Over the weekend, the Amgen Tour of California concluded with a final circuit race through the Thousand Oaks area, as Michael Rogers clinched the overall title by just nine seconds over Dave Zabriskie and former champ Levi Leipheimer.
The prior day featured the Downtown L.A. time trial, which failed to live up to predictions as the deciding stage when no one took control of the race. Will got there just in time to catch Leipheimer leaping past, while others focused on the bikes that weren’t in the race and the Daily News looked at the more extreme bike race fanatics. And some complained that it was just too bad that all those bikes blocked access to the action inside the Staples Center.
But the real action was further off the course, of course.
After destroying what little was left of his own credibility, admitted doper Floyd Landis attended the L.A. time trail, but didn’t talk to reporters about his accusations against Lance Armstrong, Zabriskie, Leipheimer and George Hincapie, as the Times suggested he has nothing left to lose and disappointment abounded in his hometown.
On the other hand, he may soon have company as reports indicate that at least two of the riders Landis pointed his drug-stained finger at have been offered leniency in exchange for cooperating with investigators. And not everyone loves or believes Lance Armstrong, despite his denial of Landis’ charges.
Meanwhile, in the race that carries a much higher profile among most serious cycling fans outside of California, Ivan Basso bounced back from a suspension for the Operation Puerto doping scandal — notice a theme here? — to win Sunday’s stage of the Giro D’Italia and swears he’s now clean, while David Arroyo kept the leader’s pink jersey.
And that’s the problem.
But it will never be more than a second tier tour until it can find a place on the cycling calendar that doesn’t conflict with the great classics. Most European based pro teams, and most high-level riders, would rather compete in the Giro than make the trip here for the relatively short, low profile and only modestly challenging ToC.
And given a choice, I would have much rather have watched Vinokourov, Basso, Wiggins, Evans, Sastre, et al, battle it out, if only Time Warner carried it.
On the other hand, while the men’s pro calendar is crowded, the women’s schedule is desperately in need of an American grand tour of its own. And to the best of my knowledge, there hasn’t been a high-profile multi-stage women’s tour in the U.S. since I watched Jeanie Longo, Maria Canins and Connie Carpenter battle it out in the Coors Classic before the ’84 Olympics.
So maybe it’s time for the people behind the Tour of California to consider a second race, either in conjunction with the men’s tour or on a date of its own later in the year. Because the men’s race will never be more than an alternative for the top pro teams until it can find its own space on the calendar.
But there’s a real opportunity to create the world’s most important, high profile women’s race.
And in a state that would readily embrace it.
The Source names their 10 Essential Bikes as Transportation Blogs, eight of which are already on my daily reading list. There was a time when L.A. bike planners actually thought big. Long Beach’s bike-touring expats make their way from Denton TX — home of the world’s greatest nuevo polka band — to Shreveport LA. The struggle to strike a balance between bikes and motorists on one of the nation’s best roads for riding. Several cyclists are injured — two seriously — in an amateur race in New Hampshire; at least one of the commenters fails to grasp the concept of racing. Cincinnati requires bike parking in any motor vehicle parking facility with 60 or more spaces. Toronto considers switching to a complete streets model. A Montreal rider offers an extensive list of safety tips, yet oddly seems to consider a bell a life-saving safety device. A Brit woman claims to have lost eight dress sizes riding in her sleep under hypnosis. A London truck driver who killed a female cyclist last year admits to being on his cell phone at the time, as the prosecutor presses for stiffer charges. Jakarta cyclists get a Bike to Work Center, not just a day. In an ecumenical approach to peace, 120 Bedouin children join 10,000 Israeli cyclists on bikes donated by a fellowship of Christians and Jews. A Cervélo rider who crashed out of the ToC crashes again, this time while driving drunk in Germany .
Finally, Australia turns into a battleground as an Aussie rider is severely beaten by a driver after flipping him off, and a cyclist provides tragic proof that cyclists can be homicidal assholes, too, by fatally pushing the 71-year old mother of a former rugby star; he told a bystander “the bitch was in my way” before pedaling anonymously away.