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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October 23, 2014 § 11 Comments
2013 Tour de France winner and not-very-good-rider-in-a-pack cycling dude Chris Froome has announced that he may forego the 2015 Tour de France, whose route was announced yesterday.
“The team and I will have to give it some careful consideration before we make any commitments to which races I will compete in,” he said in at a press conference held at his nursery. “I see myself as quite a balanced rider and the SoCal Cup crit series with its inclusion of a bunch of short, easy laps around an arsenic factory, and tough finishes sprunting for water bottles make it a well balanced race which suits me well. If I did the whole series, including the races put on by Lotts, I may also be able to get myself back to top shape for Grand Park training races and go there with a realistic chance of aiming for the win.”
Incredulous journalists swarmed the Bottoms Up Nursery for interviews after being vetted by Fanny O’Cowlick, the head wet nurse. Jean-Francois Mitterand du Fromage Puant, noted notary public and bicycling expert, was filled with outrage. “Ee skeeps le Tour pour zees Creet Zeries? Mon Dieu! Quelle fou! Cherchez les femmes!”
Froome, however, calmly answered his detractors after Fanny removed his pacifier and changed his soppy didy. “There’s no two ways about it, next year’s Tour is going to be about the mountains. There’s very little emphasis on short office park crits, which means the race will be decided up in the high mountains by men with giant testicles, covered with thick growths of jungle-like hair. With six mountaintop finishes it is going to be an aggressive and massively demanding race,” said Froome.
“Not that I couldn’t hack it,” he added. “But after looking at the Ontario prize list and the chance to sprint against the Surf City train, it just seems like SoCal is the better place for me. Plus, I can always use a couple of new water bottles and gain experience by leading out Charon.”
Jan van de Ooperckx, another noted notary public and cycling commentator, posed a number of questions to Froome. However, Ms. O’Cowlick refused to let her charge take further questions. “He’s got a booboo on his po-po, and we gots to burp the little bugger,” she said as she deftly stuck a dripping nipple into Froome’s toothless gum and simultaneously scrubbed his ass with a wet wipe. “But I can answer for him,” she added.
“Thing is,” said Fanny, “Froomykins crashed out of the 2014 Tour before getting a taste of the pave but he actually quite enjoys the challenge of riding on the cobbles. It’s true he pooped a bit in his drawers and fell off ‘is bike a couple of times and got some more boo-boo’s on his po-po, but ‘e likes it when ‘e gets a spot of a spankin’, don’t you, Froomykins?” Ms. Cowlick then smacked her charge on the buttocks with a soup spoon as he wailed happily, in a sad kind of way.
“Now all you bad men go away, especially you smelly French ones,” said Ms. O’Cowlick. “It’s Froomykins’s bedtime.”
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September 7, 2014 § 9 Comments
I rode my bike to the Milt Olin protest ride on Wednesday. It was in Calabasas, a solid two-and-a-half hour pedal from the South Bay. Milt was run over in the bike lane by a cop who was texting on his phone and typing on his mobile computer. The ride was organized to protest the decision by assistant district attorney minion Rosa Alarcon not to file misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter charges against the deputy.
Even a slap on the wrist, apparently, was too much to ask.
There was a soul-sapping headwind all the way out the bike path. At CotKU, no one was waiting to join me, understandable since most people at 2:00 PM the Wednesday after Labor Day weekend are working. Coming into Santa Monica the most frightening thing in 32 years of bicycling happened.
I was riding in the bike lane on Main Street, just north of Abbot Kinney, when a Range Rover going the other direction swerved over into my lane. Accelerating to well over 50 mph, the bearded psycho leaned out the window and spit at me. Unfortunately for him, the onrushing wind blew the spit back into his face. Nor could he hop back into his lane because he’d overtaken three cars traveling in his direction, so he went even faster.
When I turned around to shoot the bird, he jerked back into his lane so hard that he almost flipped his car. I imagined the headline: “Cyclist killed en route to memorial ride for killed cyclist.”
