Sunday, November 25, 2012

A linguistic analysis of a bike crash

- or A Grammar Nazi's View of Why I Crashed
Statesville CX Single Speed start. photo courtesy of Carl Pelzer



My recent Facebook status update tell's the story:

"Didn't manage to get a grip on the bike as I dismounted for the first set of barriers, managing to turn the holeshot into a head shot as I hit the second barrier with the side of my head. Fortunately, everyone avoided my barrier tango. I popped up pretty quickly in my best "I'm a tough as nails 'cross racer" only to have my legs buckle underneath me. Got up, got the chain back on the bike and fina
lly got my head screwed on straight about 5 minutes later. Managed to work my way up to tenth despite a second fall (tangle with a junior rider) and having another junior try to keep me from passing in the twisty turn sections. Word to that particular junior - experience and treachery will always win out over youthful exuberance. There will be elbows..."


The long and short of it is that I knocked myself silly. I suspect that my teammate Jack Brown's assessment that my shoulder looked dislocated might be accurate given the way it feels two days later. All I know is that once the stars and bluebirds stopped circling my head, I got the chain back on my bike and put the metaphorical bit between my teeth and started riding hard to make some chicken salad out of the chicken sh*t I'd served myself.

Seeing my Facebook status update, my friend Chris, the erstwhile English and Italian instructor, hit me on chat. This was our conversation:

Chris Harris

how're you feeling, dude?
This chat is no longer off the record



Shawn


sore


Chris Harris

you're supposed to go OVER the barrier, not into it. we gotta work on your prepositional fluency


Shawn

but you go INTO the barrier section, where you go OVER the barriers
so you're saying my prepositional fluency caused my crash


Chris Harris

it's a fact of analytic-language linguistics that the last step in fluency is prepositional mastery. fluency comes from the latin 'fluere,' to flow.
so yeah. the words don't flow right, neither do you.


Shawn

so linguistics is the ultimate tool for mastery of anything


Chris Harris

i see an academic article in this
well, yeah. it is
or not


Shawn

well I definitely lacked flow. Kind of a sickening feeling as you hurtle towards the barrier, pull up on the bike and realize it isn't coming with your hand


Chris Harris

i have evidence to back me up
you said: "but you go INTO the barrier section"
actually, you go IN TO the barrier section
INTO is an entirely different sense. they're not interchangeable
you go IN TO a building. going into it means, well, you walk or drive right into it
so your brain, in confusing INTO and IN TO, caused neuromuscular confusion


Shawn

so I said what I did, rather than what I meant to say (and do)


Chris Harris

= crash
yes. neuromuscular confusion is not what you want when any sort of hurtling is involved
separate the prepositions and you won't separate skin, teeth, shoulders from their rightful positions


First off, let me say that I am a big fan of the idea that we create our own reality through our subjective perception of it. I place a great deal of stock in the concept of Positive Visualization. It along with Active Rest, forms my complete training philosophy (aka The Smoke and Mirrors Plan). So I'm not going to dismiss the notion that my grammatical confusion caused cognitive dissonance that resulted in my crash.

It is sad to note that I seem to ride really, really well when starting DFL. A crash and mild concussion just add a little more giddyup to the mix. So now, along with the need to focus on my positive visualization of the perfect start (I'm not BSing about this. I picture everyone riding out of my way and me flowing to the front. Works every time. Weird.), but now I must maintain proper grammar in the running monologue in my head that goes on the entire race. It's all terribly exhausting...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

slow motion train wreck...

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I've stayed silent but riveted through the entire slow motion train wreck that the cycling world has been involved in since last Monday's USADA bombshell. Unless you've been living under a rock on another planet in a solar system other than ours, I'm sure you have not only heard about Lance Armstrong being stripped of all his results from 1998 on (including all his Tour de France results). This means that Greg Lemond is back to being the only American to ever win the Tour de France.

My thoughts are less about Armstrong now that the stories and evidence have been slowly coming out. I'm more bummed about the notion that the apogee of American participation in the European peloton, an invasion trajectory that began with a few riders in the '80's and gained momentum with the 7-Eleven team, Lemond, and Andy Hampsten, was all smoke and mirrors. The dominance of Motorola which begat US Postal which begat Discovery and spun off a host of American contenders on teams like Telekom, Phonak, CSC, Gerolsteiner and myriad other Pro Tour teams now falls under the asterisk of doping. Save your "everyone was doing it so it was a level playing field" argument, I'm not interested nor buying that circular logic. What started as upstart Americans beating the Europeans at their own game by doing things differently became the greatest organized systematic doping effort that sports has ever seen. In fact, what we watched seems less like a sporting event and more like professional wrestling - where favorites were chosen and results were all but predetermined in the pursuit of generating commercial revenue from an American public hungry for the ultimate resurrection story of the modern era.

For a while, I have thought that the last thing I would want my son to aspire to be was a professional cyclist. It isn't hubris to think he could follow that path given the genes he has most likely received from his mother, a former professional mountain bike racer who retired as drugs were really taking hold in the cycling world. I see him ride with abandon, race the kid's races with a seriousness that leaves plenty of room for fun and I hope that he always holds on to that spirit of joy that cycling helps us all find. In the end, there isn't a Santa Claus or an Easter Bunny or mythical heroes on bikes, there are just people with all the faults and foibles that come with being human. I still thrill at the effort and the triumph of sheer will over the sinew and flesh that holds us back; the grimaces and masks of pain that we all show the world when we push ourselves beyond our limits. For a chosen few, this mean achieving greatness, be it in mud, over cobblestones, flying tucked in wind cheating positions, or careening elbow to elbow at 60km/h towards an arbitrary line painted on pavement. But for the rest of us, we still can feel the elation of knowing that we did our best with what we have, and to me, that is drug enough.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

An ode to slogging uphill

It's Bridge to Bridge time again. Like a passionate love affair with a person that is slightly crazy, The Bridge can enthrall you and punish you to such a degree that it never quite leaves you in peace. I've done the ride four times; never two years in a row. My hats off to those who ride it year after year - you are stronger men and women than I.

To all of you that are riding the 2012 edition of The Bridge to Bridge Incredible Challenge: may you pedal without resistance, may you climb like you have wings, and may you reach the top of Grandfather Mtn. filled with a sense of ecstasy, elation, and accomplishment. Be safe, be fast, be efficient, and be one with the bike. Tomorrow is the day you accomplish a great and wonderful thing - you get the joy of breaking through your limits and doing more than you think you are capable of doing!


Thursday, September 06, 2012

This Old Mouth - one week later

It's been a week since I decided to give up mountain biking for full contact root-kissing in the middle of the Dark Mtn. mountain bike race. The scrapes and cuts on my face have healed, my lip looks nice and normal, and my two erstwhile teeth seem to have settled down and accepted their fate that they will never successfully escape my mouth. I'm staring down the barrel of two root canals to help insure their permanence. Stay tuned for all the gory highlights! All in all, given how I looked last week, I think this week is a remarkable 180 degree difference.

BEFORE
AFTER



















I suffered a minor setback at the hands of my friend and business partner, Jeff, on Saturday. I was working on an old bike for a customer who has earned the nickname "Raleigh Guy". It isn't all that original, but it serves as a warning call when someone sees him appear on the sidewalk in front of the shop. Much like meerkats and prairie dogs, bike shop employees utilize a primitive system of warning calls to aid bike mechanics in their daily survival. This doesn't get deployed willy-nilly, but is reserved for those circumstances when a "heads up" to the mechanics is warranted.

