Lance makes cycling a small world |

Lance makes cycling a small world

Alan Braunholtz

Lance may be the best cyclist in the world, cancer survivor, activist and personality who has transcended the limited appeal of cycling. He’s even gotten cycling on TV here – amazing! Watching his climb up to Courcheval when he slowly burnt up almost the whole field and they floated off the back said everything about this tour. It’s his last and he’s going to win with style and not just a tactical walkover using his team. No excuses possible here, just the truth of “I couldn’t keep up.” I can’t understand why the tour doesn’t hit the mountains earlier and why it allows team directors with radios to tell their racers what to do. Let the racers work it out for themselves and they’d make mistakes; miss who is in a breakaway or underestimate how far ahead they’ve got. If the strong teams weren’t infallible, this would encourage everyone to get creative and unpredictable with their attacks, since they might get away with it. Now with radios it’s impossible to sneak away, and the race is more boring as a result. Armstrong’s met every attack with that cliched Clint Eastwood poker stare. Barring some breakdown, he’ll win and there’ll be no hand over of the torch to a new king. Your rivals define you as much as you do in battles and sports. Lance is lucky to have some good ones. Few sports have such prolonged suffering and the sweet satisfaction of inflicting more pain than your rivals can handle in what is really a three-week war of attrition. It’s fascinating to watch – partly for the tactics, partly for the sheer speed these guys go uphill, and partly for the bicycles.Bicycles are intrinsically cool machines. Pared down utilitarian efficiency creates a beautiful simplicity that turns every trip to a bike shop into a lingering art tour where you are allowed to touch and drool.Nice to see the aliens in “War of the Worlds” pay homage to the H.G Wells original as they puzzle over a bicycle wheel. In his book he makes the point that nothing in the alien tripods resembles a wheel. They never invented one. The film then undermines this by giving the machines round headlights and suckers on the tripod feet. Interesting concept that the wheel is really an inspired invention we mistakenly take for granted. Bicycles may be beautiful, svelte objects broadcasting minimalist efficiency, but then we get on them and their panache starts to suffer. Lycra is flattering to perhaps a miniscule percentage of the world’s population, and these people pose on fashion runways, not bicycles.Even the pros look a little weird in their shorts and shirts. Bulging legs whirling under an atrophied chicken’s chest wrapped around massive lungs and a well-earned farmer’s tan, they should keep their shirts zipped up according to some of the female fans I know.Still, the pros are paid to wear those colors. We’re not. When a recreational pack zooms by stuffed into bright tubes of Lycra, I’m reminded of a box of semi-frozen fruit bars or popsicles. With Lance kicking butt, there are understandably a lot of Discovery Channel jerseys out there. But those garish banners proclaiming “Geritol,” “Gerolsteiner” or other obscure Euro products make less sense than the fashionable colors of your local bike shop. Now, wearing a yellow jersey, unless you’ve actually led the tour, is different. It’s similar to donning an imitation gold medal while the Olympics are on. They’re big sellers, though, and according to one bike shop source do come in a “relaxed fit” size. Yellow is a bright color, and that should help cars see cyclists before running them over. Of course, visibility may not be the issue. There seems to be a lot of anger by big, bullying vehicles to smaller, slower objects on their roads.A hint here: If your truck is too big to stay in its lane on our mountain roads the brake pedal is to the left of the accelerator and you could always get a smaller car. It would at least fit in one space in the parking garages and you’ll make the U.S. less dependent on imported oil. I know “cars pay vehicle registration fees and gas taxes, so the roads are theirs.” It’s a lame argument. For starters, fuel tax goes to federal highways and interstates aren’t where you see most cyclists. Local roads, the ones cyclists use, are paid for mainly by local taxes and fees from developers. If you live here, you pay for it, and I’m betting the guy with the Trek Madonne pays more in property taxes than most. In 2002, of the $28 billion dollars spent on roads only $3 billion came from user fees (gas and vehicle tax). Besides, I’m willing to bet that every biker you see also has a car, which is paying road tax. And bicycles cause no road damage, so every biker is effectively subsidizing the wear and tear other vehicles are causing. Then you have parking lots, a huge subsidy in money and land for motorized vehicles paid for by the whole of society. The next issue would be environmental costs but we don’t have enough space. It goes on and on, but the point is that no one group owns the roads. They’re a communal asset that we all pay for and share. Hopefully, CDOT will get their act together and start thinking beyond the “car-only” mindset and view expanding shoulders as part of road construction and not some foo-foo extra. Cyclists always suffer the most in any collision with a car and that’s a subsidy no group should have to pay. Strangely, while cyclists ask respect from other road users, a few exhibit the same symptoms of anger, close speed and general disrespect to slower users when on the recreation paths. I guess we all like to bully. To me, it’s a karma thing. Slow down and wait to pass the strolling family with dog, and perhaps the construction truck will wait to swing wide when you’re carelessly riding two abreast. We’re a community, smaller than most. The person you swear at in the roundabout will probably reappear as your next boss, or parent of your child’s friend.Alan Braunholtz of Vail writes a weekly column for the Daily.Vail, Colorado

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