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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October 10, 2014 § 15 Comments
The professional peloton was roiled by a news conference held by Andy Schleck, who announced today that he was “retiring from quitting.”
“That’s it,” said Schleck, who was visibly distraught. “No more quitting for me. I’ve quit my last professional race. I never thought it would end like this, having to quit being a quitter, but that’s life. Sometimes you just have to quit doing what you love, which for me is, you know, quitting.”
Older brother Frank Schleck, who confuses orthographers by sometimes writing his name with an umlaut and sometimes not, stroked Andy’s head while the younger brother sat mournfully in Frank’s lap. “Even though Andy says he’s done with quitting, we’re holding out hope that maybe next year he’ll be able to stage a comeback and quit again.”
CitSB caught up with several current and former stars, all of whom reminisced about Andy’s uncanny ability to give up when the going got tough, and often when the going got merely uncomfortable, or, most spectacularly when the going hadn’t really even gone anywhere yet.
“I’ll never forget when he quit the 2014 Tour,” ruminated Alberto Contador fondly. “He really went out on a high note, quitting with me, and Froome, and a bunch of other riders. The tenacity he showed in giving up … I’ll never forget it.”
Shleck’s first pro contract was with Velo Roubaix when he signed under legendary director Cyrille Guimard. Guimard recalls the moment when he realized that Andy had what it took. “It was a sunny day, rare for northern France in early winter, and Andy had just joined us for his first pro training camp. We were, oh, fifteen kilometers into the ride and he sat up and abandoned.
“‘What’s wrong?’ I asked from the team car, and without missing a beat he said, and I’ll never forget it, ‘My knee is sore and I have a cold and I’m wearing the wrong base layer.’ He pulled over and quit and dared anyone to make him continue. That’s when I knew he was in a class of his own.”
Cadel Evans, who won the 2011 Tour by ripping the yellow jersey from Schleck’s back in the final time trial, was even more effuse. “Andy wasn’t just a quitter. He could crumple, fold, and give up even when he had a race sewn up. I’ll never forget taking 2:31 out of him in Grenoble, it was like winning a World Cup final by thirty points. He didn’t simply throw in the towel, he had a way of rolling over and dying that was truly epic. His ability to fling himself into an abyss of hopelessness and defeat was incredible.”
At the end of the press conference in his living room, after Frank had dabbed away Andy’s tears, the younger Schleck put on a brave face and smiled wanly for his fan. “Don’t give up on me,” he said to Darcy McIntosh, who had traveled all the way from the end of the block to lend her support. “I can quit this on my own.”
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July 10, 2014 § 25 Comments
After Wednesday’s stunning reversal of fortune that saw last year’s Tour de France champion Chris Froome fall off his bicycle three separate times, the stem-gazing Man Of Something Not Quite As Hard As Steel announced that after falling and getting an “ouchie” he would not be starting Thursday’s stage. Cycling in the South Bay caught up with Chris and director David Brailsford aboard the team bus, now affectionately known as the “Froome Wagon.”
CitSB: So, what happened?
Froome: Aw, it was fuggin’ awful, mate, a bloody shit show. Rain, cobbles, traffic furniture, 190 idiots trying to squeeze onto a cow track, y’know?
CitSB: Cobbles got the best of you?
Froome: Well, it was the pre-cobbles.
Froome: Yar. I sort of hit some wanker’s wheel and fell off me bike.
CitSB: Did you break your wrist in your first pre-cobbles bike-falling-off incident, or the second?
Froome: The second. It’s not quite broken. But it’s very sore. Incredibly hurty sore. I couldn’t continue.
CitSB: What’s the current Dx?
Froome: Oh, it’s very painful and hurts. The riding and such and the rain and the other people trying to beat me and the stress made it very ouchy and hurty, eh? Tough day in the saddle for us hard men, that’s for sure.
CitSB: When did you know you wouldn’t be able to start Thursday’s stage?
Froome: Right away. I hit me hand and scratched it pretty bad like. The doctor put on three Band-Aids and a cold pack, y’know? It was super hurty ouchy. I can really relate to what Johnny Hoogerland and Tyler Hamilton went through. But it’s a tough sport and not to brag, but we’re tough guys. Hard men.
CitSB: What does this mean for the rest of your season?
Froome: It’s not too bad, actually. I plan on grabbing a couple of pints down at the pub tonight with Cav and Millar and maybe Wiggo. We’ve got a little support group going, eh. Rooney may show up, too. I get to rest all day today and all day Thursday, then I’ll pick up where I left off on Friday. It’s a stage that’s not too bad.
CitSB: Excuse me?
