Get Your Grand Tour On (redux)

As the 2011 Tour de France starts in earnest today, I thought it would be a good time to revisit my homage to the clip-art genius of David Rees, creator of Get Your War On, with my own version, Get Your Grand Tour On, which first aired on Bobke Strut just prior to the 2008 Tour.

With the unfortunate passing of Laurent Fignon in August of 2010, this will be the first Tour without “The Professor”, but maybe not the last…

And a hat tip to Brad Evans, who beat me to the punch with the re-airing of GYGTO.

Get Your Grand Tour On

The undisputed King of Clip Art Comedy is David Rees, whose work resides at My New Fighting Technique is Unstoppable. Of particular note is his series entitled Get Your War On comprised of clip art office workers reacting to the insanity of a post-9/11 America. Brace yourselves for a torrent of obscenity-laced humor likely to make you laugh so hard you’ll cry if only to just simply keep yourself from crying in despair.

Of course, being intimately connected to the pulse of the pro cycling universe, I happened to discover that none other than Bernard Hinault and Laurent Fignon were cube-mates to the stars of GYWO. Click here to enter their world.

Vive le Tour.

Amstel Gold Flashback

Image courtesy of Photo © Fotoreporter Sirotti.

Did you ever wonder what kind of idle chit-chat takes place among former world champion pro cyclists while they’re waiting for a Classic to start? Click on the photo to find out what my ears on the ground overheard between Igor Astarloa (Milram) and Oscar Freire (Rabobank) just prior to the kickoff of the 2007 Amstel Gold.

Mooninites & Menninites

Lost in all the media frenzy out of Boston regarding the city’s invasion by Mooninites was the simultaneous, mysterious appearance worldwide of the Mooninites’ obscure, equally angry, and more highly pixelated brethren: the Menninites. Evidently, this disturbingly advanced species of alien being has been sighted afixed to bridges and buildings in locales such as Austin, TX; Solvang, CA; Montreal, Canada; Dublin, Ireland; Aigle, Switzerland; Vigo, Spain; Châtenay-Malabry, France; and Colorado Springs, CO. A spokesman for the Menninite species, residing in San Diego, CA, had little to offer besides, “Explanations are pointless, Earthling press corps. Our culture is advanced beyond anything you can possibly comprehend with 110% of your brain. Just give us our maillot jaune and we’ll spare your planet.”

Livin’ Large

Ok, all you children of the 70s, quick question…

If you spent as much time as I did during the pre-teen years poring over the Guinness Book of World Records, what single image is still burned into your brain?

$100 says it’s this one:

Benny and Billy McCrary on their motorcycles
Image source:

Here are some interesting facts about Benny and Billy McCrary, the World’s Largest Twins (source material: here and here, more photos here):

  • Benny maxed out at 814 lbs. Billy never crossed the 800 lb. barrier, opting instead to keep his weight at a svelte 784 lbs.
  • Backed by Honda and Holiday Inn, Benny and Billy rode Honda mini-bikes cross-country. They took 30 days to ride from New York to Los Angeles.
  • During the cross-country mini-bike odyssey, Benny and Billy met professional wrestler Gory Guerrero in El Paso, Tx.
  • Once their mini-bike trip concluded, Benny and Billy embarked on a career as professional tag-team wrestlers, initially under the tutelage of said Gory Guerrero.
  • They trained about two months in Mexico and began wrestling there, often in bullrings.
  • From there, they went to work with Dory Funk Sr. in Amarillo, Texas.
  • Later, they worked for Leroy McGuirk in Oklahoma City and in Nashville.
  • After that, they were pretty seasoned and hit the road.
  • In Japan, they switched from being the McCrary Twins to the McGuire Twins. “The announcers would have trouble with it. They would pronounce it Queary and we’d say, ‘We ain’t no queers.’
  • One of Benny and Billy’s signature wrestling moves, “The Big Splash”, had an occasional unsavory result. Benny would pin an opponent, and then, according to Benny, “…then Billy would come sit on top of me. I’ve had wrestlers poo-poo in their pants from the weight.” (Wow, too much information)
  • Benny and Billy appeared in Vegas where they played trumpets and told jokes with 400-pound go-go dancers.
  • Billy died of injuries after a mini-bike stunt gone wrong in Niagara Falls.
  • After Billy died in 1979, Benny teamed up with other wrestlers, including Andre the Giant, before retiring from the sport.
  • Benny later opened up a pawn shop.
  • Another random tidbit of information is that Benny and Billy McCrary are natives of Hendersonville, NC, where I just happened to be last weekend for day 1 of the Southeast’s only UCI sanctioned cyclocross races. The less that is said of my performance in the 35+ event the better. Suffice it to say that 5 hours of sleep, a 20 minute warmup, and training one day a week for the entire year are not conducive to podium appearances. More along the order of “please don’t lap me”. But regardless of my form, I do love racing.

