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Re: Garmin-Cannondale news
« on: February 06, 2015, 11:43 »
While I was sick recently, I came across a bunch of unusual written features on riders in last year's Tour, the sort of thing you never see in Anglophone publications. These were written by sometime CN contributor and DirectVélo honcho Pierre Carrey for French lefty daily Libération and, because they focus on the man rather than the current results, they're just as relevant months later. I'll try to translate some of them in the coming days...

The Uncontrollable Alex Howes

Survival kit for the Tour de France: an autograph book, a t-shirt with a map of France printed on it, another "casual" t-shirt. And a packet of cigarettes, "in case things turn really bad". The folks back in Colorado have thought of everything for their buddy Alex Howes, who has joined up for the toughest bike race in the world. At the bottom of the package, there is a block of sticky notes, each one including an inspirational phrase.


After the rain and snow of the 2013 Milan-Sanremo, he declared while changing clothes: "I had forgotten that I had such a small dick!" Explaining how he feels a bit Tea Party and a bit hippy at the same time (but a bit more hippy), he says: "I mean I'm all-American: the eagle, the flag, liberty and barbecues. I'm talking about firing guns and fighting for gay marriage."

Those friends who put a survival knife in the package know him well. Howes hoards seemingly useless objects, like the harmonica he played at the start of the national championships. His friend Julian Kyer reveals: "for Hallowe'en, he bought an American cravat with a tiger on it and a pipe shaped like an ear of corn. He still wears the cravat and he keeps the pipe in his car. He likes to pull on it when he's driving." Howes completes the picture with real intellectual spectacles and sometimes an equally authentic moustache or beard.

For the Tour, his friends have sent him a pretty depressing book, the story of a theatre boss who worked for the Nazis. He reads a lot. Son of a primary teacher and a satellite systems engineer, Howes is the happy administrator of the Pro Cyclists Book Club, membership reserved for enlightened riders like himself. The conditions for admission are very strict: one must read at least one book per month, except for those of more than 400 pages ("read the Koran in your own time!"), teenage novels, cycling literature and "stupid crap about Lance".

He is easily misunderstood. In Colorado, the cool kids shun him when he goes off salmon fishing. French riders complain because he makes a game out of braking as little as possible while in the peloton. When he steps onto a dancefloor completely sober, his moves make the bartender think he is totally drunk.


At 19, he was the youngest pro in the peloton but when his team, the future Garmin, decided to beef up its roster, he was asked to go back to the amateurs. Hence the shipwreck of his French education: one season at VC La Pomme Marseille in 2008. Depressed, without having learned a word of the language, Howes weaved hammocks and slept in until noon. His friends sent over peanut butter by the pallet.

"You could see he had something in those legs, but he was living on another planet," remembers Mathieu Delarozière. "Sometimes we got the impression that he just didn't care about any of us!" Still admiring of Howes, the former teammate recalls a time trial at the Tour des Corbières: "Ten minutes before the start, he was still having siesta in a van, laidback almost like he had a straw in his mouth. Five minutes before he was due off, he stuffed on his shorts with the bibs over his jersey. We waited for hours at the finish line wondering what had happened to him!" Suddenly, Howes appeared, bike in one hand, shoes in the other, walking lightly in his socks. His chain had broken and he'd lost it in a field. "Really, you'd never have believed this guy would end up riding a Tour de France one day!" (FR)
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