Farther along in Santa Monica I stopped at the Ocean Park toilets but no one was waiting there either, so I pedaled on. Ascending Topanga Canyon I was passed by Peppy, the British neo-Cat 4 who regularly drills, grills, and kills on the NPR. “I waited at the Ocean Park toilets,” he said. “Where were you?”
“I didn’t see anyone so I kept going.”
“Um,” he said, exacting his vengeance with a nasty pace all the way up the climb.
We reached the assembly point for the memorial ride. There was a helicopter, as well as news trucks from every major TV station. The assistant district attorney’s decision not to prosecute had outraged the bicycling community. “Rosa Alarcon licks balls!” said one angry cyclist.
We put on arm bands and rolled out at 4:30, heading towards downtown, a mere three hours distant, through the worst traffic in the San Fernando Valley. I only had one water bottle and it was empty. The air in the valley was wretched and loaded with marble-sized particulates. A hacking cough began and we caught every light, hundreds and thousands of them, all the way to downtown. At one point our group split in half when the leaders rolled through a yellow light.
We remnants didn’t know the route and the leaders vanished in the distance. A mad chase ensued, with me and Peppy doing a desperate time trail to bridge and alert the leaders that half the group was four stoplights and twelve light years back. The hacking cough migrated down to the lowest part of my lungs.
In Burbank we were joined by a rider who was wearing a Total Team Sky Outfit And Team Bike. He looked just like Chris Froome except for his backpack, in which he carried a portable, hi-fidelity speaker. It was connected to his iPod, and he blasted us with an endless stream of terrible music, including Elvis, the Beatles, New Age Christian, hip-hop, Frank Sinatra, and jazz fusion. The music was so loud that when it paused between songs the background noise of LA’s rush hour traffic sounded muted, silent, pastoral.
This lasted until 7:30, when we reached the LA County District Attorney’s office. The ride had swelled as we crossed the city, and a candlelight vigil was held in Milt’s honor. Marv, Don, Brendan, and JF had joined the ride after work, and these four South Bay riders, along with me and Peppy, headed back home on Venice Boulevard in the pitch black.
It might as well have been Venice-Roubaix, so cracked and scarred and chug-holed were the roads. We had lights, but speeding along in a pace line they only illuminated the ass of the rider in front. Peppy had bonked and I was dead, even as the fresh South Bay foursome laid down a grueling pace.
JF, who had been noticeably absent from the working end of the paceline, came to the fore at last and put in a mighty turn. Peppy had yet to take a single pull, and I was about to pop. Suddenly JF, forty whole seconds into his effort, shouted out “El Dolor del Estomago! The most famous taco truck in the city!”
Almost taking us all out with a might brake and swerve, JF zoomed into the packed parking lot, where fifty people stood in line for the best of El Dolor’s offerings. Half an hour later we were standing against a trash can, each polishing of a mound of chicken-and-habanero-bean tacos.
Whether it was the energy of the food or the roaring volcano in his bowels, Peppy came to life. Everyone else retreated the other way, towards death, as he dragged us at 30mph down the barely-lit, cratered asphalt of Venice Blvd. After several miles Brendan dropped off, pleading menstrual cramps. Marv spied a blinking light that said “Beer” and vanished. JF, whose idea the taco stop had been, metamorphosed into a rolling effluent pipe.
We all parted ways on the bike path, except for Marv, who had been smart enough to stop when he found an open bar. I made it to Malaga Cove at 9:30 and called my wife to pick me up. I’m sure I’ve felt worse on a bike, but it’s hard to pinpoint when. Then I thought about Milt Olin, struck down in the prime of life, father and husband, killed by a cop who was too lazy to pull over and text.
My exhaustion evaporated and I felt grateful for being alive and angry at the kangaroo court’s cowardice. What happened to this kind and gentle man could happen to any of us, and on the way to the ride, in my case it almost did. Over a 150 people showed up on bikes and crossed the entire city to register their outrage and to demand justice for Milt, justice for every other person who dares risk death simply by riding a bicycle. With only three months left before the statute of limitations tolls, time is running out for the DA to do the right thing.
