A Quick Lesson

One time, after nobody had said anything for awhile, Michele Pollentier flicked four fingers outward over the top of the steering wheel and asked me why Americans don’t know how to ride their bikes through a race caravan.

I strung together some sort of response that felt diplomatic enough, maybe even accurate. About how a lot of the races over here are criteriums, so we have plenty of pits and free laps but not many caravans. How, especially back then, somewhere in the early-mid-2000s, only big professional races here had caravans at all. Those that weren’t criteriums, anyway. Pro-am races like the one we were following? Barely ever. Pretty simply, I supposed, it came down to lack of practice.

He nodded, glanced at the sideview, and adjusted the car a bit to shelter a Cat. 1 straining to return to the peloton up the left side. We were doing about 35 down some chipseal Pennsylvania road, headed to the foot of the next climb. The rider faltered somewhere around the B-pillar and sank backwards. I’m not sure if he came back or not; there was a lot of that sort of traffic.

Only after that – and after being put on the spot to explain my homeland’s shortcomings by a man who had won the Giro d’Italia and the Tour of Flanders, and yes, who was caught trying to cheat his dope test after winning on l’Alpe d’Huez – did I ask what gave him the impression that we, as a nation, didn’t know what we were doing in a race caravan.

“Look at the back,” he said, extending a stubby forefinger towards the bumper of the car in front of us. “Spotless!”

“OK…,” I allowed myself, thinking (too simply) that this race, the Univest Grand Prix, is a big one for a lot of these teams. Probably their biggest of the year. Regional U.S. amateur teams don’t get a TV helicopter and a crack at guys in the Rabobank program very often. Of course they washed their car. Probably twice.

“In Belgium – tock, tock, tock.” With each guttural tock, Pollentier was sighting down the edge of his right hand, which was cutting a series of vertical slashes across the width of the telltale bumper. “There would be black marks across. Rubber, from the bike tires.”

“These guys? They sit a meter off the back of the car. Too far. Then they try to come around as soon as they can. They don’t use the cars enough.”

Somehow, it came off as an observation, a friendly pointer that maybe I could pass on if I had an opportunity, not as a condemnation or even much of a criticism, really. There was no hint of the ex-pro, when-I-was-racing chest thumping or old-world cycling’s well-where-I’m-from contempt. Maybe it’s that manner, or his forthrightness about his past drug use and its effects, that explains why Pollentier is owner of a Firestone tire store in Nieuwpoort and the guiding hand of a development team rather than a yelling, car-door-slapping pro DS or a quotable curmudgeon like many of his racing contemporaries. There’s plenty to condemn in Pollentier’s past, for those who like to condemn. But sitting in the car then (and sitting here now) I wished there were more ex-pros like him.

Shotgun with Garmin, Part 2: Epic Race, Epic Post

[part 2 of a series started here]

With the rain came the flats – plenty in the first 20 kilometers or so as we headed out on the long lap. Race radio was plenty busy trying to keep up with the service calls as the peloton approached the first sprint point, but the Garmin name was absent, and speculation in the car began as to why. Tom the mechanic theorized that, with many amateur and lower-tier professional squads in attendance, many of the teams could be riding tires that would have been retired from Garmin bikes already. Or maybe it was the effect of clinchers, with their air pressure dropped a bit to handle the slick roads, hitting the inevitable slings and arrows of Pennsylvania road surfaces. Lim’s speculation was more ethereal, citing the fact that Garmin’s tires encountered only “pure, virgin racing roads,” thereby imparting them with mysterious yet appreciated flat-prevention qualities.

As the rain continued and the roads were seemingly washed off more thoroughly, the flat action tapered off. At least the actual flat action. Passing through one rural stretch of road with a strange cluster of houses built to subdivision spec, we spied a rider, who shall remain nameless, pulled 10 feet or so up the asphalt driveway, huddled over his handlebars and fiddling with the front presta valve. Judgment in the car was unanimous – somebody had had enough, and was looking for an easy way out.

I’d heard jokes about such exit strategies tossed around the amateur ranks since my junior days, like the idea of riding with a tack embedded in your glove, pointy end out. That way, if things got rough, a quick slap to the front tire could end all of your pain and suffering. But I’d never actually seen someone try to flat themselves out of a race. Lim, however, had seen it. He recounted the story of firing a rider (who again, shall remain nameless) on the Celestial Seasonings womens’ squad he managed circa 1999 for the same offense. Like our rider at the side of the road, she hadn’t considered the trail of evidence before committing the crime. Namely, the fact that if you just let the air out of your tire via the valve, your mechanic can simply re-inflate it and see that you’re full of shit. Guess they’d never heard of the tack.

