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Leadville, Garmin, Snobbery and more

– One of the founders of ye olde Competitive Cyclist is Craig Zediker. He’s doing the Leadville 100 MTB race for like the 7th year in a row this year. Every year he scores himself the fancy belt buckle for a fast finish, and it seems like every year he takes scalps from some interesting characters. Last year we noted, for instance, that he beat Chris CarmichaelChris Carmichael by a nice margin. Yes, Carmichael looks and acts a wee bit too much like a celebrity chef for our liking. But we recognize that he did the Tour in ’86 as part of 7-Eleven, so we’re a wee bit in awe of him despite his current persona.

So, anyway, Craig is out at Leadville with a decent-sized posse of folks from Little Rock, and one of them was doing some training out on the brutal Columbine Pass earlier this week, and who came hammering up to him with a motocross escort on his wheel? Carmichael’s celebrity client -- The Lance Himself. He was booking it up Columbine, and the MX bike carried a good 6 or 8 wheels so Lance could test different wheel and tire options. Yes, the PR we read about Lance and his Trek on was pure press release schlock. But we’ll hand it to Lance -- he’s hard-wired for quality logistical preparation when it comes to bike racing. The persistence of that instinct in him is kind of cool, no matter what you think of him.

Craig has clear instructions, by the way: He better beat Lance. By at least 10 minutes. If not, he’s buying the shop lunch for a week. And there are 35 people who work here….It’ll put a hurtin’ on his piggy bank. Good luck Craig!

Pinarello Prince Carbon– We have a crush on the Pinarello Prince Carbon painted in ‘King of Spain’ yellow and red to celebrate Alejandro Valverde’s win at the Spanish National Championship Road Race. We’re wondering if Colnago is planning on doing a similar commemoration of Emanuele Sella’s maglia verde climber’s jersey.

– The stereotype of road racers as preening snobs is perhaps in some cases warranted. But thankfully the hard-hitting journos at Bicycling Magazine dug under a big-ass rock to find the most insufferable roadie in North America. And (redeeming the reputation of road racers everywhere) he doesn’t even race!

With life advice like ‘…If you’re not happy with your job, well, then quit,’ you know this is the guy you wanna ride two-abreast with for, like, the rest of your life. The brilliance carries forth in a separate discourse with Allen Lim, PhD (sorry for the poor quality of the scan -- it appears that Bicycling was too embarrassed to archive this in perpetuity on their website.)article

Great article on the mysterious whereabouts of 90’s super-sprinter Djamolidine Abdoujaparov. The first time through, it reads pretty funny. But if you’re in a more contemplative mood, it comes across as dark and sad. We’ve asked in other places on our site, how do the poor of eastern Europe fit into cycling culture? Given the dearth of options available to kids in Uzbekistan and Moldova, etc, can you fault them for succumbing to the temptations of doping (be it vodka, heroin, or EPO)? We can’t.

We’re not certain what the answer is. On the one hand, some teams are attacking the problem on a global level. You can look, for example, at what Team Columbia is doing with ‘Right to Play’. It’s a great example of using publicity to help the helpless. More pertinent to the topic of professional cycling (and Abdu) is the question of how to protect young pro riders as they face the temptation to dope. Who’s looking out for them? In the context of Abdu’s lost soul and the umpteen-hundred pros desperately hanging onto their meager contracts the first question we ask is: ‘Why do they dope?’ Is it for glory, or is it their only means of socio-economic escape?

Our understanding of pro cycling in Europe is that it’s analogous to boxing in the US: It’s blue collar, and it attracts a rough crowd. Why don’t the riders recognize this by grouping together to create some real leverage for their own benefit? Not for the Bettinis and Chavanels, but for two-years-and-out domestiques who see little glory other than maybe making it to the last feed zone in a one day Coupe de France road race? These are the guys with the most reason to dope: Not to win, but just to keep the worst job in pro cycling. Why not figure out a way to take care of these guys -- Disability insurance? Pensions? Scholarships? Shouldn’t the riders as a group do something for themselves as individuals so they have something to rely on once their racing careers end? To sum it all up more neatly: If a rider’s union really exists, what benefit does it provide the riders? If it doesn’t exist, why not? I’m rambling here, but I can’t get away from my thought that doping prevention involves a hell of a lot more than high-tech drug testing. There’s an existential element no one is confronting…

– Speaking of doping, did anyone see this article about Team Garmin in the Sunday New York Times? The web version doesn’t do justice to the power it had on the page. In the paper it was accompanied by a dramatic aerial photo of David Millar in the final Tour TT. It was an impressive spread in the flesh.

I love the Sunday Times and I look forward to it every week, but I must ask -- why did they publish this story? It was the nth recycling of the PR-firm-vetted platitudes about the moral aspirations of Team Garmin. Wasn’t this the same article they wrote about the team in February? And again in May? And again before the Tour began? This is 21st century newsmaking at its most horrible. The handlers shovel the media relentless messaging, but there’s no new message ever.

From where we sit, Garmin’s PR no longer seems to gravitate around the actualities of bike racing, i.e. the fact that winning really does matter. Rather, the opposite is true. PR seems now to be the reason for the team’s existence. Must stay on message: ‘Cleaner riders through science…’ As I write this, I realize the brilliance of this gameplan. What happens if you create a bike racing team, but you decide race results don’t matter? As a team owner, there’s one hard currency you pitch to potential sponsors: Media impressions. It’s as though Slipstream understands what no other team before it understood: Sure, winning races scores a sponsor lots of media impressions. But winning bike races is hard and it’s unpredictable. Garmin’s is a more surefire strategy: World class PR with a culturally-relevant, easily-digestible message scores more impressions more reliably. Genius. Except that it’s the kind of stuff that would’ve never inspired me to give bike racing a try back when I was a punk-ass 15 year old kid.