Strava and Contador
“Just so you know, there's a Strava segment up here.”
A couple of buddies and I were riding. We'd just rolled through an intersection, which took us away from town and into the rolling, green hills of Greenville, South Carolina - my former hometown. The ribbon of tarmac dipped and curved - generally a beautiful road typical of the outskirts of town.
Like a small breakaway group in a stage race, none of my riding companions picked up the pace in an effort to snag the KOM. Instead we rolled through the segment chatting about nothing in particular. No KOMs were earned that day.
Full disclosure: I'm a member of Strava, as well as a few other on-line bike log sites. One common thread among all the sites is the basic general information: the day's mileage, ride time, location, etc. What Strava has done is made the concept of riding, for the most part already a social thing, even more social. You can “follow” professional riders as well as your buddies and leave comments or Kudos about their rides.
With Strava you're now “riding” with hundreds or maybe “thousands” of people on that same stretch of road. Riding may not be the right word - competing is more accurate. Certain sections of your route may have become KOM/QOM segments and everyone who passes through is timed, ranked and categorized for all to see. Depending on your membership level at Strava you can get a more complete breakdown of KOM holders as well as a number that quantifies how hard you suffered during your ride.
Unless there's an unusually high level of self-control present, the competitive nature of athletes tends to kick in and certain segments are ridden “full gas.” Are we “Stravaing” ourselves away from enjoying the ride and instead focused on the group mentality of getting the fastest time?
On various popular routes there are numerous Strava sections, including a couple on my hometown's bike path: The Swamp Rabbit Trail. On the weekends, or when the weather is good, the trail is packed with not only cyclists, but families with kids in tow. On several occasions I've seen riders blasting down the trail, dodging families like they were road furniture on a Tour de France stage. The trail does have a 20 mile per hour speed limit, which is enforced by a motorcycle officer with a radar gun. However, as some unfortunately do in their cars, speed limits are broken or at least bent by bike riders.
Recently Strava had a lawsuit dismissed by a San Francisco judge brought against them by the family of a man who was killed trying to recapture his KOM position on a downhill section. The death of someone is horrible, but the court ruled Strava couldn't be blamed for that man's decision to push the boundaries and the tragic consequences that followed.
This might sound like an anti-Strava rant and we should just be out on our bikes, enjoying the ride and not constantly looking to beat a personal record or reclaim a KOM segment. Quite the opposite. Use Strava, Garmin Connect, Training Peaks, or whatever to track and monitor your rides. These, and several like it, are valuable tools for training. However, don't let every KOM challenge become a taunt or affront to your fitness. Take a deep breath and ride through the section knowing you were sticking to your training plan or just enjoying the moment and nature on the ride. Of course there's another option - don't join any athletic social media sites and just ride. That was good enough for Eddy Merckx.
Contador Comes Clean
In an exclusive interview with RoadCycling.com Alberto Contador is surprisingly candid about the recent 10 year ban handed down to Johan Bruyneel by the American Arbitration Association.
What is surprising is that one of the three other defendants in the case, Jose “Pepe” Martí, claims that there was no way he could have administered doping products to USADA’s witness to the doping, Levi Leipheimer. The now retired Leipheimer claims that “Pepe” was supplying the go-go juice during the 2007 Dauphine Libere. Martí counter claims that that he couldn’t have stuck a needle in Levi’s muscular glutes as he was working with Alberto Contador during that time.
On the surface that statement throws a lot of suspicion and questions onto Contador. A trainer with a shady background claims to work for Contador? You’d think Al would be ruffled by that statement as it implies that by “working with” means supplying him with “the good stuff.” Instead El Pistolero picked up his mobile phone and promptly called into the Roadcycling.com headquarters to set the record straight.
Rolling his “r” with excitement Alberto said, “I’m rrreally glad this is finally out in the open. Yes Pepe was with me at the Dauphine, but it is with much serenity that I can say nothing nefarrrrious occurred.”
When pushed about why Pepe, a man know for a reputation as someone who transported and sold performance enhancing drugs, would be in the service of Contador, the Spaniard was eager to explain.
“I barely knew the guy. For the longest time I thought he was the Bruyneel’s brother-in-law. Pepe was always hanging with JB and running errands on his motorbike.”
When asked if Bruyneel’s ban and the subsequent controversy might affect his form for the upcoming Tour de France, Contador was a bit guarded.
“I’ve had a good sensations in the legs so far, but there are many protagonists in this year’s Tour. Froome’s girlfriend has posted to Instagram his skinny veiny legs. Anyone that malnourished is bound to be a threat for the GC.”
Contador’s current team Tinkoff-Saxo is owned by Russian gazillionaire Oleg Tinkov. In the past Tinkov has been publicly critical of Contador. However, that seems to be in the past as Oleg wrote in his blog, “that's why I criticized him (Contador) and tried to motivate him; I knew he could deliver so much more.” Is that truly the case and did Alberto become motivated by Oleg’s “Do it for the Gipper” speech?
After much hesitation Alberto replied, “Honestly his ‘motivational’ tweets cut me like a big ring into a rider’s leg. That is all agua under the bridge and I’m ready to finish in second place behind Froome in the 2014 Tour de France. I can’t wait!”