It's one thing to give everything you have and not get the result for which you had hoped; it's quite another to have to ask yourself 'What if?' I've cracked mentally once in my career, and I don't ever want to experience that anguish again. It's a brutal lesson, but it makes you tougher.

G: You were certainly on a powerhouse of a team in Webcor last year, what were your reasons for the move to TIBCO?

AR: The time had come to try something new, and I just felt that this was the right path for me. I am especially excited about being part of the steep trajectory of growth in the Team TIBCO program and helping develop the program even further. Webcor has built an excellent program, and it was an honor to race with such a great group of people. They were very understanding about my decision.

G: You've stated that you want to be a cycling force both here and abroad. From your experiences in Europe, how would you compare the races and the competition?

AR: I've only raced two races in Europe thus far (The Route de France Feminine and Albstadt Frauenetapperennen), so my impressions are limited. From what I've experienced, however, the racing in Europe is more aggressive. I think this is because the fields are larger and generally have more representation. Sometimes in the U.S., if only one or two big teams are represented in a race, other smaller teams will race defensively, looking to the bigger teams to make all of the moves, which is not as fun as when you've got seven big teams all trying to annihilate one another in 100k. Other fun aspects of European racing are the road furniture and cobbles – they really keep you on your toes!

G: The Bay area was recently featured in a Bicycling magazine article regarding the risk that cyclist take and the repercussions [or lack thereof] that motorists face when accidents occur. What was your personal experience of riding in that area?

AR: There is a group in Woodside that wants to limit the number of cyclists who frequent their roads, in an effort to maintain the rural nature of the area. It's a beautiful town, but that means that a lot of people want to enjoy it. The community of Woodside includes a lot of ardent cyclists as well, who I'm sure enjoy the riding as well as the rural feel. The problem is that these types of issues become polarized - motorists versus cyclists, or Smalltown, USA versus Group Rides - when the issue is more complex and involves more than two perspectives.

Corrine Crawford's death was a shock to all of us, as was the death of John Peckham not long before that. A friend of mine, MaryAnn Levenson was struck by a drunk driver and thankfully survived, though she is still working through some heavy-duty physical therapy. She is amazing. I really admire her determination to get back to racing.

I can't count how many times a car has put my own life at risk to save ten or twenty seconds on a drive. Then again, when a group ride blows through a stop sign, it doesn't exactly make motorists and residents very happy. The bottom line is that people's lives are at stake, and both cyclists and motorists need to be respectful of one another in sharing the road. The responsibility goes both ways. Organizations like David Zabriskie's Yield To Life Foundation are great initiatives on opening dialogue between cyclists and motorists to increase awareness and understanding in this realm.

G: Do you know your racing schedule for next year? What races will you be targeting?

[Amber stated that she did not have her schedule as of yet, but the team will certainly be contesting all the major NRC races next year. She stated that she would probably target the stage races, as they really favor her skills, but she really does love it all, even competing in the hard and fast crits]

G: Will you try to do some races in Europe next year?

AR: This year, the National Team Residence Program will allow a few riders to live most of the year in Europe to race there on a semi-permanent basis with the National Team. The resident racers will comprise the core of the National Team for European projects, but there are opportunities for racers like myself to race some events where they might otherwise be shorthanded. I'm hoping to join them for as many projects as possible, to gain experience racing in international fields. My primary goal this season is to qualify for the World Championship team, and racing in Europe will be great preparation for that event.

G: What are your goals with the National team? Is Beijing a possibility?

AR: I've historically been very shy about verbalizing my dream to go to the Olympics, but to be honest, it has been my dream since I was ten years old, when I started competitive swimming. So, yes, my aim is to compete in the Olympics. Beijing is probably a bit soon for that, to be realistic. I'm taking things one step at a time, focusing on improving each year. This year's goal is to qualify for the World Championships.

G: What are your favorite races? Do you prefer the one-day Classics or stage races? Who is your favorite rider?

[Amber’s answer vacillated between one-day classics and stage races, even offering up the sentiment that all stage races are essentially multiple one-day races]

G: [Jokingly] Are you familiar with the term, waffling???

AR: Ha! Yes I waffled for sure on that one! I love it all - everything about cycling, so it is really hard to put one type of race ahead of another. If forced to choose, I'd say stage races.

