Phobias

Indurain kills it with puny calves up some Merckxforsaken Pyrenean climb.
Indurain kills it with puny calves up some Merckxforsaken Pyrenean climb. Photo: Cor Vos/Cycling Tips

I’m not too proud to admit to having multiple phobias against various things. That’s phobia multiplicity. Having a phobia against something is very simliar to having a normal phobia, except that in addition to being irrationally scared of something, you also harbor a stifling grudge against it. Also possibly irrationally.

For example, I have been diagnosed with a phobia against having small calves. This is a condition where one hates how small calves look, which is further heightened by being aware of how puny their calves are. When I say “diagnosed”, I really mean “teased”.

I am pleased, however, to see how many Tour contenders have fuckall calves. Miguel Indurain, for example, had calves exactly like mine except his made his bike go batshit fast. Similarly, Chris Froome is letting all kinds of V out of the box with his puny calves. It lightens the heart to see fellow calfless riders perform so well.

But this, inevitably, brings up the question as to whether a rider can compete without calf-doping. Evidence is rampant, but the UCI stands idle in its fight against calf-enhancement. Johnny Drama bravely broke the Omertà and admitted to getting calf implants. Since those days, we’ve been taught to look beyond the beautifully shaped calf and ask, are those magnificent strokes powered by bags of saline? Our own Gianni should be investigated, hosting some of the biggest calves known to exist; I could fit two of my quads in one of his calves. Brett, to his enduring credit, is under no suspicion whatsoever of using calf-doping. The jury is out on Marko, and if Jim ever shaved his guns, we might make a reasoned decision on him. (Yes, there is a Keeper among us with hairy guns, but trust us, he lays the hurt down a-plenty. Still, as soon as we get him drunk enough, we’ll hold him down, shave his guns, and Sharpie a penis on each of his quads.)

The days of Pharmstrong and team riding at the front of the Tour for three weeks while controlling affairs with steadfast diligence has taught us it is prudent to be suspicious. As the Doping Saga of the days gone by unwinds, the one lesson that stands out from the past is that when one team makes a show of force, it means they are on something that the rest of the bunch isn’t. In that light, we are right to see a team at the front, controlling affairs and to raise an eyebrow in response. I am among the most skeptical, having supported and loved this sport through thick and thin for the better part of three decades. Suspicion is isn’t cynism – it’s realism.

Still, I find my attitude shifting. Just as it was unfair to the clean riders to claim a “level playing field” during the Doping Era – if it has indeed passed – it is similarly unfair to accuse the clean riders of doping in the Clean Era – if it has indeed arrived. There are a lot of if‘s, passed‘s, and arrived‘s in there, but nevertheless, it is a turning point in my thinking. On Saturday, Froome was marching into the pain cave, and you could almost watch the flashlight drop from his hand and everything start to go dark. It was glorious to see the unabashed suffering of a rider on his way to Yellow. Not having him look like he was on a Sunday stroll is a good sign, and if Sky is doping, they didn’t get Porte’s programme right the day after his spectacular ride to second place on the stage and G.C – or it was a clever ploy to deflect suspicion.

This isn’t my first rodeo, and I’ve been stung for giving the benefit of the doubt in the past. But on balance, believing is more fun than doubting, and hopefulness is more fulfilling than cynism. I am a fan, not a professional; “fun” is the reason I spectate – not for the empty satisfaction of having been “right” or having “known” someone was cheating. Some people have a phobia against being duped, but this is thankfully one I have managed to avoid; my view is that if I am cheated, that says more about the cheater than it does about me.

In that vein, I choose to believe that what we see today is a cleaner race than what we’ve seen in the past, and that perhaps Froome and Sky’s performance might have been impossible during the Armstrong Era. Even in purposefully optimistic paragraphs as the ones that precedes this one, I see my language hedging bets against itself. It is a sign of the times. But still, I choose to believe.

