“I Still Got the Moxy”

Masters-aged Joop Zoetemelk, ensconced in his Evil Cycling world champion colors, motoring to his record 16th Tour de France finish in 1986 at the age of 40. Photo courtesy of www.evilcycling.com2004 Tour de France Masters Roster

Richard Virenque (Quick.Step): 35 years old, 15th overall, 7th (new record) Polka Dot jersey, 11th completed Tour, shit on by Frederico Bahamontes
Laurent Brochard (AG2R): 36 years old, 29th overall, 10th completed Tour
Jean-Cyril Robin (Fdjeux): 35 years old, 47th overall, 11th completed Tour
Laurent Dufaux (Quick.Step): 35 years old, 67th overall, 11th completed Tour
Rolf Aldag (T-Mobile): 36 years old, 69th overall, 10th completed Tour
Claus Michael Moller (Alessio): 36 years old, 70th overall, 1st completed Tour
Viacheslav Ekimov (US Postal): 38 years old, 80th overall, 14th completed Tour
Scott Sunderland (Alessio): 38 years old, 96th overall, 2nd completed Tour
Andrea Noe (Alessio): 35 years old, 99th overall, 2nd completed Tour
Peter Farazijn (Cofidis): 35 years old, 107th overall, 7th completed Tour
Marc Wauters (Rabobank): 35 years old, 112th overall, 12th completed Tour
Uwe Peschel (Gerolsteiner): 36 years old, 125th overall, 2nd completed Tour
Stefano Zanini (Quick.Step): 35 years old, 126th overall, 6th completed Tour
Gilles Bouvard (RAGT): 35 years old, 128th overall, 4th completed Tour
Pierre Bourquenoud (RAGT): 35 years old, 130th overall, 2nd completed Tour
Fabio Baldato (Alessio): 36 years old, 135th overall, 8th completed Tour

However, Henri Paret has all of these guys beat. In 1904 he finished 11th overall in Le Tour at the age of 50.

Nice Lid…

Check out Jonas Carney’s new ‘do. Congrats on winning Downer Avenue.

You Cannot Be Serious!

One of my favorite sports personalities, John McEnroe, was sporting a maillot jaune while hosting his TV show this evening. Unfortunately, even thought they’re both in the Nike stable, I don’t think McEnroe has enough star power to book Armstrong for his program. I’m sure they’d have a lively conversation, although most of what I’d be interested in probably wouldn’t see the light of day.


A-style logo painted on the climb to l'Alpe d'HuezOne of the best parts of watching Le Tour, especially in the mountain stages, is road graffiti. Rider’s names, team names, and exhortations (”Rip their balls off, Lance”, “EPOstal”) in a panoply of the world’s languages plaster the tarmac and for the more creatively inclined the macadam of France serves as a canvas for artwork, frequently obscene, many times cryptic. PezCycling News had an interesting article about one particular spray painting afficianado, responsible for what is evidently a fairly popular icon in Italy (the A-style logo),tagging l’Alpe d’Huez’s 21 switchbacks. Reading about the advent of the A-style logo reminds me of the “Andre the Giant Has a Posse” guerilla stickering campaign here in the US. “Andre…” creator Shepard Fairey has an intriguing take on the popularity of his stickers and wrote an provocative manifesto available on his website concerning Phenomenology. Fairey writes:

The FIRST AIM OF PHENOMENOLOGY is to reawaken a sense of wonder about one’s environment. The OBEY sticker attempts to stimulate curiosity and bring people to question both the sticker and their relationship with their surroundings. Because people are not used to seeing advertisements or propaganda for which the product or motive is not obvious, frequent and novel encounters with the sticker provoke thought and possible frustration, nevertheless revitalizing the viewer’s perception and attention to detail. The sticker has no meaning but exists only to cause people to react, to contemplate and search for meaning in the sticker. Because OBEY has no actual meaning, the various reactions and interpretations of those who view it reflect their personality and the nature of their sensibilities. 

Many people who are familiar with the sticker find the image itself amusing, recognizing it as nonsensical, and are able to derive straightforward visual pleasure without burdening themselves with an explanation. The PARANOID OR CONSERVATIVE VIEWER however may be confused by the sticker’s persistent presence and condemn it as an underground cult with subversive intentions. Many stickers have been peeled down by people who were annoyed by them, considering them an eye sore and an act of petty vandalism, which is ironic considering the number of commercial graphic images everyone in American society is assaulted with daily.