    Anyway, between the finish of my race and the start of the Elite Men’s event was an approximate 2 hour window which I dutifully spent riding to Benny’s and Billy’s final resting spot (Crab Creek Baptist Church Cemetery: 72 Jeter Mountain Road - about 9 miles southwest of downtown Hendersonville) where I paid my respects.

    Even in death, they’ve set yet another world record: the world record for the largest granite tombstone, weighing in at about 3 tons:

Imagine for a moment an alternate universe. A parallel dimension where instead of meeting Gory Guerrero in El Paso, Benny and Billy ran into a certain legendary six-day pro/promoter Patrick Sercu:

Sercu: Listen, Gory Guerrero’s got nothin’ to offer. NOTHING. This so called ‘Rasslin’ is not a sport. It’s fake. On the other hand, professional six-day bike races are honest athletic endeavors devoid of any illusion of fraud or scripted outcome…
Billy: That’s not what I heard.
Sercu: Now where did you rubes get that idea? Hear me out…How would you like an eternal diet of complimentary beer and frites…
Benny: Wait, I know all about beer, but what the hell are freets?
Sercu: Uh, gloriously fried, golden, crispy, salted potatoes. I believe you call them of all things “French Fries” here. But we use mayo, not ketchup.
Benny: Ooh, that sounds good. Me and Billy can’t live on beer alone.
Billy: At least not for extended periods of time.
Sercu: Right…Anyway, as I was saying, you’ll have a chance to race your mini-bikes - umm…actually we call them dernies…but no matter - all over Europe, ogle oodles of show girls, take in a non-stop disco music soundtrack each night, and most importantly, you’ll be guaranteed a place in six-day lore and legend. I can’t seem to find any Yanks who can cut it in Europe indoors on track bikes. Instead, this land has an uncanny knack for producing men larger than anyplace on the planet. But Benny and Billy, you two win the fat-ass crown hands-down.
Benny and Billy: Amen to that, brother!
Sercu: Damn, I’ve got about 20 Euro speedsters itching to draft such a doughy dynamic duo like you two. And my-oh-my, draft they will. Why don’t you both sign right here on the dotted line…And then we leave for Belgium.

Feast your eyes on what may have transpired in hallowed indoor velodrome venues such as Dortumund or Copenhagen or Zurich or Munich or Grenoble or Ghent. Benny and Billy…you missed your true calling.

Your Tax Dollars at Work

If there’s one thing our current administration does better than anybody - better than Nixon, better than J. Edgar Hoover, better than the Stasi- it’s spying on people. The NSA is just going crazy, sucking cell phone and land line conversations out of the ether from anyplace on the planet. Now, call me old-fashioned, but I think antiquated documents such as the Constitution still apply. Spy on anybody you like, just get a warrant first.

But the upside of this perfidious conduct is the juicy conversations acquired amidst our world-wide eavesdropping net. File yourself a FOIA request and you, too, can hear casual conversations from just about anybody. Like what transpired between Alejandro Valverde and Oscar Freire moments after the conclusion of the recent Salzburg world road championships. Who knew Mr. Freire was such a fiesty little bugger.


Ugly Americans

No, not our riders, (I trust that any Americans selected for a world championship position have enough decorum and respect to represent our country properly), but our clothes. Just look what Bjarne Riis thought about the 2006 Team USA kit sported in Salzburg…

And on a somewhat tangentally related note, if you want to delve into the world of someone whose life’s passion is “the obsessive study of athletics aesthetics”, check out Uni Watch. A recent read through the site reminded me of the unflattering kits worn by Americans at the road and mountain bike world championships.

ProTour Purgatory

Image source:

Edward Hopper frittered away gratuitous amounts of time watching six-day races in Madison Square Garden in search of inspiration. Undoubtedly, the recently concluded Tour de France has attracted his attention whilst floating around the ether. I’ve been possessed by the caustic spirit of Edward Hopper today, and a 2006 version of Nighthawks has been channelled through me via Photoshop. Click on the image to start the sequence of panels…


George Hincapie wants nothing more than to emerge victorious at Paris-Roubaix. This year, 2006, everything looked to be going Hincapie’s way. A major selection emerged after the Forest of Arenberg, and George appeared to be in the driver’s seat. Two strong teammates with him. Boonen isolated. Then, the inexplicable happened. As we all know, his steerer tube went “snappy snappy” leaving George in tears. A collective gasp spread through the cycling world…George is undoubtedly cursed. And he has been for some time.

