Archive | December, 2009

Dodging The Broomwagon

31 Dec

2381056470_32d1e6f0daAh, you see—I’m not the only one driven to near paralysis by monotony of things this time of year. My advice to all the Internetters who can’t bring themselves to write during the off-season is to step up your skill set—nothing like a few slow weeks to take down a big project or two.

That said, this winter’s given most bloggers plenty to write about. Tom Zirbel’s DHEA positive has certainly ruffled a few feathers; Euro Peloton went so far as to call it a “body blow” for the domestic scene.

I’m less decidedly less emo about it. I think it’s highly unlikely that Zirbel was doping—Tyler Hamilton’s supplement positive put a spotlight on DHEA this spring, meaning that most cyclists had fair warning about not ingesting it. Zirbel, for what it’s worth, claims innocence—I’m hoping he can track down some sort of subterfuge so WADA is finally forced to hand down a Nazi Frogmen exemption.

At any rate, the substance is pretty obviously a placebo, so Zirbel might have the additional recourse of challenging the validity of DHEA’s presence on the WADA banned list. Yes, it means another year and half of repetitive, boring articles as the wheels of justice grind slowly forward, but it also means additional accountability for a system that’s enjoyed an essentially free hand for the past ten years.

Returning to the headlines, there also seems to be a steaming pile of human interest stories about people making Hollywood-style transitions to the pro ranks. While I’m sure it helps sell ad space, I can’t say I find it too interesting—talent is talent, and the donkey/racehorse relationship is a two-way street.

Far more compelling from my persepctive me is word that Gilberto Simoni might still be racing next season. Anyone can make a comeback after a few years of loafing, but to maintain the rigidly monastic existence of a professional cyclist for 15+ years is another thing all together. If Gibo does sign, a photo along side potential teammate Salvatore Commesso should drive my point home nicely.

The Worst of Cycling 2009

30 Dec

100_angry_pavelsIf you’ve noticed the distinct, sharp-edge whiff of bile around the cycling world at the moment, don’t attribute it entirely to an excess of cheer at various holiday gatherings. Headlines at the end of the year—and the end of a decade, especially—always seem to reek more of regurgitation than perspiration.

It’s not that I’m above a year-end retrospective; I’ve done it at least once, and frankly, despite the four years that have transpired between then and now, that post is still one of the best end-of-year recaps around.

Measuring things in defined units (a Pavel: ), using images, being funny, stringing more than two sentences together, making actual points, segueing smoothly between sections—a more than solid effort, especially by today’s standards.

But hey, maybe you’re a “shit floats” kind of person, and you see no problems with a best-of list that starts off “It’s indisputable that we’re in the post-literate age, but it’s still possible to find lovely & [sic] interesting writing if you seek it out” before calling a site that unironically uses exclamation points in groups of eight “a slam dunk” for Blog of the Year. And no, neither the best-of list or the blog it names will be getting linked to here.

Or maybe you’re the sort of reader who needs to suckle at the teat of repetition. If so, you were no doubt rejoicing (though not especially surprised) to find that same image-thieving, underwritten, over-exclamation-pointed blog mentioned in both Embro’s and Pavé’s end of year lists.

Then again, maybe I’m the one in the wrong here. Maybe my standards are too high. After all, when the publication of record can’t seem to get itself together over whether or not a rider has signed with a new team, why should I expect the part-timers to reach any higher?

That said, online cycling coverage and commentary at the end of 2009 isn’t entirely a lost cause: I’ll readily credit Pavé for mentioning a blog based purely on a nicely-done layout. While I’ve got reservations about anyone who claims that “When Simoni was on top of his game he got to demand whatever he wanted” (Like this 800g front wheel?), or that “Aluminum was still the choix du jour” for frames in 2003, it’s still nice to find an author-designed blog that doesn’t look like a cached Angelfire page.

And I cannot express how deeply reassuring it is to find at least one other entity in the cycling world willing to stand up for something other than pandering to its advertisers and partner sites. Even the various incarnation of Velonews.com’s redesigns throughout the year—regardless of your opinion on their efficacy—also reflect the genuine desire to present the reader with an improved online experience.

Perhaps 2010 will be the year when this desire finally finds itself aligned with the talent and opportunity to needed create something great.

