PRO TEAMS & RIDERS
– It’s hard not to feel bad for Baden Cooke. He either misinterpreted promises from the Rock Racing team or he was flat-out lied to (TBD in a court of law). What’s sad is that this mess comes only a couple of seasons after his ‘lost year’ with Unibet. Where there’s a Le Groupement situation brewing, Cooke somehow seems to find it.
What’s the real condition of Rock & Republic? Based on the noise about their team, it’s not great. But they’re certainly trying to shuffle the deck to make business happen: Apparently they’re going downmarket by unveiling a line of cut-price jeans. And they’ve just opened up a boutique in Vegas. Who can tell? What we do know, though, is that with media relations like this, they’ve got an uphill battle on their hands.
– Some implicit criticism of the Fuji-Servetto team on Cycling Fans Anonymous for Fuji’s decision to take over title sponsorship the forsaken Saunier Duval team. Agreed, DS Mauro Gianetti isn’t a saint by any stretch of the imagination. But, to me, his presence is far overshadowed by the involvement of Karen Bliss. She’s been involved with Fuji Bicycles for awhile, and many of you likely remember her name from her pro bike racing days. She was a fearsome pro sprinter and married to Bobby Livingston -- himself an Olympian on the track for the Kilo (Seoul ’88). Her palmares aside, though, what I remember best about her is from Gainesville, FL in the early 90’s. It was an east coast version of Boulder -- all the E.S.T. pros lived in Gainesville back then to log monster early season miles. I was in my first year out of the junior ranks. I had a shitty attitude. All the pros I tried riding with (including her husband) wouldn’t give me the time of day -- treatment I doubtlessly deserved. But even though she was training every bit as hard as the guys (and killing most of them), she was always super-nice to me. It was probably just because she felt sorry for me for being such a loser. It doesn’t matter, though. She WAS a saint back then, and for that reason alone I hope Fuji-Servetto has a solid first year on the ProTour. Props to Karen.
– The greatest cyclist of the 90’s is planning a comeback. He’s dressed head-to-toe in Giordana clothing. He’s not that dude from Austin. And it’s got us giddy.
– Like Team CSC, Blago digs on his Craft.
– When we first heard that Specialized was taking over Cervélo’s sponsorship of CSC/Saxobank for 2009, we heard that for the bazillions in cash they allegedly offered Bjarne Riis, we’d end up seeing riders kitted head-to-toe in Specialized gear. We were thinking bikes, components, helmet, shoes, shades, clothing, etc. We’d heard it was a stem-to-stern deal, and never gave much more thought to it. Then we saw this photo from January racing in Australia. Bell Helmet. Oakley shades. Prologo saddle. Craft clothing. O’Grady certainly has his fair share of big S logos on him, but nonetheless it’s not the monolithic be-all, end-all Specialized package we’d been led to expect.
– We spent over an hour on the phone with Bonnie Ford of ESPN last week, discussing Lance’s comeback. Apparently she’s got a pretty lengthy piece in the works about it, and based on her track record for writing about cycling it ought to be a thought-provoking article. Other than Samuel Abt, Ford is the one and only hope we have for grown-up journalism about cycling. Amuse yourself by putting anything Ford (or Abt) has written up against the near-insulting hilarity of this article on velonews.com. As is standard operating procedure for endemic cycling journalism, it’s a regurgitation of fully-sanitized manufacturer PR. This stuff is awfuler than awful. Read how Dr. Andy Pruitt (that’s Ed.D., not M.D., by the way) blesses Team Saxobank with his knowledge, and how ‘rider after rider was happy to discover the joys of what they were missing…’ Does Velonews.com have editors? Do they have standards of any sort? I had tears running down my face. Laughter? Frustration? Sometime this year I’ll hold a fundraiser to buy VN.com a Fisher Price My First Bullshit Detector -- they desperately need one.
– Biggest news around here is that we survived the move into our new building. It took 21 loads on a 24ft truck (plus countless trips in over-stuffed pickup trucks). But we’re here, we’re 100% operational, and we’ll have a photo tour for you in the near future. The only known casualties were ~75 copies of Embrocation Cycling Journal v.2.5 (we think they got thrown out by accident in our purge of 1,000 boxes of obsolete product catalogs), plus a carton full of Chris King Nothreadsets. The latter was an especially painful loss. They run $130 each, and you can fit a lot of them into one carton. Next time you’re at the I-30/I-40 interchange here in North Little Rock, if you think you see a Chris King cup or two over there on the shoulder -- that’s probably exactly what it is.
