Thursday, 29 November 2007

Winter (Continued)

BlackAdder back home

You know how it is when you are out driving your car in a snowstorm, with the wind howling and the flakes flying, and you see a guy on a bike and you think "He's crazy." I have become that guy.

This morning when I got up the weather looked okay, and certainly warmer than yesterday. But by the time I had had breakfast and gotten ready to go the snow had begun to fall in huge, swirling flakes. This time I was smart enough to wear cycling glasses with the clear lenses and, with some trepidation, I set off into the white whirlwind.

Note the tire tracks coming into the driveway

I discovered very quickly that 33 mm tires can go through anything. This should not be a surprising discovery since they took me through the mud so easily on the C&O Canal towpath but it was a novelty since my previous commuting history had been on my old Gitane with narrow 23mm high-pressure racing tires. I cruised in comfort and security, almost as fast as on dry roads and felt no slipping or handling issues.

Leaving Vanier and entering New Edinburg I did not see many cars so I could take the centre of the road, all the while holding a steady 20 km/h or so. I rode easily over the bridges on the Rideau River, with their creepy steel mesh roadway, and rolled into the office only a few minutes later than normal. Pretty well covered with snow, but almost on time.

Will it never end?

As I sat in my office I looked out of the window occasionally. Of course, the snow stopped as soon as I entered the building. And it began again when I left! But at least I know that I can ride comfortably in fairly deep snow. I just have to stop from time to time to wipe off my glasses.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Seriously Cold

I am still riding BlackAdder, my city/cross/shopping bicycle the 8.5 km return trip to work each day. Yesterday was actually fairly mild and the return trip, in particular, was actually quite pleasant.

Today is a different story. Leaving the house, the temperature was -14C (6.8F) and there was a light 8 km/h (5 mph) wind blowing. However, once you start rolling on the pavement the Do-It-Yourself-Windchill goes up pretty fast, and I was doing some long stretches at 25 km/h (15.5 mph). The calculated windchill works out to around -38C (-31F).

When I got to the bike parking area at work, there was one other cyclist. Although I am ridiculously proud at having ridden in, I hope that the cold weather does not last too long!

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Auf Wiedersehen, Team T-Mobile

Giants no more

T-Mobile bicycles ready for the 2006 Tour
Morzine, France

From today's

Cycling News Flash for November 28, 2007

Edited by Sue George

Deutsche Telekom pulls sponsorship, but the team will continue

By Susan Westemeyer

(Click for larger image)
Team T-mobile as presented at the beginning of the 2007 season Photo ©: Photosport International

Deutsche Telekom AG has stopped its sponsorship of T-Mobile Team, effective immediately, it announced Tuesday afternoon. However, High Road Sports Inc., the team management company, said that "its elite men's and women's cycling teams will continue racing in 2008 after T-Mobile has ended its engagement. The teams will now be known as 'Team High Road'."

Telekom had sponsored the team, under the names Team Telekom and T-Mobile Team, since 1991. "We arrived at this decision to separate our brand from further exposure from doping in sport and cycling specifically. This was a difficult decision given our long history of support for professional cycling and the efforts of Bob Stapleton in managing the team in 2007," said Deutsche Telekom Board member and CEO of T-Mobile International Hamid Akhavan. "We have an obligation to our employees, customers and shareholders to focus our attention and resources on our core businesses."

The team had been rocked over the last two seasons by a series of doping cases. "We have worked very hard with the current team management to promote a clean cycling sport but we reached the decision to continue our efforts to rid all sports of doping by applying our resources in other directions. Deutsche Telekom AG wants to make it clear that this action is not based on any disagreement with or misconduct by team management," Akhavan emphasized.

High Road Sports, owned by Bob Stapleton, holds the team's ProTour license. "T-Mobile's decision to end its involvement in professional cycling is a challenge for the sport and our team. We will review and adapt our operations, and continue to advance our leadership position in athletic success and commitment to clean and fair sport that began during our work with T-Mobile," said Stapleton.

