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Update – 11/21/08

– Michael Barry continues to impress us with his writing as much as with his racing. This article on was one of the best we’ve read in awhile, as much for who it’s about as what it says. ‘In a season which seemed loaded with doped winners and their Pyrrhic victories, his story is refreshing. These are the stories that give cycling its emotional depth…’

– A classic rule of business life is that when customers are disappointed, they complain. But when they’re happy, you rarely hear from them. It’s a rule that generally holds true here at Competitive Cyclist, but a golden exception occurred this week when a very happy Ridley Dean customer emailed us this photo. Depending on where you work, maybe it’s NSFW. But there’s something Madonna-and-child-like it that makes it artful. Or is it Madonna-and-ARod-like? I dunno. But it’s nice to see some customer satisfaction in action.

– We won’t spend much time today discussing the decimation of the US economy and its impact on the bike biz. But I saw this article on the NY Times and it’s not good news. Play Magazine always did a super job covering sports of all sorts, not just the Yankees, Giants, and Knicks. Most notable was its August ’07 article about the Howard Hughesifcation of Floyd Landis. The article conveys Floyd’s dismal state unlike anything I’ve read elsewhere. Quality journalism like this is 100% absent from the endemic cycling press. It’s a bummer that one of the few effective outlets for it is gone.

We’ve previously remarked about the senseless double-standard for dopers in pro cycling. Most get crucified, but some, like David Millar, somehow become darlings. We didn’t understand the double-standard when we wrote our original column about it this summer, and we still don’t get it now. But Millar can rest assured that he’ll have a fellow Doper Darling in the peloton in 2009 in the form of Ivan Basso. This press release is small-but-not-inconsequential proof that doping pays.

– You can’t talk about the upcoming ’09 season without thinking about Thee Almighty Lance. But if Chris Carmichael has his way, you won’t be able to think one thought about Lance without thinking about Carmichael Training Systems. IT’S NOT EVEN THANKSGIVING YET and everywhere you look it’s Carmichael, Carmichael, Carmichael in the press about Lance’s training. In the tunnel with Lance; motorpacing with Lance; eating breakfast with Lance; probably wishing he could wash Lance’s bike and mow his lawn too if it might help him net a 1-year extension on his Nissan ad deal. I don’t have Lance fatigue, but am I alone in the onset of Carmichael fatigue? Cyclingnews, Velonews, Bicycling, Bike Radar -- everywhere it’s Carmichael pleading the case for his relevance.

Raise your hands if you read the book ‘Lance Armstrong’s War’ by Daniel Coyle. If you did, then you doubtlessly remember the chapter early on about ‘Dr. Evil’ -- Michele Ferrari. There’s a scene where Lance, Hincapie, and Landis are all in Girona doing lactate threshold tests with Ferrari. Coyle watches Ferrari with his finger-pricking needles, with his medical equipment, with his carte blanche to punch buttons on Lance’s SRM Powercontrol, and ponders the freedom with which Ferrari wanders in and out of Lance’s apartment to chit-chat about training. With all of this in mind, Coyle turns to Landis and asks him who Lance’s coach really is, Carmichael or Ferrari. ‘Come on,’ says Floyd. ‘You’ve met them both. Who would you listen to?’

– In Lance’s book ‘It’s Not About the Bike’ he explained how quickly his sponsors abandoned him when he got his cancer diagnosis. Only three stuck by him -- Giro, Oakley, and Nike. This loyalty meant the world to him, he said, and so he’d be a Giro, Oakley, and Nike man for life. Loyalty is awesome. And grudges are awesome, too. We support Lance in both emotions. But we’d suggest that he get his cobbler to work, because the shoes shown in this photo from a recent time trial in Texas are Rocket 7’s, not Nikes.

The landscape for Nike on the bike industry is considerably different now than it was during Lance’s heyday, and therein might be the explanation for Lance’s shoe choice. In the 2000-2005 era, Nike was still busting its hump trying to penetrate the bike industry. They had Giordana make its clothing; they had DMT make its shoes; and all distribution was done through Trek. If you wanted a Discovery or Postal jersey, or if you wanted a pair of Lance-replica Nike shoes, you had to buy it through your local Trek dealer. That agreement ended about 18 months ago, and as far as I know Nike cycling clothing and cycling shoes are history. Surely Lance is wearing Rocket 7’s because they’re really freaking nice shoes. But shouldn’t someone stitch on some swooshes? It’s one thing to see the Nike logo on clothing, but shoes is where they belong…

– As we all know, Lance recently invested a nice chunk of cash in SRAM, and we applaud the move because we’re certain that SRAM isn’t just poised to slay Shimano in the future, but they’re actually doing so right now. For those of you who own SRAM road components, or who are giving consideration to ‘making the leap’, do yourself a favor and save a copy of this PDF. It explains how to set up and adjust SRAM road shifting. It’s not the same as Shimano and Campy, and the info on this page nicely lays things out.

