Monday, March 25, 2013

Cape Argus Cycle Tour 2013



35,000 people on bikes...

I've been promising this video and I've just now gotten around to doing it. Next year we'll go back with more than one camera and WAY more batteries. Some of the best parts are missing thanks to a dead battery. Oh well... next time, right?

Sunday, January 27, 2013

OCBC Cycle Malaysia 2013

And now for something completely different...

We've had a lot going on lately. We're getting ready for the Cape Argus Cycle Tour in South Africa in March, and we've been doing a LOT of trainer time. it's a 107 km race around the southern tip of the Cape, with some of the best scenery you could ever hope for. with 35,000 riders on closed roads, it's going to be a good time. We've been dying to go ride it ever since we heard about it in 2009, and this year we're finally doing it.

When the chance to ride the OCBC Cycle Malaysia came along we jumped on it. It's a 48km ride around central KL, and the start/finish was within walking distance of our apartment. It was the perfect tune-up ride for us for the Argus.

About three weeks before the event, they opened registration for an additional criterium race on Saturday, the day before the 48km challenge. I was totally in. The course was set up right at the base of the twin Petronas towers, so I was excited to do it.

On race day, I finally saw the course: it was a nightmare. Off-camber corners, very narrow (12 feet) road, potholes, manhole covers, drainage grates, and a 180 degree turn on a narrow section flanked by medians on slippery granite slabs. Throw in a short downhill section running on newly-scraped asphalt where they had tried to repair it by using chip-seal (which didn't stick so it was essentially gravel) and you have a recipe for a bad situation.

I went in anyway knowing that there would be 15 minutes of warm-up time given in which the riders could get a good look at the course and make the adjustments.

The field wasn't that big. 17 riders including women and masters men. For whatever reason, the Malaysian men don't tend to keep racing in the masters categories, so the field was smaller than I expected. They had us wait in a penned-in area until we could go out for warm-ups. As we waited, we noticed that it was getting way too close to our start time. When they finally let us out of the gated area, we rode around to the start line expecting to get our 15 minutes on the course.

We didn't.

The race officials and organizers were concerned about the schedule, and not wanting to make the pro crit (after our race) go off late. Several of us made our concerns very clear to the officials, and ultimately we lost out. We had no choice but to start.

It made matters worse when we discovered that the entire Malaysian women's olympic team was riding in the race, and that they had already been allowed out on the course. They are very fast riders, to be sure, but they have poor bike-handling skills. This is a rant for another post but I will say this: They had absolutely no business being there. The fact that the organizers bent their own rules and allowed a group of 26 year-old olympians to sandbag in a masters race is not really acceptable anywhere. They mopped up all the prize money (as expected) and the rest of the field was angry about it from the beginning.

Two days after the race, the race organizers sent the following email to the field:
We’d like to thank you once again for your support and participation in the Women’s Open and Masters’ Criterium at OCBC Cycle Malaysia 2013.

As you know, riders in this Criterium were unable to complete a warm-up lap prior to flag-off. We realise this wasn’t ideal and some of you were left without an explanation before and after the race.

To clarify, the route had still not been cleared by our race officials at the designated time for a warm-up lap. It was only cleared just before flag-off, leaving insufficient time to complete the warm-up lap. The decision was made to remove the warm-up lap and to not delay the start time.

We apologise for any confusion or miscommunication on the evening itself and we hope this email helps to clarify the situation.
The problem I have with this email is that it confirms what the riders had suspected all along: that the race organizers chose to stick to the schedule rather than give the riders an opportunity to preview the course before the race. There were many responses to this email, and I will only post my own:
First, I welcome the opportunity to provide feedback. That is something that is important to me, especially as I have quite a bit to say.

