Tour of California PostMortem

02.23.2009 | 4:12 pm

A Note from Fatty: This is one of those weird “What is this entry doing in this blog” entries, where instead of fake news or fart jokes, I actually talk about what I’m thinking.

I apologize in advance, and thank you for your indulgence, also in advance.

The Tour of California wasn’t just a comeback event for a bunch of well-known pro cyclists; it was a comeback race for me. I haven’t watched a professional bike with anything but mild curiosity since Floyd Landis got suspended.

Well, I guess a couple years off was enough; I really got invested in this race. And now that it’s over, I have a few comments. A few are about the race and racers, some are about myself, and some are about the media.

And all of it is hereby presented in the order it occurs to me.

The Non-Clash of the Titans

If a year ago you would have asked me what my greatest regret for the universe of pro cycling was, it would have been that there would never be a matchup between Armstrong, Basso, Landis, Hamilton, and Ulrich.

But last week, there they all were. Except Ulrich, of course.

So I started developing this fantasy where all of them, on the last big climb of the last day, would drop the rest of the field and battle it up for supremacy at the big summit.

Oh, also, in my fantasy, Ulrich surprises everyone at the base of the climb by jumping out from behind the boulder and contesting the climb along with the rest of them.

Hey, it’s my fantasy.

In reality, though, none of that happened. Armstrong rode for Leipheimer, Landis attacked but without conviction, Hamilton was out of shape, and Basso dropped out of the race, complaining of a sore goiter. Or something like that.

I’m hoping for something a lot more chaotic and intense in Italy in a couple months.

Lots of People Are Very Cool

At 3:53pm during the race prologue, I made an offhanded remark that would snowball in an awesome way. Specifically, I liveblogged:

Hey, there’s Bob Roll. Hi, Bob! Your voice is cracking. Also, it’s time for you to get rid of that little fin of hair on the top of your head.

That evening, I talked with Scot Nicol (AKA Chuck Ibis), founder of Ibis Cycles. Scot was working with Bob Roll, doing secret man-on-the-inside stuff.

Together we hatched a plan. I’d set up a LiveStrong challenge page for Bob, and then Scot would ask Bob whether he would shave his head if we raised $5000 to fight cancer.

Bob said yes immediately.

Lots of people and publications spread the word, and Bob raised over $8500 as part of Team Fatty: Fighting for Susan. And Bob got his head shaved, by Bruyneel, on camera.

We’ll be sending out prizes to a few lucky contributors — signed jerseys, bags o’ schwag — but a few of you got an even cooler prize: Bob Roll recorded you an outgoing voicemail message you can use on your phone.

Oh, and he recorded one for me too.

The Amgen Tour Tracker Was Awesome

I don’t think I have ever seen a cooler, more useful web app than the Amgen Tour Tracker. Video! Real-time course and elevation chart mapping! Text updates! Everything a fan could want.

To Amgen, the ATOC organizers, the developers, and the people who maintained that site: congratulations on an incredible and useful site.

I really, really, really hope that the Giro and Tour organizers do something similar. Really really.

Versus Needs to Understand Its Audience Better

I’m really glad that the Tour of California was broadcast on television. And I think Versus did a pretty good job of handling the broadcast duties.

And based on the frequency and duration of the ads during each stage, I’d say Versus got what it wanted out of this race, too. In which case, they probably don’t care about my gripes. Which I am going to enumerate anyway.

First, let’s talk about Craig Hummer. Giving someone like Craig Hummer — someone who doesn’t really know much about cycling — a microphone isn’t by itself a bad idea. That person’s job, however, should be to ask the experts — Phil and Paul — the questions that other people new to the sport might ask.

That person’s job should not be to act as if he knew what was going on. By making wrongheaded, rookie-level assertions, he just confuses the audience, embarrasses himself, and forces Phil and Paul to constantly decide whether it’s worth it to correct Hummer on-air.

Until he can at least sorta-kinda pronounce “palmares,” Hummer needs to take the role of attentive apprentice during the broadcast, and leave the pronouncements of what’s going on in Lance’s head to Phil and Paul.

Second, let’s talk about Rasika Mathur. While the choice of Hummer as co-anchor is defensible, the choice of improvisational actor Rasika Mathur to do comedy spots on cycling is not.

I think I get what Versus was after here, at least on paper: a young woman brings some moments of humor to an event otherwise dominated by serious, uptight men. Hopefully.

The thing is, though, in order to lampoon something, you have to understand it. Then, if you make fun of it well, it’s funny at a couple of levels. People on the outside recognize the quirks they see in cyclists they know and see on the street and laugh at the common experience.

Meanwhile, people who are on the inside get it and laugh at themselves.

In this case, though, the whole joke seemed to be that Rasika knew nothing at all about cycling. And so she marveled that it was easier to turn the cranks when you shift into a lower gear (something every child with a 3-speed, and every adult who has been in an automobile already knows), asked sexist questions designed to make people uncomfortable, and did an impression of Lance Armstrong that seemed much more like she was doing an impression of Mick Jagger.

There are people who can poke fun at cycling perfectly well. Versus should hire The Metal Cowboy. Or Bike Snob NYC. Or Captain Dondo, for crying out loud.

Or, here’s a wacky idea: how about Bob Roll, who you’ve got on staff anyway?

The bottom line is: If you’re going to hire someone to be topically funny, you need to ensure that the funny person knows enough to be topical.

Rasika was neither topical, nor funny.

I Am Unnecessary

I kind of stumbled into the whole “liveblog” thing. I was sick (yes really) almost the entire week, staying home from work. So I got in a lot of TV. And I thought, “might as well try liveblogging it.”

The thing is, I had a lot of fun doing that, but — let’s face it — I certainly don’t know enough about pro cycling to predict who is going to win a given stage. In fact, I seem to not even know enough to predict what kind of rider is going to win.

Still, though. I think I might try it again. Not the whole stage race, but certain stages.

And now I need a couple of days off.

PS: I’m very interested in your impressions and reactions to the Tour of California, even if you disagree. Though I may edit your comments so that it seems like you actually do agree with me.


