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  • July 26, 2007

    Top 25 Love Songs

    [Posted by ] has a nice list of their top 25 love songs (caveat: the list is in gallery form, so you've gotta click through 25 pages to see it). While it has some songs I wholeheartedly agree with (At Last, All I Want Is You) there are a few "huh"s on the list too (Beyonce's Crazy In Love? Sweet Child O Mine?). Because I too love writing lists, here are my Top 25 Love Songs (as found on my iPod):

    1. All I Want Is You - U2 - the only good thing about the movie Reality Bites. Best lines:

    You say you'll give me
    Eyes in a moon of blindness
    A river in a time of dryness
    A harbour in the tempest

    2. Always On My Mind - Willie Nelson - it's great because it's way more sincere than all of the other somebody done somebody wrong songs. Best lines:

    If I made you feel second best
    Girl I'm sorry I was blind

    You were always on my mind
    You were always on my mind

    3. Beginnings - Chicago Transit Authority - once upon a time Chicago was awesome and wrote beautiful songs like this and "Colour My World". Best lines:

    When I kiss you, I feel a thousand different feelings.
    The color of chills all over my body.

    4. Come Around - Rhett Miller - Rhett's gorgeous heartbreaking falsetto sells this song. Best lines:

    I'm gonna be lonely for the rest of my life
    Unless you come around so come around

    5. Crash Into Me - Dave Matthews Band - I think all women love this song. It's like the opposite of Pink Floyd. Best lines:

    Sweet like candy to my soul
    Sweet you rock
    and sweet you roll
    Lost for you I'm so lost for you

    6. Deeper Than The Holler - Randy Travis - Aw, what a sweet country boy. Best lines:

    Well I've heard those city singers singin 'bout how they can love
    Deeper than the oceans higher than the stars above
    Well I come from the country and I know I ain't seen it all
    But I heard that oceans salty and the stars they sometimes fall
    But that would not do justice to the way I feel for you
    So I have to sing this song about all the things I knew

    7. Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic - The Police - this song has something that very few great love songs do - a sense of humor. Best lines:

    I resolve to call her up a thousand times a day
    And ask her if she'll marry me in some old fashioned way
    But my silent fears have gripped me
    Long before I reach the phone
    Long before my tongue has tripped me
    Must I always be alone?

    8. Flesh And Blood - Johnny Cash - I really "get" this song more after seeing "Walk The Line". It wasn't just that Johnny Cash loved and desired June, he needed her. Best lines:

    Mother Nature's quite a Lady
    But you're the one I need

    9. Harvest Moon - Neil Young - songs about enduring love are really way more romantic than songs about new love. Best lines:

    When we were strangers
    I watched you from afar
    When we were lovers
    I loved you with all my heart.

    10. Hey, Good Lookin' - Hank Williams - simple, classic and perfect. Best lines:

    Hey, hey, good lookin',
    Whatcha got cookin'?

    Seriously? Aren't those the best lyrics ever?

    11. I Saw The Light - Todd Rundgren - I think I'd be kicked out of my family if I didn't include this song. Best lines:

    So we walked along,
    though I knew there was something wrong
    And the feeling hit me oh so strong about you
    Then you gazed up at me and the answer was plain to see
    'Cause I saw the light in your eyes

    12. I'll Have To Say I Love You In A Song - Jim Croce - ah, I really do have a weakness for sensitive 70s folk singers. Best lines:

    Ev'ry time I tried to tell you
    The words just came out wrong
    So I'll have to say I love you in a song

    13. In My Life - The Beatles - I'm a little shocked that there's not a schmaltzy Paul McCartney song on my list. Ah well, I guess John Lennon had a few good songs in him ;-) Best lines:

    Though I know I'll never lose affection
    For people and things that went before
    I know I'll often stop and think about them
    In my life I love you more

    14. In Your Eyes - Peter Gabriel - I'll have you know that I loved this song long before "Say Anything made it famous! Best lines:

    in your eyes
    the light the heat
    in your eyes
    I am complete
    in your eyes
    I see the doorway to a thousand churches
    in your eyes
    the resolution of all the fruitless searches

    15. Is This Love - Bob Marley - I like this song more knowing that Bob Marley wrote it to his wife about the early days of their marriage. Best lines:

    We'll be together, with a roof right over our heads
    We'll share the shelter of my single bed

    16. Last Goodbye - Jeff Buckley - Buckley died too young, but he did manage to leave behind this utter masterpiece of music and lyrics. Best lines:

    kiss me, please kiss me
    but kiss me out of desire, babe, and not consolation

    17. Look After You - The Fray - so yeah, I do listen to music made in the 21st century. This song is lots of fun live, when the whole audience sings along to the "Oh oh oh be my baby" part. Best lines:

    It's always have and never hold
    You've begun to feel like home
    What's mine is yours to leave or take
    What's mine is yours to make your own

    18. Not Enough Time - INXS - a sexy beast of a song. To me, it's the adult version of "Melt With You". Best lines:

    I was lost for words
    In your arms

    19. Overlap - Ani DiFranco - this too is obscure, but lyrically it's probably the coolest love song on my list. Really. Click and check it out. Best lines:

    I build each one of my songs
    out of glass
    so you can see me inside of them
    I suppose
    or you could just leave the image of me
    in the background, I guess
    and watch your own reflection superimposed

    I build each one of my days out of hope
    and I give that hope your name
    and I don't know you that well
    but it don't take much to tell
    either you don't have the balls
    or you don't feel the same

    20. Secret Smile - Semisonic - some good friends of mine used this for their first dance at their wedding. It makes me smile to think of them. And hey, it's way more appropriate than "Closing Time". Best lines:

    Nobody knows it but you've got a secret smile
    And you use it only for me

    21. Southern Cross - Crosby, Stills & Nash - because sometimes a great love song is really about a man's love of the sea (see also, "Brandy"). Best lines:

    I have my ship, and all her flags are a-flying.
    She is all that I have left, and music is her name.

    22. Summertime - The Sundays: this one is more for the exuberant feel than for the lyrics. Best lines:

    And it's you I need in the summertime
    As I turn my white skin red
    Two peas from the same pod yes we are
    Or have I read too much fiction?

