Entrepreneurial Leadership and Management . . . and Other Stuff


2009 Pan-Mass Challenge – The Italian Job

The Pan-Massachusetts Challenge (PMC) is a charitable, 2-day bike ride across the state of Massachusetts that raises money for cancer research and treatment at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through its Jimmy Fund.  The ride was the first fundraising bike-a-thon in the country, starting in 1980.  Since then, over 50,000 riders and 30,000 support volunteers have made it one of the largest and most successful athletic charitable events in the world, raising $240M for cancer research.  Last year, 100% of the $35M raised was given to the charity (making up 50% of the Jimmy Fund’s annual revenue) made up of donations from 240,000 supporters (more information from my blog post about last year’s ride here).  This year’s ride will take place on August 1st and 2nd with 5,500 riders and 2,800 support volunteers along its several routes.  This year represents my sixth time participating in this great event, although this time it’s gonna be a little different.

PMC Italy Approx RouteLast year, a new route was created.  Instead of crossing Massachusetts, riders upped the ante by crossing Italy (yeah, the country) to put in their charitable miles.  The route is, obviously, a little longer at 360+ miles versus the 180 mile Massachusetts route, but it’s also six days of riding instead of just two.  This year, I’m going to attempt to ride the Italian route. 

The ride starts on July 26.  The last two days are coordinated with the Massachusetts routes and take place on August 1st and 2nd.  We start on the Adriatic in the town of Fano, ride through the regions of Le Marche, Umbria, Lazio and Tuscany and end on the Mediterranean in the town of Albinia.  I’m thinkin’ a swim in the Med might be called for.

I can’t imagine why you’d want to read it, but I posted my shameless sponsorship request on this blog a couple of years ago.  If you’re dying to read begging brought to an embarrassing level, you can find it here.  For those of you interested in the short version, let’s just say that cancer is really, really bad and that we all need to do everything possible to eradicate it from the face of the planet.  This is a tough year for everyone financially.  Charities are feeling it big time.  If you can’t afford it, don’t sweat it.  Do what you can when you can.  If you can swing it – donations don’t have to be large – this is a cause you may want to consider.

While I think of myself as a generous donor to many causes, sometimes I need a kick in the pants to remind myself to write a check.  If you’re like me, please feel free to treat this as your ass-kickin’.  While I’d appreciate your support and donation for my ride across Italy this year, supporting me isn’t what’s important.  If you’re financially able, supporting a worthy cause like cancer care and research and a great organization like the Jimmy Fund is.  So, sponsorship of my ride is less important than sponsorship of these organizations and efforts.

PMC Logo If you’re interested in donating to Dana Farber and this seems like a reasonable way of doing it, you can do it online at this web page or click on the PMC logo to the left.  My PMC Gift ID is: wh0028 if you choose to sponsor me (click on “Sponsor one Rider with one donation”).  Of course, you can make the donation directly to Dana Farber or to PMC.

No obligation and donations can be made anonymously, if you prefer.  Thanks for even reading this far and if you choose to donate, thanks in advance for your support.

 June 15th, 2009  

My New Ride

Museeuw MF-1

When I was a little kid, there was a company that produced sneakers called PF Flyers.  They advertised that they made you run faster and jump higher.  They did.  I proved it every time I got a new pair.  It’s a good thing Michael Jordan wasn’t born yet, because I would have kicked his ass.

Getting a new bike offers up some of the same experience.  As soon as you climb aboard, you ride faster on the flats, beat your friends up the steepest hills and corner like you’re on rails.  At least for a while, until you’re once again reminded that it’s more the engine than the chassis doing the work and the engine got fat and lazy over the winter.

After putting about 20K miles on my last bike, a Seven Elium, and having a strong desire to ride faster (having given up on actually getting more physically fit, I’m relying on technology for the improvement), I decided to investigate what was available in the cycling market that met my needs and desires.  My goals were simple – I wanted the stiffest bike I could find that was also compliant (i.e. comfortable).  Stiff, so that the frame doesn’t flex and reduce the transfer of power from the pedals to the road and, compliant, so that riding the bike for hours at a time doesn’t require emergency orthopedic surgery.

