Friday Group Ride #116

Junket is a word for a trip made at someone else’s expense, as in a press junket. It is also a sweet, milk-based dessert thickened with rennet. RKP’s main and tallest editorial practitioner, my friend Padraig, will be enjoying one of these two things over the weekend and into next week at the invitation of the Specialized bicycle making company.

The thing which Padraig will be enjoying—like me, you’re still hoping it’s the milky dessert—will include a ride with the Omega Pharma-Quickstep team, or at least, those riders who will be racing the Tour of California. The roster, as it stands, includes Tom Boonen, Levi Leipheimer, Dries Devenyns, Bert Grabsch, Frantisek Rabon, Stijn Vandenbergh and Peter Velits. Whether or not Leipheimer races ToC remains to be seen, but he’ll be in attendance regardless, possibly eating junket. The mode is to grate some nutmeg over top.

Hopefully that won’t preclude him from answering questions, some of which we need to come up with here and now.

We might, for example, say to Tom Boonen, “Tom, every woman and half the men in Belgium want to sleep with you as a result of your big wins in Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix this year. Given the success you’ve already had, how do you motivate yourself for stage races during the rest of the year?”

The obvious answer is that there are women (and possibly men) the world over who can still be inspired to lustful admiration by winning stages and intermediate sprints, but it would be fascinating to hear Tommeke answer the question for himself, no?

There are also some lay-up questions to Levi about how it feels to get hit by a car (spoiler: it hurts and is scary), but even after that I’d love to hear how, at 38 and coming back from being hit by the aforementioned automobile, do you put your season back on track. How do you revise your goals to be both ambitious and realistic at the same time?

At that point, I might turn to Peter Velits and say, “Hey, Pete. You finished second at the 2010 Vuelta, winning the individual time trial and the team time trial, as well as climbing like a monkey on macchiatos (macchiati?), what do you rate your chances for the ToC, and who would have to get hit by a car to put you in the team leader’s role?”

Then you’ve got guys like Bert Grabsch, Frantisek Rabon and Dries Devenyns, a trio of steam engines in lycra, and I’d like to know how it feels to be in the same team with Boonen. Do they hide his room key? Do they call his mobile pretending to be his girlfriend? I would. I would also sprinkle rosewater on his junket, like the English apparently liked to do in medieval times. That’d be hilarious.

We have an audience with the Omega Pharma-Quicksteps. What do we ask? What do we want to know?


Follow me on Twitter: @thebicyclerobot

Image: Photoreporter Sirotti

, , , , , , , ,


  1. TJ

    Levi, what’s it like preparing to race against 2011 TOC winner Chris Horner, with whom you rode as a Radio Shack teammate last year? That Mt. Baldy handshake is still fresh in many TOC fans’ minds. Are you still on friendly terms with Chris? Do you miss having him as a teammate?

  2. sam findley

    How much does that cobble weigh, and how hard is it to get up over your head after over 50k of riding them?

  3. Matt

    follow up to motivation for the season/return from injury….how do you motivate and handle the absolute volume of training you do – something more than ‘love of the sport – “What do you think you have that makes you able to endure year in year out?” which of course leads to something tangible in the training department. Average hours/max hours per week? Composition of those hours…JRA for 80% or focused for 80%? Role/importance of motorpacing and sample workout? geeze, I could go on…

    have fun..

  4. A Stray Velo

    I saw Tom Boonen last year after he crashed in the tour. He was at a local cafe in the town center close to where I work. I was on my way back from the bank. It’s not uncommon to see pros around here. I didn’t ask him anything, I actually refrained from even saying hello. Although if I had the chance to ask him anything I would ask,

    Wat is jouw meest favoriete fiets die je ooit hebt gereden? En waarom?

  5. Alex

    To Boonen: ” aren’t you glad that your bike sponsor invited Patrick Brady to this junket, instead of that guy “robot”, and his stupid, sophomoric questions? ”

    robot, seriously, you discredit RKP with these dumb postings.

    1. Author

      @Alex – I’m very sorry my sense of humor doesn’t agree with you. Sincerely, I am. Thanks for taking the time to call me stupid, though. That was a classy touch.

  6. Jody

    Robot, did you beat Alex in a race or something? I like your post but I also have a sophomoric sense of humor.

  7. Alex

    i think this robot is feeling a bit defensive.
    is this blog so PC, that one can’t even use the word stupid?

    too bad RKP uses this Jerry Springer-esque question forum.
    ooops, did I say something bad?

    1. Padraig

      Alex: Funny is okay. Insults, not so much. We’ve found that insulting anyone, whether the writer or other readers, has a really chilling effect on the conversation. If our readers are afraid that you are going to insult them, they don’t share. We encourage you to be funny, but if you’re so cynical that you don’t enjoy our content, by all means, go find something you enjoy.

