May 13, 2014 § 23 Comments
There was a very big women’s bicycle race on Sunday for the Amgen Tour of California. In America, women’s bike racing is unimportant compared to men’s bike racing, which is saying something because men’s bike racing was recently rated as being less important than an old TV dinner.
There are many reasons that women’s bike racing is less important than something that is already less important than an old microwave chicken pot pie. The three reasons are sexism, gender discrimination, and misogyny. Those reasons came to bear explaining why so many women fell off their bikes on Sunday.
Eleven separate bicycle-falling-off incidents were catalogued, an impressive number even for cycling, where people regularly fall off their bicycles and often do so into steel barriers, beneath the wheels of speeding trucks, and off steep cliffs. The causes of this terrible contagion made their way to the only place that people ever calmly discuss anything, i.e. Facebag. Many explanations were put forth, including reasoned analyses that ended in “fuck you” and “you suck” and other indicia of dispassionate discourse.
Wanky solves the bicycle-falling-off problem
Some pointed to the grave problem of Internet coaching as the culprit. “People get coached on the Internet but they don’t get coached on how to ride their fucking bikes in a group and fall off their bicycles properly.”
Others pointed to the rose-tinted glasses that find the solution to every modern problem in a past world where everything was perfect. “Back when we used to ride our bikes with wooden rims and we had to flip the wheel to change gears, everybody knew how to ride. It’s this influx of [fill in name of contemptible influx here] who weren’t raised the old-fashioned way that are causing all the problems.”
Still others pointed to the need for clinics. “People should only get a racing license when they pass my skilz klinik. Everyone who passes my skilz klinik never krashes.”
None of these folks really nailed the problem, although there did seem to be quite a bit of self-dialing as various posters proffered their various qualifications. The problem is quite simple, and is expressed by the Peter Principle:
Anything that works will be used in progressively more challenging applications until it fails such that all people rise to their natural level of incompetence.
This means that if you have been racing for very long, you’re as bad as you’re going to get, which is just bad enough to get shelled, gap out other riders, cross wheels, smash into barricades, and ultimately fall off your bicycle. If these things are not happening to you, you aren’t racing in your proper category yet. If they are, you know you have arrived.
The bad news: it’s not just everyone else
Indeed, the entire Amgen women’s race was designed to rapidly promote as many people as possible to their maximum level of incompetence by putting regional racers in the mix with the country’s top pros, then expanding the normal women’s field size of about 40 riders to a whopping, road-clogging peloton of 108 racers.
As you might expect, the winner was one of the best riders in the land, Carmen Small, followed by another of the best riders in the land, Corinne Rivera. As you might also expect, the forty-three riders who DNF’ed included a hefty contingent of regional riders who were far, far out of their league. In accordance with the Peter Principle, the best riders for the most part did fine, and many of the riders who were promoted en masse to the next level instantly found their level of incompetence by crashing once, twice, even multiple times.
The good news: it’s okay to suck
Since everyone eventually sucks, and since most people suck sooner rather than later when it comes to riding in the middle of an internationally televised world-class bicycle race when their normal fare is a parking lot crit, there’s no dishonor or even much to be surprised about when it comes to the bicycle-falling-off phenomenon. It either has happened to everybody who races or it eventually will, and it’s certainly no one’s fault in the sense that “the peloton is filled with incompetents” because every peloton is always filled with incompetents.
As with most bike races, it’s much easier to point the finger at the bonehead who “crashed you out” (still waiting for the bandaged rider in a neck brace to come up to me and complain that “I crashed myself out because I suck”) than to look at the real problems with women’s bike racing, alluded to above.
Any configuration of a bike race will contain a certain percentage of incompetents, and the larger the field, the higher the percentage. So what? If you find yourself at the bottom of one too many piles, and you don’t like neck braces, it’s time for you to choose smaller, easier races. There’s a certain level of bike handling you will never exceed. That’s okay, and all the skilz kliniks in the world won’t help you … much.
