Weekend Reading: Summer of Cycling
In this weekly roundup, we scour the Web for our favorite long-form magazine and newspaper articles, collecting them here and on Longreads and Twitter. This installment focuses on American athletes, crazy weather, the Amish, and guns.
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If you ignore the doping, never-ending sponsor trouble, and gender inequality, cycling can sometimes be a magnificent sport. It combines everything that is great about outdoor sports: breathtaking scenery and downright incredible athletes. It also has some real characters—men who will race through so much pain that they grind down their teeth or veterans in their 40s who still attack and win races riding more than 100 kilometers solo over mountain passes repeating a silly but effective mantra: shut up legs!
If you’re a fan of the sport, August is a great month. No longer does it hide in the shadow of July’s Tour de France; between the USA Pro Cycling Challenge and Vuelta a Espana, there’s some great racing going on. So if you’re not already a fan, pack up your car, make for Colorado, and become one.
Outside of cycling, this week has been filled with news of waste and worry. It turns out that Americans squander 40 percent of their food—a number only dwarfed by its value: $165 billion. Meanwhile, a court has overturned the EPA’s new coal regulations, and it looks like arctic ice is set to hit a new record low. Nothing, however, is more outlandish than farmers using candy for feed because corn is getting too expensive (except, perhaps, for the tale of a hippo getting stuck in a swimming pool).
Only slightly less interesting than feeding cows with candy is the prospect of jaguars in the Southwest. The U.S. has authorized its first protected habitat for the big cars. While the animals don’t regularly reside in the U.S., they often enter the country for short stays, so the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has authorized a Rhode Island-sized chunk of land for the “long-term resilience and survival of the species, especially in response to ongoing climate change.”
Speaking of reservations, the lesser-known Bill Koch is building a Wild West town in Colorado. And, as Ryan O’Hanlon writes, you cannot go. Which is too bad. The town will have around 50 buildings, including a church, jail, firehouse, and saloon, plus all of the Western memorabilia Koch has collected over the years.
Now, for what you should be reading this weekend:
Many have been linked this summer’s extreme weather to global warming, but others have cried foul. Finally, a deep look into what the changing climate may or may not have to do with this summer’s intense weather. Peter Miller, National Geographic.
“‘Picture a baseball player on steroids,’ Meehl goes on. ‘This baseball player steps up to the plate and hits a home run. It’s impossible to say if he hit that home run because of the steroids, or whether he would have hit it anyway. The drugs just made it more likely.’”
Think agribusiness and the Amish won’t likely be the first to come to mind. But small farmers in upstate New York are feeling the hurt. And the Amish may be taking the brunt of the blows. Malcolm Burnley, The Atlantic.
“Exhausting his personal lament, Bennett turned to the Swartzentrubers’ economic condition. ‘Well, you know, the Amish have been dumpster diving,’ Bennett told me bluntly in his kitchen, turning to his wife Anne for validation. As Bennett explained, Amish in the area have been gathering discarded bananas and canned meat outside the local Aldi’s supermarket, supplementing their traditional bean stews with expired-but-not-spoiled inventory.”
The Williams sisters are, without a doubt, the two best American tennis players in the game. And their gold medal performance in London helps mark their on-the-court resurgence. John Jeremiah Sullivan, The New York Times Magazine.
“I was trying to bring the person across the table into some kind of stereoscopic harmony with the girl on the tape, the one whose short, beaded braids hang like a fringe of tassels on the side of her head. It showed her hitting big, swinging volleys from midcourt at about the skill level of a decent college player, except that she was catching them up above her head, scything the fed balls out of the air with enough topspin to send them arcing down toward the lines. After an especially good shot, Richard would say, ‘Good shot, Venus,’ and Venus would say, in dulcet tones that retained a trace of his Louisiana syrup, ‘Thank you, Daddy.’”
Jonathan Vaughters manages the Garmin-Sharp team, one of cycling’s top squads and the professional team with the most avowed anti-doping stance of anyone in the peloton. In the New York Times, Vaughters came clean about his doping past. Joe Lindsey, Bicycling.
“‘I quickly figured out he was talking about EPO,” says Vaughters today. ‘As much as I should’ve said no, and as much as I was intelligent and should have said, ‘Wait, this is bullshit,’ in my mind he’d just spelled out that I wasn’t going to dope; we’d just make my hematocrit what it would have been had I not been riding my bike so damn much.’”
“He nodded in consideration, and I wondered if he understood. I offered him a piece of gum, and he took it, and for a while we just chewed and admired the passing mesquite. ‘Think of just the hunters,’ he said. ‘Thirteen million in this country. That’s 13 million Americans trained with firearms—the equivalent of the largest army in the world.’ He flipped his visor down to cut the sky. “Anyone thinking of invading this country has to take that into consideration.’”