Top pro surprised that time on front doesn’t lead to win at Tirenno-Adriatico

March 16, 2014 § 21 Comments

Richie Porte, the leader for Team Sky at Tirenno-Adriatico, expressed surprise today that his race tactics did not result in a stage win atop the climb to Selvarotonda. “I was on the front for most of the climb,” said Porte, in disbelief. “I was killing those guys.”

Alberto Contador, winner of the day’s stage, couldn’t explain the result either. “You know, Richie was up there on the front of the group, just drilling it really hard into a huge headwind up a very long and challenging climb. It’s hard to understand how he didn’t win.” Contador was seen shortly after the interview high-fiving his teammates on the bus and grinning slyly at his team director.

Overall leader Michal Kwiatkowski, who finished the stage with what analysts believe is an unsurmountable 34-second lead over Porte, was also at a loss to explain the outcome. “Richie was favored to win the race, and on the decisive climbing stage we were all sure he would win, the way he sat very impressively on the front for such a long time into such a bitter headwind with no teammates to help him and all of us in the leader’s group on his wheel like that. But somehow he lost.”

Second-place finisher Nairo Quintana was likewise mystified by Porte’s failure to win the stage and take control of the race despite his clever tactical riding. “We were all telling him, you know, ‘Wow, Richie, you’re killing us, dude,’ and ‘I’m cracking, I can barely hang on,’ and stuff like that, but then somehow just towards the end we all felt better and were able to pass him and put a lot of time on him. It’s weird. He was riding so strong and we were all so, how you say, in the box of hurt?”

Porte concurred with Quintana’s analysis. “It’s fuggin’ weird. Every time I looked back they had these faces that were filled with pain, awful grimaces, you know? And their shoulders were drooping and they were making loud breathing noises. I had ‘em, I had ‘em, I swear. Then, poof! We get about one kilometer out and suddenly everybody takes off and there I was, even though I’d done all the work, I couldn’t go with them. After pulling them up the climb like that you would have thought that they would at least have waited for me,” Porte added with a slight show of frustration. “It’s almost like they were playing me. If we weren’t all such good pals, I don’t know.”

Teammate Bradley “Wiggo” Wiggins was nonetheless upbeat at Porte’s chances on Sunday’s last mountain stage. “He’ll just have to hammer from the gun,” said Wiggo. “Tire ‘em out from the start, maybe take a little breather if he can, and then go right back to the front and drop the hammer on the climb. Ride ‘em off ‘is wheel. That’s the ticket, just like it was a triathlon, full fuggin’ gas from the get-go. They won’t know what hit ‘em, especially at the end when they hit the Muro di Guardiagrele with its 30% ramp.”

After the award ceremony, the top finishers congratulated Porte on his outstanding ride, saying “You were a beast,” and “I hope you don’t hammer us like that tomorrow. We won’t stand a chance!”

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Ooooh-oooooh, that smell

August 3, 2012 § 15 Comments

I don’t give a rat’s ass if you’re a drunk. Some of my best friends are drunks. Countless members of my family are drunks. My brother was a drunk for most of his adult life, and was barely sober for a year before committing suicide. My uncle, a lifelong alcoholic, died from an illness most likely caused by his drinking. I had to quit drinking because I was a drunk.

Actually, I didn’t have to. I got lucky and decided to.

Not one single day goes by when I don’t miss the taste of beer. Not a single meal passes when I don’t think, “This would sure taste better with a glass of wine or a cold draught of sake.” Every single day when I get home from work I long, yes long, to blot out the day. When I dine with friends I envy their drinking and wish more than anything that I could knock one back and be one of the boys again. It’s like spending the night in bed with the naked woman you love and ragingly desire, but cannot touch.

Some of the world’s greatest people were stupendous drunks. The greatest novelists were practically required to be. Terrible, wondrous, bilesome, awfully awesome moments of blurry thought and staggered motion have often been accompanied by greatness.

But let’s do the world’s drunks a favor, reformed or red-hot: Let’s call them what they are. Drunks.

Bradley Wiggins is a drunk

Please take a moment and read his autobiteography, “In Pursuit of Glory.” On second thought, don’t. It’s atrocious. Instead, you can browse my handy-dandy review where I noted, long before his Olympiccorp success in London, that he is an alcoholic, which is a sympathetic way of saying “a drunk.”

