Monday, December 28, 2009

So, what the hell is DHEA?*

Tyler Hamilton, Kenny Williams and now Tom Zirbel. Three names from disparate corners of the cycling world have all met the same fate. Positive for DHEA. 8 year, 2 year and a suspension tbd, pending the B-sample.

With these suspensions, DHEA has been thrown around in the cycling press as one of the next great evil PEDs. Evidence of the next generation of doping, a symbol of the sport's inability to clean up and go legit.

So what is DHEA?
DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is an endogenous hormone (made in the human body), and secreted by the adrenal gland. DHEA serves as precursor to male and female sex hormones (androgens and estrogens). So, like many banned substances, it's a naturally occurring hormone, replicated in a lab, and sold in a store, in pill form.

What is it used for?
Over the counter anti-aging mostly. As the body ages, it produces less hormones (or different ones, i guess). DHEA supposedly will replace some of the lost good hormones and help increase the production of good ones, like, in theory, testosterone.

Does it work?

Why are so many riders using it?
Anyone who has spent any time at the upper-end of amateur cycling, meaning a Cat 1/2 parking lot crit, has probably heard of DHEA mentioned as a recovery aid. Walk into any grocery store, there will be a sizable selection of DHEA right next to the vitamins. And it's cheap. Really cheap.

Ultimately, a cheap way to convince a rider they're really doing everything possible to maximize recovery. And maybe give them the feeling of having an edge. Placebo, dog.

So it's obviously easily detectable. Really, why are people who make their living off cycling using this stuff?
Well, I don't think anyone in the coaching world is recommending that anyone use the stuff. But I think there's a couple reasons that DHEA is making some very prominent riders more familiar with USADA.

1. The shit is CHEAP. So it is not only sold cheap in stores, it's sold even cheaper to supplement manufacturers. Supplement manufacturers aren't regulated by the FDA, they can basically throw anything in their supplements and call it whatever else they want. As long as the materials are also not under supervision of the FDA, and DHEA isn't.

There may have been some evidence, at some time, that maybe, just maybe DHEA did in fact benefit somebody's athletic performance. So, if it's cheap, and there's any chance, real or imaginary, that someone will experience an increase in performance from XXXMusclePopper3005, then why the hell not, throw some in.

My guess, is that there is a fair amount of DHEA in any creatine/muscle milk/energy blaster that you buy at the local GNC, crap, there's probably a TON of DHEA in that stuff. Hell, you probably can't even walk into a GNC without getting enough in your system to warrant a call from your friendly neighborhood lab analysts.

I imagine a few of these positives, are legitimate, "it didn't say it on the label" tainted supplements. Supplements that should not be used by professional athletes who need to pass drug tests under any circumstances. Because everybody knows that you can't trust the labels on unregulated supplements. Everybody knows that.

2. Guys using legit PEDs will have DHEA in their systems when cycling off their hardcore PEDs. So you've been ramping up with steroids, are shredding everybody, kickin' ass and the big national profile pro race is coming up. Since your going fast enough to really turn some heads, you can't go in loaded to the gills on Trenbolone and blood boosters, since you know that all this stuff would easily show up in any tests.

Just dropping the PEDs will, in theory, cause your hormone levels to tank, your body will basically stall because it hasn't needed to produce hormones. So to avoid this, you're going to need a pretty impressive regimen of legal supplements to keep your levels up while you go kick ass at the big race. This is called Post Cycle Therapy. Even if all of these supplements are 'technically' legal, which they probably aren't, they're probably swimming in unlabeled DHEA.

3. Some guys just don't care and are buying supplements and really couldn't care less and are pretty burnt out anyways and might as well just retire before they get popped for the lamest drug you can test positive for.

So if it doesn't do anything, why is it illegal (WADA illegal, not law illegal)?
Probably a combination of marketing and chemical composition. A new product came out, it was EVERYWHERE in the supplement world, claimed to have anabolic effects, WADA probably didn't give it too much thought and added it to the list, effective or not.

