May 26, 2015 § 16 Comments
Team Sky leader Richie Porte retired from the Giro d’Italia today and offered journalists a personal tour around the customized motorhome that will drive him from Italy to his home in Tasmania, where he plans to take a well deserved rest from two grueling weeks of racing. As he piloted the posh Mercedes-Benz Panzer IV Kustom around the docks of Naples, Cycling in the South Bay took a moment to talk with him.
Cycling in the South Bay: So, what are you doing here in Naples?
Richie Porte: Well, I retired from the Giro today and am headed back home to Tasmania.
CitSB: But why Naples?
RP: Oh, I’m just looking for the bridge. It’s got be around here somewhere.
CitSB: The bridge?
RP: To Tasmania, mate. This thing don’t float, y’know.
CitSB: Right. So, what happened in the Giro?
RP: Well, this is a pretty cool motorhome, eh?
CitSB: It’s incredible. Really first class.
RP: That’s what you gotta have when you’re the team leader, mate.
CitSB: But there’s still another week left in the Giro, and the queen stage on the Motirolo is tomorrow, and, well, with the 27 minutes you lost yesterday, plus the four minutes in the TT and the two minutes with the wheel change and the other two minutes with the crash, you’re not really the team leader anymore, are you? Especially since you’ve, you know, quit.
RP: Oh, right, that. Hey check out this espresso machine. Soy out of this spigot, steamed milk here, whipped cream over here. Pretty cool, eh?
CitSB: Yes, it’s awesome. So what happened? Before the race when you were offering tours of the motorhome, there was criticism that you should be staying in a hotel like your teammates.
RP: Right? Hey, when you take a leak in the john be sure to gel your hands with that antibiotic cream. I don’t want to get sick, eh?
CitSB: Do you think being isolated from the team hurt you?
RP: I don’t think so, not at all. It was the team’s idea anyway, not mine.
CitSB: Really? Why did they want you to sleep out in the parking lot instead of in the hotel?
RP: Oh, it’s a little thing I’ve had since I was a wee ‘un.
CitSB: What’s that?
RP: It’s nothing really, just a bit of a bed wetting habit I’ve had for a while, since I was three, actually.
CitSB: And how did that affect the team’s decision to put you in a bus in the parking lot?
RP: Well, we sleep in bunks in the hotel, and since I’m the team leader I always get the top bunk. So y’know, the blighter down below gets rained on all night.
CitSB: That sounds pretty grim.
RP: Oh, it was. It was even worse when I rode for Saxo Bank and had to bunk with Sven Gunderhausen. He was a bedwetter too, and Bjarne was always trying to cure us of it, so one night he’d put me in the top bunk and the next night he’d put Sven in the top bunk, so one of us or the other was always getting a bit of a golden shower.
RP: Yeah, finally we took to sleeping in full rain gear, but on Sky it was just me, so the team voted for the motorhome. Hey, check this out.
CitSB: What is it?
RP: It’s an automatic wet wipes dispenser with a little reservoir here for baby powder you can put on your bum after you get wet.
CitSB: These motorhomes have everything.
RP: Yeah, they really do.
CitSB: Except for a pink jersey. This one doesn’t seem to have one of those.
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May 18, 2015 § 30 Comments
After smashing the field in the 10.6-km time trial at Magic Mountain in the Amgen Tour of California, then winning the overall event, Slovakian ballbuster Peter Sagan thanked his team for their support and referred to team owner Oleg Tinkov as a “complete asswipe.” Cycling in the South Bay sat down with the Green Monster to discuss.
CitSB: You must be feeling pretty good. Two wins in a Pro Tour race after being called out by your boss, Oleg Tinkov.
Peter Sagan: Yep.
CitSB: And you called him a “complete asswipe”?
PS: Because he is. Oleg Tinkov is the pro rider’s worst nightmare.
CitSB: How so?
