The official unofficial smart-ass of 2012 masters ‘cross Worlds

A quick quiz. Who has two thumbs, used to write a blog, and is now the official unofficial smart-ass and John Gadret worshiper of 2012 masters ‘cross Worlds?

Me.

I was seeking some clarification about the seeding heats which several age groups at the now-in-progress UCI Masters Cyclo-cross World Championships (the first EVER ‘cross world championship of any kind held outside of Europe, hosted by Louisville, Kentucky) had to contest prior to their actual world title race, which brought me to the event’s technical guide.

And there it is on page 2’s “Dear Racer” introduction, for all of the masters ‘cross universe to peruse, a link to my very own ode to America’s only ‘cross world champion: Matt Kelly-Low Budget Superstar, cited as “a fun read” by masters ‘cross Worlds organisers Joan Hanscom and Bruce Fina.

Page 2 from the 2012 UCI Masters Cyclo-cross World Championships tech guide

I don’t know if some lowly staffer has punked the tech guide, or if the Matt Kelly-Low Budget Superstar decision indeed came down from on high, but it was, to say the least, a surprise of epic proportion.

I had no earthly idea this would be included, and if I had I’d be in Louisville right now, in a booth, autographing tech guides and prepping all within earshot for the 2013 arrival of his freakiness, John Gadret, to Eva Bandman Park for the full-on elite ‘cross Worlds next year, where I can assure you he won’t again be abandoned by his chain-smoking pit crew on the last lap if he’s got a medal in his sights.

And I’d also be laughing, because a certain former employer of mine, with a flying P logo, gets some not-so-nice PR about its total ineptitude when it came to supplying US team edition kits for the Poprad, Slovakia world championships. D’oh!

One way or another I’ll be in Louisville next year for ‘cross worlds, and maybe there will indeed be a Matt Kelly-Low Budget Superstar booth containing me, living legend Matt Kelly, his rusty LeMond, and his rainbow jersey to inspire our compatriots to bring home the gold in what will likely be the only ‘cross world championships hosted in the United States for some time.

Lone Biker of the Apocalypse

Me 'n' J.G. banner

It’s true. Judgement Day will soon be upon us. May 21, 2011.

Planet Earth has been stricken with earthquakes, floods, nuclear meltdown, war, pestilence, turmoil. And the last sign that The End is upon us? John Gadret has won a Grand Tour stage.

Yes, his Freakiness lit it up today on the steep finishing pitch at the conclusion of stage 11 at the Giro d’Italia. With 300m to go, as the GC contenders balked for a split second in their pursuit of Katusha’s Daniel Moreno, John Gadret turned on the afterburners, laid waste to his Giro rivals, reduced Moreno to a puddle of goo, and finally captured that elusive uber win.
It's true. John Gadret won a bike race. Photo by Roberto Bettini.
It’s true. John Gadret won a bike race. Photo by Roberto Bettini.

After a few off-seasons of denying his love affair with cyclo-cross, Gadret once again put in a winter of muddy goodness and has reaped the rewards.

That bastard had best keep his affinity for mud, Dugast tubulars, and embrocation alive and kicking through Louisville, 2013, because I’m going to sit that flyweight Frenchman down in a bar stool, shake his hand, and buy him a beer.

My work will then be done.

I’m not dead yet”

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that Bobke Strut has been updated about as often as John Gadret wins bike races. Like once a millennium.

Frankly, I’ve run out of gas. But…I still have a few ideas which need to be shared and will put my nose to the grindstone to get those cranked out. For real.

Cue the Corones

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Four years ago, John Gadret was slaying it on perhaps the most climber-friendly ‘cross course in Europe: the Koppenbergcross, which, yes, takes in a chunk of the cobbled Koppenberg each lap. The problem was, what goes up must come down. And Gadret doesn’t really do down. Not when you weigh maybe 128 lbs. So he’d light up the Koppenberg, and then get schooled on the descent until finally the elastic snapped at the hands of the Rabobank tag-team of Sven Nys and Richard Groenendaal.

I’m sure Gadret was thinking, “Damn, what’s a dude gotta do to get a ‘cross course that’s uphill the whole way.”

Cue the Plan de Corones.

