Spheres of Influence

There’s a new player in the fantasy cycling realm…Test your Tour de France director sportif acumen at FantasyCycling.com and maybe walk away with a Ridley frameset. Or at least see if you’ve got more insider uber-knowledge than yours truly, fielding the eponymously monikered “Bobke Strut” squadra. Full disclosure: the people running this new cycling retail business/fantasy cycling league are friends and good people, and I provided consultation services regarding the design of the game. So you don’t have to worry about me walking away with the Ridley, even if my “all sprinters, all the time” strategy proves prescient. I’m ineligible and only playing for personal gloating privileges. You’ve got until 12:00am EST, July 1 to register…

I’ve also had my byline published for the first time on a site other than one I run. Check out my profile of the Raleigh, NC-based elite women’s BMW-Bianchi team over at PezCycling News. The BMW-Bianchi team are also good people and friends of mine. There’s still plenty of racing on their schedule for the 2006 season—stop by and say hello at a southeastern race destination near you. And for those of you who’ve arrived here at Bobke Strut for the first time due to reading the article, welcome.

An Army of One

Vinokourov schools everybody to win the final stage of the 2005 TdF
Graham Watson photo

Come hell or high water, Alexandre Vinokourov will be rolling out of the TdF prologue start house this Saturday. And he won’t care if he’s the only man left on the Astana-Wurth roster legally able to compete in le Tour. In fact, he prefers to race that way. It’s not like he’s had any help from teammates in previous editions of the TdF.

It’s really a rather straightforward proposition: when the prime minister of Kazakhstan is #1 on your speed dial, when the prime minister of Kazakhstan is also the head of the cycling federation, when the prime minister of Kazakhstan counts certain “oil moguls” amongst his innermost circle of influence, when said Kazakh “oil moguls” bankroll the national sporting hero of Kazakhstan, there really isn’t too much to debate about whether Vino will race in France this year. I guarantee Christian Prudhomme has received a phone call or two from the steppes of Kazakhstan which has made his heart skip a beat. The team will likely only be dubbed “Astana” by Saturday, but no matter.

Here’s a peak into the inner workings of Vinokourov, facts that you may not be aware of:

1. How many Kazakhs does it take to fill out a ProTour roster?
AV: To answer said query: just one, if your name is Alexandre Vinokourov.

2. Don’t you need at least one teammate?
AV: I concede victory to your point. The victories in France, they shall flow freely like the crude of Kazakhstan. You’re right, count Andrey Kashechkin in too, Vino knows not the semantic means to gift stage wins to yourself having grown bored of victory itself. Besides, somebody will have to fetch my bidons. And bring honor to his mighty Kazakh national champion jersey already gifted his direction.

3. But aren’t there rules about a minimum roster size?
AV: There is only one rule…When Kazakh ‘oil moguls’ say jump, the ASO says “How high?” Vino laughs at your rules.

4. Aren’t you afraid of getting caught up on the Spanish Operación Puerto affair?
AV: Hear my words, Alexandre Vinokourov takes nothing of the drugs. Or blood. Or hormones. In fact, I give you exclusive tip. DNA testing will show that all of the blood on ice, all of the hormones in refrigerator, it is all mine. I am so pure, so powerful, so mighty, that the European peloton dopes from my body. Tyler? His gold medal is awash with my blood. The blood of Vino flows through Jan Ullrich. The Spanish peloton? My all-natural, 49.99999999% hematocrit Kazakh blood powers them all. I am quite literally, a cycling machine.

5. Do you know who blew the whistle on the lab’s program?
AV: That would be Vino. So much the the blood, hormone, testosterone delivery program. I grew weary. Right now there is one speed in the peloton: the speed of Vinokourov. Everyone rides the fuel, the essence of Vinokourov. We need two speeds again, the speed of Vino and the slow speed of those not of Kazakhstan.

6. I just read a Samuel Abt article which stated you’re a part of the Kazakh military? Any comment?
AV: I am Major in the Kazakh army. Indeed, I am the Kazakh army. When Kazakhstan deploys its fighting force, it sends forth Alexandre Vinokourov alone to conquer. Vino is being sent forthwith to conquer France. And all holders of ProTour license.