PS: Oh, come on. You know the type. Total wanker masters racer, buys the best stuff, wears the most expensive kit, shows up at the private training ride uninvited, and he’s off the back before the pace even picks up. Then, because he can’t keep up, he sponsors the local race club so he can be part of the team, hang out at the races, do the training rides. And everyone hates his fucking guts.
CitSB: Well, money talks.
PS: Yep, and Oleg’s is paying my bills. But imagine having said masters wanker telling you how to race your bike.
CitSB: Must be pretty annoying.
PS: You have no idea. Dude texts me a hundred times a day, I’m not kidding. “Spin more on the climbs, Peter.” “You opened up your sprint too early, Peter.” “Take on more electrolytes, Peter.” This from a guy who, ten years ago, couldn’t have picked an electrolyte from an electric car.
CitSB: You’ll admit that your results this year have been disappointing.
PS: Yes, they have.
CitSB: And Oleg’s paying you some pretty solid coin.
PS: Look, no disrespect intended, but pro racing isn’t like buying gas at the pump where you stick in your credit card and out gush six monuments and a green jersey at the Tour. It’s fucking hard and it comes down to fitness, smarts, teamwork, and luck. Tinkov has never won a bike race, any bike race. Dude’s a fuggin’ fanboy who thinks that when you’re on the rivet, your teeth filled with mud, it’s 45 degrees and raining sleet, and you’re still a hundred k’s from the velodrome in Roubaix that you need to “dig deeper.” He’s the one who needs to dig deeper, to dig his way out of that pile of fantasy shit his head is buried in.
CitSB: He seems to think he’s better at managing the team than Riis was.
PS: You know something about Riis? He was a true motivator. Riis earned his stripes at the head of the peloton, not ripping off stupid Russian consumers with payday loans and giving head to Vladimir Putin. Riis believed in you and he showed you how to focus on what you were good at while improving your weaknesses. Tinkov is Vino without the race smarts or the race legs. Rotten to the core, dumb as a box of rusty derailleurs, and as much fun to be around as a bag of cold, wet dicks.
CitSB: Bag of cold, wet dicks?
PS: Well, when they’re cold and wet they shrivel up.
CitSB: Got it. Has Tinkov’s outspokenness created tension in the team?
PS: No. Everyone hates his guts, especially Alberto, and we all call him Dickov behind his back. Did you see that shit about the Giro, where he said that all of Alberto’s rivals fear him, and that Alberto is a shoo-in?
CitSB: That didn’t go over well?
PS: Oh, it did. We laughed our asses off. Dickov thinks that riders perform best when you belittle them or make outrageous brags in the media.
CitSB: And they don’t?
PS: Riders perform best when they’re internally driven to win, they’re fit, they have a good team, they ride smart, and they get lucky. And when they use the right juice [winks]. Marginal gains, as Dave Brailsford would say.
CitSB: Right-o. Thanks, Peter.
PS: Any time.
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April 14, 2015 § 18 Comments
Ah yes, the old pray-for-a-miracle or form-changing-in-the-middle-of-a-five-day-stage-race race plan: “If I got lucky and the form changed or something then maybe I’d win it.” Chris Horner on his strategy for winning the Redlands Classic. CyclingNews, April 13, 2015.
It’s true, there weren’t a lot of fans jumping up and down saying “18th! He did it!”: “Some detractors may say him finishing 18th is a little underwhelming.” David Brailsford, trying to make the best of Brad Wiggins’s disappointing, final road race at Paris-Roubaix. CyclingNews, April 14, 2015.
The question tormenting your team is “Why didn’t you win?”: “A question has been tormenting me since yesterday!!!” Luca Paolini, complaining about why riders were allowed to slip through the closed railway crossing during Paris-Roubaix. CyclingNews, April 14, 2015.
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April 10, 2015 § 26 Comments
Phenom Tiesj Benoot, the 21-year-old speedster with Lotto-Soudal who pulled off an amazing fifth place in the Ronde van Vlaanderen was allowed to speak with the press yesterday about his expectations for Paris-Roubaix. Benoot, who is clearly on form after a string of strong early-season performances, sat down with CitSB to discuss the big day on Sunday.
