On this rainy day, I have found myself rapt to the on-line coverage of the Amgen Tour of California. This professional bike race approaches the length and challenge of the Tour de France, and seems to be earning a similar prestige. Bike racing is one of those esoteric sports that is as much mental as it is physical. But today the physical is not only highlighted but challenged to the extreme. The riders started in Seaside (near Monterey) and raced down coast Highway 1 to San Luis Obispo 135 miles away. They started at 10:00 AM, and it is now 4:30 PM, and the race is in its last 20 miles. The biggest factor was the weather, with rain and wind in their faces the whole trip. Many of the 120 starters have retired from the race, one even being taken to the hospital with hypothermia.
The technical folks behind the coverage have offered up something wonderful. Almost too good. In the past, I had watched European racing in edited and condensed form. Between two moto-cams and one helicopter-cam, I have been able to follow this thing from start to finish. (link)
Fifteen years and fifty pounds ago, I tried racing bicycles for a few years. It was a frustrating experience. I loved to ride, loved the camaraderie, but never could get my legs turning quite fast enough. Being a bigger guy, I had some value as a "draft horse", the guy that all the smaller riders could get behind, breaking the wind for them. Plus, in exchange for speed, my endurance was very good indeed. As long as things were flat, long, straight and possibly into the wind, I was of value to the racing team. While I was the last up the hill, I was a pretty gutsy descender, and could catch on, or pull other stragglers with me. One year, the team awarded me "Best Draft" and was given a six-pack of Miller Genuine Draft!
Some day I might expound more on the racing thing, but suffice to say, I burned out, couldn't touch a bike for years. A couple of years ago, I bought a pair of used mountain bikes for Rachel and me, and we have enjoyed them, taking to the road or trail with no desire to train or race.