Thursday, July 30, 2009

The other whacky world of cycling.

Just so you know what Roadies can go through on a normal day of riding, here's how my 30th of July went:
While driving back to the office during my lunch hour, I saw a girl on a bike get struck by a car at an intersection. It was a mild bump, and she wasn't hurt. The driver in a maroon car was looking left while making a right turn at a red light. He never looked to the right because, really, what in the world would anybody else be doing on his road? The girl wasn't wearing a helmet, but got away with it this time. She hopped up and continued on her way as if this sort of thing happens all the time. I didn't get involved as other passers-by beat me to the scene. It was over as quickly as it began.
But wow, what are the odds of actually seeing that take place?
After work, I jumped on the bike and started riding the 20 miles to Waterford for the Thursday Night World Championships (a race in which the only real prize is bragging rights and a sore back for the next week).
As I was riding on a quiet 5-lane highway (quiet because it's in an industrial area), a car passed me. The passenger had the window down and was flipping the bird in my direction. I thought nothing of it. In fact, I turned around to see if there was something more bird-worthy than me. But then the cyclist's dream came true: they got stuck at the red light and I rolled up next to them. Truly, this is what they never think of, and we always wish for. By this time, the window was rolled up. He gave a shit-eating grin (by the look of his teeth....) and waved a shit-eating wave. I just looked at him with no expression. The obvious cowardice of this is overwhelming. We get this a lot; motorists wrapped in tons of steel are William freakin' Wallace when they're moving. But face to face, they hide like kittens. Maybe my massive quads scared him. I'll go with that.
I smirked and decided to let them live another day.
Three miles later, I was pulling up to another traffic light. (riding in this area sucks.) I was passed by a motorist totally engrossed in typing a text message with both thumbs. He, like everyone else, thinks it's possible to see the road while looking at his lap. He, too, got caught at the light. I try like hell to bite my tongue in these situations, but because I hate the taste of blood, I rolled up along side of him and said, "C'mon, don't be doing that shit while you're driving."
Before he could respond... I'm not making this up... a squeal of brakes and a thud. ANOTHER cyclist has been hit by a car. I turned to see a 12-year-old boy and bike rolling in the street. Another maroon car.
Traffic stopped in all directions, so I rode right across the intersection to help out.
The driver was freaking out. The kid was up and pushing his bike to the curb in seconds. He was scraped up and his bike was bent, but he didn't want us to call for help. I was trying to explain to him the need to get a police report. He said he was fine and just wanted to go home. I was trying to explain how freaked out his parents were going to be. He said he was fine and insisted on going home.
Now, my first reaction when people opt out of a police interaction is that they may have outstanding warrants, but since this kid is 12, I'm dismissing that theory. If the driver tries to opt out, I'll put up a fight. And who knows? Maybe the kid had just shoplifted some Necco Wafers.
Another motorist did call the PoPo (police, for you older folks), but the kid was hightailing it home pushing his bent bike all the way. I knew I couldn't detain him against his will, but I did convince him to leave contact information. I'm no lawyer, but I would advise him to at least work this situation for a new bike in lieu of hospital costs. And I got the driver's info before I continued on my way. I later made an attempt to contact the kid's home, but to no avail.
I have to tell you that the next five miles of riding were the most paranoid miles I've ever ridden.
I made it to the race in time thankful to be bumping elbows with 100 other cyclists at 30mph which I feel is MUCH safer than riding on public roadways.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Mess Hall

Talking to the riders at the Amgen Tour of California in February, I discovered that they actually get sick of eating during a stage race. I'm reminded of this as I watch the Tour de France this month.
Remember that the pro riders are burning about 6000 purposeful calories per day. That means that they need to consume almost 8000 calories per day to keep the tanks full.
Think about that for a minute and how much food that amounts to. That's 4x the normal amount that we're supposed to be eating. And if you're in the Tour de France, you have to do it for 23 straight days (give or take a rest day). And it can't be garbage. You can't just stuff ourself with pizza and desserts aplenty. It has to be good stuff.
At the Amgen, the organizers have it dialed in pretty well. Usually the teams all stay at the same hotel. That hotel will set up a buffet in the banquet room large enough to service about 200 riders/mechanics/staff. And I'm sure there's a conversation that takes place somewhere along the line between the organizers and the hotel staff that goes something like this:
Hotel: How many guests will we be feeding?
Organizer: About 200
Hotel: Fine. No problem.
Organizer: But we'll need enough food for 1000 people.
H: Come again?
O: We'll need food for 1000.
H: One more time?
O: Lots of food.
H: What do you intend to do with the leftovers?
O: There won't be any.
H: I've been in this business a long time, sir, and I...
O: Trust me.
I've attended a few of these team dinners. They aren't anything like when your amateur team meets at TGIFriday's after a race. In that setting, it's a tribal storytelling session in which everyone re-hashes the race from a hundred different angles and you can't get a word in edgewise. At the pro dinner table, they don't say much. It's all business.
Meanwhile, the hotel staff looks on in wonder at the staggering amount of food that disappears in a two hour session.
So when you sit down to your 700-calorie dinner, just imagine what it's like to be hungry enough to eat a horse, and actually having to.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Missouri In Trouble.

This is a short comment about the state of the Tour of Missouri.
How bad at math do you have to be to miss this point?: The event costs the state's tourism budget $1.7M but brings in an estimated $60M in economic impact.
Now, I know that the Super Bowl inflates the hell out of their economic impact numbers. It's obvious.
But even if we cut the ToM numbers in half and say that it brought in $30M in tourism dollars, that's still more than $17 to every $1 the State spends.
Check my public education math skills for me. I think that's right.
Show me (to steal their state motto) another investment that can give a return of 17 to 1.
And if Sir Lance decides to race in Missouri this year, look OUT. Those numbers will spike much higher.
Unfortunately, he'll have to make that announcement in the net few days because it sounds like Governor Nixon is about to kill the Tour of Missouri after just two years on the map.
I missed the first Tour of Missouri for reasons I still can't remember. I worked at the 2008 event and found it to be a totally different feel than the Amgen Tour and the Tour de Georgia. This one was a great time with good crowds and great racing.
If I hear that St. Louis/Kansas City is bidding on the Super Bowl, I'm going to organize a march on Jeff City. Someone please tell them that cycling is the best bargain in sports.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

What it was was softball.

I was in a nondescript chain restaurant (that's redundant, I know) a few nights ago when a group of grown men came in wearing matching pajamas. Seriously, I thought they were PJs. As it turns out, they were softball uniforms.
For all the grief that Roadies catch for wearing what we wear, and we DO catch hell, softball uniforms are 100% dork-o-matic. Some of these guys had on what appeared to be sliding pads in the knees and thighs.
Sliding pads? Really? Are you Ricky Freaking Henderson tearing into second base? How fast are you going? 8?
They had numbers on their jerseys. As if remembering all 10 of their names would be impossible. As if their legions of fans would only be able to identify them out on the field by the number on their back. Because certainly, the guy with the big gut and the cigarette in his mouth could be any number of players. But the #10 on his back clears that up for us. It's Dennis.
I also believe that we should test them for Performance Enhancing Drugs such as Motrin and Advil because I'll bet, if they're anything like their professional counterparts, that 90% of them are using.
They arrive at 7:3pm on Tuesday night and go through extensive preparation for their 8:00pm game. It consists of throwing the ball to another guy 10 or 12 times.
I'm sorry. Slo-pitch softball, as a game, is a great way to get out in the sunshine and have some fun. It's an easy game. There's nothing challenging about it. Even when the pitcher puts a diabolical spin on the ball when he pitches it underhand, it's still hit-able.\
I've played softball before, but I've never had trouble walking the next day.
The fact that grown ups still dress up and parade around in public in those ridiculous pajamas is the most astounding notion in sports, leisure, and recreation.
And I'm not so sure it fits in the sports category.