Wednesday, October 14, 2009


As the weather has turned very grey, cold and blustery this week in Columbia, and the daily commute has become more painful, I have been looking for current cycling-related distractions both to inspire and motivate me.  Not being into cyclocross is a detriment during the fall as there seems to be a veritable hornet's nest of cross activity going on.  As Jeff Yielding of Hermann, MO reports on his blog JYCycling, cyclocross is alive and well in the state of Missouri this autumn.  Looking at pictures of hard-core cross races makes me fully realize what a cycling panty-waste I am, as I prefer to stick to the road.

The problem here, of course, is that when you are looking for inspiration in something that you are unfamiliar with, you shouldn't look at the failures, but rather allow yourself to be swept up in the full romantic notion of the thing.  Take the following photo, for example of Valentin Tondeur, charging up the bois de Biscorne in the 1930 Paris cyclocross championships as published in the French cycling magazine, L'Intran Match

Now this is the stuff of cycling Gods.  If this image was all you were given to explain what cyclocross was, I daresay, EVERYONE would want to be slinging their bikes over their shoulders and running up rain-soaked hills across Belgium and France.  Until, of course you noticed who was among the spectators.  Ok - let's have a little quiz.  If I hadn't mentioned the fact that this was the 1930 cyclocross championship held outside of Paris, how could we still know this race was happening in France?  Is it the fact that 5 out of 7 of the spectators pictured here are wearing berets?

Perhaps.  But, I think the real dead giveaway is the haughty expression on these two chaps:

The key to looking haughty is to feign disinterest while raising one or both eyebrows. Haughty fellow on the right prefers to look at the camera instead of the race with eyebrow raised, and left haughty fellow is so disinterested, he keeps both eyes shut with both eyebrows raised.  Difficult maneuver and very, very haughty - typically only the French can pull this one off.  Although similar, the haughty look is not to be confused with the look of disdain which is marked by a furrowed brow and frown.

Interestingly, both AC and LA will be back together again today in France for the grand unveiling of the 2010 Tour de France route.  The Astana ship has become sort of like the Titanic lately, with everyone scrambling to get off as quickly as possible.  Since LA never received a paycheck from the Kazakh group and thus was never under contract, he was more than ready and able to take his proverbial ball and go home (or at least as far as Radio Shack headquarters) after the 09 Tour when it became apparent that AC wasn't going to roll over and play second fiddle.  Bruyneel has also announced he's leaving for the Shack (citing Vinokurov's return to the team as the reason), and not only is he taking his ball with him - he wants to take four riders currently all under Astana contract: Kloden, Popovych, Rast and Zubeldia. (Leipheimer and Horner have already made the switch). I hope the Shack is ready to open their wallets for the hefty buyouts required.  And Contador is left alone like an alter boy who just farted in church, holding the empty shell of a team that was at one time built around him by Bruyneel himself, who stated in 2008, "Alberto Contador has only one big goal for 2009 and that is to win the Tour de France."  So it's a little perplexing that regardless of LA's comeback, when AC stuck to the original goal conceived by he and Bruyneel in the 09 Tour that he was accused of not being a team player, and now abandoned.  Quite a little political powerhouse the Armstrong machine has become.

But, as an armchair directeur sportif, who really knows about the inner workings within the pro peleton?  Certainly not I.  And again, when ignorant about something, one should not look at the failures for inspiration, which I consider the entire aforementioned mess to be, but instead be swept up in the romantic notion of the thing.  So perhaps I should look to other cycling inspirational and motivational items soon to be released, like the new documentary movie about the 2009 Leadville 100 mountain bike race called "Race Across the Sky."  I couldn't help but watch the high-def trailer on YouTube and captured some stills from it.

The trailer is impressive, with commentary by LA and six-time defending champion Dave Wiens.  As it introduces the key players, the music is pretty folksy and low key.  But remarkably at minute 3:30, when LA is shown on the bike in earnest, the music quickly jumps into an epic, high-pitched choral arrangement over rapid percussion-driven orchestration giving it a Ridley Scott-Gladiator-type feel.  Helicopter shots seem to capture him from every angle.

As if the scenery weren't epic enough by itself (which it is) some obligatory drama is interjected with the use of yellow-on-black (colors familiar to anyone?) text on the screen.

Yes, indeed, anything can happen, and in fact does!  What you may ask?  Well the trailer tells you.  Lance, who is leading the race over rival Wiens, gets a flat tire.

No team mechanics here, no support crew in the middle of nowhere, he has to address this mechanical himself.  Here is the drama - right?  Having to change a flat with the defending champ biting at his heels?

As LA nervously looks behind him to catch a glimpse of Wiens, he quickly pulls out a CO2 cartridge.  Anxious to see if he is caught and passed we watch with anticipation.  And again - just in case we don't feel the heavy hand of the timer ticking away, another line of text is interjected.

Can the suspense get cranked any higher?  Well actually no, because anyone who read the race report knows that 1) LA's flat came in the last 10 miles, which he didn't even bother changing out, prefering instead, to simply blow some CO2 into, and 2) at this point in the race he was in the lead by a good 30 minutes.  In all honesty, he could have changed the flat, ordered a pizza and had a bit of cat nap in the time it would have taken Wiens to catch up.

Inspirational?  Hmmmmm well, I guess I would have to see it to know.  I haven't decided if its worth the 8 bucks yet.  In case you are interested, it's playing one night only, October 22, at the Forum 8 at 7:00PM.  But I might just watch my copy of Breaking Away again instead.

Pedal on!

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