Feeling kind of... emotionally hungover this morning, but was uhh, cheered up, you could say, by this link joolzie sent me about Thorty and cycling and OMG SPANDEX:
Thornton spins his wheels
Marcie Garcia | NHL.com correspondent Oct 12, 2006, 9:00 AM EDT
As a kid growing up in London Ontario, Scott Thornton got his first sense of freedom whenever he'd jump on his bicycle and leave his suburban neighborhood.
Through the thrilling, sometimes bumpy, twists and turns down his hockey career path that has led him to the scenic and cycling-enthused communities of San Jose, and now Los Angeles, Thornton has traded in his Huffy for a Trek, "the kind Lance rode," he boasts.
"Here in California there's a big cycling community," Thornton said. "There are lots of beautiful roads to ride on, and it was just a lot better than sitting on stationary bike training. Before (cycling), the longest I've ever been on my bike was an hour. It's completely different to be in the saddle for one ride sometimes for more than 11 hours."
Entering his 16th NHL season with the Kings after singing a two-year agreement with Los Angeles on July 1, Thornton, 35, took up the cycling after he signed with San Jose as a free agent in 2000, where he had played for five seasons and averaged more than 15 goals and close to 30 points per season with the Sharks.
Since his move to the West Coast, Thornton has entered The Chelan Century Challenge (100 miles) and Davis Double Century (200 miles) in Davis California, as a means to train for the Tour of the California Alps, or more popularly known as "The Death Ride".
The grueling 129-mile trek is known for its 16,000-foot mountain climbs over passages south of Lake Tahoe. The trek includes the traditional five-mountain passes on both sides of Monitor Pass (8,314 feet), both sides of Ebbetts Pass (8,730 feet), and a final climb up the east side of Carson Pass (8,573 feet).
He's come a long way from mocking his friend, and avid cyclist of over 20-years, Stan Danielski, for wearing "tights" or proper riding attire. Danielski, a chef at a restaurant where Thornton and his San Jose teammates would eat pre-game meals, knew Thornton would eat his words in the end.
"He laughed and said he'd give me a couple weeks until I'd have all the gear. I realized it's necessary to have the proper equipment, riding gear, and a bike that runs a lot smoother, is going to make a more enjoyable to ride.
"It was his opportunity to laugh at us for a change," Thornton said. "He wanted to challenge us pro-athletes to go out and try to feel his sport out and try to push us up some hill climbs. I've also made some good friends who own a bike shop in San Jose that have really mentored me."
In July 2005, Thornton entered and finished "The Death Ride" in nine hours, beating his personal goal of 10 hours. He was among the elite 20 percent of 3,000 cyclists who finished the ride.
"That was my ultimate goal," he laughed. "Obviously anyone who plays professional sports is pretty competitive, but I don't necessarily do it for the competition. Well, I shouldn't say that because I always keep times, so I am pretty competitive, myself."
But Thornton wasn't as successful the next time around when riding "The Death Ride" this past July. After playing a full season of hockey, Thornton wasn't able to properly train for the competition. He went into the Death Ride with only 10 rides underneath him, and fewer cycling hours then previous training allowed, while in the midst of the NHL lockout.
"I sort of tried to cheat it," he said. "I jumped on my bike and made a big mistake by not eating properly, and I kind of bonked (a condition when the athlete suddenly loses energy and fatigue sets in), as they say. After three mountain passes, it definitely crossed my mind to quit. I did finish the day, but the last three hours were absolute torture."
Thornton isn't exactly cycle-friendly. In fact, he refers himself as the "anti-cycler," due to his unconventionally larger 6-foot-3, 225-pound body. Cycling can be explained as physical challenges behind aerodynamics and physics. Force versus direct friction -- or skin friction. Simply put, the bigger you are the greater the wind resistance and aerodynamic drag, as you pedal forward. Thornton's body doesn't exactly slice through the air and it becomes more difficult the faster he pedals.
"It's tough for my size because the less wind drag you have on your body, the faster you're going to be," he explained. "I go against all the rules basically, but I think that's what's intriguing about it. I just want to see how good I can be for the size that I am and I love the challenge of getting out there and climbing hills and just seeing how hard you can push your body."
Though Thornton's hockey body hasn't helped his cycling, he believes cycling has benefited his hockey game. When he's exhausted from a long shift or from carrying a puck from coast to coast, Thornton thinks cycling provides a few extra breaths, a couple extra gallons in the tank, and moreover, the mental edge against the fresh-faced newcomers like Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby.
"When riding there are many times when you think ‘Oh man, I don't think I'm going to finish this thing', but somehow you stare 10-feet in front of your wheel, put your head down, gut it out, and get it done," he explained.
"There are lots of times throughout the hockey year where guys are tired and sluggish, but in the back of your mind you know you have a lot more reserve there then you think. You just go out and keep going.
Also, your conditioning is at a greater capacity than it's ever been before," Thornton continues, "and you get really strong legs from doing a lot of hill climbs and hill sprints on the bike. You get exposed to the leg power you need for hockey."
It is no surprise that Thornton is a follower of the Tour de France. He admits he too jumped on the Lance Armstrong bandwagon, due to his life story and amazing career. Though Armstrong is someone Thornton would like to one day meet, he doesn't see any Tour de France competitions in his near future.
"No, God no," he shouts. "I'm 35 already. I'm well beyond my prime that's for sure.
"I'll be an age-group racer by the time I retire - the old-timer," he laughs. "It's just fun. When you have something like hockey in your blood when you retire from the game, you're going to need something to replace that. To me I look forward to cycling to fill that void. And I'd like to get into triathlons."
The perceived retirement world of a hockey player -- 12-rounds of golf per week -- doesn't seem likely for Thornton. It wouldn't be surprising to see Thornton cycling with wife, Joelle, and kids Nash (10), and Zoe (7), in his new Los Angeles neighborhood.
"I look forward to those fun family days," said Thornton.
It makes him feel like a kid again.