Those Versus Workload Statistics
I've got to admit that Versus really upped its game this year. Not only were more riders hooked up to heart rate monitors (which I suppose may be interesting if you're a health care professional, but which I find pretty boring), but they also calculated the percentage of work each breakaway constituent was contributing to the move by counting how long each rider spent at the front. While I question the accuracy of these statistics (they didn't seem to account for the relative sizes of the riders, for example, and a large guy pulling for 30 seconds would arguably be contributing more to a breakaway than a small guy pulling for 30 seconds), I like the concept, and I'd like to see it used in other aspects of cycling as well. For example, if we take the Versus workload approach and apply it to cycling subcultures and their relative contributions of absurdity, it might look something like this:
Recumbent riders: 37%
Before you quibble over these percentages, keep in mind that: 1) it's just an example; and 2) while it may seem conservative to say that triathletes only account for about one-third of the total ridiculousness here, they also only ride their bikes one-third of the time, so their contribution is actually quite formidable. And furthermore this goes to show that while statistics can be fun, they can also be misleading and difficult to interpret. Not everything can be easily quantified. (Though in the absurd FGF/bent/tri breakaway, I think it's safe to say that they've got a nice gap and are rotating smoothly. If the triathletes don't take everybody else down they may stay away until the finish.)
Matt White and Jonathan Vaughters in the Garmin/Chipotle Team Car
Some people may have watched the Tour for the bike racing, but I watched it for the precious moments when Versus would cut to the Garmin/Chipotle team car. Watching Vaughters and White in that car giving their riders useless advice in a dull monotone was nothing short of captivating. "Keep riding, Christian." "You can do it." "Only 5K to go." It was like a buddy comedy without the comedy, or a police drama without the drama. I'm sure there were more spirited exchanges, like when Vaughters told Millar that Vande Velde's raise would actually be coming out of Millar's salary, or when they pulled into a drive-thru McDonald's and White forgot to order Vaughters a thick shake, but for the most part Vaughters and White simply cruised around with the studied detachment of two guys "flossing" in South Beach in their parents' station wagon, looking for a nightclub that might let them in or some women who might talk to them. Between White's bleach-blond locks and sunglasses and Vaughters's sideburns it was like watching a slightly cheesier version of "Night at the Roxbury."
But the Tour also brought heartache, and nothing made my heart ache more than the positive drug test of my favorite rider.
Years ago, when I was merely a child, I had a baseball card collection. Even then, I had no interest in baseball, so my collection consisted entirely of players with funny names. And there was no card in my collection that I valued more than my Johnny Wockenfuss card:
I didn't know who Johnny Wockenfuss was. I didn't even know where the card had come from. I did know that the card was worthless, both because Johnny Wockenfuss wasn't a particularly good player and because the card was badly creased. But I cherished it anyway, and in moments of doubt I would withdraw it and gaze upon it like I was a penitent and it was a picture of the Virgin Mary. And that card inspired me. It may not have inspired me to be a better person, or to accomplish anything, or even to try at anything, but it did inspire me to laugh at his ridiculous name, and in many ways that's what made me who I am today.
Well, Dmitri Fofonov was my new Johnny Wockenfuss, and you may recall that he was instrumental in helping me maintain my faith in the Tour. Unfortunately, though, like Job my faith has been tested as Fofonov just became the fourth rider to test positive for a banned substance in this year's Tour. I was shocked and appalled to receive this link from a reader. Actually, I was confused before I was shocked and appalled because the story was in French, but I did run it through a translator:
L' information; Equip: The Kazakh runner of Crédit Agricole Dmitri Fofonov, 31 years, was controlled positive with a stimulant in Saint-Etienne, with l' exit of the 18th stage of the Tour de France. Fofonov, 19th of the final classification, explained to its formation to have taken a product against cramps bought on Internet. "C' is a non-observance of the elementary rules, declared Roger Legeay, general manager of l' equip French, which immediately suspended its runner. A runner cannot take any drug, without authorization of the doctor of l' equip, without him to have spoken about it. (...) C' is a proven individual fault. It is known that can arrive but this n' is not pleasant."
I had been ecstatic over Fofonov's finishing the Tour in 19th place on the GC. As a pass/fail racer unable to take anything seriously, a top-20 finisher with a funny name is far more exciting and inspirational to me than a first-place finisher with a regular name like Sastre. So to be cast down from such dizzying heights by this news was nothing short of devastating. To paraphrase a well-known poem, they came first for Beltran, and I didn't care because he didn't have a funny name. Then they came for Moises Duenas, and I didn't care because his name wasn't that funny either. And so on. Then they came for Fofonov. But by then it was too late. Because the Tour was already over and he's probably halfway to Almati on a team-issue Look by now.
Anyway, thanks for ruining the Tour for me. I had faith in you but I guess you were just foffing me off. But I should also thank you for teaching me a valuable lesson. And that lesson is that a man only has two things in this world: himself, and his Wockenfuss.