Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Sunday Event is a Hate Crime? I've now heard it all.

This entry has nothing to do with bike racing, but as always, I'll weave cycling into it somehow.
I'm taking a side trip into the world of running this time around. We have a half-marathon taking place in my city on Sunday. As you can imagine, it'll mess up traffic for a few hours while 5000 runners have their way. As an employee of the City, I've heard from some angry residents who object to the road closures. Mostly, though, the community has come to accept and even embrace the event as our own.
One resident wrote a very ... alarming?... email to our US Senator:
Here are the highlights... (I need to say this: this is real. You may question that at times.)
Dear Senator Levin,

I'm writing this letter asking for your help in your home State of Michigan because our First Amendment Rights that guarantees ALL the Right to Religion Freedom is now being violated right here in Rochester Hills, Rochester, Auburn Hills and Oakland Township by our local government (All REPUBLICANS) who have team up with the Crim's Organization to limit our access to attend church on the First Sunday in October for the third consecutive year. The main street out of my subdivision (Tienken Road) will be closed from approximately 7:45 AM until Noon. therefore my wife and I will not even attempt to attend any of our church worship services.
How bad is it? Well if you drive down Walton Blvd in Rochester Hills, you will see the following sign at the Meadowbrooks Christian Church: "CHURCH SERVICE CANCEL OCT. 3 BECAUSE OF RACE". This is an insult to every Christian even though I realize that we're now living in what is known as the "Post Christian Era".
If you check back into the history of America, I believe, that you will find that from the VERY BEGINNING of America, we have ALWAYS had our Christian Worship services on Sunday mornings long before any marathon was held in this country.

Perhaps you could used your influence to have the FBI investigate this as a RELIGIOUS HATE CRIME against Christians. I would also like to invite you or a member of you staff to participate in our very first Christian Interfaith meeting early next year as we plan our strategy to fight back.

By the way," Sunday will be the VERY LAST time for some Christians here in our community to ever attend a worship service" - but they're being denied this final opportunity by our government right here in America. But since this is an event members of the Republican Party want, they get to do what ever they desire.
We take it for granted that quiet Sunday mornings are the best time to run an athletic event using public roads. But this response from a resident reminds us that there are some strong anti-event sentiments out there.
But the real point of this post is this:
Ready? It's pretty simple and somewhat brilliant.)
Why doesn't this Christian ride his bike or walk to church?

There. I brought it back to cycling. Not too big a stretch, really.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Season's Over

There have been seasons in the past in which I've dreaded the final race. In 1993, I clearly remember being almost despondent at the end of the season. It was at the Michelin race in Greenville SC. As the cars loaded with bikes drove away from the corner of Main St. and Mcbee Ave., it felt like that icky feeling you get when you're leaving Disneyland. The trip home after that weekend was a sad one.
Labor Day Weekend now marks the end of road racing season here in Michigan - oh sure, there have been occasional additions in September such as the Pino Morroni races or the Tour de Leelanau (jumpin' jiminy, why did I ever let people talk me into racing that monstrosity; I had no business being on that roster). This year, I wasn't feeling much sadness.
I'm not sure what that means. I interpret it as a general acceptance of the passing of another season, and maybe a yearning for ski season. (And a thankfulness that it's still a few months away; I'm not ready.) But it's also a relief that I don't have to be a slave to the bike for the next 5 months.
A couple of observations that affected my season (not in a good way) have reduced the sadness surrounding The End:
Observation #1. Our local cycling scene has become rather predictable. I'm sure everyone experiences the same thing across the USA: Everyone knows who is fast and who isn't. Everyone knows what everyone else can do and how they do it. Everyone expects "the attack" by the strongest guy at the same point in the race. You can almost list the riders who will make the breakaway, and you can probably predict, with some degree of accuracy, the order of finish.
It's really quite stale. Yet, every weekend, we drive to a medium-sized town and go through the same routine as if on a loop. That's bike racing.
This year's final weekend was a bit different because a flock of Canadian riders came down from Toronto and brought new color to our Michigan scene. (Mainly, red and white. I mean, don't they have any other colors down there? [Canada is south of us, so it's down not up.]).
It was A LOT more fun having unknown riders mixing it up with us. Sure, they talk funny, but they race well. And instead of watching the same five riders who consistently kick my arse every weekend, I now had to watch twelve riders who could kick my arse. That's a lot more fun. (Seriously, it is.)
Observation #2: The range of tactics is quite limited at this level of racing. Very few teams have more than two tricks in their folder.
Those two tricks are:
1. "Get one of our guys in the breakaway, and shut down the field."
2. "Don't let any breakaways get away; we'll set up Leon for the field sprint." (Leon is a fictitious name that I pulled out of my book of fictitious names that authors carry around with them. Mine is leather bound.)
There are slight variations on those themes, but nothing plunging too deep into the Coors Light playbook. (Len Pettyjohn's Coors Light cycling team was, in my opinion, the epitome of smart riding. I saw them win countless races in countless diabolical ways. They are the standard by which I judge team tactics.)
Yes, that's more than a little frustrating and adds to the boring predictability of the racing here. Consequently, the end of bike racing season isn't much of a letdown this year.
There's a lesson here that I learned this week: travel more.
Next season, I'm going to take road trips to Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. Rather than complain about the stale local scene (which is probably equally stale in OH, IN, and IL), I'll try to be that mysterious out-of-towner who comes in and shakes things up. I encourage you to do the same.
Except, ... um... let's not all go to the Ohio on the same weekend.