November 5, 2015 § 24 Comments
Rapha announced today that it would end its partnership with Team Sky at the end of 2016. Cycling in the South Bay sat down with Chauncy Chalmers, CEO of Rapha, to talk about the divorce.
CitSB: What was it? Irreconcilable differences?
Chauncy: Oh, far from it. We’ve both benefited immensely from the partnership and are leaving on the best of terms. We plan to remain friends, and we wouldn’t be where we are today without Team SKY.
CitSB: And where are you today?
Chauncy: We are the dominant player in the pretentious bicycle clothing market. $345 for a pink plastic vest. See? We OWN it.
CitSB: Yes, but there’s more to your success than that, isn’t there? Rapha is regarded as one of the best fitting, most superbly designed clothing manufacturers in the bike industry, combining the understated English qualities of Savile Row with the hardman exploits of volcano dopers. That’s what they say over at Red Kite Prayer, anyway.
Chauncy: Don’t believe everything you read; that guy was nominated for Wanker of the Year. Our stuff is made by the same underpaid Chinese garment workers as every other label. And get this–the average Chinese worker makes $19.81 per day, just under $2.50 an hour. Pretty sweet mark-up, I’d say.
CitSB: Schweet, for sho. So why the break-up with SKY? Seemed like a match made in heaven. Pretentious British label hawked by marginal gains volcano dopers with funny accents that sound vaguely aristocratic to the untrained American ear, which can’t distinguish between the Queen’s English, Ozzie Jibberjabber, and Pig Latin.
Chauncy: Yes, the American market is what we’ve always referred to as “gullible.” And it certainly has paid the bills.
CitSB: So why the breakup? Faux English tailored cycling kits with a vaguely 70’s design in updated 21st Century Pink; volcano dopers who talk funny and millions of tubby Americans who think Rapha’s been around since Eddy Merckx.
Chauncy: The market is saturated.
CitSB: How can that be? There are ten new baby seals on the NPR every week, ripe for clubbing and for new Rapha kits and for 100% full carbon parts made of pure carbon. It’s only just begun!
Chauncy: Our market research shows that with the exception of New York, Los Angeles, and parts of North County San Diego, the pretentious asshole demographic is saturated and shrinking.
Chauncy: It’s true. Most people who ride bicycles aren’t snobby twits who crave approval by being treated rudely and looked down on. What’s worse, most people who ride bicycles don’t really care what their bicycle clothing looks like.
CitSB: Blasphemy! How do you know that?
Chauncy: We took our team of designers to the Tour of Palm Springs last year to examine the market first hand. Three of our designers are still in therapy. It gets worse. We randomly sampled riders, asking them if they liked Wiggins better than Froome. The answer blew our mind.
CitSB: What did they say?
Chauncy: They all said the same thing: “Who?”
CitSB: Shocking. And so you’ve pulled the plug. What’s Team SKY going to be wearing for 2017 then?
Chauncy: It’s a secret, but I’ll tell you if you promise to keep it off the record.
CitSB: You can trust me.
Chauncy: They’ve hired one of your local guys here in LA to do their kits. Apparently one of the designs here has really caught their fancy.
CitSB: Which one is that?
Chauncy: Big Purple, or Orange, or something.
CitSB: Big Orange?
Chauncy: Yes, that’s the one. You know them? They must have a pretty understated look to catch Team SKY’s eye.
CitSB: Nope. Never heard of ’em.
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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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April 8, 2014 § 18 Comments
Cycling in the South Bay was privileged to interview several top professionals after Fabian Cancellara split the lead group and won out of a four-up breakaway.
CitSB: How did the race unfold?
Sep Vanmarcke: I was with Cancellara over the Kwaremont and Paterberg, but in the end he destroyed the field and made us look like children. Belgian children. Stupid Belgian children.
CitSB: Any conclusions about the race?
Greg van Avermaet: All in all it was a more tactical race than the last two years, since changing the finish from Meerbeke to Oudenarde. I am very pleased with second place but it was very difficult to beat Cancellara due to him crushing us all like a bunch of bugs on the windscreen of a jet.
CitSB: You must be disappointed with seventh place?
Tom Boonen: Yes, of course, I was just two percent or so off. I believe I had a chance to beat Cancellara, but that was only in the warm-up around the bus.
CitSB: How would you evaluate the race?
Peter Sagan: Evaluate it? I got my ass whipped. You know how they say it in Slovakian? “Your eleventh finger is in the meat grinder.”
CitSB: What was going through your head as you approached the line in a 4-up breakaway with Cancellara?
Stijn Vandenbergh: “I’m totally screwed.” Something like that.
CitSB: You must have felt good about your early breakaway, taking the pressure off Greg for most of the race?
Taylor Phinney: If you think it feels good to have Cancellara annihilate an entire field when you’re one of the riders in the field, you’re a complete fool.