Won’t you take a few minutes out of your day to make your voice heard? The link is here with contact information and sample letters to email the DA. With prime time news coverage on every major news channel, District Attorney Jackie Lacey can be called to account only through the strength of your voice. Please help. Don’t give up.
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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 20, 2014 § 26 Comments
Now is the summer frenzy held once every four years when British people remind us that it’s called “football,” when British people remind us that they invented the world’s most popular sport, and when British people quietly make their traditional early exit from the World Cup tournament grumbling “Wait ’til next time.”
Still, despite their national love affair with a sport they’re not very good at (something the French share with regard to cycling), after catching a few games on TV I’m convinced that World Cup soccer is way better than the Tour de France. Here’s why.
- To compete as a masters racer in cycling you need tens of thousands of dollars in equipment. To play World Cup soccer you need a pair of legs. And a ball.
- The winner of the World Cup is never determined two weeks before the tournament ends.
- The same team doesn’t win the World Cup seven times in a row and then have its victories nullified because of cheating.
- Chris Froome.
- The Tour may be the hardest sporting event in the world, but World Cup soccer displays the most athleticism — running, jumping, kicking, twisting, tackling, throwing up your arms in shock that you’ve been penalized for chopping an opposing player in the throat, and of course flopping.
- When you fly halfway around the world to watch a World Cup soccer match, you get to watch it live for more than 2 or 3 seconds.
- Soccer may not be as exciting as, say, snake tossing, but nothing is as boring as watching skinny people in their underwear pedaling bikes. Nothing.
- “Teamwork” never means “Everyone sacrifice everything for that one dude who is the only official winner.”
- You can start an argument, brawl, or minor riot in any bar in any country on earth by discussing the World Cup.
- When you talk about the World Cup winner, no one ever says “Who?”
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August 18, 2013 § 30 Comments
I am an ugly rider. I bob up and down. I weave back and forth. I make unpleasant gasping sounds when going hard. My thin arms stick out at odd angles like a praying mantis. I have been called “Twigman,” “Mantis,” “The Human Loom,” and of course plain old “Wanker.”
But you know what? I’m an amateur, and not a particularly good one. My ugly riding style is just one more check-mark in the long list of qualities that define me as a weekend hacker.
What’s more than passing strange, though, is the ugliness of the professionals. Because you know, it didn’t always used to be that way.
The most beautiful sport
If you look at any of the classic cycling videos — A Sunday in Hell, or the 1973 World Championships in Spain — it’s impossible not to be struck with the smoothness of the riders. Of course each one is idiosyncratic; funny motions and unique pedaling styles make each rider as distinct as a thumbprint. But despite each rider’s individual style, the grace and smoothness of the riding is incredible, even over the rough and ragged paving stones to Roubaix.
Then, to see how far we’ve fallen, look at the Tour of 2013.
The winner is perhaps the worst example of ugly cycling to ever appear in the pro peloton. Froome’s ungainly, awkward, uncomfortable, and erratic pedaling make his riding ugly beyond belief, and the hilarious photo essay of “Chris Froome Looking at Stems” only proves the point: The head-droop that causes experienced racers to shout, “Keep your head up, dumbshit!” is emblematic of a man who just won the Tour de France. Yet he’s hardly alone. Jerky, forced, unnatural, uncomfortable riding styles abound. How did the beauty of 1973 become the unbearable ugliness of 2013?
The biggest difference between then and now is that pro cyclists don’t race their bikes very much. In 1975, the year that Eddy Merckx lost the tour, he entered a staggering 195 races, everything from classics to grand tours to local criteriums. Nor was he the exception, because in those days pro riders made their money at the smaller events. Merckx has said that if he had been paid better, he would have raced less.
