A bloodbath in some snowy backroad

I don't ride my bike as much as I did at one point. I'm working on that, and things may change, but for the time being, some part of my brain appears to fear dying while on a bike to an extent that even Andy Schleck is laughing at me. Be that as it may, this past weekend, I decided to go out for a leisurely ride. The weather was relatively warm, but snow still covered grassy areas along the roads, and the wind remained rather chilly. At the top of a hill, right before a lengthy descent, I sneezed hard. Really hard, to the point that it felt very good to do so. With that, I proceeded to get into my best aero tuck (which for me simply means putting my hands on the drops), and started going downhill. I felt a few tears and possibly some snot make it's way past my cheecks, due to both the cold air, and the record-breaking speeds I was reaching. "Hello cold wind, you old friend," I said. "Thank you for spreading snot and tears down my face." Cold wind didn't respond. He's a dick.

As I reached the bottom of the hill, and my record-breaking speed began to slow a bit, I came across an intersection. A couple waited for me to cross, as they sat at the intersection with their large dog in the back of their SUV. I waved hello, but noticed a look of horror in both of their faces. The woman gasped, did a double take, and then put her hand over her mouth.

"Wow", I thought to myself, "the days of women gasping due to my boyish good looks have apparently stayed with me longer than I thought." I turned the corner, and continued on. I then proceeded to look down a bit, in order to grab a bottle. I quickly realized what was happening, and why the woman had looked so horrified.

You see, much in the same way that a fart can quickly turn in a shart, those of us who suffer from chronic nosebleeds know that a simple sneeze can turn into you looking like Hannibal Lecter after a meal. There was no way for me to check how bad I looked (no parked cars or anyway to check my reflection), so I took out my phone, and took a picture of myself. Yup, I had blood, tons of it, streaming all over my face, neck, and even my ears as a result of that sneeze at the top of the hill. A good amount of blood had actually made its way to my helmet. It looked bad, insane actually.

I quickly noticed that blood was streaming down both nostrils, so I stopped, put my bike on the side of the road, and removed a few pieces of attire that I didn't want to ruin with massive amounts of blood*. I then began to wonder what on earth I could do. I was now in a fairly desolate backroad, with blood pouring out of my nasal holes at an alarming rate. I had no way to plug up the bleeding, no tissues, or much of anything else I could do.

Resigned to the situation I found myself in, I sat on the side of the road, using wet snow to wash off the blood, and hopefully bring my body temperature down. Soon enough, the side of the road where I sat looked like a gruesome murder scene. As I sat there, the couple with the dog went by in their SUV. The woman gasped again. They didn't stop, and this time she put her hand on her brow instead of her mouth.

* This reminds me of the fact that growing up in Colombia, my cousin also suffered from chronic nosebleeds. Whenever one would start, he would use an old white t-shirt to clean up the blood from his face. The reason? That was his "guerrilla member" t-shirt, which he would wear from time to time. Oh....the joys of growing up in Colombia during the 80s.

Other matters (in no particular order)

As I mentioned in the last episode of my brother's podcast: Okay, we get it Peter. You can pop a wheelie in a road bike. It was somewhat cool the first eighty two times we saw it, including the forty six magazines covers in which you posed that way. At this point, every time you do it, looks more and more like when comedic mastermind Gallagher predictably brought out the sledgehammer to smash the watermelon.

Carlos Betancur (center) with Miguel Rubiano and Cayetano Sarmiento. Note Betancur's new braces, which bring the total of professionals in Europe with braces to four, all of them Colombian.

Historically, Colombians have been among the most unwanted visitors that any country could ever have. For us, going into most countries around the world requires a visa, which in turn requires paperwork and a wait that can sometimes take close to a year (unlike visas for most other nationalities). Through the 1980s, Colombians consistently hid their passports while waiting in customs lines, to avoid further pre-screenings from agents walking the lines looking at incoming passengers (and the nationality of their on their passports based on their color and seal). This kind of issue (being spotted with a Colombian passport) eventually led the Colombian government to start using the colors favored by the EU or the United States for their passports, in order to make Colombian ones harder to spot from afar. At least that's what I was told by several people, one of which worked at a consulate office.

While some of this has changed, the difficulty of obtaining a visa for a Colombian citizen remains. In the world of cycling, only Colombian cyclists and those from Iran (namely the Tabriz Petro Chemical team) seem to consistently have problems obtaining visas at all. Last year, Sergio Henao and Rigoberto Uran missed Sky's early season training camps, and nearly missed early races as well. This year, tour of Langkawi winner Julian Arredondo is having the same problem, prompting him to race with a tourist visa, which means having to go back into Colombia at least every three months (all the way from Italy and Japan) during the entire season.

This year, both Ag2r's Carlos Betancur and Lampre's Jose Serpa have, for the most part, been unable to race or even train with their new teams. Both are still in Colombia, unable to secure a Schengen visa. For Serpa, this meant not being able to defend his title at Langkawi. For Betancur, this has already meant missing two of his most significant early-season goals: Strada Bianche, and Roma Maxima. Milan-San Remo is seemingly out as well for Betancur, though he hopes to make it into next monday's Vuelta a Cataluña.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.