Monday, August 18, 2008

(Cycling) Stuff I Like

So having finally begun to recover from my black crevasse-o'-melancholy over we-still-love-so-bite-me Iban Mayo's royal relentless hosing by the desperate image-conscious incompetence-coddling protocol-screwers over at CAS--and just jarred back into reality by the horrid news that Haimar Zubeldia has signed with Astana for two years, which presumably means that this venerable Euskaltel star is gonna be !@#$ed to truly Klodenesque proportions--I've been pondering, of late, whether the sleaze of the peloton and its repulsive governing bodies has actually begun to outweigh the inherent beauty and glory of the sport that hooked me like a naive trusting sap in the first place. Therefore, while such cheerfulness goes against my very nature, I've managed to come up, for those of you similarly thwapped into cynical loathing, with a few things genuinely left to like about this sport:

1. The Giro. The nationalism. The macho preening. The perfectly elegant smack-talk and timeless climber whining (hi Simoni!). The endless irrelevant tifosi paeans to Marco Pantani, even when we're just talking about the latest SRAM components. Most of all, the prosciutto. Sigh. Is there anything *not* to love about this race?

2. The Vuelta. Heat to kill a scorpion, climbs to knock out a mountain goat, and best of all, Euskaltel-Euskadi's band of orange-draped screaming mouth-foaming fanatics. Viva la Vuelta!

3. Paris-Roubaix. If there's anything more lively to watch (if not to personally experience I suppose) than George Hincapie's bike shearing apart and frame-bashed bikes and frozen-wet bods generally careening over cobbles as treacherous in the dry as they are in the wet, I've yet to see it. Welcome to Hell!

4. Trust But Verify. The gold standard. Love Landis or hate him, this blog is the definitive source for all things Floyd, written by folks waaaaaaaaaaay too smart for me to halfway follow, much less successfully comprehend. All this, and bitchin' supporters too. Free Floyd!

5. The gone-but-not-forgotten Jan Ullrich. Sure, he's an X-snarfing off-season-bloating over-the-hill drug-stuffed erratic perpetual ne'er-do-well train wreck--that's his charm. Like you don't miss watching him too, you hypocrites!

6. Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen. Do you remember what vintage Chateneuf-du-Pape you enjoyed with a fine local goat cheese and handcrafted crackers on the 17th stage of the 1968 Tour at the very spot where an obscure French monk did some obscure historical deed in 1256? Phil and Paul do--and they also remember every single damn boy who rode that day, who designed their team kit, what brand of shoes they were wearing, and what order and in what precise time they arrived that day. Allez allez to the greatest sportscasters on earth!

7. Time trials. Unbefreakinlievable. Is there anything cooler or more nail-biting to watch?

8. Bjarne Riis. His transformation from Tour-doping lying skank to moral guardian of peloton purity has got to be one of the greatest snowjobs of all time.

9. Podium babes. Anyone who can park themselves directly beneath the armpit of a boy who's just been racing for six hours and keep smiling, and even actively buss the creature without noticeably dry-heaving, deserves even more ludicrous paychecks and accolades than they already get. Buy those fine lasses some nose clips, and give them a round of applause!

10. Garmin-Slipstream-Chipotle-whoever the hell's dandy blue and orange argyle team kit. Next up: Milram goes flowered chintz. Oh, laugh if you want least they don't look like those cotton-candy princesses at Lampre!

11. The Spanish antidoping authorities. Never has anyone investigated so thoroughly, busted so many, leaked so much, and punished so few. Now that's justice, baby!

12. Marianne Vos. This smashing jailbait's won damn near everything in her brief career, and what she already hasn't, she certainly will. Right on sister!

13. Thor Hushovd. Okay, he's not explosive as Cavendish, eternal as Zabel, suave as Petacchi, or wanky as McEwen, but he's a class act and just plain untouchable in a prologue. Woo-hoo Thor!

14. My black-and-copper Ross Apollo 3-speed stick shift. When those black leather streamers finally come in the mail, I am gonna look *so* Batman. Eat my dust you wannabes!

15. Last but not least, dear little Carlos Sastre. Yeeeee-haaaaaaaaaah!

All right, that's it, all this perkiness is making me sick--I feel like !@#$ing Hannah Montana on a Sweet-Tart high. Read trustbut or burn in eternal flames, I say!


Annie said...

Great post! I agree - sometimes you just have to step back and remember all the good stuff about this sport and not get sucked down in the dark side. I usually hop on my bike and that helps put me back in a good frame of mind, but your list not only cheered me up (I miss Jan too!) but also provided a few giggles. The idea of Milgram going floral is fantastic - I love the jelly beans all over the Jelly Belly kits. And, Lampre always makes me think of baby showers, and I do tend to refer to them as The Baby Team when my brain freezes up on "Lampre."

Looking forward to the Vuelta!! Go Levi!

Larry said...

I would add that there are moments in pro cycling that remind you of what being a fan was like before sports blew up and became a pillar of the gross national product.

Like watching some domestique bust his butt to claim some sprinter points because there's a 100 Euro prize in it. Hey! THAT prize ought to cover dinner, if the rider splits dessert with the soigneur. It's nice to watch a sports event where there are athletes making the same kind of money that I do. (not nice for them)

Or like watching the Versus coverage where they show the same three ads over and over. By the time the Tour finished in Paris, I felt like I'd consumed about 300 Bacardi Mojitos. My favorite ad was the couple who leave work together and without transition do their evening workout run at 400 meter speed straight from the lobby of their office to a trendy outdoor bar, where she has abandoned her midfiff-bearing running outfit in favor of a top she might have purchased at A Pea In The Pod. That must have been some run she just finished! (My wife disputed that the runner was actually 5 months pregnant by the time she got to quaff that Michelob Light. I guess my wife would know. But this sort of husband-wife debate helps keep a marriage fresh and would be impossible if Versus hadn't played this ad about 25 times per Tour stage.)

But at least the Versus advertisers are major companies who have decided, for reasons of their own, that cycling fans enjoy repetition. The cycling sponsors, on the other hand, are deliciously small time. Can you imagine any other sport where nine guys are busting their tails in the premier event of the calendar, brought to you by a manufacturer of metal tubing used to pen cows? It's about two steps up from my local little league, and makes me wonder why there's no Tour team sponsored by the dry cleaner on the corner of Place de la Something and Rue de la Something Else.

Zappa said it best. "Baby, I'm sorry 'cause it's all I wanna know, I need a little more cheepnis please."

randie said...

good to have you back rj. this list is fantastic, i really enjoyed reading it.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed the list, especially 5, 7,8, & 11. And the cotton candy princesses comment - good work. Thank you for keeping me entertained. I think you should've thrown in a nod to St. David when you talked about Riis. If I hear him say "that's bullshit" one more time I think I'll scream.

your favorite anon