One of the cool things about last weekend was that I had two people following me around most of the time — Glenn with his monstrously enormous camera for taking stills, and Daniel with his monstrously enormous video camera.
Thanks to them, I’ve got great pictures and video of the whole event, and didn’t have to worry about taking any of those pictures myself.
Daniel is now editing the video down into a couple segments, the first of which I received last night. And while I die a thousand deaths anytime I see and hear myself talk on video (do I always talk out of one side of my mouth? Does my voice really sound like that?), I expect that you’ll enjoy it.
By the way: Brad, you owe me another $50 for being a billboard for CarboRocket.
How to be Popular
Here’s an amazing fact: I was able to sleep the night before my ride with Team RadioShack. Seriously, I was. Sure, I woke and checked the clock about every hour, but I slept. Didn’t even take an Ambien.
I think it’s important to celebrate life’s little victories.
Around 7:30 the next morning, I came down to breakfast with the team. I brought along my secret weapon — a big box of t-shirts Twin Six had sent me for the occasion. “Here are some shirts,” I said, “that you can wear without making your sponsors mad.”
I was immediately mobbed.
And then it was time to get fitted on my new Trek Madone.
Getting Ready for the Ride
The mechanics area felt like home. Not that I’m a bike mechanic — far from it. But I do hang around with and talk with bike mechanics whenever I go to a shop.
And the mechanics there were terrific. Really, they were just like your favorite mechanic at your favorite LBS. But with a much greater likelihood that they speak Belgian as their native tongue.
Within a few minutes they had unboxed the bike I had brought for the trip and measured it so they could set up the new Madone to the same specs.
And then I got to check it out.
You know, I don’t even know how long I stood there, ogling my new bike. The Runner, on the other hand, very likely is painfully aware of how long I stood there, ogling.
With my sexy new bike ready to go, I went upstairs and got changed. It was time for the pre-ride meeting.
It was as I got dressed — shorts, short sleeve jersey, armwarmers seemed like plenty; it was nice and warm outside — that I started getting serious butterflies, and a major case of “What am I doing here, I have no business riding with these guys.”
It’s a common thing for middle-aged guys with a gut to get when they’re about to go on a monster climbing training ride with a top-tier pro team.
I came downstairs, walking back toward the bike room with The Runner. Chris Horner and Levi Leipheimer were a little bit ahead of us, further down the hall. “Those guys have no butts at all, observed The Runner.
It’s good to get the female perspective from time to time, because while this was a fair observation, I do not believe I would have ever made it myself.
Most everyone was gathered in the bike room, making last minute adjustments to their rides. Lance was sitting, ready to go. Twittering.
I noticed that a lot of the riders were wearing considerably warmer clothes than I was. “Well, they don’t have the walrus blubber,” I thought, counting on my subcutaneous layer of fat to keep me warm should the need arise.
While waiting for Johan to begin talking to the team, I affixed a Fat Cyclist sticker to my new bike.
Yeah, I could have done a better job applying it, but it gets the point across.
Johan then got up and told the team that I’d be riding with the team today, and — I will love Johan forever for this — asked them to take it easy on me. Since there is no way in the world I would have ever been able to stay with these guys for even one minute if they chose to leave me behind, this was a very nice gesture.
And then it was time to get out the giant checks.
Together, we raised more than $135,000 for LiveStrong and World Bicycle Relief. In just a few days. And believe me, I never lose sight of the fact that it’s all of you who are doing this incredibly generous thing — for LiveStrong, for World Bicycle Relief, and for me.
I don’t think there’s any way I can thank you enough.
Then, giant checks put away, it was time to ride. Time to do what the whole trip was about.
And that — finally! — is the story I will tell tomorrow.
PS: Bicycling.com has a nice article / slideshow about my ride with Team RadioShack. Check it out here.
PPS: Again, thanks to Glenn Kasin for the use of all these photos.
PPPS: And thanks to The Runner for the “giant checks” photos, as well as for following me around the whole weekend.
A Note from Fatty About the Contest Winners: Congratulations to the big winners of the contest from last week!
