A-Z Day 9
When I was a kid I used to play mock baseball games in the backyard. I’d use a plastic bat and ball, and go through an entire 9 inning game. I’d toss the ball into the air, and then hit it. A groundball was an out. So were flyballs that didn’t clear the fence. Line drives were singles, doubles if they hit the fence. And of course, anything that I hit over the fence was a home run. I’d pretend to be Major League players; a great hitter facing down a great pitcher. Sometimes I’d fudge a little. If I wanted to hit a home run, then anything that wasn’t, I’d call a foul ball. Eventually I’d get it right, and the plastic ball would land in the yard next door.
It was a lot of fun.
It was a great way to fill the time between mowing the lawn in the morning, and actual baseball practice in the evening.
I still pretend today. I pretend to win races. I pretend to be fast. I daydream about perfect rides, and solo breaks. Reality is too harsh, and too sobering, to take too seriously. Life is a little bit better when we chase possibility. I don’t know how anyone can race a bike without being entirely consumed by the idea of possibility. When we put a number on our bikes, and line up at a start line, anything is possible. Everything we’ve ever pretended to be is, for one fleeting moment, there for the taking.
On a recent ride I pretended to be Jens Voigt. I tried to imitate his cadence and style, his panache, and relentless drive to attack, and then attack again.
It lasted about 7 minutes.
The rest of the ride, I pretended not to be blown.
Someone said recently that “cycling is an ugly sport”. Of course, I disagree completely. Cheating is ugly. But cycling is beautiful. Cycling is far more than the Tour de France, or any other race. We know that cycling is us. The Peloton is a small sample of a great and diverse army of riders. Riders who race clean, and for the simple joy of speed and sport. Anyone who thinks that cycling is an ugly sport, has never truly seen cycling.
Our sport is wonderful.
Only in cycling are fans treated as dignitaries, as royalty.* The superstars of cycling ride to us. We simply set up a lawn chair alongside the road and wait. There is no entry fee. There are no tickets. Money or prestige will not get a cycling fan any closer to the race than anyone else. Anyone, everyone, has a chance to give their heroes a push up the hill, a water bottle, and a word of encouragement.
When the race is come and gone, we can go home, dress in our own cycling team kits, and ride the same roads, and the same hills. We can enter race, and for a few hours, we can be the superstar.
Our Superdome is the Bluedome. Our arenas are the Alps, the Pyrenees, and the Rockies. Our pitches are the coasts of Brittany, the gold of Tuscany, and the deserts of Utah.
If cycling is ugly, then everything is ugly.
We are going to hear a lot about solutions and remedies in the coming weeks. Both within and without cycling. Politicians will promise to fix this and that, just as long as we vote for them. Pundits will revere their chosen candidates while trying in vain to appear smart, and sharp. Agency directors, former athletes, sports writers, and everyone else (even the politicians) are going to suggest ways to reform cycling, and all the government, rules, and regulations, associated with it. It could get, will get, tiresome.
Nobody seems to realize that the remedy (to all of our problems) isn’t reformation, and it isn’t legislation. The fix won’t come from more money or from “the right people in the right jobs”. Instead, the remedy will come from within. One person at a time.
That is, we are the solution.
You. And me.
We can fix it.
And how will we do that? By doing what cyclists do best: looking out for each other, and pulling one another up hills. By fixing broken chains and flat tires. Sharing food, drink, and advice. And by pushing each other to new realms of excellence. Faster, higher, stronger.
Playing make believe is all right. Kids do it. We do it. Pretending is a dress-rehearsal for reality. And as along as we are practicing getting to the top, eventually we will.
Cycling isn’t ugly. Cycling is going to save the world.