Dear The Institution of Road Racing,
We at Manual for Speed believe it’s time to begin a conversation about the state of Road Cycling in America today. We think it’s time to talk about the future of our sport. And really, if we’re being honest, we think it applies 1000% to the whole sport—that’s right Europe we’re talking about you too. It’s a global thing.
Clearly this is a big conversation. Like, super big. But you’ve got to start somewhere and so why not here and now? But first, can we agree on a few things?
- Road Cycling is basically dead in America. It’s always been dead but now it’s extra dead. We’re not talking about participation, though that might be lite-dead too, we’re talking about the Sport. We’re talking about Professional Cycling.
- The Tour of Colorado (fine, the USAPC) is undeniably, literally dead. Before it died, Manual for Speed attended and covered and documented the race and its steadily-waning splendor for all five of its latest incarnations: 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015. The first year was big, like Baller Big, like, caviar and champagne big. The second year was less big but still plenty siq. The third year started to get boring. The fourth year was tedious. And the fifth year, last year, was depressing. Draw a wedge. Face the wedge so that the tall 90 degree edge is on the left side of your paper, and the end, where it comes to a point, is on the right side of your paper, that’s what the race looked and felt like over the course of time. Here’s another way to think about it: close your eyes, imagine an empty Wal-Mart Parking lot in the middle of nowhere on a hot summer day, now imagine a POS mid-’90s sedan slowly rolling into frame from the left, but nobody is in—it not even a driver—and it’s just slowly kinda coasting along, maybe it’s running out of gas, who knows who cares, and it’s really slowing down now, in fact it’s only barely moving, aaaaaaaaaaaaand it’s come to a stop.
- Yesterday, Stage Four of the 2016 Tour of Kalifornia finished in an empty race car track on the top of a hill in the middle of nowhere. Manual for Speed counted the number of spectators: 118. And 17 of the 118 were friends of people working in one of the booths in the Lifestyle Village. The race only did one lap. Why didn’t they do two laps? Or four? The track has a corkscrew, who doesn’t love a corkscrew? I’m sure the organizers of the track had it rented for the afternoon, so why not run the race a few more times around that bad boy? Make a demonstration of it. Deliver some action. And maybe, just maybe, someone would have come out to watch the race.
- I mean, and this is crazy I know, why not hold an amateur circuit race in the morning before the finish? Give away some flat screen TVs, maybe a car, some used race car tires, it doesn’t matter. Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is, in fact, a pretty interesting venue. Especially if you bicycle race Criteriums and Circuits, which Criteriums and Circuits are exactly how we bicycle race here in America.
- Also fuck it, just do something, anything. It almost dosen’t matter. The Red Hot Chili Peppers can’t be busy these days. Or maybe the Blue Angels. Seriously, just be interesting, just get people to watch the race.
- The Tour of Kalifornia hates spectators.
- Spectators play a vital role to the current and future health of our sport.
- Hey American Race Organizers, have you ever been to a European bike race? Ever? There are a couple of big ones I’m sure you’ve heard about. The Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia, Paris-Roubaix, etc. They are really well-spectated by people that are alive and excited to watch a bike race come past, thousands and thousands of them, many of whom don’t bicycle race themselves.
- Here is some logic to demonstrate our point: Money makes stuff possible. People only give money to the stuff they love. People only love the stuff they care about and connect with. People only care about and connect with the stuff they know about. One of the easiest ways to know about stuff is to see it happen with your face-eyes. People think, if I didn’t see it happen then it basically didn’t happen. Nobody is seeing the ATOK happening. QED, the ATOK is not happening.
Again, this is a big conversation. We get that. And these nine points are not even our best points, they’re just the handiest points we could find at 12:47am. Listen, the point is, Professional Cycling needs to change and adapt in order to, ultimately, thrive and prosper. And Manual for Speed would like to be a substantial and substantive part of that change.
In addition to the irreverent, outsider/insider, anthropological, cultural commentary and Study of Spectacle game we’ve been running super hard for the last five years, in 2016 we endeavor to do some serious and meaningful shit too. Essays, Reports, Commissions, Studies, Findings, Surveys, etc. One such report is Road to Rad: the Future of Road Cycling. Road To Rad is an audit of where we are and how we got here. It’s a survey of what everyone wants and doesn’t want; we’re talking about the athletes, the fans, the staff, the media, the organizers and the communities through which our sport is played out. It’s a study and catalog of what other sports are doing, how they’re adapting, evolving and thriving. It’s a first step. And yes, it will also be siiiiiiiq.
Having someone at the race in an official type position care about you and respect what you do. This can mean any number of things, like say being assigned to a motorcycle so that you can take pictures of the race throughout the race.