I was working on the old center pull brakes on the bike, something which we just don't have the necessary sets of brake arm clamps and older style 3rd hand tools to work on since they haven't been common since the '70's. I'm familiar with the tools that were made to work on them having worked in shops that were old enough to still have them, so I had fashioned some workarounds that were adequate. But due to the decrepitude of the bike, things just weren't going smoothly and an extra pair of hands was warranted. I asked Jeff to pull one of the brake cables tight while I held the calipers firmly against the rim. Jeff pulled mightily as I held on and with a lightning quick jolt - his clenched hand slipped and shot with astonishing accuracy into my upper lip and teeth.

Jeff let out an expletive or two as I doubled over, first with the shock of having been hit in the exact spot where my lip was stitched and my two teeth had been reimplanted, followed by the pain of being hit in that sensitive and healing area. Jeff fully expected to see me spit those teeth out (again), such was the force of the blow, but my beauty will not be held back! All is well despite Jeff's best effort to the contrary and I remain firmly on the road to recovery.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Today on This Old Mouth

This liquid diet thing is not too bad, but trying to eat solid food is kind of a drag. It is a weird act to work the food into my mouth, past the enormous upper lip, and into the back of my mouth for the molars to take care of business. I finally got to eat some solid food last night. I made ground turkey Shepherd's Pie and I was gonna eat some of it come hell or high water.

Yesterday, my mission was to try to get in to see the oral surgeon, Dr. Stigall, to see about getting an implant inserted in the socket of my missing tooth before it collapsed. A few phone calls involving the obtaining of an appointment in Boone at 1:30, arrangement with my Dad to skip one of his community college classes to drive me up to Boone and back (thanks Dad!) and then a phone call telling me how much I was expected to pay (up front) in order to have the procedure done IF they decided to do it today.

I got to the office on time, waited a not unreasonable time period, got a panoramic x-ray ("bite-right-here-with-your-front teeth-oooooohhhhh-as-best-you-can) and then sat in a chair and waited. Dr. Stigall came in, took a giant needle and began injecting my gums and the roof of my mouth with anesthetic. I've had about 20 injections of anesthesia in my gums and roof of my mouth in the last two days and I think 7 or 8 of those was yesterday's visit.

After waiting a bit for my mouth to get numb, giving me a couple of more injections for good measure, Dr. Stigall came in and got to drilling. He drilled a hole about 2 inches to 2 feet deep into the tooth socket and up into my jaw. He then took what looked like the cotter pin of an old style ashtabula crankset and inserted it into the hole. Apparently, this little piece functions like the expander wedge you put in a carbon steerer tube as he turned something on it and it began to expand and wedge into the hole he had drilled. He then took some little thing and screwed it into the wedge. I assume this is where the new tooth will eventually go.

I'm wondering if they can make me a variety of teeth that I can take off and put on as the mood strikes me, or if I should just go gold tooth and be done with it...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Your face is not a good brake pad

I intended to have fun today. The plan was to race the singlespeed class at the Dark Mountain XC race, see what kind of [lack of] fitness I had, not take things too seriously and just have some fun. Despite a good start, I pretty quickly got the message from the engine room that the red line had been surpassed and that an emergency shut down was imminent if I didn't throttle back a bit. Cool, I can do that. I mean this is for fun and all.

I have ridden Dark Mountain a lot. I've ridden it in the rain, in the dark, when I felt good, when I felt bad, when I wondered why the hell I was riding a mountain bike, and just about every other permutation of external and internal conditions possible. I've crashed there. Nothing major - just the usual scrapes and bruises. That sudden lightning bolt of pain mixed with shock and surprise that leads to a moment of lingering on the deck, contemplating all of the choices that you have made in your life that has led to you hitting that tree (or root, or rock...), but nothing like my little adventure today.

Post ER, pre emergency dentist/orthodontist visit
Dark Mountain is rooty, to say the least, and as I went through a nice section of roots on a descent at a nice pace, I suddenly found myself pile driving my face into a root with a briskness that shocked and surprised me.

The rider behind me said, "Are you ok?"

I pushed myself up on my hands, the leaves and dirt covered with a dark red splatter worthy of a Dexter opening scene and a large, curving tooth lying whole on the ground in front of me.

"No. I'm not ok."

He asked me if I wanted him to stay with me, or go get help and I asked him to go get help. I never got his name, don't remember what team uniform he was in, but let this be my thanks to him. Thank you for taking off to get help.

Then a Cycles de Oro rider named David asked if I wanted him to stay with me as he stopped a few minutes later. I told him no, but he insisted. I asked him to help me find my teeth. I'd found the one immediately when I crashed, but since that time I had determined that I had lost 3 and only found 1. In between racers coming down the trail, David looked for my other two missing teeth.

We're gonna find these teeth," he said.

He found one and pointed to it so I could pick it up and drop it into my water bottle with its brother. We found my two front teeth, but couldn't find the other one. I figured two out of three isn't bad, so we just sat there waiting for help to arrive.

Soon after, another rider, Tyler, stopped and David asked if I minded him jumping back in the race while Tyler waited with me. "Sure," I said, "Thanks for waiting with me." Shortly after that, Kelly a rider for Cycle Therapy, stopped to see if he could help. "I'm a doctor," he said and then hastily added, "Well, a pathologist to be exact."

I ran through what had happened with these guys and then posed the idea that we start hiking out to meet up with whatever help was coming to speed up the process of getting me to the ER. All I could think about was the clock ticking on reinserting my teeth and the chance of success dwindled with time.

We met up with the cat on the 4 wheeler, who took me to the EMT's at the race start. They got pissed because I had been walking, but I reiterated that I had not lost consciousness and did not have a concussion. I've had plenty of both. I can diagnosis and ignore those symptoms with the best of them and I assure you this was not the case. This time.

I asked to go to Caldwell Memorial, banking on the odds being pretty good that someone I know would be working in the ER. Sure enough, Dr. Diana McClinton came to my stretcher, gave me a bit of a stern look and I knew I was gonna be just fine. The first order of business was to get my teeth back in. By this time, my mom (a dental hygienist) was there and was pretty up front about wanting to help get those teeth put back in right. She cleaned 'em up and popped them back in. They made a popping sensation, a lot like fitting two lego pieces together. The she started cleaning up my lip which had been split open from just below my nose all the way down. She trimmed off the ragged edges, removed a couple of pieces of the root and then started stitching me up. She cleaned up the rest of me and sent me on my way. Thanks, Di!

The dentist my mom works for, Dr. Hollar, along with the local orthodontist, Dr. Shell, met us at Dr. Hollar's office and proceeded to splint my teeth to help keep the ones that had been reinserted in the right place and to give them the best chance of healing properly. Thank you Dr. Hollar and Dr. Shell for taking the time to take care of me on a Sunday.

I'm sure I will be sore as hell tomorrow, but today I want to thank everyone who helped me out. This was one of my worst wrecks (not the worst, but definitely in the top 5) and I don't know how I would have fared without so many people taking the time to help me out on the trail, in the ER, and in their office. I'm glad my mom was around today to help save my teeth. I'm thankful to have a wife and child who can take me looking like a horror show in stride and make the best of a bad situation. Thanks to to the Greens for helping me make some sense of communicating with Golden when I wasn't sure where she was.

Always remember, kids: your face is not a good brake pad.


Monday, July 30, 2012

"That was awesome!"

We headed up to ride Rocky Knob in Boone yesterday to do some mountain biking and escape the heat and humidity a bit. Jeff, Cecilio, Peter, and Jeremiah joined Golden, Owen, and I. I took off with the guys to show them the trail since it was their first time there, while G and O rode to the Beginner Skills Area about midway through the lower loop.

