Tour de France Stage 2: Fast, But Not the Fastest

Team time trial speed record? Good post from Chris Carmichael on how yesterday’s shorter (Stage 2) time trial played out. But he and others are calling yesterday’s 23-kilometer the fastest in Tour history.

Really? The winning team, Garmin Cervelo, clocked 24:48 for 23 kilometers. The way I calculate the speed (dividing 60, the number of minutes in an hour, by 24.8, the finishing time in decimalized minutes, then multiplying the dividend, 2.41935484, by the distance covered, 23 kilometers), I get an average speed of 55.65 kilometers an hour. That means that Team Discovery’s 2005 team time trial, in which they covered 67.5 kilometers in 1:10:39, an average speed of 57.32 kilometers an hour, is still the absolute record. (Some of the excitement about the average speed came from the stage’s first time check, for which the fastest team (Sky, I think) came through in 9:02. For that opening stretch, their speed was 59.8 kilometers an hour).

Even if yesterday’s winning time had been the fastest average speed on the Tour books, I think it would be awkward at best to consider it the fastest in Tour history. No two Tour courses are the same, for one thing. For another, I think Discovery’s feat of maintaining that sort of intensity over such a long distance–what, you’re going to say they were *all* doping?–was exponentially tougher than the dash we saw yesterday.

Also of note: the high speeds put in by other teams in the 2005 TTT. Team CSC was just 2 seconds behind Discovery, 57.17 kph; T-Mobile came in 35 seconds back at 56.86; Liberty Seguros was 53 seconds back at 56.61; Phonak, 1:31 back and 56.12; Credit Agricole, 1:41 and 55.99; Gerolsteiner and Illes Balear-Caisse D’Epargne tied at 2:05 and 55.68.

By my count, that’s eight teams that recorded higher speeds over a much longer distance than Garmin-Cervelo put in yesterday.

Coinage: The Great Groundhog’s Eve Blizzard

The headline is all I have to say: I just want to be among the first to dub this week’s monster winter storm in the eastern half three-fifths of the United States The Great Groundhog’s Eve Blizzard. In fact, I think Groundhog’s Eve is a concept that needs to be explored further.

In other news, the big post-storm controversy in Chicago is over the timing of the city’s closure of Lake Shore Drive at the height of the storm (see today’s Sun-Times: City stands by Lake Shore Drive closing; and WBEZ: The Great LSD Gridlock: Blizzard of 1979 redux? ). The Sun-Times also has a stunning photo gallery of the snowbound Drive (that’s the source of the photo below).


The 2011 Project

As another blue-eyed one never quite said, “Resolutions, I’ve had a few.” (It may interest you to know that language statisticians say the use of the word “resolution” peaks during the last week of December each year and tails off to nearly nothing by mid-January). But this year, we’re leaving resolutions behind and simply projecting the year ahead based on observed phenomena during a given period of time. In this case, the period is January 1, the first day of the year. Based on what happened yesterday, in 2011 I will:

  • Watch all or part of 2,190 college football classics and see the Big 10 lose 1,825 times.
  • Eat homemade pasta with Eamon and Sakura 365 times.
  • Have 1,460 cups of strong coffee and 365 cups of tea.
  • Drink alcoholic beverages zero times.
  • Comment on the beverage name “Pocari Sweat” 3,650 times.
  • Consume 35 million calories from various snacks and holiday sweets.
  • Take The Dog for 1,460 walks and pick up 1,460 holiday leavings from said Dog.
  • Step in a pile of waste left by the neighbor’s cat 365 times.
  • Lose track of The Dog while doing an outdoor chore, look for him up and down the block, get irritated with very nice neighbor who let The Dog in to hang out with her family, apologize for getting irritated: 365 times.
  • Weigh myself 365 times and think “that’s not too bad, is it?” about 5,000 times.
  • Conceive 131,400 brilliant ideas (20 for each waking hour) and 13,400 inspired projects (two every waking hour) based on same.
  • Play 2,190 games of Fruit Ninja on my daughter-in-law’s iPad (hi, Sakura!) and lose every one.
  • Look at work email on my day off 1,040 times.
  • Check personal email, Facebook, and Twitter 3,650 times.
  • Check on delivery status of items ordered online 730 times.
  • Shop at the Shattuck Avenue Andronico’s 365 times.
  • Complain about a stuffed-up sinus 3,650 times.
  • Take 1,095 ibuprofen tablets.
  • Take 365 showers.
  • Shave zero times.
  • Change my underwear 365 times.
  • Go into the office zero times.
  • Wear shorts outside on a cold, rainy day 365 times and have 365 conversations about it with a total stranger.
  • Research federal and state laws and regulations about indoor lighting 365 hours.
  • Take zero naps.
  • Consult the weather forecast and/or Doppler radar 1,825 times.
  • Watch the movie “Inception” 365 times.
  • Take 10,950 pictures, of which 365 turn out.
  • Put on and take off shoes or slippers 7,300 times.
  • Think about getting in touch with family and friends 3,650 times. Make call or write email to same zero times.
  • Think about writing a blog post 3,650 times. Write a blog post zero times.

Inevitable Question

The other day I punctuated my usual non-riding with a ride up Tunnel Road. As my heart rate increased and my breathing grew more labored, I heard a chipper voice behind me. “Nice jersey,” it said. Then the voice’s owner drew even with me. It was Elmar Stefke, a very strong rider I know both from Paris-Brest-Paris preparations in 2007 and from Berkeley Ironworks cycling workouts. I said hi. He said he was going to complete the interval he was doing and would talk to me at the top. We wound up riding a little way together, and the inevitable question came up; actually, more than one inevitable question:

Elmar: You riding much?

Me: I’m just trying to remember how to ride a bike.

Elmar: You thinking about 2011 [the next running of PBP]]?

Me: Um …

Elmar: Are you?

Me: Well, you can’t help but think about it.

To get the full import of the conversation, you need to imagine me gasping for breath and Elmar spinning along easily. The discussion didn’t come to a conclusion, but we did review briefly how the ’07 PBP concluded for each of us. I had the onset of Achilles problems about a quarter of the way into the ride and quit (the weather–rainy and cold, didn’t improve my outlook any either). Elmar, a superb athlete who’s a physical education instructor at UC-Berkeley, had knee problems that forced him to back off a fast pace and limp in for the final 100 miles (still: he finished an edition of PBP that the weather turned from a challenging event to a grueling one).

It’s true: If you’ve been to PBP, if you’ve been part of the little randonneur community (by numbers it’s a tiny subculture compared to the world of marathoning or Ironman triathlon, for instance), you can’t help but think about it. Of course, there’s a big difference between thinking and riding, and PBP and all that leads up to it is all about riding.