By James Raia

Greg Lemond: Finding New Challenges At 40

With little media fanfare or reminiscence, Greg LeMond turned age 40 in June 2001. Now nearly a decade removed from the top echelon of professional cycling, LeMond and his wife Kathy and the couple’s two boys and a girl, all teenagers, maintain their long-time residence in Medina, Minnesota.

The family also spends considerable time in Montana where the LeMonds own a fishing cabin and are building a family compound in Yellowstone Ranch, near Big Sky.

Since his retirement, LeMond has remained entrenched in cycling as a businessman. Some of his ventures away from cycling have not been as successful as he hoped, but his LeMond bicycles are extremely popular. He also has several additional ventures and business relationships, including cycling accessories that bear his name, a new arrangement with StairMaster and a new partial ownership of DeFeet, an athletic sock company in California.

LeMond has been wearing DeFeet socks for nearly a decade and has joined with the company to offer a line of LeMond apparel.

Always gregarious, LeMond spent more than twice his scheduled autograph-signing time at Interbike, the cycling industry’s major trade show, in Las Vegas.

While a steady flow of trade show attendees waited for autographs, LeMond chatted with each person and gladly posed for pictures. He also chatted with actor (and athlete) Robin Williams who tapped a surprised LeMond on the shoulder. LeMond also talked with other former athletes, long-time friends, business folks and cycling fans, greeting all comers with a hearty handshake and a smile.

Eventually, the former three-time Tour de France winner (1986, ’89 and ’90) left the expo with several friends, business colleagues (and a reporter) for a long lunch at the adjoining hotel’s Chinese restaurant.

Between story-telling, jokes and various exchanges with his small entourage, LeMond answered a wide-range of questions – his rekindled relationship with his father, his exercise interests and his family life. It was all done during a hearty offering a dim-sum, one of LeMond’s favorite dining choices.

Here’s part of the two-hour, lively session with LeMond during lunch:

Question: What was it like for you to turn 40?

Greg LeMond: It wasn’t like I had a middle-age crisis, but I did realize that I’m not young anymore.

Q: How much to do have a chance to exercise these days? You look good. You’ve lost weight?

GL: No, I haven’t lost any weight. I’ve seen photos when I say to myself, ‘Do I look that bad?’ I “porked out” a little bit this past summer, so maybe I’ve lost five pounds since then. But I’ve pretty much been the same weight the past few years, about 195 pounds (LeMond is 5-foot-9). I’m a lot more muscular than I was. When you are racing, if you know anything about exercise, you’re always breaking down muscle. You never have any muscle mass. In the three years after I stopped racing, even without any weight training, I gained about 30 pounds of muscle mass. But I’ve just starting running (about 45 minutes), so I can exercise while traveling. I’ve hated running forever. But in the last couple of weeks I’ve actually liked it. It feels less painful now than it did when I was racing. In the winter I cross-country ski five days a week and last year I did 45 days of downhill skiing. And in the summer, I still ride three days a week.

Q: For several years you and your father didn’t speak. But you’re back on good terms, right?

GL: I think why our relationship went sour is that because for the real fundamental part of my career, my dad never told me what to do. I was always independent. He advised me, and I asked him for advice. But he was never one to say, ‘You have to do this or that.’ As things got more important and my life became more businesslike, with the money and more responsibility, I think he got over concerned and all of a sudden our relationship dynamics changed and I wanted for him to be more like my dad than a businessman. But now we’ve been on very good terms for the past two years (after a four-year break). He likes to hike and he’s doing well in real estate (in Reno, Nevada). That time was brutal and it’s not something anyone should go through. But it’s much better and my dad is very affectionate.

Q: Do you watch cycling and are you still involved with competitive cycling in any way?

GL: It’s so hard to be involved in the sport unless you’re involved with a team or in television commentating, that’s about it. And I have no interest in commentating. I did want to get involved with sponsoring a professional team, but it didn’t work out Mercury. But we are still working toward that. But there are a lot issues in cycling right now that I don’t want to be associated with. But the sport will continue to thrive, and eventually I would like to get back into cycling.

Q: Do you look at the (cycling) results in the newspaper?

GL: Occasionally. But this summer we (the LeMond family) were in Montana. We had no television, no TV. So I couldn’t follow it. But I do like watching the Classics. Those are the races I think are incredibly exciting, the one-day events. It’s on OLN (Outdoor Life Network) and that’s going to help the sport a lot. But I’m just not a guy who watches TV. I never have been. I don’t watch other sports at all, well the only sports I watch occasionally are the winter sports in the Olympics – skiing.

Q: What has it been like for you since your career ended?

GL: “I did a lot of promotional stuff with my bicycles. I visit a lot of retail dealers and other stuff by businesses But this past year it’s been kind of calm. I was involved with the Mercury Cycling and that kind of fell apart for multiple reasons. I thought I was going to be spending time at the Tour de France and going to World Cup races, but that went by the wayside.

Q: A few years ago, you did television commentary at the Ironman in Hawaii. Do you have anymore plans for TV work?

GL: No. I didn’t care for it. I just didn’t care for the way they did cycling. Now, with the Outdoor Life Network, it might be a little bit better now that it’s live. But usually during the Ironman, you get about 11 seconds to say something intelligent, and it’s pretty hard to do it. It’s always that you say these stupid little comments. It’s not really commentary. I’m not into that, but I might do it again as I get older.

Q: Different guys react differently when they cross the line in victory. Did you ever plan how you were going to react, particularly your famous finish at the World Championships in Chambery, France?

GL: Usually, if you’re solo and on a long breakaway, maybe you could think about what you want to do. But I’ve never been so arrogant to think . . . well I don’t know. My reactions have always been spontaneous. Oh, my God, the sprint in Chambery! I was just watching Sean Kelly’s wheel. You don’t really know where the line is. I was just trying to keep him away. I looked up at the last second and said, ‘Wow! I beat Kelly. I won the sprint. I won the Worlds. He beat me in Milan San Remo and at Lombardy, both times for potentially my first Classics win. I remember I felt lousy the whole race (in Chambery) then the last two laps I felt invisible.”

