Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Le Tour de Trivia

Think you know Le Tour - test yourself (and those louses sprawled across your floor, drinking your beer, eating all the Eddy Merckx Birthday cake, and too cheap to splurge for their own hook up to Versus.)

In this 97th edition we will add to the Tourmalet-sized mountain for facts and trivia that already exists for fanatics, commentators and history buffs to dig through - in fact the Tourmalet itself will be added - with only the second ever summit finish in Tour history (1974 was the previous.) Here's a few more to pedal through -
  • How old was the oldest Tour de France cyclist? 50 year, Henri Paret, in 1904
  • First wearer of the Yellow Jersey? Eugène Christophe on stage11 in 1919 Tour
  • First rider to wear the maillot jaune from start to finish? Ottavio Bottechia is the first Italian winner as well - 1924.
  • The smallest ever number of finishers? only 10 in 1919
  • The Tour's first fatal casualty? 1910 Adolphe Hélière was electrocuted by a a jellyfish while bathing in Nice on the rest day there.
  • First woman to finish the Grand Boucle? Marie Marvingt, after being denied a start by Director Henri Desgrange because it was men only, she proceeded to ride, and complete, the entire grueling 1908 Tour after the men - only 36 of 114 men finished.
  • The longest ever solo break? In 1912 Eugène Christophe is away for 315 kilometres before winning in Grenoble. His winning margin is just 2' 37" over Octave Lapize.
  • Greatest number of past and future winners to take the start? 11 past or future Tour winners are on the start line in 1914: Louis Trousselier (1905), Lucien Petit-Breton (19071908), François Faber (1909), Octave Lapize (1910), Gustave Garrigou (1911), Odile Defraye (1912), Philippe Thys (1913, 1914 and 1920), Firmin Lambot (1919 and 1922), Léon Scieur (1921), Henri Pélissier (1923) and Lucien Buysse (1926) and
  • The longest stage in Tour history? 482km from Les Sables d'Olonne to Bayonne in 1919.
  • What's the most times anyone has finished the Tour? 16 by Joop Zoetemelk, between 1970 and 1986
  • The slowest ever winning speed? 24.056km/h (1919)
  • The Tour's oldest victor? Firmin Lambot at 37 in 1922, a record that still stands
  • Longest Tour of all time? 1926 at 5745km
  • The year of the first King of the Mountains? 1933, the won by Spaniard Vincente Trueba
  • How many winners of the Tour have had their victory nullified? Twice in the history of the race has the rider awarded the win been disqualified at a later date. The first time was in 1904 when the previous year's winner, Maurice Garin, after winning again was found to have caught a train for part of the event, and then at the 2006 race Floyd Landis of America was disqualified for elevated testosterone levels found in a urine sample taken after one of his stage wins.
  • The Tour has its own motorcycle police force and a traveling bank - the only one in France allowed to open on Bastille Day
  • What's magic about #8? Several things:
    a) Eight - most number of stages won on single Tour (Charles Pelissier, 1930 - Eddy Merckx, 1970 and 1974 - Freddy Maertens, 1976)
    b) Eight - most riders to wear yellow jersey in one Tour (1987)
    c) Eight seconds - smallest winning margin (American Greg LeMond over Laurent Fignon in 1989)
  • How many Calories burned by a rider in the course of the Tour? 123,900 (based on 5900-per day average at 21 days of racing)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

No Rouge Repeat

The news came early, around 6AM, I hadn't even had my first cuppa Earl Grey before a small web voice whispered across cyberspace... "check the Tour line ups." So with apprehension I flipped open the laptop, logged on to CyclingNews, quickly scan headlines... hmmm? Just one, “This will be my final Tour de France”, tweet turned headline from Lance, ...yawn, another sip of tea, we knew that was coming, eventually. So nothing really? That web voice still sirens. I switch sites and look at newly announced team line ups.

All the big dog teams are in place and announced - Cervelo, Shack, Astana - changes there would have made headlines, nothing. Something is feeling French this morning. Ag2r-la Mondiale nope, they still haven't announced. Let's see about FdJ...
Oh No, NO Yauheni Hutarovich!