Not According To My Denomination

24 Dec

Found this in my Tumblr feed this morning, courtesy of VeloGogo (which, as an aside, would have been a far better candidate for Blog of the Year if Competitive Cyclist actually gave a rip about the criteria it claimed to advance):

old_testament

My only objection stems from the picture caption, which labels these videos as the “Old Testament”. In the Cycling Church of Cosmo, the dates and titles on those VHS collections (especially “The Greatest Climbs of the Tour de France 1990-1999”) would place them squarely in the center of the Apocrypha.

Le Monde Kicks Off The Holiday Re-Gifting

23 Dec

bloodbagNothing like a little holiday regifting to shake the wintertime rust off things in the cycling world. Today’s gently reheated offering is the Astana transfusion case, courtesy of French daily Le Monde. It’s a story that will sound extremely familiar because since its last incarnation in early October, that facts of the case remain completely unchanged—only the confirmation of a French investigation has returned it to the headlines.

To be honest, I think the story is something of a dog. As plenty of people have pointed out, dumping your doping gear in the trash would be all kinds of idiotic, since anyone with determination and the ability ignore strong odors has access to it; indeed, French journalists have made great sport of dumpster diving in the past.

Then there’s the fact that WADA only kinda bans [pdf] IV equipment—language on the “management of…medical emergencies” could easily be applied to dehydration, exhaustion, electrolyte imbalance, muscle cramping or any number of other side effects from racing a Grand Tour.

And let’s not forget the ongoing political battle between the UCI and the ASO. More than one observer has noted that we could really speed this nonsense along by comparing DNA in the bags to DNA from the riders, but guess who won’t release that information? To me, nothing says “investigational integrity” like a jurisdictional turf war.

But dog or no dog, the case is back in the headlines—and why shouldn’t it be? The holidays are known as a time of recycled news, and this year, the cycling world seems particularly focused on doping. Ricardo Ricco has apparently graced the cover of the latest Pro Cycling, while another Future Publishing property, Cyclingnews.com, has run a story on Christian Moreni’s return to the sport.

I, however, in an attempt to anticipate Astana/RadioShack’s response, prefer direct your attention to the dangers of tap dancing around technicalities in the doping rules with this Sam Abt article from 1991.

The Raphxis of Evil

22 Dec

Right off the bat, the title should give you a hint that you might want to take this one with a grain of salt. Or several.


That said, despite regularly producing some of the most original, creative, highest quality work in the cycling world for the past four years, there’s a fair amount of respect I’m not getting. I don’t think there’s anyone out there doing what I do or even coming close to it—certainly not the people collecting redirects from the parties targeted above.

So I think it’s time to start aggressively calling out the the motivations behind this industry’s self-appointed arbiters of good taste. My last naming of names got a fairly good response—and, really, what do I have to lose? The respect referrals I’m already not receiving?

Of course, the suggestion of an “axis of evil” in the cycling industry is obviously and intentionally bombastic, so if you find yourself on the receiving end of this, just consider it a friendly nudge—but one that leads with an elbow nonetheless.

The Day the Hard Men Cried

21 Dec

This might be old news, but it’s the best video footage I’ve seen of the legendary Gavia stage at the ’88 Giro. There isn’t all that much snow porn in this clip (certainly not compared to the famous poster), but the surprising video quality, actual racing coverage, and pure human carnage (semi-conscious Bob Roll at 6:45) are fantastic.

(via All Hail The Black Market; see also: inferior Gavia footage.)

The Brad Wiggins Bubble

17 Dec

winginsA week has passed since the worst-kept-secret in cycling officially became a done deal. It’s been spun, analyzed, broken-down and overblown in all ways imaginable, but from my point of view, Toto’s cheekily delivered analysis hits closest to the mark—Brad Wiggins was “flipped”.

After the 2008 season, Wiggins was an also-ran in the world of professional cycling; a talented trackie who’d always planned to pick it up on the road, but couldn’t seem to deliver. Even as an obvious favorite in the short TT, Wiggins seldom came through, picking up a single ProTour win: the ’07 Dauphine prologue. Despite a fistful of gold medals on the track, his stock was understandably low.

It’s not that Wiggins ever lacked the ability to do what he did at the ’09 Tour—it’s that the market hadn’t recognized it yet. The impact of the Garmin-Slipstream refurb was evident at the Giro, and his 4th place finish in the Tour made him one of the most sought after riders in the peloton, culminating in a jump to Team Sky for a rumored $8 million—a textbook flip. And like so many flipped properties, it’s my contention that the final terms of sale were massively inflated.

