That's because it's the day I'll be making my triumphant return from my latest hiatus.
Yes, after today you won't be hearing from me (at least on this blog) until Monday, February 6th, at which point I will return with regular updates.
Deal with it.
Meanwhile, in New South Wales, Australia, visitors to Sydney beaches were baffled by signs requiring runners to wear helmets:
In a climate of lock-out laws and jaywalking fines, it's no wonder signs enforcing jogging restrictions on Sydney beaches have left social media scratching its head.
Sydney journalist Siobhan Moylan was stunned to find the sign - emblazoned with the words 'no helmet = no run' - alongside a patrolling policewoman on Bondi Beach.
The snapshot has been met with mass-confusion on Facebook, where commenters questioned whether the council has reached new heights of nanny state restrictions.
Indeed, the best pranks employ a cunning mix of absurdity and plausibility, and unsurprisingly plenty of people were taken in:
'Sydney's gone TOO FAR this time. This is the nanny police state goose stepping too far off-beat. Pull ur (sic) head in,' one commenter wrote.
'The government website doesn't work so it could be real,' another said.
And at least one cycling group was more than ready to throw their bikeless brethren under the mandatory helmet bus:
Furthermore, coincidentally--or perhaps not coincidentally--I was in Brooklyn yesterday when I saw an adult man running while wearing a bicycle helmet. Sadly I was unable to produce my smartphone quickly enough to capture a photo, but I know what I saw, and what I saw was an adult man running while wearing a bicycle helmet. Oh, sure, maybe he was in a big rush to grab a Citi Bike and put on the helmet beforehand to save time, but when I see someone wearing workout clothes and running in a helmet with no bicycle in sight the only conclusion I can reasonably draw is that our society has finally reached Peak Helmet.New rules for #bondibeach joggers.— Cycle (@AusCycle) January 27, 2017
Helmets are cheap and may save your life...#LogYourJog pic.twitter.com/AUlh43sCNb
("Heroes wear helmets, they never ask why." Just like Nazis! Yeah, I went there. It's 2017, we're supposed to compare everyone to the Nazis now.)
In other news, last night "60 Minutes" did a story on hidden motors in professional bike racing:
Highlights included correspondent Bill Whitaker in full auto-Fred mode:
A vintage US Postal Trek apparently obtained by "60 Minutes" from Craigslist and then retrofitted with a motor by the story's main source for $12,000, which doesn't seem like it would invite a conflict of interest at all:
And, perhaps most entertainingly for us locals, Tyler Hamilton testing said bike on so-called "River Road," which is one of the most popular Fredding routes in the New York City area:
Local Freds will recognize that as the start of the infamous "ranger station climb," and shockingly Hamilton did not take advantage of the bike in order to set a new KOM on Strava:
Cycling pundits were quick to dismiss the report:
Man, there was a time when every 60 Minutes piece was great. That motor segment last night was weak. Just wasn't solid/newsworthy.— Peter Flax (@Pflax1) January 30, 2017
With Strickland also citing his own magazine's story on the subject, which he described as "balanced and thorough:"the best reporter I regularly work with is ripshit over the wobbliness of the 60 Minutes motor doping piece.— Bill Strickland (@TrueBS) January 30, 2017
Though it's worth noting that the story also acknowledges that such cheating is feasible:
Hidden motors do exist; that is undeniable. And the sources we spoke with acknowledged that it was technologically feasible to create one as far back as the mid-1990s. But feasible is not the same as proof it happened. And for modern pros, none of the ones we spoke with think that motors are being widely used, if they’re used at all.
And moreover quotes Phil Gaimon as saying that he suspects Fabian Cancellara did indeed cheat using a motor:
“As we’ve seen, where there’s a will there’s a way,” said Brent Bookwalter, a longtime pro on BMC Racing. “I have a hard time saying adamantly without doubt that no one has ever used a motor. But I’ve also never seen anything that would lead me to believe that they have.” Phil Gaimon, who raced two years on the WorldTour with Garmin and Cannondale-Drapac, said he suspects Cancellara used a motor “for a few select races” in 2010, but said he’s skeptical of more recent accusations. “Once [the UCI] is searching for it, you can’t do it anymore,” he said.
Which in itself would be a revelation huge enough to warrant all the attention the subject of cheating with motors has attracted over the years.
By the way, watch some of those Cancellara videos and tell me that guy didn't have a battery up his ass:
And sure, Istvan Varjas, the Hungarian motor expert, is a dubious character who obviously stands to gain financially from stirring these rumors--though when it comes to pro cycling it's usually dubious characters who stand to gain financially from their stories who wind up being the most truthful. [See: Tyler Hamilton, above.] Also, the guy from the French Anti-Doping Agency seems pretty convinced:
Bill Whitaker: Have there been motors used in the Tour de France?
Jean-Pierre Verdy: Yes, of course. It’s been the last three to four years when I was told about the use of the motors. And in 2014, they told me there are motors. And they told me, there’s a problem. By 2015, everyone was complaining and I said, something’s got to be done.
Verdy said he’s been disturbed by how fast some riders are going up the mountains. As a doping investigator, he relied for years on informants among the team managers and racers in the peloton, the word for the pack of riders. These people told Jean-Pierre Verdy that about 12 racers used motors in the 2015 Tour de France.
As does Greg LeMond:
And while he may be a bitter old crank he's also a bitter old crank who's been pretty right-on about everything so far, so why couldn't he be right about this too?
In the 2015 Tour de France, bikes in the peloton were weighed before one of the time trial stages. French authorities told us the British Team Sky was the only team with bikes heavier than the rest—each bike weighed about 800 grams more. A spokesman for Team Sky said that during a time trial stage bikes might be heavier to allow for better aerodynamic performance. He said the team has never used mechanical assistance and that the bikes were checked and cleared by the sports governing body.
A heavy bike doesn’t prove anything on its own but to Greg LeMond the weight difference should have set off alarm bells. In this case, sources told us, the sport’s governing body would not allow French investigators to remove the Team Sky wheels and weigh them separately to determine if the wheels were enhanced. LeMond said not enough is being done by the International Cycling Union to prevent cheating with motors.
I bet Sky could fit a lot of technology in those disc wheels:
And if you really want to indulge in some juicy conspiracy theories, consider Fausto Pinarello's stance on disc brakes:
"I think the only people who need disc brakes are those who are heavy or are scared on long descents. Disc brakes could help them, but pros don't need them. There are 30 riders at Team Sky and if they all come to me and say that they think disc brakes work and that they want then, then okay. But I don't think that's the case. If it rains, they'll simply go a little slower."
Of course Team Sky don't want disc brakes. If I as a middle-aged schlub don't want to upgrade to discs because I'd no longer be able to use my old wheels, why would Team Sky--who are probably invested in hundreds of thousands of dollars of motodoping tech--want new team bikes that won't support it? Indeed, most of the peloton has been pretty resistant to discs, and when you consider that they otherwise don't really seem to give a shit what they ride it kinda makes you think:
Hey, it may be a coincidence, but I still have no doubt they're cheating with motors in the peloton, if only because I don't think there's been a single wild cheating theory that hasn't ultimately turned out to be true.
Of course, this is still America, so expect the media to report on cycling's "notorious culture of cheating" while ignoring the fact that Tom Brady is fucking aging in reverse:
At 39, Tom Brady is something of a biological marvel. https://t.co/rOrdyi5sV4 pic.twitter.com/Hjjara3ZeJ— The Boston Globe (@BostonGlobe) January 22, 2017
If it wears a helmet I don't trust it.
See you back here on Monday, February 6th!
I love you,
--Wildcat Rock Machine