Wiggly’s father was a drunk, and died from it. Wiggly spent much of his career with Cofidis as a lone drunk, by his own admission wrapping up each day with a six-pack. To those of you who sniff that you can’t get drunk on six beers, you don’t know the physiology of a twiggly pro road cyclist.

Wiggly chronicles his binge drinking after the Olympiccorp production in Athens, and confesses that he had a drinking problem. Well, so what?

Here’s what: once a drunk, always a drunk. Whether you’re a binge drunk, or a steady drunk, or a wake-up and get drunk drunk, or an it don’t take much drunk, or, like my friend’s daughter’s husband who drinks a case of Budweiser in his car every morning on the way to work in Houston–TRUE FUCKING STORY–you’re a drunk.

Don’t piss down my back and tell me it’s raining

In fact, while you’re at it, don’t piss down my back at all. Pretending that Wiggly is anything but a drunk is like pissing down my throat, or into my braincase. It’s a total violation. In the same way that we (me not being one of us) can admire Brad’s mastery of doping, we (me not being one of us) can also admire the fact that he’s an alcoholic/drunk/boozer/ginny/wino who functions well enough to win gold medals and yellow jerseys.

The giddy Brits, so unaccustomed to the colors of yellow and gold, and so blind-eyed to the drug-addled trajectory of the guy who will soon be “Sir Wiggly,” would rather that Brad’s alcoholism be something other than it is. I know how they feel, but as with all self-deceptions, this one is most grotesque when thrown in the face of people who are drunks and who are trying to do something about it.

”He is absolutely thoroughly entitled to have a fantastic party and celebrate,” BOA chairman Colin Moynihan said Thursday. ”Nobody deserves it more.”

Translation: If you work hard and succeed, drinking 8-16 ounces of hard liquor is not only appropriate but is something you “deserve.” Kind of like how, after working hard and succeeding, you deserve a few syringes of heroin. Same thing.

”It’s extraordinary what he has done,” said Andy Hunt, head of Britain’s Olympic delegation. ”There isn’t a person in the country who wouldn’t want to buy him a drink.”

Translation: Regardless of whether his behavior is appropriate (probably) or admirable (doubtful) or the kind of thing that should serve as a role model for anyone, anywhere (no fucking way), it’s okay because Britain, with one of the worst binge drinking problems in the world, would be happy to foot the bill.

”I lead a pretty normal life,” he said between sips of a vodka and tonic on Wednesday night. ”I’m not a celebrity. I will never be a celebrity.”

Translation: Every bone idling wanker has seven Olympic medals, a TdF win, and 400,000 Twitter followers. Don’t you?

“I despise that whole celebrity culture.”

Translation: I’ve been a celebrity so long that I have no idea what the word even means.

“I know how the Beatles felt now.”

Translation: A guy who rode his bike in circles a few times thinks he’s as popular as the greatest rock and roll band of all time. He’s drunk off his ass, for sure.

And then this gem from IOC spokesman Mark Adams: ”Drink wisely.”

Translation: What Wiggins is doing is against everything we stand for, and it’s incredibly dangerous, but it’ll be a cold day in hell before we spit in Olympiccorp’s punchbowl.

“She [the Queen] sent me a lovely letter which was nice to receive but whatever comes next is fantastic, I’ll take it. Sir Wiggo sounds nice.”

Translation: I’m a boor and a stupid prick. Knight me, already, cunt.

“I’m just going to get really drunk tonight and have a good think about things.”

Translation: My alcoholism is so advanced that I can’t distinguish clarity of thought from drunkenness, and in fact, it seems as if alcohol actually sharpens my intellect, which I suppose is proof of complete alcoholism.

MP Emily Thornberry got in on the act with this gem: “He is a national hero, a fantastic role model. If anybody should be knighted, he should be.”

Translation: I have no idea what a role model should do, but I would hope it involves Mr. Wiggins shoving his cock up between my legs as soon as possible.

What’s really at stake

Of course the reason no one wants to call Wiggly a drunk, least of all Wiggly himself, is because then someone would have to do something about it. Instead of calling him a regular bloke, or a role model, or an incredible champion, all things that may well be true, they’d have to also call him a sorry fucking drunk who needs help.

