Monday, January 27, 2014

Is Periodization for Everyone?

Periodized Training as practiced by The Modesto Roadmen. 
In winter, we wore down jackets to train. In summer, we wore as little as possible. 
Actually, we practiced random training as recommended by Joe Friel.

Consider the aerobic exercise recommendations of the American College of Sports Medicine for a healthy adult: 300 minutes of exercise a week consisting of 5 days of moderate exercise, 60 minutes per day. Although there is some periodicity there, both daily (one does not exercise continuously over the course of the day but only for one hour, leaving 23 hours exercise-free) and weekly (one does not exercise for 2 days of the week), this is a pretty uniform plan. Week after week after week one does the same workout, 52 weeks a year. Contrast this to a conventional periodized training plan for a bicycle racer consisting of an annual macrocycle divided into three to eight mesocycles each of which consist of a number of weekly microcycles. Nary a week goes by that the pattern of rides doesn't change. What is the purpose for all this changing, what is the theory behind periodized training?

Before I begin I think it would be useful to explain what I mean when I use the term "periodized training." Part of the reason I feel a need to define this is a 2008 blog post by Joe Friel in which he argued that periodized training represented a broad range of very different training programs. In fact, he argued that everything except random training (which he recommended for novice riders) is a form of periodization. I would never argue about the definition of periodization with an expert like Joe Friel but I would like to use a narrower, working definition for this post. The definition I would like to use is based on the periodized training program described in Joe Friel's book, "The Cyclist's Training Bible." Very briefly, at the end of very racing season one takes a break, and then progressively trains according to a plan directed towards a few key races. Just before each race, one reduces the intensity of training as part of a phase called "taper" to reduce fatigue so as to maximize performance in that race. There is a great deal more to his plan than that, but this very brief summary will do for the purposes of this post.

As I understand it, four major factors underlie all periodized training plans:
  1. When you stress your body (e.g. by completing a training ride) at first you become weaker because you are tired, but as you rest, you recover to a stronger state than when you started. (This is just the basic process of training.)
  2. Although you need to leave time for recovery, you can put that off, sometimes for weeks, allowing you to train harder in the short run than you could sustain. This leaves you fatigued, which both reduces performance and which must also be paid back with future recovery.
  3. If you do the same exercise for more than a few weeks, your body adapts to that exercise and as a result there is less stress and less improvement.
  4. Continuous exercise (even periodized) without an annual break leads to an undesirable psychological condition known as burnout.
Point 1 is, I suspect, uncontentious. Personally, I am skeptical about Point 3, but it seems to be fairly universally accepted, so I will leave it be. My guess is that Point 4 varies a great deal from person to person but I also think that it contains enough truth that it ought to be taken seriously. For reasons I find it difficult to articulate, I suspect that Point 2 is the one that most readers will question. One reason it might engender resistance is that I don't recall ever having seen it expressed in this explicit a form. And yet, I claim it is implicit in almost all common periodized training plans. Note the following graph taken from "The Cyclist's Training Bible":

From "The Cyclist's Training Bible" by Joe Friel, page 112
As can be seen in this graph, fatigue (the grey line) builds up over the course of the season as does fitness (the red line). However, form (the yellow line), which determines your ability to perform in a race, stays constant or even drops because the harmful effect of fatigue balances the beneficial effect of fitness. To prepare for a race, the volume of training is reduced, fatigue drops, fitness drops a little, but form, the combination of fitness and fatigue that determines performance, reaches a peak. The main point I would make from this graph (based on real data from a real athlete) is that fatigue does build up over a period of weeks and months and that this can be used as part of a training plan. (One detail which I find intriguing is that very early in the season - mid January - before training has really started, fatigue is at a minimum and form is actually higher than on race day. Bike Snob comments on this phenomenon.)

