I have to admit that I found the pretense that Access-a-Ride drivers are actually under supervision kind of charming, though I was disturbed by the presence of the ambulance since I don't like it when people get hurt. (At least physically.) At first I assumed the Access-a-Ride driver had hit somebody, but then I noticed that the driver was neither in his van nor in the police car, so I'm now going with the theory that the driver overdosed on whatever drug all these guys are taking and needed to be hospitalized. As such, I'm going to wish him a speedy detoxification and recovery. With any luck, he'll be well enough to kill again soon.
Alarmed, I immediately made the Twitter rounds to see if there was any more info, and my first stop was Rock Racing's own feed:
Incidentally, as of last Friday Armstrong had been tested once every 8.6 days since announcing his comeback, which put the Lance Armstrong Drug Test Index (LADTI) at 8.6. But with yesterday's test, the LADTI has dropped to 8.2. At this rate, the LADTI will be at 0 by the time the 2009 Tour de France starts and he'll be forced to race in one of those stillsuits from "Dune" so that he can be kept in a constant state of urinalysis.
Next I checked in with George Hincapie:
I found Hincapie to be loving life. Moreover, he was obviously either unaware of or unconcerned with the possible fate of Rock Racing. I'm not sure if the "hot stone massage" means he was being pelted with hot stones, or if he was simply getting stoned and having a massage in the sauna. If the former, I suppose he's developed a fondness for that sort of thing after his many crashes in Paris-Roubaix. If the latter, it's lucky for him that he's evidently not subject to the same level of testing as Armstrong. I do hope Hincapie is as forthcoming as Armstrong in that regard, though, because I'd be very interested to know the GHDTI as well.
Obviously I wasn't going to learn anything about Rock Racing from Hincapie, so I figured maybe Dave Zabriskie, the peloton's most ironic rider, might have something to say:
Well, true to form, Zabriskie was slinging plenty of irony (it doesn't get more ironic than listening to "Oliver!"), but he wasn't dishing out any dirt on Rock Racing. I was intrigued by his egg nog reference, though. Does he mean that he got some bad egg nog, then went to Chipotle? Or is he saying that they have bad egg nog at Chipotle? In either case, though, egg nog is surely the most ironic of the nogs, and it's definitely orders of magnitude more ironic than "traditionally" ironic beverages like Pabst. I bet he even had an ironic egg nog moustache after he drank it.
It was beginning to dawn on me that I was wrong to be focussing on the older riders. (Even Zabriskie is pushing 30). The truth is, they're too complacent to care about their Rock Racing brethren. Instead, they're wallowing around bloated on success, face-sized burritos, hot stone massages, and egg nog. No, I had to see what the younger generation had to say. So I checked in with Taylor Phinney:
Taylor's youthful energy was clearly boundless, and I found him to be alternately "chillin" and "slaying" with abandon. (Old people "rock" and "run;" young people "chill" and "slay.") But not even Taylor had anything to say about the possible demise of Rock Racing.
At this point I was despondent. Sure, I've been critical of Rock Racing. Sure, I've poked fun at Michael Ball. I suppose in my darkest moments I've even hoped for the demise of the team. But now that it's a possibility, I find I don't want it to happen. Not this way. Darn it, even if their style is more UFC than UCI I've grown attached to Ball and his pack of freaks. In fact, the possibility of their disappearance makes me so sad that I've created a Rock Racing Virtual Nostalgia Kit:
The BSNYC/RTMS Rock Racing Virtual Nostalgia Kit:
Step 1: Launch this video, pause, and lower the volume all the way.
Step 2: In a new window, launch this video. Make sure the volume is high, play video, and then minimize the window.
Step 3: Return to the video in Step 1. Press play, watch with the new soundtrack, and commence uncontrollable sobbing.
I dare you not to be moved.
Regardless of what happens to Rock Racing though, it's clear they're going to have to change their approach. After all, we're in a recession now. Bling has blung. Austerity is the new chic, and even Michael Ball is going to have to fall in line. The first thing he should do is re-evaluate his equipment choice. Last year, Rock Racing rode De Rosa King 3s. Not only that, but they actually paid for many of the bikes themselves. And that's a lot of money. (Sure, they may be moving on to Fuji next year, but who knows what that sponsorship entails, or if it's still even on offer. Even Fugis might be too expensive given the tough economic climate.) To determine how much Rock Racing may have actually spent on bicycles this past year, I built up a similarly-equipped De Rosa King 3 on Wrenchscience:
Though I was forced to make some different component choices due to availability, you'll note that a De Rosa King 3 even more conservatively-equipped than the Rock Racing bike costs over $8,000:
That's why Michael Ball and Rock Racing should seriously consider competing on Bikesdirect bicycles next year. My personal recommendation is the Windsor Falkirk with Ultegra SL:
At $895.95, that's only $21,502.80 to supply a 24-man squad. $21,502.80 won't even buy three DeRosas! And with that kind of savings, you can even outfit the whole team with training bikes, too. Of course, we are in a recession, so giving each rider his own training bike might be a bit extravagant. That's why I recommend this tandem frame from Chucksbikes:
That's 24 riders, two riders per frame, for a total cost of $4,200. Not only is it cost-effective, but it's also a team-building exercise, and it's way cheaper than sending the whole team to Tenerife to go surfing or something. Because at the end of the day, it's all about racing bikes. And for 2009, frugality is the new extravagance.