UCI discusses elimination of “chick races” from new Covid-altered calendar

April 16, 2020 § 2 Comments

Union Cycliste International, the world’s governing body for the sport of Cycling (men) and for the sport of WDGAF (women), announced new dates for Cycling’s biggest events and indefinite postponement for WDGAF events.

Cycling in the South Bay caught up with UCI boss Yves-Baptiste le Chauviniste at his favorite strip club to discuss these changes.

CitSB: Big changes?

Yves-Baptiste: Oui, oui. Très big.

CitSB: How so?

YB: We must move Le Tour until August; incroyable.

CitSB: Très choque-ing. What will happen to the women’s races?

YB: Comment?

CitSB: The women.

YB: Ah, oui, oui. Cherchez les femmes!

CitSB: Non, non. The races for the women. What happens to those?

YB: Les quoi?

CitSB: Pour example, La Course, a race pour les femmes.

YB: (laughs) Les femmes are ici, cher ami.

CitSB: Oui, but what about the women’s races? When will they be rescheduled?

YB: Les chicky-chick races? Je ne sais pas.

CitSB: If you don’t know, who does?

YB: The chicky-chicks will get to do their little play race sometime, don’t worry, cher ami.

CitSB: How can the world governing body simply blow off the needs of women racers?

YB: Comment?

CitSB: How can you blow them off?

YB: (smiles) Ah, le blow job? Oui, oui, one can obtain it here.

CitSB: Not, not blow job. Blow off.

YB: We give the chicky-chicks some play dates, but with the virus … (shrugs). C’est la vie.

CitSB: So what happens when all of these women are thrown out of work because you won’t calendar their races?

YB: I am not sure, but you know, here at this establishment …

CitSB: Yes?

YB: One is always hiring.

END


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Cycling in the post Covid-19 world

April 9, 2020 § 10 Comments

We won’t be sheltering in place forever, and our bikes won’t be propped up against the wall, lonely and unridden, forever.

I hope!

But when restrictions ease, either mandatory ones or the voluntary restraints you’ve put in place to decrease the rate of infections, and when you venture out into the new landscape, it’s going to look different.

  1. Consumption. Expect to not care nearly as much about the newest and latest gear. After an extended period of wondering whether you’re going to eat or how you’re going to wipe your butt, the latest ceramic bearings will mean nothing to you. Expect to shut down the bulk of your gear purchasing, especially things like clothing, when you look into your closet and realize that you absolutely, unquestionably, do not need another kit.
  2. #fakeriding. Expect Zwift and its analogues to be a permanent part of what you call cycling. For many, expect it to be the only thing that you call cycling. Germaphobia is real and there will be many people who simply conclude that reducing physical contact is good and desirable across the board, pandemic or no pandemic.
  3. Smaller group rides. Expect group riding to have lost much of its sheen for many cyclists. In tandem with becoming accustomed to spinning indoors and not being so enamored of contact with others, even people who still want to pedal outside will be thinking long and hard about whether they want to do it in groups. Expect everyone to feel more vulnerable, more fragile, less willing to dive headfirst into the fray of the competitive group ride.
  4. Iron stake through the heart of road acing. Having been on a ventilator for years, sanctioned road racing cannot survive this. Expect even the diehards in the biggest racing demographic, the 60+ category, to finally admit that it’s not worth it and that it’s time to do something else. Expect the trickle of new, younger racers to completely go away.
  5. #fakeracing. Expect pro and amateur events to begin offering indoor spinning that coordinates with or wholly replaces actual races on the road. Expect “sportif” versions of the TdF, Flanders, and Roubaix to offer simulcast races where you can plug in, log in, then clip in along with the professionals as the virtual supplants the physical.
  6. eDoping. Expect more and more riders to eDope through statistical manipulation as well as the old-fashioned chemical methods. Expect no one to really care anymore.
  7. Off-road cycling. Expect even more people to transition from the road to off. The isolation, the smaller groups, and the absence of cars will all dovetail with the new reticence that people have to be around others unless they can maintain a safe distance.
  8. Virtual shopping. Expect bike shops to begin offering shops where you can click on an icon and, like Zwift, use your avatar to enter a shop, be met by a shop avatar, and walk through the store picking and choosing items while talking with staff about the product.
  9. Video links to everything. Expect Zoom connections in bike shops where you can click on a link and be instantly patched in to someone who can talk to you; not simply a chat or an email.
  10. Increased use of bikes for transport. Expect huge growth in bikes as transport as opposed to recreation. People stuck at home during the quarantine will realize how completely driving sucks and many will conclude that riding a bike, especially one with an electric motor, is simply a better way to get to the office.
  11. Increased use of bikes for recreation. Although transport uses will dominate, many quarantined people and their families will turn to bicycles as their primary form of getting outside together. Once the shelter in place orders are lifted, many of them will remain committed to riding. Millions of others will be unemployed and will find that pedaling is a great way to handle the stress of doing nothing. An entirely different group will be cut loose from their offices and will become home-workers permanently, now having the time and motivation to ride that they never had before.
  12. Reduced exotic bike tourism. Look for fancy Trek Travel-style luxury bike trips to wither and die as people are increasingly broke, cash strapped, and unenthused about potential exposure to disease in foreign climes–whether those fears are rational or not.
  13. Expanded local bike tourism. Expect people to embrace day trips or multi-day trips based out of nearby locales as they embark on exercise, relaxation, and discovery closer to home.

