The Tour de France has been on. We’ve been somewhat focused on it. It has been a remarkable year for the sport of professional cycling which is racing to re-establish credibility as the cyclists themselves turn over the pedals up every mountain and through every shoulder to shoulder sprint. Cycling, for many years, has been plagued with accusation, secrecy, cover-ups and penalties surrounding the use of performance enhancing drugs and other “illegal” actions.

It came to a head earlier this year just weeks before the Tour started. Lance Armstrong, who claimed 7 Yellow Jersey wins of the Tour de France, was caught in an unescapable vise of accusation and indictment. After years of standing on the claims of never failing a drug test and no real evidence that could taint his record he was caught in a conspiracy outlined by former team mates and others closest to him. Coercion, power, drugs and even blood transfusions and alleged payoffs all came upon Armstrong like the peloton chasing down a failed breakaway. (more…)

Speed is universal. It is the variety of the vehicle that becomes a variable. It can be anything. The standard issue human body put to the test on the road of a marathon or a swimming pool or can be seen as a basis for muscle and blood endurance. Once you add a machine to the equation, the skills of handling the machine become another variable to consider.

In a very short period of time, we have been to one location to witness a range of machines and the people pushing their limits within. At Virginia International Raceway, variety is almost a constant. The terrain, the turns, the trees and the technology all come together in form and function. We have seen stock cars, prototypes, open-wheel and production based cars being raced here. Most recently, it was side by side racing with two less wheels.

Motorcycle racing is different. It is fast and fun to watch. The acceleration and the angles are multiplied by the human element which is plainly visible through every motion. The body is enclosed in a car. Surrounded by a roll cage and steel, the driver is mostly hidden from view. The motorcycle offers only a helmet and some bits of leather. (more…)

Rain changed the dynamics of two iconic races on the same day on Sunday, February 15th. The Daytona 500 was cut short in Florida while on the other coast, rain dampened the day for the international cyclists riding the Tour of California. Now, fast forward one week to Sunday, February 22nd. These same sports practically come face to face as the drivers and cyclists find themselves within 200 miles of each other.

autoclub500On the surface, 200 miles seems like a fair distance. However, when you consider the attention these two events are getting it is nothing but an inch on a Rand-McNally. The Auto Club 500 may be the largest attention grabber within our own borders of the U.S.A. but the international attention on the Tour is likely much greater. NASCAR is, after all, an American invention. Cycling in some countries is bigger than football. Our football, anyway. Their football is soccer and makes ours look like a little league outing.

However, think of the similarities between professional cycling and NASCAR. Sponsors, speed, drafting, teams, strategy, endurance and luck play heavy in both. Big name stars highlight both sports. Who doesn’t know that Jeff Gordon drives and Lance Armstrong rides? Crashes are common in both. Tempers come into play. At the end of the day there is a finish line and glory. Definatelycommon to both.

tourcabnnrThis Sunday, you can expand your horizons and check out both of these spectacles with TV coverage of both. From 2pm to 5pm, watch the final stage of the Tour of California on the VERSUS network. Look for the similarities. Be carefull, you might get hooked and by the time the Tour de France comes around you may find yourself cheering for two wheels. At 5pm, flip to FOX and see the entire Auto Club 500. Two races from two different disciplines on one day from practically the same place. How can you go wrong?

The Daytona 500 was dampened by rain early on race day. It cleared up and the race was under way on time but was still under the threat during the race. The rain returned and shortened the race at lap 152 leaving the leader at that time, Matt Kenseth in the DeWalt Ford, to be the winner. Not to take away from Kenseth and Roush-Fenway, but I did feel cheated out of what was shaping up to be an “edge of the seat” finish. As it was, the rain not only shortened the race but snipped the show. There was hard racing left and some of the heavy hitters had their race day drowned in the clouds. But – on the other coast…

Tour of California finishes Sunday stage in the rain
Tour of California finishes Sunday stage in the rain

The Tour of California, America’s big multi-stage cycling event, has rain all day and the cyclists race onward. Yes, these athletes straddled the saddle all day in wet conditions. Skinny tires and a top speed of maybe 40-45 mph on a good hill was the course of the day while a steady rain fell on racers and spectators. Yes, it is a different set of circumstances than race day for NASCAR, but the comparison can still be made. Florida and Daytona race day – California and Tour race day. Opposite sides of the country and some would say opposite sides of racing. One is gasoline and machine and the other is blood and machine. One is loud and one is “green”. However, the simularities are staggaring. Teams, drafting, crashes, mechanical issues, flat tires, sponsors, endurance…  Yes. Racing is racing. 600 horsepower or one human is not the issue. The issue is the rain. The issue is the rain and the ironic circumstance of rain on two coasts changing the dymamic of two races at the same time.

The Daytona 500 has several teams combine their resources to get off to a good season start. Stewart is an owner. The Wood Brothers limit their season. Petty and DEI reform themselves by merging with competitors. The rain comes and cuts the rug under some of these plans for a gold star to start the season. The Tour of California has some athletes showing their stuff after being out of the limelight for a while. Lance Armstrong (7 time Tour de France winner) is back in the sport. Floyd Landis (disgraced in a performance drug scandal) is back in.

It still comes down to the rain. Rain on NASCAR sucks for the fan. Rain on cycling sucks for the riders. I suppose what I’m saying is that rain, while necessary, can suck.