I ended up adopting periodized training via a series of mistakes and corrections. When I first decided to attempt randonneuring in 2011, I was routinely riding 35 miles and attempted jumping directly to a 50 mile ride. Given how I felt during the 35 mile rides, it didn't seem like it should be much of a stretch, but it was; I did not complete that first attempt at a 50 mile ride. Early in my return to cycling, my wife had given me "The Complete Book of Long-Distance Cycling" by Edmund R. Burke and Ed Pavelka. I referred to that book and found that I should be increasing the length of my weekly long ride by no more than 10% a week. By following that formula, I was able to complete my first 200K brevet in May of 2012. However, Burke and Pavelka are less than explicit about what you do after reaching your goal, probably figuring that any idiot knew that to expect to maintain that level of fitness was impossible. Not being any idiot, that was exactly what I expected. I soon found otherwise, which stimulated more reading of the training literature and ultimately in the discovery of periodized training. Since then, I have been experimenting to find the parameters that govern my particular options vis a vis such a training plan, and it looks like it takes me over six months to recover from the preparation for and riding of a 200K brevet, by which time all increase in fitness from the previous attempt has been lost. In fact, in looking over my riding history from August of 2008 when I first resumed cycling after a 30 year hiatus until today, I made a lot of progress during the first few months, but much less since then. My endurance seems to have improved, but at the same time, my speed seems to have diminished. Has my dalliance with periodization lead me down the garden path to futility?

An alternative to periodization I have considered is to focus on sustainable fitness rather than peaks of form. Rather than grind my way up a series of long rides of 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 72, 80, and 90 miles followed by a 124 mile (200K) brevet and then a year-long collapse, maybe I should gradually increase the intensity of a constant, weekly workout, being careful to avoid anything I could not sustain pretty much indefinitely. If it is really true that any exercise plan repeated for too long stops working (Point 3, above) it might be wise to depart from a strict, linear increase, perhaps by working on speed for a period of time, and then to change my workout to focus on endurance, but all within the constraints of a constant stress load and long term sustainability. This weekly workout needn't be devoid of joy. After all, I can meet my health needs with a fairly light schedule. Anything beyond that should be for fun.

To be perfectly honest, I do not understand the theory behind a lot of the training literature I have been reading. At the risk of being arrogant, I wonder if anyone does? They need not of course, not even an expert like Joe Friel. The training plan of an expert is based on years of experience and produces excellent results, theory be damned. (Whether the experience of a Joe Friel applies to an unfit old man like me is an entirely different question, of course.) However, being a scientist by training and a human by birth, I cannot help but construct theories in my head as to how the various aspects of training work, theories which inevitably (if dangerously) lead to new training ideas. When I look at the above graph from Joe Friel's book, I wonder what happens to fatigue in a sustainable model. Is it a steady state equilibrium, the harder you train at steady state, the higher your level of fatigue? That would be a bad thing and could even lead to health risks. Alternatively, if I held my training plan constant, would fatigue decrease over time as I gained fitness? One assumes that, in either case, there would be an upper limit to what level of fitness one can sustain. Stay tuned as I continue to bumble my way towards whatever end state my tarnished karma demands.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Extreme Decoupling

A Modesto Roadmen training ride in1967.

Since the collapse of by randonneuring ambitions, ambitions which had previously defined how I cycled, any kind of training or even regular cycling program I had also collapsed. Since then I have been trying to develop a new training plan. That training plan is not an end unto itself, of course, the reasons I ride my bike are to stay healthy and to have fun; everything else is in service to those goals. The goal of my training is to provide enough exercise to stay healthy and to get me sufficiently fit to engage in as many fun rides as possible. I have gotten lots of valuable training advice from my readers for which I am very grateful, but of course I have to be the one who ultimately decides which of that advice applies to me, an old man with a badly neglected body. This post is an update on my current thoughts on reconstructing a workable training plan for my future.

Why train at all, why not just ride for fun? For that matter, what is the difference between training and riding for fun? There need be none, of course, if one is enjoying their training rides. To me, however, that "if" defines the difference; a training ride is a ride that you do if you are enjoying it or not, and that you do in a particular way (e.g. speed, distance) independent of what you might prefer. To put it another way, I very much fear that if I only rode my bike when it was fun, I would not be doing enough riding. So to answer the question, I train to make sure I ride enough to get the health benefits I am looking for and to get as fit as possible; as fit as possible because the fun rides I want to do are longer and faster than I can manage today. All of that said, it wouldn't bother me a bit if I found the required training fun.