After riding all of the open sections of trail, we joined up with G and O. G took off with everyone to do another loop of the trails, while I took Owen up to the Intermediate Skills Area at the midway point of the Middle Earth Trail. A combination of walking and riding got us up the climb and to the skills area.

The Intermediate Skills Area at Rocky Knob is all about riding balance beams or "skinnies". The area is a short loop that flows downhill and turns to a slight uphill to bring you back to the start. The slight downhill section is where the skinnies are located to give you easy momentum into them. The first skinny ramps up from ground level to about a foot off the ground. The second skinny is about 40 feet long, is about a foot off the ground the whole way, has a distinctive turn or kink to it, and ends with three six inch drops from one skinny to another lower one until you hit the ground. All of the skinnies are about 8-10 inches wide and are made from small diameter trees with squared off topsides with traction grooves chainsawed into them.

After a couple of tries, Owen rode the first skinny completely, flowed into a large hip bridge (a kind of curving packing pallet looking bridge around a tree), smoothly rode the little pump jumps and attempted to ride onto the last skinny which is embedded in the ground. With his confidence built up, he started eyeballing the 40 ft. long skinny. He got off his bike and walked the length of the long skinny, explaining how he needed to ride each part and allowed me to give him a couple of pieces of advice (not that that is worth much - I had never ridden anything like these skills stunts until the last time we were at Rocky Knob!). He asked me to ride the skinny to let him see what it looked like to ride it. Thankfully, I rode the thing without coming off anywhere and it seemed much easier than the last time I rode it.

After a couple of failed attempts with a few ride offs of the skinny onto the ground a foot below and one big step off when he jumped free of the bike as it fell sideways, he figured out his speed and approach. Owen hit the skinny with a little more speed than his previous attempts and zipped right across it, made the kink turn smoothly, and then took the three drop offs no problem. A huge "That was AWESOME!" was expelled as he went around the bend and out of sight. (ed. note - yes, my kid talks with a lot of '80's surfer/skater slang with his favorite adjectives being "awesome" and "rad") My phone had died, so I didn't get the chance to take pictures of this, which is kind of a good thing because I got to be 100% present for it without a screen interrupting the reality of the event.

I see cycling as a metaphor for a lot of things in life and it is becoming a prominent part of my parenting style, too. What I saw yesterday was a kid confronting a challenge; a pretty daunting challenge. I saw him plan out how to tackle the problem. I saw him try several times, falling and crashing each time. And then I got to see the pure, smiling joy that came with his successfully riding the beam. As a teacher and as an employer, the thing that I find most lacking in students and people is resiliency. Resilience allows you to try and fail and try again. It is a fundamental key to success in life, I feel and I hope that days like yesterday with Owen show that we are being successful with teaching him this fundamental skill.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Shocking news from the FUCI

(Antwerp, Belgium) - In a shocking press conference this morning, Johan Verbagel, the head of the International Fantasy Cycling Union, announced that the results of the 2012 Luna Cycles Fantasy Tour de France presented by Uncle Chuck's New School Pregreaser were nullified and that the entire race was being wiped from the records.

Citing issues in the race, Mr. Verbagel declared, "It was so boring. Did you watch the whole thing? No? Neither did we." The specter of doping within the pro peloton raised its head once again when a reporter asked if what we saw this year was truly a "clean" Tour.

"Look," Mr. Verbagel responded sharply, "allegations of doping by riders is outside the purview of the FUCI, but I strongly believe that a massive and coordinated doping campaign was mounted to drug every viewer of this year's Tour in order to keep them watching this boring, travesty of a stage race. We assure you that we will get to the bottom of this. Thank you."

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Done

Wiggins. Froome. Nibali. The only thing I'm happy about is Tommy Voeckler in the maillot a pois and Peter Sagan in the maillot vert on the final podium. Guts and grimaces, panache and balls will get you far in life.

Nothing left but a hopefully interesting dash to the line on the Champs-Elysees. I can't believe I'm going to have to console myself with the Vuelta until cyclocross season starts...

Friday, July 20, 2012

Home

I'm finally home. No more jet setting, hobnobbing with bike racers, partying with young, really attractive European girls in awe of hanging out with an esteemed man of letters and learned cycling journalist such as myself. No, I'm back for some quiet time with my family. Time to recharge and replenish my mental faculties before heading out on the next great Fantasy Cycling journalism endeavor.

As much as I miss the jet-setty, hobnob-by, party times filled with decadent food, sumptuous accommodations, and generously free flowing libations, I missed being a husband and father. The young, beautiful, flirtatious European women will always be there, but my family is here.

Surprisingly, Mark Cavendish won today's stage with a zig zaggy sprint that appeared as if the portion of video in which he was in was being played at twice the speed of the bits that every other rider occupied. Quite amazing, but then the reports that his girlfriend, Peta Todd (go ahead, Google some images of her. I dare you. NSFW. You've been warned) was trying to get an autograph from Peter Sagan must have spurred him a bit. And that lead out from Wiggins, you'd be better off drafting a pole as skinny as that guy is.

Barring any great surprises, our Luna Cycles Big Deal Fantasy Tour de France presented by Uncle Chuck's New School Pregreaser, is pretty well wrapped up. Now for the mad scramble to find some cheap token to present our grand winner with in some hastily organized ceremony that is long on pomp but short on circumstance.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I'm outta here

While I waited in line to get a ticket out of here, I watched today's stage. Standing in line, eating poor quality airport food and the third degree from a security guard who found it suspicious that I was not taking home any french wine, but was taking home 50 bottles of various types of Absinthe was way more interesting than watching the Sky pair of Mantis and Twiglet make everyone else look foolish on the final climb. Froome, gesticulating wildly in an attempt to get Wiggins to follow him up to the will of Valverde for the stage win, played the role of castrati in this little opera perfectly. I'm done. A handful of melatonin and copious amounts of airline liquor should just about wipe this trip off the map of my mind for a while. I haven't been this disappointed in a Tour de France since Miguel Indurain's five robotic wins.

Sure, I'll still listen to the Tour coverage when I get home, but I won't be gripped by it. No, I've got a new bathroom remodel to paint and I see no need to sit on the edge of my seat waiting for a flash of excitement that just won't materialize. The only thing at this point that can break me out of this malaise will be Froome breaking free of the shackles of lieutenancy and actually attacking Wiggins for the yellow jersey. Short of that, or a wheelie sprint victory by Peter Sagan on the Champs-Elysees and I'm checking out. (ed. note: in all likelihood, Sagan will wheelie across the line for a sprint victory on the Champs-Elysees, so not even that will be revelatory.)

Even the Luna Cycles Big Deal Fantasy Tour de France presented by Uncle Chuck's New School Pregreaser is pretty well wrapped up at this point. There has been some slight shuffling between second and third with Team Don't Call It A Comeback moving past Team Dottatope for second place, but I predicted this yesterday. There is a minor skirmish between 4th, 5th and 6th place, but once you're out of the top 3 who will ever remember? Don't be that guy in the nursing home talking about how in 2012 you got 4th place in the Luna Cycles Big Deal Fantasy Tour de France presented by Uncle Chuck's New School Pregreaser. All anyone will care about is who the winner was and that honor will have gone to Quint Ervin and his Team SRAM Red 2012 p/b Bojangles.

I've got to go. They are calling my flight and the security guard is saying something in French about wanting to search my teeth for cavities.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Frank, Frank, Frank - Interview with a Schleck

I got a chance to sit down with Frank Schleck for an intimate, one on one interview; an exclusive for the Luna Cycles Big Deal Fantasy Tour de France presented by Uncle Chuck's New School Pregreaser - guaranteed not to cause a positive doping test provided you don't ingest or get it on bare skin.

