Sunday, July 22, 2012
God Save The Cycling Queen
For the first time in 100 years we have an English champion of France's finest sporting event. The Brits took second, won six stages, and with the likes of Team Sky--what amounts to a national team of sorts and perhaps, with a fine assortment of the Queen's subjects, even an Empire team--fair Albion has stormed the Tour like Henry at Agincourt. However, as is usual when the UK dominates the world, something is rotten in the state of... in this case cycling.
As I mentioned in my Tour intro, Bradley Wiggins and team have set a new template for how to win one of sport's greatest spectacles. But this new idiom has not exactly set the world on fire. Like the dominance forged by the Welsh longbow, calculated technology isn't always what the world wants to see. And, gentle reader, this brings me to today's most important topic. How are we going to save the world of cycling? For Queen. For country. And for all the rest of us.
The problem, it seems, is that many have found the calculated cool of Team Sky to be boring. Our hero, one Wiggo of down-the-pub, does this no favor in the above interview when he starts throwing around numbers that make racing seem like little more than a computer program (click here if the embed doesn't work--seems geo restricted). Without the chemical enhancement that we've seen in years prior, particularly the 90s when most of cycling's records were set, human limits are established and with a peloton full of data all one needs to do in order to cover a move is to assess the numbers. Can you sustain a 500 watt output for 20 minutes without a haematecrit north of 50? No? Therefore, no reason to chase. And so on.
As a physical trainer I find this fascinating. As a sports fan not-so-much. Give me Tommy Voeckeler any day. Sure, his cavalier riding will never with a Tour in this day and age but, man, it's fun to watch. And with this in mind just what is our beloved sport supposed to do? For the answers we turn to the same panel as my mid-race recap: Bob, Sam, Josh, Reed, Aaron, Dustin and moi. Take it to heart.
"Bring back dope. Seriously. Have a divisions for doping and no doping and let people watch whichever they want."
"I agree with Bob, it was kind of a boring tour. I think Sagan made it pretty interesting at times, as well as Cav, but there wasn’t a lot of excitement. Cadel and Nibali did attack, but they just didn’t have enough gas to make it stick. I don’t know that Van Garderen did either, but it would have been nice to see him try. I had hoped for more and thought Cadel could bring it, but I was wrong, wrong, wrong.
But the Cav sprinted out of the group yesterday was insane. I was gobsmacked.
Actually the most exciting parts of this tour have been the finishes while I’ve been waiting to see if the break is going to get swept up or make it to the end. Those are always great, but it seems like this year they were the highlight."
"Random doping control where you inject some riders and not others so that everyday is a crap shoot."
"Or maybe we could just have a realistic parcours. 120k stages, 2-3 climbs, let folks recover and be fresh for the next day. Fucking Horner said he had to let go of the leaders on peyresourdes because since gc wasn't an option, he needed to save his gas for today. Boring."
"I have to agree. It’s a boring tour. Bring back more DOPE!
I re-iterate, not random drug testing ,but random drugging."
"Prefer clean riders, but they need to re-consider the parcours to make things more interesting. Obviously, the profile for this Tour did not result in compelling racing, at least among the GC rivals.
Big mountains are not likely to shake things up either. Without the dope, riders simply ride hard tempo and slowly shed the weaker riders. If a GC guy has a bad day (Evans) he loses time, if not, then the time gaps between riders are manageable.
I think they need more classics style stages that reward risk taking and are far less easy to control by the dominant teams. You can’t do away with the Alps and Pyrenees, but I think the Tour should put in more lumpy stages with cobbles, dirt, and time bonuses to make it interesting.
It might actually bring more riders into contention, which is a good thing."
"Or . . . This just dawned on me: do away with teams altogether. Everyone relies in neutral service.
That would be interesting."
"This is actually productive. We could save cycling.
Do away with measurement shit for sure. No watts et al. And no radios. I like teams but maybe not team cars. Neutral support and lots of it so you can't complain (or pay them off). Team cars can ride behind with spare bikes but that's it. No talking to your riders.
I really like Sam's idea about the parcours. Remember when Lance was complaining about having to ride cobbles, like it's a different sport. Fuck 'em. It's bike riding. Make shit hard but not just with endless miles on good pavement. I want to see some of those wimpy little GC fucks climb the 20% cobbles in Cordes. Guys like Boonen or Cancellara could gain minutes. Dirt. Sand, construction sites, super winding intercity courses. Back roads with wild boar. Courses are now so boring the peloton crashes all the time rolling down a dead straight road. Liven it up and they'll ride better. Bring back pub raids. Everything will be better. You won't even need dope. Just a few brews at the end of each day to take the edge off.
"Cobbles. Any race that has cobbles, or at least dirt, especially dirt climbing, is instantly better. Maybe Gilbert missed an opportunity to change things when he freaked about the dog instead of applauding its insolence in knocking him sprawling. But we don't want the dogs getting hurt. And what if we fucked with the riders, instead of late or early drug tests, make them go to the club on random nights and dance le velo techno. Be good for morale at least. And no more bank team sponsors, occupy cycling. Now just beer, bikes, or lingerie (why not? imagine the podium. and you know Cipo would love it, probably wear it too.)."
"You better put that on the straight dope. And shit, while you're at it, what's your platform for President. We still have a few months before people vote maybe there can be a write in!"
And whilst we contemplate our sports future, at least we have French commentators to inject cycling with all the enthusiasm they can. Their riders may never win another Tour but they will continue to stylishly remain the best venue in the game.