Insane in the Membrane


Photographer: Gerry McManus (URL)

Methinks the UCI has a roque Captain Queeg at the helm. Patrick McQuaid must be awash in Guinness, spewing forth drunken edicts from Switzerland to national federations, as the UCI and professional cycling as we know it spectacularly immolates in public on his watch. Or maybe it’s just that June 25th is the equivalent of April Fool’s Day in Great Britain. There is just no other earthly explanation for this statement (and above photo) from cyclingnews’s report concerning this past Sunday’s British National Championship Road Race:

“One a small end note, when the riders went to sign on for the race they were faced with a ban on overshoes and oversocks. The race organisers had received an official request from British Cycling to issue the instruction as the UCI had introduced a ban that morning.”

I can’t find any mention of this decision anywhere else but that particular article. I’m having flashbacks to the days of yore in the US when crazy clothing restrictions were the rule of the day. I actually remember some poor sap getting DQed from a podium position because his socks weren’t white. Of course, what prompted this outrageous miscarriage of justice was the incessant belligerence of your classic little league parent my father and I dubbed “The Screamer”. It never failed that post-race in upstate New York, any weekend of the year when “The Screamer” and his son showed up at a race, a violent confrontation would take place between “The Screamer” and the officials on duty. Since his son didn’t quite have what it took to win races on his own, “The Screamer” would invoke the rulebook afterwards. Loudly. Hence, the hapless schmoe relegated for violating the white sock clause. And let’s not get started on the complex calculus governing the size and placement of sponsor logos on your kit.

Or maybe this is just a ploy by shoe manufacturers to take away the timeless tactic of star riders using shoes other than the team issue dregs and forever training/racing with shoe covers to hide the subterfuge.


Image source: http://www.gonzostore.com

Perhaps it is time that I run for office. Like the President of the UCI. I’m reaching the breaking point with the sport I love, just as Hunter S. Thompson was motivated to run for sheriff of Aspen as a reaction to getting his ass kicked by Chicago cops at the 1968 Democratic Convention. While I haven’t exactly been roughed up by UCI hired-goons–enough is enough, it’s time to scare the bejeesus out of the home-office in Switzerland by running on the Freak Power ticket of yesteryear.

An abundance of riches

I’m still obsessed with Italy. While recently reading a book about Venice, The City of Fallen Angels by John Berendt (of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil fame), I came across this passage. It’s part of a conversation Berendt was having with an Italian who had made his fortune in the rat poison business:

“My little company became part of the famous economic boom in northern Italy. Did you know that here in northern Italy we have the highest concentration of businesses in the world? It’s true: There’s one company for every eight inhabitants. They’re mostly small, family-run companies. Like mine, and like Benetton, which is run by my old friend Luciano Benetton. Luciano was born and raised in Treviso, like me, and we both have our world headquarters in Treviso”.

This got me thinking about professional cycling, and I began to wonder what parts of Italy produced riders and cycling companies. I’m sure I’ve seen the city names numerous times before, but they may well have been telling me they’re on Mars. I’ve never made a conscientious effort to actually place the city names into a map, they’ve always been some abstract concept.

So I did some checking.

Here is a map of Italy broken down into its 20 regions:


Image source: http://www.big-italy-map.co.uk/

There are 85 Italians on ProTour teams. Here are the regions which produced this assortment of world-class cycling talent:

Region # of riders
Lombardia 34
Veneto 17
Toscana 14
Liguria 4
Sicilia 4
Trentino-Alto Adige 3
Abruzzo 2
Campania 2
Emilia Romagna 1
Friuli-Venezia Giulia 1
Marche 1
Piemonte 1
Umbria 1
Basilicata 0
Calabria 0
Lazio 0
Molise 0
Puglia 0
Sardegna 0
Valle D’Aosta 0

It’s pretty amazing, 65 of 85 ProTour Italians came from three northern regions. And if you include the 186 Italians riding for what was formerly known as Div II squads the breakdown basically remains the same.

And then look where the all the cycling companies are located which produce the goodies which continuously drain our wallets:

Lombardia: Bianchi, Carrera, Castelli, Cinelli, Ciocc, Colnago, De Rosa, Guerciotti, Santini, Stella Azzura, Vittoria.

Veneto: Campagnolo, Elite, Fondriest, Gaerne, ITM, Nalini, Pinarello, Scapin, Selle Italia, Selle Royal, Selle San Marco, Sidi, Wilier.