Performance was never a priority for me before.  Previously, it was all about comfort on long rides so, because I fractured my neck several years ago and have a relatively strange riding position, I had my bikes custom designed to fit me well and meet my desire for having a two-wheeled rolling La-Z-Boy.  For those of you unfamiliar with cycling, custom frames are not that big a deal and there are many companies that make them.  In any event, this time around, I decided to get an off-the-rack frame with a geometry for speed already cooked in.

After getting fitted and creating a short list of the frames that fit me best, I decided on a Museeuw MF-1 (stock picture above – not my actual bike).  Museeuw is a Belgian bike that is made from a unique combination of carbon fiber and flax – yes, that flax, the stuff used as a dietary supplement and to make linen.  Flax behaves much like carbon fiber, but is even better at absorbing vibration without flexing or deforming.  And, if you get terribly lost or stranded, you can eat your bike (no, not really).

The bike build included the following components:

After spending the last few years training with heart rate only, I’ve decided to join the modern crowd and train with power.  There are several ways of doing this, but the PowerTap is probably the most popular.  The unit replaces the hub on the rear wheel and contains strain gauges that determine the power being applied to drive the bike forward at all times, taking into account resistance from any source – gravity, wind, poor pedal stroke or weak legs.

The bike weighs about 18 pounds ride-ready, that’s with everything on the bike (including water bottle cages, pedals, computer, seat pack with tools and tube, etc) and the PowerTap.  Hardly svelte, but considering I’m giving up almost a pound to the PowerTap and at least another pound to the seat pack, it’s not too bad.

I made several other changes this year that affected my bike choice and fitting.  These included a new pedaling stroke (I took classes this winter to optimize how I pedal) and a new riding position – more stretched out to get my body weight further over the pedals and to reduce aerodynamic drag.  These changes, combined with a stiffer frame should help me ride faster.

So far, I’ve only put about 700 miles on it.  I can say that they haven’t felt like comfortable miles, but they have been relatively fast for me considering my long-ride season is really just getting under way.  Right now, the jury is still out on the overall experience with my new two-wheeled machine.  I need to put a few hundred more miles on it before I draw any conclusions from the setup and there are many fit refinements that can be made to fine tune my experience and performance.

If you’re out on the road riding and notice what looks like an edible bike, be sure to wave when you pass see me.

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 June 14th, 2009  

Manly Quote of the Day

Answering questions posed by the press today, Johan Bruyneel, the team manager of the Astana cycling team of which Lance Armstrong is a member, commented on the impact of Armstrong’s fractured clavicle that happened as a result of a cycling crash this week.

“Whether Armstrong can recover in time to start July’s Tour is not a major concern for Astana team manager Johan Bruyneel, but he’s not so sure about the Giro with the start in Venice just six weeks away.”

I’m feeling very wimpy.

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 March 24th, 2009  
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Falling Short of My Cycling Summit

In November, I hit the 3,000 mile mark of miles cycled during 2008.  At that time, I thought I would hit my [revised] goal of 3,500 miles for the year without any problem.  As it turns out, I didn’t make it.  As of 12/31/2008 – a full day I spent sitting on my ass on a plane – I had ridden just a little north of 3,350 miles for the year.

I had rationalized that this wasn’t unreasonable until I read Brad Feld’s post about his 2008 numbers.  Brad is a runner and he knocked down 1042 miles in 2008.  That’s very impressive.  Anyone who has both run and cycled knows that mile-for-mile and on similar terrain, running is just harder.  A friend of mine who is an accomplished triathlete, marathoner and Cat 2 cyclist uses the rule of thumb – for shorter distances, running requires about 5 times more effort and for longer ones, about 4 times.  For example, he equates running a marathon (~26 miles) to riding a century (100 Miles).  I have no personal data to back this up, but it seems to make sense.

But, I’m full of excuses.  My strongest is that I’m taking a cycling class three times per week where we focus on the pedal stroke to optimize power.  These classes don’t address distance at all.  In a 1.5 hour class, we might ride 8 miles, for example.  I don’t get much other riding in.  Yeah, yeah, I’m lazy too.

So here’s how it turned out . . .

Total Miles 3,350
Hours Ridden 191
Avg. Speed (MPH) 17.1
Calories Burned 115,000

My breakthrough event for the year was the Pan-Mass Challenge, a two-day ride across Massachusetts. I averaged 19.2 MPH for the two days during the ride and didn’t feel like I was going to die when it was all over.

