Monthly Archive for February, 2009

March Bicycle Madness helps motivate us

The Davis Enterprise: Feb. 16, 2009

Davis Bicycles! column #10

Title: March Bicycle Madness helps motivate us
Author: Russell Reagan

photo caption:
Davis Bike Club member Russell Reagan sports his hand-me-down March Madness jersey riding some miles on Highway 128 in Napa County in March 2008.

As we watch the Tour of California, we in Davis know that bicycling is for everyone who is able-bodied, not just the athletes. But it takes motivation to ride.

A bicyclist I met who had ridden many 200-mile rides once described how on some days she found it hard to motivate herself to get on her bike just to ride across Davis for an errand. We may recognize the many health benefits of bicycling, not to mention the benefits for the planet. Yet even for the athletically inclined, sometimes that’s still not sufficient motivation to get on our bikes.

Encouragement is an important element in the Bike Plan of the City of Davis and other communities. In the broader challenge of switching to more sustainable transportation modes, activities of groups like the Davis Bike Club have a role to play in encouraging more people to get on their bikes. (DBC is a different group from Davis Bicycles!, the two-year-old advocacy group that organizes this column.)

Of all the activities DBC offers, March Bicycle Madness, beginning in less than two weeks, is one that I enjoy especially because it’s so effective in motivating me to ride more. Participants sign up and pay a registration fee like for many bicycling events; they select a goal for their miles to ride during March using their bike odometers. Proceeds from registration fees go to buying bike helmets for needy school kids, one of DBC’s volunteer-driven philanthropic activities.

The common folklore among DBC members is that you do nothing but ride your bike and sleep for a whole month. This may be true for “Larry the legend” and a handful others vying for the top spot on the finishers’ list, but less so for the majority of the nearly 200 participants in recent years. First timers only may sign up for the 125-mile goal. That’s about four miles a day, or a round trip commute within town for 31 days — leaving plenty of time to lead a normal life.

I strongly doubt that I would ride so many miles without setting the goal, or without the camaraderie of other bicyclists on the many group rides organized by DBC. When I’m riding alone for exercise, somehow I find myself struggling to keep pedaling. In the company of others on group rides, however, the social glue overrides such doubts about whether I will make it to the destination.

For example, in early January, I rode with two others for 30 miles to the R.H. Phillips winery north of Esparto against a fierce headwind. A few times I said I almost couldn’t stand it, and maybe I would turn back. But especially when the third rider joined us, it became more of a slam dunk. I joyously remarked, “I can’t believe I’m actually doing this!”

Meeting my mileage goals, especially my first time riding the Madness (this year will be my fifth), proved to be easier than expected. As the month progresses, I gain a sense of well-being from all the exercise I’m getting. Riding those miles becomes almost an addiction, and DBC provides an online mileage tracker where participants can record their progress and view all the miles logged by other participants (identifying themselves mostly by nicknames).

While the 2500-mile-and-over Madness riders get so much of the attention and the glory, let’s not overlook the stories of less experienced, low mileage bicyclists who also serve as an inspiration to the wider community. They lead the way for even more to discover the joy and health benefits of bicycling — not to mention adopting positive habits by overcoming one’s natural hesitancy to ride a bike for basic transportation.

One woman who discovered March Madness and joined a group to ride with on the path to a better fitness regimen will share her story in an upcoming column in this series.

To participate in March Madness, join the DBC ($20), and register for the event ($10) at and click on “March Bicycle Madness.”

– Russell Reagan Is a founding member of Davis Bicycles! and last year completed his first March mileage goal with four digits, while working most of his usual hours at his job at UC Davis.

Tour fans will watch the races within the race

upper photo caption:
Racers round the corner of Second and F Streets in downtown Davis during the 2008 Amgen Tour of California. The tour offers cycling fans an opportunity to see these world-class athletes up close.

lower photo caption:
The lead riders are followed by their team cars as they pedal east on Russell Boulevard toward Davis in the 2007 Amgen Tour of California. This year, the racers will start Stage 1 in downtown Davis at noon Saturday, Feb. 15, and ride west to Santa Rosa. (Sue Cockrell, Enterprise file photos)

What would it take to wander the sidelines during a 49ers game or sit courtside at Arco Arena? Getting front-row seats is for the very few, unless you are a cycling fan. Other than getting up close and personal with world-famous athletes, what brings 1.6 million people out to see the Tour of California?

Like any sport, there are many intricacies that can escape the casual observer. Cycling is ultimately a team sport that requires planning and strategy long before the gun starts the race. A stage race like the Tour of California takes place over days and contains several races within the race. Each day comes with its own complexities and with each stage comes its own opportunity for a victory. Here’s a glimpse of some of the Tour’s intriguing sub-plots.

The Tour of California will showcase 17 teams, each bringing a group of riders chosen for a specific purpose. You will have sprinters, climbers, domestiques (for the unending hard work), time trialists and, most prominently, a team leader. Not all teams will compete with the goal of having their team leader stand on the podium as the overall winner. There are a series of jerseys that teams will be vying for.

The Davis-to-Santa Rosa Stage 1 route will include some nice climbs that will count toward the red jersey for the King of the Mountain competition. If you are positioned on the side of the road during one of these mountain stages, you can look forward to seeing the peloton stretch out as the small, light climbing specialists move to the front and glide up the hill, while others, often the sprinters, fall back and struggle to get their bikes over the summit.

You might also see a little gamesmanship going on. Lance Armstrong famously feigned weakness on the climb of the L’Alpe D’Heuz, only to launch into a ferocious attack at the end to build a two-minute lead in the 2005 Tour de France.

The sprinters’ teams will be going after the green jersey. There are two intermediate sprints on Stage 1. The first rider to cross the sprint lines will get points that will count toward the green jersey. Some teams will seek this prize as their goal.

The most coveted and best-known jersey is, of course, the yellow race leader’s jersey. This is the jersey of the overall leader, and in the Tour of California it has been won twice by Levi Leiphemer and once by Floyd Landis, both of whom will be in this year’s race.

The favorites to win overall will be protected by their respective teams. They will spend a lot of time on the inside of the peloton (the main swarm of bikers), only coming to the front if a rival is potentially going to make a move and try to gain some time.

The leader’s team will try to control the peloton by moving to the front and setting the pace for the main group of riders. This is often the time for a small group of men, who are lower in the overall classification, to make a break and attempt to win a stage for their team. The team of the leader will often let a break like this go away, focusing instead on maintaining contact with the riders who can challenge for the yellow jersey.

You will also see the blue jersey for most courageous rider, and a white jersey for the best young rider. The most-courageous designation goes to the rider who is deemed to have worked the hardest or been the boldest on the previous stage. This is often a rider who attempted a long breakaway or who continually attacked at the front of the peloton. The best young rider accolade is given to the highest-placed rider under 25 years old.

This year’s running of the Tour of California will go for nine days from Sacramento to San Diego, and the course could bring some real surprises. With so many big names like Armstrong, Leipheimer, 2009 Tour de France champion Carlos Sastre and more, it is sure to be exciting from beginning to end. Watch for the stories within the stories as these athletes look for victory on the roads of California.

– Bob Blyth has been part of the city of Davis’ team coordinating the tour’s pass through Davis for the past two years. Now he has helped bring the start of Stage 1 to Davis. He has lived in town with his family for 15 years and has traveled far and wide to enjoy the many races within each bike race he views. Check it out

What: Fourth annual Tour of California

When: Time trial on Saturday, Feb. 14, in Sacramento; Stage 1 on Sunday, Feb. 15, beginning at noon near Third and C streets in downtown Davis