The continued rain may have helped with road debris, but there was still enough accumulated oil, filth, and water on the road to make things more than a little glassy, and while Garmin avoided the flats, they couldn’t avoid the crashes. On the narrow, twisting descent following the day’s first KOM point, the team’s marquis attraction here, Tom Danielson, came off on a curve with two other riders.

By the time we’d screeched to a halt at the scene, Danielson was sitting in a folding chair surrounded by a small group of resident spectators. The houses are so close to the road that, had he missed the turn to a greater degree, he could have been lying in their living room instead of sitting in their lawn. As it was though, they were busy running inside to get him towels. The usual road rash marred his right leg, but a deep cut to his right forearm was generating quite a bit of blood.

Lim and Hopper were out of the car immediately, darting across the road to Danielson as the rest of the caravan eased through. One look at Danielson’s arm made it clear that continuing wasn’t an option – at least not in a minor, end-of-season UCI race in the middle of Pennsylvania. Lim flagged down the broom wagon to see if they could fit him in and give him a lift to the feed zone, where Garmin staff could have a closer look and transport him to the hospital if necessary.

There was a brief debate as to whether that could happen – a number of other sodden souls were already peering from the foggy windows of the minivan of broken dreams. Lim asked Danielson if he wants to jump in with us, and glancing back at the back seat full of equipment, I started thinking of how I was going to find my way to the finish when I got ejected from the passenger seat to make room for one of the squad’s bigger names. Word came back that either the broom wagon or the ambulance could transport Danielson as long as we could take his bike.

Hopper already had the Felt on the roof, so I breathed a sigh of relief and settled back into my seat. But only briefly, as I realized the car, of which I was currently the sole occupant, was moving down the hill. I grabbed at a thing that looked like a parking brake, but which in a Saab apparently is not a parking brake, before moving to the more awkward solution of leaning over the center console and depressing the foot brake long enough to put the car in park.

Leaving Danielson in the lawn chair with a jacket, Hopper and Lim jumped back in the car, and it was time for the rocket ride. Because of the crash, we were now far behind the caravan, and at the front end, a break had formed containing three Garmin riders – Tyler Farrar, Pat McCarty, and Lucas Euser. Their gap was pushing the minute mark, when team cars will be allowed to move into the gap to support their riders. The next 10 minutes were a blur -- driving at ass-puckering speeds down narrow backroads to catch the back of the caravan, Lim talking with the soigneurs on the phone about the incoming Danielson, weaving and honking our way through dropped riders and other team cars, and finally getting the nod from Comm 1 to pick our way through the peloton and rally our way to the back door of the break.

The break was working smoothly, and Lim soon received word that the team had collected Danielson and were taking him to the hospital for stitches, so things settled down a bit. If it weren’t said inside the twisted world of bike racing, Lim’s reaction to the Danielson’s situation would seem callous: he was relieved because the hospital visit was well-timed, early enough in the day that it wouldn’t delay the team’s departure for the Tour of Missouri.

With things calmed down a bit, we resumed the time-passing conversations we’d begun before things heated up. The testing of the team car passenger doesn’t stop with the initial response detailed in our first post. With Lim, it went on throughout the day. We talked about my history with VeloNews, how I got into bike racing, my educational background, common acquaintances, the usual stuff. Lim threw in some beauty contest style questions as well:

Q: Which presidential candidate will be better for cycling?
A: Neither, most cyclist issues are largely local, and the few “friends of cycling” in Congress are probably as much as we can expect on the national level, advocacy wise.

Q: What’s the future of cycling?
A: Over the next 10 years, cycling for transportation, not racing. Increases in fuel costs could put the clamps on racing on a number of levels, but as long as there are two guys with bikes anywhere near each other, there will always be bike racing in some form.

There were a few others, which I’ve forgotten now, but I chose to play the straight man no matter how absurd the question was intended to be. If I didn’t get to know exactly who I was dealing with, I figured they shouldn’t either.

