Much has recently been made of the "Rock Racing" professional cycling team, what with the wacky, hilariously insane behavior of the owner, Michael Ball, as well as some of the cyclists he has hired for the 2008 season. And while Ball’s management style can be truly be called anything but dull, the same thing can also be said of a pickaxe to the groin.
What, then, should a self-respecting cyclist think of Rock Racing? Certainly, you’ve been asking yourself that question, along with others, such as:
- Should I root for them, since they’ve got some of my favorite racers of days gone by?
- Should I hate them for face-slapping a sport which frankly is all slapped-out at the moment?
- Should I just grab a bag of popcorn and enjoy the circus?
These are all excellent questions, none of which I intend to answer. I will, however, endeavor to answer some of your other pressing questions about this most unlikely of pro racing teams.
Question: So what’s the deal with this Michael Ball guy?
Answer: Michael Ball is the owner of Rock & Republic, a clothing store not in any way affiliated with Banana Republic. If you find yourself confusing the two, you can easily resolve your befuddlement by remembering that Banana Republic sells clothes in more colors than black and also carries some items that cost less than $300.00 (I think that converts to about 0.4 Euros right now).
The reason that Rock & Republic is able to sell clothes for the square of their actual value is because Michael Ball brings attitude to those clothes. And by "attitude," I mean that he augments his natural unlikeability with aggressive meanness, and the confidence brought on by the self-certainty that he is never, ever, ever wrong.
In fourth grade, you called people like this "bullies."
Well, now he owns a bike team. And he has not yet realized that at some point (possibly already reached), nobody is going to want to do business with him.
For this reason, you should by default hope for the failure of the Rock Racing bike team, and feel a certain amount of glee whenever a racer leaves the team or Ball has a tantrum stemming from his staggering oafishness.
And as a point of honor, you should never wear jeans that cost more than $40. (a sum which no longer translates to anything at all in Euros).
Question: Why isn’t Frankie Andreu the director of Rock Racing anymore?
Answer: This separation stemmed from an honest disagreement between Frankie and Mr. Ball.
On one hand, Frankie thought the directeur sportif of Rock Racing would be in charge of both strategic and tactical operations for the team, from the hiring of the racers to the race-day plans.
On the other hand, Michael Ball thought main job of the directeur sportif of Rock Racing was to run odd errands, chauffeur the team Escalade, and give Mr. Ball soothing neckrubs when he is feeling stressed out.
The truth is, though, Michael Ball fired Andreu because he discovered that Andreu had used — and then kept secret for many years — EPO as a professional cyclist, and that kind of unethical behavior is simply not to be tolerated on this team.
Question: I heard that Tyler Hamilton’s on the team, too. Is that true?
Answer: Yes. Yes, it is. Here’s a picture of him in a group picture at the Rock Racing Spring camp (from the Bahati Racing blog).
Looks like he’s really enjoying himself, doesn’t it?
Question: But I thought Tyler was supposed to be this really nice guy. I can’t imagine him wearing the Rock Racing skull and crossbones kit and hanging around someone like Michael Ball.
Answer: Maybe he’s become bitter and angry.
Question: Do you think maybe he’s become bitter and angry enough that at some point he’ll punch Michael Ball in the throat?
Answer: That would be awesome.
Question: I heard Mario Cipollini is also racing for Rock Racing. When was Cipo caught doping?
Answer: Actually, you aren’t strictly required to be a known doper to be on the Rock Racing team.
Question: So why is Cipollini on the Rock Racing team, if he is in fact on the racing team?
Answer: If Cipollini is on the Rock Racing team — and we are happy to both confirm and deny that this is the case — it is for one extremely important reason: Cipollini looks like someone who would wear $300 pants.
Question: I understand that Michael Ball told his racers he had to win, or be fired.
Answer: Actually, he now claims he said something different, but with the same meaning.
Question: OK, that’s fine, but really my question was: does Ball know anything at all about bike racing? I mean, even one little thing? Does he even know what a domestique is?
Question: You know, now that I think about it, "Win or Be Fired" would make a great premise for a reality show.
Answer: You mean, every week have a bunch of semi pro racers do a race and the winner gets to be on a newly-formed pro cycling team?
Question: Yeah, that’s pretty much what I was thinking.
Answer: You’re right. That would be a great reality show. Michael Ball has missed his calling.
Question: So what is "Fast Freddie" Rodriguez doing on the team?
Answer: Regretting his decision, most likely.
Question: Do you suppose it’s ever occurred to Fast Freddie that putting "Fast" in his name is a little bit weird? I mean, are there any professional cyclists that aren’t fast?
Answer: You miss Fast Freddie’s point. He’s not putting the "Fast" in "Fast Freddie" because he thinks he’s faster than other cyclists. He is merely asserting that of all Freddies in the universe, he is among the fast.
Question: And how about Oscar Sevilla and Santiago Botera?
Answer: I’m sorry, I’m losing interest. Could we wrap this up?
Question: I just have a couple of questions left. What about the Rock Racing jerseys — Is it OK for me to wear their jersey?
Answer: Only if you also wear an eye patch and have a parrot perched on your shoulder.
Question: What would happen if you put Team Slipstream / Chipotle in the same room as Rock Racing?
Answer: The universe would implode in much the same way as if matter and antimatter were to collide.
PS: The banner photo for February is of Jill Homer, of Up in Alaska fame. Jill’s going to be competing in the Iditarod Trail Invitational on the 24th of this month. Make sure you swing by her blog and wish her a great race.
OK, I’ve been a tease this week, showing a little here, a little there, of the new 2008 Fat Cyclist jerseys.
But I’m not going to tease any more, mostly for the reason that I’m absolutely certain that you’re just going to scroll down and look at the pictures anyway.
So check ‘em out already!
First off, I love the 2007 Fat Cyclist jerseys, and wanted the 2008 version to have a look and feel that definitely didn’t forget its roots. But I also love the rough, painted look that Twin Six has been experimenting with on some of their other jerseys.
So here’s the front (all images in today’s post pop to larger versions):
And here’s the back:
And here’s the inside of the collar:
I learned my lesson with the 2007 Fat Cyclist jerseys: don’t ignore the women. Here is the women’s cut and colors for 2008. Front:
Note: I’m also doing a very small run of men’s-cut jerseys in pink. As in, if you want one, you’ll need to order it the day they’re available.
T-Shirts: Available TODAY
To go along with the 2008 jersey design, I’ve got a new Fat Cyclist T-shirt design. Unlike the jerseys, however, these are in stock and available today.
Men’s (click here for the order page):
Women’s: (click here for the order page):
Note: We’re retiring the old version (2007) Fat Cyclist T-shirt by putting it on sale for $15.00, starting now. Get one before they’re gone.
I figure there are going to be some questions about the new design, so lemme see how good I am at pretending I know what you’re going to ask.
Are you still using money from the jerseys to support Susan’s treatment and the Lance Armstrong Foundation?
Yes, Twin Six will donate some of their profit from all Fat Cyclist gear — jerseys, t-shirts, socks, and bottles — to the Lance Armstrong Foundation. And I put all my profits into a separate bank account Susan and I keep for cancer treatment and the trip to Italy. No matter what color you buy, you’re helping out exactly the same amount.
When will the jerseys be available?
They should be arriving in April. Which means they’ll probably actually arrive in May. Regardless, I will post on my blog as soon as they arrive, so that you can get the size and style you want.
And, as I mentioned above, the t-shirts are available as of now. And since Twin Six is having its Spring 4-Day Sale, now might be a good chance for you to snag one while you pick up another great jersey at a great price. Click here for men’s, and click here for women’s.
How many jerseys did you order?
Enough that I lose sleep at night, alternately worrying that I bought too many, too few, or the wrong combination of colors, genders, and sizes.
Who’s shipping the T-shirts and jerseys? Twin Six, or Fatty?
I asked Twin Six to do all the fulfillment this time. I’d rather use any spare time I can find to go out on a ride, or hang out with my family. You may find it difficult to believe, but between my job, my family, Susan’s treatment, and this blog, I occasionally find myself somewhat short on time.
How much will the jerseys cost?
$70.00, just like the other Twin Six jerseys.
How’d you get the painted style to look so authentic?
The idea behind this look was to replicate the painted-on images appearing on leather jackets in the 50’s. So the master design is actually hand-painted. Of course, the jerseys are still sublimated polyester microfiber, but they look painted.
Is this the sexiest jersey ever made?
A Special Note from Fatty: Here’s the last image clue you’re going to get on the 2008 Fat Cyclist jersey. Tomorrow I show the whole thing.
Racing to Lose
Last year, I rode my bike to the staging area for the annual "Frozen Hog" race, a mountain bike race on ice- and snow-covered trails in Lambert Park, about a mile from my home in Alpine, Utah.
And then I looked at the people there, did a quick personal assessment, and turned around and rode my bike home.
Realizing I was in terrible shape, I decided that I had no chance of placing well. So what was the point?
This year, unfortunately for me, I have no such luxury. Because this year, the race is doing a couple of drawings for people to win bikes, with the proceeds from the local raffle going to the Huntsman Cancer Institute, and the proceeds from the virtual raffle going to the Lance Armstrong Foundation. And in both cases, the donations are being made in honor of my wife. (By the way, so far you all have donated $1130 to the LAF as your raffle toward that online bike. Thanks!)
So, like I said, I have to go.
The problem is, I am in considerably worse shape this year than I was last year. I’m fatter. I’m slower. I don’t really know if I can fit into my cold weather riding gear, to be honest.
So I need to adjust my expectations.
Since I don’t have any chance of winning this race, winning in my age category within the race, or even of finishing in the same part of the day as the respective winners of the race, I have established new objectives for myself as I race this Saturday.
- I will make my intentions known. Before the race, I’ll walk around the start area talking loudly with anyone I can find, mentioning loudly and often that I’m just here on a lark; I have no plans to ride hard, and certainly not to win.
- I will furthermore claim that this is nothing but a training ride. "This is a rest day for me, actually," I’ll say. "I’m just here for the atmosphere and because it’s a good cause, not because I want to race."
- I will not injure myself. I will race with caution and a certain mellow aplomb. I will be going so slow that if I fall I will have plenty of time to pull my arms close to my trunk, so as not to further injure my messed-up arms.
- I will be complimentary. I will say something encouraging to each person who passes me. Furthermore, I will make a point of saying a different complimentary thing to each person who passes me. Since I expect to be passed more than 300 times, this is an ambitious goal indeed.
- I will get in the way of Kenny. I hereby assert my intention to be lapped by Kenny and then body-check him as he passes me, knocking him into the snow, regardless of the very likely possibility that I will break his hip. I will then tackle him and claim I did this because I thought he was the abominable snowman and that I had it on good authority that "’bominables bounce."
- I will offer sage advice. At some point in the race, I am bound to finally settle in with someone who is going my speed. I will undertake to ride behind that person for the rest of the race, offering incessant advice. Mostly, that advice will take the form of "Stay on target" and "Hold your line." I may also advise him to pedal a rapid cadence, in circles.
- I will stay in zone 2. I will keep my heart rate below 130. I don’t even know if this is possible to do, since my heart rate usually hops to zone 3 when I’m waiting at the starting line. (Seriously, it really does.) If necessary, I will stop and perform relaxation exercises to bring my heart rate down to the target zone.
- I will offer snacks to those who look like they could use a snack. When I see someone who has clearly been depriving himself or herself far too often during this glorious season of weight gain, I shall offer him / her a can of Spam or a cheese cube, right on the spot. I will also offer nachos, though I’m not sure the nachos will hold up very well when I fall on them.
- I will strut around like I am a celebrity. "Hi, I’m Fatty. You know, the finalist in the Sports category for the 2008 Bloggies? Yeah, I’m kind of a big deal around here."
- I will give myself permission to quit the race on a silly pretense. I have never ever even once in my life quit a race. It’s high time I do.
I am more than happy to entertain your additional suggestions for objectives I should have during this Saturday’s race.
PS: Big Twin Six Four-Day Sale Starts Thursday (Tomorrow)
My friends at Twin Six — the company that designs and sells my jerseys, T-shirts, socks and bottles — is having a big sale, starting tomorrow. This’ll be a good time for you to pick up some great cycling gear at an outrageously good price.
As if that weren’t enough of an incentive, 10% of all sales from the T6 Spring Sale will be donated to Jenny’s Light, a newly-formed nonprofit foundation dedicated to building awareness, detection and treatment for postpartum disorders.
Great guys, great company, great jerseys, great sale, great cause.
Sounds pretty great to me.
PPS: This morning I woke up with the intention of riding the rollers for an hour. I took a look outside and realized I had a different kind of workout in store for me:
I don’t say this by way of complaint, by the way. Am I the only one who really enjoys shoveling the driveway?
I know my place in the world. It’s my job to tell you stuff you already know about riding bikes, but with different words, and the occasional well-placed fart joke.
Which is to say, I don’t talk about religion. And I don’t talk about politics.
Except today I’m going to talk about politics.
I don’t think, though, that your politics and my politics are going to be incompatible, because I am not interested in telling you who to vote for.
Instead, I’d like you to tell the person who you’re voting for what you’re interested in.
Which is to say: No matter which candidate you’ve settled on — or whichever candidate you eventually settle on — let them know what matters to you.
And one of the things that should matter to you, no matter how healthy or young you are, is cancer.
Because cancer will affect you sometime in your life. That’s just the way it is. It’s going to hit you or a family member or a friend. There’s that much of it around. And when it gets you or someone you care about, it’s going to change your life.
I know there are a lot of issues that matter. And a lot of diseases that deserve attention. And I probably wouldn’t be this obsessive about cancer if I weren’t thinking — constantly — about what my wife’s going through.
But — for the first time ever — I’m going to get politically involved. I’m going to send letters to both candidates, whoever they turn out to be. And to Bloomberg, too, if he winds up running (which I kind of hope he does, because he’s allied himself with Lance Armstrong in this battle). And I’d like you to, too.
I’m going to tell them that fighting cancer — both in researching ways to cure it and helping those who have it — has got to be a national priority. That no matter what else concerns you, at some point cancer is going to become a more important and personal issue to each one of us.
If you’re always politically active, please add cancer to the list of things you tell your candidate is important. And if you’ve never been politically active, this is an good place to start.
Help MikeRoadie Raise $50,000 to Fight Cancer
In the spirit of getting things done, I’ve added a link in the right column of my blog, where you can help MikeRoadie — a frequent commenter in this blog — in his quest to raise $50,000 this year for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. That’s a lot, but last year he raised $20,000. I think $50,000 is not out of reach.
MikeRoadie’s got good reason to want to fight cancer this way, and I admire him for it. And as someone who’s directly benefited from the good that the Lance Armstrong Foundation does, I’m very pleased to help Mike on this quest. I hope you will, too.
How Susan’s Doing
A lot of you frequently ask how my wife is doing, and this seems like a good day to give you a quick update. She’s getting around much better now. Sometimes she walks around the house using just one crutch instead of two. She’s going to physical therapy twice a week to help her range of motion, and while it hurts, it’s a good kind of hurt.
Actually, she’s never said it’s a good kind of hurt. I made that part up.
Susan also looks great right now. When my sister visited last weekend, she pointed out that Susan looks terrific — healthy and energetic. It’s true, too — since I’m so close I didn’t really notice the transition.
Susan’s hair has also started growing back, though we’re trying not to get attached to it, since chemo starts again in less than a couple months. To tell the truth, I am used to Susan without hair and think she looks hot that way.
The New Jersey
Last year, I replaced the "201" — the weight (plus one pound) at which you become a clydesdale in bicycle races — with "WIN" on the special edition "Fighting for Susan" pink jerseys. As you can probably tell, that cursive "Win" script you see at the top of this post will be on the 2008 Fat Cyclist jerseys, which I’ll be unveiling in a couple days.
I really believe that we can win the fight against cancer. I believe we can do it in our lifetime. But I know we have to do a lot more if we’re going to make that happen.
Thanks, I’ll climb off the soapbox now. More fart jokes (or something like fart jokes) tomorrow.
To look at me, you may not guess that I am roughly 41.59 years old. For, even in my middle age, I remain ruggedly handsome. My shoulders are not especially hunched, I keep my ear hair neatly trimmed, my goiter is hardly noticeable, and I have no receding hairline (which is to say, I have no hairline whatsoever).
It will no doubt surprise you, therefore, that I am beginning to feel the effects of age.
The most obvious of these effects is my eyesight. I have become nearsighted, and I am becoming nearer-sighted. It makes me think that maybe I should look into lasiks. This seems like a sound investment, because I have noticed, multiple times, that all else being equal it is preferable to be able to see where you are riding your bike.
But if I upgrade my eyes, it seems a tragedy to just correct them back to how they were in the first place. That would be like replacing the broken derailleur on your bike with the exact same kind of derailleur.
Which, I think can safely be said, has never happened in the history of the world.
So, if / when I get my eyes operated on, I’m going to ask to have the following optional features added. You know, as long as they’re under the hood.
- Eagle Eyes: I don’t want to have merely have 20/20 vision. I want to have 20/10,000 vision. Which is to say, I want to be able to see approximately two miles off into the distance.
- Transition + Polarization Eyes : I don’t want to have to wear sunglasses. When it’s bright outside, I want my irises to turn dark. Also, having polarized eyes will cut down on glare, which should be helpful, although it could make looking at certain gadgets with LCD screens problematic. I can live with that.
- Laser Eyes: I want to be able to cast a laser dot onto whatever I’m looking at, at will. This will be helpful not just when I’m giving business presentations, but when I’m discussing a technical move with my mountain biking buddies. "Go over that rock," I would say, beaming a laser dot at the rock in question, "then thread between those two tree roots" (indicating tree roots with my eyeball-mounted laser), and then avoid that loose spot. I would also like the laser to be powerful enough to melt rubber if I so choose, because I can imagine instances when that would be handy, especially in races.
But why stop with my eyes? I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t make additional upgrades to my body to enhance my cycling experience. Here’s what I’m considering:
- Second Heart, Third Lung: In many ways, cycling is a contest between your lungs, heart, and legs. Can your lungs breathe fast enough to get a good steady supply of oxygen to your bloodstream? Can your heart beat fast enough to keep that fresh supply of oxygen in your legs? Can your legs go fast enough that demand equals supply? In my case, my heart and lungs seem to always reach their limit first. So I’m going to get an extra one of each. I may have to make some other changes to accommodate — a larger ribcage is the most obvious — but I think they’ll be well worth the effort.
- Second Adrenal Gland: There’s nothing like a rush of adrenaline to give you a boost in a sprint. Sadly, my supply of adrenaline seems to be limited. So I’m getting a second adrenal gland. I’m also considering having it wired so I can punch a button to trigger it. Which, incidentally, I plan to do three or four times per minute.
- Third Testicle: I admit to having mixed feelings about this one. There’s no doubt that the extra testosterone would be welcome when I am trying to build the resolve to try tricky, potentially life-threatening, moves my head knows are completely insane. And I like the idea of being able to say — accurately and honestly — that I have a lot of balls. But then I think about the issue of comfort, and I begin to question the wisdom of this upgrade. Plus, I’d probably always be getting into barfights.
- Fat Head: I am going to have all the fat moved from my stomach to under my scalp, creating a natural helmet. My head will unfortunately look like a giant fleshlike mushroom, but hey, I’m already married. It’s not like I need to attract the ladies anymore.
- Kevlar Contact Points: I suppose my natural skin does an OK job of making calluses for where my body touches the bike — hands, feet, and butt — but any time I go on a really long ride, I wind up with blisters on all three spots. These hurt. Which is why I’m going to have the skin on my palms, my butt, and the bottoms of my feet replaced with kevlar. I have not yet decided whether I want to spring for the "skin-colored" or "carbon fiber-colored" option. Both sound pretty cool.
These are, of course, just a few of the personal upgrades a serious cyclist might consider, but I don’t want to go overboard. Hey, I want to keep it real.
PS: Fight Cancer, Win a Bike
This weekend is the "Frozen Hog" bike race close to where I live. I’m really pleased that, in honor of my wife’s fight against breast cancer, the organizers are raffling off two Marin Hamilton 29er townie / mountain bikes. One will be for locals, with the proceeds going to the Huntsman Cancer Institute (which took incredible care of my wife during her recent hip replacement surgery) and one for Fat Cyclist readers, with proceeds going to the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
It’s very easy to get a raffle ticket. Just donate to the Lance Armstrong Foundation, then forward the email confirmation to me.
A bunch of you have already sent in your raffle entries, which I hugely appreciate.
If you haven’t donated yet, though, you still have time. You’ll be doing something good and important, and you’ll have a much better chance at winning a bike than you would in most raffles. Click here for more information, OK?
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