Friday, December 30, 2005
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
What’s been happening in the cycling world over the Xmas break? George Hincapie was named by The State newspaper as South Carolina’s 2005 Pro Athlete of the Year. The biggest revelation of all to me was that Greenville is in South Carolina, because I’m sure that I’ve been transplanting it to North Carolina when I’ve mentioned it. Oops - mea culpa... And none of you has said anything! Usually when I goof up, I get a flood of corrective emails.... Hey, you guys gotta keep me honest!
In reading The State’s newspaper article, they talk about George and Melanie’s 4,500 square foot, Mediterranean-style home near Paris Mountain. George and Melanie, along with baby Julia, have just moved into their new home. George is on the unpack-a-box-a-day plan - Right on - here’s a guy after my own heart. I’m not one of those people who have to have everything unpacked and in place immediately, either.
George also said that he plans on riding for four more years before he retires to his dream home. And speaking of retirement, Lance - my Numero Uno Guy - was named Sports Personality of the Year in a poll published in the Spanish daily newspaper El Pais. Their readers voted for Lance over Spain’s own first-ever Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso, and Italian motorcycle rider Valentino Rossi.
Our good buddy in Belgium, Ann, has sent me the translation on the second part of the Nieuwsblad interview with Lance. I’ve gotta run out and do a couple of things, but I’ll put it up on the LAFC site in the next hour. Again, thanks to my best connection/correspondent in Belgium for burning the midnight oil to do the translation for all of us to read. It’s just so great to read the whole thing, not a brief, summarized version on some website...
The photo is one that I took in the desert north of Las Vegas - Valley of Fire State Park. It is so unique, right out in the middle of the desert, to see these fiery red and orange outcroppings. It made me think of the Ancient Gods throwing giant hunks of mud at each other. There are also awesome, incredible drawings that the Native People created so long ago, on some of the immense rocks.
These particular giant rock outcroppings stand alone in the middle of the grey-brown desert - splendid in their "differentness". In the larger sized image, you can see two people on the rocks, tiny as little ants.
So I added a caption to the photo, "What Is Different About Me Is An Important Part of Who I Am". Too many people, both adults and children, are in such pain about being different, with no realization of how special their uniqueness really is.
I may use this image on a poster at my cafepress shopping site. If you think folks might be interested in such a poster, let me know.... I could see it hanging in classrooms with this message... What do you think?
Saturday, December 24, 2005
Friday, December 23, 2005
I took this pic while the Discovery Team guys were warming up for Stage 19 of the 2005 Tour de France. You get a good look at George wearing his Oakley Thumpers to rock out while he warms up. I think this side-by-side, on the bikes image is symbolic of the seven Tours that George and Lance rode together. No matter what their individual choices were, they always rode to the same music, the same rhythm, and with the same winning goals.
One of my fav blog readers asked me to talk a bit about George and Lance: I’ve been around these guys so much. When guys ride and train and suffer together on a bike for year after year, they develop a bond, a trust, and a knowingness about each other that is almost symbiotic. Eki is also like that with Lance. Totally in sync and able to read each other’s mind and body language. A look says it all, and the plan is in place.
Total dedication and devotion to their team and their leader, based on respect. Respect that Lance earned from them with hard work and suffering: respect and dedication that can never be bought at any price. This is the respect between Lance and George. We’ve all read and seen so much about Lance, but the spotlight hasn’t been on George that much. I’m hoping that 2006 will be the Year of George....
George is one of the sweetest (yeah, I know, you don’t call guys sweet, but he is) and nicest men that I know. He is kind and gentle, with not an ounce of arrogance or narcissism in him. Quiet and soft-spoken, with a great sense of humor and quick smile. He is really a devoted family man and adores his little daughter, Julia Paris, and his wife Melanie. George and Lance are like brothers - Melanie and Sheryl are very close - Baby Julia calls them Uncle Lance and Aunt Sheryl.
I’ve written in my blog before about how I have a kind of tiny special place with George, because I photographed George and Melanie’s first kiss, and didn’t sensationalize it or sell it. I’ve never made the images public at all... I sent the series of shots to George for their private memory album.
I have so much respect and admiration for George - he never stops earning his place on the Discovery Team...
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Omigosh – I’m showing another image of George. Well, it’s because I’m still in Las Vegas, and it just too weird to not be attending Interbike! Interbike is the only reason I ever go to LV, except for this trip. So I had to find a LV cycling image, and what better pic than the hunky George Hincapie, from the 2005 Expo…
Quick update: LV is the usual tacky, plastic place – nothing is real here on the strip, whether it be the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, showgirl boobs, or a guy driving a very nice van around a gas station parking lot, with his wife and three kids inside, begging for money to get to Salt Lake City.
However, I found an awesome place that is a photographer’s delight – The Valley of Fire State Park - about 55 miles north of LV. I was there for a couple of hours late yesterday, but the sunset arrived before I got to all the locations. So, along with a couple of friends, we’re heading back this morning for more. Now, I’m not usually a landscape photographer, and I brought limited lenses with me, but this place is really, really cool.
I could have shown you a shot, but, for the first time in five years, I left my card reader at home, so I can’t download my images to my laptop. Duhhh …Guess when I go on a non-cycling shoot, my brain takes a vacation.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Continuing my leisurely spin down Memory Lane, this image is George Hincapie and Gary Erickson, CEO of Clif Bar, at Interbike 2004. Gary is presenting George with the $10,000 check for being top vote-getter in the 2004 Beyond the Podium Award. For those of you who are not familiar with the BTPA, Clif Bar wanted to recognize and honor the top, hard-working domestiques whose work and dedication got Lance on the Tour de France Podium. The fans voted George as their choice for 2004.
This award is particularly meaningful to me, because I have that $10,000 Beyond the Podium check hanging on the wall in my bedroom! Yep, I guess you could say that George Hincapie gave me $10,000...
The story: I was hanging out with George and the guys while they waited at the Clif Bar expo area for the presentation. I took a lot of shots, and afterwards, George was carrying this huge piece of cardboard and wondering what he was going to do with it. He had appearances at other sponsor booths and a flight to catch later in the day. “Uhhh - You want this?”, he said to me. OMG - Do I want it? It took me a whole millisecond to say yes... How cool is that? George Hincapie gives me his BTPA check? Awesome! If only I could have cashed it...
So I was really thrilled and I had scored bigtime in the fan world. However, along with all my photography gear, I now was walking around the vastness of the Interbike Expo with a four-foot-long piece of heavy cardboard that was almost two feet wide. Awkward, to say the least. I tried carrying it vertically, and then horizontally. No matter what I did, I bumped into people and exhibits. Vertically, I couldn’t see where I was going. Horizontally, every time I turned my body, I banged the back of the check into someone. I whapped more people in the fanny than I ever have in my life. And, everybody had to stop and ask me about it.
It was late afternoon, and Interbike was closing in a couple of hours - I didn’t want to leave yet. But my rental car was parked out in the lot about a mile away - by the time I walked out and stashed the check, I’d miss out on some appearances by other riders at their sponsor booths.
So I just lugged the damn thing around as best I could, and propped it up against something while I took photos... I must have looked really weird....
But wait, there’s more! As I was hiking around with my prize, it gradually dawned on me that I also had to get this on a plane back to San Jose. I began to have this little niggling thought that maybe George hadn’t given me the giant check as a token of his affection for me after all. Maybe he was smart enough to figure out that no way in Hell was he going to haul that monster check all the way back to North Carolina! Naaah - couldn’t be - shame on me for being such an ingrate.... But still..... He was gonna get the $10k, with or without the token award check.
So I decided that I could never get it on a plane - no way. I went by one of those Mailboxes R Us places and they said, “Sure, no problem - well wrap it and send it for you.” By the time they got thru with the foam board, bubble wrap, yards of brown paper and tape, plus oversize shipping charges, I paid $133.00 to get my wondrous gift sent home. I thought, “OMG - for that, I could have sent George, himself, to my house via Southwest Airlines.”
Just kidding, George. I love ya, man - and I have something that no other George Hincapie fan in the world has (I think)... I look at it every day and smile... Life is good...
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
I see that the ebay auction by the LAF for two tickets to the Apprentice Finale on the 15th in NYC stands at $510 now. You also get to have breakfast with Adam, one of the contestants who was recently fired. There’s one bidding day left, so if you are an Apprentice fan (I must admit that I am hooked on it this year), you can find it on ebay by clicking on the Link at the bottom of this post. I’m surprised that they haven’t had Lance on there as an unannounced guest in some way!
Since the cycling scene is still pretty lackluster, I dug back again into my 2003 reports:
July 25, 2003
A couple of days ago I said, "Robin, where are you?" Well, today I ran right into Robin Williams at the entrance to the Village. He was with Jeff Garvey, of the LAF, and some other guys. We did the usual huggy-kiss thing and he quietly headed into the Village area. That quiet lasted about two minutes, and he was spotted. Of course pandemonium broke loose and he suddenly had an entourage of about 30-40 press and fan folk following him around. Robin is so nice to people - he stops and talks with regular people, signs autographs, and poses for pictures.
Robin was like the Pied Piper of Comedy, and a huge crowd followed him over to see Lance at the team bus. He was in there a long time, and I heard later that he had them in stitches, laughing the whole time. I guess he became Directeur Sportif and gave the team outrageous, hilarious pre-race instructions that would have had them all in trouble. What a great way to warm up for a race, roaring with laughter from Robin's zany humor.
I also had a good laugh later this evening during dinner. I went into a place called Pizza Pai - (yes, Pai with those two dots over the ii) and the hostess came over to speak English with me. And I had thought I was doing just fine with my pitiful, yet persistent attempts to speak French menu-ese.
The hostess, Marina, told me that she had spent a year in Michigan at school - she came to the US without knowing any English at all. She said everyone was so nice and helpful to her and that she misses the US. We started talking about how we use such different words to describe things in our two countries.
She started laughing and told me how she had gone into some huge store in Michigan, and embarrassed about her poor English, had asked where the Toilettes were. The clerk gave her directions, and she hurried over there. She said she had to go really bad, and almost died when she realized the clerk had sent her to the area in the store where the toilets and bathroom fixtures were for sale! Her first major lesson in the US! She was told in the future to ask for the Restroom or, as she said with her French accent, "To powder my nose." In France, one asks for the Toilettes, and they are most often unisex.
Today was a long driving day - tomorrow will be worse. After the major Time Trial ends in Nantes, I will go all the way to Paris for the next two nights. So tomorrow's report may be very late and very short! Go Lance - fly like an eagle tomorrow!!
Monday, December 12, 2005
The photo is my Editor-In-Chief, who keeps a watchful eye on me while I’m working on my computer. Her name is Baby, and she had some concerns about the Sloggi thong photo in my last blog... You may or may not agree with her about whether it was in “good taste” or not...
Here is the Monday morning Lance Armstrong Radio Sirius Faction report. Higgs said that Lance was in San Francisco last Wednesday to be the keynote speaker for a meeting of the World’s Top 50 CMOs. Before the address, he was interviewed by sports journalist Roy Firestone. The Sunday nite show was based on parts of that interview. (I’ll give you what I remember of the interview - it’s not word-for-word quotations from the interview tape. And again, there were some pretty time-worn questions (TWQ) and Roy, or his staff, hadn’t done their homework very well...)
RF: Asked if Lance will come back for Number 8 TWQ- Said how can you not, being as competitive as you have been all your life, even as a kid? How do you not live a life of competition now?
LA: Said he was happy to stop, mainly because of his kids and spending time with them. Will not ever live in France again - riding the Tour again would just result in the same drama.
RF: Asked what bothers Lance most about the innuendos and accusations. Said that there was even an article that Lance’s cancer was a fraud, and done so that Lance could use drugs to come back and win the Tour.
LA: Said he knows differently, he’s lived the cancer. Said that if you looked at it objectively, the modern sport of cycling had just gone through the 1998 doping crisis, and then along comes Lance and wins, and wins again - seven times. And he didn’t pander to the European journalists - when they said something, he called them on it.
RF: Who was it specifically: French, Spanish, Italian journalists or who?
LA: Said it was the French journalists. Said to look at it like what if the French came over and won our World Series seven times... wouldn’t the American journalist have a lot to say about that!
RF: Asked which of Lance’s wins was he proudest of? TWQ
LA: Most proud of the first and the last wins. First for obvious reasons, last because he wanted to go out on top. It was a perfect ending with his kids there, his friends and family, Sheryl, his Mom: all there for him...
RF: Read a quote from Robin Williams wherein he said that Lance had kicked him in the heart... Asked Lance what that meant.
LA: Said that Robin is brilliant, intelligent and well-read. Whatever his kids or anyone is reading, Robin will read it too, know about it and base his humor on it...
RF: Quoted the book about Lance choosing cancer of the Tour de France win. TWQ
LA: Cancer changes your perspective on life forever. Cancer made him win the Tour.
RF: You are depicted as a courageous man. Were you a frightened man?
LA: The word courage is a serious word. Everyone who battles cancer is courageous - whether it’s an 80 year old grandmother battling lung cancer or me. The key is to stay predominantly positive.
RF: Read that when you were looking at results with Dr. Shapiro, and when you discussed your HGC numbers, he said that 60-70 was high and yours was a little high. You said mine is 187, but what does “k” mean? Dr Shapiro said thousand, and your count is 187,000.
LA: Yeah! I was either very sick or very pregnant. At that point, I’d rather be pregnant... (Laughter)
RF: Did you do much laughing during your treatment?
LA: Laughter is important - with a positive attitude, people do better in anything.
RF: How much crying did you do?
LA: Not much - there were times, though.
RF: How much throwing up?
LA: A lot more throwing up than crying...
RF: Said that everywhere you look there are people battling cancer who are uninsured. You were uninsured, but Nike was a hero - the company who stepped in and said either insure Lance or we pull out, and got insurance for you.
LA: Nope, it was Oakley who did that. Both Oakley and Nike were heroes for me at that time.
RF: Think about all the people who don’t have that clout.
LA: It happens all the time - cancer is incredibly expensive and incredibly hard.
RF: How many lives do you think are lost because of that?
LA: Don’t know, but it is the poorest of the poor who are lost. That has to change... Health care in America has to change.
RF: The LiveStrong band. What do you call it? Band , bracelet, what?
LA: Just call it the Yellow Band.
RF: Whose idea was it? Yours? TWQ
LA: Laughing - Yeah, mine....all mine...
RF; How many have been sold? I read 11 million? TWQ - And so wrong...
LA: No 59 or 60 million now. And they cost ten cents to buy. The guys at Nike came up with the idea, they called them “ballers” (Laughter). Nike proposed making five million and if they didn’t sell, they would donate the $5 million to the LAF. The Tour happened and the Olympics, and all athletes wore the LiveStrong band, no matter where they were from, no matter what race or religion. It was great.
RF: Are you a Hero?
LA: Uhhh.. don’t know... probably not. You can’t call yourself a hero, if you do, you’ll probably fail.
RF: But you are a symbol...
LA: I try to be a good example of living strong, living my life doing what is right. I can’t say I’m a hero, that’s for somebody else to say. It would be nice..
RF: What’s the stronger power in the Universe - Fear or Love?
LA: Boy - that varies on a person’s Universe.... As an athlete, probably Fear motivated me. I was worried that I would let down my fans and sponsors. (About the cancer) Still worried - But I didn’t worry today. I respect that illness like no other - it is a total and complete Bastard - I never turn my back on it.
RF: You’ve had an unbelievable life. Your mother is most important - she was married three times. When you divorced, did you feel the pattern was continuing? Was it difficult for you?
LA: Divorce for me was a disappointment, a failure - you don’t enter into a marriage to get divorced. Fifty percent of Americans get divorced, but divorce doesn’t mean you are a failure or a bad person. It means that you didn’t line up with your soulmate. It doesn’t mean that you never should have loved. If I had my choice, I’d rather have been married for fifty years.
RF: Do you think people were disappointed in you?
LA: Oh yeah...divorce is definitely looked down on in this country, as common as it is. People were disappointed, but you have to live your life for yourself and not for them. Do what’s right for yourself, for your wife/ex-wife and especially for the children. Sometimes that requires hard decisions.
RF: Reads the Lance quote about wanting to die while descending at 80 miles an hour with the Lone Star on his helmet, etc etc. How close is that fantasy of perfection to your realization of life now?
LA: Well, I don’t think I will be descending a mountain when I’m a hundred years old.. doubt that I will even be alive. Can’t complain - I’m 34 years old, and have health, happiness, three kids, financial security, and unbelievable friends and support in the cancer community. I think I can really make a difference - if you can step in and change the course of history when it comes to cancer, that’s a big victory.
RF: And grasp life for what it is....
LA: Every Day....
The interview ended and Higgs said that they had been traveling. Were in LA where Lance did a cameo in a movie starring Kate Hudson, Owen Wilson, Matt Dillon and Michael Douglas. Gave a speech in Seattle for a Prostate Cancer Awareness Group of 1,100 people. Best speech of his life, according to Higgs.
Friday, December 09, 2005
Thursday, December 08, 2005
Not much going on in the cycling world: the month of December is like a prolonged Rest Day, without all the media frenzy. I am thinking that this month is a good time to walk down the Velogal Tour Talk memory lane. I just searched through most all of my photos to compile a photography gift book for some of my friends - it made me think of some of the stages and happenings that I wrote about during the past few years at the Tour. I first started writing a daily Velogal Talks Tour report for Active.com during the 2002 Tour de France. And I wrote Zee Leetle Podium Girl Gone Bad Tour Reports for cyclingnews.com that year. This is from the 2002 Tour, at the start in Luxembourg (with obviously a Night Before Christmas influenced leetle poem):
2002 Tour Journal of a Podium Girl Gone Bad
Well, girls and boys, here I am again heading for Le Tour. Time has flown by this year, much like the hopes of non-negative potential Yellow Jersey winners. My, my, how the big names do fly… high.
What I have to tell is this little Tour story. While zipping along into Luxembourg in my little rental Skoda, I rounded a corner and saw the most astonishing billboard – an eye-catching advertisement that should become an ode to the legend of Le Tour. Thus, my dearies, was PGGB inspired to write:
Driving into the elegant Duchy of Lux,
Thinking that here, Jean Marie might be wearing a tux.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a huge billboard full of female derriere.
Le Grand Depart were the words at the top,
But the cyclists pictured made my eyes pop!
No Telekom, no Postal and no iBanesto,
Sex sells Le Tour seemed the bold manifesto.
No lycra, no spandex, and not even one of the boys,
Nay, Luxembourg beckoned
With girls and their toys.
Now you may say it’s right,
Or you may say it’s wrong,
But those gals on their bikes
Wore only a thong…
It outraged many folks,
Who sprang to their arms.
How could Le Tour take advantage
Of those feminine charms?
Has Le Tour lost their collective minds?
Advertising Le Grande Boucle
With female behinds?
Then the truth was revealed to all of these folk,
The advertisement ‘twas but a sly, clever joke.
It looked quite authentic, and made some folks swear,
But 'twas only an ad for female underwear!
Yes, dear cycling fans, it was an audacious advertising campaign by a company that sells feminine lingerie. And, no, those three scantily clad women pedaling merrily along on their bikes were selling thongs, not Le Tour.
I stopped my car and spoke with an elderly woman who was staring, expressionless, at the spread of larger-than-life female anatomy. “Madam, if you please, what do you think about this poster?” I asked. “Well, well,” she replied, with a slight twinkle in her eye, “How very cheeky of them.”