I've also heard that DHEA does appear, molecularly, very similar to other more effective steroids. Ask your friendly neighborhood chemist for more on that one.

Ultimately, yes, DHEA can and should be avoided. Those who test positive are either being disingenuous or careless, gotta mind your p's and q's if you make your living in the pedal game. It's a curiosity that such an innocuous subastance can tarnish so many careers so quickly, but the rules are the rules and ya gotta play by 'em.

*I'm not a trainer or doctor or chemist. These people will know way more about this stuff than me. I've just spent a couple afternoons reading about it. I may make mistakes, but I think I'm on the right track. If you notice a mistake, feel free to speak up, I'm not trying to mislead anyone.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Why Wait?

Great picture (PDXCross). Wish it was in color. Don't really understand b/w cycling pictures. But great great picture. Racing for all the marbles, winner take all, no pro's killing it solo off the front, 200m to go. What more could you want?

One question though....

Molly? You waited? Your opponent crashed on the last lap of the biggest cx race of the year and you waited? Seriously?

Amateur cycling seems to subscribe to the quaint idea that it is somehow respectable to wait for your opponent if he has somehow encountered misfortune. Nice idea.....but really?

Bike racing. RACING. R-A-C-I-N-G. Draw a line in the dirt, first one there wins.

Of course, recreational cyclists constantly point to Ulrich waiting for Lance at Luz-Ardiden, which was preceded by Lance waiting Ulrich on Peyresourde.

What is mentioned less, is that these are exceptions. If Lance had buried Ullrich after he overcooked a turn, fair play. Riding down the mountain is just as much a part of the game as riding up. Does anyone expect Boonen to wait for Flecha at this year's Paris-Roubaix? Nope. Hell, Chiapucci attacked Lemond after he punctured on Stage 17 of the 1990 Tour. Not really admired for it, but it got him the most aggressive rider award.

And to put it in a cx context, did Niels Albert wait for Sven Nys when totally shutting down his line and forcing him off his bike at Niel Jaarmarktcross? Nope, just rode like he stole something.

Sure, it's a sporting gesture, for certain riders, in certain situations to wait for a fallen competitor. Never. Ever. In a single day event, nave I ever heard of anyone waiting for anything.

So, again. Cross Crusade on the line and you wait? Really? Unless Molly totally caused Sean to crash, I just don't get it.

Bike racing is a race. It involves not only riding fast but steering, cornering and maintaining a working machine from start to finish. Positioning, judgment and skill also factor into success.

Molly and Sean are both talented hardworking racers who got landed on a nice stage and gave a hell of a show. Molly's decision probably cost her the race and the Crusade overall. It apparently endears her to the Portland Cx community even more, and she will sell more bikes because of it.

But Sean won the race.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Money Will Roll Right In

It is no longer a rumor, Kenny 'the Cash Register' Williams failed a USA Cycling drug control after setting a World Record at this year's Masters Track Nats. He tested positive for DHEA, an over the counter supplement, the same stuff Tyler Hamilton got busted for this past spring.

Kenny followed his instinct and announced the violation with an apology.

A fixture in the Northwest cycling scene. His nose for cash prizes earned his illustrious nickname. He would often race the Masters' race, scooping up as much cash as possible, and then repeat the process in the 1/2 race. He never had a professional career of note, apparently content to use amateur races to supplement his income, rather than seek out a paid ride. His age defying speed impressed Master's and Elite competitors alike.

He is also a popular coach of northwest based riders. Many successful Seattle and Portland based riders turn to Kenny for training plans and mentoring.

Given his place in cycling, it is extremely naive for Kenny to expect that anyone believe the positive was the result in a one-off dalliance with a single over-the-counter supplement. DHEA is widely used in a variety of supplements. Double blind studies have repeatedly shown that it has zero performance enhancing effects. The most common use of DHEA in competitive athletes? As part of a supplement cocktail intended to maintain hormone levels while cycling off stronger anabolic agents. (Sorry there aren't more authoritative sources on this one, but this is some back room of Gold's Gym, Venice beach bull shit.)

