“What an incredible breakaway by this unknown rider!”
“Nobody thought it would stick, so they let him ride into the sunset, and here he is, about to get a stage win in front of this hometown crowd.”
“Unbelievable. He may have rode himself into the leaders jersey today.”
“There are going to be some angry team managers tonight. This race has been blown to pieces by a 33 year old rookie.”
“And to top it off, he’s riding his cyclocross bike.”
Such were the thoughts playing through my head as I lazily spun throughout the neighborhood. Daydreaming. Imagining. Absurdly playing out a fantastical and unachievable victory in the upcoming Tour of Utah—wherein I escaped the clutches of the peleton in a brazen and foolish breakaway and a solo, mountain top coup de grace. How a dirtbag mountain biker found himself in the race at all was a detail I never bothered to work out in my delusional and alternate reality. Who needs details when more important and hyperbolic possibilities are so easily and readily thought up—complete with television commentary?
And why not?
And who among us does not do the same thing?
If you cannot count yourselves among the delusional masses, I can only say that you are missing out on something grand and spectacular—that open ended, intangible pursuit of possibility. Even if that possibility is anything but. Even if it is an aggrandizement of heroic and ridiculous scope.
And such a thing is nothing new for me. As a 10 year old baseball fanatic I used to imagine myself standing at home plate in Wrigley Field, hitting unbelievable and timely line drives into the gap, or over the Ivy covered wall. I had even gone so far as to play out the scenarios in the back yard with a plastic bat and ball. The worn wooden fence became Wrigley’s Ivy or Fenway’s green monster. I’d hear Harry Caray call the play in that raspy, amazing voice that he had:
The dream of playing professional baseball lived for a long time. It still lives, in a way. I have no regrets. I was never good enough to play at that level. But for a time… I nearly was.
And now today, even as an adult those same delusional scenes of glory and heroic fantasy play themselves out in vivid and improbable detail. But unlike my baseball career, I’ve actually competed against—at least semantically— some of the best mountain bikers in the world: TInker Juarez. Chris Eatough. Josh Tostado. Dave Harris. True, the gap between them and me is wide and far and cavernous. But I’ll never bat against Roy Halladay. That is what makes cycling—mountain biking—so amazing. It is utterly accessible. And so are its stars, if they can really be called that. Where we see Tinker as an immortal legend, a non-cyclist may only see a quiet and eccentric looking Joe. Just another man on the street. His world class athletic abilities hidden away from the exposure of hype and television. And yet, an actual average Joe—you, or me—can race right alongside him. We can compete for the Stars and Stripes. We can ride with Hall of Famers, Olympians, and National Champions.
And so, no wonder I let myself monologue and fantasize about surprising them, and the rest of our small world, with unfathomable and wondrous solo breakaways and climbing prowess. Compared to the rest of the professional sporting world, that possibility, that dream, is right there… for the taking. The right time. The right place. And the race of my life.
Hey, it could happen.
In fact, it already has—albeit imagined—a thousand times.
(My apologies to Alberto Contador, the Yellow Jersey, and to talented Photoshop users worldwide)
Exit Question: Don’t lie. You do the same thing. Right?