Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Cunego Changes Nickname To The Fresh Prince

The Netherlands - April 22, 2008

Following his victory in the Amstel Gold Race, Italian cyclist Damiano Cunego spent little time discussing the event. Instead, he used the post-race press conference to strongly encourage both fans and media to begin referring to him as “The Fresh Prince.”

Since 2004, Cunego has been saddled with the unfortunate nickname “The Little Prince” after his stunning victory in the Giro d’Italia at the age of 22. But despite his diminutive size and similar appearance to the lead character in the famous book by Saint-Exupery, the Italian has made it clear that he no longer wants to be referred to as “The Little” anything.

"I know I am only 5'6", but come on, enough is enough. I'm tired of being called 'Little.' The 'Prince' thing is cool though. I actually like being called a prince, but I don't really want to be called 'Prince' either. That guy is seriously weird and I'm pretty sure Lampre won't go for ass-less cycling shorts like that freak used to wear."

A thoroughly confused British reporter then asked for clarification of what he was talking about, to which Cunego responded, "Don't get me wrong, I liked Purple Rain and respect the guy as a musician but I really don’t know how much I have in common with Prince. It is true that we both dated Carmen Electra for awhile but beyond that, there are not too many similarities. Plus, the guy is like 5'2" and about 90lbs so I am pretty much like Magnus Backstedt compared to him."

"I really just want to be called 'The Fresh Prince' because I feel I deserve it at this point in my career. But there are other reasons as well. For example, I can rap way better than Will Smith," continued the Italian.

"There is also the fact that we have both gone on to outshine the guys that were our original partners. The Fresh Prince has kind of left DJ Jazzy Jeff in the dust when it comes to mainstream popularity and some could say that I have done the same thing to Gilberto Simoni. We began as a team but it was clear early on who had the most star power," explained Cunego to the crowd of reporters.

"I don't recall Jazzy ever calling Prince a 'bastard' or an 'idiot' like Simoni did to me, but regardless, there is still probably some tension there," he continued. "When Will Smith started doing solo albums, I bet Jazzy was pretty mad that he wasn't involved. Just like Gibo was mad at me when I went on those solo attacks in the Giro a few years ago."

At this point, a Belgian reporter asked if Cunego was still a fan of The Doors and Jim Morrison, which has been widely publicized over the past years. The blonde Italian responded, "Well, I still like The Doors but I am becoming a much bigger Hip Hop fan now. That's part of the reason I want to be called 'The Fresh Prince.' I was thinking about maybe calling myself 'Prince Diddy' or 'MC Cunnilego' but those weren't very catchy. We don't have much good Hip Hop music to listen to over here in Europe so I am only really familiar with a few acts but I'm getting better. I just found out about Wu-Tang Clan and really like ODB a lot."

"I may even try to change my nickname to ODC in a few years. Old Dirty Cunego."

The press conference concluded with a reporter questioning whether the Italian's family was supportive of his desired nickname change. The Fresh Prince then responded with the famous lyrics, "There's no need to argue, Parents Just Don't Understand."

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Zuckerman Awards

Age is relative. Taylor Phinney and LeBron James aside, examples of older people outperforming their younger counterparts abound in our society and one need not look further than the world of re-run television and professional bike racing to find proof.

After yet another frustrating Classics campaign, George Hincapie will no doubt take solace in this notion. Following yet another badly timed mechanical in Paris-Roubaix, Melanie’s husband will no doubt have to overcome whispers that he is too old to ever win the Hell of the North. But while time may not be his strongest ally at this point, the date on your driver’s license is rarely an indication of how fast you can ride a bike or how lucky you can be on any given Sunday in Hell.

With that said, I would like to hand out some awards to those cyclists who have given the elder statesmen of the sport reason to be optimistic many years after the big 3-0. These awards are given in honor of the many actors and actresses who have played characters far younger than themselves and insulted the intelligence of viewers everywhere.

The Andrea Zuckerman Award:

This award goes to Andre Tchmil because he is the oldest winner of both Milan-Sanremo (36) and the Tour of Flanders (37) and because he almost has the same first name as the former editor of the West Beverly High School Blaze newspaper. Additionally, both individuals are best known for performing at a level far younger than their real age would indicate.

Gabrielle Carteris was in her 30’s when she played Andrea Zuckerman in Beverly Hills 90210. Seriously, for the first year of the show she was playing a character that was literally half her age. But even as old as she seemed, it should be noted that she was only a couple years older than Dylan McKay and Steve Sanders in real life. Sanders had the curly mullet and dolphin shorts to distract the eyes but Dylan showed that High Schoolers could have receding hairline and still be cool.

On a brief side note, Beverly Hills 90210 is my choice as the most Unintentionally Funny television program of all time. It is absolutely hilarious. For reasons I will not get into right now, I started watching Nine-Oh in college and have always considered it a Comedy. Between the fashion, the casting, the acting and the storylines, it is truly right up there behind Seinfeld and Cheers. Tori Spelling was a comedic genius and she didn’t even know it.