1992(?): Georgeous George wins a stage of the Tour DuPont as an amateur, then is relegated to last for dangerous riding in the field sprint. Cursed.
1997: Hincapie wins the USPRO title…for 30 minutes. Then he’s disqualified for drafting a team vehicle following a flat tire late in the race. Cursed.
1998: Tour de France stage 3. Hincapie misses the yellow jersey by 2 seconds. Cursed.
2000: Sydney Olympic Games. Ullrich, Kloden, and Vinokourov TTT away from the field. Mysteriously, Hincapie and Armstrong do not realize the T-Mobile trio have rolled into the gold,silver, bronze sunset and think that their chase group is the gold medal group. Until Armstong looks on the Jumbo-tron and says, ” I saw that there were three riders in front of us and I said ‘George, who are those three?’” George’s reply was predictable and will not be printed here. Cursed.
2002: Hincapie initiates the winning break at Ghent-Wevelgem and looks to have it all wrapped up. Then Mario Cipollini, out of the blue, bridges to the break and torches everybody for victory. It is the only victory Cipo has ever taken which wasn’t a field sprint. Hincapie? Cursed.
2002: Hincapie eats it in a ditch at Paris-Roubaix, nearly drowns, and has to see his punk teammate Tom Boonen get on the podium. Yeah, George is cursed.
2005: Paris-Roubaix. The final three. Hincapie, Boonen, Flecha. George, “I can win…I can win…I can win…”. Nope. Cursed.

Bobby Julich may be flying high now with CSC, but things haven’t always been so peachy…
1991 and 1992 were spectacular seasons for the young, amateur Julich having twice finished in the Tour DuPont GC top-ten. Gatorade, the team of Gianni Bugno, came calling. Julich, not knowing a word of Italian and feeling a wee bit nervous about Europe at age 20, said no. His team for the 1993 season went belly up in January of that year. Oops. Say hello to a year of misery as a privateer in the US. Cursed.
1995: Julich given a no confidence vote by Motorola and is unable to ride the Tour DuPont. Instead of racing with the big boys, Julich shows up angry and fearsomely fit at Tour de Moore. Double curse. Julich?–denied his stage race, Me?–I get to feel his wrath first-hand for 105 miles.
1996: Julich has to undergo heart surgery at Duke University to remedy uncontrollable heart rate accelerations. Cursed.
1999: Tour de France. Lance wins. Julich crashes out in the time trial. Cursed.
2000: Tour de France. Smacked around by Jeroen Blijlevens after finishing in Paris. You should have squashed that goon. Cursed.
2004: Tour de France stage 13. Bobby goes back to the CSC car to fetch some bottles and is taken out by Bjarne. D’oh. Cursed.
2005: Fred-ly chainrings make their way on to Julich’s bike. Cursed.

Lance Armstrong. Well, one can’t be more cursed than a cancer death sentence.

All of these calamities may seem random, unrelated, and just all-around, old-fashioned bad luck. Not so, I say. I have definitive proof that these 3 poor souls’ lives were forever altered by the Performance Bicycle cover curse. Forget Sports Illustrated, the Perf catalog is far more wicked mojo. George, Lance, Bobby–they’re all there (and some other random dude on the left who’s so cursed I don’t even know who he is. His mere existence has been stricken from all memory.) And they’re all cursed.

1992 Performance Bicycle Catalog Curse
Image source: Performance Bicycle

Just how does one neutralize the cover curse? Lance knows. Bobby didn’t quite know, but employed a pretty successful Plan B (the miracle man, Bjarne Riis). George? Well, George hasn’t figured it out yet.

The Lance Solution: In the closing stages of Lance’s 7th consecutive victory at the Tour de France, something rather peculiar began making public appearances in the Lance camp. Lots and lots of cryptic pictograms, creepy enought to make Proctor & Gamble conspiracy freaks blush. A rather nefarious looking responsible party emerged for interviews (”Lenny Futura”? How about “Louis Cyphre”).

The cat was out of the bag.

All of that miracle Tour de France luck on display since the ‘99 TdF can be traced back to Lance fighting fire with fire and conjuring up more potent juju to negate the Cover Curse. Says Lance, “Hey, you can’t test positive for voodoo. Suck on that, UCI.” Lance’s minions were constantly battling Armstrong in those final days of the Tour, insisting that seemingly benign arrangements of symbols such as these adorn his top tube:

Icons celebrating Lance's 5th TdF victory

Icons celebrating Lance's 6th TdF victory

However, what Lance really wanted to unveil to the world was this setup:

Photographer: Tim Maloney
Image source:

Lance says, “This particular arrangement is titled ‘Seething Rage’…Translation: ‘I hate Christian Vandevelde, I hate Filippo Simeoni, I hate Dave Zabriskie, I hate Floyd Landis, and I hate Roberto Heras.’ May you all break collarbones, crash into walls, crash in TTTs, put your arm through glass doors, adopt goofy time trial positions, forever suck in le Tour, and fail drug tests.” And now that Lance has gotten antsy and fidgety less than a year into his retirement, I’d watch myself if I happened to be a world-class marathoner. Lance has you in his crosshairs and he’s playing for keeps.

