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Top 10 Ways I'd Like to See Dick Pound Die

19 Dec

I know, I know – it’s not nice to wish death upon people. But I’m not doing that. Everyone, Dick Pound included, is going to die someday. I’m simply compiling a list of the Top Ten ways in which I’d like to see him pass on.

It was extremely hard to limit this to ten items, by the way, so feel free to add any you think should have made the cut in the “comments” section.

Top 10 Ways I’d Like to See Dick Pound Die

10) Starving to death following bankruptcy after being forced to pay accused dopers’ legal fees.

9) Surgical complications after undergoing medical procedure that has not met peer review.

8) Brain embolism and resulting hemorrhage after high profile athlete beats a dope case.

7) Beaten to death by frustrated CycleSport reporter after recycling same three soundbites for the umpteenth time.

6) Suicide after being wrongly accused of a child pornography and realizing that a “not guilty” verdict won’t salvage his reputation.

5) Traffic accident while commuting between his three six-figure jobs.

4) Asthma attack; lethal because employer banned him from using a rescue inhaler.

3) Blood coagulation after being transfused with the wrong blood type due to “routine lab error”.

2) Wrongly sentenced to death after prosecution witnesses are legally prevented from presenting exculpatory evidence.

1) Injected with a lethal dose of EPO by Nazi frogmen.

The Farce Comes Full Circle

16 Oct

Eurosport reports that Ivan Basso has been officially cleared to race. Note how they’ve sloppily insisted that Basso “served out a four-month suspension having been linked with the Operation Puerto doping probe”. That’s the biggest syntactic dry-hump since Super Bowl XXXVIII’s “wardrobe malfunction”. Using the verb “served” would imply that Basso’s suspension was a predetermined sentence, handed down by some sort judicial body after a legitimate trial. And it was nothing of the kind.

Like Jan Ullrich, Joseba Beloki, Allen Davis and lord knows how many other riders, Basso has been penned up indefinitely in the cycling world’s equivalent of Gitmo since Operacion Puerto broke in late May. Accusations flew fast and heavy, and like a self-conscious fat chick scrambling to fit a Size 4, the pro cycling world starved out and vomited away its best assets, coming to the big dance with rotted teeth and withered bosoms. And it still wasn’t enough to avoid busting the damn dress open.

When cycling’s most feared and respected rider gets suspended – that is, demonized, scapegoated, robbed of work, etc. – without charge, and now, it seems, without even any good evidence, you might expect that a cycling’s allegedly free press would be standing for accountability as strongly as they clamored for justice. You’d be wrong. Sure, a few voices peeped defiantly along with me, but how many times can you shout yourself hoarse against the mob before you start to sound crazy.

So, yeah. If you work for a major media outlet and you read this (hell, I’d be surprised if anyone still reads this), I defy you to present a good explanation of how you still deserve your occupation. My guess is you’re too busy knbbing off the bike pornographers that actually pay your salary to inform the readers you pretend to serve that their cycling heros have been on the thread-end of the worst screw job since Samuel Tilden. It’s just a shame the fringe sports get stuck with journalists who are too piss poor to get a job anywhere else.

The Curse of The Great Tombino

10 Apr

Ah, Paris-Roubaix. There is no finer example of bike-racing spectacle. Fabian Cancellara proved once again that the secret to victory is to keep your head up, attack once, and finish alone. Most news reports state that the CSC rider “dropped” Vlad Gusev to make good his escape, but this implies the Swiss rider made specific efforts to do so; a more accurate statement would be that Cancellara flat rode the Russian off his wheel. Walter Godefroot called it perfectly (search “Cancellara”) in selecting the former maillot jaune, as it would have taken a freight train to stop his charge to the finish. And strangely enough, that almost happened. In the end, though, the transient locomotive’s only impact on the race was to annoy Tom Boonen and to disqualify a chase group of Leif Hoste, Vlad Gusev and Peter Van Petegem, who apparently violated a UCI regulation against independent thought by realizing that they could cross the tracks without getting hit by the train

