Fast Eddy's rant du jour: 5 statements of the obvious

Hoi flahutes!  Been head down and flat out for a few weeks, but time for a rambling rant of a post.   The theme of this one is '5 Statements of the Obvious'

1. Bronchitis sucks:  Achilles has his heel, and Fast Eddy has his lungs.  Bronchitis and lung issues - what me ma always called the 'Irish affliction' came calling about a week after my Sunapee ride.   One day I was doing hill repeats like Lucien van Impe.  Next morning I had a sudden chest infection, was wheezing and gurgling, and riding was out of the question.   What followed was a week of that familiar, dreaded routine.  The dance with defensive primary care providers in an infuriating ritual to jump through the hoops required to get antibiotics.  (Funny how millions are spent advertising medications on TV for impotence and depression, but when a guy who gets bronchitis needs a Zpak, you need to grovel before the gatekeeper to the altar of defensive medicine.  It's like you're asking for the crown jewels.  Something's broken here.)

A week off the bike was required, but happy to report the weight stayed under control.   Missed a great race at Purgatory Chasm I'd been looking forward to, but hey, there's always more races.

2.  No matter how careful you are, bike racing is inherently dangerous:   So, after a few training rides to clear the crap out of the lungs, I figured a Wednesday night training criterium was in order.   So it was down to Ninigret for a some speedwork, and a fitness test.   As always my main goal was to race hard without ending up on the pavement.

A big group of all ages and classes showed up, and from the gun the riding was a little sketchy, particularly in the turns.   Now I've ridden crits for 35 years, but I don't remember a race with so many guys cutting in on my line to gain one place in a turn so early in a race, for no meaningfuil advanatage, or logical tactical reason.   After about 9 laps of this argy-bargy nonsense on a six turn course, I said to myself, the heck with this, I'm going to the front and racing.   So I burst up into the top 5-7 guys, just as it was getting fast.

And I felt great, like the old days!  In the 16, twiddling that lower gear than the rest, at 28 mph.   I was biding my time for the last 10 laps when suddenly, I heard that terrible, familiar sound of lots of bikes and bodies hitting the pavement - only a few positions behind me.   Many guys on the ground.  My old friend Jean-Jacques from Senegal - who I was chatting with a few minutes before the start - was down with what looked like a broken collarbone.   The cops shut down the race waiting for the ambuance, so a group of us, a little bummed out, went off for some extra miles.  A race wrecked by mass KO.   Stopped and cancelled.

I'm thankful (and lucky) to have avoided that carnage.  But it seems to me something like that was inevitable.   Racing, and riders, seem more nervous and reckless than it was back in the 80's.    Guys should chill out a litte more and ride with more caution in the field.  Things were a little more relaxed, a little more 'after you'. I'd like more of that again, after all, some of us have to work the next day...  Or maybe I'm just getting older, wiser, and more cautious.   Nah, that can't be it.

I was lucky Wednesday.  Colombian pro Mauricio Soler was less lucky a few hours later.  He was KO'd by a terrible crash yesterday in the Tour de Suisse.   From second overall GC, to an induced coma in the amount of time it takes to collide with a spectator.   Thankfully it seems it's not as bad as first feared.  Here's hoping he recovers and is back in the bunch fast.

Theunisse & Ten Dam.   
3.  You don't need to be born in the mountains to be a great climber:   Rabobank has a new generation of Dutch climbers who are having a great Tour de Suisse.  In fact for a minute yesterday, I thought it was 1989 again.   Until today, Laurens Ten Dam was wearing the Green climbers jersey with some pretty aggressive motoring.    Is it me, or does this kid look like he was produced from the same mould as Gert Jan Theunisse?   Both have the same tall, lean lanky style, the same cromangan square-jawed facial features, the same hard man, unsmiling expression, and those scary thousand yard stare eyes.   Ten Dam takes it up a notch with the unshaven thing.

Steven Rooks, Steven Kruisjswijk.  Where's my orange bass drum!
And his 24 year old teammate Steven Kruijswijk looked to me a heckuva lot like a young Steven Rooks, as he leveraged his way up an impossibly steep climb that even TV lenses couldn't flatten, to a fantastic stage win to Triesenberg/Malbun in Lichtenstein.

