Tales From USPRO

A little late…

Stretch Hummers are probably not something one sees rolling around Italy too often. Friday evening at the race headquarters Wyndham Hotel was prom night for a local high school, and a couple of stretch Hummers were parked outside while their teeny-bopper patrons were whooping it up inside. I spied Lampre pros Alessandro Ballan and Dario Pieri snapping a few photos of the spectacle and wondered if they wanted Lampre management to trade in the team buses for a 40′ long behemoth with a bar.

My name is Petra, and I like to smoke. While I was hanging around the Wyndham lobby a bit on Friday night, I spied a woman who looked somewhat familiar decked out in Euro team casual wear. It’s not too unusual to see riders having a beer (or two) in the lobby bar, but this woman proceeded to smoke up a storm. I figured she must have been a soigneur or support staff and thought nothing more of it. Then, at the post-race party Sunday night, I see the same woman smoking in the company of Judith Arndt and it dawns on me that she’s indeed Petra Rossner. I wonder how many ex-pros start smoking once their stint as a rider is through, and is it more of a European phenomenon? It always seemed to me that (stereotypically) American riders were totally consumed by the cycling lifestyle and would proceed to live cleanly once their racing days were over, but the Euro riders treated the sport as simply a job, a means to garner fame and money instead of driving a truck. Once their days were numbered in the peloton, then it was time to put on some pudge, drink and smoke some, and for many never ride a bike again. Just my impression.

Seeing double. Liquigas-Bianchi had a nightmare of a time with their luggage. Some of their team bikes as well as the mechanic’s chest full of tools and spare parts did not show up until Friday night, and one rider’s (Slovenian Matej Mugerli) luggage never arrived at all during the team’s week in Philadelphia. It was kind of a sad spectacle seeing a ProTour team outfitting their team in local bike shop t-shirts for casual wear since they only had a handful of off the bike clothes to go around. Matej Mugerli was seen training in the Finnish national champion kit of his teammate Kjell Carlstrom since he only had one regular kit available (for the USPRO race) which the soigneurs didn’t want to get dirty. Luciano Pagliarini commented that this was their new strategy to confuse the competition, “From now on we start two Finnish champions”.

Communication Breakdown. Liquigas-Bianchi director (and ex-Mario Cipollini leadout train member) Mario Scirea speaks Italian and a smattering of Spanish. Race radio at Philly week was conducted in English and French. Nobody in their organization who came to Philadelphia could speak English or French well enough to translate so a friend of mine who’s the Philly area Bianchi rep, who speaks decent Spanish, was riding shotgun in the team car for the Lancaster race and letting Scirea know what was going on. Scirea evidently knows a few words of English. Once the winning break got away and it wasn’t coming back, Scirea remarked, “Now we fuck up car” and proceeded to do his best Colin McRae rally car imitation with the race provided rental car.

JFJ. Mario Scirea and some of the other Euro team directors were quite amused by Jittery Joe’s choice for team vehicle: a Mini-Cooper. My friend heard Scirea and company chatting away during the Lancaster race, “blah blah blah blah blah MEEEEE-NI COOOOOO-PER. HA HA HA HA HA!!!!!

Sideburns. One of the weekend’s funniest quotes was overheard while my wife and I waited for the shuttle bus to take us off the Manayunk Wall and back to the start/finish area. Several (rather drunk) college age guys were standing behind us, two of whom sported some huge lambchops which would make Geoff Kabush jealous. One of the sideburned gents was telling the story of his first meeting with his girlfriend’s father,
Dad: “What are you, some kind of Civil War reenactor?”
Sideburned Youth: “Not at all, sir. I just think they look cool.”

Did you see that? Most, if not all, of the general public at a pro bike race haven’t any idea about peeing while racing. There aren’t really too many opportunities to whiz away from the crowds at USPRO, and rider #149 probably thought that once you got to boathouses on Kelly Drive that you’d be in the clear. Not quite. A significant portion of the Lemon Hill spectators walk down to Kelly Drive to see the riders head out to Manayunk, and some amazed young ladies next to me just stood aghast as #149 (in desperate need of a teammate’s push, he was running out of speed) coasted by, hosing down the center line of Kelly Drive.

Blind eye to booze. Let’s hear it for (as far as I could tell) non-enforcement of open container laws on the race course.

Sweet. We had the good fortune to have dinner Sunday night in the company of Tony Cruz and family. A gracious guy chock full of tales from the 2005 Giro.

Sweet. I had a brief encounter with CSC manager and ex-Euro pro Scott Sunderland post-race on Sunday. We chatted a bit about his racing days in the US many moons ago in the Tour of Texas and Superweek.

I subscribe to the Jim Jarmusch school of hair care (an all natural, gravity defying thicket of silver thatch), so it was rather amusing seeing the parade of pros Sunday night each sporting a myriad of faux hawks and sloppily sculpted lids drenched in gel. Those crazy kids.

Random celebrity sighting of the weekend: we were lingering in the Wyndham lobby post-race on Sunday about to leave for dinner when my wife spies a portly guy in a beard by the elevator and says, “Hey, that guy looks like C. Everett Koop.” Sure enough, it was him. The hotel was hosting a national health care professional conference and he was in attendence.

Also, check out my photos from Philadelphia.