Sixty-nine University of Texas students who pedaled out of Austin earlier this summer are expected to roll into Anchorage tomorrow, wrapping up their 70-day quest to raise awareness about cancer.
A documentary about their venture, “Texas 4000,” will air at 8 p.m. tonight on the Longhorn Network, Channel 677 on AT&T Universe and Channel 383 on Time Warner. The network will also livestream the documentary at http://www.espn.com/longhornnetwork/.
Each year for the past 15 years, a team of students has made the bicycle trek. They train, raise money, volunteer in the community and serve in leadership roles to help plan every aspect of the summer ride.
This year’s group started June 1 and broke into three groups, which made their way separately to Alaska. Along the way, the cyclists presented $450,000 in grants to cancer research and treatment centers and visited with patients.
Back in Austin, the community will honor the cyclists at the annual Tribute Gala Aug. 24 at the Hyatt Regency, 208 Barton Springs Road. The gala includes dinner, live music, silent and live auctions and more. Tickets are $200 per person. For more information or to sign up, go to https://asbidding.com/register/106.
Since 2004, 751 students have completed the ride, raising more than $8.4 million.
Lawson Craddock may have finished last in the Tour de France this year, but now he can drink free beer for the rest of his life.
The Austin-based cyclist broke his shoulder blade and cut his face during Stage 1 of this year’s Tour. Instead of packing up and heading back to Texas, Craddock kept cycling. For every stage of the race he completed, he vowed to donate $100 to Alkek Velodrome in Houston, the facility where he learned to race and which was damaged last fall during Hurricane Harvey. He invited fans to donate, too.
Craddock wound up finishing every stage of the three-week race, coming in last of the 145 finishers, a position known as “lanterne rouge.” As of today, the GoFundMe site has raised more than $252,000 for the velodrome.
To congratulate the 26-year-old cyclist, Karbach Brewing Co., the Houston-based company that makes the beer Craddock drank after he finally reached Paris, has promised to supply Craddock with Weekend Warrior Pale Ale for the rest of his life.
The brewery also pledged to donate $1 of every case of Weekend Warrior Pale Ale to Alkek Velodrome for the rest of the year.
Want to watch this year’s Tour de France with other cycling fans?
Juan Pelota Café, tucked inside Mellow Johnny’s, the downtown Austin cycling shop owned by ormer pro cyclist Lance Armstrong (who was stripped of his seven tour wins after a doping scandal), is showing into the race live every day.
As the cyclists spin their way up and down hills, through picturesque villages and over stretches of rough cobblestone in France, Armstrong waves his arms, yells at the monitor and lets fly with the occasional cuss word. It’s all recorded and livestreamed for fans around the world through Armstrong’s WeDū portal.
“I get pretty animated when I watch,” Armstrong said Sunday, while driving from his summer home in Aspen to catch a polo match down the canyon with his fiance, Anna Hansen, and two of their children. “And I do slip up and say bad words from time to time.”
“With broadcasting, a lot of times you have a boss and you have a certain decorum and you’re beholden to certain sponsors or a governing body,” says Hager, who for years co-hosted, along with Sandy McIlree, the morning show on Austin radio station Mix 94.7. “(Armstrong) gives such a raw honest look at it because he’s not beholden to anyone. He can say whatever he wants.”
These days, Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France winner stripped of his victories in 2012 after a doping scandal, makes no apologies. He knows some people will tune in, and others, still angry over the cheating scandal, will never again listen to a word he says.
It’s all part of life post cycling for Armstrong, who launched “The Forward Podcast with Lance Armstrong” in June 2016. That program, available for free via YouTube, FaceBook and iTunes, features Armstrong interviewing an intriguing parade of celebrities, from musicians such as the Avett Brothers and Bob Schneider to retired NASCAR driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., politician Wendy Davis, former Austin police chief Art Acevedo, billionaire businessman John Paul DeJoria, and free diver Tanya Streeter. Talk focuses on everything from current events to politics, family life and the arts, and it rarely touches on cycling.
But some fans still want Armstrong’s perspective on bike racing, so last year, he teamed with Hager to add a separate series of podcasts just during the Tour de France. The pair built on that idea this year, and have once again put “The Forward” podcast on hold while they spend a month producing “The Move,” which includes daily coverage of the 21-stage Tour de France, plus some other special features.
Hager, who’s done his own share of recreational bike racing, drove his trailer to Aspen, where Armstrong owns a home, parked it in the neighbor’s driveway, then plugged in a bristling array of audio visual equipment. He tees up questions for Armstrong as they watch, which helps listeners who may not understand the nuances of bike racing.
