Tour de France - 100 Years of Drama
The opening stages of the Tour de France have started and things have gotten off to the usual bumpy start although with a new finish line twist.
Of course we have the GreenEdge team bus getting stuck underneath the stage 1 finish line gantry. Watching ASO officials and assorted police officers scramble around the jammed green team bus was (pardon my French) like a monkey screwing a football - a whole lot of fumbling around and no real action.
Stateside the start of the 2013 Tour de France didn’t make much of a ripple on the front page of the sports section, but the stuck bus did! To further show how Twitter has become a part of the social fabric of the sport someone quickly created a fake twitter account for the GreenEdge bus with the bio, “I’m long, tall, and the winner of Stage 1 of the 2013 TdF!” Thankfully the author of this account knew when the joke had run its course and hasn’t tweeted from the driver’s seat since stage 2. A part of running a good prank is to know when to pull the plug and move on to the next meme. I know there has to be someone with a “fluffy white dog that almost crashed the peloton” Twitter account out there somewhere...
With three stages of this year’s Tour de France completed we can draw some quick conclusions.
1. The Tour can turn on a dime. Stage 1 saw Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff Bank) hit the pavement. Sure it was superficial, but it demonstrates how bad things can happen in a heartbeat and a five-star favorite can be laying in the gutter with a broken collarbone.
2. Professional cyclists are the toughest “mo-fos” in the business. With a bruised lung and torn skin Omega Pharma-QuickStep’s German panzerwagen Tony Martin crossed stage 1’s finish line with more butt exposed than a plumber bent over your sink. Two days later he’s still pedaling. He wasn’t the only one. Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) has a small fracture in his pelvis and Cannondale’s Ted King has swaths of bandage covering his back and arms. Soccer players take note. I repeat, soccer players take note...
3. Aero is everything. Like I predicted (yes, I will pat myself on the back for this prediction) aerodynamic clothing is the new buzz in the peloton. Aerodynamic helmets that look like phallic symbols are in full force. Also road race skinsuits are becoming de rigueur. I’m going to say it once and own it - if you’re in a break and your competitor is wearing an aero lid and you don’t, you’ll probably lose. If he is also wearing a skinsuit and you’re not, throw your arm up and slide back to the chasing group.
4. At a bike race dogs need to be kept on a leash. So do your drunk friends. Another news flash: No one wants to see you running alongside the riders in a Speedo. No. One. Ever. Not even your girlfriend – as if you had one.
5. If I owned a hotel in Corsica I’d make preparations for an influx of Americans with bikes. The Tour de France broadcast did a fabulous job of showcasing the French island. And when you get down to the nuts and bolts of why the cities petition for a Tour de France stage start or finish, this was the reason why.
6. Twitter continues to be the best and worst place to get race information. Rumors are spread over Twitter quicker than an STD at a Tour finish party in Paris. Before you tweet who the winner is, take a breath and double check.
The Kimmage Fund
Speaking of Twitter, there’s a bit of an update in continuing drama of Aaron Brown (AKA @UCI_Overlord) and the missing Paul Kimmage funds. Bicycling Magazine’s Joe Lindsey was able to unearth Brown from under his rock in Gerona, Spain to try and find out what the Canadian has done with the funds.
According to Lindsey, it turns out that what Brown had told people was either outright lies or a very convoluted version of what he thinks the truth is. From failed businesses to lying about his amateur racing career, Brown pulled the wool over a lot of people’s eyes, including some magazines which he’d written for.
I had some interaction with Brown as he’d been a guest on my live web show “TourChats”. He was a good guest - outlandish and goofy, his hat pulled down low with sunglasses on to conceal his identity, making accusations that were completely conspiracy theory based with zero facts. My co-host Dan Wuori and I called him part of our “Wack Pack,” a reference to a group of odd fans that follow talk-radio host Howard Stern.
At one point Brown wanted Dan and I to produce TourChats on his site for a thousand dollars a month. When he made that offer I knew right then and there he was delusional. A cycling website with a niche audience couldn’t afford to pay $1000/month for anything.
While the Kimmage money may be long gone once all the legal maneuvering has finished, Jamie Fuller, CEO of the compression company Skins, has stepped up to fund Kimmage’s legal battle in case the UCI renews their lawsuit against him. Chapeau. When it comes to commenting on my critique from June 17 of one of men behind the Cookson-for-UCI-President campaign - which Fuller is supporting - he remains more silent.
McQuaid digging up past
A week can’t go by without current UCI president Pat McQuaid considering something that only consolidates the belief his time has come and gone. He remarked to L’Equipe that he’d consider removing Marco Pantani’s 1998 Tour de France win from the record books if it’s discovered he tested positive for EPO. So who do we give the victory to? Second place finisher Jan Ullrich who last week finally confessed to blood doping, or third place Bobby Julich who also admitted to doping and lost his job at Team Sky over it?
This maneuver by McQuaid stinks to me like an effort to show he’s tough on doping and he’s not afraid to go back in time to right the wrongs of the sport. Too late Pat, the doping genie is already out of the bottle. Cycling’s best hope is a change in direction and that could be Brian Cookson. Sure, he’s not going to be the knight on a white horse completely changing the mentality of the UCI, but perhaps a step in the direction for real change. Or will a third candidate report for duty – and why are there so few candidates for the UCI Presidency?
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