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91 Replies to “Phobias”

  1. I look at it this way.  As long as money and pride are involved there will always be “cheaters”.  I put “cheaters” in quotes because I think it is the nature of the game to push the envelope.  Just look at all the NASCAR crew chiefs that get fined/sanctioned for dodgy creativity.  We all try things out in the search for an edge.  I don’t care much, I just like seeing grown men in Lycra hauling ass.

  2. IDK. Alberto looked slow, tired, and clean in the TT. Froome looked oddly fast, finishing so close to  World Champ Tony.
    “Not Normal” oddly backing off at the end to come in second. (raised eyebrows)

  3. It’s called faith.  Experience has dented it but we should remain unshaken otherwise we become forsaken. O and yes I have huge calves, but then they have to shift a truckload of weight.  Arnie did not win mr universe pumping fly weights!

  4. I’m with @deakus on this; all of the men on my side of the family have Freakishly Large But Mostly Ornamental calves, and it does nothing to help my speed on the bike. I too think it has something to do with the Freakishly Large But Not At All Aesthetic region found in roughly the area covered by my cycling jersey.

  5. Look Frank, overly large calves are bad form too (although impressive).  Calf size has to be just the right amount of stupid.

  6. My frigging calves are massive. Someone always has to say something at a race or group ride. Or whenever I wear shorts. Finding a well fitting pair of pants is a pain in the ass. I need to get ski boots custom fitted, otherwise I get pushed too far forward and my feet go numb and I have to lean back too much, which tires my thighs.

    I’m more than happy to donate some of my calves to a less endowed V member. Or I’ll donate to the last person up Cypress on my Cogal to help them keep pace.

    Also, ‘In that vien,’ should be vein.

  7. @TBONE

    I need to get ski boots custom fitted, otherwise I get pushed too far forward and my feet go numb and I have to lean back too much, which tires my thighs.

    Get bigger thighs!

  8. Freakishly Large But Mostly Ornamental calves, FLMO calves, that’s me too. And asymmetrical, some bad juju from my father’s side of the gene pool. They don’t do shiet, these calves, being able to open a beer bottle on them, sure, a benefit but that’s it. 

    Regarding Broome et al., Brailsford makes an argument for not releasing team Sky’s blood data saying only experts know how to read it and the press would just make a story out of the numbers. Even his refusal generates stories, it will never end. I choose to believe people, which is often a mistake in professional cycling. I’m looking at you Mario! 

  9. @Deakus

    @TBONE

    I need to get ski boots custom fitted, otherwise I get pushed too far forward and my feet go numb and I have to lean back too much, which tires my thighs.

    Get bigger thighs!

    My club has nicknamed me ‘quadzilla’. Plus leaning back puts you on the toilet seat when skiing, ain’t nobody got time for that.

  10. I’ve been reading Wiggo’s biog. The training involved, that Sky put together is unbelievable. It’s the real reason Wiggs isn’t in the tour, he didn’t do the work over the winter. The answer to Sky’s dominance, is that they work harder than anyone else, in all areas of the sport.

    Imagine spending six hours a day, riding up the mountain/s in Tenerife. That’s what they do. As well as loads of techie and data stuff, using the most elite coaches and techie nerds in the world.

  11. Tip for calf development: try dropping your saddle a smidge — 2-3mm — to get more ankling in your pedaling action.  Calves may pop as a result.

  12. @Gianni

    Regarding Broome et al., Brailsford makes an argument for not releasing team Sky’s blood data saying only experts know how to read it and the press would just make a story out of the numbers. Even his refusal generates stories, it will never end.

    Exactly! “Sky won’t release data” and “Data shows possible discrepancies” sell many more papers than “Data actually looks fine”. So does “Cav causes crash” instead of “Cav not to blame”. I’m gulity of having my views tainted by what I read in the media. But even my natural extreme cynicism has not stopped me from thinking this TdF is relatively clean. There are some seriously fucked-looking riders out there! Even Froomey’s eyes looked hollow after he won Stage 8 with apparent ease.