So who was the biggest loser on the day? Oh, there’s almost too many to count. I guess I’ll begin by highlighting that Team Discovery Channel fell victim once again to the “Curse of the Great Tombino”, a bit of Flandrian voodoo that will prevent a Tailwind Sports-owned franchise from ever winning Paris-Roubaix. I’m well aware that Discovery/Postal didn’t actively work to trade Tom away, but forcing Boonen to tow the clearly bonking Hincapie until the hypoglycemic American tumbled into a ditch back in ’01, was an affront to the sporting gods on par with the sale of Babe Ruth to finance a Broadway musical. And despite what Scott Coady tries to tell you, no amount of prayer can attone for this transgression.

The curse is manifest in the aforementioned disqualifications, and a strange parting of the ways between the top and bottom portions of Mr. Hincapie’s steerer tube at 47k to go. A hubris bonus is also awarded to George for making a pre-race prediction so perfectly tragic in its fruition that it could have slipped from a cave opening at Cumae. On a related note, Trek’s Scott Daubert (search “fork”) should be receiving a pink slip any day now for deciding that a more beneficial “axle to crown dimension” justified sending his team captain out into the Hell of the North with Sora-level componentry. If such misfortune had befallen Lance, you can bet Daubert’s testicles would be already be dangling from the trailer hitch of the Texan’s GTO. As it stands, though, Trek shouldn’t take too big a PR hit on this one; most people looking to buy Pilot line bikes wouldn’t know the difference between Paris-Roubaix and Stella Artois.

Many might also extend the Finger of Failure toward heavy favorite Tom Boonen. but the World Champ’s only real mistake on the day was leading the charge across the critical Arenburg Cobbles while his teammates were completely unprepared. Surrounded by a dizzying array of colors (rather than sitting in his accustomed sea of Quick.Step blue), Boonen kept a cool head, did lots of chatting, managed his losses, and got 2nd, with a little help from the race jury. I am, however, more than prepared to dump on Boonen’s teammates, who, just a week removed from utter invincibility at Flanders, missed the critical field split and then scattered themselves to the four winds in a chase remarkable only for its brevity and futility. Perhaps Quick.Step DS Patrick LeFevere also deserves a few demerits for today’s performance, as I’m at a loss how a man with three podium sweeps at this event could let his riders get so out of position.

Bikes vs. The World: Round #6 – Dave Zabriskie vs. Zabriskie Point

24 Jan

It’s baaack! And you thought I had gotten sick of it. Today’s match-up: Utah’s own Dave Zabriskie vs. the 1970 counter-culture classic Zabriskie Point. Click here for a listing of the previous battles.

Category Bike Culture:
Dave Zabriskie
Pop Culture:
Zabriskie Point (1970)
Claim to Fame: Bicycle racer, ’04 US TT Champ, Fastest TT in TdF History, won stages in three straight Grand Tours “Daring” Hollywood cinema attempt to cash in on popularity of 20-something angst and European directors Dave; Point is hardly as memorable as its packaging declares
Directed By: Bjarne Riis, 1996 Tour Winner Michelangelo Antonioni, groundbreaking Italian neorealist, Oscar for lifetime acheievement, 1995 Point; you can tell who directed it just by wathcing. When I see DaveZ, sometimes I wonder…
Plagued By: Horrific crashes God-awful acting Dave; crashes will always happen, bad acting never should
Memorable Quote: “Rock and Roll, dude” (his only comment on winning a stage of the ’05 Giro) “Well, I’m willing to die, too…just not of boredom” (Mark, losing patience with student radicals meeting) Point; c’mon, that’s a sweet line, despite its shabby delivery
Endorses: First Endurance Innovative Racing Nutrients Somewhat simple-minded escapism from the conformity of “establishment” America Draw; I’m pretty disappointed (scroll to bottom) about both
Moment of Disbelief: When Dave somehow hung on to win Stage 11 of the ’04 Vuelta When Mark somehow manages to steal, and then successfully fly off in, a plane Dave; see, one of these things actually happened
Soundtrack By: Westside Connection (scroll to bottom), Guns ‘n Roses (search “Guns”) Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, The Grateful Dead Draw; and, Dave, the song is “Out Ta Get Me” and the line is “You won’t catch me/ I’m fµ¢&in’ innocent”
Dialogue Best Described As: Sparse Sparse Draw
Window of Cultural Relevance: Opening, though he’ll have a hard time keeping America interested without recovering from cancer Very small. If it had opened in 1965, it would have been huge, but being released in 1970, it closed almost before it began Dave; here’s to hoping for something awesome, man
Ends With: Only time will tell About 10 minutes of houses, TV sets and refrigerators exploding over and over again while Pink Floyd wails in the background Point; I have no idea what DZ’s demise will be like, but I imagine there’ll be fewer explosions

