Olympic Gold: Men’s Road Cycling

Another race, another failure of strategy, another whine.  Bike racing is so interesting because it is a team sport, involving complex strategies both inter-team and intra-team.  The Olympic road race is always fascinating in that the teams are national teams, whereas the UCI racing calendar is based on the participation of “trade teams,” that is, commercially sponsored groups.  So Olympics make strange bedfellows, in which the pals of the Tour battles may be the foes on the Olympic road.

This year I was unable to follow the road race live, but the results and their attainment were ironic and unexpected.  First, Germany and Great Britain made an alliance to dominate the race and set up a sprint finish.  Germany and Britain? (“Don’t mention the War!  I mentioned it once, but I think I got away with it.”)  Neither of these nations put a man in the break, but they thought that by dominating the peloton, wearing out other riders, their strongest cyclists could control the finish, especially World Champion and the world’s best flat sprinter Mark Cavendish (Britain).

But the large breakaway group had other ideas.  The circuit took them over Box Hill a number of times (what would Emma Woodhouse have thought?), and the last time demonstrated that the Anglo-Saxon alliance had failed to achieve an hegemony.  New breakaway riders had invigorated the front group, and it was the peloton that was knackered, despite the forceful front-riding of Brad Wiggins and Chris Froome.  Though Fabian Cancelara crashed, Alexandr Vinokourov and Rigoberto Uran broke from the lead group to finish one-two.  The powerful American future star Taylor Phinney finished 4th, eight seconds back.

“Vino” was in some respects a disappointing winner, since he had served a two-year suspension for blood doping from 2007-2009.  However, he served his time, raced in last year’s Tour (where he was horribly injured in a crash while descending) and this year’s, and announced that he would retire after this Olympic event.  A little extra adrenalin there, ya think?  Now he can retire happy, and I’d even endorse Floyd Landis’ comments that people should be calling this a great victory for clean cycling, since Vino came back from disgrace and won clean.  Of course the eloquent ex-Mennonite also said that if Vino had said “f*** every mother******* one of you,” that would work too.  A tad bitter, are we, Floyd?  Why?

Cavendish criticized the “negative racing” of Australia.  Seems the 21st-century descendants of the former British penal colony did not have undying love for the present British team and refused to support their Cavendish-based objectives.  In fact Stuey O’Grady, the leading Aussie force, who finished fifth, called this race finish “the most incredible moment I’ve ever had in my life.”  It says volumes about the sport when a veteran racer who finished behind the medal winners can make that declaration.  As for Cavendish: Mark, Mark, Mark!  You’re the World Champion.  You’re the most feared sprinter in the world.  This situation goes with the territory.  Of course the first thing anybody racing against you is going to try to do is neutralize you.  Get over it.  Congratulate the victor, pick up your marbles, and move on.  Never forget that the ultimate racing rule is simple: first one across the finish line wins.  It’s your responsibility to do whatever it legally takes to get yourself there.

Cheers, Vino.  Hope life in Kazakhstan is good to you.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2012.

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In the Pink

Several years ago I got a good deal on a couple of professional cycling jerseys, the GC  leader’s jersey and the points competition leader’s jersey for the Giro d’Italia.  Their design is very attractive, a sort of large, abstract image of a cyclist in various shades of the main jersey color.  They’re made by Santini, an outstanding cycling apparel manufacturer, with special layered moisture-shedding fabric and full-length zippers, easy to open and close and perfect for this brutal summer weather when a cyclist has to unzip pretty far sometimes to assure that the core stays cool.

The thing that I like about them is that their colors are unusual.  The points jersey is a dark raspberry/magenta, and the GC jersey is pink.  The pink color was determined just the way the maillot jaune was determined in the Tour: it’s the color of the pages in the sports section of the newspaper that first sponsored the Giro.  Although these two hues are not the American norm for masculine colors, one can hardly call the leaders’ jerseys of the second hardest stage race in the world symbols of wimpiness.

And these colors do have their advantages on the road.  For one thing, everybody notices them, and the whole purpose of bright-colored cycling clothes is to be noticed, especially by automobile drivers.  But women particularly notice them.  A couple of weeks back I was wearing the magenta one when a young female cyclist asked me at a stop sign “where did you get that jersey?  I’ve been looking one just that color.”  I explained and she replied that the problem is that most of the good jerseys are in men’s sizes and shapes only.  By this time we were rolling again, and we lamented the unavailability of the good kit for women for a bit before she took off at a faster cruising speed than mine.  Then today, in the pink one, I was rolling up the rise just outbound from Old Reston Avenue (“Old Reston”?  Gives the impression that this post-WWII planned community actually has a “tradition.”) when a woman cycling downhill in the opposite direction flashed a bright smile and said a cheerful “good morning” as she whizzed past.  This is not the usual notice I get from shapely women probably 1/3 my age.  I’m thinking she assumed that my pink jersey was pro-Komen, or at least pro-cancer-cure.  And I am the latter.  No time to explain to her about the Giro.  Nevertheless, if Giro jerseys can garner a sunny smile or a little conversation now and then, molto bene.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2012.