Saturday, July 25, 2009

A Passive Aggressive Tour.

What a freakin' ride. Due to the generosity of a certain someone, I was able to watch the Tour this past week, and on Tivo, to top it off, meaning I didn't have to suffer through endless Enzyte commercials.

If you were to sit down and create a fictional Tour, with the perfect cast of characters, brutal stages, and intriguing side stories from the more minor players, I don' t think even the best writer could have come up with the plots and drama that unfolded this year. Really, the only thing that could have made it better would have been the presence of Ullrich, duking it out for second with Lance. Oh, wait. Lance got third.

First off, you have the Schleck brothers, who brilliantly played off of each other's moves and positively made the whole peloton scream MOTHER on the climbs.* The fact that they protected each other, worked for each other, and cooperated so brilliantly only added to the magnificent mountain stages. They were, perhaps, the only example in this year's Tour of individuals who were not engaging in The Passive Aggressiveness. Andy Schleck was also the only man in the race who even got close to making Contador wince. On Ventoux, it was almost heartening to see a brief flash of pain hit Contador's cheeks. It was a reminder that:

A. He is mortal.
B. If he's on the Dope, he's still capable of human moments.

So let's get back to The Passive Aggressiveness, because really, TPA, as we'll call it from here on out, was the real story in the '09 Tour.

It started way back in the fall, when Lance announced his comeback to the sport. Contador, understandably, was like, WTF? I'm the leader, bitches! And so it began. Contador blatantly ignored, I'm pretty sure, any attempted coaching by Bruyneel this year, since Bruyneel himself seemed pretty intent on getting Lance on the top podium spot for the eighth time. I have nothing against Bruyneel--I think he's a brilliant directeur sportif, but he clearly has his favorites.

Contador showed his TPA streak early on. In his attempt to put some time on Lance, he attacked on Andorra Arcalis and succeeded by gaining 2 seconds on Armstrong. He repeated such moves, basically any time the grade reached above 6%, for the rest of the Tour.

Contador is still young, and to be as strong as he is--really, the strongest, makes it difficult for him to submit to coaching. He has a bit of The Cannnibal's streak--I'm referring, of course, to Eddy Mercx, who often didn't race tactically. He raced because he wanted to hurt everyone around him, repeatedly and without mercy. The sport has changed a lot since then; it's now all tactics, aided, of course, by the race radios and the precise control they offer the directeur sportifs. But back before all that, racing was first about strength, with tactics second.

I do agree that it was a total TPA move by Contador when he attacked on Le Grand-Bornand, pushing his own teammate, Kloden, out of possible podium potential. It wasn't a teammate move; it was a giant F-you move to Bruyneel, and basically the whole Astana team. They weren't supportive of Contador; he wasn't supportive of them.

And Lance, of course, perhaps the king of TPA in this year's Tour, took advantage of every on-camera moment to show classic, well-constructed TPA. Take notes, my friends. Next time you want to be passive aggressive, Lance is writing the book. In fact--I have an exclusive preview for you! It's only available on this blog. Let's learn from the master himself:

How to be Passive Aggressive
by Lance Armstrong

1. In interviews with the press, smirk and say..."I'm going to hold my tongue on that one..." any time a teammate, i.e., Contador, outclimbs you, and the press asks your opinon on his tactics.

Reason: This my friends, says so much more than just plain voicing your distaste for something. Don't express things clearly! That's communication. Body language and vagueness make a much better Passive Aggressor.

2. When your teammate, i.e., Contador, is receiving too much press because he is, well, fast, take that opportunity to announce you'll be building a new team next year! Again, divert, divert, divert. And if that new sponsor happens to be known mostly for their limited electronic selection, all the better!

3. Secretly rally all of the support staff on the team behind you. This is facilitated if you already have won the Tour seven times and have the directeur sportif in your back pocket. I like to call this The Godfather move. You're the puppeteer, so delicately balancing the strings on which the other players dance, my son. You know what also helps? When you and your entire staff speak English, and your arch nemesis teammate, does not. It makes it entirely too convenient to shun that person at the dinner table and exclude him from conversation.

4. Take advantage of technology! I'm clearly a technological guy, now that I have RadioShack sponsoring me, and just to prove it, I'm now Twittering my passive aggressiveness! This is a great tool, dear students. Twitter is a perfect medium to shoot off little jabs, such as, "Hey pistolero, there is no ‘I’ in ‘team’. What did I say in March? Lots to learn. Restated.” **

5. When your team decides to have a celebratory dinner for your winning teammate, if you're not the one who won, don't attend! No, this is a perfect opportunity to draw even more attention to the fact that you're starting a new team, and that the little Spanish twit won't be sharing the same jersey with you.

That's all I can share with you for now, Internet ... like I said, exclusive preview. But don't you feel more passive aggressive already? I do.

Oh, there were so many more examples in this year's Tour. I haven't even touched Cadel yet! He's awesome at TPA. And then there's the whole story with the sprinters--Cav and Thor--but actually, they at least openly trashed each other, so that was refreshing. They un-subtly hated each other during the race, but seemed to be quite chummy after. True sportsmen.

Most of all, I'm sad the drama is over. Well, not over--things will get interesting when Lance announces who will be joining his team, when Contador decides where he's going, etc. I am going to miss the actual bike racing part. The drama lives on. The drama is just getting started...