END


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Tour un-canceled, new format revealed!

March 24, 2020 § 5 Comments

French Ministress of Sport, Roxana Maracineanu, announced today that yesterday’s cancelation of the 2020 Tour de France had been reversed, and that a stripped-down version of the event would go ahead in a revised format.

When asked what the stripped-down format would entail, she quickly answered, “Strippers. We will have many of the, how do you say, dances on the pole?”

Critics such as five-time Tour victor Bernard Hinault were critical of the “Tour at all costs” approach being taken by the government and ASO. “Yes, the Tour is important, and yes, it is the only place left where I can still punch people in the face and throw them off the podium onto their teeth. But we must think of people’s health.”

Maracineanu took issue with Hinault, from a safe distance. “Monsieur Hinault is entitled to his opinion, but we have a format that will protect the health of our television revenue absolutely and the health of the riders and public, somewhat.”

Detailed plans, leaked to CitSB by a letuary at Amaury Sports Organization, show that the 2020 Tour will feature radical departures from past versions of the event. First is the new “Six Feet for Safety” rule, which will be employed throughout each race, requiring riders to maintain six feet between themselves at all times.

CitSB reached out to Patrick Lefevere, boss of team Quickstep, to find out if this were feasible.

“Absolutely not,” he said in an email. “In Europe we only use centimeters; no one will know how far these feet are. What if someone is a size 45, or dog forbid, an English size 11? It will be too confusing.”

In addition to the Six Feet for Safety ordinance, riders who saw the plans questioned how it would work in a bunch sprint. Ministress Maracineanu was adamant that “Although I am not a rider of the bicycle, we can imagine the sprinting as a fashion of gentlemanliness, where riders of bicycle can offer one another to proceed before, as when a gentleman opens a door for a lady.”

More explosive than this complete reconfiguration of pro road racing was the plan’s designation of a “cordone sanitaire” that would allow racers who have been exposed to the novel Covid-19 virus to take rest breaks at health stations along the route, deducting the time spent at aid stations from their finishing times.

Maracineanu: “This seems extremely complicated even to me, a Romanian Frenchwoman, but we must understand that in truth only the few people understand workings of the Tour anyway, like woman’s anatomy. Complex, mysterieuse, tres jolie, but also filled with pleasure and desire for all to experience. The Tour must be plunged deeply again.”

