Dear Christian Prudhomme and the rest of the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO),
I know you must all be very busy as you make final preparations for the 2008 Tour de France (TdF), so I’ll try not to take much of your time.
I can see, Mr. Prudhomme, that you have been working overtime to bring us a Tour unlike anything we have ever seen before. A Tour that defines the premier road racing event on its own terms. A Tour that takes charge of the racers, rather than letting the racers take charge of the race. A Tour that clamps down on excess and eliminates rash behavior. A Tour with dignity above all.
A Tour, in short, that looks and feels as if it were produced by America’s Public Broadcasting System and moderated by Jim Lehrer.
I for one can hardly wait.
And I’m certain others are just as excited as I am. I haven’t actually met any of these excited people, but I remain hopeful.
Your zeal for reducing the unnecessary excitement that normally surrounds this race is admirable, Mr. Prudhomme, but I think there’s more that can be done to design a Tour de France that will — at long last — let the citizens of France (and other countries, though I do not necessarily approve of the TdF ever exiting France or even approaching its borders) be able to have some peace and quiet, even as the cyclists pedal by.
What You’ve Done Right
Before I get to my suggestions, Mr. Prudhomme, I want to make it perfectly clear that I recognize and applaud the efforts you have made thus far.
I shall enumerate.
- No prologue. The prologue is a ridiculous spectacle that does nothing more than introduce us to racers we may not be familiar with, lets us see how our favorites are doing, and gives us a preview as to who brought their A-game and who has not. Why would anyone want any of those things? The prologue is a stupid tradition.
- No time bonuses. In times past, I’ve seen racers duke it out at the top of a brutal climbing stage because finishing a quarter second ahead had a huge strategic benefit: a significant time bonus that could change race standings. Sure, it was exciting and a massive motivational tool to make contending racers really give it their all, but it sent the wrong message to the kids. You can’t give people time. Once a moment’s passed, it’s gone forever. Live with it.
- Shorter stages. Your thinking on this is brilliant. As everyone knows, the reason pro cyclists have been doping is because the stages are so punishing. Now that the stages are shorter, there’s no reason to dope. No reason at all. In fact, I’ll bet that the people who have been doping have stopped doping, because now they know they can finish the race without that illegal boost. That’s awesome!
- No team time trials. These stages showed the potential for elegance and beauty in cycling, rewarded teams that don’t have riders drop out, and emphasized the importance of a balanced team roster. What a stupid idea. I’m glad you got rid of those.
- Fewer mountain stages. I’ve always thought that mountain stages are too dramatic and disorderly. Plus, they’re not fair to people who don’t climb well. I’m glad to see that you’ve cut these stages back. Let’s keep the riders together. Nice and orderly please. Single-file when possible.
What You Have Overlooked
In spite of your considerable accomplishments toward bringing a much-needed air of sobriety to the sport, Mr. Prudhomme, I feel there is more you could do.
And I am here to help. Please accept the following suggestions with my compliments.
- No drafting. If taking drugs to go faster is wrong, how could leveraging somebody else’s effort be right? My question is rhetorical, so don’t feel obligated to write back explaining how much you agree with me. There should be a required gap of 20 feet between each rider. Finish the ride under your own steam, or don’t finish it at all.
- No money. Why do dopers dope? Because they want to win (I realize this seemingly contradicts the “Shorter stages” point, above, but I’ll ask you to overlook that for the moment). And why do they want to win? Because they want money. Eliminate the cash prizes for the TdF, and you eliminate the doping problem. What you have left are people who are racing for pure love of the sport. I propose we give the winner of the Tour de France the following:
That should be sufficient, don’t you think?
- Announcers required to speak in hushed tones. Phil and Paul are quite simply too rambunctious for this, our most sacred of sports; there have been times when their enthusiasm has grabbed me and made me become excessively interested in what’s going on. Tell them they need to speak in hushed tones, as if narrating a golf game…in a library.
- No bright colors allowed. The racers in the TdF are adults, and it’s high time they act that way. The outfits they wear are outrageous and completely unbefitting the high seriousness our beloved sport requires.
- Roller stages. By removing and reducing the most exciting types of stages — TTTs and mountain stages — I can see that your heart is in the right place. It’s time to go to the next level and introduce stages where there is no movement whatsoever. Give each rider a set of rollers and have the racers ride on those for 45 Km. This will further reduce the risk of crashes, breakaways, and other shenanigans that detract from the calm, orderly sport we both want to see.
- Speed limits. Each year seems to produce a new “record-setting average pace.” Why do you think this is? Dope, that’s why. There can be no other reason. And I say, “Enough is enough.” Let’s cap the racing speed at 22mph on the flats, 35mph on the downhill, and 7mph on the climbs. These are all safe and sane rates, adding a new measure of safety to the race, as well as negating the advantage that those nasty dopers otherwise have.
