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By Patrick O’Grady
You don’t really need to find out what’s going on
You don’t really want to know just how far it’s gone
Just leave well enough alone
Eat your dirty laundry
–Don Henley, Dirty Laundry
It’s the slow time of the year, which means there’s not much going on in the cycling world outside of the gravity gang getting the bum’s rush from Big Bear, extortionists with false mustaches skulking around at Tyler Hamilton’s website, the UCI’s ProTour galloping off in three different directions at once, and unicyclo-cross in Oregon.
Jeez, what the hell is a guy supposed to write about?
The big news out of Big Bear, apparently composed of equal parts Ranger Smith and Mutant Ninja Lawyers from Hell, triggered a surprising number of letters to the VeloNews.com mailbag, which has subsequently tested positive for THC, drawn a two-year suspension and gone on a Doritos-and-bean-dip binge.
Downhilling sits way down the list of the many things I could care less about. Nevertheless, I find it distressing that an activity once legendary for its rebellious spirit would spawn something as tweedy as a $25 million lawsuit against an outfit generous enough to permit suicide attempts on its property without so much as a damage deposit for tallying the post-event body count.
Hey, you want to ride a motorcycle sans engine through the trees at warp speed, editing your tats on boulders and berms? Be my guest. But don’t call the lawyers if you wind up looking like that peeled dude in the anatomy textbooks. Should a race organizer be gracious enough to provide you with a better-than-average chance of snuffing it in some spectacular fashion, like a human watermelon dropped from a freeway overpass into rush-hour traffic, take your hideous disfigurement like a man – or as a limbless torso, disembodied head in a glass jar, fading memory – whatever remains after a 60-mph yardsale in a rock garden.
And consider the upside: You’ll never have to muscle that 45-pound bike into a chairlift again.
Speaking of going downhill fast, the never-ending Tyler tale is another bag of blood altogether. As we wait for the steel-tired, wooden-spoked wheels of justice to begin their groaning rotation in his case, the backstory is apparently being scripted by John Waters, intent on some Kafkaesque fusion of “Lassie,” “The Fugitive” and the captain-meets-stowaways scene from “Monkey Business.”
According to Tyler’s website, Tanker and Anchor are doing just swell, despite a couple trips to the vet (relax, conspiracy theorists, it was for eating holiday decorations). Banker, alas, has been poorly ever since the champ got his pink slip.
Still, the Man from Marblehead just keeps rolling along. And while he has yet to chase down the Man With the Hook, an extortion scheme involving blood-doping positives and the Phonak team apparently involves a Man With a Fake Mustache:
CAPTAIN: One goes around with a big black mustache.
GROUCHO: So do I. But I’d rather go around with a little blonde.
CAPTAIN: I say, one goes around with a big black mustache.
GROUCHO: Well, you couldn’t expect a mustache to go around by itself.
Elsewhere, the Magical Mystery ProTour is still coming to take us away in 2005, if you believe Hein Verbruggen, which the organizers of the three grand tours apparently do not. That whole deal is starting to sound like more like Monty Python than the Marx Brothers:
VERBRUGGEN: “Good news! The organizers of the grand tours have agreed to add their events to the ProTour.”
ORGANIZERS: “No, we haven’t.”
VERBRUGGEN: “Yes, you have.”
ORGANIZERS: “We never!”
VERBRUGGEN: “Don’t you oppress me.”
For some reason, the riders apparently want a speaking part in this slapstick. Those guys. As if they could sit still long enough to negotiate a fast-food order, much less their own futures, being full of EPO, growth hormone and other people’s blood, and thus naturally restless. It’s a wonder you can get one to sit on a saddle long enough to buy a victory from the doper in front of him.
And finally, while we’re on the topic of purchasing power, we now have unicyclists racing cyclo-cross, and at the national championships no less. It’s an appalling vision of American cycling’s future, and we have you red-state wankers to thank for it.
Just four years into the Bush administration, American cyclo-crossers can’t even afford two wheels to race the national championships on.
Brother, can you spare a wheel? Mebbe a letter? Send ’em to firstname.lastname@example.org.