Dang! The double flamme, the rare back-to-back is dowsed. Erghhhhhhhhh!

Francaise des Jeux the French squad, with little hope of anything resembling a stage win and
even less of a prayer on GC, (sorry Christophe Le Mével
) has foregone their real shot at Tour history - Hutarovich could have joined an elite group of only five double winners and one of only three to pull off the rare-repeat, the doubla-rouge, Yauheni had a real shot at back-to-back Lanternes. This is a tragedy! It's time to reinstate the Isole rule!!

I had to calm myself and went back to the kitchen for a second cuppa. The question now was where to look for a serious new candidate? One thing for certain is we are looking at a first timer in red - and that's exciting. Sadly Kenny Van Hummel isn't there, but perhaps someone in his mold. Let's see, what team is... NO! OMG it could happen. Flesh and Rouge collide. Paul Smith you may want to have a stiff drink, this could get ugly.

Okay, and here it is, my great fear of TdF 2010 - Footon! Perhaps the peloton's most hideous kit in years. Not since the "U Team" kits of Laurent Fignon's late 1980's team have we seen anything so, well, butt-ugly. At least U had color. (I have heard votes for the '91Tonton Tapis-Corona - but really, hold that up against that Footon disaster and then get back to me.)

Footon-Servetto, the team formerly known as Fuji-Servetto, and as Scott- Beef Blunder, and as Saunier Duval-Prodir, is loaded with a whopping eight - that's right, 8 - first-time wide-eyed Tour newbies. The lone "veteran" Italian Giampaolo Cheula. He's been there since 2007 where he finished just a half hour back of triple-winner Wim Vansevenant in 111th, in the '08 Tour he was up to 85th. But here's the bumpy road ahead for the fleshy-kit-klan and any hope of lighting the Lanterne, the Tour 2010 road to Paris is a paved in
pavés. Footon-Servetto did not race Paris-Roubaix; they did bump through a bit of Flanders, but all eight riders DNF’d. Yikes! They may want apply for a pavés pardon, take the time loss, practice team autobussing.

So for all of you on Lanterne watch, as much as your stomach can stand, keep your eyes focused on flesh.

Names to remember:
Fabio Felline (ITA) (only 20 years)
Giampaolo Cheula (ITA)
Manuel Cardoso (POR)
Markus Eibegger (AUT)
Alberto Benítez (SPA)
Arkaitz Durán (SPA)
Iban Mayoz (SPA)
Rafael Valls (SPA)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

"Cycle Chic" - Summer's here

Summer - maybe today it kicked open the door and firmly planted a foot in Portland - Yeah! We hope! With it comes a wave of bike folks enjoying this place we love - first-timers, commuters, Sunday Parkways families, Bridge-Peddalers, Pedalpaloozers, a host of summer Centuries and the STP invasion. But what really excites me and gives me hope that we may someday replace our auto-mentality inner city with a people friendly culture (and god forbid that concept pedaled into the burbs) is the "Cycle Chic" phenomena - everyday people wearing everyday clothes, doing everyday things. As movement inspiration photographer Mikael Colville-Andersen says in the video post below, Cycle Chic "hit a nerve... ya know, I didn't invent cycle chic, it's as old as the bicycle as we know it, 120 years"

Picked this up over on a website (thanks to Jenn) called - some fun bike/livable street culture stuff waiting over there to be explored - take a spin.

Monday, June 21, 2010

New York City Ghost Bike Busters

Cyclists and the rest of society have at best a strange acceptable coexistence - a symbiosis. But as any high school ecology student learns symbiosis is a bit like saying "fruit", there are many different kinds and not everyone like them all.

Commensalism is a type of relationship between two things where one benefits, but the other is unaffected (car drives on street and doesn't hit bike). There are three other relationships: mutualism (where both bikes and cars benefit), competition (where both vehicles are harmed), and parasitism (one vehicle benefits and the other one is harmed). This last versions is where ghost bikes appear on our streets.

