Recently I was thumbing through a cycling magazine during my morning visit to that last bastion of print media when I happened upon the following ad:
"Introducing the racing bottle for the 21st century. The revolutionary Podium(tm) Bottle combines the innovative self-sealing Jet Valve and a high flow rate in a squeezable bike bottle. With the Podium, drinking is effortless; no more "bite to open, hip-slap to shut." The Podium's proprietary TruTaste(tm) material eliminates plastic aftertaste. And embedded anti-microbial technology ensures your bottle will stay clean and fresh. Own a bottle as advanced as the rest of your gear."
I'm a huge fan of both the raise-your-hopes-quickly-then-dash-them approach (as in: "You're pretty smart--for a complete idiot;" or "You're a pretty good bike handler--for a triathlete") as well as the advertisement that insults you and the products you're currently using. I'm also all too aware of the shortcomings of my current bottles. Indeed, the "bite to open, hip-slap to shut" approach has taken its toll on my weary carcass over the years--my incisors now protrude from my mouth like a rodent's and my hip is so brusied and pockmarked that I can barely walk. Yet before I saw this advertisement it had never occurred to me that there might be an alternative. "That's just the way it is," I'd think to myself resignedly as I flossed my unsightly beaver teeth and thumbed through medical supply catalogs looking for artificial hips. (Sure, I could wear a hydration pack, but ever since my tragic beer-funneling incident I've had a terrible fear of drinking from tubes.) So needless to say I was thrilled to discover this product. CamelBak have not only succeeded in reinventing the lowly bidon, but they've also managed to rename various parts of it ("Jet Valve" and "TruTaste(tm)") in tremendously exciting ways. Even more exciting, it's also the official bottle of the Saunier Duval team, who were one of the top teams in professional road racing until yesterday morning. All CamelBak forgot here was a homing device, so that the riders who jettison their bottles pro-style on the last lap in the local Cat 4 races can find them again afterwards. Despite this ommision, I think I may actually be ready to accept their challenge and "Step up to the podium." (That's another good advertising tactic, by the way--dare the buyer to use your product. Much more effective than some creepy copy about the bottle nurturing you like a mother's teat or something and the Jet Valve beckoning your lips like an expectant nipple, which you'd probably get if this were made by an Italian company.)
Speaking of Saunier Duval, I've already gotten over any disappointment I may have felt about their leaving the Tour. Doping in bike racing is simply the gift that keeps on giving, in that you not only get the excitement of watching the finish, but you also get the additional excitement of a revised podium a few days later. How many other sports give you double the number of winners for your money? Also, I'm happy as long as Dmitry Fofonov stays in the race. It's important in any Grand Tour to have at least one rider whose name sounds like a suggestive verb when it's mentioned by Phil Liggett. To me his name sounds like something a parent might accuse an adolescent of doing if he's been in the bathroom too long. "Are you Fofonov in there?" [Sound of zippers and rustling clothing.] "Uh, no. Leave me alone!" Most importantly, I'm one hundred percent convinced that the "biological passport" will eradicate doping from the peloton once and for all. Of course, I'm not sure what a "biological passport" is, but if I understand correctly it's basically just a wadded-up used Kleenex. (The kid Fofonov in the bathroom probably has a bunch of "biological passports" under his bed.)
Despite the fact we're still in the middle of the Tour, the fact is that road racing season's basically over anyway. The astute rider has already written it off and begun focussing his or her attention on cyclocross. The key to a successful racing season is to always live a minimum of four months in the future, mentally-speaking. That way you can dismiss your poor performances as simple preparation. Sure, you may not get anywhere near the front of the pack in a road race this summer, but you're just trying to get some intense mileage in so you'll be ready for cyclocross season. Poor mountain bike racing is even easier to rationalize--you're just doing that to improve your bike-handling. And of course once 'cross season does begin, you're still under no pressure to get results because, really, you're just doing it to maintain your form during the off-season. With the right attitude, you can surf an entire year of racing like a great big wave of mediocrity. Winning is for dopers and sandbaggers.
Of course, as a lousy bike racer and an involuntary New Yorker I've grown accustomed to mediocrity. Forbes Traveler recently announced the top ten most bike-friendly cities in North America, and New York City only managed eighth place. (At least we beat Minneapolis and Chicago.) No prizes for guessing which city came in first, but if you still need a hint here are three: it's wet, it's in the Pacific Northwest, and it's not Seattle. Sure, they may have been a shoe-in (or, more accurately, a sandal-in) for victory, but I still would have liked to see a dark horse nip them at the line. The last thing their bike community needs is more ego-stroking. And perhaps one day, New York will know what it's like to occupy a podium spot. Until that day comes, though, I will expect mediocrity from everything except my water bottles.