Monday, February 18, 2008

Pale, Restless, and Ready

You know you're enduring a bad winter when you start to literally dream about clear roads. I had such a dream the night before last, and that was the entire dream - me standing in the middle of a road devoid of snow and ice and sand and salt, laughing and jumping up and down because the road was clear. And smooth. Just as the precipitation this winter in Maine has been diabolical from day one, so now the frost heaves are as bad as ever. The roads have become a jolting, jarring obstacle course straight out of an all-terrain vehicle advertisement. If it's not the actual heaves in the pavement itself, it's islands of packed ice and snow left from the dreaded "wintry mix" of recent storms. I used to pride myself on riding outside at least one weekend a month during the winter, but no such fun this year. When the one real shot came during the January Thaw, I was in the middle of a six-week virus from hell that I'm still trying to recover fully from.

So it will still be a while before I can get out on the roads here, but at least now I can watch cycling again! I've been following the early races online, but nothing gets the juices flowing like hearing the whirs and clicks and seeing the thrills and spills as they unfold. Or as they are sliced and diced into a compact one-hour show, but we'll take what we can get! Now we can see who's showing early form, get accustomed to guys on their new teams, cackle with glee over DZ's latest facial hair stylings, and check out this year's kits. I see Saunier-Duval are still sporting their little pee-pees, Quick-Step is going with more white, High Road has gone completely white - are they all trying to look extra-clean or what? Astana is looking a little funky, and I don't mean that in a good way. And Rock Racing is way-funky - I don't agree with those green stripes, not flattering at all. I know, Michael Ball is Mr. Haute Couture, but I never understood that stuff either, so I guess it stands to reason.

The Tour of Qatar was our appetizer last night on VS. Being crammed into an hour doesn't help, I suppose, but it still strikes me as an odd little race. A slight peloton slogging away on a barren landscape, with very few spectators it seems, even at the finishes. But hey, it's racing and it gives Tom Boonen a chance to get his grinning mug some airplay. It was nice to see Slipstream-Chipotle mixing it up, but of course that hit a sour note with the nasty crash of Maggy Backstedt. Here's hoping he makes it back for some classics. I was also bummed that basketball ran over, so we didn't get to see the TTT stage; that would've been a lovely way to start the viewing season.

And then today we had California, in all its sunny glory, lucky bastards. (I'm not bitter, I'm not bitter…) Did PP & B have jet lag or what? That "pre-game" was dreadful, they couldn't even get it up to talk about Levi and Contador being out of the Tour! Jet lag, or maybe they're as weary as the rest of us with that aspect of the sport, but come on, you gotta be able to muster up some outrage on that one. Although, seeing as we are back in California, it does remind one that our very own race organizers did some pretty sketchy bending of the rules last year to keep Levi in yellow. Totally different scale, yeah, but I'm just sayin'.

The boys finally got their wild excitement on for the actual racing. Which, of course, was going on all during the first hour filler, but as usual we only got to see the second half. It's nice for folks to get to know the new teams, but throw us a bone or two to keep us awake! My eyes did perk up upon seeing a glimpse of Floyd Landis at the pre-race event, and a Floyd Fairness Fund T-Shirt in the crowd at today's race.

I can't say I love the new all-flat opening day, but it's always fun to watch Fabulous Fabian show the field how it's done. As he did so many times last year, Fab gave a finishing effort like no one else's, and reaped the just rewards. Nice to see he's starting right where he left off, hope we get another thrilling season from him. Forget the cheese, he was the answer to "Where's The Beef?" today.

Levi was disappointed to break his "winning streak," but he did just fine for himself. Placed right up among the specialists, and ahead of his likely rivals. I look forward to he and George duking it out in earnest this year, instead of all that drama about who has to work for whom in which races. And I hope Jens can fight this one out too, but those scrapes from his training spill looked nast-y! I hate to see him like that, but I love to see him, and all the guys, back in the saddle again for another season.


cat2bike said...

Oh, Julie, what a great post! This winter my time has been in the gym, weight training and doing cardio, so I can hit the ground running this spring.
Watching yesterday was like a fantasy! Bright sun, green grass, and palm trees, mixed with the riders, looking awesome!


Julie said...

Hey Theresa! I know, those sunny scenes were too much. When I saw that family picnicking in their T-shirts, I about wanted to jump through my screen and join them! We were completely socked in with fog all day today. I was following the race live at cyclingnews, but so bummed I couldn't see the images they were describing! Hope they give us a good sampling tonight.

Anonymous said...

Great to have you back, Julie! I'm completely commiserating with you on the weather. I think we have enough snow now here to last until May. Sunny CA looked WONDERFUL!!

I noticed that FFF shirt right away in the coverage yesterday!

Let the drama begin -- its really just exciting to be able to watch a race again!

Anonymous said...

Heeeeeey, I didn't know you were back over here! I'm supposed to be studying statistics, but now I get to read your ToC posts...woohoo!