Friday, May 23, 2008

Any More Questions?

Sometimes people ask me questions. Sometimes I provide answers. See examples below:

Q - No Tour de Georgia coverage at all? What’s wrong with you, Yankee?

Fair enough. I hate the New York Yankees baseball team, but I don’t mind being called a Yankee. I love carrots, but I hate carrot soup. And I hate peas, but I love pea soup.

First of all, my lack of recent commentary is primarily a function of increased activity at the Job Spot, not a result of any lack of interest in our beloved sport. Or Georgia for that matter. Especially when we have the opportunity to see the US National Champion (Levi) and a guy on the most popular US Professional team (Lowe, Slipstream) look at each other while some other dude hardly anyone has ever heard of rides away at the most critical time of the entire race.

With that said, sometimes I think they should make the Tour de Georgia into a series of single-day events and not a stage race. It’s gotten to be like an NBA basketball game, where you can just watch the last quarter and pretty much see everything you need. Perhaps they should just make Brasstown Bald a hill-climb event like Mt. Washington, Mt. Evans or Mt. Tam.

But if the alternative to an inevitable showdown on Brasstown is a breakaway that gains huge chunks of time like last year with Janez (aka Yanni) Brajkovichszcxsck, then maybe the current format is okay. I am not sure anyone wants to see a repeat of 2007 again.

Anyway, I fear for the future of the TdG if they keep having random foreign guys with unpronounceable names (at least for most Southerners – sorry, that was offsides) taking victories over popular Americans (see VandeVelde, Leipheimer). Not to be too much of a Homer, but American races need American winners to grow the sport. Especially in the South. Am I wrong?

Q - How many kids in Georgia are running around with their autographed Kanstantin Sivtsov jerseys? Do you think they outnumber the ones with their autographed Kanstantsin Siutsou jerseys?

This whole multiple name spelling deal continues to bother me. I haven’t had the time or patience to research this more thoroughly but I feel bad for a guy who wins one of the biggest races in the country and has both his first and last names spelled no less than three different ways in various major cycling publications.

Now, I understand that there are sometimes necessary alterations to account for ├╝mlauts and whatnot, but still, isn’t there a name on the start list that matches his UCI license or something? I can’t help but feel that it is somewhat disrespectful to not honor the acknowledged, preferred spelling of the guy’s name. Is that crazy and hyper-sensitive? I would be annoyed if I were Kanstantin Sivtsov. Or Kanstantsin Siutou.

Q - How cool is it that Christian VandeVelde got the maglia rosa on the twentieth anniversary edition of Andy Hampsten’s 1988 Giro d’Italia victory?

It is very cool.

In a crazy confluence of events, I ended up in Chicago on the weekend that CvV got the jersey. For those who don’t know, CvV is a native of the Chicagoland area and I couldn’t help but think how cool it is that a guy from the Midwest would be pulling on the leader’s jersey of the Tour of Italy.

Interestingly, I had a fairly lengthy discussion with a gaggle of soon-to-be Aunts the night before Slipstream won the TTT and found out that a soon-to-be Cousin-In-Law used to race with Christian back in the day. We talked about what a good guy he is (I first met CvV when he lived in Boulder) and how cool it was that he and the team were in Italy for the Giro. Then I checked the InterWebs the next morning and saw that he had taken the maglia rosa.

Very cool indeed.

Q - Could you beat the Schleck Brothers in a game of poker?

Well, I don’t personally know the Schleck Brothers, but yes, I think I could beat them in a game of poker.

The reason I say this is not because I am a strong poker player. In fact, I really don’t play much at all. But the reality is that the Schleck’s played the exceptional cards they were dealt at Liege-Bastogne-Liege like a couple of drunk 21 year-olds at a high-stakes table in Vegas.

Maybe they couldn’t have done anything against Valverde in the finale but I honestly think that everyone on the planet knew that they were going to try to spring Andy as a decoy and Frank would attack when they reeled him in. It was Bike Racing Tactics 101 but there was absolutely NO element of surprise when Frank counterattacked. I think they got too anxious and predictable.

Do they have casinos in Luxembourg?

Q - Seriously, what’s with the all-white kits? I mean, really?

Ugh. I wish I knew the answer to that question as it has been perplexing me for a few years now.

