Saturday, May 1, 2010

Digging Holes: When Beauty Isn't Enough

Okay, so I’m officially committing to this Blog thing now. I’m going to actually hit publish too. (I'll find my way around this blogtool, yet.) Woohoo! Like a newborn foal, stretching her legs for the first time, I feel a little unsteady, but one step at a time, as they say. And isn’t there a salt lick somewhere?

Today is the first official day of Bike to Work Month. If you work over the weekend, and rode your bike to work, I commend you. I also thank you for working on the weekend, so I can do stuff on my days off, like shopping, dining out, getting stuff worked on, or just generally doing the things I can not do on my own. You rock.

I expect many people will honor Bike Month, and keep it holy. I’m not particularly religious, but my bike receives the treatment afforded some deities. Over the years, it’s received a small fortune in components, and on occasion, bits of human sacrifice. There are times that small animals, from what I could tell, are so overcome by the majesty of my machine (no, it’s not a Serotta, or even in that class, but I think highly of anything I allow between my legs,) that they even offer themselves as sacrifice. I won’t let my bike accept such offerings.

Also, if you aren’t already aware, BikeSnobNYC’s book ‘dropped’, recently, and you should go buy it. I can’t say if it’s any good or not yet (there's now a review up Amazon that says that it is), but the cover is very nicely done, so you should still go buy it. If his blog is any indication, the book will be time well spent. I’m sure it’s going to be the hot, new cycling accessory this year, other than spoke cards. By the way, the gold tone (is it brown?--I've only seen it online, so far--still waiting for my copy) on the cover is nice, but I’m hoping it eventually comes in other colourways in later printings. That would be sweet.

Anyways, one of the things I love about the ‘sport’ of cycling (I confess, with the way I ride, the word, ‘sport’ is a bit of a stretch,) is that some people actually get paid to do it. The concept of ‘Pro Sports’ in general is a little odd; people get paid to do fun stuff, just so other people can watch. They don’t ‘just do it’ either; they sweat, breathe hard, get excited, and occasionally collapse. Really, professional sport is sort of like porn, but with more clothing. That said,

Yeah, I’m a sports fan.

So this weekend, in a confluence of awesomeness, I got to enjoy a televised bike race on the VS channel. Oh sure, I could’ve just started this whole topic with, “Liege-Bastogne-Liege” was on this weekend, but that doesn’t really capture my feelings about it. First off, I’ve been waiting all season for this race. I’m a huge fan of the word, "liege". I confess, I’m not exactly sure what it means, but it’s somewhere between, ‘dude, you’re totally more awesomer than me,’ and ‘lordship’. Secondly, I was pissed at VS for making me wait a whole week just to find out exactly how Alexander Vinokourov put together his win. The cycling websites that I occasionally pay attention to, or hear about, and, had scooped the story when it was still news. Lastly, the footage, as per usual TV coverage of cycling, skipped all the parts of the race that the riders probably enjoyed, and only showed the sections where they were most likely to be dickish to each other. In truth, dickishness is the essence of all reality TV, including sporting events these days.

The big thing about the commentary, though, had little to do with why this is a race that so many pros want to include in their race calendar. As a non-racing cyclist, I’m pretty sure I get it: it has beautiful countrysides, cherry road surfaces (a cherry road surface--smooth pavement, free of potholes--mmm--like fresh powder to a snowboarder,) interesting terrain, and a challenging course to test your soul. Phil Liggett’s and Bob Roll’s comments were a treat, as usual. I never get tired of hearing about how Phillippe Gilbert likes to make ‘cheeky moves’, nor do I ever lose interest in the varying ways that Bob Roll can describe a rider’s “pain box”.

