Fancy Duds for Fancy Lads

Every now and then those beguiled by The Obsessive Study of Athletics Aesthetics see fit to discuss professional cycling. And imagine my bemusement when a former teammate of mine’s Team Slipstream design piqued their uni-centric attention. Hey Mr. Vaughters, you truly missed the boat in 2008. If you’re going to worship at the argyle altar, then thou shalt worship at the Madonna del Ghisallo of argyle altars. Maybe 2009…if only to see Dave Zabriskie’s face when his new kit arrives from Pearl izumi.


Intersection magazine...Fall 2006 coverIntersection magazine...Fall 2006...Hipster messenger

If you slap a fixed-gear bike on the cover of a magazine, especially a magazine not in the cycling section, it will likely get my attention. Intersection describes itself as

“…bringing design, fashion and culture to life for the modern man. An intimate, inspired, below the radar meeting place for arbiters of taste and opinion, it’s where diverse paths cross, united by a passion for living fast and traveling far.”

In the simplest terms…it’s a car magazine. And I’m not really sure they understand urban fixed-gear bikes beyond the parameters of fashion and modishness. Look at the cover: “Why your car needs a bike rack!”. The minimal text accompanying the 12-page spread treats the bike as a prop which hipster car owners have affixed to a bike rack and when confronted with gridlock one can then hop on their fixie and beat that damned traffic (but doesn’t seem concerned about the conundrum of the abandoned car). What’s amusing to me is that the 11 men who grace the magazine with their track bikes all live in cities (NYC or London) and either work as messengers or utilize their fixies for utilitarian transportation. And I’d be highly surprised if any of these gents owned a car. You’d be insane to own a car in either city for any number of reasons: the cost, especially at their likely respective salaries; the efficacy of travel by bike; efficient mass transit…

I haven’t quite figured out if there are cyclists on the masthead who’ve happened to successfully infiltrate the publication and are sowing the seeds of dissent from within, relatively under the radar…or…it’s all fashion of the moment to be cast aside when fixed-gear machines are no longer hipster du jour props. In the current issue one of the writers admitted to having a 1950s Holdsworth and a 1930s era Schwinn track bike as her pride & joy wheels…not a car. There’s also a compelling 2-page map of the world with country size determined by the amount of velodromes each nation has within its borders (France is HUGE, followed closely by Japan…and who would have known that Trinidad-Tobago has more velodromes than China). And the articles are largely fascinating, with transportation themes frequently only skirting the tangents (definitely not your typical gear-head, road test magazine dreck) and its international, non-US focus is easy on the eyes…a world with far cooler design principles at work.

The Serpico of Cycling

“Nothing to see here…move along, please…it’s just Paul Kimmage”
Graham Watson photo

I don’t know if Paul Kimmage is laughing or crying these days. But he just took a huge, steaming dump on Sean Kelly’s legacy.

A couple of months ago I re-read Kimmage’s book Rough Ride, and it struck me as being even more depressingly bleak than I remember from my initial ingestion some 15 years ago. Talk about living the 12k dreamer’s life…Kimmage probably made about that much in salary each year, yet he was expected to ride a full calendar of Grand Tours and Classics. Kimmage only fessed up to taking amphetamines on 3 occasions in post-Tour criteriums, and I’m inclined to believe that was the extent of his doping. What he did expose to the world, however, was the spectre of drugs among his teammates and peers. The proliferation of personal “medicine” suitcases; the compact, modified syringes which came out mid-stage for a quick amphetamine shot in the ass on the peloton’s way to the Champs-Élysées; the “wink wink” about the ease of beating doping controls. Kimmage was simply trying to survive, and for most pros that was the impetus to juice. Random testing was virtually non-existent…you could dope up to your eyeballs in service of your team leader and then just make sure you didn’t win the stage or a jersey. Or die.