    Is this how it happens?

    23. Wait - Huffamoose - it's obscure, but it's also easily the sexiest song in my iPod. Best lines:

    Move back just a little let me watch
    your hips sway
    hold me looser still throw me like I'm
    wet clay
    and you a feast I devour
    if you let me be the man of the hour
    cause you are rhythm I'm a cold shower


    24. Within Your Reach - The Replacements - usually, The Replacements just sang about getting drunk and stuff, so I don't know where they pulled this beautiful, longing song from. Best lines:

    I could live without so much
    I can die without a clue
    Sun keeps risin' in the west
    I keep on wakin' fully confused

    25. Your Song - Ewan McGregor - I like this version from Moulin Rouge better than the Elton John original because it's more soaringly romantic and because Ewan McGregor is adorable. Best lines:

    I hope you don't mind, I hope you don't mind
    That I put down in words
    How wonderful life is, now you're in the world

    So, what did I miss? I did try to fit "The Bitch of Living" in, but it just would have been too much of a stretch.

    Posted by at 08:25 AM | Comments (9)     
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    2007 Tour de France Update – It’s A Great Day for Cycling

    [Posted by BVBigBro]

    Michael Rasmussen, AKA The Chickenshit, has been pulled from the Tour. This is an unqualified Good Thing. Adios amigo. The Tour de France has become ruthless towards doping and it is high time. While the Rabobank team made the decision to dump the Chickenshit, the decision was probably forced on them by their sponsors and the Tour itself.

    All this might make for a difficult day for Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen who have done their best to ignore doping in this year’s Tour TV coverage, but for the rest of us it is cause for a cold beer (in my case two, and both free at that). There appears to be a school of thought that all of this conflict and trouble are bad for cycling and should be ignored, at least when presenting the public face of cycling. Watching this year’s Tour on TV is like entering an alternate universe where there is no doping and no one is under any suspicion. I couldn’t disagree with this approach more. What cycling needs is to air all the dirty laundry and publicly humiliate the teams and riders that have been guilty of doping. Frankness is what is needed, not cheerleading.

    The yellow jersey has now gone to Alberto Contador who unfortunately turned in his own unusually good time trial and mountain performances over the last week, and he and his Discovery Channel team are hardly above suspicion in any case. He will also still have to out time trial Cadel Evans and Levi Leipheimer on Saturday, so anything is still possible. The most unfortunate aspect of all this is that the time gap Contador holds was gained in large part through his cooperation with the disgraced Rasmussen in the mountains.

    This week was gut check time for the Tour de France and they came through. Far from casting a permanent shadow over the Tour the Rasmussen and Astana incidents are nothing more than a couple of clouds in the sky which have done their worst and are moving on with the first breeze. The real danger was the chance that the Tour would do nothing, and in doing so effectively cave in to the dopers. This would have been a real shadow that would have permanently relegated the Tour to the level of the WWE. Today cycling didn’t return to the darkness, it emerged from the shadows. There is still a long way to go, and it may take a new generation of riders to undo the damage this generation has done, but today was a beginning, and a very good day indeed.

    Posted by BVBigBro at 04:41 AM | Comments (8)     
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    July 24, 2007

    For Your Summer Viewing Pleasure

    [Posted by ]

    You know, I'm really not a fan of cycling. I enjoy riding my bikes and I don't care that much about other people's cycling escapades. But, I do watch the Tour de France and I'm completely in to it. Why? I think it's because nothing else is on.

    TV executives must think Americans don't set foot in their living rooms during the summer. I don't know about you, but while my social calendar is fuller in the summer, but there are still nights (like tonight, for example) when I'm home doing laundry and I'd like to watch some television. Good luck.

    Of course, there are a few (a very few) bright spots in the summer TV abyss. Here are my favorite summer guilty pleasures:

    • Greek: don't be put off by the fact that this show is on the ABC Family channel. It's racy, funny and sweet all at the same time. The premise: sorority girl Casey has to deal with the arrival of geeky (but wonderful) little brother Rusty on campus. Rusty ends up pledging the fraternity of Casey's old flame, Cappy, and establishing a rivalry with Casey's new boyfriend Evan.
    • Big Brother: you can't beat the human drama of Big Brother. While the twists are inevitably lame, the mindgames are endlessly involving. The contestants are real people and without editing you see real personalties emerge. People you hated at first sight start to grow on you (Jen!) and seemingly charming folks show their true colors (Evil Dick!).
    • Top Chef: Hostess Padma Lakshmi (aka the former Mrs. Salmon Rushdie) not only proves that ugly rich guys can bag beautiful wives, but also that you don't need to taste the food to have an opinion about it.
    • Ice Road Truckers: Okay, I'll admit that I only half watch this one. I love the very straightforward name and when it's super hot out there's nothing better than seeing loads and loads of snow and ice.

    So that's what I'm watching. How about you? Has anyone caught Simon Schama's Power of Art? It sounds fantastic but I haven't had a chance to see it yet.

    Posted by at 07:41 PM | Comments (4)     
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    Tour de France Update #4 - An Even More Modest Proposal

    [Posted by BVBigBro]

    Alexandre Vinokourov and the Astana team have been removed from the Tour. Ignore the post below calling for the legalization of doping (editor’s note: HEY!). I have a more modest proposal: stop cheating. This year we are witnessing a tour where some riders are doped and others are clean. This is no surprise. The process of cleaning up cycling will take several years. Be patient.

    The important thing now is for the Tour to establish an appropriate punishment. Namely all of Astana’s riders need to be banned from the Tour for life. Astana’s doctors need to be banned from the Tour for life. Astana’s management needs to be banned from the Tour for life. Anyone who has contact with “doctor” Ferrari needs to be banned from the Tour for life. The UCI needs to be told that they are no longer relevant for establishing standards of sporting conduct for the Tour de France.