Me: Frank, first let me say thank you for allowing me to speak with you.

Frank: You're welcome.


Me: Let me get right to the point. How the f*%k you test positive and get forced to withdraw from the Tour de France on a rest day?

Frank: I don't know, man. They say they got a positive A sample for diuretics.

Me: But seriously, Frank, why you gonna dope on a rest day when you already sucking hind teat and nothing gonna change that? What you trying to do - get a stage win?

Frank: I didn't do it, but they say they got evidence. I don't know man, I musta been poisoned or something.

Me: Well, listen man. I know you don't drink. I know this, but I'm gonna get you druuunk today. You ain't in no race. You ain't got sh*t to do...

Frank: Get outta here with that. I ain't trying to do nothing like that. I gotta start my defense preparation...

Well, that's it. I'm booking a flight and ditching this race. There is no mystery left. Wiggins, Froome, Nibali - there's your podium in Paris. Maybe somebody will do something surprising, but that slim chance isn't worth following this circus in person. The most interesting thing right now is Peter Sagan and I can watch his autographing sessions on pay-per-view in the States.

As for our Fantasy Tour, Quint Ervin looks to have this one sewn up pretty tight. I'm gonna say that Margi and Team Don't Call It A Comeback are going to overtake Jeff Welch and Team Dottatope for 2nd in Paris. As for everyone else, better start rebuilding for next year.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Welcome to Hell... I mean Pau

I don't know what the hell they farm in this part of France, but whatever devil weed they happen to pass off as a crop here is beyond horrible. I think my sinuses are packed tight with the satan spores or Lucifer's Pollen or whatever the hell is making me feel like my head is going to explode like that guy in Scanners. I'm phoning it in today, I'm not gonna lie. All I can manage is laying in bed, self-medicating with generous amounts of wine, Chartreuse and Absinthe.

Fortunately, the peloton took a pre rest day rest day once the right mix of combatants made its way into the break. The most exciting thing to happen today was Peter Sagan obliging some woman's request to autograph her breasts. Most interesting televised moment was when a British Eurosport commentator said that a particular rider would ride strong on the climbs to a certain point and then blow up "going backwards like a backwards going thing". Nice. If you haven't heard by now, some of the best Fantasy tweets of the Fantasy Tour are coming from Fantasy rider @TweeterSagan. He gets to be all Fantasy cycling hero with just 140 characters whenever he feels like it. Not like me. I have to do the hard shoe leather journalism that has marked my Fantasy career.

Tomorrow is a rest day in the Luna Cycles Big Deal Fantasy Tour de France presented by Uncle Chuck's New School Pregreaser  and I'm as ready for it as the riders. Quint Ervin and Team SRAM Red 2012 p/b Bojangle's have exerted a stranglehold on the maillot jaune, but the Pyrenees are a whole other kettle of fish and he's still got some surviving to do.  Our podium will be a lot more solidified in the next few stages, so we should see the real performances by those men hoping not to be also rans soon or not at all.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

whoops

So there I am, rocking in the free world. Flying down the road on the back of an AG2R motorcycle (I don't even know what the hell AG2R is and seriously: brown shorts?) in today's stage. I have the perfect view of everything. Seriously. I could see how frightened Gilbert, Casar and Co. were of Sagan. I could see Sagan texting while he chased them up the mountain. I had race radio crackling in the headphones. It was a Tour de France overload. Then there was something about a flat. And then another flat. And then another flat. Then something about tacks in the road.

Tacks. Crap. Johnny V. (you know, Johnathon Vaughters, we're pretty tight now) from Garmin had asked me to put up some flyers for him of this side project garage punk/ euro trash band thing he's got going on and since I was gonna be cruising on the moto today, I though "sure". The tack thing kinda made me wonder and I checked my messenger bag and sure enough, I was missing all of my tacks for putting up the flyers. I gotta give a big "My Bad!" to everyone affected today, especially Cadel Evans. Seriously though, Cadel, three flats? Surely, you're looking at the road when you're riding, right? Some of that was on you man...

As far as the Luna Cycles Big Deal Fantasy Tour de France presented by Uncle Chuck's New School Pregreaser goes, Quint Ervin has put a stranglehold on the maillot jaune tighter than that necessary to choke all those chickens his team dines on every night. With over 400 points separating Team SRAM Red 2012 p/b Bojangle's from second place Team Dottatope, I can't see where the weak point is. Short of Bradley Wiggins spontaneously combusting in the next couple of stages, Ervin may prove to be the Miguel Indurain of the Fantasy Cycling world.

As for this reporter's favorite, Mas Fuerte, these plucky underdogs need a few more strong performances from their French riders to cause the upset they are hoping for. Good on ya, Sandy Casar, for putting on such a strong performance today! Now get, Samuel Dumoulin and David MyCooties up there and Mas Fuerte might just have a shot at this thing.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Now you've done it

Greipel vs. Sagan is becoming an interesting rivalry at this year's Tour. The Gorilla one upped the Tourminator in a close squeaker after a bunch of French guys threw themselves on the pyre of martyrdom that always accompanies a Bastille Day stage. Sagan sits pretty comfortably in the maillot vert following yesterday's bit of argey-bargey with Matt Goss. Greipel had to have an intervention from his directeur sportif following a threatening text message he sent to a Vaconsoleil sprinter who had the temerity to enter the Lotto sprint train without paying for a ticket. The message, "Don't ever get in my train again, you amateur" was emphasized with an attempt by Greipel to ride the Vaconsoleil rider off the road in an intermediate spring. If you are willing to go toe to toe with Greipel, you had better be a card carrying badass.

Some shifts in the top 5 of the Luna Cycles Big Deal Fantasy Tour de France presented by Uncle Chuck's Pregreaser. With Courtney Morse and Team Supersonic Pelotonic falling to 6th place, yours truly with Team Mas Fuerte leapfrogs Jim "Legs" Lehman into 5th place. Drunken Grant Dunstan now sits vulnerably in 4th, a tiny lead on the bare chested warriors of Mas Fuerte all the fragile protection he can muster. His one edge is the inclusion of Bradley Wiggins on his team, but another good day by Greipel and Mas Fuerte may find itself knocking on the door of the podium.

Friday, July 13, 2012

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz Whaa?

Look. We all phoned it in today. Except for David Millar and some of the other guys in the break that took like 4 hours out of the peloton, but all the rest of us - total rest day. Let's face it. Last day in the Alps, but really more of a transition day leading into the Pyrenees. There were something like 60 miles of downhill on this stage and the peloton still toodled along without a care in the world.

I bagged the whole thing, found a nice French restaurant (they are everywhere here) and blew my per diem on a huge meal, gallons of wine, and a variety sampler of every kind of Chartreuse that this lovely region and its Carthusian monks have been producing 250 years. I woke up later to find out that I had missed Matthew Goss cutting across Peter Sagan in a two-up sprint from the field in a mano a machina battle.

Clearly, Goss fears Sagan and has to resort to deliberately blocking him to beat him in the sprint. But what would happen if Sagan did not have the presence of mind to ease up? I envision the Tourminator cleaving Goss into two neat halves in his burst to the line. What would that victory salute look like, I wonder...