John Gadret flattens the Plan de Corones. Photo by Sirotti.
John Gadret flattens the Plan de Corones. Photo by Sirotti.

Only former Giro champ Stefano Garzelli and world champion Cadel Evans rode it faster today.

Just for shits and giggles, Angelo Zomegnan should have tossed in a few barriers and carved steps into the upper slopes when it hit 24%. Gadret would have killed it.

Gadret, currently in 17th overall at the Giro and steadily moving up GC as the mountains get scarier, is a rare breed indeed: a world class ‘cross rider who can hold his own in Grand Tour mountain stages.

The last man who proved his mettle in both realms was Switzerland’s Pascal Richard. In 1988 at the age of 23, Richard won the pro ‘cross world championship and then set his sites on the road. At the 1994 Giro Richard won the climber’s classification, one stage and finished 15th overall. The next year Richard won two stages and improved his GC finish to 13th.

It’s doubtful Gadret will ever come close to matching Richard’s palmares, which also includes two Monuments (Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Giro di Lombardia), an Olympic road race gold medal (the first of the pro era), 2 Tours de Romandie, a Tour de Suisse and a Tour de France stage. But let’s see if Gadret can at least match, or top, Richard’s Giro-best 13th overall.

And it should come as no surprise that the all time king of kings when it comes to combining ‘cross and road palmares is Belgium’s Roger de Vlaeminck. Just look at what he did in 1975: Belgian ‘cross champion, world ‘cross champion, three stages and overall at Tirreno-Adriatico, Paris-Roubaix champion, seven stage wins/points jersey/4th overall at the Giro d’Italia, Tour de Suisse champion, Championship of Zürich champion and a few other wins thrown in for good measure in some Italian one-day races.

Unreal. And all with a pair of sideburns that weigh as much as John Gadret.

Appetite for destruction

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Since John Gadret let the world know today that he’s still amongst the living, I figured I should follow suit from my lengthy exile from the interwebs. For all the talk about how Cadel Evans felt at home on dirt, JG loves him some Tuscan slime just as much. Gadret is the only Giro rider who also rocked ‘cross worlds this year in Tabor, and if the freaky one had his way today I’m sure he’d have preferred an additional dash of uber cold and ice to really make everyone weep.

John Gadret flanked by a pair of Giro champs, Damiano Cunego and Stefano Garzelli. Photo by Sirotti.
John Gadret flanked by a pair of Giro champs, Damiano Cunego and Stefano Garzelli. Photo by Sirotti.

The last time Gadret rode the Giro was in 2006, and after showing some brilliant results in the mountains he unfortunately left in an ambulance after crashing out in stage 18. Perhaps he should heed the commentary of stage six winner Matt Lloyd who, when describing the destruction of the Giro’s opening week said with a laugh, “The beauty of this race is that even if you’re one and half hours behind at the end of the first week, you can still be in top five at the end.”

JG’s currently in 30th overall, 12:00 back. Let’s see how he does tomorrow after the Giro’s first summit finish…

The Cyclo-cross World Championship is Decadent and Depraved

Since I just finished reading each and every last page (all 715 of them) of Bill Simmons’ lengthy tome The Book of Basketball, it got me thinking about applying his Martian Premise to the 2013 Cyclo-Cross World Championships, recently awarded to Louisville, Kentucky.

The Martian Premise in a nutshell:

Let’s say basketball-playing aliens land on earth, blow things up Independence Day-style, then challenge us to a seven-game series for control of the universe. And let’s say we have access to the time machine from Lost, allowing us to travel back Sarah Conner-style and grab any twelve NBA legends from 1946 through 2009, transport them to the present day, then hold practices for eight weeks before the Final Finals. Again, we have to prevail or planet Earth as we know it ends. Which twelve players would you pick?
Page 673.

While I’m not really sure if Hunter S. Thompson would groove on the concept and aesthetic appeal of cyclo-cross as an athletic endeavor, nonetheless I’m invoking the Martian Premise to reach back in time and deliver 1970 Hunter S. Thompson and partner-in-crime Ralph Steadman to Louisville, Kentucky (Thompson’s hometown and bête noire) for the world ‘cross championships in 2013. Because the thought of the cream of the world’s ‘cross peloton racing for rainbow bands in Kentucky is pretty much the same as aliens landing in the US and blowing things up Independence Day-style.

