Sunday, August 30, 2009

Reading Between The Headlines - August Edition

Since the Vuelta a Espana and September have apparently snuck up on us while we weren’t looking, now is probably a good time to clear up a few headline stories that surfaced after the Tour ended last week. Er, I mean last month. Did anyone see where August went? Donde esta August? Anyway…let's look at some events that transpired over the last month.

Tour of Utah – Bikes, Bibles and Ball

“What awful things are written all over that man’s shorts? I can’t bear to look at his ‘area’ long enough to read it. Is that team sponsored by Satan?” – Overheard every single day at the Tour of Utah during Mancebo’s jersey presentation.

So…Paco Mancebo of the Rocky Road Racing biking club won the Tour of Utah and I’m sure the Mormon population could not have been happier to watch him accept the leader’s jersey everyday in his horrible faux-graffiti kit. I guess Rock has enough coin to make 10 different colored kits but can’t manage to get everyone the same kind of helmet or bike. So NOT Pro.

Speaking of which…Michael Ball went to Brigham Young Fashion School, right? You can always tell a good member of the Church of Latter Day Saints by the way they handle interviews like this. This guy is totally solid, I swear.

On the flip side, it was cool to see Alex Howes continue to prove that he has the goods to excel at the next level; even though the old “take a spectator’s hot dog and attack” move is just about the oldest trick in the book. I mean, how many times did we see Anquetil, Merckx or LeMond take the old “hot dog hand up” and go on to destroy the competition? I thought everyone knew that trick by now and was amazed the field fell for it yet again during the Tour of Utah. Suckers.

Alejandro Valverde vs. Tom Danielson vs. Logic and Reason at the Tour de Burgos

In yet another case of horrible, never-ending frustration courtesy of Operacion Puerto and the UCI, some cheesy Spanish guy who has been banned from racing in Italy (but is somehow still able to compete everywhere else?) managed to dislodge Tom Danielson of Garmin-Slipstream from the lead of the Tour de Burgos on the final stage. And critical fans of the sport took yet another carbon fiber-toed kick to our collective chamois.

Sadly, professional cycling is never going to get rid of its soiled reputation as long as there are regional bans and shady guys like Valverde and DiLuca who keep managing to slip through the net time and time again, only to be proven guilty in the long run. One can only assume that Valv.Piti will be banned by the UCI eventually and the fact that he can still influence races and even challenge for a Grand Tour is absolutely maddening. I rarely wish bad things for people, but I wouldn’t mind it too much if Valverde had some bad filet-o-pescado somewhere over the next few weeks in the Vuelta.

Garmin-Slipstream Wins! Gramin-Slipstream Wins!

In less depressing argyle-related news Tyler Farrar is rapidly laying claim to the title of Best Road Sprinter Not Named Mark Cavendish. Having recently won the Vattenfalls Cyclassics and a three-pack of stages in the Eneco Tour, Farrar will hopefully win his first Grand Tour stage somewhere in Spain and solidify his position as the best American sprinter since Davis Phinney.

On a side note, if all goes well Farrar will have completed all three Grand Tours in 2009; which is pretty impressive even if you ignore his handful of podiums and near-misses so far. Adding a stage win would be the icing on the cake of a great year. Great enough that we’ll give him a Mulligan for that weird spider-looking earring.

Texas Invades Colorado, Takes Jersey

Some guy named Lance Something or Other apparently moved to Aspen a few minutes ago and is now winning State Mountain Bike Championships and defiling the record books of historic local events. However, anger over this invasion among the cycling community has been diminished by the presence of a sign on the Texan’s bike that reads: Now Accepting Applications For Employment.

Understanding this, most people can probably look the other way on the Leadville 100 record simply because that event is pretty ridiculous anyway. But to have a guy who is outspokenly Texan come in here and take home the Colorado State Champion jersey is just depressing for everyone outside of your neighborhood Radio Shack. Reports that the Texan has stitched a Lone Star patch on the jersey and coated it in barbecue sauce have not been confirmed.