Little change to our Luna Cycles Big Deal Fantasy Tour de France presented by Uncle Chuck's New School Pregreaser. No, I think we've got to see if anybody grows a pair in the Pyrenees and gets all "Death or Glory" on Wiggins and Team Sky or if they've resigned themselves to riding like little suckers hoping for third. Truly awful that Wiggins' TdF hero is Miguel Indurain, the man who served up 5 excruciatingly dull Tour victories and made the bulk of the '90s a write off for enjoying the Grand Tours. We need some Badger Hinault style riding where the attacks come frequently and relentlessly, like a prize fighter trying to punch his way out of the corner. If Evans, Nibali, and Vandenbrouke (not to mention Van Garderen and Menchov) will just lay out there over a couple of stages instead of just waiting for one moment of one penultimate stage, we may just have a race on our hands. Otherwise, it's just a parade lap from here on out.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Mountains and Red Vines

Preceding the Tour by about an hour, there is a raucous parade of sales promotion vehicles flinging free stuff at spectators as a kind of aperitif to the racing to follow. I noticed however, that none of the racers get to experience the joy of this spectacle and the tasty treats it has to offer (except for Peter Sagan who routinely rides up from the peloton to the Haribo car to get Gummi Bears and then waits the hour needed for the peloton to catch up).

I was in the back seat of the second Garmin-Sharp vehicle, a tool box fighting my feet for space and several wheels pressing uncomfortably into the side of my head. We were taking it pretty easy, drinking coffee and listening to the action from the front of the peloton. We slowly drifted back as the autobus formed. I felt a little sorry for these big men of the Tour, lugging all that fast twitch muscle up and down these steep roads. We got the call to move up to be in better position to support riders, so we began to accelerate around the sprinter's group. I hung out the window offering red vines from a bag to the big men. A few laughed, some ignored me, and then Gorilla Greipel grabbed the whole bag from me. He glared at me, shoved the whole thing in his mouth, bag and all, and then kept his eyes fixed on me as his powerful neck muscles worked his jaws to masticate the entire mass into something he could swallow. That guy is a pure animal.

The sound of Cadel Evans blowing up was heard throughout France. Sad to say, BMC should have unleashed Tejay Van Garderen when he showed just how good his legs were today. Instead of sitting in 5th with Evans and 10th with Van Garderen, Tejay could have moved up while nothing would have kept Evans from slipping to 5th. Rolland showed his mettle today by winning the stage despite having hit the deck during a sketchy display of his lack of descending ability. Sean Kelly of Eurosport was offering to give him descending lessons.

It was a momentous day in the history of the Luna Cycles Big Deal Fantasy Tour de France presented by Uncle Chuck's New School Pregreaser. For the first time, a female directeur sportif has moved into a podium spot. Team Don't Call It A Comeback and DS Margi moved into third place overall with a 40 point advantage over Grant Dunstan's La Folie Flyers. Quint Ervin remains in first place by some unknown miracle and his incredible run of beginner's luck has landed him in 80th place in the world.

At this point in the Tour, I've got no idea what is coming next. Nibali and Vandenbrouke talk like they are going to do something, but they are going to have throw caution to the wind. Saturday's stage is the one mentioned the most, but the Sky train is firing on all cylinders and then some.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

and how was your day?

You can easily find yourself in the wrong place at the wrong time when traveling in a foreign land. You just get hit with so many weird situations, like "Where did that guy go that just set his backpack down beside me and walked away?" or "How trustworthy is this deposed Nigerian prince?" But this morning I got caught up in an international brouhaha that got way out of control.

So there I am, small cafe table, impossibly good espresso with a croissant that makes you want to slap somebody and all of a sudden I hear loud, angry voices yelling in something close to English. I pay attention and, lo and behold, a group of British cycling fans is coming to blows with a group of Australian cycling fans. As the only person in the cafe NOT involved in the fracas AND who speaks English, I feel obliged to try and diplomatically resolve the situation. Unbeknownst to me, the proprietor of this lovely little cafe has phoned the gendarmes (police) who arrive tout suite and arrest everyone who speaks English, including your fearless reporter.

First, French prison isn't too bad. They put me in a cell by myself since I speak neither British English or Australian (which honestly sounds like a bunch of gobbledy gook). Unsurprisingly, French jails serve French food, so this was a pretty nice way to catch a decent meal and not tap into my precious per diem. For a jail, there was a pretty decent wine list and they were quite generous with the pour. I found the red a tad cloying but the white was quite dry and refreshing. The sorbet course was a bit of a disappointment given the rest of the meal, but overall and given the circumstances it could have been worse.

The big bonus was finding myself in close enough proximity to some Cofidis riders and staff members who were in cells directly across from mine, that I was able to conduct some very illuminating and quite thorough interviews. Always on the job, that's how I roll. Neither the Aussies nor the Brits claimed me as a friend or combatant, so the French authorities released me with a quite touching apology and several complimentary passes to Euro Disney. All in all, my day in a foreign jail was nothing like I imagined it might be and I got to see a side of France most tourists miss out on.

Our top ten in the Luna Cycles Big Deal Fantasy Tour de France presented by Uncle Chuck's New School Pregreaser has stagnated a bit and today's stage did little to increase or decrease any of the gaps between our teams. Tomorrow's stage could prove a bit more explosive as it is short, but with four significant climbs and if Evans, Nibali and Vandenbroucke can find the legs, lungs and guts to go for it, it might be a hard day for Wiggins and Team Sky.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Rest day, shmest day

Directeur Sportif Quint Ervin enjoys his moment in the sun as the leader of the Luna Cycles Big Deal Fantasy Tour de France presented by Uncle Chuck's New School Pregreaser on the first rest day. We are all pretty shocked that he has managed to hold on to the lead this long, but even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then.

Tomorrow, the Tour gets tough with a day of climbing straight off the dreaded rest day. Wiggins needs everything to stay just perfect or he is gonna come unglued like my 'cross tubular in turn 3 of the Salisbury Cyclocross race in 2010. Sure, you can drop a few f-bombs and c-bombs in a press conference and a lot of people will think you're just being hyperdefensive, but leave it to one of the true All Star hardmen of cycling standouts, Sean Kelly, to be blunt and to the point. Now is the time for BMC, Liquigas, and Lotto-Belisol to throw down some punishment and take the race to Wiggins instead of letting him be in the driver's seat. Watch Sky implode when Froome has a better day than Wiggins and the interteam competition for the yellow jersey gets close.

I burn candles of Indurain and Armstrong that this does not become a conservative tour of nothingness, where the fight to stay on the podium leads to mindless days of negative racing and the only excitement comes in the time trial. 

Monday, July 09, 2012

Deep holes

Tough day for Cadel Evans in today's stage of the Tour de France. An impossibly fast Bradley Wiggins and Christopher Froome took massive chunks of time out of him over the forty odd kilometers of today's individual time trial. The odds tip massively to the favor of Sky as we approach the mountains. An attack by Froome must be countered by Evans or he loses 2nd place, but if Evans covers Froome he becomes vulnerable to an attack by Wiggins. Either way, if he plays defense, he's screwed. The only strategy for Evans at this point is to go on the attack, to force Sky to defend. This is not a moment to play it safe and just be happy with the podium. Not this early in the Tour.

Our Luna Cycles Big Deal Fantasy Tour de France presented by Uncle Chuck's New School Pregreaser Top 5 remains unchanged, but an analysis of the top 3 reveals some interesting points of weakness that may prove decisive over the coming week. Team Dottatope has a few riders that haven't gotten any results; riders like Arroyo and Fofonov. La Folie Flyers look to be running on fumes and the performance of Bradley Wiggins may be the only results they can count on in the near future.

My fortunes have brightened a bit as I am managing to sort through the ASO bureaucracy with some ingenuity and a bit of American camaraderie. To truly capture the intricacies of the LCBDFTdFpbUCNSP, I am convinced that I must be in the thick of things, in the caravan, a true participant in the spectacle. I spent a good part of the morning trying to find my in, my passport beyond the velvet rope so to speak. 

