Archive for the Today's Topic Category

100 Years of TdF: Tour de France Tourism

Posted in Today's Topic on March 12, 2010 by bethleasure

Here is a rare opportunity to see the Tour de France from an Insider point of view! Brought to you by my friend, Ronan Pensec – a fomer pro rider – who is the official Tour Guide of the Tour de France.

There are only few spots left in these tours so if you are interested, hurry up to reserve your place!

Ronan is are confident that this 2010 Tour de France will be exceptionally exciting with four American teams, Lance Armstrong back again with the new Radio Shack team, and Cadel Evans newly crowned World Champion with the BMC!

Ronan Pensec Travel has created Tour de France packages that cover the most interesting parts of the race such as the Alps, the Pyrenees and the final arrival in Paris. Their status as an Official Tour Operator enables them to provide you with a very close and personal experience, and to ride the “route du Tour” – besides traveling the most beautiful and scenic regions in France.

The company is led by Ronan Pensec – himself an ex-pro rider with the Peugeot team as well as Greg Lemond Z team. Ronan also proudly wore the yellow jersey in 1990. He is now a cycling consultant for the French TV, besides running RPT. As you can imagine, the Ronan Pensec Travel agency knows perfectly the French cycling routes. The experience and connections they have made over the years are a very important asset that enable an authentic and personal experience of the Tour de France.

Here are two exciting packages that will enable you to live an unbelievable experience INSIDE the TdF:


Last 11 Days (€2375 – July 16th to 26th)

Covers the Pyrenees mountain stages, the time trial in the Bordeaux region and the arrival in Paris (2 nights in Paris near the Champs Elysees); Daily rides in the Pyrenees with climbs of the Col du Tourmalet, Ax 3 Domaines, Col d’Aubisque and others; non-cycling excursions (Pic du Midi, the medieval fortified city Carcassonne and visit of a Bordeaux vineyard); Tour de France viewing: 9; 11 days / 10 nights


Alps Stages and Mont Ventoux: (€1850 – July 9th to 16th)
Performance trip; Covers the Alps mountain stages + a journey to Provence to climb the Mont Ventoux; Daily rides in the Alps and in Provence with choice of two rides each day including one average route and one highly challenging route; 8 days / 7 nights


FRANCE is the place to be this July!!!

Cycling Brotherly Love

Posted in Today's Topic on November 19, 2009 by bethleasure

Another way to see a city

In the pro ranks we have examples of brothers competing with and for one another, such as the Schlecks of Saxo-Bank and the Meyers brothers for Garmin-Slipstream in 2010. Recently, I ran across an example of this closer to home.


Josh Vogelstein is a pro in his field. He is a post-doc at Johns Hopkins University studying Neuroscience and is seeking links which will enable improved learning in the future. Specifically, he is looking into what we can say/predict about personality/cognitive abilities from simply looking at an individual’s brain architecture. Josh notes, “Much like how exercise science is informing us about better ways to train, more reasonable goals, etc., it is my hope that brain science will lead to complementary advances in training our brains more effectively.” Sounds like this could have athletic applications in the future.


Josh used his brain architecture in applying an athletic solution toward spending some time with his sister because Josh also likes to ride. His sister, Ahava, whose name means Love, is not so crazy about riding but she does love her brother and so these two adult siblings have found a novel way to tour together. This is the kind of wacky fun that families figure out.


Happy sister Love


No wonder then why Josh asked me recently if he could improve his legspeed on the hills while pulling 120+ pounds. The things we do for Love…of riding and family.


"Riding" together




Boonen, Blow and Beyond

Posted in Today's Topic on May 12, 2009 by bethleasure
I'd rather have a picture of Boonen on the podium here

I'd rather have a picture of Boonen on the podium here

Ah Tom, you break our hearts. Your beauty at critical race moments is again dimmed by the haze of white blow. Your finish line finesse is again obscured by lines of powder on a mirror. And for this you trade your greatness?

This story hits me particularly hard. My days on a bicycle were borne as a release from enduring the trauma of life with a crack-addicted husband. The downward spiral manifested in loss of dignity, business and wife for him. Eventually the only measure to protect him from himself proved to be prison on drug-related criminal charges.

These consequences may affect the user for a lifetime. Yet cocaine’s short-term feel-good only lasts 5-30 minutes or about as long as that incredible rush toward the finish line in the final kilometers of a race. Because of the shortness of the high, cocaine is often abused in binges requiring increasingly high doses. A user can be highly functional abstaining for long periods between binges. Without treatment, eventually the cycle between binges shortens and addiction takes over.

