Friday, June 30, 2006

2006 Tour de France Preview (of sorts)...

Here we are just hours away from knowing who will be the first Maillot Jaune of the 2006 Tour and all anybody is really talking about is the widespread doping scandal that has rocked this year's event. To say the least, the remaining riders in this year's race will be riding under a cloud of suspicion and the "winner" will be shadowed by doubt. In contrast, the horrible situation of the 1998 Festina Affair is going to seem like a day at the park compared to this scandal.

I've already made many comments about ths doping situation, so I won't bother to make a bunch more here. Let's just leave it at this for the moment; this really sucks. For the riders. For the fans. For the sponsors. For the sport. For the industry. This really is "Black Friday".

This is really about the Tour de France, not drugs in sport. So on to the race...

Tomorrow's prologue should be interesting. Smart money is on Zabriskie to repeat his performance of last year, but what about David Millar? Are his legs fresh after sitting out for two years after his drug ban? Can he make the race happen after two years of not racing? Good question. Honestly though, I think he can. He's one of the best time trialists ever, even without drugs. He has to be considered and you know he wants redemption in the form of a yellow jersey.

But what about all the other guys who want to prove something? CSC is lucky enough to have Zabriskie's fellow Americans Bobby Julich and Christian Vandevelde. Both of these riders can TT with the best on the right day. Too bad Riis couldn't get Fabian Cancellara back now... Discovery has some great TT riders too; Savoldelli, Popovych, Hincapie and Ekimov. How cool would it be if "Eki" won the prologue? Pretty cool. T-Mobile still has World TT Champ Michael Rogers and specialist Sergei Honchar. Both of these guys could do it. Gerolsteiner has Levi Leipheimer with good legs and lots of motivation. Lotto-Domo has Cadel Evans and Chris Horner. Granted, neither are specialists against the clock, but Chris has won a lot of them over the years in the States (plus he's a former co-worker of mine and that has to be good for something). Phonak has Funky Floyd "Praying" Landis. I have to say that I hate the way his position looks, but the way he slaps folks around is pretty cool. Euskaltel-Euskadi has Iban Mayo. When he doesn't implode in fantastic fashion, he's a very good rider in a TT, especially for such a gifted climber. Cofidis has Rik Verbrugghe, who has won prologues in other races in the past. He could surprise a few folks. Liquigas has big, bad Backstedt. I know he's more of a Classics guy, but he can actually TT quite well with that gigantic motor of his (I feel a moral obligation to root for a fellow "big guy"). And my dark horse pick? The long shot with the most to prove? Michael Rasmussen. Come on, if anybody in this race would kill to win a TT at the Tour, The Chicken is the man.

So this Tour is going to be a much different race now, thanks to the drug squad expelling so many riders. I really feel for Alexander Vinokourov, of the expelled Astana-Wurth team. He really stood a chance to win- especially once Ullrich and Basso were tossed out of the race. Now he has to wait again...

What will this race turn into this year, outside of media circus? It sucks for the riders remaining in the event because they will have to live up to some unreal code of ethics during the race. The spotlight of inquiry will be bright and hot for the next three weeks. The winner of this year's race will have to live with people whispering about drugs and what-ifs. It is unfair, but that is sport.

So my real prediction for the prologue? That's a tough one... so I'll go with two people; Zabriskie or Landis. Not because they are both American riders, but because I think they both really want the win. Hopefully one of them does.

That's it for my prognostications for tomorrow. Now I'm moving on to the coolest news for me and this Tour. We will have a special guest/s for the race this year; Jessi Pacetti (Queen Bitch Kittie), the second half of Bobke Ink, will be lending her voice to things and will be sharing inside dirt straight from the Tour via Bob Roll himself. Bob might even provide a few words of his own when he isn't poking the French with a sharp stick. How cool is that?

So, to start things off, here is Jessi' first commentary for the race;

Is Cycling Ruined or Will US Cycling Overcome?

As I write this Basso and Ullrich are on their way home from France. I’ve been hearing from a lot of industry insiders and a lot of cycling fans alike. Some say that cycling is dead for two years- gone. Who wants to sponsor a “Crack Race”? Granted, not my quote, but it raises a good question. How are we going to get new sponsors to participate in something that’s hand in hand with doping? Of course, so many other sports are laden with known drug use with beer and hot dog companies still anteing up. Still, cycling has always been different. Prestigious, righteous, virtuous. I don’t think the crime here is that the drugs were done, but that our heroes lied about everything. That is the real issue here and that’s why the good ol’ boys were sent home, honestly.

