Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Paris-Nice a.k.a. Oops I Crapped My Pants

After tremendous fussing and gnashing of teeth, Paris-Nice (the non-UCI version) was won by Davide Rebellin, a vastly underappreciated rider who has been saddled with the curious nickname “Tin Tin.” Despite his impressive palmares and cartoonish moniker, I only started to really appreciate the Italian after I heard the guys pronounce his name as the contracted version of “rebelling” (to rebel) or “rebellin’.”

When he became “Rebel-in” (rhymes with ‘gellin’) instead of “Rebel-yeen” (per Liggett, Sherwen and Roll), he instantly became more likable. I have tended to appreciate rebels throughout history, so how can I root against a guy that is constantly rebellin’? It's sure better than Tin Tin.

Anyway, all surname silliness aside, respect should be given for the following list of events won by The Rebel Without A Consistently Pronounced Name. There are not many other riders out there right now with a resume like this:

Liège-Bastogne-Liège (2004); La Flèche Wallonne (2004, 2007); Amstel Gold Race (2004); Tirreno-Adriatico (2001); Clásica de San Sebastián (1997); Züri-Metzgete (1997); Paris-Nice (2008)

Unfortunately, the Versus “Cyclysm” contained a recap of Stages 1-6 which lasted all of about two minutes and then coverage of the final stage into Nice. Just out of curiosity, is anyone else bothered by this inequitable distribution of race footage? It’s like when the Wide World of Sports used to cram 3 weeks of the Tour de France into 20 minutes of commercial-riddled programming time. Not exactly good for getting a sense of the race.

Don’t get me wrong, the final stage through Eze into Nice was spectacularly beautiful and quite entertaining, but it would have been nice to see more than 15 seconds of the decisive climb up Mt. Ventoux. Or any good footage of The Rebel making his GC winning move on the final descent of Stage 6, although they did show Frank Schleck decking it into the mountainside. It is not often that a stage race is won by going downhill, but that’s how it played out in Paris-Nice this year. Or at least that’s what they tell me because I didn’t really see any of it.

Thankfully, the events of Stage 6 did provide a new addition to my collection of All Time Favorite Quotes courtesy of the impressive young Dutchman Robert Gesink. After losing his leader’s jersey following the descent to the finish, Gesink gave us this gem, “"I knew it was a very dangerous descent, and when I saw Frank Schleck fall in front of me I was afraid. I almost crapped in my yellow shorts."

I had the chance to meet Gesink for a brief moment before the TT at the Tour of California and he seems like a pretty cool guy. He certainly fits the Tall & Skinny mold for great Dutch riders and of course, speaks nearly perfect English. His quote from Paris-Nice actually reminded me of the old Saturday Night Live commercial for an adult diaper product called “Oops I Crapped My Pants.” For those who do not recall (I feel sorry for you), the bit ended with an older man looking into the camera and saying “Thanks, Oops I Crapped My Pants…I just did.” Classic. Perhaps Gesink has seen this sketch too, and perhaps he will not be so quick to don the yellow shorts next time.

While we are on the topic of descending (not deucing in your cycling shorts), Luis Leon Sanchez put on a clinic at the end of Stage 7. In a raw display of Spanish machismo, the Caisse d’Epargne rider shot out of the Rebellin group, caught the break, proceeded to drop the lead group and got enough time on the final descent to barely edge out a victory on the waterfront in Nice. The footage of Sanchez flying down the narrow, twisting road toward the coast was pretty impressive as he repeatedly passed the motorcycle cameras and was putting a few seconds into the chasers with every turn. Does anyone know if Luis Leon Sanchez has a nickname yet? If not, I will begin referring to him as L.L. Cool Sanchez. Or Luis Leon Spinks. Mama said knock you out.

LL Cool Sanchez’ frantic final stretch along the harbor in Nice provided great drama and actually reminded me of one of the most harrowing experiences of my entire life. Back in the day, I rented a scooter in Nice and rode up through Monaco and returned via Eze back to the city. Despite getting hollered at by a cop in Monte Carlo for not having rear-view mirrors on my rented scooter, it was an amazing day. That is, until I got back to Nice. I ended up getting turned around and kind of lost during rush-hour traffic in the city, with the clock ticking on my scooter return and immediately used up about 6 lives dodging through the maniacal French traffic on my way back to the motorcycle shop.