Drink Up With Hydration Systems

One day in the early 1990s, a cyclist named Michael Edison was participating in the Hotter ‘N Hell Hundred, a Texas endurance event at which the heat can reach triple digits and where participants’ suffering is commonplace.

Edison, a former paramedic, was a novice rider at the time. As his ride progressed, he noted that while negotiating his way through the field of 1,000 riders, he constantly bumped others while repeatedly reaching for his water bottles.

When Edison returned home to Northern California, he began various experiments to discover a more efficient way to drink fluids.

Using the tools of his former occupation, Edison attached medical tubing to an I.V. bag, stuffed the bag into a sock and then sewed the sock onto the back of a T-shirt.

He called his invention a “camel back,” for its hump-like shape on his bike. And thus, hydration systems Camelbak, the hydration system industry’s leading company, began. At least, according to the manufacturer’s web site.

Little more than a decade later, numerous manufacturers offer hydration systems, all many generations removed from the original container Edison crafted out of medical supplies, an old T-shirt and basic sewing skills.

With larger holding areas (bladders), accompanying storage areas and ease of use, more exercise enthusiasts who were once long-time water bottle users have switched to hydration systems.

Here’s a sampling of the hydration systems available at the 2002 Interbike trade show in Las Vegas.

Camelbak Products, Inc.1310 Redwood Way, Suite C, Petaluma, CA 94954. Tel: 800-767-8725; web site: http://www.camelbak.com.

As the first company to offer hydration systems, Camelbak took the risk and suffered accordingly. Its prototype bladders leaked as did its early drinking tubes and shut-off systems.

But the company now offers more than 75 styles and promotes its line for recreation, industrial and military use.

For runners, popular styles are the Day Trekker, FlashFlo, Rim Runner and Lobo ($65), the manufacturer’s largest capacity (70 ounces) that includes the external fill option. Its has myriad side compartments and features, including a pump port, sternum strap and removable waist belt, and it’s promoted as machine washable.

Camelbak has also expanded and has promoted heavily its kids’ line. It includes the Skeeter and Scout, two 35-ounce packs that feature extra cargo areas for kids’ outerwear and other items.

Like its competitors,Camelbak’s line now also has new pastel color options, geared toward the women’s market.

* Hydrapak, 2991 Shattuck Ave. #202, Berkeley, CA 94705. Tel. 510-549-0559; E-mail: info@hydra-pak.com; web site: http://www.hydra-pak.com.

Comfort is key component of hydration systems. Does a pack fit properly andare discomfort or irritation problems during long workouts kept to minimum? Correspondingly, is the mouthpiece easy and efficient to use?

Last fall, Hydrapak introduced its “Air Scoop” technology and EasyFlo Shutoff valve.

The Air Scoop Technology pack, geared toward cyclists, features a firm back support and space “pods” or cushions, according company literature. The pads are designed to keep the pack shaped in ergonomic curve and spaced about 3/4 inches off the user’s back.

The EasyFlo Shut-Off Valve, standard on the company’s 2003 line, features a bite-activated valve introduced nearly two years ago. But it has the addition of a push-pull shut off feature similar to a sports water bottle top. Hydrapak’s current line includes 16 packs ranging in price from $30 to $125.

* Ultimate Direction, 1255 Powell Street, Emeryville, CA 94608. Tel. 800-426-7229. web site: http://www.ultimatedirection.com

Like its competitors, Ultimate Direction has vast offerings, including its new styles specifically designed for women in pastel colors and featuring smaller company logos.

The walkabout, for example, is available in black but also in two-tone options of slate/blue and lemon/blue. Its features a 20-ounce bottle and two large main access compartments for equipment, clothing, food, etc.

It has a single adjust waist belt with an offset buckle and “shockcord” system on the bottom of the pack for gloves, hat or a parka as well as additional key and waist belt pockets. It weighs 13.9 ounces and is priced at $40.

Ultimate Direction also offers a wide variety of women-designed water vests and other hydration options that include “double-barreled” valves promoted as having “18 percent greater flow than other valves on the market.”

Pedaling In Holland: Land of Tulips and Windmills

The Netherlands is known for many things. Windmills, meandering canals, tulips, clogs and remarkable artwork are the tourist guide highlights.

But for those with recreating interests, the country features an elaborately intertwined transportation system of waterways and bicycle paths.

As many residents choose to view as daily commuters, touring the country on two wheels can be reduced to simple statistics: 16 million people, 15 million bicycles, 0 hills.

Business people in metropolitan cities and in small villages bicycle to work. Mothers often pedal two or more small children to school on one bike. Friends give each other lifts across town, with passengers often sitting sideways on the front or rear of the bike.

Few cyclists in The Netherlands wear helmets. It’s not that the citizenry doesn’t understand safety. Rather, cyclists in Holland are offered thousands of miles of special paths as well as preferred commuting rights. Likewise, the country’s cyclists are not viewed as adversaries to cars or pedestrians.

Therefore, as a nation of cyclists and of vast waterways, it was logical that nearly 25 years ago tourism companies began offering unique vacations – combining cycling with traveling on the country’s web of canals and waterways

The idea: As an alternative to hotel accommodations, visitors pedal through the countryside during the day and then stay on a boat that progresses each day along the waterways to a designated city. The program began in France in 1981, then in Holland in 1988.

For durations of several days to several weeks, cyclists sleep in private bunks (with bath/shower). Breakfast and dinner are served communal, and participants pack a sack lunch on the boat after breakfast to eat along the day’s journey.

As part of a longer trip to Holland, Gretchen Gaither and I were among a 20-plus person trip on the 38-meter boat Liza Marleen, a refurbished motorized barge that’s part of expanding fleet of Cycletours, the largest of the cycle-boat entrepreneurial outfits.

