– Behind every asshole, I suppose, is an act of perceived injustice. And that’s likely the case here. I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time in the last few months using the ‘What’s New’ section of the Competitive Cyclist site to bash the efforts of Team Slipstream/Garmin and, in particular, Jonathan Vaughters. My criticisms -- at least at the outset -- maybe had some vestiges of substance (e.g. Why has the cycling public extended authentic forgiveness to ex-doper David Millar, but continues to hold other dopers in contempt?) But over time, as I tired of regurgitating legitimate criticisms, I strayed into the realm of the personal. I hammered Vaughters for his style of dress, his oenophilia, his choice of new rider signings, even his own palmares as a professional. It was stupid on my part to do so. And I wasn’t doing it just because I was falling victim to the ultimate temptation of any would-be writer -- that is, being excessively in love with the sound of one’s own voice. Rather, as I mention above, it was something catalyzed by the tiniest acts of personal displeasure --
A look backward to the years of 2006-2007 will show that Jonathan and I shared absurdly expensive meals at absurdly lavish restaurants in three different time zones. These meals followed meetings where we discussed possible Competitive Cyclist involvement as a sponsor in the nascent Slipstream program, as well as meetings in which we introduced Slipstream brass to potential post-Javelin, pre-Felt bike sponsors. These meetings never culminated in actual business being done, but they laid the groundwork for what should’ve been a respectful, functional relationship with no small future potential.
Then I turned sour. Why? I can think of two reasons. And having to recite them here makes me feel rightfully small and idiotic. (1) I think back to the ’07 Tour of Georgia. It was the 2nd year running I did a day trip to Chickamauga to follow a Slipstream rider in the TT stage. Jonathan and I corresponded via email before the stage, and he expressed easy agreeability to my request to follow a rider. When we arrived to the stage that day, I expected Jonathan to be personable -- just as he’d been when our parties-of-eight were clinking wine glasses in the private rooms of sumptuous bistros. Instead, he was brooding like an adolescent. It’s behavior I’ve mastered here at my workplace -- sometimes, circumstances make the bossman irredeemably grumpy. But since I was expecting something different from him, I went into 14-year old girl mode by taking his sour vibe personally. And I took it even more personally when -- 10 minutes before my rider was to start his TT -- I requested a set of spare wheels for the car, when he sneered at me, then barked at a Slipstream mechanic -- ‘Get this guy some wheels.’
‘This guy.’ Nameless, faceless, worthless me. ‘This guy.’ That phrase broke me. It lodged into my craw with a high-holy permanence. Given my efforts to help better Slipstream in 2006-7 -- bandwidth I should’ve been investing in my own business -- the blow-off intrinsic to that phrase pissed me off to no end. One side benefit to building a not-inconsiderable business with Competitive Cyclist is that I’m no longer treated as gnat-like by the people I’m surrounded by all day. ‘This guy’ -- that’s how it made me feel, and it irritated the living daylights out of me.
(2) A few months later, Jonathan chose not to re-sign Craig Lewis to a contract with Slipstream. I never spoke to Craig about it. Instead, I just internalized it because I love Craig like a little brother. In the long run, it’s worked out best for everyone. Craig signed with High Road/Columbia, and just a few weeks back he re-signed for a 2-year extension and got named to the US World Championship Road Race team. His career is skyrocketing. But I have an aversion to rejection, and so I took Jonathan’s jettisoning of Craig personally. Again, Craig and I never spoke about it. And, sitting here writing this, I recognize that I should have as much say about what riders Slipstream hires & fires as Jonathan should have in which sales guys I hire & fire here at Competitive Cyclist. But irrationality preys on the emotionally weak -- and that’s exactly what I am sometimes.
I write all of this for two reasons: (1) I’m sure Jonathan is curious why someone in the world -- someone he’s been friendly with on numerous occasions in the past -- has gone the blog equivalent of postal. The reasons above are the only reasons why, and they are admittedly idiotic and I’m embarrassed. (2) I’d like to apologize. If anyone is not seeing the proverbial forest for the trees, it’s me. No one with the remotest understanding of pro bike racing would prefer to go back to the dark decade of the 90’s. Who isn’t haunted by Steve Swart’s account of the era -- ‘Everyone was walking around with their own thermos, and you could hear the sound -- tinkle, tinkle, tinkle -- coming from the thermoses because they were filled with ice and vials of EPO…’
So, Jonathan, I’d ask for you to indulge me and accept my apology. I’ve taken what any sane person would judge to be meaningless events and for reasons I can’t explain to anyone -- least of all myself -- they turned into jet fuel to torch the groundbreaking good you’re doing for the sport. I know I can be a dick sometimes. I guess I’ve surprised myself in this instance with just how big of a dick I can be. I’m sorry.
– Enough about me and my failings! Let’s talk about the failings of others. For those of you who are inquiring why we promoted the daylights out of our Ridley Supercross/SRAM Force complete cyclocross bike special, and now you can’t find it on the site, here’s the reason why: These framesets successfully made an ocean crossing from Antwerp to New York. They slowly-but-slowly got cleared by US Customs. They then got loaded onto an Averitt Express 18-wheeler. New York to Nashville. Nashville to Memphis. Memphis to Little Rock. And on the day they were supposed to get delivered here -- after crossing 1/3rd of the globe on its 45 day journey -- they vanished. POOF! They were gone. The Little Rock Averitt depot said they loaded them onto the trailer. The driver that day said they weren’t on the trailer when he came to deliver them. And since the 3rd party company who arranged the freight transport never asked us if we required supplemental insurance for the shipment, the Supercross frames were insured for the customary freight value of $5/lb, or -- to you and me -- about 8% of the real wholesale value (i.e. Competitive Cyclist’s cost) for the shipment. We’re out nearly $25,000. The extent to which we’ve gone to try tracking this shipment down should put us in the ‘Where’s Waldo’ hall of fame. Needless to say, this is making for a very unhappy week.
– For those of you patiently awaiting the initial arrival of Assos FI13.S5 bib shorts to Competitive Cyclist, here’s the latest: The delays of this shipment are being cause by 2 factors: (1) Assos is being very particular with their QC with this piece. Everything about the design is new, and while Assos thought it had passed QC, apparently a final step in the QC process is to put them into production, then take a sampling from the initial production run to test them. Apparently some imperfections were discovered in this very final QC step, pertaining to size of the holes in the stitching where the chamois attaches to the short itself. We’re being told this stitchwork was passable, but not absolutely perfect. So Assos stopping production as a whole ‘til they could get the problem 100% addressed. Props to them for their insistence on a flawless finished product. Apparently the fix is done, and production is back in the works. But it’ll still be at least several more weeks before we see them. (2) The other complicating factor in things is that Assos is changing their distribution channel here in the US. To their credit, they’re opening up their own sales & business office for the US market, instead of relying on a 3rd party distributor. This is a credit to their strength as a company, and to their commitment to the US marketplace. The short-term pain is a lack of Assos inventory in the US. But the long-term upside will be better inventory depth & better delivery on seasonal clothing. It’s no fun right now, but in the mid-to-long term future the benefits should be substantial.
– Rumors started circulating online that Caisse d’Epargne will be riding Look bicycles for 2009. This kinda freaked us out, because we’re in love with Pinarello, and such rumors -- if true -- would mean that Pinarello would be absent from the ProTour in 2009. We were forwarded a press release this week from Pinarello from the Caisse d’Epargne management company -- Abarca Sports -- that states with no ambiguity that Caisse d’Epargne will be riding Pinarello through the 2010 season. FYI, in case you’d heard the same rumors.