Considering I was only a couple weeks into what was supposed to be a “many” month trip through Europe, the last thing I needed was to get saddled with a fine for not returning my scooter on time. So in typical bike racer fashion, I started doing my best Robbie McEwen impression and managed to sneak my way through the field of vehicles to return the scooter just in the nick of time. I was literally reaching out and touching cars as I picked my way through the congestion.

Then the rental guy told me the gas was too low and charged me extra anyway. Sweet! I was pretty annoyed at the time but in retrospect it was worth it, because now I know what it’s like racing through the heart of Nice. Well, at least on a scooter. In rush-hour traffic.

Anyway, it remains to be seen if or how the riders and teams will be punished by the UCI for their participation in Paris-Nice but at least it was a pretty good event from a competitive standpoint. I just hope that any punishment is limited to the teams and does not fall on individual riders. Despite the fact that it was an entertaining race, if serious sanctions do arise there will likely be a sense that it was not worth it.

Unlike the gas fine for my scooter rental.


Anonymous said...

Yet another reason that yellow and white shorts are just a bad idea.

CaliRado Cyclist said...

Like the infamous "Bad Idea Jeans" from yet another phenomenal SNL commercial?

Remember that one? I recall one of many great lines that went something to the effect of:

"So I figured, why bother using a condom? I mean, when am I going to be back in Haiti?"

Okay, so that's a much worse idea but still. I agree, yellow and white shorts are bad too. So are baby blue, red and anything else that isn't black in the junk area.

Can we get a ruling on this?

Baublehead said...

Hey what do you think of this

You inspired him...

Baublehead said...


sebastian said...

yes! i was really impressed with that line of gesink's. i'm also impressed to see that the dutch are back on game after a poor 90s and 00s. nothing like seeing an incredibly tall guy climb fluidly.

i think rebellin has finally earned my vote. it used to be that there were just too many of these italian all-rounders (guys who could win anything except the two extremes of the spectrum: paris-roubaix and the tour) for me to care about them all, and he was the one who got "left out." but persistence has paid off for tintin.

also, did you notice that this p-n provided a ton of images where you were like, "did they photoshop that?" cadel evans doing a victory salute; chavanel wearing a leader's jersey -- we're practically talking photos of sasquatch or j. d. sallinger here.

CaliRado Cyclist said...

Okay, thanks for the link and the support guys. I just left a somwhat snyde comment on that blog but I hope humor can be found in it.

Keep the Chavanel jokes coming. Sylvia actually had a pretty solid race though. If he stays good I might have to start cutting him some slack.

History is on my side there I think.

Baublehead said...

Humor is always found in your comments, which is half the reason I read.

Keep up the entertaining and educational stuff. I really enjoy it.

sebastian said...

btw, kudos on bringing back bad idea jeans, and you're right that cycling has had a real problem with bad idea shorts since those mapei rubik's-cube crotches from the mid-90s.

sometimes i think that the aesthetics of cycling (both frame design and kit design) reached a maximum of elegant austerity some time during the 80s, and since then the only possible "new" directions (always necessary from the marketing perspective) have been frivolous ones. hey, instead of making tubes skinny and straight, why not make them fat and curvy? why not have everything on your body be exactly the same color?

i also feel like there's a certain kind of european bad taste that sees everything in terms of "boring vs. interesting" and can't quite imagine a third category for "simple yet elegant." not everything interesting is attractive, and not everything austere is boring. i know that plenty of our countrymen have this problem, but it seems especially rampant in italy.

i would even go further and say that a certain ex-associate of michael ball's is directly to blame for most of this.

Kk said...

Francaise des Jeux 2007 - sublime

Discovery 2007 - fugly

Anything with the word "Lotto" on it - Hide your children!

Should I just park here and wait for your take on today's news?

Feast well, Calirado (but keep the jar of Tums at hand).

Sebastian said...

Well well, it looks like Sylvia is on the rampage . . . although I suppose that the Tour Med, Paris-Nice, Dwars door Vlaanderen, and De Brabantse Pijl do not quite a rampage make. We'll see what he can do in the real classics. Anyway, that's why I love this sport: every dog has his day, and sometimes a few days.

Shriram Krishnamurthi said...

The Versus coverage could have been worse (verse?)! If this was annoying, how about when they pack the entire third week of the Giro into thirty seconds—including a queen stage with a climb up the Stelvio, say—and spend the remaining 1h45m on the processional into Milan? At least the final day of Paris-Nice has some character many years.

So, yeah. Bugs the heck out of me, too.