Nothing against Wiggins, but in recent history, the Tour de France is not a race you “almost” win. Breakthrough Tour rides are almost always one-shot deals. Soler, Kohl, Sevilla, Julich—all were tabbed as potential winners based on sudden, notable rides before fading (under varying circumstances and to various degrees) in subsequent years.

induEven riders who’ve steadily climbed the result sheet (Evans, Menchov, Karpets, Leipheimer) seldom take home the giant stuffed teddy bear at cycling’s biggest ring toss. Even Carlos Sastre’s and Oscar Pereiro’s victories can be credited more to the absence of stronger contenders than their own personal performance.

The pattern for Tour dominance since 1990 is clear—a rider leaps to the top after taking up a GC focus, and enjoys years of success before a sudden denouement. Indurain never finished between 10th and first at the Tour. Armstrong had never lost a single post-cancer Tour, but finished more than five minutes off the top step in ’09. Indeed, Contador—something of a surprise in 2007—seems to have established himself as the next Tour great with the performance of this past summer.

But even if Sky had truly considered the odds against Wiggins’ repeating his ’09 success in the future, I still can’t imagine they could have let him be. One needed only hear the swooning adulations of David Harmon on Stage 17— crediting the erstwhile Garmin rider with a “brave” ride, even as he was swept off the podium and out of the Top 5—to understand the passions Wiggins has stirred up the world of British cycling.

For Team Sky, the title of biggest British squad in the history of the sport would be all but meaningless without the biggest British Tour threat since Tom Simpson on the roster. The legions of American fans who awkwardly pulled for Lance, Levi, and Horner on a Kazakh-owned franchise last season should have no difficulty appreciating that sentiment.

I like Brad Wiggins, and I wish him the best of luck over these next four years. But if 2009 was the year that introduced cycling to big-ticket deals, I’ve a sinking feeling that 2010 will be the year it’s introduced to buyer’s remorse.

Chris Horner’s Cyclocross Essentials

14 Dec

So now that the domestic ‘cross season has (more or less) wrapped up, it’s time to reflect. Did things not go as well as you’d planned? Did the big investment in equipment and training still not pay off on the results sheet?

We at Cyclocosm think that, next season, you could benefit from a better approach:

CHRIS HORNER'S CYCLOCROSS ESSENTIALS from Cosmo Catalano on Vimeo.

[right-click for iTunes-compatible download]

There’s also a version on YouTube and a more-or-less complete list of source material.

And we also have t-shirts and a variety of other Cyclocross Essentials merchandise.

Media Continues To Shove Wiggins Toward Sky

10 Dec

I’d love to say I told you so, but check out the date “published” and date “updated” in this shot. If Cyclingnews is no longer bound by the laws of time and space, can we still trust their reporting?


Also, note that it only says Sky expected to announce a signing. It doesn’t say whether that announcement will be accurate.

December Kit Report

8 Dec

rs_kitDude, are you serious?

Pop artists and savvy, successful designers from Shepard Fairey to Marc Newson to pretty much everyone short of friggin’ Banksy have styled custom bikes for you and this—this—is the kit you get to ride in every day? I cannot imagine a more artless and uninspired piece of lycra.

It’s like someone took an overworked, underpaid corporate designer and told them to re-imagine a cubicle as a bicycle kit, employing three necessary elements:

  1. RadioShack Logo (w/ company name in Frutiger Black)
  2. Livestrong Armband
  3. RadioShack approved red (#C70E0E)

If Inintech had a cycling team, this would be their kit. Seriously, it ought to come with its own TPS report.

To be fair, Armstrong himself has commented that it still needs “some tweaking“, but plenty of other teams have brought strong entries to market. Cervelo’s new kit—along with some shiny new SRAM shifters—seems to be a done deal for next season, with the potential for another summer changeover to white.

Omega-Pharma’s new duds (via @Gematkinson) look a bit Christmasy, but the design should hold up throughout the season—though a glut of white-ish kits among the lower-tier squads (recently snared doper Eliado Jimenez shows off a good example) may make the Belgian squad tough to pick out until the final kilometers.

As for me, I continue to favor the classic, ugly/hip lines of Skil-Shimano’s distinctive kit. If the squad has kept pace with the rest of the peloton, and @KennyVanHummel is a reliable photo source, they’ll be sticking with the design for 2010.

Then again, as Cipo’ reminded us time and time again, there’s no telling what the riders will wear until they roll off the line.