Friday, April 8, 2011

Guilt makes the world go 'round

If I ruffle some feathers, it will be alright, count to ten and then think about it.  I, like you, have an opinion, if you don't like it -that is your right, but you do also have the opurtunity to change my mind.  Good Luck with that, no really I am open-minded.

In conversation last night we were talking about an upcoming race, and the lack of attendance by members of our team.  I think it is a disservice to someone who is injured to not go race, when you are able bodied.  Mike recently took a spill and now has the Fastener isle of Ace Hardwear in his shoulder.  He is currently on the injured reserve, but the guy is coming to team meetings, WNR, and hanging out for beers.  He is even on a trainer right now trying to maintain fitness for his comeback.  If Mike was not busted up he would be out riding, and he would be racing with us this weekend.  I know it is not fair comparing anyone to Mike, he is a Man's Man and the quintessential teammate.  His moustache was Burt Reynolds stunt double, back before most of us were born.

If you are able to race (kids, wife, job, life) and are not sick or injured there really is no good excuse to not race your bike.  If your pride is on the line it can be a painful thing,but you will live -trust me.  I got my @$s handed to me on the WNR, talk about a kick to the crotch of Pride, yeah it hurts, but I got up the next day and rode my bike again.  How many people can say they got on their bike and rode?  How many people do you know in your life that don't ride bikes?  How many can't ride a bike because of injury, illness, or other issues?  Excuses are whatever you want them to be, but at the end of the day they are just excuses.

Side note:  Gabe Speth who rides for Soundpony was critically injured by a car last Friday night.  I just found out and don't have very much info.  On FaceBook go to the Gabe Speth Fund for info.  When I raced for Soundpony I raced with Gabe, it's cliche but he is a good guy and I hate to see this happen to him.  Keep him, his family and friends in your thoughts and prayers.  If you have any info that you would like to share please email me or post it in the comments.
That's Gabe in the 'Pony kit #437 Hell's Kitchen
Photo: Jess Parker collection

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Bad days

Yesterday (Wednesday) was a great day, other than totally dying on the bike at WNR.  I was able to get in a good mtb ride and survey some of the fire that was most certainly NOT raging up at Turkey.  I went for a WNR and was killing it with the team when the rug was pulled out from under me.  There was no warning that the body was going to shut down, but it did.  People like to say "pain cave" "hurt locker" "hit the wall", I like to say that I got kicked in the balls, well that would probably feel better and not last as long.  I limped my way back into town and it was a death march.  I tried to soft-pedal and get my legs back, but nothing was getting better, just worse.

I made it to the corner store and bought a Pepsi and started the sugar caffeine delivery system.  It took several fuzzy conversations, a trip to the Blue Rose and half a beer before I felt somewhat normal.  Seriously I haven't felt this bad since bonking on my first century several years ago.  It was crazy no warning, just bam you are done, thanks for playing.

Waking up this morning the body was in poor shape.  I cooked breakfast, had about four cups of coffee and then took a little nap on the couch with the dogs.  Seriously, coffee did nothing for me.  I guess I'm going to have to start something harder than my gateway drug caffeine.  Maybe try a defibrillator????  I started moving slowly and just could not get going.  Watched some TV and tried to blog about Roubaix but just didn't have it.  I decided to register for unemployment online and half-way through the process I just wanted to stop.  I had an unsettling feeling, the realization of not having a job, of having to start over, of trying to figure out what I was going to do.  I didn't want to finish because it was admitting defeat.

I was starting to feel sorry for myself, and really believing it.  This was a bad day.  James texted me to go for a spin.  I needed to, both physically and mentally.  The body needed to spin the legs and the soul needed the freedom that only a bike can provide.  I also needed to be around someone to talk to about anything but just someone there.  No offence to my dogs, they are great company, but sometimes they are more needy than I am, and it is my time to be needy.  I know this is just the beginning and I am going to have good and bad days, I just did not expect it to feel like this.  I really didn't know what to expect, I know that there will be other things that come up and I will yet again be surprised.

Tomorrow is another day will it be good, bad or the #2 combo?  That is the beauty of this thing we call life, you never know what is going to happen.  Plan for the worst but hope for the best.  The thought of the unknown is an unsettling prospect that takes a rational person and brings the neurosis to the surface.  My safetynet is gone and with it my confidence in my ability to do the everyday.  Uncertainty is the special for today.  The positives for today: bike ride with James and the team meeting at Hideaway Pizza.  -Good pizza, beer and friends.