As a starting point, I wanted my training rides to satisfy the American College for Sports Medicine's (ACSM's) recommendations for healthy adults. There are a number of different ways that could be structured (and I hope to experiment with some of those going forward) but for the moment, I am experimenting with daily MAF test rides to reach that goal. I have given a great deal of thought to MAF tests and have convinced myself that a MAF test ride qualifies as moderate exercise (equivalent to a brisk walk) and thus I should ideally be engaging in 300 minutes a week of MAF tests; a 45 minute MAF test ride almost every day. The "test" part of the MAF test, measuring and recording my average speed during the ride, is not relevant to the ACSM recommendations, but it does make the ride more fun and will, I hope, help guide my future training. On the other hand, wearing a heart rate monitor and riding at a fixed heart rate is an important part of meeting the ACSM recommendations. I use my heart rate monitor to make sure I don't ride too fast (easy for me to do) and that my MAF test rides are truly moderate intensity. (One more example of a difference between a training ride and a fun ride is that a training ride might be done while wearing a heart rate monitor whereas a fun ride probably will not.)

Let's Have Fun!

Why does recording my speed make my otherwise boring MAF tests more fun? The fairly obvious answer is because it provides a goal. As I ride, I note my speed and notice if I am having a good day or a bad day and if I am improving overall. That adds some interest to the ride and reduces the boredom by providing a goal. But that's not why I started tracking MAF test results. I started tracking MAF test results to monitor my training after reading Phillip Maffetone's "The Big Book of Endurance Training and Racing". The concept in that book is that it is important to train at a relatively low speed, aerobic threshold or zone 2, to avoid overtraining, and that the success of this approach should be reflected in continuous improvement in a MAF test results. What Phillip Maffetone did not say was that the training rides should be MAF tests, which is what I am currently doing. Although both MAF tests and Maffetone's recommended training rides are ridden at the same speed, the MAF tests are 45 minutes long, whereas the training rides can be longer. My use of MAF tests as training rides satisfies ACSM's recommendations for health maintenance, but do they represent optimal training towards my second goal, maximizing fitness? To anticipate the rest of this post, almost certainly not.

One piece of advice I received on this blog was from skiffrun who said the following: "Throw all that training literature away -- it isn't written for someone 60+ years old with a fairly high resting pulse (60+), anyway." It is also not, by and large, written for a non-competitive endurance cyclists, but for racers. That said, I can't bring myself to throw it all away, I feel like there is value there, I just need to understand it and extract the bits that are relevant. Based on that belief, I turn to Joe Friel, one of the most respected authors of training books today. Friel's "The Cyclists Training Bible" does not (as far as I can find) recommend a test similar to a MAF test. Rather, Joe Friel's measure of endurance and aerobic fitness takes advantage of a poorly understood yet widely observed phenomenon called "decoupling." Ideally, heart rate during exercise should increase as effort increases. However, there are circumstances where that relationship breaks down. If one rides at constant heart rate, at first the power generated (roughly reflected in the speed you are riding) will be constant but eventually will start to decrease, a process called decoupling. Although this is a "bug" in terms of using heart rate as a measure of effort, it turns out to be a "feature" in terms of measuring endurance. Joe Friel suggests a test where you ride at aerobic threshold and record the time at which decoupling first starts to appear. You then include increasingly long aerobic threshold rides in your training until you can ride for two hours without seeing any decoupling. I'm not sure if the two hour figure is particularly relevant to me, but the phenomenon of decoupling definitely is. I first noticed decoupling about a year ago, when I first started using a heart rate monitor. Just like today, my training then consisted mostly of daily MAF test rides. Although I did not notice decoupling during the 45 minute MAF test rides, I also wore my heart rate monitor during longer rides as I added them to my schedule and then I did observe decoupling:

Data from Garmin Training Center. Red lines added by hand.