Liguria: Olmo.

Piemonte: Briko, TTT.

Toscana: Viner.

Trentino-Alto Adige: Moser.

And here are a few more fun facts about the industrial productivity of northern Italy: (1) 94 percent of the total amount of the Italian enterprises (more than 4 million) have less than ten employees; and (2) Lombardia as a region has the highest GDP of any region in the EU.

Last year, based on the UCI ProTour rankings, Italy as a nation destroyed the rest of the world in accumulating ProTour points. Two nations had more riders (Spain with 103 and France with 98) but they weren’t nearly as productive. France is particularly weak, considering how many ProTour riders they have. It seems that they produce the pack filler of the European peloton.

Now, I know absolutely nothing about soccer, but I’d be curious to see a breakdown of where in Italy their players come from who play at a world-class level. Is there an (un)balance similar to cycling, or is there a more equal spread nation-wide? One of the appeals of the World Cup on a sporting level is that there’s really nothing technology-driven about it and pretty much any nation could potentially produce talent.

History Lesson

06.16.2006. Nature Valley Grand Prix: Minneapolis Downtown Classic
The CliffsNotes version…A 60 minute crit shortened to 17 minutes by officials due to exceedingly inclement weather. Let’s see what cyclingnews.com had to say about it:

…Then the rain began to fall harder. Twelve minutes in, Jelly Belly’s Andrew Bajadali attacked with Fraser on his wheel, but it was quickly pulled back. Sensing the urgency as the weather began to worsen - with lightning directly above the course - Van Ulden then attacked and got a 5-second gap, which grew as he came around for a second solo lap.

By the next lap, though, Van Ulden was nowhere at the front as his back wheel succumbed to the rain slickened course.

“You could see his back tire just bouncing out of the corners,” Tilford said.

As they came around for the next lap, officials decided the weather was too much and rang the bell for last lap, much to the delight of many of the riders, including O’Neill who raised his hand to show one to the peloton and shook his head in agreement.

That is when Tilford saw his opportunity. A veteran bike racer a background in mountain biking and cyclocross, he attacked into the first corner and held it straight through. His lead was enough that 150 meters from the line, he sat up and began celebrating, with Henderson and Fraser cruising in behind for the bonus seconds.

Tilford said it wasn’t a calculated risk that he took, just a chance for the win. “You just don’t want to let everybody come up on the back of you,” he said, crediting both his skill and his tires for the win. “If I’m riding good, in the rain I can ride with anyone.”

Now, for a different take on things, is Jackson Stewart:

…There was a little crash about 15 minutes in which took out a few health net riders and we eased up a bit just out of respect. The next thing I know, as I am sitting in the top 5 and just passing the announcers booth, something is announced. I did hear it as we had already passed the booth but, all of a sudden some guy comes blazing really hot into the first turn, chops everyone, and everyone hits the breaks[sic] as he looked really uncomfortable in the turn. He got a good gap. A turn later I hear on the radio “this might be the last lap, it probably is”. Health net must not have got radioed yet as they were still just tempoing and probably preferred this random guy in red off the front so he wouldn’t chop them in the turns anymore. It was just passed probably 1/2 to go that Healthnet actually responded and realized it was one lap to go. The random dude held it to the line for the win.

This dude didn’t just win a bike race, he really rubbed it in with his celebration as he finished. From what I could see and others from the sidelines tell me, he was waving his hands all over the place and pointing back at the field as if he was Tom Boonen and just took 7 bike lengths out of a world class field and they all sucked. I guess the dude must of beenback far enough in the group to where he could actually hear the annoucer say it was one to go as he passed the start finish.

I still can’t get over the celebration this guy put on as he won a 20 minute criterium, it was crazy, maybe it was his first win? Who knows.

Now, I’d bet that at age 46 Steve Tilford is likely the oldest guy to win an NRC race. Tilford won his first elite national title in 1983 when Jackson Stewart was 3 years old and has likely won NRC caliber races every year that Jackson Stewart has been alive.

Welcome to the new home of Bobke Strut…

Congratulations! You found the new home of Bobke Strut before I even told anybody about it. Please bear with me as I figure out how Wordpress works. This is a work in progress for the moment. I promise to be up and running shortly with a look (hopefully) somewhat familiar to those familiar with the previous rendition http://www.unc.edu/~hymas/blogger.html

Thanks for reading!

