Freaks of the Industry

1st...Samuel Sanchez...ESP 2nd...Davide Rebellin...ITA 3rd...Fabian Cancellara...SUI 4th...Alexander Kolobnev...RUS 5th...Andy Schleck...LUX

If you happened to see this rogues’ gallery clustered together on the front page of your local newspaper, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to wonder, “Huh…I wonder what kind of nefarious deeds these miscreants have perpetrated?” But if you’re NBC, and you’re trying to show what pro cycling is all about, these are the kind of photos you provide the curious viewing public.

Since I’m an Olympics zealot, on top of being resolutely messianic about all things pro cycling, I watched the entire length of the men’s road race live online all of last night. When there’s no announcers, coupled with the initial several hours of, quite honestly, not exactly scintillating action you’ve got to create some diversions. So I started to explore the photos and bios provided online by NBC of the cream of the planet’s pro cycling community. And holy crap, when you put them all together it’s a pretty comical collection. It looks like a compilation of webcam screen captures, discarded passport photos, characters appearing on milk cartons, high school yearbook out-takes, and FBI most-wanted mug shots. Nevermind the fact that quite a few pros don’t have any photo or bio (hence the “?” placeholders). Don’t worry too much, they’re only lowly unknowns such as Santiago Botero, Carlos Sastre, Franco Pellizotti, and Stuart O’Grady. NBC even threw one of our next door neighbors under the bus, providing absolutely nothing for Canadian Ryder Hesjedal, and duplicated the treatment for the sole Chinese rider Liang Zhang. D’oh! Maybe that’s why he made sure he was prominently positioned at the head of the peloton for the opening kilometers in metro Beijing.

A few random Men’s Olympic Road Race notes:
1. Absolutely stunning venue/scenery, despite hefty doses of haze.
2. What’s all that crap on the roads? Oh yeah, it’s discarded musette bags and water bottles. In Europe those would be scooped up in seconds, in China not so much. I bet the heavy security presence made sure nobody dared set foot on the course. [Addendum: apparently the Aussie contingent’s family members had access issues at the road course. There’s an awesome quote from O’Grady in there concerning the lack of fans: “It was like silent murder.”]
3. Wow, somebody figured out how to have crystal clear, live television transmissions inside tunnels. Pretty cool to see, instead of the usual helicopter shot overhead waiting for the peloton to emerge.
4. When riders retired and headed to their team digs, it looked like they were entering self-storage facilities.
5. Overall, quite a collection of not-so-aesthetically appealing national team kits. You can never go wrong with the classic Belgian kits, Luxembourg looked cool, I liked South Africa, but far too many looked like bargain basement club jerseys.
6. While the riders were trying to be discreet in the opening kilometers, quite a few riders “watering the lawn” were doing so in view of Chinese citizens within metro Beijing. Not quite sure if they’re aware of Euro tradition in such matters or if they cared.
7. I don’t have any idea how riders stayed sufficiently hydrated. There didn’t appear to be any neutral water motorcycles (like the Tour), I believe each team had only one support vehicle making reaching all the riders more difficult (at least there were no more than five members per team), and that feed zone looked pretty sketchy. The shower was pretty cool. I wondered how one man squads (like Cancellara) dealt with getting water outside of the feed zone. When you’re simultaneously the team leader and domestique, I guess you have to head back on your own and scoop up some bottles. Or intimidate lesser riders into giving up theirs.