And David Silver is one of the most underrated Hip-Hop artists of all time. Singing, dancing, rapping…how could Donna Martin resist?

The Arthur Fonzarelli Award:

With victories in the World Championships at 38 and Amstel Gold at 40, Joop Zoetemelk may have been the most successful “old” rider of all time. And he certainly has the craziest name.

For reference, his given name is Hendrik Gerardus Jozef Zoetemelk but he went by “Joop.” Kind of like Arthur Fonzarelli just went by “Fonzie.”

Despite the fact that he was 29 years old when he started playing Fonzi on Happy Days, Henry Winkler actually went on to carve out a pretty respectable career for himself. He has a ton of directing and producing credits and his portrayal of Barry Zuckerkorn on Arrested Development was excellent. Anyone want a hot Ding Dong?

Speaking of Happy Days, C-Mac pointed out the other day that both Joanie and Chachi are currently on television regularly. Not much to say here, but I just thought you should know that in 2008, Joanie and Chachi are both still on TV. But Ralph Malph is nowhere to be seen. Is this progress?

The Mike Damone Award:

This award goes out to Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle, who won Paris-Roubaix at 38 years old in 1993. Amazingly, it was the Frenchman’s second victory in a row after having narrowly missed winning multiple times in his earlier career. Despite victories in Paris-Nice and GP Plouay, Duclos-Lassalle will always be known primarily for his exploits in Roubaix.

Similarly, Robert Romanus will always be known best for his portrayal of Mike Damone, the ticket scalping dirt bag from Fast Times at Ridgemont High even though he famously reprised the role of Natalie Green’s boyfriend “Snake” in the later years of the Facts of Life. I am not sure exactly how old Romanus was when he played that character but I wouldn’t be surprised if he was pushing 40 like Duclos-Lassalle in Roubaix.

The Arvid Engen Award:

Tony Rominger won the Giro d’Italia at 34 years old and is just behind Fiorenzo Magni as the oldest winner of the event. But because Rominger was kind of a techno-geek and looked way older than he was at the time, I will bestow the Arvid Engen Award to the Swiss GC specialist. I also don’t know much about Magni so the original “Tony Romo” gets the glory here.

It could be argued that the students in the sitcom Head of the Class were in the advanced learning program because they were all old enough to be in grad school. The uber-nerdy Arvid Engen was just the most glaring example. After all, this is the show that had Robin Givens (who was married to Mike Tyson in real life) playing a High School student on television.

Does anyone remember the episode where they go to the former USSR with the debate team? That was excellent. Kind of like Rocky IV with nerds. And Dr. Johnny Fever from WKRP in Cincinnati.

The Rizzo Award:

This final award, named after the oldest high schooler in cinematic history, goes out to Firmin Lambot, who was the oldest Tour de France winner at 36 years of age in 1922. I don’t have much history on him but this is what Homer Simpson had to say on the subject, “Mmmm, firm lamb.”

Now, I have been forced to watch Grease a few times and my biggest problem with the entire movie (and I have lots of problems with it) is the fact that they had a 34 year old Stockard Channing playing Rizzo, a high school student. 34!!! The whole movie is kind of a joke in that nearly everyone was way too old, but still. 34? That’s just insulting.

I know I have left out a lot of racers that have been successful into their 30’s as well as many older actors playing younger characters, but this will have to do for now. I’m still trying to get over the fact that Andrea Zuckerman is pushing 50. I feel old.

Interestingly, Hincapie never would have made it on Beverly Hills 90210 or Head of the Class because he has always looked older than he is. I remember that he even had full-on 5 o’clock shadow at Junior Nationals back in the day. Twenty years later I still can’t grow a beard but Big George had one back in 1988. I call this the “Greg Oden Effect” but that is another topic for another day.

Thursday, April 3, 2008


Okay, okay. Since LIFE has prevented me from writing or riding much lately, here is a brief recap of some of the more interesting events of the last few weeks and my admittedly feeble take on them.

In no particular order…


I swear that I had a premonition of Cancellara winning Milan-Sanremo. Unfortunately I had already given my brother a podium prediction that did not include the Switzerlander so I have no formal proof, but I woke up that Sunday almost certain that Fab-Can was going to take the win. With the additional flat kilometers prior to the finish, I just kept thinking that if a small group got to the bottom of the final descent together, the race would be won by a late attack rather than a sprint.

It makes perfect sense when you think about it. If there is a small group going into the finale, the sprinters who made the selection will have maybe one teammate with them if they are lucky. And the chances that those teammates will be on the verge of cracking is pretty high. The team leaders (Pozzato, Freire etc) are not going to chase any moves at that point because they will be thinking about the sprint. So, beside the teammates that leaves maybe a couple guys who don’t have strong kicks to take the responsibility of chasing down a late attack with the slim hopes that they can bridge and get away solo by themselves. Not bloody likely. It was the perfect scenario for a late move and Cancellara made it look easy.

When Landaluze took off out of the final group, there was only Pellizotti, a Barloworld rider (Baden Cooke?) and a freewheeling Rebellin on the front. No one wanted to go with Landaluze because there was no chance in hell that he would win, so when Cancellara easily followed his wheel there was nobody else around them that was ready to go. When he decided to attack at that point, the race was over immediately.

