July 2, 2019 § 1 Comment
Nobody “deserves” to be in the Olympics. With few exceptions, you begin playing a game years before, the Olympic Game. It’s the contest that inexorably leads to your inclusion or exclusion from the biggest sporting stage on earth.
The battle isn’t just with splits or with successive triple axels or points or wins or or or or or. No, the battle is at every level, from breakfast to training, from personal issues to whether or not your country is at war, from getting on with your coach to getting sent to the competitions that matter, from tearing the legs off your competitors to tearing ligaments in an unfortunate fall.
The Olympic Game doesn’t end until you’ve either made the squad or you haven’t.
And even though the Olympics are so near that Tokyo has completed the stadiums, spit-polished Ueno Station, painted the city with English signs and ripped out the squat toilets, for the athletes the Olympics are still a thousand years away simply because anything can happen between now and then, and by “anything” I mean “anything bad.”
Yet the Olympics are dazzlingly close, too, because at least in the world of track cycling the pool of candidates has winnowed considerably, and there are only a handful of races left that will put contenders on a competition trajectory to participate in the most important events leading up to the Games.
Your chances of getting picked if you’re not winning? Slimmmmmm.
Your chances of getting picked if you’re not at the biggest races in the next eleven months? Zero.
One of the biggest forks in the road if you’re a U.S. bike racer trying to qualify for the Olympics is happening this week, it’s happening in Carson, and for many of the riders, everything is on the line. A crushing performance here will likely send you to the Pan-Am Games, and a strong showing there will propel you into the upcoming events in the World Cup.
A catastrophic showing in Carson and your Olympic campaign will likely come to a halt, the kind of halt that happens when someone takes out your front wheel with a bulldozer. So if you’re wondering what to do this week, I recommend you take a few hours of your time starting Thursday and mosey down to the Carson velodrome to watch some hard core pre-Olympic knife fighting in the mud.
And no, I’m not going to backtrack on my opener, that no one “deserves” an Olympic slot. But I will say that at track nationals this year you’ll get to see the best, most astonishing, most accomplished, most interdiscplinary bike racer we’ve had in this country for years. Of course I’m talking about Daniel Holloway.
How good is Holloway? He has won the national elite crit title five times. He’s a two-time national elite road champion. How about this: he’s held a national title of some type every single year … since 2014. And on top of that, for a couple of years he was wearing national titles simultaneously in three events. Name a national caliber crit and he’s not only won it, but chances are he’s won it multiple times. Athens? Yup. Snake Alley? Yup. Speed Week? Yup. Tulsa Tough? Yup, yup, yup.
The only reason that he doesn’t still dominate the national road and crit scene is because he’s trying to make the Olympic track squad, period. He has raced six-days in Europe for years, and brings the same intellect, bike skills, and tactical genius to the boards that he brings to road racing. Explosive, canny, tenacious, he’s the kind of rider who quickly exhausts your thesaurus when you’re trying to explain that HE IS A BADASS KILLER OF A BIKE RACER.
But in addition to all that, he has another skill, one that truly puts him at the pinnacle of the sport: The ability to polish off a giant stack of homemade sourdough pancakes topped with butter and maple syrup and not even whine about the calories. In fact, when I offered him this healthy post-ride snack before we went for a pedal the other day, all he texted back was, “Sounds like gluten. I’m in.”
So my advice is that you boogie on down to the Carson velodrome sometime this week to watch some crazy great bike racing. You’ll see some people here in your hometown that, twelve months hence, you are for sure gonna see on TV.
July 19, 2016 § 38 Comments
One of my buddies who has been cycling for all of a year has been absolutely ripping legs off on the local group rides, especially anything with a bump in it. He is a friendly guy until the ride gets hard and then suddenly he’s not, ladling out huge, steaming helpings of pain until you slide off the back with your broken ego, having opened your suitcase of courage only to find that mom packed it with wrinkled, ill-fitting, polyester excuses.
So it came as a surprise when he got this message from Thorfinn-Sassquatch, recent winner of a lifetime achievement award from USADA. It appears that my buddy’s conquests on Strava, like his conquests against real people, have popped up on Nick Brandt-Soreasson’s fragile ego radar. To wit:
Perhaps Thorfinn wants to keep tabs on someone whose antics are sending him a barrage of “Uh-oh” emails, or perhaps he thinks he’s found a potential customer for some “supplements.” I hardly have the heart to tell Dopesquatch that he’s barking up the wrong tree.
This is the kind of thing that grabs your attention here in the South Bay, or maybe it’s the masters racer who for years was nothing spectacular and is now on practically every podium in practically every race he enters.
And then on the national stage there are the true asshats like Floyd Landis, a guy whose exploits include:
- Cheating to win the Tour
- Defrauding over 1,700 people with a fake legal defense fund
- Drug use that contributed to his father-in-law’s suicide
- Suing his fellow dopers for doping crimes
- Starting a “new lease on life” … as a dope seller
It all seems a bit surreal, knowing that the Tour is a dope-addled version of pro wrestling for skinny people, and it all seems strangely funny as old fellows pump their bodies with every manner of poison in order to score virtual trinkets and podium hardware that includes free beer, recovery drink mix, candy bars, and socks.
But then you realize what cycling’s dopers have always said is true: This is the bush leagues. Sure, cyclists dope. “Duh,” as they used to say twenty years ago.
But that ain’t nothing compared to Russia, who is on the verge of having all of its teams in all of its sports banned from the Dolympics. According to Canadian law prof Richard McLaren (no relation to the car):
Russia’s “Ministry of Sport directed, controlled and oversaw the manipulation of athlete’s analytical results or sample swapping, with the active participation and assistance of the FSB, CSP, and both Moscow and Sochi Laboratories.” The FSB is Russia’s federal security service while the CSP is involved in the training of Russian athletes.
In other words, some boring Canadian dude just concluded about Russia’s national sports program what the international diplomatic and journalist world has been saying for years: Putin is a criminal and Russia is a mafia.
Suddenly, sleazebag dope-peddling Floyd and sleazebag stretchy-underwear dope peddling Soreasson and sleazebag Local Masters Racer don’t look so bad. In fact, they look smaller than the average man-package outline as seen on the average bike racer podium. We’re talking super tiny.
Which raises a big question: If the Dolympics are going to start banning entire nations for doping, then what’s the point of the event? No world stage provides a bigger or glitzier showcase for cheating, fake performance, hypocrisy, bribery, and graft. I fear for the future of an event whose moral high points include its attempt to silence free speech regarding China’s occupation of Tibet prior to the Beijing Dolympics, as well as its acceptance of $4.4 million in soft “entertainment” bribes prior to selecting Nagano as the host city in 1998.
More to the point, are we going to take Russian superiority lying down? If the challenge of Sputnik got us to put a man on the moon, maybe it’s time that Russia’s state sponsored doping and “mind boggling levels of corruption” kicked us into high gear as well. What about a steering committee composed of Lance, Floyd, Soreasson, and Rich Meeker, a true Dream Team that can help us figure out what our nation needs to do so that we can level the cheating field?
I’ve even got a slogan in mind: “Making America Great Again” (merchandise made in China, of course). It would be a fantastic motto under which we can promote thievery, chicanery, duplicitous hypocrisy, and self aggrandizement at the expense of the peasants. Can someone check to see if that slogan is already taken?
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