Since most metrics show that women like to ride and that there is a bustling trade in women’s bikes and gear, the real question is why doesn’t Amgen put on a women’s tour that parallels the men’s? That way you would have a smaller field with fewer incompetents. The crashes would still happen (see Peter Principle, above), but presumably they would be fewer because the selection criteria would be more strict.
In fact, if the same thing had played out in the men’s field and ten or eleven regional men’s teams had swelled the ranks of the Amgen men’s tour, there would have been mayhem. Guys in SoCal who are legendarily awesome (especially in their own minds) would turn into barricade fodder if they suddenly had to race with UCI Pro Tour elites. Actually, they wouldn’t last long enough to crash, as the peloton would pull away so quickly that their race would finish before it started.
So if the question is “Why does Amgen promote just one lousy Waring Blender mix-and-mash race for the women?” then the answer is fairly unsettling, but unsurprising. Races organized by men, for men, to include men are never going to provide equal platforms for women.
Now that sucks.
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May 17, 2012 § 13 Comments
Okay, so when people want to know what to wear, Wankmeister isn’t on speed dial. I get that. But I do know a thing or two about fashion. Just because I always wear that black t-shirt, ratty jeans, and those Vans with the holes in the back doesn’t mean I don’t know what’s what.
For example there’s a difference between chick fashion and dude fashion. Chick fashion follows “TPO,” which means “Take my Panties Off.” Dude fashion follows “FOMI,” or “Focus On My Income.”
In other words, chick fashion is sexy, whereas dude fashion is all about brand recognition and money. Cycling fashion, however, is a unique blend. Tight, slinky, revealing stuff that is also designed to make you remember names and buy shit while hopefully not drawing too much attention that your junk is really tiny. Cycling clothes were gay before gay was the new straight.
Got that? Good.
A brief history of cycling fashion
A long time ago, cycling fashionistas wore wool shorts with real leather pads that scrunched up around your groin and acted as involuntary butt wiping rash inducers. You’d pull off the shorts along with a pound or two of brown crud. Yeccch.
Shorts were black. Shoes were black. Socks were white. Jerseys had a couple of sponsors’ names in big letters. Primary colors all the way, except for the occasional gay Italian ice cream sponsor who liked lime green and purple.
And that was pretty much fuckin’ it.
Modern cycling fashion
Then someone realized that plastic fabric was better than wool. It tore up easier. It was less comfortable. It didn’t breathe at all. And the synthetic chamois was originally a variant of sandpaper. But unlike wool, when you sweated it didn’t smell like an old tampon. So it prevailed.
The other thing that happened with cycling fashion is Adobe Illustrator. Every moron with a computer now had a 56-million color palette and the template for a bike outfit. At about the same time, local clubs realized that they could defray some of their beer money by selling ad space on their kits.
Real estate became scarce. Good taste became scarcer. Legit fashion and design skills became extinct. Pro and amateur teams alike wore whatever vomit some junior high school pre-accounting major with a laptop threw together. Design wasn’t an afterthought. It was an afterbirth.
Bicycling magazine recently posted a list of the best cycling kit designs in the Amgen Tour of California. It’s a shame that so little thought went into the piece, which could have shed light on some of the mechanisms behind the grotesquely ugly kits that generally blotify the pro and amateur pelotons, not to mention the “ride jerseys” and club outfits that litter our beautiful California landscape.
As a public service announcement, I’ve decided to review their list and comment on it. If you don’t want to read the whole thing, I can sum it up thus: Get Joe Yule and StageOne to design your stuff. It’s really that simple.
