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Paris-Nice 2009, and other video from the week that was

– If you’re in your 30’s you probably remember the advent of cable TV. Mine was a ‘basic cable’ household, which means that when I was age 15 I spent countless hours with the volume low and my face pressed up to the screen in front of the scrambled porno channel. Today’s Direct TV just gives you a dead black screen and the stark notice ‘You are not subscribed to this channel.’ But back in the LeMond/Hinault-era you’d get purple-pink scrambled signals with cubist-like half-asses and quarter-breasts arguably discernible within the kinetic madness there and once every 45 seconds or so the scramble in its randomness would, in fact, show a split-second clear picture, which to a 15 year old was like a double-dose of Nazi Meth shooting 100,000 watts of pleasure straight for the brain. My parents would be in the next room, finishing their dinner. Me, I stood in frozen embarrassment in front of the TV because no longer than 45 seconds from now would be another sub-second spike of unalloyed video ecstasy, so I couldn’t stop and I was all but dry-humping the TV armoire a mere 3 stairsteps and 30 feet from my Mom and Dad.

And that, my friends, was akin to my experience of the 2009 Paris-Nice. It was a week defined by all-or-nothing attacks like nothing I’ve seen since the ’86 Tour de France. All you need to do is watch the highlights of Stage 7, where Alberto Contador cracks into a thousand tiny bonk-bombed bits, and Luis Leon Sanchez stomps away triumphant.

The attacking -- Sanchez up to the beautiful hilltop village, me up the intricately carved birch armoire doors -- isn’t what reminded me of being age 15. Rather, as I watched the race it was déjà vu of my stock-still shame in front of the screen. I’ve since traded in my mother for a wife, and how could I explain to her the fact that every video feed on the web for Stage 7 had died, and in the moments leading up to Sanchez’s attack I had to resort to the only functional feed out there courtesy of some dude in France who streamed the Eurosport coverage by pointing a camcorder at the TV in his living room? The picture, of course, was an absurd bluish blur. Perfectly complementing the picture quality were acoustics akin to a cell phone dropped in a swimming pool. The sound came out of his TV, into his camcorder’s microphone, and then onto the internet. At one point, I think, he started vacuuming in the same room as his TV.

I should’ve been on the bike training. Or I should’ve been kicking around a soccer ball or coloring with my kids. But instead I sat transfixed in my kitchen in front of an old laptop -- face 6 inches from the screen to best make out the muddy picture, terrified that if my beloved wife walked in she’d take a single look at the mess on the screen and recognize the extent of my bedazzlement at a presentation so pathetic. She’d shoot me a look of tough love that no amount of getting caught on fleshbot dot com or answering work email at 11pm would evoke in her. Jesus Christmas I love this sport more than I can ever describe. Every year it shows in increasingly embarrassing and unexplainable ways.

– Quote of the week comes courtesy of George Hincapie’s twitter account: ‘Tour of Cali- 100 riders, big roads. Tirreno- 200 riders, small roads. Welcome to European racing!’ George had an awesome week at Tirreno-Adriatico, and we’re hereby marking him as a not-so-dark dark horse to win Milan-San Remo on Saturday. He’s climbing like a monster, and don’t forget that something like 10 of the last MSR’s were won by riders who did Tirreno, not Paris-Nice.

– From the Dept. of Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due: A nice video here of Tyler Farrar of Team Garm*n showing Mark Cavendish a clean set of wheels at Tirreno. Ironic thing is that earlier this week I did a trainer ride while watching an old Giro d’Italia DVD where Freddy Rodriguez outsprinted Alessandro Petacchi. To my knowledge, after that David vs. Goliath moment Freddy never won another thing. My fingers are crossed for Tyler that he’ll find a kinder fate and that Tirreno was the first of many field sprint wins for him.

Monkey Dust video. So entertaining in so many ways.

– And for the time trial fans in the house, a short video from our pal Nigel Dick that combines TT highlights from the ’07 & ’08 Tour de France and the ’08 & ’09 Tour of California.

– Word on the street is that any day now will complete its site facelift and make it public. They did part 1 of this facelift in January, which caused the site to resemble an aborted game of Tetris with bigger-than-ever ad banners blindly stacked kind of on top of each other and into the articles and masthead, all without improving content or site organization. I can’t contain my feelings of sadness at how Future Publishing has gutted the heart and soul of cyclingnews over the last year. Their goal in having purchased it is now clear: To exploit it as a means of driving traffic to their Brit-centric mainstream cycling site, bikeradar, which is to online cycling content what ProCycling is to printed cycling content: A scattered, soulless mess useful neither to novices nor the hardcore. And every day cyclingnews seems to deteriorate further. Seeing ads served like what you see in this screen shot -- look at how the Cervélo ads and the Colnago ads are both doubled up, thereby wasting half of each company’s ad investment -- only compounds my frustration at the delays it takes for ‘Brief Results’ to then be replaced with ‘Full Results.’ was once the authoritative venue for cycling journalism. News is no longer a priority -- unless you want to read another press release about another pro bike being auctioned on Ebay for charity, or which pro -- according to his on-message press officer -- is feeling ‘tranquilo’ whilst training in Tenerife. They are getting their asses handed to them by when it comes to the timeliness and thoughtfulness of their coverage, and if this final phase of the site redesign isn’t a night-and-day difference, you can cite as a golden example of how to thoroughly botch a media acquisition. So sad.

– The most valuable remaining asset at is tech editor James Huang. Unlike other tech writers found in cycling ‘media’, James believes in actual reportage and not in simply regurgitating the marketing clichés of the manufacturers whose wares he’s reviewing. Check out his recent review of Shimano Dura Ace 7900. He gives it a 3.5 on a scale from 1-5. Given the fact that for James’ peers in the cycling media breathless effusion is the rule and not the exception, and given Shimano’s position as industry behemoth, his 3.5 for 7900 is a five-alarm PR fire for the Shimano press Gestapo. James has some serious balls for his honesty and I love him for it. With thoughtful reviews like these James Huang is distinguishing himself as the leading tech editor in the entire cycling industry. Remember this: if it says ‘tech review’ and the byline isn’t James Huang, just ignore it like you would any other ad.

– Speaking of Shimano, Dura Ace Di2 electronic is now in circulation. In case you’re curious about whether a degree from MIT will be helpful for installation, the nice folks at Park Tool have put together this play-by-play of the install.

The greatest bike race in America gets its due in the New York Times. Not sure what we like more about Rouge-Roubaix, the wave of creepiness that’ll flood your body when you see the roadside signs for Angola Prison, or the fact that you can dine post-race at my favorite restaurant in the south.

The team cars of the Tour of California.

More evidence that professional sports are especially vulnerable to the macroeconomic times.

– Speaking of the triangulation of the economy, the bike business, and the strengthening dollar: We reported in an earlier post that Campy costs 15% less now than it did at the beginning of the year. Following this trend, Sidi dropped their shoe prices by 15% this week. This was good to see, and we expect to witness more instances of it from more brands in the upcoming months.

– A question: If we offered a bad-ass Competitive Cyclist special once a week that we only broadcast via text message, would you opt onto the list to get these texts? At the most it’d be once a week. You’d have to opt onto the list. You could opt out with ease. Would you give it a shot?

– Bike Snob NYC needs a west coast editor to keep up with how a good thing can go so bad out in the PST.. This got a full page spread in the most recent edition of Vanity Fair. I’m serious.

– The older I get, the more I’m convinced that smart bike race training boils down to one thing only: Hours and hours chasing one of these. And, no, a Derringer won’t do.