[Amber went on to mention that her favorite races are the women’s]

After the US National Championship Road Race, Andy Stone (of Shimano) told my teammate Mara that the women's road race was one of the most exciting, tactical races he'd ever seen. It was a huge compliment, and I think it is indicative of the quality of racing in the women's fields.

My favorite rider is Jens Voigt. I have never met him in person, but my impressions are that he lays it all on the line everyday and manages to keep a sense of humor throughout all of it. Both are qualities I admire immensely. At Cascade in 2006, I ended up off the front almost everyday. It became a joke in the peloton: So, Amber, when are you going off the front today? Our director started calling me 'Jens' over the radio, and when I got home from the race, I found a package from my teammates containing a t-shirt that says "WWJD? What Would Jens Do?" I love that shirt. I considered it a huge compliment from my teammates.

G: Being a big proponent of women's cycling myself, do you think we will ever see the day when the women's races will carry equal weight to the men's rather than just serving as an appetizer or under card to the main course or main bout?

AR: I have to believe that with time, people will see what exciting racing is going on (and has been!) in the women's fields. The women's peloton is full of fascinating multi-faceted racers. You would not believe the number of graduate degrees that are lined up at the start of most of our races. These women are brilliant, dedicated and very talented athletes. So, not only is the racing exciting, but the women who are out there pummeling one another on the road are also very, very interesting people. Women's cycling is an undiscovered goldmine. It's definitely gotten better for women in cycling over the last few decades, thanks to those women who blazed the trail before now. I'm hoping to contribute to this momentum as well, so women who compete in the sport after I've retired have more of the attention and support they deserve.

G: Thank you Amber for taking the time to speak me. We wish you well on all your ventures and on your upcoming season.

Photos: Chris Norris (top, & third)

Who Followed Whom?

Interesting note on Pez Cycling's "Euro Trash" site about Johan Bruyneel's relationship with Alberto Contador:
If Alberto Contador had not gone to Astana this year, Johan Bruyneel would have followed his intended path out of cycling.

Bruyneel gushed to El Mundo: "His transfer convinced me that I had to continue. I can construct a good team around him. He is young and belongs in the group of the best current riders. He has the physical and mental strength of a champion. His development is, however, not near complete."

With that in mind, Contador still has much to prove: "There are other riders in the team (Kloeden and Leipheimer spring to mind) for whom we will also ride. Alberto must prove to us during the season, that he can win the Tour again in 2008. We have a lot of trust in him."

So many mixed messages in one conversation! Oy ve. This is what happens when you literally have a Tour de France podium sweep on your team.
ALSO:
-- Samuel Abt in the International Herald Tribune:
Reeling in 2008, a dead sport pedaling

File Under: WRONG, Part III

Usually, and unfortunately, we hear about cyclists being killed because of an accident. The following news item from the Chicago Tribune is not only tragic, but completely senseless.

Man Dies 8 Days After Beating by Youths on West Side

By Dan P. Blake
Tribune staff reporter

CHICAGO - December 21, 2007 - A 43-year-old man died Wednesday night, more than a week after a group of youngsters assaulted him on Chicago's West Side, police and family said.

Stanley Williams, who grew up in Oak Park but had recently been taking care of his ailing grandmother on Chicago's West Side, was attacked near her home in the 1000 block of North Long Avenue on Dec. 11, authorities said. He suffered head trauma and died at Mt. Sinai Hospital, according to the Cook County medical examiner's office.

"He told police he was walking down the street when he was struck in the face with a fist," Officer Marcel Bright said. "Then he fell down and at that point he felt like he was being punched and kicked."

According to his longtime girlfriend Erica McIntosh, Williams had been riding his bicycle about 4:30 p.m. that day before he was attacked by the group of teens. Bright said there was no description of his assailants on the initial case report, but McIntosh said witnesses described his assailants as neighborhood teenagers.

Police said no arrests have been made.

Williams' mother, Rosetta, said her son loved riding his bike year-round despite the weather and was probably returning home from his job as a cook at local restaurant when the assailants jumped him.

"All I understand is it was a bunch of punks hanging on the corner," Rosetta Williams said.

Police said they are awaiting the results of an autopsy scheduled for Friday to determine whether Williams died as a result of the battery.

