Pedal all the way to Alaska? These students did – for a good cause

This year’s Texas 4000 riders will roll into Anchorage on Friday. Photo courtesy Texas 4000

 

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/.

RELATED: For a fun day on a bike in Austin, try this

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.

For more information about the 2018 Texas 4000 team, donate or read the riders’ blogs, go to www.texas4000.org orhttps://www.facebook.com/texas4000/.

Austin’s Lawson Craddock finished last at Tour de France, but now he gets free beer for life

Lawson Craddock holds a Love Street beer from Karbach Brewing Co. in Houston after finishing the Tour de France. Photo courtesy Karbach Brewing Co.

 

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.

RELATED: He crashed on Day 1 of the Tour de France, but Austin’s Lawson Craddock is still pedaling

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.

RELATED: Pro cyclist Lawson Craddock trains on Texas hills

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.

To donate to the velodrome fund-raiser, go to https://www.gofundme.com/lc039s-fight-for-paris.

Here’s the series of Tweets about the exchange:

At Lance Armstrong’s Austin bike shop, watch the Tour de France live

Lance Armstrong and co-host JB Hager, right, record their “Stages” podcast at Mellow Johnny’s in 2017. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

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.

RELATED: From an Airstream in Aspen, Lance Armstrong riffs on the Tour de France

Armstrong won’t be on hand – he’s in Aspen doing a podcast on the tour – but you’ll find plenty of other cycling fans cheering on the faves.

Plus, you can buy a new bike if you want one. The cafe serves espresso and snacks, too.

The shop is located at 400 Nueces Street.

From an Airstream in Aspen, Lance Armstrong riffs on Tour de France

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Inside a sleek Airstream trailer parked in a driveway in Aspen, Colorado, cameras roll as former professional cyclist Lance Armstrong and commentator JB Hager watch the Tour de France.

RELATED: Lance Armstrong says he’s looking forward, not back, with his podcast

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.

Lance Armstrong, left, and JB Hager, right, watch a stage of the Tour de France. Photo by Dave Bolch

“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.”

RELATED: Lance Armstrong launches new weekly podcast

It’s a much grittier approach than you’ll find on network television or commercial radio.

RELATED: He crashed Day 1 of Tour, but Austin’s Lawson Craddock is still pedaling

“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.”

JB Hager, left, and Lance Armstrong, right, record an episode of “The Move” podcast from an airstream trailer in Aspen, Colo. Photo by Dave Bolch

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.

 

Lance Armstrong prepares for a recording of “The Move” podcast. Photo by Dave Bolch

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.

JB Hager, left, and Lance Armstrong, right, prepare to record an episode of “The Move” podcast from an Airstream trailer in Aspen, Colorado. Photo by Dave Bolch

“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.

JB Hager, left, and Lance Armstrong, right, record an episode of their podcast, “The Move.” Photo by Dave Bolch

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.”

Lance Armstrong relaxes in JB Hager’s Airstream trailer in Aspen, Colorado. Photo by Dave Bolch

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.

He crashed on Stage 1 of Tour de France, but Austin’s Lawson Craddock is still pedaling

Professional cyclist Lawson Craddock talks about his first Tour de France at Mellow Johnny’s bike shop in January 2017. (Stephen Spillman / for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

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.

Professional cyclist Lawson Craddock climbs a hill west of downtown Austin on a training ride Friday, Jan. 6, 2017. (Stephen Spillman / for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

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.

RELATED: From an Airstream in Aspen, Lance Armstrong riffs on the Tour de France

“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.”

That’s when the story gets really good.

RELATED: Pro cyclist Lawson Craddock trains on Texas hills

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

Professional cyclist Lawson Craddock peddles through downtown Austin on his way out for a training ride Friday, Jan. 6, 2017. (Stephen Spillman / for AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

“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.”

To donate to the velodrome fund-raiser, go to https://www.gofundme.com/lc039s-fight-for-paris.

Mellow Johnny’s is also selling a shirt featuring Craddock’s race number, 13, placed upside down. See it here. Profits from the shirt benefit the velodrome.

Ladies, meet other female cyclists at this event

Meet other female cyclists at a meet-and-greet Wednesday at Mellow Johnny’s.

 

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.

