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, 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!

Post a Comment
(Never published)