So it’s a 4-3 victory in favor of the CSC rider. Can’t say I’m surprised as I’ve never heard of anyone even mentioning Point outside a collegiate film class. Well, I guess CN did reference it (see link “Stage 11” above) once. But those guys seem to know everything. Dave Zabriskie, on the other hand, is mentioned all over the place, like, um, in bike magazines, and, uh, y’know, bike magazines. Ok, so they’re both pretty esoteric. But clearly, Dave Z is the better of the two.

Pro Cycling News – The Sponsorship System, Charly Gaul Dies

6 Dec

Communism! That is the only way to describe this story on the restoration of the Arenburg cobbles in Paris-Roubaix. Don’t these silly Frenchmen understand? The correct way to fund a sports event is to get a huge corporation to throw money at it, not to waste public funds that ought to be going to letting the people know when the risk of terror attack is elevated.

Without sponsors, how will people know what to buy? See, look here: how does HealthNet get faster? Not with drugs, or with training, but by riding a Cannondale. Now I know that when I want to go faster, I just buy a Cannondale. How hard is that to understand? No wonder French cycling is so poor at the moment; they don’t have corporations sponsoring everything and letting them know what gear to buy.

The Italians clearly get it. For the past 3 years, if you wanted to be a fast sprinter, it was obvious – you just used Fassa Bortolo concrete. And then, after everyone who wanted to be a fast sprinter had used their concrete, the company pulled out. Now, the company is planning to make a concrete for fast GC riders, which will let them be a sponsor again. I’m telling you, the system works.

Only when jerks (like these Frenchmen) screw around with the system do people get hurt. Like when Sony-Eriksson thought that its wireless phone service made you a faster rider than Boygues Telecom or T-Mobile’s wireless phone services. Turns out it doesn’t, so the company pulled out, and these guys are out of work because of it. Mark my words: someone will be watching Roubaix next spring, and when the riders hit Arenburg, he’ll be frozen with fear, unable to know which beer to buy. And he’s gonna have to wait all the way ’til Amstel Gold to find out.

In less sarcastic news today, Charly Gaul has died. The rider, dubbed the “Angel of the Mountains” is widely regarded as one of the best climbers of all time, and the first “pure climber” to win the Tour. His gutsy performances, especially in rough weather, are the inheritence of today’s top mountain men, including Jose Rujano, who was recently awarded Venezuelan Sportsman of the Year. Gaul was two days shy of his 73rd birthday.

Despite that sadder news, from Luxembourg to Venezuela, the Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanza, Festivus, and whatever other spirits you may believe in, continue to grow. If you’ve ever been curious as to what the holiday season means to the big names in pro cycling, wonder no longer.

Pro Cycling News – Men's Elite World Road Race Report

25 Sep

Whew. What a freakin’ week. Time to go back to the states and get a job or something.

