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cruise control

asses kicked. shall we move on?

not much baseball to talk at ya today, so let's talk cycling. well, cycling and baseball. the tour de france begins tomorrow; incredible event, one of the best competitions in the world. i think armstrong will lose this year; don't think he has his heart in it. my guess is that he wouldn't be racing at all if not for pressure from the discovery channel, which bought the team last summer and needs at least one year out of the star performer to make good on its investment.

we all know that the first half of the tour is all but meaningless; the team time trial can open gaps among the contenders, and sometimes there's an individual time trial tossed in there that can make a difference. but otherwise the terrain is flat and the stages are dull. every day a few nobodies will break away, get 20 or 30 minutes ahead of the yawning peloton, and stay there for 120 km; then, inevitably, in the last 10km the main field kicks into gear and reels those poor exhausted bastards back in. you never hear the names of the top contenders mentioned during these stages; they stay safely within the pack, riding at 2/3 capacity, waiting for the hard mountain stages that will determine the race in the last 9 or 10 days.

the cardinals right now are cruising the flats; it's been three weeks since they played a team over .500, and it will be three more weeks until they face another one. that's when the uphill part of the course begins. from july 22 through august 14, a 23-game stretch, they have 17 games against .500+ opponents, including 7 against the cubs. we'll call those games "the alps." then a 10-game segment through rolling terrain, a chance to catch their breath before they hit the pyrenees on august 26: a 16-game stretch, with 13 against winning teams. then there's a concluding time trial -- september 15-18 against the cubs -- and then the easy ride on into paris and the podium . . . .

guess what i'm saying is: the race is never decided on the flats. the winner always announces himself on the mountains. that's the championship test. don't get me wrong; i hope the cardinals play well between now and july 22, when they finally see the cubs again. but in the end, the flats don't tell you who the strongest rider is. the mountains do. as great as the cards' record is, i can envision a scenario where they go 45-39 from here on out and miss the playoffs. you just don't know until you start climbing some hills.

if there's one gear that we need to kick in between now and then, it's gear #27. that'd be the "rolen" gear, which appears to have some frayed teeth and is not engaging the chain with sufficient force to accelerate the bicycle. the chain has fallen off the #30 gear a few times, and the #44 might need some calibration adjustments. but at least the bike has every part in working order -- 1st time in two months. and it'd be nice to pick up an extra gear for the mountains . . .. . .

okay, i've milked this analogy too long and too hard. way. gotta pass the time somehow on these long, monotonous flatland stages. . . . .