2006 Tour de France Declared “Year of the Asterisk”

06.30.2006 | 5:26 pm

Paris France, July 30 (Fat Cyclist Fake News Service) – In a press conference following the ejection of Tour favorites Jan Ullrich, Francisco Mancebo and Ivan Basso from the Tour de France, race director Christian Prudhomme announced that the 2006 TdF had been officially declared “The Year of the Asterisk.”

“I am pleased to announce that the asterisk (*) will play an exceptionally prominent role in this year’s tour,” said Prudhomme. “Of course, it already had a starring role, due to Mr. Armstrong’s absence and the universal certainty that the only reason he wasn’t going to win this year is because he isn’t racing.”

“Now, however, with Basso and Ullrich gone, combined with efforts to remove other racers like Vinokourov, we feel certain that any victories won in this year’s tour will be very nearly meaningless.”

“We are taking measures to really make the asterisk play a special role this year,” continued Prudhomme. “Instead of a stuffed lion, stage winners will be handed a stuffed asterisk. Instead of excited discussion about who raced how in a given stage, Phil and Paul have been instructed to talk about who would have raced better, had they been present.”

“Most importantly,” concluded the race director, “the leaders’ jerseys have been specially modified. The yellow jersey will be a much paler, washed-out yellow; in fact, it will be hard to tell it’s yellow at all. The white jersey will be more off-white than white, and may prominently feature a coffee stain if we don’t get around to washing it soon. The polka dot jersey will have red asterisks instead of dots, and the green jersey will have a camoflauge pattern. And of course, all jerseys will have a big asterisk over the right breast.”


Racers React

“I’m so glad all of these dirty racers have been caught,” said one professional cyclist, who on the advice of his lawyer asked to remain anonymous. “You see, all the rest of us are absolutely clean.”

“Yes,” agreed another cyclist, who also asked not to have his name printed, “With all of the leading names in cycling gone from this race, viewers—if there are any—can have high confidence that the person who wins has never taken drugs. You have my word on it.”

“Isn’t it amazing,” asked a third unidentified racer, “that there are so many of us who are dirty, but none of us were able to beat Lance? It just goes to show: clean living pays in the end.”


Fans React

Elden Nelson, an avid cycling fan who was so excited about the Tour de France he recently purchased a Slingbox so he could watch it wherever and whenever he wanted, looked despondent upon hearing the news. “This thing cost me close to $200.00,” said Nelson, close to tears. “And now I don’t know if I’ll even bother watching at all.”

“That’s not all I’m upset about,” said Nelson, who appears to be approximately twenty pounds overweight. “I was more excited for this TdF than I have been for three years. I mean, finally: a tour where there could be honest debate about who would win.”

“Now,” said Nelson, glumly, while idly scratching his paunch, “I guess people could still debate who’s going to win, but it’s not easy to get worked up about it. I guess I’ll cheer for Floyd, but that’s just kind of a fallback position.”

Nelson then wandered away, evidently looking for something to eat.


Race Predictions

With Ullrich, Basso, and Mancebo out of the tour, other racers suddenly have newfound opportunities to shine. Expert cyclist analysts say that faces to watch include:

  • David Millar: Oh, the irony. It is rich, is it not?
  • Floyd Landis: Dollars to doughnuts, Floyd will win the whole thing. And he might have won the whole thing even if Basso and Ullrich were racing. But now we’ll never know, and it’s suddenly tough to care.
  • David Zabriskie: OK, I’ll admit: if Zabriskie shines, I’ll get excited. Really excited.
  • Others: There are likely other candidates for a strong showing in this year’s tour, but—unfortunately—the expert analysts got bored of listing them, mumbled something about “doesn’t matter anyway” and walked off.

OLN Fails to React

OLN, the network broadcasting the Tour de France, was unavailable for comment on this development, because everyone involved in the broadcast (with the sole exception of Al Trautwig, who had no idea what had just happened) had committed suicide.


Win a Trip for 2 to America’s Toughest Tour

06.29.2006 | 8:41 pm

Yesterday, Dug, Rick and I went on a nice little early morning ride. Starting from our respective homes (me in Alpine, Dug in Draper, Rick in Pleasant Grove), we met at the mouth of American Fork Canyon and rode to the top of the Alpine loop.

That’s 3000 feet of climbing.

We then zoomed down (I was last, by a lot), where I eventually caught up with Dug (Rick had to get home) near my house. We then continued up to the top of Suncrest (where Dug lives). That’s another 1500 feet of climbing. Then I turned around and went home.

In short: an early morning ride out my front door had 4500 feet of climbing in it.

That’s Utah for you.

A six-stage tour in this area might be downright difficult. Furthermore, it would be called the Tour of Utah—America’s Toughest Tour.

It’s going to be cooler than it has any right to be.


I’m So Excited I May Wet Myself

I’m not exactly sure how this happened, but I somehow have become the officious blogger of the Tour of Utah. What that means is that leading up to the race I’ll be interviewing some of the racers, riding some of the stages, and just generally making a nuisance of myself.

That’s pretty cool. For me. Here’s the cool part for you, though, which I will make very large and bold, so that you can see how ridiculously excited I am about this:

I get to give away a trip for two people to come see the tour.

On days like this, it’s a lot of fun being the Fat Cyclist.


What the Winners Get

Here’s what the contest winner will get:

  • Airfare for 2 (from anywhere in the US) to Utah.
  • Two nights at the Tour’s Official Hotel.
  • Weeklong VIP passes: access to the VIP tent and catering, press conferences, autograph alley, the whole nine yards.
  • Ride in an official’s car in the race caravan on one of the stages.

This is not a half-bad thing to win. Man, I wish I could win this.


How to Win

Start thinking of a 300 (maximum) word answer to the question:

What will go through the racers’ minds during the final climb of Stage 6 of the Tour of Utah?

Early next week, I’ll post a URL with information on how to enter.

Start writing!


06.28.2006 | 8:59 pm

We’re only a few short days from the Tour de France. To commemorate this exciting upcoming event, I have sampled every performance-enhancing drug known to man.

Wait. That’s not true. I’ve put that behind me.

Let me begin again.

What I meant to say is that to get ready for the Tour de France, I have purchased a gadget of such extraordinary geekitude that taped black-rimmed glasses have spontaneously appeared on my nose. At an awkward angle.

Also, my voice has started cracking again.

What can this superlatively geeky thing be? And how can a geeky gadget enhance one’s Tour de France experience? These are the questions you have, and I will answer them. Just as soon as I adjust these glasses a little further on my nose, and pull my pants up to a painfully high position.

There. Now I’m ready.

I bought myself a Slingbox.


What’s a Slingbox?

Two of you immediately understood what I’m doing. The rest of you are rapidly losing interest and hoping that I’ll get to the point, or at least explain what a Slingbox is.


A Slingbox is a clever little device that you route your home TV signal through, as well as connect to your home broadband Internet connection. Then, after installing the corresponding software on any computer, anywhere (as long as it’s got a high-speed internet connection), you can make the Slingbox stream whatever TV channel—or whatever’s on the TiVo (if you don’t know what a TiVo is, that’s your own problem. Look it up on the Wikipedia. Oh, you don’t know what the Wikipedia is? Forget it. Just forget it.) onto your computer.

Which means, dear reader, that I am now set up to watch the Tour de France on my computer during my lunch break. Or other break. Or when I just can’t wait a single second longer.

I shall now chortle. And adjust my pants a little higher. Eep!


The Problem

There’s just one problem, now that I’ve got the Slingbox working (and believe me, it was not a pleasant experience to get the Slingbox to work outside my home firewall, which is evidently very labyrinthine and stymied even the Slingbox customer support people for a little while).

It shows whatever channel is currently on the home TV. Now, that’s not a problem if nobody’s home, or if the TV’s off. But if the twins are watching Dora the Explorer, well, that’s what’s on the Slingbox, too. Of course, I have the capability of changing the channel. But they have the capability of changing it back. And thus ensues a war of channel changing, in spite of the fact that my twins and I are not even in the same county.


The Solution

The twins, however, can be bribed. It turns out, in fact, they can be bribed rather cheaply. A colored pencil does the job nicely. As does a popsicle. As does practically anything that costs less than a dollar.

We’ll be knee-deep in cheap toys and popsicle sticks by mid-July. But it’s worth it. I’ve got a tour to watch. On my computer. At work.

I shall conclude today’s blog by giggling nasally, punctuated occasionally with a grating snort.

I Eye iPod

06.27.2006 | 4:48 pm

For years and years and years I have scorned and sniffed at people who listen to iPods. By “iPod,” I of course mean any audio device—I’ve never had any problem at all with the iPod device itself. IPod is now a generic term for any portable audio player, right? Like Xerox has become a generic term for photocopier? Am I digressing a lot? Yes, yes I am. As long as I’m digressing so much, I have an additional question: when you begin a sentence with the word “iPod,” should I capitalize the “I” like I did earlier in this paragraph? I’m sorry. My mind wanders sometimes.


I have a threefold problem with iPods while biking:

  1. They close you off to the people you’re riding with. When you’re with a group, putting on headphones just seems rude. And I include races in that blanket statement. And especially endurance races. One of the things I like best about the Leadville 100 is talking with people, learning their stories. Headphones isolate you from what makes endurance racing great.
  2. They reduce your awareness of the environment. If you’re listening to your iPod on a road bike, you can’t hear the car behind you or the guy on his bike saying, “on your left” as he goes by. I have startled iPodding cyclists into near-wrecks seventeen times in my life. How do I know it’s seventeen? Because I carve a little notch into my top tube whenever this happens.
  3. They don’t allow you to hear the music of your bike. I love the sound of the chain and the wheels and my breathing and—on a big ol’ climb—my heart.

So of course, I got an iPod for my birthday, and the first thing I did was take it out riding. Here are my thoughts, now that I’ve been on both sides of the audio fence.


Road Riding

I’ve been enjoying Neil Gaiman’s books lately, so the first thing I bought on iTunes was the audio version of Anansi Boys. I started listening while commuting, and I have to say: I love it. Having someone tell you a story—and the narrator for the audio version of this book has a great storytelling voice—while you’re riding really takes the edge off the pain of a long climb on the road.

But what about my objections to riding with an iPod? Well, I only put an earbud in one ear, leaving my left ear (the one closest to traffic) open to hear traffic and the environment. That probably sucks for listening to music, but I haven’t tried using my iPod for that while biking (yes, I am a middle-aged goober). I think the “one ear” defense may be a lame rationale anyway, because I tend to get pretty deeply absorbed in stories. Yesterday, for example, I rode the four mile/1500-foot climb that usually kills me without really noticing the ride, because I was at a good part in the story.

I would still never bring my iPod on a group ride, though. That’s just lame.

Oh yeah: One other big problem with listening to audiobooks while biking: wind noise. On the flats it’s not a problem and on the climbs it’s certainly not a problem, but on a descent where you’re going 45mph, you can’t hear anything but wind no matter how loud your iPod is playing. I’ve lost entire chapters that way. Or entire parts of chapters. Whatever.


Mountain Biking

Saturday, I wanted to get out on the mountain bike. I was on my own—and was really enjoying the audiobook—so decided I’d climb Grove while listening to a book on the iPod.

That was a singularly weird experience.

Instead of being totally absorbed in the ride like I usually am when mountain biking, I was only peripherally aware of the climb, in spite of the fact that Grove is mind-bendingly steep. I didn’t really think about it while riding, but afterward realized that my main memory of the ride was of the story, not the trail or the moves.

More than that, though, was the worry that one good fall would kill my $300 gizmo. So I rode tentatively. I mean, even more tentatively than usual.

I’m thinking: No more iPod on the mountain bike.


Let’s Do Something Good For a Change

OK. Quick change of pace here. Jim sends me email from time to time, feeding me terrific satire ideas (the “Lance Armstrong Comes Out of Retirement” piece was his brainchild). He’s a good guy, and he’s working on raising money to fight cancer by riding the Pan-Mass Challenge.

I think we should help him out.

Here’s a big snip from his blog on what he’s proposing:

I’m calling out the Fat Cyclist. I’m shamelessly attempting to use his miniscule celebrity as a lever for my microscopic celebrity, all in the name of cancer fundraising.

So, here’s what I propose:

1.      I will match dollar-for-dollar, up to $1000, any donation from a Fat Cyclist blog reader or FC himself. Just put "Fatty Rules" in the comments when you donate.

2.      If FC readers give me up to $1500 in donations, I’ll have the folks at Voler make me up a custom "Fatty Rules" jersey to wear on the second day. We are, ahem, encouraged to wear the official PMC jersey on the first day. In turn, I encourage anyone with embarrasing vector art or extremely high resoluton photos of FC to email me. One caveat here: I will need three weeks or so to get the jersey done, so don’t wait.

3.      If FC readers shoot the moon and donate $2000 or more, I’ll do the whole route – 192 miles – on my fixed gear. While wearing the jersey.

4.      Since this is, of course, all about the Fat Cyclist: If Fatty makes his goal weight for the Leadville 100 by the time I go to the start on the evening of August 4th, I’ll throw in another $500. Of course I will require suitable documentation of this achievement. And if he doesn’t make his goal, maybe I’ll do the ride on his fixie.


I’ll tell you what. I will also match, dollar-for-dollar, up to $1000, any donation from Fat Cyclist readers. It’ll be Jim’s job to let me know how much that winds up being. I figure this’ll help us get to that $1500 “Fatty Rules” jersey and the $2000 that will make him do the whole ride on his fixie quite a bit faster.

All I demand in return is that he write up the story of riding this thing on a fixie for my blog, and give me the “Fatty Rules” jersey after the race—which I will give away to a random donater.

Cancer’s now common enough that it’s going to affect practically everyone at some point, so how about donating a little to help fight this rotten disease? Thanks.

I’d Ride, if I Could Just Get Out the Door

06.23.2006 | 10:35 pm

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