In some cities that approaches true symbiosis, struggling as it may be, but still what might be refereed to as commensalism - when two species share the same table. In other cities the symbiosis teeters on parasitism. And parasitism always has victims.

Ghost bikes in New York City appear to remind us a wee bit too much of garbage, rather than memorials, at least according to that city's sanitation department. Ghost bikes dot the streets of many of the US and world's major city streets. They are haunting reminders of Koyaanisqatsi
, life out of balance, symbiosis gone bad. 67 reminders have been put up around NY City as part of the Street Memorial Project to honor the 108 known cycling fatalities since 2005. For half a decade they have stood as silent reminders to NY residence that their streets are a shared environment, but those reminders may become distant memories if a new proposal [pdf] from the NYC Department of Sanitation is approved; part of an initiative to clear the sidewalks of unused and junked bikes, the department wants to get rid of Ghost Bikes as well.

In articles popping up around that city - both on the web and print - (Sanitation Department wants to remove 'eyesore' bike-death memorials & Ghost Bikes Targeted by Sanitation Department) - it appears ghost bikes are illustrating the divide, mental more than physical, between those that ride and those that don't. Bikes are the representation of the "them." Those people who simply will not accept that vehicles are a symbol of our manifest destiny. They are the counter-culture. It's the kind of "everyman" device that reeks of communism - or worse yet, Europeanism. And ghost bikes are blatant symbols that "we", the drivers of those steel leviathans are costing lives. Not such a pretty reminder when you put your kid on their bike in the park.

The ghost bikes may even be more haunting these days as oil and methane gas spew from the Gulf of Mexico sea floor, creating dead zones in that fruitful sea and spill toxically along hundreds of miles of Gulf coast. Their thin white frames stand in stark contrast to the giant hulks of oil hungry steel that struck most of their owners down. Bikes are one of the few clean transportation vehicles that are "pedal ready" and cost us nothing to implement - except greater patience, awareness and sharing - a greater understanding of symbiotic commensalism and of the core tenant of every belief on this planet - sharing is good.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

OUTSIDE ethics and good taste

Every few weeks my two passions crisscross, photography and cycling, usually that means a wonderful cycling image created by me or something I've trip over on the web. This time the image hits at the ethical heart of my photographic passion and disgusts the heart of me as a cyclist.

Outside Magazine's new cover is of cycling's most divisive rider, an aging Lance Armstrong. For most cycling fans it's hate the guy vs love the guy, the camps are pretty clear. But lie about the guy?

The Tour champ stares out at you from the cover of the latest issue of Outside magazine in a blue shirt that says "38. BFD." in blatantly bold letters. 38 equals Armstrong's age in this year's Tour, and the acronym is "Big F---ing Deal."

As the cover explains in small - very small - text, the garment is "not Armstrong's real T-shirt," and the cyclist is, well, pissed off. On Twitter, he wrote that the text was Photoshopped into the image and called the stunt
"lame bullshit."

As an older cyclist I'm just a little pissed, but can easily chalk this up to editorial stupidity. Will assume
Editor: Christopher Keyes was on holiday when is staff's sophomoric humor escaped its playpen.

As a photographer - and journalist - this deeply angers me. I have written multiple times about the covenant we have with the viewer, break that covenant - LIE - and you destroy the very ethical heart of that trust. A relationship that is key, one Outside would understand explicitly. So next month when they decide to have an oil soaked pelican on their cover - do we now trust that they haven't "added a bit more oil" just to make things look their version of a bit worse in the Gulf?

I would go beyond "bullshit" - this is a LIE - period. And Photography Editor: Amy Feitelberg should be fired, or if she was overruled by Art Director: John McCauley and/or Creative Director: Hannah McCaughey then Ms. Feitelberg should have quit her BFJ.

More of my photo thoughts over on my Small Planet Perambulation blog

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Why I'm not a sprinter!

