Monday, July 14, 2014

Riders Fall And There Goes "Boom"

How does the old saying go?  "The squeaky wheel gets the grease?"  Well, what about the squeaky saddle?

I know you have all been sitting on pins and needles waiting to see if my secret mechanic solved the squeaking problem that two new saddles, a new seat post, and multiple bike shops could not.  Spoiler alert:  he didn't . . .

Sure, it sounded great for the first several miles after I left the shop and the thirty or so I did on Friday, but when I branched off from the pack as I began to head north from IB on our club-ride this Saturday -- there it was again!  Slightly quieter, but that same, rhythmic squeak that has haunted my being for about a month now.  I know, I know -- you're all as sick of it as much as I am now.  I need to, somehow, move past it, but it's just this enormous, insurmountable barrier that has stunted my ability to suck any enjoyment, at all, out of biking -- except, of course, for last Wednesday!

As previously alluded to, last Wednesday's airing of Stage 5 of Le Tour may be the most compelling thing I have ever witnessed on a television screen.  Don't get me wrong, I take no pleasure in other people getting injured, but the sheer drama and spectacle of watching world class "athletes" randomly and frequently tumble off their bikes was just so gripping.  One second, they're all moving along just fine and the next, the Tour leader is down, again, and out!  Hmm, Team Sky, how are you feeling these days about leaving Bradley Wiggins out of the Tour? 

Great decision there, mates.  Were you buying too much into the "science" that suggests that the prettier cyclists are more successful?  (  Yeah, we all now he's pretty ugly, but he was having a great Spring, including his performance on the very course that did in your team leader on Stage 5!  Brilliant!

As a mountain biker at heart and a (hard-core) bike-commuter I guess the real pleasure I took from Stage 5 was watching professionals fail (miserably) in conditions I know I could navigate.  I will never (ever) be able to even approximate their miraculous speed or unworldly (even when unenhanced) climbing ability, but I sure can bike in shitty conditions!  Connecticut winters, DC winters, SYRACUSE WINTERS!  Mud, torrential rain, European cobblestones, ruts, pot-holes, etc., all whilst trying to avoid road-raged commuters in multi-ton vehicles bent on my destruction, all made Stage 5 look like a cake-walk from my perspective.  If there is one skill that I have that could be rated as professional-grade, it would have to be my ability to not fall down.  Just read my bikeography people (go ahead, I dare you) -- my bikes have been like appendages to me my entire life.  In fact, I sometimes feel more balanced and at ease on two wheels than I do on two feet.  That was not the case for oh so many riders last Wednesday, though!

What I truly found, compelling, though, was the skill displayed by the riders who managed to keep their balance in such harrowing conditions.  No surprise then, that the stage winner, Dutch-man, Lars Boom (what a name!) was a former junior cyclo-cross champion:

Look at that man!  Covered in grit and muck!  That's no priss -- that's a saddled bike warrior people!

It was so disappointing to listen to the whiners after the race complaining that they never should have included the Roubaix course on Le Tour.  Give me a break.  This is supposed to be the most, elite, most grueling, bike race in the world.  Shouldn't it test all cycling skills and not just time-trialing and climbing?  Bike handling almost looked like a lost art on Stage 5, except to the skilled riders who still do the Spring Classics.  Those classics are legit, professional races, and have every bit a place in Le Tour as Alp d'Huez.  Is it too bad that some favorites were done in by Stage 5?  I guess so.  But, that is part of what enhanced the high drama of the Stage.  So much better than watching hundreds of riders cruise along on flat, pristine, asphalt with no contenders making a move due to the impossibility, and wasted energy, of trying to drop the peloton on a flat course.  This was pure sport.

Next year, the whiners might consider training on cobbles and properly strategizing the best tires for conquering them -- assuming the organizers have enough spine to stick to their guns and incorporate some more cobbly stages. 

Finally, the #1 bestest thing about cobblestones -- no amount of steroids will ever help a rider to master them.  Pain-killers, maybe, but not 'roids!

Oh, and if you want to get a feel for what it would be like to ride Stage 5 yourself (as the Bikeist would have, undoubtedly done it!) check this awesome, first-person video out: 

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