Sunday, October 31, 2010

Life of a PRO

--The other day I had a conversation with a domestic PRO. I learned a lot of cool stuff about being a PRO. Here's a quick recap.

On doping and testing:

PROs have an iPhone app now so they can tell where they're going to be if they aren't in there registered location (most PROs are required to give a set place they will be and a set time each day for testing). He mentioned right before the Tour of Cali that they came and tested them at 6 AM which is pretty crazy. He said the whole thing is kind of a joke because you have guys doing really hard drugs and getting away with it but then riders can't have so much as a vitamin B injection. He also said some riders still use a potassium drip--which is illegal since all IVs are illegal--before time trials. Potassium bicarbonate (?) wards off lactic acid.

On salaries and contracts:

For a ProTour team the league minimum is 24,000 EURO. However, most new guys don't get to keep any of that. I had heard about this from a guy in Belgium. What happens is the team writes up one contract saying what you really make. You sign this. Then, they have a second contract saying you make the league minimum. They send this one to the UCI.

In the US, it's the opposite. Say they want to pay a guy $100k--a ton by cycling standards. They write up a contract saying he's making very little and send this to the UCI. Then, they have a second contract saying he makes $100k. They do this because if they say they're going to pay a rider $100k they have to lock up a bank guarantee, which most teams can't afford.

The riders are considered contractors so they teams don't have to provide health insurance. For ProTour teams riders are required to have health insurance. The teams, however, aren't required to provide it. This could be problematic for the guys making nothing. Fortunately if you're a European you already have healthcare provided. Imagine that! Also, if you wreck in a race, your medical bills are your problem. I thought there had to be some sort of in-race coverage but that's not the case.

On food and housing:

The team he was on usually tried to provide hotels with a cooking area. Then, they could make their own meals. The team would provide breakfast, think continental style, food during the race, and a sandwich or something for right after the race. For dinner, they were on their own. This could cause tension because the guys would want to celebrate or go out but some guys are making $8k and some are making $100k. On account of this, he said it was often better with host housing because they usually fed the riders. Some of the guys would just bring a hot plate though and cook their own meals.

As you can see, being a PRO is a really tough road to haul. And yes, people will always quote the super-stardom of Lance Armstrong, but that's the fallacy of the outlier.

--Yesterday I was riding up Tunitas when I saw a tree that had fallen on the road. This was the second one I've seen this year. The other was near Alpine Dam a few months back. (I saw a third today on the way home from Marin.) This brings up a good point about how invaluable the sense of hearing is when riding. The first tree I saw fall fell seconds after I passed. And the only reason I passed as quickly as I did was because I heard a loud crackling above and sprinted.

Aside from the 120 degrees of a human's field of view--the quality of which varies with vision and level of attention--the sense of hearing is the most valuable protection you have against outside forces. If a car passes, you can hear it. If a Fred passes, aside from the other issues you may have in that a Fred is passing you, you at least hear it. The importance is amplified in urban areas where there are a large number of cyclists with varying degrees of abilities and tact.

I used to listen to music while riding but at one point I stopped. There wasn't some event that happened, I just stopped doing it. The more I ride the more I realize how important the sense of hearing is and how dangerous listening to music is while riding, but I'm guessing that's what the RoadID is for...

--While at home, I also realized I had left my chamois cream at home. Instead I resorted to some trusty Boudreaux's Butt Paste. If you're ever in a pinch, this stuff works quite well. If it were cheaper than chamois cream I'd use it instead.

--WADA has just released a report about UCI testing at the Tour. I haven't read any of it but it looks like they weren't doing a very thorough job of testing suspicious or targeted riders. Here's the report itself.

--Speaking of testing, apparently some have proposed night testing. Nibali was one of the ones who spoke out against this. First off, I think this has officially reached "witch hunt" status. Second, this sounds like it could be really effective. I'm guessing most of the doping or blood drawing/injecting happens at night. If riders could be tested at night I think they would find some interesting results. That being said, what's the cost? The cost for anti-doping measures is already through the roof and this certainly wouldn't help. Okay, I'm going to avoid going into the deeper arguments on whether or not we should continue to combat this, yada, yada. I rode hard today. I'm tired.

--In the wake of the recent issues with the biological passport Velocity Nation has posted a solid interview with Michael Ashenden. He's an Aussie cycling doctor who is big in the anti-doping movement. Here's another Velocity Nation interview with him from 2009 where he talks about Lance's 1999 samples.

--Graham Watson (@grahamwatson10) got into some beef recently. Apparently the link for his LeMond pics was under the folder "fool." The guy who found this out emailed him about it and Watson said it was an error, but then went on to say LeMond should "keep his mouth shut."

I tend to agree, I don't think LeMond is doing himself any favors or actually doing any good. On the same note, seems like Watson is a bit "fool"-ish for voicing these opinions.

--Speaking of tech and cycling, Italian Cycling Journal has tracked down a press release from Campagnolo about its electronic shifting.

--Velonews has another "Ask Nick" article up. Readers submit questions for a PRO mechanic and the first two have been pretty interesting. One of the questions from this week's is whether or not they reuse equipment from Roubaix.

--I'll leave you with this funny. I've been calling for an "iTeam" for a while now so I was happy to see I'm not the only one mixing Apple and cycling:


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