Today in the finish of Tour du Suisse Satge 4 things went "all pear shape" in the final 100 meters to the line. Cavendish chose a sprint line diagonal to Cervelos Haussler and slam bam they all fall down, including Boonen (black, red, yellow Belgian National jersey) who crashes into a tumbling Cav and best flight of all, whom the judges must award "Best Aerial in a Sprint" to is the AG2R rider

Monday, June 14, 2010

Flying Wheels with Froggy

Sometimes it's timing, that magical rendezvous between health, want, and opportunity. This year, that is most definitely the case. Last Saturday, the back and lungs were finally healthy and not complaining about a thing, I definitely wanted to be riding, somewhere - anywhere, and the Cascade Bicycle Club picked a perfect day of sunshine and route through the Snoqualmie River Valley (near Seattle, WA) for their Flying Wheels Century. Yes! It was as if life were just waiting for this day to kick off summer cycling.

So with Jenn gracing the stoker seat and Froggy trading in his lillypad for a comfortably position navigating from stubby arrowbars, we joined our friend David to take Stealth on a flight. Funny thing was that not far from the start of the Flying Wheels in Redmond's (Washington) Marymoor Park the wheels were anything but flying. A punchy little left off of E. Lake Samammish Parkway onto pitch that left a few wheels floundering. Navigating left of the bike lane Froggy got us past the calamity of dropped chains, tipping bikes and wobbly wheelers. Nothing like a 12% gradient on Inglewood Hill Rd. to get a club ride off to a "flying" start!

After that things were lumpy for 10 miles or so, but settled into a lovely roll through the hilly country west of the town of Carnation. Most of the 4,000 or so pairs of Flying Wheels were pretty spread out after that and made the day pleasurable.

After weeks of wet weather - monsoonal at times - the day could not have been more perfect - mid 70's after a 58 degree start, crystal blue sky, and the Snoqualmie River valley bookend by Mt Rainier to the south and Mt Baker to the north. And all along the eastern skyline were the saw-tooth crest of the Central Cascades. Heck, after the rest stop at 32 miles the day even through in a pair of bald eagles doing an aerial dance just to punctuate the ride.

I would really recommend the ride to anyone wanting an wonderful rural escape from Seattle or close enough to visit for the weekend. The Flying Wheels offers the usual short (25mi), medium (45ish) and two longer loops, 65 & 100. Highly recommend one of the longer loops so you get the full swing up the Snoqualmie River Valley - great roads (especially the route back along West Snoqualmie River Road NE - no traffic and perfect road along the river - awesome!) The full century is pretty flat with only 3,000+ feet of vertical - most of that coming in a couple pitchy short climbs. This is a great tandem ride.

Thanks Cascade Bicycle Club - nicely organized and supported.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Cirque du Cycling Saturday

Suppose to be a gorgeous weekend - FINALLY - around here, if you weren't expecting it and have only your "usual' ride planned, get in some additional bike time and a few brews at the annual Cirque du Cycling event up on Mississippi Avenue. The all-day activities include kids on bikes, naked people on bikes, usually an appearance by the Sprockets and a late afternoon crit featuring local OBRA racers.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Lanterne Rouge Musings

Under a month to go until Le Tour sets off, its Grand Depart in Amsterdam. The buzz is starting to build - the revival of Basso, mechanical doping, Cavandish's lack of wins, Landis vs Lance, the Where's Menchov Mystery, etc. And it's time for cycling to go mainstream media; the cycling journalist are getting some company - regular sports types and the 'other' journalistic world, those that join in like once-a-year Christians on Easter Sunday. Hey, if your bosses will foot the bill for bonnes vacances in France I guess you take it.

With the days dwindling I'm reviewing
my contenders, the wannabees and the likely winner. Oh ya, mainstream go ahead and pick the maillot jaune winner - let's see, there is Contador - and there is... um? Contador. Wow, that was simple. If his pistolly avoids backfiring and the pollen count stays low while they pass through the sunflower fields, it should be a multi-minute mutilation of the GC, he is after all the best pair of Sidis pedaling in the Grand Boucle. No, what I'm focusing on is that faint red glow illuminating the tail of the peloton. That eternal flame that draws the broomwagon ever closer. Try picking that rider and you will enshrine yourself in the Prognosticator's Hall of Fame.

