Paris, July 11 (Fat Cyclist Fake News Service) – Tour de France head honcho Christian Prudhomme took advantage of the relative calm of the rest day to announce that tomorrow’s stage (Stage 9: Bordeaux – Dax) will be cancelled, due to the fact that it looks like it will be the least interesting stage in the history of the Tour de France.
“I really don’t know how that stage snuck in there, but I don’t see any way out of it: that stage is a yawner,” said Prudhomme. “169.5 kilometers of very-nearly-straight road, completely flat.”
“Seriously,” concluded Prudhomme, “What were we thinking?”
A Perfect Storm of Malaise-Inducing Events
Prudhomme’s decision would not likely have been made if not for several precipitating events earlier in the tour. Consider:
- One Successful Breakaway per Customer, Please: Each flat stage, a group of cyclists shoot off the front in order to give commentators something to talk about. Once per tour, someone from the breakaway is allowed to win the stage. That was yesterday. Sorry, no more successful breakaways.
- Stage Winner a Foregone Conclusion: Robbie McEwen would win the sprint. Again. It’s not even entertaining to watch anymore. Commentators have been reduced to discussing what kind of victory salute Robbie will do as he crosses the line. For example, consider the exchange between Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen at the end of stage six:
Liggett: “Paul, if I were a betting man, I’d wager that today when Robbie wins the stage he’ll do his ‘I’ve been vindicated for some perceived slight’ salute. He’s a very angry man, you know.”
Sherwen: “I’m afraid I’m going to have to part with you on that assessment, Phil. Robbie looked to be in a pretty happy mood this morning. I’ll wager he’ll do his ‘Jolly Jogger’ salute as he crosses the line.”
Liggett: “Of course, there’s always the possibility he’ll do his ‘I’m a very important person’ salute. That’s one of my favorites, you know.
Note: Sherwen made the correct guess for stage six with his “Jolly Jogger” prediction.
Note #2: Surprisingly, Robbie McEwen actually supports the cancellation of stage 9. “I need time to regroup and think of a new clever salute,” McEwen stated in a recent press conference.
- The Only Interesting Contest in the TdF Currently Has Nothing to do With Flat, Sprint-Ending Stages: Most major GC contenders took a major blow to their position in Saturday’s ITT, and everybody’s very interested to see whether this damage will get worse or better in the mountains. “I’m very excited to get into the mountains,” said a very un-excited-sounding George Hincapie. “As everyone will remember, I showed last year that I can win stages in the mountains. No, seriously, I can. I can see in your eyes you think it was just a fluke, but it wasn’t! I’ll show you. I’ll show you all!”
Commentators Express Relief, Disappointment
Reached for comment on the cancellation of this exquisitely meaningless stage, Paul Sherwen responded, “To tell the truth, I’m quite pleased at the prospect of not having to commentate this stage. Do you think it’s easy to talk about a peloton that isn’t trying, while pursuing a breakaway that won’t succeed? I have run out of clichés and colorful metaphors, and have told every anecdote from my professional cycling days more than a thousand times.”
“Plus, Phil keeps falling asleep during the flat stages, and then it’s up to me to wake him up while I try to keep talking.”
Phil Liggett, however, expressed mild disappointment at the cancellation of stage 9. “I saw this stage as the Pro Cycling Commentators’ Mt. Everest, really,” said Liggett. “I mean, if I can talk in a friendly, informative, engaged manner about the most dreadfully dull stage imaginable, that says something about me, doesn’t it?”
“Plus,” finished Liggett, “I just finished uploading the audiobook version of The Davinci Code onto my iPod and planned to listen to a few chapters during the stage.”
“You mean I don’t have to—I mean won’t be allowed to—race 170 kilometers in close proximity to more than a hundred other stinky men, while risking some bozo crashing me out because he touched the wheel of the guy in front of him?” said Floyd Landis, presumably rhetorically. “You mean I won’t have to ride all day with no chance of changing my overall standing on a stage that nobody else’s standing will change either?”
“Wow,” said Landis. “That’s just tragic.”
No other racers were asked to comment, because it’s looking like in the absence of Ullrich, Basso, and Vinokourov, Landis is the only relevant rider left in the field.
I did not intend to write today. After all, I wrote entries both for this blog and for Random Reviewer yesterday.
But something happened this morning, and it just canâ€™t wait.
I Briefly Consider Myself an Accomplished Downhiller
Iâ€™ve started attacking the climb on my commute each morning. Itâ€™s about four miles, 1500 feet of climbing. Iâ€™m trying to re-learn to ride at threshold. Itâ€™s a painful skill, but incredibly valuable if youâ€™re going to race.
Today, the climb went well. I suffered the whole way up, but did not crack. I was pleased; how could I not be?
Feeling good, I hit the downhill hard and fast, and it wasnâ€™t long â€˜til I was spun out. I looked at my speedometer: 52.2mph. Considering that I was wearing a bike messenger bag and was not in any kind of tuck, thatâ€™s pretty danged fast.
I said to myself, â€œI should write a blog entry about how Iâ€™ve learned to be a fast, fearless descender on the road. Iâ€™ll find a self-deprecating angle, but will nevertheless make it clear that Iâ€™m a force to be reckoned with.â€
All Hell Breaks Loose
Thatâ€™s when the bike started shaking side to side. No, not shimmying. Not wobbling. Shaking. Shaking hard.
I went for the brakes and slowed the bike down a bit.
The shaking continued. In fact, it got worse.
I kept braking. The bike was now shaking so hard that both the water bottles were flung from their cages.
I remember very clearly saying aloud, â€œIâ€™m going down.â€
But I didnâ€™t. I managed to bring the bike to a stop. Even at slow speed, though, the bike kept shaking.
I sat on the guardrail, adrenaline making me completely unfit to ride.
I looked over at my bike. This is what I saw:
OK. Well, that explains things.
A wave of nausea hit me as I realized exactly how close to dying I had just come: My downtube had snapped at 50mph.
Wait a second, I think I need to emphasize that a little more strongly:
My downtube snapped at 50mph.
How to Ride a Bike with a Broken Downtube
I went and collected my water bottles, sat down on the guardrail, and thought for a moment. I was eight miles into a twenty mile commute. I had a broken downtube. What should I do?
Gingerly, I climbed back onto the bike. To my pleasure and relief, it held my weight. May as well finish that ride into work.
Here are some observations I have about riding a road bike with a broken downtube:
- When youâ€™re off the bike, the break in the downtube merely looks like a crack. When youâ€™re on the bike, thereâ€™s a gap of about 3/4 inch.
- A road bike with a broken downtube steers very much like a boat.
- A road bike with a broken downtube is very vertically compliant. Really absorbs the road vibration, bumps, everything. It feels just like a full-suspension mountain bike, really.
- Looking down at a big jagged gap in your downtube is not confidence-inspiring. I rode the rest of the commute at about 10mph. This affected my average speed significantly.
Goodbye, Old Friend
Iâ€™ve had that Ibis Ti Road for nine years. I planned to keep it forever. I still might, but more in a hanging-in-the-garage way than in a ride-it-til-Iâ€™m-old-and-gray way.
On the positive side, I now have the best possible reason to buy a new road bike. The shopping has already begun. Suggestions are welcome.