Remember the USA Pro Cycling Challenge race in Colorado? It concluded August 26 and included fan favorite Jens Voigt, third place winner of the 2012 Tour de France, Vincenzo Nibali, and Americans Tejay van Garderen, Tom Danielson, Levi Leipheimer and George Hincapie in his final professional race – among other recognizable names.
Like Barry Bonds for instance who, it turns out, is popping up at these high-profile, domestic races because his girlfriend is a cycling enthusiast and introduced Bonds to the sport. He’s not just watching; he’s riding. In fact, Bonds rode the 2011 El Tour de Tucson.
Been there, done that. It’s a great race. This year, it falls on November 17, if you want to try your luck at seeing and dropping Bonds on a hill – or not. (You tell me.)
IS NOTHING SACRED? These past several years, it’s become almost standard to see a cyclist in the Tour de France reach deep into his spandex, stretch his manhood into daylight and reduce his cadence for "au natural" break. Sometimes, he stops at the side of the road. Sometimes, he keeps right on rolling.
Five or so years ago, the camera respected the privacy of the cyclist, resulting in the inevitable “Ask Bobke” question each year: “Bob – How the heck do the guys pee?”
On a recent weekend ride, a friend commented how the Tour de France peloton must be one cootiefied pack of men. Why, yes they are, my friend. Day One of the USA Pro Challenge, we were treated to live, and tortured with replay footage of Dave Zabriskie simultaneously peddling and hurling his breakfast as commentator Phil Liggett explained DZ had literally turned himself “inside out” to get up a brutal mountain climb.
Is there nothing these men don’t do on their bikes? This also begs the Ask Bobke question whether, as DZ emptied into his front wheel, chunks came spinning back toward him? Ick.
Liggett also leaked what we’ve suspected all along: that cyclists shave their legs because it looks better. Sure it’s easier, if they crash, to be bandaged. Oh – and they get a lot of massages.
GOLDEN: Remember the opening ceremonies of the London Olympics? When this guy in skinny jeans sporting a healthy pair of chops for sideburns rung that big bell? That happened to be Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, who went on to win gold in the Olympic Time Trial and said in an interview afterward,
I don’t think my sporting career will ever top that. What a month it’s been. I won the Tour de France and the time trial at London in the Olympic Games. That’s it now. It’s never, ever going to get any better than that.
After winning gold in Athens, Wiggins admits in his autobiography, he went on a nine-month bender.
Genuine well-wishes to Wiggins, that he doesn’t experience a double-dose of withdrawal from this year’s victories.
If you fought to keep a dry eye during the Olympics, you’d have blown through an entire tissue box watching the 2011 Ironman on the NBC Sports Network. The folks struggling to make the time cut-off are heart-wrenching as they weave and stumble their way to the finish, falling and fighting to get back up, delirious. Several are in their 70s and 80s and you realize as much as exhaustion, they’re battling the fear of being too old to succeed in physical challenges.
That’s gonna be me. Except I’ll do a Sprint Tri. (Duh.)
The sleeper event of the London Olympics had to be marathon swimming. Cycling fans know of the Feed Zone: a predetermined location where cyclists ride by team staff during a stage and grab their meal-on-the-go bags of food and drink. In marathon swimming, team staff hold poles over the water with flags of countries attached beneath a cup holder with gels or electrolyte water or whatever. It’s no easy task ingesting mid-stroke. Twenty percent electrolyte water, 80 percent sea water. (Aren’t they the same?)
Did you catch the Independent Olympic Athletes dancing in the Parade of Nations? The team was composed of athletes with no country to represent, as has been the case in only two previous Games. The 2012 IOA were from the former Netherlands Antilles and the brand new South Sudan. They at least deserved gold for positive energy, but went home empty-handed.
During the closing ceremonies, the best pick-up line I managed to lip-read was, “You know the 150,000 condoms handed out to athletes? I saved two for you.”
Did you see any Paralympic competition? If not, you missed some of the most intriguing, thought-provoking, passionate sports entertainment there is. This article provides a taste of what I’m referring to. For starters, in the opening ceremonies, a Marine veteran with no legs or prosthetics from the knees down, suspended from a zip-line, lit the flame before he “stood” face-to-face with a person with legs. Eerie.
RISING STAR: Like summer naps, long-past now is the Tour de France. What still makes me smile are the celebrations of 22-year-old sprinter Peter Sagan as he crossed the finish line first, three times in the first week. By “celebrate,” we’re not talking the traditional arms raised or fist pump. Sagan evolved from the Funky Chicken to Forrest Gump and finally, seeing as he wore green, the Incredible Hulk. This <3-minute summary of Stage 6 includes footage of a high-speed crash that ultimately resulted in the abandonment of 13 riders, but concludes with The Hulk.
By the way, Sagan wore that green, points jersey all the way to Paris. His reward from Liquigas Cannondale Team President? A Porsche. Su-weet!
What say we talk more about crashes. This year’s Tour began with 198 riders on 22 teams. At the conclusion, only four teams were intact and 153 riders remained. That’s a lot of work for the race “mobile medic.” It’s just what you’d guess: when a rider crashes and gets back on his bike, a medic pulls alongside him to clean and dress the wounds as the cyclist hangs onto the side of the moving vehicle – at around 25 mph. Sure, there’ve been times when the medic car and medicated cyclist do each other more harm than good….
And while Sagan was this Tour’s most entertaining sprinter, Mark Cavendish might have the most interesting family.
TIMBITS: God, I hate to bring this up, but I’d seem out of touch if I didn’t and I suppose it’s that much more intriguing, with Armstrong giving up the fight. So in doping news, here’s an interesting statement taken from this [scroll down to Aug. 27] comprehensive article:
…between 1996 and 2006, the sport has not had a single champion untainted by doping. The timeline reads: Riis, Ullrich, Pantani, Armstrong, Landis, and here we sit, seven years later with a big asterisk next to the Tour!
That has long since overshadowed that, after the second week of this year’s Tour, Frank Schleck tested positive for the diuretic Xipamide and his team, RadioShack, withdrew him from the Tour. While Xipamide isn’t an illegal substance, it’s used for its “masking” effect on banned substances. Frank requested his B sample be tested, stating that if it was positive, he’d been “poisoned.” It came back positive.
Fresh off his own doping suspension, Alberto Contador won the exciting Vuelta a Espana.
So many questions, so few answers.