Where’s The Love?

I’ve noticed a common theme in the life of Chris Horner these past few weeks. See if you notice anything suspect:

Exhibit A: post Fleche-Wallonne, April 19th
Chris Horner feels the wrath of Fleche-Wallonne's Mur de Huy
Photo source: http://www.cyclingnews.com/photos/2006/apr06/

Exhibit B: post Liege-Bastogne-Liege, April 23rd
Chris Horner is wiped out upon finishing the 2006 Liege-Bastogne-Liege
Photo source: http://www.cyclingnews.com/photos/2006/apr06/lbl06/

Exhibit C: post Tour de Romandie Stage 2, April 27th
Chris Horner just won the 2nd stage of the 2006 Tour de Romandie
Photo source: http://www.velonews.com/race/int/articles/9798.0.html

If I ran Davitamon-Lotto, there would be a person on the payroll whose job title reads “Chris Horner’s Cabana Boy” — someone whose sole responsibility consists of waiting at the finish line of every race to provide Horner with a freakin’ chair. Is a wee bit of post-race comfort too much to ask? This man is riding out of his skin, and what happens when he crosses the finish line? Horner just wants to sit down and compose himself, scarf down a Coke, maybe get the grime wiped off his face, and he’s got nothin’ but cold, damp asphalt/concrete at his disposal. And a couple of months ago Horner had to hit up a California bike shop for a tube, CO2 cartridges, and a seat pack for his Ridley so he wouldn’t be stranded on a pre-TofC training ride. Where’s all that megabucks ProTour team budget going? Can’t someone at Davitamon-Lotto toss some spare change Horner’s way so he can at least have one of these in time for the Tour de France:

a post-race chair

The Essence of Amstel

Forgive me for posting rather infrequently these days, but my pesky Clark Kent duties have proven to be a rather pernicious intrusion into time formerly devoted to my exhaustive ingestion of all things pro cycling.

Limited time, limited verbiage, however, does not necessarily equate to limited understanding. One only needs to glance back in American history to the power of economical word choice. Esteemed orator Edward Everett bloviated onwards for approximately two hours at the dedication of the Gettysburg cemetery, then handed over the rostrum to Abraham Lincoln who laid waste to the previous speechmeister in 2 minutes.

While my prose will likely never be equated to the rhetorical gifts of Honest Abe, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the 2nd annual distillation of Amstel Gold into haiku form. There’s no need to read those lengthy cyclingnews, velonews, pezcycling, etc. reports, when everything you need to know has been condensed into 68 finely crafted syllables:

Frank Schleck
Anonymous Lux
All those pre-race favorites
Can’t catch me, bitches!

Steffen Wesemann
Effervescent watts
Sweet…I ripped the field to shreds
What the…? Who’s Frank Schleck?

Michael Boogerd
Waiting for Oscar
Phil, Bobke mock my tactics
Once more, I blew it…

Chris Horner
Sole Yank at Amstel
Tour of Georgia?…Full of scrubs
Give me a man’s race


Why does Team Discovery Channel hate George Hincapie? He got the Rumsfeld treatment: “George, you go to Roubaix with the cheap-ass commuter franken-bikes we have in Waterloo, not the pull-out-all-the-stops setup you want”.

If Lance Armstrong wanted to win Paris-Roubaix, he wouldn’t be rolling into the Compiegne staging area on this rig (I’m surprised this hasn’t been purged from the site yet). Which Trek engineer would have the balls to tell Armstrong his Roubaix killer is nothing more than a crappier version of his road frame married to a commuter bike rear triangle? I think it would rather be something on the order of this: Roger Hammond’s custom ‘cross bike. Except Lance would have got on the phone to Keith Bontrager,

“Keith?…Yeah, this is Lance. Winning le Tour is fine and all, but I really want to stick it to Frenchie. Make me a bike that will win Paris-Roubaix. Pull some of that crazy Santa Cruz ‘cross karma out of your ass, dust off the torches, and make me something sweet. I want five proto-types in a week. And they better be at the UCI weight minimum and strong enough to hit every freakin’ rock in 3 Peaks and not break.” 

Click. And this would be in January.

It’s funny, for a company that has Keith Bontrager on the payroll and an ex-world champion on the roster, Trek makes a pretty crappy ‘cross bike. But the fine print states Roger’s not riding your ordinary X01, he managed to have a custom frame built with Madone geometry. Slap some fat road tubulars on that and you’re good to go 259 km of Paris-Roubaix madness. Maybe George would have been arriving in the Roubaix velodrome like this instead.

Pretty much all of the ProTour teams who fielded riders with a chance of being a factor in Paris-Roubaix rolled out their special, cobble-crunching Roubaix bikes, and it pleases my aesthetic inclinations that the adaptations are subtle, not the beat-you-over-the-head-with-a-sledge-hammer-mad-scientist-cobble-tamer designs of years past. The tech warfare was beginning to get way out of hand, and then Frederic Guesdon thankfully burst that bubble with his 1997 win on a totally rigid, goddamned tank of a bike. It was all steel, had 36-spoke MA-40 wheels, and he even had the audacity to win on clinchers. I think it actually weighed in at a not-so-svelte 22-23 lbs. Outside of Team Discovery Channel’s micro rear suspension setups, to the untrained eye (hell, even the trained eye) this year’s Roubaix beaters were decidedly normal. There’s really nothing more to Roubaix success than doin’ it old-school like Peter Van Petegem: fat tubies, box rims, and a Rolls saddle.

Now, let’s make fun of some people…

Allesandro Ballan: Was Lampre too cheap to spring for 2 pairs of ‘cross levers, did Ballan and Franzoi have to split a set and use one each? Actually, Franzoi did have a complete set on his bike which leads me to believe that Ballan conjured up the same idea as me, you really only need one lever dedicated to feathering the rear brake for micro speed adjustments.

Frederic Guesdon: Holy crap, what the hell kind of cable hanger is that? Did the mechanic find some random pieces of scrap metal lying in the street and say, “Yeah, that’ll work…” It’s not like FdJ didn’t have an elite worlds ‘cross racer (Frances Mourey) finish on the podium this past January. Don’t they still have some ‘cross parts lying around in their truck full of tech goodies? And I hope somebody re-aligned his rear wheel before the race started…

Tom Boonen: Boonen pulled the old Jedi mind trick on cyclingnews.com, because I don’t think he rode this bike during Roubaix. Mr. Cyclocosm mentioned this before, but check every photo of Boonen during Roubaix and look at the bar tape and fork colors. Different bikes.

Obi-wan Boonenobi: “This is the bike I rode”
Hapless journalist: “Yes, this is the bike you rode Tom”
OwB: “Move along, there’s nothing to see here”
HJ: “Yes, we’re moving along.”

Day at the spa: Things are a bit different when you’re a scrub team in an uber-Classic. You know you don’t have a chance in hell of doing well, so you have to set your sites a bit lower. And for Agritubel, those sites are stupefyingly low. This is what they race for, the chance for their highest finisher (in this case Christophe Laurent, 39th place) to have his bike styled by some Euro fashion plate. Check it out, the wash is over and now it’s getting the blow drier treatment. And I’m sure everyone in the grupetto were wondering just what the hell was going on, because Laurent just barely squeaked by his Lithuanian teammate Aivaras Baranauskas (41st place) with a mid-pack bike throw for the honors. Also, based on photos I’ve seen over the years of the rider’s abysmal, medieval post-race showers, I think I’d opt to get hosed down in the parking lot by my mechanic to cleanse myself of Roubaix grime before he gets to work on the bikes. I’m surprised Laurent isn’t out here getting the deft power-washer/blow-drier treatment along with his bike.

Oops: I think he blasted that rear derailleur, too…

Can we go home now?: And let’s hear it for Koldo Fernandez (80th), Andoni Aranaga (87th), Markel Irizar (91st), and Joseba Zubeldia (102nd), the poor bastards from Euskatel-Euskadi who drew the short straws and had to race The Hell of the North. Those freaky Basque mountain goats actually survived and didn’t bail in the first feed zone. Chapeau!

Express Yourself

There are quite a few rider nicknames floating around the past and present pro peloton. Outside of a few apt and appropriate monikers like “The Tashkent Terror” (Djamolodine Abdujaparov) or “The Cannibal” (Eddy Merckx, of course), one has to admit the corpus of material is rather staid, if not out-and-out pitiful. Amongst the league of nations making up the pro peloton, however, the Italians seem to be in a class by themselves regarding not only their predilection for embarrassing nicknames, but their continuous prediliction for self-administered embarrassing nicknames.

But it just can’t end there. Nope. These lame-ass nicknames come to life on their saddles for all the world to see. Let’s take a walk down memory lane:

1. Claudi Chiappucci aka “Il Diablo”

Claudio Chiappucci Il Diablo saddle, found at http://www.gs-bike.com/shop/index.php?cPath=37&osCsid=7d1e556d726f14edae2eb4f273594128
Image source: http://www.gs-bike.com/shop/index.php?cPath=37&osCsid=7d1e556d726f14edae2eb4f273594128

It’s hard to be a badass “Il Diablo” when you’ve got a cherub face and looked to be all of 16 years old while in the prime of your cycling career. Plus, there was already a fetid German dressed in a devil suit spectating at every Tour de France you ever rode who already laid claim to being “The Devil”. Claudio, you’re a day late and 20,000 lire short…

2. Marco Pantani aka “The Pirate”

Marco Pantani Pirate saddle, found at http://www.herneweb.com/image.php?imageID=197
Image source: http://www.herneweb.com/image.php?imageID=197

I’m not the biggest Lance Armstrong fan, but he hit the nail on the head during his 2000 Tour de France Ventoux gifting fallout,

“I call him Elephantino, not Il Pirata because last time I checked you’re not supposed to give yourself nicknames,” Armstrong said. “The Italian media gave him the name Elephantino, so for me that’s the official name. I can’t say my name is ‘Big Tex’.”

Game, set, match to Mr. Armstrong.

3. Paolo Bettini aka “El Grillo” (The Cricket)

Paolo Bettini World Cup saddle, found at http://www.cyclingnews.com/tech.php?id=photos/2004/tech/features/sanremo/MSR04_05
Image source: http://www.cyclingnews.com/tech.php?id=photos/2004/tech/features/sanremo/MSR04_05

Ok, at least Bettini didn’t commit the fashion crime of having some chirpy Jiminy Cricket icon flitting about on his saddle, but this faux pas comes pretty close. After winning the World Cup, Bettini showed up at the beginning of the next season sporting this World Cup homage saddle on his ride. The problem is, you can’t autograph your own saddle. That just needs to be excised with an indelible Sharpie right away.

4. Filippo Pozzato aka Blond Angel

Filippo Pozzato's Blond Angel saddle adoring his Milan San Remo winning bicycle, found at http://www.cyclingnews.com/photos/2006/mar06/msr06/index.php?id=Pipposaddle
Image source: http://www.cyclingnews.com/photos/2006/mar06/msr06/index.php?id=Pipposaddle

Oh. My. God. Is this the saddle of the man who just won the 2006 edition of Milan-San Remo, or is this the saddle of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer character. If I were a UCI commissaire, Filippo Pozzato would have been relegated to last in Milan-San Remo for fashion crimes against humanity.

Thankfully, there are a few Italian professionals sporting saddles which carry a wee bit more gravitas than “Blond Angel”. Leave it to me to scoop the cycling paparazzi with these images:

Exhibit A. Filippo “Die Lance Die” Simeoni’s fizik saddle:

Filippo Simeoni's Lance tribute saddle
Simple, yet elegant. Says Simeoni, “Now Lance can kiss my ass every time I ride my bike”.

Exhibit B. Giovanni “Jules” Lombardi’s saddle:

Giovanni Lombardi's Pulp Fiction tribute saddle
Quentin Tarantino rips off material from all walks of life. Having been duly impressed by the embroidery on this very saddle visiting the Giro way back when, Jules Winnfield ended up with an amazingly similar wallet in Pulp Fiction. Of course, there can be only one. While Andrea Tafi was still breaking legs in the peloton this saddle was known to make an occasional public appearance. These days the “Bad Motherfucker” torch has been passed to evergreen Giovanni Lombardi. Never mind Lombardi’s prior Grand Tour stage wins and Olympic gold medal, anyone who notches a single season Grand Tour triple-header is a freak.