One of the most disappointing things about the Giro d’Italia this year is that Paolo Bettini has gone back to wearing the white shorts again. You may recall that The Cricket had actually procured some pretty cool shorts for Milan-Sanremo that were black in the junk-area and had white panels with the World Champion stripes. Then, inexplicably, he shows up for the Giro in all-white again. Devastating.

I would say that the all-white kit is a Euro thing but Ryan Trebon called that theory into question a while back with his USGP leader’s kit. Far be it for me to critique Treefarm and David Millar on anything but still…you guys should leave the all-white style to the Italians and the Imperial Stormtroopers from Star Wars.

Q – Should Petacchi have been suspended for taking too much asthma medicine?

I have always thought that the whole “Therapeutic Use Exemption” thing was weird because we all know that, given proper money/fame/etc, one can get a prescription for just about anything. Unless, of course, you have insurance through Kaiser.

So, Petacchi apparently has asthma (along with dozens of other professional cyclists with world-class lung capacities…?) which he treats with a borderline illegal inhaler. He takes an extra hit, maybe swallows some of the medicine and gets popped with an adverse analytical finding at the 2007 Giro. A year later, he gets officially suspended for an entire season because he couldn’t prove that he had taken all of the precautionary measures possible to avoid the extra inhaler hit. Uh, wait…what?

The beauty of the whole thing was the arbitration panel saying that they didn’t think Petacchi had done anything on purpose OR gained any advantage as a result of the inhaler over-dose. But they still suspended him for a year. Uh, wait…what? Where are Jackie Chiles and Bob Loblaw?

Somewhere there is an Italian patent-lawyer who is thanking his lucky stars that he is not a defense attorney for professional cyclists. Not an easy way to make a living these days.
I hope Floyd's lawyers have been taking notes.

Q - What’s up with so many male bike racers having female names?

The Sports Guy has a list called the Lindsey Hunter All-Stars, which consists of a bunch of male professional athletes who have names that make them sound like ladies. It’s actually pretty funny. Well, I guess as long as your name doesn’t appear on the list.

Anyway, it is true that there are a ton of Andrea’s, Daniele’s and other potentially feminine names out there in the pro peloton. The Giro start list reads like a co-ed classroom roll call.

It’s pretty much a European thing at this point, but maybe we will see the opposite phenomenon in the States and we’ll get a rush of girls named Lance and Floyd in the next few years. Or not.

Q - Why does Cycle Sport hate Tyler Hamilton so much?

Okay, I don’t know if Tyler maybe ran over the Editor’s dog or what, but it sure seems that the magazine has gone out of its way to disparage Hamilton at every opportunity. Think what you will about the guy but come on, when do you (as a professional publication first, as a thoughtful person second) bury the hatchet and get over it already? Has the man not been vilified enough for you people?

Everyone is entitled to their opinions but what bothers me is the way that Cycle Sport has gone about their anti-Tyler smear campaign. Instead of just coming out and honestly saying “We don’t like Tyler Hamilton” the magazine has taken to publishing pictures of him along with carefully selected Letters to the Editor from random “readers” who act like they were personally attacked by the man and that he is responsible for all of the evils in the sport.

It is confusing to me that Cycle Sport would consider it worthwhile to publish letters from people who have such little appreciation for cycling that they can be so quick to dismiss the sport due to their individual views about a single rider. Trust me, if Tyler Hamilton following his boss’ request and riding in front of the peloton at the Tour of California can shake your faith in the sport…maybe you need to look a little closer at the foundation of your interest.

Hey Cycle Sport, where were all the letters about Oscar Sevilla doing the exact same thing?

Q – Race radios, good or bad?

I am kind of conflicted on this one. I certainly think that the radios make the race safer by giving riders information about crashes, road conditions etc. But on the other hand, they do make the racing more predictable and controlled.

I guess at the end of the day, I’ll base my opinion off of the various insults I received after admitting that I ride with an iPod recently. As a testament to my apparent lack of intelligence, I say we keep the radios and continue to experience the fun of watching guys tape earplugs onto their heads before races.

I just hope they get to listen to something other than “Venga! Venga! Venga!” all the time.
- As always, thanks to those who write comments and questions for this blog. I appreciate your interest and hope to hear from you all in the future. Remember, there are no stupid questions. Just stupid people. Like me.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Flava In Ya Ear - Volume I

While getting ready for a ride the other day in a post-work rush, I did the unthinkable and forgot my treasured iPod nano. I got a mile or so away, realized I had no tunes and almost rode back home. I literally slowed to a stop and had to convince myself that I could get through a two-hour solo ride without music. Summoning all of my courage, I kept going and actually made it the whole way with nothing dangling from my right ear.

