Monthly Archives: July 2006

Say it ain’t so, Phloyd!

Published by:

Credit to spouse for the headline

I don’t know what to think about the accusations that Floyd Landis had impossibly elevated (and yet so far undisclosed) levels of testosterone. (Bike riders have about four times normal levels anyway.) Certainly anyone doping in such an obvious way would know they would get caught, especially a stage winner, so I really have to wonder how it could be true. But I was once convinced of Tyler Hamiton’s innocence, and the evidence pointed rather incontrovertibly in the other direction.

For a more informed view than mine, you can listen to Phil Liggett.

They all love Phloyd now

Published by:

Eighty hits yesterday, all looking for some kind of Floyd Landis information — now that he’s won the Tour. As much as I was disappointed for Discovery Channel, which proved that a team really needs a leader, I was thrilled for Floyd Landis (and Axel Mercx, who did so much to help) and the Phonak team. It was weird riding around on Friday in my three-year-old Phonak jersey and having people recognize it — in the past, all I’ve ever gotten were comments about Tyler Hamilton (in fact, I bought it when Tyler was still in the clear, but I bought it mainly because it was my favorite pro team jersey design).

If you didn’t get to see the Tour, there’s a one hour recap this coming Sunday on OLN that will be able to give you the broad strokes — the biggest comeback(s) in Tour history with Floyd and Oscar Pereiro both recovering from amazing deficits, the kind they always say you can’t recover from. All this and a titanium hip.

Of course, tucked into the hits for Floyd (including “Floyd Landis genealogy,” “Floyd Landis rebel parents” and “Phonak doping scandal”) was one for “Kirsten Gum where are you now” — I believe the answer is competing in a Primal Quest race, and of course still several for “Amanda Congdon’s breasts.” Some of you people are really low. You probably watch the Tour just for the podium girls.

Now the Tour is killing me

Published by:

Unbelievable. A Tour that has had nine leaders. A Tour where a guy (Oscar Pereiro) can be 26 minutes behind and the peloton will let him go out on a crazy breakaway that ends up putting him up in the top. A Tour where Floyd had it all wrapped up — until yesterday, when he cracked and lost more than eight minutes to Pereiro. A Tour where Floyd, now in 11th place, sailed out on the first climb of the day, caught all the early breakaways and rode to a stage win that got back all but 30 seconds of his time. So now it’s down to tomorrow, a long flattish stage where the attacks will no doubt come fast and furious — if I were Discovery, I’d sure be looking at this last chance at a stage win — and the individual time trial on Saturday. Floyd came in second on the first time trial because of a bike change. So what will happen Saturday? Who’ll ride into Paris in yellow?

It’s killing me.

Searching

Published by:

Sometimes, I’ve just gotta note the search requests, weird or not. I’m getting my usual slew of “Amanda Congdon’s breasts” and “Kirsten Gum” hits — Amanda’s apparently off Rocketboom (which leaves them with, what?) and Kirsten has a surprisingly low profile, so I get a lot of pointless hits from that. But I got one yesterday for “JB’s Theatre Hooters Squeeze,” which is interesting — some time back I put The Hooters as one one of the top three worst opening acts I’ve seen (I never, ever, got their appeal). But that was absolutely a fantastic Squeeze show, way back when.

Also got a hit for “swimsuit water extractor quiet.” Makes you wonder if someone’s shopping for one, or just trying to make one a little less noisy? Odd. Lots of hits for “Floyd Landis Amish” or “Floyd Landis Mennonite;” none yet for “Floyd Landis hip replacement,” though it’s just a matter of time. (Floyd sailed into the yellow jersey in a great ride up Alpe d’Huez yesterday, by the way. Unless Perreiro can tough it out, or there’s a surprise in the final time trial, the ’06 Tour is Floyd’s.)

Also got one for “copperas pond swim skinny.” Highly recommended. But you may want a really warm towel when you get out.

Suddenly this summer

Published by:

This was supposed to have been the summer of very long bike rides, more frequent canoeing, and family rides to the ice cream stand. It was also to be the Summer When Grass Finally Grew in the backyard, thanks to the removal of two ancient, dying, sun-blocking spruces and a menage of other leafy tall stuff back there, and perhaps a more bug-free existence that would permit the return of the hammock. What it has turned out to be is the summer of extreme rain, now extreme heat, lots of Buffy episodes watched in front of our sole air conditioner, and while the grass is growing, the bugs are quite happy with all the rain and have happily set up the hammock for us, hoping to lure us out there. I’m not even opening the door.

George Hincapie is breaking my heart

Published by:

The Tour de France, so far, has been just a heartbreak for those of us who wanted Discovery to prove that they were really a team of genius and that George Hincapie could go from being a strong presence in the classics to being the great man of the tour, at least for a year. I ride around town in a Phonak jersey (dating back to when Tyler Hamilton was still innocent), but I really liked Discovery and was rooting for them. But after yesterday’s second mountain stage, which blew George out the back, it’s clear that Discovery isn’t going to be the team this year.

