July 3, 2018 § 20 Comments
You could see the glimmer of hope, first when Hinault said that the riders should refuse to start with Froome on the line, and then, blossoming into a rather stronger beam, when the Turdy France organizers invoked Article 28 to ban Froome from the race.
Of course the glimmer was plunged into eternal night a few hours later when the UCI, taking a nod from WADA, threw the whole thing into the dumpster. As the protesters howled, WADA shrugged and said that it wasn’t practical to design a test to catch a guy who was doping, even though he’d already been caught, and even though past salbutamol cases had been easily, handily, and quickly processed.
As usual, the dead sport of cycling turned to doper, dope peddler, fraudster, and convicted felon Floyd Landis for insight, with suspected-but-unproven doper Chris Horner chiming in. This, then, is the state of things: The only people who have anything meaningful to say are people who have left the sport in disgrace, or under a dumping tropical storm of suspicion.
Trump and Froome
Everything, of course, comes back to Trump. Not because he is a cause, but because he is a symptom of the disease, just like the horrible tandem of Froome and Brailsford. Facts, truth, rules, and the moral spirit of fairness are completely dispensed with as the juggernaut of entertainment squashes everything in its path.
Politics, with its shouting, ignorant, unread participants on all sides, and cycling, with its shouting, less ignorant but still unread participants on all sides, have been co-opted by the corporatist state whose single-minded goal is returns to the shareholders no matter the social, environmental, or human costs. It isn’t capitalism run wild, it is human greed.
How did we get here?
The baby boom
The Greatest Generation in the U.S. was followed by the baby boom, which has now been followed by the baby bust. It is easy to see the boomers as the most despicable generation in the history of the species. They have taken everything, destroyed everything, given nothing. They have presided over the death of the environment, the veritable melting of the earth itself. And what have we given in return for all that we have taken? Trump, the last lobsterman.
I say lobsterman because many years ago, when the Maine fisheries were on the brink of collapse and regulators were trying to keep it alive, a reporter asked a crusty old lobsterman why he so bitterly opposed the fishing limits even though it would mean that in the long term his occupation would survive. “I’m a lobsterman,” he said. “And if the fishery is gonna die, I’m gonna catch the last damn one.”
That is Trump, that is Frooomesford, that is every local crit that keeps raping its dwindling loyal racers for a dollar a minute, or less, to ride around in circles. “The sport may die, but I’m gonna get the last fucking entry fee from the last damned rider.”
The boomers never seriously asked why the fishery has to die, or why the sport had to collapse. Why the hell is that?
The baby bust
The developed world is staring down the maw of its own cultural and human extinction. The replacement rate for a human population is 2.1 live births per woman. The most recent data for the U.S. pegged the 2017 fertility rate at 1.75, far below what is needed to maintain growth, joining Western Europe, Mexico, Brazil, Japan, Korea, and China as nations whose populations are swirling the drain.
Some people think that’s a bad thing because without a stable base of young people, there will be no one to do the work, pay the taxes, and be generally fucked around by the old folks. Other people think that a declining population, at least in the short term, is a good thing. Automation, robot dogs, algorithms that think for you, Viagra, and not having to pay for grandbaby college tuition is pretty much nirvana, they say.
Regardless of who’s right, the baby busters have some ugly facts in their corner. The first is that even countries like Finland, where maternity is supported at all levels by the state, have been no more successful in boosting fertility rates than places like Japan, where women are actively punished for making full natural use of their vaginas. Pregnant? You’re fired.
The numbers aren’t lying, and how could they? Childbearing sucks, even when you get a check from the government, generous maternity leave, free childcare, and you have a husband who really does share the housework.
You may be able to convince a few women to have a kid, a bunch less to have two kids, but it is a dead letter trying to get women to have three. They have birth control, thank you very much, and no matter how illegal you make abortion, the might and main of women on earth have figured out how to keep from getting pregnant in the first place. People point to economic factors, social factors, and factor-factors, but I point to the obvious: Pregnancy and childbirth suck.