"We have an outstanding international roster of exciting young talent backed by proven veteran leadership for 2008," he added. "We will likely be the youngest team in the ProTour and believe that together, these athletes can shape the future of the sport with their talent and commitment."

High Road Sports will use the next few weeks in intensive preparation for the 2008 racing season. "We have good options, but plenty of work to do to begin racing in less than 60 days," noted Stapleton. The team is focused on beginning its 2008 campaign with the first Race, the Tour Down Under in Australia in January.

The team's sponsorship contract was set to run until December 31, 2010.

(All rights reserved/Copyright Future Publishing (Overseas) Limited 2007)

Enthusiastic Fans at the 2006 Tour

Well, this is not totally unexpected but is still a disappointment. Much more so than USPS or Discovery was Team America, Telekom/T-Mobile was surely "Germany's Team." From feeble beginnings in 1991, when Erik Zabel was pretty well the entire story for the next few years, the team became a powerhouse of Eurocycling: Tour de France victories in 1996 and 1997, wins at Milan-San Remo, Paris-Nice, Classica San Sebastian, HEW-Cyclassics, the Vuelta, Amstel Gold, Zuri-Metzgete, Tour of Flanders, Tour de Suisse, Liege-Bastogne-Liege--a long list.

Matthias Kessler

But so too is the list of riders who have admitted to doping or have been thrown out of racing because of it: Zabel, Riis, Rolf Aldag, Christian Henn, Matthias Kessler, Alexandre Vinokourov, Oscar Sevilla, Udo Bolts, and, most recently, Patrik Sinkewitz. Serhiy Honchar, who won both time trials at the 2006 Tour de France, was invited to leave the team, as was domestique Eddy Mazzoleni, for unusual blood readings and '97 Tour winner Jan Ullrich was fired before he could even start the 2006 Tour as revelations about blood-doping surfaced in a Spanish inquiry, "Operacion Puerto,"which is still having repercussions. What a list...

Serhiy Honchar

It has been argued that whether pro cyclists dope is immaterial: it is all just entertainment anyway. I don't buy this argument. Road racing is the most beautiful sport in the world and it is diminished by cheaters, who steal from other cyclists as well as the fans, and the facile argument that "they all do it" does not justify it. With all the revelations after the 2006 Tour, things were supposed to be cleaned up. Tour magazine ran an article about the new "clean" generation of Germans who were going to save the sport, riders including Stefan Schumacher, Markus Fothen, and, yes, Patrik Sinkewitz. It turns out that Sinkewitz has been doping since he was 21.

Linus Gerdemann wins Stage 7
Photo ©: Sirotti

It is the fourth rider featured in the article who might give fans hope for the future. Linus Gerdemann surprised everyone with a stage win at the Tour de France on July 14th this year. It was a wonderful effort as he gradually dropped his companions and finished the stage on the Col de la Colombière, winning not only the stage but the yellow jersey as well. It clearly took everything he had as the next day he could not keep up at all. It was the finest win at the Tour this year, in my opinion.

Monday, 26 November 2007

I want to ride my bicycle...

A lot of people have welcomed Winter with open arms in Ottawa but I just see it as the end of the cycling season. Bah! Humbug! I have been riding BlackAdder to work almost every day since I returned to Canada in September and had hoped to go into the second or third week of December before it got too messy.

But Hope springs eternal! It was above freezing today and there was a whole lot of melting going on so I hope that the roads will be clear enough to ride on Monday. BlackAdder has 33 cm tires so going through the messy stuff will be a lot easier than when I used my old Gitane for commuting.

And if worst comes to worst, I can cheer up by looking at a site that my friend Will has directed me towards: it is dedicated to crazy people actually riding in ice and snow: Ice Biking! Although my favourite photo has to be the racer climbing Loveland Pass in his shorts during a snowstorm!

I may be able to eke out a few more rides before the big snowfall that shuts everything down but there will be no serious riding until April, I guess. So it is time to look into alternatives: I am going to spinning classes at the athletic club; there are lots of badminton clubs in Ottawa if I want to jump up and down for an evening each week; there is cross-country skiing, which has enough cachet that I will not lose much of my cycling coolness if I do it. Who knows--there may be new opportunities in winter yet.

