No offense to anyone out there who uses this format as a daily diary of sorts, but that model is not what I am interested in. Instead of a purely first-person "my world" type of thing, I wanted to create a venue in which to express thoughts and views in a manner that is hopefully somewhat entertaining and interesting to those who may or may not have any connection to me personally. Whether I have succeeded or not is debatable but that has been the overriding intent.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
No offense to anyone out there who uses this format as a daily diary of sorts, but that model is not what I am interested in. Instead of a purely first-person "my world" type of thing, I wanted to create a venue in which to express thoughts and views in a manner that is hopefully somewhat entertaining and interesting to those who may or may not have any connection to me personally. Whether I have succeeded or not is debatable but that has been the overriding intent.
Saturday, December 15, 2007
Here we go…
Q: Does the Mitchell Report make professional cycling look any better compared to other sports?
A: I’m not sure that the Mitchell Report makes cycling look any better because I think most people understood that Major League Baseball was pretty juiced to begin with. Canseco, McGwire and Bonds made sure of that a long time ago.
It’s kind of like when official reports started coming out of China about their steroid use in the Olympics. Their female swimmers looked like Chong Li from Bloodsport and we were supposed to be surprised that they had been doing something fishy? Oh, you think so Doctor?
It does prove The More You Look, The More You Find Theory that most defenders of professional cycling have offered though. I would rather see a report like this for soccer in Europe because I’m tired of that sport getting off the hook on the Continent while bike racing is vilified. I wonder if German television would stop broadcasting soccer matches if there was a Muenchen Report or something.
I was surprised at how specific the Mitchell Report’s list of players was. I guess I have gotten used to Operacion Puerto-style vagueness and was expecting code-names or something. If Fuentes had been involved the names probably would have been “El Rocket (Clemens)” and “Bee Bee (Bonds)” at least.
But there was a sense of certainty in the Mitchell Report that I have never felt with a doping investigation in cycling. It’s unfortunate that the Spanish and various European authorities are not able to carry out a similarly conclusive investigation when they have greater legal powers than Mitchell did. But then again, it is Europe.
Q: Dude, Lance and an Olsen Twin? What’s up with that?
A: C-Mac informed me of this little bit of gossip and I still don’t really know what to think. I’m pretty sure I made the “Wait…can you repeat that?” face when she told me though.
Then I made the “Okay…that’s kind of creepy” face when I heard her description of the tabloid affair.
But that was quickly followed by the “Well…maybe it’s not that bad” face as I did the math in my head, estimating Lance in his mid/late-thirties and The Olsen in her very low twenties.
Then I realized that this relationship likely violated the Half Your Age + Seven formula and went back to the “Okay…that’s kind of creepy” face.
But then I remembered that Tom Boonen is apparently hooked up with a 16 year-old Belgian girl so…I guess Lance isn’t that much of The Old Guy In The Club.
And I’m still not entirely sure which Olsen it was. Mary Kate is the kind of hippie one and Ashley is the cleaner one right? Which is the one that wears really huge sunglasses?
I may have to investigate this further.
Q: I’m confused. Is it okay to like Astana now that they have Horner and the Discovery guys?
A: This is an interesting question because it implies that it was not okay to like Astana in the past and I can’t say that I am entirely on board with that. They were certainly controversial and the kits were horrendous, I’ll give them that.
Anyway, the greater question being…how many of the former legion of U.S. Postal/Discovery fans will throw their favor to a team named after the capital of Kazakhstan whose sole legacy is one of turmoil and suspicion?
Honestly I have no idea.
I do think that they will be a fairly likable team as a result of the rider and staff changes. The thought of Levi and Horner rolling through Kazakhstan is kind of fun. Hopefully the Borat guy won’t show at the Tour in ’08.
As long as the kits change, I am willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Q: What will Vinokourov do now that he has retired?
A: Apparently Vino is a huge star in Kazakhstan and is even reported to be hosting some kind of televised Christmas special. He is also involved in a number of small business enterprises in France. He also made a ton of money by legally or illegally racing his bicycle so I think he’ll probably be just fine.
But insiders have reported that the former racer is spending a lot of time in his recording studio, performing a number of Rick James songs. There are rumors that Vino will be releasing a compilation of The Superfreak’s Greatest Hits translated into his native Kazakh language and that the touring band will consist of Kashechkin, Rasmussen, Moreni and Sinkewitz.
Q: How will Dick Pound’s resignation from WADA influence professional cycling?
A: Well, first and foremost it will probably reduce the number of times that I write the words Dick and Pound in the same sentence. Nothing wrong with that.
Secondly, it may mean that he ends up in the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Lots wrong with that.
I cannot imagine that a guy who has been so openly judgmental of ALL cyclists could ever possibly find a spot in an organization that will be responsible for rendering life-altering verdicts in highly contentious doping cases.
I also don’t know much about the guy that is going to be his successor. But as long as his name isn’t Rod Hammer or something, I think it should be an improvement.
Q: What’s the deal with Rock Racing and Michael Ball?
A: I’m not sure about the team but from what I have seen of their recent signings, they should certainly be a factor. The thought of Botero and Fast Freddie in the domestic circuit is ominous. I don’t know though, I think they are kind of becoming the Cobra Kai of U.S. cycling. Even down to the black kits and SoCal roots.
Now, as for Ball (aka John Kreese)…this guy…this is not my kind of guy. But then again, it’s a pet peeve of mine when people drop F-bombs all over the place and act like cocky teenagers. So that doesn’t help. It is going to be hard to pull for the team when he is the primary face and voice.
In fact, Ball's behavior in every circumstance that I am aware of has been so ridiculously obnoxious that it makes me wonder if his act is just some kind of publicity stunt. No one can really be that comically arrogant and cartoonish can they? If I were watching him on television or in a movie, I would think that he was totally over-acting. Like…Jim Carey-style over-acting. Seriously, no one can be that offensive without doing it on purpose.