Froome: The Tour’s a three-week race, mate. What’s a day here or there? I’m surprised more guys don’t do it. Take a couple of days off and then come back sharper than a needle, if you know what I mean.
CitSB: So you’re going to just hop back in?
Froome: Yeah. Why wouldn’t I? I ain’t no quitter, mate.
CitSB: Have you discussed this with anyone?
Froome: Oh, sure. Brailsford’s on board with it. Right, Dave?
Brailsford: Absolutely. He’s prepared all year for this. A lot of guys would quit with a big nasty ouchie like that, but Chris is no quitter; he’s more like a pauser. He lives for the Tour. And for stems. And as he says, by Friday he’ll have recovered enough to have another go. We don’t expect him to pull on the yellow jersey until the mountains, though.
CitSB: Uh … don’t you guys know that, uh … never mind. So, have you had any second thoughts about Wiggo?
Froome: (laughs) Yeah. Our first thought was that he’s an arse. And our second thought is that he’s a hole. (guffaws)
CitSB: I mean, does your accident make you regret having left him off the team?
Froome: Not at all. Why would it?
CitSB: Well, if Wiggins had been selected he’d be able to lead the team now.
Froome: (suspiciously) What’s that supposed to mean? I told you I’m comin’ back on Friday, didn’t I? I’m the leader of this team, that’s sorted. And if I’d had me way I wouldn’t of rode today anyway. Stupid stage, like I said. I’m a bike racer, not a rock climber. I think next year we’ll do a bit more stage recon and skip the ones that ain’t a good fit.
Brailsford: We’re still planning on using Wiggins, actually.
CitSB: You are?
Brailsford: Yes. We’re saving him for a couple of key mountain stages. When everyone else is tired he’ll be fresh as a new blood bag. We’ll send him in to set pace for Chris. We figure that’s the best way to burn up Contador. Then we’ll rest him for a couple of stages and send him in again.
CitSB: Kind of like a pinch hitter in American baseball?
Froome: Yeah, exactly, without all the chewing tobacco.
CitSB: Any thoughts on the withdrawals of Andy Schleck and Mark Cavendish? They both went down in crashes, too.
Froome: (laughing) Them wankers ought to learn how to ride a bike!
June 27, 2014 § 21 Comments
CitSB sat down with Trek Factory Racing team manager Luca Guercilena to talk about the team’s 2014 TdF roster, announced two days ago.
CitSB: So it looks like Trek will be pinning its hopes on the single biggest bedwetter in pro cycling, his doped up older brother, and an over-the-hill-doper-who-never-got-busted?
Guercilena: That is outrageous and insulting. I wouldn’t call him a bedwetter. More like a nervous tinkler.
CitSB: Most observers agree that this is the team’s weakest Tour lineup ever. What gives?
Guercilena: Well, when we saw Team Sky drop Wiggins even though he had won the Tour of California, done well in Roubaix and Flanders, and had committed to help Froome, it was pretty clear.
CitSB: What was?
Guercilena: That to manage a winning pro cycling team you must be a complete idiot.
CitSB: But even with a colossal, hopelessly stupid person such as yourself, how can you expect to win with the Schlecks?
Guercilena: It will not be so difficult. Andy has been building since his Paris-Nice DNF in 2012. He had a very strong ride in the second stage that year, finishing 113th. It was impressive.
CitSB: It was?
Guercilena: Yes, especially when you consider how he followed it with his DNF in the Volta Ciclista a Catalunya. Let’s remember that he came in 104th in the first stage before giving up and quitting.
CitSB: I don’t think we’ve forgotten.
Guercilena: Then he continued his build with his 2012 DNF at the Brabantse Pijl. In this DNF he fought with great courage before throwing in the towel at Mile 45, and he followed it up with his amazing Stage Six flop-n-drop in the Criterium du Dauphine. When he quit that race it was a victory; his fans were thrilled. As William Stone reminds us, it is not winning that makes a winner, but rather a juice box and the courage to not admit defeat even when, in the face of defeat, you are soundly defeated.
CitSB: Is that when they started calling him The Bedwetter?
Guercilena: No, that was before. A few days after the Dauphine he confirmed his promise with a strong DNF at the Binche-Tournai-Binche/ 3rd Mémorial Frank Vandenbroucke. It was impressive the way he sobbed and hit his handlebars in frustration. The fans went wild at this display of raw competitive emotion.
CitSB: Yes. Yes, they did.
