Friday, April 15, 2011

Trivial cycling news

Riccardo Ricco's new team kit

Oh yeah, Riccardo Ricco is back in the news denying that he transfused his own blood and almost died.  I don't think he is denying that he almost died, but I think he already forgot his near death experience.  Is this guy a goldfish?  I had sympathy for him when he was in the hospital dying, but now he is trying my brotherly love.  I'm pretty much done with this guy.  I wish him the best of luck, any team out there looking for a unstable rider with the memory capacity of a...hey check out that shiny sparkly...wanna go ride bikes.

I thought that we lived in the belt buckle of cyclist hateland, but apparently it is alive and well even in the most bike friendly parts of the world.  Authorities are looking into the "appearance of tacks" on the course of the Amstel Gold Race in Maastricht, Netherlands. Some local residents have been protesting against the "nuisance" of cyclists and the impact on their community.  A bunch of guys on bikes, is it the noise?  The pollution?  What's the deal with people on bikes?  If it were a marathon it's OK, put 'em on bikes and now it is unacceptable.  I'm pretty much done with cyclist hate.  Give it a rest people, hate something else like poverty, hunger, or cancer.  Use your hate for good not evil.

Photo: © James Huang/Future Publishing
Frederic Guesdon.  Doesn't ring a bell?  It did in the velodrome at Paris-Roubaix 1997 on the last lap before he won.  Did you google him yet?  What's that?  He rode in the 2011 edition of Roubaix with FDJ, and he was eleventh crossing the line.  How is this all relevant?  Frederic is 39yrs old, previous winner and he rode on a 2006 TIG-welded aluminum cyclo-cross frame that weighed in around 19.05lb.  Luddite to the core, and he must have a very impressive core to manage that kind of race on that kind of bike.  I'm going to have to give Guesdon 5 stars for being a badass.  Who in their right mind would line up a 39yr old as your go-to guy in arguably the greatest Classic?  Marc Madiot (Roubaix 1991) he must have seen something in Frederic, and if anyone would know Madiot would.  I'll give Marc 4 stars for having a set of brass ones.

Certain Uncertainty

What is normal?  Is is routine, is it safe?  All I know is that when you take a given and make it a variable, especially one that is no longer part of the equation it makes normal and routine no longer valid.  Throw in a big helping of anxiety and you have a recipe for turning your life into a strange unfamiliar place.  Having to tell a complete stranger why you are sitting in their office looking for a new vocation is a layer somewhat deep and a little uncomfortable.  There is that word: comfort.  Is comfort = to safe?  Tissue?

I do find myself in a peculiar station in life where I can redefine myself, I can choose to follow a dream, or I can pick up a paycheck in safetyville.  Oh, the horror.  Being unemployed is not the vacation I thought it would be with ice cream, bike rides, dancing girls, and panda bears.  Sometimes it's hard to have a good time when your heart is just not into it, or is it the brain?  Who is driving this bus?  Brain or Heart?

Seems like I am in a un-civil war between what I feel and what I think.  I know that is life, we don't know what the future holds for us, but we try and control it to get the outcome that we prefer.  I know everything is going to turn out alright, then on the other hand I question how is it going to turn out alright?  I enjoy trying to figure out the plot and subplots in movies, but in my life I want to know all the twists and turns.  I want to direct this movie, and end it with a bike ride into the sunset with some nice mountains for background, maybe a waterfall, unicorn, and rainbows.  Oh, yeah cue the dancing girls and panda bears eating ice cream.

Nurse Ratched, we have a new "guest".

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Spoil the race -Punch in the face

Ah, with the Queen of the Classics in the books, now everyone can focus on le Tour.  Wait! There's more cycling out there, just because VS doesn't air it doesn't mean that it did not happen or will not happen.  VS will only show what they can sandwich between PBR, Cagefighting, Fishing, Hunting, and Hockey.  Doesn't leave a lot of room for cycling.  It is amazing that they even show what they do.  Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe that Sporza aired Roubaix in its entirety, all seven hours (with pre-postrace).  Have a Roubaix party and you are breaking out the sleeping bags.  One can drink a lot of beer in seven hours.

Gilbert won a semi-Classic yesterday in Belgium, who knew?  La Vuelta a Castilla y Leon, a 5 stage race, is ongoing in Spain and will conclude this Sunday.  Amstel Gold is this Sunday in the Netherlands, don't expect any mountain passes, do expect a beautiful race on small roads and the peloton to be comprised of le Rouleurs.  Just because Roubaix is over, the Classics are not done, we are box-rim deep in the mire.  Liege-Bastogne-Liege and la Fleche Wallonne will be upcoming next week.