I also simply cannot take anyone that sells jeans for hundreds of dollars seriously. Even if his company is wildly successful, there is just something inherently troubling about this element of our society. I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if I knew that I was encouraging people to spend hundreds of dollars on jeans.
Now…a nice pair of bib shorts is another story entirely.
As always, thanks for reading and feel free to send me any questions that you would like answered in a sarcastic and largely unprofessional/unaccountable fashion.
Sunday, December 9, 2007
In professional cycling, one can fortunately choose to root for or against riders, teams or even countries. There may not be historical rivalries on par with the Giants-Dodgers, but there are plenty of opportunities to pick sides. These choices are largely arbitrary and superficial but they can make following sports a bit more exciting. And at the end of the day, they don’t really mean anything. Spontaneous emotion and excitement without consequence. It’s great. Unless you are a Colombian soccer player.
Anyway, I would like to start off by saying that I love France. I really do. It is one of the most beautiful countries in the world and has contributed as much to the higher culture of Western Civilization as any. When it comes to art, wine, architecture and scenery, France is about as good as it gets.
But for various reasons, I don’t like many of the country’s professional cyclists.
It all started with Bernard Hinault in the mid-80’s. Oh, how I disliked The Badger, with his snarling grimace and hairy arms. His cheesy Ray Ban sunglasses even reminded me of Mike Ditka, another sports villain from my early teens. Hinault epitomized everything that I questioned about bike racing and his dethroning symbolized the dawn of a new era in cycling. My era, of cool guys wearing Oakleys and Giro helmets. Not grumpy, old, hairy men in Ray Bans.
I recently watched the DVD of the 1986 Tour again and it confirmed all of my initial feelings about the crotchety and conniving Hinault. The aging Frenchman was at the peak of his Badger-ness during the first Tour that I was able to follow as an 11 year old and I still find myself getting annoyed with his antics at 32. I’ll write more about the ’85 and ’86 Tours soon. That DVD is almost like a comedy at this point. It’s incredible.
In terms of my all-time Bad Guys, I would liken Bernard Hinault to the legendary Billy Zabka. If you recall, Zabka (Czech for “Little Frog”) had a remarkable string of Hall of Fame Bad Guy roles in the mid-to-late ‘80’s and still sets the standard by which all others are measured.
Most recognize Zabka as Johnny Lawrence, the quarterback of the Cobra Kai butt-kicking team in the Karate Kid and ultimate witness to the power of the Crane Technique. But just like Hinault, Zabka had a number of other great Bad Guy performances that are often overlooked. I personally think that his portrayal of “Chas” in Back To School was similar to Hinault in the 1985 Tour and the role of Audrey’s boyfriend “Jack” in European Vacation was kind of like the Frenchman’s Coors Classic rides.
Following Hinault in the growing legacy of unlikable Frenchmen, Laurent Fignon came around to challenge the far cooler LeMond in 1989. The silly ponytail and nerdy glasses put Fignon at an immediate disadvantage but there was just simply no way that I could like the guy when he was going up against the greatest comeback story in the sport.
The other HUGE factor in my disapproval of Larry Fignon was his startling resemblance to Robert Preston, also known as the villainous “Kent Torokvei” from Real Genius. While not quite as popular as some of the other ‘80’s movies, Real Genius provided one of Val Kilmer’s better roles as well as a startling glimpse of a Fignon look-alike playing the evil, laser sabotaging Kent.
Needless to say, a few years later when Larry was flopping on the ground after having lost on the Champs Elysees, I couldn’t help but think that Val Kilmer was smiling somewhere. I sure was.
Solidifying this theme of French guys I could do without was the emergence of Richard Virenque. The Festina scandal was just the beginning but let’s just say that Tricky Ricky was not someone that I was rooting for, whether or not he was wining polka-dot jerseys or lying for a couple years about doping.
Virenque’s success in the mountains of the Tour de France forces the comparison to Roy Stalin, the ski racing Bad Guy from Better Off Dead. Not to mention that Stalin stole John Cusack’s girlfriend and Virenque was always called The French Housewives Favorite.
Ironically, Cusack's character in the movie ends up with Monique, a French girl. I don't recall seeing Aaron Dozier in many future roles but then again, he was really just a Zabka wanna-be. Billy must have been busy when they were casting Better Off Dead because he would have been a lock for the Stalin role.
The most prominent current member of the French cyclists that I don’t particularly care for is Le Chien, Christophe Moreau. More than anything, I have found myself questioning his tactics and generally not liking his style on the bike. He will forever be linked to Festina and getting popped for steroids at the Criterium International and his knee-high socks aren’t helping either.
Actually, one of the main issues I have with Moreau is that he looks exactly like a skinny version of a former employer I had back in the Bay Area. I got along quite well with this person but it’s still weird to see a guy that looks like your boss chasing worthless mountain points and generally wasting energy in the Tour. Off-putting at best.
Anyway, beyond all of these things, Moreau kind of reminds me of Shooter McGavin from Happy Gilmore in that he’s just a guy that is easy to like to dislike. It’s an interesting quality.
Truthfully though, compared to other sports, there are really very few cyclists that I dislike. Overall, I think most professional riders are a pretty agreeable bunch. If Terrell Owens, Jeff Kent and Kobe Bryant were bike racers, I would probably not have any of these Frenchmen very high on my list of Bad Guys.
Saturday, December 1, 2007
2007 has been a weird, wild year in the world of professional cycling. There will be plenty of time to reflect on the meaning of it all as we head in to the darkness and cold of Winter, but for now I’d like to take this opportunity to look back at some of the major international races we had the pleasure to enjoy this past year. We’ll work through chronologically and fittingly, go back to my birthplace of San Francisco, for the first big race of the season.