    I like cycling. Lots of people like cycling. It’s easy to get emotionally attached to particular riders and react to their subsequent positive drug tests with the attitude that “if they’re doping than everyone is doping”. That’s wrong. Some people are doping and others are clean. What I admire about cycling is not a particular rider, but the spectacle of seeing riders overcome the physical demands imposed on them to emerge triumphant. I don’t care what their name is. I don’t care what their nationality is. I don’t care if they have broken any records. I do care that they are clean. Winning the Tour de France doped is about as meaningful to me as being carried to the top of Mount Everest.

    As I wrote in my preview stop being supportive of dopers and stop whining when your favorite rider turns out to be a jerk. Condemn doping and condemn those who do it. Rather than let doping get you down on cycling let it increase your respect for the people who don’t dope but continue to soldier on knowing that being honest will diminish their chances of winning. As I wrote before, be patient. This year’s Tour was expected to be a mess and it has lived up to all expectations. What remains to be seen is where the Tour goes from here. Your part in that is to demand a clean race and demand a level of sportsmanship that too many teams and riders currently make a mockery of.

    Posted by BVBigBro at 01:12 PM | Comments (6)     
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    A Modest Proposal

    [Posted by ]

    Forget about Barry Bonds' home run chase, Michael Vick's dog fighting empire and Tim Donaghy's gambling escapades - the most compelling (and controversial) event in sports right now is clearly the Tour de France. If you're not watching, you should be. Yesterday pre-Tour favorite Alexandre Vinokourov, suffering from injuries from a first week crash and over 1/2 hour behind the leaders, rose like a phoenix from the ashes to win the stage in a tremendous performance. Meanwhile, five minutes behind him on the mountain, the two titans of this Tour, Alberto Contador and Michael Rasmussen waged a battle for the ages. Time and time again Contador attacked. Each time Rasmussen dragged himself back onto Contador's wheel. It's impossible not to admire Vinokourov's bravery, Contador's aggressiveness and Rasmussen's grit. The problem, of course, is that we don't believe that these men naturally possess these attributes. The specter of doping is killing the sport.

    Cycling is trying to reform itself and trying to get serious about doping. It's not working. Perhaps it's time for a new approach. Instead of trying to prevent doping, why not make it legal? Be transparent about it. Instead of being sponsored by telecoms, pro teams can be sponsored by drug companies. It'll be like auto racing. Just like Ferrari, Ford and Toyota use the racetracks to test and promote new technologies, companies like Merck, Novartis and Pfizer can use riders to test and demonstrate the latest drug advances.

    Oh sure, we'll debate whether a rider is truly great or just has truly great drugs. But isn't that what happens now? Vino, Rasmussen & Contador have put on an incredible show, but Vino has links to dirty doctors, Rasmussen is under serious suspicion and Contador rides for those deans of doping, Discovery Channel. I'd rather know that someone won the Tour de France because of the combination of athletic ability, great bikes, excellent teamwork and tactics and really kickass drugs than endlessly wonder who cheats and who doesn't.

    Posted by at 09:03 AM | Comments (3)     
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    July 22, 2007

    Thinking For Yourself Is Hard

    [Posted by ]

    Ron Paul's supporters are a bunch of wackos. At least that's what the New York Times would like you think. The Times ran a lengthy piece on Paul today. While the piece does cement Paul's place as the Maverick of 2008, the author, Christopher Caldwell, also wants you to know that if you vote for him, you'll be in the company of wackos like this:

    Victor Carey, a 45-year-old, muscular, mustachioed self-described “patriot” who wears a black baseball cap with a skull and crossbones on it, drove up from Sykesville, Md., to show his support for Paul. He laid out some of his concerns. “The people who own the Federal Reserve own the oil companies, they own the mass media, they own the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, they’re part of the Bilderbergers, and unfortunately their spiritual practices are very wicked and diabolical as well,” Carey said. “They go to a place out in California known as the Bohemian Grove, and there’s been footage obtained by infiltration of what their practices are. And they do mock human sacrifices to an owl-god called Moloch. This is true. Go research it yourself.”

    Um, okay.

    Ron Paul is raising a lot of money and getting a lot of press. That's exactly the moment when the press corps starts a seek and destroy mission. They do this whether a candidate is a Democrat or a Republican. The urge to tear someone down is only slightly weaker than the urge to edit someone else's copy.

    The problem with Ron Paul is that he has nothing to hide. He's a man of substance, not a man of haircuts and lofty rhetoric. You can attack his ideas, but the fact of the matter is that a lot of people have started to think those ideas make a lot of common sense. And besides, writing about the Constitution and the Federal Reserve is like, hard and stuff. Where's the Monkey Business when you need her?

    So if you want to bring Paul down, what do you do? You link him to people like Victor Carey. You insinuate that if you vote for Paul you're just another wacko "wasting" your vote. Thank God for the media. I'd hate to have to think for myself.

    Posted by at 08:38 PM | Comments (3)     
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    Tour de France - 2007 - Update #3

    [Posted by BVBigBro]

    The second week of the Tour is now over and though the racing has been good, and the race is down to only a few contenders, it has once again been overshadowed by a doping scandal. Once again it involves the race leader, Michael “the Chicken” Rasmussen (hereafter Michael “the Chickenshit” Rasmussen).

    Rasmussen apparently decided is was okay to not inform doping agencies of his whereabouts and to miss four separate doping controls, two of them in June when cycling was in the midst of further doping revelations and right on the eve of the Tour. This is chickenshit. Rasmussen (and the UCI which withheld the information) knew fully well the state of cycling when he did this, and the effect it would have when it was revealed. In any event the only reason to miss controls is because you’re doping. In addition, it has since been revealed that the Chickenshit attempted to con another rider into smuggling doping products out of the country (editor’s note – this was five years ago). Had the Tour known this prior to the race, Rasmussen would never have been allowed to start.

    For those who think this really no big deal, you are wrong. The riders and teams are well aware of the rules and Rasmussen knew fully well exactly what he was doing when he violated them. The lame excuses he offered are the equivalent of a baseball player acting as if he didn’t know corked bats were illegal.

