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The First Addiction

– The Tour de France is a gear-snooping delight. Our favorite bit so far is, in fact, decidedly Italiano, i.e. neon -- Team Milram’s ‘Safety is Sexy’ glowing grello Rudy Project helmet.

– Technical surprise of le Tour is courtesy of the real King of Avoiraz (sorry Andy Schleck) -- Daniel Navarro of Team Astana. Did you see that he wears half-shorts, not bib shorts? When was the last time you saw a bib-less PRO? I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one, but based on Navarro’s one-man Spanish Inquisition up the final climb on Stage 8, he’s welcome to do as he pleases.

– Slowly, tailed by Euskatel riders: Not the way Lance probably expected his GC relevance to expire once-and-for-all. His surrender on Avoiraz was the definitive end of an era -- an era, in truth, that ended in earnest 5 years ago. In his comeback did he ever win a race other than the ’09 Nevada City Classic? Nonetheless, the Twittering schaudenfreude of the haters throughout his Stage 8 collapse was cheap, easy, and spiteful.

There’s plenty to dislike about Lance, Inc.. But in seeing his human, all-too-human struggle on Sunday, I couldn’t help but feel some somberness. The accidental consequence of his career’s arc was the mainstream acceptance of our sport. As a businessman it’s been to my benefit; as a cyclist I feel less intrusive on the roads; socially it’s less like being a space oddity. We’re no longer modern pentathletes -- obscure, forlorn, queerly two-headed in the larger realm of athletics.

– Is there a richer moment for sports journalists to write (as compared to mere reportage) than the detonation of a sports superstar? William Fotheringham proves he’s the undisputed Heavyweight Champion of English-language cycling journalism with his account of Stage 8 in its historical context .

– Note the majority preference for the Radar over the Jawbone by Oakley-sponsored riders. The Jawbone’s frame is its death-knell: It surrounds the lens 360°, leaving you with no peripheral vision. You can’t sense passing cars or a rival attacking from 3 bike-lengths back.

– Another interesting equipment choice courtesy of the Giro helmet-sponsored pros. It’s seems unanimous: Between the Ionos and the Prolight, they all pick the terrifyingly light Prolight The only exception? It’s Lance. He sticks to his Ionos, almost certainly because the Livestrong Ionos is an inline Giro product, but they don’t offer a Livestrong Prolight.

If you haven’t (literally) picked up a Prolight, you should. It’s an experience not unlike lifting a naked Zipp rim or a sub-800g frame -- its lightness smacks of fragility. Instinctively it feels dangerous, i.e. ‘stupid light.’ I’ll admit I train with a Prolight, but every race I’ve done this year was in my 2-year Lazer Genesis whose relative heft makes it feel safer. It’s a habit I’ll now break, thanks to seeing like 100 Prolighted pros in le Tour.

– Just curious: What is the ethical basis for the ban of autologous blood doping? After all, it’s your own blood. Is it the risk of stroke/infection? In that case, it’s certainly dangerous (and, as a consequence, likely unadvisable). But its danger doesn’t make it unethical, does it? I get the ethical issues with synthetic & foreign stuff -- EPO, testosterone, HGH. But at least in a debate class setting couldn’t one argue that ethically speaking autologous blood doping is an act closer to training than it is doping?

– Cycling is not the new golf. Rather, the opposite is true. Our 14-clubbed friends have found our favorite 4-letter word; and they prove that cycling hasn’t cornered the market on Portland-based artisanal hand-crafters.

– An overdue entry for the banned word list: Brifters. Do not call us and tell us about your brifters. We will hang up. Yes, they are simultaneously shifters & brake levers, but that does not equal brifters. Please pick any of these alternatives: Shifters, levers, STI, Ergo, Ergopower, Ergolevers, Doubletap, etc. Dignity first. Always.

– Best blog of the Tour? It’s a weak field to choose from. The best blogger in the peloton, Team Sky’s Michael Barry, is writing for the Times of London, and since you have to pay for an online subscription, he’s DQ’d. The rest of the race (understandably) embraces the mindless ease of Twitter. Not unlike the larger world, bike race blogging is a dying art. The best exception to the trend is Team Omega-Pharma. Blogging chores are shared between Sebastian Lang and Charlie Wegelius, and it makes for some amusing & insightful reading.

The least interesting cycling-related web page there is. That is, until you crash.

– ‘For the love of the sport’ -- a phrase rarely-if-ever uttered about road cycling. Instead, as a culture, have we gone off the deep end in our endless pursuit of the ‘epic’? Whether it’s measured in kj’s or exoticism of the locale or Final GC placing, our sport sometimes seems dangerously aspirational. The simple act of riding -- wasn’t that the first addiction? -- has it been trumped by goal-mongering? The joy of an ordinary spin, the beauty of a vista…Instead must it always be a workout or recovery or an epiphany?

This weekend I banished thoughts of fitness & religion. Instead my saddle time was spent re-learning how to see. It wasn’t a training ride. It was an observing ride --