F**K You Bobke Strut!!!

Pavel Tonkov flips off a persnickety blogger upon winning the 17th stage of the 2004 Giro D'Italia. (Photo property of Graham Watson-www.grahamwatson.com)Damn, I guess Pavel read my indictment of his hairstyle and took out his frustrations on the Giro peloton. Maybe I should be given some credit for resurrecting his illustrious career. For what it’s worth, I’m not quite sure if Tonkov actually has a mullet. When I first noticed the limp lock of hair on his back it seemed attached too low on his head to be a legit ponytail, but maybe I was mistaken. I have yet to see a definitive, up-close look at his hairdo while he’s without a helmet to determine if he’s got “business in the front” to go along with his “party in the back” or if there’s a full-on party all over Tonkov’s head. Anyway, bravo to Tonkov on a well earned win today in Italy.

I’ve been a firm believer in turning the other cheek to motorists when their driving pisses me off (there are just too many hotheaded freaks packing heat to risk getting aerated with lead), but yesterday I pulled a Tonkov and flipped off a van which nearly took me out on my commute to school. While cruising along Erwin Road a van buzzed me so closely that its passenger-side mirror clipped my messenger bag and my elbow. I managed to stay upright and my elbow is fine, and in a fit of rage I flipped the asshole off. He slammed on his brakes but then floored it and took off before I could get his license number. Bastard. At least if I had hit the deck I was only about 300 meters from Duke University Hospital’s ER doorway…

Young Americans In Europe

I wish I was ballsy enough to have made the plunge and immersed myself in the European peloton when I was in my early 20s. I spent about 6 months studying in Ireland as a college student and should have hopped over to Belgium when I had the opportunity. Oh well, it’s all water long under the bridge now. Here are a few blogs from intrepid Americans racing in Europe that most likely are flying way under the radar.

“CheckItOut CheckItOut CheckItOut CheckItOut” Strongbad

I’ve been a somewhat frequent habitue of NYC photo blogs. The first 13 years of my life were spent within sight of the NYC skyline and I can’t resist the myriad explorations of Gotham.

Abandoned Bicycles The horror!

Forgotten NY

Satan’s Laundromat

Mr. Beller’s Neighborhood Well, this is actually a literature site, but the interactive map of NYC is very clever.

Game Theory

Six Day Bike Race Game front  Six Day Bike Race Game back
The most amazing cultural artifacts have a way of turning up on ebay. This game is one of my recent purchases. Six Day Bike Race was a game created by the Lindstrom Tool & Toy Co. (Bridgeport, CT), a family owned business existing from 1913-1940s. At the moment I don’t really have any clue about how it works. All I have is the game itself with no additional instructional material. A cursory search for Lindstrom Tool & Toy Co. information has turned up nothing. I found someone else’s recent unsuccesful query on the UConn Archives & Special Collections Library listserv asking for information and some images of other Lindstrom products, but nothing very useful. The game is approximately 12″x24″ and is constructed of tin with a wooden edge. The front side has a rotating disk with 10 different teams represented. The back side has some instructions involving dice, but I have yet to figure out how one plays it.

I think it would be interesting to create some type of virtual 6-day bike racing universe in the manner of the Cosmic Baseball Association. If only there were 35 hours in a day and I had something remotely resembling a clue when it comes to computer programming, I’d be all over it. For the moment, or maybe a rather indefinitely extended moment, this pipe dream will be nudged to the back burner.

Giro d’Italia Grievous Grooming Gaffe

Pavel Tonkov with a scary head of hair at the 2004 Giro d'Italia team presentation.I tuned into yesterday’s riveting mountain-top finish in the Giro (stage 7: Frosinone - Montevergine Di Mercogliano) just as Pavel Tonkov started to let it rip at the front for teammate Stefano Garzelli. As the camera angle switched from the head-on shot to a profile, I was at first puzzled by what appeared to be an absurdly long, Croakie-esque attachment for Tonkov’s sunglasses stretched out limply on his back. I thought, hmmm, that’s pretty geeky for a pro cyclist and then bemusement turned to HORROR when I realized that Tonkov has been coiffurely inspired by Laurent Brochard and Romans Vainsteins, proud aficionados of the mullet. Pavel Tonkov sharply coiffed at the 2003 Tour de Suisse.And then I started to poke around online to find confirmation of Tonkov’s new lid. Holy shit! Check out Tonkov at the Giro team presentation (see picture to the left)! How did this pass by unnoticed? And then I started to dig some more, because hair like this doesn’t appear overnight. There has to be evidence of Tonkov’s lid in some medium-length transition phase. Here’s where it gets a bit weird…Check out the picture of Tonkov taken at the 2003 Tour of Switzerland (see photo to the right) while riding for the Polish CCC-Polstat squad. The earliest date that photo could have been taken is June 16th, 2003 and he’s got some pretty closely cropped hair. Fast forward to May 7th, 2004 to the mullet-mane he’s sporting now. At the most, 325 days have transpired. Is it possible for hair to grow that fast? Or is Tonkov, even more bizarrely, sporting a weave? Fans of cycling, I just don’t have an answer.