Today began cold, overcast and windless, and finished up hot, sunny and with a fair breeze. I got to the start just in time to get a few shots of riders, at least two of which weren’t terrible. As you can (kinda) see from that last link, the RobStar looked pretty dang relaxed, eating and being basically the last rider to roll into the start today. I thought for sure he would win. Gun went, bikes rolled, and a Bulgarian broke. He was followed closely thereafter by a Columbian. Eventually, Saul Raisin and a Credit Agricole teammate organized and swept up the others. It was sweet to finally be able to cheer for an American, instead of yelling “Go [American cyclist’s name]” at the peloton as it whizzed by. The group swelled to 6 or 7 as I metroed across town to the top of this small rise at 14k, and at one point had over 10 minutes on everyone else. On the next lap, however, it had shrunk to 3 riders, with only about 7 minutes. I did nail a most excellent photo of the young American in action, however. Note the Camelbak, suggesting he may have planned ahead of time on being the hero of the day.

At 5 laps to go, the Eyeties were like “enough of this crap, let’s race” and threw like 50 guys onto the front of the peloton. I watched it on the Jumbotron, and it was some real Cat 4 BS. Italians up front, pulling but not that hard, then some hole would attack, everyone would let him go and riders would trickle across the gap until the Italians decided the break was too dangerous, and close it down. Thus Raisin and Murayev(sp?) were able to stay away much longer, keeping hope alive until 3 laps to go. Then people really started cranking. The announcer, who would drift from English to Français to Spanish wouldn’t have enough time to announce each break that get a few seconds’ gap in all the languages. So I really had no idea what was going on. Fortunately, neither did the dudes who were supposed to be guarding the Area C grandstands, so I just sort of moseyed my way in there. Much better view of the line this time around. Eventually, some German guy told one of the Spanish security guards what was going on, and they had a highly entertaining argument in English, which ended by the German guys saying “Fine, I’ll get the real cops” and the Spaniard saying “you do what you want.” Some real dirty punk Italians who swooned “Bravo, Paolo” every time the announcer mentioned Bettini, got really nasty and opened up the barricades to sneak into Area B when the cops (the Teutonic gentlemen did, in fact, summon them) became too interested in the race.

Finally, a good move (above) got clear, with Davis, Bettini, Devolder, etc; big names from all the big teams. Except France. They were totally f-ed. And USA, but by this point they had like two riders left in the race, so they brought it upon themselves. I think this move was a fake, to keep people from attacking by forcing the teams without dangerous sprinters to work, before it (the break) would finally relent and be caught coming into the final group kick. But France spoiled the party by working really, really hard. The move was recaptured and it was all together at 1 lap to go (except for Jakob Piil who had like 3 seconds’ lead). Then it went crazy. Attacks flew from everyone. The Dutch were extremely active, leading me to believe they had little faith in Max Van Heeswijk (some Dutch dudes had these orange shirts that said (on the front) “Just Relax” and then (on the back) “the World Champ will be Max.” They looked stupid.) Finally, Vino decided to take them all to school and put down the attack that really opened the race up. Wegemann, Bettini, Boogert, Van Moerenhaut, Piil; pretty much it was a break composed entirely of riders who are awesome. It was sick, it was nasty, and it really looked like it was going to get away. I was at 1.3k/100m to go (the finish doubles back on itself) and the first time they passed, I was like “they’re gonna get clear.” But thank Nick Nuyens, Stijn Devolder and especially VanPeet for cranking the race back together like a set of approved-for-medical-use stiches. The selection committee over in Belga did a damn fine job.