It’s easy to understand why cocaine use would interest a bike racer accustomed to performance rewards. Blow stimulates dopamine, the brain chemical associated with pleasure and movement, in the brain’s reward circuit. The problem is that with repeated use, the brain’s reward system is altered. What was enjoyable before now yields little satisfaction.

Anyone who wins a lot knows exactly what this feels like. Winning is euphoric but there is a fall from its euphoria as well. Our lives must be based on a variety of rewarding stimuli, and a winner must remember that those rewards can be as simple as the smile from a loved one or an easy ride on a beautiful morning.

But what about beloved Boonen? I love the way he races – not just the sprint wins but his savvy and confidence in timing and positioning. The simplicity of his happiness when he succeeds is a joy to support.

Now he needs support of a different kind. He needs court-appointed behavioral intervention.

The system has worked in raising Tom’s awareness that he needs help by screening him for use. Raising awareness to the user that they need help is the first step of treatment. The next step is an objective 1 “non-judgmental motivational conversation” about its risks by a doctor. I think Tom has moved beyond an objective conversation by this point into the need for the next step – an effective treatment plan that requires specialty treatment for a period of time.

Boonen seems to have moved to an addictive state. His recent comments about its prevalence seem to indicate an obsessive awareness of its availability. I love coffee and can get it within miles of anywhere, but I don’t think about having it and how to get it. At this point, I think clinical treatment is necessary. With clinical treatment comes the necessity for several responses:

1. the user must be empowered to be active in recovery by choosing treatment which allows a continuance of lifestyles that support clean living. What does this mean in terms of racing involvement? A hard question for the right authorities to answer.

2. support services which provide for his care while undergoing treatment but which also hold Tom accountable for his attitude about use and his actions.

For this Tom must be monitored to evaluate the outcome and impacts of treatment. In general populations, accountability is sometimes linked to reimbursement of treatment as a result of a demonstrated abstinence from drug use. What is the thing dear to Tom that will act as a cost to hold him in check in order to demonstrate a long-term change of thinking and different pattern of behaving?

When drug use is linked with criminal behavior, the courts can provide a powerful incentive for rehabilitation. Court-appointed programs offer more extensive supervision under treatment. Whether the charge is dismissed and Tom gets to ride certain races is not as important an issue for me to tackle here as providing an effective requirement for treatment. The statistics for prevention using this method even when charges are dismissed are quite promising when in programs of relevant accountability lasting an appropriate time period – even up to two years.

Look in that mirror Tom and tell us what you really see. Do you see yourself or do you only see the white rows? Look there between the rows, I see Marco crying. Look again Tom, beyond the rows, we want to see only you, Tom Boonen!


1 What Works: Effective Public Health Responses to Drug Use, White House Drug Policy published March 2008

Tyler, This is How I REALLY Feel

Posted in Today's Topic on April 17, 2009 by bethleasure

There is a verbal tool used in conflict mediation called Emptying Your Emotional Jug. The exercise is simple. The speaker answers 4 questions without interruption – not stopping until all emotion on that point is completely exhausted. This breaks the tensions of silence and brings relief to the speaker. It also gives the listeners insight. From this place, conflict resolution is easier to attain.


Through words and deeds I’ve “listened” to Tyler. Now I want an audience as I empty my emotional jug:


Question 1: What makes me MAD?


I am so pissed at you. You’ve taken your position and abilities and abused us again. Despite your US Road Race win, you never won back my respect. Not because of your riding abilities, but because of your lack of character in acknowledging wrong-doing. Do you think the public is so superficial that we categorically adore our race winners without looking at who they are and how they go about things? For me, that win was empty – further, it was a frustrating demonstration of a lack of repentance – and we all need to change our ways sometimes- as well as a poor example to the young clean riders in that peloton who may have believed at that time that it’s possible to get away with anything. I would respect you more if you confessed to all. Despite doping, you did so many things right. I remember the Boulder days of sacrifice as an elite amateur developing into a neopro talent. I still own a pair of your used Speedplays from those days – worn thin like pennies smashed by a train. So I’m mad that the glory that would have come your way anyway now cannot because you cheated your own destiny. Not to mention everyone else, the sport and its supporters. I’m mad mostly because you will not take this as a person of character and admit wrong-doing so it can be corrected for your sake and for the sake of others who hold you as an example.


Question 2: What makes me feel BAD?


