Thursday, September 30, 2010

Interbike 2010 - Part 4


The last day.

Kevin had lined up only a few spots for me, three hours worth, and let me go free once lunchtime rolled around.

I hit some pretty interesting booths that day. By then he'd had some time to walk around, I'd had time, and I was particularly impressed at one booth's product. Every year there's the genius in a small booth with a great product that no one's heard of before, and I can honestly say only one product I saw fits this description.

Well, even skipping the "small booth" part, I think there's only one product that fits the "Best New Product of Interbike 2011".

I'll let you know later what this is, with some foreshadowing in this post.

I squeezed in an interview sideways in there somewhere, Javier and I working well together. He'd catch some things, I'd catch others, and he felt comfortable giving me direction to get a better shot.

Javier, my second cameraman, with part of Mister Ant+, i.e. one of the co-developers of Ant+

A good team, the two of us. With the cameras set to shut down at noon, we only had a few interviews before our jobs were done.

We sat down for lunch, chatted a bit with the other crew (David and Gabe), and then, with the camera guys supposed to do some "camera guy stuff", I hit out on my own.

Unlike other years, I really had no "goals", no signatures to collect, no books to get signed. I decided that if I came here for InterbikeTV, I'd focus on that. I'd brought just one postcard, one that always makes me grin when I look at it. If I saw a certain someone, I'd ask him to sign it, but other than that, nothing. And since the certain someone's booth was packed up next door, I figured I missed out on my signature opportunity.

My phone's shutter had annoyingly stopped working on the drive down from Colorado, specifically dying when I wanted to take pictures of the smoke jumpers jumping out of the slow, low flying plane. Therefore I was without my camera phone.

Instead, I had my helmet cam and Kevin's older digital camera. The latter, too, died, and I was left just with my helmet cam. Since it has no viewer, all my shots would be blind. I just hoped that things would come out.

(Some did - the shot of Javier above is a still from the ContourHD's footage. Others, due to lack of light, didn't come out quite so nicely.)

I thought of some video I could shoot for a future clip so hurried around, trying to find different vendors, shooting booth shots, and scurrying off to another booth.

At some point I checked my phone.

Kevin, it seemed, had texted me repeatedly. He needed me at the NOW booth, right now.


The name triggered something but I couldn't grasp it.

I rushed over. Apparently David, scheduled for this, couldn't make it, so I had to fill in.

I got there... and there was Phil Keoghan.

NOW (No Opportunity Wasted) was his lifestyle brand name.

I had to interview him.

I felt totally unprepared, with no mental "psyching up", no check of teeth for pieces of broccoli (okay, I admit it, I didn't eat broccoli in Vegas), no nothing.

But with Javier, Kevin, and maybe one or two other people there, waiting, I had to make a go of it.

OMG! HUGE piece of broccoli hanging out of my mouth!
Okay, it's me, Phil, Javier to the left, and a Phil person to the right.
And no broccoli.

We finished up the interview, Phil helping me along. Once again I felt... you know, it was like he was the star even though I was the leader. He was the one that was pulling into the headwind, I was the one sitting on. He did the work. I could see thoughts flitting across his eyes, and I'd hear him change tack slightly. He's smart on his feet, could direct himself, and knew the stuff he wanted to cover.

Released again, I did an end run to see if I couldn't finish up my "short clip gathering" mission. I thought I'd seen a Thomson banner even though they didn't have a booth, so I went around looking for it. I wandered for most of the floor, desperately looking for this one banner.

I rounded yet another bend and stopped.

No, it wasn't the banner. Instead, standing kind of on their own, I found my "off chance" signer (signor?).

Greg Lemond.

I walked up to the three there, him and two others. The one closest to me turned once I intruded in their "group space".

Scott Lemond.

Well now.

I asked Greg if he could sign this card I had.

Let me tell you the story. I had this card a long, long time. I bought it because it reminded me of the La Vie Claire helmets (really just aero shells with thin felt pads inside) in the 1985-1986 Tours.

The reality: Lemond and the helmet, 1985, from here.

Hinault, shortly into this clip, wearing that helmet.

Surprisingly I can't find a picture online of Lemond in 1985 in the absolutely killer La Vie Claire Time Trial kit, with the dual disk wheel bike.

Lemond actually remembered the slight difference between the 1985 and 1986 helmet. The 1985 helmet, the one that I was thinking of, and was sort of on the postcard, had a little cutout just over the eyes. The 1986 helmet didn't have that cut out.

But I didn't remember that when I presented him the card.

I said to him, "This postcard reminded me of the 1986 Tour". Lemond, without even thinking of it, murmured a correction while his eyes focused on the card.

"1985, yeah, but wow, that's great! I've never seen this before!"

I guess when you lived each Tour, you remember the slight details, but his casual but accurate observation surprised me, especially since I had to do some research to see exactly what he meant by it.

He really liked the card, to the point that I think he didn't want to desecrate it by signing it. He did the only thing he could to preserve it - take a digital image of it.

He actually took about 10 pictures of it, trying to get the light just right.

Greg and his son Scott, capturing the virgin card for posterity

I'd put a picture of the card, signed, with the details, but, embarrassingly enough, I put it away as soon as I got home and it's in such a safe place that I can't find it. Naturally, when I find it, I'll take a picture of it. It's a really cool card, from 1985 no less, from the Netherlands. Or Holland, as I normally say.

And now it has Greg Lemond's signature on it.

After he signed it I asked if he would take a picture. And, lo and behold, my camera was busted. His son Scott came to the rescue.

How embarrassing! The fan has to borrow a camera from the star's son to get the picture.

Greg Lemond and me. Greg's son Scott took the picture.
Greg, I'm glad to say, still has that cheeky grin, even after 2+ days of Interbike exhaustion.

And yes, Greg made me feel important too.

With that, my Interbike was over. The lights were going out, and by the time we'd vacated the Media Center, most of the chairs and tables and stuff were already getting pulled out.

It always amazes me how quickly this little world springs up and melts away. Only a few hours earlier, the show still glowed brightly, folks dashing around trying to get last minute shots or ideas or information.

Now plastic wrap and packing tape dominated the scene. Sticky double sided tape, having lost their carpet, snagged your shoes. I watched as a bike I walked by countless times turned into a huge bubble wrapped frame, two guys carefully wrapping yet another layer of protection over their pride and joy.

Even though the show wasn't technically done (none of the interviews I'd done had made it up yet), I felt relieved. I'd managed to meet a few people, folks that had a passion for their product, for their ideas, for our sport, passion that matched or even exceeded mine. I could feel their enthusiasm, their belief in their ideas. I got to share some of that, let the world know exactly how they felt. I hoped I got some of that passion on tape.

The stress eased away. What was done was done - nothing more to do here, nothing of interest here. Just concrete now, no rugs, no cases, no eye candy, no free beer, no girls, no bling bling.

Move along now, just move along.

We walked the show floor for the last time, bags and papers and everything slung over our shoulders. We grabbed a couple souvenirs, kind of like the road signs used to mark pro races (I have a couple of those too).

Prolonging the end, we took the long way out, walking out the main doors, not the side ones. I think we all felt reluctant to leave because we didn't say a word, we just walked past the side doors. But we had to leave, before the magic wore off, before Interbike became just another empty concrete hall.

My mind whirled from one thought to another. I started getting anxious about how I did. I regretted not being able to do some stuff. I started thinking of strategies for next year. What if I'd done this? What if I'd done that?

And then, I realized.

I'd grabbed life by the horns and made what I could make of it.

So be it.

Carpe Diem.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Interbike 2010 - Part 3

Thursday was the big push day.

Whenever a trade show spans three days, the second half of the last day is the beginning of the end. Vendors start packing up, so much so that you're lucky to catch folks at their booths.

Therefore, for Interbike, a show spanning Wednesday through Friday, Thursday was the last full day.

The day started full tilt and didn't stop from there. First thing was meeting my new cameraman Javier. A Marine-reserve, young, not intimidated by much of anything, he lent a different air to our two man team. He was a bit more free with filming random shots, and, critically, he insisted on modding his camera to make it easier to handle.

I liked that last bit. Modding things to improve performance... that's good.

My prior night's glasses of wine (and that's all I had, honestly) hadn't really lifted yet by 8 AM, so the first bit of the morning felt a bit hazy. I quickly got back up to speed and the rest of the day flew by.

I actually redid an Outdoor Demo interview, one that I felt wasn't as good as it could have been, especially considering the environment. Also, with my Carpe Diem attitude towards interviewing, I'd feel out broad topics before rolling the film, stop the person from telling the story, then capturing the interviewee's first time answering my specific questions. These interviews felt more smooth, more spontaneous, and more genuine, simply because they were.

I started getting ideas for other shots, other topics, but with just 30 minutes per booth, I had little time to shoot any random things.

Note to self: save those thoughts for next year.

Since I was a seasoned pro by now, Kevin assigned me to some tougher interview spots, talking with (gasp) famous people. I missed one (although I didn't know the person would be there) and I made the other.

The one I made?

Tony Kanaan.

Indycar racer.

And cyclist.

Yep, Tony rides. He focuses on triathlons, and based on what he looks like (Vin Diesel, from this post), he's one tough competitor. Compact and powerful, he exudes an aura of strength and power.

And I got to talk to him.

Polished, cool, he worked the interview for me. He's the one that made things flow, he's the one that put me at ease. For him it was old hat.

And that brings me to a thought I had after dealing with a few "stars".

I noticed over the course of the day that the "stars" are really good at making you feel important. I'm sure that there are stars that almost dismiss the peons around them, but the ones I spoke with all have a similar way of dealing with other people. Since I don't know how they became stars, it's interesting that all the stars I spoke with share this trait. Correlation, I know, not causal, but still, there may be something there. I wonder if part of becoming a star is making others feel more important than you while still remaining the star.

Food for thought.

