Braid-spotting, and Danzig-spotting. A guide to watching early season races.

Spring. To some, this time of year symbolizes rebirth, renewal and is a sure sign that warm weather is around the corner. To me, it simply means that I'll have to start cutting the grass again soon. Some also believe that it's an ideal time to spot new and unusual haircuts among professional cyclists. I'm one such person, so imagine my delight when I saw Cofidis' Luis Angel Mate. In an unexpected move, the Spanish rider chose to audition for a spot as an extra in the next Pirates Of The Caribbean movie during Paris-Nice, by showing his scraggly and dry heave-inducing braids on television. I suppose his hair could also be a tribute to the singer from the band Live, or to the lady who does palm readings at the crystal shop near my work. Either way, Mate's hair remains one of the most entertaining in the peloton, along with Rabobank's Michael Matthews.

Now that you've seen Mate's hair, I think you'll agree that the only thing that is more scraggly and dry heave-inducing in the pro peloton is Boasson Hagen's right foot (as seen in this article).

Feet with toes that are pointing in seven different directions and look like those signs that tell you how far away other cities are aside, Mate's haircut remains of great interest to me. You see, aside from his unusual choice in hairstyle (which rivals the great Slipstream hair gel disaster of 2009), it's worth mentioning that Mate has broken with tradition in two more significant ways. First, his website does not feature extensive use of Flash animation, and does not feature techno music, a most unusual and bold choice for any European rider (I'm looking in your general direction Cipollini). But more impressively, Mate has chosen to wear his sideburns in a decisively non-pointy fashion, a clear break with tradition among Spanish cyclists.

Surely at this point, some of you might be asking yourselves, "Does this guy watch races like Paris-Nice exclusively to look at riders' hairstyles and to critique their choice in sideburn grooming?" The answer to that question, of course, is: no. I'm a highly competent thinker and writer, one whose talent has been called upon by an impressive list of companies and media outlets, including my employers' HR department newsletter (they asked me to submit my macaroni and cheese casserole recipe, after it was a huge hit during the holiday party).

But where was I? Oh right, I was telling you that I don't merely watch races like Paris-Nice in order to get a better look at riders sideburns and hairstyles. No sir, nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, I watch races like Tirreno-Adriatico, in order to stay on top of possible celebrity sightings. One such sighting was that of singer and kitty litter aficionado, Glenn Danzig.

Once I thought I saw that Glenn Danzig was in Italy enjoying himself at the race, I instantly went to an authority on the matter. In the TV show CSI, that means taking the footage or image in question to a computer operator who will use the "enhance" feature in some made up software to find out the truth. Sadly, the world of bike-related blogging has no "enhance" feature. We do, however, have an expert on the matter: Mr Bike Snob. You see, aside from working hard on writing books, Mr Bike Snob has multiple degrees in the art of Glenn Danzig spotting. So I sent the image above to him. I had to know, was that actually rocker and chocolate cake connoisseur Glenn Danzig who I saw on the side of the road during Tirreno-Adriatico?

Sadly, the verdict was negative. In his words:

"She doesn't have the trademark Danzig mumps jowls"

So not only was it not Danzig, it wasn't even a man. I was crestfallen. Crushed. So I decided to go back to what I do best: spotting riders with slightly dreadlocked braids and non-pointy sideburns. You have to stick to what you're good at, and back away from those things that you're not good at. We must all realize what goals are realistic, and which ones are simply out of our reach. That's the lesson I learned today, and it's a lesson that Damiano Cunego will learn never.