CitSB: So you’re unsure of what to expect in your first professional Paris-Roubaix?
TB: Yes. I’ve ridden it as an amateur, but as a professional it will be completely different. I really don’t know what to expect.
CitSB: You don’t?
CitSB: Can I help you out with that?
TB: Well, sure.
CitSB: It’s going to be really fucking hard.
TB: Yes, but …
CitSB: There is no “but.” You’re going to get your ass handed to you on a plate.
TB: The Belgian press believes I may be Tommeke’s successor, of course that’s ridiculous, but still …
CitSB: The Belgian press believed that the Kaiser was going to invade France through Nigeria. You are gonna get stomped.
TB: Since it’s my first professional P-R, I’m unsure how it will play out. My director sportif says …
CitSB: Your director sportif will be sitting in a leather chair behind the wheel of a Mercedes sipping espresso from a spill-proof cup while The Wiggster has your nuts in a vise and holds them out for the rest of the peloton to jump on. You will get your fucking head staved in.
TB: That’s kind of negative.
CitSB: And what the nut-crushing doesn’t accomplish, the jagged paving stones will. Expect a complete beatdown.
TB: If you say so.
CitSB: I do.
*Note: After this interview, CitSB reached out to several past winners of P-R to ask them what they thought Tiesj should expect. Here is a sampling of their responses.
Eddy Merckx: It will be very difficult and hard. And long.
Roger De Vlaeminck: De Paris-Roubaix, it has a hard day. Very hard. Difficulty and hardness.
Tom Boonen: What can he expect? A hard day in the saddle, much pain, difficulty, struggle, unpleasantness, misery, dust, perhaps rain and mud, bone-jarring exhausting. Perhaps a few crashes. Hard day, for sure.
Fabian Cancellara: He can expect the hard.
Francesco Moser: Itsa hard carrera. He will have the hard day.
Frederic Guesdon: Tres dur. Dur, et difficile, sans doute.
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April 7, 2015 § 44 Comments
What do Peter Stetina, Sergio Pardilla, Nicolas Edet, Adam Yates, Pierre-He Lecuisiner, Tom Boonen, Fabian Cancellara, Jesse Sergent, Angel Vicioso, Joaquim Rodriguez, Giampaolo Caruso, Gert Steegmans, Matti Breschel, Edvald Boasson-Hagen, Martin Velits, Chris Froome, Alberto Contador, Marcel Kittel, and Lukasz Wisniowski have in common?
They are just a tiny handful of the world’s top riders who have broken bones or suffered injuries serious enough to take them out of major races in the last year. It doesn’t begin to include riders like Sylvain Chavanel (run over by a service vehicle) or those who “simply” crashed out of the race and lined up again the following week.
The absence of the big hitters has completely changed the outcome and dynamics of the biggest races in the season, including the Tour and the spring classics. But let’s forget the racing. The toll this takes on the actual human beings racing the bikes is enormous in financial, physical, and emotional terms.
European bike racing didn’t used to be this dangerous. What happened? How did the supposed champions that the fans supposedly love become disposable pieces of meat?
It’s pretty simple, actually.
- Speeds are higher.
- Pelotons are bigger.
- More riders are in contention for the win.
- Riders don’t wear safety equipment.
- There are no standards for cancelling races due to hazardous weather.
- The courses aren’t required to meet safety standards.
- Organizers are “old school” and believe that lots of crashes and injures, and maybe even a fatality or two add to the “beauty” of the sport.
Of course the fans are part of this crippled dance and many are conditioned to believe that mayhem is part of what makes cycling such an exciting sport. Why not just hang out at the ER and enjoy the “beauty” of people coming in off the meat wagon?
Those spectators are wrong. Motor sports used to think that the excitement was in danger and death until they began implementing safety standards and equipment. They learned that the danger is still there — you can’t make a car “safe” at 180 miles per hour — but by making the race as safe as possible fans still love the sport.
Normal people don’t want to see their heroes get hurt, and with regard to the sickos who do, the sport will be better off without, including the old school organizers. Bernard Hinault was one of the first superstars to openly criticize the punishment that riders were subjected to when he famously called Paris-Roubaix a shit show; Hinault suffers lifelong disability in one of his hands from the “epic” day in Liege-Bastogne-Liege when he got frostbite in his hands.
The technology exists to make safer riding equipment. Fabrics that don’t shred, reinforcements in the shoulders, back, hips, and elbows should be required. There is also no reason to run races over incredibly narrow and dangerous courses in horrible weather conditions. You think that canceling Gent-Wevelgem due to high winds makes the riders pansies? Then YOU go out and ride the wet cobbles in a packed peloton at 30 mph in a 40 mph crosswind. See you in intensive care, you tough guy, you.
As anyone who’s done a Cat 5 crit knows, the single biggest accident factor is the size of the field. Ten idiots on a tight course are safer than a hundred. The pro peloton used to be 50-60 riders smaller and there was order in the court imposed by the patron. Now there may be 190 riders crammed into the same narrow roads going much, much faster, and drugs, training, equipment, and radios mean that a huge swath of that peloton has the capability of winning. More people going faster, less space, higher average speeds and faster sprints, and you’re going to have more crashes, and the ones you have will be worse.
It’s an easy fix — reduce the fields, require safety gear, impose weather and route standards, and fewer people will get hurt. But it’s a hard fix because so many in cycling think that “spectacle” means permanent injury or that the “beauty” of the sport requires extreme danger or that safety is for wimps, which is yet another set of reasons that it will never be a mainstream sport, or even a legitimate one.
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March 24, 2015 § 35 Comments
The cycling world collectively shook in fear when retired NFL tight end Kellen Winslow, Jr., 32, announced that he was going to begin competing as a professional cyclist. Cycling in the South Bay met up with Winslow after his Tuesday meeting at Mast-Anon.
CitSB: So how’s your training going? I understand that you’re up to a whole 50-60 miles per day?
KWJ: Whatever it takes. 50, 60, even 70 miles at a pop, don’t mean nothin’ to me.
CitSB: And it sounds like you’re already seeing some good results?
KWJ: Good results? I’m killin’ this shit. A first and two seconds in my first three Cat 5 races, and a sixth in my first Cat 4.
CitSB: That’s impressive.
KWJ: Damn straight.
CitSB: How long are you giving yourself to go from Cat 4 to the pro ranks?
KWJ: I plan on doing it real methodical-like, I ain’t in no hurry. You gotta take time to make time. So I’m giving it six months to make sure my body fully adapts.
CitSB: What kind of adaptations are required to go from being a 10-year NFL veteran to a pro bike racer?
KWJ: The biggest thing is changing your body. My playing weight in the NFL was 245, that’s big for a pro cyclist. So I’ve had to lean up, drop a lot of upper body weight. I’m down to 215, which is really small, you know? Once I get down to 200, 205, I will sign up for the Tour de France.
CitSB: Sign up?
KWJ: Yeah. That’s how I entered all my races so far, with the online sign up thing. Pre-registration saves you, like ten bucks. Why I’m gonna give ten bucks to the promoter? This is all part of being a professional in any sport, planning ahead. You plan the work and you work the plan.
CitSB: So you have a bit of a history with doping bans and the use of illegal performance enhancing drugs. Do you think that will be a problem for you in cycling?
KWJ: Me? Naw. That was a set-up. I don’t know anything about that. It could have been anything, something spiked in my food or something. I use a lot of supplements to get fast, everyone does. And sometimes the manufacturer puts things in your supplement and you test positive, see? And if that happens to me racing bikes, well, it’s not the end of the world. What’s four races?
KWJ: Yeah, what’s four races, especially since they have several races in a week, or some races you can like do two races in one day.
CitSB: I don’t follow you.