I decided to chat up some of the smaller teams like Argo-Shimano and Saunjier something or other. My lack of french and their inability to give me the time of day made this seem like a dead end. But then I noticed Garmin-Sharp directeur sportif Johnathon Vaughters clipping his mutton chops in the reflection of his team car's side mirror. I sidled up and began to give him a bit of the starry eyed american at the Tour routine and gushing about how "awesome" it would be to ride in the caravan. What I gathered from my conversation with him is that Garmin is pretty much committed to just go through the motions of the rest of this Tour and that I was more than welcome to ride along in the team car provided that I brought my own snacks, didn't fiddle with the radio or complain about the music selection, and was willing to play unlimited head to head Mario Kart with Johnathon when the race was "boring". Deal!

So now I'm decked out in a Garmin t-shirt and riding in a team car. Except not today. No way was I gonna ride behind a single rider going 30 mpg for an hour. Bor-ing! No, today was a good day to hang out in a cafe, watch the time trial on the tv and gain valuable insight on the "Race of Truth". Truth be told, Wiggins looked really fast when he zipped by the cafe at Mach 1, while Evans was surely keeping something in the tank for later. Much later, perhaps.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Setback

While it is heartwarming to see local boy Pinot take an emotional win on today's stage of the Tour de France, I have suffered a crushing day on the Luna Cycles Big Deal Fantasy Tour de France presented by Uncle Chuck's New School Pregreaser. Apparently, you can't rent a motorcycle and join the zooming press caravan relying on a proffered cell phone with your Fantasy Tour 'blog's mobile version pulled up on the browser as a press credential. The Amaury Sports Organization are real sticklers for things like "officially issued press passes" and other journalistic accoutrements. This is such an obvious case of "the establishment" trying to keep the little guy down. I'm looking right at you velonews and cyclingnews with your fancy windbreakers and Skoda cars and little "Presse" vests.

Little change again today as the top 3 teams remain the same in the LCBDFTdFpbUCNSP, but now our two female directeur sportifs lie in fourth and fifth. Are they knocking on the door of the podium?

Saturday, July 07, 2012

In it to win it

Today was a new day in the Luna Cycles Big Deal Fantasy Tour de France presented by Uncle Chuck's New School Pregreaser. I awoke promptly at 9:30. The large block of ice I had requested from the hotel concierge was in the was in the deep kitchen sink of my modest suite. I ran the water and chipped away at the ice block until I had a sink full of ice water. I plunged my head into the crisp, clear ice water, jolting me out of the journalistic funk I have fallen into. I stood up a new man with only the slightest of champagne hangovers.

Determined to overcome the sins of this past week, I dressed and went down to the hotel lobby to wait for the BMW motorcycle I have rented for the remainder of this year's race. Gone are the days of drinking too much and passing out mid-stage and madly scrambling to find someone to give me a synopsis of the days action. Gone are the days of laying in the ample bed of my modest hotel suite, depleting the well stocked mini bar and watching Eurosport as a substitute for actually covering the race. No dear reader, I mobile and a one man motorcycle journalism machine from this point forward.

I hooked up my iPhone with the earphone/microphone combo under my helmet and set off for the race. Maintaining a constant stream-of-consciousness monologue, I set out to capture every sensation of the day's stage and what a sensational stage it turned out to be.

With just a few kilometers left on the stage, Team Sky set a staggering pace at the front and shattered many, many of the favorites. I captured this shot of pre-race favorite, Frank Schleck as I rocketed past him to stay with the lead group. Schleck must now concede that his dream of a Tour de France victory is over. He and Andy should seriously consider their Hanson Brothers cover band project as more than just a hobby given their results this season.




Christopher Froome (Team Sky) set a dastardly tempo, breaking the legs, minds and spirits of all but Bradley Wiggins (Sky), Cadel Evans (BMC), Vicenzon Nibali (Liquigas), and Rein Taaramae (Cofidis). This photo captures the awesome spectacle of power that he displayed over the final three kilometers. It was all this reporter could do to stay on the gas, take photos, maintain stream of consciousness reporting and keep the powerful BMW motorcycle upright, but it was worth it.



With just 500 meters to go, the road kicked up horribly and a flagging Christopher Froome looked to be overcome by a dig by Cadel Evans in a strong bid to take the stage win. But Froome proved to have just enough left in his legs to respond to Evans' attack, and to ride past him to take a much deserved stage win. Sky are tonight's big winners with a stage win, the yellow jersey on the back of Bradley Wiggins, and a stamp of authority placed on this day's stage by a team that looked to be firing on all cylinders. But have they taken the yellow jersey too soon? With Evans and Nibali now rounding out the top 3 and with just seconds separating these three riders, where will the extra time be gained to give greater separation between the eventual winner and the other top competitors?





A friendly and efficient gendarme pointed me in the correct direction for journalists seeking post race interviews, but by the time I was finished discussing my many adventures covering today's stage with him and several of his colleagues, I was too late to talk to anyone. I take that back- Frank Schleck was oddly hanging out by himself where his team bus had been, looking to get a journalist to interview him about the day and give him a ride back to the team hotel. Since I was on the motorcycle, I just walked by him and tried to avoid I contact. He just looked so eager and helpless...

Little change in the top 3 place of the LCBDFTdFpbUCNSP, with Quint Ervin still in the yellow jersey, Jeff Welch in second, and "Drunkin'" Grant Dunstan in third. Notable too, is the performance of the only two female directeur sportifs of this year's Fantasy Tour. Team Don't Call It A Comeback DS Margi now lies in fourth place and Team Supersonic Pelotonic DS Courtney Morse lies in seventh place overall. Could this be the year that a female directeur sportif wins the Luna Cycles Big Deal Fantasy Tour de France presented by Uncle Chuck's New School Pregreaser?

Friday, July 06, 2012

Falling down

I'm not going to lie, some days being a reporter covering the Luna  Cycles Big Deal Fantasy Tour de France presented by Uncle Chuck's New School Pregreaser, "Put some glide in your ride!" is just not the glamorous, rock star lifestyle that I pictured it to be. Sure, the drinks flow copiously, the women are beautiful and all too available, and the food and accommodations would make a sheikh envious, but some days on the Fantasy Tour reporting beat are a lesson in grim determination; the grim determination to maintain a level of sobriety and focus necessary to get the story of the day's stage down and out to the reader. Today was shaping up to be such a day, and then a major crash occurred that sent the hopes of many GC men to shatter on the pavement along with their bodies.

I am ashamed to say that I missed it. Missed it totally and completely. I had popped inside the cafe that was serving as my base of operations to order a bit more of the fabulous champagne that is produced in this region, which is coincidentally called Champagne. A lovely young female local was taking great delight in discussing some of the activities available to a reporter like myself, when a great gasp went up from some of the patrons clustered around a tiny television showing the Tour. I tottered over to see what I'd missed, only to find that I had missed one of the most stunning incidents to date in this year's Tour. Dear reader, I'm sorry. I know I promised to not miss any other momentous events in this year's Tour, but this time I really mean it.

Anywho, Cadel and Wiggo seemed to have skated through. Peter Sagan took it to the pure sprinters and won the stage with Gorilla Greipel finishing second with what may prove to be a dislocated shoulder. Chapeau, gentlemen! There is little shuffling in the top 3 of the LCBDFTdFpbUCNSP, but I must point out the astonishing rise of Team Mas Fuerte, which now sits in 7th place overall and following the donning of the maillot jaune by Sylvain Chavenal in tomorrow's first climby bit of this year's Tour, they should rise ever higher. Dig in to that bucket of chicken while you still can Quint Ervin 'cause Mas Fuerte is comin'...

