Nov 5 2009
There’s never been a shortage of #cxdrama surrounding the domestic cyclocross scene. All that standing around before and after a 45-minute long race inevitably leads to gossipy cyclists taking swipes at each other. Having the Internet around sure doesn’t help—Sandy Baggins, the ebay auction, the Johnson/Page incident, etc.
But ironically enough, it took a man whose webpage info reads “FYI, THIS SITE READS BEST IN INTERNET EXPLORER. THE FONT ON THE SITE IS SET TO ARIEL [sic] AND IN “NORMAL” SIZE” to really take online #cxdrama to the next level. For better or worse, the emails have been taken down, but the story—unfolding as it does in classic film noir fashion—can never be suppressed:
Amy Dombroski, the femme fatale: a young, driven, female ‘cross racer finds herself in a very high-profile “liaison” (her word) with the Richard Sachs racing team. At first, things go well. Results are excellent, videos sweep the Internet. But with each passing race, more and more evidence trickles out that something is not as it should be…
Richard Sachs, the world-battered idealist. Decades of hand-building frames in his stubborn, ageless style have allowed him to wrest his own unique niche from an ever-more-outsourced world. He readily returns the sweet kiss of success, but will he turn a blind eye to his principles when push comes to shove?
Cole Wheels, the jilted lover – Not the most well-known. Not the most lusted-after. But supportive. An up-and-comer. Willing to make sacrifices, to ship lighter, more expensive wheels to its sponsored athletes at a moment’s notice—it’s worth it for the podium press. Provided, of course, their gear makes it to the podium…
It opens just after another national-level podium for the brilliant young Dombroski. Sachs is beaming with success, another great result for his team—not just a team, mind you, but a troupe, a cabal, a closed society; a family. But word from Cole pulls a cold breeze across an otherwise sunny day: “doubt was cast that these are not our T-38s in the pic. what’s the deal?”
It couldn’t be—Sachs runs to a computer, searches frantically. His face falls as he realizes, plain-as-day, that she’s taken not one, but two unsponsored wheelsets—megabrand Easton and boutique White Industries, from the looks of things. The complete range of competitors. How could she?
He confronts her—she’s taken aback and stalls for time. “I had no glue. I had no tires, minus 2 file treads. I had no one to glue them…”
“So tell me—is it my responsibility to ensure you have glue and tubulars?” He fires back?
God, she thinks, how can you be so much older than I and yet so naive? Time to end this ruse:
“If your sponsor cannot deliver the best,” she explains coolly, “there are ways around it.”
Sachs is crushed—he’s been used. But he’d let himself be used. The evidence was right there and he’d missed it. In his own photostream, even! Perhaps he’d been blinded by the success. Perhaps there’s a way to work this out.
Cole, meanwhile, is a nervous wreck. The right move is to ignore it. Sleeping dogs lie. But no food and no sleep will take their toll on a man. How to explain this. The photos. Dombroski is their rider. The media will ask—gotta come up with something…
“We’re proud to have our Cole wheels under the men and women of the Richard Sachs Cyclocross Team, including some very special prototype builds of theT38 (cousin to the T50 that VeloNews liked so much back in August) and T24 wheelsets (in some of the photos, they’re so new they don’t even have their decals yet).
Dombroski and Sachs recoil in horror. “So new they don’t even have their decals yet”? Might as well scream “hey, look at these non-Cole wheels.” And this is on the Internet! Sachs makes his offer—ditch the scam wheels, ride Coles, move on—but they both know it’s a moot point. There’s no putting the genie back in the bottle now.
Dombroski attempts a graceful exit—”Perhaps Richard’s loyalty is something we should all learn from”—and gets some favorable press. But in the hyper-political world of cycling, she’s damaged goods. Another promising pair of lungs and legs destined for a career of redheaded step-childhood, bouncing between underfunded and underexposed squads, never again to be trusted.
Sachs, knowing that it will eventually turn on him, publishes their messages in an attempt to give an unbiased view of the crisis. But the Internet revolts—publishing private correspondences for all to see is frowned upon. Suddenly, people who never had cause to care thumb voyeuristically through their story in droves; as Sachs reflects—too late—”The issue has taken on a life of its own…”
Only now realizing shortsightedness of his actions, Sachs deletes the story. Legions of curious bystanders aim their browsers at the once-voluminous correspondence to find only a cryptic note: “I have opened wounds that rival the contretemps that started all of this in the first place. For that I sincerely apologize…”
Two careers ruined, a team destroyed, a would-be wheel brand gone bankrupt, and the truth forever vanquished, overrun by an ever-mutating army of conspiracy theories…
…but forget it, Jake—it’s #CXDramatown.
[all motivations and internal monologue entirely conjectural for dramatic effect. Quotes out-of-context but verbatim because the Internet never forgets]