In 2007, It’s Gonna Be “United ‘Fro Cycling”

Exhibit A:
License to Ill era Beastie Boys
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Exhibit B:

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Guys in matching sweatsuits + faux attitude + a NYC backdrop will forever in my mind equate to mid-’80s Beastie Boys (A). So when the United Pro Cycling Team sashayed out of their ESPN Zone press conference and snapped a Times Square photo (B) this past Tuesday, I couldn’t help but chuckle and wonder who’s at the helm of this operation. Maybe next year’s rendition of United Pro Cycling will take another cue from the Beastie Boys oeuvre and head deep, deep back into the ’70s a la Paul’s Boutique. ‘Cause if you’re going to reference the Beastie Boys, you’ve got to emulate their masterpiece. Which means casting aside your Rick Rubin-fuelled testosterone-fest and ushering in some West-coast Dust Brothers suavity. Which means blown-out ‘fros, monster lamb-chop sideburns, and a proper kit. If you’re going to deck your riders out in stars & stripes then United Pro Cycling has no other choice but making a beeline back to Roger de Vlaeminck and Team Brooklyn. That’s how a stars and stripes jersey should look.

Exhibit C:
Evel Kanyevel
Image source: Kanye West “Touch the Sky” screen capture

And how about some Evel Knievel jumpsuits for après-cycling leisure-wear? Kanye West (or should I say, Evel Kanyevel (C)) is all over that, so you know it’s hot. And Coke-can Easton rigs are way overrated, who amongst us doesn’t love the classic steel Gios ride? I’ll even let them make a few tweaks for the modern era with these provisions: (1) Dura-Ace 10 is ok as long as Shimano creates some custom STI levers with non-aero brake cables and (2) yeah, you can use clipless pedals, BUT (3)deep dish carbon wheels are a no-no, just your classic 32 spoke box rims, (4) you better hit eBay to find some Benotto tape, (5) just for the hell of it, drill the crap out of your brakes and levers, and (6) I’m sorry, no hardshell helmets allowed; hit eBay for some leather hairnets, too. And the team management needs to get Roger de Vlaeminck over here in the States to mastermind another reality tv show. Let de Vlaeminck keep going with his bizarro Zimbabwe Euro ‘cross experiment Allez Allez Zimbabwe in the winter, but have him travel around the US with United Pro Cycling during road season with the cameras running. For if there’s one thing I’ve learned from burning up vast swaths of brain cells while glued to my cathode ray boob tube, the US can never have enough reality television.

I’d buy a membership for that…

Zeddam On My Mind…

John Gadret goes toe to toe with a 14 year-old heckler

Never mind that Belgians have swept the elite ‘cross podium for the past 4 years and have won 20 of 24 elite ‘cross worlds medals over the past 8 years. John Gadret has been on a tear, only a few scant seconds behind Erwin Vervecken and Sven Nys these past couple of weeks. And with countrymen Francis Mourey on hand, a willing and enthusiastic partner in Gadret’s Franco Mallachi Crunch, and with the undeniably inevitable Belgian infighting probably already manifesting itself at this very moment, John Gadret is primed to make history.

I Met Pukey

Sven Nys is faster than you even when he's drunk

Is there anyone out there who can honestly say they’ve never raced a bike hungover, at least once? I know I can’t. For instance, I raced the Athens Twilight Crit once (and only once, that race was nuts) back in 1992. I maybe moved up all of two places in the peloton the whole night, but I didn’t get dropped and I wanted to celebrate. Caught up in the frenzy of about 20,000 drunk crazy people screaming their lungs out around the 1km loop all night, and with plenty of drinking establishments to satiate one’s boozing desires right on the course, it only seemed right that I have a few beers. And a few more. Maybe one more. Ah, fuck it, sure I’ll have another. And then the alarm goes off too damn early the following morning for Sunday’s road race. Oops, forgot about day 2 of the race weekend. But I race about 100km in the am, a bit green in the gills and groggy, and sweat all that booze out of the system just in time to contest the field sprint. Mission accomplished, no big deal.

Now I’m hardly endorsing such behavior, but when you’re in your 20s you can get away with competing under less than ideal physical states. Which is why the whole hubbub about Bode Miller racing World Cup downhill events with a hangover is so amusing to me. I don’t see why Bode had to apologize. If anything, the other downhillers who got their asses kicked by a person who may have failed a breathalyzer in the starting gate should apologize to their fans. What’s even funnier is Nike’s glorification of Bode Miller’s predilection for projectile vomiting (albeit under different circumstances). If you happen to visit Nike’s Bode Miller love-fest, check out the option “training sled” in the pulldown menu.

Enter the Dragon

John Gadret Belgian-Beat-Down Tabulator banner

John Gadret unleashes a can of kung-fu whupass on hapless Bart Wellens
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Vlaamse Druivenveldrit: Overijse, Belgium. There’s nothing like hecklers who pull out all the stops. John Gadret, frustrated by a rather mediocre ‘cross season and comfortable in the knowledge that he’s been hooked up with ProTour squad ag2r for 2006, verbally lit into Wellens from the sidelines lap after lap after lap. Egged on by his cadre of Wellens-haters and fuelled by about 2 liters of Duvel flowing through his slight frame, Gadret thence stripped down to his stylin’ Bruce Lee kit and uncorked a lightning fast strike to Wellens’ noggin.