During our three-plus day journey, we bicycled about 35 miles per day at a casual pace. The accommodations, meals, snacks, bicycles and a guide are all included the price. The bikes, stored on the boat each night, are clean, 24-gear Gazelle Medeo hybrids. They are equipped with hand brakes, two “panniers,” (sidebags), a water bottle, lock and repair kit.

Our group included travelers from six countries – an Iranian physician and his family from Stockton, two couples from Australia, three French-Canadian women traveling together, and a retired couple from Germany. A solo traveler from Scotland, whose demeanor was reminiscent of John Belushi with an accent, later joined us.

Piet, our accommodating guide, was a Dutchman with an easy manner and refreshing sense of humor. On the evening of our arrival, he explained the rules. There were few.

The “peloton” (group), he reiterated, would progress as fast as the slowest cyclist. Traffic signals and signs were to be obeyed. Stops would be often and for important reasons – taking pictures, apple pie and coffee in quaint villages, watching ducks meander across tranquil streams, looking at windmills, watching workers build a thatched roof, visiting a stork farm or simply gazing into the pastoral countryside.

Our journey was the Southern Tour, and it took us to Utrecht and Schoonhoven, among other cities. As Piet instructed, we traveled as a group. If someone showcased their competitive nature, our tour leader was happy to oblige. He could provide a map and the cyclist was their own to get back to the boat.

Piet’s nickname was “Mother Duck,” an appropriate moniker considering his way of gathering his tour members for important times – boarding ferry boats, announcing meal breaks or gently scolding wayward cyclists when they didn’t follow proper etiquette on the pathways.

Prices for Cycletours’ array of trips vary depending upon length of stay, accommodations, season, etc. A week’s stay (seven nights, eight days), for example, ranges from $400 to $700 per person. Tours are scheduled April through October.

In addition to Holland, Cycletours has more than 200 excursions to more a dozen countries, Belgium to Italy, Denmark to Austria. Its trips are casual and appropriate for families, corporate retreats and for anyone who enjoys meeting people from around the world and living and cycling with them.

It is not a good vacation choice for those seeking a quiet, private time or anyone whose goal is to win each day’s journey.

How To Run And Enjoy The Marathon

As a practical guide to the 26.2-mile journey, How To Run And Enjoy The Marathon is a series of 15 self-help and service-oriented articles about running marathons – the proper shoes to running etiquette – is written by James Raia, a journalist and veteran middle-of-the-pack marathon and ultramarathon runner in Sacramento, Calif.

A contributor to many newspapers, news services, magazines and internet sites, Raia began to run long distances in 1983, the same year in which he completed his first marathon, the California International Marathon, in 4 hours, 12 minutes and 30 seconds.

How To Run And Enjoy The Marathon is based on the author’s more than 20 years of writing about the sport — its nuances, its elite athletes and its trials and tribulations.

Since he began training for his first marathon, running has become an integral component of the author’s lifestyle. Raia has completed more than 65 marathons and ultramarathons, including several 50 milers and double marathons. His fastest marathon, 3:07:42, was run in 1990. A two-time finisher of the Boston Marathon, Raia for the past several years has completed many of his marathons in the 3:45 range.

How To Run And Enjoy The Marathon is chock-full of practical advice about the wondrous journey on foot. Its chapters include:

* Marathon No. 1: It’s not all about pain
* What Marathon? Plentiful choices abound
* The Basics: Common sense for the masses
* Marathoning For Dollars: Running is fitness on the cheap
* Want To Finish: Join the club
* Fleet Feet: If the shoe fits, wear it
* Need Motivation? Take a break
* Now Hear This: Just Say No To Headphones
* Night Moves: Exercisers Need A Visible Presence
* Women Marathoners: Running Safe Means Running Smart
* Running vs. Walking: Marathoners Can Do Both
* Runner’s Creed: Share Thy Space
* Marathon Time Limits: The race directors’ dilemma
* Marathon No. 1 (Revisited): Don’t Forget The Little Things
* Reference Guide: Where to Find Out More About The Marathon

The Tour Within the Tour de France
by James Raia
Price: $8.95

The Tour de France is the world’s greatest cycling event. As the bicyclists climb into the mountains and quickly pass through the rolling countryside, many other postcards of life occur away from the competition – the ambience, the restaurants, the uniqueness of the villages and the people who live and work among fields of sunflowers, near ancient castles and among fields of expansive vineyards. The Tour Within The Tour de France includes 24 essays about the author’s first six years of attending the race.

The History Of Mountain Bikes: It Was Called The Stumpjumper

(This article originally appeared in the Sacramento Bee in April 2006.)

During the mid-1970s, Mike Sinyard, his friends and other carefree cyclists from California to Colorado began to negotiate winding dirt trails and careen down rocky hills.

Mountain BikesThey rode modified, fat-tired machines called clunkers and hoped for the best. They crashed their modified and renovated 1930s and 1940s Schwinn, B.F. Goodrich and Hawthorne bikes, wrecked their bodies, thrived on the thrill and returned for more.

Perhaps Sinyard landed on his head less often than others. And with a unique convergence of ingenuity, timing and risk-taking, the proprietor of a then seven-year-old road bicycle manufacturer and distributor in San Jose, took another uncharted leap.

Sinyard believed other thrill-seekers might want to get in on the fun. Soon enough, the Specialized Stumpjumper was born.

While others were about to do the same, Sinyard took a business risk not too dissimilar from the chances he took on his bike. With the help of a framebuilder friend from Santa Cruz, he offered mountain bikes to the national public.

With the slogan “It’s Not Just A New Bicycle, It’s A Whole New Sport,” the composite steel, 15-speed, 29-pound bike made its debut. The Stumpjumper had 26×2.25-inch tires, it was painted blue and it cost $750 ($395 for the frame only). The bike’s first production order was 250 units and sold out quickly, followed by another 250.