Contrast the rampant DIY road art aesthetic in Europe with what usually plays out in the US. One of my favorite races was one which sadly only took place once, upstate New Yorks’s Tour of Cazenovia in the late summer of 1988: one severely taxing 85 mile loop. The evening before, some zealous friends/support crew of one of the cyclists decided to show their enthusiasm by painting some words of support on one of the huge rollers on Rt. 20 near the end of the course. Unfortunately, the NY State Police did not share their excitement for spray painting the road and arrested them for defacing state property. They had to spend the night in jail and missed the race the following morning. I don’t know if France’s gendarmes tacitly approve painting the tarmac or if it’s actually legal, but this is yet another reason why I sometimes have expatriate yearnings.

Of course, besides the relatively benign works like Marco Brun’s A-style, there are the penises. Evidently the riders notice them, as noted by Liberty Seguros’s Christian Vande Velde, “I do have one question, though. I just want to know who is painting the big penises on the climbs, and why. Anyway, I get a little chuckle every time I roll over one.”

One of these years I’ll get my ass over to Europe and make my own contribution to the medium of spray painted road graffiti. In the meantime, I’ll brush up on some invaluable reading.

Stupid Light Redux

Here’s an American entry into the “I Crashed On My Fucking Face” files: check out this photo from Superweek. Now look at the brand of the stem. Do you really need to shave a few grams with a carbon stem?

Way back when I started racing in the early 1980s the dominating credo of pro cyclists governing equipment choices was “You can’t win a race if you don’t cross the finish line”. Pros were exceedingly conservative in their equipment choices and frequently the guys on your local group ride would have bikes lighter than those of professionals. In the past 5 years or so it seems that the paradigm has shifted to today’s situation where riders such as Jens Voigt are putting SRM cranks and wireless transmitters on their machines to meet the UCI weight minimum. It seems that professional riders are having exceedingly frequent mechanical instances, even in Le Tour. Has the pendulum swung too far towards the Stupid Light end of the spectrum?

For those with copious free time…

Polar is publishing the heart rate data from Tour de France rider Servais Knaven. It’s interesting to see how surprisingly low his heart rate is, even on extremely arduous mountain stages. On one of the early flat stages his average heart rate was only 114bpm. Amazing.

Read about New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik’s take on New York City’s bicycle taxis.

“That’s not writing, that’s typing” - Truman Capote

The Long Season by Bruno Schull, 2002.

Short version: Don’t bother, just grieve for the murdered trees.

Long version: Is Breakaway Books a vanity publishing house? Did Bruno Schull pay cash money for this book to see the light of day? The Long Season chronicles one man’s attempt, while living in the Bay Area, to upgrade from a Cat. 3 to a Cat. 2. Taking place in 1995 while enrolled at UC Berkeley (?), the author simultaneously gives a running chronicle of the entire Euro pro season from early Spring ’til late Fall. If this book was published soon after the 1995 season, say, 1996 (in pre-blog explosion times), then maybe it would be a wee bit more fresh or novel, but everything the author tries to describe concerning the inner world of competitive cycling is done so much better by any of the blogs I have links to on this site. Race tactics, personal heartbreak, the majesty of pedalling a bike, humorous anecdotes while travelling, humorous anecdotes from within the peloton, or simply a compelling narrative are out there for anyone with internet access. If you’re feeling really adventurous then track down Bill Innes’s accounts of his life as a Cat. 1, particularly the Euro sessions. Those are still my favorite accounts of someone in pursuit of the $12k Dream. Use the Wayback Machine or check out his more recent stuff on racelistings.com. Life of a struggling Cat. 3 = YAWN. Even the little sex scene with his soon to be ex-girlfriend Anne = YAWN (I’m sure she was psyched that information was made public).

One glimmer of hope in Schull’s writing concerned Schull’s dealings with his parents. I felt sorry for him because he had absolutely no support, either mentally or financially, just puzzlement and criticism. I’m sure this is something all too many aspiring cyclists hear once they graduate from college, or hell, even when they graduate from high school, “When are you going to quit this stupid hobby and get on with your life”. It’s no wonder that cycling has no repect as a lifelong passion since most people’s bicycle experiences involve seeing them sold in the toy departments of uber-retail chains. Reading Schull’s interaction with his family, and later even his girlfriend, does wonders to reinforce how lucky I’ve been throught 23 years of racing having supportive parents and an enthusiastic spouse. While Schull’s personal story may have had some episodic flickers of promise, his tediously detailed accounts of Euro pro races were mind-bogglingly gratuitous. Just watch the 1995 Paris-Roubaix or Tour de France videos and spare yourself the pedestrian narration. I’m sure that’s how he did it because there’s no way in hell he grokked so much information about the races from watching them in bars like he claimed. All in all, this book probably should have been condensed into a long lifestyle article that shows up in magazines like Men’s Health, Outside, or Bicycling.

Do you know what story I’d like to hear? I wish I was a fly on the wall for RAGT’s current Tour de France escapades. I want to read one of those riders describing what it’s like hanging on for dear life, finishing in the autobus on every mountain stage, and what kind of grim conversations took place before, during, and after each stage between the riders and the management. That’s gratuitous gallows humor I’d gladly ingest. Along the lines of hapless, overwhelmed Tour teams, one book which I’ve longed to read and have yet to track down due to it being ages out of print is Jeff Connor’s Wide Eyed and Legless, a journalist’s account of travelling with the low budget English team ANC-Halfords during the 1987 Tour de France. I believe Jeff Connor actually tried to ride a Tour stage incognito in ANC-Halfords kit to get the full Tour de France experience. Now that’s some funny shit.

Lost Luggage…

“Hello, front desk?…Yes, this is Jean-Luc Jonrond, manager of the RAGT team, something has gone horribly awry with our team’s luggage…Well, I’ll tell you what’s wrong, our team is missing all 9 of our Suitcases of Courage, do you have any idea where they may be?…What! Thomas Voeckler has them all!…Can we have them back…(click)…Hello? Hello? Front desk?”
“Hello, front desk?…Yes, this is Manolo Saiz, manager of the Liberty Seguros team, some of our luggage is missing and I demand to know their whereabouts…What are we missing? Well, our team’s 9 Suitcases of Courage aren’t here and we need them desperately, I insist that they be found!…What! You know where they’re located?…Where?…Thomas Voeckler has them!…What room is he (click)…Hello? Hello? Front desk?”
“Hello, front desk?…Yes, this is Julian Gorospe, director of the Euskatel team, our Tour just fell to shit and now some of our luggage has been misplaced…Well, I’ll tell you exactly what’s gone missing, our 9 Suitcases of Courage. Where are they?!?…What?!? Can you repeat what you just said you lowly French turd of a man?…Thomas Voeckler has them all and I can go fuck myself?…Can you at least give one back for Inigo Laudaluze (click)…Hello? Hello? Front desk?”
Stupid Light

“Hello, Time?…Yeah, this is Tom Boonen, you know, the young Belgian phenom who’s riding for Quick Step?…Well, funny you should ask how I’m doing. You see, I’m currently in Le Tour and today I CRASHED ON MY FUCKING FACE when one of your cheap-ass carbon stems snapped in half…No, I don’t want a replacement! I want a stem made out of aluminum that won’t snap off my bike when I get out of the saddle. Do any of your “engineers” actually test the shit you give us? (click)

“Hello, Tom Ritchey?…Yeah, this is Rene Haselbacher, you know, the Austrian pro who’s riding for Team Gerolsteiner?…Well, funny you should ask how I’m doing. You see, I was in Le Tour until I CRASHED ON MY FUCKING FACE when one of your featherweight handlebars snapped in half during a raging stage finish…Whatever, talk to the hand. Thanks for breaking my nose and ribs, ruining my season, and making Robbie McEwen want to kick my ass. If he kicks my ass then I’m flying to California to kick yours (click).

Where were you during The Cyclysm?

                           Stage 12      Stage 13
Denis Menchov       @0.59          DNF, on a plane back to Russia
Iban Mayo              @1.03          @37.40, dreaming of boarding a plane back to Spain
Gilberto Simoni      @1.32          @3.43
Levi Leipheimer     @1.59          @6.39
Jan Ullrich              @2.30          @2.42
Roberto Heras        @2.57          @21.35
Tyler Hamilton        @3.27          DNF, on a plane back to Marblehead
Haimar Zubeldia     @18.33         DNF, on a plane back to Spain
Ivan Basso              @0.00          @0.00, not giving one fucking inch

Stages 12 and 13, Random Thoughts

1. US Postal has the absolute strongest team that I can recall since the 1985/1986 La Vie Claire squad, but US Postal actually gets along without any factional infighting.
2. Vladimir Karpets (Illes Balears): What a name, what a lid of hippie hair. This guy is HUGE (6′1″, 165 lb.), he’s only 23 years old, and he’s a climbing machine, channelling the Rare Groove essence of Henk Lubberding. After 2 days in the Pyrenees Mr. Karpets is sitting 21st overall and 2nd in the White Jersey competition. Perhaps someone to watch for the future?
3. Drunken, crazy fans (primarily Basque?): I’m utterly amazed that Basso and Armstrong didn’t get knocked off their bikes during their upper ascent of Stage 13’s Plateau de Baille. If I was climbing amongst such insanity I’d have an industrial-sized container of pepper spray to nuke the eyes of anyone putting their grimy mits, errant flags, stupid-ass cattle horn hats, or flopping manhood (did you happen to notice the Naked Guy?) anywhere near my body. You could almost read the minds of Basso and Armstrong when they glanced at each other upon reaching the 2km to go barriers, “I can’t believe we didn’t get knocked on our asses”.
4. Sportsmanship: I frequently have mixed feelings about Lance Armstrong, but by no means does he deserve to get spit upon and given the finger during the final kilometers of his dominating performance on the Col du Tourmalet. You guys are class acts…
5. Greg Lemond: Are you jealous of Armstrong? Still pissed off that a near fatal gunshot wound robbed you of the opportunity to win 5 Tours? Unless you’re in possession of definitive proof that Armstrong ingested illicit performance-enhancing substances then shut your piehole.
6. Puma: What do they supply CSC? Is Ivan Basso strutting around the race hotel in some sweet Puma Suedes? A 70s-era sweat suit?
7. Nike: Damn you, evil swoosh! All of those Lance Armstrong commercials with the acoustic guitar soundtrack are really starting to grow on me. Did the same people who resurrected Nick Drake in the VW ads make these too? I’m hooked…
8. GMC: This has nothing to do with cycling, but I couldn’t help but notice the commercial that has snippets of The Dandy Warhols’ “Bohemian Like You”. Did any of the brilliant ad guys listen to the lyrics, because it concerns destitute hipsters talking about how their cars broke down. Maybe the message is everyone in the commercial used to be a starving artist with a crap car, but then they cleaned up their act, bought GMCs that actually run, but still worship their inner bohemian by playing frisbee from within their car (because they no longer want to sweat).

Tour day France

Stage 4…Did anyone notice what appeared to be a small wedge underneath Jens Voigt’s saddle yesterday? I thought, damn, what kind of self-respecting pro would start a race with a spare tube and tools tucked away on his bike. Is this CSC’s secret plan to make each rider self-sufficient on northern France’s cobbles? Screw neutral support, fix that flat yourself! Of course, there was a legitimate reason for the seat pack. It was actually a wireless device to transmit SRM data to the team vehicle. What for? I’m not really sure, but cyclingnews.com had the scoop about the new SRM equipment CSC is trying out.

I wouldn’t have noticed this if I hadn’t read about it at Drunkcyclist.com, but has anyone seen the totally ludicrous derailleur cable routing that Erik Zabel is sporting on his bike? Zabel’s inner Ergo-phile tendencies must be irrepressible. I’ve always liked the cleaner aesthetics of having both derailleur and brake cables routed under the bar tape with Campy Ergo levers, but come on, what’s the big deal about having your Dura-Ace derailleur cables exposed? Erik, you’re insane…

Portrait of the Artist as a Hood Baseball Scholar

Peter Nash (aka Pete Nice) is shown here with his friend Rube Oldring, Jr. as they admire the plaque of Rube Oldring, Sr. mounted in Veteran Stadium's Hall of Fame. Nash is a long time supporter of Rube, Sr. and was also instrumental in having a ball-field in Cooperstown renamed Rube Oldring Field.
Image source: http://www.philadelphiaathletics.org/event/20040605walloffamedaypost.htm

Just the other day, as I was listening to 3rd Bass’s excellent Cactus Album, I began to wonder what befell one of my favorite rap gurus, 3rd Bass mastermind Hip Minister Pete Nice. And as things sometimes happen, the answer dropped out of the sky yesterday. While I was reading the most recent ESPN magazine to check out their cover story of Lance, I came across an interesting article about a cemetery in Brooklyn which was the final resting place of many of professional baseball’s late 19th/early 20th century pioneers. It turns out that the man being interviewed, and the author of a 2003 book Baseball Legends of Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetary is a certain Peter Nash, aka 3rd Bass frontman Pete Nice. Having turned his back on the music business, the only rapper with an Ivy League education has devoted his life to baseball scholarship. He’s an active member of the Society for American Baseball Research, has 2 more baseball history books in the hopper, is the curator of the Chadwick Collection (a travelling collection of 19th century baseball memorabilia), and the ultimate kicker to this story is that he now lives in my hometown of Cooperstown, NY. Damn, I’ve got to get back to Cooperstown and grab some beers with him in the Hotel Pratt…

It’s Tour time!

Pre-Prologue: The Cofidis Curse…Poor Matt White, will he ever ride the Tour? After getting screwed by US Postal for the past couple of years he makes the jump to Cofidis to fulfill his Tour de France dream. Matt White's name was magic-markered off his number so Peter Farazijn could take his place in the start house.Come Tour time Cofidis only has, like, 9 guys left on the team that haven’t been busted for EPO so Matt’s thinking “Fuck yeah, I’m riding the Tour”. Then, while warming up for the prologue, only 4 hours before the start, he eats it and breaks his collarbone. Doh! What’s even better is that his replacement, Peter Farazijn, was slurping down beer in a pub on the other side of Belgium. His cell phone goes off, he gets a police escort (only in Belgium!) to Liege, he hops on Matt White’s TT bike, magic markers White’s name off the number, and away he rides…


What’s up with these new aero helmets? It doesn’t get much goofier than this…

Stage 1…My favorite OLN moment…Bernard Eisel eating it while chatting with his team director surely comes to mind, but my favorite part was the uber-suave move performed by Franck Renier after he and fellow breakaway companion Jens Voigt missed a turn and rode off the road while descending in the rain. While Voigt casually stepped onto his machine and got a push from a spectator, Renier pulled off the super-smooth cyclocross remount, launching himself off of wet pavement onto the saddle, no mean feat while wearing slick cycling shoes. I checked his website and, sure enough, he’s got some ‘cross palmares. Look at the picture on his page, he’s all set for ‘cross. Bravo, Franck!

Stage 2…My favorite OLN moment…Maybe Servais Knaven was pissed (did Bessy cause the crash? I don’t know), or maybe pros don’t really give a shit about their $5000 bikes, but I totally cracked up when Knaven was standing on the side of the road after crashing with Thor Hushovd and Frederic Bessy. Knaven was up and seemed ok and he was holding Bessy’s bike. Unfortunately, Bessy was laid out in the ditch and was a few minutes away from remounting. So what does Knaven do with Bessy’s bike? Does he move it off the road and lean it against an inanimate object? No fucking way. Knaven simply lets go, for an ever so brief micro-second the bike is balancing on its own, and then the bike flops over onto the roadway. Knaven rolls off into the sunset and not 2 seconds later one of the speeding team vehicles clips the bike’s bars and sends it onto the shoulder. Too funny. Then Bessy finally gets back on and the bike doesn’t seem to be working too well as he feebly makes his way the final 15km to the finish at Namur. I wonder why? Thanks Servais!

Seeing Servais Knaven unceremoniously leave Bessy’s bike to its own gravity-determined devices reminds me of the first time I saw famous cyclists treat their nice bikes like crap. Way back in 1983 I competed as a junior in the USCF road nationals held in San Diego. My dad and I needed some lunch the day before my race so we rode our bikes over to a Burger King near the park where nationals were taking place. Both of our bikes were pretty crappy, but we lovingly locked them up outside and stepped in to order some burgers. While I was standing in line I looked out the window and saw Andy Hampsten and Roy Knickman ride into the parking lot. As they approached the BK lounge they both hopped off their bikes and let them ghost ride for about 30′ into the sidewalk curb. Andy and Roy were cracking up and they just tossed the bikes against the building and walked in to order. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had some low-level Lotus with first generation Shimano 600 parts and I treated it like a million bucks. These guys were racing for Raleigh and had those sweet red & black team Raleighs decked out with Campy Record and they couldn’t care less. I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry, but my first trip to nationals in my first year of racing surely was a revelatory experience in so many ways.