I would ride the challenge again, but not the criterium. I am a veteran racer from overseas with experience in more than 100 races. This was by far the most dangerous criterium I have ever ridden. The course was poorly chosen, the road surfaces were terrible at best, and the organisers had no regard for rider safety. This course was clearly chosen by people who are neither cyclists nor cycle racers. The decision by the race officials to eliminate the time for the warm up lap in order to keep to a time schedule meant that most of the racers on this technically challenging course were riding it for the very first time at full-on race speed (more than 39 kph). Again, this shows that the organisers made a clear and conscious decision that the schedule was more important than the safety of the riders in the race. In the end I was given no chance to compete after a collision with one of the race volunteers standing in the road, texting on his phone and not paying attention to anything around him. I feel as though I have wasted the RM150 and unless the OCBC organisers show that they are capable of defining a challenging, yet safe course, I will not take that kind of chance with my safety or my money again.

The challenge ride was great, however road surfaces and choices of roads are something that needs improvement. If the organisers are not cyclists themselves, they need to get the opinion of experienced cyclists on the true condition and rideability of the road well before the event. I saw several accidents that simply did not need to happen, as they were caused by large potholes or damaged roads. These sections should have been repaired or avoided.

No event is perfect, but I feel as though OCBC could make some significant improvements - particularly as it relates to rider safety - and it would be a far more enjoyable event for everyone. If you would like to see an example of a great cycle event, take note of the Cape Argus Cycle Tour in South Africa. This is one of the largest cycle events in the world with over 35,000 riders participating each year. Perhaps there are valuable lessons that could be learned from observing the practices involved in managing an event of this magnitude.

Keep trying. It's the only way to improve.

In the end, I'm not sure it matters. The organizers will do what they want to do this this information, but I feel as though it was important to speak up, especially as the race organizers were not cyclists or cycle racers, and may not have understood the decisions they were making. I felt it was important to speak up.

Your thoughts?

Friday, November 16, 2012

Meanwhile, back in Kuala Lumpur...


Here we are, just getting settled in after a few months of living in KL. What's that you ask? Brazil? We moved to KL about three months ago...keep up! Sheesh...

Actually it was a bit of a whirlwind. As soon as our stuff finally arrived in Macae, we were transferred to Kuala Lumpur. We certainly miss the friends we had there, but hopefully we can convince them to come and enjoy the serious shopping opportunities here...hint, hint...you know who you are...

KL is a significant upgrade. I'm not going to lie.

We have access to all kinds of stuff that we didn't have access to before. Peanut butter? Yup. Spices? Yup. All the food stuff that we have been missing is right here and then some. The peanut butter thing is really a good deal for us because I almost caved in and bought a jar when one of the grocery stores in Macae had it - it was $17...

One of the only down sides here is that pork is a little more difficult to come by. It's a predominantly Muslim culture, so you have to look for it. It's here, but sometimes it's a bit hard to find. The Australian lamb, however...whoa. It's going to be hard to live without that stuff when we end up back in the States.

One of our favorite places to eat is a string of street vendors off Bukit Bintang. Street snacks there are unbelievable. We're noticing that we like eating there almost more than the nicer, sit-down type of restaurants. Everybody there has a specialty. You order off one menu and your food comes from different stalls up and down the street based off what they do best.

Malaysian food has three main influences based on the three larges population groups: Malay, Chinese, and Indian. Throw all those ideas and flavors together and you can basically have anything you want.

So...the same thing has happened here at our place - we started cooking with what we can get here and the results have been KILLER. This gem from last night is a perfect example, and you get lucky because I made Evan write the recipe down. He hates doing that, but dammit I want to have this again sometime, and when I ask for it later I REALLY don't want to get the standard response of, "I made what?". Welcome to my world. So here...GO MAKE IT. You will thank me later.