Mad Money

Exhibit A:
Floyd Landis, winner of the inaugural Amgen Tour of California, collects his paycheck.

Exhibit B:
Donald Trump, the original billionaire bike race promoter.

I wonder if Floyd Landis knows that the last time a billionaire put on a bike race in the US, the winner walked away with a cool $50,000? That, of course, would be the Donald Trump bankrolled Tour de Trump back in 1989 won by 7-Eleven hardguy Dag-Otto Lauritzen. Seventeen years later, the winner’s payola seems to have shrunk significantly.

The current billionaire to finance a stage race in the US big enough to entice serious Euro talent across the Atlantic is reclusive Denver-ite Philip F. Anschutz, the man primarily responsible for making the inaugural Tour of California a reality. Just take a peak at what this guy owns, it’s mind-boggling. And despite the relative frugality of this rendition’s prize-list, I think Anschutz’s AEG (Anschutz Entertainment Group, the owner of the Tour of California) will very likely be the means to a long-lasting, world-class stage race in the United States. I think the reason that events such as the Red Zinger Bicycle Classic, the Coors Classic, the Tour de Trump, and the Tour DuPont had a relatively short shelf life is that the title sponsors were not really invested in the long-term health of professional cycling. For Donald Trump, it was sheer vanity coupled with the appealing insanity of shutting down streets from Albany to Atlantic City (and particularly Manhattan) for a bike race. For the corporate entities, once their marketing goals were met they just pulled the plug and walked away leaving a race infrastructure without any cash to continue. What’s different this time around is that AEG is in the business of sports and entertainment, and they see a niche in the US waiting to be filled. And AEG is serious about sports and entertainment. Just peruse the abbreviated version of their empire:

AEG is one of the leading sports and entertainment presenters in the world. AEG, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Anschutz Corporation, owns or controls a collection of companies including facilities such as STAPLES Center, The Forum (as exclusive booking agent for sports and entertainment programming), Toyota Sports Center, NOKIA Theatre Times Square, NOKIA Theatre at Grand Prairie and London’s Manchester Evening News Arena; sports franchises including the Los Angeles Kings (NHL), Los Angeles Riptide (MLL), Manchester Monarchs (AHL), Reading Royals (ECHL), Chicago Fire, DC United, Houston 1836, Los Angeles Galaxy and (New York/New Jersey) Metrostars (MLS), two hockey franchises operated in Europe, the Hammarby (Sweden) Futbol Club and management of shares of the Los Angeles Lakers (NBA) and Los Angeles Sparks (WNBA) owned by Philip Anschutz; AEG Marketing, a sponsorship, sales, naming rights and consulting company; AEG Merchandising, a multi-faceted merchandising company; and AEG Creative, a full-service marketing and advertising agency. 

Cycling has already been a part AEG’s world since they also own the Home Depot Center, home to North America’s only(?) indoor velodrome. The junior and senior world track cycling championships have already taken place under their management (although Erik Saunders has some suggestions about amenities). And on top of that, the Anschutz empire includes film production companies, newspapers, and the largest chain of movie theaters in the US.

At the very least, AEG is committed to a $35,000,000 investment in professional cycling over the next 5 years. Just the technology alone in their TofC website has definitely set the standard for delivering detailed stage maps, live feeds, post-stage video and photos. Nobody, not even the Grand Tours, has anything comparable. And with the apparent success of this years’s event (based on huge attendence plus positive team feedback), hopefully AEG can leverage some better coverage on ESPN for future renditions. I think they have the muscle, if so inclined, to bump up daily coverage into a more palatable time slot than this year’s graveyard shift relegation. And please, whoever is reponsible for the ESPN2 coverage should spend some time watching Euro pro cycling, say on, for how a professional bike race should be covered: helicopter shots, onscreen graphics detailing who’s in the breaks, onscreen time-splits, and onscreen distance to the finish will do wonders. And while I would be perfectly content to watch live events such as Het Volk and Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne on my computer via, in order to cultivate the next generation of homegrown cycling talent in the US I think a marquee event readily accessible to the public is a must. I have no idea if USA Cycling was in attendence at the start and finish locations, but I surely hope they were there to facilitate the entry of young talent into the sport. I’m pretty sure several of our current Colorado-born professionals were bitten by the bike bug while watching the Red Zinger or Coors Classic, and here’s hoping that the TofC will have a likewise effect.