Rosetta Williams said her son often would ride his bicycle through Cook County forest preserves to escape traffic.

A graduate of Oak Park and River Forest High School, Williams was trained as a window installer and recently worked as a contractor for the Chicago Housing Authority, McIntosh said. Together they had two children, ages 13 and 17.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Reviews - Vanderkitten

On the 8th day of Christmas the Crankset gave to me:
Vanderkitten Clothing
Champion System Apparel
Spoke Punchers bike hats
ELEMENTAL Action,
A guest review of The Warmfront,
The 3rd Edition of the Cyclepassion - Bicycle Calendar,
Stocking stuffers from Three Story Press, and
Shimano and Campagnolo compatible "enhancement" brake HUDZ

Vanderkitten
In 2008 Vanderkitten Racing will take the roads to hopefully raise the women's professional circuit to a new and respectable level.

But before the VK Racing team was a "glint in someone's eye," Vanderkitten was already a well respected clothing line for "Women Who Kick Ass."

The grassroots clothing company from Berkeley, CA was started "based on the lack of Urban Wear with a message relating to women who were strong, independent and empowered." And although Vanderkitten shifted their emphasis toward athletics in 2006, because of their relationship with Velo Bella Cycling, according to owner, Dave Verrecchia, "our original roots were a lot of musicians, DJ's, clubsters and artists."

So this holiday, if you're looking for the perfect item for that woman in your life that has "been discouraged from taking life by the horns, doing things that are reserved for "boys," and criticized for making a statement," then run, don't walk, over to Vanderkitten.


Photo: Jennifer Tilley - Professional Mountain Biker (Velo Bella - Kona)

Ritchey Stands by Two; O'Bee Employed

Ritchey Design Signs Contract to Continue Sponsorship of Health Net and Symmetrics Professional Bicycle Road Racing Teams

From Chip Smith (SOAR Communications):

SAN CARLOS, Calif. - Dec. 20, 2007 - Ritchey Design Inc. today announced the re-signing of separate sponsorship deals with the Health Net Presented by Maxxis and the Symmetrics Fuelled by FarmPure top-tier North American-based bicycle road racing teams.

The 2008 racing season will be Ritchey Design's fifth year sponsoring the Health Net Presented by Maxxis team and its third year sponsoring the Symmetrics Fuelled by FarmPure team with high-end carbon fiber and aerospace grade alloy cockpit components, such as handlebars, stems and seat posts.

"Health Net and Symmetrics are two of the toughest competitive teams on the professional road racing circuit," said Steve Parke, general manager and vice president of marketing for Ritchey Design. "We believe bike racing is the best place to prove our component designs. By signing with these two superb racing teams, we continue to move forward in producing the most innovative, top-quality products on the market."

Health Net Presented by Maxxis
"To run a consistently successful racing program we have to use equipment that can take the beating of 140 days of racing and 16,000 miles of training," said Thierry Attias, president & director of sponsorship for Health Net Presented by Maxxis. "Ritchey products can do that. Its products are cutting edge and super reliable. Any other partnership would be a compromise."

Ritchey will supply the Health Net Presented by Maxxis with its World Championship Series (WCS) Carbon one-bolt seatpost, Alloy Ergo handlebars, Carbon 4-AXIS stems and Pro Oversized 30-degree stems and alloy adjustable stems for time trial bikes.

Health Net is one of the most dominating domestic teams. The team has been home to multiple national champions, Olympians, world championship team members and one world champion. They have earned four consecutive USA Cycling National Racing Calendar (NRC) team titles and averaged 35 NRC one-day, stage and overall stage race victories, as well as averaging 66 NRC podium appearances per season since 2004. Overall, the team has averaged 72 victories per season in NRC, UCI and non-NRC races during the last four years.

Symmetrics Fuelled By FarmPure
"Signing with Ritchey Design for another season of sponsorship is a huge win for Symmetrics Pro Cycling," said Kevin Cunningham, Symmetrics Fuelled by FarmPure's team director. "Ritchey road parts are proven in some of the toughest professional races worldwide, and their philosophy of lightweight but reliable top quality materials will help to ensure success for Symmetrics Cycling."

