Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A Dominant Tour de France Performance

Yes, Sam Ledbetter with his Road Hogs team, under the direction of Lester Moran, ran away with the JBarCycling Minileague honors by amassing an impressive 7210 points. That also put the Road Hogs at 163rd out of 42,166 contestants worldwide. That's in the top .4%.

Our podium was rounded out by Alez' BB#1 with 6395 points, closely followed Moffeed's Derpola with 6369.
 Moffeed, aka Drew Moffitt, rose from the ashes of last year's Tour in which he bounced around DFL for quite some time.

On the whole, our league made a very respectable showing. Perhaps next year, I'll have more time and energy to devote to begging for prizes and promoting the league.  

Thanks to everyone who played. I have been approached by quite a few folks who just missed the cut-off for team registration but who, nonetheless, asked me to keep up the league. 
So....be watching for news of the Vuelta.

Oh, yeah, the OTHER winner....
Congratulations to Chris Froome on his third TdF win. There were even a couple of stages where he demonstrated some excited and determined racing, though the last week of the GC race was boringly predictable. Nobody could attack Sky, and the few weak efforts often resulted in the attacker losing time as Sky caught and passed them with their relentless team strength. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Zip Line and Ropes Course Likely For Big Rock Quarry

In April, the North Little Rock Parks and Recreation Commission approved the development of a zip-line and high ropes course at Big Rock Quarry and Emerald Park along the Arkansas River Trail and the Highland Trail. The attraction would be operated by Loco Ropes which currently operates a concession at the Ozark Folk Center State Park near Mountain View.

As most of you will recall, the Quarry was the subject of a proposed sale to developers back in 2011. That proposal was well down the road before the public got wind of it. The outcry was immediate and loud as all the local media outlets jumped on the story. The result was that the City delayed the vote to sell the property, the developers backed away, and the property was brought into the parks system.
I found it to be a refreshing example of an informed public.

A public meeting was held Tuesday, July 12, at 4:45PM for public comment. Michael Sprague,
State Trails Coordinator & Project Officer, had spread the word to the trail advocacy community, and the appropriate legal notices were run, but there was very little in the way of "public" at the meeting. Joe Jacobs and Lisa Mullis of Arkansas Outside, Coreen Frasier, Michael and one of his colleagues were there, as was I. Almost everyone in attendance was either a city or state employee, or commission member. They needed pubic comment for the record but Berndette Rhodes of NLR Fit-2-Live, was about the only one to step to the microphone. She expressed her concern that the River trail be protected.

This is nothing like that

The Loco Ropes would develop the zip line and ropes courses at their expense, but the land and trails will remain in the parks system and will be open to the public. The city already maintains River Road and the gravel road into the site. The parking lot will be gravel.

The zip line will run from a tower near the bluffs at the northwest end of the quarry to the quarry floor. High ropes courses will be placed in the wooded area above the bluffs and will cross the Highlands Trail at several points. Low ropes courses will be set on the quarry floor.

As I understand, the draft concession agreement calls for the City to receive small set amount in the first year, and then $10,000 or 5% of revenues, whichever is greater, in subsequent years.  There will be no substantial permanent structures built, and the Loco Ropes folks assured a questioner that trees would not be cut. Realistically, I would expect to hear some chainsaws, but the idea is to put people into the canopy, so I would expect it to be minimal.

The plan for the River Trail is for bollards to be placed along the south side of River Road inside the current gates to give trail users a buffer from traffic. I would expect most cyclists to to simply ride the road except perhaps during some high traffic event. 

I think this was pretty much a fait accompli  (that's "done deal" to us regular folks, but I've got to use the remnants of my 2 years of high school French every now and then.) until State Parks notified the city the an environmental assessment was required for the "substantial change of use". That brought about a public meeting with the NLR Planning Commission which was conveniently held at 4:45 on Tuesday afternoon. In my experience, public officials really don't want to hear much from the public when it comes to decision making, but various laws require that they open the doors to the us of the rabble. Their position is understandable, as the the public can be ill-informed, argumentative, vindictive, and just plain old wild-ass crazy, but officials must remember that these are the people who elected them. 

What to make of it
Surprisingly to many, I don't really have a strong opinion on this.
 Given a choice, I'd rather not have squealing zip liners flying from the quarry walls and giggling adolescents overhead on a ropes course as I enjoy the solitude of the Highlands Trail. We cannot claim the quarry is pristine, as it has been mined for near 200 years, but it does still have a natural beauty, and it and the woods above are a remarkable island in the heart of our city. When you climb into the woods and the waterfalls are running, it is easy to feel that you're far away from urban noise and clutter that surrounds us. Even the remaining industrial structures of the quarry itself add character and, as one wag offered, in a few years the remnants of the zip line and ropes courses may well join the historical relics.
Unlike the proposed sale and development of 2011, I don't think this calls for us villagers to storm the castle with torches and pitchforks, but if you have an opinion, contact Parks Director Terry Harwick, thartwick@nlr.ar.gov, or your alderman if you are a NLR resident.
And, of course, you may comment here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

VeloGames Mini League Monday Update-No Spoiler

I've struggled to add any value to the league this year since I can't reward or taunt you by awarding a bunch of valuable prizes, but I will say that we have had some strong team showings

Movin' On Up- Saturday Was a Great Day at the Tour  FOR MY TEAM!
Sunday, not so much.