Tour of California – Levi Leipheimer
The second edition of the Amgen Tour of California was even better than the first. Probably even for Ben Jacques-Maynes who, after a stellar prologue in The City, became the victim of one of the most blatant Home Town officiating decisions since the offsides penalty call in “Victory.”
The “Neutral for however many k’s from the finish we want” rule used in Santa Rosa ended up getting brushed under the rug because Levi was the favorite coming into the race and no one wants to see a crash in the finale take out the leader but BJM, a nearly-local guy himself, got seriously jobbed on that one. Bike racing is bike racing.
Regardless, the rest of the ToC was pretty entertaining. Any time you’ve got Jens Voigt presented by Chuck Norris challenging for the win on one of the most picturesque courses, it’s going to be a good event. The Rainbow Jersey wearing Paolo Bettini nabbed one of his few wins in 2007 and Hincapie’s fall and subsequent ride to help reel in Stuart O’Grady on the last big road stage was one of the toughest performances I’ve seen in a while.
Plus, I got to go to Solvang and show my Dad and Grandparents a little “behind the ropes” action at the Time Trial. That made it the best race of the season for me personally. You can catch my voluminous coverage of the entire event starting here.
Het-Volk – Fillipo Pozzato
While not as prestigious as his M-S-R victory last year, Pipo bagged himself another good early season win but apparently still can’t afford a haircut. Nevertheless, this guy is almost guaranteed to rack up a few W’s each year, whether in late attack or a small bunch kick. But the hair really does kill me. My initial thoughts on the race can be found here.
Paris-Nice – Alberto Contador
This was the first race that really made me a believer in Contador and was the catalyst for my later description of his style as being reminiscent of “a crazed spider-monkey darting around the road.” But I mean that in the best way possible. Seriously. You can read my original thoughts on this race here.
It really was amazing to watch him dance away from Rebellin and everyone else on the final stage though. It should have come as a surprise to no one who watched Paris-Nice that Contador would be a threat at the Tour in July.
How do you say “Better Recognize” in Spanish?
Milan Sanremo – Oscar Freire
I still don’t know how you beat Oscar Freire when he’s on form. And since he was clearly flying and motivated in early 2007, he made his second M-S-R victory look easy. And he didn’t even have to throw his bike this time.
What was not easy, was having to watch replay after replay of all the crashes, including poor Andrea Moletta breaking his leg by wedging himself between a light post and the cement wall on the side of a tricky corner. Milan Sanremo is just a spectacular event for so many reasons. I wish they did it twice per year. My first recap of this race can be found here.
Tour of Flanders – Alessandro Ballan
I’m not certain, but I think Leif Hoste means “Nice Try” in Flemish. Maybe the Belgian will win this race someday but going to the line with Ballan this year was not the way to the top step.
My brother would argue that Hoste is still working off his bad karma from ditching Hincapie a few years ago so he could gift wrap the victory for Boonen. Ballan had been knocking on the door for a while though, so he’s a deserving winner. He nearly made TomTom look like the paperboy on the Muur de Huy that day.
My original thoughts on the Tour of Ned Flanders are here.
Paris-Roubaix – Stuart O’Grady
I had a chance to hang out with O’Grady for a few minutes before the start of the Santa Barbara stage of the ToC this year and despite being a really nice freckly guy with earrings, he just oozes toughness. He threw down a gutsy ride that day and it was no surprise that he went on to win The Hell of the North this year.
Unfortunately, it ended up being kind of a hellish year for the unlucky Aussie but it was great to see him finally notch that big Classic win. There are few riders more deserving of it.
Following Stuey’s lead, maybe it will be Big George’s turn in 2008. Does anyone know who is making the stems and forks for Team High Road this year?
Amstel Gold – Stefan Schumacher
Speaking of Hincapie, I will probably never appreciate Schumacher after the whole Eneco debacle from 2006. Even though I don’t think that the German meant to take out Melanie’s husband, he certainly was responsible for George hitting the deck. There is just something terribly wrong about a guy (regardless of intent) ramming into the race leader, making him crash and then winning the event because of time bonuses. That was foul.
But anyway, even though Amstel is one of my favorite races (and beers), I have all but forgotten how Schumacher won it this year. I’m guessing Michael Boogerd was involved somehow though.
Liege-Bastogne-Liege – Danilo Di Luca
After a series of close calls and podiums, Di Luca was pretty much on fire at Liege-Bastogne-Liege. I think that ultimately, in a race as long and brutal as L-B-L, the guy who wants it the most wins. It could be argued that of the guys in the finale, The Killer was the only one who really needed to win. To overcome the embarrassment of those blue and green striped shorts. And that meager nickname.
Tour de Georgia – Janez Brajkovic
For some reason I have never really gotten too excited about the Tour de Georgia. Maybe it’s the annoying combination of the “de” in the name and the fact that it’s in the South. I’ve been to Georgia and I know that it is a very beautiful state (for the most part) but I just can’t seem to get that into it.
This year was no exception, as the Brajkovic breakaway blew the race to bits and relegated the strongest guy in the race (Levi, his teammate) to going for stage wins and an anonymous overall placing. It’s always bittersweet when the winner isn’t the best guy. SEE: Hinault/LeMond, 1985 Tour de France for example.
Not to diminish the win or speak ill of Janez, or “Yanni” as it seems people call him. I would like to pronounce it Jan-EE-ZEE. He seems to have a bright future ahead of him though. Wearing pants with a 23” waist.
Giro d’Italia – Danilo Di Luca
So Di Luca won the Giro…something that I openly proclaimed was impossible for the last few years. I don’t know how he won it, but he did. Oily hair and all…
Andy Schleck was pretty impressive as well. Although ever since I learned that Luxembourg has the highest per capita income in the world, the all-white, Best Young Rider kit seems kind of like a country club tennis outfit.
Dauphine Libere – Christophe Moreau
When Le Chien won the Dauphine, I was actually as happy as I could be for a guy that I really don’t care for very much. It has to be pretty cool to win solo on Mt. Ventoux as a Frenchman. Even though he should have known that he peaked a month too early and would croak in the Tour.
This race should have also served notice that Astana was charging. They were all over the place, including Vinokourov and Kashechkin getting the better of Zabriskie and Evans by a startling 30 seconds in the 40.7k Time Trial. All in all, Astana riders won 4 of 6 road stages (Vino 2, Colom – w/ Vino 2nd, Iglinski) and had two riders hold the leaders jersey for half the race (Vino, Kashechkin), ultimately leaving it for Moreau as they eyed the Tour. I was very afraid of that team after the Dauphine.
Tour de France – Alberto Contador
The most excruciatingly enjoyable and frustrating 3 weeks of absurdity imaginable.
Can’t wait until next year. But please…no Trautwig.
It’s not that I wish Contador hadn’t won…but I wish either Cadel or Levi had. Does that make sense?
Anyway, my original thoughts start somewhere around here and go on for a while. I still don’t know what to think about my old friend though.
USPRO Championships –David Zabriskie, Levi Leipheimer
More surprising than DZ’s repeat win in the TT was how close Danny The Pate and Boulder’s own Timmy Duggan came to clipping their soon to be teammate. Good work for the domestic fellas.
More surprising than Levi’s runaway victory in the Road Race was how his teammate, Melanie Hincapie’s husband, reacted to it. Poor PR work there big guy. There are some more thoughts about it here.
I ran into fellow BHS alum and former USPRO Road Champ Chris Wherry at DIA on Labour Day, the day after the race, and he said Levi was just super strong and that the field was pretty blown apart.
But how about this glimpse into the life of a pro bike racer – Chris was waiting in Denver for a flight to Durango after having done the 100k Classic in Atlanta that morning, the day after the 177k USPRO Championships in Greenville. That’s a pretty tough 48 hours. Props to professional bike racers.
Vuelta a Espana – Denis Menchov
Apparently dropping out of the Tour after your scandalous yellow jersey-wearing teammate gets fired by your stressed out Director is the perfect way to prepare for the Vuelta a Espana. At least it seemed that way, because Denis Menchov followed that exact path to dominance in the bronze medal Grand Tour.
The flap between Carlos Sastre and Leonardo Piepoli was weird. It would be nice to see Carlos get a Vuelta win someday but he got a little lippy this year. I guess Triki Beltran did too. I wonder what Bjarne Riis had to say about the prospect of Piepoli working for Menchov. And the prospect of his top rider coming off like a whiner.
Tour of Missouri – George Hincapie
The inaugural Tour of Missouri was an armadillo-ridden affair that resembled the TdG in a number of fashions. With an early breakaway ensuring that only a handful of riders ever had a shot at the overall, Discovery Channel again steamrolled and got the W on home soil.
It’s not often that Big George wins stage races so I couldn’t help but think that this was kind of similar to Davis Phinney winning the 1988 Coors Classic for America’s first team, 7-Eleven. They are obviously different types of riders and won the races in different manners, but still. Although I bet the scenery in Davis’ race from San Francisco to Boulder was a touch prettier than George’s week-long jaunt through Mizzourah. What the Show Me State showed me can be found here.
World Championships – Fabian Cancellara, Paolo Bettini
See 2006 World Championships. At least they already had the jerseys made up.
Oh yeah, there was also the whole ridiculousness of the UCI versus the German Race Organizers versus Bettini versus general respectability and professionalism. I still don’t know if anyone came out of it a winner though.
I actually thought Bettini handled the whole situation better than anyone. After being specifically targeted as undesirable by the organizers (along with Eddy Merckx and a number of others) The Cricket channeled it into the legs and gave the best gun-related victory salute I’ve seen in a long time. I used to give the two-handed 6-shooter style when I had the chance but Bettini took out the rifle for whoever deserved it.
Paris-Tours – Alessandro Petacchi
Ale-Jet got a nearly perfect leadout from Erik Zabel and took home the prize but the real excitement came when Robbie McEwen was basically punched in the face by a spectator in the final stretch.
As the Pocket Rocket was snuggling up to Petacchi’s wheel he tasted hand at about 40 mph, got his glasses knocked sideways, unclipped a pedal and veered left directly into Oscar Freire who then bumped into Alan Davis. It was amazing that none of them stacked it. I must have rewound (Is that really a word? Spellcheck didn’t catch it. But it did catch Spellcheck…) the tape of the finish 10 times and saw something different and crazy and amazing with each viewing.
It’s cool to see breakaways and the cat-and-mouse of smaller group finishes but there is nothing like a big field sprint in a major event. Nothing. It’s insane. Seriously. The sheer physics of that many riders and bikes moving at so many angles at such great speeds would lead one to believe that a field sprint is something akin to a game of Russian Roulette. Well…maybe that’s not too far off base. And Robbie, Oscar and Alan all nearly caught a bad one in Tours this year.
Tour of Lombardy – Damiano Cunego
Lombardy is always a beautiful and exciting race and makes a nice bookend to the season with Milan-Sanremo in the Spring. The 2007 edition lived up to this reputation and provided some good drama and a worthwhile winner.
Even though Cunego got the win and was probably the strongest guy in the race, the real animator was Ricardo Ricco who seemed to be able to jump off the front at will. Cunego was marking him throughout the entire finale and got the better of him in the end, but it was Ricco’s repeated attacks that finally sprung the two young Italians.
I would like to take a moment here to acknowledge some similarities and differences between Cunego and Ricco. First, they both kind of superseded teammate Gilberto Simoni in the Giro, which is always fun to watch. But despite this common bond, they have very different nicknames. Cunego is The Little Prince and Ricco is The Cobra. I think the Italians are poor nicknamers in general but I’ll give the edge to Ricco on that one. Although if his nickname were "Cobra Kai" then it would immediately be the coolest in the peloton. Sadly, it's just Cobra.
Also sadly, I got the feeling that Franck Schleck was the strongest rider until he spaced out, crossed wheels and decked it a few k’s from the finish. That was most unfortunate.
So...there is a quick recap of the biggest international races of 2007. Well, maybe not that quick. It was not the best year for cycling, but also probably not the worst either. Well, depending on who you ask I suppose.
There was certainly a lot of negativity in professional cycling in 2007, but there was also a lot of exciting action as well. I think 2008 will be better for a number of reasons but looking back on 2007 provides some good memories to build on.
Except the Liquigas and Saunier-Duval kits of course.
Monday, November 26, 2007
"Rudy became involved during my younger days on the German National Team, providing training plans and helping me with some strategic decisions. Pillsbury, or 'D-Boy' as I eventually called him, came around after I won the Tour in 1997. He mostly provided pastries, cookies, and bisquits" explained the disgraced German.
It has been well documented that Pevenage was Ullrich's primary coach and mentor during his checkered career but only recently has there been indication of Pillsbury's influence on the rider.
"People always point the finger at Rudy and say that he made me take EPO and got me into the Fuentes Blood Doping Ring. But that doesn't really explain the entire situation" said the noticeably chubby Ullrich as he polished off a fresh plate of chocolate chip cookies.
"You see…it was really all D-Boy's fault. I mean, I never even knew what a centrifuge was until Pillsbury cautioned that my cinnamon-to-epicinnamon ratio could get thrown out of whack and potentially cause a positive waistband result. That's when I first realized that I had developed a problem. "
"It was around this time that Rudy began telling me that I either had to ditch the Doughboy or start some hard-core doping program. By this point, I had D-Boy's number on my speed dial and he was bringing me hot, flaky bisquits like three times a week. There was no way I could just stop eating tasty baked goods cold turkey…so Rudy and I started a regular routine of EPO, Testosterone and Blood Doping. It was really the only logical option."
When asked who was most to blame for his history of performance enhancing drug use, Ullrich thought for a moment and then stated that while Pevenage and Pillsbury contributed to it, one of the primary culprits was actually the cycling media.
"You see, I'm 6 feet tall and weighed about 160 lbs for most of my career. And while I've never really been considered skinny, it's a bit of a stretch to say that I was fat at any point during my racing days" explained the freckled German.
"But you guys always kept hounding me when I would stop at the local German bakeries, so I had to go underground and ended up getting hooked on Pillsbury. If it weren't for the constant scrutiny and all these pastry chefs leaking information to the press about my Strudel habits, I would have kept my snacking in the public eye. But instead I had to act like a common street junkie and bake my stuff at home, unsupervised. It was just so simple. Preheat oven. Open package and there you go. That is what led to my downfall."
At this point Ullrich stood up to loosen his belt and asked if there were any final questions. A portly Belgian reporter who had often criticized the Olympic and World Champion for being overweight, took the opportunity to ask what the German planned to do in the future.
"I am really not certain what I am going to do now. But I think I read that Cinnabon just partnered with Pillsbury so I'm pretty excited about that. Maybe I can do some German endorsements or something for them. I giggle when I get poked in the belly too."
Saturday, November 17, 2007
The Boulder Theater played host to yet another great cycling event Wednesday evening, with the first public presentation of the 2008 Slipstream/Chipotle presented by H3O Professional Cycling Team, in association with the Davis Phinney Foundation.
Hosted by the ever on-form Dave Towle, the public presentation actually followed an earlier dinner from which a nice swerve was being cultivated amongst many of those on hand. The vibe was Boulder Formal for the most part, with a nearly equal distribution of suits and dresses versus down and fleece.
Faces such as Ron Keifel, Andy Hampsten, Nelson Vails, Michael Aisner and many other legends of the sport dotted the audience, enhancing the sense that this was an important event in U.S. cycling. But then again…it is Boulder, where the local Whole Foods has a minimum of 6 current or former professional athletes strolling through the aisles at any given time.
But as the night wore on I became more and more convinced that we were, in fact, witnessing a historic event. And not just for cycling, but for the sports world as a whole. It can be effectively argued that Slipstream is truly at the forefront of the fight against doping and has set perhaps the best example of how to compete honestly and cleanly.
It is no coincidence that, even though Slipstream has morphed into a Tour-caliber team of internationally renowned riders, there is still a strong core sense of purpose reminiscent of the TIAA-CREF/5280 development team originally started by Jonathan Vaughters. It was reassuring to listen to Scott Hirshorn, Managing Partner of presenting sponsor H3O, as well as team owner Doug Ellis confirm their commitment to investing in the sport of cycling. It never hurts to have benefactors and JV has secured an impressive group of financial supporters who seem to share his vision for the future.
But for as much as the Slipstream/Chipotle presented by H30 (goodness that’s a mouthful) team presentation maintained this theme of working toward a better future, it was pleasing to see the “reality-TV-ish” documentary featuring Danny Pate, Mike Friedman and other members of the team who probably never thought this group would have gotten this far, this quickly. There are a lot of guys that could possibly feel overshadowed by all the new Pro Tour riders on the team but I get the sense that JV will remain true to the guys that have been with him for a while.
An interesting blend of past, present and future was on display as the legendary Davis Phinney was introduced along with his son Taylor, the recently crowned Elite Pursuit National Champion and Junior World Time Trial Champion, to discuss the Davis Phinney Foundation and Taylor’s newfound friendship with Slipstream’s David Millar. Davis was talking to Austin Murphy of Sports Illustrated as we entered the event but he still stopped to shake my hand and give C-Mac a kiss on the cheek. Smooth. It would be nice to see Murphy cover this event for Sports Illustrated and provide more coverage of the team and the Davis Phinney Foundation. They might get a little more attention than from me writing about them.
