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Fleche-Wallone, Ridley, Versus, and Peace, Love, and Understanding

- Watched the Flèche Wallone on cycling.tv this morning. Exciting race. I learned that ‘arrière du peloton’ is French for Garm*n-Slipstream.

- Did you see the final 1km of Flèche? Nothing quite like seeing a field sprint on a 20% grade.

- Students of cycling trends will surely remember back to 2004 when The Almighty Lance showed up to the Tour de France in shin-high socks, which spawned widespread (and arguably unfortunate) fashion emulation by cyclists across America. I’ve seen a similar sort of behavior since this photo was published. Riders who couldn’t hold a line to save their lives -- I’ve seen them riding on popular Little Rock loops checking their voice mail at 15mph. S C A R Y.

- A quick clarification for ‘Mance Jarmstrong’ who took us to task in an earlier What’s New posting for suggesting in our Hincapie Jeans ads that jeans would be more PRO than standard team-issue warmup pants for podium wear: Our tagline for these jeans -- ‘Podium wear you’ll want to wear’ -- is based in our belief that warmups are best suited for professional video game players and pregnant moms. Given the preening, style-conscious ways of most Euro pros, nothing is more jarring than seeing them in poofy synthetic jackets and pants. Our tagline is a commentary on the way the world should be, not the way it actually is.

- Congrats to Team Katusha’s Sergei Ivanov for an inspired win at the Amstel Gold race. It was Ridley’s 1st big win on their super-aero Noah frameset -- a small irony given that the Amstel Gold takes in 31 climbs. After years of watching Silence-Lotto relentlessly snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, I’m sure Ridley is thrilled to now sponsor a team that can seal the deal.

- Speaking of Ridley and Silence-Lotto, in 2008 Ridley rushed to make a special yellow-edition Helium frameset to commemorate Cadel Evans’ maillot jaune. Sadly, he lost the jersey on Alpe d’Huez before the team could build it up. And, in the funny way the world of bike commerce works, the frame (along with 20 other fascinating Ridley paint sample frames) is en route to us. If you ride a Small in Ridley, and if you dig Yellow as much as we do, call us.

- Much hay has been made about the Theo Bos Tapout fiasco at the Tour of Turkey. I think it’s my least favorite race of the year for two reasons: (1) It spawns bad ju-ju. This year it was the final stage demolition derby. In 2007 it’s the country where Astana’s Andrey Kashechkin gave his blood sample that showed evidence of homologous blood doping. (2) The Tour of Turkey spans the tail end of the hardman spring classics (Paris-Roubaix and the Grote Scheldeprijs) and the beginning of the climbing classics (Amstel Gold). If you’re racing the Tour of Turkey, you’re pretty much a nobody (a fact further confirmed by a quick look at the start list.) For a serious pro bike race fan, following the Tour of Turkey is about as worthwhile as following Sea Otter. It’s defined by its lack of PROness. Seeing noted doper Danilo Hondo fuck up the sprint in stage 6 was good for a chuckle. But, please, no more Turkey talk. This time of year has too much to offer otherwise.

- More macro-economic pain for the bike industry. America’s most vital bike race tradition is in big trouble. And, in proof of the price pressure trend we’ve been predicting since October ’08, Zero Gravity slashes prices in an attempt to re-assert its relevance in the marketplace.

- Speaking of Philly, Matt Heitmann of Cadence Cycling and Multisport has resigned from the company. Matt sent me an email the day before the press release came out, and I was floored. He was the heart, soul, and #1 plowhorse of one of America’s most unique bike retailers. While the premise of the Cadence business model is more suited for Dow 14,000 than Dow 8,000, they’ve taken smart steps of late to create broader relevance to the east coast bike scene. We don’t doubt that Matt built a solid enough business that Cadence will continue to evolve in his absence. And we hope that Matt’s involvement in getting a first-class velodrome built in New York City will benefit generations of cyclists (and Olympians) to come. Best of luck, Matt!

- Hulu: Pretty cool. The Versus TV Network: Lame and useless, now that cycling.tv has authoritatively gotten their act together. So what do you make of a Versus channel on Hulu.com? To us, it’s the worst of all worlds. You get none of the racing, and instead get an all-you-can-eat buffet of up-close-and-personal B.S. Why does Versus feel such a strong urge to create ‘personalities’ in our sport when they only show cycling for 1 hour a week? Even if they tell an interesting personal story about a pro, what sort of retention of that story do they expect their viewers to have when their cycling broadcasts are so infrequent? Why do they believe viewership recruitment techniques used for Olympics coverage (that gets 100hrs per day of coverage spread over 6 channels over a span of 3 weeks) will somehow work for their 4hrs per month for cycling?

- Tyler Hamilton. Ugh. The first time around stung 1000x worse because he was a real pro back then. Sure, we loved it when he foiled the 29-strong Garm*n-Slipstream squad (including their 8 or so guys in the final breakaway) to win the US Pro last year in South Carolina. But my more powerful post-suspension memory of him is how he looked when I saw him racing for Tinkoff at the TT stage in the ’07 Tour de Georgia. He had a lousy race that day, and we saw him tiny and irrelevant amongst the scrum of team cars and the fans afterwards. He sat alone, every bit as faceless and anonymous as his Russo-Italian teammates. It’s as though he over-stayed his welcome at the PRO party for so long that he emptied everyone’s well for anger and feelings for betrayal. Rather, he inspired something worse: Apathy.

Tyler’s most recent doping positive sparked the first strong emotions I’ve felt for him in years. For once, I believe him. His tepid 2009 palmares prove he took nothing performance-enhancing. And we’ve been fans long enough to remember Marco Pantani and Theirry Claveyrolat and Luca Gelfi and José Maria Jiménez -- all one-time superstars who couldn’t cope with the downside arc of being PRO and they succumbed to depression, addiction, and eventually suicide. We don’t doubt Tyler knows their stories, and we don’t know how far ’round the bend Tyler’s gone in the last 5 years. In our minds thinking about Tyler and bikes is to miss the bigger point. Other than last year’s US Pro comedy, his impact as a pro since 2004 has been nil. We certainly don’t want to see him around as a coach or a soigneur or a DS. But humanity, stability, and some semblance of contentment -- If I was the praying type, I’d pray for him to find it. He’s a cheater but he’s not a criminal and in the spectrum of evil that men do, he ranks about as high as his current UCI ranking. He’s a human who’s harnessed ambition and felt temptation with an acuteness most of us will never know. Let’s hope he finds some peace somewhere somehow.