In 2009, my goals are to ride faster, not necessarily further. I’m working on that this winter – taking classes and focusing my rides indoors on a trainer.

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 January 1st, 2009  

Reaching the 3,000 Mile Penultimate Summit

Early in the year, I had set a soft goal for myself of cycling about 4,000 miles in 2008.  It was a soft goal because I had never kept complete records on previous years’ rides and didn’t know where 4,000 miles fit into what I had done earlier.  Would it be too much or too little?

In August, having recorded detailed info on all the rides I had made to that point, I realized that 4,000 might be a tad ambitious and lowered my goal to 3,500.  3,000 of which needed to be completed before November 1st when the days started getting short and uncomfortably cold.

With this backdrop, I found myself out on Friday, October 31 – a cloudless, mid-50 degree day with the bright leaves of New England trees past their prime, but still beautiful.  It was a perfect day to knock off the last 30 miles needed to reach my goal.  It was a terrific ride, although I miscalculated sunset and found myself riding when it was a bit too dark as I wrapped up the ride.

This morning, I downloaded the last week of ride data from my trusty Garmin 705 and found that my total miles ridden through October 31, was 3,002.0.  Certainly not world class, but not too bad for a 49 year old guy living in a region of the world that has inclement whether a good percentage of the year.

I did some rough calculations on the ride data so far.  I don’t know what any of it means, but the numbers are interesting . . .

Total Miles


Hours Ridden


Avg. Speed (MPH)


Calories Burned*


*Based on 600 calories/hour

Most of the next 500 miles needed to achieve the 3,500 mile goal for the full year will be on stationary cycles indoors.  Mind-numbingly boring at times, but actually much more time-efficient than riding on the road – no coasting and it’s easy to simulate hills and do interval training.

Being the anal-retentive data junkie that I am, I’m also going to do a lot more analysis on the data I have collected.  So, in the off-chance that you’re actually interested in learning more about this, I’ll post the data when I have it.

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 November 2nd, 2008  

Cars and Bikes Living Together in Peaceful Harmony

Here in the Boston area, cycling is shockingly popular. You’d think that in a place that seems to have only thirty or forty sunny days a year such activities wouldn’t be such a big deal.

Perhaps because there are so many cyclists on the road, I find that car drivers are, generally, attentive and polite when it comes to sharing the road with person-powered, two-wheeled vehicles. In my experience, the vast majority of drivers do a good job with cyclists on the road. As you’d expect, the rest occupy the other end of the spectrum – they make the roads almost completely unsafe.

Those that fit into this latter category include the elderly, who are often uncertain about how to deal with having a bicycle in their lane at the same time there is oncoming traffic; new drivers (teens) who are completely certain they know how to deal with anything they run across; and almost anyone more occupied with their telephone than the road.

On a recent ride, I thought through the guidelines I use when riding on the road – as a cyclist and as a car driver. Frequently being in each role (I ride over 3,000 miles per year and drive a lot more than that), I feel that I have the experience to see the situation from both sides.

If you’re a cyclist:

  • Your safety is your responsibility. No, it’s not the sole responsibility of the car driver to avoid you. The responsibility is legally mutual, but practically, you should assume it’s really 100% yours. Keep in mind that you’re not the only thing on the road. The car driver has to deal with his/her own obstructions, including oncoming SUVs.
  • Stay as far to the right as possible. Pretend the side of the road has a gravitational field. If there is a shoulder, use it. If not, ride along the white line. If no white line, stay as far to the right as possible. The only exception to this rule is if there is debris or potholes on the side. Try to find them as far ahead as possible so you don’t end up turning quickly into traffic to avoid them.
  • Ride single file. If the road hasn’t been cleared for a cycling event or isn’t otherwise abandoned, ride single file. It drives me nuts to see side-by-side riders clogging up traffic. Behavior like that trashes the very concept of sharing the road and the bad will it causes might come back and bite me some day.
  • Excessively acknowledge the courtesy of drivers. Wave, yell “thanks,” nod your head, do something to acknowledge when a driver stops to let you by, slows to give you more room, or otherwise goes out of their way to make your ride easier or better. The good will you create will help five other cyclists (OK, that’s not scientifically proven or anything, it’s just my estimation).
  • At least attempt to obey traffic signals. Yeah, coming to a complete stop at a stop sign is a pain in the ass, especially when you’ve got a good pace going, are climbing a hill or have to unclip from your pedals. Sometimes, it just doesn’t make sense. Unless you’re in the boonies, though, it’s a whole lot easier than the long hospital stay that’ll result from being flattened by an oncoming vehicle.