Cursed

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: http://210.10.97.10/photos/2005/tour05/tech/?id=bikes4/cntdf05-techla7-1

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.

Where’s The Love?

I’ve noticed a common theme in the life of Chris Horner these past few weeks. See if you notice anything suspect:

Exhibit A: post Fleche-Wallonne, April 19th
Chris Horner feels the wrath of Fleche-Wallonne's Mur de Huy
Photo source: http://www.cyclingnews.com/photos/2006/apr06/
flechewallonne06/index.php?id=fleche_bd_20060419_161033

Exhibit B: post Liege-Bastogne-Liege, April 23rd
Chris Horner is wiped out upon finishing the 2006 Liege-Bastogne-Liege
Photo source: http://www.cyclingnews.com/photos/2006/apr06/lbl06/
index.php?id=lbl_finish_bd_20060423_164901

Exhibit C: post Tour de Romandie Stage 2, April 27th
Chris Horner just won the 2nd stage of the 2006 Tour de Romandie
Photo source: http://www.velonews.com/race/int/articles/9798.0.html

If I ran Davitamon-Lotto, there would be a person on the payroll whose job title reads “Chris Horner’s Cabana Boy” — someone whose sole responsibility consists of waiting at the finish line of every race to provide Horner with a freakin’ chair. Is a wee bit of post-race comfort too much to ask? This man is riding out of his skin, and what happens when he crosses the finish line? Horner just wants to sit down and compose himself, scarf down a Coke, maybe get the grime wiped off his face, and he’s got nothin’ but cold, damp asphalt/concrete at his disposal. And a couple of months ago Horner had to hit up a California bike shop for a tube, CO2 cartridges, and a seat pack for his Ridley so he wouldn’t be stranded on a pre-TofC training ride. Where’s all that megabucks ProTour team budget going? Can’t someone at Davitamon-Lotto toss some spare change Horner’s way so he can at least have one of these in time for the Tour de France:

a post-race chair

The Essence of Amstel

Forgive me for posting rather infrequently these days, but my pesky Clark Kent duties have proven to be a rather pernicious intrusion into time formerly devoted to my exhaustive ingestion of all things pro cycling.

Limited time, limited verbiage, however, does not necessarily equate to limited understanding. One only needs to glance back in American history to the power of economical word choice. Esteemed orator Edward Everett bloviated onwards for approximately two hours at the dedication of the Gettysburg cemetery, then handed over the rostrum to Abraham Lincoln who laid waste to the previous speechmeister in 2 minutes.

While my prose will likely never be equated to the rhetorical gifts of Honest Abe, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the 2nd annual distillation of Amstel Gold into haiku form. There’s no need to read those lengthy cyclingnews, velonews, pezcycling, etc. reports, when everything you need to know has been condensed into 68 finely crafted syllables:

Frank Schleck
Anonymous Lux
All those pre-race favorites
Can’t catch me, bitches!

Steffen Wesemann
Effervescent watts
Sweet…I ripped the field to shreds
What the…? Who’s Frank Schleck?

Michael Boogerd
Waiting for Oscar
Phil, Bobke mock my tactics
Once more, I blew it…

Chris Horner
Sole Yank at Amstel
Tour of Georgia?…Full of scrubs
Give me a man’s race

Post-Roubaix

Why does Team Discovery Channel hate George Hincapie? He got the Rumsfeld treatment: “George, you go to Roubaix with the cheap-ass commuter franken-bikes we have in Waterloo, not the pull-out-all-the-stops setup you want”.

If Lance Armstrong wanted to win Paris-Roubaix, he wouldn’t be rolling into the Compiegne staging area on this rig (I’m surprised this hasn’t been purged from the site yet). Which Trek engineer would have the balls to tell Armstrong his Roubaix killer is nothing more than a crappier version of his road frame married to a commuter bike rear triangle? I think it would rather be something on the order of this: Roger Hammond’s custom ‘cross bike. Except Lance would have got on the phone to Keith Bontrager,

“Keith?…Yeah, this is Lance. Winning le Tour is fine and all, but I really want to stick it to Frenchie. Make me a bike that will win Paris-Roubaix. Pull some of that crazy Santa Cruz ‘cross karma out of your ass, dust off the torches, and make me something sweet. I want five proto-types in a week. And they better be at the UCI weight minimum and strong enough to hit every freakin’ rock in 3 Peaks and not break.” 

