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The two sweetest words

– The two sweetest words in the English language: Nice pull.

– Nobody made note of the strangeness that unfolded in the final 1km of the Mt. Ventoux stage at the Dauphine-Libere. As this video shows, it appears that Alejandro Valverde’s pace causes his breakaway companion, Liquigas’ Sylvester Szmyd, to detonate. Note how 10-15 seconds after Szmyd blows up, Valverde stands up and accelerates. And then watch the last few hundred meters to the finish.

If you read the post-race account on cyclingnews, Valverde sorta lukewarmly says he gifted Szmyd the stage win. But based on some of his accelerations in the last few hundred meters, I wonder if that was so, or if he just got punk’d. I dunno.

Best bike story I’ve read in awhile. It’s by Mike Barry of Mariposa, father of Michael Barry of Team Columbia.

– Summertime means one thing: Eyelashes painting sweat on the lenses of my Oakleys. If I gave myself an eyelash trim, would anyone notice?

– Last week was a busy one on the doping front. Antonio Colom of Katusha got nabbed for EPO and Bernard Kohl did his mea culpa to sell some newspapers for L’Equipe. Right around the same time I ran across this three year old article and it reminded me that for all the hilarity surrounding current anti-doping practices -- i.e. is there a bio-passport, or isn’t there; are bio-passport results basis for rider suspensions or not; do out-of-competition tests for banned substances matter or not -- nobody confronts the single-biggest reason for doping: It’s a insurgent form of economic class warfare.

I forget the details, but Bernhard Kohl’s dad was a chimney sweep or a sharecropper or something equally dead-end -- one of a thousand stories of dirt poor kids (western European, ex-Soviet state, South American) who face certain lifelong poverty unless they escape via bike racing. For these guys racing pro is akin to a shopping spree. How much treasure can you horde before a blood test stops the clock?

After his breakthrough ’08 Tour de France, Kohl signed a million Euro contract with Silence-Lotto for ’09, which subsequently got torn up once his positive test came to light. No doubt he’d be the first to tell you that if he could’ve just tap-danced around the dope controls for one more year, his career would’ve been an unadulterated success. Race results? For many they’re just a means to end.

Here in the US cycling is a rich white kid sport maybe one step down from polo and dressage, but absolutely on par with tennis and golf. If your pro career doesn’t pan out in the US, you go to law school. But to the Austrian/Kazakh/Colombian farm kid -- why in the hell wouldn’t they dope? I’m not justifying it. But until the UCI provides meaningful benefits for riders after their careers are over (pensions, scholarships, or the European equivalents thereof), doping will never stop. For these kids, escaping their doomed economic orbit is probably more important than winning a stage of the Tour. When it comes to the fight against doping, economic aspiration desperation is the elephant in the room, and it’s why doping will be with us forever.

– Click on the story about the ‘Bar Fighter.’ It shows that not all American kids who race bikes are Richie Rich. It’s proof, too, that rage is an essential ingredient for racing bikes; and that racing bikes is the best outlet known to man (other than the US Marines, maybe) for channeling rage.

– The dirtiest race we can remember was the 2005 Ghent-Wevelgem -- and no, it’s not because of doping.. Amazingly, no video exists anywhere on the web because whoever owns the ‘rights’ to the broadcast got the videos removed from Youtube, Dailymotion, et al. because they think they’ll sell more videos if nobody knows the race ever existed. That’s a bummer because the finish was criminal and you need to see it.

– Running red lights on my bike isn’t something I do often. But when I do, it’s an act of self-preservation.

– summed up this sprint from Stage 2 of the Tour de Suisse quite well. ‘Oscar Friere, not a happy bunny there…’ He gets squeezed out, grazes a barrier after the finish, then delivers a stern lecture to Bernard Eisel all within about 10 seconds.

And, while we’re talking about, let me repeat my earlier praise: Their ‘B’ team of Martin McCrossan and Magnus Backstedt are the best bike race-commenting duo in the history of broadcasting. I’m sure Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen command a princely sum from Versus, given their status as bike racing play-by-play royalty. Versus, here’s a tip: RIF Phil & Paul, then hire McCrossan and Backstedt for 80% less. The quality of the commenting will be peerless, and with the money you’re saving you’ll be able to banish Enzyte, the DR Chipper, and that motorcycle brand that gets you to sprout wings and fly out of gridlock traffic. A minimum of 30 minutes of racing coverage per hour -- that’s all I want. ANd with McCrossan and Backstedt those 30 minutes will be like music.

– 95% of the pros race on tubular tires still, which means you should probably be racing on them too. Great information about mounting technique and glue selection. Parts 6 & 7 are especially good.

– Cadel Evans is notorious for his no-attacking style. He goes way out of character here. He punches hard, harder, harder at the end of Stage 7 in the Dauphine. It’s obvious Contador and Valverde are racing together in a unified Spanish front, but it’s nonetheless nice to see Evans cracking the whip. It wasn’t a flash in the pan, either. He did the same style attacking on Stage 8. Forza Cadel!

Sign me up for this ride.

– Print media, of course, is dying. Curious about whether bike-specific print media is on an equally steep downward trajectory. Tell me this: Does your LBS stock magazines?

Great interview with Morgan Nicol of Oval Concepts. You can skip over all the triathlon stuff in the first half to get to the road stuff in the second half. Smack talk about Damiano Cunego. Love it! Some interesting stuff here.

– A wise man once told me that road races are won because of spikes in power, and time trials are lost because of them.

Chapeau to Tim Duggan of Team Garm*n for his performance in Stage 8 of the Dauphine. The last few km’s are thrilling to watch. As you may recall, in Stage 3 of the ’08 Tour de Georgia he crashed on a descent and broke his collarbone, scapula, and did some brain hemorrhaging. His recovery was monumental -- somebody said he had 6 months off the bike. Then, Shazam, he pulled off the most courageous attack I’ve seen by a Garm*n rider since Danny Pate on Stage 15 of the ’08 Tour de France. Duggan got in a 30-man breakaway early on in the 150km final mountain stage of the Dauphine. On the last big climb of the day he dropped 28 of his companions, with only Rabobank’s Stef Clement being able to claw back up to his wheel. Then with just 7km to go, FdJ’s Sebastian Joly bridged up. The fact that Duggan got himself in this position in such a huge race is inspiring.

You can’t make up stuff like this up. Reminds me of the time I did the ’97 or ’98 Tour Lefleur and in the Pro, 1, 2 crit was a guy dressed up in full Mapei regalia: Complete kit, correct helmet and shoes, Colnago Master Light frameset in Mapei paint, etc. This was at the peak of Mapei dominance so a friend and I went up to him with two goals: (a) to figure out who he was, then (b) to fuck with him. When he told us ‘ummm….I’m on the Mapei amateur B squad from Portugal’ the answer was so half-hearted and nervous we couldn’t even engage in (b). And then, of course, he got dropped and pulled on lap 3 of the 50 lap crit.

– Dueling music videos here. Paris-Roubaix brought to you by Bob Dylan. And an unnecessarily melodramatic take on the Tour of Lombardy brought to you by Snow Patrol. In terms of the latter video the music makes something dicey measurably worse. But there’s something incredibly PRO about the flotilla of slow-mo race vehicles at 3:40.

Long interview -- way too long, really -- with #1 Lance Armstrong fan David Walsh. An analysis of the interview would require something even longer. So let me be brief and ask just one question: Is it wrong for a charity foundation to be for-profit? No agenda here. Just wondering…