And goodness knows, we can’t have that. It’s not part of the Olympiccorp script.

In Pursuit of Glory

June 9, 2012 § 12 Comments

This stinker sits at #46 of Cycle Sport magazine’s listing of the greatest cycling books of all time. It’s the “as told to” autobiography of Bradley Wiggins. The whole point of the book, which came out in 2008, was to make a quick buck on his medal haul at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Why else summarize your life and accomplishments when you’re still in the middle of a prodigiously successful career?

To say this book was thrown together does a huge injustice to all of the things in life that are thrown together and work out remarkably well: last minute suppers, clingy little negligee ensembles, and shotgun weddings that end up producing good kids and successful marriages. “In Pursuit of Glory” wasn’t thrown together. It was pooped out.

The theme

Ninety-nine percent of all the sentences in this book include first person references to Brad. It reads like this. “I, while doing the me for myself, our on the we, and myself on the I gave another chance for me to I and us to we our mine, against all my. That’s why I we, was for me. Brad Wiggins, the I and myself, did it me.”

Someone forgot to tell Brad that autobiography should reveal the surrounding stories, influences, and experiences of others that combined to create the life of the subject. The narcissistic, self-satisfied, preachy tone of the book is made more grating by the spelling errors, grammatical errors, sentences without subjects, bad organization, and absence of a coherent story.

On the plus side, the book allows you to pithily sum up Mr. Wiggins’s life and personality.

  1. His father was a successful track racer in the 80’s, an alcoholic, and a deadbeat dad.
  2. Brad is a successful track racer, a functional alcoholic, and a loving, responsible dad.
  3. Brad’s success is the result of the people who have managed him.
  4. Brad is an anxiety ridden, somewhat depressed narcissist.
  5. Brad is one of the greatest British athletes of all time.

No coal miner’s daughter here

You know those stories about some poor Belgian farmer who dies? He’s got five sons and the widow is ill. The eldest son gathers the family under the flickering lone light bulb hanging over the bare kitchen table. “Well, Mum, the only way I can pay the mortgage on the farm is if I turn pro and win the Ronde in April.”

He trains throughout the harsh Belgian winter, throughout the brutal spring, going better and better as the grim howl of the wolf at the door and horrible abyss of failure are counterbalanced only by his indomitable will to win. The big day arrives and he crosses the line first, securing a future for his family and having his name writ large among the immortals of the road.

Brad Wiggins’s story is, uh, not quite like that. His mom turned him on to track cycling at an early age, influenced by the career of his runaway dad. Immediately he began to win. Soon he was under the tutelage of Chris Boardman. A natural athlete with a track pedigree, he was coddled, nurtured, shaped, and pushed all the way to his first Olympic gold medal at Athens in the individual pursuit in 2004.

Except for the occasional up and down as befits a clinically depressed functional alcoholic, Wiggins’s story is about as sexy as a white lab coat. In 2008 his medal haul in Beijing made him the second most decorated British Olympian of all time. In 2012 he stands to become the greatest ever. Like British food, it’s really exciting.

A few gems for cyclists

Wankmeister digs through the shit to find the pearls so you don’t have to. So even though this book is a series of “I’m incredibly talented and my dad was a deadbeat” vignettes calibrated on high “whine,” there are a few passages of interest to cyclists.

First is Wiggins’s description of the team pursuit. Wiggins is one of the all time great pursuiters, and his explanation of how the four-man team rode at the world’s in Manchester and at Beijing is matchless. When he bothers to talk about track cycling, he is a savant. The clumsiness of the writing can’t begin to dull the brilliance with which he explains the mechanics of this event. Unfortunately, it’s brief–just a few pages long.

Second is his attitude toward doping. Though he mouths the standard “I hate dopers” line, and though his early road career shows the bottom-of-the-barrel results one would expect from a non-doper in the age of rocket fueled cyclists, numerous of his comments are strange, such as when he refers to track cycling as “pure” in reference to its supposed absence of doping. Track cycling? Are you fucking kidding me?

