Secret Sign

This is a true story. When I lived in northern NJ as a wee youngster, I spent several summers immersed in the world of Little League baseball. Before I knew what professional cycling was, I had (ever so brief) illusions of playing for the NY Mets. From the highest point in South Orange, one could see the NYC skyline and for a summer or two I thought that, just maybe, my life’s path would involve playing a handful of miles away in Shea Stadium.

Well, it didn’t take too many trips to the plate before it became stunningly evident that the hand-eye coordination to hit a baseball is a skill I do not possess. The skill I did possess was crowding the plate so I could get beaned and mosie along to first. Then the fun started - I could start stealing bases. We had a green light to steal if the catcher made mistakes mishandling pitches, but otherwise we were under strict orders to wait for our coach’s signal to steal. And straight out of Bad News Bears, the signal to steal was when the coach lit up a new cigarette. No joke. One can only imagine how much smoke our bench inhaled per game, but orders are orders and I don’t think anybody intercepted our SIGINT…

Jonathan Vaughters is looking for beads in Downers Grove
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski/ (URL)

Fast forward to yesterday’s USPRO crit championships in Downers Grove, IL. TIAA-CREF DS Jonathan Vaughters is providing late-race instructions to Brad Huff and company, guidance which will soon result in a US championship for the uber-talented Huff. This is the covert sign which says, “Make sure Huff gets to the last turn in the top 2, but be well aware of carrying too much heat - those barriers are a bitch.”

Not exactly something one learns in “Director Sportif 101″, but Vaughters certainly believes in doing things his own way. At least Vaughters is still rail-thin. Be glad he’s not flaunting the physique of a Manolo Saiz. Now that Vaughters’ unconventional communications have been compromised, one can only wonder what he’ll have to come up with to direct his bevy of young talent in the upcoming USPRO road race in Greenville. I’ll be there, camera in hand, to chronicle his next move.

Will Croon For Food; Will Race 5 Consecutive Grand Tours For Food; Will Watch USPRO For Beer

“Toby” belts out a tune on NBC’s Rockstar Supernova Henk Vogels on the mic - January, 2006
Photo ©: Danny Moloshok / Blue Pixel Photo ©: John Flynn/

Word-or most likely baseless, unfounded rumors-on the Internets is that 2006 US pro peloton powerhouse Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team is short on cash and on the verge of not completing their inaugural season. Soon after the appearance of this speculative chatter, however, a bombshell announcement hits the ususal cycling sites: none other than Aussie hardguy Henk Vogels will once again base himself stateside and race for Toyota-United in 2007.


Has anyone seen Vogels racing lately? Because I think he’s trying to diversify his income portfolio by auditioning for the frontman spot of made - for - tv - over- the - hill - rocker -gotta - pay - the - rent - somehow - cause - we - got -screwed - out - of - a - lifetime - of - royalties - and - now - beg - for - crumbs - on - NBC - peddling -Supernova lameness. Like I’ve mentioned before when discussing Johnny Green’s book about le Tour, there’s not much of a difference between the life of a pro cyclist and that of a rock musician. Except for those pesky drug tests. Let’s see if there’s a burning the candle at both ends rocker-racer life for Vogels next season, surely a ticket to shaving some years off one’s expected lifespan…And I realize I’m ripe for mockery for actually having viewed multiple episodes of Rockstar Supernova.

What’s going on over at CSC? Completing the Grand Tour triple header within a single calendar year has always been an occasional freakish anomaly, aside for a single round of popularity back in the 1991 glory days of EPO. But CSC seems hellbent on bringing “The Triple” back into style. 2005 saw old-man Giovanni Lombardi complete all 3 Grand Tours, and then just for good measure he kept on going in 2006 completing the Giro and nearly completing le Tour. 4.5 consecutive Tours…not bad. Not to be outdone, Carlos Sastre is embarking on his 3rd Grand Tour of 2006 with the soon-to-commence Vuelta (having started a streak of consecutive Grand Tours with the 2005 Tour de France). And upping the ante over Lombardi, Sastre is actually trying to win them. Nevertheless, Sastre can only hope to tie for 6th on the Triple Crown GC tabulator…

Let’s review the upper echelon of the GC freaks of yore, courtesy of

Ralph Geminiani (Fra)   1955   4th   6th   3rd
Gastone Nencini (Fra)   1957   1st   6th   9th
Federico Bahamontes (Spa)   1958   17th   8th   6th
Eduardo Chozas (Spa)   1991   10th   11th   11th
Marino Lejaretta (Spa)   1989   10th   5th   20th
Marino Lejaretta (Spa)   1987   4th   10th   34th
Eduardo Chozas (Fra)   1990   11th   6th   33rd

Sastre has a 43rd in the Giro, a 4th (maybe upgraded to 3rd?) in the Tour, and a victory in the Vuelta will give him a GC total score of 48, tied for 6th with Lejaretta. As long as Sastre doesn’t whip out his kid’s pacifier again if he wins a stage, I’ll be pulling for him.

Greenville USPRO…I’ll be making the drive down I-85 to check out the road race on September 3rd. I’m real curious to see what kind of turnout the race generates. If anyone wants to grab a beer (or beers) I’ll be in the race hotel Hilton Greenville Saturday and Sunday nights. I don’t know what kind of bars are around, but I’m sure I’ll figure that out once I’m there.

Capital Campaign

“The Jan” siting: I spent nearly a week at a conference in Washington, DC, hunkered down for long days of sessions, round tables, panel discussions, and plenary addresses in the Hilton near Dupont Circle. Thankfully, unlike many of my professional colleagues, I was not staying in the host hotel. I enjoyed the approximately 1 mile stroll between my hotel and the conference digs each morning and evening which provided the opportunity to soak up some of the DC ambience, architecture, and street life. One can’t help but notice the abundance of bike messengers making their way through DC streets each day, and I’d frequently walk past battle-weary track bikes locked to parking meters and street signs while their owners were inside a nearby building making deliveries.

On one particular morning, awash in the delirium of too much Guinness ingestion the prior evening and a lack of caffeine this a.m. (I had yet to reach the coffee shop near the hotel), I took a slightly different sequence of streets to reach my destination. And as I’m wont to do, at frequent intervals throughout the day, I was thinking about cycling. And just as Todd Wells frequently poses the question “I wonder what Gully’s doing right now”, for no particular reason the thought “I wonder what Jan Ullrich’s doing right now” popped into my brain. Still training hard? Plotting his defense strategy? Watching 1997 Tour de France videos? On vacation someplace far from Europe where nobody knows who he is? Well, I think a certain Mr. Ullrich tried to make his way as a DC bike messenger. Because no sooner than I started contemplating Jan’s fate, I came across a bike locked to a sign sporting this on the top tube:

Unfortunately, Jan’s run into a bit of bad luck regarding the rest of his ride…

Such a sad, after-school special-esque saga…from ProTour uberman to destitute, beaten down DC bike messenger in the span of several weeks.

Cyclists do not work at the Smithsonian: One of the perks of our convention meeting in Washington, DC was having the run of the entire Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History for a private party this past Friday evening. I was mostly concerned with the free food and drinking enough beer to cover the $10 flat fee I had to pay for the privilege of imbibing booze. Having already done some sightseeing in DC, I was falling under the spell of museum fatigue and didn’t overly concern myself with the cultural heritage treasures around me. The original Star Spangled Banner? Mr. Rogers’ sweater? Howdy Doody? Dorothy’s ruby slippers? Whatever…That is, until I happened to see a white Trek encased off in the distance while I lingered with North Carolina colleagues on the 3rd floor. And right away something seemed really strange, which I confirmed with a closer look:

Maybe it was just the Rolling Rock fuelling my indignation, or the indignation of having Rolling Rock as the highest quality beer at the bar, but I was horrified to see how the handlebars were not properly positioned. Whoever set up the bike for the exhibit (and I’m assuming it’s somebody within the Smithsonian) used the STI levers as a levelling cue, rather than the flats of the drops. Hence, the end of the drops were tilted upwards. Whoever set this bike up is not aware of how Armstrong, and damn near the rest of the Euro peloton, has his bars positioned. Or maybe the museum tech person in charge of the display took it out for one last spin around the National Mall, careened into a major pothole, and thought nobody would notice the wonky bar position when he sealed it away behind plexiglass. Either way, I felt like I was looking at a bike displayed in Wal-Mart. And in the grand scheme of things this is pretty minor, but one would hope that the nation’s flagship history musueum would dot their “i”s and cross their “t”s. I happened to have an allen wrench in my messenger bag, and I was tempted to breach the display case and do a quick loosening/tightening of the stem bolts to rotate the bars upwards to their proper position. The horror…

And then another funny thing happened. I was attending a national convention of archivists and librarians, professions which are largely populated with people who are, putting it delicately, not athletically inclined. While I was soaking in Armstrong’s Trek, some other convention goers came up to the display and started talking amongst themselves about Armstrong. I soon found myself answering their questions about Lance, the Tour de France, his bike, how I knew what year he rode it, etc. since the exhibit offered precious little contextual information. Within moments, a larger crowd gathered around and I found myself fielding questions about Floyd Landis and doping in cycling. If I had my wits about me, I would have got them all chanting, “Rotate the bars! Rotate the bars!” and marched them to the curator’s office to make a scene. I guess I’ll just have to resort to a one-man letter writing campaign to the Smithsonian instead.

Perry Metzler redux: And on a somber note, I re-visited the Vietnam Memorial as I had approximately 1 1/2 years ago when I paid my repects to Perry Metzler. There’s a minor addition to that entry, as this time around I was able to photograph his name with my digital camera.