Sunday, July 29, 2012

Books I've Been Reading Lately

Inspired by my IU colleague (from the McKinney Law School in Indianapolis) Gerard Magliocca, I just finished reading Merlo J. Pusey's Pulitzer Prize-winning, two-volume biography of Charles Evans Hughes, though one of the outstanding figures of the twentieth century, is hardly known today outside of constitutional law circles. He was, first, a brilliant lawyer before becoming Governor of New York, then an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court. He stepped down from that office to become Secretary of State in the administration of Warren G. Harding, only later to be reappointed as Chief Justice of the United States by President Hoover (following a brief stint as judge on the World Court). Pusey's biography is rather brilliant, but borders on hagiography; he portrays Hughes as the sum of all perfections. A great man he surely was, but I prefer my biographical portrayals with warts and all.


Speaking of my colleague, Gerard Magliocca, I have just started reading, in manuscript, his very fine biography of John Bingham, the Republican congressman who, among his other notable achievements, drafted the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, which as Gerard quite rightly notes, is the single "most important sentence in the Constitution." 
No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Gerard's book will be published later this year by New York University Press. 


Sandra F. Joireman, Where There Is No Government: Enforcing Property Rights in Common Law Africa (Oxford 2011). An interesting exploration of comparative enforcement of formal (common) law rules v. customary law in Uganda, Kenya, and Ghana. Joireman observes that informal, customary norms are not always superior to formal legal rules imposed from the outside; in some cases they may be predatory and reinforce inequitable power relations. A very interesting study based on high-quality analysis.



In addition to these books, I've been reading various classic works of political theory with a Workshop reading group, including various works by John Adams and, currently, Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments. I've also been reading Vincent Ostrom's collected works, which I'll report on separately in later post.

An Apology -

 - for not having blogged much lately. In the past two weeks, I've spent five days in conferences, and much of the other days preparing for those conferences.

First was a conference co-sponsored by the Center for Knowledge Diffusion. The (somewhat ambiguous) topic concerned striking an appropriate balance between competition and cooperation on scientific research in a globalized 21st century. Participants included an economist from the OECD and a representative of the National Science Foundation.

This week, the Liberty Fund sponsored a conference on "The Bloomington School, the New Science and Art of Association, and Cultivating Self-Governing Citizens," which of course focused on the work of both  Ostroms. Participants included Vernon Smith, Ken Shepsle, and several "Workshoppers" from around the country.

Fortunately, both conferences were here in Bloomington - indeed, at the Workshop - so I did not have to travel to attend them. They were both  interesting and educational. It was an honor for me to be invited to participate in them.  


The Liberty Fund conference was an especially invigorating experience, as it emphasized just how important it is to keep Vincent and Lin Ostrom's legacy and their Workshop alive. Carrying on Lin's work on the Social-Ecological Systems framework (among her other endeavors) is of obvious importance. But, while Vincent's work current out of fashion, my guess is that eventually political theorists and political-economists will "rediscover" it and then spend several generations carefully thinking through, interpreting, and arguing over his dense and idiosyncratic, highly original, but never systematically expostulated, theories and arguments. 


I hope to get back to blogging on substantive issues soon, though right now my energy level is at low ebb. I'm actually thinking of going away for a few days of real vacation, which is something I haven't done in years.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Economy Is an Ox

At least it is in John Kay's excellent parable, here. But aren't parables supposed to provide some normative guidance?

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Jens Says It's a Safe Bet He'll Ride Another Tour

Here. Heartening news for all cycling fans.

The Kind of Book Review that Can Get Me to Read a Book I Probably Wouldn't Have Read Otherwise

Here. I can only hope the book is as good as the review.

Thoughts on TdF Stage 20

1. No surprises. After a royal procession into Paris, Team Sky made sure that Mark Cavendish got the lead-out he needed and deserved to win the final stage of this year's Tour, putting a cherry on top of what has been among the most dominant team displays in TdF history.

2. Congrats to Brad Wiggins for giving Great Britain its first ever TdF championship. It was a long time coming, but in the end he made it look almost easy (which, of course, it cannot have been). Congrats also to his teammates, including Chris Froome, who sacrificed his own chance at the top podium spot to help Wiggins hold his other rivals in check in the mountain stages, as well as Mark Cavendish, who really did sacrifice any realistic chance he had for the green jersey (points competition) for the larger goal of winning the overall.

3. Kudos to polka dot jersey wearer Thomas Voeckler, who came into this year's tour with a bad knee, which almost forced him to abandon during the first week, but not only persevered by thrived in the Pyrenees to win the King of the Mountains title. Year in and year out, he is among the most enjoyable riders to watch in the tour.

4. Speaking of enjoyable riders to watch, it was great to see Jens out front again today, animating the breakaway on the Champs Elysee, and giving it all he had before being caught by the hard charging Team Sky. If this was his last TdF (and I hope it was not), he left it the same way he first came in 15 years ago: on the attack.

5. Despite its victory in the team competition, is this the last we will see of Team RadioShack in the TdF? Amidst drug allegations affecting both riders and team management, failure to make regular salary payments to some team riders, and conflicts between riders and management about team tactics and selections, it's hard to see much of a future for what was supposed to be a super team. How different things might have been had Cancellara not suffered a broken collarbone during the Spring Classics, and Andy Schleck not suffered a broken pelvis in the run-up to the TdF, and the USADA not leveled charges against Johan Bruyneel (among others) two weeks before the start of the race. Frank Schleck's positive test for a diuretic during this year's race certainly hasn't helped. I suspect that next year we will see at least one of the Schlecks, Cancellara, Andreas Kloden, and hopefully Jens Voigt riding in a different team's kit. 

Sunday Ride

I felt a bit better this morning, but decided to take it (relatively) easy anyway. Only 28 miles with a bit over 2000 feet of climbing in 1 hour, 40 minutes. Beautiful morning for a nice ride. I hope everyone got in a good one.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Saturday Ride

I planned a longer ride this morning, but I seem to have a bit of a stomach bug (or at any rate, an upset tummy). So, I only rode 25 miles, in a bit under 90 minutes, including 1700 feet of climbing up Beanblossom, Old 37 into Hindustan, and Firehouse Hill. Hopefully, I'll feel better and get in a longer ride tomorrow.

Thoughts on TdF Stage 20

1. As expected, Wiggins crushed the field, winning by more than a minute over the second-place rider, his teammate Chris Froome.

2. Also as expected, no change in the final podium, and only one change in the top-ten, as Zubeldia moved past Evans into sixth place.

3. All that remains is the celebratory ride into Paris for Wiggins to give the UK it's first ever Tour de France champion. Not a bad gift for the UK as London prepares to host the Olympics. Meanwhile, Kenya will have a second-place finisher in Chris Froome (although he will ride in the Olympics for England). 

4. Tomorrow's stage will be worth watching not only for the pageantry but also for the furious final sprint, where Team Sky will attempt to put a cherry on top of the race by delivering Mark Cavendish to the stage win.

Farber on DC Circuit's Decision Uphold EPA's New NOx Standard

Here. It includes a very nice explanation of statistical aspects of the decision, which upheld EPA's new one-hour peak ambient air quality standards for nitrogen oxide (NOx).

I wonder when members of industry groups will finally tire of having their money (lots of money) wasted on spurious judicial challenges to scientifically well-supported EPA health-based standards? It's not obvious that the industry groups are serving well the interests of their members, rather than merely rationalizing their own reason for existence by filing such weak claims.