Some of the funniest moments of a night that contained a significant amount of laughter, came as Davis and Taylor introduced a short film about Millar. Davis got the first laughs with a comment about how he used to be as tall as his 6’3” son who towered above him on stage but Taylor quickly got some solid chuckles of his own. While recounting his training ride with Millar, the young Phinney mentioned that they talked about racing and girls and stuff but quickly covered himself and his training partner by mentioning the Scot’s girlfriend by name and reassuring, “Don't worry. We only talked about good stuff.”
The short film about Millar by Andy’s cousin Nigel Dick, was pretty entertaining. I haven’t really been too sure about the formerly disgraced World Champion but I found his first-person account intriguing. The fact that he is a part-owner of the team makes his participation with Slipstream all the more interesting. I am also curious to see how they incorporate argyle into the British National Champions jersey.
Shortly after the film, the whole team came out and sat somewhat informally on a collection of stools, couches and chairs up on the stage while Dave Towle did the rider introductions in almost alphabetical order. It is pretty easy to see that there is a clear separation in experience within this team between the Pro Tour guys and the domestic riders. But whereas some teams might fracture into entirely different groups, I hope that Slipstream gives the younger guys a shot at the bigger races whenever possible.
After the rider introductions there was a question and answer segment that was pretty entertaining and somewhat surprising. There was some dude in the audience that kept hollering out “Magnus!” so the gigantic Swede with the full-on British accent came out and basically said that he was going to win Roubaix this year. He was then joined by Mike “Meatball” Friedman, who seemed to be one of the most enthusiastic and semi-awestruck holdovers from last years team. It was interesting to note that the 6’4” bald Swede and the significantly, shorter and hairier American pretty much epitomize the spectrum of differences within this diverse team. I don’t know if Big Maggie could have pulled off the bow tie look that Meatball had going though.
Then Millar surprised more than a few people in the audience when he responded that he would most like to win Paris-Nice. He followed up by saying that a victory in the ASO race would ensure a Tour de France selection which, judging from most accounts, is virtually guaranteed anyway.
Zabriskie’s comment was pretty funny though. He had the crowd busting up a bit later when he was asked about his favorite food. DZ seems to go for the slightly uncomfortable but oddly thoughtful humor and mentioned that he liked burritos. He did so while standing under a giant tinfoil-wrapped Chipotle balloon and made sure to recommend that we all eat them too. Way to please the sponsors Dave.
One of the coolest parts of the night was seeing how happy Christian Vande Velde was to be back in Boulder. VDV has kind of flown under the mainstream U.S. cycling radar but has really been putting up some great performances lately and has been named the road captain for the squad in 2008. It could have been the residual liquid pleasure from the earlier dinner, but Christian seemed like the happiest guy in the place.
The Boulder cycling family vibe was also in full-effect as Dave Towle managed to get the whole team and crowd to sing Happy Birthday to local up and comer Timmy Duggan. The steadily improving rider was celebrating his 25th birthday and one can only imagine the many lessons learned that night from the likes of Julian Dean and Matt White. It’s always dangerous when birthdays, Kiwis and Aussies mix.
By the way…I couldn’t tell if it was the lighting or what but Julian Dean looked like Colin Ferrell’s stunt double or something. It was kind of funny. I think he may get some more face time with the cameras now that he’s not going to have to tow Hushovd around anymore.
The night wrapped up with a live auction to raise money for the Davis Phinney Foundation that threatened to go past my bedtime. C-Mac and I left during the bidding for one of David Millar’s Paris-Nice leader’s jerseys and I heard Dave Towle mentioning that Connie Carpenter-Phinney had added a pair of underwear that the Scot had left at their house while visiting. I don’t have official verification yet but someone told me the jersey (and presumably the skivvies as well) went for $8500. How much of that was for what, I do not know.
All undergarment auctions aside, this was a night that made me feel exceedingly optimistic for the sport of cycling in this country. The dissolution of the Postal/Discovery team and series of recent doping scandals which have tarnished the image of professional cycling in the U.S. have also shifted the focus squarely on Slipstream/Chipotle presented by H3O.
And if last Wednesday night in Boulder was any indication, we will have a lot to look forward to and even more to cheer about in the years to come.
Now, about those new kits...
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
But for those of us in the know, Compton and Trebon are also the names of the best U.S. cyclocross racers as well. And they proved that fact beyond question this past weekend in Boulder.
One of the first things that I noticed at the Redline Cup, held at the blustery Boulder Reservoir, was that Katie Compton was rocking an all-blue kit and not the customary stars and stripes. Dave Towle was working the microphone and soon clued me in to the fact that she was wearing the UCI points leader colors. I suppose she was probably tired of the same old National Champion's jerseys anyway and plus, it gave the other women a chance to see a different colored blur for the first half of the first lap until she rode away from them all.
I am actually saving most of my Katie Compton material for the piece that I will write after she wins the World Championships this year. It should be good though.
Ryan Trebon had a rough start on Saturday but slowly worked his way back up to the usual suspects of Tim Johnson, Jeremy Powers, Joachim Parbo and teammate Barry Wicks after a few laps. He mingled with the others for a moment but then went all Turbo and immediately put about 30 seconds into everyone. Treefarm has an interesting demeanor when he's racing and sometimes it's hard to tell if he's even trying but when he does finally get to the front and hits the gas...it can be pretty impressive. Both of the courses this weekend favored power and speed so it was natural that Trebon and Compton murdered everyone.
I would like to take this time to address the above photo of Joachim Parbo, the Danish National Champion. He seems like a nice enough guy and I've only heard good things about him but after watching him race a half dozen times over the past two years, I just simply cannot get past one thing. Or, well I guess two things. His hairy legs.
And not just normal hairy legs but, like, Tonkin Caveman style shaggy legs. You can't really see them too well in the above photo but they are kind of out of hand. I mean...it's sort of cool with Tonkin because he's just unshaven everywhere and he's from the Pacific Northwest where hairyness is the norm. But how does a Danish cyclist not shave his legs? Does Bjarne Riis know about this? I feel like it's almost disrespectful somehow.