    The proper thing for the Tour to do now is give the Chickenshit the boot. They were probably hoping Rasmussen would lose the yellow jersey during Saturday’s time trial after which they could kick him out quietly. That didn’t happen. The best thing now is to kick him out as soon as possible. Better yet, they should do it right in the middle of a stage and on television. Stop his bike, tear off his race number and remove the jersey. That would send a statement to everyone.

    As to the race outside of Rasmussen, it has been pretty good. For all their doping connections I didn’t think the Astana team should be allowed to start, but they have crashed themselves out of the race anyways so it doesn’t really matter. The race is now down to Rasmussen, Contador, Leipheimer and Evans. Sastre and Kloden have an outside chance but they would have to do something special.

    Rasmussen and Contador have been best in the mountains, but Leipheimer and Evans have been good enough to possibly make it all up in the last time trial. Evans was strong until Sunday’s mountain stage, and how fast he recovers may determine his Tour. Rasmussen was unexpectedly strong in the time trial (Gee, how did that happen?) (editor’s note: because he was riding in drier conditions than the earlier racers and in a rare time trial where it actually mattered how he did), which makes his current lead comparatively large. If Rasmussen is allowed to continue’ and can maintain his lead through the mountains’ he will be difficult to beat. Look for the other teams to gain up on him and try to get him into trouble starting tomorrow. Discovery will try to be aggressive and probably send Leipheimer or Contador up the road and force Rabobank to chase setting up an attack later in the stage. Rasmussen can chase down some attacks, but not all of them.

    The green jersey battle is now down to Boonen, Hunter and Zabel. Hunter stole a stage win, and Zabel can pick up points almost anywhere, but look for Boonen to get the points and jersey in the end.

    For the Polka dot jersey, Rasmussen has it but will be busy chasing breakaways. Here’s hoping Mauricio Soler brings Barloworld the jersey (editor’s note: agreed, you gotta like Soler). The Barloworld team should not have been competitive but they been aggressive everywhere from the start and have been deservedly rewarded. Well done.

    The next week will say a lot about the Tour. If Rasmussen is allowed to race, it will put pressure on everyone to dope and it will be a big step backwards for cycling. How the Tour handles the next few days will have a large impact on the future of cycling. The Tour has thus far been single minded in opposing doping, and now they face perhaps their greatest test. For the sake of cycling’s future let’s hope they stick to their guns.

    Posted by BVBigBro at 08:35 PM | Comments (2)     
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    July 17, 2007

    Tour de France -2007 - Update #2

    [Posted by BVBigBro]

    The first mountains are now over and we’ve learned quite a bit about the GC contenders and the way their teams will contest the Tour de France. In addition, a couple of possible contenders have now eliminated themselves. Later this week an individual time trial will provide an opportunity for one or two excellent time triallers to put their stamp on the Tour. If they fail, and there’s reason to believe they may, then the last week of the Tour will be a free for all and very fun to watch.

    Sunday’s mountain stage was race very conservatively by most of the field with the exception of Michael Rasmussen and Michael Rogers. Rogers was the first contender to eliminate himself, crashing on the tricky descent. Rasmussen was able to get the stage win and a lead that in lieu of subsequent events could prove sufficient to win. The remaining contenders were content to let Moreau do all the work on the final climb and could only watch when Iban Mayo decided to run away and put himself in contention to win.

    Tuesday’s mountain stage was also raced conservatively with the contenders all waiting until the final climb to attack and then achieving only modest time gains on each other. With few mountaintop finishes in this Tour, this did much to solidify the lead of Rasmussen. Significantly, Alexandre Vinokourov and Denis Menchov lost enough time to effectively eliminate themselves from contention.

    The next major test will be Saturday’s time trial. Among the contenders, the obvious favorites will be Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Kloden. For these two riders, Saturday’s stage is do or die. Neither man can climb with Rasmussen, and this stage will be one of only two chances for them to gain time. Kloden, however, was injured earlier in the week and the tailbone injury may mean he will have difficulty maintaining his time trial position and thus be slow. For Leipheimer, last year’s Tour saw him turn in a bad time trial and he was not particularly strong in the prologue, thus he may not be as strong as suspected. If this is the case, then these two men will eliminate themselves and Rasmussen will only have to beat the other climbers.

    Also still in contention are Alejandro Valverde, Iban Mayo, Alberto Contador and Carlos Sastre. These men are not strong time triallers and they can be expected to lose time Saturday to the time triallers. They will have difficulty making up ground on Rasmussen before the Pyrenees unless Rasmussen delivers a horrible race (well within his capabilities).

    Finally, Cadel Evans and Christophe Moreau are still lurking. Both men have shown they can climb with everyone except Mayo and Rasmussen, and Moreau has shown he can attack in the mountains. These two men can time trial better than the other climbers and they could very well both be in the top three by the end of Saturday’s stage.

    The race for green jersey is now Tom Boonen’s to lose as Robbie McEwen suffered a time elimination and Oscar Freire abandoned. Eric Zabel, Thor Hushovd and Robbie Hunter can be expected to challenge him and the next three days will probably determine the green jersey winner.

    For now, it’s a break until Saturday. The time trial will be run in reverse order with the leaders starting last and the time trial lasting a little over an hour for each ride. The riders should start two minutes apart meaning the critical phase will last about an hour and a half. So grab a cup of coffee and tune in Saturday to see some late July fireworks.

    Posted by BVBigBro at 08:24 PM | Comments (0)     
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    July 13, 2007

    Tour de France -2007 - Update #1

    [Posted by BVBigBro]

    One week of the Tour is over now and it’s a good place to stop and see if we’ve learned anything from the results thus far and if any riders are obviously in form or out of form. Tomorrow’s stage has the first real climb of the Tour and after tomorrow we will know if who is just bluffing.

    For the GC (yellow jersey) contenders the first week of the Tour consisted of the prologue, lots of opportunities to crash and one opportunity to lose time (Stage 5). The prologue ran pretty much to form with none of the contenders losing a significant amount of time, although I suspect Levi Leipheimer would have liked a much better time in this short stage.

