When I read that Cannondale-Drapac’s Phil Gaimon was throwing in the towel and race bike and wheel-set, I couldn’t help the reflexive reaction — has the fun gone out of the sport?
Where is the comedy, the spontaneity, the wisecracks, the panache, the wit? Phil didn’t get a new contract with Cannondale and he decided that taking a place in a Pro Conti squad and taking a place from an up and coming rider just wasn’t what he wanted. That was a classy move but what about the laughter vacuum?
Once upon a time, pro cycling felt more witty and charming and that was mostly a Garmin show. Once there was Bradley Wiggins in argyle tossing off dry English wit. Once there was the strange and amazing comedy tangents of David Zabriskie.
Garmin was home to a host of characters with a highly refined sense of humor. That started at the top with team boss, snappy dresser, bon vivant and twitter humorist Jonathan Vaughters. This was the little squad that could, with jokes all along the ride.
Now, Wiggo is semi retired and being crabby about his TUE abuse. Zabriskie has disappeared from sight and now Gaimon, a true humorist and author, has decided the time has gone. This of course, is without even mentioning the most maligned and misunderstood comedian of the peloton of old: Floyd Landis. At least he’s selling high quality weed in Colorado so there are still laughs to be had if you happen to be in Leadville.
So what are we left with? Where are the entertainers, the funny men, the gentlemen of wit and style? Sadly, we have no idea where the laughs are with the French and Spanish riders. We only know that we’re down to bare bones here.
Thank God there is still the cerebral and loopy Taylor Phinney — and it’s no surprise that he left the tightly wired BMC for Vaughter’s Cannondale outfit, where his brand of philosopher stand-up would get a better audience. And then there is the king, the one true and only entertainer in the sport: Peter Sagan. While not a pure humor guy, his sense of fun, frivolity and showmanship bring a smile to everyone in and out of the sport.
Without Sagan, we seriously think that pro cycling must just die of self-inflicted wounds and a ridiculous financial model. He has the rainbow jersey and all the spotlights and God help us if he ever gets bored and becomes a professional bowler.
Phil the Thrill has taken his cookies and left the building. We’re not expecting that Chris Froome will fill the humor gap.