The video of F-Can looking back and realizing that he had gotten a gap without even trying was priceless. He coasts up to the hapless Landaluze, glances over his left shoulder, sees that Pellizotti and the Barloworld guy are fried and was out of the saddle in full attack mode by the time he looked forward again. There are few times when bike racers look “athletic” and this was one of those occasions. Graceful. After nearly 200 miles on the road, The Can Man caught them at the perfect time and made it a race for second place in an instant. Again, he made it look easy and I feel stupid for not having recognized that he would do this earlier. Oh well.

Bike racing is strange in that it is usually very easy to determine how someone wins and successful tactics are often quite obvious after the fact. It’s easy to forget just how many infinitesimal events lead up to the finish though. It is obviously foolish to think that Cancellara’s victory in Sanremo was a given but he sure made it seem like a foregone conclusion despite the difficulty of the event. After all, in the words of Chuck Norris’ brother Jens Voigt, “The first thing to get blown up in a race is your race plan.”

Would you be surprised if Cancellara won either Flanders or Roubaix this year? Or both? I didn’t think so.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention that Fillipo Pozatto had his hair done in corn-rows before the race. I don't have a joke for this because that sentence itself was funny enough. Again, Pozatto...corn-rows. Seriously, there are pictures and everything.

I know I heckled the Velo Fros earlier but I didn't anticipate this kind of statement from Pippo. He looked like Kevin Federline without the crappy facial hair. I am convinced this played a part in his loss to the bushy haired Cancellara.

San Dimas:

Is anyone else curious what the vibe was like in the bus after Rock Racing dropped the BALL on the final day of the San Dimas Stage Race? I suspect there were a few F-Bombs launched in the post-race meeting. Maybe something to the effect of “Who is Cameron F---ing Evans?” after realizing that Oscar Sevilla had just lost the overall to the Symmetrics rider by one second.

I don’t want to be too critical of the Rock Squad for a number of reasons but it is rare to see a Stage Race get decided by one second after a break in a final day criterium. Besides, I think the team probably feels bad enough and Len Pettyjohn’s disparaging comments after the race were probably sufficient for everyone. I don’t think the veteran TUP Director was terribly pleased with RR’s tactics and wasn’t exactly praising their effort in San Dimas. Do I smell a rivalry brewing? I hope so.

I don’t care how good the racing is…San Dimas will always be known as the hometown of Bill and Ted in my book. It seems that Oscar Sevilla certainly could have used their Phone Booth Time Machine last weekend. “Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.”

CU Bikes and Bunnies:

Quick question - Who generally shows up for your early season business park criteriums promoted by a local university?

If your answer to this question is “Half of the Toyota United Pro Cycling Team, a couple of HealthNet, Jelly Belly and Bissell pros in addition to Tom Danielson, Jonathan Baker and a handful of THF Realty guys including a fiercely motivated Stefano Barbieri” then you must live in Colorado and have attended the CU Bikes and Bunnies Criterium on Easter in Boulder.

The Pro/1/2 race was won by none other than Boulder’s Aussie transplant Sir Henk Vogels, after the Toyota Hit Men ended up putting 4 riders in a breakaway of 6 about midway through the event. With the winning break containing Vogels, Justin England, Ivan Stevic (All TUP) Frank Pipp (HealthNet) and Michael Cody (Jelly Belly) and being joined by a flying Ben Day (TUP as well) with a dozen laps to go, the race was Toyota-United’s to lose from early on. But with the ever-intimidating Sir Vogels regulating and barking orders at his breakaway companions, the chances of failure were significantly reduced and the team took care of business as usual.

With the leaders gaining a maximum time advantage of about 30 seconds over the surprisingly large and strung out peloton, TUP riders Chris Baldwin and Jonny Clarke were always near the front of the main field and diligently marked the efforts of Bissell’s Tom Zirbel, Slipstream-Chipotle’s Tom Danielson and THF Realty’s Stefano Barbieri. Despite valiant efforts by both Zirbel and Barbieri to reclaim the break in the final laps, Vogels and Company held their advantage and the big Aussie was able to cruise across the line easily while his family watched from the sidelines.

Cool Fact: Henk Vogels’ eldest son is named Jet. How rad is that? I wish my name was Jet. Sorry Mom and Dad but Jet is way cooler.

Criterium International:

What else needs to be said about the latest performance by my favorite non-American rider of all time? After his fourth victory they may as well rename the event “Jens Voigt’s House.” It's only a matter of time before the German starts doing jean ads and starring in a crime-drama-comedy based in the Southwest.

So, in conclusion…Fabian Cancellara is quite strong, Rock Racing needs a better watch sponsor, it’s a tough life being a Cat. 2 in Boulder and Jens Voigt eats pieces of sh*t like the Criterium International for breakfast. Any questions?

P.S. - Podium for Tour of Flanders*:

1) Sylvain Chavanel
2) Lief Hoste
3) Ned

*April Fools :(