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July 21st, 2004 KELLY CLARKE | Night Avenger
 

Biker Bar

     
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"For France, the Tour is like an Aerosmith concert moving from town to town every night," says the toothy, tan man with the silvering pompadour. He's wearing one of those rubbery yellow Lance Armstrong bracelets and looking at his tablemate with a questioning air. "Do you know what's going on?" he asks.

A bike neophyte can't take a sip of Top Dog Pale Ale at Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard's Lucky Labrador Brew Pub these days without tripping over a guy like Danny Knudsen. An ex-punk and current drummer for the local rockabilly band the Flapjacks, Knudsen is also a retired Category 1 (which means really, really good) cyclist. He raced throughout America and Europe for more than a decade. This month, as Tour de France-fever sweeps Europe, the Lucky Lab is broadcasting the 20-day race, from July 5 to its finish this Sunday, during its happy hour, and Knudsen has cheered the teams on almost every day. Got race questions? He's got answers.

Packs of mutts yip and howl on the Lucky Lab's dog-friendly back porch. But inside, the airy converted warehouse echoes with the voices of fans trading race predictions and the squawk of the announcers on the new, big-screen TV--a present from happy-hour sponsor Chris King Precision Components, a local company that makes headset components for the Tour's U.S. Postal team racers.

Urbane couples dressed in neon, skintight bike jerseys and ragged drinkers sporting the black-and-camo uniform of the bike messenger absently grab at their beers, without bothering to look where their paws land. Their eyes are glued to the grueling bike action from Liège to Paris.

"I wish people from Gresham could be here to realize we're not a bunch of gay guys with shaved legs riding around," Knudsen says, "and it's not just about Lance."

He regales his tablemates with gruesome stories of infected road rash and riders pissing blood. "When they show a crash on TV, people cheer like it's a hockey game," he says. And when the non-bikers moan later as Australia's Robbie McEwen wins Stage 9, Knudsen cheerfully explains that Lance Armstrong is coasting in as part of the top 10 bikers overall.

And that's really the sweetest deal when it comes to the brewery's stint as a biker bar: Tour-obsessed cyclists like Knudsen who teach, counsel and recruit next year's race lovers--even if you don't know your front derailleur from your rear cassette.


Tour de France 2004 Happy Hour at Lucky Labrador Brew Pub, 915 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 236-3555. 6-8:30 pm through July 25. All ages.
 
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