What's Cool In Road Cycling

2005 Year In Review: PEZ-Style

To look back at 2005 from one PEZ-spective is tough to come up with a Top 10 list of memorable moments…so much went wrong as right. Still it was a great year that leads into a very interesting 06, so here are the Top 10 stories of 05…

10. Lance’s Old Peepee
Not because of how it pertains to Lance (we still don’t know), but because of what it says about ASO, L’Equipe, the UCI and WADA. It’s shameful that the ASO, L’Equipe, and the Tour would squeeze the Cash Cow that is Lance and not move until they felt it was the last buck they could make.

It’s worse that the UCI doesn’t know how to respond and it’s a great look at the self-serving nature of all (as well as the self promoting nature of WADA again) of cycling’s governing bodies. Every time an opportunity to step up and be truly professional presents itself, cycling’s governers and organizers always seem to look just a touch less credible than the people they try and maintain control over.

9. Discovery Channel’s Season
Ask any other team in the peloton if they would trade what they had for Discovery Channel’s year and you would probably get a whole lot of bullshit about “family feel” and “we have a great organization” or “we raced all year long”, but what they would really want to say is “Hell Yeah we would have loved to have a Giro / Tour Double”.

Il Falco’s win by the narrowest of margins on one of the best Grand Tour routes in ages was truly epic theatre.

Paolo’s Pink Jersey and the Giro itself were the big deal of the two for me because the race wasn’t over in 19 minutes. Instead we got to see (or didn’t get to see) three weeks of racing. Toss in a few other treats and you have a hell of a year.

8. Exploding Chicken

Watching Michael Rasmussen’s super effort in producing the most deserving KOM champion in a long time was a real treat. The man simply rode like a bike racer rather than pulling a pathetic Virenque. Watching him go from cock of the walk to Extra Crispy was the best podium losing explosion we’ve seen in a decade.

Don’t hang your head too low, you only crashed 27 times and lost 4 days in 50k.

His pre-race routine of walking under a ladder, behind a black cat, then throwing a salt shaker through a mirror might want to be re-thought, but here’s to him. He still got a nice prize and we get to buy unbelievably sweet looking polka-dot Colnago’s in ‘06!

7. The Next Pantani
Not ever have I seen a guy launch onto the scene in better combination of talent and just plain spooky coincidental timing than Jose Rujano. Is he the next Pantani?

Winning the KOM at the Giro in bold fashion? A qualification.

Being 3 feet tall and weighing 67 pounds, while being able to toss out 400 watts for half an hour? A qualification.

Blowing people to bits on a hill despite the fact that your ears stick out past your shoulders?


6. The Best Non Win?

Two way tie going to Danny Pate in Philly and Mike Creed in SF… Danny Pate made the race in Philly the only way he could. No hyper powered Euro support, not what you would call a super strong domestic team even, Danny didn’t win, but he made that race. Mike Creed gave the US cycling public a view of how much fun a race can be to watch, while giving San Francisco the opportunity to show the entire world how loud a race can be. He also gave himself a peak at what’s still inside after a crap year. Next year’s teams in the US will want to keep both eyes open, all year long, with these two on the same team…

5. Worst Non Win?
Ivan Basso’s Giro was a great look at how fragile a Grand Tour GC place really is, regardless of the fact that you are clearly the strongest man in the team, or race. It also was a perfect example of how special 7 Tours in a row is for LA.

Basso started like a house on fire and rode everyone off his wheel at the end of the race, but it all meant nothing. Two things to look for next year is a super strong Mama-pleasing win for Basso and a person dedicated to more closely monitor the team food and drink.

4. Mr Zabriskie.

If the Giro was a peck on the cheek of his talent, the Tour was a full on tongue kiss. There are lots of ways to race, you can work the team for your sprinter, you can toss strategy at break aways and mountain wins, but when it comes to a TT, you “don’t have to do shit” except be a better rider than everyone else in a race they’ve been training all year for… Looks like all the training with Nunchucks really is great for the concentration!

3. Tom Boonen’s Year.

Wake up in the spring and rattle off a few wins at Paris-Nice for breakfast. Bash the Bergs and win Flanders, but don’t catch your breath before cashing in the cobbles at Paris Roubaix.

Knock out a few more wins on your lunch break, taking the GPE3 as well as a couple of stage wins at the Tour and look like a Green Jersey winner, but crash out. Finish the day off as a slightly less than prime favorite at the Worlds, but win it anyway… Di Luca won the UCI’s year, but the year was Boonen’s in the big shows.

2 and 1 for me are horrible…

2. Ciao Mario
189 wins. A classic, World Champs, 57 Grand Tour stage wins, Skinless skin suits, the ability to make pink macho and tiger stripes look good. The panache to make abandoning a Tour “cool”. So much raw speed that a train gets built around you. Taking partying as well as winning to the next level. Being cool enough to wait till the race is over and then ride up, state your case, call your shot, and punch someone in the mouth in honor of your mom.

Mario at his best won going away. He didn’t always have a train mind you, and won so much that it just made sense to give him one. Last couple K and you would start to look for the Red Train… You counted on seeing it, his enemies fought to get behind it like the wanna-be’s they were. Hell even the GC contenders looked forward to it as a safe an orderly ass kicking followed. Only Jean Marie Leblanc and the Tour thought otherwise, but I would guess that it was due to the winning Italian more than the abandoning star…

Mario Cipollini was one of the rare men to get bigger than the sport. The quintessential Italian Playboy / Heart throb / style-monger / racer. Say what you will about a younger Petacchi beating an aging Cipo, but Alessandro could light himself on fire and ride buck naked for his next hundred wins and while he is easily the fastest man today he would still not be the “Lion King” (not that a very cool and gentlemanly Petacchi strives for that).

Mario Cipollini was purely entertaining. Later in his career, his solo bridging up then pummeling the break in Ghent was a glimpse of what we might have wished for from a “harder” Mario. But in the end, the man was as good at being a specialist as any of today’s tour stars are. I, for one, love sprinters and find them every bit the champions that Climbers and TT riders are, as you would no more likely see Lance coming around the Red Train than you would see Mario dancing away from Lance and Chechu on Alpe D Huez…

We lose a very big Man this year in Mario.

Speaking of Big, there’s that other guy…

1. Bye Lance
Everyone know’s Lance’s palmares, it goes “blah blah blah, 7 Tours” Say and think what you want, as everyone has an opinion, but losing Lance Armstrong from the Peloton is a blessing and a curse.

Retailers the world over are on the edge of their seats, as Lance has simply done more to promote the sport than anyone in the world… ever. Eddy and a few others have larger records as riders, but nobody has had a greater impact on the sport and there is concern about how much growth we can expect now that he’s retired.

Everyone in the cycling industry, from hacks like us to bike makers far beyond Trek owe the guy a commission check. I have listened to a bunch of arrogant blowhard executives from lots of companies pontificate about how “our strategy for the company has paid off”. But when it’s all said and done, we will see lots of folks around the sport and around Lance himself go from champ to chump once their success isn’t carried on his legs any longer…

What Lance has done is special. We have a tour sponsor for California from Lance. We have far more crowded groups rolling around all cities because of Lance. Our riders have gained much international respect because of Lance. All good things.

Lance’s Ride For The Roses is just one example of his power to draw people onto their bikes.

One other thing I have grown to respect is his work off the bike for cancer. To be perfectly honest, I could not have cared less about the Lance Armstrong Foundation. For me it was about the bike. It was about the ride. It was about the Tour. Then I found that my sister had been hiding cancer from me and my family because she couldn’t afford treatment and she didn’t want to burden us. Instant clarity…

Among many other accomplishments, Lance helped the Tour of Courage raise over $6 million for cancer research in under 3 years.

You can complain all you want about Lance “only” winning tours. I got my lesson looking at his houses, cars, lifestyle and how “just winning tour’s” has paid off. You can say that he could have done more in the sport, but I know of no better way of judging an athlete’s success than the record he leaves behind and in the way he lives his life and provides for his family after the few years he competes.

Simply put, all the cheers and records aside, would you want to be able to provide for your family what Lance has, and would you like to have the legacy of a foundation as strong as the LAF?

Here’s to the Tour not being a foregone conclusion. Here’s to having the Boonen’s and Bettini’s and Diluca’s throughout the year. Here’s to the Grand Tour’s for keeping the UCI honest. Here’s to the UCI making the steps forward to a more professional professional peloton. Here’s to the need for a stronger cycling union that is ATHLETE’S ONLY and separate from any team managers or directors. Here’s to WADA, maybe not perfect, but making a positive difference.

And here’s to all the riders of 2005. Happy Holidays and thanks for all of your work!

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