If you’re a motorist:

  • Consider the condition of the road. Especially in northern areas, where roads freeze and thaw frequently, the shoulders of roads are often littered with broken asphalt and potholes. Additionally, there is almost always a variety of shrapnel – glass, metal, twigs, rocks, sticks, etc – and wet leaves. They are all hazards for a cyclist. You may think it’s inconvenient avoiding a cyclist on the road. It’ll be a lot harder if said cyclist blows out a tire and falls in front of you.
  • Accelerating a bike is harder than accelerating your car. The driver of a car can use small motions of their right foot to get going or accelerate out of trouble. It’s much harder for a cyclist. That means that a bicycle will move differently than a car. Don’t expect a bicycle to react to situations the same way your car does. This also means that a cyclist is likely to do everything possible to maintain his/her speed. Just expect it.
  • Honking at a bicycle is a last resort. Scaring a cyclist won’t elicit the response that you desire. Yeah, the biker may now know you’re there, but only if they survive the heart attack you just gave them. keep in mind that two wheels with two one-inch contact patches is not the most stable of platforms.
  • Don’t hang on the cyclist’s wheel. There are many drivers who because of either fear or kindness, don’t want to pass a cyclist until they have a 50 mile stretch of straight, flat road with unlimited visibility. While I appreciate what these drivers are trying to do, that behavior will often cause more problems than it eliminates. Riders with a car sitting on their rear wheel will frequently do stupid things to try to get out of the way. If you can’t pass, try and stay back a little further. It’s not always possible and riding on the bike’s wheel is certainly better than passing dangerously, but overall, more space is better.
  • Give way, if you can. When you take a high-performance driving course, one of the first things you’re taught is that people tend to drive where they’re looking. I see this happen all the time when riding. On a nice wide road with a big shoulder, a car will cross the white line into the shoulder, only to quickly recover after it passes me. My guess is that they were looking at me, probably with the intent of keeping the passing situation safe. Of course, they did just the opposite. If you have the room, leave as much space for the bike as possible and realize that you might actually be closing the gap instead of opening it.

I think that just about does it. I’m sure I’ve missed a few. Please pass along any more that I haven’t mentioned. Of course, these are just my guidelines. You first need to make sure that you follow the laws of your state, town, municipality or whatever.

[Update: one other thought for riders that I forgot in the original post . . . When a car is entering the road in front of you, always make eye contact with the driver. Never assume that they see you. In fact, if you don’t see their eyes, assume they haven’t seen you and either do something to make them notice you or avoid them alltogether.]
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 September 11th, 2008  

Gadget Review: Garmin Edge 705


As a cyclist, data junkie and all-around gadget guy, it doesn’t get much better than this.  Some people think this cycling computer is overkill, but my guess is that they’re the same kinda people who haven’t yet moved from VHS to DVDs.

Like most cycling computers, the Edge 705 collects data on cadence and speed.  It also determines heart rate, GPS position, altitude and a huge amount of other information that can derived from this data (e.g. distance, grade, calories, ascent/decent, pace, etc.).  Additionally, using Garmin’s de facto standard ANT+Sport network, the 705 can collect data from power meters made by other manufacturers, wirelessly, of course.  Being able to include power with all the other data collected makes this device incredibly powerful as a training tool.

Coming from Garmin, you’d expect the GPS functionality to be good, and it is.  Not only does the 705 track your location like it’s predecessors, but it displays your position on a color road map.  Garmin has basemaps available in micro SD format that slide into the device providing road and trail maps around the world.  While even I thought this type of mapping might be over the top for road biking, it has saved my ass a couple of times when I’ve been lost.  Take me home, 705, and avoid highways and dirt roads while you’re at it . . .