Hope is the future, the future is hope
Every morning I listen to Falter Radio, a magnificent broadcast from Vienna that tackles all of the hard questions. Much of its analysis focuses on the upending of liberal social democracy in Europe, and tries to make sense out of why countries that have so profoundly benefited from it are now turning hard right and harvesting radical right wing racism in the process. The shuddering is at its most intense when they talk about America. If America is abandoning its democratic ideals, what hope is there for the rest of the world? China, where there’s a video surveillance camera every 200 feet, and where people are scored on a social reliability index that allows or prohibits access to things like buses and subways?
The folks at Falter can’t figure it out, but I can, and I have.
Our complete reversal away from fairness, law, democracy, and liberty is simply one — maybe the most important — manifestation of our collapsing birth rate. Every country in Europe that has turned hard right has a plunging fertility rate. Poland, 1.32%. Hungary, 1.44%. Austria, 1.47%. Germany, 1.50%. Italy, 1.37%.
World leaders with developed economies who are also in the throes of demographic collapse happen to correlate well with repressive, anti-immigrant, neo-fascist, corporatist states. China, 1.57%, South Korea, 1.24%, Japan, 1.45%, and Russia, 1.75%.
Why should this be, and what does it have to do with Froomesford?
Well, the simplest explanation is that developed countries with a lot of kids have historically found a lot of common ground on social, economic, and political issues because the polity understands the concept of future as something that extends beyond their own lives. When a society is awash in kids, most people take an active stake in the future for the purely selfish reason that they don’t want their children to live in misery.
Even my racist, alcoholic, mean-spirited, tax-hating Republican grandfather believed in public education and health care because he had a kid.
If you think about it, that belief in the future is a big leap. The future is an imaginary construct that never really comes, whereas the present and the past are demonstrable moments in time. When a society comes together to make policy about the future, it is making policy about an imaginary time, and how far out you imagine that point has everything to do with the policies you commit to. People talk about a divided America and about the collapse of dialogue, but that’s horseshit. My grandfather hated liberals in 1963 just as violently as the average white, 60-ish Texas voter does today. The difference is that my grandfather knew that without education and some basic access to rights, his daughter wasn’t going to have much of a life.
What’s changed isn’t the political divide, but the fact that there aren’t enough kids to force people to find common ground. If the only future timeline that matters is my own life, it makes sense to tighten things up and make sure that less wealth is distributed, less opportunities are provided to others, and that more resources and rights are devoted to fewer (and older) people. Fuck the youth, and especially the immigrant ones.
Nowhere is this forfeiture of the future more apparent than in school shootings. Here we have a wholly preventable social phenomenon that preys on children in the most violent way. But on a political level, who cares? Children are not the future, they are a vestigial reminder of our own past and a nagging critique of our impending mortality, but they are not a precious resource to be treasured, grown, loved, educated, valued. Another group of children got shot up in school? Well, I got my problems, too. And what has any kid ever done for me?
You see this phenomenon of hopelessness play out in cycling as well. Even lower than the national fertility rate, few cyclists have 1.75 children, and most have less. Every now and again some cycling nut dad will get his kid into the sport and make a big deal about how the sport is collapsing and about how we have to do more for juniors and where are all the junior races and blah blah blah, but nothing ever happens, and not only because the kid hits puberty and discovers that bike racing is not nearly as much fun as ________ (fill in the blank with pretty much anything).
The main reason that nothing ever happens is because cycling, like Trumpist America, is dominated by aging, greedy, white men who do not give two broken fucks about junior racing. What they want is a prize list, a 45-minute crit, and a safe, unchallenging race that ends in time for them to prop up and watch the Big Game. And they don’t even represent the majority: The sport as a whole doesn’t even want racing on that pitiful level, it wants no racing at all.
As a whole, cycling is comprised of old white men who don’t want to race, unless you consider the Donut Ride, Strava, grand fondues, and grumpy grinders “racing.”
Without kids in the mix, there’s no reason to care about anything. That’s why even the angriest liberals look at what’s happening today and mostly shrug. By the time the true devastation of Trumpism blossoms, we will be dead or so close to it that it will have been worth it, or so we think. This is the only thing that explains the casual acceptance of the Froomesford scandal. Let ’em cheat. They’re only cheating themselves, I can choose not to watch it, and anyway, my kid’s not trying to make it in pro cycling, so what do I care?
