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.