I would pay good money for some brazen fan wielding a set of scissors to run alongside Tonkov on a steep climb, ever so subtlely reach over, and SNIP!, liberate that squirrel pelt from his scalp. Maybe if that excess 5 pounds of hair was emancipated from his skull Tonkov could turn the screws in the mountains an extra kilometer or so for Garzelli. Power-to-weight ratio, Pavel, power-to-weight ratio! Who knows, maybe Garzelli has been using it as a handsling device to hurl himself forward once Tonkov gives Paul Reubensup the ghost on a climb…

I went to Tonkov’s personal site searching for answers. And you know what, this guy’s had a pretty interesting life. He was a lieutenant in the Red Army, he’s had 3 years of college (3 more years than most pros), and he exhibits a profound dedication to yoga and sophrology (I had to look that one up in a dictionary). I’m sure he speaks more languages than me, he’s seen more of the world than I have, he can kick my ass on a bike using one leg and one lung, and he could probably give me an old-fashioned, Red Army beat down off the bike. Maybe I shouldn’t be so snarky in my derision of Tonkov’s lid, but the more I look at that Giro photo the more I think of Paul Reubens’ mug shot.

May 17-21 is Bike to Work Week. While every week should be Bike to Work Week, why don’t you leave the car at home and pedal to work instead? Or run an errand on 2 wheels instead of 4?

If you absolutely despise W. as much as I do then you owe it to yourself to read local columnist Hal Crowther’s scathing indictment of Bush’s presidency. Unless you’re a defense contractor or super fucking rich, I don’t know how anyone can re-elect that incompetent, smirking simpleton to another term with a clear conscience.

The Rider

Cycling. Literature. These are 2 words rarely used in the same sentence. Great minds seldom, if ever, ponder our sport. During the 1920s, Ernest Hemingway was an avid spectator of the six-day bicycle races at Paris’s Vélodrome d’Hiver. Hemingway dragged many friends along (some less than willingly), including John Dos Passos. Unfortunately, Hemingway turned out The Old Man and the Sea, not The Old Man and the Velodrome. My dream is to have a seminal cycling moment woven into the tapestry of an epic tome in the manner of Don Delillo’s superb Underworld. The opening scene, taking place in NYC’s Polo Grounds in 1951 culminating with “the shot heard around the world”, is utterly breathtaking (even though it’s, gasp, baseball). David Foster Wallace also has a predilection for weighty, dense novels such as Infinite Jest, but he’s enamored with tennis. Maybe I can convince Neal Stephenson to take a crack at cycling… Anyway, while Tim Krabbe is hardly on the plane of prose heavyweights such as Don Delillo, Krabbe’s slight novel (it’s on the cusp of being a lengthy novella) The Rider, however, is a work worthy of the literature label (although the competition in the genre of cycling literature is rather insubstantial). The plot encompasses an entire 150 km. race in the foothills of the French Alps from the point of view of a marginally accomplished amateur cyclist who came to the sport too late in life. Oddly enough, or maybe not so oddly enough, the protagonist is also named Tim Krabbe. Throughout the course of the race Krabbe reflects on his previous races, legendary professional cyclists and their successes and failures on the bike, superstitions, and just the random and occasionally bizarre thoughts that course through one’s brain while the body endures episodes of immense suffering. I was amused by Krabbe pondering his tanned, sweaty, beautiful wrists while in a lactic acid induced mental fog on a difficult climb.

If someone unfamiliar with the sport of cycling asked me what racing a bicycle is all about I’d hand them this book. Krabbe was an accomplished Dutch amateur cyclist and his keen insight into the physical as well as psychological facets of the sport are all too evident. Krabbe is probably most well known for writing the novel upon which the excellent film The Vanishing was based. Make sure you see the original Dutch version, not the crappy American re-make. If one pays attention to the radio frequently playing in the background noise, one can hear the play-by-play of Bernard Hinault’s and Joop Zootemelk’s epic duel in the 1980 Tour de France.

