San Juan Mountains

San Juan Mountains
San Juan Mountains: Grenadier Range

Friday, July 19, 2013

Hey Ben.....Leave The Banks Alone!

Last week the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which somehow has authority to regulate profit seeking banks in the Socialist Democracy of Amerika, proposed a leverage rule that requires banks to have common equity equal to at least 5% of their assets.  That rule is more strict than the already strict international banking regulations known as Basel III.  According to the FDIC, "the leverage rule is intended to ensure that banks have enough capital to weather a severe downturn, like the one in 2008."
During a speech in Washington yesterday Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke called for "tougher regulations" on banks.  According to Ben "that is a fair price to pay after the damage caused by the 2008 financial crisis."  Ben told his audience that "the crisis led to an enormous waste of resources" and that the proposed new rules are "well justified on a cost-benefit basis."  In an amazing act of extreme hypocrisy Ben stated that "unsafe practices by large financial institutions pose a risk not just to themselves but to the rest of society."  Coming from the man who heads the institution which was almost exclusively responsible for the Great Recession, that is hard to take.
Is it the case that banks were primarily responsible for the Great Recession?  See this post to this blog for the answer to that question:  11-2-12.  What interests me today is the gross hypocrisy of the Federal Reserve and the FDIC when they claim that banks took them by surprise and caused the Great Recession.  These two government organizations, and the fools who populate them, make it sound as if banks were unregulated prior to 2008.  If our omniscient and omnipotent rulers were regulating the banks prior to 2008 we should not have experienced the Great Recession.  I have never heard a politician or a bureaucrat confess that his regulatory program does not work.  So, were the banks subject to government regulation prior to 2008?  
  • Prior to 2008 all banks in the SDA were subject to regulatory supervision by the Federal Reserve, the FDIC, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency and the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council.  All four of these regulators examine all federal banks on a regular basis.  If anyone should know about the relative health of a bank, it is the federal government.  If anyone should have foreseen the mortgage crisis, it should have been the federal regulators.
  • In 1970 the Bank Secrecy Act empowered the federal regulators to force banks to provide information about your private accounts to the federal government without your knowledge or consent.  In an amazingly hypocritical act, the 1999 enactment of Regulation P prohibits banks from giving your personal information to other profit seeking financial institutions without your consent.  We find ourselves in the strange situation where banks are required to provide private information to the government, where it is stored in a gigantic data base to eventually be used against you in a court of law, while at the same time they are forbidden to provide it to a profit seeking corporation that might have something  to sell you that you would like to purchase. 
  • In 1968 Regulation Z (Truth in Lending Act) was created.  It required banks to fully disclose the terms and conditions of all consumer loans.  According to the terms of this regulation no consumer would ever be able to claim that he was the victim of "predatory lending" since, by definition, he was fully aware of everything he was doing.  The federal regulators never said that they were not enforcing Regulation Z.  As far as we know, federal regulators were on top of the situation in 2008 and no "predatory loans" were being issued.
  • 1970 saw the creation of the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  This act forced banks to standardize their procedures in procuring credit reports about potential customers.  It also provided rules in regards to customer knowledge about changes to your credit report.  As far as we know the federal regulators were enforcing this act and every bank client was fully informed about the status of his credit report.
  • 1974 saw the creation of Regulation B, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act.  This regulation was originally intended to prevent banks from determining whether to loan you money based upon anything other than your creditworthiness.  It forbade discrimination based upon things like race and religion.  It is hard to see why this regulation was necessary since banks were very unlikely to use any criteria other than creditworthiness when making a loan.  After all, they are in the business of making a profit.  Things were about to take a dramatic turn for the worse in 1977.
  • The Community Reinvestment Act of 1977 completely reversed the provisions of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and set the stage for the Great Recession.  Under the terms of the Community Reinvestment Act banks were required to make loans to customers because they were not credit worthy.  Conditions like income and race were the primary considerations involved when the decision to make a loan was made.  Low income blacks, for instance, had highly preferential treatment when it came time to obtain a loan.  Billions of dollars of loans were made by banks that would never have been made if the federal regulators had not required them to do so.
  • As a side note and to show the extent of penetration into the daily activities of banks by federal regulators, Regulation D, first enacted in the 1930s and dramatically overhauled in 1978, regulates reserve requirements, early withdrawal policies from certificates of deposit, what qualifies as a DDA or NOW account, eligibility rules for interest bearing checking accounts and limitations on certain withdrawals from savings and money market accounts.  The federal regulation is so particular it actually mandates the total number of transfers or withdrawals a bank customer may make in his account per month.
  • In 1974 Regulation D was enacted. Also known as the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, this body of regulations was enacted to force financial institutions to "maintain and annually disclose data about home purchases, home purchase pre-approvals, home improvement, and refinance applications involving one- to four-unit and multifamily dwellings." (Wikipedia)  Since 1974 the federal regulators and the federal government were exhaustively informed about the condition of the consumer loan market in the SDA.  How can federal regulators possibly claim that they were taken by surprise when the housing bust took place?
The regulatory information provided above only scratches the surface of the rules that banks are subject to.  For the most part I have emphasized those that relate exclusively to housing and mortgages.  In light of the obvious fact that prior to 2008 banks were subject to a host of regulations about their mortgage lending, how can it be claimed that they are responsible for the mortgage crisis and the Great Recession and the federal regulators are not?  How can it be said with a straight face that banks need more regulations to keep it from happening again?  How can the informed citizens (all three or four of them) of the SDA stand by passively and allow men like Ben Bernanke to pass the blame for the Great Recession from himself to the profit seeking banks?  How can anyone in his right mind believe that the solution to whatever problem the federal government thinks exists is more regulation?  Of course, my question contains the answer to it.  These people are not in their right minds.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Don't Convict Froome For Lance's Sins

Chris Froome is leading the Tour de France.  Including today, there are four stages left in the three week bicycle race.  He has a commanding lead of over four minutes over his nearest competitor, three time former champion Alberto Contador of Spain.  Froome, a gangly African, rides for the British Sky team.  He won yesterday's individual time trial in convincing fashion.  It was a 32 kilometer (about 18 miles) race over two decent hills.  Contador was riding just ahead of him and crossed the line with what would have been the winning time.  Froome crossed the finish line nine seconds faster than Contador and gained even more time in his overall lead.  After the race Froome was inundated by reporters.
Most of the questions asked of Froome had to do with doping.  He has been asked, literally hundreds (maybe thousands?) of times if he is doping.  The mere fact that he is leading the race is sufficient reason for hoards of reporters and fans to indict, try and convict him of doping.  A day earlier Froome had put the hammer down and dropped Contador on the ascent of the legendary Mt. Ventoux.  Ventoux is an "out of category" climb that is usually placed at the end of a stage.  Many professional cyclists consider it to be the single hardest climb in bike racing.  Froome and Contador were fighting it out at the front of the peloton when Froome put in an acceleration that Contador could not answer.  Froome finished first, and alone, on top Mt. Ventoux.  He was immediately inundated by reporters asking him if he was doping.  As Froome said later, "My teammates and I have been away from  home for months training together and working our arses off to get here, and here I am accused of being a cheat and a liar.  I just think it is quite sad that we're sitting here the day after the biggest victory of my life, a historic win, talking about doping."
Stephan Heulot, manager of the French Sojasum team, summarized the situation when he said, "The problem today is that we are traumatized by the past.  We've seen too many stories like this.  We've seen too many riders swearing on the heads of their kids, their grandmothers, their mothers that they're completely clean and then -- bam! -- 15 years, 10 years, 5 years later we're told other things.  Someone's word no longer means anything."   If what Mr. Heulot says is true, and I have no reason to doubt him, why would reporters even bother to ask riders if they are doping?  If we have all become so jaundiced that we have learned to disbelieve every denial of doping that comes from the mouth of every bike rider, why do we bother continuing to ask the question?  We know that the rider is going to deny that he is doping.  If a reporter asks him if he is doping and he says no, the reporter writes that he has denied that he is doping and is, therefore, guilty of doping.  This is what we have come to.  How have we managed to get to this point?
I can't speak for cycling fans in the rest of the world but I believe I have the answer to that question for those of us who live in the Socialist Democracy of Amerika.  Lance Armstrong was an American hero.  He had a square jaw and came from Texas.  He overcame cancer.  Just like John Wayne he would not cry in front of the camera.  He ruled the professional peloton with an iron first for seven years.  He is what every patriotic citizen of this country likes to see...a tough as nails, no nonsense American who dominated those sissy Europeans on their own territory.  Millions of people who do not know a cassette from a crank suddenly became cycling fans.  Trek sold millions of bikes because everyone wanted to be riding the bike Lance was riding.  It looked like America was going to dominate the world of professional bike racing for the rest of human history, just like we dominate everything else in the world.  USA!  USA!
Then word began to leak out that things were not as they seemed to be.  Lance and his ilk were performing feats of power and endurance unlike anything ever seen in professional bike racing.  They were charging up climbs at record times and not even breathing hard.  Men who had struggled to get over a highway overpass were suddenly off the front on some of the tour's hardest climbs.  Some people began to talk.  Those who did, at least initially, were badgered and harassed.  Lawsuits were filed for defamation.  Within the peloton, Lance would ride up beside a rider and make the "lips zipped" gesture.  Riders were clearly told to keep quiet.  But it could not be kept back.  One, then another, and then another came forward with tales of pills and blood bags.  We eventually learned that about 90% of the professional peloton was doping.
Things have changed.  Statisticians of the sport have been crunching the numbers.  Times for the classic climbs have returned to historic averages.  During the doping era riders were riding about 10% faster than they were previously and than they are today.  The best estimates that I can read today suggest that about 10% of the professional peloton is presently doping.  And, unlike the previous doping era, those who are doping today are at the the lower echelon of the sport.  They are the ones who desperately turn to dope to try and make a career in cycling.  Those at the top are clean and their race times prove their allegations of dope free training and riding.  There is no reason to subject today's riders to the grueling interrogations about doping that they are presently experiencing.  There is no reason to doubt their word when they say they are clean.  There is no reason to refrain from joyously celebrating a superb victory on the top of a majestic mountain.  There is no reason to convict Froome of doping on the basis of Lance's previous doping sins.
I think I understand why people are reacting to today's cycling heroes they way they are.  They have been burned by Lance and his generation.  They do not want to be burned again.  Fans invested tons of emotional energy in Lance and he let them down.  That hurt.  It is easier to become cynical and accuse all of today's riders of doping than it is to get back into the game and make an emotional investment in a modern rider.  We see the same sort of thing in the stock market all the time.  After a bull market run of around 140% over the last four years, most people still believe that this stock market is running on steroids and doomed to drop fast in the near future.  Memories of the Great Recession make it almost impossible for investors to become excited about the present and the future.  That is called hindsight bias and it is a bad way to predict the future and a bad way to live in the present.
Many fan's hindsight bias in cycling leads them to distrust the present crop of riders.  That is a shame.  There are some very talented riders on display in this year's Tour de France.  It is fun to root and cheer for them.  It is fun to make an emotional investment in them.  It is fun to watch.  I feel sorry for those people who cannot do so because their own emotional insecurities get in the way.  Viva le Tour and go Contador!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Bill Of Rights Is Abolished

Citizens of the Socialist Democracy of America (formerly the United States of America) are getting precisely what they deserve in this life.  More precisely, they are being taxed into poverty by a multilevel beast of government that exists exclusively to perpetuate itself.  They are being hounded by those they pay to protect them.  They are being bound by rules and regulations by those they vote for to guide them.  They are being robbed, abused, accosted, intimidated and spied upon by national security agencies that are theoretically designed to spy on foreign countries that might harbor ill will towards us.  We are all systematically having our constitutional rights taken away.  Let me explain.
The First Amendment protects your right to free speech and assembly but you may not say certain things in the presence of particular politicians at predefined times and places.  "Free speech zones" are constructed by the federal government and you are forced to stand in an area where nobody will hear you prior to being allowed to speak.  If you speak outside of that zone you will arrested.  You have no right to free speech in the SDA.  If you wonder about your right to assemble.....just try this.  Get a large group of people together (the government will call you an "unruly mob") and march somewhere.  See how long it takes before you are surrounded by the police.
We all know that the Second Amendment protects your right to bear arms.  Read 1-10-13, 1-15-13, 6-21-13 and 7-11-13 to see how that is going.
The Third Amendment specifies that no soldier shall be quartered in your house without your permission.  Most folks think the government is doing a pretty good job protecting this right.  I wonder.....does requiring the taxpayers to foot the bill for the housing of 2.5 million soldiers in any way come close to violating this right to be free from being required to provide for the housing of soldiers in my own home?  Clearly it is not exactly the same thing.  But still, I wonder....
The Fourth Amendment was lost long ago.  This amendment gives you the right to be secure in your person, possessions and papers.  This right was lost in 1970 with the creation of the Bank Secrecy Act.  That act permitted government agents to secretly spy upon your bank accounts.  The act also made de facto government spies out of all bank employees as they were required to provide information to the feds about your personal and, what had been previously private, financial transactions.  The Patriot Act further expanded the alleged legality of government spying upon its own citizens.  The most recent revelations about government spying upon SDA citizens (see 6-5-13 and 6-6-13) is only the logical and rational expansion of government power and tyranny. 
How do the citizens of this land react to the fact that their own government has set aside the protections of the Fourth Amendment and now regularly spies on their every deed?  Quinnipiac University conducted a poll from June 28th to July 8th in which they asked SDA citizens what they believed about government spying.  The results were reported in the July 11th Denver Post.   When asked "what concerns you more about the government's anti-terrorism policies, that they have gone too far in restricting the average person's civil liberties or that they have not gone far enough to adequately protect the country?"  an astounding 40% declared that the federal government has not gone far enough in its efforts to spy on SDA citizens.  An additional 15% said they thought present policies were just fine.  In other words, a clear majority of 55% of the citizens of the SDA believe that present Fourth Amendment violating policies are just dandy. 
The Fifth Amendment protects the rights of SDA citizens to be protected by due process when accused of a capital crime.  We all know that King Obama has suspended this right.  Using the Patriot Act as his justification, he has declared that he has the right to execute any citizen of the SDA at any time, by use of a drone attack, if he believes that citizen is a terrorist.  The first time the SDA citizen will become aware that King Obama believes him to be a terrorist is when the bomb blow up in his face.  And we all thought the Boston bombers were cruel and callous.
The Sixth Amendment protects your right to a speedy trial.  See 7-9-13 for all you need to know about that one.
The Seventh Amendment protects your right to a jury trial in a civil suit.  It also clearly stipulates that "no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of common law."  Humm.....try telling that to George Zimmerman if the DOJ actually proceeds against him by filing a suit alleging that he "violated the civil rights" of Treyvon Martin.  It sure seems to me that any such action would be a direct violation of Zimmerman's rights.  In fact, that seems to be true for everyone who files a civil suit against somebody when a previous criminal trial resulted in acquittal. 
The Eight Amendment stipulates that excessive bail shall not be applied and all punishments shall be subject to examination to ensure they are not "cruel or unusual".  Let me get this straight.  A fellow who was caught with a marijuana cigarette in Colorado on June 30th is going to jail for three years and his buddy who was seen walking down the street smoking a joint on July 1st is a law abiding citizen?  Another fellow was smoking a joint with his feet inside the Colorado border while his buddy was doing the same thing while standing in Kansas.  The Kansas man was sent to jail.  The Colorado man went home to dinner.  Nothing cruel or unusual here, right?
The Ninth and Tenth Amendments describe how any right not specifically granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States is retained by the people.  That right was destroyed in the early 1800s when federal powers that be wanted to expand federal power and influence and did so by invoking the "interstate commerce clause" of the Constitution.  Since then the federal government has come to dominate every part of our lives.  Do you believe for a moment that the framers of the Constitution would approve of the fact that it is a violation of federal law for my daughter to sell lemonade on the corner?   Do you believe they would approve of the fact that it is illegal for me to sell milk from my cow to my neighbor?  Do you believe they would approve of the fact that I cannot put a handrail on my deck without first carving the OSHA approved "finger groove" in the wood?  Neither do I.