The nicest thing about Tony?

He signed a publicity card thing for me. I asked if he could put "Happy Birthday" on it. Of course he asked if it was my birthday. It was. And he made me feel important yet again, with everyone saying happy birthday and such.

Tony Kanaan wrote here.
I know, Izod is such a weird name to see on a racer.

As far as Tony Kanaan goes, I felt like he not only made me feel important, he actually helped me out. To go back to the Cat 5 analogy, I figure that I was maybe an advanced Cat 5 by then, but he was definitely a ProTour rider being nice to the Cat 5.

For that I thank him.

And for the star I missed?

Eddy Merckx.

Yeah, I know. What a bummer.

I did get to talk to the guy who works as his composite engineer, Dave (he's European and worked in the aerospace industry). Dave patiently worked with us through two battery changes and a lot of unfortunate background noise. Luckily this was the last interview of the day as we ended up here for something like an hour and change.

After the interview, with the show literally closing down for the night and nothing on my agenda, Dave and I traded stories until the lights shut down. He not only designs the frames, he tests them too. For example he's already won a (Cat 3 level) race on his (and Eddy's) latest pride and joy, the top of the line frame for 2011, the EMX-7.

I told him about my foray into Belgium. He cracked up over and over - I mean, seriously, you really can't expect another reaction. All my misconceptions, underestimations, and my rookie errors, they all added up to "what did he think he was doing?!"

One thing that I appreciate about the Merckx bikes. They actually get test ridden by the master himself. And one of the initial frames Dave made... well, let's put it this way. The master came back and told him to throw the frame away.


So. Moral of the story? If you ride a Merckx, you're riding a bike that Merckx would ride. And, indirectly, actually has ridden.

Wednesday evening we headed out for a screening of "The Ride", a flick about Phil Keoghan's ride across the US. It made for awesome viewing.

The ticket for the show.

I went in not knowing a thing about it - it was like going to watch Predator when it first came out, knowing only that Arnold played a Special Forces soldier. I literally did not know about the alien, thinking instead that the infrared vision guy was a double-crossing CIA agent.

Not being a TV kind of person, I'd heard about Amazing Race but I didn't know much about it.

Apparently this Phil character is the host of the show.

A guy introduced the film, he helped make it. I liked his description of the film - it would either be a good movie or a really expensive home video. His wife apparently did a lot of the editing, and having edited very simple 10 minute helmet cam clips from an hour of raw footage, I can't imagine trying to condense 45 days of footage into an hour or two.

As the film progressed, I thought of the ride, a ride that averages about a century a day for over a month. I started looking at the guy in the movie a bit closer.

There's a guy that lives nearby. His name is Paul, but he also did a cross-country, century-a-day ride. I thought, waitaminute, is Paul really Phil? They're both about the same height, they both ride the same bike, and they both did a century-a-day cross-country ride. Maybe Paul had this other job and just pretended to be retired. A "star" would do that to be modest.

In the end I realized that Paul is Paul and Phil is Phil. They were not the same person. Just similar. I could tell you definitively that Paul returned from his cross-country trip incredibly strong.

Since "Phil" wasn't real to me, it took me most of the movie to realize that the feet that sat directly behind my head (stadium seating in a theater rocks!) belonged to the Phil himself. The tip off came when he got up, walked to the front of the theater, and addressed everyone through a mic.


Yep, it was Phil at the beginning, introducing the movie.

I'm glad that I didn't make any snarky comments during the movie. The ones like "Oh my God, look at this guy. He can barely ride his bike! How the heck is he gonna get across the country?!"

After it ended we had one of those deals like at a wedding where everyone kind of lined up and said hi and thanks and great movie to Phil. I waited patiently (I had to - I was last in line) but some folks that know him better cornered him, and I to wait a bit more.

When he finally broke free and looked over at me, I realized I had a question for him too. He had set off riding an incredibly aggressive schedule across the US. He knew watts and power and even rode with an SRM. He didn't start off by saying "I never rode a bike in my life until I decided to ride across the US". Instead, he proclaimed that he'd been riding since he could barely reach the pedals.

A cyclist in other words.

I've always wondered how a body would react to the incredible strain of riding 4 to 8 or more hours a day, every day, for over a month. That's what the old time pros did, tons of long steady distance. And they were pros. So I was thinking, man, after a couple days rest at the end of the trip, he must have been flying.

So I asked.

To my disappointment, he told me that his power went down. His TT times increased significantly. His FTP didn't go up. He just got steadier and slower. He prefers the hour to two hour rides, and the four or five or six hour rides weren't his cup of tea.

He spoke in a very engaging manner, looking directly at me, making me feel very important in his world, at that moment.

Sound familiar?

At any rate I felt pretty impressed with his ride. If someone could capture that on screen, he'd be famous.

Oh, wait. Someone did.

My question answered, I asked him if it'd be okay to take a picture with him. He graciously agreed, for the umpteenth time that night.

Phil Keoghan and myself after a screening of "The Ride".
He's got to be exhausted but he rallied for every photo request.

The two brushes with famousness was enough for me. We got back, had some dinner somewhere (the Grand Lux Cafe in the Palazzo? The Missus's favorite joint for Interbike Vegas) and called it a night.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Interbike 2010 - Part 2

Wednesday dawned reasonably bright and early. Kevin had been up for a while, working on our unnamed project, while I'd been in la-la land, trying to recover from the long hours from the previous Saturday till Tuesday.

We headed over to the Media Center, a bit late, with me a bit nervous. I felt like I was at the back of the field with 2 to go. I had faith in myself but I still needed to have a couple things go my way.

We got to the Media Center early enough that the AC hadn't kicked in yet. I started to worry - it seemed awfully warm, and I really didn't feel comfortable wearing my new "dressy" jeans if just sitting made me break a sweat.

Kevin and I had to scramble a bit to finish preparation for the day. Like everything at a temporary little city, which is what a trade show is at some level, things still popped up magically, while we were walking around. Coffee, breakfast, network connections, printers... If I was a character in a Pixar movie, I'd be walking along and all the booths and lights and bikes and stuff would be sprouting as I walked by.

Of course in real life it doesn't work like that. I remember working for a vendor - we went crazy doing set up, even crazier doing breakdown. I remembered that and thanked my lucky stars that my job involved just the show.

I sat at one of the tables, feeling that stunned feeling you get when someone drops you off in a different time zone, in a different place, lacking sleep, and with no reference to the time of day. It could have been 2 AM, 5 AM, or 8 AM.

I felt like I had a lot to do but at the same time I had nothing. My brain started to freeze up.

Then, relief flooded over me.

Or, to be precise, cool air started blanketing the open ceiling media center, wafting in from above.


And, of course, Kevin finished his all important prep. We were on.

I made my first rookie mistake. I experienced my first lost opportunity - go to the huge crowd waiting to come in and get some ideas on what dealers wanted to see, why they were here.

I learned the hard way that in video media, you can't capture things that already happened. If you want to capture someone breaking a world record bike jump, you can't ask the rider to do it again. I can just imagine the scene.

"Hey, can you jump that 200 feet again? My camera didn't finish booting up when you made the jump."

Likewise, if you see anything, and I mean anything, you have to capture it right then, right now. Carpe Diem ("Seize the day" or "Seize the moment"), as they say. Ironic of course, for me, that I failed to grasp the full meaning of that little phrase. I thought I was doing the "Carpe Diem" thing well enough when I decided to take on the InterbikeTV thing. I realized it went further.

Mental note for next year - don't hesitate.

Instead, with my first appointment at least an hour away and my cameraman gone for a bit, I strolled down to the "Power Seminar". No, this isn't about power like being a king, it was about power like watts power. You know, power meters, and developments in the field.

I listened to the SRM guys talk a bit (I have a minor connection to them since I own a now obsolete SRM wired powermeter), but as they wrapped up, and well after I spotted one Jens Voigt sitting at the "presenters' table", I had to go.

Time to work.

Compared to the somewhat casual Tuesday, for Wednesday the media work really intensified. I had an interview scheduled literally every half hour for pretty much the whole day. Although it may not seem like much, when you combine it with criss-crossing the confusing convention floor (I'm still not fluent in "booth number speak" although I didn't get totally lost), waiting for the right people to break free, clear out people from the desired background areas, well, 30 minutes left almost no room for relaxation.

I rushed back and forth for the day, talking to all sorts of people, covering mainly stuff I could relate to (road and related).

I talked a bit with our two cameramen, Philip and Gabe. The latter, as pointed out earlier, was David's cameraman, and with David's experience and Gabe's savvy, they made a killer team. Philip would be my cameraman for just two days, with Javier stepping in his place for Thursday and Friday. Unfortunately by the time I built a rapport with Philip, he left.

But for Wednesday it was rush, rush, rush.

Initially, based on instructions, I would do a "pre-interview". With very limited time for actual talking, it'd be best for everyone involved - the vendor, me, and you the audience - to focus on what was important.

It's like the whole money thing. If you wanted to cover the topic of "new money from the last year", what would you cover? You'd talk about the new fives or tens or twenties. Who cares about one dollar bills? They haven't changed for eons. It's the quarters and nickels and that weird penny with a shield on it which have changed. Or those new bills mentioned already... you get the idea.

I wanted to talk about new and exciting. Talking to someone about something that's the same isn't exciting.

"Yeah, our cable is the same from last year."

That's kind of boring. Talking about new and cool stuff, that's fun. It gets me amped. And if I'm amped, then hopefully you'll feel amped too.

With the pre-interviews, I found an interesting trend. I'd walk up to the booth, find my contact, and ask them what's cool. Their eyes would light up, they'd start talking, gesturing, grinning, and they'd get amped. I'd get amped.

I'd give word to Philip, he'd start rolling the film (so to speak - he really had two monstrous memory cards in his camera), I'd start the piece...

And the booth person would go kind of dead.