“It was perceived as quite a risk,” Sinyard recalled. “In fact, when we came out with it, it wasn’t like all of our customers said, “Wow. That’s great. We’ve been waiting for you.

“Most of the customers said, ‘Mike, what are you doing with that big kids’ BMX bike? We don’t want that. What does it have to do with adult bikes? People are going to get hurt on it. We’re going to be in trouble. There was quite a bit of resistance.”

Tom Ritchey, Gary Fisher, Joe Breeze and Keith Bontrager — all now manufacturing stalwarts — were among the mountain bike daredevils who had custom-made machines in bike shops before Sinyard.

Charlie Kelly, another mountain bike pioneer, introduced a publication called Fat Tire Flyer a year before the Stumpjumper’s debut.

But it was the Stumpjumper that jolted the industry. Many others were soon in the mountain-bike-for-the-masses mix and the sport’s popularity catapulted into the 1980s.

In 1988, the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame opened in Crested Butte, Colo., and two years later hometown favorite Ned Overend won the inaugural World Mountain Bike Championships in Durango, Colo. In 1996, mountain biking debuted in the Summer Olympics just outside of Atlanta.

Despite its quick ascension, mountain biking’s success then underwent a vast economic transition.

Early American pro riders like Overend, John Tomac, Tinker Juarez, Alison Dunlap and Missy Giove thrived financially in the sport. The now-retired Dunlap carried a huge American flag across the finish line victory en route to her 2001 world title in Vail, Colo., and the emotional display likely prompted more women to ride mountain bikes.

But the professional component of the sport, short on corporate sponsorship, soon plummeted. Recreational mountain biking began to dominate.

According to the National Bicycle Dealers’ Association, nearly 45 percent of the 18.3 million bicycles sold in the United States in 2004 were mountain bikes.

Mountain biking’s largest Northern California gathering is the Sea Otter Classic, a four-day festival of amateur and professional road and mountain biking at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey.

This year’s 16th annual edition, scheduled April 6-9, includes ts usual diverse selection of pro races, noncompetitive public rides and exhibitions.

While bicycle riding and racing occurs on the raceway’s track and on the recreation area’s surrounding hillsides, the raceway’s infield simultaneously hosts dozens of cycling industry vendors — bicycle manufacturers to T-shirt vendors, nutrition products to apparel companies.

Specialized also will unveil a museum dedicated to the Stumpjumper. The display will include original models, memorabilia, appearances by some of the sport’s pioneers and a lot of reminiscing.

“It’s important, particularly for one reason,” said Sinyard. “It’s not that long ago, but some of the sport’s current best riders weren’t even born yet when the first Stumpjumper was introduced. It’s a little self-indulgent, but it’s also having some fun with the sport and its history.”

The Stumpjumper’s quarter-century milestone is also intimately detailed in a new book, “Stumpjumper: 25 Years Of Mountain Biking.”

The 128-page hardback volume, commissioned by Specialized and produced and written by veteran cycling journalist Mark Riedy, details the history of the mountain bike with a Specialized focus.

The timeline of the various Stumpjumper models, interviews with industry pioneers, and photos of early riders and their favorite mountain rides are all included. The front and back covers are side views of an ancient stump.

“The mountain bike (beginning) really was not so much a technological movement as it was a real mental kind of switch,” said Riedy. “It was a revolution of how people looks at bikes and what bike could do. All those guys (mountain bike pioneers) . . . their big contribution was really a way of looking at bikes and a way of thinking about what bikes are capable of.”

Unlike some manufacturing advancements, the mountain bike’s history also has a unique twist.

Sinyard surmises that a mountain bike more technically advanced than the original Stumpjumper now costs as little as $300, less than half the amount of Specialized’s first production offering. An entry level Stumpjumper, however, now costs an estimated $1,300.

“What we’re seeing is that a lot of the riding is returning to the original roots of the sport,” said Sinyard. “It’s hey, let’s get out with our buddies out and go out for a ride. If it’s raining and muddy out there, that’s all the better. It’s a lot of the spirit of self-expression. I would say it’s escape.”

Cycling in Yosemite: A Pedaler’s Paradise

ParadiseWith rides named Jolly Old East Nicolaus, Deviled Ham Sandwich and Pepe Le Pew’s Stinkin’ Sweaty Ride, two Sacramento-area cycling clubs offer escapades for beginners to experts.

The Sacramento Wheelmen and Sacramento Bike Hikers also offer popular tours to Yosemite National Park, where embellishment or clever nicknames aren’t needed.

“We sort of hijacked this ride from the Sacramento Wheelmen,” said a chuckling Steve Cimini, who with co-organizer Hazi Alwan recently traveled with about two dozen Bike Hikers members on a five-day journey to the park. “They put on a similar tour, and Hazi and I participated in it a few years ago. We kind of looked at each and said, ‘You know, we could do a better job.’ ”

Cimini’s remarks speak to the friendly nature between the two clubs and also to the attractive nature of pedaling in Yosemite, an exceedingly popular destination. Both clubs offer the same approach – recreational enjoyment.

“This is a tour; it’s not a race through the park,” Cimini said about his club’s tour of Yosemite. “So you take your time. And if there’s something you want to spend some time doing, you definitely should do it. You stop the bike once in awhile and get off it.”

With their bikes transported by van to Merced, the participants departed Sacramento early on a Sunday morning via Amtrak. Upon arrival and after collecting their gear, the group rode approximately 50 miles to Mariposa for a one-night stay. The next day, the riders advanced 25 miles to their base camp, Cedar Lodge, eight miles shy of Yosemite.

For the next two days, participants determined their own cycling, hiking or sightseeing tours in Yosemite Valley, with the fifth day reserved for the return ride to Merced.