Symmetrics will be using Ritchey's World Championship Series (WCS) Carbon one-bolt seatposts, Alloy Ergo handlebars, 4-AXIS alloy stems, as well as the new UD Carbon fork (sub 300-grams) and Streem saddles.

Canada-based with an all Canadian roster of racers, the Symmetrics team has an almost family like atmosphere, rare for an elite level road team. Team President Mark Cunningham and his brother Kevin have worked hard to retain top riders who are courted by bigger-budgeted U.S. teams.

In 2007, the team's three-time Canadian national champion, Svein Tuft, won the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) America Tour, which is a season-long competition between teams from North and South America and is one of the world's premiere events for professional cyclists. At the conclusion of the tour, Symmetrics was ranked 3rd out of 19 teams with 977 points (the second place team scored only 473).

As a result of Symmetrics Cycling's 2008 season, Canada earned three berths at the World Championship Road Race, as opposed to the single one it had last year, as well as three guaranteed spots for Canadian racers in the Beijing Olympics road race.

For more information about Ritchey Design, please visit www.ritcheylogic.com, for information about the Health Net Pro Cycling Team, visit www.teamhealthnet.com, and for information about the Symmetrics Pro Cycling Team, visit www.symmetricscycling.com.

O'Bee Finds a Job
In separate, but perhaps equally significant, news for Health Net Presented by Maxxis, Kirk O'Bee has re-signed for the 2008 season.

After a season in which the Michigan native [and now Vancouver resident] saw a return to form [winning two stages and placing third overall at the Nature Valley Grand Prix, winning a stage at the Cascade Classic, and capping it all off with a second career USPro Criterium Championship in August] O'Bee languished in the wind with nary an offer.

Some had speculated that offers were few and far between because of his past [being suspended for one-year due to an elevated testosterone to epitestosterone ratio in 2002]. When his current team didn't immediately chime in, it looked to be the end of his road career and an indictment by the whole of the American cycling community that the doping culture was no longer welcome; as there has been a similar sentiment [and expungement of riders, current and past] working its way through the disgraced European peloton.

Despite the lack of a contract, O'Bee maintained his spirits and even refocused his goals. He began to train for an opportunity to represent the country in Beijing as a member of the Olympic Track Cycling Team. Although he will be a long shot in his disciplines, he can now rest easy in the knowledge that Health Net seems to have found [or rather re-found] their man.

Photo: Casey B. Gibson

TRIPLE Exclusive - An Interview with Amber Rais, Part I


I am not a person who engages in the use of superlatives often. In fact, it is extremely rare. But after my recent conversation with Amber Rais (Team TIBCO), I was left with the assertion that a single superlative might not be enough in describing the 25 year old from Reno, NV.

Amber came into the sport of cycling later in life than most. She swam competitively as a child and eventually earned a partial scholarship to the Division I program at Stanford University. But after three years, and a career hampering shoulder injury, she suffered exhaustion from the sport.

With her athletic career in a tenuous position, Amber channeled her energies into her academics. Shifting her area of concentration to Marine Biology in 2001, she discovered new passions that in turn provided a much needed respite from competitive athletics. Amber would go on to earn a Bachelor of Science in Human Biology with a concentration in marine biology and environmental policy, and a Masters of Science in Earth Systems with a concentration in environmental systems and oceanography from Stanford University.

Her cycling career began like most, with a healthy curiosity. Amber actually began on the dirt entering a few collegiate mountain bike races, which isn’t too surprising since the Bay area is considered to be one of the birthplaces of the discipline. As she grew more adept at the sport and in confidence of her abilities, Amber switched to the road.

The switch to the pavement served to stoke her competitive embers, and in a short time Amber worked her way into becoming one of the top collegiate cyclists. With additional tutelage from her coach, Linda Jackson, the “all-rounder” now stands at the precipice of becoming one of the United States’ best.

In Part I of my interview with Amber Rais, we discuss stardom, her “hidden” talent, and some of her passions.

Granny's 30 (G): You've been touted as one of cycling's rising stars, how has it been dealing with stardom [fandom]? What do you feel is more difficult to deal with, stardom or the expectations that come with stardom?

Amber Rais (AR): This question will be much easier to answer if I ever actually become a star! I don't feel any extra pressure as I improve, but knowing that people connect with what I'm doing really fuels my motivation.

