I was a little SAD today. As in Seasonal Affect Disorder. I was ready to get out in the cold, overcast day, even if it meant bundling up and driving over to 446 to find more road than snow and ice. I had earlier texted a couple of teammates who had some interest, but some poorly timed family plans derailed the notion of a small group. I was on my own. Once we arrived back home I went directly to the basement, pulled gently by the cycling videos in the bookcase. A well worn edition of a Sunday in Hell selected me. Most of you have seen this, and probably many times.
It’s the 1976 version of Paris-Roubaix. Spoiler alert- Demeyer (Flandria) wins after getting in a break with De Vlaeminck (Brooklyn), Moser (Sansone) and world champion Kuiper. I had read somewhere that Demeyer would be dead a few years later at the age of 31 from a heart attack. I thought of all of the things I had done in the 22 years since I was 31 and was grateful to be putting on the cleats one more time. His win was beautiful. The domestique of Martens, his release coming when Martens crashed. The escape after isolating Merckx, the setup in the velodrome and the commitment in the sprint. I pulled out the rollers, set up a towel underneath and got ready to ride an hour and a half, about 1/5 of the time these pros would ride that day, and on a considerably smoother surface. I felt almost pampered, embarrassed to be setting up inside to watch these giants go to work on this epic course. When the video was made I was 16, I wouldn’t start training on the bike until two years later as a freshman at UCONN, entering local TTs with a small club in a nearby town, riding with a group for the first time, my fear of getting left behind motivating me to hang on, hanging out at the local bicycle shop, getting a job there, getting my first racing bike. A familiar story.
As I rode, I wasn’t thinking about the contracts of current top pro cyclists or doping allegations. I was struck by the workmanlike demeanor of the cyclists despite the harshness of it all. I wasn’t mired in our own little dramas here in Bloomington. Riders switching teams, others moving away, some electing not to race. It’s a constant balancing act to develop a program that has a future but also is focused on the present. And that’s where we live. There are dozens of boxes to check off as the team takes flight for the season; rosters, kits, budgets, sponsors, schedules. None of this really matters though, once the season starts. What matters is what you do when you get to the line. Are you ready to commit to your cycling program and to the future of the sport? It may seem like you’re just one person. But what you decide to do today with your ride, with your commitment will change the path that we take.
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