I grew up not so much watching old movies but making vague mental notes of them so that when I was old enough to consider the possibility that they were awesome, I would know where to start. And the answer, of course, was Casablanca, a movie so great that Woody Allen made another movie about how great it was. In the end, the lesson of Humphrey Bogart was that I too was short enough and ugly enough to succeed on my own, but it never hurt to wallow in misery for a while.
Richard Blaine would have made a fantastic FSA Directeur Sportif owner. And by fantastic, I mean he'd have fallen in with all of the hopeful (re. hopeless) causes in cycling: the exciting newcomers, the friendly faces, the mysterious strangers, even the guys trying to buy back their souls from the devil. In other words, he'd have been a lot like me, which is not so fantastic, if you rely on meaningless statistics like results and standings.
With that intro, let's do a Casablanca-themed look at the FSA DS season so far.
Liebchen, Sweeness -- What Watch?
For the rider who best embodies the earnest unpreparedness of the Deutsche Bank couple headed off to America, I give you the FSA DS owners of John Degenkolb. Now, don't hear what I didn't say; Degenkolb is a fine rider with a big career ahead of him. But if you plunked 26 points down for the young German (you see what I did there?), after he racked up nearly 2000 points in 2012, well, those measly 255 he's sitting on must be cold comfort. Like the Deutsche Bankers, Degenkolb's preparation for the big time consisted last year of mopping up wins in Picardie, Dunkirque, and a Vuelta field almost devoid of sprinters. Turns out, he could probably use a bit more seasoning before those points come rolling in.
The leading banker in Amsterdam is now the pastry chef in our kitchen.
For everyone who owns Lars Boom. He may not literally be Sep Vanmarcke's pastry chef, but then again he might. Sep and the American sponsor combined will assure that Sep becomes the newest mega-star of sport, with a long Hollywood run for him after he's past his Paris-Roubaix peak (which, according to the Book of Duclos-Lasalle, is around age 43). I like Lars but if you're outside the Top Ten in Flanders and Roubaix, it's like you don't even exist. Sep knows this, and would run over his grandmother to win. [She, in turn, would probably just shake it off, being good Flemish stock.]
Somehow, just because you despise me, you are the only one I trust.
For the keepers of the Green Flame, Alejandro Valverde, who is burning as brightly as ever in his second year since he and his dog were banned from actually starting any races (if not training in Movistar colors and hanging around the team bus). Only 22 of you guys were interested, what with the whole scoundrel thing, but when you think about how cycling has functioned over the last couple decades, isn't he like Ugarti, the guy you despise, but know that you can -- probably should -- work with?
-We read five times that you were killed in five different places.
-As you can see, it was true every time.
A full 78 teams knew they should yell for Cadel, aware that every time we consign him to the dustbin of cycling history -- he is (ew!) 36 -- he rises up again. Not only is he not dead and continuing to inspire the troops, but just you watch him in July. See who at BMC gets Ingrid Bergman (a/k/a the Tour captaincy) and a seat on the plane to New York.
The fundamental things apply, as time goes by
Cavendish will be fast, Cancellara's built to last, on that you can relyyyyy... the FSA DS will always reward champions, as time goes byyyyy.
I was informed that you were the most beautiful woman ever to visit Casablanca. That was a gross understatement.
Rather than just a cheesy blog post metaphor, this could easily be something people actually say to Peter Sagan. Apart from not being a woman, is there anything else about this phrase that isn't literally true? And would you debase yourself in a fit of Captain Reynauldesque ass-kissing in front of any other rider?
We mustn't underestimate American "blundering." I was with them when they "blundered" into Berlin in 1918.
Obviously for the combined 260 teams to have either Andrew Talansky or Tejay van Garderen (or both) on their squad. Nobody is outfitting them for yellow just yet; Tejay's ceiling might be a tad low, and Talansky probably needs a couple more years before reaching his. And yet, for their respective prices (14 and 26 points), their productivity stands in the mid-400s with both likely edging upward over the next seven weeks. Van Garderen especially, given the type of season he's had, seems like a podium challenger at the Tour de France or at least up to another top five. Talansky's lagging at the moment, so anything between third and 30th in the Tour seems about right. Bottom line, those pesky Americans can get their points.
Go ahead and shoot. You'll be doing me a favor.
For the many owners of Tom Boonen, Philippe Gilbert, Bradley Wiggins, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Thomas Voeckler, Taylor Phinney, Andre Greipel and of course Andy Schleck.
For my money, this line is the most perfect moment in the film. Let's face it, the entire story is a wartime huzzah flick centered around a dour Bogart character who is really a good guy down deep, but not until you suffer through a good hour of wallowing in self-pity. Here, Rick reaches the point where he is so betrayed by love that Ilsa might as well go ahead and shoot him, for there is no love in the future for Richard Blaine, only more painful reruns as he lifelessly repeats the process of eluding the enemy, sighs mournfully while running guns to the resistance, and pounds another gin to a tinny piano as his hot Norwegian girlfriend (and her husband) exit stage left.
At this point some 60% of FSA DS owners are fully wallowing in self-pity, and if anyone from the above list is to blame, those pitiable owners are probably just ruing their luck. However! If we really want to honor the indulgent misery of Rick Blaine, then I give you another list of riders:
Luke Durbridge (12 points); Moreno Moser (14); Jerome Coppel (6); Jonathan Castroviejo (8); Steven Kruijswijk (8); Matteo Rabottini (8); Wout Poels (12); Giacomo Nizzolo (12); and Thibaut Pinot (14).
Each of these riders has given their owners hope, and it is the unrealized hope, a trust in youth and beauty that's savagely betrayed, which burns a hole in their souls. That, my friends, describes the owners of these guys. That, and a need to get over yourselves.
Major Strasse has been shot. Round up the usual suspects.
For the 92 teams picking Sylvain Chavanel, 93 teams with Richie Porte, and 60 teams owning Greg Van Avermaet. It's hard to do the right thing as an FSA DS owner, but with flashy objects all around, and bargain basement sales left and right (well, not so much this year but it's all relative), these owners didn't panic, didn't abandon their principles, and managed to do the right thing.
There are actually two "round up the usual suspects" moments in Casablanca, the other one not when Capt. Reynaud is giving in to his best instincts but rather when he unironically utters this command as a sop to his worst side, the lazy, heartless kleptocrat. For that quote, I think I would call out the 310 owners of Thomas Lofkvist.
If that plane leaves the ground and you're not on it you'll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life.
Pretty much all of the Colombian riders, but with a special place reserved for those who passed on Nairo Quintana and Carlos Betancur. So young... so full of promise... so already past their 2012 point totals by late May. Resistance is futile.