What I did not like is that Jonathan Vaughters was ‘sitting in’ on the commentary in Saturday’s coverage. I actually want to like the guy; he’s in charge of one of the American teams. But, every time I try to get into his train of thought, he comes out with something I absolutely cannot stomach. Okay, yeah. I’m guilty. I’ve made some off-color remarks, and probably will again soon. But what I do does not even compare to one of Vaughter’s remarks today. Scratch that; I can’t even call him by his given name anymore, I’m so disgusted. Today, he’s Captain Douche.

No, that’s not enough. He’s Captain Tampon.

No, that’s too useful. He’s Captain Enema-Face.

No, I’m going to do that. He rides, supports USA Cycling, and busted his ass to get an American team in the Tour de France, so I can call by his actual name. Besides, he dug his own hole, and then climbed into it. Whether you watched it or not, I’ll break it down the way it appeared to me. Here’s how he did it:

Vaughters was speaking to the race tactics and how the course would likely shape-up. In truth, he offered some interesting insights. I’ve never done ‘race recon’ on a European course, and so I wanted to hear his thoughts on this. Then, Liggett started asking him about different riders, both on Garmin and possible team prospects. I wasn’t paying close enough attention to catch who they were discussing, but there’s, apparently, a young European rider Vaughters is interested in signing. He went on to say, that the guy hasn’t signed yet, because he’s concerned that Garmin’s training program is more rigorous than he would prefer. (I’m guessing the kid might be French, or something.) Okay, no big deal.

And then it happened. I couldn’t believe that I had heard it, but I didn’t need to wait for confirmation because it came all too soon.

Jonathan Vaughters actually stated that the pro races are experiencing an “Anglo-Saxonization” that is improving the sport. What? Are you kidding me? Did you just say that with a straight face? One of the things that I find quaint about the Garmin (now Garmin-Transitions) team is their nerdiness. Can’t say why, but there’s something about nerdiness on a hot guy that’s just cute. (Nerdiness in an ugly guy is just unfortunate.) But this, ... this was not nerdy. Since when, did Anglo-centrism become acceptable commentary? What about the rest of Europe, or the rest of the world for that matter? Okay, so the rest of the world is largely unrepresented in professional cycling. And on top of that, are you saying, Mr. Vaughters, that racing shouldn’t be fun?

The biggest reason I like riding my bike is that it’s fun. The reason why I like cipo in yellowone of my all-time favorite pros, Mario Cippollini--an Italian, not an American, nor Englishman--is that when he raced, he seemed to actually have fun, too. That’s why this ‘sport’ is awesome. Sure, say what you want about his race ability, integrity, or whatever, but he likes to ride his bike, and I give him credit for that. And he’s strangely hot, but who’s counting.

So then, we get to the point in the race where Vinokourov pulls away from the pack. He ended up working together with professional breakaway artist, Katusha’s Kolobnev, and pulled out a great win. Liggett’s comment: “He’s back from disgrace!” Like during his recent doping suspension, he was really just visiting his inlaws or something.

But then, JV had to jump in. “Well, I have mixed feelings about this. Mixed feelings.” Umm, okay, yeah, your team makes a big deal about racing clean and redemption. One of your best riders was an ex-”doper”, and somehow that’s different? Vinokourov won this same race back in 2005, is famous for dropping both Lance Armstrong and Jan Ullrich in the mountains of France, and has thunder thighs like a speed skater. Yeah, I think he can hang and be clean at the same time. Sure, he’s quirky too, but show me a ‘normal rider’, and I’ll show you someone with some native strangeness. It’s part of the deal.

Though, maybe the doping thing is not what was so upsetting. Maybe it’s the fact that the race finish just shattered his whole ‘Anglo’ idea. The winner of the race was Asian. So, Mr Vaughters, was that it?

Damn, I’m ranting today, and I generally don’t like to make a habit of that. Let’s all take a moment to kick back and enjoy some rainbows and unicorns.

So, this blog is off and running now. I’m not sure if I can be interesting enough to keep it updated every day, but I plan to ‘post up’ on weekends.

Ride Safe. I love you all.

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