KWJ: Dude, I got some bogus positive test in the NFL and they suspended me for four games. That’s a big deal in the NFL when you’re getting paid $50k per game. So I get some bogus positive test racing my bike and get suspended for four races, that’s not the end of the world, like I said.
CitSB: Gotcha. The old “four race suspension.” Now what about this public masturbation thing?
KWJ: Aw, man, that is old stuff. Why are you bringing that shit up?
CitSB: Well, according to the police report …
KWJ: Fuck the police report. What do you think I am, a pervert?
CitSB: It said you were whacking off in a Target parking lot with two open containers of Vaseline on the console.
KWJ: That’s just bull. I’m a K-Y man, anyhow.
CitSB: Okay, well, is there anything else you’d like to add?
KWJ: Yeah. How do you fill up these backpack water jugs in the Tour de France?
CitSB: Your team director will probably handle that for you.
KWJ: Okay, cool.
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March 21, 2015 § 13 Comments
Thomas Dekker retired from the pro peloton yesterday, bringing to a close one of the most illustrious potential careers in professional cycling. Cycling in the South Bay sat down with him on the park bench next to the one he normally sleeps on to talk about what’s next.
CitSB: So you’ve decided to retire?
TD: Yes. It was a really hard decision and I agonized over it for a long time. It was so tough to make up my mind but eventually I knew it was the right thing. Sometimes when you’re turning something over in your mind for a long time, seems like there’s no good answer, then bang–the answer presents itself.
CitSB: Couldn’t find a team, huh?
TD: Oh yes, that was huge. You can’t imagine how tough it is to ride as a professional today without a team.
CitSB: Pretty expensive?
TD: Super expensive. Then there’s the whole thing about getting your own bottles, driving your own car as the DS, giving yourself massages, and of course being your own domestique and lead-out train. It’s very hard to do.
CitSB: You’re still not that old compared to, you know, real bike racers like Jens Voigt. Why do you think your career ended so soon?
TD: I’m older than Andy, remember. He quit at age 29.
CitSB: True, but he has a bike shop he’s going to open. So that was probably extra motivation for a former Tour de France champion to go ahead and retire. You’re not opening a bike shop, are you?
TD: No, but I think the main difference is that guys like Andy and I were from a different generation.
CitSB: How so?
TD: We grew up using massive amounts of drugs from an early age. Devoid of natural talent, work ethic, or drive, we were picked early by our federations’ sports-industrial complex and earmarked for success. Sheltered, pampered, overpaid, and feted, we grew up thinking that bike racing meant cranking out good numbers in a lab and winter training meant withdrawing oxygenated blood in December for later use in July.
CitSB: And you mean that there was more to bike racing than that?
TD: Not initially. Come on, we crushed it before they started cracking down on Lance.
CitSB: What was that thing with the hour record?
TD: I was hoping that someone would see how fast I was and offer me a contract. Simple. Kind of like Horner signing on with that junior high development squad and only doing the local CBR crits. I like that guerilla marketing stuff. “Grand Tour champion sprints for water bottle prime.” Freaking cool. Some big team is gonna snap that guy up soon.
CitSB: Surely some teams showed interest?
CitSB: What do you chalk that up to?
TD: As Jonathan Vaughters said a couple of years ago, I’m sort of an immature asshole.
CitSB: I think his words were “arrogant prick” and “hugely insecure guy.”
TD: I think that’s pretty close to “immature asshole.”
CitSB: Fair enough.
TD: So yes, that probably had something to do with me not getting another ride.
CitSB: What are your plans for the future?
TD: (Waves hands at park bench) This is the future, mate.
CitSB: Wow. These steel armrests must be pretty uncomfortable to rest your head on at night.
TD: Yes, but you know what? My whole life up to now was dominated by cycling, but I do not want to depend on my form, my equipment, my team, anyone or anything any longer. My cycling career was beautiful, ugly, intense, and edifying. I’m ready for a new step. Without my bike.
CitSB: That’s pretty noble, but as my dad used to say, how are you gonna eat?
TD: Could you lend me five bucks?
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