Note: While Fatty is cycling away in France with Andy Are-You-Freaking-Kidding-Me Hampsten, Paul Guyot – okay, I did tell JJ I thought she should lose the hair – is guest blogging for him.
Based on the comments section, today we offer more adventures of Bucky – Captain America’s sidekick… named Bucky by Dave Zabriskie.
Some of you asked how Jack could pull off the 20-mile ride with Garmin-Cervelo in Kansas City last week. As documented here, we did not complete the entire route, but Jack – now aware of his bizarre fatcyclist celebrity status – wanted me to be sure and point out to you all that 20 miles “is nothing” for him.
Obsessed with watching pro cycling even before I started riding, he would do what other kids do after watching their heroes; he would go out and pretend to be them.
But instead of being Payton Manning or Wayne Rooney or A-Rod, he was being Andy Schleck or Tommy D or Chris Horner or Levi or CVV or Sammy Sanchez or Tyler Farrar or any of the other pros he cheered for. He was Andy Schleck for Halloween when he was 6 in full Saxo Bank kit and helmet.
Most people thought he was a NASCAR driver.
When other kids are wearing football and baseball jerseys, he is wearing Garmin or Euskatel jerseys and Liquigas cycling caps. He wears his ATOC t-shirt signed by the team (thanksFatty and Glenn) all the time, and would proudly wear a RadioShack jersey if they made them in his size.
And for all the people who have been writing in and asking – I got his Garmin-Cervelo jersey from the Shop Argyle team web site.
One thing funny about him is that despite having numerous Saxo Bank items, he refuses to wear any of it now because he views Saxo Bank as the enemy. My son is not a fan of Contador, though he will admit “He climbs like an angel, dad.” He loves the Leopard guys – which I guess now are part of the new RadioShack-Nissan-Trek-Crosby-Stills-Nash-Young Super Cycling Team.
Or RNTCSNYSCT for short….
He’s a big fan of the Schleck brothers, Cancellara, Jens Voigt, and Fulsang, and when they left Saxo Bank and Contador joined, well, the lines were drawn. We do NOT cheer for Saxo Bank in our house EVER, which of course, is exactly how his older sister winds him up: “Go Contador.” We’ve had near jihad in our family room during Grand Tours.
But I digress.
Anyway, Jack loves the mountain stages. All he wants to do is climb. Any hill he can find. His climbing legs were etched from cranking a single speed up hills when he was six and seven. BIgger and bigger ones until he just could not make it anymore. That’s when he decided he wanted a “geared” bike. Not to look like his heroes, but for more efficient climbing. His grandfather gave him a Trek KDR this past Christmas. And the hills around our house have been subsequently crushed into rubble.
Meanwhile, his uncle – a cycling coach – was teaching him about distance riding and nutrition. I showed him a magazine piece on Allen Lim and thermoregulation – which is now one of Jack’s favorite words. He loves being out on long rides, unzipping his jersey and just before he drinks saying “Gotta thermoregulate, dad, like Allen Lim says.”
His uncle started him out on 5 and 6 mile rides. Then went to 10. Then his record stood at 13.4 for a while – Jack is very aware of every personal record. Then this July, I flew home from my Leverage duties to ride with him in the Tour de Donut. 31 miles. With two or three fairly serious hills.
Here’s a video of that event. It is not short at 5:52, but if you can stand sitting through it, there are a few great moments – the people’s reaction when he passes them; around the 4:00 mark when he is climbing a hill that adults are walking their bikes up; and then his sprint at the end – 31 miles into the ride, when he is cranking like Tyler.
Later, when I asked him why he didn’t shift into one of his “harder gears” for that sprint he said he was trying to shift, but his little hands were so tired and sore that he could not muster the strength to hit the shifter.
I was very proud of his commitment – I kept saying whenever he wanted to stop we would stop – and how well he paid attention to all my safety instructions. His drafting was pretty good, too.
When we ride these days it’s usually anywhere between 12 and 15 miles depending on time and weather.
THE RACE REPORT
This weekend was the Gateway Cup – one of the many multi-day USA Cycling Crit races around the country. Let me pause and say if you have not been to a local race, please go. Please support local cycling, and local races. Eat the food, buy the products and participate as much as you can. Not only is it helping keep our great sport alive, but it is one of the absolute funniest times you will have without spending a small fortune.
Jack had decided as soon as he heard there were “Kids Races” that he wanted to do it. So on Friday he lined up with eighteen other 7 and 8 year olds. He decided he did not want to wear his Garmin-Cervelo jersey for his first-ever race in case “I do horribly, I don’t want to make Garmin look bad.” So outfitted in a yellow t-shirt (“What other color, dad?“) he stood on the line of his first race and sized up the competition.
The race was a flat sprint of about 120 yards. I told Bucky the most important things to remember were – 1) Get started before you try to go fast, and 2) HOLD YOUR LINE.
The last thing he said to me was, “Dad, I am so scared.” I told him he didn’t have to ride, but he said no, he was going to do it.
The announcer made the call. “Okay, races, on the count of three… One…. Two….”
And the girl next to him (in the pink) took off, as did about three other riders. Jack waited until “Three!” and then he went. When he got going (which is tough for him) he was around 8th or 9th. At the halfway point he hit the afterburners. At the Finish Line he had caught everyone except one of the kids who left early to take 2nd Place in his first ever race.
First thing out of his mouth was, “Dad, I was just like Christian VandeVelde! We both got second and almost won!”
The Pink girl was third. Jack was more happy he beat her – because she left early – than actually taking 2nd.
He immediately wanted to do it again, but we had soccer tournament commitments all weekend. So we returned on Monday for the final day of racing. Inspired by Jack’s performance on Friday, his 4-year-old sister decided she wanted to race. She arrived with her own mechanic and an arrogant license plate: 2 Fast 4U.
She took off with seventeen other 3 and 4 year olds, and just before the finish crashed like Farrar in Spain. But she got up, got back on, and finished the race. As she crossed the line in 16th place, she said, “Did I win?”
Meanwhile, Jack was down the road lined up with 27 others in his age group. He was proudly sporting his Garmin-Cervelo kit. With the first race nerves gone, Jack was all about the win today.
His eyes lit up when he saw that today’s race was about 150 yards and all uphill. “Oh, Dad, I’m gonna crush it.”
This time there were several kids sporting kits and road bikes similar to Jack. Kids on miniature BMC’s and Felts and even another KDR. And as he waited at the start he looked over and there was the Pink Girl again.
The announcer made the call. “Okay, riders… One… T…”
And the Pink Girl took off.
And three or four other kids took off.
“Three!” And Jack exploded. Probably the best standing start I’ve ever seen him do. Within twenty yards he was out of the saddle and hammering full gas. By the halfway point he had caught everyone and took the lead. Up, up, up he climbed, getting faster and faster.
As he crossed the Finish Line and the announcer called out his number he had a gap of about four bike lengths on 2nd.
His first words after… “Dad, I really wish I knew how to ride with no hands because I wanted to make the W for Wouter when I crossed the Finish Line.” I said it was okay for him to do it now….
He was so proud to win in his Garmin-Cervelo colors. “I think they’d be happy, dad.” Yes, Bucky, I think you’re right.
The Top 3 finishers in all the kids races got very cute bears sporting Gateway Cup shirts. I asked Jack if he wanted to give his 2nd place bear to his younger sister for her great effort in her race. He said, “No, I can’t. I’m going to keep every prize I win in cycling so when I’m a grampa I can sit and look at them all and remember how much fun it was.”
Can’t argue with that. Then he proceeded to inform me that now that he was a winning rider he thinks he needs a blue Garmin-Cervelo Giro team helmet. I said I think only the jerseys come in his size.
As we drove home I noticed him quietly looking out the window. I imagined he was replaying the race over and over, or dreaming of winning the TDF, or riding with Tommy D up Alpe d’Huez, something obviously all about cycling. I asked him what he was thinking about…
“Well, I’m just trying to see how many out of state license plates I can find.”
Note: While Fatty is cycling away in France with Andy FREAKING Hampsten, Paul Guyot – NOT the guy who suggested Felicity cut her hair – is guest blogging for him.
Some of you have inquired about my day job. Or maybe it was more like, “Will this guy please go back to his day job so we can have Fatty back?”
Either way, let me waste your reading time with a brief (okay, not so brief) explanation of why/how making a TV series is like a stage race.
I am a writer/producer for a series on TNT called LEVERAGE. It’s not a ratings leviathan like a CSI, nor is it an Emmy stacker like MAD MEN. There are no sex-starved vampires or lovable serial killers, no 60’s ad execs, nor forensic magicians. No cops, lawyers, or drug addicted nurses.
What we do have is fun. Lots of it. basically, the series is Robin Hood – our cast of regulars steal from the Bernie Madoffs and Enrons of the world and give back to their victims. Each week the team runs a con or pulls a heist or any combination thereof to take down the bad guys.