  8. Alex

    Patrick & Robot,
    I never insulted anyone. I said the posting were stupid, never said the robot was stupid.
    let’s be clear on that.
    he has had valuable contributions in the past, but when we get into these silly, vapid postings, that are the equivalent of the 24 hrs cable news cycle, having to fill air time with screaming, opinionated talking heads……., well then the value of RKP, and all its other postings gets diminished.
    i understand the need to keep the readers engaged, and having them participate and feel welcome; you run a commercial venture. but why not raise bar, instead of making this a place where the lowest common denominator sets the tone.
    I am not so cynical that i don’t enjoy your content. as a reader, i am putting forth a bit of criticism that you can do with as you wish. if using the the word “stupid” to describe an article, is considered too indelicate, i am confused. the article by the robot starts off by telling us about Boonen’s sexual fan club, yet you bristle when i use the word stupid.
    RKP has great content and could be even better. establishing a tone of authoritative reporting, would burnish your credentials, and open more doors. both to readers, and sponsors.
    Again, just some criticism from someone with 25+ years in the reporting business.

    1. Padraig

      Alex: We’re not going to get into a semantic conversation about just what you insulted. We’ve been really clear about our standards. Insults of any variety violate our one and only rule: be civil and constructive. As I’ve written before, think of RKP as a party. I expect everyone present not to insult my family (contributors), friends (readers) or the food (posts). To the degree that—in your eyes—we’ve yet to establish ourselves as a source of authoritative reporting with burnished credentials, I suggest that your view may be outside the mainstream of both our readership and the industry. But back to the point at hand: We’ve worked hard to raise the level of conversation found on cycling blogs. Your particular usage of the word “stupid” isn’t in keeping with standards we have set. I can’t do more to alleviate your confusion than that.

  9. Tom

    Serious questions for Tommekke: How far away from your previous ‘bad habits’ do you have to stay to keep them in your past? Do the guys on your team help you stay on the ‘straight and narrow’? Clearly, you’ve got a lot left in the tank. This fall, will you take on Spartacus mano-a-mano in a PPV event for the cycling ages?????

    For Levi: How much fitness did you lose by the time you could get back on the bike? Are you afraid on the roads now? Will you ride alone on the roads over there again or will you have a team car with you? (Is that possible?) Can you crush a healthy Tony Martin in an uphill TT?

    For the other guys: If you had to choose one guy on your team in whose shorts you’d dump a ton of itching powder, who’d take it the best?

  10. Adam

    I civally wouldn’t mind giving Alex a constructive kick in the head. <3

    Padraig, Robot, keep up the great work. If you see Roger any time soon, give him a hug from me.

    Also, for Tom:

    In 2007, before the ToC, on Valentine's Day I was interviewing at Specialized. To my surprise when I arrived, I see former and current world Champions Tom Boonen and Poalo Bettini. I was shocked. Awe struck. I was in a suit. A purple tie. You were in team-emblazoned sweat wear. We exchanged glances a couple times. So, I just want to know, was it awkward for you too?

    In all seriousness, fantastic season Tommeke.


  11. Alex

    if adam wants to kick me in the head, gosh, i feel insulted! my feelings are hurt! why do you allow such rude postings at your dinner party?!
    somebody come help me., i think i might cry….
    at least bother to run a spell check, and get people’s name spelled right. i’m sure PAOLO Bettini would appreciate it.
    Patrick, as far as semantics, that’s your tool in trade. try to at least master that. your blog, if you can’t take criticism, don’t invite comments. as far as raising the level of conversation found in cycling blogs; i don’t see how “what do you hate about cycling” and the associated comments ( i hate the elitism, i hate the early hours, i am hung over, etc) helps raise the level. au-contraire.
    if this is the mainstream, i think you should re-think what demographics you are after.
    cycling is an elitist sport. anyone who has known the feeling of stomping the competition on a day of good legs, would not be honest in telling you how much he enjoyed it.
    if you want to make everyone happy, and feel good, then you should know, that is not what a “Red Kite Prayer” is .
    if you don’t post this response, it is clear that i was misinformed when I was told this was THE road cycling blog. hope I’m wrong.

  12. Adam

    It was a joke Alex. Relax. This should be a friendly place. My sincerest apologies for misspelling someone’s name. I’m pretty sure spell check doesn’t cover proper Italian nouns. Quit trolling friend.

  13. Alex

    adam, dear friend;
    the dictionary was for your use of “civally”, not sure what that is.
    as an aside, some friendly advice, Paolo is a name, not a noun. no big deal, just semantics.

    not sure what trolling means, but if it refers to my returns to this string, well, fancy meeting you here twice. that’s what friends do, no? exchange views.