Bart Wellens is lucky to be alive.

And then not one week later, having let all of Belgium cyclocross know that he’s not a man to be trifled with, Gadret uncorks his best ride of the season at Superprestige #6. If only there was some sprinting horsepower in his spindly limbs. Here’s hoping that having absorbed the final morsels of old school Belgian knowledge from his Jartazi-Revor-Granville goon squad handlers, Gadret will give ag2r its first win of the season in this weekend’s French cyclocross championships.

No Gifts

Trey Parker and Matt Stone love them some Bob Roll. So much so that Bobke has been incorporated into next season’s South Park. Here’s a preview of Bobke’s premier in an upcoming episode “Lance Armstrong Will Fuck Your Shit Up”. Everyone knows about Lance and the President’s mountain bike ride in Crawford, but nobody knows what went down in the afternoon road bike session. Until now…

Images source: Screen captures from Breaking Away DVD

Sympathy for the Devil

Do you know who Billy Fiske is? I didn’t until about a week ago. I just happened to catch a History Channel documentary about him, most probably a piece of groundwork for the Hollywood extravaganza (“The Few”)to be released this year starring Tom Cruise and directed by Michael Mann. Fiske is perhaps best known for being the first American to die in combat in World War II. He schmoozed his way into the RAF and made the ultimate sacrifice during the Battle of Britain, approximately one month after he earned his wings as a Hurricane fighter pilot and more than a year before Pearl Harbor was bombed. Fiske is a rather fascinating gent, born into a wealthy Chicago banking family but never quite comfortable behind the desk. He spent most of his 29 years in Europe with a particular passion for skiing in Switzerland and raging along twisting Cote D’Azur roads in a Bentley. He also laid the groundwork for Aspen’s ski resort and possibly had a fling with Cary Grant’s fiancee while Fiske was on location in Hawaii for the filming of “White Heat”. For those of you who wish to know all the details of his life check this site out. As an aside, some elderly RAF veterans of the Battle of Britain are getting pretty amped up about the upcoming Tom Cruise flick since it appears that the truth will be twisted to parlay a very pro-American bias. It seems that Fiske (Tom Cruise) will be portrayed as someone who showed up and saved Britain’s ass even though the historic record states that in his month of combat he had no confirmed kills before he brought his wounded plane back to Tangmere airfield and died of burns suffered from a fire onboard.

Anyway, back to my TV watching…Fiske’s life story is certainly worthy of international man of mystery status, but what really caught my attention was his escapades as a Winter Olympian. Billy Fiske, at the age of 16, piloted a bobsled to a gold medal in the 1928 St. Moritz Winter Olympics and then repeated the feat four years later in Lake Placid. What raised my eyebrows as I flipped through the channels and kept me watching the History Channel for the rest of the episode was his behavior in St. Moritz. Young Mr. Fiske christened his bobsled “Satan” and then proceeded to create 5 matching turtleneck sweaters for his team (4 crew members in the sled plus 1 reserve) to wear in the Olympic Village, each adorned with a letter on the back that all together spelled out “S-A-T-A-N”. Needless to say, the US Olympic committee shit their pants. The sled was quickly renamed USA II and the sweaters never saw the light of day again. The Winter Olympics seemed pretty bush league back then, and apparently word never filtered back to the US about his behavior. Could you imagine the furor if someone pulled a similar stunt today? Well, it just so happens that a little birdy at Portugal’s Volta ao Algarve stage race photographed some mysterious behavior from the Team Discovery Channel camp which inexplicably flew under the radar of the otherwise eagle-eyed cycling media. Somebody must have seen the same show as me…

Exhibit A–Team issue Trek frame decal:
Exhibit B–Team Discovery on the front (how did nobody see this?):

I’m sure Discovery Channel management was eager to put the kibosh in those uppity pranksters.

horRIDLEY done, luRIDLEY amusing, and of course, acRIDLEY mocked

Howwwwwwdy ha, boys and girls.”–Mr. Hankey

Have you seen the full page Ridley ads running on the back cover of recent Cycle Sport magazines? Somehow, I don’t think Ridley envisioned this type of mental imagery associated with their ‘cross frames’ introduction to the U.S. While the Ridley execs assuredly pontificated the aura of “badass”, their ad agency sputtered, delivering a comical “sad-ass”. One can only hope that Bart Wellens, Mario de Clercq, or the inexplicably anonymous gent in the back (he had the right idea and conveniently had his name expunged from the record…) were amply, amply compensated.