Roger L, the winner of the custom-painted “FattyFly,” is yet another bike winner from New Jersey. I do not know why New Jersey-ites keep winning bikes. Maybe they are more likely as a populace to donate, and so the probability of their winning is higher? This photo is of Roger, evidently about to clear the water crossing. Roger says, however, “what you don’t see is me trying to dab a second after this photo is taken. Instead, my clipless pedals won’t let me out and I end up going for a swim. Those photos mysteriously vanished from the camera — the camera must have gotten wet. My trusty Gary Fisher Sugar let me down, maybe 29″ wheels would have been the trick.” Roger’s now faced with a conundrum: get the orange version of the FattyFly, or the pink? If it were my bike and I were choosing the colors, I’d go with the orange, but that’s just me. Feel free to help Roger out by weighing in on this very difficult choice in the comments. I’m sure he’ll take your advice under advisement.
David H, the winner of the Team RadioShack-autographed Trek Madone, is from Missouri. David’s bike is already on the way to him; he’ll have it in a few days. I have lost track of how many times people have said to me, “He sure as heck better not be planning to ride that thing.” Because, yeah, it’s definitely a collector’s item. David reports that “I’m a cyclocross fanatic and am a huge Richard Sachs and Jonathon Page fan.” And further, that he has “been riding and racing for 10 years and am the fastest 42 year old that lives on my street.”
Andrea S, the winner of the trip to see the Tour de France,is also from Missouri– but she doesn’t yet know she has won! You see, Andrea did not provide a phone number when she donated, and the email address she entered does not work. So, if you’re named Andrea S, and you donated, and you’re from Missouri, email me and prove to me you are therightAndrea by telling me your full name and address. And give me a phone number I can call, for pity’s sake.Update: Andrea has now checked in, and I have her contact info. Congratulations, Andrea!
Again, thanks to everyone who donated — with more than 3700 people donating reasonably small amounts of money — an average of around $35 — we were able to raise a huge — $135,000 — amount of money in a ridiculously short period of time. I can’t even begin to tell you how proud I am of my readers, who are evidently the most generous people in the world.
And now, onto the story.
Riding With The Shack, Part I – The Night Before the Ride
I could tell this was not going to be an ordinary trip before we even made it to baggage claim. (I say “we,” because as a beloved and increasingly famous and important cycling blog megastar, I deemed it necessary to bring along an assistant. The Runner would be acting in that capacity, though she was quite clear that her real reason for coming along was to accomplish one of her life objectives: to lick one of Lance Armstrong’s calves.)
You see, there was a guy — Glenn, of Capital Sports Entertainment — waiting there for us. And a cameraman (Daniel). They had a sign and everything.
(All photos from today’s post taken by Glenn Kasin, who is a great photographer as well as logistics guy and babysitter of award-winning superstar megabloggers)
We drove to the resort, talking the whole way. I of course had two very big questions on my mind:
What is the big surprise Johan has in mind for me?
What kind of ride was in store for me tomorrow?
They gave me no satisfaction — not even a hint — on the first question. For the second question, they did give me a hint: “Do you like lemons?”
A few years ago, that would not have been a very good hint. But that was then. Nowadays, it’s plenty. I got out my phone, went to the browser app, and did a search on “tucson lemon.” Within seconds, I knew that it’s actually Mount Lemmon (two “m’s”), which is both beautiful, and a monster of a climb.
We arrived at the parking lot, and while we were pulling out luggage, the second thing happened that made me realize this was going to be no ordinary trip: Johan Bruyneel — Director of Team RadioShack — walked up, shook my hand…and then gave me a big hug.
We talked for about ten minutes — him completely calm, me a stuttering swooning goofball.
I had just met Johan Bruyneel. Seriously. Furthermore, he told me that I hadn’t needed to bring a bike with me after all. They had decided to give me a bike to ride. “You mean loan, right?” I asked.
“No, this is for you to keep,” said Johan, offhandedly.
At which point I began to stutter, but I choose not to replicate that here.
“Seriously? Another one? This must be the big surprise you were talking about, right?”
“No, you’ll learn what that is tomorrow,” said Johan. He was enjoying this.
And so was I.