Okay, enough pimping. Here is why what I do is like Stage Racing.
Every season begins with great anticipation. Just like the weeks leading up to the Tour de France or Tour of Colorado… excuse me, the USA Pro Cycling Challenge. Dear God, can we please get them to drop the utterly ridiculous name and just call it the TOUR OF COLORADO? Or if they’re scared of it sounding too much like the Tour of California, then call it THE COLORADO CLASSIC – a nod to the original Coors Classic.
I mean, come on USA Cycling, who is heading up your marketing department? The USA Pro Cycling Challenge? Seriously? That was the name that everyone in the boardroom went, “Yes! That’s what we should be known as!” You are aware, right, that none of the riders in the actual race call it that? Unless they’re being interviewed on TV. They call it “Colorado.”
If the first race was any indication, you have the chance of becoming the premiere cycling race in our country, but with a name that sounds more like some Mountain Dew-sponsored BMX obstacle course, you will never surpass the ATOC.
But I digress.
So every season starts with great excitement and anticipation. Like every stage race. The stage race figures out the routes. The TV series figures out the “routes” the episodes will take during the season. The stage race invites teams. The TV series invites directors. Riders commit. Actors commit. Then the race begins. Then production begins.
Most stage races begin with a prologue. This is to whet everyone’s appetite, to get the teams and riders warmed up – almost like an extended session on the trainer. You obviously can’t win the overall in the prologue, but if disaster strikes you can certainly lose any chance of taking the yellow jersey.
In the TV series, our prologue is called pre-production. “Prep.” The first script is turned in (or hopefully, first few), and schedules are made, actors – both regular cast and guest stars are locked in for certain dates and times, the writers all return to the writers room after the long break, and with anticipation still high, we “officially” begin our season.
Most stage races have fairly innocuous early stages. There may be a tougher one here or there, but basically the first couple of stages in a week-long stage race or the first week or so in Grand Tours, are fairly flat sprinter stages. Yes, I’m generalizing, but you get the picture.
In the TV series the early stages are the first few episodes that are produced – by that I mean the scripts are written – usually we’re anywhere from three to five scripts ahead of production – they are budgeted, scheduled, and shot. Directors come in – a different one each week (for each episode) and most things run fairly smoothly – like a flat stage. There might be a crash here or there, but the GC remains pretty much as expected before the race began.
The Mountain Stages
This is when it gets good. These are the stages where it gets hardcore in the peloton. The big fancy sprint stage winners do everything in their power (and sometimes others’ power – I’m looking at you Cavendish) to simply survive the mountains so they may continue the race.
In TV, this is what’s been referred to as the Big Muddy. When you’re in the muck; halfway through a season, which can sound so good when you say it like – “Wow, we’re already halfway through the season!” Or it can sound completely demoralizing as in – “Oh my God, we’re only halfway through this thing?”
It’s right around this time in the stage race that most of the peloton loses any hope/chance of winning. It’s when your grinders come to the front. Those nasty 145lbs wisps with absolutely sick power-to-weight ratios. Those guys who crank at >6.2w/kg up HC climbs. The mountain stages separate the true contenders from the rest of the peloton.
In TV this is around the time certain actors are either bored, or have grown tired of their co-stars, or the writing, or the city you shoot in, or have a movie offer looming, or had to turn down a movie offer because of their TV series commitment and thus, are in a foul mood. Actors can seriously disrupt a production. Actors can get bent out of shape about their wardrobe, their makeup, their hair, or yes – the writing. They can acquire a distaste for the current director. Some have even been known to complain about the lighting and production design (the sets and set decoration).
All these issues they have require everything to come to a screeching halt, while said actor discusses said issues with said writer/producer. It can be as serious as trying to talk someone off a ledge, or as silly as trying to explain to a toddler why they can’t have Jake’s toy shovel simply because it’s blue and they feel it’s prettier than their own shovel, which is red.
You brought the red shovel to the sandbox. Dig.
All these discussions add up to the one thing that is kryptonite to a production — time. Time is the killer. The longer things take to accomplish, the more money it all costs. And TV is nothing if not all about the money.
But it’s not just the actors that cause your nice little stage race to suddenly hit Mount Washington. Generally speaking, actors are decent folk. We’re extremely lucky on our series to have a large cast of series regulars who are all quite wonderful to work with. So even with wonderful actors, there can be other people and problems that arise that cause a gradient to suddenly go from 4% to 17%.