Chris Froome’s racing schedule in 2013 was comprised of the Tour of Oman (6 races), Tirreno-Adriatico (7 stages), Criterium Internationale (3 stages), Tour of Romandie (6 races), Criterium du Dauphine (8 races), and the Tour de France (21 races). His total race calendar for the year was a meager 51 races, and when you lop out the time trials and prologues it was even less.
From the perspective of developing good riding skills, the generation of racers who became professionals by racing their bikes rather than by doing specific lab, heart rate, or power-based workouts had countless more racing miles than modern Pro Tour racers. It’s my opinion that the huge number of races over so much different terrain — riders would often do track and cyclocross after the road season ended, in addition to muddy spring classics and summertime tours — made them smoother, more fluid, more skilled, and better riders.
Equipment and training miles
In addition to huge miles in training and racing, Ol’ Backintheday rode equipment that required skills. You had to reach the down tube to shift. You had fewer gears to choose from. Your bike was heavier. Your wheels were slower. Your feet weren’t very firmly bound to your pedals. Your shoe soles were soft.
Professionals had to be able to pedal and operate machinery that was more finicky than today’s push-button, wrist-flicking technology. The best example I can think of that shows how degenerate the pro peloton’s skills generally are is by comparing them with modern track racers, who still have the same bike handling limitations that they had fifty years ago.
The track is narrow and unforgiving. The speeds are high. The equipment tolerates little if any jerky, quirky, ugly riding, especially at the level of world class competition. The result? Elite track racers remain beautiful to watch, their efficient, measured, and controlled movements in complete harmony with the bike.
I’ll always ride ugly. But Chris Frooome and his cohorts could stand for a beauty makeover. It might make me forget about their volcano doping, if only for a little while.
July 23, 2013 § 55 Comments
Does anyone know Lance’s cell phone? ‘Cause we need him bad.
This Wiggins-Froome thing has gotten totally out of hand. One day we were watching a doped up superman who boinked models and actresses and rock stars, who owned ranches and mansions and private jets, who was devilishly good looking, whose ego was bigger than Dallas and twice as gnarly, who ground people up into hamburger meat on and off the bike, who beat cancer, cured cancer, sued enemies into oblivion, had an entourage of global financiers, Italian dope doctors, starlets, drug mules, presidents and scientists and who, with only one nut still had bigger balls than the entire pro peloton, and then, BAM!
We were watching Chris fucking Froome, a human insect who can’t even pedal properly, a craven little wussmeister whose doping program is “marginal gains” instead of “ram the whole 12,000 cc up my ass,” an awkward, unappetizing robot who confirms what every motorist instinctively knows: Cyclists are contemptible arthropods deserving nothing so much as the heel of a boot.
Sure, I used to bag on Dopestrong…until I saw the last two years of Dopeweak. What happened to the drug-crazed cannibals of yore, handsome, muttonchopped, steel-willed manly men who ate raw meat with their fists and swallowed their cocaine-heroin-strychnine cocktails in one-pint tumblers? How could we have banished the lying, cheating, brash and big-balled Texan who rode a chrome Harley, threw massive charity balls, charged 100k to jocksniffing millionaires for a group ride appearance, won triathlons, raced marathons, conquered Leadville, and ruled the entire UCI with the iron grip of a drug kingpin, which he was, and traded him in for the sniveling, milquetoast, dainty British softmen who drink tea, slurp warm beer, and race like simpering weenies or, what’s infinitely worse, like British people?
Where is the wrath, the insane bloodlust fueled by too many drugs in the wrong combination, the tortured beastly exhibitions of athletic porn, the Texas gunslinger who rode over the bones of his challengers and fell as mightily as he rose, in full color on a giant screen surrounded by a frothing media scrum and presided over by the queen of daytime TV? I’ll tell you where: He’s been replaced by “champions” who are no cleaner but a thousand times less entertaining to watch, the insect class, the automaton class, the zombies of the road.
Please, if you have his number, call Lance for me and beg him to either come back or to give these pasty-faced cab drivers a few lessons in how to race like the future of the galaxy depended on it. I’ll take les forcats de la route over the zombies of the road any day.