Thursday, July 30, 2009

Local (Cycling) Talent

Let's give a shout-out to Sinead Miller, Pittsburgh's latest contribution to international competitive cycling!

PG Story:

"The little girl used to go crashing around the BMX race course at South Park, flying over mounds of dirt.

It was scary stuff, actually -- "In BMX, you can't be afraid of anything," she said -- but there were safeguards.

"You crash in BMX at less than 30 miles per hour, and on dirt," said Sinead Miller, who has been a dirt-biker since her Sesame Street years.

Her more recent focus on Olympic-style cycling -- races on both roads and velodrome -- means Ms. Miller travels faster and lighter, but it's a sport that carries its own hazards: "You're going 60 miles per hour on a descent; you could die."

Just turned 19, Ms. Miller, of South Park, is working on a career evolution. Everyone knew she was tough, and talented, on a bike, but she has speed as well, and just keeps getting faster.

Every summer, American sports fans with an interest beyond football and a cable subscription to Versa can spend hours marveling at televised coverage of the Tour de France.

The grueling event represents a more extreme end of the roadracing spectrum. Women don't race in this particular event, but Ms. Miller shares the riders' pain.

She been a national-caliber rider since her early teens, when she began showing up at the Wednesday night races on the Washington Boulevard oval track in the East End.

"I remember this skinny 13-year-old girl coming to area races to compete against the men and women and simply refusing to give up, even when it was a struggle," said Luke Dembosky, a lawyer from Shaler who has ridden with Ms. Miller on the UPMC team.

"We all smiled to see someone so young, so determined, but after a couple of years, we weren't smiling so much," he said. "She began beating all of the women and then taking on and beating many of the men."

Ms. Miller turned pro as a dirt biker at age 15, while attending South Park High School, where she also ran cross country and played basketball. But the latter were just keeping-in-shape diversion, something to do when Pittsburgh roads were snow-covered and treacherous.

"I was trying to juggle road racing and BMX. The summer I turned 17, I decided to focus all my energy on road racing."

At this time last year, she had plans to attend Penn State University. A phone call from the cycling team coach at Marian University in Indiana changed all that.

Marian, a small Catholic school with a big reputation in riding, has its own velodrome.

"I don't think any other team in the country can walk out of the dorm room and train across the street," she said.

The Knights men's and women's teams have won their share of national titles, but Ms. Miller would provide a first: she took the Division I women's criterium title last May in Fort Collins, Colorado.

A criterium is raced in a loop over relatively short courses.

Ms. Miller arrived at the nationals fresh off a European tour, where she was part of a U.S. team that competed in events ranging from 86 to 50 miles.

"They don't have criterium in Europe, so the races are a lot different," she said. "Everyone is a lot stronger, and the races are a lot harder.

"There were usually pretty hilly races and some very good women. Actually, one race had 200 women in the field, which is crazy compared to the amount of riders [in the U.S.]."

She picked up a lot of pointers in Europe, a victory in a race in Bordeaux, France, but also a bronchial infection. Going into the collegiate nationals, Ms. Miller was not feeling great.

"Even after that, for about a month, I was sick for a while," she said.

The collegiate nationals comprise a number of individual and team events. This criterium was contested over a .9-mile, figure-8 course.

University of Florida's Jacquelyn Crowell led racers into the final sprint, but Ms. Miller caught her right at the end.

She is known for her vicious sprint and strength. Many cyclists aren't wild about weight training, but Ms. Miller, who grew up around weights through BMX, said she enjoys it.

"I am getting stronger, doing better every year."

Mental focus and maturity, said Mr. Dembosky, are among her assets: "When we have indoor training sessions as a team, Sinead is one who is all business, not chit-chatting and goofing around like the older men on our team.

"She knows what she has to do to be the best, and she is disciplined and determined enough to do it, even as a teenager."

Ms. Miller said she is taking in the big picture, as far as her career goes. She is currently without a racing team, having left one in March, which puts her at a disadvantage in a sport where teamwork often is everything.

"It makes it tough, but it's taught me to be able to think on my feet, be more technical about my positioning in the peloton.

"Every second, every pedal stroke will count."

Making the U.S. squad for the 2012 summer Olympics in London involves two years of qualifying races, so she's getting ready for that.

"I'm going to start doing world-caliber races and acquire experience," she said. "I'm still young, there's still a lot of time.

"I think 2016 is more realistic for me, but I'm definitely going to work as hard as I can. But if it doesn't happen [in 2012], I'm not going to be down."

Although she was home on familiar roads this week -- on Monday, she took an "easy" two-hour ride from South Park down to the Mon Valley back through Mingo Creek Park -- Ms. Miller was to race again in Charlotte, N.C. this weekend.

The national criterium championships begin Aug.15 in Downers Grove, Illinois, so that's on her to-do list. Then it's back to school.

"Before I came into school, I had never raced on a track before. I still kind of think of myself as an amateur on the track, and even on the road," she said.

"I'm still young, I just turned 19. Most of the women who are best in the world are 30."

Maria Sciullo can be reached at or 412-851-1867.

Google Voice

I need received an invite to Google Voice. Anyone willing to Thanks for send[ing] me one?.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Michael Schumacher

Michael Schumacher is back! Wow!

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How to Wear a Cycling Cap & some Rules of the Euro Cyclist

"15. When riding, sans helmet (with short hair), a team issue cycling cap (white in colour), shall be worn. The bill shall remain in the downward position at all times. The cycling cap may be worn forwards or backwards to coincide with the specifics of one’s current hairstyle. During spring training, cycling toques shall be worn at all times in place of caps."

As noted above, there are only two acceptable placements of a cotton cycling cap (exception when hat is worn under helmet during inclement weather, which must include sustained rain showers):
  • Brim facing forward, with cap worn high on head.

  • Brim facing rearward, with cap still worn high on head.
Under no circumstances should cap be pulled down onto head such that the hat band comes within 2cm of the top of your ear! It should be perched precariously on top at all times, in danger of being blown away like a wispy climber on Mt. Ventoux...

See photo below for example of proper rearward-brim facing cap position.

More Rules of the Euro Cyclist:


Created by Dom Guiver and Mike Flavell

1. Image and style shall be the primary concerns of the Euro Cyclist. When suffering, one must focus first on maintaining a cool, even composure and second on performance. Winning races is an added talent, and only counts if said Euro Cyclist wins with appropriate style.

2. Training shall be based solely on feel, while racing shall be guided by sensations and instinct: that is to say, “soul.” The Euro Cyclist will never accept tried or tested scientific training methods.

3. The Euro Cyclist shall NEVER, under any circumstances, wear plain black spandex bibs (shorts, regardless of colour are BANNED) or ANY team kit
containing non-prominent logos. Shorts will extend approximately 2/3rds of the way down the upper leg and will contain a compression band at the bottom (distinct in colour). In NO CONDITION shall they extend any further!

4. Legs shall be SHAVED year-round. ABSOLUTELY NO EXCEPTIONS. Certain hair removal creams are endorsed only on a case-by-case basis. One shall never show up to a race (be it large or small) with ANY amount of stubble visible on one’s legs.

5. A prominent line where one’s kit ends and where one’s deep tan begins is essential to one's image. Artificial tanning is BANNED. The tan shall reflect the level of training commitment.

6. The socks of the Euro Cyclist shall extend to within two (2) cm. of the main bulge of the calf muscle, and shall never extend further than one (1) cm. past said primary calf muscle bulge. All socks SHALL BE WHITE in colour with prominent logo placement.

7. Cycling shoes shall contain at least 80% white!
The following exceptions apply:
i) Colour combinations such as world cup stripes or Olympic gold for which the title has been EARNED.
ii) Shoes which are custom-made for specific riders by companies endorsed by this group. These shoes shall be accessible to the particular cyclist only, and shall follow the preceding rules.

8. If white cycling shoes are not available where the Euro Cyclist resides, white booties (or “shoe covers”) with prominent logos shall ALWAYS be worn. When booties are worn, socks shall protrude approximately seven (7) cm. above the ankle, and shall always protrude at a minimum one (1) cm. from any booties worn.

9. One’s bike frame shall contain between two (2) and four (4) colours IN ADDITION TO WHITE. All colours are acceptable as long as they combine tastefully and elegantly. In addition, wheel selection must also match frame and fork.

10. One shall race only on Campagnolo Boras or Lightweights. Fulcrum Racing One, Corima Aero+ or Zipp (404 or 202) wheelsets are considered stylish enough to be used as training wheels ONLY. Irregardless, ceramic bearings shall be used at ALL TIMES on both training and race bikes.

11. ALL wheels shall be equipped with tubulars, regardless of one’s ability in gluing them.

12. Ridiculously stylish eyewear (see endorsed products list) is to be worn AT ALL TIMES without exception. Glasses are to be worn over helmet straps at all times.

13. Hair shall be kept neatly short, and matching helmet shall be worn (again with prominent logo placement). The helmet shall be predominantly white. Under NO CIRCUMSTANCES shall a clashing helmet colour be worn with one’s euro kit. Helmets are not to be worn when venturing indoors AT ANY TIME. It is, however, acceptable to wear one’s helmet while outdoors on a patio (see rule 34).

14. In certain RARE cases, it shall be deemed acceptable to have long hair. In this event, hair shall be neatly slicked back in a severely euro style, and helmet SHALL NOT be worn. It is IMPERATIVE that rule 12 is followed in these special instances...

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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Pittsburgh on a Sunday Afternoon

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Crashing out of le Tour on the Final Stage

I'm sure it's happened before. Any names?

And what's up with VS showing a crash compilation?! Ick! Love the TTT disasters though. I'll admit it... ;-)
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Saturday, July 25, 2009

The last statue I posed for...

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Night at the Races

Just watching.

It's dawned on me that with Lance's comeback, there has been a related revival of white trash heckling of amateur cyclists in the form of meager shouts of "Gooo Laaance!" en lieu of "Faggot!" or "Get the Fuck Off The Road!"

Can't complain.
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Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Feeling somewhat better - the antibiotics must be doing a number on the bad-ass intestinal microbes that invaded cuerpo de Joe.

I forced myself out for a ride today and climbed and then descended the backside of Passo Turchino. I posted some pics on facebook via mobile upload...very cool to see painted messages on road from both Milan-San Remo and the Giro.

Weather is spectacular here today. And I'm proud of myself: I found an ATM I could get money out of (unfortunately it had to come from my account); I bought focaccia; had a cappuccino for breakfast; figured out how to use the self-service car wash to clean my borrowed bike. I also found electrical tape at an electrician's specialty store (no Walmart here); bought chain lube and celeste handlebar tape (it's a bianchi) and avoided any cultural snafu's.
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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Italian Justice System

Someone asked me to share my opinion of the Italian legal or justice system based upon my experiences here.

Well, while the hall of justice in Pistoia itself was beautiful, my glimpse at the legal process here revealed something horrifying - the system's inefficiencies. I testified in a case that originated from an accident four years ago. Apparently, the lawyers expect this case to drag on for at least two, if not four, more years. And its a straight-forward product liability claim...justice delayed is justice denied, no?
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Monday, July 13, 2009

Back in Toscana for first time in 3 Years

Nice aqueduct on the A12.
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Saturday, July 11, 2009

My Two Favorite Drinks

Espresso + Coca-Cola

I'm in heaven
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Thursday, July 09, 2009


I'm on my way to Italy now. Tty tomorrow...
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Hitler got things done and Max Mosley would do a 'super job' leading Britain, says Formula One chief Ecclestone

"Bernie Ecclestone, the Formula 1 chief, was last night accused of spouting 'demented drivel' after praising Hitler for 'getting things done'.

In an outspoken interview, the 78-year-old billionaire, who has been a key figure in motor racing since the Seventies, said he preferred totalitarian regimes to democracies.

He also suggested his close friend Max Mosley – president of the Federation International de l'Automobile – would make a good Prime Minister..."

Full, Brilliant Story

USA vs. UBS - Gooooo Swiss!

"...ZURICH/MIAMI, July 8 (Reuters) - A judge ordered the U.S. government to say whether it was prepared to shut Swiss bank UBS AG in the United States as part of a battle to learn the identity of 52,000 secret accounts suspected of being used by Americans to avoid taxes.

U.S. District Judge Alan Gold, set to preside over a hearing Monday of a suit seeking to force UBS to provide the information, asked specifically Wednesday about 'receivership and/or seizure of UBS' assets within the United States.'..."

Full Story

Go Team Swiss!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

2009 Tour de France Predictions; Micro Dose Autologous Blood Transfusions

OK, with the admission that I'm making my predictions after four stages have already been completed; that I take no account for the effect of crosswinds on the bunch; and that I assume Autologous Blood Transfusions done in "micro-dose" form will remain undetectable through the end of the 2009 Tour de France (didn't know about THAT, did you?), here are my top-5 in overall GC:
  1. Contador
  2. Armstrong
  3. Schleck (Andy)
  4. Vande Velde
  5. Leipheimer
  6. - 10. [in no particular order] Evans, Sastre, Rogers, an ex-Soviet (could be Russian, could be Czech), Kloden, and another ex-Soviet.
Points: Cavendish; KOM: bleh, who cares?

  • One more past or current Rabo rider will be thrown off the Tour for doping, but not necessarily for doping that takes place during the race.
  • Cav will undergo a distinct lessening of his brashness thanks to the near-death experience he will have on one of the more challenging mountain stages, where he will crack spectacularly, his team will not wait for him en masse, and he will barely avoid being eliminated on time.
  • Christophe Moreau will buy a stage win.
  • David Millar will not win a stage.
  • Astana will implode and we will be treated to a spectacle like the LeMond vs. Hinault 1985 grudge match, complete with separate chefs cooking two dinners, one for Contador and his boy Sergio Paulinho, the other for the soon-to-not-be-racing-for-Astana-upon-the-return-of-Vino contingent.
Lastly, if you haven't read it yet, check out this piece in the Irish Times, "Even relentless fighter now sees cycling as a lost cause". Excerpt:

"...With that the conversation gets serious again. Just a few weeks ago Fignon revealed he has advanced pancreatic cancer. He’s the same age as LeMond. He won the Tour in 1983 and 1984. He may only have months to live. So he’s put out a book about his life, Nous Étions Jeunes et Insouciants – We Were Young and Carefree. In it Fignon admits to taking amphetamines and cortisone shots during his career. He twice failed a drugs test. No one can say for sure this contributed to his cancer.