It is ludicrous that I once used to put in 500+ mile weeks with no music. At this point, I can barely fathom making my 3.5 mile commute to and from work without my Apple companion. Seriously, riding solo without my iPod is now similar to riding without a helmet. Something just doesn’t feel right. The bike still works the same and the legs are normal but there is just something missing.

So with no tunes in my head, I began wondering what type of music some of the pros listen to when they are out training. The following statements have little to no factual basis but I tried to come up with a fairly legitimate rationale for them. Here goes:

Paolo Bettini – I have always thought that The Cricket was probably down with Tony Bennet and likes to listen to some good old fashioned Italian-American crooning. But when he gets mad or needs some energy, he throws in some Bon Jovi. He likes to sing along but always changes the lyrics of “Wanted Dead Or Alive” to “I’m a cowboy, on a carbon fiber horse I ride…I’m Wanted…Wanted…Dead or Alive.”

Alejandro Valverde – Almost everyone acknowledges that Valverde is a phenomenally talented bike racer. But most people are unaware of the fact that he really wants to be a pop singer. In fact, his greatest hero is Enrique Iglesias. Whether this is due to the music or the fact that Julio’s son is dating Anna Kournikova remains to be seen.

Cadel Evans – In true Aussie fashion, Evans listens to nothing but Men At Work and Olivia Newton John. In fact, it has been reported that when the WADA and UCI drug testers come knocking on the door he usually responds by singing “Who Can It Be Now?”

Side note: Colin Hay, the lead singer from MAW is pretty baritone and the thought of Cadel singing tunes with his little munchkin voice made me laugh up some Cytomax when I was on my ride. Just thought you should know.

Frank and Andy Schleck – Even though I am a big fan of the Schleck brothers, I do take issue with the fact that their favorite band is Nelson. Although the Schlecks are not actually twins like Gunnar and Matthew Nelson, they do look alike and have a father who was also involved in their profession, so there was an automatic appreciation for the duo. Rumors that Frank and Andy are going to grow their hair out and bleach it platinum blonde have not been verified.

Tom Boonen – Staying true to his Belgian roots, Boonen is all about the music of his homeland. Sadly, Belgium doesn’t exactly have a huge presence in the global music industry and Tomeke has been forced to listen to Technotronic on a daily basis since they came out with “Pump Up The Jam” in the early Nineties. It has even been reported that lead singer Ya Kid K traded a signed cassette tape of their only hit single for one of Boonen’s World Champion jerseys.

Christophe Moreau – It’s all about Celine Dion for Le Chien and it is well known that he will listen to nothing other than the French-Canadian songstress. Moreau was actually in Las Vegas last year during Interbike but never made it to the exhibition because he was waiting outside Celine Dion’s dressing room the entire time. When they finally met she told him that he needed to race more intelligently.

Bernard Kohl – Being from Austria, Kohl was exposed to elegant symphonies and orchestral music at a very young age. Due to his sophisticated understanding and appreciation for the art form, it was inevitable that the young racer develop an affinity for the country’s most famous musician. I am speaking, of course, about Falco.

The creator of “Rock Me Amadeus” was an important role model for Kohl until his untimely passing a few years ago and the rider dedicated his 2006 national championship victory to the singer/rapper. Seriously though, Falco is often referred to as a rapper or hip hop musician which is…interesting.

There is also a story about Kohl having words with Paolo Savoldelli because the Austrian thought that the nickname “Il Falco” was disrespectful to the man who brought powdered wigs and unintelligible lyrics to MTV.

Dave Zabriskie – The ever-entertaining DZ is a huge fan of the band Foreskin 500 because of their legendary album entitled “Mustache Ride.” What could be more fitting?

It should also be noted that D-Zab is quite fond of Dr. Dre and “The Chronic.” Where do you think the slogan “DZ’s Nuts” came from? “Did what’s his name get at ya?”

Jens Voigt – I had a chance to check out Voigt’s iPod when I was at the Tour of California a few months ago and was somewhat surprised by the contents. There were only two entries – the theme song to Walker, Texas Ranger and a podcast of the entire Delta Force script.

By the way, Apple pays Jens Voigt $0.99 every time he listens to a song on iTunes.

Lance Armstrong – Not Sheryl Crow.

I will put together Volume II the next time I forget my iPod.