To be honest, not much has changed in terms of my mental outlook since I first dedicated myself to the sport. I just get more focused and motivated each year, and I don't feel any pressure except from myself, which is plenty.

What is really cool, however, is getting positive feedback from people at the races or from people who connect with something I've shared in my diaries. I am always surprised to get emails from readers or to be recognized at a race, but it is a great feeling to connect with people that way. Knowing that what I'm doing might have a positive impact on someone – anyone – is very fulfilling and motivating.

G: As an athlete, do you feel a responsibility for being a role model?

AR: I've observed that athletes are looked to as role models much more than they realize. It's obvious to most of us that Olympians and World Champions are role models, because we've looked up to them ourselves. What people often forget is that athletes of ALL levels are role models, and it's important to remember that.

G: You've mentioned your coach, Linda Jackson, and you are a participant in the USWCDP, how has each contributed to your development as a cyclist and as a person?

AR: Linda discovered me at the 2005 Cat's Hill Criterium in California, where she watched me race and said to my boyfriend David 'This girls has got it. If she wants to, she can take this as far as she wants.' Coming from Linda Jackson, this was huge. I always take compliments with a grain of salt to keep a realistic perspective, but Linda's belief in me was a major turning point. We began working together shortly after that. Her coaching took my fitness to a whole new level, and within a few months, I had signed with Webcor. Linda has been my rock from the beginning, and she constantly challenges me to improve and push myself.

I got involved with the USWCDP earlier this year as a mentor. I'm at a funny place in my career where I have enough experience as an athlete and cyclist to give back and serve as a resource for others, but I still have a long way to go and look to other mentors in the USWCDP for guidance myself. Michael Engelman has made enormous contributions to women's cycling, targeting unmet needs in the sport. He's got great vision, and we're working on some big ideas. I see a lot of progress in women's cycling already, and I want to do my part in targeting aspects where there is still room for improvement.

G: I'm a bit surprised by your statement that Linda's coaching took you to a whole new fitness level. Not to diminish any of Linda's coaching skills, but I would have thought that being an elite level swimmer you would have been at an extremely high fitness level. Were you speaking toward your general or cycling fitness in that statement?

AR: After I stopped swimming, I didn't think I'd ever compete in sport again, but I loved the vibrant feeling of being fit that comes with being an athlete. I took up trail running and loved it, but I was a fish out of water. I have a theory that swimming and running are mutually exclusive sports: if you get really good at doing one, you'll probably struggle with the other!

By the time I tried cycling, I had lost most of the fitness I'd had in swimming, but thankfully, my swimming career had developed a strong aerobic capacity, the foundation of which remained, latent, waiting for the proper training to be fully realized. My first year of competition, I primarily trained myself, with a lot of great advice from my fellow collegiate teammates at Stanford.

When we first started working together, Linda got me to push myself to a new level on the bike, and she hasn't stopped since! Swimming taught my body to endure an enormous training load and still recover well. I just needed Linda's guidance to get me on a proper regime of training and recovery specific to cycling. More than the physical training, she also helps me a lot with the mental aspects of training and racing, helping me stay positive and focused.

G: Why Graz, Austria?

AR: My boyfriend, David, and I have been talking about moving to Europe for a couple of years now. After finishing his PhD and minor at Stanford, he had job offers in Boston, Cape Town, Paris and Graz. Graz was the best of all worlds for us, since it offered great training for me and the ideal position for David. We've been here for three months now, and we're taking German language classes together. David is an Assistant Professor in Biomechanics at the Technical University of Graz, and I've been training and doing my research and consulting work from home. In addition to Graz and the Austrian wine country, we've gone exploring in the Czech Republic, the Alps and in Switzerland thus far. We're loving it here.

G: Do you speak any other languages?

AR: I speak French pretty fluently and am slowly learning German. Once I get the German down, Italian might follow, but first things first.

When I opened a menu on our first night in Germany for the race in Albstadt, I couldn't read a word of the menu. Now I have no problems with the menus and can read almost all of the signs I see around Graz. I really enjoy reading menus here for that reason: it reminds me of how much progress I've already made with the language. The speaking is coming along more slowly, but it will take time and practice.

G: What is one thing that most people don't know about you?

