Monday, December 29, 2008
Old Man Winter has set his grip firmly around the neck of Chicagoland. There is a faint whiff of burning Michelins in the air. If you listen closely, you can even hear the collective whir of wattage spewing indoor trainers on salt stained concrete floors with Phil Ligget's voice serenading the bulging eyes and dried up lungs while mis-identifying riders on old Giro videotapes.
The stubborn are still out there in their moose mitts masked with defiant smirks of derision to the smarmy world of indoor training. "Yes, Johnny, you will surely strangle your balls and likely never sire fine whiney bastards to take your money and ignore you" is a common refrain among the bike shop pillars as they advise their larvae about the hard-knock reality of give and take. " But don't take my word for it, learn for yourself and buy this one." He points. "One-fifty." Smooth.
I used to ride an old cateye that clamped at the bottom bracket and fork. It was loud, obnoxious, and you couldn't store it anywhere. It strangled my balls too. The longer I rode it the more retarded I felt. Paul and Phil calling the Nissan Tour couldn't make the inanity a less bitter pill. Neither did Breaking Away or Zepplin. I threw in the towel twelve years ago on indoor training. Still, no kids.
I decided then to ride outdoors year round. It's an inconsistent mess of water, salt, hypothermia, and the feel good warmth of being bailed out by Jack Frost. It's as relaxing as it is hardcore. "Omigod! You rode? No. Way." Yeah, that was me, but not the two weeks before that, because I also lean on the crutch of laughable commuting distances as I loaf, eat, and get jilted by those damn Bears again. It feels good. Besides, everyone knows that an hour outside is worth two and a half indoors.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
One year and seven months ago I ordered a Pegoretti Responsorium with the incomparable Ciavete paint option. Shortly thereafter, Dario Pegoretti was diagnosed with lymphoma.
Long story short, Dario is doing ok as far as I know, and I, just today, unwrapped the splendid thing from its bubble festooned sheath. Naturally, I was out of town when it arrived, so I was tortured for over 100 hours with the knowledge that it was home and I was not. I was callously left to wonder what this mysterious ferrous beast looked like as I wallowed in the dinge and gray of Detroit. Rain, sleet, and snow moaned and snarled as I sat in a dank Motel 6 saddled with the unknowns that made deep contemplation on a plethora of build possibilities an orgy of lunacy.
And now, after all that time...
My lofty expectations have been far exceeded.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
I lusted after the Tag Heuer Formula 1 watch back in the day. Veltec-Boyer used to list them in their catalog for, in hindsight, balls cheap prices along with Concorde frames and Ultima clothing. But, like a lot of things back then, it was one more item I couldn't afford because I was living on my own with the meager means of a paycheck to paycheck existence on bike shop wages.
Veltec had multiple colors available, I don't remember them all, but black on yellow and red on black seems to come to mind. Regardless, the others didn't interest me. They weren't nearly as flat out bodacious as the orangish-red on green of the Team 7-11 model. Sean Yates had one. So did Dag-Otto Lauritzen. Bobke too.
It would be several years before one found its way onto my wrist and I've treasured it ever since. When I first got it (bought from CP for $50) it was proudly flaunted in perpetuity. Most people probably thought it was a Swatch, but a few had a keen eye and saw it for what it was: The illest cycling related time piece ever.
The photo above shows it in all its storied glory. The band isn't the original, but I recently managed to find someone that scared up the OE style for me all the way from Switzerland. The bezel was ground down by a crash in a bike race that also destroyed the crystal. I should have known better than to be so cocky.
When I strap on the rubberized band I think of Sean Yates skipping his wheel under tremendous load up St. Patrick's Hill in Cork. I think of Dag-Otto suffering on mountain passes with camera loving Norwegian panache. I think of mad style, swagger, and brazen euro pedigree.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
The past few months have been nothing short of a barrage of North American globetrotting and time strapped weekends. I like the adventure, but the airports, road food, and maybe even a lingering dislike for Indianapolis have taken a mild toll on my psyche. Regardless of all the time away, I managed some good riding and photographing. Updates will be following shortly, though the Interbike insights are now about as old as down tube shift bosses (and not nearly as "hawt".)
Speaking of Interbike...aww hell, I may as well divulge. In short, it's the same sausage party I attended back in the 90's, except the cool people have floppy hair and a boner for all things deemed dorky and lame by yours truly. In '96 I was the opposite, a dorky introvert that was into stuff deemed "cool" by yours truly. Funny, how things change in all sorts of ironic ways.
Things I liked:
- Pegoretti bikes. They still get the blood pumping below my navel
- Maurizio Fondriest. He's elegant, classy, and don't speaka the English.
- Eddy Merckx. As if I even had to say that.
- Phil Wood stainless steel outboard bottom bracket cups.
- SRAM Rival. Looks good, feels good, priced good.
- CROSS VEGAS! Awesome race and atmosphere...the free beers helped a bit too.
- Deda Supernatural handlebar. Fit and finish is second to none.
- Campagnolo wheels. I still think they make 'em best.
- DT Swiss white hubs available separately from the Mon Chasseral wheelset. White is PRO even if you don't think so (When asked about 32 and 36 hole availability, I got the standard non answer, but what do I care, I'm 130 lbs for christ' sake)
- Seeing old friends, comped beer and meals.
- Mavic rims. Still the best.
- Time carbon frames. If I only had a shitload of money...
Things I wasn't so crazy about:
- Chris King might make some ingeniously cool stuff, but he's kind of a dick.
- Shimano DI2. It works as advertised as far as I could tell, but come the fuck on.
- The douchebag mafia. Is it so hard to be civilized?
- 11 speed. Really? 11? Really?
- Still no Open 4 CD reissue in Mavic's line. Shame.
- The outer fringes. Still lame, lame, lame.
- Fixed gear realness posturing. I throw up in my mouth when I see those flashy catalogs touting gritty urban zen underground roots.
- The death of the polished silver gruppo.
Until next time...
Friday, September 26, 2008
After a trip out to Vancouver, Whistler, Victoria, etc. I was home for a few days and then headed out to Interbike in Las Vegas. Now it's a weekend worth of rest and off to Indianapolis and then Moab. The wife and I may try and get away to Nova Scotia for a short vacation...though hanging out on my couch sounds awful nice after being on the road for so long. Anyway, I'll recap some of the events after I get some rest. My head is all up in there, if you know what I mean.
I added some photos from the Cross Vegas race as well as some select Interbike hooey on the Flickr account. Dig it.
Friday, August 29, 2008
Young, stupid, and bikes go hand in hand. In October 1993 I rode out to Dekalb, Illinois to see a hardcore show with my friend, the inimitable CP. Playing that night at the Union Hall, was Integrity, a hardcore band from Cleveland. At the time, I loved that hard as nails, tooth chippin' thrash shit. So, needless to say I had proper motivation.