Lanterne Rouge Picks 2010
It's a new game this year, I started it a few months ago, it carries extra meaning. Until I had to place myself on 'personal disabled list' I was planning on being at the Tour, covering it from the back of the bus, the broomwagon. (Next year.) So having a hint of who might be hanging on for dear life would help me target interviews and lock in the 2010 Lanterne Rouge.

Unfortunately everybody's favorite, Mr.
"I'll eat my handlebars" Kenny Van Hummel and his Skil-Shimano Team were not selected by the committee. Truly a shame. I was looking forward to hanging with Kenny. Kenny would have once again inspired us all. Van Hummel though will go down as one of the most endearingly likable cyclists in this or any year’s race. In his first Tour de France, he often survived stages heroically, "by the skin of his teeth and riding hundreds of kilometres on his own."

But the peloton rolls on and the gruppetto of likely contenders based on the past couple of July's (marking 2007 with a huge asterisk as nearly a third of the peloton finished within that half hour of the little lantern) looks like this:
  • Leading candidate is always a returning winner. Last year's Lanterne Rouge Yauheni Hutarovich finished 156 at 4h 16'27" - but history proves with so few Rouge repeats winning also teaches you how not to win.
  • Bernhard Eisel has to be one of the strongest contenders in years. He was there in 2007, and after finishing first runner up to the greatest Lanterne Rouge winner of all time - Wim Vansevenant in 2008, just under a minute back, Bernhard followed that up with a respectable 6th back, only 29 minutes off the pace in 2009. After leading out the Manx Missile for a week his legs should be spent.
  • Niki Terpstra of Milram continues to impress with his tenacity and persistance as well as his consistency off the back. In 2009 he was 28 mins off last and 22 mins in 2008. In 2009 Terpstra showed true Lanterne Rouge potential by winning the 3rd stage in the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré, and taking the yellow leader's jersey; a true anti-grimpeur.
  • An outside contender, and perhaps America's first Lanterne Rouge could be Tyler Farrar. At 3h 48'13" the Garmin speedster was five places out of last in 2009; although competing in all three grand tours last year could give him the savvy to stay one wheel ahead of the Lanterne.
  • Finally, with the triplets of death, Stages 14, 15, 16 hovering over the third week we could have a repeat of 2007 when 34 riders huddled a half hour around the warm glow of the red lamp. There were big names in that group, many still around, like Boonen, Weening, Hushovd, Steegmans, Hunter, Haussler. Many of these guys were within seconds of rouge after nearly 86 hours of pedaling.
Throwing a spanner in the sprocket are the grand tour first-timers. Newbies. These guys are unknowns. The kinda riders that drive bookies crazy. They are the Van Hummels or Jay Sweets that surprise you. 1999's Sweet was the kinda wannabee Lanterne Rouge that we club riders connect to on a personal sufferage level. They are us, we could be them, almost.

Jay Sweet, like Van Hummel**, would eventually succumb, turning over the lantern to eventual winner Jacky Durand on Stage 15. This from Jay Sweet's online diary in 1999, Stage 9, for
"What a scarring day! The weather was shabby, raining, cold and a head wind! I got over the first two climbs okay, the bunch took it quite easy which was a relief. The Col du Telegraph (12 kms at 7.1%) was hard. I was the first one dropped, I just climbed it at my own pace. I caught the groupetto over the top on the descent. We then started to climb the Col du Galibier (18 kms at 7%). I lasted about 3 kms with the groupetto before I went hunger flat. My arms didn't want to hold up my body, I had no power whatsoever. I absolut[e]ly crawled to the top of the Galibier which seemed to take forever. When I got to the top I stopped to put on my rain jacket because it was freezing and my director said that I was as white as a ghost and my eyes were half open. He didn't really want me to descend the Galibier but I said I wanted to go on. With 70 kms to go and two more Col's I kept going. When I got to the bottom of the descent it was hailing on me but I kept going! On the Col de Montgenevre (10.5 kms at 5%) it was absolut[e]ly pouring rain but I kept going and at the bottom of the last Col (11.2 kms at 6%). I asked my director how much time I had left for the time cut and he said "You have to go as fast as you can!". I already had been for the last 110 kms but I had to finish. As I climbed as fast as I could it kept raining on me. I got to the last kilometer and sprinted or tried to anyway just to make time cut! I was out by 3 minutes. I didn't make the time cut! After everything I'd been through today and I was eliminated. I guess the officials felt real sorry for me or respected my courage because they are allowing me to start again tomorrow. I don't know if that's good or not yet, I'm too tired to think about tomorrow yet."

