Monday, February 25, 2008

The Oscars

Recognition by one's peers for exemplary work is perhaps one of the greatest testaments to a life’s work that one may receive. For the recognized it is a confirmation of one’s artistic vision, the ultimate feedback for insight that rarely begins as more than a hunch. To the audience, seeing a respected master receive the highest accolade afforded gives a sense that all is right with the world, that justice can, on occasion, be served.

If your experience with the movies and watching the Academy Awards is anything like mine, you typically feel a strong connection with one or two of the nominees and on the occasion that they win, such as Marion Cotillard of La Vie en Rose for best actress or Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova of Once for best original song, their victories come as a triumph of the human spirit in the act of creation.

Bissell rider Tom Zirbel would have been a deserving stage winner in the final stage of the Amgen Tour of California. He persevered in a late-race breakaway in conditions awful enough no one would otherwise choose to ride a bicycle. It was a gutsy ride that would have made for a significant win for a little-known rider. It wasn’t to be.

When George Hincapie attacked on the Pasadena finishing circuit’s biggest hill, his acceleraton was an impressive display of strength, the sort of acceleration we expect of our champions, a move we only associate with a true hardman.

Hincapie is America’s most experienced pro rider. The media has repeatedly talked of how until his move to High Road this season he spent the whole of his career at US Postal/Discovery Channel. The fact is, Hincapie began his professional career with Motorola—he’s been a pro since 1994.

Hincapie is the rider whose face you see in the dictionary when you look up the phrase “long suffering.” While he has had his successes, in a career as long and distinguished as his, there don’t seem to be quite enough of them to reflect his ability, his tactical judgment or how he is regarded by the American tifosi.

That Michael Creed kept returning to the breakaway despite his refusal to take his share of pulls and his negative racing tactics had me yelling expletives at the screen. Once Zirbel had been brought back there didn’t seem any just outcome to the day other than a win from Hincapie. And sometimes we find gratification exactly when and where we want.

Levi Leipheimer may have been the rightful overall winner—anyone who witnessed Levi’s intensity in the start house for the Solvang time trial could see his determination—but his previous win in the event makes his achievement less surprising, though perhaps more satisfying than his first win given the refutation to ASO that it provides. This is a victory for pride.

In a race notable for conditions crappy enough to ruin the audience’s belief in California as paradise, it is right that Hincapie, a man who has made his name in Belgium and France, should put the terminal punctuation on the most interesting edition of the Amgen Tour of California. After all, what says PRO more than a win in the rain?

In the wake of the suspicion surrounding his previous team, Hincapie’s association with High Road is a fresh chapter to a distinguished career and a way to confirm what we have always believed: that “Big” George is capable, is hardman strong, and deserves to win.

Photo courtesy of Greg Page/Page 1 Studio.

17 comments:

oompaloompa said...

firts!!!

Frenchy aka Bike Boy said...

George is so deserved of some good luck this year. from George to another: Good Luck!

Anonymous said...

awesome post, you truly put into words how I felt after Big George took the win. If only he could win Paris-Roubaix this year then the world would seem just a little more "right", than before.

bikesgonewild said...

...lovely & deserved post...

...a zirbel win would have been great but when they bridged up, well, it hadda be george...

...i'd love to know if creed was under orders of his official DS or was mikey b back there directing moves...the tactic on the mountain, i assumed was for camera time, but once they were on the circuit, creed's action's didn't really make sense, even if he was gonna try & steal the win...

Tim said...

Hincapie bridging the gap on the hill was awesome. His sprint seemed strategically perfect. I am sure alot of experience went into his decision of how to play the end.
I was so happy for George. Hopefully High Road will help him get some more wins.
Are his sinewy leg old-school pro or what?

K-Ro said...

As a Canadian, I still love that Dominique Rollin was able to stay away from George to win Stage 4. Maybe, just maybe, he's Canada's future Steve Bauer replacement. It only took an entire generation.

Jimbo said...

Hincapie could have caught Zirbel on that hill, or the other hill, on any of the last 3 laps, but he waited until just the right time to attack. It almost didn't work out but George was the strongest yesterday. I was there getting drenched and it was awesome to see George win. Coolest race finish I have ever seen in person by a longshot.