Kimmage walked away from the sport and his 4 year career as a professional cyclist when he quit the 12th stage of the 1989 Tour. As a pro is highlights were relatively few: Kimmage finished 2 Grand Tours (1986 Tour, 1989 Giro) and played a role in Stephen Roche’s 1987 world championship. As an amateur, Kimmage was an Olympian at the ‘84 Los Angeles Games and finished 6th in the road worlds. Since Kimmage hung up his wheels in disgust he embarked on a career as a journalist, an occupation he dabbled in as a pro (Kimmage supplied a weekly diary to the Dublin Sunday Times). These days he’s employed at the London Times, and if you plug “Kimmage” into the search box you’ll unearth Kimmage’s body of work over the past 5 years. There are approximately 65 interviews, all worth reading. It’s an enlightening view into a world of sports for the most part totally foreign to Americans. The bulk of his subjects are either either Brits or foreigners taking place in the world of British professional sports. Sports such as soccer, rugby, cricket, Formula 1 racing, snooker…Articles about cycling do appear, but always through the lens of doping. You can almost sense Kimmage’s gritted teeth permeating his cycling prose. To say he was a persona non grata among pro cyclists for publishing Rough Ride is quite an understatement, but who better to hurl a brick into cycling’s glass house than an angry Irishman wracked with Catholic guilt. And Ireland is ground zero for Catholic guilt…I lived in Ireland for approximately 6 months as a foreign exchange student, and there was a creepy placard on the dining room wall of my house which said, “Jesus Christ is the unseen guest at every meal, the silent listener of every conversation”. Kimmage cracked…and his very public confession was his means of coming to terms with the farce of professional cycling.

Not so good for base miles

February, 2007…Just another snow-filled day in backwoods New York

In a former life, back when I lived in upstate New York and still had aspirations of signing my name on a pro contract, I may have found a way to actually ride outside in such snowy environs (or at least bust out the cross country skis). But I’ve grown soft and count my blessings that I spend my winters in North Carolina rather than the frigid netherworld of the Tug Hill Plateau. It’s nice riding outside in February with the thermometer at about 50, rather than -50, degrees F.


Does the name Jackie Earle Haley ring a bell?

He’s likely best known for his portrayal of chain-smoking Little League bad boy Kelly Leak in The Bad News Bears. But to me, he’ll forever be Moocher — the pint-sized Cutters compadre of Breaking Away cycling hero Dave Stoller.

I haven’t been much of a cinephile in recent years, but I’ll be tuned into the Academy Awards this evening anxiously awaiting the results for Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role. Jackie Earle Haley has been lying low acting-wise since the early 1990s, leading for all intents and purposes a humdrum life in San Antonio. But due to his portrayal of a “vile yet heartbreaking pedophile” in Little Children, he’s once again being acclaimed for his acting prowess. Mr. Haley has some particularly stiff competition for this award (other nominees include Alan Arkin in Little Miss Sunshine, Djimon Hounsou in Blood Diamond, Eddie Murphy in Dreamgirls, and Mark Wahlberg in The Departed), but if there’s any justice in the world then Moocher will emerge victorious…

…Because I doubt if any of Haley’s competition could have pulled off these sweet ‘cross maneuvers captured on film in Breaking Away:

1. Check out that mounting technique…Not bad for a 17-year old non-cyclist on a crappy bike that’s too big for Haley.

2. Now that’s some fine bike-handling…Doing a simultaneous high-speed powerslide/dismount on a cinders track.

3. Jackie Earle Haley…then and now. And who knew that Barry Wicks was in the cast of Breaking Away, too?

And the Oscar goes to…

[updated] Alan Arkin. Well, I guess a heroin-snorting grandparent teaching a pre-teen how to gyrate like a stripper trumps a convicted sex offender released back into the community. Those Academy voters can be so fickle.

Image sources:
Breaking Away stills: Screen captures from Breaking Away DVD
Jackie Earl Haley:


Quik Step-Innergetic must be laughing all the way to the bank. They’ve got the world champion on their squad for another year, and all they have to do is put Tom Boonen’s kit and bike in an industrial strength drier for a few hours so it will shrink to fit wee Paolo Bettini.

And not being satisfied merely using Boonen’s hand-me-downs last week in the Championship of Zurich, Bettini integrated some leftover Paola Pezzo gold lame shorts into the kit a few days later for the Giro dell’Emilia. Leave it to the Italians to bust out the exotic threads.