- Disqualify Team Garmin-Chipotle. Mr. Prudhomme, I recommend you immediately disqualify Team Garmin-Chipotle from the Tour. For one thing, changing their team name so late in the year can only mean they’re trying to hide something. For another, the Director, Jonathan Vaughters, once had to abandon the Tour under a cloud of suspicion. To others, that cloud of suspicion may have looked like a blinding bee sting that the Tour would not let him take medication for, but we know better. Doping is doping.
- Disqualify Team Columbia (High Road). While we’re disqualifying suspicious-looking characters, let’s get rid of Team Columbia Sportswear (formerly High Road). Once again, here you have an Astana-esque situation: riders you know, but with a different team name. Ergo, they are evil. And to be honest, that “Columbia” name doesn’t sit right with me.
Mr. Prudhomme, I again want to thank you for all the work you have done and are doing. Together, we’ll make this year’s Tour a race to remember. At least, it will be for the five or six people left who care about it.
The Fat Cyclist
No matter what kind of ride you’re on — road or mountain, a couple hours or an all-day epic — there comes a point where you start looking forward to the finish. If you’ve metered out your energy properly, it’s usually toward the end of the ride.
The end of a ride has its own attraction. You’re looking forward to a rest. Your legs ache. You’ve added another memory to the pile. If you were out riding with friends, you might be looking forward to recounting the ride’s important moments.
Sure, you know you’re going to go on another ride tomorrow. But for now, it’s good to be about done.
Occasionally, though, someone screws things up.
You’re 85% of the way through a ride when they broach their brainstorm. “Hey, there’s a new section of singletrack we ought to add to the ride; it’ll only add half an hour,” they’ll say.
Or, “Who’s up for another climb?”
And suddenly, out of nowhere, your end-of-ride anticipation has been yanked out from under you. Suddenly, you’re not five minutes away from the trailhead. You’re not about to give your legs a rest. You’re not anywhere close to being done for the day.
You feel like you’ve been tricked.
You don’t have the legs for this. You didn’t ration out your energy, your water or your time to include this next section of the ride.
But you’ve got to do it anyway.
You can’t bail out of the ride — well, technically you could, but that’s not your way — but you aren’t energized for the climb. It feels more like an unwelcome chore than a challenge.
The good news is, once you start the new leg of the ride, you tend to recalibrate a bit. You find energy you didn’t know you have, you recognize that the new section of singletrack is really worth riding, you take some pride in your ability to adapt.
But of course, that doesn’t change the fact that — at the moment it’s sprung on you — getting blindsided with another big chunk of ride, right when you’re expecting a rest, sucks.
I’ve tried at least three times to start this post humbly. To give credit where credit’s due. To thank all the people who made the 2008 Fat Cyclist TriathAlon.
But the truth is, this magnificent event was awesome because I am awesome.
I will explain my reasons forthwith.
Very Clear Messaging
Back when I first announced that there would be a TriathAlon, it was with the intention of making it four events: Mountain Bike, Sliding Rock, Road Bike, Brats.
Then I thought about it and decided it was just too much of a hassle. So I got rid of the road bike part.
The thing is, Boots of Everett, Washington has been on a road trip for several weeks, and so didn’t get the change memo. So when he showed up on Saturday morning, ready to ride his road bike, I would have felt really stupid about such a nice guy traveling so far for the ride, only to be turned away.
That is, I would have felt stupid and bad if I weren’t convinced that I am the Best Event Organizer in the Whole World. So instead I just chatted with Boots for a bit, gave him a bottle and pair of socks, and sent him on his way.
But only after apologizing like, a million times.
Again, Boots: Sorry. Really.
And that makes 1,000,001.
At around 10:30ish, we all gathered at the designated parking lot. It occurred to me as I rode into the lot that I probably should have asked permission to use that parking lot. And that it was also possible that the parking lot would be reserved by somebody else who had thought ahead.
I banished the thoughts immediately, for I knew that if it had been important for me to get permission to use the parking lot, it would have occurred to me earlier.
Then, as befitting a top-notch organizer, I tooled around in the parking lot, talking with people and generally feeling kind of giddy about the fact that I wasn’t the only one there.
I have photos as proof (taken by Sue Richardson, of Sue Richardson Photography, and used by permission — because as an Excellent Event Organizer, I know having a photographer on hand is vitally important to any event).
I have reason to believe this is Kenny’s leg. Well marked, Kenny!
One of my nieces, marking the other one of my niece’s leg. Note the Paris Hilton-esque sunglasses being worn.
Sleepy’s wife, making the Fat Cyclist jersey look good.