END


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Elder abuse

March 12, 2020 § 10 Comments

The first Telo of the year went off without a hitch on Tuesday. There were seven riders; Raul Vasquez-Diaz, Kristie Fox, Marco Cubillos, Jon Petrucci, Ivan Fernandez, Chad Lucius, and I. Joe Cooney had shown up to take photos, which was really nice of him.

Many riders stayed away because of the rain. Cyclists don’t like to ride in rain as a rule, and they really don’t like to race in the rain. In lots of place, there’s not much choice, but in SoCal if it is rainy you can wait a couple of days and it will be sunny. There is little motivation to race in the rain, especially when it is a #fakerace anyway.

Of course the weather forecast here is rarely correct, and people know that. They can also look out the window and see whether or not it’s raining. On Tuesday afternoon the skies were sunny and clear, and when Telo began the streets were bone dry, but still …

Jon started with a brisk tempo that rode everyone off his wheel except me and Ivan, so it was going to be a three-man rotation for 50 minutes until they began attacking me for the win. It didn’t turn out that way. After about ten minutes, Ivan attacked. He and Jon are teammates and my presence was unwelcome.

I chased and Jon countered. I chased and Ivan countered. I chased and Jon countered. Our three-man rotation had become a series of sprints, with me sitting Jon’s wheel and responding. The net effect was that they both got really tired. Finally Jon turned to me. “This is a weird dynamic,” he said.

I wasn’t sure if he meant that it was weird for two guys in their 20s to be mauling a 56-y-o grandpa, or if he meant that it was weird that they couldn’t drop me. Or both.

“I’m not pulling as long as you guys keep attacking me.” Sometimes I have to state the obvious, especially with younger riders.

“Let’s just ride a rotation and race it out at the end,” Jon said, which meant “We’ll tag team you again when you’re a bit more winded.”

“Okay,” I said. In a 2-on-1 scenario on a flat course with two fast riders, both of whom can sprint plenty fast, my options were none and none.

With one lap to go Jon attacked and rode away. Ivan outsprinted me at the end, but I was still pleased. There are not a whole lot of races left in my life where I’ll be riding in a break for 50 minutes with a couple of fast guys under the age of 30 who are trying might and main to get rid of me.

In many ways it was my favorite kind of Telo, long and grueling, tiny group, windy, nowhere to hide, and bitter fireworks followed by a truce followed by a hard rotation concluding with a fight to the death. I think the riders who stayed home because they didn’t want to get wet in the sunshine made a mistake, and it’s similar to the way people have reacted to the coronavirus.

I am not sure if I’ve had it, but when I got back from Turkey I was sick for two weeks. I rarely get sick and when I do, hardly anyone hears about it because I recover quickly. Not with this. I had all of the symptoms, especially the cough. Whatever I had was virulent and not taking “no” for an answer.

As bad as it was, it went away, and I can see how that if you are elderly AND weak, it could kill you, the same way that many types of illnesses can exploit existing problems to create a death cascade from something that a healthier person would shrug off. On the other hand, mass hysteria doesn’t seem to be the right answer, either, kind of like the nearly uniform reaction to the possibility of rain at Telo.

Racing in the rain isn’t for everyone, but everyone who does it gets better. Lower your tire pressure, go a little slower, take the turns less aggressively, give yourself a little more exit room, and things are going to turn out fine. Probably. If not, at least you’re going to slide rather than skid on dry asphalt.

The other great thing about racing in the #fakerain is that the group is small, which is safer, especially when it’s going fast.

Glad I went. Getting third out of three finishers is still a podium.

END


Disrespect Your Elders

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Telo rules

March 10, 2020 § 2 Comments

Today is Tuesday, the first Tuesday after the time change.

I did my first Telo in 2007, which makes this my 14th season. I’m not the oldest guy out there. I think that distinction goes to Ramon Reynaga. Nor am I the person who goes back farthest in Telo annals and still rides it.

