Prematurely celebrating the end of a cycling season while smuggling mashed potatoes out of Sizzler's all-you-can-eat buffet

It was a joyous occasion for all students, the last day of class. Some took the contents of their backpacks and deliberately dumped them into trash cans by the school buses. Kids were rowdy, and spoke loudly about their vacation plans. I was equally elated, but just as in years prior, I was suddenly overcome with sadness. While the other kids could only focus on the school-free months that lay ahead, I started to think about the inevitable start of another school year in just a few months. School had just ended, only minutes ago in fact...and I was already thinking about its imminent start. Not only that, I began to look down upon the other kids around me, and their willingly obtuse outlooks on life. They were ignoring the obvious, I thought. They were celebrating for no reason, since another horrible school year was just about to start.

That was me as a kid. Always worrying, and dreading whatever was around the corner...even if it was something I had made up. Like the time that I begged my older brother to stop tickling me, because I was afraid I may have a serious heart condition, and could die from a horrible stroke or heart attack. I said this seriously. And I was five years old at the time.

Sergio Henao (or as American commentators refer to him "Sehr-Gee-Oh Hey-Now"), who will be joining Rigoberto Uran at Sky next season

Today, with the Vuelta, Lombarida, Paris-Tours, and the World Championships still to come, I'm already thinking about those dreary winter months when there's no road races to watch. Leave it to me to think about this now, when a Colombian team did amazingly well at the Tour of Utah just last week, and yet another team from Colombia will be joining them for that one race in Colorado that has had more names than Menudo's had members. So instead of enjoying the here and now, I mourn the loss of races to watch months ahead of time. You can call me a downer, but I prefer to think of myself as a methodical planer who gets his work done early. Why worry in the future, when you can get your worrying done now? Which brings me to my memories of eating at the fine food establishment known as Sizzler. Why you ask? Read on.

12 people, 2 bedrooms
In the early 90s, my family's financial situation hit an all time low. We suddenly found ourselves sharing a dark two-bedroom apartment in a questionable area of Miami with another Colombian family. At its peak, the apartment housed twelve people in the sweltering Florida heat. Because of our collective economic situation, two things were often lacking in our lives: food and air conditioning. For our air conditioning needs, we'd often spend long stretches of time in local malls, trying to escape the humid heat that is common when you build entire neighborhoods in what was once a swamp. Sadly, we all knew that as much as we enjoyed the unlimited cold air conditioned temperature at our local shopping center, we were unable to take any of it back with us to the crowded apartment. Thermal inertia—as I would have stated back then in my teenage parlance—was a bitch.

As far as the other thing we often lacked, food, we came up with a few solutions as well. We realized that doughnut and bagel shops always threw out food at the same time of day. We also noticed that if you called for a pizza around the time that the restaurant was closing, and never picked it up, they would often give it away to the sad looking kids on skateboards that were hanging out outside the pizza shop. Luckily, we were those kids, and because we had placed the order, the pizza always had exactly the ingredients we liked most. But the most successful find during that time, was the all-you-can-eat buffet at the fine establishment known as Sizzler. Low in both quality and price, the Sizzler buffet was a favorite for us, but had the same cruel problem as the cool air conditioned air at the Dadeland Mall: we wanted it badly, but couldn't take any of it with us for those moments when our stomachs would be rumbling with hunger later in the day. It seemed so unfair that we could be hungry one moment, when only hours earlier we could have had as much food as we could have possibly wanted. It truly was feast or famine. If you can call eating at Sizzler a "feast".

In a sense, that's how cycling is at times. The cold winter months are so devoid of road racing, while there's times in the spring and summer that we're barely able to keep up with the many races that are happening all at once. Oh, what I would give for a race like Three Days of De Panne during a snowy weekend mid-winter.

Sure, you can try to record these races, and save them for those cold and dreary months, but it's just not the same. It doesn't work. I know, because I once tried to take some mashed potatoes home in a shopping bag that I had in my backpack while dinning at Sizzler. I knew I'd be hungry later, so I tried to plan ahead. While trying to sneak the mashed potatoes home, I was nearly caught by the security guard, who watched me like a hawk. When I finally got home, the mashed potatoes had spilled out all over my textbooks. The small amount of mashed potatoes that remained intact the in plastic shopping bag tasted stale and suddenly looked like coagulated cooking grease. It was then that I learned that you can't beat the system. I can, if the system is the US government, or the UCI...but Sizzler is pretty much impossible to beat. Trust me.

Winter and pizzas with mushrooms and pineapples
For those of us that don't race, and who are merely fans of the sport, snowy winter months can help us further connect with actually ridding I suppose. No more rushing home from a long ride to catch the end of a stage. No more catching up on race results, and hardly any gossip and doping scandals to read about. Just you and a bike on salty roads. It's not a bad alternative, and one that I have to remind myself about at times like this. Just as I had to remember that there was an alternative on that day when I tried to smuggle Sizzler's mashed potatoes home. I was hungry, defeated and sweating in our crowded apartment. I took a deep breath, and remembered the other way I could get food. I waited until the pizza shop around the corner was about to close, and I picked up the phone. I placed an order for the pizza pie of my dreams, waited fifteen minutes, and walked to the pizza shop. I wanted to see if perhaps they had any large pizzas with half mushrooms half pineapple that had been ordered but never picked up.

Wouldn't you know it, someone had called in such an order only minutes before, and never picked it up. They were about to throw it out, but I got there just in time. Lucky me.

Two other things

1. The Tour of Utah was likely the first time that Santiago Botero (now director of Gobernacion de Antioquia-Indeportes Antioquia) and Cesar Grajales have seen each other in person in a long time. If you're wondering why this is a big deal, you can read about the pending lawsuit between them, which Cesar explained in great detail here.

2. My next post may come as late as the week of August 29th (please try to keep all crying to a minimum). I'm going on vacation to one of the most cycling-crazed nations in the world to do absolutely nothing cycling related. Maybe I'll tell you all about it in a couple of weeks.