If Kenny recommends DHEA for performance enhancing reasons, it exposes him as an inept, ignorant coach. His services put his clients at the risk of USAC, UCI and WADA drug testing, with no possibility of experiencing any performance benefit.

If Kenny was using DHEA as it is commonly used in athletics, as part of a systematic PED regimen, then he should come clean. Lay it all on the table.

Like most riders, Kenny doesn't seem to be sorry for the results he's stolen from other riders. He's not sorry for the relationships damaged, the respect lost and the damage to the reputation of his clients and friends.

He's sorry he got caught.

Monday, October 12, 2009


It was reported today that Frank Vandenbroucke passed today at age 34. VDB defined style on the bike in the late 90's. His flair for the dramatic netted him a spectacular 1999 LBL win.

Ever since Lemond lost to Indurain, and up until the last year or two, pro cyclists have relied on large amounts of blood boosters, hgh and testosterone supplements to enhance performance. Nobody could not have a European pro career without them. Nobody.

A body on these PEDs is burning itself up at an impressive rate. The body can keep going, but the mind feels the terrible pain. Painkillers such as Tramadol help ease this pain without inducing numbness and fatigue. Tramadol is an extremely addictive drug, withdrawal induces severe, prolonged depression. Like performance enhancing drugs, the effects of drugs such as Tramadol vary greatly. No drug effects the same person the same way.

It is a constant disappointment that cycling cannot organize itself to maintain a minimum of health care, mental as well as physical, for riders. Unemployed riders are simply tossed to the side of the road like a bottle squeezed dry. Taken away from a sport that consumed them, saddled with the consequences of addictions acquired out of necessity, there is nowhere to go but down. And fast.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009


If there's any justice, this guy will go down in history as one of the best riders of his generation. Thomas Voeckler is up there all year, every year racing the right way. Always on the attack, always looking for opportunities. His sheet probably has dozens of top-10s where he lost out to guys with better programs. He's always knocking and today the door opened.

Today's finish was one of those great moments where the good guy won because he wanted it more. There was no superhuman feat, or magical comeback. Just a pro rider, doing his job and finally getting what he deserves.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


"Genius is not a generous thing
In return it charges more interest than any amount of royalties can cover"
-Jim Carroll

Remember when you were a kid? When this was all for fun? Doing that dance singing that song, it brought so much joy to so many people. To see a kid like that without a care in the world, saying those words that everyone knew deep down in their heart to be true, but when you get to that certain age with the kids and the mortgage and the wife. The truth of those songs gets crowded out. But you, you are able to live those songs forever.

And the songs and the dance, they look so easy, so effortless. One foot in front of the other. Over and over again, every movement analyzed and rehearsed. 10, 12, 14 hours. Focused, precise. One foot in front of the other is all that matters, over and over again. Not just better than anyone else can do it. Better than anyone else could imagine doing it. Everything you have, everything that most hold dear is traded.

Every move, timed to perfection, every twitch of every muscle is watched, examined, obsessed by millions of people. But it's so simple, don't they know anyone could do this dance, if they take the time. Right?

But it gets you there, to the top. The very top. But what you find out is it's lonely up there. You're no longer a person, but an opportunity. A revenue stream. They're not 'friends' anymore, they're 'partners' with opportunities. Just cut them in for a little bit, they'll return more, maybe do lunch. But it's all there. Anything you ever wanted and more. And there was so much more.

And they keep you there. Slow getting up in the morning, there's something for that, trouble sleeping, there's something for that. Need help getting through the show...maybe THIS doctor can help you with that. Because good doesn't make this much money. Great doesn't make this much money, But being the best, the best ever........

But then it stops, and it has to stop. Because this game is not sane. But, you can't be insane, can you? Nobody ever said we went too far, nobody said this was too much. Not while it was happening, anyways.