The above graphs, reflecting data downloaded from my Garmin, are from the first longer ride I included, a 30 mile ride. (A MAF test is normally 10 to 12 miles, 18 miles if you include warm up and cool down.) During this ride, I tried to keep my heart rate between 130 and 140 beats per minute (my heart rate at aerobic threshold, the same heart rate used for a MAF test.) I largely succeeded at doing that, though it did drift up a bit at the end. Because this was a ride not on a track but on a bike path, speed varied as I went up and down hills, crossed roads and stopped for traffic, etc, but seemed to vary around a relatively constant value for the first 1½ to 2 hours, but then dropped off noticeably due to decoupling. The heart rate monitor connected to my Garmin has stopped working again (details to be provided in a future post) and I have been reduced to using an inexpensive, stand-alone Polar monitor which doesn't record data and thus no longer have pretty graphs. However, this inexpensive monitor works fine for my MAF test rides and has proven to be very reliable. I used this basic monitor on a recent social ride with my wife, ridden a few weeks ago at the nadir of my fitness. It was a beautiful day, the George Bush Park/Terry Hershey Park trail is one of our favorites, so although we hadn't been riding much, we decided to go for a 37 mile ride. My wife is almost always a slower rider than I am, so the fact that we were riding together tended to keep my speed down. Even so, my heart rate drifted up over the course of the ride, and during the last few miles, ridden at a leisurely 12 miles per hour, my heart rate got up to 169 beats per minute. For perspective, this heart rate is higher than my lactate threshold heart rate (the junction between zone 4 and zone 5), a rate which, when I am fit, I only reach during during interval training (sprinting). Clearly, my heart rate at the end of that ride had nothing to do with effort but was reflecting something else entirely, something that Joe Friel claims and that my experience suggests has to do with a lack of fitness for long rides. According to Friel, the only way to correct this is long training rides. So, if I want to do fun rides longer than 20 or 30 miles, which I very much do, I will need to do include much longer rides in my training plan.

Besides decoupling, I have found that other anomalies in heart rate behavior seem to be indicative of my fitness. The first is heart rate stability. When I am fit, my heart rate increases and decreases smoothly with effort. When I am not fit, it will jump up and down, making it difficult to ride my MAF tests correctly. The second is the ability of my heart rate to recover during my cool down ride after a MAF test. When I am fit, during the 20 to 25 minute ride home from the Rice Track, I can easily get my heart rate below 110 beats per minutes, sometimes below 100 beats per minute. When I am not fit, it can be a struggle to get it below 120 beats per minute.

What I am not finding indicative of much of anything is my resting heart rate. Based on the advice of Iron Rider, I began recording a "true" resting heart rate about six months ago. By true, I mean I record my heart rate first thing in the morning while lying in bed. That heart rate varies between 55 and 70 beats per minute. I began measuring my "true" resting heart rate because Iron Rider suggested it might reflect my level of fatigue which I could then use to help plan my training. The concept is that my resting heart rate would increase as fatigue increased, and thus on days when my resting heart rate was higher, I should take it easy. It became clear very quickly that my resting heart rate did not behave in this way. However, I thought I detected a reverse pattern, that fatigue caused my resting heart rate to decrease. Because Joe Friel reports that this is one known difference between younger and older riders, such a decrease seemed plausible. However, this association has not held up either. I continue to measure my resting heart rate because I hope that a pattern will eventually emerge, but at present I can not make any use of it.

One final observation I have made is that I have found that I lose fitness very quickly, in a matter of two or three days. Joe Friel has reported that older athletes recover from exercise more slowly, and I believe I suffer from that as well. Joe Friel's advice to older athletes for dealing with slower recovery is more recovery time, but because I lose fitness so quickly, when I increase recovery time, I loose fitness. Thus, as I think about a training plan going forward, I am thinking of a "walking on eggshells" plan; one where I avoid ever getting too fatigued so I never need to allow a long time for recovery. I find that taking a day or two off a week can be beneficial, but any more than that seems to do more harm than good. In that context, I am struggling with the role of "brisk" (fast) training rides in my plan. Everyone seems to think these are helpful; Bicycling Magazine recently described them as the "secret sauce" in preparing for one's first century ride. However, when I have done them, I have not noticed much benefit. I wonder if, for me, they do more harm that good? A final issue that I will leave for a future post is what role periodization, especially on an annual scale, should play in my training. Stay tuned as I continue the quest for a training plan to get the most out of my decrepit old body.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Tour de France: The Blue Jersey