Coconut Curry Braised Lamb Shanks
 
Ingredients:

2 Lamb Shanks
2 tbsp Red Curry Paste (recipe follows)
2 tbsp Cooking oil
1 Medium Yellow Onion,
1 Large Carrot, sliced  can use 2 medium
1 Small Bunch Asparagus
½ Head Broccoli , Discard stalks
3 cups Beef Stock
200ml Coconut Milk
1 Stick Cinnamon (optional)

Directions:
Pre-Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly cover the lamb shanks with cooking oil, salt and pepper to taste. Heat the cooking oil over medium heat in a large Dutch oven. Brown the lamb shanks on all sides. Remove shanks and set aside. Add onion, carrot, broccoli and asparagus to Dutch oven. Sauté 5 minutes until soft. Add curry paste, sauté 5 more minutes.  Add coconut milk and stir for 1 minute. Add beef stock and bring to a boil. Put the lamb shanks back in Dutch oven. Add more water to ensure shanks are covered. Put a lid on the Dutch oven and place in the oven.

Braising  Time 2Hrs 30 Mins.
Turn shanks every 30 mins while braising. Watch liquid level and add more if needed. Do not let let sides burn. After cooking time is reached remove shanks and set on serving plate. Cover to keep warm. Transfer Dutch oven back to stove and reduce sauce and vegetable mixture until it coats the back of a spoon. Approx. 10-15 minutes.

Serve: Place the lamb shanks on separate plates and cover with the reduced sauce. Spoon vegetable onto plate and serve. Goes great with wine and warm bread/rolls of your choice. Enjoy!

Red Curry Paste
Disclaimer! Wear latex gloves when preparing this chili paste. Seriously! Learn from the pain of others. NOTHING seems to get red chili oil off your hands and if you are unfortunate enough to wipe your eyes, nose, or……other parts after then well…..Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

With that I give you my own Red Chili Paste recipe;

8-10 Small Red Chilies, Remove seeds and chop
2 Stalks lemon grass, White part only, minced
2 Shallots, chopped. Use 1 Large. Shallots in KL are small so I used 2.
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp Tomato Sauce
2 Tbsp Lime Juice
2 tsp Cumin
1 tsp Coriander
1 tsp Sugar
1-2 Tbsp Chili Powder. Depends on how spicy you want it.
8-12 Curry Leaves. Leaves only, discard stalk. (Optional use if you can find them)

Throw everything into a food processor and blend completely. Add a little water or tomato sauce if it is too thick. You want a good paste consistency. Not too runny and not too thick. Separate paste into 2 Tbsp portions which will be suitable for most recipes.

If you use tin foil for the portions they are easy to throw in the freezer. Just label them so you can tell them apart from the Green paste you will certainly want to make after trying this red version.

Monday, May 7, 2012


So I finally made it to Macae.

It's been a long time coming. Evan has been here for almost five months, and I have been here for just about two weeks. It's weird because so much is different. But by the same token, a lot is the same. I am still busy as hell with my clients and my work, but the location has changed.

Big time.

The photo above was taken from the top of our apartment building, and the beach is literally just across the street. Nice. I am already finding all sorts of excuses to be out there playing instead of inside working, but I suppose that's the way it's going to be. I'm not going to whine about that.

There are some things that will take getting used to, though. Like the fact that EVERYTHING takes time...a LOT of time. We packed up our stuff in our house in March, and we will be lucky to see the container on our doorstep here in June. Little things like that.

Oh, and there is no peanut butter here.

Yeah. That sucks. Brazilians just don't eat it. Or tortillas. Weird. But luckily enough those are things that we can make on our own fairly easily. Peanuts are easy to find and the basic ingredients for tortillas are simple enough. And the good things here are REALLY good.

More to come, eventually. Once we get our stuff and we have our apartment all put back together, I'll post a few more pics of where we actually live. In the mean time, drop me a line and say hi...

Friday, December 23, 2011

Now What?


It's clean. Totally. Top to bottom, every single nook and cranny. All the stuff we wanted to do to the house before it goes on the market is DONE. It took an unbelievable amount of work, but we did it.

Now what?