But once the show stops, the money stops. The phone calls taper off. And maybe, maybe the rehearsals, the training was a bit much. It's nice to spend some time with the family, but they don't understand. Maybe go on vacation, take a break. But the eyes, the looks. Hey, it's him, who did that thing, but now doesn't....what does he do?.......what did?

Now there's new guys, with new songs and new dances. A new generation. Their names in the headlines. And they're good, but not THAT good. Do people even remember what good is? Do they know what it takes to be good? Don't they remember what I did? Do they even remember who I was?

Do they know what you have to give? Your health. Your family. Your life. They aren't giving that.

I know, I'll get the coach back. Get the Doctors back. The sponsors. The money makers, the money takers. The friends start calling again, ONE MORE TOUR!

Maybe, maybe I could do it again. Just one more time. Make damn well sure, that everyone knows just how good I was.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Reaffirmation

Yes, pro cycling can sometimes be a trying sport to follow. The biggest stars constantly getting knocked for running on rocket fuel, flaky sponsors and the inability of even the most respected media outlets to cover anything but Lance rolling to the line in 30th place.

But every once in a while you see an image that totally confirms that cycling is indeed the most beautiful sport in the world. A sport which rewards technical ingenuity and good-old-fashioned-hard-work equally. The pinnacle of sports performance played out in grand theater on the world's most beautiful country roads and mountain passes.

Without further ado, courtesy of Zinn at Velonews:

In all his glory, the Chief Mechanic of the Astana team, wrench to The Boss himself scraping tubular glue of a rim with a butter knife. After all those hours in the wind tunnel, the months of training and millions of dollars in logistics; it is on the shoulders of this man to keep the machine running.

Nietzsche wrote of the uber-mensch, the Superman whose understanding of life was so great and so thorough, that he knew that life in common society was a waste of time. He left to the dark hills of the Heartland to achieve a higher state of self-mastery. In time, one by one, the plebians would recognize his enlightened state, abandoning their material lives and discover their true purpose.

The true uber-mensch is hidden away from society, amid the exhaust of diesel trucks, surrounded by the most simple of machines, made from the most advanced materials. Constantly conducting a symphony of the ancient and cutting edge. Facilitating the wildest dreams of the world's most devious men. Wearing only a shop apron.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Theo Bos should never be allowed to race bikes again.

The blogging twitter-sphere has been abuzz about this, after watching it over and over, I have decided to set up my little soap box.

Theo Bos should be banned from cycling. At least for a year, but life would be justifiable. What he did was criminal.

What boggles my mind is that there seem to be plenty of defenders, or at least excuse-makers, for his actions. The (miserable) excuses seem to be based around the fact that he was against some 'uneven' barriers and running out of road and grabbing a handful of jersey and pulling the guy in front of him off his bike is a natural reaction to an imminent wreck.

The running out of road excuse is complete BS. In a bike race, you choose where to be. The peloton limits that choice, but where a rider is in a pack is a direct result of decisions that rider made. The choice you make at 10k, 5k or 2k to go can also effect the choices you have at 500m to go. Bos lacked the legs to be in the front and made a series of bad choices towards the end of that race. The result of these bad choices was that he ended up against the edge of some uneven barriers. My guess is that he then perceived that Impey was drifiting into the barriers and his heat-of-the-moment reaction was "If I'm going down, he's going with me."

I see this often in amateur races. Riders half wheel someone, put themselves in a position where one errant move can make their race go very wrong very quickly and then complain that they got a wrecked out. It makes no sense. Bike racing is no different than driving a car. Each rider is entirely responsible for where he puts his front wheel, and the consequences which result from that decision. Which may not be immediate.

If you aren't at the front then you're not going to win. Bos made the decision to try a late, really dicey surge up the left side for no apparent reason whatsoever. What would he accomplish by this? Crack the top-20? This is a pro race. If you don't win (or factor into the win) nobody cares where you finished.