The Sloggi advertisement was all over Luxembourg on billboards at bus tops, railway stations, and huge billboards along the roads. However, this image was not allowed in my Podium Girl Gone Bad book, because I did not have permissions from the company. You can follow the Link to buy zee wicked leetle book....
Happy Holidays to Everyone!
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
Just read in the news that The Angel of the Mountains, Charly Gaul, has died from a pulmonary embolism. I was fortunate to be at the Tour de France Village Depart on July 10, 2003, where Charly made a rare public appearance to meet his many, many fans and sign autographs. I took several photos, including the one above, and he was gracious enough to sign a couple of Champion cards for me.
Here is what I wrote in the July 10, 2003 Velogal Tour de France Report on the Lance Armstrong website:
An interesting and poignant moment for me today was being with Charly Gaul for a few minutes in the Village Depart. He is a sweet, frail man who is so loved and respected by the French, and everyone at the Tour. He is called Monsieur Charly, which is to honor him, and everyone wants his autograph. He signs everything very carefully and with such a gracious, warm smile.
Charly signed each autograph with a slow, careful and spidery signature. He was very meticulous and precise, writing in a tiny, straight line. Charly was patient and gracious with the photographers who rushed to the Champion hosting area. Both photographers and fans crowded around the white patio table and chairs, jostling for position. Charly Gaul was quiet, humble and unpretentious. He kept his head down and concentrated on his task - didn’t interact much with the fans, but was smiling and kind to everyone. He was basically a recluse after his retirement around 1964, and lived in Luxembourg. So his appearance at the Tour was very, very special.
Charly Gaul won the Tour de France in 1958, and won the Mountain Jersey in 1955 and 1956. He won several stages in the Tour in the 50’s. He was victorious in the Giro d’Italia in 1956 and 1959 - the first non-Italian to win the Giro twice. The major races then were often contested by National teams, and Charly, being from such a small country, was often without support, or had pretty poor domestiques. He often basically raced on his own...
One of his best known victories was in the 1956 Giro d’Italia. By the end of Stage 16, he had won two stages, but was only in 24th position and over fifteen minutes behind. In the Dolomites, from Merano to Trente, it was cold with freezing rain. Charly loved the cold and rode well, but heat was not for him. So he was in his element. He attacked on the Rolle climb, and gained a two minute lead at the top.
Now get this.... Charly’s brakes gave out on the long, dangerous descent and did he stop? No, he used his feet to slow down. Everyone passes him and he loses six minutes by the time he gets to the bottom. The rain turns into freezing snow, bitter-assed cold, and one-by-one, the many riders abandon. Charly never gives up and passes the remaining riders, and wins the stage by eight minutes. He wins the Giro two days later....
Farewell, Monsieur Charly.... Ride with the Wind...
Monday, December 05, 2005
Shameless Self-Promotion Department: This is the cover of zee leetle Podium Girl Gone Bad book. It makes a silly, unique Christmas gift for the cyclist that has everything. OK - you’ve already run the gamut of sox, gloves, hats, armwarmers - same old thing every year. What to get for the cyclist that has everything.... B..o..r..i..n..g. Be different - Go to the Link and order the damn book! Hey - I need the bucks to get to the Tour again!
Tomorrow I’ll show you the wicked PGGB Thong...
So the Colorado State Patrol backed off from their ban on large numbers (over 2000) cyclists on the road, and are going to study the situation for a year. That means the LiveStrong ride and a couple of cycling races are a go for next year. Good work, everybody!
Lance and Sheryl attended the GQ Men of the Year Awards in Beverly Hills, and smooched for the cameras. Guess he is pretty busy right now... The Sirius Faction Lance Armstrong Radio Show on Sunday night was another re-run. It was the show that was taped in Austin right before Lance left for Sheryl’s first concert in Seattle. It was taped the day before Bill Stapleton got married.
The training camp in Austin is happening - You just know that The Man is gonna be home as much as he can, and on the bike as much as he can with the team. A whole lot of the team is there.... Head on over to www.thepaceline.com to see the reports and photos....