Twisted Spoke

My twisted take on the world of pro bike racing.

Angelo Zomegnan: no drag queen podium freaks at my Giro.

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The new Giro podium drag queens?

The thought alone nearly gave Giro organizer and creative genius Angelo Zomegnan a heart attack.

Crazy Z, as we like to call him, is the man who singlehandedly brings drama and spectacle to cycling: hot podium girls, sexy presentations and bold, paradigm-smacking race ideas. Witness his proposal for a Washington D.C. Giro start– it’s just another example of his restless vision.

But his main vision is beautiful Italian girls on podiums kissing winners and enjoying the sexy spray of champagne. So when Marco de Goede suggested that the Giro stages in the Netherlands should have men or drag queens replacing the Italian babes in tight dresses, Zomegnan put his foot down hard.

“We’ll decide the podium girls. The winner of the prologue of the next Giro will be celebrated on the podium in Amsterdam by two girls chosen by the race organizers of the ‘Corsa Rosa’,” Zomegnan told the Italian La Stampa newspaper.

Damn Amsterdam. A drag queen on the podium of Zomegnan’s beloved Giro? He’d rather cancel the entire three week race. Local TV stations and AT5 RTV Noord-Holland had organized their own competition to select podium presenters, but Zomegnan was having none of that.

“I don’t know anything about the competition, it’s not been authorized by us. However the girls will be Italian and we’ll bring them from Italy. This whole thing is not a problem.”

The Giro "Miss" Yolantha.

That message was loud and clear: do not mess with my sexy girls. I will truck my hot latin babes into the Netherlands and that is that.

It may be that Angelo does not fully grasp the creative and sexy possibilities of the podium drag queen. Didn’t he ever watch those wacky Fellini films, hasn’t he ever been to Carnival in Florence, doesn’t he get the over-the-top excess of Italian opera? We say Angelo, check out the Drag Queen Olympics website and reconsider the inherent naught spice.

This whole thing has gotten out of hand and crazy Z will probably bring back his mega-babe to restore order: Dutch actress Yolanthe Cabau van Kasbergen. The lovely Yolanthe oozes sexuality and is the official  Giro “miss” of this year’s tour.

Twisted Spoke suspects that Zomegnan is just a little unhinged by all this crazy podium man talk. He has nightmares, he wakes up in a cold sweat thinking about men with hairy chests and campy, outlandish costumes kissing stage winners. As Colonel Kurtz said in Apocalypse Now, “the horror, the horror.”

Crazy Z will not let that happen, not on his Giro watch. He’s going to make triple sure no drag queens or transvestites slip into his camp.

Angelo will now perform a full physical inspection of all his potential podium babes before heading to the Netherlands. He’s going to establish beyond a shadow of a doubt that they’re Italian, they’re female and they’re sexy. Tests to begin immediately at Zomegnan’s country vacation home.

Written by walshworld

February 21, 2010 at 8:57 am

Rosseler gets first Radio Shack win in Volta ao Algarve. Lance happy.

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Lance loves me.

Yeah, Sebastien Rosseler, soak it in.

Sebastien Rosseler invited to Austin for summer barbecue with Lance Armstrong. Sebastien Rosseler invited to Lance’s Livestrong party in Vegas or Paris or Buenos Aires. Sebastien Rosseler invited to Hollywood shindig with Matthew McConaughey and a bevy of impossibly beautiful starlets.  Sebastien Rosseler invited to ultimate honor of baby-sitting Lance’s four kids while he, you know, whatever.

Yes, Sebastien Rosseler just hit the Radio Shack big time. Lance likes winners and when Gert Steegmans did zippo in the Tour Down Under with the sponsors looking on, life got a little testy. Then when Gert, the early season promise for the Shack, crashed out of the Volta ao Algarve, the vibe at Radio Shack got bleak. He was not living up the the blog props of Johan. Nothing to tweet about, basically. Sure Lance in Kona waxing lyrical about training rides was a nice media appetizer but what about, you know, podiums, glory, destruction, world dominance?

Sebastien Rosseler is the man of the moment and the uber-man, Lance Armstrong knows it. Bonus in his paycheck, free yellow Livestrong bracelets for life, multiple mentions in next Armstrong book, the list goes on and on. The world of Lance’s love opens up for Sebastien. All the Texas steak he can eat shipped to his Belgian home 3 times a year. An art gift from Lance’s private art collection and yes, maybe, inclusion in Johan Bruyneel’s Tour de France early March project roster. Which would mean nothing but it’s another thoughful gesture of thanks.

If you don’t think Sebastien Rosseler gets the seat next to LA at the next training table get-together, think again. Lance might even consider loaning Sebastien Rosseler some of his media luminosity for a weekend out. Some glow to go. But that is negotiable an dit depends on what disco Senastien plans on going to.

This is a big deal and it was long overdue. That big budget Team Sky was winning but Radio Shack was off the media radar. Somebody had to race “the bike with a thousand R logos” across the finish line in first place. Sales of electronic gadgets were plummeting worldwide. But now, marketing life is good again. Customers are coming in, buying a new cell phone and saying, hey, nice ride by Sebastien Rosseler the other day in the VOlta ao Algarve. Yeah, who doesn’t know about the Algarve in the United Stares? After the Tour de France and Paris-Roubaix, the Algarve is HUGE.

Sebastien Rosseler, you da man. That Gert dude is on Lance’s poop list but you answered the call, Belgian frite. You put the smack back in Shack.

Written by walshworld

February 20, 2010 at 9:15 pm

Specialized Shiv stabbed by UCI. Astana scrambles for bikes, yikes.

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Time's up for the Shiv.

Shiv, stabbed. Ouch.

Some famous racer once described a bike race as a knife fight. Well, Astana and Specialized just watched in horror as the UCI stabbed the Shiv to death. Now Alberto Contador, the race leader in the Volta ao Algarve, must scramble to find another bike for Sunday’s time trial. There’s an irony: time running out for new time trial bike.

In any case, you can’t help but wonder about the organization of Astana in 2010. In their first race at the Tour Down Under, they forget to bring race radios. Hello? No response. Hello? Now, in Alberto Contador’s first competition this season, they don’t have an approved time trial bike. What’s next — forgetting to bring a bicycle pump and spare wheels?

Now, Twisted Spoke is always ready to lend a hand in a dire emergency. This certainly qualifies. Word is that Specialized is flying in eight of the safer Transitions frames today, Saturday. But they still have to assemble them, size them and dial them in and mostly, pray for them.

According to most folks, the UCI might not approve those time trial frames either. Because in part, they have the same almost exact nose-cone problems as the Shiv. Mechanics will have to cut pieces to get closer to regulation but may still not impress the judges. It’s like the figure skating judges in the Olympics– the Romanian judge likes the nose-cone but the Korean judge is thumbs down. Poor Alberto, even when your brother is your personal mechanic, things go wrong.

The non-Shiv.

In any case, Astana needs a Plan B just in case the Transitions frame is also stabbed by UCI inspectors. Here it is in a nutshell: don’t buy, rent.

Cyclingrentals.com promises to rent a fast racing bike and “deliver it anywhere in Spain or Portugal, with bicycle rental from as little as €5 a day.” They throw in a combination lock if you want but skip that for the weight. That sounds like a great deal and even the penny-pinching Kazak management should jump on that bike.

Now, this is a genuine carbon race bike, it’s as aerodynamic as possible and, listen closely — this is the big selling point — it’s approved by the UCI. Plus, this is a rental company so they just pull a dozen out of the garage and away you go, baby.

Sure, Astana could maybe find a good bike store in Laguna, Portugal, where the time trial starts. But what are the chances, really, of the entire team dropping in Sunday morning and getting nine bikes? It’s like showing up at a small restaurant and all ordering the steak — there are only three sirloins left, my sad friend.

Imagine the chaos — “okay, we got a Merckx for Alberto and uhh, a Pinarello for De La Fuente but I gotta check what we have in back… ” Bad news and time ticking. This is the race of truth and the truth is, Astana is out of time.

Make the call right now. Because the Shiv is dead and the Transitions is still in deep doo-doo. Sure the rental bikes are a little slower but who’s riding it, right? Alberto Contador, that’s who. Just tell him to pedal faster.

Written by walshworld

February 20, 2010 at 4:50 pm

Cancellara wins time trial and overall in Tour of Oman. Goodbye Abdul.

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Oman, he's fast.

Who better to hack up the competition in the Middle East than the rider they call Spartacus?

Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank) used a strong second place in the final time trial to win the inaugural Tour of Oman. Meanwhile, Evald Boasson Hagen got a measure of revenge by winning the stage, erasing the bad memory of his disastrous nature call two days previous.

Fast rising young talent Cameron Meyer (Garmin-Transitions) showed his skill in taking third place in the race against the clock and jumping into third overall. Somehow, someway, Garmin usually finds a way to grab a stage. While Tyler Farrar missed his shots, Meyer made his mark on the 18.6km course around the capital city in Muscat.

So ended the thrilling, exotic, surprising and exceptionally well run Tour of Oman. Kudos to Eddy Merckx, the Municipality of Muscat and the boys from Amaury Sport Organization (ASO).

Back in Europe the rest of the pro riders endured rain, snow and generally miserable weather. Not here in sunny Oman. The riders not only enjoyed the beautiful (though occasionally hot) weather and solid training but also appreciated the warm welcome and cultural exchange.

“It’s great to win but most of all it’s been a fascinating trip. The Oman people are special. We get hung up about so many things but they know how to enjoy life,” Cancellara said.

“It was nice to be in real contact with the people and see them along the roadside cheering for us. No other sport allows such close contact like that and it made racing here pretty special.”

Marco Pinotti (HTC-Columbia) took away far more than some hard racing kilometers from his trip to Oman. “On television, this part of the world seems quite dangerous because we’re near Yemen and just across the gulf from Iran, but it’s totally the opposite to what I expected,” said Pinotti.

Abdul Al Salaam

“Oman is an Islamic country, but everyone is friendly and quite open. They way they welcomed us is a clear sign for both us and for them that we can all live together. I hope this event continues in the future because it can only help different countries, continents and culture understand each other better.”

The young Boasson Hagen is not yet at the age to offer cultural assessments. He did however admit to hitting 100km/h on the descent of the second climb. Eddy Junior, slow down, wave to the locals, it’s good race karma. Still no word on whether the Norwegian got an Arabic tattoo while in Muscat — a tat and a podium placing, not a bad haul.

And so we must also leave behind revered Arabic cycling commentator Abdul Al Salaam, who has enlivened the race with his predictions and amusing presence. Now blind and in failing health, the former soigneur of Merckx and Hinault stood at roadside during the time trial, correctly guessing the exact speed of each racer based simply on the sound of the tires.

An amazing character — we hope to see him next year. Chapeau Omani cycling fans.

The Hincapie interview. What he left unsaid: the BMC Hincapie Sportwear clothing clause.

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Dressed for success. The Lycra CEO.

Just why exactly did George Hincapie leave Columbia for BMC? The question has yet to go away and in his recent interview with Velonews he gave his reasons yet again.

What he left out though, was the real reason: he wanted to make a fortune selling his Hincapie Sportswear and BMC now wears Hincapie every time they step off the team bus. If you saw his contract, you’d see the big fat Clothing Clause.

Let’s go over the verbatim transcript of his interview and just insert the missing words he wanted to but couldn’t say.

“I think people now understand why I came here [selling Hincapie Sportswear, baby]  The vibe among the team is great [Evans digs the Hincapie compression shorts]  the ambiance among the team has been fun [Ballan is all over the Hincapie socks and shorts!]’

“For me, it’s important to keep things new [like the new Signature George line!] and have new challenges [double Hincapie Sportswearsales by end of 2010] So, for me going to BMC, and me helping them become a world-class team was very appealing to me [Even the Hincapie womens’ line gets a boost]”

“I enjoyed the Giro. I really enjoy and appreciate the Italian culture [Ha! They wear that cheap De Marchi crap] and the ambience amongst the fans. I would love to do it again [not!] but obviously I want to do the Tour of California this year [Hincapie market share is USA heavy, baby, I don’t need the euro market right now]”

“Mark (Cavendish) and I still talk several times a week, we still have a great relationship, and he understands my decision to come to Team BMC and why I came here [I left him a pile of free Hincapie sportswear. Mark’s good for a plug.]”

“My inspirations are easy [duh, move merchandise! Buy more Hincapie!] — they’ll come from the team being successful [Wearing my branded Hincapie product]  the team being cohesive, and the team gaining worldwide attention [even showcasing my Hincapie Skin Defense stuff.] Whether that comes from winning bike races, I don’t know, but inspirations are simple, for me. [this Hincapie clothing clause was brilliant.]”

There you have it. The inside story on why George Hincapie left Columbia. In three words: no clothing deal. When BMC called him, George’s first question was, “who’s your team wear supplier?” Bingo.

P.S. George, I don’t know how long I can keep plusing your sales figures without, you know, a small token of appreciation. Don’t forget my post about the sexy Hincapie compression corsets, either. Money in the bank. I’m an XL, big fella, just like you.

Written by walshworld

February 18, 2010 at 7:49 pm

The fusion of camel and bike. Behold the cambike!

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Humping along in the desert on a bike.

No, this is not some crazy top-secret new Team Sky camel-bike for the final stage of the Tour of Oman. It”s just a crazy dude from Burning Man pedaling his camel around the desert. Allez, camel.

Written by walshworld

February 18, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Famous muslim cycling journalist Abdul Al Salaam. An introduction.

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The greatest Arabic cycling journalist in history.

Who is revered Muslim cycling journalist Abdul Al Salaam? A quick look at his astonishing career.

He is a self taught man of wide ranging interests and curiosities: botanist, amateur film editor, a specialist in the Russian impressionists and card shark. Those who know him well claim he is the best Western Swing dancer in the Middle East. He has an astonishing collection of Stax era Philly soul records, plays the Japanese shamisen, a three stringed lute, and is a master of Double Dutch jump roping.

The only child of nomadic bedouins, Abdul grew up poor, lonely and starved for food. At the age of eight, while picking through a desert garbage dump, he came upon an old Motobecane frame and his life changed forever. Over the next 5 years he patiently restored the frame, begging parts off European sailors who had stopped in the port of Muscat. One witness said Al Salaam could assemble a vintage campagnolo Record set blinded folded in five minutes. Selling hashish to fund his restoration, he completed the bike and began training by chasing camels across the wadis.

Then his life took another turn. After winning the attentions of the Sultans’ wife, Al Salaam was forced to flee Oman on a fishing trawler bound for Peru, where he endured 5 years of exile. He spent his time studying Inca sacrificial customs, establishing a Bordeaux style winery and riding his trusty bike high up into the Andes mountains.

It was during this time that he formulated certain theories about high altitude training and bio-psychology. He wrote three books on the subject of snow and recorded a parody song called “Camels Have No Pedals, that hit #1 on the charts in Brazil. A chance meeting with four time Paris-Roubaix winner Roger De Vlaeminck in a Cusco bar, altered his fate once again. Al Salaam moved to Belgium where he became a soigneur, mechanic and motivational coach to some of the greatest cyclists of the age. Moser, Merckx, Hinault and a young Johan Museeuw all benefited from his wisdom and tactical brilliance.

Sadly, on the verge of being named the Belgian National Team coach, Abdul Al Salaam was nearly killed while out riding his trusty Motobecane. Hit by an aging Citroen, he sustained massive injuries and trauma, spending three months in intensive care in a deep coma. It was only the surprise midnight visit of boyhood hero Rik Van Steenbergen that brought him out of his deathlike sleep.

Abdul Al Salaam immediately returned to his home in Muscat, in the Sultanate of Oman, where he began his cycling journalism career with feverish intensity. Sometimes he wrote for days on end about a single section of cobblestone in the Tour of Flanders. Al Salaam buried himself in what he considered his life’s work. As always he was patiently assisted by his third wife, Sophie, a former podium girl he met during the ’61 Tour de France.

Now blind and afflicted by searing migraines, he still finds time to listen to old Tour de France races on a battered VCR. A steady steam of guests keep his spirits up — just this last week famed cycling writer John Wilcockson stopped by for tea. Happily the inaugural Tour of Oman stage race has allowed true cycling fans to discover this singularly fascinating and influential man.

Written by walshworld

February 18, 2010 at 9:47 am

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