So Lim and Hopper learned a little about me, and I learned a few things about me as well. Apparently, I’m not nearly as spastic as some reporters are when they’re in the team car. Lim remarked, “you have an air of calm about you,” noting that some others do not. Something I can’t recall cut the conversation short, so I’m left wondering now just what the hell other reporters are doing in the car. Fiddling with the CD player? Beatboxing over the team radio? Rifling through musettes? Don’t get me wrong, my apparent calm has nothing to do with my level of interest, excitement, or experience – I suspect it stems more from an anal-retentive attention to getting the details of the race right, which leaves me staring through the windshield and straining to hear the race radio a lot of the time.

I did get to learn a little bit about the team’s approach to this race, which, though a big deal for many involved, obviously pales in comparison to some of the others they’ve attended this year. The general take was that for the staff and the riders, it was a good chance to get some miles, keep a finger in the domestic pie, and generally hang out with each other and ride a race with far less pressure than usual. And Lim did note what many others have: at Univest, organizer John Eustice has assembled all the components of a European-style UCI race – TV coverage via helicopter, proper communication and caravan control, publicity, announcing, etc.

There may have been less pressure than at the Tour de France or the preceding weekend’s national championship, but Garmin wasn’t soft pedaling at Univest. I won’t recount all the race details here – that’s what this article was all about -- so I’ll just cut to the point where Garmin had Euser in the winning break with Frederik Eriksson (CykelCity), the defacto big Swede in the peloton since Garmin didn’t bring the peloton’s primary big Swede, Magnus Backstedt. By then, we were on the last couple of finishing circuits, and driving through a blinding downpour. Even with the windshield wipers going full tilt and the headlights on, it was getting harder to pick out Euser’s small body and now-grey jersey through the mess.

But we could hear him. Race radio chatter picked up significantly in those closing laps, with Farrar radioing in that the remnants of the break, where he and McCarty were playing guard dog, were demoralized, and questioning whether the organizers really needed them to ride all the circuits. Lim was urging Euser on with calm but forceful encouragement, breaking form with one slightly more colorful plea to Euser to attack the used-up Eriksson and leave him for dead – “Life’s not fair, Lucas, and right now you’re the one holding the machine gun!”

For his part, Euser was feeling confident, yelling back “tell [Farrar and McCarty] not to chase. I want this one” during one of the early finishing circuits. But several laps later, with Lim again urging him to drop Eriksson and avoid a sprint, Euser responded with a more modest “I don’t have too much left in the tank.” It wasn’t panic that ensued in the car, but there was certainly concern. The gap between Euser and Eriksson was enough that one of them was nearly assured of the win regardless of anything McCarty and Farrar could do in the chase. The team had committed to Euser’s move, but the last statement wasn’t inspiring confidence in the decision.

It didn’t matter. With a single attack about three kilometers from the line, Euser dutifully pulled away from Eriksson and soloed in for his first professional win. After the finish, I asked him about the “not much in the tank” remark and the consternation it caused in the car. The real story? He and Eriksson had already chatted – Eriksson was cramping with several laps to go, and just wanted to make it to the finish. Euser may not have had much in the tank, but he knew it was enough.

There’s a lot of hubbub that follows a bike race, at least for those who are involved in riding it or writing about it. Riders have to find soigneurs and directors, get changed, do podium presentations, go to dope control. Writers have to chase them down during all of that and interview them before they wander off. It’s a little bit like herding cats. As I staked out Euser, who was up on the podium, I chatted with his USADA escort, a woman of maybe 60 years old. “The poor thing really has to pee, he’s ready, and they keep dragging him away for more awards and things,” she told me.

Univest has more awards than your average one-day race – things like best team, best American rider, best haircut – to the point that Eriksson asked me if this is normal in the United States. They’ve cut back in recent years, but it’s still quite a few, so Euser, perhaps at that time the world’s most willing urine donor, was just going to have to hold it for awhile. After his appearance for the win, he was called back up for the team award, and then to receive a leader’s gold jersey. (Univest is technically a two-day omnium, though Garmin wasn’t sticking around to contest the next day’s criterium.) You could sense his disappointment when race organizers asked for the jersey back after he’d left the stage. “You keep podium jerseys?” the woman asked him. Though he argued that yes, people typically do, and that it was his first big win, he still came away with only his team jersey and promptly hustled off to the Univest bank building to pee in a cup. Though I doubt he’d trade a quicker trip to the urinal for the spoils of his first professional win, he seemed relieved to be headed that way.