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Let's be honest with each other

So, today's stage was that familiar and sad tale of the long breakaway that looked so close to the line that with 17 seconds on the peloton with just 2 km to go they must surely, this time, be successful. But no kids, the professional catch is brutally deceptive and gives hope beyond measure to the poor, benighted rider who feels like they have gotten the golden ticket in which the hapless chasers come up just short of denying the plucky few the spoils of Tour de France stage victory. And so, with just tens of meters separating the "no-hopers" from the eternal glory of a stage win, the sprinters sweep past in a flurry of elbows and quads with the wide shoulders of Gorilla Greipel tearing the molecules of air asunder in his second successful bid for the line. This after earning the title of best bike handler at Mach 5 when Tyler Farrar decided to hit the deck and slide into him and Greipel pulled the no-footer ride over and continued on with little loss of place. True, Greipel did transfer the bulk of Tyler's force into Peter Sagan, sending the Tourminator into a high speed high side that ended on the curb, but Greipel showed a mastery of applied force, vector physics and gravitational redirection that should earn him serious consideration for a Nobel Prize in Applied Physics.

In more serious news of the Luna Cycles Big Deal Fantasy Tour de France, Quint Ervin stays in the lead for an incredible third day in a row, lending further proof that his team is on the chinese chicken juice pretty hard. Let it be known though that the bare chested fury of Team Mas Fuerte is coming to bear and will be fully realized with a reckoning of epic proportions in the mountains.

So let's be honest. There is about 10 minutes of real excitement in these stages, and it comes at the very end. I am going to while away the bulk of the stages like these chatting up friendly locals, imbibing in the local drinks, and endeavoring to be sober enough to pay attention to those crucial last 10 kilometers. Deal?

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Independence day!

The celebration of Independence Day is pretty subdued here in France. Actually, it's downright nonexistent. Weird. I celebrated as best I could by eating a cheeseburger (not an easy thing to find in France), drinking beer (the price of Budweiser here is shocking), and then lighting a trash can on fire and pretending it was fireworks. Oh well.

Team SRAM Red 2012 p/b Bojangle's still maintains the lead in the Luna Cycles Big Deal Fantasy Tour de France presented by Uncle Chuck's New School Pregreaser, but there is a lot of shifting around going on below that and some teams may be starting to come into their own now that the first few days of unpleasantness have gone behind us.

The big news was the large crash that occurred toward the end of the stage and which sent Mark Cavendish to the pavement. With his heart not really in the Tour this year and his focus firmly set on winning the Olympic road race in London in August, I'd be willing to bet he'll exit the Tour very soon. With Cavendish out, look to Andre Greipel to take the helm as the dominant pure sprinter of this year's race with Peter Sagan sticking his nose in with the pure sprinters, the rouleurs, the puncheurs, and any other categorization of bad ass you want to come up with. I'll bet the Liquigas boys start to rally around the Tourminator quickly given that Basso is not much more than a super-domestique and Nibbles Nibali hasn't come through as a rider that can close the deal, yet. While I'm in extemporaneous freestyle prediction mode, let me just congratulate myself on NOT picking Thomas Voeckler this year for my team. Voeckler's tremendous Tour performances follow a 10 year comet-like cycle and he will be retired before the next orbit is due to return. Last year was his last good year at the Tour and he will now fade into Tour obscurity (at least for this Tour). Sure, he may get a stage win, but he won't crack the top 20 in GC. Pierre Rolland on the other hand is looking to make a jump to a bigger squad and should uncork something pretty spectacular in the mountains.

In honor of the 4th of July, let us remember all of the American pioneers in the Tour de France:

Jonathon Boyer was the first American to race in the Tour de France in 1981.

Greg Lemond was the first American to finish on the podium of the Tour de France with 3rd place in 1984. Lemond was also the first American to win the Tour de France in 1986.

Andy Hampsten was the first American to win the White Jersey of Best Young Rider at the Tour de France in 1986 with an overall finish of 4th place. (His La Vie Claire teammates took the top 2 podium steps the same year - Lemond 1st and Bernard Hinault 2nd) Andy Hampsten is still the only American to have won the Giro d'Italia.

The first road stage win by an American was in 1986 by Davis Phinney, a fearsome beast of a sprinter.

With this Tour de France start, George Hincapie has bested Joop Zoetemelk for the record number of Tour de France starts with a staggering 17.

Laura Antoine became the first American Tour de France podium girl in 2009.

There is this near mythical story that I have read about in several places, but can't track down any definitive proof of an Italian-American cyclist in the 1950's, who stayed in Europe after the end of World War II and ended up racing professionally. He is believed to have raced in the Tour de France in the early 1950's, which would make him the first American to race in the Tour de France by three decades. If you know of anything pertaining to this story, I'd love to hear it.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Two in a row

Directeur Sportif Quint Ervin now sits atop the Luna Cycles Big Deal Fantasy Tour de France presented by Uncle Chuck's New School Pregreaser for the second day in a row. Fueled by a heady mixture of hubris, sweet tea, and unknown chinese chicken feed supplements, the SRAM Red 2012 p/b Bojangles team looks to be in for a few days of control of this fantasy stage race. With the top 5 separated by less than 100 points though, there is still a lot of race left.

I'm in France now. It is pretty much like Belgium at this point, except instead of drinking a lot (and I mean A LOT) of Belgian beer while I file my daily report, I'm downing bottles of red wine. I plan on crashing one of the Eurosport get togethers to see how the big dogs play and to quaff as much free champagne I came guzzle before anyone notices I'm not British- or English. I am Scot-Irish though, so that may play in my favor. We'll see. One thing I'm not going to do is try to hang out with Bob Roll or any of the other NBC or VS. or whatever the hell they call their network this week guys. They are total prima donnas.

So Peter Sagan pretty much made everybody look pretty silly today. Alejandro Valverde brain farted his way through a turn at Mach 10 that Sylvain Chavenal nearly overcooked all by himself in his mad dash to try to grab the yellow jersey from Cancellara. Some Cat V got into the finishing bunch and caused a nice crash. Bradley Wiggins satisfied the urge to see if gravity was still operational and Edvald Boassen Hagen went straight while everybody else turned right to go toward the finish line. Damn, that nearly sounded professional. This wine is not good for my journalistic ability.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Enjoy your day in yellow

I caught up with directeur sportif Grant Dunstan of the La Folie Flyer's as he was stepping out of his suite on the way to a club to celebrate his capture of the yellow jersey in the 2012 Luna Cycles Big Deal Fantasy Tour de France presented by Uncle Chuck's New School Pregreaser. Grant shared a bit of old d. s. wisdom when he shared that the best use of the maillot jaune was to wear it out to the clubs because all the men will buy your drinks and "all the chicks dig it". Thank you, Oh Wise Sage.

And yet again, we run into the one and done phenomenon of teams that capture the Fantasy Tour lead and barely have time to start tricking out team bikes with yellow accents before the wild and crazy ride with the golden fleece is over. Not even a stage win by Team Hoogerland's Thigh sprinter Mark Cavendish could stop the testosterone-infused fried chicken powered Team SRAM Red 2012 p/b Bojangle's from taking the yellow jersey from the La Folie Flyer's, wiping the grease off of its collective faces, and asking for more biscuits and sweet tea. Yes, alleged cheating directeur sportif Quint Ervin must be basking in some juices of self satisfaction as he takes the lead of the LCBDFTdFpbUCNSP. We await his comments with bated breath.