Well, this past week has been a revolving door of inspectors, realtors, appraisers etc., and hopefully by sometime next week we will have the thing up on the market. We really need to get it moving because it will take THREE MONTHS for all our stuff to get to Brazil. We will be able to send some stuff via air freight, but even that will take four to six weeks. The stuff we really need will have to be carried in our luggage, but everything else will end up coming over in the ocean container. We also have a ton of stuff that will be stored. It's like a giant puzzle. We'll figure it out.

In the mean time, I should probably do some Christmas shopping. Or something...

Monday, December 5, 2011

Maybe I Should Get My Blogging Shit Together...

Oooookaaaay....

First: I have ignored my own blog for the better part of a year now. Oops. I will fix that. I'm going to have to fix that because well...upcoming events make things...different.

Second: for those of you who don't know yet, Evan and I are moving to Brazil. A small town 3 hours north of Rio, to be exact. The city is called Macae, (Say it with me: mock-eye-AY) and it is the home of the new Training Center that Evan is going to manage. It's not going to be totally permanent, since I doubt the Brazilian government will allow that sort of thing, but it is permanent enough to require the selling of our house and moving and/or storing all of our stuff (By the way, holy crap we have a lot of stuff - that's another post for another time, but WOW).

Macae is a very cool place. For the second time in my life, I am moving (along with all my stuff) to go and live on another continent. I like it. Things are very different here than they are in the US, and that is a good thing. Everyone needs to get out and experience culture shock, even just a little bit. I don't speak Portuguese, yet, but I have already picked up a surprising amount of it in the week that I have been here. There is a three hour drive from the airport in Rio up to Macae, and it is nice to see the mountains that jut up at crazy angles, so close to the ocean. I am also a realist. Brazil is an emerging country, and there will be cultural and economical things that we simply must deal with here. It's all part of the the package.

There are trade-offs though.

The photo above was taken from what will be our living room - right on the beach in the quieter end of town. Where in the Lincoln am I supposed to find a few like that? Something that you can actually hear roaring and sloshing every day. Nice.

But there is a WalMart. In Brazil. And a McDonald's. Just when I want to hide a little from the culture I was born into, it follows me to South America. Seriously?

That again is another post for another time. Until then, mea culpa. I will blog more. Promise. I know I've said that before but this time I mean it....

Really....

Seriously....

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Fall Favorites: Roasted Red Pepper & Gouda Soup

This has to be one of my favorite soups in the universe. Seriously. Apparently, a lot of you out in inter-web-land like it too, because it gets more hits than any other post on my blog - hands down. I've made some significant changes to the recipe though so you may want to take a look again and try it out. We made some the other day and - oh boy.


Roasted Red Pepper & Gouda Soup

INGREDIENTS
2 tablespoons butter
12 red bell peppers, roasted and chopped
2 red onions, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
3.5 cups shredded smoked gouda cheese

DIRECTIONS
Cut peppers in half and roast 8-10 min on Broil until skins char and start to come off. Place in bowl of ice water as soon as you get them out of the oven. The temperature change makes the flesh shrink and it is easier to peel. Peel skins off peppers and chop into rough pieces.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Place the red bell pepper, onion and garlic in the saucepan and sauté for 10 to 15 minutes, or until tender. Don't let the onions carmelize or the soup will end up with a bitter flavor.

Pour in the chicken broth, stirring well, reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth.

Return the liquid to the saucepan over medium low heat. Stir in the heavy cream, the ground black pepper and cheese, and allow to heat through, about 5 to 10 minutes. Place in bowls- salt and pepper to taste.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

New, Next, etc...

Sooooo....

There are a lot of new things going on around here. Most notably, a new team for me for 2011. We've teamed up with the folks at Joyride Bicycles to create a new all-women team/club called Sheclismo. I'm excited to be involved with such a cool project, and I'm looking forward to racing next year. 2010 was kind of a "meh" year for racing, and I am full of new motivation for traning to race. Already. But track season is a full eight months away and I don't want to peak too early, so I'll be burning up the treadmill/weights at the gym this winter while rebuilding my sprinting power on the bike. Should be a good time. Head on over to our facebook page and say hi.