Picture modified from Wikipedia

Like many of you, I enjoy watching bicycle racing, the Tour de France in particular. I also happen to be fascinated by how sports use rules to make their events ("games", "races", etc.) more fun and/or entertaining. Two examples that immediately jump to mind are the off-sides rule in soccer (football to those of you outside the US) and the adjustment to mound height and bat and ball characteristics in baseball. As much as I enjoy watching "The Tour" in its current format, I cannot help but wonder if there are adjustments to the rules that would make it even more entertaining? Of course, tweaking is already being done every year in the form of route selection as well as the occasional rules change. More or fewer mountains or more or fewer time trials affect how the race plays out and who is more likely to win. However, I have two radical ideas for changing The Tour that lie somewhere in the twilight zone between serious and farcical. I call these two ideas The Blue Jersey and the Brevet de France.

The modern Tour de France has five awards for individual riders and one team award. The five individual awards are the Yellow Jersey (General Category abbreviated GC), The Green Jersey (Sprint), the Polka-Dot Jersey (King of the Mountains), the White Jersey (best young rider), and the Most Aggressive Rider (no jersey, but a red number). The Yellow Jersey is given to the rider with the fastest overall elapsed time. The white jersey is the same except that the winner must be 26 years of age or younger. The most aggressive rider is selected subjectively by a panel of experts. The Green and Polka-Dot jerseys are are based not on time, but on points earned by order of finish both at the end of the stage as well as arbitrary lines along the course. Of all of these jerseys, the overall winner of the Yellow Jersey is declared the winner of the Tour de France, and that is what I would like to change.

"Fabian Cancellara pictured at the 2010 Tour de France. He is the rider with the most yellow jerseys not to win the general classification overall." (Quote and Picture from Wikipedia). As far as I know, Fabian Cancellara, due to is particular mix of skills, has not been thought to be a contender to wear the Yellow Jersey at the end of the Tour. Might he have a chance to win the Blue Jersey?

How can I propose to change the Yellow Jersey? The winner of the yellow jersey is the natural and obvious overall winner. Or is he? The first running of the Tour de France on 1903 had rather different rules than those we use today; it was more like a brevet1 and between 1906 and 1912 the overall tour winner was determined by points, like the modern green and polka-dot jerseys. In that spirit, and to attempt to shake the notion that the current rules are natural and inevitable, I would like to begin by mock-proposing a replacement for the Tour de France that I call the Brevet de France.

Brevet de France

Modern routes for The Tour are discontinuous; one day's race does not necessarily start where the previous day's finished. Contrast that to Race Across America (RAAM) which is a continuous ride from one end of the United States to the other, like a brevet except competitive. In that spirit, a simple version of the Tour de France would be like RAAM, one continuous ride around France with no separate stages, and no breaks for eating or sleeping. As with RAAM, riders would sleep as little as possible. In my opinion, this proposal illuminates the arbitrary aspects of the current yellow jersey competition. If we really want to know who can ride the perimeter of France the fastest, why not make the Tour de France do just that?