Anyway, Sunday's Boulder Cup was held in the shadow of the Flatirons and under the watchful eyes of Len Pettyjohn, Michael Aisner and Scott Moninger (above) among many others. Being a typical Boulder event, there were current and former pros all over the place in the crowd but it was particularly cool to see Chris Baldwin and course marshall Tyler Hamilton moving barriers before the Cat. 4 event. How many other sports would ever have a scenario like that? Maybe Carmelo Anthony or Allen Iverson will rebound for me next time I go shoot hoops.
Since Compton and Trebon basically crushed everyone, the best drama of the weekend actually surrounded Geoff Kabush trying in vain to hold off Chris Horner for 5th place behind Johnson, Powers and Wicks. The heavily side-burned Canadian was able to maintain his lead in the technical sand sections for a number of laps but Happy Face Horner was visibly faster on the grass and asphalt. After steadily closing the gap Horner finally caught and passed Kabush on the long paved run through the finish, shown in the picture above.
How Chris Horner doesn't have a job right now is beyond me. The guy is one of the best race animators I have ever witnessed. I've seen him do a ton of road events including a first-hand view of his win at the SF Grand Prix a few years back but I think Sunday's 5th place may have been the most impressive. He doesn't have many UCI points so he had to start mid-pack and he would lose ground on most of the guys ahead of him on the technical sections. So...he basically rode ridiculously fast to get up to 5th place, ahead of both the Danish and former Canadian National Champions.
I was at the final Crank Brothers event at the Polo Grounds in Golden Gate Park a few years ago for what was, I believe, Horner's second cyclocross race ever. He showed up to registration about 10 minues before the race in the full yellow Saunier-Duval kit, proceeded to stack it a few times and still finished in the top 15. I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that he is now getting podiums in year three considering he was top 10 at Lombardy a few weeks ago.
The above photo is blurry because my camera was set wrong, but you should be able to see that Trebon is holding a giant sword above his head. There were these crazy Lion-Heart guys running around with wigs and a huge Flanders flag who gave Treefarm this huge metal sword in the final straight. Big time props to Trebon for handling it because that thing did not look light at all. I think everyone had that initial nightmare flash of him decking it and committing hara-kiri as he crossed the finish line. Realistically though, that sword gave him a tougher time than any of the other competitiors.
It's always good to see the fans come out and uh, support the riders. These young ladies were Kona fans and had plenty to cheer about at the podium presentation. The term groupie may be too harsh, perhaps they are old friends, but regardless, scenes like this speak to the growth of cyclocross in the States. Although we still have a long way to go before there is a Kona dance squad, great events like the Redline and Boulder Cup will certainly help the growth of this crazy sport. Cheerleaders or not.
Are you tough enough to rock the pink vest? I didn't think so.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
In Fast Freddie Nietzsche’s own words, he promotes the notion of the Will To Power by stating, "Physiologists should think before putting down the instinct of self-preservation as the cardinal instinct of an organic being. A living thing seeks above all to discharge its strength — life itself is will to power; self-preservation is only one of the indirect and most frequent results"
Originally, Nietzsche 's name for this concept was "Discharge Your Strength" but he quickly changed it to "Will To Power" after he started getting some off-color responses and DNA donor inquiries.
Anyway, all "Jens Voigt as Ubermensch" philosophizing aside, Nietzsche helps us in the cycling world to understand the true importance of power and our natural desire to exert it. Interestingly, while I have not been able to locate any data on the German philosopher’s wattage numbers, it is said that his VO2 Max was phenomenal. And his famous nihilist quote “God is dead” was reportedly uttered in triumph after thrashing his training partners in a particularly brutal session of climbing intervals.
But speaking of wattage and power…I thought now would be a good time to put James Watt’s legacy into a greater scientific context so that we may better understand just how weak we all are. The term “Watt” is far simpler to unwrap than “Power” (which has more connotations than you can imagine) so let’s look at what this unit of energy, equal to one joule per second, really is.
An organization that I am involved with manufactures laser systems which have peak pulse powers on the order of >1 Terawatt, so consider this the conclusion to the earlier entry about Time that confirmed how slow we all are. For reference, a Terawatt is equal to 1 trillion watts. As Snoop says, “Don’t get mad…I’m only being real.”
A Few Examples...
60 W – The power of a typical household light bulb.
232 W – Average power output of Floyd Landis during the 2005 Tour de France.
379 W – Average power output of Floyd Landis while placing 6th in the final TT of the 2005 Tour de France.
430 W – Average power output of Ondrej Sosenka while covering a UCI record 30.8 miles in one hour.
745.7 W – 1 Horsepower.
1.39 kW – Per capita average power use in the U.S. in 2003.
1.7 kW - Approximate power output during the final sprint of a typical Tour de France flat stage.
Megawatt (1 Million Watts):
2.5 MW – Peak power output of a Blue Whale.
10.3 MW – Electrical power output of Togo.
190 MW – Peak power of a Nimitz Class aircraft carrier.
Gigawatt (1 Billion Watts):
2.074 GW – Peak power generation of Hoover Dam.
3 GW – Approximate peak power of world’s largest nuclear reactor.
12.7 GW – Average electrical power consumption of Norway in 1998.
Terawatt (1 Trillion Watts):
1 TW – Approximate peak power of femtosecond laser pulse.
1.7 TW – Average electrical power consumption of the world in 2001.
3.327 TW – Average total (gas, electricity, etc) power consumption of the U.S. in 2001.
13.5 TW – Average total power consumption of the human world in 2001.
50 to 200 TW – Rate of heat energy released by a hurricane.
Chuckawatt (1 Quadrillion Watts):
1 CW – Average power unleashed by a Chuck Norris round-house kick.
So…now we know a little more about Wattage. I don’t have the schematics for constructing a Wattage Cottage yet but I think I may wait to build one until they produce a power meter for my bike that measures Chuckawatts. So far, Jens Voigt is the only known cyclist with a CW rating and he ripped the bottom brackets out of a dozen Cervelos before they could verify the result.
But that’s a story for another time…
Friday, October 26, 2007
There are times in our lives when we are forced to recognize the frailty of our existence. Times when we seek answers to questions that have no solutions. Times when closure is nothing more than a figment of our imagination.
Two friends of mine have passed away recently, far earlier than they should have. Both were kind, good-hearted people who made the world a better place for not only friends and family, but for everyone they touched. And many are now left asking why they were taken from us so early.
But life does not usually give us straight answers. Life is fickle and stubborn and secretive. The game of Life is not fair and the rules we play by are not really rules at all but merely a socially-constructed framework through which we navigate the sliding scale of good and bad and the foundation of how we are ultimately remembered when we die.
But what of the closure we seek when someone close to us passes away? Depending on how you view the subject, death only represents the end of the physical body we inhabit. Therefore closure is something of a misnomer for those that believe memories can sustain a relationship beyond what we can see and touch. In fact, closure may be a purely pschological construct.
Interestingly, Gestalt psychology acknowledges the so-called Law of Closure with the following definition:
The mind may experience elements it does not perceive through sensation, in order to complete a regular figure (i.e., to increase regularity).
Although this "Law" is most often represented by the perceptual completion of an image, it can also apply to the way many people deal with death. Our brains are naturally wired so that we strive for closure of the incomplete. And what could be more painfully incomplete than a relationship with someone who has passed away earlier than we were prepared for?
In my personal quest to find regularity and closure...I have come to the conclusion that, in all likelihood, neither exists outside the feeble confines of my brain. The only constant is change and closure in a psychological sense relies so heavily on subjective input that it can rarely, if ever, be considered "real."
Regardless, in my own search for closure I have been reverting to my comfort zone of cycling recently and keep coming back to the situation that Floyd Landis has found himself in. If there is ever someone who has been forced to deal with an absence of closure over the past year, it's Floyd.
Beginning with his positive result in the Tour, to the suicide of his Father-In-Law and now through the first arbitration hearing and on to his appeal to the CAS...one can only imagine that there has been little closure in Floyd's life over the past year. And one can only imagine how difficult these unresolved events must have been for him. Hopefully the bike has remained consistent in its support.
It's interesting to me that I find so much comfort in cycling because in many fundamental ways, the bicycle often provides me with the best understanding of closure and the cyclical nature of life and the world as I know it. But then again, my definitions of these terms may not be typical.
In psychology, closure refers to the state of experiencing an emotional conclusion to a difficult life event. In physics, a cycle is defined as "A sequence of changing states that, upon completion, produces a final state identical to the original one."
Cycling is my therapy. There is a conclusion to every ride and I inevitably return home with a deeper appreciation for life than when I left. In this sense, riding is not truly cyclical because I am fundamentally changed by the process. And as a result, I am often far better prepared to handle the stresses and trauma of daily life, both physically and mentally.
We are all racking up miles in the ride of life and we never know what lies on the road ahead. So enjoy the scenery and take time to reflect on the lessons that those who pass before us can teach. Thank you Gary and Tennyson...you will be missed.
“Perhaps our eyes need to be washed by our tears once in a while, so that we can see Life with a clearer view again.” – Alex Tan
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Embattled professional cyclist Floyd Landis announced today that he will be retaining the legal services of Jackie Chiles and Bob Loblaw in his upcoming appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Landis was recently stripped of his 2007 Tour de France title as a result of a supposedly positive test for exogenous Testosterone after his stunning victory in Stage 17 of that race.
"I trust that the addition of Jackie Chiles and Bob Loblaw to my legal team will strengthen my chances to prove my innocence and expose the injustices of our current anti-doping system" stated the former Postal Service and Phonak rider at a small press conference in San Diego. He then went on to explain why he chose to add the services of the two high-profile attorneys.
"Most people don't know this but I was actually on the jury for the famous O'Henry Candy Bar Heiress case that Jackie worked on a few years ago for Cosmo Kramer of Kramerica Industries. Even though they lost the decision...I always felt like they would have won if Stan the Caddy hadn't gotten involved" Landis explained.
"Jackie had that case in the bag but bras are like bike shorts...they've got to go against the skin. Like a glove."
Chiles then followed up with the statement that the case against Landis was "outrageous, egregious and preposterous" and described WADA Chairman Dick Pound as being "lewd, lascivious, salacious, outrageous!"
Landis then went on to detail his new found relationship with attorney Bob Loblaw.
"I actually stumbled upon Bob Loblaw's Law Blog while I was recovering from my hip surgery and got some great information. I already had a legal team and he was still working with the Bluth Family at the time but he was very professional and helpful. This guy is all business...there is no nonsense with Bob Loblaw."
Landis also noted that he appreciated the subtle irony of Loblaw's Legal Motto: "Why should you have to pay for a crime that someone else...noticed?"
When confronted with questions regarding recently unsuccessful representation of Kramerica Industries and the Bluth Company by his new attorneys, Landis explained his confidence that these results were not indicative of their ability.
"Most people overlook the fact that Jackie actually won most of his cases for Kramerica Industries. The compensation for those victories was somewhat problematic but he won them nonetheless. Besides...he never told Kramer to put the balm on."
"And Bob Loblaw was once again undermined by the prior ineptitude of Barry Zuckerkorn, who initially represented the Bluth Company. The other problem there was that he doesn't speak Spanish. But we all know that Bob Loblaw no habla Espanol so you can't really blame him for that."
Landis then ended the press conference with a brief summary of his defense strategy.
"I trust that my new attorneys will be able to win this appeal for me due to their extensive experience and aggressive legal approach. I want the headlines to read: Jackie Chiles and Bob Loblaw Lob Law Bomb at Anti-Doping System."