I got my occasional screed out last week. I want to be much more positive this week. I love riding. I love getting out. I enjoy watching this month’s Grande Boucle. It’s fun to watch the superheroes push the limits of human performance, but it is much better, for me, to do it myself.
Bicycling has given my freedom to ponder, think and reflect. Many spiritual traditions include a sort of moving or walking meditation. I find I can meditate on my bike. I can sort out whatever has been gnawing at me throughout the day. When I’m alone on a long stretch of road, or grinding up an endless climb, my mind is able to clear a bit. I first discovered this years ago. It took a while to sink in, but it has been a valuable tool.
When I lived in Denver, I found that riding gave me freedom from anger. When I commuted by car, I spent a lot of time yelling at fellow drivers. I found myself angry at stoplights, heavy traffic and time in general. On my bike, I was much more relaxed. I didn’t get angry at traffic lights. I enjoyed the view and took the time to look around. I arrived at school or work with a smile.
When I first got a bike, I would race the school bus home. Most of the time, I won. I had a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was beginning to reshape myself. I was gaining freedom from the fat kid that I was. At the time, all I knew was it was fun to go fast.
I developed some bad habits as a teen. I got a big car and sold the bike. This was by no means the worst of it. In fact, the bad habits of early adulthood led me back to a bike.
In my early 20s, I could not afford either a car or insurance. I could put a mountain bike on layaway. It was a big, heavy, rigid, steel Schwinn. I didn’t have to depend on bus schedules. I would get rained on occasionally, but it was worth the trade. It was the beginning of where I am today.
When I moved to Colorado, the first thing I did was break out my bike and rode Lookout Mountain outside of Golden. I found maps of all of the paved trails all over Denver. I could explore my new city relatively inexpensively. I also discovered real trail riding. I found the Chimney Gulch, Mount Falcon, the Apex Trail, and many more. I raced cross country and downhill for a couple of seasons. As a result, I discovered more towns.
I found Moab, Utah. Anyone with a bike had heard of Moab at that point, but I was finally able to visit. I also found, quite by accident, Fruita, Colo., now considered a mountain biking Mecca, itself. Eventually, I rediscovered Estes Park.
There are so many different ways to ride. I found a couple more after moving here. I competed in a cyclocross race. I had been using the ‘cross bike as a commuter, but felt I should race it at least once.
I started participating in triathlons. It was very fast and I seemed to have at least a little aptitude. It was fast and fun. I also began riding organized road rides. I found riding long distances with friends added another aspect of pleasure to riding. Sharing stories, goofing off, admiring the scenery, testing each other is all fun. During Ride the Rockies, I met a whole bunch of brand new friends. What better reason to get out?
Now I have seen the bike turn into a political symbol, both positive and negative, sometimes ridiculously so, and possibly for the same reasons. I don’t ride as a political statement. I ride because it’s fun. I ride because I found freedom on my bike. I can see that being political. I don’t burn $3.30 per gallon gas. I take no oil, other than that of the olive, or for my chain. I don’t put out too much pollution in the air, depending on what I ate before heading out. I could see that as a sort of political stand. If it were all about the politics, however, I wouldn’t do it. It has to be enjoyable.
This is why I will be out again this week. If you saw me Wednesday, I was probably in my Stars and Stripes jersey, smiling big as our great country. I was enjoying the freedom of my bike, freedom on two wheels.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding.
One grand tour and one smaller tour are underway. It’s nearly crunch time for training, and for fund raising. By the time most folks read this, I’ll be out on my bike.
The weather has been nice, and while I’ve talked about it plenty, I try not to complain too much about my collar bone. I was surprised to discover just how far this column goes and how many people have heard about my injury.
I was hiking up to Gem Lake about 10 days ago and met a gentleman from Denver. He noticed my camera gear and sling and correctly guessed who I am. On Tuesday night, I was doing a shoot for Children’s Hospital, all the way down on their new Fitzsimmons campus. It was an event with big donors, department chairs and hospital and foundation executives. A donor, again after spotting the cameras and sling, asked if this was my column. It’s nice to know this is read all over.
So, I mentioned Children’s Hospital and donors. I got to see the new hospital up close. I got to see a few of the many children this facility helps every day. I’ve also managed to meet some of our locals over the last few years, who have benefited from this great hospital. It’s nice to be a part, even a small one, of helping this hospital. You can be a part, as well.
I am still trying to put together my team for the annual Courage Classic bike tour. The important part is the fund raising. Riders raise money for the hospital, providing funds for them to purchase equipment, recruit top-notch talent and finish this state-of-the-art facility down in Aurora. All of this for the benefit of Colorado’s children.
There are two ways to help out. You can join me. Go to couragetours.com/2012/team/estes and sign up. Do to schedules, we are low on riders. We would welcome new team members. If you can’t or don’t wish to ride, you can always donate. Go to the same web address, pick a rider, and donate. It’s actually pretty easy.
If you don’t already know, the ride, itself, is three days around Leadville, Vail and Summit County. The riders are friendly and pleasant. The scenery is breathtaking and the support is the best of any ride I have ever done. The support consists of volunteers mostly from Children’s Hospital, so they’re cheerful people, anyway. The organizers also promote a contest among the aid stations, so they are competitively happy and enthusiastic. The real heart-warming icing on the cake is Team Courage. This is a team of kids and their parents who have been treated at Children’s Hospital. The festivities on Saturday night include introduction of the team, to cheers and hugs. On Monday, the last day of the event, the whole team masses and then crosses the finish line together.
Riders of the event get medals at the end, but the real reward is knowing you’ve helped this wonderful hospital. This will be my fifth year, and I hope to do it for many years to come. I would love to have some new friends to join me.
In the professional world, 22-year-old Slovac Peter Sagan of the Liquigas-Cannondale squad has absolutely dominated this year’s Amgen Tour of California. The young sprinter has won the first four stages, and has worn three of the for competition jerseys; best young rider, sprinters points and the yellow jersey of the overall leader. He may have trouble on Thursday with the Bakersfield time trial, however. All of the top GC contenders, including defending champ Chris Horner, are withing 30 seconds of the lead.
Friday will also be a challenge for most sprinters as the stage starts in Palmdale, north of Los Angeles, and heads west for a big climb and a finish at Big Bear Lake. The problem, for the rest of the field, is that Sagan won the climb to Big Bear last year. If Sagan can hang tough in the time trial, look for him to win the race and take home his first tour overall win.
Over in Italy, irony took headlines at the Giro d’Italia on Wednesday. Roberto Ferrari won the bunch sprint after yet another crash in the final kilometer of the stage. Before Wednesday, Ferrari was best known as the erratic sprinter who crashed world champ Mark Cavendish and GC leader Taylor Phinney in the last 100 meters of the first road stage of the race, a week ago Sunday. Phinney has not ridden very well since and Cavendish has looked tired, though he did pick up a sprint victory last week.
Joaquin Rodriguez of the Katusha team leads the overall. Canadian Ryder Hesjedal of the Garmin-Barracuda squad is 17 seconds back. Several overall contenders are within one minute of the lead and the race has not yet hit the high mountains. The year’s Giro is completely up for grabs with eight stages left. This should be fun.
Have fun, be safe. I’m going riding. Really.