Dekalb was about 60 miles due west from the bike shop, the old BS, our starting point. The weather was typical for autumn in Chicagoland. Typical in that it sucked major balls. 45 degrees, rain, and a departure time of 18:00 ensured that this ride would leave us either cold, wet, and dead or cold, wet, and miserable. Either way, we were determined, and full of the indestructibility of youth.
We harriedly strapped our pathetic Cateye halogens (four AA batteries for a tepid beam of yellowish light that lasted about 6 hours...3-4 if it was cold)to our handlebars, clipped on the Vistalights, strapped in the helmets, donned our backpacks, and soon found ourselves pedaling out of the parking lot down Ogden avenue into the darkness. I think I saw Bob and Oury shake their heads as they watched us leave the parking lot.
In our naivety and exhuberance to always be somewhere else faster, we determined that Route 38/Roosevelt road would serve as our best route to see some Cleveland hardcore in the corn fields of Illinois. Route 38 was a nearly straight line due west from Chicago to Dekalb, thus popular with the cars. And semi trailers.
Our first flat came at mile ten. Glass. CP fixed it under the yellow light of a streetlamp as speeding traffic went by. We were back on the road just in time for me to start shivering. At this point we were drenched from the rain and my shoes were small rivers whose current ran back and forth and back again as I pedaled. I wasn't quite miserable yet, but as the steady stream of hungry semi trailers rumbled past, I was seriously wondering how we would make it to our heavy metal shangri-la alive.
Flat two came at mile 18. A large staple was sticking out of my tire that clicked on the pavement as I rolled to a stop. I replaced the shriveled rubber carcass with my one and only tube, a rookie mistake that I fretted about the rest of the way. There were no streelamps to huddle under, so I changed the tube by the dim glow of CP's headlight. A few hundred pumps of my Zefal HPX later, we were on the road once again. Colder, wetter, and pretty much completely miserable.
In an effort to warm up, we pedaled harder and harder. Thus began our midnight timetrial. It was a smooth operation at first with equal rotations and sweet feelings that we were finally getting somewhere. Slowly, my turns began to get shorter and more labored. Eventually I wasn't taking pulls anymore, just staring numbly at the flashing red Vistalight in front of me lamenting my sorry situation and in awe of the diesel power CP was propelling us forward with under cover of night.
After a while of staring blankly at the red strobe flashes in front of me and willing my tired legs to push harder I realized that the flashes were getting smaller and smaller. I was slowly getting dropped. I felt both anger and self pity rise up within my chest. I was disgusted with my pathetic form and wrestled the steel Gitane below me as it seemed to resist my demands of speed and comfort. I was humbled and humiliated. I vowed to myself that I would ride more, ride harder, never get dropped like that again. I vowed to learn how to suffer better.
Just when my heart was at its lowest, a small spark ignited a fire under me in the form of what looked like a smoldering ember in the distance. The Vistalight of CP's bike was no longer dancing, but was now static and looked to be laying over on its side. I found the strength to push harder on the pedals than I had over the last six or seven miles. As I closed in on the flashing beacon, I also saw the faint glow of a hazy cloud of light hanging above the tree line that is the harbinger of civilization. I felt newfound strength returning to my legs and a grim determination well up within my spine.
As I rolled up to the crippled Vistalight, CP was pulling the last of our tubes from his seatpack. In a blur of tire bead seating, frame pump strokes, and quick release tightening, we were back on the road with a literal light at the end of our cold, dark tunnel.
We rolled into town joking to each other with a quiet confidence and sense of accomplishment. We threw our bikes onto the roof rack of a friend waiting in town, and were soon mellowing out to the frantic jams of Integrity while eating Powerbars and drinking Cytomax. "Riding bikes to far away shows is so cool", I thought, comfortable in the fact I knew I had a ride home.
Monday, August 4, 2008
As the photograph above makes abundantly clear, my morning commute was fraught with peril. Thankfully, I had my trusty miniature picture taking device so as to document the macabre forces through which I had to pedal. I rode through the bowels of the wind monster, dodged rain bullets, and dextrously maneuvered iron mesh bridges to valiantly face another Monday at the office.
Chicago's manic motorists did nothing to help my cause. They blindly switched from lane to lane in vain attempts to leapfrog the slower masses being shepherded along by red, yellow, and green lights strung watchfully about Adams, Des Plaines, Grand, Milwaukee, Halsted and Division avenues. Which really isn't out of the ordinary, though on Monday mornings they are predictably less predictable.
A few other commuters rolled along the other side of the road, standing on their pedals to fight the wind beast and propel themselves ahead of the deluge being hurled at them from the ominous clouds above. The clouds were, dark green and full of rage. As I hunched lower over my shitty-yet-remarkably reliable bicycle, a wailing wind whipped carelessly tossed debris about the city into a swirling wall of angry paper and plastic toxicity. I bobbed and weaved like that man with strange similarities to floating butterflies and stinging bees.
Try as they might, those mysterious forces once again failed to impede my way.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Aside from reliving sexual conquests, playing the horses, and flaunting futuristic clairvoyance, one of the great benefits of having a WayBack machine is that you can visit people that you'd only read about in historical context or seen on shoddy transfers of old black and white moving pictures. All of these things are great. Truly. My favorite though, is going back to visit folks that I share a special bond with. Namely, Gino Bartali.
Gino "the Pious", was intriguing to me because he not only shares my appreciation for a good Italian red, but he also says he speaks regularly with God. Crazy? Probably. But if he does, I'm sure he's sitting with him right now, with a wide grin,talking about the drama of Le Tour. Or, maybe all the chaos that has befallen Belgium's favorite son. Perhaps contrasting that situation to the tribulations of ol' Job.
Anyway, seeing as how Gino's so close to the man upstairs, I figured I'd finally seize the moment to wring out some form of official bicycle do and don't list. One that's concise and would serve as a simple rulebook to help guide the wet behind the ears neophyte to the blundering putz with a fistful of credit. I'm happy to report that Gino did not disappoint. He didn't just settle for a few rules,he came back with ten. Go figure.
1. Thou shall not refer to your bike as "she", "he", or any other mortal name.
2. Thou shall not repaint or intentionally mar, befoul, or abominate any bicycle. ("Thus triathletes are resigned to a fate of eternal suffering and gnashing of teeth" - Gino Bartali)
3. Thou shall only lift your bicycle over your head for the purpose of storage or to throw it. Posing for pictures, or cheesing it up with tacky exhibitions of exhilaration are forbidden.
4. Thou shall not buy a wonder bike and brag about it at parties while it sits in a perpetual state of immobility.
5. Thou shall not bother thy mechanic or frame builder with lame, inept, uninformed, obnoxious, absurd, and depraved ideas on how to do his job.
6. Thou shall not seriously compare any rider to Eddy Merckx or Fausto Coppi.
7. Thou shall learn to fix thine own flats, oil thy chain, and learn to accept some dirt under thy fingernails.
8. Thou shall know when to replace thy steed and retire thy parts.
9. Thou shall tow the line of respect and not give in to the primordial wonts of lust and worship of exquisite bicycle frames and parts.
