Bizarro le Tour-o

I’m still alive. And dumbstruck by this year’s TdF soap opera shennanigans. And reading books about Basque history, re-reading Paul Kimmage’s Rough Ride (after last plowing through it about 16 years ago), and reading about 100 pages of Paul Kimmage journalism from the past decade. But more on that in the near future…

Well, there’s always Superweek. I still think Vinokourov and Kashechkin should have rolled up to the prologue start house in their TT gear, with a couple of burly Kazakh soigneurs/hired-goons in tow, and made the UCI officials/ASO staff blow a gasket. Why not let them ride? They’ve got a bus, some bikes, some fitness, and nothing else to do in July–the minimum riders on the roster rule was just a cop-out to keep Astana-Wurth out of the race. I think Tour teams have finished in Paris with 2 riders, why not let Astana-Wurth separate the wheat from the chaff from the get-go and start their Kazakh giant slayers.

Things you don’t see everyday. Take a look at this photo. Take a long look. The orange-clad speed demon front-and-center is none other than Basque Inaki Isasi. The only thing perhaps more bizarro than a Euskaltel-Euskadi rider mixing it up with Boonen and Freire would be watching Magnus Backstedt and Pavel Padrnos sprinting it out for first atop L’Alpe-d’Huez.

“Serguei Gonchar? There’s a Mr. Vinokourov on the phone…” Any bets on whether T-Mobile implodes when the roads head skyward? We’re going to see a team split in half, just like the 1987 Carrera squad in the Giro, or the 1986 La Vie Claire squad in the Tour. T-Mobile has 3 Germans, 2 Italians, 1 Ukrainian, and 1 Australian. The Germans will stick together, the Italians and honorary Italian Gonchar will stick together, and Rogers is just screwed and will be riding by himself. I’m sure Gonchar is all too aware of what happens when non-Germans on T-Mobile try to “assert their author-i-ta” in le Tour.

Redneck Kryptonite. Just in case you didn’t already think Floyd Landis is the hardest man on the planet, here’s a choice Landis factoid from a July 3rd ESPN: The Magazine feature article:

“When Landis–who spends much of the racing season in Spain–churns out 100-mile (or more) training rides through the mountains near his home in Murrieta, Calif., he’s accompanied by his wife’s 18-year old brother, Max Basile. Max follows in a small SUV, and next to him sit the tools of his trade: a can of Mace and a stun gun. These are meant to protect Landis in case someone on these back roads, maybe a redneck type with spandex issues, messes with him. But wouldn’t just one weapon of mass deterrence suffice? ‘No,’ Landis says, as if the idea borders on blasphemy. ‘We need ‘em both. That way we can blind ‘em before we shock ‘em’.

The Curse lives! I’ve discussed the Performance Cover Curse not too long ago, and it seems that Bobby Julich is still unable to shake loose from its insidious grasp. Of course, from the comfort of my living room, it’s all too easy to second guess what went down in the TT (in addition to Julich himself), but here goes:

(1) Bobby, do you remember 1989? When you were the junior national cyclocross champion? You should have conjured up your best Todd Wells skills and bunny-hopped that pesky roundabout curb ensuring a guaranteed place in TdF lore and legend.


(2) You should have flipped over onto your back and put that 5-gallon Camelbak(barely visible) under your skinsuit to use as a curb cushion. This move would likely not garner as much street cred as option #1, but you wouldn’t be in the hospital and have to placate a crying daughter.

No more race radios. Except for a gutsy move by Sylvain Calzati (whose victory may have been more indicative of age-old peloton payola), all of the Tour stages have been too formulaic. Break goes. Break gets 7 minutes. Break gets caught at 5km to go. I think if riders had to do more thinking about who’s up the road, and be a bit more attentive to what’s going on of their own devices, there’d be more drama on the open road. And all that talk about “Well, it helps the riders’ safety so they’ll know about road hazards” is quite simply a crock. Just look at how many riders hit the deck in this edition of the Tour alone from coming face-to-face with potholes and shoddy paving (talk to Erik Dekker, Chris Horner, or Fred Rodriguez for starters).

Giovanni Lombardi. Unfortunately, with the latest revelations from the Landis camp, Lombardi’s “Hardest Man in Cycling” moniker may not be entirely his alone. But who cares. Lombardi is riding his 5th consecutive Grand Tour and doing the work of a small army on his own. Says Chris Horner, “Discovery had five guys protecting Armstrong, but Lombardi does it by himself for Basso” (ed.-and now Sastre). Just look at the stage finishes most days so far. Lombardi is usually only a couple of places in front of Sastre, usually rolling in just behind the sprinting frenzy in about 30th-40th. And Lombardi out TTed a hapless Levi Leipheimer:

92. Giovanni Lombardi (Ita) Team CSC @5.55.78

96. Levi Leipheimer (USA) Gerolsteiner @6.05.46

Ouch. Beaten by a man who treated that stage as a rest day.

Comments (5) to “Bizarro le Tour-o”

  1. The “agreement” to not allow replacement riders for those who were suspended due to Op. Ouerto was the other Pro Tour teams deciding to effectively ban Team Kazakh/p.b. Kazakhstan for the T-day-F. I would have loved to see Vino hit this Tour untethered.

  2. Did you seriously suggest banning radios as a means of improving racing? Honestly, I did not expect to find such a (in my opinion) “simple-minded”: opinion on this blog. The alleged development of “boring” racing has many root causes, and introduction of radios is a relatively minor one.

    You are correct, though, in saying the “safety of the riders” issue is a crock. Like most arguments that appeal to safety, it’s merely an attempt to force acceptance of an idea without incurring more thoughtful contemplation.

  3. Hey Peter, Lombardi pulled the ripcord.

  4. Cosmo-

    I think the elements of confusion, surprise, and stealth - conditions which may allow moves to develop - are stifled if a team’s DS can watch everything go down in actual time on television and immediately relay the information to his team. Prior to race radios and television with the DS autos, the DS would get the word over the primary Tour shortwave and there would very likely be a several minute lag before the DS could corral one of his riders and then have the rider disseminate information to the team. I think race radios do not put enough of a premium on rider vigilance.

    This may just be a one-off instance, but I look to one of the decisive stages of the 1987 Tour for an instance when stealth and smarts was paramount. Delgado quite possibly could have emerged victorious if he had known that Roche was coming back to him like gangbusters over the final 4km of the summit finish at La Plagne. Roche knew he couldn’t go head to head with Delgado up the climb, and he knew that Delgado would cease to receive blackboard time checks over the final several kilometers. So he kept Delgado at about 1:30 and then killed it over the final 4km knowing that Delgado would have no means to find out what was taking place behind him. I think Delgado had enough in the tank to keep Roche where he was if he knew what was developing behind him.

    I’m not a total luddite. I started racing in the days of wool clothing, toe clips and straps, leather hairnets, downtube shifting, crappy clinchers, and “light” bikes that weighed in at about 23 pounds. I’m more than happy that I don’t have to use anything of the like these days. I think the “rider’s hour record” is stupid. I think the minimum weight requirement for bikes is unnecessary. If somebody wants to hit 60+ mph descending in the Alps or wherever while on a 10 pound bike more power to you. But I’ll laugh a plenty when your rig snaps in half.

    I guessed somebody might call me on the race radio proclamation when I hit submit, and I don’t know that my off the cuff defense has any sway. But thanks for reading and commenting.

    Damn, I cursed Lombardi.

  5. The Roche/Delgado seems to make a good statement about the decreased role of rider savvy in the sport, but watching yesterday’s stage (16) certainly demonstrated that it’s harder than one might think to use a TV to follow the race. Add the chaos of driving the car, passing out waterbottles, and any of the other things that might distract a DS on the road, and the TV/radio combo doesn’t seem quite as infallable as a real-time tool.

    Had that Stage 21 of the ‘87 race gone down today, I think it would have taken a miracle for French TV crews to pick up immediately on Roche’s late move. Fignon and Fuerte were dueling for the stage win at the head of the race, Parra was in no-man’s between the leaders and Delgado, and the two French GC hopes were back down the road behind Roche; that’s a lot of action _and_ a lot of Frenchmen to monitor with one (French) TV signal. Maybe GPS would have smoothed out the time gap reporting a bit, but I can’t imagine the radio would have allowed Delgado to hold his gap.

    I will admit, however, that any little bit of help would have been huge, seeing that Delgado ended up losing the Tour by a mere 40 seconds…

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