AR: For one thing, I play piano and compose music. I play any time I have the chance, but since I don't own a piano myself, those opportunities have become scarcer than I'd like.

G: Being in the land of Mozart, I would have thought that a piano would be in every household?

AR: My old apartment complex had a piano in the common area and was home to a lot of retired folks who loved to hear me play, no matter how horribly I might stumble. Whenever I needed a little ego boost, I'd go play and get a round of applause! Seriously, though, I loved brightening someone's day with a little music. I find playing very calming and rejuvenating.

When I was 14, I competed at Junior Nationals in Bryan, Texas (at Texas A&M, where they have a gorgeous pool!). I had a recital two weeks after the swim meet and needed to practice, so I asked the concierge if there were a piano in the hotel. He said, "Yes, in the bar." I went to the bar and asked the bartenders if it would be okay for me to play. They said yes, and that is when I realized that the piano WAS the bar. It was also at this point that a rowdy bunch of inebriated locals started heckling me about whether or not I played The Lone Ranger. I cringed to think what their reaction would be when I started to play Chopin and Beethoven, but I needed to practice. I sat down and played the pieces I was preparing, which included some very depressing waltzes and a somber Sonata. When I took a breather to chat with my coach, who had stopped in to listen, one of the locals came over - hat in hand - and asked whether I'd be willing to continue playing, as they were enjoying the music!

G: Who were your musical influences? What music do you enjoy listening to?

AR: My piano training included primarily what most people call "Classical Music" which generally refers to anything from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic and even Modern Periods. My favorite periods are the Classical and Romantic periods, but I love it all. I used to listen to Vivaldi before swim meets to get ready to race. That said, I also had Led Zeppelin and White Zombie in my pre-race CD collection, so I guess you could call my taste eclectic.

Being in Austria, I got to see the building where Mozart was born in Salzburg, and the building where he lived later in life. It was like walking on hallowed ground for me. I still haven't been to Vienna, but it's on the menu. A lot of people go to Vienna to study classical music, but Graz attracts those music students focused on jazz. I can't count how many times I walked out our door to be greeted with the sounds of a full live jazz band playing down our street on the town square - it's amazing!

In addition to playing, I studied a lot of music theory, and that background has deepened my appreciation for all genres, which isn't to say I like everything. There is some really amazing avant-garde music out there, but some of the new experimental stuff is more about being different than about quality music. It's got to be both.

David and I have a good friend - Steve Smillie - in Minneapolis who owns his own record label called One Percent Records (http://www.onepercentrecords.com/), so we get to hear a lot of great new music and underground bands through him. He's also a realtor and has a Blog called Twin Cities Hardcore Punk Realtor. Seriously, you should check it out.

G: You started out in human biology; did you have designs on medicine initially? If so, was there a seminal event that led you to focus on the environment and oceanography?

AR: Wow. You hit the nail on the head. When I went to college, I had no idea what I wanted to do, but had a vague inclination toward medicine, as I loved biology and everything to do with physiology. The Human Biology program was the perfect fit, because aside from the core curriculum, it allowed students to create their own 'Area of Concentration.' After I stopped swimming, I took advantage of my new flexible schedule and studied for a quarter at the Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford's satellite campus in Monterey, where I fell in love with marine science and discovered a new depth to my passion for environmental issues.

I got to do everything: tagging live sharks, elephant seals, harbor seals and tuna, SCUBA diving for research, designing microbiology lab experiments, conducting oceanographic research for weeks at a time at sea, building biodiversity surveys via snorkeling around deserted tropical reefs, testing VO2 max values in mackerel, measuring cardiac function in tuna, swimming with sharks, performing surgery to implant archival tags in live tuna, and so on….

The Marine Station is right on the shore of Monterey Bay, so I used to swim out to the mile buoy and back on my lunch break, often accompanied by twenty or thirty harbor seals who loved the company. They would nose my feet and bomb around trying to get me to dive and flip with them, then they would watch me leave the water, their curious little heads bobbing above the surface, wondering why I wouldn't stay and play. Just as fascinating as the charismatic mega fauna were the tiny little guys living on the rocky outcroppings in the kelp forests - anemones and nudibranchs and gastropods and algae and tube worms - all so eclectic and elegant in their design and appearance.