Why 1970 Hunter S. Thompson, you ask? Well, that’s the magical year in which he crafted the first instance of gonzo journalism: The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved, also the first collaboration between Thompson and Ralph Steadman. It’s also the year in which Hunter S. Thompson nearly became elected sheriff of Aspen, Colorado on the “Freak Power” ticket, a political race which saw the creation of the most badass campaign poster ever conceived, courtesy of artist Tom Benton:

Hunter S. Thompson's campaign poster for his run at Aspen, Colorado sheriff in 1970, created by Aspen artist Tom Benton.

And I don’t think Thompson and Steadman would need an additional posse of ten to round out my Martian Premise, those two will suffice just fine in Louisville.

Just imagine it, Thomspon unleashed at what will be the craziest two days of ‘cross racing this country has ever seen. He’s just the tonic to go toe-to-toe with DBDs, offer up bourbon shots on run-ups, fire off large-caliber handguns into the air for shits and giggles, heckle souls like nobody’s business and just be wired to his core with the manic energy afoot amongst rabid tifosi.

And how could you go wrong with Ralph Steadman’s illustrations to chronicle the shenanigans afoot? Especially when I arrange for Hunter S. Thompson to have a meet-and-greet with the alien to end all aliens John Gadret.

Ah, yes…one can dream.

And while (woefully) the sport in which Hunter S. Thompson cared the most about is professional football, I unearthed a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon connection between Thompson and a legend of cycling. And a legend of motorsports, too, which is a veritable Hunter S. Thompson passion.

It all started in one of those cosmic coincidences, in my case buying some Flying Dog Brewery beer while immersed in reading the definitive tome of Thompson’s life, William McKeen’s Outlaw Journalist: The Life and Times of Hunter S. Thompson (highly recommended). I always wondered why Flying Dog Brewery beer is adorned with Hunter S. Thompson quotes and Ralph Steadman artwork, and now I found my answer.

The founder of Flying Dog Brewery is a certain George Stranahan, who opened the brewery’s precursor, the Flying Dog brewpub, in Aspen, Colorado. Stranahan has had an interesting life and is amongst other things things the founder of the Aspen Institute for Physics - a world-class center for theoretical physics; a professional photographer; creator of the “Mountain Gazette”; founder of the Woody Creek Tavern; and a 40-year friend of Hunter S. Thompson. Stranahan’s bio on the Flying Dog Brewery website states his and Thompson’s “common interests as drinking, talking politics, guns, noise, and some drugs”.

Now, to the Kevin Bacon part. Hunter S. Thompson’s famous abode, Owl Farm, located in Woody Creek, Colorado, about 10 miles outside of Aspen, was acquired from George Stranahan. Stranahan had been coming to Woody Creek since the mid-1950s and settled permanently there in the early 1970s. Stranahan came from a wealthy family and owned real estate in the Aspen area, a portion of which became Thompson’s famed compound.

Stranahan’s money can be traced back to George’s grandfather, Frank Stranahan, and his great-uncle, Robert Stranahan, who founded the Champion Spark Plug Company in 1905. Frank and Robert Stranahan’s early partner in that endeavor was a certain Frenchman named Albert Champion, the Champion of Champion Spark Plugs.

In the early 1900s Champion came to America to avoid both conscription in France and to take up the sport of auto racing. He quit driving race cars after nearly being killed in a race accident, but remained involved in the design and manufacture of spark plugs and magnetos in his workshop.

The Stranahans and Champion had a falling out, which led Champion to depart from the Stranahan partnership and form a rival firm called AC Spark Plug Company (the AC is Champion’s initials), now AC-Delco.

But before Champion made his mark in the world of motorsports, he first came to prominence as a cyclist with two notable wins in his palmares. As a 21-year-old in 1899, Albert Champion won none other than The Hell of the North, Paris-Roubaix. He later became the French motor-pace champion on the track.

So there you have it…the Hunter S. Thompson/Paris-Roubaix connection, courtesy of a trivia contest based on Hollywood’s iconic bike messenger, Kevin Bacon.

