I guess it's unfortunate that news of Lance Armstrong ending his battle against a set of doping charges came without shock. That he'd give up fighting anything is somewhat surprising, and, as a fan, there was some initial disappointment. Pro cycling is well-known to be infested with doping, and many fans and critics of Armstrong have long believed him to be among the peloton of cheaters. But, importantly, Lance hasn't admitted to any wrongdoing with this gesture—far from it. He has only said he refuses to continue fighting the US Anti-Doping Agency, an organization he considers a blend of a witch hunt and a kangaroo court. Armstrong had been challenging the USADA via lawsuit, but the suit was dismissed earlier in the week when a federal judge ruled that the court had no jurisdiction.
The USADA says it has stripped Armstrong of his seven Tour de France wins and banned him from participating in future competitions. It remains to be seen whether the agency has the power to do so (the quotation marks in the title are there because he may not actually be stripped of any previous achievements), nor what it means to strip titles in a sport as tainted as cycling. But while I hate that we can't have the great memories of summer mornings spent watching Lance's amazing Tours without the tinge of doubt, I'm not going to spend too much time lamenting it now or exploring what the news actually means. You can read more on that here and here.
There's something more fun in the cycling world to focus on. As you make your way around town on Saturday, don't be surprised if a huge pack of bikers in various states of undress descends upon the street in front of you. Philly's annual Naked Bike Ride is today.
What's the Philly Naked Bike Ride, you ask?
Besides being so self-explanatorily named that none of you is actually asking that, the stated mission of the ride is to promote fuel conscious consumption, positive body image, and cycling advocacy. That may be the goal for some folks, but others are probably just in it for the gettin-naked-in-public-and-seeing-others-do-the-same aspect.
Full or partial nudity is not required, and there are no cycling proficiency standards. Anyone can participate, wearing (or not wearing) anything they want. Hell you don't even need to ride a bike. You could probably do it in a wagon with an oar if you were into "advocating" urban wagonboating and were savvy enough with the oar to avoid causing a massive naked pileup.
The group's web site says that in three previous Naked Bike Rides dating back to 2009, no "legal incidents" have been reported. It's unlikely the US Anti-Doping Agency will be enforcing its code on the streets of Philly today, but other regulations may or may not be enforced (including other kinds of doping). It appears to be an "at your own risk" event for everything ranging from injury to arrest to having your undercarriage appear on the internet.
So where will the riders be? Here's a look at the planned route, which starts on Washington Ave. at 4PM, loops around Center City, along the Parkway and City Hall, and finishes at the Piazza sometime around 7PM tonight.
So don't be alarmed if thousands of painted, taped, topless, scantily clad, or fully nude bike riders pass you today. It's just one of Philly's new traditions, even if it's a worldwide event involving 70 cities in 20 countries. (Due to its timing, it's also a way for us to discuss the farthest ends of the cycling spectrum in a single post).
For more info, visit the Philly Naked Bike Ride home page, which has plenty more on the event, including how to participate, rules for photography and filming, and links to Facebook etc.