Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Victor


Viewers of the 2009 Giro d’Italia who followed the race in its entirety can be forgiven for thinking the final outcome was a foregone conclusion following the Cinque Terre time trial.

Let me rephrase: I’m giving myself permission to say that I believed the race would end with an unsurprising Menchov Grand Tour win. He’d stand on the dais, get his trophy, smile, wave, yadda, yadda, yadda.

His forceful show of emotion at the finish—triumph after snatching possible defeat from the slick road left me slackjawed. In earlier stages, his ability to sit impassively on Di Luca’s wheel despite the firebrand’s attacks conjured Miguel Indurain’s uninspiring performances at the Giro and Tour more than 15 years ago.

It reminded me of the race it most logically evokes: the 1989 Tour de France, which, as you well know, ended with a Greg LeMond victory on the final time trial. Menchov’s 21-second gap over Di Luca gave him a 41-second margin of victory, and though that may be larger than LeMond’s was, the Russian’s jubilation was no less dramatic.

It’s hard, if not impossible to be excited for Menchov in the face of such jubilation. My previous assertion that Di Luca was the race’s moral victor was based in part on the utter granite-faced presence that Menchov cast. To see him yell and throw his arms was a fitting substitute for the traditional winner’s victory salute thrown at the line of a Classic.

I’ll spare you the anthropologic deconstruction that accompanied Michael Phelps’ whoop following his team’s victory in the relay at the Beijing Olympics. We get it: that dude is a badass.

I’d ask the question, ‘How can you not like a guy who shows such emotion in the face of victory?’ but it’s a big, weird world and someone will dislike him precisely because of his show of emotion. Instead, I’ll offer this: The surge of emotion that accompanies an uncertain victory can surprise even the victor and in surprise the revelation is what winning is all about.

16 comments:

andrew said...

‘How can you not like a guy who shows such emotion in the face of victory?’

Because he's expected to show up as a name on the Austrian Blood Bank list.

jza said...

Definitely an action packed 3 weeks.

As for those who like to talk about a 'new generation' in cycling, it's gotta be a big disappointment. Two very old school riders outgunned entire teams, with little-to-no support of their own.

Sastre was impressive, but his secret move is now totally out of the bag. He won't get away with attacking early on climbs in July.

Lance is on the upswing. Once he gets his 'refill', he'll be the same guy he was 3 years ago.

Jorge said...

"Because he's expected to show up as a name on the Austrian Blood Bank list."

BOOM!!!!

bikesgonewild said...

...in order to really win il giro, you not only have beat the best that italia can throw at you but you have to make the tifosi cheer for you...

...ultimately, in the end, i think menchov did that...

...while every italian wanted to see de luca best the russian, i think they could appreciate the odds he was up against without a team to always support him...

...i don't see "his ability to sit impassively on Di Luca’s wheel despite the firebrand’s attacks" as simply that...to respond as he did, i think there were times when menchov dug deeper than ever before, whether it showed on his face during those attacks or not...

...throw in the crash in the last kilometer after 3 weeks, 21 stages, 86 hours & 3,455.5 already hard fought kilometers...

...wow...can you imagine the whirlwind of thoughts, emotions & adrenaline surging through menchov as he hit the deck...

...his d.s. might have been telling him not to worry, he had seconds in hand but my god, in the end that "forceful show of emotion at the finish" you alluded to must have been such a release...

Padraig said...

I'm aware of the accusations/allegations/rumors surrounding Menchov, Di Luca, and the others. At a certain point, if you are going to watch pro cycling, you have to be willing to just watch the action and enjoy it.

Jim said...

>>>> Perhaps Menchov crashes in the TT, however briefly, and loses the advantage we all expect him to have.

Some smart guy said that last week in response to the question about why DiLuca should keep fighting for 5 seconds here, 12 seconds there.

You *never* give up in a race if anybody is in sight in front of you. Never. Y'know why Lance was pounding it? Because in 12th, you never know when that lead pack is going to crest the hill, and stack it into the third turn on the way down. Might not happen, then again it might. Menchov was relentless and stronger, and thus deserves the win; but DiLuca was an exemplary racer. Chapeaux to both.

Once known as The Badger said...

Appropos of nothing: I may be wrong, but I think it was Coppi who said something like, "we're not athletes, we're professional bicycle racers." He is also reputed to say he only took drugs when absolutely necesary. When asked how often that was, he said, nearly always. It's a tough sport.

Sarah said...

Menchov's uncharacteristic show of aggression at the finish seems reminiscent of Landis' agression after his solo superhuman effort to win the TdF. Also seems similar to Cadel Evan's erratic and aggressive (I'll cut your head off) behavior.

If I had to guess, these guys are hopped up on something that's stimulating aggression.

Or - maybe it's natural to show some raw aggression after you win a brutal 21 day grand tour!

Da Robot said...

I really enjoyed this Giro. I loved the way di Luca rode, but I also really like Sastre's two wins. I liked Garzelli's racing and Pelizotti was pretty exciting, too, pushing ahead of his team captain.

The two sort of unthrilling riders were Menchov and Leipheimer. The former won a lot of my respect by just not letting di Luca go, and really, it must have been killing him. Di Luca was just attacking and attacking and attacking. I've tried to follow shit like that, and it hurts so badly. Leipheimer, on the other hand, was a snoozer, but then his style rarely gets you out of your seat, even when he's winning.

I also agree with Padraig about doping. At some point you just stop second-guessing and give up and watch.

I don't like doping, but I like the racing and the races more than I hate the dope. At root, I understand why they do it.

PatitucciPhoto said...

Just a note about the Tifosi...
I am an American living in Italy. I watched the last TT in a hotel bar with a room full of Italians.
As Menchov crashed the entire room yelled, "NO!!!!!"
No nationalism, just Italians supporting a man giving his all for a win.

Dan O said...

Watching the Giro this year was great. Thank you Universal Sports.

Nothing wrong with emotion displayed at the finish.

Imagine how amp'd you'd be after almost crashing out with the win in sight.

I though the release was human and well deserved.

AH said...

Andrew: Yeah, and Di Luca is Mr. Clean.

Jim: Too f*cking right!

Sarah: You must have never won a race when the outcome was unsure until the final moment. Let us know how it feels when you do.

Death Bredon said...

Just Imagine this year's Giro without Di Luca:

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Padraig said...

All: Thanks for the diverse comments. You keep it lively.

Sorry about deleting the video. We had a lot of trouble with it--the dimensions were screwy. We're very bummed to lose the great comments on it.

CerveloMan said...

True.

jza said...

DB,

For the sake of argument, think of the Giro without DiLuca.

Capital-D-drama between Basso and Il Dolfino.
Maybe Levi hangs around a little longer, with LA in tow.
Sastre dropping bombs with a potential win in site.

Menchov wins no matter what, due to the TT.

Remember, if you can't drop the guy ahead of you, you are his best teammate. Just holding the carrot for him to chase. DiLuca ended up being Rabo's best support rider.