“One of the reasons we’re leaving on Sunday morning is so we can spend most of the time in the park in mid-week,” Cimini said. “The crowds will be a lot less, and it will be easier to get around and see all the sights. It’s a very scenic and very beautiful route.”

The Wheelmen’s annual trip to Yosemite began several years ago, but it’s on hiatus this year, replaced by a journey to the Sierra Nevada gold-mining hamlet of Columbia.

“The middle day took the riders twenty miles from Cedar Lodge into Yosemite Valley, a short trip but with 2,000 feet of vertical with a couple 8-degree pitches,” said Sacramento’s Geno Masuda, who wrote about the 2002 Yosemite trip for The Wheelmen’s Web site. “Most of the riders spent the day enjoying the grandeur and sights of the Valley, visiting the Ansel Adams Photo Gallery, watching the film on the history and geology of Yosemite, and lunching on the patio of the Awahnee Hotel.”

Touring with a club, of course, isn’t a requirement for cycling in the national park.

Yosemite spokeswoman Kerri Holden points casual cyclists toward the valley’s 12 miles of paved bike paths and recommends two short routes that are also detailed on the park’s web site.

Route No. 1 begins from Curry Village, progresses past the horse stables and continues to Mirror Lake. There’s a designated bike stand just before the lake. On the return journey, Holden suggests, “Stop at the stables and visit our friendly horses and mules.” The estimated round-trip distance is two miles.

Route No. 2 begins at Yosemite Lodge, advances on the bike path across Cook’s Meadow and over the bridge toward the chapel. The course continues past the Le Conte Memorial and arrives at Curry Village. Again, Holden suggests a snack break: “Stop for great pizza or ice cream at Curry Village.”

The return to Yosemite Lodge is accomplished by simply following the bike-path signs. The estimated round-trip distance is five miles.

On either route or a self-determined ride, the paved cycling path in Yosemite Valley is primarily flat with occasional slight inclines and includes views of the Merced River and Half Dome.

While many cyclists visiting Yosemite bring their own bikes, a variety of rental bicycles (including tandems and hand-crank models) and accessory equipment (trailers and helmets) are available at Yosemite Lodge (209-372-1208) and Curry Village (209-372-8319) from early spring through late fall.

Bike rental prices vary from $5.50 per hour to $21.50 per day and include a helmet, which is required for cyclists 18 and younger and recommended for everyone.

Cyclists, who are required to pay $10 for a one-week day-entrance pass, also pedal on the open roads of the park, away from the valley and its designated bike path. The roads don’t have a cycling lane. Maps are available at the various park entrances.

Measured Redemption: The Life & Times Of Cyclist Jonathan Boyer

(This article originally appeared in the Monterey County Herald on June 11, 2006 the day before the solo divisions of the 2006 Race Across America began.)

Next month will mark 25 years since Jonathan Swift Boyer became the first American to compete in the Tour de France. Four years later, with a national television network audience watching, the Carmel resident won the Race Across America (RAAM), the niche ultra-distance cycling event that takes riders coast-to-coast.

These two varied accomplishments mark definitive moments of Boyer’s long and varied first cycling career that included nearly 125 career amateur and professional victories.

 Jonathan BoyerBeginning today, the 50-year-old Boyer, who runs a high-end bike shop in Marina, will challenge RAAM again. But this time, he’ll do so with additional baggage.

It’s been about four years since he pleaded guilty to multiple counts of child molestation. Boyer served nine months of a one-year sentence in Monterey County Jail in Salinas and is still completing a five-year probation.

“I’ve made mistakes in my life,” said Boyer, who’s divorced and lives with his aging mother. “And now I have two choices. I can hide or I can live my life the best way I know how and that’s on a bike.”

For nearly as long as he can remember, Boyer has enjoyed pedaling a bicycle. As a teenager growing up on the Monterey Peninsula, his advancing skills on two wheels catapulted him through amateur racing and provided great credence for his middle name.

As a young adult in 1977, Boyer took his cycling pedigree to Europe, the sport’s global hub. Often called “Jock,” a derivative of “Jacques,” he rode among the greats — Bernard Hinault to Greg LeMond — and completed the Tour de France five times.

Boyer retired — for the first time — in 1987. But after a 17-year, hiatus he returned to competitive cycling in 2004, a few months after getting out of jail.

Since his return to competition, Boyer has won several age-group mountain bike and road races — most notably at the Sea Otter Classic — while purposely competing against riders half his age.

Many of his competitors don’t know the Boyer name; Other riders remember his legacy, know of his legal situation and have expressed their concerns.

Alison Dunlap, the now-retired world mountain champion and a several-time Sea Otter Classic titlist, didn’t condemn Boyer. But in 2004 when she was interviewed by The Herald during the race, said: “In general, child molesters should be put away forever. The should never get out.”

Last December, Boyer petitioned for an early probation release. The request was denied. “You’ve done exceptionally well on probation, but that’s what you’re supposed to do,” Judge Robert Moody said at the Salinas court hearing

Moody also told Boyer he was lucky not to go to prison and that five years of probation is generous. “If you’re having a tough time dealing with the consequences, it’s the consequence of what you did,” Moody added.

Race organizers, however — the Sea Otter Classic to RAAM — have welcomed Boyer into their events.

“(Jonathan) Boyer is an American cycling legend; he is a hero,” said Paul Skilbeck, a RAAM spokesperson. “Like the heroes of the classics, Boyer is flawed. Interestingly, at the time of the trial he was seen by the judge as posing very little danger to others. Furthermore, it is clear that he has since reformed himself. We believe in redemption — don’t you?”

Boyer knows he has detractors, but opts to focus on what he knows best about his life — cycling.

“I just love cycling,” he said. “It’s part of my whole make-up. It’s not good for me if I don’t ride. It’s an expression of who I am. I enjoy riding. I like being out there. The more I ride and the more fit I get, the more I am able to go farther and faster.”