Personally, I don't like the above proposal for the same reason I am a bit uncomfortable with RAAM; I don't think determining which rider is best able to deal with sleep deprivation is interesting, humane, or healthy. Plus, I think the flexibility provided by the current discontinuous routing leads to a more interesting race. Finally, I have a slightly more serious proposal I'd like to make that accommodates such discontinuities. Instead of replacing the Tour de France with the Brevet de France, why not supplement it? Imagine an amateur event to be conducted along side the current Tour de France. It would be a brevet that followed the same route as the tour. Each rider (or each team, if it were run as a team event) would have cars to drive them from the end of one stage to the start of the next. There would have to be rules to prevent unsafe driving between stages. One obvious way to accomplish that would be to set a driving time between stages that guarantees a safe driving speed and say that the time between stages cannot be less than that. I would also, in the interest of limiting sleep deprivation, limit cycling to sunrise to sunset; this could be enforced by a GPS carried by the riders who would be picked up and transported to a sleeping facility each evening and returned to where they stopped each morning. Even given these limitations, I suspect that the riders in the Brevet de France would finish the route significantly faster than the racers in the Tour de France. Should this amateur event be an all-out race, or should it be more like Paris-Brest-Paris, where finishers are listed alphabetically? I don't know, but in either case, I think the point would be made that there is something inevitably arbitrary about the definition of the winner of the Tour de France, and thus it is perfectly reasonable to play with the rules in the interest of making it more entertaining.

The Green Jersey. Picture from Wikipedia

The Blue Jersey

I hope I have convinced you that the modern Tour de France is not about who can ride the the fastest the longest, but what I am not arguing that it should be about that. There is a lot I enjoy about the Tour the way it is, a collection of 21 separate races conducted over 23 days. I enjoy the contest for the yellow jersey as much as anyone, but almost as much, I enjoy the daily contest for stage winner, the contest for the green jersey winner ("best sprinter") and the most competitive rider. The white jersey awarded to the best young rider is interesting, but clearly is secondary; it speaks more to future years than the current Tour. Personally, I find the polka-dot jersey, the "King of the Mountains", a little forced. The true King of the Mountains is almost always the Yellow Jersey winner, the wearer of the polka-dot jersey is usually decided by who makes it into break aways. The Tour organizers recognize this problem and have worked to make the polka-dot jersey competition more about who is the strongest climber, and to the extent they have succeeded, I think they are increasing the confluence between the yellow and polka-dot jersey winners. In support of this contention, I note that in 2013, the winner of the King of the Mountains competition was the second place finisher overall. Although I enjoy every single day of the tour, I confess that I enjoy flat stages less than the others. The reason is that, except for occasional bad luck that eliminates a contender, such stages have little impact on the overall winner; such stages are essentially padding with little or no impact on the overall race.

In short, the current Tour de France divides into a number of unrelated contests because only the mountain stages and time trials are important for determining the overall winner. As a result, most of the stages have little impact on who wins and become almost like a half-time show in a football game. Sure, some riders are eliminated as potential winners on such days, but this is a negative thing, not a positive. I would find it more fun if not only the strong climbers were in contention for the overall winner, but where someone like Peter Sagan or even Mark Cavendish might win by being good enough in their specialty. The way I propose to do that is to change it from an elapsed time competition to a point-based competition, like the green jersey. There are a lot of options in terms of the details that could be adjusted to make the race more competitive; whether only the top places (e.g. first through tenth) received points, or whether every place counted toward the final tally. For safety reasons, riders finishing in a large group (e.g. the peleton) would probably have to be given the same number of points. However this was done, by adjusting the ratio of flat v.s. mountainous stages and the number of time trials v.s. mass start races, the organizers could put together routes that had as many riders in contention as possible. Even in this highly speculative blog post, I would not propose eliminating the current yellow jersey, the winner of my points competition would receive the blue jersey2. To facilitate a transition away from the Yellow Jersey winner being considered the overall winner, I would subtitle the Blue Jersey "the new GC" and retitle the Yellow Jersey "the old GC."

The White Jersey. Picture from Wikipedia.

A potential criticism of the blue jersey is that it is very similar to the current green jersey. In the first place, I consider that a good thing in that the green jersey comes closest of any to being a counter balance to the current yellow jersey. The biggest difference between the green jersey and the blue jersey is that the green jersey includes sprint points at the middle of stages. To my mind, this causes the current green jersey to be a convolution of three different things; a point-based measure of stages won or placed, a measure of who is the fastest sprinter, and a measure of aggressiveness in that going out on breaks is a good way to pick up mid-course sprint points. The proposed Blue Jersey is an attempt to extract the measure of stages won or placed from the current Green Jersey and offer that as an alternative to the current Yellow Jersey as a determination the overall winner of the Tour de France. Determining the fastest sprinter and recognizing aggressiveness are both worthwhile, and if this post is way more popular than I expect, I will share some (fairly obvious) ideas I have along these lines about how those things could be determined.

