Don't let the NBC logo fool you. When I took this photo I was observing the Olympic road race not from my couch but from the Brooks England Ltd. corporate chopper, which was being flown by none other than Eric "The Chamferer" Murray. Eric pilots a helicopter the same way he chamfers a saddle, which is to say expertly, and with occasional breaks to put a knife to your throat as he snarls the words "Stop your fucking crying" through clenched teeth.
As for why we were following the race, I had been hired to cover it by a Latvian newspaper called Neatkarīgā Rīta Avīze, and I cut a deal with Eric wherein I'd split my considerable fee with him if he'd "borrow" the Brooks helicopter and fly me around in it. And since my standard fee in Latvia is now up to LVL30, this meant we'd be clearing over fifteen Great British Pounds Sterling per man, which isn't exactly chump change. (It's actually a lot less than chump change.)
Anyway, back to the guy on the rooftop, who by now was lying next to an Australian flag waving his arms in what appeared to be distress:
(Nearly naked Australian may have been stranded on the roof of a London building for days without Fosters or Vegemite.)
Eric executed a deft banking maneuver (by which I mean he stole my fifteen "quid" and banked it safely in the pocket of his overalls), landed the chopper on an adjacent building, and leaped from the cockpit. I was sure he was going to rescue the castaway, but instead Eric chastised him for disrespecting the dignity and spirit of the Games, all the while using his chamfering knife for emphasis. Finally, Eric put a boot in the man's immodestly-clad groin as a closing punctuation mark. Moments later we were airborne again, the irreverent Australian writhing in the hot tar of the rooftop down below, and a snot bubble the size of a snow globe in my nostril.
As for the race itself, everybody knows by now that the gold medal went to Alexander Vinokourov. Here he is making the race-winning move:
And here he is giving the old "Kasakh handshake" to the guy who ultimately took silver:
Vinokourov buys himself wins like Mark Cavendish buys himself sports cars.
Another memorable moment in the race was when Fabian Cancellara rode straight into the barrier:
I took this photograph as Eric strafed the chasing peloton for laughs, and while this could have contributed to the crash (at least that's what the police claimed afterwards), I suspect what really happened was that Cancellara forgot to throttle back on his Gruber Assist when he came into the turn. (Though I suppose the strafing theory isn't completely without merit, since later that day I did see Vinokourov hand Eric a hundred and fifty bucks.)
By the way, if you're an aircraft enthusiast and you're wondering what kind of helicopter we were using, it probably won't surprise you to learn that Brooks is somewhat "retrogrouchy" when it comes to flying equipment:
The Brooks B-17 helicopter is as at home in the skies as it is on your local "Tweed Ride," and I can assure you those wheels have been properly tensioned and stress-relieved as per Jobst Brandt's "The Bicycle Wheel."
Speaking of hapless Swiss people on bikes, this past weekend I received the following email:
I made a new fxdgr video in Switzerland. Maybe post on your blog?
Along with a link to that video:
Toni In The Woods from Severin Landolt on Vimeo.
It opens with a lone figure wearing dungaree jean pants and a tanking top shirt:
Who is evidently a member of the dreaded "Crabcycles" posse:
So named because of the tiny creatures that inhabit their jean pants.
After surveying the landscape, the lone figure tightens his gimmicky Fred flippers:
Crests a small rise:
And then commences with the pointless skidding:
Which results in the inevitable flat tire:
Then there's some more skidding:
And, as the cineastes say, "Fin:"
I'm not afraid to say that this short video changed my entire view of the bicycle. I used to think of the bike as an elegant vehicle that can carry a rider efficiently over a variety of terrain, but I now understand it's merely a tool meant to destroy tires, kind of like a really big nutcracker. I now plan to upgrade all of my tire-destroying devices by removing the brakes and derailleurs and correcting the malfunctioning rear hubs that fail to engage when I cease pedaling.
But what if going through stacks of $50 tires like a bowl of pistachio nuts is not expensive enough for you? Well, there's always amateur bike racing, and it was only a matter of time before Gran Fondo Doping Fred made the New York Times:
Apparently, Gran Fondo Doping Fred used EPO for the same reason PSAs claim kids pilfer beer and smoke "Wednesday weed:'
Anthony said he used drugs to maintain his social standing within the local racing scene and on his BH-Comedy Central amateur team.
“It wasn’t for money, and it wasn’t for winning,” said Anthony, a three-time winner of the Tour of the Battenkill race in upstate New York. “It was about being relevant in the group, which was pretty addicting.”
Wow. Winning I can understand, but he actually did it for social standing? If you're addicted to being relevant in a group of people who wake up at 4:30am to ride circles in Central Park and then go straight back home again then having a Costco membership must feel like belonging to the Harvard Club. Also, he spent "several thousands of dollars each month" and slept in a $4,000 tent:
Anthony, who began racing in 2009, said he had recently upgraded to the amateur category 2 — one step below the highest amateur category. A former cigarette smoker, he said bicycle racing quickly took over his life. He trained 16 to 20 hours a week and spent several thousand dollars each month on race entry fees and transportation to events. He also slept in a $4,000 hypoxic altitude tent, which pro cyclists commonly use to legally increase the production of red blood cells.
“The sport is all-consuming; it’s not like weekend softball,” he said. “I was only involved in it for four years, and it took over most of my energy.”
So basically, he spent a fortune toys and drugs just so people would like him. In other words, the only difference between him and a cocaine addict is that the cocaine addict actually gets to have sex before his life falls apart, whereas a $4,000 altitude tent will probably drive potential sexual partners from your house faster than a bedroom full of Star Wars memorabilia and a rocking chair containing a desiccated corpse of your mother à la "Psycho." Plus, recreational drug addicts have a decent shot at redemption, whereas in cycling it's become a lot harder since Rock Racing went bankrupt:
Now those were some sweet dungaree pants.