The finish was insane. Crazy insane. Nothing like a good break getting caught inside a k to get the fans on their feet. So much noise. Cheers and claps grew into a maddening, constant shouting, pierced by really high screams and underscored nicely by the announcer’s constant multilingual banter. Things really got going when the chopper noise got damned loud as they hit 200m. Valverde made the Spaniards excited, but Boonen came around him at 150m and was gone, putting space on him all the way to the line. It would have had to have been twice that steep for the duel between those two to be interesting. Though in all honesty, Boonen owes his victory not to his speed today, but to his team. Valverde is nasty fast, but not group-gallop fast. The other pure sprinters (Ale-Jet, McEwen, some others) got gapped by the fury of the Belgian chase, leaving Tom a Stock Car among Roadsters. Somewhere in the mess that followed, Anthony Geslin of France, with nary another result to his name, took third

But no one comes to these things for the racing (except the racers, I guess, though in the case of most of the USA team, I really wonder…). People come out to see their heros up close, cheer like (and in some cases, with) drunken madmen, and to enjoy some time with folks from all over the world who find those two pursuits worthwhile ways to spend a day. This isn’t the Tour de France, so the race site was mercifully free of sunburnt Americans with little round “Lance fan” signs. Instead, Madrid was packed this weekend with Orange-clad Dutchmen who speak fluent English (even to each other) and find everything incredibly funny, oddly-dressed Germans with the hideous notion that three inches is plenty of “personal space,” 15-year old Italians who dislike shampooing and act as if their mothers’ lives hinge on the next attack of Paolo Bettini, and Australians, who were disappointingly unremarkable. The most garish were the Brits and Norweigans, who seem to find no accessory, article of clothing, or body part too undignified to emblazon with their nation’s flag. The noisiest were by far the Spaniards, most notably Tino Zaballo’s fan club, that had an authentic hunting trumpet made from a bull’s horn, the largest cowbell I’ve ever seen, several tambourines, a gong, and no fewer than 6 air horns.

And then there were Flandrians. Everywhere. You couldn’t cut a fart this weekend without flapping a yellow flag with a black lion on it. I suppose you can take the cycling out of Flanders, but you can’t take the Flanders out of cycling. And at the end of the day, they got what they were all hoping for: Tom Boonen in the Rainbow Stripes (just don’t remind them that it’s cursed). While the other podium finishers saluted a relatively small crowd before largely-empty streets (though there was a small spectators’ area opened on the course, most of it was still boarded off), as Boonen’s name was announced, the Belgians, overcome by national fervor, stormed the barricades, clambering into the previously closed streets en masse to salute the new World Champion. By the time the press conference rolled around, so many of them had crowded the exit from the podium area that a second way out had to be fabricated, allowing a police-escorted Tom the shortest and fastest possible route from the cars & trailers to the hotel lobby. It still took him about a minute to make the 75-foot trip. Hometown hero Valverde made the same jounrey almost entirely unmolested, which really makes me think, when the Irish guys said this place lacked the right atmosphere for a World Championships, maybe they were right.

Dopers Suck? – Rant

13 Sep

Bike racing draws in stupidity like a vacuum. And, even though Laurent Fignon became le professeur simply because he had spent some time in college and wore funny glasses, I’m not talking about the intellectual quality of the riders, here. I’m talking about things like BioPace and performance-enhancing coffee . Or Cyclo-Zen, which suggested that your inability to climb might not be due your poor watts/mass ratio at lactate threshold, but instead to your lack of mental toughness. And though each of these things is pretty silly in its own way, by far the dumbest thing I’ve ever come across during my (admittedly short) time in cycling is Dopers Suck.

Why do I HATE “Dopers Suck?” There’s so many reasons. Let’s begin with the fact that people have an astoundingly pretentious way of showing off their “Dopers Suck” t-shirts and stickers like they’re part of some new revolution that’s sweeping cycling clean. News Flash, kids: doping’s been a part of cycling as long as pneumatic tires. I’m not saying that makes it ok, but just think for a second: in the 120 years since the first 6-day racer threw back a glass of bubbly laced with cocaine, maybe you aren’t the first person to think that’s a pretty lame way to win a bike race?