    Crashing were Sastre, Kloden and Vinokourov. Sastre’s crash appeared insignificant. The Kloden crash has supposedly resulted in a tailbone fracture. It is difficult to see him winning with this injury. It has to hurt to be in the saddle so long and he will have no opportunity to stay off the bone and let it heal. Expect him to be in difficulty in the coming week. The extent of Vinokourov’s injuries are unknown, but he had a major case of road rash, and the peloton had little difficulty holding him at bay as he tried to get back on after being dropped. Saturday and Sunday’s mountains should reveal the extent to which he has been injured and if he can still compete.

    The only GC contender to lose significant time in the first week was Vinokourov who lost 1:20 after crashing. Of note here is that in the predictably frantic finish of stage five several important riders did not lose time. Euskaltel’s trio of Iban Mayo, Inigo Landaluze and Haimar Zubeldia all hung on (editor - isn't Mayo with Cofidis now?), as did Michael Rogers, Michael Rasmussen, Juan Manuel Garate, Markus Fothen and Vladimir Karpets. Expect these riders and their teams to keep them in the hunt for the overall, along with the obvious contenders, during the next week.

    Tomorrow’s mountains will bring an end to Fabian Cancellara’s run in the yellow jersey. As the road goes uphill, he should be going backwards. Expect him to take with him George Hincapie, Fillipo Pozzato and all the other non-climbers near the top of the GC standings. Look for Cristophe Moreau to try to get the first mountain stage and bring home a French win for Bastille Day.

    After that, Sunday’s stage should establish a favorite, and then Tuesday’s brutal stage will likely see a counterattack by someone to try and test the new favorite. Finally the next week will conclude with the first long time trial, either cementing someone’s lead, or leaving us with a free for all for the last week (I’m hoping free for all).

    For the green jersey (these are the sprinters) contenders, the first week has been one of inconsistency. Boonen, McEwen and Hushovd all got their stage wins, but none appeared dominant. Oscar Freire, Eric Zabel and Robbie hunter got enough high places to leave us with the possibility of a green jersey winner with no stage wins (I don’t think it will happen.)

    Finally, the pace at this year’s Tour has been well below average through the first week. This could be due to less dope in the peloton. Alternately, CSC has been leading the way and they may be conserving energy to actually try and support Carlos Sastre in his quest for the overall for once. Either way, something has drastically changed.

    For the coming week, look for Moreau, Evans, Valverde, Sastre, Menchov or Vinokourov to establish themselves as the favorite, and then be repeatedly tested in the back to back mountain stages and time trial. Keep an eye on Markus Fothen to emerge as the young rider of note (although he will not be wearing the white jersey for best young rider). Finally, look to see which of the green jersey contenders can make it over the Alps and still have something left to contend the final flat stages (I’m betting on Zabel or Hunter – their teams will not contest the GC and thus will be more willing to help them through the mountains.)

    That’s all for now. The Tour has thus far avoided drug scandals and controversy. For that alone it has been a good week for the Tour. If the following week can be equally clean, and if the mountains and time trial can deliver us a close race, then the Tour may recover from scandal quicker than I thought and we may yet see smiles and not despair in Paris.

    Posted by BVBigBro at 02:40 PM | Comments (3)     
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    July 04, 2007

    A Series of Questions - 2007 Edition

    [Posted by ]

    Happy 4th of July! I hope everyone has a fun day filled with fireworks, grilling, friends & family. Last year, this post was a lot of fun to be write and it was lots of fun to read all the comments. So, let's do it again!

    1. In the spirit of the 4th, what are your favorite backyard/driveway fireworks?

    2. A storm is coming! Do you head for the basement or pull up a lawn chair?

    3. President Bush commuted Scooter Libby's jail sentence. Does this make a mockery of our justice system or is Bush just taking advantage of one perks of the office?

    4. It's a beautiful day. You're driving on an open highway with the windows rolled down. What song is playing?

    5. You "somehow" acquire the powers of Heroes' Hiro Nakamura. You're a time traveler! Where would you go first?

    6. Who, in your opinion, are the top 5 American presidents?

    7. Jennifer Aniston or Angelina Jolie?

    8. What could you do longer: turn off your TV set or turn off your computer?

    9. If you couldn't be an American, what nationality would you choose?

    10. Who you rather your college football team get screwed out of the National Championship game and win their bowl game by a bunch or go to the National Championship game and lose a heartbreaker?

    Posted by at 11:23 AM | Comments (11)     
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    July 03, 2007

    2007 Tour de France Preview – Part 2

    [Posted by BVBigBro]

    Yesterday we looked at the teams and riders. Today we’ll look at the stages and see if we can make sense of what promises to be a bizarre and unpredictable year at the Tour.

    This year’s Tour begins with a short Prologue time trial in London. The prologue is the first chance for contenders to gain time on one another and we should be able to see immediately who’s looking at the overall and who’s just interested in stages. David Millar will be the crowd favorite here and he will be one of the favorite’s to start the next day’s race in Yellow.

    Stage one will start the start the race for the green jersey, but with a Category 4 climb only 20k from the finish a breakaway might to be able to get clear and hold off the sprinters.

    Stages two, three, and four are flat stages varying from short to very long that should each come down to a sprint finish. After these stages we should have a favorite emerge for the green jersey. This should be the McEwen/Boonen/Hushovd show with possibly a side of Oscar Freire.

    Stage five is a strange rolling stage with eight categorized climbs including a Category 2 climb and with a Category 3 climb only 8k from the finish. This stage should go to a long breakaway, but the climb near the end of the stage could make for a frantic finish among the GC contenders and lead to the first serious time gaps.

    Stage six is a flat stage that will again go to the sprinters unless the teams are too disinterested to chase a breakaway with the mountains only a day away.

    Stage seven starts the race for the overall with the first real mountains of the Tour. The riders will summit the Category 1 Col de la Columbiere 15k from the end of the stage. It’s not a particularly difficult stage or climb, but it should be sufficient to create a selection on the final climb. If any riders are dropped on this stage it will be a pretty good sign that they are not in shape to contend. Alternately, if there are two groups of riders, one doped and one clean, this stage may be the first to show it.

