I’m seething…

RNC Critical Mass ride graphic, created by San Francisco Critical Mass founder Jim Swanson

Here’s a first-hand account of what went down in Manhattan on Friday night during the monthly Time’s Up Critical Mass ride. So much for peaceful public assembly and dissent.

Professional cyclist + cigarettes = VICTORY!

This ad titled “How It Feels to Win a Six-Day Bike Race”, featuring professional cyclist Cecil Yates, was published by R.J. Reynolds in 1940. I’ve simply digitized the comic sequence (the best part of the ad) and left off the additional text and graphics since the entire ad is pretty big and exceeded the space available on my scanner. While the air inside a six-day venue such as Madison Square Garden was probably so toxic with cigarette smoke already that actually flaming up on your own wouldn’t matter, it always cracks me up to see athletes pushing cancer sticks. I wonder if R.J. Reynold’s scientists already knew in 1940 the powerful addictive qualities of cigarettes as well as the havoc cigarettes inflicted on one’s lungs.

And in case you’re wondering who Cecil Yates was, here’s some biographical info:

Cecil Yates was an Irish-American six-day racer who lived on the south side of Chicago. He was born in Thurber, TX (just outside of Dallas) on May 18, 1913 1912 [Date corrected by Cecil Yates’ daughter. The 1913 date came from a 6-day program bio]. He went to Chicago as a youngster and soon entered amateur competition, where he won the junior city and state championships. Yates turned professional in 1932. Perhaps his finest victory occurred in the 1939 six-day race in New York’s Madison Square Garden, riding with Cesare Moretti as his partner. This team showed their superiority by gaining two laps in the last hour to win by one lap over one of the strongest fields of riders ever assembled for a New York race. In Yates’ prime, he was regarded as one of the fastest sprinters in the world.

Yates served 34 months with the Army Air Force during WWII. Yates continued competing throughout the 1940s, won a national title in 1948, and retired from racing in 1950 having won 19 six-day races out of 81 he competed in. In addition to his spate of victories, Yates also finished on the podium in 26 other six-day races with ten 2nd place and sixteen 3rd place results.

Yates was also interested in other sports. He played football for Fenger High School in Chicago, and later played semi-pro football. He also participated in auto-racing, and drove cars on the Ascot Speedway in Los Angeles.

What century is this?

Bradley Wiggins’
pursuit is 4km while Sarah Ulmer’s is 3km.

Chris Hoy raced 1km for his gold medal while Anna Meares raced 500 meters.

The men’s points race encompasses 40km while the women race for 25km.

The men have additional exclusive events such as the keirin(interestingly, the women have a keirin in the world championships but not in the Olympics), team pursuit, madison, and team sprint.

Are the IOC and the UCI flaunting their inner troglodyte? Track and field certainly seems more progressive with virtually equal events and distances for men and women (although not without some quirky exceptions: men’s high hurdles is 110m while women run 100m, women don’t have a steeplechase, men have a decathlon and women have a heptathlon, the women don’t have a 50km race walk). Swimming has virtually equal events and distances (with the exception of the endurance freestyle which has the men swim 1500m while the women swim 800m). The triathlon has equal distances for men and women. Rowing has equal distances for men and women. There is near parity regarding the distribution of athletes when tallied by gender at the Athens Olympics, but when will women cease to be be insulted by having having abbreviated competitions? I don’t think Sarah Ulmer’s heart will explode if she rides an extra kilometer. I doubt her legs will spontaneously combust. Even though Hein Verbruggen undoubtedly yearns for the power of Zeus, I don’t expect that lightning bolts will smite her if she dares pedal beyond 3km. With Hein’s pervasive retro-ification of cycling I’m surprised that the women aren’t required to compete decked out in bloomers and parasols.

What? The Violet Ray is stuck in customs?…

I’m an Olympics junkie. Even as my partisan fascination with cycling leaves me somewhat frustrated with NBC’s coverage, I’ll watch just about any Olympic sport under the Sun. While watching the beach volleyball, the announcers put up a graphic which detailed the extensive support crew that Australia sent with their beach volleyball competitors. All the usual suspects are represented (a few doctors, a chiropractor, a masseuse, a physical therapist, a nutritionist) but the last entry in the list certainly caught my eye: the Australian beach volleyball contingent has an official, credentialed guru on the payroll. While I realize there is a valid need for world-class athletes to embrace the cerebral elements of performance excellence (I know people who swear by Tao-lite as well as Tao-heavy), my inner joker wondered what befell their team phrenologist, Violet Ray technician, and snake oil mystic.

Race of Truth

Tyler Hamilton: Gold
Dede Demet-Barry: Silver
Bobby Julich: Bronze

Fans of professional cycling couldn’t ask for a better deserving crop of men to stand tall upon the Olympic tt podium. I’m shocked, shocked I say, that NBC’s sob-story machine barely registered a pulse and relegated the extended coverage to the 3:00am-3:45am MSNBC slot. I’m not one to get too choked up by sappiness and sentiment, but from the moment the camera was on the incredulous Julich, “I think Tyler just won the Olympics”, to the playing of the national anthem with Hamilton and Julich on the podium, to post-podium Hamilton celebrating with his wife Haven and Julich embracing his daughter Olivia and wife Angela, I was moved and extremely proud. Besides his GC podium places and stage victories, Hamilton has cemented his palmares into cycling history with historic wins in some of cycling’s granddaddy events: Liege-Bastogne-Liege and, now, the Olympic Games. Seeing Julich on the podium reminded me of a Velo-News article written in 1994 about Julich’s miserable 1993 season. Bobby competed without a team as a privateer, came up short all year, and sunk into deep depression. Here was a man who depleted his life savings, was lamenting every time he lost a water bottle because it was another $5 he had to spend, and ultimately ended up vanquished, getting fat on his couch. Phoenix-like, he rose from beyond to stand atop the Tour de France podium 5 years later. And this past winter, again on the verge of quitting the sport, Julich’s career was resurrected by Hamilton’s muse Bjarne Riis. While I have mixed feelings about Riis as a professional cyclist, there’s no doubting his skills as a manager and motivator. And don’t forget Ekimov. At 38 years old he’s still every bit as lethal as when he won his first Olympic medal in the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

Dede Demet-Barry, and Christine Thorburn mysteriously received not 1 second of television coverage of their 2nd and 4th place rides. I guess NBC decided that covering the women’s road race live, start to finish, fulfilled their obligations and totally ignored a historic day for American cycling. Their time trial’s absence was truly baffling.

I sure feel like a grousing, quibbling buffoon after making Evel Knievel references about their duds and lamenting the US sending a cadre of GC riders to the road events. But who listens to me, anyway?

Tell us what you really think…

While the television coverage of the men’s Olympic road race was positively abysmal (thank goodness for Eurosport, I at least could listen to live radio coverage of the men’s event), the women had the good fortune of having their entire race play out live Sunday morning on the USA network. And in a truly stunning finish, I do believe I witnessed Judith Arndt deliberately roll over and give the gold to Sara Carrigan. Wow. Evidently, Arndt was more than a little miffed that her compatriot Petra Rossner was left off the German Olympic team and made her feelings plain as day for the world to see by towing Carrigan to gold and then flipping off the German federation to cap off her mind-boggling protest. Chosing an Olympic team seems to be a particularly prickly affair: on one extreme politics can rear its ugly head if the selection is left solely up to the coaches (i.e. German women, Lithuanian women) and on the other end of the spectrum, having explicit formulas for selection largely designed to keep politics out of the selection can result in a team of GC riders and an outclassed D3 pro duking it out in a one-day classic atmosphere (i.e. USA men). Fred Rodriguez, who I think would have had the best chance for an American medal, had a very lucid analysis of our selection process and its shortcomings. At one time the US had a more coaching-centric selection process and the result was frequently pure calamity and blatant partisan bias. Read all about it in the highly recommended Dave Prouty book In Spite of Us to see how things played out in the mid-1980s.




When I first saw this photo of Mike Jones I thought someone was playing with Photoshop, but it appears that Mr. Jones actually competed while wearing the uber-$ around his neck. I guess the HealthNet DS doesn’t share the draconian sentiment of ONCE team director Manolo Saiz who removed about 20 pounds of jewely from Johan Bruyneel’s neck before a Tour de France time trial with these (paraphrased) words, “I didn’t pay all this money to have my guys on the lightest bikes to have it spoiled by someone wearing all this extra weight around his neck”. Fight the power, Mike.

Bank of America Criterium

The mega-money downtown crit in Charlotte wildly exceeded even my most ambitious expectations!!! Charlotte and Bank of American would be wise to bring this race back next year and a whole lot of years after that (John Lieswyn likewise concurs). The weather was perfect, depending on the source it’s estimated that about 25,000-40,000 enthused spectators lined the course, and the beer was flowing. I don’t know if special provisions were made for this race, but there were beer vendors with kegs lining the course doing mad business. Whoever made that decision was very wise. E and I were camped out on a bar patio on turn 2 with a whole bunch of De Oro teammates. There’s nothing like sitting outside on a perfect evening with waitresses bringing you Guinness all night and watching world class racing. The local NBC station was airing the race live so we could watch the whole race on a TV from our seats and then scream our lungs out when the field rolled by. They had cameras all over the course and a helicopter doing overhead shots-very impressive. Local legend Chris Harkey was off the front solo for about 5 laps half way through the race and there was a wall of sound for him around the course. He was called up at the start line and had lots of fans. Former teammate Chad Gibson survived which was pretty impressive in itself. Only roughly half of the maybe 130 starters finished. We were all a bit loopy and screaming for Chad all night and he heard us loud and clear. Even though I’ve lived in North Carolina for approximately 15 years this was my first visit to downtown Charlotte and I must say I was impressed with the venue itself and the race organization. Unlike the Crossroads Classic venue earlier that day out at the absolutely deserted Charlotte Coliseum, putting a race in a downtown area littered with bars and restaurants on a Saturday evening coupled with the relentless hype I heard all day on the radio will bring out thousands of spectators, many who are truly neophytes to the sport of cycling. I hung around to watch the Pro/1/2 race at the Crossroads Classic earlier that day after I raced the 35+ and 2/3 events and I swear that there were maybe 10 people watching the race (including the officials). And one of those spectating was an absolute brat of a 5 year old girl who picked up a fistful of grass and threw it in the face (an amazing direct hit) of the eventual race winner while he was out in front of the field riding solo. What a shame that so often we race our hearts out to an audience of nobody in a deserted parking lot on the outskirts of town. Hopefully the success of the evening event will plant the seed that bicyle races can be viable, high traffic spectator events.
Ringer-o-Rama: Not too much was made of this, but Chad’s pugilistic teammate Radisa Cubric brought in the ringer of all fucking ringers for the race. None other than Zoran Klemencic was racing in OLP colors Saturday night. You may remember him for finishing 5th in the 2002 worlds that Cipollini won. Zoran got warmed up Friday night in Statesville by finishing 10th in the Pro/1 event. I had heard rumors that OLP was bringing someone big over for the race and while E and I were walking around Statesville Friday night after my 35+ race there he was sitting on a bench near the start line chatting with Radisa. How weird is that? Zoran Klemencic chillin’ in downtown Statesville with his supermodel girlfriend on one side and Radisa on the other. There were a few other Euro riders there: Nico Mattan and some former ONCE rider who’s name I didn’t catch. Chad had no idea how Zoran got there but I suspect that Radisa was calling up his Eastern Europe connections looking for someone fast enough to win some mad money and put OLP on the podium. Zoran ended up 5th and I think won a couple of $1000 primes so I think he walked away with about $15,000 in cash. Not bad for a whirlwind visit to the US.
Adam Myerson: I also talked to New England coach, race promoter, and ‘cross legend Adam Myerson while he was cooling down after the event. He’s a class act and one of the good guys in the US domestic cycling scene. Adam’s racing for one of super-low budget D3 teams (Sharper Image/Mathis Brothers) and his post-race enthusiasm and energy were infectious. He and his teammates were fuelled by adrenaline and espresso, won a few grand in primes, and put Jason Waddell into 13th place. I’m pretty sure Waddell was the highest placed rider who actually works a 40 hr/week full-time job in addition to his duties as a professional cyclist. It always puts a smile on my face to see guys do well while striking a balance between cycling and life’s responsibilites. Thanks, Adam, for taking the time to chat before you headed back to the hotel.
Masters in the money: Eternally fit, 44 year old Steve Tilford ended up 20th and 36 year old Gustavo Carrillo finished 30th. I thought I recognized Tilford while he was warming up, his rangy frame and orange ponytail do tend to stand out in the crowd. I was on the receiving end of a few Gustavo Carillo ass-whuppings as he showed up in the 35+ events in the Crossroads Classic on Thursday and Friday evenings scoring a 2nd and 1st place. He’s been in the money in a few Pro/1/2 Superweek events earlier this summer and I’ve since found out that the Guatemalan is a former professional. No surprise, it seems like he still rides like one even though he’s now a “lowly” Cat. 1.
When worlds collide: Due to one of those weird cosmic convergences the race hotel for the riders was also the host hotel for a teenage beauty pageant. That’s a great combination: pro cyclists and teenage beauty queens. I wonder how much of that $125,000 went to bail money the next morning?
Uber ass-kicking team: Colavita owned North Carolina. They won Thursday night in Winston-Salem with Mark McCormack who lapped the field with one of the Jacques-Maynes, they finished 1-2 Friday night in Statesville with Haedo and one of their other Argentinians, Ivan Dominguez rocked out in Charlotte Saturday night, and then, just to rub it in, they stick it to everyone once more in Concord on Sunday. Kudos to an impressive outing.
For next year: (1)A race roster would have been an invaluable addition to the evening. If they existed I never found one. I recognized most of the riders individually while they were warming up on the course, but once the race got under way it proved difficult to make out who was who. (2) If you advertise that Eddy Merckx would be the race starter it would be nice if he was actually at the event. I didn’t see him, was he ever there?

All Evel, All the Time

Our 2004 Olympic road team:
Tyler Knievel
George Knievel
Levi Knievel
Bobby Knievel
Jason Knievel
and, last but not least, sporting a cape because he’s the captain, Evel Knievel

While our Olympic duds are infinitely more appealing than the crap that the Evil P created in 2000, it still seems a bit amateurish and uninspired. This is what happens when people in Chapel Hill who don’t know too much about cycling are given free reign with our Olympic kit. Call me old fashioned, but can we bring back the old-school stars ‘n stripes jersey reminiscent of the Team Brooklyn jersey? That’s a classic. And while we’re at it, let’s bring back the sideburns, too.

The politics of cycling. The politics of, ooooo, hating Kerry

Fellow Yalie and W. classmate Charles McGrath recently penned a NYT piece comparing the cycling proclivites of President Chimpy and presidential contender John Kerry. It’s quite amusing, yet sadly indicative of our country’s treatment of cyclists, to read McGrath’s as well as many pundits’ and bloggers’ vitriol involving Kerry’s Serotta. Just Google John Kerry and Serotta and read the snarkiness and venom. “Ooooh, look. Kerry is soooo out of touch with the working man. That blue-blood bastard rides an $8000 bicycle! And Ottrott, that’s a city in France. John Kerry speaks French, and he’s one of them damn socialists.” I say, how dare John Kerry support successful American entrepreneur Ben Serotta and buy a bicycle from his local bike shop (scroll down to read about Belmont Wheelworks). How dare John Kerry support homegrown technological innovation and retail outlets. How dare John Kerry support businesses which pay a living wage and give back to the community. You know what, I hope our President is smart, receptive to past times outside of American cultural norms and kudos to someone who can speak to foreign dignitaries in their native tongue. This is yet another instance of the dumbass-ification of public discourse by W. and his myopic, xenophobic ilk.

Did you notice the photo of W. in the NYT article? First off, how convenient that an American flag somehow found its way into the background. Besides that, I think W. made a conscious decision to be seen wearing running shorts and sneakers instead of cycling shorts and shoes. Most likely, Karl Rove told him his electorate wouldn’t consider such attire manly enough. Begrudgingly, I’ll at least give W. credit for utilizing a bicycle for exercise and enjoyment of his 1600 acre ranch. The problem is, few American citizens have the benefit of their own private cycling venue. What I’d really like W. to do is take a ride on public roads in Crawford, Texas without the benefit of his Secret Service detail, just one man riding a bicycle alone on Texas roads, and experience first-hand the shit storm hurtled upon him from the automotive menace whom W. panders to and calls upon for re-election. I’d love to see the expression on W.’s face when the first monster truck driver buzzes him off the road while the passenger nails his ass with a bottle. How I’d relish seeing W.’s beady eyes bug out of his head and that shit-eating smirk wiped off his face. And when he utters his VP’s favorite epithet “Go fuck yourself” to the offending behemoth the brakes will screech with glee, the reverse lights will come on, and a good old-fashioned ass kicking of W. goes down in the Crawford, TX boonies. Welcome to the everyday realities of daring to ride a bicycle on public thoroughfares, Mr. President.

I remember John Lieswyn’s account of meeting John Kerry at an Iowa campaign rally this past winter. While the cynic in me thinks Kerry would pander to the interests of anyone he’s conversing with, I was still heartened by Kerry taking an interest in Lieswyn’s career as a professional cyclist. I’m hopeful that a Kerry presidency would offer the promise of heightening our country’s awareness of cycling, especially road cycling, as a viable transportation option.