Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Indelible Cleanliness of Riding: Drugs No, Tattoos Yes!

By this time I think pretty much everybody knows that Floyd Landis has lost his appeal against the US Anti-Doping Agency, thus really, really losing the 2006 Tour de France. Landis says he is "saddened" by this decision, though he may take some consolation in the fact that Rowan Atkinson has signed on to play him in the Hollywood screen adaptation of his life:

Not only do they bear more than a passing resemblance, but Atkinson also has the experience in the peloton to bring some much-needed authenticity to the film. Here he is reenacting the epic break that brought Floyd fame, and then misfortune:

Of course, as we all know, not doping is the new doping. And while Slipstream may be leading the charge, they're not the only ones drawing the proverbial "X" on their hands. VeloNews reports that cherubic wunderkind Damiano Cunego has also jumped into the pit. Not only that, but he's so committed to clean racing that "he's supporting a new anti-doping campaign and has had its slogan tattooed on his left arm. It reads: 'I’m doping free.'"

Now that's impressive. Nobody would ever get a hypocritical tattoo. Hopefully Cunego will now be exempt from doping controls and need only flash his ink when he's called. As for the tattoo itself, VeloNews didn't have any pictures, but having been a fan of his ever since he starred in Woody Allen's "Match Point," I was highly curious. So I followed the link to Cunego's campaign, but all I could find was this:

Is this what Cunego has indelibly applied to himself? To me the winking coupled with the phrasing implies not that Cunego is a clean athlete, but rather that he's doping for free, as in Lampre or some third party is paying for his drugs. I wonder if the tattoo on his arm winks too, or if he has to flex or something to get it to do that.

Unsatisfied, I hoped that maybe Cunego's own site had a picture of the tattoo. Now, if you've ever visited an Italian website, you know it's a lot like walking into some awful nightclub--lots of flash and techno. So I clicked over, plugged my ears, and averted my eyes. There was no techno, but there was the requisite animation. To save you the trouble of visiting yourself, I present you with a still from the homepage:

The piercing eyes of Damiano Cunego have been known to make competitors wilt at a thousand paces. These eyes have flattened mountain passes, melted cheese onto little pieces of bruschetta, and frightened the Epstein-Barr virus he battled with in 2005 right out of his body. Even though the heading says, "Welcome to my official website" the greeting is so at odds with his forbidding visage that I was almost afraid to click further. However, I rummaged around in my suitcase of courage, took a slug from my bidon of fortitude, nibbled on some cheese, and somehow found the wherewithal to press on.

I was happy that I did, because while I didn't find the tattoo I did find a kinder, more welcoming Cunego. This picture says, "See? I'm not just a killing machine. I'm also just a regular guy who likes to put on a black suit, style my hair, and cruise around town on my Wilier hybrid which has reflectors--for safety!" One might be tempted to say Cunego's reflector use is at odds with his lack of a helmet, but actually Cunego is wearing a"Gelmet,"which is a hair gel made of 70% silicone. The Gelmet not only makes your coif wind- and waterproof but also provides head protection in the event of a fall. It's expected to be a huge seller in Europe, Astoria Queens, and south Florida.

Despite being won over by Cunego's endearing side I still found myself questioning the validity of his anti-doping stance. Notice his stat card boasts that he's married to Margherita. Hey, if he drinks that much chances are he's doing other things too. (I'm married to Vodka so I know what I'm talking about.) Note also that Cunego's distinguishing features are that he's "A Winner!!!" Yeah, that should be tremendous help in identifying him should he do something illegal. "Officer, some rubber-haired guy on a bike just ran over my dog!" "What did he look like, Ma'am?" "A Winner!!!" In the spirit of full disclosure Cunego should at least add to his list of distinguishing features that he also has a winking tattoo that says "I'm doping [for] free."

Of course, without seeing Cunego's ink I can't tell where it ranks among the world's cycling-related tattoos. My two all-time favorites, which I've mentioned in the past, are the "Hug Life" tattoo (the "Last Supper" of cycling tattoos):

and the "Ambiguous Lance" tattoo (the jersey and shorts of Lance Armstrong and the face of Robbie McEwen, riding a Colnago, all applied to a hairy leg).

Indeed, it is a bold rider who inks his or her love of cycling permanently on him- or herself. Even the most dedicated cyclist's tastes can be mercurial--eBay is littered with titanium frames which were purchased in the '90s as "the last bike I'll ever need." As such, getting a bike tattoo is nearly as risky as getting a tattoo of a partner's name or a favorite band. There's also a big gap between the two masterpieces above (which are totally regret-proof in their brilliance, of course) and all other cycling-related tattoos, some of which you can see here. I must say though that there are some stand-outs among all the chainrings, chain armbands and black-bicycle-silhouettes-on-the-ankle you see so often, including:

The left-hand drive road bike with what appears to be either a singleator or a bent spoon for a derailleur;

The woman on a left-hand drive bike (I'm smelling a motif here);

The Permanent Product Placement (corporate version);

The PPP (indie version);

The crossed pistons (which bicycles don't have, unless you consider your legs, in which case why not a pair of crossed legs?);

And of course municipal signage.

Don't get me wrong, though. I'm a tremendous tattoo fan. Actually, I'm in the midst of getting a full sleeve consisting entirely of outdated bike parts. It's going to be all stuff like biopace chainrings, Mektronic shift levers, Girvin Flexstems, and Dura-Ace 8-speed derailleurs. I'm also getting a high-normal mountain bike derailleur on one ankle and a low-normal one on the other. I figure that should cover me either way.