After a while, I thought to myself, “Are we ever going to get started?” At which point I recalled that I was the one who would need to start things.
This was also the moment when I remembered that I needed to have group leaders to show everyone around on the course they had selected.
So I called everyone together, made a very motivational speech, during which I surprised various people by announcing that they would be leading groups of riders.
Many people approached me after my speech and told me it was both touching and uplifting, and that furthermore they now understand the meaning of life much more clearly.
It was that good of a speech.
Then we had a group photo (click photo for larger version).
I’m pretty sure I’m in there somewhere.
Meticulous Course Marking with Lots of Course Marshals on Hand
I fired the starting gun (or at least shouted, “Let’s go!”), and we all took off. As we started to ride, I realized that this was the first time I had ever been on a large ride where lots of people would be riding different routes on unfamiliar ground…without course markings or anyone to give directions at the numerous unmarked intersections.
Of course, I did this on purpose. Course markings and marshals are for the weak of mind.
My Medical Staff Is Always Prepared
To my surprise and pleasure, nobody got lost, as far as I know — although, to be fair, I probably wouldn’t know if somebody did get lost. I figure that we’re all adults, after all.
Well, except the kids. But I’m sure their parents have noticed they’re gone by now.
The trail itself is only moderately technical, except for the parts where you are riding across sand-strewn granite with exposure on both sides. Or the part where you’re flying down a ravine and the trail sometimes switches sides, veers sharply in another direction, heads directly into a tree, or occasionally vanishes altogether.
That’s OK, though. Nobody got hurt.
OK, it’s possible, I suppose, that both my nieces had endos after catching big whoop-de-doo air coming down the chute. And so did a few other people.
But really, what are scars but conversation pieces you never lose?
Location, Location, Location
It’s a well-known fact that a big group goes slower than a small group, and so the Hogg’s Hollow ride — which I do in about two hours a couple times per week — took about four hours.
By then, everyone was very hot. And out of water.
Which, of course, was exactly my intention, because that made the Sliding Rock that much more inviting.
The Sliding Rock was running fast, making it even more fun than usual. And the cold water felt great.
Photos are more useful than words to show off this part of the event, although I am certainly happy to add commentary to those photos.
Which is whiter: the churning water, or Grizzly Adam’s skin?
Rick Sunderlage’s wife (not his real wife) was supposed to be judging the event, not participating. I’m certain that participants are going to lodge complaints.
For years, I have been afraid to go down the Sliding Rock headfirst, this trick being Dug’s trump card over all of us. Well, no more. Turns out that all I needed was an audience.
There are lots of things I love about this picture. First, I love what a beautiful area this is. Second, it’s cool that there are so many Fat Cyclist jerseys there. And third, I love the protective way Rocky is standing watch over his daughters. “Nobody come near these two, or face the consequences,” his posture snarls.
Here I am, losing the Wet Jersey contest. And losing badly, I might add. Note my Triathalon Number: 42. My age.
I wish I knew what they’re laughing at.
Now, if I could take just a moment, I’d like to boast. Once we finished our Sliding Rock shenanigans, we rode our bikes back to my house. And here comes the part I want to boast about: That ride takes about seven minutes. Yes, that’s right, folks: I live seven minutes from that gorgeous, rideable waterfall.
I Am A Delegating Genius
Back at my house, we were ready for the third event. Bratwurst.
The most beautiful picture that has ever been put on my blog.
And here’s where you’ll become completely convinced that I am the Best Event Organizer In the Whole World: I had Kuleani Fisher — better known simply as “Fish” — do the cooking.
And nobody does it better than Fish.
Fish takes care of the grill one-handed and still nails it.
A quick aside: I have known Fish ever since I have started riding, back when he worked at a bike shop. Now he’s a patent attorney, and probably has an obligation or two. But he jumped right in and volunteered to do the food for this Triathalon.
Fish is just a great guy.
And the same thing goes for Kenny, who brought in six loaves of homemade bread to go with the brats. And you know what, those loaves lasted for the entire meal, with plenty left over.
Bible comedy, folks. It’s hilarious.
Meanwhile, the rest of us got to just hang out, relax, and eat.
Mmmm. Bratwurst and homemade bread.
Mocougfan and Chtrich rehydrate.
It’s a shame you can’t see the back of Steve, here. His shirt is shredded and his back is bloody. He’s one of the lucky ones who turfed it coming down the Chute.
Oh, and did I mention that we had music for the event? Yeah, Jeff — a friend since we were both 18 — borrowed a professional sound system from a friend and set it up under the blue pavillion you see in the picture below.
Music included pretty much the stuff you would find on my iPod, including some personal favorites Jeff must’ve had to dig to find. Ebn Ozn, Jean Michele Jarre, and plenty of Devo.
I Give Away Awesome Prizes
Because I am an Excellent Event Organizer, I had many prizes on hand, including:
- Ibis: Obviously, the guys who donated the Silk SL. That’s quite a grand prize.
- Anonymous Guy: Someone who wants to remain anonymous gave away a used Gary Fisher Rig. Aaron in Arizona won that. Nice!
- Twin Six: Gave away bottles and T-shirts galore.
- Gary Fisher: Brand Manager Travis Ott donated two jerseys, a very nice shell jacket, and a whole buncha t-shirts.
- Rich (formerly of Colorado Boomerangs): Thanks to Rich, every kid at the Triathalon went home with a prize: a very cool kid’s boomerang. Thanks, Rich!
- CarboRocket: Brad’s CarboRocket gives you laser vision. True fact.
- Timpanogos Audiology / Tour de Donut: The folks putting on the Tour de Donuts gave away a bunch of great prizes. First, a set of custom-made iPod headphones, and several passes into the Tour de Donut, which I think may be the greatest race ever created.
Here’s me, giving away free stuff:
Soon, the focused light of the sun will melt a hole through my scalp.
And here are a bunch of people watching me give stuff away.
They seem confused. I am told that I mumble.
I had a great time. I mean, a really great time. And not just because I am such a fantastic event organizer.
We’ll definitely do this again next year. But this time, we’ll start earlier in the morning, so we can do all four events (Mountain Bike, Sliding Rock, Road Bike, Bratwurst), as a proper TriathAlon should.
PS: Other folks have posted about the TriathAlon in their blogs. Lots of good pictures and details I didn’t get to. Check them out:
I know a lot of people want to know how Susan’s doing, and most of you don’t want to wait until I finish writing my story about the TriathAlon to find out.
Plus, the two stories don’t go great together.
To really understand where things stand for Susan’s treatment, we’re going to have to jump back about a week, and then follow the timeline forward. I’ll try not to bog myself down in the details too much.
Last Wednesday, Susan had a CT scan, to find out to what degree the tumors have come back in her lungs and liver (and, potentially, elsewhere).
A couple years ago, a test like that would have freaked the two of us out beyond belief. Now, it was just another test — an indicator not of whether there was damage, but what kind of treatment the damage warranted.
But we still made a rookie mistake: we expected that we already knew all the possible outcomes.
On Thursday, Susan was scheduled to have a bone scan, to find out whether there were any new tumors growing in her bones.
But before she could have the bone scan, Susan’s oncologist called her and told her to come down right away. “You’ve got blood clots in your lungs. These can be fatal.”
I got there before Susan. I’m not afraid to drive fast when I need to.
The doctor told us that Susan’s surgery, combined with her reduced activity, has probably caused blood clots to form in her legs. These have migrated to her lungs. If they had continued the trip to her brain, the clots would have killed her.
But they didn’t. So it’s a good thing we found those clots, while we can do something about them. Namely, we’re ramping up the coumadin to a much higher dosage (Susan already took a little bit each night to keep clots from forming in her port-a-cath), and a daily Lovenox shot in the meantime while the coumadin spools up.
Two quick observations. Did you know that the active ingredient in coumadin is the same active ingredient as in rat poison? Nice. Also, did you know that the copay for Lovenox is practically as expensive as crack?
Anyway, the blood clot scare is now behind us, and we got a bonus piece of good news: the CT scan also shows that the tumors in Susan’s lungs are not growing fast at all.
Yes, around here, we consider “very slow growth of the multitude of tumors in your lungs” good news, because that means Susan doesn’t have to go on chemo for now. Hormone therapy instead: stuff to block estrogen production in her body, since estrogen’s what Susan’s kind of breast cancer eats.
Yeah, cancer eats. (At least Susan’s kind of breast cancer does.) But only certain things — estrogen, in this case. So one of our strategies is to try to starve it.
Thursday evening, Susan started having a tough time lifting her left leg, and when she put weight on it, it would buckle.
By Friday afternoon, she couldn’t walk at all without use of the walker.
There should be a law against having cancer progress on you during weekend hours.
Monday morning, we called and wormed our way into an appointment (our original appointment for Monday had been canceled since we spent hour upon hour with the oncologist on Thursday).
Not surprisingly, Susan’s new trouble makes good sense in the context of the tumors she’s got in her pelvis and hips. So this Wednesday, she’s going in for an MRI to get a better idea of what kind of structural damage has been done (if any), and what we ought to do about it. Radiation? Surgery? Nothing?
We also learned one by-the-way piece of good news: the bone scan shows that there appear to be no new tumors growing in Susan’s bones.
In other words, apart from the bone damage caused by existing tumors, things are going pretty well.
Yeah, that’s right. Around here, this is what passes for “going pretty well.”