Still, I miss the sunny skies and the open road already!

Saturday, 24 November 2007

Muesli: A Way of Life

Ottawa is cold (albeit sunny) and snow-covered so it looks like it will be some time before I can write about new cycling adventures of my own. However, I have received a special request from Terri in North Carolina for my Bircher-Muesli recipe. It has been featured on the Fat Cyclist's blog and a lot of people have used it as part of a weight-loss program.

This combination was developed in Switzerland at a health spa by a doctor, Dr. Maximilian Bircher-Benner, searching for the perfect all-around food that could be eaten anytime. You can make up a batch and the longer it sits in the refrigerator the better it becomes, but I find that it tastes so good that it does not last very long. It is low in calories and fat and high in nutrients and fiber and really, really cheap to make. Dr. Bircher figured that you could actually live on just this. Well, with a cappuccino, I guess.


2 Cups rolled oats
1 1/2 Cups unsweetened apple juice
1 1/2 Cups plain low-fat yogurt
1 Granny Smith apple, chopped
1/2 cup of slivered almonds
1/8 cup of flax seed, for those Omega-3 fatty acids!
raisins or dried cranberries or currants, qty up to you

Mix this together in a bowl, refrigerate overnight. The oats will soak up the apple juice and it may take a few tries to get the right consistency. I prefer that it is not too dry. Serve over a sliced banana.

History 0f Bircher-Muesli from

Muesli was introduced around 1900 by Swiss doctor Maximilian Bircher-Benner for patients in his hospital, where a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables was an essential part of therapy. It was inspired by a similar "strange dish" that he and his wife had been served on a hike in the Swiss Alps. Bircher-Benner himself referred to the dish simply as "d'Spys" (Swiss German for "the dish", in German "die Speise").

The term muesli is a diminutive of the Swiss German noun "Mues" (German: "Mus"), a cooking term for a semi-liquid made from raw or cooked fruit that lacks an exact English equivalent, but that is related to mush, paste, compote or the French purée. Muesli in its modern form became popular in western countries starting in the 1960s as part of increased interest in healthy vegetarian diets.
Original Bircher-Benner muesli recipe A slightly modernized version of the original Bircher-Benner recipe is still a prototype for most fresh muesli today. For one serving, it consists approximately of: * 1 tablespoon rolled oats, soaked in 2–3 tablespoons water * 1 tablespoon lemon juice * 1 tablespoon cream * 200 grams apple (about one large, preferably a sour variety), finely grated and mixed with the above directly before serving * optionally top with 1 tablespoon ground hazelnuts or almonds.
The original recipe actually used sweetened condensed milk instead of cream, a compromise due to hygiene concerns regarding fresh milk products in 1900 (bovine tuberculosis, etc.), before pasteurization and refrigeration became commonly available. The original recipe also advised to soak the oats in water overnight; this long soaking time is unnecessary with modern rolled oats, which the manufacturers already soften through a steam treatment.
Who was Dr. Bircher-Benner, anyway?
Maximilian Oskar Bircher was born in Switzerland on August 22, 1867. After studying medicine in Zurich, the young doctor opened a general practice in Zurich's industrial quarter.
During the first year his practice was open, Bircher-Benner fell ill with a slight case of jaundice.
It is said that by eating raw apples, the doctor was soon healed. Bircher-Benner became more and more convinced of the healing power of raw fruits and vegetables. Between 1895 and 1900 he conducted numerous nutritional experiments with raw vegetables on himself, his family and even the patients who seemed appropriate. He finally developed the dish that has become a classic around the globe, Bircher Muesli.
In November 1897, Bircher-Benner opened a small private clinic for dietetics and physical healing methods on the Asylstrasse in Zurich. In 1904 the newly qualified doctor of medicine, who was finally housed in the villa district on Zurichberg, opened a new sanatorium in a sunny southwestern location. It was called "Vital Force," which is a key term from the German lifestyle reform movement which states that people should pattern their lives after the logic determined by nature, thereby living in harmony with nature. The clinic's reputation soon spread outside Switzerland and patients included princes and industry moguls, musicians and literary figures.
The new nutritional value teachings of Bircher-Benner were a stark contrast to the usual dietary notions, according to which the value of foodstuffs was measured by its protein and calorie content. According to Bircher-Benner, food should no longer be just a means to satiate hunger or feast upon, more importantly it should keep the body healthy. Meals should contain little or no meat with potatoes, dark bread, milk and milk products.
Dr. Bircher-Benner died on January 24, 1939 at the age of 72. He did not live to see the opening of the "People's Sanatorium for a Lifestyle Based on Nature." Thanks to the donation of a patient, this sanatorium, run according to his ideas, was opened in the same year in Zurich. In addition, the "Vital Force" Sanatorium was renamed as the "Bircher-Benner Clinic" in his memory in 1939.

