– A lot of great racing happened at the ’09 Tour of California. But none was more thrilling than the finale of the 2nd and deciding stage of Tour du Haut Var in France, which took place on the same day as the Palomar stage at the ToC. Check out this highlight reel. Turn up the background porno music loud. If you’re pressed for time, fast forward to minute 7:00 of the video. The uphill attacks are sick. Utter violence. How do people race uphill this fast?
– Based on what I hear and on what I read, cycling.tv is effectively dead in the minds of its potential audience. People still can’t figure out how to subscribe or log in or see videos either live or on demand. The headaches haven’t changed in the last two years with them. What has changed, though, is that people don’t even seem to be trying anymore. And just in case you’re tempted…step back away from the ledge and instead go visit cyclingfans.com. Each day they list all of the live bike racing being broadcast on the internet, and provide links to the broadcast sites. These guys are angels from heaven.
Occasionally you’ll see that certain sites are ‘geo-restricted’, i.e. the broadcasts are limited to select countries. The broadcasting sites determine what country you’re coming from based on the IP address of your computer. Does anyone know how to falsify an IP address for a single browsing session, in other words mask my US IP address and instead make it look Belgian or Italian for a day? There’s no crime in that, is there? Any tips would be appreciated. I think my favorite hour of the week is making my kids a late Sunday morning breakfast to histrionic French play-by-play of the last 40km of 2nd-tier races like the Brabantse Pijl.
And, speaking of online race coverage, God Bless the Amgen Tour Tracker. The Bloomberg-like festoon of information on-screen is pretty cool, but the fact that it showed live racing from the beginning to end of every stage was intoxicating. Surely there’s a business model here for somebody. Cycling.tv is dead, and if the Tour Tracker technology could get applied to the Giro, the Tour, the Vuelta, and a dozen or so one-day races (if not the whole ProTour calendar), I could throw away my TV once and for all. We’d buy banner ads to support it for sure. We’d probably pay for video ads, too. Clearly the web is the future of niche sports broadcasting. Who out there is plotting to make a buck by showing 100 races a year online via the Tour Tracker? Someone step up. Please!
– My favorite moment of the Tour? It had to be the Pasadena finish. Part of it was the racing, but most of my happiness came from the awesome size of the crowd and the families everywhere. How many future bike race champions, now 12 years old, were in that crowd? I think of myself, back in the 80’s, standing on the roadside and watching in amazement as the Tour de Trump rocketed past. For who-knows-how-many kids out there, The Cervélo Test Team was to them what Coors Light was to me. Hayden Roulston -- maybe he’s their equivalent of David Mann or Mike Engleman. And AG2R’s Rinaldo Nocentini, maybe he’ll inspire legions like Jan Svorada did for me when he once did a race here in Little Rock. And, of course, the presence of Lance for those kids can’t be underestimated. It’s like the presence of Lemond + Hinault together at the Coors Classic x100.
I’m thinking less of whether that crowd will spawn American Tour de France stage winners circa 2025. Rather, it’s a different sort of champion I have in mind. I’m talking about the kids in the crowd who’ll get inspired for the very first time to race a bike and they get hooked and in the future miseries of threshold intervals and rainy base mileage rides they earn a greater illumination about life: the value of hard work, discipline, and focus. These lessons are best learned not in school, but on a bike. The future champions I’m thinking of are in business, in medicine, in law, in the community. What better preparation is there than, at least for a little while, to worship your bike?
– Check out the left crankarm on this Cervélo P3 from a Cervélo Test Team rider. In case any more evidence is required that SRAM Rival (inexpensive as it is) is nonetheless pro-worthy componentry.
– Scan the top-5 of all the ToC stages. US domestic teams had a dismal time of it. Mancebo and Sevilla of Rock Racing had their moments, but they’re both former Tour de France badasses, so it’s hard to consider them barometers of the real quality of the domestic US racing scene. Aussie Rory Sutherland (Ouch) cracked the top-5 on the final stage. But all in all it was a terrible showing for the 7 American domestic pro squads, and especially so for the American pros on those squads. I suppose it shows how high-quality the field was as a whole, but it makes it considerably harder to take the US domestic scene seriously when this is how they fare when the big boys are in town.