You have never given me the opportunity to respect you again. By confession and trying a new way, I think you still could have won. These wins may not have been as grand, they may not have been as dramatic and as public but they would have given others the opportunity to forgive you and admire you again. Further, they may have offered those within your sphere of influence an example of hard work, determination, clean living, justice and mercy. What makes me feel really bad is that if you don’t learn this lesson which keeps cycling around over and over in your life, you are going to apply this same short-cut-your-way-to-the-top mode of operation in other endeavors. You are going to wind up disqualified and suspended from life. Because real life requires the giving of ourselves so deeply that we cannot avoid the pain on the way to achievement – that pain feels like patience, that pain feels like hard work, that pain feels like disappointment, but that pain leads to glory. Because even the second place finisher can be glorious.


Question 3: What makes me feel SAD?


I’m sad for American cycling. We look like fools to the world because of this. I feel sad for young riders who think that several moments of podium time may be worth acts of disrepute. I feel sad for outsiders to the sport who don’t understand our challenges and will judge us because of this. I feel sad for me – having to look around for examples that I can use with neopros. I feel sad for you because I doubt you understand how cleansing it is to confess and how freeing it is to admit. I feel sad because I wonder how you can recoup any losses in this current state. How can you feel good about your past, your present and your future if nothing changes?


Question 4: What makes me feel GLAD?


That you were caught makes me glad. Justice is seen despite your lack of taking responsibility about it. I feel glad about the idea that this could bring you to your knees, not because I want you to suffer. But because we all need to be brought to our knees at times and realize that our heroes are imperfect and our fallen are redeemable. If you change your ways, these setbacks can be a set-up for a comeback in life. You could become an inspiration to others who are tempted, others who fail, others who need to change and rebuild.


– – –


What has this exercise accomplished? My part toward forgiving Tyler is done. It’s up to him now to acknowledge his actions and take responsibility for them. Forgiveness is dependent upon me, reconciliation is dependent upon him. I hope he reconciles himself to his own conscience so his troubled soul can find peace, a new way and a bridge back – to the sport he’s spent a lifetime pursuing as a renewed contributor rather than a failed perpetrator. So Tyler, this is how I really feel. I’m keeping your penny-thin Speedplays as a reminder to fess up when I screw up. If you will not, at least I can. I’m at peace, and I am going to win. May God have mercy on us all.

Links in the Chain

Posted in Today's Topic on February 19, 2009 by bethleasure

40“I’ve had enough.”  Patrick Lefevere on resigning from AIGCP due to constant quarreling between the UCI and Grand Tour organizers


There are cycling associations with distinctive missions, activities, and concerns. These groups are links in a chain of multinational communication among special interest groups, the UCI and Grand Tour organizers, which works best with well-oiled cooperation. They are: IPTC International Professional Cycling Teams, AIGCP International Association of Professional Cycling Teams, CPA Association of Professional Cyclists, ADISPRO International Association of Directeur Sportifs, MPCC Movement for Credible Cycling, AIOCC International Association of Cycling Race Organizers, and CAS Court of Arbitration for Sport called in to make rulings. The chain can get a bit squeaky during hard pushes. Conflicts arise over doping scandals and how to treat the alleged perpetrators: to exclude or not to exclude and who has the right to team selection in major events – UCI, the promoters, or the reps? There may be other important organizations or powerful individuals not mentioned here that may contribute to a working dialogue. Perhaps cycling needs a 41Nelson Mandela – a consummate diplomat whose appeal transcends provincial interest and outmoded regimes and who represents positive change and willingness to patiently endure for it. We do need leadership who can mediate and reunite factions in conflict. Perhaps cycling should look outside cycling for a neutral negotiator that understands how to bring a variety of perspectives,  in recent past – on the verge of breakdown – into a compatible cause. Pro cycling needs to oil its chain. Ancient literature refers to oil as a symbol of grace. Less finger pointing, more merciful discussions please.


Prayer for International Associations

“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head… running down…down upon the collar of his robes. …” 42Psalm 133:1-2


Remove our shame and help the people and issues in these causes and organizations. Restore talks, reveal solutions, raise up cooperative leadership to improve cycling at the top. Let this be cleansing balm that trickles down to the common cyclist. Amen. 


Ponder Whom do I blame for cycling’s recent disgraces? Aren’t we all in some ways to blame? Affirm I am as much to blame. Intolerance for cheating starts with me. Watch and pray for continued talks.



40“Lefevere stops as head of AIGCP,” Latest Cycling News for December 5, 2007 Edited by Gregor Brown, with assistance from Susan Westemeyer

41Nelson Mandela was pardoned and released from prison by President F.W. de Klerk after serving twenty-seven years in prison for activities related to ending apartheid. Afterwards, Mandela became the first Black president of South Africa, and he chose de Klerk as his first deputy. Mandela and de Klerk were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. Mandela is noted for his Policy of Reconciliation. He is a great statesment, able to endure long negotiations among highly conflicted parties.

42The Bible, New International Version, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society