– Speaking of Shimano, here’s a small update on Dura Ace 7900 Electronic, aka Di2: The original delivery date estimate for Di2 was January, 2009. There’s absolutely no way this will happen. If it’s released before the Giro d’Italia, lunch is on us. Shimano is already late on non-electronic Dura Ace 7900 delivery (original promise: October). We’ve still seen, in essence, none of it. And while we’ve been promised by several parties that we ought to see it not too long after Thanksgiving, the supply will be super-limited. Not only in depth, but breadth as well. If you want compact cranks, or non-172.5mm cranks, you’re in trouble. And cassette assortments will be narrow too. Here’s to hoping you like 25t as your low cog.

Other than the fact it’ll be very late to market, what we can pass along about Di2 is that the 4-piece road package (STI, rear derailleur, front derailleur, and battery pack) will cost $2,150. We don’t have individual component prices for Di2. We don’t have weight information. We don’t have clarity about battery longevity expect for vague assurances of ‘the charge will last a long, long time.’ And if you’re hot for the TT shifters, well we have no info at all about that. Long story short: Di2 is mind-blowing stuff to use. Almost as mind-blowing as Shimano’s inability to balance public expectations with the vagaries of new product development.

Some nice photos here from the Rapha/Independent Fabrications booth at the recent Tokyo bike show. Interesting stuff to look at for the sake of looking, but the ever-cozier Rapha/IF relationship has started getting us wondering. As you likely know, Rapha promoted the hell out of IF ‘Cyclocross’ clothing this winter . So you’ve got co-branded clothing. Shared booth space at a trade show. And a new bossman at IF with a big-money big-corporate resumé whose first public act was to shitcan one of the best-loved guys in the whole bike industry, Matt Bracken. What, exactly, is going on here? I hope it’s just a big case of ‘true, true, and unrelated’, because much more of visible alliance between Rapha & IF possibly means (a) Rapha clothing will potentially lose its appeal to non-IF owners; or, worse, (b) Some sort of merger/acquisition might be in the cards. And that would make about as much sense as the Shimano America acquisition of Pearl Izumi. The goal of M&A is to create ‘synergy’ and cost-savings. 2+2 is supposed to equal 5, right? How does that happen when you combine a hard-goods company with a soft-goods company? I can’t think of a single example in the bike industry when it’s ever been a success.

– This was formerly my favorite photo of Tom Boonen. But now I think this one is.

– Once the track cycling events at the Beijing Olympics wrapped up, we used this forum to ask USA Cycling members how they felt about the abysmal performance of the US team on the velodrome. A USAC road license costs ~$75/yr, and we wondered what % of that sum gets wasted by allocated to the track program. We then advocated taking these funds -- plus any add’l funds supplied by the US Olympic Committee -- and entrusting it to Cadence Cycling in New York City. The coaching staff at Cadence could establish a relationship with the NYC public schools, and we felt assured that within 8 years we’d see a cadre of badass trackies. Unlike USAC, our pals at Cadence are astute and highly organized. Unlike USAC, our pals at Cadence know track training and track tactics. Give Cadence the teens of the Lower East Side, and USAC can have the rest of North America. Cadence and the Lower East Side would slay in the medals count. Guar-an-teed.

We don’t intend to dis’ the current roster of athletes in the US track program. If they had authentic emotional and financial support from USAC, perhaps they’d flourish. But USAC management is a disaster. Here’s what we’d like to know: What’s the annual budget for USAC? How much of it is raised by license fees and USAC race-day surcharges paid on race day by racers & promoters like you and me? And of that total, how much went to defend in court the inexcusable incompetence you’ll find here, and the damages that resulted? Disgusting.

– Economy-be-damned, are you excited to buy that new-for-2009 bike you’ve had your eye on? Wanna know why your LBS can’t get it in stock? This is probably the reason why. The key sentence is this: ‘The new law requires manufacturers to certify that all bikes manufactured after Nov. 12 meet [new] CPSC regulations.’ The cost in both money and time to get this mandatory 3rd-party testing done will be ugly for everyone -- except for the testing companies, of course.

– Do you have a wireless SRM Powermeter? Do you use an Apple cpu instead of a PC? If so, you can contact Gear Fisher at Training Peaks here to beta test the native Mac app they’ve programmed to send data into the Training Peaks software. Your days of Virtual PC are almost over!