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The Ostentatious Use of Private Aviation

– Did anyone doubt whether Lance is filthy rich? 7 Tours, best-selling book(s?), the most swooshed current athlete (as measured in duration) this side of Tiger. Surely he’s racked up spectacular lucre and I celebrate that someone in our speck-on-the-global-sports-radar sport (see here, where the intrigue of pro cycling is compared to badminton gossip) -- yes, one of our own can count his gold in bricks, not in ounces.

Having acknowledged the magnitude of Lance’s wealth, I must ask if anyone else scratches their head at photos like this. Grinning on the tarmac in Hawaii in an ostentatious show of his use of private aviation, it complements his Twitter stream of near-daily paradisiacal photos -- the chalet in Aspen, the gentleman’s ranch in Hill Country, the gilded co-ops and galleries in Manhattan, a hammock skimming the sand in Cabo. Match these idyllic scenes to his dispatches about his ‘amazing’ meals (night after night an epicurean orgy): It’s an incessant thrusting of luxury in our face. It’s a reminder, really, of who the once-poor kid in Plano was, and that his need to prove something (which doubtlessly fueled his rise to athletic superstardom) now goes beyond the bike, but to the bank too. What was once I’m way faster than you has morphed into a message for a larger audience: I’m way richer than you.

It has a whiff of déclassé, his relentless assertions of personal wealth. And it proves the thesis of this excellent Atlantic Monthly article from last summer: The balance between private pleasure and publicly visible consumption is a function of how nouveau your riche is. It’s fascinating to see the balance tipped so acutely with Lance.

– When a real PRO gets caught doping it’s a tragedy because the guys on the ProTour are heroic just for showing up and the fall of a hero always steals a bit of your heart. The history, terrain, culture, and suffering over there is a million-billion times vaster than the so-called ‘pro’ circuit here in the US, where the 20 guys who get paid enough to train and race full-time spend 90% of their time racing against ‘pros’ with dayjobs and that’s weekend’s crop of local fast bike shop dudes (just look at the start lists of any race other than Philly Week and Tour of California -- they’re called Pro, 1, 2 races for a reason.)

If there’s any substantive difference between Tom Zirbel’s DHEA positive and Kenny Williams’, I don’t see it. Both were doping to beat bike shop dudes, and if you’ve gotta dope to do that the joke’s on you. Dirt poor Russians doping to escape a lifetime of sharecropping through real glory and real money on the ProTour? I’ll apologize for them all day long. But college-degreed Americans doping to get top-10 at Dana Point or Joe Martin? These are the dopers who suck. Lifetime bans are unnecessary. Like getting caught whacking off in the high school by your mom: You should be too mortified to ever show your face in public again.

And a parenthetical aside for the bloggers of obfuscation out there who see Zirbel’s positive as an indication that ‘the system is broken’ -- Your Christmas basket is on the way, just a week or so late. It’s courtesy of the year 2004. The system, it seems, is starting to work.

Laugh of the week.

– FYI: All remaining 2009 Cervélo framesets and bikes are marked down to 30% off.

– Some new blogs on my RSS reader. One is called El Cyclista, and this article is thought-provoking, well-done, and is the sort of thing I love. Another is Velogogo, a blog that (blissfully) shies away from the written word in preference for expression of other sorts. Last is Cyclocosm whose serial anger amuses because it reminds me of being in my 20’s when I was black star of rage myself. He seems not to think highly of Competitive Cyclist, which is nice since being told once & again we’re the messiah of global bike retail some day get tiresome. What I dig about Cyclocosm is that he has the cynicism and negativity of the now-dearly-departed cyclingfansanonymous, but he pairs it with a pretty good sense of humor. The flood of fine blogs out there is ever greater. Please don’t hesitate to mention more.

– And speaking of youth, how spectacular was Jan Ullrich as a pup? It brings me to my New Year’s Resolution: I will do my best to coin a nickname for a rider (any rider) that matches the poetic ‘Der Kaiser’. It’s been a decade-long drought. By the way, do they do 8 hour Tour stages anymore? If only!