Sizeasy-Pack-Of-Playing-Cards-vs-Garmin-705-vs-Garmin-305 If you have a Garmin Edge 205 or 305, the first thing you’ll notice about the 705 is its size.  When I opened the box, I was amazed at how big the thing is.  Everything about it is bigger.  At first, I found the larger unit a bit of a turn-off, but after using it for a couple of months, I don’t even notice it and I really appreciate the advantages of its larger size – bigger screen, bigger battery, bigger buttons, etc.  I’m American.  Bigger is almost always better, right?  😉

As you poke through the menus, you’ll be blown away by how flexible the thing is.  Not only do you have choices of dozens of pieces of data to display, you can configure almost every screen to show the data you want where you want it.  The map display can stand alone or also show you data about your current ride.  The map is also easy to get around while riding, although gloves (the full finger kind) do make it a bit more challenging.

If you are a current 205/305 owner, you’ll immediately appreciate how fast the 705 latches onto and holds a GPS sat signal.  I used to have to turn my 305 on, leave it in my driveway for several minutes free and clear of any obstructions for it to get sat reception.  With the 705, I turn it on and start to ride.  Also, owners of previous models will appreciate the additional memory and battery power in the device.  With my old 305, the data from a century ate all the memory in the device up.  Recently, I had two centuries in the memory of the 705 and I still had loads-o-memory left.  There is also more memory for courses.  Since I often ride alone, I like to compete against my previous times on designated routes.  With the 705, I can carry 20 or more rides with me and select which one I’m going to do along the way, instead of having to plan ahead.

In terms of battery power, I wish I could tell you how long it lasts, but I’ve never come close to running it down.  After back-to-back 6+ hour rides a few weeks ago, I still had loads of power.  The manual says 15 hours, which is quite a bit longer than the 205/305.  My guess is that it’s pretty close, if not even conservative.

As with all gadgets, even the coolest ones, there are certainly areas that need improvement.  First, there is a little joystick that is used to navigate between multiple screens of similar information.  This works great even when you’re riding.  For some reason, though, Garmin chose to make the user push the joystick in like a button to navigate between the screens when in Courses mode (when you race against previously stored performance data).  While you’re bouncing around on the bike, this is difficult, and I almost always screw it up.  Instead of pushing the joystick in, I push it up or down.  This changes the mode of the map and all of the buttons on the device.  VERY annoying.

Secondly, for some reason, I am consistently getting errant zeros in my speed data.  As you can see from the chart below, there are a load of 0mph data points between 20mph data points that last for seconds (note the X-axis is time, not distance).  Unless I’ve become superhuman and can go 20-0-20 in a matter of seconds on a bicycle, I believe this is a problem with the device or rear-wheel sensor (yes, I tried new batteries in the sensor).


[Note: I have no idea why the Garmin Training Center software has negative speed scale]

Finally, and not a killer for me, the Calories Burned numbers are significantly higher than on any other trainer that I’ve ever used – higher by about 2X.  It could be that the 705 is right and every other trainer I’ve ever used is wrong, but I sorta doubt it.

The bottom line for me is that the 705 has met or exceeded all my expectations and it’s really been fun to have along for rides.  If you’re a data junkie like me, there is really no better device out there for analyzing and comparing ride data and routes.  Also, since I ride on a Computrainer all winter, I can also take my routes from the 705 and convert them to work with the Computrainer.  That way, I get to ride the same routes virtually during the winter, doubling my fun with the device.

The Edge 705 ain’t cheap, but my experience is that it’s durable and should last a long time.  If you’re a frequent rider and enjoy seeing yourself improve, the smiles/mile can make it totally worthwhile.

 August 7th, 2008  
 Cycling, Gadgets  

The 2008 Pan-Mass Challenge Is In The Books

This past weekend, I rode in my fifth Pan-Mass Challenge, a 2-day cycling event across Massachusetts benefiting the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through its Jimmy Fund.  I was a bit apprehensive this year since I had fallen off my bike only two weeks before the ride and fractured two ribs.  As it turned out, though, the event turned out to be a huge success for the charity and for me personally.  As of August 5 the stats for the PMC were:

  • 5,200 riders
  • 2,758 volunteers
  • 157,000 contributors
  • 800,000 miles cycled
  • 13 emergency room visits (with 5K riders, someone’s going to crash)
  • 10,000,000 people cheering along the route (it seemed that way – the number of people who come out to support the riders is incredible)
  • $21,650,000 in funds raised (the goal is $32,000,000 by October)

These numbers are great and, of course, represent real money being raised for an incredible cause.