  13. @meursault

    I’ve been reading Wiggo’s biog. The training involved, that Sky put together is unbelievable. It’s the real reason Wiggs isn’t in the tour, he didn’t do the work over the winter. The answer to Sky’s dominance, is that they work harder than anyone else, in all areas of the sport.

    Imagine spending six hours a day, riding up the mountain/s in Tenerife. That’s what they do. As well as loads of techie and data stuff, using the most elite coaches and techie nerds in the world.

    Yes, but this is also the type of thing USPS/Discovery did and claimed. They worked harder than anyone else and took advantage of every technological marvel to get ahead of the game.

    And they doped the fuck out of themselves.

  14. @Bianchi Denti

    I don’t think he was in that much ease – all he did was stare at his bottom bracket, something that only happens to me when I am deep into the pain cave. I study every fucking weave of the carbon because my head gets too heavy to hold up, I need that energy for turning the pedals.

  15. It’s genetics. I’ve tried many routes to a well developed calf but I was born to have chicken legs. If they did get bigger (I ankle like a good un) my actual ankles would look even more fragile. No matter though, I don’t see them, everyone else in the group has that misfortune as I pedal away on the climbs…

    Like many others my faith in the peloton has taken dents ove the years but remains true. It has to. Brian Cookson leading the UCI is the only way ahead. I have a phobia of waking up one morning, McQaid is still in place and in 5 years years time we’ve all been taken for mugs. Again.

  16. Porte must be bummed about getting dropped on Sunday. His ITT performance today would have left him with a comfortable lead over Valverde in second place.

  17. BFGs here, too. My calves are about the size of a Schleck’s waist. Good for power, but that’s a fuckton (metric, that is) of extra weight going uphill.

    @TBONE Maybe this is a Vancouver thing?

  18. Monster calves = slow rider.  I know first hand.  The fastest guys in my club have calves like 3/4″ water line.

    Thinking about calf reduction surgery.

  19. @ JohnB is right, Its a genetics thing.

    I have skinny calves (and forearms), the more action they see, the more sinewy they get.  It doesn’t bother me at all.

  20. I have FLMO calves, but they are kind of in proportion with my too fat to climb ass. I l ike it, the chicks dig them and they are the one part of my body with no fat on them!. But like TBONE says, I can’t find pants t fit them. And (perhaps fortunately) I will never be seen in skinny jeans.

    I hope the riders are clean, share the observations here that they many of the riders look wrecked at the end of the stage, that is good, it make me feel better. And it is shaping up to be one of the better tours in recent years, so far.

  21. @Giles

    I recently discovered the magic of bootcut jeans. Bigger thigh and tapered leg so my pants don’t look like sacks over my legs. First time in years I’ve bought jeans that actually fit me in the waist…

  22. @Cyclops

    I look at it this way. As long as money and pride are involved there will always be “cheaters”. I put “cheaters” in quotes because I think it is the nature of the game to push the envelope. Just look at all the NASCAR crew chiefs that get fined/sanctioned for dodgy creativity. We all try things out in the search for an edge. I don’t care much, I just like seeing grown men in Lycra hauling ass.

    +1

  23. @Steampunk

    501s work great for me, and don’t look terrible like a bootcut jean.

    I’d say my calves are about proportional to my build, in other words skinny as fuck.  I’ve got definition (tibialis anterior anyone?) and some blood pipes going on, but no real size.

    Somewhat off topic, but apparently Froome used to be human sized:

  24. That’s funny – I love the skinny calves and hate my larger calves. I envy Wiggo/Froome calves.

  25. A few weeks back the wife noticed my calves twitching.  I never noticed it before and I can’t feel it but when I cross one of my legs my calf looks like some parasitic worm is wrestling a badger in there.  Freaks me out!  Am I alone here?

  26. @pakrat

    A few weeks back the wife noticed my calves twitching. I never noticed it before and I can’t feel it but when I cross one of my legs my calf looks like some parasitic worm is wrestling a badger in there. Freaks me out! Am I alone here?