I hate to break the news to you. You may not care. You may think that it’s okay to whore off the future to the slothful, insatiable, rapine greed of the present. But inside, the only thing that can ever make anyone feel good about life is the conviction that there is a future, and the knowledge that you’re doing something positive for it.
Froomesford is wrong. Trump is wrong. Xi is wrong. Kurz is wrong. Orban is wrong. Abe is wrong.
The little kids in the morgue are right.
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July 13, 2017 § 41 Comments
I just finished watching a documentary on the 1982 Tour de France called “Tour de Pharmacy.” It’s an HBO production that explores the issue of doping in one of the most controversial tours ever, the year in which an American, Slim Robinson, first wore the yellow jersey in Paris.
I dislike documentaries in general and cycling documentaries in particular, but this one did a pretty good job of pointing out the prevalence of doping in the sport before it was commonly known or acknowledged in the U.S. by general audiences. In addition to some fairly decent commentary by Lance Armstrong, there are a few interesting interviews with the head of USADA, who lists the banned substances commonly in use at the time. It’s a pretty amazing pharmacopia, and highlights how entrenched doping was even in 1982.
Tour de Pharmacy looks at the world’s biggest sporting event through the experiences of five riders, including one French rider who actually died during the race from a drug overdose. The transformation of an Austrian rider in a single year from pack fill to buffed-out “all rounder” who climbed faster than most sprinters closed the final 200m, was particularly impressive … and scary. Less interesting were some of the side stories, including a love interest, as well as the story of a rider who ultimately served jail time over a collision during the race that killed a sports commentator. These stories have merit in that they show how multifaceted the Tour is, but they detract from the focus of the narrative, which is about the normalization of drug use in the pro peloton more than fifteen years before Lance’s first Tour win in 1999.
As a cyclist you won’t help but notice the changes in equipment that have taken place in the last thirty-five years. Brake cables that come out of the hoods, downtube shifters, toe clips, and of course steel frames and no helmets dominate the visual effects. As the documentary shows, riders were more colorful then, used saltier language, and took things just a bit less seriously.
Tour de Pharmacy does an acceptable job of investigating how drugs operate beneath the surface to turn athletes into freaks, all for the vicarious pleasure of spectators and for profit. Another interesting aspect is the spotlight that the filmmakers shone on corruption at the UCI, and how collusion, fraud, and conspiracy at the top were what enabled such large-scale doping. Back in 1982, the UCI’s credibility was nil.
Sad to say, not much has changed.
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July 6, 2017 § 25 Comments
That’s what I want to tell Lance Armstrong after listening to his podcast covering Stage 3 of the Turdy France.
Several people told me I should “check it out” because “it was really insightful” and they admonished me “to listen with an open mind.”
Obviously, these were people who didn’t know me at all. The day I listen to anything with an open mind it will be due to a gunshot wound to the head.
That said, I did tune in and I was impressed. Impressed with what an impossibly lazy person Lance Armstrong is. Here is a guy with nothing to do. No job. No cancer to cure. No bike to race. Not even any poopy diapers left to change. At least he could put some effort into the podcast because, you know, if there’s one guy who knows how to race and win a Turdy France, IT’S LANCE FUGGIN’ ARMSTRONG.
Hello, ex-seven times consecutive Tour champion!! This is your turf!!
Here’s what I expected: A beginning-to-end breakdown of how the race unfolded, why it was significant (or not), in-depth looks at the protagonists and wankers alike, detailed analysis of the course, and detailed analysis of what was going on and why.
Why did I expect that? Because Lance knows this stuff. He is a bike racing computer. I don’t care about his drugscapades in that regard, he still had to know how to race and he had to understand what to do when. He was a savvy, smart guy on the bike.
But no. What Lance delivered was fluff, puff, and one particularly awful piece of near-slanderous misinformation. The fluff was about “why the yellow jersey was yellow.” Yawning, stream-of-unconsciousness observations about Tour history and stuff. Yo, Lance! We already have one babbling idiot in the commentator’s seat, and his name is Phil Liggett. You will never be as stupid or boring as Phil, so please quit trying.