LeMond’s face immediately saddens. “It makes you think about how short life is. I had dinner with him at last year’s Tour. I’ve always liked Fignon. People think we’re bitter enemies. But we’re not. We were team-mates. He was different to the other riders. He was a thinker.

“He’s thinks now that the drugs he took may be related. But I don’t think anything Fignon was on is related to cancer. I mean, he was on the baby aspirin. It was always a wink, or a joke, at dinner table. ‘Can’t wait ’till the Tour is over, and we don’t have to feel pain anymore’. The problem was the criterion races, which came after. They were all fixed, and kind of disgusting. But they were even more painful, because you’re racing flat out..."

Upcoming Posts to Pappillon

Thanks, Dear Readers, for the recent insightful feedback given to me directly about the content of posts on this blog. It's all under consideration.

I especially liked this gem:

"I don't know what all this toy airplane shit is about, but it's not working for me. I haven't checked your blog for awhile and I was hoping to find some opinionated bullshit about the Tour. I don't know if you intentionally ignore that it's happening or not. If you can make a prediction by Friday write me back. If not, keep blogging about good shit. I really enjoyed the entry you had about smiling. Keep up the good work."


I'm in Colorado right now on official business and pleasure, but will do my best to translate my thoughts about the Tour into an entertaining, informative post.

Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

New Hobby

Ok, I think I've found my latest interest: flying RC planes. Do any of you, loyal readers, fly prop or jet RC planes? If so, drop me a line. I'd love to hear from you. Emails to the usual address, or leave a comment.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Carbon TT Bike - $480USD!

In keeping with my new passion for offering family, friends, fans and the general public carbon fiber road frames at prices that you'd think were indicative of highway robbery, I bring you a sweeeeet time trial bike. $480 only. Have the 54cm in stock right now:

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

FW 190

I've been brushing up on my working knowledge (lol) of the FW 190, and came across the best "Wow, I wish I'd found that in the woods behind my house" video of all time (see below)...this whole military relic hunting thing is pretty cool. Of course, it goes without saying that war is bad, the Nazi regime was evil, the swastika is a symbol of hate now thanks to Hitler, etc... But shoot, what a plane. What a plane...

According to Wiki:

"The Focke-Wulf Fw 190 Würger, was a German, single-seat, single-engine fighter aircraft designed by Kurt Tank in the late 1930s. It was used by the Luftwaffe during World War II. It partially replaced the Messerschmitt Bf 109 in 1941. Over 20,000 were manufactured, including around 6,000 fighter-bomber models. Production ran from 1941 to the end of hostilities, during which time the aircraft was continually updated. Its later versions retained qualitative parity with Allied fighter aircraft. The Fw 190 was well-liked by its pilots, and was quickly proven to be superior in all but turn radius to the Royal Air Force's main front-line fighter, the Spitfire Mk. V variant, on its combat debut in 1941.The early Fw 190As performance decreased at high altitudes which complicated its use as a high altitude interceptor. These complications were mostly rectified in later models and the introduction of the Focke-Wulf Fw 190D variant. Like the Bf 109, the Fw 190 was employed as a "workhorse", and proved suitable for a wide variety of roles, including air superiority fighter, strike fighter, ground-attack aircraft, escort fighter, and night fighter. Some of the Luftwaffe's most successful fighter aces flew the Fw 190. Erich Rudorffer claimed 222 kills, Otto Kittel 267 victories, and Walter Nowotny 258 victories. A great many of their kills were claimed while flying the Fw 190..."

If you find an Fw 190 in Russia outside of Leningrad, do you stand a snowball's chance in hell of getting to keep it, and maybe sell it on Ebay, or does VladPut get to claim it to go along with Nazi war booty?

My interest in these old planes, war relics, military history in general...chalk it up to boys will be boys. How could you not think it cool to stumble across an Fw 190 whilst hiking through the woods?

This forum discusses the story behind the Fw 190 in the forest.

Carbon Fiber Road Frames - $280

Hey Guys (and girls)! Just email me or leave a comment with your email address, or PM me @ forum, or Facebook or whatever, and I will get you the details on the frames, plus photos, and you can pick your frame/fork, accessories, etc. and be riding a full carbon rocket ship for just $280USD for the frame...

ME109 vs. Heavy Bomber