Monday, September 22, 2008

From Moto in North Carolina in to Velo in Vegas: a month redux

Been a while, eh? I'm in Vegas for Interbike, which officially kicked off today with the first day of Dirt Demo. It's gonna be full-go for the next few days to see all the hottest new stuff.

I happen to be staying in the hotel with the guys who has been at the maelstrom of the "hottest" anticipation. Indeed, I ran into Phil White, half of the Cervelo brainchild with fellow engineer Gerard Vroomen. We walked and talked about a mile down the strip—he to do some shopping, me to get my credentials at the Venetian. There has been buzz about whether the new P4 Carbon would be coming. And like Gerard told me at the Tour de France earlier this year, he and his media team said they'll let me know when they have something ready. He told me that they've invested—get this—over $1 million in the development of the P4 Carbon. So when they want to let the world know, they said I would be on the short list of those who would get an inside track.

So... stand down, least for now.

Last we spoke, it was Olympics time. Jan Frodeno surprised us, and Emma Snowsill didn't. Great fun was had by all.

Around that time, I was the guest of Specialized to a unique test. I have a piece that will be going into Road Bike Action magazine as well as in Triathlete magazine. It was exceptionally informative, and unique: Specialized brought out the brains (engineer Mark Cote) and the brawn (six-time Australian National Time Trial ChampNathan O'Neill... that's Mark getting on Nathan's nerves, giving him a hard time about his helmet straps) to do some interesting tests, to draw some quantifiable numbers as to what the true benefits of a tri bike are over a road bike, in terms of rider position benefit, wattage output benefit, even bike-only aero profile benefit. It was quite interesting, and will make for good reading... at least for those who like to look at numbers and what they mean.

There was actually protocol for three separate tests that we were : a wind tunnel test at the new A2 Wind Tunnel, located in NASCAR's hometown of Mooresville. That was interesting enough. Then there was a 1k trial at an area loop for some outdoor comparison.

Then the finale was a series of 10-mile road trials at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte. The test was held on the actual NASCAR track, which, for me, was a thrill. It was also held in conjunction with the Carolina TT Cycling Association series,which hosts a monthly time trial on the track. One of the coolest things I'd ever seen, cyclists of ever level out laying down the watts, in individual and TTT format.And then.... there was a unique prototype setup. Not a proto bike, but proto measurement device. You'll have to read the mags to see what that's all about.

The heat of the day gave way to the cool of the night as athletes raced under the lights. I'd wish I brought my bike! But it was Nathan, after a day of 10-mile time trials under the hot sun, who put on a blazing display in his last lap—just to see how fast he could go. He nearly fell over after the hot lap, but it was fun for us to watch from the infield grass. He passed on the customary infield tire burnout donuts.

One of the coolest dynamics I'd ever seen took place there as well: athletes warmed up in the garage alongside spare cars belonging to Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards and Jeff Gordon. How unique. I had to get a shot of it, which you see to the left... that's Carl Edwards' Office Depot No. 99 behind the bikes.

With that trip finished, I headed home, excited about the coming Pepsi 500 NASCAR race in Fontana, Calif., up the road.

Enter Specialized marketing magician. Nic Sims. He's British and has the voice of the Geico gecko. And he's a great guy. Because he picked up my NASCAR fetish (I was flipping out as we drove past DEI headquarters), and made something cool happen.

MyDad retired a couple weeks ago. Dude can sleep in as long as he wants now. But I wanted to send him out with a bang, and Specialized helped me to that end.

All the boys in my family (that being my dad, brother and I) are big NASCAR fans. We went to PIR in Phoenix over a decade ago to see Dale Earnhardt race, several years before he passed. I like Kasey Kahne and Carl Edwards. Dad and bro like Tony Stewart. But we all agree on one favorite: Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the 88 car.

It seems Specialized sponsors one of the Sprint Cup drivers, and as such has access to the races. When I said “hey, if the ones in Cali never get used, gimme a ring,” I didn’t think anything of it.

But Nic rang, and got myself, and dad and brother, not only in, but in with garage and pit passes. For four hours, we got to wander up and down pit row. It’s the equivalent of courtside seats for the Lakers—at 78 thousand decibels. And you had Drew Carey shouting for the gents to start their engines, as well as some celebs I’d never heard of (whos’s heard of The Hills? Apparently, two actors were there and causing a stir). I guess I’m losing touch with what the kids are watching these days.

But we all knew who was passing from the garage to their cars. So we got to basically hang out behind Junior’s pit and watch Tony Eury Jr. do his thing directing the frenzy. The pit crew are surprisingly athletic, going through stretches, some running up and down pit lane to get their lungs blown open a bit.

That done, I went to Malibu to cover the Malibu Triathlon weekend. I did the Olympic-distance race with my brother Jon (finished 8th in my age group in 2:20, was pleased with that) But the next day I got to watch the paparazzi descend on Jennifer Lopez and Matthew McConaughey like flies on carrion. It was disturbing. John Segesta, Rich Cruse and I stood back and watched the rudest guys trample, bump and otherwise ignore anyone else around to get that money shot. Whatever. One tried to warn me he was coming thru. I promptly stopped, squared up, looked him in the eye and made him go around me. I have a greater understanding why once in a while, celebs snap and haul off on these clowns. I totally get it now.

That stated, it was chaos to even try to talk to any of the celebs as a journalist. But I got lucky. After the vultures left McConaughey to stalk J-Lo, who was still on the course, I cruised over and asked for 2 minutes. He gave me about seven, talking about his race in great detail. It sounds to me like he'll maybe be doing more triathlons. The fact that he was getting training advice from respected L.A. area coach Ian Murray of Triathletix meant he was taking it serious. The "coach" J-Lo was working with was no tri coach, that's for sure. Anyway, it was all good for the sport to get names like McConaughey and Lopez to lend exposure to triathlon.

And since I was shooting the race, I managed some shots of Matthew, and one I think my massive legion of women reading this blog (or at least the two who are reading it) will appreciate:

See? Milk (and training) do a body good!

Until next time... which should be not long after Interbike, and before the Hawaii Ironman in three weeks (three weeks!!!)

1 comment:

Heather said...

Hey I think Nic Sims is a great guy too! Although I am not sure he sounds like the Geico Gecko!!!!

I do like the shot of Matthew though!