Tuesdays with Wilcockson: A Sunday morning spin

The sun was shining through shimmering, golden aspens on Sunday morning. The thermometer outside my shaded window had yet to reach 50, so I put on tights and a long-sleeved jacket before rolling my dark-green Seven from the bike shed. I needed the exercise. I haven’t been able to run for a while because of plantar fasciitis in my right foot, and though there’s no pain when I’m on the bike, I hadn’t had a chance to ride for a couple of weeks.

It felt good to tighten the chinstrap on my helmet, clip in the cleats and begin to clear the brain of reading yet more pages of last week’s “reasoned decision” from USADA. I headed east, away from the mountains (they’ll have to wait a few more days), first taking the bike path along by the local Elks Lodge. We’d been there Saturday night for Intercambio’s huge annual Fiesta, a.k.a. the World Party, where some non-cycling friends wanted to discuss the Lance situation. They all had a slightly different take, but none were as shocked as most seemed to be in the cycling community.

As I cruised down the bike path and began to feel my muscles warming up, my thoughts turned to the sights and sounds of a new day. A small boy on a BMX bike stopped his furious spinning to let me pass, and to wait for his dad piloting one of those non-tandem tandems that the child stokers don’t need to pedal. Soon, I was passing the Pleasant View soccer fields, which in fact should be named Most Beautiful View because the fields offer the juiciest vista of Boulder’s iconic crags, the Flatirons.

It was great to see hordes of young people playing soccer on this glorious fall morning, hearing their parents’ shouts of encouragement and the shrill whistles of the referees. It brought back memories of my own schooldays, kicking a sodden leather football in the cold, wet mud of an English winter. Like cycling, soccer is steadily making inroads into the American psyche—and wouldn’t it be great to see the world’s two most popular sports someday displace NFL or MLB as the ultimate in this country’s sports hierarchy?

That’s what I was wondering as my wheels took me past the small local airport, where a vintage Piper purred onto the runway and an open-cockpit tow plane buzzed into life at Mile High Gliding. I spent many happy dawns here after my wife bought me a flight-instruction certificate for a special birthday gift a few years ago. As I cruised by the planes, I was thinking there’s nothing quite like flying solo in an old Cessna a couple-thousand feet above the land—except perhaps for that face-against-the-wind thrill of guiding a bike down a snaking canyon out of the Rockies.

I continued to watch the gliders make their swooping paths through the blue Colorado sky as I looped past a white-fenced horse property, a rust-red barn and silver grain silo, and an abandoned stone schoolhouse built more than a century ago. Just ahead stood Valmont Butte, a sacred site for the Plains Indians, who made winter encampments here for some 10,000 years before the first white settlers arrived in the 19th century. There’s nothing quite like slow-moving history to put our high-paced lives into perspective….

The road up to the butte was resurfaced recently, so it was just a-few-second dance on the pedals to reach the ridge top. I can see why the Native Americans pitched their teepees on this rocky outcropping, where I’ve seen eagles circling and from where the views to the west are unrestricted over the Front Range to the glaciers and 14,000-foot snow peaks of the Continental Divide.

The downhill led to the baseball fields on a road where locals race the Stazio Criteriums in springtime. My ride led me back toward the city on bike paths, first dipping under a railway bridge, then past fall-colored cottonwoods and along the perimeter of a pond where ducks were quietly preening and Canada geese making a rumpus. I passed a sign saying “Coyotes active in this area” where the creek gurgled to my left. But all I saw were prairie dogs making their warning yelps and hidden bullfrogs slurping.

I sped past lean-looking runners out training, everyday cyclists in serious concentration, and walkers deep in conversation. Further on, after glimpsing tennis players on a creekside court, I passed below Folsom Field, where we once saw Paul McCartney perform to a sell-out crowd, and where today CU pumps millions of dollars into a flailing football program. Might be wiser to give a bigger share of the university budget to the cyclists, runners, climbers and skiers that truly define this town.

A couple of minutes later I headed past Boulder High, the alma mater of local sports icon Davis Phinney, and some of our sport’s burgeoning young guns, including Timmy Duggan, Taylor Phinney and Peter Stetina. That trio, thankfully, has come of age at a time when clean cycling is the norm, not the exception. I don’t see a time when they will have to give testimony to a USADA investigation.

Before heading back home, I looked toward the top of Flagstaff Mountain, where the U.S. Pro Challenge saw its climax a few weeks ago and where I used to trail-run every weekend when I first moved here a quarter-century ago. But on this soft, windless morning, my only hard climb was the double-digit grade up Fourth Street where the 26-tooth sprocket came in handy.

Then, as my short, pleasant, Sunday spin neared its end, there came one final “only-in-Boulder” sighting. A female runner, still sweating from what must have been a strenuous workout over Dakota Ridge, jogged to a halt by her car. Nothing special you might think until I saw that a belly exposed to the by-now-warm sunshine was very pregnant. That baby’s gonna be one tough little tyke, I thought—maybe, within another quarter-century a marathon runner, an Ironman triathlete, or a Tour de France cyclist.

New lives begin with every new day.


 Follow me on Twitter: @johnwilcockson



  1. Champs

    God forbid I should have to hear another ode to California and surviving the almost certain immolation that would come from making contact with The Valley.

    Just don’t try to sell me the same story with vicious Midwestern winter. I know better.

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