The only solace we locals can take is in the fact that people recognize the Colorado State Championship as an impressive accomplishment and it would probably be tough to brag to Matthew McConaughey and Ben Stiller about a Texas State Cross Country Championship. I mean, we all know that the only trails down there are on George W. Bush’s ranch and the denim sleeveless jersey they give out to the winner just doesn’t go with yellow at all.

USPRO Championships – Déjà Vu All Over Again, and Again, and Again

USPRO Time Trial Podium: David Zabriskie, Tom Zirbel, Scott Zwizanski, Billy Zabka, Daphne Zuniga, Don Zimmer, Zig Ziglar, ZZ Top, Zsa Zsa Gabor

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is the first time in history that three guys with “Z” names have ever been on a national championship time trial podium together. That is craZy. Seriously, the odds are astronomical. “X” would probably be the only letter with less chance of sweeping the podium.

But the real question is whether or not Zabriskie was able to say, “DZ Nuts” when responding to every question during the post-race press conference. For example:

Journalist: “What propelled you to victory today?”

Zabriskie: “DZ Nuts.”

Journalist: “Who did you think were your biggest competitors before the start?”

Zabriskie: “DZ Nuts.”

Journalist: “What can we expect to see on your National Championship skinsuit?

You get the picture. Hours of fun with that one.

USPRO Road Race Podium: George Hincapie, Andy Bajadali, Jeff Louder

After recovering from a broken collarbone at the Tour, George Hincapie reclaimed the Stars and Stripes jersey for the third time as a professional. After the whole fiasco with Garmin and Astana in France, it is cool to see Melanie’s husband get a little redemption by scoring the USPRO Champs jersey. It would be even cooler to see the Stars and Stripes crossing the line first at the Roubaix velodrome in 2010.

Crazier things have happened. Like having three guys with “Z” names on the TT podium, for instance. You never know.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Bikes, Bloodsport and Black Shoes - You Can't Handle the Truth

Sadly, it’s been nearly a month since the Tour de France ended and I still find myself habitually channel surfing over to Versus (aka The Mensa Channel). Most of the time I find enlightening programs that showcase noble endeavors such as a) Kicking and punching human beings inside of a cage, b) Shooting and killing unsuspecting wildlife, or c) Hooking, torturing and possibly killing marine creatures while wearing a trucker hat and speaking with a Southern accent. Good wholesome fun for the entire family.

But on the flip side (I am going to try to start using that phrase more) Versus did just show the Tour of Ireland which was cool and they have been kind enough to broadcast the Track & Field World Championships as well as daily re-runs of Bloodsport. Opportunities to view any of these spectacles are always appreciated. Especially Bloodsport.

We will get to the Tour de France and some other topics shortly but in the meantime, I must confess that Bloodsport remains one of my favorite films. It may not be a cinematic masterpiece but it is highly re-watchable and actually gets funnier every time I see it. The fact that Forest Whitaker was a supporting actor to Jean-Claude Van Damme in Bloodsport and went on to win an Oscar for playing Idi Amin always blows me away. Do you think JCVD called him when he won Best Actor? Did Chong-Li need to wear a Bro or a Manssiere? Why did JCVD have a perm in the beginning of the movie? Were we really supposed to believe that Jean-Claude Van Damme was in the U.S. Army? Was it a Belgian Army exchange program or something? And whatever happened to the blonde reporter that JCVD hooked up with? So many questions…

During one of my last viewings I also couldn’t help but notice how much the musical score of the training scene in Bloodsport sounds like the beginning of “Money For Nothing” by Dire Straits. It’s crazy. I kept waiting for Mark Knopfler to bust in on the guitar as Jean-Claude Van Damme was having his legs ripped off on Shidoshi’s torture rope machine. Since when does being able to do the splits confirm that you are ready to fight in the Kumite? It’s like the producers just asked JCVD what kind of weird things he could do and wrote “can do the splits on chairs and stuff” into the script. Perhaps they overestimated his “can fight as if temporarily blinded” skills though. That final fight scene has not aged well.