1. Black proves you can’t design
“These lads know how to dress. Black jersey, black shorts, and stealthy black bikes—it’s all so punk-rock.” Uh, are you fucking kidding me? Black is the ultimate non-test of design. ANYTHING looks good in black. It’s the default color for slimming a double-wide butt, for repositioning curves that are in the wrong places, and for lifting saggy belly lumps that belong above the belt line…Black is such an addicting and easy color to design and dress with that once you get used to it, it’s hard to wear anything else, kind of like a vampire. But the problem isn’t that it’s “punk rock,” it’s psychotically depressing. It’s what people wear to funerals. It’s the color of religious clothing, judges’ robes, executioners’ masks, Ozzie Osbourne. Worst of all, it demonstrates zero design skill, because it goes with anything. Black bike. Black helmet. Black jersey. Black tires. Black deep dish rims. An occasional red highlight if you like the police car look, or a yellow one if you fancy bumblebees. Boom. You’re done. For cycling, as a design motif black sucks because it’s a slow and boring color. That’s bad, because for spectators, cycling is already a slow and boring sport. You want excitement on two wheels? Watch a fucking formula motorcycle race or some dirt bike action. Manorexic weenies with spindly arms who are clad head to toe in slow black women’s clothing? I’d almost take NASCAR. Almost.
2. If you’re even thinking about Orange, you’d better be nicknamed “G$”
“Those orange stripes! So swoopy! Swoopy is good, in case you were wondering. An orange and black pairing often evokes thoughts of Halloween, but on these Optum Orbeas, orange and black mean fast and stylish” Wow. Someone really wrote that, someone who supposedly wasn’t smoking a crack pipe. Her name is Jen See. Jen, the orange stripes aren’t “swoopy, swoopy.” They’re buttlicking ugly, especially with the lightened orange squares and slashes blended in with the regular orange. The other problem with this nasty looking kit is that you can hardly read the sponsors’ names even in a still photo. Are we really supposed to tell what this says at 35mph? Which brings us to the “money and brand” part of the design package. On a pro bike kit, you sure as shit better be able to read the sponsors’ names. And what brand of LSD was it that suggested the black/white/orange combo would look good with…green lettering…yellow shoes…bright red bottle? Kill the mutant now, doctor, before it spreads.
3. Everything looks good on a winner, right? Wrong.
“Does it matter what color a four-time Paris-Roubaix winner wears? The sea-foam and white jerseys are paired with black shorts—never a bad choice.” Actually, Jen, sea-foam is always a bad choice, unless you’re in a Jello marketing focus group or unless you happen to actually be an ocean. This color is so fucking ugly that it wasn’t even popular during the 70’s disco boom. The idea that winning makes everything pretty is doubtlessly true if your objective is to give Tornado Tom a fangirl fucking, but all the pave trophies piled up in a heap don’t make sea-foam green anything other than fugly. The epaulettes, arguably the most valuable real estate on the kit, have a tiny-ish red “S” for Specialized and a completely illegible scrawl for “innergetic,” along with some squiggly shit on the world champion sleeve striping. Poisonest of all, the sea-foam is really similar to the Astana “Blood Doping Blue” made famous by Vino, Tainted Meat, and a whole host of crooked drug cheats. When all you’ve got is a nasty coke habit like Tom, you don’t want to wear colors associated with dopers.
4. Garmacuda was styling when Jen See was still calling pale orange “swoopy”
“But with this year’s kit, the Garmin-Barracuda boys have hopped on the style train.” Jen has dealt out a true left-handed compliment, but at least she gets that the Garmacuda kit designed by Joe Yule is badass. In fact, Garmacuda has been on the “style train” from its inception. The last two years in particular have seen forceful, noticeable color combinations that do an extraordinary job of highlighting sponsors’ names and looking fantastic. This is shit you’d wear to a job interview. To a first date with a rich girl. To your fucking wedding. And it’s not “swoopy.” It’s “leg rip-offy,” Jen.