The event is scheduled for 6-8 p.m. at Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop, 400 Nueces Street. For more information, contact Rheannon Cunningham at atxhitsquad@gmail.com or go to https://www.facebook.com/events/235725663828048/?ti=cl.

People loved Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest so much organizers cancelled it

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.”

RELATED: For epic mountain bike riding, head to Big Bend Ranch State Park

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.

Heidi Armstrong and Dan Opdyke ride their bikes at Big Bend National Park during Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest in February 2018. Photo by Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

 

“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.

The perfect 21-mile cycling route starts in Willow City

Chris and Pam LeBlanc pedaled the Willow City Loop this weekend.

 

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.

RELATED: Ten underwater photos to make you feel better

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.

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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.

Cowboy boots top fenceposts alongside one property on the Willow City Loop. Pam LeBlanc/American-Statesman

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 May, when you get free breakfast tacos for biking to work

Daniel Staub stops by a free breakfast station at Whole Foods in this file photo. Photo by Deborah Cannon/American-Statesman

 

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.

RELATED: Bicycles get green light at COTA on Tuesday nights

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.

Pam Leblanc leaves her home to ride to a bus stop on June 23, 2014. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

 

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.

RELATED: Tired of Barton Creek? Try the bike trails at Slaughter Creek instead

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

• B-Cycle

• 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

• fibercove

• Ghisallo

• Greater Goods Coffee Roasters

• Houndstooth Coffee

• LIVESTRONG

• Monkey Wrench Bicycles

• Mueller Neighborhood Association

• Orange Coworking

• Regions Bank

• Sayers Advisors

• Spokesman

• 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.

For more information go here.

What’s the most dangerous stretch of road for bicyclists in Austin?

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Anyone who has ridden a bicycle around Austin on a regular basis knows the feeling of a near miss.

In my 15 or so years of pedaling to work, I’ve come close to getting hit by a car several times. I’ve also been yelled at, spit on and flipped off, but that’s another story. I still love to bike to work, and it helps keep me fit and happy – two things I don’t get from getting stuck in traffic when I drive my car down MoPac Boulevard.

Andrew McKenna rides his bicycle on Guadalupe Street in January 2018. (Stephen Spillman /for American-Statesman)

A law firm based in Chicago recently compiled statistics on the most dangerous stretches or urban roads for cyclists. In Austin, Guadalupe Street between West Cesar Chavez Street and North Lamar Boulevard ranked as the most dangerous roadway.

The list was based on bike collisions, injuries and fatalities, and is based on somewhat stale information – data circa 2015 from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, for cities with populations of 500,000 or more. It also considered hazards like narrow shoulders and roads without bike lanes.

Still, it’s worth a look. Nearly half a million bicyclists are injured or killed on American roads every year, according to the study.

Albuquerque recorded the most cyclist fatalities, with 8.94 deaths per million people, followed by Tucson, with 7.52 per million. Dallas and Indianapolis had the lowest rates – 0.77 per million people and 1.17 fatalities per million. (But perhaps that’s because fewer people in Dallas ride bikes? No context in this study.)

Austin comes in 20th, with 2.15 fatalities per million. And remember, this is for a few years ago. Here’s a complete list:

Fatality Rate per 1 million

  1. Albuquerque 8.94
  2. Tucson 7.52
  3. Las Vegas 6.41
  4. Phoenix 5.12
  5. San Jose 4.87
  6. Columbus 4.71
  7. San Francisco 4.63
  8. Memphis 4.57
  9. Philadelphia 4.47
  10. Los Angeles 4.03
  11. Jacksonville 3.46
  12. Louisville 3.25
  13. Portland 3.16
  14. Denver 2.93
  15. San Antonio 2.72
  16. Chicago 2.57
  17. Charlotte 2.42
  18. Houston 2.18
  19. San Diego 2.15
  20. Austin 2.15
  21. Fresno 1.92
  22. Milwaukee 1.67
  23. Baltimore 1.61
  24. New York 1.52
  25. Washington 1.49
  26. Detroit 1.48
  27. Seattle 1.46
  28. Fort Worth 1.2
  29. Indianapolis 1.17
  30. Dallas 0.77
  31. Oklahoma City 0
  32. Nashville 0
  33. El Paso 0
  34. Boston 0

To see the most dangerous stretches of roadway in cities across America, go here.