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The Race With The Candy Center

- The Floyd v. Lance PR blowup has given anyone with a keyboard the chance to weigh in as moral expert. The number of words written has been Tolstoyan, while the amount of original opinion expressed has been less so (maybe with one exception.) It’s not that the thinkers don’t think deeply and it’s not that their feelings aren’t heartfelt. Pro-Lance here, anti-Lance there -- as a whole everyone is hamstrung by the fact that all we have is hype. Isn’t evidence the lifeblood of investigators and journalists? And when it comes to alleged infractions 7 years bygone, is anything in shorter supply?

The Amgen Character Massacre is an unfortunate reflection of its audience -- specifically, how narrowly we apply our indignation. I, for one, have already given all I can give to 2004. Where is the sound & fury for 2010? Is blood doping still au courant? Is EPO microdosing the new scourge? Rather than focusing on now, the media (print, social, and otherwise) perpetuates the TMZ-ing of our sport, proving the human weakness for celebrity gossip & conspiracy theories.

And just as the public shows keenest interest in alleged doping circa ’04, it has the same preference for stars who shone brightest back then. I say this as a handicapper, not a critic: Lance’s relevance as a racer is quickly fading. A real generational shift is occurring in American cycling. The USPS alumni association is reaching retirement. When will the new generation get its due? In its place there’s Tyler Farrar emerging as one of the top-5 best bike racers in the peloton. Brent Brookwalter came within a whisker of a pink jersey at the Giro. Craig Lewis could nearly taste a stage victory there. Tejay Van Garderen, only 5 months in the ProTour, has elevated himself to super-domestique. I’ve spent the month wanting to celebrate it, but it’s been a party of one. No one else seems interested.

- In March, an elaborate construction of scaffolding, ice refrigeration equipment, loudspeakers and spotlights snaked its way through the old part of Quebec City, Canada (and we mean old, the city celebrated its 400th anniversary two years ago). Teams of obscure, amateur hockey players elbowed and tumbled their way down the glorified toboggan run -- or absurd variation of an Olympic bobsled track -- on skates in an event known as Crashed Ice. Constructing the track, used only for a single weekend, reportedly cost about $1 million. There are no prizes for guessing what company associated with caffeine and made-for-buffoon sports covered that and all the other expenses of the event.

This September, veteran race organizer and Tour de France broadcaster Serge Arsenault is slated to stage a UCI Pro Tour race in old Quebec City followed two days later by another one in Montreal. It’s serious business. Arsenault ran a men’s UCI World Cup race in downtown Montreal from 1988 to 1991. Charly Mottet, the cleanest rider never to win the Tour, is the sporting director. And Arsenault is well connected with the Tour organization as the race broadcaster in Quebec and through production work in France.

The venues are spectacular. Quebec has several vicious climbs, some of them cobbled, and Montreal offers Mont Royal downtown to test the riders’ legs. So what corporation has come on board to sponsor what promises to be two great events? None as of yet. The only sponsors are the two cities, the provincial government and the government of Canada. Both the province and feds, however, reduced sponsorship funds in the last few years so it’s unlikely that they’re spending like Red Bull.

So what’s the problem? Many of Arsenault’s old corporate sponsors have disappeared through mergers and takeovers. The global recession doesn’t help, although Canada has been less affected by it than many countries. While it’s a painful thought, some of the blame may rest with cycling itself. Every since the Festina raids in 1998 finding race sponsors and team sponsors has been a struggle. They haven’t vanished, of course, but even the Tour has seen Coca-Cola succeeded by Vittel, one of Nestlé’s smaller brands, and Fiat replaced by Skoda, Volkswagen’s discount line.

Arsenault may find a sponsor yet even though it’s getting late in the game. It’s a worrisome state of affairs when something like Crashed Ice is more alluring to sponsors than cycling’s greatest. And as much as we’ve been looking forward to a holiday spell in Quebec, bookended by the races, we haven’t bought our plane tickets just yet…

- FYI for folks running SRAM road drivetrains: SRAM has released a new generation of 10-speed chains. The names you’ve come to know -- 1090, 1070, 1030 -- are changing to reflect the new design. 1091, 1071, 1031, etc, is what you’ll starting soon. There are material and design changes in the plates, rollers and pins. We’ve been told it’ll result in smoother shifts since the chains mesh better with the chainrings and cogs. Given that a few weeks back we reported here our preference to run Shimano 10-speed chains and cassettes with SRAM drivetrains, SRAM’s timing is good. Beyond seeing an improvement in shift quality, we suspect it ought to result in a quieter drivetrain as well. ETA? We’re not sure. But given that the chains are getting a new name, you can bet the difference will be significant. They’re not in stock yet at ye olde QBP, but we have one here and you bet it’s going on my bike…

- After 3 or 4 years watching the US Dollar take a beating against the Euro -- and as a result seeing European-based bike goods skyrocket in price -- it’s with no small bit of schadenfreude that we’ve watched the Euro collapse in the last several weeks. Will the bike industry react accordingly? Who wouldn’t love to see Super Record priced in line with SRAM Red? Sidi shoes like Specialized? If I had a dollar every time I heard a vendor justify a price hike because of the exchange rate….Why am I so doubtful that the reverse will prove true?

- We just had a bloodbath of a US Senate primary in the Democratic Party here in Arkansas. It pitted the incumbent (she’s the Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee) vs. our upstart, Rhodes Scholar-minted Lieutenant Governor. He made his name by spearheading a successful effort to bring the lottery here. I voted for the incumbent simply because I detest the lottery: In my estimation (it’s an unpopular position) it’s a tax on stupidity and vulnerability.

I’m conflicted, then, because I think the idea of a tax on soda and junk food sounds brilliant. Ultimately, we’re in the health & fitness business here, and where there’s bike riding there’s typically conscientiousness about diet. Subsidizing the chronic ailments of those who daydream of Funyuns, Mtn. Dew, and McDLT’s drains every last drop of altruism from me. Yet I know that -- not unlike the lottery -- fewer taxes would be more regressive & more targeted at the uneducated than this. Is there a middle ground or hypocrisy what I’ll bring with me to next week’s run-off election?

- Just when we all thought Ricco couldn’t possibly look like a bigger dolt, he’s found a way to make it worse. From this month’s issue of BiciSport: Toe covers! It’s one thing to do a solo training ride in the privacy of your own toe covers. But race in them? And to WIN in them? No piece of clothing is less PRO.

- Tour of California: The race with the candy center. Sweet to the taste, but full of empty calories. Is it true they cancelled the finishing circuits in Santa Rosa because of rain (just 2 days after the most memorable stage of a Grand Tour in….ever?) Is it true that the ‘Queen Stage’ came down to a 20-man field sprint? Is it true that Phil & Paul are now referring to it as ‘The Fourth Grand Tour’? Did they really let some triathletes -- those rhythmic gymnasts of competitive bike riding -- post times before the pros on the TT course? The best thing written about the Tour of California was, in fact, not written about the Tour of California.

- Time trial #1: Is it permissible to do a TT workout wearing Rapha?

Time trial #2: Is time trialing an acceptable substitute for motorpacing -- ideal for the disorganized and/or friendless?

Time trial #3: The Holy Trinity is aero bars, aero wheels, and Di2. If you don’t have Di2 you’re not serious about TT’ing. The difference between it and, say, standard 7900 is 10′s of thousands of years of evolution.

- Front page, above the fold of the most important newspaper in the universe. What was this placement worth to Giro?

WSJ May 21 front page