Despite his more than 35-year passion for the sport, Boyer had no intention of competing in RAAM again. But last summer, through his 20-year friendship Dr. Eric Heiden and Dr. Max Testa, Boyer became the crew chief for the physicians and their involvement with Team Donate Life in Sacramento.

Sponsored by the organ donation charity, the group raised money while completing RAAM as a eight-rider team. Heide

In, the 1980 five-time Olympic speed skating gold medalist, was Boyer’s teammate and roommate in the mid-1980s. They rode for 7-Eleven, the first U.S. team to compete in the Tour de France. Testa, a sports medicine specialist, was the team’s physician.

Heiden, who occasionally still rides with Boyer, encouraged his former teammate. Testa, who provides Boyer’s physiological testing, was amazed at the rider’s fitness. In some instances, Boyer’s current results are nearly the same as they were 20 years ago. His current V02 max, for example, is 77; It was 81 when he was 25 and his physicians say he has the physical attributes of an endurance athlete in his late 20s.

Both physicians, of course, also know Boyer’s life circumstance. Heiden and Testa both have young children and both invite Boyer to stay in their respective homes during his regular visits to Sacramento.

“It’s a hard subject to address,” said Heiden. “Here’s a guy who I consider one of my best friends. He has been found guilty of something I find revolting. Sexual misconduct with a young kid, that effects people forever. It’s even hard to accept when someone has done their time that they’ve paid their dues. But like I’ve known Jock for a long time and when I think about it, I still kind of shutter.

“But I tell you, Jock has been to my house since all of this has happened and I feel comfortable with him being around my kids, so for me it’s a very unusual position to be in. You’ve got someone who’s a very good friend and someone who you trust and yet he stepped over the line for doing things I don’t find acceptable. But he’s a very good friend and I wrestle with this all the time.”

Testa, who came to the United States in 2001 to help establish the UC-Davis Sports Performance Program, concurred.

“We have spent a lot time bike riding together and spent a lot of time together socially,” Testa said. “When I first heard the story, I thought it was impossible. This could not be the Jonathan I knew for 20 years. In my mind’s eye, I still see him the same way as before. I was upset, but the guy is is still the same.

“Well, Jonathan is a little more reserved now; he’s more serious about things. So there are some changes. But I don’t see any changes in him when he’s around my family. I say if you are going to judge him, look at him as a cyclist and as a person and what he’s doing now for Team Donate Life.”

Skilbeck agreed. “From what we have learned, the most significant and enduring actions in Jock Boyer’s life have been his cycling achievements. We welcome Jock back to the Race Across America as a great cyclist, one with the potential to put the Race Across America crown back on an American head.”

Beginning last January, Testa, whose clients also include Levi Leipheimer of Santa Rosa, Calif., a top contender in this year’s Tour de France, established a training program for Boyer.

In addition to following an organic diet, Boyer has averaged no fewer than 350-400 miles per week and ridden as much as 600-mile weeks. He’s competed in local events and participated in high altitude and hot climate races in New Mexico and Arizona.

The solo divisions of the 25th anniversary RAAM will begin at 9 a.m. in Oceanside and progress 3,043 miles to Atlantic City, N.J.

The riders will pass through 57 checkpoints, ascend more than 108,000 feet and traverse 15 states. They will also encounter elevations from 170 feet below sea level in Mecca, Calif., to 10,550 feet above sea level in Wolf Creek Pass in Colorado.

Boyer will compete with an expected dozen others in the new Enduro Division. The division requires entrants to not ride their bikes for an average of four hours per day. The traditional solo division that doesn’t have the same rest restriction will also feature about a dozen contestants.

The new division was created, according to the race’s Web site, “to focus the contest more on cycling speed and less on the ability to survive on minimal sleep.”

Two riders, one in 2003 and the other last year, have been killed in vehicular accidents during RAAM.

Boyer, who recalls sleeping about 27 hours during his RAAM victory, will be supported by a multi-person crew and two team support vehicles.

Depending on a rider’s finish and bonuses for course records, a cyclist could earn as much as $25,000 for winning RAAM as a solo rider. If Boyer were to win that amount, it would approximately equal his team’s expenses. Boyer plans to donate any winnings to the charity.

“In my life, from a couple of years ago and from now on, I really want to impact people positively,” said Boyer. “I will go out of my way to do positive things for people. I’m very conscious of what I’m doing and how I impact people.

“I’m not perfect. I certainly can’t erase the past. But I will go forward in a positive and good way, to the best of my ability.”

Stretching: It’s For Cyclists, Too By BRAD WALKER

Stretching is a simple and effective activity that involves placing a particular part of your body in a position that will lengthen the muscles and tendons.

This simple technique will help to enhance your athletic performance, decreases the likelihood of muscle and joint injury and minimize muscle soreness.

Unfortunately, stretching is one area of cycling training that’s often neglected.

Stretching is a vital part of any exercise program and should be looked upon as being as important as any other part of your training.

Upon undertaking a regular stretching program a number of changes occur within your body. As a result of increasing the length of your muscles and tendons, a reduction in general muscle tension is achieved and your normal range of movement is increased.

By extending your normal range of movement you’ll gain a greater ability to move freely and ultimately increase your comfort level while on your bike.

Increasing your range of movement will also mean a lessening of your susceptibility to muscle and tendon strain injuries. By increasing your range of movement you’re increasing the distance your limbs can move before damage occurs to the muscles and tendons.

For example, the large muscles in the front of your thigh (the quadriceps) do a huge amount of work while you’re on the bike. It is not uncommon for these muscles to become tight, which in turn can place a large strain on your knees and result in knee pain.

A few simple quadriceps stretches both before and after your ride will help to loosen these muscles and reduce the strain on your knees.

There is a dangerous stretching myth that says, “If you stretch too much you will lose both joint stability and muscle power.”

This is untrue. By increasing the length of your muscles and tendons, you are increasing the distance over which your muscles are able to contract.

