The Next Track, Episode #184 – TJ Connelly, Boston Sports DJ

TJ Connelly is a sports DJ: he provides “scores” for live sporting events, such as baseball, football, and hockey games. Since the lockdown, he’s been out of work, and he has been focusing his attention on Uncertain Times, a daily streaming radio show. We talk with him about what it means to score live sports, and how his streaming show is reconnecting him with real radio.

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Team Sky have much to explain after Bradley Wiggins meets Andrew Marr – The Guardian

the cocksure Bradley Wiggins, the one whose enigmatic personality and supreme sporting talent had made him one of Britain’s best loved sportsmen, was gone. In his place was one nervously trying to remember “lines to take” in response to a series of soft questions from an interviewer who — perhaps understandably after another tumultuous week in Westminster — had his mind on other things.

[…]

To be honest, this bit was more illuminating than the rest of the interview, which invited more questions than it answered in dealing with the trio of therapeutic use exemptions granted to Wiggins in 2011, 2012 and 2013 to allow him to take the powerful corticosteroid triamcinolone, for legitimate medical reasons before his biggest races of the season. Yet even with Marr failing to follow up on the questions he asked but did not always appear fully to understand, the performance of the first British man to win the Tour de France was often uncomfortable.

“This was to cure a medical condition. This wasn’t about trying to find a way to gain an unfair advantage; this was about putting myself back on a level playing field in order to compete at the highest level,” Wiggins said, explaining why he had received an injection for 40mg of triamcinolone just before his triumphant 2012 Tour.

I know he’s not the brightest bulb in the box, but words matter. This medication does not “cure” a medical condition, it treats it. And saying that it “was about putting myself back on a level playing field in order to compete at the highest level,” doesn’t sound like treating a medical condition, it sounds like getting a boost from a questionable medication.

Wiggins’s former doctor discussed this steroid medication, saying:

You do have to think it is kind of coincidental that a big dose of intramuscular long-acting corticosteroids would be needed at that exact time before the most important race of the season. I would certainly say now it does not look good, it doesn’t look right from a health or a sporting perspective.

David Millar is quoted as saying, regarding this drug:

…it was the only [drug] you took and three days later you looked different. It’s quite scary because it’s catabolic so it’s eating into you. It felt destructive. It felt powerful.

Yep. That thin line between treating an illness and cheating…

Source: Team Sky have much to explain after Bradley Wiggins meets Andrew Marr | Sport | The Guardian

There is no room for hidden motors at this year’s annual bike race in France.

When the 103th Tour De France race begins in Normandy on July 2, all bikes will undergo thermal screening, the International Cycling Union (UCI) said in a press release. UCI authorities expect to conduct up to 4,000 tests by fitting thermal imaging cameras on the roadside or on motorbikes that will follow the race route.

All bikes will also be checked at the start and end of the race with magnetic wave scanning technology deployed by the UCI since the start of 2016. The scanner creates a magnetic field which allows detection of any motor, magnet or solid object such as a battery that could be concealed in a bike frame or components.

“Mechanical doping.” What’ll they think of next?

Source: Thermal imaging cameras will be used to detect mechanical doping at Tour De France — Quartz

Tiny Motor Powers a New Threat to Cycling Races – The New York Times

A grueling cycling race is somewhat less grueling if your bike is a motorcycle. Understanding this, some cunning cyclists may be turning the sport into Nascar on two wheels by surreptitiously giving their bikes a motorized boost.

[…]

Suspicions stem from two factors: The technology exists, and there is an ever-growing library of videos that show suspicious performances and actions by riders as well as teams.

[…]

For its report, Stade 2 positioned a thermal imaging camera along the route of the Strade Bianche, an Italian professional men’s race in March held mostly on unpaved roads and featuring many steep climbs. The rear hub of one bicycle glowed with almost the same vivid orange-yellow thermal imprint of the riders’ legs. Engineers and antidoping experts interviewed by the TV program said the pattern could be explained only by heat generated by a motor. The rider was not named by the program and could not be identified from the thermal image.

As much as I love watching the Tour de France, the sport of professional cycling is rife with cheating. Since it’s easy to catch people who dope with drugs, it seems that the next frontier is cheating with hidden motors on bikes.

If you understand French, watch the Stade 2 report. It’s impressive.

Source: Tiny Motor Powers a New Threat to Cycling Races – The New York Times

Baseball Bats Threatened by Invasive Beetle

The supply of ash in the United States is under threat, and with it, the iconic Louisville Slugger. The culprit: an invasive beetle called the emerald ash borer.

When I left the United States in 1984, I left behind those sports that are part of American culture. One of them was baseball. I was never a big fan, but I did live a bus ride away from Shea Stadium, and would occasionally go see a Mets game. I still appreciate the Zen-like nature of baseball, though I don’t watch games any more, because of the annoying adds behind home plate that distract me from seeing the players.

In any case, I’ve heard about the threat to ash trees here in the UK, and I find it interesting that this insect has changed the way a key sporting tool is made.

For more than 100 years, Louisville Slugger, the official bat of Major League Baseball, has sourced its white ash from a relatively small area of northern Pennsylvania and New York. About seven years ago, the bat maker noted that the beetle had come within 100 miles of its harvest site.

Bat makers have moved on to different woods, which aren’t as sturdy as ash, but it’s suprpising that an insect could have such an effect on a sport.

Source: Baseball Bats Threatened by Invasive Beetle – Scientific American

Tour de Front Row

If you count the number of people who watch the Tour de France in person, the race is the most popular sporting event in the world. The playing field encompasses the roads of France, and three-quarters of French people have seen the Tour go by at least once.

From open roads to steep, sinuous climbs, spectators line the roadside to watch the peloton — the pack of riders — go by for just a few seconds. Some people drive up mountain roads in campers and wait for two or three days to catch a glimpse of their favorite riders, and others just walk out in front of their homes.

Its logistics rival that of an army heading off to battle. There are hundreds of vehicles, thousands of people, and a schedule that has to be respected to the minute across more than 3,000 kilometers (1,900 miles) over three weeks, all for a sporting event that attracts about 12 million spectators from dozens of countries. And, best of all, it’s free.

For a dozen years, I lived on the outskirts of a town in the French Alps, on a road leading up to one of the toughest climbs in the race: the Col d’Izoard. The route of the Tour de France changes each year, but the race comes back often to the most spectacular climbs, such as that mountain. In 12 years, the Tour de France came past my house three times; other cycling races, heading to or from the same climb, whizzed by a few times as well.

The big picture

Napoleon Bonaparte said that an army marches on its stomach. The army of the Tour de France, which enables spectators to see the race for a few seconds, consists of 4,500 people, 2,400 vehicles, 198 riders and their retinues, and an “advertising caravan” of 160 vehicles that toss 14 million tchotchkes to spectators lining the roads. A phalanx of daredevil motorcyclists carry camera operators to show the race from inside the pack, and helicopters and airplanes help beam live video to satellites for broadcast in 190 countries.

As for the spectators, the 12 million watchers stay there an average of six and a half hours — though to get a good seat in the toughest climbs, you need to stake out your spot a couple of days ahead of time. And keeping order is no mean feat either; there are more than 23,000 law-enforcement officers involved during the three-week period.

But none of that matters when you’re watching the Tour in your own town.

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