Jason Morin was doing it back in the 90s and he was racing it as recently as two years ago, and Marc Spivey showed up for a couple of Telos year before last. Marc, I believe, did Telo in the early 80s. Still, I’ve done Telo enough to know the rules. Not everyone does. Here they are.

  1. Telo begins the first Tuesday after the time change. If it’s raining, you get wet. If you don’t go, you miss the first Telo of the year.
  2. The first lap is non-neutral “neutral.” Most people prefer to take the first lap as slow as they can to delay the inevitable, and it’s common for the group to assent to whomever leads with a slow start. But Telo has no neutral laps.
  3. Telo lasts 50 minutes plus five laps. It’s not 45 minutes plus five laps, or 48, or even 51. It’s 50 minutes plus five laps. Why? Because it takes about two minutes per lap, and 50+10=60, which is a nice round number.
  4. Telo has no owner, only, as Bob Frank said, “caretakers.” Who come and go.
  5. Unlike the beginning of the series, Telo ends when people stop showing up. For many years that was after the time change in fall. Recently it has been the end of August.

That’s all there is to it. Telo has survived near-annihilation and it has survived burgeoning popularity, when you could always count on 40 riders or more to start every race. As long as riders in the South Bay want to test themselves against other actual humans in the flesh, Telo will be there waiting for you. With jaws open wide.

END


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Aaron Wimberley, Ivan Fernandez, Eric Anderson, Overall 2019 Telo Podium I mean curb.

Wes for the win

January 21, 2020 § 1 Comment

I remember seeing you your first season at Telo, always getting dropped, but showing up again the following week. “Man,” I thought, “that guy just keeps coming back.”

Then a few months later you rode a whole bunch of people off your wheel in a 240-mile beatdown on Seth’s Big Day; you left me for dead. You’d been riding less than a year, right?

Pretty soon you started showing up for the Flog, and you kept getting faster and better.

You were unusual because you weren’t interested in cycling drama. You got along with people and never took sides. You seemed comfortable with yourself and intent on learning how to ride faster. You didn’t seem to care who you learned it from.

I suspected that you had a serious athletic background, but learned I was wrong when you told me you had played football at University of San Diego. “It’s okay,” I thought. “He may not have any sports experience but he is obviously a fast learner.”

In the meantime you kept racing at Telo, and before long you weren’t getting dropped, then you were making the split, then you were sprinting for the win.

On the Flog, I knew you were going to bust some chops because on one lap we sprinted and you were so pissed at having lost, but angry at no one but yourself. I think you said “mother”-something and slammed your hands on the bars in frustration. “Uh-oh,” I thought. “That dude doesn’t like to lose AT ALL.”

Pretty soon, on Thursday Flog mornings you were a distant point on the horizon, hardly anyone could keep up with you, and those who could had to barf up a kidney to do it. Whatever you were good at didn’t matter. You wanted to be better at the things you weren’t good at. So if a ride had lots of climbing, like the Donut, you threw yourself into the teeth of the saw, battling with skinny little dudes who weighed less than your left bicep.

Most people cherry pick their rides because their egos can’t handle getting shelled. But not you.

And if a ride was suited to you, you never sat in waiting for the sprint, like on NPR, when you would just bulldoze to the front when the pace started to slow. “I’m here to get better,” you told me one time.

“I got eyes,” I said to myself.

What’s crazy is that you’ve done all this with zero drama. People who can help you improve, you know how to spot them and learn from them and then kick their ass. People who are all hat and no cattle, you are polite and keep moving.

Now you are winning races and it’s just the beginning. I’ve learned so much from you. Thanks for sharing.

END


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Doping in cycling formally ends

December 4, 2019 § 13 Comments

After reviewing data from 2019 doping sanctions in the sport of cycling, experts have concluded that doping in cycling has formally come to an end. “This is a great day for cycling,” said USA Cycling CEO Rob DeMartini, drink in hand. “And easy on the vermouth,” he told the lady in charge of license renewals as he gazed happily out from his basement window in a small tool shed.