Inspiring is 2010's opportunity to see the Lanterne Rouge sail to the western side of the Atlantic or even south to the Land Down Under. It is certain that more Americans, Canadians and Aussies will take the start in Amsterdam than in any other year - and most of those will be rouleurs and fastmen, several Tour newbies, who will be frying their legs in the first week in search of individual stage glory or there after in service of their GC captains. Needless to say, lumpy Stage 8, Station des Rousses to Morzine-Avoriaz, will be the first day we see the brightening of the red lamp. But broomwagon hang on, come stages 14, 15 and 16 you should have a full load, and we should have a radiant Lanterne Rouge by the summit finish on Col du Tourmalet. As Contador recently said,
"The Pyrenees will decide and, of course, this Tour will be harder than last year’s." Lanterne Rouge contenders, wannabees and winner - bon chance, bon courage!

** just a footnote - Sweet and Van Hummel share some interesting Tour coincidences, both road for second-tier Pro Continental teams, and each were the final wild card team selected, and each was the final selection for their respective teams, thus each was wearing the #199, the last number in the Tour... an omen? Strange Tour history has a way of resurfacing from time to time - in this case a decade apart, 1999 and 2009. Neither rider returned to the Tour.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

TREK... H - E - L - P!!

I'll be right up front with this - this is a Help Wanted Ad - to anyone who works for Trek or knows anyone who works for Trek - or anyone who loves Trek bikes and cares. Chris needs your HELP.

I have a friend named Chris Lash, nice enough guy for an engineer-type, which means he can get pretty geeky about the design, maintenance and functioning of his bike. He owns a Trek Madone 5 series, nice looking bike - however - IT BREAKS! More than it should. Apparently Trek has built a really nice velo machine only to design a rather odd seat post with two cheap little bolts that break - rendering your ride (Chris' ride actually) worthless. Trek person (wanted in paragraph 1) let me walk you through last Saturday's ride.

Below is Chris and us pedaling along happily midway through a 100 mile, 8,000 vertical foot sunny day near The Dalles, Oregon. We're on the climb up 5 Mile Road - yes, 1.5 miles of hard pack dirt, part of the Cherry Blossom Stage Race.

And then the Trek Saga returns - his seat post broke (yes, this is not the first time Mr. Trek, just a few weeks ago it happened at the start of the Lost Coast Century... yes, that's in California, and no, we don't live there. Chris had driven 600 miles to participate and the seat post broke!). Sort of similar scene to that of George Hincapie's snapping handlebars on sector 10 in Mons en Pevele, in Paris-Roubaix, only difference is no broken collarbone - arses, at least Chris', are a bit more durable I guess. Your ads say, "Greatness Is Built Into Our DNA", well, you need to build better bolts and seat-clamps in there so DNA doesn't end up on the ground.
Below: This is what a Trek Madone without a seat post lying broken in the grass looks like - not pretty - nor were the words that followed it there. Yes, one was a four-letter exclamation, but trust me it wasn't TREK.

Below: After a mouthful of well chosen expletives - Chris seems to know more and more varied uses than your average cyclist which makes all of us who ride with him sense he may have been a golfer or auto-mechanic in a former day - he calls his wife (who is also a Trek owner and cycling in a nearby valley) to please come and fetch his arse, because it is no longer in that perfect saddle/arse harmony for which every cyclist urns.

So you see Trek person, whom ever you might be, Chris needs your help, before he starts public cursing and spreading factual and rightful displays of anger about your product and its designers. Maybe look at it this way, if this were Lance, he would have killed you by now.

