Thursday, 10 September 2009

Thoughts on the Bike Racing

This month DirectTV lost Versus, but picked up Universal Sports. While I'm more than happy to exchange deer hunting for cycling coverage (including the Vuelta now), I hope something gets sorted out for the Tour next year.

Until fairly recently, I really didn't give a crap about bike racing, mostly because (1) I didn't know any of the riders and (2) it was impossible to watch a Grand Tour while holding down a job, relationship, or life.

With the new DVR, the Tour was suddenly watchable at my leisure. Plus I didn't have to slog through hours of tempo riding just to watch Cavendish win another bunch sprint. DVR technology, plus a little more reading on the various players, gave me a newfound appreciation for bike racing.

Not a racer myself, what is it that I enjoy about seeing it on TV or magazines? In ascending order:

3. Bike Porn. My stuff is far from bleeding-edge. I ride a custom steel frame with Ultegra SL (the Honda Accord of gruppos), and hand-built Open Pro wheels laced to Chris King hubs. It's all like really good, albeit unexciting, vanilla ice cream. In fact, the frame color is Vanilla. But I also appreciate the nano-weenie pro gear. Shimano Di-2 is, to me, like a really hot stripper. You don't want to take her home, but you can't help but look, and you wonder what it would be like to touch. Just a little.

2. Drama. This year's Tour read like Days of Our Lives. Every stage saw some snippy comment between teams, or - in the case of Lord Voldemort and El Pistolero - within the same team. Speaking of which, Armstrong may have lost the race, but he just destroyed poor 'Berto in the PR battle. Shit, Armstrong even had the French cheering for him! Contador was isolated on what was supposed to be his team, with Bruyneel turning on him, and still, he comes off as the petulant brat, while Armstrong looks like the savvy, warm, conquering hero.

1. Suffering. Like the French, I appreciate suffering more than victory. The physical feats the leaders accomplish are so far removed from my ability and experience, that I can't connect to the thrill of the podium. I do, however, recognize Wiggins' steady IV drip of pain to hang onto 4th on the Ventoux. Watching the Vuelta recap tonight, I saw Taarmae lunging desperately up the final 20% grade, head hanging over his bars, eyes losing focus, and I thought, "Yes - that feeling I know."

Today's ride: I opted for the climb up Shasta to Grizzly Peak. I've never seen another rider ascending that road, which is surprising given how nice it is. One lane, lined with mature trees and quirky Berkeley-style homes. It has steep pitches, but with a couple of easier bits to catch your breath. After hitting Grizzly Peak, I kept a fast pace up the ridge to South Park, then turned around and followed Wildcat back to Spruce.

Lunch at Rotten City Pizza, the East Bay's best kept pizza secret. Their NY-style pies rival Gioia's, though are admittedly kind of expensive. Like $7.50 for two slices.

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