Monday Awesome: in awe of the Cav.

 

Bradley Wiggins won the Tour de France overnight, after dominating the race for weeks 2 and 3. While that is an awesome feat (especially as he’s the first Brit to do so), I would like to draw your attention to Mark Cavendish instead. Have a look at the video below, and admire the acceleration of the Cav in his final sprint to the finish line. (go to the link – I’m not having luck with the embed). At 5:50 Wiggins is at the head of the lead out train. At 6:30, Boasson Hagen leads Cavendish out and then he blasts out of the corner. Brilliant.

http://www.sbs.com.au/cyclingcentral/video/2259251594/tour-de-france-stage-20-highlights

Raging against abominable science writing.

*This was edited on 27 July.

I love science. I love parasites and parasitology. I sometimes love cycling (I have a love/hate relationship with the bike) and I do love watching the Tour de France coverage, but I hate bad science writing. Journalists who do not check their facts about sciency-related things really grind my gears (ooh, a bad cycling pun!).

I found an article on the cycling website Velonews, regarding Chris Froome, of Team Sky. If I’d been drinking a coffee when reading this article, I’d have ended up spitting it all over my computer. Froome reportedly has schistosomiasis, also called bilharzia in the UK and some other places. That’s not the shocking bit though. There were some glaring errors in biology and epidemiology that I will explain:

Let’s get one thing clear. The pathogen that causes schistosomiasis is a trematode (several species of genus Schistosoma), and not a virus as mentioned three(!) times in the article. A trematode may also be called a fluke, and it is, most definitely, a metazoan parasite. While it does have a complicated life cycle (see below), including very small, possibly microscopic, larval stages in snails, the snails themselves are not microscopic. While we’re on the topic – the larvae do not “transform” into worms. There are no Optimus Prime schistosomes.

Life cycle of Schistosoma spp. (from CDC)

Also, the disease is not “obscure”, as mentioned in the piece. I think that the roughly 290 million people infected globally with schistosomiasis might have something to say about the disease being referred to as ‘obscure’ (ref: Mathers et al. 2007 PLoS NTD doi:10.1371/journal.pntd.0000114). Schistosomiasis is a serious disease. While it doesn’t kill as many people as malaria, as a chronic infection, it causes long-term health effects in sufferers including anaemia, malnutrition, and can affect organs such as the spleen, liver and bladder (depending on the species infecting). It is a neglected tropical disease, exacerbated by poverty in many cases, and should not be trivialised. Chris Froome can afford treatment for the disease, but millions of others are not so lucky to be in the same financial position.

It’s probable that only parasitologists have gotten upset about this (there are several incredulous tweets about it on my twitter feed). Parasitologists tend to be quite sensitive to these kinds of errors and levels of ignorance. It’s par for the course a lot of the time, when you work on something as disgusting as a parasite (yes, someone once said that to me). But discussing parasites is no excuse for sloppy writing. This is yet another example of journalists not checking their facts before writing. It’s not difficult. Even a quick look at Wikipedia would have been helpful in this instance.

Post-script: After writing this, I went back to the article to check it again. All references to ‘virus’ have been edited out. Hooray!

Chinese marathon dog

It’s not Monday, but I think this story deserves a special honorary ‘Tuesday Awesome’ title.

A small stray dog has reportedly run almost 1200 miles (I think that’s about 2000km) across  China accompanying a group of cyclists who were undertaking a 3 week cycling trip.

Xiaosa – marathon dog. Image via UK Telegraph

I saw this first on the ABC News website, where they have some raw footage that has no translation, so I don’t know what the guy was saying about the dog. However, I found more info via the UK Telegraph. Apparently, one of the riders fed the dog one day and it started to follow the group. The cyclists figured it might follow them for a while, and then lose interest but it didn’t stop – it just kept going alongside them…. so it became part of the team. And, it now has a new home because the guy who fed it and carried it on his bike when it got tired is going to keep it. Nothing like weeks on the road to create new bonds!

According to the Telegraph report, the dog partook in 12 mountain climbs over 13,000 feet and ran for about 30-40 miles (~60km) each day. That’s a massive, awesome effort for a little dog.

Monday Awesome: Ryder Hesjedal wins Giro d’Italia

In an awesome display of nominative determinism, Canadian cyclist Ryder Hesjedal has won the Giro d’Italia. This is the first time a Canadian has won a grand tour, so I bet there are lots of Canadians celebrating. He snatched the lead on the final stage of the race – the time trial. That’s embodiment of the phrase ‘go hard or go home (empty-handed)’.

Here’s a picture of him in his new pink jersey, with his trophy (photo from ABC news):

Monday Awesome: Cadel Evans wins in Corsica.

Over the weekend, Cadel Evans won the Criterium International, a 3-stage race in Corsica, France.

Some highlights below (in French):

And in other Australian cycling-related results, our new pro team GreenEDGE has chalked up another win, with Swiss import Michael Albasini winning the Volta a Catalunya, a 7-stage race in northern Spain.

Yay for cycling!

Monday Awesome: Contador banned!

News outlets are reporting that Alberto Contador has been given a (retroactive) 2 year suspension by the Court of Arbitration for Sport over his positive test for clenbuterol during the 2010 Tour de France.

This is long-overdue news, as the testing happened 18 months ago. The ruling by the court is the result of an appeal by the UCI (International Cycling Union) after the Spanish cycling authorities deemed the test results “not doping”. Contador will not participate in racing this year until his suspension ends in August. He’ll also be stripped of his Tour de France win from 2010.

Interestingly, cycling legend Eddy Merckx has described the ban as “excessive”. In an interview on the BBC News website, he mentioned that “it is bad for cycling”. Yeah, really? Well, drugs in cycling is bad for cycling. I applaud the heavy-handed approach taken by the UCI and the Court of Arbitration. It is important for the sport that all participants are clean and compete using only their natural ability, honed through training, not doping.

Sunday afternoon

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I had my first go at bike polo today. I had a non-combat role, as I’d never played before. But I had fun learning – operating a bike while trying to hit a ball with a mallet was challenging initially, but I got the hang of it. I’m left-handed but polo is played right-handed, so I’m surprised I managed to hit the ball at all. And I have an awesome new fixie to use for playing and riding round town – see below! Yay for bikes!!

(custom bike build by Callahan Bicycles Canberra – go find him on Facebook)