And because we live in the Modern World of the Internet, some young German entrepreneurs have come up with custom-mixed cereal, using 75 different ingredients, that you can order on-line. This is of course just the dry version of muesli but it shows that after 110 years there is still a demand for this.

And you have to wonder how something that tastes so good can be so healthy for you.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

The Ironman is for Girlie-Men! Give me the Gigathlon!

As an amateur athlete (with more emphasis on the amateur part), I always enjoy reading about the successes of other people who have had great results at sports events even if they can only train part-time since they have jobs and families. I have done many 100 mile or 200 km bike rides, which impresses neophytes (Bicycling magazine seems to have "Prepare For Your First Century!" as a feature in every third issue).

Many of us know people who have participated in events such as Ironman-length triathlons, or even the ridiculous 1200 km bike ride held every four years, Paris-Brest-Paris. L'Etape du Tour, the chance for amateurs to ride the same stage as the Tour de France pros, is high on the list of tough things to do, as is the exciting JeanTex Transalp. But I have recently found what must be one of the hardest of all: Switzerland's Gigathlon.

The Gigathlon comprises five different events: mountain biking, swimming, road cycling, inline skating and running. It goes all the way around Switzerland pretty well and takes a full week. There are variations on how to do it: as a solo participant, as part of a couple or in a team of five. You can sign up for the full week, a two day part of it, or, in a team, for a single particular day. If not going solo, you divide the different events up each day, so one person might be the runner, another the swimmer and so on. Since each event starts at one spot and ends somewhere else the logistics alone are terrifying, but what really is stunning is what you would have to do each day as an athlete.

For example: 132 km of cycling with 2000 vertical meters, followed by 3 km of swimming, then 21 km of running with 700 m of altitude gain, then 19 km of inline skating and finally a mountain bike leg of 57 km with 1550 m of climbing. This totals 235 km of distance with nearly 4500 vertical meters. Multiply this by seven for the week and you get some idea of how hard--and complicated!--this must be. The organizers have set out a chart showing everything that needs to be accomplished here. The chart indicates how the challenge is viewed in terms of technical requirements, conditioning and scenery, with classification ranging as high as "Breathtaking."

The winners in 2007 in the Couples, Men's, Women's and Team categories. The Men's winner, Roger Fischlin, is a policeman from Zurich and was also the winner in 2006. His elapsed time was in the order of 66.5 hours, which is pretty good for 1432 km and nearly 27000 vertical meters! Respect.

I cannot imagine a less commercializable sport than this one, so there are still places for happy amateurs to fight it out. No money, not much in the way of sponsorship or recognition but it looks like a lot of fun. If you are a bit crazy.

(all photos from the Gigathlon official website)

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Global Warming and the Bicycle

I have been reading about how systems are developing around the world to trade carbon offsets. As a bicycle commuter, I am concerned with the environment (although the fact that there is no parking at work may also be a big factor!) but there is also the pleasure I get riding to and from the office. It was cold and windy this morning but I dressed properly and felt great.