Blue Jersey Winner, 2013

It doesn't really make sense to declare a Blue Jersey winner for 2013 because the riders were not competing for it (their strategy would likely have been different were they to) and the organizers gave it no consideration during course design. That said, just for fun, I set the following rules and looked at the impact on the order of finish:
  1. Points were given for order of finish for the top 10 finishers. 50 points for first place, 40 for second, and so on, 30, 25, 22, 20, 18, 17, 16, down to 15 points for tenth place.
  2. I wanted to give everyone finishing with the peleton 10 points, but that was too hard for this mock calculation, so I gave 10 points to everyone finishing within 30 seconds of the stage winner.
Using these rules, the first 10 winners of the 2013 Blue Jersey competition were as follows:

RiderBlue Jersey PointsBlue Jersey PlaceYellow Jersey Place
FROOME Christopher34611
SAGAN Peter330279
QUINTANA ROJAS Nairo Alexander26132
CAVENDISH Mark2355149
KWIATKOWSKI Michal235611
KITTEL Marcel2307166
CONTADOR Alberto22384
KREUZIGER Roman21595
COSTA Rui Alberto2101025

I did not tune my rules to get the results I wanted, I guessed at what seemed like reasonable rules, and the above is what happened. That said, I confess that I am delighted by the results. Firstly, I thought Chris Froome rode a really good Tour last year and deserved to win by any standard. The fact that he won my proposed Blue Jersey is an endorsement of it as a reasonable standard for winning.  Similarly, I am pleased that the top five Yellow Jersey contenders all ended up in the top 10 for the Blue Jersey, again a reality check that the Blue Jersey measures something relevant. Secondly, I am delighted that Peter Sagan came in second in the Blue Jersey competition. Like many people, I am a big fan of Sagan, and as I hoped, my Blue Jersey rewarded his all around cycling skills. Thirdly, I am delighted that three sprinters, Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel (in addition to Sagan), were elevated to the top 10. This confirms that the Blue Jersey does something interesting, it gives a whole new class of riders the hope of being a General Category winner. Finally, nobody in the top 10 seemed to me not to belong there. I hereby declare my proposal for the Blue Jersey a howling success and expect the Tour organizers to implement it, if not in 2014, certainly by 2015. In the spirit of the public good, I am not asking for any compensation from the organizers for this valuable suggestion.


1. The word "brevet" comes from the sport of randonneuring. Understanding that sport would be helpful for understanding this post, and the Randonneurs USA website has an excellent summary.

2. I picked blue for the jersey color because blue is a primary color which is not otherwise used to describe a rider in the Tour.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

The Modesto Roadmen Website

The blog post that was due two days ago was to be a whimsical one, mock-proposing radical changes to the Tour de France. That post got delayed (hopefully by no more than a week) by my involvement in another project. Regular readers of this blog already know a lot about the Modesto Roadmen, the bicycle club I belonged to way back in the 1960's, when I was in High School. As noted in those posts, I have been back in contact with one of the other four founders of this club. Because I have more or less made it a policy on this blog not to use peoples' real names, I refer to him as "Peter". Peter has a friend who I will refer to as "J". J is a Modesto cyclist who specializes in endurance events. The three of us decided it would be fun to create a website for sharing pictures and other forms of Modesto Roadmen history, and I have spent the last few days setting that up; the current front page of that site is shown in the picture at the top of this post.

Do you wonder who J and Peter really are? The three of us who are putting up the Modesto Roadmen website, after due consideration, decided that we will use real names on that site, so go there to find out! (Clue: The code names used on this blog have the same first letter as the first names of the organizers listed on the above website.)

I hope that the Modesto Roadmen website will grow and develop for a long time. In any case, it is very minimal right now and I expect it to get a lot better over the next few weeks as I continue to upload pictures. If you are curious, the site is here: