Send As SMS

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


It's hard to believe in Santa Claus anymore.

Or Rafael Palmeiro.

Isn't it time for us cycling fans to grow up?

If you have picked up a newspaper, watched the news or turned on the radio in the last few weeks, you've come across this quote, "I have never taken any performance enhancing drugs."

Is that a true, but misleading statement? Are performance enhancing drugs involved in blood doping? I really don't know...that's a grown up question.

"I have never tested positive for any banned substances."

Does that mean that somebody would test positive later for substances not yet banned? Substances that are essentially the same as the prohibited ones except for one or two amino acids or methyl groups added in to create a 'new and improved' but as of yet un-banned go-go juice.

A Tour winner has always maintained that he holds loyalty in high regard. In his book he tells how his team sponsor, Cofidis, did not show any loyalty towards him when he first got sick. They did not stick by him.

His wife, who did stick by him while he was sick, who nursed him back to health and gave birth to his kids, was later shoved aside for a Hollywood rocker soon after he became a multi-tour, mega star, gazillionaire. How loyal is that?

So how good is his word that he is clean?

Think of it this way. Seven times in a row, he has destroyed the field. A feid lousy with guilty doping cheaters.

He has dropped on the hills legendary, and guilty, climbers like Pantani and Virenque. He has chewed up doped-up time-trialers like David Miller. Former teammates like Tyler Hamilton who carried his water and led him out have been found guilty.

One of his coaches, Ferrari, is a drug dealer.

He has whupped former Tour winners like Ullrich who was also found guilty of illegal, recreational drug use, although Ullrich claimed those "pain killers" were merely for recreational use. Okay, that probably doesn't count.

If he is just riding away from them all, and very, very many of them are cheaters, then what is he? Superman? An alien from a more cycling-friendly planet?

I really want to believe, I do. I want to set chocolate chip cookies and a tall glass of milk on the fireplace mantle. I want to see reindeer tracks in the snow on the roof.

Personally, I don't want to grow up. I absolutely love this guy. How could a kid not?

How about you? Do you believe in Santa Claus?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Pole to Pole in the 2005 Single Speed Worlds

My heart was fluttering. Legs twitching. I couldn't settle the butterflies.

Pre race jitters. A World Championship was on the line.

Before big downhill races, I used to get nervous, but I never imagined that I would be so anxious before a single speed race.

You would think that if you put in the training, do the miles, grind up big hills with tall gears, you’d be all set.

But I had to get the pole position for this one. I needed the pole shot to take the title.

For this year’s annual Single Speed World Championship, 500 riders had gathered in a bunch, wondering where the Le Mans start would take us. Little did we know we were to run almost a mile, on a technical single track even, to jump on our bikes for the first leg of the race. But we did know this one loop course was going to be a rocky mine field of shale with thousands of feet of stiff climbing. With all of our bikes stuck in one gear.

I wasn’t worried about any of that. I just wanted to get in the top ten, although first would be nice for prosperity. The race basically went well on my 32x18 geared Santa Cruz. Despite a long flat-tire change, I managed a respectable third.

I had made it!

I’d qualified for the go-kart finals! Our three hours of tortuous one-speeding was essentially a qualifier for these twelve hot laps.

The male and female winners of the go-kart race would be crowned the Single Speed World Champion with a freshly inked tattoo. After watching a few rounds of the men’s go-kart qualifiers, I knew that the key to winning the title was the pole position, Each go-kart was equally as slow than the next, so passing would be problematic.

marla streb
Lining up for the start...

But to get the pole position, I had to score the pole position.

It would be another LeMans scramble to the go karts, so the pole position again would be critical. If I could politely slide myself to the front of the girls’ line, I hoped I could easily out-sprint my competition to the preferred cart on the inside front line. The Number 12 cart had the pole position. I had to get…that…kart!

My heart was beating so loudly I thought the winner of the women’s race, Abigail Hippely, would hear. But, while she was distracted by a spectator. I seized the opportunity to slide my butt up onto the horizontal pole that keeps the finalists organized in line. While smiling and nodding to someone, I slid back down in the number one position up against the pole. The sprint to the karts was mine.

The second I jumped into that hot plastic seat, I knew I had a good chance to win the World Champs. The butterflies flew out of my belly, but my heart was still racing. All I had to do was get the holeshot and block the inside lines.

And, that I did. For twelve laps.

I had found victory in one decisive moment. And now my heart is no longer fluttering, but my right biceps is tingling.

marla streb
Marla shows off her new tattoo.

*Note I will post the results of the bike leg and the SSWC finals as soon as I can find them!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Hell Ride

This didn't look like Hell.

Just a cute little town alongside the Yuba River in the Sierra Foothills. A gas station, a grocery store, a pizza joint, and three saloons. The sidewalks are wooden, and mining claims are still honored. In a whole county where there is only one stop light.

And, yet Downieville has three bike shops.

A couple of weeks ago I was in town for the Downieville Classic, and this past weekend I found myself in town once again. This time for Santa Cruz Bicycles’ “Hell Ride”.

The Hell Ride was a national internet contest in which the two winners, a guy and a girl, would try to keep up with Mark Weir and myself for the chance to win a Santa Cruz Nomad. But, Eddie, the winner from Atlanta, and Rae, a 32 year old veterinarian from Pittsburg would really have to do some riding. If they couldn’t finish the ride, no Nomad. Maybe just a tee shirt and a long flight home.

Twelve hours of inferno heat, 14,000 feet of climbing, and not nearly enough water all for a “free” bike? With Mark Weir setting the tempo?

Going on any ride with Weir can be Hellish. Weir is not human. He doesn’t care if he is on a single speed, a DH bike, a 24-hour or even a free ride, Weir has as much compassion for his riding partners as he would for a crushed bug. This guy’s a larger than life morale crusher and smack-talker and everyone loves him.

As it turns out I was also as cruel to Rae. Unintentionally, though, because I missed the ‘map meeting’. Rae and I, and some other friends, blazed our way up and down the mountains from 8:30am until it got dark. No one told me that the ride map would be penciled out for the first time on a Topo during the Map Meeting that I decided to sleep through. No one told me that I, who possesses less than the normal sense of direction, was supposed to be the ride ‘leader’ for our group. That I would fill and empty my 100-oz hydration pack six times and still run out of water for the last two hours. That it would be so hot bugs couldn’t even generate enough aerodynamic lift to fly. That in order to stay cool I’d have to jump in the river every hour or so which meant that I’d be pedaling all day in soaking wet chamois which would turn my butt into the mother of all monkey-butts.

marla streb
Marla and Rae at one of the more relaxing moments of their ride...

I only survived the Hell Ride because I was on a Nomad. It pedals like nothing else. I was climbing technical stuff where I normally would be pushing. That Nomad made the descents fun hours after they should no longer have been. I wouldn’t have found the feeble glow of Downieville’s neon beer signs on any other bike.

Rae really deserved to win her Nomad. She was a real trooper. And though I didn’t intend to, I was as cruel to her as Weir was to Eddie. Packing up my things in the hotel we were sharing I accidently swiped her L’Oreal skin creme. Oops. At least she gets to keep her Nomad.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

A Snapshot of the "Flow"

We weren't going “free-riding”, we were going “flow-riding”. We were in Whistler, Canada after all, eh?

This is what my friend, Munny, told me moments before our ride. Munny is a fireman who invited me to stay with him during the Crankworx festival. My accommodations consisted of a tiny room in the firehouse in the center of Whistler village. Next to my bed was a pile of thick pants surrounding two heavy rubber boots. That was comforting because that's how my husband stores his outfits at home. Right on the floor.

Across from my dorm room door was a shinny brass, slippery, 42 foot pole. Much to my terror, he made me slide down it as part of some sort of friend-of-a-firefighter initiation. I clung on the pole so tightly that my legs squeaked in protest and my belt ripped right out of its loops.

This weekend I was racing the Crankworx Enduro Downhill. It's a huge event by North American standards, and in a town that satisfies every downhiller's fantasies. But what I really wanted to do was hit some of the famed “flow” trails that adorn all the mags. These trails that I hear are as much wooden as dirty.

