Tuesday, January 30, 2007
What does Jonathan Page’s performance at the recently concluded 2007 cyclocross world championships and Artie Shaw’s semi-autobiographical novel have in common? Well…not much, except that catchy title popped into my head while I was watching Page come so damned close to putting on a rainbow jersey Sunday morning. I haven’t been worked into such a berserker frenzy watching a bike race since I lost my voice at the 1999 Presidio ‘cross nationals–just one of several thousand spectators whose ravings helped propel underdog Marc Gullickson to a national title.
They call me The Vituperator: There’s nothing quite like a room full of people urging unspeakable things to happen to fellow human beings, likely upstanding citizens each, and the results of such raw, venomous exhortations. At one critical point, when Page and Franzoi were making everyone in Belgium spit beer through their nose, I believe I started screaming “DIE FRANZOI DIE!!!” just as they hit the sand pit. And lo and behold, Franzoi flipped over the bars leaving Page and Vervecken alone to duke out the world title endgame. I wished fire and brimstone would rain down on Vervecken over those last couple of laps, but that bastard’s mojo is more powerful than anything I could deliver. As an alternative, I was wondering where Trebon and Wicks were at. If they were lapped together by Page, the two tallest lads in ‘cross could “crash” in front of Vervecken and put their collective 13′ of height and super-sized rigs to good use by blocking the course. Come on, Vervecken, you’ve already won 2 world titles and have podiumed 4 other times. Can’t you toss Mr. Page a bone and ensure his livelihood for the remainder of his ‘crossin’ days?
30,000 Belgian Vituperators: I hadn’t realized the venom that Belgians feel towards the Dutch. But it was damn funny on the first lap when
Gerben De Knegt Camiel Van Den Bergh rolled down one of the drop-offs to the 180 back to the stairs run-up while out in front on his own, and there was a thunderous wave of “BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!” all the way around that section of the course. Plus a whole lot of beer cups (empty? who knows…) heaved out on the course. And it also looked like De Knegt Van Den Bergh waved his fist in the air briefly, as if to say “Eat me, Belgium!!” That was just pure theatre.
The VIP treatment: Did anybody notice King Albert II of Belgium during the awards ceremony? He doled out the medals to the Elite podium…and he was wearing a press pass on a lanyard just like all the other schmoes on stage. Can’t the king just stroll in without any ID? I bet Eddy Merckx could.
Moto-rific: I hope that guy on the quad bike who took out Bart Wellens with an ill-timed plastic barricade ricochet had a full tank of gas. Because if he didn’t just keep on riding, like out of Belgium, then he’s probably already been “paid a visit” by the Bart Wellens goon squad.
“…Spends his winters finishing between fifth and 10th in cyclocross races”, so says Cycle Sport in their recent Ag2r 2007 team preview. John Gadret rolled in a respectable 8th on Sunday, fulfilling his 5th-10th obligation. There’s strength to weight ratio, which he’s got in spades, but there’s also pure power, which somebody weighing about 128 lbs most definitely lacks. Which is why Gadret negotiated the sand pit on foot nearly half the time, having simply run out of gas. And unless the freakiest man in cyclocross uncorks something Page-esque in his future, I think the Bobke Strut Gadret-orama will be coming to a close. At least until he shows up in Providence this October on Sven Nys’s chartered plane…and I’ll be there stalking him in baggage claim.
Coming tomorrow, or a couple of days…Lest we forget, Matt Kelly won the US’s second ‘cross medal and only world title on a frigid Poprad day in 1999. I’ll tell the story of the hooptiest bike to ever win a ‘cross gold medal in modern times.