My morning routine before a ride has a script as rehearsed as a prime-time sitcom. The very first thing I do is put on sunblock. While it’s true years of childhood thick-headedness has left me at risk for skin cancer, I use sunblock and zinc oxide as much to prevent today’s burn as tomorrow’s melanoma.
But there’s a funny middle ground to my practice. I’ve given up on the battle to combat tan lines on my arms and legs. No amount of zinc oxide, even the toothpaste-white variety that Frankie Andreu used to cover his nose during the Tour de France each summer, can keep me from developing a demarcation as sudden and graphic as the panels of a police cruiser.
Ankles, quads, biceps and wrists, and during longer summer tours, even my fingers appear as mismatched to the rest of my body as a thrift-store outfit. I don’t go shirtless at the pool or beach more out of a sense of propriety than concern for burning. No one should subject the unprepared public for patchwork appearance I present.
So while my extremities are the basis for my personal Waterloo, my forehead and face are the castle keep. I refuse to yield the billboard above my eyebrows to advertise which helmet I use by virtue of the tan lines burned into my domed pate.
And the harder I work to slather my forehead, nose and lips with some goo that promises to shield me from the mayhem of UVA, UVB, UVC and UVZ, the more I love the PROs who have given up any pretense of being anything other than a PRO cyclist. Chin strap lines, vent hole diamonds, eyewear borders and most especially dirt tattoos, in the face and head of a PRO post-race I see the simplest, clearest reminder that while I can buy the equipment, the clothing, even ride the same roads, my dedication has something theirs does not: bounds.
Images: John Pierce, Photosport International