Category: Racing

Winning the Tour de France

I never get tired of watching the crux stages of the 1989 Tour. The L’Alpe d’Huez climb where LeMond falters while wearing Yellow, the final day in the Alps when Fignon extends his lead. And then the time trial final stage. LeMond in his goofy to our eyes Oakley sunglasses and swaying on Scott aero bars, Fignon low in the drops orienting beams of intensity through prism spectacles. Eiffel Tower, Champs Elysées bricks, roaring crowds. Edge of my seat, lean forward, stand while LeMond himself crumples to the ground in elation. Yes! He makes up nearly a minute over 25k, beats Fignon and wins the Tour by eight seconds.

Us fans of pro bike racing—I’ve been and am—we celebrate the history, the landscapes, the spectacle, the drama of the competitions, strategy, and micro tactics within the race. We celebrate the teams of a team sport. We celebrate the riders. I’d be deflated to learn that LeMond cheated to achieve his ’89 victory. The disappointment would be over the fact that it was something other than what I thought it was, so what I think it is must be meaningful and important. The truth of it is essential to its power to inspire and elevate, and for the simple pleasure it gives to spectate. We look for sport to be true. Or, more accurately, we look for sport truly to match what we believe about it such that, under that description that we hold inside, we feel the surge of celebration, identification, admiration, and motivation.

Cycling Letters

[This is a letter from Nathan Dahlberg, former professional road racer with 7-11, Motorola, and Spago, among others, and veteran of two Tours de France. Nathan still races bicycles, but is also a keen adventure cyclist. We’ve traveled together in Pakistan, China, and in his native New Zealand. Posted with permission.]

Dear All,

Yes, had a great time in Belgium and Holland over a period of 3 1/2 weeks, the highlights being, of course, meeting my old friends and also a certain amount of nostalgia over being back in familiar places (even watching a Pro Kermess in Sinaii bought back some good memories). Training from Mens house in Munster Geleen deep into the Ardennes alone and with Chris Macic reminded me of what a great (and very underrated) area that is to ride a bike, particularly around Stavelot, always hard even to return for home after training down there. I also got the great chance to race 11 more times in just under 3 weeks, and though cycling has slipped into being a relatively minor sport in the last 28 years since I first went to Europe (although the TDF thrives as always) there are still enough races and enough good riders to make it a 3 week period well worth the effort.

Racing hasn’t changed, it’s still very individualist and pure as sport goes although the roads are far different. Long gone are the cobbled lanes and even rough roads, now it’s all fast asphalt and racing is more a high speed dash like track racing than some of the grinds of years gone. The basics are the same (including the prize money or lack)…

Firecracker 50 Race Report

(Photos courtesy MCoady)

The legendary start of the July 4th Firecracker 50 in Breckenridge, Colorado doesn’t disappoint: We’re staged, there’s the national anthem, then a neutral start has us parading down Main Street packed with revelers five or six deep hollering and waving the stars and stripes. The sense of the community coming together in light of recent and present fires around the state gives the event a charged, cathartic feel. I stay left for high fives with the gangly shining kids sticking their hands out and to make sure that I get to say hello to little A&G, their own home so close to blazes. Margaret yells out my name and I grin and laugh, not at that moment thinking about two 25 mile vindictive laps at 10,000 feet.

Thirty five single speeders out of 750, we get a shout out from the emcee for lunacy and grit, “these are the guys I’d want with me in a bar fight,” um, uh huh. Mostly it’s one of those ideas that one poses to oneself to vigorous nods and fuckyeah while sitting in underpants clicking registration buttons on the internet months before when, you know, braggadocio costs nothing.

Mountain Bike Training NYC

Suit up in the usual way — mountain helmet, gloves, shades, baggies, H2O pack — out the door, but it is a bit different to start with elevator pleasantries with the guy with the two dachshunds, each floor dinging otherwise quiet but for the muzak playing in my head. Pedaling into bright sunshine and brighter car horns, business suited pedestrians, delivery cyclists with front baskets, traffic cop white gloves whistles, drafting buses until they pull over, I surf the wake into the more frenetic middle lane fray. Heading uptown comic zippy BMX under geared single speed cadence, 25 minutes to Grand Central Station. Walk the bike into the main concourse, no one pays any special attention except mid 20’s with sideburns and headphones, raised eyebrows to gear inspection to approving nods. Cleat clack down platform 34 to board the Metro North, bike wedged into a space not meant for it but I have a $5 per year card that says that I can at this off-peak hour. I sit and don’t bother to take my helmet off, just another freaky hat, an hour meditation to Cortlandt.

White Mountains 100 Race Report

Tremble frigid, but thinking it in unfluid blocks stumbles far short of the cutting, the blades in your lungs, the warning away pain and strain in moving such that a warm pocket in your clothes might bellows inhale the cold. Exit the car when there is enough activity to confirm ten minutes to go, the way it always is before a race, even one that you didn’t conceptualize as it but instead as something perpendicular with a built in urgency…