With stepped up enforcement, aggressive educational messaging to athletes, and a national strategy to make bike races as interesting/challenging as a Chris Lotts/Jeff Prinz CBR, “Doping is done,” concluded DeMartini. “Six cyclists were sanctioned in 2019,” he mused, “an all-time low. They were truly the last.”

Independent experts agree with this assessment. Grigory Slavovich, the former doping czar of Russia who is currently living under an assumed name in Birmingham, was equally sanguine. “Doping used to be what everyone in the bicycle racing did. Now it is not.”

When asked what he thought the causes were, he quickly responded. “No one is racing the bicycle anymore.”

END


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Refocus

November 26, 2019 § 12 Comments

Last night I switched on the ol’ YouTube and watched A Sunday in Hell.

It’s good to remind myself sometimes about why I fell in love with bike racing.

If you’ve never watched this movie, please do. It contains everything you need to know about bike racing, the real kind.

I watch this movie every four or five years and each time I note how radically bike racing has changed since 1976. It would be a 10,000-word essay to chronicle all the changes. And as I age the movie’s hard reality is even more awesome, brutal, unforgiving, unrepentant, immobile as the giant paving stones along the cobbled sectors to Roubaix.

But the biggest changes? Muttonchop sideburns. In 1976 everyone had ’em. They were the coolest of the cool.

The other big change? Huge, floppy collars. Ordinary people who wanted to be fashionable had big, floppy collars.

Maybe the last, and the biggest change of all, is this:

Back then bike racers were tough.

END


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Paris-Roubaix 1976. Roger de Vlaeminck, Francesco Moser and Mark Demeyer move into the lead. Photo: Offside / L’Equipe.

Who killed ATOC?

November 7, 2019 § 19 Comments

The Amgen Tour of California went belly-up nine days ago, and like Jesus, it’s not coming back.

Why?

The Occam’s Razor answer is “money.” ATOC cost a lot more to put on than it ever brought in … for fourteen years … with nothing but spiraling costs in sight. Sometimes called “bad business model,” sometimes called “changing financial landscape,” sometimes called “bankruptcy,” it all amounts to the same fuggin’ thing.

There is a good article in Bicycling Magazine that talks about what those cost dynamics were; here’s the link. Not discussed much, but key to the whole discussion, is TV revenue. Like excitement in bike racing these days, there was none. And sporting events without TV revenue are like swimming races in an empty pool. You hit the bottom quick.

Which leads to the obvious question that no one wants to confront, “Why is there no TV revenue?” Answer: Because no one wants to watch bike racing except for (a very few) cyclists.

Compare that to NASCAR, whose fans don’t race cars, or the NBA, whose fans are too obese to walk up the stairs, much less dunk, or the NFL. Successful TV sports all have something in common, and it is known as a “fan.”

Why cycling has no fans

Roger Worthington used to place the phrase “Stoopid Sport” on his jerseys, and that’s an obvious reason why people don’t like cycling. But all sports are stupid, and the idea of watching corporate America pitch bad beer to lazy people watching TV is the stupidest idea of all.

Is cycling even more stupid than the NBA? And if it is, is it that much more stupid?

Not really. Cycling doesn’t have fans because it is boring, and although that can be ameliorated, it can’t ever be fixed.

“But but but! There were millions of people on the road over the last fourteen editions of ATOC! Downtown Sacramento was always packed! Sagan!!!”

To which I say, “That’s nice, but those aren’t fans. Fans are people who sit on the couch and watch the event on TV. The NFL isn’t funded by people in stadiums or by kids who played Pop Warner. It’s funded by TV viewers. For example, last year the average NFL game had over 15 million idiots slobbering at a their TV while anonymous men in their underpants beat the living shit out of everyone except the quarterback.

The people who went to watch stages of the ATOC weren’t fans, they were cyclists. And cyclists, for the most part, aren’t about to watch cycling on TV, at least not for more than a few minutes.

