While we're only two stages and a prologue into the Tour de France, it saddens me to announce that I've already fallen way behind on my viewing like Tom Boonen fell back on stage one. With something like five hours of coverage a day on Versus I fail to see how it is possible to actually follow the Tour while still making time for other necessary activities such as working, eating, and even going to the bathroom. Really, you'd have to be unemployed and sitting on the couch wearing an adult diaper to watch it all.
Actually, I can now finally relate to Greg LeMond, who insists that as the EPO era began he was forced to watch lesser cyclists ride away from him. Similarly, I feel that it is now impossible to follow the Tour de France without chemical assistance, and so like Greg LeMond I'm going to make a sweeping accusation that anybody who can either follow or cover the Tour de France thoroughly is doing so with the aid of neuroenhancing drugs such as Adderall. Fithy dopers, all of them! Booze and Wednesday Weed is one thing, but Ritalin is something else. Frankly, I don't recognize the (coverage of the) sport anymore. These people have no conscience.
Still, there's always time for a short article designed to pick at scabs and inflame controversy, which is why I read this ESPN article:
"Particularly, particularly, particularly" monitoring the Tour rider who is arguably least likely to cheat is sort of like Mavic blaming a frame manufacturer for their shattered wheel. Actually, I think focussing excessively on a single rider like this may be a sign of neuroenhancer abuse. Meanwhile, I was interested to note that Armstrong himself is compiling the definitive list of Tour de France riders on Twitter. And since you don't need neuroenhancers to follow 140-character dispatches, I checked out a few of them. So far my favorite Tour de France Tweeter is Skil-Shimano rider Fumy Beppu, who Tweets in no less than three languages:
There really should be some kind of jersey for that, though given the truncated nature of Twitter it would probably be more of a triathlon crop top.
Another reason I find it difficult to follow the Tour de France closely is that there is so much cycling-related news and opinion closer to home. Furthermore, this news and opinion also has a much greater bearing on our lives as cyclists than the Tour de France does. Take for instance this New York Times op-ed, in which the author proposes the notion that Detroit could become "a new bicycle utopia:"
I was intrigued by the notion that Detroit may be making a play for Portland's status as America's cycling paradise. I'm sure many a Portlander will read this op-ed and scoff, but the truth is that it's all too easy to be undone by your own complacency. I would advise Portland to step up the frequency of its famous campy theme rides immediately. A quick glance at the headlines reveals that there's theme ride potential in many recent developments. For example, a Robert S. McNamara ride, an Obama visits Russia ride, or even a Kevin Jonas of the Jonas brothers engagement ride would be sure to bring Portland's cyclists out in droves, though I suppose these rides might conflict with their rigorous vegan Tour de France viewing party schedules.
Another interesting point raised in this op-ed is the idea that the collapse of the American auto industry is creating a void in some areas which the bicycle may be poised to fill. Regardless of how you feel about automobiles, it's hard to ignore the fact that the auto industry both here and abroad has "jumped the wolf" or "urinated on the turtle" in a number of ways. For example, as I was eating my usual breakfast of Korean Froot Loops this morning (I only eat overseas versions of American cereals--it's important to keep your diet rich in both iron and irony), a commercial for the new Mercedes E-Class came on the television. Since I'm not in the market for a German luxury car I wasn't really paying attention--that is until the announcer mentioned some feature which somehow senses when the driver is falling asleep and then wakes them up.
I wasn't sure I'd heard that right, so I went to my favorite source for all things automotive: Gaywheels.com. You can infer from that whatever you'd like, but the fact is that information knows no sexual orientation, and gay or straight you've got to acknowledge the expertise of Gaywheels contributor, Cocoa Efficient:
Actually, I'd never heard of Miss Cocoa Efficient before visiting Gaywheels.com, but I'm guessing she's the Brock Yates for people who prefer "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar" to "The Cannonball Run" when it comes to their road movies.
Anyway, Gaywheels.com indeed confirms that the new Mercedes E-Class wakes you up when you start to nod off:
Yes, the E-Class actually "observes 70 different data points" to figure out if you're falling asleep. I'd love to know what those data points are. "Drooling? Check. Rapid Eye Movement? Check. Semi-erection? Check. Sound the alarm!" Hopefully all 70 datapoints must be satisfied before the alarm goes off, though, since I'm sure the average Mercedes owner will often either drool or exhibit a semi-erection when admiring his reflection in a storefront window while waiting at a red light, and a booming German voice shouting "Achtung!" (with accompanying video, since there's also a "visual" reminder) would be quite embarrassing. Also, it's interesting that the alarm also sounds when you text. I guess that means we've officially reached the point where texting is considered an involuntary activity and we can no longer be held responsible for doing it.
Now, I have nothing against cars. Actually, I like cars. They can be useful and fun. Unfortunately, the problem is that many people who operate cars don't realize they're operating machines, and this is because cars have become so coddling that operating one requires only slightly more effort than watching the Tour de France on your sofa in a state of semi-consciousness while wearing a pair of adult diapers. Yes, the roads are full of bloated vehicles driven by people who need interior microclimates and crow's nest vantage points and nine airbags and DVD players to distract their kids and 70-point monitoring systems to keep them awake. Meanwhile, some people think the answer is more efficient cars or alternative energy sources. I strongly disagree. The answer is legislation requiring that all cars have manual transmissions, no airbags, and carbeurated, air-cooled engines with no more than 1500cc displacement. That way, people would actually need to know how to drive, and they'd also have to pay attention to what they were doing. The ban on automatic transmissions alone would probably take roughly half the drivers in the United States off the road.
Meanwhile, I'm surprised that more automobile manufacturers have not attempted to harness the awesome power of bicycles to market their cars lately. Sure, you see bikes in car ads now and again, but it's nothing like the '90s, when the mountain bike was king and you could buy a Jetta that came with a Trek:
Frankly, I'm surprised we haven't seen this yet in the fixed-gear era. A Mini Cooper that comes with a Langster seems like an obvious sales gimmick.
On the other hand, the world of fashion is all over the cycling trend. A reader recently forwarded this coverage of the Louis Vuitton Spring 2010 collection, which indicates that bike messengers were a major source of inspiration:
Bicycle messengers everywhere are no doubt trying to decide which is more offensive: the implication that they are "over inked meth heads with bad hair," or the idea that they are "gentlemen butterflies." I'd wager that most messengers like to exist somewhere in the middle of this absurd spectrum, and that they prefer to think of themselves the way the media usually portrays them, which is as "outlaws" with fashion sense. In any case, while bike messengers may ostensibly have been the inspiration behind these clothes, it's pretty hard to see that here:
There's really nothing about this outfit that suggests the wearer delivers packages by bicycle. If anything, it looks like something you'd put on to review a convertible for Gaywheels.com.
Equally non-messengery is this look:
Though if I had to imagine him on a bicycle, it would be this hipster touring bike, forwarded by another reader:
To complete the handlebar clutter, he should install this on-board speaker system, forwarded by yet another reader:
Yes, sadly some cyclists like to take the auto industry approach and load their bikes with creature comforts. Thankfully, though, not everybody wants to be coddled, and some people still reject the "more is better approach:"
Well, at least as far as cars are concerned.