Guercilena: And how can we forget the cherry on top, the icing on the cake in 2012, the cornerstone of his preparation, when he bailed during Stage Six at the Tour of Beijing after strong placings in the previous stages of 137th, 132nd, 137th, and next-to-last? He quit that race with gusto, let me tell you! The Chinese government released 4 gigatons of coal smoke in celebration. It was beautiful!
CitSB: Fans went wild again, I’m guessing?
Guercilena: Oh, absolutely, the ones who didn’t die from the smoke. And the one pretty girl in Luxembourg sent him her 76th wedding proposal, a fitting end to a great year. And 2013 continued his march, building his momentum even stronger. He began with a powerful DNF in the Santos Tour Down Under, followed it with a devastating DNF in the Tour Méditerranéen Cycliste Professionnel, crushed the peloton with a masterful quitting performance in the Strade Bianchi, and culminated his March training block with an unbelievable DNF at Tirreno-Adriatico.
CitSB: Why was it unbelievable?
Guercilena: You jest, no? He grimaced, he suffered, he endured, he wrecked himself until he could do more. It was beautiful suffering. And then halfway through the first stage there was no more, he was spent, he had given all he had. How you Americans say? He left it all on a toad.
CitSB: The fans went nuts again, right?
Guercilena: Yes. The girl from his home country (her name is Hilda) sent him flowers and a certificate that she was also a 17-year-old virgin, Luxembourg’s first.
CitSB: Then what?
Guercilena: The rest has been history “writ large” as they say. Vuelta Ciclista al Pais Vasco, DNF. Amstel Gold Race, DNF. GP Oueste Plouay, DNF. Grand Prix Cycliste de Quebec, DNF. Grand Prix Cycliste de Montreal, DNF. Milano-Torino, DNF. Il Lombardia, DNF.
CitSB: Pretty amazing palmares.
Guercilena: And let’s not forget that as the team’s most highly paid stage racer he finished an impressive 20th in the Tour that year, 40th in the Tour de Suisse, 25th in the Tour of California and 35th in the US Pro Challenge.
CitSB: Sounds like he’s peaking for 2014.
Guercilena: Exactly, and his schedule confirms it. With a DNF in the Criterium Internationale this year, a DNF at Amstel Gold, a DNF at Flèche-Wallone, a DNF at Liege-Bastogne-Liege, a DNF at the GP du canton d’Argovie, and a stunning 29th place at the Tour de Suisse, no one can say that he is not poised to do what he does best.
Guercilena: We can only hope.
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April 22, 2014 § 25 Comments
Andy Schleck returned to the classics with a vengeance, hitting his knee on a pole in the Amstel Gold Race and retiring with more than 100km of racing to go. “I couldn’t have asked for more,” an ebullient Schleck told reporters outside the Trek Factory Team bus.
“It’s getting harder and harder to come up with plausible excuses for my terrible riding,” he said with a smile. “The contusions on my knee are palpable, real. No one can deny these boo-boos. Check it out.” Schleck extended his right knee, which sported a large, 2-inch scrape partially covered by two Band-Aids.
“This hurts!” added Schleck. “Ow!”
Team manager Louis Pasteur was equally pleased with the performance. “You can’t underestimate the power of an actual physical injury for purposes of extending his contract another year or two without him actually having to finish a race. We were on pins and needles during his emotional phase of the last two years, you know, having to convince our sponsors that he was riding poorly because he couldn’t be with his brother, he was ‘feeling poopy,’ etc. But now that we have an actual physical injury, everyone can understand that as a reason for not winning.
“We believe that with this race Andy will be completely back on top of his game of not being on top of his game,” added Pasteur when asked about Schleck’s participation in Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège, two races that are regarded as among the most difficult in which to properly place the French accent grave.
“It’s even possible that he will ride neither race, yet still manage to collect his paycheck. This is a dream come true, even in a country like Luxembourg, where it is a basic human right to have everything given to you whether you deserve it or not.
“Our only concern,” added Pasteur, “is his brother Fränk. We were disturbed to see him actually finish Amstel in the top thirty. His 24th placing could lead to expectations that without drugs he can perform well, and more ominously, that after several million dollars’ in contract fees, he is capable of finishing a major race. This would be catastrophic for Andy’s recovery to the pinnacle of not recovering.”
When it was pointed out that the younger Schleck had not finished a major race since 2011, Pasteur agreed. “We all know he has the potential to never again finish a big race. He showed us a glimpse of that quitterish spirit in 2011 and has confirmed it every single year since. With some patience and a bit of luck, 2014 will be another strong year for him in terms of abject failure despite doing everything he was told not to do.”
Shleck was heard to howl “Ouchie!” and “Yowie!” and to ask for another Puffy Luvvy tissue as reporters moved on to another team bus.
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