5. Your kit is boring and blah, but I love your Pinarello.
“How did Bissell get on the most stylish list? Two words, my friends: Pinarello and Campagnolo.” At first I thought, “Shit, this girl is funny.” Then I realized she was serious. Yep. Your kit is stylish because of your bike frame and your Campy gruppo. So, like, you could just ride naked. Jen, honey, your LinkedIn profile says you fucking went to Claremont College, Georgetown University, UCSB, you have a Ph.D., you speak French, Italian, German, Spanish, and Dutch…and your critical analysis calls the Bissell kit stylish because of the BIKE FRAME? Our country is so fucking doomed it’s not even funny. Note to the computer programmer who designed the Bissell kit: That red and white swooshy thing on the ass that looks like a tuning fork or a toothless barracuda’s jaws…drop me a line when you finally figure out what the fuck it’s supposed to be. Thanks.
6. Just because it’s a color doesn’t mean it looks good
“Quite simply, this team oozes style from head to toe…Liquigas is all about color, lime green to be exact. The color isn’t for everyone, but the men of Liquigas totally own it.” No, Jen. The men of Liquigas don’t “own it.” They are contractually obligated to wear it. There’s a difference. You are sort of right when you say lime green isn’t for everyone, but to get it exactly right you should probably say “lime green isn’t for anyone.” For starters, it’s a total JOC, or “junk outline color” as we say in the trade. This means that it totally highlights each dip and curve of your package. For bike racers, who are scrawny little fellows with scrawny little toolboxes, that’s bad. Lime green doesn’t go with anything, but it especially doesn’t go with blue. Now I know what you’d say, Jen: “Does it matter what a four-consecutive-stage winner of the ATOC wears?” And again, we’d say, uh, yeah, it matters. Like, it really matters. And if you don’t believe me, try googling images for something called “Mapei.”
And when you get around to looking at the rest of the peloton, check out Spider-Tech. Shoulda been number two, after Garmacuda. Ciao, baby.
March 16, 2012 § Leave a comment
I was in a great mood until about 2:03 PM on Tuesday afternoon. I opened my account on the NPR with an extraordinary solo victory, attacking on the westbound side of the last lap with fellow wanker Canyon Bob as the listless and lazy peloton watched what they thought would be another doomed-to-flailure effort. Having already charged up the bump on laps 1-3 and been easily reeled in by a barely breathing group of slackers, it made perfect nonsense to try the same hopeless maneuver on the fourth and final lap.
People were still amazed by what had happened on lap two, when Prez sneaked away with me and Canyon Bob, and then, in addition to risking a 3-up breakaway (extra sweat badly stains the immaculate white panels on his kit), Prez took a monstrous pull the entire last third of the way up the bump. A man walking his dog on the Parkway who had stopped while his puppy was pooping dropped a sympathetic log in his own shorts, so amazed was he to see Prez hammering on the point.
Anyway, there it was, lap four, Canyon Bob lighting the match on the suicide vest, then falling off the back like the burnt-out stage of a Saturn rocket while I toiled to victory. By the time I crossed the invisible finish line up by the trees, the chasers were so far back I could hardly see them. My dominating victory had nothing to do with the traffic light that had turned red shortly after I passed it and forced them to all stop and wait for ten minutes.
Raining on my parade
In addition to this glorious victory on the New Pier Ride, truth be told, our team has been in extraordinary form. We have new, very rad kits. This year alone I’ve upgraded to Cat 3, finished in the top 100 in every race I’ve entered, and am on schedule to upgrade via participation from Cat 5 on the track. Even the slightly skeptical would be forced to admit that this is THE YEAR, and that’s not even taking into account the overall domination of the team. Veggiemite, our meatless teenage wonder, has upgraded to Cat 4. Our 35+ guys are consistently rated the best dressed racers in SoCal by their wives. In short, this was the season of all seasons. We could feel it.
So imagine my shock, then outrage, when I learned (via Twitter, no less!) that we’d been bypassed in the team selection process for the Amgen Tour of California. WTF? Are you kidding me? I was like, “Okay, I get Shack and Omega Pharma and Liquigas, and probably BMC. But Pissell? Bontrager Liveweak? Colombian Cartel? Come on!”