    Ha hah…I ruptured a disk at L5-S1 back in the mid-90s and they were slow getting me into surgery even though my left calf was entirely paralyzed. Ever since, I’ve only been 90% in that calf and it’s like I have two platoons of gerbils fighting a gerbil battle to the death in my calf. It’s worse than that after a hard ride.

  27. @gregorio

    Here’s my greatest fear. Rumored to be Hincapie calves.

    Can’t be George, he’s not wearing shoecovers.

    Whoever that is, his Rule #33 compliance regimen must include chemical means.  One nick with a razor and he’d loose pints.

  28. @pakrat I have recently noticed similar in Pilates class, the instructor explained what caused it but I can’t pretend  to remember what she said as I was too busy gawping at her body.

  29. Was working on a thoughtful comment about this year’s Tour and doping until I saw that vein.

    Holy shit that thing is monstrous

    I honestly couldn’t tell if that was a left leg or right leg for a minute.

    That vein is bigger than the calf for cryin’ out loud.

  30. Calves? What good are they? Arrise you chicken legs! All you need to do is stabilize the ankle… the calf does nothing to add to your magnificent stroke. Best thing to do would be remove them totally and fuse the ankle. As you tire, the calf does less  stabilizing and more energy is lost from the pedals. Ankling? Waste of energy too but that’s my opionion.

    Two weekends ago when I won the B Grade Crit by a nice margin a fellow competitor yelled “I didn’t know your chicken legs could sprint!”

  31. @Mikael Liddy I’m not a doctor but that looks like the same vein complex.  How the fuck is there such differential development from one side to the other?

  32. @pakrat I get that too, and I think it happens to many regular cyclists who do reasonably hard training, after a hard ride or on a day off. With me it’s not highly visible but it feels like someone is applying little electrical currents inside my calves, which BTW I think are fairly normal proportioned.

    @Frank etc re Sky and Power Data. Yes I saw Brailsford’s argument on that and have some sympathy. When you see the way people pick on tiny aspects of performances so they can big themselves up on Twitter.

    Surely a solution would be to release it to  an independent person who could give it an imprimatur, and perhaps then also to publicly release selected data of interest e.g. key climbs. Other riders are releasing data through Training Peaks and Strava without apparent issues.

    I was looking at Flecha’s data based on his threshold power of 360W and thinking “That’s not bad, I’m only about 20% below that” but then I saw that he weighs 18kg less than me. That would explain why my agent never calls.

  33. Oh and, when I saw the title of the article I thought it was going to be about Thibaut Pinot. Did you see his comments after being dropped on the descents in Stage 8.

    Basically he said he has developed a phobia about speed, not just descending. He’s really, really scared and it has fucked him up.

    So basically he can only ride for summit finishes. I hope he can get over it, as he’s a good rider and seems like a nice guy. I feel quite sorry for him.

  34. @ChrisO

    Oh and, when I saw the title of the article I thought it was going to be about Thibaut Pinot. Did you see his comments after being dropped on the descents in Stage 8.

    Basically he said he has developed a phobia about speed, not just descending. He’s really, really scared and it has fucked him up.

    So basically he can only ride for summit finishes. I hope he can get over it, as he’s a good rider and seems like a nice guy. I feel quite sorry for him.

    It was strange because his crash was a long time ago….how come he has just developed the phobia now?  The only thing I can think is that he has had a recent close call on one of the descents and it has raised latent fears again.  Either way it sounds serious, like he just wants toboggan home.

  35. @frank Its easy to forget that Armstrong was not the only one doping and yet he won most stages in dramatic form. Is it not possible that this is a clean tour and the peloton just isn’t as good as Froome?

    Plenty of pro cyclists have put their hands up before and since Armstrongs “revelation”!

    Sounds like the doubters would only be happy if everyone was slower and there was no standout winner on any stage of the tour!? 

  36. Sounds like there are a lot of fat cunts around who don’t know the difference between calves and cankles

  37. @Deakus

    @ChrisO

    Oh and, when I saw the title of the article I thought it was going to be about Thibaut Pinot. Did you see his comments after being dropped on the descents in Stage 8.