Now US Cycling’s role? Well, there’s a darn good chance we’ll see a podium on July 24 that is largely if not all American riders. To tell you the truth, I don’t give a rip on which ones (though I have my favorite) but this could play a huge part in the blast of cycling onto the scene. Obviously, piggy-backing on Lance’s accomplishments and taking it one step further. As a person who pays the bills on the cycling industry, I would love to see this. This may be our chance, folks.

Call it optimism, call it existentialism, I think US Cycling is going to come out ahead and we’re going to gain from this. Keep your fingers crossed.

Not a bad start... thanks Jessi!

(Note; As mentioned before, things are kinda nuts in the office, so daily posts might be more like "nightly" posts a lot of the time. And, the last stages of the Tour happen during our National Sales Meeting, so I may be posting even later on those days. Regardless, I will do my best to maintain daily commentary of the race and will work on some additional "guest" speakers... you just never know...)


I am sitting here in my pajamas, sipping my coffee, and received a scary email from my friend Donna Tocci... an email of disbelief.


It's a much different race now.


(If guilty... this should be the end of careers. The sport can not survive or tolerate this. If the allegations are true, the teams need to clean house. If true, we all need to face the reality that our beloved sport is dirty and we have the power to make it clean by turning away until it is clean. I don't know how much of a stomach I have for the race now.)

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Masi at the '06 Giro...

I have been meaning to share this great stuff for weeks now, but it has slipped from the fractured thing I call my mind for weeks now. (Let me just say that this year's catalog is going to be our best ever... but I can't wait for the damned thing to be done.)

Chris Lane, who runs Experience Cycling in Vancouver Canada, and his wife traveled to Italy for the Giro. Chris created a wonderful photo diary of the trip and took his Masi 3VC Dura Ace along for the ride as well.

It's worth taking a few minutes and clicking through the images. My favorite, of course, is the first picture on the May 26th photo gallery page (that would be Gilberto Simoni's brother-in-law staring at the Masi)...

Anyway, as we head into the second Grand Tour of the season, I hope you'll take a moment to check out the wonderful pictures that Chris took. There are lots of really cool ones to look at and it almost makes up for him not inviting me to go along with him.

(PS- Chris, I'm looking forward to seeing you in Montreal again this year.)

Monday, June 26, 2006

Interbike has a blog!

I know that I am late to this particular party, but I just have to extend a big welcome to the folks at Interbike (the bike industry's biggest trade show- for those who are unaware of it). They have begun a blog and it really looks pretty cool too. I haven't punched through everything yet, but so far I really like the basic format and look of things. Regardless of the looks and function, it is a blog operated by and all about Interbike. To me, this is one of the biggest bits of news in the industry this year, when thinking of blogging and/ or other social media forms.

I am considered one of the senior bike industry bloggers by a bunch of folks, which I take as a huge compliment while also finding it pretty funny. So I think it is important to support this new blog and steer some traffic their way because I believe it is a big step in the right direction for the industry as a whole and will hopefully help steer a few more people from the industry side of the sport into blogging. So, regardless of what some folks might think about the look and feel of their site, I am thrilled to see them come to the table and eat.

Please help me welcome Interbike Times to the blogosphere, or Bikeosphere if you wish.

Here's to hoping you stick around a while and have as much fun as the rest of us... and maybe even get together for a drink at Interbike... nudge, nudge, wink, wink...


Saturday, June 24, 2006

What a week...

This has been a very draining and tough week, but one that has also been very good.

On Thursday of this week, all of my sample bikes for the coming line of bikes arrived. All of them... but they came as frames and parts... and not all of the parts. We have to get all of the bikes built, confirm they are correct, photograph them and then turn those photographs into a catalog... and this all needs to be done in the next few days. Thanks to the help of some coworkers, all of the bikes managed to get built and the images for the catalog were being shot by our graphic team this weekend. I've written all the catalog copy and now we just have to put all the pieces together and create a catalog- hopefully the best one you've ever seen from us (which I am very confident it will be).

Part of the comedy of this situation is that I was responsible for building the bulk of the bikes, with some help of course (thanks Wayne, Jim and Kevin), because I am a really terrible mechanic. I can work on bikes and build them, road bikes that is (don't even ask me to set up a shock or a disk brake), I am just not a very good mechanic and I take forever. I've made this confession here before, so it shouldn't come as a surprise to anybody then that it took me a very long time to build the bikes. I managed not to cut off any fingers or break any parts, but it was touch and go the entire time I had a wrench in my hands.

This line is the first that I was given a lot of freedom to develop and I worked very closely with our Senior Product Development Manager and our new in-house graphic wizard Rick Ortiz. Rick and I spent a lot of time working really hard to come up with bikes that look as good as they ride. It would be impossible to claim that they are the best looking bikes in the entire world (well, actually, it's easy to say but hard to prove... yet), but I am very proud of these bikes and Rick should be as well (and he is). When all you know of a bike is a frame drawing, a computer image of the graphics and a list of parts, it's very exciting to get your hands on a real product. As those boxes opened and the frames were carefully removed from the packaging, I admit that I had a moment of nervousness. However, that all vanished when the frames looked so freakin' gorgeous! Rick and I learned a lot through this process and the two of us will have a much better idea of what we are doing next time, so things are only going to get better and better. It's awesome to work with somebody who understands what I am trying to do and who has great artistic vision. Thanks Rick! Now we just have to rely on the God of Photography, our Creative Director Pete Demos, to shoot his usual amazing images.

Maybe, if you're really, really good, I'll leak a few sneak peaks of the sample bikes. I'm not promising anything, but maybe a little teaser or two...


Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Summer is here!

Yippee! Summer is here! It's the Solstice, so all the little wood sprites and Earth Goddesses are running around with twigs in their hair celebrating the new season's official arrival.

Summer also means that the Tour de France is just a few weeks away. I love this goofy time of year, with all the racing and speculation and ignorant, ill-informed punditry. "No way man, Basso can't win the Tour. Armstong is coming out of retirement the night before the race and he's gonna win!" And such...

I am going to try to provide daily Tour commentary like last year, though it happens during our National Sales Meeting, so I might have to miss a post or two. Last year was great; I read or listened to the daily coverage and then applied my own spin on the events of the day, that's all. What is cool is that many folks thought I was actually at the Tour and riding in the press caravan as an actual reporter/ commentator. I had a few folks ask about how to get a press credential for the race even. Hilarious! For the record, in full disclosure- I will not be at the event. I will be reading other news reports and/ or listening to the race and then just rehashing things in my own way. That's all. No trips to France- I just don't have the budget. However, if somebody wants to pay for my trip, I am totally ready.

Summer also means, in SoCal, brown grass and dried up, dead vegetation. After 20 years out here, I still can't get used to this. In Alabama, summer means green, green, green and lots of rain. Out here it means no rain and lots of brown vegetation. Unless you water your lawn daily, it will dry up and look like hell almost instantly. San Diego, after all, is technically a semi-arid dessert. The water here is piped in, not "native". That's the price we pay for a year-round average of 72 degrees and sunny... not to rub it in (because we also have the most expensive gas and costs of living too).

Oh well, the sun is out, the air is warm (or hot) and the riding is good! I love summer.


Monday, June 19, 2006

Sharing bike love...

There's been a lot of talk lately about bike love and I thought I'd share a few of the recent examples of bike love that have been sent my way over the past few months.

David La Mar is in the early stages of restoring an early 60's Masi bicycle that belonged to his father and was a source of pride for his father. As you can see from the pictures, his father had every reason to be proud of the bike and you can also see that David has his hands full with this project. As David put it; I finally was able to dig the machine out of storage and see what I was in for. Was surprised that it wasn't in better shape, but at least everything was in one piece!

He is planning to have Brian Baylis do the restoration- can't go wrong there;

(Oh that gorgeous lug work; even Baylis is going to like this job!)

(I love those lugs!)

(Just a little too small for me...)

(5! I remember those days... remember when we only had 10 speeds- not 10 cogs?)

(Remember spending hours working on the straddle cable and getting the brakes set up "just right"?)

(An old toothbrush, a soft rag and a tube of Semichrome polish...)

What a diamond in the rough!

Next up are two bikes from John Price...
Enjoy your site! This is a new trainer ("trainer" he says... Ed) I just built I thought you might enjoy.
It's a 97 Corsa and I did a little retro bling bling to it!

("trainer" he says...)

(I think I cried the first time I ever opened a box of Campy Cobalto brakes.)

(Yeah, I know lots of people who ride trainers with Record 10 and Eurus wheels... yep...)

Bike number two in the Price collection is reasonably amazing as well; get your slobber gaurd ready...

(1976 Gran Criterium with original paint... and the vintage Campy work stand! I love the bike, but that stand just makes my knees weak. The first shop I ever worked in had one of these, but it belonged to one of the mechanics, who had raced in Europe and brought it back with him. I wasn't allowed to touch it- and with good reason.)

Thanks to both David and John for sharing the bikes that they are passionate about. This is the type of thing that really makes my day. I love this kind of thing...

So if you have pictures of a bike you have restored or just own and it has brought you joy, then send me a picture (or several). Add a brief note and I'll share it with the rest of the class. I live for community like this... thanks!


Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Introducing the newest Masi nephew!

Meet Jack! Jack is my newest nephew- my kid sister's first child.

That's my brother-in-law, Jeff, holding his son.

I went to the hospital with my measuring tape in hand so I could get some measurements, but my sister wasn't ready for me to set him up with a bike just yet. It won't be long though- I could see the Masi lust in his eyes.

Happy, healthy and making some good noises. I'm happy to have him in the family already.

Congratulations little sis' and Jeff-boy!


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Been a long time since I rock-n-rolled...

I'm not dead... still. After last week's hard drive disaster, I've been feverishly scrambling to get caught up and blogging has suffered because of it. The hard drive on my laptop failed last week, but our IT GOD (George) was able to salvage my files off of the old hard drive, saving me from having to rewrite the entire catalog, among other things. There are other things happening outside of work, that I won't go into now, that deserve and are getting the bulk of my attention and thought. That said, I do hope to get back to a more regular routine of blogging here again.

For what it is worth, I really appreciate the audience that this blog has gotten and the friends I have made through this great social media. Sure, I started all of this as an attempt to help market the brand through my day-to-day life as a brand manager for a bike company, but this has turned into much more in the past 14-15 months. I admit that I feel guilty knowing that my posting has been so down lately. I recently looked at a stat on Technorati and saw that I'd posted only 19 times in the past 90 days, or something like that, and I was floored and depressed by that stat.

Anyway, I'll stop rambling and get to the point; thank you for the support and the emails I have been receiving lately. It is nice to receive so much encouragement to keep blogging and telling the story. I do have many more posts stored away in my vastly empty head and will soon post them.

Thank you for continuing to read these posts.


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Argh! (and farewell)

Ever been in the middle of lots of projects- many that require the use of your computer- and your computer's hard drive crashes?

Word to the wise/r; it stinks!

Yes, my computer hard drive has crashed again for the second time since February. I am now having to use a computer in the office that is not being used at the moment, but it doesn't have any of the files I was working on or any of my emails and contacts. (So if you've been waiting to hear from me or trying to reach me... there's the reason.) I feel pretty useless without my computer.

I read today on the BRaIN website that Sky Yeager is leaving Bianchi after 17 years. I can't really put into words how shocked I am. I've made no secret about the fact that Sky and Bianchi have played a big part in how I've tried to develop Masi since joining the company. Sky has been one of the biggest influences on me over the years. She has done some fantastic things in the industry and with the Bianchi brand in the US. I can't think of a single other product manager who has had such an influence on the industry. Our own Mike Varley is among the best in the business, but Sky has become a "celebrity" of sorts within the industry. Her bikes haven't all been winners, but her percentage of good vs bad is one of the very best I can think of.

Her single speed creations like BUSS (butt ugly single speed), BASS (bad ass single speed) BOSS (big ole single speed- I think) etc have become favorites and have shown her incredible since of humor and whimsy. Who can forget the stickers placed on the bikes that reads "Designed by a Chick" ( I think I got that right...)? Her coolness, her ability to wield a wrench as well as any mechanic anywhere and her market savvy have really made an impression on me over the years.

Sky- even though we never met, I will miss your presence in the industry- should you choose to leave altogether. It would certainly make my job easier not trying to compete against you, but it's a much cooler industry with you in it. If you show up in Vegas, I'd love to buy you a beer.


Monday, June 05, 2006

Masi 3V steel frame update;

As mentioned in the previous post, these rascals are going quickly so place your order with your retailer now!

Updated inventory, as of 6/5/06;
50cm- 2
52cm- 1
54cm- 2
56cm- 1
58cm- SOLD OUT
60cm- 2
62cm- 2

Only 10 of the 25 remain...


Friday, June 02, 2006

Potpourri of randomness...

I told you that I'd be back to play. See- I kept my promise!

Firs things first; this Wednesday was the little Princess' 5th birthday. Yes, she's on her way to college soon and I will soon be beating some poor boy with a baseball bat. It's destiny... At 5, per her doctor visit today, she's now 42.5" tall and a little over 40 pounds. Taller than average and skinnier than average... sounds much like her daddy at that age.

I failed to offer any closing comments and commentary about the Giro. It isn't because I didn't think it was a great Giro, because it really was, I was just too slammed to offer much commentary. Anywho... Basso has moved to the top of most pundit lists to win the Tour de France. Sure, Ullrich won a time trial and has the experience of winning one Tour (but coming up short every time after), but Basso dominated this Giro like Armstrong at the Tour. This was one of the toughest "Giri" in years and he made it look almost easy- avoiding his usual "bad day". All of the others fell by the side of the road- much to my surprise even. Personally, I really had high hopes for DiLuca. Simoni road very tough, even with the huge time defecit and namby-pamby shenanigans at the end. He rode with great determination and showed that he's still a rider with class... even if he's a brat. The Tour should be very interesting. Basso has all the pressure off his shoulders for this year now that he was won his first (of likely many) Grand Tour. He'll be able to ride the Tour with a calmness that can only help him. Ullrich will have the usual massive pressure to perform and has shown that his legs and lungs are still very capable of a great performance. Will Basso take the top step this year or will Ullrich? They are certainly now the top two prospects... so who will show up to spoil the party?

Drugs? We ain't got no stinking drugs? Will the last rider in the pro peloton to fail their drug test please turn off the lights on their way out? Man oh man... I never ever would have thought that Manolo Saiz would be implicated like this. Sure, he had a big stink last year with Roberto Heras' drug conviction, but it seemed like an odd fluke to most folks. Saiz is one of the most respected team directors in the sport, so it is truly titilating news. In the aftermath, several other Spanish riders are now implicated in an allegedly deep system of doping. This is going to get a lot uglier before it gets better. It's already been called the "Spanish Festina Affair" and the worst scandal to hit cycling since the 1998 Tour (when the Festina Affair happened and threatened to halt the event). Cycling just keeps getting these horrible situations thrust upon the world stage again and again... makes the sport look pretty bad. Is cycling the most drugged sport in the world? Not even close. Baseball, basketball and football are much, much worse. Drugs in sport are not going anywhere anytime soon until the sponsors pull out of the sport and national federations ban riders (or other athletes) for life. However, I don't see that happening during my lifetime or even during the lifetime of my children. Why? Money of course. Sponosrs make money off of sponsorship and team owners make money off of the athletes and winning races/ games. As long as the money keeps pouring in from the spectators, drugs will remain a major part of all sports. If you think otherwise, you are really kidding yourself. Wake up and smell the EPO...

Here it is now June and the track here has been having races since April and I haven't done one race yet. Not one. Not even one. I've been so damned busy that there just has not been any way for me to sneak out of the office early so I can make it to the track for the races. I am hoping that maybe, just maybe, I can change that next week. Get this; I've been sitting on the newest version of the new track frame since April and haven't even finished building it up yet. I haven't even built it! And let me tell you- it is freakin' gorgeous. So far, the riders I gave a frame to for feedback have all given it very high praise after riding it. Clearly, after being personally very invested in the development of the frame, that is really very gratifying feedback. I am absolutely aching to ride that thing soon... before I blow a gasket. Get this too; our state Master's track championship happens the weekend of our National Sales Meeting (so I won't be racing) and US Master's Nationals will be held in August while I am in Italy for my sister's wedding. Oh... and US Elite Nationals will be held the weekend after Interbike. It looks like the only championship I might get to do this year on the track is maybe the State Elite championships. Oh well... at least I have a three-day stage race coming up in three weeks.

3 weeks? Crap! I have to get ready to do a hilly time trial, a very hilly road race and then a faster than all hell crit in just three weeks. WHILE trying to finish a catalog and build sample bikes that don't exist yet with parts I don't have yet and prepare for the National Sales Meeting and a meeting with some very important people (the people who make sure I get a paycheck)... piece of cake!

Is it getting really hot in here, or is it just me? Does it feel like your head is on fire, or is it just me? I need a beer... STAT!


Yes, I'm still alive...

Sorry I have been such a lousy blogger as of late. It's the usual litany of excuses- too busy, too little time, too tired, etc.
Just remember that I love you and that I will be back to play again really soon. I have a bunch of random thoughts running around in my head again, so I will try to put them into a post soon. Maybe tonight while I curl up with a cold beer.