Sorry, I could not contain my exuberance at having the 1st and 2nd place riders in Saturday's stage. After having really bad teams in the Fantasy Tour de France for the last couple of years, this year's bunch has been steadily moving up, capped by Froome in first and yellow, while Dan Martin picked up 2nd place. Last year, I think I finished 47th out of 49 teams, while the year before my team was down to 6 riders from 9 after the opening week.

The strong stage gave my team top points for the day for the first time ever. Unfortunately, that still doesn't give me bragging rights among my core ride partners. Sam's, aka Lester Moran, Road Hogs moved to the top of the league, while Jumbo Jo slipped slightly to second after 3 days in the lead. The Home Team is third, but I expect big things in the coming high mountain stages. Having Sam, Jo and I in 1,2,3 was fun while it lasted.

Sunday shook up the Minileague standings much than they did the Tour itself.  Tom Doumolin, who was one of my early crash casualties last year, rode away from a powerful break to claim the stage, while Alberto Contador (my GC guy last year and early crash-out in 2014) withdrew. Doumolin was a revelation at last year's Vuelta before falling to the pure climbers near the end of that tour. He is a big, strong time trial specialist who managed to stay with, then drop, the best climbers on the Tour.
On the rest day, the grimly named Disc Brake Amputees team reigned in a brief moment of glory, only to be toppled on Monday as the Road Hogs regained the league lead with Jo's Jumbo NL back on his wheel in second. Sam and Jo made some heady picks with riders like Greg VanAvermat and Stephen Cummings.
Gaylen Horton is back this year with another high scoring Veni Vidi Velo team, while Moffeed has greatly improved over his last year's performance, when he was about the only thing between me and DFL at times.

The league is strong with the leaders in the top 2% of 42,000+ contestants.
We have some sprint stages upcoming, followed by the reckoning that is sure to follow in the Alps. Nobody is running away early with the league honors this year, as things are sure to be reshuffled in the coming days.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Birthday Girl Bags Bragging Rights In Tour Contest

JumboNL team director, aka Jo Spencer, celebrates her birthday today from atop the JBarCycling leader board after Greg Van Avermaet's unlikely win in yesterday's hilly stage. GVA is regarded as a classics specialist but he and his breakaway companions put up to 15 minutes on the GC contenders in a move that ended with him in yellow. He's not only in yellow, but has over 5 minutes on all of the GC contenders.
Normally, the team of the yellow jersey takes the responsibility of defending the jersey, but I see a different dynamic here. Van Avermaet is unlikely to hold the lead through the mountains, but the teams of the likely GC contenders cannot count on him losing 5 minutes if they allow BMC to control the tempo.

Where's the big prize?

Though everyone was supportive of a Velogames competition without the prize pool that I've managed in recent years, Jo's immediate reaction to her elevated position was to ask, " What's the prize for leading after Stage 5?"  The prize, my dear friend, is the momentary respect and admiration of your peers.  Enjoy it while you can.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Tour De France- The Standings That Really Matter After Stage 3

Well, the standings that matter to the 25 JBarCycling MiniLeague team directors.I can tell that it matters as I was given a celebratory ration of shit by the JumboNL team director after her team's sterling performance in stage 2. Of course, like Andre Greipel in stage 3, her celebration came just a tad early, as she had slipped 2 places to third the next day. Still, not too shabby. That said, the sprinter-heavy teams are showing well early on as expected. O Canada, led by Bob, currently leads our standings.

My own team is currently 10th of 25. I can't say what drove the picks of other players, but each year I try to put emotion aside and be objective about my picks. And I usually fail pretty badly. Mark Cavendish has long been my favorite rider in the peloton. I like the sprinters and, while Cav can be as cocky as a banty rooster, he impresses me as an truly humble guy who appreciates his position in life. It took a while for Peter Sagan to grow on me, but he's right up there with Cav in my estimation, and is certainly more universally popular. I didn't pick either for my team this year and have been punished for it, as Cav has won 2 stages and Sagan won the other. They've swapped the yellow and green jerseys and racked up big points.
My perspective is that as a fan, the Tour could not be going better. As a fantasy team director, I'm being punished for my objectivity.

Question marks for Olympic hopefuls 
At question is whether either Cavendish or Sagan will finish the Tour, as Cavendish devoted much of his season to making the British Olympic track cycling team and Sagan will ride mountain bike in the Olympics.
Sagan is more likely to ride to Paris, as I don't think his mountain bike bid as is serious as Cavendish's track ambitions.  Cavendish is off to an incredible start in the Tour but the mountains of week 3 may temper his enthusiasm for a sprint on the Champs d'Elysee.

As I write this, Stage 4 is in the books but no spoilers here!