Thursday, April 27, 2006

News Flash; Chris Horner wins stage 2 of Tour of Romandie!

Chris Horner, a former co-worker of mine, a great guy and somebody I trained with many times over the years, just won the second stage of the Tour of Romandie, solo. The time bonus and 4 second gap between him and Alejandro Valverde have placed him in the overall lead of the Tour.

(photo AFP)

Congratualtions Chris! Your friends here in San Diego are thrilled and pulling for you to take the overall title! Way to go...


Monday, April 24, 2006

Houston BP MS150

Did I mention I did a little bike ride in Houston?

I was wrong about the number of riders participating in the event. I said 13,000, but they actually re-opened the registration to allow another 500 riders for a total of 13,500 riders. In case you're wondering, that's almost one entirely uninterrupted paceline for 100 miles.

The event started off just after sunrise, with a carnival atmosphere that was really cool. I pulled into the overnight parking lot at the starting point stadium around 5:30 in the morning. I was a guest member of the large Sun & Ski corporate team, something like 350 riders, so I wanted to get there in time to get all set up and ready to go in the staging area.

BP (yes, British Petroleum) is the title sponsor of the event and has been for a number years. It was announced at the event that they would be continuing as the title sponsor for another few years at least. In the above picture, you can barely see the BP logo on the balloon. They were gasing it up just before I snapped this picture... it looked really cool in the dark and lit up with the flames. The reflective dots are the lane markers for all of the corporate team staging areas. BP had the largest contingent with something like 500 riders- it was pretty impressive to see.

This is what happens when 13,500 riders get stuck in traffic lights... you can't see all that clearly, but the line of riders in the distance is practically never ending.

I spent the first 15 miles or so riding with the owner/ founder of Sun & Ski Sports, Barry Goldware. Barry is an exceptionally nice guy, but is not a lifelong cyclist like I am. I told Barry in the first mile that I was really impressed by his commitment to do the ride. It takes a lot for somebody who doesn't ride all the time to commit to riding 98 miles the first day and another 80 (or so) the second day. I have a ton of respect for Barry and all of the other folks who did the ride without years or even months of regular training. Hell, I've been racing and riding for about 25 years and it was still a long day for me.

The first real crash happened somewhere between miles 15 and 20. It was at this point that Barry and I got separated. Once I realized I wasn't going to find him in a sea of several thousand other riders, I decided to just go out and ride my ass off. I had a blast doing it too...

If you've never done any of the large group rides/ charity rides, I highly recommend them. As a race geek, I knew that the ride wasn't going to be smooth and fast like a race, but the fun of riding with so many people pumped up on doing something wonderful for a wonderful cause, was just the best. Yeah, I know, some bike snobs will turn their noses up to the idea of riding with "commoners" but they don'tknow what they are missing. Sure, there were some riders I didn't want to be next to or behind, but even those folks were reveling in the good deed they were doing- how can that be bad?

Among the really cool things to happen during the ride, was the overwhelming support and enthusiasm of the various towns the ride procession rolled through. There were people stopped along the roads all the way, yelling support, holding up signs of encouragement and generally being nice. In a couple of places, it looked like the entire town was out on the street to welcome us. Complete with bands and the local high school cheerleading squads. It was better than any actual race I've ever done.

We rolled through the town of Fayetteville on our way to the overnight stopping point Lagrange. Fayetteville has a posted population of 261 people, but I'll bet there were 400-500 people lining the one road through town. Yelling and screaming, waving flags, ringing cowbells (and you can bet they were real cow bells) and generally having fun. Fayetteville is one of the most picturesque Western post card towns. It was apparently an old stage coach/ train depot town over a hundreed years ago. The original buildings were amazingly cool.

Here's Belleville, the midway point rest stop and lunch break. I stopped to fill my bottles back up and have a few orange slices.