John Gadret: Undead and Otherworldly

John Gadret as seen in the March, 2004 issue of Cycle SportJohn Gadret's alter-ego as seen on the cover of Daniel Clowes' Eightball, issue #17

If John Gadret did not possess the pallor of a wraith, some creative facial piercings, and tattoos on his left leg, then his existence to me in the world of professional cycling would likely have remained largely anonymous. But there he was, in all of his pierced, shaved-headed glory in the March, 2004 issue of Cycle Sport, the cover boy of a feature article concerning the launch of Belgian Division 1 squad Chocolade Jacques. Newly crowned the cyclocross champion of France and a 2004 neo-pro on the road, racing under the tutelage of uber hard-man team manager Andrei Tchmil, here was someone who for some reason struck a chord with me and has remained a rider of interest all year. He had a decent road season, particularly in his support of Tour of Britain champion Mauricio Ardila. And then, hardened with a season of pro road racing in his legs, he started kicking ass in the current Euro cyclocross season: most recently scoring a fine 3rd place at the Koppenberg ‘cross and then shocking the Belgian ‘cross mafia with a victory at Vossem. Stick it to the (’cross) man, Gadret! And while I’m hardly a Francophile (even though Gadret is nearly Belgian with his home in Calais), I feel empowered to cast aspersions at dumbasses such as the woman I saw driving a car near Winston-Salem with the utterly stupefyingly simple-minded bumpersticker “Boycott France” (and immediately in front of this simpleton was a motorist sporting the equally contemptible bumpersticker “Allah is not MY God”). Hope you’re enjoying those “Freedom Fries”. Vive la France.

Remembrance of Ass-Kickings Past: Daniele Pontoni’s First Visit Stateside

The main players (complete with their finishing place) tackle the first set of barriers in the 1999 Long Island SuperCup.
10.23.1999 Wantagh, NY: Daniele Pontoni made everyone look silly during his first venture to the US. A jet-lagged Pontoni made short work of the field in Boston one week previously, and now Long Island would witness what a fresh, rested Pontoni could unleash. Drawing from visual cues (all of the protagonists still bunched) and my circumspect memory of the Long Island ‘cross autobahn (that course was screaming fast), this appears to be the first set of barriers on the first lap. This photo looks so benign. How come I wasn’t in this shot? There’s still a relatively big bunch, how hard could it have been to match these guys pedal stroke for pedal stroke for perhaps all of 1 minute? Well, I’ve only done a handful of elite level ‘cross races and nothing amazes me more than the frenzied velocity of the start. It’s the cycling equivalent to getting launched off of an aircraft carrier: 0 to Mach crazy batshit speed in about 200 meters. What’s even scarier is that about 1 to 1 1/2 laps later Pontoni simply rode the cream of American cyclocross off his wheel. I don’t even think he attacked, he just tooled with everyone for a lap and then set a tempo that unhinged the likes of Bart Bowen and Frank McCormack. Where was all the power coming from? Pontoni’s a 5′5″ pixie! 

After about 40 minutes of negotiating totally flat expanses of grass, concrete, and pavement punctuated by the occasional near vertical ascents and descents of a few glacial drumlins, a super-smooth and super-relaxed Mr. Pontoni lapped me. I could tell the increasing buzz and roar of the spectators probably wasn’t for me and all I could think of as Pontoni smoked me in a sketchy off-camber section was “No international incidents…no international incidents…” I was afraid that if I even looked at the waifish Pontoni funny I’d knock him off his ride and have to answer to the local Buttafuoco contingent. I like my fingers and kneecaps intact, thank you very much. And amidst the din of the crowd I caught a faint, high pitched “Thank you” from Daniele since I ceded the best (and only) line and nearly crashed myself in the process.

Pontoni is once again returning to the U.S. for our country’s premier ‘cross series and I wonder if the 38 year old still has the moxy. Sure he owns 2 world titles, sure he’s been the Italian national champion 10 years in a row, but I really believe that homegrown American ‘cross talent has made progress in the past 5 years. I think Pontoni will win most, if not all, of the races but I envision well-earned, hard fought scrapes. I’d venture $$$ (some mad start money) is the primary lure for another Pontoni visit to the U.S., but hopefully his appearance on U.S. soil can lend gravitas to the possibility of an American World Cup race or World Championship. (And if we’re real lucky could this guy grace us with his presence?)

The UCI’s furtive American outreach campaign: “Pros Other Than Lance” Clothing

I couldn’t help but furrow my brow in bemusement at the jacket Andrea Tafi was sporting last weekend in San Francisco. No longer will Euro-pros walk American streets in anonymity:

I wish Andrea would turn around so you could read the back:

Hello, My name is Andrea. I’m very famous in Europe.

Ask me about my palmares which get no American press:

Paris-Roubaix?…Won it
Ronde van Vlaanderen?…Won it
Giro di Lombardia?…Won it
Paris-Tours?…Won it
Italian National Championship?…Won it

No, Lance wasn’t there but I would have kicked his ass too.

Yes, all Italian pros sport impeccably coiffed, frosted hair.

I’m available for photographs. Impress your friends!

No, I don’t know where Lance Armstrong is.