What should Bos have done? Eased on the brakes, slowed a bit, hoped he could get back in the peloton, try again next time. That's the great thing about being a pro. Next time is just a few days away.

If Bos is allowed to race again this year, riders should protest. Refuse to start is he is in the peloton. He is clearly dangerous and lacks either the skills, decision making abilities or the judgment to race his bike at that level.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

A Manx in San Remo

This picture says it all. A successful professional cyclist weeping like a little girl. A former champion smiling like a proud Papa. Zabel's probably nearby shedding some tears. Nobody thought he could do it and he did. Tracking down Haussler's rocket powered leadout/sprint was amazing. That is some range. Pulling back 10m in the last 50.

I have previously knocked Hincapie for some iffy tactics in the past, never again. He was pure class today. And today is the only one that matters. He killed it from 2k. Perfect.

I love San Remo!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

La Primavera

As any good fan of pro cycling knows, this Saturday is the most important day of the year. It is time for La Primavera, La Classicisima, this year happens to be the running of the 100th Milano-San Remo. The most important race. The only race. You're not a big deal until you win this race. Win the Tour, fine. Win Roubaix, whatever. Win a World Championship, cool. Win San Remo, you're a legend, a hero and a God.

For example:


The course for this year is the same as last, which means the site of the traditional finish, La Via Roma, is still under construction. It will instead finish on Lungomare Italo Calvino, which is slightly less poetic, but the added extra couple of corners served Cancellara well when he jumped the field at 1500m last year.

So who's top dog here?
Quickstep - Boonen wants to win in San Remo, he NEEDS to win in San Remo, he knows it. Lefevre knows it. Both Allan Davis and Chavanel are flying right now, and if they don't know that Boonen needs to win in San Remo, their jerseys will not read 'Quickstep' next year.

High Road - Cav' the super sprinter is fast, even at the end of some long days, but Cav' will be lucky to still be hangin' on over the Le Manie, let alone the Cipressa and Poggio. He's here to learn. Hincapie and Lokvist look to be going well.

Cervelo - Both Haussler and Hushovd are showing the kind of form that can land you on top of the podium. Will Haussler be good after 7+ hours? If not, Thor might not be quick enough to strike alone in San Remo.

Katusha - McEwen never seems to REALLY focus on San Remo, winning Paris-Tours doesn't change your reputation as a Grand Tour stage killer. MSR would. Pozzato got his San Remo win when his teammate Boonen was lurking in the sprint. Without Tommeke there, Pozzato's swamped in the sprint.

Liquigas - Benanti can win in a bunch kick, and was lurking at the front of sprints in Tirreno-Adriatico. There is no Plan B.

Dark Horses?
Garmin - Farrar just beat Cav', straight up. But MSR is too long and too hard for the young 'uns. He will be there one day, but not this year. Farrar could be help to Julian Dean in the finale.

LPR Brakes - Age and lack of sauce have slowed Pettachi in recent years. His team is much downgraded from the rocket powered Fassa Bartolo train that delivered him to victory in 2005.

Astana - Despite all he's done, Lance Armstrong is a second tier bike racer until he wins in San Remo. This would have to happen in a sprint from a small group. It is very possible. It would be amazing. As Astana has no sprinters, they must hang their heads in shame if they cannot mix things up over the Cipressa and Poggio.

-Elken looks tops for the BB, and Paul hung on. Evan's gone next week, so Paul should have the target on his back.

-Piece of Cake, our (well, the NW's amateur cycling world's) San Remo, Roubaix and Liege all wrapped into one. The prize list is huge. Be there! It will be BALLS TO THE WALL! OW OW Ow OOOOWWWWWWWWW.

Friday, March 13, 2009

A little update.........

This is impressive. It has been a very good spring for formerly NW-based riders in the funny kits.

And for those who need to see to believe....

That is fast.

Due to the fact that I spend about 60 hours a week on a bike or surrounded by bike stuff, the motivation to talk (or write) about it is low. But I'm sure the bug will be back.