Munny informed me that we wouldn't be using cross country bikes; we'd need some 'all mountain' bikes. Obviously, we couldn't use downhill bikes, and free-ride bikes were out because there would be steep climbing. We couldn't wear lycra because the only people who wear lycra in Whistler are in the ballet. And there is no ballet there.

I asked how these trails are classified. What are the criteria for “Flow”? And why are these not ”Free”? Evidentally this was not a simple question, because after three days interrogation, I never got a simple answer. But I did gather some clues.

We had to drive to the Flow trails because afterall, the ones at Whistler were really just downhill trails (but the BEST I've ever ridden, I must say). Munny pointed out stunt after stunt that were visible from the car. The road-gapping, rock drop-offing, mind-boggling tests of the laws of physics were, I was told, “Free-Ride” stunts. And massive they were. We would have nothing to do with those. We were going “Flow-Riding”.

marla streb
Munny flowing...

The trails we hit were works of beauty. I wanted to take pictures of every banked wooden bridge, every double-apexed turn to blind hip-jump, every genius roll-in to imbedded rock run-out.

I felt that obliviously riding these trails was almost a waste. To simply let section after section go by under my tires without any kind of appreciation of this art created by Canadians was blasphemy. I wanted to Freeze the Flow.

But we just kept on riding because I couldn't get my camera to work.

The ~15 minute Enduro Downhill was incredible by the way- here are the results:

1. Marla Streb 1. Brain Lopes
2. Fionne Griffiths 2. Steve Peat
3. Lisa Myklak 3. Nathan Rennie

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Knee Pads on a Road ride

Knee Pads on a Road Ride

Downhill mountain bikers are a bit goofy. We all know that. I mean the very idea of riding a bike that looks more like a moto… in the woods. Come on!

Just look at us and our equipment. Protective pads on every limb and helmets like we are unable to take care of ourselves. Big balloon tires as though we just escaped from some county carnival. We even need guidance keeping our chains on straight. We're so goofy that we throw down big bucks for a full suspension set up… that fully locks out. You would think we shuttle to the trails in the short yellow bus.

Just look at any riding shot of yourself that is more than three years old. I bet you shudder at the 4.5 dh tires you wrestled onto those fat boy rims. Or it's hard to imagine being able to ride with a BIGGER set of riser bars. What about the snazzy day glo chest plate, the front and rear fenders (even in the dry), disc brake covers or the multicolored tires.

But I'm a mountain biker, and I'm OK with that.

What I have issues with however, is that roadies are cooler.

Roadies, unlike us mountain bikers, don't know how much fun it is to actually do something goofy. Like trying to win a time trial in a trendy, baggy, oversized sleeve flapping, shirttail getting caught in your rear tire 'race uniform'. Just ask any pro dh'er, racing like that is an absolute blast!

marla streb
Ozzie's Kneepads...

No. Roadies wear those 'cool' skin suits when they time trial. You can tell by the photos in the mags that they aren't having any fun. But, they are cool.

Mountain bikers are laughing and partying all the way to the middle of the pack when we race loaded down with a back pack, six pack, and a video camera.

The roadies are so cool, they don't smile; they just stick their hand out and a SAG Wagon SUV swerves over to service them right there on the curb.

My friend, Ozzie, lost a pool game. So, he had do to the Saturday morning road ride wearing knee pads.

Ozzie is a gamer, he didn't complain. He just rolled up to the group, head down and shaking slightly.

You'd think it was the end of the world for all the other roadies on that ride to let Ozzie and his knee pads sit in for a couple miles.

The pack's reaction to Ozzie's knee pads reminded me of that time when an in-line skater tried to take a pull! That ride is still in litigation.

The roadies are cool. I admit. They don't do anything without a good reason.

The middle of your back is an excellent place for a pocket. No wind catching visors. They shave their legs. All cool stuff. Lately, I have even noticed that some roadies wear their eyewear upside down on purpose. That way the glasses never slip off their noses as they tuck down over their top tubes.

Us bone headed mountain bikers are still messing with our tear off lenses!

But I have to say, it is kind of fun not being cool.