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July 03, 2010

Floyd, Lance, WSJ: the Bike Race Ruckus

The Hardy Boys, of course, have already dealt with shady mysteries and blackguards in bicycle racing:
"Lots of kids are planning to enter the Bike Jamboree. Bully Zack Jackson and his buddy Brett call the Hardys wimps. But is someone playing dirty to win the grand prize--a supercool twenty-speed mountain bike?

Frank and Joe are determined to be good sports, but it's no go. First Brett finds gum on his brake pad. Then somebody messes with Joe's bike seat. Who's behind the nasty tricks? Frank and Joe gear up to find out--before the big bike race ends in a big disaster!"
The annual setpiece unveils it's 2010 edition today, as the Tour De France begins with backstories of sprinters vs. climbers, biochemical strategies vs. testing, purists vs. scoundrels, teams vs organizers, and the opening day's drama: in this corner, the discounted, dismounted, and multi-storied Floyd Landis and the Wall Street Journal; in the other corner, Lance Armstrong the All American Boy and the Tour de France.

The raison d'ĂȘtre for the Tour De France is to sell newspapers during the month of the lowest newspaper circulation. That's why the winner's jersey is yellow - the newspaper sponsoring the TdF was printed on yellow paper, so the winner's jersey in yellow served to remind people of L'Auto, the newspaper originally paying for the spectacle.

Stupid tour trivia that serves as a distraction from the core truth: the french-speaking peleton refers to the yellow jersey as the maillot jaune. British riders refer to the person wearing the yellow jersey as Mellow Johnny. Lance, Levi, and Chris Horner participate in the Tour of the Gila in a three-man team called "The Mellow Johnnies". On the tour, Lance Armstrong registers at hotels under the name "Johnny Mellow".

Today's Wall Street Journal contains two stories that either offer to expose the truth, or play the French game and attempt to convey bicycling drama into readership, depending on your place in the sanguine-cynical spectrum.

In Blood Brothers Floyd Landis gives an exclusive tour through what he and others say is a culture of systematic doping in the sport.

In "The Case of the Missing Bikes", Floyd Landis charges that the Trek-sponsored team sold off the team's bicycles to generate cash for their doping program. Too bad that Frank Hardy is out of town, this could be an interesting investigation.

In Armstrong Addresses Latest Landis Allegations (nice headline, btw) Armstrong explains that Landis' charges are like "a carton of sour milk: once you take the first sip, you don't have to drink the rest to know it has all gone bad". (excellent rhetoric) The Wall Street Journal will get a lot of hits on their website.

Lance has moved his efforts beyond Old Media; he's moving the Brand of Lance into Web 2.0. This week he announced on Twitter that 2010 will be his last tour. Sure, he's said that before and then reversed. Floyd has said things before and reversed, too.

The barrage of controversy and selling newspapers (and eyeballs) begins anew. It will provide some excellent, superhuman, and unnatural bicycling; it will show what men and money can do on bicycles; it will fuel bicycle innovation (notably, electric shifting) and bring people into bike shops across the country; and it will, for a few days, distract from our war dead and the oil spill.

It will certainly prevent any discussion of Pittsburgh's newest trend in sharing the road: paint-balling cyclists in Highland Park.

It would be interesting if Frank Hardy appears in the off-season to audit the role of gray-market Treks that Lance rode once. It may provide a non-obvious dénouement in the way that tax evasion once did for Al Capone.

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