Some quick notes:
- The Piece of Cake guys at Presto Velo know how to promote a race. The field will be huge, and the racing will be full tilt. All other promoters take note.

- Sander's win at BB#1 was much deserved. Opportunistic bridge, teammate in a break, timely attack, that's how you do it. He's always strong and always close, good to see him get one.

- We're probably all happy that BB's 2 and 3 got pushed back a week, but could the cancellation of the original BB2 been handled in a worse way? Three days straight of emails saying from the promoter saying the race will be run under any circumstances including snow, and then canceling due to snow. Now honestly, I didn't think for a minute that OBRA officials would let a race be run with snow on the road, so why in the hell would anyone try and make it sound like it would? Makes me glad I don't drive from Bend.

- The riders at the head of the field of BB1 was so same ol' same ol'. Will somebody please have the wherewithal to mix things up a bit? Let's see some attacks, maybe let a break run, maybe launch a teammate. Something. PLEASE. I'll help. I promise.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Five Best Training Albums For 2009

Also known as the five best albums of 2008. And not that I advocate riding your bike with your ipod blasting away, but I do like to listen to music when I train, and I don't like to train indoors. So take that for what you will.

5.The Gaslight Anthem - The '59 Sound
Yes, when I mentioned I liked this album my friends all made fun of me for liking an emo-punk band (mostly because I've spent a good part of the past decade ridiculing emo-punk bands). But these guys channel their HotWaterMusic roots straight through an FM radio in an old Chevy in Jersey. And it's great. Really good, Boss-heavy rock n' roll. Now they just need a piano player that doesn't play in minor keys, a big guy playing tenor sax and a song that starts like this: "The screen door slams, Mary's dress waves......"

4.Estelle - Shine
I've been on a big R&B girl trip now for a couple months, and this is one is tip-top (oi, mate?). Estelle's English, so she brings in a bunch of dancehall influence along with solid R&B chops and can even rap really well, for a Brit. Producers like and John legend keep the songs top notch. The duet with Kanye on American Boy is one of the best songs of '08 hands down.

3.Dragging an Ox through Water - The Tropics of Phenomenon
Full disclosure, Brian who is DAOTW, is a good friend of mine from way back. That said, I don't see him much these days because he is a REALLY committed artist, who has made his work the center of his life and won't compromise a damn thing for it, and does staggeringly great work because of that. And I'm a middling bike racer, so we don't cross paths too often. While DAOTW sometimes gets lumped into the alt/deconstructed/folk scene that is so big in Portland, it's so much more than that. His songs play more like dreams, some coming to an abrupt halt, just when you think they're getting going. Lyrics read like conversations you only half remember 'cuz you were too drunk. It's all washed over in electronic trickery that sounds like a tv with bad reception that got left on when you passed out the night before, making no sense, and so much sense at the same time.

2.Lil Wayne - Carter 3
The Weezy has really been on top of his game this past year. Nobody thought he could top the flood of mixtapes he released throughout '08, but he did. Jay-Z coming on down to pass the torch on 'Mr. Carter' is sick. Yeah, he'll drop a goofy couplet here and there, but nobody's pushing hip-hop like Wayne. His wicked purple habit will probably catch up to him before long, so Carter 3 might be the last we see of Wayne at the top of his game.
Honorable Mention: T.I. - Paper Trails. This is the party record of '08: Ready for Whatever, Live Your Life w/ Rihanna, Whatever You Like,the first 2/3rds is hit after hit. But then it bogs down a little, and T.I. doesn't quite have the personality of a Lil Wayne to bring it all together.

1.Oasis - Dig Out Your Soul
People like to talk about Oasis like some old timers band out on the casino circuit. If some unknown band came along and released an album this full of swaggering psyched-out rock n' roll, the Earth would shake as millions of people ran towards them to declare them the new kings of rock n' roll. Liam sounds like a sneering asshole, Noel sounds like a Beatles loving dork and all is as it should be.