Eyes kind of "caught in headlights" look. Stiff posture. Hands held self-consciously at their sides. Wooden. Stilted.


I thought of Ender's Game, a fantastic book by Orson Scott Card. And if you want to read the book and enjoy it fully, scroll down until you see the word HERE in bold all caps again, and try not to read the stuff between here and there.

Okay, so those that have read Ender's Game, you understand how the book goes. And you'll immediately realize what I'm about to say, so I'm not going to say it. Because the "pre-interview" was the key. The "interview" ended up being worse. Once it's official, the person being interviewed suddenly felt self-conscious, started worrying about what to say, and their brains locked up. When it was just a "pre-interview", things went fine. So as to protect folks about to read Ender's Game who can't scroll without accidentally speed reading this paragraph, that's where I'll leave it.

HERE (for those that will read Ender's Game, continue on here.)

If you skipped down to here, don't worry, it's just an analogy that you missed. It's not major and I'll share with you my tactics on interviewing below.

Eventually, I realized that the pre-interviews seemed more engaging than the actual interviews. And although I may not watch a lot of TV, I absolutely hate watching self-conscious people talking to an interviewer.

I started to ask folks pre-interview questions, like how the company got started (i.e. if there was a story there), or what was new for 2011, or what they wanted to talk about.

Then, as they started to answer, I'd cut them off.

"Save it for the camera," I'd tell them.

Most of the folks literally clamped their mouths shut, like a teacher just yelled at them to shut up. They struggled to contain that great story, the great product, the great thing they've wanted to tell the world about by screaming about it from the top of the tallest building in the world. They were dying to tell me about whatever-it-was, the related whatever-it-was-two, and finally the whatever-it-was-three.

And I'd hold my hand up and keep that dam plugged, keep them from releasing all that enthusiasm.

I'd signal to Philip to roll film.

And we'd start the interview.

It's a lot of psychology, a lot of trying to read the person on the other side. I tried to steer them politely but firmly in certain directions. Focus on the question, focus on the concept, focus on the product.

I have to admit I let them go past the allotted time too often.

Like every time.

Okay, I got too much info. I thought it'd be easier to cut long things than to have painfully short interviews where you, the viewer, feels like, "Wow, that guy had nothing to say!"

I have to admit that I had a ton of fun doing this. I mean, yeah, it was really stressful at first. Then I realized that for the interviewee, the person on the other side of the mic, it was worse. They had their business on the line, their livelihood, and a bad interview... well, it'd be bad.

The key was that, for most of my interviews, I felt more at ease than the interviewee.

I'd help calm them down a bit, or try to. The super-pro interviewees helped me feel at ease. It was like one cooperative bike race, where both sides worked their strengths to help the other side. We both wanted a good interview, for different reasons, and cooperation and helpfulness would help us both meet our goals.

You'll have to go to to see exactly how things turned out.

Alessandro Petacchi, and his Wilier.
He's skinny looking, especially since I think of him as a big, powerful sprinter.

The actual company name is Wilier-Triestina. The first part is pronounced "will-ee-err". Not "will-ee-ay", which would be French. I got Wilier down quickly, but it took me literally something like 5 takes to say Triestina.


I can say it now, of course.

Wednesday I met with a lot of folks. I learned a lot. Heard some cool stories that aren't really video or print fodder. Heard others that you'll be able hear (and see) on

At the end of the show day Wednesday we headed down for the Dealer of the Year awards. A certain Eddy Merckx made the presentation. Since everyone and their brother wanted to see Eddy, this meant that the crowds had to be tightly controlled.

Gabe went in to cover the event. Although not a cyclist, he already realized the importance of that Eddy Merckx.

To my surprise one of the cameramen dragged me along with him. Flashing our badges, we stepped into the hall. Once inside he told me to leave the bag I carried in for him behind a screen. And then told me I could get something to eat or something, releasing me.

In other words, he knew I wanted to go inside, and, without any prompting, he got me in the room.

I realized then that he was one of those "good guys". You know those guys. They have empathy, have good judgment, and know when it's okay to give out favors and such.

I should point out that I didn't abuse my presence in the room - I didn't trip Eddy, no hooting and hollering (except when appropriate, like when they introduced Eddy or he presented the award), and I modestly asked for one glass of wine.

Of course, when I ran into an old time friend Rob, we got to talking. He had blown by me on one of the climbs on the Lake Mead ride - a (real) Cat 2, he could climb and time trial in a manner I simply cannot comprehend. We tried to out-modest each other.

"You'd always kick my ass, I can't believe how fast you can time trial."
"No, you'd always kick my ass, I can't believe how hard you can jump."

Then we'd laugh and talk about something else. We caught up on gossip, and...

Suddenly that wine glass gained a couple ounces of weight.

I looked up, surprised.

My new best friend, the bartender, had leaned over and refilled my glass. I looked at him - he gave me a big grin. I could only grin back.

Rob laughed.

Then the King himself walked towards us. I took a picture of Rob with Eddy, who, unlike on the showroom floor, had a wry grin on his face. He seemed to enjoy this better than being cooped up behind a desk while signing countless autographs.

Rob definitely got a shot for the mantlepiece.

Before we left the bartender asked if I wanted my glass topped off.

I looked down at my mostly full glass. Looked at Rob. Looked at the bartender.

"You can go out with the glass, this is Vegas," he said to me.

That cinched it for me.

"Top it off then."

Suffice it to say that the rest of the night went by in a blur. Or haze. Or both. Let's just say it involves eating a burger at a country music themed bar.

Next up? Thursday. Day Two of Interbike inside.

Doping - Comment on Flandis

(I'm interrupting Interbike 2010 posts to mention this.)

I wrote something about Flandis a long time ago. The relevant part of the post is below:

"I'm sure that as soon as the positive news came out, Floyd and his parents talked on the phone. And I'm sure that one of the things his mom asked was, "Floyd, did you use this testosterone stuff?"

And how he answered at that moment would decide years of trials and tribulations.

I'm guessing he said something like, "Mom, I didn't take that stuff."

And that was it."

Now, it seems, he admitted as such:

"'As much as it hurts to sit and tell my mom I lied, and to tell other people that I lied, it's better than the alternative.'

The American acknowledged he waited too long before coming clean."

Personally I'm glad he has revealed his doping experiences.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Interbike 2010 - Part 1

I'm sitting in the Media Center, a little rectangular oasis in the middle of the Interbike indoor trade show. It's Friday, September 24th, about 4 PM, and I'm just sitting here and trying to go over what happened over the last few days.

And, to be honest, I can't even think about where to start. So many things happened, so quickly, and, in a lot of instances, unexpectedly. So... where to start? Well, I sort of have an idea. It makes sense to start... when it started.

And when did it start?

It started with two phone calls in rapid succession, a little while ago, let's call it August or thereabouts.

The first call came from Kevin and had to do with a still-yet-unnamed-in-public (meaning we have a name for it privately) project, one that has to do with cycling (of course). We were missing a critical element though, and I wasn't sure how or where we'd get that element. Until we could work on that critical element, the still-yet-unnamed-in-public project would die before it could sprout.

The critical element?

Maybe it's my state of mind, but I have to admit that, actually, at the time, I couldn't even define the critical element. I just knew we were missing something.

Cue that second call.

The second followed shortly thereafter, literally within a minute of the first call, and that had to do with doing some work at Interbike. I think I hinted at this in various emails and Facebook posts. It seemed so unreal that I didn't and really couldn't share it with anyone, even very close friends.

I'm really sorry about that, for all those friends that might have felt slighted or "not in the loop". Pretty much everyone was out of the loop. The Missus wasn't though, and I think she got an idea of the stress I felt before this second at-the-time-unnamed project.

But, obviously, since I've mentioned it, the second project finally came together. It had to do with working with the media part of Interbike, interviewing folks for

Their goal?

Use my enthusiasm for the sport in a motion and sound sense while talking to vendors at Interbike.

The kicker is that I got asked if Kevin, on that first (and still) unnamed project, could help with my InterbikeTV project (which I've named now). His role would actually really assist us with our unnamed project, so it worked perfectly for us.

We arrived Monday night, with our first Interbike day set to be Tuesday, specifically the second day of Outdoor Demo. If you want to be precise, we were aiming for the 8 AM Lake Mead ride.

Once that was done, and I picked up our badges, we were really official.

Then the InterbikeTV work began.

Now, to be honest, I was a bit nervous about the whole thing. I mean, yeah, I really like bikes, I really have the enthusiasm, but it can sometimes come across as a bit crazed. You know, like one of those guys hawking products on late night TV.



Crazy late night TV product hawker?

Not so good.

Plus I didn't know specifics. I like knowing specifics. It's kind of like bike racing. I like going to a race and knowing the course, what to expect. Where you can find the bathrooms. Where they set up registration. The slick ways in and out of the closed off roads.

When you go to your first race you make those rookie mistakes because you don't know the specifics. You get lost on the way to the race. You realize you have to stop for gas on the way. You forget your shoes.

You try and enter the Masters Cat 1-2-3 race as a Masters Cat 5.

And this is all before you actually get on the bike.

Once you get the hang of racing, you feel more comfortable. You know how to get to the races, you bring all your equipment, and although you might forget a shoe or something every now and then, in general you show up at the venues ready to race.

My foray into InterbikeTV felt like the Cat 5 described above.

I wasn't sure how to carry myself, how to introduce myself, stuff like that. But once the conversation got going things felt smooth and relaxed. And although I screwed up all over the place, I got the gist of things down okay.

So, by the end of the day, we could call me an advanced Cat 5 interviewer.

I say that because I definitely forgot some basic stuff, like getting to the race and not having my shoes, or maybe my wheels, or even my license.

Kevin was the production guy, producer if you will. He scheduled appointments, got on my case if I dwaddled somewhere, and generally filled 2.5 days worth of interviews.