Tour of California LiveBlog: Stage 8, Rancho Bernardo – Escondido

02.22.2009 | 4:17 pm

Today’s stage has a big ol’ monster climb — about 5000 feet in tennish miles. At least, that’s what it looks like when I eyeball the topo chart for the day.

And that summit would be the end of the stage, if there were any justice in the world. But instead, there’s a big descent down the other side of the climb, a couple of smaller climbs, and then a chance for everyone to catch up at the end of the stage so that the guy who shows he’s the strongest climber doesn’t get to win the stage.

Seriously, why no mountaintop finishes?

Housekeeping Awesomeness

Al Maviva will be joining me for liveblogging today, which means you can expect a lot of liveblogging weirdness this afternoon.

I’m looking forward to it.

Also, I wanted to post a photo Matt sent me yesterday from near the finish line in Pasadena.


I like this so much that it’s my new site banner. Thanks, Matt!

LiveBlogging begins at rrrrrrrightnow.

1:53 I’m starting a few minutes early because it looks to me like Team Ouch is setting itself up to catapult Landis forward for this current climb.

I can’t help myself, I’m hoping for a giant kamikaze ride for glory from Landis. We’ve seen it happen before, and it was one of the most glorious stages I have ever seen.

1:55 Team OUCH has separated from the main peloton and is trying to bridge to the large breakaway, which is about 40 seconds up.

1:56 Up front, the breakaway group has splintered.

Floyd has shed his his teammates and is trying to bridge.

This is my favorite kind of bike race.

1:58 I wonder what went into the decisions to tiptoe around the fact that Landis was suspended. "Floyd is back from his time off," etc. You know that this was a concious decision. I’d love to know how they arrived at it.

2:00 Floyd’s caught the back splinter of the breakaway. Now we’ll see if he can recover for a second and leap to the next.

2:01 When Al gets here, I have a question for him: where has Ivan Basso been for THIS ENTIRE RACE? Is he even in it anymore?

2:02 The front group of four have crossed the top of Lk. Wolford road. Not caught on film.

2:04 Frankie and Joe are interviewing someone, but they have chosen to not give her a microphone. Hilarity ensues as they ask a question and then there’s the sound of dead air for twenty seconds.

2:05 The lead four of the breakaway are thirty seconds out front. The rest (including Floyd? I think) are back in the Peloton. Alas.

2:08 Here are the four people left in the breakaway, copy / pasted from CyclingNews: Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank), Jason McCartney (Team Saxo Bank), Serge Pauwels (Cervélo TestTeam) and Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell Pro Cycling).

2:09 Joe Silva prounounces Liquigas as LIH-kwi-gas. Frankie pronounces it LEE-kee-gas. I’m pretty sure Frankie’s right, but they should confer among themselves and go one way or another.

2:12 The lead group is now 3 people. Schleck is exploring other options.

2:15 Check out the photo Scot Nicol just sent me!

I love this. Love it love it love it.

And here’s one of Scot and Bob together.

This seems like a good moment to mention that Bob’s LiveStrong Fundraising page ( has raised $8365way more than the $5000 we originally targeted.

I am incredibly pleased to have Bob Roll on Team Fatty.

Also, I need to give double-plus props to Scot Nicol of Ibis Cycles. While I’ve been sitting and writing here at home, Scot’s been working his butt off and making this happen.

Chuck Ibis may be the clown prince of bike manufacturers, but he’s got a heart of gold.

Thanks, Scot!

2:26 OK, we’re now at the base of the big climb of the day.

2:28 The lead group is # Jason Mccartney (Team Saxo Bank), Serge Pauwels (Cervélo TestTeam), Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell Pro Cycling), Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank), Stef Clement (Rabobank), Carlos Barredo (Quick Step), Mathias Frank (BMC Racing Team) and has 1:20 over the peloton.

Has Schleck been in every single breakaway during this tour? Schleck is the new Vinokourov.

2:29 No implication meant by that, Andy.

2:30 The Palomar climb is about twelve miles long, with about 4300 feet of climbing.

This should be fun to watch.

Racers should summit just about the time Versus coverage begins. Sheesh.

2:32 And that reminds me, I should — once again — give big kudos to the folks who built and serve content to the Tour of California tracker on the web: It’s got video (including the option to switch which camera you’re looking at), textual play-by-play, a real-time topo chart, info on who’s in the breakaways, and a course map. Speed, distance, everything’s there.

Really, it’s just incredible. I believe this was created by Adobe, in which case: Very nice work, Adobe!

2:37 Lead group has about 1:45 over the peloton and is working together.

Attack, darn you!

2:46 Needed to take a minute to help Susan move out to the family room so she can watch the TV coverage with me.

Did I miss anything?

2:47 The lead group has about 2:35 on the peloton.

Wasn’t Floyd supposed to be making a big power play today?

2:49 Cavendish has begun riding backward. Rumor has it that he has lost interest in the climb.

2:50 The breakaway is riding a 6.x% degree climb at 13+ mph.


2:51 A streaker wearing a big wig and nothing else is shown onscreen running up alongside the lead group. Frankie and Joe giggle.

2:52 1:45 gap.

2:54 I’m surprised at how un-attacky the lead group has been. Nobody’s going to take a flyer?

2:55 Here are the folks leading the race. c/p CyclingNews: Jason Mccartney (Team Saxo Bank), Serge Pauwels (Cervélo TestTeam), Ben Jacques-Maynes (Bissell Pro Cycling), Andy Schleck (Team Saxo Bank), Stef Clement (Rabobank), Carlos Barredo (Quick Step), Mathias Frank (BMC Racing Team)

2:56 Barredo and Pawels lose the break.

2:57: Sevilla rides off the front of the peloton. Floyd’s with him.

Frank Schleck, too.

3:00 If Al Maviva doesn’t show up soon, he’s going to incur a demerit.

3:01 That Sevilla / Schleck / Landis thing evidently didn’t work out.

Try, try again?

3:02 Many people have asked me how I’m going to follow up the Shave Bob Roll’s Head fundraising stunt.

Well, how much would you pay to have a chance at Craig Hummer and a dunk tank?

I’d pay quite a lot.

3:04 5K to the summit, with the leaders gapping the peloton by 1:10.

3:06 On the television, Paul and Phil are talking about the big climb today as if it weren’t almost over. Which is to say, they’re talking about the most important part of the stage, instead of showing it.

Sorry Versus, but you’ve got to learn to break format when something big’s happening.

Now they’re talking about Boonen and Armstrong, two complete non-players today.

3:09 Why look, I’m not talking about the race right now either. ‘Course, nobody’s really expecting me to deliver actual information.

3:10 Down to fewer than 5K left to the top of Palomar.

3:12 Leipheimer is no longer protected by his team. he’s riding off the front of the Peloton with Rogers and Zabriskie.

Can they bridge?

3:13 We’re at the first set of ads from Versus before they show any racing, and we’re right at the end of the big climb.

3:14 If Leipheimer and Zabriskie were to try to bridge, I’d have a rough time typing, what with the whooping and hollering.

3:15 And Al has joined me! He was reluctant to leave the kitchen.

3:16 (Al) So Elden, seeing this is the world’s greatest training race series, I haven’t been paying close attention. I heard that cyclist chap, Lance Armstrong, may be making a comeback. Care to bring me up to speed?

3:20 Yeah, Al, I understand he’s a promising young rider with a bright future.

3:23 Is it actually possible that Leipheimer and Zabriskie have bridged?

(Al) I tune into 20 minutes of the ATOC, and it’s in the middle of the biggest hill in the whole race.

This is like Dracula walking into the supermarket only to stumble onto an enormous garlic sale right in front of the door.

3:24 Oh good. Ads! That’s good, because I didn’t want to see how the summit of the big climb works out.

3:25 (Al) I wonder if we get the same ads. I’m getting these ads for G4, which, near as I can figure, is run by a bunch of Intel interns on their lunch hour. Like it’s the Gamer network or something. As if gamers would be watching television…

3:26 I get to watch the Castor Oil ad. And a hair-loss ad.

I have a suggestion. Go bald gracefully, live with it. Sheesh.

3:27 (Al) Hmmm… here’s the rodeo. Tic tacs. An ad for McDonalds featuring distance runners. Motor oil with a Scotsman whipping the spokesman… Bosley hair replacement. Yeah, they got the cycling demographic nailed there.

Perfect. We saw ads while the leaders crossed the summit.

(Al) Now we’re back in time for the helicopter to lose track of the leaders on the descent.

3:28 Really, an interview with Lance? Have they decided to not cover the race today?

(Al) Hey, there’s an interview with Lance. Apparently he’s racing again. Who knew?

3:29 (AL) I love the riders on Saxobank but that team name is just one excited Phil Liggett verbal slip away from getting the team banned in the middle east.

3:31? I’m getting a weird time distortion thing here. Is Versus on a time delay here?

(Al) Wife to me: "Was that a naked man chasing the pack up the hill?"
Me to wife: "I dunno. It wasn’t anybody we know, was it?"
If you knew my friends, my "core group," you’d understand why that is a plausible question.

3:32 (AL) Time distortion? I know there’s a 15-30 second gap between east and west coast network broadcasts. Kind of like a doomed breakaway in the last 5k.

Me: No, I mean that on Versus they’re climbing. On the web, everyone’s descending.

3:35 (Al) So has anybody on Versus mentioned that this is basically a training race for the BigBoyTour riders? That their season doesn’t begin until la Primavera, Milan-San Remo?

ME: yeah, definitely a big time delay going on here. On Versus, Sevilla is just making his move — the one I talked about minutes ago.

AL: They probably have to run on time delay in case Bob Roll sees something exciting in his roving reporter position and starts dropping F-bombs.

3:36 Al I see Tim in comments says he’d like to see Jens derail the Astana team, for no apparent reason. Ironically enough, that’s exactly why Jens usually launches an attack – no apparent reason.

AL: I respect Bobke’s achievements; along with all the great riding, I respect him for strangling his internal censor and burying it in a shallow grave.

3:38 AL HBO could have an R-Rated series about cycling and call it "Fredwood." Bob could star as the Al Swearengen-type character.

3:40 OK, we’re going to go with the Versus timeline for now, and I’ll cope with my massive cognitive dissonance at a future time.

3:42 (Al) Man, isn’t it sick seeing Astana taking charge on the hills? Having 1-2 riders to shepherd a guy is impressive, but when you have a 6 rider train, as if it was a bunch sprint up the hill…

3:43 (Al) You can climb Elden – at least your mini-me version can. Can you launch accelerations and punish your friends? Or are you a grinder like Leipheimer – no acceleration but capable of just steadily motoring up a hill?

Me: By way of answer, let me just say what my climbing chant is: "I am Ulrich."

3:45 OK, Zabriskie, Leipheimer, Schleck grinding up to the top.

I’m getting a weird sense of deja vu.

3:46 Al Knowing that a lot of these guys train together in the off-season, how many times in his career do you think Zabriskie has ridden up this particular hill on Leipheimer’s wheel? Do you think they’re getting to a point where Zabriskie is thinking, "I know he’s going
3:46 to try something just up around this next turn…?

Of course knowing Zabriskie it’s highly probable he’s thinking about something totally random.

3:47 Phil’s talking about "the slightly built Levi Leipheimer."

When you combine that with how his wife was comparing Levi to a chihuahua, Levi’s going to get a complex.

3:49 Al I’m surprised he didn’t call him "nearly bald Levi Leipheimer."
"Multiple riders are a threat to Levi Leipheimer." True, but in most races, Levi is the biggest threat to Levi. He seems to undo himself in the grand tours with exceedingly cautious riding; he doesn’t seem to have the confidence to attack whe others are hurting and could be decisively dropped.

3:50 So where’s Armstrong? Shouldn’t he be launching Leipheimer?

3:51 (Al) Sherwen: "The reason [the Schlecks] are so good is because they will fight." By "fight," Sherwen means Andy and Frank will pedal harder. If either of them actually threw a punch, their upper bodies would probably shatter.

3:52 Hummer says Levi’s showing no emotion, like Armstrong. Phil and Paul, in unison, say, "Uh, no."

3:53 Al: "Lance is looking comfortable." No he isn’t, folks. Look at the face, that’s the rictus of Lance’s race face. He isn’t in agony, but it’s early in the season, he isn’t all that fit yet, and it hurts to try to stick with guys who are superb natural climbers. If Lance was comfortable he’d be looking around and not glued to the rivet.

3:55 Al: "Jens Voigt snapping on the pedals up front just to remind you who’s boss." That’s why I love Phil.

3:56 Al The guy with the horns! The guy with the horns! The guy with the horns! He may be a schlub Cat 3, but he has a good start on becoming the Sidi Zenft of U.S. cycling. For what that’s worth.

3:57 Incredibly narrow alley for the riders.

3:58 Annd we go to ads. I think it’s pretty clear that Al types approximately three times as fast as I do.

What all of you readers don’t see is that I’m only posting 20% of his comments.

Al: Hummer just asked a good question of Sherwen about whether Levi has done enough to win. That’s a good good non-racer questions and teed things up nicely for Sherwen. Trautwig would never show humility and that’s what grated worst.

If I was the producer I’d tell Hummer to ask lots of questions and stay humble. It would work to clue in the everyman, and make the tifosi happy by getting some technical discussions out into the open – kind of like how John Tesh is a halfway decent gymnastics commenter.

4:01 He is?

No way. It’s Michael Ball. Says the man who has "F@K Off" printed on his team knickers, "We’re not here to be arrogant.

4:02 (Al) Hummer didn’t pay me to say that. I’m still suffering from PTSD – Post Trautwig Slavering Disorder. Every time Trautwig started his "I’m ignorant and you’ll like it" routine I’d start screaming at the TV set. It was like Cosell, except without Cosell’s intelligence or insight.

4:03 Annd we go to ads.

I never get sick of that unicycle ad. I want a unicycle.

4:05 (Al) I saw a Basso question. I won’t speculate. I love the races and a lot of the racers but the prevalence of doping makes me suspect every fishy excuse for leaving a race. Funny how many guys drop out, even at the high amateur / low pro level, when the USADA guys. show up.

Al: You’d die if you had a unicycle. Or you’d have an excuse for a whole new blog where you make fun of yourself. "Fat Injured Unicyclist." I think it’d work.

ME: I am heading off to reserve the domain RIGHTNOW.

4:06 We’re back! 4 guys up front, with a good-sized group (including Leipheimer) about a minute behind.

Annnd we go to Bob Roll. Hey, where’d that hair come from?

4:08 OK, so we’ve got a big descent left, with a bump of a climb in between.

I feel an anticlimactic conclusion coming.

4:12 Al’s keyboard has melted and will return shortly. I mean Al, not his keyboard.

4:13 (Al) I like that Pepsi ad with Dylan and Tight Eyez. Nice re-working, reminds me a little of Kid Rock re-doing some rap songs – he usually goes a little krump too.

4:14 Nobody’s told Hummer how to pronounce "Palmares" yet.

4:15 OK, at this point, apart from a massive pileup or a terrible case of ennui, is there any way Levi can lose this race?

4:16 (Al) Nice explanation of stage racing timing there. Mainly for the podium girls. The ATOC girls could almost give the Giro d’Italia podium girls a run for their money. Almost. But not quite.

Al: Dude, this is Levi you’re talking about. Don’t even say stuff like that.

4:17 I’m thinking of opening an account at Rabobank. Just so I have frequent excuses to say "Rabobank!"

Al Ad for Rabobank. Awesome. Safe. Secure. Growing. What I want to know is if they’ll give a loan to help some people bail out from this loan they’re way under water on.

They had no idea when they took it out that they’d have to repay the $6 trillion dollars. No idea whatsoever. Now they’re looking for a re-fi.

4:19 Four leaders working on killing each other in the final climb of the day.

4:20 (Al) In comments: ~ where’s Danielson? Um, I hate to break the news to you, but he’s modeling his career on Levi’s. He’s not going to attack until he’s 32.

4:21 Schleck and Nibali have shed the other two leaders.

I’m going on record as rooting for Schleck. But I’m not super excited about it.

Al: Andy Schleck – throwin’ down. "Hey, check this out. You think you can climb? Let’s dance, fatboys!"

4:23 (Al) Nibali could break away and win the race but the thing I’d remember would be him looking over at the Sumo suit, stunned like he’d been hit with a cattle prod.

Me: You know, I once got paid to wear a Sumo suit. At a trade show. That’s a story for another day, though.

Although I will tease with the fact that I did actually wrestle people as part of my job.

And I was in my 30’s.

4:26 Now might be a good time for me to mention that we’re going to give away some very cool prizes to some randomly lucky people who donated to the Bob Roll LiveStrong page.

For example, today Bob Roll recorded outgoing voicemail messages for three of you. I haven’t heard back from 2 of the 3 people who won this prize, so you might want to check your voicemail.

Oh yeah, I asked him to do one of those messages for me, too.

It’s not too late to donate and maybe win some other cool prizes. Click here to donate to the Shave Bob’s Head LiveStrong Challenge page

4:32 Al: Nibali and Schleck aren’t any GC danger right now – Nibali is 2:21 down on Leipheimer and Andy Schleck is down 19:00.

4:33 You know, Versus is not doing a great job of clueing us in as to where everyone is in relation to each other. How far ahead is the lead group? We don’t know from the TV, and I can’t check on the web because of the time delay.

4:34 Al: So it’s not too soon to talk about looking forward. Show of hands – who is really interested to see how Lance does in the Giro?

Me: I am. A lot. Can we get the same people who did the ToC Tracker do a website for the Giro?

Al: The Giro is the racers & hardcore tifosi’s grand tour – the promoter isn’t tradition bounds so you see crazy stages (25% grades, dirt road mountain climbs) and fans that bleed love for the race.

Me: I don’t bleed love, but I DO ooze. I’m oozing right now. Going to go fetch a paper towel to clean it up.

Al: I know he was always about the TdF but it makes me a little sad he didn’t give himself the chance to enjoy the Giro before now. The Italians and their love of roadracing… it’s like the forklift and the fiat, Luigi and Guido in "Cars."

Me: I can’t believe you know the name of the characters in that movie. That was the only lame Pixar movie. How did it get made? The whole thing looked like a Chevron ad.

4:38 Al: In comments – BigBoned says "My prediction is that Lance abandons at the Giro…" I disagree. He’s always trained for the TdF by doing mountain repeats, and the first and last week are just that. Plus the speeds between mountains are lower in the Giro. They ride a lot of "piano" and then ride really hard on the hills. Different tempo than the TdF.

Me: Lance won’t abandon the Giro. I think he’ll podium.

4:41 Al: I liked Cars. It said a lot of important things about preserving the good parts of the past, community, etc. Plus I was hot for the Porsche. Didn’t she play Al Bundy’s wife in Married with Children?

4:42 This stage should have ended half an hour ago. Kind of a lame end to what’s been a very exciting race.

Al: You’re right about needing a mountain top finish. It looks like the organizers have tried to make it really friendly for casual spectators, hence the in-town finishes and no mountain top. Palomar pretty much begs for it, no?

Al: I liked Cars. It said a lot of important things about preserving the good parts of the past, community, etc. Plus I was hot for the Porsche. Didn’t she play Al Bundy’s wife in Married with Children?

Me: OK, I’m going to go on record as having overreacted re: Cars. However, it was strictly OK, as opposed to fantastic. It’s hard to even believe that the same people that made Wall-e also made Cars.

And it also goes to show how exciting this stage is that we’re now talking about the relative merits of animated movies.

4:46 We go to ads with Nibali and Schleck ahead of the Peloton.

I will personally buy any racer who shakes this thing up a pizza.

4:47 Al: The gap between domestic pros and the BigBoyTour is really clear right now. Take a look at the finishing order of the GC and the stage today. As of yesterday, the closest the true domestic teams are getting to the GC podium is Jelly Belly domestic pros, Reistad and Reijnen, in 13th and 14th. BMC doesn’t count as purely domestic any more, nor does Rock Racing with its roster of many old ProTour pros.

Me: Sure, but the racing has been a lot of fun to follow.

4:50 Hummer observes that the riders were going a lot slower when they were climbing than when they descend.

Thanks for the beta, Craig.

4:53 (Al): I like the scenery but now that they’re into Escondido…

Al: Lay offa Craig, willya? He’s trying which is about 200% more than Trautwig ever did. And then some.

I’d like to see something for the TdF where Bob Roll takes Hummer out drinking, and generally causes a ruckus, Bobke style. It has enormous "odd couple" appeal.

Maybe Bobke goes riding bikes with Hummer… it would be nice filler for the flat TdF stages – Bobke killing Hummer on Alpe d’Huez, for instance…

4:56 Just six miles to go. Schleck and Nibali about one minute ahead of the peloton.

So, in the absence of a catastrophe, Levi will win the Tour.

So, let’s consider what it would take for Levi to lose.

  • Wrong turn!
  • Serious and very sudden gastric distress due to bad sushi distributed by a malicious fan!
  • Body check by the entire Rock Racing Team, under the direction of Michael Ball
  • Spontaneous combustion!

Al: Well hey, I have to sign off for the evening. It’s been great fun, but I have to go cook some dinner. Thanks for the chance to liveblog Elden and to interact with your tifosi.

Me: Thanks, Al. Enjoy your buffalo schnitzel.

5:02 Schleck comes around Nibali and kills the stage. Very nice.

Levi wins the tour.

He couldn’t have done it without me.

OK, maybe he could have.

5:06 That’s it for me. Thanks for reading what has been my wordiest week ever!

Tour of California LiveBlog: Stage 7: Santa Clarita – Pasadena

02.21.2009 | 4:00 pm

Susan’s sitting here by me, making bracelets — I’ll show some photos soon. I’m sitting here, eating a turkey and avocado sandwich (with, of course, Gulden’s Spicy Brown Mustard).

Seems like a good opportunity to do a liveblog.

3:05 While Phil and Paul talk about today’s stage, here’s a photo of Fat Cyclist reader Karyn at the Pasadena finish line:

Karyn says she “Met another Fatty who saw my jersey and said hello.” Yes, we are just one or two steps away from world domination.

3:08 It looks like the broadcast begins pretty much right as the peloton crests the summit of the big climb. Which means they’re getting into the broadcast right after the part that I care about.


3:11 The “Breakaway from Cancer” commercial just aired again, making Susan cry — and not in a “how touching” way, but more in a really crappy lousy way. When this woman perkily talks about how she’s “not a survivor, [she's] a THRIVER,” does the Breakaway from Cancer foundation consider that there might be some cancer patients out there who AREN’T thriving, and who might NOT get to go outside and play basketball with their children?

Seriously, Breakaway from Cancer people, shame on you for not thinking about how PEOPLE WHO HAVE CANCER might feel about your unrealistic, idealistic ads and how they portray what life with cancer looks like.

3:12 OK, I’m calm again.

3:18 Looks like there’s a breakaway with quite a few people in it, including George Hincapie. As a rule, anytime George does anything, I root for him.

That said, a two minute gap with a mostly downhill road doesn’t sound super promising to me. Am I missing something?

3:19 You know, if there were one thing I’d change about this race — not the coverage, but the course itself — it would be to add a mountaintop finish. I love mountaintop finishes, where the the strongest climber wins the stage. With stages like this, the climbers get to the top, only to be overtaiken by the peloton by the end.

It makes me sad.

So here’s my big question for the day: what is your favorite kind of way for a stage to end? Mountaintop? Bunch sprint?

3:26 Armstrong has flatted. He uses his heat vision to seal the puncture, then inflates the tire with his super breath. He never slows down.

Wow, I’m beginning to think there’s something different about this guy.

3:29 Tim comments that his favorite kind of a stage finish is:

With a breakaway powering away and holding the peleton off. Especially if it is a solo all day suicide break, a la Jacky Durand. Jacky Durand is my hero.

Yeah, I love those suicide breaks, too. And if it’s a suicide break up with a mountaintop finish, I’m in heaven.

3:30 Here’s something I think longtime Fat Cyclist readers will be excited about: in tomorrow’s stage, AL MAVIVA will be joining me for liveblogging duties.

It’ll be interesting to see if I can get a word in edgewise.

3:32 Bob Roll is is talking about the Shimano electronic groupo. I love the fact that we can now easily tell which pieces he filmes a while ago, because he still has hair.

I’m not alone in thinking that Bob looks much, much better without that scruffy tuft of fluff, right?

3:33 Seriously, already at ads?

3:34 A “No Fear” energy drink is followed by an ad for 5-Hour Energy, which talks about how bad all the sugar in those energy drinks is. I’m sure the No Fear energy drink people don’t have any problem with that, though.

As an aside, during the one summer I worked as a midnight – 6am DJ, the only time I ever got into trouble was when I ran Coors and Budweiser commercials back to back.

3:36 Mancebo is down. He’s crashed into the loose scree on the downhill.

3:37 Everytime I see a crash like that, it screws up my descending for years.

Yeah, I just made Mancebo’s crash about me. Can’t help myself.

3:38 Paul’s doing a “Breakaway 101″ bit. It’s really good and informative — something I think someone new to the sport would really understand. This underscores my belief that Versus DOES NOT NEED non-cyclist types — Hummer, Mathur — to appeal to the people new to the sport.

Phil and Paul do an excellent job describing the mechanics of the race, whether you’re new to cycling, or a huge cycling nerd.

3:41 My Monday post, by the way, will be a post about Rasika Mathur, the improv comedienne who’s been doing those bits we’ve all been enjoying so much.

I expect Rasika will not be ordering a Fat Cyclist jersey once she reads what I have to say.

3:44 Lotsa people in the back of the peloton crashed on the downhill.

3:45 The lead group is staying away pretty darned well. 4:20.

I would like to go on record as endorsing the likelihood of a Hincapie stage win.

3:46 I’m thinking about those big crashes happening on the downhill. Man, I hate having anyone even remotely close to me when I’m doing a fast road downhill. A fast downhill road crash is much scarier to me than a mountain bike crash.

3:49 Hummer pronounces palmares as “palm-airs.” I love this guy.

3:54 Gap’s down to 3:25. Team Astana doesn’t care about the chase group. Why should they? I’d guess, in fact, that they’re kinda excited about the idea of George taking a stage.

4:03 Vaughters is going to be talking with Phil, Paul, and the other guy after this break. My guess is that Vaughters will be nattily dressed.

4:06 The break has split up. Vand De Velde didn’t make it into the lead group.

4:07 Vaughters says that he wishes Zabriskie would have won yesterday’s TT.


4:08 Lead group is doing a lot of mini-attacks. Seems to me this plays into Hincapie’s favor. That dude’s seen it all.

4:09 For those of you who like actual information in your liveblogs, well first of all: what are you doing here? Second, here’s who’s in the front breakaway group, copy/pasted from CyclingNews: Rinaldo Nocentini (AG2R La Mondiale), Markus Zberg (BMC Racing Team), George Hincapie (Team Columbia – Highroad), Fränk Schleck (Team Saxo Bank) and Hayden Roulston (Cervélo TestTeam).

4:11 Vaughters agrees with Paul that the breakaway will succeed. of course High Road (Hincapie’s team) wants it to work, and Astana doesn’t care as long as it doesn’t get to far ahead (right now it’s right at 3:15).

4:12 Vaughters points out that as long as Van de Velde stays close to the front breakaway, Garmin/Slipstream has a shot at the team classification.

I’m disappointed that they didn’t show Vaughters, because I would have really liked to have gotten some outfit ideas.

4:15 You people have no idea how disappointed I am that nobody has, in two days, commented on the change in my banner.

4:15 Hummer called palmares “palm-airs” again. I wonder if Phil and Paul have a headache at the end of the day from rolling their eyes so often.

Or maybe Hummer asked Bob Roll how to pronounce the word.

4:17 Nice attack off the front! Zberg, George, Schleck stick.

4:19 And Schleck is off the front!

4:20 I know I’m on-record as being pro-George, but that was a hardcore move by Schleck. If he can make that stick, I’m all for him winning.

4:21 Oh, don’t go to ads! C’mon Versus.

If the stage ends during ads, I am going to write a very sternly-worded open letter.

4:23 Versus, when you do stuff like this, you lose me to the Web.

4:24 The breakaway has caught Schleck. ‘Course, we didn’t see it, because we were watching ads.

4:25 This is the last lap for the lead riders. So one of the lead group will definitely win.

1 KM to go!

4:26 Roulston (CTT) and Weening (Rabobank) are up front. Uh, George? You’re running out of time.

4:27 Boonen, Weening, Elmiger, Zbero lead.

4:28 Why are they showing Leipheimer!?!

4:29 Attack by Vandevelde and Schleck. Hincapie bridges.

4:30 Paul says Hincapie has a diesel engine. I thought that Jan had patented that.

4:31 Weening goes. Looks good.

Nocentini chases.

4:32 Nocentinie, Weening, Roulston up front. They look pretty cooked, tho.

4:33 Chase group trying to catch up. All 7 together.

15 seconds back.

4:34 Evidently I was way wrong about 1Km to go a while back. I should avoid smoking crack when liveblogging.

4:35 1K for real now. Seriously.

4:36 Weening, Nocentine, Roulston.

4:37 I cannot tell who won. Nocentine thinks it was him.

4:38 Nocentini was right. He did win, by like a quarter inch.

That was a really terrific 3-way battle in the straightaway. Those 3 duked it out old-school.

Big ol’ drag race finish.

4:39 And the peloton comes in.

And I’m just happy Versus didn’t go to ads as the led group battled it out for the win.

4:48 Check out some of the bracelets Susan’s been working on.


We’ll be sending out about 35 of these bracelets on Monday.

4:51 Podium presentations. Bob Roll talks with Levi. I would hesitate to call it a news-packed interview.

4:53 That’s it for me. Join me and Al Maviva tomorrow for the final stage. And, oddly enough, for my final LiveBlog.

BOBKE GETS SHAVED! + Tour of California LiveBlog: Stage 5, Visalia – Paso Robles

02.19.2009 | 4:37 pm

Yeah, I know I said I wasn’t going to Liveblog today’s stage, but I’m fickle.

2:43 I’m just catching up with the part of the stage I’ve got recorded — and there’s Bobke getting shaved on Versus! Please please please someone tell me they’ve got that moved over to YouTube. And then get me a URL.

Watch the Video!

2:45 For those of you who can’t watch it on YouTube, here’s what goes on.

Hummer (voice over) Speaking of LiveStrong, Bob Roll put out the call to his fans, his people that follow his every beck and call. He said if you can get five thousand donated to LiveStrong, I will shave my head.

And believe it or not, this morning at the Astana bus, that’s what happened.


Bob Roll: Earlier in the week an issue was challenged that if we could raise 5K, that I would have my head shaved.

Bob Roll: I didn’t say who, but wanted to find the steadiest hands in the peloton…

Lance: Have you ever been bald before?

Bob: No, never.

Johan Bruyneel: It’s about to happen.

Bob: Yeah, we’ve raised the money, so it’s about to happen right now. Johan Bruyneel will do the honors. And I have a very good witness also [looks at Lance]. Go ahead, I’m ready!

And then the shaving commences…




Armstrong (concerned): Ahhhhh.

Bob (now half bald): And good luck on today’s stage. What do anticipate?

Armstrong: I can’t talk to you today. Maybe tomorrow! (Laughs and walks away)

Hummer (voiceover): Lance had to put the sunglasses on to protect his eyes of Bob Roll. You can go to to make your donation — maybe it’s just to buy Bobke a hat, so we don’t have to look at that ever again. But a great cause indeed and Bob Roll’s always up for a good cause himself.

Yay, awesome! I’m going to put pics up in just a minute, and I’ll get a YouTube of it up as soon as someone can let me know it’s available.

3:07 I’ll get back to the LiveBlogging once I get the photos up and otherwise continue talking about this.


On TV you can’t really tell, but there is a massive crowd gathered around to watch (following two pictures taken from Astana site):



4:13: OK, I’m having a hard time getting caught up today, because I keep seeing stuff like this:


Evidently, Johan missed a spot!

Or, really, a stripe.

4:20 You know, I shouldn’t even call this a liveblog of the stage. I’m just liveblogging my excitement about how a bunch of us got together, raised a bunch of money to fight cancer, and got one of the coolest, funniest, nicest guys in cycling journalism to shave his head on TV.

And also, it’s very cool to have Scot sending me a picture of a woman at the Tour wearing a Team Fatty jersey. That’s Rosemary — a Friend of Fatty — heading off to get a signature on a jersey, to auction/raffle to raise money for her own Team Fatty LiveStrong Challenge, by the way. Go Ro!


Hey, that looks like a Banjo Brothers messenger bag, too. Awesome!

4:31 And now a nice head-and-shoulders shot of Bob, with his new hair:


Once he gets it cleaned up, it’s going to look just fine. It’s a good look for him.

Seriously, it is.

4:38 Ok, I totally failed to Liveblog this. Can you blame me?

4:39 Cavendish in a two-fer. Good for him!

4:47 Bobke asks Leipheimer what he thinks of his new look. Leipheimer replies (accurately), “It’s a little rough; I’ll give you some tips.” Ha!

Scot sends this photo:


PS: In an interview with Frankie Andreau on the remarkably sophisticated Amgen Tour of California Tracker site, Bob referred to my blog as “fatty cycles dot com.” OK. Fine. just happened to be available, and now it points…here.

Tour of California LiveBlog: Stage 4, Merced to Clovis

02.18.2009 | 3:28 pm

This should be one of the most exciting stages of the whole Tour. A 105 mile course, with what looks like around 6,000 feet of climbing (I just pulled that number out of my butt), and a big ol 35 mile working descent to the finish line.

Sounds like a job for a strong GC guy.

My liveblogging will be even lamer than usual today, because I’ve got other fish to fry.

Check me out, trying to lower your expectations in spite of the fact that you expect me to be pretty darned lame.

First though, how about that Velonews live coverage shout out?

Ibis Cycles’ Scot Nicol, an old friend of the VeloNews gang, has been working with Elden “Fatty” Nelson to raise money for the Lance Armstrong Foundation. It’s a two-fer – if you contribute, you’ll be helping fight cancer while ensuring that Bob Roll finally shaves what little hair is left atop what you will surely agree is a very odd head. Says Scot: “Our original goal was $5,000 but we managed to raise that in about 20 hours. Now I’m working on getting some more incentives so people will keep donating. Stay tuned for news on that.” If you’d like to contribute, click here:

Thanks, Velonews guys!

Liveblog starts rrrright now.

2:48 What’d I miss?

2:51 Carnage on the ground.

Floyd has crashed. Now we learn exactly how useful that “OUCH” jersey is. Say, for example, you crash, and the wind is knocked out of you. You can’t speak at all.

What do you do? Just point at your jersey!

2:53 I still don’t know what’s going on. Versus is not helping me. let’s see what CyclingNews says.

  • Serge Pauwels (Cervélo TestTeam), Jason McCartney (Team SaxoBank), Tyler Hamilton (Rock Racing)
  • Peloton at 4:00

Thanks, CyclingNews!

2:55 Dug IM’s me with the observation, “They’re at stage 4 and Hamilton is thirty minutes back? Did he stop and take pictures during one of the stages or something?”

It’s a good question. Why is Hamilton 30 minutes behind Leipheimer? And I don’t want anyone telling me that nonsense about him being out of shape because he’s been busy with family problems. That’s an excuse for being 10 minutes back, not 30.

2:57 Hummer goes out to the ad with the observation that “These crashes can happen with only a moment’s notice!”

Actually, Craig, if there were a moment’s notice, the crashes wouldn’t happen at all.

3:08 OK, had to take care of some stuff. And I return to YET ANOTHER CRASH.

You know what I suspect? I suspect that the cyclists have forgotten how to ride on dry roads.

3:09 So, the best GC guy in the breakaway is Jason McCartney. A little known fact is that he is the cousin of Paul McCartney’s daughter!

I just made that up!

3:11 The race leaders are on the final big climb. I know that Hamilton, when he feels like it, descends like a madman.

I hereby am officially rooting for a Tyler Hamilton win.

Anyone want to join me in rooting for Tyler?

3:13 We go to ads.

3:15 The lead group is 6:30 ahead.

3:16 Has anyone ever satisfactorily explained why Hamilton does that rocking side to side thing when he rides?

3:17 Has anyone ever satisfactorily explained why Tyler’s hair is so long now? Looks like it weighs a pound and a half.

Maybe that’s why he’s a half hour behind.

3:18 The announcers are talking about the LiveStrong foundations. Seems like a GREAT MOMENT TO TALK ABOUT HOW BOB ROLL IS GOING TO SHAVE HIS HEAD.

3:23 Hummer makes a good observation: the snow is pretty deep. Earlier today, in fact, there was a tire chain advisory on this road. Amazing that it’s dry now. Nice work, whoever plowed the road.

3:25 And we go to ads. Except since I’ve got open in a background window, the video never ends.

This makes me feel like writing a letter to the Internet.

Dear Internet,

I love you.

Kind Regards,

The Fat Cyclist

3:26 Back from ads!

3:27 By the way, Bob Roll has not yet cut his hair. Chuck Ibis tells me, though, that Lance was giving Bob grief, saying he’s got to do it. I hope they broadcast that interview.

3:28 The video on the web is about 10 seconds behind the Versus video. Just in case you’re curious.


3:32 Nope, not a word.

3:33: Are they tormenting me on purpose? Cuz I’m starting to take this a little personally.

By the way, I’d like to take this rare moment of ads to point out that today is really hectic for me. I mean, really, really hectic. I’m going to have to drop out at 3:45 or so, and will resume around 5:00pm.

At which point, this will become a Tivo-blog of the stage.

However, please feel free to liveblog this stage in my absence, through the medium of commenting with any ol’ race-related thing that pops into your head.

Hey, that’s what I’m doing. But you knew that already.

3:36 Motorcycle speedometer looks like the lead group, going downhill, is going around 35-42 mph.

Any road cyclist knows that’s slow for a pro downhill. Heck, I go that fast on road downhills. Faster even.

So why so slow?

3:38 Looks like a working downhill. The lead group has to work together. They won’t keep the gap otherwise.

3:41 That comedian woman again. How did she get this job? I really want to know who they chose her over.

3:42 I gotta go. I’ll continue blogging this in a couple hours.

Carry on without me. I’ll miss you.

5:55 OK, I’m back. Now hunting for where I left off on the Tivo. The thing is, I couldn’t just pause when I left, because Susan wanted to finish watching this stage.

5:57 I’m trying to figure out if there’s any reason at all for me to liveblog a stage that ended just about an hour ago.

Then it occurs to me that there’s no real reason for me to liveblog the stages when they’re live. I mean, there’s nobody who’s actually coming to my site for their race info, right? Right?

I mean, that would be like going to the Daily Show for your news.

A lobotomized Daily Show, sure, but you get my point.

6:07 Craig is saying they’ve saved the best for last, with the intimation being that this is both the best and last. Maybe they’ve told Hummer that today’s the last stage.

6:09 It looks like I’ve got about an hour left on this recording, which freaks me out, because I could run out of recording before I run out of race.

6:11 OK, I’ve finally found the spot where I had to leave off. Yay!

The thing is, I don’t dare to look at comments or any other site or even my own, because I hate the idea of finding out how this ends without watching it myself.

6:13 The way Paul describes it, the peloton is going to catch the lead group. High Road and Quick Step working the front.

6:15 Bob Roll talks with Specialized. Yay for free advertising?

You know what would make some good free advertising, Bob? How about TALKING ABOUT THE WAY YOU RAISED $6500 TO FIGHT CANCER BY SHAVING YOUR HEAD?

6:17 You know what’s really cool? That commercials go by really fast when you’ve tivo’d a show.

6:24 You know, when you can fast forward, the temptation to do so becomes almost irresistable.

I have watched 6-hour stages of the TdF in about 30 minutes thanks to this universal truth.

6:25 Versus has decided to stop talking about the race. They’re talking about the spectators. Why look, fast-forwarding works on this, too!

6:26 The sharp edge of the peloton is hauling on this downhill. I just can’t imagine the breakaway succeeding. Too bad, because I have committed to root for Hamilton.

6:30 It seems unlikely to me that Leipheimer will win a stage, unless he somehow wins the time trial.

I would suggest that when someone wins a stage race without winning a stage, their final yellow jersey get a giant asterisk get screened onto it.

6:34 A clever little montage on Levi. His wife says of their dog, “He’s so skinny and tiny, just like Levi!”

I’m sure that Levi’s teammates give him no grief at all about that comment.

6:36 Hummer said “break the wind” again.


6:37 Oh no. I’ve got about 10 minutes worth of recording left. And much, much more race to go. Hamilton and Co. just hit the flat.

Gap’s down to 2:15. I may be forced to use powerful brainwaves to affect the outcome of this race.

Which is not easy to do, considering that the outcome of the race is an historical fact.

So I will have to really, really concentrate.

6:39 2 minute gap with 15 miles to go. Piffle.

It occurs to me that one of the great things about not being a journalist is I don’t have to pretend to be remotely objective.

6:43 Well. The recording just ended. Perfect. I shall now go read how the race went, and then surprise and delight you by summarizing as if I were commenting in real-time.

6:50 The peloton is closing in on the lead group!

30 seconds!

Now 20!



6:51 The peloton has caught the breakaway group!

6:52 Teams are battling back and forth, positioning themselves for the big sprint!

6:53 I am eating an avocado and turkey sandwich! It is very delicious! I highly recommend Gulden’s Spicy Brown Mustard!

6:54 Mark Cavendish gets the win! Oh my goodness!

PS: I cannot liveblog tomorrow, but I have high hopes that I might be able to get someone from the core team — or perhaps Al Maviva, if he’s interested — to take my place.

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