Day one

Ok, just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has inquired about my recent unemployment.  I appreciate everything, but I seriously was not looking for sympathy, although it is nice to know you guys care.  I am just trying to be completely transparent and let you know what is going on in my life, if you are interested. 

I'm in the process of getting a resume together and I am also looking into school.  The resume is a pain, I mean really, I've seen some doosies when I was the one doing the hiring, and now everything I come up with look like ones I used to brush aside.  It should read like a bank robbery note: hIre ME oR ELsE!!!! -and it would be with letters I cut out of magazines. 

So far a pretty successful day.  Had my coffee, wrote on the blog, ate some cereal for breakfast.  I did get in a mtb ride which was good, but I do kind of have this whole job thing in the back of my mind which can be irritating when on a good ride.  Made a late lunch, called Cox and negotiated a lower rate, as soon as I can find the W-2s I will work on the taxes.  Silver lining- I get to watch Scheldeprijs while waiting for the cable guy to come out.  I'm sure there will be a bike ride in there somewhere and then WNR.

Got some bathrooms to clean W-2s to find and a beer or two in the fridge that is calling my name.  The dogs love having me home so they have full run of the house.  I just might do a load of laundry, what the heck why not.  I'm thinking filets for dinner with some grilled zucchini and maybe a potato in there somewhere and green beans.  Great, now I'm hungry.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Ronde van Vlaanderen 2011

This is my favorite race, so my opinions are so skewed that you should probably stop reading if you are against hyperbole, because I am most likely going to use words like superhuman, devastating, millions, forever, awesome, and legendary. Just to name a few.  First and foremost I am a fan of cycling, a distant second I am a student of the sport, but eternally I am an advocate of the bicycle as art, transport, lifestyle, and sport.

What we saw on Sunday afternoon was incredible.  I'm finding it hard to come up with words to describe the emotions that I had while watching the Ronde.  My only disappointment was the weather was too kind to the riders, but nonetheless it is a brutal race wet or dry, hot or cold.

Sylvain Chavanel, what can you say about this man?  Clearly he was the strongest man of the day, and it was all in support of the team leader Tom Boonen.  Chavanel covered every attack, acceleration, every break, if a rider looked to make a move Chavanel was on it.  Cancellara made a break for it and Chavanel became his shadow.  Chavanel practically spent more time on the front than the lead moto.  Tactically he did everything that he was supposed to do, you could not put it on paper better than the way he executed it on the road.  If anyone should be tested for motors or frictionless bearings, put Sylvain in an MRI and see if this guy is human.  Under the red kite he was alone with Cancellara and Nuyens and looked to be in the perfect position...when he sat up briefly to help Boonen try to come across the small gap.  This small hesitation (most likely ordered by his DS) caused Nuyens to get the jump on Chavanel and Cacellara forcing Sylvain to fight for second.  Fiercely loyal, cost him the Ronde.

Philippe Gilbert is the dictionary definition of Panache.  He has more style on the bike than Pozzato's off-bike wardrobe.  Guilty as charged -I'm a fan of Gilbert.  His attack on the Muur in Geraardsbergen made me wince in pain.  I had visions of Cancellara '10 and Devolder '09 going alone to the line, but Philippe had way too much firepower behind him and was caught after just a few solo km.  He did manage to stay in the chase group that was an all-star list of who's who and finished a very respectable 9th on the day.

George Hincapie started his 16th Ronde van Vlaanderen, do the math that is more pain and suffering than most humans endure in a lifetime.  Yes, he gets paid to do this, but there are other races out there that he can pick and choose.  I can't bring myself to call George "old", it is a disservice and rude.  George has knowledge and knowledge is power, but more importantly he brings a diesel engine to the table.  Sorry Turbo Diesel.  I would be remiss if I did not say I was a fan of Big George.  I challenge you to find someone, anyone who does not like George.  Even if they don't like George they at least respect him.

Cancellara, I can't write anything about Fabian.  I am at a loss for words, he is able to single-handedly dismantle an entire peloton.  If you want to win a race just attach yourself to Cancellara and hang on.  Ask Nick Nuyens.  Riis looks like a magician, but Nuyens was the one who appeared out of thin air at the right time and put himself into the winning move.  Then he was gifted the win by QuickStep's boss.