    1. Padraig

      Jeez. This is going no place useful. Okay, Adam, while I follow the humor you used, in an effort to apply consistent standards to all readers, I need to request that you don’t joke about a kick in the head.

      Alex: You don’t seem to have found anything you like here. Good luck finding content you enjoy.

  14. JK

    In response to this kind of non sequitur commenting, I’m reminded of times as an English professor that a student derails an in-class assignment as stupid, boring, pointless, etc. It’s at once infuriating, detrimental to others’ learning, and can cause a crisis of faith in oneself as the teacher (maybe that’s why I’m out of that now). Unlike my lame assignments, Alex, commenting here is very much voluntary. Don’t like it? Don’t read it. No need to get the whole class involved in your displeasure.

    Padraig, Robot, and the rest of the team–as writers we know not everything is gold, but it still sucks getting negativity from what’s supposed to be fun and informative. Keep doin’ what you’re doin’ and invite me to one of those junkets some day, just don’t expect me to have anything meaningful to ask–strictly a bodyguard/eye candy/coffee fetcher type role.

    1. Author

      @JK – This is very perceptive. Regardless of the criticism, there is, in most cases, a kernel of truth there that we, as writers, need to find and pay attention to. Sometimes our egos get in the way and delay the process, but it works out in the end. That’s part of the reason I’m loathe to censor commentary too much, even when I think it crosses the line. Allowing these things to stand helps me accept them, and once I’ve done that they can have a positive influence on future work. And really, that’s what I’m going for. So thanks to everyone, and I will try harder going forward.

  15. Alex

    what you all fail to understand, is that i do like RPK, and i never thought that a criticism would ruffle so many feathers. the robot seems to think i may have had a kernel on truth in my commentary. phew!
    what is becoming clear, is that RPK invites commentary, only as long as it is all positive.
    got the formula down, no need to listen to feedback, no room for changes.

    carry on.

  16. Adam

    The other Adam here. There’s criticism and then there’s constructive criticism; in life one leads to divorce while the other leads to, well, a working marriage. On the web the result is ruffled feathers and I know that if I called my wife stupid, I’d be sleeping on the couch. But I’m not testing that hypothesis.
    I’ve been following cycling my whole life and regard this as the best I’ve come across in all that time. Not only are the articles exceptional but the conversations below are civil. That’s not to say everything’s perfect. I’ve long been a Boonen fan and defended him on this very forum – had an American riding for Garmin had his 2010 Spring it would’ve been called their best ever – but I don’t see anything substantive from this exchange and that’s not a trend I want to see repeated too often.
    Junket time: How close was Tomeke last year to signing with another team?
    Was he ever worried about Pozzato in the last 10K of Flanders?
    How will Belgium plan on splitting leadership for the Worlds and Olympics with Gilbert winless? We can call Sep VanMarcke mainstream now, but are there any other young Belgian talents out there that we should be following on the results sheets?
    Winning Roubaix seems like the best as you get to take a break until Switzerland while on a high – what do you do on the second Monday in April?
    What if anything explains the incredible start for the whole team?
    If you and Chavanel came into the Velodrome alone together, who would cross the line 2nd?
    What’s missing on your Palmares that you’d like to add?
    Taylor Phinney pretty impressive on Saturday. First American to win PR?

  17. gmknobl

    A question I submitted via Pez but apparently not in the right manner. Maybe it will get to Mr. Leipheimer, maybe not.

    Mr. Leipheimer, you’ve had a great career. Some of us first noticed you after you finished third in the Vuelta. Since then much has changed for you. How do you feel you’ve changed as a rider since that time?

    Dear Lord! It looks like someone really wants to get kicked off the board. Well, so be it if it happens. I reserve the word “stupid” for things that lack intelligence and not when there’s some humorous point to be made. Writing can be hard so cut people some slack. This site is free so enjoy what you can and ignore the stuff you don’t like unless it is actually insulting. I also tell my children “stupid” is an insult and not to be used. It’s one of the words to be avoided unless applying it to oneself, which I do on occasion. And here’s my definition for and internet troll: one who posts on sites to stir up trouble or one who continuing to post to argue long past the point of usefulness. Make your point, restate/defend it once or twice then move on.

  18. Wiggo

    The mass mediocracy of the blogoshpere bloviates; and I still don’t know if Boonen, an athlete that can distribute pain, and take it in heaps, smokes, snorts or boots his cocaine. Does he have the coke fueled freaky sex of a frenzied ferret with 3 boys, or a strapping amazon?

    These are pressing questions that need answering at the next press availability.
    Smell my finger.

  19. juanjo

    Thanks for stepping in “Big Mikey”, and scaring off the trolls. They do seem to have a steady diet.
    Can’t be seen feeding little critters.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *