Chicago? The Windy City right? Well not many people know that it isn’t called that because of the breezes that blow in off of lake Michigan but the long winded politicians arguing over the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1890. This is good news for cyclists, as Chicago’s lake front bike path provides one of the most enjoyable and easy rides on a flat terrain with absolutely no cars. You can start your journey by renting a bicycle at Millennium Park in the heart of the city. but Bike Chicago http://www.bikechicago.com/ offers additional services up and down the lake front. Head south along the bike path for Hyde Park, home of the University of Chicago, The Museum of Science and Industry, and the adopted home of Barack Obama. The Chicago Tribune has an online tour where you can visit Obama’s south side stomping ground or His barber shop, basketball court, or condo are all within a few minute bicycle ride of the lake front bicycle path, If a beach front summer holiday is more your speed, head north from Millennium Park. You will pass by Navy Pier, which has a range of restaurants, an IMAX theater, and a full program of summer fun including a fire works display on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Passing out of downtown, and after Chicago’s famous Magnificent Mile, you come to Oak Street Beach, there is an outdoor chess pavilion and an out door ’beachstro'if you want to stop for refreshments. Oak Street beach is home to the more beautiful sunbathers and part of the lively gay scene in Chicago, for a taste of Chicago’s neighborhood and family culture, continue further north to Foster Beach where you will see African American, Mexican American, and Asian American families having picnics, barbecues and enjoying the summer sun. If it all seems too adventurous, Bike Chicago offers guided tours as well. So get those running accessories together, hop on a bike and pedal down to Chicago for a historical adventure…on wheels!
Archive for August, 2010
For those unaccustomed to cycling, it is in fact a team sport. Lance didn’t win them all on his own, he had a team of crack domestiques (essentially riders who bust a gut for their team leader’s chances at overall victory) to help him through the mountains and lead him on his way to becoming the face of everything (including the amazing new garmin running watch I have bought).
Each team has a leader, more often than not, their rider who has the best chance of winning the tour as a whole; within this team also there will be a range of specialists in various disciplines, including time trialling, mountain climbing, breakaways (when a small group of riders break out of the main group and attempt to win on their own) and sprint finishes. But for all the various jobs, they all have one – generate exposure.
A breakaway that is caught before the finish is not a failure. In race terms, it is but they are the naive, or more positively idealistic, terms. Essentially, it is a success to the men who matter, the money men. Each breakaway provides exposure for the brands smeared across every team jersey in world cycling. A team’s success is driven towards its sponsorship; a team’s sponsorship is dependent on its success.
In the tour, the man whose number ends in 1 is the leader and who wears that says a lot about the team itself. Mark Cavendish, number 111, is the sprinter of HTC-Columbia; they possess no GC contenders and are content to bring Cavendish to the line for him to win basically any flat stage. Astana on the other hand, who boast Alberto Contador (number 1 – defending champion) as team leader, are happy to wait until the mountains before grinding down the Spaniard’s rivals one by one.
Obviously, like in any sport, egos come into the play. Maybe it’s being called ’team leader’; maybe it’s the team mates who cycle back to the cars to bring them their water bottles (or bidons); maybe it’s that shiny number 1 on their back; likely, it’s the million-dollar contracts and endorsements that float around the world’s top cyclists.
In last year’s Tour, Contador had to share his Astana team with none other than seven-time winner Lance Armstrong who made no secret that he was racing for himself, not Alberto. What’s more, Astana’s overall manager Johan Bruyneel was in charge of Armstrong’s team during each of his seven victories. A few weeks of power struggles and tabloid bitchiness later and Armstrong had poached Bruyneel, Levi Leipheimer, Andreas Kloden and others to his newly-formed Team Radioshack. No team can have more than one leader.
So it was with skepticism that I received the news that Alberto Contador was to leave Astana for Saxo Bank, the team of his rival Andy Schleck (as well as his brother Franck). But the rumor mill of cycling is persistent in saying that the brothers Schleck are to leave to join a new team based in Luxembourg run by Kim Andersen, the purveyors of gossip selling it as a “done deal”.
Both riders have much to gain; Schleck, a team created for him to win the Tour; Contador inherits a team containing Jens Voigt and Fabien Cancellara, two of the best roleurs in the world.
But, looking deeper, there is more than just convenience behind this switch. Specialized Bicycle Components, the bike of choice for Team Astana (on the prompting of Contador no less), are due to strike a new deal with Saxo Bank; this, according to the rumors, is the reason for Contador’s switch. As with essentially all sporting decisions in the 21st century, money talks