Cavendish Gives Me Wings
I pre-wrote most of Cav’s win this morning.
As an athlete writing about athletes, that felt a little creepy. It’s well-known that I have some superstitious tendencies (Red Sox fan, anyone?) so I wondered if I might be writing the English Rocket straight out of the stage victory.
Of course, I didn’t. Team Columbia-HTC rode to perfection, giving him a textbook leadout. Cavendish sealed the deal.
It was pretty impressive.
I looked at Sal and said, “I’m glad he did that. Now I don’t have to rewrite this.”
As it was, I filled in the pertinent facts and details and was done with my morning assignment well ahead of schedule.
Whatever you think about Cavendish, watching sprinters of his calibur is nothing short of mind-blowing. Farrar couldn’t even begin to come around. Cav just rode away in that low, low, low position that let’s him cut through the air with so much explosive grace.
When I finished filing my stories, I put on a shiny blue Upper Echelon Fitness kit and loaded up two water bottles with ice cubes and electrolytes and calories. Then I rolled out into sun that was not as hot as I expected. Everything was quiet and calm – roads littered with shrapnel and firework debris. I hit highway 30 with a tailwind and soft-pedaled 23 miles an hour all the way to Saltzman.
I haven’t had a good day on the bike in two months. I’ve been battling just to log 6 hours a week. Every time I climb on feels like the first – painful, clumsy, slow, depressing. Two weeks ago I put myself on “the confidence plan”. I stopped riding (as I always, always do) with people who put me in my grave when the road turns uphill. I started going back to what makes me happy: cross rides, westside ambles, mountain biking, Tina Brubaker.
Not exactly training, unless you count the immeasurable value of setting things straight in my little pea brain.
But today I felt the snap. The fresh GO. The pow pow. The legs wanted to stomp for the first time in so long.
I almost cried.
Instead, I took the Veloforma up Saltzman – past the dog walkers and mountain bike people. I drilled it and the sweat came off my nose in a stream. I gasped “hello” and “good afternoon” to everyone I passed. I must have looked like I was dying, but it was quite the opposite.
I replayed images from the Tour in my head and channeled the hard-charging high cadence of Hincapie on the front of the peloton, delivering the Cav to his destiny. I shouldn’t worship those boys like that, because they’re giants in a make believe world, but there’s something about the Tour that gets inside me.
At the top I flew out on Skyline to a date with Rock Creek. Just a week prior, Einar Traa had tried to kill me going up this climb. Einar Traa – sixty-something year old Einar Traa!
I was pulling away from the group on Old Cornelius when I noticed a PV jersey to my left. I’d expected Javad to come to the front, but recalled that he was sporting a vintage 7-11 jersey. When I looked to my left I was surprised to see the sexagenarian smiling over at me, happy as a clam, poised to drop me like a rock.
We chatted up the gradual incline at the beginning of Rock Creek and then grew silent as the grade increased. He’d half-wheel me and I’d accelerate, then I’d half wheel him and he’d respond. It wasn’t direct combat, but neither one of us had intentions of falling off the pace. When he inched ahead of me I observed his fanny pack, rack, fenders and large cargo container with a smiling shake of the head.
“What does he have in there?” I thought. I found out later: tires (actual tires!), extra jackets, godknowswhat.
At least I was in good hands.
Today on Rock Creek I climb alone, marking my time from the bottom of the steepest section so I can come back and best it later. I think of Einar putting the screws to me and smile into the warm breeze.
Hillside, pygmy goats, chickens, broken down cars. Banjos? No, no banjos.
Faded ragdoll strapped to fencepost without reason? Yes.
Someday I have to find out what that faded ragdoll is all about.
In the meantime I make my way to Skyline and climb my way to Germantown, which is a syrupy descent. Smoother every time I do it. Cool and green. I take the lane on St Johns to avoid the pedestrians on the narrow walkway. I am a little tiny bike on a big, huge bridge. I am head down and 25mph with cars passing at 50 in the left lane.
Back in my neighborhood there is cold-press Stumptown coffee and a one-handed one-mile ride to my front porch. A shower, a dinner, a slow evening.
The riders of the Tour de France are sleeping right now in hotel beds, dreaming of impossible glory.
In the morning they’ll appear in my TV and I will write something about their heroics.
Then I’ll ride again. Inspired.
Screw Red bull. Cavendish gives me wings.