    Stage eight is a real mountain stage with three difficult Category 1 climbs and a mountaintop finish. By the end of this stage an early favorite will have emerged. If the elite climbers get away on the last climb the time trialers will be looking to limit their losses with only three mountaintop finishes. Riders like Valverde, Pereiro and Vinokourov will have to be at or near the lead (and ahead of the time trailers) by the end of this stage if they stand a chance of winning. If someone like Cadel Evans stays with the climbers, than he could find himself the favorite.

    After a rest day, Stage nine continues the mountains in a nasty way as it starts with the Hors Categorie Col de l’Iseran right from the start. After an awesome descent the riders than get the classic combo of the Category 1 Col du Telegraphe followed closely by the Col du Galibier and then another great descent to the finish. This stage has breakaway written all over it so expect someone like Michael Rasmussen (editor's note: if the Chicken is unleashed-he might be too busy helping Menchov) or Iban Mayo to get a win. For the GC contenders an aggressive rider like Vinokourov might try to hit the first climb as hard as possible and try to create a split in the peloton. That would create a long frantic day as riders work hard to stay out front while others are desperately chasing. Look for this stage to permanently remove some riders from contention.

    Stage ten and eleven give the GC riders a break as they are both long flat stages that will be contested only by the sprinters.

    Stage twelve is a rolling stage with a Category 2 climb about 40k from the end of the stage. That is close enough to the end of the stage that a determined breakaway could hold out, but I think the peloton will bring it all back together for a sprint finish, especially if the battle for the green jersey is still close.

    Stage thirteen is the first long time trial of the Tour. It is a 54k windy, climbing, descending beast that will prove difficult for the weaker time trialists. It may seem logical that the turns, climbs and descents would favor people who are not natural time trialers, but the reality is that they tend to exaggerate the differences leading to even greater time losses. Expect all but those who are at their best against the clock to get creamed on this stage. Riders like Kloden and Leipheimer will need to gain significant time on this stage in order to challenge for the overall.

    There will be no rest for the riders as the Tour goes from a tough individual time trial right into the heart of the Pyrenees for Stage fourteen. This stage will cross the Hors Category Port de Paliheres and then climb for a mountaintop finish atop the great Plateau de Beille. All but the best climbers will be dropped on the first climb and at the end of this stage we will have a definite favorite for the overall. With two big climbs coming right after a time trial the stage win itself could easily go to a long breakaway.

    Stage fifteen will be the hardest day in the mountains coming right after two difficult stages. This stage will cross two Category 2 climb, the Category 1 Col de Mente, the Hors Category Port de Bales and finally the Category 1 Col de Peyresourde before a short descent to the finish. Traditionally stages like this go to breakaways of riders who are too far out of contention to be dangerous. For the GC contenders, this will be a stage of survival. They will likely be looking to simply lose no time.

    After another rest day Stage sixteen finally concludes the mountains with another powerful stage that tours the Basque country climbing the Hors Categorie Port de Larrau, two Category 1s and concluding atop the Col d’Aubisque. This is the last chance for the climbers to gain time on theie rivals, so after the first climb splits the peloton, the final climb will see an all out effort by the climbing elite culminating a memorable stage win for someone.

    Stages seventeen and eighteen return the stage to the sprinters as both are long flat stages that will be hotly contested if the green jersey is still up for grabs. On the other hand, these two stages represent a last shot at glory for the breakaway artists.

    Stage nineteen is the second individual time trial and it will likely decide the Tour. The great thing about having an individual TT at the end of the race is that there is no way to race defensively. Regardless of the standings each riders only hope is to go all out and hope for the best. That’s the way it should be.

    Stage twenty is the now traditional easy ride to Paris followed by eight laps on the Champs Elysees. This is a prestigious stage that should see an 80k warm up followed by what is essentially an oval criterium in front of a huge crowd. This is a prestigious stage that will be fought for by all the sprinters and their teams regardless of the green jersey standings.

    Those are the stages. How will this race shake out? In spite of what the Tour and the media would like to talk about, this race will be consumed from day one by the question of doping and whether or not this race is clean. This is cycling’s own fault and this line of discussion is entirely fair. If this race is clean we should see a slower overall pace, less team pacesetting compared to recent years and a great deal of back and forth action among the leaders with quite a few lead changes. Lost to most people is that the races prior to the heavy doping era were far more exciting races, with the leaders having good and bad days on the bike and corresponding results.

    If the race is the same “dirty” race (and based on Jorg Jaksche’s comments there is reason to believe this may be the case) then we should see a race similar to recent years with a pecking order established fairly early in the race.

    Perhaps most likely is that the race will consist of some doped and some clean riders which has the potential to be the most embarrassing race of all. It’s entirely conceivable that we will see two groups of riders riding at different speeds with the usual “I’ve never tested positive…” being applied liberally. This would be the worst possible scenario for the Tour, but many of the riders and teams couldn’t care less about the future of the Tour. The riders, teams and the UCI confronting doping are like congress confronting illegal immigration: they have a monetary interest in the status quo and at the same time are so removed from the public that they are incapable of understanding that the lame excuses that worked in the past are no longer working. If they eventually agree to a marriage with real doping controls and real penalties it will be a shotgun wedding.

    Fortunately we appear to have a well armed ornery old father figure in the Tour itself. Given the Tour’s recent impositions on the UCI, teams and riders, I am hopeful that this race will be a step in the right direction and that the Tour will find reasons to remove any and all competitors who fail to meet the Tour directors own ideas about acceptable conduct. Removing the Astana team entirely would be a good start. Given this teams association with Walter Godefroot and all their former T-Mobile riders, wishing them farewell would be a good idea.

    Personally I’m hopeful that the race will be relatively clean, at least among the GC contenders. France has a reputation for relatively clean cycling and a willingness to punish dopers and I think all this will make anyone wishing to compete for the GC to think twice about doping. This in turn makes me think we will see some formerly second tier riders emerge as legitimate threats. Foremost among them may be Christophe Moreau. Moreau was already a good rider, and last Month’s win in the Dauphine shows he is in top form. Top form and clean urine may be enough to win this year. If not, look to Leipheimer or Kloden to win given their time trialing ability. Finally, Cadel Evans, Denis Menchov or Michael Rogers could emerge victorious with some excellent climbing and by limiting their losses in the time trials. A Rabobank win would be cool so a Menchov win would be OK with me.