The near-slander was egregious. At one point he talked about “trading favors” and insinuated that, for example, Team Sky gets on the horn and advises another team that it will “let” them win the stage, with the implication being that a favor will be returned later down the road … you know, “politics,” wink wink nudge nudge, otherwise known as collusion and sporting fraud.
Somewhat astounded, the other guy in the trailer pressed Lance for the physical mechanics of how that works. Phone call? Face to face? And Lance backpedaled like crazy. Doesn’t really know anymore, isn’t in the mix these days, can’t say, etc. etc. And then he finished off this rather explosive allegation by saying that it probably doesn’t really even happen much anymore.
Jeez, what a load of crap. Of course racers remember the outcome of one day, or who did what in a prior break, and of course they sometimes use it to trade horses during a subsequent race if and when advantageous. But the idea that Brailsford is on the phone with Madiot saying, “Okay, today you get the win, but in the mountains you owe me the GC,” is absurd. Even Lance recognized how dumb his premise sounded because he maladroitly transitioned into the history of the yellow jersey, thank you Wikipedia.
Armstrong could be a fantastic commentator. He knows a bunch. He’s done a bunch. He sees things we don’t. He has a very good commentating voice. He understands dynamics that are not immediately apparent.
But he doesn’t have a crystal ball, and in order to commentate he would have to do what first-class commentators like Craig Hummer do: Watch, re-watch, re-watch, and re-watch again. He would have to study, analyze, compare, interview, and bust his ass — all in a very short time frame because he’s doing same-day coverage. Instead of doing those things, which require hard work, dedication to a craft, and tons of practice, he picked up a mic and blabbered for forty minutes because hey, he’s Lance. Compare his shoddy, make-it-up-as-he-goes along podcast with Sean Kelly or Perico, and you’ll understand my rating for this horribly lazy fellow:
Ten thumbs down.
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September 26, 2016 § 28 Comments
In a revealing tell-all interview surrounding Bradley “Bone-Idle” Wiggins’s use of banned steroids prior to his 2012 Turdy France victory, the cycling star sat down with Cycling in the South Bay to explain his use of triamcinalone leading up to the most important victory of his career.
CitSB: So it looks like the Fancy Bear hackers have nailed you to the floor on this one.
BIW: Not a bit of it.
CitSB: Here you are shooting up a performance enhancing, banned steroid before the only Turdy France you’ve ever won.
BIW: It wasn’t enhancing. It was dehancing.
CitSB: Can you explain?
BIW: I’d love to. Leading up the 2012 Tour I’d won everything. Tour of Romandie, Dauphine, that kiddy race in Manchester where I got the tricycle and 14 Euro gift certificate. I was crushing it.
BIW: So I sits down with Dave and the boys and we says “This is gonna be bone idling wankerdom if I hit the Tour with these legs, I’ll put an hour on the field in the first five minutes.” That’s how good I was going with marginal volcano doping gains. I was better than the rest of those bone idlers by so much. You can ask me mum.
CitSB: Your mum?
BIW: Yeah, that’s right. She’ll tell you how good I was going and all pan y agua, mate. So Brailsford and the boys were like, “Wiggo, you gotta slow down and give the other boys a chance, especially those whiny French bastards.” So we did what we had to do. I’m not ashamed of it.
CitSB: What was that?
BIW: We got on a dehancing program. Took meself a whole slew of steroids to slow meself down.
CitSB: Uh, don’t you mean “speed yourself up”?