Click. And this would be in January.

It’s funny, for a company that has Keith Bontrager on the payroll and an ex-world champion on the roster, Trek makes a pretty crappy ‘cross bike. But the fine print states Roger’s not riding your ordinary X01, he managed to have a custom frame built with Madone geometry. Slap some fat road tubulars on that and you’re good to go 259 km of Paris-Roubaix madness. Maybe George would have been arriving in the Roubaix velodrome like this instead.

Pretty much all of the ProTour teams who fielded riders with a chance of being a factor in Paris-Roubaix rolled out their special, cobble-crunching Roubaix bikes, and it pleases my aesthetic inclinations that the adaptations are subtle, not the beat-you-over-the-head-with-a-sledge-hammer-mad-scientist-cobble-tamer designs of years past. The tech warfare was beginning to get way out of hand, and then Frederic Guesdon thankfully burst that bubble with his 1997 win on a totally rigid, goddamned tank of a bike. It was all steel, had 36-spoke MA-40 wheels, and he even had the audacity to win on clinchers. I think it actually weighed in at a not-so-svelte 22-23 lbs. Outside of Team Discovery Channel’s micro rear suspension setups, to the untrained eye (hell, even the trained eye) this year’s Roubaix beaters were decidedly normal. There’s really nothing more to Roubaix success than doin’ it old-school like Peter Van Petegem: fat tubies, box rims, and a Rolls saddle.

Now, let’s make fun of some people…

Allesandro Ballan: Was Lampre too cheap to spring for 2 pairs of ‘cross levers, did Ballan and Franzoi have to split a set and use one each? Actually, Franzoi did have a complete set on his bike which leads me to believe that Ballan conjured up the same idea as me, you really only need one lever dedicated to feathering the rear brake for micro speed adjustments.

Frederic Guesdon: Holy crap, what the hell kind of cable hanger is that? Did the mechanic find some random pieces of scrap metal lying in the street and say, “Yeah, that’ll work…” It’s not like FdJ didn’t have an elite worlds ‘cross racer (Frances Mourey) finish on the podium this past January. Don’t they still have some ‘cross parts lying around in their truck full of tech goodies? And I hope somebody re-aligned his rear wheel before the race started…

Tom Boonen: Boonen pulled the old Jedi mind trick on cyclingnews.com, because I don’t think he rode this bike during Roubaix. Mr. Cyclocosm mentioned this before, but check every photo of Boonen during Roubaix and look at the bar tape and fork colors. Different bikes.

Obi-wan Boonenobi: “This is the bike I rode”
Hapless journalist: “Yes, this is the bike you rode Tom”
OwB: “Move along, there’s nothing to see here”
HJ: “Yes, we’re moving along.”

Day at the spa: Things are a bit different when you’re a scrub team in an uber-Classic. You know you don’t have a chance in hell of doing well, so you have to set your sites a bit lower. And for Agritubel, those sites are stupefyingly low. This is what they race for, the chance for their highest finisher (in this case Christophe Laurent, 39th place) to have his bike styled by some Euro fashion plate. Check it out, the wash is over and now it’s getting the blow drier treatment. And I’m sure everyone in the grupetto were wondering just what the hell was going on, because Laurent just barely squeaked by his Lithuanian teammate Aivaras Baranauskas (41st place) with a mid-pack bike throw for the honors. Also, based on photos I’ve seen over the years of the rider’s abysmal, medieval post-race showers, I think I’d opt to get hosed down in the parking lot by my mechanic to cleanse myself of Roubaix grime before he gets to work on the bikes. I’m surprised Laurent isn’t out here getting the deft power-washer/blow-drier treatment along with his bike.

Oops: I think he blasted that rear derailleur, too…

Can we go home now?: And let’s hear it for Koldo Fernandez (80th), Andoni Aranaga (87th), Markel Irizar (91st), and Joseba Zubeldia (102nd), the poor bastards from Euskatel-Euskadi who drew the short straws and had to race The Hell of the North. Those freaky Basque mountain goats actually survived and didn’t bail in the first feed zone. Chapeau!