In closing, I have to say that while it’s my job to be objective, I was happy for Garmin to win Univest. But it was for my own reasons. Since I starting doing this stuff, I’ve never, ever been in the car of the team that won the race. Not even with teams that were fairly dominant in their time, like Saturn, or Mercury, or Health Net. I was starting to feel like a curse, but now the burden has been lifted. People will be begging to give me a ride now, I tell you.

Shotgun with Garmin, Part 1: Lesbians

“I don’t know. Tom and I were planning on talking about lesbians the whole time.”

That was the answer to the first question I’d ever asked Allen Lim, the man behind many of the Garmin-Chipotle squad’s widely publicized processes and procedures. Lim: team physiologist, inventor of ice vests, proponent of large vats of waterless hand sanitizer, chronicler of power curves, and author of down-to-the-second TT warm-up routines. Apparent connoisseur of lesbians.

When the subject came up, I was standing outside the driver’s side door of Garmin’s idling Saab team car a few minutes before the start of the 2008 Univest Grand Prix, which I was covering for VeloNews.com. I’d just asked Lim, the acting DS for Garmin’s five-man lineup here, if I could hitch a ride with him and mechanic Tom Hopper as the race headed out for a long loop through the Pennsylvania countryside and back into Souderton for 11 finishing circuits.

Approaching Lim was a last ditch attempt on my part – I hadn’t prepared very well in the days ahead of the race, and hadn’t pre-arranged a caravan ride in a SRAM, commissaire, or team car. With the promised drenching rains from tropical storm Hanna likely to derail the live TV coverage that usually provides a decent remote view of the race, caravan seats had apparently filled up quickly with hacks and VIPs of various stripes, and I was more or less on my own hunting for a spot as the clouds gathered. I kept passing by Lim’s car as I cruised up and down the caravan looking for a seat without success. The Garmin car seemed the least likely place to find shelter from the storm at this late hour – Garmin had the heaviest hitters in the race, was the only “Tour de France team" in attendance, and was the team of defending champion Will Frischkorn, though he didn’t take the start due to reported tendonitis. There was no doubt in my mind that particular passenger seat had been “called,” junior-high style, first thing this morning, if not weeks ago.

But with four minutes to the start, I could see that the seat next to Lim was being filled with nothing but the team-issue Blackberry and a rain jacket, and there didn’t seem to be any other media types loitering about, so I went for it. If you’re shocked or somehow offended by Lim’s answer to my request, don’t be. It comes in many forms, but the “test answer” to the “can I catch a ride” question is always meant in jest, and it's a near constant in these sorts of dealings:

“OK, but we take off our pants after the neutral zone.”

“Be our guest, but my mechanic has terrible gas.”

“Yes, please – ride in the front seat. It’s her first time driving in a caravan, and we need someone to absorb the impact.”

That last one has an air of truth to it (Univest GP 2005, I believe, Mavic 2 car – nobody died), but you get the idea. Roll with whatever the response is, and you’re good. Recoil or stammer, and you’ll probably still get a ride, but you’ll be treated a bit more warily. So roll I did, and Lim cleared the debris from the passenger seat to make room. To say getting that particular ride was lucky would be an understatement. Garmin would go on to force every major selection of the race, and with each successive whittling down, we'd sidle up behind the break again as the key players' voices crackled over the team radio. But that's later.

Though I knew how to treat the initial response from Lim, I’d be lying if I said that reading him was easy. As we made small talk and awaited the caravan roll-out, Lim suddenly turned to me and delivered a very deadpan, “We’re happy to have you. Use his hand sanitizer now, do not touch anything in the car, do not touch me, do not touch my mechanic. Do not sneeze, do not cough.” I took the hand sanitizer he offered, remembering all those Tour de France pieces about the team’s concerted efforts to prevent illness – methods considered over-the-top in a sport that already sets a pretty high bar for germ paranoia. Through whatever vocal or body language clues Lim may have given, or maybe for my own peace of mind, I chose to take the rest as a joke playing on the team’s well-known reputation. I think I got it right, since somewhere around kilometer 70 I had an uncontrollable coughing fit, to which Lim was sympathetic and a bit amused: “I’ll stop the car if you need to throw up – we’d do that for you, man.”

