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213: Clash of the Titans

Photo by Chris Milliman

There really is not much to say when, seated I might add, Mr. Cancellara straight up CANCELS all the odds that Tom B. is going to win at today's Ronde van Vlaanderen. I keep hearing "Seated Till April, Seated Till April" while watching that move over and over. Even though it was not so much of a move as it was as that Cancellara was seeing different lines than Boonen.

If this is any indication of that, well, Cancel is going to crush a few more hopes this spring.

That familiarly disheartening sheepish look that some of the cyclists took on as they dismounted their bicycles (Devolder's was particularly heartbreaking) left me in amazement over what happens lest you miss that winning break. This will be an all to familiar sight to those riders next weekend at Battenkill that do not make it over the top of that dirt climb in the front. I am in no way bragging and was thankful to make it there last year after missing it on the previous two attempts. Godspeed to the throngs that will partake.

Looking back through this time last year brings up more than a few memories of the bleak landscape (not Battenkill, Belgium). The bars, all smelling the same with cigarettes, spilled beer, and possibly the scent of windburned skin, if there is such a thing.

Belgium — Part Two: Entry One
April 3, 2009

In any case I missed that God forsaken land so much I thought I should go back. D. Sharp and I just bought our tickets to check out the Fléche Wallone, and LBL. Sure, sure we are going to miss next weekends Monument Roubaix, but this way it ensures that we get to see two new ones in quick succession.

This will be the one (similar to last year) in which we explore the country that has produced some of the best cyclists ever to have lived. You could go straight to the top of that list (Merckx) or just jump around however you like (the immortalized Vandenbroucke, or the DeVlamaenek's, as well their contemporaries Boonen, Devolder). I was reminded of this train stop when reading Bill's new book. He takes a page (just one, and he does it so well) to describe the effect of Merckx on the cycling world this is near the end of the page by the way, after the description linking the Grand Tours to the Super Bowl and World Series.

"In his peak years he was victorious in one-third of all the races he entered, an unheard-of and still unmatched ration in a sport in which four of five wins a year make a rider one of the best there is. It's no stretch to argue that this cyclist ruled his sport in a way Michael Jordan and Roger Federer combined don't equal. For all of this, Eddy Merckx had a subway stop named after him." (Pg 14 — Tour de Lance )

All just background for the conversation on Lance though. You know, the one that you had today with your buddies while you were punching each other in the arm and rooting for Cancellara and Tornado Tom at the same time. Shouting out "no! Yessss!" and not really caring because either of those two winning makes you happy. Although, it helps with the 'putting him into context' part, if you will.

I guess it works because no one can mention anything about Professional Cycling these days without muttering Lance Armstrong under their breath. The tough thing is not knowing. Not knowing why you are muttering his name, not knowing why you hate him, or love him, only knowing that apparently both of these emotions can exist at the same time. Hence, the mutter.

Photo by Chris Milliman
Well, Milliman also captured one of Lance today. And whatever you do, Lance, to maintain that hawkish look of determination, well, you just keep on doing that one as long as you can. Only, at some point you are going to have to lose the bib-extensions, because they just look ridiculous and out of place in contrast to the graceful-yet-forceful pushiness of the Belgian landscape. You might be able to get away with that in the Tour, but not here.

Although at the same time it is comforting to be reminded that he gets covered in the same shit and grime that the rest of them do. Or, rather, that he is getting covered in that shit this year, for a change. What tactic is this Mr. Armstrong? What secrets do you hold in store for us as the year progresses (see, there I go talking about him again.)

"We pass Menchov, who's been dropped. Bruyneel looks out at him and says, "Menchov." A pause. "That's Menchov there." There's Both awe and regret in his voice, as if we're driving by a dying lion our safari party shot. Saxo goes to the front and jumps the pace, and the gap to the break comes down to about 3 minutes. Up ahead , the break is splintering under its own attacks." (Pg — 251 Tour de Lance)

Not really sure what the above quote has to do with the events that unfolded today although reading it out loud to Kyle and Molly seemed like the right thing to do this evening. And when you say something out loud it sounded a little more right than when I just typed the words. Menchov was not there but the the dying lion surely was. No matter who you decide to give that moniker to. This thought, that not only was the dying lion part of the mis-en-scene but was also somehow caused by the whole heaving throng that was cannot be escaped.

It is going to be a good year, or at the very least, interesting.
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