CitSB: What is Team Sky planning to improve on its top Ronde placing of 65th?
David Brailsford: We’ll do some more marginal gains away from the testers next year, that’s for sure. And wait for Cancellara to retire.
CitSB: It’s been 2008 since Italy won a monument. Why do you guys suck so bad?
Filippo Pozzato: I would like to point out that Cancellara comes from the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland.
CitSB: How does a guy with no teammates beat an entire field of 200 riders, including 30 riders from Omega-Pharma-Quickdope riding on their home turf?
Patrick Lefevere: Heads will roll, trust me. We do not race for second place. In fact lately we haven’t even been racing for tenth. Firings and public humiliation will continue until morale improves.
March 16, 2014 § 21 Comments
Richie Porte, the leader for Team Sky at Tirenno-Adriatico, expressed surprise today that his race tactics did not result in a stage win atop the climb to Selvarotonda. “I was on the front for most of the climb,” said Porte, in disbelief. “I was killing those guys.”
Alberto Contador, winner of the day’s stage, couldn’t explain the result either. “You know, Richie was up there on the front of the group, just drilling it really hard into a huge headwind up a very long and challenging climb. It’s hard to understand how he didn’t win.” Contador was seen shortly after the interview high-fiving his teammates on the bus and grinning slyly at his team director.
Overall leader Michal Kwiatkowski, who finished the stage with what analysts believe is an unsurmountable 34-second lead over Porte, was also at a loss to explain the outcome. “Richie was favored to win the race, and on the decisive climbing stage we were all sure he would win, the way he sat very impressively on the front for such a long time into such a bitter headwind with no teammates to help him and all of us in the leader’s group on his wheel like that. But somehow he lost.”
Second-place finisher Nairo Quintana was likewise mystified by Porte’s failure to win the stage and take control of the race despite his clever tactical riding. “We were all telling him, you know, ‘Wow, Richie, you’re killing us, dude,’ and ‘I’m cracking, I can barely hang on,’ and stuff like that, but then somehow just towards the end we all felt better and were able to pass him and put a lot of time on him. It’s weird. He was riding so strong and we were all so, how you say, in the box of hurt?”
Porte concurred with Quintana’s analysis. “It’s fuggin’ weird. Every time I looked back they had these faces that were filled with pain, awful grimaces, you know? And their shoulders were drooping and they were making loud breathing noises. I had ’em, I had ’em, I swear. Then, poof! We get about one kilometer out and suddenly everybody takes off and there I was, even though I’d done all the work, I couldn’t go with them. After pulling them up the climb like that you would have thought that they would at least have waited for me,” Porte added with a slight show of frustration. “It’s almost like they were playing me. If we weren’t all such good pals, I don’t know.”
Teammate Bradley “Wiggo” Wiggins was nonetheless upbeat at Porte’s chances on Sunday’s last mountain stage. “He’ll just have to hammer from the gun,” said Wiggo. “Tire ’em out from the start, maybe take a little breather if he can, and then go right back to the front and drop the hammer on the climb. Ride ’em off ‘is wheel. That’s the ticket, just like it was a triathlon, full fuggin’ gas from the get-go. They won’t know what hit ’em, especially at the end when they hit the Muro di Guardiagrele with its 30% ramp.”
After the award ceremony, the top finishers congratulated Porte on his outstanding ride, saying “You were a beast,” and “I hope you don’t hammer us like that tomorrow. We won’t stand a chance!”
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July 17, 2013 § 24 Comments
Lost in the press reports of rest day haircuts and predictions for the remaining stages, it took almost twenty-four hours in the news cycle for the World Anti Doping Agency to act on Tour de France leader Chris Froome’s shocking admission during a media interview.
When asked about the credibility of his ride up Mt. Ventoux, Froome said “My team-mates and I, we’ve slept on volcanoes to get ready for this.”
WADA officers immediately charged Froome with a “non-analytical” positive, a scenario in which a rider can be accused of doping based on circumstantial evidence, written or spoken admissions, or convincing evidence other than standard urine or blood analyses.
Jean-Paul Smails, Chief Inquistor for WADA, laid out the charges. “He’s admitted to volcano doping, which is a violation of Rule 2.281(a), Subsection 12, which states that ‘No athlete may sleep on or otherwise utilize volcanoes to enhance performance.'”
Team Sky boss David Brailsford reacted angrily. “You’re kidding me, right? There’s no way he volcano doped. He misspoke. They slept on a mountain, perhaps, but no one knew it was a volcano. We thought it was a large mountain. We checked it out with the Mallorcan authorities and they assured us it was a mountain, not a volcano.”
Froome also rejected the charge. “I’ll wait for the B sample to come back. There’s no way that was a real volcano, and if it was, it’s because someone slipped it into my meat. It was tainted Mallorcan meat.”