This results in a potential increase to your muscles’ power and therefore increases your cycling ability, while also leading to an improvement in dynamic balance (the ability to control your muscles).

We have all experienced what happens when you go for a long ride or to the gym for the first time in a few months.

The following day your muscles are tight, sore, stiff and it’s usually hard to even walk down a flight of stairs.

This soreness that accompanies strenuous physical activity is often referred to as post exercise muscle soreness, and is the result of micro tears, (minute tears within the muscle fibres), blood pooling and accumulated waste products, such as lactic acid.

Stretching, as part of an effective cool-down, helps to alleviate this soreness by lengthening the individual muscle fibres; increasing blood circulation; and removing waste products.

Fatigue is a major problem for all cyclists and results in a decrease in both physical and mental performance.

Increased flexibility through stretching can help prevent the effects of fatigue by taking pressure off the working muscles.

For every muscle in the body has an opposite or opposing muscle and if the opposing muscles are more flexible, the working muscles do not have to exert as much force against the opposing muscles.

Therefore, each movement of the working muscles actually takes less effort.

Also, by reducing fatigue through improved flexibility, you’re able to reduce the effects of overuse injuries so common among cyclists.

Pro Cycling: It’s All About The Team, Really!

(This article originally appeared in the Miami Herald on July 21, 2002.)

BEZIERS, France – Cycling is not always understood as a team sport. But as Lance Armstrong continues his quest for a fourth straight Tour de France title, the two leading teams in the race have provided ideal examples of how the sport works.

In the 10th stage last Thursday, Armstrong regained the lead he held previously only after the prologue July 6.

Pro CyclingBut while he won the 11th stage and subsequently the 12th stage Friday, it was the remainder of his eight-rider U.S. Postal Service team that surrounded him. Whether it was on the flats or in the mountains, team’s collective job was to protect, support and provide drafting its team leader.

Most importantly is the team’s help as riders approached the various climbs toward the finish at La Mongie, high into the Pyrenees.

Simultaneously, the supporting members of the Spanish ONCE team surrounded the former race leader, Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano — for as long as they could.

During a brief moment in stage 11 on the live European telecast of the event, the teams working for their respective leaders were shown in an superb aerial view.

The seven support ONE riders (one member the team dropped earlier in the race), rode nearly side-by-side with the eight team riders, known as domestiques (French for domestics), who surrounded Armstrong.

But when the riders reached the mountains, the teams’ non-climbers began to peel away.

In the instance of the U.S.P.S. team, it was Spanish rider Roberto Heras who remained and who guided Armstrong to the win, a victory Armstrong would have preferred to give to his teammate.

When Galdeano dropped off the pace as the riders progressed on the steepest part of the climb, Heras accelerated and Armstrong followed right behind.

“Heras started a rhythm that was very fast,” said Armstrong. “I was in no position to attack. I just followed Roberto to the finish. Heras sacrificed everything for the team and I am grateful.”

Beloki was often sandwiched between the two riders, and never took his turn at the front of the trio as the riders edged closer to the finish.

Armstrong didn’t need the stage win, since he had overtaken Galdeano’s race lead on the course. But there was a caveat. The winner of the stage earned 20 bonus seconds of time, while the runner-up earned 12 seconds and the third-place finisher received eight.

“We talked about giving the stage win to Roberto, but with the bonuses involved, you can’t take chances like that when you’re riding for the yellow jersey,” said Armstrong. “He was the strongest rider of the day, but you can lose the Tour de France sometime with proper etiquette.”

Despite Armstrong winning what would be the first of his two consecutive mountain stages, he did not celebrate overtly at the finish.

Instead, Armstrong just clenched his fist at his side, an acknowledgment of the win, but more a small gesture to show respect him teammate.

“I didn’t have the legs, really,” said Armstrong. “Heras was the strongest climber. I just followed his wheel.”

Such is the team strategy of stage racing.

In addition to Armstrong, the U.S.P.S. team includes Viatcheslav Ekimov, the Russian who is the reigning Olympic time trial gold medalist; George Hincapie, the Greenville,. S.C., resident who’s a one-day classic specialist, and specialist climbers like Heras and Hugo Victor Pena of Colombia and Floyd Landis, the 26-year-old Californian who’s riding in his first Tour.

While the riders have their own accomplishments, in the Tour de France, individuals’ goals are sacrificed to help the rider who’s highest in the team in the overall standing, or general classification.

Like other teams, the U.S.P.S. squad meets each morning to discuss the day’s strategy. Depending upon who’s feeling well or who’s suffering from sickness or recovering from a strong ride the previous day, the team will rotate its responsibilities.

Landis, for example, might be responsible for leading the group early in the mountains, then followed by Ekimov or Hincapie. The roles can also be reversed. Jose Luis Rubiera of Spain, Pena and Heras are usually saved for the most severe climbs – to assist Armstrong for as long as they can.

Most often in flat stages, team riders are assigned to finish just ahead or behind Armstrong, or to ride to his left or right as a wind breaker.

Whether Armstrong is victorious or the individual overall winner is someone else, the winner’s prize money $335,390, plus various individual stage win moneys and team stage earnings.

If Armstrong wins, he will continue his tradition of dividing his earnings among his teammates, but will not take his share.

Armstrong, of course, will make his money away from the competition, with his team contract, sponsorships and his various other business pursuits as a multiple winner of the Tour de France.

Amgen Tour of California (2009) route details unveiled

The official route of the 2009 Amgen Tour of California, the expanded fourth edition of the largest professional stage race in the United States was announced Thursday by race organizers, a few hours prior to various media briefings throughout the state. As previously announced, then nine-day, estimated 750-mile course will progress from Sacramento to Escondido, Feb. 14-22 and will be one day  and about 100 miles longer than the 2008 edition.

Although teams and riders have not been announced, it’s likely inaugural race winner Floyd Landis (OUCH) and two-time defending titlist Levi Leipheimer (Astana) will compete as will Lance Armstrong.

