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The Novice

– The shoes make the man. No secret about that. Joe Parkin dispenses must-have advice about it here. And, speaking of shoes, if dark brown shoes are the must-have pair in your closet, why is it that companies like Sidi and DMT don’t make them in Ferragamo-like deep, rich hickory? Why only black, white, and clown colors? I, for one, would buy a pair of DMT Radials in brown. (Yes, I’ve heard of Dromarti. But we’re talking about PRO-caliber racing shoes here, not preenster shit.)

Preen, to some it’s not always a pejorative word.

– Bike Industry #1: A great article that provides Evidence Exhibit n that brick and mortar bike retailers’ sense of entitlement continues at its same UAW-like levels of irrational intensity. If that energy was instead committed to an obsession with…customers(!)…the bike industry wouldn’t be in the fiery nosedive it currently finds itself in. Unfortunately, retailers don’t report earnings so we can’t measure the out-of-synchness between their solipsism and their financial condition. But, by inference, the news can’t be good. See Shimano. See SRAM. See Easton.

A perfect storm of power and elegance here. As evidenced by Fignon, the principles of aerodynamics have come a long way. Not just in terms of the equipment used in TT’s now vs. 1984, but just look at the difference in his saddle-to-bar drop (minimal) vs. what you’re used to seeing on contemporary PROs.

Long, but worth reading: Cycling and drugs, a complete different story .

– Bike Industry #2: Did you happen to see that Italian composites powerhouse ATR is bankrupt and is proceeding with a ‘program of complex corporate divestiture’? This is the same ATR responsible for all of Colnago’s Italian carbon production (they are literally next-door neighbors, from what we’re told.)

Combine the ATR news story with the turbulence experienced by Colnago in the last year (viz. their ugly divorce from their previous US distributor, Veltec Sports, which included a nationwide fire-sale of 50% off current-year models; their ragged roll-out of Colnago USA to replace Veltec; their disappearance from the ProTour peloton; and the rumor that Soren Krebs -- the only person involved in US distribution of Colnago in its 3 last flavors, Trialtir, Veltec, then Colnago USA -- was recently fired) -- given these facts, we wonder what we’ll see from them in 2010 and the future.

Two possibilities come to mind here: (a) An impending Big Sleep for Colnago’s brand prestige and mindshare, at least here in the US. The depth of goodwill and sentimentality for the brand runs deep, but it’s not infinite. Or (b) A re-birth, (insert flowery extended-labor-pains analogy here) a la what we saw from Pinarello around the time they introduced the F4:13 (about 2005 or so) when they realized that despite their heritage, Asian production is a virtue and brand prestige can be maintained and grown for reasons other than Made in Italy. We’ll see.

– This week USA Cycling made public their plans for creating membership growth: Having Lance Armstrong race ’til he’s 67 years old. What you won’t see in this article are the words ‘grassroots’, ‘developmental’, or ‘significant corporate sponsorship’. When contacted about these concepts, USA Cycling suggested we contact USA Luge instead. Uttering these words at USAC, apparently, is a firing offense. Other forbidden language includes ‘world-class track program’ or ‘awareness that cyclocross exists.’

The lack of vision at USAC astonishes -- that is, if you’re old-fashioned like me and measure ‘vision’ though (a) measurable results (like, e.g. ‘high-school club racing has grown by x%’ or ‘we have increased corporate sponsorship by $x’ or ‘membership numbers from ages 11-21 has increased by x%’); or (b) by substantive communication. But as we all know, the membership is furnished with no data. Communication occurs as we cite above -- USAC-to-cyclingnews, aka Politburo-to-Pravda. But visibility to a strategic plan with an actual strategy (i.e. more specifics than saying ‘we strive for excellence’)? It’ll never happen. At USAC jocksniffing runs amok: They ceaselessly fawn over world-class riders, but provide no proof of interest in cultivating the superstars of year 2030. Where is the outreach to kids who’ve never ridden a bike outside the neighborhood? Why doesn’t anyone there understand the future value of today’s novice? For the average American amateur bike club, USA Cycling licensure expense is just that: An expense with no apparent ROI.