Now to a matter that strikes at the heart of my journalistic integrity. A report surfaced in today's Cyclingnews that said, "Shortly thereafter there was another large crash when a fan saw the need to stand in the road to make photos." The writer, Susan Westemeyer, did not seek me out for an interview after this incident and the article would indicate that I am to blame for the crash. As you may recall from my report yesterday, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time to catch a photo of this particular crash and am in no way to blame for its occurrence. Let me set you straight on your "facts" Ms. Westemeyer: 1 - I'm a fantasy journalist NOT a fan (how dare you impune a fellow journalist) and 2 - I didn't see a need to stand in the road to make photos, I was in the road to capture the best shots for my coverage. It could be a lot worse. I could have hopped on the back of some random motorcycle and started buzzing around like a crazy person like other photographers I've seen. That can't be legit. 


So I see that the persecution of the American has begun with these foreigners. One minor photographic incident, like a non-negative test at the Tour of Switzerland, can be overblown to the point of calling into question my spectacular Fantasy Tour de France journalistic career. A career, I might add, in which I have successfully posted hundreds of photos and reports over the years, none of which have ever resulted in a mishap like yesterday. I think that this is a pretty clear cut case of European bias against me - the most successful Fantasy Tour de France journalist in history. 

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Really?

Directeur sportif Steve White strode confidently to the sign in of the Luna Cycles Big Deal Fantasy Tour de France presented by Uncle Chuck's New School Pregreaser, resplendent in the first maillot jaune of this year's race. Uncertain of his Hoogerland's Thigh team's chances of defending the yellow jersey, White vowed to "defend it until I can't." How unfortunate that it turned out to be less than a day in yellow for White and Team Hoogerlan's Thigh.

This stage started like so many others that this reporter has been privy to over the years. A breakaway of no-hopers goes out early on the long dash to sponsor exposure in the continuous glare of camera coverage that travels with the breakaway, while the peloton ambles along at cookie ride pace, giving the breakaway its due until the time comes to catch it in a flash and set up for the win. The day's favorites for victory were not the pure sprinters given the absurdly steep pitch just 2.5 km from the finish. No, today was a day for the wily and cagey bobcat not the speedy cheetah.

I was fortunate to hook a ride with some soigneurs from the AG2R/La Mondiale team and found that a gillet with team colors and a spare wheel were all the ticket I needed to cut a swathe through the crowds and get ringside for the big show.

At about the 20 km mark, I bravely stepped out into the road a bit to snap a few photos of the peloton for this story. As luck would have it, a major crash occurred right where I stepped out into the road as a rider swerved abruptly around me for some unknown reason a caused a pile up. I caught this great close up of Cadel Evans:












and this photo of Pierre Rolland of the Europcar team. Unfortunately, I found myself at the bottom of the pileup of riders and bikes and it took several moments of pushing and shoving to extract myself. To those riders whose wheels I stepped on in my mad scramble to get out of the pileup, no hard feelings. I assure you that my professionalism ensures that I will offer you fair and balanced coverage throughout the remainder of this Tour. Except for you, Robert Gesink, you were just plain rude.











I attempted to walk to the top of the day's penultimate climb, but the grade proved far too much effort and a handy cafe became my base of operations for the final 5 km of today's stage. I nearly spilled my trippel all over myself when I saw Sylvain Chavenal launch his gutsy attack on the steepest part of the climb, for he is a real favorite of mine. While gutsy, the attack was short-lived and the rider dubbed "Spartacus", Fabio Candelabra put on the craziest burst of power outside of the start of a Cat. 4 criterium, dragging Petey Sagan (no relation to Carl Sagan as far as I know, but that dude did get around a bit. Not like Richard Feynman, that physicist was a total man whore) along with him. Sagan tucked in admirably, not letting the flailing chicken-wing elbows of Candelabra entice him to pull through. And so "The Gun Show" came to fruition with the victory of Peter Sagan.

We also have a new leader in the LCBDFTdFpbUCNSP as directeur sportif Grant Dunstan of the La Folie Flyers team mounts the top step with the smashing performances of Chavenal, Candelabra, Sagan, and Wiggins. Steve White and his Hoogerland's Thigh team slip into first loser territory, while embattled directeur sportif Quint Ervin occupies third place with his Team SRAM Red 2012 p/b Bojangle's (which are not allegedly hopped up on doped Chinese fried chickens).

Now I'm off to do an interview with Tom Boonen and some Belgian supermodels at a hot new club here in Liege.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Epilogue to a Prologue

I have been truly fortunate to have locals so eager to assist me in this my first foreign reporting assignment. Without the aid of the world community of cycling fans, my coverage of the Luna Cycles Big Deal Fantasy Tour de France presented by Uncle Chuck's New School Pregreaser would lack style, flair and flavor. My sincerest hopes are to have the remainder of this trip go as well as the first days have.

With the aid of a fellow cycling aficionado and patron of the first bar cum cafe that I happened to walk into, I was able to secure a fantastic table on the route for today's prologue time trial. I counted myself both fortunate and lucky to find myself perched course-side with a paper cone of pommes frites and a lovely glass of fine Belgian ale. With a few hours to kill before the real action began, I settled down to eat, drink and learn more about this wonderful little country and some of its citizens, starting with my new found friend.

My how the time flies when you are trying to get to know more about the new area you are visiting! Alas, I caught a streak of red and black out of the corner of my eye and watched in horror as the hunched form of Cadel Evans became a distant blur in a matter of seconds. I failed you, dear reader, and missed most of the action of today's events, but I have diligently put together as much information as possible to make up for my lack of focus and I promise you, dear reader, that my A game is now in full effect. What follows is my best effort to recap the days excitement that I heard about from some of the people who paid a bit more attention to the race than I...

So today's prologue time trial is much like the event pictured to the left (only it isn't on the track, you aren't allowed to use a motor, you can't draft off of anyone or anything, and nobody had this kind of body fat on display). Each man left the start house and throttled himself into oblivion for a little over 6 km or until he died from the effort. (That last part might not be right, the two guys I heard it from had drunk a lot more beer than I had and I've got to be honest and say that would have to be a substantial amount.)

Each rider put forward a towering display of athletic prowess except the guys that were outside of the top 30 or so. The guys from about 100th place back just looked like they were ready to pack it in and call it a day. So, on to the results.

Fabian Cancellara (pictured here from his wildly popular TV show Spartacus, which I'm sorry to say I haven't seen but is apparently really good and he uses his character's name in some of his cycling endeavors) put on an awesome display of power and took the stage win.











Bradley Wiggins (pictured here at a post race interview) put in a very strong performance to finish second and put a stamp of authority on his bid to claim this year's top step in Paris.

But enough about the actual race. The moment you have all dreamed of for a year or less has come. We can now put forward the first yellow jersey of the 2012 Luna Cycles Big Deal Fantasy Tour de France presented by Uncle Chuck's New School Pregreaser.

In 3rd place, with strong performances from Cancellara, Wiggins, and Van Garderen, directeur sportif  Jeff Welch of the Dottatope team.  In 2nd place, riding high on the backs and thighs of Chavenal, Wiggins, and Van Garderen, directeur sportif Eric Winebarger of the Mountain Don't team. And finally, our first bearer of the golden fleece, with strong performances from Wiggins, Van Garderen, and Cancellara, a newcomer to the LCBDFTdFpbUCNSP is directeur sportif Steve White of Team Hoogerland's Thigh.  Congratulations to our top three. To further the depth of our coverage, I make a humble request that all participants send me a photo of themselves (or a reasonable facsimile) wearing or wrapped in something yellow for future press releases.