    Basically he said he has developed a phobia about speed, not just descending. He’s really, really scared and it has fucked him up.

    So basically he can only ride for summit finishes. I hope he can get over it, as he’s a good rider and seems like a nice guy. I feel quite sorry for him.

    It was strange because his crash was a long time ago….how come he has just developed the phobia now? The only thing I can think is that he has had a recent close call on one of the descents and it has raised latent fears again. Either way it sounds serious, like he just wants toboggan home.

    Expect him to lose a bucket of time in the next time trial  http://www.kinomap.com/watch/jvzpvk Jeremy Roy descending

  38. @piwakawaka

    Apparently this guy can be a contender, he just has to drop 4 kilos, this is my phobia…

    If I had just won a time trial with blood leaking through my skin suit and someone told me I needed to lose 4kg I would find a new storage place for that trophy.

  39. @ped

    @Deakus

    @ChrisO

    Oh and, when I saw the title of the article I thought it was going to be about Thibaut Pinot. Did you see his comments after being dropped on the descents in Stage 8.

    Basically he said he has developed a phobia about speed, not just descending. He’s really, really scared and it has fucked him up.

    So basically he can only ride for summit finishes. I hope he can get over it, as he’s a good rider and seems like a nice guy. I feel quite sorry for him.

    It was strange because his crash was a long time ago….how come he has just developed the phobia now? The only thing I can think is that he has had a recent close call on one of the descents and it has raised latent fears again. Either way it sounds serious, like he just wants toboggan home.

    Expect him to lose a bucket of time in the next time trial http://www.kinomap.com/watch/jvzpvk Jeremy Roy descending

    Christ!  I could only watch a couple of minutes of it, it was too painful, I kept shouting the screen…GoGoGo…nonono…fingers off the breaks!

  40. @ChrisO

    @piwakawaka

    Apparently this guy can be a contender, he just has to drop 4 kilos, this is my phobia…

    If I had just won a time trial with blood leaking through my skin suit and someone told me I needed to lose 4kg I would find a new storage place for that trophy.

    Here’s a point to make though.  Do you think Tony Martin would still have won if they had gone at opposite ends of the day.  It looked to me like that headwind really picked up as the day wore on.  Not to take anything away from him, but I was pretty impressed with Vroomys TT especially when those around him were struggling at around the same time.  This does not bode well for my VSP though, I still think he will fall off and lose oh..er…about 5 minutes?

  41. @deakus Dunno, I saw some Tweets from people near the finish who reckoned it had been pretty consistent through the day.

    And the last third, open and flat, very much suited a technical TT specialist – when Froome came through the second checkpoint 2 seconds up I said to my mate that Martin would take it.

    But yes it was impressive from Froome, and Porte.

    Always a lottery and I’m sure Tony ‘Who Ate All the Sausages” Martin has lost timetrials the same way through rain or other changing conditions.

  42. @ChrisO

    @deakus Dunno, I saw some Tweets from people near the finish who reckoned it had been pretty consistent through the day.

    And the last third, open and flat, very much suited a technical TT specialist – when Froome came through the second checkpoint 2 seconds up I said to my mate that Martin would take it.

    But yes it was impressive from Froome, and Porte.

    Always a lottery and I’m sure Tony ‘Who Ate All the Sausages” Martin has lost timetrials the same way through rain or other changing conditions.

    I am thinking the Alpes are either going to make things really exciting and blow the race apart…or be a huge anti-climax and make it pretty much like last years tour.  I have put all my faith in Bertie, he looks weak now but I think he is riding himself in to form and I am hoping Froome has peaked too soon..it ain’t over yet…there is still time for the spaniards to gang up and do a deal!

  43. Although he is a certified hardman, Laurens Ten Dam illustrated the importance of Rule #50 in the ITT yesterday.

    That awful stream of dribble and bile stuck to his beard in the last few KM’s made me feel rather ill.

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