A Cat Turns Cartoonist
And a Chicken Takes Wing
As Le Tour Flies Toward Paris

I'd rather be pissed off than pissed on.
— Anonymous

By Patrick O'Grady

  My cartooning came in for some unusually harsh criticism the other day. My filing system is, shall we say, informal — original 'toons are stacked haphazardly in various cardboard boxes scattered throughout the house — and our new kitten, Turkish, decided one of them would make a dandy alternative litter box.

  This kitten is white, with a black skullcap of hair and piercing blue eyes, just like my dad, and I'm starting to wonder whether he is in fact the late Col. Harold Joseph O'Grady (USAF, ret.) come back to hideous feline life, hellbent on revenge for his suffering at my teen-aged hands during his previous tour of duty on planet Earth.

  Nah. I think he'd have liked my work these days. Some of it, anyway. I'm certain he'd prefer my weakest "Shop Talk" strip to the one I drew in college, about a stoner superhero name of Loadedman.

  Still, regardless of whether it's Dad or Turkish at work here, his editorial touch is a tad shy of deft. The Mud Stud appears to be suffering from jaundice in a couple of panels, thanks to this unexpected, unnecessary and unwelcome spray-painting. Plus as his creator I can assure you that my mohawked mechanic thinks he already takes enough crap on the job.

  And if you think my "Shop Talk" strip stunk before, well — phew! You ought to get a whiff of it now.

  From Pissed On to Pissed Off. Speaking of things that fail to pass the smell test, helping VeloNews.com cover the 2007 Tour de France has once again set me to thinking about finding some less shameful way of earning a living. Drug pusher? No, been there, done that. Male prostitute? Too old, too ugly. White House press secretary? Too much like being a male prostitute.

  Still, damn. Michael Rasmussen was wearing the yellow jersey when I sat down to write this, and if that's good for the sport, then I'm Ann Coulter.

  Rasmussen, a former world mountain-biking champ turned roadie who has twice won the Tour's King of the Mountains jersey, drew four warnings for missing out-of-competition doping controls this year — two from the UCI, two from the Danish narcs — and got sacked from the Danish national team in mid-Tour as a consequence.

  Noted UCI chief Pat McQuaid: "He has got a Monaco license, he is with a Dutch team, he lives in Italy, his wife is from Mexico and he spends quite a bit of time there at her place. So he moves around and is hard to track down." Finding Osama would be easier, it seems. But then, Osama isn't a skeletal Tour contender who looks like Nosferatu while climbing like Icarus.

  Next, a former amateur mountain biker accused Rasmussen of trying to trick him into bringing the Dane a shoebox full of hemoglobin-based oxygen carrier made from cow's blood back in 2002. Rasmussen admitted knowing the guy's name, but simply pawed the podium, switched his tail and mooed angrily when pressed on the issue.

  A Sacred Cow? Okay, so I made that last bit up. Still, Rasmussen's abrupt transformation from polka dots to yellow does seem to border on the miraculous.

  Fourteenth in the 2004 Tour at 27:16 back, seventh in '05 at 11:33 and 18th last year at 28:33 back, the guy they call "Chicken" has suddenly spread his wings to take glorious flight.

  He's even become a competent time trialist. In '05, his best Tour ever, Rasmussen was sitting third overall going into the final race against the clock, but skidded right off the podium after crashing twice, flatting, changing bikes and wheels — in short, suffering nearly every calamity possible save actually catching fire. This year, he flogged a number of specialists in the first long time trial, albeit with an assist from some evil weather that favored the later starters.

  It must be said that Rasmussen hasn't tested positive for anything, not even moo juice. So if he did make it to Paris in yellow by the time you read this, Tour organizers won't plant an asterisk next to his name in its record book, or blot it out altogether the way they did with Bjarne Riis.

  Still, some of us will always wonder whether Rasmussen should be wearing a cowbell instead of the maillot jaune.

This column appeared in the August 15, 2007, edition of Bicycle Retailer & Industry News.

u n c o l l a r e d

  "Mad Dog Unleashed" is the column I write for Bicycle Retailer & Industry News, a trade mag based in Laguna Hills, California. When I started writing it in the early Nineties it was called "A Consumer's Viewpoint," because while I had spent a good deal of time in bike shops over the years, I had never actually worked in one. Plus it was plain to management that while I was willing to work cheap, I had all the business acumen of a banana slug. The column was rechristened "Mad Dog Unleashed" when it also became apparent that I had a ravenous appetite for the hand that fed me, and over the years it has devolved into a platform for me to expound at length on all the other topics about which I am entirely ignorant. Occasionally bicycles are mentioned.

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