The Orange crush on Alpe d'Huez in a few weeks will be like never before.   I'm betting you'll see some Rabobank guys up in the Tour this year, 21 years after Rooks and Theunisse shadowed LeMond and Fignon to great mountain victories in what many thought was the greatest Tour ever.  They may not win, but I'm betting they'll be there and making the racing.

4.  There's flatlanders who can climb.  And then there's Colombians.   The Vuelta a Colombia is underway right now.   This is a race that doesn't seem to be followed much, but is definitely a 'grand tour' on the difficulty scale.    Check out the route here.

 Yesterday they did the big stage over the Alto de La Linea climb, a climb that some call the Colombian Alpe d'Huez.  A climb to 3287 meters, this 22km climb averages 7.9% with segments at 16%.   There's a great Colombian website Revista Mundo Ciclistico that's postinrevideo recap clips daily.  If you've allergic to Euro-techno, just hit mute.  Here's yesterday's La Linea stage.

Great racing, from great climbers you've never heard of, possibly excepting the exiled Spaniard Oscar Sevilla.  It doesn't matter.  When it comes to racing up endless climbs, Colombians rule, end of story.    Must read:  Matt Rendell's Kings of the Mountains - a great history of Colombian cycling culture.  A place where indiginous high atitude blood, catholic humility and suffering, and generations of poverty, and victimization by senseless violence have bred an affinity for cycling that has endured through some lean years since the Escobar cash-fueled glory days of the '80's and is now just hitting stride again.

I experienced Colombian climbing power firsthand when Norberto Caseras danced away from me like a wind up toy on the Newfane climb in the Tour of the Valleys in 1981.   Standing, running on the pedals.  After evaporating away to win, the guy went for extra miles.  In 90 degree heat.  With a heavy black wool tights and training top.  That's a pro jongen.

Here's a great blog called Cycling Inquistion about Colombian cycling culture.   Read the segment about Aguapanela.

Tour de France '83:  L. Van Impe, J. VandeVelde, L. Fignon,
Jose Patrocinio Jimenez (climber polka dots), Peter Winnen
I first heard about, and sampled a taste of that syrupy concoction on a training ride on Rt. 62 in Concord, Mass.  It was back in 1983.   I was on a Wednesday 5 hour ride, and ran into a Colombian kid who was going to college in Boston, out on his training ride.  He was on an all Mavic equipped Vitus aluminum frame, the mount of choice for Colombia's elite cyclists back then.  We chatted, and compared cycling cultures.  He was a first category racer in Colombia, but a bigger guy who liked time trials and the track more than the big climbs.  Our conversation soon centered around his friend, Patrocinio Jimenez, who had won Colorado's Coors Classic the year before, and later that summer would be in the hunt with Fignon, VanImpe and Millar in the Pyrenees and Alps in the Tour de France for the King of Mountain's title.    I was anxious to seek any clue on I could to get uphill faster like those Andean mountain goats.

This kid told me how Patro trained:  100km every day in 53x17, pushing hard all the time, going up climbs just wailing away.  He shook his head incredulously, and accelerated similarly to emphasize the point.   He then demonstrated for me a technique he was taught by Patro Jimenez for how to 'survive' when you were at your limit and starting to blow on a climb:  You sit back in the saddle, and thrust-push your arms forward against the brake hoods -hard - for leverage, and synchronize each thrust with a forward, heel down push on the pedals. Pushing forward and back, not down.  Forward thrust.  Ugh.  Ugh. Ugh.  Every stroke like a punch in a boxing match.  A punching rhythm.  Not spinning.  Punching.  That anecdote said a lot about where the power required to win the Vuelta a Colombia comes from.  

At the end of the ride as we shook hands and said 'see ya', he gave me the cap from his Colombian team, and touched by the gesture, I gave him my Benotto team cap in return.  I still have that cap.  Really nice kid.   While I'm ashamed to admit his name unfortunately didn't make a lasting impression on my grey matter, his friendliness instilled in me a lasting warmth toward Colombian cycling and cyclists that's remained to this day, for no other reason than the humility, friendliness and kindness that that one ambassador of a little understood cycling culture conveyed so endearingly during a chance meeting on a rolling New England road with a complete stranger.