Watching the City Manager of Lodi clean dog diarrhea off the sidewalk before the start of the race. Not because of a perverse schadenfreude, but because I appreciate someone giving a shit about their hometown and their job.
Taking a tour of a Dragon and Fairy collection in Sutter Creek California.
That beet salad from the media tent.
Paying five dollars to have our car valet parked rather than lugging our gear into Harveys from the parking garage.
Finding out Lachlan had to abandon the race. Turns out his crash yesterday left him with a concussion. Not something to mess around with.
This is Daniel speaking. I tired to lose my cell phone twice today. Once in a Starbucks in Modesto. And wow, what a tweaker shit hole of a town. I mean, I kinda love it, the whole acned, flat brim AF teenagers in expensive, brightly-colored low rider pick-up trucks and adults riding around on BMX bikes (with pegs) thing is interesting, and the tacos, and the Back to the Future town center feel of it all, is oddly alluring. But something is not right. Also it took forever to get the second Venti Americano I ordered, which is weird because I ordered it with the first. Anyway, I was only four blocks away when I noticed it was gone. Then, four hours later after the men’s race finished I tried to leave it on the roof our car while loading up. I was about to pull out into the road when the dude behind me beeped and shouted, and set me straight. The more I think about it these might be high points. I mean, twice today I tried to lose an expensive and invaluable piece of equipment but didn’t, so yeah, this is a high point now.
Manual for Speed has been commissioned to introduce a new race classification category called “Most Animal.” Points for the classification will be awarded on the basis of style, swagger, and grit. We’ve assembled an elite group of expert analysts who will be assessing and assigning points for performance. The most animal jersey for ATOK will be awarded at the end of the race.
TOMS SKUJINS: 8 pts
What a badass, that dude rules when signing in from Lodi. He should just move there when he retires and crush the weekly breakfast burrito ride! My man animated the entire day with attack after attack and then pulled out the whole, “I don’t even need to get in the drops, I’m gonna win this by sprinting from the hoods” maneuver and actually made it look good. A rare feat indeed.
JASPER STUYVEN: 6 pts
If you skipped Kurne-Brussels-Kurne earlier in the spring, go back and watch it. This Belgian is no joke. Pure power through the pedals à la Cancellara. The image that sticks with me from today was Styuven bridging up to Mark Christian, the little Wiggins kiddo, and screaming by him on the hoods—but low man, elbows at 90°, a simple, elegant position that all the greats take when mashing the big gears and shattering dreams. A few seconds later and he had ridden the two other chasers off his wheel, rolling into fourth with his shirt zipped all the way down, not really giving a F.
MARK CHRISTIAN: 4 pts
To me this race has been about the young guys. Who’s hungriest for that Pro Tour contract next year? This year’s TOC can further be distilled down to Americans vs Brits (Axeon vs Wiggins). And while I love that Wiggins himself has some meat on his bones and looks like he’s having fun out there fondo-ing with his artsy shoes, so far (from what I’ve seen) his wee lads aren’t really making an impression. If you’re wearing fucking gold helmets you need to be making a show out of the race. The entire Axeon team, though, those scrappy lil’ rats have ridden outta their 19-year-old minds. SO, not surprising to see a little something from Wiggins today as young Mark Christian jumped from the large group of chasers in a bid to track down the leading three. Decent effort for the Manxman—not a Neilson Powless effort—but still, it came at the end of a tough day in the break, and pretty far along into what looks to have been a tougher than typical Kali.
CAPS: 2 pts
Caps are making a comeback on the podium for a change which is sweet. Skujins had a properly flipped-up brim, though he needs to work on his loft. That cap needs to be barely perched up on top, not yanked down over the ears.
Standings After Stage 05
- Neilson Powless: 12 points
- Ben King: 9 points
- Toms Skujins: 8 points
- Wouter Wippert: 7 points
- Peter Sagan: 7 points
- Julian Alaphilippe: 6 points
- Nathan Haas: 6 points
- Jasper Stuyven: 6 points
- Vasil Kiriyenka: 5 points
- Axeon-Hagens Berman: 5 points
- Oscar Clark: 4 points
- Mark Christian: 4 points
- Dave Towle: 4 poimts
- Cannondale Team Car: 3 points
- Laguna Seca: 3 points
- Caps: 2 points
- Inflatable Cookies: 2 points
Want to earn some Animal Points for yourself? Take the plunge with our Surprise Me! Kit. It’s designed by Yoko Honda, legendary kit designer with last year’s LA Sweat kit to her name, but you can’t see it until it arrives on your doorstep. What’s not to love about the opportunity to commit to a sartorial statement, sight unseen? That’s something only an animal would do. We’ve got more info HERE, or click below to purchase now (Women’s sizing is available!).