While all of our rights have been taken away the citizens of the SDA have been more concerned with who was advancing up the ladder in the "So You Think You Can Dance" competition.  They have been busy reading about the Kardashians and ignoring the Federal Register.  They have been willingly duped by lying politicians who have skillfully told them exactly what they want to hear, in exchange for a vote.  They have created a democracy, another abandonment of our original form of government, in which half of the citizens of this land are on the dole.  Those citizens vote in a bloc to ensure that government grows and freedom lovers are oppressed.  So, in the end, most of the folks who live in this sad land are getting exactly what they deserve.  The rest of us will just have to suffer along and wait for the end.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Denver Mayor Ignorant About Economics

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock delivered his "State of the City" speech yesterday.  It was filled with rousing statements about how great the city of Denver is.  It was delivered robustly and inspired the politicians and politically connected people who listened to it to stand and cheer.  According to the Denver Post,  "Hancock called on businesses, financial institutions and nonprofits to work on some of the biggest problems facing the city -- homelessness and lack of affordable housing."  Either Mayor Hancock is completely ignorant of economic principles or he is a massive hypocrite.  I will give him the benefit of the doubt and accuse him of economic ignorance.  Allow me to explain.
Mayor Hancock said that "Denver needs 25,000 more affordable housing units."  After pronouncing the precise number of "affordable housing units" he believes the citizens of Denver "need", he went on to challenge "businesses and banks to help the city build, rehab or preserve at least 3,000 units in five years."  What planet does this man live on?
How did the Mayor determine how many more housing units are necessary for the citizens of Denver?  Did he go out and ask every citizen of Denver if they needed an affordable housing unit?  What is an affordable housing unit?  How is affordability determined?  Is it based upon income or the cost of the housing unit?  How does a person qualify as being in need of an affordable housing unit?  None of these things are explained.  The Mayor simply pulls a number out of the air and assumes that we all know the definitions of the terms "affordable housing unit" and "needs".  I would like a more affordable housing unit. I would like for the Mayor to use his power to make my mortgage company reduce the value of my mortgage, my interest rate or my monthly payment.  I believe I need that.  If he would do that for me it would give me more money to spend on other things that I also believe I need. Do I qualify for one of these handout homes?
Apparently the Mayor does not understand how houses get built.  There are people who build houses.  They are called "developers".  The Mayor, like most politicians and all envy-ridden people, hates developers.  Developers are evil because they make a profit building something that someone is willing to buy.  If Denver needs 25,000 more housing units, why have the developers not stepped up and built them?  That is the question the Mayor is really asking.  He wants profit seeking developers to build homes that they will not make a profit on.  That seems a bit naive to me.  It also seems really stupid because if the Mayor is going to be upset about the absence of what he deems to be "affordable" housing he should look no further than himself for the cause of the shortage.  Allow me to explain.
When a profit seeking developer decides to risk his money on a housing project he must first jump through hundreds of government hoops to obtain permission to do so.  At each level of the bureaucracy the politicians will extract a fee for the "service" they provide.  The costs associated with all of this regulatory madness easily adds 25-30% on the price of a home.  If the Mayor wants affordable housing the first thing he could do would be to eliminate all of the forced bribes developers must pay in order to build a home.  That could drop the price of homes by 25-30% right away. affordable housing shortage.  But the Mayor is a politician.  He does not cut government revenues.  He raises them any way he can.  Presto....affordable housing shortage.
Why does the Mayor want profit seeking developers and the banks that finance them to suddenly become charitable enterprises that will build homes at a loss?  Why does the Mayor not turn to his constituency to find the resources and manpower to build these homes?  Why does he not ask the people who voted for him to pony up the dollars for his wild scheme?  Why does the Mayor not create a 501c3 corporation and solicit donations from his supporters to build the affordable homes he wants so much?  Why is it, after bashing real estate developers and banks as evil, greedy villains, he immediately turns to them the moment he wants something for free?  All of the developers and banks in Denver should collectively inform the Mayor that he should take a flying leap off of the tallest downtown building.
The Mayor aroused memories of Martin Luther King as he concluded his speech with this line, "I have the audacity to believe that anyone who wants to live in the city should not be forced out because of cost."  Amazing!
Let me tell you the things I audaciously believe.  I audaciously believe that I should be able to drive a Cadillac Escalade and not be forced to pay any more than I would for a used Subaru.  I believe I should be able to sit in the best seats at the Denver Broncos football games and not be required to pay the highest price.  I believe I should be able to play a round of golf on a Denver municipal golf course for free.  I believe I should be able to scrape the gold off the dome of the capitol building and sell it for cash.  I believe that every janitor in the employment of the city and county of Denver should earn the same salary as the Mayor.  Yes, I believe a lot of audacious things!  Maybe that will qualify me to be Mayor someday.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Toughest Athletes Alive

Everybody believes that his favorite sport is the hardest sport in the world.  Everybody believes that his sport requires the toughest men to compete in it.  There are many claims to being the toughest sport and the toughest athlete but only one reigns supreme.  Allow me to make my case.
Football players think they are tough.  They strut around with their arms elevated from their sides because they have developed their lateral muscles so much they can no longer drop them straight down.  They think that makes them tough.  They roll up their sleeves when the temperature is below freezing in order to look tough.  They pose and posture for the television camera in order to portray the image of extreme toughness. They are not.  The moment one of them stubs his toe on the artificial turf he is removed from the game.  Turf toe is sufficient reason to keep these tough guys from playing for weeks.  Hah!
Ultimate fight club people, or whatever it is they call themselves, think they are the toughest people in the world. They crawl into a cage and beat the snot out of each other for a couple of minutes until one of them "taps  out".  Then the fight is over and the winner struts around like he is the toughest guy in the world.  All it takes is one swift kick to the head and one of these guys will be knocked out. Once knocked out the match is over.  It could all be over in literally a couple of minutes.  They do this every couple of weeks.  They call that tough?  Hah!
Rugby players think they are tough because they get into a huge pile and push each other around the playing field all while not wearing a helmet.  What are they doing inside that pile of humanity?  Are they kicking each other in the shins?  Are they calling each other names?  At the very worst they might shed a little blood or get knocked out for a while.  Then they get an entire week off before the next match.  Tough?  Hah!
Some gear heads think automobile racing is a tough sport that requires tough men.  They talk about how the driver of a car in a long race can sweat out several pounds of water weight during the course of a race.  They talk about how hot it can be in the cockpit of the car.  Give me a break.  I can get the same impact by sitting in the sauna at my gym for a couple of hours and I am not tough at all.  Hah!
Hockey players like to get their pictures taken all because a puck once hit them in the mouth and knocked out a couple of teeth.  Big deal.  It only hurts for a little while and then it gives them a badge of honor for life.  I can accomplish the same thing with a visit to the dentist.  They also like to fight and they make a huge display out of how they will "drop their gloves" just prior to pummeling thin air for a few minutes in their carefully choreographed "fights".  Tough?  Hah!
Lots of weekend warriors think they are tough because they go out and complete a "tough mudder" competition.  If you haven't seen one of these things you would be amazed.  Somebody pours a bunch of water on some field and people pay good money to run around what is essentially an obstacle course in a mud pile for a couple of hours.  Since most of the participants have not run for more than a minute or two over the last couple of decades of their lives, it is considered to be a difficult  thing to do.  My kid playing in a mud puddle in the back yard accomplishes the same goal, and I don't have to pay for it.  Tough mudders?  Hah!
Baseball players get a blister on their finger and have to sit out for a week.  Basketball players twist their ankle and have to miss the next three games.  Ping pong players get carpel tunnel syndrome and have to apply for Social Security disability benefits. Steeplechase riders take a year off anytime they get hemorrhoids.  Hey, try a little Preparation H and get back on the horse, will ya?
There is one, and only one tough sport in this universe.  The men who engage in this sport are the true hard-men of the universe.  If you want to know the definition of tough you need to attempt to play this sport.  If you want to see the epitome of tough men you need to watch this sport.  What is it?  Cycling.