The Olympics are truly a new frontier for professional cyclists. It’s only been since 1996 that professionals were allowed to compete in the Games, with Switzerland’s Pascal Richard emerging victorious in the inaugural pro/am Olympic road race in Atlanta. Realizing that this would likely be the last, great race he’d ever win, and having no precedent to follow, Richard invented his own Olympic kit, complete with a pretty tame set of gold shades to boot. And don’t forget those world champion bands to commemorate his 1988 world cyclocross championship:

A garish Pascal Richard in 1998 (note to Pascal - Casino kit and Olympic rings are a hard visual combo to digest)

A tamer Pascal Richard in 1999

I think the IOC then became aware of Richard’s copyright infringement and shut down his self-styled Olympic tribute, leaving future road cycling Olympic champions at a loss to commemorate Olympic glory. Because it there’s one entity on the planet more freakishly protective of its intellectual property than Disney, it’s the Olympics. Hence, Bettini’s use of gold and gold lame instead of concentric rings to honor his Olympic victory. Curiously, it doesn’t appear from a cursory review of photographs between 2001-2004 that Jan Ullrich ever took liberties with his kit to reflect his Olympic glory, preferring sartorial Telekom pink and when appropriate, his German national championship jersey.

Alia Iacta Est

Just who is Frankie Andreu’s anonymous partner in crime? Here’s US Postal’s 1999 TdF lineup:

181 Lance Armstrong (USA)
182 Frankie Andreu (USA)
183 Pascal Derame (Fra)
184 Tyler Hamilton (USA)
185 George Hincapie (USA)
186 Kevin Livingston (USA)
187 Peter Meinert-Nielsen (Den)
188 Christian Vandevelde (USA)
189 Jonathan Vaughters (USA)

It really seems odd that one of Andreu’s 8 teammates is trying to keep his identity a secret

“because he said he did not want to jeopardize his job in cycling”

Did Mr. X really think that nobody would do a 10 second Google query to see who else was on the 1999 US Postal TdF squad in addition to Andreu? The person in question has to be either Jonathan Vaughters or Kevin Livingston, and my money’s on Livingston. Vaughters has too much at stake with his TIAA-CREF squad to risk the bad press, and he’s already made a statement within a signed affadavit attesting to no personal knowledge of drug use at US Postal. Livingston indeed does still have a job in cycling, and one only has to wonder if some strange car accident, bankruptcy, or stern “lecture” from hired-goons will soon befall Kevin.

This “I took EPO while preparing for the 1999 TdF” revelation of Frankie Andreu certainly has curious timing, coming not-too-long after his sudden dismissal from DS of the Toyota-United Pro Cycling squad. If that rather perplexing termination was a none-too-subtle long distance jujitsu strike to the gut orchestrated by a certain Lance Armstrong because of the Andreus’ (Mr. and Mrs.) testimony, then this public tell-all is Andreu’s bitch slap of Armstrong. I think this may only get uglier…

Secret Sign

This is a true story. When I lived in northern NJ as a wee youngster, I spent several summers immersed in the world of Little League baseball. Before I knew what professional cycling was, I had (ever so brief) illusions of playing for the NY Mets. From the highest point in South Orange, one could see the NYC skyline and for a summer or two I thought that, just maybe, my life’s path would involve playing a handful of miles away in Shea Stadium.

Well, it didn’t take too many trips to the plate before it became stunningly evident that the hand-eye coordination to hit a baseball is a skill I do not possess. The skill I did possess was crowding the plate so I could get beaned and mosie along to first. Then the fun started - I could start stealing bases. We had a green light to steal if the catcher made mistakes mishandling pitches, but otherwise we were under strict orders to wait for our coach’s signal to steal. And straight out of Bad News Bears, the signal to steal was when the coach lit up a new cigarette. No joke. One can only imagine how much smoke our bench inhaled per game, but orders are orders and I don’t think anybody intercepted our SIGINT…

Jonathan Vaughters is looking for beads in Downers Grove
Photo ©: Mark Zalewski/ (URL)

Fast forward to yesterday’s USPRO crit championships in Downers Grove, IL. TIAA-CREF DS Jonathan Vaughters is providing late-race instructions to Brad Huff and company, guidance which will soon result in a US championship for the uber-talented Huff. This is the covert sign which says, “Make sure Huff gets to the last turn in the top 2, but be well aware of carrying too much heat - those barriers are a bitch.”