This blind eye to doping continues when he dismisses Rob Hayles’s exclusion from the worlds and Olympic pursuit squads due to an elevated hematocrit. Wiggins asserts that there is no way it could have been from doping, which is interesting, because the one thing that an elevated hematocrit always indicates in a professional cyclist is the possibility of just that. Another completely bizarre comment is his remark that he always suspected Cofidis teammate and busted doper Christian Moreni to have been a cheater because he was older and at the end of his career. Old + End of Career = Doper. If that’s true, Brad’s got a lot of explaining to do about himself.

Must be the cheese he’s eating

Most interesting, however, is Wiggins’s analysis in his autobiography of what the future holds in store for him as a cyclist: In 2008 he wrote that would never win the Tour, but hoped to close out his career with perhaps a stage win, singular. A few short years later, after spending time with Columbia/HTC, then some time with Garmin/Slipstream, Wiggins has emerged with team SKY as the preeminent favorite to not simply win a stage in the Tour, but to win the entire race in dominating fashion.

Far from experiencing the typical Tour progression of exceptional road racer to Tour contender, Wiggins has gone from 124th in 2006, DNF in 2007, skipped the race entirely in 2008, rocketed to 4th in 2009, tumbled to 24th in 2010, crashed out in 2011, and reemerged after destroying this year’s Paris-Nice, Tour of Romandie, and Dauphine to be head and shoulders above the competition. Here’s a pursuit rider winning the field sprint in La Chaux-de-Fonds at the Tour of Romandie? Effortlessly protecting his own lead at the Dauphiné as he single-handedly leads the chase and reels in the breakaway at Morzine – Châtel?

The 4km track specialist who could barely finish a grand tour (123rd in the 05 Giro, 134th in the 08 Giro, 71st in the 09 Giro, 40th in the 10 Giro) now climbs better than Evans, time trails like Tainted Meat, and sprunts like Cav? Aw, go fuck yourself in the ass you lying, cheating sonofabitch.

No Tour champion in history has this trajectory, or anything remotely like it, capping a career of mostly nondescript grand tour failures with an overwhelming lock on the favorites’ list for the very first time at the age of thirty-two. What happened?

Wiggins chalks it up to training like a swimmer. “My coach has not been in cycling for long, he’s come from swimming, so I’ve pretty much been training like the swimmers train,” Wiggins said a few days ago. He also claims that training in Tenerife, with its acidic air and high altitude, provides the missing toughness that he could never get in the UK. The final piece to his secret plan? Isolation and no distractions.

This sounds really familiar. Haven’t we heard from other great cyclists who produced incredible results, completely transforming themselves from “not even close” into TdF contenders that it was due to “new training methods” and “hard work”? Wasn’t there even an ad for that…something like “I’m on my bike. What are you on?”

The old saw that “I’m training harder than the other guys, that’s why I beat them by minutes” has been so thoroughly discredited that it’s amazing people still listen to it. The idea that the pro peloton is filled with riders who are lazy, or who don’t put in the hours, is ludicrous, with the possible exception of Abandy Schleck. “People just don’t understand he is a fantastic athlete,” purrs mouthpiece Sean Yates, former water carrier for Lance Armstrong.

Right. We’re too stupid to get that the greatest Olympian in British history is a fantastic athlete, kind of like how we didn’t understand what a phenom Lance or Jan were. It’s not that Wiggins’s performance is eyebrow raising, it’s that we’re too stupid to realize that he’s so good our eyebrows shouldn’t even raise.

Unfortunately, Yates can’t stay on the same page for long, immediately promising there’s loads more to come even after all this hard, grueling, mind bending work, and massive stage race victories. Hard as it all seems, and hard as Wiggins says it all is, “He’s not trained so hard [that] he’s exhausted, he’s just trained normally that he’s getting better and better,” explains Yates. Right. The more you train, the better you get. It’s that simple, which is why RAAM participants are so heavily recruited to ride the Tour.

Skeptics like me would instead say that Wiggins is part of the “new” new cycling, where doping quantities are reduced, and sophisticated programs are only available to the richest, most well-funded teams. The abandonment of the UCI’s biological passport, among other disturbing facts, points to a rider who’s finally gotten on a program that can turn him from a doormat to a champion.

Pursuit of glory, indeed.

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