    Don’t give up yet. If I’ve sounded very negative about the Tour this year it’s because I am. The Tour this year is a mess, the race could be a disaster and it may get even messier before it gets clean. But like I said before I’m hopeful. What cycling needs now is to clean up its’ act. The Tour de France and its’ directors are the best chance of that happening. What you can do is give them some time, and a chance to make some changes. Take this year’s result with a grain of salt if you must, but have an open mind. Also, stop being so gullible when the guilty try to blame everyone but themselves. Supporting dopers in the face of overwhelming evidence contributes to the problem, it doesn’t solve it. Finally don’t let the current state of professional cycling sour you on all cycling. There is still lot’s of local racing that’s often far more fun and if all else fails you can always get on your own bike and just ride.

    Posted by BVBigBro at 08:38 AM | Comments (3)     
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    July 02, 2007

    2007 Tour de France Preview – Part 1 or Does Anyone Still Care?

    [Posted by BVBigBro]

    It’s that time of year again, Tour de France time. As of this writing, I may have predicted last year’s winner. Unfortunately, that last sentence says more about the state of affairs of bicycle racing than anything else. In case you’ve been living under a rock, last year’s Tour de France was won by Floyd Landis, who then proceeded to test positive for synthetic testosterone. A retest this year confirmed the presence of the synthetic testosterone. No disciplinary action has yet been taken, although it seems likely that said action will consist either of nothing or of the title being stripped from Landis and awarded to runner up Oscar Pereiro. In any event the decision will come far too late to satisfy anyone. In addition, Landis then proceeded to threaten to out Greg LeMond for having been abused as a child. Classy Floyd, classy.

    In the mean time the remainder of 2006 and the first six months of 2007 have seen numerous doping confessions by some of the sports biggest names and further investigations, testimony, revelations and allegations that make it apparent that the battles fought in the post Indurain era in the Tour de France have consisted largely of chemical warfare.

    In the defense of the Tour itself, the Tour has taken the lead in trying to clean up the sport. In addition to last year’s expulsions we may see some last minute expulsions this year. Further, I suspect that certain individuals have likely been informed they are not welcome. Finally, don’t be surprised if a lot more testing takes place starting this year, with the appeals process being shortened. Eventually retroactive testing could even be implemented. In a novel idea, the Tour has forced cycling’s governing body, the UCI, to make all riders wishing to ride the Tour de France sign a pledge that they will forfeit a year’s salary in the event of a positive doping result. The Tour has begun to throw its’ weight around and the Tour is too big to be ignored.

    Hopefully it will be a start and not the end. Personally I think the teams, doctors and directors need to be held accountable. Better than having the riders sign a pledge would be having each team post a bond in the amount of say, twice the purse. Test positive, forfeit your bond. Let the market decide who is a risk to cheat.

    It is with this background in place that this year’s contenders take the stage. The excitement that normally precedes the Tour has been replaced by a combination of apprehension for what might happen next mixed with indifference to an event that has lost its’ appeal. To tell you the truth, this year’s Tour will have to do a lot to get more than a yawn even from me. Other sports should take notice not only of what happens when performance enhancing drugs get out of hand, but how long and costly it is to even start to clean up a sport. But enough of that for now, on to the race:

    This year’s Tour consists of the usual 21 stages. One short prologue time trial, two individual time trials, three mountaintop finishes, three mountainous stages that do not end on mountaintops, one sort of transitional stage, and eleven stages that are more or less flat.

    The usual prizes will be awarded: the green jersey for the best sprinter, the polka dot jersey for the best climber, the white jersey for the best young rider, and the yellow jersey for the rider with the lowest overall time. The prizes will be contested by 21 teams of nine riders each. The rosters for the race are not all set, but the teams that will compete are:

    After having Francisco Mancebo busted in last year’s doping scandal, the leader of this French team will be Cristophe Moreau. Moreau has had good form this year and is a strong overall rider who can keep up in the mountains and deliver a solid time trial. He is my pick to win it all. The key to his winning will be having a clean race. Moreau is a rider long rumored to be clean since the Festina scandal of 1998. If he is clean and the race is not he will be at a disadvantage that should be apparent the first time the race goes uphill. Given that the race is in France, and France has a reputation of having the cleanest cycling, I’m going to guess he will find the tour’s new era to his liking. AG2R is not a powerhouse team, but he should have no problems having adequate support in the race.

    This team has one rider, Mercado, that could be somewhat competitive, but realistically should do little.

    Astana appears to be the powerhouse team with Vinokourov, Kloden and Savoldelli. All three are realistic podium contenders, and all three also come from teams whose riders have had a history of using various chemical additives. The Tour will be hoping for this team to fall flat. If one of these riders wins, the result will likely be considered suspect. That fact is another indication of how low the Tour has sunk, and how quickly.

    Robbie Hunter, who raced a gutsy final time trial last year, will probably lead an otherwise uninteresting team. For his showing last year I hope Hunter finds a way to steal a stage.

    Bouyges Telecom
    Thomas Voeckler, who held the yellow jersey for a few days two years ago, leads a team that should do nothing.

    Caisse d’Epargne
    This is the team of who will probably be a popular pick to win Alejandro Valverde as well as last year’s possible winner Oscar Pereiro. They are a very strong team and either Valverde or Pereiro could win. On the down side Valverde has been frequently rumored to be a part of multiple doping investigations and Pereiro has the debacle of last year’s Tour de France still unresolved. How do you defend a title you’re not even sure you’ve won? This team is too well run to just disappear so I expect they will be competitive with Valverde being the one rider in the race capable of winning any stage other than the time trials.

    Chavanel is their best rider. That is why they rarely win.

    Credit Agricole
    Thor Hushovd is a tough sprinter who should contend for the green jersey. This team tends to race hard, but its’ difficult to see them contending for the general classification.