Not exactly something one learns in “Director Sportif 101″, but Vaughters certainly believes in doing things his own way. At least Vaughters is still rail-thin. Be glad he’s not flaunting the physique of a Manolo Saiz. Now that Vaughters’ unconventional communications have been compromised, one can only wonder what he’ll have to come up with to direct his bevy of young talent in the upcoming USPRO road race in Greenville. I’ll be there, camera in hand, to chronicle his next move.

Will Croon For Food; Will Race 5 Consecutive Grand Tours For Food; Will Watch USPRO For Beer

“Toby” belts out a tune on NBC’s Rockstar Supernova Henk Vogels on the mic - January, 2006
Photo ©: Danny Moloshok / Blue Pixel Photo ©: John Flynn/

Word-or most likely baseless, unfounded rumors-on the Internets is that 2006 US pro peloton powerhouse Toyota-United Pro Cycling Team is short on cash and on the verge of not completing their inaugural season. Soon after the appearance of this speculative chatter, however, a bombshell announcement hits the ususal cycling sites: none other than Aussie hardguy Henk Vogels will once again base himself stateside and race for Toyota-United in 2007.


Has anyone seen Vogels racing lately? Because I think he’s trying to diversify his income portfolio by auditioning for the frontman spot of made - for - tv - over- the - hill - rocker -gotta - pay - the - rent - somehow - cause - we - got -screwed - out - of - a - lifetime - of - royalties - and - now - beg - for - crumbs - on - NBC - peddling -Supernova lameness. Like I’ve mentioned before when discussing Johnny Green’s book about le Tour, there’s not much of a difference between the life of a pro cyclist and that of a rock musician. Except for those pesky drug tests. Let’s see if there’s a burning the candle at both ends rocker-racer life for Vogels next season, surely a ticket to shaving some years off one’s expected lifespan…And I realize I’m ripe for mockery for actually having viewed multiple episodes of Rockstar Supernova.

What’s going on over at CSC? Completing the Grand Tour triple header within a single calendar year has always been an occasional freakish anomaly, aside for a single round of popularity back in the 1991 glory days of EPO. But CSC seems hellbent on bringing “The Triple” back into style. 2005 saw old-man Giovanni Lombardi complete all 3 Grand Tours, and then just for good measure he kept on going in 2006 completing the Giro and nearly completing le Tour. 4.5 consecutive Tours…not bad. Not to be outdone, Carlos Sastre is embarking on his 3rd Grand Tour of 2006 with the soon-to-commence Vuelta (having started a streak of consecutive Grand Tours with the 2005 Tour de France). And upping the ante over Lombardi, Sastre is actually trying to win them. Nevertheless, Sastre can only hope to tie for 6th on the Triple Crown GC tabulator…

Let’s review the upper echelon of the GC freaks of yore, courtesy of

Ralph Geminiani (Fra)   1955   4th   6th   3rd
Gastone Nencini (Fra)   1957   1st   6th   9th
Federico Bahamontes (Spa)   1958   17th   8th   6th
Eduardo Chozas (Spa)   1991   10th   11th   11th
Marino Lejaretta (Spa)   1989   10th   5th   20th
Marino Lejaretta (Spa)   1987   4th   10th   34th
Eduardo Chozas (Fra)   1990   11th   6th   33rd

Sastre has a 43rd in the Giro, a 4th (maybe upgraded to 3rd?) in the Tour, and a victory in the Vuelta will give him a GC total score of 48, tied for 6th with Lejaretta. As long as Sastre doesn’t whip out his kid’s pacifier again if he wins a stage, I’ll be pulling for him.

Greenville USPRO…I’ll be making the drive down I-85 to check out the road race on September 3rd. I’m real curious to see what kind of turnout the race generates. If anyone wants to grab a beer (or beers) I’ll be in the race hotel Hilton Greenville Saturday and Sunday nights. I don’t know what kind of bars are around, but I’m sure I’ll figure that out once I’m there.