Phonak, however, may be another story. Floyd Landis has had an incredible spring – particularly for someone who has just revealed that his hip will be traded in after this race. Floyd’s the prototypical bike racer – teen rebel (against Mennonite parents; note to Al Trautwig: Mennonites and Amish ain’t the same thing. Duh.), crazy obsessed with riding, strong supporter of a legendary leader (Lance) who has now fallen out with him, went off to play support on Phonak only to find himself suddenly team leader when Hamilton was suspended for doping. (In cycling, suspensions last for at least two years, and under new rules, four – unlike the several games that baseball players are obliged to sit out.) I like Floyd’s story, and I think he truly is going to prove himself one of the great riders of our time – but there’s a certain sourness to his disposition that can be off-putting to a fan, whereas George is right out of central casting, cut right from the Lou Gehrig mold. And while Floyd’s American, Phonak isn’t an American team (they’re Swiss), and we really need Discovery to be successful to prove to other sponsors that there is room for another major American-based team on the UCI circuit.

Aside: sponsors in pro bike racing are an motley collection. Here in the States, we expect our sports sponsors to be the big national and multinational companies with all kinds of dollars to spare and spread across the sport. They’re cigarettes and beer and maybe some food – stuff that they could be trying to sell to anyone watching the event. In bike racing, teams are sponsored by a hearing aid company (Phonak), the Basque telephone system (Euskaltel), HVAC makers (Lampre and Saunier Duval), flooring (QuickStep) and, in the past, a concrete maker (Fassa Bortolo). T-Mobile is about the only sponsor other than Discovery Channel that would be recognizable to Americans. For a while, the Balearic Islands government sponsored their own team (they’re now a sub-sponsor). Given that, it doesn’t seem like it would be that much of a stretch for another American outfit to sponsor a UCI team. I mean, don’t we have any vain metal foundries that want their names plastered across Europe for nothing more than the glory of the sport, the hope that some young crazy rider will break away from the pack for 100 km and the sponsor’s name will be beamed across the globe for as long as that rider can stay away from the peloton? Apparently not.

End of aside. I wait all year for this event, surely the greatest sporting event on the planet, three weeks of grueling competition – crazy stages where riders go for five or six hours and then battle it out at the finish line for gaps of less than inches, mountain stages where you can watch the strongest man suddenly crack, where you can see the lights go out and the engine die as what looked like the best man in the pack suddenly slide off the back and find himself half an hour behind in a race that will likely be decided by minutes or even seconds. Points competitions, wild breakaways, bad crashes, and that silly Credit Lyonnais stuffed lion being thrust out from behind the scrim into the waiting hands of a podium girl. There’s nothing like it on earth.

Lost July

Published by:

You really don’t expect me to be able to post during the Tour, do you? I’m on pins and needles, rooting for George Hincapie (who had a less than stellar time trial yesterday), or maybe Floyd Landis (who’s doing all right despite a broken handlebar yesterday). In addition to the losses from the latest doping scandal, some of the stars are out, the latest being Bobby Julich, who crashed out yesterday rather spectacularly. His team, CSC, was dominating the sport coming into the Tour. Now there’s almost nothing left of them. And Levi Leipheimer, another prominent American, fell behind by 6 minutes in the TT, just an awful showing. This wide-open race thing is absolutely nailbiting.

Tourmoil

Published by:

Well, unless you are a normal person who doesn’t follow bike racing, you already know that the Tour de France has been thrown into total turmoil by a new doping scandal. Commentators are always talking about how much doping goes on in cycling, but show me another sport where the suspicion of doping can get you thrown out of the most prestigious event — and where conviction gets you a two-year suspension. Please . . . in baseball, it’s a couple of weeks and you’re back on the field — and that’s if you’re caught with a lockerful. Anything less is considered too uncertain to risk someone’s career.

My rant about other sports aside, this has turned everything on its head. Ivan Basso, who won the Giro D’Italia with such an amazing (and, now, perhaps drug-enhanced) performance, is out. Jan Ullrich, perennial also-ran, is out. Vinokourov and the entire Liberty-Seguros/Astana-Wurth squad: out. Beloki, Mancebo, Gutierrez: out. Not only are all these riders out, but their teams aren’t allowed to substitute for them. I won’t even be sure who’s left until the Tour starts this morning. It’s chaos.

As terrible as this is for the sport and the Tour, it could be great news for the Americans. No one on Discovery was implicated, and George Hincapie and Tom Danielson have a real shot with a strong team. I think Bobby Julich’s still on for CSC, which only lost Basso, and they still have VandeVelde and Zabriskie on a very strong team that includes Jens Voigt, Carlos Sastre and Stuart O’Grady, and which dominated the Giro. Then there’s Levi Leipheimer, Chris Horner, and Floyd Landis — Floyd had a great Spring. So as wide open as the Tour was before, it has really blown open now.

I’ll be watching the Tour for the next three weeks. If you don’t hear from me, that’s why.