The news reports on the Tour de France make it all sound so effortless, just pedal along like Lance Armstrong and you wear the yellow jersey.
Nothing could be further from the truth, as any reader of the July 15 issue of The New Yorker will realize. In a lengthy profile by Michael Specter, "The Long Ride," you get a clear idea of what it takes to win the Tour de France.
"Cycling is too hard, the suffering is so intense, that it's absolutely cleaning," wrote Armstrong in his autobiography. "The pain is so deep and strong that a curtain descends over your brain ... Once someone asked me what pleasure I took in riding so long. 'Pleasure?' I said. 'I don't understand the question.' I didn't do it for pleasure. I did it for pain."
That sums up the attitude of the world's premier bike racer. He pursues cycling for the pain of it, and his training routine is a masochist's dream of 5 or 6 miles a day even on his days off. All uphill.
Armstrong is the best climber in the world. He's the best sprinter. He trains with a heart rate of 175 per minute. He does stretches an hour daily. His heart is one-third larger than the average for his size. His femur is longer, giving him a better leg stroke.
But it was the cancer that turned him into the world champion that he is. Before the cancer he did what he wanted to, ignored tactics, trained as he wanted, brushed off teamwork, exploited his natural gift. After the cancer he changed; he became dedicated to being the best of the best.
Nobody wins the Tour de France without tactics, teamwork and body-wrenching effort, he admits.
Armstrong may not win this year's Tour de France. But he will remain a unique, driven, talented, thinking champion. If you are about cycling or about human endeavor, read The New Yorker piece. Then think about how you face life.
New kayak fun
Sporting Rage is offering a free Hobie Kayak Demo Day at San Harbor Sunday. That's not all: on hand will be the new Hobie sit-on-top kayaks with pedals, paddles and even sails. Show up between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and try the new floats. No reservations needed.
I checked out the Hobie video and it looks like the company has added a new dimension to kayaking. The combo pedal-paddle version offers a real workout. Details, 885-7773.
Hikes on tap
The Humboldt-Toiyabe Carson Ranger District is offering a couple of hikes. First is a Hope Valley Sojourn Friday, July 26 and Aug. 16 at 10:30 a.m. This is a two-mile trek through the meadow to learn a little about stream dynamics, sheep and shepherds and to check out some Basque tree art. Meeting spot is one mile past Pickett's Junction off Highways 88-89 to the bridge and park just beyond the bridge. For ages 8 and up.
The other is a Crystal Mine Adventure at the Lookout Campground in Dog Valley this Saturday and Aug. 11 at 10:30 a.m. It's a 30-minute hike to the Crystal Mine where a discussion of crystal formation will be held. Bring a trowel and hammer to search for crystals. The trail is steep near the top so hiking shoes are suggested. Take I-80 out of Reno west and exit at Verdi, No. 5. Follow the road to Bridge Street, and head north on Dog Valley Road. Turn right on Dog Valley and meet the ranger at the gate. Bring a lunch. For ages 5 and up.
The Sierra Club continues its program of local hikes with one Friday-Sunday, a Saddlebag Lake Backpack. Leisurely 8 mile round trip, less than 1,000-foot gain backpack hike, plus a day hike. Meet at Saddlebag Lake Campground on Friday evening or Saturday morning. Backpack in 4 miles to the Hoover Wilderness. Leaders: Ross Smith (775) 826-0932, firstname.lastname@example.org; Vicki Toy-Smith (775) 826-0932, Vicki@unr.edu.
Saturday it's a Pater Noster Lakes Day Hike. The hike parallels Meeks Creek, then skirts scenic Lake Genevieve, and then to lunch at Crag Lake (4.9 miles in). Ambitious hikers will continue to magnificent Stony Ridge Lake, a 13 mile, 1,500-foot gain, making this a moderate hike. Trip limit, so call early. Leaders: Carol Tresner (775) 786-0489, Peter Faber (775) 786-0489, Richard Breslow (775) 826-8634.
On Sunday, Lakes Basin Hike. This is a delightful loop trip, which winds its way past at least six beautiful mountain lakes and an optional trek to the top of Mt. Elwell. The hike is moderate, 8 miles round trip, 1,800-foot gain. There will be a possible swim in Long Lake on our way back. Leader: Sally Lyon (530) 582-4943), email@example.com; co-leader: Lucretia Belancio (775) 747-4824.
Also Sunday, Sunflower Mountain Peak. Hike to the top of Sunflower Mountain, elevation 10,243 feet, on the crest of the Carson Range, above the headwaters of Thomas Creek. Moderately strenuous hike, with a 3,000 foot gain, and 10 miles round trip. A mile of hiking is cross-country over loose volcanic rock in the final summit assault. Hardy hikers only. Leaders: Ridge Walker (Ed Corbett) (775) 853-8055, firstname.lastname@example.org; Pete Gaspers (775) 786-1246, email@example.com.
Last chance for season passes
Alpine Meadows will be selling season passes through July 1, and the passes give you a lot for your money. Adults full season is $930, adult mid-week $550 and a Choice Pass Plus is $599. The latter offers skiing at Alpine and Sugar Bowl Monday-Friday plus holders can buy rights to buy a weekend or holiday pass for $40.
These passes also include free skiing and riding at Mt. Bachelor, half-price vouchers for Park City, Utah, and Boreal and a lot of discounts at the resort.
Sugar Bowl's new season pass rates make good sense. The Bowl now has four express quad chairs accessing all four mountain peaks. Purchase a pass now (the prices go up after July 31). Order passes at www.sugarbowl.com or call (530) 426-9000.
The Slightly-Restricted Pass. If you have been waiting for a real deal before you plunge into a full season at Sugar Bowl, now's your opportunity to enjoy skiing six days a week for $399 for adults and only $199 up to 22 years of age if purchased before July 31. The Slightly-Restricted Pass is good Sunday through Friday, excluding Dec. 27-Jan. 3; Sunday Jan. 19 to Sunday Feb. 16. This pass is unrestricted and may be used seven days a week prior to Dec. 27 and after March 23.
Unrestricted Pass. The ultimate pass for those who want the freedom of skiing any day and anytime -- $799 for adults and $449 for young adults (13-22).
Extra Benefits for Sugar Bowl pass holders include a proviso that any Sugar Bowl season pass holder can purchase an all-day lift ticket for a friend for $10 off the regular price, one ticket per pass per day. A Slightly Restricted Pass holder may buy a $40 ticket on any day that a season pass is not valid.
Buy eight tickets valid any day of the season for only $35 each. These tickets must be purchased before Dec. 1. -- eight ticket vouchers for only $280.
Sam Bauman is the Nevada Appeal Diversions Editor.