I received an e-mail newsletter trom TerraPass, probably the largest carbon-offset trader available to consumers. I had originally gone on their website to determine how to make my next trip to Europe carbon-neutral and there is a lot of interesting stuff on the site. What piqued my interest today was a piece by Adam Stein, the director of marketing at TerraPass, about how bicycling has changed his transportation life. But I think his concluding comments are particularly important:

Now it’s been five months of biking to and from work every day. I feel healthier and I’ve gained satisfaction from “riding” the TerraPass talk. This weekend I measured my gasoline usage from January to May (115 gallons) and June to October (55 gallons). My auto-related carbon emissions dropped from 2,249 pounds to 1,031 pounds over a comparable five-month period. I’m not saying everyone can make such changes in personal transportation. But if 20% of urban dwellers in the U.S. would shift from a car to a bike as their primary way to get around town, it would add up to a lot of tons of real carbon reductions.

When I lived in the United States, a lot of people pooh-poohed bike commuting as an alternative to driving but in fact it can serve as a useful supplement for particular kinds of trips.

Tailwinds to everyone!

Saturday, 3 November 2007

My Ride with Fred

Fred V. and his Miyata

One of the nice things about returning to Ottawa is renewing old friendships. Today I returned to Gatineau Park to ride with my old cycling buddy, Fred V. We rode together in Europe, doing a multi-day tour along the Taubertal and the Altmuehltal in southern Germany, as well as some riding in Brandenburg, including a disastrous ride near Pritzwalk in freezing rain that I had more or less forgotten about until he mentioned it today.

We met at the Visitors' Centre near Rue Gamelin. Fred had his black carbon Miyata bike, which he has recently modified by switching to straight bars and installing a new Shimano 8-speed Alfine internal hub system. The bike has a single chainring, which he thought was a 38 tooth. The Alfine is the newest high-end system from Shimano. I rented a bike in Switzerland once with a 7-speed Shimano Nexave, which was quite nice but probably pretty heavy.

Intrepid Cyclists at Champlain Lookout

Fred is retired and has lots of time to ride up and down the Gatineau Hills. We rode up towards Champlain Lookout, electing to do the direct route as it was fairly cold (2C?). We were joined by a rider on a white Moser who asked to join us rather than ride alone. He and I went ahead on the hills as we were a bit faster than Fred but Fred rocketed by us on the downhills quite nicely. The Moser rider rode a number of climbs in the Pyrenees this summer and we talked about riding in Europe. After I pulled away from him easily on a big uphill, he remarked that I had a rider's physique, something nobody has ever suggested before. At least that weight loss effort this year yielded results. And Fred was very happy with the ride as he managed to knock off no less than six minutes from his previous best time on the climb.

Fred and I chatted at Champlain Lookout for a while and then headed back towards Ottawa. It was much colder in this direction, plus we had the windchill factor from descending. My hands were getting pretty cold but I felt very good on the bike, as if I could chase down anyone I wanted at will.

Along the Ottawa River

We left the Park and after riding along the bikepath on the northern shore of the Ottawa River crossed at the Champlain Bridge. We turned towards the east and were soon at the Bridgehead coffee shop on Wellington Street, where Fred treated me to an excellent late and a peanut butter cookie.

The River Highway

We parted ways soon afterwards and I rode along the Ottawa River bikepath past the new War Museum. There was a plaque explaining the geology of the region and how, a million years ago, the Gatineau Hills were mountains nearly as high as Mt. Everest. The area where I was cycling was part of the Champlain Sea, and would have been 250 feet under water only 10,000 years ago. There was also a plaque describing the Ottawa River as "the river highway," with some very nice metalwork calling the mind the front and back of a cargo canoe, with voyageurs at the paddle. I could not resist taking a photo with the Tarmac in between.

Parliament Hill

The path took me past the War Museum, the Supreme Court of Canada and Parliament Hill. Unfortunately, the Rideau Canal had been drained so I could not cross over one of the locks and instead had to ride up behind the National Arts Centre and then ride through the Byward Market.

Today's ride

Considering we are in the first week of November, I was very satisfied to get in a nice 75 km ride, with almost 1,000 m of climbing and some nice socializing.