Another noteworthy aspect of Krabbe’s life, alluded to in The Rider, is his passion for chess. Before becoming a racing cyclist, Krabbe was one of the best chess players in the Netherlands. While cycling no longer seems to consume his time or thoughts to any notable extent, chess is still a central element of his life. His current project is a website called Tim Krabbe’s Chess Curiosites. I have a casual interest in chess, mostly the human element concerning the freakishly eccentric players throughout history and not so much the actual tactical, move-by-move analysis. While much of the site constitutes analysis which goes right over my head, there is still plenty of interesting articles about chess history, theory, and personalities to keep one busy if there’s spare time to kill.

Richmond, VA

This past weekend was spent in Richmond, primarily to watch the CapTech Classic. The course was BRUTAL! 125′ of climbing per lap meant the men totalled 6000′ of climbing over 100km of racing. This wasn’t going to be your regular 4 corner, flat-as-a-pancake crit but a course for the tough guys. Dailypeloton.com has a good race report if you want the details and some photos.

Gordon McCauley (Team Monex) was on fire. We were about half-way up the climb and McCauley was absolutely killing it lap after lap on his own. He was out of the saddle, raging in the big ring, and his solo lap times were remarkably consistent (always within 5 seconds of each other). It took about 50km for a chase group of 9 to bridge up to Gordon, and even after contact was made Gordon, Erik Saunders (Ofoto), and Juan Jose Haedo (Colavita) immediately countered and were never seen again (that is until they lapped the field). The consensus was that Saunders and Haedo would duke it out for the victory, hometown pro vs. Tour of Georgia speed demon. However, McCauley, a seasoned pro with Continental experience, totally turned on the afterburners and torched Saunders and Haedo. Quite an impressive effort. The climb definitely took some punch out of Saunders and Haedo. I got to say an ever so brief “Hello” and congratulations to Saunders before he was wisked away to the podium. He’s a class act and there was definitely a palpable excitement in the crowd regarding his return to Richmond.

While spectating at the race I couldn’t help but notice the sizeable fixed gear/messenger element cruising around the course. I knew that Richmond has hosted messenger races, but I’d never really realized the extent of the scene. Here are a couple of links, Richmond Sprint Club and Riders of Brohan, which document what’s up in Richmond. I remember seeing quite a few of the riders pictured on the sites at the CapTech course on Saturday. I also found this site, Old Skool Track, NYC which has a pretty amazing collection of writing, photos, videos, info, etc… regarding riding a track bike on city streets. Pretty cool stuff.

Plastic Peloton People

Wladimir Belli gives a crazed spectator The Heisman

Anthony Pope’s depictions of professional cycling events via Playmobil figures never fail to crack me up. This is one of my favorites, showing Wladimir Belli popping a Simoni hooligan (who happened to be Simoni’s nephew) in the head during a 2001 Giro d’Italia mountain stage. For his antics on the bike, Belli was kicked out of the Giro.

While Plastic Peloton People shows up monthly in procycling magazine, go here to see the mother lode online.

Four minute mile? Pretty impressive, but what about a ONE minute mile…

Charles Murphy tucked in the train's slipstream during his mile-a-minute effort Charles Murphy's record setting bicycle

Today marks the 50th anniversary of Roger Bannister running the first sub-4 minute mile. However, on June 30th, 1899 (that’s right, 1899), another remarkable achievement in human performance, which has largely been relegated to the dustbin of history, took place on several miles of Long Island Railroad track . Charles Murphy, an accomplished professional cyclist, drafted a train and traveled a 1 mile interval in approximately 58 seconds becoming the first man to travel a mile-a-minute under human power. Unlike the fake-ass truck drafting episode of protagonist Dave Stohler in Breaking Away, Charles Murphy is the real McCoy. I’m a bit sketchy on the details of this event, but somehow Murphy managed to have several miles of boards laid down between the railroad tracks for him to ride on, he convinced the L.I.R. to supply their fastest locomotive, and he had a passenger car custom fitted with extended walls and ceiling to act as a fairing. This guy must have had a pair of big ones and nerves of steel to ride at 60mph on a narrow section of wood behind a belching, raging locomotive. Forever after that magical day, Charles Murphy was referred to as Charles “Mile-a-Minute” Murphy. The New York Times had a reporter on site to witness this historic athletic feat, read the official eyewitness account for yourself.

You make the choice…

Anyone who can ride a bike in Boston and not die is ok by me...  Chimpy-in-chief