Chase Car Doping

by Rant on July 8, 2015 · 5 comments

in Cycling, Tour de France

Time flies. So it’s been six months since the last post, give or take a few days. After a while, what new is there to say about doping? I suppose I could write about every story that comes along — which would make updating the old book easier — but after a while it just seems like it’s all the same. Different names, different days, pretty much the same story.

Until, that is, one of my English cousins sent me this article. Seems it’s possible to gain an aerodynamic advantage, let’s call it “chase car doping,” from a follow vehicle. And if you think about it a bit, it eventually makes some sense.

After posting on my Facebook page, I got a few responses that pretty much say, “Yeah, we know that. Been done for years. And the UCI generally ignores anything but the most egregious violations.”

What I find interesting is that someone did the research and actually quantified what type of advantage could be gained. As Marcus Woo’s article on BusinessInsider explains:

Using computer simulations, [Bert] Blocken [of Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands] discovered [in 2012] that during a race, the rear cyclist can reduce the aerodynamic drag on the one in front by as much as 2.5 percent. That’s a lot, considering that 90 percent of a cyclist’s total resistance results from drag.

In general, a cyclist feels drag while speeding along. That’s because air gets pushed forward and squeezed into a small region of high pressure, leaving a pocket of low pressure in the wake behind the bicycle. The high-pressure region pushes back on the cyclist while the low-pressure region pulls, creating resistance.

But the simulations showed that a second cyclist close behind would sweep air forward, filling the gap that the first cyclist created. The air pressure behind the first cyclist isn’t as low anymore, so the wake pulls on the first cyclist less, decreasing the aerodynamic drag.

Pretty interesting stuff. Blocken and a graduate student named Yasin Toparlar did some more tests and found:

[I]f a car is within 10 meters (about 33 feet) of the cyclist during a typical time trial that is 50 km (about 31 miles) long, and if they are traveling at a speed of 54 km/h (about 33 mph), then the car would shave 3.9 seconds off the cyclist’s time. If the car were within 5 meters (about 16 feet), the cyclist would save 24.1 seconds.

These numbers only apply for individual time trials, when a car directly follows a lone cyclist. But when the total time difference between winning and losing is often mere seconds, a trailing car could offer riders a big advantage. “With this information,” Blocken said, “you could influence the outcome of the race.”

Now, if everyone is doing this, it’s not much of an advantage. And truth be told, most time trials aren’t in a straight line, so the effect won’t be as strong. Still, it’s food for thought.

Makes you wonder, as the article concludes, just how much aerodynamic assistance does a breakaway or a lone rider get from the motorcycles that zip along with race officials and cameramen. Might be time for some new rules about chase cars, motorcycles and other support vehicles during pro cycling races.

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Je suis Charlie et Ahmed

by Rant on January 13, 2015 · 12 comments

in Media, News and Views

Yes, dear regular reader, I know what you’re thinking. “What? This isn’t about doping in sports?” And you’re right, it isn’t. Not at all. It’s about something much bigger and more important.

As you might know, I started my professional life as a journalist, after graduating from the School of Journalism at the University of Missouri – Columbia. Photojournalist to be exact. And I still have a number of friends who are journalists of all stripes. Writers, editors, television, print. And photo. Especially photo. And yes, I miss being a photojournalist every day — every time I see the brilliant work being done by my classmates and other friends from the business.

So I take an attack on other journalists personally. Even if they aren’t my friends or relatives. Even if they live in a different country. To say I was appalled by the slaughter at Charlie Hebdo in Paris last week would be an understatement. Same for the killings at Hyper Cacher (the Kosher market) two days later.

Much has been written about Charlie Hebdo and what it supposedly is or isn’t, and what kind of work it puts into the marketplace of ideas. I’m not going to touch on that, for a very simple reason. Without fluency in a language, and a culture, and the context, it’s impossible to evaluate the work in terms of whether it is racist, for example. Much of what has been written in America is through American eyes looking at cartoons, using Google Translate or (heaven forbid) Bing to figure out the text in the captions or in the image. It’s a dangerous formula for commentary, and it’s a game I’m not going to play.