For the record, I know it’s strange that I cannot stand watching real-life fighting, hunting or fishing on television yet three of my favorite movies are Bloodsport, Predator and Jaws. Go figure. I guess I just prefer my death and violence in fictional form – and apparently starring heavily accented European men. Or Richard Dreyfuss.

Anyway, it seems like enough time has passed that we can now look back on the Tour de France and determine what really went down in the Grand Boucle. For instance…

Code Red aka Garmin-gate aka You Can’t Handle The Truth

Sticking with the movie theme for a moment, I am happy to say that I am re-writing the screenplay to A Few Good Men but will be changing the venue from the Marine Corps to the Tour de France. Please keep in mind that this is a work in progress as there is still some confusion about the actual events. As it stands now, the popular character choices are as follows:

Pfc. William Santiago (the guy who had the Code Red ordered on him) will be played by George Hincapie.

Lance Cpl. Harold Dawson (the guy who was ordered to execute the Code Red order) will be played by David Zabriskie.

Pfc. Louden Downey (the other guy who followed the Code Red order) will be played by Danny Pate.

Lt. Jonathan Kendrick (the guy who passed Dawson the Code Red order) will be played by Matt White.

Lt. Col. Matthew Markinson (the guy who wanted Santiago transferred) will be played Jonathan Vaughters.

Col. Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson, the guy who ordered the Code Red) will be played by Matt Johnson.

It remains to be seen what actually happened on the road during Stage 14 so the actors could change but this seems about right from the evidence out there now. I still can’t figure out how Tom Cruise and Demi Moore fit in there though. And I should definitely try to get Melanie Hincapie involved somehow…

Cruel Shoes aka Black Shoe Sheep aka Weekend Warriors

Okay, can we all just come to an agreement that black cycling shoes have no place in the Tour de France anymore? Unless I am mistaken, there were only three riders in the 2009 Tour who regularly wear black shoes: Yaroslav Popovych, David Millar and Lance Armstrong. I see tons of black cycling shoes (often accompanied by neon jerseys and helmet mirrors) on the roads of Boulder every weekend but they just seem awkward in the European pro peloton these days.

Armstrong wears black socks all the time, which makes it seem like he’s wearing thermal booties but at least it looks consistent. Millar seems to go back and forth with his socks but the black shoes certainly make him look British (if that makes any sense). And Popo almost always goes with the white sock/black shoe combo, perhaps as an homage to the old Russian national teams…or Cosmo Kramer.

Regardless, after watching roughly 500 hours of Tour coverage during July I realized that, with the exception of the aforementioned cases, there were only white, silver/grey, red and yellow shoes in the event this year. Understanding that Mavic is responsible for all of the yellow ones, this truly makes Popovych, Millar and Armstrong black sheep. Come on guys, it’s 2009…let’s get with the program.

It’s funny that 99% of Europeans always wear black casual shoes but white cycling shoes are pretty much the ultimate Euro statement. I’m also curious how black cycling and soccer shoes gradually gave way to the rainbow of colors we see on the road and pitch today. They must have had the technology to make different colors for a while so there had to have been some influential athletes who made them acceptable to wear for the rest of the public. Kind of like Michael Jordan rocking baggy shorts or making it cool for balding guys to shave their heads.

Looking back, I recall white shoes becoming popular in the late 1980’s when Andy Hampsten won the Giro in his white Lakes and then Delgado led the way for Time to outfit entire teams with their sweet looking white, grey and red kicks. I still think the second-generation Time model was probably the coolest looking cycling shoe ever. Or should I say…of all Time.

Sorry…I will recount more of the 2009 Tour someTime. I need to go to Time out.