Some people say that life imitates art. It also imitates high school, at least for some pro bike racers at this weekend's USA Cycling Pro Criterium Championship in Downers Grove, Illinois.
Apparently, recent Tour de France podium contender, Olympian, and Chicago-raised Christian Vande Velde showed up for the pro race. He attacked the field in the middle of the race, took a $400 prime lap, and stayed off of the front in a solo breakaway for six laps before being caught by the chasing field.
According to this article on velonews.com:
[Pro racer and former teammate of Vande Velde Antonio] Cruz said the peloton was at first unimpressed with the Olympian in their midst.
"A lot of these [racers] were like, 'Whoo, hoo, Christian Vande Velde, Tour de France, big deal.' And then when he hit it, you hear some guys talking trash. Then two laps later we're strung out and nobody's talking, and Christian is gaining ground.
"It actually really pisses me off. There are a lot of disrespectful guys. They need to go to Europe and see what it's like before they talk."
In other words, a bunch of domestic pro cyclists barely scrapping by on teams with tight budgets (with a few exceptions) took issue with an international cycling star in their midst. One whom in no way was going to contest the crazy finish at this race (absent a successful breakaway), and one whose name alone creates a great deal of publicity and media attention based upon his recent success at the Tour de France and participation in the Beijing Games.
Domestic professional bike racing has been a fringe sport in this country ever since the decline of track racing in the first half of the 20th century. Major domestic races are routinely canceled (Tour of Utah 2007) or downsized (Tour de 'Toona 2008) as a result of lack of sponsorship money. You'd think that domestic racers would welcome the increased attention and free publicity that comes with a racer like Vande Velde at an event like Downer's Grove. Instead, they acted like cliquish high school kids threatened by the presence of the new kid who is going to steal their girlfriends.
There are two sides to every story, and there is always the chance that Vande Velde did something at the race to cause this stir. Until I hear something along those lines, I'm going to have to say that dissing Vande Velde was pretty damn lame and shows a real lack of class. If nothing else, it demonstrates a lack of common sense if you actually want to see this sport grow on this side of the pond.