A professional cyclist in the Tour de France has to ride 20 stages in three weeks.  Each stage can last from around three to six hours.  Over the course of the tour the riders will cover thousands of miles and climb hundreds of thousands of vertical feet.  I can hear you saying, "but I can ride a can't be that tough".  Wrong!  Have you ever worked out on a machine at your gym that gives you a readout of your "watts"?  Wattage is the measure of power that you are producing as you engage in a particular exercise.  I am a pretty fit guy for my advanced age and I can put out about 250 watts for an hour if I really push it on the stationary bike.  The fellows in the Tour de France will average more than that for the entire ride.  During the final hour or so of a sprint stage, and during the difficult climbing portions of a race, the riders will be putting out over 400 watts, some will go over 500.  Try that in you gym.  See if you can keep it up for an hour or two.
So maybe you will concede these guys are aerobic machines.  But there is more.  They are tough.  They crash all the time.  They hit the pavement going 40 mph.  Once they hit the pavement somebody riding behind them runs into them and he hits the pavement at 30 mph.  Some riders will crash a half a dozen times during the Tour de France alone.  Hitting the pavement at 40 mph is harder than being slammed to the ground by Dick Butkus in a run up the middle.  Then, after they hit the ground, they have to get up, fix their bike and get back in the pursuit.  If they do not finish in time they will not be able to start the next stage.  It does not matter that an arm might be out of socket.  They let it hang there and pedal in.  Sometimes their teammates have to come alongside and push them across the finish line.
There is a fellow in the Tour de France right now who is riding with a fracture pelvis.  Has any player of any other sport ever continued to engage in that sport for hours a day over a period of three weeks with a fractured pelvis?  Another fellow slid along the ground on his back and essentially has no back skin left.  That was considered to be a minor injury.  Another fellow finally had to abandon the race after his third crash.  His second crash fractured a rib and caused the screw that was holding his clavicle together (from a previous crash) to come out.  That was not sufficient reason to stop.  He had to crash a third time before quitting. 
Tyler Hamilton is famous for the fact that he completed the Tour de France while riding with a broken collarbone.  He broke it in the first week.  The pain was so intense he coped with it by grinding his teeth.  By the end of the tour his teeth were gone.  Tell me about the hockey player again, will you?
Sometimes when they crash they go flying off cliffs.  Last year one rider was hit by a automobile that was supposed to be covering the race and was sent flying into a barbed wire fence along the road.  He wasn't able to finish that stage, although he wanted to. A fellow in the Tour of Colorado last year fell between the panels of a cattle guard during one stage of the race.  He was catapulted to the ground, face first.  He did not finish the race.  He is back racing this year.
Sometimes the fans can be cruel.  Mark Cavendish had a cup of urine thrown on him last week by an irate fan.  On yesterday's stage some idiot ignited a smoke bomb in the face of the two men who were leading the final climb.  Perhaps the most famous incident in cycling was when a crazed French fan hit Eddy Mercks in the back so hard he ruptured his kidney.  He didn't want to see Mercks, who is a Belgian, win his record tying fifth Tour de France.  Eddy finished that stage and the race, although the punch ended up costing him the victory.  He came back and won it the next year.
Cyclists in the Tour de France have ridden for hours at high speeds in temperatures approaching 100 degrees. They have gone over passes where it was so wet and cold they were hypothermic.   Sometimes they are shaking so hard from the cold it causes them to crash.  They just get up and keep going.  They don't stop.  They don't quit until they quite literally cannot get back on the bike.  I don't think a blister or a stubbed toe has ever kept a cyclist from finishing a race.
So don't try and tell me about tough until you have watched the Tour de France.  Those guys are the toughest in the world.


An astute reader of this blog, no doubt a cyclist, wrote me to correct a point I had made above.  Here is what he wrote about the rider who was hit by an automobile and launched into a barbed wire fence, "Johnny Hoogerland, in stage 9 of the 2011 tour, was knocked into the fence by a "press" car but finished the stage only 16 minutes down on the winner, 5 minutes ahead of the grupetto.  Also, unlike race car drivers who regularly get into brawls in the pits after bumping during the race, Johnny harbored no ill will towards the driver of the car, even though the driver didn't stop or apologize."  Tough and kind.  What a combination.  We could all learn from his example.