You think you have it bad? How about you're riding in the TdF, wearing the yellow jersey. You've been kicking ass all year, and here you are in the Tour, first mountain top finish, you're sitting in, you're going to keep the jersey no problem, and life is good. Then all of a sudden you, a frickin' accomplished pro, half-wheel the guy in front of you, and bite it a thousand meters from the finish of a 120 mile race, in front of a television crowd of maybe 250 million people.
Or how 'bout this. You're roller blading up the Capital Crescent Trail. You're looking smooth in those tiny white shorts that may you look really hot, and a slick little halter top. You're rocking the Flobots "Handlebars" on the I-Pod. Guys are checkin' you out. Life is sweet. Well, except for the fact that you seem to have wiped out earlier, torn the left side of the seat right out of the shorts, and your cute little perky left butt cheek is now covered, 100%, with a huge, fresh, bleeding road rash, and some fat guy on a bike just rode by laughing uncontrollably at you. Dammmmmit!
What about this - you're kickin' ass on the bike trail this morning, passing guys like nothing. Some fat dude is spinning at like a hundred miles an hour. What a f***stick! He's barely doing moving. He must be in complete ass bad shape, to have to spin like that on a downhill. What a 'tard, spinning like that! So you do a quick standing sprint to get past him. But oddly, you don't seem to be able to pull away. Clearly this requires the head bobbing, pulling on the handlebar mashing. That's not working? Oh, damn. Well, maybe another standing sprint? That guy is still there? Shit, what a loser, he has total derailer rub and you can hear him spinning like 130 RPM. Freddd! So you hammer like hell all the way down the hill, and the loser is still there, not sitting in but about three bike lengths back, and every couple hundred yards he starts free wheeling for like 20 seconds. What the hell... oh well, you'll drop him on the flat where it gets hard to pedal. So you hit the flat, and do a standing effort to really get some speed goin'. You're doin' 20, 21... it's hard so you have to do the handlebar pulling and head bobbing trick to really get hammering, but you're rockin' it like Lance Armstrong, the bicyclist... and then that fat f*** comes spinning by at like 75 RPM, in 53-11. Jeeeezus! What the hell... He must be doing close to 30, and there's a huuuge headwind...oh, God, this is so embarassing... I knew I should have driven to work or maybe taken Metro.
Or how 'bout this one. You missed your race, you're going to skip your race on the weekend, so you decide to just add an interval workout. What would be a good one? Hey, how 'bout 3 times 10 minutes low cadence big ring/tiny cog, aka Make The Bad Man Stop Muscular Endurance Intervals. You do like three straight personal best 10 minute power intervals, in severe pain, then meet a friend who is doing the same thing, basically, but in aero bars. So you hold his wheel for 7-8 minutes and try to be social. Nice, another huge >threshold effort. Then you go to the office, forget to take your towel to the shower, have to dry off with paper towels, go back to your desk, and have to put your head down on your desk because you feel so ill with lactic acid. As your forehead slumps to the desk you realize that your teeth hurt really bad because you were grinding them during the intervals, or perhaps in anticipation of the morning staff meeting, and you realize that your dental insurance has lapsed because you were too stupid to call the benefits coordinator, and oh by the way it feels like that molar is chipped. Yeah, your priorities are all in the right place.
So it was a really funny day today, just in very dark sorts of ways. Funny people on the bike trail, strong but stupid intervals, Stefan Shumacher takes himself out of the Maillot Jaune and nearly takes Kim Kirchen out of the race with a stupid half-wheeling mistake that a Cat 4 shouldn't make... at least I enjoyed the spectacle with some nice St. Agur cheese, and a fruity cabernet. Yes, it was boxed wine. Oh, the horror, the horror. And while you're cringing away from me, keep movin' there, Crispin, and don't stop until you're out on the doorstep. Spare the snobbery. Some box wines are pretty decent, not great wine but table quality+, and honestly, a lot of the time, I could just use a reasonably tasty drink. Yet opening a whole bottle would lead to it going to waste. So I hit up some wine-in-a-box tonight, savored the cheese (after some regionally appropriate pork chops with a cranberry vinaigrette spinach salad, and enjoyed watching the suffering. For its part, the cheese was almost buttery in texture, with an understated tang to it for a blue cheese. It had a little garlic tone, a lot of salt flavor, some carmel, and a fairly strong mushroom taste to it. For my part, while munching cheese and contemplating life, the universe, and the unbearable lightness of being Pat McQuaid, it occurred to me that the TdF is organized a lot more like the Giro this year - shorter stages, mixing the suffering into a lot of the early stages, less spectacular mountain suffering epics - well, shorter rides, anyhow, with shorter transits crammed in between the big mountains. That's making it more of anybody's race. Makes it interesting, a real racer's race. I notice it's also enticed a lot of the I-talians into riding as well. That is a wonderful development.
And whose race is it right now? Here's your top six:
1. Kim Kirchen (LUX), Team Columbia
2. Cadel Evans (AUS), Silence-Lotto at 0:06.
3. Stefan Schumacher (GER), Gerolsteiner at 0:16.
4. Christian Vande Velde (USA), Garmin-Chipotle at 0:44.
5. David Millar (GBR), Garmin-Chipotle at 0:47.
6. Thomas Lovkvist (SWE), Team Columbia at 0:54.
Notice something funny about that? The two U.S.-based teams, including the one built around guys who don't quite fit and domestic pros, are dominating the top six. Oh, they probably won't hold on here for long - there are too many insanely talented Italian and Spanish climbers who will come to the fore when they hit the mountains. But for now, they are having a dominant day in the sun. Best of all, I'm quite confident Garmin is clean, and reasonably confident that Columbia is. Hey, maybe you can do this sport clean if the organizers ease off just a touch on the race distances, and teams focus on transparency. Bob Roll made an interesting comment tonight - "the French teams are having a good Tour." He's a smart cookie, and I'm pretty sure he knows that French anti-doping efforts are quite serious, and the French riders all protest they get their asses kicked because they are clean. What happens when the whole pack is clean, or at least clean-er? Clean teams that train hard and ride smart come to the front.
As for tomorrow - we have a stage coming up that is bumpier than a Christie Brinkley marital relationship. It goes up and across part of the Massif Central, from Brioude to Aurillac, through the Cantal region. I'm looking forward to breaking into the Cantal cheese tomorrow night - it is an exceptionally hearty, tasteful cheese. Interestingly, it is the cheese that all other french cheeses are named for. Cantal cheese is immensely ancient, and it is formed into a wheel in a round wooden bucket, a frommade. From that ancient word describing a bucket comes the French word for cheese, frommage. That word is totally unrelated to frottage, a French word believed to be a transliteration of "Charlie Sheen." Joking aside, Cantal is one of the most amazing, delightful, rewarding cheeses I've ever eaten.
Sure, you people can call me a Frenchman in an elderly German businessman's body, a cheese eating surrender australopithecus, but I prefer to think of myself as a cheesehead. Good cheese is like any other tasty thing; you should never feel ashamed of yourself for liking stuff that tastes good, unless you're one of the people who tries to make people feel small if they haven't been turned onto it first. Shouldn't be that way at all, I'm just trying to share with you some stuff I like.
Anyhoow, it looks to be a real cracker of a stage, cheese allusions notwithstanding. Why don't you head over to Ryan's Service Course, and check out what he's recommending to drink. You may want to read what he says about fair weather bike racing fans drinking the Lance-flavored Kool-Aid while you're over there. Good stuff.