* Just as a side note, it's worth mentioning that I don't think either of the Schleck brothers will be pursuing arm wrestling after their cycling days are exhausted.
** That is an actual Twitter quote, my friends. I felt embarrassed just typing that immature rubbish.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Epic of Hotness.

Holy Maria! A friend took my up to a famous trail in these parts, San Juan, and I'm guessing he was either seeing what I'm made of or trying to kill me. Anyhow, after today's ride, I'm definitely growing fonder of this area.

The climb itself is 12 miles--all singeltrack. Perfect grade, not uber-technical, and amazing views of the Santa Ana mountains.

But here's the kicker: It was in the high 90s-100s during our 4 hour jaunt. Crazy hot for that kind of ride, especially with little shade.

But we survived. It seemed much easier for him. The descent was fantastic, and the beer and quesadilla after topped off the Epic of Hotness.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The things I find on Pandora.

So, in the interest of laziness, I'm choosing not to drag my ENTIRE CD collection into work to transfer onto my iTunes playlist. This time. I've done it twice before, and it's freakin' time consuming. All of those insert CD, rip, eject, repeat sequences take time, people, and I've got for reals work to do now.

This time, I'm going to try to survive on pure Pandora Music. I'm assuming all of you have heard about this--if not, check it out: It just may change your life. And it's free. *

Anyhow, the quick and sweet version is that you enter artists you like, and it creates playlists for you based on that genre of music. Tip: Pick a lot of different artists, then hit the "quickmix," which is essentially shuffle. You'll never get bored of your music selection, particularly if your artist style ranges from Otis Redding to Donavan Frankenreiter, as mine does.

Anyhow, Pandora is also a great way to discover new music. That's actually the whole point of this post. CHECK OUT MARTIN SEXTON. He's awesome. My Pandora selection kept playing this song "Thought I knew ya," and I was hooked.

*It's not salvation, kids. It's Pandora.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I can't not watch.

I held out for two days--not following any Tour coverage. But you know what it felt like? It felt like I had been grounded, forced to stay in my room, with only a meager serving of stale bread once a day. It was pure punishment and torture. And I realized that while watching the Tour on DVD--without knowing the outcome of each stage--could potentially mimic the experience of watching it unfold in July, I simply don't have the tenacity to hold out. So I'm following anything I can get my eyes on via online blogs, videos, and VeloNews coverage, and though it's not the same, at least now I feel like I can experience a little bit of the action.

In other news, my dad bought himself a mt. bike for my birthday present. But you see--it's actually the perfect present. I've always wanted to ride with him again, so now we'll be able to.

He's clever, that man.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Tour de France Tragedy

Tragedy? Did Contador test positive? Did he crash? NO. So far, all is well. The good Spaniard managed a very respectable 2nd place in yesterday's time trial, beating out Mr. Livestrong by 8 places. It was a fantastic opening time trial, and my dear Cancellara happily took the yellow jersey--hardly a surprise.

Here, my friends, is the tragedy: I HAVE NO WAY TO WATCH THE TOUR. I'm so upset over this. The place that I'm renting for the summer has cable, but no Versus. Wait? State check? Did I really just move back to California? How can I not get Versus here? I have spent hours searching the Interweb to see if I can buy it from a site online to watch it live, and I've had no luck. I don't care if the commentary is in Russian. I just want to watch the race. Every site I've gone to doesn't allow access if you're not from Russia. Or Sweden, or New Zealand, or any of those blessed countries where they're generous enough to allow TdF coverage online, for free.

SO, after a lot of mulling, I've decided that I'm going to pre-order the Tour boxset, and try to avoid all media outlets for the month of July. I could try to go to a sports bar every night and bribe them into turning on Versus, but then I won't be able to hear Phil and Paul's commentary, and, really, it just sucks to watch the Tour that way. I want the full experience. So, unless someone lets me know, in my comments section, how to watch it online, I'm very sorry to say that I won't be posting my commentary about the race this year on my blog. You probably won't want to hear it all in August, or whenever I get the boxset, but I'm guessing I'll be so excited that I just might share it with you anyway. It will be kind of like stepping back in time. We'll all be more enlightened and feel younger as a result.

I have to go now. I need to pour myself another glass of wine and mourn over losing my July to no Tour. I think God is trying to test my faith, or develop tenacity in me. Here I am, in a new town, with no friends, a new job, and no way to watch the Tour. Call me Job. He and I have a lot in common right now. We've lost everything.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

I need friends.

I'm settling into my new job, and it's been quite enjoyable so far. I like the work atmosphere, and they've kept me busy with multiple projects. The problem starts when the work day ends...

This is certainly not the first time I've moved to a new place and have had to start over. I have filled out more change of address forms than I care to admit. But I'm learning that my capacity to start over has diminished; with every move, I feel more attached to the people I left behind, and I'm I realizing it's harder to find the energy to put myself out there again. I'm tired of being new in town. It's no longer the adventure it once was.

I'm planning on going on a group ride tomorrow, which I'm quite looking forward to. Typically, I've created my social circles around those whom I've met riding or running, so it's been a convenient way to meet people. I guess I'm just feeling impatient at the moment. Building friendships takes time, energy, and many shared miles.

Fortunately, The Tour starts this weekend. Le Tour will be my closest companion for the next month, so that's reassuring. But after Contador, hopefully, has safely won, I'll have to scrape myself off, remind my heart it's okay to move on, and make new friends here.