One interesting thing about employing an ex-Army Ranger is that they’re hard-wired to run to danger, not away from it. So upon hearing of the box of King headsets flew off a trucks and exploded all over I-30, our man Brian Danaher and a band of merry co-workers took it upon themselves to do a rescue mission. As this picture shows, they didn’t recover much. And what they recovered wasn’t pretty. Once the shoulder shrunk down to 12′ wide, they said, they decided to retreat.
– From the department of mishaps with valuable merchandise, have I told you how close Competitive Cyclist is to firing UPS?
– Not sure why this isn’t front page roadie news. But we learned something very interesting this week, courtesy of our friends at Campagnolo USA: ‘When we first presented the [Campagnolo Chorus-11] levers, the Chorus ergopowers were a bushing/ bearing combination. In production, they changed the Chorus ergopowers to all bearings, which is identical to Record. Currently, the only difference is the logo. We should be increasing the price by $50 because of the bearing change, but would not sell 1 Chorus ergopower if they knew they can get a Record logo’d ergopower at the same price. Sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused you as it was a surprise to us too.’
– Campagnolo 11, part 2: Did you know that Campagnolo doesn’t make an 11-speed bar end shifter? Did you know that due to indexing incompatibility, their 10-speed bar end shifter won’t work with an 11-speed drivetrain? What we’ve discovered is that if you’d like a Campy 11-equipped TT bike, our only option is to build it with Shimano 7800 bar end shifters set to friction.
– An increasing amount of chatter on the wholesale level suggests that Dura Ace Electronic, aka Di2, will start to hit the shelves at the end of January. We don’t believe it, simply for the fact that Shimano still hasn’t released wholesale or retail pricing. Without pricing, it’s sort of impossible for commerce to happen, right? But the rumor mill is getting louder. Not sure if you’ve seen the Di2 information on the Dura Ace website. A couple of interesting facts there. Be warned: It’s a slow-loading site.
– If you own or otherwise pine for Lightweight wheels, it’s highly likely that you’ve corresponded or met the managing partner of Carbonsports, Stefen Behrens. He’s a class act, and he’s been a fantastic ambassador of the brand for the 6 years I’ve known him. We were surprised to learn last week that he’ll be stepping down from day-to-day operations at Carbonsports. Our understanding is that he’ll still keep his financial interest in the company, but he’s stepping back from marketing and product development. Our hope is that his continued financial involvement will ensure continuity in Carbonsports’ North American operations, as they finish up establishing their US-based operations in San Diego. We wish Stefan the very best. He’s a super guy.
– Speaking of high-end wheels, you might recall the flurry of lawsuits rocketing back and forth between Reynolds, Lew, and Edge Composites. We hadn’t heard of any movement on any of the suits, and then we received some correspondence from Reynolds shockingly titled ‘Paul Lew Joins Reynolds.’ That’s like saying ‘Derek Jeter Joins Red Sox.’ We were stunned. His title? ‘Director of Technology and Innovation for Reynolds Cycling.’ Go figure.
– The year is young, but this is our favorite press release of the year so far. We’ve outlined in the past how dysfunctional the bike industry is, insofar as manufacturers are so simultaneously resentful and terrified of their dealers. (See our What’s New piece titled ‘Q&A – The Trek Edition’.) Burley’s ‘renunciation’ here slays us with its disingenuity. The inventory has been dumped. The revenue has been booked. The benefits have all been actualized. Amidst the afterglow of infidelity, what does sorry accomplish? Can you explain? I’ve never seen press from a manufacturer whose premise was this firmly rooted in a presumption that their dealers are idiots.
– The death of somebody’s dream is always painful to see.
– Global economic woes are clearly creeping into some significant areas of professional sports. See F1. See soccer. But in some circles there’s a belief that triathlon is the ubersport resistant to global economic devastation.
– And while, like most retailers, we’re not breaking world records for sales right now, things have stabilized nicely since the scariness of November ’08, and I think we can safely recuse ourselves from a retailer bailout stimulus package. In fact, the whole bike industry should feel that way. We already got our stimulus, and at the moment he’s racing in Australia. No doubt, the power of celebrity like this beats the hell out of a sales tax gimmick for driving real sales into America’s bike shops.