Notes from the road: Big Tex, ESPN.com, Spidey and The Tsunami

So let me get this straight. Lance Armstrong is the world's greatest athlete, but cycling barely makes the top 20 in a ranking of the most demanding sports? Yes, according to a recent series on ESPN.com. In a tournament-style fan poll, Armstrong beat out Atlanta Falcons quarterback Mike Vick in the finals this week. Yet on the same site, an expert panel chose boxing as the toughest sport in the world, with cycling coming in a meager 20th, sandwiched between figure skating and volleyball. It's funny, but many people, before they launch into a defense of their own sport, seem to grudgingly (or

By Bryan Jew, VeloNews managing editor

So let me get this straight. Lance Armstrong is the world’s greatest athlete, but cycling barely makes the top 20 in a ranking of the most demanding sports? Yes, according to a recent series on ESPN.com. In a tournament-style fan poll, Armstrong beat out Atlanta Falcons quarterback Mike Vick in the finals this week. Yet on the same site, an expert panel chose boxing as the toughest sport in the world, with cycling coming in a meager 20th, sandwiched between figure skating and volleyball.

It’s funny, but many people, before they launch into a defense of their own sport, seem to grudgingly (or enthusiastically) concede the toughness of boxing, something along the lines of, “Yeah, those guys are out there trying to beat each others brains out.” No argument from me – that’s tough.

So, that takes us back to the question of how Armstrong, in a “not-so-difficult” sport, can be the world’s greatest athlete. My guess is it’s pretty simple. If people are willing to concede that boxing is the toughest sport because of the “beat your brains out” factor, then Lance probably won with the “I’ll kick your ass” vote. Sure, maybe your average American can’t appreciate the difficulty of the spring classics, but one look into Lance’s eyes on OLN during the Tour, and they know that he could kick their ass. I’m not sure that’s the greatest definition of athleticism, but it wins you a lot of fans in the U.S.

Or, maybe a lot of people just got really confused by Lance’s “Big Tex” Nike commercial, and thought they were voting for a boxer as world’s greatest athlete.

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Also this week, there was a big uproar when Major League Baseball announced that it had sold space on the bases at 15 host stadiums, June 11-13, for the “Spiderman 2” logo to appear as part of a cross-promotion with the movie. The baseball purists, of course, were up in arms (and MLB backed off from the logos appearing during games).

The beauty of pro cycling, on the other hand, is that you can be completely up front about your crass commercialism. Heck, for the right price, I’m sure the Health Net cycling team would change its name to the Spidey Net cycling team and send its riders out in full-on Spiderman costumes. Half the pro team kits out there look straight out of the comic books anyway. And last time I checked, admission to cycling events (for the most part), is still free.

What MLB should have done was keep the logos, collect the $50,000-$100,000 per team in revenues, and cut beer and bratwurst prices in half for the three-game series. How’s that for doing something to appeal to the fans? For all I care, they could put a statue of Stan Lee in centerfield if they could make it possible for me to take the family to the yard for less than the cost of a pair of Campy carbon clinchers.

Clearly Cannondale and Gilberto Simoni were a year too early with Simoni’s “Spiderman” bike. If he had just waited for the European release of the latest Spidey flick, maybe Saeco’s “Spiderman” could have pocketed a few extra bucks.

Maybe some team can get a tie-in with the next installment of “The Hulk” movies and run a fleet of bright green bikes, jerseys and shorts at the Tour.

For the most part, though, shorts, jerseys, helmets, gloves, bikes and shoes all bear sponsorship logos of one kind or another, and we’re runnin’ out of space here. My vote? The teeth. Next time you see a shot of a rider like John Lieswyn or Tyler Hamilton gritting their teeth in a moment of extreme effort, I’m sure you’d take a closer look if “VeloNews.com” appeared in block letters across their pearly whites.

Just a suggestion.

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Why didn’t competitive eating make the toughest sport list? Clearly it meets a lot of the criteria: speed, hand-eye coordination, durability, analytic aptitude, flexibility, endurance.

I would have liked to see how three-time Coney Island hot dog eating champion Takeru “The Tsunami” Kobyashi would have done in the fan voting.

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The local news didn’t disappoint last night, with a couple of “news” stories on the “Friends” finale. Thank goodness for the satellite dish and the remote control ….

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What to watch for: Next week the NRC hits Arkansas for the Joe Martin Stage Race, with the Tri-Peaks Challenge the weekend after that. Geography trivia tidbit: Boulder, Colorado, is closer to Fayetteville, Arkansas, than it is to Los Angeles.