The event will be Armstrong’s first United States stage race since retiring  after his seventh consecutive Tour de France title in 2005.

The route has also been adjusted from previous details. The start in Sacramento will be a prologue, not the originally announced out-and-back road race. And an announced three-day women’s stage race has been shelved in favor of the women’s run in conjunction with stage 1 in Santa Rosa on Feb. 15.

New cities include for the race’s fourth edition include: Davis, Santa Cruz, Merced, Clovis, Visalia, Paso Robles, Rancho Bernardo and Escondido.

Here’s a capsule of each stage, via race organizers:

Prologue: Sacramento (Saturday, Feb. 14, 2009)
Start time: 1:30 p.m.
Start Location: Intersection of Capitol Mall and 9th St.
Finish Location: Intersection of L St. and 11th St.

The prologue will start off a ramp near the corner of Capitol and L Street. The course heads west toward Tower Bridge before making a U-turn at 4th Street and heading east along Capitol. Riders then take an abrupt right on 9th Street, a left on N Street, whiz past Capitol Park for 10 blocks to 19th Street. They turn left on 19th Street and take another left on L Street before and riding the final eight  blocks to the finish line at 11th and L.

Stage 1: Davis to Santa Rosa (Sunday, Feb. 15)
Start Time: Noon
Start Location: Intersection of C St. and 3rd St. in Davis
Finish Location: Intersection of 3rd St. and Santa Rosa Ave. in Santa Rosa

A new stage, the route includes evenly spaced climbs throughout the stage and spectacular views. After 20 miles of flat roads, riders will negotiate their first climb up a short, but steep section leading Monticello Dam. Another long, flat section along Lake Berryessa will take riders to their second climb up Howell Mountain Rd., followed by a fast descent into Napa Valley.

Stage 2: Sausalito to Santa Cruz (Monday, Feb. 16)
Start Time: 8:30 a.m.
Start Location: Spinnaker Restaurant at 100 Spinnaker Dr. in Sausalito
Finish Location: Intersection of Front St. and Cooper St. in Santa Cruz

Starting on the northern side of the San Francisco Bay, stage 2 will cover more than 100 miles from Sausalito to Santa Cruz.  The stage will begin with a scenic start in Sausalito on the water and will head south across the Golden Gate Bridge and then through the streets of San Francisco.  The route will then take the riders west down the California coastline on Highway 1.  The coastal stage will include two long, but moderate climbs on Tunitas Creek Road and Bonny Doon Road, which will be followed by lengthy and fast descents.

Stage 3: San Jose to Modesto (Tuesday, Feb. 17)
Start Time: Noon
Start Location: Intersection of San Fernando St. and Almaden Blvd. in San Jose
Finish Location: Intersection of I St. and 12th St. in Modesto

Beginning with a climb synonymous with the event, cyclists will head up Sierra Road (1,930 ft.) within the first five miles of the stage. After completing the Sierra Road climb, a likely defining moment of the race, riders will face fast and flat roads full of twists and turns (Calaveras Road alone has more than 40 switchbacks) before climbing Patterson Pass. The stage will finish with two circuits in downtown Modesto.

Stage 4: Merced to Clovis (Wednesday, Feb. 18)
Start Time: 11 a.m.
Start Location: City Hall at the intersection of N St. and 18th St. in Merced
Finish Location: Intersection of Bullard Ave. and Pollasky Ave. in Clovis

Stage 4 will introduce two new host cities and the Sierra Nevada. With four KOMs (“King of the Mountain” competitions) and several sprints, stage 4 will be consistently hilly and technical from the start in Merced to the finish in Clovis. Fans can watch the climbs at four locations – Hwy 140, twice on Hwy 49 and Crane Valley Road.

Stage 5: Visalia to Paso Robles (Thursday, Feb. 19)
Start Time: 10 a.m.
Start Location: Intersection of Aceqia Ave. and Church St. in Visalia
Finish Location: Intersection of Spring St. and 11th St. in Paso Robles

A new course, stage 5 will progress 130 miles — the longest of thee race — and begin with a neutral start of parade laps through Visalia’s downtown. The field wile progress for 100 miles on vast stretch of flat roads in the San Joaquin Valley. Winding back to the coast, the route will pass vast cattle ranches and farms and will include two mid-stage sprints en route to the finish in Paso Robles.

Stage 6: Solvang Individual Time Trial (Friday, Feb. 20)
Start Time: Noon
Start Location: Intersection of Mission Drive and 1st St.
Finish Location: Copenhagen Dr.

The 15-mile individual route usually determines the rider who will likely ride to the overall race victory, as Levi Leipheimer did in dominating fashion last year.

Stage 7: Santa Clarita to Pasadena (Saturday, Feb. 21)
Start Time: Noon
Start Location: Town Center Drive in Santa Clarita
Finish Location: West Drive, alongside the Rose Bowl in Pasadena

The first 25 miles of stage 7 include a gradual climb from Santa Clarita, through Acton, to the intersection of Angeles Forest Road. The route continues  to the second highest elevation in race history, Millcreek Summit (4,906 ft.). Descending with a 15-mile run to Angeles Crest Highway, the route begins a fast plunge to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. After more than 65 miles from Santa Clarita to Pasadena, the field will complete the stage with five, five-mile laps surrounding the Rose Bowl.

Stage 8: Rancho Bernardo to Escondido (Sunday, Feb. 22)
Start Time: Noon
Start Location: Bernardo Center Dr. in Rancho Bernardo
Finish Location: Intersection of Grand Ave. and Broadway in Escondido

With four climbs, including the highest point ever reached in the event, cyclists will climb to Palomar Mountain (5,123 ft.).  At 11.7 miles, a seven percent average grade, 4,200 feet of climbing and 21 switchbacks, Palomar Mountain will add a new finishing component to the overall title contenders.