Where were those losers two weeks ago at the CBR crit? Where are they every Tue/Th when we’re dusting it up mano-a-mano on the New Pier Ride? Don’t give me that Paris-Nice crap, either.
Taking matters into my own hands
So I called up race director Jim Birrell. “Yo, Jimbo. Wankmeister here. You’ve got some explaining to do.”
“Hello? Who is this?”
“Wankmeister. Team Ironfly. Quit playing stupid.”
“Look, I’m sorry, I don’t know who you are. What can I do for you?”
“Do for me? Do for me? You can put my team in the fucking AToC, that’s what you can do for me!”
“Is this Team Jelly Belly? Look, I know you guys have been with us every year for the last seven years, since our inception in fact, but your team no longer fits our marketing demographic.”
“Yeah. For years we thought people who ate jelly beans were fat, pre- and post-diabetics who used our most popular product, Sucreeze, which suppresses the overproduction of insulin in the islets of Langerhans.”
“But our post-tour research showed that the only people who really eat that crap are super-fit bike racers, in-line skaters, and hot lululemon yoga soccer moms. Exactly the people who never get diabetes.”
“I don’t think you understand, asshole. This is Wankmeister. The Wankmeister.”
“Oh, you’re that guy with the CompetitiveCyclist.com team. Nah, you wankers never had a chance.”
“Wankers? Why, you…”
“Don’t get me wrong. I get it. You’ve won like a zillion US races with Francisco Mancebo, and if that’s not a huge plug for our EPO product and its effectiveness with masters racers, nothing is. We get that.”
“Look, asshole, …”
“Problem is, masters racers will continue to buy our EPO product no matter how many busted pro dopers stay in the domestic pro peloton. The shit works. They know it. Messaging on that front is done. You could even hire David Millar. Wouldn’t make any difference.”
“This ain’t no fuckin Competitive Cyclist wanker, dude, this is…”
“Chad? Chad Thompson with Kenda-5 Hour Energy? Dude, you guys were never even on the short list.”
“I know, you inked a two-year sponsorship deal with us, thinking it would squeeze you in under the wire. Doesn’t work that way. We take your money and then fuck you in the ass. That’s pro cycling. Just like a CBR crit, without the entertainment of a Chris Lotts.”
“Why, you sorry…”
“Oh, it wasn’t just that. I mean, we still don’t even know what the fuck Kenda makes. Motor oil? Condoms? We went to the team web site, clicked on the ‘sponsors’ link, and all it said was ‘information coming soon.’ C’mon, Chad. What if we invite you guys and it turns out you’re a bong manufacturer? The Internets today are all about content.”
“And you really think…”
“I know, 5-Hour Energy, look we get that. But it’s kind of a competitor with our main product.”
“Which is what?”
“Epogen a/k/a EPO.”
“And 5-Hour Energy competes with you how?”
“That shit is like a triple caffeine suppository. It costs a buck fifty per bottle and will make you burn through a 45-minute crit faster than Thurlow Rogers going for a $75 purse. Epogen costs $700 per regimen, clots your blood, causes rectal cancer, will get you banned for life, and, if you’re popped using it as a masters racer, will get you a humiliating blurb in VN–’75 year-old masters racer places fourth out of five in Wyoming state TT, returns analytical positive for EPO. Which one would YOU choose?”
“Well, I’m not with any of those wanker teams. I’m with Team Ironfly out of Redondo Beach.”
“Ironfly? What the fuck is that? Reinforced zippers?”
“Internets development web sites and shit, and it’s fucking rad. Plus our kits are very rad. StageOne. Ring any bells?”
“Look, Mr. Spankmeister. We’re full. Sorry. Send us your team resume and we’ll take a look at it next year.”
That dude’s living in fantasyland. We’re skipping his cheapass event and sending our paperwork straight to the Tour. Yeah. Because that’s how we roll.