Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Out the Insider

"It will make everyone else's road groups look like toys" - Anonymous Industry Insider

The school girl-like shrieks touting the wonder, mastery, and world-changing greatness of new componentry has rarely reached such a fever pitch. Glazed eyes and breathless whispers are marveling at the apparent impending announcement of, gasp, electronic shifting!

Yes, it appears the big S is beating the other poor bastards to the punch and laying their cards on the table. I already see legions of triathletes strutting in wetsuited lock step on the horizon. I already hear the demands of the ill prepared racer looking for spare connoiter valves and gasket dongles.

These wet dreams are fueled, in part, by the anonymous industry insider. Their quotations are taken as divine counsel and flippantly thrown about in bike shops and club rides as proof of enlightenment. They stroke the throbbing dong of predilection for all things new, shiny, and marvelous.

As a born and raised skeptic of all things popular, I have to wonder who this pesky, nameless, industry insider is. Could it truly be the anointed one of two wheeled truth? Or, is it just another cholo with an opinion bigger than his mouth? Do they even ride? And if they do, do they roll enough to know the nuanced differences between component x, y, and z? Why does their opinion matter?

I'm calling "shenanigans". I think it's high time we put the anonymous quote of the industry insider to a face. I've got a few questions to ask...

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Mad Props Vol. 11

Sean Yates
1991 Nissan International Classic, Ireland
Stage 4: Limerick to Cork

The viewing of this stage on a tired old VCR at a friends apartment brings back memories of the old BS, good beer, and one hell of a tip of the hat to Sean Yates. I was sucking down a cold one while sitting on the floor. The bottle was frozen in hand somewhere between my mouth and the ground. My stomach was in knots. Not only because of the nervous energy of the big Greek one pacing about opening and closing his fists in tense fixation, but the epic battle playing out between Sean Kelly and Sean Yates.

The two man break of Yates and Kelly, two of the most stoic gladiators of cycling ever, were well on their way to deciding who would be king for the day. Rain had made the roads slick, so extra caution was needed to navigate the treacherous course. Despite the warnings of Pat McQuaid and Phil Liggett, the duo paid no heed to the conditions and bombed sweeping turns at speed.

The real majesty of the race was the spectacle of watching the climb of St. Patricks hill in Cork. They had to climb seated so as to not slip their rear wheels. Yates kept on falling back on the hill and would capture Kelly's wheel on the descent. If there was one thing Yates did well, it was descend. He was fearlessness incarnate.

The road grime and water made the duo look hard-edged and tough as nails. This was the image I took with me on every wet ride in those days. It was Yates that won the incredible two up sprint for the stage win. Kelly took the yellow leaders jersey for good.

Mad Props, Sean. Mad Props.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Overheard 2

"It's like the toilet's broken. The turds keep going in circles."
-Trapper Tom on the current state of politics in Illinois.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Peloton Diaries Vol. 3

In my formative years as a cyclist, the stories I'd read of "Gino the Pious" sparked an imagination that launched a thousand stoic attacks, propelled by angel wings, up the interstate hump on Warrenville road. Thus, it was with burning curiosity that I armed myself with a medium point Papermate pen (blue), a 3"x5" spiral bound notebook, and my prized WayBack machine that I visited the miraculous and intriguing Gino Bartali.

14 September, 1939

Today was a day filled with strangeness. At breakfast, a butterfly landed upon the apple I was eating, which I held, at the time, in my very hand. I took this as a sign of great fortune for the days events. Little did I know that the path of fate is a crooked one. For when I grasped my bicycle for training, I was astonished to discover that both tires were flat! Then, on my ride, I heard breathing and the steady rhythm of gears behind me. I gasped as I looked back only to discover that nobody was there! It seemed as if a phantom were following my every turn and acceleration. I could not shake its relentless pursuit. Finally, I stopped and prayed. The phantom did not return, and, remarkably, I found that I had the strength of ten men in my legs! I swear, I never twisted a bottom bracket in such ways. Pity the Legnano...

15 September, 1939

Today, while training, I was a shadow (ha ha) of the great strong man I was yesterday. Giovannino came over around 8:00 AM and we pointed our bikes toward the sea. After 150km we pulled off and drank espressos at Vecchio's cafe.

On the way back, Giovannino's fiery side came out and challenged me like I had never seen before. His attack on the penultimate climb leading our way home was fantastic. I nearly bit through my tongue to catch his wheel. Finally, I saw his shoulders rock and countered with an all out attack of my own. I soft pedaled the last 10km home waiting for him to catch back on.

When we finally got back, Adriana took one look at the exhausted Giovannino and scolded me for punishing my dear friend in such a selfish manner. If only she knew what cycling does to a man...

16 September, 1939

We were introduced to a new member of the team by the name of Fausto Coppi. It's hard to believe what they say of his abilities as a cyclist because he's such a skinny and awkward looking young man. Yet, I sensed a peculiarity in him, an aura of complexity. For, when I caught his gaze, a slight breeze passed, and I shivered. It's a stunning admission, but by God, something extraordinary happened when our eyes locked. So curious, the way of the Lord.

Still, I must say nothing until I discover more about this exceptional event.

17 September, 1939

"Unbelievable" is all I can say. Giovannino and I decided the best way to get to know Fausto was to invite him for a ride. We started out chatting about our families and the usual topical nonsense that fills the gaps of introductory conversations. Soon, we ran out of words and let the pedals to the talking.

Giovannino played instigator and acted as a mouse for the two cats behind him. I reacted with a great acceleration and caught and passed Giovannino easily. I pressed on with my effort, gritting my teeth and powering my way forward with all I had. The deep well of pain saturated my body as I forced myself to ignore its pleas for cessation.

Then, as I stared ahead, a creeping fear took hold of me. For I sensed the same forboding presence of a specter behind me a few days prior. The identical rhythmic breathing and sound of gears were in pursuit and I could not escape them. With all my courage, I forced myself to look back and confront this phantom once and for all. And there, in the place of nothingness, was young Coppi, flashing a playful smile as he labored upon my wheel.

What, dear God, does the future hold?