10. Thou shall not invest more time into reading, writing, buying, talking about, tinkering with, and otherwise stroking the bicycle than actually riding it.
To those that don't like the rules, Gino says "Ya basta!"
Friday, July 11, 2008
Wednesday, July 9, 2008
It looks like the team of master mechanics at Gerolsteiner couldn't adjust the lower limit on the electronic Dura Ace equipped TT machine. The sweet smell of electronically guided molten plastic motivated Sebastian Lang into the upper echelons of the sport with a 19th place finish in the stage 3 TT at Le Tour.
Thursday, July 3, 2008
"Early next week the U.S. Senate will vote on an extension of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, with a few small amendments intended to immunize telecommunications corporations that assisted our government in the warrantless and illegal wiretapping it has grown to love.
That such a gutting of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution even made it out of committee is yet another stain on the gutless and seemingly powerless Democratic majority in both houses of Congress.
That a majority on both sides of the aisle-not least of them the presumptive nominees for president of both political parties-intend to vote for such a violation of Americans' right to privacy and of the sanctity of their personal communications is a stunning surrender to those who want us to live in fear forever.
We are living in a time when the right of habeas corpus-which simply put is your right to be brought before a proper court of law where the government is made to prove that there is good and legal reason to detain you-recently survived by a margin of only one vote at the U.S. Supreme Court.Now these bad actors are prepared to set aside your right to privacy-written into the Constitution as a key part of our Bill of Rights..."
Which brings to mind all those troops over there "Protecting our freedom."
Wrong place. Wrong target.
Wednesday, July 2, 2008
Monday, June 30, 2008
If Eddy Merckx is the "King" of cycling, Jeannie Longo is, without question, its rightful Queen. Remarkably, she has been a formidable presence in her sport longer (29 years) and accumulated more professional career wins (575) than his great highness Merckx (525). Jeannie has done it again. This past weekend she pulled on the French national championship jersey for both the Road Race and Time Trial. She'll turn 50 in October.
Jeannie's first French road title came in 1979. Today, she has 15 titles gracing her palmares. She also has twelve World titles (5 Road, 4 TT, 3 Track (Points, 3km Pursuit)), three Tour Cycliste Feminin wins, the Womens World Hour record (45.094 km/hr), a second place in the Womens UCI World Mountain Bike Championships, and countless others. You can see a more complete palmares here.
If Jeannie were to show up to your local ride she would surely tame the trademark arrogant snobbery. After all the dyke jokes and smirks of derision subsided, she would undoubtedly hand out a royal ass whuppin' and wipe the pave with myriad egos. Then, perhaps Martina Navratilova would be waiting at the local Starbucks to meet Jeannie for an espresso and scone only to further neutralize the last dribbles of testosterone from the remaining dingleberries.
All hail Jeannie Longo, Queen of Cycling.
Mad, Mad Props.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Friday, June 6, 2008
Please lay off the booze if you plan on driving. I'm sure it's hard being Tom Boonen in such a cycling mad part of the world, but tragedy doesn't withold it's grasp for superstars no matter how big they are. Your fans deserve better.
"Belgian sprinter Tom Boonen was once again too fast on the road and has lost his driver's license for the second time within a month. The Quick Step rider was stopped for driving 180 km/h in a 90 km/h zone shortly after midnight Wednesday morning and was also tested with an alcohol level of 1 permille, instead of the allowed 0.5 permille. He had to give up his driver's licence for two weeks."
Thursday, June 5, 2008
I went mountain biking for the first time in about twelve years on Monday. I hung those shoes up long ago because not only was I painfully inept on the technical stuff, but the fully rigid Nishiki Pinnacle I rode made the ride an unbearable mix of arthritic pain and smashed confidence. I also crashed and got dropped alot. Thus my love affair with all things road flowered with unfettered focus.
Anyway, the modern full suspension rig I borrowed for my return to the dirt cast aside all the doubts and inhibitions I held about off road riding. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and surprised myself with the fact that I kept the rubber side down (for the most part) and didn't limp out of the woods ten minutes after everyone else. Had I been riding rigid, like the days of old, I'd have surely suffered the same fate I had back in the bad old days.
In short, full suspension, for me, is the real thing. Some folks whine and smugly complain that suspended bikes are needlessly complex and don't hone handling skills to that "higher" level. Some insinuate rigid superiority through arguments of purity, zen, and simplicity of design. Nuts to that. While rigid bikes have their place, I don't see it as the solution to my needs.
Technology has won this argument. Resoundingly. Though the steady march of progress has certainly had its hand in numerous monstrosities over the years, some good has come of that pitter patter of boots on the ground. It has given me a very real appreciation for mountain biking that I had otherwise embarrassingly despised. And all is, once again, right with the world.
Monday, May 26, 2008
Giro podium picks:
I leave you with some entertainment:
Monday, May 19, 2008
Probably since the beginning of time man has recanted his adventurous exploits in vernacular that bares little resemblance to the cold hard truth. That being said, as an old hand in the cycling industry, I can say with profound certitude that cyclists, as vain wielders of the scepter of The Massagers of Truth, can out-misrepresent any sporting body in the universe.
I just didn't arrive at this theory willy-nilly, mind you. It took many years of close attention to the minutiae of cycling related discourse throughout the Chicagoland area for nearly two decades followed up with countless hours of observation and interaction.
When I first saw my test results, I must admit that I wavered from scientific objectivity and briefly considered a career in sports management. According to my numbers, Chicagoland boasted the greatest concentration of superhuman cyclists the world has ever seen. I figured I had the grand tours sewn up for at least the next ten years until Johan Bruyneel, or some other yahoo discovered my secret pool of talent. Yet, I surmised that by then I'd have been ready to retire to a life as a world famous director sportif that smoked cigars with Bernard Hinault and draped gold medals around the necks of still more amazing Chicagoans that had made it big in the great world of professional bicycle racing.
As I counted my unmade millions, I allowed a few of the more fast talking prospects from the pool of local talent to showcase their skills on various group rides over the years. Much to my dismay, my dreams of world renown came crashing violently to earth just as my wide eyed fantasies of a new life of privilege and prestige were at their peak.
Not only were they lousy half wheelers that couldn't change a flat without getting cat 4 marks on their bellies, but I've seen three year olds take commands better than their bikes did. Gone were the phenomenal average speeds and deft handling skills. Gone were the angelic climbing abilities, furious sprints, and magnificent thresholds of pain. All gone. Contender after contender failed to live up to the atmospheric heights they had freely proffered in countless engagements. My life as a great director sportif vanished as quickly as their breath on hilly terrain.
In essence, many of the cyclists of Chicagoland suffer delusions. Or, as I have scientifically classified it: perceived reality. Perhaps it's the water. Or possibly the interminably long winters. Regardless, it is an epidemic that reaches its savage heights at the peak of summer and is, alas, seemingly incurable.
Should you enter your local bike shop and see your humble crew with faces frozen into a bizarre mix of madness infused grin and thousand yard stare, head to the nearest liquor store as fast as possible and pour those poor bastards a pint of the tonic that is their favorite brew immediately.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Sunday, May 11, 2008
Sestriere, France 1992
In the mid 1990's, I remember seeing a photo of Claudio Chiappucci in La Gazzetta Dello Sport or some other uniquely Euro newspaper of the sort, where a peloton, silhouetted far ahead among the heat waves on the horizon, seemingly teased the struggling champion as he tucked his head under his right shoulder and vomited along a particularly lonely stretch of road. The image conjured forth a sort of kaleidoscopic mirage of madness. A world in which the misery and futile desires of a defeated warrior were forever tantalizingly close, yet perpetually 400m ahead. It froze the story of Chiappucci in time so that even the most casual observer could understand his story. I stared at that photo for a long while and thought "Hell yeah, Claudio. Hell yeah."
"Il Diablo", as he came to be known, was a scrappy little terror from Uboldo, Italy. He was a persistent thorn in the side of the peloton because of his contentious, swing at the fences riding style and gritty determination. Claudio's approach to racing was simple: Attack. If that doesn't work: Attack again. This was both a gift and a curse for Chiappucci. His cagey style won over the tifosi and kept his rivals off balance and constantly on edge, however, he might have padded his palmares with quite a few more wins if he employed a more calculating approach to his craft. Still, for a man that was not as inherently gifted as some of his contemporaries, Claudio undoubtedly made the most of his abilities.
That photo in the forgotten newspaper summed up Claudio in a way that I hadn't seen since. It moved me. I was already a fan when I saw the image, yet, I came away respecting him even more after having seen it. The thought of it occasionally even causes me to reminisce about the tacky blue jeans look of his old Carrera kit back in the day...almost.
Mad props, Il Diablo. Hell yeah.
Some Chiappucci Links:
French punk rock band Jetsex with their song "Claudio Chiappucci"
Thursday, May 8, 2008
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Back in the days when the wind blew harder, cold was colder, and the sun breathed fire, my imagination boiled over with the taste of the livestock poisoned mud of Paris-Roubaix, the wailing winds of the Ronde, and Lombardy's somber rains. This acidic landscape served as the savage backdrop to countless hostile encounters with the phantoms of cycling in worlds far removed from where I existed.
Upon my bike, I was either chasing, or being chased. Punishing, or being punished. Winning, or fighting like mad for a wheel. Epic battles took place in my head. I was combating world renowned beasts such as Kelly, Museeuw, Vanderaerden, and Plankaert. Battles were always a tooth and nail struggle for skin-of-your-teeth supremacy.
Sometimes my foes would escape. I hadn't the heart to fight the angry winds of Fermilab that day. Sometimes I didn't possess enough strength to repel the attack of a 600 meter sprint. The bridge of 355 had grown too tall. Mostly though, I dispatched my nemeses in epic duels of grim fortitude and pure heart. In such cases I would grimace a sly victory scowl to the invisible cameras and throngs of fans.
I owe these cherished analog visions to World Cycling Videos and the voices of Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen. The doors that they opened in my mind were an incalculable force that worked upon my impressionable psyche. They were my only real connection with a world that may as well have been a fairy tale in some long forgotten land.
In those days we read about the spring classics in June, the Giro in July, and the Worlds in December. History was passed off as breaking news in dog-eared Velonews and Winning magazines. The immediacy of todays electronic world was merely the realm of science fiction movies and undreamt dreams. Cycling News, CyclingTV, Pez, bloggers...it's all a madness compared to those information starved days. I'd be lying if I didn't say I wasn't overwhelmed and over stimulated.
I don't chase down phantom breaks or fend off hard charging, imaginary pelotons anymore. I ride because I love to ride. In the end, I suppose that's all one could ask for. However, the motivation of impassioned inspiration to push harder, faster, and farther has withered. Perhaps Peter Pan should kick me square in the nuts. Or, maybe, I've succumbed to the overpowering pervasivness and cheapened currency of information delivered at whim.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Thursday, April 10, 2008
Sunday, April 6, 2008
Thursday, April 3, 2008
Here was a man who fooled everybody that thought he was looney. Everyone from soccer moms, corporate dads, ambulance drivers, police officers, smug cyclists, and the village of Downers Grove, Illinois were victims of a personality that exemplified humility and cradled enlightened individuality. Bruce was both an enigma and simple. Bruce was a paradox.
He could be seen on the hottest days and the coldest nights riding his Novara touring bike pulling a Burley trailer splendidly outfitted with colorful plastic butterflies on springs. He was always in his standard outfit of black t-shirt, shorts, and sandals. He occasionally wore hats too. My favorites were the one with fake boobs on the front, and another that looked as if a duck had impaled his forehead with wings jutting out of both sides.
Other than the hats and usual ensemble, Bruce wore no other articles of clothing. No gloves. No jacket. No pants. And, absolutely no socks. Ever. He had a disease that had swollen his ankles and couldn't comfortably wear shoes or socks. In the early days, we had nicknamed him "Ankle Man", which was perhaps something of a mockery at the time, but came to be a term of endearment.
Bruce often hung out at the Starbucks on Burlington and Main in Downers Grove. This was back when it was a cool place to hang out with good people and well made drinks. He would talk aloud while reading the newspaper sometimes, sighing "Ohh boy...", or "Did you hear about this...?" Some folks would venture into conversation, others would pretend they didn't hear, most would ignore him. It seemed Bruce's appearance and uncommon cordiality would cause those who were uptight or prudish to become uneasy. The kids knew better, though. They hadn't yet succumbed to the veneer of frigid banality and fear of anything improvised.
My most memorable moment with Bruce was in that very Starbucks. I had raced down in Dixon, Illinois and crashed badly, but was well enough to drive home. I hadn't eaten and it was quite hot for a two hour drive home in a car with no air conditioning considering the condition I was in. I stopped off at the Starbucks so I could get a drink as well as clean out my wounds a little better.
As I grabbed for my drink at the counter, I suddenly became dizzy and fell into a heap on the floor. I had fainted. As I came to, it was the beak of a duck that had impaled Bruce's skull that I awoke to. He told me to relax and lay still until the ambulance got there and announced to the small gathering of onlookers "I saved his life."
I remember one of the medics taking me away in the ambulance commenting that Bruce was "crazy". Unfortunately, the village of Downers Grove believed that too. They evicted him from his home where he cared for his schizophrenic sister in-law. The reason they gave was because the grass was perpetually "too long", thus condemning his home. Bruce's claim that it was a "prairie" didn't wash with them. They wanted him out. And with that, out went the both of them.
I'm not sure where his sister in-law went, but Bruce mentioned he might go to northern Wisconsin. Presumably to be where some people were not, and he could sing the University of Wisconsin fight song aloud until his heart was content.
Mad Props, 'ol' Bruce. We hardly knew ya. And, Downers Grove is a lesser city for it.
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
"It will make everyone else's road groups look like toys" - Anonymous Industry Insider
The school girl-like shrieks touting the wonder, mastery, and world-changing greatness of new componentry has rarely reached such a fever pitch. Glazed eyes and breathless whispers are marveling at the apparent impending announcement of, gasp, electronic shifting!
Yes, it appears the big S is beating the other poor bastards to the punch and laying their cards on the table. I already see legions of triathletes strutting in wetsuited lock step on the horizon. I already hear the demands of the ill prepared racer looking for spare connoiter valves and gasket dongles.
These wet dreams are fueled, in part, by the anonymous industry insider. Their quotations are taken as divine counsel and flippantly thrown about in bike shops and club rides as proof of enlightenment. They stroke the throbbing dong of predilection for all things new, shiny, and marvelous.
As a born and raised skeptic of all things popular, I have to wonder who this pesky, nameless, industry insider is. Could it truly be the anointed one of two wheeled truth? Or, is it just another cholo with an opinion bigger than his mouth? Do they even ride? And if they do, do they roll enough to know the nuanced differences between component x, y, and z? Why does their opinion matter?
I'm calling "shenanigans". I think it's high time we put the anonymous quote of the industry insider to a face. I've got a few questions to ask...
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
1991 Nissan International Classic, Ireland
Stage 4: Limerick to Cork
The viewing of this stage on a tired old VCR at a friends apartment brings back memories of the old BS, good beer, and one hell of a tip of the hat to Sean Yates. I was sucking down a cold one while sitting on the floor. The bottle was frozen in hand somewhere between my mouth and the ground. My stomach was in knots. Not only because of the nervous energy of the big Greek one pacing about opening and closing his fists in tense fixation, but the epic battle playing out between Sean Kelly and Sean Yates.
The two man break of Yates and Kelly, two of the most stoic gladiators of cycling ever, were well on their way to deciding who would be king for the day. Rain had made the roads slick, so extra caution was needed to navigate the treacherous course. Despite the warnings of Pat McQuaid and Phil Liggett, the duo paid no heed to the conditions and bombed sweeping turns at speed.
The real majesty of the race was the spectacle of watching the climb of St. Patricks hill in Cork. They had to climb seated so as to not slip their rear wheels. Yates kept on falling back on the hill and would capture Kelly's wheel on the descent. If there was one thing Yates did well, it was descend. He was fearlessness incarnate.
The road grime and water made the duo look hard-edged and tough as nails. This was the image I took with me on every wet ride in those days. It was Yates that won the incredible two up sprint for the stage win. Kelly took the yellow leaders jersey for good.
Mad Props, Sean. Mad Props.
Friday, March 7, 2008
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
In my formative years as a cyclist, the stories I'd read of "Gino the Pious" sparked an imagination that launched a thousand stoic attacks, propelled by angel wings, up the interstate hump on Warrenville road. Thus, it was with burning curiosity that I armed myself with a medium point Papermate pen (blue), a 3"x5" spiral bound notebook, and my prized WayBack machine that I visited the miraculous and intriguing Gino Bartali.
14 September, 1939
Today was a day filled with strangeness. At breakfast, a butterfly landed upon the apple I was eating, which I held, at the time, in my very hand. I took this as a sign of great fortune for the days events. Little did I know that the path of fate is a crooked one. For when I grasped my bicycle for training, I was astonished to discover that both tires were flat! Then, on my ride, I heard breathing and the steady rhythm of gears behind me. I gasped as I looked back only to discover that nobody was there! It seemed as if a phantom were following my every turn and acceleration. I could not shake its relentless pursuit. Finally, I stopped and prayed. The phantom did not return, and, remarkably, I found that I had the strength of ten men in my legs! I swear, I never twisted a bottom bracket in such ways. Pity the Legnano...
15 September, 1939
Today, while training, I was a shadow (ha ha) of the great strong man I was yesterday. Giovannino came over around 8:00 AM and we pointed our bikes toward the sea. After 150km we pulled off and drank espressos at Vecchio's cafe.
On the way back, Giovannino's fiery side came out and challenged me like I had never seen before. His attack on the penultimate climb leading our way home was fantastic. I nearly bit through my tongue to catch his wheel. Finally, I saw his shoulders rock and countered with an all out attack of my own. I soft pedaled the last 10km home waiting for him to catch back on.
When we finally got back, Adriana took one look at the exhausted Giovannino and scolded me for punishing my dear friend in such a selfish manner. If only she knew what cycling does to a man...
16 September, 1939
We were introduced to a new member of the team by the name of Fausto Coppi. It's hard to believe what they say of his abilities as a cyclist because he's such a skinny and awkward looking young man. Yet, I sensed a peculiarity in him, an aura of complexity. For, when I caught his gaze, a slight breeze passed, and I shivered. It's a stunning admission, but by God, something extraordinary happened when our eyes locked. So curious, the way of the Lord.
Still, I must say nothing until I discover more about this exceptional event.
17 September, 1939
"Unbelievable" is all I can say. Giovannino and I decided the best way to get to know Fausto was to invite him for a ride. We started out chatting about our families and the usual topical nonsense that fills the gaps of introductory conversations. Soon, we ran out of words and let the pedals to the talking.
Giovannino played instigator and acted as a mouse for the two cats behind him. I reacted with a great acceleration and caught and passed Giovannino easily. I pressed on with my effort, gritting my teeth and powering my way forward with all I had. The deep well of pain saturated my body as I forced myself to ignore its pleas for cessation.
Then, as I stared ahead, a creeping fear took hold of me. For I sensed the same forboding presence of a specter behind me a few days prior. The identical rhythmic breathing and sound of gears were in pursuit and I could not escape them. With all my courage, I forced myself to look back and confront this phantom once and for all. And there, in the place of nothingness, was young Coppi, flashing a playful smile as he labored upon my wheel.
What, dear God, does the future hold?
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
The status quo is beyond reproach.
The Gaza Bombshell, Vanity Fair
"After failing to anticipate Hamas’s victory over Fatah in the 2006 Palestinian election, the White House cooked up yet another scandalously covert and self-defeating Middle East debacle: part Iran-contra, part Bay of Pigs. With confidential documents, corroborated by outraged former and current U.S. officials, David Rose reveals how President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and Deputy National-Security Adviser Elliott Abrams backed an armed force under Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, touching off a bloody civil war in Gaza and leaving Hamas stronger than ever."
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
The relationship that was started last fall in a Las Vegas discotheque could come to an end if Mario Cipollini does not get his say in the management of Rock Racing. The Italian, who came out of retirement at the age of 40 to race in the Tour of California last week, and his lawyer met with the owner of the team, Mike Ball, yesterday to discuss the coming season.
"We need to sit at the table and make clear who is in command," said Mario Cipollini in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport's Luigi Perna. The Italian from Lucca and lawyer Giuseppe Napoleone were scheduled to meet with Ball later in the day.
"The boss is Ball, but after him it is me. Therefore I want to manage the squad starting now. I can organise the participation in [Milano-] Sanremo. To find men to race is not a problem. ... If Ball does well it will continue, otherwise goodbye. I now understand that the name Cipollini still has value, in the United States and elsewhere."
Cipollini was happy with his return, but not with the fiasco surrounding the team and Ball's backing of Tyler Hamilton, Oscar Sevilla and Santiago Botero. The riders, all allegedly linked with Operación Puerto, were barred from racing by the organiser, but continued along daily by riding behind the race caravan and signing autographs for fans at the stage villages.
"For a week I had an infinite amount of patience ... Maybe it was my great desire to return to racing with an important project. However, we can't go forward like this. We are not able to continue to pull along this heavy weight that ruins our image, and now Ball also understands this. It is not enough to advertise and show off models."
Monday, February 25, 2008
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Last summer, like all summers before them, I was bombarded with tales of high mileage, pro-caliber average speeds, and a rare and profound love for cycling. Individuals and groups each wove a tapestry of intricate stories detailing heroic conquests aboard their trusty steeds. Racers were dropped, obscene wattages were produced, and punishment was meted out with unchecked brutality. Blow by blow accounts of hard fought city limit sprints were recalled in language analogous to historic battles like Antietam and Stalingrad.
Their supreme dedication and pathological affinity for letting everyone in on their awesomeness elevated our great sport to inspiring heights. I was jealous of their kids. Who wouldn't want such gallantry in their genes? These wondrous warriors of cycling chic. Martyrs who would carry our sport to such places that Coppi, Anquetil, and Merckx (if only they knew their names) never dared. We should dream easily knowing these guardians were manning the gate of our beloved sport. If only they were still here.
The shop has sat eerily silent the past few months, save for the quiet, time worn echoes of the old guard stirring. The once vibrant, promise-filled exuberance of warmer, sun drenched days are gone. Cycling's newest heroes have, predictably, been vanquished. Victims of loving the myth more than the ride.
Monday, February 18, 2008
The year was 1993, Paris-Roubaix, France.
Franco Ballerini was riding a like a man possessed with such grit and determination that all anyone could do was latch onto his rear wheel and hang on for dear life. He exuded a superhuman-like aura of complete dominance. And with this supreme confidence, it seemed Ballerini was powering toward a stunning victory, his first, in the incomparable L'enfer du Nord. It looked as if he could beat anybody that day, living or dead. Anybody, save one: Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle, smiter of Gods.
At 39, Duclos-Lassalle was the grand old man of the peloton. He was racing with guys half his age and showing them that they still had to wash behind their ears because they were naive little bastards. Duclos had nearly 15 years of suffering on most of these hotshot noobs, and if a neo-pro didn't salute him as they crossed paths, ten thousand push ups in molten lava would have been lenient. For Gilbert was a tough as nails Frenchman that could will entire empires to eat "Freedom Fries" with their assholes just by blinking. Limbaugh cowered.
"Gibus" had been racing professionally since 1977 and didn't fall into the sad pattern of old pros whose glory days were long behind them. He was supremely unique in that he actually improved with age. I remember reading an interview with Duclos in the early nineties that spelled out his weekly training schedule. It went something like this:
Monday - Motorpace 5 hours
Tuesday - Motorpace 5 hours
Wednesday - Motorpace 5 hours
Thursday - Motorpace 5 hours
Friday - Motorpace 5 hours
Hard old man indeed. Even diamonds were jealous.
On that day in 1993, Duclos outfoxed Ballerini with a show of spectacular patience, determination, and cunning explosiveness. Whether out of hubris or desperation, Franco had done nearly all the work in the breakaway and failed to recognize that Gibus' skills on the track were as legendary as his longevity. Some say it was Duclos' very hand that had reached out of the sky and maneuvered Franco Ballerini to do his bidding. Regardless, Duclos claimed his second consecutive cobblestone trophy in a photo finish that Ballerini initially celebrated as a victory of his own. It was a devastating mistake that played out in dramatic fashion on the public stage before millions of ebullient spectators. Duclos ascended to the ranks of the immortal on that crisp, spring day.
Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle, you deserve some Mad ol' Props. We salute you.
Friday, February 15, 2008
-Shochu really is best served in a 5:5 ratio.
-American's habit of tearing through wrapped gifts like rabid wolfmen may be considered poor manners, but watching someone spend 10 minutes to open a box isn't so great either.
-There are some spectacular rides on incredibly varied terrain to be had in Kyushu.
-I read the book "The Good War" by Studs Terkel while there. By all accounts, WWII wasn't so "good".
-Cold weather has little effect upon Japanese dress. Including extremely short skirts.
-WTF? Seven bucks for a bottle of Miller???
-Cheap Japanese beer is better than cheap American beer.
-Expensive Japanese beer is a lot like cheap Japanese beer.
-The lack of viable, safe, clean, respected alternative modes of transportation in the US is a savage embarrassment.
-Everyone slurping udon in one room is kind of disgusting.
-Sadame-san moves around better than the 7 year old fatty with the Mountain Dew glued to his porky little hands this past summer.
-Sadame-san was born during the second year of Theodore Roosevelt's Presidency.
-Cel phones can be used is public places with discretion and courtesy.
-Cycling helmet use in Japan is on par with the old BS rides: nonexistent.
-Mt. Kempo is approximately a 10km climb with an average gradient of 7% and a maximum of 13%.
-Outdoor and cave onsens are the best way to kick it old school and an excellent post ride haunt.
-Soft core porn mags are shelved, uncovered, next to the manga. Sugoi!
-Customer service is the best I've ever experienced. Even from the 16 year olds. Worst-Buy, Walfart, and just about every other big box retailer don't hold a candle to them. Not even a turd candle.
-That goes double for government services (Wow, you mean you won't talk down to me and sigh loudly because I'm wasting your time?)
-Dogs are dogs. Not pseudo-people in cute fur outfits.
-Fish heads aren't so bad. Puffer fish testacles aren't either.
-Pig intestine is wretched.
-Central heat and AC needn't be standard issue in homes when all you use is one room at a time.
-Weird Japanese television shows seem to be relegated to American TV screens. I didn't see any.
-Tommy Lee Jones is on every single Boss Coffee vending machine.
-Japanese ads have a superb knack for making Hollywood stars look completely ridiculous.
-Obama would easily take a Kyushu primary.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Aside from "doing as the natives do", such as eating strange animal parts, laughing uneasily during pauses in conversations I don't understand, and riding on the wrong side of the road, I had the great fortune to view the east's finest contribution to bicycle racing: keirin.
At breakfast, my shivering in-laws told me it was "samui", which translates to "typical spring day in Chicago". This, of course, also means it was raining. With sub-zero temperatures and snowstorms battering my comrades back home, in my opinion, this was perfect weather for a day at the races.
I was soon at the bus station awaiting the free keirin shuttle bus to whisk me away to an unknown cycling paradise I'd only seen on posters and grainy You Tube videos. As the bus arrived and we piled in with a bunch of stinky old dudes, it was obvious this wasn't to be anything like the romantic setting of the six day races I'd gloriously imagined our cycling forefathers enjoying in pre-war Europe.
My suspicions were confirmed with the sight of the near empty grand stands surrounding the track. I quickly concluded that keirin is like horse racing, only with bikes, therefore you amass a crowd that isn't motivated to stand around for hours on end, day after day, for a love of equine beauty, but a good old fashioned fist full of yen. Beneath the cheap, blue seats of the grand stands, were thousands of coughing, sniffing, smoking men (and maybe six women) huddled around monitors, tables, and on the floor surmising odds and scribbling in bets. It was a disgusting, gag reflex inducing, fantastic sight.
Regardless, my purpose was clear, I didn't come here to lose money. I came to see some racin'. So I did just that. And, it was top notch, tooth chippin', white knuckled racin' that I was served.
The riders all go through ritualistic preparation routines before the bell announces the start of the race. Green pounded his thighs so hard I swear I heard the rumble of muscle fibers snap to attention, White stretched his arms like a contortionist on speed, Red slapped his face wildly, Black adjusted and re-adjusted his toe straps, while Pink motionlessly stared at his handlebars as if in an LSD induced trance.
The build up of intensity and adrenaline is akin to watching the last 1000 meters of a sprint on the Champs-Élysées. A ringing bell sounds. Slowly at first, then gradually builds in tempo and decibels on the last lap. Like Pavlov's dog, the crowd's pulse instinctively quickens and crescendos into an eruption that spews a froth of heated banter. Meanwhile, a colorful line of nervous riders marking one another, lock elbows around the final turn and unleash a fury that would make Michael Hubner blush. As the finish line is crossed there is a collective gasp. Insults and praise are heaped on the grim riders as they finish their cool down lap.
As the competitors leave the track, the riders for the next race make a brief appearance and do a single lap to show their form in a ritualistic stretching of the legs. When the parade lap ends and the riders duck into their humble shelter, two sweeper teams in groups of four swab the track of debris. This marks the perfect time to get another cup of free, low grade coffee or tea, take a leak, and find another seat with a different view. Just as you're settling into your plastic vantage point, the announcements introduce the next race and the riders begin to slowly roll out toward the starting gate.
It was indeed a splendid sight to see. The charged atmosphere of competition, tall odds, won and lost coin, minus all the self absorbed posturing of the local crits, was a breath of fresh (metaphorically) air. All unraveling before me in an environment that was both foreign and familiar. I dig that shit. I will dig it again, I am sure.
Monday, February 11, 2008
I'm stinking. I'm smarmy. My mouth is mossy and I'm too tired to sleep. Or think. Or write, for that matter. It's the ol' internal clock, if you catch my Tokyo drift. I'm fifteen hours ahead of where I should be. Be that as it may, I believe I'll have awakened enough from my slumber and shock of actually having to work again to post some updates, observations, and opinions on Wednesday.
I'll leave you with a few spy photos to whet those curious appetites.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
I'm on my way out to Japan for a couple of weeks. Kazumi and I are off to Kumamoto to see the family and enjoy some time off work, away from the bluster and cadence of Chicagoland. If I'm able and motivated to post something while there, I will. Regardless, new posts will most certainly commence around February 12 or so. Until then, keep the road.
Sunday, January 27, 2008
Good evening, Ladies and Gentleman.
On this eve, I will dispense with the traditional, feel-good hooha of the past and cut to the chase. The modern state of two wheeled locomotion is a shambles. Professional cycling is hanging itself with its own belt. The fixed gear fad has failed to elevate itself above the self absorbed materialism we've come to expect from road racers. Online retailers are strangling the viability of the local bike shop. "Comfort bike" has entered our vernacular. And, triathletes are still able to roam the streets in daylight without fear.
These are desperate times for those of us raised on the meat and potatoes of cycling such as Merckx, Coppi, Tomac, Van der Poel, and Danny Clark (I never thought I'd see them all in the same sentence, but there you go.) It seems the hard man ethic of Briek Schotte has been scuttled for the limp wristed wonts of fashionistas, pill poppers, and high-volume scalpers.
As good ol', blue blooded, defenders of cycling's integrity, we owe it to ourselves to eradicate the apathetic lethargy and materialism that we've allowed to become so pervasive within our sport. As many emailers and those "in-the-know" have pointed out, we are at a tipping point. Do we want to blindly meander over the precipice? Or, will we retain some of the individualism and profundity of our culture and survive the 21st century?
For those of you that refuse to give up our virtuous sport to the ignoble without a fight, I propose: COMA. Much like our middle school teachings of yesteryear, COMA is an acronym that holds significant meaning within its innocuous letters. COMA is our salvation.
Commute: Every rider that is worth his weight in Assos clothing is bound to the fact that commuting by bicycle is the single greatest contribution one can offer to mankind. In essence, Commuteliness is next to Godliness.
Obfuscate: Within every cyclist there is a renegade anarchist trying to get out. But, that doesn't mean that we have to always tell the world where to stick their car keys. Stand tall and say little. If our demise isn't the cel phone wielding Hummer driver, it is the petty chatter of gram counters, aero-fascists, fixed gear elitists, and banal roadies.
Mastery: As respectable representatives of our sport, we must perpetually strive to obtain knowledge of it's history, mechanics, disciplines, and heroes. We must also accept that we live in an imperfect world and cycling has its own crosses to bear. Thus, as much as it might pain us, we should also lend at least the slightest of nods to the abominations that our sport has wrought, such as recumbents, comfort bikes, and this. However, we still maintain that triathletes are a mongoloid species that long ago branched off from our sturdy trunk of evolution.
Autonomy: We must set a course and be the masters of our own universe. We shall not be conditioned by shallow promises, haughty fads, nor accept the flagrant disregard of our privileges and rights from motorists, pedestrians, equestrians, developers, and city planners. They cannot stop our steady march of progress.
It is with great hope that our dream of a utopian, two wheeled, self propelled society is realized.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
When "wind chill" starts entering the shop parlance and the down tube on the commuter is encrusted with white stalactites courtesy of the salt flats of the suburban empire, we at the shop look to bizarre forms of entertainment disguised as work to enable our minds to cope with the firm grip of old man winter. Usually these are small, well calculated diversions that are designed to sound grand, but are in reality, quick and easy tasks set to a seasonably slow tempo. Usually to the steady crackle-thump of warm music and chips.
For instance, I might say "I will clean and organize my work bench today." It's wise to preface your statement with something like "I'm just gonna chill out and..." This is good old fashioned textbook bike shop survival guide stuff. It implies a sense of lethargic serenity, which is infectious.
However, such bluster is not without it's own minefield of caveats. Such as the unintended consequences when such action is taken. As any Tom Clancy reader would tell you, "blowback" can really stick in your ass sometimes. It is usually accompanied with a sinking feeling that you have bitten off more than you wanted to chew. The best thing to do in such cases is disappear to the hardware store for a few hours so as to put said project off indefinately. Or, if you're wisened to the ways of how things really work, suffer the sour fruits of your hubris like a delusional martyr and complain about it.
Long story short, we hooked Chief up with a "new" floor today.
Friday, January 18, 2008
I long looked at the news that fast man/playboy/Dancing With the Stars champion Mario "Lion King" Cipollini was staging a comeback in the American racing circuit as marketing fluff and the big dreams of small time director sportifs. That is no longer the case.
I feel a mixture of grim hope and pity. Rock Racing isn't what most in the industry would call a "class act" given the way team manager/owner Michael Ball has been swinging his nuts all over the place in both words and actions.
Mario Cipollini will return to the peloton this season after a three-year absence. The 40 year-old sprinter has reached an agreement with Rock Racing, managed by fashion label Rock & Republic owner Michael Ball, to become one of the squad's riders, but also a manager.
La Gazzetta dello Sport reported that "Super Mario" is currently in Santa Monica, California, for technical and administrative meetings. An agreement that he would join the team was reached Wednesday night after a five hour meeting with Ball, and the contract may be signed as early as Friday. The 2002 World champion may make his come-back next month in the Tour of California.
While the Italian has always been known for liking spectacular appearances, he may also have financial motives for the new job. Earlier this week the tax magistrate of the Province of Lucca announced that Cipollini must pay some 1.1 million Euro back in taxes, sanctions and interest.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Well, I recently wrapped up another trip in the WayBack machine and come to you, dear reader, armed with some new and enlightening nuggets of autobiographical splendor. This time I set the date back to late 1992. Dimitry Konyshev, known among the peloton as a party animal and genuine Russian hard man, is gearing up for the World Championship Road Race in Benidorm, Spain. Let's listen in, shall we?
If I have to deal with another one of Cees' stupid bird call wake ups, I'm going to punch him in the nuts. We're not four years old for christ' sake. I'd really have told him off too, but my head was banging around like a lugnut in Sputnik.
Last night, Skibby and I got really shitty at the disco and danced all night with some American backpackers. The one I was with kept on saying something like "If my dad saw me now, he'd kill me!" and then guzzle another shot. That cracked me up. The bullshit that came out of that girls mouth...
But, I was feeling good and finally said "If I was you're dad, I'd make love to you!" and made the David Copperfield eyes. Skibby heard that and nearly pissed himself. Totally blew my cover. Anyway, that's about all I remember. I think I threw up on one of them. It's alright though, because they were getting really annoying.
The ride today wasn't much. Just a 180km jaunt with no real hills. Skibby wound it up pretty good and put the hurt to some of the young guys. He's one tough comrade.
No late nights for awhile. I guess Cees caught wind from one of the bellhops that "a couple team members" were out past curfew last night. Apparently, they didn't like all the black marks from the doughnuts we did in the mechanic's van. I'm sure Cees has a good idea who that "couple" is, but he isn't saying anything. When he brought it up at the team meeting, Skibby said "I think Hamburger was looking for some bun!" Everyone cracked up about that. Even Cees. Bo got so embarrassed and worked up about it that he almost looked guilty.
Cees made us do extra distance so nobody thought they were getting away with anything. It wasn't so bad though. The weather was nice and all the booze was out of my system. A good day to be on the bike.
Theunisse was kind of creeping me out though. He had that spooky look he gets when he's either pissed off or riding out of his mind. Seeing as how we weren't going balls out, I assumed he was pissed. I hope it wasn't about the extra distance we did. I don't want to get on the wrong side of that dude.
Good news today! I got signed by team Jolly for the next two years. It's nice to have some financial security and all that, but the best part is the kit. Not only are they my favorite color, neon green, but they have a joker face on them that looks like the Graffix bong company logo. Skibby is really jealous.
On Lenin's grave I swear I won't go out for what Theunisse calls "fun" again. Saturday started off great. We had a nice ride with some good efforts. All the guys were working well together. Pacelines, echelons, deep leg burning efforts. We were like a well oiled machine. It was truly one of those rides where you feel like you could take anybody.
After the soigneur and dinner, Skibby and I decided we were going to go out and celebrate my new contract with the usual: vodka, dancing, and beautiful company. Then Theunisse decided he wanted to come too. Gert's a fine guy, we thought, a bit eccentric, but fine none the less. So, why not?
I should have listened to the voice in my head saying "Noooooooo!" I never listen to that damn voice, but I should have this time. It tried to tell me something wasn't quite right. I didn't realize that meant that he's totally out of his fucking mind.
Things changed real quick when we got to the club and Gert started to down gin like it was Coca-Cola after a tour stage. Skibby and I were half expecting him to pass out or get sick or something. Not this guy! He wasn't sweating it. He kept telling people he was Michael Jordan and was trying to keep a low profile. Some poor asshole called him on it and said Jordan was black. Bad move. Gert threw his drink at him and called him a racist. Damn near everyone in place laughed at that. I bet even the real Michael Jordan would have laughed.
About an hour later we heard more commotion and see Gert leaning over the bar choking the bartender saying he's watering his drinks down too much. That was enough to get security over, so we grabbed Gert and left before things got out of hand.
At this point it was around 1:30AM and we figured we'd get back to the hotel since Cees had another lame-ass team unity thing the next morning. Why do coaches think we need that crap? This isn't the junior leagues. If they want unity they should go out with me and Jesper. Cees would be sick of unity by the time we're done with him. Hugging the toilet in a stupor wondering what the hell he was thinking. Anyway, when we got to the hotel Gert asked if we were up for a nightcap and invited us to his room. We were still kind of wired so we said "yes."
When we walked in Gert handed us some glasses with ice. Then he rummaged through his travel bag and pulled out a big black bottle and poured us some. He said he made it off season. It smelled terrible, burned going down, and hit like Stalin's gulag. I felt numb, but really peaceful. Gert saw that we were cooing like baby lambs, so he topped us off. He raised his glass, nodded toward Skibby and I and smiled . Then things went all Chernobyl on us.
It felt like the top of my head opened up and my mind was pouring out upside down. Like gravity had reversed itself. I looked around in wonder. Everything was moving and shifting and flipping and flopping. The carpet grew out of the floor into six inch, smiling, neon green worms. My feet were resting on an orange and yellow koala bear with magazine teeth and Jello claws. A 12 foot blueberry with Skibby's head was sitting next to me talking about how cool it was to be a melting lobster while he drank with Michael Jordan.
I don't remember so much after that. Just bits. Skibby swimming in purple cabbage. Glowing yellow shellfish doing the tango on the ceiling. And, Gert's voice coming out of a joker face saying "Are you guys having "bun" yet?"