Tom Boonen, local favorite, hero, villain, and 3rd loser on Sunday.  Hey, I'm a fan of Tom -I wanted him to win the Ronde for the third time.  I know it is not Tom's fault, but QuickStep could have had the win, but I think they were to focused on getting a Belgian rider the win.  They got what they wanted, Nuyens is Belgian -but he rides for Saxo Bank, ooops.  I guess second and fourth is consolation?  We can sit in the easychair and postulate what ifs forever.  What if about 5km from the finish QuickStep changed the plan and hung the star on Chavanel?  3km?  2km?  Heck 1km to go would have been a good decision?  What if Tom rode for Chavanel?  I know what IF?????

Here is where I talk about the "how 'bout that guy?"   Get ready to google Staf Sheirlinckx of Veranda's Willems-Accent.  Who?  Right, that's what I'm talking about.  He was the guy in the black and white kit that Paul and Phil never talked about (thanks VS).  Bjorn Leukemans of Vacansoleil-DCM if you remember back a few years ago he finished just off the podium in Roubaix.  Sebastian Langeveld of Rabobank -heck I thought he was Lars Boom for the longest time.  British National champ Geraint Thomas of Sky, just another crazy fast Welsh track rider.  Keep an eye on this guy, he was with Barloworld until they closed up shop and Sky signed him.  His is going to do great things.

Chalk up another Ronde, and get ready for Paris-Roubaix this weekend.  Don't forget Mid-Week Racing.  Yes, mid-week Scheldeprijs in Belgium, and Pais Vasco in ongoing in Spain.  More later kiddos.

The only constant

The rumors to my demise are greatly exaggerated.  I was fired, let-go, dismissed, seeking other opportunities, terminated, sacked, canned yesterday by a company that I have worked for just this side of ten years.  I'm in a little bit of a state of shock, but this did not totally come out of the blue.  I'm still letting it sink in and see where this takes me.  I'm a little scared to try and re-enter employment at the bottom of the pile, but that is the natural selection of life.  Good thing I like lemonade.

The wife already said that this is not an opportunity to ride my bike more.  OK, but I am going to try the 3mile rule, ie.. if it is within a 3mile radius it is transportation via bike.  We will see how this goes.  I am a half-empty kind of guy so I am really trying to work on the half-full attitude.  Those of you who see on a regular basis make sure I am half-full.  And if I have a glass in my hand top me off already!!!!

Options, school?  Job in the same industry?  Peace corps?  Donate body to science?  Now if I could only do this for a living, and brew beer on the side.  One thing at a time.

Change is good for the soul, but difficult for the flesh, ...let's not see how cliche I can get.

It looks as if my days are open for a while, so if anyone needs someone to ride with let me know, just don't tell the wife that it is my third time on the bike for the day.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


There is always an underlying truth in everything beautiful.  Cycling is no different from anything out there.  Put manure on flowers and they will grow bigger and more beautiful.  Peel back the skin and we are all grotesque monsters that ooze and bleed.

I almost share a birthday with one of what could have been one of the most prolific cycling greats.  The next great hope of Belgian cycling.  Frank Vandenbroucke.  You might have heard of him, but probably not, and if you did it was probably for all the wrong reasons.  Frank was a shining star that shone brightly but briefly and then burnt out.  He had the weight of a whole cycling nation on his shoulders and the notoriety of a rock star, futballer, and movie star all wrapped up into one.  Frank was legend and scourge all in one sentence.

Cycling in the '80-'90s was a dirty place and one could succumb to the filth or rise above.  Frank was pulled into the mire by teammates, coaches, and a nation.  Yes, he had choice -but did he?  His people touted him as the next Museeuw or Merckx, and treated him as such.  Frank had the talent to fill those shoes, and had successes 51times in his first six years as a Pro.  In '98 he bagged Gent-Wevelgem and Paris-Nice.  He added Liege-Bastogne-Liege, Omloop Het Volk, and a hand full of Vuelta stages in 1999 and took home the points classification.

After the 1999 season the train derailed and Frank would ride for several teams have problems with drugs and never win another race.  This is the underbelly of cycling that we don't want to see or know about, we want heroes that win in the Alps, over the cobbled Classics, and are super human on and off the bike.  Frank was super human on the bike but off the bike is where he failed, or did the sport fail him?  Was it the pressure?  Was it the fact that he had everything handed to him?  Too much too soon?  Did we love and admire a star to the point that we are responsible for its implosion?

If Frank were alive today he would be 36.  Would he be racing in the Ronde, or would he be in a car following the race as a highly decorated retired cyclist?  What would have been if Vandenbroucke could have survived the dark dirty underbelly that we turn a blind eye.  51 wins in six years and then nothing but a black hole where there was once a bright shining star.