Ice Ice Baby

Part I

In the not too distant past, the Clark Kent to my Bobke Strut earned a living by being a state government employee, more specifically a librarian. The job had its ups and downs, as any means of employment usually does, but one of the awesome perks was my department had a sweet travel budget.

Sweet travel budget=conferences galore, nationwide. I’ve been to San Francisco, Washington, DC, Miami Beach, Minneapolis, and Chicago among other places.

And then there was Baltimore. ‘Going to conferences’ is frequently synonymous with hitting the local bars ASAP as soon as one’s sessions conclude. As luck would have it, there were quite a few bars to frequent in the immediate vicinity of my conference venue.

The gods must have surely been smiling down upon me, for somehow I stumbled across a drinking establishment with this sign inside:

The sign denoting the Vanilla Ice VIP area

Now, I thought Mr. Robert Matthew Van Winkle had retired that persona, but apparently not. And then…sweet Jesus…I peeked into the VIP area and saw this:

The sign denoting the Vanilla Ice VIP area

Now that’s fucking awesome.

In case you wondered, no, I did not happen to encounter Mr. Vanilla Ice in person as I was there a tad bit too early. Besides, it would have ruined the day in which none other than John Waters gave the keynote speech at my library conference. Several hours after he uttered his last word to the throngs of assembled librarians I was still in shock. John Waters knows how to spin a yarn, and he regaled us with stories of Baltimore and his film-making career for approximately an hour. Suffice it to say, I didn’t think I’d ever see the day at a library conference where a speaker was telling stories about being teabagged. Now that’s how you deliver a memorable keynote address.

I’ve always wondered if the party(ies) responsible for booking John Waters only knew him through his later films such as Hairspray, or if they were consciously aware they were also unleashing the creator of Pink Flamingos on the audience. Waters told a story about such a scenario, where a person rented Hairspray, liked it, then rented Pink Flamingos and tried to sue him for obscenity.

Of course, I had to get a book signed afterwards.

Vanilla Ice sculpture

Part II

And speaking of Ice, in a quirk of cosmic fate the weather in my neck of North Carolina happens to be the same as Tabor, Czech Republic - the iciest, snowiest ‘cross Worlds since Poprad, Slovakia in 1999. So I thought, time to bust out the ‘cross bike and take in the snow and ice right outside my door.

About one hour later I returned home, with a bit of Mother Nature as a souvenir.

Despite the ice on my shoe covers, the feet were toasty warm
An icy drivetrain
Oodles of ice
Who needs functioning brakes
Ice Road Bianchi

Part III

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And speaking of Ice, the freakiest man in cyclo-cross, John Gadret, is back at it. He blew off ‘cross season last year in order to focus on his road career and, uh, that didn’t quite work out. So he’s back, and will be seeking World Championship glory tomorrow in frozen Tabor, the one time out of the year he can ride sans his usual AG2R La Mondiale chocolate madness kit.

Now John Gadret has what one would call a love-hate relationship with racing ‘cross bikes on ice. You see, he would love to knock the lights out of his pit crew at said Poprad ‘cross Worlds in 1999 because he hates losing out on a certain silver medal in the U23 race. It turns out that a young JG was solidly in second place on the last lap in Poprad, so solid that all of the French pit crew at the second pit area bolted their positions to congregate at the finish line in celebration.

Unfortunately, Gadret flatted, rolled into the pit area, and was a bit freaked out to find nobody there. So freaked out, in fact, that by the time he bummed a wheel from neutral support and got back in the race he dropped to fifth place.

D’oh.

Bart Wellens won gold, fellow Belgian Tom Vannoppen won silver, and an incredulous Tim Johnson, unaware of Gadret’s mishap when he crossed the line, nabbed bronze, the first-ever ‘cross world championship medal for an American.

Let’s see what my favorite “hairless spider monkey” can uncork tomorrow in Tabor. My guess? 24th place, about 3:30 down on a raging Zdenek Stybar.

12 Seconds Too Slow

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Who says you have to race a full ‘cross season to let it rip at the Worlds? John Gadret’s ‘cross season began in Overijse, Belgium on December 16th and not much more than a month later he was in for the kill in Treviso with a mere 9 ‘cross races in his legs.

Treviso 'Cross Worlds screen shot
The announcers thought he was Mourey for a while, but that’s none other than JG at the head of affairs.
 