Friday, July 20, 2012

TdF Stage 19 Preview

The final time trial of this year's Tour, on a very flat course. Expect the yellow jersey to give Wiggo wings; he'll crush the field. I also expect Froome to distance himself from third place Vincenzo Nibali. I don't really expect any changes in the top seven or eight riders.

Thoughts about Stage 18

1. Again, I didn't get to see the live coverage because of a conference; I'll watch the replay this evening.

2. Apparently, Cav showed a clean set of wheels on the field sprint, indicating that he's going to be in top form for the Olympics, which begin in a little over a week. Will we see a repeat performance on the Champs Elysee on Sunday?

3. As expected, no change in the yellow (or other) jerseys. Wiggins basically declared victory after yesterday's stage, and unless he has a whole series of mechanical incidents or crashes badly on tomorrow's time trial, he should gain time on the field in preparation for the coronation spin into Paris on Sunday.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

TdF Stage 18 Preview

With the mountains Pyrenees well behind the peloton, Stage 18 is one for the sprinters - if there are any left. Actually, a few of them are left, including Mark Cavendish, Tyler Farrar, Matt Goss, Andre Greipel, and of course Peter Sagan. Don't be surprised if Jens gets into another break tomorrow. It's a stage that suits a strong man.

Thoughts on TdF Stage 17

I was in meetings literally all day today, until after 8 pm, so I only got to see the evening replay of today's stage.

1. For once, the breakaway did not make it to the finish line ahead of the peloton.

2. Valverde finally came good and won a stage with panache, but Nibali disappointed once again; he was unable to do anything against Wiggins and Froome.

3. Thomas Voeckler basically wrapped up the King of the Mountains competition, and Teejay van Gaarderen has pretty much done the same with the Best Young rider competition. That only leaves the yellow jersey in doubt, but is anyone really in doubt that it belongs to Wiggo?

4. Correction: Yesterday, I incorrectly stated that Europcar had moved in front of Team RadioSchack in the team competition; I was looking at the stage results, rather than the overall race results. RadioShack still owns the team competition by a good 14 minutes over Team Sky.

5. For most practical purposes, this Tour de France is history. But the final stages are still worth watching.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

TdF Stage 17 Preview

Another hard day in the Pyrenees, this time featuring a first, second, and third category climbs in the first half of the race, followed by a climb up the HC Port de Bales and finishing atop of the 1st category double-peaked climb up the Peyresourde and the Peyregudes. Having lost big time on Stage 16, Cadel Evans may seek to get away relatively early (perhaps on the slopes of the Port de Bales) in an effort to recoup his losses. That assumes, of course, that he gets over the stomach ailment that set him back today. Look for Voeckler to be on the attack again in an effort to secure ownership of the polka dot jersey in the King of the Mountains competition. Who else will come out to play in Stage 17? Van den Broeck has to try. And perhaps a few lower-ranked climbers kept their ammo dry today but have tomorrow's stage circled on their calenders for an all-out attack. One final flyer of a prediction: We might see Basso try to get into a breakaway in Stage 17, so that Nibali will have someone up the road to bridge up to on a later all-out attack on the yellow jersey.




Thoughts on TdF Stage 16

1.  How tough is Tommy Voeckler? Apparently, as tough as he wants/needs to be. What a ride today, first to the top of all four mountains, taking the polka dot jersey in the process, and first to the finish line.

2. I expected the "heads of state" to take charge of today's race and fight for the victory on the Tour's toughest mountain stage, but they just continued their Kabuki dance well behind a huge 38-man breakaway.

3. It certainly couldn't have been an "easy" day for Wiggo and Team Sky to defend the yellow jersey. But it certainly makes it easier when the other contenders are content to sit in and wait until the day's final climb to try a move. 


4. Or is it that Team Sky are just so strong and set such a pace as to discourage early attacks? The fact that Cadel Evans cracked again today on both of the stage's last two climbs suggests that Sky are just too damn strong for the challengers.


5. Liquigas finally sent Ivan Basso up to the front to set the pace on the final climb of the day so as to soften up the group for an attack by his teammate Vicenzo Nibali, who started the day in third place, 2:20 behind Wiggo. The trouble was that Wiggins still had four teammates around him. He and Chris Froome easily pegged back Nibali.


6. Cadel Evans seems to have lost any chance he had at a podium finish in Paris. In fact, the podium is nearly set in stone at this point: (1) Wiggins; (2) Froome; and (3) Nibali. Of course, that's barring some catastrophe between now and Sunday.


7. The oldest rider in the race, Jens Voigt, who soon will be 41 years old, finished 6th in the toughest stage of the race.


8. Despite Voigt's attempted heroics, Team RadioShack lost its lead in the team competition today, a day after erstwhile team leader Frank Schleck was withdrawn from the Tour following an adverse finding on an in-race drug test. They now trail Voeckler's Europcar team by just under one minute, which they should be able to regain in the final time trial, if they keep the race close until then.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

TdF Stage 16 Preview

It doesn't get any tougher than this. Two HC climbs and two first category climbs in the Pyrenees. If Evans, Nibali, and Van den Broeck don't take time out of Wiggins tomorrow, they probably never will. This is Basque country, home territory for the Euskatel team, which will surely go on the attack. However, I don't see a breakaway surviving to the end of this stage. This is one where the GC contenders will likely go mano-a-mano for the victory.

Breaking TdF News

According to published news reports (see here), Frank Schleck has tested positive for a banned diuretic, and has withdrawn from the Tour de France, while awaiting testing of his "B sample." He is the first rider in this year's Tour to test positive for a banned (but not illegal) substance during the race. If the B sample confirms Schleck's use of the diuretic Xipamide, it will be very sad news for the rider, his family, and a team that has been dogged at this year's tour by allegations of a past doping conspiracy involving team owner Johann Bruyneel (see here).

A week ago, on the Tour's first rest day, police arrested Cofidis rider Remy de Gregorio pursuant to a  doping investigation that had been on-going for a year (see here).

Thoughts on the Second TdF Rest Day

Loyal reader David Kaplan raises several important questions about today's rest day in the Tour de France: (1) Who is resting hard and who is just going through the motions of faux-rest as a deceptive tactic? (2) Is resting done best as a team or as a hard solo effort? (3) Does today change the GC rankings?  (4) What type of shirt is given out for the top rester of the tour? And, perhaps most importantly, (5) how do the podium girls dress when awarding this honor?

In lieu of actually answering his questions, here are several discrete thoughts about today's lack-of-stage:

1. Today's rest day abandoned the tour after Jens attacked it.

2. An even bigger idiot threw tacks out on the road today.

3. Peter Sagan spent his rest day sprinting and working on victory celebrations.

4. Leopard-Trek riders spent much of the rest day filling out loan applications to pay their hotel bills.

5. The podium girls have to do whatever Bernard Hinault tells them, or else...!

6. On a more serious note, I do believe that the Tour should implement a master's competition with a silver jersey for riders over 35.

7. If there were a jersey for best rester (let's call it "The Snuggy"), I would win it.

Why Does Arsenal Pretend to be Poor?

