Wednesday, March 5, 2008
The Peloton Diaries Vol. 3
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?