Posts Tagged ‘Dave Zabriskie

09
Feb
10

Prying Inside the Mind of Vaughters

Until their breakthrough in the Vuelta last year, Garmin boss Jonathan Vaughters did a tremendous job of gaining favor, goodwill and those precious impressions in the media by telling a story after the race of “we were close, but we’re clean.”  For some unknown reason, the message of “hard-working” has always been mixed in.  I’m not sure there are any real ‘”slacker” teams; my guess is the verbiage is innuendo that since they’re so squeaky, the other teams are relaxing on the beach, transfusion equipment in tow.  That bridesmaid/underdog/good guy image along with their multi-musketeer TTT focus was a wonderful marketing tool.  Then when Cavendish wasn’t around, they won.  Now what?

Apparently, the only guess I can come up with in reading the Mind of Vaughters is that he’s going to instigate, incite and otherwise infuriate a few other teams.  Once he’s accomplished that and the competition crushes them mercilessly, he can prop the team up back to that role of underdog or, more likely, the nice guy with a black eye.

The first test of this tactic was last year’s unexplainable peleton-driving effort at the 2009 Tour that kept George Hincapie out of yellow.  Vaughters took the “did not” tactic afterwards, but seeing the action and hearing the feedback of Garmin’s own riders convicted Garmin of being that little rich kid that you just want to punch.  That move ensured that HTC-Columbia and BMC will take the quick kidney punch if available.

Then came Wiggo-Gate.  I do think Garmin was legitimately wronged in this situation.  There are certain aspects of professional cycling that make it better than other sports – the storied traditions and honor.  Compared to other pro sports where contracts represent nothing than a bargaining chip, cycling hadn’t devolved to this purely business approach.  Garmin gave Wiggo a chance and a home, and while business is business, Wiggo was wrong in doing what he did.  However, the bad blood created another story in Sky v. Garmin.

Over the weekend, courtesy of the British Press (The Times) came this little gem tucked into Vaughters heartbreak over losing Wiggo.  “The 2009 Tour route was suited to Brad, but 2010 is less so.  In 2009, the tactics worked in his favor and Astana were soft-pedaling a bit to not embarrass Lance.”

Proof of the Anti-Vaughters French Conspiracy

From a PR standpoint Vaughters, it’s brilliant.  Vaughters just ensured his team was constantly mentioned by directly ticking off The Boss.  Phil and Paul will overplay and beat that story bloody through July.  That is the only possibly benefit I see, because all the other implications just make Vaughters look like his fact-checker had the day off and forgot his filter in his mother-of-pearl buttoned, ostrich-skin messenger bag.  Although Garmin came closest, Astana handled the field pretty easily at the TTT at the TDF while Garmin seemed to be slinging riders wayward. Lance came back from retirement and injury to beat Wiggo and reach the podium with his team soft-pedaling?  While the odds are stacked against Lance returning to the top step in July, he believes he can do it, and he’s won the thing a few times – I wouldn’t write him off.  However, the steely-eyed Texan doesn’t like to be challenged and he has minions.  The core of the team that dictated the race at will last year is now wearing jerseys with a big R on the chest.  They’re fairly strong.  Lance has a fairly well-documented history of making those who challenge him end up with tire tracks across their chest.  If he can’t do it himself, he has the people to send up the road to make it happen for him.

Classic Vaughters "Up and to the Right" Pose.

Garmin does have some very likeable folk pedaling for them – Vande Velde, Zabriskie, Dean, Martin and Pate are quality riders with exceptional personalities you want on any team.  Bobridge and Stetina represent legitimate Future Big Things.  But, the “we’re cleaner than everybody else” mantra has to start being intertwined with actual results.   Maybe Vaughters is perfectly executing his private plan to develop nasty rivalries with every team to ensure Garmin is constantly talked about.  It just seems to this uniformed outsider that if you’re going to push how much Garmin represents the boy you’d bring home to mama, the talk should match the walk.

Final parting shot – does Vaughters have some sort of secret media agreement that photos can only be taken from his left side and why he’s always looking up?  We’re aware of the sideburns.  My diatribe aside, people gripe about the Twitter battles and the outspoken, adolescent squabbles.  However, give me this any day over the uber-sanitized, homogenized, personality-free comments that come out of an NFL player’s mouth any day.

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