Things like weather – this is always a nice one. You have three scenes scheduled to be shot outside in broad daylight and that day comes and it’s dark skies and torrential rains.
Or locations – you’ve had a location bought and paid for, and just perfect for your quiet, intimate scene between the two lovers… and you get there and the ladlord failed to tell you that’s the day the landscaping company is there with their mowers and leaf blowers. Or you were supposed to have police presence at the location to lockup traffic – only the police presence that shows up says they are unable to lockup traffic at that location.
You can have directors who suddenly decide the scene of three people talking around a table needs to be shot from the POV of a passing falcon – 300 feet in the air, or perhaps needs to be cut from 27 different angles – which are known as “setups.”
Every time you watch something on TV and you see your screen cut back and forth from one person to the other to the other and so on – each one of those angles is a setup. Meaning the entire crew has to set up the shot as far as cameras, lighting, blocking, and so on. The more setups you have the more time it takes to shoot.
And time = kryptonite.
All of these things (and all variations of them) have a habit of taking place during the middle of the season. The mountain stages. And It’s this time when the writer/producers see how strong their power numbers truly are.
The Last Stage
Eventually, if you’ve made it through the sprint stages without crashing, and the mountain stages without getting dropped, you get to ride into town on the last stage – which is generally ceremonial – like the Tour de France, or can be a bit racey – like the Tour of… er, the USA Pro Blah Blah Blah. Most things that can go wrong have gone wrong by this point, and if you’re still riding, it is a victory – sometimes more of a moral victory than an actual podium, but seriously, finishing ANY pro stage race in the world of cycling is quite an accomplishment.
In TV the last stage is the last episode of the season. All the scripts have been written. And while you started out four or five scripts ahead of the train (production) you always seem to be putting the finishing touches on that last script during the first day of shooting the season finale.
You’ve made it through the mountains, the actor likes their red shovel again, the location manager has been fired and replaced by a new guy, the network has been happy with the ratings and the episodes, and you’re so close to the end you can taste it.
But you’re not there yet. You still have to navigate the potentially treacherous waters of the racing peloton. Flats, crashes, an errant water bottle – there are still many things that can derail your drive to the finish line. So in that last stage you are simply doing all you can just to avoid disaster.
In stage racing the riders are usually miserable at this point. Completely cooked physically, psychologically, and emotionally. They just want it to end. They want to be able to have a day where they don’t ride at 280w for 100 miles. Where they can eat In-And-Out Burger if they want. Where they don’t have to wake up early and do it all again. They love their job immensely, but at this point sitting without moving their legs seems like heaven.
In TV you are tired and completely cooked creatively. You can’t believe you actually came up with enough story ideas to fill an entire season. You’re amazed you didn’t kill anyone on purpose or by accident. You’re surprised you’re fairly sober. You remember the names of your spouse and kids. But most of all, you are absolutely stunned you have not been fired by now, and that people still think you know what you’re doing.
You swear you are going to take a year off after this season and write a book. Or ride your bike. Or go to Hawaii. You’re completely convinced you have done every possible storyline for this show and these characters. You want to skip the wrap party and just go home and sleep.
But you still have to avoid the flat tires and crashes – the actors getting sick, or the directors going insane, or the weather screwing you, or any of the other countless issues that can and often do come up during that last stage.
It’s over. You did it. In the stage race you are overjoyed if you made the podium, or won one of the jerseys, or buried yourself time and again for your teammates (I’m looking at you Jens Voigt), or in some cases, simply finished. You still feel like crap, but now that you’ve had a bit of time to absorb it, you already start thinking about next year – and doing it all over again. Better. Faster. Stronger. (cue music from Six Million Dollar Man)
In TV, you did it. You are overjoyed if your show won the ratings battle – either overall, or won it for the week or the night, or just did well enough the network has picked it up for another season. You still feel like crap, but now that you’ve had a bit of time to absorb it, you’re already thinking about next year, and how you can do it all over again.
Note: While Fatty is cycling away in France with Andy Freaking Hampsten, Paul Guyot – of the Arizona Guyots – is guest blogging for him.
Hello Fatty’s Best. Let’s start today with an update on the man himself. Apparently, it was raining heavily the day Fatty was to get dropped by, er, climb with Andy Freaking Hampsten up the legendary Alpe d”Huez. Knowing Fatty as we do, I cannot see rain – regardless of how much – keeping him off that climb. I am sure he will have truly epic stories for us when he returns. We all wish him and The CaBammer safe travels.