There have been some other things going on this last month. We lost one of our doggies, Fidley, a few weeks ago, and in order to keep her sister (and us) from getting too lonely we thought we would add two more puppies to our little pack. Enter Luna and Hera - Two weimaraner pups, seven weeks old.

These little guys are nothing but pure energy - until they completely crash and fall asleep. We're having fun. Widget (our other dog) is not sure why these fuzzy rabbit-looking things have invaded her space, but as soon as they quit chewing on her tail she'll be okay with it.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Blog Slacker = ME

okay so it's been, well, a while.

A lot has been going on here, much of it has to do with yard work, basement renovations and the like. Not a lot of cycling lately but that will come later. Mostly this post is just to let you know that I am still alive.

I'm here today at home watching out my window as six very skilled chainsaw-type people take down the linden tree that has been threatening to eat our house. It's a pinch over 75 feet tall and the geniuses that planted it 50 years ago put it within ten feet of the house. Seriously? You can't plant a tree that close to anything you want to keep. Sigh... It's weird now though because we have actual light coming in through our windows. Straaaaaange. Of course now this means that for the first time in 50 years, the house is actually visible from the street. And it needs some love. Or paint. Preferably both. Suddenly the tilty-crappy mailbox doesn't look so hot...

Anyone out there want to help with a painting party? We pay in good food and wine. We've moved on from the pizza-and-beer bartering system into higher levels of currency. Either that or our projects are getting more complicated.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Before/After

For any of you who have been following my Facebook/Twitter rants about how shitty our Windstream DSL service is, you will be happy to know I will now stop. I have a real internet connection.

Here's the speed test ping from before (with ShitStream):


And now, after we have our new TWC service up and humming:

I'd say all my whining was justified, no?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Mushroom Stock

Okay... I've promised this recipe to a few people, and I'm finally getting around to posting it. This Mushroom stock recipe started with one from Cooking Light, but I've made changes based on what we can get around here. Enjoy.

Ingredients:
4 cups boiling water
1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1 oz mixed dried forest mushrooms (get them from Leon's Market)
1 whole garlic head, cloves peeled and crushed
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 medium white onions
1 large leek
2 lbs portabella mushrooms, cubed
8 parsley sprigs
8 thyme sprigs
25 whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup dry white wine (use a good, drinkable chardonnay, not "cooking wine")
15 cups water

Directions:
Combine 4 cups boiling water and dried mushrooms in a bowl. Cover and let stand 30 minutes or until tender. Strain through a fine sieve over another bowl; reserve 3 cups of liquid and set aside.

Heat a large dutch oven or soup pot over medium high heat. Add oil to pan, swirl to coat. Add onion and leek; saute 5 minutes or until just tender, stirring occasionally. Add mushrooms, garlic, herbs, peppercorns, and bay leaves. Saute 10 minutes or until portabellas are tender, stirring occasionally. Add wine; cook until liquid evaporates (about 2 minutes). Add reserved 3 cups mushroom liquid and 15 cups water; bring to a slight boil. Reduce heat to simmer 50 minutes, covering pot for the first 25 minutes. Strain through cheesecloth over a bowl; discard solids. Pour into airtight containers. Keeps for a week in the refrigerator, much longer in the freezer.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Something Evil...

In case any of you want to take a head-first dive off your diets, here's something that is absolutely worth it:

No-Bake Peanut Butter Cow Pies

INGREDIENTS:
* 4 ounces butter or margarine
* 1/2 cup milk
* 2 cups sugar
* 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
* 3 to 4 tablespoons peanut butter, optional
* 3 cups oats, quick or old-fashioned
* 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

PREPARATION:
Place chocolate chips, peanut butter (if used), oats, and vanilla in a Large mixing bowl. Combine the margarine, milk, and sugar in a saucepan; bring to a rolling boil. Boil for 1 minute. Combine the hot mixture with the oatmeal and chocolate chip mixture; stir well.
Drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper.