The Cannondale Situation

In the midst of a great Vuelta, some disappointing news emerged. Cannondale Drapac was left at the altar by a big sponsor for next season and now faces a $7 million funding shortage. If Vaughters can’t find another sponsor to fill the gap, the team will fold.

Cycling’s Business Model
First, can I just say how absurd it is that teams can offer multiyear contracts with no guarantee that they will exist in the future? There’s been lots of talk about how unsustainable/stupid/fucked the pro cycling funding model is, so I won’t beat that decaying horse carcass (plus, that would just be disrespectful and kind of gross). But jesus, it’s crazy. Clearly, something needs to change so there is a modicum of consistency from year to year and greater competitive balance. Or maybe it doesn’t, and this Darwinist reality is just the way pro cycling has been and always will be. After all, it’s existed for a hundred years this way. I can’t help but think there’s a better, healthier alternative for the sport and its riders, one that won’t throw out a bunch of guys on their asses without jobs only months before the season.

All that being said, $7 million isn’t that much. Not for a big American company. It’s actually a pittance. Off the top of my head, here are some potential sponsors: Tesla (coolest team cars ever), Whole Foods, Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook, Nike, Wal Mart, Nestle. I’m sure any of those big dogs could chip in. Yes, they are beholden to their shareholders, and it might be hard to justify the expense. But how do all the other corporations that sponsor cycling teams justify it?

What is a Team?
Coming from a traditional team sport background, it baffles me how fluid the contingent of teams in pro cycling is. Some baseball teams have been around since the 1800s, in the same city, with the same colors and uniforms. Cycling teams change names and kits from year to year, following the corporations that take pity upon them (the advertising revenue can’t really be worth it, can it?). They arise and vanish with the lifespan of fruit flies. The “old” teams have been around for years, not decades.

alex howes
I feel for ya, Alex

It raises a question: what is a team? No, seriously. What makes a pro sports team a distinct, recognizable entity from year to year? Consistent names, the same colors and logos, home cities, stadiums. Cycling has none of these. It’s easy enough to identify when a team folds completely, turns out the lights and shuts down. Likewise, it’s easy to identify one that starts from scratch with a clean slate of sponsors and a first edition kit. But what about the other, more common cases? If Argos-Shimano changes sponsors and colors and some staff and riders and eventually evolves into Giant-Sunweb, when did it cease being one team and become another? What do you even call it, independent of the sponsor du jour? That’s tricky. I don’t know the answer.

It Sucks
The Cannondale news mostly sucks for the riders, who are now forced to scramble for nonexistent jobs. It also sucks for American cycling, which has been severely underrepresented on the World Tour level since the U.S. Postal days. It sucks for fashion, since Cannondale’s weird but cool argyle green/red thing combined with POC helmets was a welcome addition to the exceedingly boring collection of pro kits at the moment.

Bottom Line
There’s got to be a better way. But maybe there isn’t.

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Loyalty, Update

Last week I wrote about a dilemma. Literally an hour after I published the post, I heard back from my LBS. The email was short but it contained an apology and a commitment to order the parts quickly, for cheaper than any other shop around here (or even the evil internet sellers that we all buy from sometimes despite pangs of guilt; ethics matter to a point, then price takes over).

So I’m happy to say that my dilemma resolved itself. I won’t have to betray my sense of loyalty to the local shop, and the local shop will make some money, and my bike will be built soon.

Update:

As I was writing this, I found out the parts have already arrived. It took like…one day. Suffice to say, I’m even more excited now.

Let the bike building begin.

Weight

I haven’t stepped on a scale in months. I don’t really want to. Not because I’ve gained or lost weight–either is a possibility–but because weight doesn’t matter. Not anymore, not really.

When I was racing, there was a cause and effect to it all. More indulgence, more pounds, slower speeds up hills, worse results. That chain is easy to follow. It’s good because it gives you a reason to eat healthy and keep a disciplined diet. It’s bad because it makes you worry about tiny gains in weight solely because of the potential impact on amateur races with few fans or prize money.

But take racing out of the equation, and what’s left? The magic number disappears. There’s no justification for the strict diet of a World Tour rider. Five or ten pounds either way is pretty inconsequential. Suddenly the ability to go 15 seconds faster up a hill adds absolutely nothing of value to your life, or at least less value than an extra slice of pie or scoop of (dairy-free) ice cream every once in awhile.

In the months since I stopped racing and rededicated myself to riding for fun and adventure, I’ve thought man, what if I’m gaining weight? That thought is followed by silence. So what? I honestly don’t care. In the beginning I wanted to care, I tried to care. It didn’t work. I think that was a realization masked as apathy, and not the first one of those. I realized that all I want is to be a fit, healthy, lean person, and that those qualities are not attached to a specific number on a scale. In fact, you don’t need a scale to measure them. If you feel healthy, you probably are. If you look lean and toned in the mirror, you probably are. If you can ride a bike as fast as you want to ride it, you’re fit enough.

That is such a liberating realization.

It doesn’t mean that my diet has turned to junk. It’s basically the same as before, except now I don’t beat myself up if I have an unhealthy meal or if the chef ignores my request to not cook something in oil at the restaurant. I still count calories, just not every single day. Sometimes I go crazy and get guacamole at Chipotle.

And it doesn’t even mean that I’m not concerned about weight more generally. Obviously I don’t want to be overweight, and in that sense pounds matter. But my thinking has shifted from always trying to drop a couple pounds to having a healthy BMI, from a specific target to a broader range. Without a podium to strive for, the bottom end of that range loses some of its appeal.

whoopie pie
Worth it? Now, I’d say yes.

I don’t think I had an eating disorder before, when I was racing. But I can’t say my relationship with food was ideal. There was a lot of shame, a lot of willpower. I missed out on experiences because I cared more about being a tiny bit faster.

I’ll be the first one to say that healthy eating is paramount, that the “healthy at any size” movement is mostly bullshit that provides cover for people who for whatever reason don’t want to take responsibility for losing weight. It’s not good to be overweight, and I think it’s a shame that nearly 70% of Americans are. We need to do better, for ourselves and for our children.

But I’m speaking for myself, as an athlete not as risk of obesity, who was fighting my own body image demons. I’m in a much better place now. Tonight I had a couple whoopie pies.

 

Short Term Review: Garmin Vivoactive HR

Got this bad boy last week as an early Christmas present from my mom. She must have read my mind, because I’d been considering buying a GPS running watch to replace my setup of Strava on my iPhone, which worked okay but was problematic any time I started a run from somewhere without wifi. Also, battery life.

The Garmin Vivoactive is much more than a GPS running watch. It counts steps, tracks heart rate, and can record other activities like biking and swimming. It tells me how often I get up to pee in the night and how few hours of deep sleep I get. It also tells time, obviously.

For the past week, I’ve worn it 24/7 (even in the shower–I assumed from the swimming logo on the box that it’s waterproof, and so far that seems to be true). I’ve used it for all of my runs in that time, So far I haven’t used it to track any cycling, since I have my trusty 520 Edge for that.

Overall impression? I think it’s great. I really like it. Some observations:

  • The screen is easy to read, for being a tiny screen on a watch. It’s easy to set up activity profiles and overall layout with only a few taps of the touch screen. There are only two buttons, and I don’t find myself using them much. Most of the navigation can be done through the touch screen.
  • Heart rate seems accurate, for the most part. I compared it to the heart rate data from my chest strap during a ride, and sometimes the readings were 5-10 bpm off. Other times they were the same. It provides daily average resting HR, four-hour rolling HR, and more breakdowns in Garmin Connect.
  • Battery life seems long. It hardly uses any battery in normal mode; during an activity, with GPS sensors on, it drains faster. But I’ve still never gone below 25% even with a few days between charges.
  • The red “shame on you, get off your ass and start moving” bar isn’t very accurate. To get rid of it, you basically have to be walking (or swinging your arm like a cheater). It has remained red while standing at my desk at work, cooking in the kitchen, even cycling. It’s not a huge problem, since you know if you’re stationary or not. Still, it can be frustrating to see the unjustified judgement from your virtual companion.
  •  The “Running” activity profile feels very similar to my 520 Edge in terms of data fields and the like. It will be familiar to anyone who uses a Garmin for cycling.
  • You can sync with your phone so texts bombard you even in the forest. I have chosen to not do this.

So far, so good. It’s simple, easy to use, and provides all the information I need. Already it’s become an indispensable tool as I train for the marathon and generally try to lead an active life.

It was a gift, so I can’t really comment on the price. If you can get one for free, I highly recommend doing so.