Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Year In The Life

The year passed before I knew it. Not with a bang but with a sad, sniffly whimper.
As I lay shivering feverishly, curled up in the fetal position under every blanket in the house, the first year of my existence in "blogdome" came and went with little fanfare. The flu/plague/Ebola virus or whatever the hell infested my body on December 18th prevented any commentary on the past 365 days but did allow for some reflection about how the 88 posts on this blog developed.

Sadly, my disease-induced dementia has all but removed any coherent thoughts that may have been developed over the last 72 hours. And I may need a stint in rehab to overcome an apparent addiction to Emergen-C and acai juice.

Anyway...I wasn't entirely sure what my goals where when I logged onto Blogger and put this thing together a year ago, but I'm oddly satisfied with how it has turned out. There may be a few fluff pieces where I just threw up some photos and captions but for the most part, I have really tried to make sure that I am proud of what I have written. I have too much respect for the art and science of human communication to not recognize that I am 100% responsible for every word I choose to publish. I have always done this for fun (plus a dash of therapy and maybe a couple sprigs of general boredom with the cycling media) but I do believe that accountability often precedes performance.

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.

Cycling has been the common theme for the most part, but I have appreciated being able to freely associate my sporting passion with other interests and topics. I never imagined that I would write a 1000+ word Tour of California race recap based off of quotes from the movie Dazed and Confused, but it came naturally for some reason. Same thing with Vino and Rick James.

It's all about context. Relationships and external forces. Jens Voigt and Chuck Norris.

But it really is all about context. I love the sport of cycling even more when I can view it within the context of other interests and events. I often feel that the cycling industry as a whole has long operated in a progress-stifling vacuum, so focused on itself that it lost touch with it's place in the grand scheme of sports and society. But that's a topic for another post.

The point is...well, I don't know what the point is anymore. I guess I'm just saying that I have truly enjoyed writing these posts and hope that anyone unlucky or foolish enough to have stumbled across this blog has not found it too terribly lame.

So the true spirit of lazy, year-end recaps and the BCS rankings, I am going to let the computer pick the old posts that seem to have the best viewership statistics and present them in a format that makes it seem like there was some effort involved. Instead of just rehashing old work.
Google Analytics has informed me that the following are some pieces that have generated the most traffic. I know it's largely a function of publish date but cut me some slack. I'm sick.

More context:

1 year = 365.25 days

1 year = 8,766 hour

1 year = 525,960 minutes

1 year = 31,557,600 seconds

I have to say that I have greatly appreciated all of the feedback from those who have taken the time to comment on this blog. For some reason I kind of anticipated that I would get more arguments and counter-points in this arena but I am always pleased to have generated any kind of response. I welcome any constructive criticism as needed though and thank all of the readers who have challenged me to think from another perspective.

Finally (I mean it this time), I would like to thank for the continued encouragement and all of the other writers out there that have been kind enough to include this site on their blogrolls or referenced the content here in a positive manner. You didn't have to do that but I appreciate the gesture. And thanks to the family and friends that have supported this effort with both their kind words and critical thoughts. Seriously, thank you.

Maybe someday I'll write a book about this experience. I've got the first 88 chapters done already.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Ask Dr. Jeru - Inboxing

Okay, it’s time to clean out the Inbox and respond to a few questions that have been thrown the way of my email address lately. Amazingly, these are actual emails from actual readers and I will try to do my best to respond to a few of the rest eventually. Sports, science, pop-culture…bring it on. I’ll make up an answer for just about anything.

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

Bad Guys - From Hinault To Zabka

One of the most intriguing elements of sports is that it allows the viewer to openly and honestly declare favoritism and disapproval with a passion rarely found in normal life. Because of my upbringing, I will always root for the Giants, Niners, Warriors, and Buffaloes as if I were a member of the team. Consequently, I will always dislike the Dodgers, Cowboys, Lakers and Cornhuskers with equal vigor. The Good Guys aren’t as good if there isn’t a Bad Guy to compete against. Cycling is no different.

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.

And isn’t that really what being a fan of athletic competition is all about? Taking certain qualities, defined or not, and determining a hierarchy of preference? It is a fact that making a certain emotional investment in the success or failure of the athletes or teams enhances the entertainment value significantly.

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.

Again, I don’t have anything against French cyclists in general but Hinault did kind of set the precedent of villainy for the following generations of riders. I do have some French blood in me though, so maybe I should go easier on them. Then again, maybe that's why I'm so slow. In that respect, I will always hold a grudge.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

UCI 2K7 Year In Review - Who's Got Next?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.