    CSC is the team managed by Bjarne Riis. Riis has now admitted to doping during his 1996 Tour victory. This team has traditionally obtained riders who miraculously became better after putting on a CSC jersey. Now we know why. Carlos Sastre is CSC’s best rider, and a threat to win it all regardless of how clean the race is. The remainder of the team are strong enough to support him but I suspect this team will have a big performance drop with the doping revelations and the subsequent microscope they can expect to endure at the Tour.

    Discovery Channel
    Joining CSC under the scope will be Discovery. Too many of its’ riders have had too many doping incidents for this team to skate by unnoticed. Levi Leipheimer should be their team leader, and he is definitely a threat to win. Leipheimer is a better time trialer than several of the other contenders, and this should serve him well in Tour that has only three mountaintop finishes.

    Haimar Zubeldia will be the Basque team’s man for the Tour. Zubeldia, when healthy, is a threat for the podium if he can put together a half-assed time trial. I think his time trialing will be poor and I think he will disappoint this year. This team has had only minor doping incidents, and given their low budget, they may be a fairly clean team. If that is the case a clean Tour could see them surprise.

    Francais de Jeux
    A French team that should do nothing but always seems to find a way to win a stage.

    On paper this is as weak a team as there is in this Tour. Fothen was a challenger for last year’s best young rider, but he is nowhere near being competitive in this race.

    Lampre Fondital
    Damiano Cunego is their best rider, but he will not ride the Tour. Without him, Marzio Bruseghin will contest the time trials and Tadej Valjevic could crack the top ten overall.

    Danilo DiLuca won this year’s Giro d’Italia and then promptly blessed us all with another doping scandal. Without DiLuca this team will likely phone it in.

    Yet another suspended rider, the formerly great sprinter Alessandro Petacchi will not be contending anything for this team. Which means their only hope is for Celestino to contest a flat stage or two.

    Predictor Lotto
    This is another strong team that should contend for the green jersey with Robbie McEwen and for the overall with Cadel Evans. Traditionally trying to do both results in a team doing neither, thus I suspect Evans will get the short end of the stick as the team supports McEwen. Evans is still good enough to contend for the podium, and if the team throws its’ weight behind him he will be favored to do so.

    This team will try to spoil McEwen’s green jersey party and they have a man who can do it in Tom Boonen. Boonen was consistently bested by McEwen in the sprints in last year’s Tour and it will be a tough test for him to see if can regain his form and challenge McEewn for the Green Jersey. They have a couple of other good riders in Paolo Bettini and Juan Manuel Garate but it would be a major upset for them to have anyone contend for the overall.

    Rabobank will have a contender for the polka dot jersey in Michael Rasmussen and a contender for the overall in Denis Menchov. I think Menchov is the greater threat to do some damage, and given the open nature of this year’s Tour he has to be seriously considered for the overall. Rasmussen can climb with anyone but is too poor a time trailer (editor’s note: only if you considering falling to be “bad”!) to threaten in this year’s Tour. Rabobank also has a number of riders like Oscar Freire, Michael Boogerd and Juan Antonio Flecha who can contend for virtually any of the road stages. With a lot of teams waiting around to see what will happen for the overall don’t be surprised if this team animates the first half of the race by having a lot of riders in breakaways and maybe stealing a sprint or two from the big boys contending for the Green jersey.

    Saunier Duval
    Saunier Duval will have the best bikes in the race. Unfortunately they will not have the best riders. After a strong showing in the Giro d’Italia they will seek only stage wins here which they should be able to get with Iban Mayo in the mountains. If Mayo is healthy and gets away in the mountains, he could threaten for the overall but it is unlikely the other teams will let this happen. Look for Mayo’s results in the early stages. If he loses several minutes on some flat stage and turns in a poor first time trial thise will be a pretty good sign he wants a time deficit so no one will view him as a threat in the mountains and will therefore not chase him when he decides to go for a prestigious mountain stage win.

    The last team for this year’s Tour is the former powerhouse and now scandal ridden T-Mobile team. Michael Rogers will lead this team and he is good enough to finish in the top 5-6 if things go his way. It would take a huge effort and a lot of luck for him to find the podium. Given the doping scandals, this team will also find itself under close scrutiny. Unlike some others, though, they have confessed their sins and appear to be on the right path. Given their actions towards creating a clean team the Tour would probably like to see them do fairly good. Not too good, though.

    That’s the field. After the 4th I’ll take a look at what could turn into one of this years’ more bizarre sporting spectacles.

    Posted by BVBigBro at 10:12 AM | Comments (1)     
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    July 01, 2007

    Do They Know They're On You Tube?

    [Posted by ]

    I caught a little bit of the Concert for Diana tonight. It made me think of two things. First, Simon Le Bon is actually hotter than he was back in the 80s. How is this possible? Second, because the concert was at London's Wembley Stadium, it reminded me of Live Aid.

    The Baby Boomers had Woodstock and kids today have Bonnaroo. Gen Xers had, depending on their age, the US Festival, Live Aid, Lollapalooza and Woodstock II. I'm too young for the US Festival, although, as a U2 fan, I was thrilled to find a video of their legendary performance of "Electric Co." from the show (this is the one where Bono climbs about 100 feet up the scafolding to the roof of the stage). Lollapalooza was fun, but Woodstock II sounds like it sucked. So, I'm thinking that for music fans in their 30s Live Aid was it.

    With that in mind, I looked up some Live Aid clips on You Tube. While some of the music is awesome. The clip below is beyond awesome. To borrow a phrase from the Tour de France. It's HC awesome.

    Oh, where to start? First, how in the world did we all not know that George Michael was gay. He's fabulously gay. Look at that shirt! Hell, look at Andrew Ridgeley!

    While some people might get excited to see the likes of Adam Ant, Roger Daltrey and Freddie Mercury fighting over a microphone, I got a little misty seeing the dearly departed lead singer of Big Country, Stuart Adamson again. I also enjoy Bono's smug smile because he knows he gets to sing the best line of the song: "Tonight thank God it's them, instead of YOU!"

    Anyway, enjoy the video and if you're so inclined, check out You Tube for some great old concert videos. I'm watching songs from Under A Blood Red Sky right now. This is Red Rocks!

    Posted by at 09:24 PM | Comments (2)     
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