Friday, April 13, 2007

Arbitrary Cogitation - Friday the 13th Week In Review

It was another busy week in the cycling world. Between the inaugural U.S. Open, the Tour of Flanders and Ghent-Wevelgem, there is plenty of action to reflect upon, so I'll address some lingering thoughts.

We'll start with the U.S. Open in Virginia. By the way, did you know that Virginia Is For Lovers? State slogans are always kind of curious but VA's statement still leaves me with a weird feeling. Of all the possible ways to entice tourists or provide some insight into the state, that was the best they could come up with? Okay's like they were watching too many of those SNL skits with Will Ferrell and Rachel Dratch as the creepy couple that hangs out in the hot tub.

As far as the racers were concerned, the slogan should have been "Virginia Is For Crappy Weather" as the event endured freezing temperatures and snow flurries throughout the day. I figured it would be an opportunity for the Colorado contingent to show their toughness but it ended being a showdown between Texan Pat McCarty and Canadian Svein Tuft. Ivan Dominguez made a very impressive bid for the win by bridging up to the first chase group but effectively ended the race by doing so. Even though the group would have had a difficult time catching the two leaders anyway, The Cuban Missile's presence squashed whatever incentive they had to dig even deeper and close it down for good. I have to think they could have done it if the group had been cohesive and all thought they had a chance for the win.

P-Mac surely gets a nod for starting the winning move and sticking around until the final climb but Tuft proved to be strongest guy in the race. The recent Tour of Cuba winner was just tougher at the end of the day. I still have mixed feelings about a Canuck winning the U.S. Open but...he seems like a good guy and anyone who rides a bike with a trailer from Vancouver to Alaska and back is okay with me. Honestly, I almost think the fact that he did that is cooler than the race win. Almost.

And now for some thoughts on the highly anticipated "Live Coverage" from NBC: Eh.

Al Trautwig (this guy is going to kill me) was once again behind the microphone accompanied by Bob Roll and John Eustice. Al tried to act like he knew something about the sport but with comments like "It doesn't make aerodynamic sense, but if your nickname is the Cuban Missile and you want to win this race, you leave these guys behind and catch up to the leaders yourself," he continues to prove that he knows not of what he speaks. Bob Roll (consistently consistent) kind of laughed at him when he said that. Dominguez had recently bridged up to the front chase group by himself and Trout says that he should now attack the group and make up 30+ seconds on the leaders without sacrificing his finish? Good call Albert. You're right...Ivan really didn't try hard enough there.

He also continued his subtle jabs at Floyd Landis. Super condescending. I still really don't know what he brings to the table other than timing the intros and commercial breaks. Is he going to be the main guy when Paul and Phil finally pack it in? I am seriously concerned by this prospect. Forget Social Security...I want to know who will take over for Phil and Paul.

I can generally handle Eustice because he knows what he's talking about and has a vested interest in the future of the sport. He can get a bit dramatic and I could have done without so much "Virginia Tourism" propaganda but he did a fairly good job of trying to explain the race to the network audience. I also like that he rarely, if ever, directly addressed Trautwig. He always directed his commentary to Bob. That was fun. For real though, I think Eustice was getting a kick-back for every time he used a Virginia-specific name or pointed out a historical landmark or something. The guy should run for Governor. Virginia Is For John Eustice.

A final word on the coverage as a whole. John Eustice was the (albeit recently appointed) Race Director for this event and NBC had a full two-and-a-half hour broadcast but there was not a single mention of the women's race that took place the same day in Richmond. It is one thing to grant 1/3 of the prize money for the ladies but to add insult to injury and completely neglect their existence on the air was inexcusable. This was a great opportunity to highlight the universal appeal and challenge of bicycle racing for men and women but the commentators and NBC completely dropped the ball. They should be ashamed for not finding the time for a minute of coverage in a 2.5 hour broadcast. Congratulations to Tina Pic for the win, yet another notch on the belt of a great racer. was a pretty interesting race but the weather made it too much of a crap shoot.
Weather did not factor in to the Tour of Flanders, where Leif Hoste continued to infuriate Belgian fans, losing to a superior Alessandro Ballan. It was the third 2nd place for Hoste who was reduced to tears after the finish. Many Belgians will never forgive him for towing Kessler to the win a few years back and many Americans (my brother in particular) will never forgive him for towing Tom Boonen to victory without Hincapie's consent last year. One would assume the Belgians are none too happy with him after he bricked the finish again last Sunday. I don't know what it is about Hoste but he doesn't exactly inspire confidence. He's obviously immensely strong right now but still...he's like Boogerd. You just can't trust him to finish the job.

Ballan however, started and finished the job with a boat load of class in Flanders. The Italian was fresh off victory in the Three Days of De Panne and basically pimp-slapped Tom Boonen and the rest of the field on the Muur. Tomeke made a pretty good charge that softened everyone up but when Ballan came shooting by and Boonen's head dropped and shoulders started rocking, it was all she wrote for a Three-peat.

Hoste managed to make it up to the Italian and did some work to keep the gap but it seemed that Ballan was doing most of the pace making to the finish. Sweet Leif then sat on at the end which I though was going to doom their chances. He ended up timing it almost right but jumped a fraction too soon, allowing Ballan to get back on his wheel and come around him in the final meters for the most crushing of his three second-place finishes.

Perhaps the best performance of the day was put in by Lucca Paolini, who managed to finish third despite crashing twice. That's a pretty tough day at the office.
If the Flanders-Ghent-Roubaix trio of races were the group Wilson Phillips, Ghent-Wevelgem would be Carnie Wilson before the gastric bypass surgery. Deep down, there is some good quality but they just always get overshadowed by the more glamorous sisters on either side. The only way to get some attention is to find some drama like elective surgery, reality television or in the case of Ghent-Wevelgem, heinous crashes.

Tyler Farrar broke his kneecap and Jimmy Caspar got a cobble stone tattoo on his face among the dozens of others that bit it on the descent of the Kemmelberg. There was also some good finishing drama as the T-Mobile duo of Marcus Berghardt and Roger Hammond pulled off a nearly perfect one-two punch on Oscar Freire. The young German got his first big win and Hammond showed good form in the leadup to Roubaix. Apparently Freire was not a happy camper after showing some serious gusto and then getting worked over by the guys in pink. He may have been the strongest guy in the race but apparently cycling is a team sport.

I think I remember Eustice and Trautwig telling me that in between messages from the Virginia Board of Tourism. I'm pretty sure that Roubaix Is Not For Lovers but I could be wrong. We'll have to see on Sunday.


Olaf Vanderhoot said...

"If the Flanders-Ghent-Roubaix trio of races were the group Wilson Phillips, Ghent-Wevelgem would be Carnie Wilson before the gastric bypass surgery. Deep down, there is some good quality but they just always get overshadowed by the more glamorous sisters on either side. The only way to get some attention is to find some drama like elective surgery, reality television or in the case of Ghent-Wevelgem, heinous crashes."

... now that's just showing off.

Jeremy T. Arnold said...

You got something against the WP? They were like the first version of the Dixie Chicks...without the psuedo political mumbo jumbo.

I saw a comedian once who said that he wanted to start a male country trio and call themselves the Chixie Dicks.

I thought that was pretty funny. I have nothing else.