Here's the Forbe's top-ten list of wealthiest sports franchises (according to Soccernet.com, here):


1 Manchester United - £1.43bn
2 Real Madrid - £1.20bn
3= NY Yankees - £1.18bn
3= Dallas Cowboys - £1.18bn
5 Washington Redskins - £1bn
6= LA Dodgers - £895m
6= NE Patriots - £895m
8 Barcelona - £838m
9 New York Giants - £831m
10 Arsenal - £825m

Arsenal has the fourth highest market value of soccer clubs in the world, behind only Man U, Barca, and Real Madrid (but apparently ahead of Man City an Chelsea, which is surprising). So, why is Arsenal losing its top players year-after-year to Man City and other supposedly (but not actually) richer clubs? (1) Arsenal have a wage scale to which the club has adhered at least since Arsene Wenger's arrival in the early 90s; (2) Arsenal refuse to "overspend" on players, based on some kind of moral-economy (as opposed to market-based) assessment of value; and (3) in contrast to other clubs, which may make losses as tax write-offs for their wealthy owners, Arsenal insist on showing annual net profits to shareholders. In other words, the Arsenal brass are more concerned about the financial bottom line than the footballing bottom line. In principle, it is an admirable position to take, but while it puts pounds in the pockets of directors and shareholders, it does not put silverware in the trophy case. And that is why Robin van Persie is leaving.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Thoughts on TdF Stage 15

1. Why would the peloton allow a nearly 100k breakaway to succeed (by 21 minutes!!!) after working hard during the first hours of racing to bring back other breaks? (Sounds kind of like a Passover question.) Maybe earlier breaks contained riders of concern, while the final break did not. Once they got an acceptable group of breakaway riders, it seems the peloton just decided as a group to save their tired bodies by just getting through the rest of today's relatively short and easy stage and into the rest day tomorrow.

2. Congrats to FDJ's Pierrick Fedrigo for picking up his team's second stage win of the Tour and the fourth win by a Frenchman in this year's TdF.

3. The sprinters have conceded the green jersey to Peter Sagan. No one contested the intermediate sprint.

4. No change in the GC.

5. After the rest day tomorrow, the race heads up into the high Pyrenees.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

TdF Stage 15 Preview

Not mountainous, but not flat either. It looks more like a Spring classics kind of course, which would suggest Philippe Gilbert might have a go (if he's not too tired after his Stage 14 breakaway adventure). No doubt Sagan will be paying close attention. But I suspect it will come down to a bunch sprint. Breakaways have survived for several stages in a row, and the sprinters' teams must be getting tired of that, especially when opportunities for field sprints are getting fewer and farther between. After Tuesday's rest day, the peloton is back in the high mountains, so I sense that teams like Lotto Belisol, Garmin, and Green Edge will really try to control Stage 15 to give their sprinters a chance. Cav will likely be free-lancing again.

Thoughts on Stage 14

1. Peter Sagan is a beast! As the French would say, formidableFor him to hang with the breakaway through both first category climbs was really amazing. Likewise Gilbert. 


2. I was shocked - shocked - that, after all that work, neither Sagan nor Gilbert closed the deal. Perhaps they expended too much energy trying to get over the climbs, leaving too little in the tank for the finale. In any case, Luis Leon Sanchez was able to ride away from them and the other breakaway riders in the final five kilometers for a solo win. 

3. Finally, a stage win for the decimated Rabobank squad, which has only four riders left in the race.

4. Sagan did get some consolation, basically locking up the competition for the Green Jersey on today's stage.

5. Some idiot(s) threw a bunch of  tacks on the road at the top of the final climb. Evans had to stop three times for flat tires. Wiggins flatted. So too did several other riders. A total of 30 tire punctures, according to post-race reports. What an incredibly stupid and dangerous thing to do. Does Jeremy Clarkson have an alibi?


6. Kudos to Sky and Liquigas for not taking advantage of Evans' triple misfortune with the tacks on the road. They neutralized the race so that Evans wouldn't lose any time. I wonder whether Contador would have attacked, had he been in the race?

Sunday Ride on the Flats

I awoke early to get up to Indy in time for a 7:30 group ride with the gang. Always good to see everyone; I just wish I could get up there more often. Anyway, we had a nice 51-mile ride today from Trader's Point, south to Claremont and then north to Lebanon, before heading back. I averaged right at 20 mph for the ride, and only got tailed off the group twice (both times in strong crosswinds, although the first time, the fast boys took off, and I wouldn't have kept up with them even I'd had a strong tailwind). Thanks to Dr. Wilkes, Dr. Washington, and big Frank for dropping back on both occasions to pick me up. Now, time for a nap.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

TdF Stage 14 Preview

Stage 14 is almost the mirror image of Stage 13. Instead of two first category climbs near the start, followed by a long descent to sea-level, it starts out mostly flat by has two first category climbs in the second half, before another generally descending finish. Definitely not one for the pure sprinters. No doubt a group of non-GC riders will form an early break and try to stay away, but they will likely be caught on the first Cat 1 climb, and then the fireworks will start. I fully expect Evans and Nibali to throw everything they have at Wiggo and Team Sky on one of those two climbs, but I do not expect them to succeed barring mechanical or other problems. Even if someone has a substantial advantage at the summit of the second climb, they may have trouble holding it for 40k all the way to the finish. Could Sagan possibly drag himself over the climbs close enough to the mountain goats to catch them on the descent and then out sprint them for the victory? That's a tough ask. I think it's more likely that one of the "heads of state"  - probably the one with the most teammates left after the final climb - will take the stage victory, but without putting much time into his rivals.

Thoughts on TdF Stage 13

1. Greipel takes it over Sagan. A third victory in this year's Tour for the big German, known as "The Gorilla." His team Lotto Bellisol are quietly having a fabulous tour.

2. While Greipel made it over the third category climb 15k before the finish, Mark Cavendish did not. It was, I suppose, another consequence of Team Sky's decision to work exclusively to protect Wiggo's yellow jersey; they couldn't (or wouldn't) spare anyone to pace Cavendish up the climb. Once he was dropped, he had zero chance of catching back up for the final sprint.

3. Speaking of Wiggo, he did a great job pegging back the final attack before the sprint finish and leading out his sprinter (in Cav's absence), Edvald Boassen Hagen. Unfortunately, Boassen-Hagen couldn't repay his team leader by holding off Greipel and Sagan.

4. Vinokourov and Albersini valiantly tried to steal a march on the sprinters' teams by attacking after the final climb. But they were never likely to survive given the long run in. Perhaps they were hoping that the crosswinds might work in their favor. But crosswinds never really work in anyone's favor. They were pegged back with just over 2k to go. But as soon as they were caught, Luis Leon Sanchez counterattacked. Needless to say, the sprinters' teams were having none of it; they were not going to let slit the opportunity for a field sprint.

5. Poor Michael Morkov. After a valiant solo attack, his legs simply gave out on the climb up the Mont Saint-Clair. At one point, he virtually stopped pedaling, and almost went backwards. He's certainly been the most aggressive rider of the entire Tour.

Friday, July 13, 2012

TdF Stage 13 Preview

Looks like a straightforward sprinter's stage, except for a significant third category bump towards the finish that might upset some of the pure sprinters. However, having had so few opportunities lately, and with the Pyrenees beckoning, I imagine Cav & Co will just suck it up and do what it takes to have a field sprint at the finish. Understanding that someone like Gilbert or Sagan might try to get over the top of Mont Saint-Clair and time-trial to the finish ahead of the chasing pack, I have a feeling that Cavendish has this stage marked on his calendar.

Thoughts on TdF Stage 12

1. Frankly, a pretty dull stage. The peloton really did even try to catch the five-man breakaway, understandably, I suppose, given that none of the five threatened the GC podium, or even the top 10.