Cycling doesn’t have fans in the U.S.A., never has, and never will. Here’s why:

  1. Cycling is boring. One of the sport’s longest traditions is its boring-ness. “Hey, Pascale, let’s race around France for a month.” This is the most exciting thing that cycling has ever had to offer. Riding your bike around France. For a month.
  2. Cycling is more boring than it used to be. Race radios, computers, and power data tell you the ending before the beginning. Fans don’t like to know the ending until that point in the event known as the “end.”
  3. Kids don’t ride bikes. Fans aren’t created by MAMILs. Fans are evolved from little kids who used to play baseball and are now fat and lazy and watch it on the TV.
  4. Wives don’t ride bikes. Fans are created by wives who, resignedly at first and later with great enthusiasm, wear giant, stupid football jerseys and get slushy drunk with hubby because it’s better than being alone.
  5. Hubbies don’t ride bikes. Fans are created by boneheads in pickups “rolling coal” who think they can race performance cars around a track even though they never have and never will.
  6. Universities don’t ride bikes. Fans are created by drunken youngsters screaming at the TV for one group of people on academic probation to beat up another group of people on academic probation for the glory of their university, a place of higher learning.
  7. High schools don’t ride bikes. Fans are created by boys charged with testosterone willing to do anything to get laid, including baseball.
  8. Parents don’t ride bikes. Fans are created by parents who are in ill health, out of shape, delusional, and so greedy for the unicorn pro contract/college scholarship that they will spend tens of thousands of dollars and hours schlepping/browbeating their kid to games across the state.
  9. Cycling is too complicated. How many “disciplines” are there in cycling? Stage racing, time trials, crits, kermesses, hill climbs, Madison, scratch, pursuit, omnium, ‘cross, BMX, single track, downhill, AND MORE. How many disciplines in football? One.
  10. Nothing happens in cycling. Racer pedals. Racer sprints. Racer gets dropped. Racer has bicycle falling off incident. Who fucking cares?
  11. Pro cyclists are ugly. Pro road racers are badly undernourished and they look it.
  12. Cycling’s heroes aren’t heroes. I was talking to a guy who just did the Japan Cup and I told him about the time I saw the world championships on that course, in 1990, when Miguel Indurain was there. “Who’s that?” he asked.

Wise elder statesmen of the sport, people like Jonathan Vaughters who have played a leading role in sucking the corpse dry, talk about the future of “gravel racing” and “fondos,” as if these incredibly boring events will somehow create fans because, hey, the cyclists who do them pay “huge” entry fees of $180 … and more!!!!!!!!!!! Has JV ever priced a Nascar fan outfit?

Talk to Phil Gaimon about all the money he makes off of his grand fondue, or talk to the owners of Dirty Kanzaa, who have become billionaires off of those entry fees. Haven’t they?

No, they haven’t. Grand fondues and gravel racing simply eliminate the single biggest overhead of road racing, which are road closures and the costs associated with shutting down roadways. The idea that filthy bicyclists on a dirt road in Kansas will attract or create fans is hocus-pocus and snake oil, which is about what you’d expect from ex-doper-turned-pro-tour-team boss Vaughters.

The problem with cycling has always been that it’s fun to do and ugly to watch, kind of like sex.

Could be worse.

END


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Tales of the big ring

October 23, 2019 § 2 Comments

I got an email from some dude named Ramy Khalaf.

“Hey,” it went, “I found you on the Internet and I’m making a video about rides in SoCal can I come to your office and make a video?”

“Sure,” I said, knowing I’d never hear from him again.

A couple of weeks later Ramy showed up with a world of legit cameras and equipment. Thankfully, I’d bathed that morning. You can’t always count on that.

Ramy has a YouTube channel, Bar & Pedal, where he combines amazing video skills and a love of cycling into some fantastic stories.

I would tell you about the video, but then I’d be telling the tale twice.

Click on the link. It’s a goodie!

END


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