I switched my Area of Concentration to Marine Biology and Environmental Policy, and studied on and off at the Marine Station for more than a year and a half. Later, I decided to pursue my Masters in Earth Systems, a program that offered the perfect combination of hard science and training in policy and resource management. I wanted to equip myself to get out in the world and do something to protect the beautiful, complex ecosystems I had come to know.

G: Is there a doctorate in your future?

AR: I applied to two programs back when I had first started racing. In my experience with research and watching a number of people, including David, go through PhD programs, it's clear that it would have to be my top priority. My personality is also such that I'm only satisfied with myself if I've given an endeavor my full effort. For now, my focus is cycling, and I'm giving it everything. A PhD program may well be in my future, but not until I've given cycling my all, and not until I've decided that I want to devote myself completely to a doctoral program.

In Part II of my interview with Amber we talk about her latest venture, Elemental Action, find out what "WWJD" means to her, and her goals for her cycling career.

Photos: Chris Norris (top)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Reviews - Champion System

On the 7th day of Christmas the Crankset gave to me:
Champion System Apparel
Spoke Punchers bike hats
ELEMENTAL Action,
A guest review of The Warmfront,
The 3rd Edition of the Cyclepassion - Bicycle Calendar,
Stocking stuffers from Three Story Press, and
Shimano and Campagnolo compatible "enhancement" brake HUDZ

With the news of Pacific Cycle forming an alliance with Champion System, I decided to take a look at the latter as it was certainly a new name to me since I've been in nothing but Pactimo apparel for the past few years.

Champion System
Founded by competitive cyclists, Champion System combines their knowledge of the apparel business with a love of the sport to offer the finest pro quality garments to the cycling masses. By allowing teams, retailers, clubs and individuals to order custom uniforms with unlimited colors and low minimums, Champion System sets a new standard in the custom cycle wear business.

Champion System currently makes cycling apparel for approximately 3,000 cycling teams. Amongst the more notables are Toyota-United, Jelly-Belly and Team TIBCO.

Champion has simplified the custom apparel business for retailers and consumers by offering:

* Low minimums-10 pieces for jerseys and 50 pairs for socks
* Affordable pricing-As low as $45 for a customized short-sleeve jersey
* Quick turnaround time-Delivery in as little as two weeks

Regardless of order size, Champion System shows attention to detail by adding a radio pocket to bib shorts, scaling graphics to each particular garment's size through a digital sublimation process and using full-length concealed zippers so that front graphics are clearly visible.

Probably the highlight of ordering from Champion System is using their Champion System Dressup Price List!

Champion System also manufactures customized technical apparel for the motor sports industry and team sports, such as soccer and rugby.

If you're small group of riders looking to create some kits, or a full fledged team, it would be foolish not to put Champion System on your list when considering cycling apparel.

I Thought Hemingway was a Fisherman!

"It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle."
-- Ernest Hemingway

Specialized Recall

Just in case any of our readers currently own the Specialized 2D helmet or bought one recently for the holidays, please read the below.

Bicycle Helmets Recalled by Specialized Due to Failing Helmet Standard

WASHINGTON, D.C.
– The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with the firm named below, today announced a voluntary recall of the following consumer product. Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed. (To access color photos of the following recalled products, see CPSC’s Web site.)

Name of Product: Specialized Bicycle Helmets
Units: About 3,000
Manufacturer: Specialized Bicycles, of Morgan Hill, Calif.
Hazard: The helmets fail testing required under CPSC's safety standard for bicycle helmets. This can pose a head injury hazard to riders in a fall.
Incidents/Injuries: None reported
Description: This recall involves the Specialized helmets, model 2D. Model “2D” is printed on the sides of the helmet in the rear. The helmets were sold for men and women in matte black, white, silver, blue, pink, and team colors.
Sold by: Specialized through its authorized retailers and online stores between July 2007 and October 2007 for about $200.
Manufactured in: China

Remedy: Consumers should stop using the recalled helmet immediately and return it to an Authorized Specialized Retailer to receive a free replacement or a full refund.

Consumer Contact: For additional information, contact Specialized toll-free at (877) 808-8154 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. MT Monday through Friday, or visit the company’s Web site at www.specialized.com.