Deep Thoughts

Back when this site was hosted on/by Blogger, its utilitarian design lent itself to shorter posts. Now that it has a new name, and new digs, I have this feeling that every post should really count. Have I lived up to that? Not at all. But I can tell you that I am far less inclined to do short posts about random things now than I was before. In an attempt to break away from that, I bring you today's offering, made of things I've been thinking about, none of which I've had the ability to make into full-length posts (in part because most simply didn't warrant it).

Though not completely disturbing when photographed, Alejandro Valverde's saddle placement/position looks odd when seen in motion through a horrible pirate feed. Not in a "bikes look better this way, and pro bikes look rad because..." kind of way. No. it's just that, like the white, foamy bits of spit that collected in the corners of my high school chemistry teacher's mouth, once I notice that saddle during a race, I can't spot focusing on it. Oh, and if you agree with me, and you think Valverde's saddle position is captivating, just imagine how I feel when Adam Hansen and his bike are on screen. Look, I understand that Hansen knows what he's doing on the bike and with his bike...but I can also tell you what he's doing to me (which matters far more). He's making me think of five thousand gallons of white spit collecting around my chemistry teacher's mouth.

I don't like it when two biggish races are on at the same time. But if by sheer luck, or planning, their finishes are staggered to the point that I can watch a good bit of their endings on the same day...I'm overcome by debaucherous glee.

I'm not going to tell you that all Colombian professionals do this. I'm sure they don't. But when you notice two of them doing it over the course of three days, it gets your attention. What am I referring to? Carrying small, terrycloth washcloths in their jersey pockets, to wipe sweat off their face while training. The small towels are carefully folded after use, and treated like a fine pocket handkerchief (though they are not visible once put back in their jersey pockets). Yes, the sweat-in-the-face problem could be partially avoided by wearing a cycling cap, but Colombian professionals largely eschew them. And at the end of the day, there's something perfectly obsessive and Colombian about carrying something to wipe sweat off your face while training on a hot day. If you grew up with a Colombian mother who obsessed about hygiene and tidiness (as I did), you probably know what I mean.

I miss Competitive Cyclist's What's New blog. All that remains of it are old posts, buried among reviews and other things in the "learn" section, which is difficult to navigate. Too bad.

One day I should post a list of interviews that nearly happened for this blog. And by "nearly happened" I'm referring to the person saying they wanted to do it, and sometimes even setting up a time to talk. The list is long, and to give you an idea of how in-denial I am about the whole thing, I think I don't want to publish the list because I'm afraid I'll jinx the possibility of the interviews still happening somehow. Never mind the fact that some the interactions with the subjects date back to 2010.

Since last fall, I've noticed several articles in magazines and websites detailing the lives of people with mental illness who were helped/cured by cycling. I'm in no position to speak about such matters (not that lack of knowledge has prevented me from talking about any subject in the past), but I hope people with similar issues who read those accounts seek help from professionals, rather than thinking that simply riding a bike is a solution. I say this because the world of cycling (which you risk engaging in the more you ride your bike) is full of things, people, behaviors, trends and ideas that could be completely counterproductive to mental health. And I don't say that lightly. Maybe the same is true for other activities too, who knows.

All the talk about women's professional cycling seems patronizing at times. I say this because for most of us who don't live anywhere near where such races happen, there's no coverage or way to see them. I know, I know...back in such-and-such year in the US, you had to call a 1-900 number to get the Tour's results, or you had to know how to read smoke signals...and if you look hard enough these days, you can find all results online somewhere.

But today, things have changed, and we are used to a certain amount of information beyond results. So when some people talk about women's cycling and race results, there's a certain disingenuous quality to it all, because I sense they are as generally clueless about their context as I am. Yes, perhaps I'm projecting my ignorance onto others here, but many seem to be talking about women's cycling because it's what you should be doing, not because they have legitimate interest in it, or knowledge about it.

I understand that context and greater knowledge about the riders won't come unless there is interest (and the money that comes with it). So it's one of those "chicken or the egg" scenarios. But what I see is people pretending that one of the two exists already, or that they can make one appear by sheer, and often vacuous will. Might it work? I hope so, but for the time being, there's a certain insincerity to some of the pseudo-coverage. And you know, the really sad thing is that perhaps the best women's cycling can aspire to is to be just like men's cycling...which is a little odd when you think about it.

Oh, and speaking of women's cycling, I know I'm not the first to say this, but if there's a women's version of a race that ends while the men's one is still 80k away from the finish, pay the guys who work the static cameras at the finish to turn those things on, and cut away to the women finishing.

Yes, Eros Poli was very good at making a cycling cap into a visor...but why is David Millar's pioneering spirit when it came to making a vented cap (with the help of some scissors) being forgotten all of a sudden? Long live the makeshift trucker cycling cap. Or not.

I've seen professional races in Europe. Luckily, there's never been a crash right in front of me. When I watch races on the TV/computer, I hyper-focus on how fans on the side of the road act when a rider is down on the ground in front of them. If you put aside the extreme cases (people running out to steal a water bottle or take a selfie), you are left with a small selection of reactions. There's the guy who grabs the rider's bike to feel like he's helping, but also because he thinks it's absolutely awesome to be touching it. Then there are those who try to help the rider up, often when said rider doesn't want to get up yet, or doesn't want to be helped. I've also seen people give riders pats on the back as they are sitting up on the road, as though they are consoling a toddler who just fell down the steps. For the rider, this attention from strangers who mean well, but can't help them in any way, must be maddening.

With your help, I'd like to draft a list of best-practices for such moments in a race. I'm talking about average crashes. The kind where a rider will likely get up and finish the race, or get in the car with pain, but not an ambulance (not that you can always tell how things are going to go, because crashes are as varied as the shades of color in Cancellara's hair when he gets highlights at the salon). This isn't about rules per se, but just common sense and race day decorum. Here's my first draft. Feel free to correct or add to it in the comments section. Here we go:

- Watch for other riders and traffic.

- If the coast is clear and the rider is not clipped in still, you are allowed to move a bike to the side of the road, and put it gently down on the floor, drive-side up (don't be an animal). This is if the rider is not moving right away. Don't hold on to the bike, don't put it far away so that the rider now has to look for it, and please don't be this guy, and ask your friend to take a picture of you with the bike while the rider is still on the floor in pain.

- If bottles came out of the cages, put them by the bike that they came out of. The rider may want or need that bottle more than you need a souvenir. If he leaves it/them behind, you got yourself a memento.

- Unless you are a medical professional, don't pretend to be one. There's probably not much you can do (again, going with the assumption that this is standard crash), aside from standing nearby, hopefully blocking others from running into the guy who is down on the floor. It must suck to see a guy in pain in front of you, but maybe the best way to help him is by keeping him from getting run over by a TV motorcycle while he's on the ground.

That's about it. Did I miss anything?

In closing, and in honor of the image that graces the top of this post, I bring you this timeless classic.