Notes from the road: Used socks, fresh donuts, Georgia and best-athlete debate

A couple of weeks ago I ran into Boulder racer and former 7UP pro Chuck Coyle at Redlands. Besides racing his bike, Coyle is also the proprietor these days of theprosstuff.com, and we got to talking about ... socks. Seems that in addition to the pro equipment up for sale on the site – bikes, frames, wheels, components - TheProsStuff also has on hand several pair of team-issue socks. Used. I recently followed up with him, to find out if people are actually buying used cycling socks on the Web. Yes, he told me. "They're not going so fast. It's more of a specialty item," he joked. "I've

By Bryan Jew, VeloNews managing editor

A couple of weeks ago I ran into Boulder racer and former 7UP pro Chuck Coyle at Redlands. Besides racing his bike, Coyle is also the proprietor these days of theprosstuff.com, and we got to talking about … socks. Seems that in addition to the pro equipment up for sale on the site – bikes, frames, wheels, components – TheProsStuff also has on hand several pair of team-issue socks. Used.

I recently followed up with him, to find out if people are actually buying used cycling socks on the Web. Yes, he told me.

“They’re not going so fast. It’s more of a specialty item,” he joked. “I’ve probably sold four pair. I’ve sold 7UP, Navigators, Mercury.”

Basically an on-line version of VeloSwap, TheProsStuff is an outlet for pro riders, most of them based in or near Boulder, to sell their used (and some new) team-issue gear. So, of the dozen or so pairs of socks that Coyle has in stock, which are the nastiest?

“A pair of Greg Henderson’s 7UP socks. They must have been his rain socks,” Coyle said of the once-white socks worn by the New Zealander who now rides for Health Net.

Coyle admits that he’s put some of his own footwear up for sale on the site as well. “I’m not sure which is worse, buying used socks, or selling them.”

I didn’t even ask about the assortment of used (some very used) shorts. For some reason, I keep flashing back to the Nike commercials starring Dennis Hopper from a few years back. The ones where he plays the crazed referee who sneaks into the locker room to snag (and sniff) Barry Sanders’s used cleats. Baaad things.

Among TheProsStuff’s most recent acquisitions are a series of race numbers worn by Henderson at track World Cup, world championship and Commonwealth Games events. “I thought that was pretty cool,” said Coyle.

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In last week’s column I mentioned hot toasted donuts. Well, they’re not exactly toasted, but they’re definitely hot out of the oil. The name of the new store in Boulder is Tastefully Toasted, and the concept is donut shop-meets-ice cream store. The donuts are cooked right in front of you. You can see the donut machine behind the counter – the dough gets loaded into the vat, comes out as a ring, and then gets dropped down into the oil and fried. When it’s done, it gets slid up onto a big plastic plate, with slots for the excess oil to drip out of.

The guy behind the counter dips it into the glaze of your choice, and after that, you can choose from a variety of toppings – sprinkles, nuts, Heath Bar, Oreo cookie. I’m not kidding.

I went for straight glazed donuts, and they were hot and gooey. With glaze and oil soaking into the donut, the outer centimeter or so is soft and greasy, although the very outside is somehow slightly crisp. All in all, there’s nothing like that feeling of fried oil dancing across your tongue, or the fragrance of grease, oil and sugar intermingling in your car on the way to work.

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There’s also nothing like settling in front of your desk at work, setting down your coffee, and pulling up VN.com to see the words: “Horner: ‘I’m here to win.'”

At least that was the headline on Tuesday morning. Since then, with only three days down, it’s been a wildly entertaining race to follow, even if I’m doing so from VN headquarters and not crammed into the back seat of the Navigators Audi wagon.

First there was Gord Fraser and Health Net stepping it up in their biggest race of the year to date and grabbing stage 1. And you’ve got to love his post-race quote: “It was just a matter of holding on. I couldn’t even see the finish line I was so cross-eyed.”

Then Cipollini living up to his billing, but only by barely beating Ivan Dominguez when the Cuban eased up just a tad before the line. And finally, the Lance throwing his bike to win a sprint finish. When’s the last time we saw that?

The point is, this is the biggest stage race the U.S. has to offer, and it’s living up to its billing. It’s not like guys don’t race hard week-in and week-out, but clearly there’s just a bit more intensity, and a lot more at stake, this week.

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Seeing Armstrong take the sprint win in Georgia made me think some more about the “Who is the best male athlete?” debate currently taking place on ESPN.com. The way the debate was framed the other day on one of their radio programs was, “Who is the most dominant athlete in the world?” and Armstrong’s name was being tossed around with the likes of Barry Bonds and Shaquille O’Neal.

Clearly Armstrong’s the dominant Tour rider of his time, and he’ll go down in the record books if he wins No. 6 in July. But the dominant rider in all of cycling? That would be a tough one to argue, seeing as he’s won neither of the other grand tours, hasn’t won a World Cup race in nine years and hasn’t won the world championships since his win in 1993.

The more interesting question is, what could he do if he spread his focus to other races? The Giro and the Vuelta? No question. World championships? Depending on the course; he’s done it before. Classics like Liège and Amstel Gold? Again, very little doubt here that he could win those races. What about a “sprinter’s” race like Milan-San Remo? The cobblestone classics?

Maybe if Armstrong wins No. 6, the possibilities of other prizes might intrigue him enough to shift his emphasis away from the Tour. After all, he’s still only 32 ….

As for the ESPN debate, check out the brackets. The selection committee clearly gave him a gift – easiest path to the final four out of the four regions.