BIW: No, mate, you don’t get it, do you? Look here. I’m reading off the label for triamcinalone, just happen to have a couple of vials here: “Not for ophthalmic use. Systemic absorption may produce reversible hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis suppression, manifestations of Cushing’s syndrome, hyperglycemia, and glucosuria; when a large dose of a potent topical steroid is applied to a large surface area or under an occlusive dressing, evaluate periodically for evidence of HPA axis suppression and (Pediaderm TA/Spray) for impairment of thermal homeostasis. Application of more potent steroids, use over large surface areas, prolonged use, and the addition of occlusive dressings may augment systemic absorption. Signs and symptoms of steroid withdrawal may occur (infrequent) requiring supplemental systemic corticosteroids. Pediatric patients may be more susceptible to systemic toxicity. Chronic corticosteroid therapy may interfere w/ the growth and development of children. D/C and institute appropriate therapy if irritation develops. Use appropriate antifungal or antibacterial agent in the presence of dermatological infections; if favorable response does not occur promptly, d/c until infection is controlled. (Cre/Lot/Oint) Withdraw treatment, reduce frequency of application, or substitute to a less potent steroid if HPA axis suppression is noted. (Pediaderm TA/Spray) Withdraw treatment, reduce frequency of application, substitute to a less potent steroid, or use a sequential approach if HPA axis suppression or elevation of body temperature occurs. (Pediaderm TA) Sensitivity reaction may develop to a particular occlusive dressing material or adhesive; a substitute material may be necessary. (Spray) Flammable; avoid heat, flame, or smoking during application.”
And that’s not the half of it. Listen to this: “Causes burning, itching, irritation, dryness, folliculitis, hypertrichosis, acneiform eruptions, hypopigmentation, perioral dermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis, maceration of the skin, secondary infection, skin atrophy, striae, miliaria.”
Plus, it fucks you up if you’re nursing.
CitSB: That all may be true, but it greatly speeds recovery and enhances performance on the bike, and you took it when you would have needed it most.
CitSB: And that’s how you won the Tour?
BIW: You got me word on it, mate. Scout’s honor.
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July 11, 2016 § 20 Comments
In the past, if you googled “Chris Froome” and “panache” you would get articles about how “Froome has no panache.”
If you googled “Chris Froome” and “robotic” your computer would smoke, then break.
On the first mildly hilly stage of this year’s Turdy France, which included the Col d’Fuzzy, the Col Gate, and the Col d’Peine en la Sourde, Chris Froome, the eternal robot, the marginally gained volcano doper, the pre-planned, Excel spreadsheeted, laboratory refined, data driven starer-of-stems ripped a page from the actual sport of bike racing and won in glorious fashion, gloriously, with much glory.
He attacked on a crazy descent that hit speeds of up to 56 mph.
He descended on his top tube.
He pedaled like a bent cricket, or like PeeWee Herman –video courtesy of METAL Andrew Danly And Never Middle Name Sadness.
He caught everyone with their pants not only down, but with their hands on their, uh, suspenders and their thumbs jammed up their, uh, noses.
Then he won the race, snatched a dozen seconds from his future podium mates, and pulled on the yellow jersey.
Not bad for a robot.
In fact, it was an incredible move. Froome had little to gain, and everything to lose. Seated in a position designed to maximize speed and minimize control while bombing a gonzo descent, had he flubbed a turn, had he rolled a tire (some riders rolled tubulars due to the scorching road temperatures), had he hit an oil spot, had he had a flat or a mechanical or a twig in his spokes or a kink in his pancreas, ANYTHING, he would have crashed out of the Tour.
And with that he would have become the biggest Tour Goat of all time. They would have to come up with a new Goat Jersey to commemorate the biggest smelly steaming lump of oatmeal ever to lose a bike race. No one would ever forget it, no matter how many wins he subsequently racked up.
To call it a big gamble doesn’t even begin to capture the gutsiness of the move. Perhaps tired of being a robot, he lashed out, took the risk of all risks, and pulled it off.
Keep in mind that this type of nads-out racing rarely even happens among racers who are behind the leader and who truly do have nothing to lose. It’s unthinkable for the guy who had the Tour won by simply following the competition and kicking butt on a couple of climbs and in a time trial or two.
Nice job, Chrissy. I sure wish your programmers would let you race your bike a little bit more often. Because when they unsnap the leash, you ride pretty damned good.
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July 6, 2016 § 23 Comments
Le Turdy France has become a big, steaming pot of tasteless oatmeal. Average Joe thinks it’s boring and stupid. Hobby bicycle people think it’s boring and stupid. Profamateur Cat 4 underwear models think it’s boring and stupid. And now, in a new twist, even the riders think it’s boring and stupid.
This is like David Lee Roth admitting that he can’t sing. Everyone knows it’s true, but why’d ya have to come out and SAY it?