Capital Campaign

“The Jan” siting: I spent nearly a week at a conference in Washington, DC, hunkered down for long days of sessions, round tables, panel discussions, and plenary addresses in the Hilton near Dupont Circle. Thankfully, unlike many of my professional colleagues, I was not staying in the host hotel. I enjoyed the approximately 1 mile stroll between my hotel and the conference digs each morning and evening which provided the opportunity to soak up some of the DC ambience, architecture, and street life. One can’t help but notice the abundance of bike messengers making their way through DC streets each day, and I’d frequently walk past battle-weary track bikes locked to parking meters and street signs while their owners were inside a nearby building making deliveries.

On one particular morning, awash in the delirium of too much Guinness ingestion the prior evening and a lack of caffeine this a.m. (I had yet to reach the coffee shop near the hotel), I took a slightly different sequence of streets to reach my destination. And as I’m wont to do, at frequent intervals throughout the day, I was thinking about cycling. And just as Todd Wells frequently poses the question “I wonder what Gully’s doing right now”, for no particular reason the thought “I wonder what Jan Ullrich’s doing right now” popped into my brain. Still training hard? Plotting his defense strategy? Watching 1997 Tour de France videos? On vacation someplace far from Europe where nobody knows who he is? Well, I think a certain Mr. Ullrich tried to make his way as a DC bike messenger. Because no sooner than I started contemplating Jan’s fate, I came across a bike locked to a sign sporting this on the top tube:

Unfortunately, Jan’s run into a bit of bad luck regarding the rest of his ride…

Such a sad, after-school special-esque saga…from ProTour uberman to destitute, beaten down DC bike messenger in the span of several weeks.

Cyclists do not work at the Smithsonian: One of the perks of our convention meeting in Washington, DC was having the run of the entire Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History for a private party this past Friday evening. I was mostly concerned with the free food and drinking enough beer to cover the $10 flat fee I had to pay for the privilege of imbibing booze. Having already done some sightseeing in DC, I was falling under the spell of museum fatigue and didn’t overly concern myself with the cultural heritage treasures around me. The original Star Spangled Banner? Mr. Rogers’ sweater? Howdy Doody? Dorothy’s ruby slippers? Whatever…That is, until I happened to see a white Trek encased off in the distance while I lingered with North Carolina colleagues on the 3rd floor. And right away something seemed really strange, which I confirmed with a closer look:

Maybe it was just the Rolling Rock fuelling my indignation, or the indignation of having Rolling Rock as the highest quality beer at the bar, but I was horrified to see how the handlebars were not properly positioned. Whoever set up the bike for the exhibit (and I’m assuming it’s somebody within the Smithsonian) used the STI levers as a levelling cue, rather than the flats of the drops. Hence, the end of the drops were tilted upwards. Whoever set this bike up is not aware of how Armstrong, and damn near the rest of the Euro peloton, has his bars positioned. Or maybe the museum tech person in charge of the display took it out for one last spin around the National Mall, careened into a major pothole, and thought nobody would notice the wonky bar position when he sealed it away behind plexiglass. Either way, I felt like I was looking at a bike displayed in Wal-Mart. And in the grand scheme of things this is pretty minor, but one would hope that the nation’s flagship history musueum would dot their “i”s and cross their “t”s. I happened to have an allen wrench in my messenger bag, and I was tempted to breach the display case and do a quick loosening/tightening of the stem bolts to rotate the bars upwards to their proper position. The horror…

And then another funny thing happened. I was attending a national convention of archivists and librarians, professions which are largely populated with people who are, putting it delicately, not athletically inclined. While I was soaking in Armstrong’s Trek, some other convention goers came up to the display and started talking amongst themselves about Armstrong. I soon found myself answering their questions about Lance, the Tour de France, his bike, how I knew what year he rode it, etc. since the exhibit offered precious little contextual information. Within moments, a larger crowd gathered around and I found myself fielding questions about Floyd Landis and doping in cycling. If I had my wits about me, I would have got them all chanting, “Rotate the bars! Rotate the bars!” and marched them to the curator’s office to make a scene. I guess I’ll just have to resort to a one-man letter writing campaign to the Smithsonian instead.

Perry Metzler redux: And on a somber note, I re-visited the Vietnam Memorial as I had approximately 1 1/2 years ago when I paid my repects to Perry Metzler. There’s a minor addition to that entry, as this time around I was able to photograph his name with my digital camera.