That bit aside, you still hate doping and dopers. You think it’s destroying the sport etc, etc. So what did you do about it? Did you donate to WADA? Write a letter to your congressman about anti-doping legislation like they have in Italy and France? Volunteer for USADA at a big local race? No. You bought a t-shirt. Or a sticker. From some fly-by-night commercial organization called “Dubba Racing,” which just so happens to make no statement on its web page about where your money goes.* For all you know, you’re keeping some pothead stocked with rolling papers. Way to contribute to the movement, anti-doping crusader!

Then there’s the guys that take their “Dopers Suck” t-shirts up onto the podium. All respect due to JHK and Geoff Kabush, but I cannot imagine anything more idiotic. Did Richard Virenque, upon finishing third at the 1997 TdF, suddenly come clean and say “oh, BTW, guys: I’m totally on EPO.” No. Even faced with (literally) a car load of dope, including some vials and IV bags that had his name written on them, he protested his innocence for months afterward. So I guess, because Virenque didn’t have a “Dopers Suck” t-shirt on, and because you do, we’re all to believe that you’re clean? Sure, that works for me. I mean T-Shirts (that’s R. Kelly, in case you didn’t know…) never, ever, lie, right?

Now, it’s not that I think vanishing twins, mysterious South American candies supplied by Francesco Moser’s sister, and trunkloads of EPO for sick mothers-in-law are any less ridiculous. They’re not. These things just represent the last-ditch efforts of desperate men and women to salvage their lives. It’s really easy for us as mere mortals to point at these Gods of Sport and say “how could you just throw it all away?” But keep in mind, these people race for a living. Yeah, they’re really good at it, but they doesn’t mean they like doing it. For many (European) pro riders, cycling might be the only way they know to earn a paycheck. That’s a whole ton of pressure, and it only gets worse if you’ve got a family to worry about as well.

Can you imagine what it’s got to be like for some 31-year-old Belgian domestique who’s been supporting a family of five on one-year contracts for the past 3 seasons, and who has only the most basic education to fall back on, to realize that unless something drastic changes over the winter, he’s not going to be able to keep up come March? THAT’s pressure, man. It’s pressure like us fry-slinging, investment-banking, wrench-turning simpletons will hopefully never have to know. It still doesn’t make it OK to dope, but it ought to make you think twice before proclaiming to the world that some guy you never met sucks.

Which brings me to another point. Dopers don’t suck. They dope. That’s all. They don’t drive drunk, abuse small animals or endorse fascism. Just because someone takes an illegal substance for the sole purpose of performing better doesn’t necessarily make them a worse person. Tyler Hamilton, for example, really looks like he cheated during last years’ Vuelta. Officially, the jury is still out, but I’m gonna guess they’ll throw the book at him. But he is still, by all accounts, a nice guy. He drops big money into MS research and even comes out to push fat Cat 4/5 riders up the hillclimb at the Boulder Stage Race. But I guess, if your t-shirt is true, Tyler Hamilton sucks. And then there’s Lance Armstrong, who brings in literally billions of dollars each year for cancer research, gives some of the most seriously ill people on Earth hope for the future, and has probably done more for the good of mankind than any other cyclist in the history of the sport. If l’Equipe is telling the truth, then, according to you, he now sucks. You sure want that message plastered across your chest?

At the root of it all, my problem with “Dopers Suck” comes down to attitude. “Dopers Suck” helps no one, offers no improvements and suggests no alternatives. It’s runs on the same dumbsh!t, zero-tolerance, with-us-or-against-us logic that suspends 7-year olds for brining nail clippers to school and has alienated America from pretty much the entire rest of the world. Do you really think that treating riders like David Millar and Marc Lotz, who readily admitted their EPO use, the same as riders like Virenque and Johan Museeuw, who fought as hard as they could to hide it, is really going to make people less likely to dope? I think history shows us that it’s just going to make them work harder at not getting caught. So go ahead, man, parade around in your sweet “Dopers Suck” t-shirt. Just don’t pretend like you’re trying to fight doping when you do it.

*unless you buy their repackaged Jittery Joe’s coffee. Then you help US Juniors get slaughtered racing ‘cross in Europe.