“He knows enough about cycling to be dangerous, but spent 20 plus years talking to people on the corner of Main Street and First, so if it starts to get technical or wonky he can bring it back to Every Man Jack speak,” Armstrong says.
“The Move” podcast lasts about 30 to 40 minutes, but real Armstrong fans can get more content. A $60 WeDū season pass allows members to observe Hager and Armstrong as they watch the last 20 kilometers of each stage of the Tour live, before they record their podcast.
“I always said last year I wished people could see him while he’s watching the Tour unfold. Whether it’s a climb or sprint, he jumps out of his skin, he’s losing his mind,” Hager says.
Members can also watch pre-production meetings and participate in special evening “happy hour” sessions, when they can email questions directly to Hager for discussion. They also get a WeDū Tshirt and discounts on merchandise.
“We’re legitimately having cocktails and fielding questions in real time,” Hager says. Former professional cyclist George Hincapie dropped by for a session last week; NASCAR driver Jimmy Johnson is expected this week.
A season pass will include the behind-the-scenes coverage of other cycling races, too. So far, about 1,000 fans from around the world have signed up as members.
As for this year’s Tour, it’s particularly technical, according to Armstrong. Sunday’s stage included 15 sections of rough cobbled roads – the most ever in the Tour de France. Monday is a rest day, and coming days will include some short, explosive mountain stages.
“The first week was very hectic, with a bunch of nervous finishes. The guys are already tired,” says Armstrong, who picked a favorite – 2014 Tour winner Vincenzo Nibali from Italy – early on, but is backpedaling a tad on his choice. “I might regret picking him, but it’s too late.”
“There’s already been quite a shakeup, there’s been a team time trial, and some very technical stages in what almost looks like Austin that are real hilly but don’t have long climbs,” he says. “Now we have the rest day and three days in the Alps, culminating with Alpe d’Huez on Thurday, then some transition days where they basically have to ride across the country to the Pyrenees. It’s hard and hot. The Pyrenees are really the show this year, I think.”
After the tour ends July 29 in Paris, Armstrong and Hager will put together a “best of” podcast featuring edited versions of some of their favorite interviews from “The Forward.”
“We’ll edit it down, put those up, and then launch a new structure for ‘The Forward’ in the fall which will be more based around specific themes like fear or cancer,” Armstrong says.
Does all the Tour watching make him yearn for his racing days?
“Not at all,” he says. “I’m happy to be in Aspen, Colorado.”
Which is where he plans to stay for the summer, before returning to Austin sometime in September.
He has another bit of business coming up, too: a wedding.
Armstrong got engaged to Hansen last May, but neither one is saying when a wedding will happen, or exactly where, but they are considering both Marfa and Napa Valley.
For more information about WeDū, or to sign up as a member, go to www.wedu.team.
Austin cyclist Lawson Craddock, who crashed midway through the first stage of the Tour de France, finished the seventh stage of the race Friday, despite a broken scapula and nine stitches in his eyebrow.
That’s good news for cyclists back in Texas, because for every stage he completes, Craddock has vowed to make a donation to help repair the Alkek Velodrome in Houston, where he learned to race. The facility suffered damage during Hurricane Harvey last year.
Craddock, wearing race number 13 – pinned to his jersey upside down, per tradition, to break the unlucky spell – hit a full water bottle dropped by a cyclist in front of him at a feed zone on Day 1 of the 21-stage, 2,082-mile Tour de France. Without any room to maneuver, he careened off road on his bike, hit a spectator and crashed spectacularly. In typical Craddock style, he picked up his bike, hopped back on and continued, blood streaming down his face. At the finish line, a doctor examined him and found a fractured scapula, or shoulder blade. The cyclist also needed seven stitches in his eyebrow.
“It was a huge mental blow, really. I put a lot of work in just to make it to the Tour this year,” Craddock says. “I knew immediately something wasn’t right, but halfway through the first stage you don’t want to pack up the suitcase and go home.”
Craddock, who had decided before the tour began that he’d auction off a pair of custom Houston Strong cycling shoes to raise money to repair the Alkek Velodrome, amped up his efforts to motivate himself to push on. He decided to donate $100 for each Tour stage he completed, and invited fans to join him. So far the Go Fund Me effort has raised nearly $70,000 for the Greater Houston Cycling Foundation, which runs the velodrome
“That blows my mind,” Craddock says. “When I get on after every stage and wake up in the morning, I check the donation page. There’s been a lot of suffering in this last week, but seeing the support I’ve received all across the world has kept me going. It just really makes me proud to be in this race and know every pedal stroke I make, every time my shoulder gives me a jolt of pain, it’s all really worth it.”
Craddock covered about 140 miles in Friday’s stage, then plopped onto a table for a vigorous massage and some chiropractic work.
