Saturday, November 17, 2007

Caught Slippin'

Boulder, Colorado

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.

Shortly thereafter, Backstedt, Zabriskie and Millar were asked which races they would most like to win in 2008. Maggie said “Roubaix” of course. After a couple moments of awkwardly humorous silence and some hemming and hawing, Zabriskie said “Some kind of timed event.”

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...


Bike_Boy said...

Loved the report on Dave Z's comments.. hands down, he has to be one of the most humorous guys in the pro peleton. i'm sure you must have heard the podcasts on his blog. i sorta wish he continued on with it.

Anonymous said...

Um...last time I looked I wasn't Andy Dick's cousin...but thanks for the name check anyways.

...Nigel (the) Dick

CaliRado Cyclist said...

Will the real Nigel Dick please stand up?

I wasn't sure if anyone would put that joke together but I certainly didn't count on having either Andy or Nigel heckling me about it.

Props to The Dick though (Kinda like The Pate). That was a good film. Liked the whole creepy interrogation room feel and the shots up in Chataqua were pretty style.

Caught some Propellerheads and Paul Oakenfold on the soundtrack which is always nice.

But did JV really need the Executive Producer title? Jonathan "Bruckheimer" Vaughters.

Anyway, I'd like to see a feature length version some time. And thanks for reading too...

Good Lookin' Out said...

Yo Cali, I think VeloSnooze is stealing some of your material.

What's up with that? Their pictures are better than yours though.

CaliRado Cyclist said...

Good looking out, Good Lookin' Out. Thanks.

It's cool though. Same event so the recaps should be similar I guess.

However, I thought that VeloNews could have done more in publicizing the whole week that Slipstream was here. They had complete access to everything and they're based in Boulder. Why only one written account after the whole thing was over?

The video interviews are fine but tough to watch at work. You would think they could have had two written pieces per day on the team, riders and/or staff. Really, what else was taking up their time in mid-November?

But that's just me...