THE LAST TOUR DE FRANCE WINNER NOT RIDING A CARBON BIKE was Italy’s Marco Pantani, in 1998. He rode a Mercatone Uno Bianchi Mega Pro XL Reparto Corse like this, made not in China but in Italy, out of shaped and butted Dedacciai 7000-series aluminum tubing configured in a number of custom geometries. And as the latest Tour is under way with riders using what is today seen as “cutting-edge” technology, such as electronic shifting, it’s eye-opening to look back a mere 14 years and see that climbing heroes like Pantani rode metal bikes and used brutally hard gearing on every road. Oh, and this Bianchi? It weighed a boat-anchor-like 17.9 pounds. Via Cyclingnews.com.
CLIMBER WILL GADD’S ADVICE FOR STAYING FIT: FIGHT FOR EVERY SINGLE CHANCE TO SWEAT. On a recent trip filled with business meetings Gadd took a quick time out to climb in a rock gym for 45 minutes, then dashed, still sweating, to the airport. At the airport, he reports, he saw the counter example: Overweight Americans choosing bad food and being too unfit to walk from terminal to gate. But besides lamenting the terrible shape of most Americans, Gadd has philosophical advice, too: “We all try to be busy instead of being alive, be busy instead of getting out and breathing, be busy instead of being productive, be busy sending useless texts instead of walking in the woods with our kids or running there with our friends…. I do it too, but I’m missing the point of life when I let ‘busy’ replace ‘breathing.’ ” Via Rock and Ice.
BRITISH CLIMBERS SET RECORD ON DENALI ROUTE. ER CORRECTION… Andy Houseman and Nick Bullock climbed Slovak Direct, an awe-inspiring 9,000-foot line on the South Face of Alaska’s Denali, in 84 hours, not 27 as we previously reported. No record. Still, the straightest route from base to summit is brutal by any measure — 58 scary, exposed pitches of M5 WI6/ 5.9 climbing. And once you’re on it, there’s no turning back. After the first 4,000 feet, you can’t rappel and the only way out is by continuing up. Houseman contacted us to set the record straight, FYI. Via UKC Climbing.
INEXPLICABLE FAIRY CIRCLES ARE SHOWING UP IN SOUTHERN AFRICA. Bare spots surrounded by a ring of tall grass have materialized and disappeared without explanation in Namibia’s desert grasslands. According to a recent study in the journal PLoS ONE, these ‘fairy circles’ grow up to 40 feet in diameter and can last as long as 75 years. But scientists still don’t know where they come from. Biologist Walter Tschinkel hypothesized nests of harvester termites or differences in soil nutrients cause the circles. Neither explanation held up to study. He now thinks that the plants self-organize, but that still doesn’t explain why. He’s not concerned: “That’s science, isn’t it? If you knew the answer ahead of time, it wouldn’t be much fun.” Via MSNBC.