– For those of you who prowl the blogs, the forums, and the other nooks & crannies of the ‘net, you probably observed that the most powerful force of the ToC was the relentless vitriol of the Lance-haters. Everything done by Lance, it appears, was indisputable evidence of his lifetime of concealed crimes. He wore a non-conforming rain vest? He had traces of EPO in his 1999 Tour de France blood bags! He shoved a lunatic exhibitionist? He’s a shit dad because he’s off racing his bike instead of devoting his 30’s to playing Sonic the Hedgehog on the DS with his kids! He got gapped at the top of Palomar? His lunches with Michele Ferrari should get him banned from the ProTour for 70 years! The constancy of their hate confounds me. Lance-haters, please remind me, what’s your beef with him?
I think it’s really and truly a jihad. It’s a terror exactly like the one our country is at war against, where the ideology of the ‘oppressed’ can find no satisfaction in this life. The Lance-haters: They are nihilists. What is their purpose of their anger? What endgame, exactly, do they want to see? I have some bad news for them: Everyone who raced the Tour de France in 1999 was on EPO. Do you not understand that? Why the outrage at a fact that no one disputes?
Tell me this: What is Lance’s path to penance? Clearly confession isn’t the answer. If it were, Jonathan Vaughters wouldn’t still be tap-dancing around the issue of his own doping. And if confession reliably earned Christ-on-a-cross-like redemption, Joe Papp and Patrick Sinkewitz could plot their racing comebacks. But, no, a rational path to cleansing doesn’t exist for the haters. It’s because they’re not rational. It’s because they’re suckers. They’re suckers for the would-be eloquence and fashion sense of the preening David Millar. They’re suckers for the cuddliness of family man Erik Zabel. The haters think they’re la Résistance, but in fact no one has proven more susceptible to the modern-day crafting of character -- where public figures aren’t appraised by their deeds, but rather are judged by the packaging job concocted by high-dollar PR firms with their expert media manipulation. Like the fat fuck idiots who run me off the road when I train who honest-to-God believe in ‘Must See TV’: The haters run like rats to their media addictions: The New York Times, Paul Kimmage, ‘honest’ interviews with the spokesmodels of Team Garm*n. Here’s what the Tour of California taught me: Lance has no path to penance. Why? It’s because there’s something the haters hate even more than him: That the world doesn’t share their self-righteous outrage. Their capricious use of forgiveness proves that there’s no true north for their moral compass.
– Speaking of Paul Kimmage, he of the starry-eyed Team Garm*n worship, let’s not forget the fact that in his cri de coeur ‘A Rough Ride’ he makes it clear that he experimented with doping during his own pro days. There’s no shame in that. As his book makes clear, life is complicated. It’s interesting, then, that he’s so eager to play character-assassin to Lance. Stones, glass houses, etc. Why, Paul, why? I have a theory: It’s guilt that motivates Paul Kimmage in his splenetic, very public hatred of Lance. He can’t stomach the experience of his own personal doping experimentation. It’s as though confessing it in his book wasn’t enough, and forgiveness can only come through more punishment. Punishment of himself? No way. It’s punishment of others who might be guilty of the same.
I can already hear the ripostes of the haters. There’s a world of difference, they’ll say, between Kimmage’s youthful doping dalliance and Lance’s methods. I’m sorry, but nary a shred of proof exists of that. In lieu of facts, the haters will compensate with the Great Wall of Vitriol. In the place of due process, they prefer the ease of trial-by-media. I agree that there’s a ‘world of difference’ here: It’s a talent level that differentiates Paul and Lance. As bike racers. And as effective communicators.
Lance-haters, I appreciate meaningful dialogue. With this in the forefront of my mind, I yield the floor to you, my esteemed colleagues whose second-most prized asset is their David Millar-autographed copies of Rouleur #8 (featuring a glossy full page photo of a freshly-scrubbed, looking-thoughtful DM head-to-toe in Paul Smith at the foot of the Eiffel Bridge in Girona.) Please help me understand: (1) Why the selective forgiveness? I have a soft spot for Kazakh riders. What will it take for you to embrace the no-less-guilty-than-Millar Vinokourov and Kasheckin? And Papp and Sinkewitz? (2) What will cause you to lower your moral crosshairs from Lance? Let’s get into the realm of the purely theoretical: If he surrendered his ’99 maillot jaune who is the innocent that we’ll hand it down to? Jesus, look at that top-15. It reads like death row! How about a Festina rider? A Casino rider? A Mercatone Uno rider? Look at all 141 finishers -- not unlike life, who there is without sin? Let me narrow the questions to this: What is Lance’s way to penance? Or would you prefer not to get into that, since forgiveness to Lance would deprive you of your most prized asset, the thing that finally gives you a sense of purpose in life: Your white-hot hatred of Lance.