Treviso 'Cross Worlds screen shot
Given a clean line free of traffic, Gadret can ride the 26% wall. He puts that power to weight ratio to good use and is the first over the top on the 7th of 9 laps.
 
Treviso 'Cross Worlds screen shot
Still at the head affairs along pit row…Lars Boom appears to be suppressing a yawn, just biding his time before he makes everyone else in the race look silly. Of course Boom, too, is not immune from the silliness. When his helmet comes off after winning the Elite world title, it appears that Boom must have cut his own hair the night before with an out of control electric razor.
 
Treviso 'Cross Worlds screen shot
The announcers finally have to acknowledge that there’s another Frenchman besides Mourey in the race.
 
Treviso 'Cross Worlds screen shot
And the hammer drops…Boom just flew the coop seconds ago on the last lap and Gadret, in 2rd at the moment, is powerless to close the ever increasing gap ultimately finishing 9th, 12 seconds back. Amazingly for a world championship ‘cross race, the top 20 all finish within 30 seconds of each other.

What Game Play

2007 Tour de France musings…

1. Time to bust out the good stuff. You’ve won Milan-San Remo in grand style, you’ve schooled Boonen in Belgium at Het Volk, you’re Italian, and you’ve a magnificent head of hair. It’s time to lay down the law and write your own ticket, equipment-wise. Filippo Pozzato has a clause in his contract which allows him to rock the Lightweights any time he damn well feels, and Pozzato exercised his option to full effect at this year’s Tour de France stage 5.

Curiously, Linus Gerdemann’s ascent to yellow also seems to be fueled by Lightweights. But I guess T-Mobile doesn’t have carte-blanche to let everyone know who built those wheels, hence the “T-Mobile Team” stickers.

2. Ca-’stache-trophe. So Enrico Degano had a pretty spectacular yard sale during a stage 6 feed zone. He’s obviously dazed, confused, and just sitting in the street wondering what the hell happened. Toss in some curious spectators, the Barloworld team car, and a TdF television crew and it’s all business as usual. And then this freak rolls up on the back of a moto to snap some photos. If I happened to be Enrico Degano and looked up to see the world’s scariest moustache, I’d wonder just how hard I hit my head on the tarmac…

Neurologist: So let me get this straight…you saw Yosemite Sam taking pictures of you when you crashed in the feed zone today?
Enrico Degano: Damn straight, doc. He hopped off a motorcycle and snapped away.
Neurologist: (To team director) Yeah, he’s gonna stay here tonight for observation. Highly incredulous behavior indicative of significant cranial trauma.

3. John Gadret

Or should I say, “Me ‘n’ T.G.”, because Ag2r’s John Gadret will surely win this year’s TdF Tail Gunner extraordinaire award hands down. Every time the production crew opts for its arrière de la course view, there’d inevitably be some Agritubel guys milling about on the verge of getting popped and #66, John Gadret, just riding the wave. At first I thought he was either heading back to the cars for water or on the verge of moving up through the peloton to give team leader Christophe Moreau some needed sustinence. But no…no extra bottles here. Just Gadret firmly afixed at the tail end always expending just enough energy to roll in with the GC contenders group. Perhaps he’s still skittish from memories of his previous Grand Tour experience, the 2006 Giro, where he broke his collarbone. It may be a classic case of survival during the TdF’s first week roller derby, much like my local Saturday morning world championship group ride. If I’m not steadfastly determined to expend the energy necessary for staying in the first 5, then it’s DFL for me out of harm’s way.

Fast forward to stage 7’s Col de la Colombière climb, and Gadret’s tail-gunning exploits faced a rather rude interruption. He almost rolled over the summit with all the GC contenders in the elite group of about 40, but the wee one got popped about 1km from the top and there’s just no way that somebody weighing about 128 lbs. is going to make up the difference on a blazing 12km descent to the finish. And adding insult to injury, on Bastille Day no less, Phil Liggett mistakenly called John Gadret Belgian as he limped across the finish line in Le Grand-Bornand. No worries, though. John Gadret is merely getting a jump on his ‘cross season by subjecting himself to the world’s most excruciating training block known to man. Be very afraid come October.

