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Getting ready for fantasy cycling

Fantasy sports was never my cup of tea.

I once was in a fantasy hockey league. I drafted players I thought had cool names. Needless to say, I never came close to winning.

But when I opened my email yesterday and saw that Performance Bicycle was having a Tour de France Fantasy contest I had to get in. OK, so they lured me in with the dream of winning one of their prizes, including a spiffy new road bike. But I figured if the pundits don't even know who is going to do well when the Tour kicks off on Saturday, then I at least have a shot.

Besides, I needed to kill some time waiting for people to return my phone calls.

I picked my nine-member Tour de France team and had to stay under the $4,0000 salary cap -- which of course meant throwing people on my team whom I'm not really sure who they are. Or what they can do for me. Or how exactly I win points.

But, c'mon, a Tour de France fantasy game? That's akin to getting people to finally put together an NCAA women's basketball bracket pool.

Among other fun-filled online trolling items it seems that McDonald's is creating some Asian-inspired menu items for the Olympics although the article in the Wall Street Journal makes it sound like those creations will not be in American restaurants. Oh, and never fear, they're going to continue to promote their "healthier" options during the Games, particularly in their more child-centered advertisements. I love a good seasonal Shamrock Shake as much as anyone but the paring of fast food and elite athletic events continues to seem like strange bedfellows to me.

Finally, if you're in the mood to read about success through change, check out Ten Reasons Why Change is so Hard to Introduce to Sport. Written by Wayne Goldsmith, an Aussie who offers coaching and sports performance tips, the piece explains why change is difficult in sports, but it could read like pretty much any social institution -- from your workplace to your family.

True Confessions

Here is today's true swimming confession: I adore Michael Phelps.

OK. That's not exactly earth-shattering news. That's like a basketball fan saying they like Michael Jordan or a golf fan saying they like Tiger Woods.

It's kind of a no-brainer.

Phelps, at 23,  has fashioned himself into a household name. When was the last time a swimmer was part of the general American sporting consciousness? Probably Mark Spitz back in 1972 -- the guy whose Olympic records Phelps is trying to break.

In a recent article in The Washington Post, Phelps was called the face of U.S. swimming. His success hasn't just been his own -- the popularity he generates also brings in more revenue for USA Swimming (which means more money for athlete development) an helps to bring a buzz to the sport, allowing for fellow swimmers to gain sponsorship deals vital for elite athletes to remain financially solvent.

At the U.S. Olympic trials this week, where swimmers need to finish first or second in order to qualify for the Olympic team, Phelps already set a world record in winning the 400 meter individual medley on Sunday.

Tonight, Phelps will be swimming in the 200 meter freestyle final -- an event in which he also owns the world record.

You can bet I'll be on my couch, watching the hour of live broadcast on USA Network, and seeing what Phelps can pull off tonight.

Granted, I will never swim like Phelps -- or any of the other elite athletes who have made their way to the Olympic Trials -- but it is inspirational to watch. Seeing really good swimmers, having that picture of what it's supposed to look like in my head, can help my own swimming. It gives me a visual. OK, my stroke looks nothing like Phelps or Natalie Coughlin (who will swim in the 100 backstroke finals tonight). And Phelps shines on the turns -- and not only do I not perform flip turns, there are no walls in open water.

But for sure, watching Phelps, Coughlin and their fellow swimmers gets me excited. Heck, it makes me ready to jump back in Lake Erie and work a little bit more on my form and endurance.

The other bonus points -- Phelps popularity means I don't get nearly as many strange looks from Sherpa when I start randomly listing all the things I love about him as opposed to my sudden outbursts for cyclists like Alberto Contador and Tom Boonen. Or maybe he just hides his strange looks a little bit better.

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