Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Race is On!


Imagine you were in a high powered bicycle race, with 136 other guys, world class riders, and at the end of the race you were only 2 minutes and two seconds back from the winner! You’d be jacked right? Stoked? High on endorphins? Now, imagine that all of the 135 other riders finished ahead of you. Yes that’s right, over the course of 3.9 K (thats less than 2 and a half measely miles!) you were able to come in dead last out of a field of 136 riders. Welcome to the Amgen Tour of California Thomas Peterson.

Peterson is a local boy, from North Bend Washington, so it’s easy to say “what can you expect”. It’s typical to think that ‘we’ are not really up to the standards of world class. ‘Local boy makes good’, is right up there with ‘age adjusted’ (don’t get me started on that!) when it comes to damning by faint praise. You know; ‘pretty good for being from around here’.

But if you look through his palmares, there is reason to believe that he won’t finish in 136th pace in 7 days time. Not generally known for his time trialing skills, Peterson shines as a climber. This makes sense to me; if your from a little burg at the foot of Snoqualmie pass and you grew up riding a bicycle, it stands to reason that if you didn’t learn to love the mountains you might have taken up air hockey as your passion. I’m excited to see the racing season start and I’ll be following Peterson as he climbs through the mountains of California, and hopefully through the standings as well.

There is a story of another rider in this race that you just gotta love: Peterson’s teammate, Svein Tuft another semi-local rider (Langley BC) who placed in the top 10 (one place ahead of a certain ‘comeback’ rider who’s causing a lot of buzz!) There are lots of stories on the web about this guy but one of my favorites is this from the New York Times. Read this and, if you are following this race I suspect your eyes will be pulled from the daily drivel that will be a dramatic non-story of older riders making a comeback either from a tarnished suspension for drug abuse or just from taking time off, to what I think are the real stories.

I realize that glitz has a lot to do with making the news. Local boys are only local in one small area, and if it is not a borough of New York City, or a Paris arrondissement, then it’s probably not going to bump the glitz boys off the front page. Showing my cards, let me say that nothing would please me more than to have a half dozen ‘unknown’ riders take the lead and animate the race for all the remaining stages. I’m sure the big name riders would still get their ink, but it would have to be as a footnote to the front page story of the ascending new (and hopefully clean) talent.

I realize I’m setting myself up for a fizzle. Surely if Landis, Basso, Armstrong, and Hamilton are in a 4 up sprint for the stage and race win in Escondido on February 22nd then all the feel good stories in the world about riders the likes of Peterson and Tuft are just so much Mary Poppins clap trap.

I’ve posted this for a couple reasons. First, though it is a far corner of sport, right up there with bull riding and bass fishing, professional bicycle racing is something I personally find exciting. I’ll never know what it is like to bump shoulders with Robbie McEwen and Eric Zabel on the Champs Elysees, but I’ve spent enough time on my bike to at least appreciate what it takes for them to be at the top of their game, especially after riding all the way around France.

These days bike racing has fallen far from it’s place as a symbol of pure sport. It’s down in the gutter with cage fighting, power lifting, pro football, and iron curtain era sports in terms of its relationship with performance enhancing drugs. I just want to throw a little light on some everyman accomplishments of hard working local boys who are making good on their own talents and a ton of 'perfomance enhancing work'.

If you check out the home pages of the teams in the race, there is usually a list of riders and their bios. Take a look, you might be surprised to find a rider listed who’s from just down the street, or the next town over. Your local boy may be on the verge of making it big time!

1 comment:

  1. I agree, Paul. It's getting easier every year to dismiss the ProTour, but the ATOC is an exciting race. So glad to hear your neighbor's out there doing his part. May just set that trainer up in front of the TV and pedal in the peloton myself. It's as close as this guy's going to get to that podium.