Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Brands

Friday’s foaming rant: Trouble is my business

I went out to the kitchen to make coffee — yards of coffee. Rich, strong, bitter, boiling hot, ruthless, depraved. The lifeblood of tired men. Raymond ChandlerThe Long Goodbye It was the day before the start of the Tour de France, and the pre-race coverage on VeloNews.com read more like a Miami Herald police blotter. I was chasing the sour doping news with bitter black coffee, trying to work myself up to something like a rant, when an authoritative knock rattled the door. “UCI — open up!” boomed a voice that sounded as though it would have been right at home in a burning bush. Opening the

Don't miss a moment from Paris-Roubaix and Unbound Gravel, to the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France, Vuelta a España, and everything in between when you join Outside+.

By Patrick O’Grady

You need a cup of my java

You need a cup of my java

Photo: Rigby Reardon

I went out to the kitchen to make coffee — yards of coffee. Rich, strong, bitter, boiling hot, ruthless, depraved. The lifeblood of tired men.

Raymond Chandler
The Long Goodbye

It was the day before the start of the Tour de France, and the pre-race coverage on VeloNews.com read more like a Miami Herald police blotter. I was chasing the sour doping news with bitter black coffee, trying to work myself up to something like a rant, when an authoritative knock rattled the door.

“UCI — open up!” boomed a voice that sounded as though it would have been right at home in a burning bush. Opening the door a crack revealed an oversized attitude wearing an undersized suit, the kind the old Soviet bloc used to make out of refrigerator cartons.

“Isn’t it a little early for Halloween?” I inquired politely.

“We heard you was a comedian,” growled the suit, shouldering the door wide open and slouching past me into the living room, trailing in his wake a vaguely medical-looking sort clutching a little black bag. He glared at my half-empty cup of coffee as if it owed him money.

“UCI, eh? What’s it all about?” I asked innocently. “Mr. V need a bright boy to edit his résumé?”

“Yuk it up, scribbler,” the suit grunted. “Then take a leak in this here and we’ll see just how funny you really are.” He snapped his fingers and the medico quickly extended a delicate hand holding an empty plastic cup.

“Thirsty, are you?” I grinned. “Sure you wouldn’t rather have a nice hot cup of java?”

“This guy is a laugh riot,” muttered the suit, turning to the medico, who shrugged his spindly shoulders. “How hysterical you think he’ll be after we suspend him for using performance-enhancing substances?’

“You must’ve been hitting the pipe yourself,” I said, leaning against the doorjamb and folding my arms across my chest. “I’m a writer, not a rider.”

“Six of one, half a dozen of the other,” retorted the suit. “Mr. V thinks you chatterboxes should be held to the same standards as the athletes you slander. So start squirting, squirt.”

“You’re not the sharpest tool in Mr. V’s little Tuff Shed, are you?” I smirked. “You can’t tell a writer from a rider, and you don’t know that slander is spoken, while libel is published. Didn’t they teach you anything in reform school?”

“Yeah, they did,” said the suit. And then he showed me what he’d learned. When I woke up some hours later with an aching jaw, he and his pal were long gone, and someone had poured my java into the kitchen sink.

* * *

I checked to see whether any of my teeth had flown to Liège for the Tour prologue and then got back to work, combing the thesaurus for an as-yet-unused synonym for “doping.” I didn’t find one. This was shaping up as an awfully tough rant, even tougher than the gorilla in the cardboard suit.

After investing too many hours in too few words, I decided it was Miller time, with an “e,” which means a frosty stein of beer down the hatch as opposed to a snifter of EPO up the kilt. But the foamy collar had barely begun to rise when my spirits sank at the sound of a familiar fist bruising my door. The suit again.

“Did my manager schedule a rematch?” I asked, rubbing my tender jaw. “He never cleared it with me, and I’m afraid I might not make the weight.”

“You was always a lightweight, scribbler,” the suit honked. “Why Mr. V doesn’t just scrape you off his shoe for good is a mystery to me.”

“I suspect many things are,” I replied. “I’m a fan of mysteries myself, and I’ve found that they’re often soluble in alcohol. So here’s looking at you, k…”

“Nix,” interrupted the suit, snatching the untasted beer from my upraised hand and offering it to the sink as a chaser for my unfinished morning java.

“What gives here?” I exploded. “Are you a Mormon or something? It’s a good thing you birds don’t have to wear a ring for every skirt you corral or you’d look like you had brass knucks on both hands.”

“It’s all part of the new deal, scribbler,” the suit rumbled. “You scribblers don’t like cyclists who use EPO and human growth hormone, Mr. V don’t like scribblers who use java and booze. Test positive for either and you’ll find yourself covering the four-cross series at the Arctic Circle.”

There is no four-cross series at the Arctic Circle, and we both knew it. But there was a matched pair of brass knucks, and only one of us knew that. For a while, anyway. Boom, boom, and out went the lights once more. It wasn’t the first time I wished I had wall-to-wall carpet instead of hardwood floors.

* * *

When I came to this time, I felt like I’d been listening to Al Trautwig chatter for three weeks, and No. 188 hadn’t even rolled up to the prologue start house yet. What I needed was aspirin, and plenty of it. I needed it like David Walsh needs body armor, a new best friend from Blackwater Security Consulting and a suicidal assistant to start his rental Citröen 2CV every morning.

But just as I shook a couple of tablets into my trembling hand — you got it. That rhythmic pounding I was hearing wasn’t coming from my aching skull.

This time, the suit had another suit with him. Actually, it was more of a Suit, and looked disturbingly familiar, the way your own mug does after a steady diet of knuckle sandwiches. Then it came to me.

“Mr. V, I presume?” I offered.

“Keep cracking wise, scribbler, and you’re liable to split right down the middle,” warned my old pal, taking a few practice swings with a two-by-four like Barry Bonds eyeing the left-field fence.

“Compose yourself, Roberto,” soothed Mr. V. “Remember Alabama. I can’t be forever buying bicycles, reconstructive surgery and what have you for these people. It’s undignified.”

“What’s undignified,” I interrupted, “is waking up on the floor with all your clothes on a couple-three times a day. I could get used to it, with enough Scotch, but your boy here won’t even let me drink my morning coffee.”

“Ah, yes, substance abuse,” murmured Mr. V, consulting a small notebook. “You have, shall we say, quite a history, do you not?”

“You haven’t got anything on me,” I snapped. “I’ve never tested positive for anything.”

“And I’m sure you never will,” cooed Mr. V. “As long as you eschew all the substances on this list.” On cue, his playmate tossed a book the size of the Hong Kong Yellow Pages onto what used to be my coffee table, which groaned under the weight. I picked it up and started flipping through pages. It didn’t take many flips to get the general idea.

“You must be joking,” I said slowly. “No coffee? No aspirin? No booze? How the hell am I supposed to cover the Tour? It’s a long, hard race. We’re talking three straight weeks of nonstop writing, editing, photo sizing and website posting, from can-see to can’t-see, and a scribbler doesn’t get rest days. In point of fact, it’s an awful lot like work. I’d rather show up at the Democratic National Convention in a Ralph Nader mask. You can’t expect me to do this race on mineral water.”

“That’s what they all say,” he replied with a dismissive wave of his hand as he sauntered airily through the door, the suit following him like a large, ugly dog. “No doubt you’ll manage.”

No doubt, I thought. Then I thumbed through my Rolodex until I found the number I wanted and dialed it.

“Hello, Dr. Ferrari?”


You wanna crack wise, pally? Give us a jingle at webletters@insideinc.com. Don’t forget our retainer. We get twenty-five bones a day, plus expenses.