2. Nearly the only interesting part of the race, prior to the finish, occurred when Sagan tried to bridge-up to the breakaway on the downhill portion of the race, prior to the intermediate sprint. But he was pulled back into the peloton well before that point.

3. Somewhat surprisingly, none of the riders in the breakaway made a solo attack on the final third category climb. Perhaps they thought it was still too far to the finish line after the climb to hold a lead. In any case, they seemed content to ride together at least to the last few kilometers.


4. Kudos to David Millar, who won the final sprint from a tiring breakaway group that had spent more than 200 kilometers in front of today's race. In the final few kilometers, Millar looked the freshest of the group, and he proved it. A well-earned win by a terrific rider from a beleaguered team that lost all three of its potential GC contenders in crashes during the Tour's first week.

5. Mark Cavendish was playing domestique for Team Sky today, going back to the team car and delivering water bottles to all the riders. Tomorrow, the whole team, other than Wiggins and Froome, will be returning the favor for him, as it's a pure sprinters' stage.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Are Arsenal Moving Ahead, Standing Pat, or Going Under?

After two strong signings (Giroud and Podolski) during the European Championships, Arsenal have been very quiet on the transfer market, despite important needs to address in midfield, defense, and now, most disappointingly, offense. After Robin van Persie's announcement last week that he would not sign a new contract to remain at Arsenal, the silence emanating from the Emirates has been deafening, despite calls from minority owners to open up the piggy bank.

Let's be clear about just what is happening here. For the second year in a row, Arsenal are about to lose their single best player. Why? Just one reason: money. Arsenal continue to operate in an alternative financial universe to its main competitors, Man U, Man City, and Chelsea. It maintains a salary structure rooted in the 1990s, while billionaire owners elsewhere spend lavishly, even recklessly. 


I have no idea whether Arsenal's efforts to maintain a reasonable budget are a matter of principle (as manager Arsene Wenger always seems to insist) or budget constraints (possibly relating to the building of The Emirates stadium). But whatever its basis, Arsenal's efforts to fight the tide of money in football is Quixotic. Decision makers at Arsenal have a choice: they can build a financially sound, profit-making football club, or they can create a club that wins championships. Cynical though it might sound, I doubt that even such a genius as Wenger (and he is a footballing genius) can manage to do both.


Until the FA or FIFA manage to implement a binding salary cap, Arsenal must play by the prevailing rules of the game or lose. As of now, they seem content with the later. They may manage to finish the league in the top three or four again this coming season, and a new team leader may emerge to replace van Persie. But what will happen when his contract is ready to expire?

TdF Stage 12 Preview

Another one for the mountain goats, but a bit easier than today's stage with just two first category climbs in the first half of the race, a long descending section, and a final third category climb before an uphill finish. This is the kind of stage where anything could happen. An early attack can survive to the end, as in the last two days; but there's more of a chance that a big group could chase down an early breakaway before the Cote d'Ardoix. I believe the stage winner will be determined on that final climb, rather than on one of the early first category Cols. In fact, if Peter Sagan can drag himself over those two Cols within striking distance, I would look for him to (1) go for the sprint points at Marcilloles and (2) carry his impetus to steal a march on the Cote. Aside from Sagan, look for Tommy Voeckler and Jens to come out to play tomorrow after taking it (relatively) easy today. (P.S. Is anyone having more fun in this Tour than Jens?)

Throughts on TdF Stage 11

1. Tough, tough day for the peloton, which is exploded on the beast of a climb know as the Croix de Fer. Frankly, I don't know how riders can make it up all those climbs in a single day, let alone racing them. Just like yesterday, only four of the two dozen or so riders who made the initial break survived to the end of the stage.

2. Kudos to stage winner Pierre Rolland, who was the protagonist of the lead group, always pushing the pace. He even survived a crash on the final downhill, and finished the race with blood streaming from his left elbow. For his efforts, he took not only the stage victory but also the polka dot jersey in the King of the Mountains competition.


3. A third victory for France in the last four stages, and the second win in as many days for the small French  Europcar team. Are we witnessing a renaissance of French cycling?

4. Cadel Evans had to attack today, and Team BMC had a good plan. On the Croix, they sent the white jersey wearer, Teejay van Gaarderen, up the road. Evans then attacked and bridged up to him. Once they were together, Teejay paced Cadel to the top. In fact, it looked like Teejay was the stronger rider on the day, as he had to slow up from time to time to keep Evans on his wheel.

5. Team Sky knew fully well that Evans had to attack, but their defense was impregnable. With four riders protecting Wiggo on the Croix de Fer, they never allowed Evans get more than a 15 second advantage. They chased him down well before the summit, using up only one teammate in the effort. 


6. Nibali held his fire until the final climb of the day up La Toussuire, when he launched a couple of violent attacks. Wiggins' teammates pretty easily pegged back the first attack, but the second succeeded in momentarily hurting Wiggins' final defender Chris Froome. Wiggins was isolated for a time and took up the chase himself. Evans must have wanted to attack the yellow jersey at that point, but Wiggins set such a pace that Evans was dropped. Froome eventually recovered and came back up to pace Wiggins. They caught Nibali again, but then, inexplicably, Froome attacked, which served mainly to isolate his captain, facilitating yet another attack by Nibali. Eventually, the team car radioed Froome to back off and pick up Wiggins. They caught Nibali once more, and prevented any time losses. 


7. At the end of the day, Wiggins extended his lead in the overall competition, with Froome in second place and Nibali in third. Evans lost about a minute and a half, falling into fourth place.


8. Clearly, Chris Froome will be team leader next year, but for which team? RadioShack, perhaps? The Schlecks certainly won't be there to get in his way.

9. The Phil Ligget quote of the day (about Chris Anker Sorensen, who kept falling off the pace on the climbs and fighting his way back): "This guy's yoyo was bought in a cheap shop."


10. Teams that have done little or nothing in the Tour so far include Rabobank, Euskatel (which I keep expecting to attack in the high mountains, but may be waiting for the Pyrenees), and Vaconsoleil, whose GC hope, Lieuwe Westra, abandoned today.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

TdF Stage 11 Preview

This will likely be the hardest stage in this year's tour, with two of the toughest climbs in the Alps, the Col de la Madeleine and the Col de la Croix de Fer. Throw in a Cat 1 climb and a Cat 2, and you've got a truly leg-sapping 150 kilometers from Albertville to La Toussuire. For sure, Van den Broeck will be on the attack again, and look out for Johnny Hoogerland. We'll have to see how Voeckler's sore knee responds after his victory in Stage 10, but I still would expect someone from the languishing Euskatel team to get into the break. One guy who definitely won't be on the attack is Jens Voigt, who already has announced his intention of finishing outside the top 100 (see here).

UPDATE: Fabian Cancellara has withdrawn from the Tour to be with his wife, who is about to give birth. Best of luck to them both. We'll see him again soon enough at the Olympics in London.

Thoughts on TdF Stage 10

1. Voeckler must have been dogging it during the Tour's first week, complaining about a sore knee. No one wins a stage like this one with a bad knee.

2. Scarponi, who I picked out in my stage preview as a contender for the win today, came second.

3. How amazing is Jens Voigt? Third place on a stage with an Hors Categorie climb after being out on the attack all day? After working so hard for his team all last week to keep Cancellara in yellow? After killing it in Monday's time trial? At age 40 (and rapidly approaching 41)? This cannot possibly be his last Tour. There's a reason why Jens is among the most popular cyclists among other cyclists; and he showed it again today. UPDATE: Here is Jensy's own take on today's stage.

4. Team Sky still look too tough to beat. Wiggins still had two teammates with him over the last climb, which made it next to impossible for either Evans or Nibali to escape on the descent to the finish. Still a long way to go, but unless someone can find some chinks in Team Sky's armor, I don't see anyone putting big time into Wiggo.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

TdF Stage 10 Preview

I hope the riders used their rest day well, before three consecutive days in the Alps starting with Stage 10 on Wednesday. Attacks are sure to come, especially from teams like Euskatel, which have climbers galore (although Euskatel lost more than half their team in the first week of racing), but haven't shown much in the Tour so far. And Evans will definitely look to test Wiggins' legs on the Hors Categorie climb up the Grand Colombier. I wouldn't expect Wiggins to give an inch, however. Maybe like Scarponi, who is languishing outside the top 25 in the GC will be able to sneak away for a solo victory.


TdF First Rest Day

Since the boys have a day off, I thought I'd post a few brief reflections on the first 9 days of racing:

1. Cancellara and Sagan dominated first week.

2. Someone other than Cavendish - Greipel - has dominated the sprints.

3. Anyone who still doesn't realize what tough athletes bike racers are should watch the finale to Stage 6, where Greipel contended the sprint and came in second, with a dislocated shoulder. And that's not to mention several guys who've been riding almost from day one with fractured wrists.

4. Wiggins has yellow and plans to defend it for final 15 stages of Tour. Team Sky look strong enough to do it. Indeed, Cadel Evans aside, Wiggins' greatest threat might be from his own teammate Chris Froome. But the toughest mountain stages all lie ahead, and all it takes is one bad day in the saddle for an entire year's preparation to go poof! Anyone who thinks the outcome of the TdF is already determined could be in for a shock.

5. Lots of stupid crashes, including mid-race on straight, wide-open roads. Too many riders out of the Tour and in the hospital; the back of the peloton looks like the walking wounded.

6. Helmets without holes look like head-ovens to me.

7. AG2R still have ugliest team kits by some margin.

8. Riders I expect to see on the attack in the next week of racing (until the next rest day): Hoogerland, Van Den Broeck, Roy, Pinot, and Schleck. I also expect Evans to take every convenient opportunity to take seconds out of Wiggins, but I would not expect him to be overly aggressive about it.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Thoughts on TdF Stage 9

1. Cancellara set the pace, as expected. But, contrary to expectations, he did not win the stage. I underestimated Wiggo's motivation, and was absolutely shocked at Chris Froome's ride. Could Team Sky come to Paris with the top two finishers?

3. The real interest today was in the head-to-head contest between the final two riders to leave the start house, Brad Wiggins and Cadel Evans. Wiggins started with a 10-second advantage, gained in the initial Prologue time trial. Both riders are excellent against the clock. Evans no doubt was focused on bettering Cancellara's time (which he was unable to do), while Wiggins was focused on matching or beating Evans' time, which he accomplished, and in the process won the stage. Wiggins now has a 1 minute, 53 second advantage over Evans, who is now only 14 seconds ahead of third-place Chris Froome.

4. The always overrated (especially by himself) Vicenzo Nibali, who started the day in third place only 16 seconds behind the yellow jersey, did a decent time trial, but still lost time on the other leaders. He now sits in fourth, 2.:23 seconds behind the yellow jersey, and 16 seconds behind Froome in third place.

5. One of the most pleasant surprises of the day came from young American Teejay van Garderen. After losing the white jersey (for best young rider) in the previous two days' mountain stages, he regained it today with a storming ride in the time trial. At the first two time checks, he actually bettered Cancellara's time by a few seconds. He faded only slightly coming into the finale, but still managed to finish in second, just 9 seconds behind Cancellara in fourth place.

6. Team RadioShack's Andreas Kloden and Haimar Zubeldia also had good time trials today, finishing in 10th and 13th positions respectively. Zubeldia current sits in sixth place in the overall standings, and must be counted as having an outside chance of gaining a podium spot in Paris.

7. World Champion Tony Martin's bad luck continued, as he flatted again, just as he did in the Prologue. It must have cost him around a half minute, which is to say he wouldn't have beaten Cancellara, let alone Wiggins, in any case.

8. Finally, kudos to personal favorite Jens Voigt, who, at age 40, and a day after attacking from kilometer zero, managed to finish 16th in today's time trial.

Does the Internet Affect Supreme Court Opinions?

A very interesting investigation of that issue appears in the Washington Post (here). Unlike trial courts, in which information provided is heavily restricted by the rules of evidence, the Supreme Court has more discretion to incorporate social-scientific information into its decisions (and has done so at least since the 1908 case of Muller v. Oregon and its famous, or infamous, Brandeis Brief, named for then-litigator and future Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis).

Today, a tremendous wealth of information  - and misinformation - is available at the Justices' fingertips via a Google search. More high quality information could be helpful in improving judicial decisions; but distinguishing high quality from low quality information is not always easy. Professor Allison Orr Larsen (William & Mary Law School), who is quoted in today's Post column, raises important questions about the heightened "possibility of mistake, unfairness to the parties, and judicial enshrinement of biased data."


Does the Supreme Court need to revise its own rules to control access to and use of web-based resources?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

TdF Stage 9 Preview

Tomorrow is the second individual time trial of the Tour (counting the Prologue), but the first long one. As you can see from the profile below, it is not pancake flat, but only a little lumpy; there are no categorized climbs. I can't see anyone other than Cancellara winning, although Tony Martin could make it interesting, if he has recovered sufficiently from injuries suffered in crashes last week. Even though they are both relatively strong time trialists, I don't see either Evans or Wiggins beating Cancellara tomorrow (the final tt on the penultimate stage of the race could be a different story, however). As between the two of them, I think they're pretty evenly matched in the race against the clock, but Wiggins clearly has the advantage of starting last.

Long time trial stages are among the least interesting to watch on television. But I expect the final hour of tomorrow's coverage could be unusually good.

Thoughts on TdF Stage 8

1. True to his word, Jens went on the attack today. But a lot of other riders decided that if Jens was going, it would be a good idea to go with him. The break, when it finally got away, included about 20 riders, which was really too big a group for the peloton to allow to get a big lead.

2. Several riders, including Jensy, tried to attack off the front of the breakaway, but the group wouldn't let him go. They did let Jeremy Roy go, for a while. But even he never got more than a 2 minute advantage over the chasing peloton, which was driven (as expected) by Team Sky in defense of the yellow jersey.

3. Of all the day's attacks, the only one that seemed to have a chance of going the distance was by Astana rider Fredrik Kessiakoff, a former mountain biker riding in his first TdF. But he was caught and passed on the final climb up the Col de la Croix (2.5 miles at an average gradient of nearly 10%  and sections at 17%) by FdJ's Thibaut Pinot, the youngest rider in the race. And Pinot held the advantage to get the win, the first by a Frenchman in this year's tour. All credit to the 22-year-old.

4. Pinot did a great job of holding off a group of hard-chasing pursuers, including Wiggo, Evans, and three RadioShack riders. At 4k, his lead was only about 40 seconds, but they couldn't catch him.

5. Cadel Evans was never going to attempt an attack on Wiggo on today's stage, unless something extraordinary happened. The stage was too short, and the climbs were too easy, for him to accomplish anything against a team as strong as Sky. He did make a few little surges on the final downhill, including in the final two kilometers. But Wiggins was not going to allow him to get away.


6. It's not clear to me what Liquigas were trying to accomplish today. They were really driving the peloton hard to the bottom of the final climb of the day. Were they trying to set up Nibali for a (futile) effort to gain a few seconds over Evans and Wiggans? Phil and Paul though they were trying to put Sagan in a position to get the stage win, but that strains credulity. As great a rider as Sagan is, he was never going to make up the Col de la Croix in the front of the pack.  

Sunday (Heat Exhaustion) Ride

Dr. Jim picked me up this morning at 9 am for a 40 mile ride up into the Morgan-Monroe State Forest, then West on Paragon across 37, Burkirk down to Dittemore, back East across 37 to Old 37 and home. Three big climbs on route, including Beanblossom Hill, Buskirk Hill, and Firehouse Hill. 2790 feet total climbing.

By the time we crossed 37 coming back in I was toast. The temperature hit 95 degrees during the ride, and it felt hotter than that in the sun; not a breath of wind was stirring. An air-conditioned home has never felt so good.


Because I was riding, I missed the live coverage of today's Tour stage, but I'm watching now and will post "thoughts" later.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

TdF Stage 8 Preview

All bets are off for this stage, with six rated climbs - 4 second category, 1 third, 1 fourth, and a final first category climb before a generally descending finish into Porrentury. It's precisely the kind of stage on which an early breakaway could succeed. Perhaps Jurgen van den Broeck will look to recover time lost on today's stage, but would Sky and BMC let him escape? I still expect Hoogerland to go on the attack on one of these stages, and Stage 8 might set up well for him. (UPDATE: Hoogerland has announced that he has a bad knee and is just trying to survive in the race. He could just be playing possum, but that's not his style.) Goodness knows that his team, Vanconsoleil, haven't accomplished anything so far in the Tour, and their presumptive GC contender, Lieuwe Westra, is languishing in 121st place. It's also a stage that sets up nicely (in theory) for David Moncoutie, a rider who usually sits at the back of the peloton (because he hates riding in groups), and usually picks one or two stages in the Tour to go on the attack.

UPDATE: Jens Voigt already has announced his intention of attacking tomorrow (here): "let me let you in on something … Jensy is motivated and going to ask for permission to attack. I want to attack at kilometer zero!"

Thoughts on TdF Stage 7

1. Chris Froome! Is he the first Kenyan to win a stage in the TdF?

2. After Team Sky and Team BMC worked to explode the peloton at the start of the final climb up Le Planche des Belles Filles, Froome was leading a very small and select group, including the two race favorites, his teammate Brad Wiggins and Cadel Evans. In the climb's last kilometer, the gradient kicks up steeply to 20%. Just before that point, Evans launched an all-out attack, hoping to regain a ten-second disadvantage to Wiggins. Little did anyone expect that Froome, who had been doing most of the work on the climb, would have the strength to counterattack on the steepest part of the climb, get a gap, and hold it to the line. Amazing.

3. Wiggins and Evans finished together, so Wiggins maintains his 10-second advantage.

4. Frank Schleck is toast, and neither Horner nor Kloden look much better. Who's left for RadioSchleck (my new name for the team), Haimar Zubeldia?

5. Great job by Cancellara defending his yellow jersey. To lose only 1:50 on that kind of mountain stage is very impressive. Is it possible Cancellara will be able to retake the yellow jersey on Monday's long time trial?

6. Who will come to the fore as a third contender along with Wiggins and Evans for the GC? Nibali was able to hang with the final group, but he never seems able to live up to expectations. Van den Broeck was caught out with a mechanical today; maybe he'll come back in later stages.

7. Can we finally stop talking about Levi Leipheimer as a Tour contender?

8. Condolences to Ryder Hesjedal, winner of this year's Giro, who was forced to pull out of the Tour before today's stage because of injuries sustained in yesterday's pile-up.

Some Traditions are Just Stupid: The Running of the Bulls in Pamplona

Who wants to get chased by a bunch of angry bulls on the narrow, cobbled streets of a small Spanish town, and then watch those same bulls tortured and killed each evening?

Judge Posner Slams the Republicans and Observes a "Deterioration" in Conservative Thinking

Here. Judge Posner's observations are highly relevant as he himself established himself as a conservative law-and-economics scholar, though he has admittedly become less conservative and more pragmatic in recent years, in part as a reaction to the "goofy" ideas that have been embraced by radicals masquerading as conservatives.

Friday, July 6, 2012

TdF Stage 7 Preview

The Tour finally heads into the Alps, with a mountain finish on the first category La Planche des Belles Filles. The little guys will come out to play. Look for aggressive riders like Scarponi, Hoogerland, Pineau, and Weening to go on the attack, while the teams of more likely contenders for the overall (Wiggans and Evans) try to keep them in check.

Thoughts on TdF Stage 6

I didn't get to watch today's stage live, but watched the replay this evening.

1. What absolute carnage!!!

2. These are great riders. They can't have forgotten how to ride close quarters, can they?

3. Perhaps it's the addition of two more teams to the race, with 9 riders each, fighting with everyone else for prime position. Or maybe the average age and experience level of the peloton has dropped. Or maybe riders are just less respectful of one another's "personal space" than they used to be.

4. Or maybe it's always been like this, but it just seems worse this time around.

5. What the heck was Frank Schleck doing in the middle of the peloton (instead of up front with his teammates, where he should have been)? He was caught in the melee and lost huge chunks of time, and really any chance he might have had at winning. (To be fair, I don't think he had much of a chance to begin with because there are still two individual time-trials to come, and he can't ride a time-trial to save his life.)

6. Schleck wasn't the only big loser today; Gesink, Hesjedal, and Valverde also lost big chunks of time.

7. Sagan is amazing. Let's see how he climbs mountains tomorrow. :-)

8. Andrei Greipel is a MAN. Bleeding from arms and legs, he still went for the third win in a row, and just came up short. UPDATE: After the race, it emerged he had also suffered a dislocated shoulder.

9. Tomorrow begins a whole new race. Cancellara will start the day in yellow, but who will have it at the end of the day?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

TdF Stage 6 Preview


One more stage for the sprinters before the race head into the Alps. Cav's got to have it. Like today's stage, there probably won't be much action before the finale.

Hot Commute

I'm trying to ride into school as much as possible, but even though it's only about 20 minutes each way, the heat is starting to get to me. I left the office early to get home before the hottest part of the day, but it was  already 101 degrees. Fortunately, the toughest part of the ride, heading up the north side of Griffy Lake, is completely shaded. Still, I felt like toast by the time I topped the crest by my house.

UPDATE: Spent another 30 minutes on the trainer this evening to get in some good tempo-pace miles.

Thoughts on Stage 5

1. Two sprint stages in a row for Griepel.

2. No excuses this time. Greipel beats Cav (and everyone else) straight up (and on an uphill finish). Maybe Cav was feeling the crash from yesterday, but he did take today's intermediate sprint.  

3. Farrar crashed and took Sagan with him on the run in. The road wasn't especially narrow, but Farrar was caught trying to squeeze into a space that did not actually exist between two other riders.

4. Sagan almost avoided going down with a really impressive balancing act, but was finally put on the ground  when a riderless bike skidded across his path. He seemed to go down pretty hard, but didn't appear too badly hurt when he finally crossed the line with the other stragglers.

5. The finale was pretty much the only interesting part of today's stage. Team RadioShack, especially Jensy and Poppo, must have been very pleased with the (relatively) slack pace.

6. The spinters' teams cut it awfully close, only catching the breakaway with less than 500 meters to go.

7. Race commentators on EuroSport are raising legitimate questions about whether Farrar is really a legitimate sprinter, or just an opportunist. Indeed, his only sprint win at last year's tour (a year ago yesterday) came after a crash that took out Cav and other top contenders. Farrar seems to have the necessary power and leg speed, but it's not clear that he possesses the maniacal competitiveness and aggressiveness that competitive sprinters require. But perhaps the crash he caused today is a sign that he is trying to develop the proper argy-bargy mindset. Of course, you can't win if you don't keep the rubber on the road.

A Game-Changer in the Armstrong Doping Case?

Cyclingnews.com is reporting (here) that Lance Amstrong's former teammates George Hincapie, Levi Leipheimer, Christian Vande Velde, Dave Zabriskie, and Jonathan Vaughters have admitted to doping and implicated Lance Armstrong. They all allegedly have accepted six-month suspensions, after the current season ends, in exchange for their testimony.

If true, their testimony could sink Amstrong. It's certainly much stronger than any physical evidence that's been released so far, let alone the testimony provided by admitted dopers and liars Tyler Hamilton and Floyd Landis.

But is it true? Jonathan Vaughters has denied that any employee of Slipstream Sports (his organization) has been given a six-month suspension for anything. George Hincapie also issued a (somewhat more tepid) denial. Moreover, I've never before heard of any anti-doping agency handing out delayed and reduced sentences to admitted dopers in exchange for their testimony. Finally, the story, which initially appeared in the European press (which always likes to explode bombshells during the Tour de France) has not been confirmed by USADA or any other anti-doping agency. In fact, the USADA has responded to today's report by saying that no actions have yet been decided concerning any individual riders, and any rumors concerning such riders are purely speculative and should not be credited (see here).


Remember the bottom line: this is not about whether Amstrong doped or not; it is about whether he can be convicted of doping. If today's story turns out to be true (still a big if), then the answer changes from an almost definitely not to a probably yes.

Van Persie to Leave Arsenal

This is devastating news for the Gunners and all their fans (see here). Having lost Fabregas last season (Nasri's departure at the same time was unfortunate, but he's such an ass it's hard to feel bad about it), Van Persie's desire to leave Arsenal after his contrast expires confirms that the club, under current management, is heading in a direction with which its best players disagree - or, at least, that the club cannot compete financially with the likes of Barca, Madrid, Man City, and Man United. At some point, Arsene Wenger must ask whether his own time at Arsenal has past. It's been eight years since the team went undefeated for an entire season, when the greatest players in the world all wanted to play at Highbury (the subsequent move to the Emirates seems to have become something of an albatross about the team's neck).

Did Arsenal's management see this coming? Is that why their first two big signings of the summer were strikers, Podolski and Giroud, who hopefully (between them) could replace RvP? When that question was raised at the time the signings were made, the answer was a resounding, "No, we are just adding strength to the squad around van Persie, and demonstrating to him our commitment to win silverware this coming season." Was that simply a prevarication?

Might van Persie yet change his mind? He has indicated that he will be holding further meetings with Arsenal management in the weeks to come, and will report then on any developments. Perhaps those meetings are simply to determine whether he will be sold this season or leave as a free agent next season. From the club's point of view, it makes far more sense to sell him now, so at least they can get some cash in return. If he leaves as a free agent next summer, Arsenal get nothing for him. But is there no possibility that majority shareholder Stan Kroenke, who already is under pressure from other major shareholders to open the club's purse strings (see here), will avert disaster by doing what it takes to get RvP to reverse his decision? 


Here's a suggestion toward that end: if you can't compete with Man City (among others) in terms of cash offers, make RvP a shareholder. Arsenal are, after all, highly profitable.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Radio Interview

I'm not normally what anyone would call a media maven. I ordinarily avoid doing radio/tv interviews because I find most issues far more complex than the popular media can tolerate. They want short and sweet (that is, unambiguous) answers, while I tend to speak in full paragraphs that are not always conclusive.

This morning, however, I had a pleasant experience talking with a producer from BBC Radio 4 in London. The interview was for a weekly obituary program (I kid you not), called "Last Word," which airs Friday afternoons (UK time). Of course, they were interviewing me for a episode about Lin Ostrom. I think I managed to get through the interview without saying anything foolish or stupid, but my answers were probably a bit long-winded and will require some good editing. The episode is scheduled for broadcast a week from this Friday (7/13). BBC Radio 4 streams live on-line.

TdF Stage 5 Preview

Only slightly more lumpy than like Stage 4, but without the coastal roads (and therefore lower concern over strong crosswinds). Another one for the sprinters. Look for Cav to seek his revenge.  

Thoughts on Stage 4

1. Well, that's one way to beat Cav.

2. I don't know who caused the crash today. Maybe it was just a spontaneous combustion from too many strong riders fighting for too small a space.

3. Cav was much less likely to crash in the finale of a stage in past years, when he had a strong lead-out training, keeping him out of trouble. But now that his team is devoted to getting Wiggo into the yellow jersey, Cav is forced to free-lance, which necessarily puts him into situations where he has to engage in more "argy-bargy."

4. Pettachi no longer has the after-burners. No way he could come around Greipel, despite sitting in his slipstream.

5. Tyler Farrar was caught in the same crash that tumbled Cav out of the finale. But according to the stage results (here), Farrar finished more than 4 minutes behind the winner. What's up with that? Shouldn't he get the same time as the group?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

TdF Stage 4 Preview

A long, quite flat stage along the French coast. Another one for the sprinters. Look for the usual suspects to battle for the win, including Cavendish, Goss, Pettachi, Greipel, Renshaw, and (hopefully) Farrar to mix it up. Team RadioShack shouldn't have to work very hard to keep Cancellara in yellow, but they do have to be attentive to nasty crosswinds coming off the English channel, which could rip the peloton apart. The same concern must, of course, be foremost in the minds of the sprinters' teammates. 


One Justice Who Does It All

Apparently, Justice Roberts was the primary drafter of both the dissenting and majority opinions in the Affordable Care Act case (see here).

Like most law professors, I always try to teach my students that they need to be able to argue, or at least understand, both sides of a case; but this is stretching a point. If true, it is (so far as I am aware) unprecedented in the history of the Republic. It is tempting to conclude that Justice Roberts dissented from himself, but that claim cannot be maintained because the two opinions presumably would have been written at different times, the dissent before and the majority opinion after Roberts switched sides. 


I should also say that it's nice to learn that a Justice of the US Supreme Court can, like an ordinary academic, have the experience of talking himself out of an argument by the very act of spelling it out on paper (or in pixels, as it were).  

RIP Andy Griffith (1926-2012)

Best known for the eponymous "Andy Griffith Show," possibly the greatest television show of all time, Andy Griffith often did not get enough recognition for his acting skill. His portrayal of a rags-to-riches (and back again) radio and television personality, "Lonesome" Rhodes, in the film A Face in the Crowd was a tour de force. Those who are a certain age will also remember some of Andy's hilarious comedic monologues about Shakespeare and football. He was also a Grammy winning singer and songwriter. But he'll always be remembered as the Sheriff who kept order in the small town of Mayberry, with its wonderful and oddball residents. A different time and place, to be sure, but a place about which I have many fond childhood memories.

Here's Andy relating the story of Hamlet:

Thoughts on TdF Stage 3

1. How impressive is Peter Sagan? In the final 200 meters, he just rode away from both Boassen-Hagan and Cancellara (who stays in yellow).

2. Several serious crashes today put a lot of riders on the ground, a couple (including Gilbert) out of the running for the stage, and a couple completely out of the race. One of the later ended up in the barbed wire along the roadside, like Johnny Hoogerland last year, except today's victim wasn't bumped off the road by a car.

3. Why all the carnage today after the relatively calm opening stages (although I'm not sure Tony Martin would agree with that assessment of the first couple stages)? Probably something to do with the lumpy profile and the narrow roads. Too many riders competing for scarce space near the front of the peloton? But the wrecks generally occurred toward the back of the main group.


4. Because it was not a day for the pure sprinters, Team RadioShack had to do most of the work at the front of the peloton; but given all the carnage at the back, they were probably happy to be up there, staying out of trouble.


5. I was surprised that no one attacked on the penultimate climb of the day, a third category climb, but then Chavanel went just after that climb finished. It struck me as a foolhardy effort. RadioShack, BMC, and Liquigas all had two or more riders protecting their men (Cancellara, Cadel Evans and Peter Sagan, respectively). There was almost no chance Chavanel was going to be able to hold the lead to the up-hill finish. But I suppose he figured, nothing ventured, nothing gained. He probably knew he couldn't beat Sagan in a final sprint to the line.


6. Jens after Stage 3: "[W]e had two objectives for today. One was to keep the yellow, objective two was to keep everyone upright and on their bikes. Fortunately for us we achieved both. Fabian kept the yellow, fuck he's a legend isn't he? I just love to be in a team with him."

Tuesday Ride

I got out earlier this morning, before the heat started to set in, so I went a bit longer. 30 miles, including climbs up Lentz Hill, Beanblossom, Old 37 up to Hindustan and up Firehouse hill, for a total of 2188 feet of climbing. I didn't ride fast, but I rode moderately hard. And, aside from the tulip tree droppings on Forest Rd., it was an enjoyable ride. Now, I can relax and watch the last hour of the TdF before getting down to some writing.

Monday, July 2, 2012

TdF Stage 3 Preview

At first blush, Stage 3 looks like another one for the sprinters, but as the profile (below) indicates, its actually quite a bit "lumpier," especially towards the finale. This is one where a breakaway, after the halfway point,  might be able to succeed; and, if not, classics riders, like Gilbert, Freire, Chavanel, Sagan, or Cancellara, could  steal the show from the pure sprinters by attacking on the final Category 3, Cote du Mont Lambert.


Thoughts on TdF Stage 2

1. I don't know how every TdF sprinters' stage doesn't end in a massive pile-up before the line. At those speeds, on those roads, with every team jockeying for position, it is so incredibly dangerous.


2. Apropos of the last point, you have got to be absolutely bonkers to be a sprinter, or even a lead-out man. 


3. All credit to Cav for biding his time and getting on Greipel's wheel. That's how you win a sprint without a lead-out train of your own.


4. Where the heck was Farrar? 10th place? 

TdF Stage 2 Preview

A pure sprinter's stage, so Cavendish wins. Actually, it's not quite that simple. Unlike previous years, Cav may not have the kind of dedicated lead-out train he's enjoyed in past campaigns because Team Sky are working to put Wiggins in yellow. So, Cav may have to free-lance a bit (as Robbie McEwen used to do so well). I'd still pick him against the field to win today's stage, but challengers will include AleJet (Alessandro Pettachi), Tyler Farrar, and Andrei Greipel. Also I wouldn't be surprised if yesterday's winner Peter Sagan, who is not a pure bunch sprinter, mixed it up with the big boys; he is riding with the kind of confidence, even arrogance, that pure sprinters require.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Thoughts on TdF Stage 1

1. Today's stages was like a shortened Ardennes Classic; it was a stage for the big strong riders, rather than the sprinters or climbers.

2. Why do Phil and Paul always give the "ride of the day" to the stage winner? Granted Sagan rode smart, but all he really had to do was sit on Cancellara's wheel for almost the entire final climb, saving energy, and come around in the final 150 meters. Cancellara, who launched the telling attack and did all the work, basically pulling Sagan to the finish, should have gotten "ride of the day."

3. As noted, Sagan is very smart, especially for such a young rider. No way he was going to help Cancellara in the last 1.5k. He was just sitting (in the catbird's seat, as it were) on the Swiss rider's wheel, biding his time, saving energy for the final sprint.

4. None of the presumptive GC contenders (Evans, Wiggo, Valverde, Hesjedal, et al.) were caught out of position on the final climb; they all finished with the same time.

5. Cancellara didn't get the stage win (which he arguably deserved, on some moral theory of bike racing), but his consolation prize was to keep the yellow jersey of race leader. With the profiles of upcoming stages, it seems likely he'll be able to hold onto it for most if not all of the coming week.

6. Philippe Gilbert must be terribly disappointed not to have won today's stage, so close to home and seemingly tailored made for his abilities.

7. Edvald Boassen-Hagan did a remarkable job bridging up to Cancellara and Sagan on the climb, but that effort left him with little energy to contest the final sprint. Still, he earned his third-place finish just ahead of the hard-charging peloton.

8. Writing over at PezCyclingNews, Lee Rodgers explains why Cancellara kept up his attack, even knowing that he was carrying Sagan to the win:

Because he could. I really believe itʼs as simple as that. He knew he would lose
the stage, knew the podium champagne for the win would go to another. But in that last kilometer, as his power held off the rampaging pack, he was not just riding a bike on a road in some hitherto unknown town in Belgium, but letting his peers know that he was flying, showing the public that he was glorious, and letting the universe hear his name.
And thatʼs why heʼs Spartacus. Damn, somehow even when he loses he wins...

9. The new "Road I.D." commercials are very entertaining. Big George and Jensy are great. I haven't yet figured out who all of the riders are.

Sunday Ride

I rode the Orchard Route this morning (north on 37 to Hindustan, then across 37 to Dittemore, south along Bottom Rd, back across 37 past Bloomington North to the Cascades Gold Course, and back up Old 37 to Bethel). The storms that came through last night finally took some of the Tulip tree detritus off the roads, and the weather was actually quite pleasant, a bit humid perhaps but mollified by a light breeze. Having ridden some hard hill repeats the day before, I took it pretty easy today, and just tried to enjoy getting 25 miles into my legs, albeit with the inevitable (for Bloomington) 1700 feet of climbing.

Bibliomania

One of my favorite authors, Julian Barnes, has a nice piece in today's Guardian, reflecting on his life as a bibliophile, here.

TdF Stage 1 Predictions

It's a typical Ardennes course today, with lots of short, tough, punchy climbs, including to the finish line. So look for a strong classics rider to win. Favorites must include local-boy Philippe Gilbert, Peter Sagan, Edvald Boassen-Hagan, and the current wearer of the yellow jersey, Fabian Cancellara. Among those, I would have to go with Gilbert for the win, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Cancellara will challenge him. "Spartacus" is super-motivated to show that he's fully recovered from the multiple collarbone fracture that derailed his Spring classics campaign. If his team gets him to the finishing climb in good shape, look out.

UPDATE: Well, I had the top four right: (1) Sagan, (2) Cancellara, (3) Boassen-Hagan, and (4) Gilbert.