The presence of outsiders in the car can lead to plenty of discomfort on the part of the team staff, especially when the role of that outsider is to write down and then publish what’s happening. Tongues can initially be held in check, and though everyone’s usually perfectly polite, you can tell the environment in the car is different because of your presence. If you’re lucky, everyone just relaxes a bit as things get underway, or something happens that helps to break down the barrier -- you stumble on a common bond, your knowledge of the sport is deemed acceptable, or you somehow prove you’re more than dead weight. Make no mistake – you'll still be an outsider, and the atmosphere in the car will still be different than if you weren't there, but the tension level comes down a bit, and everyone can get on with playing their role during the bike race without worrying so much about each other.

In this case, the happening that broke the barrier was the failure of the team to pick up the organizer-issued race radio – the one that lets the team cars and support vehicles hear commissaires’ instructions, time checks, breakaway numbers, calls for service, road hazard warnings, crash announcements, and random dope control numbers. Without one, you’re effectively deaf and mostly blind, and though you still have the radio connecting the car to the riders, you’re left with very little to tell them. We were about to roll under the start banner when the lack of a race radio in the car was noted. Fortunately, I had stuffed my scanner into my bag on a whim, and the Univest GP, god bless it, uses actual radio frequencies like the European races, not the janky Nextel walkie-talkie bullshit that’s the bane of the Philly Week experience. Even better, John Eustice’s crew had the foresight to publish the frequency in the race bible, so after a few minutes of fiddling, we were back in the loop, I had earned my spot in the car, and everybody settled in for a four-hour jaunt through the Pennsylvania hills.

The rain started a few minutes later.

[I’ll continue with a second installment, which might have to do with actual racing, as soon as time permits. Thanks for your patience.]

Yesterday's News

I did some writing of the paying kind this past Saturday, covering the Univest Grand Prix up in Pennsylvania for VeloNews. With Tropical Storm Hanna sweeping through the area, it was a hell of a show. You can read the details of what went down here.

I owe a big round of thanks to Garmin-Chipotle team doctor and DS for the day, Allen Lim, and mechanic Tom Hopper for spotting me a seat in their team car. Given that the team initiated every major split and took the race firmly in hand, it was a front row seat for a great performance. It was also dry in there, and on Saturday, there was something to be said for that.

I’ll try to post a bit later this week with some inside-the-car perspectives on the race.

A Race by Any Other Name

VeloNews.com reported on Tuesday that the U.S. Open Cycling Championships, which ran from Williamsburg, Virginia, to Richmond on April 13 last year, will be returning this year.

Except it’s going to be called the “U.S. Open of Cycling.”

And it’s going to be in Providence, Rhode Island, not Virginia.

And it’s going to be at the end of May instead of mid-April.

But other than that, the organization is happy to announce the return of their race. Which begs the question, what exactly is a race? Is a race’s identity tied to its calendar slot? The course? The name? The promoter? The riders? Clearly this particular organization is relying on the last two criteria, since there are precious few other unifying elements between last year’s “edition” and this year’s. By those measures, ASO actually holds Fleche Wallonne twice in a single week, it’s just that the second time they change the date and the course and call it Liege-Bastogne-Liege. Now that’s organization.

We don’t have an inside window into the Open’s situation – maybe there are sponsorship opportunities in Rhode Island that aren’t there in Virginia, maybe municipal cooperation on road use is better up north, or maybe the Providence Super 8 is offering discounts that are just too good to pass up. Certainly, the race was in trouble at the start last year, but the promoter brought in veteran race director John Eustice, who managed to pull together a good race that was made great by cold, snowy conditions and the fact that you could watch it on TV. Despite that success, it seems likely that the issues that put the Virginia version in jeopardy last year couldn’t be speedily resolved again this year, hence the changes. Since we don’t know what those issues are, we can only examine the new edition from the outside.

The Calendar

The date change is more or less of a wash in terms of improvement. There was some hope that the race could develop into a sort of U.S. spring classic with the mid-April date, but there are advantages to the change. The new date, May 31, would put the Open in the position of potentially opening “Philly Week” – the East Coast swing of big races that begin with the CSC Invitational, then moves to the Commerce Bank trio of road races that culminates with the former USPRO championship race through the streets of Philadelphia. Such grouping of races is beneficial to teams, the media, and organizers, as it cuts down on travel time and costs while helping the promoters get the big players at their events. After all, look at how well it works for the spring classics in Europe. So, the new date is good, until you combine it with…

The Location

Providence is a lovely place, and one with an undeniably good competitive cycling history, at least when it comes to cyclocross. The other undeniable thing about Providence is that it is a long way from Arlington, Virginia, 7.25 hours, according to Google. Arlington is where the CSC Invitational, a mainstay of the NRC calendar and a prized win for criterium specialists, kicks off at 12:25 pm on June 1, the day after the Open.