5.  And at the opposite extreme from Colombia, lies Aspen:   Talking about unknown poor kids racing up La Linea is positive to me.   The news coming out of Vail last weekend, on the other hand about a towel-snapping bullying episode in a tragically hip high end restaurant, well it's got me really fired up and pissed off.  Suffice to say that's one restaurant I'd never set foot into!

Full disclosure:  I'm an old friend and fervent supporter of Tyler Hamilton.   Not super close maybe, but from the same club, same circle of friends, same hometown locale, similar background and values.   Maybe more acquaintances, but no matter.  I know a good person, and truly good character when I see it.  So I'm not unbiased in this.   And yes, I'm still a fervent supporter after all that's gone down.

For me, it's simple. Tyler is a guy who got caught in a system.  He tried to follow his dream, and fought to excel while being as 'correct' and 'good' as the system would allow.  But the deception required ate away at him.   And the outcome bugs me.  A guy who could win our local time trials at age 16 is a born champion.   And you don't win Tour Stages, the Dauphine or Liege Bastogne Liege without being a born champion, inside.   Chemicals, schmemicals.

“You would have to be an imbecile
or a crook to imagine that a professional
cyclist who races for 235 days a year
can hold the pace without stimulants”
A guy so correct, that he held the omerta line to protecting 'friends'- even when he had no financial or personal reason to do so.  In fact, he held it despite the fact that he might have had a lot of reasons not to.   Until, he was put in the prisoners dilemma by the Feds.

It's a funny thing, omerta.  It works for the Mafia because their soldiers stay on the payroll for life.  Ongoing silence requires a lifetime price tag.  Pro Team contracts have a shorter expiration term.

A smart man once said to never pick a fight with a guy in a bar who has less to lose than you do.

No, what gets my Irish up is egotistical bullies.  Bullies always push my button.  Bullies who think we're all stupid lemmings.  Who hire high priced litigators that insult our intelligence with arrogant deflective tactics and PR spin.

I wonder what Jacques Anquetil would do in the same situation?  Say what you like about Anquetil and his flaws, but you've got to respect that he was an honest man.   He openly admitted his chemical use.   He didn't lie to the public.   Maybe he took a little flak for a bit for his openness, but emerged with enduring respect.

He may have been flawed, but at least he was honest.


  1. Glad to hear you're feeling better. I wonder about all this talk of crashes...does it seem to have come along with the mass popularity of ever-stiffer carbon frames and high-profile "wheelsets"? My pet theory is that a bike is pretty much the only vehicle (though modern F1 cars are getting close) with a frame/chassis that is also the suspension. Barring operator stupidity, do these modern bicycles lose contact with the ground more easily, leading to crashes? With tires pumped to ridiculous pressures and everything so rigid, I wonder if these things are simply harder to ride/control than the previous bicycles?

  2. Really enjoy this blog and the perspective you offer. Now you've weighed in on Tyler Hamilton and earned my respect for your understanding of nuance, which is something sorely missing from alot of the current discussion.
    You're dead right about him; he is one of the most thoughtful people I've only briefly encountered or know(n) well. His unsolicited act of kindness toward me and my wife will always shape my view of him, and will forever demonstrate what it is to be a Good Samaritan
    Mike Anderson

  3. Larry & Heather: Thanks guys, and I think your theory is spot on right about the carbon bikes and wheels. Seems to me that they don't have the resilience to hold the road. High tire pressures is a contributor also. I always thing of Roger De Vlaemnick who was famous for riding (and not flatting) Paris Roubaix with about 70-80 psi.

    Thanks very much Mike, I really appreciate you reading, and your support for Tyler. There's absolutely no question he's a really, really good guy. My son Tommy will never forget a similar kind gesture and a moment of personal attention to him on his homecoming day after the '03 Tour.

  4. "No, what gets my Irish up is egotistical bullies. Bullies always push my button. Bullies who think we're all stupid lemmings. Who hire high priced litigators that insult our intelligence with arrogant deflective tactics and PR spin".

    Anyone particular on mind Eddy? :-)

  5. Eddy,
    I was wondering when will you speak up.
    Glad the great minds think alike.

  6. Thanks Mike. Great post, and nice blog... Your logic is there (as always). Only for me, I don't think what Tyler did lacked class. On the other hand, I think it took courage. And courage, as we both know, he's got in spades!
    Stay well and keep those 'North Showah' guys honest at the town lines!


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