Now onto the topic at hand. As I mentioned in my first post I only began riding in 2010, and by year’s end was completely addicted. Stunned by the weight I’d lost, and thoroughly reinvigorated about life and changed for the better by the physical, mental, and emotional metamorphosis that cycling brought me. I had even started a blog to chronicle my journey.
And so, for 2011, I knew I had to up the ante – I wanted to push myself more, dig deeper, ride faster, better and longer. What better way to kick off the year than to seek out professional advice. I decided to talk with Levi Leipheimer – fairly successful pro racer, but more importantly, friend of Fatty, and founder of what is – from what I hear – quite possibly the single coolest Gran Fondo in the country.
I traveled to Team RadioShack’s top secret winter training facility and found Levi outside the wind tunnel having a smoke.
Okay, maybe he wasn’t having a smoke, I could be wrong. Regardless, security cameras managed to capture our meeting, and after months and months of discussions with Johan Bruyneel, Levi, and the people in charge of restraining orders in that part of the country, I was able to get my hands on the footage.
So here, for the first time in public, is my actual meeting with Levi Leipheimer last January.
Okay, some of you might have a question or two. Like…
How did I know where to find the top secret training facility? Or… do you really frocking expect us to believe that is actually… the outfit you wore to the meeting?
Or maybe you’re wondering just who the heck is Fizzhogg?
Don’t you know how to format a video link so it’s sized properly for the blog?
Perhaps a couple of the more jaded and cynical readers here might be wondering if that’s really even Levi Leipheimer? I assure you I can answer all these queries.
1) How did I know where to find him? I’m sorry, I can’t answer that. Well, I could tell you but then I’d have to have Jens Voigt kill you by riding so hard off the front of your group that you decide life is no longer worth living. And I love you too much for that. Plus, Fatty told me before he left – “Don’t kill any of my readers.”
2) Yes, that is the outfit I wore and please don’t make a big deal out of it. My U10 daughter is just learning to sew, and she made it for me – to remind me to get my calcium from broccoli and not milk.
3) Fizzhogg is me. That’s my Twitter name. @Fizzhogg. Feel free to follow me if you’re the type that likes watching paint dry. White paint. Navajo white. And be warned – I get a little nuts about soccer.
4) Um… no.
5) Is that actually Levi Leipheimer? I think only Levi himself can answer that.
There. I have answered any and all questions to your extreme satisfaction, I’m sure.
Right about now is when 98.75% of you are looking at your watches and thinking, “I wonder if there’s any chance Fatty can come back early? I do miss the intelligence and maturity he brought to his posts.” The other 1.25% is my family and they are so proud that I’ve finally made the big time!
In Other News
Thank you all for the kind comments about Jack. He was truly impressed. It was the perfect cap to his Tuesday. Apparently, he told his 3rd Grade class all about meeting and riding with Garmin-Cervelo and got… crickets.
Not a lot of knowledgeable cycling fans in that particular 3rd grade class, though Gabe – the boy who always wears the red hoodie and eats pencil shavings – showed the most awareness of the sport when he asked Jack, “So did you talk to Lance Armstrong?”
But Jack does not care. I think there’s something about being in love with a sport that not every one of his buddies are into that he digs. Oh, and Jack wanted me to mention to you all that he will be making his race debut this weekend at the Gateway Cup in St. Louis.
He will be riding in the Kids Races for 8/9 year olds. It is a straight sprint for a hundred yards or so. He wants to wear his Garmin-Cervelo kit, of course, but after looking at the photos of the kids races from years past, they are all “regular” kids – t-shirts, shorts and little 20″ mtn bikes. I’m worried if he rolls up to the start on his Trek Roadie in his Garminwear, kids will hate him, and other parents are going to think I’m some obsessed dad who is pushing their kid tens years ahead of schedule.
Plus, if he should lose to a kid on a Wal-Mart singlespeed, that could be quite an ego blow. We’ll see. In the end I usually let him choose his path.
Speaking of Jack – I did not intend (nor want) my time here to turn into a “Look how cool MY kid is!” thing. That’s not what Fatty asked me to do. So I will back off any more posts about him unless I hear from you. Some of you remarked about Jack riding 20 miles. Well, we did not make the entire route Tuesday, but he has ridden several distances like that including this year’s TOUR DE DONUT.
I have a very amateurish video of his ride that day and could post it here, but only if enough of you are interested. If you are, let me know. Otherwise just don’t mention it and I will get the hint.
I have to go now. Apparently, Levi’s lawyers are on the phone.