Personally, I had a great ride as well.  My ribs bothered me a bit, but did not hinder me nearly as much as I had feared.  I finished the first day averaging 19.3MPH and the second, 19.1MPH.  These speeds are significantly up from my previous bests at these long distances set last year during the PMC – 18.3MPH and 17.3MPH, respectively.  I really don’t know what to attribute the increases to – more training, better nutrition, improved technique?  Maybe a little of all of these plus loads of luck?

I was really fortunate to latch onto a small paceline (a line of riders who take turns “pulling” in front, then drafting behind other riders) that ran unbroken for 40 miles on day 1.  That had a huge positive impact on my time.

The weather sorta sucked on day 2, but it never rained.  I also never got a flat.  Rain and flats can ruin your whole day.

Thanks to all who sponsored me with donations and to the large group who offered their support and encouragement along the way.

 August 6th, 2008  

Making the Pan-Mass Challenge More Challenging

PMC-Logo This will be my fifth year riding the Pan-Mass Challenge, a charity ride benefiting the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through its Jimmy Fund.  It’s a great ride that raises gobs of money for a fabulous charity and a truly worthy cause.

The ride is a two-day event that takes cyclists across most of Massachusetts.  While there aren’t many huge climbs on the ride – it is Massachusetts after all – the challenge is in riding back-to-back very long days.  For most, it’s about just finishing, but for some, with more testosterone than brains – like me – it’s about finishing fast.  Which, of course, makes it a bit more challenging.

My training hasn’t been going great.  Having been in Europe for a couple of weeks didn’t help.  It’s also been raining almost every day for the last week.  Serious bummer.  So, I’ve pushed myself harder than normal to get ready.  So hard, in fact, that I fell off my bike the other day and cracked a couple of ribs.  Ouch!

I was told (or, I wanted to hear) that I can still ride by people with medical degrees – “yeah, it’ll hurt and it will take longer to heal, but you can still ride.”  At least that’s what I heard.  So, I’m going for it.  It was getting too easy anyway . . . yeah, right.

If you’ve read this far and are asking yourself, “how can I contribute to this noble effort,” or, “I’ve been looking for a cool way to donate to cancer research and care,” here’s your chance (any amount helps – there is no donation too small).  Direct your browser to this web page (https://www.pmc.org/egifts/ – for those who like to cut and paste).  Click on “Sponsor a Rider with one donation” then “Select a person by eGift ID”.  My PMC Gift ID is: wh0028 if you choose to “sponsor” me.  Of course, you can make the donation anonymously or directly to Dana Farber, bypassing the sponsorship part, if you prefer.

Wish me luck . . .

 July 24th, 2008  

Day 15 of the Tour de France

Who knew, right?  One of the biggest sporting events in the world and, potentially, the most grueling, and I can’t even watch it on TV.  My local cable provider has opted out.  Such a shame, it really is a terrific event, even if you’re not a cyclist.

Of course, the economics of carrying the event probably make no sense.  It’s long – 21 stages over 23 days, each day taking many hours – and there probably aren’t enough sponsors in the US to even fill all the available slots, let alone make money at it.  Finally, if you’re in the US, there are only 4 American riders in the race – 3 of them with one team, the new Garmin-Chipotle team.  Even though Americans have won 10 of the last 22 races (not Including Floyd Landis’ doping-enhanced “victory”), four contenders from the country is hardly enough to build any fan base of cycling outsiders or noobs.

In any event, Americans do have something to be excited about.  Christian Vande Velde of the Garmin-Chipotle team (an American on an US-based team) is currently in 5th place, only 39 seconds behind the leader.  Only 49 seconds separate the leader (wearing the Yellow Jersey) from the 6th place rider.  Danny Pate, also of the Garmin-Chipotle team and another American came in third today, 10 seconds behind today’s stage winner.

Overall, a pretty good showing for the new American team and two American riders so far.

 July 20th, 2008  
 Cycling, Sports