4. The cryptic title of this post. Just take a look at this installment of Neal Rogers’ daily dose of Dave Zabriskie. Things get decidedly surreal about half-way through when Zabriskie starts waxing eloquent about Russian mullets. I can’t tell if Zabriskie drew the short straw and is obligated to talk with Rogers each day per CSC orders or if he’s there of his own volition. What I do know is that nobody…nobody…in the TdF utilizes his time with the media quite like Dave Zabriskie. He has long since become the ProTour Crispin Glover, and I’m waiting for him to unleash the kung-fu on Rogers’ skull.

Matt Kelly-Low Budget Superstar


Matt Kelly as seen in an ad for Lemond bikes, Rolf wheels, and Icon bars/stems: VeloNews, March 1, 1999

A trip down memory lane to Poprad, Slovakia…

Hoopty bike:
1999 Junior Men Cyclocross World Champion Matt Kelly is likely the first and last person to win a world title on clincher tires (and Trek’s house-brand Icon bars and stem have likely never seen another world title, either). No Dugasts here! Check it out–he’s sporting a Michelin Mud on the front and a Ritchey Speedmax on the rear. And equally as low tech is Kelly’s steel 853 Lemond frame, likely simply one of the Lemond road frames with a ‘cross fork plus a set of cantilever bosses welded on for the rear brake. For the 1998/1999 ‘cross season, Lemond did not offer a ‘cross bike to the public–this is a one-off supplied to Kelly. Look at the cable routing, these are most definitely not ‘cross friendly with both derailleur cables routed along the downtube and the rear brake routing designed for a road caliper brake. And I bet the reason he’s sporting a Speedmax rear tire instead of a Michelin is that the Michelins are too fat to fit in the road chain stays, while a skinnier Speedmax will just fit (as long as you keep your wheels exquisitely trued).

The Belgian that Kelly outsprinted was Sven Vanthourenhout, who had won each of the 26 cyclocross races he had entered that season. While Vanthourenhout was raging in Europe, Kelly had a comparatively sparse American ‘cross schedule. In fact, the bulk of his training was done in the basement of his Wisconsin home on the trainer. It was Rocky vs. Drago in Poprad, and the underdog American defied logic and precedent to emerge with a rainbow-striped jersey.

Hoopty threads:
“Hey bitches, you go to ‘cross worlds with the skinsuits you have, not the skinsuits you might want or wish to have.”–Performance Bicycle management

Team issue Performance skinsuits sucked ass in cold weather. In steps Verge…

“It was cold in Poprad, Slovakia during the recent [1999] world cyclocross championships. It was so cold that the official U.S. team uniforms brought by the team proved woefully inadequate. Fortunately, a couple of ‘locals’ knew just how cold it would be in Poprad and, about a week before the event, started constructiong long-sleeved, knicker skinsuits at their Polish clothing factory. Michael Magur and Brad Hogan, who own the Poland-based Verge Sport, carefully reproduced the graphics on the American uniforms–including all of the sponsor’s logos–and set off for a day-long winter drive from Poland to Poprad. The trip concluded with a treacherous three-hour drive on a snow-covered single-lane road over the Tatra Mountains. No guard rails and lots of snow.” VeloNews, March 1, 1999.

Hoopty pit crew:
I forgot about this story from Poprad–how a Frenchman in the espoir race got screwed by his pit team. A Frenchman named John Gadret. On the final lap Gadret had his silver medal wrapped up–Wellens was out of reach about 1 minute in front of Gadret and the duo of Tim Johnson and Tom Vannoppen were about 40 seconds behind Gadret thinking they were duking it out for bronze. Gadret’s pit crew thought he was home free, too, and abandoned their post at the second pit and ran to the finish line to greet their silver medalist to-be. Alas, Gadret suffered a flat just before the second pit and he rolled into that pit area expecting a smooth bike change to carry him over the final kilometer. To his horror, there were no French mechanics or bikes to be had–he had to bum a wheel off neutral support after his frantic search for his chain-smoking compatriots came up empty. A weeping Gadret crossed the line in 5th place, and if he wasn’t so freaky skinny and freaky cold he likely would have given his slacker pit crew a world-class beat down.

I Love You, I Hate You, Drop Dead!

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.