Various reasons have been put forth to explain the mind-numbing boredom that sets in after just a few minutes of watching terribly underfed chickens, bones poking through their underwear, slam into motorcycles that have no business on the course. Here are the biggies that have oatmealized Le Tour:
- Robots. No one enjoys watching robots.
- Chris Froome. If you’re going to dope up a robot, make him handsome, like Eddy or Lance or Fabian.
- Radios. If you don’t think radios remove all excitement and fun, look at the average 8-year-old from a rich helicopter-parent family that controls his every move.
- Gore. Pro underwear racing is dangerous beyond belief. There aren’t enough sick people who enjoy bloodshed, closed head injuries, and Hoogerland meat-shredding in the general population (NASCAR excepted) to get pleasure out of this choreographed slaughterhouse.
- Power data. Use a power meter for three weeks and tell me how much it has increased the joy and spontaneity in your cycling.
- Freak show. We know they’re volcano doping because they’re riding faster now than they did in the EPO Era. Yawwwwwn.
- Dentist chair syndrome. What is already miserable is worse because it’s so long. It takes three weeks to find out which doper climbs one mountain faster than his podium rivals by two minutes? Really?
- France. We can’t stand another castle viewed from a chopper. We just can’t.
- Yellow. Check your comic books, especially anything with the Two-Gun Kid. Yellow is the color for chickens and cowards. “Why, you yaller-bellied varmint, I’ma gonna fill you plumb full of lead.”
- Names. Most Euro names are too hard to pronounce. No red-blooded American will watch a sport with names that don’t sound like “Ruth” or “Aaron.” “Gretzky” gets a pass because he was, you know, not bad.
So after reviewing these terrible problems, I’ve taken the old admonition to heart that “You shouldn’t raise problems if you don’t have solutions.” Here they are:
- Humans. Make the Tour open to actual humans. Hairy legged, pot-bellied, flatulent couch potatoes welcome! It will be awesome to watch your Uncle Fred out on his bike for the first time since 1973 struggle up the ONLY STAGE IN THE TOUR, L’Alpe d’Huez.
- Give Chris Froome his own race. He’ll be the only participant and he will win every year. We’ll call it the Tour de Froome. That way he can eat a few thousand cheeseburgers, stop volcano doping, and look human again.
- Coach ride-behinds. Don’t ban radios, but make the schlumpy DS’s follow along on their bicycles instead of in a follow car. If they still have the lungs to shout instructions from 30 miles back while climbing L’Alpe, more power to them. If half of them keel over, no worries. Your average DS can be replaced with a 3rd-Grade dropout drug addict dope dealer.
- Moto licensing. Require anyone who wants to follow or mix with Le Tour on a motorcycle to pass a certification test that involves wrestling hungry tigers. Survivors will be required to pass a crash dummy test where they are slammed into the back of a truck going downhill at 50. Successful applicants can safely follow the peloton from 100 miles back.
- Strava. Require all riders who use power in the race to post up better numbers than Thorfinn-Sassquatch. Those who fail will have their power meters confiscated.
- Bike motors. Since we’re letting Uncle Fred race Le Tour, which now only has one stage, everyone who’s not a doper or professional underwear model gets a bike motor. Who wouldn’t enjoy watching Nairo Quintana getting dropped by a fellow whose shorts stop halfway up the San Andreas Fault buttcrack?
- Cut Le Tour. One stage. 35 miles. Winner takes all. In alternate years it will be held around Chris Lotts’s parking lot crit course in Compton.
- Expand the meaning of “France.” The world has lots of cool places to see. In non-Compton years, stick Le Tour in guaranteed bike-friendly places like Palos Verdes Estates, San Bernardino, or Houston.
- Black and red. Those are some winning colors. Black for “aggression,” red for “blood.”
- Americanize. Remember how in your Spanish class in junior high Mrs. Simon gave everyone a Spanish name (mine was “Francisco,” and I loved it). Give all the riders American names. Peter Sagan is Pete Smith. Roman Kreuziger is Robbie Johnson. Fabian Cancellara is John Davis. Nairo Quintan is Bill Jones. Chris Froome is Suzy Small. You get the idea.
And yes, you’re welcome.
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