Feel free to contact me - - I'll be delighted to pass you on to Chris.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Universal-ly Off

Tuesday night we, a few of the Kids, gathered at the "Office", locally known as Lucky Lab brew pub in Multnomah. It's the unsual late spring/summer Tuesday night gathering site for three reasons - 1) it the closest best spot after the Tuesday Night Rides/Races out of Tualatin Park, 2) Tightwad Tuesday make pints and pitchers almost reasonably priced, and 3) TT can get an ESB while the rest of us rehydrate with the much tastier IPAs. Of course the fourth, unwritten, reason is to rehash in micro-detail the ride. Last Tuesday it was a quick rehash and better exaggerations were found in Lash's Tales of Trek - or how his Madone broke once again while on a major ride - this time the Lost Coast Century in northern California. His re-Lash can be summed up in a handful of unprintable four-letter words strung together with angry hyphens and accented with hand-gestured exclamation marks. Needless to say Trek has become his newest four-letter word. But he saved a few words for our next topic - Universal Sports' Giro announcers.

After the first pitcher we moved onto the recent Pros chasing pink - the Giro d'Italia. We all amore la Giro just finished. We love the climbs, the podium girls, and the tifosi. Above all we love its unpredictability. It doesn't suffer from the TdF cookie-cutter format of prologue-pancake flats-climbs-rolling flats-climbs-TT-Paris. What we have a love-hate relationship with is Universal Sports coverage. We love the fact that US had the cojones to step over Versus, pay La Gazzetta dello Sport,
and broadcast the Giro - we will be eternally grateful. What we hate are the US announcers. Okay, we grant them the same get-out-of-jail-free card Phil & Paul get in July, because they are taking the TV feed from the event organizers and can't help it if the producer sits on a camera shot of some Italian rider's crash while the attack is going off the front and the maglia rosa is at stake. But "Gogo" (is that really a name?) and Steve Schlanger are just too American. They're no Phil & Paul, but then we really don't want them to be, we want two new cycling announcers to help build a tradition around. But Universal listen up, a "multi-sport announcer" (per their own media release), doesn't work. They don't get this sport. They call it like any other three-pitch and kick a field goal sport and it doesn't work. Cycling is as much tradition and legend as cranksets and derailleurs, or to coin a book title, it is about "Blood, Sweat and Handlebar tape".

Here are our collective decisions - and after a couple of pints we know these decisions are as perfect as Coppi on a TdF Stage XX 162 km solo break over the d'Isoard.

  1. Get rid of Mr Multi-sport Schlanger and get a real cycling guy - visit Eurosport they have several.
  2. Turn down the shreak level on "Gogo" or get rid of him too.
  3. Buy all announcers three things - a) an Italian cultural guide book, b) dinner with Phil & Paul so they can learn how to pronounce the rider's names, and c) a paid vacation to Italy so they can visit the Ghisallo di Madonna and Coppi Museum to learn a little history and tradition of the sport, and then tour a few of the mainstay sites the Giro visits - in other words, get to know the place!!
  4. Finally, fire any announcer immediately who starts to scream** in the final 1k or exiting to a commercial break.
Finding a way to present the Giro to the American public is not just a Universal (sports) issue, it is a cycling issue. On the eve so-to-speak of Giro Director Angelo Zomegnan's lobbying to get his grand tour departing from Washington D.C. in 2012, it's important to connect the American sporting public to the culture of grand tour cycling. Cycling isn't just the start and finish of athletes on bicycles - it's legends, legendary moments, and the passion of those that ride and those that line the roads. Even Americans can learn to love that - they just need presenters to connect them.

Giro’s toughest stage? Getting to DC in 2012

**just by some weird coincidence I heard Steve Schlanger announcing a swimming meet that came on immediately after one of the Giro stages - only because I went, "wait, I know that obnoxious screeching voice" did I pause and watch (listen) to a bit of swimming. Yip, it was him, same delivery, same generically inane commentary, with a rise in screeching tone just before race finishes and departures to commercials - ergh! this is the curse of the American "multi-sport announcer".