Now, according to Eustice on VeloNews, the Open will leave plenty of time for the teams to get down to Virginia. Technically, that’s probably correct – the number of hours between the Open finish and the CSC start should allow riders to physically be present for both events without warping the space-time continuum. The question is how good they’ll be feeling once they get there. For the sake of argument, let’s say the Open ends at 2:00 pm. Allow an optimistic hour for podium presentations, press conferences, loading the trucks, rider showers, and getting on the road. So, according to Google, everyone should be checking into an Arlington hotel around 10:30pm, if we allow for a quick bathroom break along the way.

The only problem with that scenario is that the majority of the drive is down I-95, which takes in the New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and DC metro areas on its way into sunny Arlington. Those with experience in that particular corridor would plan on a midnight check-in. At least the summer Jersey shore traffic won’t have kicked in yet.

Had the race used the new date for the old route (or even the old date with the new route), it would have been perfect. But with the proposed logistics, CSC Invitational goers might be seeing a lot of surly faces under the team tents. Hopefully, the new Open date won’t result in teams skipping the CSC race in favor of heading to Pennsylvania to wait for the start of the Commerce Bank series.

The Format

No change here. The format for the Open is a straight John Eustice special – one large loop of 50 or 60 miles, then a bunch of finishing laps on a 4-5 mile circuit in town. It’s a model that Eustice has been using for years at the Univest Grand Prix, and which he modified for last year’s Open, substituting a point-to-point route for the initial loop.

The motivation behind the format is hard to argue with – you get the open roads and varied terrain of a road race, and some of the spectator-friendliness of a crit. However, last year’s Univest revealed chinks in the armor. When a break arrived at the finishing circuits so far ahead of the field that it had already completed a lap by the time the peloton approached, officials were forced to pull the field to avoid chaos. But even that didn’t work, as riders on different laps mixed in, got confused, and then didn’t chase guys they needed to chase. The resulting mess took an hour to sort out after the finish, and reshuffled all of the standings with the exception of the winner, Will Frischkorn (Slipstream).

There’s a reason the limitations of the format only emerged at Univest last year. Until then, Univest was run as an elite amateur race, and amateurs are notorious for keeping a tight leash on even the earliest of breakaways. So, in the race’s previous nine runnings, the peloton had always entered the finishing circuit on the same lap as the leaders, since they were always within 10 minutes of each other. With professionals now competing at Univest, the dynamic has changed – the finishing circuits make up nearly half of the total race length, and the professionals are more than happy to let the early break skewer itself far beyond the halfway point before bringing it back. Needless to say, there was an air of surprise when the field found itself pulled with around 40 miles remaining, as the break was still well in hand.

Hopefully, Eustice has found a way to avoid a similar mess at the Open, which will most certainly include professionals and their associated racing dynamics. It all worked out at last year’s Open, so there’s hope. One option would be to extend the initial long loop and cut back the number of finishing circuits so that they fall later in the race. At the very least, the teams should be warned ahead of time, so that they can bring the break back to, say, eight minutes or so before hitting the finishing circuit.

All that aside, can you really call it a finishing circuit when it accounts for 40 percent of the race?

The Name

There’s no doubt the change from “U.S. Open Cycling Championship” to the “U.S. Open of Cycling” is a good one, though the name still leaves something to be desired. The original name was ridiculous, as the race isn’t a U.S. championship of any kind. That sort of absurd naming convention is right up there with promoters putting “de” in the names of American races, and every race with a 10 meter stretch of poor pavement putting “Roubaix” in its name. Tarting up a race name with European linguistic knick-knacks or calling an event a championship when it isn’t is not befitting of truly professional events.

All things considered, the bland name has worked out well for the Open promoters – after all, it would have been even harder to claim that the 2008 event is the same race as the 2007 one if they were forced to run “Williamsburg-Richmond” or the “Tour de Virginia” on the roads around the Providence reservoir. Maybe, with such a versatile name, the U.S. Open can become like the (rightfully named) World Championships – same name, same format, different city every year.

Wherever it may roam, whenever it may be held, and whatever it may be called, SC wishes the U.S. Open of Cycling the best.