“It definitely doesn’t feel great, but every day has gotten a little better,” he said by phone from the table. “The biggest issue wasn’t the fracture, but the muscles contracting around it every time I move my arm. It’s not ideal, it’s not pain free and it still hurts, but I’ve made leaps and bounds over the last week, and it’s given me a lot of hope I’ll be able to continue the race.”
No telling if he’ll make it all the way to Paris. He’s already fatigued.
“When after a week your body is working overtime to recover a fractured bone, and then add the stress of the Tour de France, it’s not ideal for the race,” he said. “But I’m looking at this as 21 individual races, and waking up in the morning with my only focus being making it to the finish that day.”
First, though, he’s got to make it through Sunday’s Stage 9, the Roubaix stage, which winds over rough and punishing cobblestone streets.
“Your body gets jolted all over the place,” Craddock said. “I haven’t sat down and thought about how to get through that, because the main focus has been finishing the stage at hand. If I can get through tomorrow, that will be a big obstacle to manage those roads.”
Craddock started track racing at Alkek Velodrome in Houston at age 10. He moved to Austin in 2011 and has been racing at the sport’s highest level since 2014. He counts among his career highlights competing at the World Championships in Richmond, Va., in 2015, and winning a stage of a multi-day race on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe in 2011, where an official race car clipped him as he crossed the finish line, knocking him down. He still won the stage and saluted from the ground.
He rode in the Tour de France in 2016, becoming the second Texan (after Lance Armstrong), to complete the grueling stage race. He didn’t make it to the Tour last year, but landed a seat on the EF Education First-Drapac team this year, alongside team leader Rigoberto Urán, runner up in last year’s Tour.
“Ambitions were high. The main goal was to win the Tour de France,” Craddock says. “I was looking forward to being part of that.”
Chalk up another long-distance cycling accomplishment for Andrew Willis, who gets kicks out of riding a bicycle for hundreds of miles through fry-an-egg-on-a-sidewalk heat.
Willis won the World Ultra Cycling Association’s National Championship event, 24 Hours in the Canyon, earlier this month by pedaling 448 miles in a single day.
The race started at the bottom of Palo Duro Canyon State Park at noon, when it’s nice and hot. Cyclists rode up to the rim, pedaled 100 miles, then dropped back into the canyon to complete as many 5-mile loops within the park as they could before noon the next day.
“I really get into the math behind it, trying to squeeze a few seconds out of every lap with less power and a lower heartrate,” Willis said from the phone this week, while spinning on a bike trainer inside his home. (Always training, that man.)
It took Willis about 16 minutes flat for each 5-mile loop. The hardest part? The heat. And then the cold. Temperatures rose to about 105 at the bottom of the canyon during the day, then dropped into the 40s at night.
“That was really hard on a lot of peoples’ bodies,” said Willis, whose company Holland Racing puts on the weekly Driveway Series of bike races each summer.
Willis spent a lot of time pedaling on his bike trainer, along with riding and working in the yard during the heat of the day, to prepare for 24 Hours in the Canyon. He also paced himself by starting slow and building intensity after the sun set.
“Everyone else went out hard and had huge gaps on me,” Willis said. “At the end of the 100 miles, I came into the canyon in third place. It was hard to not freak out and try to hunt them down then – I had to remind myself I still had 15 hours. Sure enough, they pushed it too hard in the heat and by hour 12 and 13 they were falling apart and throwing up, and I hadn’t pushed myself at all yet. That’s when I turned it on.”
Two years ago, Willis completed the Race Across the West, a 930-mile race from California to Colorado. He’s now considering competing in the Race Across America, a 3,089-mile race from the west to east coast of the United States.
Looking for a welcoming group of cycling compadres, ladies?
The ATX Sirens, Driveway Sheros will host a team meet-and-greet on June 20, so interested women can socialize with cyclists from women’s racing teams from around Austin.
The event is part of the Austin Women’s Racing Ambassador Cup program, which works to provide a safe and welcoming environment where women can learn bike racing skills, build confidence and make friends. Come to learn how to join a racing team, find folks to ride with and hang out with other female cyclists. Drinks, snacks and door prizes will be provided.
Did you make it out to Big Bend for the 2018 Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest? Hopefully so, because this year’s event drew so many bicyclists that organizers have decided to cancel next year’s event.
A notice sent to past attendees from Desert Sports in Terlingua said this: “Alas, more riders attended then our allotted cap of 500. Area resources, from venues to delicate trail environments to emergency services, were overwhelmed by the attendance.”
The festival first took place in 2011, and was designed to encourage cyclists to enjoy the array of trails at Big Bend Ranch State Park. It also included a few guided rides behind the Lajitas Resort and in Big Bend National Park.