Being a fan of cycling in the States, like cycling, takes work.  You have to be willing to get up early and get on a computer if you want to watch a race live with the commentary in Dutch, French, or Spanish.  It is a chore to be a fan.  If you haven't seen the previously recorded race, someone could tell you the outcome thereby destroying any suspense that is the lifeblood of watching a race.  For those of you who think you are being a fan by posting the winner on FB or twitter -there is a warm place in ___ for you.  For the love of all things holy take a media break for a day or two, out of respect for your fellow cycling fan.  Before you spout the winner's name at a group ride like a teenager puking after prom, maybe ask if everyone has knowledge of the race.  Take a second ask a question, the life you save could be your own.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Paris - Roubaix 2011

Sunday in Hell. It is said that it got that moniker because of the state in which the WWI battlefield was left for the running of the 1919 edition. Northern France was Hell after the devastation of the western front and the years of war fought in this area. The Hell that is inflected on the riders that bisect this region pales in comparison to the ravages of war, but the backdrop is fitting for such a test of man.

Lady Luck. Is Luck a Lady? There is bad luck and good luck, I would hardly say luck is a lady when it is bad luck. There was a lot of bad luck yesterday in Northern France when the cobbles took their toll on several riders. Luck is a big part of this race, but strength is a given. Strength is the variable that if you don't have it, you have no chance to even deal with luck. Luck only comes after you have played the strength card.

Johan Vansummeren, Who? Until yesterday most people have probably never heard the name. Johan turned pro in 2004 and rode for a small team and was signed by Davitamon-Lotto in 2005. In 2008 he worked for team leader Leif Hoste and managed an eight place in Pais-Roubaix. In 2009 he did more work than humanly possible to help Leif Hoste. I think that he could have podiumed this edition if given the green-light from the team car, if not win. He went to the front of the break-away group and did massive amounts of work, because that was his job. When Hoste fell off, Johan paced him back into contention, blew himself up and still came across the line in the velodrome in 5th. Ever the worker, never the star. Garmin picked him up in 2010 and used him and abused him as the workhorse that he is. Belgian Workhorse.

This year Vansummeren was tasked to work for Thor, Haussler, and Tyler at Roubaix and he worked into the break as any good worker should. He stayed in the break and did his job so that his team did not have to work in the chase. When it was all said and done, he was given the green light from the team car by non other than Peter Van Petegem (Roubaix 2003), brought in by Garmin to run their Classics squad. 15k to go and Johan put the hammer down, breaking free of his companions and going solo to the velodrome.

It is only fitting to have a workhorse win in such a star-like fashion in an industrialized region where hard work is celebrated. Covered in dirt and coal dust as the people from this area are day in and day out is a tribute to the common worker and to the domestique in the peloton. Vansummeren is the cobble that is part of the road of the peloton, unnoticed yet an integral piece, and when hoisted overhead becomes something of legend.

Taking one for the Team

I'm not a big race reports kind of guy so bear with me on this one.  If I do a good job, maybe I will turn this more into a story than a re-hash of yesterday's events.  Just a little background on this race they call Lincoln Road Race: I raced this last year and flatted at about mile 8 of the 48miles, got a wheel change and then was paced just up to the group only to be popped with a slight acceleration.  I spent the next 30-some-odd miles on a paid training ride.  I hooked up with another rider and spent most of my time with him.  Thanks Nate, misery indeed loves company.  Rough day in the saddle.

This year I was looking for a different result, but no one wanted to touch this race.  Marty was in when I told him I was going, but no one else.  I tried to guilt other teammates into going but to no avail.  Saturday morning I got to Robin (couldn't handle the guilt) and he was in.  Robin even knew what he was getting into, he raced Lincoln with me in last year's suffer-fest.  Daniel, who is ever-ready to race, got the day off from working at the shop.  We just doubled our size, things were looking good.  Mike even threw in his hat to go along for moral support and to remind us what a real man looks like (cast, hardware and Indy-hat).  Mike -you rock.

No flats -thank you Saint Madonna del Ghisallo, but I did find myself off he back of the break and chasing with three others, one of which was Robin.  It's always good to see another Tom's jersey in the mix.  Robin was racing like I had never seen him race, he was taking pulls that were putting me into the red.  I told him to settle down (for my sake), and to keep our band of four together.  I knew we could not catch the group of ten or so up the road with just the four of us, so I dialed it back and put the group into survival mode.

Daniel was in the break, Robin and I were chasing having shed our help we were on our own.  Marty was on his way to Fayetteville, lost -out of food and water and ready to hijack an Arkansas family on their way to Sunday dinner.  True story, one that I will never be able to tell properly, so buy Marty a pint or two if you want the eyewitness account.  It is well worth the money.

What I take away from yesterday's race:  Things don't always go the way you plan, what seems like a bad day on the outside just might be a good day with a missed turn.  Peel back all the layers and you have a bunch of grown men riding children's toys.  Really?  How serious can you take yourself when you are dressed in spandex?  This sport is beautiful, and to be a part of it is a privilege that we take for granted, cyclists can come off as elitist because we are part of something special that most people will never experience.  Take the time to enjoy every pedal stroke, remember that what you have is special and unique.