Within hours of the end of the Lake Mead ride, I'd gotten my badges ("creds"). For those of new to Interbike, the badges are ultra important, especially those that control access in the off hours. For example, certain badges allow early access (like an exhibitor) for things like set up and break down. A dealer can't get in early though.

My "creds", as succinctly put by a friend.
Many business cards indicates picture taken nearer to end of show.

We also met up with our colleagues for the next few days. David (aka Fredcast), David's cameraman Gabe, my cameraman-for-two-days Philip, and a few other people involved with the organization of the whole thing. We held a powwow in the VIP tent, the wind blowing at the sides, the hot sun unable to shine its way into the tent.

Left to right, Rich, David, and above, Philip. The latter would be filming with me for two days.
We're inside the tent at Outdoor Demo.

Since Kevin didn't need to be there, we released him to patrol the Interbike floor indoors a day early. He'd work on setting up interviews for the first indoor day, the next day, Wednesday September 22.

Meanwhile Philip and I set off to do a few interviews, with Rich tagging along to see how things went. I spoke to the few companies, let a bunch of opportunities go by (the Cat 5 - ness of my media skills showing through).

The gusty winds made it difficult to hold some of the interviews. I read a post somewhere that pointed out that 40 mph winds made it difficult to ride. Well, that's true, but it also made it difficult to talk into a mike. Or hold a conversation on camera. Or hold up a super lightweight gizmo while trying to explain what makes it cool.

After a dusty, windy, and exhausting few hours, as the show drew to a close, Philip and I called it a day. Philip headed off with the rest of the production crew (Steve, AnotherSteve, and Gabe) while I hitched a ride back to the Strip.

At some point here I picked up the InterbikeTV shirts, talked about a bunch of stuff including a bit about the upcoming show. Eventually we met up with Kevin, had some food, and headed out to the TweetUp.

On the trip over I'd tried to explain the TweetUp to some folks and I realized that in some sense, even I didn't know. I just knew that the ActionWipes lady MarthaVan organizes it, and they raise money for charity by raffling off schwag.

We went there to drop off some schwag (anonymously - the schwag wasn't listed), then headed out to do some work. This took hours, with all sorts of interruptions and delays. By the time we'd returned, it was too late to buy any raffle tickets.

(Note to self: buy raffle tickets ASAP next time, and hand them to a trusty person who doesn't have to do work at that moment and therefore will be there for the drawing.)

We got in time to see some nice prizes go out, the best ones auctioned off for real cash dollar bills (that's a reference to a particular announcer who likes to ring the bell for "cash dollar primes"). I actually wanted to bid on something just because it'd help the cause, but I managed to restrain myself.

Beat, tired, we returned to our room. I barely managed to write a post about the Lake Mead ride, put it up, and that was it. Kevin wanted to work on a bunch of stuff, but I was wiped out.

I called it a night.

Wednesday, the first day indoors, would be a doozy.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Interbike 2010 - Outdoor Demo

"Hey, they're just starting!"

That was me, crying out in shock, thinking we missed the ride when in fact they'd just started.

Kevin knew how I felt about the ride, its importance to me. He looked at me. "I don't care about riding, let's just get you out there!"

I jumped out of the truck. My foot slipped a bit as Kevin was still parking it. My anxiety got the best of me. I waited impatiently as Kevin straightened up the truck.

I tossed my sneakers in the back seat, slipping on my Sidis. The jersey went on quick, with just my wallet and phone for my pockets.

Kevin started fiddling with the front wheel of the bike. I remembered that the pump hung from the bar.

"Just rip the pump off!" I cried, thinking of the promised Mavic support.

I grabbed my helmet and went to the back of the truck. My bike was together. I figured the air pressure would be "good enough", breaking my long standing rule of checking the pressure every time I ride.

I hit the power button on the ContourHD, knowing it took a few seconds to boot up. While I zipped up my jersey I peeked around the truck, up the hill. About 100 feet away I could see the intersection, slightly blocked off by cones.

The first turn of the Tour de Lake Mead.

And the group still streamed around the corner at the bottom of the hill.

I still had several seconds to get ready.

No gloves, no Halo headband, no food. Water from Colorado in one bottle, from the ride a couple days ago. That would be enough.

Had to be enough.

"Go! Go!"

I hopped on the bike, clipped in, and rolled up the hill. I remembered to turn on the ContourHD; a comforting "beep" indicated good status. The Mavic support wagon, a Jetta Sportswagen, rolled across the intersection, followed by a Mavic motorcycle.

I rolled in behind them. I'd have to "chase through the caravan", even if it was just two vehicles long.

Then came the long run through the riders in front of me.

I started going hard, surprised at the speed I hit. Slight downhill. A hard left and the road descended more sharply. I felt a bit of softness up front.

Right. I was probably low up front.

On the hill I ran into another slight problem. I ran out of gears.

My "non-aero" wheels roll with a 12T, not an 11T, so I had to spin a bit more than normal. I rolled hard, a compact group visible at the very head of the extremely strung out line of cyclists in front of me.

I wanted to be in that group.

After a mile or so of descending I realized that chasing might be pointless. My lungs started getting raw, my breathing ragged, not good for just starting a ride.

I started to ease.

Then a small group caught me.

Obviously faster than me, they must have started a bit late.

And one of the riders in the group? A tall, thin rider in a Quick Step kit. On an Eddy Merckx bike.

A pro?

I couldn't resist, accelerating to sit on the wheels.

A couple guys seemed to be playing domestique for the QS guy, and when they sat up, blown, he rolled past them. I pounced on his wheel as he started spinning up his cranks.

We dove into a left turn, hard. Again, the front tire seemed soft, and I eased a bit to reduce the risk of sliding out. I jumped as the corner eased, regaining the QS wheel.

He rolled along, steady, not too hard, not doing anything crazy or weird. A guy just riding pleasantly hard.

I could barely breath, gasping, at the limit.

When we hit some rollers, my legs went.

And that was the end of the fast part of my ride. I struggled along until I saw the group coming back, turning around to see if my friends were in there. They'd called me just before the start, asking where I was, telling me they wanted to lead me out.

Lead me out for what?

But that wasn't the point. Two friends, one from California, the other from Texas, and both who'd been in Connecticut a long time ago, wanting to ride. My only goal for the day was to film my California friend, and I would skip part of the ride to do so.

I didn't see either, although I saw some big hitters in the front group.

When the road started heading back up, I headed straight out the back.

At some point I managed to get some footage of my California friend, climbing the long hill into the wind.

And that was the ride.

I'd made the trip this year to Interbike to do some work, new for me, but hopefully something that would mesh well with my personality. A dream for me, really, something so absurdly cool that I couldn't talk about it until it happened - I was afraid it wouldn't be real.

Today, although I didn't know it, I'd start earning my keep. I thought I'd just tag along for the day, learn the trade, and ply it the next few days. Instead, diving into the deep end, I took some tentative initial steps. With a lot of friendly tips and advice from others, I started feeling better about my work, thinking of things to improve, thinking of things I wanted (or didn't want) to do.

I'll write about it more, but for now, I need to get to sleep.

So, till tomorrow, good night. I hope tomorrow to have a cool link or two.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Interbike 2010 - The Drive Down

It was a long drive down from Colorado today. Luckily I slept on and off for much of it, but I still managed to catch things like:

- a freak thunder and lightning storm with incredibly strong local winds
- a couple "wildland fire" trigger points (they don't call them forest fires because it's not really a forest)
- three smoke jumpers jumping and landing next to one of the trigger points
- a fire fighting plane (that dropped said jumpers) flying at, oh, about 500 feet
- a fire fighting chopper (albeit with no bucket underneath), flying much higher
- a huge "wildland fire", not from the trigger points I saw
- smoke covering 20 or more miles of interstate, reminding me of an event that took place on the eleventh of September several years ago
- a real life Radiator Springs (the town where the movie Cars took place)
- 50 McNuggets for $10

Oh, and two black cows, grazing in the middle of absolutely nowhere.

I didn't see any elk, bison, coyotes, or any other more exotic animals.

Fortunately I missed the not-so-pleasant major accident on Route 15, the highway that comes into Vegas from the north. Tractor trailers, cars, SUVs.

Now for some sleep. Tomorrow, the Tour de Lake Mead (a ride, not a race), and then Outdoor Demo.

Training - Altitude in CO

So... I'm at an altitude (about 7000 feet) that's a thousand feet higher than the top of Palomar (6000-ish feet), at least the top that I ride to on my annual Palomar rides. And there are mountains all around. Meaning up above here. It's crazy.

Today... I felt a bit draggy. I spent way too much time awake yesterday, staying up until 2 AM home time, midnight local time, after being up at 5:30 in the morning and traveling all day.

And, to be honest, I wasn't feeling great. Last night I walked around with a hoodie, a t-shirt underneath, socks, and jeans. Even today, in about 80 degree, sunny temps, I had jeans, t-shirt, and a jacket on.

I felt a little queasy too - maybe I didn't eat enough (the gap between 6:30 AM and 5 PM might have been a bit long) or something didn't agree with me.

I want to feel better though. I'm here for just another half day then we'll head to the much lower Las Vegas.

A ride seemed to be in order. I mean, that's one of the default things to do when it's nice out and I don't feel... well, not sick necessarily, but just not great. I figure a ride may help clear out the traveling cobwebs. It'll also flush out my system, let me sweat stuff out through my pores. All sorts of subjective, mythical kind of stuff that has no basis in scientific proof. It's more like the stuff that makes myths, like, you know, thunder caused by clouds kissing.

But before we could ride, I wanted to make sure the bike was okay. I had to reassemble it from the flight. And, because I haven't swapped the tape in a while, I figured I'd do it at the same time.

I'd bought some "carbon fiber" tape on a lark, and now seemed as good a time to try it as another.

Tape, new.

The tape did come in an unexpected form - a gloopy gel substance covered the back of the tape. Apparently it's a substitute for that hard-to-remove double sided tape that's somewhat ubiquitous on bar tape.

Since I hate the double sided tape I'm interested in how things work out with the goop.

Tape, with the goopy side exposed at the top.
The Bontrager bar plugs are nice, my current favorites.

The tape went on okay (tip: don't let the goopy stuff get onto stuff like a rug, cats, or a dusty garage floor), and I felt a lot of angst leave my body as I looked at the freshly taped bars. I suppose if I were that eccentric Howard Hughes, I'd have been replacing tape compulsively, not washing my hands (at least that's what the movie showed him doing).

Pristine Tsunami, before the ride.
New tape on, SRM missing, otherwise pretty much complete.

We gathered up our stuff, me in my new "skinny" kit - size M jersey, size S shorts. I can't believe I raced the whole year in size L jerseys and size M shorts.

We headed out towards Vail, another town at some ridiculous altitude (about 8000 feet, give or take). It's also really nice, with beautiful houses and such all over the place. I have to admit that the panoramic views were such that I almost hit a rock the size of softball on the way there, but all went well.

At some point I realized there were a LOT of grasshoppers around. Not green though, kind of a motley brown. I couldn't think of what I thought they were, the bugs that ate all the crops in Laura Ingalls and Little House on the Prairie (yeah, I read all 14 books or whatever). So I asked the local expert.

"What are these bugs? The hopping kind? They're like grasshoppers but in a Biblical sense. They're all over the place."
"You mean locusts?"
"Yeah, locusts. Aren't these locusts?"
"Just grasshoppers."

With a decent tailwind, I couldn't really tell that we were climbing at all. I hoped that we were, because if we weren't, it'd be a long ride back.

My legs turned over easily, the 175s really my crank length of choice. I realized this the other night, at home, when I rode them for the first time in a couple months. My legs like the longer pedal stroke, the longer muscle contractions. The 170s just didn't seem right.

And, as a bonus, my SRM is registering real numbers once again. But that's another post, for another time.

A few little pokes at the pace, a few surges, and we got to Vail. We had to get around a street market thing. And some Massachusetts-dealer (!?) plated Mini also kept asking Kevin for directions. I mean, I'm from where he is, so I just practiced my trackstand and stuff.

Kevin, on his first ride of the year (!) had his traditional first ride of the year flat. Totally unexpected - it's not like he slammed into a hole or rode over glass, we were "JRA", just riding along. Heck, I even jumped just like Dave Stohler in Breaking Away, although it was Kevin's tire that went. I found the hole but no matter how carefully we searched the tire and the rim, we couldn't find the offending whatever.

New tube, pumped up, and we headed back.

Of course they were working on some road, covered in sand, small rocks, all soaking wet with water.

Yeah, pristine bike, right.

Muddy water everywhere. I tried to stay on the gravel stuff - at least those weren't in puddles. But my bike was filthy within seconds.

And within another few seconds, I realized it wouldn't do any good to keep going slow. So I punched it and pretended, however briefly, that I was bridging to a solo break in Paris Roubaix.

50 meters later we hit dry pavement. So much for that bit of inspirational riding.

Inside I hoped I'd get away with just a quick spray down. A clean bike that gets dirty cleans easily. A dirty bike takes some effort.

Proactive stuff works sometimes.

On the way back we headed directly into the wind, and, thankfully, hit a lot of downhills. I felt good, good enough to make an effort up the last hill. I started "moderate" and then started really going hard. It's a steep one, maybe 10-12%, and I set off in the big ring. I got into the "I'm still going hard and I can do this for a while" mode, which is usually a sign for me to ease up.

Since I wasn't driving to the line for a race, I eased.

And then I realized what "at altitude" means.

It means that when you breathe in, nothing really happens.

I crawled to the top of the climb, gasping for air. I rarely push myself to extreme efforts, but this time, I didn't realize what would happen until it was too late.

Within a minute I could taste the metallic taste of blood in my mouth. And, still, I couldn't inhale enough oxygen.

Finally my body caught up, erasing its oxygen debt.

Yikes. Talk about deficit spending.

Once back, I surveyed the damage to the formerly pristine bike.

Shiny up top, muddy down low.



All that from about 200 meters of muddy rocky watery road. Luckily a bit of water from a hose took care of most of the mostly cosmetic mud. A few swipes of a rag and the bike will be pristine once again.

When we got back, I told Kevin that I felt a lot better now, after the ride. He in turn told me he was surprised that I hadn't exhibited any signs of altitude sickness.

"Altitude sickness?"

I thought altitude sickness was what you get when you try and climb Mt Everest, like nose-bleeds and such. I thought of my queasiness. The fact that I only slept a few hours last night. And my general malaise. I figured it was all because of the long day.

"Yeah, altitude sickness. Most people get some symptoms, like nausea, headaches, can't sleep, some other things."


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Equipment - PMP-5 Frame Pump

I've been wanting to buy a full length frame pump for a while. I kept checking out the pumps I knew, but nothing really struck me, or, in some instances, I wasn't in a position to buy one. Pumps are one of those "LBS" (local bike shop) things - you need to be able to touch and feel them and get feedback from the staff.

So, when I was at my LBS, I decided to pick up a pump they had on display, the Park PMP-5 (image of it here).

I find that mechanical pumps, rather than CO2 cartridges, work better for me. Fine, they take a bit longer to inflate, they're more bulky than CO2, but they have a few advantages.

First, they use "real" air - I found that every time I used a CO2 cartridge I'd have to re-inflate the tire the next day. I don't know why the tire would go flat, but it always did. The tube was fine, I rode it after inflating it, but it'd deflate overnight.

Second, you can use them over and over. You don't have to worry about them leaking or not seating or whatever.

Third, they don't freeze your fingers, not even a little bit.

Fourth, they allow you to fiddle a bit with the tire. As you probably know, making sure the tire is seated properly is an important part of installing it, and if you let a CO2 cartridge go wild on a non-seated tire... it's loud to say the least, and now you need to find another tube.

Fifth, if the pump is decent, they're reasonably quick.

I used a couple different mini-pumps in the past, the Airstik-1 by Blackburn being a good one. I didn't like the under-bottle-cage mount. If I wanted to run lights on the bike, I ran out of frame real estate, and something would tap-tap-tap my leg the whole ride. I had a velcro type strap but my leg sometimes hit it, so I'd have to be careful how I got it on the bike. It didn't help that I'd often misplace the strap so I'd just stick the pump in my pocket. Of course the pump would stick out a bit so I'd worry about it dropping out on a descent or a bumpy road.

Which, I have to admit, has happened. Meaning in both ways, on descents (it's a pain to slow, turn around, and climb back up the hill you were just bombing down) and bumpy roads.

I have a classic Silca chrome frame pump, which I suppose I could use. But it's not as sturdy (they seem to shatter like fluorescent bulbs if you smack them just right) and the spring that holds the pump in place is still "in effect" when you pump. So the first bit of the pump stroke is compressing the spring.

I do like it for one reason though - using the two little feet (pictured here), I could put the pump in a cool location. I'd put one end on the end of the front skewer (the handle part) and the other end, the little feet, under the bars.

Of course that also dropped on bumpy descents and stuff. But ever since I saw a Cat 2 carrying a pump like that (and I was a very impressionable 15 year old), I decided that was the coolest way to carry a pump.

So, when you get the Park PMP-5, a nice, durable full length frame pump, and my bike, which has no frame space for a full length frame pump, the situation screams for the cool Cat 2 solution.


Since I'm a little more risk averse than I used to be, I use velcro straps at the top and bottom of the pump. I can't get the pump to drop, even when tugging it pretty firmly. I did some bumpy descents tentatively, checked things, and when I saw nothing had moved, started bombing down descents.

All good.

So, now, the bike is set with the pump in its now normal location.

Now for a sweet ride.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Story - 9/11

Although I don't want to put any more oxygen on the already brightly burning fires, I sat and thought about 9/11 today for the first time in a long, long time.

I remember a lot of that day pretty clearly. And before I forget, I want to put it down on something kind of permanent.

I took the train into New York City, like normal. I remember it being a beautiful day. I wonder if I thought about going for a ride that evening, maybe a loop around the beach. I looked forward to buying a breakfast sandwich at the deli on the ground floor of the office building, to sipping some hot, fresh coffee, flirt with a girl there whose name I never knew and never would. I might have splurged on a pastry from the train station, but probably not. It was September, and I wasn't going crazy with miles or anything on the bike.

I had to walk a couple long blocks from Grand Central to get to 3rd Avenue, then halfway up one of the short blocks. Presto. Work.

I passed by a doorman, dressed like doormen are supposed to dress, a couple rows of shiny buttons way to close for any kind of efficiency or purpose. The almost olive drab color of the fabric emphasized the shiny brass and gold piping running up and down the front of his jacket.

Out of the corner of my ear I overheard him greet someone entering the building.

"Good morning! How are you Charles? Did you hear about that plane that hit the World Trade Center? No, I don't know, just heard it on the radio. Look, it's a beautiful day, I don't know how anyone could..."

The voices faded.

Plane? Hit the World Trade Center?

I looked up.

Blue skies. Some clouds, yes, but white, happy, bright.

Probably some idiot in a Cessna, I thought to myself, got caught up in currents swirling around the building or something.

I thought briefly of playing the first version of Microsoft Flight Simulator. After you took off it was a bit boring. So I'd try and fly between buildings and things. Of course, inevitably, you hit something. The primitive graphics didn't do much, the plane kind of kissing the side of the building as it fell.

The plane thought kind of faded as I walked.

I got to the deli, busy at this time, just before 9 AM, perfectly timed. I liked saying hi to a particular girl at the counter - she had a nice grin and always seemed cheerful. I felt lucky when she chose me next, of the mass of people waiting at the counter.

"Bacon, egg, and cheese on roll, please. Ketchup, salt, and pepper too."
"Okay!" she grinned.

I thought briefly if I should ask her if she knew about the plane hitting the World Trade Center, but decided against it. Kind of depressing, really, plane hitting a building. Not a grin thing.

I got my sandwich, rang out at the registers, and headed over to the opulent lobby. I wasn't keen on the lobby but the elevators... I like fast elevators. And these were fast to me. No Stratosphere or Eiffel Tower fast, but fast enough.

I stepped out of the elevator. I can't remember if there were other tenants on the floor, I think there were, but we dominated the floor, an office large enough for 160+ people. Beautiful glass walled server room. Huge conference room.

I suppose it was a McMansion version of a nice office. KKR, now they had a nice office. I felt like I was in a movie set the few times I got to visit the KKR office. But our office, other than the first initial rooms, was set up like any other cubicle forest. Big cubicles, yes, with senior level folks planted in offices around the perimeter of each of the two or three main rooms.

But when I got off the elevator, something was wrong. I wasn't sure what, but I could hear voices from behind the double doors leading to the office.

I got that unpleasant feeling, the rush of unwanted adrenaline, the metallic taste in my mouth.

It sounded like people were fighting.

Was our dot-com business in trouble? I mean, I knew things weren't good, but this seemed... excessive.

Braving the uncertainty I felt, I stepped forward, feeling my shoes plant themselves firmly in the carpet out in the hallway.

I opened the door.

I heard chaos.

I heard shrieking. One of the managers was almost hysterical. I turned left and started trotting down the long hallway past the glass server room, past the C-level offices.

Into the largest part of the office, the main room, maybe 50 or 60 cubicles here.

I could only catch peripheral shadows, motion, too much motion for our office. Normally the whole office would be quiet, the most noise being the beeping of the phones or maybe the printer shuffling through some papers.

But this morning it was totally crazy. People were yelling into their phones. Or, rather, when I looked at that one manager who I heard hysterical, yelling at their phones.

Her cell phone wasn't working.

Calls dropped, no signal, too busy, please try again later.

People were running around, no destination, just running. From the windows to the cubicles. From their cubicles to the windows.

Although no papers flew in the air, I actually expected sheafs of print outs to suddenly fly into the air as someone else lost their mind. If this was a movie, they'd have paid a few people to toss junk fax pages into the air, hidden in various cubicles.

But this wasn't a movie, although it felt like I just got sucked into a really unpleasant show.

"What's... What's goin'.. HEY! WHAT'S GOING ON?!", I yelled, at no one in particular.

Someone, I forget who, looked at me.

"A plane just hit the World Trade Center."

And ran off.

I went to my desk. I can't remember who was there. My boss was there, another woman. An Aussie, she was frantic. She had some kind of texting phone, a Blackberry I think, texting her husband.


He worked in the World Trade Center.

I asked her what happened.

"Some airliner hit the World Trade Center. Just now."

"Airliner? Like a jet?"

My mind started to whirl. Umpteen thousand tons of plane? Into the World Trade Center? How could that be?

I remember reading about the B-25 that ran into the Empire State Building. One of its two engines blew through the building, just like a movie, and tumbled out the other side. A lot of people died.

The B-25 was a small bomber (I have a few plastic models of it), infamous for making the first ever bombing run over Tokyo, 30 seconds over Tokyo, 30 seconds that shattered the illusion the people below had believed whole heartedly about destiny and stuff.

A jet plane? Faster than a WW2 bomber? Heck, faster than pretty much all common WW2 fighters.

I thought of the World Trade Center. I'd been there once, only a couple years before, somewhere around New Year's Eve. It wasn't on New Year's Eve because we were both working for a company that was doing Y2K stuff, and it was Y2K.

(Which, when I think of it, makes me sure that it was the end of 1999 when we visited the Towers.)

I went with someone that, perhaps, in a different world, I'd have asked out at some point. We went to a holiday party together, in the city. Well, on a boat, actually, that was docked somewhat permanently in Lower Manhattan. Afterward, the Twin Towers nearby and in our minds but out of sight, she asked if I wanted to go check them out.

We walked across the plaza, a totally urban environment. I remember wide expanses of concrete. Few people wandered about, making me feel like I was walking inside of an architecture student's drawing, a few random couples walking around the student's masterpiece. The distance between us indicated either a rushed sketch or "not a couple".

A cynic may have pointed out that the distance held promise though.

I don't know how we got up there to the top of the Tower. I remember a brightly lit lobby, signing in or something. Then, in a darker area, maybe under the top floor, a keyboard where you could type messages to people, and the message would be displayed somewhere, I think around the rim of the building. Or maybe beamed to the world.

I typed a hello to my friend.

And then we were out on the roof. I walked around. We were alone.

The building was so tall you couldn't see anything around - no city, no lights, no nothing. The darkness hid a lot, the horizon especially. I could see lights in the air, but if I retreated a bit from the edge, the roof became a platform. I got the sensation that the platform was moving a bit, maybe floating.

Floating in space. Or maybe inside something. Yes, inside.

I felt like I was in a giant cave, a giant dark cave.

When I looked over at the sister tower, I felt a bit of vertigo. I couldn't see the building below the roof, so it looked like the roof was just floating there.

Two squares, floating next to one another in the darkness of an immense cave.

I waited for the Millenium Falcon to come soaring across above us, pursued by the Empire's Tie Fighters. I expected Lando Calrissian to step out from one of the doorways, shadows of unknown beings behind him.

Lando, I figure, would fit in if he landed in New York City. Many of the others in those movies, not so much.

We had a fun, platonic time. I knew I'd want to return, experience the floating platforms again.

I knew very little about the Towers. Someone walked on a tightrope between them. The story said that the buildings sway 18". I believed it but over 1100 feet, that's not a lot.

I sat at my desk. I didn't really know what to do. I wasn't close to the World Trade Center - it wasn't within easy walking distance at any rate, and, later, it'd take me a good 15 minutes of hard riding to get 2/3 of the way from the Towers site.

I didn't know many people in the city. The ones I knew were here, in this office, and we were all fine here.

Someone mentioned it was an attack, not an accident.

I got on the computer. Tried to hit all the news sites. Our connection was sloth-slow, everything timing out. I accidentally hit a bookmark for something, I think it was cycling news, and things loaded fast.

So it wasn't our connection. It was the news sites.

And the bike site I hit resided offshore.

I quickly highlighted ".com" after "" and typed ".ca".

The site came up.

World Trade Center hit.

A shriek from someone. A chorus of shrieks.

"A plane just hit! A plane just hit!"

I looked around in confusion.

"It hit like 15 minutes ago!"

I only remember the emotion on the face. It was a cross between a scream and a cry, but silent.

"No, another plane hit the other one."

Things go blank for a bit there.

I remember sitting at one of our very fancy windows, large, overlooking Third Avenue. Across the top of the sky I could see this brown smoke smudged across the sky. It looked fake, too brown, with too many billow things, and no movement. If I was watching a movie I'd have snorted in disgust. Totally lame special effects.

But this is what reality looked like.

Some of the guys started talking about going down there, seeing what they could do.

More shrieks.

Someone said that people were jumping out of windows.

I thought of a horrible fire in South America. I was a kid when I sat through the TV show, horrified and yet unable to turn away. The building went up in flames. People jumped down, trying to land on the fire truck's pathetically short ladders. They'd bounce off the ladder and down out of view of the camera. Firemen went tumbling too.

I read in another disaster article that a bride and groom ran to the edge of where ever they were. Fire consumed everything behind them. There was a relatively large drop, maybe 10 or 15 feet. The groom jumped, landed, turned around. He screamed to jump, but the bride hesitated.

She died.

If I talk about this to someone, I add the following.

"If I ever tell you to jump in a situation like that, you jump. No hesitation."

I had nightmares of that footage for a long time. And I thought about it at inopportune times, like when I go up into a building tall enough to have an elevator.

When I worked on 38th street, before the company got merged into this one, I worked in an older building, 17 floors tall. We had offices up to the 17th floor (we had three floors, I think 14, 15, and 17). I had vivid nightmares regularly of failing elevators, building fires, and other assorted height + disaster things. When I worked on the 10th floor in my last IT job, I studied the exoskeletal design of the building. I decided that, if necessary, I could climb down from the tenth floor ledge and make it to the ground. I would be scarred for life, yes, but I'd have a life to scar.

On that day, though, we were on the third floor. I felt confident I could jump and just break my legs, maybe my hips. I'd aim for the food vendor carts, with their inviting umbrellas. Or tie a bunch of network cables together and see if I couldn't get down partway before something broke.

My boss, somewhere in there, reported to me that her husband (maybe a fiance still?) had decided to go in late. He was in that underwater tunnel from New Jersey, aboard some train/subway, I think it's called the PATH. He was okay as long as the tunnel didn't collapse.


He was texting his office mates up in one of the Towers. They were in the stairwell, waiting. They couldn't go down - too much smoke. They had no where else to go.

Then more shrieks. I think we were listening to a clock radio - no lag when you're grabbing data transmissions out of the air. No IP addresses, no routers, no firewalls, no nothing. Just a pure stream of data. Clean, too - your clock radio wouldn't get a virus from the radio waves.

But our emotions, those weren't invulnerable.

A Tower went down.


The images went up quickly on the Canadian Yahoo site. I saved the ones of the second plane hitting. I didn't know what I'd do with them, although I pored over them several times. I still have them. Just to remind myself it really happened.

Things were quieter after that. It kind of closed that first portion of whatever this would become. When the Towers stood, we had hope. Now that they were gone... People sobbed. My boss's husband was texting his colleagues when suddenly they wouldn't respond.

They couldn't.

My boss told him what happened.

People react to crisis in different ways.

The brash sales guy who wanted to go down there was pretty quiet. I lost track of him. The shrieking manager was gone too I think. She knew a lot of people there.

Another sales guy was already trying to play the angles. He called his wife to see if the trains were running (the radio said they were shut down). He wanted to wait until the trains started going, then he'd get one and get out of the City, but he didn't want to run out to Grand Central to check. Back at his house the TV worked fine so his wife could get updates.

My closest colleague left for his apartment in Brooklyn. He walked across one of the bridges, like thousands of others. A lot of the programmers did the same thing.

Other folks who lived in the City left too, retreating home, to be with the ones they love, or maybe they didn't, but to be at home.

Hours went by. At some point I got brave enough to try and call one of my former housemates Abs. He's a racer and a guy that worked somewhere downtown. Come to think of it, I realized, I think he worked in the World Trade Center.

The calls just went into voicemail.

I wasn't sure what to do. I left one message.

"Yo, Ab, just checking in, seeing how you're doing. Give me a call back when you get this message."

I hoped for a call back. None came.

It left us long-distance commuters a bit stuck. Only one guy lived up my way, and he was the one trying to figure how to get out of here.

I sat at my desk. The streets, even up here, were full of people walking, dazed, shuffling along.

I sat at my desk, chair turned so it faced the large windows overlooking the Avenue.

A first generation Isuzu Amigo (two door SUV, with kind of a targa top - I know because I wanted one) rolled slowly up the avenue, people clearing out of the way, people strangely tolerant of a car driving in the road.

It looked like it was covered in flour. A dingy flour, but flour nonetheless.

Directly in front of my window they stopped. One of the tires had punctured sometime before, and they'd been driving kind of balanced on the other three big tires.

Slowly, laboriously, they started removing the foreign things that make up a car jack.

I turned back to my desk.

After what seemed like only a few minutes, I turned around.

The Isuzu was gone.

The train guy called out. He said the lines were open. We could get a train home.

I gathered my stuff, not much luckily. We walked out into the streets.


The entrance to Grand Central was a zoo. We went in, then, as the crush got stronger, pushed along like everyone else.

We looked at the train board, where they tell you what train goes where. I realized they didn't say anything that meant anything to me.

Policemen, anchored somehow against the tide, yelled over the crowds. I could only hear one close to me when I was about 15 feet away. He kept yelling the same thing, over and over. When I finally understood what he was yelling, I imagined he'd be doing this for the next hour or three.

"Hudson Line, Upper Level. New Haven Line, Lower Level."

The train lines split once outside of the city. One branch follows the Hudson River and heads north. The New Haven line follows the coast line to the east and heads out in a more northeast direction. I take the New Haven line, although a few times I inadvertently boarded the wrong train and found myself heading out on the Hudson Line.

"How do I know what stops it'll make?"
"Lady, every train will stop at every stop"
"Where do we get tickets?"
"All trains are free today. One way. Out."

I relayed this to my colleague. I think I lost him shortly thereafter.

Lower Level, I thought, usually means the diesel trains. But, luckily, this was the normal electric one, a bit more room, a little more substantial in the walls, less naked feeling when walking between cars.

I made it onto a relatively empty train, sat in one of the less comfortable seats, I think normally reserved for a conductor, trying to leave room for others.

People kept boarding. The aisle became not just one person wide, but two wide, sometimes three.

An elder woman looked like she was getting crushed a few feet away. I gestured to her. Others noticed. Unbelievably, as tightly packed as they were, they made room for her. She got into the area of respite where I sat, the walls on two sides and the seat in front making it a "crushproof" zone.

The train started with an unavoidable jerk. People groaned, stoically, but no one yelled at one another. Instead, I heard a wave of apologies and "Don' worry 'bout its".

The driver came on the intercom and apologized. He laid out the rules. He'll try and start easy but it's hard with the overloaded trains. He'll let us know when we're starting off, when we're stopping.

He continued. We stop at every stop. We wait for everyone to get off who needs to get off. We wait for everyone who needs to get back on to get back on. And we keep going. It would be a long day, he promised, but he'd get us home. He promised that too.

I lost track of the stops, but after a few stops the aisles were only two wide.

I looked out the window at each stop. When I realized what I was looking at, I felt tears coming to my eyes.

As the train rolled in, we'd pass EMT after EMT, standing on the platforms, stretchers ready lined up, stethoscopes and face masks around their necks, the sharp contrast of dark pants and white, badged shirts. They looked in the windows expectantly, ready to load the wounded. Ambulances lined the drop off areas, ready to zoom off to the hospitals.

We could only look back helplessly, our tears and faces betraying our emotions.

There were no wounded.


I don't remember much of what happened at home. I felt drained, that's for sure.

A long time later, maybe that night, the phone rang. It was Abs.

"What's up? Where are you?", I cried out frantically.
"I'm at home. Why?"
"I tried to call you a zillion times today, but it just went into voicemail."
"I tried to get to the office but they wouldn't let us through. So I just came back home."
"Oh, man, I was worried you died. Because tonight was, would have been, Floyd Bennett, and you go in early so you can race and if you went in early... Holy crap. I'm glad you're okay."

He told me, much later, that in the morning, when he got there at 9-ish, not knowing the drama unfolding above ground, he tried to get past police blocking the way up to the Towers.

"You can't go up."
"But I need my laptop!"
"You cannot go up there. Turn around and go home."

The cop gave Abs a disbelieving look. At the time Abs had no idea why, but now he understood. But for some reason, at that moment, Abs was fixated on getting his laptop. Instead, he turned around and went home.

Obviously he never got that laptop.


One night, maybe a week later, I read that a local beach was closed. The Marines were using it for a land base for an aircraft carrier stationed in the Long Island Sound.

I told my mom, who was staying with me while dealing with chemo. Offered to drive her out to see it. The Navy was obviously worried more about a terrorist attack than a military one because the ship stayed brightly lit all night long, making for a spectacular view that was impossible to capture on any camera I owned.

If this was real war, the carrier would have been a sitting duck to a slew of anti ship missiles and the like.

But this was not that kind of war. The waters were green with light, like they illuminated the ocean itself, not just the surface. The ship looked like it was in a hot tub with the lights turned on.

We drove out to one beach, the one that makes for a 45 minute ride if I got there and back. We paused a bit to see the carrier. Then we kept going along the shore, past the closed beach, on to the next beach, a small one. I'd brought my mom here to see a Leonid meteor shower maybe a year prior, when she wasn't doing well. Ultimately we could see better in a parking lot just down the street from the house, but I'd come here first. A light over a beach house ruined it for meteors, but for carriers it was fine.

I parked the car. My mom looked out at the carrier.

It represented an incredible amount of destructive power. Jets flew over regularly, reminding me of the fighters I'd see flying over in Holland. I imagined the US Navy pilots looking at the confusing scope, hundreds and hundreds of vehicles milling about on the ground, many parked to watch the plane's mothership, all potential enemies. The mothership sat vulnerable to attack, sitting still in a narrow channel of water.

When my mom was a girl, the same military force tried to bomb her country into submission. Now, this was her home. And the military planes overhead represented protection.

I don't know if that's what she thought of. Or of something she'd rather not talk about, like pain. Of mortality. Fear.

We stared out at the water for some time.

I turned to my mom.

"Should we go home?"

She nodded.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Equipment - Crit Bend bars

A long time ago I waxed poetically about crit bend bars. What's interesting is that no one makes them right now - the only way to get one is to buy an old stock bar. I built up my reserves with a number of crit bend bars, anxious that I'd wreck the couple I had and be stuck without likeable bars for the rest of my riding career.

So, about a minute ago, when I saw this on the Road Bike Action site (which I linked to from the Doug Report Daily Cycling News)...

Some 50th anniversay bar or something.
Who cares, though, because it's a crit bend bar! Fo' real!

I sat stunned in shock.

Can it be possible? Crit bend bars from 3ttt?

I'm not at Eurobike, but I will be at Interbike.

Stay tuned, sports fans...

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Story - Laurent Fignon

Let me start off by making it clear, right from the start. I'd never met Laurent Fignon. I'd seen him once in real. However, he made a significant impact on my formative years as a bike racer. I ached to be able to pedal like him, churning big gears up the mountains. He had a way of enveloping the bike, something unlike the others of his era. And, when driven, he fought until he couldn't fight anymore.

The Picture

One of my first "impressions" in bike racing, other than all of the Eddy Merckx pictures I'd seen, was a picture of a rider sitting on the pavement. His bike sat nearby, and his coach stood there. I can't find the picture online and I can't it any of my bike books, but it's there somewhere.

It was a young rider, a relatively new pro, and he'd been leading a big race (Liege Bastogne Liege?), solo, by a good sized margin, 4 or 5 minutes if memory serves me.

That's when his titanium Super Record bottom bracket axle broke.

(Note: this is before they figured out how to do things like alloy titanium with aluminum and vanadium, so it was apparently much weaker and more prone to repetitive stress failure.)

Thrown to the ground, a crankarm still attached to his shoe (toe straps didn't let go until you told them to let go), he sat on the ground, stunned, dazed.

His director wanted him to keep going - this was back in the days when you always got back on the bike and continued.

But not that day. Although not hurt seriously (as far as I can remember), he nonetheless abandoned the race.

His director, Cyrille Guimard, forever afterwards, played it safe with equipment. Nothing untested. Nothing too light.

To finish first you must first finish.

Guimard took that to heart. His teams were never known for their cutting edge equipment, except in aerodynamics and fit. Long cranks? The 55 cm frame riding Marc Madiot won a stage of the Tour on 180mm cranks. The first wind tunnel tested time trial bike? Gitane's bike, a direct result of Guimard's belief in the significance of aerodynamics. And who could forget Greg Lemond, who changed his position radically when he joined Guimard's Renault-Elf team.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I forgot about the rider on the ground, a crankarm dangling off of one of his shoes.

He was a blond kid, with glasses. Riders called him "Professor" because of the glasses, and because he actually started college. To the blue collar stock that bore most bike racers, such erudition was unheard of.

His name?

Laurent Fignon.

July 24th

It was a Sunday, a beautiful day outside. I don't remember exactly where we were during the day, but we rushed back to the house. My girlfriend's dad was there, her mom, and I think her two brothers. We rushed into the living room and took our customary spots.

The dad sat by the TV, with various antennae adjusting gizmos at hand. If you could think of the epitome of someone that shouldn't like bike racing, he'd be it. He wasn't slim, he smoked, drank, watched stadium sports, and loved to bargain with car dealers.

To be honest he reminded me a bit of Dave Stoller's dad in Breaking Away.

But on that Sunday he carefully tuned in to the channel showing the Tour, the various adjusting gizmos making clicking and clacking noises. The picture faded in and out a bit, but with the broadcasting antennae just one town away, we had a decent picture.

We had to.

It was the last day of the Tour.

And, unusually, this edition ended with a short individual time trial.

Yes, it was 1989.

We'd somehow gotten wind of the tight race between Greg Lemond and Laurent Fignon, both well known to the US cycling world after their battles were publicized on CBS, narrated by a young Phil Liggett, and with background music supplied by fellow commentator with the football player-like physique, John Tesh.

The last stage of the Tour would be all that, and more.

The year where we in the US first got to see a lot of cycling on TV.

Anxious, we all peered at the screen, anxious.

Then, finally, the Tour program started. Delayed and edited, it played sometime in the afternoon or evening.

The coverage started. Lemond, 50 seconds behind the overall leader and yellow jersey wearer, Laurent Fignon. The latter had animated the race, attacking everywhere, taking incredible risks.

The program covered all that. Fignon looked in an absolute superior position.

But the network hadn't covered everything. Unknown to us, the top four guys on GC had broken away one late stage, with one rider's teammate for company (he may have been 5th overall but I don't remember). The break stayed away to the finish - who would want to chase the leaders of the Tour?

They kind of piled up at a roundabout coming into the finish town, embarrassing really, but they continued on. At the finish, Lemond demolished the others in the sprint, including Fignon in the yellow.

So, coming into the time trial, Lemond's morale had been climbing. He'd hit a career low in the Giro, prior to the Tour, his first return to a Grand Tour since his hunting accident a couple years prior. He almost quit the sport in that Giro, but persevered, eventually placing second in the last time trial.

Now, in second place overall, he dared to hope.

Fignon, it seems, wasn't as confident. He was seen testing some homemade aerobars before the start of the final stage (which he didn't use). He had a saddle sore. And he'd already been beaten by Lemond in the two flat time trials before.

And this is what we saw that day:

The famous final TT.

As Lemond approached the finish, my girlfriend's dad was screaming at the TV, just like he did with his beloved Giants. Everyone in the room was going crazy, us young'uns jumping up and down, not knowing what to do, the excitement, the anxiety, just going nuts because it seemed so possible.

And then, with Fignon approaching the final, slightly narrower finish of the course, Phil's voice went up that extra note.

Lemond had won the Tour.

Fignon had lost it.

And he'd never return to that level, ever again.

A Month Later

At the time I was managing a bike shop. I didn't know the area well, and I tried to fix that by riding around after work. Of course, with late hours, my riding ended up in the dark. I'd choose streets with streetlights, learn the hard way that certain roads had none, and eventually I started getting a feel for the area.

I also wanted to "promote the sport" by making people aware that they could do such things. In the era of crack cocaine, car jacking, and somewhat regular shootings, I figured the bike would be a good way to break down cultural barriers.

Bikes were different enough that they were kind of "odd". A car with tinted windows and bullet holes in the sides represented one thing. Slouching, foot dragging pedestrians another.

But a cyclist? In lycra?

Perhaps naively I felt safe in my different-ness.

I wanted to win the hearts and souls (so to speak) of the people out there.

So I rode.

And I usually rode laps around the more lit up parts of the city because, frankly, I'd have gotten killed elsewhere.

Lights meant two things to me. If it was a busy road, street lights meant traffic. If on a quiet road, street lights meant drug dealing. Or, rather, former drug dealing, because the street lights kind of discouraged it.

Traffic was fine. Lots of people around, less chance of a shooting. Especially a cyclist shooting.

And former drug dealing roads were fine too. Lit up, patrolled often, dealers rarely provoked trouble on their turf - they wanted things to be as quiet as possible so that cops wouldn't need to show up. Drugs were a business, and police would reduce the numbers for the night.

Of course there were the regular kids too. To me they were the most unpredictable. No fear of cops ("Just run!"), no fear of lights ("who cares? We can see what we're doing"), no fear of dark ("It's what makes it fun!").

One night I was doing laps around a mall and a deserted lot (it was deserted for 20 years or something, a whole block of nothingness) next to a high rise apartment building. This was my crit training, so, appropriately, I was riding pretty hard. Up ahead I saw a bunch of kids were milling around outside an apartment building, spilling out onto the street.

Spotting me, a few jumped out into the street, kind of (but not really) blocking my way.

See, I wasn't easy to read. Lycra. On a guy. At night. On a bike. What's up with him anyway?

I studiously rode by them, fast, a brief raise of the fingers to say high, my acknowledgment to them.

The next lap, more kids jumped in the street.

But they gave me more space. It was more of a dare, all of them grinning, seeing what I would do.

I rode through them again. Fast.

After a few laps, they were waiting, politely, on the sidewalk, watching me ride by.

And cheering in their own, "too cool to cheer" way.

"I could go that fast if I wanted to."
"No way. That guy would whoop you."

I felt a bit of triumph inside me.

Another night, doing laps in the same area, I heard someone yell out of one of the way-up-high windows of said apartment building. It took me a second to register what they were saying.

"Tour de France! Laurent Fignon! Tour de France! Laurent Fignon!"

I looked up in shock. Laurent Fignon?! What about Greg Lemond, who just won the closest Tour in history??

Grinning to myself, I kept riding. Obviously the guy must know about cycling. My "win their hearts and souls" had to be working.

Tour du Pont

Some years later much of the team made a trip to Hershey, PA. We brought our bikes, planning on riding at the track in Trexlertown. But first we made a stop in Hershey.

Checking out chocolates?


How about the Hershey amusement park?


Actually, I'd been to the amusement park once before. As a 14 year old. On a bike tour. Where I had the most fun trying to beat the ride leader up the hills. See, one adult had to stay in front of all the kids - that was the rule, for safety and all that. You couldn't have a 14 year old kid pedaling away on his own.

And I respected that. Really.

I just made them work for it.

I'd race the strongest ride leader up all the hills, desperately trying to beat him.

I don't ever remember beating him, always losing, but a few times I managed to get the jump on him.

And when I got home and ditched the heavy panniers, the first sprint I did almost launched me off the back of the bike - it was so light (relatively speaking) it almost leapt out from under me.

So, now, about a decade later, I was returning to this fun place. Mike H, the team captain, had planned out the trip - I was just along for the ride. We wanted to check out this new Gatorade team, a team brimming with potential. Gianni Bugno, World Champion. Dirk De Wolf, almost World Champion. And Laurent Fignon, of course.

I snapped a few shots. I got Bugno rounding a turn, with Fignon hidden behind him.

Then we headed to the finish, in Hershey. A certain Rolf Aldag won a spectacular field sprint. We found the team bikes later, a different story altogether, and snapped pictures of them. The others walked away after a while, but I stood, entranced, watching the mechanic work on the celeste green Bianchi bikes.

Fignon seemed a bit more mellow. Quiet, fine. Not quite on form, sure.

But frisky?


He'd chase down minor US National Team riders. We watched the video, amused, as the hapless rider launched a furious attack on the field.

Imagine you're an amateur racer, at the bottom of the pro-am totem pole. You're in a race, a big one. You think, well, what the heck, I might as well get some TV time. You launch an attack. You feel good, you're flying along, sprinting, out of the saddle. Looking down, you see a wheel just behind. Maybe it's another lowly domestique. Maybe another amateur. Maybe you'll be allowed some room by a lenient pack. Maybe, just maybe, you'll gain more than a few seconds lead.

To identify the rider, you turn around.

It's Laurent Fignon. Two time Tour winner, glares at you, his front wheel only a couple inches away from your bike.

What do you do? He's one of the classiest racers in the field. He's won 3 week races. You've entered 1 week ones. He won the Giro. You wear a Giro. He races for Gatorade. You still buy it. He gets paid more a year than you'll make in ten or twenty as a pro.

You do what's sensible.

You sit up.

Fignon didn't do much in the Tour du Pont, like his teammates Bugno and DeWolf, but they obviously came for training, not for winning. It was all good though - it showed us Cat 3s that it's okay to race for the sake of racing.

Paris Nice

Eventually, like all great racers, Fignon retired. And, fulfilling a quasi joke thrown around by me, as a promoter, he became, of all things, a race promoter, taking possession of Paris-Nice.

(My self deprecating joke goes as follow: "What does a racer do when they get slower? They become officials or promoters.")

I'm sorry to say this but nothing spectacular happened after this change. The race is the typical spring stage race, nicknamed "Race to the Sun". The race normally starts in the cold north and warms up as the route heads to the Mediterranean.

He wasn't along in that choice, that of getting involved in working with race promotion. His arch-rival and apparently a friend off the bike, Bernard Hinault, also stepped into the Tour's race organization shoes.

Many years later, Fignon had to give up his promotion dreams when his race ran into financial difficulties. The Tour organizers bought the race.

When Hinault and Fignon met after Fignon announced he had cancer, Hinault could not hide his emotions.

One never saw Hinault like that, at least not when he raced.

After years of rivalry, for those two to be standing together like that...

Rest in peace, Laurent.