Here's the Masiguy bike next to a Masi Alare, our least expensive bike. There were a lot of Masi bikes on the ride. Every time I saw one, I would say to the rider, "hey, nice bike" as I rode by. I got a lot of really perplexed looks for that. I had a couple of good conversations with some of the Masi owners too. One guy recognized me and asked if he could get his picture with the Masi Guy. Obviously I said yes. This was hugely flattering and really made me smile. I mean, I'm just a bike dork with a blog after all.

The sea of riders and bikes in Belleville. It was amazing to see so many bikes and people.

There was also a sea of people trying to get to the bathroom...

Bottom right... yep, my steed again...

Along the way to Lagrange, we rode through some really pretty pasture lands. The roads were either flat or rolling slightly with very few "hills" to speak of. I mean, even I was able to keep it in the big ring and roll over nearly every bump we came to. Although towards the end I think I dropped it into the small ring on a couple of the rollers.

Prairie to the right of me...

... more prairie and an oil refinery to the left of me.

The road ahead is full of riders to chase down...

... and the road behind is full of riders trying to chase ME down.

More to come...


Friday, April 21, 2006

Houston, we have a problem...

Well, I'm here in Houston and looking forward to the big ride Saturday. Big, as in 13,000 riders big. The Houston MS150 ride is the largest in the US and I am really looking forward to it. As I mentioned before, an aunt of mine has recently been diagnosed with MS, so the ride takes on more than just a little personal significance for me. I will be riding with extra motivation and energy in the legs thanks to her. My aunt Joan is very dear to me and was like a second mother to me while my mother and stepfather were living in Italy for three years. For a number of years, I worked for the same company as my uncle (who is one of the greatest friends I've ever had as well) and we would frequently have lunch, the three of us. So I will be thinking a lot about Joan during the ride tomorrow and likely sharing stories about her with other folks riding for people they love too. That is one of the best parts of rides like these- you get the chance to share with others the things that motivate you. I really like that part...

Houston is hot right now, even with the "cold front" blowing through. Temps are in the upper 80's and the humidity is probably a little higher, so it feels mighty warm. I got in to the hotel and had a quick, though very late lunch, answered a bunch of emails and then put the bike together and went for a little 2 hour ride around the city to get the legs loose after sitting on a couple planes and walking through a couple airports. Traveling just tears me up, though I love doing it. I always feel much, much better if I can get a ride in and get the legs moving and stretched out a bit.

Today, I planned to ride nice and early before heading off to do "the dog and pony show" of selling bikes, but it was pouring rain sideways so hard it sounded like hail. On top of that, the thunder and lighting were insane! I love real weather like this, but I am now such a SoCal "it never rains here" rider that I couldn't motivate myself to ride. Besides, I'll be riding something like 80 miles tomorrow anyway.

Since I should be off to the stores soon, I should probably get in that last cup of coffee and brush the teeth. If I don't get the chance to post again for a few days, I'll at least try to get lots of good pictures during the ride on Saturday and provide reports on the barbecue.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

MS150 Houston, Texas...

Howdy Houston!

Masiguy will be in Houston, Texas this Thursday until Sunday evening. I'll be riding the MS150 and hanging out with the 13,000+ other folks riding in hopes of finding a cure for MS (Multiple Sclerosis) and hoping to have a fun time riding in the heat of Texas. So if you're in Houston and on the ride this weekend, keep an eye out for the Masiguy.

I look forward to seeing old and new friends (especially all the fine folks I met during my visit in January) and getting the chance to enjoy some good barbecue too. Masi is the supporting sponsor of the barbecue Saturday night and I am told that it is quite, quite good. So come look for me and sit and have a beer and barbecue with me.

Looking forward to seeing y'all reall soon.


Monday, April 17, 2006

Bob Roll- fun read.

This is a great read. Yeah, I'm a little biased, but so what?!


Sunday, April 16, 2006

Congrats Schleck!

Wow, Frank Schleck (CSC) just pulled off an impressive late race attack to win Amstel Gold.

Congratulations Frank!

I had it all wrong; I figured Bettini would be the man of the day, since he's been itching to win. Boogerd is always in the hunt in Amstel too, which he was again, but Frank was the smartest in the race.

Wow. It's a shame that CSC never wins anything...


Friday, April 14, 2006

Now that the formalities are done...

Now that I have gotten all of the formalities out of the way, in the form of the necessary and appropriate thanks, it's time to move on to more of the pictures and tales of the visit.

Steve Paraskevas was a wonderful host for my entire stay in Melbourne. From the food, the coffee, the riding and then the Melbourne Formula 1 Grand Prix. I had a blast in Melbourne!

(A few blocks from the hotel in Melbourne, before heading off to the Grand Prix.)

(This is what Formula One cars sound like... since you only get to see them for a fraction of a second, it's really more about the sound.)

Sydney was very impressive as well. Shortly after arriving in Sydney, Steve Davidson took me out for coffee... good on ya mate! AND... to top it all off- we had coffee at Krispy Kreme! I couldn't belive that there was a Krispy Kreme just outside the airport in Sydney. I almost shed a tear. God bless you Steve Davidson.

(As you can see, the view from my hotel room- overlooking the bay at Brighton Beach, left a lot to be desired. I really should have refused to pay.)

(Steve also took me to lunch at Bondi Beach for the best fish-n-chips I'd ever eaten. )

(Here's a sunset I caught on my way back to the hotel one evening... kinda nice isn't it? )

(Does your track have a fleet of dernies?)

Brisbane was my final stop on the whirlwind tour of Autralia. Brisbane was the warmest and most humid of the cities I visited. However, it was probably almost the most like the US. Brisbane kid of reminded me of San Francisco blended with a Southern California beach town.

(This really cool cathedral was directly across the street from my hotel.)

(A row of Masi bikes... the kind of thing to make a Brand Manager's heart skip a beat. Nick at Bike Force Kedron knows how to make a fella feel good- he was a former pub owner after all.)

I'm going to bed now before I pass out. More pic's and tales will follow.


More Australian thank you's...

Now I'm going to attempt to thank all of the folks who attended the individual launch events in each of the three cities I visited... bare with me- this could get ugly.

Rik Sloane Cycles - Rik Sloane
Mac's Bike Hub - Frank
Flemington Cycles - Matt
Freewheeling Cycles - Mark Bulka
Melbourne Bicycle Centre - Clint Raemakers
Brighton Cycles - Athol
Bike Power - Alan
ARC Triathlete - Glendon Crowe
Lawrencia Cycles - Gordon Lawrence

Deewhy Beach Cycles - Trish & Larry
Cranks Bike Store - Paul Williams
JT Cycles (from SA) - Travis Smith
Fulcher's Sports Cycles - Rik Fulcher
Bombaderry Cycles - Doug
Wollongong Bikes - Rob Avasi
Burwood Cycles - David
Fraser's Cycles - Ian & Todd

Mikes Bikes - Mike Stout
Riders Cyclery - Carol Spilman
Bikeforce Kedron - Nick and Rachel
Toys R Us - Dale Messer
Indooroopilly Cycles - Nigel & Lynne
Strathpine Bicycle Centre - Kevin & Karen
Boggo Road Bike Hub - Mathew & Gail Ayers

Each and every one of you who attended, especially those of you who had to go through the ordeal of having me in your shops as well, deserve a medal or official commendation. Thank you again for listening to the presentation and putting up with my aimless meanderings. I do get a bit worked-up and passionate about the bikes and the sport of cycling. I appreciate your generosity of patience and look forward to coming back to Australia and talking about how the bikes have done.


Thursday, April 13, 2006

Here's a little video that you will hopefully enjoy. I was giddy as a school girl!


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I'm stealing...

Ok, this is funny- no really...


Blogging help.

Keep in mind that I am not the sharpest knife in the technology drawer, but I need help with uploading a movie (mpeg) file to this blog. How do I do it? I can't figure it out and I am... well, challenged that way. I have a great video I want to share, but I haven't figured out how.

Please let me know what to do- just remember to speak slowly and use small words.


Sunday, April 09, 2006

The impossible task; thanking my friends in Australia.

Before I continue with the stories and pictures from Australia, I have to give a long list of thanks to a bunch of great people in Australia. What makes this impossible is the fact that I can't remember names to save my life. In advance I want to apologize to all of you in Australia whose names I have forgotten or have gotten wrong- it isn't you, it's me.

Steve Paraskevas (Masi Brand Manager for Australia) - all the hospitality and the friendship. I had a great time and you were an amazing host. Really, there are not enough words to repay you my friend and I look forward to seeing you here this summer- then it's my turn mate.

Brian Gillin (National Sales Manager) - the dinners, the great wine selections, the conversations and the great mini tradeshows. I think we made a pretty good team at the shows and I think that Masi is in very good hands in Australia. Thank you for all the hard work and for keeping me on track.

Kerry Leamon (Coordinator Exrtaordinaire) - thank you for making all of the arrangements that got me from point A to point B in Australia and the excellent hotel choices. Your efforts in making things run smoothly were felt from Melbourne to Brisbane and beyond. (You and I know who really runs things around there...)

Debbie Chambers (Melbourne area sales rep) - thanks for dragging me around to the shops and listening to me ramble about the bikes. It isn't really fair that you had to sit through my presentation at the launch and then go through it three more times in the shops. You should be getting a medal.

Steve Davidson (Sydney area sales manager) - Davo, thanks for dragging me around to the shops and a great lunch at Bondi Beach- still the best fish-n-chips I've ever had. Your efforts and your team will make Sydney a power market. Thanks for getting me to the Dunc for a spin too- what a thrill that was!

Joanna Hobbins (Sydney area sale rep) - for somebody new to the bike industry, you sure know what you're doing. Those poor blokes don't know who they're dealing with. I predict a Sales Rep of the year in the near future... I just have a feeling about it. Thanks for dragging me to the shops and listening to the same presentation again and again and for all the conversation in traffic. Thank you.

Tony Blackshaw (Brisbane area sales manager) - thanks for selecting the venue for the show on Friday. That was some incredible food and a great location. From the looks of things there, the orders should be coming in any time now.

Gary [sorry for forgetting your last name] (Brisbane area sales rep) - thank you for dropping everything unannounced and taking me out to visit with shops first thing upon my arrival in Brisbane. What a great cycling history in the family too... wow!

John Ayers (Brisbane area sales rep) - thanks for dragging me around to some great shops before the launch. Another family full of cyclists and cycling enthusiasts... there must be something in the Aussie water. Good luck to your son with his bike shop as well- selling Masi of course.

4/14/06- Update; I can't believe I left out Tony Crino (Customer Service Rep) - thanks for all the hard work and the great conversations about racing, racers and bikes. It's always great to meet another passionate fanatic.

There are other sales reps I worked with at each of the area launches and I apologize for not remembering your names. With all the travel from city to city and all of the retailers I met as well, I'm sure you can understand how I can forget. Your efforts were also valuable and deserve mention, so thank you to as well.

The Bike Shops; (ok, here's where my memory really comes up short, so please forgive me...)
Anthony - Cecil Walker Cycles - how can you not love a shop named after a famous track cyclist? Thank you for taking the time to talk to an ignorant Yank. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation and the industry/ people talk. That's one heck of a busy shop you have there... all you're missing is a couple of Masi bikes. Otherwise, your shop is perfect.

Peter- Brunswick Street Bicycles - thanks for being the first guinea pig in the Mobile Masi Guy presentation. It was a great conversation and I hope to be able to see even more Masi bikes in the store next time I come around there... but only because you're selling more of them. You've got a great space there and it looks like you'll have even more growth coming your way.

Damien - Flemington Cycles - thank you for giving us a bit of your time, especially in consideration of how busy you were. It was much appreciated. Looks like the shop is growing further, maybe then you'll have a little more room for a Masi selection... it'll be worth the wait.