Anonymous said...

keep up the good work BKW! Really appreciate your blog, best class I ever read

sma said...

you should publish a magazine. i'd be your first subscriber :)

Eddie B said...

nice post! random thoughts:

Creed's attack on the last climb was definitely for the benefit of the rock racing cam.

Hopefully this win signals that Big George is in form for a well-deserved classics win this Spring.

Highlight of the tour: Liggett's "excitement" over Vs. hockey coverage and his attempts to pronounce Ovechkin.

velomonkey said...

George should have left Postal - Disco five years ago. Yea he says he got HUGE after a stage win in the tour - least forget he won that stage like Creed at TOC - sitting on wheels and never, ever taking a pull. Had George not been in Lance's shadow every July the guy would have won a classic somewhere. Being the first American to win Flanders or Roubaix is huge, no doubt, but what about Amstel? He could have won that and it would have tinged Armstrong since he never won it. I hope this is George's year as he needs to grab the reigns, take the leadership roll and dish out the pain and get the win.

Absolute Goose said...

Great comments on George's win. I think you see the difference in George by being gone from the Disco umbrella. He was out on attack three times during the TOC, something he would never have been allowed to do in the past. George may be a year or two too old to nail it in the spring classics, but I will be pulling hard for his chance at success.

Boz said...

I was very happy to see a class act like Big G take the stage in the worst conditions, and laying waste to Creed's attemps to hyena the win. Alot of people have been critical of Levi's lack of effort except for the big time trial win, but this is a team sport. And Bryneel is the team tactics master, like it or not. Lastly, Rock Racing is annoying.

jza said...

Creed was riding with solid tactics. Homie ain't got no sprint. He had to either sit on the break and hope it came back for Freddie and Mario or hope something went funny and he got an opening. His last attack was the only real chance he had.

Anonymous said...

Realy, great post. But will you indulge me a quibble regarding your Creed comment?

I don't know if you were watching on Cycling.tv or OLN, but the anouncers on C.tv were making the same observation as you, and I cursed them bitterly...
This notion that people have to pull in a breakaway is absolutely absurd. Creed is not in the same league as GH, JM or Rory for that matter. Had he pulled equally he probably would have been dropped far sooner. The tactics he played were dead-on if you ask me. He gave himself a good shot at the line. He rode in a move with legit players from Euro-ville. Creed has never come close to that level, but he was in the move dangit'; and I'll bet he suffered far more than Big Geo. Would you have admired Creed more if he'd driven the break harder and then crashed into a ditch from exhaustion 15k before the line? Hell no you wouldn't. You wouldn't have even mentioned his name.

I enjoyed that race as much as anyone, but by the end I had to ask myself a question: If Hincappie has this much trouble beating guys outside the top 200, how does he expect to go over the Muur this year with Boonen, Devolder, Hoste, Bettini, Ballan, Possato, Stuey, Cance, et all.

I love George, but that guy can find more ways to screw up the finale of a race than... He won because he monumentally out-classed his companions, not because he out-raced them or out-thought 'em.
He'll never out-class Boonen--sorry about that.

I think racing in America is way too much about pride, honor and bitching at other riders...and not enough about smash-mouth, put-'em-in-the-gutter, sucks-to-be-you racing. I'm talking about PVP, Sean Kelly, Erik Deker and Michele Bartoli. PVP never took a single pull in his life that didn't benefit PVP down to the ground; and by god that's how it should be!
Troy Walters
walterstroy@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

Hincapie is a good racer. I have a deep amount of respect for him. But he'll never be as great as many people pretend he is. His tactical ability is nothing special. And he's sat on a few wheels in his time (a certain TDF mountain stage win comes to mind). I've seen commentators and magazines pretend he is a TDF contendor. I've seen him miss the winning move almost annually at the Ronde and Roubaix. I've seen American commentators ask Boonen about the racing threat of GH, as if somehow George is level with Tornado Tom. My point is that there is a divide between how great some people think George is, compared to what his real results are. George is a good racer, who deserves credit for longevity and fantastic domestique service to Lance. But let's keep things realistic here.

christopher cummings said...

he will never win a classic, cause he never goes on breaks, that's why lief went with boonens move two years ago, at the ronde.