“We have been successful beyond our wildest hopes and dreams,” the notice said, adding that cyclists are still encouraged to visit the area to ride between October and April – just not all on one weekend.
“The Big Bend Trails Alliance will continue to maintain, build and advocate our beloved trails through your generous donations,” the letter said.
I’ve been attending the festival since it began, and spent a day earlier this year at the event, pedaling some of my favorite bike trails in the state. I’ve launched myself into more than one cactus there, and enjoyed every moment.
Every year while the wildflowers are blooming, I load up my bicycle and head to the Hill Country to pedal the Willow City Loop.
The hilly circuit makes me whimper a little – especially that giant hill about 3 miles from the finish, which turns my quads to jelly – but the reward comes in the form of classic Texas vistas of blue, yellow and red blooms, limestone outcroppings and, if you’re lucky, a flowing creek or two.
This year, I missed the bluebonnets, which peaked about three weeks ago. That turned out OK, though, because instead of a steady stream of motorcycles and slow-moving cars, I encountered hardly any traffic. Plus, I saw something new – fields of blooming cactus with fuschia and yellow flowers.
To do the ride, park your car on the side of the road in Willow City, which consists of a bar called Harry’s, a couple of houses, a historic school, a single intersection and bunch of goats.
For best results, bike the loop in clockwise direction, heading west first until you reach Texas 16. Turn right on Texas 16 and head north along this busy two-lane highway. (This is my least favorite part.) Keep your eyes open — you’ll get a quick glimpse of Enchanted Rock to the left just before you start the big downhill glide. A few miles after you reach the bottom, you’ll see an official highway sign directing you to the Willow City Loop on the right.
The land along the road is private, and vehicles aren’t supposed to stop along the right-of-way. (They do anyway.)
You’ll cross lots of cattle guards (caution!) and a few small creeks, weave alongside some craggy boulders, and spy fields of flowers and cactus. We also spotted a wild turkey, a tortoise meandering down the road, a bunch of cattle and a gray fox. Near the end, take note of the long stretch of fence, with cowboy boots capping each post.
Most of the motorized traffic drives the loop in the opposite direction, so you’ll see cars coming at you. About 3 miles from the finish, you’ll see an imposing ridge rising in front of you. Take a big gulp of air and prepare to mash your pedals.
We call it the hill that keeps on giving. The first part is steepest, with a break followed by another moderately steep stretch. Even when you think you’re done, the gradual incline continues all the way to Willow City.
Welcome to National Bike Month, when we cyclists gloat non-stop about how pedaling to work beats sitting in traffic in a car.
But seriously. It does.
I started riding a bicycle to work as a result of a commuter challenge hosted by the city 13 or 14 years ago. I got caught up in the mania, and somehow by trying to log more bicycle trips than other teams, it became a habit.
These days, I ride my bike to work an average of four times a week. I love it. The 14-mile round trip gives me some bonus exercise, keeps one more car off the road and it helps me avoid the distress of getting caught in gridlock traffic. Plus, I like to think it keeps my legs cute.
Every May, cities around the country celebrate National Bike Month. Here in Austin, the highlight of the month comes on Bike to Work Day, set this year for May 18. And the best part of that day? Free breakfast for bike commuters at stations all over the city.
Bike Austin has partnered with more than two dozen businesses that will serve up free coffee, water and breakfast treats like tacos and donuts during the morning commute. The fueling stations will be open from 6:30-9 a.m.
Here’s a handy (and evolving) list:
• Alliance Transportation Group
• Austin Beerworks
• Austin Habitat for Humanity
• Bennu Coffee
• Bouldin Creek Cafe
• C3 Presents
• City Hall
• Cosmic Coffee + Beer Garden
• Crux Climbing Center
• Cuvee Coffee Bar
• Dia’s Market
• Easy Rider Pedicab
• Greater Goods Coffee Roasters
• Houndstooth Coffee
• Monkey Wrench Bicycles
• Mueller Neighborhood Association
• Orange Coworking
• Regions Bank
• Sayers Advisors
• The Austin Coffee Trailer
• The Paramount Theatre
• Townlake YMCA
• Vital Farms
• Wells Branch Speedy Stop
• Wheatsville Food Co-op
TownLake YMCA will offer free passes and shower use, and C3 Presents will donate a pair of 2018 ACL Music Festival tickets to a lucky winner.
The day wraps up with a party from 5-7 p.m. at Cheer Up Charlies, 900 Red River Street. Don’t forget to pick up a passport at the first fueling station you visit. You’ll get one entry into the evening’s door prize drawing for each stamp you collect.