Over at The Daily Kos is a very good article that explains some of the magazine’s works and gives some of the context to the work. I’ll say this much. It’s probably not what you think. Read the article.

My concern is the reaction that the magazine shouldn’t have provoked the attackers and is somewhat to blame for what happened. No, they aren’t. It is never acceptable to kill journalists, no matter what you think of their work. And no, the magazine should not necessarily censor itself and hold back publishing material that might be offensive to someone. In the business of satire, much of what is written or drawn is offensive to someone, somewhere. So to hold back would be not to publish satire at all.

We don’t have anything quite like Charlie Hebdo in the US, from what I can tell. The TV shows “The Family Guy” or “The Simpsons” might come close. And Mad Magazine of a certain era, too. But that’s about it.

But if we did, then the magazine or show should be free to publish or say what they wish.

Now having said that, even when speaking freely we aren’t absolved from responsibility for our speech. For example, if I publish an article that claims a person is a child-abuser, I’d better darn well have proof that this is so. Otherwise, I’ll face the possible wrath of a defamation lawsuit. And deservedly so, if the claim is not true.

I’m no fan of a certain “news” network, or certain bomb-throwing commentators who suggest that those not like them are traitors and should be dealt with in various harsh ways. The discourse in this country has become so polarized and vehement, that someday, somewhere, someone is going to snap, and we’re going to have a Charlie Hebdo-like event right here.

Because it’s not that far from demonizing one or more groups of people to someone actually taking matters into their own hands and causing harm. It might be directed towards an ethnic group, a racial group or a religious group, or even a political group. But it can happen.

It’s not a matter of if. It’s only a matter of when. Unless…

Unless we can move the dialogue in this country back from the brink. Unless we can find a way to respectfully disagree. Unless we can marginalize the shrill voices of unreason. And unless we find a way to make sure that everyone has a good education and an opportunity to get ahead. Unless we can create an economy that has jobs that pay a living (or better than living) wage to all.

None of this is easy. It takes everyone’s effort. We are all in this together. We may not agree on how things should be done, or even what should be done, but if we don’t find ways of working together, we’re doomed.

The lesson of Charlie Hebdo, to me, is not that journalists shouldn’t be killed. Of course they shouldn’t. Or that they should not publish what stories or commentary they will. They should be free to say what they think.

The lesson is that we need to be sure we have an environment where differences of opinion are respected — even if we find those other opinions abhorrent. And an environment where the conditions that led to the radicalization of these men do not exist.

What happened in Paris happened because the extremists could not accept that others have a right to say things they disagree with or find offensive. And they felt somehow justified in using violence to silence those they disagree with.

While I have no idea how to do it, we need to find a way — both in France and the US — to build a society where such extremism is much rarer than it is today. And not just in matters of religion.

So, that said, I am both Charlie and Ahmed. The provocateur and the person defending the provocateur.


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Don’t Let the Door Knob Hit Ya

by Rant December 17, 2014

Not that often that working journalists covering a particular beat will pen what is, essentially, an opinion piece. But The New York Times’ Juliet Macur does just that, with her latest article about the pending departure of USA Cycling’s (current) CEO, Steve Johnson. I say finally — and hooray — because it is high time […]

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Waking Up

by Rant December 11, 2014

Wow. Had no idea that I’ve been gone from this space for almost six months until I stopped by to check something in WordPress for a friend. I was going to post a video of the Tour going by my grandparents’ house in Leeds back in July, after one of my cousins sent me his […]

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Hello? Is Anybody Home?

by Rant June 19, 2014

Yep, it’s been a while. A long while. Even longer than the last interval between posts — I think. Sorry folks. Haven’t really known what to say. There’s a whole lot going on. But at the same time, it’s a whole lot of the same old, same old. Lance Armstrong keeps trying to outmaneuver his […]

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Progress Update

by Rant April 6, 2014

Getting a bit quiet in these parts. I haven’t inhabited this space for more than a couple of months now. Time flies, I guess. Six months ago today, on a day with similar weather (minus the morning rain), I went out for what I thought would be a nice fifty-mile circuit of one of my […]

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