When pressed as to why he’d referred to it as a volcano if it really wasn’t one, Froome shot back. “‘Volcano’ is slang for ‘boner’ in the UK, maybe you Yanks don’t know that, eh? I was sleeping on my mate’s boner, which is like a mini-volcano, get it? Stupid Yank reporters, go learn y’self some English.”
The Mallorcan Meat Cooperative, a national meat marketing collective, angrily rejected Froome’s claims that its meat was tainted. “We handle our meat carefully, regularly, religiously almost. When our meat leaves our hands it’s guaranteed to be fresh, firm, and free from additives such as clenbuterol or volcano. Our legal counsel is looking into filing defamation charges against Mr. Froome for claiming that we mishandle our meat.”
WADA investigation gathers steam
Officials for the French AFLD and WADA insisted that they would pursue the investigation, but the UCI remained skeptical. “We don’t believe he volcano doped,” said UCI chief Paddy McQuaid. “Although his team did buy us a new volcano testing machine to catch other lava cheats, that has had no influence on our posture in the matter. We don’t treat the stars any differently from the routiniers.”
Francois Vichy de Foiegras of the AFLD disagreed. “Ee eez vocano doping, n’cest pas? Why else he sleeping on ze volcano? Le Mt. Venoux est un volcano aussi, et we believe zat he gets un avantage avec zees volcano doping.” Later that evening the Team Sky bus was searched by the forensic unit of the French National Anti Doping SWAT Team, but no magma was found, although investigators were seen carrying large plastic bags of rocks off the “Froome Wagon” along with what appeared to be most of the team’s Hello Kitty collection.
Links to Italy?
Froome has worked with notorious volcano doping physician Michele Ferrari, although both deny that the connection involves volcanoes. “I use him for his training plans,” said Froome. “He is a good man. He’s taught me so much about how not to blow, but nothing that involved a volcano, I can assure you.”
Ferrari also denied helping athletes such as Froome volcano dope. “I don’t do such a thing, but if I did, so what? A bit of volcano is no more dangerous than a liter of orange juice. Except for when Pompeii was obliterated by Vesuvius or Krakatoa. But that is completely different.”
At press time, Froome’s team physician, Bugsy Malone, provided Tour de France officials with a prescription for volcano enemas, although it had apparently been backdated to precede Froome’s mountaintop trip to Mallorca. “Chris had terrible saddle sores and a bloody anus. I prescribed the volcano cleanse for him in order to stop the drip and reduce the swelling.”
Team Sky has scheduled a press conference for 6:00 AM tomorrow to explain its official position regarding these allegations.
July 15, 2013 § 40 Comments
Tour de France leader Chris Froome of Team Sky has admitted his frustration at constant questions about doping, according to the BBC. Froome extended his advantage with a stunning ride on Sunday but faced more doping questions on Monday’s rest day.
Continued Froome: “This whole thing makes me sad. Really, incredibly, terribly, horribly, agonizingly sad. The sadness of being called a doper and a cheat and a liar and a fraud is so saddening, you have no idea. I’m just so sad. Sad. I’ve half a mind to leave the Tour, I’m so sad.”
Team boss David Brailsford hustled a visibly shaken and sobbing Froome off to the “Froome Wagon” before addressing reporters. “These doping questions make me sad, too, maybe even sadder than Chris. At least he got to win the stage. I have to stay back in the team bus washing dirty chamois and cleaning the insides of water bottles with those long spiky brushes that get the crud off the edges on the bottom but leave little bits on the very flat part. When is someone going to invent a bottle brush just for cycling water bottles? But it’s really sad, anyway. I’m so sad I don’t know what else to say.”
Richie Porte, the faithful domestique who blew up the field in a hard-charging effort reminiscent of the days when 200-lb. George Hincapie won stages normally reserved for 125-lb. veggie mites, was also sad. “Chris is sad? Dave is sad? What about me? I’m sad, too! A little bit pissed, but sad at the same time, kind of like when I used to get beaten up by my big brother. This whole thing is sad.”
Tubs McGillicuddy, the bus driver, although not visibly sad, spoke to the press about the sadness of others who weren’t necessarily there but who were likely sad as well. “Y’wanna talk about sad, d’ye? How’s about ol’ Wiggster? He’s the saddest of ’em all. He’s sadder ‘n a sad sack. Sadder than a sack ‘o shit tossed out th’ window of a fast-movin’ train, I say. Aye, he’s one sad puppy an’ I ‘low we oughta take a minute of quiet time to be sad on ‘is behalf. ‘Tis a sad day, to be sure.”
Froome stuck his head out of the bus window and added, “My team-mates and I have been away from home for months training together and working hard to get here, we’ve slept on volcanoes to get ready for this, and here I am accused of being a cheat and a liar. That’s not cool. It makes us all sad. This is a sad day. We should be cheerful and happy but we’re not. We’re sad. So if you want us to be happy, please stop asking us questions designed to make us sad.”