Michael - Woolys Wheels - thank you for taking a moment to talk to us while you had so much business happening in the store. You have some very dedicated customers and a great looking shop. I'd obviously love to find a way to stuff a few Masi bikes in there, but my feelings won't be hurt if it doesn't happen right away... I'll give it time. (By the way- Phil's an incredible asset and proponent for the shop, so make sure you keep him.)

Dave - Burwood Cycles - if there is a retailer who could qualify as my long lost brother, then it has to be you David. I don't know if there is anybody who loves Masi as much as I do, or Breaking Away for that matter. I am really looking forward to hearing more about the shop and the expansion and addition of the cafe. You've got a great model there and it will hopefully reward all of your hard work- stay in touch.

Hugh - City Bike Depot - this is the coolest shop I've seen in a very long time. You've done a great job, Hugh, and your efforts have got to pay off. The city needs a great shop like yours and the coffee bar is only going to help make it a destination point in the center of Sydney. I'm going to keep looking for more news about the shop's growth and success.

Fraser's Cycles - I've forgotten both of your names, but I'll add them in as soon as I can remember them or Davo emails me and tells me what a fool I am. What a huge shop and it's getting bigger soon. I'm almost scared to know how many bikes can be sold and serviced then... good luck with the continued expansion and growth. (Davo came through with the save; Ian and Todd! Thanks guys for talking with me and coming to the launch as well.)

Rik Fulcher- Fulcher's Cycles - one of my newest mates and sure drinking buddies. I owe Rik for my time spent on the Dunc Grey Velodrome in Sydney. I can't thank you enough for the hospitality and the piece of the track timber. I'll have to come back to Sydney for the Master's World Championships, if for no other reason than to go out for a few pints afterwards (or before/ during). Good luck with those junior riders too.

Nigel and Lynne Forbes - Indooroopilly Super Cycles - thank you both for your amazing kindness and generosity of time. Not only did you sit through a lengthy conversation with me, but then you sat through my rambling presentation at the launch the next day. Thank you very much and good luck with the shop. I will definitely visit again and look forward to hearing from you in the future.

Nick and Rachel Furmidge - Bike Force Kedron - as a former pub owner, I am confident I can get a good pint of Guinness from Nick. His simple explanation of how to pour a proper pint was absolute poetry to my ears. Oh yeah, and his bike shop was pretty amazing too. Of course, like all smart retailers, he already has some Masi bikes in the store. Looking forward to hearing from you again and I'm looking into that jersey for you...

Troy and Jered - Yellow Jersey Bike Shop - thank you guys for listening to me and allowing me so much of your time. I really enjoyed the frank and honest discussion we had about the business. I love conversations like those and I'm glad we had the chance to talk as long as we did. Good luck with all of those efforts Troy- they have to pay off. Jered- I'll get back to you about the team for Super Week...

There are many other people I should be thanking, I'm sure, but since my memory is still suffering under the jetlag, you'll have to forgive me for the time being.

One more big thanks has to go to Maurice Wulfsohn, General Manager of the Leisure and Fitness division of PacBrands. Without the approval and support of Maurice, the aggressive launch of Masi might not have ever taken place... and then I wouldn't have gone to Australia. Thank you!

Once more, thank you to all of the wonderful people I met and talked to in Australia. I know I have new friends there and I am happy about that.

Thanks mates!


More tales and images to follow- I promise.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

M'Aussie! M'Aussie! M'Aussie! OY! OY! OY!

Just a tiny, brief note...

Just returned from Australia a few hours ago and took a little nap. The jetlag is a killer after such a long flight and no sleep. Unfortunately, there was an infant on the flight who cried/ screamed/ howled/ wailed for the entire flight- I kid you not. The poor little thing only slept for about an hour of the flight, so it made for a very long flight from Sydney.

I will have more stories and pic's soon, but let me just say this; I could live in Australia. It's an incredible place and I hope you'll visit some day. The best bacon this Southern boy has ever had, incredible seafood, incredible all food (the best Ceasar salads ever), great people and that great Aussie spirit. I've found another home...

Time to go be with my family after two weeks away.