I checked into my room — an extremely nice room, I should say; substantially nicer than a Motel 6, for example — and headed downstairs, where Johan waved me over to join him at his table.
Dinner was buffet style: pasta with marinara sauce, chicken, potatoes, salad. Exactly what you’d expect. We started eating before most of the team had arrived — dinner was buffet style.
Viatcheslav Ekimov — “Eki” — was sitting a couple tables away. “Do you know who Eki is?” asked Johan.
“Eki, this is Fatty,” Johan called out.
“Hey, Fatty,” waved Eki.
“How’s it going, Eki?” I shouted back, not really knowing what else to say at that moment.
I got down to serious journalism, then, and asked Johan, “So, do any of your riders get fat during the winter?”
“Oh yes,” said Johan. “That’s one of the reasons we have these training camps, so the riders can see each other and put pressure on the ones who have gained weight.”
“Really?” I asked. “These skinny guys?”
“Some of them put on several kilos during the winter,” replied Johan. “In fact…” He began to point, and then thought better of it.
Somehow, I find it comforting that pro cyclists put on winter flub, too.
And then Lance came in. He waved and yelled, “Hey Fatty!”
As usual, I demonstrated my total suaveness, and said, “Thanks for being here.”
“Well, thanks for having me,” replied Lance, clearly curious as to exactly what kind of drugs I was on.
Yes, that is The Runner sitting beside me in that photo. Caught off-guard by his unexpected appearance, she did not at that moment ask Lance if she could lick one of his calves.
Around then, Levi Leipheimer and Chris Horner came in too, sat down, and began eating.
It took a while, but I screwed up my courage and went over to talk to them.
It turns out that I really hadn’t needed to worry, because right as I got there, Levi looked up and said, “I am so sick of pasta marinara and potatoes.”
“Yeah,” replied Chris, “But the giant cookies they have here never get old.”
You don’t get quotes like that reading VeloNews, folks.
By the way, Brad, you owe me $50 for wearing your shirt (Brad outbid Bike Snob NYC by $5.00)
After dinner, as I was heading back to my room, Lance hopped (not literally) into the elevator I was taking up. “You know we’re riding Mount Lemmon tomorrow, right?” he asked.
“Someone mentioned that, yes,” I replied. “Is that good or bad?”
“It’s a 25-mile climb,” said Lance. “And 6,000 feet of gain.” The elevator was at his floor now. Lance looked over as he got off.
Winners will be notified on Friday and Saturday. I’ll email and call winners as soon as possible on Friday. If I can’t reach them on Friday, I’ll try Saturday morning. I’ll announce the winners as soon as I get confirmation from all of them.
By the way, our total amount raised is now up to$115,871. Incredible!
Here’s something that will surprise exactly nobody who has read this blog for more than a couple weeks: I don’t actually know all that much about professional sports. Apart from cycling I don’t watch any pro sports at all, and I follow pro cycling with what I would call an “active-but-not-obsessive” interest.
Which is to say, when I look at the roster for Team RadioShack, there are quite a few names I do not recognize. And that’s kind of embarrassing, since I’m going to be riding with them all in a couple days.
So, in preparation, I am preparing Team RadioShack flash cards, and learning their names.
Fortunately, I already speak fourteen languages, so that barrier will not be a problem. Ok, actually I only speak English and a little Finnish. But I can do the Monty Python-style French accent very convincingly, so I think that should count as a language too.
Today, then, I am asking for your help. I am going to be riding and eating and talking with these guys. Who should I seek out? What should I ask? What do you want to know? What do you want pictures (and video) of?
You guys are the ones who made it possible for me to go to this camp; I’m going to bring back the stuff you’re interested in.
Also, you should know that I’m coming loaded, camera-wise. Specifically:
The digital camera
A Flip Mino HD
Also, I’m told that there’ll be someone on hand taking video and pictures during the stay, and that I’ll have access to those, too.
So the big problem will be what images and video to show from the huge pile I expect to amass.
The other problem will be the fact that there’s no possible way in the world that I will be able to hang with these guys. At all.
Please, please, please let it be a “rest” day for the team.
PS: What would be suitable “thank you” gifts to bring to the team?